September 02, 2009

Thursday, 9/3/09

NYT 4:53
LAT 3:12
CS untimed (J)
Ink Well untimed

C.W. Stewart's New York Times crossword

Talk about your ass-backwards themes, eh? The four theme entries that begin with a synonym for "heinie" are presented BOTTOMS UP—or PUSMOTTOB in reverse. That's 20D: [*"Cheers!"...or a hint to answering this puzzle's five starred clues], including itself. The other four theme entries are:

  • 6D: [*Auto accessory], or seat cover, which is REVOCTAES when written upwards.
  • 12D. I first thought the [*Crewman on the tail of a bomber] might be the name of a character from Catch-22, but it's a generic rear gunner, or RENNUGRAER.
  • 28D. [*1968 Barbra Streisand starring role] is Fanny Brice, a.k.a. ECIRBYNNAF.
  • 35D. The rump roast is a [*Beef cut], and backwards that's TSAORPMUR.
Well! Those look crazy in the grid. I like backwards themes. Ben Tausig once had one with "reverse YGOLOHCYSP" (3/16/06) that looked as crazy as this one. (The Across Lite files for years of past NYT crosswords are linked on this page of Jim's Xword Info database, which is a cool new feature. Of course, I spoiled the theme of Ben's puzzle for you already.)

The clue most likely to be Googled is 1A: [English poet Coventry ___, who wrote "The Angel in the House"]. Who? Coventry PATMORE? Is he (she?) part of the standard canon? I do not recognize the name. Kinda rough start to the puzzle, a 7-letter answer you (or I, at least) draw a complete blank on.

Ten (or so) other clues/answers:
  • 1D: [Have heat] clues PACK, as in "Are you packing heat?" as in "Are you carrying a gun?" The "have heat" wording is counterintuitive and perhaps deliberately throws solvers off the track. The P was my very last letter in this puzzle—*ATMORE could've begun with many other consonants for all I knew. I give the PACK clue a "grr, do not like." Later in the puzzle, SIGHT is clued as a [Rifle part] and that's right near AIM and TERROR. This crossword is making me antsy.
  • 37A: [Popular newspaper columnist who writes for Good Housekeeping] is HELOISE. How is it possible she is still alive? Oh, the current Heloise is the daughter of the original one. Gotcha.
  • Botany! AWN is 50A: [Plant bristle], a CACTUS is a 22A: {Desert water source], and AREOLES are "small areas bearing spines or hairs on a cactus." Here, though, that last word is clued as 15A: [Parts of irises].
  • 57A. Geography! I didn't know BANGKOK was a [World capital known locally as Krung Thep Mahanakhon], but that sounded Thai and I had the final K in place.
  • 5D. "Which twin has the Toni?" [Twin Tony whose #6 jersey was retired] is Minnesota Twins player Tony OLIVA.
  • Pus mottob!
  • 27D. [Holder of a black marker] is an EASEL. I am picturing a conference room EASEL with a giant pad of paper and black markers at the ready. The very best sort of chart, of course, is the pie chart. Have you seen this one, with the "pie I have eaten" and "pie I have not yet eaten" data?
  • 45D. [Fountain orders] are milkSHAKES. It has been too long since I had a chocolate milkshake. I really want one now, but that would require leaving the house. Mmm, chocolate. 52D: [Chocolate brand] is DOVE, but that's also a soap brand. One must be clear when sending someone to the grocery store with instructions to buy some Dove bars.
  • 50D. ABED is clued as the [Opposite of up]. What?!? That's so wrong. This puzzle has elsewhere demonstrated that the opposite of up is PU.
  • 60D. ADD isn't just the opposite of "subtract," it's also A.D.D., or attention deficit disorder. [Hyperactivity may be a sign of it, for short]. 100% in-the-language now.
As I said, I liked this back-ass-wards theme, and I'm mildly amused that one of Ms. Stewart's previous creations, the 5/28/08 NYT puzzle, had a BALLS theme. My inner 14-year-old boy appreciates that.

