Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Onion January 27, 2011

Toughie! I got about 3/4 of the way complete, and then had to start looking up answers: an official Did Not Finish. Spent a long time on it too. Started at Fluid Coffee Bar over an espresso and a green chili breakfast burrito (recommended), continued working on it at the Front Porch while waiting for my party to arrive, and finally finished it early this morning. Geez.

By: Matt Jones
Difficulty: 5/5 (Did Not Finish)
Theme: "Gel Inserts"
Simpsons? Yes. Note: I'm adding this category due to two consecutive puzzles with Simpsons clues.

Theme answers

The themed answers killed me this week because I thought that "gel inserts" simply meant "gel" would be found in the answer, not that—duh—the answers were familiar phrases with "gel" inserted.
  • 58A. Shoe additions, and what this puzzle's theme answers contain (GELINSERTS)
  • 17A. Cold pill to swallow? (SNOW(GEL)CAP) Snow cap. With gel inserted. Get it?
  • 23A. Story of a philosopher's basketball career? (HE(GEL)GOTGAME) Cute. Hegel having game cracks me up in the same way that "Euclid's on the Block" tickles me.
  • 36A. Headline after the cherubs throw down their halos and go on strike? (ITSAN(GEL)OUTRAGE) i.e., "It's an outrage." I had this filled in before I really understood the theme, and considered it kind of awkward.
  • 47A. Male horse parts rendered useless? ((GEL)DINGDONGS) This is best clue in the puzzle. Before I figured out the theme, I had "GELDINGPENIS" penciled in, kind of half hoping it would be incorrect because that's just kind of racy for a crossword. GELDINGDONGS is a little racy too, but very funny.

O-CEL-O/Stupid Trivia

  • 52A. 3M sponge brand (OCELO) What the crap is an O-CEL-O? Come on.
One thing I frequently think about when working puzzles is Sponge from Salute Your Shorts.In particular the episode where the campers are trying to win an call-in radio quiz show and Sponge can immediately rattle off the answer to any intelligent question, but is stumped by questions related to sports or film or television, dismissing them all as "stupid trivia."

I always get stumped by stupid trivia and this puzzle was rife with it: two winter athletes (MAHRE and TARA - 13D. Alpine skater Phil and 57A. Skater Lipinski); a celebrity couple's child (33D. Daughter of Mick and Bianca Jagger - JADE); a minor film actress (53A Perez of film - ROSIE); and two television shows I know nothing about (47A "Growing up ___" (A&E show) - GOTTI and 40A. "Barney Miller" actor Jack - SOO).

That's a lot of stupid trivia. Sponge would have been frustrated, and I certainly was.


Bullet Points

  • Simpsons clue: 26D Milhouse's bus driver (OTTO).
  • Weirdest clue of the puzzle: 28A Initials shared by the presidential runners-up of 1928 and 1956 (AES) There are people who are Presidential trivia buffs, but really. This is a little out there. The answers by the way?Alfred Emanuel Smith, Jr ("Al Smith") was a democrat and lost to Herbert Hoover in 1928.
    Adlai Ewing Stevenson II ("Adlai Stevenson") was a democrat and lost to Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.

    Both "Juniors", both democrats, both AESs, both also-rans.
  • 61A Flamenco guitarist ___ de Lucia (PACO) Not familiar. But am listening to him on Grooveshark as I compose this. He can apparently move his fingers very fast.
  • 37D New Zealand myster writer Marsh (NGAIO) Ngaio is a good word to know if your a puzzle constructor (or solver), but probably an unfortunate name to have as a little girl. Several of her books are available at my local library, and several of her books were adapted for television in the 90s as The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, with which I'm familiar inasmuch as I've seen them—again—at the local library.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Onion January 26, 2011

A fun, easy puzzle that I completed over a sandwich at Hi*Rise.

By: Matt Garney
Difficulty: 2/5
Theme: "With flying colors"

Themed answers

  • 60A. With 66-Across, how to solve this crossword (WITH FLYING)
  • 66A. See 60-Across (COLORS)
  • 17A. Navy squadron at air shows (BLUE ANGELS)
  • 20A. Alan Scott's superhero alter ego (GREEN LANTERN)
  • 37A. Portman vs. Kunis smackdown (BLACK SWAN)
    I'm usually crap at TV & film clues, but this one has been so buzz heavy that it has infiltrated even my dense fog of ignorance.
  • 56A. Striped buzzer (YELLOW JACKET)
    By the time I got to this clue, I had figured out the theme and was able to fill it in given only 'w' and 'j'.

Stuff I learned

  • 14A. Mexican hero ____ Juarez (BENITA)Five term president of Mexico serving during the last half of the 1800s, and the first indigenous leader of a Western country. He fought off Napoleon during the French invasion, which is why there's a Cinco de Mayo. Died in office—actually in his office, at his desk—in 1872.
  • ALVEOLI (40D. Lung structures) I know what they are, but didn't know how to spell it, which resulted in some confusion in this corner.
  • 51A. Mildly alcoholic Russian drink (KVASS). Upon first reading the clue, I hoped it was a Moscow Mule, a vodka and ginger drink I have enjoyed at the Blake Street Tavern. But that obviously wouldn't have fit.
    I initially, because of not knowing how to spell ALVEOLI, had this filled in as KLASS.
    Klass, first name Myleene, is a British pop star of whom there are many pictures similar to the one above. Not a tasty drink. Arguably.
    Kvass, on the other hand, is a drink fermented with rye bread to an alcohol level of about 1%, which probably shouldn't even be considered alcoholic.

    It sounds somewhat similar to Kombucha, a tea fermented to about 0.5% alcohol. I recently found out it exists because new Boulder resident and world-renowned ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek just started homebrewing some.
    Jurek is also a vegan and a nutrition nerd whose twitter often contains interesting tidbits about food and eating.

Stuff I liked

  • I. M. PEI (22A. Pyramide du Louvre architect). Pei is probably the only architect I can recall by name. He's been good to Denver, giving us the Mile High Tower, which most people recognize as the tower by the Wells Fargo "cash register" atrium, and of course the 16th Street Mall.

    He also made me finally put down MOE where I had insisted on keeping APU (23D. Small business owner on "The Simpsons")