September 05, 2009

Sunday, 9/6/09

NYT 9:54
PI 7:52
BG 7:45
LAT 7:07
CS 3:30
NYT cryptic crossword 9:20

Robert Wolfe's New York Times crossword, "The Argonne"

The theme's not about the Argonne wood of WWI fame. Rather, each theme entry has an "R gone" from the last word. I found the theme somewhat vexing on account of the presence of undeleted Rs in earlier words in some theme answers and several unfamiliar base phrases. Here's how the theme plays out:

  • 24A. [Some skiing stars?] are CROSS COUNTRY ACES; RACES loses its R. Note the R remaining in COUNTRY; this may have led some solvers astray because COUNTY is also a word. When I think of cross country races, I think of distance running rather than Nordic skiing.
  • 114A. Wow, only two of the theme entries run Across. [Departure call from a Spanish vessel?] is a SHIP-TO-SHORE ADIOS; RADIOS dropped the R here, but I briefly contemplated making SHORE into SHOE.
  • 3D. [Word signed for a deaf toreador?] is a NON-SPEAKING OLÉ (role). That's cute.
  • 7D. [Fish in a firth?] clues SCOTTISH EEL (reel). You might think that this theme answer, like the others, is a nonsensical phrase, but the Internet tells us such things as this: "Many Scottish eel populations are very slow growing." Who knew?
  • 28D. [Reaching 21?] is BECOMING THE AGE. THE AGE of what? This one feels clunky rather than clever. I also like the rhythm of "becoming all the rage" better than "becoming the rage," though both are used.
  • 35D. [What an unevenly milked cow might have?] is a RIGHT FULL UDDER. This plays on "right full rudder," which is not a term of any currency for me. Never had a sailing class, never joined the Navy. (I can't help picturing editors Will Shortz and Stan Newman out on a boat in the brisk sea air, jaunty Captain and Tennille–style captain's caps and all.) The answer feels awkward because if you were referring to a particularly full udder on the right side, wouldn't you call it a "full right udder"?
  • 40D. [Camouflage?] might be a COMMANDO AID (raid).
  • 51D. [Mythical twin's bird tale?] is ROMULUS AND EMUS (Remus). That'd be a terrible name for a mythological tale. Maybe "Romulus and the Angry Emus."
  • 71D. [What the N.H.L.'s Hurricanes skate on?] could be CAROLINA ICE. Hang on, what's Carolina Rice? Is that Condoleezza's sister's name? Let me Google's a brand name of rice that I don't think I've ever seen in a Chicago grocery store. Have y'all heard of it?
There were some oddities in the fill. TUTORAGE isn't a common word at all, is it? It's clued as 4D: [Educational work after school], but that's more often called tutoring. The tall flower I know is the gladiolus, but apparently GLADIOLA is an "also:" spelling; here it's clued as 92D: [Relative of an iris]. The 13D: [Metrical accent] called an ICTUS is known to me only as a medical word for a seizure; I had no idea it had a literary application (I much preferred studying prose). TENTH DAY, or 90D: [Part of Christmas when lords a-leaping are given], felt contrived.

Favorite things:
  • 19A. [Jesus, for one] clues ALOU. The other famous Alous are Matty, Felipe, and ex-Cub Moises. Would you believe that with AL**, I was tempted to fill in ALER? There've gotta be at least a few Jesuses playing in the American League, but they're not usually referred to by first name alone.
  • Three UP answers may be too many, but they're all lively phrases. To 30A: [Importune, informally] is to HIT UP. FACE-UP is 16D: [Unlike the cards in a draw pile]. And if you want to WHIP UP a Carolina rice casserole, 88D: [Create quickly] is what you've got to do.
  • 96A. ["Shadowland" singer, 1988] is K.D. LANG, though she'd want that all in lowercase letters. I didn't start listening to her until after then, but I love the All You Can Eat album.

