WEDNESDAY, September 30, 2009—Chuck Deodene

THEME: "The Mustache Club"—Five types of MUSTACHEs appear in the grid, and each is clued (with starred clues) as a non-mustache noun

Theme answers:

64A: Each answer to a starred clue is a type of this (MUSTACHE).

17A: Evil Asian doctor in Sax Rohmer novels (FU MANCHU). Boris Karloff fit the part with the mustache at left.

11D: Scooter feature (HANDLEBAR). You don't see many of these today. Ballplayer Rollie Fingers is a notable handlebar sporter of recent years.

22D: Tusked mammal (WALRUS).. Popularly recognized as the Wilford Brimley 'stache, this one was also observed on former U.N. ambassador John Bolton. It seems like such an odd match for a serious person, the walrus mustache.

35D: Trotter's footwear item (HORSESHOE). "Trotter" also means an edible pig's foot. (Feh.) The horseshoe mustache is among my least favorite varieties of facial hair, right up there with muttonchops and a mustache-free full beard. The horseshoe seems to be au courant among the country/Southern fellas.

36D: Eyebrow cosmetic applicator (PENCIL). This is a rather creepy-looking little mustache. John Waters has been sporting a pencil for decades. Wouldn't you think he'd grow tired of it at some point?

Are there any famous mustache songs? Or movies? I can't think of anything that cries out for an embedded YouTube video right now.

Crosswordese 101: Today's fill is actually pretty good. Where are the prime offenders of crosswordese? There's not much to choose from for today's lesson. Let's go with a junky little fragment that most of us probably never use as a word outside of a crossword grid: TRA (63D: Musical syllable). That's part of the longer "tra-la" or "tra-la-la." TRA clues are generally along the lines of "song syllable," "refrain syllable," "___ la la," or "la preceder." That's one of the things that makes TRA such lame crossword fill: Not only is it not something we say, not only is it a dangling fragment, but it's also something that does not lend itself to interesting clueing options.

What else have we got here?
  • 16A: Francia neighbor (ESPAÑA). That's France and Spain, in Spanish.
  • 39A: Satisfied laugh (CHORTLE). I'd rather snicker, chuckle, or guffaw than CHORTLE.
  • 53A: Ogden native (UTAHAN). It's important to know that there are two accepted spellings for the "person from Utah" word: UTAHAN and the crazy-looking UTAHN.
  • 67A: Yemen coastal city (ADEN). Yep, this one's been covered in Crosswordese 101 before.
  • 71A: Lay down the lawn (SOD). Did you read that without the N at the end, as the familiar phrase "lay down the law"? Good! Then the clue has done its job at tricking you a little bit.
  • 1D: Tips in a gentlemanly manner] (DOFFS). As in tipping or doffing one's hat. SethG, are you familiar with doffing one's hat?
  • 37D: Hard rain? (SLEET). It's hard because it's frozen, you see. You know, a lot of the time SLEET gets clued as a winter precipitation, but in Chicago and the Upper Midwest, sleet is rarely seen in the winter. It's not warm enough to sleet. We just get snow. Last winter was weirdly warm and we did have sleet once or twice.
  • 45D: Point in math class? (DECIMAL). Ah, yes, the handy decimal point.
  • 50D: Foiled villain's shout ("CURSES!"). This is a perfect clue/answer to include in a mustache-themed puzzle because kids love acting out all the parts in that "I can't pay the rent"/"You must pay the rent" play:

Everything Else — 1A: Used a spade (DUG); 4A: "Look what I did!" ("TA-DA!"); 8A: Accident (MISHAP); 14A: Fertility lab eggs (OVA); 15A: Baghdad's country (IRAQ); Contaminates (TAINTS); 20A: Blow, as one's lines (FLUB); 21A: "There oughta be __" (A LAW); 23A: South American mountain chain (ANDES); 24A: Second largest planet (SATURN); 26A: Scalawag (RASCAL); 28A: Seek damages (SUE); 29A: Category (ILK); 30A: Polish Nobelist Walesa (LECH); 33A: Workout aftereffects (ACHES); 36A: "We'll always have __": Rick, to Ilsa, in "Casablanca" (PARIS); 38A: "Get off the stage!" ("BOO!"); 41A: Transfers to a central computer (UPLOADS); 43A: Whisperer's target (EAR); 44A: Smooths, as wood (SANDS); 46A: Wetlands bird (EGRET); 47A: Compact __ (DISC); 49A: Sheet on the road, perhaps (ICE); 50A: Cartoonist's frame (CEL); 51A: Like steamy prose (EROTIC); 57A: Alexander of "Seinfeld" (JASON); 59A: Truth stretcher (LIAR); 61A: Daffy (LOCO); 62A: Thunderstruck (AGHAST); 66A: Wall Street worker (BROKER); 68A: "__-Tiki" (KON); 69A: Tijuana snooze (SIESTA); 70A: Lean to one side, at sea (LIST); 2D: Soft palate dangler (UVULA); 3D: Full range (GAMUT); 4D: Main element in pewter (TIN); 5D: Mysterious (ARCANE); 6D: Wonka's creator (DAHL); 7D: Sea-life displays (AQUARIA); 8D: Queens ballplayer (MET); 9D: Violinist Stern (ISAAC); 10D: __ cord: chiropractor's concern (SPINAL); 12D: Pot starter (ANTE); 13D: Student's permission slip (PASS); 18D: Maligning sort (ABUSER); 25D: Deteriorates, as iron (RUSTS); 27D: Hop along happily (SKIP); 31D: Programmer's output (CODE); 32D: Emcee (HOST); 33D: Served perfectly (ACED); 34D: Indian spiced tea (CHAI); 40D: Café lightener (LAIT); 42D: Dakota Native American (OGLALA); 48D: Froggy chorus (CROAKS); 52D: First stage (ONSET); 54D: Pawns (HOCKS); 55D: Cold sufferer's outburst (ACHOO); 56D: Incessantly (NO END); 57D: Setup punches (JABS); 58D: Prefix with culture (AGRI-); 60D: Bavaria-based automaker (AUDI); 63D: Musical syllable (TRA); 65D: "The Closer" TV station (TNT).


TUESDAY, September 29, 2009
Dan Naddor

Theme: Combo Meal — Theme answers are common food (and drink) pairs.

Theme answers:
  • 16A: Breakfast pair (COFFEE AND DONUTS). With the D and the N in place, I entered coffee and danish at first.
  • 24A: Lunch pair (SOUP AND SANDWICH).
  • 41A: Dinner pair (MEAT AND POTATOES). And don't mix 'em together. (That's my grandpa's rule — the man never ate pizza in his life.)
  • 54A: Evening ball game snack pair (BEER AND PRETZELS).
Crosswordese 101: Not much crosswordese to choose from today (yay!) and the only two we've covered already are OBOE (61A: Orchestral reed) and ARNO (36D: River of Florence). So today let's talk about ESSO (53D: Old U.S. gas). Because ESSO is no longer a brand name used in the United States, it will most often be clued as a "bygone" or "old," or the clue will specifically refer to Canada, where the brand still exists. (It also exists elsewhere in the world, but the go-to clue country is Canada.) You should know that ESSO was replaced in the U.S. by Exxon and that its slogan is "Put a tiger in your tank."

This is a great, solid Tuesday puzzle. Nothing particularly flashy, but not a huge reliance on crosswordese and awkward fill. Not too hard, not too easy. Very smooth — which is exactly what we're looking for on Tuesday. The only real problem I had with this puzzle is that I was hungry and had already decided it was too late to eat when I solved it. Figures it would be all about food. I need to manage my meal schedule a little better.

