Wednesday, 3/31/10

Onion 5:10
BEQ 4:59
NYT 3:45
LAT 3:10
CS untimed

All right, we’ll see how many puzzles I get through tonight. I may not get back to the blog in the morning, as we have plans to rent a pontoon boat and head to the Crystal River for some spring-fed manatee action…but there’s really not room for six people in the car so one of the adults may stay back at the house…but that might or might not be me. So what I’m saying is: I may be incommunicado for much of Wednesday. Or I may not.

Chuck Deodene’s New York Times crossword

Picture 5I’m pretty impressed with my solving time. While I was solving, my niece nestled into me and unergonomicized my arm/laptop nexus. And I had an adjacent-key typo in the middle of the puzzle that I had to root out to satisfy the applet. Still in the 3s despite those things, on a Wednesday? I’ll take it.

SPREAD THE WEALTH unifies four unrelated phrases by “spreading” four names for “wealth” (slang terms for money) in their midst, like so:

  • 17A. BREAD is spaced out in BY POPULAR DEMAND.
  • 49A. MOOLAH is found in MANOLO BLAHNIK.
  • 59A. In [Escapes via luxury liner], “escapes” is a noun, not a verb, so the answer is PLEASURE CRUISES, and it hides filthy LUCRE.

I find my mind is blank and I have nothing more to add on this puzzle.

Deb Amlen’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Picture 6Oh, dear. I see why I usually blog sitting up at my desk. Because leaning back in bed late in the evening promotes somnolence. Plus, the laptop is toasty warm. I nodded off twice while solving this puzzle and the pillow is calling out to me. So, quickly:

The theme is nothing I understand. Familiar phrases that end with words that are also characters in video games?

  • 20A. BOTTOMLESS PIT is a [“Kid Icarus” character, without pants]. “Kid Icarus” is a game? There is a character out there called Pit? None of this rings a bell.
  • 25A. A metaphorical DARK CLOUD, I understand. [“Final Fantasy VII” character, turned evil]? If you say so.
  • 49A. HYPERLINK is clued as [“Legend of Zelda” character, over-caffeinated]. In my mind, Link is a character who looks exactly like either a chain link or a sausage link. Am I close?
  • 54A. [“Sonic the Hedgehog” character, showing chutzpah] clues BRASS KNUCKLES. In grade school, of course, my nickname was Knuckles.

Highlights in the puzzle:

  • 44A: [Kitchen drawer?] has previously been used to clue AROMA, I think, but here it’s an ODOR. It can draw you to the kitchen to sniff out where the stink is coming from. Free tip: It’s likely the garbage you’re smelling.
  • 45A. We get a solid trivia clue for RAISIN: [“A ___ in the Sun” (first play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway]. Lorraine Hansberry.
  • 37D. To STREAK is to [Barely make it across the field?], in bare-naked fashion.

Jennifer Nutt’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Picture 4THEME: “Playing Footsie”—Four phrases begin with homophones of FOOT PARTS (and I don’t mean inches).

This is a cute theme. I’m not one of those people who is grossed out by ordinary feet and all things foot-related, and hey, the theme entries only sound like they involve feet. Much fresher than a theme that actually uses HEEL, BALL, TOE, and SOLE phrases, no?

Theme entries:

  • 20A: [Proverbial advice to a physician] (HEAL THYSELF). This looks like HEALTHY SELF every time I look at the grid. HEAL sounds like “heel.”
  • 40A: [Scold vigorously] (BAWL OUT). Sounds like “ball.” Heh, I said “ball.”
  • 59A: [Certain no-parking area] (TOWAWAY ZONE. “Toe.” This theme answer gives me mild crossword PTSD symptoms. At my first ACPT, I didn’t check the crossings on a theme entry in the easiest puzzle, and so had crosswordese-ish PLAT instead of PLAN, crossing a TOWAWAY ZOTE. True story.
  • 11D: [Motown genre] (SOUL MUSIC). “Sole.” The Godfather of Sole has got some fancy footwork.
  • Wrapping it all up is 35D: [This puzzle’s theme, if you listen to the beginnings of 20-, 40-, and 59-Across and 11-Down] (FOOT PARTS).

Updated Wednesday morning:

Sarah Keller’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “First Light”—Janie’s review

“Light”–not as in “…by the dawn’s early…” but as in “not so dark or caloric, or serious, or percussive or ‘acid-like’.” Each of Sarah’s compound-word theme phrases can take the word “light” before it (“first”), in classic “before and after” style. This give us:

  • 17A. (Light) BEER BARREL [Brewery container].
    26A. (Light) LUNCH COUNTER [Diner fixture].
    44A. (Light) OPERA GLASSES [Binoculars for the Met].
    60A. (Light) ROCK BOTTOM [Very lowest level]. Truth be told, this is the most successful example, imoo, since the meaning of rock changes as the phrase changes.

