April 21, 2009

Wednesday, 4/22

NYT 4:22 (paper) — NYT applet/Across Lite back online, but this puzzle wants to be solved on paper
Onion 4:11
BEQ 3:59
CS 2:57
LAT 2:45

Daniel Finan's New York Times crossword

So, the NYT is having technical difficulties in the puzzle department, possibly because of this crossword's long Notepad message and circles in the grid. Luckily, I solved it last week before the Marbles Amateur Crossword Tournament and had the PDF version. I'm all about honoring copyright, yes, but I'm also about enabling people's crossword addictions, especially ones that they pay good money for. So for now the puzzle's posted, and once the NYT server is ponying up the puzzle properly, I'll take it down. (Well, not before I wake up in the morning.)

Anyway, the puzzle! I loved it. I suspect many of you will agree with me that it feels like a Thursday puzzle. Not just the spilling-to-Wednesday gimmickry (which I appreciate—with the demise of the Sun, I've been hankering for more gimmick puzzles than just the occasional Thursday NYT), but also the difficulty level. Anne Erdmann solved this one only a few seconds faster than I did, which I think places it after Wednesday difficulty.

The difficulty lies in the six theme entries that are clued with letters. As the Note says: "When this puzzle is done, the nine circles will contain the letters A through I. Connect them with a line, in alphabetical order, and you will form an illustration of the puzzle's theme." The connect-the-dot picture is a sailboat, but six entries are clued only with reference to the portion of the sailboat picture—and until you've filled in most of the puzzle, you won't see that boat take shape.

The theme includes two large sailing ships:

  • 18A: BLACK PEARL is the [Ship in "Pirates of the Caribbean"].
  • 55A: [Ship to the New World] is the SANTA MARIA. (Oddly, Santa is repeated in the clue for NORAD, [Santa-tracking org.]—and again, I missed seeing the dupe last week.)
The boat parts are as follows:
  • 17A: [With 59-Across, A-B-C-A in the illustration] clues the MAIN / SAIL.
  • 25A: [F-G] is the KEEL at the bottom of the boat.
  • 30A: [C-D] is the MAST.
  • 43A: [A-B] is the BOOM, perpendicular to the MAST.
  • 49A: [E-F-G-H-E] is the HULL, the body of the boat.
I'll tell you what the main trouble spot was for the Marbles contestants. There was a prize for everyone who finished the puzzle correctly, and usually we didn't need to look further than 1-Across for a mistake. [A Morse "I" consists of two] is DITS, that age-old crosswordese word. 2D is [Chekhov play or its antihero], which apparently is not much of a gimme—nearly half of the contestants had DOTS/OVANOV instead of DITS/IVANOV.

What else did I like about this puzzle, aside from the Blindaueresque gimmick action?
  • 40A: The Spanish DIABLO, or "devil," is [Counterpart of un angel].
  • 61A: [Makeup of some little balls] is LINT.
  • 63A: Ooh, this one was tough too: [Stethoscope users, at times] are YEGGS, or safecrackers.
  • 9D: [Hook or Cook: Abbr.] is CAPT., for another nautical answer.
  • 19D: [One who may put you in stitches?] clues a KNITTER, though my first thoughts were SURGEON and SUTURER. Shout-out to Katie Hamill, crosswordin' knitter.
  • 25D: KIKI DEE! With Elton John, ["Don't Go Breaking My Heart" duettist, 1976]. I was 9 or 10 when the song was out, and I assumed Kiki and Elton were a couple. Um, no.
  • 28D: More boating. [Old shipbuilding needs] are LOGS.
  • 33D: And a [Leak on a ship, e.g.] is a PROBLEM.
  • 41D: [It may be flared] refers to an angry NOSTRIL.
Oh, wait! In the category of boring fill nobody's excited about, ALEE finally finds a higher purpose. 64A is [Away from the wind], and I bet this has some relevance to sailing. And a clunky abbreviation, ATL., is [One of the oceans: Abbr.] on which the SANTA MARIA sailed. And a [Ship's christening, e.g.] is an EVENT. And TAKING is clued as [Pirating], which also ties into the theme.

How do you feel about the Thursdayification of Wednesday? I'm strongly in favor.

(Thanks to Karen T. for facilitating the solution image.)

P.S. You know who made the first connect-the-dots crossword? Elizabeth Gorski, 12/14/03, with all 26 letters forming a Christmas tree with a star on top. So maybe Patrick Blindauer is Gorskiesque...

