May 13, 2009

Thursday, 5/14

NYT 4:30
LAT 3:09
Tausig (untimed)
CS 6:40 (J—paper)

David Kahn's New York Times crossword

What an odd puzzle. What can one make of it? The theme is an interesting one—all around the PERIMETER are 7-letter answers that are anagrams, or SCRAMBLES, of one another. Those anagrams are as follows, clockwise from the upper left:

  • 1A: PARTIES are [Shindigs].
  • 8A: EAR TIPS are [Elf costume add-ons, maybe]. EAR TIPS??
  • 14D: SEA TRIP is a [Cruise, say]. Is this "in the language"?
  • 47D: PASTIER means [More sallow].
  • 70A: PIASTER is a [Foreign currency unit].
  • 69A: TRAIPSE, a lovely word, means [Trudge] wearily or walk about casually.
  • 40D: A PRIEST is ["The one-l lama," to Ogden Nash]. Awkward with the article.
  • 1D: The Pittsburgh PIRATES were the [1979 World Series champs].
Given the constraints of perimeter theme entry placement and the limited letter choices for the squares around the perimeter—plus the crossing entries in the middle—the rest of the was going to have some compromises, but I'm not sure the theme provides quite enough payoff for the fill. UNNERVE ([Upset]) is good but its crosser UNBRAVE ([Cowardly]), not so much. INSANER ([More cracked]), an awkward comparative word. SEROW, the [Asian goatlike animal]? Wow. One prior in the Cruciverb database, from a 1999 Washington Post puzzle. I missed that puzzle, so I more or less had to guess at the O, which is shared by DROP SET, or [Weight training unit]—a term I've never seen. ALAE, or [Wings, zoologically], is old-school crosswordese—rarely seen now, but at least I knew that one.

The rest of the fill is fine, now that I take a look at it, but I have a SEROW stuck in my craw and it's giving me a little indigestion. You know how that goes. Assorted clues and answers, coming right up:
  • [Overwhelmingly] clues IN A ROMP. As in "they won the game in a romp." 
  • CANASTA is a [Game with four jokers], apparently.
  • [Abbr. often repeated redundantly] is ETC. As in "etc., etc." I like the clue.
  • JADE is the [Official gemstone of Alaska]. Raise your hand if you took a gamble on the OPAL first.
  • [Sequestering, legally speaking] is SEIZING.
  • The ANEMONE, a flower and a sea creature, gets an etymology clue: [Literally, "daughter of the wind"]. Nice touch.
  • Nobody likes [A pop] as a crossword answer, but here it plays the part of a clue for EACH. Much better.
  • [Orange coats] are the RINDS of the citrus fruit.
  • [Sweets, e.g.] can be a PET NAME.
  • [Head light?] isn't HALO, it's an IDEA.
  • AMNESIA might be the [Result of butting heads?].
  • The two-word DROVE AT is clued with [Intended to convey]. Past tense of "driving at." I'm thinking "was driving at" feels more natural than "drove at." Yes? No?
  • STRIP is a [Word with club or mine]. Ladies, don't forget that strip clubs exist!
  • ELBA gets a fresh clue—[Island in the Arcipelago Toscano].
It's storming like crazy outside, so I'd best post this before my electricity gets zapped. Good night!

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Beer Bearers"—Janie's review

"Oh, it's beer, beer, beer that makes you want to cheer"—and it's Patrick's "Beer Bearers" that celebrates four of the ways this most popular alcoholic beverage may be delivered—namely, by:
  • 20A: CAN YOU FORGIVE ME [Contrite request]. This pitch-perfect phrase is making its major-puzzle debut, btw.
  • 33A: BARREL ROLL [Air show maneuver ]. Here's an example. But I also learned that the BARREL ROLL features prominently in Starfox 64, the 1997 Nintendo flying simulator/space combat game, and comes from a phrase that wingman Peppy Hare (one of the characters), repeats throughout the game. Seems there's a sound-bite to go with... You video-gamers knew about this, didn't you? This phrase is appearing for the first time in a CS puzzle.
  • 40A: BOTTLENECK [Congested condition]. Another CS first-timer.
  • 48A: MUG FOR THE CAMERA [Make faces while being shot]. And yet another CS debut. This is my fave, followed by CAN YOU FORGIVE ME. Mind you, there's nothing remotely wrong with BARREL ROLL or BOTTLENECK, but these two long phrases are colorful fill indeed, and as crisp and fresh as the beverage in question.
Other OASES in this puzzle are the excellent seven-, nine- and ten-letter fill: STRUDEL and LARCENY; ARMYWORMS and TUNESMITH; UNDERWATER and PRESS AGENT. Gotta re-visit that middle pair, each of which is making its major-puzzle debut. Now I'm not so keen on what I learned about the wildly destructive behavior of ARMYWORMS, but TUNESMITH (and its [Melody master] clue) is about as lovely as they come (saith the lyricist...).

