March 08, 2009

Monday, 3/9

Jonesin' 4:07
BEQ 4:05
LAT 2:40
CS 2:38
NYT 2:31

Before the ACPT, I set up a few Google Alerts so that Google could do the legwork of tracking down websites or blogs that mentioned the tournament. (I also set up a Google Alert for my own name and "Crossword Fiend," so I can ego-surf with a minimum of effort.) This morning, an alert pointed me to Mark Murphy's entertaining write-up of his tournament weekend. (There are spoilers for the ACPT puzzles, so don't peek if you're waiting for puzzles by mail.) A sample from Murphy's Craw: "Seeing a puzzle by Byron Walden that turns out to be easy is a little like being James Bond and being taken to Dr. No's torture chamber and finding out that the only weapon the good doctor has on hand is his collection of favorite knock-knock jokes."

Betty Keller's New York Times crossword offers plenty of encouragement to the solver. ["Keep going!"] is the clue for all four theme entries: "TRY, TRY AGAIN." "NEVER SAY DIE." "HANG IN THERE!" And "DON'T STOP NOW." I needed the encouragement at 1-Across, I tell ya—[What skunks do], 5 letters, starting with S. Hmm...could be STINK, or SPRAY, or SMELL. Luckily, previous crosswords have taught me that [Bridge writer Culbertson] is named ELY, so that pointed me towards SMELL.

[Bibliophile] seemed like a weird clue for BOOKMAN (BOOK MAN?)—or rather, that was a weird answer. I know Bookman, the font, and Mr. Bookman, the Seinfeld character (the library detective cracking down on fine scofflaws).

TOILE, the [Decorative upholstery fabric], is one of those words that can be off-putting to some Monday solvers. Heck, it intimidates me, because I seldom remember the difference between TOILE (which is also "a translucent linen or cotton fabric, used for making clothes") and TULLE (the mesh-like fabric seen in veils and tutus). Gotta work the crossings with those every time.

What else is in this puzzle?

  • An ARMENIAN is a [Neighbor of an Azerbaijani].
  • TIA MARIA is a [Coffee liqueur brand]. Blech, I don't like the flavor of coffee at all. Nor that of ANISE, the [Licorice-tasting seed].
  • [Playful puppies] may nip at one another or at people, making them NIPPERS. Mind you, "nippers" isn't a word you're likely to encounter elsewhere any time soon.
  • LAND LINES is a great answer; it's clued as [Noncellular phones].
  • "YMCA" is the now-timeless [Village People hit whose title completes the line "It's fun to stay at the..."].
  • A [Small flock] of birds, particularly partridges, is a COVEY.
  • I wasn't sure what METER [might go from 0 to 60 minutes]—but it was obvious to my husband that this referred to a parking meter.
  • I wish to dispute the wording of the clue for LIGAMENTS: [Easily torn bands of tissue]? A strip of toilet paper is an easily torn band of tissue. Ligaments may tear more readily than muscles, but crikey, don't most of us live our entire lives without tearing any ligaments?
  • Kudos for the straightforward Roman numeral clue in this Monday puzzle; [7, to Caesar]; so much better than, say, [Year of the Illyrians' revolt against Roman rule].

Todd McClary slipped six theme entries into his LA Times crossword, with two shorter ones criss-crossing in the middle of the puzzle. Each one follows the ROPE-A-DOPE template: two rhyming words joined by an A.
  • ROPE-A-DOPE is the Muhammad [Ali boxing style].
  • RUB-A-DUB may be a [Drumming noise]. The Wikipedia article on "Rub-a-dub-dub" says nothing about drumming. It does, however, cite a version of the nursery rhyme that goes like this: "Rub-a-dub-dub / Three men in a tub, / ...wait, what?"
  • The [Richard Simmons diet system with color-coded cards] is called DEAL-A-MEAL.
  • CHOCKABLOCK means [Tightly packed].
  • RAT-A-TAT is a [Machine gun sound].
  • And last but not least, ETCH-A-SKETCH is the classic [Artistic kid's toy].
I think I'd like the theme better without RUB-A-DUB, which is a little distracting because it's not as familiar (sans the extra "dub") as the other theme entries. Actor Jackie Earle Haley fell from fame for a couple decades, but he's winning raves for his roles in Little Children (he was heart-breaking there) and Watchmen (which I haven't seen). I think it's time for him to lay claim to the EARLE clues, replacing [Grammy-winning country star Steve]. I suspect far more people will see Watchmen than have ever bought a Steve Earle album. ROMA is clued as a [Pear-shaped tomato], but I think of Romas as being more egg-shaped, but with less taper. NASDAQ is the [Exchange where YHOO is traded]. DUE DATE is both a pregnant woman's and a [Book borrower's concern]. PEEVED is clued as [In a lather].

