October 20, 2009

Wednesday, 10/21/09

BEQ 5:09
Onion 3:47
NYT 3:26
LAT 2:58
CS untimed

Peter Collins' New York Times crossword

All right, this stealth theme totally snuck under my radar, and I filled in 65-Across with the Downs so I never saw the explanatory clue 'til after I was done. Those 9-letter Across answers? Yeah, they have nothing to do with the theme. Instead, we get a concatenation of POP singers:

• 1A, 22A. BOY / GEORGE is clued with ["Whew!"] and [Dragon-slaying saint].
• 22A, 26A. Wham's GEORGE / MICHAEL adds [Archangel in Daniel] to the mix.
• 26A, 46A. JACKSON is [Mississippi's capital], and MICHAEL / JACKSON's concert rehearsal movie comes out this month. Am reading the Entertainment Weekly article about that.
• 46A, 49A. JACKSON / BROWNE, ex of Daryl Hannah back in the day, evokes ["Hagar the Horrible" creator Dik].

Is there a name for this sort of linkage from one name to the next? Not a word ladder, not a "Before & After"...what would you call it?

There are answers in the credit column and answers in the debit column. First up, the credits:

• 55A. The clue for OSLO, [Where the traitorous Vidkun Quisling lived], is great because it's fun to say "Vidkun Quisling." He collaborated with the Nazis in WWII, and his last name is now a lowercase noun, quisling, meaning a traitor who collaborates with an occupying force.
• 42D. JALISCO is [Guadalajara's state]. "Vidkun Quisling never vacationed in Guadalajara, Jalisco."
• 17A. DUMBS DOWN is clued as [Oversimplifies, as educational standards]. No relation to the [Job for a dummy?] that is a CRASH TEST (58A).
• 34A. A beer KEG is a capital-B [Bud holder, of sorts]. Budweiser, that is. (See also ALE, or {Draft pick?].)
• Winnie the Pooh gets a shout-out in 18D: ["Oh, ___!" (Pooh expression)]. Raise your hand if BOTHER was a flat-out gimme.
• 42A. [Ad music] is a JINGLE. Fun word.


• 39D. [Place to dip a quill] is an INK POT? Inkwell, I know. This pot o' ink? Not familiar.
• 58D. [Early 10th-centure year] is CMI, or 901.
• 22D. GREG gets clued as [Dharma's sitcom spouse]. Aren't we allowed to forget that show ever existed now? Famous Gregs grumble that they were left out in the cold. I guess cyclist Greg Lemond couldn't be in the clue, what with LE MONDE (43A: [French newspaper since 1944]) in the grid, but Louganis has some immortality, no? And Greg Brady is the all-time classic sitcom GREG.
• One part of the no-duplications guideline for crosswords says that two words with a shared root should not appear together. So it's sketchy to have both OVO and OVOLO in the same puzzle—and crossing at the V, no less! OVOLO, or 31D: [Convex molding], is an architectural term deriving from an Italian diminutive of "egg," from the Latin. And OVO, clued as 35A" [Ab ___ (from the start)], is in a Latin phrase that means, literally, "from the egg."

Donna Levin's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme is "Hockey Terms I Don't Know," basically—four "blanking a blank" phrases begin with words that double as hockey no-nos that'll land you in the penalty box. Here are the theme entries:

• 17A. [Electrical worker's action] is TRIPPING A SWITCH. This is a kind of icky theme entry, if you ask me. I just asked my husband what sort of "flipping" is a violation in hockey. I'm not an electrical worker, so "tripping a switch" feels like an awkward combination of words to me. I'm sure Dave, my electrician who looks just like Tim Russert, would tell me the phrase is super familiar. You know, if the theme entries weren't all "blanking a blank," this could've been the Dave Matthews Band song "Tripping Billies." Then all sorts of people could complain about quasi-obscure pop culture references.
• 24A. [Discount retailer's action] is SLASHING A PRICE. You know what? If they're slashing prices, maybe they weren't starting out with discount prices and don't deserve the moniker "discount retailer." Furthermore: They're only slashing the one price? Maybe it would have been better to do without the thematic consistency of the "blanking a blank" structure to allow a more natural-sounding phrase here.
• 41A. [Feuder's action] is HOLDING A GRUDGE. I like this one. I kept the first four letters blank for a while because it could've been NURSING A GRUDGE too. And yes, I'd like to see the hockey game in which the players wind up in the penalty box because they were nursing.
• 54A. [Accused speeder's action] is FIGHTING A TICKET. I've never done this. Too much hassle in Chicago, alas.
• 47D. [Place where the starts of this puzzle's four longest answers result in a penalty] is the RINK. Hockey rink, not a figure skating rink. Although I reckon the figure skating judges would not look kindly on any tripping, slashing, fighting action on the ice rink.

There's a word in this puzzle that I don't think I've ever seen before: NOVIA, or 27D: [Spanish sweetheart]. You guys know this word? I took German and French myself. The L.A. Times crossword does seem to include a few more Spanish-language entries than the East Coast–based puzzles.

The bottom corners of this grid seemed a tad clunky. The CN TOWER is a fantastic entry (50A: [Toronto skyline landmark]), but yeesh! WKLY and EEEE and RTES crossing ALEE and plural RYES? The southwest corner has a nice intersection between CRASHES and DASHES, plus the start of a theme entry and the capper, RINK, but there's also the possessive SKY'S crossing CFOS and an AGCY.

