July 15, 2009

Thursday, 7/16

NYT 4:47
LAT 3:28
CS 5:53 (J—paper)
Tausig untimed

Liz Gorski's New York Times crossword

I love the theme but I can't say I'm wild about the rest of the puzzle. The theme presents an ANAGRAM (35A [See 17- and 57-Across] of two arithmetic problems that total THIRTEEN (12D [Either 17- or 57-Across]. 17A is ELEVEN + TWO ([35-Across of 57-Across that equals 12-Down]) and 57A is TWELVE + ONE ([35-Across of 17-Across that equals 12-Down]). Huh! I don't recall learning that those two number pairs were anagrams of each other. Partnering with THIRTEEN in the opposite corner is IT ADDS UP, a 33A [Possible title for this puzzle]. Those two plus signs (rendered as P for "plus" in my answer grid) work in their crossings, too. 15D is a B+ AVERAGE, or [3.3. in a transcript, maybe?], and 46D is NON{PLUS}ED, or [Puzzled]. I guess really the plus signs are {PLUS} rebus squares, as the word PLUS works in all of them, and + does not work for NON+ED.

There's plenty of tough stuff here:

• 14A. [Ships whose rudders don't touch water] are the airships called DIRIGIBLES. Not being nautically inclined, I started out here with CATAMARANS.
• 19A. [Bobsled challenges] are ESSES, meaning S-curves in the bobsled chute. Bet you thought about bobsleds when you saw 23A's clue, [They travel through tubes]. Those are the OVA that traverse the Fallopian tubes. Bet you also pondered bobsleds at 44D, [Bob at the Olympics]. That's perky Mr. COSTAS.
• 29A. The big "Who??" clue is [French novelist Robert ___, upon whose work the 1973 thriller "The Day of the Dolphin" is based]. The usual crossword MERLEs are actress Merle Oberon and country singer Merle Haggard.
• 39A. [Container for folding scissors] is either a newish or very old clue for the good ol' ETUI. I have taken to calling the little zippered case inside my purse an ETUI. I don't have any sewing gear in it, but you can find a nail file and narcotics.
• 53A. DAMASCUS is the capital of Syria as well as the [Destination of Saul when he had his conversion, in the Bible].
• 60A. AT EYE LEVEL is clued as [Neither high nor low].
• 61A. What? The APSE isn't clued as a recess in a cathedral? Why, I hardly recognized it in [Half-dome construction].
• 2D. I don't care for anything labeled [Swiss cheese]. Does TILSIT taste like holey Swiss cheese?
• 11D. CASE FILE doesn't feel so familiar to me. It's a [Detective's work record].
• 36D. AERO gets a new clue, [Britain's Royal ___ Club, for plane enthusiasts]. Never heard of it, though the AERO part is rather inferrable.
• 54D. [100-lb. units] are hundredweights, abbreviated as CWTS. I know this strictly from crosswords. Not sure if the plural is kosher.

In the Department of Cute Clues, we've got these:

• 16A. The clue [Sounds heard in a bowl] has nothing to do with toilet bowls. They're the RAHS heard in a stadium/arena type of bowl.
• 13D, 55D. Well, if a [Snake's warning] is the hissing SSS, then a [Bear's warning] must be GRRR, right? Naw. It's SELL, as in a Wall Street bear.
• 41A. GAVEL is [Something a chair may hold]. I realize there are traditionalists who cannot abide "chair" being used to refer to a gender-neutral chairperson, but those traditionalists are probably best advised to get a grip.
• 3D. The magician's [Cry just before a rabbit appears?] is PRESTO.
• 4D. [Dwells in the past?] clues LIVETH.
• 8D. Honestly, I don't know anything about the [Red-spotted ___] NEWT, but it felt so right that it pushed CATAMARANS out of my grid. Look how cute!
• 52D. SPELT is a grain of some sort, isn't it? It's also the British past tense of "spell," so the clue is [Like L-O-N-D-O-N].

Updated Thursday morning:

Jack McInturff's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme, which contains two 14s, two 10s, and a 15 (63 squares in all, a fairly substantial theme), is explained by 58A: WHAT'S THE SPREAD, or a [Bettor's question, and a hint to this puzzle's theme]. The other four themers begin with various edible spreads:

• 16A. MUSTARD PLASTER is an [Old-fashioned remedy for chest colds].
• 26A. [Rochester medical center] is the famous MAYO CLINIC. Did you read that recent(ish) New Yorker article about health care overspending in McAllen, Texas? Atul Gawande wrote about the fabulously efficient methods used for patient care at Mayo. The doctors have much less chance of making a fortune, but the quality of care is phenomenal and the costs are kept in line. More Mayo, please.
• 36A. JELLY ROLL MORTON was the '20s New Orleans Jazz musician clued as ["Black Bottom Stomp" jazz pianist].
• 43A. BUTTERBEAN is a [Lima variety]. I'm not one for lima beans, but I was eating buttered toast before sunrise this morning. Yum, butter.