Side dishes:
  • 19A: Apt to shy, as a horse (SKITTISH). Now this is a great word. Another great horse-temperament-related word is fractious.
  • 32A: Don, as apparel (PUT ON). Fa la la la la la la la la.
  • 46A: Fancy burger beef (ANGUS). Sort of wanted an AC/DC clue here. But maybe that's just me.
  • 2D: Understand, in slang (GROK). Pretty sure I learned this word from Orange.
  • 10D: __ Julia, who played Gomez Addams (RAUL). Several years ago RAUL started to be clued more and more often as Fidel Castro's brother. I remember commenting over at Rex's blog something like, "What ever happened to Raul Julia?" Of course someone responded that he had died several years previous, which I knew. I was really just asking why he wasn't in the puzzle so much any more.
  • 14D: Football's "Prime Time" Sanders (DEION). Love me some sports nicknames. Sweetness, Charlie Hustle, Dr. J. I especially like the ones that are said in between the athlete's first and last names. I have no idea if I actually like the guy himself, but Evander "The Real Deal" Holyfield has an awesome nickname.
  • 37D: Where to see wild animals in cages (AT THE ZOO). Not a particularly in-the-language phrase, but I like it anyway. It kind of surprised me. Fortunately in a way that made me chuckle.

  • 40D: "America's Funniest Home Videos" host Bob (SAGET). If you like completely disgusting humor, you should really see "The Aristocrats." Bob Saget has never been funnier. (But, seriously, you have to get through some pretty repulsive stuff to get to his part in the movie.)
  • 56D: Brylcreem bit (DAB). A little dab'll do ya!
Everything Else — 1A: Leaders in the dugout: Abbr. (MGRS.); 5A: Univ. hot shot (BMOC); 9A: Saran, for one (WRAP); 13A: Layered cookie (OREO); 14A: Dainty embroidered mat (DOILY); 15A: McKellen and Fleming (IANS); 20A: Like a dark room (UNLIT); 21A: HBO competitor (SHO); 22A: Japanese sleuth Mr. __ (MOTO); 33A: Keep one's __ the ground (EAR TO); 34A: Miracle-__: garden product (GRO); 35A: Bickering (AT IT); 36A: When Juliet drinks the potion (ACT IV); 37A: Former Fed chairman Greenspan (ALAN); 38A: Incite to attack, with "on" (SIC); 39A: Rocket engineer Wernher von __ (BRAUN); 40A: Pilot light site (STOVE); 44A: Lotion ingredient (ALOE); 45A: "Gross!" ("UGH!"); 49A: Just in case (IF NEED BE); 57A: In __ of: replacing (LIEU); 58A: Abated (EASED); 59A: Feedbag fill (OATS); 60A: "Benevolent" fraternal order (ELKS); 62A: Estimate phrase (OR SO); 1D: Comfy soft shoes (MOCS); 3D: Mortgage payment-lowering strategy, briefly (REFI); 4D: Sentimental place in the heart (SOFT SPOT); 5D: Fluffy stoles (BOAS); 6D: Ho Chi __ (MINH); 7D: Ancient (OLD); 8D: Dancer Charisse (CYD); 9D: Separate grain from chaff (WINNOW); 11D: Opposed to (ANTI); 12D: Hissed "Hey, you!" ("PSST!"); 17D: Wharton's "__ Frome" (ETHAN); 18D: Perform better than (OUTDO); 22D: Former quarterback Dan (MARINO); 23D: Being aired, as a sitcom (ON TV); 24D: Muscle cramp, e.g. (SPASM); 25D: Noticeable navel (OUTIE); 26D: City near Syracuse (UTICA); 27D: Ten-year period (DECADE); 28D: Stopped slouching (SAT UP); 29D: Domed Arctic home (IGLOO); 30D: Want badly, as chocolate (CRAVE); 31D: Sharpens (HONES); 39D: Modeler's wood (BALSA); 42D: Zodiac bull (TAURUS); 43D: Adjusted the pitch of, as a piano (TUNED); 46D: Skilled (ABLE); 47D: Armstrong in space (NEIL); 48D: Nerd (GEEK); 49D: __ facto (IPSO); 50D: Gratis (FREE); 51D: Start of many a letter (DEAR); 52D: Diner orders, for short (BLTS); 55D: Prefix with natal (NEO-).


MONDAY, Sep. 28, 2009 — Fred Jackson III

THEME: Seeing things — three theme answers all begin with IMAGINARY, DREAM, and FANTASY, respectively.

A solid if somewhat ARID Monday puzzle (14A: Like deserts). It's got a standard three-theme structure, with long answers all sharing a certain kind of opening word. The non-theme fill feels a bit phoned-in and sloppy. A bit too heavy on the abbrevs. (SYR, SSR, LTD, HMOS, FTS, STA, HDTV) and on the terminal-"S" words, the very worst of which is EENS (33D: Poetic dusks). EEN is sucktacular enough, pluralizing it just rubs salt in the would. And crossing SEEN TO?? Really, really bad. Actually, upon further reflection, SAYSOS might be worse (8D: Assertions) — though at least SAYSOS is loonily ambitious, unlike EENS, which is just execrable. My favorite thing about the grid is the segue of colloquial terms into each other at PEEK-A-BOO and OO LA LA. That's 11D: Game played with a baby over 42D: "Va va voom!" Silliness plus quadruple "O" = WIN. Otherwise, the whole thing's a big meh.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Hobbes, to Calvin (IMAGINARY FRIEND)
  • 35A: Ideal getaway (DREAM VACATION)
  • 53A: Armchair quarterback's hobby (FANTASY FOOTBALL)

I like ISLET over FANTASY. It suggests a great name for a remake of a 70s television classic: "FANTASY ISLET." An ISLET is a small island, so maybe in the remake, Tattoo can be in charge and a sassy robot can play his assistant.

Crosswordese 101: STEN (50D: British machine gun) — I really thought I'd covered this answer before, but the Master List says otherwise. STEN is a word I learned nearly 20 years ago, when I was amassing my crosswordese body of knowledge under the harsh tutelage of the late NYT puzzle editor Eugene T. Maleska. EERO, ADIT, AMAH, ESNE, ERSE, EIRE, etc. Picked them all up through repeated exposure. The STEN is a 9mm submachine gun used by the British forces during WWII and Korean War. According to wikipedia, this is because they had a simple design and low production cost. STEN is also NETS backwards.

What else?

  • 29A: Fashion's Gucci and actor Ray (ALDOS) — Really wish there were a famous place called "ALDO'S," because I hate plural names, esp. when those names aren't common. There was a pizza joint in my town when I was growing up called "ALDO'S." I think it's a gentleman's club now.
  • 24D: Inlaid designs (MOSAICS) — really like it. One of the more colorful words of the day.
  • 52D: Stodgy old-timer (FOGY) — NYT has GEEZER today, and the LAT has FOGY. Apparently it's "Mock Old People" day in puzzle world.

