January 08, 2009

Friday, 1/9

Sun 9:13
NYT 5:22
LAT 4:25
BEQ 4:15
CS 4:15
CHE 3:44
WSJ tba

(updated at 6:40 p.m. Friday)

Whoa, that's a lot of crosswords in the Friday line-up. If I don't get to all of these by a reasonable time, I'll move some to Saturday's post.

Speak of the devil! Why, just yesterday I mentioned that Paula Gamache was a top-notch themeless constructor, and here she is again with a wonderful New York Times crossword. The grid looks a tad like a big backwards S, as the corners have been nicked out of the triple-stacked long answers at the top and bottom. And all six of those long answers are fantastic:

  • [A looker might give it...or get it] clues THE ONCE OVER.
  • FOOTBALL WIDOW—my husband is watching that college football game right now, and I turned to ask him a question and he shook his head before I even had a chance to ask him anything. Am I the [Partner of a certain rabid sports fan]? Signs point to yes.
  • SAY THE MAGIC WORD is a ["Please?" elicitor] most parents or bossy people are intimately familiar with.
  • CULTURE VULTURES are [Habitues of art galleries, theaters, etc.].
  • GEORGIE PORGIE is the [Nursery rhyme title fellow] who kissed the girls and made them cry. Future sexual harassment violator? (He looks great sitting in the crossword, though.)
  • The [Once-common monochrome PC display] is the GREEN SCREEN monitor. GREENSCREEN is also a method of shooting video so that it looks like the movie star's in outer space or the meteorologist has a weather map behind her.
What else struck me besides how much I liked those six answers? I liked the little Kar Korner, where the [Wankel engine component], or ROTOR, was the first answer I had. It crosses TOYOTAS, or [Some hybrids], and a HOT ROD, or [Fast accelerator]. MANEATER is clued as [Lion, tiger or shark], and PREDATOR would fit with three of those letters; I'll bet some folks fell into that trap. A WRETCH is a [Base person], while a military [Base person?] is SARGE. [Ooze] does double duty cluing EMIT and SEEP...which cross the [Blood sausage ingredient] SUET and ruin my appetite.

There's a European vibe here, too:
  • [Italian beans, in a Dean Martin standard], are the FAZOOL in "That's Amore" ("When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool").
  • There's a pair of English royals: QEII is the [Ruler crowned in 1953, informally] and EDWARD II was the [Loser in the Battle of Bannockburn, 1314].
  • My first answer for [Shorts material, in Munchen] was LODEN, but it's LEDER (that's German for "leather"). LYCRA would have been tempting, too.
  • The French language gets TABAC, or "tobacco," clued with [The French smoke it], along with ROTI [___ de boeuf]. Beef roast? TABAC smoking ought not be confused with [Smoke, e.g.]/CURE, as in salted, cured meats.
  • Spaniards probably know that a [Thing with petalos] is a FLOR.
  • Portugal is in possession of the AZORES, which are the [Native home of the canary], as are Spain's Canary Islands (named after dogs) and Portugal's Madeira.
Miscellaneous other stuff:
  • I love TIGGER, that [Bouncy kid-lit character]. A tigger's a wonderful thing.
  • ANAIS Nin is clued as a [First name in erotica]. More often the crosswords call her a "diarist."
  • ["Hooked on Swing" jazzman Larry] ELGART is not someone I'd heard of.
  • [They're short on T's] clues SLEEVES, though I am right this moment wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt.


I should've known better. After Paula's puzzle last night, I opened the Sun "Weekend Warrior" and saw Byron Walden's byline. I had a headache and so figured it best to postpone the puzzle 'til morning ("Not tonight, dear") rather than grappling with Byron's Gordonized clues in an impaired state. The headache is still there now, but I figured I'd go ahead anyway aaand...I paid the price, as Byron's colleague Jeremy Horwitz (also a constructor) had thought it was one of the easiest Weekend Warriors ever but it trounced me. So, you decide: Easy-peasy WW, really hard, or somewhere in between?

