November 08, 2009

Monday, 11/9/09

BEQ 4:44
LAT 2:53
NYT 2:41
CS untimed

Lynn Lempel's New York Times crossword

Gotta put my kid to bed now, having been out bowling and tippling a few hours ago when the puzzle came out. So, extra-quick:

Another classic Lempel Monday NYT, perfectly light and smooth, with lively fill and a theme that I didn't even identify right away—phrases or words that end with synonyms. COUGH DROP, NIGHTFALL, KITCHEN SINK, SKINNY DIP, and THINK TANK. If your performance drops, falls, sinks, dips, or straight-up tanks, you need to work on your skills.

Highlights: KING-SIZE and GIRL TALK, WEASELS and icky MENTHOL that's tied to the COUGH DROP. Oh, and SPARES clued as [Bowling scores inferior to strikes]. I had a couple spares and a strike tonight in 1.5 games. In the first game, I stank—all the verbs in this theme? Completely relevant. I bowled a 61. The second game, it was men vs. women and we women wiped the floor with the fellas, sharing a 141 game vs. the husbands' joint 89.

Updated Monday morning:

Randall J. Hartman's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Beam Me Up, Scotty!"—Janie's review

It seems that like Rick in Casablanca, who never said, "Play it again, Sam," Captain Kirk never really said, "Beam me up, Scotty!" He said things like that, so that's what we remember. And repeat. It may not be completely accurate, but really, who cares?! It takes away from our enjoyment of the reference not one bit. And how does this title play into today's theme? Focus on that first word. Now attach it to the first word of the theme-fill et voila! Full disclosure: I didn't figure this out until a minute or so after I'd finished solving... Here's how it plays out:

• 17A. [Star of "Yes Man"] JIM CARREY → Jim Beam. You know, this stuff. Bottoms up!
• 28A. [Desktop publishing aid] LASER PRINTER → laser beam. Those focused beams are used in measuring the distance to the moon. Never knew that. Did know that laser is an acronym, but never remember that its letters stand for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (and fear I'm not likely to either...).
• 49A. [Statement of financial position] BALANCE SHEET → balance beam. Love how this rather dry fill triggers thoughts of this vividly rigorous gymnastic challenge. Here's Nastia Liukin at the World Championships. Don't try this at home!
• 66A. [Idaho skiing mecca] SUN VALLEY → sun beam. Lovely. And if skiing isn't your thing but the sun is, how about the SEA SHORE [Summer vacation destination]? The thing to remember about the sun's RAYS is that [They're soaked up at the beach], too, and a great way to get yer vitamin D. Wherever you choose to go, remember to use the spf 15...

And there's more strong cluing and fill all around the grid by way of:

• [Something stuffed in November?] isn't TOM TURKEY or YOUR BELLY, but BALLOT BOX. Did you vote last Tuesday?
• [Poem that begins "Once upon a midnight dreary..."] for Poe's "THE RAVEN";
• "negatives" from two very different worlds—[Old fashioned denial] 'TISN'T and ["Fuhgeddaboutit!"] "NAH!"; whose contemporary tone is a nice complement to the phrases
• "ARE [ ___ you out of your mind?"] and ["Take a chill pill!"] for "LOOSEN UP!";
• [Cover story] for ALIBI; which is a fitting complement to
• [Pen pal's place?] for CELL (as in prison cell);
• and, probably my fave, [Monkey that resembles a squirrel], which is MARMOSET. Why do I love this one so much? Because it gives me the chance to trot out the link to "The Marmoset Song." If you click on no other link here, please make it be this one... Silly, but satisfaction guaranteed.

In addition to Sun Valley, sports fans will take note of BART STARR [MVP of the first two Super Bowls], the terrific clue [Arrive home safely?] for SCORE, and [Throwing this in basketball might earn you a foul] for your [ELBOW]. And in addition to Jim Carrey, cinĂ©astes are rewarded with a witty reminder of Madeline KAHN [...who made Boyle boil in "Young Frankenstein], and OTTO Preminger ["Laura" director...], who won an OSCAR [Academy Award] nomination for that picture. The film had five Oscar noms, in fact, but won only one—for Joseph LaShelle in the category of Best Cinematography (Black-and-White).

Barry Silk's Los Angeles Times crossword

The theme entries begin with a trio of related words—MAGIC, TRICK, and ILLUSION—in phrases of varying familiarity:

• 20A. The MAGIC EIGHT BALL is the [Toy that might answer "It is decidedly so"]. 100% familiar! And fun.
• 35A. [Sly inquiry] seems a little off as a clue for TRICK QUESTION. I like the CKQ mash-up in the middle, and the overall Scrabbliness of this puzzle's fill. It's one V short of a pangram, but Barry did use Zs with CRAZY WOOZY ZING (and ZEN ABLAZE TOPAZ).
• 51A. [Cesar Milian dog-training apparatus] is an ILLUSION COLLAR. I have no idea what that is. Am I the only one who's in the dark about this? All I know about Milian is that he's called the Dog Whisperer and that many deplore his training techniques.

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Light It Up"

Brendan stretches the grid to 16x15 to accommodate the two longer theme entries. Each theme entry starts with a cigarette brand, which became obvious when KOOL and SALEM joined WINSTON in the grid. MERIT and MORE came later. At long last, a theme that combines the natural team of WINSTON CHURCHILL and KOOL AND THE GANG!

The fill had some Quigleyesque crazy woozy zing to it, like SHIT-TALK, NFL TEAMS, and the colloquial LET'S (["Aw, what the hell"]) and IS IT ME (["Nobody else feels this way?"]).

Least favorite crossing: [Actress Peggy ___] REA meets the [Ship with a single mast], the CATRIG. CATRIG? The hell? I wanted something more like CUTTER or CUTRIG, but a non-LIU actress's last name ending with U wasn't looking probable.