June 06, 2009

Sunday, 6/7

NYT 11:26
BG 7:55
PI 7:50
LAT 7:20
CS 3:30

Jeremy Newton's New York Times crossword, "Shifty Business"

I'm pressed for time, as I have 6:00 dinner plans involving IHOP. The evening meal at IHOP always puts me in a quandary: breakfast for dinner or dinner for dinner? If only they still sold the corn cakes that I loved so.

Jeremy Newton's theme is, I believe, gears that might be found in a car. Now, my gearshift has park, reverse, drive, and neutral, with a couple more "you really need to bother with this?" options off to the side. My car doesn't advertise first, second, third, fourth, or fifth gear—but those are rebus entries in this puzzle, along with reverse and neutral, but no ordinary drive. It's quite possible that car/crossword buffs will be knocked out by the locations of the rebus squares. Are those circled rebus squares laid out like they are in the sort of car that goes to fifth gear? I have no idea. It is hard to marvel at something if you don't know whether it's marvelable.

Without further ado, the theme entries (which can be entered in the puzzle most quickly by just using the first letter of the rebused word):

  • 33A/5D. FIRST: [Teacher's question at the start of show-and-tell] is WHO'S {FIRST}? [Witnessed] clues SEEN {FIRST}HAND.
  • 35A/10D. THIRD: [Anticipate heading home] is GO TO {THIRD} BASE, and [Finish last on "Jeopardy!"] is COME {THIRD}.
  • 38A/15D. FIFTH: [Endings for Shakespeare] are {FIFTH} ACTS. SAKS {FIFTH} AVENUE is clued with the trivia, [It opened in Manhattan in 1924].
  • 67A/48D. NEUTRAL, right in the middle: [Doesn't care either way] clues TAKES A {NEUTRAL} STANCE. [It freshens the air] points you towards an ODOR {NEUTRAL}IZER.
  • 98A/67D. SECOND: [At once] means right THIS {SECOND}, and a THIRTY-{SECOND} SPOT is a [TV advertising staple.
  • 101A/102D. FOURTH: [Some summer feasts in the U.S.] are JULY {FOURTH} BBQS. [Hardly commendable] clues {FOURTH}-RATE.
  • 103A/84D. REVERSE: This spot held me up for a solid minute. BACK side and BACK play? FLIP side and FLIP play? Nope, it's the gear REVERSE. [Where to sign a credit card, e.g.] is the {REVERSE} SIDE, and to [Trick the defensive line, maybe] is to RUN A {REVERSE} PLAY. The latter clue sounds footballish, but I don't know what a reverse play is at all.

A handful of non-theme clues before I sign off:
  • [Direction from Hannover to Berlin] is OST, German for "east." Great twist on the usual blah NNE, SSE, etc., direction answers.
  • [Practice requirement?] is the BAR EXAM you must pass in order to practice law.
  • Who knew there's a SABINE that's a [Texas/Louisiana border river]?
  • Right below SABINE is HYMNAL with a clever clue: [It's bound to be used in a service], as in hardbound book, church service.
  • [Where an M.I.A. might be] is a P.O.W. CAMP. If any of you have got M.I.A. loved ones who never made it back from a war zone, you have my sympathy.
  • "OK, THEN" and ["Alrighty"] are both things I say. Perfect pairing of clue and answer.
  • [___ Reuters, media giant] clues THOMSON, which my husband used to work for about a decade ago. Wow, does publishing pay small salaries to a lot of people.
  • I have seen many a [Donation receptacle], but I've never called anything an ALMS BOX.
  • [Place for matches at home] is the GAME ROOM. I nearly attempted to coin FIRE ROOM.
  • The N.Y. TIMES is a [Big Apple daily, in brief].

Updated Sunday morning:

Yikes, I've blown most of the morning and have four puzzles to blog about? Yeah, I'll be giving short shrift to them all.

Mike Peluso's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, "Taking the Bite out of the Dog"

The dog says "GR" and that's what's been taken out of assorted phrases to create each theme entry. I liked this theme a lot, particularly these answers:
  • 23A. OVER CLEVELAND is president Grover C. minus his GR. [About to land in northern Ohio?] is the clue.
  • 106A. I know the CIA's precursor, the OSS, from crosswords. So I liked OSS NEGLIGENCE, or [WWII intelligence oversights?], for rewarding that crossword knowledge.
    37D. APES OF WRATH are [Angry gorillas?].
  • 76A. EEK MYTHOLOGY is clued as [Traditional ghost stories?].

