October 15, 2008

Thursday, 10/16

Sun 4:38
NYT 3:57
LAT 3:48
CS 2:33

Short and late blogging night—it's debate night! (Longer write-up of the Sun puzzle, which I tackled before the debate started.)

The New York Times crossword was constructed by someone whose name I don't recognize. A debut for Ian Tullis? If so, congratulations! The theme isn't particularly Thursdayish, but the overall difficulty is just past Wednesdayish. The theme is EXPANSION TEAMS, and three baseball teams are "expanded" by the insertion of an extra letter:

  • The Houston Astros pick up a C and become the HOUSTON CASTROS, or [Some Cubans in Texas?].
  • My Chicago Cubs add an L to become the CHICAGO CLUBS, or [Where hot jazz developed?]. This one makes the most surface sense.
  • The Mets eat an A, transforming themselves into [Broadway deli offerings?], or NEW YORK MEATS.
Favorite answers: BEESWAX, or [Affairs, slangily]; ENTOMOLOGY, or [Buggy field?]; THE SAUCE, or [Alcohol, slangily]; LONE RANGER, or [Silver topper?]; IXNAY], or ["Uh-uh"]; and SPERM (!), clued as [Kind of whale]. Lots of goodies sandwiched in around those theme entries, yes?

Tougher bits:
  • CALEB was [Joshua's companion, in the Old Testament].
  • [Holey things] are TORI, the geometric donut shapes.
  • The [Western end of I-190 near I-294] is O'HARE airport. Those would be what we locals call the Kennedy and the Tri-State.
  • ROGGE is the last name of [International Olympics chief Jacques]. I kept reading that clue as "chef" and disregarding the Olympics part. It still made sense, as I was picturing Jacques Pepin.
  • [Wrapper weight] is TARE.
  • ["Day Is Dying in the West," for one] is a HYMN I've never heard of.
  • [Ancient dynasty of northern China] is LIAO.
  • [Pre-Roman Roman] was an ETRUSCAN.
  • [Beverage brand whose logo is two lizards] is SOBE.
  • [River below the Boyoma Falls] is the CONGO.

The Sun crossword (which I was able to retrieve by going to the Sun archive page and having the 10/16 puzzle e-mailed to me) is by Robert Doll. It's called "Four Letter Words," but the 4-letter words in the grid are immaterial. The title instead refers to four words that are represented by single letters (and appear twice in each theme phrase): U GET WHAT U PAY FOR stands in for "you get what you pay for." FROM C TO SHINING C swaps C for "sea." "Be" becomes B in B THERE OR B SQUARE. And the stealth theme entry is the 5-letter Down answer in the middle of the grid, I I SIR—with I standing in for "aye."

There are plenty of cool answers in this crossword. BRAILLE is [on Alabama's state quarter], along with Helen Keller. Eugene IONESCO is the ["Rhinoceros" playwright] whose work we studied in a "Plays and Antiplays" lit class. (Please don't ask me to define an antiplay.) The BRONZE AGE is notable because [The wheel was invented during it]; that Z intersects the [Pez product] SOURZ that I haven't seen. The [Jack worth one point in cribbage] is called HIS NOBS. Is this akin to his nibs, or are the two separate terms? Favorite clue: [Prescriptivist's concern] for USAGE. (We've been chatting about prescriptivism at the "Language, Etymology, Grammar" board at the Crossword Fiend forums.)


Hmm, the LA Times crossword doesn't seem to be posted in Across Lite at Cruciverb yet.

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Now See Here," hits at about a Monday level of difficulty. The three theme entries have the same one-word clue, though one adds punctuation: [See] clues both DATE REGULARLY and GET THE PICTURE, while ["See!"] clues "WHAT DID I TELL YOU?" Among the longish non-thematic answers in the puzzle are LEXICONS, or [Dictionaries]; GARY PLAYER, the [US Open winner of 1965] in golf; ITAR-TASS, a [Russian news source] (most often, just half of its name is in the grid and the other half sits in the clue); DYNAMITE, clued loosely as [It's a blast].

Now the Los Angeles Times crossword's available in Across Lite. Donna Levin's theme is similar to the one in today's CrosSynergy puzzle—four phrases are all clued with the same word, this time [Swell]. There's the verb phrase BECOME BLOATED. There's the slangy adjective GINGER-PEACHY, which sounds frightfully quaint. I've never heard it before, but apparently "ginger-peachy-keen" had its heyday once. The CLOTHES HORSE is a noun phrase, as is a CRESTLESS WAVE. Only the second and fourth of these answers qualifies as a stand-alone piece of crossword fill, but this type of theme often includes theme entries that would normally be seen as clues for SWELL rather than answers for [Swell]. (That makes sense, doesn't it?) I had no idea that [Bill Maher's film debut, in which he played a hack] was D.C. CAB, but that was the first answer I put in the grid. How many 5-letter movies involve "hacks," or cab drivers?

Clues of note:
  • [Where some liberties are taken?] is ASHORE, as in shore leave. I'm not sure where the "liberties" figure in, exactly, but the clue worked for me while I was solving the puzzle.
  • [Original Mouseketeer ___ Tracey] was named DOREEN. The original Mickey Mouse Club was from my mom's generation, so I learned some of those names (Frankie and Annette, Doreen and Cubby) second-hand. How many people under the age of 40 know those names?
  • Clearly I have done far too many crosswords in my life, because with just the C in place for [Black porgy, e.g.], I wrote in CHUB. There are so many of those oddball associations cluttering my brain thanks to crosswords.
  • [Tests for injured pros] clues MRIS. I'm not crazy about that clue because hey, the vast majority of people who get MRIs are not injured professional athletes. Though it's true that MRIs in the news do tend to relate to jocks.
  • [Politburo nos] are NYETS, plural of "no" in Russian. (Can you pluralize a foreign word that's not a noun? Sure, in crosswords.) It looks like an M is missing, though—my mind's eye wants it to say NY METS.
  • [William and Harry, to Camilla] are STEPSONS. Have you noticed that STEPSON in the singular could also be parsed as the verb phrase STEPS ON?
  • ["Idiot's Delight" playwright] is SHERWOOD. Who? Robert E. Sherwood, that's who. I suppose if it were earlier in the week, we'd have a Sherwood Forest clue, or maybe Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz.