July 23, 2009

Friday, 7/24

NYT 5:11
BEQ 4:17
LAT 3:38
CS 8:57 (J—paper)
WSJ 8:51
CHE tba — apparently not posted online yet in site redesign (*grumble*)

Will Shortz has been answering reader questions since July 20 here. Friday's the last day, so I expect there'll be more Qs&As added to the four pages' worth that are there now. It's an engaging read.

Patrick Berry's New York Times crossword

Isn't this a pretty crossword? I almost didn't want to sully it with any letters, but when the byline reads "Patrick Berry," I sullied it right up.

Eleven of the 15 Across rows contain a long (9 to 15 letters) answer, which looks crazy. One of the 15s is SPIRAL STAIRCASE (43A: [It gets you up and around])—which is sort of, a little bit, what the grid looks like.

If you'll pardon me, I've got to tuck my son in now, but I'll publish this much of the post for the nonce. Back soon.

And here I am again. You know what my favorite answers and clues were in this 62-worder? Well, there's NO SUCH THING (1A: [It doesn't exist]), for one. And also these:

  • 16A. [Bloomer after whom bloomers are named] is AMELIA. I've known this particular eponym since I was a kid. Did we all learn that one when we were little?
  • 19A. For [Toy from China], I was thinking of the KITE, but it's a toy dog, the Pekingese, or PEKE.
  • 24A. [You might grind it out] clues a cigarette BUTT. At first I thought this was some sort of carpentry/workshop thing, or possibly about doing a bump and grind on the dance floor.
  • 25A. [Fast hits] are LINE DRIVES. Yeah, it's baseball, but if you're gonna make me have a baseball answer, at least make it be a long phrase and not the last name of 1956's leading shortstop or a 2004 Padre.
  • 30A. BRANDON LEE was the [Actor who debuted in "Kung Fu: The Movie"]. He died before The Crow was finished, which is a shame because Bruce Lee's son had a ton of potential.
  • 35A. SLAM DANCES are [Activities at punk rock concerts]. Is it proper to pluralize "slam dance"? And what about GARBS (14A: [Outfits])?
  • 39A. I love the word BARMY, which means [Foolish, in British slang].
  • 48A. "SEE YOU IN COURT" are [Words from one who won't settle].
  • 1D. [Whim-wham] is a crazy clue for NOVELTY. Dictionary says: archaic "a quaint and decorative object; a trinket." I gotta work "whim-wham" into my vocabulary.
  • 2D. [It might contain a filling] could be many things. This time, it's an OMELET.
  • 10D. NOSEDIVE is a [Calamitous decline].
  • 15D. What's this? A factoid I didn't know about EELS? They are [Fish that can move equally well forward and backward].
  • 21D. KEEBLER, the cookie people, is a [Company with a tree in its logo]. Ernie is the head elf, you know.
  • 30D. [Nullifies, as an oath?] clues BLEEPS. Good clue.
  • 42D. A PICA is [1/6 of an inch]. Who doesn't love printing terminology? Me, I like it so much more than the nautical and poker clues.

Mildly vexing spots:
  • 28A. HASHED OVER is the answer to [Discussed at length]. I would prefer HASHED OUT, which has better support in at least one dictionary. You talk things over when you hash them out.
  • 18A. RELET, or [Rent to another], is the sort of blah answer we rarely see in a Berrystravaganza. I suppose we have to allow Berry to use an utterly lifeless word once or twice a year, eh? He's earned the forgiveness.
  • 29A. [Musical direction that means "lyrical" in Italian] is CANTABILE. Note the cognates, chant and cantor and incantations. Much of what I know about "musical directions" I learned from crosswords.
  • 42A. [Folk singer Tom with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award] is PAXTON. I guess I follow folk singers even less than I thought, because I've never heard of him. It's a shiny new Grammy from 2009.
  • 3D. SPRIT is a [Diagonally set spar]. Nautical terminology = meh.
  • 13D. I wonder if Tom PAXTON knows [Pulitzer-winning historian Frederick Jackson ___] TURNER. Nope—TURNER died five years before Paxton was born.
  • 34D. [Max of video game fame] is Max PAYNE. I learned this from crosswords, I swear.
  • 35D. SYMS is an East Coast menswear chain, isn't it? It's also part of ["___ by Sinatra" (1982 collaborative jazz album)]. Big question mark for me on this one.
Updated Friday morning:

Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Material for Dessert Recipes"—Janie's review

Foodie (and foodies), take heed: this one's for you! Randy is serving up a cruciverbal confection with a power of suggestion that is bound to please—or possibly send you into the kitchen, or out to the nearest bakery. The trick, though, is that each of the theme desserts contains the name of a kind of fabric. The "material" in the title is material, not ingredients (though you will find plenty of those in the links...). Because there's always room for dessert, today we're offered:
  • 18A. LACE COOKIES [Delicate, crumbly dessert]. More about this fill later;
  • 25A. RED VELVET CAKE [Colorful, layered dessert]. A great, traditional cake from the South;
  • 46A. FRENCH SILK PIE [Chilled, crusty chocolate dessert]. Though they've long been seen on dessert carts, both this filling fill and its predecessor look to be appearing in a major puzzle for the first time. And finally:
  • 59A. COTTON CANDY [Sweet, sticky dessert]. This is the only one I had trouble with...as a dessert. At the dinner table. With (CS-first) SILVERWARE. Okay, ya don't need silverware for cookies either, but you know what I mean. I can see cotton candy as a treat at a baseball game, or a carnival or a fair—maybe after a "main course" of a corn dog and fried cheese curd, and in lieu of the deep-fried oreo... But after chicken KIEV and green beans au gratin, off-the-paper-cone or out-of-the-bag? That doesn't really sound like a dessert to me. What does, though, is cotton candy ice-cream or cotton candy cupcakes. With an insulin chaser, of course...
Statistcially speaking, lace cookies looks to be a major-puzzle first and cotton candy a CS-first. But lace cookie appears in another of Randy's puzzles—as does cotton candy. It's an LA Times puzzle called "At the Dress Dinner" and the theme fill is made up of... "foods that include clothing or dress material." As fill, cotton candy has appeared in some seven puzzles, apparently as theme fill on each occasion; four of those occasions being puzzles with a food 'n' fabric theme. All of which is to say, where puzzle themes are concerned, be prepared for "everything old is new again." "Déjà vu all over again" may not the preferred choice, but it does go with the territory.

