THURSDAY, December 31, 2009 — Bill Thompson

Theme: Catch Phrases — Each theme answer starts with a word that can be "caught" in a familiar phrase.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Impossible to get close to (COLD AS ICE).
  • 26A: Surrender (WAVE A WHITE FLAG).
  • 43A: "Jerry Maguire" catchphrase (SHOW ME THE MONEY).
  • 57A: Right-click result, often (POP-UP MENU).
  • 65A: Verb associated with the beginnings of 18-, 26-, 43- and 57-Across (CATCH).
Cute theme. I think I'd like something a little snappier in my long downs though. Even though we typically see ALOE all by itself, adding the VERA doesn't really make it sparkle or anything. And, I don't know, maybe if I'd heard of BEL PAESE cheese, I would like that answer. Have you heard of it? Did you like seeing it in the grid? I'm the first to admit my opinion isn't gospel. I also wasn't crazy about the resulting "catch a pop-up," but I Googled the phrase and it seems to be legit. Maybe I don't love it because the pop-up menu and the baseball pop-up both ... pop up. In the other phrases, the caught word is completely different. The "cold" used to describe ice is a totally different thing than the kind of cold you catch. The "wave" that you do with a white flag is completely different than catching a wave on the ocean. See what I mean? I know. I'm being picky. None of this probably diminished your enjoyment of the puzzle one bit, so ya know what? Let's move on.

Moving On:
  • 1A: Sluglike "Star Wars" crime lord (JABBA).

  • 14A: To go, in Grenoble (ALLER). This is French, right? To me, Grenoble sounds like it should be somewhere other than France.
  • 17A: Scrabble 10-pointer (Z TILE). I can't decide if I love this or hate it. I think I might love it.
  • 25A: __ Fáil: Irish coronation stone (LIA). Saw this in another puzzle recently. I had never heard of it before then.
  • 42A: Send, so to speak (ELATE). I'm pretty sure someone is going to be confused by this. Seems like every time it pops up (see what I did there?) in a puzzle, someone is confused. Send in this case is roughly equivalent to thrill, like in that old song "You Send Me."
  • 62A: "__, Therefore I Am": Dennis Miller book (I RANT). I used to like him a lot. Now I ... don't really.
  • 9D: Hypotheticals (WHAT-IFS). This is a great clue/answer.
  • 38D: "I do not like them, __": Seuss line (SAM I AM).
  • 49D: Vedic drink for an immortal soul (SOMA). Got this one totally through crosses.
  • 55D: Friend of Pete and Julie on "The Mod Squad" (LINC). Loved this show when I was a kid.
  • 58D: One-eighty (UEY). Can also be spelled uie. No matter how much we hate it, I'm pretty sure it's not going away.
Crosswordese 101: Quite a bit of CW in this puzzle and we've covered all of it in previous posts. So here's your CW101 roundup:
  • 34A: "Waiting for Lefty" playwright (ODETS).
  • 38A: Circle Line : Hudson :: Bateaux-Mouches : __ (SEINE).
  • 40A: Wall St. enforcer (SEC).
  • 41A: Wooden shoe (SABOT).
  • 13D: Bygone dagger (SNEE).
  • 27D: "__ Irish Rose" (ABIE'S).
  • 52D: One-named New Age singer (ENYA).
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Everything Else — 6A: Sound from someone who's down (SOB); 9A: Legal orders (WRITS); 15A: Supermarket chain founded in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (IGA); 16A: Wore (HAD ON); 20A: Lifetime-guaranteed lighters (ZIPPOS); 22A: Soft drink choice (DIET COKE); 23A: Out of balance (ALOP); 33A: Having a lot to lose, maybe? (OBESE); 34A: "Waiting for Lefty" playwright (ODETS); 35A: Mme. in Madrid (SRA.); 37A: Beach toy (KITE); 38A: Circle Line : Hudson :: Bateaux-Mouches : __ (SEINE); 39A: Smart guy? (ALEC); 40A: Wall St. enforcer (SEC); 41A: Wooden shoe (SABOT); 46A: Moo goo __ pan (GAI); 47A: Apartment manager, for short (SUPE); 48A: Lark (ESCAPADE); 53A: Indiana and Purdue, e.g. (RIVALS); 59A: Knot over (RETIE); 60A: Spitting __ (IMAGE); 61A: Oven cleaner component (LYE); 63A: Checked out before a heist (CASED); 64A: Nonexpert (LAY); 1D: Cat's passion (JAZZ); 2D: Some glee club members (ALTI); 3D: Radar image (BLIP); 4D: Semi-soft Italian cheese (BEL PAESE); 5D: Anatomical rings (AREOLAE); 6D: [thus] ([SIC]); 7D: Common prayer opening (O GOD); 8D: Island in the Java Sea (BALI); 10D: Imp (RASCAL); 11D: Personal: Pref. (IDIO-); 12D: Pendulum sound (TOCK); 13D: Bygone dagger (SNEE); 19D: Strike out (DELETE); 21D: Spread for growth (SOW); 24D: "Friends" friend (PHOEBE); 26D: Stir-fry cookware (WOKS); 27D: "__ Irish Rose" (ABIE'S); 28D: Climbing legume (VETCH); 29D: Nincompoop (IDIOT); 30D: Tithe portions (TENTHS); 31D: Narnia lion (ASLAN); 32D: Norwegian marathoner Waitz (GRETE); 36D: __-deucy (ACEY); 39D: Medicinal plant (ALOE VERA); 41D: Traded (SWAPPED); 42D: Derived from observation (EMPIRIC); 44D: Model railroad scale (O GAUGE); 45D: Part of EEC: Abbr. (EUR.); 48D: Like "Lawrence of Arabia" (EPIC); 50D: Balancing experts, briefly? (CPAS); 51D: Valley (DELL); 52D: One-named New Age singer (ENYA); 54D: Rat tail? (-A-TAT); 56D: Brother of Abel (SETH).


Dan Naddor: In memoriam

We were saddened to hear of Dan Naddor's untimely passing this week. He had been battling cancer and was producing top-quality crosswords despite being quite ill. Most of Dan's puzzles were published in the Los Angeles Times—several each month—so this loss to the crossword community is felt most keenly by L.A. Times puzzle fans.

If you're curious to know more about Dan's prolific puzzle career, don't miss C.C.'s interview from last spring.

Rest in peace, Dan.

Update: Dan's wife Tracie sent along details about his memorial service in California. Dan asked that those attending wear "no mourning attire—flip-flops preferred. And be sure to laugh." In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Hoag Cancer Center. Dan also leaves behind three children: Courtney Lauren (24), Mike Naddor (21), and Alex Naddor (11). Our condolences to the family.

WEDNESDAY, December 30, 2009—Dan Naddor

Greetings from sunny Florida! It's been jacket and pants weather so far this week, but the mercury's supposed to reach 70 Wednesday and Thursday. Someone want to tell my son that the swimming pool water is not going to instantly warm up on Thursday, after all these 40-degree nights? Because he doesn't believe me.

THEME: "Phour Pairs"—Four words with two PH's are connected to the PHrase pH level

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Plato's field (PHILOSOPHY). Plato, of course, is the name of Sal Mineo's character in Rebel Without a Cause.

