November 22, 2008

Sunday, 11/23

LAT 10:06
NYT 9:11
BG 8:15
PI 8:07
CS 4:17

Do you like huge time-wasters? Trip Payne mentioned quiz website on his blog. Can you name all the countries in Africa? Or in the world? How are you on the schools in six major Division I conferences? Can you name all the NBA teams? Identify dozens of Simpsons characters? Name all the U.S. presidents? There are quizzes for a whole bunch of topics like those. Better yet, when you're done, it'll tell you which answers were guessed the most or least often, so you can see if everyone else forgot the Comoros too.

The New York Times crossword by David Kahn is called "Picture This," and it's got a trivia theme—everything you ever wanted to know about a silly moment in art history. Here's how the story goes:

HENRI MATISSE, a FRENCH ARTIST who was the [Leader of the Fauvist movement], created a PAINTING called LE BATEAU using WATERMEDIA. At a MOMA EXHIBITION in 1961, that painting appeared UPSIDE-DOWN. And do you know how long LE BATEAU hung that way before being noticed and fixed? FORTY-SEVEN DAYS, that's how long. The circled squares tell you what the picture is of—a SAILBOAT REFLECTION. And if you connect the dots, you get a decent representation of what LE BATEAU looks like. This visual aspect of the puzzle makes it feel a tad Gorskian, doesn't it?

According to the Wikipedia article on the work, though, Le Bateau (if you look at it, it's easy to understand how it ended up upside-down) is a lithograph and not a painting. But the Matisse write-up calls it a gouache, and gouache is a type of watermedia used in painting.

Assorted clues and answers from the rest of the puzzle:
[Train stop?] is an ALTAR if a bride is wearing a gown with a train.
The WAX BEAN is a [Vegetable with yellow pods]. Green beans are better. They're green.
The odd plural ODIUMS is clued as [Intense aversions].
The odd word LOWISH is clued as [Somewhat reduced].
[Say "Final answer," say] is how you COMMIT on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. Hey! Trip Payne was the third contestant on that show.
PITAS are [Double-layer breads]. That reminds me—it's time to have some hummus.
[What Ramona wore in a 1966 Chuck Berry song] was a TIGHT DRESS.
I like the use of Roman numerals in [Year Super Bowl XXXVII was played] and MMIII (2003).
[Al Kaline, in uniform] was the number SIX. Anyone else try to make him a SOX?
A billiards shot that's a [Cushion user?] is a BANK SHOT.
[Cupid, e.g.] is one of Santa's REINDEER.
A [Cleanup hitter, e.g.] is a real WALLOPER.
[Like the earliest Olympic festival] clues ELEAN. Say what? Didn't know this one at all. It's the adjectival form of Elis, where the first Olympics took place in 776 B.C.E.
One sort of [Animal oddity] is an ALBINO. Near Carleton College, there's an albino squirrel. It doesn't like to pose for pictures. Must be shy.
[Revolutionary 1930s bomber] is the B-10, which looks like BTEN spelled out in a crossword.
I don't know the [Kipling short story, with "The"] called MALTESE CAT.
[Unreasonable, pricewise] clues STIFF. Did you opt for STEEP first as I did?


Well, I solved these next four crosswords late last night, but didn't make any notes for blogging purposes. So this'll be short.

This week's Washington Post Style Invitational contest is to come up with funny clues for answers in Paula Gamache's November 12 CrosSynergy puzzle. If you want to play along, you can download the Across Lite file at Will Johnston's Puzzle Pointers page.

Henry Hook's Boston Globe repeat in Across Lite is called "Green and Bear It." Each theme entry is clued [GREEN], and the answers are essentially clues for the word green: there are two adjectives, ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND and INEXPERIENCED. There's the color, YELLOW MIXED WITH BLUE. And there are three nouns, SLANG FOR MONEY, traffic LIGHT TELLING YOU TO GO, and AREA WHERE GOLFERS PUTT. I like the stacks of longish answers in the NW and SE corners, but the 3-letter crossings are less appealing. Overall, in fact, the shorter fill was a little off—FPL, FOL, ALW, OCUL, ANSE? Hook usually spoils us with better fill than that. If you've ever grumbled at the word amerce being used in a crossword, Hook's got a new synonym for you: [Imposes fines] also means MULCTS.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "At the Animal Salon," unfolds a tale with animal puns in a hair salon setting. It begins with "COME ON IN, DEER," deals with hairstyling issues, and reinforces the stereotype of massive gabbing about man trouble going on at hair salons. The GUY IN BUFFALO, SUCH A WEASEL, and YAKETY YAK YAK entries aren't puns, though, just phrases in Merl's narrative that include a kind of animal. I am compelled to iluminate "...TO TAPIR A BIT" by mentioning that at England's superb Chester Zoo, a tapir sprayed my family with pee last year. (Never trust a tapir with its back to you, folks.) The word PUISSANT, or [Powerful], is in the grid—I like that because if you omit the U, you get an entirely different word.