Oh, hello, it's BASEBALL, [America's pastime] (9D). Mr. Fiend was watching the Dodgers/Yankees game this evening. My kid noticed that the on-screen scoreboard thingy has two double letters: NYY vs. LAA. Letter patterns! We'll make a crossworder out of him yet. Can't push it. He needs to come to it in his own time. He's only nine, so he could use a few more years to hone his spelling before he gets into crosswords.

Runners know the word SUPINATE (4D: Rotate face-up, as one's palm). I haven't much encountered this word in a hand setting. If your ankles tend to roll outward when you walk, you're a supinator; ankles rolling inward are pronating. The words are related, obviously, to supine and prone, the words for lying on your back and face down, respectively.

When they send the RADIO CAR (37D: Police cruiser), you can expect to see the COPSE (30D: Thicket), right? "Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?"

Updated Wednesday morning:

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "The Evolution of Man"—Janie's review

What a coup-de-construction this is, as the embedded word man makes its journey across the grid in five phrases. Or phases... Not only is there a lot of theme fill (65 squares—three 15s and two 10s), but notice how the position of the letters M-A-N shifts three spaces to the right at each pass. That's progress! And here's how it plays out:

•17A. MANAGEMENT [Business owners].
•24A. GERMAN SHEPHERDS [Rin Tin Tin and kin]. Nice clue.
•40A. HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE [Realm of Charles V].
•50A. TIGER SALAMANDER [Blotchy amphibian]. Others are more vivid, but here's a pair with muted, "blotchy" tones.
•63A. PAUL NEWMAN ["Hud" star].

In keeping with the "natural history" direction of the theme, it's worth noting the clues and fill that add their support. In addition to those German shepherds and that tiger salamander, the natural world is also represented by:

•COOS/[This is what it sounds like when doves cry];
•SEDONA/[Arizona's "Red Rocks" city];
•DOE/[Female deer];
•ELM/[Tree with "helicopter seeds"] (though it seems the elm produces seeds that fall more into the "flutterer/spinner" category than say the maple, a true "helicopter" seed producer);
•LEECH/[Parasitic sort] ("UGH!"/ ["Yuck!"]);
•YOKE/[Connector for oxen]; and bringing it back to the canines,
•DOO/[Scooby's tail?].

And before parting, I'll just mention that it was good to see: METER MAID, though I wish she'd been clued in connection with "Lovely Rita" and not the quite so straightforward [Ticket issuer]; and also TUBBY, [Tuba in a children's story]. This link will take you to a seriously charming animated version from 1947, narrated by Victor Jory.

Matt Gaffney's Onion A.V. Club crossword

I really liked this theme. I was proud of myself for noticing that the first three theme entries contained English place names. Now, one's a city (CHARLOTTE YORK), one's an island (JERSEY NUMBER), and one's a county (HAMPSHIRE PIG), but they seemed close enough. Then I hit the fourth theme entry: HECHO EN MEXICO, clued as [Clothing tag words, perhaps]. Whoa. We're not in England anymore. Then I worked my way down to the end and NO NEWS: ["I haven't heard anything yet," or the theme of this puzzle]. Oho! New York, New Mexico, etc. Cute. Unexpected.

Let's give out some prizes, shall we?

• Vocabulary word of the day: ARROGATE means [Seize].
• Least likely to appear in the daily paper's crossword: LACTATED, clued with the past-tense [Got milk?]. No, wait. It's gotta be TALK SHIT, or [Trash someone].
• Most arbitrary combination of words: TWO GOALS are [Not quite a hat-trick] in hockey.
• Most suggestive of a menu item: Ehud OLMERT atop an OMELET. Would an Olmert omelet be kosher if it had cheese, or does it need to stick with veggies?
• Least sexist clue: ["Right away, ma'am!"] for "I'M ON IT!" Too often the daily puzzles go with male = gender-neutral instead of going with female = gender-neutral half the time.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Unfinished Business: Going 0-for-2"

Brendan illustrates the BAD CROSSING concept ([Poor crossword construction technique that requires too much of the solver]) with two bad crossings. Intentional bad crossings! I like it.

The first bad crossing is where 21A and 8D collide. ["Crystalised" band, 2009] is THE XX and ['80s video game with falling blocks] is KLAX. I did guess this one because KLAX sounds like "clacks," which is sort of what falling blocks sound like. I hit random letters on the keyboard, starting with the QWERTY row, for the first letter of 24D: [Vikings tight end Shiancoe] *ISANTHE, where he met 23A: [Animal Collective singer ___ Tare], A*EY. V! Who knew? VISANTHE and AVEY. My son's a Vikings fan because of the purple, but I can't say I've paid any attention to the televised games.

There was another sort of bad crossing with 47A: [Big name in chemicals] and 37D: [Cubist painter Roger]. BASF is somewhat familiar, but Roger BISSIERE? Not.

Nobody had trouble with 27A: [Crossword blogger Reynaldo], right? Right? I was afraid I'd be embroiled in a bad crossing scenario, but HAIRCUT, DARE ME, and EPOXY are not mysterious entries. Can you imagine the ignominy of being considered the reason a crossing is bad?

Favorite clues:

• 41A. [Barbed wire armband, e.g.] for TAT. Should I get a crossword grid armband tattoo?
• 52A. A [Team building?] is the ARENA.
• 22D. [Taking a little off the top?] clues HAIRCUT. That's mostly a guy haircut thing. I'd rather take a little off the ends than the top.
• 40D. Trivia! ASA GRAY is the [Botanist who arranged "On the Origin of Species: to be published in the States]. Botanist? I thought he was an anatomist. No, that's Henry Gray who wrote Gray's Anatomy.