TUESDAY, June 30, 2009 — Timothy L. Meaker

Theme: "You Gotta Be" — Theme answers start with a homophone of "B"

Theme answers:
  • 20A: February greeting card request (BE MY VALENTINE).
  • 30A: Utah's nickname (BEEHIVE STATE).
  • 39A: "Petticoat Junction" star (BEA BENADERET).
  • 51A: Sue Grafton's second Kinsey Millhone novel ("B" IS FOR BURGLAR).

I like this type of theme for an early-week puzzle. It's simple, but allows for some creativity and when it's done well (like today, where none of the four theme answers start with the same form of B), that's definitely a plus. And yet ... Bea Benaderet? I can't wait to hear how many of you know who she is. I'm hoping it's just that I'm too young to have her in my memory bank and not that she's completely obscure. My gut reaction is that she's obscure. She was offered the role of Ethel Mertz in I Love Lucy, but didn't take it. She was considered for the role of Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies, but she didn't get it. She played the Lisa character in the radio version of Green Acres, but Eva Gabor was cast for the television series. She was the voice of Betty Rubble (not Wilma!) for four of the six years The Flintstones aired. She was definitely hanging around the edges for a number of years but ... is that enough? I'm gonna say "no." But I'm eager to hear your thoughts.

Crosswordese 101: SSTS (62A: Grounded fleet, briefly) are the go-to aircraft for crossword constructors. SST stands for "supersonic transport" and is a passenger aircraft that travels faster than the speed of sound. In other words, it "broke the sound barrier" (don't forget that — those words show up in clues!). Remember the Concorde? It was an SST. And it took its last flight on November 26, 2003. Will that keep it from showing up in the puzzle? With those letters?? Hell No! See, what you do is, you use words like bygone, retired, historic, or former (or today's grounded) in the clue and — problem solved! Otherwise, you just need to know that SSTs flew in and out of JFK International Airport and they crossed the Atlantic. That should be enough information for you to spot an SST clue.

I spent so much time researching Bea Ben-a-what's-her-name that I don't have a whole lot of time for the rest of the puzzle. So....

Quick hits:
  • 1A: Tout's topic (ODDS). According to Merriam-Webster Online, a tout is "one who spies out racing information for betting purposes." Did any of you know that? I sure didn't. And I've been known to place a bet or two on the ponies from time to time. Oh, it's "chiefly British." Maybe that's why I haven't heard it.
  • 17A: Cath. prelate (MSGR.). Totally legitimate, but you have to admit that's an ugly abbreviation for Monsignor. Looks more like messenger.
  • 23A: Baker or Bryant (ANITA). I think I've mentioned this before. Plural proper names, obviously, don't make for ideal fill. If this clue was "Singer Baker, and others" I wouldn't have liked it a bit. But if the two people with the same name are not related at all, it's cool with me. In fact, the more not-related they are the better. So Anita Baker and Anita Bryant? Two thumbs up from PuzzleGirl.
  • 25A: "Mamma Mia!" trio? (EMS). I'm no math major, but I'm pretty sure there are four EMS in "Mamma Mia!" And that four makes a quartet, not a trio. Unless I'm totally missing something here, this is a mistake. If you're new to crossword puzzles, I bet this threw you off. I hope it wasn't too bad for you.
  • 27A: "You __!": "Sure thing!" (BETCHA). A gimme for this Fargo girl, dontcha know.
  • 29A: Four-time Wimbledon champ Rod (LAVER). You know who got this one easily? Me. Oh, and SethG.
  • 54A: First name in daredeviltry (EVEL). Whoa, whoa, whoa — daredeviltry?? That's an awesome, awesome word.
  • 64A: Hang around (STAY). Okay, here's the thing about doing this blog. You have no idea how easy it is to get sucked into YouTube when you're looking for a certain clip. I went looking for a clip from "The Office" that I thought would go with this answer (it was in the "Cafe Disco" episode where Michael is trying to get Kevin to stay at the Cafe Disco and Angela is trying to get him to go back to work) but I ended up spending, like, half an hour looking at other clips from "The Office." I didn't find the one I was looking for, but maybe you'll enjoy this:

  • 22D: In apple-pie order (NEAT). Apple-pie order. I don't know what that means. Well, I guess it means "neat" but I've never heard it before. (More British?)
  • 23D: Palindromic pop group (ABBA). Wait — I have a better clue! "'Mamma Mia!' quartet"!
  • 37D: Bridle strap (REIN). I misread this clue as "Bridal strap" and was trying to think of the word garter. Basically, I'm an idiot is what I'm saying.
Everything Else — 5A: Broad tie (ASCOT); 10A: Left the launch pad (ROSE); 14A: Slightest concern (HOOT); 15A: Juniper fruit (BERRY); 16A: Black, to Byron (EBON); 18A: Come apart (BREAK); 19A: Keycard receiver (SLOT); 26A: Bernese Alps peak (EIGER); 34A: Super Bowl highlights? (ADS); 35A: "Hedda Gabler" dramatist (IBSEN); 36A: Bauxite, to aluminum (ORE); 43A: Unrefined (CRASS); 45A: Tell to enter, as a prospective job applicant (SEND IN); 46A: Kitchen bigwigs (CHEFS); 47A: Braz. neighbor (ARG.); 50A: Sports venue (ARENA); 55A: "Yippee!" ("OH BOY!"); 56A: Leaves (GOES); 59A: Actress Russo (RENE); 60A: Strikeout king Ryan (NOLAN); 61A: Continental currency (EURO); 63A: "Looks __ everything" (AREN'T); 1D: Resistance unit (OHM); 2D: MS-__ (DOS); 3D: Animal control officers' concerns (DOG BITES); 4D: Yawn accompanier, often (STRETCH); 5D: "Dear" columnist (ABBY); 6D: Dish up (SERVE); 7D: Dairy aisle buy (CREAM); 8D: Think-on-your-feet tests (ORALS); 9D: Wee one (TYKE); 10D: Nervous (RESTIVE); 11D: Accommodate (OBLIGE); 12D: At an earlier time (SOONER); 13D: Key in (ENTER); 21D: When doubled, a fish (MAHI); 24D: Requirement (NEED); 28D: Alternatives to Reeboks (AVIAS); 29D: Actress Turner et al. (LANAS); 31D: Tidal action (EBB); 32D: Seattle-to-Reno dir. (SSE); 33D: Common news hour (TEN); 36D: Have pizza delivered, say (ORDER OUT); 38D: Frequent Italian erupter (ETNA); 39D: Perplexes (BAFFLES); 40D: Standard Oil name (ESSO); 41D: Start a new hand (DEAL); 42D: Angers (ENRAGES); 43D: Leek cousins (CHIVES); 44D: React indignantly to (RESENT); 46D: Turnpike "breakers" (CB'ERS); 47D: Despise (ABHOR); 48D: Kirov cash (RUBLE); 49D: Corny joke reaction (GROAN); 52D: Novelist Jaffe (RONA); 53D: 35-Across's "Peer __" (GYNT); 57D: Historical period (ERA); 58D: Salty bean sauce (SOY).


MONDAY, June 29, 2009 — Samantha Wine

THEME: In the Dirt — three theme answers end with phrase "IN THE DUST," "IN THE EARTH," and "IN THE MUD," respectively

I want to be kind, but I have to be honest: I think this is one of the most poorly constructed puzzles I've done all year. The answers FNMA (47A: Low-cost home loan org.) and INNYC (41D: Where MoMA is) are virtually unforgivable in any puzzle, let alone an early-week puzzle. The fact that they intersect is just mud icing on the dirt cake. You can see what happened. The grid is screwed from the get-go, as theme answers immediately force you into an "I---C" situation, and all the decent answers that will fit there give you a terminal "I" or "A" for your 52A answer. Just because you can find an answer in the cruciverb database (INNYC, 2 examples) doesn't mean you should use it. And if you somehow *have* to use a poor bit of fill like that, dear god don't cross it with something nearly equally terrible. FNMA has just 7 examples in the cruciverb database, and the NYT has never used it. Why? Because everyone knows that the abbreviated form of the Federal National Mortgage Association is (wait for it) ... FANNIE MAE. FNMA spells FAIL in this instance. More FAIL — year in Latin is "ANNUS." "ANNUM" is the objective case (32D: Year in old Rome). You need something in the clue to cue that "M," especially when your cross is a terrible abbr. (FNMA) no one uses ever never. The middle of this puzzle is such a disaster that the quality of the rest of the puzzle (middling at best) is almost irrelevant.

