Wednesday, 8/18/10

Onion 4:32
NYT 3:30
LAT 2:43
CS untimed

Alex Boisvert’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 22Ah, now that is how you make a themed crossword! Did you get a load of this theme? Five lively phrases add an X before one word to further zing up the entries:

  • 18a. [Mourning comic book mutants?] are the X-MEN IN BLACK, combining the X-Men and the movie Men in Black.
  • 24a. [Event that includes Snowboarding Charades and Motocross 20 Questions?] clues PARLOR X GAMES. Parlor games meet the X Games.
  • 39a. X + Ray-Ban sunglasses = X-RAY BAN, or [Result of a phobia of medical pictures?].
  • 51a. [Curious person’s video game console?] is PANDORA’S XBOX, combining Pandora’s box with the Microsoft Xbox.
  • 62a. [Diabolical graph line?] is the X AXIS OF EVIL, joining an X axis with Bush’s “Axis of Evil.”

The X-Men, X Games, Ray-Ban shades, Xbox, and Axis of Evil—this is almost a theme custom-made for a 20-year-old guy. AleX, what other candidate entries did you have on your list?

Highlights in the fill:

  • All the X clues! 4a: [X] is the Greek letter CHI. 65a: [X] is the Roman numeral version of TEN. And 4d gives some X-laden Roman numeral math: [XLI x X] is CDX.
  • 29d. An ANKLE-BITER is a [Rug rat], slang for an irksome toddler.
  • I liked the cross-referencing here, surprisingly. A 17a: RAT is [One who breaks the 16-Across], and 16a is OMERTA, [Mafioso’s code of silence]. Wait, “the 16-Across”? Do they say “the Omerta”? I don’t think they do. At 3d, WATERPROOF is clued as being [Safe for the 40-Down], 40d being RAIN. I quibble that something that’s waterproof isn’t safe for the rain, it’s safe despite it. (Okay, so I liked the cross-referenced answers but not their clues.)
  • 2d. OBAMA is the [First president whose name ends in a vowel other than E or Y]. My dad played at being mildly alarmed that my sister and I married -O men, being more comfortable with -I names like Jablonski.
  • 5d. [Dude] clues HOMBRE. I just learned this evening that the word OMERTA might be derived from the Spanish word hombredad, meaning “manliness.”
  • 33d. Now, there’s a fresh clue for INCA: [Member of an empire founded by Manco Capac].
  • 52d. [“Be Kind Rewind” co-star Mos ___] DEF is always good. Anyone else see that movie, or just me?

Matt Jones’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 19Usually add-a-letter themes don’t entail adding a 4-letter word that splits in half to sandwich unrelated phrases like this:

  • 38a. A BEAR HUG? [It’s soft, strong, and demonstrated by this puzzle’s four theme answers], which get HUGged by BE and AR. Who doesn’t like bear hugs? Well, people with personal space issues.
  • 17a. Anyone become BEANY ON EAR, or [Dopey hat attached to a lobe?]. My, that’s a woebegone made-up phrase, BEANY ON EAR.
  • 26a. Head start is BEAR-sandwiched into BEHEADS TARTAR, or [Violently does away with plaque monsters?]. Tartar, a.k.a. calculus, is a mineral deposit on the teeth that does not, in fact, have heads.
  • 45a. [Underwater detector?] clues BELOW-SEA SONAR, building on low season. Eh. High season is much more “in the language” than low season.
  • 61a. [Give birth to a stringed Indian instrument?] yields BEGET SITAR, which feels incomplete without “a” in the middle. The base phrase here is gets it.

The theme entries don’t have a solid surface sense, and they’re not all built on zippy original phrases. I’m not sure the BEAR HUG theme concept is fertile ground. BE BABY DOLLAR? The BE stands alone there, rather than becoming part of another word.

What else have we got here? This:

  • 1a. [Repair books, in a way] is about repairing hardcovers, not about books that tell you how to repair things. Your librarian knows how to BIND a book. You like librarians? Check out the movies they’re in.
  • 21a. [Cassingle holders] are those clear plastic TAPE CASES that faded from prominence by the early ’90s. Cassingles! Those were cassettes that held only a single song. They anticipated single-song iTunes purchases but were so lame compared to vinyl 45s.
  • 36a. [Into role-playing, perhaps] clue NERDY. Heh. No comment.
  • 41a. [Word tossed out in Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman”] is MERCY.
  • 63a. [“Billy Budd” captain] is VERE. Yep, I relied on the crossings.
  • 4d. I love the word DONGLES: [Wireless adapters, to tech geeks].
  • 18d. [Word before “whatever” or “right”] clues a dismissive “YEAH.” So, my family and I had our first ASL class last night. Now my kid knows how to say “whatever” in sign language, too.
  • 44d. MAD-LIBS! A [Game that demands imaginative vocabulary].
  • 50d. [Bean that goes with “a nice chianti”] is Hannibal Lecter’s favored FAVA bean. Goes great with someone’s liver, too.

