Sunday, 5/9/10

LAT 9:46
Reagle 8:11
NYT 7:24
BG 6:42
WaPo Puzzler 4:24
CS 3:27

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

And if you’ve lost your own mother, or you wanted to be a mom but never got the chance, hang in there on a tough day. I haven’t forgotten you.

Elizabeth Gorski’s New York Times crossword, “Ms. Conceptions”

Region capture 7Liz riffs on Mother’s Day with a grrl power MOTHERS OF INVENTION theme. Not only is that the name of Frank Zappa’s [Rock group whose name is an appropriate alternative title for this puzzle], but it pays tribute to seven notable female inventors and, to mark the day, spells out HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY in the circled squares. Here are the brainchildren and their mamas:

  • 23A. The COBOL COMPUTER LANGUAGE is the [Programming tool created by Grace Hopper (1906-92)]. Another programming language, Ada, was named after 19th-century computing pioneer Ada Lovelace.
  • 29A. THE MODERN BRASSIERE is an [Item of apparel created by Mary Phelps Jacob (1891-1970)].
  • 50A. [Medical discovery of Gertrude Elion (1918-99)] is a DRUG FOR LEUKEMIA.
  • 64A. The CIRCULAR SAW is a [Woodworking tool created by Tabitha Babbitt (1784-1853)].
  • 71A. LIQUID PAPER is the [Office item created by Bette Naismith Graham (1924-80)]. I have a bottle of Wite-Out. Graham’s invention was the original correction fluid.
  • 88A. The indispensible WINDSHIELD WIPER is a [Driving convenience created by Mary Anderson (1866-1953)].
  • 117A. And then there’s the TOLL HOUSE COOKIE RECIPE, a [Food formula created by Ruth Wakefield (1903-77)]. Yum!

I’m really not in a mood for writing about crosswords this evening, so I’ll coddle myself because it’s Mother’s Day weekend and stop here. I do appreciate a theme devoted to smart and creative women, wrought by the smart and creative Liz Gorski!
Updated Sunday morning:
Wait a minute. It’s Mother’s Day, and I’m lashed to the computer? This is wrong. Time for minimalist blogging!

Merl Reagle’s syndicated/Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, “Exchanging Vowels”

Region capture 8Cool theme, with 11 answers and Merl’s trademark stacked theme entries. Have you seen a vowel-swap theme like this before? I don’t recall one, but it seems like fertile ground for theme development. Here’s the theme:

  • 19a. [Imitators of a certain barbarian?] = CONAN COPIERS. (Canon brand copiers.)
  • 23a. [Definite tip-off that Tarzan is your new baseball coach?] = CHIMP AT THE BAT. (Champ at the bit.)
  • 30a. [Couple of guys?] = MAX AND MITCH. (Mix and match.) Excellent inclusion in a theme about mixing and matching vowels.
  • 47a. [Eating regimen that really ticks you off?] = THE SLAM-FIST DIET. (Slimfast.) Awesome!
  • 58a. [Actor's uncensored biography?] = CONNERY RAW. (Cannery Row.) Good one!
  • 72a. [Crystal's "gain weight now, ask me how" program?] = BILLY TOTAL FATNESS. (Bally Total Fitness.)
  • 87a. [Coffee order that puts hair on your chest?] = MACHO LATTE. (Macho.)
  • 97a. [KFC's basic concept?] = CURBSIDE CHICKEN. (Check-in.) Hah!
  • 113a. [Crossword puzzle?] = MENTAL PIECE. (Mantelpiece.)
  • 125a. [Worst-ever gymnast?] = MARY LOU ROTTEN. (Retton.)
  • 132a. [Movie epic that's probably more than you ever wanted to know about poi?] = TARO, TARO, TARO. (Tora, Tora, Tora.)

I wanted a different answer for 94d. [Ebert's love] is his fabulous wife CHAZ! What’s this FILM business about?

John Lampkin’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Pet Food”

Region capture 9The theme is pet-related food puns involving the sounds made by various animals, though I don’t know how common it is for people to have, say, a pet duck.