Theme answers:
  • 21A: Overtaken and easily surpassed (LEFT IN THE DUST)
  • 38A: Classic novel by Ole Rolvaag ("GIANTS IN THE EARTH") — I'm sorry ... what? You said "classic?" By ... whom? This is a Monday theme answer? Really? On what planet?
  • 56A: Old fogy (STICK IN THE MUD)
I could go on — the clue on BIO LAB (1D: H.S. class with slides) is terrible, in that the "class" H.S. students take is called BIOLOGY. Separate classes called "lab" don't come 'til college. There's a "THE" in the "FBI" answer (3D: J. Edgar Hoover's org.). Why? No one knows. The newest e-bomination to hit the streets is, apparently, the E-LIST (10D: Online mailing tool). I would have clued that [Group below Kathy Griffin?]. It's just yuck everywhere I look. FETISH doesn't even get an exciting clue (37D: Magical object). I would continue to IDEATE (22D: Imagine, ugh) how this puzzle ever got made, let alone published, but I'm just too tired.

Crosswordese 101: IMHO (15A: Chat room "I'm just saying ...") — stands for "In My Humble Opinion," and (in my experience) rarely signifies genuine humility. I was promoting "IMOO" ("In My Obnoxious Opinion") for a while as a more accurate substitute. Do people go to "chat rooms" any more? Where? Seems like such a 90s concept. Abbreviations of this sort are more commonly associated with text messaging and all forms of e-communication. LOL is perhaps the most famous "chat room" abbrev. Look for IMO, OMG, WTF, and ROTFL, all of which have decent currency. Actually, you will likely never see WTF in a mainstream publication. That "F" pretty much kills it.

What else?
  • 16A: "It depends" ("I MAY") — OK, I guess that's one of the many, many things "It depends" might, sort of, mean.
  • 25A: Like a tinkerer's kit, briefly (DIY) — as in "Do It Yourself," but ... what? Is the kit really called a DIY kit? Do you mean a tool set? A tool box? This clue/answer pairing is just a mess.
  • 4D: Country singer Axton (HOYT) — barely there, somewhere, on the margins of my brain. Why?

  • 7D: Sodium hydroxide, to chemists (NAOH) — if it's not NACL, I don't want to see it 'til later in the week.
  • 11D: Volcanic output (MOLTEN LAVA) — this, and its symmetrical counterpart DON'T RUSH ME, I do indeed like. There. I feel better.

Taylor Dayne - Don't Rush Me (Official Music Video)

See you Friday, for better times, I hope.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Relaxing soak (BATH); 5A: Confined, with "up" (PENT); 9A: Send back, as into custody (REMAND); 15A: Chat room "I'm just saying ..." (IMHO); 16A: "It depends" ("I MAY"); 17A: Fled to wed (ELOPED); 18A: Follow orders (OBEY); 19A: Each (A POP); 20A: __ mignons: steaks (FILETS); 21A: Overtaken and easily surpassed (LEFT IN THE DUST); 24A: Wall St. trader (ARB); 25A: Like a tinkerer's kit, briefly (DIY); 26A: Try (ATTEMPT); 30A: Flips of hits (B-SIDES); 32A: Farmland measure (ACRE); 34A: Frosty's button, e.g. (NOSE); 35A: Granola bit (OAT); 36A: "__ if I can help it!" (NOT); 37A: Dental thread (FLOSS); 38A: Classic 1924 novel by Ole Rolvaag (GIANTS IN THE EARTH); 43A: Caffé with hot milk (LATTE); 44A: Cashew, for one (NUT); 45A: "Total Request Live" airer (MTV); 46A: Arabian chief (EMIR); 47A: Low-cost home loan org. (FNMA); 48A: Prejudiced (BIASED); 52A: River mouth area (ESTUARY); 54A: Bro's sib (SIS); 55A: Atmospheric pollution meas. (AQI); 56A: Old fogy (STICK IN THE MUD); 60A: Four pecks (BUSHEL); 63A: Exude (EMIT); 64A: Caesar's 53 (LIII); 65A: Orwell's "__ Farm" (ANIMAL); 66A: Au naturel (NUDE); 67A: José's hand (MANO); 68A: Web surfing tools (MODEMS); 69A: Letters on a phone's "0" button (OPER); 70A: Red sky, to sailors (OMEN); 1D: H.S. class with slides (BIO LAB); 2D: Yellowish-brown colors (AMBERS); 3D: J. Edgar Hoover's org. (THE FBI); 4D: Country singer Axton (HOYT); 5D: Keyboard players (PIANISTS); 6D: Like a useless gas tank (EMPTY); 7D: Sodium hydroxide, to chemists (NAOH); 8D: Work at a keyboard (TYPE); 9D: Disprove (REFUTE); 10D: Online mailing tool (ELIST); 11D: Volcanic output (MOLTEN LAVA); 12D: Swinger in the zoo (APE); 13D: Take-home pay (NET); 14D: Cavity filler's deg. (DDS); 22D: Imagine (IDEATE); 23D: Evil Vader (DARTH); 27D: Heath-covered wasteland (MOOR); 28D: Hissed "Hey!" ("PSST!"); 29D: Pianist John (TESH); 31D: "I'll finish it when I finish it!" ("DON' T RUSH ME!"); 32D: Year in old Rome (ANNUM); 33D: Terra __ (COTTA); 37D: Magical object (FETISH); 38D: Cloud-nine feeling (GLEE); 39D: Pet food brand (IAMS); 40D: Going __: squabbling (AT IT); 41D: Where MoMA is (IN NYC); 42D: Rankle (EMBITTER); 47D: Bells and whistles (FRILLS); 49D: Green eggs and ham promoter (SAM I AM); 50D: Horse (EQUINE); 51D: "Play It As It Lays" author Joan (DIDION); 53D: Top-notch unit (A-TEAM); 54D: Nastily derogatory (SNIDE); 57D: Number-picker's game (KENO); 58D: "Still in bed?" response (I'M UP); 59D: Saint with a fire (ELMO); 60D: Emeril exclamation (BAM); 61D: Juan's one (UNO); 62D: Caesar of comedy (SID).


SUNDAY, June 28, 2009 — David W. Cromer

Theme: "End of the Road" — Theme answers are familiar phrases that begin with a word that can come after the word road in another familiar phrase.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Device using pulleys (BLOCK AND TACKLE) [roadblock]. I thought this phrase had something to do with football.
  • 39A: 1957 novel with the working title "The Strike" (ATLAS SHRUGGED) [road atlas]. Never read it. Never really even thought about reading it. Not sure why.
  • 47A: Plan likely to fail (HOUSE OF CARDS) [roadhouse]. Great clue.
  • 64A: Dance, facetiously (TRIP THE LIGHT FANTASTIC) [road trip]. Was this always a facetious phrase? Or did it start out sincere and become facetious?
  • 83A: Break in (SHOW THE ROPES) [road show].
  • 90A: Though not yet in force, one was adopted by the UN in 1996 (TEST BAN TREATY) [road test].
  • 112A: One who's halfway home? (RUNNER ON SECOND) [roadrunner]. One of the coolest looking birds ever.
Solid theme, well-executed. I guess KILL BILL was too short to include. Or something. Sometimes I get really bogged down with the Sunday puzzle because it's just so darn big, but today was a real methodical solve for me. Just kept plugging away at it steadily and it all pretty much fell together.

Crosswordese 101: Speaking of Sunday puzzles being so big, that means there are generally several solid crosswordese answers, and this puzzle is no exception. It was tough to narrow it down, but I've decided to go with TOR, which is clued today as 40D: Rocky peak. That's gonna be your go-to clue for TOR, but other words you want to watch out for are craggy, pinnacle, hill, and outcropping. Anyone out there ever used this word in conversation? Or heard it used? I sure haven't.

