SUNDAY, January 31, 2010 — Merl Reagle (calendar)

We have a lot to talk about with this puzzle, so let's get to it. You may recall that last week I promised to come back and blog Merl's Sunday puzzle and then I never did it. So sorry about that. My bad! That one's on me! Then when I went to look for Sylvia's puzzle today, I found another Merl puzzle. Turns out he constructed a two-part puzzle for us and the LA Times agreed to run his puzzles two weeks in a row so we could get the full effect.

So what I'm going to do today is post the grids and theme answers to both puzzles here. Then I'm going to encourage you to hop over to Merl's own blog where he both explains the genesis of this awesome puzzle idea and shares some details of the ordeal he went through to get it in publishable shape. It's a pretty interesting read. I hope you'll check it out.

If you haven't solved the puzzles yet, you should do that first. This week's puzzle can be found here. Last week's is here. I don't think these are permanent links though. If you're coming to this blog late, I think you'll be able to find PDF versions of the puzzles here and here.

Just in case I haven't rambled on long enough yet, I'm going to add a little spoiler space before I post the grids and theme answers. If you haven't solved the puzzles, go do it now!

Kindergarten Crime Spree Part 1 (January 24, 2010)
Theme answers:
  • 22A: I arrived at the crime scene at 9 a.m. The kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Ladey, SPELLED IT OUT FOR ME.
  • 35A: "First," she said, "someone STOLE A KISS."
  • 39A: "Wait," I said, "I thought there was a KIDNAPPING."
  • 46A: "Yes, but we woke him up. Then a pinky ring went missing." "Real jewels?" I asked. "No," she said, "JUST PASTE."
  • 52A/69A: She said, "Then I saw the HANDWRITING ON THE WALL."
  • 78A: "Graffiti?" I asked. "No, just letters." "Ah," I said, "a CAPITAL CASE."
  • 85A/97A: I thought, All right, fine, I can PLAY THEIR LITTLE GAME.
  • 99A: "Then I found these," she said, and even I was shocked. There were CHALK MARKS on the floor.
Kindergarten Crime Spree Part 2 (January 31, 2010)
Theme answers:
  • 21A: I narrowed it down to two suspects. Naturally, they both LOOKED INNOCENT.
  • 26A: Let's call them DICK AND JANE.
  • 35A: I could tell right away that she was HOOKED ON PHONICS.
  • 49A:And he—well, let's just say that he was IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF.
  • 64A: I laid out the evidence; they could see that I'd done MY HOMEWORK.
  • 66A: But neither would talk. So I said, "I'm going to COUNT TO TEN."
  • 82A: And that did it—they immediately started crying. I said, "Well, I hope you've LEARNED YOUR LESSON."
  • 93A: "Maybe you'll both be let out early FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR."
  • 106A: "But only if you SHOW AND TELL me exactly what happened."
  • 113A: They agreed. And that's when the FINGERPOINTING / FINGERPRINTING / FINGERPAINTING began. THE END (Hint: Because of a single variable letter, this clue has three different appropriate answers. Write in whichever one(s) you like. See 116 Down.)
  • 116D: Start of a crime novel by Sue Grafton, whose titles are particularly apt for this puzzle. (This clue has three possible answers. See 113 Across.) (O / R / A IS).
January 24 Puzzle / Everything Else — 1A: Dumas dueler (ATHOS); 6A: Pioneer heading (WEST); 10A: Pre-Edison term? (ALVA); 14A: Sailor's sure thing? (AYE); 17A: Feud-ending word (SHAKE); 18A: Part of a foot (INCH); 19A: Malicious looks (LEERS); 21A: DFW's state (TEX.); 25A: PC bailout key (ESC); 26A: Strike (HIT); 27A: Start of the second qtr. (APR.); 28A: NYC mayor after David (RUDY); 29A: Despite all that (YET); 30A: Conk out (DIE); 31A: Opera CD track (ARIA); 33A: Bridge whiz Sharif (OMAR); 42A: Club with maps (AAA); 43A: Bonanza finds (ORES); 44A: Playwright Eugene (O'NEILL); 45A: Canonized Mlle. (STE.); 49A: Lorelei Lee's creator (LOOS); 51A: Couch potatoes (SITTERS); 57A: Given the nod (OKAYED); 62A: With Andrea, an ill-fated ship (DORIA); 63A: Like some translations (LOOSE); 64A: Persian protest, perhaps (MEOW); 67A: Niger neighbor (MALI); 68A: Strong adhesive (EPOXY); 71A: Succinct saying (MAXIM); 72A: Cocktail fruit (LIME); 73A: Intro to many words? (INSO); 74A: Inflexible (RIGID); 75A: Biscotti flavoring (ANISE); 76A: A.s.a.p. (IN A SEC); 80A: Opens the door for (LETS OUT); 84A: Currently has the stage (IS ON); 88A: Neon's state (GAS); 90A: Car options (LEASES); 95A: Starting (AS OF); 96A: Moreover, to poets (E'EN); 103A: Approximately (OR SO); 104A: Isle off Tuscany (ELBA); 105A: Soup container (CAN); 106A: Adjective ending (-IAL); 107A: Moistens (WETS); 109A: Cosmo, for one (MAG); 112A: Descartes' deduction (I AM); 113A: She who gets sheared (EWE); 119A: Austrian article (DER); 120A: Metrical feet (IAMBI); 121A: It gets hammered (NAIL); 122A: Hang on (to) (CLING); 123A: Football's "Too Tall" Jones and others (EDS); 124A: ABC series about crash survivors (LOST); 125A: Hannibal's obstacles (ALPS); 126A: Must (HAS TO); 1D: It's a relief (ASPIRIN); 2D: Words after stem or turn (THE TIDE); 3D: Henry V, as a prince (HAL); 4D: State the Joads left: abbr. (OKLA.); 5D: Ooze (SEEP); 6D: Nintendo's ___ Remote (WII); 7D: Registered player (ENTRANT); 8D: Attila, to his enemies (SCOURGE); 9D: Sound of a flop (THUD); 10D: Franklin's 1936 foe (ALF); 11D: "Dr. Hug" Buscaglia (LEO); 12D: After 2 a.m., say (VERY LATE); 13D: Fighting force, to Fifi (ARMÉE); 14D: Groveled (ATE DIRT); 15D: Answer to "Get the picture?" (YES I SEE); 16D: What sots drink to (EXCESS); 20D: ___ good example (SET A); 22D: Plumed military cap (SHAKO); 23D: Bit in a bucket (DROP); 24D: Cobb, Detmer, and Law (TYS); 32D: "Wheel of Fortune" buy, maybe (AN I); 34D: Military assignments (MISSIONS); 36D: Lacking slack (TAUT); 37D: Tobacco-drying oven (OAST); 38D: Punches senseless (KOS); 40D: Like some suckers (ALL-DAY); 41D: Tractor trailer? (PLOW); 46D: Irish dance (JIG); 47D: Frigate's front (PROW); 48D: Start of a JFK quote (ASK); 50D: DuPont fiber (ORLON); 51D: Treat disdainfully (SNEER AT); 52D: Pickup line? (HOP IN); 53D: You can smell it (AROMA); 54D: Vetoes (NIXES); 55D: Wizard's unveiler (TOTO); 56D: Cartoon ending? (-ISH); 58D: Appliance brand (AMANA); 59D: Vertical line on a graph (Y AXIS); 60D: Beethoven's "Für ___" (ELISE); 61D: "... spare a ___?" (DIME); 62D: Site with a slicer (DELI); 64D: O. Henry title trio (MAGI); 65D: Snobs (ELITISTS); 66D: ___ the hills (OLD AS); 70D: Reddi-___ (WIP); 71D: Patrick who played Steed on TV's "The Avengers" (MACNEE); 73D: Rapper-actor (ICE-T); 77D: Ex-actor Ron (ELY); 78D: Dog show reject (CUR); 79D: Laze (about) (LOLL); 81D: Bowie's last stand (THE ALAMO); 82D: With sight, a tourist (SEER); 83D: Porcine plaint (OINK); 85D: Interjected disapprovingly (PSHAWED); 86D: Temporary cars for repair patrons (LOANERS); 87D: CIO's companion (AFL); 88D: Like some stops, in speaking (GLOTTAL); 89D: Dirigible (AIRSHIP); 91D: Voting issue (AGE); 92D: Hard-to-miss (SALIENT); 93D: Trade restriction (EMBARGO); 94D: Clothes lines? (SEAMS); 95D: Give in (to) (ACCEDE); 98D: Bulky book (TOME); 100D: New Zealand bird or fuzzy fruit (KIWI); 101D: The Taj ___ (MAHAL); 102D: Neighbor of Nor. (SWE.); 108D: Author Ferber (EDNA); 110D: Foot feature (ARCH); 111D: Dressy event (GALA); 115D: "Survivor" airer (CBS); 116D: Young fox (KIT); 117D: Raised RRs (ELS); 118D: Boom-bah opener (SIS).

