Friday, 11/26/10

NYT 5:15
LAT untimed (Jeffrey)
CHE 4:50
CS untimed (Janie)
WSJ 12:25 (Jeffrey)

Hmm, I am wiped out after a long day of cooking and eating. Not sure I’ll actually get to all of the Friday puzzles this week. We shall see.

Gary Steinmehl’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 20I kept forgetting this was a Friday puzzle while solving it and indeed, there’s a three-part theme to it so it could make sense as a tough, low-word-count Thursday puzzle. Instead, it’s a Friday 70-worder built around three movie titles, each three words with the third word being a 5-letter one starting with Z. We’ve got ICE STATION ZEBRA which, for my money, has one of the best titles of all time. What is an ice station? Are there 25 more of them named after animals that start with A through Y? I don’t know! I don’t want to know. I like the mystery.

When I had the Z***A at the end of 16a, I wondered if it would be the ZENDA one—I started in the POULTS/ORZO/PENNY/atom SMASHER zone, so I didn’t have the ICE STATION at first. So I filled in PRISONER OF ZENDA easily by the time I got to it, after passing MARK OF ZORRO.

Mind you, not a single one of those movie clues was helpful to me. Could’ve all said [Old movie], and I would have gotten to the answer just as soon.

The rest of the fill was decent. Not too much sparkle, no, but I made it through TERNATE and BORAX and HARVARD without grief.

My main quibble: How many of you still use your INDEX FINGER as a [Telephone dialer?]? On my cell phone touchscreen, I use my index finger if not using the memory autodials, but the cordless phone at home? That’s thumb, all the way.
Updated Friday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Front Runners”—Janie’s review

Didja maybe overeat a bit yesterday? Then by all means, this may be a day for some exercise. So up and at ’em! (“CHILL OUT!” I hear in response…) Never gonna be able to rationalize a day of abundant left-overs and channel-surfing if you merely LIE IN BED. Take a good long walk first or perhaps engage in some variation of a [Race (and a word that follows the starts of 20-, 37-, and 48-Across)] DERBY. Not fully understanding the title? Another way of parsing it is to say that the first word of each of the three theme phrases runs in front of the word derby. Like this:

  • 20A. [Coney Island Cyclone, for one] ROLLER COASTERroller derby. Anyone on a roller derby team is bound to burn off a calorie or three. (For the faint of stomach, once or twice around the Cyclone might lead to the loss of an entire meal…)
  • 37A. [Honorary title in the Bluegrass State] KENTUCKY COLONELKentucky Derby. This honorary title has its origins in the military, but in recent history has been bestowed on such bold-faced names as Betty White, Barack Obama and Muhammad Ali. Only one workin’ off any serious calories in the Kentucky Derby is the horse (and to a lesser extent, the jockey).
  • 48A. [1993 Sylvester Stallone movie] DEMOLITION MANdemolition derby. I think the real common denominator here is the kitsch appeal. Neither the movie (even with its rather impressive cast) nor demolition derbies genuinely call out to me…

What I’d like to know is the origin of “derby hat” as a synonym for “Bowler hat.” Anyone? The OED was no help; nor was this Wiki article (which, nevertheless, does provide an interesting backgrounder).

Love the polite [Response to “Need a hand?”] “COULD YOU?” combo and also encountering AL PACINO. He’s currently on Broadway as Shylock in a critically acclaimed production of The Merchant of Venice, but Randy gleefully takes us down the pop-culture path, cluing him instead as gangster [Big Boy Caprice portrayer in “Dick Tracy”]. The link will take you to a site (from 2008) that lists filmdom’s top 20 gangsters. Characters portrayed by Pacino clock in at 16 (Big Boy Caprice) and 4 (Michael Corleone).

On the subject of pop-culture, was definitely out of my depth with PINK (which I’d heard of) but not its clue [“Stupid Girls” singer], and [Skateboarder Hawk] for TONY. Yikes. This is one guy who knows that you don’t get anywhere by stayin’ still. In a sport that’s gone in and out of fashion (now in again), who’da thunk there’d ever have been professional skateboarders with any longevity? There may not be many, but at age 42, Tony Hawk is the IDEAL [Perfect] exemplar.