  • 21A: Tide alternative (ALL). Laundry detergent!
  • 26A: Self-conscious question (IS IT ME?). This reminds me of the book by crossword-constructor-and-all-around-hilarious-woman Deb Amlen scheduled to hit the stores in 2010. It's called "It's Not PMS, It's You."
  • 28A: Cuarenta winks? (SIESTA). Cuarenta = 40 in Spanish. And a SIESTA is 40 winks (in Spanish).
  • 35A: Peruvian pack animal (LLAMA). Funny that we also see the DALAI Lama at 56A.
  • 42A: Arid Israeli area (NEGEV). The word NEGEV is from the Hebrew root meaning "dry." This area does have an alternate spelling (NEGEB), which I've seen in a puzzle once (and only once, and the clue did indicate "Var." and, as I recall, I wasn't real happy about it).
  • 45A: Windblown soil (LOESS). Learned it from crosswords. According to Wikipedia, LOESS is "homogeneous, typically nonstratified, porous, friable, slightly coherent, often calcareous, fine-grained, silty, pale yellow or buff, windblown (aeolian) sediment." Whew.
  • 59A: Film involving stage scenes (OATER). An OATER is a Western movie. I think this clue is (cleverly) referring to a stagecoach, which you would see in a Western.
  • 88A: Actress Davis (GEENA). I had Bette at first. That's not the first time I've made that mistake.
  • 104A: Like a good loser? (THIN). As in losing weight.
  • 118A: '70s pinup name (LONI). Oh Loni. I believed you were the only thing standing between Burt and me.
  • 121A: Driver's gadget (TEE). In this case, the driver is one who drives a golf ball.
  • 1D: Possible result of big losses (DEBTS). I don't know. In our house the debts are a result of big shopping sprees.

  • 9D: ASAP relative (STAT). Learned this one from watching "E.R." Does anyone know where it comes from? I'm too lazy to look it up. [HAha! At first I mistyped that sentence to say "I'm too BUSY to look it up."]
  • 10D: Ind. neighbor (PAK.). Raise your hand if you thought this clue referred to Indiana. I sure did. But it's India, whose neighbor is Pakistan. Hey, you know who's from Indiana? That's right. Michael Jackson. I've been listening to him all day just waiting for an excuse to include one of his videos in today's post. So here it is.

  • 30D: City SSE of Islamabad (LAHORE). Rex was re-working a grid one time and switched something out and put in LAHORE. I sent him an email that said, and I quote, "Haha! WTF is Lahore??" To which he replied, "It's only a city of about a zillion people (7 million) in Pakistan." (Pakistan!) So now you know.
  • 34D: Signaled from across the room, say (WAVED AT). I thought winked at but it wouldn't fit. I guess I was trying to signal something a little different than what David had in mind.
  • 53D: Suit basis (TORT). A tort is a wrongful act that can be the basis for a lawsuit.
  • 54D: Org. probing for outer-space life (SETI). Learned it from crosswords. It stands for Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. And yes, it's a real thing.
  • 77D: Big stink (STENCH). I was thinking more along the lines of a metaphorical "big stink" and when I figured out the answer referred to a literal "big stink" it was a little jarring.
  • 78D: Musical place, briefly (B'WAY).

  • 83D: Ball user, maybe (SEER). The ball in this case would be crystal.
  • 84D: Patricia of "Everybody Loves Raymond" (HEATON). Is this the same actress I recently confused with Brad Whitford's wife (who's on another show I don't watch)? Pretty sure it is.
  • 86D: An orchestra tunes to one (OBOE). Ladies and gentlemen, Exhibit A for why you need to pay attention to the Crosswordese 101 lessons! Here's an excerpt from my June 22 analysis of OBOE: "Other than that, it's helpful to know that an orchestra tunes to it, ...."
  • 106D: Texting device (CELL). I just know there are people out there who cringe over this adjective becoming a noun all by itself. "It's not a cell; it's a cell-phone." Doesn't bother me though.
  • 115D: Jazz fan (CAT). I thought I was so clever knowing that Utah Jazz is the name of a professional basketball team! And a person from Utah is called a Ute! Okay, a person from Utah isn't really called a Ute, but it worked for me. Until it was, ya know, wrong.
How'd you guys do today? Would love to hear about it in the comments.

[P.S. Can't get enough of our puzzle musings here at the blog? You can follow Rex Parker, Orange, and me, PuzzleGirl, on Twitter!]

Everything Else — 1A: Window treatment (DRAPE); 6A: Beat walkers (COPS); 10A: Pen pal? (PIG); 13A: Accelerated (SPED UP); 19A: Causing goose bumps (EERIE); 20A: Came down (ALIT); 22A: 1959 Steiger title role (CAPONE); 27A: Carrere of "Wayne's World" (TIA); 29A: Buds (PALS); 31A: Tale spinner (LIAR); 32A: Like most light bulbs (SCREW-IN); 37A: Publisher __ Nast (CONDE); 38A: Ming 2-Down (VASE); 46A: Crew tool (OAR); 51A: Takes in (ARRESTS); 55A: Net grazer (LET); 57A: Like some boots (STEEL-TOED); 60A: Extent (SCOPE); 63A: Comic Johnson (ARTE); 71A: Log variety (YULE); 72A: Preminger et al. (OTTOS); 73A: Averse (LOATH); 74A: Puts dividends to work (REINVESTS); 78A: Bluster (BOAST); 79A: Previously (AGO); 82A: Takes umbrage at (RESENTS); 87A: Deli bread (RYE); 89A: Lies next to (ABUTS); 95A: Snack in a shell (TACO); 97A: They're not behind you (ANTIS); 98A: Pie __ (CHART); 99A: Pushes back, as a deadline (EXTENDS); 103A: Hair line (PART); 105A: Fuel rating (OCTANE); 109A: Yves's yes (OUI); 110A: Actor Estevez (EMILIO); 116A: Evangelist's admonition (REPENT); 117A: Wily (SLY); 119A: Jousting pole (LANCE); 120A: Two-handed hammer (SLEDGE); 122A: Soapmaking compounds (LYES); 123A: Jouster's ride (STEED); 2D: Artifact (RELIC); 3D: Like heavy surf (AROAR); 4D: Photo (PIC); 5D: "A mouse!" (EEK); 6D: Mutt, e.g. (CANINE); 7D: __ English Bulldogge (OLDE); 8D: Refueling places (PITS); 11D: "No thanks" ("I'LL PASS"); 12D: Ocular signs of planning? (GLEAMS); 13D: Biol. and astr. (SCIS); 14D: Faux __ (PAS); 15D: Final words (EPILOG); 16D: Overly attentive (DOTING); 17D: Like a teen's bed, probably (UNMADE); 18D: Looked carefully (PEERED); 24D: Tag sale caveat (AS IS); 25D: Sent (for) (CALLED); 33D: Holiday precursors (EVES); 36D: Colleen (LASS); 37D: Big name in skin care products (CUREL); 39D: Jai __ (ALAI); 41D: Hardly well done (RARE); 42D: Red Wings' org. (NHL); 43D: Want ad letters (EOE); 44D: Kind of feeling (GUT); 48D: Inaugural event (OATH); 49D: Head for the hills (FLEE); 50D: Tire-kicking areas (CAR LOTS); 51D: Took advantage of the buffet (ATE A LOT); 52D: Secret supply (STASH); 57D: Coppertone abbr. (SPF); 58D: 71-Across mo. (DEC.); 59D: Starts the bidding (OPENS); 60D: U.S. Army E-5 (SGT.); 61D: Funny Margaret (CHO); 62D: NBA tiebreakers (OTS); 64D: Norse god of war (TYR); 65D: Regretful type (RUER); 66D: First name among '70s netmen (ILIE); 67D: "__ only a game" (IT'S); 68D: Role in the musical "Two By Two" (NOAH); 69D: Stun, as a perp (TASE); 70D: Draw (ATTRACT); 75D: Words of action (VERBS); 76D: Grammy-winning New Ager (ENYA); 79D: "The Simpsons" Kwik-E-Mart operator (APU); 80D: Understand (GET); 81D: CIA forerunner (OSS); 85D: Hudson Bay prov. (ONT.); 88D: Fine particle (GRANULE); 90D: Gets to the point? (TAPERS); 91D: Painter's choice (ENAMEL); 92D: Indication of rank (STRIPE); 93D: Having status, in a way (TITLED); 94D: Desire (THIRST); 95D: Court sport (TENNIS); 96D: Lets go (AXES); 100D: Dismal turnout? (NOONE); 101D: Blockhead (DUNCE); 102D: Threw in (with) (SIDED); 104D: Shopper's convenience (TOTE); 107D: Where Helen was taken (TROY); 108D: Top-shelf (A-ONE); 111D: __ Direct: online bank (ING); 113D: Science guy Bill (NYE); 114D: High trains (ELS).


