Wednesday, 9/15/10

Onion 3:50
NYT 3:37
LAT 3:35
CS untimed

Zoe Wheeler’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 3This isn’t Brown student Zoe Wheeler’s NYT debut. She hit that milestone back in January after working with mentor Paula Gamache. Today’s Zoe theme riffs on “BE QUIET!” with some silent, or “quiet,” Bs:

  • 17a. [Where lead weights grow?] is on a PLUMB TREE.
  • 21a. [Bit of a Coleridge poetry line?] is SAM IAMB. Samuel Taylor Coleridge meets Dr. Seuss’s Sam I Am meets a poetic iamb? I love it. This one’s the star of the theme.
  • 39a. Dumdum bullets turn into DUMB-DUMB BULLETS, or [Ammo for idiots?].
  • 61a. [Toy house door support?] might be a PAPER JAMB in a cardboard doll house.
  • 52a. Tying it all together, BE QUIET is clued as [“Shut up!”…or a phonetic hint to this puzzle’s theme].

Toughest clue, for me:

  • 20a. Once I had TOTE** in place, I couldn’t help thinking it had something to do with toting. Dang! [How babies may be carried] is TO TERM.

Lots of proper nouns today. I mean, a slew of ’em. They work for me, but I know having a boatload of names in the grid drives some solvers absolutely bonkers.

  • 19a. ALGER: [Horatio who wrote about down-and-out boys].
  • 32a. ABBA: [“Take a Chance on Me” group].
  • 42a. ERNIE: [Bert’s “Sesame Street” buddy].
  • 43a. ALANA: [Actress Stewart].
  • 48a. CLU: [Gulager of “The Virginian”].
  • 65a. KIEL: [German port].
  • 66a. ASIA: [___ Minor].
  • 67a. WEISS: [“Marat/Sade” playwright Peter].
  • 69a. KATY: [Singer Perry with the 2010 #1 hit “California Gurls”]. Yes, she spells it with a U. And she and Russell Brand are a couple.
  • 2d. OSLO: [Munch Museum’s locale].
  • 5d. KATMANDU: [Capital of Nepal]. Also spelled Kathmandu.
  • 11d. GAGA: [Lady ___].
  • 13d. SERB: [Balkan native].
  • 28d. LAURA: [Object of Petrarch’s obsession].
  • 31d. Weeb EWBANK: [Only coach to win both NFL and AFL championships].
  • 49d. LINUS: [“Peanuts” boy with a blanket].
  • 51d. SAJAK: [Pat of “Wheel of Fortune”].
  • 53d. ERIN: [Homeland of Joyce and Yeats].
  • 54d. QEII: [Helen Mirren’s crowning role, informally?]. Not crowning like a baby that’s gone TO TERM.

Mike Peluso’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 1You know how constructors fall back on ICE IN no matter what season it is, just because the letters come in handy? Mike has promoted ICED IN to a starring role: There is an ICED that’s IN each of the four longest entries. Like so:

  • 16a. [What b.i.d. means, in prescriptions] is TWICE A DAY, but that doesn’t fit. TWICE DAILY does, however. You may think this is a horribly dry clue and answer, but your friendly neighborhood medical editor appreciates it.
  • 26a. [Some rear entrances] are SERVICE DOORS. Arbitrary plural for the purpose of achieving symmetry.
  • 44a. [The first official one was November 11, 1919] refers to ARMISTICE DAY. My grandpa may or may not have been in the Navy then; he didn’t serve in WWI, but I think he was sailing to China and the Philippines prior to 1919. But not much prior, as he was only born in 1901 (lied about his age to get in the service early). Anyway, he had awesome tattoos from Shanghai and once tried opium.
  • 59a. [Many are German shepherds] clues POLICE DOGS. Another plural.
  • 48a. ICED IN is clued [Stranded at the ski lodge, perhaps, and a hint to this puzzle’s hidden theme].

My favorite entries:

  • 45d. ICARUS is your [Wax-winged flier of myth]. I like to think his last words were “Da-a-ad! Why didn’t you tell me this would happen?”
  • 8d. [San Francisco and environs] clues the BAY AREA. To really make the locals happy, call the area “Frisco” or “San Fran.” They love that.

Matt Gaffney’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 2Matt heads into Merl Reagle territory for his theme this week:

  • 17a. [Paranoid feeling while standing in a cornfield?] is that there are EARS LOOKING AT YOU (“Here’s looking at you, kid”).
  • 23a, 53a. [Poison corn fed to a hot girl?] clues DEATH COB FOR CUTIE (rock band Death Cab for Cutie).
  • 37a. [Corn body wraps?] clues SHUCK TREATMENTS, though I wanted something with HUSK in it. (Shock treatments.) Hello, arbitrary plural.
  • 60a. [Intimate experience in raising corn?] is KERNEL KNOWLEDGE (Carnal Knowledge). Cute!
  • 71a. [They’re *supposed* to be corny…] refers to PUNS. See what he did there? Matt made corny puns. And thus is born the biggest groan of all.

