February 26, 2009

Friday, 2/27

Sun (untimed, drat) — It's not too late to subscribe to the Sun and do this cool crossword
NYT 6:25
CHE 3:38
BEQ untimed
WSJ 12:02
LAT 6:59

This is my last post 'til post-ACPT, most likely. I will see some of you at the tournament, and the rest of you will be entertained here by the bloggy stylings of Joon. Be nice to him, will ya? Thanks!

Mark Diehl's Sun crossword, "Think Twice," is Peter Gordon's way of going out with a bang and reminding us of how many truly exceptional crosswords he has edited and published. This is the final Sun puzzle until a possible vague future date, and it's a doozy. (It's in the running for the year's coolest gimmick crosswords.) It was kids' TV programming that tipped me off to the rebus gimmick—[Miranda Cosgrove TV character surnamed Shay] could only be CARLY, but there were four squares. With 12-Down being an adverb, the LY had to be the rebus square—and [With prudence] sounded like SAGELY, which would fit with two letters per square. Would you look at that? The entire grid is framed with rebus squares, 44 of them in all. The edges of the puzzle are DOUBLE-EDG[ED] in a sense—and [RA]ZOR BLADES and BROADSWORDS can also be double-edged. So there's a full-fledged theme to elegantly explain the point of having the rebus squares around the edge.

You know what? I believe Diehl's puzzle has more than 225 letters in its answers, though there are only 225 white and black squares. No wonder it took a while to finish! My favorite answers were the double-packed ones, like CORN CHEX, THE SCORE, and MONA LISA in four squares apiece and ED KOCH in three. Would you believe the music world has a non-Brian ENO? Yep, it's [Spoon drummer Jim]. Overall, a cool crossword packed with Friday-worthy clues, and a fitting valedictory for the crossword snob's breed of crossword.

If you'd like Peter to bring the Sun puzzle back some day, and you'd be willing to pay an annual subscription fee (just 20¢ per puzzle!) for these fine crosswords, click here to sign up. I was #7, and I expect that number to skyrocket now that I'm exhorting you to signal your interest, too.

The New York Times crossword by Joe DiPietro has a fearsome-looking grid, doesn't it? Triple-stacked 15's at the top and bottom, and not with dead-giveaway clues? Yow. (Another "yow" is likely in store for the Saturday puzzle. Will likes to make a splash during tournament weekend.) Here are the six big girls:

  • [Bygone flag] is THE STARS AND BARS.
  • [Think a certain way about] clues HAVE AN OPINION ON.
  • [Make a call] is USE THE TELEPHONE. It's in the language as a verb phrase, yes, but it looks weird in the puzzle.
  • [Much of Central America, once] was BANANA REPUBLICS.
  • ["This would be a first for me"] clues I'VE NEVER TRIED IT. This is one of those spoken phrases that isn't remotely a dictionary entry, but that I like to see in the puzzle.
  • [Trading posts?] are GENERAL MANAGERS. Stock trading? Baseball trading? I don't know.
Now, here are my favorite clues. Sometimes favorite because of cleverness, and sometimes favorite owing to the sheer cussedness of a hard clue. And also, let's have some answers I liked.
  • [Cover girl, e.g.?] is a SPY with a cover.
  • [Laid-back] is TYPE B, with the unexpected B at the end. It crosses PLUMB, or [Downright]. Love the word plumb.
  • The [Time being] is the NONCE. Great word.
  • [Mammonism] clues GREED. Hey, a clue I could answer without a zillion crossings! Much appreciated.
  • [1960s-'70s touchdown maker] is a LEM, or lunar excursion module that touched down on the moon. No football here.
  • [Beat but good] clues THUMP. Also a cool word.
  • [Can't continue] was kinda tough because HAS TO STOP is an unusual answer. Same with [Withdrew quietly] for WENT ASIDE.
  • [Relating to wheels] is inferrable thanks to "rotary," but who ever uses the word ROTAL? Not I.
  • [Emulates Eve] clues RAPS. Great clue—not Bible Eve, but the rapper named Eve.
  • BORED is clued as [Yet to be engaged?]. I like that clue.
  • You don't see a lot of abbreviated long answers. [It's a little over 65 degrees: Abbr.] refers to the ARCTIC CIR., or circle. Degrees of latitude, I presume.
  • [Things that open and close yearly?] are WYES, as in the plural of the spelled-out name of the letter Y.
  • NAMIBIA is the [Home of Walvis Bay]. What else was it gonna be with the NA at the beginning? It sounds Australian to me, though.
  • G.I. JANE was a [1997 Demi Moore flick]. Great entry.
  • Very few of us know that REBURN is a [Co-firing technique used to reduce pollution from electrical power plants].
  • Are you up on your old Greek currency? [Pennies : dollar :: ___ : drachma] clues LEPTA. I needed every single crossing.
  • Who doesn't like a rainbow or sunbow? [Producers of sunbows] are MISTS. Don't ask why I started with MOONS here.

Tom Heilman's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Drama Queens," has a theme of Hollywood trivia. What [Royal role] has been played by four different actresses, two of them portraying her twice? ELIZABETH I, that's who. BETTE DAVIS chalked up her queen roles in 1939 and 1955 and CATE BLANCHETT played Elizabeth in 1998 and 2007. The same year that Blanchett was nominated for an Oscar for playing Elizabeth, so was JUDI DENCH—she played an older Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love and won the Best Supporting Actress trophy. And GLENDA JACKSON played her in 1971.