See you Friday,


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Disappear gradually (FADE); 5A: Prohibition agent Eliot (NESS); 9A: Vatican-related (PAPAL); 14A: Like deserts (ARID); 15A: Heavenly bear (URSA); 16A: "__ you clever!" (AREN'T); 17A: Hobbes, to Calvin (IMAGINARY FRIEND); 20A: Motel restriction (NO PETS); 21A: T-bone, for one (STEAK); 22A: Lock of hair (TRESS); 23A: Med. plan choices (HMOS); 25A: Opposite of "Huh?" (AHA); 28A: Damascus is its cap. (SYR.); 29A: Fashion's Gucci and actor Ray (ALDOS); 31A: Nudge rudely (ELBOW); 33A: Makes a long story short? (EDITS); 34A: City leaders (MAYORS); 35A: Ideal getaway (DREAM VACATION); 38A: Taken care of (SEEN TO); 39A: "Rich Man, Poor Man" novelist Shaw (IRWIN); 40A: Give body to, as hair (TEASE); 41A: Obvious disdain (SCORN); 42A: Meditator's syllables (OMS); 45A: Calculate sums (ADD); 46A: Coarse file (RASP); 47A: Rub it in (GLOAT); 49A: Key in the sea (ISLET); 52A: Defective, as wiring (FAULTY); 53A: Armchair quarterback's hobby (FANTASY FOOTBALL); 57A: Change (ALTER); 58A: Summoned the butler (RANG); 59A: Peace Prize winner Wiesel (ELIE); 60A: Fair-haired (BLOND); 61A: Remain (STAY); 62A: Between-your-toes grains (SAND); 1D: Passes out (FAINTS); 2D: Weapons storehouse (ARMORY); 3D: Baby seat cover? (DIAPER); 4D: Pieces jigsaw puzzlers usually start with (EDGES); 5D: Convent residents (NUNS); 6D: Historical period (ERA); 7D: Kazakhstan, until 1991: Abbr. (SSR); 8D: Assertions (SAY SOS); 9D: Peel, as a rind (PARE); 10D: Opera highlight (ARIA); 11D: Game played with a baby (PEEK-A-BOO); 12D: "Raggedy" girl (ANN); 13D: Inc., in England (LTD.); 18D: Appointment-confirming words (IT'S A DATE); 19D: Dix and Knox: Abbr. (FTS.); 23D: Set with a sharper picture, briefly (HDTV); 24D: Inlaid designs (MOSAICS); 26D: Traffic jam honker (HORN); 27D: "Isn't that cute!" exclamations (AWS); 30D: Prom car (LIMO); 31D: Persistently worrying (EATING AT); 32D: "__ Eyes": 1975 Eagles hit (LYIN'); 33D: Poetic dusks (E'ENS); 34D: Bryn __ College (MAWR); 35D: Heroic exploit (DEED); 36D: Draw inferences from (READ INTO); 37D: Farm output (CROP); 38D: The bus stops here: Abbr. (STA.); 41D: Mythical man-goats (SATYRS); 42D: "Va va voom!" ("OO LA LA!"); 43D: Marlee __, Best Actress winner in "Children of a Lesser God" (MATLIN); 44D: Like fine coifs (STYLED); 46D: Notes after dos (RES); 48D: Garage jobs (LUBES); 50D: British machine gun (STEN); 51D: Baker's fat (LARD); 52D: Stodgy old-timer (FOGY); 53D: __ Four: Beatles (FAB); 54D: Every bit (ALL); 55D: Blubber (FAT); 56D: "__ scale of 1 to 10 ..." (ON A).


SUNDAY, September 27, 2009
Sylvia Bursztyn

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

Theme: "MY Trade" — Theme answers are familiar phrases with with an M changed to a Y or a Y changed to an M.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Extraordinary snack cakes? (SUPER YODELS).
  • 34A: Easygoing gofers? (MELLOW PAGES).
  • 53A: Biased Ivy Leaguer? (YALE CHAUVINIST).
  • 76A: Colt days? (THE HORSE'S YOUTH).
  • 99A: Ali's reticent persona? (CASSIUS CLAM).
  • 112A: Cautious in love? (WARY HEARTED).
  • 16D: Chicle, in a nutshell? (IT'S A GUM THING).
  • 61D: Tale of Thor? (THUNDER STORY).
Everything Else — 1A: Wheel of Fortune? (LUCE); 5A: Opening word (SESAME); 11A: Saw (ADAGE); 16A: It's like -like (-ISH); 19A: Key lead-in (O SAY); 20A: Pushkin protagonist (ONEGIN); 21A: Matter (TOPIC); 22A: Water tester (TOE); 25A: Draw a line in the water (TROLL); 26A: Big --- (SUR); 27A: Cherokee or Cree (TRIBE); 28A: Clark's colleague (LOIS); 29A: Ivory rival (DIAL); 30A: Infuriated (IRATE); 32A: Naples natives (ITALIANS); 36A: Simmered down (COOLED); 37A: Minute creature (AMOEBA); 39A: --- Park, NJ (ASBURY); 40A: They do heavy lifting (PULLEYS); 42A: Went unused (SAT); 43A: First name in basketball (KAREEM); 45A: Quick-wink link (AS A); 46A: Percolate (LEACH); 49A: Cosmos legend (PELE); 50A: CNN's parent (TBS); 58A: With it (HIP); 59A: Get back (RETALIATE); 62A: Ranchero's rope (RIATA); 63A: "Sweet Child ---" (O' MINE); 65A: Cuisine category (ETHNIC); 66A: Animal product shunner (VEGAN); 68A: Pang (TWINGE); 69A: Guzzles (CHUGS); 70A: Melissa Hayden's handrail (BARRE); 72A: Violated, as a copyright (INFRINGED); 75A: Top score, or half a score (TEN); 79A: Familiar (OLD); 80A: Directly (ANON); 81A: "SNL" alum Cheri (OTERI); 82A: Blubber (SOB); 85A: Being (ENTITY); 88A: Box (BIN); 90A: "Silk Stockings" star (ASTAIRE); 93A: Scary movie sound effect (SHRIEK); 95A: Audacious (BRASSY); 98A: It's for the birds (MILLET); 102A: Beats (PULSATES); 104A: Prank (ANTIC); 105A: Lacking slack (TAUT); 106A: Nursery rhyme? (MAMA); 107A: Words before cop or car (RENT A); 109A: 6 letters (MNO); 110A: Mezzo Marilyn (HORNE); 114A: Golf goal (PAR); 115A: "Help!" dedicatee Howe (ELIAS); 116A: Perceptive (ASTUTE); 117A: Nobelist Wiesel (ELIE); 118A: Not forward (SHY); 119A: Comeback (REPLY); 120A: Begin successor (SHAMIR); 121A: Cannon of film (DYAN); 1D: Series about survivors with secrets (LOST); 2D: Taking too much interest (USURIOUS); 3D: Santa Cruz neighbor (CAPITOLA); 4D: Scrutinize (EYEBALL); 5D: Cantonese cuisine condiment (SOY); 6D: Name that's the reverse of alone (ENOLA); 7D: Arizona tourist spot (SEDONA); 8D: AARP concern (AGEISM); 9D: Big bucks, briefly (MILS); 10D: USN rank (ENS.); 11D: Top Hun (ATTILA); 12D: Florida golf resort (DORAL); 13D: Olympian --- Anton Ohno (APOLO); 14D: Baseball's Hodges (GIL); 15D: Overshadow (ECLIPSE); 17D: Sotomayor's predecessor (SOUTER); 18D: Charge against Galileo (HERESY); 24D: U.S. Grant foe (R. E. LEE); 29D: Obligation (DEBT); 31D: "Streamers" playwright (RABE); 33D: Heavenly (IDYLLIC); 34D: "Peel --- grape" (ME A); 35D: Goods (WARES); 36D: No. expert (CPA); 38D: Labor Dept. div. (OSHA); 41D: "Did You Ever --- Dream Walking" (SEE A); 43D: Earl devoted to Lear (KENT); 44D: Suffix with Saturn (ALIA); 47D: Do something (ACT); 48D: Sergeant's insignia (CHEVRON); 49D: Upright player (PIANIST); 51D: Spree (BINGE); 52D: Celerity (SPEED); 53D: Golf champ Y.E. (YANG); 54D: Best guests (A-LIST); 55D: Incites (URGES); 56D: Through (VIA); 57D: That is (TO WIT); 59D: Verso's opposite (RECTO); 60D: Barrymore or Merman (ETHEL); 64D: Ho Chi --- (MINH); 67D: Slip (ERR); 68D: Platitudes (TRUISMS); 70D: Propensity (BENT); 71D: Shipboard shout (AHOY); 73D: Memorable funnyman Louis (NYE); 74D: Knock-loop link (FOR A); 77D: Terse verse (HAIKU); 78D: Eternities (EONS); 82D: Without a sound (SILENTLY); 83D: Aeschylus trilogy (ORESTEIA); 84D: Stake (BET); 86D: Latin "unless" (NISI); 87D: Ferrante's partner (TEICHER); 88D: Rotten tot (BRAT); 89D: "--- woman, hear me ..." (I AM); 91D: Pageant prop (TIARA); 92D: Made modifications (ALTERED); 93D: Rapscallions (SCAMPS); 94D: "Splash"'s Daryl (HANNAH); 95D: Like Ma Rainey's music (BLUESY); 96D: Peloponnesian power (SPARTA); 97D: "The Mikado" maiden (YUMYUM); 100D: Kind of mall or mine (STRIP); 101D: Cut through Panama (CANAL); 103D: Christine of "Jack & Bobby" (LAHTI); 106D: Pound potatoes (MASH); 108D: Yemeni seaport (ADEN); 111D: Corrida hurrah (OLÉ); 112D: "That --- then, this ..." (WAS); 113D: Puppet ending (-EER).

