THEME: "In the Nonfiction Section" — Seven phrases that begin with TO take an initial HOW to become hypothetical how-to books.
Quick reminder: If your newspaper gives you the daily L.A. Times crossword edited by Rich Norris but it doesn't offer this Sunday puzzle, you can get it online. Register at Cruciverb.com (standard membership is free) to be able to download the puzzle in the Across Lite format. You can download Across Lite 2.0 at the New York Times website.
Today's featured topic is the Muses and the Fates. CLOTHO (31A: Thread-spinning Fate) rarely appears in the puzzle grid, but sometimes she's in the clues. If you encounter a clue like Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, the three FATES are who you need. In Greek mythology, CLOTHO spun out the thread of life (and no, the word "cloth" isn't related), LACHESIS measured the thread of life allotted to each person, and ATROPOS cut the thread, determining how and when people would die.
The real crossword all-stars are the nine Muses. ERATO is the MUSE of lyric poetry, and she is the unofficial Muse of crossword constructors thanks to her common letters and alternating vowel/consonant sequence. CLIO, Muse of history (and the name of an advertising award), is the next most common. The rest have longer names and are more likely to show up in clues as ERATO's sister than to appear in the grid. Here they are:
- CALLIOPE, epic poetry
- EUTERPE, music
- MELPOMENE, tragedy (Bonus: fun to say out loud! Four syllables, stress the POM)
- POLYHYMNIA, choral poetry
- TERPSICHORE, dance
- THALIA, comedy
- URANIA, astronomy (not so hard to remember if you link her with the planet Uranus)
- 23A: Handbook of euphemisms? (HOW TO PUT IT MILDLY)—You know, that could be a useful book.
- 37A: Manual for talk show guests? (HOW TO BE ANNOUNCED)
- 44A: Guide for sore losers? (HOW TO BLAME)—Oh, I don't think anybody needs help on this front.
- 62A: Self-help book for compulsive liars? (HOW TO BE PERFECTLY FRANK)
- 78A: Reference work for modelists? (HOW TO SCALE)
- 85A: Vade mecum for neologists? (HOW TO COIN A PHRASE)—Vade mecum means "go with me" in Latin; the term refers to a handbook you might carry with you.
- 105A: Therapeutic book for blowhards? (HOW TO SAY THE LEAST)—Ooh, this could be a popular secret-Santa gift.
The Coolest Answers:
Three 6-letter verbs at the bottom of the puzzle go together beautifully: CUDDLE (96A: Get lovey-dovey); WIGGLE (87D: Toe movement); and NESTLE (88D: Get cozy).
- 70A: Penn pal (TELLER). I like the Penn & Teller play on "penpal."
- 71A: Nincompoop (BOZO).
- 76A: Facebook user's nudge (POKE). I like Facebook. I do. I just don't understand why they created this "poke" feature. "Poking" someone on Facebook is akin to e-mailing them a blank message or calling them and hanging up. "I'm thinking of you, but not enough to write a few words."
- 3D: Scrolling 25-Down feature (NEWS CRAWL). 25D is MSNBC. I love/hate the news crawl—mostly hate—but it does make for a great crossword answer.
- 12D: Blockbuster transaction (DVD RENTAL). I haven't gone to a video store in years. Netflix!
- 41D: Road problem (POTHOLE). Chicago had a banner winter for potholes. I even saw 50-years-buried streetcar tracks and cobblestones in one pothole. History!
- 57D: Make a peep (SAY BOO). For this sense of SAY BOO, the "wouldn't" negation is needed. I'm not sure SAY BOO works great without the negation unless you're talking about trying to scare someone. How awesome would it be if, instead of making a peep, little chicks said "Boo!"?
- Two answers go together on my list of don'ts. 59D: Part of a femme fatale's outfit (STILETTO HEEL); 71D: Sunbather's depilatory (BIKINI WAX).
- 89D: California's governor, facetiously is AHNOLD Schwarzenegger. We would also have accepted AHNULD, but the crossing theme answer demanded the O this time.
- 15A: "Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer" musical (CATS). I'm not sure what PuzzleGirl's stance on musicals is, but Rex and I are solidly in the "no, please, no" camp.
- 26A: Opening word? (MAMA). I'm not quite sure how to interpret this. As in baby's first word?
- 55A: Item stolen in Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" (TRESS). Locks of hair = tresses of hair.
- 59A: Hindu god who rides a bull named Nandi (SHIVA). Not to be confused with sitting shiva.
- 84A: Antidote target (TOXIN).
- 99A: Quaint denial ('TISN'T). If you want to be a little more folksy in your denial, go with 'TAIN'T.
- 104A: Venetian elder of yore (DOGE). This one's an old-school crossword answer. Are you tempted to round up all the DOGEs and sing "Git along, little doge"?
- 109A: Colorado senator Mark (UDALL). Yes, he's part of the Udall political dynasty. Dad was Mo Udall; cousin is Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico; uncle Stewart Udall was in the JFK/LBJ cabinet.
- 111A: Jazzman Hines (FATHA). Gotta love the name Earl "Fatha" Hines. I just might start asking to be referred to as Amy "Mutha" Reynaldo. Enjoy the video of Earl Hines on the piano.
- 1D: "The Farmer in the Dell" syllables (HIHO). As in "hi-ho, the derry-o, the farmer in the dell."
- 2D: Wavy lines, in comics (ODOR). A green miasma is also effective in cartoons.
- 6D: Pampean cowboy (GAUCHO). I suspect Pampean is the adjectival form of the Pampas, where those cowboys work.
- 7D: Beat in a regatta (OUTROW). Holy cow! Here's a news story with "out-row" in the headline. Just when I was thinking this was a word nobody would ever use.
- 16D: Mauritania's official language (ARABIC). It's located on the west coast of Africa's wider top half.
- 46D: Obsolescent vote finalizer (LEVER). I had the damnedest time understanding this clue. This may be because I started out as a punchcard-and-chads voter and have never seen one of those old New York-style ballot levers.
- 97D: Jan Vermeer's hometown (DELFT). Delft china has characteristic blue-and-white decorations.