May 02, 2009

Sunday, 5/3

NYT 8:12
PI 7:53
LAT 7:30
BG 7:09
CS 3:55

Head over to Roy Leban's for this month's crossword, "High-Tech Mergers." (You can solve online, in Across Lite, or on a PDF printout.) As the title suggests, it's got a tech theme, but you need not be an IT professional to crack this puzzle. Roy calls it Monday-Tuesday difficulty, but it took me 4:52 to finish and that's beyond Tuesday level for me. Could just be that it was late and I was tired when I tackled it...

Caleb Madison's New York Times crossword, "A Stately Garden"

A few weeks back, I killed some time at the illustrated Wikipedia article depicting the various state flowers. So that helped me as I ventured through the theme entries in Caleb's puzzle, and I entered some of the flowers in the circled squares before I had the complete answer.

  • 23A: [Five works of Mozart (Rhode Island)] are VIOLIN CONCERTOS, enclosing a VIOLET. The violet is also the state flower of Illinois (represent!) and New Jersey.
  • 29A: The ROSE is in AGREE TO DISAGREE, or [Not completely settle an argument (New York)].
  • 48A: ALVIN AILEY is the ["Revelations" choreographer (Utah)]. His name contains a LILY, but technically, it's the sego lily in particular. SEGO is a bit of crosswordese in its own right.
  • 58A: The PEONY is Indiana's flower. [Trial hearing? (Indiana)] clues EXPERT TESTIMONY.
  • 68A: [It's never made with plastic (Ohio)] clues a CASH TRANSACTION. The CARNATION hides here.
  • 82A: [Country singer with the #1 album and single "Killin' Time" (New Hampshire)] is CLINT BLACK, enclosing a LILAC. The lilac bush in my back yard has begun to bud, so in a couple weeks I'll be swooning over lilac fragrance. (My heart belongs to the crabapple blossom, however.)
  • 95A: LAURENCE OLIVIER contains LAUREL. [He played a Nazi in "Marathon Man" and a Nazi hunter in "The Boys From Brazil" (Connecticut)].
  • 108A: ["Bye Bye Birdie" tune (California)] clues PUT ON A HAPPY FACE. California's flower is the POPPY—specifically the California poppy.
I love the state flowers aspect of the theme, but I'm mildly put out that two of the flowers' names are incomplete and that the violet clue omits two states that honor that flower.

All right, what else is in this puzzle that I want to talk about?
  • 1A: The SCALP is the [Source of some bangs], as in hair. This clue is just weird. Doesn't quite do it for me. Not a good way to kick off the puzzle.
  • 19A/34A: [Onetime Robert De Niro role] clues both AL CAPONE and a DON. Speaking of fictional mobsters, there's that [Mario Puzo sequel] OMERTA in the same general area of the puzzle.
  • BRNO is a [Chief city of Moravia], in the Czech Republic. Prague is in Bohemia, if I recall correctly.
  • HSIA is the [Chinese dynasty before the Shang].
  • To BOX in the boxing ring is to [Produce some combinations, say]—as in a one-two punch combo.
  • [Duodecim] is Latin for twelve, and the Roman numeral 12 is XII.
  • GRAEME [___ Park, colonial Pennsylvania site near Philadelphia], is not a place I've heard of.
  • Belgian artist James ENSOR is the ["Carnaval sur la plage" artist]. There's also a David ENSOR in TV news.
  • The OCARINA is a [Harmonica-like instrument]. That Zelda video game, about the Ocarina of Time—does that have anything to do with the musical instrument?
  • The British spelling of plow is PLOUGH—[Accompanier of a harrow, in Harrow].
  • [Lineman?] clues ACTOR, as in a performer with lines. Eh.
  • [Prefix with noir] is NEO. Can't say I've encountered any references to neo-noir before.
  • The song AMERICAN PIE is a great entry. It's the [1972 #3 hit that starts "A long, long time ago"]. Hey! Now you've got one answer in this quiz about opening lyrics.
  • ARTES [may be patronized by senors and senoras]. As in "patron of the arts," but in Spanish.
  • STOLA is a [Classical wrap. Don't worry—you won't be seeing this answer too often.
  • [Italian sculptor Nicola or Giovanni] is PISANO. I don't know about you, but throwing in the extra guy didn't make this clue any easier for me.
  • [It's read from right to left] means the TORAH. Hebrew is read from right to left.
  • Cars! SAAB and VOLVO are the [9-3 and 9-5 car manufacturer] and [Car with a name that's Latin for "I roll"], respectively. Hey, I didn't know that about Volvo.
  • [Bar since 1879] is IVORY SOAP. They make a mean Old Fashioned there.
  • SAMI is a [Northern Scandinavian]. I think the Sami used to be called Lapps.
  • [Their, in Munich] is the German word IHRE. You'd think this would be crosswordese by now with those letters, but no.
  • The PACA is a [Cousin of a guinea pig].
  • GATOR is the [Nickname for Ron Guidry] of baseball.
Updated Sunday morning:

Gail Grabowski's syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, "Torn Fabric"

