October 07, 2008

Wednesday, 10/8

Tausig 4:47
Onion 4:17
Sun 4:00
NYT 4:00 (minus 10 seconds)
LAT 3:52
CS 3:01

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

Upcoming event alerts:

On October 23 at 6:30 p.m., the Japan Society is hosting a discussion, "Puzzling the World: Sudoku & Crosswords." NPR's Liane Hansen will moderate the chat between Will Shortz and Maki Kaji, described as "the godfather of sudoku." Kaji is the president of Nikoli, a puzzle company that publishes a lot of logic puzzles. Details here. ($10 admission, $5 for seniors and students.)

Also, this Saturday, October 11, the Boston Cru is having a "Saturday Solve" event featuring two crosswords by Pete Mitchell. Details here.

And now, the puzzles:

I'm starting my presidential debate viewing an hour late, and if I don't want to be up 'til midnight, I'll need to curtail tonight's write-up.

Peter Collins' New York Times crossword opts to SHUFFLE (40-Across) THE DECK (42-Across). Each of the other theme entries includes in its midst the letters in the word DECK, scrambled:

  • [Library copy of a book, commonly] is a HARDBACK EDITION.
  • [Prepared some desserts] clues BAKED CAKES.
  • DUCK DECOYS are [Hunting aids]. The circled DECK letters could have been shifted one letter to the right, but then the scrambled DECK would be the same as the following one.
  • The BUICK DEALERSHIP was a [Place to get an Electra, once]. 
There are some gnarly bits in this crossword. SPADS are [W.W. I French fighter planes]. ELISA is a [Girl in a "Paint Your Wagon" song], and me, I'm not well-versed in musicals. [Rail site] kept me wondering for too long—it's the STAIR. (Really a whole staircase and not just a single stair, but sometimes stair is used to mean a group of steps.) ON POT is an odd-looking answer; it's clued [High, in a way]. Drugs! FIRPO was [Dempsey's 1923 opponent].

Fun stuff: TOO-TALL is the [Nickname for former N.F.L.'er Ed Jones]. (The Times has gotta ditch that period style. NFLer doesn't want to have four pieces of punctuation in it.) "PLAY BALL!" is an [Umpire's shout]. LEE strays away from Ang and Robert E., getting the clue [Rock's Tommy, ex-husband of Pamela Anderson].

The Sun puzzle was constructed by editor Peter Gordon's alter ego, the anagrammatic Ogden Porter. The "I/O Device" in the title reflects the six theme entries beautifully arrayed around the edge of the grid, two-part terms that have an I in the first half replaced by an O in the second half. All six follow the __IP-__OP mold. There's GNIP-GNOP (that's ping-pong with the words reversed), a noisy [1970s Parker Brothers game] I liked when I was a kid; TIP-TOP across from HIP-HOP; a political FLIP-FLOP; a horsey CLIP-CLOP; and the less familiar SLIP-SLOP, clued as [Trifling talk]. Favorite clue: [Split personalities?] for CROATS, as in people from Split, Croatia. The O crosses another geographic term, DJIBOUTI, [Neighbor of Eritrea]. If Djibouti gets earthquakes, someone should release a K.C. and the Sunshine Band cover of "Shake Your Booty," changing it to "Shake Djibouti."


The LA Times crossword by Dan and Mike Naddor has a theme that managed to elude me until just before I reached the explanatory entry, MAN, at 57-Down: [It forms a superhero when added to the start of the answer to each starred clue]. The grid is crowded with seven superheroes, and I must say I don't know who would come out on top in a seven-way battle royal. The supers include the big three, Batman (BAT MITZVAH, [Occasion to say "mazel tov"]), Superman (SUPERVISOR, [Boss]), and Spider-Man (SPIDER VEINS, [Vascular surgery target]). There are also four others: I don't know Iceman (ICE CUBES, [Rocks in buckets]). I know only a little about Aquaman (AQUA VELVA, [Classic aftershave]). I'm not sure who Sandman (SAND TRAP, [Common term that doesn't appear in the Official Rules of Golf]) is. Oh! That guy from the latest Spider-Man movie.) And then there's Iron Man (IRONSIDES, [Old ___: Cromwell's nickname]), ably played by Robert Downey, Jr., in this summer's blockbuster movie. I'm not a comic-book geek at all, but I think this crossword's theme is terrific. Super, even. BAT MITZVAH, AQUA VELVA...RIGATONI? That's a great sequence there.

Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Poker Face," has some synergy with yesterday's NYT crossword. [Food often cut into eighths] is PIZZA. Me, I like to ask for an octant of a smaller pizza, but a large is best cut into squares. Hartman's theme is varieties of poker: video, strip, stud, and draw. Those words begin the theme entries:
  • VIDEO JOURNALISM is [News on the tube]. Who calls it that? I'm more familiar with the general "broadcast journalism," or "TV news."
  • STRIPTEASE is a [1996 Demi Moore movie].
  • A [Hottie] is a STUDMUFFIN. (See Robert Downey, Jr. link above.)
  • To DRAW A CONCLUSION is to [Determine based on evidence].
My favorite part of this puzzle: AW SHUCKS at 37-Down, clued as [Twarn't nuthin'!"].

Matt Gaffney's Onion A.V. Club crossword is packed with lies—white lies reliant on technology to get you out of trouble. [Lie told to someone you forgot to send an important file to] is THE E-MAIL BOUNCED. Sometimes that happens, but not if you never sent the e-mail in the first place. With a digital camera, MY BATTERY'S DEAD is plausible. With cell phones, I LOST RECEPTION. (I LOST THE SIGNAL is also 14 letters. That's what I say, and I swear it's the truth.) The last lie, another e-mail one, is MY NEW SPAM FILTER / ATE IT.

Favorite clues and answers: [You might draw one before getting naked] refers to a BATH. I thought [Tiger's target] was using some cougaresque slang I didn't know, but it's just Tiger Woods and a HOLE on the golf course. [Member of the Tribe, so to speak] is a JEW. And here I thought it had to do with a baseball team.

There are some "only in the Onion (or Tausig or Jonesin') crossword" answers: BOFFS means [Has a quickie with]. SUCKS means [Fails to rock, say]. And to FREEBALL is to [Go commando, as it were], or eschew underwear. LYNN is fine, but here it's clued as [Porn star Ginger]. OBIE ditches the theater awards and is clued as [Rapper ___ Trice].

Ben Tausig's Ink Well, Chicago Reader crossword is called "Tea for Two" because the letter T appears two times instead of one in certain parts of the theme entries. For example, [Elite puppies?] are the LITTERATI, playing on literati. [What to do when your ball is two inches from the hole?] is SIMPLY PUTT (simply put). Favorite clues and answers:
  • [Single's opposite] is a B-SIDE of a record. I wonder how many people will try to get BRIDE to work there.
  • [Very, very] is UBER, in slang.
  • [Contents of a leak] is PEE, the sort of clue/answer combo found in the alt-weekly newspapers rather than the daily paper.
  • [Bill O'Reilly episodes?] are RANTS. Here's one of his early pre-Fox rants; don't watch it if you don't care for the F-word.
  • MR. T is the [Badass who turns 57 next year].
Tricky crossing for those who do not speak crosswordese as a native language—[The "I" in I.M. Pei] is IEOH, crossing DAH, a [Morse syllable].