Wednesday, 9/22/10

Onion 4:10
LAT 3:41
NYT 2:58
CS untimed

Keep your eye out for the full moon and, while you’re at it, look for Jupiter. Jupiter is getting up close and personal with the earth for a change. Look to the east in the evening and you might spot it.

Peter Collins’ New York Times crossword

Region capture 6Hey, this is a cool theme. The refrain from “OLD MACDONALD” is “E-I-E-I-O,” and each of the other four theme entries contain those five vowels (in that order) in their midst, with no unseemly extra vowels:

  • 20a. LEIF ERICSSON is a [Turn-of-the-millennium explorer] from 1010 years ago, not 10 years ago. I am a ferociously good speller but that last name gave me (brief) fits.
  • 30a. CELINE DION is a [1996 Grammy winner for the album “Falling Into You”].
  • 38a. PRESIDENT WILSON is a [Treaty of Versailles signer].
  • 46a. A PERIHELION is the [Point in a planet’s orbit that’s closest to the sun].

It would be more impressive if the EIEIO entries weren’t three quarters proper nouns, one quarter common noun. (So close to being all names!) But I have no idea how many other candidate theme entries Peter had on his list. Can you folks think of other EIEIO words, phrases, or names?

I was digging the Asia vibe but then it ended after just two entries:

  • 1a. MALAY is a [Dweller on an Asian peninsula] or the name of that peninsula.
  • 9d. Not far from Malaysia is INDONESIA, the [World’s fourth-most populous country] after China, India, and the U.S.

Ten more clues:

  • 17a. Bouquets of ROSES make nice [Gifts for divas]. Why is “divas” plural? If I’m a diva, I expect roses in the plural, not just one rose.
  • 19a. [Has only half-servings, maybe] clues DIETS. Though if you’re dining out, eating a half of your food may actually be more than one serving.
  • 37a. A BTU is [1,055 joules: Abbr.]—but who’s counting?
  • 64a. Eh, I don’t care for this clue. Where are OVA [Fertility clinic samples]? You might send a sample of sperm for lab testing, but clinics are generally using ova to create embryos and not using them as “samples.”
  • 1d. [Catch that might be mounted] as a trophy on the wall is a MARLIN, the fish. (Not Marlin Perkins. Do not mount Marlin Perkins.)
  • 3d. LOSING HEART is [Becoming discouraged]. Lovely (if sad) long answer.
  • 26d. Eek! A RIB SPREADER is a [Tool used in thoracic surgery].
  • 31d. [Second in line?] is the LONG I that’s the second letter in the word line.
  • 35d. [Sanctuary fixture] is a HIGH ALTAR? I’ll take your word for it.
  • 55d, 61d. Science! [Nonliquid state] clues both SOLID and GAS. Plasma says “Hey! What about me?”

James Sajdak’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 8It’s hard to blog three puzzles in a night when you get sucked into watching Drag Me to Hell. Scary movie! Perfect for bedtime.

The theme is SLAPSTICK COMEDY, [Where it’s laughable to see the answers to starred clues]. Those answers are a CUSTARD PIE, RUBBER CHICKEN, SELTZER BOTTLE, and BANANA PEEL. Hey! Those aren’t scary at all. How come I’m not watching some slapstick instead of this horror movie?

I amused myself by considering an alternate answer for 29a: [Big repair bill reaction]. Hmm, *UC*…what could that word be? It’s F…no, OUCH. Of course.

Was it the movie distracting me, or was it that the puzzle was harder than usual for a Wednesday LAT? You tell me. I think it’s the movie—which is still on.

Byron Walden’s Onion A.V. Club crossword

Region capture 7Movie’s over, but now it’s bedtime and I gotta finish blogging because I’ll be busy all morning tomorrow.

In this 16×15 grid, Byron plies the trade of MASSAGING AL GORE by “massaging” the letters of Al Gore’s name into six other permutations that are other words or contiguous parts of other phrases, in circled squares. It’s a neat trick, but I fear that the Al Gore/masseuse story has fallen by the hot-topic wayside in recent weeks. The theme would have packed more punch earlier this summer.

The theme entries are GAOLER, the slangy REAL GOOD FRIENDS, the not-quite-a-lexical-chunk LARGE OBJECTS, a solid CAREER GOAL, great entry HORATIO ALGER, and [Lesbian Pussy of cinema], Pussy GALORE.

Highlights in the fill include a goofball BEER HAT, Captain JEAN-LUC Picard, the Post’s PAGE SIX, the Russian HEAT WAVE, the Irish pop group THE CORRS, and SQUEEZE. Oh, and the British LARF. “Are we ‘avin’ a larf?” is this Ricky Gervais’s character‘s trademark line.

Top clues:

  • 16a. [Tyson nugget?] is Evander Holyfield’s EAR bitten by Mike Tyson.
  • 25a. A MAZE is the [Place to pursue the one true path?].
  • 45a. “WHAT?” is a [Surly way to answer the telephone].
  • 26d. [“Wordplay” puzzle god Reagle] clues MERL.
  • 27d. [“The Dukes of Hazzard” kleptocrat] is Boss HOGG. Who doesn’t love the word kleptocrat?
  • 47d. [Great start?] is the HARD G sound.

