Tuesday, 8/10/10

Jonesin’ 4:31
NYT 3:41
LAT 2:51
CS untimed

Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

Region capture 8I’ll keep this short because I’ve had one of those all-day headaches and I am in no mood to write. (“Not tonight, dear…”)

The theme is ALCHEMY, the PSEUDOSCIENCE with a goal of the TRANSMUTATION of LEAD into GOLD. Despite centuries of ill-fated efforts, at long last, one Peter A. Collins has managed this feat via word ladder: the Across answers in the four corners go from LEAD to LOAD to GOAD to GOLD.

I feel like the inclusion of four corners of theme entries in addition to the two long entries and the central answer yields a bunch of “meh” answers, like ENTR, ILLER, UVEA, plural HES, PART B, DOOS, PLAT, TRIERS, and BLU—but at the same time, there are juicy segments like DOWN PAT, COME TO PAPA, LL COOL J (who has finely sculpted DELTs), and RATED PG, so I will ZIP IT.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Really Scary”

Region capture 10This is a most unusual theme. Matt presents a word, PHOBOPOHOBOPHOBE (17a: [Newly defined word]), and defines it. You know what? I Googled the word and got a minuscule 7 hits. (The multi-word “Matt Jones is afraid” Googles up 3 hits.) Seven Google hits means something is written about incredibly seldom, so Matt isn’t presenting a quip theme he found somewhere, though a few others have independently coined the word too (this happens all the time with new coinages).

He defines it thus: SOMEONE WITH THE / TERRIBLE FEAR OF / FAMOUS FDR QUOTES. Boy, that SFDRQ bit sure looked wrong, but it’s right and Matt’s definition refers to Franklin Roosevelt’s “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and a fear-of-fear-quote-fearer could be a PHOBOPHOBOPHOBE afflicted with phobophobophobia. “My name is Phoebe and I’m a phobophobophobic hobo.”

Most entertaining clue:

  • 1d. HIPPIES are [People classified as “homo groovius” by humor website Uncyclopedia].

C.W. Stewart’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 11C.W.! My homegirl! C.W. Stewart and I are both Chicagoans, I learned at the ACPT. There are not so many crossword constructors in this town.

Here’s her theme:

  • 66a. “IT’S A WRAP!” is a [Director’s shout, and hint to the starts of 17-, 21-, 40- and 57-Across]. Those four answers start with words that double as garments that fall in the category of “wraps.”
  • 17a. CAPE HORN is the [Southernmost tip of South America]. South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope has a cooler name.
  • 21a. The verb phrase STOLE A KISS is clued trickily with [Smacked someone when they least expected it?].
  • 40a. BOA CONSTRICTORS are [Deadly squeezers]. I definitely saw some drag queens at the street fair yesterday, but I am unable to say whether any of them wore feather BOAs.
  • 57a. COAT OF ARMS is a [Family crest].

Good puzzle. I love to see CURTSY in the grid (I have a…history), and I like BASKIN-Robbins, TV SHOW, a SCONCE, Elton John and KIKI Dee’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” and the clues in general.

Okay! I did it! I blogged three puzzles in just under an hour and I can go to bed and sleep in tomorrow morning.

Updated Tuesday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Mid East”—Janie’s review

Martin gives us one very successful “embedded word” puzzle today. The word in question: “east.” And where does it occur? Somewhere in the “mid”-section of each of his three terrific theme phrases. I especially like the way the word appears to cascade down the grid, starting with:

  • 20A. PHINEAS T. BARNUM [Classic circus name?] How old were you when you realized that the master showman had almost the same exact name as Doodyville mayor Phineas T. Bluster?…
  • 39A. “DON’T BE A STRANGER!” [“Keep in touch!”]. I love this colloquial and cordial phrase!
  • 54A. SINK LIKE A STONE [Go under fast]. And this is another strong, colloquial phrase. All three theme phrases appear to be CS firsts and this one and Phineas T. Barnum, major-publication-type firsts, reinforcing the puzzle’s fresh feel.

Elsewhere in the grid, it appears Martin has been STORING UP [Saving for later use] a whole slew of names on his word list—first names, last names, first and last names. Look at today’s shout-out list:

  • Writers JOHN DONNE [“No man is an island…” poet], Victor HUGO“Les Misérables” novelist] and fellow countryman ÉMILE [Writer Zola]. [
  • Alexander HAIG [Reagan’s Secretary of State]. Remember him? He was the one who was all prepared to fill Reagan’s shoes had John Hinckley, Jr.’s attempt on the President’s life resulted in Reagan’s death… And while we’re in political territory, there’s also AL GORE [Bill Clinton’s veep].
  • [Actress Charlotte] RAE and TED [Danson or Turner], the former best-known as a TV actor, the latter as a TV magnate. From TV-land, too, is Ted D.’s bar-denizen friend NORM [George’s role on “Cheers”], DREW CAREY [“The Price is Right” host] and [“Real-time” host Bill] MAHER. Other female stars of screen and stage can be found by way of DIANA [Ross or Rigg].
  • Names from the Bible include ESAU [Biblical birthright seller] and EZRA, whose story is told in the [Book before Nehemiah].
  • Finally, two names with mixed connotations: ENOLA [Name on a 1945 bomber] (fact); and KHAN [“Star Trek II villain] (fantasy).

In parting… I knew that LEMS were [Moon landers, briefly], but it was not until I looked it up in Wikipedia that I understood why [X-ray specs?] were REMS. How about you? And no, these rems have nothing to do with rapid eye movement during dream states (nor are those “specs” short for “spectacles”). Tricky!

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3 Responses to Tuesday, 8/10/10

  1. sbmanion says:

    Excellent puzzle. When I was a sophomore in college, I decided that I wasn’t studying hard enough so I should switch into a major about which I knew nothing, thus forcing me to study. I switched into Renaissance history with visions of Erasmus and alchemy in my head. What I got instead was Petrarch, the single most unreadable poet in the history of words. Fortunately, the college strike over Cambodia allowed me to take PASS as a grade in some of my courses and rejoin the real world.


  2. Gareth says:

    NYT: Remember a joon pahk NYS puzzle that took the same phrase and made a two-way rebus. Word ladders are cool too though! were a few clunkers in the fill, but I too get pretty tolerant when the puzzle includes COMETOPAPA and LLCOOLJ!!

    LAT: Who doesn’t like BOACONSTRICTORS even on their COATOFARMS (but I wouldn’t steal a kiss from one!) Kicking it old-school with EROSE and OCAS!! Oh and re the Cape comment, the Cape of Good Hope is not Africa’s southern tip, that would be Cape Agulhas.

  3. joon says:

    i remember that one, too. :)

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