By the time I was solving Dan Naddor's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, I had grown rather sleepy and I kept catching myself with my eyes closed. It's not at all the fault of the puzzle—it was just late at night. The theme, "Not More of the Same," adds an -S (or -IES) to pluralize nine phrases that customarily are never used in the plural:

  • [Broke, like a salesman?] is OUT OF COMMISSIONS.
  • [Atlanta?] is HOME OF THE BRAVES in Major League Baseball.
  • [What oversleepers might miss?] is their FIRST CLASSES.
  • [Refund Satan's membership fee?] is GIVE THE DEVIL HIS DUES.
  • [Shooting the moon considerately?] is KIND AT HEARTS, hearts being a card game in which players may "shoot the moon."
  • [Sound bites?] are PARTS OF SPEECHES. That's a good one.
  • [Ultimate goal in retailing?] is to reach the POINT OF NO RETURNS.
  • [Court versifiers?] are POETIC JUSTICES. I like this one, too. More quatrains in Supreme Court opinions, please!
  • [Mutual fund portfolio?] is MIXED COMPANIES.
So, it's a good theme. It makes you think a little bit, it's executed consistently and well, and it yields a few smiles. The upper left corner of the grid got off to a slow start. 1-Across is an not-that-common abbreviation, SUPT or [Bldg. boss]. Here in Chicago, we have school superintendents but building managers, no supers. Below that, the [Swift Malay boat] is old-school crosswordese and used to show up in a lot more crosswords; it's a PROA. Right under the PROA is EBEN, ["___ Holden": 1900 Bacheller novel]. They all cross TANTARA, or [Trumpet blast], another of the words I learned in crosswords.

Other clues and answers:
  • SECTORAL is an uncommon word for [Regional].
  • [Some might be req. for a new toy] clues ASSY., an abbreviation for "assembly" that looks like an adjective.
  • EPOPEE is a [Grand-scale poem].
  • ["Dynasty" cigarillo smoker] is ALEXIS, Joan Collins' character.
  • [City east of Peoria, IL] is KOKOMO, IN.
  • URBANA is clued as an [Aptly named Illinois city]. Etymology is not destiny—the college town has but 38,000 residents. Neighboring Champaign is twice its size.

Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" has an unusual-looking grid for a themeless puzzle. The puzzle is anchored by two 15-letter answers. FLAVOR OF THE WEEK is a [Passing fancy], and SAME-SEX MARRIAGE is clued, [It's legal in Massachusetts]. Crossing those answers are several other long ones:
  • [Utterly awesome] is JAW-DROPPING, and [How to peel grapes] is ONE AT A TIME.
  • [Meat that gets pounded] is a MINUTE STEAK, and [Dirty deed doers] are HATCHET MEN.
All six of those are lively phrases. Other parts I liked:
  • An IN JOKE is [Humor that could be hard to get].
  • Yesterday, I did a Sporcle quiz to name all the Canadian provinces (I missed only N.B.). So Newfoundland was in my head as a place, not a dog, and [Newfoundland protests] didn't immediately leap out as being ARFS.
  • I just saw [Po country] in another recent puzzle—it's ITALY, home of the river Po. Are "Po folks" boaters, swimmers, anglers...?
  • [Clogs may be found in this] refers to a SHOEBOX.
I didn't even see this clue last night—a MABE is a [Hemospherical cultured pearl]. There's a YOTP (year of the pope) clue: [Year Pope John XVIII was anointed] is MIV. The [Dairy case designation] for eggs, AA LARGE, seems a tad off as crossword fill. LATEEN is a [Sunfish sail]; again, all things nautical are things I'm not too familiar with.