January 31 Puzzle / Everything Else — 1A: Pioneering cartoonist (NAST); 5A: Prep for a trip (PACK); 9A: Cry of recognition (AHA); 12A: Stumblebums (CLODS); 17A: Job safety org. (OSHA); 18A: Present opening? (OMNI-); 19A: Job opening (SLOT); 20A: Jewelers' lenses (LOUPES); 24A: Manifesto co-author (ENGELS); 25A: Takes in or lets out (ALTERS); 28A: Untrue (NOT SO); 29A: Earthquake origins (FOCI); 32A: Promising letters (IOU); 33A: Org. of cadets (ROTC); 41A: Old college cry (RAH); 42A: Capital on the Aare (BERN); 44A: Pianist Gilels (EMIL); 45A: Sculler's prop (OAR); 46A: Words before "merry" (AND BE); 48A: Chinese principle (TAO); 54A: Goes ballistic (ERUPTS); 56A: Hydrox finish (-IDE); 57A: Before you know it (SOON); 58A: Be in a different form? (ARE); 59A: Pool problem (ALGAE); 60A: Golf great (SNEAD); 62A: "Convoy" star's first name (KRIS); 72A: At a snail's pace (SLOW); 73A: Takes shape (FORMS); 74A: Chocolate shop lure (AROMA); 75A: Reagan's "Star Wars" prog. (SDI); 78A: Lingerie items (BRAS); 80A: Cloud chamber bit (ION); 81A: Toyota rival (NISSAN); 87A: "Twitch," minus every other letter (TIC); 88A: Arm bones (ULNAS); 89A: Seattle-to-Vegas dir. (SSE); 90A: GM's electric car (VOLT); 91A: Island near Java (BALI); 92A: Saints' org. (NFC); 99A: Sugar-free, perhaps (DIET); 101A: Extinct 12-footer (MOA); 102A: In ___ (lined up) (A ROW); 103A: Terra follower (COTTA); 111A: Last two words in the title of an epic 1962 western (WAS WON); 112A: Actress Stone (SHARON); 117A: "Fighting" NCAA team Colorful eye part (ILLINI); 118A: Swan lover of myth (LEDA); 119A: Colorful eye part (IRIS); 120A: Words to a traitor (ET TU); 121A: One way to choose (BY LOT); 122A: 2001 and 2010, for ex. (YRS.); 123A: "Darn it" preceder (GOSH); 124A: Greek letters (RHOS); 1D: Ace of diamonds Ryan (NOLAN); 2D: Embark on ___ career (A SOLO); 3D: Noticeably filled (with) (SHOT THROUGH); 4D: Goes up against (TAKES ON); 5D: Okra features (PODS); 6D: Pal, to Pascal (AMI); 7D: Wolf's home? (CNN); 8D: Relations (KIN); 9D: Actor with actor brothers (ALEC); 10D: Flying wedge sound (HONK); 11D: Reach (ATTAIN); 12D: Nor, for one: abbr. (CONJ.); 13D: Long-time Indiana senator (LUGAR); 14D: Market action that remains in effect until filled or canceled (OPEN ORDER); 15D: Easily trashed, e.g. (DELETABLE); 16D: Air-leak sound (SSS); 19D: "Nova" subj. (SCI.); 20D: Nobel decliner ___ Tho (LE DUC); 22D: Switch ending (-EROO); 23D: Frigg's husband (ODIN); 27D: "___ insist!" (NO I); 29D: Katrina aftermath org. (FEMA); 30D: Like poems of praise (ODIC); 31D: Coal miner (COLLIER); 34D: Food Network figure (CHEF); 36D: Berry and Burns (KENS); 37D: Struck a stance (POSED); 38D: Partakes of (HAS); 39D: Space balls (ORBS); 40D: See 60 Across (SAM); 42D: Second-string squad (B TEAM); 43D: Premature (EARLY); 47D: Ultrasecret org. (NSA); 49D: List details (ITEMS); 50D: It's an Aleutian (ADAK); 51D: Dogpatch name (YOKUM); 52D: Brassy group (HORNS); 53D: ___ to win it (IN IT); 55D: Kung ___ chicken (PAO); 60D: "Kill Bill" weapon (SWORD); 61D: "Dream on!" ("NO WAY!"); 63D: Coffee-spill result (STAIN); 65D: Hamburg's river (ELBE); 66D: "Sounds great" ("COOL"); 67D: "It's Now ___" (OR NEVER); 68D: Surgery sites, briefly (ORS); 69D: "For openers ..." (TO START WITH); 70D: BlackBerry delivery (EMAIL); 71D: Folk singer Griffith (NANCI); 73D: Pulled the trigger (FIRED); 75D: How misers act (SELFISHLY); 76D: Glenn Miller milieu (DANCE HALL); 77D: Roth follower (IRA); 79D: Lackluster (SO-SO); 81D: Punishment for some kids (NO TV); 82D: "Casablanca" role, Ilsa ___ (LUND); 83D: Research-funding org. (NSF); 84D: "Camp show" org. (USO); 85D: London district (SOHO); 86D: KFC side dish (SLAW); 91D: Rocket stage (BOOSTER); 94D: Saudi neighbor (OMANI); 95D: Democrat Dellums (RON); 96D: One who may bug you (GADFLY); 97D: Barn bundle (BALE); 98D: Able one's assertion (I CAN); 100D: Hope-Crosby flick, "Road ___" (TO RIO); 104D: Famed sidekick (TONTO); 105D: Burger beef (ANGUS); 107D: "I ___ tell" (WON'T); 108D: Arena level (TIER); 109D: Some linemen (ENDS); 110D: NYC airport, on tickets (LGA); 111D: Genie's gift (WISH); 112D: Sis or bro (SIB); 114D: Fix dishonestly (RIG); 115D: Con's opposite (PRO).

SUNDAY, January 31, 2010 — Matt Skoczen (syndicated)

Theme: "Running on Empty" — Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases with the first letters M.T.

[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:
  • 23A: Crisp named for an opera singer (MELBA TOAST).
  • 25A: Illusion (MAGIC TRICK).
  • 36A: Popular date destination (MOVIE THEATER).
  • 51A: 1936 Chaplin classic (MODERN TIMES).
  • 72A: Frankie Laine chart-topper (MULE TRAIN).
  • 89A: Painter's aid (MASKING TAPE).
  • 105A: 1979 Nobel Peace Prize recipient (MOTHER TERESA).
  • 120A: Singer's voice, e.g. (MEAL TICKET).
  • 123A: Money-making knack (MIDAS TOUCH).

This was a very strange solve for me. Nothing super tricky in the puzzle, but the theme had me confused for way longer than it should have. Why? Because I read that first theme clue as "Crisp name" instead of "Crisp named" and thought MELBA TOAST was supposed to be funny but I couldn't figure out the joke. Then the rest of the theme entries had straight clues and I just really didn't figure it out for a long time. On top of that, I guess I just want to say that it's hard to get excited about a puzzle that has MASKING TAPE as a theme answer. MOVIE THEATER isn't much better. Well sure there's MAGIC TRICK, but zzzzzzzzzz .... Sorry. Must have dozed off there for a minute. I think you get my point.

  • 6A: Annapolis inst. (USNA). United States Naval Academy.
  • 16A: Apr. advisor (CPA). This really adds to the puzzle's excitement factor, doesn't it? (No offense, Crosscan.)
  • 22A: Leia's love (HAN). Not Hans. HAN.
  • 61A: State that's home to Nike H.Q. (ORE.). This was a gimme for me because I was following the demise of the University of Oregon's wrestling team a couple years ago after a questionable hiring decision brought Phil Knight's close friend, Pat Kilkenny, on board as the school's Athletic Director. Watch him answer questions in this video and I'm pretty sure you'll come away with the distinct feeling that he is a slimy you-know-what.
  • 70A: New Orleans player (SAINT). I'm a Vikings fan as a result of geography, but I was nonetheless happy to see the Saints win. I heard the Saints are "America's team." So there ya go.
  • 100A: Hiring term initiated under LBJ (EEO). I spent way too much time trying to find the "Seinfeld" clip where Kramer tells a couple of new parents that their baby looks like Lyndon Johnson. Couldn't find it.
  • 6D: Area 51 sighting, briefly (UFO). Have you been to Roswell? The museum there is pretty cool.
  • 10D: Strategic math game (NIM). Know this one only from crosswords.
  • 53D: Ringo and George each wore one (MOUSTACHE). I thought for a minute this was supposed to be a theme answer.
  • 63D: Teeny bit (SMIDGEN). Best word in the whole grid.
  • 99D: Armchair partner (OTTOMAN). The first time I ever used the word ottoman when talking to my kids, they looked at me like I was crazy. I guess they think it sounds a little, I don't know ... high-falutin'. So now whenever we use the word, we put air quotes around it.
  • 119D: __-Pei: strong dog (SHAR).
Crosswordese 101: I was going to skip CW101 today and just give you a round-up of the puzzle's crosswordese that we've already covered, but I couldn't pass up the chance to add NENE to our list (131A: Endangered island flier). The NENE, Hawaii's state bird, is the world's rarest goose. If the clue indicates that the answer is a bird and has something to do with Hawaii, chances are you're looking for the NENE.

