April 02, 2009

Friday, 4/3

NYT 5:44
BEQ 4:06
LAT 3:57
CS 3:40
CHE 3:34
WSJ 7:43

John Farmer's New York Times crossword

John Farmer's themeless crossword looks a little weird before you fill it in—this 70-worder has sort of a haphazard look to the grid, doesn't it? But once you get into it, it's got plenty of interesting and lively fill. The longest answers are 10 and 12 letters long:

  • To [Own responsibility] is to BEAR THE BLAME.
  • "JUST THIS ONCE" is appended to an entreaty to say ["I won't ask again"]. If you're a parent, you've probably heard this a zillion times and recognize it as a falsehood.
  • ELI WALLACH gets the first-and-last-name VIP treatment. He's the [Hollywood star whose memoir was titled "The Good, the Bad and Me"].
  • [Caterer's setup for a hot buffet] is a STEAM TABLE.
  • SOUP DU JOUR is a [Restaurant special]. I'll pass. No soup for me.
  • The Montessori method is based on the ideas of [Education pioneer Maria] MONTESSORI.
Another 15 answers are 7 or 8 letters long. Highlights among these:
  • A cop who is [Looking for trouble?] is ON PATROL. Great clue.
  • Last year, Patrick Berry had FAUXHAWK in a Sun puzzle. Now John's got it again with a similar clue: [Hairstyle popularized by David Beckham].
  • ["Falling Man" novelist Don] DELILLO has a delicious name.
  • CABARETS are [Subjects of some Toulouse-Lautrec paintings].
  • [Ringing response?] when the phone's ringing is I'LL GET IT.
  • LETTUCE is a [Head on a plate?]. So is John the Baptist, but he's not as good with a nice vinaigrette.
  • SPIT TAKE! That's a [Surprise shower?] in that you're showing surprise when you do a spit take.
Things I somehow knew, at least with the help of some crossings:
  • SAHEL is the [Savanna region stretching from Senegal to Chad].
  • UCLA is [Peace Nobelist Ralph Bunche's alma mater].
  • CRAVATS are [Attire worn with frock coats]. I dunno—aren't ties, cravats, ascots, and their ilk merely accessories and not full-fledged attire?
  • [Walpurgis Night vis-a-vis May Day] is EVE. What are you doing to celebrate this April 30?
Cute stuff:
  • [Syllable repeated after "hot"] is CHA. As in "Hot cha cha cha!"
  • ATLAS is clued by way of [World view?].
  • [Something most fish lack] is an EYELID. They have two eyes, so they lack eyelids in the plural, really.
Mystery items:
  • [It has energy in reserve] clues OIL BELT. Google isn't being too revealing in explaining this one to me. A specific place? One of many such places? A device? 
  • [1961 Anthony Quinn title role] is BARABBAS. I wondered how to fit ZORBATHEGREEK into eight squares.
  • [Old Spanish swords] are TOLEDOS. Who knew? Not I.
  • [Jim's partner of "Adam 12"] was PETE. I watched the show some when I was a kid, but remember nothing of it.
Trip Payne's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Versical Takeoffs"

The title of Trip's puzzle plays on "vertical takeoffs," an aviation term, and takes the game in a poetic direction. The theme clues imitate the characteristic style of certain poets and provide some identifying information; the answers are the poets' names. Like so:
  • 17A: [His Quatrains speak of Food and Love and Wine / And how our Lives may Fit some Grand Design / Put into Words in English some Years hence / Now Edward shares the Credit for each Line.] This one's OMAR KHAYYAM. The Edward in question is Edward FitzGerald, whose English translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam became a classic.
  • 22A: [There once was an author from Britain / Who laughed at the poems he'd written / "Five lines to a verse / Is so very terse / I can finish 'em up in one sittin'."] clues Edward Lear with a limerick, aptly enough.
  • 35A: [Of Caunterbury som tales dide he tellen / Ne spelling noght as now we wolden spellen.] GEOFFREY CHAUCER!
  • 50A: E.E. CUMMINGS, or e e cummings, is clued by way of [Poet / wholikedto / write / l / i / k /ethi / s].
  • 58A: Scottish poet ROBERT BURNS is evoked in [O, 'tis true, he's taught in English classes / This bard o' braes an' Luve an' bonny lasses.].
This crossword should be required solving for senior English majors everywhere. I found the theme concept and clues to be delightfully clever. The cleverest non-theme clue here is [Hit the end?], for SPANK.

If you enjoyed Trip's cruciverbal parody of recognizable literary styles, you'll love Francis Heaney's Holy Tango of Literature. In this tremendously entertaining book, Francis parodies various poets' and other writers' styles after first anagramming the writer's name and using said anagram as the title of the parody. For example. T.S. Eliot can be anagrammed into "Toilets," the name of Francis's poem that captures the rhythms of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" but is set in a restroom.

Updated Friday morning:

Jack McInturff's L.A. Times crossword

The theme entries here transpose an IR into an RI four times. "You're fired" becomes YOU'RE FRIED, or [Words to a drunk?]. [2000s Senate leader's turndown?] is FRIST REFUSAL, playing on the right of first refusal. I feel like "first refusal" isn't a stand-alone phrase without its preceding "right of." The third theme answer is PARIS SKATING, or [Hilton on the ice?], playing on pairs figure skating. The last one is [What you never see after strikes?] in bowling: SPARE TRIES (spare tires).