SATURDAY, June 27, 2009—Barry Silk

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

For me, this puzzle was about 25% harder than the last two Saturday crosswords. I made a couple wrong turns, but mostly it wsa a matter of the clues not announcing their answers to me. For 45D: __ bloc (SOVIET), I started out with VOTING but eventually corrected course thanks to the V in DAVE ( 54A: Rocker Matthews). I went with NARROW TARGET for 6D: Horse's nose, say (NARROW MARGIN). Uh, a horse wins by a nose, Orange. People don't shoot arrows at horse's noses. And for 29D: Greenfly, for one (APHID), I had NAIAD. Mayfly larvae are called naiads, and I've never heard APHIDs called greenflies. I think of them as those little green jobbers, but not as greenflies. Luckily, the crossings for these answers unraveled everything for me.

Crosswordese 101: Under the rubric of "crosswordese," we include the names of people who get mentioned in crosswords much more than in everything else we read and hear. Rex talked about the old-time actresses whose names help crossword constructors to fill a section of the grid, but whose days of fame ran out long ago—except in crosswords. 22A: Three-time all-star reliever Robb (NEN) is in this category for me. Wikipedia tells me his career peaked in his years ('98-'02) with the San Francisco Giants but when he played for the Florida Marlins in '97, they won the World Series. If you're not a baseball fan or San Franciscan, do you know who this guy is? All I know is: He's the most famous person named NEN and he spells Robb with the unusual double B.

Now, who's ready for some more clues and answers? I like the pairing of ASTRONOMY and AGRONOMIC—the tricky clue 1A: Stardom? for the first and the strictly factual 56A: Like farming for the other. Two guys named BOBBY and ALBERT meet in the middle of the grid, with 33A: 9/15/63 site of the only concert including both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones (ROYAL ALBERT HALL) and 8D: Whom "feeling good was good enough for," in a 1971 #1 song (ME AND BOBBY MCGEE). Was Bobby McGee a country boy? Because 15A: Hicksville is a RURAL AREA, where you might find a GENERAL STORE. The clue for that is 21D: Rural retailer, and generally crossword makers try to avoid repeating a clue word (other than, say, "it" or "on" or "the") in an answer. Here's Janis Joplin singing her hit:

Moving along to the bullets:
  • 16A: "I speak for the trees" speaker (LORAX). Classic Dr. Seuss but not a part of my childhood. It came out when I was 5, so maybe I'd moved on from reading Dr. Seuss by that age. I often don't know the answer when the clue is hinting at LORAX.
  • 23A: One spooning (FONDLER). Eww. Spooning is lovely cuddling, but to me "fondle" doesn't have connotations of mutually accepted touching. Do you and your honey fondle each other, or do you find the word too creepy to apply to your own affections?
  • 26A: Plant anew (RESOW). Actually, I initially had a wrong answer here, too. I had REPOT. You know why? Because you can pull out a plant and "plant it anew" in a different pot. Sowing is planting seeds, so to RESOW means...to take that seed and plant it again? Who's crouching down and planting individual seeds a second time? "Come here, you little nubbin! Get back in the dirt where I put you before." This one really doesn't make sense to me.
  • 42A: Lively (GAY). Yes, tomorrow's Pride Parade in Chicago will indeed be lively.
  • 58A: Earth (TERRA) crosses 52D: Trillion: Pref. (TERA-).
  • 14D: Questions to those who are leaving (EXIT POLL). I was thinking the clue was about party guests, and it probably would be a good idea to do an EXIT POLL to find out if you need to hone your party-hosting skills.
  • 27D: Whiz (SHARK). Nobody ever calls me a crossword shark. How can I cultivate that?
  • 33D: Have a moving experience? (RELOCATE). Am I the only one who read this clue as being about bowel movements?
Everything Else — 10A: Glow (SHINE); 17A: Peter Parker's alter ego (SPIDERMAN); 18A: Query in Matthew (IS IT I); 19A: Work (OPUS); 20A: Managed (RAN); 21A: Understands (GETS IT); 25A: Dance (HOP); 28A: Forbid (BAN); 29A: "It should come __ surprise" (AS NO); 30A: Sing, in a way (HUM); 31A: Lyrical tribute (ODE); 32A: Ring (PEAL); 38A: At any point (EVER); 39A: Johnny of the CSA (REB); 40A: Hawaiian tuna (AHI); 41A: Intelligence concern (LEAK); 43A: Rich deposits (LODES); 46A: Yossarian's friend, in "Catch-22" (ORR); 47A: Meteorological topic (AIR MASS); 49A: Recommendations (DOS); 51A: Bern or Geneva (CANTON); 53A: Abridged (CUT); 55A: "What? keep __ away? seven days and nights?": "Othello" (A WEEK); 59A: Advertiser's confirmation (TEAR SHEET); 60A: Bacon bit? (ESSAY); 61A: Prime time shows, e.g. (TELECASTS); 1D: Unlawful firing? (ARSON); 2D: Last __ (SUPPER); 3D: Father, Son and Holy Ghost, e.g. (TRIUNE); 4D: Some extremists (RADS); 5D: "Hooray!" relative (OLE); 7D: "The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom" author (ORMAN); 9D: Chinese chef Martin (YAN); 10D: More furtive (SLIER); 11D: Party leader (HOST); 12D: One end of St. George's Channel (IRISH SEA); 13D: Like some debt (NATIONAL); 23D: __ tip (FOUL); 24D: Stow below (LADE); 34D: Intimidates (OVERAWES); 35D: They're filled with longing (YEARNERS); 36D: Tragic king (LEAR); 37D: Pres. Jefferson (THOS.); 44D: "My Cup Runneth Over" singer (ED AMES); 47D: Perfect (A-OKAY); 48D: Like an otological test (AURAL); 50D: Quakers et al. (SECTS); 54D: Qatar's capital (DOHA); 56D: J.D. holder (ATT); 57D: Iran-contra affair org. (NSC).


FRIDAY, Jun. 26, 2009 — Dan Naddor

THEME: L before D — "L" sound added just before "D" in familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

Listening to "Thriller" right now because I just learned that Michael Jackson is dead, and despite the child abuse allegations and overall jacko wackiness of the past two decades, I'm still oddly sad. He was off-the-charts talented. His whole post-"Thriller" life has been one giant, slowly growing "WTF!??!" Kind of tragic. SAD CASE, as it were (13D: Tsk evoker). So I choose to remember the album that Blew My Mind when I was at my most musically impressionable (13, to be precise). I remember the first time I saw him moonwalk. It was like I'd seen someone levitate. Anyway, I'm in a weird, down, nostalgic mood at the moment. No idea how that affected my view of the puzzle.

I took a while to get going on this puzzle because after I got HELD QUARTERS, I figured I was looking at a simple letter-swap puzzle. A goes to L. Ta da! But no. Other answers weren't shaping up that way. I was way down at PIE A LA MOLD before I figured it out, and the others were easy to set straight. Otherwise, nothing too tough, and whatever was tough could be pieced together from crosses, e.g. NOLA, a huge ??? for me (21A: Historic Italian city near Naples), despite the fact that I've probably seen it in puzzles before.