Here are some other CW101 words from today's puzzle. If you had trouble with any of these, you might want to go back and take a look at our previous write-ups.
  • 129A: Notre Dame's Parseghian (ARA).
  • 13D: Hibernia (ERIN).
  • 15D: Its last flight was Nov. 26, 2003 (SST).
  • 46D: Drink stand buy (ADE).
  • 54D: Lake-effect snow city (ERIE).
  • 74D: Mars counterpart (ARES).
  • 92D: Pear or apple (POME).
  • 93D: Broad collars (ETONS).
Everything Else — 1A: Amy Winehouse Grammy-winning song (REHAB); 10A: At least as (NO LESS); 19A: Charlie Chaplin, from 1952 to 1972 (EXILE); 20A: Trepidation (FEAR); 21A: Hardens (INURES); 27A: Pump measure (OCTANE); 28A: The one in my hand (THIS); 30A: H+ and Cl- (IONS); 31A: Ex-Dodger Hershiser (OREL); 32A: Squelch (NIX); 33A: Narcs, e.g. (BUSTERS); 35A: Disconcerting look (STARE); 40A: They're slanted (ITALICS); 43A: Starting point, perhaps (IDEA); 45A: It can span centuries (SAGA); 47A: Infamous Idi (AMIN); 48A: Harry Palmer creator Deighton (LEN); 49A: Union (NORTH); 56A: Bankrupt Korean automaker (DAEWOO); 58A: Make out (SEE); 60A: International show (EXPO); 62A: Powwows (TALKS); 64A: Brink (EDGE); 67A: Completely fall apart (GO TO RUIN); 75A: Under siege (BESET); 76A: Uses as partial payment (TRADES IN); 78A: Dark genre (NOIR); 79A: Revlon offering (SCENT); 81A: Dark time for poets (E'EN); 82A: Cut out, e.g. (EDIT); 84A: French pronoun (CES); 86A: Regular crowd (USUALS); 94A: Fashion (STYLE); 96A: Woo with words (COO); 97A: Choice word (ELSE); 98A: Con __: briskly, in music (MOTO); 101A: Chips follower? (AHOY); 102A: Sways while moving (CAREENS); 108A: Blake's daybreaks (MORNS); 109A: Source of flowing water (OPEN TAP); 111A: Teeny bit (TAD); 112A: Words of woe (AH ME); 113A: Cyan relative (TEAL); 115A: Win __, lose ... (SOME); 116A: Flares up (ERUPTS); 125A: E-bay action (BID); 126A: Place for a drip, briefly (IV TUBE); 127A: Attacking the job (AT IT); 128A: __ Bubba: gum brand (HUBBA); 130A: Blotto (LOOPED); 132A: Nineveh's land: Abbr. (ASSYR.); 1D: Riviera resort San __ (REMO); 2D: Business VIP (EXEC.); 3D: Weapon handle (HILT); 4D: NATO member since 4/1/2009 (ALBANIA); 5D: Retro headgear (BEANIE); 7D: "Click it or ticket" subject (SEATBELTS); 8D: New Hampshire city (NASHUA); 9D: Experts (ARTISTS); 11D: Broadcasting (ON AIR); 12D: Count player (LUGOSI); 14D: Brief moments (SECS); 16D: Former French president (CHIRAC); 17D: Harness horses (PACERS); 18D: It's commonly turned (ANKLE); 24D: Typical, as a case (TEXTBOOK); 26D: Corkscrew pasta (ROTINI); 29D: Calliope power (STEAM); 34D: Therefore (ERGO); 35D: Thin cut (SLIT); 36D: Even-tempered (MILD); 37D: Greek music halls (ODEA); 38D: Shakespearean merchant Antonio et al. (VENETIANS); 39D: "__ Alibi": Selleck film (HER); 41D: Silvery game fish (TARPONS); 42D: "Are too!" response (AM NOT); 50D: Loaf's end (HEEL); 52D: Vet (EX-GI); 54D: Lake-effect snow city (ERIE); 55D: In the mail (SENT); 57D: Fairy godmother's prop (WAND); 59D: Garden locale (EDEN); 65D: Pontiac muscle car (GTO); 66D: __ the Red (ERIC); 68D: Quite heavy (OBESE); 69D: Bausch & Lomb brand (RENU); 70D: Musical note feature (STEM); 71D: High pressure __ (AREA); 73D: Curriculum part (UNIT); 77D: Suspect (SENSE); 80D: Skirtlike trousers (CULOTTES); 83D: Inverness topper (TAM); 85D: Saturated with (STEEPED IN); 87D: "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" author (LOOS); 88D: Tofu source (SOYA); 90D: Wheat seed (KERNEL); 91D: The Philippines, to Philippe (ILES); 95D: "__ durn tootin'!" (YER); 101D: Herculean (ARDUOUS); 102D: One sharing the wealth? (CO-HEIR); 103D: Noted 1588 loser (ARMADA); 104D: Absorb (SOAK UP); 106D: Descendant of Noah's second son (HAMITE); 107D: Singer Kitt (EARTHA); 108D: Deadly African snake (MAMBA); 110D: Annapolis newbie (PLEBE); 113D: Show saver (TIVO); 114D: Prefix with plasm (ECTO-); 117D: Taverns (PUBS); 118D: Frozen dessert franchise (TCBY); 121D: Up to, casually (TIL); 122D: "Dilbert" Generic Guy (TED); 124D: Wolfed down (ATE).


SATURDAY, January 30, 2010—Brad Wilber

Looking for the puzzle in Across Lite? Here's a backdoor link to the Cruciverb LAT archive.

THEME: No theme today—It's a themeless/freestyle puzzle

This week's Saturdaypalooza was a bit harder than usual, no? Brad Wilber also makes much harder puzzles for the New York Times, and there are those who call him their nemesis. So it's not supposed to be easy—you're supposed to have a little gnashing of teeth before everything comes together.

Brad WilbEr's puzzle reminds me of Friday's NYT crossword by Doug Peterson—roughly the same number (14 here, 16 there) of long entries (8+ letters), tons of sparkle in the featured phrases and words, and some Scrabbliness. The clues were easier overall, this being an L.A. Times puzzle.

By the way, that's Brad WilbEr, with an E, not a U. Lotta people spell it as Wilbur. Anyone have a good mnemonic for remembering that this guy's name has an E? "WE like his puzzles." Or "WE call him our nemesis." These could work for NYT constructor Byron WaldEn (not Waldon), too.

  • 17A: ["Fully loaded" purchase] is a DELUXE MODEL from the car dealer's showroom. I've got my eye on the new four-door Porsche sedan, the Panamera. The turbo model will run you $132K, about 40 or 50 grand more than the base model. Oh, wait. It gets 15 mpg city. Better look into the Ford Fusion Hybrid instead.
  • 25A: [Like "Marley & Me"] clues RATED PG. Neither SCHMALTZY nor SACCHARINE would fit.

  • 27A: ["Heartland" autobiographer] is MORT SAHL. This political humorist's last name shows up far, far more in crossword grids, so it's nice to see the full name. The clue...the clue was no aid to solving. I ventured over to YouTube to find a good Sahl clip to embed here but...I watched two videos and was not remotely entertained. So instead, here's Patton Oswalt. Do not play the video if swear words trouble you because he does cuss a bit. Also? My friend's four-year-old boy is a dead ringer for Patton Oswalt. It's uncanny.

  • 37A: [Footwear ill-suited for stealth] includes clunky, cloppy wooden CLOGS. Now, the rubber-soled Merrell clogs, those are great for sneaking around.
  • 55A: [Castaway's dream come true] is a RESCUE PLANE. Rescue planes have been in the news of late.
  • 2D: ONE B.C. (aka 1 BCE) is the [Last year of its kind]. Calendars are weird, aren't they? They look like neutral dating systems but they carry more weight than that.
  • 6D: Mnemonics! One [Geography-class mnemonic] is HOMES, for the Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. Chicago's Michigan Avenue crosses the other four Great Lakes street names, running SHEO from north to south. I need a mnemonic to help me remember that it goes Chicago, SHEO, Ohio, Grand, Illinois.
  • 8D: [Drunk's chaser?] is not the beer chaser after a shot, it's the suffix -ARD in drunkard. This is not the suffix in 9D: DIEHARDS, clued as [Hardly fair-weather friends]. Clueing them as [Hardly fair-weather fans] would have suggested the answer more strongly...but would've been easier. And we don't want that, do we?
  • Bing, bang, boom, three in a row. Isn't this a great corner stack? 10D: [Some limo sharers] are PROM DATES. 11D: [Anti-diversity type] is a XENOPHOBE. (My son is a homophonophile.) And who doesn't love a 12D: SNOWGLOBE, that [Popular paperweight]?
  • 28D: [Consequences of one's convictions] are JAIL TERMS. I like the mislead. These are not your philosophical convictions but the ones wherein you get convicted of a crime. (Not you personally, I hope.)
  • 30D: [Upscale Roman shopping street] is VIA VENETO. I don't know a thing about it, but V-V phrases are nice, aren't they? Dang, all I can think of is "va-va-voom" and a gynecological disturbance.
  • And this is one of the zippiest answers. It's not brand-new, no—other constructors have used it. But I still like it. 38D: [Homemade cassette with assorted songs] is a MIX TAPE. I haven't had one since senior year of college. I think people still call 'em mix tapes even though technology has moved past cassettes. No, wait. Do they just call 'em "mixes"? Help me out here.

