February 24, 2009

Wednesday, 2/25

BEQ 4:41—don't miss this one
Sun 3:59
Onion 3:35
NYT 3:03
LAT 2:57

Good news! This blog will not get rusty while I am away at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament because Joon will be here to take care of business. Now, he might not have a chance to get to all of the puzzles by morning every day, but I know you'll be appreciative of however much he's able to squeeze into his own weekend plans—because even if he blogs just one newspaper crossword all weekend, that'll be more than I'd be able to do. Thanks a googol, Joon!

Newcomer Kelly Browder's New York Times crossword is perfectly pegged to Wednesday difficulty, with a theme that makes you think harder than a Monday or Tuesday puzzle, and with some answers that might be out of reach for a Monday-only solver. The theme entries are all things that might be SPIKED (48-Down):

  • NEWS STORIES make up some [Pulitzer Prize entries]. I'm not sure how news stories are spiked. Monica K., can you explain from a journalist's perspective?
  • VOLLEYBALLS [may be served at the beach]. Spike the ball over the net—kapow!
  • IRON FENCES are [Some ornamental barriers]. Those spikes can be dangerous. If it's icy out or you're intoxicated, be careful not to fall on an iron spike with your mouth open. Seriously. The rescuers will need to use a blowtorch to cut off the fence segment and take you to the OR with an iron fence on you.
  • [Party servers] are PUNCH BOWLS. The bowl's not spiked, but the punch in it may be spiked with booze.
Among the tougher stuff in the fill we find these:
  • An ARAWAK is an [Indian encountered by Columbus]. Other Caribbean natives include the Taino and Carib.
  • ["___ Republic"], 6 letters? Why is the store Banana Republic in quotes? It's not. It's PLATO'S Republic.
  • [Fruits de ___ (menu heading)] is MER. "Fruits of the sea" ≠ sea vegetables like kelp—they're seafood from the animal kingdom.
  • [___ Zion Church] brings back A.M.E., which was in another NYT puzzle just last week. African Methodist Episcopal.
  • Do you know your German. STILLE means "silent" and completes ["___ Nacht" (German carol)].
  • A board-game SPINNER is a [Randomizing device].
  • NO FEAR is a [Brand of clothing or energy drink]. I needed all the crossings for this one.
  • FERULE is a [Schoolmaster's rod] used in corporal punishment. Not to be confused with the metal sleeve that holds an eraser on a pencil—that's a two-R ferrule.
  • LST is a [W.W. II transport: Abbr.]. It's short for Landing Ship, Tank.
  • [Place for a thimble] is an ETUI, the sewing case much beloved by generations of crossworders.

Peter Collins' Sun crossword is called "That's Unreal!" It's got one of those mathy themes calculated to thrill the mathy types. The two longest answers spell out THE SQUARE ROOT / OF NEGATIVE ONE, but those two entries are clued with nothing more than [See 73-Across]. 73-Across is SHADE, with a long clue telling you to shade what's suggested by 71-Across, hurricane EYES. SHADE in the squares with the "EYES," or each letter I (I used the Across Lite circles rather than drawing on my monitor). They're in the middle column and make a lowercase i, which stands for imaginary unit (hence the "unreal" in the puzzle's title) and is THE SQUARE ROOT / OF NEGATIVE ONE. There are no other uses of the letter I in the grid, and it's elegant to make a big i out of four I's.

Highlights in the fill include Winnie the Pooh's pot of HUNNY, MOD SQUAD, HOOVERED, BARCELONA, GASBAG, and KAZOO. Can you work those all into a single sentence? I know I can.

