August 30, 2009

Monday, 8/31/09

CS untimed (J)/4:08 (A)
BEQ 4:07
NYT 2:34
LAT 2:31

Fred Piscop's New York Times crossword

Quickly, because it's late:

The theme is phrases that begin with the sound-alikes FOUR, FOR, and FORE:

  • [Roger Bannister was the first] FOUR-MINUTE MILER. I wonder how long it takes Usain Bolt to run a mile. How long can he keep up his speed?
  • FOR OLD TIMES' SAKE means [How something may be done, nostalgically].
  • [Features of yawls and ketches] are FORE AND AFT SAILS. If that's an established phrase, it may well be only one among people who sail. Is this fair for a Monday puzzle? Nautical lingo = meh.

Overall, it's an easy puzzle with easy crossings for the crosswordese bits that less seasoned solvers may not consider gimmes—like SLOE [___ gin fizz]. And BARI, the [Italian port on the Adriatic]. And RARA [___ avis] ("rare bird" in Latin). And those [Fabrics with wavy patterns], MOIRES. Not to mention the [Drunkard] who is called a SOT primarily in crosswords these days. And if you don't do crosswords and haven't studied the Greek alphabet, do you know that PSI is the [Pitchfork-shaped Greek letter]?

Au courant pop culture clue: An ALIEN is a [Visitor in "District 9"], a movie in theaters now.

I was a little surprised to see "rise" in the clue for SHINE (["Rise and ___!"]) when AROSE is two words below SHINE. Did you know that both "arise" and "rise" date back to Old English? The dictionary wouldn't lie to me about that.

Updated Monday morning

Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Punning Rank"—Janie's review

Nuthin' like a puzzle from the mighty Klahn to get the juices flowin' so early in the week. Not surprisingly, this one is a veritable wordplay smorgasbord. There are five theme-phrases (61 squares), each of which is based on an in-the-language "double L" phrase. The gimmick is that those double Ls have been swapped out for double Ns. The result? As as the title suggests, there are some very amusing fabrications within. F'rinstance:
  • 18A. If you've ever seen (or ever been) a parachutist, you know that those first few moments after a jump has occurred (and before the parachute is opened) are spent free falling. But when the clue is [Welcome sign on a hot day?], you'll be treated here on the ground to FREE FANNING.
  • 23A. When you've donned-you-now all of your apparel ("gay" or otherwise...) you're fully-clothed. When you're [Dressed like a clown?], you're FUNNY-CLOTHED.
  • 37A. If you've suffered an upsetting experience and you've gone all to pieces, some well-meaning friend may suggest that you "collect yourself." The best [Survival advice for Mr. Potato Head?], however, suggests "CONNECT YOURSELF!"
  • 49A. There are "four calling birds" in the menagerie that makes up "The Twelve Days of Christmas." If you're [Pink-slipping pelicans?] or CANNING BIRDS, those guys don't even stand a chance!
  • 59A. This is the best. A bully pulpit is a great place from which to make your views known. A BUNNY PULPIT, on the other hand would be the place [Wherefrom visiting speaker Elmer Fudd bellowed "Pway faw a miwacoo, wabbits!"?]. For a good laugh, please utter that exhortation out loud. A few times.
The puzzle is also filled with great clues and non-theme fill. One of Bob's strengths as a constructor is to lace the grid with fresh fill and (by virtue of his cluing—which makes ya think) to put a fresh face on fill we've seen again and again. That's why I like:
  • The parallel construction in [One may be left in a lot] for CAR and [One may take in a lot] for TAILOR.
  • The visuals summoned up by [Basketball's three-point line, e.g.] for ARC and [Fuzzy buzzer] for BEE (and this is one seriously fuzzy one, folks!).
  • [Corn-y lines?] for ROWS.
  • The nod to the northwest with [The Beavers of the Pac-10] for OSU—Oregon State this time, not Ohio...
  • [Problems of the middle ages?] for SAGS (not Middle Ages and RATS or LICE...).
  • [Dinner Bell?] for TACO.
  • [Extra quarters, perhaps] for GUEST ROOMS (and not SPARE COINS...).
  • [Hand-y wayto communicate (abbr.)] for ASL (American Sign Language), and its next-door neighbor [3 to a cell?] for the DEF on your phone button.
  • The cryptic-like [Location that anagrams to Meg Ryan] for GERMANY.
  • [False front?] for PSEUDO- (as in pseudonym or pseudoscience).
I also like the phrases ALL BUT [Except] and ODDS ON [Most likely to win]. Had trouble seeing RE-SENTENCE [Give life on appeal?] in the grid as I kept mistaking it for RESENT-ENCE and I just couldn't figure out what that meant! And I know you'll be shocked! shocked! to learn this, but I'd never heard of [Master Kan portrayer Philip on "Kung Fu"] AHN. Of course the show only aired between 1972 and 1975 and he's been dead since 1978. Thank goodness for the crosses or there'd have been NO ENTRY there at all!

Norma Steinberg's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme's magic:
  • 17A, 35A, 52A. [Magician's deception] is the clue for three long answers: SMOKE AND MIRRORS, SLEIGHT OF HAND, and OPTICAL ILLUSION.
  • 27D. The magician might say ["Pick a ___, any..."] CARD.
  • 35D. A [Magic act, for one] is a SHOW. I would've considered CARD and SHOW to be mere bonus entries rather than part of the theme, but Steinberg placed them in symmetrical spots so I say that elevates them above the usual stray bonus entry.
Favorite non-theme clue: [Very brief briefs] for THONGS.

There's more on this puzzle from Rex Parker at L.A. Crossword Confidential. Excerpt:
A very solid Monday puzzle. Consistent theme, ultra-smooth fill. There's hardly a clunky entry in the whole damned grid. Very impressive (oh, one exception: PLU. 53D: Like "mice" and "men": Abbr. Icky). Smooth grids are difficult to achieve, and since they don't result in oohs and aahs, they rarely get the credit they deserve.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Happy Anniversary"

Why no "Themeless Monday" today? Brendan opted to release a "Happy Anniversary" puzzle on his first wedding anniversary. Congratulations, Brendan and {LIZ}! Yes, {LIZ} is the rebus square in this puzzle.

Not to crap all over a sweet anniversary puzzle, but: ORONO crossing ENATE, EELY crossing EYERS, ALEE above ESAU? 1985 called and it wants its favorite crossword answers back. ENATE, meaning [Related on Mom's side], is akin to AGNATE, which means "related on the father's side." Tyler Hinman once blogged about going to see his agnate grandparents and I couldn't help wondering how many of his readers thought he was related to people called Grandma and Grandpa Agnate.

The rebused answers begin with the [Jose Feliciano standard] FE{LIZ} NAVIDAD crossing BE{LIZ}E ([Its capital is Belmopan]). [Ketamine, informally] is referred to as a HORSE TRANQUI{LIZ}ER; this crosses REA{LIZ}E, or [Make concrete]. The third LIZ is in LOUNGE {LIZ}ARD, which is clued as [Gigolo], though a dictionary defines lounge lizard as "an idle person, usually a man, who spends time in lounges and nightclubs]. Are some lounge lizards also paid escorts? I haven't seen that sense of the term before. The rebus crossing is UTI{LIZ}ED, or [Employed].