Dan Naddor’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 20Usually when we see a crossword theme about alterations, there’s some anagramming afoot. This time, there are five plural noun phrases ending with synonymous with “transformers” but having nothing to do with the bombastic movie franchise. Here are your theme entries:

  • 16a. CABLE CONVERTERS are clued as [Some den boxes].
  • 22a. [Hookups to many electronic devices] are POWER ADAPTORS.
  • 35a. Jane Addams and [Jacob Riis et al.] are SOCIAL REFORMERS. Usually we get this phrase in the clue and RIIS in the grid.
  • 44a. MONEY CHANGERS are [Currency pros].
  • 55a. [Insurance investigators] are CLAIMS ADJUSTERS.

The theme entries aren’t really too exciting, but they’re a solid set and they do occupy a meaty 71 squares.

Looking beyond the theme, we see this:

  • 9a. [Just __: minimal amount] clues the partial phrase A DAB. Eh.
  • 25a. An ION isn’t just a charged particle, it’s also a [Solar wind particle].
  • 59a. LEONA is the [Helmsley dubbed “Queen of Mean”]. Hey! I was just teaching my son about her when we passed the Helmsley Hotel last week. He doesn’t see the logic in leaving a giant inheritance to one’s dogs.
  • 61a. [Specks in la mer] are ILES, or “islands” in French. Whereas [Specks in la mere] are œufs.
  • 5d. “Pellet gobbler” is a weird but apt description. [Pellet gobbler of old games] is PAC-MAN.
  • 10d. Coolest answer: DEEP-SIXED, or [Threw overboard].
  • 11d. ABRA [__ Kadabra: foe of the Flash]? I only know abracadabra.
  • 17d. [What to do after making your metaphorical bed] is LIE IN IT. Terrible answer, if you ask me, but I love how it works with that clue.
  • 51d. Today’s random [13th-century date] is 1201, or MCCI.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Roster Parents”—Janie’s review

Foster parents are state-certified caregivers to minors who are wards of the state. “Roster parents” (through the constructor’s filter) are four guys who have become well-known for the LISTS [What 20-, 26-, 43-, and 52-Across are noted for] their names are associated with or attached to. The lists range from the metaphorical “sublime to the ridiculous”; the list-makers are all inspired.

  • 20A. DAVID LETTERMAN [Late-night monologist]. Let’s hear it for the Top Ten. Okay, this is from late May of ’09, but here’s a link to Totally Top 10’s “Top 10 Letterman Top Ten List.” And while Dave does the delivery, seems the concept for the segment (and the writing of it) is the brain-child of head-writer Steve O’Donnell
  • 26A. KRISS KRINGLE [Yuletide figure]. a/k/a Santa Claus. He’s the one who’s “making a list, checking it twice—gonna find out who’s naughty and nice…” In this case, I also thought of kids’ wish-lists.
  • 43A. CRAIG NEWMARK [Web entrepreneur whose site is popular among job seekers]. And apartment/house-hunters, and relationship-seekers, and bargain-hunters (all kinds of GOODS [Merchant’s inventory] can be found there) and service-needers, etc., etc., etc. This link will take you to craigslist: new york city, but links to all the other craigslist lists are on the same page. Wiki doesn’t tell us lots about Craig, but it spells out the innovation pretty thoroughly in its article about the website. High wow-factor from this reader for the “a man, a plan…” way of American business—especially as it meets the internet.
  • 52A. OSKAR SCHINDLER [Subject of 1993’s Best Picture]. Among lists, it doesn’t get sublimer in my book.

I don’t have lots else to say about the remainder of the puzzle as there’s mostly a very straight line from clue to fill. The puzzle is best for me when Patrick asks us to do some thinking before filling in the grid. That’s why I liked the “jai”-free cluing of ALAI [Court game’s conclusion?]; and I appreciated the visual summoned by [Popeye’s have anchor tattoos] for ARMS. Man, by today’s standards, he’s very understated where those tats are concerned.

And I sure did like (what I see as) the two Arabian Nights references. We get LAMP clued winningly as [Genie’s hideout] (I’m thinkin’ Aladdin here) and ALI [Thief thwarter Baba]. In truth, not all scholars agree that Ali Baba was part of the original One Thousand and One Nights, but I’ll let them duke it out. As for Aladdin—you’ll definitely find him in there, but it seems he, too, was an afterthought

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5 Responses to Wednesday, 8/18/10

  1. joon says:

    i’m not sure my solving time should “count” (not that any of these really count for anything) as alex showed me a draft of this puzzle four months ago*. i’ll let him tell the “behind the music” if he wants to. anyway, a very cool theme. i like how the fill and even clues ended up with some extra Xness. this is certainly not your everyday add-a-letter puzzle.

    *: that’s after i constructed my “graphic violence” puzzle with AXIS OF EVIL as a theme answer but before alex saw it.

  2. Ajaxman says:

    Really enjoyed today’s NYT – good challenge for a Wednesday.

    More Endor references – c’mon, someone’s gotta mention TATOOINE or MUSTAFAR!

  3. janie says:

    alex’s wednesday “wow” is one great x-ample of why we love the nyt.


  4. John Haber says:

    Liked the theme. My last corner to fall was the NW, since I’d never heard of the X GAMES (so wasn’t my favorite theme answer) and didn’t know AMES. Also briefly had “ibex” for ORYX.

  5. Alex says:

    AleX, what other candidate entries did you have on your list?

    There isn’t much else that goes X-***. X-FILES, I guess, but there’s not much punning opportunity there. I really wanted REINDEER X-GAMES, but alas, it was not to be.

    Thanks for the write-up!

Comments are closed.