Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Title: Cryptic Crossword
Author: Fraser Simpson
Theme: None

Wow, I've never gotten to blog a cryptic before, so this should be fun. Rather than assume everyone who comes here is a cryptic expert and provide critical commentary on the clues and surface readings, I'm going to target this blog for those who aren't that familiar and will provide a detailed breakdown of how these clues work. In the process, perhaps a few more lucky souls will get hooked on this clever style of puzzle.

First the basics: In a cryptic clue, there are always two paths to the answer. At least one is always a definition, the other is generally some type of word play, though it is occasionally another definition for a different sense of the word (see 23d). These two parts are then put together to form a sentence. The surface meaning of the sentence rarely relates to the answer. In fact, clues are often misleading by deliberately using words such that the surface meaning has a different interpretation than either the definition, the wordplay, or both. The surface meaning will ideally make sense and read as pseudo-normal English. By pseudo-normal, I mean not necessarily as written or spoken prose, but sensible. A good cryptic clue often sounds like a newspaper headline. Great clues are usually funny, too.

So, a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Unlike standard American crosswords, not every letter is part of two answers. Better than half of the letters cross, though, and this is fair since every clue has two parts; it's virtually inconceivable that there will be ambiguity in both the definition and wordplay.
  2. The two parts of the clue will not intermingle. Therefore, the definition will always be at the beginning or end, not in the middle somewhere. The trick is to parse the clue correctly by figuring out how much of the beginning or end is the definition, and interpreting the wordplay. In each of the clues, I will italicize the definition part, for clarity.
  3. Good clues should have no extraneous words. Everything should be either part of the definition or part of the word play. The one exception is the occasional "is", "for", "becomes", or some such that connects the wordplay to the definition. This is acceptable since it can be considered part of the wordplay.
  4. Unlike standard crosswords, common abbreviations are fair play without any additional indicator that it's an abbreviation. So "cold" can be "c" (as seen on a faucet), "oxygen" can be "o", etc. Numbers almost always refer to Roman numerals.
  5. Sometimes wordplay involves parts of words. "Initial", "head of", "first of", and other indicators of this sort can refer to the first letter of a word. Similarly, "last of", "end of", "final", etc. can refer to the last letter of a word. "Empty" can mean remove all but the first and last letters (see 14a); "the edges of" can mean the same. A "piece" of a word is almost always the first letter. Always be alert to taking things literally, so "half of the world" could be "thew" (i.e., literally half of "theworld").
  6. There are many other common types of wordplay, which we will discuss as we look at the puzzle itself.
  7. Any wordplay that is not a straight, sequential combination (like, AGENT = AG+ENT) will have an "indicator" word or phrase that tips you to what is going on. These will be discussed within each section, below. Wordplay generally consists of "indicators", telling what action to perform, and "fodder", the word or words on which to perform the action.


I think the best way to attack this is by wordplay type, so let's do that.

Double Definitions:


A double definition is just what it sounds like. Both halves of the clue offer a different definition of the word. This is a common device for short words, and clues of this type are typically short as well (two or three words). So if you see that combination -- short fill, short clue -- think double definition. In this puzzle, there was only one (though I suspected 1a for a minute).

  • 23d: Happy flower (4) (GLAD). Glad means happy, and it's short for gladiola, a type of flower. Note that the definitions can define two different pronunciations (they don't here, but they could). So, for example, "Saxophone crank" could doubly define WIND (the noun/instrument and the verb). I didn't say it was a good example... :)


Straight/Charade:

The straight wordplay or "charade" clue builds the answer in sequence. This is a very common type, and does not require any special "indicators", since the default is to interpret words in the order written. There are several of these in this puzzle, as follows:

  • 1a: Fall fruit gathered (7) (PLUMMET). PLUM (fruit) + MET (gathered).

  • 21a: Religious conservative put up money for a mindreader (14) (FUNDAMENTALIST). FUND (put up money for) + A (a) + MENTALIST (mindreader).

  • 1d: Supple quality initially put at risk (10) (PLIABILITY). First letter of (initially) "put" (P) at (superfluous connector) + RISK (liability) = P+LIABILITY.


  • 6d: Wonderful two arm bones (5) (RADII). RAD (wonderful) + II (two).

  • 18d: Runaway sheep gasp for breath (7) (RAMPANT). RAM (sheep) + PANT (gasp for breath).



Positional Indicators:

The simplest indicators are positional indicators. They either reinforce the default order (usually to enhance surface reading) or indicate change in order. Be aware, in positional wordplay, that whether the fill is across or down is significant. In down-clue wordplay, you might see "on", "above", or "under", whereas in an across clues you'll see words like "before", "ahead of", or "following".

  • 14a: Stage performer braided hair at rear of empty attic (7) (ACTRESS). TRESS (braided hair) after (at rear of) AC (empty "attic", e.g. remove all but the first and last letters).

  • 2d: Remaining tidy after university (7) (UNEATEN). NEATEN (tidy) after U (university) = U+NEATEN.


  • 15d: Sailor is on land, darn it (9) (TARNATION). TAR (sailor) above (is on) NATION (land). Note that this is a down clue, so the literal interpretation works. Note also that the "is on" is not critical to the wordplay (since the default is to interpret in order), but that it makes for a better surface reading.



