May 21, 2009

Friday, 5/22

NYT 6:00
BEQ 5:31
CHE 3:58
LAT 3:06
CS 6:29 (J/paper)
WSJ 6:41

Who knew a kid could have strep in the absence of a sore throat? Yep. Fever, cough, and headache are the manifestations of the strep that's making the rounds in Chicago. I wrote up the CHE puzzle earlier this evening, but I promised to check on my son, who's having trouble getting to sleep, so I'll have only an abbreviated write-up of the New York Times puzzle.

Manny Nosowsky's New York Times crossword

Yay! A Manny Friday! Such a puzzle always promises to be deftly constructed and enjoyable, but not disappointingly easy. Without further ado, clues and answers of particular note:

  • Right in the middle of the grid, we have the number SIXTY-NINE, clued as 20A [Cardinal that looks the same when viewed upside down]. Wow, I kinda thought the answer would be someone named Urban or Pius, something like that. My mind doesn't go straight to math.
  • 1A. [Magazine since 1850] is HARPERS. It took me far too long to confirm that guess with the crossings.
  • 16A. "NOW WHAT?" is a [Cry upon reaching an impasse].
  • 18A. [Lens-grinding Dutch philosopher] was SPINOZA.
  • Soccer legend PELE is a [Goal-oriented superstar?] and a COSTAR is a [Bill sharer], as in sharing top billing. The star/STAR duplication is not optimal, but I do like that PELE clue.
  • 33A. I CAN'T SAY AS I HAVE is clued ["Not in my experience"]. Have you ever seen that answer in a crossword? See 33-Across. Perfectly in-the-language, that. IT'S A LULU is perhaps less so—that one's clued ["Wait'll you see this!"].
  • 37A. NORMA is a [Celestial neighbor of Scorpius]. If only Norma were one of the zodiac signs. "Norma, meet Leo."
  • 45A. ELON is clued [Its sports teams are called the Phoenix]. Raise your hand if you had just enough crossings to try ETON.
  • 46A. [Accolade for a great play] is a TONY award.
  • 58A. [Selling point for some lights] is LESS TAR. Mind you, cigarettes with less tar will still wreak havoc on your lungs, cardiovascular system, and gums. (Can I get an "ick," Ellen?)
  • 1D. I thought [Old swing digger] would be some sort of tool or construction equipment rather than a HEP CAT.
  • 4D. PILTDOWN MAN! The classic hoax. [Its teeth were actually a chimpanzee's].
  • 10D. FWIW, or "for what it's worth," is an [E-mail disclaimer].
  • 12D. RHODESIA [was NE of Bechuanaland].
  • 13D. MAZEL TOV! That's [Literally, "good luck"].
  • 23D. [Ocean, in Mongolian] is DALAI. Is this related to the Tibetan term Dalai Lama? Ocean priest?
  • 40D. [Stand-in for unnamed others] is ET ALIA. Am I alone in never filling in that last letter without the crossing telling me if it's an A or I?
  • 42D. URBANA, Illinois, [has a twin city in the Midwest]. St. Paul also has 6 letters.
  • 54D. MRS. is a [Questionnaire check box option]. I always check the Ms. box.
  • 55D. The last clue in this 68-worder is [100ths of a krona], for ORE. Definitely not a Monday clue for that common answer.
Cathy Allis's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Mystery Guest"

I've never read any Sherlock Holmes stories, nor seen any film adaptations. But I can still appreciate the Mystery Guest theme that Cathy Allis (the artist formerly known as Cathy Millhauser) has wrought in this 15x16 tribute puzzle. There are four theme entries and a smattering of circled squares. The theme entries are:
  • 17A. [Hint to the Mystery Guest's identity] is DOCTOR AND WRITER.
  • 26A. The second [Hint to the Mystery Guest's identity] is SPIRITUALIST.
  • 50A. The third [Hint to the Mystery Guest's identity] is KNIGHTED SCOT. I was pretty sure that Sean Connery doesn't qualify as a doctor or a writer.
  • 64A. [Age that the Mystery Guest would turn on May 22, 2009] is ONE HUNDRED FIFTY. (Though apparently people on his side of the Atlantic would use "and" between "hundred" and "fifty," according to Language Log.)

The circled squares, read in a zigzag from top to bottom, spell out ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE. And I certainly had no idea that was the hidden name, not based on the theme answers. Is the capitalized "Mystery Guest" another clue that it's Doyle?

