Monday, 10/25/10

LAT 3:14
NYT 3:03
CS 4:55 (Evad)
BEQ 6:15

Jonah Kagan’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 19Each of today’s theme answers STARTS WITH A BANG, and what’s more, two of ’em have a sort of a bang built in. A POWDER KEG is explosive, and a BOOMERANG can smash into you. A guitar’s WHAMMY BAR does not bang; it’s also not a term I knew—it’s a [Guitar accessory that adds vibrato])—and perhaps a bit of a stretch for a Monday puzzle. BAMBOOZLE is such a great word (no real bang to it, though). Did you ever notice the BAMBOO at the beginning of that word? Mind you, it’s just the BAM that plays a part in this theme, together with BOOM, POW, and WHAM.

I have no idea why the four theme entries that start with a bang have starred clues. Those four are the only 9-letter answers in the grid. Would it really be that hard for the solver to piece together the theme without spotlighting those clues?

The fill in this puzzle is excellent. Highlights include the colorful 7s and 8s—MARTIANS, BAD KARMA, a HOT TODDY, STRANGE, STAR-LIT, and TRESPASS are all smooth and interesting. Shorter answers I like include PIZZA, BOWIE, BABES in Toyland, and WIZ.

Repeaters such as ERLE, OAST, ETTAS, TSAR, and ATRA are uninspiring, though, and silent movie star MABEL Normand is of a piece with Virna Lisi and Theda Bara—names mostly forgotten outside the precincts of crossword puzzles.

Updated Monday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “A Bone to Pick”—Evad’s review

Nice dense theme from the undisputed queen of early-week puzzles, Lynn Lempel. Let’s see if we can “bone up” on the six entries in which the first word can precede the word “bone”:

  • I’ve never heard of a HERRING GULL, but luckily the crossing entries brought the word out of the cruciverbial mist. (I would just call this guy (or gal) a seagull.)
    I read here that the herringbone pattern is so named from its similarity to a herring’s skeleton.
  • “Helpful boost to an aircraft in flight” isn’t ex-JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater, but a TAILWIND. The tailbone is connected to the hipbone, right? Dem dry bones…
  • The money entry in the middle is the 15-letter phrase WISH YOU WERE HERE.
    I dunno, most postcards I send to people when we’re on vacation don’t include this sentiment; I mean the whole idea of a vacation is to see new places and meet new people right? Wishbones can be found both in turkeys and your supermarket’s salad dressing aisle.
  • HAM RADIO leads to hambone. One of my favorite Jack Handy Deep Thoughts goes something like: “If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins most? I’d say Flippy, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong though. It’s Hambone.”
  • The final entry is “Spots for the Bumsteads and the Mitchells” for FUNNY PAPERS. This is a bit odd, as I consider a newspaper’s comic section to be called “the funny papers,” so I would’ve used “spot” instead of “spots” in the clue. Your funny bone is the one crossword constructors (and editors) keep trying to tickle each day (to varying degrees of success).

Everything else smooth as buttah, and very politically correct. (With so many less “pc” ways to clue TIGER today, Lynn went with “Biggest of the big cats.” I mean how nice is that?) Liked the phrases AS OF NOW, GET FREE, NO EXIT (we read Huis Clos in my French III HS class) and OPEN UP. My one SLIP was to put in TRIP for “Stumble.”

À demain!

Robert Doll’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 20Theme: The first words in four phrases—RICH UNCLE, BOB AND WEAVE, FRANK DISCUSSION, and JERRY-RIGGED—double as men’s names, and they’re all going to a STAG PARTY. I liked the theme until I got to the STAG PARTY part; not sure why the unifying entry put me off the puzzle.

Five clues:

  • 15a. TOE, [“The __”: placekicker Lou Groza’s nickname]. Never heard of him, but placekickers kinda kick with their toes so it wasn’t too hard to figure out.
  • 20a. [Bagel flavoring] clues SESAME. Who orders a sesame seed bagel, anyway? I’m looking askance at the hummus I bought yesterday—the plain variety now comes topped with sesame seeds and I’m wishing they weren’t there.
  • 32a, 1d. [Titled woman] is a DAME, and [32-Acrosses’ spouses] are SIRS. It would be funnier if the singular DAME had multiple SIRS. A tad awkward to cross-reference one singular and one plural entry.
  • 54d. [Croc’s cousin] clues GATOR. When will this clue be used to clue UGLY RUBBER SHOE?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

Region capture 21I’ve only got about 5 minutes to discuss this puzzle before chaperoning a school field trip this morning.

