November 24, 2009

Wednesday, 11/25/09

BEQ 7:48
Onion 4:48
LAT 3:05
NYT 3:03
CS untimed

Allan Parrish's New York Times crossword

You know how it goes when you finish a puzzle without having any idea what unites the theme entries? Yeah, that was my story tonight. "Radial, dual, shower...pirate? No. Tire, exhaust—aha!—drain, flag. Synonyms!" The theme answers are all noun phrases that end with words that double as synonymous verbs:

• 17A. [Goodyear offering] is a RADIAL TIRE.
• 61A. [Blackbeard flew on] clues a PIRATE FLAG.
• 10D. [Feature of many muscle cars] is DUAL EXHAUST. Is it just me, or does the combo of RADIAL TIRE and DUAL EXHAUST bore you, too?
• 24D. The SHOWER DRAIN is [Where lost hair may accumulate]. Eww! Gross!

To purge that image, let us consider some other clues:

• 15A. Crosswordese alert! Old-school AMAH is an [Eastern domestic].
• 21A. The SUN is a [Weather map symbol] that does not get much use in the Midwest in November.
• 24A. SEMITE refers to an [Israeli or Palestinian] or, in fact, any Arab. Anti-Semitism is prejudice against Jews, not against Semites in general. I don't know why that is. See also 29D: ARAB, or [One with an "al-" in his name, often].
• 30A. [Pro- or con-] is a PREFIX. Were you thinking of debate sides?
• 54A. Mount EVEREST is the [Mountain previously named Peak XV]. Didn't know that.
• 13D. HOMEY is clued as [Warm and comfy], but the word always makes me think of Homey the Clown from In Living Color and his sock full of pennies. *Whap!*
• 25D. Maple TREE SAP is the [Syrup source]. Did you see the article in Tuesday's NYT about Chuck Schumer's goal of making New York State the world's leading producer of maple syrup? Hey, he may be a goofball, but I am in favor of anything that means more real maple syrup and maybe less of those maple-flavored corn syrup concoctions. (Edited to acknowledge that this answer, found in the center of the grid, is a fifth theme entry. Thanks, Alex!)
• 62D. ["M*A*S*H" extra]...uh-oh, is this going to be NURSE? Nope! It's a ROK, or Republic of Korea soldier.

Updated Wednesday morning

Donna S. Levin's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "Swish!"—Janie's review

Late in April of '10 Broadway will welcome a revival of Promises, Promises a musicalization of the film The Apartment. Why do I bring this up? Because in the show, our hero learns that the object of his affection—a co-worker who is only politely aware of him—shares his affinity for basketball and he can barely contain himself when he makes this discovery. "She Likes Basketball" he sings with exuberance (and the "he" in the link is Jerry Orbach [father of constructor Tony] who garnered himself one of the show's two TONYS [Broadway honors] back in 1969).

Judging from today's puzzle theme, Donna likes basketball, too. Each of the four theme phrases contains a word that's part of the process of getting the ball from the players into the net. The base phrases are not related to the game, of course. That's the fun of it. What's nice, too, is that the point-making sequence is just right: dribble, pass, shoot and score. Regard:

• 20A. DRIBBLE GLASS [Classic gag gift]. Did you know this was invented by Søren Adam Sørensen a/k/a "Sam" Adams—who also gave us the joy buzzer? The words "laff riot" come to mind. Sorta...
• 28A. BOARDING PASS [Ticket to fly]. Not a literal ticket—although these days, with e-ticketing, I suppose it does double as a boarding pass sometimes. I tell ya, it's a new world out there.
• 43A. SHOOT THE MOON [Obtain the optimal result on a hand, in hearts]. That's the card game of hearts that Donna's referring to. This is the only example where the key word in the phrase is the same part of speech (a verb) as the basketball descriptor. And I can see where this was difficult to avoid. In BAMBOO SHOOT, for instance, shoot is a noun, but the phrase is one letter shy of its would-be puzzlemates, and unbalances the fill by having the basketball word at the end of the phrase. Far better is the solution we get in the puzzle with two phrases where it's the first word, two where it's the last. Such are the challenges that constructors are up against, however.
• 52A. EVEN THE SCORE [Get retribution].

I enjoyed solving this one not only for the theme fill, but because the cluing and non-theme fill made me think—and reflect. I recalled being in elementary school, in the library and having the school's librarian asking us third-graders if we knew what the oldest book in the world was. Because I knew only that it had been written in the century before the one we were living in and because I liked the high-spirited Jo March, I proffered Little Women... The patient librarian took all of our suggestions (I'm sure Aesop's Fables and Grimm's Fairy Tales were in there as well, though probably not anything by O'HENRY [Author known for his surprise endings]) and then let us down easy: THE BIBLE, which, it stands to reason is why it's also the [#1 best-selling book of all time].