The non-theme fill provides a lot of “internal glue” that helps to make this a solid piece of construction. Some of this comes from wordplay, some is more thematic in nature. There’s a little botanical/horticultural thing going on with CALYX [Flower section], TESTA [Seed covering] and (sometimes) LIMB; also ALGAE [Sea greens] (okay–not now, but once they were considered to be true plants) and [OLIVE [Small oval fruit]. (It never occurred to me that olives are classified as fruit; but so is the tomato, so go figure!)

Then there’s the music-related fill. In addition to opera and rock, we see RAGA [Music of India], BE-BOP [Jazz style] and yes, vocal groups ABBA [“Dancing Queen” quartet] and the BEE [___ Gees]. For the politically-inclined, there’s [Stevenson in 1952 and 1956, e.g.], the ALSO-RAN, and [Congressional conclave], our CAPITOL. The “Oops, I did it again” citation goes to the GALOOTS [Clumsy dudes] (nice clue/fill combo, too) known for committing a GAFFE [Blunder] or two. It’s not unlikely that one of those galoots finds himself in simpatico company with a NERD [Dork].

Sarah has a lot of clues that make ya think twice–and these are always welcome in my book, keeping the solver alert and livening up both familiar fill and the solving experience. Highlights today include:

  • [Dynamic opening?] and [Classical beginning?] for AERO and NEO.
  • [It’s seen between cornrows] for SCALP (so this is cosmetology and not agriculture here…)
  • [River tower] for TUGBOAT, so “tower” is a vessel and not a structure. (Caveat: this is similar to the “flower” misdirection we often see. Is it a river or something found in a garden?)
  • [Seal in the parts department] GASKET, and not an aquatic mammal out of water.
  • [Relieves] for EASES and BAS [ ___-relief].

We just encountered RHEA [Three-toed bird] yesterday, and UTERI [Egg developers] is perhaps a tad too clinical for my taste, but this is pretty much small potatoes in the big picture, where there’s far more to like than not!
Updated Wednesday afternoon/eveningish:

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Speaking in Code”

Picture 7In brief, because it’s late to be covering a Wednesday puzzle—

The theme entries begin with the COMPUTER / LANGUAGES known as C, Java, Basic, and…I guess it’s just those three. I like the theme.

Weirdest fill: The archaic ATTAINTS, the odd ALTERANT, and the not-archaic COSPLAY. Is that a mash-up of “costume” and “play”? Because it looks like the prefix “co-” affixed to “splay,” which is just weird.

Favorite clue: [“What’re ya having?” answer], “A BEER.” They sell Pennsylvania’s Yuengling down here in Florida, though I’ve never seen it in Chicago. The lager is tasty. I believe I’ll have one with dinner.

Most surprising clue: For EEE, [2007 Tao Lin novel “Eeeee ___ Eeee”]. Excellent way to mix it up instead of going with the wide shoe size…though one could make the argument that the clue and answer duplicate each other. Honorable mention: [Word with human and industrial] is WASTE. Wasn’t expecting that!

Least feminist clue: [Men of arts and letters?: Abbr.] for EDS. Most of the editors I know are women.

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8 Responses to Wednesday, 3/31/10

  1. ePeterso2 says:

    Hooray for manatees!

    (Taken from the seawall in my backyard … seriously)

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    I like the foot theme. Should I not be admitting that in public?

  3. joon says:

    MANOLO BLAHNIK was all crosses for me. yikes. luckily they were pretty easy crosses. i suppose if i had gotten stuck, there was a 6/13 chance of the theme coming to my rescue.

    i loved deb’s onion theme! i’ve played all of those games, some more than others. kid icarus is the root of my lifelong fear of eggplants. no joke–ask matt m.

  4. John Haber says:

    I trust ASYLA is a word. Neither MW11 nor RHUD gives an alternative plural for “asylum.”

    I never care for themes like this, since circling letters as needed feels way too easy on constructors, but easy puzzle, so right, even the long entry for a shoe brand isn’t a problem.

    I don’t do Onion puzzles, but I wouldn’t have a chance at that. Definite generational thing.

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Hello! I won’t be able to blog the BEQ puzzle anytime soon. I am on a boat. The weather is glorious–sunny, just warm enough. Yay!

  6. Jim Horne says:

    I agree with joon but I’ll go further. The Onion theme is terrific but the whole puzzle is outstanding. “Shuffle off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and join the bleedin’ choir invisible” made me laugh. In true Onion style, there are a few entries that wouldn’t fit at the NYT. 66 Across might be the best clue/answer pair ever.

    I wish we heard more from Deb Amlen. When does her book hit the stores?

  7. split infinitive says:

    Loved the Onion puzzle even though I never played *any* of those games.
    The crosses were kind, and ,the 24A clue for DIE was solid brilliance. Very happy to see my cousins the Icelanders represented with SIGUR Ros. Only writeover was having CRUNK for CRISP. [31A Totally baked]. Oops.

    Yes Ms Amlen — when your book comes out I promised to “front” them on bookshelves across Chicagoland. Jacket versus spine out,. I do that for Amy too, when I see her opus.

    Enjoy the vacation, Amy!

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