March 06, 2009

Saturday, 3/7

LAT 6:35
NYT 6:13
Newsday (not timed, but not so tough)
CS 3:35

I liked how Joe Krozel's New York Times crossword broke the "no unchecked letters" rule with four single squares located in the middle of each edge of the grid. The pattern of black squares looks a little bit like a compass rose, with diagonals between centered straight black lines made of two squares pointing to the N, E, S, and W—and those are, in fact, the letters in the unchecked boxes. So those squares are checked, sort of, since the direction letters are not so hard to divine.

I only have a few minutes to blog now, so let me dispose of a few clues straightaway:

  • EL DUQUE is [Pitcher Orlando Hernandez's nickname]. Cool answer.
  • [Drug combination?] clues MORTAR AND PESTLE. If your pharmacist is compounding a drug, I suppose she might be using a mortar and pestle to grind up some pills, but the clue doesn't really shout MORTAR AND PESTLE to me.
  • [Not taken to the cleaners?] is more literal than figurative—it describes clothes that are MACHINE-WASHABLE.
  • [W.W. I battle locale near the Belgian border] is ARGONNE. I started with ARDENNE, but I think that demands a final S.
  • [Money-changer's profit] is AGIO. Crosswordese!
  • [River that meets the Thames at London] is the LEA. Really? Hmm. Didn't know that.
  • [Title holder] is the SPINE of a book. Despite that clue, I wanted [It may be received after sweeping] to be the league TITLE. It wasn't—it's a PRIZE. (I also tried PURSE here. Sigh.)
  • [Sedative target, with "the"] is EDGE. As in "something to take the edge off," not as in U2's The Edge. Whether he is targeted by sedatives, I can't say.
  • [Longtime columnist for The Nation] is the wonderful Calvin TRILLIN. I loved his Travels With Alice. La principessa! Taureau piscine!
  • [One set for a future wedding?] clues an ENGAGEMENT STONE. As in a gemstone set in an engagement ring? Is this actually a term people use?
  • [___ Morris College in Jacksonville, Tex.] clues LON. Mr. Chaney and Mr. Nol called. They demand restitution for ending up on Will Shortz's cutting room floor.
  • [Praise for Nero?] is LAUDE, Latin for "honors" or something along those lines.
  • [Electric guitar model, familiarly] is the STRAT, the Fender Stratocaster.
  • [Like some navels] clues PIERCED.
  • The answer to [Dweller along Lake Volta] is GHANIAN. Is that an accepted variant of Ghanaian? Is there documentation?
  • ["Krapp's Last Tape" playwright] is Samuel BECKETT.
  • LOU REED! Love Lou Reed, the ["Walk on the Wild Side" singer].
  • [Round midnight?] is a verb phrase here, cluing LATEN. When the clock rounds midnight, it has definitely latened.

Frederick Healy's LA Times crossword skews colloquial with answers like these:
  • YOU BETCHA means ["Righto!"]. With TCHA in place, I started with BACK ATCHA for some reason.
  • PIGGED OUT is clued with [Overindulged, in a way].
  • [Went on and on] clues YAPPED.
  • PUCKER UP, baby, and [Prepare to be bussed], or kissed. Were you thinking about bussing tables, too?
  • FUZZY DICE are clued as [Faddish mirror attachments]. I wasn't picturing car mirrors at all.
  • POOPSIE is a pet name I would never in a million years use. It's clued as [Precious]. POOKIE, I could go with.
We get a little inventor trivia. [They were invented by 15-year-old Chester Greenwood in the winter of 1873] clues EARMUFFS, and the first half of SKEE-Ball is [Part of a game name reportedly chosen because the game surface resembled a slope]. [Octet member with the shortest name] looks like it could be pop culture, but it's science—the planet MARS. Ask my kid how many planets there are and he says "eight," no hesitation. I tell ya, this scientific progress with planetary demotions makes me feel old. Another clue I liked is [Hit with a joint] for the past-tense KNEED.

Miscellaneous clues that may cause a stumble:
  • [Deli offering] could be many things, couldn't it? It's a LATKE this time.
  • [CD purveyor] is an S AND L, or savings and loan. Certificate of deposit, not compact disc.
  • ROADWAYS are clued with [They help you go places].
  • [Familiar pointer] is UNCLE SAM.
  • ENNIS is a [City south of Dallas]. There's also bandleader Skinnay Ennis and Heath Ledger's Brokeback Mountain character, Ennis Del Mar.
  • PLAN A is a [Course to start with], as in a course of action. Raise your hand if you wanted this to be SALAD.
  • The NAKED EYE [can't pick up many distant objects].
  • [Like navel oranges] means SEEDLESS.
  • [Mariner's aid] is an OCEAN MAP. I was looking for something more quaintly nautical like a sextant or some sort of charts.
  • [Impudent] is usually SASSY but this time it clues LIPPY.
Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Full House," has a quip theme. I filled in the last two thirds of the [parent's wry quip] first, and it turned out that discovering the beginning last also gives a good punchline this time. The line is I CHILD-PROOFED / MY HOME BUT THEY / KEEP GETTING IN. This amused my husband and me. Favorite clues:
  • [Releases a fly?] for UNZIPS.
  • ["A Hero Ain't ___ but a Sandwich" (Alice Childress novel)] clues NOTHIN'. I never read that youth novel, but the title always struck me as exotic because in my suburban Chicago upbringing, there ain't no such thing as a hero that's a sandwich.
  • [Do some fortunetelling] clues the phrase READ PALMS.
  • ["You said that already"] is equivalent to YES, I KNOW.
  • [Bolted down some nuts?] isn't about hardware, it's about snacking: the answer is ATE.
The [Court reporter's machine] isn't a very familiar word: STENOTYPE.

Doug Peterson's been making some enjoyable Newsday "Saturday Stumpers," hasn't he? I'm glad Stanley Newman has expanded his Saturday stable. They tell me Doug is also a new member of the CrosSynergy team, so that should mean a few easier themelesses from Doug each year too. (But I want the tougher ones.) I didn't time myself while doing today's Stumper, but it didn't feel that hard, so I'd guesstimate maybe the 5:30 to 6:00 range. The full solution is here for those who want to peek. My favorite fill and clues:
  • [Hidden advantage] is a HOLE CARD. Poker, right? This isn't a term I ever use, but the phrase looks fresh in a crossword.
  • [Charmed] means ENAMORED, and the very next clue is ["Charmed" star] Alyssa MILANO.
  • Soda [Counter offers] are MALTEDS.
  • SNARFS! It means [Gobbles up].
  • USED TO BE is clued [Had on one's resume].
  • "TOLD YA" is a [Vindication exclamation].
  • I'm thinking of getting an IPOD NANO, the [Jogger's accessory].
  • [Mixed, in a way] clues COED.
  • [Elmer Fudd prop] is his RIFLE.
  • GLOWERED is a great word. It can mean [Was forbidding].
From the category of "dated pop culture I know only from crosswords," we have the [Richard Boone TV role], HEC Ramsey. It was a TV Western back in the early '70s.