October 05, 2009

Tuesday, 10/6/09

Jonesin 4:55
NYT 3:05
LAT 2:44
CS untimed

Matt Ginsberg's New York Times crossword

Matt's theme invites a bunch of oddballs to the party. The theme entries are words that are the "only common word in the English language with the consecutive letters ___." MPG is in 18A: CAMPGROUND. ADQ is in 28A: HEADQUARTERS. 48A: THANKSGIVING contains KSG. 62A: BLITZKRIEG, as in the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop,", has that unusual ZKR cluster. I have known how to spell 2D: RASPBERRY for decades, but I still have trouble typing the P in that SPB sandwich. And NKC is in 35D: CRANKCASE. Kinda weird to have clues that give you three of the letters in the answer but no definition of the word, isn't it? Twenty-five bonus points for freshness.

This was kinda hard for a Tuesday puzzle, if you ask me and Rex Parker. (But not if you ask assorted people who whizzed through this crossword in their standard Tuesday times.) Not only are the theme clues not the usual, but there's some tougher fill. 3D: [Burned ceremonially] is IMMOLATED? Ouch. Generally what's IMMOLATED is rather horrifying to burn—if you're lucky it's merely animal sacrifice and not human. Not a Tuesday vocabulary word, and also rather gruesome. If you ask Joon, IRED (37D: [Really ticked]) is also gruesome crossword fill, what with ire not being a verb. I still think Lash LARUE is one of those outdated celebs who's pretty much known these days only among those who do too many crosswords, but I like the 66A clue: [Cowboy star Lash, who taught Harrison Ford how to use a bullwhip]. I also appreciate the word DETRITUS, or 38D: [Rubble, e.g.].

I wonder how many other of these outlier words Matt had on his list of possibilities for the theme.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Four in a Row"

I got sidetracked when I filled in some of the Down answers. REX MORGAN, M.D. and ORANGES? Hmm, will other Down answers be, I dunno, JIMMIED and R&B SINGERS? Is the theme "four crossword bloggers in a row"? In a word, no. The theme entries, which run Across, contain 4-letter alphabetic runs. GYMNOPHOBIA, GENETIC DEFECT, GENDER STUDIES, and DEATH CAB CDS all contain 4 consecutive letters. I didn't know gymnophobia was a word; Tobias Fünke of Arrested Development, a "never-nude," suffered from that phobia, the fear of nudity. Yes, the root words of gymnasium are "exercise naked," and though I am not a gymnophobe, that's a horrifying idea. My dad's high-school gym class had to swim nude. Can you imagine??

Favorite clue: [Product of Jordan?] is the HANES underwear endorsed by Michael Jordan.

Mike Peluso's Los Angeles Times crossword

How many verbs can you conjugate in LATIN (31A: [Classic language, and with 61-Across, hint to the puzzle theme found at the starts of 20-, 37- and 57-Across]/ 61A is LOVE ([Cherish]), and I can conjugate that Latin verb for the first, second, and third person singular, thanks to crosswordese. How often have we seen AMO, AMAS, or AMAT? I've never seen the plural forms, but the estimable Urban Dictionary tells me the series continues amamus, amatis, amant (this is one of the few Urban Dictionary pages without juvenile obscenity or crassness).

The long theme entries begin with the letters in AMO, AMAS, and AMAT, but not with those words per se. 20A: AMONG THE ENEMY is a [2005 Margaret Peterson Haddix children's thriller] I've never heard of. 37A: A MASS A FORTUNE is clued with [Accumulate wealth]. And 57A: [Non-remunerative athletics] are AMATEUR SPORTS.

My favorite clue is 54D: [Seriously humid] for MUGGY. That's right, people: mugginess is no laughing matter. It maketh Orange cranky. Luckily, Chicago's MUGGY days are over for the year. Unfortunately, it's been unseasonably chilly of late. Cluing 46D: SLALOM as a [Sinuous ski race] makes it sound kinda hot, doesn't it? Slinky and curvy? 47D is LEMONY, or [Tart, as a citrus drink]; my son just started reading the first of the Lemony Snicket books. Between that series and the Hardy Boys mysteries, he should be set for months. I'm also partial to that 23A: [1958 #1 hit sung in Italian], not because of the song "VOLARE" but because the car I learned to drive in was a forest green Plymouth Volare station wagon.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Randall J. Hartman's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Quiet!"—Janie's review

Gotta tell ya—for a "quiet" puzzle, this one packs quite a punch. Not only does it have a "before and after" thing going, but as 63A (the last of the theme-clues) tells us, there's something about the "before" component in the three other theme-entries that ties in to this last theme-entry and relates to a key word in the fill there. The clue in question is the sassy ["Shut yer yapper!" (and a hint to 17-, 28-, and 47-across)]; the title-related fill: "PUT A LID ON IT!"; the "key word": lid. The other theme entries:

  • 17A. [Puff from a child's toy?] CAP-GUN SMOKE. The before and after? Cap-gun and Gunsmoke. And then, there's cap which is another kind of lid.
  • 28A. [Ivy League university?] TOP-FLIGHT SCHOOL, which combines top-flight and flight school, with top as the lid substitute.
  • 47A. [Christie Brinkley to a chum?] COVER-GIRL FRIEND, or cover girl and girlfriend, and cover as the alternative to lid.
I love how Randy has braided together the various strands of this theme. There's both a complexity and a neatness to it that's very appealing.

Appealing, too, is much of the non-theme puzzle complement. We get [Two of a kind], a PAIR of "pod" clues at 1- and 2D, for instance: [Pod inhabitant] and [Pod inhabitants] for ORCA and PEAS. Here's a little clip of a pod of orca whales. We also get a pair of "golden age of the silver screen" types in (actor) Mary ASTOR [...of "The Maltese Falcon"] and (gossip columnist) HEDDA [Hopper of Hollywood].

Sports, anyone? There's André AGASSI [Winner of a career Grand Slam in tennis], a HIKER [Appalachian Trail user], the NFL [Org. of Falcons and Eagles] and OTTO Graham [Hall of Fame quarterback...]. If you [Go downhill], you may SLED to do so. You may also SKI if you [Compete in the Nordic combined] (or ski-jump to be more accurate, which looks an awful lot like flying downhill). How does Sergey Bubka negotiate tall fences? He POLE VAULTS. Okay, he's retired, but he still holds the world record. Great misdirect clue here: [Attempts to pass the bar?] has nothing to do with the legal system.

There's more misdirection with [Quit surfing?], which has nothing to do with water sports and all to do with computer use, LOG OFF; [Farm team], which has nothing to do with baseball and is all about OXEN; and [Court affairs] which this time is about the legal system's [TRIALS] and has nothing to do with basketball. Turnabout is fair play after all.

OMG, nearly forgot the best of the "this-is-not-a-sports-clue" clues—the eye-widening, laugh-inducing [Something taken before swinging?] for, yes... VIAGRA.

Before closing, and while I'm rhapsodizing, let me not forget to mention the elegant RHAPSODIZE [Wax lyrical].

And that's a wrap for today!