November 11, 2009

Thursday, 11/12/09

NYT 6:07
Tausig untimed
CS untimed (J)/3:27 (A)
LAT 2:59

Go here for Eric Berlin's specially commissioned crossword, made for Rex Parker, Patron of the Cruciverbal Arts via Eric's project. It's Rex's 40th birthday this month.

Brendan Quigley's New York Times crossword

Maybe it's just my browser that does this; I don't know. If you use the applet, do you often have the rightmost characters of a clue cut off by the red scroll-bar ends? 3D: [Excited answer to "Who want / ...?"] is what I saw, with a line break after "want." Well, that's not right at all. I suppose it's just "wants," but I spent some time trying to approach it from different points in the clue list to see if I could move the clue out from behind the red bar...and then I remembered the clock was ticking away. Oh! Moving on.

After I finished the puzzle, I replaced the {DIAMOND} rebus squares (which I'd entered as a D) with asterisks that look ever so slightly like diamonds. Easier to make sense out of, no? So yes, the gimmick theme is a rebus, with five {DIAMOND}s, one in the central answer and four others in symmetrical spots in the top and bottom rows. The sparkling theme answers:

• 1A. [Tycoon who was reputedly the first person in New York City to own an automobile] is {DIAMOND} JIM BRADY. That is, of course, the man the Brady Law is named after. (Just kidding. Different Jim Brady.)
• 1D. [Union symbol?] is {DIAMOND} RING. Were you thinking of political unions? I was.
• 10A. {DIAMOND}HEAD is a [Hawaiian landmark].
• 10D. [Chase Field team] are the Arizona {DIAMOND}BACKS. Sometimes they're called the D-Backs, aren't they? So that one looked fine in my grid without the full rebus word.
• 36A. [Classic marketing tagline] is "A {DIAMOND} IS FOREVER." Did you see that Blood Diamond movie? Hard-hitting.
• 37D. {DIAMOND} LIL is a classic [Mae West role].
• 67D. The silliest song of the '80s, for my money, is NEIL {DIAMOND}'s "Heartlight." A song about E.T.'s glowing heart? "Let it make a happy glow for all the world to see"? Major cheese! ["Heartlight" singer, 1982] is the full clue.
• 44D. BLACK {DIAMOND} is the [Symbol for a difficult ski run]. I couldn't master the gently sloping hill by the ski resort parking lot, so I'm pretty sure the black diamond runs are beyond me.
• 68D. [Home setting] is a BASEBALL {DIAMOND}.
• 54D. The HOPE {DIAMOND} is the [Subject of a renowned curse]. THE CUBS wouldn't fit here.

I like the variety of diamond meanings here—two nicknames, a surname, three gems, two baseball references, a place name, and the shape as symbol.

Five other bullet points:

• 20A. [Like some fancy soap bubbles] clues TORIC. That's soap bubbles being blown all fancy, not bubbles from a fancy bar of soap.
• 40A. CURL is clued [Show signs of age, maybe]. Like the corner of a poster or a book page?
• Good gravy, so many other people's names clued by their works, and I had to rely on the crossings to get them. ["The Red Tent" author Diamant]—hey, Diamant is German for "diamond," isn't it?—is named ANITA, but I blanked on that. R. KELLY's the [Singer with the 2002 hit "Ignition"]. Thomas ARNE is clued with [His first opera was "Rosamund"]. And Andre GIDE is your ["Corydon" author].
• 32A. RECTO is clued as the right-sided page, a RECTO—[Chapter's starting point, usually]. This answer never, ever gets clued as a prefix for "vaginal."
• 17A. ISOLATIVE means [Tending to cut off] and is not a common word.

Updated Thursday morning:

Tyler Hinman's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Leeway"—Janie's review

Well, lookee here—a new constructor joins the CrosSynergy roster of all-stars. Welcome, Tyler—and congrats on a great start out of the gate. All of the fill today seems skewed to a slightly younger solving audience—or let me say it's more inclusive of several generations of solvers—and I take this as a good thing. Tyler would be a member of Gen Y, but he's included lots today for the [Gen-___ ] X-ER as well as Boomers and their parents.

All of the theme-fill focuses on celebs of the stage, screen and rock 'n' roll who go by their full names and whose middle name is Lee. Hence the title... And those folks'd be:

• 20A. JAMIE LEE CURTIS ["Halloween" actress].
• 33A. TOMMY LEE JONES [He went to Harvard with Al Gore] (where they were roommates for a time).
• 40A. JERRY LEE LEWIS ["Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" singer]. The AIRWAVEs [Transmission medium] could barely contain him!
• 51A. JONNY LEE MILLER [Title actor of "Eli Stone"]. Have never seen it, but Mr. Miller happens to be in New York City right now in the Broadway production of After Miss Julie, where his co-star is Sienna Miller (no relation). Have never seen "Entourage" either, but courtesy of the puzzles, do know that ARI is the name of the [...agent].