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Cold-Hearted," features two 15-letter phrases and a 13 with a cold heart—the word ICE (32-Down) in the exact center of the answer. The phrases aren't particularly exciting, though:
  • The DOMESTIC ECONOMY is [What the gross national product is based on].
  • [Bodies in motion possess it] refers to KINETIC ENERGY.
  • [Ginger Rogers movie of 1946] is MAGNIFICENT DOLL. I've never encountered this movie title before. This theme entry strays from the way the other two break the ICE between two words.
There's some crosswordese lurking in the midst:
  • STERES are [Cordwood measures]. It's a unit of volume equivalent to one cubic meter. Did that really need a name other than "cubic meter"? Crossword constructors are glad the word exists, but it seems pointless.
  • PELOTA is the name for a [Jai alai ball]. The cesta is the basket used to catch and throw the pelota.
  • The EN_ characters are here in force: ENA is [Bambi's aunt] and ENOS is right next to her, clued as [Son of Seth]. Enya is feeling left out today.
  • OPE means to [Unlock, poetically]. I'm thinking contemporary poets do not use the word, but crossword constructors prefer to call things "poetic" rather than "archaic."
  • The Roman number CVI, or [Caesar's 106], is here. Again, I appreciate the Monday-friendly practice of cluing Roman numeral entries with their Arabic numeral equivalents.
  • ESTERS are [Fragrant compounds].
The coolest words in the grid are INVEIGLE, or [Sweet-talk], and HOOPLA, or [Big to-do].

Today's Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword is 'End of Newspapers: Emphasizing 'dead' tree editions." The theme answers are headlines you might see for an obituary for a newspaper:
  • [Obit for a Washington paper?] might be POST MORTEM.
  • [Obit for a Wichita newspaper, with "The"?] clues EAGLE HAS LANDED.
  • [Obit for a Los Angeles paper?] is TIMES UP, playing on "time's up."
  • [Obit for a Baltimore paper?] is SUN SETS. The New York Sun actually did set last September, but the theme here is hypothetical newspaper deaths, not real ones.
  • Blackjack gets a shout-out in THE DEALER BUSTS, an [Obit for a Cleveland paper?]. The Cleveland paper is called the Plain Dealer, so this entry fudges facts a little.
  • [Obit for an Indianapolis newspaper?] is STAR STRUCK.
Here are my favorite clues and answers from the rest of this puzzle:
  • ST. PATRICK is a [March figure]. Good to see the full name in a crossword—the curtailed ST. PAT gets more appearances in the grid, but I don't know anyone who says "St. Pat" unless they're talking about Old St. Pat's church in Chicago.
  • I wanted [Gizmo] to be DOOHICKEY, but the answer was THINGUMMY.
  • MASSASOIT was the [Chief who negotiated peace with the Pilgrims]. Sarah Vowell's book, The Wordy Shipmates, is a good read about that era in American history.
  • UMLAUTS are [Features of Mötley Crüe]'s name. That band is the only metal band with the fearsome double-umlaut in this graphical look at heavy metal band names. They say the triple-umlaut is physically impossible. 
This week's Jonesin' crossword by Matt Jones is called "Earning All A's." It took a while for me to figure out what was happening with the theme entries—each one takes a familiar phrase, changes all the vowels to A's, and clues the resulting nonsense phrase:
  • [Like the coolest celebrity chemist in the world?] clues RAD AS A LAB STAR. This one's based on "red as a lobster."
  • [Greens used for bra-stuffing?] make up SALAD AS A RACK (solid as a rock). Hey, did you see last weekend's S.N.L. skit with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a Hulk-like The Rock Obama? You can watch in on (unless you're in a country that can't access Hulu).
  • ["Equus" character Alan transforms to become useful to a lumberjack?] clues STRANG AS AN AX (strong as an ox). Alan Strang is the character portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe (best known as Harry Potter) on the stage, the sometimes-naked character.
  • [Boozed it up with skeezy intentions?] clues DRANK AS A SKANK (drunk as a skunk).
Two non-theme answers evoke the outdated womanhood of fairy tales—MAIDEN is clued with [She may be fair] amd DAMSELS are clued as [Distressed women?]. UMBRAS are [Dark parts of sunspots], and I needed a lot of crossings to figure that one out. [Cry on the set] isn't a verb—it's "ACTION," which comes after "Lights, camera...." [Scrapes from a motorcycle spill] or a bicycle crash are called ROAD RASH. [2000s caffeinated offshoot of 7 Up] is DNL. That name is 7 Up upside down—turn your head to see 7 Up in "dn L." [Prince who doubles as Wonder Woman] isn't a drag queen or cross-dressing royal—it's DIANA Prince.