FRIDAY, Apr. 30, 2010 — Gareth Bain

THEME: "NEWBIE" (49D: Tyro, and a hint to this puzzle's theme)— add-a-"B" to beginning of familiar phrases, get wacky phrases, clue appropriately

Add-a-letter puzzles, as you know, do little-to-nothing for me. But at least this one has a clever theme-revealer — one more interesting than "BIN" or "BON" or whatever other answer might have been used. NEWBIE is a bit misleading, as only one of the answers actually has an OLD "B," but I can deal with that. Today, 3/4 of the theme answers are actually reasonably interesting, with only BOLD TIMER just taking up space. I wish I had a BLOG CABIN. Nothing but books, food, a bed, my dogs, and a computer. I'd probably miss my family inside of 48 hours, but ... I don't know. They can visit.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Daring track official? (BOLD TIMER)
  • 10D: Clinton enjoying some R and R? (BILL AT EASE)
  • 31D: Immortal comedian's donkey imitation? (BRAY OF HOPE)
  • 63A: Online journalist's retreat? (BLOG CABIN)
I found this puzzle much harder than recent LAT Fridays have been, and, insofar as the difficulty came from cluing, I welcome the change. Today, much of my struggle had to do with not knowing what a KOKO (24A: "The Mikado" baritone), a GREBE (30A: Dabchick, for one), or a VERGER is (36D: Church caretaker, in Chelsea). Only way I knew KEKO was wrong was that I had the grilled filled in and yet — no Mr. Happy Pencil (actually my software doesn't give me Mr. Happy Pencil ... I miss him). I also misspelled SHARI (57A: First name in puppetry) (as SHERI), but that was easily fixed in the cross.

Crosswordese 101: EMIL Zátopek (1A: Four-time Olympic gold-medal runner Zátopek) — Probably not the most common EMIL you'll run across in the grid, but common enough for me to have encountered him multiple times. If you've never heard of him before, just be glad you didn't encounter him the first time the way that I did — as a last name. Yeesh. Try figuring out the letters in ZATOPEK on a tough Friday. Nightmare. EMIL Jannings is probably the most common EMIL — he's an olde-timey actor. There's also the title character from "EMIL and the Detectives," pianist EMIL Gilels, and Expressionist painter EMIL Nolde.

What else?

  • 47A: Matriarchal nickname (GRAN) — I call my GRAN "Grandma," so this took a long time. I actually had "-RAN" and thought "... FRAN?" I'm going to my Grandma's 90th birthday party in St. Maries, Idaho in just three weeks. Can't wait. I may or may not have created ... something ... for the occasion, which I may or may not share with you. Eventually. As longtime readers know, my Grandma is the first person I ever saw work a crossword puzzle.
  • 7D: Jennyanydots's creator, initially (TSE) — my thoughts: "that name is so stupid that it must be one of those stupid cats from "Cats"; other thought: "just write TSE; it's the most common literary monogram in puzzledom."
  • 40D: Juju or grigri (TALISMAN) — seriously, between this clue, and the GREBE clue, and the TSE clue, it's like Silly Word Day up in this puzzle. "Grigri!"
By the time you read this, I will be on a plane to Los Angeles, or (if you read late in the day) already there, basking in the warmth of Santa Monica and the friendship of my friends who live in the area (as well as that of PuzzleGirl and PuzzleSister, with whom I'm having dinner). I'm in CA for the "Crosswords L.A." charity tournament, which takes place at Loyola-Marymount University tomorrow, 5-1-10. I'm judging. So is frequent LAT puzzle constructor Doug Peterson. Tyler Hinman and Andrea Carla Michaels are doing color commentary for the finals. All L.A.-area folk should definitely consider turning out. A low-key good time will be had by most, I figure. For more info, go here.

See you Monday,


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Four-time Olympic gold-medal runner Z·topek (EMIL); 5A: Park way (PATH); 9A: Shame (ABASH); 14A: Hacking knife (BOLO); 15A: Rebel (RISE); 16A: Petulant mood (PIQUE); 17A: Daring track official? (BOLD TIMER); 19A: Zaftig (PLUMP); 20A: Trouser measurement (INSEAM); 21A: "Twilight" heroine (BELLA); 23A: Introduction to a former self? (NÉE); 24A: "The Mikado" baritone (KOKO); 27A: Give a hand to (DEAL IN); 30A: Dabchick, for one (GREBE); 32A: Cost an arm and __ (A LEG); 34A: Do a garage job (TUNE); 35A: Cannes's region (RIVIERA); 37A: __'acte (ENTR); 38A: They're usually in the 80s and 90s (OCTANES); 41A: Toon who played Scrooge (MR. MAGOO); 43A: Maker of Definity skin care products (OLAY); 44A: Works on, as a novel (REVISES); 46A: Sport with riders (POLO); 47A: Matriarchal nickname (GRAN); 48A: Core belief (TENET); 52A: Put the kibosh on (STIFLE); 54A: Suggestive look (LEER); 56A: Two-legged meat source (EMU); 57A: First name in puppetry (SHARI); 59A: Battles with bombers (AIRWAR); 61A: Stars travel in them (LIMOS); 63A: Online journalist's retreat? (BLOG CABIN); 66A: Get used (to) (ADAPT); 67A: __ Grey tea (EARL); 68A: Dam buildup (SILT); 69A: X-ray targets (BONES); 70A: Whitehall whitewall (TYRE); 71A: Tijuana tender (PESO); 1D: Flowing back (EBBING); 2D: One offering his seat? (MOONER); 3D: "Let me check" ("I'LL SEE"); 4D: Bonanza (LODE); 5D: A-one (PRIMO); 6D: End (AIM); 7D: Jennyanydots's creator, initially (TSE); 8D: Mint, say (HERB); 9D: User of the prefix "i-" (APPLE); 10D: Clinton enjoying some R and R? (BILL AT EASE); 11D: Inspiring apparatus (AQUALUNG); 12D: Result of considering the pluses? (SUM); 13D: With it (HEP); 18D: Consume (TAKE IN); 22D: Awards named for a writer (EDGARS); 25D: Kind of roll (KAISER); 26D: Fútbol game cheer (OLÉ); 28D: Intrigued with (INTO); 29D: Ruler from LIV to LXVIII (NERO); 31D: Immortal comedian's donkey imitation? (BRAY OF HOPE); 33D: Fur that's a symbol of royalty (ERMINE); 36D: Church caretaker, in Chelsea (VERGER); 38D: "__!...I Did It Again": Britney Spears album and hit song (OOPS); 39D: Blood __ (CLOT); 40D: Juju or grigri (TALISMAN); 42D: Like a tonne of bricks? (METRIC); 45D: Kilmer of "Top Gun" (VAL); 49D: Tyro, and a hint to this puzzle's theme (NEWBIE); 50D: Computer letters (EMAILS); 51D: Ask for help from (TURN TO); 53D: Keeps going (LASTS); 55D: Golfer's coup (EAGLE); 58D: Cynical response (I BET); 60D: Hoarse sound (RASP); 61D: Testing site (LAB); 62D: Phrase said before taking the stand (I DO); 64D: Not ordained (LAY); 65D: Two-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner (ORR).


THURSDAY, April 29, 2010 — James Sajdak

Theme: "Hooooo" — Theme answers are two-word phrases with the letter string OWL hidding within them.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Indoor gardener's tool (GROW LIGHT).
  • 28A: Big drinker's "secret" (HOLLOW LEG).
  • 33A: Tutor's charge (SLOW LEARNER).
  • 43A: Golden retriever? (YELLOW LAB).
  • 54A: Hard-to-see critters lurking in 20-, 28-, 33- and 43-Across (NIGHT OWLS).
For some reason, I was just not feeling this puzzle. Seems like every section was a struggle. I even thought there might be a rebus for a while until I remembered that the L.A. Times doesn't do rebuses. Maybe it's because I started out sure that 1-Across would be DOVE and not DIAL (1A: Ivory alternative). When the downs in the NW corner aren't working, that kinda throws me off. With the -DI- in plase at 1-Down, I couldn't see DINGBAT (1D: Birdbrain) because I couldn't get DIMWIT out of my head even though it didn't fit. Also, BOO (23A: "Eek!" elicitor) was completely eluding me because, again, my first though — MOUSE — just wouldn't fit.

The theme is okay, although not terribly sparkly. GROW LIGHT is kinda of cool. Makes me think of illicit plants being grown in a locked room in a basement. Just me? Okay, whatever. I don't love seeing SLOW LEARNER in the grid. It's a legitimate phrase, but it seems kind of … crass. Cluing a dog with a "?"-clue of another type of dog? I can't decide if that's cute or not.

