Monday, 3/29/10

BEQ 6:41
NYT 3:18
LAT untimed
CS untimed

Hello! Florida is humid, people. Dry Midwestern-winter skin drinks up the moisture. My son and his cousins are splashing in the pool after dark. Yay for a swimming pool whose water is juuust warm enough for the kids to enjoy, even if it’s cold enough to make adults scream.

John Dunn’s New York Times crossword

Mon329I didn’t quite put two and two together in the midst of solving, but eventually saw that the IN THE CROSSHAIRS theme is manifested by four intersecting pairs of tonsorial terms, or “crossing hairs”:

  • Elvis’s POMPADOUR and Abraham Lincoln’s BEARD meet in the upper left corner.
  • Mamie Eisenhower had BANGS? Who knew? Those BANGS intersect with MANES of hair. I like the MANES clue: [Jon Bon Jovi and Tina Turner features]. There’s a woman on my block whose hair is strikingly like a lion’s mane. It’s really a fearsome look for a teeny little woman.
  • Continuing our clockwise tour to the lower right corner, we have SPIT CURLS, the [Betty Boop and Superman features], and a rather generic LOCKS ([Rapunzel feature]).
  • In the fourth corner, 60A and 51D could be pretty much swapped, couldn’t they? One is a BRAID and the other’s a PLAIT, with ascribed to Willie Nelson and one to Pippi Longstocking.

Favorite fill: PARSNIPS and SODA POP, a perfect pairing. El DIABLO drinks parsnip soda pop, you know.

Updated Monday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Point System”—Janie’s review

41-Across pulls it all together: [What this puzzle’s four longest answers have in common], and that’s NEEDLES. Each of the theme answers describes places where needles may be found. Kind of an odd little theme when you think about it, but the puzzle does have its finer, um, points. First, the theme fill:

  • 17A. PHONOGRAPH [CD player’s predecessor]. I still have one. It has a diamond needle. Still have a tape deck, too (a double, for dubbing). Synonym for “phonograph” and “tape deck”? “Dust-collector”…
  • 11D. EVERGREEN [Christmas tree, typically]. Because ALUMINUM wasn’t quite gonna work…
  • 34D. BLOOD BANK [Plasma provider]. Also platelets. If you can, give.
  • 64A. SEWING SHOP [Place with patterns and pincushions]. Probably one of the last bastions of the kind of store that hasn’t been totally mall-ified.

When I first saw the title, I thought the theme might be related to ratings–that it might have to do with giving a number to an item’s PROS [Advantageous aspects]–say an occupation with an enticing PERK [Fringe benefit] or two–things that end up in the ASSET column [though today this word is clued as [Salesman’s persuasiveness, say]). But no. Where sussing out a puzzle’s theme is concerned, it’s good to be fooled! The central theme fill might also have stood in as a synonym for IRKS [Gets under the skin of]. But that’s a different use of the word.

We do get some fill of the quantitative sort, however, by way of OCTET [Number for eight] (i.e., a musical “number”). ZERO [Speedometer digit], TWO ACT [Adjective for some stage plays] and TONS [Huge quantity].

My fave fill today comes with the homophones ETHEL and ETHYL, clued respectively as [Vivian’s classic sitcom role] (Vivian Vance as Ethel Mertz in “I Love Lucy”) and [Word on a vintage gas pump]. My fave clues are two that sound like they’ll be music-related but aren’t: [Organ with a bridge] and [Composed on a keyboard] for NOSE and TYPED. Nice!

Barry Silk’s Los Angeles Times crossword

MonLATPut a lid on it! The theme here is HATs: Each theme entry ends with a hat variety, in each case a sort of hat that isn’t a hat without the word HAT following it. No berets or tams here:

  • 18A. [Gyroscopic toy] is a SPINNING TOP, and top hats are really not very practical in most settings.
  • 24A. The GULF OF PANAMA is a [Central American fishing mecca], and Panama hats come from somewhere other than Panama. Is it Ecuador?
  • 40A. [Pretender in a ten-gallon hat and boots] is DRUGSTORE COWBOY, which is also the title of an early Gus Van Sant film my husband and I watched a few weeks ago. I don’t think anyone in the movie wore a cowboy hat, but they did rob drugstores of drugs they could sell (or consume).
  • 52A. [Proverbial backbreaker for a camel] is THE LAST STRAW. Straw hats are itchy.
  • 63A. [Arctic solar phenomenon] is MIDNIGHT SUN. Yes, I brought a sun hat to Florida.

