January 29, 2009

Friday, 1/30

NYT 6:13
BEQ 4:16
Sun 4:04
LAT 3:47
CHE 2:51
WSJ 6:07

(post updated at 10 a.m. Friday)

When it comes to themeless crosswords, Brendan Emmett Quigley likes to cram in a lot of cool entries. Here are the showiest answers from his New York Times crossword:

  • MATT DRUDGE is clued as a [Journalist with a widely read "Report"]. Is it merely coincidence that his name intersects with HIGH TREASON, which [has made many people lose their heads]?
  • The DIGERATI are a [Computer-savvy crowd]—a blending of digital and literati. Aptly, they cross DATA, clued with [It may be mined].
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm's LARRY DAVID was a [1993 Emmy winner for "Seinfeld"].
  • I learned about the AXOLOTL, a Mexican [Salamander variety], from one or two earlier crosswords. It rhymes, roughly, with "packs a bottle."
  • The separate halves of ADDIS ABABA used to show up in a lot more crosswords as fill-in-the-blank clue/answer combos. The full city name is clued as [City at the foot of Mount Entoto]. Wow, I've never heard of that mountain. Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia, it has over 2 million people, and it's fun to say. More African geography: DAR [___ el Beida (Casablanca, to its natives)].
  • "WE'RE DOOMED!" is a {Cry when you don't think you'll make it].
Favorite clues:
  • [Woolly bear, eventually] metamorphoses into a MOTH.
  • [Brownish orange] clues TERRA COTTA. This one took me a long time to figure out because I had Crayola colors on the brain.
  • [Hits a line drive] clues RIPS ONE.
  • [Briar locale] isn't the briar patch, it's a TOBACCO SHOP. Briar wood is used to make pipes.
Toughest clues:
  • SETH LOW was an [Early 20th-century New York City mayor]. Non–New Yorkers maybe don't remember any besides Bloomberg, Giuliani, Dinkins, Koch, LaGuardia...I'm out.
  • [Not overseas] is PAS, which is French for "not." Now, Quebec isn't overseas from here, and they speak French there. For Spanish, we have AVISOS or [Warnings, to Juan].
  • [Gardener or landscaper] is called an OUTSIDE MAN? Okay.
  • [Person in an apron] is ACTOR, the apron being part of a stage. Admit it: You wanted a BAKER or some other sort of cook, didn't you?
  • BAO [___ Dai (last emperor of Vietnam)] didn't ring a bell.
  • [Tritium output] is a BETA RAY. This is dangerous radiation, right?
  • What [Classic Pontiac] is the VENTURA? Apparently it's from the '60s and '70s, and I don't remember it at all.
  • ["Phoenissae" playwright] is SENECA.
  • [Asparagus's family] is LILY. I always forget this.
Karen Tracey's latest Sun "Weekend Warrior" felt like a "Themeless Thursday" because the clues weren't so hard. Or maybe they were, but knowing Karen's style, it's so easy to read a clue like [Fruity bread spread] and leap at a super-Scrabbly answer like QUINCE JAM. Other answers with uncommon letters include ARABESQUE above DIXIE CUPS, with that Q feeding into QUINCE JAM, whose J is shared by JAMI GERTZ (I just saw the clue [She's behind Biden in the presidential line of succession] and wanted it to apply to JAMI GERTZ), whose Z links to MAXIMIZES, which meets RELAX.

I misread [My brothel's keeper?] as "My brother's keeper" and thought biblical rather than MADAM and prostitution. [Neither fore nor aft] clues AMIDSHIPS; the cruise ship I was on just called it midships. The Lone Ranger is a MASKED MAN but somehow I wanted that answer to be NAKED MAN. TIM MCGRAW has five consonants in a row heaped up inside his name.


Daniel Finan's LA Times crossword replaces successive sounds with double letters that, when read aloud, sound roughly the same as what they replace:
  • [Suits?] are corporate execs or CORPORATE XX.
  • [Add up one's losses?] is assess the damage or SS THE DAMAGE.
  • [What you won't hear from a mutineer?] is "aye aye, Captain" or II CAPTAIN.
  • [Simple?] is as easy as pie or AS ZZ AS PIE. This one's a little different from the other three because ZZ doesn't just replace "easy"—it includes the Z sound from AS.
Toughest clues for me: [Plain type?] for JANE; [Fire and brimstone target] for SODOM; [Popular tourist spot] for MECCA (do hajjis consider themselves tourists or religious pilgrims?); and [Gran Paradiso, e.g.] for an ALP.

Wow, is this the easiest Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle to date? Usually they're at a Thursday or Friday NYT difficulty level, but this one felt like a Tuesday. In John Lampkin's "Misplaced Modifiers," the theme answers are things like French fries, things with a geographical name that's inaccurate (fries are a Belgian creation):
  • CHINESE CHECKERS is a [Board game invented (despite the name) in Germany]. Hey, I never knew that.
  • SWISS CHARD is a [Vegetable first cultivated (despite the name) in Sicily]. Here's a Swiss Chard you can drink.
  • PANAMA HATS are [Headgear made (despite the name) in ECUADOR]. I believe Panama's most prominent export is Panamanian strongmen. (What guides journalists' decision in labeling various leaders as "strongman" vs. "despot" vs. "dictator"? And wouldn't it be great to have one of those ESPN2 broadcasts of a World's Strongest Man competition featuring feats of strength for dictatorial strongmen? I want to see Robert Mugabe try to pull a jumbo jet. And getting Fidel Castro out of green fatigues and into shorts and a tank top to carry a giant rock would have been fun.)
  • [Reuben-sandwich condiment created (despite the name) in America] is RUSSIAN DRESSING.
Mike Shenk, writing as "Alice Long," constructed this weekend's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Winter Business." Easy puzzle! The seven theme entries all have "in winter business" appended to otherwise straightforward clues. Each answer is a common business phrase that begins with a word associated with winter. For example, [Manufacturing supplies, in winter business] are RAW MATERIALS, and damn, is it ever raw outside in Chicago today. Windy and 15°F? That's also cold (COLD, HARD CASH is [Real money, in winter business]) and frozen (FROZEN ASSETS are [Blocked funds, in winter business]. We have snow (SNOWBALLING is clued as [Momentum in the equities market, in winter business]) here, but it's too cold for slush (SLUSH FUND is a [Money reserve, in winter business]). The other two theme entries evoke a much warmer winter—BRISK TRADING is clued as [Market activity, in winter business], and "brisk" describes early November better than a Chicago January. COOL MILLION is a [Tidy sum, in winter business]. Overall, the fill and clues were a good bit easier than a Sunday NYT crossword's.

Brendan Emmett Quigley's self-published crossword, "Lean on Me," has the subtitle "Think thin." That should have pointed me away from thinking AL ATTRACTION was made by removing NIMA from ANIMAL and straight towards seeing that it's FATAL without the FAT. With the NIMA in my mind, I had no idea what was going on with the other theme entries, but it came together after the grid had been filled in. CRUEL TWIST OF E takes the FAT out of FATE, and HER CHRISTMAS diets down the FAT in FATHER. Two of the four 11-letter Down answers in the fill put me briefly to sleep—ORAL VACCINE and DATA STORAGE—but hey, they're stacked 11's crossing two theme entries so we can't expect them to break new ground. Favorite entry: DON CHEADLE, the ["Hotel For Dogs" star]. How many Hotel ___ movies must he make? He's also had two recent verb-preposition-Me movies, Reign Over Me and Talk to Me.