Eventually I worked everything out and did feel a sense of accomplishment but it just seemed hard for me and not necessarily fun.

I'm off to California for the Crosswords L.A. tournament tomorrow. Hope to see some of you there!

Crosswordese 101: 4D: Movie mogul Marcus LOEW is the founder of Loews Theatres and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). And that's pretty much all you need to know about him for crossword puzzle purposes.

Everything Else — 5A: Lumps of earth (CLODS); 10A: They're full of beans (PODS); 14A: In that event (IF SO); 15A: Center (HEART); 16A: Stat start (RHEO-); 17A: What the hyphen in an emoticon represents (NOSE); 18A: Like many microbrews (ON TAP); 19A: Actor McGregor (EWAN); 22A: Vigilant (ALERT); 24A: __ Vandelay, recurring fake "Seinfeld" character who turns out to be a real judge in the final episode (ART); 25A: Reagan court appointee (SCALIA); 26A: Wing, perhaps (ANNEX); 31A: Greenish blue (TEAL); 32A: Come down hard (POUR); 39A: Churlish sort (BOOR); 40A: Piano, to a pianist (SOFT); 48A: __ d'Alene (COEUR); 49A: Hardy and North (OLLIES); 50A: It brought Hope to the troops: Abbr. (USO); 52A: Sign of peace (VEE); 53A: Dr. J's alma mater (U. MASS.); 57A: Milquetoast (WIMP); 58A: String quartet part (VIOLA); 59A: Like Granny Smith apples (TART); 60A: Wrath, in a classic hymn (IRAE); 61A: Played a part (ACTED); 62A: Object of adoration (IDOL); 63A: Former OTC watchdog (NASD); 64A: Visibly moved (TEARY); 65A: Give up (CEDE); 2D: Start of an opinion (I FOR ONE); 3D: Right after (AS SOON AS); 5D: Gospel singers (CHOIR); 6D: Pool measure (LENGTH); 7D: Curse (OATH); 8D: "Curses!" ("DRAT!"); 9D: NASCAR sponsor (STP); 10D: Course for a budding DA (PRE-LAW); 11D: Words of resignation (OH WELL); 12D: Sweetheart (DEARIE); 13D: "In America" novelist Susan (SONTAG); 21D: Loose (LAX); 22D: Squash variety (ACORN); 25D: Talk like thish (SLUR); 27D: Pipe fitting (ELL); 29D: "William Tell," e.g. (OPERA); 30D: Mauna __ (LOA); 34D: Wind section (OBOES); 35D: Astounds (WOWS); 36D: Cybercackle (LOL); 37D: Pedro's "that" (ESO); 38D: 1973 landmark case (ROE V. WADE); 41D: Nuclear reactor component (FUEL ROD); 42D: Amtrak canyon crosser (TRESTLE); 43D: "I give up" ("YOU WIN"); 44D: New York city where Mark Twain is buried (ELMIRA); 45D: Pack animals (LLAMAS); 46D: Talked like thith (LISPED); 47D: Base player? (BUGLER); 48D: Base bunk (COT); 51D: Not on the up and up (SHADY); 54D: "Good one!" ("NICE!"); 55D: Scintilla (IOTA); 56D: Narc suffix (-OTIC); 58D: Vintner's container (VAT).


WEDNESDAY, April 28, 2010—Dan Naddor

THEME: "Eat Me"—Food dishes that include names are clued as if they have something to do with famous people with that first name.

To accommodate the 12-letter central answer, the grid's been stretched to 16 squares wide. You can't center an entry with an even number of spaces within a grid with an odd width.

Theme entries:
  • 18a. [Response to comic Anderson's "What's for dinner?"?] is CRAB LOUIE or rather, "crab, Louie." I was thinking this classic comedy bit was Louie Anderson, but it's the similarly girthed John Pinette:

  • 21a. [Response to Spanish tenor Kraus's "What's for dinner?"?] is CHICKEN ALFREDO. Fettuccine Alfredo is more familiar to me than this chicken dish, which in turn is more familiar to me than Spanish tenor Alfredo Kraus, whom I've never heard of. YouTube reveals the winning combination of opera chops and a silly mustache.
  • 37a. [Response to Revolutionary Arnold's "What's for breakfast?"?] is EGGS BENEDICT. Not sure why the R is capitalized. And what's with rehabilitating his image? He's most famous for being a traitor.
  • 58a. [Response to actress Bracco's "What's for brunch?"?] is QUICHE LORRAINE. She played Dr. Melfi on The Sopranos.
  • 64a. [Response to jazzman Peterson's "What's for dinner?"?] is VEAL OSCAR. Oscar Peterson plays piano, and quite nicely, I might add:

This grid is notable for the stacking of the theme entries at the top and bottom as well as the 28 longish (6 to 8 letters long) non-theme answers. The short fill includes a number of clunkers, though.

Join me in a stroll through the grid to see what's here:
  • 5a. [Penn. crosser] is a TNPK., as in the Pennsylvania Turnpike that runs across the state.
  • 17a. [Singer Morissette]'s first name is ALANIS. I love her downbeat acoustic cover of Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps." If you hate that song, you may love this version.
  • There's a one-black-eye-day combo happening here with ONE EYE (12d. [Cyclops feature]), BLACK EYE (3d. [Mark of shame]), and ONE DAY (67a. ["Eventually ..."]).
  • 69a. [Maestro Klemperer] is OTTO. Not Werner. Hogan's Heroes actor Werner Klemperer is Otto's son. Who knew?
  • 4d. Good clue for JOB-HOP: [Change positions often]. I was thinking of jostle and fidget.
  • 19d. [__ fire under] clues the two-word partial entry LIT A.
  • 30d. [Dull finish?] doesn't rescue -ARD. Nobody likes a dangling suffix answer. At least -ard is in the dictionary as a suffix with a specific meaning. Did you know that it's mostly used negatively? Nobody wants to be dullard, drunkard, or dotard. Wizard, though, is a positive word. -ARD is in a pile-up of ick, with partial ME I and Roman numeral MDC (which at least had a workable math clue, 32d: [CLX x X]. 100 times 10 = 1000/M, 50 times 10 = 500/D, 10 x 10 = 100/C.
  • 36d. TNS is used to abbreviate "tons" ([Heavy wts.]), but how pointless is that? An abbreviation that drops only one letter? I just saw TNS in another puzzle recently and thought it stunk. I'm surprised to see it again so soon, because it feels like an answer I have rarely encountered in crosswords.
  • 41d. I love the word TRIFECTA. It's a [Potentially lucrative track bet].
  • 48d. [Menacing snake] clues COILER. Meh. Nobody describes a coiled snake as a COILER.
Crosswordese 101: I wasn't quite conscious of there being two famous LALOs in music. Today's LALO is 15a: [Composer Schifrin], and that is the most frequently used LALO clue. LALO Schifrin composed the Mission: Impossible theme. Less commonly, LALO will be clued as French composer Edouard LALO, who composed Symphonie espagnole and Le Roi d'Ys, among other things.

Everything Else — 1A: Hist. or sci. (SUBJ.); 9A: "This is for real!" ("NO JOKE!"); 16A: Noah of "ER" (WYLE); 20A: Forceful, as an argument (COGENT); 23A: 1861-'89 territory (DAKOTA); 25A: MFA, for one (DEG.); 26A: Oater okay (YEP); 27A: Get ready (PREPARE); 29A: Bighorn sheep, at times (RAMMERS); 33A: What's up? (SKY); 34A: Like machine-stamped mail (METERED); 42A: Most proximate (NEAREST); 43A: Cold and wet (RAW); 46A: Flute relative (PICCOLO); 49A: Leather source (OSTRICH); 53A: Tokyo, once (EDO); 54A: Sitter's handful (IMP); 57A: Sly (CRAFTY); 63A: Dump (UNLOAD); 68A: Nastase of tennis (ILIE); 70A: They're sometimes worn under helmets (DO-RAGS); 71A: Building extensions (ELLS); 72A: 1966 Jerry Herman musical (MAME); 1D: Beehive St. capital (SLC); 2D: Old Mideast org. (UAR); 5D: Like many garages (TWO-CAR); 6D: Stooges' laugh (NYUK); 7D: Practiced, as a trade (PLIED); 8D: New Hampshire college town (KEENE); 9D: Table salt, to a chemist (NACL); 10D: Swedish statesman __ Palme (OLOF); 11D: Five-time NHL scoring leader Jaromir (JAGR); 13D: More considerate (KINDER); 14D: Prevents, legally (ESTOPS); 22D: Accept (AGREE TO); 23D: Infielders' stats (DPS); 24D: Indy's pursuit (ARK); 28D: Involve, as in conflict (EMBROIL); 31D: "Something tells __ goofed" (ME I); 35D: Wide shoe spec (EEE); 38D: Health food co. (GNC); 39D: Former GM division (GEO); 40D: Actor Mineo (SAL); 44D: Do something (ACT); 45D: "Give me a reason" ("WHY?"); 46D: Ahab's whaler (PEQUOD); 47D: "Don't ask me!" ("I DUNNO!"); 50D: Libra symbol (SCALES); 51D: Small band (TRIO); 52D: Kidnapper's demand (RANSOM); 55D: Dinner companion? (MOVIE); 56D: Head & Shoulders competitor (PRELL); 59D: Musical finale (CODA); 60D: Den __, Netherlands (HAAG); 61D: Nestlé ice cream brand (EDY'S); 62D: Track fence (RAIL); 65D: PIN requester (ATM); 66D: Fish delicacy (ROE).