Highlights in the nonthematic parts of the puzzle:
  • 85A. "GET A ROOM!" is a [Facetious suggestion to public kissers]. Terrific, colorful answer!
  • 88A. RONDO is clued with [Mozart's "___ Alla Turca"]. You know how I know that music? From the Baby Mozart video when my son was wee. Here's a 6-year-old girl playing it on piano.
  • 91A. I should read "Jabberwocky" sometime, shouldn't I? TOVES are [Badgers, in "Jabberwocky"].
  • 104A. A [Qom inhabitant] is an IRANIAN. Not an IRANI! Yay for correctness!
  • 42D. Crosswordese stalwart STELE gets a trivia clue I haven't seen: ["O Rare Ben Johnson" is engraved (in error) on one]. Should be spelled "Jonson," hence the error.
  • 44D. [Brother in a hood?] is a FRIAR. Hah!
  • 84D. HOLSTERS are [Piece keepers?].

I do want to take issue with 60A. [Dentist's number?] as a clue for OPIATE. Dentists typically use local anesthetics (which are not OPIATEs) to numb you up. For more involved procedures, you might be sedated, but I don't think that involves OPIATEs either. Now, if they prescribe Vicodin for postop pain, that's an OPIATE, but that's for pain relief, not for numbing.

(PuzzleGirl wrote about this puzzle at L.A. Crossword Confidential too.)

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Woof Gang"

The theme is "Merl's grab bag of dog-breed puns":

  • 22A. [Exercised one's doggies?] clues WORKED OUT THE PUGS. That's a pun on what, exactly? Oh, I see: "worked out the bugs."
  • 46A. [Doggie races?] might be DACHSHUND DASHES. This must bea pun on the "dots and dashes" of Morse code, but that doesn't feel ike an "in the language" basis for wordplay, does it?
  • 73A. LOX AND BEAGLES, playing on "lox and bagels," could be a [Name for a doggie deli?]. Would this be a doggie deli for cannibalistic dogs? "Food & Customers" is not the customary way to name a deli. "Pizza and Boys," "Ribs and Women"—see, that wouldn't work at all.
  • 97A. Bernard Malamud ponies up BERNARD MALAMUTE as a [Doggie author?]. This one's my favorite because we read a Malamud novel in high-school English.
  • 122A. AFGHAN WILL TRAVEL plays on "have gun, will travel." The clue is [Ad placed by a restless doggie?].
  • 32D. "A holy terror" turns into A HOLY TERRIER, or [What the priest's doggie was?].
  • 43D. Melancholy, baby? That generates MELANDCOLLIE, or MEL Brooks AND a COLLIE—[Photo of Brooks with his doggie?].

The fill included some unfamilar names. 4D is [Entertainer Theodore] BIKEL, which rings a faint bell. 94D is ["The Group" co-star Joanna] PETTET not only doesn't ring a bell, it denies that bells ever existed. Same with 113D CRAIN, [Actress Jeanne of "A Letter to Three Wives"]—and both PETTET and CRAIN cross the [Grandpa Walton portrayer], Will GEER. If you don't know him, you're kinda stuck Googling these people, aren't you? There's also 55D AKBAR, an [Indian emperor of 1600], crossing OLEA, the [Olive genus].

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's Boston Globe puzzle, "Rhyming Game" (delayed Across Lite edition)

Each theme entry takes a two-part, four-syllable rhyme and adds another word that rhymes, creating made-up phrases that are clued accordingly. For example, [Research into bores?] might be FUDDY-DUDDY STUDY, and [Not much of a hat?] is a TEENY-WEENY BEANIE.

In the fill, I learned a new word: [Nuque] is the French word for the NAPE of the neck. There's a cognate in the anatomical term nuchal, which means "of or relating to the nape of the neck." Now, that doesn't explain why an unfamiliar French word is used to clue an English word in this puzzle.

I filled in ALIEN for [Little green man] before I made it over to [Men in green], so I still had Martians on the mind and needed all the crossings to get CELTS. [Supersonics site] is an anachronism now—the SEATTLE Sonics moved to Oklahoma and were renamed the Thunder.

Rich Norris's themeless CrosSynergy/Washington Post "Sunday Challenge"

Easy clues overall meant that I finished this puzzle quickly, which is a shame because so many of the 9- and 10-letter answers are so fabulous—the puzzle has just the sort of fill you hope to find in a themeless puzzle. Among the best:
  • FLASH DRIVE is a [Compact storage device]. I like the tech answers that didn't even exist a few short years ago, but now are common parlance.
  • "EASY DOES IT" is a [Reminder to stay cool] and not stress out too much.
  • The DUST JACKET of a book is a [Synopsis site].
  • DAYS OF YORE were [Knight times]. I like the day/(k)night echo.
  • I love MENTAL NOTE. [It's not written down].
  • In your car, a [Dash alert] is an IDIOT LIGHT, an indicator light that tells you when something is amiss or empty.
  • A [Bit of reality?] is a great clue for DOSE—as in "the newspaper delivered a dose of reality."
  • DAISY DUCK is a [Love interest of Gladstone Gander]. Now, is he a duck or a goose?
  • STAY TUNED is an exhortation to ["Keep it where it is"], "it" being the TV channel setting.