April 28, 2009

Wednesday, 4/29

BEQ 5:14
Onion 4:20 (no kidding!)
NYT 3:44
LAT 3:14
CS 3:09

Barry Silk's New York Times crossword

This is Barry's second NYT puzzle in under a week. Usually he's a themeless specialist, but here he is on a Wednesday. And for the second day in a row, the theme includes a bunch of short answers rather than a handful of long ones. Barry's theme is a word ladder that takes us through the STANDARD WORK DAY, from NINE (1A) to FIVE (71A). Here's the ladder, in which one letter changes to make a new word in each step:

  • NINE (1A)
  • TINE (15A, [Small part of a spork])
  • TONE (18A, [Musical quality])
  • TORE (22A, [Made tracks])
  • SORE (35A, [Teed off])
  • SORT (44A, [Put into piles])
  • FORT (56A, [Locale in a western])
  • FORE (64A, [It may precede a stroke] in golf)
  • FIRE (67A, [Ax])
  • FIVE (71A)
Yeah, word ladders are cool. (Remember Patrick Berry's N.Y. Sun word ladder puzzle, with 5-letter words embedded in longer answers making a word ladder straight down the middle of the grid? Awe-inspiring.) You can see Barry's themeless-constructor DNA peeking through in the NW and SE corners' 4x6 blocks and the stacked pairs of 8's in the other two corners. Without further ado, a few more clues:
  • ["The Good Earth" heroine] is O-LAN. Not to be confused with photo studio Olan Mills.
  • EMPTY can be a noun, not just an adjective or verb: it's a [Recyclable item] such as a can or bottle.
  • A Tibetan LAMA is a [Prayer wheel user].
  • [Permanently attached, in zoology] clues the word SESSILE. It's from a Latin word meaning "seated." Barnacles are SESSILE.
  • I wanted [Canal site, maybe] to be the ear. It's an ISTHMUS, such as Panama.
  • PEEVISH means [Showing irritation]. This word merits a more prominent place in my vocabulary.
  • ["The Way of Perfection" writer] is ST. TERESA. I needed the crossings for this one.
  • [Tried out at an Air Force base] clues TEST-FLEW. What, "test flight" can be verbified and then put into the past tense?
  • [Part of an act, perhaps] is SCENE V.
  • I sure didn't get that [Simple sugar] at 51D without the crossings. HEXOSE! Gimme some hexose, baby.
Updated Tuesday morning:

Doug Peterson's L.A. Times crossword

Doug may have spent some time in the kitchen doing the Monster Mash while he was constructing this puzzle—the theme entries are phrases that end with words that double as kitchen verbs that make food pieces smaller. It would have been a little more elegant if HAS AN AX TO GRIND ([Harbors ulterior motives]) had been replaced by a phrase in which GRIND is a noun, as the kitchen verbs are nouns in the other phrases. Alas, THE DAILY GRIND is one letter too short to partner with FIREPLACE GRATE ([Log holder]). The other theme entries are LOADED DICE, a [Shady high roller's advantage], and a KARATE CHOP, or [Dojo blow]. That last clue ends with the sound of "Joe Blow" so now I'm pondering "dojo sixpack" and "dojo schmo."

Lots of Scrabbly fill here—NOZZLE, ZIPLOC, RED SOX, JAVA, and a bunch of K's. Good stuff. For the rest of my comments on this puzzle, see my L.A. Crossword Confidential post.

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Pizza Pieces"

Patrick's theme gives me a touch of indigestion. The three "pizza pieces" in the grid appear somewhere in the theme entries:
  • 17A: [Corny gangster movie line] is "CHEESE IT—THE COPS!" I know this one because there was a "cheese it, the cops" button to hide an early-'90s Mac Yahtzee game I used to play at work.
  • 36A: [No longer drinking] clues OFF THE SAUCE. I don't know that I ever hear this phrase used, but I understand it fine. "On the sauce" feels more familiar to me.
  • 59A: [Be nervy] clues HAVE A LOT OF CRUST. I have never, ever heard "crust" used this way. Is it a regional idiom?
I wouldn't need the Tums if the CHEESE had found a way to appear at the end of its phrase, like the SAUCE and CRUST do. There's much to admire in the fill here, but I'd like a more consistent theme structure, especially when there are only three theme answers.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Gone Teabagging"

If you made it through the GOP "Tea Party" coverage without learning the X-rated meaning of "teabagging" and thus don't know why Brendan's puzzle skews anatomical, Wikipedia explains it here. The theme doesn't quite cohere:
  • 20A: [CNN show that certainly won't be doing any pieces on teabagging?] clues NO BIAS, NO BALLS. The actual CNN show is called No Bias, No Bull.
  • 25A: [What a teabagger did to start teabagging?] is DISCOVERED A TAX. On the surface, this lacks innuendo. And the Tea Party protesters didn't exactly "discover" a tax. What am I missing here?
  • 47/52A: [Advice to future teabaggers?] is SPEAK SOFTLY AND / CARRY A BIG DICK. Within the confines of the innuendo theme, this doesn't work for me because teabagging isn't about that particular part of the anatomy.
Maybe those with the mindset of an 18-year-old boy appreciate this theme, but it's a big fail for me.

COQ AU VIN, a [Chicken-in-wine dish], makes for a lovely answer. We like it when Q isn't followed by a U. Not crazy about DEEP REDS as an answer—if you're stuck with the entry in your puzzle, clue it with two reds, not one ([Cardinals, e.g.])—maybe [Ruby and claret, e.g.]. Weirdest-looking answer is KEYOFE, which is three words: the KEY OF E is a musical term clued with [It has four sharps].

Matt Jones's Onion A.V. Club crossword

Matt's puzzle really should've run last week or the week before for maximum theme resonance. 420, or 4/20 or April 20, has become a marijuana thing. The theme entries begin with numbers that, when multiplied together, equal 420. The details:
  • 17A: TWO PEOPLE is a [1973 Peter Fonda travel drama in which Lindsay Wagner's character asks to share some kif]. Kif or kef, from an Arabic word, means cannabis.
  • 24A: The [HBO drama with a good bit of weed-smoking] is SIX FEET UNDER.
  • 40A: [Red shape behind a pot leaf on the Yippie flag] is a FIVE-POINTED STAR.
  • 51A: SEVEN SISTERS fills in the blank in ["The ___ of Sleep" (1860 Mordecai Cook historical survey on drug use, including marijuana].
  • 63A: The pot-advocacy magazine HIGH TIMES is clued as [What one gets by multiplying the numbers in this puzzle's theme answers]. The four numbers have "high" aspects to their clues, and 2 TIMES 6 TIMES 5 TIMES 7 = 420. 
My, that's involved. If I cared one whit about the whole 4/20 thing this theme would have wowed me, but while I appreciate the intricacy of the theme, the payoff was a bit of a letdown for me.

Names I didn't know: EMILIE is [Oskar Schindler's wife]. RITA is [Raspy-voiced former Fox News host Cosby]. [Joy Division casualty Curtis] is IAN Curtis.

Favorite clue: ["The Right Stuff" group, to legions of fans]. I had the TB at the end of the answer and just could not think of any nickname for the astronauts in the movie. Eventually NKOTB, or New Kids on the Block, emerged. I don't know if Matt (or editor Ben Tausig) hoped people would wander into that dead end, but I sure did.