THURSDAY, April 30, 2009 — Dan Naddor

Theme: Eight Is Enough — Add the letters ate to the last word of each of eight (eight!) theme answers to create a new word, the beginning of which is spelled differently than the original word, if that makes any sense. It's complicated is what I'm saying.

Crosswordese 101: There are two three-letter sports figures you need to know and one of theme appears in today's puzzle at 30D: Slugger Mel OTT. If you don't know much (or anything) about sports, I'm sorry to tell you that the other one you need to know is hockey legend Bobby ORR. Amazingly similar, right? Well, the names are, but the guys aren't. Mel OTT was a right fielder for the New York Giants from 1926 to 1947. He batted left and threw right. He was the first National League player to hit more than 500 home runs. For crossword solving purposes, you also need to know a few more things about him: (1) he is a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York; (2) he was born in Louisiana, (3) he was sometimes called "Master Melvin," and (4) during his career, the stadium the Giants played in was know as "The Polo Grounds." Bobby ORR, on the other hand, is a retired Canadian hockey player, who played virtually all of his career with the Boston Bruins. (He was on the Chicago Black Hawks' roster for the two seasons prior to his retirement, but during that time, he was injured and didn't actually play.) Here's what you need to know about him: (1) his career spanned the 1960s and 1970s; (2) the Bruins played at Boston Garden; (3) he was Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year in 1970; (4) he is a multiple-time winner of three of the NHL's highest awards: the Conn Smythe, Norris, and Art Ross Trophies; and (5) he was a teammate of Phil Esposito. Unfortunately, both of these athletes wore #4, so you can't use that as a rhyme for ORR to help you remember which one he is. Sorry.

Mr. Naddor, we meet again! This is one of those puzzles where the theme didn't help me at all while I was solving, but when I figured it out afterward, I was super impressed. And it wasn't until I started typing this up that I noticed the EIGHT theme answers, which makes it even better. Very ambitious and nicely executed!

Theme answers:
  • 18A: *"Unforgettable" singer (NAT "KING" COLE). Collate.
  • 24A: *Cold War European (WEST GERMAN). Germinate.
  • 31A: *1940s-'60s Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback (Y. A. TITTLE). Tittilate.
  • 40A: *Branch source (TREE TRUNK). Truncate.
  • 42A: *Florida city near Fort Myers (CAPE CORAL). Correlate.
  • 48A: *House speaker before Newt Gingrich (TOM FOLEY). Foliate.
  • 58A: *Covered with black dots (FLY-SPECKED). Spectate. (Is this a word?)
  • 67A: *1976 Olympic decathlon champ (BRUCE JENNER). Generate.
  • 73A: Word that homophonically forms a familiar word when attached to the end of the answer to each starred clue (ATE).
I'm pretty sure I spelled all of those words right. If not, no doubt someone will let me know in the comments.

Stuff that threw me off:
  • 14A: Rock band with a fishy name (EELS). Never heard of them, but I heard from a very reliable source that one of their songs is featured in "Wordplay":

  • 63A: Bridge call (I PASS). For 55D, [1970 Poitier title role], I originally had Tubbs instead of TIBBS — which is pretty hilarious now that I think about it —but it really messed me up on the bridge thing. Try parsing upass and let me know how that works for you.
  • 75A: "Shoot!" (ASK). Wanted drat or dang or something along those lines.
  • 4D: Deadpan Stein (BEN). I know this guy. Loved his game show. Don't agree with his politics, but think, in general, he's hilarious. Could. Not. Remember. His. Name. Man, it sucks getting old.
  • 5D: Assayer's substance (REAGENT). Is this something science-y? Because I don't know any science-y stuff.
  • 11D: Enter again (RELOG). Wanted re-key.
  • 69D: Seoul soldier (ROK). ROK stands for Republic of Korea. Does anyone know (or care) why it's also a word for a soldier?
Most colorful answers:
  • 1D: "Batman" blow (KAPOW).
  • 9D: Snake oil salesman (HUCKSTER).
  • 36D: Dash (RUN LIKE MAD).
  • 20A: Fit for drafting (ONE-A). For the Selective Service System, Class 1-A means "Available for unrestricted military service."
  • 39A: G.I. food in a plastic pouch (MRE). Covered in a previous Crosswordese 101 lesson.
  • 55A: Vegan's purchase (TOFU). As far as crossword puzzles are concerned, the only thing vegans eat is tofu.
  • 70A: Soft shoe, briefly (MOC). Short for moccasin.
  • 72A: Houston pro, to fans ('STRO). Can someone please confirm that this abomination is actually used by fans of the team. To me it sounds like when people say 'za for pizza. It's just ... not right.
  • 6D: Union station? (ALTAR). A place where a union (i.e., wedding) takes place.
  • 15D: 1% alternative (SKIM). Milk!
  • 19D: Like some highlighted text: Abbr. (ITAL). This is a great clue for italic and here's why. It's true. Once you've italicized some text, that's all you need to do! It's highlighted! You don't need to, say, underline it once it's italicized. In fact, if you do, it's just wrong. See how wrong that looks? jeff in chicago, are you here? You'll back me up on this, right?
  • 21D: Paris possessive (À TOI). French!
  • 31D: Song spelled with arm motions (YMCA).
  • 32D: Composer Khachaturian (ARAM). I always remember this because two years ago I was working on a family history and found that I have a distant relative named Aram. Shortly thereafter, I saw this clue/answer pair in a puzzle and it's stuck with me ever since. How you will remember this guy? I have no idea.
  • 34D: Q.E.D. part (ERAT). Latin!
  • 53D: M.'s counterpart (MLLE.). More French! M. is Monsieur; Mlle. is Mademoiselle.
See ya in the comments!

Everything Else — 1A: Supplies case (KIT); 4A: Grille cover (BRA); 7A: African hot spot (SAHARA); 13A: Santa __ winds (ANA); 16A: One that got away (ELUDER); 17A: LPGA star Se Ri __ (PAK); 22A: Pace (GAIT); 23A: Goodyear's home (AKRON); 27A: Nintendo rival (SEGA); 28A: Any day now (SOON); 29A: Spoils (LOOT); 35A: Den music setup (STEREO); 46A: Reno-to-Boise dir. (NNE); 47A: Heineken brand (AMSTEL); 52A: Wander (ROAM); 54A: Gaseous: Pref. (AERI); 65A: Spring (LEAP); 66A: Formal intro? (SEMI); 71A: Fruit in a split (BANANA); 74A: Crude cabin (SHANTY); 76A: "L.A. Law" actress (DEY); 2D: Cockamamie (INANE); 3D: Initiates action (TAKESSTEPS); 7D: McCain, e.g.: Abbr. (SEN); 8D: Pond organism (ALGA); 10D: Really dig (ADORE); 12D: Where the action is (ARENA); 25D: Received (GOT); 26D: Wine bouquet (NOSE); 33D: USPS delivery (LTR); 37D: Feminine suffix (ENNE); 38D: __-dokey (OKEY); 41D: "Xanadu" rock gp. (ELO); 43D: Ancient Italian (ETRUSCAN); 44D: Corporate VIP (CEO); 45D: Norway's patron (OLAF); 49D: Rand McNally staff (MAPPERS); 50D: Co-pay, for instance (FEE); 51D: Tolkien henchmen (ORCS); 56D: Talk show giant (OPRAH); 57D: Flora's partner (FAUNA); 59D: Hankerings (YENS); 60D: Red suit wearer (SANTA); 61D: Ham it up (EMOTE); 62D: Uncertain (DICEY); 64D: Transmitted (SENT); 68D: Crow family bird (JAY).


