I won’t be home tonight when the NYT crossword comes out, and will be getting home late. With any luck, the place I’m going is not lying about having functioning Wi-Fi, and I’ll be able to blog the puzzle at a respectable time. We shall see.
Ben Tausig’s Onion A.V. Club crossword
I like phones with hardware keyboards because it would drive me nuts to have a machine misrepresenting what I’m trying to write. I don’t know how the iPhone/BlackBerry crowd can stand that—hell, I keep spell-check turned off because I don’t like the machine second-guessing me. So: The theme here centers on a phenomenon I didn’t know had a name, TEXTONYM. That’s 61a: [Term for what happens when your phone wrongly predicts the word you want to type, and what shows up in 17-, 22-, 35-, and 50-Across].
The phones swap in various letters that appear on the same numeric key: 2/ABC, 3/DEF, 4/GHI, 5/JKL, 6/MNO, 7/PQRS, 8/TUV, and 9/WXYZ. DIXIE BUS, I presume, is “Dixie cup,” though I can’t envision many reasons someone would be texting anything about a Dixie cup. LICENSE SLAVE misreads a “license plate” attempt. “DON’T HATE A COW, MAN” is a cute one, with only “have” turning into “hate.” And DULL BODY SCAN changes from “full.”
My trouble spots:
- 12d. [Not prerecorded] clues the somewhat awkward ON LIVE, as in a TV show being ON LIVE.
- 53d. [Navigates a racing boat] clues COXES, but I first went with CREWS.
- 5a. [Farmers’ market letters] clues CSA, for community-supported agriculture. How long before the mainstream newspaper puzzles use this CSA rather than the Confederate CSA?
- 56a. CONDOMS are [Safety devices used during acts of congress?]. Now, that seems obvious enough in retrospect, but the clue wasn’t helping me out at all somehow.
- 4d. An [Employee’s assets] are her SKILL SET. Good entry.
- 23d. Huh. Interesting etymology I never knew. A [Small bouquet originally used to mask rotten smells] is a NOSEGAY. I just learned of another meaning of “vinaigrette” on Antiques Roadshow last night—Victorian women would carry a little locket containing a wee sponge soaked with vinegar or ammonia plus herbs or whatnot, and when walking outside and encountering sewage-befouled sidewalk situations, they’d open their vinaigrette and use it as olfactory camouflage/smelling salts. (The one on the show was worth $7,500.)
- 58d. [That masturbation causes blindness, e.g.] is a MYTH. The facts are that it causes a gradual increase in nearsightedness over time.
Michael Black’s New York Times crossword
The theme plays on abbreviations for days of the week that double as English words: Mon., Tues., Thurs., and Fri. are not words but sun, wed, and sat sure are. Those words are paired with neighboring days and clued as to the inappropriate timing:
- 20a. SUN ON MONDAY is an [Ironic weather forecast?].
- 33a. [Ironic marriage plan?] is to WED ON THURSDAY.
- 50a. SAT ON FRIDAY is clued with [Ironic exam schedule]. Ah, I was reading this one as “SAT for an exam ON FRIDAY” rather than S.A.T. ON FRIDAY. I wish this had been clued with the verb, as Sat. and S.A.T. are not the same thing.
- 1d. CHEETOS! If you like ’em but could do without the chemical ingredients, check out the Michael Season’s brand of cheese puffs, with no preservatives or artificial whatnot. Love the [Orange munchies] clue. Who was the standup comedian who acknowledged that the problem with Cheetos is orange fingers and said “That’s why I eat ’em with a spoon”?
- 3d. [Monty Python member] ERIC IDLE! We were just watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail last night—my kid’s first exposure to Python humor. He cackled.
- 36d. I hate AEROBICS because I don’t like to exert myself and I don’t like to sweat. Evad, our Fiendish webmaster—he’s so badass he teaches aerobics classes ([Gym classes set to music]). He is ridiculously fit. That’s an important trait for a webmaster, no? See also 26a: JOG, or [Do some cardio]. Yeah, Evad is also a runner.
- 56a. This is really one of Hollywood’s best names: [Agent Swifty] LAZAR. I don’t know what was on his birth certificate, but you really can’t top Swifty. Maybe that should be Dan Feyer’s new nickname, Swifty Feyer.
