Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

note: the subscriber-only puzzle service has been launched. you must have a membership at cruciverb, which is free, and then you need to purchase a subscription to the sun puzzles (payment available through paypal). it's $12.50 for a puzzle every weekday through the end of february, or $20 for the "patron" rate. i don't know if you get anything extra for buying a patron membership, but i'd imagine that spending the extra bucks makes it more likely that the puzzles will continue when the current batch runs out on 2/27/09.

Title: Sword Swallowers
Author: Anthony J. Salvia
Theme: Phrases which contain a type of sword

  • 17a: Curaçao flavorers (ORANGE PEELS).

  • 27a: Quite suntanned (BROWN AS A BERRY). this is an unfamiliar idiom to me. also ... i don't get it. aren't most berries red or blue? BROWN AS A BEAR i could understand (though it would not fit this puzzle's theme).

  • 48a: She married George Bush in 1945 (BARBARA PIERCE). i had no idea about her maiden name. even with 12 of 13 crosses in place, i thought it might be PIERRE.

  • 64a: It merged with Socal in 1984 to form Chevron (GULF OIL CORP).

i had a pretty strong hunch about what the theme would be when i opened the puzzle and read the title, and ORANGE PEEL quickly confirmed it. but then i didn't pick up on any of the actual theme answers without a bunch of crosses.

Sunny Spots:

nothing jumped out at me. the fill was notable for its lack of crappy entries, but it also seemed to lack pizzazz. it reminded me a little of a newsday puzzle. you can be the judge of whether that's a good or a bad thing.


  • 6a: Distinct market segment (NICHE). appropriate fill for the first day of paid subscriber-only sun puzzles. here's hoping peter gordon gets SLEWS (1a: Tons) of subscribers.

  • 14a: Knee-ankle connector (TIBIA). why did i want TALUS at first? that's an ankle bone. the tibia is the shinbone. (it parallels the fibula.)

  • 20a: Trick stick (WAND). rhyme, schmime.

  • 22a: Elite alternative (PICA). apparently elite is a monospace font. i did not know that.

  • 32a: Tyler of "The Strangers" (LIV). this is like last week's NAOMI watts fill. never heard of this movie, but the actress herself is plenty famous (and easy on the eyes). i'd post a picture from the movie, but apparently it's a bit of a slasher flick. there's blood and there's décolletage, but more of the former than the latter. no thanks.

  • 43a: One of two Yankees whose #8 has been retired (yogi BERRA). two? can you do that? if you retire a number, how is it that somebody else can make it famous enough to retire it again? let's see... apparently bill dickey (the first #8) taught berra the tricks of the catching trade, and berra inherited his number. in 1972 the yankees retired it for both of them.

  • 47a: Follower of Freud? (-IAN). you know, that guy, IAN, who likes to ascribe sexual undertones to everything...

  • 52a: Athletes with great endurance (IRON MEN). i predict that orange will call this term "unnecessarily gendered." and she wouldn't be wrong.

  • 55a: Piece that starts a chess game on square a1 (ROOK). and h1, a8, and h8.

  • 59a: Doing (UP TO). i have used this clue myself, but not without misgivings. it certainly passes the substitution test, but ... "doing" isn't a gerund; it's a present participle. UP TO is a ... compound preposition? help me, captain grammar! you're my only hope!

  • 63a: "Don't ___!" (ASK). okay, then, i won't. no need to get snippy.

  • 70a: Newbies (TYROS). i've always liked this word. it's like a bizarre combination of TYRANT and GYROS. mmm.

  • 2d: Stale Italian bread? (LIRA). stale ? clue?

  • 3d: Israeli foreign minister during the Six-Day War (EBAN). i can never remember whether this guy was named EBAN abba, or abba EBAN. i guess it's the latter.

  • 4d: Blind spot (WINDOW). now that's a tricky clue i can get behind. i'm a little surprised it didn't merit a ? this early in the week.

  • 6d: California city near San Pablo Bay (NAPA). i used to live in northern california, but didn't know that it was a city in addition to a valley.

  • 7d: Offed (ICED). i like my offed tea sweetened, thank you.

  • 8d: Rosy-cheeked angel (CHERUB).

  • 11d: Graydon Carter's magazine (VANITY FAIR). don't think i've ever heard of graydon carter. i would have preferred a pilgrim's progress clue. maybe next time (not that 10-letter fill comes up all that frequently).

