April 01, 2009

Thursday, 4/2

Tausig (not timed)
NYT 3:35
LAT 3:23
CS 2:59

If you entered your NYT solving time in the first half hour after the puzzle was released, I'm sorry I zapped your data. I didn't get a chance to reset Dave's standings gizmo on time.

Sterling Publishing, for my money the best crossword book publisher in the industry, is now releasing its puzzle books under its new imprint, Puzzlewright Press. They've also got a Twitter feed, and they're dispensing free puzzles via both. Yesterday's offering was a Stanley Newman crossword' today's is a hard Frank Longo sudoku (both from new Puzzlewright titles). Check 'em out.

Also, here's video of Wednesday's Jeopardy! episode, featuring the Thursday NYT puzzle's theme. Five of the theme clues are given in video clues with Will Shortz—and the contestants had the good taste to head straight for that category.

Brendan Emmett Quigley's New York Times crossword, as seen (partly) on TV

First I solved the crossword, then I watched the DVRed Jeopardy! show—or at least the beginning of it. I didn't quite get why the theme entries started with G and ended with X—is that all there is? Then Will Shortz explained it on the TV: the progression is from rated G to rated X, as in movie ratings. I don't think the puzzle made that evident, though, especially with XXX clued as [Turkey, to a bowler] rather than the XXX movie rating. Here's the theme:

  • 17A: GARY GYGAX was the [Co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons]. This one wasn't on the game show.
  • 30A: [French auto race] is the GRAND PRIX. Despite having the grid displayed with the G and X in place, the first contestant guessed Tour de France. D'oh!
  • 39A: GORE-TEX is a [Trademarked brand of waterproof fabric]. They got this one, and it was the easiest one for my husband.
  • 47A: GAG REFLEX is clued as [Palate-raising response]. None of the contestants guessed it.
  • 61A: [Vaudeville brother born Milton] is GUMMO MARX. One contestant guessed GROUCHO MARX despite the too-short space. GUMMO MARX is a delicious crossword answer, ain't it?
  • 11D: [Levy at a BP or 69-Across station] is a GASOLINE TAX. I think someone got this correct on the show.
  • 24D: [Thirtysomethings] are GENERATION X. This is the other clue that didn't make it into the Jeopardy! category.
Okay, this always happens on Wednesday night—my husband starts watching Lost on the DVR and it distracts me terribly from the blogging. (Time travel! Philosophical conundrums! Soap opera entanglements!) Let me try to focus enough to present a good assortment of clues and answers:
  • [Crazy excited] is WIGGY. When's the last time you saw that in a crossword? Good stuff.
  • [Railroad between Illinois and Atlantic avenues] on a Monopoly board is the B AND O, or B & O. There will surely be people asking themselves what the heck "BANDO" is.
  • [Beginner: Var.] is TIRO, the more common spelling being TYRO. Both are words I see primarily in crosswords.
  • [N.L. team, on scoreboards] isn't all that specific a clue, given how many National League teams there are. It's NYM, short for the New York Mets.
  • [Rx specification] is TER, but only in old dictionaries, I think. Today's doctors will likely look askance at you if you pull this one on them.
  • [Indigo dye source] is my old crosswordese friend, true blue ANIL.
  • The game show gets two tie-ins. [Weird Al Yankovic's "___ on Jeopardy"] clues I LOST, and ["I'll take 'The New York Times Crossword Puzzle' for $200, ___"] clues ALEX Trebek.
  • [Ex-lax?] is a goofy way to clue TENSE. I like it.
  • CBGB hips up the crossword a tad. It's the [Old N.Y.C. club said to be the birthplace of punk].
  • [Harvesting for fodder] is HAYING? What the hay?
  • In OG beverage corner, GROG is [Part of an old Royal Navy ration] and NOGS are [Holiday servings]. Neither of these comes out of an ALE KEG, a [Pub container] I've never heard called that.
  • [Femur neighbor] is the PATELLA. Such a nice change from the ULNA and RADII and OSSO bony answers we see so much more often.
  • My vote for the two most obscure answers goes to these: XYLENE, a [Compound used in aviation fuel], and AGARN, an ["F Troop" corporal]. I suppose people a generation up from me watched F Troop.
  • ENDMEN are [Minstrel show figures].
  • A weighty TOME [may need a big jacket].
  • Though the puzzle had some tough stuff in it, my impression is that the crossings offered enough of a helping hand that the puzzle ended up being a little easier than the standard Thursday puzzle.

Dan Naddor's L.A. Times crossword

The theme in Naddor's latest puzzle lives in the clues to five answers. Those clues are pronounced similarly, but not the same—if you're this Midwesterner or the dictionary she checked. I am willing to posit that there are places where "Polly" and "Pauly" are pronounced the same, however. Here are the theme clues and their answers:
  • [Pauly] is COMIC SHORE. He hasn't been in any movies lately but makes appearances in comedy clubs.
  • [Pauley] is the name of a UCLA PAVILION, I guess. This is the sort of L.A.-centric answer that sets the L.A. Times puzzle apart from the NYT, which has more N.Y.C.-centric fill.
  • ["Paulie"] was a dreadful-looking PARROT MOVIE. Paulie Walnuts from The Sopranos is aggrieved that he didn't make the cut here.
  • [Polly] clues BERGEN OF FILM. Does anyone know the difference between Polly Bergen and Senta Berger?
  • A [Poly] is a TECH SCHOOL, as in a polytechnic institute.
The top and bottom two theme entries are stacked together, and there's other long fill sandwiching the theme answers. Two corners of the grid feature chunks of 6- and 8-letter answers. These swaths of longer fill mean the overall word count is dropped to 72. That's some good constructin' there.