TUESDAY, April 27, 2010 — Pete Muller and Sue Keefer

Theme: Rhyme Time — Theme answers are familiar two-part phrases where the two parts rhyme.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Blondness (FAIR HAIR).
  • 22A: There may not be one "in the house" during a tearjerker (DRY EYE).
  • 32A: Cat's pajamas (BEE'S KNEES).
  • 37A: Like some stockings (THIGH-HIGH).
  • 47A: Captain Ahab feature (PEG LEG).
  • 50A: Fan of Jerry Garcia's band (DEADHEAD).
  • 3D: Flight of scientists to another nation, e.g. (BRAIN DRAIN).
  • 27D: "The original gourmet" candy bean (JELLY BELLY).
I really, really enjoyed this puzzle … up until the very last box I filled in. But I'll get to that later. For now, let's just talk about all the awesomeness. The theme is fun. All kinds of different lengths, acrosses and downs, encompassing old-timey phrases, pirates, the Grateful Dead and hosiery — what's not to love?

Lots of snappy fill including the colloquial POP IN, "I'M EASY" and "NO RUSH" (9A: Stop by unexpectedly / 5D: "No argument from me" / 33D: "You can get it to me later").

Rex mentioned the K-CAR (7D: 1980s Chrysler product) over at his blog this weekend: "If a car is going to be named after a letter, that is the letter to name it after, I say." Agreed! And finally, I love seeing PET ROCK in the grid (9D: Faddish '70s toy that came in a box with air holes), but it sure does make you think about how gullible we all were back then. Kids these days still have those dumb "pets" but now they're electronic. Does that make it better or worse? I'm really not sure.

So, okay. The one box I didn't like? That would be the W in WHANG (35D: Cymbal sound). WHANG? Really? CHING maybe. CLANG okay. WHANG? Not so much. Go ahead and explain to me in the comments why it's totally acceptable, it's in a dictionary, anybody who knows anything about music, blah, blah, blah. It just sounds wrong to me and I don't like it. Also, I wasn't completely sure of 35D: Houdini's family name (WEISS). Of course, W seems like the most likely letter there, but with a name it could be almost anything. The good news, though, is that the puzzle totally redeemed itself in a very tricky way that I completely love. Did you notice that both constructors' names are in the grid? Yes they are! Nice job, Pete and Sue! (47D: Tennis's Sampras (PETE); 52A: "What are you gonna do about it?!" ("SUE ME!").)

Everything Else — 1A: Subway alternative (CAB); 4A: Floppy storage media (DISKS); 15A: Apples since 1998 (IMACS); 16A: Ivory neighbor? (EBONY); 17A: "Michael Collins" org. (IRA); 18A: Honda Accord, for one (SEDAN); 19A: Has a proclivity (to) (TENDS); 23A: Neural impulse junction (SYNAPSE); 24A: Big hairdos, for short (FROS); 25A: Cart for heavy loads (DRAY); 26A: Coalition (BLOC); 27A: Boeing product (JET); 30A: County on San Francisco Bay (MARIN); 34A: "__ See for Miles": The Who hit (I CAN); 35A: Houdini's family name (WEISS); 40A: Word with Big or top (TEN); 41A: "Great" dog (DANE); 42A: "It's __!": bargain hunter's words (A BUY); 43A: Coffee holders (URNS); 44A: "Flying" toy (FRISBEE); 51A: Author Jong (ERICA); 53A: Shirt size: Abbr. (LGE.); 54A: Laid vinyl on, as a floor (TILED); 55A: Speak off the cuff (AD LIB); 56A: Quarterback Dawson (LEN); 57A: Ingress (ENTRY); 58A: Befitting a slob (MESSY); 59A: Soph and jr. (YRS.); 1D: Elaborate dos (COIFS); 2D: Striking spread (ARRAY); 4D: Old-style kitchen washing receptacle (DISHPAN); 6D: __ Hawkins Day (SADIE); 8D: Tax form ID (SSN); 10D: Does as told (OBEYS); 11D: Fried Dixie bread (PONE); 12D: __ 500 (INDY); 13D: Big Board letters (NYSE); 21D: __ to go: psyched (RARING); 22D: Metallic refuse (DROSS); 24D: Shylock's pound (FLESH); 26D: Light brown (BEIGE); 28D: Very wide, shoewise (EEEE); 29D: General __ chicken: Chinese dish (TSO'S); 30D: Catcher's glove (MITT); 31D: Throb (ACHE); 32D: Some '60s war protests (BE-INS); 35D: Cymbal sound (WHANG); 38D: Like many large-screen TVs (HD READY); 39D: Follow, as rules (ABIDE BY); 42D: A Musketeer (ARAMIS); 43D: Stomach woe (ULCER); 44D: Senses (FEELS); 45D: Ready for action (EAGER); 46D: Paradises (EDENS); 48D: Common name for an Irish lass (ERIN); 49D: Gold-plated (GILT); 50D: Bro (DUDE); 52D: Uncle on a poster (SAM).


MONDAY, Apr. 26, 2010 — Jeff Chen

THEME: "What?" — four theme answers have that clue; answers are all colloquial ways of asking "What?"

Theme is cute, if slightly wobbly. Obviously, answers were chosen at least in part of symmetricality, so you've got a first person pronoun in 58A: "What?" ("I BEG YOUR PARDON") but not in 20A: "What?" ("DIDN'T CATCH THAT"), despite the fact that the reverse would sound more natural — people say "BEG YOUR PARDON" all the time without the "I" in front, "DIDN'T CATCH THAT" less so. Also, "SAY AGAIN" (45A: "What?") is not a familiar phrase to me, though it was highly inferrable. The phrase, as I know it, is "COME AGAIN?" But again, "COME AGAIN" would screw up your rotational symmetry with "EXCUSE ME" (32A: "What?"). This is what I mean by "wobbly" — the actual answers make me think of different, good answers that weren't used and better ways of phrasing answers that were. Still, it all seems tight enough for an LAT Monday. Also, the overall fill is super solid, especially for a grid with a tone of 4-letter words. Not once did I wince or think "ugh." Oh, wait, I didn't see ESME (70A: Salinger heroine). That one I could do without. And there's a smattering of crosswordese here and there, but only a smattering, and an inoffensive smattering at that. I don't enjoy doing Roman numeral division in the middle of my solve (66A: CC ÷ XXV => VIII), but with GROOVY (49D: Old-fashioned "Cool!") as one of the crosses on that answer, the enjoyment factor returned.

[XENA!? (33D: TV warrior princess)]

Crosswordese 101: NEVE Campbell (42A: Actress Campbell) — there is exactly one viable crossword NEVE: NEVE Campbell. She was pretty famous, seems like, oh, a decade ago, as a cast member of the FOX series "Party of Five" (1994-2000) and then, making out with Denise Richards, in "Wild Things" (1998). I have no idea what she's been doing lately, though she appears to have been a guest voice on "The Simpsons" just last year.

What else?

