July 01, 2009

Thursday, 7/2

NYT 6:13
Jonesin' 3:38
LAT 3:09
Tausig untimed
CS 6:08 (J―paper)

D'oh! Matt Jones tweeted me (@jonesinpuzzles) to ask where my writeup of his puzzle was. Yeah. I meant to do that yesterday, but completely forgot. Let's add it to Thursday's list of things to try not to forget!

Elizabeth Gorski's New York Times crossword

It's Thursday, and you know what that means—sometimes, not every week but some Thursdays, there's a rebus. Throw Ms. Gorski in the byline and it's practically a certainty. This time, there are four rebus squares in the central answer:

  • 34A. [Famous quote by 20-Across] is "{ROSE} IS A {ROSE} IS A {ROSE} IS A {ROSE}." Who is 20-Across?
  • 20A. [Pittsburgh-born poet who was the subject of a Picasso portrait] is GERTRUDE STEIN. Here's that painting and the interesting story behind it.
  • 50A. What's up with the rebus squares? They're a FLORAL DISPLAY, or [Colorful decoration hinted at by 34-Across].

I worked too many Longo vowelless crosswords before doing this puzzle tonight, and my brain wanted long answers with only the consonants showing. Between that, the rebus, and some wicked-hahd clues, you'd think it was Saturday or something. Sheesh! Here were my trouble spots:
  • 1A. LIST means [Not stay fully upright]. So do LEAN and TILT.
  • 10A. [Year the Chinese poet Li Po was born]? Come on! I'll take Roman numeral arithmetic over that kind of clue. It's DCCI, or 701.
  • 16A. [10 to 1, e.g.] is a ROUT if those numbers are points scored by two opposing players.
  • 30A. ELMS are [Raw materials for shipbuilding]. Is that really the lingo? Are the trees used for shipbuilding, or is it the wood?
  • 57A. HILO is a city in Hawaii, but it's also HI-LO, a [Kind of poker] I've never heard of. Bring me the stud. I have heard of the stud.
  • 59A, 53D. I like Lisa Kudrow but...["___ X" (2003 Lisa Kudrow film)] crossing [Mil. awards] damn near killed me. MARCI and DSCS. I took a stab at DSTS, even though DST as in daylight saving time is at 41A.
  • 60A. No! Really? ASIR? A [Province of Saudi Arabia]? Don't recall seeing that one ever.
  • 1D. LIEGES are [Subjects studied by medieval scholars?] in that lieges are the subjects of a lord. Strangely, liege can also mean the lord.
  • 11D. Never did read Julius Caesar, so I needed plenty of crossings to see that CORNELIA is the [Wife of Julius Caesar].

And now for the things I liked that didn't give me fits:
  • 39A. Albert CAMUS is the one [Who wrote "Can one be a saint if God does not exist?].
  • 55A. SHOE FETISH is clued by way of [Carrie Bradshaw had one in "Sex and the City"]. High heels, feh. Foot-mangling waste of money. Terrific entry, though. Can one have a SHOE FETISH for sensible shoes, like Merrell and Naot? Because one can never have too many pairs of those.
  • 61A. KOLN (Köln, really) is the German spelling of Cologne. It's a German cathedral city. Relieved to know this one, right on the heels of the MARCI and ASIR debacles.
  • 7D. TIME? [It may be on your side]. Are you singing that Rolling Stones song now?
  • 9D. [Twisted this clue's is] suggests mangled SYNTAX. Yoda! Is that you? Are you working for Will Shortz now?
  • 24D. AMB{ROSE} is clued as [Writer Bierce]. He wrote The Devil's Dictionary in 1911. The Barnes & Noble review of my book had given Bierce credit for a mock definition of "crossword," but the crossword was invented in 1913.
  • 27D, 46D. MO{ROSE} means [Gloomy], and EEYORE, a [Character in "Piglet's Big Movie," 2003] is a classic example of moroseness. (The other two rebuses are in {ROSE} RED, [Snow White's sister}, and {ROSE} UP, or [Was revolting].)
  • 44D. [Like Chopin] clues POLISH. Don't let the "Frederic" fool you.
Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "A Wrinklin' Time"―Janie's review

Playing off the title Madeleine L'Engle's science fiction/fantasy classic A Wrinkle in Time, Patrick's three theme-fill phrases each begin with a something that is associated with being, well, wrinkled.
  • 17A. [With "The," 1980 Anthony Hopkins film] gets us started with ELEPHANT MAN (which is also a play). Metaphorically speaking, wrinkles are sometimes known as "ripples of time." This guy is very well-rippled...
  • 37A. [1959 Broadway show with Sidney Poitier] yields A RAISIN IN THE SUN (which is also a movie). Yep. Raisins are mighty wrinkly, too.
  • 56A. [Fruity breakfast pastry] serves up PRUNE DANISH. No argument here.
The strength of this theme-fill is in the images it summons up―and the images for all three entries are perfection. Additionally, all three feel very fresh and (in the Cruciverb database-era [CDbE]) are appearing for the first time in a CS puzzle. Where I feel a bit let down is in the lack of consistency from phrase to phrase. Two are the titles of stage/film works; one is an edible. One of the former appears in the grid minus the article that's part of its title; the other appears in its entirety. Raisin and prune are both examples of dried fruits; the elephant...isn't.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed solving this one, and the quality of the non-theme fill/clues is first rate. For starters, there's the whole Asian/Pacific feel we get with: GEISHAS, GURUS, KRISHNA, SRI [...Lanka], ["Kama ___"] SUTRA, and even ["Pearly Shells" singer] DON HO. SEN-SEN [Classic breath freshener] sounds like it should be Asian, but there's nothing in its history to support that idea. What a nice aural complement it is, though, to YENS [Longings] and ESSENTIAL.