  • 22A: Wedding hiree (PHOTOGRAPHER). I can't say anything nice about the word hiree. The best hiree, of course, is a sloganeer (slangily). This sentence is brought to you in honor of Rex Parker.
  • 45A: City named by William Penn (PHILADELPHIA). Also the Tom Hanks/Denzel Washington movie.
  • 54A: Its white variety glows upon exposure to oxygen (PHOSPHORUS). Who remembers their chemistry classes? I barely do.
  • 33A: Acidity or alkalinity measurement, which is literally 8 for this puzzle's four longest answers (PH LEVEL). I don't care for this clue. "pH level" doesn't mean "the number of pH's," so the clue is reaching too hard to explain things. A pH of 8 would be alkaline, whereas each individual theme entry with two PH's could be said to have a PH LEVEL of 2, which is highly acidic. Having four acids doesn't add up to a base.
  • 16A: Head shape in a recurring "SNL" skit (CONE). Who doesn't love a pop-culture clue that harks back to the late '70s? The golden era of Saturday Night Live, and Laraine Newman's most prominent role to date. She was teenaged Connie Conehead.
  • 49A: 1996 bride of comic books and television (LOIS LANE). Why 1996? I know one of you will tell me. What's that? You come here for answers, not for demands for information? Tough beans. It's hard work Googling up all this information, and I'm on vacation.
  • 57A: 2008 American League champs (RAYS). I hate them for trouncing the Cubs in the playoffs several years back. But my in-laws get the Tampa and St. Petersburg newspapers here, so I will allow the team this one appearance in the clues.
  • 13D: Ann __, only woman to sign a contract with an NBA team (MEYERS). You may be saying, "Who??" I know I was. Take a gander at her storied career in this FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Hall of Fame video:

  • 23D: Turkey topper (GRAVY). This is, of course, a bowling reference. A turkey is three strikes in a row, and gravy is four consecutive strikes. You believe me, right?
  • 39D: Gung-ho types (ZEALOTS). Gotta love the -lot words. Zealot, harlot, pilot...those three should hang out together.
Crosswordese 101: Pretty much everything I know about songwriter Harold ARLEN comes from crossword puzzle clues. Like this one: 48A: "Over the Rainbow" composer. He also composed "Stormy Weather," "I Love a Parade," and the score for The Wizard of Oz. There's also Senator ARLEN Specter, but the composer gets more play in clues.

Everything Else — 1A: Japanese noodle dish (RAMEN); 6A: Starbuck's boss (AHAB); 10A: Stern's opposite (STEM); 14A: Words after complete or close (A SALE); 15A: One of the Simpsons (LISA); 16A: Head shape in a recurring "SNL" skit (CONE); 17A: Plato's field (PHILOSOPHY); 19A: Pretentiously showy (ARTY); 20A: Like mozzarella (SEMISOFT); 21A: Journalist __ Boothe Luce (CLARE); 22A: Wedding hiree (PHOTOGRAPHER); 25A: "The Jazz Singer" subject (JOLSON); 28A: "The Ten Commandments" role (RAMESES); 29A: Lake near Niagara Falls (ERIE); 30A: Driveway surface (GRAVEL); 32A: Driver's aid (TEE); 33A: Acidity or alkalinity measurement, which is literally 8 for this puzzle's four longest answers (PH LEVEL); 35A: 3.0, e.g.: Abbr. (GPA); 38A: Pact (TREATY); 39A: Jerusalem temple site (ZION); 40A: Soft-shell clam (STEAMER); 43A: Foul (SMELLY); 45A: City named by William Penn (PHILADELPHIA); 48A: "Over the Rainbow" composer (ARLEN); 49A: 1996 bride of comic books and television (LOIS LANE); 53A: Glimpsed (SEEN); 54A: Its white variety glows upon exposure to oxygen (PHOSPHORUS); 56A: Satisfy, as needs (MEET); 57A: 2008 American League champs (RAYS); 58A: Absorbed the loss (ATE IT); 59A: Form 1040 IDs (SSNS); 60A: Shoppe sign word (OLDE); 61A: Jr.-year exams (PSATS); 1D: Knocks (RAPS); 2D: Tennis great Arthur (ASHE); 3D: Hurt badly (MAIM); 4D: Orbital shape (ELLIPSE); 5D: River past Iola, Kansas (NEOSHO); 6D: Up in the air (ALOFT); 7D: Aware of (HIP TO); 8D: Shade of blond (ASH); 9D: San Francisco __ (BAY); 10D: Surgeon's tool (SCALPEL); 11D: Contents of some arks (TORAHS); 12D: Chef's preparation (ENTREE); 13D: Ann __, only woman to sign a contract with an NBA team (MEYERS); 18D: Shortly (SOON); 21D: Bedouin's mount (CAMEL); 23D: Turkey topper (GRAVY); 24D: Speak wildly (RAVE); 25D: Lockheed product (JET); 26D: Tram filler (ORE); 27D: Fabrication (LIE); 30D: Driving hazard (GLARE); 31D: On a pension: Abbr. (RET.); 33D: Spin doc (PR MAN); 34D: Pay attention to (HEED); 35D: __ Grissom, former "CSI" role (GIL); 36D: Campaign hustler, for short (POL); 37D: "__ luck?" (ANY); 38D: Fortes (TALENTS); 39D: Gung-ho types (ZEALOTS); 40D: Involuntary contractions (SPASMS); 41D: "__ Company": old sitcom (THREE'S); 42D: Astronaut Collins (EILEEN); 43D: Ocean traveler (SHIP); 44D: Accident (MISHAP); 46D: London insurance pioneer (LLOYD); 47D: Ad hoc oater group (POSSE); 50D: Domain (AREA); 51D: Dark time for de Gaulle (NUIT); 52D: Ballpark figs. (ESTS.); 54D: Veteran (PRO); 55D: Prince of Broadway (HAL).


TUESDAY, December 29, 2009 — Julian Lim

Theme: Bowling League — The first word of each theme answer refers to a type of bowling score.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Panhandler's request (SPARE CHANGE).
  • 27A: Hit the mother lode (STRIKE IT RICH).
  • 48A: Certain tour bus (DOUBLE DECKER).
  • 58A: Easy job, in slang (TURKEY SHOOT).
Heloooo, Chicagooooooo! That's right. PuzzleGirl here coming to you live from the Windy City. Orange is in Florida right now and we decided that we needed to have an LACC blogger in Chicago at all times. Of course I'm kidding. Orange really is in Florida, but I'm here for a two-day wrestling tournament that starts tomorrow. Go, Hawks!

Really liked this puzzle. Did you all know three strikes in a row is referred to as a "turkey"? I learned it from Wii bowling. Reviewing the clues and answers I didn't see anything super sparkly to talk about, but the theme is cool and the puzzle went down super smooth for me today, which I really appreciate on a Tuesday.

But there are a few things I can mention:
  • 10A: Tool in a wood shop (ADZE). Ya know what? Let's just go ahead and find out what an ADZE is today. I've been entering the word into puzzles forever and have no idea what it is. Okay, it's an "axe with a curved blade, pointing inwards at right angles to the handle." So now we know.
  • 15A: "At last it's clear!" ("I SEE!"). I kept thinking weather for this one. Like the answer was going to be "The clouds are gone!" or something.
  • 18A: "Beautiful Girls" singer Kingston (SEAN). I went and looked at this video because I thought I might want to include it here and, wow. That's a terrible video. It's a song about girls who are so beautiful they "make you suicidal when it's over" and for some reason the video jumps back and forth between the 1950s and modern times. I think I'll pass on it. You're welcome.
  • 36A: Cathedral cross (ROOD). Another word for crucifix, today "rood" generally refers to a large sculpture of the cross with Christ hanging upon it.
  • 67A: Hearty dish (STEW). Questioned myself on this one because I had already entered BREW (26D: Witch's concoction) in the grid. You'd think rhyming words wouldn't be so confusing, and yet sometimes they are.
  • 9D: Umbrella-toting "Batman" villain (PENGUIN). The Riddler? Silly. Cat Woman? Whatever. But the Penguin? Terrifying.
  • 49D: Lower the assessed electrical capability of (DERATE). That seems like an awfully long way to go for DERATE. But I can't think of anything better....
Crosswordese 101: SASE (34A: Invitation encl.) stands for self-addressed stamped envelope. In CrossWorld, SASEs are enclosed in manuscript submissions and invitations, so you'll see words like publisher, editor, MS, enclosure, response, and RSVP in the clues. SAE (self-addressed envelope, but without the stamp) is clued the same way, so don't freak out if the answer is only three letters.