  • 5D: Hostess offerings (CUPCAKES) — clues like this can make a huge difference (relatively speaking) in my solving times. Couldn't just throw it down, even with a couple crosses in place, because "Hostess" was ambiguous (I, of course, though it referred to someone hosting a party ... which, I suppose, it could, if the party in question was a child's birthday party — I think it's safe to say that "Hostess" here is the snack cake company).
  • 41D: Book report, e.g. (SYNOPSIS) — again, slowed down by a long Down. Had the SYN- and started thinking "are 'book' and 'report' SYNONYMS of one another ...?" No. Overthinking it. "O" in ORBITS got me back on track.
  • 44D: Edith, to Archie (DINGBAT) — aargh. Had the DING- and was surprised when DINGIE wouldn't fit. Not surprisingly, I was confusing my abusive overweight 70s sitcom characters — Mel called Vera "DINGIE" ("DINGY?" "DINGHY?") while Archie called Edith "DINGBAT."

See you Friday,


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Life histories, briefly (BIOS); 5A: Atkins diet concern (CARB); 9A: Bogus (FALSE); 14A: Drub in a game (ROUT); 15A: Exploitative type (USER); 16A: Author Zola (EMILE); 17A: Not in favor (ANTI); 18A: Italian tower site (PISA); 19A: Corrective eye surgery (LASIK); 20A: "What?" ("DIDN'T CATCH THAT"); 23A: Nova __ (SCOTIA); 24A: Gentleman's offering on a crowded train, perhaps (SEAT); 25A: Scratch (out), as a living (EKE); 27A: Reason to grab a tissue (SNIFFLE); 32A: "What?" ("EXCUSE ME?"); 37A: Lost color (PALED); 38A: Watered-down (WEAK); 39A: Hangs ten, say (SURFS); 42A: Actress Campbell (NEVE); 43A: Finished (ENDED); 45A: "What?" ("SAY AGAIN?"); 47A: Back-talking (SASSING); 50A: Big bang producer (TNT); 51A: One running in a pusher, for short (NARC); 53A: Circles the Earth (ORBITS); 58A: "What?" ("I BEG YOUR PARDON"); 62A: Toothbrush company (ORAL-B); 63A: Metallurgist's raw materials (ORES); 64A: Choir voice (ALTO); 65A: Modeling wood (BALSA); 66A: CC ÷ XXV (VIII); 67A: Swerve (VEER); 68A: Shoreline irregularity (INLET); 69A: Hankerings (YENS); 70A: Salinger heroine (ESME); 1D: Thin nails (BRADS); 2D: Architectural order (IONIC); 3D: One-up (OUTDO); 4D: Stretch in the service (STINT); 5D: Hostess offerings (CUPCAKES); 6D: Continent crossed by Marco Polo (ASIA); 7D: Score silence symbols (RESTS); 8D: Sources of teen angst, dentally (BRACES); 9D: Sharpie feature (FELT TIP); 10D: Asian nurse (AMAH); 11D: Edelstein of "House" (LISA); 12D: Use a letter opener on (SLIT); 13D: Scared comics cry (EEK); 21D: Connections (TIES); 22D: Solo of "Star Wars" (HAN); 26D: Cousin of an ostrich (EMU); 28D: Vampire tooth (FANG); 29D: Insect in a circus (FLEA); 30D: First name in jeans (LEVI); 31D: First family's home? (EDEN); 32D: Rams' ma'ams (EWES); 33D: TV warrior princess (XENA); 34D: No-goodniks (CADS); 35D: Hawaiian strings (UKES); 36D: Hosp. areas (ERS); 40D: Sprat's taboo (FAT); 41D: Book report, e.g. (SYNOPSIS); 44D: Edith, to Archie (DINGBAT); 46D: Gillette razor brand (ATRA); 48D: Aye's opposite (NAY); 49D: Old-fashioned "Cool!" ("GROOVY!"); 52D: Radium co-discoverer (CURIE); 54D: Atlanta athlete (BRAVE); 55D: Dawdles (IDLES); 56D: Symbol on a pole (TOTEM); 57D: Source of spousal angst, nocturnally (SNORE); 58D: Persia, nowadays (IRAN); 59D: Formal dance (BALL); 60D: Apart from this (ELSE); 61D: Jockey strap (REIN); 62D: Kimono sash (OBI).


SUNDAY, April 25, 2010 — Merl Reagle (calendar)

Theme: "Blueprint for Danger" — An homage to the L.A. Times Festival of Books and the TCM Classic Film Festival, which both wrap up today. Oh, and home repair.

[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 today's syndicated puzzle.]

Theme answers:
  • 22A: "The second she walked in, I ___ ..." (WAS FLOORED).
  • 24A: "She had long fingers and ___ ..." (GREAT NAILS).
  • 31A: "I was getting a strange vibe from her, but ___ ..." (NOTHING CONCRETE).
  • 52A: "She was thirsty, so I fixed her ___ ..." (A SCREWDRIVER).
  • 58A: "Pretty soon we were ___ ..." (BOTH PLASTERED).
  • 74A: "When I woke up, all my ___! ..." (FILES WERE GONE).
  • 81A: "I told the cops a dame got the better of me. One of them said, '___' ..." (THAT'S A SWITCH).
  • 101A: "Then another cop said, 'Awright, tough guy, ___, let's go' ..." (YOU KNOW THE DRILL).
  • 111A: "They knew I'd ___, but they took me downtown anyway ..." (BEEN FRAMED).
  • 114A: "Some days it just doesn't pay to be ___" (MIKE HAMMER).
Everything Else — 1A: Describe (LIMN); 5A: Squelched (SAT ON); 10A: "Out to launch" org. (NASA); 14A: Design problem (FLAW); 18A: Psych finish (-OSIS); 19A: Carbon copy (CLONE); 20A: Em et al. (AUNTS); 21A: Art movement (DADA); 26A: Expensive pages (ADS); 27A: Birds of a region (ORNIS); 28A: DDE opponent (AES); 29A: To boot (TOO); 30A: Grammy category (RAP); 35A: Sahara stop (OASIS); 37A: Olive and Kelly (GREENS); 38A: WWII women (WACS); 39A: "American Beauty" author Ball et al. (ALANS); 41A: Reindeer raiser (LAPP); 42A: Veda venerator (HINDU); 44A: Happy (GLAD); 45A: Burial place (TOMB); 49A: Lion's tail? (-ESS); 50A: Ninny (TWIT); 55A: Flies high (SOARS); 56A: Historic times (ERAS); 57A: Rio Grande city (LAREDO); 63A: President pro ___ (TEM); 64A: Start of a dog (RIN); 65A: Rose Parade sight (FLOAT); 66A: State of mind (MOOD); 67A: Come together (MESH); 69A: Angry with (MAD AT); 71A: Victory ___ (LAP); 72A: Hard wasser (EIS); 77A: Acropolis locale (ATHENS); 79A: Shell or Bell preceder (TACO); 80A: Astrologer Sydney (OMARR); 84A: Rules partner (REGS); 85A: Tut's cousin? (TSK); 88A: Actor Green or Rogen (SETH); 89A: Off-base? (AWOL); 90A: Joanna of "Growing Pains" (KERNS); 92A: Publicity (FAME); 93A: Cuzco-related (INCAN); 95A: "Your Majesty" ("SIRE"); 96A: Russell's "Gladiator" director (RIDLEY); 98A: Room (SPACE); 105A: Humerus location (ARM); 106A: Catch (RUB); 108A: Earth-___ (aardvark, literally) (PIG); 109A: Poker move (RAISE); 110A: Abbr. in '74 headlines (SLA); 116A: Author of a book with "chin" in its title (LENO); 117A: Elvis and Marilyn, e.g. (ICONS); 118A: "SNL" alumna Cheri (OTERI); 119A: Actress Helgenberger (MARG); 120A: Airs its final episode (ENDS); 121A: Agenda, for short (SKED); 122A: Noted moralist (AESOP); 123A: ___ many words (IN SO); 1D: Ground-level shot (LOW ANGLE); 2D: Ms. Duncan et al. (ISADORAS); 3D: Errors (MISSTEPS); 4D: It might fund a research proj. (NSF); 5D: Disdains (SCORNS); 6D: Word after sing or string (ALONG); 7D: Donut-shaped (TORIC); 8D: On ___ (out of the nest) (ONE'S OWN); 9D: Actor Beatty (NED); 10D: Temperature taker (NURSE); 11D: Meth finish (-ANE); 12D: Highway Patrol's purview (STATE LAW); 13D: Concerning (AS TO); 14D: Testing org. (FDA); 15D: Hideouts (LAIRS); 16D: Part of 28 Across (ADLAI); 17D: Stingers (WASPS); 20D: Golden ___ (seniors) (AGERS); 23D: Meat buy (LOIN); 25D: High time (NOON); 28D: Finger pointer (ACCUSER); 32D: With it, once (HEP); 33D: Nothing (NADA); 34D: Chaucer collection (TALES); 36D: Out of the sack (ASTIR); 40D: Confuse (ADDLE); 42D: Fong and Walker (HIRAMS); 43D: "___ nice to see you" (IT'S SO); 44D: Does a teacher's job (GRADES); 46D: Go too far with (OVERDO); 47D: Middle of the road? (MEDIAN); 48D: Rochester's creator (BRONTE); 50D: Popular lists (TOP TENS); 51D: ___-Mart (WAL); 53D: Cookie filling (CREME); 54D: Butters (RAMMERS); 55D: ___ Na Na (SHA); 58D: Notes next to A's (B FLATS); 59D: Kansas city (OLATHE); 60D: Astaire headwear (TOPHAT); 61D: 2009 Andrew Ross Sorkin book, "Too Big ___" (TO FAIL); 62D: Fiat (EDICT); 63D: Motifs (THEMES); 68D: Like testimony (SWORN); 70D: Cabinet dept. (AGR.); 73D: Son of Sarah (ISAAC); 75D: Securing, in a way (LOCKING); 76D: Tatter (RAG); 78D: Work ___ (ETHIC); 79D: Bridge bid (TWO NO); 82D: Saggy horse (SWAYBACK); 83D: Medal winner (HERO); 85D: Amulet (TALISMAN); 86D: Noses (SMELLERS); 87D: Bogart-Robinson classic (KEY LARGO); 91D: Do over, as a chapter (REWRITE); 92D: Yalta visitor, 1945 (FDR); 94D: Soft ball material (NERF); 95D: Slides (SKIDS); 96D: Send anew (RESHIP); 97D: Brainstorm (IDEA); 98D: Weasellike animal (SABLE); 99D: Fuss over oneself (PREEN); 100D: Change (a will) (AMEND); 102D: Flip (UPEND); 103D: Confiscates (TAKES); 104D: Glyphics opener (HIERO-); 107D: "Mila 18" author (URIS); 112D: Directory data: abbr. (NOS.); 113D: Slapper in shorts (MOE); 114D: Extinct bird (MOA); 115D: Kvbrick opvs? (MMI).

