June 07, 2009

Monday, 6/8

BEQ 4:35
NYT 2:35
LAT 2:35
CS 6:69 (J—paper)

Randy Sowell's New York Times crossword

Boy, how dim do you have to be to miss the theme in this one? I finished Randy Sowell's puzzle and then it took me a minute to see what unified the theme entries:

  • 21A. [Thick growth of trees] clues a DENSE FOREST.
  • 49A. [It's more than 90 degrees] refers to an OBTUSE ANGLE in geometry.
  • 3D. A [Crockpot], not to be confused with a crackpot, is a SLOW COOKER.
  • 29D. And a DUMB WAITER is a [Tray transporter] of sorts.

Each term begins with a synonym for "stupid." A DENSE FOREST is more of an adjective+noun phrase than a stand-alone phrase or concept, while each of the other three theme entries does feel like "a thing" unto itself. It's still an easy puzzle perfectly calibrated to a Monday, though.

There are some crosswordese people on the rampage here. BARA is clued as [Theda of early films], and SILENT is cross-referenced to her via the clue [Like 33-Down's films]. [Writer ___ Stanley Gardner]'s first name is ERLE. He wrote the Perry Mason stories, and [Perry Mason's secretary ___ Street] is named DELLA. Other habitués of the grid include [Despot Idi] AMIN; [Designer Cassini], or OLEG; [Author Ayn], or RAND; OPIE, ["The Andy Griffith Show" boy] played by Ron Howard; and [1997 Indy 500 winner ___ Luyendyk], or ARIE.

Updated Monday morning:

Bruce Venzke & Stella Daily's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Political Flip-Flop"—Janie's review

This puzzle did lots to ENDEAR itself to me. For starters, there's a pithy, 4-part quip, each in a 14-letter SEG(ment) [Part of a line (abbr.)] that is "political" in nature and which does a neat "flip-flop."
I don't know who said it first, but a little Googling shows that there's a guy out there who uses this quip as part of his posting signature...

There's also a lot of solid fill and cluing in here to keep things lively:
  • From the world of musical theatre, (CS debut) ADO ANNIE ["Oklahoma!" flirt] (she's the one who "cain't say 'no'") and OPERETTAS [Gilbert and Sullivan's oeuvre]. I'm not sure if anyone in The Pirates of Penzance ever said YO-HO, but those are [Pirate syllables].
  • REGROUP [Respond to a setback, in a way]. This immediately made me think of GM. Have you seen their latest ad? They're talkin' the talk; sure do hope they can walk the walk... It'll certainly take a HEROIC effort!
  • [They're hardly revolutionary] gives us (major-puzzle first) OLD GUARD. Made life difficult for myself in the SW by entering an S in anticipation of a conventional plural. Nupe. And while they can (of necessity) be the "forward-thinkers," that's not always a quality I associate with SUITS [Corporate bigwigs]...
  • I'm wondering how many of our cities' SKIDROWS (in a major-puzzle bow) are populated with SOULS who've had too much HARD CIDER. Or is Thunderbird still the quaff they CRAVE? A SIDE TRIP down to the Bowery might be in order for some first-hand investigation. (Did you know that "souls" was the word used in Tsarist Russia for "slaves"? Rather a chilling euphemism, no?)
While I didn't have tremendous difficulty solving this one, neither was it a SNAP. Here's what held me up:
  • Entering BELT for SASH; OSAKA for OTARU; I WANT for I DARE.
  • Never remembering (in a timely way...) our friend FARAD, that [Unit of Capacitance]; or that the [Drug company dept.] isn't RESCH but R AND D (Resch. & Dvlpmt...)
  • Blanking on the inspirational GAIL [Devers on the track]; also RIC Ocasek and NENA—though all fell into place by virtue of the crosses.
I'll put in a plug for "GRAN Torino," the [2008 Clint Eastwood film] which was just released on DVD. It says lots about culture clash in contemporary America and has more to recommend it than not. Imoo.

And though it appears often enough in puzzles, the sight in the grid of UCLAN [Certain West Coast scholar (abbr.)] still makes me think of these guys...

Finally, enjoyed LORD [Manor's ruler] as bonus fill, tying in nicely as it does to the "feudal" component of the quip.

David Poole's Los Angeles Times crossword

"Lock, stock, and barrel" means everything, the WHOLE ENCHILADA, and the three preceding theme entries end with those words:
  • 20A. [Auto door safety feature] is a CHILD-PROOF LOCK.
  • 34A. PENNY STOCK is a [Cheap per-share buy].
  • 42A. [Brewery container] is a BEER BARREL.

This puzzle's a good Monday introduction to crosswords for newer solvers, as it includes a number of words that they'll see over and over in other crosswords but not so often in daily life. FETES are [Big parties] (the crossword is also fond of GALAS). [Bird on some Australian coins] is the large EMU. TSETSES are the [Scary African flies] that transmit sleeping sickness. ARIE is three-quarters vowels, so it's handy in a crossword—here it's [R&B singer India.___] ARIE, but it was a race car driver in the NYT crossword. ATRAS are [Gillette Trac II successors]—if the clue is about brand-name razors, the answer will surely involve ATRA or TRAC. To ABET is to [Help with a heist]. ASTIR, or [Up and about], is one of many A-words (AFOOT, APACE, ABED) you'll see in crosswords. [Pigpens] are STIES; STIES and STY are regular visitors to the crossword. OPELS are [Autobahn autos]; until very recently, General Motors owned OPEL. To AVER is to [Affirm confidently]; to assert openly is to AVOW, and I still usually don't know which of those answers a clue is asking for.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Monday"

I like this "Themeless Monday" kick Brendan's been on—it breaks up the easy-puzzle monotony that normally blankets Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Which is not to say that every easy themed puzzle is dull, but they are easy.

Favorite fill and things that made me grumble:
  • [Spots to get gambas or pulpo] clues TAPA BARS. Here in Chicago, we call 'em tapas bars—a much more common label than the singular "tapa" establishment.
  • JETSAM? [It's tossed away]. JETSAM is deliberately jettisoned, or thrown overboard; flotsam is floating wreckage. I love those -sam words.
  • THE DEFENSES RESTS is a great phrase filled with E's. It's a [Case conclusion].
  • I like the clue [Refrain from kindergarten?] for EIEIO. The double meaning of "refrain" as the abstaining verb and the singing noun lends itself to tricky clues. Remember Manny Nosowsky's [Refrain from piracy]? That one was YO HO HO.
  • Two short names rang absolutely no bells for me. There's TITO ["___ the Builder" (2008 political pawn)] and then there's ARAS [Baskauskas ("Survivor: Exile Island" winner)].
  • [Message from the heart?] is the "BE MINE" on a candy heart.
  • ANI DIFRANCO gets promoted to full-name treatment in the grid.
  • GUM RESIN is a [Sticky plant exudation]. And it crosses the TINAMOU, a [Ratite bird that lays glossy colored eggs]. Neither answer is the sort that lends pizzazz to a crossword, but with this amount of white space in the grid, you're going to have some tough or unfamiliar answers. Did you notice that the grid has diagonal symmetry? And a really low word count of 62? Brendan reports that he strove to make an asymmetrical, wide-open themeless puzzle along the lines of Frank Longo's cranium crushers. Alas, he did not go with crusher-level clues, which could've been fun. For some of us, anyway. With the non-crushing clues, the puzzle settled in at Friday NYT level, but with some Saturday-grade tough fill.