November 05, 2009

Friday, 11/6/09

NYT 6:01
BEQ 4:32
CHE 3:42
LAT 3:24
CS untimed
WSJ 8:05

Doug Peterson's New York Times crossword

Aargh! Don't you hate it when you click "done" with 4:46 on the clock but you have a typo in a Down answer and begin scanning all the Across answers so it takes a good long while to see JULEETTE BINOCHE sitting in reproach? Hell, for all I knew, 19A: ["The Ballad of ___," 1967 comedy western] was spelled JOSEE rather than JOSIE because hey, there's The Outlaw Josey Wales. Wales was a '76 movie, whereas The Ballad of Josie "attempted to humorously tackle 1960s themes of feminism in a traditional western setting." The plot: "A young woman living in fictional Arapahoe County, Wyoming accidentally kills her very abusive husband. She is put on trial but acquitted. She then incurs the annoyance of her male neighbors by farming sheep instead of cattle and setting up a woman's suffrage movement." Anyone ever hear of this Doris Day flick?

Okay, the puzzle: 68 words. Two 15s, four 10s, eight 9s, some intermediate-length answers, and only six 3s, which is nice. The highlights:

• Why not cross ALPHA MALE with UN-P.C.? It's a natural pairing. 16A: [Leader of the pack], 3D: [Sexist, say]. Right beside that is OGLE, or [Regard impolitely].
• 1A. I filled in MOUNT FUJI via the crossings, as I was thinking I needed an East Asian equivalent of Mecca for the [Far Eastern pilgrimage destination]. Another mountain: 28A: PIZ [___ Bernina (highest peak in the Eastern Alps]. I like to say PIZ.
• 14A. Love the word IGNORAMUS. [Dull type] doesn't begin to capture it.
• 36A. The title doesn't ring a bell, but [Subject of the 2005 biography "iCon"] is STEVE JOBS. Is that "ooh, he's an icon" or "he'll con you with his iWhatnots"? I'm reading the title as a hatchet-job "I Con."
• 37A. If you [Spotted] me $40, you LENT it to me. Thanks. I'll totally pay you back.
• 46A. [Hamburger's acknowledgment] is DANKE, a Hamburger being someone from Hamburg, Germany.
• 52A. I, CLAUDIUS is a great entry. [John Hurt played Caligula in it].
• 57A. The SERENGETI is [Where some buffalo roam]. Water buffalo?
• 1D. M.I.A.'S are clued with [They're officially honored on the third Friday in Sept. Veterans Day is next Wednesday, Nov. 11—my kid's off school then...and tomorrow too.
• 8D. JULIETTE BINOCHE, ["The English Patient" Oscar winner]. See? Sometimes I can type the right letters.
• 12D. [It often has controls] refers to an EXPERIMENT. I was in a medical study once—I think I was in the control group and man, did that stink. (Though it turns out the active-treatment group didn't fare much better.)
• 25D. [Its bulb is small]—my little Book Owl LED light? That too. But GREEN ONION is what Doug was going for here.
• 29D, 40A. ZESTY, meet CRUSTY. Is this about saltine crackers? Wait, those are crispy Zestas. [Vivacious], [Gruff].
• 31D. [Baseball nickname that's a portmanteau] is A-ROD, short for Alex Rodriguez. No baseball talk here, please. Not 'til opening day, 2010.
• 32D. [Fibula neighbor] down below is the TALUS, the big ankle bone. Did you want it to be TIBIA, 5 letters, starts with T?

OK, I like question-marked clues usually, but [Cabinet member?] for 48D: FILE doesn't do it for me. Your files are in no way "members" of your file cabinet.

Arcane factoids I am likely to forget by morning: PAUL V was the [Pope who met with Galileo], and ACETIC ACID is a [Wood distillation product].

Patrick Berry's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Koined Terms"

From my Mac's widget dictionary: koine means "the common language of the Greeks from the close of the classical period to the Byzantine era; a common language shared by various peoples; a lingua franca." Our "Koined Terms" here begin with adjectives based on Greek names and are phrases of varying familiarity:

• HIPPOCRATIC OATH, check. [What doctors are expected to follow].
• SOCRATIC METHOD, check. [Teaching technique that involves asking questions].
• PYRRHIC VICTORY, check. [Win that wasn't worth it].
• HOMERIC LAUGHTER—huh? [What hilarious jokes induce] but also very bad news, medically: "Uncontrolled spasmodic laughter induced by mirthless stimuli, a symptom of organic brain disease that indicates a poor prognosis; HL may be seen in multiple sclerosis, pseudobulbar palsy, epilepsy, intracranial hemorrhage, frontal lobotomy, and kuru, which causes 'laughing death.'" My goodness.

I like the inclusion of Greek mythology's Athena (in a clue for MINERVA) and THESEUS, the MOHS/OHM'S echo, the SCUM clue ([Dirty film]—no, not that kind of film), and learning a new word in the CELTIC clue ([Like the festival of Beltane]). Beltane ushers in the summery half of the year on May 1 and Samhain closes it out on November 1. Have I seen the name HAUER before, or is [Austrian composer Josef Matthias ___] new to me? I think he's new to me. A 20th-century composer.