SUNDAY, April 25, 2010 — Mark Bickham (syndicated)

Theme: "Missing" — Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases with the letter string ING removed from the end of the first word. Resulting wacky phrases are clued wackily.

[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: Admiral's tryst? (FLEET[ing] ROMANCE).
  • 37A: Water cooler gossip? (BREAK[ing] NEWS).
  • 40A: Knockoff of an Intel product? (BARGAIN[ing] CHIP).
  • 68A: Site of a surprise? (START[ing] POSITION).
  • 99A: Issue for the media? (PRESS[ing] MATTER).
  • 101A: Where insects learn to use their wings? (FLY[ing] SCHOOL).
  • 121A: Museum featuring bamboo art? (SHOOT[ing] GALLERY).
  • 3D: Golf tournament commentary? (OPEN[ing] REMARKS).
  • 14D: Voice teacher? (PITCH[ing] COACH).
  • 28D: Creek footage? (STREAM[ing] VIDEO).
  • 52D: Units for timing a track event? (MEET[ing] MINUTES).
  • 72D: First-quarter shipments? (MARCH[ing] ORDERS).
  • 75D: Angry lineman? (CROSS[ing] GUARD).
Crosswordese 101 Round-Up:
  • 49A: Morales of "NYPD Blue" (ESAI).
  • 56A: Raptor's roost (AERIE).
  • 97A: Mauna __ (LOA).
  • 108A: Isaac's eldest (ESAU).
  • 15D: Hodgepodge (OLIO).
  • 89D: Editor's mark (STET).
  • 108D: Scratched (out), as a living (EKED).
  • 116D: Buffalo's county (ERIE).
Everything Else — 1A: Confucian principle (TAO); 4A: You don't get credit for one (EFF); 7A: Do-say connection (AS I); 10A: Entrance boundary, perhaps (GATE POST); 18A: Mont Blanc site (ALPS); 20A: Graduate (ALUMNUS); 22A: Seat of Potter County, Texas (AMARILLO); 25A: Drink (POTATION); 26A: __ Alley (TIN PAN); 27A: Biz bigwig (EXEC); 28A: Atlanta-to-Miami dir. (SSE); 29A: Lea group (COWS); 30A: "Mr. Mojo __": Doors lyric that anagrams into the lead singer's name (RISIN'); 32A: Jump for joy (EXULT); 34A: Borrrring (BLAH); 45A: Sleep acronym (REM); 46A: Show co-anchored by Robin Roberts, for short (GMA); 47A: "Yes __!" (SIREE); 48A: Sussex scents (ODOURS); 49A: Morales of "NYPD Blue" (ESAI); 51A: Squalid (SEAMY); 53A: "Paradise Lost" figure (SATAN); 55A: Woeful cry (ALAS); 56A: Raptor's roost (AERIE); 58A: Sharp-tongued (ACERB); 60A: Flavor enhancer (MSG); 61A: Defeatist's words (I CAN'T); 62A: Word with match or money (MAKING); 64A: Asian lead-in (EUR-); 65A: Slip away (VANISH); 67A: Some map lines: Abbr. (STS.); 72A: Colo. is on it (MST); 75A: Usual practice (CUSTOM); 76A: "Spy vs. Spy" magazine (MAD); 77A: Put on the staff? (NOTATE); 79A: Impolite look (STARE); 82A: __-Wan Kenobi (OBI); 83A: Year in Augustus' reign (ONE B.C.); 86A: "She __ Yellow Ribbon": 1949 John Wayne film (WORE A); 87A: Bananas (LOCO); 88A: Prayer endings (AMENS); 90A: Factotum (DO-ALL); 92A: Tapers? (VCRS); 93A: Beginning (OUTSET); 95A: Like many a dirt road (RUTTY); 97A: Mauna __ (LOA); 98A: Half a laugh (HEE); 104A: "Holy cow!" ("GEEZ!"); 105A: Military camp (ETAPE); 107A: Roundup critter (STEER); 108A: Isaac's eldest (ESAU); 111A: Nods, perhaps (OKS); 113A: Valued frames (CELS); 115A: Showy, in a way (GILDED); 118A: Botswana desert (KALAHARI); 123A: More than accepts (EMBRACES); 124A: Sneaks on the court? (TENNIES); 125A: Wholly __ part (OR IN); 126A: Way behind everyone (DEAD LAST); 127A: "I'm so glad!" ("YAY!"); 128A: Good name, for short (REP); 129A: Take in (SEE); 1D: 1920s chief justice (TAFT); 2D: Weight loss brand (ALLI); 4D: Profit (EARNINGS); 5D: Andy Capp's wife (FLO); 6D: Become enraged (FUME); 7D: Building wing (ANNEX); 8D: She-demons (SUCCUBI); 9D: Expert finish? (-ISE); 10D: Memory problems (GAPS); 11D: One-celled protozoan (AMOEBA); 12D: Body art, briefly (TAT); 13D: Baseball stat (ERA); 15D: Hodgepodge (OLIO); 16D: School zone sign (SLOW); 17D: Scads (TONS); 19D: Retro photo (SEPIA); 21D: __ out: uses up, as credit (MAXES); 24D: Job (TASK); 31D: Site of Hercules' first labor (NEMEA); 33D: Metallica drummer Ulrich (LARS); 35D: Victim of Hercules' first labor (LION); 36D: Additionally (AND); 37D: Deep-bodied fish (BREAMS); 38D: Do an usher's job (RESEAT); 39D: WWII noncombat unit (WAAC); 41D: Suggests (GETS AT); 42D: Sinuous dance (HULA); 43D: Pakistan neighbor (IRAN); 44D: Attention-getting sound (PSST); 47D: Ice cream soda ingredient (SYRUP); 50D: "Richard __" (III); 54D: Latin lambs (AGNI); 57D: Happen next (ENSUE); 59D: Antacid, briefly (BROMO); 61D: "__ a bad time?" (IS NOW); 63D: Alfa Romeo sports cars (GTS); 66D: Carbonium, e.g. (ION); 69D: Bit of physics (ATOM); 70D: Author __ Louis Stevenson (ROBERT); 71D: Like dunes (SANDY); 73D: Dorm room setup (STEREO); 74D: Prickly plant (TEASEL); 78D: "Mazel __!" (TOV); 79D: Unappetizing serving (SLOP); 80D: Hit the road (TOUR); 81D: Entr'__ (ACTE); 84D: It may be carried or dropped (BALL); 85D: Becomes sickeningly sweet (CLOYS); 88D: "Don't look __!" (AT ME); 89D: Editor's mark (STET); 91D: Desperate (LAST GASP); 94D: Jargon ending (-ESE); 96D: Internal airway (TRACHEA); 100D: Island group that includes São Miguel (AZORES); 101D: Joint tenant? (FELON); 102D: Plaster, as a room cover (CEIL); 103D: "Duh!" relative ("HELLO!"); 106D: Indiana state flower (PEONY); 108D: Scratched (out), as a living (EKED); 109D: Identical (SAME); 110D: "Valentine's Day" actress Jessica (ALBA); 112D: Commercial suffix with Star (-KIST); 114D: Cookbook direction (STIR); 116D: Buffalo's county (ERIE); 117D: Fraction of a newton (DYNE); 119D: Golfer Sutton (HAL); 120D: Here, in Juárez (ACA); 121D: Chester White's home (STY); 122D: Turn to the right (GEE).


