July 08, 2009

Thursday, 7/9

LAT 3:46
NYT 3:35
CS 7:46 (J—paper)
Tausig (untimed)

I was just looking up the Hex Atlantic cryptics book on Amazon, and the first thing a haphazard Google delivered was their previous collection...along with this note:

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At first I thought Amazon's bots believed cryptics fans to be quite elderly, but then the crypt/cryptic connection hit.

What I was looking for was this book, The Atlantic Cryptic Crosswords from Sterling's Puzzlewright imprint. My copy arrived today, and I was delighted to see from the intro that this is old material. Sweet! I think it said the book contains Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's favorites from the 1986 to 1997 span of the Atlantic Monthly. Usually I prefer new-new-new puzzles, but I've done a bunch of the Atlantic puzzles from the last couple years so these ones are guaranteed to be new to me.

Buy this book! Do not be afraid. The intro outlines how cryptic clues work, so you can have a little coaching if you want it—and if you don't, just plunge right in and give your brain a gnarly workout. You know who else likes this book? Brendan Quigley, that's who. See? The movers and shakers in the crossword business recommend this book.

(If you're still too afraid of cryptics but like your crosswords challenging, you can't go wrong bending your brain with Patrick Berry's Puzzle Masterpieces, either.

Ashish Vengsarkar's New York Times crossword

Ahhh, that's more like it. This is just the sort of daily crossword I relish. A cool theme that expands the anagram concept into something bigger, plus fill and clues that sing.

Yes, I know some people don't cotton to anagrams, and I know some of the fill isn't as broadly accessible as in yesterday's puzzle—but hey, it's Thursday, and the fill is supposed to be harder.

So. The theme: the clues are all-caps, question-marked words. Anagram them, combine them with another word that could serve as a cryptic signal for anagramming, and marvel at the in-the-language phrases that result. To wit:

19A. [TROT?] is a TORT REFORM. By the way, I was working the first Hex puzzle in the book touted above just before I did Ashish's puzzle. Half the answers had to be anagrammed before going into the grid. Good practice for this puzzle.
52A. [GATES?] is a STAGE ADAPTATION of a sort.
56A. [HOSE?] is a SHOE REPAIR.

Twitter tells me that the nexus between 6A [Debra of "The Ten Commandments"] and 8D [First senator in space] has vexed some solvers. Nope, I don't know Debra PAGET—but I do know Senator Jake GARN. And why do I know that 58A CERN is the name of the [World's largest particle physics lab]? It might be from crosswords.

What were my favorite non-thematic parts of this puzzle? I liked the three-part common-cold action—40A [Cold shower?] is the RED NOSE that shows that you've got a cold. (Not crazy about the answer in isolation.) 42D [Cold response?] is a SNEEZE. And then a CASHEW is 1D [Snack item whose name suggests a 42-Down?]. Cute. When you're iller (!) than that, you may exhibit 10D [Lethargy], or TORPOR—I've mentioned before my fondness for the -or nouns/-id adjectives (stupor, rigor, turgid, horrid). PATROL CARS looks good in the grid; they're 6D [Cruisers]. Ditto for TENNIS PROS, or 30D [Racket makers?]. There's a tropical party in the lower right corner, with a MAI TAI (44D [Drink at Trader Vic's]) and ALOHAS (45D [Hello and goodbye]) with a MENSCH (46D [Good guy]). RICAN isn't such common fill—that's 39A [San Juan native, slangily]; I read something about Sonia Sotomayor that said she was "New York Rican," but I think they meant "Nuyorican," no? And MAM is cute—44A [Mother, in British dialect]. DONUT gets a cute clue: 38D [Coffee mate?]. Heck, there are two other question-marked clues I haven't even mentioned. The two-word partial A PIP is clued 55D ["You're ___, ya know that?": Archie Bunker]. And there's also a STASH, which is a 51D [Store that's hard to find].

Granted, this puzzle was nowhere near as challenging to construct as yesterday's NYT—but I had more fun with this one.

Updated Thursday morning:

Tony Orbach's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Getting a Foothold"—Janie's review

For the second day running, we have a gimmick that requires us to insert a two-letter abbreviation into a well-known phraseto most amusing effect. It actually took me the entire puzzle to figure out exactly what was going on, and then of course I responded with a resounding "doh!" Because for the second day running, there's no marker in the title to clue us in to the "abbreviation" component, which I like. One of things I actively admire in the CS puzzles is the titles—which are just cryptic enough to pique my interest and which don't completely tip the constructor's hand.