Report from the Crosswords Los Angeles Tournament

Last weekend, the very first Crosswords Los Angeles Tournament was held at Loyola Marymount University. Sounds like everybody had an awesome time (as you would expect). Our undercover spy, Andrea Carla Michaels, was on the ground and brings us the following report of the event:

OK, I waited a bit to write up what happened in Los Angeles because I confused it with Las Vegas, and I thought what happens in Lalaland stays in Lalaland. But if Rex says write, I write! But I also wanted to wait till there would be fewer spoilers and you could relate to the puzzles we had to solve. And you could sympathize with writing DUMB as a post, instead of DEAF, etc.

SO I flew down to L.A., mostly to see my grandmother (Maidie will be 97 end of next month but I can't be there on Memorial Day, so I just told her that it was almost June, we celebrated and no one was the wiser…).

Drove to non-UCAL-Loyola Marymount. Gave myself an extra hour to get lost, hit traffic, schmooze beforehand … and glad I did. Got there extremely early, but not before Swedish-sounding Doug Peterson. He personified what these "competitions" are like in that they don't feel like competitions … and I don't think I'm just saying that because my name is not Eric and I don't have a chance to win! Doug warmly greeted me. (He finished JUST outside the finals and even set them up. The hardest working solver there … I think he shared his thoughts on Amy's blog and is Brian and Ryan's special correspondent if you want to check out his take.)

Throughout the day, I also got to meet fellow constructors whom I only knew by byline: John Farmer, Susan Gelfand (who was a volunteer), Alan Olschwang, Alex Boisvert (gorgeous, like a cross between Topher Grace for you young folks and Ron Livingston, the guy that broke up with Carrie on a post-it and who was in "Office Space") and Todd Gross who just got his first puzzle accepted for the L.A. Times. There was also a super-cute childhood friend of Peter Not-for-me Gordon. (I honestly don't know if there were other crossword blog commenters there, but I've just noticed on the results page actor Dennis Boutsikaris, whose father reads Rex religiously and has written to me privately. I wish I had realized that and would have sought him out.)

There was a huge showing of NPLers (National Puzzle Leaguers, not known as Nipples, but really, these bad acronyms have GOT to stop!). They all knew each other from many puzzle gatherings, northern tournaments, etc. and made quite the plea to join. One of their group, John Suarez, led a huge, fun, group game while folks were waiting for the final results.

Here's the thing … Elissa Grossman was amazing. Funny, smart, self-deprecating and she managed to keep things running PLUS gave us lunch! These mini-tourneys are great. The three or four I've taken part in have all been for fantastic charities involving literacy, libraries, kids, etc. Somehow she managed to only charge $25 (that went to a terrific cause) and yet every competitor got a Dell book, an unpublished puzzle by Merl Reagle, who had tried to do one of these tourneys in the early '80s (!), laminated name tags, mechanical pencils, and did I mention, a free lunch!?!

Because Elissa is a professor at the business school, the room was donated … so it was in a tiered lecture room, and memories of college came flooding back. It was freaky to feel so much older than the professor. I've gotten used to be older than cops and even doctors, but business school professors … damn!

We got off to a late start since folks signed up at the last moment. All told, there were about 100 folks, 50 in the regular division, 25 in the "Experts" (which was really just anyone who had ever done one of these things), and lots of volunteers. But Elissa kept us apprised, and if she ever decides to become a stand-up, she'll do well. Her students must love her!

The rest of the setup was like the Brooklyn tournament. The puzzles were from this week's New York Times. I bummed halfway through when I realized the first was by Joe Krozel, whose wavelength I've never been on. PLUS I made the rookie error of not checking crosses, and put -INE for "Chlor- suffix" instead of -IDE … making NECI instead of DECI. ☹

The drag is ONE error costs about 200 points once you've subtracted the 150-point bonus for a perfect puzzle, the 20 points less for two wrong words, AND the 25-point penalty for getting something wrong. OUCH! And this was my only error in the entire tournament!

When I'd finish a puzzle, I'd wonder where my row had gone (she put the "Experts" in the last row, making it easier for volunteers to grab our puzzles more easily) but when I'd go out into the hall, there would only be about 10 folks who had finished before me. All named Eric. And yet in the end, that ONE LETTER (damn JoeK) cost me even the top 20.

However, Elissa managed to have prizes for the first 25 folks, so I actually won a book of easy puzzles called "Mocha Mondays" which I had two puzzles IN, yet had no idea had been published, as we are not given residuals nor even a copy of the book when our puzzles are reprinted! But that's another story!

After three rounds and free lunch — did I mention that? (Five different choices! Plus fruit and cookies … Really, how DID she do it?) — there were two more puzzles. It was a little freaky that the puzzles went Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then another Wednesday. I was hoping for a Friday, because then I could maybe make up what I lacked in speed with solving toughies.

The problem (for me) with these competitions is that the first puzzles can be solved by everyone there, so the speed demons are almost uncatchable. I'd like to see a competition of all Wednesday through Saturday puzzles, so speed isn't the main factor. A major determining one, but not the main. That way, I also think we'd see more women. Maybe all named Erica?

After five rounds, there actually was a newcomer Jordan Chodorow who was ahead of the Erics. (For those of you who don't know, Eric Maddy and Eric Levasseur have won all the West Coast tourneys. Both are NPLers and quite amicable guys who seem to be friends. Eric Maddy even won the Sudoku tournament in Morgan Hill as well, so he ain't to be messed with.)

As for the finale, Tyler was there to do the play-by-play, along with this cool, funny, nice guy named Michael Colton who writes for "Sit Down and Shut up" which is on … after … the … SIMPSONS!!!!!!!!! Unfortunately, he had a dinner party he was giving, has a one year old, was getting it all together, so when the tourney ran late, he had to split. He was also in the top ten at that point. Swedish-sounding Doug ran up to me and asked if I could fill in. I was thrilled, and contrary to popular belief, I had neither poisoned Michael, nor broken his leg.

Young Tyler was quite amusing, despite operating on four hours' sleep and with somewhat of a hangover. I have renewed respect for Merl (was it ever lacking?) as the play-by-play happens so fast you can barely say anything about what they are solving … much less be clever and entertaining. I can't say anything about the final, unfortunately, as it hasn't been published yet, but it was a toughie by Elizabeth Gorski. Perfectly constructed, but with an exceedingly difficult twist, which may or may not have involved rebuses, more than that I cannot say, but it wasn't a puzzle suited for a final, necessarily. (See! That's why I've been procrastinating writing anything about the tournament!)

Two friends of mine, Paul Clay and Eric (!) Seale, had driven all the way down from Santa Barbara to hang with me and give it a try (Paul doesn't even do puzzles, but Eric, true to his name, is totally into it and would like to construct). And although Paul finished dead last (ok, ahead of a woman who left after two puzzles!) he personified what the day was like: upbeat, super friendly, fresh, and challenging. He knew no one save me, and yet found everyone super-welcoming and had a blast. I felt very proud to be part of this community.

You can see the results and check out who was there, at crosswordswest.com.