Overall vibe: Too many word endings tacked on, and fill heavy on the RSTLNE letter bank. Plurals BIRCHES, AMPERSANDS, TRESSES, ICONS, crosswordese ETAPES, abbrev GPAS. Words with undesirable ending action: FATTER, ATONER, ALARMED, BASTED, SANER, STONIER, RETUNED. Combo!: UNITERS, Unexciting multi-worders: SAT IT, ADDS ONTO, EASY TO SEE, ONE ACRE, KEEPS TO.

On the plus side: MAN UP has current-events relevance, mere weeks after Ben Zimmer wrote about it for the NYT’s “On Language” column. A.J. SOPRANO crossing DJANGO Reinhardt is great. PETER ROGET—who remembered his first name? DECADENT is a great word. Don’t recall seeing FRO-YO (frozen yogurt) in a crossword before; fresh and well-chilled.

Gotta run!

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7 Responses to Monday, 10/25/10

  1. Meem says:

    We met Jonah Kagan during Brown puzzle week and have another solid entry from him today. Did not know whammy bar, but easy to get from the crosses. Bad karma crossing death seems an appropriate start for Halloween week! Also an enjoyable puzzle from Lynn Lempel. LAT: Agree with Amy.

  2. Sparky says:

    Thanks Amy for the comment about the stars at theme clues. I had the same question. Found the puzzle nice for a Monday. Off to a bad start with aloe as 1A. Too smart for my own britches. But it fixed itself quickly. Here’s to a good week.

  3. Karen says:

    I was on a nature walk a couple years ago and the park ranger was adamant there there was no such creature as a seagull, you could call them gulls or HERRING GULLS or laughing gulls etc. (That, and the role of birds in spreading poison ivy, stuck with me.)

    Isn’t there a WHAMMY BAR in Guitar Hero? I think I’ve played it twice.

    I’ll take Amy’s sesame bagels, I like them with strawberry cream cheese.

  4. Jeffrey says:

    I nailed the BEQ except for the 26 blank/wrong letters in the NE. Missed it by that much!

  5. ArtLvr says:

    I did get DECADENT, but I too found the NE in BEQ’s puzzle too tough to finish: might have taken all night! I wish I’d thought of SOPRANO, though… Aggrandize wanted to be something like Enforce, not ENNOBLE, and HEAR OUT was trying to be a way of seeing. Arrgh! I did enjoy peeking at the end — the ICONS were cleverly clued, for sure.

  6. joon says:

    i, for one, eat sesame seed bagels. i thought lou groza was the most interesting thing about the LAT puzzle. interestingly, there are no NFL kickers any more who kick with their toes: for the last 20-30 years, there have been only “soccer-style” placekickers, who use the inside of their foot. but early kickers (and groza certainly qualifies) used their toes. groza is now immortalized as the eponym of the NCAA award for best placekicker, but what i find awesome about his career is that he also played offensive tackle, and did so well enough to make all-NFL six times. if you look at one of today’s kickers and one of today’s offensive tackles, the idea of it is pretty hilarious. i guess janikowski is huge, but even he is about 75-100 pounds light too be a tackle.

    the rest of the puzzle was pretty off-putting for a monday. is RICH UNCLE an actual lexical unit, or is it just a word and another word? isn’t it JURY-RIGGED? and i agreed with amy about STAG PARTY not being such a great “reveal” answer for this theme.

    jonah’s NYT was much more fun, if somewhat tough for a monday. i kind of wanted kelly KAPOWSKI of saved by the bell to make it.

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Joon, I meant to make that point about jury-rigged vs. jerry-built, btu I was short on time this morning. “Rich uncle” is a lexical unit, if you ask me. My mom actually had a rich uncle; her aunt’s second husband made his money in shopping mall real estate in the ’50s-’60s.

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