June 01, 2009

Tuesday, 6/2

NYT 3:08
LAT 2:37
CS 5:57 (J—paper)
Jonesin' (untimed on paper...with hardly any printer toner in the second clue column)

Patrick Blindauer's New York Times crossword

Patrick inches over the usual limit of 38 black squares (there are 40), but that facilitated the inclusion of seven theme entries and eight mostly excellent 7-letter answers in the non-theme fill and two corners that are quite wide-open for a Tuesday puzzle. The theme reinterprets SNL, short for Saturday Night Live (the [TV staple for over 30 years]), as S 'n' L, and the six other theme entries are two-word phrases with S. and L. initials:

  • 17A. SKI LODGE is a [Mountain shelter].
  • 21A. SHORE LEAVE is [Time off, to a sailor]. Do Navy aviators based at terrestrial naval air stations take shore leave, too?
  • 32A. One [Endangered feline] is the SNOW LEOPARD.
  • 41A. ["Arabesque" actress, 1966] was a mystery to me, but the crossings pointed me towards SOPHIA LOREN. Anyone besides Patrick or Will Shortz know this movie?
  • 54A. The SPEED LIMIT is a [Highway posting]. My favorite one is 70.
  • 61A. [Where rupees are spent] isn't just India, it's also SRI LANKA.
Where's the good stuff in the fill? All over. Does Bette Midler, a.k.a. the Divine MISS M (["Divine" showbiz nickname]), sing IN KEY, or is that phrase just next to her in the grid? I love Scandinavian names like INGEMAR, the [Former heavyweight champion Johansson]. Male MALLARD ducks have lovely coloring. Europe is home to ROMANIA, the [Birthplace of Elie Wiesel], and POMPEII, the volcanic [Italian archaeological locale]. [Jesse James and gang] refers to the OUTLAWS of the 19th century and not to the motorcycle guy who's Mr. Sandra Bullock. Speaking of Ms. Bullock, what ever happened to that movie in which she plays a crossword constructor? It was supposed to come out in March but has been moved back to this September. Does that mean it's terrible, or are they just pushing it closer to Oscar season? (Hah!)

A 76-word puzzle is going to have plenty of short answers. Here, there are three partials (AND A, IN A, I DID) and I know they're supposed to be low-grade entries, but honestly they don't bother me if they're gettable and not part of a puzzle with crappy fill. Suffix IAL, prefix IDEO, abbrevs MSGS and APR and NATO, and Latin "Dies IRAE" are nothing to write home about, but the other 30-some 3's and 4's are solid and not packed with the usual suspects. So all in all, a winner of a Tuesday puzzle.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Broken Records"—Janie's review

Two weeks ago, Gail Grabowski gave us a puzzle called "Separated Couples" in which the word TWO was separated between the two words of the theme fill (with "T" belonging to the end of the first word and "WO" to the beginning of the second). Today's puzzle works along the same lines. The [Records that are broken...] are LPS and they come to us in four solid phrases:
  • 20A. GENERAL PARTNER [Principal in a financial firm];
  • 35A. NAVAL POWER [Nation with a strong seagoing force]. This immediately brought to mind the stirring "Rule, Britannia!";
  • 43A. FOCAL POINT [Center of attention]; and
  • 53A. CARAMEL POPCORN [Cracker Jack ingredient]. Genuinely tasty fill!
All but FOCAL POINT (which is making its CS debut) are appearing in a major puzzle for the first time. Interestingly, FOCAL POINT has appeared twice before—and both times in puzzles with this same theme. They were both Sunday puzzles, however. One appeared in the Washington Post and was constructed by Rich Norris; the other in the LA Times and was constructed by, well, Rich Norris (under his "Lila Cherry" pseudonym). Is this some kind of crossword crime? Hardly. Sarah's fill stands on its own, thank you very much. And the truth of it is, while constructors are always coming up with new and seemingly unexplored themes/gimmicks, like the question of just how many plots exist in English literature, there still aren't really that many. So re-examine away!