Look how loose the grid is—there are two diagonal swaths of fill that traverse three quarters of the grid, easing your path through the grid. There are plenty of routes in and out of each section of the puzzle. And the fill doesn't feel constrained by the requirement that a specific letter must appear somewhere within each row (though there's some flexibility as to where the letter goes).

Hey, Cathy, let's see some more of your puzzles soon!

Updated Friday Morning:

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Double Time"—Janie's review

In other words, it's time to double something—and today that would be the central consonant of a five-letter noun or adjective, and then pair it with the resulting six-letter noun to create a two-word (kinda whimsical, alliterative) adjectival phrase. Get it? If that doesn't make sense, perhaps this will:
  • 17A: [Marvelous meal?] SUPER SUPPER. (Got it?) I like how this ties into 29D's [Devour]. What else would you do with this kind of fare but EAT UP!
  • 28A: [Big bottles beside the highway?] LITER LITTER.
  • 44A: [Finale of a heist?] CAPER CAPPER.
  • 58A: [More adorable film editor?] CUTER CUTTER. This one's my fave.

This was a fairly easy puzzle for me, probably because there was a lot of "sweet spot" fill. Fill-um stars NEESON and MR. T (who has a real name—Laurence Tureaud!); and the JOADS of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

But let's not forget that "Double time" is also a musical term—and there was lots of musical fill here: DO-RE-MI, ["I] AM THE [Walrus"], ["I] HEAR A [Symphony"], ARLO Guthrie, Paul ANKA, AIMEE Grant, TITOS Puente and Jackson, ERNO Dohnányi, not to mention the well-clued [A flat's equivalent] G SHARP. (I also had to smile when sound-alike SHARPEI ["sharp A?"] showed up in the same NW territory.)

The longest of the non-theme fill is also rich: PASTE IN, MOUSETRAP (smartly clued as [Danger for Stuart Little]), FLAPJACKS (making its CS debut) and BEERCAN. This last one, clued as [Coors container], is well-paired with [Keep in a barrel, perhaps] for AGE. Wine and hard-liquor, I learned, are not the only alcoholic beverages to be barrel-aged. Yep, it's also a process for some mighty pricey beer these days. Yikes.

There's a fine pairing, too, of POGO [stick] and then [Stick with a blade, a loom, and a handle]. That latter one is a fancy way of getting to OAR. Here's a diagram that'll show ya what's what. (Full disclosure: this one uses the word "grip" instead of "handle"... The diagram that pointed out the "blade" and the "handle" made no mention of the "loom," which was a new term to me.)

And there's another lively pair of related clues/fill: SMUSH for [Compress] and RAZE for [Flatten]. Love SMUSH especially—though I did start out with SMASH...

BEEPER for [Cell phone predecessor] conjured up the first season of The Wire, and TRIO for [The Fates] sent me looking for more details. I was reminded that these dames are not unique to Greek mythology, but have their counterparts in Roman and Norse/Germanic mythology as well—possibly including even Macbeth's witches.

To re-address the theme before closing—you know what? There are a lot of six-letter words with a repeated consonant in the middle. But there really aren't lots and lots to choose from when you're trying to come up with phrases that sound like they could be "in the language." Bravo, Patrick. You came up with four good ones, giving us two with a repeated "T" and two with a repeated "P." That, too, keeps the theme-fill tight and consistent within itself. No mean FEAT, that!

Mike Peluso's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme here is familiar phrases in which the first word adopts a -LER'S ending. The new words are completely unrelated etymologically in three of the four cases:
  • 20A. [Social butterfly's flower pot?] is a MINGLER'S VASE.
  • 36A. [Breakfast for a cuddly person?] is a NESTLER'S EGG. Nestle is derived from nest. I might've gone with a breakfast-in-bed slant for the clue.
  • [Adam's tavern?] is SANDLER'S BAR. Who doesn't like a sandbar? I think sandbars are less polarizing than Adam Sandler.
  • 57A. [Old West outlaw's accessory?] is a cattle RUSTLER'S BELT. Whenever I see "accessory" in a crossword clue, I expect there to be an OBI in the grid.

