December 02, 2009

Thursday, 12/3/09

NYT 7:10
LAT 2:58
Tausig untimed
CS untimed

Matt Ginsberg and Pete Muller's New York Times crossword

Whoa, somebody forgot to issue a "Saturday comes two days early this week" warning about this puzzle's difficulty. If you struggled mightily with this one, you are not alone.

I test-solved an earlier version of this puzzle—I think that one had more of the "all roads lead to Rome action" than this one, and they might've been (semi-)famous roads rather than words that can preced "road." See the four diagonal roads leading to the ROME rebus square in the middle? LOGGING road, PRIVATE road, UNPAVED road, and WINDING road. Those make a solid foursome. The ROME is wedged into a DENVE{R OME}LETTE, or 37A: [Dish with ham], crossing 36D: [Cry from Juliet], O {ROME}O. I like the way the gimmick plays out here.

The single rebus square and the roads don't account for the brutality of this Thursday puzzle, though. No, that distinction belongs to the bottom middle. Good lord, EARBOB? What sort of 49D: [Bit of jewelry] is that? (Dictionary says it's chiefly a Southern U.S. term for "earring.") 70A: [Lot] is GOB but could be other words, like TON. 67A: [Base figure, for short] is an NCO, but there are other 3-letter military abbreviations out there. 54D: [Scammed] is STUNG. I looked up the definition of pizzicato to figure out 60D: [Not pizzicato], or ARCO (played violin with a bow vs. by picking the strings with the fingers). I was also stuck for a long time on 64A: [Michael Jackson genre]. URBAN POP? That's a music genre? When a gazillion MJ fans live in suburbs and small towns, and Jackson's lyrics weren't so heavy on "urban" themes? Hmph. I just Googled "urban pop" and among the first few hits are one for an Aussie mix master and one in which it's reported that Lindsay Lohan billed her upcoming (in '07) album as "urban pop." (For what it's worth, I'd love to see URBAN CONTEMPORARY in a Sunday-sized grid any time.) This zone killed me.

There are plenty of other unusual entries in the grid, but I managed to work through the other sections without so many hitches. Oddball answers:

• 17A. [Restricted zone] is NO-GO AREA.
• 22A. VOIT is a [Big brand in basketballs] and also the name of my grandma's dentist.
• 23A. MARY II is the [English monarch who shared the throne].
• 45A. For [Hare follower], I thought of fabulous tortoises instead of Hare KRISHNA.
• 53A. [Connection means, for short] sounds like it's looking for something more technical, more about wires and modems and whatnot, than ISPS.
• 61A. KONICA is a [Classic camera].
• 71A. ["Mi casa __ casa"] clues ES SU. "My house is your house." I messed myself up a bit with IS SU, which made A AND E, the 56D: [Cable choice], harder to tease out.
• 4D. [Howard the Duck prop] is a STOGY. I prefer the "stogie" spelling.
• 11D. ["Absolument!"] clues "OUI, OUI!" "This little agreeable piggy cried 'oui, oui, oui' all the way home."
• 13D. Roll-your-own word PETTER is clued as an [Attentive dog owner]. No "heavy petting" ramifications here.
• 18D. AGIO! My long-lost crosswordese friend! It's an [Exchange premium].
• 32D. [The "H" in Hanukkah] is called HETH.
• 40D. EOHIPPUS! I love that little old pre-horse. This prehistoric [Ancestor of the modern horse] was much smaller than today's equines and lived in the Eocene epoch.
• 45D. KRAKOW looks great in the grid, doesn't it? It was the [Polish capital, 1038-1596].

I fret that the EARBOB zone may overshadow the whole "all roads lead to {ROME}" gimmick, which is just sort of there for appreciation rather than something that had to be grappled with while solving. Agree or disagree?

