June 14, 2009

Monday, 6/15

BEQ 3:58
LAT 2:39
NYT 2:27
CS 7:06 (J—paper)

Hey! It's Sunday night and school's out, so I can sleep in tomorrow morning rather than getting my kid ready for school. I'm gonna stay up late on purpose.

John Dunn's New York Times crossword

As you can see from this month's grid thumbnails at Jim Horne's XWord Info, the first 15 days of June are all colored blue for boys. Hey, that's a handy tool. I just bookmarked the page.

Newcomer John Dunn's puzzle tipped its hand pretty quickly. After I had both PHILIP ROTH, the ["Portnoy's Complaint" author], and PAT ROBERTSON, the [Founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network], I surmised that the theme was P.R. MEN, an all-too-common crossword answer. And there it is, summing up the theme at 38A in the middle of the puzzle, cross-referenced by IMAGE, a [Concern of 38-Across]. The other P.R. MEN in this puzzle are ["Le Dejeuner des Canotiers" painter] PIERRE RENOIR and PAUL REVERE, who [didn't really cry "The British are coming!"]. I tend to frown when PRMEN shows up in the puzzle because 70% of public relations professionals are women. "P.R. men" is such a dated term. However, in this puzzle, it's applied to men whose initials are P.R., so it's a repurposing of a lame crossword answer. I do appreciate a good repurposing of stale crossword fill.

Now, the typical Monday NYT includes answers that will almost all be familiar to even a beginning solver—but there's always at least one piece of crosswordese for a newbie to learn. Today, that's OSIER, or [Willow for wicker]. And maybe EBON, or [Deep black]—do non-crossworders encounter that word? SMEE is the ["Peter Pan" pirate], which I learned from crosswords but perhaps everyone else picked it up from Peter Pan.

This puzzle's also got some terrific fill. ROLE-PLAY is clued with [Be a wizard or an elf, say, in Dungeons & Dragons]. The FINISH LINE is [Where winners are often photographed]. The spoken phrase "IT'S A SECRET" is here too, clued with its equivalent, ["Mum's the word!"]. Clues I liked include [Russian revolutionary with a goatee] for LENIN; [Actress Stapleton of "All in the Family"] for JEAN (she played Edith Bunker); [Italian and French bread?] for EUROS, the currency; and [The works] for ALL.

Updated Monday morning:

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Nitwit Bit"—Janie's review

Remember doing Venn diagrams in math class, when you'd create a graphic image of what two seemingly different groups had in common? Well, Patrick's puzzle gives us the verbal equivalent. Each of the (very peppy) theme-fill answers is a (new) two-word phrase created by melding a synonym for "nitwit" with a two-word phrase that begins with the last syllable of that "nitwit" synonym. Confused? Allow me to clarify.

  • Numskull + skull session = NUMSKULL SESSION [Meeting of nitwits?], 17A. I wasn't familiar with the term "skull session," and was surprised to see that it can be applied to describe strategy sessions in the board room or the locker room. I also imagine skull sessions are the bread-and-butter of think-tanks.
  • Nincompoop + poop deck = NINCOMPOOP DECK [Where to find a nitwit on a ship?], 27A. What can I say? "Nincompoop" is just a great, silly word. The etymology of the word is uncertain, but you will also find in the dictionary: nincompoopery, nincompoopISM (one of the most [Distinctive theories] indeed) and (really) nincompoopiana, the forerunner to 19th century Aestheticism.
  • Lamebrain + brain drain = LAMEBRAIN DRAIN [Mass exodus of nitwits?], 44A. I guess [Post-electoral transition at the White House?] wouldn't be a very gracious or pc clue, huh?
  • Knucklehead + head trip = KNUCKLEHEAD TRIP [Nitwit's vacation?] And how timely could this post-Laker-victory report be?
The remainder of the fill is just fine if not as innately witty as the theme fill. There are four good eights (in order of preference): LUSTROUS, MUSTACHE, BURRITOS and HARSHEST. Brand new to me was TONY clued as [Skateboarding star Hawk]; and I was pleased for the (quiet) shout-out to late mime, MARCEL Marceau. Just a few weeks ago, the effects of his estate were sold at auction—which led me to wonder: silent auction?

In the cluing, I was very fond of [Buffalo puck pusher]. Were we looking for an environmentalist speaking out on the buffalo puck? Or an upstate New York ice-hockey player? Yes, the latter, better known as a SABRE. I also liked [Place with anchor stores] for MALL and enjoyed as well seeing I'M ALL in the grid just a bit above it. Note, too: not only do we have I'M ALL ["____ ears!" ("Do tell!")], we're also told to zip it because MUM'S ["____ the word!"].

Finally, there's that bonus fill in the SE corner. It's been clued as [Braying beasts], but what do the numskull, the nincompoop, the lamebrain and the knucklehead have in common? They're all ASSES!

David Cromer's Los Angeles Times crossword

This is one of those puzzles I finished without having the faintest idea what the theme was, having not taken the time to look at the quartet of theme entries until after I was done. Those answers start with radio communication words:
  • 18A. ROGER RABBIT is the ["Framed" toon in a 1988 film], Who Framed Roger Rabbit? "Roger that."
  • 27A. A [Xerox product] is a COPY MACHINE. "Do you copy?"
  • 47A. One phrase meaning [In an awkward position] is OVER A BARREL. "Blah, blah, blah. Over."
  • 61A. [Like oysters in summer months]—those months that lack an R—is OUT OF SEASON. "Over and out."

My favorite clues: [Seaman's pronoun] is SHE; this one confused me and I was thinking of a pronoun applied to, not by, sailors, who call boats "she." [Kids' book connectibles] are DOTS, as in connect-the-dots books. Hey, look, [Abe of "Barney Miller"] VIGODA gets his last name in the grid—we usually see his last name in a clue for ABE (though last July, the rare VIGODA appeared in two consecutive CrosSynergy puzzles).

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword #82, "Themeless Monday"

I had to laugh when I saw Brendan's marquee answer, the 15 running down the middle. The [Band with the 2009 album "Bitte Orca"] is DIRTY PROJECTORS, and that's a brand-new album. In Brendan's acknowledgments for his Go Harvard Crimson football crossword book (which I just proofread last week), he thanked the band for that album and said he listened to it nonstop while making the book. Bitte means "please" in German, but I have no idea if Dirty Projectors feel gratitude to killer whales. Anyway, I appreciated the gimme.

Fancypants entries in this puzzle include LIL BOW WOW, WII FIT, EAT, PRAY, LOVE, and FLOWER CHILD. Really, having just one or two of those would be splashy. ST. PAT'S, the [Cathedral in NYC, familiarly], feels more "in the language" than the more common crossword answer ST. PAT.

I'm accustomed to the broccoli rabe spelling, so [Broccoli ___] RAAB looked odd. NEW DO looks nutty, too, but this [Result of changing your locks] does have an "in the language" feel to it. You get a NEW DO but nobody talks about their "old do" or a "good do," so I think "new do" is a discrete unit of meaning.