April 15, 2009

Thursday, 4/16

Tausig 6:34
NYT 4:37
LAT 3:36
CS 2:27

Oliver Hill's New York Times crossword

I'm feeling torn about this puzzle. On the one hand, the theme idea is clever—EXTRACT parsed as "extra CT" added to certain phrases—and there's some terrific fill. On the other hand, one of the theme answers feels off to me, and some of the fill and clues strike the wrong note. First, let's sum up the theme:

  • 17A: [Revealed when seeking medical help?] clues SHOWED THE DOCTOR. This one builds on "showed the door," but that phrase is incomplete without an object. "Shown the door" works in the passive voice, but I feel like the active version needs to be "showed me/him/etc. the door." The CT-added SHOWED THE DOCTOR lacks the oomph of surprise or humor that mark the best added-letter theme answers.
  • 33A: [Water passages that don't turn?] are DIRECT STRAITS. This one is also not at all jocular, but I do like to be reminded of my fondness for Mark Knopfler's Dire Straits.
  • 42A: [One-named R&B singer makes her choice?] is MONICA SELECTS. The one-named MONICA is not someone I recognize, but I love the play on Monica Seles's name. I like to think this one was the creative germ for the whole theme.
  • 58A: [Continental salve?] clues EUROPEAN UNCTION. Whoa, UNCTION is a fairly high-end word to stick into a Thursday theme entry. It's gutsy. It took me far too long to figure out. I like it.
Here are the non-theme answers and clues I admired:
  • MARK MY WORDS, or ["Just you wait!"]. Simply terrific as crossword entries go.
  • HOW SO is a [Question that demands an explanation]? Yes, it is.
  • [Advice for lovers whose parents disapprove] is ELOPE.
  • ROGUES are [Reprobates] and rakes and roues. Strange that those four synonyms start with R and end with E.
  • Fun Seiji OZAWA trivia: He's a [Conductor noted for wearing white turtlenecks].
  • [Bermuda memento, perhaps] tricked me. SH***? Oh! It's not a SHIRT, it's a singular Bermuda SHORT in the local patois! Er, no. It's a SHELL plucked from the beach.
  • CUZ is a [Slangy conjunction]. I imagine there are purists who can't stand seeing answers like this in the crossword grid, but it works for me.
The clue for FURY, [Hurricane's force], felt too specific for its answer. Fill that sort of sticks in my craw:
  • NITROUS ACID. Clued as [HNO2], this compound is nowhere near as familiar as nitrous oxide or (in biomedical circles) nitric acid. I checked Wikipedia and learned this: "Nitrous acid is used to make diazides from amines; this occurs by nucleophilic attack of the amine onto the nitrite, reprotonation by the surrounding solvent, and double-elimination of water. The diazide can then be liberated as a carbene." Oy! I vote that NITROUS ACID is more suitable for a crossword targeting chemists. It feels misplaced here.
  • [___ Barry, with the 1965 hit "1-2-3"]? Who? What song? The answer is LEN. Here he is, singing that song on TV in 1996. Hearing it, my husband said "Oh, yeah! This is a classic"—but he didn't recognize the singer's name. He's not one of our usual crossword LENs.
  • ARNEL, the [Synthetic fabric]—well, I wandered off to Google this and find out if it's actually used in any clothing these days, and got completely distracted by a more prominent Google hit. Arnel Pineda is the new lead singer for Journey! He's a Filipino guy who apparently posted YouTube videos of himself singing Journey songs, and he was so good the non–Steve Perry band members recruited him to record and tour with them. A famous ARNEL! More fun than an erstwhile fabric that stopped being manufactured owing to toxicity concerns.
  • A bunch of short, undistinguished answers—KENO, RASA, NGO, ENDO, INON, RIEL, RHO, A SEC, I OWE, SCH...
I imagine I had more to say about the puzzle, but I spent so much time watching neo-Journey clips with my husband, and poking around Facebook...I forgot. I'll be more bloggy again in the morning.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Don Gagliardo's L.A. Times crossword

Wow, what an unusual theme! One of the holy grails of crossword construction is to come up with a cool theme nobody's done before, and I don't recall seeing a puzzle like this before. There's no obvious theme until you get down to 67A: [Letter appearing only in down answers; its opposite appears only in across answers]. That's the HARD G, with two or three soft G's in each of the five Across entries placed where you'd expect to see theme entries. GINGER ROGERS has three soft G sounds, but the Down crossings are OLGA (Korbut, ['70s Olympics name]), GOOD AT, and MI AMIGO (which is an [Address to a pal, in Pamplona]), all with hard G's. I suspect it would take too much effort to tailor a program to construct a puzzle like this, so Mr. Gagliardo presumably handcrafted the crossword. One could argue that there's not much point to this theme, but I liked the impact of the one "aha" moment when it hit me.

