August 22, 2009

Sunday, 8/23

LAT 10:30
BG 8:45
NYT 7:52
PI 7:22
CS 3:32

I went to a family party today, and one relative reported working on the syndicated Saturday NYT puzzle this morning. That was Joe Krozel's 7/18 puzzle, in which PRENATAL was clued with [Before coming out?] and [Star treks?] clued EGO TRIPS. She worked those ones out, I think, but was mightily vexed along the way and told her granddaughter that I'm one of those people who make these things and that she wanted to punch me in the eye! I assured her that the Saturday NYT is all about eye punching.

Phil Ruzbarsky's New York Times crossword, "E.U. Doings"

Not too many people begin their constructing career with the Sunday New York Times. This crossword's a letter-substitution theme in which a single E becomes a U (each theme phrase contains unchanged E's as well). My favorites: THE LITTLE RED HUN is clued as 114: [Story of a small Communist barbarian?], and THE UMPIRE STRIKES BACK is 77A: [Baseball official gets revenge?]. There are four other theme entries here.

Ten highlights:

  • 1D: [Bill collector?] clues a TIP JAR.
  • 20A: [Who said "No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough"]? That'd be Roger EBERT. His website at the Sun-Times features a section of his zero- to 1.5-star reviews of current movies, to point you towards the right sort of bad movie if that's what you're in the mood for. The man has a gift for writing about dreadful movies, he does.
  • 68A: A BEEFEATER is a [Yeoman of the British guard].
  • 94D: [Cane accompanier, maybe] stumped me for the longest time. It's a TOP HAT! Did Mr. Peanut accessorize with both? My husband, he uses neither.
  • 93D: WASABI is a [Mustardy condiment]. You can have my portion, okay?
  • 30D: MUUMUU is one sort of [Hawaiian attire]. You don't see many double U's in a crossword grid.
  • DISNEY MAGNET! DISNEY is 12D: [Miramax owner] and MAGNET is 30A: [Kind of school], and the two words are separated by a single black square. My kid goes to the gigantic Disney Magnet School in Chicago. There were 220 kids in his grade last year.
  • 79D: [Convenient meeting place?] is MIDWAY between two points.
  • 100D: [Gearshift mechanism, informally] is a TRANNY, short for transmission. Not clued with reference to transvestites.

A couple oddball things: 42D" [U.S. rebellion leader of 1842] is DORR. Who? What rebellion? The Dorr Rebellion, which led to Rhode Island expanding voting rights to white men who were not landowners—but still just to white men. Hmph. It's been a while, hasn't it, since we've seen the ORIEL, or 73A: [Cantilevered window]. Crosswordese of the highest order! 113A is [Pitcher Reynolds of the 1940s-'50s Yankees], a.k.a. ALLIE. Not a name I know.

Updated Sunday morning:

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer/L.A. Calendar puzzle, "Board Games (the Special Editions)"/"New Board Games"

The Los Angeles Times appears to be alternating constructors for the L.A. Calendar crossword: It had been Sylvia Bursztyn's bailiwick alone, but now she and Merl Reagle are taking turns. Merl's L.A. Times puzzle is the same one that he syndicates elsewhere. And this one is fun! Lots of amusing "aha" moments when the theme entries came together. Here's the theme:
  • 22A. [Board game where you might hear, "Colonel Ecru, with the riata, in the oda"?] is CROSSWORD CLUE. How brilliant is that? The game of Clue rendered in crosswordese to embody the familiar phrase CROSSWORD CLUE. The other theme entries redefine a familiar phrase as if it has to do with a board game, but don't have that extra crosswordese oomph.
  • 30A. [Board game that takes all week to play?] is LONG-TERM RISK. Wait, doesn't regular Risk take a week to play anyway?
  • 44A. [Board game where you have no car, no kids, no luck, and no money?] is UNEVENTFUL LIFE. The most disappointing part of the SpongeBob edition of Life is that you don't get to amass children and stick them in a car. I kinda miss buying insurance, too. I should get my kid the standard Life game.
  • 58A. VIRTUAL MONOPOLY is a [Board game that's playable online only?].
  • 74A. [Board game for kids that's actually painful to play?] is STING OPERATION.
  • 86A. Ha! [Board game played with no vowels?] is HARDSCRABBLE. I love this one and CROSSWORD CLUE the most.
  • 99A. Eww! [Just about the hardest (and least sanitary) game ever, unless you're an anteater?] is TONGUE TWISTER. Yeah, it's hard to plant your left foot on green, your right hand on yellow, and your tongue on blue.

Highlights outside the theme:
  • 21A. [Cleaner of locks?] is SHAMPOO. Aha!
  • 50A. [Holliday companion] is EARP. If your eyes are like mine, the double L looked like a single L and you didn't understand where this clue was pointing. Doc Holliday, not Thanksgiving holiday? D'oh.
  • Lots of short phrases show up in the fill. There's GO TO POT (56D: [Deteriorate]), LET ME IN (46D: ["Open up!"]), RUBS IT IN (73D: [Gloats]), THE FAUN (31D: [Part danced by Nijinsky in a Debussy classic]), and some preposition action with ORDER IN, TACK ON, and SPOKE TO all in the southwest corner.
  • 61A. MOSES gets a great clue: [One of Charlton's many sans-pants parts].
  • 75D. [TV's "little buddy"] is GILLIGAN.