[Finland's second largest city] is called ESPOO. "Is that a chocolate bar I see?" "No, ESPOO." This is my favorite crosswordese town. It doesn't show up more than once a year, I don't think, but it's good for a laugh when it does. (No offense to the Finns.)

Miscellaneous other clues:
  • "WHAT ELSE?" means ["Is there more?"] I went to YouTube to look for a funny clip in which some old woman demands to know "What else?" over and over, but got distracted by this clever European coffee commercial with George Clooney. What else? There is nothing else.
  • [Creedal holding] is a TENET. "Creedal" is a word? Yes, as is the "credal" spelling.
  • Your ADENOIDS are [Pharyngeal tissue].
  • [Years during Nero's reign] are ANNI and not Roman numerals.
  • I didn't know a [Motorboat's wake] was called a ROOSTER TAIL.
  • One [Eggs order] is SUNNY SIDE UP. Great-looking answer there.
  • ["Lady Jane Grey" dramatist] is ROWE, and no, my English degree didn't teach me this.
  • The MARNE is one of those 5-letter French rivers (see also Seine, Saone, Isere). It was a [Strategic WWI river].
  • The [Kmart founder] was named KRESGE. I'm not sure why there were also Kresge's dime stores when I was a kid. They had lunch counters! 
Brendan Emmett Quigley's blog crossword, "Toxic Assets"

Brendan channels both Merl Reagle (tortured puns) and the Wall Street Journal crossword (finance as a theme) in "Toxic Assets." The theme entries pun on certain types of assets, turning one word into another that evokes toxicity, sort of:
  • Slush funds become SLUDGE FUNDS, or [Toxic assets that pay for engine buildup?]. Engines have sludge.
  • Junk bonds, already a toxic-sounding name, transform into GUNK BONDS, or [Toxic assets that pay for cleaning out sinks?]. Sink drains get gunk.
  • [Down-at-the-heel toxic assets?] are SEEDY ACCOUNTS, playing on CD accounts.
  • Roth IRAs become ROUGH IRAS, or [Unrefined toxic assets?]. I don't think of "rough" as being toxic at all. I suppose there are rough ores that, when mined, yield all sorts of toxic runoff, but it seems a stretch.
  • DRECK STOCKS are [Toxic assets invested in worthless merchandise]. I...don't know what the base phrase is here. Must be tech stocks.
Let's see...what else? [The Beetles] are V.W. BUGS—great-looking answer in the grid. A [Flexible strip of wood] is a SPLINE—meh. [Big name in wireless] is HELIO—who?

Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Transformers"

The four 15-letter theme entries spanning the grid are akin to Wheel of Fortune ""Before and After" phrases, but all begin with an actor or actress's name:
  • Phrases transforming [From a star in "Murder in the First" to a breakfast sizzler?] create KEVIN BACON STRIP. Did anyone see that movie? When I see the name Kevin Bacon, I think Footloose first and foremost.
  • [From a star on "The Golden Girls" to a Pennsylvania Avenue abode?] clues BETTY WHITE HOUSE. Who doesn't love Betty White?
  • [From a star in "A Guide for the Married Man" to a telegrapher's language?] is ROBERT MORSE CODE. I've never heard of that movie/TV show/play, whatever it is. I know Robert Morse best from his many appearances in crossword clues for TRU (he played Capote in the play, Tru).
  • [From a star on "The Flying Nun" to a small, outdoor vole?] is SALLY FIELD MOUSE.
ELAM is clued as [Ancient civilization in what is now Iran]; I think actor Jack ELAM gets more play in crosswords. I wanted [Tender protein source] to be TOFU that's not of the extra-firm variety, but it's VEAL (insert sad "moo" here).

Gabriel Stone's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Figure Heads"

Gabriel Stone is either a constructor whose name is unfamiliar to me or another pseudonym for editor Mike Shenk. Let's see if it anagrams to something likely. Belgian store? Real sot binge? I blest Orange?

The theme here is that there's a hidden CPA (109-Down) in each of the seven longest answers. CPAs work with numbers, a.k.a. "figures," ergo they are "figure heads" here.

I found myself vexed by numerous clues for phrasal answers. I'm surprised the puzzle didn't take me a lot longer, because it wasn't feeling fun or fast while I was doing it. I ran afoul of some uncommon answers: CAVATINA is a [Short aria]. ROSE BAY is a [Hardy rhododendron shrub]. VISCONTI is the ["Death in Venice" director]. Then there were the phrases that did their best to hide from me: [Outraged] clues UP IN ARMS. RAN A RISK means one [Wasn't cautious]. [Live] means IN PERSON.

Cooler stuff: SHA NA NA in its entirety, clued as the [Group that played "At the Hop" at Woodstock]. BORSCHT has only one vowel in it; [It's often served with sour cream]. APATHY is a [Challenge for rabble-rousers]. [Milky Way feature] is CARAMEL; I was thinking astronomy rather than candy bars. "I'M SCARED" is a [Chicken call?].