WEDNESDAY, April 29, 2009 — Doug Peterson

THEME: "On the Cutting Board"—four phrases end with words that are are kitchen verbs

Crosswordese 101: Today's featured word-we-don't-use-often is POME (26D: Apple or quince). The sort of fruit that has a smooth skin, a whitish inside, and a core with seeds in the middle is called a POME, and the pear is in this category too. Can you guess what the crossword's most popular variety of POME is? It's gotta be the BOSC pear. Another fruit category, the DRUPE, includes peaches, plums, cherries, and their cousins with a big stone in the middle. DRUPE doesn't show up so often in the crossword, but now you can't say I never told you about it. The SLOE wins the DRUPE category, hands down—you've probably never seen it in the produce section, but you can practically taste it from how often it appears in crosswords.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Shady high roller's advantage (LOADED DICE). Dice your veggies if you like soft little veggies.
  • 28A: Harbors ulterior motives (HAS AN AX TO GRIND). You don't see many five-word answers in the puzzle, do you? What are we grinding in the kitchen? Black pepper? Coffee beans? Maybe my "cutting board" theme description doesn't work so well.
  • 44A: Log holder (FIREPLACE GRATE). Grate some cheese or maybe some lemon zest.
  • 58A: Dojo blow (KARATE CHOP). Chop anything.
Trouble spots: For no discernible reason, I got hung up in a few places. Overall, it still felt like it was no more difficult than the usual Wednesday puzzle, if not a tad easier.
  • 1A: Betting setting (VEGAS). "OTB is only three letters long," I said to myself. "What's five letters? The DERBY for horse racing?" VEGAS seems utterly obvious and yet I was blanking on it.
  • 14A: "Get __!": "Relax!" (A GRIP). This one's right under VEGAS. I had prepositions on the brain. "Get on something? Get on tranquilizers?" I think the unusual phrase in quotes/colon/phrase in quotes clue structure threw me off.
  • 10D: Capital of Lorraine (METZ). I tried MERZ first, thinking of Chicago's old German Merz Apothecary. METZ has got a lot of nerve being a French town with a German-sounding name, if you ask me. (Equally annoying: Scottish-sounding Dunkirk is also in France.) METZ is one of those place names I learned from crosswords and have had no use for anywhere else.
Favorite answers and clues: Doug Peterson has a knack for filling a grid with lively language, and I like his cluing.
  • 6A: Oratory with lots of arm-waving (RANT). Dennis Miller should wave his arms more.
  • 22A: Garden hose feature (NOZZLE). Double-Z Scrabbly action!
  • 51A: Resealable bag brand (ZIPLOC). Another Z. It pops in the grid, doesn't it?
  • THOSE is a fairly lifeless word, but the clue jump-starts it: 63A: "__ who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it": Santayana.

  • 3D: Goes for, as straws? (GRASPS AT). Not sure why there's a question mark here. Perhaps because "grasping at straws" is a figurative expression...but then, it's not as if "go for straws" is a familiar literal expression.
  • 5D: Explore caves (SPELUNK). Kerplunk!
  • 6D: Team that ended a "curse" in 2004 (RED SOX). This one's for Rex. My Cubs are still waiting for the curse of the billy goat to be lifted.
  • 35D: Emptied one's bags (UNPACKED). This reminds me of a series of Language Log posts on the topic of the phrase "still unpacked" meaning "still un-unpacked."
  • 44D: Minor failing (FOIBLE). The word just plain sounds funny.
  • 45D: Not out-of-bounds, as a ball (IN PLAY).
  • 53D: Panama border? (BRIM). As in a Panama hat with a BRIM.
Everything Else — 10A: Sloop pole (MAST); 15A: Hamburg's river (ELBE); 16A: Award for a soap (EMMY); 19A: Manx cat's lack (TAIL); 20A: Hanging-hook shape (ESS); 21A: After all? (LAST); 24A: Disney pooch (PLUTO); 26A: Islamabad's land: Abbr. (PAK); 27A: Above, in odes (OER); 32A: By surprise (ABACK); 33A: "That is to say ..." (IMEAN); 34A: Himalayan mystery (YETI); 35A: Dark earth pigment (UMBER); 37A: Programming language with a coffee-cup logo (JAVA); 41A: Ho-hum state (ENNUI); 43A: Ear-related (AURAL); 48A: It has a charge (ION); 49A: Space shuttle astronaut Jemison (MAE); 50A: Seller of TV time, e.g. (ADREP); 53A: Cheese with an edible rind (BRIE); 54A: Revelation reaction (AHA); 57A: Qualified (ABLE); 61A: Actor Arkin (ALAN); 62A: Leave the premises (EXIT); 64A: Florida attraction (KEYS); 65A: D.C. party (DEMS); 66A: Caravan stops (OASES); 1D: Depression between hills (VALE); 2D: Bigheads have big ones (EGOS); 4D: Lend a hand (AID); 7D: Hit the ground (ALIT); 8D: Home of "The Office" (NBC); 9D: Fake ID user, often (TEENAGER); 11D: E-tail giant (AMAZON); 12D: Beamed (SMILED); 13D: "Breathing Lessons" Pulitzer winner Anne (TYLER); 18D: Info to crunch (DATA); 23D: Creole vegetable (OKRA); 25D: More doilylike (LACIER); 28D: Farmer's stack (HAY); 29D: Face on a fin (ABE); 30D: Fibula neighbor (TIBIA); 31D: Hurt (INJURE); 36D: Stubborn critter (MULE); 38D: Wyoming tribe members (ARAPAHOS); 39D: Winery container (VAT); 40D: Tapped beverage (ALE); 42D: Pixar fish (NEMO); 43D: Go along with (AGREETO); 46D: Gem weight units (CARATS); 47D: Rework, as an article (EDIT); 48D: "The Compleat Angler" author Walton (IZAAK); 52D: Zoom, for one (LENS); 55D: Stockings (HOSE); 56D: Long-armed critters (APES); 59D: Dismiss (AXE); 60D: "__-ching!" (CHA).


TUESDAY, April 28, 2009 — Joy C. Frank

Theme: Animal Actions — Theme answers are phrases that follow the pattern [verb] + the + [animal name].

Crosswordese 101: When solving crossword puzzles it helps to know various types of fish and words related to fish. Today we're going to concentrate on ROE (13D: Fish eggs). The problem I have is that I'm never sure if the three-letter egg answer is supposed to be ROE or OVA. A quick look through past clues for both of these words helps a lot. Sometimes ROE is clued as a legal pseudonym (either in general, or specifically with reference to Roe v. Wade). But if the clue is going for eggs, it will almost always hint at (or state outright) the "fish/food" part by including words such as shad, salmon, seafood, or delicacy. If they're feeling super tricky that day, the clue will be something like [Preschooler?], meaning a future fish. OVA on the other hand, will either be clued simply as [Eggs] or will strongly nudge you in the direction of science/reproduction by includes words such as lab, gamete, cells, or fertilization. So now you know.

