May 18, 2009

Tuesday, 5/19

Jonesin' 5:02
NYT 3:06
LAT 2:32
CS 6:29 (J—paper)

Attention, Peter Gordon fans! There's a long interview with him at the Wordplay blog today.

Damon Gulczynski's New York Times crossword

If I'd noticed the word duplication sooner, I think this puzzle would've gone faster for me than it did. I clocked in a little slow for a Tuesday. But when I filled in 9D FOOTPRINT ([Evidence washed away by the tide]), I juggled TAIL and FOOT in my head as parts of a body-part theme. Whoops, the theme's all Acrosses, with each theme entry's second component becoming the first component in the next theme answer. And for added fun, it comes full circle with the word COCK, so one might consider this puzzle to have a "COCK ring" theme. Gray Lady! You're branching out these days. /juvenileidiocy

The theme:

  • 19A. [Tom Collins or Rob Roy] is a COCKTAIL. I'll have the Tom Collins, thanks.
  • 24A. [End of an exhaust system] is a car's TAILPIPE.
  • 32A. An [Unrealistic idea] is a PIPE DREAM.
  • 45A. [1992 U.S. Olympic hoopsters, with "the"] clues DREAM TEAM.
  • 51A. [Basketball or baseball] is a TEAM GAME. I'd call 'em team sports myself.
  • 58A. [Fighting rooster] is a GAMECOCK, the mascot of the University of South Carolina or one of those schools.

Assorted clues:
  • [Industry honcho] is a CZAR. Which industry has czars? Seems like most of the czars nowadays have governmental posts.
  • O-LAN ["The Good Earth" heroine] hasn't been around much lately. Who's read The Good Earth? How has it held up over time?
  • TATARS are [Turkic people]...or my internist's family.
  • [Grass bought in rolls] is POT. No, it isn't. It's SOD.
  • I don't care for REAR being clued as [Paddler's target]. Am anti-paddling, unless you're talking about paddleboats or canoes.
  • [Tangle in a net: Var.] clues IMMESH.
  • REAVE! Really? This archaic word means [Take forcibly, old-style]. Wow. I don't recall seeing this word in a puzzle before. It's etymologically related to "rob."
  • [Calf-length dress] is a MAXI. They can be even longer than that. And yes, they're back in style now, possibly for the first time since the early '70s.
  • [Bluff formed by a fault] is a SCARP. Along with SCREE, this is a geologic term I learned from crosswords.
  • [Blogger's audience] means READERS. Hey! Look! You're in the puzzle. You've hit the big time.
  • [Decorative band] isn't a musical band of HOTTIEs. It's merely an ARMLET.
  • [Firth of Clyde] town is AYR, in Scotland.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Movin' On Up"

It took me even longer to peg the theme in this week's Jonesin' puzzle. In each of five vertical theme answers, Matt has moved ON up to a deluxe apartment at the top of the grid:
  • 3D. [Where signs of visiting prostitutes are most frequent in the aviary?] clues ON LADY BIRD JOHNS. I'm not sure why there are "signs" or what said signs might consist of. Lady Bird Johnson's descendants might not feel honored by her appearance here.
  • 5D. [Where a flea might hang out?] is ON LEG OF MUTT, playing on "leg of mutton." The answer phrase is lacking the definite and indefinite article that would make it sound more natural.
  • 11D. [Where you're likely to find three-day-old undies?] is ON BACHELOR'S BUTT. Nice rework of the flowers called bachelor's buttons.
  • 25D. [Where you'll find blond, curly hair, an overcoat, and a horn?] presents a deeply disturbing image. The answer is ON HARPO Marx, breaking a harpoon in two.
  • 26D. [Where to show where the bad man touched you?] is ON DOLLY PART. It's a good enough play on words, but is anyone keen on evocations of child sex abuse? I didn't think so.

Tough stuff:
  • [Premium used in exchange rates] is old crosswordese: AGIO.
  • [National auto body chain] is MAACO. I started out with its anagram, the transmission and clutch repair chain called AAMCO.
  • CWO is clued as [Naval tech. specialist]. I think that's short for Chief Warrant Officer, but boy, CWO is not a common crossword answer.
    That [1980s home computer] called the AMIGA is everywhere today!
  • [More needing a bath, perhaps] clues ACHIER. "More needing" sounds wrong. I'd go with [More in need of a bath, perhaps].

