August 09, 2009

Monday, 8/10

BEQ 5:14
CS 12...(J—paper)/4:32 (A—Across Lite)
NYT 2:54
LAT 2:47

Paula Gamache's New York Times crossword

Paula comes up with a substantial set of theme entries for a Monday puzzle—a HANDSET of theme answers, in fact. 27D: HANDSET is clued as a [Phone part...or a title for this puzzle?], and the other four thematic entries begin with hand parts:

  • 17A. PALM READER is an [Examiner of heart and life lines]. A couple blocks from me, there's a "professional building" adjacent to a hospital. They haven't had much luck filling the building with tenants, and one corner suite is occupied by a palm reader, fortune teller, psychic, or what-have-you. The fringe decorating the windows is very non-doctor's-office.
  • 56A. NAIL POLISH is a [Small bottle in a purse]. My polish is purple, but only on the toes. My son picked out the color for me.
  • 10D. A [Slow pitch with a little spin] is a KNUCKLE BALL.
  • 25D. [Messy art medium for kids] is FINGER PAINT. I loved finger paint as a kid, but as a parent? I don't want the cleanup.

Raise your hand if you did the non-Monday thing of waiting for the crossings to reveal 42A for you—that's the [Tableware inspired by Scandinavian design] called DANSK.

Highlights in the fill include a [Partitioned-off work space], or CUBICLE. With only the third letter blank, I wanted this to be CUTICLE and tie in with the HANDSET theme. Two intersecting two-word terms work well together: a PEN PAL is [Someone from whom you might collect exotic stamps] and a PEG LEG is a [Pirate support, stereotypically]. [Louis Armstrong's instrument] is the TRUMPET, which is what my brother-in-law plays. And then there's VLAD! He was the [Prince called "the Impaler," who was the inspiration for Dracula].

Seeing the CADET, or [Student at the Citadel], so soon after the ETS, or [Beings from out of this world, in brief], makes me contemplate a theme with a CAD ET who isn't as sweet as Spielberg's E.T.

Updated Monday morning:

Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Support Group"—Janie's review

On Saturday, Hmm... opined that s/he hoped the CS puzzles "...especially the Friday/Saturday ones become a little more difficult." Based on his solving times, Gareth posited that "except for Sunday they were all the same [level of] difficulty, more or less." And this is so. A week's worth of NYT or LAT puzzles gets trickier/more difficult on a daily basis. But the CS puzzles have a Tuesday vibe, with the occasional Monday or Wednesday appearing along the way. The Sunday Challenge gives solvers a crack at a themeless—and rewards them on occasion with a construction as beautiful as yesterday's by Martin Ashwood-Smith.

So when Monday rolls around, regular NYT and LAT solvers figure they've got it made, keeping relatively low the expectation of a "real" challenge. If you're not going for speed, this is a good time to use only the acrosses or only the downs to solve. Regular CS solvers are sometimes thrown a curve, however, and get a "Wednesday" instead. That's what happened today—judging by this solver's time anyway. When the "Bob Klahn" byline appears, tricky clues prevail—and they always slow me down, no matter how "easy" the theme.

