December 16, 2008

Wednesday, 12/17

Tausig 4:12
Onion 4:10
Sun 3:55
LAT 3:15
CS 3:08
NYT 3:02

(updated at 10:23 a.m. Wednesday)

John Farmer works a mnemonic into his New York Times crossword, but he does a good job of hiding it. There are five circled squares, the ones that begin the longest Across answers and the central Across answer. All of those letters—E, G, B, D, and F reading downwards—are NOTES, or [Staff members, and what the circled letters in this puzzle represent] at 65-Across. The five EGBDF answers start with words that are used in a common mnemonic for remembering the order of those notes: EVERY GOOD BOY DOES FINE. Now, the way I learned it, every good boy deserves fudge, and I'm feeling a little ripped off that Farmer didn't bring the fudge. (I kid!)

  • EVERY SO OFTEN is [On occasion].
  • GOOD OLD DAYS are [Yesteryear, nostalgically].
  • BOY SCOUTS are, mystifyingly, [Order of the Arrow members]. Order of the Arrow? Never heard of it.
  • DOES WONDERS is clued as [Makes something better in a big way]. As in "Shea butter does wonders for dry winter skin."
  • FINE AND DANDY means [Ducky]. I miss fudge.
John Farmer likes to do it up fancy, so the first and last theme answers are accompanied by stacked pairs of 9-letter answers and crossed by triple-stacked 7's to boot. The fill is rather Scrabbly as well. My favorite parts:
  • [Entrance] looks like the noun, a place of entry, but it's the verb meaning to MESMERIZE.
  • Dental X-RAYS [may have a view of a bridge].
  • I just read a sound bite in Entertainment Weekly this morning. Somebody (I forget who) hates MACADAMIA nuts because you think you're getting white chocolate in the cookie're not.
  • RAJIV is clued casually as [One of the Gandhis].
  • Aimee MANN is cross-referenced with TIL Tuesday, her band.
  • [Game show host Treadway and others] are TYS. (Another famous Ty: Pennington of that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition TV cryfest.) I wonder if Merv Griffin's Crosswords will resume production or not.
  • [House Judiciary Committee chairman John] CONYERS sure doesn't get his name in many crosswords. I hope someone tells him.
  • ALAN-A-DALE was the [Sherwood Forest minstrel] from Robin Hood.
Now, this puzzle's not all fudgy goodness. Abbreviations and quasi-crosswordese answers include RGS, or [Some football linemen: Abbr.]; EZIO, [Opera singer Pinza]; DSL, the [Alternative to dial-up] (I like this abbreviation, though); the FAA, or ["Black box" regulator: Abbr.]; OMY or "o' My," clued as ["Peg ___ Heart"]; DJ'S and BB'S and CD's; the [U.K. honor] known as the OBE; the [Onetime Mideast letters] UAR, or United Arab Republic; AOL and DNA; DAWS, or [Crow cousins] (as in jackdaws); and AZO [___ dye].

The Wednesday Sun crossword constructor is Stephen Kennedy, an unfamiliar name. Perhaps "Bawdy Parts" marks his debut, and it's a good puzzle. The theme entries end with words that sound like body parts.
  • ["Spamalot" group that demands a shrubbery] is the KNIGHTS WHO SAY "NI." That entry is trés cool! NI sounds like "knee."
  • The [1996 grammar book] WOE IS I ends with an "eye."
  • The SKI TOW, a [Ride up the slope], has a "toe."
  • MAD AS A MARCH HARE means [Crazy], and it's got "hair."
  • NO ONE KNOWS sounds like it's got a "nose," and it's a [1958 Dion and the Belmonts hit].
  • LORENZ HART ("heart") was the [Partner of Richard Rodgers].
Two corners of the grid are wide open. In one of those corners, ["Casablanca" director Michael] CURTIZ appears. Why is that name so unfamiliar? (No, it's not his original name.) This puzzle seems to have quite a bit in the way of X's, Z's, and K's. There's also Erik ESTRADA, who is on my TV screen right now. He's playing a cop (a California highway cop, as luck would have it) on the kid show, Drake and Josh. (He looks the same, but with a bit of a paunch.)


The first theme entry in Bill Ballard's LA Times crossword is COME AS YOU ARE, clued with ["It's a party! Informal, so ___..."].Great, a whole theme of Nirvana songs! I'm playing the song as I write this, but no, the rest of the theme entries were not Nirvana songs but party invitation phrases: NO GIFTS, PLEASE. KEEP IT A SECRET. And BRING YOUR OWN bottle. There are some pop culture references in the puzzle, though. FLIX is clued as [Net attachment?], as in Netflix. [Paul's "Exodus" role] was ARI (that's Paul Newman). Sam COOKE was the ["You Send Me" singer]. [Spike TV, formerly] was called TNN. SNL is the [TV show that had recurring "Killer Bees" sketches]. James ARNESS was the main ["Gunsmoke" star]. And Garfield's housemate ODIE is the [Slobbering comics dog] in question. There's one answer I've never seen before: ASSUROR is clued as an [Underwriter].

