Sunday, April 28, 2013

IDES IDLES ASSESS ASSES

 
 
 
This week's Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo is titled "Wrigley Field" which turns out to be not one of Frank's punny puzzles as we so often see, but a "gummy" puzzle - in fact the puzzle suggests that "An apt activity while solving this puzzle?" is CHEWINGGUM. Unfortunately I didn't get to that instruction until my grid was almost complete as I always solve top-to-bottom so it was too late to pop a stick in my mouth to chew while I solved. That particular item, which appeared at 118 across, was the only one clued "?"-style so all of the rest of the theme answers were clued in straight-forward style with no wackiness involved, thus:

23a - LUNARORBIT (Revolution around the moon)
31a - CAREFREELIFESTYLE (Existence like Riley's)
41a - SUPERBAZOOKA (M20 rocket launcher)
62a - BIGREDMACHINE (1970s Cincinnati team nickname)
73a - TRIDENTSHAPED (Like the Greek letter psi)
93a - EXTRASPECIAL (Like a real treat)
101a-MITSUBISHIECLIPSE (1990-2011 sport compact car)

So apparently the theme involves compiling a list of brands of chewing gum, all presumably made by Wrigley, and combining them with other words to form longer recognizable phrases to go in the grid. I couldn't resist doing a little googling to see if the list comprises the entire Wrigley field and it does not - Juicy Fruit, Doublemint and Freedent are notable omissions - but it's still a pretty impressive accomplishment to get seven of them into a puzzle in more or less common phrases.

Okay, I just discovered that Bazooka Bubble Gum is not a Wrigley brand so maybe that shouldn't count as a theme answer - I'm not going to EXPEL (88d - Kick out) it though because it led me to discover this:
 
That's better than those sappy twins singing the praises of Doublemint, wouldn't you say? Anyway, back to the puzzle, and I suppose you want to kn ow what the completed grid looks like so here it is:


One feature I noticed that may or may not have been intentional is the Tennis shot (79a -LOB) crossing the BBSHOT (57d - Air rifle ammo) in the grid and right next door is RYDER (80a - U-Haul rival), the famous maker of air rifles. Stuff like that tickles me.

Not much else to say about the non-theme fill today - it didn't exactly IRIDESCE (89a - Shimmer with rainbowlike colors) for me, but it certainly satisfied my SWEETTOOTH (15d - What candy satisfies) and that's enough to make it a winner in my book. I'll leave you with a little Salsa to counter all that sugar - you'll have to find the inspiration for it in the grid yourself:


 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A blessing in disguise?



This week's Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo is titled "Masked Destruction" which sounded to me like a perfect opportunity for a grid full of zany answers in response to wacky definitions clued "?-style", but an APERCU (16d - Quick glance) of the clues disabused me of that theory and left me more than a little disappointed. But as I worked my way through the clues my disappointment disappeared when I arrived at 26a, Start of a riddle. Frank's riddle puzzles are often highly punny and at least as entertaining as his wacky clues, so maybe the missing ?s were a blessing in disguise and I moved on with renewed hope.

The riddle was presented in five parts, four of which span the entire width of the 21 x 21 grid - that's some pretty nifty construction which I LIKE (106d - Be fond of) a lot! It's even niftier that Frank pulled it off without having to resort to a bunch of HORRID (120a - Awful) fill as CEMENT (32d - Bonding stuff) to hold it together (unless the appearance of ALGORE (20a - He served with Bill Clinton) puts you INABADWAY (86d - Doing terribly) as I know it will some folks. With the grid completed, the riddle goes like this:

26a - IFDEMOLITIONWORKERS
34a - WOREHALLOWEENCOSTUMES
55a - WHILETHEYWEREBRINGING
80a - DOWNSOMEBUILDINGSWHAT
97a - MIGHTTHEEVENTBECALLED?

The very wording of the riddle ATTESTS (50a - Affirms, with "to") to Frank's adroitness at constructing phrases that are of the correct length and still make perfect sense - that can't be easy to do. But of course his punny genius isn't revealed until the riddle's answer appears:

105a- ABLASTINGINDISGUISE!

As puns go that's a real groaner, but that's pretty much the point of a good pun isn't it? 

