August 13, 2009

Friday, 8/14

NYT 6:29
BEQ 5:35
LAT 5:22
CS untimed—J (worked the Downs)
WSJ 9ish minutes

Barry Silk's New York Times crossword

I'm beat after an 8-hour Brookfield Zoo outing, so I'm going to keep this short. The closest thing to a crosswordese animal I saw was the INCA TERN. Two for the price of one!

I love themeless puzzles with stacks of 9- to 11-letter answers in all four corners, and Barry's stacked 10s fit the bill perfectly because so many of those entries are ridiculously fresh and lively. The marquee answer is CRAIGSLIST right there at 1-Across, clued as [Alternative to newspaper classifieds]. Other entries I liked nearly as much as 1-Across:

  • PRIZE FIGHT is [A bout to remember?].
  • AUNTIE MAME is the [Play for which Peggy Cass won a Tony in 1957]. The clue was of no help to me, and I've got no fondness for the play (which I've never seen), but that is one great crossword answer.
  • ADAM'S APPLE gets a rather gross clue: [It goes up and down at dinner]. Only in men.
  • [It has things you want] clues WISH LIST. Man, my birthday's coming right up. I should've updated my Amazon wish list. Though that really doesn't work for puzzle books—if I want it, I get it for myself as soon as it's available. If I don't snarf it up right away, then...I don't really need it at all.
  • WOODSY is a great word. Clued as [Like the smell of fresh pine]. Who was Woodsy Owl in the '70s? Was that the ecology mascot or the Tootsie Pop spokesowl?
  • [Bun alternative] had me thinking of hairstyles. Nope, it's bread products: PITA. I gotta check out the new pita-centric restaurant in my neighborhood: Falafill.

I would be remiss not to remark on ORANGE PEEL, or [Curacao ingredient]. On that note, Orange signing off for the night—

Updated Friday morning:

Good thing Janie covers the CrosSynergy puzzle—there's one puzzle that'll be spared my foul mood. The other puzzles will have to be phenomenal for me to overlook the fact that my foot hurts again. After my foot was messed up for four weeks in July, I only made it to mid-August before it flared up again. No fair! It's my birthday tomorrow! So I plan to scowl my way through the crosswords this morning.

Tony Orbach's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Trade Names"—Janie's review

In case there was any question in your mind, that trade in the title is an adjective and not a verb -- so there's no swapping out or switching around of names. Instead Tony clues the names of five well-known folks, each of whom has a last name that also specifies an occupation. All but the first sound like something that might go back to the days of medieval guilds (and all but the last look to be making a first-time appearance in the puzzles). "What guild are you with, James?" "Why, I'm a mason..." Who's in Tony's union hall? Clued by their real occupations, there's:
  • 17A. TIKI BARBER [Former Giant running back].
  • 24A. GLENN MILLER ["Moonlight Serenade" bandleader].
  • 36A. JOHN CARPENTER ["Halloween" director]. On himself: "In France, I'm an auteur; in Germany, a filmmaker; in Britain; a genre film director; and, in the USA, a bum." You be the judge.
  • 51A. CHRIS COOPER [2003 Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actor for "Adaptation"]. (He is such a good, quietly-nuanced actor!!)
  • 60A. ANITA BAKER ["Sweet Love" singer]. In no small way, I suspect ETTA [Blues singer James] paved the way for her.
I like the triple sixes in the NW and SE HUGELY -- the misdirection in [Drives home] for BATS IN, the dulcet ARIOSO, the K-studded GO-KART and THE KID. Anyone who YEARNS for more fine fill -- NO PROB. In rotational symmetry to one another, we get LOVE LIFE, with its kinda tricky clue [Dating status], and CS first-timer OVERKILL.

If you find that doing the puzzles keeps you too sedentary, go for a SWIM, go to the ice rink and try to emulate [Hockey legend] Bobby ORR, play some B-BALL, grab your ICE AXE and go cliff climbing. What? That makes you ACHE just thinking about it? Relax. Grab the EDY'S from the freezer and have a nice dish of ice cream!