My trouble spots occupied the bottom half of the grid, and wrong turns at a SQUIRT of Binaca (instead of the even-more-Scrabbly SPRITZ) and CLAUS (instead of SANTA) killed me. And the [Boilermaker part] I opted for was the BEER chaser rather than a SHOT of whiskey. These are a few of my favorite things:
  • The MEAD Trapper Keeper reference. Takes me right back to junior high, that does.
  • NOTE is clued as [Word often said with grace and love]. Whoever wrote this clue is brilliant. It would have been so easy to write a flavorless clue for a bland 4-letter word, so it's much appreciated when the constructor and/or editor put as much cleverness into it as a clue for a fancypants long answer.
  • The Asian mystical vibe kicks in with the yogi's CHAKRA and ZEN MASTERS, or [Roshis]. It would've helped me if I'd known what roshis were. The crossings at one point had me contemplating...TREASURERS. Sad, I know.
  • [Neige color] is BLANC. I know this all too well. In 45 minutes, I will be brushing inches of neige off my car.
  • Who doesn't love the LOG FLUME ride? [It often makes a big splash].
  • THE STOOGES are a [Pop band?], as in Iggy Pop. SQUIRT and CLAUS really made this one hard to see.
  • MOONBEAM is a [Romantic reflection] on the sea.
  • AGITATOR is an [Incendiary] here and [One stirring the pot] in the NYT. Both clues are perfect(ly misleading).
  • U.N. CHARTER is a terrific entry. [It begins "We the peoples"].
  • [Marking choices] are the letter grade ABCDF. I had standardized tests in mind and had ABCDE for a while.
  • JONNY QUEST and Sam ("MR. DEMOCRAT") Rayburn may well have never appeared on the same web page or printed page before.

You know what I've been wondering? Why I see Dan Naddor's byline so often above the LA Times crossword, but never in the NYT. He's definitely got the constructing chops to appear in the Gray Lady's pages, so I have to think he just doesn't submit his puzzles to anyone but Rich Norris. Anyway—Today's puzzle has a "See Notepad" notation in the Across Lite file, and each clue is followed by parenthetical h's or m's. I solved the puzzle without peeking at the Notepad, which merely clarifies that h = hit and m = miss, which I figured out when the BATTLESHIP theme became apparent. I'm short on time this morning so I haven't identified the location of each [Part of the game] in the grid (if I do later on, I'll post a new grid showing where the boats are). In the game of Battleship, you place an AIRCRAFT CARRIER, DESTROYER, SUBMARINE, and PATROL BOAT in a grid and you and your opponent try to guess where the enemy flotilla is. I think there are two of one of the smaller boats, but I could be thinking of the Conceptis Battleships puzzles. Hey, what's that SLOOP ([Fore-and-aft-rigged vessel]) doing in these waters? It could get torpedoed by a confused crossword solver.

Kudos to Naddor for the cool crossword/Battleship pastiche, and for fill like POTBELLY ([Hardly a six-pack?]) supplemented by FLAB ([Love handles, so to speak]), and the [Video-sharing site] YOUTUBE. Kudos to Rich Norris for publishing so many Naddor puzzles and for his flexibility where the "rules" of crosswords are concerned—I just noticed that the grid's not symmetrical.

Updated again:

I spent all afternoon telling myself I couldn't look at the Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword until I'd done the other three puzzles waiting for me. Chronology be damned, here's the BEQ. Now, the puzzle was mildly spoiled for me because I'd seen a comment somewhere about the "Pull Down Menus" gimmick, so when things didn't add up right away, I went straight to a MENU-pulled-down gimmick. The four theme answers are phrases that include MENU within them, but those four letters have been "pulled down" to the row below, and the 4-letter word that answers the clue below gets shifted up to the middle of the long theme answer. YEHUDI MENUHIN should be above PRAM, but instead the MENU's been dropped down and the name becomes YEHUDI PRAMHIN. Favorite fill: the RARE BREED in the bottom corner.

Annemarie Brethauer's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "49 Is 50," pays homage to Alaska on the 50th anniversary of its admission to the union. The theme answers are the state sport, tree, bird, flower, and fish. I knew the WILLOW PTARMIGAN (and have always been fond of the bird with its PT start). The other answers I pieced together with some crossings—SITKA SPRUCE and DOG MUSHING, KING SALMON and the FORGET-ME-NOT. State trivia!

The Dark Knight on Blu-ray began just as I started to do Rich Norris's CrosSynergy crossword, "Inner Voices," so I got rather distracted. The theme entries have an embedded ALTO (55-Down) in them, and the middle three theme entries are all stacked in a staggered heap—nice. Also nice: The stacked answers at the top and bottom, the 11's running alongside 7's going Down.

Batman needs me, so the Wall Street Journal puzzle will get blogged about in Saturday's post.