Containers/Insertions:

Containers are similar to positional indicators, except they tell you to put one word inside the other (or, conversely, one word around the other). Containment indicators may be obvious, like "contains" or "is inside", or may be more subtle, like "grabs", "eats", or "about". The majority of clues tend to involve some containment wordplay.


  • 5a: In error, I restricted zoo animal (7) (GIRAFFE). In GAFFE (error), I + R = G(I+R)AFFE. R is "restricted" in the sense of R-rated movies.

  • 16a: Card inserted into clock shrinking more (7) (TIMIDER). ID (card) inserted into TIMER (clock) = TIM(ID)ER.

  • 19a: Anticipate raw materials included in fee (7) (FORESEE). ORES (raw materials) included in FEE. Note that fee, here, could have been further clued, but wasn't.

  • 7d: Engaged fellow comprehends new money matters (7) (FINANCE). FIANCE (engaged follow) gets (comprehends) N (new) = FI(N)ANCE. N is a common enough abbreviation for new, as in NY, NJ, NH, ...

  • 17d: Mugs holding second small whipped desserts (7) (MOUSSES). MOUES (mugs) containing (holding) S (second) S (small) = MOU(S+S)ES. Mugs, as in makes a grimacing face. Second = S in time (H:M:S). Small = S in clothing sizes.

  • 19d: Most doting on Desmond in fort (7) (FONDEST). ON + DES (Desmond) contained in (in) FT (fort) = F(ON+DES)T.

  • 20d: Be quietly angry about head of wet athlete at the pool (7) (SWIMMER). SIMMER (be quietly angry) containing (about) W (head of "Wet") = S(W)IMMER.


Anagrams:

Anagram clues contain the answer in scrambled form. The scrambled letters should always be appear directly (e.g. rats => STAR); you won't have to interpret an answer and then scramble that (e.g. vermin => rats => STAR), as that would be insanely difficult. Anagram clues tend to be overused by beginner constructors, since they are generally easy to create. A good puzzle will limit the number of anagrams in favor of more clever wordplay. Anagram indicators tend to be given a lot of leeway, and may be any verb that can mean mixed, confused, wrong, different, playful, etc. But since the fodder is always straightforward, it's usually easy to uncover. Be alert to words and phrases (especially weird phrases that seem forced) that have the exact same number of letters as the answer.

  • 9a: Suggestions tossed aside (5) (IDEAS). Anagrammed (tossed) "aside".

  • Sharecropper linocut, by Elizabeth Catlett, 1970
  • 13a: Print "clout" in a different way (7) (LINOCUT). "clout in" anagrammed (a different way). The quotes around "clout" pretty much scream anagram fodder.

  • 4d: Mistakenly start in carriage (7) (TRANSIT). Anagrammed (mistakenly) "start in". This was a tough anagram to uncover because it feels like a container clue (def: Mistakenly = X (start) in Y (carriage). That's what makes cryptics cool.

  • 12d: Finds out Isaac Stern is playing (10) (ASCERTAINS). "Isaac Stern" anagrammed (is playing).


Acronyms/Initial Letters:

Acronym clues hide the answer as the (usually, but not always) first letters of a sequence of words. There will always be an indicator hinting that this is taking place, such as "initially" or "heads of" or some such. A similar treatment, not appearing in this puzzle, is alternating letters (e.g. even or odd letters of the fodder phrase).

  • 8d: Finishes the bacon and eggs finally (4) (ENDS). thE bacoN anD eggS, taking only the last letters (finally).



Homophones:

Homophones are words that sound the same as the definition. These are generally not included directly (that would be too easy), but are clued. Homophone indicators evoke the fact that you must listen to the answer, e.g. "we hear", "to the ear", "to the audience", "audibly", etc., and are usually pretty obvious.

  • 26a: Heard opposition coming down (7) (DESCENT).
    Sounds like (heard) DISSENT (opposition).

  • 22d: Farm machinery pioneer does, we hear (5) (DEERE). DEER (does) homophone (we hear).



Hidden Words:

Hidden words clues contain the answer, in sequence, in a fodder phrase. Sometimes the word is hidden backwards, but the indicator will reflect that. Hidden word indicators are very similar to container indicators, so you often have to consider both possibilities. Fodder phrases for hidden words should be just long enough to contain the answer (i.e., no extra fodder words that don't contain any of the answer).

  • 5d: Spanish city, in spring, ran a daycare (7) (GRANADA). Hidden inside (in) "sprinG RAN A DAycare".



Combinations/The Rest:

Of course, not all clues fall completely into any one category. Often, there are multiple devices at play.

  • 10a: Left announcement about group of musicians on Ecstasy (9) (ABANDONED). AD (announcement) contains (about) BAND (group of musicians) ON E (Ecstasy) = A(BAND+ON+E)D.

  • 11a: Warship's alert bishop, 50, breaking oaths (6,8) (BATTLE STATIONS). B (bishop, in chess) + L (50) inserted into (breaking) ATTESTATIONS (oaths) = B+ATT(L)ESTATIONS.


  • 24a: Gibbon, e.g., heading off cheers with colorful shawl (6,3) (LESSER APE). Remove the first letter of (heading off) OLES (cheers) with (superfluous positional indicator) SERAPE (colorful shawl) = LES+SERAPE.

