September 28, 2009

Tuesday, 9/29/09

NYT 3:02
LAT 2:52
Jonesin' 4:15
CS untimed

Paula Gamache's New York Times crossword

Would you look at that? I learned something from a Tuesday crossword's theme. All five starred theme entries are phrases that have traveled far beyond their nautical roots.

  • 71A. AT SEA is clued as [Clueless...or where the answers to this puzzle's starred clues were all first used].
  • 17A. A [Dangerously unpredictable sort] is a LOOSE CANNON. The story behind the phrase is here.
  • 39A. To DEEP-SIX something is to [Junk] it.
  • 61A. HARD AND FAST means [Inviolable, as rules]. The term originally meant firmly beached on shore.
  • 11D. I like the phrase IN THE OFFING, which is clued as [Likely to happen]. The origin is explained thus: "It is quite simple to understand once you know that 'the offing' is the part of the sea that can be seen from land, excluding those parts that are near the shore. Early texts also refer to it as 'offen' or 'offin.' Someone who was watching out for a ship to arrive would first see it approaching when it was 'in the offing' and expected to dock before the next tide."
  • 25D. If the road's [Jammed] with traffic, it's CHOCK-A-BLOCK with cars. Here's the term's background.
The British site Phrase Finder lists other nautical phrases. Among the most charming or useful: batten down the hatches, broad in the beam, give a wide berth, high and dry, know the ropes, shake a leg, three sheets to the wind, and the cut of your jib. Now, that's the sort of nautical language I like to see in a crossword. The nouns for random sailing gear? Not so much.

10D: "NO, NO, NO" is a rather goofy answer, but I kinda like it. Its clue is ["That is completely the wrong way!"].

Also good: 4D: AD-SPEAK, or [Marketers' "language"]. Ooh! Don't miss the documentary, Consuming Kids, about the insidious ways marketers have targeted children since the 1980s. You can watch it here, in a series of YouTube segments; it's about an hour long.

Most-likely-to-be-Googled clue: 8D: [War aid program passed by Congress in 1941] for LEND-LEASE. Under the program, the U.S. gave war material to its allies, who repaid the U.S. in various ways. The U.K. made its last installment payment in 2006.

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

Dan Naddor brings the food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a night at the game in four 15-letter "___ and ___" phrases:
  • 16A. COFFEE AND DONUTS are a [Breakfast pair]. My husband's been going to the Unkind Donuts a block away for our weekend coffee and donuts, but now he says he doesn't like their coffee anymore. He makes the supreme sacrifice of drinking it anyway so I can have my chocolate-frosted cake donut.
  • 24A. [Lunch pair] is SOUP AND SANDWICH. I like the half-sandwich option, personally.
  • 41A. MEAT AND POTATOES are a [Dinner pair]. Eh, you can have mine.
  • 54A. BEER AND PRETZELS are an [Evening ball game snack pair]. Horribly worded clue, and I am left wondering why we're not having CAKE AND ICE CREAM at the end of our food&food day. I have a SOFT SPOT ([Sentimental place in the heart]) for sweets.
Lots of people in the puzzle today. NEIL Armstrong and ALAN Greenspan, RAUL Julia and Dan MARINO, Ho Chi MINH and Wernher von BRAUN, two IANS and that horrible Bob SAGET, CYD Charisse and DEION Sanders, and the fictional Mr. MOTO and ETHAN Frome. Lucky for me, names in a crossword don't make me SKITTISH ([Apt to shy, as a horse]).