Crosswordese 101: There's an 31A: Aptly named novelist Charles whose last name is READE. Get it? Read? READE? Har har! I bet no more than 1% of our readers have actually read a READE book. Novel titles you may see in READE clues include The Cloister and the Hearth, Peg Woffington, and Hard Cash. The key is remembering that there is an author with the name READE and that he shows up in crosswords from time to time. You will not be quizzed on his works.

See you folks again on Wednesday.

Everything Else — 1A: Winner of five of six A.L. batting titles from 1983 to 1988 (BOGGS); 6A: Produce unit (HEAD); 10A: Mil. stores (PXS); 13A: Taking undeserved credit, perhaps (ON AN EGO TRIP); 16A: Psychotic TV pooch (REN); 17A: "Fully loaded" purchase (DELUXE MODEL); 18A: "Bed-in for Peace" figure (ONO); 19A: Regress (EBB); 20A: Next (THEN); 21A: Barn loft (HAYMOW); 23A: Fish preparation gadgets (SCALERS); 25A: Like "Marley & Me" (RATED PG); 26A: Place for wallowers (STY); 27A: "Heartland" autobiographer (MORT SAHL); 28A: Joes at a diner (JAVAS); 31A: Aptly named novelist Charles (READE); 32A: As well (TOO); 33A: Perched (ALIT); 34A: Casual pants, briefly (CORDS); 35A: Friday player (WEBB); 36A: "Give __ rest!" (IT A); 37A: Footwear ill-suited for stealth (CLOGS); 38A: Paris's __ d'Orsay (MUS*Eacute;E); 39A: Volcanic crater feature (LAVA LAKE); 41A: Grafton's "__ for Noose" (N IS); 42A: Seismograph stimuli (TREMORS); 43A: Waltz segment (BOXSTEP); 47A: 1844 Verdi premiere (ERNANI); 48A: Act as lookout for, e.g. (ABET); 49A: Serial ending? (-IZE); 50A: Emmy-nominated Charlotte (RAE); 51A: Utility offering (ENERGY AUDIT); 54A: Sch. where Buzz Aldrin got a doctorate (MIT); 55A: Castaway's dream come true (RESCUE PLANE); 56A: __-pitch (SLO); 57A: 16-Across, e.g. (TOON); 58A: Hand net user, perhaps (EELER); 1D: Augurs (BODES); 2D: Last year of its kind (ONE BC); 3D: Nero's successor (GALBA); 4D: Serengeti antelope (GNU); 5D: Some chamber works (SEXTETS); 6D: Geography-class mnemonic (HOMES); 7D: 007's alma mater (ETON); 8D: Drunk's chaser? (-ARD); 9D: Hardly fair-weather friends (DIEHARDS); 10D: Some limo sharers (PROM DATES); 11D: Anti-diversity type (XENOPHOBE); 12D: Popular paperweight (SNOWGLOBE); 14D: Frank __, architect of L.A.'s Walt Disney Concert Hall (GEHRY); 15D: Missouri tributary (PLATTE); 22D: Thumbs-up (YES); 24D: Aspiring atty.'s hurdle (LSAT); 25D: Courses (ROADS); 27D: Amalgamate (MERGE); 28D: Consequences of one's convictions (JAIL TERMS); 29D: Communion line setting (ALTAR RAIL); 30D: Upscale Roman shopping street (VIA VENETO); 31D: Corner pieces (ROOKS); 34D: Its trill opens "Rhapsody in Blue" (CLARINET); 35D: Doormat (WUSS); 37D: Plant geneticist, at times (CLONER); 38D: Homemade cassette with assorted songs (MIX TAPE); 40D: Docs' lobby: Abbr. (AMA); 41D: "__ hath seen such scarecrows": "Henry IV, Part I" (NO EYE); 43D: Red Ryder, for one (BB GUN); 44D: Word with bore or basin (TIDAL); 45D: Paperless read (E-ZINE); 46D: Fizzle (out) (PETER); 48D: Not pizzicato (ARCO); 52D: That, to Teresa (ESO); 53D: Diminutive suffix (-ULE).


FRIDAY, Jan. 29, 2010 — Dan Gagliardo

Note: cruciverb.com (where many people get their LAT puzzle online) is down for reasons I don't fully understand. No word on when it will be back up. We haven't received permission to post the .puz ourselves, so those who get the puzzle online will just have to wait. [UPDATE: Permission granted — go here for your .puz]

Puzzle write-up below ... after the Spoiler Whales (stolen from the amazing Matt Kish).

THEME: THE WALLS HAVE EARS (38A: "Be careful what you say," and a hint to a feature shared by this puzzle's perimeter answers) — every word on the perimeter of the gird contains the letter string "EAR"

This is a clever idea, one that required an extra-wide grid to accommodate its theme-revealing answer (16x15 instead of normal 15x15). This was my fastest LAT Friday of the year by a full minute and a half, but that doesn't mean there weren't significant thorny patches. I was particularly vexed by the NE, where neither the clue at 13D: Mahdi, in Islam (REDEEMER) nor the cross at 20A: Thompson in the Theater Hall of Fame (SADA) meant anything to me. I had EMMA for the Theater clue, and that was enough to slow me down but good. Further, went with NAP instead of LAP at 24D: Sitter's offer to a tot. Cheap trick, but it worked. Also got slowed down at the (aargh) tilde-free LA NINA (49A: Oceanic phenomenon that affects weather) — needed every cross before I got it and saw that it was a. two words and b. a phrase I definitely know. Not much more luck on the western seaboard, where TEAR-AWAY meets RAMEAU (53A: Baroque composer Jean-Philippe). I figured the jerseys were TEAM-something, and I just don't know the composer in question. I know that his name means "branch."

Theme answers:

  • 1A: Poet Edward and a king (L EAR s)
  • 6A: "Like Mike" actress (M EAR a) — wtf is this!?!?! I've seen MEARA clued a million ways, but have never heard of "Like Mike." I hope it's a Michael Jordan biopic ... um, well, close:

  • 11A: Make on the job (EAR n)
  • 14D: Close one (n EAR miss)
  • 52D: Show up (app EAR)
  • 71A: Promise (sw EAR)
  • 70A: Tough test metaphor (a b EAR) — :(
  • 69A: Wine industry reference point (y EAR)
  • 38D: Like some football jerseys (t EAR -away)
  • 1D: Shoe co. founded in Venice Beach (L.A. G EAR)

Crosswordese 101: ALOP (57A: Unbalanced) — one of those words that no one ever uses but that appears in crosswords with pretty good frequency. Functionally equivalent to "lop-sided." Many dictionaries don't feature this word, and if you enter [define alop] into Google, you get no dictionary sites, no definitions ... almost unheard of. Can't think of another word where I've seen that happen. Type [define kakistocracy] and you get scads of dictionary sites. [Define alop] = bupkus.

What else?

  • 19A: Lindsay's "Bionic Woman" role (Jaime) — why oh why does she spell her name like that of a Spanish man!?

See you Monday.


