October 12, 2009

Tuesday, 10/13/09

Jonesin' 3:46
NYT 3:29
LAT 2:50
CS untimed

Sharon Delorme's New York Times crossword

Ha! This is a fun theme. I hardly paid any attention to it as I hopscotched my way through the grid, which I think actually slowed me down today because I didn't finish filling in LITTLE JOHN (17A: [Member of Sherwood Forest's "Merry Band"]) until nearly the end, and sort of had it in my head that HEIR TO THE THRONE (35A: [Prince Charles, beginning in 1952]) was a king in a deck of cards, tying to the ROYAL FLUSH at 58A ([Poker player's dream, yadda yadda]). But it's flush toilets we need, not poker: LITTLE JOHN, LETTERHEAD (25A: [Company stationery]), HEIR TO THE THRONE, and SARDINE CAN (50A: [Cramped spot, slangily]) all end with slang terms for the potty. Does this theme pass the breakfast test? Sure! I bet a lot of people start the crossword over breakfast and cart it along to the loo when the urge strikes. I'm feeling uncomfortable that the word "cramped" is in one of the theme clues, though.

You know why else this felt like a Wednesday puzzle to me? All the wrong turns I took. I blanked on 26D: ["Hamlet" soliloquy starter] when the space had 7 letters, but I was looking at the space for 15D. Then I had NOTHING instead of NOT A BIT for 28D: [Opposite of everything], and that erroneous H made 41A: [Blackmailer's evidence] look like PHOTO rather than TAPES. And then there were two wrong answers for 54A: [Fire up]—in lieu of EXCITE, I went through IGNITE and INCITE.

Favorite things:
• 65A. [Woad and anil, for two] are DYES. Woad is a word that dates back to Old English; it's the blue dye seen on the Scots warriors in Braveheart, anachronistically. First learned about woad from my medievalist English prof at Carleton.
• 20A. Sports trivia: The Houston ASTROS were the [First pro team to play on artificial turf]. They don't call it Astroturf for nothing.
• 64A. [Elzie ___, Popeye's creator] SEGAR was better known as E.C. Segar. I just blogged about him last week in the L.A. Crossword Confidential "Crosswordese 101" lesson.
• 5D. SALT is clued as a [Margarita go-with]. Me, I've got a sweet tooth so I like a strawberry margarita better than a lime one. In the last year, I've been asked multiple times if I want salt on the rim of that strawberry margarita. That is all kinds of wrongness there. It's sugar or nothing. Salt? With berries?
• 6D. G.I. JOES is a good answer, but [Action figures for boys] is a kinda sexist clue, isn't it? Either call it a doll mostly used by boys or an action figure for no specified audience.
• 7D. A POST is clued as [Words after "deaf as" or "dumb as"]. That reminds me—if you'd like to sponsor me in the Walk4Hearing, benefiting the Hearing Loss Association of America, see here. (Thanks for listening!)
• 9D. [Cattail's locale] is a MARSH. That takes me back to childhood family outings to the marsh.
• 47D. A CANARY is [One who sings to the cops]. Good old-timey slang.
• 51D. [Pranks] are DIDOS. The other day, someone left a "Dido" comment on my cousin's Facebook note. I realized the person meant "ditto." I told my husband about it and he said, "So that's what they meant!" He's been seeing that in work e-mails and it hadn't occurred to him that "ditto" was so hard to spell. Dido!

Thanks, Ms. Delorme, for the unexpected fun of a potty-mouthed theme.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Jay Walking"—Janie's review

This puzzle is neither a shout-out to Leno nor is it in any way associated with the traffic violation that may get you a ticket in Los Angeles. Instead, in the hands of our witty constructor, the letter "J" was last seen walking away from four familiar phrases, leaving us with four familiar sounding yet definitely altered phrases that also happen to be very funny.
• 17A. The phrase "cheek by jowl" means "very close together." The phrase CHEEK BY OWL means [Back talk from a hooter?]. This is my fave (and the others are hardly shabby!). It just conjures up a whole new meaning for "wise as an owl," more along the lines of "wise-cracking as an owl."
• 27A. I've never made a "parachute jump," but were I ever to do so, competitively, I suspect there'd be a PARACHUTE UMP [Skydiving referee] on hand. Or there'd better be! (Not to mention a paramedic.)
• 46A. and 61A. Certainly you've heard the Christmas/Holiday songs "Joy to the World" and "Jingle Bells." Paula's even thrown in an ELF, a [Seasonal helper]. But take away the "J" and whattya get? OY TO THE WORLD, the brilliantly clued [Global cry of dismay?] and INGLE BELLS, the more cheerful [Fireplace ringers?].

For all its good humor, there's a cranky undertone to this one. Someone's IRKED [Peeved]; someone has a SNIT [Hissy fit] and utters [Butler's famous last word] "DAMN." The one who's the EDGIEST [Most nervous] may be the one who really GOES APE and LOSES IT, both clued as [Flips out]. (Nice, btw, the way those last two stack up vertically.)

The [Garden buzzer] is the HONEY BEE, which produces a golden product. Said golden-product producer shares a grid line with [King with a golden touch] MIDAS.

[Spread liberally] is a past tense clue, so the correct fill is SMEARED and not SMEAR ON. And it looks like Paula just can't let go of her 9/28 puzzle, for look what we have today: C AND W [Brad Paisley's music genre, briefly]. Guess it is true that [Old] HABITS [die hard...].

And ["There it is!"], friends. "VOILĂ€!"

Fred Jackson's Los Angeles Times crossword

In this fishing-themed puzzle, the four longest Across answers end with an angler's equipment, in phrases that have almost nothing to do with fishing (OFF THE HOOK does derive from fishing). The ROD is useless without the LINE, which is fed out by the REEL and has a HOOK at the end.

My favorite parts of this crossword include the long Downs, J.K. ROWLING and EDSEL FORD (together again!) and the crossing of [Dance company founder Alvin] AILEY with an ILLNESS ([The flu, for one]), or ailment.

For more on this puzzle, including a Crosswordese 101 lesson on PAUL / ANKA and "ESO Beso," see PuzzleGirl's L.A. Crossword Confidential post.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "What Are the Odds?"

The theme entries are clued with your odds of doing various things, but I don't know that the statistics used are comparable from item to item. ASTEROID IMPACT? Your [Odds of dying because of it: 1 in anywhere from 200,000 to 500,000]. Does that mean 1/200,000 people on the earth would die if an asteroid landed here, or that the odds are 1/200,000 that an asteroid impact will happen and kill us all? The FOUR-LEAF CLOVER and SLOT MACHINE odds seem solid. I dunno about this WATER allergy afflicting 1 in 230,000,000 people—Wikipedia to the rescue! It's a skin reaction to water; I was thinking of food allergies. Then there's MILLIONAIRE: [Odds of being one: 1 in 83] doesn't specify the population in which that is true. In the U.S.? On the household level? Including home equity in net worth? You can be sure that 1 in 83 people in Africa, Asia, and South America are not dollar millionaires.

Moving along to the fill, I misread [When some studiers cram] as [When some soldiers cram], so I left it blank while waiting for the crossings to give me this military slang for mealtime. What? "Studiers"? Oh, they cram ALL NIGHT. Coolest entries: WIIMOTES, or [Nintendo controllers designed for motion], and "HOT DAMN!" (["Hoo boy, that's exciting!"]). Favorite clue: CAFFEINE is the [Cause of a crash, perhaps]; with the CA in place, I figured it had to be CAR-something.