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Everything Else — 1A: Tibetan capital (LHASA); 6A: Winged stinger (WASP); 14A: Draws, as a salary (EARNS); 16A: Reynolds wrap (FOIL); 17A: Kiri Te Kanawa specialties (ARIAS); 19A: Pairs (TWOS); 23A: New Orleans-to-Detroit dir. (NNE); 24A: Anacin Aspirin Free competitor (TYLENOL); 25A: Parking places (CURBS); 31A: Third deg.? (PH.D.); 35A: Object of a doctor's office phobia (NEEDLE); 38A: Coll. helpers (TAS); 40A: Gradually disappear, with "off" (WEAR); 41A: Demur (OBJECT); 44A: Popular gas in Vegas (NEON); 47A: __-Cat: winter vehicle (SNO); 51A: Oliver who directed "W." (STONE); 52A: They may be tossed in an Easter contest (RAW EGGS); 56A: Nov. honoree (VET); 60A: Graph line (AXIS); 62A: Not at all bored (RAPT); 63A: Piglet's creator (MILNE); 64A: Pleasant (NICE); 65A: List-ending abbr. (ET AL.); 66A: Former forest near the River Avon (ARDEN); 68A: Voluptuous (SEXY); 69A: Gets within shouting distance of (NEARS); 1D: Minimum (LEAST); 2D: Shrew (HARPY); 3D: Sans serif font (ARIAL); 4D: Catches (SNARES); 5D: Green lights (ASSENTS); 6D: Letter to Santa, e.g. (WISH LIST); 7D: On a voyage (ASEA); 8D: Medium session? (SEANCE); 10D: Back of the boat (AFT); 11D: Drawbacks (DOWNSIDES); 12D: Utah national park (ZION); 13D: Alternatively (ELSE); 21D: Julius Dithers's wife, in "Blondie" (CORA); 22D: Art Deco designer (ERTÉ); 28D: "The Family Circus" cartoonist Bil (KEANE); 29D: Kin group (CLAN); 30D: Rescuer, often (HERO); 31D: Cajole (PROD); 32D: Vagabond (HOBO); 33D: Appreciate properly (DO JUSTICE); 37D: Borrowing consequence (DEBT); 39D: How plots are planned (SECRETLY); 42D: Congeal, as blood (CLOT); 43D: Lengths of service (TENURES); 45D: "Sounds good!" ("OKAY!"); 46D: One working on columns (NEWSMAN); 50D: Bring back to the firm (REHIRE); 53D: Meir of Israel (GOLDA); 54D: One surrounded by the enemy, maybe (GONER); 55D: Old British guns (STENS); 56D: Boxy vehicles (VANS); 57D: Word with sign or strategy (EXIT); 59D: 2001 Spacey film (K-PAX); 61D: Work on a seam (SEW).


MONDAY, Dec. 28, 2009 — Sharon E. Petersen

THEME: S-ELL — theme answers start with words where different letters fill that blank

Too busy to write this up thoroughly. I'm in Colorado with family. So, quickly.

This is pretty thin, theme-wise. Theme answers are all fine, though I usually hear SPELL CHECKER abbreviated to SPELL CHECK. Like CRINGE next to HICKOK, and the abundance of "K"s in general, but otherwise, this was just OK for me.

This puzzle was easy, but much harder than today's NYT for some reason.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: React to one's child's achievements, say (SWELL WITH PRIDE)
  • 25A: Retail establishment with a mollusk feature as its logo (SHELL STATION)
  • 43A: Word processing feature (SPELL CHECKER)
  • 50A: Imminent winner's whiff (SMELL OF VICTORY)

Crosswordese 101: GIL (38D: Hodges of the Dodgers) — this Dodgers great is the most common clue for GIL, although there are a handful of other people who fit the bill, e.g. GIL Scott-Heron, GIL Gerard, comic strip "GIL Thorp," etc.

Apologies for the scanty write-up. Fuller write-ups (from me) return Friday.


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Everything Else — 1A: "Outta my way!" ('MOVE!"); 5A: Freeway access (RAMP); 9A: Place to store firewood (SHED); 13A: Cereal "for kids" (TRIX); 14A: Burstyn of "The Exorcist" (ELLEN); 16A: Golf shirt (POLO); 17A: Prez's next-in-command (VEEP); 18A: Most-preferred invitees (A LIST); 19A: "__ and Away": Fifth Dimension hit (UP UP); 20A: React to one's child's achievement, say (SWELL WITH PRIDE); 23A: Gimlet garnish (LIME); 24A: Beau's dozen (ROSES); 25A: Retail establishment with a mollusk feature as its logo (SHELL STATION); 31A: Treat for Pooh (HONEY); 32A: Award nominations, e.g. (NODS); 33A: Sasha, to Malia (SIS); 36A: Nursery school song opener (ABCD); 37A: Frozen waffles (EGGOS); 39A: Pain in the neck (KINK); 40A: Wednesday's child is full of it (WOE); 41A: Haggard's "__ from Muskogee" (OKIE); 42A: Fab Four member (RINGO); 43A: Word processing feature (SPELL CHECKER); 46A: Columbus's Santa __ (MARIA); 49A: Jeopardy (RISK); 50A: Imminent winner's whiff (SMELL OF VICTORY); 56A: All's opposite (NONE); 57A: Jail, slangily (CLINK); 58A: Body fuel (FOOD); 60A: Fiber source (BRAN); 61A: Argentine dance (TANGO); 62A: Actress Dunaway (FAYE); 63A: Boston hoopster, for short (CELT); 64A: Calendar row (WEEK); 65A: Tobogganer's need (SNOW); 1D: "The Osbournes" airer (MTV); 2D: Mine extracts (ORES); 3D: Panorama (VIEW); 4D: Kicked out of school (EXPELLED); 5D: Spheres of influence (REALMS); 6D: Totally wrong (ALL WET); 7D: The year 1052 (MLII); 8D: Mosquito, e.g. (PEST); 9D: Urge forward (SPUR ON); 10D: Pueblo dwellers (HOPIS); 11D: Sidestep (ELUDE); 12D: Lunkheads (DOPES); 15D: Highest degree (NTH); 21D: Bell-shaped bloom (LILY); 22D: They're paid to play (PROS); 25D: "Rich Man, Poor Man" novelist Irwin (SHAW); 26D: Bum kin (HOBO); 27D: Suffix with exist (-ENCE); 28D: Celestial messenger (ANGEL); 29D: Likewise (TOO); 30D: Bouncer's requests, briefly (IDS); 33D: Hole, as a putt (SINK); 34D: "Picnic" playwright (INGE); 35D: Hershey's toffee bar (SKOR); 37D: Just make, with "out" (EKE); 38D: Hodges of the Dodgers (GIL); 39D: Football openers (KICKOFFS); 41D: Multicolored gem (OPAL); 42D: Take a break (REST); 43D: Like the "h" in honor (SILENT); 44D: Shrink in fear (CRINGE); 45D: "Wild" West lawman (HICKOK); 46D: 24-hr. TV news source (MSNBC); 47D: Leonardo's love (AMORE); 48D: Kidney-related (RENAL); 51D: Mo. for masks (OCT.); 52D: Imperfection (FLAW); 53D: Plant with tendrils (VINE); 54D: Mottled equine (ROAN); 55D: Cellist __ Ma (YO-YO); 59D: Dawn drops (DEW).


SUNDAY, December 27, 2009 — Merl Reagle (calendar)

Theme: "What It Is" — This is such a cool theme, I'm not sure I'll be able to explain it well. Clues for the theme answers are familiar phrases that contain a verb (or verb phrase) and the word it. Each answer is something the it might stand for in another familiar phrase that's completely unrelated to the typical meaning of the phrase in the clue. Clear as mud, right?

[Note: This is the puzzle that appears in the Sunday L.A. Times newspaper. If you don't get the paper, you can find the puzzle here. Scroll down to see the write-up of today's syndicated puzzle.]

Theme answers:
  • 23A: *Make it (A GOOD IMPRESSION). I would generally take "make it" to mean "get there on time." But you can also "make a good impression."(Of course, there's another meaning of "make it" ....)

  • 26A: *Run for it (COVER). "Run for it" means "get away as fast as you can." But you can also "run for cover."
  • 31A: *Hold it (A DISCUSSION). "Hold it" means "stop right there." But you can also "hold a discussion."
  • 35A: *Watch it (THE BIRDIE). Etc., etc. ....
  • 43A: *Take it off (A LOAD).
  • 48A: *Get off it (THE PHONE).
  • 54A: *Forget it (THE PAST).
  • 64A: *Sleep on it (YOUR OWN SIDE OF THE BED).
  • 73A: *Sit on it (THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS).
  • 93A: *Lose it (PATIENCE).
  • 89A: *Skip it (DESSERT).
  • 97A: *Get it on (A MOVE).
  • 103A: *Beat it (THE SYSTEM).
  • 108A: *Go at it (A SNAIL'S PACE).
  • 119A: *Go for it (A RIDE).
  • 121A: *Now you've done it! (THIS WEEK'S PUZZLE).
This is a fantastic puzzle and I'm sure I could spend hours talking about it, but I've got family here today and many, many things on the schedule, so I'm going to have to make this post completely inadequate especially considering what a fine puzzle this is. Sorry, Merl! One of these days I'll be faster at this and won't short-change your puzzles!