I was about to say that elsewhere in the puzzle Randy had given us a lot to chew on and then mention I'M ALIVE [Cry from an avalanche survivor] and how this first-time puzzle fill reminded me (as clued) of Alive, the gripping Piers Paul Reid account of the survivors of an air disaster in the Andes. But that would be in very bad taste... (TSK, Jane. Had enough? ME, TOO...) I will add that "I'm Alive" is one of the great numbers in Tony-winners Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's gripping rock musical Next to Normal—about a woman with bi-polar disorder and its effect on her family. Not for the faint of heart.

Because I play so much of it at work, loved seeing PHONE TAG in the grid; and CS first-timer SKY CAM [It provides video from above], which is already passé in the sense that we take it for granted now, the same way we became inured to the miracle of telephone communication. And how nice to see an [Apple product] that's actually the product of an apple: CIDER.

Before I SKIDDOO (oh, if only there'd been a 23D this coulda be attached to...), I do want to point out that sans "material," there is yet another dessert within. The [Chic Young creation] BLONDIE ain't just a comic strip!

David Cromer's Los Angeles Times crossword

Each theme entry picks up an -IC that alters one word into something completely unrelated:
  • 18A. [Break from soldiers' training?] is BASIC RELIEF, vs. bas-relief.
  • 24A. [Clown settlement?] clues an ANTIC COLONY. Aaaah! Clowns! I just saw Bruce Nauman's video exhibit, Clown Torture, at the Art Institute's new Modern Wing. I pity the security guards who have to spend more than one minute within earshot of that exhibit. And no, they can't turn the volume down. (I asked.) I much preferred Sue Williams' painting, It's a New Age (NSFW). I am also fond of Christopher Wool's painting, Trouble—it's vowelless, like that Frank Longo crossword book! Here comes TRBL.
  • 38A. [International affair?] is a TOPIC OF THE WORLD.
  • 49A. [O. Henry stories?] are IRONIC WORKS. That's perfect, absolutely perfect.
  • 60A. [Copperfield's limo?] (MAGIC WHEELS). Magician David Copperfield, not Dickens' David Copperfield. (Each time I typed that name, it came out "Copperfiend.")

I've been listening to a soundtrack of chainsaws and a woodchipper while doing this puzzle and writing about it, and I swear it's giving me a headache. So for details on non-theme fill and clues (and a good idea for a grand unifying entry for the theme), I'll send you to Rex's L.A. Crossword Confidential post.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Just My Type"

I thought I had enough desktop publishing experience to dig a font theme, but no. The fonts in Brendan's theme aren't all familiar to me, and there's nothing innately entertaining or meaningful about the font names. Okay, so there's a font called Franklin that I don't use. There was a president named FRANKLIN PIERCE. And [Font penetration?] could clue that, except that pierce is a verb, not a noun, and Google shows me that the Franklin font isn't especially pointy, so there's no logical or amusing link to PIERCE. See what I mean? I'm just not feelin' it, dawg. Minor typographical nerd bonus points for the [Font suitcase?] clue for COURIER BAG. Back in the day, I handled font suitcases.

In Wednesday's L.A. Times crossword, SAT was clued as [Met] and this gave some people fits as they could just not accept that the words' equivalency was valid, no matter how many examples and dictionary definitions they saw. So thanks to Brendan for cluing SIT as [Be in session]. Yes! The sit/meet connection is not a sham!

I don't like [Crude object] as a clue for ORE—ore is a material and not a discrete object. I'll bet there's some ore buried within mountains, and Brendan did have some good mountain action here. The [Beatles album whose working title was "Everest"] is ABBEY ROAD, and the second-tallest mountain after Everest is K2 or, in crossword language, K-TWO. K-TWO is clued as ["The savage mountain"], which makes it sound volcanic and my first guess for any 4-letter volcano is ETNA. Whoops; not this time.

FIJI is the [Nation where golfer Vijay Singh is from]. It's a mystery to me: Why isn't "Fiji Vijay" his nickname?

Cathy Allis's Wall Street Journal crossword, "To Open: The Complete Instruction"

Cathy's second National Geographic Geopuzzle crossword is available in PDF form. This month's theme relates to the "Vanishing Venice" article.

The WSJ theme's a good bit more whimsical than any of the finance-related themes that sometimes appear in that paper. Cathy reinterprets packaging opening instructions by adding words onto the end of them. My favorite is 117A: [Cracker box: "Slide finger under flap and loosen gently"...] SO AS TO ENSURE A PAPER CUT. Ouch! I also like 65A: [Individual string cheese: "Safety first! Open with hands, not teeth"...] because SCISSORS ARE FOR WIMPS. I used to work with a woman who tore a neck muscle opening a pack of Twizzlers with her teeth. I am not making this up.

Solid puzzle with a few bits of crosswordese (57A: [Basketry willow] is OSIER and 12D: [Architectural pilaster] is ANTA, for example], nothing too crazy, and overall medium-tough cluing. Favorite clue: 32D: [They improve your balance] refers to CREDITS in your bank or credit card account.