April 12, 2009

Monday, 4/13

BEQ 4:00
CS 3:05
NYT 2:51
LAT 2:28

Natan Last's New York Times crossword

When it comes to a Monday puzzle, I tend to look at 1-Across and, without writing in that answer, start on the Down clues that it feeds into. Imagine my surprise when 1- and 2-Down were both the sorts of zippy answers you expect to see in a themeless puzzle on Friday or Saturday—MR. BURNS is the [Owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant on "The Simpsons"] and YOU'RE IT is a [Shout in tag]. The rest of the puzzle wasn't quite up to the same level, but really, one isn't expecting a Monday puzzle to have as much breathtaking fill of a sparkling themeless. The theme is a basic vowel-progression theme, with the added oomph of a surprisingly non-stodgy middle entry:

  • RACKETEER is clued as [Al Capone, for one]. Anyone else try to wedge BOOTLEGGER in there?
  • RECKLESS means [Not heeding danger].
  • RICKROLLING is a [Widespread Internet prank involving a bait-and-switch link to a music video. If you're not familiar with Rickrolling, see this January Brendan Quigley post and click on the link for the crossword. The popularity of this particular prank mystifies me.
  • ROCK STAR is clued as [Mick Jagger or Bruce Springsteen]. Who would have guessed 25 years ago that both of these guys would still be touring in their 50s and 60s?
  • RUCKSACKS are [Packs for bikers and hikers].
I like how the corners of the grid have meaty, Friday-style white space in them. Favorite clues and answers:
  • COBALT is a [Metal that gave its name to a shade of blue].
  • SQUAB is a great-looking word. Too bad the meaning is [Young pigeon].
  • The crossings I had in place for [Bulrush, e.g.] coaxed me into answering HEDGE instead of SEDGE. Whoops. "Bulrush" isn't such a Monday-friendly word.
  • MORTON is the ["When it rains, it pours" salt brand]. Would you recognize the character on the Morton label and other product mascots? Try this Sporcle.com quiz.
  • GERTRUDE gets a Shakespeare clue: [She says "The lady protest too much, methinks" in "Hamlet"].
  • MUSCLE is [What a bodybuilder builds]. I frittered away a little time trying to come up with a suitable 6-letter muscle that would fit there.
Updated Monday morning:

Fred Jackson III's L.A. Times crossword

After I figured out the first two theme entries—FULL OF ONESELF, or [Conceited], and HALF-BAKED IDEA, or [Plan not completely thought out]—I decided the next one would begin with QUARTER. But it's less of a mathematical progression and more of a gas-tank progression, as the third and final theme entry is EMPTY PROMISES, or [Much campaign rhetoric]. Or maybe it's not a gas tank, but the optimist and pessimist's drinking glasses, half-full or half-empty.

I would have liked to see livelier fill in this puzzle, since there are only 39 theme squares here. QUAFFS ([Beers and ales]) crossing COIFFURE ([Hairdo]) is cool, though. The awkward RESNAP, or [Shoot again], is accompanied by a surfeit of short fill like ERN, SSE, ANAT, ULT, OPER, STES, UAR, and SSA.

ACA, or [Here, in Spain], is one of those Spanish words that maybe folks in L.A. are more familiar with than I am. What's the difference between ACA and AQUI? I know AQUI better.

For another take on this puzzle, here's PuzzleGirl's L.A.C.C. post.

Brendan Emmett Quigley's themeless blog crossword, "Superchunk"

Brendan's offering today is a themeless puzzle with a relatively low word count (66, I think) and lots of kickass fill. Would you look at this stuff:
  • Iran's Mahmoud AHMADINEJAD was the controversial [Speaker at Columbia 9/24/2007].
  • COME TO PAPA! That means ["Walk this way!"], but not in an Aerosmith/Run D.M.C. sort of way.
  • The LONE RANGER is a [Silver figure?].
  • [The next one takes place in Shanghai, 2010] clues the WORLD'S FAIR. What puzzle did I see last week with the They Might Be Giants song ANA NG in it? That song mentions the '64 World's Fair. Here's the "Ana Ng" video for your viewing pleasure.
  • To GALUMPH is to [Walk clumsily]. The H is shared by SLOSH, which is a great mate for GALUMPH.
There's also a LAST-GASP effort, THE HAWKS who were [1958 NBA champions], I DARESAY, and EVITA PERON's full name. The lowly green PEA that's a [Samosa ingredient] has me hankering for Indian food with some cooling chutney on the side.

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Heavens Above"

The trio of 15-letter theme entries give us the sun, moon, and stars:
  • [Frankie Carle's theme song] is SUNRISE SERENADE. Frankie who? Must be before my time. There's also a Glenn Miller connection that is before my time, too.
  • MOON OVER PARADOR is a reasonably forgettable '80s movie—and yet I remember it still. It probably helps that the movie's fake country looks like a portmanteau of Paraguay and Ecuador. Why not Moon Over Ecuaguay? The clue, [Dreyfuss-Julia comedy of 1988], cites Richard Dreyfuss and Raul Julia, but looks an awful lot like a mangling of Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. I like the confusion that offers.
  • STARS AND STRIPES is the U.S. [Military newspaper founded in 1861].
I like ZEKE, who is clued as [Quarterback Bratkowski]. Zeke was my college nickname. Up above it in the grid, there's ORANGEADE, and Orange is my blogosphere nickname. If only the abbreviation AME or AMER or AMES, Iowa had made it into the grid—then all the bases would be covered. Moving past nicknames, we get a couple full names—BRIAN ENO and THOMAS MANN. Is it just me, or do constructors really include more full-name fill featuring crosswordese people than noncrosswordese people? TOMHANKS is an 8 like BRIANENO, but we get Mr. Eno's full name much more often. It's those crossword-friendly letter patterns.