Samuel A. Donaldson’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review

LAT Nov 26 2010Yes, I know today is Friday. It just looked like Amy needed a little hand after the Thanksgiving madness. So two quick write-ups from me.

Theme:  59A. [Liven up, with “to” (and a hint to how 17-, 27- and 44-Across were created)] – ADD A LITTLE PUNCH. A type of punch is added to the beginning of phrases with amusing results.

Theme answers:

  • 17A. [Flight from a heated argument?] – CROSSFIRE ESCAPE
  • 27A. [Talkative “King of Country”?] – JABBERING STRAIT
  • 44A. [Gene carrier responsible for truancy?] – HOOKY CHROMOSOME

One-line review for those in a hurry: A knockout of a puzzle from a Team Fiend member.

Other stuff:

  • 5A. [Big name in crackers] – RITZ/ 9A. [Earthshaking news?] – QUAKE. Z, Q and K in row one. Scrabblicious!
  • 14A. [Othello’s confidant] – IAGO. This is required in every puzzle now.
  • 16A. [Where to look out?] – BELOW. Usually followed by bonk!!!
  • 22A. [Flamboyant band since the ’70s] – KISS
  • 25A. [Jack succeeded him] – IKE. Kennedy/Eisenhower
  • 38A. [Minor damage] – DING. Better a DING than a bonk!
  • 39A. [Word on the Great Seal of the U.S.] – NOVUS. Does NOV mean “the”?
  • 65A. [Boss’s privilege] – SAY SO
  • 1D. [Pay stub abbr.] – FICA. CPP on my stub.
  • 6D. [“__ Had $1000000”: Barenaked Ladies hit] – IF I. Canadian content! Didn’t I play this yesterday? So let’s go with “Be My Yoko Ono
  • 29D. [Bela Fleck’s instrument] – BANJO. Playing Lennon. I am king of the segues.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s “Dollars to Doughnuts” Wall Street Journal crossword – Jeffrey’s reviewWSJ Nov 26 2010

Theme: Always Got Time for Tim Horton’s. Replace the word “dollar” in phrases with a type of doughnut.

Theme answers:

  • 23A. [Be very certain] – BET ONE’S BOTTOM DOLLAR BEARCLAW
  • 38A. [Rodomontade, quixotic, stygian and the like] – TEN DOLLAR BUTTERNUT WORDS
  • 49A. [With 70- and 85-Across, insufficient to be useful] – A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR CHOCOLATE FROSTED SHORT. That’s very sad.
  • 97A. [Budget rival] – DOLLAR SPRINKLES RENT-A-CAR
  • 114A. [Taft’s foreign policy] –  DOLLAR OLD-FASHIONED DIPLOMACY

One line review for those in a hurry: Ridiculous theme idea that totally works.

In the name of crossword blogging research, I stopped at Tim Horton’s before writing this post. Too bad there was no room in the puzzle for Boston Cream and Walnut Crunch. Next week, BEQ brings us “From Soup to Nuts.”

Other stuff:

  • 28A. [Thanksgiving leftovers] – TURKEY/73A. [Thanksgiving leftovers] – BEETS. Enjoy for the next month.
  • 29A. [Green on JetBlue] – AIR SICK. Who doesn’t like seeing AIR SICK in their puzzle?
  • 46A. [Item with 21 spots] – DIE. One DIE, two dice. Whose idea was that?
  • 47A. [Casus ___ (war justification)] – BELLI. You said a phrase I don’t understand, so prepare to be invaded.
  • 79A. [“At Last” singer James] – ETTA
  • 82A. [British band with the 1991 #1 hit “Unbelievable“] – EMF
  • 104A. [Julianna ___ (sleepwear brand)] – RAE. Who? Did the “Facts of Life” girls wear this?
  • 124A. [Lucy’s little brother] – LINUS. Rerun fits as well.
  • 3D. [Droid maker] – MOTOROLA. I have the “Backflip”.
  • 33D. [She duetted with Justin on “The Only Promise That Remains“] – REBA
  • 34D. [I ___ Tenori (Domingo, Carreras and Pavarotti)] – TRE
  • 41D. [Start a snooker game over] – REBREAK. I’ll reforgive this.
  • 65D. [Nickname of the 1967 NFL Championship Game] – ICE BOWL. This Sunday’s Grey Cup  in Edmonton could be another ICE BOWL.
  • 69D. [“The Sound of Music” figure] – ABBESS
  • 88D. [Puts back] – REPLACES. Another “RE” word? Wait, this one is real. Never mind.
  • 91D. [H5N1, familiarly] – BIRD FLU. Who doesn’t like seeing BIRD FLU in their puzzle?
  • 102D. [Fixed a rug] – REWOVE. No recomment.
  • 109D. [Where it all began] – EDEN. 1 Across should be termed the EDEN answer.