Updated Thursday morning:

William I. Johnston's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Scary Puzzle"—Janie's review

Wanna hear something really scary? Only 58 days 'til Halloween!!! Where does the time go?! Getting us in the spirit of things, Will has laced his puzzle with four phrases whose first word is associated with All Hallows' Even:
  • 20A. MONSTER TRUCK [Vehicle that may crush cars]. So from what I read, monster truck rallies are really good clean fun. Not to everyone's taste perhaps, but definitely crowd-pleasers. What can I tell you? All in all, I think I'd rather see a community-theatre production of KISMET [Show with tunes adapted from the music of Borodin] or "AIN'T [___ Misbehavin'"]... Btw, Will's got another [Big rig] in here as well: SEMI.
  • 33A. GHOSTWRITER [Author's secret collaborator]. Or not-so-secret... Kinda scary indeed to think of the way even ghostwriters use mod'ren technology to market themselves. But hey—a writer's gotta make a living, too!
  • 42A. WITCH DOCTOR [Tribal healer]. Only one thing to say here and that's "Oo-ee-oo-ah-ah"... In 1958, that was the coolest!
  • 55A. SKELETON CREW [Limited staff].
If you've got your WITS [Ingenuity] about you, there's really not a lot in here to PSYCH you out or generate real TERROR [Extreme fright]. I chose to solve in an untimed way because... well, I have a pretty good sense of what my times are for the CS puzzles and sometimes I simply prefer to solve and enjoy. I liked seeing POTOMAC [Watergate view], in this case, a view by sunset... And look what an internet search turned up: a recipe for "Aragonese fried vegetables with AIOLI AU GRATIN."

There's a bit of an audio mini-theme going on with MONO [Single channel], INWARD [How needles move on LPs] (anyone still have a turntable? I'm still not ready to part with mine...), AMP [Piece of concert equipment] (that'd be a rock concert, most likely...) and RE-MIX [Make a new version in the sound studio]. I feel pretty safe in saying that while you can find a lot of stereo recordings of Edith Piaf, most of the early discs by ["The Little] SPARROW" [(Piaf's nickname)] were recorded in mono.

Finally, the only thing that scares me more than seeing ACER and APER in the same grid is seeing WREATHS [Christmas garlands] on the third day of September. Only 113 days!!

Daniel Finan's Los Angeles Times crossword

Daniel's PARTS OF SPEECH theme takes that phrase literally, as successive overlapping 3-letter parts of the word speech: SPE starts SPELLING BEE ([Where to hear letters recited]). PEE begins a PEEPING TOM ([Lady Godiva spotter]). EEC begins pretty much no familiar phrase other than E.E. CUMMINGS (["anyone lived in a pretty how town" poet]. And ECH is the start of ECHO CHAMBER ([Recording studio feature]).

It's the PARTS OF SPEECH bit that makes this work well. You can make a theme out of successive overlapping parts of other words—STRAND gives us STREET SMART, TRACTOR PULL, RANK AND FILE, and AND I LOVE HER—but without a solid justification. "Unraveled strand" is simply not in the language the way "parts of speech" is.

CLARK BAR is clued as a [Candy in a red and blue wrapper]. I was picturing maybe the Oh Henry bar in yellow and brown; the Clark bar is indeed red with blue lettering. Not a candy bar I ever buy, that's for sure, but a colorful crossword entry all the same.

Other bright spots in the fill: There's a PLETHORA ([Teeming amount]) of 'em. (And I refer you here to the "What is a plethora?" clip from the movie Three Amigos.) We've got TAG TEAM [Wrestling partners], BERMUDA with a geography nerd clue ([Hamilton is its capital]), a hedge MAZE clued as ["The Shining" climax setting], casual SEE YA (["Later!"]), and the adjective TITANIC ([Colossal]).

For more on this puzzle, check out PuzzleGirl's take.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword

The theme entries are five fictional sci-fi doodads, clued with Ben's claims of reality tacked on. For example, at 17-Across we have BABELFISH, and it's clued as [Sci-fi translation device (that my uncle actually caught one of in his pond and one time he let me use it)].

Two favorite clues:
    29A. [Early Costello single] is the lovely song "ALISON." Here's a 10-year-old live performance, but I caught a newer performance last year when Elvis opened for the Police.
  • 72A. [Powdered one's nose, as it were] clues WENT.