May 04, 2009

Tuesday, 5/5

Onion 3:55
NYT 3:42
LAT 2:30
CS 7:45 (J — Paper)

Trip Payne's New York Times crossword

Trip's puzzle has the same theme layout as the Monday NYT—two 15's in rows 3 and 13, and a 13-letter answer across the middle. This time the theme takes phrases with S sounds in them and transforms those into Z sounds:

  • 17A: [Decide against reorganizing the pet store?] clues DON'T MOVE A MUZZLE (don't move a muscle). Is it just me, or is Muscle Milk a particularly gross-sounding gym-rat beverage? The new phrase in the theme entry reads a little flat.
  • 38A: [Conversation-filled places in a restaurant?] are BUZZING TABLES (bussing tables, as in what a busboy does).
  • 61A: FUZZ AND FEATHERS is [What chicks have?]. The phrase fuss and feathers means "unnecessary bother and excitement." I'd rather be full of piss and vinegar than fuss and feathers.
Because an anniversary dinner is putting me to sleep, let's run through some fill:
  • [Mismatch] clues BAD FIT. Is that a stand-alone "in the language" phrase? I'm not so sure.
  • [Expensive eggs] are CAVIAR. I was envisioning larger eggs.
  • The BASS TUBA apparently is a [Low-pitched instrument]. Discerning music fans insist on the soprano tuba, no substitutes.
  • BIT-O-HONEY is a [Nestle candy]. Great entry, icky candy.
  • The NEZ PERCE are a [Pacific Northwest tribe]. So are the Salish, who were in another puzzle a couple weeks back.
  • [Sudan/Saudi Arabia separator] is the RED SEA.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Tony Orbach's CrosSynergy puzzle, "I'm In!" — Janie's review

Tony's puzzle beautifully capitalizes on one of my favorite kinds of wordplay. Take a familiar phrase or name, and change it to another by adding some more letters. And here the title tells us exactly what to do: put the letters "I" and "M" in the answer. In this manner we get:
  • STONE [IM]AGE at 17A [Likeness of actress Sharon?] This works very well; we get two credible phrases just by adding [IM] to STONE AGE.
  • L[IM]P RECORDS at 24A [Flood-damaged files?] This one is my fave. I know it's meant to conjure up water-logged papers and manila folders, but I keep envisioning Dali-esque, heat-damaged 33s. Either way, the strong visual—with the natural sound of the altered phrase—makes this work really well.
  • T[IM]ED TURNER at 52A [Precisely-cooked rotisserie chicken?] Here I cry (um) "fowl." I had to think about this one a lot. While the chicken is being turned, it's not a "turner," is it? Perhaps if this had been clued as something like [High-end (or "precision") rotisserie] it wouldn't have raised a flag for me.
  • GET THE [IM]AX at 64A[Multiplex owner's note to self?] Another winner that conjures up a whole scenario. Nice.
With the exception of one area, this was a very smooth kind of solve -- with colorful fill and lotso scrabbly letters. Hungry? How about some CREOLE cookin' and maybe an ESKIMO PIE or a SMORE for dessert? Hungry for more than food? Put on some soft MUSIC (perhaps some ARTUR Rubinstein), whisper "Je t'AIME" and then say, "KISS ME." (Oh—that'S 'MORE!) Note, too, the five Xs—two of which occur in the spiffy LUXURY BOX (making its first appearance in a CrosSynergy puzzle); the three Ks; and the Z in DOOZY.

Broadway gets a little shout out with [The Sharks and the Jets, e.g.]—the GANGS of West Side Story; and with ROXY, clued here as [Classic theatre name] and referenced memorably in the verse to the Broadway classic "Guys and Dolls":
What's playin' at the Roxy? I'll tell ya what's playin' at the Roxy.
A picture about a Minnesota man, so in love with a Mississippi girl
That he sacrifices everything and moves all the way to Biloxi—
That's what's playin' at the Roxy.......

The appearance of OPIE made me smile because I'd just seen a recent picture of Ron Howard. Time flies when yer havin' fun, no? Here he is again, as Ronny Howard in about 1960 and a [Freckle-faced Mayberry denizen].