I’m used to seeing better fill than this in Matt’s puzzles, but the theme occupies a meaty 65 squares and that constrains things. (Speaking of meaty, did you get a load of Lady Gaga’s raw meat dress, hat, and shoes at the VMAs? Makes me want to shower just to look at that.) A letter run (CDE), scattered abbrevs, People of Crosswords (URIS, LAHR, new addition to the family EISEN), Latin DEUS, ASWARM…ehh. And one answer mystified me: 13d STUSSY is a [Clothing brand name with an umlaut] I know not. According to Wikipedia, “The brand’s prominence in the hip-hop and streetwear scene has declined since the ’90s.” See? My streetwear is too contemporary.

Better fill includes the combo of the first two Across answers—PIMP SAJAK! At long last!—as well as PAYPAL (which is currently off my active hate list, but is still one-twentieth pure evil, and Matt plays online chess against PayPal’s creator), a SMOKIN’ HETERO, and handsome [Highly successful Hollywood actor James presently on “General Hospital”], James FRANCO. Not only does he have some acting chops, but he presented an art exhibition about his stints on G.H. Majored in English at UCLA after hitting it big in movies, and Wikipedia tells me, “For his degree, Franco prepared his departmental honors thesis as a novel under the supervision of Mona Simpson. He moved to New York to attend simultaneously graduate school at Columbia University’s MFA writing program, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for filmmaking, and Brooklyn College for fiction writing, while occasionally commuting to North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College for poetry. Franco has been accepted to Yale University’s Ph.D. program in English, and will most likely begin the program in fall 2010, and will also attend the Rhode Island School of Design.” Okay, now he’s just showing off. Apparently he is not lazy.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Pup Quiz”—Janie’s review

Patrick gives us a bit of a double whammy with his puns today. It begins with the title, which sounds a bit like the dreaded “pop quiz” and which tips us off to the canine-centric focus of the theme fill. Here we get a riddle (spread out in three parts) and its answer. It’s that answer that’s the serious groaner and for once, I’m not sure that’s such a good thing. All I can say is “brace yourself” for…


There’s something a bit macabre about this answer (do they even eat their own kind?) and I just can’t think about it too deeply.

That said… Patrick balances the dog-eat-dog notion with some feline action by way of MANX [Tailless feline] and the feline sounding POLECAT [Weasel’s cousin]. They may not be pussycats, but polecats can be awfully darned cute. Oh, and while we’re in weasel territory, the puzzle also gives us SWINDLER [Bernie Madoff, notably].

LUGOSI, the [Bloodcurdling Bela] may have wanted to “suck your blood,” but chances are that once he punctured your skin he had no intention of stanching the flow. For that you’d have to apply your own TOURNIQUET [Hemorrhage-stopping device]…

For its sound-alike quality, I like the crossing of ACRES and ACHED. Kudos, too, for the specificity in the cluing today, which makes the solve so much more visual, so much more interesting. Here’re some prime examples:

  • [13, for a bar mitzvah honoree]/AGE
  • [“Kon-Tiki” wood]/BALSA
  • [Ominous sighting in “Jaws”]/FIN
  • [Dairy Queen container]/CONE

I also liked the twisty and literal [Jalapeño piece?] for TILDE, the twisty diacritical mark above the letter “n” in “jalapeño.” [Spots for chevrons] was another clue that made me think twice. That’s “spots” in the sense of “places” and not “circular markings,” making SLEEVES the correct fill. A First Sergeant would wear these on his sleeves.

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7 Responses to Wednesday, 9/15/10

  1. Gareth says:

    Yep SAMIAMB is brilliant!!

  2. davidH says:

    I thought the best clue of the day was SamIamb – I’m always curious about how often the same clues or answers (or even concepts) repeat from puzzle to puzzle on the same day. Today we had “Pat Sajak,” “Ones” “Skits” and “eBay/Paypal” just between the Onion and the NYT. That seems like a lot to me – none of those are what I’d consider “Crosswordese”.

    Didn’t understand TOTERM until it was explained to me, nor did I realize Lady Gaga was wearing a meat dress until I read Orange’s “Onion” post. Went right by me on the link from the NYT comments.

  3. ArtLvr says:

    Egads, the idea of GAGA’s meat garb makes me gag…..

  4. Meem says:

    Hand up for taking forever to parse to term even with letters in all squares! Finally a large lightbulb. Loved Sam Iamb. Thanks Zoe for contributing to what has so far been a week of refreshing puzzles.

  5. Joel says:

    I have a question for any constructors who might be on the site. I made my puzzles in the past on a PC using Crossword Compiler 8, but ever since I got a Mac I haven’t been able to find a constructing software that’s compatible. Any suggestions?

  6. john farmer says:

    Just getting around to the Onion. The James Franco wiki page borders on TMI, but since you mentioned Mona Simpson, a couple of things. It’s not just coincidence she shares a name with Homer Simpson’s mother. Her (the novelist’s) husband was a writer for the show. Mona Simpson is also the sister of Steve Jobs (adopted by another family). I enjoyed meeting her many years ago somewhere on a book tour, and I’d recommend “Anywhere But Here” (the book, that is…don’t judge by the movie).

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