Ya know how sometimes you're solving a puzzle and seem to be right on the constructor's wavelength? The answers come to you seemingly without any thought? Clues that you absolutely know are going to trip people up are crystal clear to you? The whole solving experience just feels smooth and effortless and you feel at one with the universe? Yeah, that didn't happen to me today. I'm sure this is a lovely puzzle, but it was just not doing it for me. Clue/answer pairs seemed awkward to me at best and flat-out wrong at worst. Some old-timey names that I absolutely know just wouldn't come without crosses. It just felt like much more of a struggle than I'm accustomed to on a Tuesday.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Talk aimlessly (SHOOT THE BULL). I bet this answer would be different in a Brendan Emmett Quigley puzzle.
  • 31A: Blame someone else (PASS THE BUCK). So at this point I'm thinking the animals in the theme answers are all going to be male.
  • 41A: Dress to impress (PUT ON THE DOG). This is an awesome phrase.
  • 55A: Pass its peak, slangily, as a TV series (JUMP THE SHARK). To me, this entry saved the puzzle even though I'm not crazy about the clue. (Slangily? Why aren't the other theme answers clued the same way?).
  • 5A: Imogene of comedy (COCA). There's only this one Imogene, right? It took me waaaay too long to come up with her last name.
  • 15A: Made fun of, in a way (APED). Ape is usually clued with reference to copying. I'd never thought of it as a particularly pejorative act, but I guess I can see how you could get there.
  • 18A: Composer Édouard (LALO). Remember this guy.
  • 19A: In-your-face challenge (SUE ME). In my head, it's "So sue me."
  • 24A: Opposite of "All rise" (BE SEATED). I'd like to know if this conjured a courtroom or a wedding for you. Courtroom here.
  • 38A: Traveler's choice (AIR). This is one of those awkward ones. I think the answer is too vague for the clue. On the other hand, it's possible I have no idea what I'm talking about.
  • 47A: Chimney sweep's sweepings (SOOT). Did you know it's good luck to shake hands with a chimney sweep?
  • 66A: Where Homer drinks Duff Beer (MOE'S). Today's predictable "Simpsons" reference.
  • 67A: Insect repellent ingredient (DEET). I like how this crosses 54D: Shooting contest with traps (SKEET).
  • 2D: Supple (LITHE). Supple sounds like a dirty word to me.
  • 3D: What the game is, to Holmes (AFOOT). This one is going in the awkward category.
  • 4D: One hiring relatives (NEPOTIST). It seems kind of silly to complain about an answer that came to me immediately, but I'm afraid I entered this answer under protest. It's just ugly.
  • 6D: Colorful fish (OPAH). Initially entered beta. That's a fish, right?
  • 9D: Dangerous pipe problem (GAS LEAK). Um, I think that's more than just a "pipe problem."
  • 21D: It's pitched by campers (TENT). Why the plural in the clue?
  • 22D: "Semper fi" military org. (USMC). United States Marine Corp. Hoo-rah!
  • 27D: Rapper's cap (DO-RAG). Wanted Kangol. Are Kangol's still around? ... Yep. According to Wikipedia, Jay Leno's bandleader, Kevin Eubanks, wears one almost every night. Kickin' it old skool!
  • 39D: Adjust for daylight-saving time (SET AHEAD). Wanted spring ahead.
  • 41D: Pleasingly pungent (PIQUANT). Okay, that's an awesome word. I cooked with capers tonight for the first time ever. And piquant is exactly the word I would use to describe them.
  • 43D: Bullfighters (TOREROS). Wanted toredors.
  • 49D: English Derby site (EPSOM). Epsom/Essex? Epsom/Essex? It's gotta be one of those, but I don't know the difference.
  • 50D: Dictator's aide (STENO). Dictator in this case means "one who dictates." A STENO(grapher) is "one who transcribes."
Hope you guys enjoyed this more than I did. See you back here Thursday.

Everything Else — 1A: Family group (CLAN); 9A: Succeed (GOFAR); 14A: Widespread (RIFE); 16A: Prefix meaning "vinegar" (ACETO); 17A: Where the steeple is, vis-à-vis the church (ATOP); 23A: Parlor piece (SETTEE); 28A: Snowfall unit (INCH); 30A: Ex-quarterback Dan (MARINO); 36A: Debussy's sea (MER); 37A: MD's calendar listing (APPT); 39A: Fluids in shots (SERA); 40A: Brazilian port (RIO); 45A: Space along the page border (MARGIN); 48A: Old things (ANTIQUES); 51A: Looks shocked, e.g. (REACTS); 57A: Margaret Mead subject (SAMOA); 60A: Burn a bit (SEAR); 61A: Buffalo's lake (ERIE); 62A: Sci-fi staple (ALIEN); 63A: Aware of (ONTO); 64A: Pre-deal payment (ANTE); 65A: Rising agent (YEAST); 1D: Boorish (CRASS); 5D: Pasadena science institute, familiarly (CALTECH); 7D: Fanzine focus (CELEB); 8D: Hacienda brick (ADOBE); 10D: Of the eye (OCULAR); 11D: Lawyer's charge (FEE); 12D: Place to get bucks fast, briefly (ATM); 25D: Like Olympic races (TIMED); 26D: Año starter (ENERO); 29D: Oven output (HEAT); 31D: Italian city known for its cheese (PARMA); 32D: Like beehives (APIAN); 33D: Baseball or golf (SPORT); 34D: Much of an obit (BIO); 35D: Java holders (URNS); 42D: E pluribus __ (UNUM); 44D: Cultivation tools (HOES); 46D: Military action toys (GI JOES); 52D: Mexican meat (CARNE); 53D: Clichéd (TRITE); 56D: Despise (HATE); 57D: "By the way ..." (SAY); 58D: Stein filler (ALE); 59D: Actress Farrow (MIA).


MONDAY, April 27, 2009 — Pancho Harrison

THEME: Heavy Hitter — four theme answers all end with synonym for "HITTER"

Hey everyone, welcome to another beautiful week of LAT crosswords. Let's get things started today with yet another offering from Pancho Harrison. He's prolific, and I generally find his early-to-mid-week puzzles quite smooth and entertaining. This one was no exception — in fact, it's one of my favorite easy puzzles of the year thanks to a highly original, highly colloquial theme. WHACKER PUNCHER SMACKER BOPPER. What's not to love? I love the crossing words at the center of the puzzle, because they indicate that this is the puzzle WHERE you BLEED. Please note the fill in this puzzle. When I talk about smooth, solid fill, this is what I'm talking about. Not a ton of crosswordese (there's always some), few abbreviations, few partials. Just solid words and phrases, everywhere you look. Nice mid-range fill in I'M HOME (22A: Words after "Hi, honey!") and MUPPET (51A: Fozzie Bear, e.g.) and BOOT HILL (28A: Gunfighters' graveyard) and RYE BREAD (43A: Corned beef is usually ordered on it). Love that BOOT HILL crosses the equally western BUSH WHACKER. An all-around solid puzzle.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: One who's at home on the range (COW PUNCHER)
  • 10D: Oater villain who attacks from hiding (BUSH WHACKER)
  • 25D: Girl idolizing a pop star, perhaps (TEENY BOPPER)
  • 57A: Noisy eater (LIP SMACKER)
Crosswordese 101: ERTE (13D: Art Deco designer) — Best known for his picture "Symphony in Black" (which hangs on my optometrist's office wall), this guy's name is All Over crosswords. Wikipedia tells me that he was born Romain de Tirtoff (November 23, 1892April 21, 1990) and that he was "a Russian-born French artist and designer" who took the pseudonym Erté from "the French pronunciation of his initials, R.T." I occasionally get him confused with another four-letter creative type with a certain amount of crossword cred: José Luis SERT, a Spanish-born architect and artist. With three sequential letters in common, you can understand my confusion.

What else?
  • 1A: Big name in copiers (MITA) — Didn't come to me right away. RICOH got into my head and wouldn't leave. Some people don't like brand names in their puzzles. I do not understand that position at all.
  • 15A: Gaucho's rope (RIATA) — Sometimes REATA.
  • 21A: Transvaal settler (BOER) — Northern South Africa.
  • 26A: Crock-Pot potful (STEW) — Considered some kind of beans, but then went with the more obvious STEW.
  • 40A: 1960s Cosby/Culp espionage series ("I SPY") — Knew this instantly, probably from doing so many crosswords. I was not yet born when this was on the air.
  • 41A: Roger of "Cheers" (REES) — About as obscure a proper noun as you want on a Monday.
  • 42D: Do axels and lutzes (SKATE) — Those are kinds of jumps.

