Monday, 2/28/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/02/27" plug="monday-22811" puzz="BEQ" anchor="bq"]5:35[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/02/27" plug="monday-22811" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]2:57[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/02/27" plug="monday-22811" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]7:55 (Sam)[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/02/27" plug="monday-22811" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]2:55[/time_hdr]

Mike Buckley’s New York Times crossword

2/28/11 NY Times crossword answers 0228

Abbreviated post tonight—I’m watching the Oscars! One must have priorities. I managed to do the crossword during a commercial break, and my goal is to blog it while I pay no mind to the Best Screenplay speeches.

The theme is *A*A:

  • 1a. GAGA
  • 18a. TATA FOR NOW
  • 26a. MAMA CASS ELLIOT
  • 43a. YA-YA SISTERHOOD
  • 56a. BABA AU RHUM
  • 65a. ["Funny strange or funny __?"] HA HA—my favorite clue/answer combo

39d: LAH-DI-DAH wishes it could join the theme, but the theme entries won’t let it in. Although the theme answers are a motley bunch, aren’t they? Nothing aside from the *A*A letter pattern connects them, right?

Decent fill except for the oddball 64a: HEISS, clued as [Five-time world champion figure skater Carol], and the unusual 5dL RATED A, [First-class]. I have never, ever heard of something being “rated A.”

Back to the Oscars!
Updated Monday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrossSynergy Syndicate Crossword, “Drinks Are On Me” – Sam Donaldson’s review

Evad’s still on vacation somewhere outside Acirema, so it’s me, Sam Donaldson, filling in again today.  The theme is revealed at 58-Across, clued [Treat, and a hint to 20-, 36-, and 42-Across]: PICK UP THE TAB.  Sure enough, each of the three theme entries takes a well-known phrase containing the consecutive letters T-A-B, removes those letters (thus “picking up” the “tab” and putting it…well, that part’s not entirely clear), then re-clues the resulting wackiness with a straight face:

  • So, in 20-Across, for instance, TABLET COMPUTERS becomes LET COMPUTERS, which gets clued as [Rent out Macs?]. Google confirms that “tablet computer” is a legit term, though “tablet PC” is more common to me.  The problem is not so much the base phrase but the wacky, “post-TAB-ectomy” phrase. “Let computers” feels clunky and is not very entertaining.  Wouldn’t most lessors say “I lease computers” instead of “I let computers?”  Don’t we usually mainly use “let” in the context of real estate?  Aren’t consecutive rhetorical questions annoying?
  • 36-Across has the clue [Preparing guitarist Paul for a concert?].  The answer is DRESSING LES, what’s left of DRESSING TABLES after removing the TAB.  This one works better in my view, as it’s amusing to think of an assistant charged with making sure Mr. Paul doesn’t perform naked. (But hey, if one is going to play a musical instrument naked onstage, the guitar is a strategic choice.  I’d prefer a tuba.  And so would you, I’m afraid.)
  • 42-Across has my favorite of the bunch: the great Jeopardy category, POTENT POTABLES, becomes POTENT POLES, clued as [Influential Warsaw residents?].  Two points for the laugh and for using a fun base phrase, but minus one point for being the only theme entry where TAB comes from the middle of a word and not from the start.  It’s too bad there’s not another theme entry here that does the same thing to fix this small inconsistency.

My solving time was slowed by an abundance of tricky little clues.  At least I found them tricky.  [Hit the beach] is a vague clue for LAND.  My first thought was of traveling to the beach for sun and fun.  [Someone who leaves things out] is a great fake-out clue.  That wording screams for something along the lines of EDITOR, or something fugly like OMITTER–but it’s actually a pretty straightforward clue for SLOB.  So straightforward it’s tricky!

Then there was [Play for a patsy].  I’m probably the only one who fell for this, but I first read “play” as a noun, which had me thinking of three-letter titles that would somehoew relate to a sap.  (I didn’t create a long list.)  Then I tried “play” as a verb, but that had me thinking, “what does one do to attract a patsy, anyway?”  Only after a long while did I read the complete verb, “play for.”  Oh, to play someone for a patsy is to USE them.  Yep, that’s all the grid wanted.  Sometimes I really make solving a lot harder than it has to be.

Highlights in the fill and clues included NO-DOZ, the medicinal [Help in cramming for a test] (in my college days, I knew a guy who took NO-DOZ and drank a two-liter bottle of Jolt Cola to cram for a test–I think he just got released from the hospital last month), [Pat on the buns?] as a cheeky clue for OLEO, and the evocative clue, ["Weasels Ripped My Flesh" composer], for Frank ZAPPA.

Jeffrey Lease’s Los Angeles Times crossword

2/28/11 LA Times crossword solution

The CAPTAIN (38a) theme has a lot of potential, but I’m wondering if I’m the only one who’s never heard of two of the theme CAPTAINs. The following four entries begin with assorted CAPTAINs:

  • 17a. [*1968 sci-fi classic remade in 2001] is PLANET OF THE APES. Who the heck is Captain Planet?
  • 23a. [*Chili competitions] are COOK-OFFS, and Captain (James) Cook was an English explorer. I say if you’re an explorer and you’re “killed in a skirmish” with the native people you encounter, you should’ve backed off and quit being so imperialistic. You got what was coming to you. My dictionary tells me Cook was killed in a skirmish with Hawaiians, and it uses the same phrase for Magellan (killed in a skirmish in the Philippines). Skirmish is a great word.
  • 50a. A HOOK NOSE can be a [*Reason for rhinoplasty], but learning to accept one’s appearance is also a valid response to having a hook nose. Captain Hook is the baddie from Peter Pan.
  • 58a. [*1980 Disney comedy about an all-night puzzle-solving race] clues MIDNIGHT MADNESS. Never heard of the movie, never heard of Captain Midnight.

