July 02, 2009

Friday, 7/3

NYT 6:06
BEQ 3:58
LAT 3:38
CS 8:53 (J―paper)
WSJ 10:05

Kevin Der's New York Times crossword

This is my favorite of Kevin's puzzles to date. Look at this exquisite creature—super-duper Scrabbly, terrific fill, and fun clues. There's also a mix of high ([Apollonius of Rhodes' "Argonautica," e.g.] is an EPOS) and low (discounter KOHL'S is a [Target competitor]). What'd I like most? This:

  • 1A. TIME WARP gets the puzzle off to a lively start. How many people misread "era" as "ear" in the clue, ["In one era and out the other" phenomenon?]?
  • 15A. Usually "O SOLE MIO" gets the fill-in-the-blank treatment in crosswords, so it's nice to see the full title. It is the [Basis of Tony Martin's "There's No Tomorrow"], and no, I have no idea who Tony Martin is.
  • 18A. HOOPLA's a great word. [Smoke and mirrors] are sort of a bunch of hoopla, I guess.
  • 23A. ACER is a blah answer, but I like the Wimbledon-timely tennis clue, [One who has a quick point to make?]. Then I thought that 31D [One cooking a return] was the tennis player receiving serve, but it turned out to be a TAX EVADER.
  • 29A. [Hornswoggles] is a great word, too. It means BILKS.
  • 43A. The Z gets play in ZERO G, or zero gravity—[What you may experience when going around the world?].
  • 56A. Goodbyes in England and France are [Cheerios, abroad] and ADIEUX. I sincerely hope some people tried to think of what Cheerios cereal might be called in other countries.
  • 58A. The Q enters into COQ AU VIN, or [Certain fricassee]. Tricky Q without a U in hot pursuit.
  • 2D. I'm going to ISAAC's second birthday party tomorrow. Not the one who was [Half brother of Midian, in the Bible]. Midian? Never saw that name before. Reminds me of the Jedi "midichlorians."
  • 3D. MOIRE fabric is the shiny cloth with those optical wavy lines, or [Waves on garments]. The moiré pattern is also a visual effect.
  • 8D. [Hogwarts class taught by Severus Snape] is POTIONS.
  • 13D. A HULA SKIRT is indeed a [Grassy bottom].
  • 30D. SWAZILAND! [Its flag includes a shield and two spears].
  • 55D. [Like Magic?] is TALL. Magic Johnson, I presume.
I was less pleased with these two:
  • 6D. AMOS is clued as [Half a 1950s TV duo]. Ah, yes, classic racist TV entertainment. (Kate and ALLIE is referenced in 34A [Half a 1980s TV duo].)
  • 24D. MILKMAID is clued as [Girl with considerable pull?]. Ick. Can we keep evocations of teat pulling out of the crossword, please?
And here are a few tough clues for the Googlers out there:
  • 40A. MEADE was the [Army of the Potomac commander].
  • 44A. ANGELO's the first name of [Muhammad Ali cornerman Dundee].
  • 54A. ATTILA the Hun is the [Historical figure on whom a Verdi opera is based].
  • 63A. REAL EASY means [Like duck soup]. How many cranky letters will Will Shortz receive from outraged traditionalists who think the crossword is affirming that we don't have to say "really easy" any more? I hope zero.
  • 5D. [ABC, Fox, etc., in Variety] are WEBS. What, NETS is too cumbersome for Variety? Variety is weird.
  • 29D. BASEL, Switzerland, is the [City where Erasmus taught]. He was Dutch. What was he doing in Switzerland, aside from confusing 2009 crossword solvers?
  • 38D. [Lines that lift up] aren't tow ropes on a ski hill or pulleys. The lines make up an ODE that, what, elevates the soul or boosts the ego?
  • 47D. LUXES are the units also called [Meter-candles], or lumens per square meter.
  • 49D. [Octavian's wife] was LIVIA. Was that Tony Soprano's mother's name, too?
  • 54D. AQUA is a [Shade close to beryl].
Kevin made a splash last year(ish) with a record-breaking puzzle with 18 black squares and a low word count. This puzzle's got 72 entries, the max for a themeless. And I enjoyed it a lot more. I'm typically in the camp that treasures the quality of the fill more than the impressive difficulty of the construction. Go ahead and make us some more 72-worders, Kevin!

Updated Friday morning:

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Garbage Bag"―Janie's review

What can I say? This puzzle is absolute rubbish―and as such is also quite perfect, I'm happy to say. Each of the theme-fill phrases ends in a word that's synonymous with garbage―and there's an EXTRA/bonus word as well. Let's review the choice refuse:
  • 17A. [Proverb advising against a rash approach] HASTE MAKES WASTE. This looks to be the first time this phrase has appeared in a CS puzzle―so I guess that makes it fresh garbage... In this case, that's a very good thing indeed.
  • 38A. [Ship observed on the Silk Road] CHINESE JUNK. A ship on a road? The Silk Road refers to the trade routes―maritime and overland―connecting China to the Mediterranean world, North and Northeast Africa and Europe.
  • 60A. [Finest] PICK OF THE LITTER. Remember the "Don't be a Litterbug" campaigns?
  • 25D. [Drunk, or an alternate title for this puzzle?] TRASHED. I do like how this crosses Chinese junk exactly in the center of the puzzle. Nice touch. And look―all that garbage and not one thing to make me say "UGH" ["Disgusting!"]. Smartly done, Mister Constructor!
Was this a particularly difficult puzzle? No. But in solving it, I sure did manage to [Move slowly] CREEP. Why? Well for starters, I couldn't get started. Not at the top anyway―unless you want to count the "A" in [Mauna ___] LOA. But was it gonna be LOA or KEA?... CREEP or CRAWL? Didn't have much luck either with ["___ girl!"] IT'S A or ATTA? The latta―but I chose the former, where at least the first "T" and the "A" were right. (Ooh―I just noticed that when you add "IL" to ATTA, ya get ATTILA [Hun leader].)

