April 11, 2009

Sunday, 4/12

PI 9:15
BG 8:15
NYT 7:05
LAT 6:06
CS 3:09

Eric Berlin's New York Times crossword, "Fitting Words"

Eric riffs on the phrase "a square peg in a round hole" by placing 10 square PEGS into 2x2 squares...but the word reads around so those 2x2 spaces serve as round holes. It wasn't too hard to guess that was the theme after filling in the first PEGS in the upper left corner, so the other nine marked 2x2 squares more or less provided a couple crossing letters for 36 more answers. (If you know there's a GE in one answer crossing a box, then you know P and S appear in the other half of the square.) There are just two traditional theme answers, spanning the middle of the grid—SQUARE PEGS are [Things that may not go in 69-Across], and ROUND HOLES are clued [See 65-Across].

The answers intersecting the square PEGS don't feel forced or clunky, which is always a risk when fill is constrained by a puzzle's gimmick. It helps that the PEGS can go clockwise or counterclockwise, can start in any square, and aren't confined to symmetrical spots in the grid. Highlights, from both the PEGS zones and elsewhere, include these clues and answers:

  • DISPLEASED can mean [Frowning]. We don't see all that many common 10-letter words in the crossword, do we?
  • [Give up, slangily] clues PUNT. I started with TANK and was grateful that there aren't too many other 4-letter words that mean the same thing.
  • The [Epitome of simplicity] is ABC.
  • "SHE'S GONE" was a [1976 top 10 hit for Hall & Oates].
  • Sirius, the DOG STAR, is a [Bright spot in the night sky].
  • SLAM-DANCE is a [Punk rock club activity]. I think the activity is slam-dancing.
  • [Word repeated before "go away"] is RAIN, as in "Rain, rain, go away, come again another day."
  • EASY is clued as a [Word with chair or street].
  • A car that's IN NEUTRAL is [Idling].
  • GNEISS is a [Layered rock]. Gnice!
  • If it RINGS A BELL, it [Sounds familiar].
  • A [Fizz ingredient] is SLOE GIN. Hooray! It's not just "___ gin" for a change. The sloe gin fizz and the Ramos gin fizz are entirely different drinks.
  • Did you know that HEMP was a [Crop grown by George Washington]? I'll bet Woody Harrelson knows that.
  • Jacqueline SUSANN is the [Best-selling novelist about whom Gore Vidal said "She doesn't write, she types!"
  • HAD BEST means [Really ought to], idiomatically.
  • ST. LOUIS, Missouri, was the [End of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 9/23/1806].
  • TO [Simulate, as an event] is to REENACT. We stopped in a French Quarter shop that sold Civil War weapons and uniform buttons, and I'll bet they do a brisk business among the reenactment crowd.
  • I like Amy MADIGAN, the [Amy of "Field of Dreams"]. She grew up in Chicago.
  • I didn't know QANTAS was the [Flying Kangaroo company]. Wait, is that a kangaroo on the tail of Qantas planes? It is. The koala was just the company's commercial spokesanimal back in the day.
  • REBAGS, or [Packs again, as groceries], has the look of one of those junky randomly prefixed words, but in the era of the self-checkout lane, I think we're more familiar with rebagging.
  • DARN IT is clued as ["Phooey!"]. I prefer "dang it," personally.
  • EARPLUGS are clued as [Silencers?].
  • Boy, the answer to [Attacks], HAS AT IT, looks odd in the grid without the word spaces. It's one of those answers that can startle you when you glance back at the puzzle.
I'm coming down with a cold and feel my energy waning, so here are my top 10 tough clues:
  • [One who goes a-courting?] is a SUER. Not because he's going courting, but because he's going to court on account of that lawsuit he filed.
  • [Marisa's role in "My Cousin Vinny"] is MONA. Did any of you remember that? I sure didn't.
  • [Horseshoers' tools] are RASPS.
  • ["Aye, aye!" hearer: Abbr.] is the CAPT.
  • [Org. for singles?] is the USTA (U.S. Tennis Association).
  • [Orator's challenge] is a LISP, and a GAME LEG is the [Cause of a limp].
  • [End of a ballade] is an ENVOI.
  • [Key opening?] clues OH SAY, as in "O! say can you see by the dawn's early light." Isn't the lyric usually given as "O" and not "Oh"?
  • [Game pursuer] is a TERRIER. This answer is two rows over from GAME LEG, I see. And then there's [Game with balls] cluing BOCCIE (also spelled bocce or bocci). Talk about your nonspecific clues! And yet I just said to my husband, "Game with balls, 6 letters," and he quickly replied "Boccie." Go figure.
  • [Historic Scottish county] is ARGYLL, among others.
Updated Sunday afternoon:

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "You Can Say That Again"

