April 14, 2009

Wednesday, 4/15

Onion 4:47
BEQ 4:11
LAT 3:18
NYT 3:17
CS 3:08
Tausig (eh, see Thursday's post)

Michael Vuolo's New York Times crossword

Vuolo sets the table with the silverware in phrases that contain a knife at the end, a spoon in the middle, and a fork at the beginning. (Alas, Emily Post prefers the spoon at the far right and the knife in the middle.)

  • 17A: [Have surgery] is GO UNDER THE KNIFE.
  • 24-, 37-, and 50A: [Privileged] is BORN WITH A / SILVER SPOON IN / ONE'S MOUTH.
  • 60A: ["Gimme"!] clued FORK IT OVER, BUDDY.
It's too bad that FORKINTHEROAD isn't 15 letters long, because already one person has grumbled to me tonight about the contrived nature of 60A. 17A is a perfect entry, though, and the middle theme phrase takes up a whopping 31 squares in three entries—an unusual layout that is reminiscent of how a quote theme is set up but without the drabness of a quote theme.

Did anyone recognize COATES, [Actress Phyllis of "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein"]? My favorite Coates is The Atlantic's blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Good stuff:
  • PFFT is clued as a [fizzle] sound.
  • [Colorful glacier layer] is BLUE ICE. My kid likes a blue Icee.
  • [Bubble contents]? That's AIR, generally, but maybe not so much the bubbles in sodapop and Champagne.
  • [Geisha's accessory], 3 letters? It's that danged OBI again. But wait! No! At the last second, FAN sweeps in and steals the space.
  • Kudos for cluing LINT with [It may be caught in a trap]. It always grosses me out when the lint/bellybutton combo is evoked in a crossword. If you're gonna go there, hell, why not dispense some toe jam while you're at it?
  • [Barry White's genre] is SOUL MUSIC. Nobody really uses the "music" part of that phrase, but it's a solid 9 all the same.
  • [Bill passed many times on the Hill, formerly] is Bill FRIST. I assume it was his fellow members of Congress who passed him in the hallway.
  • IRAN is the [Modern locale of ancient Persepolis], which reminds me that I still need to Netflix the animated film Persepolis.
  • An obi-less geisha and now a Yoko-less ONO? It's true! ["Vas ___ Vas" (former derivative Spanish-language game show] clues O NO. That's "Deal or No Deal" in English.
  • YAY! ["That's great news!"] I just had chat in my Facebook parlor about "yea" being misused where "yay" or "yeah" is called for.
Not so good stuff: We've got a slew of 3-letter abbreviations and fragments, like INV, CIE, OEN, STE, CST, PAC, MCI, and CBS. And OFFAL, the [Butcher's discards], provides the ick factor that the LINT clue did not.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Size Does Matter"

Brendan's having a contest, but I'm guessing he may have already received three correct answers via Twitter direct message. (He's @fleetwoodwack.) The theme entries spell out a riddle: WHAT WORD MEANING / SMALL BECOMES A / WORD MEANING HUGE / WHEN YOU REMOVE / THE LAST 5 LETTERS? I figured out the answer...but I flipped to a thesaurus listing for "small" to do so. Hey, there was no rule saying I couldn't.

Did you know that QATAR is a [Middle East state ruled by the al Thani family]? I didn't. I also considered YEMEN, and knew it wasn't SYRIA or EGYPT—but there are plenty of 5-letter countries in the Mideast. (There are 24 5-letter countries in this Sporcle.com quiz; I missed four of them.)

Brendan puts in a sham word, BREEN, clued as [Brownish-green color (duh!)]. Geeze, the only BREEN I know is Eric Berlin's fictional WInston Breen. (Two plugs! You'd think Eric was paying me for the promotional mentions. I swear he isn't.)

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme focuses on the insanity that is spelling and pronunciation (or orthography and orthoepy, if you want to be high-end) of the English language. Spend a little time trying to come up with mnemonics for your second- or third-grader to remember how to spell certain words, and you'll quickly learn that English is both a marvelous language and an utterly ludicrous one. That's how we ended up with six -OUGH words pronounced six different ways:
  • 17A: [Loaf pan filler] is BREAD DOUGH, pronounced "D'oh!"
  • 29A: [Mistletoe branch that was Aeneas' pass to the underworld] is the GOLDEN BOUGH, and I don't remember this bit of mythology, Bough rhymes with "bow-wow."
  • 39A: [Something to lead a horse to] is a WATER TROUGH, rhymes with "off."
  • 52A: ["The Thorn Birds" author] is Colleen MCCULLOUGH. Rhymes with...well, here's the pronunciation.
  • 11D: ["Cut it out!"] clues THAT'S ENOUGH. Rhymes with "tough stuff."
  • 24D: To [Make a dramatic recovery] is to PULL THROUGH. Good for you.
My longer write-up is at L.A. Crossword Confidential.

Tyler Hinman's Onion A.V. Club crossword

I believe the theme in Tyler's puzzle is "bands whose names start with slang terms for marijuana," but I need to do some research because I only recognize the slang in two of the five theme answers.
  • ["Hit" musician who recorded with the Tijuana Brass band] is HERB ALPERT. Herb! I've heard that one.
  • ["Hit" band that recorded "Nearly Lost You"] is SCREAMING TREES. Surely my government can help me here. Ah, this one ends with the slang term. Trees = marijuana.
  • ["Hit" musician who sang "Let's Stay Together"] is the legendary AL GREEN. "Herb and Al" = pot and booze, but green = "inferior quality marijuana" and greens = marijuana of non-inferior quality, apparently.
  • ["Hit" band with "Jesus is Just Alright"] is DOOBIE BROTHERS. A doobie is a joint. I know this one.
  • ["Hit" group with "Centerfold"] is J. GEILS BAND. J = "marijuana cigarette." Thank you, government reference! My tax dollars at work, bailing me out as a crossword blogger.
Assorted other clues and their answers: SHERE HITE is the [Sexologist who renounced her US citizenship in 1995]. She's German now, and did you know her birth name was Shirley?

["Adaptation" locale] is a SWAMP. Never saw it, nor did I read The Orchid Thief, but hey, just reading the reviews can make one relatively well-informed.

[Punish barbarically] clues the gruesome BEHEAD and SCALP. That's [Creeptastic]! (EERIE.) Speaking of creeptastic, here's LOVE IS..., the [Cutesy one-frame comic].

SAT PREP is a terrifically fresh entry—kudos, Tyler. Clued as [Kaplan offering]. Together with SHERE HITE, BEEFS UP, AT ODDS, AL GORE, ARTICLE X, and PETROLEUM, there's a lot of cool fill here and precious little junk.

Randy Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Feudal Effort"

I hope solving this crossword was not a futile effort for you. The theme entries are puns with words from the feudal era:
  • [High honor for a feudal lord?] is a NOBLE PEACE PRIZE.
  • [Exams for feudal "underclassmen"?] are SERF BOARDS.
  • [Feudal samaritan?] is a GOOD KNIGHT.
  • And the VIENNA BOY SQUIRE (Vienna Boys Choir) is a [Young feudal attendant from Austria?].
Great-looking grid today, with those interlocking 6-letter answers in the NW and SE corners and the three-stacked 8's in the NE and SW. The word count is just 72, so all those long answers nudge the puzzle towards themeless-caliber fill.

We dodged a "breakfast test" bullet with the clue for EFFLUVIA, [Bad smells]. We did not need mention of the more concrete manifestations of effluvia. You can freshen up your own EFFLUVIA with the answer right above it, MENTOS—the [Candy brand known as "The Freshmaker"]. The COLON, of course, is never a part of the intestinal tract in a newspaper crossword. Here it's just :, a [Ratio indicator].