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Chance Collisions" (themeless)

A few times a year, Matt's Jonesin' puzzle is themeless, but the difficulty level is usually not far off from what it is for his themed puzzles. Coolest answers:
  • 1A. X-RAY VISION is a [Super power all about transparency]. My husband's watching the season premiere of Heroes, and that is not among the powers the characters possess. If I could choose a superpower, I'd like to be able to fly. My son is more pragmatic and would choose teleportation, which is my second choice.
  • 40A. Sure, VALLEY GIRLS is a rather dated term, but I'm a dated individual so I like it. [They'd say "like, gag me" in the 1980s].
  • 52A. [Rarest of the main blood types in the U.S.] is AB NEGATIVE. My AB- friend is wooed regularly by the blood drive people. They like her.
  • 1D. XYLITOL is a [Sugar alcohol in some chewing gums]. XYLITOL can reduce the risk of tooth decay. I'm partial to fruit-flavored Spry gum with xylitol.
  • 11D. "Who's that for?" 'It's for Twayne." FORT WAYNE is [Indiana's second largest city]. The nation's 73rd largest city, too, with a quarter million people.
Less familiar terms: TAIL SKIDS are [Supports at the end of planes]. [Like a lot of European cathedral architecture in the 16th century] clues LATE GOTHIC. PETTICOATED is indeed an adjective (who knew?) meaning [Wearing an underskirt]. CLINOMETER is a [Tool in forestry to measure slope, vertical angles and tree heights]; it's not related to words like incline and recline, which have Latin roots as opposed to CLINOMETER's Greek root.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Odd Fellows"—Janie's review

No, not the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the fraternal organization that's been around since the 18th century in the U.S. (and the 17th in England), but four well-known phrases ending in a word that can also be a man's name. With the first word now describing a person rather than a thing, Sarah introduces us to another side of a wide variety of celebrity-types, namely:
  • 20A. OVERDUE BILL [Tardy comedian Cosby?]. Notice how this fill sits above IRS [Form 1040 org.]. Is Sarah sending a warning?
  • 34A. MOVING VAN [Poignant pianist Cliburn?]. I think this rendition of the second movement of Beethoven's 5th piano concerto should make the point. You will not hear Van VAMP [Improvise musically] with this piece...
  • 42A. MODERN ART [Up-to-date actor Carney?]. This would be my fave. I know I'm skewing the meaning here, but I can't help seeing the Norton version of the Kramden apartment and seeing those dingy walls hung with, oh, a Rothko here, a Pollack there. Ah, the beauty of juxtaposition!
  • 56A. KOSHER FRANK [Proper singer Sinatra?]. Ol' blue eyes was never really known for following the letter of the law, so this one is amusing on more than one level. While perhaps not part of any [Ponzi schemes, e.g.] per se, he certainly was known to socialize with a number of people prominent in any number of RACKETS. All in all, I'd say stick with Art and Van...
Other fill (and clues) that caught my fancy today includes:
  • OLIVE OYL [Popeye's main squeeze]. Here's a picture of the AMOROUS [Lovey-dovey] pair. Notice how the sailor man has decided to WOO his sweetheart [Go a-courting] with flowers in hand. Or in spinach can, to be more accurate. I also got to wondering whether Ms. Oyl uses OLAY [Oil of ___] as part of her beauty regimen...
  • A SLAB is a [Piece of concrete], and a piece of concrete can sometimes feel as SOLID [ ___ as a rock]. And somehow this line of discussion conjures up Ashford and Simpson.
  • I love the way double L- LLAMA crosses LH-starting LHASA. I generally find it disconcerting (and also enjoyable) to see improbable consonant combos at the beginning of words. But sure enough, they can work. And do.
  • Another fortunate pairing in the grid is the placement of [Apple's apple, e.g.] LOGO beside IPOD [Apple product]; ditto the opposites AGREE [Feel the same] and TORN, which is to feel [Conflicted].
  • TREACLE is [Sweet, gooey stuff]. See also Olive Oyl above...
  • Neither the literal STATISTIC (too long) nor AVERAGE (too short) is the [Ballpark figure] in question. The figurative ESTIMATE, however, is.
  • LIME is the [Key pie fruit?]. The clue does double duty, referencing both the distinguishing (key) ingredient in Key lime pie and the fact that this lime comes from Florida's Key isles.
  • [Related] is another double-edged clue. My first fill was the adjective AKIN. But no-o-o-o. The correct fill is the past tense verb TOLD. Glad I got that straightened out!