Let's take a look at some of the content:
  • [Study of rock groups?] has nothing to do with Journey. It's GEOLOGY.
  • Salvador DALI is the [Artist who worked on Hitchcock's "Spellbound"].
  • [LAX tower gp.] is ATC, as in air traffic controllers.
  • IGA is a [Red-and-white supermarket logo].
  • I don't think of glue as a GEL, but indeed, [Glue is one].
  • The ANGLE is a [Billards player's consideration].
  • [Prefix with hertz] is GIGA, two hard G's. Remember back when computer memory was limited to kilobytes and megabytes, and Back to the Future told a generation that gigawatts was pronounced "jiggawatts"?
  • Crossword fan ANNE MEARA used to be an ["Archie Bunker's Place" costar].
  • GOG, two hard G's, is a [Satanic nation in Revelation]. Not sure if it was a rival of Magog or if they had a strategic alliance.
  • ["Mr. Triple Axel" Brian] ORSER is the famous skater named Brian who isn't Brian Boitano.
  • NO WAY JOSE is a great entry and echoes MI AMIGO. ["When pigs fly!"] is the clue.
  • [Donate, in Dundee] is GIE. Basically "give" with the V dropped out by the Scottish.
This puzzle contains 21 G's. I don't know of anyone who keeps track of this for non-NYT puzzles, but the record for the most G's in a daily NYT is 19.

PuzzleGirl loved this theme too and has more to say at L.A. Crossword Confidential.

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Dead-End Endings"

The theme here is phrases that end with dead ends, like the title says, with the words used in other contexts:
  • [Diagram of options] is a DECISION TREE.
  • [Almost here] clues AROUND THE CORNER.
  • ["Clam up!"] means SHUT YOUR TRAP, both phrases in rude-ese.
You can be treed, cornered, or trapped when those final words are converted into verbs.
Assorted clues:
  • [Kept the sheep together] is HERDED. At first, I thought the clue was about two people working together to keep the sheep rather than a single shepherd herding a group of sheep.
  • [Foxhole headgear, slangily] is a TIN HAT.
  • [Showed some cheek?] is MOONED. Yesterday on the school playground, this one boy's track pants kept sliding down alarmingly. Yo, drawstring! Or pants with a belt! Spare our innocent eyes from the lunar display!
  • A bee HIVE is a [Dwelling with cells].
  • The PAPAYA is a [Seedy tropical fruit].
Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "You're It!"

Hey, I didn't test-solve this one during vacation, and it darn near killed me today. It was the junction of 3D and 19A that did me in the worst.

The theme's a good one. "Tag, you're it!" means that each theme entry's base phrase has been TAGged (a TAG has been inserted somewhere):
  • 19A: [Stamp-saving idea?] is CHRIST POSTAGE, saving souls via postage stamps. I had ITIS rather than ITIC for the [Inflamed ending], meaning I could not for the life of me figure out the SHRI.TPOSTAGE thing. "Christ pose" is not a phrase in my lingo, so that wasn't leaping out either.
  • 23A: ["Enjoy," "Life Tastes Good," etc.?] are TAGLINES OF COKE, playing on lines of cocaine. No, this ain't your grandma's crossword puzzle.
  • 42A: [French elephant poacher's rural home?] is COTTAGE D'IVOIRE, a cottage made of ivory, building off the African country of Cote d'Ivoire. As a globe geek, I liked this theme entry the most.
  • 47A: [The author of "On Photography" during her wild years?] is WAYWARD SONTAG. Susan Sontag + wayward son = good combo.
Among the clues I found tough were these ones:
  • To [Dick around, archaically] is to FRIVOL.
  • Two [Cool morning phenomenon] clues give us FOG and MIST. What, no DEW? Chicago doesn't have too many misty or foggy morns.
  • [Rock band with a winged logo] is VAN HALEN. Are there others with winged logos?
  • If you [Give 110%, say] at a restaurant, you OVERTIP.
  • [___ bomb (nickname of the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated] clues TSAR. Am I the only one who's never heard of the tsar bomb?
  • The ATTIC is a [Place to find retro clothing, possibly]. KMART would also fit.
  • A wooden LOG is a [Slow burner, usually].
  • [Words with a nice ring?] are MARRY ME.
  • OVATION is a [Big name in acoustic guitars]. I wanted Washburn.
  • [Modern artist Lenore] TAWNEY is not one I'm familiar with.
  • [Paul Newman's school] was YALE. Did I know this?
  • [Many planets are thought to have two of them] clues SUNS. I tried AXES first. Astronomy is not my strong suit, apparently.