October 22, 2009

Friday, 10/23/09

NYT 8:00 (ouch)
BEQ 5:21
LAT 3:50
CHE 3:36
CS untimed
WSj 8:28

Barry Silk's New York Times crossword

It's as if Barry Silk and Will Shortz are following the Chicago Public Schools schedule. Sure, the calendar says the 23rd is Friday, but there's no school so let's pretend it's a Saturday and whomp people with a supra-Friday puzzle.

I will be back after putting my son to sleep to review the sorts of wrong answers I had, or the correct letters I erased in desperation. And the vast swaths of emptiness that blanketed the grid like snow. Thank goodness for HAM RADIO (37D: [Hobby with call signs])—the first correct answer I came up with, and not for lack of reading clues further up in the grid. And then I mixed up George Washington and Dolly Parton, entering PIGEON FORGE instead of VALLEY FORGE for 43A: [Washington locale]. It's fitting that it was the Three Stooges that snapped me out of Dollywood, isn't it?

—Okay, I'm back.—

I tell ya, that Dan Feyer has got a heckuva lotta nerve putting up a 3:59 on this puzzle. Dan! You're making the rest of us look dim and poky.

All right, let's meander through this puzzle. TOP HATS [may be seen with tails]. I rather thought METEORS would. [Piece project?] is a JIGSAW puzzle; I just assembled this Ravensburger Simpsons globe jigsaw last weekend. EUROPOP and ALTOONA simply don't belong in the same sentence. Or do they? BRYCE CANYON's the [National park with the Pink Cliffs]; I erased the BRYCE part when I was having fits with the [2001-05 Pontiac made in Mexico]—not ALERO (hello, that was an Oldsmobile) but the ugly AZTEK, named one of the 10 worst cars of the decade (crossworder Ben Bass owned the Catera, also lousy). [One skilled at mimicry] is a PARAKEET; they talk? Dang, [Dragging sound] means drag-racing sound: VROOM. Took me way too long to figure out that first letter. [They don't move quickly] clues the musical term LARGOS, but you know about SNAILS, right? Slow?

Moving to the Downs, the [Opposite of dull], the verb, is HONE. The opposite of dull, the adjective, is KEEN, which did me no favors. I blanked on the name Robert ITO, [Klugman's "Quincy, M.E." co-star], even though I had an adolescent crush on him. [___-Egyptian Sudan] clues ANGLO? Wow, I did not see that coming. Clearly I have not studied colonialist African history enough. Don't like WAY IN clued as [Door]; lame entry. [One of an au pair?] is a VOWEL, one of the "au" pair of vowels; that's...weird. Two actor Fords, neither of them Harrison: [Actor Ford of "Gilda"] is GLENN and [Actor Ford of "Snatch"] is ALAN.

Annemarie Brethauer's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Solomon's Treasure"

Solomon R. GUGGENHEIM's treasure is the museum that bears his name. Marking the institution's 50th anniversary, this puzzle includes the names (first and last) of four artists whose work is displayed there—PAUL KLEE, ANDY WARHOL (["Orange Disaster #5" artist]), MARC CHAGALL, and JOAN MIRO. Solid puzzle, but it has the misfortune of appearing on the heels of Liz Gorski's Sunday NYT tour de force.

Spotlit answers:

• [In one's ___ (drunk)] clues CUPS. Man, do I love the phrase "in his cups," with the last word always pronounced as if I lived on the other side of the Atlantic.
• KEISTER! It's your [Backside].
• DION was a [Ruler of ancient Syracuse] and LOGAN was a [Mingo chief during Dunmore's War]? That O was a reasoned guess but absolutely just a guess. The Belmonts are pouting to have been left out.
• Ha! I thought [Hero of New Orleans] was going to be a person rather than a sandwich, the POORBOY.
• We get two sketch-comedy shows for the price of one: SCTV and SNL.

Updated Friday morning:

Gail Grabowski's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Head for the Mills"—Janie's review

The first word, or head, of each of today's four theme-phrases also names a kind of mill. Two of these are "places of manufacture" and two are the grinder-sort. In the former category we have the snappy:

•3D. PAPER TIGER [One pretending to be powerful], but is ultimately toothless; and
•29D. STEEL DRUMS [Percussion instruments]. Here's the Old Mill High School Steel Drum Band playing "Free Bird." Really—Old Mill.
And in the latter category, there's:
•21A. PEPPER PLANT [Garden staple]. This one has a two-for-one thing going for it, since a plant (of the brick and mortar variety) is also a "place of manufacture." A pepper plant is where pepper corns are processed and packaged for purchase—to be put in your pepper mill...; and
•49A. COFFEE TABLE [Parlor piece]. That's pretty straightforward, but does make me think about "coffee table books" and their contemporary equivalent: the E-BOOK [Modern reading material]. I dunno. Picking up a Kindle just ain't the same thing as thumbing through an oversized book of photos, is it? (Here's what some pundits and posters at the NYT have to say on the matter.)

The grid has lots of appealing non-theme fill as well. A [Trip to the summit] is an ASCENT. It's great to reach the heights, but if your venture [Lays an egg], it FLOPS. A [Golfer's challenge] is a BAD LIE. Sometimes a WEDGE is a useful club for extricating yourself from one. But not today, when wedge is clued as [Chunk of cheese].

Because they represent the natural world, I like the crossing of EARTH DAY [Environmentalist's celebration] and TREE [Elder, e.g.], and Earth Day and RED CEDAR [Aromatic wood]. This one in British Columbia lived to be 1,000 years old before toppling in 2007. And because of the tree-planting done on Arbor Day, I'd always assumed that the only meaning of the word arbor was tree. But no. An ARBOR is also a [Shady nook], "a kind of latticework formed of, or covered with, vines, branches of trees, or other plants, for shade; a bower," saith Mr. Webster. Which makes it sound almost EDEN-like [Steinbeck title site]. Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan...

Merle Baker's Los Angeles Times crossword

My son is off school today and there is homework to do and errands to run, so let me save time by referring you to Rex's L.A. Crossword Confidential post. The IXNAY nixing-of-IX theme is solid enough but I didn't like the puzzle as much as Rex did.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Charades"

Today's offering is a contest puzzle—solve the riddle in the crossword and you might win a copy of Brendan's Diagramless Crosswords book. Luckily, Brendan's not looking to stump people as much as Matt Gaffney is with his Weekly Crossword Contest, so he's provided a handy link to a page where one can divine the answer. I absolutely used that link, and the answer (no contest spoilers here) was no one I'd ever heard of. Plus-sized puzzle—16x17, to accommodate the lengthy riddle and still have room for some lively fill.

Dan Fisher's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Capital Gains"

The "capital" that's "gained" in each theme entry is DC, as in the District of Columbia. One word in a familiar phrase gets a DC wedged into it, splitting it into two new words. For example, Sweet Charity becomes SWEET CHARD CITY, or [Municipality famed for its sugary leafy vegetables], and when the [Poet of the platoon can't take the pressure?], the ARMY BARD CRACKS (army barracks). Solid and smooth from start to finish, with a theme that took me a while to unravel, which is more entertaining than a theme that practically fills itself in.