  • 62A: Queen played by Liz (CLEO) — The "Liz" in the clue tells you the answer is a shortened form.
  • 1D: Coffee-chocolate mix (MOCHA) — Coincidentally, just before I sat down to do this puzzle, our shipment of 20 different chocolate / coffee products arrived from Costa Rica. I'm digging in as soon as I'm done with this write-up.
  • 7D: Bert of "The Wizard of Oz" (LAHR) — Did you remember the spelling? You were told there would be a test...
  • 18D: Horseshoe-shaped hardware (U-BOLT) — Cousin of the T-NUT and the I-BEAM.
  • 30D: Fabric fuzz (lint) — I just like the clue. Makes it sound as if the answer could be "FASHION POLICE."
  • 50D: Deck with a Death card (TAROT) — Amazing how common this word is, grid-wise.
That's all for me. See you Friday.


Everything Else — 1A: Big name in copiers (MITA); 5A: Improvise on stage (ADLIB); 10A: Yawn-inducing speaker (BORE); 14A: "You want the light __ off?" (ONOR); 15A: Gaucho's rope (RIATA); 16A: Manipulative sort (USER); 17A: One who's at home on the range (COWPUNCHER); 19A: Venetian blind part (SLAT); 20A: Make haste (HIE); 21A: Transvaal settler (BOER); 22A: Words after "Hi, honey!" (IMHOME); 24A: Counting everything (ALLTOLD); 26A: Crock-Pot potful (STEW); 27A: Antiquity, once (ELD); 28A: Gunfighters' graveyard (BOOTHILL); 32A: Boneless cut (FILET); 35A: Jean Auel's "The __ of the Cave Bear" (CLAN); 36A: 1998 Sarah McLachlan hit (ADIA); 37A: Boatloads (ATON); 38A: In what place (WHERE); 39A: Penny (CENT); 40A: 1960s Cosby/Culp espionage series (ISPY); 41A: Roger of "Cheers" (REES); 42A: Do axels and lutzes (SKATE); 43A: Corned beef is usually ordered on it (RYEBREAD); 45A: Payable (DUE); 46A: Throw out of office (OUST); 47A: Take back, as a public statement (RETRACT); 51A: Fozzie Bear, e.g. (MUPPET); 54A: Litigant (SUER); 55A: Org. that sticks to its guns? (NRA); 56A: At the peak of (ATOP); 57A: Noisy eater (LIPSMACKER); 60A: Doily material (LACE); 61A: Clear the chalkboard (ERASE); 62A: Queen played by Liz (CLEO); 63A: Norse thunder god (THOR); 64A: Patch the lawn, in a way (RESOD); 65A: Labor Day mo. (SEPT); 1D: Coffee-chocolate mix (MOCHA); 2D: How some tuna is packed (INOIL); 3D: Beach drier (TOWEL); 4D: Dada pioneer Jean (ARP); 5D: Governor Schwarzenegger (ARNOLD); 6D: Cut into cubes (DICED); 7D: Bert of "The Wizard of Oz" (LAHR); 8D: Suffix with Canaan (ITE); 9D: Voice between bass and tenor (BARITONE); 10D: Oater villain who attacks from hiding (BUSHWHACKER); 11D: Norway's capital (OSLO); 12D: Paper quantity (REAM); 13D: Art Deco designer (ERTE); 18D: Horseshoe-shaped hardware (UBOLT); 23D: "Have we __?" (MET); 25D: Girl idolizing a pop star, perhaps (TEENYBOPPER); 26D: Uses a hang glider (SOARS); 28D: Run, as colors in the wash (BLEED); 29D: Thought (IDEA); 30D: Fabric fuzz (LINT); 31D: Not punctual (LATE); 32D: Light-skinned (FAIR); 33D: __-bitsy (ITSY); 34D: Easy gait (LOPE); 35D: Use crib notes (CHEAT); 38D: Andre the Giant, e.g. (WRESTLER); 42D: Kama __ (SUTRA); 44D: Regret (RUE); 45D: Considered (DEEMED); 47D: Rene of "Tin Cup" (RUSSO); 48D: Bracelet site (ANKLE); 49D: Advance slowly (CREEP); 50D: Deck with a Death card (TAROT); 51D: Ice cream drink (MALT); 52D: Great Salt Lake state (UTAH); 53D: Somewhat, in music (POCO); 54D: Sauna sites (SPAS); 58D: Rage (IRE); 59D: IV amounts (CCS).


SUNDAY, April 26, 2009 (calendar puzzle) — Sylvia Bursztyn

THEME: "Odd Lot" — Theme answers are phrases that include a word for an odd number. The numbers progress from ONE to FIFTEEN.

Theme answers:
  • 22A: Spears hit ("BABY ONE MORE TIME"). I'm not going to include a clip of this. You're welcome.
  • 33A: Nursery rhyme group (FIDDLERS THREE).
  • 52A: Declaration of Independence drafters (COMMITTEE OF FIVE). I'm betting most of you can name two, possibly three of the five. I had to look them up.
  • 71A: Defendants of the 1960s (THE CHICAGO SEVEN). No doubt to the deep embarrassment of PuzzleMom, I only know one of these guys for sure. Yikes!
  • 90A: A "Star Trek" (DEEP SPACE NINE).
  • 104A: "Spinal Tap" phrase (THESE GO TO ELEVEN).
  • 2D: Sequel of 2007 (OCEAN'S THIRTEEN). Love this movie.
  • 47D: Time associated with Warhol (FIFTEEN MINUTES).

Not going to take a lot of time today because it's already late and I've got to get PuzzleDaughter to her soccer game. I didn't love this puzzle while I was solving it. It felt kind of like a Beach Book, ya know? Not something you would normally read, but perfectly acceptable to take along to the beach. I guess today I think of Sylvia Bursztyn as the Janet Evanovich of crossword puzzles. And that's not an entirely bad thing. Once I realized that the numbers progressed from ONE to FIFTEEN, however, I had a greater respect for the puzzle. I mean, that's pretty cool. Okay, you guys can talk about it in the comments if you want. I'll leave you with a musical selection inspired by 113A: Four seasons (YEAR), and see you back here Tuesday.