  • 25a: I am near big feet (5) (IAMBI). I AM + almost all of (near) BIg = I+AM+BI.

  • 27a: Awfully sure after 10 teachers' goals (7) (TENURES). Anagram (awfully) "sure" after TEN (10) = TEN+URES. This is considered a "partial anagram", which many purists frown upon as inelegant. It doesn't bother me as much as the meaning-challenged surface reading.

  • 3d: Lost medic wandering around rising mountain chain (9) (MISPLACED). "medic" anagrammed (wandering) containing (around) backwards (rising, since this is a down clue) "ALPS" (mountain chain) = MICED around SPLA = MI(SPLA)CED.



My favorite clues, in order of preference, considering wordplay and surface reading:


12d: Finds out Isaac Stern is playing
18d: Runaway sheep gasp for breath
15d: Sailor is on land, darn it
21a: Religious conservative put up money for a mindreader
2d: Remaining tidy after university



That's it.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008






Title: Stuffing the Bird
Author: Peter A. Collins
Theme: The letters in THANKSGIVING TURKEY are stuffed two letters per square symmetrically throughout the puzzle.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. The Green Genius here, and if there's anything good about the New York Sun newspaper folding, it's that we don't have to miss our favorite crossword on a holiday anymore --- especially a family get-together type holiday when we might well need our diversions.

I had a feeling where Peter Collins was going with this one from the title and I was sure after . I knew that was Frank Thomas and Frank wouldn't work with the down entries I knew -- specifically
1d: Insurance category (THEFT) which convinced me that there was a TH in that first square. After that it was smooth sailing. The other squares with extra letters were

  • 6a: Puts down (LANDS) and 7d: Ottawa Senators defenseman Volchenkov (ANTON)

  • 10a: Pitches while facing a base runner, e.g. (BALKS) There are so many ways for a pitcher to balk (Including "Not coming to a complete stop while standing on the pitching rubber"; "During a pitch, ball slips out of a pitcher's hand crosses the foul line;" "Pitcher begins to make the motions typically associated with his pitching stroke but ceases during its delivery" and my favorite "While on the pitching rubber, pitcher throws to a base before or without stepping toward that base" and on and on for several paragraphs) it's a wonder they ever figure out how to throw a legal pitch and 13d: Sneaker brand (KSWISS).

  • 35a: Tap-in, e.g. (GIMME) and24d: Give up, slangily (BAGIT).

  • 36a: Hole that's often filled (CAVITY) and 28d: Herds of birds (BEVIES).

  • 37a: In the company of (AMONG) and 34d: 2007 Norman Mailer book subtitled "An Uncommon Conversation" (ONGOD). If there is a more overrated American writer than Norman Mailer I hope I never have to read him.

    59a: Prepares to play (TUNES) and 43d: 1974 hit song that starts "Como una promesa" (ERESTU).

    60a: Fat (PORKY) and 49d: Jet fighter (SHARK) The Sharks and the Jets were the rival gangs in "West Side Story." Of course that was back in the days when rhythm and grace were what you needed to be a gang member.


















    61a: Varied (MOTLEY) and 53d: White house occupant? (DOPEY). You can, like me, choose to look at that last one as as political statement -- or, if you prefer, you can see it as a reference to one of the seven dwarves who lived in the Snow White house.





    A sub-theme to this puzzle seems to be "Guys whose names end in a vowel". We have 17a: His honorary Oscar aptly weighed 8 1/2 pounds (like all Oscars) (FEDERICOFELLINI). A reference to one of his most respected films "8 1/2" and 30a: "The man who invented casual," according to Bing Crosby (PERRYCOMO) as well as 54a: Potsdam Declaration recipient (EMPERORHIROHITO) and 40a: "Confessions of Zeno" novelist Svevo (ITALO) and 19d: Harvard proponent of higher education? (LEARY).




    Not to mention 50d: Speedskater who won the fourth season of "Dancing With the Stars" (OHNO) and 31d: Cicero contemporary (CATO) and the aforementioned DOPEY and (for the Looney Tunes fanatics) PORKY.





    I've got a lot of turkey-related responsibilities, so the commentary will be kept to a minimum.


  • 14a: Construct (ERECT).


  • 15a: Agenda unit (ITEM).


  • 16a: "Hustle & ___" (2005 film) (FLOW).


  • 20a: Added at no extra charge (TOSSEDIN). Lagniappe (which means something tossed in for free) is one of my favorite words.


  • 21a: Fall collection? (LEAVES).


  • 22a: With 41-Across, wipes brand (WET).


  • 23a: Out-of-___ (some tourists) (STATERS).


  • 24a: Burned brightly (BLAZED).


  • 28a: Farmer, in Dutch (BOER). Didn't they have a war once? What was the problem? fertilizer shortage or something?


  • 29a: Put on (AIRED).


  • 38a: Top sellers (TOYSTORES). Do toy stores even sell tops any more? I never see kids playing with them.


  • 41a: See 22-Across (ONES).


  • 42a: Slept unlike a baby? (SNORED).


  • 43a: Los Angeles suburb that borders Temple City and Baldwin Park (ELMONTE).