  • 13d: Jaguar rival (TEXAN). this was a very AFC south-heavy puzzle. see also TRAC (35d: Mascot of the Tennessee Titans), which i did not know. the colts must be affronted. don't they own this division?

  • 18d: Preserve, as a dead body (EMBALM). a little morbid for a tuesday morning. luckily, it's only monday night.

  • 22d: Where the Tour de France finishes (PARIS). in a general sense, yeah. more specifically, they roll down the champs-elysées.

  • 29d: Like flights in which passengers get bumped (OVERBOOKED). this is a little drier than i like my 10-letter fill.

  • 31d: Mary of "The Maltese Falcon" (ASTOR).

  • 41d: Province of Italia (NAPOLI). also, angels catcher mike. he's the rob deer of catchers: all walks, strikeouts, and home runs.

  • 46d: Pot head? (LID). i liked this one, too. and it may even qualify this puzzle for the "drug reference" tag. sure, why not.

  • 49d: It's in the eye of the beholder (BEAUTY). either that, or a speck of sawdust.

  • 51d: Brought out (EDUCED). most of the words that i think of as being "crossword-only" are nouns and adjectives. but EDUCE definitely has that status among verbs. i don't think i've ever used it in a sentence.

  • 57d: Do for former ballplayer Oscar Gamble (AFRO).

  • 58d: Comic strip title character whose last name is Flagston (LOIS).

  • 60d: Hole in a sweater? (PORE). earlier tonight, FOX broadcaster tim mccarver described dodgers pitcher derek lowe as "a sweater." i don't have HD, luckily, so i was not subjected to his POREs.

  • 61d: The Jonas Brothers, e.g. (TRIO). when these guys showed up in a thursday NYT puzzle about a month ago, i'd never heard of them. now they're everywhere.

  • 62d: Word with court or house (OPEN). i always like these clues because they force me to stop and think, if only to try to stop thinking about the word "courthouse."

  • 64d: "How Stella ___ Her Groove Back" (GOT). how did she get it back? i don't remember.

  • 65d: MGM lion (LEO). that's a very reasonable name for a lion. unlike, say, NALA.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 42a: "CSI" character Sidle (SARA).

  • 9d: ___ Curtis (hair care brand) (HELENE). uh, sure.

  • 12d: Folk song restaurateur (ALICE). i don't even really know what this refers to. is there a folk song about a woman named ALICE who runs a restaurant? if there is, i haven't heard of it.

i liked this puzzle well enough. slightly better than yesterday's NYT by the same constructor (and also his quasi-debut at the NYT). some succulent fill would have gone a long way, though.

- joon


ruy said...

The ALICE clue at 12d is referring to the song Alice's Restaurant, by Arlo Guthrie. Have you really never heard of it? One of its lines was even (mis)appropriated for a Ponderosa Steakhouse commercial ("You can get anything you want at a Ponderosa restaurant"). I'd bet the house there are several YouTube versions.

The song typically gets a lot of airplay at Thanksgiving since that's when the events in the plot take place, and it's also very long. Much of it is actually spoken rather than sung, though Arlo plays guitar throughout.

Anyway, check it out -- I'm hard pressed to believe you won't recognize it when you hear it.

Jim Finder said...

Rhetorical questions: What's a TRAC (35D)? I would have expected that the Titans mascot would be some animal variety. And who knows "Bar's" maiden name?

(begin rant) And why would I ever be watching a Tenn. Titans football game, and even if I were, would they give the name of the mascot? And why would I be watching television (CSI) and learning character names like SARA (42A) instead of, for example, solving a good crossword or six? (end rant)

Anyway, I guessed the "R" in Sara and lucked into Pierce, but still think that the SARA/TRAC crossing was a bit unfair for any solver whose mind isn't stuck in The Tube.

Pete M said...

@jim: Apparently, TRAC is actually T-RAC, who is a raccoon. Why a raccoon? Well, who knows. Maybe there's a lot of them in Tennessee or something. Maybe it's a play on T-REX (which was my first instinct, only it didn't really make sense).

I, also, didn't know SARA. But CSI is a hugely popular show, so I figure it's my own fault for being ignorant on this one. And luckily, it's a common enough name. If it was SADA or SANA or SALA or SASA or something, I'd have been sh*t out of luck. :)