February 14, 2009

Sunday, 2/15

BG 8:27
NYT 8:22
PI 7:18
LAT 6:47
CS 4:43

Happy half-birthday (the 42½th) to baseball player Scott Brosius! He and I are the same age. Watch out for the crossword about us in the year 2166.

Jim Leeds' New York Times crossword is called "Double-O Seven" because there are seven theme entries in which an O has been doubled to change the meaning of a phrase. Double-O is inherently a fun letter combo, if you ask me—that's why I'm so tempted to change "dude" into "dood." And look at the double double-O words— boo-boo, choo-choo, doo-doo, The Goo Goo Dolls, "koo koo ka choo," the Teletubbies' Noonoo, pooh-pooh, Scooby-Doo, "The Shoop-Shoop Song," too-too, Cubs fan Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers. OO is gOOd stuff, I'm telling yoo.

Here are the theme entries:

  • [Numbskull who likes Macintosh computers?] is a BOOB FOR APPLES.
  • [Entrees for oilman Pickens?] are T. BOONE STEAKS.
  • In the middle of the grid, three theme entries are stacked together. [Between a dozen and a score of Disney creations?] is SIXTEEN TOONS. [Overexposure or redeye?] is a PHOTO OOPS. [South Carolina Gamecocks?] are TEAM ROOSTERS.
  • [Kids' whistles and horns?] are TOYS FOR TOOTS.
  • [Place to sit by the highway?] is a ROADSIDE STOOP.
Let's take a look-see. What else is in this puzzle?
  • [Some people dress in them in the winter] clues LAYERS. I see the signs that spring will come, but I'm still stuck in LAYERS for the time being.
  • The [Poetry movement of Ezra Pound] is IMAGISM.
  • WAR ACE sounds awkward to me. That's one sort of [Military hero].
  • OVERDID looks lonesome without a trailing it. The clue is [Exercised too much].
  • The crossword's favorite young salamandery amphibians, EFTS, are clued as [Reddish-orange creatures].
  • CAYS make up [A lot of the Bahamas]. I wouldn't mind being on Disney's Bahamian CAY again, what with not needing to dress in layers there.
  • YAW is a [Rocket measure] of twisting or movement around a vertical axis.
  • [Fox News anchor Pemmaraju] challenges actress Thurman's dominion in the crossword. They form a Notable UMAs Club of two.
  • Two very weird "jobs" show up at the bottom of the puzzle. SEEDMAN is a [Planter] and AURIST is [One treating disorders of the ear]. I don't know agricultural terminology, but I'm pretty darned certain that you won't find an otologist or otolaryngologist who will admit to being an "aurist."
  • ICE FOG is an [Arctic weather phenomenon].
  • Usually crosswords seem to consider Thai to be the [Spicy cuisine] of choice. INDIAN is a good bit spicier, and so is Mexican.
  • [Gray location?] is the hair ROOTS if you've been coloring your hair to camouflage the gray.
  • I wish PEORIA had been clued as [Caterpillar's home] rather than [Home of Caterpillar] to fool people.
  • [It "never won any battle," according to Eisenhower] refers to PESSIMISM.
  • [Bookbinding leather], 4 letters? Gotta be ROAN. And no, I don't think this has anything to do with roan coloring of horses.
  • NAXOS is the [Largest of the Cyclades]. There's an opera, isn't there, called Ariadne auf Naxos?
  • ATTO is [Quintillionth: Prefix].
  • [All people, according to the Bible] are SINNERS. Hey! Speak for yourself, Bible.
  • [European boundary river] is the ODER. Which boundary? The border between Poland and Germany.
  • [It's nice when checks have lots of them] clues ZEROES. I have a friend who's just pleased when every paycheck has a comma in it.
  • AREOLE is usually clued as a cactus's areola thing, but this time it's a [Space on a butterfly's wing].

Pamela Awick Klawitter's syndicated Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword (which is not the one in the LA Times itself, but a crossword syndicated to other papers) is called "Snake in the Grass" because there's an ASP (107-Down) hiding in seven long theme answers. For example, SARATOGA SPRINGS is a [New York city with a famous racetrack] and SEA SPRAY is a [Windy day phenomenon near the shore].

