October 15, 2009

Friday, 10/16/09

BEQ 4:45
NYT 4:33
CHE 3:16
CS untimed
LAT 2:56
WSJ 8:20

For another sort of puzzle, see "Go Away" in the post below this one.

Karen Tracey's New York Times crossword

Another Friday, another freestyle Karen Tracey creation to love. Let's run through the cool, the challenging, and the classically Karenical, shall we?

First, you're going to grapple with some names of people and places:

• 14A. LIVY is the [Writer of the history "Ab Urbe Condita"]. It's a history of ancient Rome.
• 15A. The fictional SETHE is Toni Morrison's ["Beloved" heroine].
• 30A. Geography! [Lusatian ___ (German/Polish border river)] is the NEISSE.
• 44A. Who? RAUL is clued as [1980s Argentine president ___ Alfonsin].
• 53A. Eric UTNE is a [Reader's digest founder of 1984]. Note the lowercase d.
• 58A. RAFE is clued as the [Male protagonist in William Inge's "Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff"]. I've heard of Inge, but that's as far as I got with this one. Yay for crossings.
• 1A. [Film composer Clausen and others] clues ALFS. He's best known for composing The Simpsons theme. Hey, PuzzleGirl—he grew up in North Dakota.
• 36D. TENERIFE is the [Largest of the Canary Islands].
• 39D. HANA is the [Easternmost town on Maui, on one end of 52 miles of twisty highway].
• 43D. Fake geography! NARNIA is the [Setting for C.S. Lewis's "The Last Battle"].

Usually Karen provides tons of Scrabbly action in her grids. This one's got TUXEDO JUNCTION (23A: ["Where people go to dance the night away," in song]), but not much else. Here are the answers and clues I liked best:

• 20A. The SILENT T is [Part of Christmas].
• 26A. "Limnological" is a pretty word. [Limnological study] clues LAKE.
• 38A. [What you probably have a head for] is the the SHOWER fixture in your bathroom.
• 47A. BEARNAISE SAUCE is a [Chateaubriand accompaniment, often]. How's BEARNAISE on FLANK STEAK (17A: [London broil, often])?
• 50A. Are the Little Rascals synonymous with OUR GANG? Same kids, different era? I honestly don't know. They're [Kids in funny shorts], as in short films. Tricky having a plural clue for an answer ending with G.
• 6D. GET TO KNOW means [More than merely meet].
• 9D. You can think of a few possibilities for [Toy developed in China], can't you? Such as kites? Think instead of toy dogs, like the PEKINESE.
• 10A. A [Set for a reading] is a TAROT DECK. Really fresh answer, that.
• 11D. [Emperor's relative] is ADELIE. Both are types of penguin.
• 24D. "JEEPERS!" means ["Golly!"]. See also DRAT, or 59A: ["Nuts!"], for another old-timey slang exclamation.
• 40D. [Fractional bit?] is the SLASH punctuation mark you see in "1/3."

Let me grumble a moment over the nearly neighboring USENET (45D: [Early online discussion setting]) and USERS (49D: [Detox population]). At least the USERS aren't clued as computer users. There aren't a ton of other options for 49D, with the U*E** fixed by long answers and an 8-letter answer running alongside it.

Jack McInturff's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Capital Gains"

Who doesn't love games based on world capitals? I relished McInturff's theme, in which the second half of various capital cities sounds like the beginning of another word or phrase. The city and phrase are hooked together à la Wheel of Fortune "Before and After" puzzles, and the resulting answer is clued as if it's about the city:

• 19A. [Building material from Sudan?] is KHARTOUM STONE (tombstone). The tomb aspect is dropped from the clue.
• 26A. [Beverage from Lebanon?] is BEIRUT BEER (root beer). Both beer and root beer are beverages.
• 33A. [Sandwich shop in India?] clues NEW DELHI COUNTER (deli counter). "Counter" sans "deli" doesn't much signal "sandwich shop," so the answer hinges on both Delhi and deli.
• 42A. [Soil in Taiwan?] is TAIPEI DIRT (pay dirt). As with 19A, the pay aspect of the base phrase disappears.
• 52A. [Correspondents form Cambodia?] are PHNOM PENH PALS. Again, as with 33A, the clue hints at the second base phrase.

I sort of wish the theme had been more consistent with the inclusion or exclusion of the "after" phrases' meanings, but I'd still give this one a B+ because the theme entertained me, the word count's low (72), and the fill's pretty solid, with high points like NAPOLEON and TOOK A BOW. Why not an A? It ought to be a more challenging puzzle, and nobody's delighted by TAW, RETE, ESAU, ELIA, DEUT., and "IS IT I." (Why the letter grade? Hey, the puzzle's in a publication for professors.)

Updated Friday morning:

Nancy Salomon's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Missing the Point,"—Janie's review

This is lookin' a bit like a three-peat to me. For the third time this week, we have a puzzle with a "take away" gimmick and once again the stakes have been raised. Paula's puzzle on Tuesday dropped one letter from each base phrase (J); Tony's yesterday dropped two (LL); and today, Nancy drops three. = Those letters, as spelled out at 71A [Compass dir. (and point missing from 18-, 30-, 47-, and 61-Across)], are NNE. Pretty nifty actually. In a former life, the phrase:

• 18A. CAD LAUGHTER [Nasty snickering?] was canned laughter (which can also be pretty nasty, come to think of it...).
• 30A. STAR-SPANGLED BAR [Celebs' watering hole?] was our own national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."
• 47A. UNREPENTANT SIRS [Gentlemen without remorse?] was unrepentant sinners. I wonder if these guys gave Nancy the idea for cad laughter. Or vice-versa...
• 61A. BAD IN BOSTON [What Bean Town felons have been?] was banned in Boston. If you're not familiar with this phrase and its Puritan ties, this would be a good time to check it out. Love the "bean"/"been" wordplay in the clue, too. And... I wonder if those unrepentant sirs had anything to do with inspiring this entry. Or vice-versa...

