November 29, 2009

Monday, 11/30/09

BEQ 8:20
NYT 3:02
LAT 2:26
CS untimed

Holy schnauzer! I see that this is post #2,028 here at Diary of a Crossword Fiend. I meant to mark #2,000 but it snuck by me. Coming soon: A blog contest! Inspired by Brendan Quigley's list of "Ten Bullsh*t Themes," the prizes will include Brendan's new book, Diagramless Crosswords, along with Simon & Schuster Mega Crosswords.

Also coming soon: A new home and a new look for this blog. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Dave Sullivan over this long weekend while I was lolling in Wisconsin and enjoying family time, the new site is almost ready to be unveiled. You can hardly wait, I know.

You know who else slaved away over a hot blogstove all weekend? Crosscan, Joon, PuzzleGirl, Sam, and Janie, that's who. Beaucoup thanks to all of them!

Oliver Hill's New York Times crossword

Quickly, because this puzzle came out hours ago and post-getaway laundry won't dry itself—

The theme is ___ TRAPs: LIGHT SPEED, AS QUIET AS A MOUSE, BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY, and GEORGE SAND suggest speed trap, mousetrap, booby-trap, and sandtrap. Gotta love the BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY—friend of mine took a trip to the Galapagos and took great pix of the boobies with variously colored feet. I'm not sure how the theory of evolution accounts for dull-feathered birds with bright blue or red feet.

Kudos to the editor and/or constructor for cluing NURSED as [Breast-fed]. Man, I hope no bluenoses write offended letters to the Times complaining that breast-feeding violates the breakfast test. Kudos, too, for the PLAYMATE being a [Child's friend] rather than the subject of a Playboy pictorial.

Favorite fill: QUIT IT; the AL DENTE / ZIT line; ROD CAREW's full name; the three-in-a-row Down answers LOO, DOO, and ZOO; and DADDY-O. BIC is clued as an [Inexpensive pen]; anyone else see the magazine ads promoting Bic pens, lighters, and disposable razors with a single cents-off coupon? Less fond of TRAYFUL, E-BONDS, and the doubling up on UPDATE/UPMOST.

Updated Monday morning:

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Knot Now"—Janie's review

Anyone out there read Annie Proulx's The Shipping News? One of the many things I liked about the book were the illustrations of knots that were part of almost every chapter. They were taken from The Ashley Book of Knots which, it just so happens, is available as a free e-book. Today, each of Ray's fresh theme phrases begins with a word that also describes a particular kind of knot. And those'd be:

• 20A. WINDSOR CASTLE [Queen Elizabeth's weekend getaway]. Here's a "how to" in, um, seven easy steps...
• 37A. GRANNY SMITH [Green apple variety]. Here's one kind of granny knot.
• 44A. SQUARE DANCE [Where callers are heard]. Loved this one, because I really didn't understand the clue until the fill became clear. Also, the square knot is just about the only knot I know how to tie: left over right and right over left. Or the opposite.
• 59A. OVERHAND PITCH [It was legalized in baseball in 1884]. Nice little factoid, no? And here's yer basic overhand knot, which bears a striking resemblance to a pretzel. Yeah. I can do this one, too.

While the theme may have been "knotty," the puzzle as a whole was easily and enjoyably solved. Little Jack Horner of English nursery rhyme fame got his day in EL SOL [The sun, in Seville] with not one, but two clue/fill combos: ["...and pulled out] A PLUM" and ["...and said, 'What a good boy] AM I!'" While we're in the nursery, let me not forget to mention CHOO, which has been clued as [Half a toy train?]. Let's just hope that when the child with but half a toy train starts to read, he or she gets an entire primer. Cut-backs are one thing, but Dick without JANE? Next thing ya know that [Double Dutch need] (and knot-tying need...) ROPE will be for—well, is there such a thing as "Single Dutch"? I think not. But look, the National Double Dutch competition is coming up. This may be worth looking into!

In the legal world, the [Burden of proof] ONUS is on the prosecutor, who pleads his or her case before the judge or judges. When the robed ones are hearing a case, they are said to be sitting en BANC. So they're the ones who have a [Seat at the court]. In the world where the "higher law" must be answered to, someone who's been very, very good might be recognizable by his or her HALO [Heavenly ring] (or HARP, perhaps). And a [Heavenly aquarium addition?]? Why, that'd be an ANGEL FISH, of course. (Ray also gives us the WAHOO, a [Dark blue food fish]. This was new to me, and is a nice change from ["Yippee!"].)

Other fill that kept the puzzle lively: CHI-CHI [Hoity-toity] (I like that clue, too) and TOP DOG [One of the highest authority]. We've seen fat cat a couple times in the past few weeks, so I was glad to see a little balance among the species.

Pancho Harrison's Los Angeles Times crossword

Aw, look at 1-Across: [Vikings quarterback Brett] FAVRE. FAVRE turned 40 last month, and would you look at the season he's having with his erstwhile NFC Central/North rivals? My son was OK with his Bears losing yesterday because the Vikings are his second favorite team. If only FAVRE had come to the Bears instead of Jay "Interceptions and Fumbles" Cutler.

The theme is either flawed or fresh: The three longest entries start with synonyms, but one of the synonyms is two words while the others are single words. Is it a nice twist or an unexpected hitch to have TAKE OFF, not TAKE, match up with SPLIT and LEAVE? I'm OK with it. TAKE OFF WEIGHT is clued as [Shed some pounds]; SPLIT THE PROFITS is [Divide earnings equally]; and to LEAVE A MESSAGE is to [Talk to the answering machine].

In the fill, the stars are OLD YELLER (which I haven't seen...I don't want to cry) and AUSTRALIA. Not fond of AGERS and APER. The iBOOK is now dated fill, but it's easier to fit into a puzzle than the MacBook Pro or the AirBook.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Themeless Monday"

This puzzle kicked my ass. Chess fans may appreciate 1-Across—ZUGZWANG, or [Unpleasant obligation to move, in chess]—but those who've never encountered the term must rely heavily on the crossings. And 1-Down wasn't helping—["Hannah Montana," e.g.] is a teen sitcom but also, apparently, a ZITCOM. Now, my kid watches some of the Disney Channel's sitcoms for tweens and I read Entertainment Weekly religiously, but ZITCOM was not coming to the fore of my brain. Gah.

How are NITS [Small prevarications]? I've never seen the word used to mean lies. I had FIBS there for too long. Plenty of other wrong turns, too. GAINS instead of EARNS and THETAN instead of THEBAN because I was originally thinking CRETAN mucked up the race horse BARBARO, who was looking like TARBUIO or TARBAIO (the A-vs.-U was JANE, [Alec's twin sister in "Twilight"], and I guess Brendan is more caught up in Twilight-mania than I am. Brendan, you didn't seem the type. I also figured [Acting together] would be ***ING UP rather than IN LEAGUE.

["Eek!"] clues DEAR ME, which is goofy but worlds better than OH ME and AH ME, which I suggest nobody has uttered in a century, if ever. Until now! I have begun using AH ME and OH ME, but so far have had no luck getting my husband to join in. Won't you help popularize these words of regret and despair? It's either that, or we have to insist that constructors stop using these entries altogether. Do any of you have an in with Stephenie Meyer or the writers of Hannah Montana? That could break OH/AH ME wide open. I'd tell you I was saying "Oh, me!" in my head while working on this crossword, but that would be a small prevarication.