November 25, 2008

Wednesday, 11/26

Tausig 6:15
Sun 3:57
Onion 3:53
LAT 3:20
NYT 3:07
CS 2:32

(updated at 5:25 p.m. Wednesday)

Harvey Estes' New York Times crossword hits the Wednesday sweet spot with an elegant theme, a low word count (72 answers = themeless grade), and colorful fill and clues. 57-Across is OLE, defined as [49-Across, in this puzzle]. 49-Across is THE LAST HURRAH, a [1958 Spencer Tracy film...and a hint to 20-, 30- and 39-Across]. Those three answers all end with a last hurrah, a final olé, and in each one the pronunciation is different:

  • HOLY GUACAMOLE is clued ["Zounds!"], and its OLE portion rhymes with HOLY.
  • PETER O'TOOLE is the perennial Oscar loser who's an [Eight-time Best Actor nominee]. His OLE is part of O'TOOLE, rhymes with fool.
  • The [Boneless entree] FILET OF SOLE rhymes with hole.
Here's what I liked best outside of this finely wrought theme;
  • TAP WATER is clued as the [Meaning of "one on the city," in diner lingo]. Here's more diner lingo if you're interested.
  • GO AFTER ([Chase]) is one of those two-word phrases that looks weird mashed up in the grid. 
  • PR MEN are some [Image crafters], and that pile-up of consonants threw me off.
  • A love letter or [Billet-doux] is a MASH NOTE.
  • BLOOD RED gets clued as a [Vivid valentine color], making this the corner for all your written forms of pitched woo. 
  • BAGMAN! That's the [Mob's money collector]. What's he doing in the same puzzle as Nelson MANDELA (["Long Walk to Freedom" writer]) and Lech WALESA ([Non-head of state who addressed a 1989 joint session of Congress])? Those guys won the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • AS A FAVOR is clued [Expecting no payment]. I kinda feel like the clue needs a "for" tacked onto it or something.
  • [Missing] is just plant NOT THERE.
  • [Sacagawea, for one] was a GUIDE.
If you haven't been doing crosswords too long, you might not know that FALA was the name of the [F.D.R. dog], or that a SETA is a [Bristlelike part], such as on a caterpillar.

Alan Arbesfeld's Sun puzzle is called "Catching Some Rays" because each theme entry has some sort of ray or Ray hidden within it:
  • Johnny [Rotten, e.g.] is a PUNK ROCKER, and Ray Kroc's last name is hiding in that phrase.
  • FOCAL LENGTH is a [Telescope measure], and my husband assures me that Ray Allen is a famous basketball player.
  • Comedian Ray Romano lurks within MICROMANOMETERS, or [Instruments for measuring minute differences in pressure].
  • One [WWII vehicle] is the SHERMAN TANK, and a manta ray is swimming in there.
  • The [Homestretch] is the FINAL PHASE, and if gamma rays exist, I suppose there must be something called alpha rays.
Did you ever think that NEO CON could possibly be the answer to ["Sweet ___" (2005 Rolling Stones song)]? This came as a complete surprise to me. The song's got a Wikipedia page devoted to it. (Lyrics here.)

Francis Heaney's Onion A.V. Club crossword combines an AEIOU vowel progression theme with an add-some-letters theme with interesting results:
  • A rock band adds ANA to become ROCK BANDANA, [Item worn by Bruce Springsteen to keep his hair out of his eyes].
  • [DNA marker that indicates a tendency to be killed, as on "South Park"] is the KENNY GENE. Kenny is the South Park character who is killed all the time. Add ENE to saxophonist Kenny G and you get the theme entry. (Another South Park reference: ["Mr. Hankey, the Christmas ___"] POO.)
  • Minimart + INI = MINI MARTINI, a [Drink in which the olive takes up most of the space in the glass. Hey, I know a place that sells Minnie martinis. Their sandwiches are all mini-sized and you can get 7 oz. of beer for $2, but I don't know if the martinis are mini too.
  • [Revealing garment for a geisha?] is a LIL KIMONO. Coincidentally, Lil' Kim sometimes wears what appear to be incredibly revealing li'l kimonos of a sort, as seen here.
  • Capri Sun juice drinks + UNU = CAPRI SUNUNU, [Outgoing GOP Senator on an Italian island vacation?].


Robert Doll's LA Times crossword contains five theme phrases that mean [Vamoosed]: FLEW THE COOP, MADE TRACKS, GOT OUT OF DODGE, HIT THE ROAD, and TOOK A POWDER. All are idiomatically equivalent as well as making for colorful language. Clues that took some work to get:
[Lou "The ___" Groza, memorable NFL placekicker] is nicknamed The TOE. That's apt, but I'd never heard of him.
[Art from Pompeii?] wants you to return to ancient Pompeii, where Latin, not Italian, was spoken. The noun art in Latin is ARS, as in "ars longa, vita brevis."
[Horse variety?] is GIFT, as in "don't look a gift horse in the mouth."
[Providence athletes] are FRIARS? Really? Both the men's and women's teams are the Friars.

Tom Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Interior Living Quarters," hides four different ABODEs (58-Across) inside the theme entries:
  • SPINACH OMELET, or [Breakfast dish with vegetables and eggs], hides HOME,
  • [Craps shooter's action] is ROLL OF THE DICE, with an embedded LOFT.
  • They've built a CONDO inside SECOND OPINION, or [Advice from another doctor or lawyer].
  • A lowly HUT is inside SEARCH UTILITY, clued as [It helps you find things online]. I would've thought it was for helping you find things offline on your computer.
We see HOI in the grid with a "___ polloi" clue plenty, but having POLLOI clued as [Hoi ___ (the masses)] is unusual. Old crosswordese ANIL pops up from time to time; here it's clued as an [Indigo-producing shrub].

The Tausig puzzle will have to wait until after this morning's third grade spectacular at my son's school.

Updated again:

I confess it took me a long time to understand the theme in Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader puzzle at all. The title is "The Short List," and here are the theme entries:
  • [Britney, e.g.?] is a K-FED EX. This combines Kevin Federline's nickname with Fed Ex.
  • [Trying to find a Yankee third baseman with a stick?] is DIVINING A-ROD. You've got a divining rod crossed with Alex Rodriguez's nickname, A-Rod.
  • [Decision between buying some caviar or a Miami Heat star's basketball card?] is ROE V. D-WADE. D-Wade, the Google tells me, is Dwyane Wade's nickname. I've heard of Wade, but not the nickname. Roe v. Wade—that I know.
  • [Meat-cutting device for an indie singer-songwriter?] is M. WARD CLEAVER. M. Ward is a singer-songwriter not of my acquaintance. Ward Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver is familiar, though.
  • [What the tabloids desperately searched for after a noted 2008 pregnancy?] was J-LO FAT. Jennifer Lopez + low-fat bastardized by having its W ripped out. Somehow "lo-cal" doesn't bug me, but "lo-fat" looks wrong.
So I guess the crossword's called "The Short List" because these phrases build off of five shortened names. I feel old and out of touch having zero familiarity with 40% of 'em.

In the fill, there's a slew of juicy answers. THE VIEW, a DOVE BAR, and STIR-FRY occupy one corner. TV STAR and ACT TWO each have a four-consonant pile-up. GODCAST, a [Neologism for a holy download], is new to me. My dictionary informs me that COMFIT is a dated word—it means [European fruit candy] or, according to that dictionary, a "candy consisting of a nut, seed, or other center coated in sugar." Seeds? Damn near killed me having that M crossing the unknown-to-me M. WARD. BAKR fills in the blank in [Abu ___ (Muslim leader after Muhammed)].