SATURDAY, April 24, 2010—Samuel A. Donaldson

THEME: No theme today—It's a themeless puzzle, just like every other Saturday. I always wonder how many people get accustomed to figuring out themes the rest of the week and rack their brains trying to tease out a theme from a Saturday grid.

Happy birthday to PuzzleGirl! She hits the big three-O today, and you'd never know it to look at her. Andrea Carla Michaels and Doug Peterson and PuzzleSister Elizabeth Olson White teamed up to make a birthday crossword for Andrea; you can get it here.

Happy birthday to my son Ben, too. He's turning 10. Double digits! There is no denying his tween status. Yesterday, he tuned the car radio to a pop hits station for the first time and identified that song I thought was by a woman as a song by Justin Bieber. Oh! The 15-year-old singin' boy does a good falsetto. No wonder the girls go wild for him.

Today's puZZle is packed with the letter Z and its friends. You've got your QUIZZICAL and PAPARAZZI, [Übermensch philosopher] NIETZSCHE with his five-consonant pile-up, ZOOMING ZEALOTS, the papal Star Wars conclave of JEDI and JOHN PAUL I, and more. After putting in my first answer, MOLOKAI, I gambled that the [Big name in publishing] would be KNOPF (20A) owing to its oddball consonant pairs, and that pointed the way towards the overall Scrabbliness-on-speed of the crossword. Either the clues were really easy or I coasted on Sam's wavelength, as sub-4:00 themelesses are not my norm.

Favorite bits, on top of the aforementioned words:
  • If you've got to have crosswordese geography names URAL and ARAL, why not cross them? We've got 15A: [Evaporating sea] for ARAL and 7D: [Kazakhstan river] for URAL. I can't tell you what a disappointment it was for me last November when Ural Williams didn't show up for my high school class reunion. I knew his name was crosswordese when we were 14, but never got a chance to discuss it with him. I am astonished to see no listing for URAL in the Crosswordese 101 index.
  • Speaking of crosswordese geography, OREM gets dressed up with a fresh clue—16A: [Utah home of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival]. Call me a nerd if you must, but sometimes I appreciate it when lame repeaters get new clues. Surprisingly, OREM hasn't been XW101ed yet, either. That one's easy—4-letter Utah town = OREM. 4-letter Russian town = OREL, which is also the first name of pitcher Orel Hershiser. Oh, unless the Russian town starting with O is ORSK or OMSK—just to keep you off balance.
  • 30A: ELIA KAZAN usually gets the crosswordese fill-in-the-blank (FITB) treatment with just ELIA in the grid, but he gets the full name this time. Man, without "Kazan" in the clue, ["Gentlemen's Agreement" Oscar winner] was a mystery to me.
  • 1D: The [Groundbreaking invention] isn't so amazing after all. It's a PICKAXE, which may be used to hack away at the ground.
  • 4D: [Dime novels] are PULPS. Rex Parker's non-crossword blog is Pop Sensation, where he writes about pulp fiction book covers. Do they call 'em PULPS, Rex?
  • 6D, 22D. For [Star chasers], I wanted something like ASTRONOMERS to fit, but it turned out to be the double-Z PAPARAZZI. The other kind of stars figure into [Stellar]/ASTRAL.

I have no idea who 38D: [Russian supermodel Vodianova] is, but with the N in place, NATA**A was likely. Turned out to be NATALIA rather than NATASHA. According to New York magazine, she's got three kids and is an activist on behalf of Russian orphans. Check this out: One of her kids is named Neva, after the 4-letter river crossword solvers know and love.

Crosswordese 101: URAL! At long last! The usual clues touch on these points: It's the name of a Russian and Kazakh river that feeds the Caspian Sea as well as the mountain range that separates Europe and Asia.

Now, I've made it all the way to the end of the post without including a video. I refuse to embed Justin Bieber in this blog, much less your consciousness. How about Bill Shannon instead? He's a performance artist and dancer who's created his own art form, dancing with the crutches he's always used to walk because of a congenital hip deformity. Words in the crossword that may relate, however tenuously, to this video include FLEXES, ZOOMING, and IMPRESS. Mainly I just wanted to share it because it's cool. You can find Shannon's street and stage performances on YouTube too. Like carrying a suitcase by putting it on a skateboard and clamping it between his lower legs, or whirling around in the air like a breakdancer who's elevated his game a few feet off the ground.

Everything Else — 1A: Psychs (up) (PUMPS); 6A: Frolicker in a Peter, Paul and Mary song (PUFF); 10A: Sith rivals (JEDI); 14A: "Cut __!" (IT OUT); 15A: Evaporating sea (ARAL); 16A: Utah home of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival (OREM); 17A: Symphony section (CELLI); 18A: Go back and forth (PACE); 19A: It can be hard to get over (HUMP); 20A: Big name in publishing (KNOPF); 21A: Costanza portrayer (ALEXANDER); 23A: Requests (ASKS FOR); 25A: Even considering (DESPITE); 26A: First chronicled Chinese dynasty (XIA); 27A: Bind (JAM); 29A: Washington et al. (STATES); 30A: "Gentlemen's Agreement" Oscar winner (ELIA KAZAN); 34A: Sorry lot? (RUERS); 35A: Curious (QUIZZICAL); 37A: About to bloom (IN BUD); 40A: Saw only good qualities in (IDEALIZED); 44A: "__ Boom-de-ay": vaudeville song (TA-RA-RA); 46A: Withdrawal aid, for short (ATM); 47A: I, to Claudius (ONE); 48A: Lit conditions? (STUPORS); 50A: Fanatics (ZEALOTS); 53A: Aircraft accelerators (TAILWINDS); 55A: They precede finals (SEMIS); 56A: "Play it, Sam" speaker (ILSA); 57A: Fed. anti-discrimination org. (EEOC); 58A: "What __ surprise!" (A NICE); 59A: Demeanor (MIEN); 60A: Eye protector (LASH); 61A: Roadside sign (DINER); 62A: Soothe (EASE); 63A: Half an arcade trademark (SKEE); 64A: Inner turmoil (ANGST); 1D: Groundbreaking invention (PICKAXE); 2D: Part of a place setting (UTENSIL); 3D: Island where Father Damien cared for lepers (MOLOKAI); 4D: Dime novels (PULPS); 5D: Lucky one? (STIFF); 6D: Star chasers (PAPARAZZI); 7D: Kazakhstan river (URAL); 8D: Confronted (FACED); 9D: Shows off at the gym (FLEXES); 10D: 33-day pope, 1978 (JOHN PAUL I); 11D: Learned (ERUDITE); 12D: Greek goddess of agriculture (DEMETER); 13D: Wow (IMPRESS); 22D: Stellar (ASTRAL); 24D: California city near Los Padres National Forest (OJAI); 28D: Tribute maker (MAZDA); 31D: Water skis alternative (AQUAPLANE); 32D: "Friends" actress (KUDROW); 33D: ‹bermensch philosopher (NIETZSCHE); 36D: Attended (CAME); 37D: "Let's go now" ("IT'S TIME"); 38D: Russian supermodel Vodianova (NATALIA); 39D: Bumps' partners (BRUISES); 41D: Moving quickly (ZOOMING); 42D: Lures (ENTICES); 43D: Finishing course (DESSERT); 45D: __ Grotto: ocean-themed Disney World play area (ARIEL'S); 49D: Quarterback's play (SNEAK); 51D: Carne __: Mexican beef dish (ASADA); 52D: October Revolution leader (LENIN); 54D: Shot amount (DOSE).


FRIDAY, Apr. 23, 2010 — Jerome Gunderson

THEME: add "W" to beginnings of familiar phrases, get wacky phrases, etc.