Love that we have [Intense craving] cluing LUST and [Craving] for URGE. Seems like a fitting pair of clues for the healthy scoop of OREO ice cream (thickened perhaps with AGAR?).

Other colorful clues that stand out include:
  • [It supports spectacles] for NOSE;
  • [Buns on the table] for ROLLS, followed by [Buns] for REAR; and
  • [I don't want to hear a] PEEP [out of you!"]. Oh, boy, does that one stir up camp-bunk and elementary school classroom memories!

Some fave non-theme fill: ARCTIC clued as [Bitter cold], NUANCE, TURNS INTO, and PLAN C aptly defined as [Last resort, perhaps].

And BERM [Road shoulder]! Now I can't say this was a "fave," but who knew BERM? It appears to be a word that has more of a life in crosswords than in everyday conversation, but really—what good're the puzzles if ya can't learn somethin' from 'em?!

Orange here again. I want to point you towards a new and evolving resource at L.A. Crossword Confidential. Each day, PuzzleGirl, Rex, or I write a "Crosswordese 101" lesson focusing on a word in that day's LAT crossword. PuzzleGirl compiled an alphabetical list of the words we've discussed, with links to those discussions. If you're looking to polish your crossword skills, skim that list and read up on anything that's not already firmly implanted in your solving brain. You can access it via the "CW101" button atop the L.A.C.C. homepage, or right here.

Joy Frank's Los Angeles Times crossword

I'm short on time this morning, so let me sum up the theme and refer you to PuzzleGirl's L.A. Crossword Confidential post for more on this puzzle. The theme entries transform "triple ___" phrases into "___ ___ ___" representations:
  • [Horse racing coup, literally] is CROWN CROWN CROWN. The Triple Crown is what a horse gets for winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. Well, technically, the horse doesn't get a damned thing except extra opportunities to shatter a leg and be euthanized. But the horse's owner, jockey, and trainer probably win something.
  • [Baseball rarity, literally] is PLAY PLAY PLAY. The triple play is when the team playing defense throws the ball hither and yon to get three offensive linemen out. Have I got that right?
  • [Rhythm for waltzing, literally] is TIME TIME TIME. Some folks are quibbling about what waltzes are played in triple time. Fast ones?
  • [Text layout specification, literally] is SPACE SPACE SPACE. Triple spacing has limited utility. Some manuscript submission guidelines call for triple-spaced hard copies but really, how many ms. reviewers or editors are going to be marking up a hard copy these days? I'm thinking not too many.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle, "Clean Cinema"

I really need to put that new toner cartridge into my laser printer. Sure, I can get two clear pages each time I shake up the nearly empty cartridge, but I always end up printing a third page with an illegible stripe down it. So I did this puzzle with sketchy remnants of the clues for 62D through 8A. Luckily, the crossings got me past the mangled clues.

I approached this puzzle exactly right, as it turns out, for maximum "aha" factor. I had the four longest theme answers filled in and was thinking the theme didn't quite add up. Why is WAX part of the "Clean Cinema" theme? Oh, because hiding in the middle is CAR WASH, the [1976 movie that parts of the other four movie titles describe from start to finish]. Yes, SOAPDISH, FULLER BRUSH MAN, AMERICAN HOT WAX, and DRY CYCLE do take you through the process of a car wash. Here's a video of the theme song with clips from the movie—enjoy.

Never heard of DRY CYCLE, the [2003 straight-to-video Ione Skye romcom that starts at a laundromat]. Or The FULLER BRUSH MAN, [With "The," 1948 Red Skelton movie about door-to-door sales], but do know about the Fuller Brush products being sold door to door. AMERICAN HOT WAX...hmm, can't say I know anything about this [1978 biopic about DJ Alan Freed] either. I saw CAR WASH at age 10 but not the Freed picture two years later. I remember SOAPDISH, the [1991 comedy with a behind-the-scenes look at a daytime drama], but never saw it. So yeah, the theme underwhelmed me right up until the moment it all crystallized into a tribute to Car Wash, and then I was happy.