Everything Else — 1A: Ness or Tay (LOCH); 5A: Peter the reggae great (TOSH); 9A: Ewe's youngster (LAMB); 13A: Space (GAP); 16A: He-mannish (MACHO); 17A: Turkey part (ASIAMINOR); 19A: Sunny? (SOLAR); 21A: Something to lend or bend (ANEAR); 24A: Steps up? (STAIRWAY); 26A: Frets (STEWS); 27A: Swimmers with suckers (OCTOPI); 28A: Turkey female (HEN); 29A: Cash closer (IER); 30A: Rancho hand (PEON); 31A: Bluenose (PURITAN); 32A: Returns addressee (IRS); 37A: CIA forerunner (OSS); 38A: Necessitate (ENTAIL); 40A: George of "CSI" (EADS); 41A: Boosts (HOISTS); 43A: Shade (HUE); 44A: Hypotheticals (IFS); 45A: "You --- Me" (SEND); 46A: Way off (AFAR); 50A: Gramm/McGraw (PHILS); 57A: Lady's man (LORD); 58A: Tilling tool (HOE); 59A: After, in Avignon (APRES); 60A: Bellyached (BEEFED); 61A: Colony member (ANT); 62A: Get into (DON); 63A: Artoo, for one (DROID); 64A: Triumph (WIN); 65A: Blasted stuff (TNT); 66A: Freezes over (ICESUP); 68A: "Broom- ---" (HILDA); 69A: Turned on (LIT); 70A: Queens' --- Park (REGO); 74A: Bo Peep's loss (SHEEP); 75A: Gram lead-in (SONO); 76A: See 102D (OLIN); 77A: Iowa's state tree (OAK); 78A: Score half (TEN); 79A: "That --- my intention" (WASNOT); 82A: Hock (PAWN); 84A: Appeared (SEEMED); 87A: Farm mooer (COW); 93A: "--- Gotta Be Me" (IVE); 94A: Chess champ Karpov (ANATOLY); 96A: Month before Tishri (ELUL); 97A: Zip (NIL); 98A: Bitty bite (NIP); 99A: Bush expedition (SAFARI); 100A: Surprise victory (UPSET); 102A: Leeway (LATITUDE); 107A: Downed (EATEN); 108A: Classifies (SORTS); 109A: Official political policies (PARTYLINE); 110A: Shell out (SPEND); 111A: Mao --- -tung (TSE); 112A: "Take --- Train" (THEA); 114A: Try out (TEST); 1D: Old North Church light (LANTERN); 3D: Indian tea (CHAI); 4D: Appalls (HORRIFIES); 5D: Chaucer inn (TABARD); 6D: Key anthem opening (OSAY); 7D: Short relative? (SIB); 8D: Bumpkin (HAYSEED); 9D: White sale wares (LINENS); 10D: From the top (ANEW); 11D: Mabley of stand-up (MOMS); 12D: One of the Warners? (BRO); 13D: "The Teflon Don" (GOTTI); 14D: Onetime San Francisco mayor (ALIOTO); 15D: Gaucho's grassland (PAMPAS); 16D: Iron on the course (MASHIE); 18D: Outboard and electric (MOTORS); 19D: Classified (SECRET); 20D: Checks (REINS); 23D: Libertines (ROUES); 25D: "The Need for Roots" writer Simone (WEIL); 30D: Proto finish (PLASM); 31D: Joy's partner (PRIDE); 34D: Friday's creator (DEFOE); 35D: Turner Field, familiarly (THETED); 36D: Sharpens (HONES); 39D: "--- Lang Syne" (AULD); 42D: Call at home (SAFE); 44D: Pic to click (ICON); 45D: Fine furrows (STRIAE); 48D: Repay (AVENGE); 49D: Popular pasturage grass (REDTOP); 50D: Braids (PLAITS); 51D: Big chief (HONCHO); 53D: Brando (MARLON); 54D: Popular players (IPODS); 55D: Final notice (OBIT); 56D: Marsh (FEN); 58D: Arizona tribe (HOPI); 62D: "Obviously!" (DUH); 63D: Fingers (DIGITS); 64D: Sly signal (WINK); 67D: Garbage barge (SCOW); 68D: Billy the Dead End Kid (HALOP); 69D: Singer Rimes (LEANN); 70D: Syngman of Korea (RHEE); 72D: Brooklyn's --- Island (CONEY); 73D: Alpha or omega (VOWEL); 74D: Most unemotional (STEELIEST); 80D: Flips over (ADORES); 81D: Baseball boss Bud (SELIG); 82D: In a wan way (PALELY); 83D: With sharpness (ACUTELY); 84D: Tizzy (SNIT); 85D: Manifest (EVIDENT); 86D: Bank (on) (DEPEND); 87D: Play groups (CASTS); 88D: "Cat --- Tin Roof" (ONAHOT); 89D: Crisp cookies (WAFERS); 91D: Bygone Spanish coin (PESETA); 92D: More silly (INANER); 95D: Sample (TASTE); 100D: Four Corners state (UTAH); 101D: Tiny hole (PORE); 102D: With 76A, "Chocolat" costar (LENA); 103D: Wrapper's roll (TAPE); 105D: Elect (OPT); 106D: Tati's life (VIE).

SUNDAY, April 26, 2009 (syndicated puzzle) — Norm Guggenbiller

THEME: Phrases that are "Overheard at the Pub" are slurred drunkenly, turning an SS sound into an SH sound

Crosswordese 101: Hey, look at that! An official member of the old-school crosswordese clan appears in this puzzle—78A: Currency exchange fee (AGIO). You know you're dealing with hard-core crosswordese when the first two dictionary sources you check don't have the word. Time to pull out the ol' Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd Edition to shed some light. The third definition explains the purpose of AGIO: "an allowance given or taken on bills of exchange from other countries, as to balance exchange expenses." It's from an Italian word. You will likely see this word about once a year in the crossword but nowhere else. Two other crosswordese words occupy the same region in my brain. TARE is frequently clued as container weight, and you're using this concept when the supermarket self-checkout asks what sort of container your bananas are in so it can deduct that weight rather than charging you by the pound for a bag. TRET is an old word meaning waste allowance after deduction for tare.

Theme answers:
  • 24A: Nearly matching outfit's problem? (A TOUCH OF CLASH).
  • 47A: Wild zebra party? (STRIPED BASH).
  • 71A: Basket weaving operation? (MESHY BUSINESS). I'm docking this answer one point for having an unchanged SS at the end of BUSINESS. What, the pub denizen sobered up mid-sentence?
  • 94A: Ski house that rustles in the wind? (SWISH CHALET). This could also have been clued with reference to the SWISH of a basketball dropping into the net.
  • 118A: Washington nonsense? (POLITICAL BOSH).
  • 3D: Frenzy over a 1970s-'80s sitcom? (M*A*S*H HYSTERIA). I like this one.
  • 67D: Assertive simians? (BRASH MONKEYS). I had no idea that the phrase "brass monkeys" related to cold weather, cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. Wikipedia tells us that "The term brass monkey would refer to the support arms for the Kelvin spheres which were constructed of brass or other non-magnetic material, monkey being an archaic mechanical term to describe an adjustable support or arm," but in England they like their brass simians too.
Favorite Answers and Clues:
  • 30A: Play-__ (DOH). The cluing options were basically this half-answer or Homer Simpson's "D'oh!"
  • 31A: Sleep lab subject (INSOMNIAC). I know a couple people who struggle with insomnia, and it bites.
  • 34A: Vibrations (TREMORS). Have you seen that movie? It's a B-movie classic! Here, I'll save you some time—just watch the trailer:

  • 98A: Betrays, as a spouse (TWO-TIMES). It's sad when it happens in life, but awesome when the term lands in a crossword grid.
  • 102A: Dominican diamond family name (ALOU). Moises Alou played for the Cubs a few years back. He's related to Felipe and Matty.
  • 108A: Bummed (SCROUNGED). As in bumming a ride or a cigarette, not as in feeling bummed out.
  • 4D: "Airplane!" automatic pilot (OTTO). He was the inflatable guy in the pilot's seat.
  • 5D: Perfection symbol (TEN). I had the T from LAMOTTA right away, but I first went with TEE as the answer, as in "fits me to a tee." Mind you, perfection symbol would be a dreadful clue for TEE. A perfect TEN? Much better. I don't know about you, but often the clues that addled me the most are among my favorites.
  • 8D: Noxious influence (MIASMA). I love this word.
  • 16D: Capital ESE of Kabul (ISLAMABAD). That's in Pakistan. I'm a sucker for long place names showing up in a crossword.
  • 48D: Where to see piggies? (TOOTSIES). Slang for toes and feet.
And now, two things I had absolutely no idea about:
  • 15D: Architectural column base (SOCLE). I don't think this counts as crosswordese because if it did, I'd probably recall having seen it before.
  • 117D: George of the Jungle's pet elephant (SHEP). Really? I know Shep as that blond paramedic Nurse Hathaway dated on ER ages ago. Let me Google that...yeah, Ron Eldard.