Clues I think people will be a-Googling:
  • 47A. [To whom Mortimer declares "They were the footprints of a gigantic hound!"] clues Katie HOLMES. No, wait: Sherlock HOLMES. Robert Downey, Jr., plays Holmes in a movie this fall...with martial arts. It's a safe bet to get better reviews that All About Steve.
  • 91A. [Brings with great difficulty] clues LUGS IN. I started with TUGS IN.
  • 97A. [The Charioteer constellation] is AURIGA.
  • 103A. ADANO is the [Fictional village visited by Major Joppolo] in A Bell for Adano.
  • 120A. The [Contents of a stannary mine] are TIN. Does toothpaste still have stannous fluoride in it? Gotta love the tinny goodness.
  • 5D, 10D. ["Wagon Train" network, 1957-62] was NBC, and ["Wagon Train" network, 1963-65] was ABC. Both before my time.
  • 36D. [Dentiform : tooth :: pyriform : ___] refers to a PEAR. No relation to the prefix pyro- (fire); apparently the 18th century folks who concocted a Latinate word misspelled pirum as pyrum. Did you know there's a piriformis muscle in your buttcheeks? It can irritate the sciatic nerve, meaning I know exactly where my right piriformis muscle is.
  • 81D. [Year the mathematician Pierre de Fermat was born], in Roman numerals, is MDCI. In Arabic numerals, that's 1601.

Updated late Saturday night:

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer (et al.) crossword, "Designers' Holiday"

The first theme entry in Merl's puzzle made me laugh because my husband can't get through a department store clothing department without saying "Ask Tommy; HILFIGER IT OUT." Merl's got that at 22A, with the clue [Confident words about a designer doing this puzzle?]. The remaining theme answers didn't entertain me as much as that first one. They are:
  • 32A. WE'RE PRADA YOU, or [Encouragement from a designer's parents?]. This puns on "We're proud of you."
  • 50/61A. [Comment to a mischievous designer?] is YOU'VE BEEN UP DIOR / OLD TRICKS AGAIN ("...up to your...").
  • 68/84A. [Comment about a designer's much-anticipated show?] is I'VE BEEN WAITING / VERSACE LONG TIME ("for such a long time").
  • 97A. LAUREN! BEHOLD! is an [Exclamation at a designer's show] ("lo and behold").
  • 114A. Merl bundles two designers together in PUCCI GUCCI KOO ("coochy coochy coo"), or [Words to a designer's baby?]. This is not to be confused with CHARO's "cuchi-cuchi"—she's clued as [An ex of Xavier] Cugat at 19A, and her ex is referenced in the next clue 20A, where MARACAS are [Cugat's shakers]. If a band had to include me, maracas are one of the few instruments with which I might acquit myself decently.
Tough nuts are scattered throughout the fill:
  • 35D. ORSINI is [Pope Nicholas III's family name]. I was confused as to why the name's Italian when Czar Nicholas was Russian...and then saw that the clue wasn't about czars at all.
  • 72D. I held off on choosing a C or K for the end of ICEPA*, or [Cooling pouch for perishables], but the answer turned out to be ICE PAD. Is that a thing?
  • 44A. ARCATA is a [College town near Eureka, Calif.]. What school? Humboldt State University. And yes, I had to Wikipediafy that.
  • 115D. [Hue: abbr.] is CLR., short for "color." I might've gone with the tough cleanser by that name. You know—the one that claims to work on calcium, lime, and rust deposits.
  • 70D. [If ___ (should circumstances warrant)] clued NEEDS BE. I'd used "if need be," with no S. This may be one of those phrases with regional differences in usage, per the Separated by a Common Language blog, with "if needs be" popping up more in the U.K., Australia...and Utah.
Pancho Harrison's syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword, "Great Direction"