I wish the theme had more familiar captains because I do like the fill—THESES, POUNCE, BOOBOO, INDIGO, TAKEN IN, MEADOWS and OCEANS, and FEEBLE are all nice and not seen too often in crosswords. Good cluing vibe, too.

The geography clue for 52d: GHANA is [The Gold Coast, since 1957]. I’m now tempted to refer to Chicago’s Gold Coast area as “Ghana.” Who’s with me?

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Themeless Monday”

BEQ 310 solution

Really? Two other Oscar hosts hosted the telecast the same year they were nominated? Is this roundup a joke? Did Paul Hogan really get nominated for his Crocodile Dundee script, and did he really cohost the Oscars? Yes, he did. Like JAMES FRANCO, he didn’t win.

I don’t read right-winger blogs so I had not encountered the term FLEEBAGGERS. It’s not so clever, is it?

Slightly more clever is “the Heatles,” describing a group of NBA STARS. Lebron James and his high-profile teammates on the Miami Heat, I presume? First time I’ve seen “Heatles.” I’ll bet they’re bigger than the Beatles and bigger than Jesus, at least height-wise.

Haven’t encountered AT ONE’S ELBOW that I recall. “Close at hand,” sure.

28a: RUFUS, [Singer/songwriter Wainwright], was just in Entertainment Weekly’s roundup of celeb marriages, births, deaths, convictions, etc. It said he and a woman had a baby. I said to myself, “Wait, I thought he was gay.” The next sentence explained that he and his male partner would raise the baby together with the baby’s mom. Ah, now that makes sense.

Boo to crosswordese ARECA crossing obscure geographical ALAVA. REHAUL is also questionable. Not my favorite BEQ themeless, not by a long shot.

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18 Responses to Monday, 2/28/11

  1. Noah says:

    Don’t forget DADA and NANA in the other corners!

  2. Steve says:

    and YAMAHA, by extension.

  3. Aaron says:

    Nice use of theme, but man, this theme was far harder than your usual Monday. BABA AURHUM? Yeeesh.

  4. Matt M. says:

    I’m surprised the puzzle is only at 3 stars right now — I thought the theme and fill were solid and that the cluing was uncommonly lively.

  5. rick says:

    One of the better Monday puzzles I’ve ever done.

  6. Meem says:

    I agree with Matt M. Four long theme answers plus all four corners is better than three-star in my book.

  7. Howard B says:

    Smooth theme throughout, but kept running into some roadblock fill like OCUL?, OPAH, and NYMPHETS. Just not very Monday-smooth fill on any of those.
    But all in all, early in the week, I like these themes; simple, instinctive, and even if you don’t know what baba au rhum is, at least you know why it’s included in there. Nicely done.

  8. John E says:

    I agree with Aaron – BABA AU RHUM seems ridiculous for a Monday. Seems more like a Wednesday answer.

  9. Karen says:

    Captain Planet was a tv cartoon character from the 90s, created by Ted Turner as an ecological super hero (obviously, not a real big hit). I enjoyed it.

    Captain Midnight was an old radio/tv adventure serial.

  10. Gareth says:

    Clearly you guys weren’t 90′s kids!!! Embarrassing but i had theme tune going through my head afterwards “captain planet. He’s a hero. He’s gonna cut pollution down to zero.” except that was the only line that came to mind so it reverberated endlessly in my head. I think i couldn’t have been much older than 7 The last i saw of it…

  11. Martin says:

    Amy,

    I must encourage anybody who finds “Cape Alava” obscure to spend some time on the Olympic Peninsula ASAP. Hiking in the temperate rainforest is an almost-mystical experience. The trail groundcover is the piggyback plant that some people grow as houseplants and the rest of the forest floor is covered with lush moss. Giant trees are everywhere, with their trunks covered in ferns, with Spanish moss dripping from the branches. It’s a wonderful alien world.

    Then there’s the coast, basically on the other side of the road. Huge spires and bridges are just off the beach, with flocks of murres, puffins and dozens of other seabirds. If the salmon are running, that’s a show worth the trip.

    The trail to Cape Alava is a wonderful daytrip too, and the views just don’t stop. On your way to Seattle, drive, then walk up to Hurricane Ridge, where you can see Mountains in two states and British Columbia. Last time we went there, there was a pair of eagles doing courtship acrobatics. It was one of the most amazing performances I’ve ever seen.

  12. Jeffrey says:

    I agree with everything Martin says. I can see the Olympic Mountains outside my window as I type this. Beautiful area.

  13. Alicia says:

    Agreed with everyone else who was flummoxed by BABA AU RHUM – embarrassingly, I was doing this puzzle in French class and still managed to be confused. I started with only the A’s and U’s filled in and was absolutely mystified.

  14. Martin says:

    … and I agree with everything Jeffery says, since I too can see the Olympic Mountains from my window (actually, I think I live only about four or five blocks from him).

    -Martin Ashwood-Smith

  15. Fay says:

    I’ve never heard au rhum before so I thought I had something wrong in that area. It looks especially weird all smushed together like that too, which didn’t help.

  16. Jeffrey says:

    And yet Martin and I have never met.

  17. Martin says:

    Jeffrey, we’ll have to meet for coffee sometime.

    -MAS

  18. joon says:

    diary of a crossword fiend: bringing people together since 2011.

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