As the long theme answers came in to view they were helpful to me in solving the non-theme fill that I didn't know, stuff like VOCE (15d - Viva __ (orally)), APERCU (which I probably misused above) and DIPSOMANIA (17d - Sot's craving).  The latter one really threw me for a loop because I expected the answer to be a specific thing a sot would crave and not some fancy name for the craving itself - I needed all the crosses to produce what was a new word to me. Likewise, HOBART (98d - Capital of Tasmania) would have remained a mystery and the ARAL (107d - With 118-Down, shrinking body of water in Asia) SEA could just as well have been the Ural Sea if the theme hadn't provided the correct letter.

We had a mini-TOUR (66d - Group of gigs) of the U.S. too, with a city in Nebraska (32d - OMAHA), Montana's capital (38d - HELENA) and New ORLEANS (Mardi Gras locale) showing up at 90a, and I learned that Utah's state flower is the SEGO (102a). 

If there is one thing I would have liked Frank to OMIT (82d - Don't include) it might be OATY (39d - Like Cheerios) because I don't think that's a real word, or maybe SWINGGATES (73d - Fence "doors" that automatically return to their closed positions) because I never heard of them (and yet google assures me that they are real, so never mind).

So, was the absence of "?-Style" clues a blessing in disguise or not? I'll let you be the judge.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"I Never Promised You A Rose Garden"


(I reproduced my completed grid instead of the solution printed in the paper to show you where I had some trouble in my solving process. Also please note there is an ERROR - 23a should be BOSC, not BOSo (but you probably already knew that). More on that later.

This week the Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo is titled "Fishy Folks" which led me to think, correctly it turns out, that the theme answers would involve identifying persons whose names are in some way fishy.  Frank stocked the puzzle with an impressive array of piscene varieties, but getting them to appear in the grid was definitely not as easy as "shooting fish in a barrel". Here's the list:

16d - MARGARETWHITING (She sang "A Tree in the Meadow")
23a - OSCARHAMMERSTEIN ("Oklahoma!" lyricist)
31a - MOLLYRINGWALD ("Pretty in Pink" star)
43d - MARLINFITZWATER (Press secretary under Bush and Reagan)
44a - SALMONPCHASE (19th-century chief justice)
49a - EEL (Snaky fish)
56a - ZEBULONPIKE (Explorer for whom a Colorado peak is named)
69a - LANCEBASS (Member of 'N Sync)
80a - JULIANBREAM (Classical guitarist and lutenist)
91a - EDMUNDMUSKIE (1980-81 secretary of state)
103a-SYDNEYPOLLACK ("Tootsie" director)
117a-THEODORESTURGEON ("More Than Human" sci-fi novelist)

That's a lot of theme answers to cram into a 21 x 21 puzzle and kudos to Frank for pulling it off, but I have to say I think some of the names are pretty obscure. In fact there are some that I flat out never heard of and I never would have been able to finish the puzzle without knowing the theme.

The first thing I did  after I read the title was to scan the clues to see if there were any "?"-style clues to indicate there would be wacky answers, but there was not a solitary one to be found so I knew the cluing would be straight-forward - that's disappointing to me personally but certainly fair enough as I guess a barrel of fish can be as much fun as a barrel of laughs.

I'm generally not good with proper names so I was challenged by the theme right from the get-go but as I worked through the grid I realized that the non-theme fill also consisted of an uncommon number of names, mostly from the entertainment and literary ranks, that caused me a lot of consternation .  I won't recite them here but if you look at the clues reproduced at the top of the post you can see all of them identified with a tick-mark - there are 18 by my count, plus a couple of partial song lyrics I just noticed.  Let's just say that I am not up on the dernier CRI (72d - Dernier __) in these things (in fact I didn't know what "dernier cri" means until just now) so I struggled in places. I eventually got it done (except BOSo/THEoW, which I should have known from the Pear variety clue even though I never heard of the network) but honestly it wasn't as much fun as I usually have. 

I have only one complaint (other than the density of names) and that is this: does ANYBODY call Cleveland  "CTOWN" (108d - Home of baseball's Indians, informally)?! OK, the urban dictionary tells me they do but I still thank that's some pretty ugly fill.

Alright I'm done, to which you probably say ATLAST (24d - "Finally!") I wouldn't say "You ARESO beautiful" (107d) to this puzzle, but on the other hand Frank would probably tell me, "IBEG your pardon"( 12d), I never promised you a rose garden".