  • 47a: 1981 Julie Andrews film (SOB).


  • 48a: Farm machine (REAPER).


  • 49a: Went downhill fast, in a way (SLALOMED).


  • 56a: Moved (SOLD).


  • 57a: Irish novelist O'Flaherty (LIAM).


  • 58a: Coming up (ONTAP)..



  • 2d: The Nabisco logo is imprinted on it (OREO).


  • 3d: Some are OTC (MEDS).


  • 4d: Klondike foundation starters (ACES).


  • 5d: Spread (about) (STREWED).


  • 6d: Lawful (LICIT)..


  • 8d: Modern-day ducky? (DEF).


  • 9d: Place of refinement (SMELTERY).


  • 10d: Lowest black key on a piano (BFLAT).


  • 11d: Still in it (ALIVE).


  • 12d: Person who's likely to go solo (LONER).



  • 18d: Fingered, for short (IDED).


  • 23d: Does a washday job (SORTS).



  • 25d: It can be a stretch (LIMO).


  • 26d: Slew (ARMY).


  • 27d: Zsa Zsa's big pair? (ZEES). If you say so.



  • 30d: French city, in song (PAREE).


  • 32d: Karl's role in "Patton" (OMAR).


  • 33d: Beauty spot (MOLE).


  • 36d: PC user's shortcut for printing (CONTROLP).


  • 39d: Printer insert (TONER).


  • 40d: Flowering (INBLOOM).


  • 42d: Take off (SOAR).


  • 44d: Globetrotter of note (LEMON). That would be Meadowlark Lemon of the Harlem Globetrotters






  • 45d: Bowling lane wood (MAPLE).


  • 46d: Newspaper opinion pieces (OPEDS). Now I could be wrong, but this one seems to violate the rule against any part of the answer being in the clue. Doesn't Op-ed stand for "opinion - editorial"?


  • 47d: Disgustingly dishonest (SLIMY)


  • 51d: It can catch heat (MITT). A catcher's mitt catching a fastball AKA heat.


  • 52d: List-ending abbr. (ETAL).


  • 55d: Orinoco, por ejemplo (RIO).



  • Have a great holiday,
    Norrin2

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    Title: Catching Some Rays
    Author: Alan Arbesfeld
    Theme: Phrases that contain people or things that are Rays
    • 17a: Rotten, e.g. (PUNK ROCKER). Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds. This is my favorite clue of the theme bunch, referring to Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols.


    • 23a: Telescope measure (FOCAL LENGTH). Ray Allen, of the World Champion Boston Celtics.

    • 38a: Instruments for measuring minute differences in pressure (MICROMANOMETERS). Of "Everybody Loves Raymond".

    • 48a: WWII vehicle (SHERMAN TANK). This is where the theme went wonky for me. Three people in a row named Ray (all first names), and now we get manta ray? I was trying to figure out who Ray Herman was.

    • 60a: Homestretch (FINAL PHASE). A second "thing" ray (sounds like "sting ray" with a lisp), alpha ray technically balances out the theme (3 people and 2 things), but it would have felt a lot more balanced if, say, the second and fourth fills were swapped. Having three last names in a row followed by two ray types gives the impression of two themes cobbled together rather than of a cohesive concept.



    Sunny Spots:
    You know, nothing really jumps out. Both long downs, TERRORIZES and DELINEATED are fine words, but nothing to write home about.

    Sundries:

    • 7a: Drama with lots of fans (NOH). Cute clue, but kind of obvious.

    • 10a: Home, informally (DIGS).

    • 14a: Unification Church member (MOONIE).

    • 20a: Alter, in a way (SPAY). Ouch.

    • 25a: Pam's longtime doubles partner (MARTINA). Pam Shriver and Martina Navratilova.

    • 30a: Like the walls of some college buildings (IVIED). More than some, in New England.

    • 34a: He was on the first cover of Dynamite magazine (ALDA). As Hawkeye of "M*A*S*H", apparently.


    • 44a: SI unit of electrical resistance (OHM). No, SI isn't Sports Illustrated. This clue pairs with 1d: Current units, for short (AMPS).

    • 46a: Confine (TIE DOWN).

    • 53a: Timex competitor (CASIO). Guessed SEIKO first, which slowed down this corner a bit.

    • 62a: Title apiarist of a 1997 movie (ULEE). Sitting atop 65a: Waggle dance performers (BEES).

    • 64a: Roman alternative (ITALIC). Type fonts.

    • 2d: Prettify (DO UP).

    • 3d: "The Best of Everything" novelist Jaffe (RONA).


    • 4d: One of the Pac-Man ghosts (INKY). Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Clyde. Inky is the cyan-colored one.

    • 5d: Pocket contents? (AIR). Of an air pocket, sure.

    • 6d: "Sweet ___" (2005 Rolling Stones song) (NEO CON). A song aimed squarely at George W. Bush. Here are the lyrics:

      You call yourself a Christian
      I think that you're a hypocrite
      You say you are a patriot
      I think that you're a crock of shit

      And listen, I love gasoline
      I drink it every day
      But it's getting very pricey
      And who is going to pay

      How come you're so wrong
      My sweet neo con.... Yeah

      It's liberty for all
      'Cause democracy's our style
      Unless you are against us
      Then it's prison without trial

      But one thing that is certain
      Life is good at Haliburton
      If you're really so astute
      You should invest at Brown & Root.... Yeah

      How come you're so wrong
      My sweet neo con
      If you turn out right
      I'll eat my hat tonight

      Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah....