Everything Else — 1A: Poet Edward and a king (LEARS); 6A: "Like Mike" actress (MEARA); 11A: Make on the job (EARN); 15A: When Polonius says "brevity is the soul of wit" (ACT II); 16A: Outdoor seating area (ARBOR); 17A: Old knife (SNEE); 18A: Equatorial African country (GABON); 19A: Lindsay's "Bionic Woman" role (JAIME); 20A: Thompson in the Theater Hall of Fame (SADA); 21A: Notable period (ERA); 22A: Scrooge's visitors (GHOSTS); 24A: "Ta-ta!" ("LATER!"); 25A: "L.A. Law" extras (ATTS.); 27A: City near Provo (OREM); 28A: Chaos (MAYHEM); 29A: Swipe again? (RE-SCAN); 31A: Found, as tabloid fodder (DUG UP); 33A: Rec. label across the pond (EMI); 34A: The duck, in "Peter and the Wolf" (OBOE); 36A: Liver oil source (COD); 37A: Home of the Big 12's Cyclones (AMES); 38A: "Be careful what you say," and a hint to a feature shared by this puzzle's perimeter answers (THE WALLS HAVE EARS); 43A: Thought patterns, briefly? (EEGS); 44A: Guitar cousin (UKE); 45A: Shade (TINT); 46A: Latin I word (AMO); 47A: It's not on the level (SLOPE); 49A: Oceanic phenomenon that affects weather (LA NIÑA); 53A: Baroque composer Jean-Philippe (RAMEAU); 55A: Jump in a rink (AXEL); 57A: Unbalanced (ALOP); 58A: Ever (AT ALL); 59A: Lens holders (FRAMES); 61A: Back talk (LIP); 62A: Erosive force (WIND); 63A: Like candied fruits (GLACE); 64A: Revolutionary Chopin piece? (ETUDE); 66A: Play to __ (A TIE); 67A: Dull (MATTE); 68A: Where gobs go (TO SEA); 69A: Wine industry reference point (YEAR); 70A: Tough test metaphor (A BEAR); 71A: Promise (SWEAR); 1D: Shoe co. founded in Venice Beach (L.A. GEAR); 2D: French card game similar to whist (ECARTE); 3D: Casey's turns (AT BATS); 4D: Ipanema's city (RIO); 5D: Do a number (SING); 6D: College choice (MAJOR); 7D: Undid (ERASED); 8D: Adequate, and then some (A BIT MUCH); 9D: CD-__: computer inserts (ROMS); 10D: "You __ what you eat" (ARE); 11D: Blue book entry (ESSAY); 12D: Object of loathing (ANATHEMA); 13D: Mahdi, in Islam (REDEEMER); 14D: Close one (NEAR MISS); 23D: Frequent Pro Bowl site (HONOLULU); 24D: Sitter's offer to a tot (LAP); 26D: Garbage haulers (SCOWS); 28D: Casey's team (MUDVILLE); 30D: Org. for 25-Across (ABA); 32D: Bearded butter (GOAT); 35D: Nevada city on I-80 (ELKO); 37D: Health Net rival (AETNA); 38D: Like some football jerseys (TEAR AWAY); 39D: Iron ore (HEMATITE); 40D: Dorian Gray's flaw (EGOMANIA); 41D: Like exes (SEPARATE); 42D: Bambi relative (ENA); 47D: __ Paradise, "On the Road" narrator (SAL); 48D: Parimutuel bet (EXACTA); 50D: Mishandling (ILL USE); 51D: Shrugger's comment (NO IDEA); 52D: Show up (APPEAR); 54D: Respected one (ELDER); 56D: Arab potentate (EMEER); 59D: Tightening target (FLAB); 60D: Jazz sessions (SETS); 63D: "Today" rival, briefly (GMA); 65D: Haul (TOW).

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THURSDAY, January 28, 2010—Donna S. Levin

THEME: "Sex! Sex! Sex! What, here? Oh, no. Never!"—Three phrases that normally include SEX change a vowel to be something altogether not lewd

Yeah, it's me, Orange, again. You were expecting PuzzleGirl, but this work thing and getting sick have, I dunno, made her want to get to bed before midnight or something. So here I am. It's Wednesday night, and I have largely metabolized the cosmo I finished two hours ago. Yay! I'm waking back up now.

So. The puzzle? Yes. Fun theme, definitely on the small side. Two 12s and a 13 equals 37 theme squares. That leaves room for some chipper fill, and then there are Donna's clues, which tend to be on the fresh/fun side.

Theme entries:

  • 20A: [Music lessons for Bill Clinton?] are SAX EDUCATION. Nine band directors out of ten do not recommend the abstinence-only sex education. If you don't pick up the sax and play it, how are you gonna be any good at it?
  • 39A: [Documentary about Chicago's relationship with its team?] clues SOX AND THE CITY. Horrors! See that tall building looming behind the Wrigley Field scoreboard? It casts a shadow over my building at midday in the winter. We are Cubs fans here. Yes, some Chicagoans are White Sox fans, but that singular "its team" chafes. A good friend of mine flew out to Mesa, Arizona, this week to interview Cubs legend Ron Santo. She said he was "as great as you think."
  • 57A: THE FAIRER SIX are the [More equitable of two civil case juries?]. So...civil cases have six-person juries, I gather? I guess it would be unseemly to suggest that half of a 12-person jury could be patently unfair. Could also have gone with [Blonder third of the Duggar family's kids], except I think they surpassed 18 recently.
A few highlights:
  • 43A: [Stuffing stuff] is EIDER down. Do not, I beseech you, use this in your Thanksgiving stuffing. Pillows, yes. Turkey, no.
  • 60A: [With alacrity] clues APACE, which is a word Merl Reagle included on his list of flansirs, or words that are "familiar looking although never seen in reality." Anyone else actually start using this word after seeing it in crosswords for years? I know I have. So has Joon, I believe.
  • Recent movies! 2D: REMADE is clued as being [Like "The Day the Earth Stood Still," in 2008]. "Klaatu barada nikto!" There's a generic ICE AGE, sure, but there's also 37D: [2002 movie with Manny the Mammoth].
  • 7D: AFTA is essentially a crappy brand-name answer. Not because it's a brand name, but because it's a not-a-household-name brand name that happens to be 4 letters long and half vowels, so it finds its way into crossword grids despite its non-prominence. But it's got a clue that rescues it: [Aptly named shaving lotion]. "Aptly" because it's an aftershave, an or aftashave in a Long Island accents.
  • 48D. LES MIZ is the [Musical based on an 1862 novel, for short]. (The novel in question is the Victor Hugo book by the same name.) Who here has not seen the show? I saw it around 1990. Spectacle! Bombast! "Look down! Look down!"

  • 49D. EDIBLE gets a slightly twisty clue: [Safe to put away].
Crosswordese 101: NAST is not nasty. He's 69A: [Political cartoonist Thomas], and he's a crossword-fill legend. If you don't know the name, learn it. He skewered Boss Tweed with his political cartoons in 19th century New York (and also drew the Tammany Tiger, whatever that is—all I know is that it relates to Tweed and New York). His more lasting images include Santa Claus, the Democratic donkey, and the Republican elephant. Occasionally NAST gets a [Condé ___] magazine publisher clue, but mostly it's cartoonist Thomas.

Everything Else — 1A: Trip with much hardship (TREK); 5A: Ampule (VIAL); 9A: Bikini blast, briefly (HTEST); 14A: Prefix with port (HELI); 15A: FAQ responses, e.g. (INFO); 16A: Belittle (ABASE); 17A: Send out (EMIT); 18A: "Gosh darn it!" (RATS); 19A: Language that gives us "floe" (NORSE); 23A: Oscar-winning role for Forest (IDI); 24A: PC backup key (ESC); 25A: Corrosion-resistant metal (IRIDIUM); 29A: Letter flourish (SERIF); 31A: Sgt. Snorkel's pooch (OTTO); 33A: An A will usually raise it: Abbr. (GPA); 34A: Science opening? (NEURO); 36A: Most congenial (NICEST); 42A: Event with a piÒata (FIESTA); 44A: "Exodus" hero (ARI); 45A: At the top of the heap (BEST); 47A: Roman __: thinly disguised fiction (ACLEF); 51A: Often scandalous book genre (TELLALL); 54A: Dawdle behind (LAG); 56A: Old name of Tokyo (EDO); 63A: Ruminate (MUSE); 64A: Prefix with dextrous (AMBI); 65A: Its capital is Apia (SAMOA); 66A: Performing __ (ARTS); 67A: Despicable (VILE); 68A: Almost boil (SCALD); 70A: Israeli statesman Weizman (EZER); 1D: One of Luther's 95 (THESIS); 3D: Alchemist's creation (ELIXIR); 4D: Hawk family bird (KITE); 5D: High-tech invader (VIRUS); 6D: Of one mind (INACCORD); 8D: Became unhinged (LOSTIT); 9D: Capital on the Red River (HANOI); 10D: Govt. security (TBOND); 11D: Otologist's concern (EAR); 12D: Org. dodged by draft dodgers (SSS); 13D: Driver's starting point (TEE); 21D: Take down (DEFEAT); 22D: Did a laundry chore (IRONED); 26D: "__ a Kick Out of You": Cole Porter (IGET); 27D: "__-daisy!" (UPSY); 28D: Welcome spot (MAT); 30D: "What You Need" band (INXS); 32D: Carryalls (TOTES); 35D: Lacking capacity (UNABLE); 38D: Newspaper concern, esp. lately (CIRC); 39D: Bold Ruler, to Secretariat (SIRE); 40D: Versailles eye (OEIL); 41D: Schedules of problems to be dealt with (HITLISTS); 42D: More than plump (FAT); 46D: Jenna of "Dharma & Greg" (ELFMAN); 50D: More artful (FOXIER); 52D: Henry Blake's title on "M*A*S*H" (LTCOL); 53D: Good place to get? (AHEAD); 55D: "Give it __!" (AREST); 58D: Surrounding glow (AURA); 59D: Uninhibited party (RAVE); 60D: The law, according to Mr. Bumble (ASS); 61D: Lobbying gp. (PAC); 62D: Org. for GPs (AMA).


