October 03, 2009

Sunday, 10/4/09

BG 8:37
Reagle 8:20
NYT 8:00
LAT 6:40
NYT diagramless untimed
CS 3:29

Todd McClary's New York Times crossword, "Initial Offerings"

Terrific theme! The way I progressed through the grid, I got the gist with SAMUEL ADAMS ESSAY, worked out DON KING DECAY, and moved down the grid, filling in the ends of the other theme entries first. I loved getting just enough letters at the end to figure out the sounds-like-initials word and then eyeballing the clue and trying to think of a famous person with the right initials who fit the description. It makes for an entertaining word game, doesn't it? Here are the theme entries:

  • 23A. [Article written by an early American patriot?] is SAMUEL ADAMS ESSAY (S.A.).
  • 39A. [Dental problem for a boxing promoter?] is DON KING DECAY (D.K.).
  • 47A. [Desire to be more like an actress of Greek descent?] is NIA VARDALOS ENVY (N.V.).
  • 66A. Spanning the full width of the puzzle is QUENTIN TARANTINO CUTIE, or [Adorable child of an edgy filmmaker?] (W.T.). Don't people refer to him as "QT" sometimes? I wonder if this one's the seed entry for the theme.
  • 88A. [Tent used by a Latin musician?] is a TITO PUENTE TEPEE.
  • 94A. [Television award given to a Surrealist?] is a MAX ERNST EMMY (M.E.).
  • 115A. [Rodent named for a 20th-century novelist?] is the KURT VONNEGUT CAVY. Cavies and guinea pigs are close cousins.
So, we've established that I'm a big fan of Todd's theme. I also liked the chunks of fill at the top and bottom of the grid—the stacked 8s, 7s, and 6s. A few highlights in the fill:
  • 1A. MORT SAHL is the [Political comedian with the 1973 album "Sing a Song of Watergate"].
  • 27A. HOT WARS are [Active military conflicts].
  • 57A. [One rewarded for good behavior, perhaps] is a good clue for PAROLEE. Not to be confused with 56A: GAMERA, the [Godzilla contemporary that was a giant flying turtle].
  • 7D. [Cause of congestion] is a lousy HEAD COLD.
  • 10D. My, [Intestinal opening?] is a vivid image, isn't it? It's merely the prefix GASTRO-. Gotta salvage a prefix answer somehow, right? Well played, McClary (or Shortz). Well played.
  • 16D. PEPE LE PEW! The icky [Looney Tunes lothario].
  • 19D. [Dish setting for watching satellite programs?] is the TV TRAY you put your plate on while watching TV shows via satellite. Cute!
  • 33D. CHIA PET is a great answer. It's an [Animal that leaves when it's cared for?], meaning it sprouts leaves.
  • The liking trio is good. 43A: [Begin liking] is WARM TO, 11D: GREW ON is [Slowly started pleasing], and 45D: [Like] is A LA.
  • 78D. NAMESAKES is clued [III, IV and V, maybe].
  • 79D. I misunderstood [Shower need] as being about bathing or plumbing. Nope—a GIFT for a baby shower.
I had a typo for a while, making 59A: [Saturate] a vaguely plausible EMBUE, crossing the nonsensical MOVEEN. Guess what? While imbed/embed and inure/enure and insure/ensure are valid word pairs, EMBUE is nothing. IMBUE crossing MOVE IN, or [Get closer]? Yeah, that's much better. Also had a misstep at 40D, where I put I HAD for ["If only ___ known..."] instead of the correct and double-apostrophed I'D'VE.

I hope you enjoyed this puzzle as much as I did. It's possibly my favorite Sunday-sized puzzle in the last month or two.

Patrick Blindauer's second Sunday New York Times diagramless crossword

Usually the NYT diagramlesses are limited to the 17x17 size, but this puppy's 19x17. It's not too hard to figure out that if there are 19 squares across and the first two Across answers are each 9 letters long, they both span the top row with a central black square separating them. The Downs dangling from SPACE CAMP (1A: [Getaway for future astronauts]) and "NO COMMENT" (10A: [Response to an investigative reporter, sometimes]) weren't all easy, but with a few in place, it was easier to piece together the other 9-letter answers stacked beautifully below 1A and 10A.

The theme entries are linked by 25D: [Science fiction device...or a chronometer?], or TIME MACHINE. Sure, you wouldn't really call a METRONOME (21A: [25-Down on a piano]) a "time machine," but it's a doodad that keeps time. 22A: [25-Down on a court] is a basketball SHOT CLOCK. Down at 58A, [25-Down on "60 Minutes"] is a STOPWATCH (tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick). And the piece de resistance is 62A, an HOURGLASS, or the [25-Down in this puzzle]. The grid's pattern looks like an hourglass, with a wide top and bottom tapering to a wee 3-letter entry in the midsection.

I do like the diagramlesses that draw a picture—if you do too, pick up a copy of Brendan Quigley's Diagramless Crosswords book. It's coming out this Tuesday. (Also buy it if you like diagramlesses that don't make a picture—Brendan has plenty of both in the book.)