Everything Else — 1A: De Niro's "Raging Bull" role (LAMOTTA); 8A: Herodís fortress (MASADA); 14A: "I can't be the only one thinking this" (ISITME); 20A: Hustler's target (AMATEUR); 21A: Emcees' deliveries (INTROS); 22A: "Sorry" (NOSOAP); 23A: 32-Down player (COSTNER); 26A: Repeat (ECHO); 27A: Assimilate (ABSORB); 29A: Name in B-29 lore (ENOLA); 38A: Lock inventor Linus (YALE); 40A: Zany Martha (RAYE); 41A: Popular Apple (IMAC); 43A: Inter __ (ALIA); 44A: Chooses not to accept (PASSESON); 50A: Terrestrial salamanders (EFTS); 51A: Shade of gray (STEEL); 54A: Natl. Pizza Month (OCT); 55A: Tangle (RAVEL); 56A: Petition (PLEAD); 58A: Trinidad partner (TOBAGO); 60A: Muscular (TONED); 63A: Outcast (PARIAH); 65A: Amo, amas, __ (AMAT); 66A: Tonsillitis-treating MDs (ENTS); 67A: Catch (BAG); 70A: Brit. recording giant (EMI); 75A: Play with robots (RUR); 76A: Actor Stephen (REA); 77A: Prefix with -cardium (PERI); 79A: Zippo filler (BUTANE); 81A: Light in the kitchen (PILOT); 82A: Taken for (SEENAS); 85A: Grade school goop (PASTE); 86A: Ice dams may form in them (EAVES); 89A: Ran into (MET); 91A: Full (SATED); 93A: Cleft site (CHIN); 100A: "Fisherman with __": Bazille painting (ANET); 101A: Colonel or captain (RANK); 105A: Sidekick played by Bruce Lee in '60s TV (KATO); 106A: "Romanoff and Juliet" playwright Peter (USTINOV); 111A: Stamp on a bad check (NSF); 114A: Church law (CANON); 116A: Point of maximum Earth-moon separation (APOGEE); 117A: Black & Decker rival (SKIL); 122A: Unlikely protagonist (NONHERO); 125A: Political pundit Myers (DEEDEE); 126A: Web communications protocol (TELNET); 127A: Steak orders (RIBEYES); 128A: "Gunsmoke" star (ARNESS); 129A: Ukrainian port (ODESSA); 130A: Goes by (ELAPSES); 1D: Tied (LACED); 2D: BP merger partner (AMOCO); 6D: Calendar abbr. (TUE); 7D: Rich tapestry (ARRAS); 9D: Shakespeare title lover (ANTONY); 10D: Levels (STORIES); 11D: Caribbean resort island (ARUBA); 12D: Dopey friend? (DOC); 13D: Tennis legend (ASHE); 14D: Like current regulations (INFORCE); 15D: Architectural column base (SOCLE); 17D: __ degree (TOA); 18D: More, to Miguel (MAS); 19D: Bk. after Galatians (EPH); 25D: Ready in the keg (ONTAP); 28D: Brunei's island (BORNEO); 31D: Martinique, e.g. (ILE); 32D: Capone harasser (NESS); 33D: Newspaper no. (CIRC); 35D: Norwegian saint (OLAV); 36D: High ground (RISE); 37D: Comedian Mort (SAHL); 39D: Very, to Vivaldi (ASSAI); 42D: Two-part glove (MITTEN); 44D: Sneeze inducer (PEPPER); 45D: Blazing (AFLAME); 46D: Polo Grounds star (OTT); 49D: Prepare for the prom (DRESSUP); 52D: Modern bazaar (EBAY); 53D: Rake over the coals (LAMBASTE); 57D: Somewhat wet (DAMPISH); 59D: Measuring device (GAUGE); 61D: Small bill (ONE); 62D: Fed. accident investigator (NTSB); 64D: Louse (HEEL); 68D: Mame, to Patrick (AUNTIE); 69D: Links targets (GREENS); 72D: Full house sign (SRO); 73D: One with a take-out order? (HITMAN); 74D: New Rochelle college (IONA); 80D: Implied (TACIT); 81D: Dust gun output (PESTICIDE); 83D: Adjust (ATTUNE); 84D: Do some needling (SEW); 86D: Birthright seller (ESAU); 87D: Botanical bristles (AWNS); 88D: __ Cong (VIET); 90D: Big bucks (ELKS); 92D: Okey-__ (DOKE); 95D: Buds (CRONIES); 96D: Serious disorder (HAVOC); 97D: Atlantic sport fish (TARPONS); 99D: Little bit (TAD); 103D: Unties (LOOSES); 104D: "You __ Know": Alanis Morissette hit (OUGHTA); 107D: The NBA's Archibald et al. (NATES); 109D: Coax, for instance (CABLE); 110D: History or mystery (GENRE); 112D: "Yes __!" (SIREE); 113D: Dentist's advice (FLOSS); 115D: Intl. alliance since 1949 (NATO); 118D: Hi-tech organizer (PDA); 119D: 'Neath opposite (OER); 120D: Quarterback Dawson (LEN); 121D: Set the pace (LED); 123D: "Starry Night," for one (OIL); 124D: Wizards' gp. (NBA).


SATURDAY, April 25, 2009 — Barry C. Silk

THEME: The Saturday puzzle is themeless—the game is decoding tougher clues and figuring out a slew of longer words and phrases

I just learned from crossword blogger Brian Cimmet that a Barry Silk puzzle will contain some sort of baseball reference. Here, there are two. 43A: Speaker of baseball is TRIS, and really, there's no other valid way to clue TRIS, is there? 47D: Infielder's cry is MINE; this grabby word could be clued plenty of other ways, but maybe Barry was just in a baseball frame of mind.

This'll be a short write-up because baseball puts me to sleep. No! Just kidding. This'll be short because a long day puts me to sleep, and it's apparently past my bedtime.

Crosswordese 101: Let's take a look at some old-school crosswordese: ANIL. It's clue is 26A: Shrub of the genus Indigofera. ANIL is where we get indigo from, and where would blue jeans be without indigo dye? If you've heard of ANILINE dye, I believe that's related. Other crosswordese dye you may encounter: AZO dyes are "any dyes whose molecules contain two adjacent nitrogen atoms between carbon atoms"—or, as crossword clues refer to them, "kind of dye" or "nitrogen-based dye].