Sunday, April 7, 2013

High Hopes



This week's Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo is titled "Tee Time" but of course it has absolutely nothing to do with golf. Instead Frank challenges us to take familiar phrases and insert a "T" therein to create a wacky new phrase, clued "?"-style.  As usual the puzzle is theme-rich with nine long answers stuffed, symmetrically of course, into the 21 x 21 grid:

23a - DETERCROSSING - Dissuade people from using a bridge?
34a - SADDLESTORE - Horse riders' shop?
42a - ROBBERBARTON - Thieving Fink?
58a - SOPRANOATRIA - Open courts used by opera singers?
69a - MORTALDILEMMA - Predicament experience by humans?
80a - BASTESLOADED - Moistens meat while drunk?
94a - STACKLUNCHES - Arrange meals neatly in a picnic basket?
103a-BLOODYMARTY - Actor Feldman after a bad fight?
119a-PETERPRESSURE - Stress caused by a "Great" czar?

Well, I liked the puzzle well enough but I have to say it didn't make me say OOH (115a - "Nice One"!). On the other hand the solving experience was certainly not something I had to ENDURE (18d - Tough out), either. It was enjoyable but, for me anyway, lacking the "je ne sais quoi" that I have come to expect from Frank Longo. Probably the only thing really wrong with the puzzle is my high expectations so let's move on.  First to the theme answers:

Frank managed to find eight common phrases which can be transformed into other more or less meaningful phrases that fit the clues.  I say eight because "soprano aria" doesn't strike me as a phrase that anyone is likely to hear in common usage (other than in a conversation about opera, I guess) whereas the others all seem totally "in the language". But still, eight out of nine ain't bad. I had some difficulty coming up with ROBBERBARTON because I have never heard of the film "Barton Fink" ( per wiki: Barton Fink is a 1991 American film, written, directed, and produced by the Coen brothers. Set in 1941, it stars John Turturro in the title role as a young New York City playwright who is hired to write scripts for a movie studio in Hollywood, and John Goodman as Charlie, the insurance salesman who lives next door at the run-down Hotel Earle.). As to MORTALDILEMMA, I don't see any "dilemma" at all, because we are all going to die and there are no choices to be made - unless Frank is referring to one who would sell his soul for the chance to be immortal? I guess that would constitute both a "moral dilemma" and a "mortal dilemma". My favorite, though, was BASTESLOADED because that pretty much describes the grilling process around my house on any given weekend. It just now occurred to me that PETERPRESSURE might be a condition caused by drinking beer in a place with no facilities. Last, I would like to DETERCROSSING words like ACACIA (79d - Mimosa-family tree) with arcane stuff like Puerto Rico's ARECIBO Observatory (83a), because I hate needing a luck guess to finish a puzzle. Was that cross tough for anybody but me?

The non-theme fill had some interesting characteristics, including a military rank mini-theme with a SGT (35d - USAF NCO), a LTCOL (64d - Rank above maj.) and an ADM (29d - USN ranker) (I totally do not understand that last clue - how does "ranker" fit?). A pair of 3 letter answers look puzzling in the grid (93d - Decked in a boxing ring > KOD and 110a - Endorsed > OKD) until you mentally insert an apostrophe, then they're fine. NAUGHTS (116a - Zeros) is a cool looking word that I don't use often, and you don't often see ELLIOTT (123a - Boy in "E.T.") with two ls and two ts, but I just now learned it's also the name of a rock band (per wiki: Elliott was a rock group from Louisville, United States. They released four albums and several 7"s in their eight-year existence, and were signed to Revelation Records.) Let's see what they were all about:

OK, I'm glad Frank used the "E.T." kid as the clue, but it's always good to hear some new (to me) music. Seeing the seemingly incomplete TRALA (50d - Merry refrain) and the even more abbreviated SHA ( 121d - __Na Na) in the grid makes me wonder if any song has ever had "tra la la, sha na na" as a lyric, and of course google provides the answer with this refrain from "Please Get Me Down" by Tiktak:
I'm up too high, please get me down
I say, tra la la laa, sha na na na na na na na naa
I'm up too high, please get me down
I say, tra la la laa, sha na na na na na na na naa
So help me get my feet back on the ground

To which I say, "YEGODS" (12d - "Holy Moly!") - is there nothing you can't find on the internet?!

I'll close with a mention of this week's Random Roman Numeral, CVII (76a - 107, in old Rome), just to let you know that Frank's streak is still alive.  We'll see what next week brings - as always, I will have high hopes and I'm sure Frank will deliver.