Theme answers:

  • 18A: Rhinovirus kept under wraps? (SECRET COLD)
  • 24A: Saved up for the slots? (HELD QUARTERS)
  • 34A: One great baseball play after another? (FIELDING FRENZY) — all ball-related plays on the field are considered FIELDING, not just great ones, so this clue/answer pair doesn't make much sense.
  • 50A: Flared pants for steelworkers? (WELDING BELLS) — cool
  • 56A: Dessert that's been out for too long? (PIE A LA MOLD)

Crosswordese 101: ILONA (17A: Old-time actress Massey) — you're going to see a lot of old-time actresses in the puzzle, most of whom are there not because of their great and enduring fame, but because of a combination of their former fame and their handy-dandy names (i.e. great letter combos for constructors). ILONA is a textbook example of this. 60% vowels, initial "I," terminal "A" — all good stuff. Look also for POLA Negri and MABEL Normand (there just aren't that many famous MABELs, it turns out).

What else?

  • 36D: Kindles, as passions (inflames) — Michael's hair went up IN FLAMES during the filming of a Pepsi commercial in the 80s. He seems to have survived the following commercial OK, though.

  • 45A: Buttercup family member (ANEMONE) — saw some of these in the woods today. Wouldn't have known that's what they were, but there was a helpful wildflower guide at the entrance to the trails.
  • 30A: "My Boys" airer (TBS) — what fresh hell is this?

  • 58A: Island where Bill and Melinda Gates were wed (LANAI) — where's my "Golden Girls" clue!?
  • 64A: Imperial Oil brand (ESSO) — Who? Man, I thought I'd seen every ESSO clue in the book.
  • 8D: In direr straits (WORSE OFF) — ow, "direr" hurts my ears so bad ...
  • 33A: Muse of memory (MNEME) — whence "MNEMONIC" as in "MNEMONIC device" e.g. HOMES, ROY G BIV, etc.

See you all Monday.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Fast (SWIFT); 6A: Uses a Singer (SEWS); 10A: GE and GM (MFRS); 14A: One who never gets out (LIFER); 15A: "__ Rappaport": 1986 Tony winner for Best Play (I'M NOT); 16A: Neighborhood (AREA); 17A: Old-time actress Massey (ILONA); 18A: Rhinovirus kept under wraps? (SECRET COLD); 20A: Pink lady liquor (GIN); 21A: Historic Italian city near Naples (NOLA); 23A: Quaking? (SEISMIC); 24A: Saved up for the slots? (HELD QUARTERS); 27A: Bond rating (AAA); 28A: Auditions (TRYOUTS); 29A: __ Hashanah (ROSH); 30A: "My Boys" airer (TBS); 31A: Contest (VIE); 32A: Bungler (OAF); 33A: Security concern (MOLE); 34A: One great baseball play after another? (FIELDING FRENZY); 39A: Kitchen supplies (POTS); 40A: Blowup source, briefly (NEG); 41A: Affirmative vote (AYE); 42A: Reading and others: Abbr. (RRS); 43A: A, in communications (ALFA); 45A: Buttercup family member (ANEMONE); 49A: D-H filler (EFG); 50A: Flared pants for steelworkers? (WELDING BELLS); 52A: Public face (PERSONA); 54A: "Naked Maja" painter (GOYA); 55A: Passbook abbr. (DEP); 56A: Dessert that's been out for too long? (PIE A LA MOLD); 58A: Island where Bill and Melinda Gates were wed (LANAI); 60A: Type type: Abbr. (ITAL); 61A: Black tea (PEKOE); 62A: Car dealer's offering (LEASE); 63A: Where el sol rises (ESTE); 64A: Imperial Oil brand (ESSO); 65A: Certain NCOs (SSGTS); 1D: Affront (SLIGHT); 2D: More cunning (WILIER); 3D: "I wish!" (IF ONLY); 4D: Boggy locale (FEN); 5D: Serene (TRANQUIL); 6D: Not spread carefully (SMEAR); 7D: SASE, e.g. (ENC); 8D: In direr straits (WORSE OFF); 9D: Keeps the car on the road (STEERS); 10D: Apple products (MACS); 11D: Completely (FROM A TO Z); 12D: In a way you can count on (RELIABLY); 13D: Tsk evoker (SAD CASE); 15D: __ Canarias (ISLAS); 19D: Mrs. Addams, to Gomez (TISH); 22D: Exposed publicly (OUTED); 25D: Peace advocates (DOVES); 26D: "Perry Mason" lieutenant (TRAGG); 32D: Early first century date (ONE A.D.); 33D: Muse of memory (MNEME); 34D: Gives up (FORFEITS); 35D: Words before "to be alive" or "to be back" (IT'S GREAT); 36D: Kindles, as passions (INFLAMES); 37D: Slender and long-limbed (RANGY); 38D: Looks over closely (EYEBALLS); 39D: Private school teen (PREPPIE); 43D: MP's quarry (AWOL); 44D: Delaware tribe (LENAPE); 45D: Battery terminal (ANODE); 46D: Racing has-been (OLD NAG); 47D: Place for Marlins, briefly (NL EAST); 48D: Glimpses (ESPIES); 51D: Block house (IGLOO); 53D: Rep's success (SALE); 57D: Gives the nod (OKS); 59D: JFK's UN ambassador (AES).


THURSDAY, June 25, 2009 — John Lampkin

Theme: SWIM TEAM 1A/71A: Extracurricular group concerned with the starts of the answers to starred clues. Theme answers are words or phrases that begin with a type of swimming stroke.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: *Dangerous snake of the Southwest (SIDEWINDER). It's a venomous pitviper. That sounds a lot scarier than sidewinder, doesn't it?
  • 24A: *Fortification about four feet high (BREASTWORK). Uhm, okay if you say so. Reminds me of the time a few years ago when we bought a John Deere lawn tractor and the salesguy asked us if we were going to do any "dirtwork" with it. We're all, "Well that would depend on what the hell dirtwork is."
  • 39A: *Chaos theory principle (BUTTERFLY EFFECT).
  • 53A: *Road less traveled (BACK STREET). You can all be grateful that I don't know any Backstreet Boys music, so I'm not going to include a video.
  • 61A: *Area where electricians can't stand to work? (CRAWL SPACE). Wikipedia says "crawl space" is only in a basement. Can't there be crawl space in an attic? Just wondering. Oh yeah, and this is a Great clue.
Okay, this is pretty funny. My kids are on a SWIM TEAM for the first time this summer and I just attended my Very First Swim Meet Ever yesterday. I had to laugh when I figured out the theme to this puzzle! Very timely for me!

Crosswordese 101: Let's talk about ULNAE (36A: Arm bones). We all know what the ULNA is, right? It's the forearm bone, which is next to the radius and below the humerus. The tricky part in puzzles is when it asks for the plural. You just never know if they're going for the Latin ULNAE or the Anglicized ULNAS. This is the part where I typically tell you what kind of hints you'll find in the clue to help you determine which version of the word you want. Unfortunately, I can't do that on this one. You just have to check the crosses. Sorry.

I was going to complain about all the cross-referencing clues in today's puzzle, but it turns out there are only two. No wait. There are three including the theme revealing clue. So that is a lot. The funny thing is when I've constructed crossword puzzles before it always seems like a good idea to do a cross-reference clue. But when I'm solving ... not so much. At least today both split answers were people — ANAÏS NIN and ERNIE ELS — so I guess that's kind of cool. (43A/10D: "Collages" author and 55D/35D: Two-time U.S. Open winner.)

Other than that, this was a pretty smooth solve with only a few thorny spots. I had a hard time parsing A-STAR (29A: Altair, for one). I guess you could say astronomy isn't my strong suit. The only reason I finally figured it out was because I had a forehead slapping moment with TUFFETS (30D: Low stools). At first I was all, "What does a buffet have to do with a stool?" Then I remembered Little Miss Muffet. I'm not sure I ever totally understood what she was sitting on. It's possible I've been under the impression that a tuffet is a mushroom all these years. And believe me, that's the least of my baggage.