I think the first thing I filled in correctly and completely was CSI, and for reasons I'll never understand, that was all I needed to open up the SE, where I couldn't have been happier to see Indonesia's KRAKATOA [Volcano that violently erupted in 1883] at 40D. And what's there at 39D? Another lava-spewer, ETNA [Sicilian volcano].

See that fine crossing of GAS and GASPED? For some time I'd completed that first word, clued [Need on a road trip], with MAP. Silly me. All ya hafta do is ask for directions, right?... Am wondering if anyone out there tried GPS.

At any rate, once I was able to get some kind of solving rhythm going, the rewards were many:
  • COSMETIC and CASTLE [Chess verb];
  • CLAM UP and (apparent first-timer) the dynamic POWERED UP [Started, as a computer];
  • that nifty crossing of AYE-AYE and EYE; of BAJA [__ California] and [Carne __] ASADA [(Mexican dish)];
  • the shout-out to [Mrs. Archie Bunker], EDITH, memorably portrayed by the funny and always touching Jean Stapleton;
  • and best of all, the other apparent first-timer, KID ACTORS, clued here as [Cast of "The Little Rascals"]. We are living in such a new world. Kid actors actually have their own website these days. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
A [Period of time served]―in the armed forces, say, or in jail―is a STINT; and a [Quick glance]―a summary as opposed to a work in its entirety, for example―is an APERÇU.

In researching the fill on the Cruciveb database, I learned that this theme has been used on two other occasions―and that some of the theme fill had seen the light of day in those puzzles. But ya know what? When you get a puzzle with as much fresh, lively fill as this one delivers, there's little to object to. The theme continues to work and the non-theme fill couldn't be better. Hurray for Ray!

Jeff Chen's Los Angeles Times crossword

We've got a new (I think) name atop today's L.A. Times puzzle, Jeff Chen. Congrats on the debut!

The theme is "X in the Y" phrases or titles rendered by moving the X word between "the" and "Y" to replace "in":
  • 17A. [1988 biopic about Dian Fossey, literally] clues THE GORILLAS MIST, or Gorillas in the Mist.
  • 27A. [It's too important to ignore, literally] is the figurative "elephant in the room," or THE ELEPHANT ROOM.
  • 49A. [Kids' ball game, literally] is THE MONKEY MIDDLE, or "monkey in the middle." (I hated being the monkey.) Why, look, it's all animals in the middle! A tight theme.
  • 65A. [Metaphorical philosophical conflict used as an album title by The Police, literally] is THE GHOST MACHINE, or Ghost in the Machine. Oh. Not an animal. So the theme's a little looser. At least there's an even balance between familiar phrases and titles of creative works.
I'm crunched for time and focus this morning—there's a toddler's birthday party at 10 a.m. and I may have a broken toe. Today's L.A. Crossword Confidential post by Rex isn't up yet, but should be soon. That'll review more clues than just the theme.

Patrick Blindauer's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Let Freedom Ring"

The timely holiday theme is 54D LIBERTY, and each of the letters in that word is added to a phrase to change it. I've circled those letters in the grid and bolded them below:
  • 23A. [Truthful member of the first family?] is HONEST ABEL.
  • 28A. [Bad things for acrophobic teetotalers?] are STAIRS AND BARS.
  • 36A. [Snoopy and family?] are AMERICAN BEAGLES.
  • 73A. [Relative who leaves you in stitches?] is UNCLE SEAM.
  • 104A. [East Coast ball for bawlers?] is the BOSTON TEAR PARTY.
  • 114A. [Motto of a self-important dictator's followers?] is TIN GOD WE TRUST.
  • 124A. [Extras in "The Wizard of Oz"?] are MINUTE MANY.
Oh, hey! I didn't fully notice this while solving (I'm barely awake), but each of the base phrases has patriotic American history significance. Well done, Patrick. The longest Down answers are also related to the theme. 69D GREAT BRITAIN is clued as [George III's kingdom], and he was king in 1776. Who knew that 3D YANKEE DOODLE was the [State song of Connecticut]? I sure couldn't tell you what Illinois's state song is.

Insanest crossing: 33D YNEZ, or [Santa ___ (neighbor of Lompoc, California)], meets 53A ZEILE, or [Todd who hit homers for 11 major league teams]. Ynes is also a valid spelling of the name, and I've never heard of the baseball player, so the Z was more or less a good guess.

Favorite clues: [First sound of impact?] is the SHORT I sound. [The land down under?] is underwater ATLANTIS.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Strip Search"

This one's a repeat from Brendan's run of Time Out New York puzzles. It's basically an easyish themeless puzzle with a word search in it. I found seven of the 10 hidden comic strip names. Did y'all find the other three?