Shiniest entry in the fill: PAGLIACCI, the [1892 Leoncavallo opera]. Funniest clue: [He "used to be the next president"], for Al GORE.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Liquidity"

Ben's puzzle this week partners up well with today's LAT, as both puzzles have some messy stuff. In Ben's theme, phrases that contain solid substances are edited to include a liquid phase of that those substances:

• 17A, 21A. What's liquid rock? It's lava. So Rock, Paper, Scissors turns into LAVA, PAPER, / SCISSORS is a [totally unfair twist on a random selection game]. It mystifies me that there are Rock, Paper, Scissors tournaments. Why not have coin-toss tournaments? Or really, juice things up a bit with molten lava, which both combusts the paper and melts the scissors.
• 37A. Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, melts into GREASE TUESDAY, a [Midweek occasion for catching a Broadway revival?].
• 56A, 61A. ["Verily shall Evian be here soon"?] clues THE WATER / MAN COMETH, with ice turning to water.

And now, the highlight reel. I loved the surprise of 28A. Seven letters, starting with M, [Late singer Jackson with multiple Grammys]...what else could it be but MICHAEL? Well, there's also MAHALIA Jackson. 47A CARL'S JR. is the odd name of a [West Coast burger chain] and a cool crossword answer. The clue for 3D, NEVAEH, is written with the words in the correct order, but with each word spelled backwards: [ybaB eman taht yltnecer emaceb yrev ralupop, yllaicepse htiw lacilegnave snaitsirhC], or Baby name that recently became very popular, especially with evangelical Christians. And no, Lleh has not caught on yet. Isn't it mean to give a kid a name that's the opposite of Heaven? [Like Beethoven and Rush Limbaugh] clues DEAF at 4D. The lively PUH-LEASE at 18D is clued ["You think I'm gonna swallow that?"]. 31D is a CASTRATO, or [Male singer for whom the Italians used to go nuts]. Actually, "for whom the nuts used to go missing" works too. 37D GOT THE AX is a solid phrase; [Was victim to some rightsizing] feels a little retro as a clue because these days, nobody's daring to call it "rightsizing," are they?

Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Confidentially Speaking"—Janie's review

Come close because I have to say this very quietly: Paula has given us a perfectly wonderful puzzle, but it's filled with—sshh!—unmentionables. The first word of each of the four (lively) theme phrases relates to the idea of confidentiality, and all but the first phrase seem to be making their first appearances in a CS puzzle. Because I gotta, I'll now break the confidence and reveal the phrases in question:

  • 17A. INTIMATE APPAREL [Thongs and things]. Saucy clue, too.
  • 26A. SECRET ADMIRER [Sender of an anonymous valentine, perhaps].
  • 44A. PRIVATE SCHOOL [Many an academy]. This is the only fill that feels a tad out of sync. The others may or may not be visible to the eye (or known) and in that sense, actually relate to the idea of secrecy. But there's nothing hidden about a private school. The public may not be allowed in, but the building is there for all to see. The others, too, are related by involving human beings. Even those inanimate [Thongs and things] are worn by someone. I love the word private in the context of the puzzle, just not school so much. "Private Dancer" perhaps? Of course this involves a major re-write, but (as I see it) is more "of a kind" with the other entries.
  • 58A. PERSONAL HYGIENE [Practices performed for one's health and well-being]. And practice makes perfect!
I found this to be a smooth 'n' easy solve and also found much to admire along the way with connected clues/fill. A [Meter master], for example is a POET, and one of the great ones in the English language is Shakespeare. The [Middle of a Shakespearian play] (so many of which are written in iambic pentameter)? ACT III, of course. And to complete Acts IV and V, I imagine even the Bard of Avon occasionally had to call on ERATO [Muse of bards]. Like most writers, Bill no doubt preferred it when his players would READ his words [Follow a script] and may have said, "I cringe at the AD LIBS of the player who [Skips the script]." Actually, he had Hamlet say something about delivery in ACT III, ii, when he instructs the travelling actors to:
Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you—trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I has as lief the town-crier had spoke my lines.
I'm not sure if there was a CAMEO [Bit part for a big player] in that theatrical entertainment staged at Elsinore...

There's the European connection, from the [Twelve months in Toulouse] for ANNÉE, to [River through Florence] for ARNO, to [Neighbor of Montenegro] for SERBIA. And a (probably inadvertent) baseball connection in the crossing of HURL [What pitchers do] and ["Three strikes and you're out," e.g.] for RULE. (And what a polite clue for HURL, no? Also, it took me a while to realize that the pitchers in the clue were not ewers...) I also have to express my delight in seeing ["There's] NO 'I' [in team"] right next to [Bit of wisdom] ADAGE.

A few more mentions, and then I'm gone:
  • ["Atonement" author McEwan] for IAN reminded me that, while I've not read this book (did see the film), I did read (and recommend) Saturday a slender volume about a harrowing day in the life of a London surgeon and his family. It sneaks up and packs a wallop.
  • [Cut in a column] for EDIT. I had trouble with this one because I wouldn't let go of the idea of architectural columns.
  • [Quiet moment for a nanny] for NAP-TIME. Love the clue, love the fill.
  • [Michigan city mentioned in Paul Simon's "America"] for SAGINAW. For reasons I'll never know, that's the song that was going through my head for much of the last two days. Maybe because Paul Simon was on Jimmy Fallon's show recently? Anyway, I was glad to encounter it directly in the puzzle!