I’m out of retime. Bye!

Thanks to Jeffrey and Janie for covering most of the Friday puzzles for Fiend Central!

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Compound Interest”

Region capture 22Who doesn’t love chemical compounds? Who doesn’t love puns based on the names of chemical compounds? Well, me. I don’t love ’em. This week’s theme entries are:

  • 18a. [Gift container of chemical compounds?] is an ESTER BASKET (Easter basket). I started out with ETHER BASKET, which retains the long-E sound.
  • 25a. THE KETONE KOPS are your [Slapstick group of chemical compounds?], playing on the Keystone Kops.
  • 34a, 36a. [Admission that chemical compounds are needed?] clues IT TAKES ALKYNES (“it takes all kinds”).
  • 43a. [What destroyers of chemical compounds might bring?] are AMINES TO AN END (“a means to an end”).
  • 57a. [Tests involving chemical compounds?] aren’t final exams, they’re PHENOL EXAMS.

I’m calling this puzzle a sop to the chemistry profs who read the Chronicle of Higher Education and grow weary of the literary and historical themes the Chronicle crossword often features. But there’s not really any surface sense to the theme answers, no rhyme or reason besides “a chemical compound has a name that sounds kinda like a word in a familiar phrase.” What? No love for methane, ethane, ethyne, enol, and the other chemicals that populate crossword grids?

There are plenty of tough clues outside the theme, too:

  • 9a. [“Summertime,” for one] is an ARIA, apparently.
  • 14a. [Basho composition] suggests music but means poetry: HAIKU, in particular.
  • 22a. [Tucson sight] seems a rather overspecific clue for SAGUARO cactus.
  • 24a. [“The Black ___” (Dumas novel)] TULIP? Never heard of it.
  • 7d. A ukulele, or UKE, is a [Chordophone from Kauai]. “Chordophone” doesn’s much sound like it refers to a stringed instrument
  • 24d. TNT is a [Torpex component]. Never heard of Torpex.
  • 29d. SAN LEANDRO is the [California city that’s home to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company]. I thought they were based in San Francisco.
  • 33d. [Went from pillar to post] clues MEANDERED. Not familiar with this “pillar to post” phrase.
  • 35d. [Eau de vie from Gascony] is ARMAGNAC, cousin to cognac.
  • 46d. [Jewish ascetic of yore] is crosswordese, the ESSENE. If you haven’t been doing crosswords for years and you’re not a biblical scholar or Judaic scholar, do you know of the Essenes? I know ’em from crosswords.
  • 47d. [Americans might pledge to it] clues NPR, National Public Radio. Do people donate money to NPR at the national level? Chicago Public Radio does pledge drives to support Chicago Public Radio and help the station buy the NPR and PRI programs they air.
  • 58d. [Louis ___ (War of the Spanish Succession king)] clues XIV, or Louis the 14th.
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14 Responses to Friday, 11/26/10

  1. Bruce S. says:

    I use my index finger on my cordless phone. None of the movie clues helped me either, but I still made it through. I was kind of hoping for a LEGEND OF ZELDA somewhere in there too.

  2. john farmer says:

    Favorite movie title: History Is Made at Night (1937, Charles Boyer, Jean Arthur).

    All three in the Friday puzzle were good ones too. Had a tough time coming up with them. I’m blaming the tryptophan.

