March 22, 2009

Monday, 3/23

BEQ 3:55
CS 2:35
NYT 2:27
LAT 2:22

Hey, Angelenos and other denizens of southern California! There's an upcoming crossword tournament in your area on April 25. For details about the Crosswords LA Tournament, visit Registration is cheap and the proceeds go to a good cause. If you've never been to a crossword tournament, small local events are a great way to find out how much fun tournaments are.

The Monday New York Times crossword is by Randy Sowell, and the theme is all about hurling. (No, not that kind.) The four theme answers all begin with synonymous words:

  • To [Fix part of dinner with lettuce, carrots, peppers, etc.] is to TOSS A SALAD.
  • To PITCH A TENT is to [Prepare to camp].
  • If you [Participate on Election Day], you CAST A VOTE. Although many states now offer the handy-dandy early voting option, which allows voters to take part in the election without leaving the house on Election Day.
  • One way to [Show childish anger] is to THROW A FIT.
You know what word I rarely use? PICAYUNE. It's a terrific alternative to [Petty]. Joining PICAYUNE on the list of answers I liked are these:
  • LUMP gets clued with [It's in your throat when you choke up]. The clue sounds gruesome, but it's not.
  • The AZORES are a group of [Islands west of Portugal]. More world geography: [Vientiane's land] is LAOS.
  • "LOOK, MA" is a pair of [Words cried before "No hands!"]. I can't decide if LOOK MA is a 6-letter partial entry or a whole phrase unto itself, but it does liven up the normally placid Monday puzzle a bit.
  • Usually Monday puzzles don't have much cross-referencing. Here there's a BATH at 39-Across, WASH clued as [Take a 39-Across], and LOOFAH, a [Sponge used in a 39-Across].
  • The CHISOX are a [Longtime Comiskey Park team, informally]. "The Cell" (U.S. Cellular Field) has been in use since 1991. Yes, the White Sox played many more seasons at the old Comiskey Park, but it's kinda weird to clue a team by its old stadium name, given that the team is still in existence in the same city but in a new stadium.

Isn't it great when a third-grader's homework helps his mom remember a phrase that shows up in a crossword puzzle? Pancho Harrison's LA Times crossword features three phrases that begin with a 1, 2, 3 set of prefixes:
  • [All-in-one home entertainment gadget] is a UNIVERSAL REMOTE.
  • [Pact between two countries] is a BILATERAL TREATY.
  • [Geometric solid with five faces] is a TRIANGULAR PRISM. That's roughly the shape of a Toblerone candy bar—triangles at the ends, joined by three rectangular faces. I had forgotten the shape's name until my son did a solid shapes poster project.
The theme is mirrored in this clue and answer pair: [Uno plus dos] equals TRES. My favorite parts of this puzzle:
  • ERNO clued as the first name of a certain cube inventor is a bit of crosswordese trivia that probably irks crossword newbies. Here, ERNO gets classed up a bit by partnering with his last name, RUBIK. The clue is [With 3-Down, inventor of a puzzling cube].
  • There's plenty of pop culture. BEAVIS is clued as ["___ and Butt-head": MTV cartoon]. LEE is [Director Spike or Ang]. Neither of those directors was affiliated with EVAN ["___ Almighty": 2007 Steve Carell film]. REBA was a [2000s sitcom starring a country singer]. ELENI is a [1985 Malkovich film] that probably none of us has seen. ELM Street is the [Nightmare street of film]. ELSA is clued as the ["Born Free" lioness]—though at this point this is more crosswordese than pop culture. [Wolf Man player Chaney] is LON.
  • [Pound's 16] made me think of poet Ezra, but it's more accessible than that—it's just OUNCES.
Cute, fresh theme in Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's CrosSynergy puzzle—the title, "Which Doctors?", plays on "witch doctors" and alludes to the unifying theme. Each of the four longest answers begins with a fictional doctor's name:
  • [Popular home decor magazine] is HOUSE BEAUTIFUL. Dr. Gregory House is Hugh Laurie's character on House.
  • [Rule at a pickup game, perhaps] is NO HARM, NO FOUL. I didn't know the phrase had basketball connections, but it does. Dr. No, of course, is the classic villain from a James Bond movie/book.
  • [Sentry's question] is WHO GOES THERE. Doctor Who is that British sci-fi TV character who has, I think, been played by a series of different actors. The title of the newer series Torchwood is an anagram of Doctor Who. I don't see American TV execs greenlighting a show with an anagrammed title, do you?
  • WATSON AND CRICK were the [Discoverers of DNA]. One of the scientists, James Watson, has blown his legacy out of the water with racist remarks. Moving to fiction, Dr. Watson is Sherlock Holmes' friend.
Today's themeless Brendan Quigley crossword is Brendan's attempt to mimic David Levinson Wilk's gorgeous NYT grid from this past Friday. Brendan managed the intersecting tripled-stacked 15's, but not the extra four 15's framing the puzzle. He explains his construction process in the accompanying blog spiel. I don't know about you, but I always like a VH1 Behind the Music story about the making of a crossword.

So, what's in the puzzle? Lots of 3-letter answers to coax the solver along if the 15's aren't readily apparent. If you don't know that a 3-letter [Siouan of Nebraska] is an OTO or that [Hawaii's Mauna ___] is either LOA (as it is here) or KEA, then maybe those common 3's weren't going to be much help—but they do show up in a zillion crosswords. Now, ENEMA hardly ever appears in a crossword, but Brendan has it in his puzzle, clued with [It will help you go]. BEURRE BLANC is a [Nice sauce for fish?], Nice being a city in France. Mmm, butter. I know Ziggy Stardust but not ALADDIN SANE, a [Mid-'70s David Bowie alter ego]. ["M*A*S*H" actress Jo Ann] PFLUG, ["Under Two Flags" novelist] OUIDA, and ARLEEN, [Former TV host Sorkin], were other names I didn't know. [Barbie fan?] is a great clue for AUSSIE—you know how those folks love to throw shrimp on the barbie. But don't the Aussies call shrimp "prawn"? Mystery verb of the day: [Put in a cistern] clues VATTED. Who knew "vat" was also a verb? It is. [Petraeus, e.g.: Abbr.] sort of looks like a clue for a Roman emperor, but it's GEN. David Petraeus.