(The musical theatre has a shout out to Lee as a last name, in Sherman Edwards's jaunty "The Lees of Virginia" from 1776. Thank you for giving me the leeway to follow that tangent...)

The grid today is fresh indeed, with the three-stacks of sevens at center-top and -bottom, the five-square at center, the two six-columns in the NW and SE and the fabulous vertical 15s that flank them. And it's filled just beautifully, to boot. Those 15s are especially lively: HIS MASTER'S VOICE [Trademark associated with a dog and a gramophone] and WAXING NOSTALGIC [Remembering the good times] (which is something folks who grew up with gramophones probably enjoy doing).

It's a bit too soon to be waxing nostalgic about SIM CITY [Long-running computer game series], isn't it? Still, it does make for more fill of the contemporary sort. Ditto DRE [Eminem's mentor, popularly]. Now ["Africa" band] TOTO—well, that may be another story... Nice to see Toto clued in connection with the band and not The Wizard of Oz. (Also nice to see Toto in the same grid with TUTU [Arabesque attire].) There's another group from the same (basic, if slightly earlier) period: [1970s band] MOTT [the Hoople]. Plenty in today's puzzle for DJ'S [They spin in clubs] to choose from.

Other fill and/or clues I like: TOOL BOX [Handyman's carryall] (probably for that "X"); DAY JOB [One might be advised not to quit it]; the colorful [Confuzzled] for AT SEA (confused + puzzled...); ["Who wants ice cream?" response] for "I DO!"; [Optimist's word] for CAN; the presence of both (Abba) EBAN and JEW... the former clued as [2001 Israel Prize recipient], the latter as [Seder participant, usually]; and finally, did you know that MAY is [National Salad Month]? News to me, but it's that kind of nugget of info in a clue that keeps things interesting! IMHO ["As I see it..." in a chat room] (or on line...).

I was surprised to see that the title of Tyler's puzzle, "Leeway," included the LEE part in it. I thought that was verboten in titled puzzles. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the puzzle had an impressive ladder structure—each of the two vertical 15s intersect all four of the theme entries.

Kelsey Blakley's Los Angeles Times crossword

The DNA SEQUENCE theme includes five answers in which there's a hidden DNA:

• 17A. [All-big-gun battleship] is a DREADNAUGHT. It's also spelled dreadnought, which is what I first went with.
• 24A. A [Deeply ingrained habit] has become SECOND NATURE.
• 39A. [Shanghais] means KIDNAPS.
• 42A. OLD NAVY is a [Gap subsidiary].
• 53A. [Cuba or Puerto Rico, e.g.] clues ISLAND NATION, but Puerto Rico doesn't have autonomous nation status. There are a zillion other island nations, from Madagascar to Kiribati to Iceland to Grenada to Taiwan, so I'm not sure why this clue includes a non-nation.

Most mysterious answer: 61D: [Nestle cereal beverage], or ECCO. Ecco is also a brand of practical shoes that, it turns out, don't fit my feet well. The Google page for an Ecco search is filled with shoes. Nestlé Australia mentions ECCO, the drink. Ecco doesn't exist on the Nestlé USA website. Boo! Terrible clue! This should be a shoe clue. The crossing could plausibly be either I GET or I GOT, and since ECCO is clearly a shoe, I was tempted to try OCCO for the drink. Took a gamble that it was an unfamiliar ECCO and won.

I haven't got anything else of interest to say about this puzzle, so I'll move along to the next puzzle now.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Union Agreement"

Ben's wedding is this weekend. To mark the occasion, he snuck an I DO into four familiar phrases, with the resulting made-up phrases clued without reference to the I DO:

• 18A. [Sources of odd teenage behavior?] are MAD LIBIDOS. Mad-Libs are those fill-in-the-blank books that can have zany results. My son enjoys Mad-Libs.
• 29A. The common (but not technically accurate) term "Bush Senior" feeds BUSHIDO SENIOR, or a [Gray-haired samurai?].
• 49A. "SEE YA, IDOLATER" could be [Words of farewell to an object-worshipper?]. "See ya later" is the base phrase.
• 62A. [Quick look at various melon liqueurs?] is MIDORI SCAN (MRI scan). I have never tried Midori and in fact seldom even see it in stores or bars. But I used to look at ads for it in Vanity Fair years ago, and the ads made it look like all the cool people drink it regularly.

I liked this theme a lot. When the base phrases are themselves entertaining fill, a theme has extra oomph. Highlights in the fill:

• Eddie VEDDER is the [Writer of the song "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town"]. My son has better hair than Eddie Vedder—true story.
• FREEGANS, rhymes with vegans, are [Certain anti-capitalist dumpster-divers].
• AUTO-TUNE is [The "A" in Jay-Z's "D.O.A."]. That's "death of Auto-Tune," yes?
• I just booked my February flights for the ACPT. I virtually possess an E-TICKET, or [Modern travel provision].
• I learned something from the clue for CRO: [___-Magnon man (outdated archaeological concept]. Outdated? Really? Tell me more.
• The RED SCARE was a [20th century witch hunt].