June 22, 2009

Tuesday, 6/23

Jonesin' 3:32
NYT 3:11
LAT 3:04
CS 7:16 (J―paper)

At long last, we have reached the time of year when "cooler near the lake" is a splendid thing. Hot, muggy days are much improved by a lake breeze knocking off 10° from the temperature. I hope you Northeasterners who've had the same overlong wet, cool spring as Chicago are now getting some genuine June weather too.

I did some proofreading on six (!) different books today (Brendan Quigley's NFL-team word searches). Is it just me, or is looking at word search puzzles more exhausting than, say, medical editing?

Caleb Madison's New York Times crossword

Caleb's theme contains four phrases that begin with synonyms for "wallop":

  • 20A. PUNCH AND JUDY is a [Slapstick puppet show].
  • 33A. ["I'm ready for anything!"] clues SOCK IT TO ME. This one's a little off because the SOCK here kinda, sorta means "hit," whereas the synonyms in the other theme entries definitely take alternate meanings.
  • 44A. HIT THE SACK is clued as [Go get some shuteye]. I'd like to be a fly on the wall when a non-native English speaker hears that phrase for the first time. What sort of sack is this? Why are you going to hit it? How come people always want to hit sacks late in the evening?
  • DECK THE HALLS is a [Yuletide tune].

Where this puzzle shines is in the longer Down answers. Why, here's GROUCHO MARX—[He said, "Here's to our wives and girlfriends...may they never meet!"]. Ah, adulterous deception is always a reliable source of hilarity. (Maybe the retro ADMEN, [Some Madison Ave. workers], are living the Groucho lifestyle.) One type of [Magazine staffer] is the FACT-CHECKER. STAN LEE is perhaps one of the more common 7-letter first-and-last-name people in crosswords; he's [Co-creator of the Fantastic Four]. REAL LIFE probably gets discussed more now than ever, thanks to how much time people spend in the virtual world discussing [Actuality]. Also nice: the Scrabblicious ZZ TOP, the ["Sharp Dressed Man" band], and an ELIXIR, a [Drink said to prolong life]. Is Diet Coke an elixir? I say yes. Favorite clue: [da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM] presents examples of IAMBS.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Donna S. Levin's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Early Bird's Reward"—Janie's review

The "early bird's reward" is of course the WORM, double-clued here as [Computer malady (and what can follow the starts of the four longest puzzle answers)]. May all of our computers be free of that first kind of worm―but what great fill Donna has provided in those four longest answers to clue the other kinds:
  • 17A. EARTHMOTHER [Fertility archtype], for earthworm. I think of this answer as the NEXUS to the feminine vibe of today's puzzle, too—what with AMIGA, WOMEN and [Handmaid, for one] cluing SERVANT.
  • 23A. SILK STOCKINGS [Astaire's "Ninotchka" remake], for silk worm. This remake (which appears to be a CS debut, btw), has a score by Cole Porter and comes to you in "(Glorious Technicolor, Breathtaking Cinemascope and) Stereophonic Sound." As for GLOSSY silk stockings, they have a long history as a fashion item and, expensive as they are, are still considered to be a lingerie luxury. And a sexy one at that.
  • 47A. GLOW IN THE DARK [What light sticks do], for glowworm. This utter beauty of a phrase is making its major-puzzle debut.
  • 57A. BOOK ’EM, DANNO ["Hawaii Five-O" catchphrase], for bookworm. Hmmm. I somehow imagine Hawaii Five-O as the bookworm's guilty pleasure...
This is all top-notch fill in its own right that does double duty as it livens up a tried-(sometimes "tired-")and-true crossword theme.

Other terrific fill includes three CS-firsts: the poetically clued LOST LOVE [Theme of Poe's "Annabel Lee"], the colorful RED-NOSED [Like Rudolph, in a song title], and NTH POWER [Ultimate degree]. These phrases are well-met with IN RESERVE [Set aside] and SNEAK INTO [Crash]. Did you have trouble with either of these? I sure did. A little nosing around the Cruciverb database, however, reveals that both of these phrases with these exact clues have appeared in puzzles by Rich Norris―and in both cases, in Saturday NY Times puzzles. Aha―so that explains it. Glad I finally GOT WISE [Woke up and smelled the coffee] (another great combo)!

