November 23, 2009

Tuesday, 11/24/09

Jonesin' 4:42
NYT 3:20
LAT 2:56
CS untimed

Vic Fleming and Bonnie Gentry's New York Times crossword

The three multi-part theme entries in this 16x15 crossword made an especially cohesive set for this solver, as I'd recently read this Language Log post refuting the idea that phrases like "at the end of the day" were management-speak. (Turns out everyone else is using these phrases, too.) The theme entries were split up into two or three chunks apiece, with cross-referenced clues flailing all over the place. This provided a rather choppy solving experience rather than a nice Tuesdayesque flow.

The theme pieced together three phrases that mean [everything considered]. 19A and 64A spell out AT THE END / OF THE DAY. 34A, 43A, and 48A say WHEN ALL / IS SAID / AND DONE. And 4A's clue is [After "in", and with 44-Down, everything considered], which is a crazily stilted clue. THE FINAL / ANALYSIS really wants its introductory IN to appear with it in the grid.

The fill's got some sparkle to it, particularly in the longer answers:

• 1A. [Eucalyptus] is the GUM TREE, as in "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree..." Not to be confused with the sweetgum tree.
• 30A. ALAN BALL is the [Oscar-winning "American Beauty" writer] who went on to create the show Six Feet Under.
• 67A. Hey, look, it's ONASSIS, [The "O" of Jackie O.], rather than crosswordese ARI.
• 23D. A small [Traveling bag] is a VALISE. This word has always amused me. "Set down your valise, dear, and have a seat on the divan." Does anyone call it a VALISE these days?
• 47D. V.P.'S are [#2's, for short]. Can we start calling #2 pencils "V.P.'s"? Who's with me?

If you didn't know that 68D: [Soul: Fr.] is AME, make a note of it. This is Franco-crosswordese and while it doesn't come up often, you'll probably see it again. I needed all the crossings for 55A: LAIRD, [Melvin of the Nixon cabinet]. And I was briefly thrown by the 4-letter Roman numeral, 3D: [The year 1450], or MCDL. We don't often see 4-letter Roman numerals without an I, do we?

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword, "Initial Reaction: letters, not words"

The five theme entries change the first word of (semi-)familiar phrases into the single letters whose names sound the same:

• 17A. [Valentine sentiment to the 80-89% crowd?] is "B, MY LOVE" instead of "be my love." Does B MY LOVE make sense to you? It's eluding me. Is it "B, be my love" or "B, (you are) my love"? Is B the letter grade or a person who earns that grade?
• 26A. [Thankful thought toward a universal blood type?] is "O, WHAT YOU DO TO ME" (swapping O for oh). Wouldn't you be thanking O for what she/he/it does for you rather than to you?
• 32A. [Cloud shaped like a small Roman numeral?] is I IN THE SKY (swapping an I for an eye—wait, has that theme been done, or maybe "an eye for an I"?).
• 41A. [Tagline of a rap-oriented cologne slogan?] is "G, YOU SMELL GREAT." Urban Dictionary helps explain "G" if you don't grasp that part. I was hoping for an evocation of Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoo from the '70s-'80s.
• 53A. [Hassle at the local community gym?] is a Y BOTHER ("Why bother?"). My favorite among the quintet of theme entries.

The biggest "WTF" clue was right up top at 1A: [Numerical classification of some World War II U-boats]. As luck would have it, 1A intersected the second biggest "WTF" clue, 5D: [Surname of four generations of French painters in the Louvre]. Did not know of the TYPE VII boats, nor the VERNET artistic dynasty. I could see 39D: VALJEAN/["Les Miserables" surname] meeting 52A: ABUJA/[Current capital of Nigeria] mucking things up for some folks. Did anyone else want 43D: [North Africans disputed in a "Seinfeld" Trivial Pursuit question] to be the MOOPS rather than the MOORS?