Besides that unrepentant-bad-cad sub-theme, the puzzle also boasts a Japanese-inspired mini-theme. There's HAI [Yes, in Yokohama] (yesterday it was [OK, in Okinawa]), OBI [Sapporo sashes] and AKITAS [Curly-tailed Japanese dogs]—which look to be both an adorable and beautiful breed.

If you're a carnivore, you probably have a more vested interest in seeing that juicy PRIME RIB [Pricey beef lover's entrée] in the grid. Need a complement of carbs to go with? UNCLE BEN [Big name in rice] might fill the bill nicely. The [Starchy food made from tubers], SALEP, was completely new to me. Am I alone? It does look to have a fascinating history however, and appears to be something that is prepared as a beverage. Also as an aphrodisiac. Which, come to think of it, means it might be just right for a MOONLIT occasion [Like some romantic evenings].

Did you notice that the grid includes both ORAL [By word of mouth] and OREL [Sportscaster Hershiser]? The former shares the final L with EBERSOL [Longtime sports executive Dick], but better still (because of the sports tie-in) is the way the ...REL of the latter sits atop the EBE... of his professional colleague.

SIREN has been clued as [Warning wail], but a siren is also a temptress. Whether or not either of these alliteratively clued femmes intended to be one, DAISY MAE [Dogpatch damsel] and LOLITA [Nabokov nymphet], both have their siren-like ways. And in her own way, I suppose the same can be said of the equally iconic ROSIE [Archetypical 1940s riveter]. (For a study in the-same-only-different, check out all three links!)

Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Cooking 100"

Tony and Patrick's theme interprets "Cooking 100" as an academic course of study, with the theme entries all clued as cooking classes. The title also uses "100" as the Arabic equivalent of Roman numeral C, which is the letter added to the start of a word in each theme entry. My favorites among these C+ cooking classes are:

• 68A. LET'S GET READY TO CRUMBLE, or [Course on preparing coffeecake topping?].
• 97A. [Course on a taboo ham seasoning?] is FORBIDDEN CLOVE. I like the unexpected vowel shift from "love" to CLOVE.

As you'd expect from either of these constructors, there's plenty of lively fill—there's KATE MOSS, who could walk on EGGSHELLS, plus a GHOST SHIP and RABELAIS. And the clues sparkle, too. I was partial to [Oblivious beneficiaries] for INGRATES; hockey's St. Louis [Blues scores] for GOALS; [Bldg. that's not well-attended?] for HOSP., which is attended by the unwell; ["A waking dream," according to Aristotle] for HOPE; and [Common or Juvenile] for RAPPER. Two coin answers work together: U.S. MINT is clued with [It makes cents] and SPECIE means [Coined money]. I never think of the LENTIL as a [Soup seed] but rather as a bean, though I guess the clue is botanically sound.

I'm surprised to see both EATS (27A: [Has wings, say]—a terrific clue even if you don't like hot wings) and ATE IT (123A: [Suffered defeat, slangily]) in the same grid.

The two answers most in need of a lot of crossing answers were ATLI and CAMISE. The latter is a [Loose-fitting shirt]—I just saw BLOUSE clued that way quite recently, and while I know chemise and camisole, CAMISE was not in my vocabulary. ATLI is an old-school crossword answer, but the clue, [Brynhildr's brother, in myth], wasn't helping me one bit.

Dan Naddor's Los Angeles Times crossword

Ven I vas doing zis puzzle, I started talking in my head mit a German accent. The theme changes initial W sounds to Vs in familiar phrases or vords:

• 18A. Wheelchair becomes VEAL CHAIR, or [Seat for eating scaloppine?].
• 23A. [Tool for a dueling snake?] is a VIPRE BLADE (wiper blade).
• 36A. [What Tarzan becomes after years of swinging?] is a VINE (wine) CONNOISSEUR. The trickiest part of that one is remembering how to spell CONNOISSEUR, isn't it? Better than having a VINE TASTING.
• 49A. VAIN NEWTON joins Isaac Newton to Wayne Newton. The clue's [Egotistical describer of laws of motion?].
• 55A. [Paleontologist's ski resort discoveries?] are VAIL BONES. Whalebones are those stiff stays in corsets.

Smooth and easy, a perfect Tuesday puzzle. The grid is gussied up with long fill like NEON TETRA, SLOWPOKE, CELLPHONE, and LAKE ERIE. Not a lot else to say about it.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Dirty Words"

Quick review here.

Theme = GROUCHO quote, WOMEN SHOULD / BE OBSCENE / AND NOT HEARD. Short quote, leaves room in the puzzle for good stuff.

Good fill = The late Captain LOU ALBANO (I knew him from the Cyndi Lauper video), THE STICKS (same length and last 3 letters as BOONDOCKS, whoops), ED HARRIS, Fred WILLARD and FREDDIE Mercury. Not sure if Saddam HUSSEIN in the Idi Amin slot is gutsy fill or terrible. I like LESBIAN as fill, but could do without the male-centric clue, [She's just not that into you (maybe)].

Favorite clues = [Prefix with cache] stumped me until crossings gave me GEO, as in the trendy geocaching. STATUES? [They may be busts]. Not crazy about LAW CASE as an answer, but the clue, [Mason's job], had me thinking of stonemasons and not Perry Mason. [Miller of note] is STEVE Miller, '70s AM radio mainstay; I guess the "of note" hints at his music but I was thinking of more traditionally notable people and getting nowhere. [Robin hood?] is the TREE its nest is in. Oh! And this one: [They're from Mars] clues M AND M'S. Cute.