My full write-up is at L.A. Crossword Confidential. The theme is hidden fabrics "torn" across two words in assorted phrases:
  • 23A: As it was formerly known, channel with the slogan "play every day" (GAME SHOW NETWORK). I feel as though different fabrics can be made into MESH, but that mesh per se is not a fabric. Can any textile-savvy folks confirm or deny? 
  • 32A: "Enough!" (THAT WILL DO). Hidden TWILL. I want to elide the phrase into Farmer Hoggett's "That'll do, pig" from Babe.
  • 43A: Waldo of kids' books, e.g. (HIDDEN IMAGE). Hidden DENIM, wily hidden Waldo. If he were stepping out on Mrs. Waldo, it would take an eagle-eyed P.I. to track his movements. Here's a cartoon envisioning the birth of Waldo's baby.
  • 60A: Couldn't rush at rush hour (SAT IN TRAFFIC). Smooth SATIN.
  • 82A: "That used to be the case" (NOT ANY LONGER). Hidden NYLON. Phrase feels mildly iffy as crossword fill goes.
  • 96A: It can be seen from the Seine (EIFFEL TOWER). FELT is used pretty much just for hats and kids' crafts projects, isn't it?
  • 103A: Safe bronzing product (SPRAY-ON TAN). Hidden RAYON.
  • 123A: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, e.g. (ONLINE NEWSPAPER). Hidden LINEN. Ooh! An au courant clue, as the Post-Intelligencer ceased its dead-tree version and went online-only just a few weeks ago. This isn't an answer that could have existed a few years ago.
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Testing Your Forty-tude"

This "do the math" theme is a lot of fun: Take two familiar numbers and perform an arithmetic operation to end up with 40. Like so:
  • 19A: [___ + ___ = 40] clues FLAVORS PLUS CAT LIVES. 31 flavors at Baskin Robbins ice cream + 9 lives for a cat. "CAT'S LIVES" would read a little smoother.
  • 27A: [___ – ___ = 40] is CARDS MINUS THE ZODIAC. 52 playing cards, 12 signs of the zodiac. Technically, zodiac ≠ 12 but the signs thereof are 12 in number.
  • 48A: [___ x ___ = 40] is SENSES TIMES AN OCTOPUS. That's 5 senses, 8 arms on an octopus. An octopus ≠ 8, but we get the idea. It's more a game of the number suggested by a word or phrase rather than an actual count.
  • 68A: [___ – ___ = 40] clues ROUTE MINUS THE ALPHABET. Route 66 minus 26 letters in the alphabet.
  • 84A: [___ + ___ = 40] is CATCH PLUS A GOLF COURSE. Catch 22, 18 holes.
  • 106A: [___ x ___ = 40] is SEASONS TIMES BO DEREK. Bo Derek starred as the "10" in 10, and there are 4 seasons.
  • 116A: [___ + ___ = 40] clues JACK BENNY PLUS A PENNY. Jack Benny was famously 39 years old, year after year, and a penny = 1¢.
Overall, the fill was quite smooth—no trouble spots to sandbag the solver.

Henry Hook's 6(ish)-week-old Boston Globe crossword, "Triple Sixes"

The theme entries are six three-word phrases in which all the words are 6 letters long. PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND was a [1534 Cartier discovery]. HELENA BONHAM CARTER was a ["Howards End" cast member]. [The Simpsons' dog] is named SANTA'S LITTLE HELPER. [1993 movie sequel] is ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES. "LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION!" is the [Director's call]. JACKIE JOYNER KERSEE is an Olympic [Heptathlon great]. Another famous 666er, Ronald Wilson Reagan, sat this one out.

Favorite clue: [Stocking-up device?] is a GARTER.

Least favorite: [Physics Nobelist Emilio] SEGRE is unfamiliar to me. In Merl's puzzle, SERGE appears in almost the exact same place in the grid, and is much more solver-friendly. There's also [Old Roman coins], or DENARII. I've seen this one a couple times and have not been wild about it.

Martin Ashwood-Smith's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge"

The master of the triple-stack provides top and bottom triple-stacked 15's:
  • 1A: STATE DEPARTMENT is clued with [It's headquartered in the Harry S Truman Building]. I did not know that.
  • 16A: ["The Ron Reagan Show" network] is not on TV. It's AIR AMERICA RADIO.
  • 17A: PRINT JOURNALISM is [Part of the press].
  • 58A: [An angry speaker might make it] clues an ANIMATED GESTURE.
  • 62A: [It's not a total knockout] refers to LOCAL ANESTHESIA. I had a brief foray into wrongness with ANESTHETIC instead of ANESTHESIA.
  • 63A: [People mover] is TRANSPORT SYSTEM. "Transportation system" feels more natural to me.
Politics and the media take center stage in this puzzle. In addition to the top triple-stack, there are these related answers:
  • 18A: [Politician's goal] is a SEAT.
  • 33A: Abe BEAME was a [1970s Big Apple mayor].
  • 35A: Chairman MAO is a [Former Red head].
  • 37A: One sort of [Early anti-Communist] was a TSARIST.
  • 34D: JANET RENO was [Clinton's Attorney General]. Good first/last name entry.
Assorted other clues: NISI is [Decree ___ (non-absolute court ruling)]. [Range topper] is a STETSON hat worn out on the range. SAXES are [Instruments for Clarence Clemons] (the clue misspells it as "Instruments for Clarence Clemens"). Saxes are not involved in a Marilyn [Horne solo], or ARIA.