Updated later Saturday evening:

Henry Hook's Boston Globe crossword (in Across Lite), "The Ing Crowd"

Henry takes nine phrases that end with -ER words and turns them into -ING words that are scarcely, if at all, related. A left fielder in baseball becomes the verb phrase LEFT FIELDING, with novelist Henry Fielding ([Abandoned the author of "Tom Jones"]). "Look no farther" turns into "LOOK, NO FARTHING," which is clued with ["The British coin has disappeared!"]. My favorite one is "SCREW DRIVING!"—["I'm gonna walk to work from now on!"].

It's a nice Boston touch to have a KENNEDY in the center; the clue is [Half profile?], referring to the face on the half-dollar coin. Never heard of SAITEK, the [PC-game company]—their site shows that they sell video game hardware (joysticks, controllers, etc.) rather than games. Overall, the fill is on the tough side, but only the JUDAEA/SAITEK crossing really gave me pause.

Favorite clue: [Carousel riders?] for LUGGAGE.

Merl Reagle's syndicated crossword, "One More Letter To Write"

Merl's theme is an "add a letter" theme, but rather than adding the same letter each time, or having some underlying rationale for those particular letters being added, Merl adds whatever letter he needs to generate an entertaining wacky phrase:
  • 21A. [What today's conifer class will be?] is ON PINES AND NEEDLES.
  • 33A. My, this one's rather alarming. "DIE, AGNOSTICS!" is a [Sentiment toward doubters that's a bit extreme?].
  • 48A. [What the bankrupt organ grinder decided to do?] is TAKE THE MONKEY AND RUN. Heh. I like it.
  • 69A. [Serenaded a famous tenor?] clues SANG TO DOMINGO. Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic.
  • 87A. BRIDGE AHEAD, PAY TROLL is clued as a [Sign in an updated version of "Three Billy Goats Gruff"?]. Love it!
  • 105A. BROOKS ON TAPE would be [Mel reading his own bio?].
  • 119A. [Baby picture of a well-known actress?] is REESE WITH HER SPOON.
If you enjoy Merl's sense of humor (as I do), you probably liked this puzzle. Let's run through five clues:
  • 4D. [It precedes "of A"] confused me for the longest time and I needed four of five letters before I could figure it out: THE U.S., as in "the U.S. of A."
  • 60D. [Boarish comment] is OINK. Not to be confused with a boorish comment.
  • 15D. [Tell others how to act] is DIRECT, as in a movie or play director.
  • 84D. ["Huh!?"] clues 'WHAT THE...!?" When my kid said that in kindergarten and first grade his classmates ratted him out for saying the bad word their minds filled in.
  • 100A. [Word that aptly finishes "ni___"] is TWITS. The dictionary tells me that twit and nitwit are etymologically unrelated but roughly synonymous. I don't care for this nonstandard clue, though.
Updated Sunday morning:

Robert Wolfe's syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, "Surprise Endings"

Cute anagram theme—the last word of seven movie titles is anagrammed to change what the movie's about. My favorites were TENDER IS THE THING (Night), a [Film about a soft-hearted creature?]; A FAREWELL TO RAMS (Arms), or [Film about Los Angeles losing its NFL team?]; and LORD OF THE FILES (Flies), [Film about a computer supervisor?]. The fill's pretty smooth, and the clues must be on the easy side because this puzzle was a couple notches lower on the difficulty scale than the other three 21x21s were.

For more on this puzzle, see PuzzleGirl's L.A. Crossword Confidential post.

All right, now it's Sunday afternoon:

Tony Orbach's themeless (freestyle!) CrosSynergy/Washington Post "Sunday Challenge"

The clues in this one weren't all that tough, but they had a lot of zip and cleverness, and the fill's got some oomph too. Highlights:
  • Favorite clue: [Attempt at the straight and narrow?] leads to a NOSE JOB. My second favorite clue is right beside NOSE JOB: A LA MODE is clued as [Having gotten the scoop?].
  • The dumbo intersection: STUPID, or [A few bricks shy of a load], meets PINHEAD, or [Nimrod].
  • [They might be hung in public] sounds dire, but it's just about SALAMIS.
  • [Acer's competition] might make you think, "oh, geeze, now that non-word 'acer' is making its way into clues!" But it's capital-A Acer, the PC brand, which competes with DELL.
  • Lively BEANBALL is a [Pitch thrown at the head].
  • The JACKALOPE is an [Antlered creature of lore].
  • Ah, the SEMICOLON, a [Mark of a long sentence, perhaps]. Did you know you can get a t-shirt from the Semicolon Appreciation Society? You can; it's true.
  • FAKE IT is clued [Smile though your heart is aching, e.g.].
  • [Sharp-looking footwear?] are pointy-heeled STILETTOS.
  • Goofball trivia: Lawrence WELK was the [Bandleader who's license plate read "A1ANA2"]. Attention, CrosSynergy: that should be "whose."
  • Fun clue for KOREAN; [Seoul brother, for one].