Everything Else — 1A: Subject of an assay test (ORE); 4A: He's a pig (BOAR); 8A: Child's car-seat features (STRAPS); 14A: Atoll part (ISLET); 19A: Donald's intro? (MAC); 20A: Like some chatter (IDLE); 21A: ___ Nevada (SIERRA); 22A: Pablo Neruda's land (CHILE); 27A: Tech support, e.g. (HELP); 28A: Line score in a football shutout (OOOO); 29A: Beginning, to a conductor (TOP); 30A: Number of W's in Wagner (EINS); 39A: Sunrise dirección (ESTE); 40A: Genesis place (NOD); 42A: Versailles verb (ETES); 47A: Uncut (PURE); 53A: Sorceress on Aeaea (CIRCE); 57A: Wave ___ (BYE BYE); 58A: Stunt guy (EVEL); 59A: Christmas-song verb (POUT); 60A: Cote sounds (COOS); 63A: Red and juicy (RIPE); 70A: Fashion guy who wed Gene Tierney (OLEG); 71A: Dog with Peter Lorre's voice (REN); 72A: Cold, as agua (FRIA); 81A: Zest rival (DIAL); 82A: Clancy hero (RYAN); 83A: Menswear selections (TIES); 84A: "Chewy caramels in milk chocolate" brand (ROLO); 86A: Smitten (IN LOVE); 92A: Detector activator (METAL); 96A: Space (ROOM); 98A: Crowd sound (ROAR); 99A: Contrail source, once (SST); 100A: "So ___ say" (THEY); 114A: Wander (ROVE); 115A: Reason for face painting (WAR); 117A: Boris's "bride" of 1935 (ELSA); 118A: Genesis place (EDEN); 125A: Processor giant (INTEL); 126A: Pack animals? (WOLVES); 127A: Dick Tracy's sweetheart (TESS); 128A: Shade tree (ELM); 129A: "The Politics of Ecstasy" author (LEARY); 130A: How some scripts are written (ON SPEC); 131A: Rhapsodic works (ODES); 132A: ___ sauce (SOY); 1D: Insurance city (OMAHA); 2D: Was furious (RAGED); 3D: Bane of uncooked meat (ECOLI); 4D: Sotheby's action (BID); 5D: Loathsome (ODIOUS); 6D: Nearly (ALMOST); 7D: Calm state (REPOSE); 8D: Hiking heading: abbr. (SSE); 9D: "Angela's Ashes" sequel ('TIS); 10D: Take five (REST); 11D: Alice, to Ralph, at times (A RIOT); 12D: Ezekiel, e.g. (PROPHET); 13D: Part of S.D. (SAN); 14D: America's first regulatory agcy. (ICC); 15D: Blacksmith, at times (SHOER); 16D: Flushed with anger (LIVID); 17D: Nicholas Gage book that became a Kate Nelligan film (ELENI); 18D: Succinct (TERSE); 24D: Photo ___ (OPS); 25D: Palais resident (ROI); 32D: Surrender (CEDE); 33D: "The Jeffersons" theme, "Movin' ___" (ON UP); 34D: Role for Myrna (NORA); 36D: Ordinal ending (-ETH); 37D: Brit. Broadcasting Corp., familiarly (with "the") (BEEB); 38D: TV oldie about two agents (I SPY); 41D: Come down (DESCEND); 43D: Hard-to-hit hurler (ACE); 44D: Roman historian (LIVY); 45D: Twist-open snack? (OREO); 46D: Rights grp. (ACLU); 47D: Motel restrictees (PETS); 49D: ___ tea (HERB); 50D: Theater honor (OBIE); 51D: Employer of Serpico or Sipowicz (NYPD); 52D: Wide shoe size (EEE); 54D: "I haven't a thing ___!" (TO WEAR); 55D: Needing a feeding (HUNGRY); 56D: Overly (TOO); 59D: Game of chukkers (POLO); 61D: La joie d'___ (the joy of giving) (OFFRIR); 62D: Bourbon, for one (STREET); 65D: Deprive (of) (ROB); 66D: They have pressing concerns (IRONERS); 67D: Excellent, in hip-hop slang (DEF); 68D: Some canned fruit drinks (HICS); 69D: Satisfy a craving (EAT); 73D: "30 Rock" first name (TINA); 74D: Soldier's shout (HALT); 75D: Wellsian race (ELOI); 76D: "Narrator" of Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" (DAD); 77D: Commodity (ITEM); 78D: Utah city (OREM); 79D: Old newspaper section (ROTO); 80D: Czech or Serb (SLAV); 81D: Slight decrease (DIP); 85D: Ring refrain (OLÉ); 87D: Quite (VERY); 88D: Space chimp of 1961 (ENOS); 90D: Slugger Sammy (SOSA); 91D: Barflies (SOTS); 92D: A giant of a Giant (MAYS); 94D: String player? (CAT); 95D: Samuel Butler's utopia (EREWHON); 100D: Have a word with (TALK TO); 101D: Showed disapproval (HISSED); 102D: Go by (ELAPSE); 103D: Paper ___ (TRAIL); 104D: "Stormy Weather" singer (HORNE); 105D: Celebrated Argentine (EVITA); 106D: Passover meal (SEDER); 107D: Sends (MAILS); 109D: Kennedy, ___ Bouvier (NÉE); 110D: Dispenser candy (PEZ); 111D: Cutting tools (ADZES); 112D: Yo-Yo's thing (CELLO); 113D: Foe (ENEMY); 116D: Abbr. on a letter (RSVP); 120D: Tarzan portrayer Ron (ELY); 121D: ___-faced (TWO); 122D: Itsy-bitsy (WEE); 123D: Abbr. on a keypad (ESC); 124D: Abbr. on a ship (USS).

SUNDAY, December 27, 2009 — Barry C. Silk and Doug Peterson (syndicated)

Theme: "And Another Thing ..." — Each theme answer is a mash-up of a familiar two-word phrase and a three-word phrase that follows the pattern "[first word of the two-word phrase] and [X]."

[Note: This is the syndicated L.A. Times puzzle. It does not appear in the actual newspaper, but is available for free at cruciverb.com.]

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Result of a battle of bighorns? (BLACK AND BLUE SHEEP).
  • 38A: Fire alarm during kindergarten? (SHOW AND TELL STOPPER).
  • 56A: Attracting outdoorsy readers, say? (FIELD AND STREAM GOAL).
  • 77A: Crustacean with an electric guitar? (ROCK AND ROLL LOBSTER).
  • 94A: Web site security expert? (POINT AND CLICK GUARD).
  • 115A: Kids' puppet show script? (PUNCH AND JUDY LINES).
Wow. Did I wake up in an parallel universe where the L.A. Times crossword puzzle is awesome again? What a great Christmas present! Love this theme. I found it tricky enough to make me think, but basic enough that once I got it, I could use it to help me with the remaining theme answers. I also really appreciate that although the fill isn't what I would describe as overly sparkly, a lot of the clues are excellent and do a nice job of ratcheting up the difficulty level a bit.

  • 16A: Capital of Slovakia? (ESS). The word Slovakia starts with the letter ESS (*groan*).
  • 21A: Symphony originally dedicated to Napoleon (EROICA). I did not know that.
  • 26A: One of Rose's 4,256 (HIT). PuzzleSon had a school project recently where he had to come up with various ways of describing a random number. He was assigned the number 4,256, which turned out to be pretty cool!
  • 54A: Madagascar tree climber (LEMUR). Who doesn't love a good LEMUR reference? ...
  • 63A: "Baseball is 90% mental; the other half is physical" speaker (BERRA). ... or a good Yogi BERRA quote?
  • 69A: Ballroom that made the Lindy Hop famous (SAVOY). One of my favorite album names of all time is Rufus's "Stompin' at the Savoy."

  • 75A: Many a joke involves one (PUN). I tried bar.
  • 101A: Alien's course: Abbr. (ESL). Not, like, an extra-terrestrial but a person who moves here from another country.
  • 106A: Unfinished framework (CARCASS). Inspired cluing. I'm glad they didn't go the dead animal route. But I'm sure you appreciate me bringing it up.
  • 112A: "The Disrobing of Christ" painter (EL GRECO). Okay, someone tell me if it's just me, but with the disrobing, the groping, and the unclasping (44A: Search uncertainly / 4D: Open, as a large envelope), does this puzzle have a RATED X (33D: For adults only) vibe to it?
  • 120A: Gerald Ford, by birth (OMAHAN). So many interesting people from Omaha: Warren Buffett, Nick Nolte, Marlon Brando, Fred Astaire. Learned about them all from crosswords.
  • 123A: Places for organ repairs, briefly (ORS). Internal organs, that is.
  • 1D: "Aquí se __ español" (HABLA). Spanish!
  • 5D: Reggae star __-Mouse (EEK-A). Okay, that's the awesomest stage name I've ever seen.
  • 6D: Teller's spot (WINDOW). Me: "Next to Penn?"
  • 10D: Tryster's request (MEET ME). Can't decide if I like tryster. I think I don't. But it might just be because I kept mispronouncing it and couldn't figure out what the heck this clue was about.
  • 17D: Its 5/14/1998 final episode was seen by 76 million viewers (SEINFELD). I was one of them, were you?
  • 40D: D.C. ball team (NATS). When I moved away from the DC area, there was no baseball team here. When I came back I saw so many people walking around with W's on their hats I wondered why there were so many Wisconsin fans out here. Yes, that's how dumb I am.
  • 42D: Cozy (SNUG). PuzzleHusband wanted to buy the kids Snuggies for Christmas, but couldn't bear walking around the mall with them.
  • 66D: Minute Maid Park team (ASTROS). As you might know, I do not like the corporate named sports stadiums. But at least you can make some of them seem kind of touch, right? Not this one. Poor Astros.
  • 78D: Pet with green fur? (CHIA). The other day I said that I wanted to plant an herb garden and PuzzleDaughter got all excited because she had seen on TV this little pet thing that you poor water on and plants grow out of it! She said you can even get one that looks like President Obama!
  • 83D: "Ocean's Thirteen" actor (AL PACINO). Love this movie. Just for fun, I tried to see if I could come up with all thirteen actor's names, but by the time I got, I think, five of them, I realized that this clue was going for someone else.
  • 104D: Northeast express train (ACELA). PuzzleMom just told me about a bus that runs between Washington and New York and only costs $20. Have any of you tried it? I might have just found my transportation for the ACPT.
  • 118D: TNT alternative (USA). Television networks.
Crosswordese 101: I was going to do my usual CW round-up here, but I could only find one instance of crosswordese that we've already covered! (47A: Cross shapes (TAUS)). So today, I'll quickly explain that ABA stands for the American Bar Association which is, indeed, an 59D: Org. concerned with suits (lawsuits, that is). Every once in a while ABA will be clued as the American Basketball Association in which case the clue will reference Dr. J or one of the teams that participated in that league. But the vast majority of the time you'll see words that have something to do with the legal profession in the clue: attorneys, litigators, lawyers, defense, or cases.

[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else — 1A: Escher Museum site, with "The" (HAGUE); 6A: Rolls (WADS); 10A: Like Mr. Magoo (MYOPIC); 19A: When many return from lunch (AT ONE); 20A: Vision (IDEA); 22A: Ball support (TEE); 27A: Province in northern Finland (LAPLAND); 28A: It's pitched (TENT); 29A: Holds on to (RETAINS); 31A: Fishing, maybe (ASEA); 32A: Negative link (NOR); 34A: Apple's G4, e.g. (IMAC); 37A: "See ya!" ("I'M OFF!"); 48A: Talked nonstop (RAN ON); 49A: Martinique, e.g. (ILE); 50A: Lever with a blade (OAR); 51A: Selling points (ASSETS); 55A: Commanded (BADE); 60A: Elided greeting ('ELLO); 61A: Car wash option (WAX); 62A: Roddick of tennis (ANDY); 67A: Hoarse (RASPING); 71A: Brimless caps (BEANIES); 73A: "The Avengers" guy (STEED); 74A: Stubborn beast (MULE); 76A: "__ go there!" (DON'T); 83A: Budget rival (AVIS); 86A: Hopper of gossip (HEDDA); 87A: Colorado county or its seat (PUEBLO); 88A: Psyche component (EGO); 89A: Top (LID); 90A: Yes or no follower (SIREE); 91A: Proceed (WEND); 92A: Surveyor's units (ACRES); 99A: Alleged Soviet spy Hiss (ALGER); 100A: Approved (OK'ED); 102A: Lackluster (DRAB); 109A: Office note (MEMO); 114A: Follower's suffix (-ITE); 119A: Rejections (NOS); 121A: Players (CAST); 122A: Racing paths (OVALS); 124A: Apartment restriction (NO PETS); 125A: "Ta ta!" ("CIAO!"); 126A: Secure, as a nautical rope (BELAY); 2D: Travel guide (ATLAS); 3D: Have a cow, so to speak (GO APE); 7D: Say "Furthermore ...," say (ADD); 8D: Collector's item? (DEBT); 9D: Discount event (SALE); 11D: Mos. and mos. (YRS.); 12D: "I'm impressed!" ("OOH!"); 13D: Disembarking site (PIER); 14D: Slush Puppie maker (ICEE); 15D: Something that may help you get the picture? (CAPTION); 16D: Kenya neighbor (ETHIOPIA); 18D: Liberates (SETS FREE); 24D: Monument word (ANNO); 25D: Army divisions (UNITS); 30D: Band piece (AMP); 35D: "So soon?" ("ALREADY?"); 36D: Cold and moist (CLAMMY); 39D: Spot for a band (HEAD); 41D: Bookshelf buildup (DUST); 43D: Company that acquired Lawn-Boy in 1989 (TORO); 44D: Errand runners (GOFERS); 45D: Bawl out (RAIL AT); 46D: Implicit warning (OR ELSE); 52D: Cut (SAWN); 53D: Glitch (SNAG); 54D: "Leading With My Chin" author (LENO); 55D: Mixes thoroughly (BLENDS); 57D: Horses running leisurely (LOPERS); 58D: Actress Kim of "24" (RAVER); 64D: Tear gas target (RIOTER); 65D: Weasel out (RENEGE); 68D: Part of a mating ritual (I DO); 69D: Basking locale (SUNDECK); 71D: Cluster of cloves (BULB); 72D: Organic compound (ENOL); 74D: Got by (MADE DO); 75D: 68-Down, for one (PLEDGE); 79D: "Ol' Man River" composer (KERN); 80D: Gp. that includes Iran and Ecuador (OPEC); 81D: Muttonhead (LUNK); 82D: Tusked animal (BOAR); 84D: Lawbreaker, e.g. (VIOLATOR); 85D: Acknowledgement of a deviation, usually after "but" (I DIGRESS); 91D: Dilate (WIDEN); 93D: PC component (CD DRIVE); 95D: Tokyo-based computer giant (NEC); 96D: 24 Hours of __: annual auto race (LEMANS); 97D: Comfortable with (USED TO); 98D: Confederate (ALLY); 103D: Of the kidneys (RENAL); 105D: Everycow (BOSSY); 107D: Sport for big grapplers (SUMO); 108D: Piece of cake (SNAP); 110D: L x XXXIV (MDCC); 111D: City near Santa Barbara (OJAI); 113D: Squishy lump (GLOB); 116D: Argentinian Marxist (CHE); 117D: It may be passed or tipped (HAT).


SATURDAY, December 26, 2009—Michael Wiesenberg

THEME: No theme today—Just a themeless/freestyle puzzle that hits at a Wednesday difficulty level

The grid features triple-stacks of 15-letter entries at the top and bottom, crossed almost entirely by 3-, 4-, and 5-letter answers. There's nothing too wild here. Instead of hashing out the long answers, let's run through the shorter stuff in the Less Familiar Fill category. It's not all quite Crosswordese 101 territory, but it's got a visa to travel there.

Say what?
  • 20A: Asian holidays (TETS). Well, if we can have Christmases and Memorial Days, we can have multiple Vietnamese New Years, right?
  • 45A: Russian pancake (BLIN). That's the singular of "blini." If you fill a blin with cheese or fruit and roll it up, you've got yourself a blintz. Or, like this woman demonstrates, fill it with cheese and top it with mixed berries with a splash of balsamic vinegar. I want some!

  • 46A: Oldest child in the comic strip "Baby Blues" (ZOE). It's time for actress ZOE Saldana to commandeer all the ZOE clues. With the year she's having? She played Uhura in the Star Trek relaunch in the spring and now she's in Avatar playing a blue alien.
  • 58A: Miss out? (DEB). That's a debutante, who's "coming out" at a debutante ball, and is a "miss" on account of being unmarried.
  • 1D: Tasty (SAPID). It's closely related to "savory," but "savory" is a word we actually might use in conversation. SAPID is a word I know from crosswords.
  • 27D: __ gratias (DEO). That's Latin for "thanks be to god."
  • 31D: Pollster Gallup (ALEC). Whoa, really? I know the ALECs Baldwin, Waugh, and Guinness, and I know the pollster Elmo Roper, but pollster ALEC Gallup? Never heard of him. Aww, he died in June so he doesn't get to enjoy seeing his name in this crossword.
  • 36D: Anchor position (ATRIP). Nauticalese! Among my least favorite breeds of crosswordese. Maybe if I'd ever taken sailing lessons, I'd groove on this sort of fill.
  • 37D: Highland hillsides (BRAES). Scottish crosswordese of the highest order. I've known this word since I was a kid...because I did a lot of crossword puzzles.
  • 48D: Stevens who sang "Pink Shoe Laces" (1959) (DODIE). I prefer Dody Goodman, who played Mary's mother on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.
  • 50D: Certain Arabian Peninsula native (ADENI). I prefer to call them Adenoids, but have not yet had any luck persuading the people of the Gulf of Aden to go along with that.
  • 54D: Traffic regs., e.g. (ORDS.) Meh. Plural abbrevs are irritating, aren't they?
  • 56D: Twain's jumping frog (DAN'L). I know Dan'l Boone and maybe Dan'l Webster, but not the hopping green Dan'l.
Crosswordese 101: Maybe I travel in weird circles, but I can't say I ever hear anyone use the term SET-TO. (22D: Tiff). Is it just me? Are you scrappy, prone to getting yourself involved in set-tos? Dictionary tells me it's informal and means "a fight or argument." Just for PuzzleGirl, here's a special SET-TO:

Everything Else — 1A: Medieval castle feature (SPIRAL STAIRCASE); 16A: Harding's Laddie Boy, for one (AIREDALE TERRIER); 17A: Health club option (PERSONAL TRAINER); 18A: Freeze (ICE); 19A: Indicates (SAYS); 20A: Asian holidays (TETS); 21A: Univ. awards (DEGS); 23A: Risked (STAKED); 26A: Actor Harris et al. (EDS); 29A: Three-time A.L. MVP (A-ROD); 30A: Help a checker (BAG); 33A: Gamblers' mecca (MONTE CARLO); 37A: Composer Bartók (BELA); 38A: Barhopping (ON A TOOT); 39A: Some specials (ENTRÉES); 41A: Uproar (TO-DO); 42A: Gadget largely pooh-poohed by men until the 20th century (WRISTWATCH); 44A: Dubbed period (ERA); 45A: Russian pancake (BLIN); 46A: Oldest child in the comic strip "Baby Blues" (ZOE); 47A: Under-the-sink item (SOS PAD); 49A: Marquis de __ (SADE); 53A: Open end? (TOED); 55A: "Do or do not. There is no try" speaker (YODA); 58A: Miss out? (DEB); 59A: With "The," 1958 Hudson/Stack movie about a former WWI ace (TARNISHED ANGELS); 63A: Longtime pal (OLD ACQUAINTANCE); 64A: Christianity dominates it (WESTERN RELIGION); 1D: Tasty (SAPID); 2D: See 40-Down (PIECE); 3D: Not std. (IRREG.); 4D: They precede mis (RES); 5D: Fusses (ADOS); 6D: Turner, for one (LANA); 7D: Really cracks up (SLAYS); 8D: Launch of 1962 (TELSTAR); 9D: 1-800-CALL-__: rival of 1-800-COLLECT (ATT); 10D: Cash add-on (-IER); 11D: Violent, probably (R RATED); 12D: Bawled (CRIED); 13D: Frowned-upon contraction (AIN'T); 14D: Views (SEES); 15D: Commit a faux pas (ERR); 22D: Tiff (SET-TO); 24D: City that inspired van Gogh (ARLES); 25D: Dean of horror (KOONTZ); 27D: __ gratias (DEO); 28D: Glares (SCOWLS); 30D: Sugar source (BEET); 31D: Pollster Gallup (ALEC); 32D: Razor cut, maybe (GASH); 33D: Dust unit (MOTE); 34D: Words before before (ON OR); 35D: Zilch (NADA); 36D: Anchor position (ATRIP); 37D: Highland hillsides (BRAES); 40D: With 2-Down, like a bikini (TWO); 43D: Next Christmas (IN A YEAR); 45D: Dirndl part (BODICE); 47D: Gérard Larcher is its current president (SENAT); 48D: Stevens who sang "Pink Shoe Laces" (1959) (DODIE); 50D: Certain Arabian Peninsula native (ADENI); 51D: Car battery pioneer (DELCO); 52D: "Barnaby Jones" star (EBSEN); 53D: Account (TALE); 54D: Traffic regs., e.g. (ORDS); 56D: Twain's jumping frog (DAN'L); 57D: Like contrarians (ANTI); 59D: Auto club service (TOW); 60D: Plaza abbr. (SQR.); 61D: Vandal (HUN); 62D: Choke or joke (GAG).


FRIDAY, Dec. 25, 2009 — Dan Naddor

THEME: -ANCE ... it's added to the end of familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, etc.

I hate to be Scrooge, but this one was mostly terrible. Some of the theme answers are cute, but ERB (!?! 26A: Tarzan creator's monogram) over SETA crossing ACTSO crossing CAPTIOUS (!? 36A: Faultfinding) near the absurdly plural INERTIAS (31A: Torpors)? I'm supposed to believe SONANCE is a real word one might use, ever? UDO (44A: Edible ginseng plant)? This whole "theme is the only thing that matters, screw the rest of the fill" attitude is really soul-crushing.

I gotta get back to the holiday festivities, so I'll make this quick.

Theme answers:

  • 16A: Communist revenue management? (RED FINANCE) — from RED FIN, which is ... some kind of fish, I guess.
  • 21A: Atonement from a soda jerk? (FOUNTAIN PENANCE) — cute. Thumbs up.
  • 32A: Love that blossomed in a music store? (CD ROMANCE) — cute. Thumbs up.
  • 48A: Voice of choice? (FAVORITE SONANCE) — an abomination.
  • 55A: Square up with actor Jack? (PAY PALANCE) — great. Big thumbs up.

Crosswordese 101: AÑO (13A: Mayo is in it) — Spanish for "year." I try like hell to keep this out of any puzzle I might be constructing — if I had to include it, I'd clue it as "AN O"; while it's totally acceptable to cross a letter w/ diacritical mark (e.g. N with tilde) with letter lacking it (e.g. no tilde), I still think you avoid it if possible. Sadly, today, it happens twice (again at PEÑA — 22D: Clinton cabinet member Federico). AÑO w/o tilde means ... well, not "year."

Merry Christmas to all. See you Monday.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

PS Please enjoy this free Christmas puzzle. Not much to do with Christmas — and some of the content is a little racy — but I hope you find it doable and amusing nonetheless. It's a puzzle inspired by one of my readers, one who misunderstood a recent Sunday puzzle entitled "Inside Dope." In honor of his misunderstanding, I made this: "Inside Dope, Part 2." xoxorp.

[as always, click on "Print" below, or go here (to the forum at crosswordfiend.com) to get a .puz / AcrossLite version of the puzzle]

Inside Dope

Everything Else — 1A: Hoodwink (CON); 4A: Exhausted, with "out" (WIPED); 9A: Exaggerated fanfare (HYPE); 13A: Mayo is in it (AÑO); 14A: Italian deli offering (PANINI); 15A: Skyrocket (SOAR); 16A: Communist revenue management? (RED FINANCE); 18A: Toro, in sushi bars (TUNA); 19A: Become (AMOUNT TO); 20A: Small batteries (AAS); 21A: Atonement from a soda jerk? (FOUNTAIN PENANCE); 26A: Tarzan creator's monogram (ERB); 27A: Tribute of sorts (ODE); 28A: Mike famously bit him in a 1997 fight (EVANDER); 29A: __ date (SET A); 31A: Torpors (INERTIAS); 32A: Love that blossomed in a music store? (CD ROMANCE); 36A: Faultfinding (CAPTIOUS); 39A: Old Dodge (DART); 43A: Prayers (ORISONS); 44A: Edible ginseng plant (UDO); 47A: Comic strip cry (WAH); 48A: Voice of choice? (FAVORITE SONANCE); 51A: Waitress at Mel's (FLO); 52A: More isolated (LONELIER); 53A: Town-line sign abbr. (ESTD.); 55A: Square up with actor Jack? (PAY PALANCE); 57A: Bum (REAR); 58A: Starts (ONSETS); 59A: __ station (GAS); 60A: Dash for a recipe, maybe (SALT); 61A: Restaurant row? (SCENE); 62A: Mexican Mrs. (SRA.); 1D: Some wine containers (CARAFES); 2D: Another (ONE MORE); 3D: Surely (NO DOUBT); 4D: Classified (WANT AD); 5D: Rare way for football games to end (IN A TIE); 6D: Attribute to, as blame (PIN ON); 7D: Ref. work (ENC.); 8D: Go kaput (DIE); 9D: FDR's successor (HST); 10D: 1982 Eddie Rabbitt/Crystal Gale duet (YOU AND I); 11D: Elixir (PANACEA); 12D: They can fix slips (ERASERS); 14D: Old Ford (PINTO); 17D: Frolic (FUN); 22D: Clinton cabinet member Federico (PEÑA); 23D: Neck and neck (EVEN); 24D: Buster? (NARC); 25D: Fed the kitty (ANTED); 30D: "Don't __ innocent" (ACT SO); 31D: AOL exchanges (IMS); 33D: New Look designer (DIOR); 34D: Food-box word with a cable car in its "o" (RONI); 35D: Depose (OUST); 36D: Strongboxes (COFFERS); 37D: Asian border lake (ARAL SEA); 38D: Like a deciding moment (PIVOTAL); 40D: Shade providers (AWNINGS); 41D: Wheels on a track (RACECAR); 42D: Russell of "Black Widow" (THERESA); 44D: Ben Hogan won it four times (US OPEN); 45D: Contribute (DONATE); 46D: First-year law students (ONE-LS); 49D: "Family Ties" mom (ELYSE); 50D: King preceder (ALA); 54D: 2000 Gere title role (DR. T); 55D: Bldgs. with boxes (POS); 56D: Mandela's org. (ANC).


THURSDAY, December 24, 2009 — Elizabeth A. Long

Theme: Looong answers — Theme answers are familiar phrases, the first word of which means, roughly, elongate, with the second word lengthened by adding an extra vowel.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Too long a ride? (STRETCH LIIMO).
  • 37A: Too many relatives? (EXTENDED FAAMILY).
  • 54A: Too much information? (SPREAD SHEEET).
Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate the holiday. And for the rest of you, I hope you're having a great day and at least enjoying a day off. In keeping with out tradition, PuzzleFamily will be opening presents tonight after dinner. Then tomorrow morning the kids will probably have a couple things to open from "Santa." (They've always known that Santa doesn't exist, but we all kind of like the idea of Santa.) Then PuzzleGram and PuzzleGramp will show up Friday night. They are coming straight from Costa Rica and I'm going to guess they will not be happy with the results of the ice storm we're supposed to get today. Anyway, it's going to be a fun-filled couple of days I'm sure and then PuzzleHusband and I are off to Chicago for a college wrestling tournament. Go, Hawks!

Oh, you want to talk about the puzzle? Well, I thought the theme was a little on the weird side. I get it that the words are stretched, extended, and spread, and that they all do that by adding a vowel but ... why? It just seems kind of random to me. Maybe if there had been just one more theme answer it would have magically come together. I don't know. It didn't thrill me, but there were still some interesting parts.

A couple things about the puzzle:
  • 1A: Spare underwear (THONG). Okay, that clue is so weird that it's hilarious. I'm all "Spare underwear? Do people keep spares in their office desk drawer or their car or something?" But in this case, spare means "not liberal or profuse," which I guess is an accurate way to describe a thong. Yikes.
  • 14A: Joyous shout (WAHOO). Just received a holiday card today from an old friend who always had a vanity license plate that said WAHOOOOO (or however many O's were allowed). I don't know if he was always having fun, but he liked people to think so!
  • 17A: Mideast language (IRANI). I'm pretty sure we've talked about this before and I'm going to call foul on this answer. I'm no expert, but from the little bit of poking around I did, IRANI is a person, not a language. In fact, there are a whole mess of languages spoke in Iran, but not a single one of them is called IRANI. Also, according to the Cruciverb.com data base, IRANI has never been clued as a language in any of the major publications. I think this might be a mistake that slipped through the cracks. But feel free to edjumicate me if I'm wrong.
  • 24A: Presidential pollster John (ZOGBY). Being something of a politics geek, this was a gimme for me.
  • 34A: Swinger's cry (WHEE). I think the THONG answer must have directed my mind down to the gutter because this clue had me thinking of a whole different kind of swinger (that would, obviously, have a whole different kind of "cry").
  • 36A: Fox hunt call (HALLO). No idea. I was thinking tally-ho for some reason. I guess it's been a long time since I've been fox hunting.
  • 61A: Good way for dreams to come (TRUE). This feels off to me too. Seems like TRUE would be a good way for good dreams to come. I don't think I'd really want to be finding myself in random homes that aren't mine but at the same time they are (ya know?) and walking around having random people from my past showing up with different names. That would not be good.
  • 2D: Roaring Camp chronicler (HARTE). Got this one from crosses. Apparently it was his story, "The Luck of Roaring Camp" that "propell[ed] Harte to nationwide fame."
  • 3D: Hub near the Loop (O'HARE). See ya soon, O'Hare!
  • 4D: Large chamber groups (NONETS). That would be a group of nine.
  • 5D: Thyroid problem (GOITER). Ew! Ew! Breakfast test!
  • 8D: DXXX ÷ X (LIII). I know some of your are going to whine about this roman numeral clue/answer pair, but I really don't mind the kind — like this one — where I can do the math in my head.
  • 30D: Brown sauces (SOYS). No idea what this means.
  • 38D: City SSE of Las Cruces, NM (EL PASO, TX). Okay, this is awesome. I have a cousin who's a musician and has a song called "Las Cruces." It had never occurred to me before right now to go see if there was a video of him performing the song and guess what! There is!

Crosswordese 101: There are three primary ways puzzle constructors clue RES.
  • A short form of resolution (as in, "hi-res monitor").
  • The plural of the second syllable in solfeèe (do re mi, etc.).
  • The Latin word for thing.
The first two are pretty easy to pick out in clues. The third one will either be a fill-in-the-blank clue with a common Latin phrase — e.g., "In medias ___," "___ judicata," "___ ipsa loquitur" — or the clue will mention something about the law — it will include the word law, legal, case or, as in today's clue, 31A: Matter in court.

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Everything Else — 6A: Thermometer part (BULB); 10A: Farm female (MARE); 15A: Most of Ohio's northern boundary (ERIE); 16A: Cameo gemstone (ONYX); 18A: A 66-Across lacks one (TAIL); 19A: Nureyev's negative (NYET); 23A: Sway (TEETER); 27A: Sellout signs (SROS); 29A: Orders (DECREES); 41A: Inscribed monument (STELA); 42A: Piano piece with "primo" and "secondo" parts, e.g. (DUET); 43A: Plural feature, usually (ESS); 44A: Sends a check with the order (PREPAYS); 46A: Columnist Barrett (RONA); 49A: Chop-chop (APACE); 50A: Calendar divisions (MONTHS); 58A: Weaponless self-defense (JUDO); 62A: Board for nails (EMERY); 63A: "__ happens ..." (AS IT); 64A: Diet label word (LITE); 65A: Some closet contents (LINEN); 66A: Critter with no 18-Across (MANX); 67A: Son of Seth (ENOS); 68A: So yesterday (PASSÉ); 1D: Peel in a drink (TWIST); 6D: Aleph follower (BETH); 7D: River through Kazakhstan (URAL); 9D: Mexico neighbor (BELIZE); 10D: LBJ or JFK (MONOGRAM); 11D: Whichever (ANY); 12D: Ham site (RYE); 13D: Request to an oper. (EXT.); 21D: Stand very close to (CROWD); 22D: Chocolate-flavored coffee (MOCHA); 25D: Misrepresent (BELIE); 26D: Sounds angry (YELLS); 28D: Lets the fur fly? (SHEDS); 29D: Postpone (DEFER); 31D: Breathing: Abbr. (RESP.); 32D: More than usual (EXTRA); 33D: Prohibitive, perhaps (STEEP); 35D: University Web site ending (EDU); 39D: Civil rights org. (NAACP); 40D: Matter components (ATOMS); 45D: Seuss turtle (YERTLE); 47D: Useless (NO HELP); 48D: Lack of vitality (ANEMIA); 51D: Soon-to-be adults (TEENS); 52D: Word spoken with a raised glass (HERE'S); 53D: "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" composer (STYNE); 55D: Joyce's motherland (ERIN); 56D: Focus opening (AUTO); 57D: Substandard marks (DEES); 58D: Dilemma (JAM); 59D: "Royal Pains" network (USA); 60D: Loud noise (DIN).


WEDNESDAY, December 23, 2009—Brendan Emmett Quigley

THEME: "Ernie Gave Bert Dog Food"—Five theme entries begin with words from a common mnemonic device for remembering the musical notes associated with the G-GLEF, or treble clef

Theme answers:
  • 17A. "EVERY LITTLE STEP" is a 1989 Bobby Brown hit I've never heard of. There are better known "Every Little..." songs out there, but their titles are not 15 letters long.

  • 23A. "GOOD GAME" is akin to "Well played!"
  • 37A. BOY GEORGE! The early '80s MTV star was the Culture Club lead singer. In the decades since, he was hooked on drugs and got weird. Would love to post the official riverboat/period piece music video for "Karma Chameleon," but the record label won't allow video embedding. I bought that record album when I was in high school, so I'm fond of this song, too:

  • 53A. Serves a sentence (DOES TIME).
  • 59A. Metaphorical search tool (FINE-TOOTHED COMB).
  • 69A. Wrapping everything up is G-CLEF or Staff figure, and a hint to the starts of 12-, 23-, 37-, 53- and 59-Across.

When the byline reads Brendan Emmett Quigley, you know you're in for some interesting fill (often some answers that have never appeared in a good newspaper crossword before) and probably some musical references you don't know. The four corners with stacked 7-letter answers that look like they belong in a themeless Saturday puzzle? Also a common BEQ feature. Speaking of Saturday puzzles, Brendan's fond of Saturday-style clues. Here are some answers and clues that jumped out at me.

  • 1D. Some baseballers do it all game long (CHEW GUM). Can you walk while doing that? And what else can you do with gum? Italian artist Maurizio Savini makes sculptures out of it.
  • 9D. Second Amendment-supporting group (THE NRA). I like it when the definite article joins a word that is usually accompanied by "the" when we talk about it. See also 46D: What preschoolers learn (THE ABC'S).
  • Movie trailer? (CREDITS). The credits do trail along at the end of a movie. Nice mislead. The *RE*I** letters would also fit PREVIEW, but the question mark in the clue tells us not to take the clue literally.
  • 26D. "Watermelon Man" musician Santamaria (MONGO). See? Music. More music I didn't know. Mongo Santamaria was an Afro-Cuban Latin jazz percussionist. His take on Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" was a hit in 1963.

  • 40D. Big name in credit reports (EQUIFAX). Gotta love a brand name with a Q and an X in it.
  • 44D. Classic shoe polish brand (SHINOLA). I can't help feeling that this is a dirty word.
  • 45D. Stereotypical toy soldier (ARMY MAN). Check out artist Margaret Roleke's incredible ARMY MAN artworks (that's her work in the photo at right).
  • 48D. Hit list (TOP TEN). Tricky clue for a Wednesday—"hit list" usually refers to a list of people targeted with assassination, but Billboard's TOP TEN is a list of hit songs.
If you knew the answers to Brendan's music clues, you'll love the crosswords he posts at his blog three times a week. Rex and PuzzleGirl and I never miss a puzzle over there. The challenge level definitely ramps up for solvers in their 40s on up.

Crosswordese 101: There are plenty of OTTOs in crosswordland, including four head honchos of the Holy Roman Empire. If the OT*O clue mentions Rome, though, it's OTHO. This 49D: Roman emperor in 69 A.D. is the one who overthrew Emperor Galba and took his spot. You won't need to know OTHO too often, but file his name away in your memory so you remember that this name exists.

Everything Else — 1A: Civil War org. (CSA); 4A: Multilevel marketing giant (AMWAY); 9A: Political pamphlet (TRACT); 14A: Witch (HAG); 15A: Thanksgiving decoration (MAIZE); 16A: "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speaker (HENRY); 17A: 1989 Bobby Brown hit (EVERY LITTLE STEP); 20A: Cunning trick (WILE); 21A: Charged particle (ION); 22A: Suffix with cyan- (IDE); 23A: "Well played!" ("GOOD GAME!"); 28A: Dinar spenders (IRAQIS); 30A: Caterer's container (URN); 31A: Victor's cry (I WON); 32A: Military action? (SALUTE); 33A: Stir-fry additive (MSG); 34A: Tirades (RANTS); 36A: Licensing prerequisite, often (TEST); 37A: Culture Club lead singer (BOY GEORGE); 40A: This, to Ricardo (ESTO); 43A: "What the Butler Saw" playwright (ORTON); 44A: Did nothing (SAT); 47A: Page size with four leaves (QUARTO); 50A: Words to a backstabber (ET TU); 51A: Brit. monarch's title (HRH); 52A: Disentangle (UNKNOT); 53A: Serves a sentence (DOES TIME); 55A: Soreness? (IRE); 56A: Certain candidate's goal, briefly (PHD); 58A: "Watermark" musician (ENYA); 59A: Metaphorical search tool (FINE-TOOTHED COMB); 65A: Unanimously (AS ONE); 66A: Icy look, maybe (GLARE); 67A: Fond du __, Wisconsin (LAC); 68A: Gas used in arc lamps (XENON); 69A: Staff figure, and a hint to the starts of 17-, 23-, 37-, 53- and 59-Across (G CLEF); 70A: Response to a ques. (ANS.); 1D: Some baseballers do it all game long (CHEW GUM); 2D: Redeemers (SAVIORS); 3D: Lasting quite a while (AGE-LONG); 4D: Singer Grant (AMY); 5D: Adjusted opening? (MAL-); 6D: Game system played with gestures (WII); 7D: AIDS-fighting drug (AZT); 8D: Bigfoot cousin (YETI); 9D: Second Amendment-supporting gp. (THE NRA); 10D: __ judicata: decided case (RES); 11D: Many an auction piece (ANTIQUE); 12D: Movie trailer? (CREDITS); 13D: Prepare for printing (TYPESET); 18D: Crimson, e.g. (RED); 19D: "Family Guy" mom (LOIS); 24D: Helicopter's predecessor, briefly (GIRO); 25D: "__ in a Manger" (AWAY); 26D: "Watermelon Man" musician SantamarÌa (MONGO); 27D: Went in (ENTERED); 29D: Der __: Adenauer epithet (ALTE); 35D: __ voce: softly (SOTTO); 37D: Delivered (BORN); 38D: Learning method (ROTE); 39D: Migratory antelopes (GNUS); 40D: Big name in credit reports (EQUIFAX); 41D: Dawn follower (SUNRISE); 42D: Hired (TAKEN ON); 44D: Classic shoe polish brand (SHINOLA); 45D: Stereotypical toy soldier (ARMY MAN); 46D: What preschoolers learn (THE ABCS); 48D: Hit list (TOP TEN); 49D: Roman emperor in 69 A.D. (OTHO); 54D: Private eye, briefly (TEC); 57D: Rapper Snoop __ (DOGG); 60D: "Discreet Music" composer Brian (ENO); 61D: Dr. Mom's forte (TLC); 62D: "2001" computer (HAL); 63D: Before, in verse (ERE); 64D: OED offering (DEF.).