August 25, 2009

Wednesday, 8/26/09

Onion 5:08
NYT 3:26
LAT 3:15ish?
CS 9:41 (J—paper)
BEQ 3:21 (Downs only)

What's that date atop this post? Why, it's August 26, and you know what that means: It's Will Shortz's birthday! To celebrate, Andrea Carla Michaels crafted a fun crossword just for the occasion. You can download it in Across Lite or PDF form at the Crossword Fiend forum. Happy birthday, Will!

Gary Cee's New York Times crossword

This theme doesn't quite please me. Each theme entry is something that's requested with a "please" after it, but the first one seems out of place with the others:

  • 17A. CHOPSTICKS ["___, please" (diner's request)]? If you're not automatically given chopsticks, wouldn't you be more likely to ask your server, "May I get some chopsticks, please?" "Chopsticks, please" sounds awfully brusque to me.
  • 27A. ATTENTION ["___, please" (announcer's request)]—well, this one's perfect. It occurs to me that ATTENTION, PLEASE would be a kickass 15-letter answer. "May I have your ___" works, but it's OK without the more polite intro, too.
  • 36A. THE ENVELOPE ["___, please" (award presenter's request)]. I like this one.
  • 51A. ONE MOMENT ["___, please" (operator's request)]. You know what's the worst? When a recorded voice tells you this. You can't be too irked to be put on hold by a live person because it could be worse—you could be trapped in a voice-response tree.
  • 60A. Saving the jokey punch line for the end, we have TAKE MY WIFE ["___, please!" (Henny Youngman's request)], complete with an exclamation point.

Five quick hits (each of 'em a TWOFER, or [Get-one-free deal]:
  • Two blechy words: RETABLE is clued with [Postpone yet again] but luckily, my life does not bring me into contact with people who demand to RETABLE things. Right below this is an old-school crosswordese word, LAR, or [Roman household god]. Make a mental note of the latter—you may see it or its plural, LARES, on occasion.
  • Shakespeare! ACT III is [When Hamlet says "To be or not to be"], and ORSINO is the ["Twelfth Night" duke].
  • Wan Crossing of the Day Award: E.N.E. meets AN E. Why not an EYE for an AYE? Two real words beat out an abbrev and a partial.
  • Cool cross-referenced answer combo: SACRED / COW is [something not to criticize].
  • Two notable bling wearers: LIZ [Taylor who said "I do" eight times] is a couple words over from the POPE, [Wearer of a triple tiara].
Updated Wednesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Send a Letter to the Governor"—Janie's review

Ooh, we've got another really strong (well-conceived, well-made and lively) puzzle again today. Randy has taken the capital cities of three states and added a single letter to each, yielding new phrases of the humorous / amusing variety. The final theme-phrase at 64A pulls it all together: CAPITAL GAIN [Profit from a bond sale (and a hint to 17-, 27-, and 47-Across]. With the addition of an:
  • R at 17A, Baton Rouge (LA) becomes BART ON ROUGE [Commentary by Simpson lad about makeup?]. Simpson sister LISA is here by suggestion only. She's really clued as [Edelstein of "House"].
  • R at 27A, Little Rock (AR) becomes LITTLE FROCK [TEDDYTeddy?].
  • O at 47A, Providence (RI) becomes PROVIDE ONCE [Donate a single time?]
This is good stuff all. What else is good stuff? For starters, there's some clever cluing:
  • [In a way, in a way] gives us SORTA.
  • [One striving for change?] is not a politico-on-the-campaign-trail (like AL GORE, once...) but a BEGGAR.
  • The fresh and double-punned [A lode off one's mine?] yields the oft-seen ORE.
  • Sounding like a child's riddle, [A tree may be found in it] is SHOE.
  • Think "Tweety & Sylvester" and you'll understand why a [Bird watcher] is CAT.
  • Did you know that the [City formerly called Philadelphia] was AMMAN, Jordan? It was news to me and a nice piece o' trivia to boot!
  • And while we're in that part of the world, ditto the reference to [Rummikub piece] for TILE. Seems this game combines elements of rummy, chess, mah-jongg and dominoes. While its origins are in Palestine of the 1930s, by the late '70s it had become a best-seller here. Who knew?
  • We have a pair of [Finish] clues that yield END and STOP—and how nice that these words sit atop on another in the grid.
I'm fond of the colloquial phrases we find, too: the emphatic ["Yes] SIRREE [, Bob!"], the surprised (and slightly Brit) ["By] JOVE [!"] and the tentative "I'M NOT SURE" ["Search me"]. First fill on that last one was I DON'T KNOW. But not for long. Also started to take myself off the right track entering DE VITO for AIELLO [Danny of "Do the Right Thing"], but only got as far as the "DE," had a good laugh, then filled in the correct name. Not to be a SORE LOSER [Poor sport], but this penchant of mine to follow the wrong trail gives me DÉJÀ VU all over again. So to speak...