The top half of the puzzle is nicely scattered with high-scorin' Scrabble letters in such words as: JERSEY, OZONE, OLIVE, EXHIBITS and XEROX.

We're also treated to a series of lively phrases: HOME BASE clued not in conjunction with America's favorite pastime, but as [Headquarters]; CDbE CS-first SIDE BET [Secondary wager]; TRADE UP, ON SPEC and SANK IN. Something that has been cut IN TWO has been [Bisected, say]. Once cut, will the parts ever again be able to UNITE [Form an alliance]?

While I have no strong interest in GUNS, I do like that UZI is clued as an [Israel Weapons Industries product]. The specificity in the clue gives us a fresh take on now-standard fill. Ditto [Finnish steam bath] for SAUNA. Other geographic references can be found in [Costa] DEL [Sol], ELLIS [New York Harbor island] and [Eugene resident] OREGONIAN. Not only is this word absent from the C'verb database (and Jim Horne's), but in looking for images of prunes, I found a wonderful one of a fruit crate label for (really) Beaver Brand Fancy Evaporated Oregon Prunes. Gee I love it when everything comes together like this!

Pete Muller's Los Angeles Times crossword

The plumber's coming this morning so I figured I'd better clean the bathroom. No wonder I hate doing that—it wore me out and made me develop that crossword dyslexia in which I read entirely wrong clues and proceed to fill in errant answers. The first "INNER EAR" theme entry is the [1979 Sister Sledge hit] WE ARE FAMILY, but somehow I turned that space into 14-Across and tried to get [With 26-Across, city in southern Brazil]. RIODEJANEIRO doesn't fit at all and yet I tried typing that in.

So, anyway! The INNER EAR is the [Balance organ that's literally found in the answers to starred clues]—besides the Sister Sledge song (which I love), there's NOSE AROUND, ANNE ARCHER, THE ART OF WAR, and AREA RUGS. That two-part Brazilian city is PORTO / ALEGRE, and no, it wouldn't be fair to put that in a Monday puzzle. This one's Thursday, so it'll fly.

For more on this puzzle, check out PuzzleGirl's L.A. Crossword Confidential post. The Crosswordese 101 tutorial today is that [Inland Asian sea], the ARAL Sea, its assorted clues, and how it is not the URAL. I went to school with a kid named Ural.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle, "Additive Properties: You're giving me a headache"

The theme's not about math, it's about a common food additive that gives some people headaches. 67A is NO MSG, a [Dietary restriction that the long answers manage to disregard], and the five longest entries have an embedded MS G. (The 10-letter answerts COMICS PAGE and MELLO YELLO aren't part of the theme; they're merely fantastic entries.) Here's the theme:
  • 20A. Reversing a common clue for ENOS, we have [The Bible's Enos, relatively speaking?] as a clue for ADAM'S GRANDSON.
  • 24A. H.M.S. GREENWICH is a [British ship that shares its name with a New York "village"].
  • 36A. [Former name of the airport in Phoenix, Arizona] is WILLIAMS GATEWAY. Or WILLIAM'S? I like to think the new name is the more casual "Bill's Vacation Portal."
  • 44A. ALL SYSTEMS GO is the classic [NASA OK]. Look at that crazy all-caps clue.
  • 52A. ["I'm fine with it"] means SEEMS GOOD TO ME.
The most unusual answer is HARD CH, clued as [Feature of "Christmas" or "chimera"]. I'm pretty sure linguists would just call that something like a K sound. I see websites that call the CH in "chimichanga" a "hard CH," vs. a soft one "chemise."

Plumber's here—gotta go!

Updated Thursday afternoon—no, make that Thursday evening

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

What's going on in this puzzle is a K sound is inserted into four familiar phrases to make 'em into entirely different things spelled with a QUE:
  • 18A. BLACK BASQUE is clued as [African immigrant in the Pyrenees?]. I suspect there's a fish called the black bass.
  • 27A. [Dialing up an expensive shop?] is a BOUTIQUE CALL, riffing on "booty call." Nice!
  • 46A. I have a weakness for Auntie Anne's Pretzels, the cinnamon/sugar ones in particular. I once chose a flight that connected through Pittsburgh specifically because the Pittsburgh airport had Auntie Anne's. This was back in the '90s, before the chain invaded the Midwest. If you were on a flight from Pittsburgh to Chicago around 1996 and the smell of cinnamon was tormenting you, I apologize. Auntie Anne's with a K sound inserted becomes ANTIQUE ANNE'S, a [Mall kiosk with really stale pretzels].
  • 59A. I'd much rather eat sugared pretzels than wasabi peas, but that's just me. WASABI PIQUE might be an [Intense feeling from eating sushi?].
Now, who will swing by Water Tower Place to fetch me a cinnamon/sugar pretzel? I'm really hankering for one right now.

Favorite clues:
  • 24A. ARETHA is [Preacher and civil rights activist C.L. Franklin's daughter.
  • 41A. You say ["Ch-ch-ch-___"] and David Bowie sings "Changes." The TV commercials sell you CHIA Pets.
  • 55A. With those alternating consonants and vowels, ISABEL should find good use in crosswords. A currently famous one is [___ Toledo (designer of Michelle Obama's inauguration dress)].
  • 3D. [Dash alternative] sounds like...laundry detergent? No, a COLON—in punctuation. You know: <— one of those. 34D. To KNIT is to [Be a needle user?]. 54D. [Item manufactured in Blaine in "Waiting for Guffman"] is a STOOL. Gotta love the little touches of the ludicrous that Christopher Guest puts in his movies.
I didn't know BATU, the [Mongol ruler Khan descended from Genghis]. Do you think Genghis Khan was a cuddly grandpa? I'll bet he was.