  • 15A: What, in Tours (QUOI). French!
  • 22A: Home run pace (TROT).
  • 28A: Silver salmon (COHO). I'm sure I've seen this fish in puzzles before, but I had to wait for the crosses. And the crosses were a little sketchy, too. I confidently entered ogre for 26D: Fairy tale meany. Nine times out of ten, that's the fairy tale meany they're talking about. But not today. Today they want that stupid WOLF.
  • 60A: Tennis opening (SERVE). I think there was a rain delay on Monday and we're carrying over the tail end of that theme today.
  • 68A: Copier company (MITA). Perhaps not the most popular copier company, but a copier company nonetheless.
  • 1D: '80s-'90s Toronto pitcher Dave (STIEB). Ya know who knew this one? Crosscan. Ya know who had to wait for crosses? PuzzleGirl.
  • 6D: Rapa __: Easter Island (NUI). If you didn't know this one, try to remember it. You will see it again.
  • 11D: CPU drive (DVD BURNER). This looked all kinds of wrong when I only had the V and the second D in there.
  • 21D: Paul Anka love song with a Spanish title (ESO BESO). This song peaked at number 19 in 1962, but it's way higher on the CrossWorld all-time greatest hits list.

  • 31D: Corp. alias letters (DBA). Doing Business As.
  • 32D: Flag Day mo. (JUN.). I loathe this abbreviation. For God's sake, it's a four-letter month — why does it need to be abbreviated?
Big Finish:

I saved this for last because it's really awesome. In case you haven't been keeping up with this sordid story, it seems that Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina disappeared for several days. It's not entirely clear who knew what and when, but there was a period of time over the last few days where it appeared that neither his staff nor his wife were able to reach him. Then his staff floated the remarkably shaky story that Sanford was "hiking the Appalachian Trail." I guess that's what the kids are calling it these days? Anyway. He surfaced today and we now know — as a result of his tearful, televised apology (is there anybody not sick of the tearful, televised politician's apology at this point?) — he has been having an affair with a woman in Buenos Aires and was with her in South America the whole time he was supposedly missing. From what I can tell, the whole thing is just a big old pile of stupid and nobody has really figured it all out yet. Of course, people are talking about what his wife should have done and should do now, and blah, blah, blah. But here's my thing. Married people negotiate their relationships and not a single one of us has any idea what was/is acceptable in the Sanford marriage. But, for crying out loud, he's the GOVERNOR of a STATE. I don't think someone who's responsible for a WHOLE STATE should be able to just disappear like that. Isn't part of a governor's job description, oh, I don't know ... "Be available in case you're needed for state business"? I mean, even if he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, which he clearly was not — like why did his staff think that was an appropriate answer to the question? Okay, okay, enough of the ranting. Here's my point.
  • 56D: "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" singer (EVITA).
  • 64D: S.C. summer hours (EDT).
John and Rich: How did you do that???

Everything Else — 5A: Lodges (INNS); 9A: Split up (END IT); 14A: "Voil&aague;!" relative ("TA-DA!"); 16A: Split (up) (DIVVY); 17A: "Terrible" tsar (IVAN); 20A: Surreal (EERIE); 23A: Bud (BRO); 27A: Swear (CUSS); 31A: CD players (DJS); 34A: Field bundle (BALE); 44A: Shore pounder (SURF); 45A: Stutz contemporary (REO); 46A: Rub it in (GLOAT); 49A: For men and women, in a way (CO-ED); 51A: Split (FLEE); 58A: Awed response (OOH); 59A: __-McGee, energy company that employed Karen Silkwood (KERR); 65A: Have __: know someone (AN IN); 66A: Warbucks's favorite (ANNIE); 67A: Reptilian logo brand, once (IZOD); 69A: Projecting shelf (LEDGE); 70A: Scriptural passage (TEXT); 2D: Vacillate (WAVER); 3D: Start of a challenge (I DARE); 4D: Stark raving type (MANIAC); 5D: Mensa concerns (IQS); 7D: Bob one's head at (NOD TO); 8D: Mountain chain (SIERRA); 9D: Rewrite, maybe (EDIT); 12D: "Riverdance" fiddler Eileen (IVERS); 13D: Novices (TYROS); 19D: Chinese cookware (WOKS); 25D: "__ she blows!" (THAR); 27D: Pasture arrival (CALF); 33D: Theater worker (STAGEHAND); 37D: Snoopy, in his WWI fantasies (ACE); 38D: Arena for DDE (ETO); 40D: Mah-jongg piece (TILE); 41D: "Disgusting!" (YUCK); 42D: Fertility god (EROS); 47D: Actor Vigoda et al. (ABES); 48D: La Brea attraction (TAR PIT); 50D: Imagined (DREAMT); 51D: The "f" in f-stop (FOCAL); 52D: "SNL" producer Michaels (LORNE); 54D: Fad (CRAZE); 57D: Common break hr. (TEN AM); 59D: Kandinsky friend (KLEE); 62D: Costume party item (WIG); 63D: "Friends" costar Courteney (COX).


WEDNESDAY, June 24, 2009—Sharon Petersen

THEME: "LET'S DANCE"—The other four long entries end with names of specific dances

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Good horse for a kid is a WELSH PONY. There's a dance called the Pony? There's an equine called the Welsh pony? Both are news to me.
  • 23A: Fiery chip dip clues RED HOT SALSA. Hmm, I can't say I've seen RED HOT SALSA. Mild, medium, and hot salsa, yes. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, yes. Have you seen those "literal video versions" on YouTube? They've got one for the Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" and it gave me the giggles.
  • 37A: CHARLIE HUSTLE is the famous Pete Rose nickname. Ah, the Hustle! That takes me back to my '70s childhood. I'll do you a favor and not post anything that will implant that horrid little tune in your head. It's there anyway, isn't it? I know it wormed its way into my head in the middle of doing this crossword.
  • 51A: I had a couple answers in mind for Dickens orphan. Is Tiny Tim an orphan? No, and his name is too short. Pip? Definitely not 11 letters. It's OLIVER TWIST, and I wonder how many people have ever thrown out their back by doing the Twist.
  • 58A: Tying everything together is the Ball offer, and a hint to this puzzle's theme, LET'S DANCE. That "ball offer" probably didn't make many of us instantly think of the answer. David Bowie fans mourn his absence from the clue because his early-'80s song, 'Let's Dance," is a classic. You know what? We need another video.

Turn your speakers a little lower for Bowie—this video's loud:

Crosswordese 101: When did the United States abolish the draft and switch to an all-volunteer military? That was in 1973. Who'd have thought that 36 years later, the Most draftable 1-A status would live on in crosswords? That's 15A: ONE-A. Other phrases you may see in clues for ONE-A include draft status, fit to serve, most eligible to serve. The general crossword rules prefer a stand-alone answer to one that fills in a blank in a longer phrase, but I'm afraid I have to give the edge to the "___-Day vitamins" clue because you can find those in any drugstore today. And really, the draft classification has the numeral 1 rather than the word one, so it's already a bit of a trumped-up answer.

An olio of answers and clues:
  • 27A: Where Mork and Mindy honeymooned is ORK. 41A: Monk monikers clues FRAS. This clue combo amuses me because yesterday, another puzzle had a clue about Tony Shalhoub's TV character, Monk, but my eyes read it as being about Mork. So Mork shows up in today's puzzle, and so does Monk—but really, it's a little-m monk.
  • 33A: Big name in yellow journalism is William Randolph HEARST. Extra, extra! Read all about it at Wikipedia. I can't help thinking about journalism when I see the word PULLET (2D: Young hen), thanks to that bad pun where "pullet surprise" replaces "Pulitzer prize."
  • 50A: Tree toppler is an AXE. I missed the L in the clue, so I was looking for a Christmas tree topper. Who the heck decorates their Christmas tree with an axe?!? Uh, nobody. But a lumberjack could topple a tree with one.
  • 68A: Howard Hughes's phobia was GERMS. If only he were living today, in the golden age of antibacterial pens and laundry detergent.
  • 6D: I also misread the key word in Prominent bulldog features as "building," so I sorta wanted the answer to be DOMES. Buildings with JOWLS would be architecturally magnificent, though.
  • 44D: Sponsor's offering? is WORD, as in "And now, a word from our sponsor." Great clue!

