October 26, 2008

Monday, 10/27

Jonesin' 4:44
Sun 3:11
NYT 2:31
CS 2:45
LAT 2:42

Andrea Carla Michaels and Michael Blake have teamed up again for a Monday New York Times crossword puzzle. The theme is 55-Down, SPIN—they've put an SP at the beginning of three 13-letter phrases to convert them into 15-letter phrases:

  • [Aerosol tanning?] clues SPRAY OF SUNSHINE.
  • [Tiffany showroom?] is SPACE OF DIAMONDS.
  • [Babble incoherently?] is SPUTTER NONSENSE.
I have the sense that most themes involving question-marked clues for nonexistent phrases don't manage to have such simple clues. This trio is short and sweet, with two-word clues conveying all the sense they need to. There are a number of answers that new solvers need to commit to memory if they don't already know them:
  • ASTI [___ Spumanti] is a sparkling wine. ASTI also gets clued as an Italian wine region.
  • The [Korean automaker] KIA has a 3-letter name with a couple vowels, so it gets some play in crosswords. (AUDI and SAAB also appear more often than, say, FORD with three consonants.)
  • NEAP [___ tide] is some sort of monthly or bimonthly tide. I think its opposite number is the EBB tide, and EBB is also a verb that gets plenty of play in crosswords. NEAP's less familiar to most people, but crossword solvers need to remember it.
  • LOEWE is [Lerner's partner for "Camelot"]. Three vowels? Yeah, this guy's a regular in the puzzle, too.
  • [Pesos : Mexico :: ___ : Turkey] clues LIRAS. The LIRA (plural LIRE) used to get clued as Italian currency, but then the EURO came along.
  • [Dodger or Met, for short] is NLER, as in NLer or National Leaguer. Some say that this and ALER are never used anywhere but crosswords.
  • ABAFT is clued as [Sternward]. Most of my familiarity with nautical terms comes from doing crosswords.
  • ET TU, ["___, Brute?"] is the Julius Caesar line. [Words to Brutus] and [Rebuke from Caesar] are other clues you might see for ET TU.
  • The two-word A TAD, or [Not much], shows up fairly often. A LOT is more common; A BIT, less common. Remember, the NYT crossword doesn't tip you off when an answer has more than one word.
  • [Egyptian snakes] are ASPS. The ASP clues often relate to Cleopatra, who was killed by an asp. 
  • [Building additions] are almost always ELLS in the puzzle.

The Sun crossword is called "The Old College Try" and it was constructed by Joon Pahk. Three theme entries end with IVY LEAGUERS. The band KING CRIMSON corresponds to the Harvard team, the Crimson. HEY BULLDOG is a [Song on the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" album], but I've never heard of it. You know how Yale students are in the crossword all the time as ELIS or YALIEs? Their official nickname is the Bulldogs. The Princeton Tigers show up in PAPER TIGER. It's a little distracting to have another team name in the grid—Whittier College's bad-ass POETS, not of the Ivy League. I like how the '80s band ERASURE sits beneath KING CRIMSON. (Wikipedia tells me Erasure is still recording and touring. Who knew?) Favorite clue: [Strong suit?] for ARMOR.


Matt Jones has crafted a puzzle with an unusual gimmick in it. This week's Jonesin' crossword, "Early and Often," includes a ballot of sorts, and instructions to MARK AN X for whichever one YOU PICK. Each "candidate" entry is 14 letters long—FIRST CANDIDATE, ANOTHER NOMINEE, and THE THIRD OPTION—but appears with a blank 15th square (those 15th squares are supposed to be circled, but the circles were missing when I downloaded the Across Lite version of the puzzle). If you X in one of those squares, you change the crossing word, but the answer will be correct with or without the X:
  • 13-Down is [What's seen when ice skater Babilonia hails a cab]. TAI Babilonia and a TAXI both work, depending on whether you want to select the FIRST CANDIDATE. The clue is pushing it a bit, but I'm guessing there aren't a ton of words that work with and without an X. 
  • 33-Down is [___ earnings (phrase used when comparing a current and upcoming paycheck], or NET and NEXT. I can't imagine anyone discussing their "next earnings," so this spot slowed me down.
  • 57-Down is clued as a [Participant in a historic 1899 war or rebellion]. The South African BOER War began in 1899, as did the Chinese BOXER Rebellion. This one's so perfect, it makes up for the goofiness of the first one and the awkwardness of the second.

Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Have a Good Time!", has five different "good times" at the start of the theme entries. One [Pome variety], and a tasty one at that, is a GALA APPLE. SOCIAL WORK is a [Profession intent on improving living conditions. One [Joint type] is BALL AND SOCKET, as in your hip and shoulder. A RAVE REVIEW is a [Pan's opposite]. And a PARTY LINE is a [Tie-in to another telephone customer, as well as a tie-in to this puzzle's theme]. I wonder if anyone younger than me has first-hand experience with party lines—when I was a kid, my grandparents had a party line, and they gave out their phone number prefix as HEmlock-7 rather than 437. Old school!

Updated Monday night:

Well, the LA Times crossword hadn't been posted as of lunchtime today, and after it was posted, I didn't get a chance to solve it before late evening. Robert Morris's theme is PAPER, which precedes the first word of each of the four theme entries:
  • MONEY TRAIN is a [1995 Snipes/Harrelson film about a subway heist]. I like paper money, I do.
  • The [Youngest Masters champ] is TIGER WOODS. A paper tiger is "a person or thing that appears threatening but is ineffectual." Tiger Woods is no paper tiger on the golf course.
  • [Price-gouging business] is a CLIP JOINT, and paper clips were invented in the 19th century. (Staples are about the same age, if you were wondering.)
  • [Cattle drive VIP] is a TRAIL BOSS. Wasn't Jack Palance's City Slickers character Curly a trail boss? Surely there is a paper trail that proves this.
One of the 8-letter answers in the fill was unfamiliar. RANGE WAR is clued as a [Big beef over big beef?]. Wikipedia explains that range wars can also involve sheep herding and water rights.