February 10, 2009

Wednesday, 2/11

Sun 4:54
BEQ 4:15
NYT 3:33
LAT 3:12

You know why it helps to pay attention in grade-school science class? So you don't read a clue like [Comment at the reptile exhibition?] and write in WHAT'S NEWT as your answer. Here's what that was supposed to be:

  • WHAT A CROC, the phrase "what a crock" minus the final K.
  • That goes with the PAC ANIMAL (as in the Pac-Ten NCAA sports conference), clued with [Bruin, Golden Bear or Wildcat?]. The K is dropped from "pack."
  • DOC OF THE BAY also drops the K from the first word. The clue is [Horse vet?]. I'm not crazy about this one because nobody calls a veterinarian a "doc of" any animal. It's awkward.
  • [Command to a photog?] is TAKE YOUR PIC, losing the final K from "take your pick."
Trickier bits in the grid: ANAPEST is a [Bit of a limerick]. (If you like writing goofy poems, don't miss the Crossword Fiend contest! Deadline is Thursday at noon.) There's also KEMAL [Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey]—along the lines of "Attagirl!" I want to say "Atta Turk!" [Non-vector] clues SCALAR. [Ruby's victim] made me wonder what sort of mayhem Ruby Dee had been up to; turns out to be Jack Ruby, killer of Lee Harvey OSWALD. And look! That ties in with SLAYS, or [Does in], for a mini-theme of grimness. Haven't seen [U follower] THANT, as in the Burmese former U.N. Secretary General U Thant. For the scenic tour, you can take in Mount ETNA, a [Sight from Taormina], and look at a SWALE, or [Low-lying wetland].

Tom Heilman's Sun crossword, "Showing Some Muscle," puts some muscle into each theme entry's original word:
  • Put a LAT into geologic to get GELATO LOGIC, a [Reason for having a preference for Italian ice cream?].
  • Put an AB into boondocks for BABOON DOCKS, or [Primate piers?].
  • Moats adopt a DELT to create MODEL TATS, or [Display body art?].
  • Restroom + PEC = RESPECT ROOM, [Where dissing isn't allowed?].
  • [Combat division?] clues WAR QUADRANT, which is formed by adding a QUAD to warrant.
Speaking of quadrants, all four of this puzzle's contain trios of 7-letter answers going Down, intersected by another 7 and a theme entry. The clues I liked best in those corners include these: [Plant on the back of Arizona's state quarter] is the SAGUARO cactus. KNISHES are [Street vendor snacks] in New York, but Chicago is woefully low on street vendors who sell food. ERITREA is [Where Tigrinya is spoken]. Sounds a little like a Star Trek language to me. Also from the geography sphere: CROATIA is [called Hrvatska by natives].


In Donna Levin's LA Times crossword, once I had both FRENCH KISS (the [Ryan/Kline comedy]) and MELBA MOORE ([Singer/actress who made her Broadway debut in "Hair" (1968)] in place, I knew there'd be TOAST in the corner—and there it is at 66-Across, clued as [Diner "raft," and theme of this puzzle]. French toast, melba toast...hmm, what other famous toasts are there? These two:
  • Texas toast, that thick-sliced white bread. It's evoked by the TEXAS LONGHORNS, an [Oklahoma Sooners rival].
  • I didn't know the name of [Barbara Bain's "Mission: Impossible" role], CINNAMON CARTER, but there's cinnamon toast and Carter is a familiar last name.
Other clues:
  • [Like most chips] means SALTY. Oddly enough, snacks like Fiddle Faddle and Nilla Wafers often have just as much sodium as, say, Fritos. YUCATAN is a [Peninsula state] in Mexico; I wonder how many people filled in FLORIDA quickly instead.
  • No time to look this up now, but I've always wondered: Does aubergine, a.k.a. eggplant, have a logical reason for being so close to the word AUBERGE, or [Amiens inn]? Is the eggplant the innkeeper's vegetable of choice?
  • HI-DE-HO was [Cab Calloway's catchphrase].
  • MAMMA MIA is the [ABBA musical]. Hey, that title is half M's.
Brendan Emmett Quigley's crossword today is titled "Funny Gesture" and it's got a quote theme featuring an [amusing question by Zach Galifianakis]: I WONDER IF DEAF / PEOPLE HAVE A SIGN/ FOR / "TALK TO THE HAND." It's a decent punchline, as quote themes go, and this puzzle has a low enough word count (70 entries) to pass muster as a themeless puzzle. That means lots of longer answers and because this is Brendan we're talking about, low word count = interesting fill and good clues to boot:
  • RITALIN is a [Hyperactivity drug].
  • "JUST ONE" is clued as ["Okay, you talked me into trying your cookies"].
  • There are T. REXES ([Huge dinosaurs]) and an L.A. LAKER ([Pau Gasol, e.g.]). Other answers that start with stand-alone letters are J-LO and F-TENS.
  • [Place to find a title] clues the theater MARQUEE.
  • One famous [B in music history?] is BRAHMS.
  • I thought the [Sharpshooter's gift] would be a good EYE, but it turned out to be AIM. Then I came across the clue [Keen perception] and said aha! this is where EYE goes. Nope, it's EAR.
  • EHS is boring fill, but I like the clue—[Hardly glowing reviews].
  • Isaac Asimov's I, ASIMOV is a [1994 literary autobiography].