Favorite entry: GO EASY, or 47A: [Be lenient]. Least favorite entry: OLD SONGS, or 45D: [Numbers on 45s]. Is OLD SONGS any better an entry than, say, NEW PANTS? OLDIES would work great, but the answer we have merely feels like {adjective + noun} to me.

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

MonBQYay! Brendan put FREAK FLAG at 1-Across. I was just asking him last week when that answer would show up. It’s always good to let your cruciverbal freak flag fly.

I was mighty uncertain about the intersection of 62A and 55D. [For now, briefly: Lat.] clues AD INT. Short for “ad interim,” I presume? And GENE is [Word with reporter and designer]. Is it “gene reporter” or “reporter gene”? I’ve never heard of either. My favorite clue is [Legacy builder] because it took me a good long while to figure out that it was SUBARU. I got that without any crossings…but only after having a glaring blank area for too long.

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21 Responses to Monday, 3/29/10

  1. Deb Amlen says:

    Cute theme, especially with the addition of IN THE CROSSHAIRS. I got POMPADOUR, but thought Elvis more accurately sported a D. A.

    Hands up everyone who thinks 61-Down should have been clued referring to constructor Kevin.

  2. joon says:

    i certainly don’t know what mamie eisenhower looked like. we had to go back to the 1950s to clue BANGS? (going back to the 80s to clue MANE is entirely appropriate.)

    clever theme, but i was working the crosses for every single theme answer. BRAID and PLAIT were pretty easy off the first two letters. the others, not so much. i don’t think i would have ever produced SPIT CURLS or POMPADOUR without every single crossing (and i was guessing on the D, since i don’t know DINA merrill.) then again, i can’t be bothered to care about anybody’s hair, starting with my own. so for me, this was the toughest monday in well over a year.

    edit: looks like DINA merrill was in the LAT three weeks ago and she went on my list. hmm. i guess that’s what i get for never looking at my list. sometimes just adding to it helps me to remember, but not this time. AYER!

  3. Matt Gaffney says:

    ¿You mean mañana, señor?

  4. foodie says:

    This took longer than usual for a Monday. Don’t know why… For a while, had DUI instead of DWI and wondered what kind of bird was called UREN : )

    I agree that the theme is interesting and the crossing of answers, along with the crosshair piece, is clever. The pairs are not placed in identical locations in the grid , , but I guess that’s dictated by the fact that they are all 5mers except for POMPADOUR and SPITCURLS

  5. janie says:

    >we had to go back to the 1950s to clue BANGS?

    it’s not like it’s literally the dark ages, ya know. ;-) or even the middle ages and prince valiant.

    you’d be hard-pressed to find a picture of mamie without those bangs. they were part of her persona really:

    those and what a friend of mine used to call the “mamie eisenhower steps” — those steps that get rolled up to an airplane so that passengers can make their departures from (or entrance into…) the plane’s cabin.


  6. ArtLvr says:

    @ foodie, you missed the distinctions between DUI and DWI in NYS explained by Glitch at Rex’s site, I think it was late last Saturday… Some states don’t have both, of course.

    My initial slip-up was Parsleys for PARSNIPS — cured by NEMESIS! The rest was a snap.

  7. Jan (danjan) says:

    joon – the other place you may have read about DINA Merrill recently was when I commented last week or so about the 2-story Tudor cottage playhouse on the campus of CW Post, part of Long Island University. The daughter of CW (of cereal fame), Marjorie Merriweather Post married EF Hutton and bought an estate on Long Island which is now a college campus. Their daughter is Dina (Hutton) Merrill. Be glad the puzzle didn’t ask for her vowel-rich real first name: Nedenia!

