SATURDAY, October 31, 2009—Samuel A. Donaldson

THEME: No theme today—This is a themeless Saturday puzzle, a.k.a. "freestyle" crossword

Happy Halloween! My costume is "very tired person staying up too late to blog about this puzzle, despite having had a very long and rainy day to be followed by a cold evening of wearing her feet out trick-or-treating." Super-easy to make. The accompanying yawns are what really sells it.

Okay. Puzzle time! Rich Norris wasn't kidding when he said the signs of moderate retoughenization wouldn't be evident before November. Once again, one of my fastest-ever themeless solving times here. I may have a memory lapse, but I think this is "Not that" Sam Donaldson's first published themeless.

I'm partial to grids with four quadrants of stacked, longish answers. This one's got just two such quadrants, but they have quad-stacked 9s rather than the standard triple-stacked fill. The puzzle combines lively and fresh words and phrases with a lot of ordinary fill, which stands in contrast to the Saturday NYT crossword, which had lots of uncommon but not exciting fill. Sure, TESTS and EMOTE are pretty boring words, but I'll take them over stilted or obscure words.

Here's most of the long stuff and the clues/answers I liked best:
  • 1A: War and more (CARD GAMES). I didn't see that one coming. Even with GAMES in place, I was still thinking of actual war.
  • 15A: Strain (OVEREXERT). I like the X, but wish it had been put to better use—the crossing is the partial AXE TO.
  • 17A: Place with trays (CAFETERIA). Super-easy clue, no?
  • 32A: Cosmetic surgeries (NOSE JOBS). Again, easy clue—but crispy crossword entry.
  • 40A: Sherry, often (APERITIF). OK, this is my cue to look up this word, and probably not for the first time. Turning to the dictionary...aperient, "(chiefly of a drug) used to prevent constipation"...wait, just, a little further...here it is. Apéritif is from a French word which draws on the Latin aperire, "to open." You drink it before you eat to whet your appetite. You eat an appetizer for the same reason, purportedly, but the two ap— words are unrelated. Appetite stems from Latin words meaning "desire for/seek after." Not that anyone asked, but I think sherry is gross.
  • Here's the nutty Star Wars zone. 47A: Film that's out of order? is a PREQUEL, while 13D: End of a pentamerous serial is PART V. If you're lucky, that is, PART V is the end of the series. Crazy George Lucas went for VI.
  • 53A: Seeking advancement at any cost (ON THE MAKE). I almost went with ON THE TAKE, but TAKE has another home in this puzzle.
  • 60A: Eastern Canadian province grouping, with "the" (MARITIMES). I'll bet the people near Canada's Pacific coast wish they could be called the Maritimes, too. The Maritime Provinces are Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. How many of you have been to any of those? I've hit Ontario and British Columbia and that's it.
  • 62A: Smithsonian collection (AMERICANA). Hey! I went to the National Museum of American History for my first time this summer. Here's some AMERICANA for you:

    That George Washington was a hottie, huh? Talk about your American beefcake.

  • 4D: Cologne crowd? (DREI). "Two's company, but three's a crowd."
  • 9D: Child actor's chauffeur? (STAGE MOM). Alternatively, a virtual mother who's going to the party alone is a STAG E-MOM.
  • 10D: R.E.M. vocalist Michael (STIPE). Who's in the mood for "Man on the Moon"? How about with a little Bruce Springsteen for good measure?

  • 11D: Tolerates teasing gracefully (TAKES A JOKE). See? This could also have been MAKES A JOKE, though that would be a fairly flat answer, and ON THE MAKE could've been ON THE TAKE. I find that the most of the time when someone says "Can't you take a joke?"—really, that person was being a jerk and the jokee should not be expected to "take a joke."
  • 27D: Unwavering (FOUR-SQUARE). Not a term I use. Isn't "four square" also a playground game using a ball?
  • 38D: One with immunity (DIPLOMAT). I blew my son's mind when I told him that people with diplomatic plates on their cars can probably get away with parking illegally.
As usual, we have several nominees for Crosswordese 101. There's 16A: Turkic inhabitant of Russia (TATAR), and there's 31D: Hairlike parts, such as those that help geckos cling to walls (SETAE). The latter's singular form is SETA, which can also be clued as a two-word partial (as in "___ date") if you're looking to avoid crosswordese. But I like me some rocks and minerals, so I bring you...

Crosswordese 101: MICA! Today it's clued as 55D: Flaky mineral and indeed, it's easy to break off sheets of mica. Talk about cleavage! Mica's got it in spades. Other popular clues for MICA include isinglass and easily split, shiny, or translucent mineral.

See you all here again on Wednesday. In the meantime, be kind to one another! Naughty children will be sent to their rooms without any Halloween candy.

Everything Else — 1A: War and more (CARD GAMES); 10A: R.E.M. vocalist Michael (STIPE); 15A: Strain (OVER-EXERT); 16A: Turkic inhabitant of Russia (TATAR); 17A: Place with trays (CAFETERIA); 18A: Director Kurosawa (AKIRA); 19A: Aide's job (ASSISTING); 20A: Doctor's orders (TESTS); 21A: Rolls on the lawn (SOD); 22A: Hard to nail down (ELUSIVE); 24A: Social blunder (GAFFE); 28A: Eritrea's capital (ASMARA); 30A: Ness et al. (ELIOTS); 32A: Cosmetic surgeries (NOSE JOBS); 36A: Vegan entrée (TOFU); 37A: Imported cheeses (EDAMS); 39A: Cajun pod (OKRA); 40A: Sherry, often (APERITIF); 42A: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show costar (OAKLEY); 44A: Grab before someone else does (SNAP UP); 46A: It merged with Kmart in 2005 (SEARS); 47A: Film that's out of order? (PREQUEL); 50A: PC panic button (ESC); 52A: Mammal of Madagascar (LEMUR); 53A: Seeking advancement at any cost (ON THE MAKE); 59A: Take out __: borrow money (A LOAN); 60A: Eastern Canadian province grouping, with "the" (MARITIMES); 61A: Saltpeter, to a Brit (NITRE); 62A: Smithsonian collection (AMERICANA); 63A: Spirited horse (STEED); 64A: Nielsen ratings subjects (TELECASTS); 1D: Caesar's partner Imogene (COCA); 2D: Actress Gardner et al. (AVAS); 3D: Court call makers (REFS); 4D: Cologne crowd? (DREI); 5D: Prepares (GETS SET); 6D: Has an __ grind (AXE TO); 7D: Yucatán's capital (MERIDA); 8D: "__ Brockovich" (ERIN); 9D: Child actor's chauffeur? (STAGE MOM); 10D: Height (STATURE); 11D: Tolerates teasing gracefully (TAKES A JOKE); 12D: Formal answer to "Who's there?" (IT IS I); 13D: End of a pentamerous serial (PART V); 14D: TiVo option (ERASE); 23D: Will Rogers prop (LASSO); 24D: "__ grip!" (GET A); 25D: Crooked (ALOP); 26D: High wind (FIFE); 27D: Unwavering (FOUR-SQUARE); 29D: Messy situation (SNAFU); 31D: Hairlike parts, such as those that help geckos cling to walls (SETAE); 33D: St. with counties named Comanche and Choctaw (OKLA.); 34D: Uncle Remus's __ Fox (BRER); 35D: Speaks (SAYS); 38D: One with immunity (DIPLOMAT); 41D: Buried (INURNED); 43D: One leading a spartan lifestyle (ASCETIC); 45D: Marine bird (PETREL); 47D: Blueprints (PLANS); 48D: Ignited again (RELIT); 49D: Cry on cue, say (EMOTE); 51D: U.S.: county :: U.K. : __ (SHIRE); 54D: Moniker (NAME); 55D: Flaky mineral (MICA); 56D: Latin 101 verb (AMAS); 57D: Colleague of Lane and Olsen (KENT); 58D: Those, to Teresa (ESAS).


FRIDAY, Oct. 30, 2009 — Dan Naddor

THEME: West Love* — Qu- to W- sound changes at the beginnings of familiar phrases; wacky phrases + wacky "?" clues = everyone's a quinner!

*["West Love" because the puzzle shows love for the "W," which can stand for "West" ... and 'cause I love The Roots]

I believe my description of the Dan Naddor formula, expressed in my last write-up of a Dan Naddor puzzle, applies perfectly again today. Let's see if I can dig it up. Here we go. Allow me to quote myself (from two weeks ago):

Dan Naddor is prolific, and his stuff is pretty solid, but I feel like his grids are becoming very predictable. I knew who the constructor of this was without ever looking at the credit. Lots of theme answers united by letter/sound change. Wackiness abounds. True, lots of folks do that, but I have this feeling he has a master list of 100s of these types of gimmicks that he's just working his way through, cranking them out in high volume (no one appears in LAT more). There's nothing wrong with the grids, which are almost always well constructed. But ... seems like his work should be getting more imaginative and artful, instead of predictable and workmanlike.

Today, just take the hard "K" sound off the beginning of "Qu-" words. Now you've got "W-" words. Resulting phrases are clever enough, but not brilliant. Not astonishing. Not "wow." Would like some "wow." Sadly, today, the non-theme fill isn't as good as I'm used to with DN's puzzles. HELL WEEK is fabulous (
3D: College hazing period), and the NE and SW corners are pretty good too, but the rest is pretty blah. An IMAM in an IROC on the ITEN. Unfortunate plural abbrevs. like RNAS and IRAS, and then just the general yuck of CNS, AAAS, SSS, A JOB, CAN OF, etc. As partial phrases go, I kind of like I BEFORE E. But overall, pretty bland.

Crosswordese 101: TIARAS (15A: Headgear on some runways) — so common is TIARA that I can't believe we haven't covered it yet (assuming the CW101 database is up-to-date ... we make PG deal with that). Royalty and beauty weans tend to be the ones wearing TIARAS in puzzles, but don't forget the pope likes a good TIARA too. TIARA is what he calls that bejeweled crown-like thingie he wears from time to time on top of his head. The one with a cross at the tippy top.

What else? (the "T" edition)

  • 42A: As you like it (TO TASTE) — like the catchy clue. When too many answers start with prepositions, I start to notice, and not in a good way. TO TASTE is joined today by ON STRIKE and AT NINE. Why this piling up of prepositional phrases should bug me, I don't know. I'm not saying it's rational.
  • 42D: Aptly named mod model (TWIGGY) — because she looked like a twig. Literally. People would often pick her up and start to snap her in half, at which point she would cry out, "Hey, I'm a human being, not a twig," to which the would-be snapper would reply, "Well, you could have fooled me."
  • 49D: Golden Horde member (TATAR) — the "Golden Horde" sounds like a college team name, like 'Bama's CRIMSON TIDE.
  • 38D: 19th Greek letter (TAU) — this was in NYT today as [Cross figure].
  • 58D: Actress Carrere (TIA) — she starred in an '80s movie called "Zombie Nightmare" with Adam West, but if you know her at all, you probably know her from "Wayne's World"

  • 44D: Raptor's grabbers (TALONS) — The danger of winging your lectures on Sir Thomas Wyatt is that occasionally you can be heard to utter things like "pigeons don't have feet ... they have those grabby things ... TALONS." Don't ask. It was actually a pretty good class.
See you Monday,


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


THURSDAY, October 29, 2009
Don Gagliardo

Theme: Shoes — Theme answers are familiar(?) phrases the last word of which is a type of shoe. (And there's a SHOE "box" of four squares in each corner of the grid. And no, I totally didn't notice that when I did the puzzle last night.—Orange)

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Kitchen backups (SINK CLOGS).
  • 31A: North Carolina team (TARHEELS).
  • 47A: Octane rating sites (GAS PUMPS).
  • 64A: Bonneville Speedway feature (SALT FLATS).
  • 40A: Container for the end of 17-, 31-, 47 or 64-Across; there's a literal one in each four-square puzzle corner (SHOEBOX).
I have a wide range of feelings about this puzzle. I was immediately put off by the 1A/1D crossing of EOS and ESSO. That's some pretty ugly crosswordese to have to contend with right at the very start. But things got steadily better from there. I laughed at myself when I got to the first theme answer. I had the first few letters and then had come at it from the back end and was looking at SINK*LOGS and thought to myself "Sink blogs? What the ...?" So then I looked at the clue (always a good idea) and thought "kitchen backups" meant, like, the B-team chefs — like the ones that guy yells at on that reality show — and I was surprised there was a word for that. Well, it finally clicked and then ... yuck. Sink clogs? First of all, I don't want to be thinking about my sink being clogged up. God knows what's down there, but it's sure to be slimy. Second, who uses this phrase? And why would you need to use it in the plural? Just ugly. When I got down to the reveal answer at 40A, though, I thought, "Oh, this is a cute theme!" and thought the clunkiness might be worth it. But then again with the plural thing at GAS PUMPS. I get it that it has to be plural for the theme, but I really don't like the look of it.

There are two places where I would bet a lot of you had trouble. The first one is at the cross of KAHUNA (28A: Island big shot) and KLIEG (28D: __ light: filmmaking arc lamp). I thought KAHUNA started with a C, but I've heard of KLIEG lights, so I ended up okay over there. Did some of you stick with the C? Or does everyone but me know that word is spelled with a K? Then, the crossing of OTHO (60D: First century Roman emperor) and DHS (68A: ALers who don't play the field) is just gnarly. I am not one of those people who hates to see sports clues in the puzzles. I actually kind of like them. But if it's going to be a baseball abbreviation, please give me a gettable cross. And not one that, say, could very well be OTTO instead of OTHO. There were four Holy Roman Emperors named OTTO. None of them ruled in the first century, but really, who knows that? It's perfectly reasonable to expect the answer to be OTTO. But, instead, it's this OTHO guy who, by the way, only reigned for three months. So, boo. Also kind of yucky to see both OTHO and OTOE (53D: Oklahoma tribe) in the grid — and please don't get me started on SONO- and ODO- (3D: Prefix with gram / 53A: Prefix with meter).

On the bright side, I noticed a lot of Ks and Xs as I was solving, and those are pretty cool letters. Also, HAS A SHOT AT is an awesome answer (30D: Is in the running for). And it's a treat to see the UTNE READER in its full two-word glory for a change (11D: Eclectic bimonthly digest). Overall, though, not an enjoyable solve for me. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Crosswordese 101: Here are the OMARs you need know:
  1. Five-star General OMAR Bradley.
  2. The poet OMAR Khayyám, who wrote "The Rubáiyát," the most famous line of which begins "A jug of wine...."
  3. OMAR Epps, who co-stars with Hugh Laurie in the medical drama "House."
  4. OMAR Sharif, who is most often clued in relation to his roles in "Funny Girl" and "Dr. Zhivago," but who we learn today is also, apparently, a bridge expert.
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Everything Else — 1A: Dawn goddess (EOS); 4A: Starbucks flavor (MOCHA); 9A: Bring about (CAUSE); 14A: "__ 'nuff!" (SHO); 15A: Saint associated with the Russian alphabet (CYRIL); 16A: Weed B Gon maker (ORTHO); 19A: Took to jail (RAN IN); 20A: Alley Oop's girl (OOOLA); 21A: Displayed (SHOWN); 23A: Minnesota twins? (ENS); 24A: Snootiness (AIRS); 26A: Great server (ACER); 35A: Grassy tracts (LEAS); 36A: Illustrator Silverstein (SHEL); 38A: Rub the wrong away (ERASE); 39A: For what __ worth (IT'S); 42A: Veep before Al (DAN); 43A: Put into law (ENACT); 46A: Clears after taxes (NETS); 49A: Widely separated (SPARSE); 51A: Opposite of away (HOME); 52A: Part of a yard (FOOT); 55A: Astronomer Tycho __ (BRAHE); 58A: Western border lake (TAHOE); 62A: Demolish (TOTAL); 66A: Chicago hub (O'HARE); 67A: Tours ta-ta (ADIEU); 69A: Adlai's running mate (ESTES); 70A: Computer image dot (PIXEL); 71A: Manager Torre (JOE); 1D: Gas sign north of the border (ESSO); 2D: Columbus's home (OHIO); 4D: Obama's opponent (MCCAIN); 5D: Skinny Olive (OYL); 6D: Interbreed (CROSS); 7D: Word with five or noon (HIGH); 9D: General Mills cereal (CORN CHEX); 10D: Heavenly altar (ARA); 12D: __ guard: bit of catchers' gear (SHIN); 13D: Tons of time (EONS); 18D: Actor Kinski (KLAUS); 22D: "This means __!" (WAR); 25D: Itch source (RASH); 27D: Musket end? (-EER); 29D: WellPoint rival (AETNA); 31D: Abounds (TEEMS); 32D: Jessica of "Dark Angel" (ALBA); 33D: Exams for future litigators, briefly (LSATS); 34D: Taste or touch (SENSE); 37D: Hula __ (HOOP); 40D: Trips (STUMBLES); 41D: Thereabouts (OR SO); 44D: USN noncom (CPO); 46D: Birth-related (NATAL); 48D: Sea, to Sartre (MER); 50D: Amount of soup on the stove (POTFUL); 52D: Cartoon cat (FELIX); 54D: Outbursts from Homer (D'OHS); 56D: "Stat!" cousin (ASAP); 57D: "__ only known!" (HAD I); 59D: Meccan pilgrimage (HADJ); 61D: Latin being (ESSE); 63D: "__ you serious?" (ARE); 65D: Top with a slogan (TEE).


WEDNESDAY, October 28, 2009—Barry C. Silk

THEME: "Tie the Knot"—Four phrases begin with kinds of KNOTs

I didn't grasp the theme after I had the first two theme entries, but once GRANNY reared her head, I knew the puzzle had a knack for knots.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Life insurance clause (DOUBLE INDEMNITY). Is a double knot an official sailing/scouting/knot-tying sort of knot? Wait, it's the shoelace double bow I'm thinking of. Yes! There is probably a double knot. As for Double Indemnity, I've never seen the movie.

  • 25A: Hoedown activity (SQUARE DANCE). The square knot is, the dictionary tells me, a particular kind of double knot. But "double knot" is not an entry in that dictionary. You know what you might find at a hoedown or SQUARE DANCE? Bales of hay for decoration. PuzzleGirl knows a woman from her school committee who knows where to go to find hay bales, but she's not gonna do it. There was a memo to that effect. As Joan Crawford is to wire hangers, that committee member is to hay bales.
  • 43A: Apple variety (GRANNY SMITH). I used to love those apples but then I remembered that sweet is better than sour. A granny knot is a square knot that's gone awry so the rope may slip.
  • 54A: Inadvertent remark (Slip of the tongue). The slip knot can be undone by pulling on it. Don't use this to tie up your horse or your boat or your child, or you may lose them.
  • 62D: 17-, 25-, 43- and 54-Across begin with a kind of one (KNOT). Exactly where we like to find the Grand Unifying Answer, in the slot for the very last Across answer.
Alrighty, let's take a peek at some of the fill that is decidedly not crosswordese:
  • 15A: Known as "the Impaler," prince who inspired "Dracula" (VLAD). Halloween is nigh. How about a creepy Dracula movie clip? Here's the first 10 minutes of the 1931 classic with Bela Lugosi (and parts 2 through 8 contain the rest of the movie). Skip ahead to about the 5:45 mark if you want to get straight to the coffins.

  • 22A: Posh (RITZY). Aw, too bad I just embedded a video. It's too soon to have another one, so no Taco's "Puttin' on the Ritz" today.
  • 25D: Missouri city nickname (ST. JOE). I may or may not have been through there, years ago. Is there...is there hay there?
  • 26D: Fundamental particle (QUARK).
Yep, with XENO joining these other Scrabbly answers, we do have a pangram on our hands. That's the term for a crossword that contains all 26 letters.

How difficult was this puzzle? By my metric, it's as hard as an easy Wednesday NYT, and harder than the typical Tuesday. How about that? A Wednesday L.A. Times puzzle that lands in Wednesday NYT territory! I like this.

Crosswordese 101: Holy bear in the sky! Can it be? Have we really not covered URSA and its Latin plural URSAE by now? 60A: Bears, in Latin are URSAE. We see the singular form much, much more often. The constellation we call the Big Dipper is part of a larger star group called Ursa Major, or the Great Bear. Ursa Minor, the Little Bear, includes the Little Dipper. Fill-in-the-blank clues that end with Minor or Major are usually URSA. Other popular clues include celestial bear, sky bear, and bear in the air.

Everything Else — 1A: Run smoothly (FLOW); 5A: Uzi filler (AMMO); 9A: Bench warmers aren't on it (A TEAM); 14A: Excellent (A-ONE); 15A: Known as "the Impaler," prince who inspired "Dracula" (VLAD); 16A: American competitor (DELTA); 17A: Life insurance clause (DOUBLE INDEMNITY); 20A: Printers' widths (EMS); 21A: A deadly sin (ENVY); 22A: Posh (RITZY); 23A: Neurologist's test, briefly (EEG); 24A: Publicizes (AIRS); 25A: Hoedown activity (SQUARE DANCE); 30A: Poor, as an excuse (SAD); 33A: Second most populous Oklahoma city (TULSA); 34A: Alan of "The West Wing" (ALDA); 35A: Marquis de __ (SADE); 36A: Youngest of the musical Jacksons (JANET); 37A: Golfer's concern (LIE); 38A: Mass of grass (CLUMP); 39A: Vocalized (ORAL); 40A: Defendant's answer (PLEA); 41A: Accountant's review (AUDIT); 42A: Barely squeeze (out) (EKE); 43A: Apple variety (GRANNY SMITH); 45A: Petting places (ZOOS); 46A: BMOC, for one (VIP); 47A: Washington neighbor (IDAHO); 49A: Yoked beasts (OXEN); 51A: Psychic's asset, for short (ESP); 54A: Inadvertent remark (SLIP OF THE TONGUE); 57A: Common news hr. (TEN PM); 58A: "I'd advise against it" ("DON'T"); 59A: Brand with a paw print in its logo (IAMS); 60A: Bears, in Latin (URSAE); 61A: Pump or loafer (SHOE); 62A: 17-, 25-, 43- and 54-Across begin with a kind of one (KNOT); 1D: Lose brightness (FADE); 2D: Weaver's machine (LOOM); 3D: "We're treating" (ONUS); 4D: Surfing area with no water, with "the" (WEB); 5D: Get even for (AVENGE); 6D: LXII x XVII (MLIV); 7D: Quite a few (MANY); 8D: Unusual (ODD); 9D: Regard highly (ADMIRE); 10D: Portable shelters (TENTS); 11D: Part of QE2: Abbr. (ELIZ.); 12D: ABA member (ATTY.); 13D: Perhaps will (MAY); 18D: Ogle (LEER AT); 19D: "Fear of Flying" author Jong (ERICA); 23D: Painter's stand (EASEL); 24D: Like llamas (ANDEAN); 25D: Missouri city nickname (ST. JOE); 26D: Fundamental particle (QUARK); 27D: Radii neighbors (ULNAE); 28D: City in which the State Fair of Texas is held annually (DALLAS); 29D: Out of this world (ALIEN); 30D: Riyadh resident (SAUDI); 31D: Fess up (ADMIT); 32D: Pool measurement (DEPTH); 35D: Batter's dry spell (SLUMP); 38D: Vegas attraction (CASINO); 40D: Evidence (PROOF); 43D: End a vacation, say (GO HOME); 44D: Mimieux of "The Time Machine" (YVETTE); 45D: Mothers of Invention musician (ZAPPA); 47D: Robert of "The Sopranos" (ILER); 48D: Cacophonies (DINS); 49D: "Whoops!" ("OH OH!"); 50D: Strange: Pref. (XENO-); 51D: Alaska's first governor (EGAN); 52D: Japanese wrestling (SUMO); 53D: Nuisance (PEST); 54D: Early Beatle Sutcliffe (STU); 55D: NFL six-pointers (TDS); 56D: Ending with beat (NIK).


TUESDAY, October 27
Fred Jackson III

Theme: Playing for Both Teams — Theme answers start with homophones of BYE.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Furthermore (BY THE SAME TOKEN).
  • 33A: 1961 Tony-winning musical inspired by Elvis being drafted (BYE BYE BIRDIE).
  • 43A: 7/4/1976 celebration (BICENTENNIAL).
  • 59A: Retail store financing come-on (BUY NOW PAY LATER).
Have any of you been room parents for your kids' elementary school classes? In a moment of what I can only explain as temporary insanity, I signed on to be the room mom for PuzzleSon's fifth grade class. Turns out that fifth graders do a lot of stuff together as a grade (instead of individually in classes), so all the fifth grade room moms have to coordinate. We held our first meeting at a coffee shop last week and I pretty much sat there with a dazed look on my face the whole time. These women have unlimited energy, hundreds of ideas, and an apparently inexhaustible store of craft supplies.What I'm saying is that they are — how should I put it? — intense. They actually kind of freaked me out. The good news is that they're unlikely to notice that I'm not participating quite as eagerly as they are and if I miss any of the meetings I'll be kept up to date with the inevitable blizzard of emails that will follow. What I'd really like to do is ask them if they might consider that we're overdoing things a little, but I'm pretty sure their heads would explode. So I'm just going to do my best to lay low without actually shirking any responsibility. Should be interesting. But, hey, let's talk about the puzzle.

This is an awesome Tuesday puzzle. The theme is straightforward and easy to grok, but the theme answers are pretty sparkly for a Tuesday. I guess BICENTENNIAL is the dullest of the group, but for me it brings to mind decorating my bike for the Fourth of July parade around the quad at Moorhead State University when I was a kid. So no complaints there. Other than that, the puzzle is a little heavy on the crosswordese in the bottom half, but the fill includes plenty of fun words as well. I don't remember seeing RANKLE in a puzzle before (11D: Fester in one's mind). Even though I wanted Crush, FANTA is kind of fun to say (4D: Classic orange soda). I always like seeing colloquial phrases in the grid and NOT A BIT is perfect today (47D: Cooperative response to "Do you mind?"). What else? Oh yeah, RAKISH (48A: Debonair). Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is an excellent word.

  • 10A: Mouse catcher (TRAP). I read this one as "Moose trap" and thought "That's odd. They use traps ...?"
  • 72A: Ball-bearing gadgets? (TEES). Cute!
  • 5D: Seafood cookout (FISH FRY). I was going to pull a picture off of Facebook of a fish fry one of the Hawkeye wrestlers held recently and found out that he has unfriended me! Oh the indignity of it all! (I'm guessing he wasn't crazy about my politics.)
  • 10D: The Dixie Chicks, e.g. (TRIO).

  • 60D: Indian breads (NANS). I do not like this word spelled with only one A, but I think I'm going to have to get over it.
Crosswordese 101: I took a few minutes to learn a little something this morning and I'm glad I did. I've been plugging 14A: China's Zhou ENLAI's name into the grid for a while now without really knowing who he was. Turns out he was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China, he was at least partly responsible for Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China, and it was conflict between the Chinese public and the Communist Party surrounding Zhou Enlai's death that led to the Tiananmen Square Incident in 1976. You don't need to know any of this for crosswords because he is always clued straightforwardly as today. Although sometimes his name is spelled CHOU in the clues.

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P.S. If you missed all the excitement around this Sunday's New York Times puzzle by Brendan Emmett Quigley, you can read about it here. (Scroll down to items 10(c) and (d). Includes spoilers!)

Everything Else — 1A: One-person boat (SKIFF); 6A: College athlete (JOCK); 14A: China's Zhou __ (ENLAI); 15A: Clickable symbol (ICON); 16A: Compete in a meet (RACE); 17A: Ghostly noises (MOANS); 18A: "Let It __": Everly Brothers hit (BE ME); 19A: Peruvian empire builder (INCA); 23A: Barbary ape's cont. (AFR.); 24A: Necklace clasp resting place (NAPE); 25A: Baton Rouge sch. (LSU); 26A: Implore (BEG); 29A: Coastal inlet (RIA); 31A: Take to the clink (ARREST); 37A: Rig on the road (SEMI); 38A: John, to Ringo? (LOO); 39A: Trivial, as chatter (IDLE); 51A: Dr.'s group, maybe (HMO); 52A: Adobe file format (PDF); 53A: Cockney's main Web page? ('OME); 54A: Bears or Cubs (TEAM); 57A: Suffix with Israel (-ITE); 64A: Rick's love in "Casablanca" (ILSA); 65A: Mayberry moppet (OPIE); 66A: Con game (BUNCO); 68A: Nuremberg no (NEIN); 69A: Elbow-joint bone (ULNA); 70A: Embodiment of perfection (IDEAL); 71A: RR stops (STNS.); 73A: Short-winded (TERSE); 1D: Divinity sch. (SEM.); 2D: Drawer projection (KNOB); 3D: "Now __ me down ..." (I LAY); 6D: Triangular sails (JIBS); 7D: Blue part of a map (OCEAN); 8D: Cause for a pause (COMMA); 9D: Patella protector (KNEEPAD); 12D: Way to get in (ACCESS); 13D: Planters logo Mr. __ (PEANUT); 21D: Buffalo-to-Albany canal (ERIE); 22D: Actress Garr (TERI); 26D: Air rifle ammo (BBS); 27D: Needle feature (EYE); 28D: Precious stone (GEM); 30D: Proficient (ABLE); 32D: Coachman's control (REIN); 34D: Netanyahu of Israel, familiarly (BIBI); 35D: Particle with a charge (ION); 36D: Philip who wrote the Zuckerman novels (ROTH); 40D: Chip go-with (DIP); 41D: Young man (LAD); 42D: Christmas helper (ELF); 44D: Analogy words (IS TO); 45D: Give a tongue-lashing (CHEW OUT); 46D: Runner Zátopek (EMIL); 48D: Spring chirpers (ROBINS); 49D: Lucky charm (AMULET); 50D: Enters, as data (KEYS IN); 55D: William Tell's target (APPLE); 56D: Largest New England state (MAINE); 58D: Piano exercise (ÉTUDE); 61D: Supporting votes (YEAS); 62D: Cabinet dept. with a lightning bolt on its seal (ENER.); 63D: Some HDTVs (RCAS); 67D: Corrida shout (OLÉ).


MONDAY, Oct. 26, 2009 — Jerome Gunderson

THEME: "The TERMINATOR" (56A: With "The," Schwarzenegger film released 10/26/1984, and a hint to the puzzle theme found in the first words of 17-, 34- and 39-Across) — those "first words" form the catchphrase "I'LL / BE / BACK!"

Theme is both clever and weak — don't like that the "THE" was left off the title of "TERMINATOR" in this puzzle. If it's your marquee answer, it needs to be complete. Also, infinitely easy to get tons and tons of phrases that begin with "I'LL," "BE," and "BACK." This should have allowed for a construction that included "THE TERMINATOR" and possibly a bonus answer like ARNOLD. That said, the idea is cute, and the rest of the grid is pretty fabulous for a Monday: relatively open and full of odd and unexpected stuff. I especially loved the middle of the grid, with YORICK (25D: "Alas, poor _____!": Hamlet) and his GERBIL POPTART (28D: Rodent kept as a house pet + 24D: Kellogg's toaster pastry). Also love the JUICY (47D: Like ripe peaches) answers KID ROCK (40D: Duettist with Sheryl Crow in the song "Picture") and RUGRATS (41D: Toon babies of '90s-'00s TV). Would have loved FINN to have been Neil or Tim, but that's probably too Kiwi for a U.S. Monday puzzle.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Hymn whose title follows the line "When I die, Hallelujah, by and by" ("I'LL FLY AWAY") — oddly biblical puzzle today with HOSANNAH nearby (10D: Biblical cry of adoration)
  • 34A: Scout's motto ("BE PREPARED")
  • 39A: How duelists begin (BACK-TO-BACK)
Crosswordese 101: ACACIA (21A: Gum arabic tree) — I don't know much about this tree except that it is 2/3 vowels and shows up pretty frequently for a six-letter non-plural. I got it off the first "A" and I know nothing about trees, foliage, botany, what have you, which means my brain has been conditioned to think of this word, which suggests its frequency. Look also for the reasonably popular AZALEA, which is a bush, not a tree, but in its vowel placement, its first and final "A"s, and its botanicality, has plenty in common with ACACIA.

What else?

  • 29A: Relative known for quitting? (uncle) — that's nice.
  • 59A: Ford Explorer Sport _____ (Trac) — that's not.

See you Friday


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Everything Else — 1A: Highway hauler (SEMI); 5A: Cut off (SEVER); 10A: "__ Silver, away!" (HI-YO); 14A: Gas in a sign (NEON); 15A: Utah city (PROVO); 16A: Sign of the future (OMEN); 17A: Hymn whose title follows the line "When I die, Hallelujah, by and by" (I'LL FLY AWAY); 19A: Fill to excess (SATE); 20A: "Cats" poet (T. S. ELIOT); 21A: Gum arabic tree (ACACIA); 23A: Adviser Landers (ANN); 24A: Traffic cone (PYLON); 26A: Knight's lady (DAME); 28A: Slimy stuff (GOO); 29A: Relative known for quitting? (UNCLE); 33A: Run the country (RULE); 34A: Scout's motto (BE PREPARED); 36A: Kimono sash (OBI); 37A: Air ace's missions (SORTIES); 38A: Climbing vine (IVY); 39A: How duelists begin (BACK TO BACK); 41A: Baseball stats (RBIS); 42A: "Old MacDonald" refrain (E-I-E-I-O); 43A: Rile up (IRK); 44A: Ado (FUSS); 45A: Resided (DWELT); 47A: Dance from Ireland (JIG); 48A: __ Tar Pits (LA BREA); 51A: Daybreak (SUNRISE); 55A: French franc successor (EURO); 56A: With "The," Schwarzenegger film released 10/26/1984, and a hint to the puzzle theme found in the first words of 17-, 34- and 39-Across (TERMINATOR); 59A: Ford Explorer Sport __ (TRAC); 60A: Storage room (ATTIC); 61A: "Star Trek: T.N.G." counselor Deanna (TROI); 62A: Armored vehicle (TANK); 63A: Snappish (TESTY); 64A: Lip-__: mouth the words (SYNC); 1D: Grumpy mood (SNIT); 2D: Morays, e.g. (EELS); 3D: Lawn burrower (MOLE); 4D: Arouse, as passion (INFLAME); 5D: Watch covertly (SPY ON); 6D: The E in Q.E.D. (ERAT); 7D: Solemn promise (VOW); 8D: Sister of Zsa Zsa (EVA); 9D: Fit for a king (ROYAL); 10D: Biblical cry of adoration (HOSANNA); 11D: Popular Apple (IMAC); 12D: Himalayan giant (YETI); 13D: Fit to be drafted (ONE-A); 18D: Queue (LINE); 22D: Political takeovers (COUPS); 24D: Kellogg's toaster pastry (POP-TART); 25D: "Alas, poor __!": Hamlet (YORICK); 26D: Persian Gulf emirate (DUBAI); 27D: Wonderland girl (ALICE); 28D: Rodent kept as a house pet (GERBIL); 30D: Baby beds (CRIBS); 31D: Lee jeans alternative (LEVI'S); 32D: Ice cream brand (EDY'S); 33D: Judge's attire (ROBE); 34D: Scarer's shout (BOO); 35D: Scared response (EEK); 37D: Uncle Tom's creator (STOWE); 40D: Duettist with Sheryl Crow in the song "Picture" (KID ROCK); 41D: Toon babies of '90s-'00s TV (RUGRATS); 44D: Sawyer's friend (FINN); 46D: Frequent, as a diner (EAT AT); 47D: Like ripe peaches (JUICY); 48D: Riga native (LETT); 49D: Distinctive emanation (AURA); 50D: Muffin ingredient (BRAN); 51D: Infatuated, old-style (SMIT); 52D: "This is my best effort" ("I TRY"); 53D: Any minute now (SOON); 54D: Guitarist Clapton (ERIC); 57D: Somme summer (ÉTÉ); 58D: Privileges: Abbr. (RTS).


SUNDAY, October 25
Sylvia Bursztyn (calendar puzzle)

Theme: "Done With Addition" — Theme answers are familiar phrases with the word OVER added to them somewhere to create new wacky phrases clued ?-style.

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

Theme answers:
  • 25A: Cost of hens, coops, etc.? (EGG OVERHEAD).
  • 42A: Follow up on inventing the wheel? (DISCOVER BRAKES).
  • 85A: Embellished reporting? (GILDED COVERAGE).
  • 104A: Pitch a president? (HEAVE HOOVER).
  • 16D: Sport played among jetsam? (OVERBOARD GAME).
  • 24D: The morning after? (HANGOVER TIME).
  • 48D: Hyde's cowboy counterpart? (DROVER JEKYLL).
  • 51D: Scraps in Dr. Frankenstein's lab? (LEFTOVER BRAIN).
Everything Else — 1A: Temporary tender (SCRIP); 6A: Dell output (PCS); 9A: Cop's collar (PERP); 13A: Indian appetizer (SAMOSA); 19A: "Ain't --- Shame" (THAT A); 20A: Syllable before disant (SOI); 21A: Purim's month (ADAR); 22A: Go places (TRAVEL); 23A: Beyond beautiful (RAVISHING); 27A: Whitney Houston's label (ARISTA); 28A: Asian appetizer (SATAY); 30A: Vena --- (CAVA); 31A: Hwy. (RTE); 32A: Vietnam's --- Dinh Diem (NGO); 33A: Namibian's neighbor (ANGOLAN); 35A: Pueblo people (ZUNIS); 36A: Stein or Stiller (BEN); 37A: Crème-crème filler (DE LA); 39A: Jewish folklore figure (GOLEM); 40A: Blender button (PUREE); 41A: Dix or Knox (FORT); 45A: World-weary (BLASÉ); 46A: PBS program (POV); 47A: Bent a bit (STOOPED); 48A: Costly (DEAR); 49A: Bonnie Bramlett's bandmate (DELANEY); 53A: Parrot lions (ROAR); 54A: Lobster's little look-alike (CRAWDAD); 57A: "A Star Is Born" song (EVERGREEN); 60A: Carson's sidekick (MCMAHON); 62A: Boxer's "Back off!" ("GRR!"); 63A: "A jest" per John Gay (LIFE); 64A: Grimm works (TALES); 66A: Comic Smirnoff (YAKOV); 67A: Whitish (PALE); 68A: Body image of a sort, for short (TAT); 69A: Track break (PIT STOP); 71A: Sing in court (NAME NAMES); 73A: False appellations (ANONYMS); 75A: Sluggish (SLOW); 77A: Method (PROCESS); 78A: Ignominious (VILE); 79A: Like Snow White (FAIREST); 82A: Henson or Morrison (JIM); 83A: Dunne with five Oscar nominations (IRENE); 89A: Used to be (WERE); 90A: Heraldry's red (GULES); 91A: Like Nike (GREEK); 92A: Da ---, Vietnam (NANG); 94A: Mass garb (ALB); 95A: Igloos, essentially (DOMES); 96A: Annie Oakley, for one (DEADEYE); 98A: Doo-wop syllable (SHA); 99A: Knight's title (SIR); 100A: Gyrene's org. (USMC); 101A: Italian scooter (VESPA); 102A: Alpacas' kin (LLAMAS); 107A: Graceless (INELEGANT); 109A: Ply the sky (AVIATE); 110A: Languish (PINE); 111A: Sgt., e.g. (NCO); 112A: Pancho's TV pal (CISCO); 113A: James of "Desperate Housewives" (DENTON); 114A: Big jerk (YANK); 115A: Xer opener (GEN); 116A: Keepsake (TOKEN); 1D: Hair piece (STRAND); 2D: Used plastic (CHARGED); 3D: Cappelletti cousin (RAVIOLI); 4D: "--- the East, and Juliet ..." (IT IS); 5D: Carbo-loader's course (PASTA); 6D: It comes after chi (PSI); 7D: Instrument panels (CONSOLES); 8D: CHP traffic caution (SIGALERT); 9D: Song of tribute (PAEAN); 10D: On tenterhooks (EDGY); 11D: Car-wash cloth (RAG); 12D: Obtained (PROCURED); 13D: Wonder of music (STEVIE); 14D: What Polonius hid behind (ARRAS); 15D: --- -jongg (MAH); 17D: Ushers (SEATERS); 18D: Like firm fettuccine (AL DENTE); 26D: Directional devices (VANES); 29D: Jeffrey of "Arrested Development" (TAMBOR); 34D: Sacto VIP (GOV); 35D: Violinist Pinchas (ZUKERMAN); 38D: "An heir and ---" (A SPARE); 40D: Vatican rule (PAPACY); 41D: Recall cause (FLAW); 43D: DC group (CONG.); 44D: Word with elbow or engine (ROOM); 45D: Word with coffee or jelly (BEAN); 49D: American competitor (DELTA); 50D: Naive, backward and French? (EVIAN); 52D: "The Tower" poet (YEATS); 54D: Munch (CHOMP); 55D: Van Gogh locale (ARLES); 56D: Shift or sheath (DRESS); 58D: Raised lines? (ELS); 59D: Business figure (NET SALES); 61D: Rap sheet letters (AKA); 65D: Cone and cube (SOLIDS); 67D: Arcade classic (PACMAN); 69D: War correspondent Ernie (PYLE); 70D: Tiny hole (PORE); 72D: Jacques' black (NOIR); 74D: Start time for Judy, Violet and Doralee (NINE); 76D: Pieces of pie (WEDGES); 79D: Office keeper (FILE COPY); 80D: CSI collectible (SCRAPING); 81D: Performance en pointe (TOE DANCE); 83D: "They tricked me!" ("I WAS HAD!"); 84D: Spell (RELIEVE); 85D: Marx brother born Milton (GUMMO); 86D: "Rubber Ball" singer Bobby (VEE); 87D: Doughboy's gear (GAS MASK); 88D: Intensify (ENHANCE); 90D: Genesis land (GOSHEN); 93D: Alphonse's friend (GASTON); 95D: Because of (DUE TO); 96D: Jacobi or Jeter (DEREK); 97D: Vote in (ELECT); 101D: Hardy's Diggory (VENN); 103D: Exchange fee (AGIO); 105D: Cabernet container (VAT); 106D: Through (VIA); 108D: Eternity (EON).

SUNDAY, October 25, 2009
John Lampkin (syndicated puzzle)

Theme: "Waiting for 12-Across" — Theme answers (and grid design!) are all related to that great mythical figure, The Great Pumpkin.

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

Theme answers:
  • 12A: This puzzle's honoree (THE GREAT PUMPKIN).
  • 27A: Strip where 12-Across first didn't appear in 1959 (PEANUTS).
  • 43A: When 25-Down expects 12-Across to appear (HALLOWEEN).
  • 56A: Characteristic 18-Down cry regarding 12-Across (OH GOOD GRIEF).
  • 79A: 12-Across creator (SCHULZ).
  • 82A: Dog once mistaken for 12-Across (SNOOPY).
  • 102A: 25-Down maintained them annually (VIGILS).
  • 104A: 12-Across tested 25-Down's faith by being one, inevitably, every year (NO SHOW).
  • 18D: Friend of 25-Down (CHARLIE BROWN).
  • 25D: Faithful crusader for the existence of 12-Across (LINUS VAN PELT).
  • 70D: Instrument seen in 27-Across (TOY PIANO).

Wow. Great theme with an ambitious number of theme answers and a hefty dose of grid restriction. In fact, I saw the grid and thought this must be one of Liz Gorski's masterpieces. (Also, I saw the theme name and thought "Godot? You can make a whole puzzle around Godot?") But John Lampkin did a great job with this one. There's a little bit of clunker fill, of course, and it's super unfortunate that symmetry required the inclusion of TOY PIANO, which certainly adds to the Peanuts vibe, but isn't directly related to The Great Pumpkin. With an A+ theme and solid B fill, though, this puzzle definitely makes the grade.

Just a couple other things:
  • 17A: Last Supper question (IS IT I?). Crosswordese 301.
  • 29A: Loaf (DOG IT). Love this colloquial phrase.
  • 41A: Puppy love (CRUSH). Ah, memories.

  • 75A: Former name of Lake Malawi (NYASA). If you say so.
  • 78A: Vampire's home, perhaps (CRYPT). Bonus Halloween answer.
  • 93A: Closer (NEARER). Because Mariano Rivera wouldn't fit.
  • 97A: Cupid teammate (DASHER). I tried Dancer first.
  • 99A: Larynx locale (THROAT). Love that it's crossing 68D: Of the windpipe (TRACHEAL).
  • 14D: "Sock __ me!" (IT TO). Kind of a retro feel to the puzzle today for me. References to "Laugh In" are always welcome.
  • 30D: Form into a mosaic pattern (TESSELLATE). Never heard this words before, but it's pretty cool.
  • 66D: Whiny (GRIPY). Remember when I said there was some clunky fill? Yeah.
Crosswordese 101: There are a few different ways to clue the extremely common ARI. Today's clue — 45A: "Exodus" hero — refers to ARI Ben Canaan from the 1958 Leon Uris book. In 1960, the book was made into a movie starring Paul Newman as ARI. Other first string ARIs include Jeremy Piven's character ARI Gold on HBO's "Entourage"; shipping magnate and second husband of Jacqueline Kennedy, ARI Onassis; and former press secretary for George W. Bush, ARI Fleischer. The B Team consists of NPR's ARI Shapiro, Kate & Allie's ARI Meyers (yikes!), and the ARIzona sports teams (on scoreboards).

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Everything Else — 1A: Blockbusters (SMASH HITS); 10A: Si and Am in "Lady and the Tramp" (SIAMESE CATS); 16A: Draw again, as comic book lines (REINK); 18A: Genesis firstborn (CAIN); 19A: Masked one at home (UMP); 22A: Amt. due (BAL.); 24A: And the list goes on, briefly (ET AL.); 26A: Hobbits' region (SHIRE); 31A: Chestnut horse (ROAN); 32A: LPGA golfer Johnson (TRISH); 33A: Hydrocarbon suffixes (-ANES); 35A: The king: Span. (EL REY); 37A: Tropical roofers (THATCHERS); 42A: Elusive guy in a striped shirt (WALDO); 44A: Italian Renaissance poet (TASSO); 46A: Eensy-__ (WEENSY); 48A: Summer Triangle star (ALTAIR); 50A: Sign made with two digits (VEE); 51A: Droll-sounding grain? (RYE); 52A: Verb from Mark Antony (LEND); 53A: Octopus costume features (ARMS); 54A: Every bit (ALL); 55A: Party girl? (DEB); 62A: Mets' div. (NLE); 63A: Noun from Mark Antony (EARS); 65A: Some Protestants (LUTHERANS); 66A: Scholastic nos. (GPAS); 67A: Let fall, poetically (DROPT); 69A: Opposes (NAYSAYS); 70A: Waste allowances (TRETS); 71A: Darkly complexioned, to Shakespeare (SWART); 73A: Himalayan sightings (YETIS); 74A: Picturesque fabric (TOILE); 77A: D.C. bigwig (SEN.); 84A: Put-__: pranks (ONS); 87A: Show contempt for, as a villain (HISS AT); 89A: 11-time Olympic swimming medalist Matt (BIONDI); 90A: Scannable mdse. bars (UPC); 95A: Reagan or Kennedy (AIRPORT); 100A: Board member (TRUSTEE); 101A: Ultimate purpose (END USE); 103A: Does a slow burn (SEETHES); 1D: Coach's gesturing (SIGN); 2D: Add a profit margin to (MARK UP); 3D: __ Zion Church (AME); 4D: Aegean, for one (SEA); 5D: DDE's predecessor (HST); 6D: Cool, like a cat (HEP); 7D: Post-ER area (ICU); 8D: Ethnic group of southern India (TAMILS); 9D: Some auto maintenance store products (STPS); 10D: Paris divider (SEINE); 11D: Enjoyed a cross-country jaunt? (SKIED); 12D: Showed the ropes (TRAINED); 13D: Legatee (HEIR); 15D: River between two Great Lakes (NIAGARA); 20D: Alloy components (METALS); 21D: To some extent (PARTLY); 22D: Nonsense, euphemistically (BUSHWA); 23D: Close behind (AT HEEL); 26D: Periods between vernal equinoxes (SOLAR YEARS); 28D: Wilhelmina's daughter in "Ugly Betty" (NICO); 31D: Gave a treat for a trick, say (REWARDED); 34D: Barefoot (SHOELESS); 36D: Pained cry (YOWL); 37D: Stanley Cup org. (THE NHL); 38D: Colt .45, e.g. (HANDGUN); 39D: Engages, as an attorney (RETAINS); 40D: Some drum parts (SNARES); 41D: NFL snappers (CTRS); 47D: Fair-hiring initials (EEO); 49D: Worldwide fiscal agcy. (IMF); 57D: Our Gang affirmative (OTAY); 58D: "You bet!" ("OH YES!"); 59D: Villa __: Italian landmark (DESTE); 60D: Speck of truth (GRAIN); 61D: Ocean-bottom fish (RAYS); 64D: Prevents littering? (SPAYS); 72D: Summer tops (T-SHIRTS); 74D: Walked-on (TRODDEN); 76D: Smallest cont. in area (AUS.); 78D: Not supporting (CON); 80D: Hurdles for future attys. (LSATS); 81D: Congo, once (ZAIRE); 82D: Yes or no emphasizer (SIREE); 83D: F and G, but not H (NOTES); 84D: Being shown, in a way (ON TV); 85D: Classic grape soda (NEHI); 86D: Puppeteer Tony who mentored Bil Baird (SARG); 88D: 50-50 test answer (TRUE); 89D: The pair (BOTH); 90D: "Nope" ("UH-UH"); 91D: Colombian coin (PESO); 92D: Yacht staff (CREW); 94D: Palais resident (ROI); 96D: Idaho Panhandle hrs. (PST); 98D: Radical '60s gp. (SDS).


SATURDAY, October 24, 2009—Thomas Heilman

THEME: No theme today—This is a themeless Saturday puzzle or, if you will, a "freestyle" crossword

ZOMG! This is merely an easyish Saturday puzzle rather than a shockingly easy themeless. This one landed at Thursday NYT level for me—though I can't be sure, as I write this Friday evening, that the Negra Modelo didn't slow me down a tad. Though I generally find that a drink or two does not impair my crossword solving skills. In fact, I'm contemplating organizing an informal Tipsy Crossword Tournament at the next ACPT. Maybe in the hotel bar.

I haven't seen Thomas Heilman's byline in over a year, and I don't think he's done a ton of themelesses so I didn't know what to expect. The grid features triple-stacked 15s at the top and bottom. Like most triple stacks, these are mostly crossed by short answers—but there are also some kick-ass 8s and 11s intersecting them. Here are those answers:

  • 1A: Obsolete item (A THING OF THE PAST). This is a terrific crossword answer. Five words, completely natural language.
  • 16A: "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and others (CAUTIONARY TALES). I was thinking of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and tried to wedge HARRYPOTTERBOOKS in there. Nope! Needed to think of Mickey Mouse making Mephistophelean bargains for wizardly power.
  • 17A: Pet that's larger than a toy (MINIATURE POODLE). Have you seen the incredible ways Sandra Hartness decks out her poodle, Cindy? The picture gallery is here.
  • 60A: Tax service, familiarly (INTERNAL REVENUE). Can anyone tell me why I started out with NATIONAL here? That's not at all a phrase with the same currency as INTERNAL REVENUE.
  • 65A: It may be awakened after a period of inattention (RENEWED INTEREST). Ooh, I like this one.
  • 66A: Retail security staff (STORE DETECTIVES). There's a reason the store detective is not the subject of an entire genre of fiction and movies, isn't there? "Ooh, here's the gripping tale of a store detective who—snzzzxx."
  • 3D: Hid out, with "down" (HUNKERED). Gotta love hunkering down when the weather is terrible.
  • 10D: Some triangle sides (HYPOTENUSES). Do you think hippopotamuses could learn to recognize hypotenuses?
  • 23D: Half-baked (HARE-BRAINED). Hey, look, they both have h.-b. initials. I just asked my husband if he could think of anyone with those initials. He barked "Howard Barkin." Howard is, of course, neither hare-brained nor half-baked. Probably fully baked. And quite often faster than me on crosswords. Also Halle Berry. I don't know about her crossword skills. Rex, are you and Halle crossword pen pals?
  • 38D: Soviet leader who signed SALT I and II (BREZHNEV). Fun to say. Who doesn't love the ZH sound? Americans lose out. We use the sound but not the spelling. I'd like leisure much more if it were spelled "leizhure." Wouldn't you?
Clues of note:
  • 18A: Group originally named the Jolly Corks (ELKS). Aw, why'd they change their name? "Jolly Corks" is awesome. The Elks have a ridiculously grand domed building in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood. It stands out, like anything jolly and corky ought to.
  • 36A: Verdi aria that translates to "It was you" (ERI TU). What the...? Really? That's what crosswordese "ERI TU" means? Does the Spanish song "Eres Tu" mean the same thing?
  • 4D: "Yea, verily" ("IT IS SO"). It's kind of a crappy answer, but the clue took me straight to it. Gotta love a "yea, verily" when it arises.
  • 45D: Connecting flights (STAIRS). Aha! Flights of stairs connecting the floors of a building. I've seen this misleading clue before, but I still appreciate it.
  • 64D: Lab caretaker? (VET). As in a labrador retriever cared for by a veterinarian.
CARNET (46D: Customs exemption for an auto) is just bizarre. It looks like it's a strange two-word phrase, CAR NET, but it's a single word from the French for "notebook," meaning a customs permit letting you take a car across the border for a limited time. Crosscan! Do you drive to Washington State and get carnets all the time?

I'm not sure where to go for today's lesson. Not one, but two four-letter European rivers starting with O, neither of 'em the Oder? Both the ORNE and the OUSE have been covered already, Operatic ERI TU is golden crosswordese. Then there's 35D: Alice's chronicler, a folk singer named ARLO Guthrie. The Arlos win today.

Crosswordese 101: You need to know a handful of folkie clues for ARLO, but Mr. Guthrie isn't the only ARLO in crosswords. There's also the comic strip "Arlo & Janis," in which Arlo and Janis are husband and wife. Arlo Guthrie's dad is folk legend Woody Guthrie. Arlo sang "Alice's Restaurant" (that link's a 2005 live video I can't embed here) and he played at Woodstock. And now you are equipped to recognize about 95% of the clues for ARLO. Sing-along time:

Everything Else — 1A: Obsolete item (A THING OF THE PAST); 16A: "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and others (CAUTIONARY TALES); 17A: Pet that's larger than a toy (MINIATURE POODLE); 18A: Group originally named the Jolly Corks (ELKS); 19A: Zaire's Mobutu Sese __ (SEKO); 20A: No longer serving: Abbr. (RET.); 21A: Bk. before Job (ESTH.); 24A: Themes (TOPICS); 27A: Try to bean, in baseball (THROW AT); 30A: Easing of tension (DETENTE); 31A: Roadside grazer (DOE); 32A: False show (PRETENSE); 34A: Fountain beverage (SODA); 36A: Verdi aria that translates to "It was you" (ERI TU); 37A: Diamond stats (RBIS); 41A: Hearty entrée (RIB ROAST); 44A: Caviar, say (ROE); 45A: Quantities possessing only magnitude (SCALARS); 48A: Veneration (RESPECT); 50A: Seat of Washington's Pierce County (TACOMA); 51A: 1956 Mideast crisis site (SUEZ); 52A: Part of a loop (ARC); 53A: "Given that ..." ("IF SO ..."); 57A: McAn of shoes (THOM); 60A: Tax service, familiarly (INTERNAL REVENUE); 65A: It may be awakened after a period of inattention (RENEWED INTEREST); 66A: Retail security staff (STORE DETECTIVES); 1D: Tiptop (ACME); 2D: Shadow (TAIL); 3D: Hid out, with "down" (HUNKERED); 4D: "Yea, verily" ("IT IS SO"); 5D: Actress Vardalos (NIA); 6D: Contracted, as an illness (GOT); 7D: Burden (ONUS); 8D: Cab hailer (FARE); 9D: Serious trip (TREK); 10D: Some triangle sides (HYPOTENUSES); 11D: WWII zone (ETO); 12D: Kung __ chicken (PAO); 13D: Second man on the moon (ALDRIN); 14D: Choose (SELECT); 15D: Safari menace (TSE-TSE); 22D: Local govt. unit (TWP.); 23D: Half-baked (HARE-BRAINED); 25D: They may end with 27-Down (OTS); 26D: Equal (PEER); 27D: Passes may result in them: Abbr. (TDS); 28D: "Yoo-__!" (HOO); 29D: Alaska and La., once (TERRS.); 30D: Remove pitch stains from (DETAR); 33D: Spanish uncle (TIO); 35D: Alice's chronicler (ARLO); 38D: Soviet leader who signed SALT I and II (BREZHNEV); 39D: Biennial games org. (IOC); 40D: Tennis unit (SET); 42D: Descartes's conclusion (I AM); 43D: Nashville sch. (TSU); 45D: Connecting flights (STAIRS); 46D: Customs exemption for an auto (CAR NET); 47D: Customer ID (ACCT. NO.); 49D: Czar known as "the Great" (PETER I); 54D: Lose color (FADE); 55D: Narrow opening (SLIT); 56D: Normandy river (ORNE); 58D: York's river (OUSE); 59D: "Miracle" 1969 World Series winners (METS); 61D: Chariot ending? (-EER); 62D: "Self-Reliance" essayist's monogram (RWE); 63D: List-ending abbr. (ETC.); 64D: Lab caretaker? (VET).


FRIDAY, October 23, 2009 — Merle Baker

THEME: IXNAY! (60A: Slangy turndown and a hint to how 17-, 22-, 32-, 47- and 51-Across are formed) — take familiar phrases, say "NAY" to (i.e take out) the "IX," and get new wacky phrases; clue said phrases "?"-style; lather rinse repeat; stir

I feel like there should be a massive balloon drop to celebrate the return of (some) difficulty to late-week LAT puzzles! OK, so I can't really call a puzzle that took me 5+ minutes to do "difficult," but it's a Hell of a lot better than the softballs we've been getting the last few months. I actually had to think. A lot. Yay thinking! This is a really snazzy and well-executed puzzle, with a great theme-revealing word — IXNAY — that serves as a really effective exclamation point for the whole thing. Got the theme (or so I believed) at DON QUOTE, but then when I had some trouble getting into MISTER FIT, I thought maybe the removed letters weren't going to be the same in every case. Like ... maybe all kinds of different Roman numerals were going to get yanked out of theme answers, like VI and CL and what not. But no. Just the IXs.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Health nut? (MISTER FIT) — from "Mr. Fix-It"
  • 22A: "Make him an offer he can't refuse," e.g.? (DON QUOTE) — from "Don Quixote"
  • 32A: Where hogs go hog-wild? (SWINGING STIES) — from "Swinging Sixties" (idea of swinger pigs = highly amusing)
  • 47A: DVDs? (NON-TAPES) — from "Nixon tapes"
  • 51A: Cocktails at an exotic resort club? (MED DRINKS) — from "mixed drinks"; this one felt iffiest. It's "Club MED" and only ever "Club MED"; been to several, never heard anyone use "MED" independently.

Crosswordese 101: EVAN Hunter (18A: Author Hunter) — If you know him at all, you probably know him better as Ed McBain, the name under which he had a prolific and successful crime fiction-writing career. One of the very first vintage paperbacks in my now enormous collection was a first edition 50s paperback edition of "The Mugger." Super fantastic (book on right is from my collection as well). EVAN could show up as the name of any number of people, but Hunter is a favorite way to clue it. Look also for baseball's EVAN Longoria, 2008 All-Star and American League Rookie of the Year. Then try not to get him confused with EVA Longoria (39A: Longoria of "Desperate Housewives").

What else?

  • 26A: Eightfold (OCTUPLE) — really wanted the (made-up?) adverb OCTUPLY.
  • 36A: Satirist Mort (SAHL) — see also the far less common [Satirist Freberg] => STAN.
  • 40A: Source of 20s, for short (ATM) — I could not, for the life of me, figure out what "20s" was supposed to mean until I got the answer from crosses. D'oh! Did you know it's AUTOMATED Teller Machine and not AUTOMATIC. I found this out the hard way while doing Frank Longo's extremely awesome and brutally difficult "Vowelless Crosswords," which everyone who likes challenging puzzles really must own. Hours and hours of solving fun/torture for an obscenely low price (66 puzzles, 8 bucks).
  • 57A: Stiller's comedy partner (MEARA) — love her. As many of you know, one of the highlights of my blogging career was getting an email from her correcting some mistake I made in a write-up.
  • 2D: California city near Vandenberg Air Force Base (LOMPOC) — yikes. Pulled this, eventually, from god knows where. This must be an answer designed to give the puzzle a certain California flavor (NYT does similar provincial stuff from time to time).
  • 6D: Reproductive cell (GAMETE) — I had ZYGOTE ...
  • 10D: "I don't get it" (GO FIGURE) — I didn't get it either, not until I had nearly every cross. "GOTIGURE? GOMIGURE?"
  • 25D: Two-wheeled artillery wagons (CAISSONS) — they go rolling along in that song about war that I half-way know.
  • 30D: Notable 1969 bride (ONO) — The notable 1970 death of the Beatles followed shortly thereafter.

  • 33D: Battered repeatedly, in slang (WHALED ON) — always want to spell this "WAILED ON." Correct spelling brings to mind images of one man flogging another with a sea mammal.
  • 43D: Biological divisions (GENERA) — Latin plural of "GENUS."

That is all. See you Monday.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Angle (SLANT); 6A: Like disco dancers (GO-GO); 10A: "Wow" (GEE); 13A: Explorer __ de León (PONCE); 14A: Structural sci. (ANAT.); 15A: Nightclub in a Manilow song (COPA); 16A: Atlanta university (EMORY); 17A: Health nut? (MISTER FIT); 19A: Prefix with dermal (EPI-); 20A: PC support person (TECH); 21A: Village paper? (VOICE); 22A: "Make him an offer he can't refuse," e.g.? (DON QUOTE); 25A: Toy in a holster (CAP GUN); 26A: Eightfold (OCTUPLE); 27A: Winter mo. (JAN.); 28A: Arg. neighbor (URU); 29A: IM provider (AOL); 30A: Arles assent (OUI); 31A: Get ready, briefly (PREP); 32A: Where hogs go hog-wild? (SWINGING STIES); 36A: Satirist Mort (SAHL); 37A: Blood classification letters (ABO); 38A: "__ who?" (SEZ); 39A: Longoria of "Desperate Housewives" (EVA); 40A: Source of 20s, for short (ATM); 41A: Spokane university (GONZAGA); 45A: Comfort for a griever (SOLACE); 47A: DVDs? (NONTAPES); 48A: Concert venue (ARENA); 49A: Takes to court (SUES); 50A: Tolkien tree creature (ENT); 51A: Cocktails at an exotic resort club? (MED DRINKS); 53A: Bugs chaser (ELMER); 55A: Greek love god (EROS); 56A: Lighten up? (DIET); 57A: Stiller's comedy partner (MEARA); 58A: Form 1040 ID (SSN); 59A: Lhasa __ (APSO); 60A: Slangy turndown, and a hint to how 17-, 22-, 32-, 47- and 51-Across are formed (IXNAY); 1D: Swimwear brand (SPEEDO); 2D: California city near Vandenberg Air Force Base (LOMPOC); 3D: Consecrate using oil (ANOINT); 4D: Big name in 40-Acrosses (NCR); 5D: Mystery writer Josephine (TEY); 6D: Reproductive cell (GAMETE); 7D: In the cooler (ON ICE); 8D: Deep wound (GASH); 9D: Polo Grounds hero (OTT); 10D: "I don't get it" ("GO FIGURE"); 11D: Gastronomes (EPICURES); 12D: Gone from the plate (EATEN UP); 15D: Photoshop command (CROP); 18D: Author Hunter (EVAN); 20D: Turnpike collection spot (TOLL GATE); 23D: Small game bird (QUAIL); 24D: Resting atop (UPON); 25D: Two-wheeled artillery wagons (CAISSONS); 27D: "A __ of Wine, a Loaf of Bread ..." (JUG); 30D: Notable 1969 bride (ONO); 31D: Food in a flat box (PIZZA); 32D: 11-Down, e.g. (SAVORERS); 33D: Battered repeatedly, in slang (WHALED ON); 34D: ThinkPad maker (IBM); 35D: Camp shelter (TENT); 36D: Bun seeds (SESAMES); 40D: Rent-__ (A-CAR); 41D: Attends (GOES TO); 42D: Tarzan, e.g. (APEMAN); 43D: Biological divisions (GENERA); 44D: Down a sinful path (ASTRAY); 46D: Additions (ANDS); 47D: Zaps in a microwave (NUKES); 49D: Salon sound (SNIP); 52D: Pocatello's state: Abbr. (IDA); 53D: Brit. record label (EMI); 54D: Latin law (LEX).