A few non-theme clues:
  • [Brno was once its capital] clues MORAVIA, a region in what's now the Czech Republic.
  • To [Take a shot?] in a shot glass is to IMBIBE.
  • [Terminus a ___] QUO looks to be Latin, and I don't know what it means. Speaking of Latin, CICERO is the ["In Verrem" speaker].
  • [Disrespectful replies] clues the mass noun SASS.
  • [Got too old for] is OUTGREW.
  • ELIJAH was the [Biblical prophet fed by ravens].
  • [Jörgen's wife, in an Ibsen play] is HEDDA Gabler.

updated 10:30 pm EDT by joon:

dan naddor's LA times crossword has a fun wordplay theme in which AR gets added to the beginning of an existing R word:

  • [Spiff up the family dog?] is ARRANGE ROVER.
  • [Milestone in St. Louis history?] is ARCH ARRIVAL. (i'm quite sure it was built there, rather than just arriving from somewhere else.) this answer tripped me up because i was thinking the first AR was the wordplay, but in fact it was the second one. nice answer, though. the ARCH is absolutely spectacular. on a related note, not two hours ago i flew into dulles airport, the main terminal of which was also designed by crossword hero EERO saarinen. it's also one of my favorite buildings in america.
  • [Weapon for a medieval assassin?] is MURDERER'S ARROW, playing on the term "murderer's row," which i associate with the 1927 yankees. this was my favorite theme answer.
  • [Places for bookings?] are ARREST ROOMS. larry craig has no comment.
  • [Lineup of battery terminals?] is CATHODE ARRAY. one the plus side (no pun intended—you have to believe me!), we aren't often treated to CATHODE in the grid; usually ANODEs dominate. on the minus side, this answer doesn't do much for me, even though i'm about to teach circuits next week.

the even-length MURDERER'S ARROW necessitated an oversize 15x16 grid, but i didn't mind. lots of good stuff in the fill, including retired hitters DARRYL strawberry and hall-of-famer ROD CAREW, plus petco park's PADRES to round out the baseball mini-theme. more circuits (AMMETER), and some biology (PABA, or [Vitamin B-10], and AMOEBA). chemistry wanted to have its place, too, but DIMERS was clued as [Nickel-and-___: nitpickers].

old-school crosswordese: PROAS are [Indonesian outriggers]. unfamiliar names: ["The Shoes of the Fisherman" author] MORRIS west, [Innovative bebop drummer] MAX ROACH, and ['90s FDA commissioner] KESSLER. also, could somebody explain why EOS are [Prez's decrees]? i would have liked to see a mythology clue there.

today's brendan emmett quigley crossword, "Hello Brooklyn! -- Natives only," has a fun "welcome to ACPT" theme. words with ER sounds get changed to OI sounds, as if spoken with a thick brooklyn accent:

  • [Brooklynites approach to the Atkins diet?] is LIVE AND LOIN.
  • [Brooklyners ventriloquism technique?] is BLANK VOICE.
  • [Cheers bartender Woody's slimy menu addition, in his new Brooklyn bar?] is OILY BOYD SPECIAL. sure, the clue is tortured as all hell, but this was a fun one, with two sound transformations. also, anything reminiscent of former red sox pitcher oil can boyd (no relation to OIL CAN HARRY of mighty mouse fame) is a good thing.
  • [Brooklyn burger caper?] is PATTY HOIST, playing on patty hearst, who was abducted by the semiconscious liberation army.
  • [Push carcinogens in Brooklyn?] is FOIST POISON, playing on "first person." i don't think this one works as well, because POISON has a Z sound in the middle, whereas "person" has an S sound. still, props for trying for another double-transformation answer.

my favorite fill was the cluster of F-words (no, not that kind) in the top part of the grid, with FANJETS and FLAG DAY and the vowel-dropping website FLICKR. although actually, the F there did cross DFL, or [Like the contestant who came in 699 out of 699 entrants, initially]. hint: D = dead, L = last. so maybe yeah, that kind of F-word.

impenetrable to me: [Band leader of the "Centerfold" band] JGEILS (i don't even know how to parse this—or maybe it's just one name anyway?) next to ["Beauty and the Beat" rapper] EDAN.

harvey estes's wall street journal crossword, "male bonding," has a cool theme that's a little tricky to explain. it's kind of like the "before & after" jeopardy! category in that an expression which ends with a certain word is joined to an expression which starts with the same word, but in this case, the middle (shared) word is always a word which could generically mean a male person:

  • [Vacation spot that was built more recently?] is LATER DUDE RANCH ("later, dude" + dude ranch).
  • [Muppet game show host with all the answers?] is WISE GUY SMILEY. two thumbs up for this answer.
  • [Cowboy star cheating at hide-and-seek?] is PEEPING TERRELL OWENS. no, just kidding—it's PEEPING TOM MIX. but terrell is jealous of the attention that tom is getting instead of him.
  • [Like streakers?] is FAST BUCK NAKED. you know, in the original olympics, they competed in all of the events, including footraces, wearing nothing but olive oil.
  • [What Jeb might call Dubya?] is MAMA'S BOY GEORGE. i emit a tehee at this one, too, mostly at the incongruous juxtaposition of W with boy george.
  • [Strange pinko?] is ODD FELLOW TRAVELER. i confess that i don't understand what "pinko" has to do with "fellow traveler."
  • the best theme answer is [Praise for a scholar?], or YOU DA MAN OF LETTERS.

this one definitely gave me a stiffer workout than recent WSJ puzzles. the toughest area was the NE, where YOU DA MAN was quite difficult to parse, and was also surrounded by vague and/or tricky clues. my favorite was [Thatcher follower]. john MAJOR refused to fit, because the answer is tom SAWYER, who tailed after his crush becky thatcher puppy-dog style. also, OILCAN makes another appearance in this puzzle; chalk up another point for crosssynchronicity.

goodness, it's already 11:20 and i'm just finishing the friday blogging. the saturday puzzle has already been out for 80 minutes! will hop right to it.