New clues (which may not actually be new, but they felt fresh to me):
  • [Gadgets used in drivers' education?] are golf TEES.
  • [Matmid Frequent Flyer Club airline] is Israel's EL AL.
  • [One in a black suit] is a SPADE, as opposed to black clubs, red hearts, and red diamonds.
  • [Southernmost Ivy League sch.] is UPENN. Does anyone call it that? Isn't it just called Penn?
  • [Little star] is the typographical ASTERISK.
  • [Do to do] is the SCALE, running from do through re, mi, and friends all the way back to do. Speaking of that, Trip Payne recently wrote of realizing that there's a pun at the end of the Sound of Music song's line, "Ti/tea, a drink with jam and bread, that will bring us back to do." Bread dough = do. This epiphany gobsmacked him and his blog readers. Was that always obvious to you, or did you also never see the link between bread and "do"?

More on the puzzle from Rex at L.A. Crossword Confidential.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Friday"

Those of you who've been perplexed by intriguing titles for Brendan's themelesses can rest easy today—"Themeless Friday" is indeed themeless. I'm glad Brendan sometimes writes about the genesis and crafting of his puzzles, because I always find that interesting. (Open invitation to constructors: If you're particularly pleased with how your puzzle came out and want somewhere to talk about the process of creating it, you're welcome to do that here. Either in the comments or via an e-mail from which I can copy and paste your story.) Among the freshest fill and clues in today's puzzle is this stuff:
  • The first and last Across entries frame the puzzle in au courant lingo. [Gamer's confident exclamation] is FOR THE WIN, often shortened to FTW. (Yes, it looks like "WTF" backwards, but only the "the" is the same.) FTW has spilled out beyond gaming—I see it in blog comments when someone's lauding another's cleverness. At the bottom is Brendan's seed entry, DRUNK TEXT—this is the updated version of the drunk dial. Why leave a drunk voicemail when you can so easily text an [Embarrassing message you might hear about the next day]?
  • SLIDE RULES are old-school, for sure. The clue, [They took care of roots], refers to square roots, not hair roots.
  • FARRAGO is one of those lovely old words that means [Hodgepodge].
  • HATE MAIL [may begin: "Dear Fuckface"].
  • THNEEDS are [Odd-looking but versatile garments the Once-ler manufactures in Dr. Seuss's "The Lorax"]. I'd hereby like to declare a moratorium on Seuss neologisms in the crossword.
  • [Narrator rescued by the Rachel at the novel's end] is ISHMAEL. I don't remember this from Moby-Dick, but I do like the conceit of someone being rescued by Jennifer Aniston's Friends hairstyle.
  • EVEREST is the [Mountain natives call Sagarmatha].

Cathy Allis's Wall Street Journal crossword, "It's Not the Economy"

Yay! Another puzzle from Cathy! I really thought I'd have to wait more than a day before I saw another of her creations. The theme entries are familiar phrases with financial implications, but Cathy reimagines them and the clues suggest that "It's Not the Economy" that these phrases are about at all:
  • [Doesn't bother to return the turpentine, say?] clues JUST KEEPS SOLVENT. This one's actually my favorite theme entry. What does that say about me?
  • LIVES ON A DIME means [Is immortalized like Franklin Roosevelt?].
  • [Dips fingers into snuff or salt] clues FEELS THE PINCH.
  • [Is tied up by "the Man in Black"] first had me thinking of Men in Black thanks to inattentive reading. GETS STRAPPED FOR CASH, Johnny Cash, paints a kinky picture. The "for" makes it sound like voluntary bondage.
  • [Works on getting some football players introduced to each other?] is TRIES TO MAKE ENDS MEET. I love this one as much as the turpentine one. I picture a crowded party and a flustered host trying to get her burly guests to quit hanging out with their friends and come mingle with their fellow ends.
  • BARELY MANAGES is clued with [Runs a nudist colony?]. Writing business plans is, I think, best done in the nude.
  • [Starts carving some ham?] leads you to GOES INTO HOCK, ham hock, with a knife.
  • [Brings a boxing punch under control?] clues TIGHTENS ONE'S BELT. I have no idea if "tightening" of punches is in the pugilistic parlance at all.

Fun theme! I like the Reaglesque partial stacking of the top and bottom pairs of theme entries, too. Highlights in the fill: DOO DAH is a ["Camptown Races" bit]. POST-IT is a [Brand of note]. EGOISTE is that [Chanel fragrance for men] that had those ludicrous TV commercials about a decade ago. Remember that one? All the windows being thrown open and various European women shouting "Egoiste!" into the rue before closing the windows again?