      It's getting very scary
      Yes, I'm frightened out of my wits
      There's bombers in my bedroom
      Yeah and it's giving me the shits

      We must have loads more bases
      To protect us from our foes
      Who needs these foolish friendships
      We're going it alone

      How come you're so wrong
      My sweet neo con
      Where's the money gone
      In the Pentagon

      Yeah ha ha ha
      Yeah, well, well

      Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
      Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah...
      Neo con

    • 8d: Negro Leagues great Buck (O'NEIL). By the time I read this clue, I already had ONEI_. What else is it going to be?


    • 11d: Eyewitness's activity at a lineup (IDING). I don't know if or how to punctuate that one, but it doesn't look right the way it is. I.D.-ING?

    • 12d: Full range (GAMUT).

    • 18d: Seventeen-year locusts, e.g. (CICADAS).

    • 22d: Rob's boss on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (MEL).

    • 24d: Jodie's "Nell" costar (LIAM). Jodie Foster and Liam Neeson.

    • 27d: Bridal shower? (RICE).

    • 32d: Righteous Babe record label founder DiFranco (ANI). Blah blah blah DiFranco.


    • 33d: Taqueria offering (TOSTADA). Mmmmm.

    • 47d: Bad way to be caught (IN A LIE).

    • 48d: Benchwarmer (SCRUB).

    • 50d: Rival of Bobbi (ESTÉE). Bobbi Brown and Estée Lauder, cosmetic giants.

    • 57d: China setting (ASIA). Cute clue, but easy.

    • 61d: Former currency of Spain: Abbr. (PTA). Short for peseta. Again, Peter Gordon eschews the standard PTA clues.


    Suns of Bitches:
    • 41a: Singer/actress Linda (EDER).


    • 59a: Last name of a team of comedic brothers (RITZ). I don't believe I've ever heard of the Ritz Brothers. Let's see... ah yes, 1930s films -- no wonder. My first two thoughts were MARX and COEN.

    • 35d: Jared of "Panic Room" (LETO). Are we on a Jodie-Foster-movie kick today? Reminds me, I need to watch "Taxi Driver" again soon.

    • 49d: Runner Gebrselassie who holds the world record in the marathon (HAILE). I'm sure I've seen this name several times before, but it just doesn't stick.


    Despite the slight awkwardness of the theme layout and lack of really crackling non-theme fill, this was a pretty solid puzzle. No major complaints. Let's leave it at that.

    Thanks for listening.

    - Pete M.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Title: Spin Doctors
    Author: Randall J. Hartman
    Theme: Phrases in which a D___R word gets its first and last letters swapped

    • 17a: Communist clothing catalog? (RED SPIEGEL). it took me forever to piece this one together. for one thing, i have no idea what SPIEGEL refers to. i'm familiar with j. crew, l.l. bean, and ... that's it. and i guess there must be something (a movie? a person?) called DER SPIEGEL. (edited to add: apparently it's a german news weekly.) i actually thought it might be a spoonerism of SPREAD EAGLE, or perhaps a phonetic wordplay in which a SP moves from one word to another, but that didn't explain any of the other theme entries.

    • 28a: Not very drunk? (LITTLE RIPPED). this would sound better as A LITTLE RIPPED.

    • 49a: Business honcho who's quit? (RESIGNED SUIT). the clue feels off to me. i think RESIGNED as an adjective doesn't mean "having quit"; it means "accepting of something that is both undesirable and unavoidable," as in "RESIGNED to your fate."

    • 65a: Oboist at a music store, perhaps? (REED HUNTER). this one at least makes sense, but it's a little blah.


    i didn't love this theme, as you might have already guessed. it's never fun when one of the entries in a wordplay theme is unintelligible in both its original and modified forms, but both DER SPIEGEL and RED SPIEGEL meant nothing to me, so that was kind of a bummer. and two of the others felt off, as i said. part of the problem may be having recently done a very similar theme (patrick berry's 11/7 CHE puzzle; across lite link), with what i think are much better theme answers: HEADING AIR, WAGER WAD, DOLL OF THE RICE, RESIGNED JEANS (that one's pretty much the same), BAD CORES, and DEAR! MY LIPS!.

    Sunny Spots:

    • 9d: Penn pal (TELLER). i solved this late at night, so i was too tired to notice the extra "n" in penn. that slip turned a great, fun clue into an awfully tough clue. anyway, TELLER is the one who never talks. apparently he legally changed his name to just TELLER--no first name, no middle name. you know you've made it when you can get away with being mononymous.

    • 36d: Goes in one's friend's car, say (BUMS A RIDE) and 40d: Do a perfunctory job (MAIL IT IN). two excellent colloquial expressions running side-by-side down the left part of the grid. fantastic stuff.

    • 62d: U2 guitarist, with "the" (EDGE). i love his sound. it manages to be both intense and ethereal.


