November 04, 2008

Wednesday, 11/5

Sun 5:43
Tausig 5:30
Onion 4:08
NYT 3:30
CS 2:54
LAT 2:47

(updated at noon Wednesday)

All righty, the election returns are starting to come in, so tonight's crossword blogging will be spotty and stray from the usual order of things.

First up, Tony Orbach's Sun puzzle, "Being There." It's not a tribute to the Peter Sellers movie. Rather, each of three theme entries takes on a conjugated form of the verb "to be":

  • [Mexican treat at Van Cortlandt Park?] is A BRONX TAMALE, combining first-person AM and A Bronx Tale.
  • [What a customer might request at a flower shop?] is FROM THIS DAISY ON, third-person IS + the phrase "from this day on."
  • [Chinese galas?] are FAR EAST BALLS, or second-person ARE + fastballs.
Much to admire in the fill—HEDONISM, GIULIANI STANK, V-SIXES, two good U words (URBAN and UPTOWN). Lots of clues that pushed me around—for example, [There's only one in Maine] for SYLLABLE. And [Bukhara had one until 1920] for crossword regular EMIR. Not to mention Barbara EDEN, the [Actress famously known for hitting the bottle?].

Deb Amlen's Onion A.V. Club crossword provides a reminder that no matter how the election winds up, one result is indisputable: NO W. 1-Across is clued [Immediately; today; November 5th, 2008], which is essentially now and the day that George W. Bush's successor is chosen, ushering in a no-W era. The four theme entries have dropped a W; for example, mustache wax becomes MUSTACHE AX, or [Mountain man's shaver?]. Least familiar answer in the grid: ROSTI, or [Potato pancake from Bern]. I'm not up on Swiss cuisine aside from tasty, tasty chocolate. My favorite part of solving this puzzle was the "aha" moment that hit me when I realized that now doubled as the explanatory no W.

10:30 p.m. entry:

Doug Peterson, like Tony and Deb, is one of those constructors whose work is consistently good, consistently entertaining. His New York Times crossword has a theme that doesn't involve much guessing, as the first three theme entries are clued factually:
  • LONE STAR FLAG is a [Sight at the Texas Capitol].
  • LOBSTER FISHING is [done in Maine waters].
  • LANCE ARMSTRONG is an [Athlete with four ESPY awards].
Those phrases all begin with LON, LO, or L and end with G, NG, or ONG, divided by other letters: LONG DIVISION ties them together. In the fill, there are plenty of Scrabbly answers I like: ZOWIE, BIJOU, KAZOO, VJ DAY, VIRAGOS, and THE VIEW. Good job, Doug. Keep 'em coming. (Paragraph edited Wednesday morning after I read at Rex's that the LONG DIVISIONs were split three different ways, not just two. I may have been a little inattentive last night. Oh, plus, my solving time should've been a little better, but my husband was exclaiming over the monstrous appearance of Tony Curtis on a TV commercial, and I had to look away from the puzzle for a bit. Tony Curtis apparently has a scary plastic surgeon.)

It's just about time for my senator to greet his supporters in my excited city and acknowledge that he is our new president. Whew! I should be in Grant Park right now!

Updated Wednesday morning:

Not to skew all political here, but I'm so disappointed that California, Florida, and Arizona appear to have supported bans on same-sex marriage and that Arkansans voted against allowing gays and lesbians to adopt or be foster parents. LGBT crossword fans, we'll try to do better next time.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled crosswords. Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Turning Points," is easier than the other crosswords on tap today, even though the theme entries all did their best to lie low until their crossings flushed them out. All four theme entries are clued [Item with a crank]: There's an ANTIQUE PHONE, HURDY GURDY, MODEL T FORD, and a JACK-IN-THE-BOX. Non-thematic highlights: CORNDOGS, DRATTED, GO DUTCH, [Comic strip populated by birds] for SHOE, and ["End of story!"] cluing PERIOD. SHOE and PERIOD could have been terribly flat with plainer clues, but these clues liven them up. Oh, and look who's in the bottom corner of the puzzle—OBAMA, [Surname on a 2008 ballot]. DOLE is clued as [Surname on a 1996 ballot], but it was also a name on the 2008 ballot in North Carolina (Elizabeth D. lost her Senate seat yesterday.)

Well, lookie here—Jack McInturff's LA Times puzzle is a notch easier than the CrosSynergy. STICK WITH IT is the linchpin of this theme. Add a STICK before the first words of the other theme entries, and you get valid phrases or words:
  • FIGUREHEADS are [King and queen, often]. Stick figures populate the webcomic xkcd.
  • BALL PEEN is a [Hammer type]. This has nothing to do with M.C. Hammer.
  • SHIFT-LOCK [MADE IT EASIER TO TYPE THIS]. (I didn't use shift-lock. I held down the shift key with my pinkie.) I can't drive stick-shift cars.
  • PIN MONEY is a [Fund for fun]. This sounds very '50s—does anyone under the age of 50 or 60 use the term? A stickpin is, well, a stickpin. You know.
I didn't know [Tolkien's Cirdan, for one] was an ELF, nor that OAKMONT is a [Country club that has hosted eight U.S. Opens]. I did know that CASSIAS are the [Trees from whose bark cinnamon is made], but I needed a couple letters to remind me.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "So It Is Written," knocks out the prepositions in some titles, using the placement of the other words to represent the preposition's meaning:
  • [Thoreau subtitle, read literally] is THE LIFE WOODS. The subtitle of Walden is "Life in the Woods."
  • [2008 Coen Brothers title, read literally] is READING BURN. The movie is called Burn After Reading. I wanted to see that—do any of you recommend for or against it?
  • A LESSON DYING represents A Lesson Before Dying, or [Ernest Gaines title about racism, read literally].
So we get words appearing in, after, and before, but no vertical over or under titles. Highlights in the fill include all sorts of standard Tausig fill—SNAZZY, Spike JONZE, QUESTS, SKYY, and SIN TAX providing Scrabbly goodness; au courant trade names like LIVEJOURNAL, GAS-X, and the Sharp AQUOS; MTV-era PUNK'D; slang like KREW, or [Hip-hop posse]; and the [Best-selling diet tract] SKINNY BITCH with a 5-letter 4-letter word in it. Among the tougher clues for me: [Rolls for dinner, perhaps] for SUSHI, and [Underground rapper ___ Rock] for AESOP. Aesop!