February 01, 2009

Monday, 2/2

BEQ 5:37
Sun 3:14
NYT 2:48
LAT 2:45

Don't miss the 2008 Oryx Awards write-up. Last year, we were treated to a wealth of cruciverbal goodies, and Rex Parker and I have singled out some of our very favorites.

All righty, let me get my structural complaint out of the way first. In Damon Gulczynski's New York Times crossword, the theme entries are 11, 7, 7, and 11 letters long, but there are two more 10-letter Across answers in the mix that aren't part of the theme. It's a bit jarring for the solver's eyes to have these long answers sprawling across the grid but having nothing to do with the theme. The theme answers all end with the "wee" sound:

  • NINTENDO WII is a [Game console introduced in 2006].
  • The French phrase "MAIS OUI" is a [Parisian's "But of course!"].
  • "SHALL WE?" is a [Query from one who's ready to go].
  • MICHELLE WIE is the [Female golfer who played in the pro men's tournament at age 14].
The long answers that draw the eye are MARIONETTE, clued as [Pinocchio, notably], and "SURE ENOUGH," or ["You're absolutely right"]. ENYA makes an appearance as the ["Only Time" singer, 2001] and is also referenced as a New AGER. There's a cuisine vibe in this puzzle, too—CAJUN is [Like Louisiana cuisine], which I'll be eating in New Orleans this April. CRAB is a [Maryland seafood specialty], and it crosses CREME [___ brulee]. Maybe one [Betty Crocker offering] is a crème brûlée RECIPE? Ignore the presence of ACRID/[Bitter] in that section and enjoy your dessert. If the creme brûlée is too rich, try an OREO, or [Cookie with a filling].

Later Sunday evening:

Imagine my delight when I went grocery shopping after doing the NYT crossword and encountered Stewarts' new line of flavored coffees, featuring Vanilla Créme Burlee.


Longtime solvers may remember a similar theme from Elizabeth Gorski back on 6/16/05, in a Thursday NYT—she included "WHERE WERE WE?," the WEE SMALL HOURS, "WHEE! THIS IS FUN," and MICHELLE WIE for her foursome.

Updated Monday morning:

I mistakenly opened Friday's Sun crossword instead of today's and found myself unable to summon up any answers for the longest time. Eventually I saw the 2/6 date atop the puzzle, muscled through it, and had Lee Glickstein's Monday crossword for dessert. "Cross-Sections" was easy enough to fill in, but it took me until just now to see what the theme was. Each theme entry ends with the name of a newspaper section:
  • BIG BUSINESS is a [1988 comedy with Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin].
  • IN STYLE is a [Monthly fashion magazine].
  • LIBERAL ARTS are [College knowledge].
  • GOOD SPORTS [can take a joke].
  • TIME TRAVEL is the overall ["Back to the Future" theme]. Not theme song, just theme. We watched the movie on demand over the weekend—my son's first exposure to the franchise. (My god, Biff's attempted rape scene is horrifyingly out of place in a family comedy.)
The grid is held together by a quartet of 9-letter answers that spiral out from the center. Classic Monday Sun quality and flavor overall, plus MEL OTT's full name for a change.

Betty Keller's LA Times crossword runs the temperature gamut in the theme entries:
  • HOT LIPS HOULIHAN, played by Loretta Swit, was [Frank Burns's heartthrob on "M*A*S*H"].
  • WARM THE BENCH is [Be a B-team player].
  • COOL HAND LUKE was a [1967 Paul Newman role].
  • COLD WAR POLICIES are [Pre-1991 U.S.-U.S.S.R. strategies]. 
Lots of colorful fill in this crossword—SLIPSHOD means [Careless, as workmanship]; LOW-CUT can be [Backless]; a LAB RAT is a [Scurrier in a maze]; "LET'S SEE" is a [Ponderer's phrase]; a BAD EGG is a [Good-for-nothing]; and a CHAT ROOM is a [Place for online gab].

Today's Brendan Emmett Quigley puzzle is called "Before They Were Famous," and the theme clues give the original names of various bands. Wow, I didn't know a single one of these trivia factoids, but at least I know all the names that these groups settled on. What band was originally known as:
  • [...Rain]? That's OASIS.
  • [...Carl and the Passions]? Those would be THE BEACH BOYS.
  • [...The Stilettos]? That's Deborah Harry's BLONDIE.
  • [...On a Friday]? That's RADIOHEAD.
  • [...Fecal Matter]? That's NIRVANA. I must say, I prefer the final name. That acoustic album from the MTV show wouldn't have had the same vibe if it were called Fecal Matter Unplugged.
  • [...The Vague Dots]? TALKING HEADS here.
  • [...Smile]? That's QUEEN.