  • 23a. [Duck's snack?] = GRAHAM QUACKER. (Cracker.)
  • 38a. [Canary's cereal?] = SHREDDED TWEET. (Wheat.)
  • 71a. [Dog's creamer?] = ARF AND ARF. (Half-and-half.)
  • 101a. [Owl's beverage?] = HOOT CHOCOLATE. (Hot.) Who has a pet owl? See? The puzzle’s title is off-key. We have creatures who are pet animals, wild animals, and farm animals.
  • 122a. [Chick's first course?] = SPLIT PEEP SOUP. (Pea.)
  • 3d. [Sheep's eggplant dish?] = BAA-BAA GHANOUJ. (Baba ghanouj.) I went with the GANOUSH spelling at first; both are in the dictionary.
  • 59d. [Cow's dessert?] = RASPBERRY MOOS. (Mousse.)

126A. I’m guessing C-STORE ([Service station feature, briefly]) is short for “convenience store,” but I have no idea where that term is used. I’ve never heard it in the Midwest.

Patrick Berry’s Washington Post “Post Puzzler No. 5″

Region capture 10This one’s on the easy side of the themeless category, but not crazy-easy.

I learned from Brendan Quigley’s blog that Patrick Berry is from Athens, Georgia. PATRICK BERRY was a theme entry in Brendan’s recent contest puzzle because one of the members of Athens’ own R.E.M. shares his last name. By far the coolest contest entry was Eric Peterson’s rework of the cover to R.E.M.’s Reckoning album to include the theme entries. I just might order the women’s t-shirt with that graphic on it.

Anyway, the puzzle. Let’s see what’s in here. This:

  • 15A. [What a loud child may be asked to use] is an INSIDE VOICE. Only the answer here is INDOOR VOICE, which is not the wording I hear/use.
  • 25A. [Guy who makes movies] is British director Guy RITCHIE.
  • 38A. POLAR COORDINATE is a [Value that can be either a length or an angle]. Hello, crossings! Thank you for giving me this answer. Doesn’t seem like a familiar term to me. Maybe I once knew it and forgot it?
  • 46A. R.E.M. is that [Rock band formed in Athens, Georgia]. See above.
  • 63A, 12D. Full names! Those always shine in the grid. Today we have EMILY BRONTE and ROB THOMAS.
  • 65A. RENT-A-CENTER is a [Consumer product chain headquartered in Plano, Texas]. Good gravy, could that description be any vaguer? “Consumer product chain”? That’s not very helpful if you’re not up on your Plano corporate trivia.
  • 9D. [Apple product] is the non-technical, small-”a”-apple CIDER.

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy crossword, “Sunday Challenge”

Region capture 11Martin, king of the triple-stacked 15s, once again loads the top and bottom of the grid with triple stacks. Here are the 15s:

  • 1a. Britney [Spears hit of 2000] is “OOPS, I DID IT AGAIN.” Getting this one right out of the blocks got me off to a quick start, marching through most of the Downs from 1d to 15d.
  • 16a. [Dion and the Belmonts hit of 1959] is “A TEENAGER IN LOVE.” This one’s been popping up in triple stacks for years.
  • 17a. [Road locomotives] are TRACTION ENGINES. No idea what those are…but I suspect the answer would bore me.
  • 56a. [Andre Agassi, for one] is an IRANIAN-AMERICAN. I just learned this in another crossword this week!
  • 58a. [Time around Boston] is EASTERN STANDARD time.
  • 59a. [Fighting words] clues “LET’S STEP OUTSIDE.” I don’t know. “You wanna step outside?” and “Let’s take this outside” sound more established to me.

Other clues:

  • 33a. I’ve never heard of [US poet John Godfrey ___] SAXE.
  • 34a. And GIL, [Jazz pianist Evans], isn’t really ringing any bells either.
  • 42a. [Inveigled] means SEDUCED? In a way.
  • 5d. [Ensepulchers] means INTERS. I know this only because of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery near where my mom grew up.
  • 8d, 15d. [Sylvan home] clues both a bear’s DEN and a bird’s NEST. Sylvan relates to the woods.
  • 40d. [Car cover] is a TONNEAU. A tonneau cover is a “protective cover for the seats in an open car or cabin cruiser when they are not in use.” Does this have another more common meaning relating to regular ol’ cars? Google tells me the commonest use is covers for the beds of pickup trucks. Maybe also for covering up what’s stowed in the back of a hatchback or station wagon?
  • 43d. My favorite clue today! [Eugene and Gary] are CITIES. You tried to think of famous people named Eugene and Gary who shared a last name, didn’t you? “Gary Debs, Gary Levy?”
  • 53d. [Berry used in juices and dietary supplements] is ACAI. This word is all over the place in grocery stores, online ads, and spam comments. With its 75% vowel content, look for it to become a regular repeater in crossword puzzles.
  • 54d. [Nimes's department] is GARD. I like seeing countries in the crossword. Major cities and capital cities are good, too. Famous rivers, fine. But there’s no reason for the average American solver to be well-versed in other countries’ administrative districts like GARD. Meh.

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s 6-week-old Boston Globe crossword, “Puzzle People”

Region capture 12Cute theme! Various words and phrases with hidden crossword connotations are clued with their relevance to this crossword’s “puzzle people.” The theme entries include ROW HOUSES, SQUARE MEALS, HIGH DEFINITION, ART LINKLETTER, DOUBLE-CROSSERS, BOXING MATCH, GRIDLOCK, DOWN PAYMENT, and BLANK CHECKS.

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12 Responses to Sunday, 5/9/10

  1. miguel says:

    What was the necessity here?

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Miguel, do you dispute the necessity of a reliable cookie recipe and a good bra?

  3. Sam Donaldson says:

    Loved the NYT theme, and the “secret message” was near-vintage Gorski (if the circles had formed the shape of a mom, then it would have been vintage Gorski).

    I was mildly surprised to see OVAL and OVOID in the same grid, and because I thought the title was brilliant I was a little less impressed with MOTHERS OF INVENTION, especially since it wasn’t in one of the traditional payoff spots (center or bottom).

  4. Bruce S. says:

    I too wasn’t sure about the OVAL and OVOID, but things worked with them so I went with it.

    Happy Mother’s Day to Amy and all the other mother’s out there.

  5. Jan (danjan) says:

    The other thing that Bette Nesmith Graham gave us, perhaps more significant on Mother’s Day, was her son Michael Nesmith of the Monkees. LIQUID PAPER was a gimme for me!

  6. duke says:

    Liked both the title and alternate. Really liked the whole idea. Only answer that bothered me was “the modern brassiere”. Is there one brassiere that is THE modern one? Is there a brassiere that is particularly modern upon which all other brassieres are compared?

  7. Eric Maddy says:

    Never heard C STORE here in the West either. Most common terminology I hear for a store attached to a gas station is “mini-mart”.

  8. HH says:

    “…do you dispute the necessity of a reliable cookie recipe and a good bra?”

    The cookie recipe, yes, now, since a few years ago I learned I was diabetic.
    On the other hand, I have always admired the capabilities of a good bra. Sometimes even a bad bra.

  9. Martin says:

    Amy got a well-deserved shoutout from Liz Gorski over at Wordplay:

    If I could add another theme entry, it would be: DAILY CROSSWORD BLOG. It is entirely consistent with today’s theme, as our own Amy Reynaldo invented the crossword blog almost five years ago. “Diary of a Crossword Fiend” is an amazing 21st century accomplishment! Brava, Amy!

  10. Deb Amlen says:

    I’ll second that shout-out (or rather third it, after Martin). Congratulations on being a trend-setter, Amy, and a Happy Mother’s Day to you!

  11. joon says:

    vowel swap? yes, we’ve seen such a theme before. patrick berry (who else?) had a beautiful set of theme answers in a 2007 wsj puzzle. according to your old blog, you liked it. still, merl’s got almost all-new switches and his puzzle today felt very fresh.

    my favorite theme answer from patrick’s was NO SPRING CHECK-IN, which was also a theme answer in a sun puzzle from 2008, “E before I.” the clue in the sun was absolutely perfect: {Sign at the Three Seasons hotel?}.

  12. ePeterso2 says:

    Mrs. eP thinks the coolest entry to BEQ’s contest was the guy that sent flowers to St. Liz.

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