This is pretty low-end stuff. A cynical, pointless add-a-letter puzzle. It's Friday, so why not ... "W?" What's the rationale? Why "W?" You could do this puzzle again, with the same base phrases, with at least three different other letters (please, please don't). Personally, I like "F," if only for the answer you'd get at 48A, but "M" might make more sense. Whatever. The point is there's just zero ambition behind this. Crank it out. Here you go. On to the next. If this kind of forgettable cookie-cutter stuff gets published routinely, why *not* just crank it out?

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Stonemason's goal? (WALL IN A DAY'S WORK)
  • 27A: Flirt's mascara stains? (WINK BLOTS)
  • 48A: Dermatology class videos? (WART FILMS)
  • 62A: Inherited wealth? (WILL-GOTTEN GAINS)

Are they cute, charming, clever answers? Some, I guess. Maybe. But, in the words of this puzzle, HO HUM (31D: Boring).

It's hard not to like KRAKATOA (39D: Volcano in the Sunda Strait), and FABIO added a ray of sunshine to the experience as well (36D: One-named male model). I'm pretty sure kids can actually say the simple word "dog." The clue on BOW WOW suggests something a cutesy, baby-talking parent would say more than it does what an actual TYKE would say (10D: Certain pet, in totspeak). The overall fill, in general, is inoffensive. That's the best thing I can say about the puzzle today.

Crosswordese 101: ERSE (65A: Celtic language) — HA ha, how is this *not* on our list after more than a year's time??? Maybe that's a sign that it hasn't been used much, which is a very promising trend. ERSE is the worst kind of old school crosswordese (a valid answer, but one you don't want to trot out unless you are under duress). It's essentially another word for "Gaelic." With its obscenely common letters in unusual combination, it's a very handy piece of 4-letter fill. Too handy. Constructors should shun it. Except when they can't.

What else?
  • 34A: "It's what's hot in pain relief" brand (BEN-GAY) — second GAY answer of my puzzle day (this one didn't make me laugh as much)
  • 4D: Kelso and Funny Cide (GELDINGS) — this answer looks pretty good in the grid, and I like the clue, in that (at least for me) the answer wasn't immediately obvious. Needed crosses. Nice to have to do some work on a Friday.
  • 15A: Bobby's informant (NARK) — NARK Matthews provided Bobby Kennedy with all kinds of important information when Bobby was Attorney General ...
  • 52A: Chiwere speaker (OTOE) — I've got OTOE on speed dial. Four letters, even vaguely Native American-looking clue: OTOE. Now it could be CREE or HOPI, or even OTOS, dagnabbit, but OTOE (3/4 vowels) is a good bet. Use crosses if you're not confident.
See you Monday,


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Everything Else — 1A: Lively Cuban dance (CONGA); 6A: They can be loose or tight (ENDS); 10A: Shade of red (BEET); 14A: Sharon of Israel (ARIEL); 15A: Bobby's informant (NARK); 16A: Moisturizer brand (OLAY); 17A: Stonemason's goal? (WALL IN A DAY'S WORK); 20A: Word before or after dog (SLED); 21A: Islamic spiritual guide (IMAM); 22A: Contemptible people (SWINE); 23A: "Woe __!" (IS ME); 25A: Biography opener? (AUTO); 27A: Flirt's mascara stains? (WINK BLOTS); 30A: Fanciful idea (WHIM); 34A: "It's what's hot in pain relief" brand (BEN-GAY); 35A: Feudal estate (FIEF); 37A: Caesar's morning meal? (OVA); 38A: "Man is __ himself when he talks in his own person": Wilde (LEAST); 39A: Chain with pieces, briefly (KFC); 40A: Rose petal pest (APHID); 42A: PC program (APP); 43A: French 101 infinitive (ETRE); 45A: Bustle (with) (ABOUND); 46A: High-tech unit (BYTE); 48A: Dermatology class videos? (WART FILMS); 50A: With wild abandon (AMOK); 52A: Chiwere speaker (OTOE); 53A: End of a series (OMEGA); 56A: Regarding (AS TO); 58A: Curdle (CLOT); 62A: Inherited wealth? (WILL GOTTEN GAINS); 65A: Celtic language (ERSE); 66A: Whitecap formation (FOAM); 67A: Befuddled (AT SEA); 68A: Feat (DEED); 69A: Minnesota __ (FATS); 70A: Antares or Betelgeuse (M-STAR); 1D: Crow cacophony (CAWS); 2D: Like much lore (ORAL); 3D: River from Lake Victoria (NILE); 4D: Kelso and Funny Cide (GELDINGS); 5D: Frazier foe (ALI); 6D: Glossy paint (ENAMEL); 7D: Zip, to Zapata (NADA); 8D: Like many a rescue (DRAMATIC); 9D: Something to look up to (SKY); 10D: Certain pet, in totspeak (BOW WOW); 11D: Childlike Wells race (ELOI); 12D: Deserve (EARN); 13D: Kid (TYKE); 18D: "Build it somewhere else" acronym (NIMBY); 19D: Flier with a bent nose (SST); 24D: Shark or Penguin footwear (SKATE); 26D: Take advantage of (USE); 27D: Obviously sad (WEEPY); 28D: Unsuitable (INAPT); 29D: Buyer's proposal (OFFER); 31D: Boring (HO-HUM); 32D: Political columnist Molly (IVINS); 33D: Anti-DUI org. (MADD); 34D: Betray a confidence, perhaps (BLAB); 36D: One-named male model (FABIO); 39D: Volcano in the Sunda Strait (KRAKATOA); 41D: Skunk relatives (POLECATS); 44D: Company quorum? (TWO); 45D: "Sweet" river in a Burns poem (AFTON); 47D: Made 3 on a par-5 (EAGLED); 49D: Clan emblems (TOTEMS); 51D: Mad, e.g., briefly (MAG); 53D: Due (OWED); 54D: Bog down (MIRE); 55D: Word suggesting options (ELSE); 57D: Doc's "Now!" ("STAT!"); 59D: Tilt (LIST); 60D: Pre-military rank? (ONE-A); 61D: Royal Russian of yore (TSAR); 63D: Amiss (OFF); 64D: Pinup's leg (GAM).


THURSDAY, April 22, 2010 — Jack McInturff

Theme: "Lily Tomlin" — Theme answers are familiar phrases the first word of which is a type of lily.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Father of Sam and Charlie (TIGER WOODS).
  • 20A: South Pacific site of large stone statues (EASTER ISLAND).
  • 35A: Continuously (DAY AFTER DAY).
  • 54A: Asian draft animal (WATER BUFFALO).
  • 57A: "All of Me" actress whose first name is a hint to this puzzle's theme (LILY TOMLIN).
I'm running late this morning so this will be quick. I thought this was a perfectly serviceable puzzle. No major complaints. Well, I'm not crazy about seeing TIGER WOODS in my grid these days but you probably shouldn't get me started. Haven't seen "The Soloist," with Jamie Foxx co-starring Robert DOWNEY, Jr., but it looks pretty interesting (9D: "The Soloist" co-star). I'm not sure that FALSE FACE is a thing (34A: Mask), and the last letter I put in the grid was the X at the cross of NO-TAX and MEAT AX (64A: Feature of Oregon sales / 43D: Spareribs separator). I couldn't make sense of either of those clues. Sorry to blog and run, but that's just how it is today. Have fun in the comments.

Crosswordese 101: ADELA Rogers St. Johns is an author/writer/journalist. Do I know anything about her? Why no. No, I don't. I just know that's her name and so far that has served me pretty well.