SUNDAY, September 27, 2009
Alan Arbesfeld

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

Theme: "Put the Finger On" — Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases with the letters "ID" added to the end of one of the words resulting in wacky phrases clued "?"-style.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Ella while scatting? (RAPID SINGER).
  • 29A: Bow-wielding Southern god? (DIXIE CUPID).
  • 36A: Cholesterol check? (LIPID SERVICE).
  • 58A: Possible reply to a dentist's "Where does it hurt?" (ON THE CUSPID).
  • 79A: Twisty hair style for active people? (SPORTS BRAID).
  • 99A: Japanese sake, e.g.? (ASIATIC FLUID).
  • 104A: Candy, cookies and soda? (KID RATIONS).
  • 117A: What Depp did, over and over, to acquire the auction item he so badly wanted? (JOHNNY REBID).
Crosswordese 101: ERST is an archaic word that means once / formerly / before. It's often clued just like it is today — 124A: Once, long ago. It's related to ere, which hasn't yet made our CW101 list, but is nonetheless common crosswordese. Ere means before and is mostly clued as a "poetic" word. ERST is also sometimes clued as "Lead-in to while," as in erstwhile.

I had a few trouble spots with this puzzle. The theme was fine. I didn't understand it with RAPID SINGER (thought it had something to do with the letter string "INGER"), but caught on at DIXIE CUPID. SPORTS BRAID is by far my favorite theme answer. JOHNNY REBID? Not so much. I mean, it's cute, but not only does the pronunciation change from original phrase to wacky phrase, but the clue is way past awkward. I was going to say "If the clue has to be that complicated maybe you should rethink the answer," but I'm not sure the clue even needed to be that complicated.

I've never heard of 28A: Singer TERESA Brewer. I thought she might be one of these new whippersnappers that I see in People magazine when I'm at the dentist's office and don't recognize at all. But it turns out she was popular in the 1950s. I'm gonna guess she was a gimme for some of you. I also don't remember ever hearing about 48A: 17th-18th century British poet Nicholas ROWE. Yes, I majored in English. No, I haven't read every single poet ever. The only other person that was kind of tricky was 44A: Renée of silent films (ADORÉE). I think I've seen her in a puzzle before though. There's no way that was her real name.

But my biggest problems were in the Kansas region. First, I had Oyez for OYER (85A: Open hearing, in law). And the 67D: Japanese city known for its beer (OTARU) was unknown to me, so the Z seemed reasonable enough. I also didn't know the Brit-speak TURNUPS (92A: Pants cuffs, to Brits) — kept thinking it was some sort of take on stirrups — so GDANSK wasn't coming (74D: Polish city where Solidarity was founded). I'll be honest with you. There just wasn't anything interesting enough in that section that I wanted to keep hacking away at it, so I finally gave up and started this write-up instead.

Other stuff that gave me pause:
  • 47A: Magnetic Field? (SALLY). I can't think of anything particularly "magnetic" about Sally Field. I mean, she's a great actor and everything. But I think "magnetic" would more aptly describe someone super super popular. Or maybe a super-model or something. I don't know.
  • 109A: Lowlife, slangily (CREEPO). I don't believe I've ever heard anyone use this particular "slang." If they did, I would scoff.
  • 5D: Ocean phenomenon associated with wildlife mortality (RED TIDE). I'm sure this is totally legitimate, it's just that (again) I've never heard of it.
  • 38D: Like steamy films (R RATED). Raise your hand if you entered X rated.
  • And with the not-quite-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue 39D: Hindu scripture (VEDA), the theme answer crossing these two entries was slow to reveal itself.
  • 60D: Wombs (UTERI). I believe that body parts are totally legitimate crossword answers. That said, I do not particularly like seeing UTERI in the puzzle. Come to think of it, I've never been crazy about the word womb either.
  • 87D: Stop dramatically, as smoking (QUIT COLD). Nobody says this. You can "quit" and you can "go cold turkey" but you can't QUIT COLD.
Wait! Wait! I did like some stuff though:
  • 62A: Mason's job? (CASE). Took me a long time. I kept thinking Jackie Mason, not Perry Mason.
  • 66A: Condition that might bring you to tears? (BOREDOM). That's a cute clue.
  • 82A: Cork people (IRISH). Not referring to their (our) penchant for drinking, just the name of a county in Ireland.
  • 13D: South Pacific vacation mecca (TAHITI). I laughed at this one. Do people still go to Tahiti? It seems so ... 70s.
  • 76A: Bad-mouth (DIS). I loved this slang word the moment I heard it. Yes, it was a long, long time ago, but it still does it for me. Paid it up with CUSS (30D: Hurl epithets) and we've got something going here.
  • 37D: Rare altar reply, fortunately (I DON'T). Now that's funny.
  • 41D: Take the honey and run (ELOPE). I think I've seen this clue before, but it's still cute.
  • 66D: Informal eatery (BAR AND GRILL). The cruciverb.com data base only has this entry listed twice — once in 2000 and once in 2001. I say it's about time to resurrect it!
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Everything Else — 1A: Denial on the base (NO, SIR); 6A: Smelling __ (SALTS); 11A: Hummus holder (PITA); 15A: "Oops" ("UH-OH"); 19A: Get away from (ELUDE); 20A: "__ Ben Jonson": literary epitaph (O RARE); 21A: Epps of "House" (OMAR); 22A: Nautilus captain (NEMO); 25A: 1939 Garland co-star (LAHR); 26A: All there (SANE); 27A: Salon supply (DYE); 31A: River of Cologne (RHINE); 33A: __ chi (TAI); 35A: Bull: Pref. (TAUR-); 40A: Cockpit datum (AIRSPEED); 45A: Uses as support (RESTS ON); 49A: Anesthetize (DEADEN); 51A: "The __ the limit!" (SKY'S); 54A: Parlor piece (SOFA); 55A: Prayers are often said on them (KNEES); 57A: __ standstill (AT A); 61A: Orch. section (STR.); 64A: __ bit: slightly (A WEE); 65A: Lustrous fabrics (SATEENS); 68A: Lagged behind (TRAILED); 70A: Hard and soft mouth parts (PALATES); 73A: Duds (TOGS); 75A: Sign of a past injury (SCAR); 81A: Free TV spot (PSA); 84A: Menlo Park middle name (ALVA); 86A: Marcos's successor (AQUINO); 89A: Should that be true (IF SO); 90A: Oldest Little Leaguers (TEENS); 94A: Morning need for many (COFFEE); 96A: Disheartened (SADDENED); 101A: Pleased (GLAD); 102A: Amtrak purch. (TKT); 103A: Deceptive ploys (RUSES); 112A: President between Harry and Jack (IKE); 115A: "Me neither!" ("NOR I!"); 116A: "Just doing my best" ("I TRY"); 119A: Like Nash's lama, in verse (ONE L); 120A: Cast a ballot (VOTE); 121A: Professeur's pupil (ÉLÈVE); 122A: Running score (TALLY); 123A: Blubber (BAWL); 124A: Once, long ago (ERST); 125A: Decisive times (D-DAYS); 126A: British submachine guns (STENS); 1D: Dweeb (NERD); 2D: Skin care brand (OLAY); 3D: The United States, e.g. (SUPER POWER); 4D: First name in dictators (IDI); 6D: Evening party (SOIREE); 7D: ''Rule, Britannia'' composer (ARNE); 8D: Doesn't keep up (LAGS); 9D: Dissertation (TREATISE); 10D: Rev.'s talk (SER.); 11D: __ sci (POLI); 12D: Big-screen format (IMAX); 14D: Overdue thing (ARREAR); 15D: Never before topped (UNSURPASSED); 16D: Pile (HEAP); 17D: Present opening? (OMNI-); 18D: Did garden work (HOED); 24D: Had a feeling about (SENSED); 29D: Conks out (DIES); 32D: New staff member (HIREE); 34D: Sponsor's urging (ACT NOW); 36D: Small songbirds (LARKS); 40D: Egyptian symbol of life (ANKH); 42D: Impish (ELFIN); 43D: Groups of two (DYADS); 46D: Blender brand (OSTER); 50D: Slips past (EASES BY); 52D: Sammy Davis Jr. autobiography (YES I CAN); 53D: Italy's La __ (SCALA); 56D: "Ivanhoe" author (SCOTT); 59D: New Jersey team (NETS); 63D: Schoolyard retort (ARE SO); 64D: Paris possessive (À MOI); 69D: Hockey stat (ASSIST); 70D: H.S. juniors' exams (PSATS); 71D: Words after cop (A PLEA); 72D: Cherished (LOVED); 76D: Capable of being scattered (DIFFUSIBLE); 77D: Japanese immigrant (ISSEI); 78D: Did a smith's work (SHOED); 80D: On Soc. Sec., perhaps (RETD.); 81D: Insect stage (PUPA); 83D: Remington product (RIFLE); 88D: Live in (OCCUPY); 91D: Ward of "Sisters" (SELA); 93D: Tellers? (RATS); 95D: In some respects (OF SORTS); 97D: Like English, to most Americans (NATIVE); 98D: Publishing VIP (EDITOR); 100D: Cara and Castle (IRENES); 104D: Door opener (KNOB); 105D: New York college whose team is the Gaels (IONA); 106D: Sketched (DREW); 107D: Table scraps (ORTS); 108D: Russian refusal (NYET); 110D: Ostrich relative (RHEA); 111D: Covetous feeling (ENVY); 113D: Potter's oven (KILN); 114D: Slow Churned ice-cream brand (EDY'S); 117D: "The Beverly Hillbillies" dad (JED); 118D: Wolf down (EAT).


SATURDAY, September 26, 2009—Barry Silk

THEME: No theme today—Just a themeless Saturday puzzle

Yet another easy-peasy Saturday puzzle, the second-easiest L.A. Times crossword I've done this week. It's all topsy-turvy—the Friday and Saturday puzzles were easier than the Monday through Thursday puzzles. Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and sigh.

Barry's previous puzzles have paid homage to his beloved Philadelphia in various ways. This time, it's the 18A: Phillies pitcher who received the 2008 World Series MVP Award, some guy I never heard of named COLE HAMELS. A more notable Cole:

The only other answer that felt completely unfamiliar to me was 22A: Easier version, in music scores (OSSIA). Do the musically inclined among you know this term, or is it pretty far down the list of Musical Vocabulary I Ought to Know?

Favorite answers:
  • 21A: Instants of revelation, as for puzzle solvers (AHA MOMENTS). Oprah has 'em, too. In fact, she thinks she owns the phrase, but she most certainly does not.
  • 25A: Sports intermission (HALF-TIME). My kid has finally taken an interest in football thanks to the Madden NFL '08 Wii game, but he is not yet drawn to televised games, much less to half-time hooey [see also 16A: NFL commentator Long (HOWIE)].
  • 39A: Photographer known for his black-and-white American West scenes (ANSEL ADAMS). Always good to have a first name/last name combo of a famous person (famouser than COLE HAMELS, even!), but good gravy, does the clue hit you over the head with a lot of identifying information or what?
  • 8D: Wind-speed measurer (ANEMOMETER). Almost as fun to say aloud as "sphygmomanometer." In case you were wondering, the word shares a root with crossworddom's favorite seven-letter flower, the anemone (which means "daughter of the wind").
  • You can get these crosswords FOR A SONG (26D: Dirt-cheap).
  • Shhhh, IT'S A SECRET so 29D: "Don't tell anyone." It's probably suboptimal to have this answer crossing SECRETES (42A: Emits, as pheromones), given the shared roots of the S-words. Plus, the word SECRETES is kinda gross. Like seeping.
  • 43D: Mork's partner (MINDY). I had one of those aspirational crushes on Mindy—I wanted to be her. This does not explain why I wore the Mork rainbow suspenders in 7th grade.

Crosswordese 101: A T-TOP is a 20A: Car roof with removable panels. Do y'all use this term when you're talking about cars? because I know it only from crosswords. Here's the definition from a Wikipedia article: "An automotive T-top is an automobile roof with removable panels on either side of a rigid bar running from the center of one structural bar between pillars to the center of the next structural bar." The sorts of phrases you'll see in TTOP clues include 'Vette option, sporty car roof, and sporty sunroof. If it's got four letters and has to do with sportscar roofs, plug in TTOP.

Everything Else — 1A: Dr.'s calendar item (APPT.); 5A: Arizona's southwesternmost county, or its seat (YUMA); 9A: Narrow one's brows (at) (SCOWL); 14A: Tigger's pal (POOH); 15A: "Stop pouring now!" ("WHEN!"); 17A: Prefix with marketing (TELE-); 24A: Iditarod destination (NOME); 28A: Elvis's swivelers (HIPS); 32A: Co-proprietor (JOINT OWNER); 34A: French 101 verb (&Ecir;TRE); 35A: Existing independent of experience, in logic (A PRIORI); 36A: Libya neighbor (TUNISIA); 38A: Pimples (ZITS); 41A: Citrus peel (ZEST); 43A: Part of MSG (MONO); 44A: Snow coasters (SLEDS); 47A: Angler's item (FISHING ROD); 53A: Bra size (B CUP); 54A: Carefully entering (EASING INTO); 55A: Cube maker Rubik (ERNO); 56A: Goaded, with "on" (EGGED); 57A: Fiddling tyrant (NERO); 58A: Flat fee? (RENT); 59A: Hotsy-__ (TOTSY); 60A: Dutch export (EDAM); 61A: Souped-up Pontiacs (GTOS); 1D: Is __: probably will (APT TO); 2D: Meter experts? (POETS); 3D: Golfers' tops (POLO SHIRTS); 4D: 2002 film about a musician who survived the Holocaust (THE PIANIST); 5D: Girls' rec. center (YWCA); 6D: "Here comes trouble" ("UH-OH"); 7D: Skin pigment (MELANIN); 9D: Humiliate (SHAME); 10D: Arrive (COME); 11D: Wilson of "Marley & Me" (OWEN); 12D: Droop like aging flowers (WILT); 13D: Not so much (LESS); 19D: Self-government (HOME RULE); 23D: Range below soprano (ALTO); 27D: Like some remote-control planes (TWIN ENGINE); 28D: German university city (HEIDELBERG); 30D: Schoolmarmish (PRIM); 31D: Sailors' milieus (SEAS); 32D: Cool cat's music (JAZZ); 33D: Mayberry tyke (OPIE); 37D: Washington team (NATS); 40D: Treated with disdain (SCORNED); 45D: Slangy "Beats me!" ("DUNNO!"); 46D: Windex targets (SPOTS); 47D: Word after bare or square (FEET); 48D: "Othello" traitor (IAGO); 49D: USMC rank (SSGT); 50D: Goes quickly (HIES); 51D: Other, in Oaxaca (OTRA); 52D: Dire destiny (DOOM).


FRIDAY, Sep. 25, 2009 — Kurt Mueller

THEME: In Like KIN — "KIN" is added to ends of words in familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

This would have made a very adequate Monday puzzle. Maybe a Tuesday puzzle. But there is no way this very very easy puzzle has any business appearing on any other day of the week, esp. today, Friday, when the puzzle should have the most bite. There now appears to be a complete lack of difficulty gradation in the LAT puzzles, and it's disgraceful. It was bad enough when I was hammering out the late-week puzzles in 5-6 minutes. But I did this one in 3:03. That's three minutes and three seconds. Orange broke the three minute barrier. Solvers deserve more of a workout this late in the week. The week should build to a challenge, or at least a good workout. Again, to repeat, there is nothing wrong with this puzzle. It would be right at home as the first puzzle of the week. The theme answers are all colorful and cute. But Friday puzzles should be made of different, stronger stuff. I guess if the syndicated audience really wants breezy puzzles every single day, there's not much to be done, but dear god, there has to be some happy median between a bruising NYT late-week puzzle and ... well, this. Put some bite back in the late-week puzzles, Please, Rich, someone, I'm begging you.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Gear up for Halloween (PRIME THE PUMPKIN)
  • 38A: Yokel resting in the woods? (BUMPKIN ON A LOG) — I just instinctively typed "YOKEL ON A LOG," HA ha.
  • 60A: Steals the dinner cloth from Garfield's lap? (TAKES A CAT NAPKIN)
Met resistance today only at two answers. First, ON TIP TOE (36A: How ballerinas dance), first because it's only partially true, and second because "ON TIP TOE" is far, far, far from a technical dance term/concept. [How a kid might stand to get cookies] — that's my alterna-clue. The other troublemaker was MEANIE (50A: Any one of Cinderella's stepfamily, e.g.), which is true enough, I suppose, but that word has literally nothing to do with "Cinderella" per se, so I had to wait until I had nearly every cross before I saw it.

Crosswordese 101: SLUES (29A: Swings around) — I probably knew this word before I started doing crossword puzzles seriously, but it didn't sink in until I tripped over it several times, in several different grids. It's really an ugly word, and I always want to spell it SLEW (which is apparently an acceptable variant — who knew?). SLUES sounds like SLUICE, which I associate with unwanted fluids, which, again ... ugly. SLUE seems to be primarily a nautical term — "o turn about; to turn from the course; to slip or slide and turn from an expected or desired course; -- often followed by round" (answers.com). See also SLOUGH ... another seriously unpleasant word.

More on Monday.


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Everything Else — 1A: Held (on) by stitches (SEWN); 5A: Cavalry weapon (LANCE); 10A: Farm females (EWES); 14A: Multinational official currency (EURO); 15A: Starting unit (A TEAM); 16A: Retail come-on (SALE); 17A: Gear up for Halloween? (PRIME THE PUMPKIN); 20A: Heart-to-heart talk (T&Ecir;TE-À-T&Ecir;TE); 21A: Hurricane feature (EYE); 22A: Maui strings (UKE); 23A: Pin near the gutter (TEN); 24A: Per se (AS SUCH); 27A: "Frankenstein" author Shelley (MARY); 29A: Swings around (SLUES); 32A: Mahmoud Abbas's gp. (PLO); 33A: Navy ship letters (USS); 36A: How ballerinas dance (ON TIPTOE); 38A: Yokel resting in the woods? (BUMPKIN ON A LOG); 41A: Split up (SEPARATE); 42A: "I figured it out!" ("AHA!"); 43A: Withdrawal site, for short (ATM); 44A: Arcade games trailblazer (ATARI); 46A: Univ. sports organizer (NCAA); 50A: Any one of Cinderella's stepfamily, e.g. (MEANIE); 52A: Expert on IRS forms (CPA); 55A: Fest mo. (OCT.); 56A: Wood of the Rolling Stones (RON); 57A: Enter stealthily (SNEAK INTO); 60A: Steals the dinner cloth from Garfield's lap? (TAKES A CAT NAPKIN); 63A: Rink jump (AXEL); 64A: Husband and wife (MATES); 65A: Ballesteros of the PGA (SEVE); 66A: Queens team (METS); 67A: Dental filling (INLAY); 68A: Poetic tributes (ODES); 1D: Facial wall that may be deviated (SEPTUM); 2D: "Bingo!" ("EUREKA!"); 3D: Columnist, e.g. (WRITER); 4D: Alaskan gold-rush town (NOME); 5D: Cappuccino cousin (LATTE); 6D: Capital north of the Sea of Crete (ATHENS); 7D: Big name in hair-removal cream (NEET); 8D: Batman accessory (CAPE); 9D: Big bird (EMU); 10D: Annual sports awards (ESPYS); 11D: Be roused from sleep by, as music (WAKE UP TO); 12D: Yale Blue wearer (ELI); 13D: D.C. bigwig (SEN.); 18D: Put away (EAT); 19D: Handel oratorio (MESSIAH); 24D: Health insurance giant (AETNA); 25D: Roto-Rooter target (CLOG); 26D: Weeding tool (HOE); 28D: Arizona city on the Colorado River (YUMA); 30D: Soloist? (LONER); 31D: Game with Skip cards (UNO); 34D: Wrist twists, e.g. (SPRAINS); 35D: Boot with a blade (SKATE); 37D: Blueprint (PLAN); 38D: __ noire: bane (BETE); 39D: High-end, as merchandise (UPMARKET); 40D: "Give __ rest!" (IT A); 41D: Friend of Frodo (SAM); 45D: Summer drink with a lemon twist, maybe (ICE TEA); 47D: Bopped on the bean (CONKED); 48D: On the go (ACTIVE); 49D: Does penance (ATONES); 51D: Holiday melodies (NOELS); 53D: Cultivated violet (PANSY); 54D: Rap sheet letters (AKA); 57D: Read the bar code on (SCAN); 58D: Part of N.L.: Abbr. (NATL.); 59D: __ facto (IPSO); 60D: Skye cap (TAM); 61D: Dismiss, informally (AXE); 62D: Pal of Pierre (AMI).


THURSDAY, September 24
Jack Sargeant

Theme: Runaway — Each theme answer is a different definition of the word runner.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: See 48-Down (ICE SKATE BLADE).
  • 40A: See 48-Down (TRACK COMPETITOR).
  • 59A: See 48-Down (LONG NARROW RUG).
  • 48D: Ball carrier, and clue for 20-, 40- and 59-Across (RUNNER).

I had a hard time figuring out the theme on this one as I was solving. If I had slowed down, I probably would have gotten it sooner, but I was flying through this puzzle. I could see that the theme answers were held together by 48-Down, so I glanced at it and thought all the theme answers would be some type of "ball carrier." Um, no. Ball carrier was just the clue for 48-Down and all the theme answers are something you might refer to as a RUNNER. To me, he best theme answer is LONG NARROW RUG because that's something I might actually say. For example, if someone doesn't know what a runner is, or if I can't come up with the word when I need it (which happens more and more frequently these days, sad to say). "Ya know, it's like a long narrow rug that runs down a hallway....?" The other theme answers? Not so much. Although they make perfect sense grammatically and definition-wise, I can't imagine a situation where I would ever use the phrase TRACK COMPETITOR or ICE SKATE BLADE.

Crosswordese 101: ANON is sometimes clued as an abbreviation of anonymous, but it's more likely to be clued the way it is today (61D: Any minute now, to a bard). It means soon and early in the week, you'll get a hint about its poetic-ness (I just made that word up). Later in the week, you may not get the hint. And if the word soon isn't in the clue, well it very well could be the answer. Your best bet is to enter the last two letters and check the crosses to find out which one is correct.

Bullets! Run!:
  • 25A: Airport waiter (CAB). Get it? Not, like, a person who serves you in a restaurant, but something that literally waits at the airport.
  • 32A: Stereotypical eye patch wearer (PIRATE). Did you all have a nice Talk Like a Pirate Day last weekend?
  • 53A: Fashionable boot brand (UGG). All I could think of was Frye. I guess that tells you how long it's been since I've bought boots. Or been fashionable.
  • 1D: Vegas attraction, with "the" (STRIP). Seems like there should be a CLUB at the end of this answer. (Just kidding. I know what the Strip is.)
  • 11D: Weather Channel offerings (FORECASTS). Because wild-ass guesses" wouldn't fit.
  • 21D: Golf legend Snead (SAM). Weren't we just talking about him the other day?
  • 26D: Pal of Aramis (ATHOS). The Three Musketeers. The third one is Porthos.
  • 33D: Louis XIV, to his subjects (ROI). French!
  • 65D: Nashville awards gp. (CMA). Oh good, an excuse to play a video of one my favorite country artists. He's up for a bunch of awards this year. Also, he often Twitters pictures from the stage while he's performing. How cool is that? [It's kind of a long video, but if you can stick with it, I don't think you'll be sorry. To see him perform this song in this place ... well, it gave me goose-bumps.]

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Everything Else — 1A: One with a code name, perhaps (SPY); 4A: Strokes on a green (PUTTS); 9A: Terrible (AWFUL); 14A: What the Mad Hatter served (TEA); 15A: Apple's instant messaging software (ICHAT); 16A: No longer tied up (LOOSE); 17A: Uncooked (RAW); 18A: Barton of the Red Cross (CLARA); 19A: Divided country (KOREA); 23A: Piano part (PEDAL); 24A: Bando of baseball (SAL); 28A: Sheds feathers (MOLTS); 34A: Start of an order to an attack dog (SIC); 37A: Partner of woes (CARES); 39A: Fed. org. concerned with workplace woes (OSHA); 44A: Ill-advised (RASH); 45A: Pageant topper (TIARA); 46A: Old draft org. (SSS); 47A: Clothes (ATTIRE); 50A: Slow mover (SNAIL); 52A: Canada's smallest prov. (PEI); 55A: Starbucks offering (LATTE); 64A: Descendant (SCION); 66A: Walking __: euphoric (ON AIR); 67A: Whatever (ANY); 68A: Fill with wonder (AMAZE); 69A: Three-card scam (MONTE); 70A: Cocktail party bowlful (DIP); 71A: Chair craftsperson (CANER); 72A: Wrapped up (ENDED); 73A: Va. clock setting (EST); 2D: Treaty subject (PEACE); 3D: Went off course, at sea (YAWED); 4D: Burglar (PICKLOCK); 5D: Golden State sch. (UCLA); 6D: "All __ Jazz": Fosse film (THAT); 7D: Empty truck's weight (TARE); 8D: Wild guesses (STABS); 9D: Acid neutralizer (ALKALI); 10D: Fireside stack (WOOD); 12D: Take advantage of (USE); 13D: Grazing site (LEA); 22D: Once around the track (LAP); 27D: Nursery rhyme trio (BEARS); 29D: Fond du __, Wisconsin (LAC); 30D: Horse's gait (TROT); 31D: Big rigs (SEMIS); 34D: Subway rider's aid (STRAP); 35D: Hot under the collar (IRATE); 36D: Spanish dialect that's now standard (CASTILIAN); 38D: Period of time (SPAN); 41D: Greek X (CHI); 42D: Paleozoic __ (ERA); 43D: Fitted, as a suit (TAILORED); 49D: "Which came first?" item (EGG); 51D: Judge's concern (LAW); 54D: Travelocity mascot (GNOME); 56D: Stock market transaction (TRADE); 57D: North African capital (TUNIS); 58D: Exodus locale (EGYPT); 60D: Seep (OOZE); 62D: "The Fountainhead" author (RAND); 63D: Baptism or bar mitzvah, e.g. (RITE); 64D: Anatomical pouch (SAC).


WEDNESDAY, September 23, 2009—Bruce Venzke & Stella Daily

THEME: "Feeling good, Louis!"—Four phrases begin with words that mean "healthy"

It took me a while to see what the theme was here. That was complicated a tad by the Across eight-letter answers, which looked like they could be part of the theme—SOB STORY and LOUSED UP are just good fill, though, not theme entries.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Hydration from underground (WELL WATER).
  • 29A: Thunder on a radio show, e.g. (SOUND EFFECT).
  • 45A: In a rage (FIT TO BE TIED).
  • 61A: House majority leader of the early 1970s (HALE BOGGS).. He died in '72, when I was six. I wasn't following congressional politics much at that age.
Hey! Last Wednesday's Crosswordese 101 word, EKE, shows up again today (7D: Scratch (out), as a living). Did you all get that one instantly?

Crosswordese 101: We have some compelling runners-up here, but the victor is the Latin word ESSE (59D: Being, to Caesar). That's the Latin infinitive "to be," just as ETRE is the French equivalent and ESTAR is "to be" in Spanish. Common clues you might see the next time ESSE is in the puzzle: Start of North Carolina's motto; Latin being; Latin 101 verb; In ___ (actually); To be, to Tiberius; Being, to Brutus. Do I know how to conjugate this verb? Not at all.

Rex and PuzzleGirl, here are some candidates for future lessons: 43A: Uncover, poetically (OPE); 66A: Baseball Hall of Famer Speaker (TRIS); 2D: Utah city (OREM); and 57D: Taj Mahal city (AGRA).

What else have we got here?
  • In the "Make up your mind already" category, we have battling pronouncements: "I'M READY!" (21A: "All set!") and "I'M LATE" (56A: White Rabbit's cry). I can't find a good video showing SpongeBob's little "I'm ready, I'm ready" song, but you know what's so much better? This one. Plankton, the hapless evil genius, has some rather dark ideas about fun:

  • 40A: Undiversified, as a farm clues the adjective ONE-CROP. I like to use that metaphorically. "This relationship is so ONE-CROP. I feel stifled."
  • 69A: Not tagged in time (SAFE). As in the baseball call.
  • 67A: Cousins of hamlets (TOWNS). Hmm, I wonder if Bruce and Stella originally had a trickier clue, Hamlets' cousins. I like clues that fool you by playing with capital letters—small-h hamlet is a town, while big-H Hamlet is the moody Dane.
  • 1D: Dog's dogs? (PAWS). I don't think I've ever once said "My dogs are barking" to mean "my feet are tired," but I know it's a common enough phrase. Cute clue.
  • 9D: Payment from a contestant (ENTRY FEE). Hey, if you're planning to attend this winter's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, you should be aware that the dates have changed: February 19-21, 2010.
  • 43D: Tie settlers, for short (OTS). Meaning overtimes that settle a tied game. Anyone try to understand this clue as being about pioneer-type settlers?

Everything Else — 1A: Pea holders (PODS); 5A: Get ready for surgery (PREP); 9A: Beethoven's "Für __" (ELISE); 14A: Geometry product (AREA); 15A: Victoria or Geneva (LAKE); 16A: Zapped in the microwave (NUKED); 19A: Prevailing tendency (TREND); 20A: Horseshoer's workshop (SMITHY); 23A: Excuse designed to elicit sniffles (SOB STORY); 26A: Busy pro in Apr. (CPA); 34A: Test the weight of (HEFT); 36A: To this day (YET); 37A: Bird on a dollar (EAGLE); 38A: Minimally (AT LEAST); 42A: Old French money (FRANC); 44A: Head of France? (TÊTE); 49A: "The Waste Land" poet's monogram (TSE); 50A: Made a mess of (LOUSED UP); 52A: Mouth the lyrics (LIP SYNC); 60A: Arm of the sea (INLET); 64A: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" author (STOWE); 65A: Has regrets about (RUES); 68A: Leave the stage (EXIT); 3D: Sandwich seller (DELI); 4D: Seasons, as fries (SALTS); 5D: Hedonistic fellows (PLAYBOYS); 6D: Maze scurrier (RAT); 8D: Sentence ender (PERIOD); 10D: Tackle box item (LURE); 11D: It sells a lot of build-it-yourself furniture (IKEA); 12D: E-mail command (SEND); 13D: Swirling current (EDDY); 18D: "__ on first?" (WHO'S); 22D: Desert Storm ration, for short (MRE); 24D: Mutton fat (SUET); 25D: Explosive compound (TNT); 26D: Grain husks separated in threshing (CHAFF); 27D: Lab dish inventor (PETRI); 28D: G sharp's equivalent (A FLAT); 30D: It's not fiction (FACT); 31D: "Snowy" wader (EGRET); 32D: Stops bleeding (CLOTS); 33D: Conical residence (TEPEE); 35D: Shelter for roughing it (TENT); 39D: Altar attendants (ACOLYTES); 40D: Aunt Bee's grandnephew (OPIE); 41D: Most destitute (NEEDIEST); 46D: "__ voyage!" (BON); 47D: Game often played with a 24-card deck (EUCHRE); 48D: Make absurdly easy, with "down" (DUMB); 51D: Novelists' creations (PLOTS); 52D: Letter-to-Santa itemization (LIST); 53D: Totally enjoying (INTO); 54D: Clear the snow (PLOW); 55D: Attached with thread (SEWN); 58D: "Woohoo, the weekend!" ("TGIF!"); 62D: "La Cage __ Folles" (AUX); 63D: Wahine's gift (LEI).


TUESDAY, September 22, 2009
Dan Naddor

Theme: Rhyming/homophonic pairs — Theme answers are two pairs of homophones that rhyme with each other.

Theme answers:
  • 19A: "A Beautiful Mind" star (RUSSELL CROWE). Hey, look! An actor from the L.A. Confidential movie!
  • 29A: Certain mollusk's protection (MUSSEL SHELL).
  • 43A: Marathoner's bane (MUSCLE CRAMP).
  • 50A: Steal a herd (RUSTLE CATTLE).
Crosswordese 101: You probably didn't have any trouble today with the way SRI is clued (26A: __ Lanka). But did you know that SRI is a Hindu honorific similar to Mr.? 'Cuz you'll need to know that. And now you do.

With the crosswordese we've already covered in this blog, you should have been able to throw in several answers without even thinking: RHO (6A: Letter after pi); EMIT (21A: Give off); TETRA (33A: Colorful aquarium fish); EKGS (3D: Cardiologist's tests, for short); ATARI (49D: Video game pioneer); T-MEN (54D: Feds under Ness).

The grid's a little funky looking, but this was still a smooth solve for me. I loved seeing the colloquial AT IT AGAIN (17A: Quarreling once more). In my head, I heard it said with a resigned sigh: "There they go. At it again." I also think MACHISMO is an awesome word, although not a particular awesome thing (35A: Tough-guy trait). I absolutely could have done without thinking about acid REFLUX this morning (ewww!), but whatever (27D: Stomach acid problem).

Other stuff:
  • 1A: Bergen's dummy Mortimer (SNERD). I always want to call him Snead, but that's the golfer.
  • 14A: Castle protection (MOAT). When we were selling our house in Iowa last year, I got a call from our realtor with a question from a couple that had done a walk-through. She said they had heard from one of our neighbors that we were building a moat and were wondering what that was all about. A moat. A moat! What is this, the Middle Ages? So of course I told her that we needed it to defend ourselves against the Saxons. A moat! Where do people come up with this stuff?
  • 22A: Elegant tapestry (ARRAS). We'll be covering this in Crosswordese 301.
  • 37A: Pretentious one (PSEUD). I guess I never knew this was a stand-alone word. Always thought it was just a prefix.
  • 57A: Gambling metaphor for a risky venture (CRAPSHOOT). If you want to engage in an activity that's so complicated you probably won't have any idea what's going on, yet you'll get super super excited about it — craps is for you. Not that I've ever done that.
  • 4D: Pee Wee of the '40s-'50s Dodgers (REESE).
  • 28D: Formal words of confession (IT WAS I). Raise your hand if you really, really wanted I did it.
  • 24D: __ Joy: candy bar (ALMOND). I've got a little ditty stuck in my head now and I think you should too.

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Everything Else — 9A: Preschool lessons (ABCS); 13A: George who played Sulu on "Star Trek" (TAKEI); 15A: Finish second (LOSE); 16A: Halo wearer (ANGEL); 21A: Give off (EMIT); 33A: Colorful aquarium fish (TETRA); 36A: "__ Only Have Love": Jacques Brel song (IF WE); 39A: Broadway event (SHOW); 40A: Bloom with sword-shaped leaves (GLADIOLA); 42A: With a single voice (AS ONE); 46A: Onetime Leno announcer Hall (EDD); 47A: The "A" in "CAT scan" (AXIAL); 48A: Philbin's sidekick (RIPA); 60A: Harold of "Ghostbusters" (RAMIS); 61A: Gigantic (HUGE); 62A: Storybook monster (OGRE); 63A: Standing upright (ERECT); 64A: "Yeah, sure!" ("I BET!"); 65A: Steno's need (PAD); 66A: Sausage servings (LINKS); 1D: Night twinkler (STAR); 2D: Half of Mork's signoff (NANU); 5D: Catch-22 (DILEMMA); 6D: Univ. military org. (ROTC); 7D: Barber's concern (HAIR); 8D: Conductor Klemperer (OTTO); 9D: Suspected Soviet spy of the McCarthy era (ALGER HISS); 10D: __ constrictor (BOA); 11D: TV forensic drama (CSI); 12D: Obama, before he became pres. (SEN.); 14D: Blended ice cream drinks (MALTS); 18D: Inundated (AWASH); 20D: Lucy of "Kill Bill" (LIU); 23D: Do a smith's job (RESHOE); 25D: Lost speed (SLOWED); 26D: Scarlet letter, e.g. (STIGMA); 30D: Bit of mudslinging (SMEAR); 31D: Water, in Cannes (EAU); 32D: Watch display, for short (LCD); 34D: It's rolled out for celebs (RED CARPET); 37D: "The Raven" writer (POE); 38D: Utah's capital: Abbr. (SLC); 41D: Like bks. with pictures (ILLUS.); 42D: Clothes (APPAREL); 44D: Rugged ridge (ARETE); 45D: Speaker's amplifying aid, briefly (MIC); 51D: Boutique (SHOP); 52D: Old Roman attire (TOGA); 53D: British title (LORD); 55D: Moisten, as a stamp (LICK); 56D: Body shop nos. (ESTS.); 57D: Cubs, on scoreboards (CHI); 58D: Massage (RUB); 59D: Get older (AGE).