    Sundries:

    • 1a: "Kath & ___" (NBC sitcom) (KIM). i wish i didn't know this. that show looks terrible.

    • 10a: Make unshowable, in a way (SPAY). eww.

    • 15a: "While I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it" speaker (AL GORE). his full name will be appearing in crosswords forever. he and DON HO should form a society.

    • 20a: With 57-Across, WWI name that's Malay for "eye of the dawn" (MATA/HARI). she, on the other hand, almost always has to resort to part-name status in crosswords, so this is a rare treat for miss HARI.

    • 23a: Ballplayers Dark and Davis who won Rookie of the Year awards (ALVINS). dark, at least, has been in the puzzle recently. i don't remember alvin davis, but he had a heck of a rookie year for seattle in 1984.

    • 37a: Haloid Company, today (XEROX). i almost always appreciate some gratuitous scrabbliness.

    • 38a: Christmas gift before swans (GEESE). let's see, six GEESE a-laying... is that right? and then seven swans a-swimming?

    • 39a: Person who no longer has class? (ALUM). i hated this clue at first, because ALUMs still have their graduation year (i'll always be class of 2000). but i guess they don't actually "have class" any more in the sense that they do not attend class. i still don't love the clue, but i'll give it only one thumb down.

    • 46a: Praline nut (PECAN). i thought a praline was its own kind of nut. is it the same as a PECAN? or a kind of PECAN? somebody enlighten me.

    • 48a: Down for the count (KO'D). this would be my third-favorite way of spelling this, behind KOED and then KAYOED.

    • 52a: Half court game? (ALAI). i appreciate the effort to write a more interesting clue for jai ALAI.

    • 63a: Brave opponent, once (EXPO). the second of a quadrumvirate of somewhat knotty baseball clues, although this one wasn't that knotty once you worked out that it was, in fact, a baseball clue.

    • 68a: Qui-Gon Jinn, for one (JEDI). obligatory weird al video: they won't let me embed it, but here's the link.

    • 69a: Provenance (ORIGIN). tough clue. this was related to my problems in the texas area of the grid.

    • 71a: Bullwhackers whack them (OXEN). apparently a bullwhacker is a driver of a team of cattle.

    • 72a: Cabbage (DOREMI). this was the other problem i had in texas: i plugged DINERO in pretty early on. two of the crosses were right, and the other ones were at least plausible: UNO for 67d: Mono- relative (UNI-), and HER for 66d: "Run to ___" (1961 Bobby Vee hit) (HIM). so i was reluctant to let go of it, but there really wasn't anything else that could fit 60d: Dynamic beginning? (AERO-), so DINERO got the boot.

    • 1d: "___ Chameleon" (1984 #1 hit for Culture Club) (KARMA). check out the sartorial stylings of boy george:


    • 3d: Show that featured Hoppy Potty (MAD TV). i know of MAD TV, but not hoppy potty. was that a spoof of harry potter?

    • 8d: World Series MVP a decade after Bucky (OREL hershiser). 1988, ten years after bucky "f." dent. the third clue in the quadrumvirate.

    • 10d: San Quentin, for example (STATE PEN). good answer.

    • 11d: Mountain near Colorado Springs (PIKE'S PEAK). why did the first name zebulon go out of style? i'm just curious.

    • 27d: Freak (out) (WIG). i'm familiar with this slang usage, but i never really understood where it came from. WIG out, as in ... jump out of one's WIG?

    • 29d: Tommyrot (TRIPE). we just saw TOMMYROT in the fill in yesterday's crosssynergy puzzle, so it's a little surprising to have it come up again so soon as a clue.

    • 30d: "'Tis better to have ___ and lost ...": Tennyson (LOVED). that's a rather easy fill-in-the-blank clue for a sun puzzle, even on a tuesday. also in the same vein: 33d: ___ Sea Scrolls (DEAD).

    • 34d: Leachman costar in "Young Frankenstein" (teri GARR). at least i think it's teri. she and MATA HARI should form their own society, along with LENA OLIN and YOKO ONO, for people who get both their names into the grid but usually not at the same time.

    • 42d: Bellow in the library (SAUL). great clue! and a good writer, i guess, although i never really got into him. my mom loves his stuff, but i was slightly underwhelmed by the first chapter or so of the adventures of augie march.

    • 47d: Long of "Are We There Yet?" (NIA). easy enough, whatever "are we there yet?" might be.

    • 50d: Doofus (NIMROD). also the name of a green day CD. not one of their best, but i like some of the tracks very much.

    • 57d: '86 teammate of Nails, Doc, and Straw (HOJO). and here's howard johnson of the 1986 mets, completing not one, but two quadrumvirates. nails is lenny dykstra, doc is dwight gooden, and straw is daryl strawberry. lots of 1980s baseball for one puzzle, no?


    Suns of Bitches:

    • 14a: Birthplace of Oral Roberts (ADA). in oklahoma, as you might have guessed. i wonder if she's friends with ENID.

    • 53a: Lemon Grove neighbor (LA MESA). apparently these are both cities in san diego county. i've never heard of either one. but in a refreshing change, today's two obscure geographical clues have nothing to do with new york.

