Sunday, July 10, 2011

By: Francis Heaney Difficulty: 3/5 Enjoyability: 4/5 Theme: Drop science on 'em


Cutesy theme. Add 'ology' to a word phrase, and you have made it into science!
  • 61A. What the constructor had to do to create the theme entries in this puzzle (boyeee) (DROPSCIENCEONEM)
  • 17A. Passed a certain medical school exam? (BEATEN PATHOLOGY)
  • 24A. Item used to settle disputes about mathematical connectedness? (TOPOLOGYGUN). Nice, but I was hoping for a Top Gun reference.
  • 38A. With 42-Across, what people who study living creatures are? (BIOLOGY), and 42A. See 38-Across (CURIOUS). "Biology Curious" is funny, but it doesn't have any connection to the "un-scienced" term, Bi Curious.
  • 53A. Study of how to fight in very low temperatures? (WARCRYOLOGY). My favorite of the themed answers, because WAR CRY and CRYOLOGY both tie in with the clue. Fighting in very low temperatures made me think of the polar bears from the His Dark Materials series. They were one of the more fanciful inventions of the series, and definitely captured my imagination better than any other part of the story. Oh, especially those horses with wheels and elephant trunks from the last book. Dumb.

What I learned

  • 50D. Endangered ungulates (RHINOS). Ungulates are cloven mammals! If you got hooves, you're an ungulate.

What I liked

Paired, sequential clues:
  1. 57A. Sound heard in a Lamaze class (HEE)
  2. 58A. Cells contributing to the need for a Lamaze class (OVA)

  • 18D. Muppet prawn introduced in 1996 (PEPE).
    Pepe is who prompted me to write today. He was a late addition to the Muppet roster and as a consequence I'm not that familiar with him. (I initially tried to fill him in as Tedd or Theo for some reason.)

    When I was reading about him, I discovered this hilarious source of his speech pattern.
    Puppeteer Bill Barretta, who created the character, based the accent on his wife's aunt, who is known in the family as "Maria Teresa Okay".
    He ends every other sentence with "okay."

    I also discovered he plays a big role in the Playstation video game, Muppets Monster Adventure, which I promptly downloaded and have been playing in a Playstation emulator on my MacBook.

    It's fun, and it has rekindled my interest in visiting and playing old Playstation games that I didn't get to enjoy when they first came out.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Onion Februay 23, 2011

By: Byron Walden
Difficulty: 4/5
Enjoyability: /5
Theme: Skin Omission
Simpsons? Yes.


I was slow up the uptake. I didn't get it until I was almost finished.
  • 61A. Sextet of cancellations that produced the starred entries...or an oversexed MTV production now facing cancellation (SKINS) "Sextet of cancellations" was just phonetic noise to me for most of the puzzle. It didn't make sense in my head until I realized that the cancellation in question was the omission of the letters SKIN. The starred clues suddenly made sense at that point.
  • 17A *emiT or DAM? (BACKWARDMAG) When you put the SKIN back in, it becomes "backward masking" which is when subliminal Satanic messages are revealed when you play music backwards. And when vocals or instrumentation is recorded backwards on purpose for aesthetic purposes—as in Missy Elliott's Work It —or to censor content like the word joint in the radio edit of Tom Petty's You Don't Know How It Feels. ("Let's roll another tnioj.")
  • 24A *Put on a whiplash collar? (RIGONESNECK) Risking one's neck.
  • 31A *Put a variety of labels on? (MULTITAG)Multi-tasking.
  • 44A *TSA treatment that goes way beyond inappropriate touching? (AIRPORTFRIG)
  • Airport frisking. But "airport frig" made me laugh out loud. That is indeed beyond inappropriate touching. I may never have another opportunity to reference the word frig here, so I have to say that I consider Ryan North—or T-Rex, more accurately—to pretty much own the friggin' word.
  • 54A *Result of having no room under the beach umbrella for your knapsack? (BAGINTHESUN) Basking in the sun. When I was just starting to figure out how the theme worked, I made a logical leap, having just filled in the slighty naughty AIRPORTFRIG, and wondered if this might end up a significantly naughtier reference. (Skinbag? In the sun? I can't think of a worse place to have a sunburn!)

Stuff I liked

  • 42A W or O, e.g. (PRES)
  • 28A Stuff below a sneezeguard (SALAD) A funny assessment of what salad is.

Stuff I didn't know

There was a lot of stuff I didn't know. Mostly names. You can stop reading here if you want because I can't imagine this part is entertaining. But this part—to me—is the most important. Before I started this blog, I used to keep a notebook wherein I would write down all the stuff I learned and all the stuff I didn't know from crosswords.

Crosswords have entertainment value for me, but not more than, say, playing video games. But they have significant educational value. And writing this stuff helps me retain it.
  • 58A Skier Phil with 27 World Cup race wins (MAHRE) The World Cup is the top tier of international ski competition. Not something stupid like the World Series. He and his twin brother Steve skiid in the 1984 Olympics, winning gold and silver medals.
  • 43D "Norma Rae" director Martin (RITT) I didn't know any of this, but Norma Rae is a 1978 movie based the true story of how Crystal Lee Sutton unionized the textile plant where she worked in North Carolina. It was filmed in Opelika, Alabama, which is just northeast of Auburn. It won Sally Field an Oscar for Best Actress, and it won Jennifer Warnes an Oscar for Best Song for It Goes Like It Goes.

    Jennifer Warnes is the person who sings the girl part in the song from Dirty Dancing. She also toured with Leonard Cohen, and released an album of covers of his songs. It's not available at my library.

    Oh yeah, directed by Marin Ritt.
  • 37A Leakes of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" (NENE) NeNe Leakes. Housewives. Okay.
  • 45D NFL Hall of Famer Michael nicknamed "The Playmaker" (IRVIN) Played on the Cowboys. Won some Super Bowls. Was on Dancing With The Stars.
  • 35A Penny Marshall's "Odd Couple" role (MYRNA) Never seen this show. I know Penny Marshall from WalMart ads she used to do with Rosie O'Donnell.
  • 27. Designer Cassini et al. (OLEGS) Oleg Cassini designed Jackie Kennedy's wardrobe in the 60s. The word "oleg" has no gender association with it for me and I was surprised to discover Oleg was a dude and not a lady.
  • 1D Oral polio vaccine pioneer Albert (SABIN) I can't name any vaccinologists. Who invented the small pox vaccine?
  • 11D Montana senator with a good name for a plumber (JONTESTER) Jon Tester. Like Toilet Checker.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Onion February 16 2011

I'm two updates behind! I need to quickly bust these out before I get to a point where I am too far in the hole to dig myself out.

By: Deb Amlen
Difficulty: 3/5
Enjoyability: 5/5
Theme: Road to Hell


Recommended listening: I'm eschewing the too obvious Highway To Hell from AC/DC in favor of Drivin' n Cryin's Straight To Hell. The live version. From the live album that you really ought to listen to if you haven't before.

Okay. Word ladder, from ROAD to HELL. You'll see one letter change in each subsequent clue answer until we get to the end. Check it out.
  • 1A Like the intentions the starred clues are paved with (GOOD)
  • 23A *One way (and the beginning of a word ladder) (ROAD)
  • 32A *Go through volumes (READ)
  • 45A *Noodle or noggin (HEAD)
  • 56A *Grasped (HELD)
  • 71A *Fire down below? (and the end of the word ladder) (HELL)
I just love the symmetry of it. Very first across clue is GOOD, and the very last one is HELL. Beautiful.

What I missed

There are two clues that I confidently, unhesitatingly filled in only to discover later that I answered them completely wrong.