Not sure that HOW MANY and ON RADIO aren’t really 7-letter partials (and right beside each other, too). And the flip-flopped sequence of RECALL IT / AS I feels questionable to me, too.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Power Play”—Janie’s review

Like yesterday’s puzzle, the theme-related word comes at the end of each of the theme phrases. Unlike yesterday’s each of them can precede a word in the title—and that would be the first word. The four kinds of power: will, horse, world and wind. Quite a nice set as I look at ’em, representing power of the quantifiable sort and that of the “spirit”-plane as well. I like that. The four theme phrases (all of which are clued in a straight-forward way):

  • 17A. LIVING WILL [Advance medical directive]. Get one. Especially if you’re “of a certain age,” your family and loved ones will thank you!
  • 10D. TROJAN HORSE [Legendary Greek ruse]. Also in the category of Greek mythology, we get HERA [Wife of Zeus]. Here’s a backgrounder of the famous Trojan War—including Zeus’s connection and contribution to it (the fair Helen for one…).
  • 25D. WAYNE’S WORLD [1992 Mike Myers/Dana Carvey comedy]. Whose earliest incarnations were seen on SNL.
  • 57A. SECOND WIND [Energy for a renewed effort]. Really like this fill—and it’s a fitting complement to TEN MILES, that [Marker in a marathon, perhaps]. Folks running a marathon who’ve trained well know how to pace themselves and summon up that second wind. They’re running a long distance. And that’s my (perhaps lame…) segue to highlighting LONG ODDS [A million to one, say]. (Yes… I’ve gone a long way to make the connection…)

Lotta other connections that can be found amidst the clues and fill today—which gives the puzzle some additional “oomph.” There’s ÉLAN, for instance [Flair] and [Dress with some flare] for A-LINE. In other words, this is a pair of puns. But a [Punny pair?]? That would be the more literal ENS (the third and fourth letters in the word “punny”…).

Then there’s a little culinary/food (prep) ‘n’ drink thing going on with BROIL [Range setting] and HOT OIL [Fry cook’s need]; and SODA [Can in a cooler], [Mai] TAI, and PORT [Dessert wine].

For the DIYers , there’s NAIL SET [Carpentry punch] sharing its final “T” with TOOL [Chisel, e.g.]. And for those with an education bent, there’s PRE [Start to school?] and EL-HI [Precollege, for short]. I got called out about this a few weeks ago, so this time I’ll raise the question: Is it kosher to use as part of a clue something that will appear as fill? Especially when the context is the same. I’m speaking of the pre repeat today (last time it was a Nobel repeat…; there’s also a wild repeat today—but in very different contexts…). My response then was that sometimes “these things happen.” How does that sit with you? Inquiring minds want to know. With colorful fill like RAN WILD, G.I. JANE, BIG EASY and SEE STARS; and strong cluing like [“Meathead,” to Archie Bunker] for SON-IN-LAW, however, I’m not complainin’!

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14 Responses to Wednesday, 9/22/10

  1. foodie says:

    I agree, the theme is a nice change from the usual. It helped me in completing PERIHELION which I should know but did not.

  2. ktd says:

    I was also a bit thrown by the appearance of PERIHELION after three propers…but it was serendipitously appropriate because I was at the planetarium earlier today…hooray for free admission days!

  3. ArtLvr says:

    I was up before the crack of dawn — last day of summer! For some reason I was inspired to zip through all today’s offerings in record time for me: things just fell into place even if I’d only seen them once before, like DREDD. I deemed the OLD MCDONALD refrain theme competent but a bit dull, leading to less lively fill than the others.

    My fastest was the CS with the Legendary Greek ruse, very amusing. However, I found the LAT to be my favorite with SLAPSTICK COMEDY — not only hilarious but also full of scrabbly letters and fun fill. A POX crossing JUST RELAX? SEIZE crossing SELTZER BOTTLE? BANANA PEEL as “Yellow slipper”? LUGE as “Backsliding event?” HUAC as “Red Scare group? Many HELLish IRKS plus a great OUCH! Smiling all the way…

  4. Meem says:

    My day was much like that of ArtLvr. Quick solves of all three (dredged up perihelion from some deep, dark recess). Thought LAT was by far the most fun.

  5. Jan (danjan) says:

    I had an “eek” reaction to RIB SPREADER as well – I don’t think it quite passes the breakfast test.

  6. ePeterso2 says:

    If Y was allowed, we could have had HYPERDISTENSION. Too bad TYPEWRITER RIBBON is a 16.

  7. Todd G says:

    So far, the best I found is Jennifer Wilson, whose claim to fame is winning The Bachelor: Rome. Jennifer Aniston has that extra A, alas.

  8. Sparky says:

    Tried LA Times today. 27 minutes. How do you go fast when typing? You are wizards. I’ll have to print it and then do it. If I did five puzzles a day at that rate I’d never get out of the house. Love the blogs. Thanks Amy and other faithfuls.

  9. joon says:

    ERNIE BILKO (who?)
    PRESIDENT NIXON (obviously not in the same puzzle as WILSON, but it’s a 14 if that helps match up lengths)

    RIB SPREADER, ick.

    i missed the AL GORE massage stories (which is just as well), but i thought byron’s puzzle was amazing anyway. HOW MANY seems perfectly in-the-language to me as a standalone phrase, although today’s clue was essentially a partial. ON RADIO is iffier but i’ve definitely seen worse prepositional phrases pass for crossword fill. but triple-stacked long themers, two pure anagrams, tons of great fill (JEAN-LUC, BEER HAT, HEAT WAVE, PAGE SIX)… yup, it’s a byron.

  10. MacB says:

    Okay, Debbie Gibson would have really made the puzzle Awesome. Totally.

  11. SethG says:

    Fred Biletnikoff is a 14, too. I mean, a 15. Dennis Erickson is a 14.

  12. Alex says:

    All right, as long as we’re playing this game …


    … and a bunch of boring words.

  13. Meem says:

    Joon, assume you have by now caught up with 1950s Phil Silvers show in which main character was Sgt. Ernie Bilko. Later iteration was Make Time for Sergeants.

  14. Mary says:

    Alex, your choices are dangerously close to haiku! Love it!

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