March 12, 2009

Friday, 3/13

NYT 5:37
BEQ about 5:00
CHE 3:43
LAT 3:37
CS 2:52
WSJ 6:28

Happy Friday the 13th! That's two months in a row with this auspicious date.

Speaking of that, Friday the 13th gets short shrift in Joon Pahk's EXQUISITE ([Flawlessly crafted]) New York Times crossword, but LEAP DAY makes it into the grid, clued as [March preceder, periodically]. Among the shorter entries are relatively few abbreviations, and those that Joon includes tend to be familiar—DDT is the ["Silent Spring" subject]; OAS is an [Intl. group with 35 members]; [8 for O, say] is an example of an AT. NO., or atomic number; an ENT is a [Specialized M.D.]. (PPPS, or post-post-postscript, is [Afterthought #3: Abbr.], and that's probably the worst thing in this puzzle, which isn't bad.) I'm always pleased not to contend with assorted New Deal 3-letter abbreviations, that's for sure. So, junky TLAs aren't in this puzzle—what is? Lots of goodies:

  • In the category of "Scrabbly answers," we have the X FACTOR, a [Hard-to-define influence]. (This is where I had a dratted 38-second typo, X FAXTOR.) The X is shared by the [Piltdown man locale], SUSSEX. There's a jocular joking J in JAPE ([Make fun of]) and JOCOSE ([Sportive]). The aforementioned EXQUISITE has the appealing XQ collision. And the SEA OF AZOV, clued by [It's shared by Russia and Ukraine], sits right on top at 1-Across.
  • PICKUPS, as in pickup trucks, are [Light haulers].
  • Pablo NERUDA is the poet who's the ["Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair" writer]. Other writerly answers include CARLYLE, or ["Sartor Resartus" essayist Thomas]; RAS [the Destroyer (rabble-rouser in Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man"]; and Thoams AQUINAS, the ["Summa Contra Gentiles" theologian].
  • RACE is clued with [It may concern arms or contain legs]—arms as in weaponry, legs as in a three-legged race. Good, twisty clue.
  • There's plenty of geography, aside from the SEA OF AZOV and SUSSEX. LAPP is a [Fino-Ugric tongue] and closer to home, OTO is a [Chiwere dialect]. ILES [___ de la Societe] are the Society Islands of French Polynesia. Queen [Isabella's home] was CASTILE. Amerigo VESPUCCI [demonstrated that what Columbus has discovered was not 6-Down], or ASIAN. CARACAS, Venezuela, is a [City due south of San Juan]. Speaking of South America, DE SOTO [joined Pizarro in the conquest of the Inca Empire].
  • [Dated will?] is the verb SHALT and not legal paperwork.
  • O isn't just the symbol for oxygen. [O, say] isn't just the start of "The Star-Spangled Banner." O is also Oprah's MAG.
  • If it's a MOOT POINT, [It's open to debate]. Arguing the point? Be sure to come up with a ZINGER that [may be fired back at someone].
  • Food! ANTIPASTO is an [Italian meal starter]. PILAF is a rice [Dish cooked in seasoned broth]. The first step in the PILAF is to SAUTE. When you're ready to EAT INTO ([Deplete]) the plate of food, try not to spill rice all over your PLACEMAT ([Put-down in a restaurant?]). That last clue doesn't sit well with me, because nobody uses the noun put-down to refer to an item that is put down. Famed restaurateur of crosswords TOOTS SHOR is here, too, clued as a [Saloonkeeper of note]. First and last name!
  • APERCUS (APERÇUS with the cedilla) is a great word, isn't it? It means [Quick impressions].
  • Two military answers abut one another, and neither is an abbreviation for a military rank. YES SIR is a [Drill bit?], and REUP means [Go for another tour].
  • SLAVISH often precedes devotion or imitation. Here, it's clued as [Blindly imitative]. Joon may be fairly new to crossword construction, but being blindly imitative of his themeless puzzlemaking would not be a bad thing at all.

Annemarie Brethauer's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Sound Economy," channels the business pages—or how topics in the business section sound when read aloud. The five theme entries sound like financial terms:
  • [Where Tom Thumb stores his preserves?] is the SHORT CELLAR. Having just seen the [Huck Finn's transport clue] nearby (that's RAFT), I was reading this as Tom Sawyer. Oh! Tom Thumb. Famously short man. The phrase plays on short seller. Goodness me, there's such a thing as naked short selling? How lewd!
  • [Person who can't see the future] is a NON-PROPHET (nonprofit). I like this one. How many people would agree with the statement, "I work for a non-prophet"?
  • HOSTEL TAKEOVERS (hostile) are [Aggressive acts by backpackers?].
  • A [Shopping center with little inventory?] would be a BARE MARKET. Aw, no nudity? [Streakers "R" Us, e.g.?] could have worked.
  • [What unpopular grammar-school teachers should scan their chairs for?] are HIDDEN TACKS (hidden tax).
I misread another clue, the one for SANE: I thought ["Show me a ___ man and I will cure him for you": Jung] was quoting Erica Jong. I had no trouble reading [Sculptor Noguchi]—I just had no clue that his first name was ISAMU or what any of his work was. There's a Noguchi Museum in New York; he created sculpture, public art, earthworks, and fountains and designed furniture as well as sets for dance productions. Once again, I'm glad that something in a crossword spurred me to wander off into the internet to learn something new. SEDUM is a [Succulent plant]. If you're curious about what it looks like, check out My favorite answer in this puzzle, which I got with just the O in place, is YE GODS, or ["Holy moly!"].


Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword hesitates, adding UM to the end of each theme entry's original phrase:
  • ["For children 12 and under," say?] clues an AGE-OLD MAXIMUM.
  • SENIOR MOMENTUM might be the [Growing influence of the AARP?]. This play on "senior moment" is my favorite of the four theme answers.
  • [What "No snoring" might be part of?] is BEDROOM DECORUM.
  • [Spontaneous public meeting?] is an UNCALLED FORUM, converting a preposition into a noun.
A number of non-theme clues were superb, and some of the fill stood out too. PERE NOEL is a [Cannes Christmas icon]. DROOD, the [1985 Broadway musical based on a Dickens novel], sits right on top of the one-letter-off DROID, or [C3PO, for one]. The clues that captivated me were these:
  • A [Letter?] in one sense is a LANDLORD.
  • [Dash component] is ODOMETER. I was thinking of the 100-meter dash and was heading towards entering ONE METER (having the last five letters in place first) and being displeased by it. Oh! A car dashboard, not a sprint. Much better.
  • When cows moo, they low. Thus [Hit a low note?] clues MOOED.
  • EELED is never a great answer to find in a crossword, but the clue was fresh—[Fished with the National Anguilla Club].

I didn't know [Award-winning Disney animator Glen] KEANE. Any relation to Bil Keane of the "Family Circus" comic strip? I did know the ["Swan Lake" maiden] ODILE, but haven't seen her in the puzzle lately. Also in the category of "proper nouns starting with O that I mainly encounter in crosswords" is OSAKAN, or [Certain Honshu resident].

Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Romeo and Juliet," has three 15-letter answers with the puzzle's title in the clue. There's SHAKESPEARE'S PLAY, of course, and the 1968 ZEFFIRELLI MOVIE. But my favorite of the theme answers is the DIRE STRAITS SONG. Dire Straits has one of the world's greatest guitarists, Mark Knopfler. You know me—I rarely embed videos in my posts, but I wanted to embed this live performance of "Romeo and Juliet". Alas, embedding is disabled, so you'll need to follow the link to enjoy one of my most favoritest songs. Knopfler's rather mumbly with the lyrics here, but I know the words so I didn't mind.

Brendan Quigley's crossword is called "Don't Panic: Picking up a few hitchhikers." The theme was of zero help to me in filling in this puzzle, but luckily my unfamiliarity with the theme didn't stand in the way much either. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galazy author Douglas ADAMS wrote some characters, one of which is a [Two-headed, three-armed President] named ZAPHOD. (This doesn't ring a bell.) There are characters named Dent and Ford, I recall, and FORD MADOX BROWN and MAKE A DENT IN are two theme answers. Brown was the [Pre-Raphaelite painter of "Work"]—never heard of it or him. There was a writer named Ford Madox Ford, and I imagine that Messrs. Brown and Ford are cousins, or maybe kid and grandpa. The other theme entry is the [1974 platinum R&B album] MARVIN GAY LIVE. Is there a Marvin in Hitchhiker's Guide? Do any other answers feed into the theme? I have no idea. JIM BACKUS and SOLAR LAMP are the other longish Across answers. Are they theme answers? And why did Brendan want this to be puzzle #42 in his series? I could turn to Wikipedia for the skinny, but I think it'd be better for someone who knows what they're talking about to shed light. Anyone?

In Dan Fisher's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Ogden Nash Employment Agency," he presents a bunch of occupational rhymes that wouldn't be terribly out of place in Ogden Nash's playful verse. The eight theme clues follow the same format: [Wanted: Household servant who's less outspoken] clues SUBTLER BUTLER. [Wanted: Financial worker who's not so stocky] clues LANKER BANKER. In these and the others, the answer is "[adjective]ER [job that rhymes with that word]". The other workers who are sought include a FRAILER TAILOR, PLAINER TRAINER, GRAYER MAYOR, FASTER PASTOR, COYER LAWYER, and my favorite, the CRUELER JEWELER. We don't have a STAIDER TRADER, however, or a MEANER CLEANER. Can you come up with other word pairs that would also work in this theme?

Assorted clues from the rest of the puzzle: [Paladin to Charlemagne] is ROLAND. [Muppets prawn] is named PEPE. HOLY JOE is a [Chaplain, in army slang]. EBONY is a [Wood so dense it doesn't float].