  8. John Farmer says:

    we had to go back to the 1950s to clue BANGS?

    Yeah…and what about “Abraham Lincoln feature.” We had to go back to the 1860s to clue BEARD?

  9. joon says:

    you guys can mock me, but every schoolchild knows what lincoln looks like. if you say “he has a beard,” lincoln and santa claus are probably the first two names that come to mind, in some order. (third place: jacob pullen.) i’d never even seen a likeness of mamie eisenhower until i google image searched her last night to see these iconic bangs. i admit that no one name pops to mind when i think “bangs” (maybe harry potter?), but eight of the other nine people mentioned in the theme are all very recognizable from their appearance. (i don’t even really know who willie nelson is, let alone what he looks like, so that one was tough too.)

  10. ePeterso2 says:

    @Amy – Florida is so humid (“How humid is it?”) that you can poach an egg on the sidewalk. And my pool isn’t heated – the boys will swim in it year-round, but since Mrs. eP likes it really warm, there’s only about a 20-minute window in late August in which she’ll go in.

    @Joon – I would have prefered “Bangs” to have been clued as [They Might Be Giants track from ‘Mink Car’]. Also, Willie Nelson looks like a mashup of Jack Palance and Pippi Longstocking who uses Jack Sparrow’s stylist and Axl Roses’s clothing designer. Approximately.

  11. Jeffrey says:

    But joon, mocking you is fun, especially when you say things like you don’t know Willie Nelson. I’m On the Road Again, with my giant fingers no match for the tiny keybaord [see?] , so subtract all my times in half (I can hope!).

    59A in BEQ: Happy Passover!

  12. janie says:

    >third place: jacob pullen

    never hearda him. have just looked him up — but there ya have it. what keeps the playing field a little leveler is the way we all have our strengths in the not-always-common-knowledge department!


  13. John Farmer says:

    Willie Nelson was the guy who played Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart.”

    Santa? Never heard of him…before my time.

    I concede Mamie and BANGS are not an automatic association in my mind, either. But not everybody doing the puzzle is under 30…or under 50 or 60, for that matter. No reason clues need to skew toward just one generation.

  14. joon says:

    janie, jacob pullen was a little joke. he’s not in the same ballpark as even mamie eisenhower, fame-wise. (though i dare say if you polled men between 18 and 39, more of them would recognize his face than mamie’s. his fame is going to be awfully fleeting, though.)

    john: of course… but on a monday, it would be nicer if the theme answers were accessible to everybody (e.g. the clues with lincoln and elvis), not just one generation. move this puzzle to a wednesday (and ratchet up some of the non-theme clues) and i’d have no complaint whatsoever.

  15. janie says:

    ah, joon — so you were “pullen” my leg, eh? a little humor is always good for “rainy days and mondays”!


  16. John Farmer says:

    Before I forget, I did want to say I liked the theme in the NYT a lot. Really cool puzzle, all in all. It didn’t seem like a typical Monday. Maybe it could have run later in the week. But that’s not a complaint. Way to go, John Dunn.

  17. ArtLvr says:

    Aha — The OLD SONGS in Barry’s LAT should strike a chord, not just adjective + verb…

    Just a song at twilight, when the lights are low;
    And the flick’ring shadows softly come and go.
    Tho’ the heart be weary, sad the day and long,
    Still to us at twilight comes love’s old song,
    Comes love’s old sweet song.

  18. Zulema says:


    Thank you, particularly for your first comment, you know!

  19. wij says:

    Oh, janie, why did you ever point us to It’s like sailing into a maelstrom. Who knows when I will come out?

  20. KarmaSartre says:

    The first name that pops up when I hear BANGS is Lester.

  21. joon says:

    janie–that must go double for rainy mondays.

    john–i agree. cool theme, and nice work by john dunn.

    wij–oh god. why did you say that? i hadn’t noticed all the links until you mentioned it. so many links…

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