WEDNESDAY, January 27, 2010—Daniel A. Finan

Hey, Northern Californians! There's a puzzle event in your area this weekend, the Silicon Valley Puzzle Weekend at the Morgan Hill Library. That link details the weekend's workshops (Saturday) and competitions (Sunday), and you can register here. There are events for both kids and adults, covering crosswords, sudoku, cryptic crosswords, logic puzzles, and word puzzles. Also on the schedule: a constructors panel featuring seasoned crossworders Byron Walden, Tyler Hinman, Andrea Carla Michaels, and Mark Diehl; a talk about crosswordese with Mark Diehl; and more. If you're in the area and you've never attended a puzzle even before, we encourage you to head to Morgan Hill this weekend.

THEME: "Flower Power"—Each of six rhyming word pairs starts with a different category of plant, ergo NURSERY RHYMES or "rhymes for plants grown in a nursery"

It's a well-thought-out seven-piece theme, but it didn't grab me like kudzu tendrils. The large number of (shortish) theme entries fragmented the grid into lots of small sections with 23 three-letter answers. Those include some solid threes (MAR, JIF, AHA, GYM, NUB, RYE) and shortenings (PEC, UKE, BIZ), but also plenty of abbreviations (GED, MSS, plural G.E.'S, LAA, GAO, au courant GPS, SMU), crosswordese (ORT, EKE, FER, Mauna LOA), and foreign words (MER, EAU with a Wisconsin clue, ORO). Stay tuned for highlights after this message from our thematic sponsor.

Theme entries:
  • 17A: Longing for a fronded plant? (FERN YEARN). Not crazy about YEARN used as a noun. Yearning is the noun.
  • 21A: Zinfandel, but not sake? (VINE WINE). Sake is brewed from rice, not grapes, and grapes grow on vines. Sake is apparently not really a wine even though it's sometimes called "rice wine," as it's brewed more like beer rather than made from fermented fruit. (So saith Wikipedia.)
  • 23A: Oxygen emanating from a lawn? (GRASS GAS). Anyone else have dope and flatulence on their mind now?
  • 55A: Steep, e.g.? (HERB VERB). Isn't HERB, like GRASS, slang for marijuana? HERB VERB could be clued by the less botanically minded as [Mellow out] or [Have the munchies].
  • 57A: Like areas above the timberline? (TREE FREE). Tree Brie, tree glee, tree ski...
  • 61A: Group devoted to small, woody plants? (SHRUB CLUB).
  • 37A: Mother Goose offerings, or in a different sense, this puzzle's title (NURSERY RHYMES). The meaning of "nursery rhymes" is reinterpreted as rhymes for categories of plants grown in the nursery.
  • 66A: "I Kissed __": Katy Perry hit (A GIRL). PuzzleGirl said she liked this one. Me, I grouped it with the other two-word partials, HE HAD and ERE WE. I...don't know the song. Yes, I know it was a runaway hit a couple years ago. Don't care. Maybe you will like it. My husband just asked me to turn it off!

  • 9D: "Riders of the Purple Sage" author (ZANE GREY). My grandma read some Zane Grey. Westerns are not my cup of tea, but you gotta appreciate a full name as a crossword answer, especially one with a Z in it.
  • 38D: Winter wonderland creator (SNOWFALL). It's a lovely word unless it's January, there's no end in sight to winter, and you are so over snow.
  • 46D: Bring to a boil? (ENRAGE). Love the clue.
How many of you have seen The Big Lebowski? I have a friend who views it as a touchstone in her life, and apparently her kind are legion. "The Dude abides!" they say. I've never seen it. Here's the trailer, and...it doesn't make me want to see this movie, even though I love the cast. 1A is Bridges of "The Big Lebowski" (JEFF), and he just won the Golden Globe for his performance in Crazy Heart...which I also have not seen. I did see Avatar last weekend, though, which is why I chose that other movie poster to accompany FERN YEARN. I think James Cameron totally copied FernGully.

Crosswordese 101: EGESTS is one of those words we hardly ever encounter outside of crosswords. Am I right? When's the last time you used the word? The clue is usually along the lines of 27A: Spewsspews out, casts out, or discharges. You may be thinking that volcanoes egest lava. Guess what? The word seems to specifically apply to discharging or excreting from the body (opposite of ingest). Yes, that's right: DEFECATE would flunk the crossword breakfast test, but EGEST skates right in because most people don't know the bodily substance definition. It can also refer to sweating, peeing, and barfing. Eww!

Everything Else — 1A: Bridges of "The Big Lebowski" (JEFF); 5A: River projects (DAMS); 9A: Ritz cracker alternative (ZESTA); 14A: Swedish furniture giant (IKEA); 15A: Ostrich cousin (RHEA); 16A: Neighborhoods (AREAS); 17A: Longing for a fronded plant? (FERN YEARN); 19A: Connection (NEXUS); 20A: H.S. dropout's test (GED); 21A: Zinfandel, but not sake? (VINE WINE); 23A: Oxygen emanating from a lawn? (GRASS GAS); 27A: Spews (EGESTS); 28A: Bench press target, briefly (PEC); 29A: Côte d'Azur view (MER); 30A: Scratch or dent (MAR); 31A: Ed.'s pile (MSS); 32A: Rural skyline cylinder (SILO); 34A: Rock collection specimens (AGATES); 37A: Mother Goose offerings, or in a different sense, this puzzle's title (NURSERY RHYMES); 42A: Cloverleaf element (ON-RAMP); 43A: Follower of once? (UPON); 45A: Some TVs (GES); 48A: Scrap for Spot (ORT); 49A: Anaheim team, on scoreboards (LAA); 52A: __ Claire, Wisconsin (EAU); 53A: Pair of blows (ONE TWO); 55A: Steep, e.g.? (HERB VERB); 57A: Like areas above the timberline? (TREE FREE); 59A: Govt. auditing gp. (GAO); 60A: Fruit soda brand (FANTA); 61A: Group devoted to small, woody plants? (SHRUB CLUB); 66A: "I Kissed __": Katy Perry hit (A GIRL); 67A: Diggs of "Private Practice" (TAYE); 68A: Golfer Isao (AOKI); 69A: Kidney-related (RENAL); 70A: Fruity drinks (ADES); 71A: Joan at Woodstock (BAEZ); 1D: Choice of "Choosy moms," in ads (JIF); 2D: Squeeze (out) (EKE); 3D: Not agin (FER); 4D: Werewolf's weapons (FANGS); 5D: Channel maintenance machine (DREDGE); 6D: Cry of realization (AHA); 7D: Griffin and others (MERVS); 8D: Cleaning product prefix (SANI-); 9D: "Riders of the Purple Sage" author (ZANE GREY); 10D: "Maid of Athens, __ part": Byron (ERE WE); 11D: Discrimination fought by suffragists (SEXISM); 12D: Talks trash to (TAUNTS); 13D: Size up (ASSESS); 18D: Polite country affirmative (YES'M); 22D: Not o'er ('NEATH); 23D: Modern rental car feature, briefly (GPS); 24D: Hold back (REIN); 25D: Scopes Trial gp. (ACLU); 26D: Turkish mount (ARARAT); 30D: Christie heroine (MARPLE); 33D: Plata counterpart (ORO); 35D: Place where sweaters get fit? (GYM); 36D: The Mustangs of coll. football (SMU); 38D: Winter wonderland creator (SNOWFALL); 39D: Shortstop's boot (ERROR); 40D: Foil alternative (ÉPÉE); 41D: Fly high (SOAR); 44D: Worn-down pencil (NUB); 45D: Was successful (GOT FAR); 46D: Bring to a boil? (ENRAGE); 47D: Shown to a seat (SEEN IN); 50D: Pleads in court (ARGUES); 51D: Simple poetry pattern (ABAB); 54D: Aquarium denizen (TETRA); 55D: "__ it coming": "Serves him right" (HE HAD); 56D: Eng. lesson (VOCAB.); 58D: "¿Cómo __ usted?" (ESTA); 62D: Bakery product (RYE); 63D: Mauna __ (LOA); 64D: Strummed strings (UKE); 65D: Show __ (BIZ).


TUESDAY, January 26, 2010 — Dan Naddor

Theme: California Cities — The first word of each theme answer follows the word San in the name of a California city.

Theme answers:
  • 16A: *Big name in tequila (JOSÉ CUERVO).
  • 20A: *Mexican muralist (DIEGO RIVERA).
  • 33A: *Spanish painter (1746-1828) (FRANCISCO GOYA).
  • 50A: *Roger Federer rival (RAFAEL NADAL).
  • 56A: Home to this puzzle's theme (CALIFORNIA).
  • 61A: Word that forms a city when combined with the first names in answers to starred clues (SAN).
Okay theme. Not super impressed with the fill. Too many abbreviations and ... EEEE? Seriously? And CDEF?? Ugh. I noticed a few strange words (names) that I learned from puzzles but I don't think they show up often enough to categorize them as crosswordese:
  • 13A: Holly genus (ILEX).
  • 15A: Pitcher Hideo (NOMO).
  • 7D: Puppeteer Tony (SARG).
Did you have trouble with these?


  • 10A: Jack's inferior (TEN). Tricky. I'm all "Jack who? Jack Bauer? Jack Bauer's inferior? Um ... that would be pretty much everybody."
  • 29A: Short film role (CAMEO). I love it when I see a cameo in a movie and know who it is and why it's cool. But it makes me wonder how many times I see cameos that I totally don't recognize or understand.
  • 58A: Fight-ending calls, briefly (TKOS). I've had this song in my head since earlier this month when Teddy Pendergrass died.

  • 12D: "Skip the sandwich dressing" (NO MAYO). For some reason I find this hilarious.
  • 23D: Corn Belt state (IOWA). Go, Hawks!
  • 40D: Topeka natives (KANSANS). Just got an email from a friend ranting about how much she hates Kansas. I'm pretty sure she just means the basketball team though.
Crosswordese 101: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates (states) in the Middle East. The two emirates that commonly show up in clues for UAE are Abu Dhabi (its capital) and Dubai. In later-week puzzles, you might also see reference to Sharjah or Ajman. Other words that should point you in the direction of UAE: oil-rich and OPEC member.

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Everything Else — 1A: "I did it!" ("TA-DA!"); 5A: Outplays (BESTS); 14A: Draw a better bead on (RE-AIM); 18A: Gossip tidbit (ITEM); 19A: Abu Dhabi's federation: Abbr. (UAE); 22A: Actor Brody of "The Pianist" (ADRIEN); 24A: Pep (ENERGY); 25A: __ one mind: disagreeing (NOT OF); 26A: Fri. preceder (THU.); 30A: Some (A FEW); 31A: On the double (PRONTO); 38A: For all to see (OPENLY); 39A: Submissive (MEEK); 41A: Gas brand with a landmark sign outside Fenway Park (CITGO); 45A: Vegas cube (DIE); 46A: Iraqi seaport (BASRA); 47A: Opposed (to) (AVERSE); 49A: "The Picture of __ Gray" (DORIAN); 54A: Gold units: Abbr. (KTS.); 55A: Big pictures: Abbr. (ENLS.); 59A: Insect stage (IMAGO); 60A: Animal whose fur was used for Crockett's cap (COON); 62A: Slow to catch on (DENSE); 63A: Barley beards (AWNS); 1D: Baja border city (TIJUANA); 2D: What you "take" when you sit down (A LOAD OFF); 3D: Military no-show (DESERTER); 4D: Lumberjack's tool (AXE); 5D: UCLA player (BRUIN); 6D: Extra wide, on a shoebox (EEEE); 8D: VCR successor (TIVO); 9D: Campfire treat (S'MORE); 10D: For the full length of a pregnancy (TO TERM); 11D: Come to light (EMERGE); 15D: Skin care brand (NIVEA); 17D: B-G link (CDEF); 21D: Working undercover, for short (INCOG); 26D: Gave it a shot (TRIED); 27D: Mubarak of Egypt (HOSNI); 28D: "I give up!" ("UNCLE!"); 31D: Angel dust, briefly (PCP); 32D: Happy Meal extra (TOY); 34D: Lariat loop (NOOSE); 35D: Poet Khayyám (OMAR); 36D: "That's not news to me" ("YES I KNOW"); 37D: Soda-making process (AERATION); 41D: Insertion marks (CARETS); 42D: The Donald's daughter (IVANKA); 43D: Nonstick coating (TEFLON); 44D: Lawn makeup (GRASS); 46D: Western tie (BOLO); 48D: Spanish hero played by Heston (EL CID); 49D: Willem of "Spider-Man" (DAFOE); 51D: Appoint (NAME); 52D: Actor Alda (ALAN); 53D: Uses a spade (DIGS); 57D: Color TV pioneer (RCA).


MONDAY, Jan. 25, 2010 — Susan Miskimins

THEME: five compound, organ-related adjectives

I've never heard of LEATHER-LUNGED. That is the only thing even remotely approaching a criticism that I have for this puzzle. It's fantastic. Five long, thematically consistent theme answers and a grid that is is filled with incredible care. Perfectly smooth. I'm really, really impressed. This puzzle has 40 black squares (a tad on the high side) and still manages to feel wide open, with interesting, *actual* words everywhere you look. Why can't more puzzles be like this? Still very easy, but interesting rather than dull, excellent rather than merely passable. Huge contrast with today's NYT, which ... well, let's just talk about this puzzle.

Theme answers:

  • 3D: Cowardly (LILY-LIVERED)
  • 18A: Dispirited (DOWN-HEARTED)
  • 38A: Loud and long-winded (LEATHER-LUNGED)
  • 27D: Imbecilic (LAME-BRAINED)
  • 55A: Easily offended (THIN-SKINNED)

Having FIRS and FAKIRS in this puzzle makes me wonder if you could do a theme where you shove state postal codes into words to get new words ... with a theme-revealer that's something like [Like some tuition ... and a hint to this puzzle's theme? => IN-STATE]. Anyway, I love the word FAKIRS (43D: Muslim wonder-workers), even if I couldn't come up with it right away. I can guarantee you that that clue will be the most Googled clue of the day (I have a lot of experience analyzing the searching patterns of all y'all). As a crime fiction fan, I have to give a big thumbs up to the sleuthy subtheme, with Sherlock HOLMES (36A: Watson's partner) trading in his deerstalker for a noir-era FEDORA (45D: Bogart's hat) to track down the perpetrators of MORTAL sins (40A: Like a serious sin).

Crosswordese 101: ODESSA (2D: Black Sea port) — fourth-largest city in Ukraine. Also a city in Texas. Lots of very common letters, and thus highly desirable — or at least useful — for constructors. There is also an EDESSA, an important city in ancient Mesopotamia (located in what is now southern Turkey).

That's all for today. Ms. Miskimins, I don't know who you are, or if you're an alias, or what, but more like this one, please.


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Everything Else — 1A: MSN competitor (AOL); 4A: Infants "in the woods" (BABES); 9A: Terror (FEAR); 13A: Reagan's "Star Wars" prog. (SDI); 14A: High-level storage areas (ATTICS); 16A: "Othello" villain (IAGO); 17A: Condiment in 51-Across (SEL); 18A: Dispirited (DOWN-HEARTED); 20A: Safe haven (ASYLUM); 22A: Drinks dog-style (LAPS); 23A: Land surrounded by agua (ISLA); 24A: Globe (SPHERE); 27A: You may be told to button or zip it (LIP); 30A: Tigers' dens (LAIRS); 32A: "Alley __" (OOP); 33A: Apiece (EACH); 34A: Austrian city with a sausage named for it (VIENNA); 36A: Watson's partner (HOLMES); 38A: Loud and long-winded (LEATHER-LUNGED); 40A: Like a serious sin (MORTAL); 41A: Outlying town, vis-à-vis the city (SUBURB); 42A: Rocks to refine (ORES); 43A: Groundhog Day mo. (FEB.); 44A: Feudal peons (SERFS); 47A: Longtime Massachusetts senator Kennedy (TED); 48A: Chicken, so to speak (SCARED); 51A: Normandy city (CAEN); 52A: Saturate (SOAK); 53A: 1966 musical about a marriage (I DO I DO); 55A: Easily offended (THIN-SKINNED); 60A: Presently (NOW); 61A: German automaker (AUDI); 62A: Misprints (ERRATA); 63A: Poet's "before" (ERE); 64A: Cream of the crop (BEST); 65A: Back-talking (SASSY); 66A: Mom's mate (DAD); 1D: Attack violently (ASSAIL); 2D: Black Sea port (ODESSA); 3D: Cowardly (LILY-LIVERED); 4D: Grammy winner Erykah (BADU); 5D: Diminutive energy sources (ATOMS); 6D: Incidentally, in texting shorthand (BTW); 7D: "Ich bin __ Berliner" (EIN); 8D: Carry laboriously (SCHLEP); 9D: Fraser and Douglas trees (FIRS); 10D: Take nourishment (EAT); 11D: Get on in years (AGE); 12D: Word after fishing or lightning (ROD); 15D: Scorch (SEAR); 19D: Chimp, for one (APE); 21D: Dogie catchers (LARIATS); 25D: Fried corn bread (PONE); 26D: More rasping, as a voice (HOARSER); 27D: Imbecilic (LAME-BRAINED); 28D: Like much tea in summer (ICED); 29D: Acidity nos. (PHS); 31D: __ good example (SET A); 33D: Crete-born artist with a Spanish nickname (EL GRECO); 35D: Org. with Bruins and Coyotes (NHL); 36D: O'Hare, for United Airlines (HUB); 37D: Burden (ONUS); 38D: Traditional wisdom (LORE); 39D: Mechanic's grease job (LUBE); 40D: Bon __: witticism (MOT); 43D: Muslim wonder-workers (FAKIRS); 45D: Bogart's hat (FEDORA); 46D: Flurried, e.g. (SNOWED); 48D: Seaman's "911" (SOS); 49D: Bakery staple (CAKE); 50D: Weight-loss regimens (DIETS); 52D: Grumpy mood (SNIT); 54D: June 6, 1944 (D-DAY); 55D: Drinkers may run one up (TAB); 56D: Color (HUE); 57D: Points out, as a perp (IDS); 58D: "Right to bear arms" org. (NRA); 59D: "If I Ruled the World" rapper (NAS).


