April 27, 2009

Tuesday, 4/28

Jonesin' 5:18
NYT 3:17
CS 2:36
LAT 2:32

People, I am swamped. You know how we're seeing more puzzles from Brendan Quigley each week (three, at his blog) than anyone else? Those represent but a teeny fraction of his constructing these days. On my plate: Second pass on the page proofs for two BEQ books. Almost half done with the first round of solving/proofing for a third book of BEQ puzzles. Have not yet begun the fourth, which landed in my in box today. Sure, I didn't get a chance to blog about Brendan's Monday puzzle, but rest assured, he is keeping me busy elsewhere. Then there's that medical paper I'm editing, too... Why should you care? I'm excusing myself from all but the most cursory blogging for a few days.

Matt Ginsberg's New York Times crossword

Matt must get bored with the standard sort of theme because he specializes in nutty themes. Here he's got 18 SIMILES in which the first word appears in the grid—and not in symmetrical spots, either—and the "as a blah-blah" part is in the clue. Of course, you can't fit 19 theme answers (including the explanatory SIMILES) into a 15x15 grid without making 'em short, so they're 4 to 7 letters apiece. Fun twist on the norm—and a surprise to see an oddball theme on a Tuesday.

A handful of clues to note:

  • [Baseball All-Star every year] is AARON. Hank, I presume.
  • [___ as a fox] clues CUNNING. Hey, wait. Don't we say "sly as a fox" far more often?
  • 37A is WISE [___ as an owl], and 5D, [Latin for 37-Across], is SAPIENS. As in Homo sapiens. Speaking of Latin, [Literally, "scraped"] clues RASA, as in tabula rasa (a tablet scraped clean).
  • [The Joker in Batman movies, e.g.] is a BAD GUY. Cool entry there.
  • [Light green plums] clues GAGES. More commonly called greengages.
  • [Told to in order to get an opinion] is RAN PAST, as in "I ran the idea past her and she said it'd fly."
Matt Jones's themeless Jonesin' crossword, "Center Piece"

Matt's crafted a plus-sized (16x16) themeless puzzle for us this week. The center zone is the centerpiece of the puzzle: a 6x8 chunk of uninterrupted white space, with 6- to 10-letter answers intersecting it vertically and 8- to 10-letter entries running across. Swirling out from the middle are four corners with three or four long answers stacked together. Many of the answers are stone-cold awesome, while some others rate high on the "meh" scale. Here's a small group of both, just from the Acrosses:
  • [Court request to the press] is NO CAMERAS. Iffy? Maybe. I like it anyway.
  • [Springy sound effect in comics] is BOINNNG. See, I was gonna spell it BOINGGG. It's not really a word that should go over 5 letters, is it?
  • EARTH HOUR was the [March 28, 2009 event that made many homes go dark]. 9 p.m. Central? Sorry, I have a standing date with a crossword puzzle and it requires electricity to solve it online. Bad Amy, good crossword fill.
  • SOB SISTERS are [Journalists who write heart-tugging stories, slangily]. Great entry, though I think I've seen it (maybe the singular form) in a puzzle before.
  • TOM'S DINER is [That Suzanne Vega song with the "doo doo doo doo" chorus]. Great entry.
  • DELTA STATE is the [Mississippi university that's home to the Fighting Okra]. Great answer, hilarious clue.
  • [Cleaned up a microscopic specimen, e.g.] clues DESTAINED. Oh, my. It's in the dictionary, but it certainly doesn't feel like lively fill.
Beautiful grid, isn't it? Now I am hankering for more plus-sized themeless grids with a skosh more room for insane blocks of white space.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Joy Frank's L.A. Times crossword

Today's offering is on the easy side, unlike its Wednesdayish counterpart at the NYT. The theme is things we do to animals, metaphorically speaking:
  • SHOOT THE BULL means to [Talk aimlessly].
  • PASS THE BUCK is to [Blame someone else].
  • [Dress to impress] clues PUT ON THE DOG.
  • JUMP THE SHARK, harking back to Fonzie's motorcycle jump over a shark tank on Happy Days, clues [Pass its peak, slangily, as a TV series]. While most uses of this phrase have nothing to do with actual jumping of sharks, the phrase's origin does. I rather doubt that the other theme answers' backgrounds involve doing those things to those animals, though. Who's going to be impressed when you wrap a schnauzer around your shoulders?
Crossings I liked:
  • Dan MARINO crosses the USMC, or Marine Corps.
  • SUE ME intersects a lawyer's FEE.
  • NEPOTIST, or [One hiring relatives], crosses the CLAN one might hire from.
  • PIQUANT ([Pleasingly pungent]) is a word I ought to find more use for. Why doesn't this cross PARMA, the [Italian city known for its cheese], the pleasingly pungent Parmesan?
Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy crossword, "Joint Account"

Paula's quartet of theme entries begin with joints in the body:
  • A [Really good joke] is a KNEE-SLAPPER.
  • One [Pitcher's choice] is a KNUCKLEBALL.
  • [Many a Timex] is a WRISTWATCH.
  • Disdainful slang terms for "child" include [Rugrat] and ANKLE-BITER.
The first two theme entries I had were the KN ones, and having paid no mind to the puzzle's title, I figured the theme would be all KN phrases. Er, no.

14A, ROUX, could have been clued as [53-Down thickener] to avoid having SAUCE both in the grid and a clue. [Type of yogurt] clues NO-FAT. I'm never keen on that answer, because hardly anybody uses that. Nonfat, yes. Low-fat, yes. Not NO-FAT.

[Rasta's messiah Haile] SELASSIE is timely for me. Rastafarianism is largely a Jamaican thing, and today my son will be dyeing his first-ever tie-dye shirt—using the colors of the Jamaican flag. His school is studying the Olympics and the nations that compete in it, what with Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Games. Having the Games here would be both a hassle and awesome. A proposed tennis site would be about three blocks from my house, and bringing the Olympics here would probably mean that a promise to fill all those potholes within 7 years. If the Games go elsewhere...then there is no hope for the roads.