Wednesday, 6/30/10

Onion 3:59
LAT 3:42 (while multitasking by listening to Ryan & Brian’s “Fill Me In” podcast)
NYT untimed
CS untimed

Kristian House’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 6Today’s theme is phrases that end with words that double as one-named singers, but it’s riddled with inconsistencies:

  • 17a. [Conk the “You Were Meant for Me” singer?] clues CROWN JEWEL. Never heard of the song, and the “bonk on the head” sense of CROWN is not so common, I don’t think.
  • 62a. CLAW HAMMER is clued with [Scratch the “2 Legit 2 Quit” rapper?]. I dunno. I think of him more as “MC Hammer” than just “Hammer,” but he’s used both names. Hey! I know this song title. (Not that I’m proud of this.) And just the other day I saw a guy wearing a summer-weight cotton version of Hammer pants on my block.
  • 10d. [Protect the “Kiss From a Rose” singer from the cops?] clues HARBOR SEAL. Love this one.
  • 28d. TICKLE PINK‘s original meaning is a verb phrase, whereas the other three theme entries began as noun phrases. The clue is [Amuse the “Get the Party Started” singer?], because how else can you clue TICKLE without using the word “tickle”? Don’t know the song title.


  • Look at these great 8s in the fill: AD-LIBBED, PIT STOPS, NOVELLAS, TYPECAST, SNUB-NOSE revolver, and [Mendeleev’s tabulation] of the periodic table of ELEMENTS.
  • 1a. Two-word partial I HAD is clued [Harry James’s “___ the Craziest Dream”]. Who? What? According to Wikipedia, “He was one of the most popular bandleaders of the first half of the 1940s.” Oh, that Harry James. Of course.
  • 20a. [Attempts, with “at”] clues HAS A GO. With the “at” pulled out, does that make HAS A GO a 6-letter partial?
  • 37a. Breakfast test! LICE are a [Cause of head-scratching, perhaps]. The “perhaps” there because there are other causes of head-scratching (e.g., being perplexed), and the “head” is there because there are other lousy locales.
  • 2d. The HORA is a [Dance done to “Hava Nagila”]. Hey! I finally saw an in-the-flesh HORA last week. If there’s a choice between “The Chicken Dance” and the hora, by all means, ditch the chicken.
  • 48d. STACKS is a boring word, sure, but clue it as [IHOP servings] and you whet my pancake appetite.


  • 49a. Literature: NOVELLAS include [“Billy Budd” and “Of Mice and Men”].
  • 8d. TV: DALLAS is [Miss Ellie’s soap].
  • 27d. Russian drama: IRINA is one [“Three Sisters” sister].
  • 31d. Opera: NORMA is clued as [“Singer of the “Casta diva” aria].
  • 56d. Art museums: The TATE [___ Modern (London gallery)].
  • 58d. Literature: EMMA is a Jane [Austen classic].

Updated Wednesday morning:

Raymond Hamel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Linking Verbs”—Janie’s review

A quick visit to reminded me that “linking verbs” are those that don’t show action, but rather “describe the subject.” The example there is “The kitten looked happy.” While they’re not identical, in the ESL world, “linking verbs” are similar to “stative verbs.” Ray uses the term, however, not to test our knowledge of English grammar, but to give us the heads up that the word “verb” will “link” the two words in the four theme phrases. And here’s how:

  • 17A. DENVER BOOT [Wheel clamp]. Looks (and functions) kinda like “The Club”—except, well, it immobilizes the vehicle by attaching to the wheel instead of the steering wheel…
  • 23A. LEVER BROTHERS [Company that originally sold Lifebuoy soap]. And I just assumed they were Americans… In fact, they were Brits. Tut. What a provincial gal I am sometimes! Did you know Lifebuoy has been around since 1895?!
  • 42A. HARD-COVER BOOK [First edition, usually]. Yeah. In the age of Kindle and other electronic readers, that “usually” is a critical word.
  • 50A. RIVER BASIN [Geographical drainage area].