This one's a centenary tribute puzzle to director ELIA KAZAN (123A: [Born 9/7/1909, he directed the answers to starred clues]). It's too bad that what is perhaps his most famous film, On the Waterfront, didn't find a home in this grid. I hadn't realized Kazan was a theatrical director as well as a movie director, but many of the theme entries are plays. Plays include ALL MY SONS, the 23A: [1947 Tony-winning Arthur Miller play]; two-entry DEATH OF A / SALESMAN, or 28A/113A: [1949 Tony-winning play starring Lee J. Cobb]; and A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, the 68A: [1947 Tennessee Williams play]. His films include 42A/45A: [1945 film based on a Betty Smith novel], A TREE GROWS / IN BROOKLYN; 94A: EAST OF EDEN, the [1955 film based on a Steinbeck novel]; 97A: VIVA ZAPATA, the [1952 biopic starring Marlon Brando]; 103A: CATWOMAN, the [2004 movie starring Halle Berry as a sinuous comics villain]; and 115A: MAVERICK, the [1994 Western starring Gibson and Foster]. Okay, I lied. The last two aren't theme entries, and the clue for MAVERICK reads simply [Loner].

I think I haven't seen any of Kazan's work, actually. Huh. On the plus side, I also skipped Catwoman and Maverick.

What I liked most in the fill, besides those non-Kazan movie titles with non-movie clues, were these answers:
  • 27A. GEPPETTO is [Pinocchio's creator].
  • 76A. STOOLIES are [Rats] of a non-rodent type.
  • 100A. OMIGOSH means ["Yikes!"], among other things.
  • 89D. To [Snap] is to GO POSTAL. No offense to all the postal workers I've known, even-tempered to a man/woman.
  • 98D. Doctor ZHIVAGO is the [Title hero who married Tonya Gromeko]. Where does Lara fit in? I can hum her theme from the movie, but that's pretty much all I know about the story.
Henry Hook's Boston Globe crossword, "College Knowledge"

I'm going to make this quick because I'm getting sleepy—but I want to get all the Sunday-sized puzzles out of the way tonight because I'm going out for a birthday breakfast with a friend. Yes, my birthday was three weeks ago, and no, there's no reason it can't be a month-long celebration of moi.

I enjoyed the theme, in which college names are paired with rhyming nouns. Some are easy/obvious, like DENISON VENISON, but more fun are the ones with crazy spelling variations for the rhyming sounds. For example, RICE GNEISS, FISK BISQUE, and DUKE SPOOK. The shortest four theme entries travel Down and are stacked beside each other in pairs—that's a Hook/Reagle trademark, that sort of theme stacking. Good stuff.

Updated Sunday morning:

Doug Peterson's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge"

Plenty of easy clues plus no obscure fill to get in the way of working the crossings make for a quicker-than-most-themelesses experience. Easy doesn't mean lifeless, though. There's a slew of good stuff here. The highlights:
  • 1A. ADAM'S RIB is a [Romantic comedy of 1949].
  • 36A. This is one of a pair of intersecting middle 15s. "HOLD ONTO YOUR HAT" signals that ["This may come as a shock..."].
  • 46A. [Place to try a line] isn't a fishing pond, it's a SINGLES BAR.
  • 60A. M.C. ESCHER is the mindbending [Artist known for drawing "impossible objects"].
  • 8D. An idiomatic way to say one is [Hard at work] is to say one is BUSTING ONE'S HUMP. Although really, if you're going to be using such colloquial speech, that ONE'S is going to be nowhere near the middle of that phrase.
  • 12D. "AMEN TO THAT!" means ["You said it!"].
  • 13D. The most common Frasier-related fill has got to be the ROZ/PERI Gilpin nexus. Today we get NILES CRANE, a ["Frasier" character].
Mystery name for me: 37D: [Country singer McCoy] is named NEAL. Wikipedia tells me this:
Hubert Neal McGaughey, Jr. (born July 30, 1958 in Jacksonville, Texas) is an American country music singer of mixed Irish and Filipino descent. Known professionally as Neal McCoy, he has released ten studio albums on various labels, and has released thirty-four singles to country radio.
What, "Hubert McGaughey, Jr." wasn't zingy enough for the music industry?

Bob Stigger's New York Times second Sunday puzzle, a cryptic crossword

I like Bob Stigger's cryptics in Games and/or World of Puzzles, so I was glad to see his byline here. I've got to run now, so I'm out of time to talk about the toughest clues to unravel or my favorite answers. The Across Lite file is locked, so I can't swear that my solution's 100% correct, but everything made sense to me.