Today's "Support Group" gives us four phrases and names whose last word may be paired with the word support. In this way:
  • 17A. [Flatfish dish] FILET OF SOLE gives us sole support.
  • 27A. ["Survivor" singers] DESTINY'S CHILD leads to child support. While I do know who Beyoncé Knowles is (as a soloist and actor), can't say I've ever heard (or could name a song by...) Destiny's Child.
  • 44A. [Difficult individual] TOUGH CUSTOMER becomes customer support. Before I saw that the correct fill required 13 letters, I was all set to enter TOUGH COOKIE... So, tell me—when computer users in Asia call customer support, do you suppose they reach reps in Omaha?
  • 59A. [Sammy Davis Jr,'s 1959 "Porgy and Bess" role] SPORTIN' LIFE produces life support. Porgy and Bess was written by those Gershwin boys (George and Ira) in collaboration with DuBose Heyward, and goes back to 1935—the same basic era as the Eddie Lange, Will Hudson and Irving Mills standard MOON GLOW [Hit for both Benny Goodman and Ethel Waters] and Cole Porter's ["You'd Be] SO NICE [to Come Home to"].
Sticking points? One or four. Besides Destiny's Child:
  • Parsing [Not taken seriously?] for UNWED.
  • Opting for AVOW instead of AVER for [Swear up and down], hoping I'd find some kind of SNOW where ICE WATER [Slush essentially] lives.
  • Weighing the merits of DIH v. DIT for [SOS beginning].
  • Understanding the MAT/[Pin cushion?] connection. I'm guessin it's that a MAT under one's pins (slang for legs) cushions them from the shocks/pressures of walking on a hard surface. Was grateful for the crosses, which let me get past this one. Did like though how it was balanced by [Paw cushion] for PAD.
The witty cluing that's a Klahn trademark is here today in such examples as: the way [High up] for ALOFT is followed by [Pick up] for GAIN; [Bit of a whirl] for EDDY; [Brogue or brogan] for SHOE; [Locks without keys] for HAIR; [Italian cheese burg] for PARMA (my personal fave); and [Craving for kisses?] for SWEET TOOTH. Those'd be Hershey's Kisses, of course.

Fill I was happiest to see? PATOIS [Local lingo]. It's just a great word.

And what am I overlooking? Oh, yes. The bonus fill for the titular "support group"—offering its own brand of "group support"—our [Bosom companion?]: the BRA!!

Billie Truitt's Los Angeles Times crossword

I'm covering for Rex Parker today at L.A. Crossword Confidential so I'll adapt that post here. The theme could be called Fuss and Feathers": three "f___ and f___" phrases, not including fuss and feathers, make up the theme. Simple and straightforward for a Monday, with plenty of Monday-friendly clues and fill. The theme answers are:
  • 20A: "American Idol" contestant's dream (FAME AND FORTUNE).
  • 37A: Hard data (FACTS AND FIGURES). not an inherently exciting phrase.
  • 52A: Like a movie auto chase scene (FAST AND FURIOUS). That's also the title of the latest sequel to The Fast and the Furious. The earlier sequel was, if memory serves, 2 Fast 2 Furious. I'm holding out for a fourth installment called Fast and Fourious. Who's with me?
And now, a smattering of my favorite answers and their clues:
  • 39D: "Ah, that explains it!" ("NO WONDER!"). Now, that is a terrific crossword answer. When the clue is a spoken phrase in quotation marks, the answer typically is, too, and it may or may not contain more than one word. See also 45D: "This I gotta hear!" ("DO TELL!").
  • 9A: Pirate's chum (MATEY). Talk Like a Pirate Day is coming up next month, and I could really do without a day when people write things on the Internet in faux piratespeak. But I did enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
  • 8D: Mislead deliberately (THROW OFF). Yes, sometimes crossword constructors and editors craft clues to deliberately mislead us and THROW us OFF the path to the right answer.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Monday"

Brendan's hobby is working interesting new words and phrases into his puzzles. Here are some of today's fresh-looking answers:
  • [Documentarian of some fall highlights] clues NFL FILMS. Seven consonants + one vowel = cool.
  • "SIGN HERE" are [Words near a blank].
  • [Mortgage restriction] is RATE CAP. Kinda boring, but familiar enough.
  • JULIE AND JULIA is a new [2009 film about a food blogger]. Current pop culture with Streepian cred, plus it has two Js. Good stuff.
  • MARSUPIA is the plural of marsupium, a word I did not know existed. Marsupials, sure. It's a "pouch that protects eggs, offspring, or reproductive structures, esp. the pouch of a female marsupial mammal," or just [Some pouches].
  • CSI: NY is the [TV show whose theme song is "Baba O'Riley"]. Have we seen CSINY in the grid before, or just CSI?
  • [Show reverence] clues DO HOMAGE. Do? It Googles up OK, but "pay homage" is a good bit more common.
  • JOE BIDEN is the [Politician who said "We have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt"].