While I tend to enjoy an embedded-word theme, I found today’s title and embedded word to be livelier than the phrases the word shows up in. But I may be in the minority here. More interesting to me was: BROCADE [Curtain fabric]; TV VIEWER [Nielsen ratings participant] (really liked that double “V” in the grid, too); RESOURCE [It may be natural]; and IN ORBIT [Like something that’s going around?].

As for mini-themes, this time Ray takes us into chem class for a review of some gases. We get NITROGEN [Nearly 80% of the atmosphere], though I confess to first entering HYDROGEN (the most abundant chemical element…). Need a reminder of air’s make up? Here ’tis. And look—in addition to hydrogen, it has a trace of neon, which comes into play today by way of INERT [Like neon, chemically]. That description also applies to RADON [Troublesome gas]. And how.

Class dismissed.

Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 7Today we have an anagram theme, with five answers ending with anagrams of KATES:

  • 16a. [Prospector’s funding] is a GRUBSTAKE. This word is wildly unfamiliar to me, I think. Do I know it? I don’t think I do. Sounds like a menu item from another continent. Dictionary definition is “a amount of material, provisions, or money supplied to an enterprise in return for a share in the resulting profits.”
  • 23a. To [Compete in a derby, maybe] is to ROLLER-SKATE.
  • 36a. JOHN KEATS is your [“To Autumn” poet].
  • 54a. [Disbelieving looks] are DOUBLE TAKES.
  • 62a. [Tenderized cut of beef] is CUBE STEAK. Luckily, there is no confusion about the first letter in the crossing. A T just won’t work.

Five clues:

  • 52a. A [Tehran inhabitant] is an IRANIAN. Yay! It’s not the awkward IRANI.
  • 61a. [Flay and Ray, e.g.] are TV CHEFS. Bobby Flay anagrams to “Flabby Boy,” I learned from Deb Amlen (crossword constructor and author of the entertaining book It’s Not PMS, It’s You!: A Totally Non-hormonal Analysis of Male Behavior). The spelling of Rachael Ray’s first name irks me. Why isn’t it pronounced “rakel,” like Michael/”mikel”?
  • 37d. OCULIST is clued as an [Eye doctor]. Eh, not really. Outdated term.
  • 41d. I prefer SLOSHED as an adjective, not a verb. [Waded (through)] is the verb version.
  • 50d. [Push-up target] clues a PEC, or pectoral muscle. Maybe someday the Onion, Jonesin’, Tausig, or BEQ crossword will clue ACUP this way.

Tyler Hinman’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 8Tyler expands BP into five BP-related phrases that aren’t “British Petroleum”:

  • 17a. [What BP continues failing to see] is the BIG PICTURE.
  • 31a. [The oil spill, for BP] is a BLACK PLAGUE. Really more brownish, isn’t it?
  • 36a. BROWNIE POINTS are [What BP isn’t scoring with the public these days].
  • 44a. [Reasonable response to “Do you think BP is handling the oil spill adequately?”] is a sassy “BITCH, PLEASE.”
  • 62a. [What the reality of the oil spill has been, so to speak, for BP] is a BITTER PILL to swallow.

Top five:

  • 48d. [Condition represented by a puzzle piece] is AUTISM. Great way to build awareness of the autistic spectrum disorders among jigsaw puzzle fans, isn’t it? I see the puzzle piece and am instantly drawn in.
  • 16a. [Scene after winning a championship, maybe] clues RIOT. Is this an American phenomenon, or do other countries also overturn vehicles in celebration of sports victories?
  • 49d. [Pubgoer’s brand, for short] is STELLA. Just saw this on a drink menu, “Stella”—not “Stella Artois.”
  • 32d. [Dish that may be sweet or savory] is a CREPE. I love both the savory curry options at La Creperie and Crepe Town and any of the sweet crepes. Need to try out Crepes a Latte, the newest crepe joint in my area.
  • 69a. [Shot blocker, for short] clues D-MAN, with D for defense. Sports lingo I didn’t really know. Not to be confused with D-bag.