How did you do with VENA CAVA [Cardiologist's concern]? I had to depend on the crosses to make this one happen and wasn't sure either whether [Tirana's country] was going to turn out to be ALBANIA (yes) or perhaps ALGERIA (not). I was familiar with the British "bangers and mash", so SAUSAGE for [Brit's banger] was not problematic.

If basketball isn't your thing, there's a lot in here for culture-vultures, too, including: author James AGEE, opera's SEVILLE-based barber, composer Gustav MAHLER, deco artist ERTÉ, choreographer AGNES de Mille. And have we seen John Paul STEVENS [Senior-most Justice of the Supreme Court] here at CS before? The Cruciverb database would say no. That was a nice change of pace.

Gareth Bain's Los Angeles Times crossword

(Post excerpted from my post at L.A. Crossword Confidential.)

I finished this puzzle with no idea what the theme was—I knew that 43D/EDSELS had something to do with it, but in Across Lite, long clues are truncated in the clue list and in teeny print above the puzzle so I hadn't read the complete clue: Named for a car model, group who sang the 1961 hit formed by the ends of 17-, 26-, 41- and 52-Across. Aha! The long Down answers, MACHINE GUN and ANGORA GOAT, are not involved in the theme. The puzzle seemed sort of weird, but when "RAMA LAMA DING DONG" popped out, I was delighted.

Theme answers:

• 17A: [360-degree artwork] (CYCLORAMA). This term is not at all familiar to me. The Wikipedia article is informative, and covers Bulgaria, the Netherlands, the U.S. Civil War, and...Disney's EPCOT Center.
• 26A: [Former resident of Lhasa's Potala Palace] (DALAI LAMA).
• 41A: [Wildly exciting, in slang] (RING-A-DING). not the sort of slang I use.
• 52A: [Long-time Chinese leader] (MAO ZEDONG). The Mao Tse-tung spelling fits neither the space in the grid nor the theme's spelling requirements.
• 43D: [Named for a car model, group who sang the 1961 hit formed by the ends of 17-, 26-, 41- and 52-Across] (EDSELS).

OMOO meets OMAHA! How's that for (o)omph? For the grid's highlights, an EDSELS video, and a little Chaka Khan, click over to L.A. Crossword Confidential.

Brendan Quigley's Onion A.V. Club crossword

Did you get the theme right away? I didn't. "Are crowns, kimonos, and Trojans or princes, houses, and horses part of LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS?" I wondered. Eventually TROJAN and LIFESTYLES suggested condom brands, and I Googled crown kimono to see if the Google hits were condom-related. Indeed they were. I've never seen Crown or Kimono condoms. This is not your father's crossword theme, but it might include his old brand of condoms. The theme:

• 18A. CROWN PRINCE is the [Heir apparent].
• 30A. [1974 cult classic album by Sparks] is KIMONO MY HOUSE. Don't know the album or the artist.
• 35A/44A. The [original title of a Robin Leach series] is LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS.
• 57A. TROJAN HORSE is a [Destructive computer virus] as well as the ancient Greek ruse.

Answers and clues least likely to be seen in a daily newspaper's crossword:

• 1D. "I SUCK" is a [Perennial loser's comment].
• 49D. [Device that might work to your satisfaction] is a SEX TOY.
• 66A. [Certain hydroponic plant, slangily] is WEED.
• 54D. [One of Marlo's henchmen on "The Wire"] is named SNOOP.

Boring entries with more interesting clues than usual:

• 6D. EGO is clued with [Robbie Williams' "The ___ Has Landed"].
• 9D. INRI is clued as [Literally, "King of the Jews"] rather than the usual [Cross letters].

Brendan Quigley's blog crossword, "Looks Good Enough To Eat"

The theme is a quip from Arnold SCHWARZENEGGER: "I LOVE THANKSGIVING / TURKEY. IT'S / THE ONLY / TIME IN LOS / ANGELES THAT YOU / SEE NATURAL BREASTS." That's not technically true—the amount of breast meat on a typical factory-farmed turkey sold in grocery stores is hardly a natural development.

This 17x17 puzzle took me as long as a typical 21x21 Sunday puzzle. Where did the challenge arise? (1) The quote isn't crossed by a bunch of answers with easy clues, it's crossed by BEQesque fill with BEQesque clues. (2) The quote's broken into chunks that don't parse as natural units of meaning. "Turkey it's"? "Time in Los"? (3) Pop culture clues for things I didn't always know—Jet lead singer NIC Cester, a Mad Men character, Blackalicious's debut album NIA?

Minus 5 points for including CURED in the grid when the terrific THE CURE is already there. An easy fix: changing 82D ESC to ESL crossing LURED. Here's the "Friday I'm In Love" video if you're in a Cure mood.