Knew PRESLEY [Graceland name] but was at a complete loss for WEIR [Bob ____ (Grateful Dead co-founder). Today is first time this name has been clued in conjunction with the Dead. More often than not it's clued in association with director Peter or as a "small dam."

All of which comes down to this: congrats to Donna for breathing so much fresh air into the cluing and the fill today!

Gary Lowe and Nancy Salomon's Los Angeles Times crossword

Newcomer Gary Lowe, a regular (and often hilarious) commenter over at L.A. Crossword Confidential, partnered up with constructing mentor extraordinaire Nancy Salomon for today's L.A. Times puzzle. The theme is things you COUNT (54D, [Tally, and what to do with the last word of 18-, 26-, 45- or 60-Across]:
  • 18A. [Informal polls] are STRAW VOTES. Oh! I was just pondering what votes I've ever counted and remembered the Fourth Bloggiversary Bad Theme Contest. I need to take a look at the badness and see which badness I marvel at the most.
  • 26A. EMPTY CALORIES—a beautifully lively crossword answer—are a [Cause of unhealthful weight gain]. Mmm, empty calories... I don't count calories, but I do count milligrams of sodium and potassium.
  • 45A. [Rockies grazers] are MOUNTAIN SHEEP. I started out with MOUNTAIN GOATS. What, doesn't everyone count goats at bedtime? Actually, I've taken to counting backwards by 3's from 100. It really does work. I don't make it past 50.
  • 60A. ROMAN NOSES are [Prominent schnozzes]. I personally prefer counting heads to counting noses, but that's just me.

Highlights in the fill: ADVICE GURU, MOLIERE, SLUMDOG Millionaire (though it remains to be seen whether "Slumdog" still resonates a few years from now), and EN MASSE.

I answered a question about 2D via Twitter today. Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn tweeted that he didn't understand how [Totaled] and RAN TO fit together. Totaled, as a restaurant bill, not totaled, as a car. Most of my tweets aren't about crosswords, but you're welcome to follow OrangeXW anyway.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword,"We've Got a Monopoly"

Cute theme—in each of the six theme entries, Matt changes a single letter in the name of a Monopoly space, giving it a new spin:
  • Park Place becomes DARK PLACE, a [Space found in Who-Turned-Out-the-Lights-opoly?
  • [Space that ought to be in ZZ Topoly?] is BEARDWALK, playing on Boardwalk. Kudos for the "ZZ Topoly" formation, Matt.
  • The last letter of Atlantic changes to create ATLANTIS AVENUE, a [Space in Underwater-opoly?]. Is there a SpongeBob version of Monopoly? I bet there is. We have the SpongeBob Life board game, where the best-paying career you can pick is Fry Cook. I forget if it's one of the ones you need a college education for.
  • Community Chest becomes COMMUNITY CHEAT, a [Space in Affair-opoly?].
  • Nobody likes having to pay $200 or 10% of their holdings in Income Tax. Oh, wait. That's actually a sweet deal. Why isn't Congress embracing the Monopoly tax code? INCOME TEX is [The space who's also the mascot of Cowboy-opoly?].
  • [Space in Snuff-opoly?] is SNORT LINE, based on the Short Line railroad. Aw, shouldn't this be in Swine-opoly or Cocaine-opoly?

WORK WITH ME is stone-cold terrific, in-the-language fill. Its clue is ["C'mon, I need your help here, so stop resisting"]. FORD SUV is...is that terrific or contrived? I'm not sure. That's a [Bronco, Explorer, or Excursion, e.g.]. A trickier clue would've included only the Excursion and the Expedition.

I'm out of time for the morning, so I'll sign off here. Toodles!