Most questionable (but still gettable) entry:

  • 10d. [Was unable to laugh at] clues DIDN’T GET. I’d love to see I DON’T GET IT, but DIDN’T GET feels like a mere combination of words rather than a single entity of meaning.
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18 Responses to Wednesday, 6/30/10

  1. pezibc says:

    Maybe regional, maybe just old, but “He crowned the guy.” means “He bonked the guy on the head.” I breezed through that entry.

    I don’t care for the lazy clue on HAS A GO. It’s fine but itself with a little more effort.

    STACKS isn’t boring for me. I would have clued to library stacks, assuming that word people especially would like that.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Easy enough, even if I didn’t know the songs or singers, with the exception of title character of the opera “Norma”. I’ve sung “Casta Diva” and also “Hava Nagila”, and have done the hora… To me, the puzzle was tantamount to a themeless, but it’s nice to have Amy’s blog to find out what was really going on there.

  3. foodie says:

    Agree with Artlvr. Since I’m hopeless with song names it was essentially a themeless yet a very easy one. I think it might be the easiest Wednesday I’ve seen.

    TICKLE PINK IS PERFECT on its own, but yeah, now that you mention it, I see the inconsistency!

  4. Gareth says:

    “Coming through the door / is a snub-nose 44”

  5. pannonica says:

    STACKS and STACKS today, clued the same and in nearly the same place.

  6. David L says:

    A head scratcher for me in the CS puzzle — LIEOVER is clued ‘awaiting attention.’ Huh? The phrase ‘lie over’ means nothing to me — layover (noun) is what you have at the airport between flights, but I don’t see any connection there.

    Anyone? Anyone?

  7. janie says:

    david — give definition #3 a try. but you’ll get no argument from me that it’s an uncommon use of the phrase!


  8. Martin says:


    The clue is supported by the MW11C. To see it in action, go to paragraph 6.

  9. David L says:

    Janie, Martin – thanks. That’s completely new to me — not a phrase I’ve ever used and I don’t think I’m going to start now!

  10. joel says:

    In regard band leader Harry James..a rhyme from my youth….
    Harry James and Betty Grable
    fainted at the breakfast table
    which should be sufficient warning
    not to do it in the morning………..second verse by request

  11. Karen says:

    Seconded that an oculist is not, in fact a doctor. You could call them a tradesman or a specialist. That clue made me frown. Not quite seeing red.

  12. Martin says:


    I’d agree that oculist is an outdated term, but it did/does mean either an ophthalmologist or optometrist, neither of which I would call a “tradesman.” I’d apply that to optician but I don’t think oculist was ever used for optician.

  13. John Haber says:

    I didn’t do the puzzle with OCULIST, but RHUD has it with first of two meanings as an opthalmologist (so clearly a doctor) and second as optometrist (reasonably a doctor) and with its sole synonym as “eye doctor.” It’s not defined as, say “optician,” although even that is given “eye doctor” as a synonym. What mainly seems to distinguish OCULIST is that the word is archaic (“formerly” in RHUD).

    For the NYT, I didn’t know either the songs or singers, although I recognized HAMMER, so it was basically a dull themeless for me, but still very easy from the Wednesday level cluing. Actually, didn’t know ERIC the kiddie author either. Don’t have a problem for Wednesday with the idiom HAVE A GO AT.

  14. Jeff says:

    Hee hee, “push-up target” = ACUP. So easily amused am I.

    Thanks for the fun write-up!

  15. Mitchs says:

    Okay, here’s a good miss. Had ROASTING for ROTATING which revealed BIATCHPLEASE. Thought we were getting into some rap slang. (Apparently IPS seemed perfectly reasonable.)

  16. John Farmer says:

    ROASTING. Me too. Sometimes these things are accidental. This might have been intentional. “On a spit, say” is a perfect clue either way.

  17. anon says:

    crazy that STACKS is in both the NYT and LAT, clued identically and in virtually the same spot of the grid…

  18. Jordan says:

    Lucy: “Ethel, you don’t have to reduce. If anything, I’d say you were underweight.”
    Fred: “Have you been to an oculist lately?”

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