See you again on Saturday, folks.

Everything Else — 1A: Shop-till-you-drop outing (SPREE); 6A: Doorway part (JAMB); 10A: Goes (for) (OPTS); 14A: Not quite a liter (QUART); 16A: Like some vaccines (ORAL); 17A: Extremist (ULTRA); 20A: Land in la mer (ILE); 21A: 35mm camera type (SLR); 22A: From Buffalo to Boston (EAST); 30A: Online investing service (E-TRADE); 31A: "___ no big deal" (IT'S); 32A: Org. in the 2008 film "Burn After Reading" (CIA); 36A: Like furry slippers (SOFT); 42A: Salad variety (CAESAR); 43A: Hon, in dialect (LUV); 44A: WWII female (WAC); 46A: More than gladdens (ELATES); 54A: Lobbying group for 50-and-over folks (AARP); 56A: Helpful contacts (INS); 57A: Title Pontiac of song (GTO); 61A: Raring to go (EAGER); 63A: Rara __ (AVIS); 64A: "Mask" actress (CHER); 65A: Achilles, for one (GREEK); 66A: LeBlanc of "Friends" (MATT); 67A: Further (ALSO); 1D: Escort (SQUIRE); 3D: Like many violent films (RATED R); 4D: Bobble the ball, e.g. (ERR); 5D: O'Hare approx. (ETA); 7D: End of __ (AN ERA); 8D: Gibson of "Braveheart" (MEL); 9D: Most contemptible (BASEST); 10D: "Klutzy me!" ("OOPS!"); 11D: Diplomatic etiquette (PROTOCOL); 12D: Salon offering (TAN); 13D: Crafty (SLY); 19D: Lukas of "Mars Attacks!" (HAAS); 21D: Pick pockets, say (STEAL); 24D: Sounds of mirth (HA HAS); 25D: Poland-Germany border river (ODER); 26D: Willowy (LITHE); 28D: Abounding (with) (RIFE); 29D: Kit __ Klub: "Cabaret" setting (KAT); 34D: Christina of "Black Snake Moan" (RICCI); 35D: Neptune's realm (SEA); 36D: Hat material (STRAW); 37D: Heart (CRUX); 38D: "Dig in!" (HAVE AT IT); 39D: eBay visitors (USERS); 40D: Margarita option (SALT); 41D: Hialeah's home: Abbr. (FLA.); 45D: Poncho wool (ALPACA); 47D: Pooh Corner cat (TIGGER); 48D: Revere (ESTEEM); 49D: Baby birds? (STORKS); 52D: Immoral practices (VICES); 53D: Month in el invierno (ENERO); 55D: Man Fri. (ASST.); 58D: Flee (LAM); 59D: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" girl (EVA); 60D: Stanley Cup org. (NHL); 61D: FabergÈ treasure (EGG); 62D: "What __ the choices?" (ARE).


TUESDAY, June 23, 2009 — Gary Lowe and Nancy Salomon

Theme: Countdown — Theme answers are familiar phrases in which the last word of the phrase is something that might be counted.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Informal polls (STRAW VOTES).
  • 26A: Cause of unhealthful weight gain (EMPTY CALORIES).
  • 45A: Rockies grazers (MOUNTAIN SHEEP).
  • 60A: Prominent schnozzes (ROMAN NOSES).
  • 54D: Tally, and what to do with the last word of 18-, 26-, 45- or 60-Across (COUNT).
Crosswordese 101: ORAN is clued today as 1A: Algerian city on the Mediterranean. That's a typical clue for this word, especially in an early-week puzzle. Other noteworthy things about ORAN: Yves Saint Laurent was born there, Camus was born there, Camus's "The Plague" and "The Stranger" are set there, it's east of Tangier, and it was captured by the Allies in 1942. I also have a pretty good friend named ORAN who lives in New Mexico, but I don't think that will help your puzzle solving.

Hey there. Y'all sick of me yet? Seems like I'm everywhere, doesn't it? Well, today I'm here and we're talking about this Tuesday puzzle. I'm probably not going to spend a lot of time talking about it because, well, let me back up a minute. The other day I was having an email exchange with a puzzle constructor about this blog. I was telling him that it's a lot easier for me to sit down and write about the stuff that I don't like in a puzzle than it is to write about the stuff that I do like. And I really think that says more about my personality than about anything else. So I just want to say right here that when I'm giving you my opinion about a puzzle? That's exactly what it is: totally my opinion. I'm actually one of those people who believes that objectivity is a myth. So please don't think that I'm up here on my high horse telling you what you should and shouldn't like. Really, I'm just telling you what I do and don't like and I hope that will serve as a jumping-off point for the comments section. SO. With all that said ... I didn't care much for this puzzle. (I bet you knew that's where I was going with this! Because you're so smart!)

There were so many things that seemed "off" to me. For example, I've heard of a straw poll but never STRAW VOTES. Also, MOUNTAIN SHEEP? Seems like it should be goats. I'm sure mountain sheep are perfectly legitimate animals, but that doesn't mean I have to like them showing up in my Tuesday puzzle. LAME seems like a pretty old-fashioned way of saying 16A: Limping. And LAVS for 58A: Johns? What country are we in? I can think of a lot of things to call Dr. Laura, but ADVICE GURU isn't one of them. And please don't get me started on the duet of horrible N words: NITERY (6D: Cabaret, casually) and NATANT (46D: Swimming).

Did I like anything about the puzzle? Well, sure:
  • 35A: "__ Millionaire": 2008 Best Picture (SLUMDOG). I haven't seen this movie yet, but noticed it while browsing the On Demand offerings the other night. It's awesome to see in the puzzle because it's so current.
  • 55A: Chip maker __-Lay (FRITO). I had no idea how offensive the Frito Bandito commercials were when I was a kid. I also didn't understand "All in the Family." I guess that's what happens when you grow up in a small town full of white people.

  • 59A: Gusto (BRIO). Love the word BRIO. Even though I confidently entered elan at first.
  • 66A: Write to on a cell phone (TEXT). This one is notable to me only because it raises a question I think is interesting. Do you really think of texting as "writing to"? I actually think of it more as "talking." I suppose "communicating" would be more apt, but, I don't know. To me it just feels like talking. Maybe that's just because PuzzleHusband and I text each other from different rooms of the house instead of, ya know, going to find each other and literally talking.
  • 1D: Bedtime hr. after a late date, perhaps (ONE A.M.). Random.
  • 30D: Antony's loan request? (EARS). This is by far the best thing in the puzzle. "Friends, Romans [especially those with ROMAN NOSES], countrymen, lend me your ears...." Love it.
Everything Else — 5A: Curriculum parts (UNITS); 10A: London fellow (CHAP); 14A: Nothing, in Nuevo Laredo (NADA); 15A: Dressed to the __ (NINES); 17A: Ltr. holders (ENVS); 20A: Working busily (AT IT); 21A: Wide shoe sizes (EEES); 22A: What's happening (EVENT); 23A: Native American shoe, briefly (MOC); 24A: Lee whom nobody doesn't like (SARA); 25A: Grabbed a bite (ATE); 32A: Chills and fever (AGUE); 33A: Single or homer (HIT); 34A: "Don't think so" (NAH); 38A: 17th century French playwright (MOLIÈRE); 41A: Month after Mar. (APR.); 42A: "Norma __" (RAE); 44A: "Need You Tonight" rock group (INXS); 50A: MSN competitor (AOL); 51A: Big water pipe (MAIN); 52A: PC bailout key (ESC); 62A: Rebuke to Brutus (ET TU); 63A: Lyricist Lerner (ALAN); 64A: Come after (ENSUE); 65A: Sheltered valley (GLEN); 67A: Sobs (WEEPS); 68A: Part of CBS: Abbr. (SYST.); 2D: Totaled (RAN TO); 3D: Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura, e.g. (ADVICE GURU); 4D: G.O.P. elephant creator Thomas (NAST); 5D: Oust from office (UNSEAT); 7D: Attainable (IN REACH); 8D: Afternoon cupfuls (TEAS); 9D: Detroit-to-Baton Rouge dir. (SSW); 10D: Four-leaf plant (CLOVER); 11D: Can't stand (HATE); 12D: Flock's "Absolutely!" (AMEN); 13D: Pain in the neck (PEST); 19D: Bill killer (VETO); 24D: Hightailed it (SPED); 25D: Voice below soprano (ALTO); 27D: Tight-lipped (MUM); 28D: Prepare to fire (AIM); 29D: Hardly in a skillful way (INEXPERTLY); 31D: Every other hurricane (SHE); 32D: Grrravy dog food maker (ALPO); 35D: "Casablanca" pianist (SAM); 36D: Word-of-mouth (ORAL); 37D: Merry, in Marseilles (GAI); 39D: Property claim (LIEN); 40D: Serpent suffix (-INE); 43D: All together (EN MASSE); 47D: Elmer Fudd, e.g. (TOON); 48D: Keep in a piggy bank (SAVE UP); 49D: Sibilant catcalls (HISSES); 53D: Web destinations (SITES); 55D: House on campus (FRAT); 56D: Play part (ROLE); 57D: Big-screen format (IMAX); 58D: One and only (LONE); 59D: Pleads (BEGS); 61D: Never done before (NEW).