Everything Else — 1A: Tsp. and tbsp. (AMTS.); 5A: Old orchard spray (ALAR); 9A: Abu __ (DHABI); 14A: Separate by color, say (SORT); 15A: Angle function (SINE); 16A: Barely flowed (OOZED); 17A: Hairy "pet" (CHIA); 22A: Casual evenings (NITES); 23A: Dull (TIRESOME); 27A: One might be snappy (DRESSER); 30A: Anti vote (NAY); 31A: __ Kan: Alpo rival (KAL); 32A: Some game enders (MATES); 34A: They come and go (FADS); 39A: Enter (GO IN); 41A: Search stealthily (PROWL); 42A: Abate (EBB); 43A: Rosemary's portrayer (MIA); 46A: Hides (STASHES); 50A: Mind (LISTEN TO); 53A: Clinton Labor secretary Robert (REICH); 60A: __ on the shoulder (A TAP); 61A: Author __ Rogers St. Johns (ADELA); 62A: __ sci (POLI); 63A: Pointed end (CUSP); 65A: Singles (ONES); 66A: Latin I word (ESSE); 1D: Go up (ASCEND); 2D: Angora fabric (MOHAIR); 3D: Sad, to Sarkozy (TRISTE); 4D: Churchill or Roosevelt, e.g. (STATESMAN); 5D: Star sci. (ASTR.); 6D: 10% of DXXX (LIII); 7D: Apprehension (ANGST); 8D: Catch from a pier (REEL IN); 10D: Robbery accessories (HOODS); 11D: Nitrogen-based dye (AZO); 12D: Something that goes with breakfast? (BED); 13D: Psyche parts (IDS); 19D: Avis lead-in (RARA); 21D: Samuel Johnson work (ESSAY); 24D: "You bet" ("OKAY"); 25D: Alfred E. Neuman is its mascot (MAD); 26D: Overhead transports (ELS); 28D: LAX posting (ETA); 29D: Court decision maker (REF); 33D: Indy 500 advertiser (STP); 34D: Mask (FALSE FACE); 35D: Ownership call (DIBS); 36D: Speech hesitations (ERS); 37D: Malarkey (ROT); 38D: Happy, for one (DWARF); 39D: Hair stiffener (GEL); 40D: Geisha's sash (OBI); 44D: Keen on (INTO); 45D: Musical direction after ritardando, perhaps (A TEMPO); 47D: Gap (HIATUS); 48D: Mercedes sedan category (E CLASS); 49D: Quaint retail word (SHOPPE); 51D: Tony winner Tharp (TWYLA); 52D: Sweater synthetic (ORLON); 55D: Peevishness (BILE); 56D: Les États-__ (UNIS); 57D: Data-sharing syst. (LAN); 58D: Chapel vow (I DO); 59D: Ease, with "up" (LET).


WEDNESDAY, April 21, 2010—Donna S. Levin

THEME: "Would You Keep It Down Out There?!?"—This puzzle wants to know what all the noise is, and provides plenty of it

Theme entries:
  • 17A. [Consequence of the subprime mortgage fiasco] is the REAL ESTATE CRASH. Crashes are indeed loud. Yesterday when I picked my son up after school, a few of the yellow buses ful of kids managed to crash. Everyone was OK, but one bus needed to be towed, one kid got checked out at the ER, a bunch of school staff lost their afternoons, and 100 kids were two hours late getting home that day. As for me and my kid, we enjoyed the sunshine, the playground, and watching all the emergency vehicles (seven!) on site.
  • 25A. [Exit spectacularly] clues GO OUT WITH A BANG.
  • 42A. [Punished severely, with "on"] is LOWERED THE BOOM.
  • 55A. [Complaint from one trying to concentrate, perhaps—and this puzzle's title] clues "WHAT'S THAT RACKET?"

I like Donna's clueing style—they're not the super-tough tricky clues I'm so fond of, since she mostly does puzzles in the easy-to-medium range, but they've got panache. Among my favorite clues are these ones:
  • 10A. [One of Hammett's Charleses] is NORA, of Nick and Nora Charles and their dog Asta fame. Never read those stories, never saw any of hte movies. But I did love the entirely unrelated movie, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.

  • 20A. ESS is a "meh" answer, but [Start of something?] sounds like something more interesting.
  • 36A. [Blin, in Blois] is almost incomprehensible. The plural of blin is blini (which feels much more familiar to me), and a single blin is essentially a CREPE. Blois must be some place where French is spoken, but I can't say I've ever heard of it. Oddball words in a standard alliteration clue—not the usual.
  • 51A. [Hit or miss?] is a VERB. Yep, I usually fall for the clues that want you to come up with VERB or RHYME or SYNONYM but use words that have another meaning that sits in the forefront, distracting you.
  • 6D. [Zippy watercraft] is a JETSKI. I love the word "zippy."
  • 7D. Trivia clue: [Like about 20% of Israeli citizens today] means ARAB.
  • 24D. [Engage in retail therapy?] clues SHOP. I don't shop for therapy. I shop because I want to acquire things.
  • 36D. More trivia: The CORVETTE is a [Sports car named for a small warship].
  • 41D. [They usually have strings attached] refers to the noun TEA BAGS. Strings literally, not figuratively.
  • 53D. [Things for hanging things] are PEGS. I'm always glad to skip a [Cribbage scorekeeper] clue.

My favorite answer is BEEFCAKE (9D: [Stud muffin photos]), though I prefer chocolate cake when it comes to dessert.

I remember OINGO Boingo (27D: [New Wave band __ Boingo]) from early-'80s MTV. Apparently their biggest song was from the 1985 movie Weird Science, which I never saw because I was by then a sophisticated college student who didn't want to watch movies for teens. Lots of troubling psychosexual issues are at play in the video (and, I hear, the movie). You know Danny Elfman, who composed the theme to The Simpsons and has scored movies? He was in Oingo Boingo.

Crosswordese 101: Rex has previously covered the word ORIEL (26D: [Bay window]). Is there any long-time solver of crosswords who doesn't store ORIEL and OSIER in the same part of their brain?

Everything Else — 1A: Harpsichord relative (PIANO); 6A: Doorframe part (JAMB); 10A: One of Hammett's Charleses (NORA); 14A: Aggressive poker bet (ALL IN); 15A: Spooky-sounding lake (ERIE); 16A: Musician Clapton (ERIC); 17A: Consequence of the subprime mortgage fiasco (REAL ESTATE CRASH); 20A: Start of something? (ESS); 21A: Accident investigation agcy. (NTSB); 22A: Lowly assistant (FLUNKY); 23A: Swindle (ROOK); 24A: Move quickly, as clouds (SCUD); 25A: Exit spectacularly (GO OUT WITH A BANG); 31A: Get out of bed (ARISE); 32A: Hunan pans (WOKS); 33A: Consume (EAT); 35A: Cellar stock (WINE); 36A: Blin, in Blois (CREPE); 38A: Chip's buddy (DALE); 39A: Frat party staple (KEG); 40A: Mindless repetition (ROTE); 41A: Championship (TITLE); 42A: Punished severely, with "on" (LOWERED THE BOOM); 46A: Guns (REVS); 47A: Word after open or seven (SEAS); 48A: Take big steps (STRIDE); 51A: Hit or miss? (VERB); 52A: Special __: military force (OPS); 55A: Complaint from one trying to concentrate, perhapsóand this puzzle's title (WHAT'S THAT RACKET); 58A: Aqueduct feature (ARCH); 59A: Lob (TOSS); 60A: Narrow canyon (GORGE); 61A: Cook in the microwave (NUKE); 62A: Fencer's weapon (ÉPÉE); 63A: Tic, e.g. (SPASM); 1D: Peel (PARE); 2D: Martinique et RÈunion (ILES); 3D: "__, poor Yorick!": Hamlet (ALAS); 4D: Zilch (NIL); 5D: Musically monotonous (ONE-NOTE); 6D: Zippy watercraft (JET SKI); 7D: Like about 20% of Israeli citizens today (ARAB); 8D: Univ. near Harvard (MIT); 9D: Stud muffin photos (BEEFCAKE); 10D: Chilean poet Pablo (NERUDA); 11D: Algerian seaport (ORAN); 12D: Game played on a world map (RISK); 13D: Sore (ACHY); 18D: Store in a hold (STOW); 19D: Clover-shaped suit (CLUBS); 23D: Artful stratagem (RUSE); 24D: Engage in retail therapy? (SHOP); 25D: Stare in wonder (GAWK); 26D: Bay window (ORIEL); 27D: New Wave band __ Boingo (OINGO); 28D: Tammany Hall name (TWEED); 29D: "Peachy keen!" ("NEATO!"); 30D: Carlo Rossi winemaker (GALLO); 34D: Be rife (with) (TEEM); 36D: Sports car named for a small warship (CORVETTE); 37D: Info in AAA TripTiks (RTES.); 38D: "That's mine!" (DIBS); 40D: Saxes and oboes (REEDS); 41D: They usually have strings attached (TEABAGS); 43D: Twist in pain (WRITHE); 44D: Scary African fly (TSE-TSE); 45D: Frau's spouse (HERR); 48D: Ugly duckling, actually (SWAN); 49D: Drive-__ window (THRU); 50D: Pinion partner (RACK); 51D: Still life subject (VASE); 52D: Gumbo pod (OKRA); 53D: Things for hanging things (PEGS); 54D: Stern's opposite (STEM); 56D: Emulate Kanga (HOP); 57D: Radar gun aimer (COP).