So today's two-letter abbreviation is ft. for foot and here's what Tony's done with it:

  • 17A. Lied under oath + ft = LIFTED UNDER OATH [Bench pressed on the witness stand?]. Ohand did I mention that we also get a series of NIFTY clues in the bargain as well? Because we do.
  • 23A. Say it ain't so + ft = SAY IT AIN'T SOFT [Hard rock fan's plea?]. While there are any number of X-rated clues that come to mind for this one, there's also the G-rated [Child's plaint about the ice cream after a blackout]... The original phrase (followed by "Joe") has long been associated with the Chicago White Sox scandal of 1919 and if you click on the link, you'll be able to read a 1960 American Heritage article about the scandal and the story of the phrase.
  • 50A. Lo and behold + ft = LOFT AND BEHOLD [Raise for inspection?]. Notice how LOFT rhymes with SOFT?
  • 60A. Shied away from + ft = SHIFTED AWAY FROM [Reversed gears?]. Notice now how SHIFTED rhymes with LIFTED? Nice tight construction here.
Other highlights in the fill include: SEE STARS; the (apparent CS-debut) pairing of DR. JEKYLL and (Mme. Sec'y.) MADELEINE (Albright); the rhyming pair (which also appear opposite each other in the grid) of CS first-timer SPOOFED and "I GOOFED!"; the weaponry pair: ARMS and SMART BOMB; and the reminder that the "eyes" have it: UVEA [Eye layer] and RODS [___ and cones (eye parts)].

I hope no one SWOONED to see that this puzzle contains a major movie spoiler. Yes, [Kane's dying word in "Citizen Kane"] is ROSEBUD. Going from the sublime to, well, the uh, less sublime, other large screen references are to be found in "MARS [___ Attacks!" (1996 Tim Burton movie)], "PEE [___-wee's Big Adventure"], everybody's favorite movie lab-assistant IGOR, and in stars MAE [West of "My Little Chickadee"] and the (sadly) over-exposed LOHAN, [Actress Lindsay of "Freaky Friday"]. The small screen gets its due, too, with mention of ERICA ["All My Children" vixen], OPRAH [First name in talk TV] and ["Two and Half ___] MEN." The clue for KOREA, ["M*A*S*H" setting], belongs to both.

Loved seeing CAL [Ripken of the Orioles], PFFT [Sound of something going kaput], and DIAL clued as [Use a rotary phone]. "Does anyone still..." use a rotary phone?

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

I'm having trouble getting back into the crossword swing of things. My IHOP breakfast today was too satisfying and I'd really like to lie down for a bit. But I won't because I'm congenitally indisposed to being able to nap. So on with the puzzle! Dan's theme is realtors' euphemistic lies, trying to spin a piece-of-crap property as something more charming:

• 17A. [Realtor's "lavish landscaping"? Frankly, there are ___] WEEDS EVERYWHERE.
• 24A. [[Realtor's "charming"? Actually, it's ___] REALLY TINY. The most "charming" houses are less than 1,000 square feet.
• 35A. [Realtor's "expansive backyard"? Honestly, there's ___] NO POOL OR SPA. This must be a California/Florida sort of thing. You don't really expect a pool in the Midwest.
• 45A. [Realtor's "needs TLC"? Candidly, ___] IT'S A PIGSTY. A mere coat of paint will not help much here.
• 53A. [Realtor's "quiet setting"? Truthfully, it's ___] IN THE BOONIES. Yeah, I'll have to pass on that. I like city life.

Most of these theme entries aren't stand-alone sentences, but I could envision someone telling a friend about the horrible house they just saw and using these phrases without the "Frankly, there are..." intros.

More on today's puzzle from PuzzleGirl next door at L.A. Crossword Confidential. She really is the PuzzleGirl next door, isn't she?

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Boosting the Base"

That's "Boosting the Base," not "bass"—a higher pH turns something more base, less acidic. Each theme entry has an inserted PH:

• 17A. [Hybrid last name of Liz and Michael's kid?] might be PHAIR-JORDAN, building on the Air Jordan Nike brand name. Liz Phair and Michael Jordan, not Liz Taylor and Michael Jackson. You thought of them first too, didn't you?
• 29A. A one-night stand becomes a PHONE NIGHTSTAND, or a [Place to set your cell while you sleep?].
• 47A. [Pest working for the feds?] is a GOVERNMENT APHID (aid). Cute. I'm picturing a small green bug with Secret Service agent sunglasses and a dark suit.
• 59A. Deli meats are transformed into DELPHI MEATS, [Kebabs and souvlaki sold outside a noted historical site?].


• ASHTRAYS are [Rare sights in bars nowadays]. I saw a "free trivia" sign at a neighborhood bar the other day and my 9-year-old son said, "You don't need a trivia night. You'll come home smelling like cigarettes." And then he remembered that Illinois has a smoking ban. I'm of an age to remember when people smoked in bank waiting lines and the rear of an airplane, and if my kid were just a little younger, he'd have no idea that people could ever smoke in bars. (Whether my son benefits from knowing things about bars is another issue.)
• SAT PREP is a [Junior's course, perhaps]. At my high school, nobody ever thought to spend money studying for standardized tests. What is this, Amy's Nostalgia Tour?
• Gotta love a 1-Across like ORGASM, or [Peak moment]. It boldly announced right off the bat, "This is not your grandma's crossword puzzle."
• The ["Only You" band] is YAZ with Alison Moyet. I loved that song in college. That Z is one of three in this grid, which also has a Scrabbly J and an X.