September 30, 2009

Thursday, 10/1/09

NYT 5:02 (paper)—The Thursday puzzle doesn't quite display properly in the applet or Across Lite; here's a PDF showing how it's meant to appear
LAT 3:17
CS untimed (J)/3:33 (A)—another Blindauer!
Tausig untimed

Patrick Blindauer and Rebecca Young's New York Times crossword

For Rebecca Young's debut crossword, she brought her boyfriend Patrick along for the ride. In the PDF/print version of the puzzle, the center square is blank so you can draw the world's teeniest compass rose; in the other versions of the puzzle, there's a black plus sign in the middle and you'll need Wite-Out to draw your compass. The theme entries travel in the cardinal directions indicated by their first word:

  • 27A. [Its motto is "Duty, Honor, Country"] clues WEST POINT, which heads west as TNIOPTSEW.
  • 6D. [Toymaking center?] is Santa's NORTH POLE, or ELOPHTRON heading north.
  • 45A. An EASTENDER is clued as [Cockney, e.g.]. East is the way Across answers normally travel.
  • 33D. SOUTH PARK is a [Long-running TV series set in Colorado], running Down/South as normal. Wow, not mentioning the animation aspect leads us in all sorts of directions. The only other Colorado shows I can think of are Mork and Mindy and, I only recently learned from a quiz, Dynasty.
  • 18A, 55A. [With 55-Across, direction indicator] is a COMPASS, and 55-Across is the nutty second part of 54A, MELROSE—a compass rose is the doodad labeled with N/S/E/W.
I have a soft spot for crossword answers that travel in unexpected ways, and the interlocking of the this-way-and-that theme entries is cool. Other good stuff: DIAPER is clued as [Something needed for a change]. [Women who get high?] are STONERS. No, wait. That's too short. They're SOPRANOS. [Been abed] clues LAIN, but the clue just looks goofy. "Have you ever been abed? Is abing what you like to do?" Oh, ["The ___ Report"] stars Stephen COLBERT. Love him.

If you hate crossword puzzles in which answers appear backwards or upwards, I don't think we can be friends anymore.

Updated Thursday morning:

Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Look Both Ways"—Janie's review

Let's face it. In this puzzle, Patrick's got us comin' and goin'. And why? Because the theme-fill, as 63A (the final theme-entry) explains, is made up of PALINDROMES [Phrases that read the same forward and backward...]. Through various dictionary pages, I find that this word combines not the Alaskan surname for "wannabe," but the ancient Greek word pálin meaning "again"/"back again once more," with (the Greek-derived) combining form -drome, meaning "running"—just in case you wanted to know! Giving us one classic and two modern classics of the genre, those phrases that "run back again once more" (with feeling...) are:
  • 17A. MADAM, I'M ADAM [Original introduction?]. What a gentleman he was, even in those pre-fig leaf (pre-original sin) days.
  • 24A. DO GEESE SEE GOD? [Theological question about fliers in formation?] I'd not heard of it, but this is also the title of a movie directed David Slade. Not SNL's David Slade, but Brit film director David Slade, who's now filming The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (for those of you what follow these things...). This palindrome also puts me in mind of a play that had a little off-Broadway run not too long ago called Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, which imagines characters who strongly resemble Charles Schulz's Peanuts characters as adolescents. Some irreverence ensues...
  • 53A. LIVE NOT ON EVIL [Advice for bad guys?]. And apparently, also the name of a goth band... I know you'll be shocked to know I'd never heard of 'em. Here they are performing Scary Polka. Lawrence Welk is rolling over in his grave. For any number of reasons.
If you're ever in BAJA [ ___ California], the sun is very strong there, so don't forget the SPF 30 and/or try to fine some SHADED areas to enjoy your respite. Perhaps the veranda of your INN would offer some relief.

A [Major leaguer or golf instructor] is a PRO. So, too, is actress Dame JUDI DENCH. Ditto queen-of-the-noir Claire TREVOR and that consummate COUPLE of the American stage, Jessica and Hume [Tandy and Cronyn, e.g.]. Yes, the term also applies to star of the small screen and Broadway stage, SOPRANO Kristin Chenoweth (and [Country singer Tim] MCGRAW). I confess, however, that when I saw the clue [Kristin Chenoweth's voice type] and the seven spaces waiting to be filled, I was tempted to enter GRATING. Kidding!! (Mostly...)