Lowlights: Well, there’s REDID, a SHR., an S.SGT., partial I LET, and HARA-how-else-are-you-gonna-clue-it-[__-kiri]. And then there’s the old-school clue/answer combo, 23d: GEED, or [Turned right, like Dobbin]. Dobbin is the old-school crossword’s go-to name for a horse, and gee and haw are “turn right” and “turn left.” I’m not sure if Hee-Haw was supposed to confuse horses or just appeal to farmy types.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Ah, Paris!”—Janie’s review
I can’t call this Patrick’s DEFTEST [Most skillful] creation (while evocative, the theme fill is quite predictable, which is a bit of a let down since Patrick ordinarily sets a nice high bar for himself in that department!), but it’s still fun to “travel” this way and certainly is timely. After all, it’s Bastille Day. Allons, enfants! We’re off on a four-stop […tour of Paris]:
- 18A. [Stop #1…] EIFFEL TOWER. Still Paris’s tallest building and the most-visited (paid) monument in the world.
- 29A. [Stop #2…] CHAMPS ÉLYSÉES. Paris’s own Elysian Fields. And located at its western end,
- 48A. [Stop #3…] ARC DE TRIOMPHE. Appropriately enough, this is the rallying point for the annual Bastille Day Military Parade. Modeled after this iconic structure is the arch in the Village in Manhattan, by the [Washington Sq. campus] of NYU. A fine institution that, but perhaps without the same world-class reputation as
- 62A. [Stop #4…] THE SORBONNE. Did you know it was suppressed during the French Revolution and re-opened in 1808 by Napoleon?
Patrick makes a bonus stop as well, by way of the EURO [Disney Resort (original name of Disneyland Paris)]. (Mercifully…) it’s some 20 miles outside Paris. (Well, mercifully in my estimation anyway. Those Disney places have limited appeal.) More appealing? Another bonus: some time with an honest-to-goodness MASSEUSE [One with hands-on experience?]. Alas, I’ve never been to Paris myself. Will I get there in my lifetime? [“Fingers crossed!”] “I HOPE SO!”
Somehow (though I confess to sometimes usin’ ’em…) I suspect the thought of EGG BEATERS [Dieter’s breakfast option] has zero appeal to any French chef worth his/her salt. Ça va, eh? Bet they use the kitchen implement of the same name, though (how else are ya gonna get enough air into your soufflé?!). More interesting to the palette would probably be a spicy GYRO [Lamb sandwich] served in PITA [Outside of a lamb sandwich]. (Are there Halal carts in Paris??) It seems you certainly can order ICE TEA [Estival beverage] (“estival” being the lovely high-end word for “summer”), but I hear tell it can be pricey in Paree.
TELESCOPIC [Like some lenses] makes for impressive fill, and congrats to Patrick, too, for some (more) clues that keep this puzzle entertaining:
- [Fromm from Frankfurt] for ERICH. Worth knowing about if you don’t already. (Just for fun, try saying that clue aloud quickly—and being understood…)
- [Short cut] for BOB. So this refers to a hair style and is not about the shortest distance between two points.
- [Work in the Vatican] for PIETA, making “work” a noun and not a verb.
- [Sound from the socked] “OOF!” and [Secretive sound] “PSST!” and finally,
- [Flying solo, say] for UNWED. No license required.
Now, courtesy of Casablanca, fire up the amps and “Vive la France!”
Bruce Venzke’s Los Angeles Times crossword
- 20a. [Iron ore, to a steel mill] is a RAW MATERIAL.
- 34a. [Seller of an Inverted Jenny, perhaps] is a RARE STAMP DEALER.
- 43a. [Guns with a caliber between 105 and 155 millimeters] are MEDIUM ARTILLERY. Wow, that’s a term I have never encountered—or if I have, it passed immediately out of my head because I find it uninteresting.
- 58a. [Buxom, facetiously] clues WELL-ENDOWED. Yes, that’s one meaning of WELL-ENDOWED. “Wealthy” is another. But the main one I encounter is the male-specific “well-hung” sense. How come tits are fair play for a crossword but dicks aren’t? I blame the patriarchy.
- 44d. [Loosen, as a cap] clues UNTWIST. Whichever way you’re twisting a cap, you are twisting it. Untwisting is what you do to straighten out something that’s been all twisted up. Caps don’t get “twisted up.”
- 52d. [Xenophobe’s fear] is a rather weird clue for ALIEN. The ALIEN in question is a person from another country, but let’s say you’re a xenophobe and you take a business trip to another country. You will have your fear and loathing of the people there, but they’re not ALIENs there—you’re the alien.
- 35d. Isn’t EZINE a rather dated term now? I call [Salon or Slate] an “online magazine.” While EZINE gets 17 million Google hits, webzine gets 92 million. My preferred term gets just 4.8 million Google hits.