Tom Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Who's Who," gathers a party of people with the initials W.W.:
  • [Who said "Today's gossip is tomorrow's headline?"] It was WALTER WINCHELL.
  • [Who was Orville's brother in flight?] WILBUR WRIGHT, of course.
  • [Who directed "Mrs. Miniver"?] That was WILLIAM WYLER.
  • [Who ran against Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940?] WENDELL WILLKIE, whose last name looks like it has one L too many.
I didn't know the [Driver in the most favorable position at the start of the race] was called a POLE SITTER; I know about pole position and the old flagpole sitting craze, though. Favorite entry: WET BLANKET, or [Enthusiasm dampener]. Knit your own wet blanket with [Balls of yarn] called CLEWS. There are a few place names mapped out on the grid. ATTU is the [Farthest of the Near Islands]. [Fort ___ (U.S. gold storage facility)] is Ft. KNOX. LANAI is a [Neighbor of Maui], and the Pacific has many a [Coral island], or ATOLL. ALGIERS was a [Former Barbary State in Africa]; from the 16th to 19th centuries, Algiers, Tunis, Morocco, and Tripolitania (Tripoli) were the Barbary coast divisions. AKRON is the [Rubber hub in Ohio].

Brendan Emmett Quigley (who's got a new blog where he dispenses crosswords on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) constructed this week's Onion A.V. Club puzzle. It's a quote theme, but the quote is a famous Bushism, so it was easier than usual to fill in the quote without needing crossings. The quote begins with the clue, [Start of an ironic quote from a certain Yale graduate]: RARELY IS / THE QUESTION ASKED: IS / OUR CHILDREN / LEARNING? Two more answers relate to the theme: LEFT / BEHIND is clued [With 63-Across, how those among 54-Across who speak like their President might end up].

Favorite answers and clues:
  • [Greek isle whose name might make kids giggle] is LESBOS.
  • DR. ROMANO was [Paul Crane's late "ER" character].
  • One kind of [Indian bread] is NAN (yum), and [Polish bread] you can spend are ZLOTYS.
  • THE BBC is the [Original "Life on Mars" channel]. I don't know the show at all.
  • [Summer residents of Italy's Castel Gandolfo] are POPES. Just a hunch but...I think there's only one of those summering there each year.
  • GUESS SO runs three S's in a row, in the bottom row of the grid where such letters really come in handy. It's clued as ["Seems that way"].
  • [Buck who was the first African-American coach in the MLB] spells his surname O'NEIL. Not to be confused with the O'Neal dynasty (Ryan, Tatum, Shaquille) or the O'Neills (all the other famous people with the last name, plus my grandma).
  • HOWDAHS are those [Enclosed carriages atop elephants]. 
  • [Convicted Scooter] is Lewis "Scooter" LIBBY.
  • ["___ Declassified School Survival Guide" (former Nickelodeon sitcom)] was a gimme for me because my son liked the show. It's NED'S Declassified.
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, ""Holding Water," holds some H2O in each theme entry:
  • [Time that might be spent at one's desk] is LUNCH HOUR, with two H's followed by an O.
  • [Simchat Torah, e.g.] is a JEWISH HOLIDAY, and not one of the ones the goyim tend to know about. It's the culmination of Sukkot.
  • Snow White's housemates' [Dwarf refrain] is HEIGH HO.
  • [Substance used by some in baseball's Mitchell Report] is GROWTH HORMONE.
  • [Gay pickup spot, in some cases] is a BATHHOUSE. My closest gay bathhouse is a mile from home. Do you know where yours is?
Among the more interesting clues and answers are these:
  • [Something to notify one's partner abut: Abbr.] is an STD.
  • GOA is not just an Indian state, it's also an [Electronic genre developed in India].
  • [Amused Twitter term] is LOLZ. I do not use that one myself. That Z crosses SAWZALL, a [Multipurpose blade, commercially].
  • AIOLI is indeed a [Vowel-laden French sauce]. Is it more concentrated in garlic flavor or vowels?
  • KING JAMES is a [Sobriquet for Lebron] James.
  • [Porn stars' specs] are GIRTHS.
  • [1995 TV mega-event, repeated more quietly in 2008] clues OJ TRIAL.
  • [Into anyone, potentially] is PANSEXUAL.
  • [One may get laid on the farm] clues an EGG, of course.
  • [Some coasters, before being scratched] are CDS. Do you have any old CDs you're using as coasters?
That's a lot of good stuff there. Tougher words: [Spinning round?] is a DJ SET. [Ottoman dynasty founder] is OSMAN. [Hip parts] are ILIA, plural of ilium. [2002 Literature Nobelist Kertesz] is IMRE Kertesz. [Belligerent Chinese dynasty until 1125] is LIAO.