October 14, 2008

Wednesday, 10/15

Tausig 4:48
Onion 4:40
Sun 3:32
LAT 3:29
CS 3:27
NYT 3:12

(updated at 10:40 a.m. Wednesday)

The New York Times crossword by Kevin Der packs in six theme entries with a unifying BABY at 53-Down, plus all manner of au courant techspeak. In the latter category, we have an iPHONE ([Macworld 2007 debut]), a URL ([WWW address]), CHAT ([Online activity]), RIP clued as [Copy, as from CD to PC], WEBCAMS ([Videoconferencing devices]), and TEXT clued as [Communicate without speaking]. Throw in the DATA that's [What pollsters need], and that makes a whopping seven high-tech answers. The theme entries are all phrases whose first word can follow BABY:

  • GRAND POOBAH is a [Self-important sort], and a baby grand's a piano.
  • [Chill] clues SIT BACK AND RELAX, and babysitting is a familiar term.
  • TALK IS CHEAP is clued as [Words to a blowhard], and baby talk consists of things like "peekaboo, I see you" and "koochy koochy koo."
  • [Hoops announcer's "Slam dunk!"] clues BOOM SHAKA LAKA, which I have never heard used in its natural setting. The Baby Boom involves those people who have been hogging so much media attention over the last 20 years. Me, I'm in the awkward phase between the Boomers and the Gen Xers.
  • The BLUE WHALE is a [Krill-eating creature]. Baby blue is a pastel shade, and in the plural, baby blues are blue eyes or postpartum depression.
  • STEPS ON IT is clued as [Wastes no time], and STEPS turns into a noun to take baby steps.
I extend kudos to Kevin for putting GRAND POOBAH into a puzzle. That Wikipedia article reminds me that I picked up that phrase from The Flintstones and Happy Days. The quasi-theme of computers and cell phones is fun, and I also liked the gambling combo of ODDS-ON ([Heavily favored]) and HOT TIP ([Tout's offering]).

Donna Levin's Sun crossword, "You've Got Male," includes six male animals at the end of the theme entries:
  • A [Voyeur] is PEEPING TOM, and a tom is a male cat or turkey.
  • CORN ON THE COB is a [Bitten ear] (did you think of Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, too?), and a cob is a male swan.
  • To [Shift responsibility to someone else] is to PASS THE BUCK, and a buck is a male deer, rabbit, rat, or kangaroo.
  • ["Check it out"] is equivalent to saying TAKE A GANDER. A gander's a male goose.
  • BATTERING RAM is a [Device used by police at the start of a raid], and a ram's a male sheep of the uncastrated ilk.
  • RAGING BULL [lost out to "Ordinary People" for Best Picture], and a bull's an "uncastrated male bovine animal." Why we don't just call it a he-cow, I'll never know.
The theme entries make a lively batch of phrases, don't they? IDAHO gets a topical clue, [Where Sarah Palin was born]. I like NORTH and STAR clued together via [With 35-Down, Polaris].

Don't be fooled by the imminence of October 31—Brendan Quigley's Onion A.V. Club crossword may have a theme clue that reads [Characters who "haunt" this puzzle's theme answers], but there's no Halloween scaring going on here. The "haunters" in question are THE PACMAN GHOSTS, and their names appear in other contexts in the other theme entries:
  • [Shaggy mane, gastronomically] is the INKY CAP MUSHROOM. As the Wikipedia article warns, don't drink alcohol within three days of eating this mushroom, or you may be sick for a solid week. Inky is the name of the blue ghost.
  • [Makes a promise, among schoolchildren] clues PINKY-SWEARS. Pinky's the pink one, obviously.
  • I haven't heard of BLINKY PALERMO, the [German abstract artist born Peter Schwarze]. Blinky the ghost is red.
  • CLYDE BARROW is the [Gangster played by Warren Beatty in 1967] in Bonnie and Clyde. Clyde is the orange ghost.
Tough stuff pops up throughout this puzzle. [Obliquely] clues ASKANT, which is another version of askance. XEON is an [Intel processor]. MARL is an [Earthy deposit]. RUB is clued [Get the knots out of, say], as in Swedish massage and muscle knots. ARMA is the [First word of the "Aeneid"]. SST is a [Record label started by Black Flag]. A [1962 musical co-directed by Bob Fosse] is LITTLE ME. U-TWO is a [Classic spy plane]. T'PAU is the ["Heart & Soul" one-hit wonder who took their name from a "Star Trek" character].

In his Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle, "Ladies and Gentlemen," Ben Tausig has crafted a super-Scrabbly crossword filled with X's. The "ladies" theme entries contain XX, in honor of women's XX chromosomes, and the "gentlemen" answers contain XY:
  • SEXY BACK was a [#1 hit for Justin Timberlake].
  • JIM FIXX was ["The Complete Book of Running" author]. Yes, he died of a heart attack after running, but he lived years longer than his father.
  • I'd never heard of XX TEENS, a [British dance-punk band with "Welcome to Goon Island"].
  • REDD FOXX was the timeless [Fred Sanford portrayer] on Sanford and Son
  • EXXON JOHN is a [Sobriquet in an Obama ad about tax breaks for oil companies]. I live in Obama's home state so we see very few TV commercials for the presidential candidates, and this one's unfamiliar to me.
  • The PROXY VOTE is an [Option for a traveling politician].
    OXYMORON and OXYGENIC fill out the theme, clued with [Original copies, e.g.] and [Like some photosynthesis], respectively.
Favorite clues: [Final event?] for FUNERAL; [Substance of a newspaper article?] for INK; [Mad skills, as it were] for WIZARDRY; [Character issue?] for DYSLEXIA; [Take, and be taken by, someone with whom you're taken] for WED; [Highway crosser] for DEER; [Presley's middle name] for MARIE (as in Lisa MARIE Presley); and ["Smooth move, ___!"] for EX-LAX.


Raymond Hamel's LA Times crossword is gushing with theme entries: Each one begins with a word that means "something from which a stream of water may issue" in a different context. To [Rant and rave] is TO SPOUT NONSENSE. [Writer with a reservoir] is a FOUNTAIN PEN with an ink reservoir. A [Fast flier] is a JET AIRLINER. And one [Youngster metaphor] is SPRING CHICKEN. A rather subtle theme, isn't it? There's no title or unifying answer to make the connection between the theme entries obvious. This puzzle has some trivia clues. LIFE is clued as the [Board game whose earliest version came out in 1860]. 1860?! Wow. I like the '70s and '80s version of the game better than today's SpongeBob Life edition. Hey, I liked having to buy life insurance and other insurance policies. DUBAI is the [Second-most populous of the United Arab Emirates]. ALBERTA is an [Oil-rich Canadian province]. Did you know Ray Hamel's a hardcore trivia nut? It's true. He's in Ken Jennings' book, Brainiac.

Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Layoffs," may be a harbinger of future unemployment, as each theme entry presents another layoff:
  • [Football team layoff?] might be a QUARTERBACK SACK. Can you imagine if a struggling economy actually meant that professional athletes might lose their jobs?
  • LET MY PEOPLE GO is a Moses line from the Old Testament, which God instructed Moses to say to Pharaoh. Or it could be a [Plea from a union leader to lay off the workers he represents?]—but why would the union leader be in favor of layoffs? This makes no sense. Time for a new union rep, if you ask me.
  • DISMISS A CLASS is [Lay off student workers?].
  • My favorite theme entry is FIRE DEPARTMENTS, where fire morphs into a verb: [Lay off entire corporate divisions?].