Deb Amlen's Onion A.V. Club crossword pays homage to MOTOWN RECORDS, the [Musical legend celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2009]. BERRY GORDY, JR., was its founder, and the "hallowed ground" of Motown's studio is/was called HITSVILLE U.S.A. Those three answers are clearly theme entries in this puzzle, but there are a number of shorter answers that may relate to Motown:
  • DIANA Ross at 9-Across was a Motown star.
  • WONDER is clued with ["Blind eyes could look at me and see the truth/___ if Steve do?" (Weezy lyric in reference to another 35-Across star)].
  • ["Santa Baby" singer Kitt] is EARTHA KITT. Was she Motown? Nope.
  • [Bribe to a DJ, say] is PAYOLA. Was Motown guilty of this? Depends who you ask.
I think the rest of the puzzle's completely unrelated to Motown. I'm not sure I know the joke in question for [Subject of a Grecian joke], or URN; is this the "What's Greek urn? Oh, about $45,000 a year" joke? The last [Wonka candy] I ate was NERDS from Valentine's Day. I'm just the sort of nerd who appreciates old Turkish honorifics, so I dig the combination of PASHAS, or [Old Ottoman VIPs], and AGA, or [Palindromic title]. [Intercourse, formally] is COITUS; that means traditional etiquette rules govern how you are introduced to coitus, right? Or formalwear is required? [Barely make it across the field?] clues STREAK, as in run naked. [Barack Obama, to Frasier and Marian Robinson] is/was their SON-IN-LAW (was for the late Frasier, is for Marian).


Scott Atkinson's easy LA Times crossword has eight theme entries that are compound words or two-word phrases, and they're all tied together by LINE, or [Queue, and word that can follow both words in the answers to starred clues]:
  • [Maupassant forte] is the SHORT STORY. Short Line railroad, storyline.
  • [Series of missed calls] is PHONE TAG. Phone line, tag line.
  • [Fan of a "Grateful" band] is a DEADHEAD. Deadline, headline—both important in newspapering.
  • [Sissy] is PANTYWAIST. The dreaded panty line, waistline.
  • [Aristocrat] is a BLUEBLOOD. Blue line (my dictionary says it's a hockey term), blood line.
  • [Highly anticipated appointment] is a HOT DATE. Hotline, dateline.
  • [Source of branches] is TREE TRUNK. Tree line (same as the timberline on a mountain), trunk line (main line of a railroad, phone system, or other network).
  • [Barely batted ball] is a FOUL TIP. The foul line, a police tip line.
I didn't remember that Jeb Bush's nickname comes from his initials; JEB is [John Ellis Bush, familiarly]. HELENA, Montana, is a state [Capital near the Great Divide]. [Words of worry] are "OH, ME," which I don't think anyone says. Crosswords also like to have AH, ME, which is about as implausible. ["This is too much!"] clues "I'VE HAD IT." [Sporty Toyotas] are SOLARAS. I thought those had been discontinued but it appears that Toyota is still making them.

Today's Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword, "Following Directions," has a diagonal line of circled squares running between the NW and SE corners of the grid, with no clue given to explain it. The four longest Across and Down answers all refer to themselves, so no trivia knowledge is needed to answer their clues. 18-Across RUNS ACROSS. 56-Across is HORIZONTAL. 27-Down runs SOUTHWARDS (if you posit that the bottom of the puzzle = south), and 11-Down appears NWODEDISPU, or an upside down "upside down." I always like it when crossword answers are entered backwards or upside down. The diagonal spells out BACK TO SQUARE ONE, and indeed, it starts at the lower right corner and returns to square 1. I didn't know if ["Look out..."] would be UH-OH or OH-OH (crossing UBER or OBER?), and I didn't know what the [Expressway that passes through Williamsburg] was (wasn't thinking of HQS for [Command posts: Abbr.]), so I did use the QU of SQUARE to finish that section. Hooray for three-way checked squares!

Outside the positional theme, here's what I liked best:
  • A SCHMEAR of cream cheese is a [Bagel topping].
  • AFRICA is clued as the [Song that knocked "Down Under" out of the #1 spot], and JOSHUA is the ["WarGames" computer]. Hooray! It's 1983 again!
  • PHARAOH and MOSES are clued in reference to each other, with [He fought (clue number) in the Bible].
  • [One of Hamlet's courtiers] is OSRIC. Putting that English degree to good use!
  • [X, e.g.] isn't about math. It's MALCOLM.