September 19, 2009

Sunday, 9/20/09

PI 8:32
BG 8:10
NYT 7:26
LAT 6:22
CS 2:56

Hey, I'm closing in on 2,000 posts! This one is lucky #1,928.

My family spent the day in Evanston, shopping and walking and hanging out with friends. Would you believe we passed a store called Ort Resale? You don't see a ton of crosswordese in commercial use. Ollas "R" Us. Etuis, Etc. Oleo Olio Café.

Michael Ashley's New York Times crossword, "Closing Bell"

Hiding over at 43-Down is the NYSE, or New York Stock Exchange—a [Closing bell place: Abbr.]. Each of the seven longest answers has a "closing bell," or a DING tacked onto the end of a familiar phrase. My favorite of the theme entries is 88D: [Question from a campaign committee?], or "AIN'T WE GOT FUNDING?" Love it! Second favorite is the play on '60s TV bear Gentle Ben, which becomes GENTLE BENDING, or [Exercise for beginning yoga students]. In each theme answer, the +DING word is entirely unrelated to the original word, so you get a nice reorientation with each one.

It's late, so let me just round up a handful of favorite answers from the grid:

  • 48A: [Composer Thomas] ARNE is generally lackluster fill, but if you've seen a zillion ARNE clues that mention "Rule, Britannia," then you're all set to get 80A: [Subject for 48-Across], BRITANNIA. Gotta love it when crosswordese clues have a payoff. (Other cross-reference action: 4D: WRIT is a [Formal order] and nearby 6D: [Form of 4-Down] is SUBPOENA. There's also SACHA Baron Cohen and his ALI G character.)
  • 96A: Trivia! Did you know that SEGA was a [Company founded in 1940 as Standard Games]? I would've guessed the company began in the video game era.
  • 94D: ["M*A*S*H" corporal] is Jamie Farr's KLINGER.
  • 53D: INTO IT looked weird in the grid at first, but now I'm really INTO IT. Clued as [Really engrossed].
  • 91D: FELDSPAR is a [Mineral that crystallizes from magma]. So that Brendan Fraser movie about going to the center of the earth inside a volcano was spot on when his character found feldspar inside a volcanic tube. Was it accurate that the other characters were finding giant rubies, emeralds, and diamonds in the same area? I do not know.
Were there a lot of people's names in this puzzle? I feel like they're jumping out at me now, but I do like names in a puzzle so I wasn't as conscious of them as I went through the grid as someone who loathes name-heavy crosswords would be.

Updated Sunday afternoon:

I was out all day and evening yesterday, and then this morning too. Am late! Will do quick blogging and outsource where possible.

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "School Days" (also the L.A. Calendar puzzle this week)

Cute theme, with assorted classroom-related puns. Nine theme entries occupy about 130 squares, which feels like a lot and may account for a few compromises in the fill (RESTOLE, BESTUD, and the I-think-it's-little-known LACOMBE, Lucien). Overall, it's par for the Merl course. For more, see PuzzleGirl's post at L.A. Crossword Confidential.

Bonnie Gentry and Vic Fleming's syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, "Signs of Burnout"

Bonnie and Vic don't just co-construct the occasional crossword—they've also teamed up to edit the Random House Casual Crosswords series. Volume 7, the first under their leadership, just hit bookstores a few weeks ago. If you're fond of easy crosswords or need a gift for someone who does, check out Casual Crosswords.

So, Vic and Bonnie's L.A. Times puzzle is, like LATs of recent weeks, on the easy side. The theme is phrases with an embedded ASH joining two of the words in the phrase, which sounds like a really dry theme but the theme entries themselves have plenty of spark to them—in particular, TEXAS HOLD 'EM, HAVE A SHORT FUSE, BIG MOMMA'S HOUSE, MARIA SHRIVER, and HANG OUT A SHINGLE. Smooth fill overall. For more commentary on this crossword, I refer you to PuzzleGirl's post at our other blog.

Henry Hook's Boston Globe crossword, "Solvin' Time"

Happy (slightly belated) birthday to Henry Hook! (I didn't imagine that, right? Somebody commented on Friday that it was his birthday?)

The theme entries take phrases that end with an N sound and insert a schwa before the N to get an elided -in' verb ending. My favorite theme answer: John Wayne turns into JOHN WEIGHIN', or [Bathroom scale's purpose?].

A few oddball entries in the fill: DEPEW is a [Suburb of Buffalo] that I'd never heard of, UPDART ([Rise suddenly]) is unfamiliar, and I can't say I've thought about DEMIST ([Rid of condensation]) before. Favorite fill: CHIA PET ([The first one looked like a ram]); LA-Z-BOY ([Recliner name]); and ZILLION ([Ginormous amount]).

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge"

Aw, come on! Is it just me, or has the Sunday Challenge been markedly easier in recent months than it used to be? And the Saturday L.A. Times puzzles have been eased up, plus the New York Sun ceased publication about a year ago. The universe of "themeless puzzles that put up a fight" seems to keep shrinking. If the themeless Sunday puzzle takes less time than the themed ones the rest of the week, why the heck is it still called "Sunday Challenge"? Just change the name to "Easy Themeless" and be done with it. Truth in advertising!

All righty, then. What's in this crossword? Two triple stacks of 15s with a staggered stack of 11s in the middle. Mostly solid stuff, not a load of sparkle. I like the middle 11s best.