What else is in this crossword? Let's have a look:
  • [Volkswagen since 1979] is the JETTA. I believe it's called the Bora outside the U.S.
  • "I'll take 7-Letter Cities for $1,000, please." ASTORIA is a [Columbia River city] in Oregon as well as a section of Queens. KENOSHA is the [Wisconsin birthplace of Orson Welles]—that's trivia I didn't know.
  • The [Philippines' highest peak: Abbr.] is MT. APO.
  • Who doesn't love a pope clue? Raise your hand if you don't love 'em. Here we get LEO V, [Pope after Benedict IV].
  • Geography time again: [Suffix with Capri] is -OTE, and OMSK is the [Trans-Siberian Railroad city].
  • To rule with an IRON FIST is to have [Absolute control, metaphorically].
  • JOB-HOP is a great answer. The clue is [Build a lengthy resume?].
  • GESSO is a [Tempera painting surface]. In my college painting class, we had to paint gesso on our canvases ourselves, not to mention use the canvas stretcher to get canvas on a wooden frame. Boy, was it a lot easier to buy canvases already on stretchers and pre-gessoed.
Head over to L.A. Crossword Confidential in the morning for PuzzleGirl's entertaining take on the puzzle.

Updated Thursday morning:

Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy crossword, "Trades of All Jacks"

This theme inverts the phrase jack of all trades and provides a famous Jack's last name in the clues. The theme answers give the Jacks' trades:
  • Jack [LaLanne] is an EXERCISE TRAINER. According to Wikipedia, "At age 94, he continues to work out every morning for two hours. He spends one and a half hours in the weight room, and half an hour swimming or walking." He could totally best me in a physical joust, if you will.
  • Jack [London] was an ADVENTURE WRITER. White Fang, The Call of the Wild.
  • Jack [Kirby], apparently, is or was a COMIC BOOK ARTIST. What does Wikipedia say? Was. He worked with Stan Lee at Marvel and they "created many of the company's major characters, including the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk."
There are a lot of other famous Jacks who could've been included. Kennedy was a noted politician (15!). Black is often a lowbrow comedian (15!). Okay, so those aren't really "trades" per se.

Does anyone outside of crosswords call a [Sofa] a DIVAN? Is it a regional thing? The crossword gets a little mouthy today, demanding that we "CUT IT OUT!" (["Quit!"]) and snapping "WHO CARES?" (["I don't give a rip!"]). [Mammy Yokum's boy] is LIL ABNER. The fill includes some Biblical names that are clued (yay!) in non-Biblical fashion—there's baseball Hall-of-Famer ENOS [Slaughter in Cooperstown] and actor SETH [Green of the "Austin Powers" movies]. The latter also played Oz the teenaged werewolf on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Role Call"

The theme this week's puzzle is straight-up movie trivia:
  • THELMA AND LOUISE was an [Early vehicle for Brad Pitt, as a hot hitchhiker].
  • ANNIE HALL was an [Early vehicle for Jeff Goldblum, as a party guest]. I didn't know that. And I think maybe I've never seen Annie Hall.
  • The [Early TV vehicle for Jennifer Lopez, as a dancer] was IN LIVING COLOR, the Wayans family's sketch comedy show that also introduced Jim Carrey to the masses. J-Lo was a Fly Girl.
  • SPACE CAMP was an [Early vehicle for Joaquin Phoenix, as a Star Wars-obsessed kid spending the summer near Cape Canaveral]. Two remarks: (1) That was when he was a tween called Leaf Phoenix. (2) My son says he wants to be a "spaceman," but the idea of recycling urine into water on the International Space Station is a turn-off.
  • THE TOXIC AVENGER was an [Early vehicle for Marisa Tomei, as an extra in a health club]. I never saw this, nor Space Camp.
Clues and answers I liked:
  • [Joint that may be thrown, but not passed] is an ELBOW.
  • [Mr. Hankey, the Christmas ___] POO from South Park, is a delight. Good, clean holiday fun.
  • Ben goes autobiographical in the clue for DOOM: [Game my dad refused to install on our computer in 1993 because it took up 40 megabytes]. I inherited a Mac at work around in '92—it was a great machine and it had a whopping 40 MB of memory. You should've seen my portrait monitor. Fancy!
  • ["The Shock Doctrine" author Klein] is NAOMI.
  • ZWAN looks crazy in the grid, doesn't it? It's clued as a [Defunct indie rock supergroup].
  • I thought [Like a studio, generally] referred to recording or film studios at first, but it's studio apartments we're talking about. Most are ONE-ROOM places.
  • GOR takes me back. This [Noted science-fiction universe] was the setting of all those goony little paperbacks read by the boy who sat next to me in 9th-grade English. The covers were R-rated. Is this answer horribly obscure, or did you recognize it?