The one area of the puzzle that I tripped over was the crossing of SPAWN with WEAK and our pal TIMED TURNER. Because I'd entered SPARK for the first one, I (carelessly) entered TURKEY for TURNER. OOPS. Not very SMART. Lost 30 seconds straightening that out...

Still 'n' all, this was one mighty pleasing puzzle and I HOPE for many more from Mr. Orbach!

David Cromer's L.A. Times crossword

Cromer tees off with four theme entries that begin with golf words. The phrases have a non-golf meaning, but they're clued here as if they do pertain to the sport:
17A: [Golfer's java-dispensing target?] is a CUP OF COFFEE. The cup is what a golfer's trying to get her ball into.
62A: [Drawing of the area next to the fairway?] is a ROUGH SKETCH. The rough is the deeper grass surrounding the flatter fairway.
11D: [Mound near a sand trap?] is a BUNKER HILL. Bunkers are those sand-filled hollows it's hard to hit a golf ball out of.
29D: [Really large putting surface?] is GREEN ACRES. The green is where you'll find the cup.

We don't get nearly as many golf themes as baseball crosswords, so I appreciated this one. Plus, as I noticed yesterday for the first time this spring, if I go down to the corner and look across Lake Shore Drive, I see folks golfing at the lakefront 9-hole. Too bad I don't golf, because that course sure is conveniently located.

Did you read the April 20 New Yorker article about the restoration of the Askernish golf course on a Scottish island? I had no idea that the term links had nothing to do with the chaining together of 18 holes and everything to do with the Scottish term for the type of terrain that has sand bunkers and whatnot.

Back to the crossword! Scattered throughout the grid are other golf tidbits. The ball's LIE is a [Golfer's position]. An IRON is a [Golfer's choice] of club. [Golf legend Walter] HAGEN] is here. And there's a slight golf evocation with [Hollywood do-overs], or RETAKES—golf's retakes are called mulligans.

See also PuzzleGirl's L.A. Crossword Confidential post on this puzzle.

Matt Gaffney's Onion A.V. Club crossword

What's great about watching TV shows on DVD? NO ADS. The [Nice thing about the TV shows in this puzzle] is that the ADs have been removed:
  • 17A: [Show about Burt Reynolds' after-hours lover?] is EVENING SHE. (Evening Shade.)
  • 23/49A: [Show about Julia Louis-Dreyfus's entrepreneurial activities?] is THE NEW VENTURES / OF OLD CHRISTINE. (The New Adventures....)
  • 36A: [Show about Paul Reiser's lousy report card?] is MY TWO D'S. (My Two Dads.) The only Paul Reiser show I could think of was Mad About You, and M ABOUT YOU would neither fit here nor make a lick of sense.
  • 39A: [Show with Phil Hartman reporting from Brazil?] is NEWS RIO. (NewsRadio.) I loved NewsRadio—terrific ensemble cast given a jolt by the lunacy of Phil Hartman.
  • 56A: [With "The," show about John Astin's river-blocking kids?] is DAMS FAMILY. This one doesn't read as well, with both the answer and the clue seeming stilted. DAMS plural? "River-blocking"? Meh.
That's 62 squares of thematic material, which is on the high side, so props to Matt. Lots of pop culture goodies in the puzzle, too. BABU was the [Deported Pakistani in a "Seinfeld" episode] ("Where is Babu? Show me Babu!"). The Simpsons ponies up [Cletus th Slack-Jawed ___] YOKEL. ANSON [Williams of "Happy Days"] played the inimitable Potsie. MEN is [Part of MIB], MIB being Men in Black. Country singer TANYA Tucker is here. DIANE [Sawyer or Keaton] refers to TV news and movies. ["Star Wars" villains] are the SITH. We have singers SUZI Quatro (Late '70s! "Stumblin' In" was a hit in '78, around the time she played Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days) and DAR Williams. And SLIMES is clued as [Makes messy, on "You Can't Do That on Television"].

Matt looks a little fixated in the fill, doesn't he? There's ENEMA, clued with [It clears the rear], and ANAL, clued as [Annoyingly rigid].

My mystery words today: TICA is clued as a [Costa Rican woman, casually]. One of my cousins married a Costa Rican guy and another is dating a Costa Rican, but I haven't picked up this term. EBOW is a [Guitar accessory]. Say what? The EBow is for electric guitars.