Let your newspaper's editor know

Orange here with a special request: If your local newspaper just started running the Los Angeles Times crossword this spring, the editor's probably getting cranky letters from folks who were used to the old crossword and are demanding an easier puzzle. We need some push-back against these Forces for Mediocrity. Do you love the L.A. Times puzzle? Do you maybe even wish it were harder? Send a letter or an e-mail to the editor of your local paper's features section (or wherever the crossword runs) and let 'em know.

Norm the BART-riding solver who left a comment on Friday, this means you. And the rest of you, too. If you need help tracking down the right person to contact at your paper, leave a comment here with your newspaper's name and we'll nose around for the contact info.

If you've already written to your paper, would you mind posting the contact info for the benefit of your fellow readers? Thanks.

MONDAY, June 22, 2009 — Donna S. Levin

Theme: Tennis, Anyone? — Theme answers are familiar phrases each ending with a word that describes part of a tennis competition.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Grand Theft Auto, e.g. (VIDEO GAME).
  • 27A: Sterling afternoon serving pieces (SILVER TEA SET).
  • 44A: Ideal mate (PERFECT MATCH).
  • 55A: Annual English sports event that begins today, and a hint to this puzzle's theme (WIMBLEDON).
Crosswordese 101: Today we're going to talk about the crossword's favorite musical instrument, the OBOE. Today, it's clued as 16A: Double-reed woodwind, which includes two of the important things you need to know about the OBOE: it's got a double reed, and it's a woodwind. Other than that, it's helpful to know that an orchestra tunes to it, it's related to the bassoon and the clarinet, its sound is often described as "melancholy," and, in "Peter and the Wolf" the Duck's part is played by an OBOE.

Easy, breezy puzzle today. I hope it went well for all of you too. I know a lot of you are just starting out, or just getting serious about improving your solving skills. I really hope these Monday puzzles are coming together for you and are helping to build your confidence. That's what Mondays are all about! That said, if I hadn't known that Wimbledon started today, this puzzle probably would have taken me a bit longer. How did I know, you ask? Oh, I knew because Rainn Wilson tweeted about it this evening. Yes, I follow Dwight Schrute on Twitter. Also the American Idols. And I'm not ashamed of it! They're adorable!

There were a few Bible references in today's puzzle, which I tend to dislike, but these were easy enough.
  • 39A: Rachel's sister (LEAH). I actually knew this one from reading Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. In fact, I kinda wish 3D: HAND had been "Word after nurse or maid" (instead of milk). That would have tied together nicely for me.
  • 60A: 52-Down son (ABEL). If it's the Bible and it's a son and it's four letters, it's most likely Cain or ABEL. You just have to check the crosses.
  • 52D: Sixth-day creation (ADAM).
  • 10A: Drive in reverse, with "up" (BACK). Is there anybody besides the guys that drive big trucks on a regular basis that can back up calmly and smoothly? I suck at it.
  • 15A: State with assurance (AVER). Like Cain and Abel, this clue and four letters has to be either avow or AVER and you just have to check the crosses.
  • 14A: McCain beater (OBAMA). I don't particularly like the word beater in this clue.
  • 36A: Best poker pair (ACES). Yes, it's the best pair, but don't be fooled! It doesn't mean you will automatically win the hand! And man it sucks to have pocket aces and then lose the hand. Not that that's ever happened to me.
  • 40A: Golfing standard (PAR). The U.S. Open typically ends on Father's Day, but will continue into Monday this year because of the rain delay during one of the early rounds.
  • 62A: Bucky Beaver's toothpaste (IPANA). Some of us are old enough to remember this brand of toothpaste. Others of us learned it from crosswords.
  • 5D: Final race segment (LAST LEG). I admit, I entered LAST LEG confidently and then stopped for a split second and wondered if it might turn out to be last lap.
  • 6D: Frolic (CAVORT). CAVORT is a great word. It sounds like a noise a robot would make when its wires are crossed. For some reason, it also reminds me of this awesome blooper clip. (Oh, and I have a standing deal that if you can watch this clip all the way through without laughing, I will send you $10.)

  • 11D: Addis __ (ABABA). It's the capital of Ethiopia.
  • 41D: Tennis great Ivan (LENDL). Bonus non-theme theme answer!
  • 44D: Zuni or Hopi home (PUEBLO). PuzzleDaughter made an awesome picture of a pueblo in school this year. Maybe I'll scan it tomorrow and post it here.
Everything Else — 1A: Humped beast (CAMEL); 6A: Sidewalk eatery (CAFÉ); 17A: Final bios (OBITS); 20A: Young man (LAD); 21A: General __ chicken: Chinese dish (TSO'S); 23A: Stateroom (CABIN); 24A: Become fuzzy (BLUR); 25A: Nine-to-five grind (RAT RACE); 31A: Tense (ON EDGE); 32A: Take it easy (REST); 33A: A/C capacity meas. (BTU); 37A: Dew's chilly cousin (FROST); 41A: Committed perjury (LIED); 42A: Actor Danny (AIELLO); 46A: Brings into harmony (ATTUNES); 49A: Sales staff members, briefly (REPS); 50A: Made an effort (TRIED); 51A: Conceal (HIDE); 52A: Highest-ranking USN officer (ADM.); 58A: AM/FM apparatus (RADIO); 61A: Croon (SING); 63A: Make over (REDO); 64A: Toy dog, briefly (PEKE); 65A: Dud of a car (LEMON); 1D: Chilly (COOL); 2D: "Mamma Mia!" group (ABBA); 4D: CPR performer (EMT); 7D: Hertz competitor (AVIS); 8D: G-man (FED); 9D: Before, in poetry (ERE); 10D: "The African Queen" costar (BOGART); 12D: Stand-up performer (COMIC); 13D: New Hampshire city (KEENE); 19D: Musical eightsome (OCTET); 22D: Foolproof (SUREFIRE); 24D: Some men's underwear (BVDS); 25D: Actress Charlotte and explorer John (RAES); 26D: Per what was previously mentioned (AS STATED); 27D: Suds source (SOAP); 28D: Ancient Andean (INCA); 29D: Ogle (LEER); 30D: Wear gradually (ERODE); 33D: Suspenders alternative (BELT); 34D: After-bath powder (TALC); 35D: "This can't be good" ("UH-OH!"); 38D: Gridiron zebras (REFS); 39D: Pastoral places (LEAS); 43D: Put in danger (IMPERIL); 45D: Recoil in fear (CRINGE); 46D: Battling (AT WAR); 47D: "Survivor" unit (TRIBE); 48D: Measured with a stopwatch (TIMED); 51D: Goose's cry (HONK); 53D: Flintstone pet (DINO); 54D: Ghostly sound (MOAN); 56D: Paranormal ability (ESP); 57D: Conk out (DIE); 59D: Gorilla, e.g. (APE).