Was this puzzle hard or is my cold damping down my cognitive function? The 10 theme entries change the pronunciation of a word in a (semi-)familiar phrase to change the meaning, and the new meaning is suggested by the clue:
  • ["More Novocaine"?] clues NUMBER, PLEASE—as in "a thing that numbs," please.
  • [Result of too many orders in the garment district?] is THE SEWERS (the people who sew) ARE BACKED UP.
  • [Thumbelina?] is a MINUTE MAID, as in a wee maid.
  • [What hockey would be like without the speed and the action?] might be PUTTING ON ICE, as in golf putting. The -ing version of "put" in PUTTING ON ICE doesn't feel natural to me, though.
  • [What crossing the Delaware in 1776 must have been?] was QUITE A ROW. The base phrase here includes "row" rhyming with "cow," and I'm not sure that "quite a row" is a stand-alone phrase.
  • [What fishing students may take?] are BASS NOTES. Bass voice/music vs. smallmouth bass.
  • ["How They Get Graphite Into Pencils"?] could be THE LEAD STORY, as in pencil lead.
  • A [Sonogram?] might be a BABY SHOWER that shows a fetus in utero.
  • [Evidence of my state of mind as I sign my tax return?] is TEARS ON THE DOTTED LINE.
  • [What violinists mught have to do if rosin didn't exist?] is BOW AND SCRAPE.
There were some gnarly bits here. [Holst subject] is MARS with the A crossing IDIOTA, or [Nitwit, in Italian]. NILES Crane was a [Cafe Nervosa regular] on Frasier. [Seeker of prajna (enlightenment)] is a HINDU. [Song of 1850, "Santa ___"] clues LUCIA. [Ayesha will show hers (and how) by the end of H. Rider Haggard's "She"] clues AGE; has anyone read this book? I had trouble getting the answer to [Stomp on the gas], though my cousin said her dad exhorted her to PUNCH IT when he taught her to drive. [Maugham's Thompson] is SADIE; again, has anyone read the book involved here? A TO Z gets a clue I don't recall seeing before: [1994 thesaurus, "Roget's ___"]. Even 1-Across and 1-Down slowed me down—[With "with," pronto] clues FORTH (but the clue suggests that the answer is a separate word here, which it isn't), and ["___ on bottom"] is the yogurty FRUIT.

Jack McInturff's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, "On the Fly"

My full write-up of this puzzle is over at L.A. Crossword Confidential. The theme is six-legged, winged creatures: the last word/part of each theme answer is a type of fly.
  • 21A: [Genesis no-no] is the FORBIDDEN FRUIT. Fruit fly research, mocked by some, provides important findings in the field of genetics.
  • 43A: [Flower named for a legendary beast] is the SNAPDRAGON. I'm not a fan of the flower, but I do love its name.
  • 51A: [Fruity spread] is APPLE BUTTER. I'll pass on that. But butterflies? Lovely.
  • 69A: BUILT ON SAND means [Unstable, metaphorically]. Sandflies are those things that bite people in Iraqi deserts, aren't they?
  • 79A: [Stylish but simple dress color] is BASIC BLACK. Black flies are apparently nasty things.
  • 101A: [1964 Burt Lancaster thriller] is SEVEN DAYS IN MAY. Don't know a thing about the movie, but I do know mayflies live short, sex-filled lives.
  • 34D: [Put away platefuls] clues ATE LIKE A HORSE. I may have been bitten by a horse fly once in my aunt's swimming pool. When one of those giant bugs flew near, we'd all panic and hide underwater. Horse flies are brutish critters, I tell you.
  • 30D: To [Take some heat] is to COME UNDER FIRE. Aww, fireflies. I grew up calling them "lightning bugs" and still prefer the term.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's 6-week-old Boston Globe crossword, "Beatles Medley"

The theme entries are five 21-letter answers that span the full width of the grid. Each one consists of two, three, or four Beatles song titles piled up into a medley phrase. For example, [Mean Beatles medley] is YOU WON'T SEE ME HELP JULIA. This anti-altruistic medley combines "You Won't See Me," "Help!," and "Julia."

For added Beatlemaniac oomph, a bunch of shorter answers throughout the puzzle have clues that evoke the Beatles. [Michelle, to herself?] is MOI; in the song "Michelle," there's some French singing going on. YOKO ONO was [A Beatle's honey pie]. The SEA is clued as [Octopus's garden?]. A record DISC is [One of a White Album pair]. [Come together?] clues SYNC. ALOFT is suggested by [Like Lucy, in the sky?]. ANTS are [Pests in strawberry fields]. OLGA is a [Saint back in the USSR?]. ["Getting Better" feeling?] is RELIEF. [Ways to hold you tight] are BONDS. STOW / AWAY is clued as [go with no ticket to ride?]. [Put a fool on the Hill?] clues VOTE. ["Let it be!"] clues STOP. Your NET is your [Post-taxman take]. To GAD is to [Go here, there, and everywhere]. There are probably more Beatles references lurking in here that I missed. [Penny follower] is ANTE, though, and not LANE. I wonder how many people leaped at the chance to put Penny LANE in the grid.

Nancy Salomon's themeless CrosSynergy crossword, "Sunday Challenge"

Another "Sunday Challenge" at the easier end of the spectrum this weekend. Favorite bits:
  • [College paper?] clues a DIPLOMA.
  • MARION [Ross of "Happy Days"] played Mrs. C—my favorite MARION cluing option. (Mork and Mindy was a Happy Days spinoff, and here's NANU-nanu, [When doubled, Mork's sign-off].)
  • [Any Alero, now] is a USED CAR. Hey! Look at that. The outdated yet still crossword-friendly ALERO escapes from the grid and finds new purpose in a clue.
  • ZODIAC is a [Circle of signs].