Gary Steinmehl's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, "Changing Sides"

I'm pulling double duty today here and at L.A. Crossword Confidential, so I'm just gonna copy and paste and not bother changing the formatting to match this blog's prevailing style.

THEME: "Changing Sides"—In familiar "blank of the blank" phrases, the first and last words are flipped, changing the meaning

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Miners' detritus? (LITTER OF THE PICK). Picture an old-time gold miner with a pick and shovel. Miners did or do use picks to dig the good stuff out of rock.
  • 38A: High ground at Graceland? (HILL OF THE KING). Elvis!
  • 61A: Like an estate seller? (FREE OF THE LAND). As in a big country estate rather than the possessions left behind to someone's heirs (see below).
  • 85A: "Nova" episode about our sun? (SHOW OF THE STAR).
  • 103A: Heirs? (PEOPLE OF THE WILL). Maybe they'll split the proceeds when that estate is sold.
  • 15D: Manor owner's jewelry? (RINGS OF THE LORD). I bet he had a big estate. Wait, is this entire theme about Elvis? Did he enjoy mining and astronomy?
  • 48D: Moments when an omen appears? (TIMES OF THE SIGN).
I did this puzzle last night when I was drowsing off, so it took me a long time. I don't know if the puzzle's uncommonly hard or if my brain was just dialed down to 2. The theme doesn't do much for me—it's more fun when the mangled phrases present funny images, and miners' detritus and a manor owner's jewelry just don't give me the giggles.

For 15D, I had the ___ OF THE LORD part and couldn't for the life of me figure out the first word. MANOR OF THE LORD was a no-go because "manor" was in the clue and manor ≠ jewelry. Then I thought of FLIES OF THE LORD, and that had comedy potential but didn't fit the crossings. What other phrases could lend themselves to this sort of theme? MATTER OF THE HEART could have been clued as a love affair. CLASS OF THE HEAD? That's totally about potty training. I don't know what to do with FATHER OF THE SINS. Ooh! BRIDE OF THE MOTHER, when Heather has two mommies in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.

And now, a few of my favorite clues and answers:
  • 2D: Pearl of "St. Louis Woman" (BAILEY). I took a peek at the YouTube offerings for Pearl Bailey and this 1964 Tonight Show clip caught my eye. Usually the videos I embed have had hundreds of thousands of views—this one, only a few hundred. But it's a good one!
  • 62D: Ali's pair of socks? (ONE-TWO). Socks are boxing punches too, not just hosiery. This is the best clue I've ever seen for ONE-TWO.
  • 8D: Friend of Anthony (CATT). I thought this was about Marc Antony and randomly squeezed CATO in there, which conflicted with the crossing. It took me a night of sleeping on it to realize that wer're talking about suffragists here—Susan B. Anthony's friend was Carrie CATT.
  • 54D: Turkey tender (LIRAS). I wanted BASTER to fit into five squares, but it refused. But that's not what this clue is about at all. It's Turkey, the nation, and legal tender, the currency. You spend LIRAS in Ankara.
Henry Hook's Boston Globe crossword, "Drop Me a Note"

The title gave away the theme for me. When I had 1A: RAM from the crossings clued as [Mate of 121 Across], I filled in a EWE at 121A and got going on that corner. 116A: [Indecent Buddhism?] ending with ZEN...drop the last note in the scale, or DO...hey, DOZEN...hey, THE DIRTY DOZEN —> THE DIRTY ZEN. My migraine just returned, so I'm gonna go the quick-and-dirty route with the rest of this post. Henry's theme entries, dropping the notes from the scale in order:
  • 18A. Eminent domain – DO = EMINENT MAIN, or [Conspicuous conduit?]. Dull.
  • 23A. Final resting place – RE = FINAL STING PLACE, or [Last beehive?]. Less gruesome than pondering the last place someone's stung by a swarm of angry bees.
  • 49A. Make no mistake – MI = MAKE NO STAKE, or [Know when to fold 'em?] and place no bet. Awkward wording.
  • 62A. Spenser's Faerie Queene – FA = ERIE QUEENE, or [Ruler of ye olde canal?]. Gotta love a reference to Faerie Queene.
  • 65A. Solid citizens – SOL = ID CITIZENS, or [Pick locals out of a lineup?]. The original phrase seems not overwhelmingly in-the-language to me.
  • 82A. The Blue Lagoon – LA = THE BLUE GOON, or [Sad hoodlum?]. This one's terrific.
  • 111A. Split-second timing – TI = SPLIT-SECOND MING, or [Very precise dynasty of old?].
  • 116A. This is THE DIRTY ZEN. This one and THE BLUE GOON (which I keep trying to type as THE BLOO GOON) are the stars of the theme—along with the stacking in the grid of the first and last pairs of theme entries.
Updated Sunday afternoon

Whoops, I thought I was done blogging for the day. One more puzzle!

Martin Ashwood-Smith's themeless CrosSyergy "Sunday Challenge"

Super-nutty grid! It has 180° rotational symmetry as well as left/right and top/bottom symmetry, with a giant black-squares H in the middle. The triple-stacked 15s run down at the two sides rather than across the top and bottom. The whole thing's got 66 words, so there's a fairly low word count as well.

Toughest and/or most interesting bits: