TUESDAY, March 31, 2009 — Steve Dobis

Theme: "The King's Men" — Four theme answers are phrases that start with the words KNIGHT, COUNT, PRINCE, and DUKE.

Hey, everybody. PuzzleGirl here, still comin' at ya from my sickbed. This is getting really old, right? I think I'm just about done with it. At least the staying in bed all day part. Probably not the coughing, headache-y, feel like crap part. But oh well. I heard it's spring out there and I'm looking forward to seeing it for myself. So tomorrow I slam down some Alka-Seltzer Plus, take a shower (there's an idea!) and tough it out. Hoo-rah! (That's me attempting to psych myself up. I know. It's not pretty.)

Crosswordese 101: Today we're going to focus on EER, which is typically clued one of two ways. First, it can be a contraction of ever — e'er — which is found in poetry and means always. In these cases, it will be clued with reference to poetry (e.g., [Eternally, in verse] or [Bard's "always"]). Or, as in today's puzzle, it will be clued as the suffix -eer, which can be tacked onto oh so many words: musket, slogan, auction, market, puppet, profit, pamphlet, convention ... you get the idea. In early week puzzles, the clue will be straightforward like today's 63D: [Musket suffix]. Later in the week, it might be trickified with a question mark clue such as [Market closing?], meaning not "what time the market closes" but "something that can be tacked onto the end of the word market."

Theme answers:
  • 18A: '80s TV series with a talking car named KITT ("Knight Rider"). You know I've been dying for the opportunity to post my picture of me with David Hasselhoff. Finally!
  • 23A: 1943 Triple Crown winner (Count Fleet). Just to let you know this horse was no slouch: Count Fleet held the record for margin of victory at the Belmont Stakes for 30 years — until it was broken in 1973 by Secretariat (a little horse you may have heard of).
  • 36A: England's Charles, since 1958 (Prince of Wales).
  • 54A: "Nothing can stop" him in a 1962 doo-wop classic (Duke of Earl). I really, really, really wanted to find a video clip of my very favorite television scene of all time to share with you, but I couldn't find it anywhere. Does anyone remember this one? NYPD Blue, Season Two, Simone and Sipowicz are on a stakeout and end up singing "Duke of Earl" along with the car radio. Priceless! If any of you know where to find it, please post a link in the comments! In the meantime, enjoy The Alley Cats:

  • 60A: "Louie Louie" singers, and this puzzle's theme (The Kingsmen). Funny that we were talking about Laura Branigan yesterday. In one of those weird, it-doesn't-really-make-any-sense-but-there-it-is things I actually have her connected with this song in my head. I think it goes Laura Branigan's "Gloria" > that other awful "Gloria" song where they just kind of yell and spell it out and sound nonsensical >"Louie Louie," also kind of yelling and nonsensical. Oh and I sometimes get Laura Branigan confused with Karla Bonoff, but you probably don't care about that. (You clearly cared about the other stuff.)
So I'm just gonna run through a couple of the things that jumped out at me and then call it good so I can get a good night's sleep and, with any luck, find the energy to finally make it out of bed tomorrow.

  • 4A: Former Anaheim Stadium NFLer (L.A. Ram). Did you have trouble parsing this one?
  • 9A: Lawn game using lobbed missiles (jarts). Apparently another name for yard darts. Who knew?
  • 26A: Chicago hrs. (CST). Central Standard Time.
  • 35A: It's a wrap (Saran). Cute.
  • 42A: New Zealand native (Maori). Shout-out to Sandy, my favorite Kiwi (which, by the way, is what I wanted this answer to be — but not enough letters!).
  • 53A: Tiny army member (ant). Did you know that Costa Rica doesn't have an army? But they do have army ants.
  • 64A: Miler Sebastian (Coe). Won Olympic gold in the 1500m in 1980 and 1984. Coe is sometimes clued as a college in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
  • 69A: Muffin Man's lane (Drury). This is so weird. I was driving somewhere last week when I saw a Drury Street and thought to myself "Shouldn't that be Drury Lane?"
  • 5D: Son of Valient (Arn). You've been following along with this blog, and this was a gimme for you today, right?
  • 13D: Ukr., before 1991 (SSR). Soviet Socialist Republic.
  • 24D: S&L guarantor (FDIC). Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It's a good day to know your federal agencies. See also, 31D: FICA funds it (SSA — Social Security Administration) and 38D: Tax collection agcy. (IRS — Internal Revenue Service).
  • 42D: Boston transit inits. (MTA). It guess it's [59A: Nostalgic song] (i.e., OLDIE's) day here on the blog today.

  • 50D: Zany (madcap). Great word.
  • 51D: Melodious passage (arioso). Seems like ARIOSO should be an adjective, but it's a noun.
  • 55D: '80s-'90s quarterback Bernie (Kosar). Never heard of this guy. Tried to find something interesting about him on his Wikipedia page and thought I had something because of a controversy surrounding his eligibility for the NFL draft. Turns out it's not that interesting though. Sorry.
Someone will be here tomorrow. Not sure who, but ... someone.

Everything Else — 1A: St. crosser (AVE); 14A: Fenway team, familiarly (SOX); 15A: Gladiator's battlefield (ARENA); 16A: "__ Gold": Peter Fonda film (ULEES); 17A: Rock music's __ Fighters (FOO); 20A: Increase (ADDTO); 22A: London insurance giant (LLOYDS); 29A: Taqueria offering (TOSTADA); 30A: Mold into a different form (RESHAPE); 33A: Little devil (IMP); 43A: Prefix with cycle (TRI); 44A: Basic ballroom dance (TWOSTEP); 47A: Riddles (ENIGMAS); 56A: Ravel work immortalized in "10" (BOLERO); 65A: Expected to land (DUEIN); 66A: Artist's stand (EASEL); 67A: Venomous reptile (ASP); 68A: Filmdom ogre (SHREK); 70A: +, on a batt. (POS); 1D: To be the truth (ASFACT); 2D: Kind of doll used in magical rites (VOODOO); 3D: Israelites' departure (EXODUS); 4D: Sitting Bull's language (LAKOTA); 6D: Portuguese royal (REI); 7D: Each one in a square is 90 degrees (ANGLE); 8D: Composer Gustav (MAHLER); 9D: Trial twelvesome (JURY); 10D: "Put __ on it!" (ALID); 11D: McCarthy era paranoia (REDSCARE); 12D: Golfer's aid (TEE); 19D: Shopper's bag (TOTE); 21D: Big bang producer (TNT); 25D: Poor, as excuses go (LAME); 27D: Pampering resorts (SPAS); 28D: Gymnast's goal (TEN); 32D: Actor Holbrook (HAL); 34D: Poker kitty (POT); 36D: Small chess piece (PAWN); 37D: Soda in a float (ROOTBEER); 39D: Small point to pick (NIT); 40D: Complimentary (FREE); 41D: Skid row regular (WINO); 45D: Eve's first home (EDEN); 46D: Cleansed (PURGED); 48D: "I wish it could be!" (IFONLY); 49D: Hair stiffener (GEL); 52D: Grabs some shuteye (SLEEPS); 57D: "The Grapes of Wrath" figure (OKIE); 58D: Web cross-reference (LINK); 60D: NFL scores (TDS); 61D: "Say what?" (HUH); 62D: East Lansing sch. (MSU).


MONDAY, March 30, 2009 — Donna S. Levin

THEME: Quality ratings — theme answers begin with words POOR, FAIR, GOOD, and GREAT, respectively.

A very enjoyable little Monday puzzle — one that took me thirteen seconds longer than today's NYT took me. Would have been faster, but when I'd completed the grid, I had one answer I knew wasn't right: LTIR at 58D: Astronomical distance meas. I was thinking the problem was somewhere in the first two letters — what starts "LT"? — but then the "meas." part of the clue reached up and slapped me. An abbrev. in the clue means (almost always) an abbrev. answer. I then realized the final vowel in NICKI might not be an "I" — changed it to a "Y" to get NICKY (67A: Paris Hilton's sister) to get LTYR or LT. YR. or "Light Year." For the record, NICKY (as clued) is not something you'd ever see in an early-week NYT puzzle. Very, very L.A., that clue. For better or worse.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Franklin's almanac-writing alter ego (POOR Richard)
  • 27A: Young, promising fellow (FAIR-haired boy) — Is this a common or familiar phrase? I see that it is — has its own dictionary entry and everything. Evokes ideas of a master race, Aryan Nation, etc. Definition even states "This term alludes to the preference of blond ('fair') hair over dark hair." This brown-haired boy says "bite me."
  • 48A: Beneficent biblical traveler (GOOD Samaritan) — Learned this term from stickers on the sides of RVs I'd see on family trips during my childhood.
  • 64A: F. Scott Fitzgerald title character, with "the" (GREAT Gatsby) — This novel figures prominently in Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home," which is perhaps the greatest book I've read yet this century, and certainly the greatest comic.
Somehow, of the four qualities on display in this theme, GREAT seems most out of place. We used to get marks in school for behavior and they ranged from P for POOR to E for EXCELLENT. If you're grading books or other collectibles, you'd have FINE at the top. Does this set of four ratings refer to some specific scale, or is it just a general progression from worst to best?

Crosswordese 101: I was tempted to go with ADEN today, but I'm going to go instead with a word that I'd never heard of until I was well into my crossword-solving career: MRE (46D: Desert Storm chow, initially). Stands for "Meal, Ready-to-Eat" — complete, high-energy meals contained entirely inside an extremely durable package (they have to withstand parachute drops and whatnot). Here is a list of typical MRE contents, which I pulled off of Wikipedia:
General contents may include:Many items are fortified with nutrients. In addition, DoD policy requires units to augment MREs with fresh food and A-rations whenever feasible, especially in training environments.

Back to the puzzle: Did you know Laura Branigan died of a brain aneurysm in 2004? Or that her vocal coach was Gian Carlo Menotti (he of "AMAHL and the Night Visitors" fame)? I'm sorry, that has nothing to do with the puzzle — I'm watching the 80s music channel. I'll turn it off now.

I had my most serious hesitations in this puzzle at the aforementioned LTYR / NICKY intersection, as well as the general BARKEEP region. BARKEEP is a fantastic answer, but my brain could do nothing with -----EP, given the clue — 52A: Cocktail maker. Even after the second "E" and the "B" I was puzzled. Did Little BO PEEP make cocktails? No, and she doesn't fit anyway. Anyway, I worked it out.

What else?
  • 39A: Woman's golf garment (skort) — more great fill. Had SKIRT at first. Should've known better.
  • 11D: Church garb (Sunday best) — another wonderful, colorful answer. I have many "Simpsons" toys, and one of them is "SUNDAY BEST Bart," where his hair is slicked down, parted in the middle, and he's got a coat and tie and little shorts on. It's adorable.
  • 31D: Valerie Harper sitcom ("Rhoda") — I think I had a little crush on her when I was a kid. I was a weird kid.
See you Wednesday. PuzzleGirl's got the write-up tomorrow.


Everything Else — 1A: Olfactory enticement (AROMA); 6A: Fashion show strutter (MODEL); 11A: Chugalug's opposite (SIP); 14A: 65-Down-strengthening exercise (SIT UP); 15A: Online surfers, e.g. (USERS); 16A: Cyberaddress, briefly (URL); 19A: "Right to bear arms" gp. (NRA); 20A: Flower holder (STEM); 21A: Scarlett of Tara (O'HARA); 22A: Port in Yemen (ADEN); 23A: Detroit labor org. (UAW); 25A: Furious (IN A RAGE); 32A: Hosp. staffer (LPN); 33A: 1/12 of a foot (INCH); 34A: Conspiring band (CABAL); 37A: Solemn vow (OATH); 42A: Nevada city (RENO); 43A: Before surg. (PRE-OP); 45A: Consider (DEEM); 47A: Enjoy Aspen (SKI); 54A: Actor Affleck (BEN); 55A: "__ brillig, and the slithy ...": Carroll (TWAS); 56A: Beautiful, in Bologna (BELLA); 59A: Business garb (SUIT); 63A: Dine (EAT); 66A: "You __ here" (ARE); 68A: Nigeria neighbor (BENIN); 69A: Hosp. VIPs (MDS); 70A: Theater employee (USHER); 71A: Garden shovel (SPADE); 1D: Nile snakes (ASPS); 2D: Civil uprising (RIOT); 3D: Nebraska tribe (OTOE); 4D: Cooing sound (MURMUR); 5D: Mo. when 1040s are due (APR); 6D: "__ Ado About Nothing" (MUCH); 7D: Labor Dept. arm (OSHA); 8D: Sweetheart (DEARIE); 9D: Grocery trip, say (ERRAND); 10D: Leary's turn-on (LSD); 12D: Flawed, as sale mdse. (IRREG.); 13D: Hangar occupant (PLANE); 18D: Hawkeyes, statewise (IOWANS); 22D: Clamorous (AROAR); 24D: Sushi tuna (AHI); 26D: "Dancing with the Stars" network (ABC); 27D: Broadway disaster (FLOP); 28D: On __ with: equal to (A PAR); 29D: Blends together into a whole (INTEGRATES); 30D: "Bleah!" (ICK); 35D: "Puppy Love" singer Paul (ANKA); 36D: Pork cut (LOIN); 38D: Fish catchers (HOOKS); 40D: Dream state acronym (REM); 41D: Pekoe packet (TEABAG); 44D: "The Raven" poet (POE); 49D: Rubbish (DEBRIS); 50D: Oration (SPEECH); 51D: Arched foot part (INSTEP); 52D: Second-string squad (BTEAM); 53D: Emmy or Oscar (AWARD); 57D: Tahoe, for one (LAKE); 60D: Annapolis inst. (USNA); 61D: Footnote abbr. (IBID); 62D: Daly of "Cagney & Lacey" (TYNE); 64D: Wildebeest (GNU); 65D: Tummy muscles (ABS).


SUNDAY, March 29, 2009 — Sylvia Bursztyn (calendar)

Theme: "Letters of the Law" — Words related to the legal profession are defined in non-legal ways.

Here's the thing. I've been sick in bed for four days now, so I'm not in a great mood to start with. Then this puzzle isn't available online until very late in the day so I feel rushed and pressured and, well, let's just say this isn't my favorite puzzle ever. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it, but you can feel free to talk about it as much as you want in the comments.

Theme answers:
  • 21A: COURT (royal entourage)
  • 34A: CASE (twelve bottles of wine)
  • 49A: CHAMBERS (parts of hearts)
  • 74A: BAIL (scoop water out)
  • 91A: PROOF (word on a whiskey label)
  • 108A: APPEAL (power to attract)
Crosswordese 101: GBS stands for George Bernard Shaw and is clued today as ["Pygmalion" monogram]. You'll want to keep several other literary monograms in your pocket when solving crosswords: EAP = Edgar Allen Poe; RLS = Robert Louis Stevenson; EBW = E. B. White; TSE = T. S. Eliot. The most common political monograms in crosswords are AES (Adlai E. Stevenson) and DDE (Dwight D. Eisenhower). There are others, of course, but they're easy to remember and not technically crosswordese because those people are actually referred to by their monograms (FDR, JFK, etc.). A couple other random monograms you should commit to memory are YSL (Yves St. Laurent) and TAE (Thomas Alva Edison).

Stuff I did not like and/or did not know:
  • 27A: High note of yore (ela). Straight out of the Maleska Era. I know some people feel a great sense of nostalgia when these words come up these days, but me? Not so much.
  • 29A: Man with missions (Serra). Miguel José Serra was an 18th-century Spanish missionary. I probably should have heard of him.
  • 86A: 1992's "Mississippi" --- (Masala). Don't remember ever hearing about this movie. Doesn't sound like it's very good, but Denzel is in it so, really, how bad can it be?
  • 106A: Door topper (lintel). It's a horizontal beam that usually supports the masonry above a window or door opening.
  • 6D: Monkey-bread tree (baobab). A tree native to Madagascar, Africa, and Australia. Also known as boab, boaboa, bottle tree, and upside-down tree.
  • 15D: Irritable (liverish). Ugh. Just ugh.
Other stuff:

Well, I'm tired and still cranky and need to go back to sleep, so I'll wrap up by telling you that I had to laugh at myself when I entered rent-a-cop for rent-A-CAR at 105A, and LPs for CDs (85D: DJ's stock). I do like the words MARZIPAN (57A: Almond confection) and NATTY (61D: Dapper) and NIBLET (92D: Canned corn kernel). And WAFT (35D: Float on the breeze) is one of my favorite words of all time. Everyone has a favorite words list, right? Okay, that's all I can do. Rex tomorrow.

Everything Else — 1A: Rascal (SCAMP); 6A: "Grand" island (BAHAMA); 12A: Peace, in Israel (SHALOM); 18A: Bad temper (CHOLER); 19A: Stevie Wonder's birthplace (SAGINAW); 20A: Old film (PATINA); 23A: One by one? (ELEVEN); 24A: Square (EVEN); 25A: Navy builder (SEABEE); 26A: Darling (PET); 28A: Horror master Craven (WES); 30A: Fish dish (SCROD); 33A: Sea cell (BRIG); 39A: Wheel shafts (AXLES); 40A: Flagon (CARAFE); 41A: Stair part (RISER); 42A: Asimov's area (SCIFI); 45A: Encore airing (RERUN); 46A: --- Na Na (SHA); 48A: Day divs. (HRS); 53A: Lennon's second wife (ONO); 55A: Words before pinch or pickle (INA); 56A: Despotism (TYRANNY); 62A: Oscar winner Winslet (KATE); 64A: Dispatches (SENDS); 65A: Draft holder (STEIN); 67A: Superboy's girlfriend (LANA); 68A: Brought up (ELEVATED); 70A: Inundated (FLOODED); 72A: Explosive inits. (TNT); 73A: Draft choice (ALE); 77A: Implore (BEG); 80A: Lyricist Gershwin (IRA); 82A: Dynamic (ALIVE); 83A: Virile (MANLY); 84A: Precise (EXACT); 88A: Prefer (FAVOR); 95A: Gives guns (ARMS); 96A: Koran faith (ISLAM); 97A: Place (LOCUS); 98A: "... --- mouse?" (ORA); 101A: Rocks at the bar (ICE); 103A: Deceive (LEADON); 112A: Executor's concern (ESTATE); 113A: "Rebecca"'s Laurence (OLIVIER); 114A: Old gold coins (EAGLES); 115A: Stop (DESIST); 116A: Goes to pieces (PANICS); 117A: Rubbish (DROSS); 1D: Elbow, perhaps (SHOVE); 2D: Most modest (COYEST); 3D: Shepard in space (ALAN); 4D: Blanc or Brooks (MEL); 5D: Market before building (PRESELL); 7D: Fluish feeling (AGUE); 8D: Take on (HIRE); 9D: "Wheel" buy (ANA); 10D: Wheel type (MAG); 11D: Knock over (AWE); 12D: Skimpy swimsuit brand (SPEEDO); 13D: Stop (HALT); 14D: Put away (ATE); 16D: Short gag (ONELINER); 17D: Ball club VIPs (MANAGERS); 18D: Sock style (CREW); 19D: Gawks (STARES); 22D: Audacity (NERVE); 26D: Sits for shots (POSES); 29D: Misogynistic (SEXIST); 30D: Swagger (STRUT); 31D: Highland families (CLANS); 32D: Field official (REF); 33D: Anguilla's isl. grp. (BWI); 36D: Vast expanses (OCEANS); 37D: Linger (TARRY); 38D: Kafka (FRANZ); 42D: Peak on a graph (SPIKE); 43D: Locks site (CANAL); 44D: Steamed up (IRATE); 45D: Split (REND); 47D: Social stinger (HORNET); 50D: Bluepoint (OYSTER); 51D: With 52D, carte blanche (FREE); 52D: See 51D (HAND); 54D: Corn or castor (OIL); 57D: Calico's call (MEOW); 58D: Verdi princess (AIDA); 59D: --- the back (PATON); 60D: Cancel (ANNUL); 63D: Mendes of the movies (EVA); 65D: Bratislava tongue (SLOVAK); 66D: Overimbibe (TOPE); 69D: O'Connor's successor (ALITO); 70D: Thwarts (FOILS); 71D: Retires from the RAF (DEMOBS); 74D: Malia's sister (SASHA); 75D: Maintain (CLAIM); 76D: Red in the middle (RARE); 77D: Lamented (BEWAILED); 78D: Get the devil out of there? (EXORCISE); 79D: What to wear (GARMENTS); 81D: Stockpile (AMASS); 87D: Hole punch (AWL); 88D: Dostoyevsky (FYODOR); 89D: Metal industry biggie (ALCOA); 90D: Bragged about (VAUNTED); 93D: Makes merry (ELATES); 94D: Townies (LOCALS); 99D: Running things (RACES); 100D: Cultural pursuits (ARTS); 102D: Fetches (GETS); 103D: Strauss of jeans fame (LEVI); 104D: Clapton or Burdon (ERIC); 105D: Ship of myth (ARGO); 107D: --- chi (TAI); 108D: Burst a bubble (POP); 109D: Pay or cray closer (OLA); 110D: Triumph (WIN); 111D: Pitch (TAR).

SUNDAY, March 29, 2009 — Kathleen Fay O'Brien (syndicated)

THEME: "Los Angeles Clippers" — The Los Angeles Clippers are an NBA team, and in this theme, the letters LA are clipped from nine phrases to make nutty phrases with playful clues.

Hey, folks, it's Orange again, bringing you the syndicated Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis. This one appears in newspapers nationwide—but not in the L.A. Times. Southern Californians are missing out on some primo puzzling, I tell you. If you don't get this puzzle in your paper, have no fear: Just sign yourself up at Cruciverb.com (standard membership is free) and you, too, can get the puzzle in the Across Lite format. Across Lite allows you to do crosswords on your computer (offline) or print 'em out, and you can download the Across Lite application here. Edited to add: Or download version 2.0 from the New York Times website.)

Crosswordese 101: Any Sunday puzzle will have several candidates for a Crosswordese 101 lesson. This crossword has some stars and constellations, which certainly will merit a discourse at some point. And KNAR is a crazy sort of word that throws people for a loop when it bulges into the grid (2D: Tree trunk bulge). But today's winner is 33D: Prince Valiant's bride, ALETA. "Prince Valiant," Toonopedia tells me, is a comic strip, running since 1937, that stars the 5th-century hero Prince Valiant. He marries ALETA and one of their children is a son named ARN. He shows up in crosswords too. ALETA and ARN are tough to clue without resorting to a "Prince Valiant" reference, but the names have such common letters they're handy for crossword constructors.

Comic strips are a fertile source of pop-culture names for crosswords. Why, just look at the canine contingent: "Beetle Bailey" gives us a dog named OTTO, while "Hagar the Horrible's" pet is SNERT. The drooling dog in "Garfield" is named ODIE. "Hi and Lois" have a dog named...DAWG.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Toy guns? (FALSE ARMS). This one plays on false alarms.
  • 24A: Education for lab rats? (MAZE CLASSES). This is Lamaze classes minus the LA.
  • 39A: Thug down in the dumps? (BLUE GOON). Blue Lagoon was a racy 1980 movie starring Brooke Shields.
  • 43A: Where the South American school gp. meets? (RIO DE LA P.T.A.). Rio de la Plata is a South American river.
  • 65A: Dana Carvey doing The Police's lead singer? (STING IMPRESSION). That might give a lasting impression.
  • 92A: Cop who brings back the genie when he goes AWOL? (ALADDIN'S M.P.). Aladdin's lamp is the base phrase here.
  • 94A: Dubbed-in sounds of disgust? (UGH TRACK). A laugh track turns into an UGH TRACK? That's perfect. Only the cleverest theme entries actually make solvers laugh, and this one got me. American Idol has an ugh track, thanks to Simon Cowell.
  • 113A: Appropriate style of dress for exams? (TEST FASHION). The latest fashion.
  • 115A: ATM accesses that nobody can guess? (GREAT PINS). Most of the theme answers lop the LA off the beginning of a word. Here, it's extracted from the middle of the Great Plains.
The Coolest Answers:

I'm a sucker for clues that ask you to ignore the usual meaning of some words and instead go hyper-literal. That's the sort of thinking that's required in cryptic crosswords, and there's a taste of that in 87D: Writing feature? (SILENT W). A feature of the word writing is that first letter, a SILENT W.

I'm also a sucker for slangy language, especially if it's fun to say. We get a one-two hit of that with ALL ABUZZ (14D: Teeming with activity) and GASBAG (15D: Blowhard). "After that gasbag claimed to be an expert on 'Prince Valiant,' the room was all abuzz with skeptics saying he wouldn't know Arn if he bit him on the ass." Do you know anybody who actually reads that comic strip? I challenge you to NAME ONE (91D: "Give me an example!").

Names in crossword grids tend to be either first or last names. It's much trickier to wedge in a longer first/last name combo, so ED NORTON (60A: Ralph Kramden's friend) is a terrific-looking answer. So's the HEAT WAVE (83D: Stretch in the 90s, e.g.). I once had a business trip in ST. LOUIS (98A: Arch city) when it was 100°. The air was hot, the cab ride was hot, and then our far-flung gate at the airport was hot. When are airports ever not freakishly climate-controlled? During a dreadful HEAT WAVE, that's when.

There were other groovy entries, too: I like PORTUGAL (73A: The Azores are part of it) because we get relatively few 8-letter place names—ERIE is so played out, man. Speaking of foreign countries, 51D: Foreign correspondents? are PEN PALS; the question mark tells you we're not talking about overseas reporters. KOSHER mostly refers to Jewish food laws, but the word also means legitimate and sometimes 55D: Authentic. One of my favorite clues here is 71D: Crown location for TOOTH. Was your first thought of a queen or king's crown? Mine sure was. And you gotta love the GINSU knife, a classic 74D: Infomercial knife. It's still around, you know.

Tough Stuff:
  • 5A: Off-the-market apple spray is ALAR. Didn't Meryl Streep help get this banned? 49A: Coal industry labor org. is UMW. The "org." abbreviation signals the abbreviated answer, and UMW is short for United Mine Workers. The first name of 63D: Actor Katz is OMRI. You know any other famous OMRIs? I sure don't.
  • 59A: Mr. Magoo, notably is a MYOPE. Myopia means near-sightedness, though really, Mr. Magoo's vision problems went well beyond a minor case of myopia.
  • 107A: Powerful shooter marbles are STEELIES. Other marbles seen in crosswords include agates and taws.
  • There are plenty of stars and constellations in the sky. (At least billions, right?) Some of 'em even find their way into the grid. Here we have CYGNUS, the 53D: Swan constellation, and SPICA, a 67D: Star in Virgo.
  • 37D: Fingers, so to speak clues RATS ON. Two-word verb phrase! Usually with a clue like this, you'd fill in an S in the last square...but sometimes it's going to be wrong. If you're mired in a corner that just isn't working with that final S, consider erasing it because crossword constructors are quite fond of these verb phrases that tuck the S in a surprising spot.
  • 105D: Husband of Octavia is NERO, who fiddled while Rome burned. Hey, who doesn't like a little music?
  • SEGO is a 108D: Lily with an edible root. This answer's in crosswords pretty regularly.
  • The 116D: "Kung Fu" actor on TV was Philip AHN . He's thought to be the first U.S. citizen born here to Korean parents.
Foreign Vocabulary:

Words in other languages can be signaled several ways. You can go geographic—3D: Cuba, to Cubans tells you to come up with a Spanish word like ISLA ("island"), and the French word RESTE is evoked by the French place name in 8D: What's left, in Le Mans. 81A: Niño's emphatic yes includes a Spanish word to point towards the Spanish answer (SI SI, or "Yes, yes!"). Clues can also include a language tag: 40D: Others: Span. asks for the Spanish word for "others," OTROS. And then there's 114D: __ vous plait, which counts on the solver to recognize the French phrase and know that SIL is missing.

Everything Else: 1A: Lose traction (SKID). 9A: African expanse (SAHARA). 15A: Hanks Oscar-winning role (GUMP). 19A: Like some training programs (IN SERVICE). 21A: Cloisonne material (ENAMEL). 22A: Ending for stink (AROO). 26A: Political essay (TRACT). 27A: Mall tenant (RETAILER). 29A: Capital on the Hudson (ALBANY). 30A: Musical ability (EAR). 32A: Altercations (SET-TOS). 33A: "Waterloo" singers (ABBA). 34A: Intersection caution (BLINKER). 38A: Head lines? (EEG). 46A: Cold symptom (SNEEZE). 48A: Fight ender, briefly (TKO). 50A: Bridge bid (NO TRUMP). 52A: Insect-world animated film (ANTZ). 53A: Dungeness delicacy (CRAB). 54A: Furniture wood (TEAK). 56A: Cubs' A.L. rivals (SOX). 57A: 'Enry's Broadway protegee (ELIZA). 63A: Where to see 60-Across (ON TV). 64A: Loafs on the job (DOGS IT). 69A: Enjoys the tub (BATHES). 72A: Musical syllables (TRAS). 77A: Healing plants (ALOES). 78A: Hiker's route (TRAIL). 80A: Hodges of baseball (GIL). 82A: Jordan's dowager queen (NOOR). 83A: Get better (HEAL). 84A: Biological subdivision (SPECIES). 88A: '60s theater, briefly (NAM). 89A: Rubble creator (TNT). 90A: Guiding signal (BEACON). 96A: Cleo's downfall (ASP). 99A: Including (WITH). 100A: Some dirty politics (SMEARS). 103A: November honoree (VET). 104A: Observable (IN VIEW). 109A: Massage targets (NECKS). 117A: Camaro __-Z (IROC). 118A: Boys' Choir home (VIENNA). 119A: Tidal maximum (HIGH WATER). 120A: Junior, last yr. (SOPH). 121A: Makes rhapsodic (ELATES). 122A: Bugs, for one (TOON). 123A: Henna and her sisters? (DYES). 1D: Baking instruction (SIFT). 4D: Come down (DESCEND). 5D: Actress Gardner (AVA). 6D: N.Y.C. commuter line (LIRR). 7D: Peaks (ACMES). 9D: Israeli, e.g. (SEMITE). 10D: Substances similar in structure, in chemistry (ANALOGS). 11D: Fogs (HAZES). 12D: Part of VOA: Abbr. (AMER). 13D: Remote button (REC). 16D: __ Minor (URSA). 17D: Big name in faucets (MOEN). 18D: Bride's throwaway (POSY). 20D: Shot again, as photos (RETAKEN). 25D: "Tiny Alice" dramatist (ALBEE). 28D: Mr. T's squad (A-TEAM). 31D: Move, in brokerese (RELO). 34D: Big bully (BRUTE). 35D: Treated the soil, in a way (LIMED). 36D: Davenport native (IOWAN). 39D: Auto pioneer Karl (BENZ). 41D: Giraffe cousin (OKAPI). 42D: "Check," in poker (NO BET). 44D: Plug projection (PRONG). 45D: Affair wear (TUX). 47D: Gullible (NAIVE). 58D: P.O. sackful (LTRS). 59D: No longer at issue (MOOT). 61D: Numbered rds. (RTES). 62D: Not counting fas and las, word after "holly" (TIS). 64D: N, E, S or W (DIR). 66D: Roman prefix (ITALO). 68D: Pyramids, e.g. (SOLIDS). 69D: African language group (BANTU). 70D: __ for the ride (ALONG). 75D: "Me, too!" (AS AM I). 76D: Walks like House (LIMPS). 78D: Show the ropes (TEACH). 79D: Pool accessory (RACK). 80D: It holds locks in place (GEL). 85D: Like the Holy See (PAPAL). 86D: 1999 Ron Howard film (ED TV). 90D: Lawyer's writing (BRIEF). 93D: Jotting place (NOTEPAD). 95D: Muscle spasm (TWITCH). 97D: Perceived to be (SEEN AS). 100D: Tour of duty (STINT). 101D: Correct (RIGHT). 102D: Comic opening? (SERIO-). 104D: Tendon suffix (-ITIS). 106D: Brandy letters (VSOP). 107D: 2000 World Series venue (SHEA). 110D: Mayor's domain (CITY). 111D: Cello stabilizer (KNEE). 112D: Georgia et al., once: Abbr. (SSRS).


SATURDAY, March 28, 2009 — Robert H. Wolfe

THEME: None (Saturdays have themeless crosswords)

Orange here, checking in with the Saturday L.A. Times crossword—almost always the week's toughest. The Sunday puzzle might take longer, but that's a factor of its bigger size. In a themed puzzle, once you cotton to what's going on in the theme answers, it often gives you a leg up on the last theme answers. A themeless puzzle doesn't offer that. Instead, it focuses on longer answers and trickier clues. The usual rule is that a themeless crossword will have no more than 72 answers, while the themed weekday ones can go up to 78.

In lieu of a theme, constructor Robert Wolfe anchors this grid with three 15-letter answers, all of them phrases you might say rather than nouns or verbs or what-have-you. Here are the triplets:
  • 17A: "No need to get so excited" (keep your shirt on)
  • 37A: "No way!" (don't make me laugh)
  • 59A: "No idea" (I haven't got a clue)
Overall, this puzzle wasn't as hard as most Saturday crosswords, but it's got its challenging bits.

Crosswordese 101: A.k.a. European Rivers 101. Yesterday, Rex focused on a European river called the YSER. Guess what? There are a great many rivers in Europe with four-letter names that flow into crosswords far out of proportion to their familiarity among Americans. Today's crossword brings us the ARNO (20A: River of Tuscany); that's it in the photo below, with the Ponte Vecchio spanning it. Spain has the EBRO; if you know that Spain and Portugal make up the peninsula called Iberia, remember that the river's name is related to it and shares its consonants. Now, EBRO sounds Italian to me, so it took me years to put the ARNO in my "Italian river clue" memory and the EBRO in the "Spanish river clue" spot.

Switzerland's main crosswordese river has two acceptable spellings: AAR and AARE. Hooray! The number of squares will tell you which one you want.

England has the OUSE, which always looks French to me, TYNE, and AVON. France has the OISE (not to be confused with the OUSE), ORNE, and a number of five-letter rivers (including the SEINE, LOIRE, MARNE, and SAONE). France has the gall to contain a five-letter ISERE River, which apparently is not the same thing as the Belgian YSER.

The URAL, NEVA, and LENA are Russia's leading four-letter crosswordese rivers; there's also the three-letter OKA.

Germany is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the four-letter crosswordese river world, with the ELBE, EDER, ODER, RUHR, SAAR, EGER, and (less commonly) ISAR.

Head south from Europe and you run into the NILE—which has the advantage of being a world-famous river that you've heard of.

Now, you don't have to memorize where all these rivers originate, pass through, and empty. But it will stand you in good stead to familiarize yourself with the names so that when the crossing answers spell them out, you can feel certain that they're correct. The main ones you'll encounter are the Swiss AAR/AARE, Italian ARNO, Spanish EBRO, German/Polish ODER, and Russian URAL.

But Wait! There's More!

It's been my sense that the L.A. Times crossword tends to include a little more pop culture—names and titles from Hollywood movies and TV—than other puzzles do. Here's today's allotment:
  • 24A: Kiara's mother in "The Lion King" (NALA). Animated feature film.
  • 29A: "Medium" network (NBC). Broadcast TV series.
  • 40A: "The Lord of the Rings" monster (ORC). Blockbuster movie franchise based on Tolkien's books.
  • 58A: Stimpy's pal (REN). A '90s cartoon.
  • 6D: "The Killing Fields" Oscar winner Haing S. __ (NGOR). Drama on the big screen.
  • 12D: "Contact" acronym (SETI). Sci-fi drama starring Jodie Foster.
  • 13D: Presley's middle name (ARON). Elvis!
  • 24D: Peggy Lee and Marilyn Monroe, at birth (NORMAS). Stage names!
Prefixes, suffixes, and abbreviations, oh my!: Crossword constructors prefer stand-alone words to these short bits, but making a puzzle with none of these sorts of answers is no mean feat. Today's abbreviations include ERS, or emergency rooms (19A: Triage sites, briefly); RECT., or rectangle (22A: Geometric fig.); IRR., or irregular (25A: Letters on seconds); LAB, not exactly an abbreviation but short for laboratory (35A: Language teaching site); DTS, or delirium tremens (9D: Rehab symptoms); RPM, or revolutions per minute (26D: Dashboard letters); BHT, or...I'm not sure what it stands for, but its best friend is BHA (36D: Food preservative letters); and A-TEN, or the Atlantic 10 Conference (56D: Fordham's hoops conf.). Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10, ACC—I know those conferences. This A-10 isn't familiar to me.

HIERO- and TWI- are prefixes—16A: Prefix with glyph and 60D: Prefix with light, respectively. ROTO is a commercial prefix here (55D: __-Rooter). MARM isn't a suffix, but it has a tough time standing apart from "school" (57D: School closing?). That question mark reminds you not to take the phrase "school closing" at face value—there's no snow day here, just a word that's a "closing" for the word "school."

Rex applies the term "odd jobs" to words like ASKER—a word ending in -ER that's generally a legitimate extrapolation from its root word, but not a word you're likely to ever use. An ASKER is clued as 1D: Invitation sender. Have you ever thought of yourself as an asker, even when you're feeling inquisitive? Some words look like odd-jobbers but aren't. I suspect INKERS (27D: Comic book artists) is a perfectly ordinary word in comic book circles.

An olio of other answers:

Two of the longer answers are phrases with colors—RED AS A BEET (41A: Visibly embarrassed) and BLUE MARLIN (30D: Atlantic game fish).

One word you're unlikely to encounter outside of crosswords is STERE (2D: Cubic measure). It's a boring word, but look how common its letters are. Why, it's perfect for crosswords! If only people actually used the word routinely.

JUJUBE! I used to like ripping my molars out by biting down on JUJUBEs (51A: Gelatin candy).

To play us out, here's ARAM Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance," played by the Berlin Philharmonic. I hope it's not too early in your morning for that piece. It's rousing!

Everything else: — 1A: According to design (ASPLANNED). 10A: Attended (WASAT). 15A: Prolong (STRINGOUT). 21A: Short-tailed weasel (ERMINE). 27A: "__ out?" (INOR). 32A: Breakthroughs in therapy, say (EYEOPENERS). 42A: Thin swimmer (EEL). 44A: Speaker in Cooperstown (TRIS). 45A: Bit of treasure (GEM). 46A: Fireworks reactions (OOHS). 48A: What a nyctophobe fears (DARK). 54A: Composer Khachaturian (ARAM). 62A: Crescent shapes (LUNES). 63A: Floating point (WATERLINE). 64A: That point (THERE). 65A: Hematite producers (IRONMINES). 2D: Cubic measure (STERE). 3D: Foreknowledge (PRESCIENCE). 4D: Sass (LIP). 5D: Novelist Seton (ANYA). 7D: Lions or tigers or bears (NOUN). 8D: It replaced the Slovak koruna on 1/1/2009 (EURO). 10D: Eddy (WHIRL). 11D: Pilot (AIRMAN). 14D: Voice mail cue (TONE). 18D: Limo leaders, at times (HEARSES). 23D: Relaxed pace (TROT). 28D: "__ say more?" (NEEDI). 31D: Zoo enclosure (CAGE). 32D: Shogun's capital (EDO). 33D: Bygone days (YORE). 34D: Like much pottery (EARTHEN). 38D: Fall back (LAG). 39D: Tucked in (ABED). 43D: Slatted window opening (LOUVER). 47D: Quite weighty (OBESE). 49D: Meet with the old gang (REUNE). 50D: Joints with caps (KNEES). 51D: Leave abruptly, as a lover (JILT). 52D: "Nope" (UHUH). 53D: Doe to be identified (JANE). 54D: Culture medium (AGAR). 61D: One-third of CDLIII (CLI).


FRIDAY, March 27, 2009 — Spencer Corden

THEME: PRE-fix — in four different theme answers, the prefix "PRE-" is ... prefixed ... to the second word of a familiar two-word phrase, creating a wacky phrase, which is clued "?"-style

Rex Parker here. I'm not used to seeing themes in my Friday puzzle. Over at the NYT, the Friday and Saturday puzzles are almost always themeless, and tough (today's certainly was). This puzzle, by contrast, was themed and comparatively easy, though it was certainly the toughest LAT puzzle of the week so far, and had some genuinely thorny parts. Why it took me only a third of the time that the NYT puzzle took me, I don' t know. The theme on this one took me a while to uncover — I didn't really get it until I was trying to put together "GET UP, PRELATE!" at 47A, where I noticed that the "PRE" part was ridiculous, and then looked back and saw that that was the issue with the earlier two theme answers as well.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Undercover cop? (legal PRE tender) — legal tender = money
  • 25A: Introduction to "SeinLanguage"? (funny PRE face) — "Funny Face" = Audrey Hepburn / Fred Astaire musical
  • 47A: Words to roust an oversleeping ecclesiastic? (get up PRE late) — get up late = ... something you do when you're tired ... not the tightest base phrase in the world
  • 54A: Cannery worker's credo? (born to PRE serve) — "Born to Serve" = yikes ... no idea what this is supposed to refer to. Google image search brings up equal parts worship and bondage / S&M. I thought "Born to Serve" was a famous motto of some sort. Maybe one of you has a clearer idea what the phrase is supposed to evoke.
Crosswordese 101: Again, an array of choices, but I'm going to select YSER (13D: Belgian river). European rivers account for a Lot of high- and low-end crosswordese. YSER is one of the rivers that eventually becomes all but second-nature, especially when you see four letters and clues with "Belgium" or "Flanders" or "North Sea feeder" or "W.W. I fighting." The YSER is very tiny as well-known rivers go: just 48 miles long, originating in the north of France and emptying into the North Sea just below Nieuwpoort, Belgium. It was the site of a W.W. I battle that secured the Belgian coast for the allies, and that, plus its delicious and unusual combination of letters, made it crossworthy (i.e. worthy of inclusion in a crossword ... unlike, say, the MEZEN, which I doubt most of you can find (I certainly can't), and which is a good eight times longer than the YSER.

Late-week puzzles tend to get tougher, and one way they achieve this toughness is by making the clues so vague they could mean many things — e.g. 28D: Outfit, and 29D: Pelt could both be used to clue either nouns or verbs ... and an "outfit" can be a company or group of some sort just as easily as it can be clothing. In this case "outfit" is a verb meaning EQUIP and "pelt" is a noun meaning FUR. Another late-week cluing feature is the deliberate fake-out or DEKE (to borrow a term from hockey), where the clue deliberately misdirects you, leading you to an interpretation that is all wrong. Today, we had the great 5D: A right might cause one (fat lip). Took me a while to figure out what kind of "right" was intended there. Then there's 9D: Domestic class, briefly. Something about that phrase evokes air travel (at least to me) even though I don't think "Domestic" is a class — you've got your first, your business, your coach, etc. Still "domestic" manages to conjure up the general airport milieu pretty well. Only "domestic" in this case refers specifically to one's residence, not one's home country, and the "class" part (the real kicker here) is a class one takes at school: HOME EC. I love the misdirective clue, as well as the way the answer looks in the grid — like one crazy word: HOMEEC! This brings us to another important part of solving: parsing. Sometimes a word you can't believe is a word is actually two words. AANDE (actually 3 wds). BIGD. TWOD. Yesterday, someone thought EDGESIN was one word. Parsing!

I'm a good solver, but nonetheless, nearly every puzzle holds mysteries for me, and this was no exception. I know what a FINN is, but I'd certainly never heard of the "markkaa" until today (25D: One who used to spend markkaa). I took some French and so know what PERDU means, but I've never seen it used to mean 11D: Concealed. Just "lost." I know squat about musical theater, but I knew enough about "AIDA" to put it in despite having zero familiarity with the song in question, 53A: Musical with the song "The Gods Love Nubia." And I've never even heard of this PBS show, "The HIPPY Gourmet" (9A: PBS's "The _____ Gourmet TV Show"). "HIPPY" is spelled "HIPPIE" in today's NYT puzzle clues. Curious.

What else?:
  • 24A: Storytelling slave (Remus) — Uncle Remus. I know *of* him but have no first-hand experiences of his stories. Maybe it's because they were compiled and adapted by a guy who romanticized and defended slavery and plantation life in general. No thanks.
  • 65A: Placekicker Jason (Elam) — it may be years before he makes our "Crosswordese 101" list, so you may as well start remembering him right now. He's not that common, but he Will Come Back. He was a Pro Bowl kicker, a two-time Super Bowl winner with the Broncos, and he is tied with Tom Dempsey for the longest field goal in NFL history (63 yds). He is also the co-author of something called "Monday Night Jihad" — I can't bring myself to read much of it. It's here.
  • 60A: Sulk (mope) — "Sulk" is one of my favorite comics of the past year. Indescribable. An ongoing series by writer/artist Jeffrey Brown. Maybe I like it because the first issue features a "superhero" called "Bighead." Did I mention I have a big head? Literally, if not figuratively? It's true.
  • 61A: '60s quartet member (mama) — could also have been PAPA, I suppose.
  • 58D: Key with four sharps: Abbr. (E Maj) — see, I don't know this stuff, but I know enough to put the "M" in there. It's gonna be some letter A-G, and the "M" and then either "AJ" or "IN."
In case you haven't seen it yet, please enjoy this wonderful clip of Christina Applegate discussing (in part) her crossword obsession on Letterman the other night.

More from me next week (M, F, sometimes W),
PG and Orange will take care of you 'til then,
Rex Parker

Everything Else — 1A: Place for storage (SHED); 5A: Own (up) (FESS); 14A: Pamplona runner (TORO); 15A: __VistA: search engine (ALTA); 16A: Three-layer snacks (OREOS); 17A: Quaff (SWIG); 18A: Pond denizen (TOAD); 19A: Inspector on the telly (MORSE); 23A: Drama award (OBIE); 30A: Campus climbers (IVIES); 31A: Who, in Quebec (QUI); 32A: Babe in the woods (NAIF); 36A: Wyo. neighbor (NEB); 37A: Vue and Aura, in the auto world (SATURNS); 41A: Gp. with Bucks and Bobcats (NBA); 42A: Houston shuttle letters (NASA); 44A: T'ai __ (CHI); 45A: Weakened (WANED); 51A: New drivers, typically (TEENS); 59A: Battery connection (ANODE); 63A: It can pick up a plane (RADAR); 64A: Catalina, e.g. (ISLE); 66A: Sanctify (BLESS); 67A: Roe source (SHAD); 68A: __ vu (DEJA); 1D: Elm et al.: Abbr. (STS); 2D: React to a kneeslapper (HOWL); 3D: Part of a wet quintet (ERIE); 4D: Dad-blasted (DOGGONE); 6D: One skipping church? (ELOPER); 7D: Have the main role (STAR); 8D: "Smooth Operator" singer (SADE); 10D: Triathletes (IRONMEN); 12D: Models (POSES); 21D: Deep chasm (ABYSS); 22D: Bride follower (TRAIN); 26D: Eye layer (UVEA); 27D: His __: big shot (NIBS); 33D: Author Quindlen (ANNA); 34D: "Yeah, right!" (IBET); 35D: Diminish (FADE); 38D: "Don't __ surprised" (ACTSO); 39D: Holy day: Abbr. (THU); 40D: Any ABBA singer (SWEDE); 43D: Meeting plans (AGENDAS); 46D: Protected, as a home (ALARMED); 48D: Walks on stage (ENTERS); 49D: Spanish stewlike dish (PAELLA); 50D: Put on the line (RISKED); 51D: Relating to pitch (TONAL); 52D: Eat away (ERODE); 54D: Zinger (BARB); 55D: Greek letters (PSIS); 56D: Compensate for oversleeping (RUSH); 57D: Low-lying area (VALE); 62D: Org. with an online DoctorFinder (AMA).


THURSDAY, March 26, 2009 — Bonnie L. Gentry

THEME: "Of all the...!" Four familiar phrases begin with a word meaning gall or presumptuousness.

Day Four of this new enterprise and you haven't run for the hills yet. So far I'm having a blast and I really appreciate you all hanging out with us over here! So let's get right to it.

Crosswordese 101: I think I'm gonna have to go with UMA Thurman for today. In a lot of early-week puzzles, an UMA clue will give you her last name making her pretty easy to figure out. Later in the week, it helps to know some of the movies she's been in: "Gattaca," "Kill Bill," "The Avengers," "Dangerous Liaisons," and "Pulp Fiction" are the most popular. I didn't realize until today that she was in "The Producers." It also helps to know that she was married to Ethan Hawke at one time. And you want to be sure you don't get her confused with UTA Hagen, a Tony award–winning actress and acting teacher who is sometimes clued as the author of Respect for Acting or A Challenge for the Actor. Hagen also appeared on the soap opera "One Life to Live" and, at one time, apparently had an affair with Paul Robeson. That doesn't usually come up in the puzzle though.

Theme Answers:
  • 21A: Operational headquarters (nerve center)
  • 26A: Classy office door adornment (brass nameplate)
  • 46A: 2006 political best-seller, with "The" (Audacity of Hope)
  • 52A: Beside one another (cheek by jowl)
Cute theme. I figured it out once I got BRASS and AUDACITY. What I need to remember is that no matter how many times I check the top of an LAT puzzle on a weekday, there will never be a title up there to help me figure out the theme. I don't know why I keep trying that.

Before we get to the rest of the puzzle, I think we're going to have to spend a few moments on 30D: Punish with a fine — MULCT. Seriously? Mulct? Who has ever heard that word? It gets 263,000 Google hits and the first several pages of results consists of dictionary sites. Not a good sign. It means, well ... it means "punish with a fine," so I guess I can't really argue with the clue but ... mulct?? I don't know what else to say.

  • 15A: Decisive refusal (never) — I had the "N" and entered no way, which slowed things down for me quite a bit in this section.
  • 19A: _____ dixit (ipse) — Another Latin phrase to add to your list. I'm sure PuzzleMom will be along shortly to tell us what it means.
  • 38A: Ma for one (cellist) — Yo-Yo Ma. Loved him on "The West Wing."

  • 41A: Rx writers (MDs) — The abbreviation in the clue indicates that the answer will also be an abbreviation. In this case, it could be either MDs or DRs so I waited for the crosses.
  • 44A: "Proud Mary" band, for short (CCR) — Creedence Clearwater Revival. And sometimes they just come right out and tell you the answer will be an abbreviation. Here's another version of this great song.

  • 45A: Pond problem (scum) — Ewwwwww.
  • 51A: Corp. that once owned Hertz and Hilton (UAL) — And the abbreviation in the clue means .... ? The answer will be an abbreviation too. Yes! You're getting the hang of it now! UAL Corporation is an airline holding company that was incorporated as part of a reorganization of United Airlines. The corporation owned Hilton and Hertz for about five years in the 1980s.
  • 63A: Irish Free State successor (Éire) — Ireland was called "The Irish Free State" (or, in Irish, "Saorstát Éireann") until 1937. Since 1937, Ireland has had two "official" languages — English and Irish — so the two official names of the state are Ireland and Éire. Another name for Ireland you want to remember is Erin, which is a common poetic name. If you want to read a little more about this to help cement it in your mind, go here.
  • 64A: Prefix with tasse (demi) — For some reason I can never remember if this word has to do with coffee or bras. ... Oh, I see. Demi is French for half. A demitasse is a small cup used to serve espresso, and a demi bra is a half-cup bra style with wide-set straps. Alrighty then. Mystery solved.
  • 68A: "Roots" Emmy winner (Asner) — Yeah, Ed Asner. Lou Grant. Same guy.
  • 1D: "I Kid You Not" author (Paar) — Jack Paar, the original host of "The Tonight Show." I can Never remember if his name is spelled Paar or Parr and usually wait for crosses. "I kid you not" was a catchphrase of Paar's. Did Johnny Carson use it as well? I think I can hear Carson saying it and I don't believe I've ever even seen Jack Paar.
  • 4D: Little butter? (kid) — Ooh, penalty flag! I just noticed that the word kid is in both a clue and an answer. We're going to need a ruling from Orange. Raise your hand if you initially entered pat for this one. I thought so. Me too. But the question mark indicates that we need to look at these words in a non-obvious way. So, instead of remembering what you put on your toast this morning, you realize that butt can be a verb and think of an animal known for butting. That would be a goat. And a little goat is a ... KID. See how that works?
  • 7D: Tel _____-Yafo (Aviv) — I have no idea what this means. Hold on .... According to Wikipedia, "In April 1949, Tel Aviv and Jaffa were united in the single municipality of Tel Aviv-Yafo...." It's true: you learn something new Every. Single. Day.
  • 12D: _____-majesty (lese) — In French, lèse-majesté. A crime against a sovereign power (such as treason).
  • 24D: Submissions to eds. (MSs) — MS is the abbreviation for manuscript, which is something you might submit to an ed(itor).
  • 28D: "Illmatic" rapper (Nas) — We talked about Ice-T and Dr. Dre a couple days ago. Add Nas to that list. He turns up occasionally and "Illmatic" is the name of his debut album.
  • 38D: Louisiana Territory explorer (Clark) — Showing once again my complete ignorance of American history, I was thinking LaSalle? DeSoto? No idea. It's unfair to put Clark in there without Lewis!
  • 40D: Sellout initials (SRO) — Standing Room Only.
  • 52D: Musical conclusion (coda) — Not sure why, but I love this word.
  • 60D: Jared of "American Psycho" (Leto) — I've seen this guy's name in the puzzle before but don't know who he is, so I went to look for a picture. I think he looks like John Stamos but I'll let you judge for yourself.

  • 63D: It sometimes needs a boost (ego) — A lot of times when you see a clue about a boost, a stroke, or a trip, you should be thinking EGO.
There are a lot of other cool and interesting words in this puzzle, but I just can't get to everything! So don't forget to leave a comment. You know you want to.

Everything Else — 1A: Alp top (PEAK); 5A: Sounding shocked (AGASP); 10A: Looking shocked (PALE); 14A: A8 manufacturer (AUDI); 16A: Double-click, maybe (OPEN); 17A: In need of irrigation (ARID); 18A: Lacking skepticism (NAIVE); 19A: __ dixit (IPSE); 20A: Ocean delicacy (ROE); 25A: Estrangement (RIFT); 33A: Lends a hand (AIDS); 34A: "It's so __!" (YOU); 35A: Make up (for) (ATONE); 37A: Clavell's "__-Pan" (TAI); 42A: 1943 penny metal (STEEL); 50A: __ school (GRAD); 58A: E-mail cackle (LOL); 61A: Masseur's stock (OILS); 62A: Stag (ALONE); 65A: Andes herd animal (LLAMA); 66A: Pesky biter (GNAT); 67A: Part of WNBA: Abbr. (ASSN); 69A: Capital south of Lillehammer (OSLO); 2D: 100 cents (EURO); 3D: Part of "The Sound of Music" farewell song (ADIEUADIEU); 5D: Author Rice (ANNE); 6D: Transmission component (GEAR); 8D: Harsh (SEVERE); 9D: Rain, briefly (PRECIP); 10D: Indicate (POINTAT); 11D: PDA entry (APPT); 13D: Fed. power dept. (ENER); 22D: Key of Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 (EFLAT); 26D: Upside-down sleepers (BATS); 27D: It's twirled in a rodeo (RIATA); 28D: PBS's science guy (NYE); 29D: IM offerer (AOL); 31D: Gin cocktail (TOMCOLLINS); 32D: Become, finally (ENDUP); 36D: Salinger dedicatee (ESME); 39D: Needing salt, perhaps (ICY); 43D: Enters stealthily (EDGESIN); 45D: '50s oldies syllable (SHA); 47D: Secret doctrine (CABALA); 48D: Tennyson works (IDYLLS); 49D: Eye or ear ending (FUL); 53D: Hurries (HIES); 54D: Street liners (ELMS); 55D: Rocker Jett (JOAN); 56D: "My treat" (ONME); 57D: Deterioration (WEAR); 59D: Like the Sabin vaccine (ORAL).