SUNDAY, January 24, 2010 — Merl Reagle (calendar)

The calendar puzzle this week is part one of a two-part puzzle by Merl Reagle. I've posted both grids on next week's post, which you can find here.

SUNDAY, January 24, 2010 — Gail Grabowski (syndicated)

Theme: "Gross Words" — Theme answers are familiar phrases with a C replaced by a G to create new wacky phrases clued "?"-style.

[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.]

Good morning! First of all, I appreciate all the good wishes you sent me last week as I re-entered the work force. My first two days went really well and I think this job is going to be a good fit for me. It will take me a while to get used to the pace, though. I was exhausted by Friday evening. I could barely keep my eyes open — and the Hawkeyes were wrestling!

Do you ever look at the puzzle's title and try to guess what the theme is going to be? I thought today's theme was going to be phrases with ICK added to them. Or something like that. But no, in this case, the title is actually an example of the theme (Gross words = Cross words). Here are the rest of the ...

Theme answers:
  • 27A: Tammany Hall expo? (GRAFT FAIR). [craft fair]
  • 29A: Result of a run? (STOCKING GAP). [stocking cap]
  • 52A: Glutton for fuzzy fruit? (PEACH GOBBLER). [peach cobbler]
  • 79A: Low-priced drink holder? (ECONOMY GLASS). [economy class]
  • 105A: Mr. Clean? (GRIME SOLVER). [crime solver]
  • 109A: Telemarketing at dinnertime? (PHONE GALL). [phone call]
  • 37D: Award for the best flop? (GOLD TURKEY). [cold turkey]
  • 42D: Kid in a ditch? (TRENCH GOAT). [trench coat]
None of the resulting phrases are super exciting — PEACH GOBBLER is by far the most interesting — but the puzzle has some decent fill and tricky cluing, so I'm going to guess the consensus will be that this one is, overall, a winner. There were a few people in this puzzle that were unknown to me. Not a hockey fan, so I got 60D: Hall of Fame goalie Patrick ROY through crosses. Also never heard of RENA Sofer [106D: Sofer of soaps]. I only know LEN Cariou [83D: Actor Cariou] from crosswords. Have you all heard of 45A: Mystery writer Nevada BARR? I think my mom knows her or met her or something. She's back in the cobwebs there for some reason!

This puzzle has a tennis mini-theme going too, with:
  • 12D: Court tie (DEUCE).
  • 82D: 1980s-'90s women's tennis player who was #1 for a record total of 377 weeks (GRAF).
  • 89D: Shutout for 82-Down (LOVE GAME).
My first thought about tennis was actually up at 21A: Stadium replaced by Citi Field (SHEA). I think it's cool that SHEA (a Queens baseball stadium) is an anagram of ASHE (a Queens tennis stadium).

  • 1A: Junk, e.g. (BOAT). Very tricky. Especially for 1-Across.
  • 24A: Monthly reading for some (METER). This one had me stumped until I got a few crosses. Cute!
  • 43A: Single-minded sort (NERD). I don't know anything about this.
  • 44A: Excuse that's often exaggerated (SOB STORY). Fantastic entry.
  • 115A: Cybermemo (ENOTE). Ugh. Ugh UGH UGH. Who has ever used this word in real life? You wanna know who? Nobody. That's who.
  • 119A: Lost strength (WANED). Tried ebbed at first. See also 40D: Let up (ABATE).
  • 7D: Start to knock? (ANTI-). Some kind of car thing.
  • 9D: Orchestra sect. (STR.). This is an ugly abbreviation, but I'm kinda used to it now.
  • 14D: Half of a "Which do you want first?" pair (BAD NEWS). Another fantastic entry. This one has a great clue too.
  • 16D: Turf controller (GANG). PuzzleHusband likes to pretend he's the leader of a gang called "Los Nortaños." I believe the gang is comprised of business executives in North Arlington. Their colors are light blue and khaki.
  • 35D: Adam's third (SETH). I promise we'll do a CW101 on Bible names someday. But not today.
  • 48D: Heavily financed deals, briefly (LBOS). Leveraged Buy-Outs.
  • 52D: Pound product (POEM). Ezra Pound. The poet.
  • 53D: Incidentally, in chat rooms (BTW). Stands for By The Way.
I'll be back in a little while with today's calendar puzzle.

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Everything Else — 5A: Lawrence's men (ARABS); 10A: Adapter letters (AC/DC); 14A: Sired (BEGOT); 19A: High style (UPDO); 20A: Principle (TENET); 22A: Brand on a range (AMANA); 23A: Hard to fathom (DEEP); 25A: Markers (IOUS); 26A: Railroad car (DINER); 31A: Before now (EARLIER); 32A: Cultivate (RAISE); 33A: Talk about salvation, e.g.: Abbr. (SER.); 34A: Bakery fixture (OVEN); 35A: Feel (SENSE); 36A: Wealthy widow (DOWAGER); 40A: Childish retort (AM TOO); 46A: "Quit fidgeting!" ("BE STILL!"); 49A: Gp. that supports malpractice damage award limits (AMA); 51A: Thing to grind (AXE); 54A: __ Moines (DES); 55A: Inferior cookware (TIN POTS); 57A: Day-care charges (TOTS); 58A: Put in stacks, say (SORT); 61A: Dais VIP (EMCEE); 62A: 2009 A.L. MVP Joe Mauer, e.g. (TWIN); 66A: Pirate's loot (SWAG); 68A: Makeup item (ROUGE); 71A: Ones acting badly (HAMS); 73A: It's sometimes enough (ONCE); 75A: Like Dorothy's magical shoes (RUBY RED); 77A: Identify (PEG); 84A: Frat party supply (KEG); 85A: Wide-eyed (AGOG); 87A: "Told you so!" ("SEE?"); 88A: "Too much information!" ("SPARE ME!"); 89A: __ majesty: high treason (LÈSE); 90A: Open-bodied antique auto (ROADSTER); 92A: Verve (ELAN); 93A: Vestibule (FOYER); 94A: Posh properties (ESTATES); 95A: Font flourish (SERIF); 97A: Film noir blade (SHIV); 99A: To this day (YET); 100A: Carrier more likely to be tipped (CANOE); 101A: Accumulates (PILES UP); 111A: Summary (RECAP); 112A: Burn slightly (SEAR); 113A: Ad infinitum (NO END); 114A: Utah ski resort (ALTA); 116A: Nail to the wall (HANG); 117A: Oklahoma native (OSAGE); 118A: Jupiter neighbor (MARS); 120A: Affectedly flamboyant (ARTY); 121A: Try to prevent (DETER); 1D: Move slightly (BUDGE); 2D: Verdi work (OPERA); 3D: "Be __ ...": start of a polite request (A DEAR); 4D: Penthouse place (TOP FLOOR); 5D: Charge for cash (ATM FEE); 6D: Get back, as lost trust (RE-EARN); 8D: Brewski (BEER); 10D: The way things stand (AS IT IS); 11D: Go for (CHOOSE); 13D: Port container (CASK); 15D: Leave the country, perhaps (EMIGRATE); 18D: Infield protector (TARP); 28D: DVR brand (TIVO); 29D: Urban play area (SANDLOT); 30D: Indicators of equal pressure (ISOBARS); 32D: Get (a ship) ready to sail again (RERIG); 36D: Capitol cap (DOME); 39D: Deli selections (RYES); 41D: Saying (MAXIM); 43D: White House advisory gp. (NSC); 44D: Topping for chips (SALSA); 46D: Push in some chips (BET); 47D: Right direction? (EAST); 56D: Little legume (PEA); 59D: Heavenly bodies (ORBS); 63D: Beau (WOOER); 64D: B&B (INN); 65D: Two-stripers, e.g.: Abbr. (NCOS); 67D: Fat unit (GRAM); 69D: Ninnies (GEESE); 70D: Turf tool (EDGER); 72D: Sonnet sections (SESTETS); 74D: Augustus, for one (EMPEROR); 76D: Benefit (USE); 77D: Whittle (PARE); 78D: Bigheads (EGOS); 80D: Bocce pair? (CEES); 81D: Certain Ivy Leaguer (YALIE); 86D: Sydney salutation (G'DAY MATE); 91D: Drenched (STEEPED); 93D: Grind, in a way (FILE); 95D: Scholar (SAVANT); 96D: Get-up-and-go (ENERGY); 97D: Spot remover (SPONGE); 98D: Impede (HINDER); 100D: Spelled-out (CLEAR); 102D: Dressing recipient (SALAD); 103D: Part of UHF (ULTRA); 104D: Suffix with proto- (PLASM); 105D: Cultivated (GREW); 107D: Pic to click (ICON); 109D: Masquerade (as) (POSE); 110D: Pressure (HEAT); 113D: Silent assent (NOD).