Among the less familiar answers and trickier clues in this puzzle's non-theme fill are:
  • TANA, or [Lake ___, source of the Blue Nile].
  • ["Tennis Is My Racket" autobiographer] is Bobby RIGGS—probably not one of the five leading crossword-fill tennis players. Arthur ASHE is more commonly seen, as is ILIE Nastase, [Rival of Bjorn] Borg.
  • [Par ___: on the ground] is the French TERRE. I haven't seen that phrase before.
  • [Bk. after Ezra] is NEH., short for Nehemiah. It crosses a tricky clue for TEA, [Wonderland spot] as in "a spot of tea."
  • [First part of Miller's "The Rosy Crucifixion"] is SEXUS. Henry Miller's two follow-ups are Plexus and Nexus.
  • [Little men in the front row] are chess PAWNS. At first I was picturing the front row at a movie theater.
  • [Some oil barons] are SHEIKHS. The sheik spelling shows up more often in crosswords.
  • [One throwing things, maybe] is a RAGER, though someone who's raging is seldom ever called a "rager."
  • REWET is clued as [Keep on dunking]. Wait, doesn't the dunkee have to dry off before it can be re-wet?
  • ANTIBES is a [Cote d'Azur resort].
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Literally Speaking," interprets common idiomatic phrases as if the speaker tacked on the word "literally," without regard for the inaptness of using "literally" in that setting. Misuse of "literally" is one of my pet peeves, so this theme was right up my alley. Here are my favorite theme answers:
  • GLUED TO THE TV finishes ["I was literally ___!" (Really? Could you still see?)].
  • BURNING UP fills in the blank in ["I was literally ___!" (I thought I smelled something cooking!)].
  • SITTING DUCKS is the answer to ["We were literally ___!" (Why didn't you just fly away then?)].
  • BLOWN AWAY finishes ["I was literally ___!" (Was it hurricane season?)].
If you want to read more about "literally" and its long history of being used as an intensifier in non-literal ways, check out Jesse Sheidlower's Slate article, "The Word We Love To Hate."

Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" isn't as challenging as the typical Klahn themeless. Favorite clues/fill:
  • [Relief providers, perhaps] are relief MAPS, not EMTs.
  • [Land shaped like a boot] is ARABIA rather than Italia. Really? Hmm, the Arabian Peninsula does look like a snow boot.
  • [Salt deposit?] is a TEAR drop.
  • Anne [Frank account?] is a DIARY.
  • One type of [Bar challenge?] is to do the LIMBO under a pole.
  • [They're downwardly mobile] clues SKIERS. With several letters in place, I opted for SEWERS.
  • TOOK A BATH is a metaphor meaning, metaphorically, [Lost one's shirt]. Either way, you lost some money there.
  • Music history: WORK SONGS [became the foundation for the blues], and ARTIE SHAW was a [Gramercy Five Swing Era clarinetist].
Unfavorite clues/fill:
  • TOO LARGE is clued [With a lot to lose]. "Too large" doesn't strike me as an in-the-language phrase meaning "overweight."
  • STARSHIP are the dreadful ["We Built This City" pop-rockers]. Completely fine as fill, 100% accurate clue—but abysmal song.
  • [Flower from the French Alps] is the RHONE, a river that is a flow-er. I've finally reached my limit for flow-er clues, I think.
The previously published Boston Globe crossword now available in Across Lite is Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's "Search Party." The theme is HIDDEN GEMS, with various gems and semiprecious stones hidden within longer, made-up phrases (see the squares I've highlighted for the gems and stones). The theme feels like a retread because I'd enjoyed Dan Naddor's LAT puzzle with the same sort of theme just two weeks ago. Actually the Globe version of that theme combines real phrases—e.g., DROP A LINE, BAGATELLES—with goofy ones—e.g., MAMET HYSTERIA, NONSTOP AZALEAS—so it feels uneven. Naddor went the full-goofball approach, which I think was more fun.