Oh, and couple is also a way to describe [The Dynamic ___] DUO. But tell us, Patrick, is that Batman and Robin you're referring to or Oprah's (also kinda scary [see above...]) Acai berry and colon cleanse regimen?

[League of legal eagles (abbr.)] is a superb clue for fill we see all the time: ABA. But look—it's alliterative, assonant and it has a rhyme in it. That's just lovely. And what a great "set up" it is for the next clue, [Commit a court infraction?]. PERJURE? Nupe. Too many letters for one, and wrong "court" for the other. This time it's the basketball court, where your team'll be penalized if you TRAVEL.

If one [Fed one's face], one ATE. If one ate only an OAT, a [Granola grain] or had but a small bowl of ROTINI [Twisty pasta], one might want A BIT [Slightly] more to satisfy oneself.

A few more clue/fill faves and then I'm history. In no particular order of preference:
  • [Lose one's shadow, say]/SHAVE. Think "Richard Nixon"—or even of that terrific character actor, Dan Hedaya, who played Nixon in Dick;
  • [Alka-Seltzer-landing-in-water sound]/PLOP, as in this immortal jingle from Speedy; and
  • [Gelatinous light sources]/LAVA LAMPS. Never thought of 'em that way, but that's how they appear. In fact their "lava" innards (while practically a state secret) are basically a combination of water and oil. Which, as we probably all learned pretty early on, do not mix.
Jonathan Seff's Los Angeles Times crossword

This is a solid puzzle, but the theme variety is one I'm not a fan of: Each of the four 15-letter theme entries is clued with a word that sounds like "doe."
  • 17A. [Doe] is an ANONYMOUS PERSON, Jane or John Doe.
  • 27A. [Do] is a KEY NOTE IN A SCALE, as in "do, re, mi...."
  • 49A. [Dough] is a BREAD-BAKING NEED.
  • [D'oh] is the famous HOMER SIMPSON CRY.
Now, what I don't like about this sort of clue/answer flip-flop theme is that it spotlights phrases that would not otherwise pass muster as crossword fill. Has anyone ever used the phrase "bread-baking need" or "key note in a scale"? I rest my case.

I like the CON MAN (4D: [Hustler]), and YMCA, or [Pantomimed disco song title]. Hey! Did you know the original Village People "YMCA" video did not feature the pantomime? They sort of did a "Y" that led into clapping their hands over their heads, but that's it. Also—tie-in with yesterday's LAT puzzle—the leather man has a prodigious horseshoe mustache.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword

My feet did not like this theme because it did not include Merrell or Naot, my feet's preferred footwear brands. Here's the theme:
  • 56A. TIE YOUR SHOES is [Generally good advice, and a hint to this puzzle's theme]. Each theme entry contains two SHOE brands, TIEd together, and clued by way of the words' usual meanings.
  • 20A. [RV that runs on inexpensive fuel?] is a DIESEL CAMPER. I don't know what Camper shoes look like, but I know of Diesek,
  • 23A. Stacked under that entry is KEEN PUMA, or [Animal likely to catch plenty of elk?]. My husband and son love their Keen sandals, and Puma makes sneakers.
  • 35A. SIMPLE COACH is clued as [Team leader who calls the same play every time?]. Simple shoes are just that, and are sometimes made with renewable or organic resources, I think. Coach is mainly a handbag/briefcase/accessory company. They make shoes? Apparently yes, even canvas sneakers with the "C" logo.
  • 54A. PONY VANS might be [Vehicles for moving racers from track to track?]. Pony sneakers, Vans skate sneakers.
Assorted other clues and answers: HOVA is [Jay-Z, self-appointedly]. As in Jehovah? See also JAH, or [Reggae god]. SPERMS are [Origins of all people, partially]; both SPERM and SPERMS are valid plurals. [Thing flashed at Woodstock] is a V-SIGN, among other things. MARC ECKO is the [Clothing impresario who bought Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run ball].