    • 5d: Splat Pack director Roth (ELI). er, splat pack? do i even want to know?


    despite the underwhelming theme, this was a pretty enjoyable puzzle. lots of just-knotty-enough spots for a tuesday, some excellent fill, and good cluing overall.

    until next time.

    joon

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Title: Dressing Up in England
    Author: Mark Feldman
    Theme: Clothes named for a British town or city.

    • 17a: Part of an English outfit (ETON JACKET).

    • 25a: Part of an English outfit (RUGBY SHIRT).

    • 37a: Part of an English outfit (NORFOLK COAT).

    • 52a: Part of an English outfit (OXFORD SHOE).

    • 61a: Part of an English outfit (WINDSOR TIE).


    Straightforward Monday theme. Not much to say there.


    Sunny Spots:
    • 20a: Take as one's own (COOPT). I love the word coopt. It's right up there with abscond.


    • 26d: Hungarian stew (GOULASH). A tasty word, in more ways than one.

    • 40d: Black gold (TEXAS TEA). I've seen "The Beverly Hillbillies".

    • 50d: With 43-Down, a potentially dangerous situation (POWDER / KEG). Very nice, even though it necessitates losing a beer clue for KEG.


    Sundries:

    • 1a: Was an art school model (POSED). Here's a great pastel drawing of a model by Sharon Sieben. Click it to go to a site where it and many other originals and prints can be purchased.

    • 23a: Shout that might follow "Look what the cat dragged in" (EEK). Do people really say "Eek!" when they see a mouse? And if so, why? As mammals go, they're pretty unintimidating. Now if a bear got in your house, that's a different story...

    • 28a: Didn't use, as a news story (SAT ON). Good clue for what could have been a boring fill.

    • 32a: ESPN anchor Mayne (KENNY).



    • 33a: Minimum number required to transact business legally (QUORUM).

    • 42a: "Aha!" (EUREKA).

    • 57a: Logophile's love (WORDS).

    • 60a: Specimen container (VIAL). Eww.

    • 66a: Lake by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (ERIE). Hint: Use the ERIE rule here.

    • 69a: Baseball team that changed its name during the McCarthy era (REDS). You don't have to know much about baseball to figure this one out.

    • 70a: Four trimesters (YEAR). A trimester is three months.

    • 3d: Recordholder for assists in the NBA (John STOCKTON). A good portion of those were doled out to Karl "The Mailman" Malone.



    • 5d: Martial arts studio (DOJO). I've seen "Karate Kid".

    • 10d: Witheringly denounce (SCATHE).

    • 11d: Like some robberies (PUSH-IN). I didn't know this one off-the-top either, but I live in a small town in New Hampshire.


    • 27d: Use defamation to block the confirmation of, as a Supreme Court nominee (BORK). A verb coined from the man blocked in such a manner.

    • 30d: Their babies are not yet weaned (NURSERS).

    • 45d: Shutter slat (LOUVER).

    • 48d: Semisheer fabrics (VOILES).


    • 53d: "___ Defeats Truman" (11/3/48 Chicago Daily Tribune headline) (DEWEY). Possibly the most famous headline of all time.

    • 58d: Water or Bowl preceder (ROSE). Perfume and football. What a great combination.


    Suns of Bitches:
    • 31a: ___ Canals (SOO). I didn't know this one readily, but it's up on Lake Superior. That it crossed BORK was nasty for a early week puzzle.

    • 67a: Sculptor Nadelman (ELIE).



    There was a lot of crosswordese here, which is unusual for a Monday. ERNO, URIS, ELIE, ERIE, IDI, ILE, ARA, ORO, EOS, EAU, NIA, plus super fill like ORES, EEL, ICE, and ADO. There was also some excellent fill, and it was just a Z short of being a pangram, but the overreliance on the above words was noticeable during the solve, which is too bad. All in all, an okay puzzle.

    Thanks for listening.

    - Pete M.

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    Title: Weekend Warrior
    Author: Patrick Berry
    Theme: None

    I tried to do this puzzle quickly the other night before bed, which probably accounts for some of my frustration. I'm not a good enough solver that I should expect to be able to polish off a Weekend Warrior in one quick sitting, and sure enough, I wasn't. When I finished, I must admit I was not enamored of the puzzle, but again, perhaps circumstances played a part. Now that I'm more awake and less judgemental, let's take a gander and see what we've got.

    Sunny Spots:

    • 29a: Dawdles (MOSEYS ALONG). Wonderful phrase.

    • 33a: Cash in one's chips (BITE THE DUST). I had poker on the brain for a little too long on this one, but I love the answer.




    • 51a: Last line of "Star Trek: First Contact" (MAKE IT SO). Catch phrase of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

    • 7d: Part that matters (BUSINESS END). Wonderful!

    • 23d: Request for permission (BY YOUR LEAVE).

    • 36d: Perennial cellar dweller (DOORMAT). [insert team name here].

    • 38d: Sports for the fit? (TRIES ON). This clue is just fiendishly clever. Sporting an outfit to determine if it fits. Awesome.



    Sundries:
    • 1a: Who's-eating-what chains (FOOD WEBS). I had no idea what this meant when I was solving, and I ended up convinced it was a chain of food stores or restaurants that I'd never heard of. Upon further research, I find that a food web is a more complicated version of a food chain. I'm not crazy about the who's-eating-what -- it seems to me it should be who's-eating-who or what's-eating-what -- but that's a minor complaint considering I'd never heard of the answer.

