July 03, 2009

Saturday, 7/4

NYT 5:20
LAT 4:00
Newsday untimed
CS 7:20 (J―paper)

Happy Fourth of July!

Peter A. Collins and Joe Krozel's New York Times crossword

When a holiday lands on a Saturday, every now and then we get a commemorative themed Saturday puzzle. Peter and Joe's puzzle is anchored by INDEPENDENCE DAY running down at 7D, clued as the [Highest-grossing film of 1996], crossed by three related 15s: THE UNITED STATES is not just a country but also the [Fastest ocean liner ever in a transatlantic crossing (3 days, 12 hours, 12 minutes)]. The STARS AND STRIPES is what we call the U.S. flag and the name of a military newspaper, clued as [Private reading?], as in the newspaper read by privates in the Army. [Patriotic display] is the RED, WHITE, AND BLUE—and I didn't need the clue to fill that one in with a few crossings in place. The word count's just 70, so with unrelated 15s, this could be a themeless grid. I enjoyed this puzzle quite a bit.

Seven highlights before I hit the sack:

• 15A. MONGO is the [Planet ruled by Ming the Merciless in "Flash Gordon"]. I half watched the movie with my son last year. Ridiculously cheesy!
• 33A. [Copy cats?] is a verb phrase. If you imitate kitties, you might PURR.
• 49A. To [Bellyache] is to KVETCH. You know what the kvetchers cry, don't you? They cry "oy vey.'
• 58A. ROD STEIGER looks great in the puzzle. [Oscar-winning portrayer of Police Chief Bill Gillespie, 1967] is his clue. In the Heat of the Night opposite Sidney Poitier, no?
• 31D. [Star of India and others] are SAPPHIRES.
• 34D. [It may make people jump to a conclusion] clues a SACK RACE.
• 35D. [Broke a court rule] in basketball is TRAVELED.

Updated Saturday morning:

Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Space Exploration"―Janie's review

While we don't have "Stars and Stripes Forever" on this Independence Day, Randy has provided a celestial array (with one star anyway). The beginning of each of the five theme-related phrases (in 61 letters of theme-fill) names a heavenly body.

  • 17A. SUN MICROSYSTEMS [Computer company based in California]. That'd be the company that uses this logo.
  • 29A. MOON MULLINS [1923-1991 comic strip character]. This link will take you to a page with panels from a few decades. The last one, from the early '70s is telling for the way it addresses the era of peace,beads and love. This fill, btw, is the only one of the five that seems not to be appearing for the first time in one of the puzzles covered by the Cruciverb database. Impressive.
  • 36A. STAR JONES [Former controversial cohost of "The View"]. And her real first name isn't Star either. It's Starlet... The article will fill you in on the "controversial" part in case you need to know...
  • 47A. MILKY WAY BAR [Chocolate and chewy candy]. I'm not a serious chocoholic and generally favor a Snickers Bar. But still―yum!
  • 60A. PLANET HOLLYWOOD [Movie theme restaurant]. Really telling here is the number of locations closed. Yikes.
The remainder of the fill is very solid, with twelve 7-letter words. Faves of mine among those include: the elegant ELEGANT, EXURBIA, ANEROID [Barometer type], and the APOSTLE who may ABSTAIN. Or not...

I've not yet seen the movie (it's on my library dvd-list), but (the trailer of) Fight Club came to mind when I saw ACTS OUT beside RULE ONE [Most important guideline] (both of which appear to be CS debuts). Remember? "Welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club!" That's one rule one ya wanna take very seriously!

Oh―and I'm wondering how many times NICOLAS [Cage on film] appears in the same puzzle as his aunt TALIA [Shire in show business]. Anyway, it's nice to see them paired here.

The cluing throughout was fairly straightforward, but not without some highpoints. I liked seeing familiar ASEA clued as [Between ports] which gives me a strong visual. Also liked ESTS for [Ballpark figs.]. Nice misdirection there, as often-as-not the fill is MGRS. So we're in the metaphorical ballpark today with an abbreviation for estimates and not in [your favorite stadium here] with the team's managers.

I felt there was something off in the cluing of ARMBAND. While there's precedent for [Symbol worn on a sleeve] as a crossword clue, darned if I could find support for it in the dictionary. Looking through most of the Onelook.com listings, I consistently came up with some variation of "band/piece of cloth worn around the arm for decoration/as identification or to indicate mourning/protest." The clue suggested emblem to me―which is one letter shy of course―the sort that folks in the military display. Or Scouts for that matter.

Before parting, will add that I enjoyed seeing the meeting of MA'AM and MESSRS in the northeast corner. Enjoy a happy, safe and glorious Fourth, all!

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

There's much to admire in this themed, 15x16, 73-word holiday crossword. Tons of good fill, clever clues, the works. See what I had to say over at L.A. Crossword Confidential. Between a foot injury, a nascent cold, and sleeping in this morning, I find I lack the pep to blog this puzzle a second time. But it's a good puzzle! If you haven't done it, you ought to make time for it.

Updated Saturday afternoon:

"Anna Stiga" or Stan Newman's Newsday "Saturday Stumper"

(PDF solution here.)

I did this one a quadrant at a time, starting with the lower right corner, moving up to the upper right, filling in the lower left, and trudging through the upper right last. While the only famous [Jan. honoree] is Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., it took forever to figure out what combination of his name and titles would fit together there. I call foul on DR. M. L. KING, JR., which looks cool in the grid with its 90% consonants, but doesn't at all sound like a common way to refer to King. It Googles OK but...meh.

JOB LOT isn't so familiar to me. It's a [Large quantity] and a solid in-the-dictionary term. I had the J for a long time before coming up with RAGTOPS (not HUBCAPS!) for [Auto parts] helped jostle things loose in that section.

Favorite clues and answers:

• [His fiction inspired "Airplane!"] clues Arthur HAILEY, who wrote Airport, which spawned several '70s disaster movies, which Airplane! then spoofed.
• IRA LEVIN, author of Rosemary's Baby, gets this clue: [Stephen King called him "the Swiss watchmaker"].
• A plain ol' LENS is [One of your contacts].
• When I had ODI* for [He wears a yellow coat and pants], I paused to question whether this was cartoon dog ODIE (yes) or Norse god ODIN (no).
• [Something Spooner might have "flung out"]...hmm, it's probably a spoonerism involving "hung out," so what's something that starts with FL that can be hung out and that becomes another word when the FL turns into an H? Flag —> HAG.
• JUDGE JUDY! Great answer. She's a [Non-nonsense arbiter] on TV.
• Trivia! [His "Time" cover featured seven syringes] kept me guessing for a long time. Turns out it's polio vaccine developer Jonas SALK. With S***, I briefly contemplated SOSA.