Sharon Petersen's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme centers on words that sound like plurals of letter names:

• 17A. [Nursery rhyme dish?] with a question mark is PP PORRIDGE, with PP pronounced as two "Ps" standing in for "pease."
• 25A. CC THE DAY represents "seize the day," the ["Time is fleeting" philosophy?].
• 38A. "Whys and wherefores" becomes YY AND WHEREFORES, or [Reasons?].
• 49A. ["Good grief!"?] has got too much punctuation. GG LOUISE represents "jeez Louise."
• 61A. Remember that [1999 Kidman/Cruise film?] before she married Keith Urban and he married Katie Holmes? Eyes Wide Shut gives us II WIDE SHUT.

Favorite clues and answers:

• [Brest milk]! Ha! LAIT is milk in French, and Brest is a French city.
• ROSEY [Grier of the Fearsome Foursome] once sang a song, "It's All Right to Cry." He's right, you know.
• DAPPER DAN is a [Well-groomed guy].
• A [Website that users can edit] is a WIKI. If you've never fixed a typo in Wikipedia, you should try it sometime.
• [Verminophobe's fear] is GERMS. Yeesh! Maybe I'll be all better come Monday and can get the H1N1 vaccine with my kid.

Updated Friday morning:

Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Natural Defenses"—Janie's review

Yesterday, Ray Hamel's puzzle gave us five man-made items that are worn "for your protection," or man-made defenses. Today, Patrick gives us four of nature's own defenses, each of which appears as the first word of a well-known phrase having nothing to do with defenses—man-made or natural. You may want to don some protection, however, if you find yourself anywhere near these sometimes lethal weapons:

•17A. STINGER COCKTAIL [Brandy concoction]. I suppose drinking too many of these could be mighty dangerous, too, but the defense in question here is the stinger of the apian sort. On the subject of bee stings, all I can say is "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!!"
•26A. SCALE MODEL [Proportionate reproduction]. Fish, reptiles, even butterflies have scales. They're not likely to harm you (in the way a stinger might), but they do help keep the species safe from their predators.
•48A. CLAW HAMMER [Carpentry staple] and, depending who's wielding it in a non-functional way..., quite capable of doing a lot of damage/providing a lot of protection. But let's focus instead on the claw component of the avian and ursine variety. Again: OUCH!!! (I feel certain you know this but the claws of the former may also be called "talons.")
•61A. POISON-PEN LETTER [Malicious message]. And you'll find poison everywhere: in spiders, snakes, fruit, plants, mushrooms. What can I tell you? Mother Nature looks out for her own, so be very careful!

If this puzzle isn't a knock-out, a solver could still WARM TO [Grow fond of] it. There's some fun in the cluing: [Result of baby's first spaghetti dinner] for MESS is particularly vivid; ditto [Cluelessness gesture] for SHRUG. Yesterday, we saw verdant and schnoz as fill. Today, [Became verdant] clues GREENED and [Jimmy known as "The Schnoz"] clues DURANTE, whose proboscis was famously immortalized in Cole Porter's "You're the Top":

You're a rose,
You're Inferno's Dante*,
You're the nose
On the great Durante.
I'm just in the way,
As the French would say, "de trop."
But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!
*Also in yesterday's puzzle. Patrick, were you and Ray in communication when you were constructing these puzzles?

[Beetle Bailey's outfit] is not his UNIFORM but THE ARMY (his meta-outfit, so to speak). Did you know: "Beetle Bailey" was introduced by Mort Walker in 1950, and Walker is still producing the comic strip? Or that Lois, of Walker's "Hi and Lois," is Beetle's sister? I'm just wondering if Otto, Sarge's anthropomorphic dog, has ever said "ARF!" [Comic strip bark].

Myles Callum's Wall Street Journal crossword, "I'm a PC"

For my money, "I'm a PC" is among the more annoying, jejune commerical catchphrases out there. You may use a Windows machine, but it doesn't mean you are one. That's just insipid. The theme phrases have P.C. initials, but they're livened up via the clueing. Each clue defines the P.C. phrase in two ways, one straight and one jokey. For example, PRINCE CHARMING is [Fairy tale guys? Hexing a pop musician? Whatever! I'm a PC], and the really-not-so-familiar phrase PRIVY COUNCILS is clued as [Royal advisers? Outhouse committees? Whatever! I'm a PC]. If you have to do a "phrases with the same initials" theme, you're best off having some fun with the clues to add some pep to the puzzle.

A couple relative obscurities in the fill—CRESSETS are [Metal baskets for burning oil]. I know PONIARD, or [Slim dagger], but it's an old word. I was also stumped, weirdly, by 4D: ["Major Dundee" star] is HESTON, but I started out with the [Hormel product] being SPAM rather than HASH and thinking I needed the name of the Crocodile Dundee star, which I'm still blanking on.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Circular Reasoning"

Am I missing something here? The circled letters spell out IT IS ALL COMING BACK TO ME NOW. (Wouldn't "it's" sound more natural?) One of the long answers is WEDDING BAND, which is a circle, but the other is the WAITING GAME of vultures, which touches on the circle of life tangentially. There's an ORBITER in the middle of the grid. The three-way checking of squares nudges the constructor towards some compromises in fill—TLAs, partials, foreign words (Latin IN REM, French ANNEE), REMOP, not much in the way of juicy answers. Is there a theme beyond "look, the circled letters spell out something"?

Hmm. I'll probably like Monday's BEQ better.

Gotta run—busy day!