June 15, 2009

Tuesday, 6/16

Jonesin' 3:41
NYT 2:50
LAT 2:50
CS 6:14 (J—paper)

Paula Gamache's New York Times crossword

At last! A woman in the NYT crossword byline!

Paula's puzzle has a bunch of PERPS ([Those "walking" through the answers to the starred clues]) doing a perp walk in the theme entries:

  • 17A. TAMPER-PROOF means [Impervious to picking, as a lock]. Not "as a nose."
  • 25A. An [Engraver's surface] is COPPERPLATE.
  • 36A. SEMPER PARATUS is the [Motto of the U.S. Coast Guard]. Is that Latin for "always prepared"?
  • 47A. [Routine-bound bureaucrat] is a PAPER-PUSHER.
  • 57A. SUPERPOWERS are [Countries with big militaries].

Yep, that's four 11's and a 13 plus the 5-letter PERPS to tie them together. Good job, Paula. Smooth and simple for a Tuesday, but with extra theme content and, just for the hell of it, a new record—this puzzle has 19 P's, while the old record was 17.

What else is in the puzzle? There's some hugging and kissing with BUSSING, or [Playful kissing], brushing up against CUDDLES, or [Nestles]. "IT'S YOU" is perfectly clued as a [Compliment heard in the dress department]. COMMAS get the weirdest little clue: [,,,,,]. That looks like a surreal emoticon there, doesn't it? Did you notice that there are 20 answers ranging from 6 to 8 letters long? That lends the venture an extra dollop or two of freshness.

P.S. I meant to mention something else when I first wrote about this puzzle, and that is the lack of movement of the walking PERPs. Patrick Blindauer has had one or two (or more?) crosswords in which an embedded word marches through the theme entries, progressing from the beginning of the word to the end. Along these lines: the words ANTENNA, PANTENE, PLANTER, PICANTE, and BLATANT have an ANT "walking through" them. Too bad this NYT puzzle didn't begin with PERPENDICULAR and walk the PERP to the right with each theme answer.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "I Before E" —Janie's review

Serving up a pun-lover's delight, Patrick has altered the spelling of the "long e" sound in four words that can be found in familiar settings: a phrase, a frozen food product, an epithet for a late real estate magnate and tax-evader, and a band that has been together since the early '80s. Where once the sound was spelled "EA," now it's "I [before] E." In this way:
  • Keeps the peace becomes KEEPS THE PIECE [Holds an arm?]—a firearm, that is. Nice (um, if a little chilling) how these two relate, too, as the former is sometimes accomplished when the latter is in effect.
  • Lean Cuisine becomes LIEN CUISINE [Mortgaged meal?]. I love this one. It's silly and makes me laugh. And if you look at its intersecting and adjacent neighbors in the grid, you'll see that someone DINES on FRIED RICE and an ICEE. (Yes, SATAY is on the menu as well, if not in the immediate proximity.)
  • "Queen of Mean" (remember the charming Leona Helmsley?...) becomes QUEEN OF MIEN [Royal carriage consultant?]. Not "carriage" as in "vehicle" but "carriage" as in "demeanor" or "bearing." Beautiful.
  • Tears for Fears (of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" fame) becomes TIERS FOR FEARS [Levels of a haunted house?]. Exactly.
I know, not everyone loves a pun—no matter how low, no matter how high—but I find all of these to be exemplary and sussing them out made for a most enjoyable solve.

The remainder of the fill gives us many, many names: [Hoopster] NATE Archibald; the music world's CHAKA Khan (never remember if it's CHAKA or SHAKA...), Bobby DARIN, DION DiMucci, The Oak RIDGE Boys; [Pop star] ANDY [Warhol]; (tv and/or stage and/or) filmdom's Bert LAHR (who, with his clued costars, appeared in The Wizard of Oz), ESAI Morales (see how constructor Tony Orbach clues him in Orange's Bloggiversary Contest), TINA Fey, PAT Sajak, Kukla, Fran and OLLIE, ARTOO Detoo, Professor SNAPE (from the Harry Potter books/movies); mythology's ARES; the Bible's LEAH and LOT. As I said—a LOT of names!