Favorite Answers and Clues:

  • 1A: Super (WHIZBANG). Terrific word. One might even call it...whizbang.
  • 18A: Turkey appendage (WATTLE). How 'bout that wattle over there? Not even a 95-year-old person can rival that.
  • 31A: Kawasaki watercraft (JETSKI). Barry Silk likes to include uncommon letters, like J and K.
  • 55A: Space science (ROCKETRY). My son is a little into space travel these days.
  • 57A: London-born supermodel (KATE MOSS). I'm a sucker for first/last name combos in the crossword grid.
  • 8D: Two-ton predator (GREAT WHITE SHARK). Ooh, that's a great 15-letter answer there.
  • 32D: Multipurpose roll (DUCT TAPE). Duct tape is good for anything. They say it even cures warts.
  • 42D: Knight who sings (GLADYS). You like her music? Enjoy:

Bullets That Hurt: Among the more out-there answers and clues were these ones:
  • 46A: Yom __: holiday, in Hebrew (TOV). Is this related at all to "Mazel tov"?
  • 54A: Picket fence (PALING).
  • 2D: Hydrocarbon obtained from petroleum (HEXANE). The what now?
  • 3D: Weather phenomenon also known as pogonip (ICEFOG). Pogonip!
  • 4D: Prestone competitor (ZEREX). I don't know what this stuff is,

Everything Else — 9A: Winged mimics (MYNAHS); 15A: Listening device (RECEIVER); 16A: Where to see saucers (TEASET); 17A: Drill (EXERCISE); 19A: Trysting places, perhaps (CAFES); 20A: Sagan's subj. (ASTR); 22A: Sugary ending (OSE); 23A: Presidential middle name (KNOX); 24A: Needing to reorder (OUTOF); 27A: Line part: Abbr. (SEG); 28A: Major artery: Abbr. (EXPWY); 29A: It may be fine (PRINT); 30A: God to more than a billion (ALLAH); 32A: Immigrant's status, perhaps (DUALCITIZENSHIP); 36A: Detach, in a way (UNCLIP); 37A: Yellowish brown (TAWNY); 38A: Honored formally (CITED); 39A: O'Connor of "Xena: Warrior Princess" (RENEE); 40A: Slump (SAG); 44A: German-speaking Swiss city (BASEL); 45A: Manhandle (MAUL); 47A: Course with many functions (MATH); 48A: Dance with a kick (CONGA); 49A: Mate's response (AYESIR); 51A: Declared (ADJUDGED); 56A: Bastille Day party site (ELYSEE); 1D: Totals (WRECKS); 5D: Some pens (BICS); 6D: Prefix with fauna (AVI); 7D: Super __: game console (NES); 9D: Cal. sequence (MTWTF); 10D: Time for a revolution? (YEAR); 11D: Jazzman Adderley (NAT); 12D: Amaze (ASTONISH); 13D: National Museum of Finland site (HELSINKI); 14D: Dart feature (STEELTIP); 21D: Vegan staple (SOY); 24D: Plant in the primrose family (OXLIP); 25D: __ the crack of dawn (UPAT); 26D: Bohemian (ARTSY); 28D: Conqueror of Valencia in 1094 (ELCID); 29D: Trattoria offering (PENNE); 30D: Everything, to Ernst (ALLES); 31D: Valuable rock (JEWEL); 33D: It merged with Goodrich in 1986 (UNIROYAL); 34D: In an energetic way (ACTIVELY); 35D: First name in Western fiction (ZANE); 39D: Turncoat (RAT); 40D: Serenaded (SANGTO); 41D: Boring things (AUGERS); 44D: One might precede a tug (BARGE); 45D: Way to the Web (MODEM); 48D: Salad veggie (CUKE); 50D: Reunion moniker (SIS); 52D: 1988 noir remake (DOA); 53D: Where sts. meet (JCT).


FRIDAY, April 24, 2009 — Robert H. Wolfe

THEME: Wy to go! — Words for various kinds of thoroughfares are abbreviated in otherwise familiar phrases.

I didn't like this one at all. The theme answers were really hard to parse — I had no idea what the theme even was until I was way, way deep into the puzzle, and when I discovered it, it seemed more annoying than clever. I had the entire puzzle done from NW to SE and couldn't make any sense of the theme answers. Finally had Every Single Letter in DR(ive) TO DISTRACTION, and realized that there must be abbreviations for various kinds of roads in the theme answers. The problem: there's nothing ... clever about the answers. No plays on words. Just ... abbreviations. And there's no consistency. Two of the abbrevs. (RD, ST) are used quite literally, one is used literally but inside a metaphorical expression (HWY), one is used purely metaphorically (AVE), and one (DR) is used as a verb when all the others are nouns. Two appear at the beginning of their phrases, three appear at the end. The whole thing feels pointless and messy.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Speed? (burn up the RD)
  • 24A: Average Joe? (man on the ST)
  • 35A: Badly fluster? (DR to distraction)
  • 50A: Excessive charge? (HWY robbery)
  • 57A: Way out? (AVE of escape)
The "?" clues were exceedingly confusing, since there was nothing tricky about the clues. They were absolutely literal. Abbreviation is not a trick — it does not merit a "?". You aren't doing anything clever with the letters in the abbr. They're just ... there. But worse than the theme, for me, was the northern section of the puzzle, which is one of the ugliest (and for me, most difficult to solve) segments I've seen in a while. UNBEND NOU LARCH VINCE ... everything in that sequence is at least mildly unpleasant, but as a bloc — torture. Further, TEAR UP THE RD works just as well as (if not better than) BURN UP THE RD, and so I couldn't get into that section to save my life. Of all the VINCEs in the world, I get some ancient TV actor I've never heard of (7D: Edwards who played Ben Casey)? NO U ... speaks for itself (5D: _____-turn). LARCH is not a common tree to me at all (went with BEECH ... or BIRCH, I forget which) (6D: Tree with durable wood), and UNBEND (4D: Straighten), while not terrible, didn't spring to mind either. Never mind that I've never heard of the Jordin Sparks song "NO AIR" (14A: 2008 Jordin Sparks duet). Not my favorite "American Idol" winner. By a longshot. Where's my Kelly Clarkson clue!?

Crosswordese 101: Yoko ONO — almost as common as Brian ENO, which is almost as common as ELO. ONO (like ENO) did tons of crazy experimental stuff you've never heard of. She was also married to John Lennon. This means that she can be very easy, or she can be very hard, depending on what kind of clue the editor wants to throw at you. I once posted an album cover that featured her and John naked ("Two Virgins"). Caused an idiotic stir that resulted in my blog's getting flagged for "objectionable content." She is usually clued in relation to John, or "Double Fantasy," the 1980 album she and John did together. But then again, sometimes you see clues like ["Hiroshima Sky Is Always Blue" collaborator] (New York Sun, Dec. 28, 2005). Today's clue, 64A: "Walking on Thin Ice" singer, falls under the "obscure" category for me, so I had to wait to see if the first letter was an "O" or an "E" (as ENO's work often sounds at least as loopy as ONO's).

What else?
  • 4A: NCAA Mountain West Conf. team (UNLV) — More problems in the N. I wanted REBS (UNLV is the Running REBS). They were the main rivals of Fresno State, and I saw them play many times when I was growing up. Also entertained UTES up there.
  • 54A: "Power Lunch" airer (CNBC) — Mmm, "airer" ... love the crossword clue jargon.
  • 65A: Colchester's county (ESSEX) — Pure guess that paid off.
  • 10D: "Rob Roy" actor (NEESON) — Hey, I guessed the spelling right. For once.
  • 2D: The doghouse, so to speak (DISFAVOR) — Good, funny clue
  • 28D: Fan-shaped muscle (PEC) — I ... never thought of it that way. Maybe if mine were bigger ...
  • 37D: Billy Blanks's fitness program (TAE BO) — Some day, this will be the featured answer in Crosswordese 101.

  • 52D: Character-building gps. (YMCAS) — ??? I thought this was going to have something to do with character sets, e.g. ASCII.
  • 59D: "Annabel Lee" poet (Poe) — Another hint: if you want to do well at xwords, memorize everything you can about POE. He's $#*!in' everywhere.

See you all next week. PG and Orange have the weekend covered.

~Rex Parker