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

Cribbed from my L.A. Crossword Confidential post, where there's more:

THEME: "Court Business"—The middle entry, 33A, is both a verb phrase and a noun phrase; it's the noun that gets riffed on for the ends of the theme answers:
  • 17A: Exterior attractiveness, to a Realtor (CURB APPEAL). Don't like this clue? Then file an APPEAL with the Cruciverbal Court.
  • 20A: Beethoven's affliction (LOSS OF HEARING). The Cruciverbal Court will schedule a HEARING for your APPEAL next month.
  • 50A: Drug safety test (CLINICAL TRIAL). Are you ready to go to TRIAL now?
  • 55A: Replay feature (SLOW MOTION). Judges grant MOTIONs, do they not?
  • 33A: What chambers of commerce do, and this puzzle's title (COURT BUSINESS). This ties everything together, but who the heck ever says that the local chamber of commerce "courts business"? I'd sooner say they woo businesses in the plural. Granted, a theme is more ambitious with five long answers than with four, but I think I'd rather this one had gone with four longs and a short unifying answer, such as COURT in the bottom corner.

Unfortunate duplication I hadn't noticed last night: Paul LE MAT's first name is in his clue, and longtime L.A. Times editorial cartoonist PAUL CONRAD is in the grid. It's Paul Day! If your name is Paul, pick up an extra treat for yourself today.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Improper Puzzle"

Well, his blog post's title referenced "downs only solving" and the difficulty label was "easy," so I slid the Across/Down clues divider in Across Lite way up to the top, avoided looking at the highlighted clue atop the puzzle, and solved this puppy using only the Down clues. Between the easy cluing, the not-hard-to-get theme, and only one Across answer that wasn't 100% plausible, this was a perfect puzzle for skipping the Across clues. My only semi-trouble spot was not being 100% sure that [Celebrity chef Matsuhisa, or his restaurant] was NOBU given a TO*AT crossing at the B. The Across clue was totally clear, though: [Go ___ for (defend)].

Janie's been livening up her CrosSynergy solves by doing some of them with only the Down clues. If you're one of those people who tends to skip the Monday through Wednesday puzzles because they're not challenging enough (but you wouldn't mind spending more time on crosswords), consider working the Downs only for extra challenge. I do that with many of the standard crosswords in Games and World of Puzzles.

Matt Gaffney's Onion A.V. Club crossword

Matt drew his inspiration from the phrase "full of shit": Each theme entry has an embedded SHIT split across two or three words, and that hinted-at phrase means COMPLETELY LYING, or [Just making things up, or a synonym for a three-word phrase describing this puzzle's theme entries]. We've got WAVES HI TO, LET'S HIT THE ROAD, an ENGLISH-ITALIAN dictionary, and a SUSHI TRAY.

Among the tougher clues, or the more clever ones:
  • [Popsicle, across the pond] clues LOLLY ICE. I always thought it was an ice lolly. Can I get a ruling from our Commonwealth readers?
  • [Good or bad thing to catch, depending on the context]: CRABS!
  • [Chicago Manual of Style alternative] is the MLA style guide. I have the Chicago Manual.
  • [In need of repacking, as a bong] is CASHED. Okay, then.
  • [Metabolism molecule] was looking crazily implausible with an NOACI in it. Aha! Two words: AMINO ACID.
  • [Earlier than 1, initially] is BCE, as in "before the Common Era," as in dates before 1 A.D.
  • ["___ Mak'er" (Zeppelin title that's a transliteration of "Jamaica"] clues DYER. Wayne Dyer is sad not to be hailed in this clue.