Updated Wednesday morning:

Mike Peluso's L.A. Times crossword

I had no idea what the theme was until I found myself at 66A: [Action hero's garb, and what each first word in this puzzle's four longest answers is] clues a CAPE, and the theme entries are well-known geographical capes:
  • 20A: [Cornucopia] translates to a HORN OF PLENTY. Cape Horn is an island that's the southernmost tip of South America.
  • 34A: [Supplement that some claim eases arthritis] is COD LIVER OIL. Cape Cod is Massachusetts' easternmost peninsula.
  • 43A: The late, great ANN RICHARDS was [Texas governor before George W. Bush]. Cape Ann is a smaller Massachusetts peninsula to the north of Cape Cod.
  • 56A: FEAR OF FLYING is the classic [1973 Erica Jong novel]. Cape Fear is not just a creepy movie—it's also a promontory or headland in North Carolina.
Lots of admirable fill—XANADU, PEPPIEST, BEEFALO, Julio IGLESIAS, BLURB—but I've got a phone interview with a reporter in less than an hour and a few more puzzles to blog first, so I'll send you to Rex's L.A. Crossword Confidential post if you're looking for more on this puzzle.

Later Wednesday morning: Oh, the interview was at 10 Eastern, not 10 Central. Back to the puzzles.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Shut Up and Play"

The theme's a quote from John Coltrane, split into 5/14/14/14/5 chunks. "IF THE / MUSIC DOESN'T SAY / IT, HOW MANY WORDS / CAN SAY IT FOR THE / MUSIC?" Quote themes? Meh.

Among the tougher non-theme clues were these ones:
  • 1A: [Old-style word processor] clues a STENO, or stenographer. Good one!
  • 38A: [Deal with one's booty?] is SHAKE. My first thought, sad to say, was WIPE.
  • 43A: [Dog in the movie "Rebecca"] is JASPER. You don't say.
  • 49D: [University where the rules for football were finalized] is YALE. I learned this by proofing Brendan's upcoming book of Yale football crosswords. Prior to that, I had zero knowledge of Yale football. Or maybe less than zero.
Some of the fill is superb and some is not—in the latter category, I'd place CAN-MISS, or [Far from surefire, informally], and WE MET, or ["No need to introduce us"]. The good stuff includes TWEET ([Communicate in 140 characters or less]), BRAND-NEW ([Fresh out of the box]), MR. WHITE ([Harvey Keitel's "Reservoir Dogs" role]), and LOVE SCENE ([Hot shot?]). Does Harvey Keitel have a Twitter feed yet? I do.

Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy puzzle, "What's the Story?"

The theme entries all begin with "___ story" words. For example, a WAR OF WORDS is a [Protracted argument], and BEDTIME FOR BONZO wa a [1951 Ronald Reagan film]. War stories, bedtime stories...you see where this is going. My only quibble with the theme is the clue for FISH STICKS: [Children's menu staples]. Chicken fingers have displaced fish sticks from nearly all kids' menus I've seen. All five theme answers are lively crossword fill, though—we also have a GHOST WRITER and LOVE HANDLES.

In the fill, I DO NOT feels a bit iffy with the clue [Runaway bride's words?]. I'm skeptical that any altar jilting involves this spoken negation of the "I do" wedding vow. Hard to clue the answer without using the word "do," but I'm guessing Paula was backed into that answer by its neighbor, WAHS—there aren't a lot of workable options for W*H* crossing two theme entries.

Deb Amlen's Onion A.V. Club crossword

Dang, my browser crashed and I lost what I wrote about Deb's puzzle. In short: I liked the smooth and interesting fill. The theme can be described as "remove an A from song titles Amy has never heard of":
  • 20A: [Cat Stevens song about Yankees tickets on the third base line?] is I SEE A-ROD. Presumably a play on "I See a Road," but that doesn't ring a bell. And I thought I knew Cat Stevens' oeuvre...
  • 32A: [Sum 41 song about S&M?] is PIN AND PLEASURE. Must be "Pain and Pleasure"...which would also be a song about S&M.
  • 38A: [Anthrax song about a top bodybuilder's six-pack?] is BELLY OF THE BEST. "Belly of the Beast" sounds plausible.
  • 54A: [Patti Page song about a burning pipe?] is STEM HEAT. Pipe stem, "Steam Heat."