Updated Tuesday morning:

Gail Grabowski's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Separated Couples"—Janie's review

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm an idiot. I wrote this post almost in its entirety not understanding how the puzzle worked. And then...the lightbulb finally went off. Which pleases me to no end since this appears to be Gail's CrosSynergy debut puzzle and I'd been writing from a kind of cranky place... A most talented "early-week" constructor, Gail has been published extensively in the L.A. Times and is building up a nice publication record in the NYT as well. So it's great to see her on the CS roster of regulars. Welcome!!

The title "Separated Couples" is echoed in the clue/fill at 60D: [Word separated in this puzzle's six longest answers] TWO—or T WO... And the six longest answers are:
  • 17A: SECRET WORD ["You Bet Your Life" special feature]
  • 10D: DONT WORRY ["Everything'll be fine!"]. This fill is a CS first. (With tongue in cheek) it grieves me to report that everything:
  • 27A: GOT WORSE [Deteriorated]. This fill is making its major-puzzle debut.
  • 34D: GRUNT WORK [Underling's assignment]. Great phrase and another debut.
  • 45A: NET WORTH [Assets minus liabilities]. This would be yet another CS debut.
  • 59A: STUNT WOMEN [Some action film employees]. The best—also making its major-puzzle debut.
Until I actually put the space between the words in the phrases, I saw only the word TWO embedded in six separate phrases, which of necessity, were in separate places in the grid. But I didn't see what I'd been expecting—the letters T, W and O doled out separately, as in THE WALTONS. (Okay, that's not the best example, because of the repeated T—but I'm gonna guess you know what I'm getting at.) Imagine me banging my head on the desk, because that's what I was doing a lot of once I figgered this out!! ;-)

I really enjoyed the almost name-free fill and took particular pleasure in the trio of "canine" entries: SIC 'EM for [Command to a guard dog], BOW-WOW for [Barked remark], and AWAG for [Like a happy dog's tail]. We also get two technology-related combos: PDAS for [Palms and BlackBerries (abbr.)] (or Personal Digital AssistantS), and EDU, the [College website letters]. [Works on icy streets] aren't SNOWMEN or SCULPTURES, but SALTS, since "works" is a verb here. If it's "colorful fill" you want, you've got RED ROSES and, ahem, ORANGE.

And speaking of ORANGE, her "discussion point" yesterday had to do with recurring clues, and I'm in the camp that likes to see a tricky clue repeated—in different publications. So I was a bit let down to see that the last time RED ROSES appeared in a major puzzle, not only was it a CS puzzle but it was clued exactly as we saw it today, [Valentine's Day dozen]. I wish there'd been a different take on this one—it could only improve the freshness of the piece as a whole.

I know this will sound contradictory, coming from Ms. Thank-you-for-the-minimal-name-count, but once again, in the name of freshness... ABETS has appeared in 19 other CS puzzles, ALOE in 145. Why not use ABUTS (4) and ALOU (62)? This is a rhetorical question really, as I'm well-aware of the complexity of making decisions about fill.

And one final grid-bit—the happy crossing of INGOT and IGOR. Where's INGA when ya need 'er?

Again—welcome, Gail, and brava. We'll all look forward to seeing your name more often!

David Cromer's L.A. Times crossword

In this SHOW ME THE MONEY theme, the other three theme answers end with words that can also mean "money." At 20A, the MILWAUKEE BUCKS are the [NBA team that drafted Lew Alcindor (Kareem) in 1969]. My husband grew up in Milwaukee, so I knew that. But somehow I drew a blank on the team's name, getting the town's baseball team (now the Brewers but once the Braves) mired in my head and thinking the Bucks were called something else in '69. Plus I sat there as 5 seconds ticked away before I started the puzzle. So this wasn't my fastest solve ever, but others are exulting that they flew through this one in record time. And really, who's expecting that on a Tuesday? On the down side, when you set a personal best on a Tuesday puzzle, you may think your brain jumped a level, quantumly, but then you learn that other people had the same experience so it was simply an easier-than-usual puzzle. It's not that every single clue was a gimme, but the crosssings cleared up any questions.

JOHNNY CASH and BREAK BREAD are the other theme answers. Hey, do you look at partially filled answers and try to guess what answer will fit there before you read the clue? I do. So I saw *LEE*** at 44-Down and thought it might be SLEEVES. Then I read the clue, [Sniffler's need], and I'll be damned if SLEEVES wouldn't work there, grossly. But this puzzle is not for grade-schoolers, so the answer is KLEENEX.