FWIW, I find [An old flame's pasttime?] not so easily understood for ARSON. It's "cute," but feels like a bit of a stretch. More to my liking is [Last of the Greeks] for OMEGA (i.e., last letter of the Greek alphabet) and [Keys place (abbr.)] for FLA. I also like the way NOT A BIT [None whatsoever] sits atop [Two bits is 25 of these] for CENTS.

Once again, I'm untimed as I solved this (mostly) using one set of clues -- this time, the "downs," and really with much better success than yesterday's attempt. Most serious mistakes came from entering JAN for DEC [Winter mo.] and JIBE for JOSH. (I know, I know... "There's no one named Neris Cooper," she MOANED... but JIVE and ABE [sans clues] looked viable...) A little EMPATHY here is much appreciated!

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

At 51-Down, NO WAY is clued ["Forget it!" (and a clue to this puzzle's theme)]. The other seven (!) theme answers (19-, 21-, 29-, 38-, 44-, 57-, and 59-Across) are phrases with NO WAY because the WAY has been cut out. For example, RUN MODEL is made from runway model and is clued [Embodiment of a footrace?]. I dunno—the theme entries in this wide 16x15 grid didn't do it for me. They feel stilted.

Rex Parker will have more shortly at L.A. Crossword Confidential. (Edited to add: Here's the link to the post. Don't miss Rex's disquisition on the balance between thematic ambitiousness and marginal fill.)

Liz Gorski's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Scaling Down"

Beautiful theme from Ms. Gorski today—each of the eight theme entries is altered by the addition of DO, RE, MI, FA, SOL, LA, TI, and DO. Sometimes they're added to the beginning of the base phrase and sometimes to the end—but the notes appear in symmetrical spots in the grid. You can always count on Liz for spatial/visual elegance like that. The non-theme fill is smooth, too. Here's the set of theme entries, which have clues that tie together the base phrase and the theme answer:
  • 23A. [Trusted Webmaster?] is a DOMAIN MAN, joining DO to the lively "main man." Dave Sullivan is my DOMAIN MAN.
  • 34A. [Official laptop computer of a San Diego pro?] is a THINKPADRE, as in the IBM ThinkPad + RE and the San Diego Padres of baseball.
  • 53A. Sal Mineo and neoliberals join forces for MINEO-LIBERALS, or [Progressive acolytes of a "Giant" actor?].
  • 60A. [With "And," a Perry Como hit favored by couch potatoes?] clues I LOVE YOU, SOFA. Ha!
  • 73A. SOLO PIONEERS is the [Willa Cather story about single trailblazers?].
  • 80A. [Elvis's plea in "101 Dalmatians"?] is DON'T BE CRUELLA. Who doesn't love to hate Cruella DeVille?
  • 98A. TI + tan lines = TITAN LINES, or [What Tennessee gridders get after a day at the beach?].
  • 115A. [High-fiber bowlful endorsed by "The Godfather" actor?] is ALL-BRANDO. Yum!

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Swinging Party"

The theme is differents "Swingers": TIGER WOODS swings a golf club. TARZAN THE / APE / MAN swings from vines. A LINDY HOPPER just plain swings, as in swing dancing. A TRAPEZIST swings on...a trapeze. And a LUMBERJACK swings an axe. Solid theme; good use of different senses of "swing."

Highlights: [Destroys, as a hotel room] for TRASHES (and Brendan has no famous first-hand knowledge of anything like that, no, sir). [Something a "man" has that a "woman" doesn't] uses quotes to make the clue easier—it's the SHORT A sound that turns into a schwa with the WO-. Will SHORT A cut it as a euphemism for "penis"? I Trivia clue: ATTILA is the [Emperor who died on his wedding night].

Lowlight: Officially, the [Makeup of 21-Across], or an EM DASH, is not HYPHENS! Zut alors! It is not so hard to learn how to key in an em dash. On the Mac, it's shift-option-hyphen to make this: —. Back in the typewriter days, people rendered em dashes by typing two hyphens, but this is the 21st century. (Yes, I care about punctuation. That's my job.)