February 17, 2009

Wednesday, 2/18

BEQ 4:53
Onion 4:50
LAT 3:36
Sun 3:25
NYT 3:14
Tausig —> will be in Thursday post

(post updated at 9:40 Wed. morning)

Susan Gelfand skews automotive in her Wednesday New York Times crossword. The four longest answers are phrases that begin with the P-R-N-D gears in a car:

  • PARK CITY, UTAH is [Home of the Sundance Film Festival]. Been there, love it as a crossword answer.
  • REVERSE SPLIT is a [Corporate action that increases the par value of its stock]. Not a familiar phrase to me, really, but the split part was gettable and the reverse part belongs to the theme.
  • NEUTRAL SHADE is clued as [Bone, for one]. Eh, I'd have preferred NEUTRAL COLOR, perhaps.
  • DRIVE ME CRAZY is a familiar phrase, but the clue did me no favors: it's a [1999 Melissa Joan Hart movie].
The northeast and southwest corners of the grid tie these together as [a possible title for this puzzle]: SHIFT / GEARS.

I launched this puzzle with a wrong answer at 1-Down, trying ZILCH instead of ZIPPO. With ADLAI Stevenson, the [First name in 1950s politics], in place, the ZILCH quickly proved its wrongness. Interesting bits:
  • TECUMSEH was a [Shawnee chief at the Battle of Tippecanoe].
  • [From Sucre, say] clues BOLIVIAN. Any 8-letter answers constructors can work in that are zippier than, say, REASSESS are welcome.
  • ROGET of thesaurus fame was a [Physician/synonymist]. I think this clue's going to spur a lot of Googling. Speaking of a [Wordsmith's reference], we also have the OED here.
  • [Off-season offerings] on TV are RERUNS. I'd like the sports off-season to include live, play-for-play reenactments of games from the past season.
  • COOTIE! I loved that [Bug-building game] when I was a kid. 
  • [Awfully small] clues DINKY, but all sorts of other words might work there too. Like TEENY, which I had, or BITTY.
Andrea Carla Michaels and Patrick Blindauer teamed up for Wednesday's Sun crossword, another Oscar-week special. Their last shared byline was on the January 2 Wall Street Journal puzzle, the one with ant farm tunnels snaking through the grid. Today's puzzle is called "Screenwriting Can Be a Drag," and the theme is "movies that won Best Screenplay Oscars and feature characters in drag." Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire don't make the grade, but THE CRYING GAME, VICTOR/VICTORIA, and SOME LIKE IT HOT all do. This 16-square-high grid makes room for long answers like STEP-BY-STEP, MIRACLE GRO, a CRACKPOT, and DOMINEER—along with not one but two [Old Olds] cars, the ALERO and CIERA. (Fie on both!) NINE P.M. gets a 24-hour-time clue, [2100].


Jack McInturff's LA Times crossword has five theme entries bound together by WIND (70-Across), the [Word that can precede the first word of the answers to starred clues]:
  • BURN UP THE ROAD is clued [Drive like the dickens].
  • BAG OF BONES is a [1998 Stephen King novel]. I prefer gasbag to windbag, personally.
  • To FALL ON HARD TIMES is to [Have serious financial setbacks].
  • "SOCK IT TO ME" is the classic ["Laugh-In" catch phrase].
  • To [Burglarize] is to BREAK AND ENTER, though that phrase is usually seen with an -ing on each verb.
In the fill, we have ["SNL" alum Nora] DUNN not cross-referenced to SNL, the [NBC weekend show]. The two most interesting words in this puzzle are KRAALS, or [South African villages]—no relation to jazz singer Diana Krall—and MAENAD, or [Frenzied woman]. In Greek mythology, the Maenads were Bacchanalian female followers of Dionysus (Bacchus being the Roman equivalent of Dionysus). They were said to get into a frenzy and rip raw flesh from living creaturese to devour. You have to wonder what sort of fears the guys who wrote these myths had.

Tyler Hinman's Onion A.V. Club crossword follows up Valentine's Day with five suggestions for the unpartnered. Various options for seeking a date include SPEED DATING, a PERSONAL AD, MATCH DOT COM, a SINGLES BAR, or getting a FIX-UP from a friend. There's also the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, but you tend to meet people who live thousands of miles away from you. (I've heard of at least one or two married couples who first met at the ACPT.)

Among the trickier clues are these:
  • ["I need you to remember this!"] for "THINK!"
  • A [Resident of Dhofar or Musandam] is an OMANI. Never heard of either burg. No, wait—they're not burgs. Dhofar is a region within Oman and Musandam is an exclave separated from the bulk of Oman.
  • [Kris Kross' final single] was "DA BOMB."
  • [Nicole's adopted father] is LIONEL Richie.
  • OAHU is the [Island nicknamed "The Gathering Place"].
  • [Larry Flynt's home state] is OHIO.
  • CARR completes [Baker vs. ___ (landmark Supreme Court redistricting case)].
  • [Roman numeral representations, often] are ANNI, plural of the Latin for "year."
Brendan Emmett Quigley's puzzle today is called "Stretching Out: Go bust or get busy." The bust/busy pairing explains the theme—in eight phrases, a Y is turned into a T and the resulting new phrase is clued:
  • [Affliction for someone with too many deerstalkers and fedoras?] is HAT FEVER (hay fever).
  • [Not allow to get to first base?] is HOLD AT BAT (hold at bay). I started out with KEEP AT BAT here.
  • ["Where'd ya hang 'Water Lilies' in this museum?"] clues SHOW ME THE MONET.
  • IT DON'T COME EAST is [Observation as to why a Kansas-based company has to relocate to San Francisco instead of Boston?]. I'm not sure, but I think what's going on here is that a fictional company in the heartland goes west because its I.T. department won't go east. Is it I.T., information technology, or IT, the pronoun? (It don't come easy.)
  • [Gumshoe's pamphlet?] is DICK TRACT (Dick Tracy). Dick and gumshoe are both slang for "detective," and how mature of Brendan to eschew the penis here.
  • STRAT CAT (stray cat) is clued [Jazz guitarist?]. Jazz is loaded with hepcats, bien sur, and a Fender Stratocaster is a guitar.
I can't say I'm familiar with SAVARIN, a [Folgers alternative]. I like PARKS IT, or [Sits, slangily], as a crossword answer. My first guess for the [Shoulderless shirt] was TANK TOP, but that does have straps over the shoulders, whereas a TUBE TOP does not. METH is clued as [One of the Wu-Tang Clan rappers, for short]; that's Method Man. I could've done without TONGUE being clued as [Kebab meat]; never seen tongue kebabs and hope never to see 'em. [Stamp, as a document] clues the obscure, blah word ENSEAL. I wanted TACTILE for [Touch-related], but the less common TACTUAL insisted on showing up. SWAGGER is a great word; it means [Bravado] and apparently the word has been with us for about 500 years.