Fill from south of the border gives us the crossing of SRAS [Married mujeres (abbr.)] and SIESTAS, cleverly clued as [Rest of the afternoon?]; techno-fill gives us PAYPAL [Big name in e-commerce], E-FILE [Submit paperless taxes] and USER [Cybercafe patron].

Finally, [Hammerlock or full nelson] for HOLD summoned up a tart Larry Hart lyric:
I've a powerful anesthesia in my fist,
And the perfect wrist to give your neck a twist.
There are hammerlock holds,
I've mastered a few,
And ev'rything I've got belongs to you.
To enjoy the entire funny un-valentine, check out this site.

Updated again Tuesday afternoon:

Whoops, sorry about the delay here, folks. My kid woke me up at 9:05 this morning and wow, did I feel great waking up then. Bright-eyed and energetic, but with a 10:15 appointment downtown. Then I met my husband for lunch and did a little shopping and next thing you know, it's mid-afternoon and I'm feeling ready for a nap. Crosswords? Onward!

Betty Keller's Los Angeles Times crossword

Did you give up on me and head over to L.A. Crossword Confidential hours ago? Alrighty, the theme today is LUNCH things, and there's an HOURGLASS FIGURE (lunch hour), MONEY TO BURN (lunch money), ROOM FOR RENT (lunchroom), and BOX OF CHOCOLATES (lunchbox). That's as solid as a turkey sandwich, I tell you. Not a particularly exciting theme, but solid.

Doesn't the grid look crazy? The pattern of black squares looks more abstract than usual, but there's some good stuff in here, some lively resonances. The yummy BOX OF CHOCOLATES is echoed by CAROB, clued as [Poor substitute for 62-Across]. Yes! A lousy substitute. I always grumble when CAROB is clued as a chocolate substitute. As if. Then there's the Z zone, where ZINGS and GONZO cross but not at a Z. Another edible cross-reference pairing is ICE TEA (I prefer to call it ICED TEA but will take either wording when I'm thirsty...or doing a crossword) with LEMON. I prefer my iced tea plain, thanks. Fruit flavors a plus, but no sweeteners, please. Don't recall seeing ENERO, Spanish for January, clued this way before: [Año Nuevo month]. Happy New Year!

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "They Were in That?"

Matt does pop culture themes well, and this puzzle's no exception. The theme is six popular actors (all male, hmph), clued with the trivia of what their debut movies were:
  • [His film debut was "Donnie Darko" (2001)] clues SETH ROGEN. SETH GREEN has the same number of letters, but he's less of a movie star and I suspect he was around well before 2001. That didn't stop me from putting him in the puzzle, mind you.
  • Layered under Seth is JAKE GYLLENHAAL. He was the star of Donnie Darko, wasn't he? [His film debut was as Billy Crystal's son in "City Slickers" (1991)].
  • STEVE CARELL's [film debut was in "Curly Sue" (1991) as a sort of villain out to get the title girl]. You'll note that he did not get typecast as a villain type.
  • KEVIN SPACEY, star of screen and stage, is here too. [His film debut was as a subway thief in "Heartburn" (1986), with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson]. You think Streep and Jack had any idea that bit actor was going to wind up winning a coupla Oscars?
  • BENICIO DEL TORO—wait, does that translate to "Benny the Bull"?—had [his film debut as the Dog-Faced Boy in "Big Top Pee-wee" (1988). From Pee-wee Herman's TV show, we had early glimpses of S. Epatha Merkerson, then-Larry Fishburne, Jimmy Smits, and the great Phil Hartman.
  • Scrubs/Garden State star ZACH BRAFF is the final theme entry. [His film debut was as Woody Allen's college-aged son in "Manhattan Murder Mystery" (1990)].

Hooray for cluing RAJ as the ["What's Happening!!" character]—and yes, the show did use twice as many exclamation points as Jeopardy! Also taking me back to my televisual childhood is RHODA, ["The Mary Tyler Moore Show" spinoff] (there were also Phyllis and Lou Grant). And FRED! [Mister Rogers] was awesome.

No, I did not know that NAJIB was the answer to [Malaysia's current prime minister ___ Tun Razak]. I got the J from A.J. Foyt but not the other person in the AJS clue, [Racecar driver Foyt and CNN host Hammer]. Hammer, don't hurt 'em. I got all the letters in BURJ from the crossings; that's the first word of [___ Dubai (world's tallest skyscraper, as of 2009)].