Then there's the family gathering to be enjoyed: MAMA, PATER and BABY. And the foreign destinations of ULAN Bator and IRAN to be contemplated. Has anyone else read The Complete Persepolis? This is one powerful graphic-format autobiography about author Marjane Satrapi's coming of age in post-revolutionary IRAN. Will view the award-winning DVD this weekend.

Once again, there are loads of alliterative clues to keep things lively, and there are others that are just plain lively: [Command in a levitation act] for RISE, [Take a spouse] for WED, ["Everybody lift together!"] for HEAVE, [Passing notes?] for OBITS.

And I nearly forgot to mention another fave combo: [Spotlight hoggers] for HAMS. Get it? HOGgerS and HAMS..... (I know—you got it!)

Finally, let me also mention that before [Former Dolphins coach Don] SHULA was a "former Dolphins coach" he was "former Baltimore Colts coach (and player) Don." I mean, ya never know when yer gonna need that piece of information!

Gary Steinmehl's L.A. Times crossword

We used to see Steinmehl's byline more often when the New York Sun was still publishing. Here, he interprets LINCOLN CENTER as an ABE Lincoln in the exact center of four starred theme entries:
  • 17A. The [Era in which Shakespeare wrote most of his plays] is the ELIZABETHAN.
  • 60A. To [Put in order, as files] is to ALPHABETIZE.
  • 11D. UNLABELED is kinda boring, but it's got that LINCOLN CENTER to it. It means [With no tags].
  • 33D. LIMA BEANS are [Veggies of Andean origin]. Wow, I never knew that Lima, Peru, and lima beans had any connection. I wouldn't have minded if the South Americans had kept those lima beans a local secret.
A few things jumped out at me. We have the proofreading one-two of STETS, or [Leaves in], and DELE, or [Editing mark]. PATEN, or [Communion bread holder], is the sort of answer that used to appear much more often in crosswords. Two consonant-heavy celeb names are MR. T, a ["Rocky III" actor], and ["The Brady Bunch" actress Davis], ANN B. The most interesting long answer in the fill is BLIND SPOT—[The right side-view mirror compensates for it] in your car.

Why do this theme now? Because today is the 50th anniversary of when they broke ground to build LINCOLN CENTER. Usually a tribute puzzle assembles a batch of trivia for the theme, but this is a cool twist on the norm.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Double Switch"

The "Double Switch" here involves phrases that contain 3-letter words with double letters. The letter that's doubled is switched, thereby altering the phrases' meanings:
  • 17A. Wii Sports becomes WWI SPORTS, or [Military exercises for the Allies?].
  • 38A. Wee folk are what, elves or leprechauns or something? WWE FOLK are people affiliated with professional wrestling's WWE, such as [Triple H, Undertaker, Vince McMahon, et al.?].
  • 60A. The off season turns into OOF SEASON, a [Time of year for getting punched in the gut?].
  • 11D. [Drives a truck full of batteries?] clues HAULS AA'S, playing on "hauls ass."
  • 37D. [Bird-brain test?] is a GOOSE EEG, changed from goose egg.
Tricky spots, good stuff, etc.:
  • LEAVES ON is clued as [Allows to continue, as a song]. A tad awkward, as the stand-alone "leaves on" is unlikely to be heard. But it's legit as a verb phrase, as in "You hate Duran Duran? C'mon, leave it on!"
  • COSTUME is clued [Dick in a Box, commonly, a few Halloweens ago].
  • [Quattro times tre] is four times three, or twelve, or DIECI in Italian.
  • The AISNE is an [Argonne Forest river].
  • AL QAEDA is a great answer. The clue is [Organization whose 2008 endorsement John McCain did not reciprocate]. Speaking of '08, YES WE CAN was a [Cry during a speech by Barack Obama].
  • EFFS are [Certain verbal "bombs," more politely].