Updated Tuesday morning

Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "On the Up and Up"—Janie's review

Synonyms for something or someone "on the up and up," include legit, honest, sincere. Today's puzzle easily qualifies—and is a great deal of fun as well. The word "UP" can be found embedded twice in each of Randy's theme phrases. There are five of them—and in the first two and the last two, there's an overlap factor of eight letters, which I do consider a BIG DEAL [Something worth making a fuss over]. The "UP"-camouflaging phrases are:

• 17A. PU-PU PLATTER [Appetizer assortment at a Chinese restaurant]. A tasty start to the proceedings—and also a little deceptive. Because of the phrase's initial "P," I first thought that all of the UPs were going to be reversed (cryptic-style, as if going ↑). This particular phrase supports that theory. But it didn't take me long to see that my hunch was wrong, wrong, wrong...
• 20A. SUPPORT GROUP [Alcoholics Anonymous, e.g.]. See what I mean? In this example and all the remaining ones, the UPs are not only separated out, but are clearly meant to be read from left to right.
• 35A. CUP OF SOUP [Lipton offering]. Or at 38%, more like Cup of Sodium...
• 55A. "SUPER TROUPER" [ABBA hit album and single of 1980]. Omg. That's almost 30 years ago! Um. Time flies when you're having fun? Even longer ago,
• 59A. "STUPID CUPID" [Connie Francis hit remade by Mandy Moore]. Here's Connie's version, 1959...

There was more in the puzzle that AMUSED [Entertained] me as well, and fave clue/fill pairs include:

• [They're set and broken]/RECORDS;
• [West of Nashville]/DOTTIE—so that's the country singer and not the direction. Now there's someone who made a lot of records (of the vinyl variety, that is);
• [Standing]/REPUTE (the noun and not the progressive tense verb form is what's required here);
• [Beat to the tape]/OUTRAN (because that gives me a good mental image)
• [Back for front?/IER → frontIER (as in "the wild West" [the region of the country and not Dottie...]); and
• [Great service]/ACE (tennis, anyone?). John McEnroe and [McEnroe rival] Bjorn BORG are both known to have put away their share of aces.

Also loved seeing the word NASCENT [Just starting to develop], which has great aesthetic appeal for me. EEL POT [Conger catcher]? Not so much. HONORER [The president at a medal ceremony, e.g.]? Not at all. Though I rather enjoyed UNFUNNY [Bad adjective for a comedian], because I'm still surprised to hear talk show hosts introduce "a very funny comedian." Who brings a comedian on national television and introduces him or her any other way? But one of these days......

Gary Whitehead's Los Angeles Times crossword

Spelling! Today's theme centers on a trio of homophones with different spellings that so often get mixed up by people. The homophones appear with introductory words that help clarify which is which, and this puzzle should be required reading for anyone who's had trouble with these words:

• 20A. REFINED PALATE is [Sophisticated taste, foodwise]. The palate that's the roof of your mouth is spelled this way. The word is from the Latin palatum.
• 36A. [Studio item with a thumb hole] is a PAINTER'S PALETTE in an artist's studio, not a film or TV studio as I'd first thought when I read the clue. The word's origin is French: a diminutive of the word pale, meaning "shovel."
• 47A. That rough wooden [Portable shipping platform] is a FREIGHT PALLET, also called a skid. The etymology partners up with that of PALETTE: "Middle English palet, tongue depressor, from Old French palete, small potter's shovel."

Just before doing this crossword, I'd just tweeted about another common spelling mix-up:

My favorite clue is the one for HARE: 49D: [Cocksure Aesopian racer]. Don't see "Aesopian" too often.

Highlights in the fill: 37D: EARL GREY, the [Tea named for William IV's prime minister], and 9D: TEXAS TEA, or [Oil, informally]. The "tea" in the EARLY GREY clue should've been changed to "brew" to avoid the duplication. Also terrific: DEAN'S LIST, or 35D: [Academic honor].