December 17, 2008

Thursday, 12/18

NYT 4:42
Sun 4:15
LAT 4:15
CS 2:37

(updated at 10:05 a.m. Thursday)

Michael Vuolo's New York Times puzzle tells a spy tale in the long theme answers:

  • UNDERCOVER AGENT is a [Keeper of confidential information].
  • He or she is SWORN TO SECRECY, and that phrase is clued [Like a keeper of confidential information].
  • [With 60-Across, what a keeper of confidential information might say] is IF I TOLD YOU, THEN / I'D HAVE TO KILL YOU. My goodness! Such violence in our crossword puzzle today.
I mucked things up for myself by not noticing a typo for a long time and thus having trouble with the crossing. One of the two [Part of a famous septet] clues wants ASIA, but I'd entered ASIS and thus couldn't get SABBATH as the [Subject of Exodus 20:10]. The other 4-letter [Part of a famous septet] is ENVY. I prefer continents to sins, personally. The peaceable olive branch corner holds AT PEACE ([Tranquil]) beside OLIVES ([Tapenade ingredients]). Other clues/answers of note:
  • [Bearded] means FACED. This may relate to "bearding the lion."
  • [They start in the middle] clues RADII.
  • [The last King Edward of England] was Edward VIII. Not the most famous VIII English king, that's for sure.
  • [Slippery one] clues both an EEL and an ELM tree.
  • MALA [___ fides (bad faith)] is fairly basic Latin, but this phrase is not so familiar in English. Bona fides, sure.
  • [Djinn's home in a popular tale] simply means the genie's LAMP. Genie = djinn.
  • [With French, one of two official languages of Chad] is ARABIC. Chad is just south of Libya and west of Sudan, in the Arabic-speaking North Africa.
  • [Porsche alternatives] are JAGUARS? They're also [Ford alternatives]. That icky Jaguar model that came out after Ford bought Jaguar reminded me of a Taurus far more than anything as sporty as a Porsche.
  • [They may be thrown] clues FITS. Javelin, discus...fits. It's part of the Decathlon of Drama.
  • [Poetic coda] is ENVOI. I majored in English, but I don't quite know what this means.
  • [Wear away, as a metallic surface] clues ABLATE. Ablation also refers to the surgical removal of body tissue, wind erosion of rock, and evaporation and melting of glaciers.

Patrick Jordan's "Themeless Thursday" Sun crossword was excellent—right up my alley in terms of fill. Scrabbly stuff, interesting phrases that don't get much play in crosswords, pop culture, plenty of people's names. JUAN VALDEZ, the coffee commercial guy! AL BUNDY, from Married With Children! YALE LAW right next to SHOW BIZ! QUEASINESS crossing the LAST SUPPER! SAM'S CLUB and THAILAND! There are so many cool answers packed into this grid. Among the names are young actress AMANDA Bynes, hip-hop/crunk pioneer LIL Jon, cartoonist BIL Keane, fictional CHIP from My Three Sons, and gross GENE Simmons of Kiss fame. Sandwiched between the incongruous pairing of CHIP and GENE S. are three Mideast-inflected answers. LUNE is a [Crescent-shaped figure], and the crescent is a symbol of Islam. DOHA, Qatar, is a [Capital on the Persian Gulf]. And IRAN's [flag says "God is great" 22 times].

Favorite clues:
  • [La Toya and Janet, to Blanket] are AUNTS. Remember Michael Jackson's baby, Blanket?
  • [Space heater?] is the SUN, and [Saturn vehicle?] is a UFO. Are there UFOs in our solar system?
  • QUEASINESS is a [Mal de mer symptom]. Man, I hope I don't get mal de mer on the cruise. I will have Transderm Scop patches to protect me.
  • "WE CARE" is a [Cliched claim from a conglomerate].
  • [Item with 21 pips] is GLADYSKNIGHT. No, actually, it's a six-sided DIE.


Jack McInturff's LA Times crossword changes double-D's to double-T's:
  • A budding career turns into a BUTTING CAREER, or the [Life's work of an old goat?].
  • Did you know that polenta is a sort of hasty pudding? HASTY PUTTING on the golf course is a [Reason for missing a gimme?].
  • The wedding party becomes WETTING PARTY, a [Drought-ending blowout?]. 
  • Luxury bedding is nice. LUXURY BETTING is a [Penthouse activity at Caesars Palace?]. You'd think a casino as successful as that would be able to afford an apostrophe in its name, but no. Wikipedia informs me: " It is called 'Caesars' and not 'Caesar's' because every guest is a Caesar." Yes, I am rolling my eyes.
Less familiar stuff: AGNES is the [Patron saint of chastity]. [Old ski lift contraption] is a J-BAR. SECRETS are ["...edged tools [to] be kept from children and from fools": Dryden]. [Day star] isn't the sun but OPRAH. ['80s-'90s Serbian import] clues YUGO; I always heard it described as a Yugoslavian car, not a Serbian one. ["Jesus Christ Superstar" song] HOSANNA meets [Medicinal plant] SENNA at the S.

Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy puzzle is easier than most CS crosswords. The "PC Pieces" theme is phrases that end with words that are also computer peripherals:
  • The BABY MONITOR [is often placed near a crib].
  • KEYNOTE SPEAKERS [give important addresses, as at political conventions].
  • MICKEY MOUSE as an adjective means [Insignificant, slangily]. Much more fun to clue this as the slangy adjective than as the Disney toon.
Three allied answers are EDIT, or [Wield a blue pencil]; CARET, or [Insertion mark]; and STET, or [Leave in, as text]. We also get some notable women: ELLEN is [Talk show host DeGeneres]; ANNE is [Author Tyler or Rice]; and STEFFI is the great [Graf of tennis].