December 15, 2008

Tuesday, 12/16

Jonesin' 4:13
Sun 3:35
CS 3:14
NYT 2:50
LAT 2:45

Three cheers for President-elect Obama! He announced his pick for Secretary of Education today, and it's Arne Duncan from the Chicago Public Schools. While many Chicagoans, especially those of us with kids in the public schools, will miss him, how nice that a guy named ARNE is becoming nationally prominent. Who will be the first crossword constructor to let this ARNE bail her out of a tight corner?

Gail Grabowski's New York Times puzzle hits the usual Tuesday difficulty level—pretty darned easy, but a notch tougher than a Monday. There are three theme entries whose ends are labeled by a fourth long answer:

  • FARMER IN THE DELL is a [Kindergarten time, with "The"]. I'll bet my son hasn't learned this song, but that farmer and I, we go way back.
  • [Entrance to a botanical display] is a GARDEN GATEWAY. I've heard of garden gates, but not garden gateways.
  • [Gift that almost killed Snow White] was a POISONED APPLE.
  • [What the ends of 17-, 27- and 48-Across each represent] is/are a COMPUTER COMPANY. The grammar in this clue seems off to me. Plural clue, singular answer? I'd recast it into the dreaded passive voice and star the theme clues rather than listing them in the 64-Across clue: something like [Business named by the end of each of the starred entries]. That's...not so good either.
There's a whole row in this puzzle that can be read backwards—STRAW TIDE PETS is STEP EDIT WARTS backwards. Good stuff in the grid: A [Standby passenger's salvation] is a NO-SHOW at the airline gate. A 'VETTE is a [Sporty Chevy, for short]. (The Corvette and the Ford Mustang are good arguments for a Big Three bailout.) HOT DOG is clued as an exclamation synonymous with ["Oh, goody!"]. BAD PRESS is [Unwanted publicity]. [Enough, for some] clues ONCE; Jacqueline Susann is on record as saying that once is decidedly not enough.

Kelsey Blakley's Sun puzzle is called "Out of Order" because the first two letters in each theme entry are out of order:
  • "Option play" is a sports thing I've never heard of (the term's familiar to my sports-fan husband, though). POTION PLAY is [Bewitching fun?].
  • A lunar eclipse reorders to become an ULNAR ECLIPSE, or [Forearm bone occultation?]. You will probably need an orthopedist to set that straight.
  • The Ramada Inn hotel chain turns into ARMADA INN, or [Fleet quarters?].
  • [Ambiguous influence?] is UNCLEAR POWER, fissioning from "nuclear."
  • Real maple syrup is delicious. AMPLE SYRUP is [Sufficient cough medicine?].
In the fill, the comparative CORNIER is clued as [More banal, as a joke]. Doesn't this make you want to pronounce HOOSIER ([Indiana native]) with an extra syllable? Hoosier, more hoosy. I was stymied by the clue [X tenth?], for which the answer is PIN—on a bowling score sheet, X is a strike, or 10 pins. Right below PIN is UNI, which is the Latin-derived prefix that means one, which is a tenth of the Roman numeral X, but I suppose it would have been hard to link UNI to X in the clue.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword this week is a themeless one with the title, "Letters Entertain You." Matt puts his own stamp on a themeless. The grid has triple-stacked 10's intersecting with another triple-stacked set of 10's in two of the corners, and some of those 10's are absolutely fabulous. Kickass entries include the following:
  • PILLOW FORT is a [Makeshift hiding place during a sleepover].
  • PASTY-FACED means [White as a sheet].
  • KLEZMER is a [Kind of band with a clarinetist].
  • EHUD BARAK gets the full-name treatment. He's the [Israeli Prime Minister who resigned in 2001]. SHARON TATE crosses him at the R; she was a [Manson Family victim].
  • GANGSTA rap is a [Hardcore genre].
  • If you're handed a job ON A PLATTER, you get it [With no difficulty].
  • POPEMOBILE is a [Ride that's transparent and bulletproof].
  • "LESS IS MORE" is the famous [Minimalist's motto].
  • NYQUIL is a [Cold medicine brand introduced in 1968].
Now, I can envision a themeless crossword in one of the weekend editions of a daily newspaper that would include a few of these answers, but usually we don't get such a wealth of fresh and fun stuff in a single puzzle. Favorite clues:
  • [Type of arrest] for CARDIAC. Heart attacks aren't funny, of course, but the clue had me thinking jurisprudence, law and order.
  • ["Huh?!?," in Internet shorthand] is WTF. You know what that stands for, right?
  • [Bud's spot] is EAR, as in the ubiquitous earbuds that accompany iPods.

Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy crossword, "Moving Along," progresses from one to four clue words, with the answers reflecting both the clue words' meaning and how many clue words there are:
  • [Possession] of a property is occupancy, and with just one synonym in the clue, it's SINGLE OCCUPANCY, which is also a phrase in the language.
  • [Snatch/grab] lists two words that mean "take," hence DOUBLE TAKE. A double take is a delayed second reaction to something.
  • [Perform/act/portray] clues TRIPLE PLAY, three "play" words and a baseball term.
  • QUADRUPLE BYPASS might be carried out during coronary artery bypass grafting surgery. [Avoid/shun/skirt/eschew] are four words meaning "bypass."
When I read [Part of IPA] and saw that I needed 7 letters, I figured the answer couldn't be INDIA, PALE, or ALE. As it turns out, it's PALE ALE. IPA also stands for the international phonetic alphabet, which luckily has no 7-letter words in its name! [Diva Christina] is pop star AGUILERA and not an opera diva. BLEEPS are [Swear word deletions], in the news of late.

Today's LA Times crossword was constructed by Derek Bowman and Sarah Keller. The theme reconceives THREE-D MOVIES (like the new animated film, Bolt) as being movies with three D's in the title:
  • BLOOD DIAMOND is a [2006 DiCaprio film about a gem smuggler]. If you watch it, be prepared to feel punched in the gut by the portrayal of violence in the diamond mining business.
  • DADDY LONGLEGS is a [1955 Astaire film about an orphan and her benefactor].
  • DUDLEY DORIGHT is a [1999 Brendan Fraser film based on a Hanna-Barbera toon]. This movie apparently has not stood the test of time.
I'm not sure why MALADIES are clued as [Chronic ailments]; I think maladies can be short-lived acute conditions too. Is the flu not a malady? Speaking of diseases, ALOIS is the first name of [Dr. Alzheimer], who first identified the disease that bears his name. PHOOEY looks cute in the grid; it's clued as ["Nuts!"].