  3. Evad says:

    I think this constructor was one of Peter Gordon’s favorites back in the heyday of the NY Sun, nice to see him still in the business. I missed the crossing between DIKE and AIKEN, I had DIME for the “Big bank” clue (I recall a big bank in Brooklyn called the Dime Savings bank I think), and wasn’t familiar with the author from the 50s. Clay AIKEN, on the other hand, I know.

  4. Ladel says:

    I like to use the voice commands in my cell to make a call, it’s filled with drama as the voice recognition program struggles with my NYC accent, but the lady is so sweet and just keeps hunting around for the right #.

  5. Will Nediger says:

    For those unfamiliar with Conrad Aiken, I recommend his short story “Silent Snow, Secret Snow.”

  6. Evad says:

    Thanks, Will…after I read his wiki bio, I’m embarrassed that I’m unfamiliar with his works. Hope to change that tho….

  7. pfeiring says:

    What Will N. said – a fantastic, eerie story that has many layers. P

  8. Jenni Levy says:

    So how does “heartbeat” end up being “SEC”? I loved the theme – clues didn’t help me, either, but all the titles were familiar and once I figured out where they were going the theme was helpful.

    I’m kind of ashamed at how long it took me to figure out CZAR – I knew the Z had to be right but just couldn’t come up with the word. D’oh.

    I don’t use my thumbs on my home phone – still use the index finger for all my phones (home, work, cell phone). Just old-fashioned, I guess. David’s Chanukah present is in the mail and I’m really excited about it – it’s an authentic rotary phone reconfigured to be a Bluetooth attachment for a cellphone, but completely functional – you can dial and talk on it and it rings, just like the old days. Very fun.

  9. Jenni Levy says:

    And, of course, as so often happens, I have answered my own question. Never mind.

  10. Scot says:

    Anyone who has ever served in the military knows that a “Drill sergeant’s title is NOT “Sir” (40A). You address only officers as “Sir.”

  11. John Haber says:

    Jenni, “in a heartbeat” or “in a sec” can both mean “in an instant.”

    I found it reasonably hard and wasn’t able either to use the three movies as handles. The most obscure crossings for me were CLINE/POINTE (and of course one has to know that Adonis was done in by a BOAR rather than a bear), DIKE/AIKEN/NIGER, and POULTS/UDE. Indeed, I stared at the last for a long time before daring to enter the right answer. Some nice clues. My favorite was “Thing under a tumbler.”

  12. joon says:

    amy, i dug the CHE theme and i’m no chemist. the five punned words are all classes of chemical compounds, unlike methane, ethane, or ethyne. (enol would have worked). “summertime” is an ARIA from porgy and bess; basho is the undisputed master of the HAIKU, and i had no idea either on “pillar to post” or torpex. as for ESSENE, yes, i’d heard of them long before i started crosswords. i don’t know what biblical scholarship would have to do with it, as they’re not mentioned in the bible (i think), but everybody’s heard of the dead sea scrolls, right? i frowned a little when i saw what looked like a random roman numeral in the fill, but reading the clue turned my frown upside-down. louis XIV is a big, big deal. so overall, thumbs up on the puzzle from me. IT TAKES / ALKYNES was particularly inspired, i thought.

  13. red dog says:

    WSJ xword by BEQ was quite literally the worst puzzle i have ever seen published. it made no sense. and was not fun. and a lot of the answers werent even donuts. a bearclaw is a pastry, not a donut. sprinkles are not donuts. but even if you open up hte definition of donut, there was no connection between the food name and the thing it was replacing. so it was completely random. that was really dumb. boo.

  14. red dog says:

    Scot — You are completely wrong about that. Drill sergeants are commonly referred to as sir. In fact, it is usually, “Sir, yes, sir!”

    And if you want to see it in action, check out the movie “Full Metal Jacket”, which includes this exchange: ”I’m Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, your senior drill instructor. From now on you will speak only when spoken to, and the first and the last word out of your filthy sewers will be “Sir”. Do you maggots understand that?” … The recruit answers, “Sir, yes sir!”

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