December 29, 2008

Tuesday, 12/30

Sun 3:52
NYT 3:38
CS 3:27
Jonesin' 3:25
LAT 3:08

(updated at 8:51 a.m. Tuesday)

Doug Peterson's New York Times crossword has a simple yet elegant theme. It runs the line of filial descent from Sr. to Jr. to III:

  • SENIOR DISCOUNT is an [Incentive aimed at golden agers].
  • JUNIOR MINTS are a [Chocolate-coated candy]. Here's an avid fan's dissection of an addition to the Junior Mints family.
  • THE THIRD MAN is a [1949 Orson Welles film].
  • What ties these all together is the fourth theme entry, the [Ivan Turgenev novel] FATHERS AND SONS.
I fell into the anti-Ellen Ripstein trap when I entered AYES as the ["Thumbs-up" responses] without checking the crossings. Hmm, that wanted to be A-OKS to evade the BLYW and LOEI crossings. I'm sad to have missed seeing LOKI, my favorite [Norse trickster]. Highlights in the fill, which struck me as more Wednesdayish than Tuesdayish though I could be having an off night:
  • A [Key element] is called a LINCHPIN. Not etymologically related to the word lynch.
  • SCHNOOKS are [Easy dupes]. I slowed myself down by starting out with SCHMUCKS here, but Will Shortz has sworn off that answer given the Yiddish "penis" etymology. I should've known better.
  • ODYSSEUS was clever. [He devised the Trojan horse].
  • [Where touch typists begin] is the HOME ROW. That's the one with ASDF and JKL;, the keys where the fingers are poised.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Just Do It," has an unusual grid—16 squares wide by 15 high, with left/right symmetry. The theme is people who do or did "it":
  • ALL THE COOL KIDS are clued with [They're doing it! (in peer circles)].
  • Frank SINATRA's song "My Way" is referenced by [He did it...his way! (in song)].
  • [She did it again! (in pop music)] cites BRITNEY Spears' song "Oops! I Did It Again."
    THE DOG ate the cookie or dealt the stink, in [He did it! (in blameworthy situations)].
  • [He did it! (in certain novels)] means THE BUTLER.
  • O.J. SIMPSON is clued with [He speculated if he did it! (in a 2007 book)].
    [She does...them? (on film)] clues DEBBIE, as in old porn film Debbie Does Dallas.
Crossing those last two answers, there's a SYBARITE, clued as a [Hedonist of sorts]. The theme entries are all specifically tied to "did it" or "are doing it," but sybarites probably do all sorts of "it," too. My favorite clue: [It'll grow on you] for HAIR. [Shot to the forehead?] for BOTOX is good, too. Other clues of note and/or unfamiliarity:
  • [Pitcher Chin-hui] is named TSAO. He's Taiwanese and hasn't had much of an MLB career. Elsewhere in the grid is [Taiwan's capital], TAIPEI.
  • THE PJS was the [Stop-motion animated Fox series featuring Eddie Murphy] that didn't last too long.
  • [Varnish or Viagra, perhaps] clues HARDENER.
  • REET completes the title in ["Are You All ___?" (Cab Calloway song)]. Doesn't ring a bell for me.
  • ["Until next time," in instant messages] is TTYL, short for "talk to you later."
  • My favorite snake name is KRAIT, the [Deadly snake with venom 16 times more potent than a cobra].
Jim Leeds' Sun crossword, "Adverbially Yours," interposes an -LY between two parts of a word or phrase to turn the first part into an adverb:
  • A lame duck, such as Bush in these last three weeks of his presidency, becomes LAMELY DUCK, or [Avoid getting beaned in an inept manner?]. I suspect this puzzle was made long before Bush eptly ducked those flying shoes.
  • GINGERLY SNAP is clued [Hike with great care?], as in hiking or snapping a football. This Sunday at the annual holiday brunch for my mom's kin, I hope to encounter those tasty, teeny ginger snap cookies my aunt and cousin bake.
  • [Gave very little support to?] clues BARELY BACKED, building on riding a horse bare-backed.
  • We did not have to eat hardtack, the old-time hard, dry biscuit for sailors, aboard the cruise liner. HARDLY TACK is clued as [Use a bulletin board only once in a great while?].
The theme is good, but it's the overall fill that really shines here. Three Z's, an X, and five K's lend a Scrabbly je ne sais quoi. My favorite answers all run Down: UNMANNING, ANNE HECHE with first and last name, SCHLEP, Gene RAYBURN of '70s game show Match Game, Monopoly's PARK PLACE, and a B-BALLER, or [One who plays hoops].


Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword journeys from [Always] to [Never] with two stops in between:
  • WITHOUT FAIL is a phrase that means [Always].
  • EVERY NOW AND THEN means [Sometimes].
  • ONCE IN A BLUE MOON denotes [Rarely].
  • WHEN PIGS FLY is a colorful way to say [Never].
Running along the right side of the grid is NOLAN / RYAN, [baseball's career strikeout king], whose stats suggest plenty of "always" or "often." Favorite answer: the cross-referenced combo with the EVIL TWIN, a [Villain who might pull a 10-Down], or SWITCHEROO, clued as [Unexpected reversal, in slang].

Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Body Scan," scans the phrases from head to toe:
  • TALKING HEAD is [Part of many a political commentary show].
  • WHITE SHOULDERS is a [Perfume since 1949].
  • WEAK IN THE KNEES is clued as [Having just seen a hottie, perhaps].
  • TWINKLE TOES is a [Nickname for a dancer].
I don't watch Gossip Girl, so I had no idea that NATE Archibald is a ["Gossip Girl" role for Chace Crawford]. There's the NBA Hall of Famer Nate Archibald as well as the Crawford character. As far as I know, the abbreviation for the state of Virginia is Va., not VIRG ([Where Thos. Jefferson was born]). I'd have changed MERGE ([Get onto the highway]) to MANGE crossing WAD and VING Rhames to skirt that issue.