Updted Thursday morning:

Sarah Keller's CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, "In the End"—Janie's review

In the end, what holds this puzzle together is that today's theme phrases end with words that rhyme with in. While there's nothing more that unifies the theme, the four phrases are definitely on the fresh side and there's some ear-appeal in saying them aloud as they're all (essentially) dactyls (three syllables with the stress on the first one). Today's guilty parties are:

• 20A. RECYCLE BIN [Curbside container]. And of course, this one (with four syllables...) is the exception. But I think of that first syllable as a pickup to the more metrical remainder of the word.
• 33A. SAFETY PIN [It may secure a cloth diaper]. Apparently Pampers and Huggies haven't completely put diaper service companies out of business. I'm glad to know that.
• 41A. MUFFIN TIN [Baking pan for cupcakes]. And a COFFEE TIN can be a baking container for date-nut bread. I saw the double Fs and TIN emerging and that's what I (smugly) entered. That's what I get for thumbin' my nose at the clues!
• 52A. BATHTUB GIN [Prohibition spirits]. Love this fill. For any DIYers out there, this one's for you. At your own risk. Don't want anyone out there becoming a [Sidewalk stumbler]/WINO...

The subject of alcoholic beverages is a nice segue to pointing out my favorite cross today. Note the repeated word in the clues (both nouns) and you'll see why I enjoyed seeing the juncture of BREWS [They may be found in coolers] and BRIG [Cooler at sea]. In another example of a repeated word in the clues, one is a verb [Board] for GET ON, and one is a noun following TOTE [ ___ board (track fixture)]. That first one took me a while to understand.

There isn't a lot of long fill in today's grid—though I did like seeing SNOWBALL [Winter missile]. And while the preponderance of the grid is made up of four- and five-letter words, note that there are only four three-letter words in the mix. Nice!

Barry Silk's Los Angeles Times crossword

The puzzle's got a straightforward theme type, but there's some juice in the theme entries:

• 17A. ["Imagination at work" company] is GENERAL ELECTRIC. GE is selling NBC to Comcast. What's going to happen to 30 Rock's "East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming" division when GE ceases to be a factor at NBC? (Alec Baldwin's JACK, a [Stranded motorist's aid], is the vice president of that division.)
• 26A. An ELEPHANT EAR is a [Fried-dough carnival treat].
• 43A. Ah, the Doors! "LIGHT MY FIRE" is [The Doors #1 hit covered by Jose Feliciano]. Say what? When did that happen? Totally missed it. I'm guessing it is best to keep the Doors rendition foremost in my head.
• 55A. It's a fairly easy puzzle, but this answer nudges the fill away from the early part of the wek: DAME MURIEL SPARK is ["The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" author].
• 63A. PLUG—[Ad, or the word that can follow the end of] the theme entries—generates an electric plug, ear plug, fire plug, and spark plug.

Did you know AUNT JEMIMA is a [Quaker Oats trademark]? I stay away from Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth and their ilk. Fake maple-flavored corn syrup smells like headaches to me, but real maple syrup? Yum. Speaking of sweet and sticky viscous substances, HONEY is a [Drambuie ingredient]. I believe the other ingredients are peat moss and haggis.

VIRTU ([Artistic merit]) is a good word to play in Scrabble because you can add an E or AL or OUS to it. I think one of my Lexulous (the Scrabble variant on Facebook) opponents played SKEG, a [Surfboard fin].

CLETE ([1950s-'60s Yankee Boyer]) reminds me of Cletus on The Simpsons—my son was just asking my husband what "yokel" meant, and the kid correctly tied the description to Cletus.

Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "...Or Not To Be"

Each theme answer loses two Bs:

• 17A. [Headline about the failing health of a former Velvet Underground member?] clues CALE ILL. (CAbLE bILL.)
• 18A. [Contest to see who can read "Cathy" fastest?] is an "ACK!" RACE. (bACK bRACE.)
• 27A. ["OK, tennis students, I want everyone to practice near the net with everyone else"?] clues EACH VOLLEY ALL. (bEACH VOLLEYbALL.)
• 47A. [Expose about the tawdry relations of a 16th-century theologian?] is CALVIN AND HOES. ("CALVIN AND HObbES.")
• 61A. [Ribald yoga mantra?] is DIRTY OM. (DIRTY bOMb.)
• 63A. [Have a flat bottom?] clues the verb phrase LACK ASS. (bLACK bASS.)


• The four corners with triple-stacked 7s.
• [Entomology class?] clues the class INSECTA.
• An ISOGRAM is a [Word with no repeating letters]. Did you know there was a name for that? There are a great many isograms out there. In English, anyway. English probably had a higher percentage of these than Hawaiian does, given our larger number of letters to build words from.
• A HEN is a [Mother clucker].