    • 15a: Joined (IN LEAGUE). Not a past tense verb at all. Very tricky.

    • 16a: Impeach (ACCUSE).

    • 18a: "Cat's in the Cradle" singer (CHAPIN). One of the few fills I knew off the top. Great song.



    • 19a: Literary periods? (ELLIPSIS). Clever.

    • 20a: West German chancellor Adenauer (KONRAD). This one I should have gotten more quickly.

    • 22a: His ___ (mock-formal title) (NIBS). I don't know where I've heard this, but I have. Perhaps in puzzles.

    • 24a: First name in '50s TV (DESI). LUCY would be too easy for a Weekend Warrior.

    • 25a: Wife of Richard III (ANNE). My history is weak, but there certainly are a lot of ANNES out there.

    • 27a: Orioles catcher Hernández (RAMON).

    • 32a: It might come from the lips of someone who's all thumbs (OOPS). Fun clue for an easy fill.

    • 40a: "___ After the Show" (former Oxygen program) (OPRAH).


    • 50a: Duffel with a drawstring (SEABAG).

    • 52a: Tennis player Sanchez who was the #1 doubles player in 1989 (EMILIO).

    • 55a: Fairly long odds (TEN-TO-ONE).

    • 1d: Person who puts out? (FIREMAN). A real stretch for some sexual innuendo. There's a difference between putting out and putting (something) out.

    • 3d: Conservative (OLDLINE).

    • 5d: Takes a bow? (WARPS). When something warps, it often ends up bow-shaped instead of straight.


    • 9d: Ball game (JACKS).

    • 11d: Many politicians weather them (SCANDALS).

    • 12d: Person in charge, in British slang (SUPREMO). Hadn't heard the term, but it's logical.

    • 13d: Quarterback who wrote the novel "Toss" (ESIASON). ERIE rule. If it says quarterback, try ESIASON first.

    • 14d: Activity that's not without interest (LENDING). Good clue.

    • 26d: "Indignation" author (Philip ROTH). I haven't read Philip Roth, and I'm not sure why. Just haven't gotten there yet.


    • 29d: Field for Fields (MATH). The Fields Medal is a mathematics award mentioned several times in "Good Will Hunting".

    • 31d: Like things that might fly (FEASIBLE).

    • 34d: Affluent Rio neighborhood (IPANEMA). This was my foothold into the SW corner.

    • 39d: "___ Fisher" (Denzel Washington's directorial debut) (ANTWONE). I thought I knew this right away, but I misspelled it ANTOINE.


    • 42d: Schwarzenegger's "Twins" costar (DEVITO). One of the silliest, but funny, premises in modern film.

    • 45d: Crack (GREAT). As in a crack shot.

    • 47d: All alternative (GAIN). Laundry detergents.

    • 49d: Like sissies? (AKIN). Sissies = sisters. Gack.



    Suns of Bitches:

    • 9a: Comic actor George who was nicknamed "Toastmaster General of the United States" (JESSEL). Who? Let's see... oh, he's an actor who was born in 1898. Not my wheelhouse.

    • 41a: Brenda Maddox book about James Joyce's wife (NORA).

    • 42a: Actress who played Katherine Harris in "Recount" (DERN). I'm assuming this is Laura Dern, who I at least know, if not from this clue.

    • 8d: Attached by its base, as a plant (SESSILE). You know how sometimes you need a crappy word because it's got a lot of esses and vowels? This is one of those.

    • 30d: Ivette of Eden's Crush (SOSA). OMG! A SOSA clue that doesn't involve baseball! Unfortunately, to do so requires reference to one of the members of a flash-in-the-pan girl band from the TV show "Popstars".

    • 33d: White-flowered plant named for its supposed healing properties (BONESET). News to me.

    • 35d: It keeps a vessel windward in a storm (TRYSAIL). I got the SAIL part pretty easily, but didn't know the rest. And I like sailing.

    • 37d: ___ principii (begging the question) (PETITIO). Whatever.



    So, upon further review, I must say that this puzzle would have been a bitch to solve, even if I hadn't been tired and grouchy. But there's also a ton of really great fill and phenomenal clues. Since Weekend Warriors are supposed to be hard, that means the good wins out -- nice puzzle.

    Thanks for listening.

    - Pete M.

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Thursday, November 20, 2008




    Title: Three-Ring Circus
    Authors: Patrick Blindauer and Frank Longo
    Theme: Just like it says, it's a three-ring circus, but you have to look close to see the tightrope walker. (You're also going to want to print this out; if you do it in Across Lite you'll miss the show.)

    This one had me guessing till the very end almost. It's titled Three Ring Circus and two of those rings -- 17a: Ring #1 (FIREEATER) and 63a: Ring #3 (LIONTAMER) are out there in the open. But where is the second ring and what's going on there?


    I knew something was up not only because of the missing center ring, but because my down entries in the center of the puzzle weren't fitting, which usually means that there's more than one letter to a square in that area. (By the way, most people call this a "rebus" puzzle, but according to me and my buddy Noah Webster, that's inaccurate. A rebus is a picture puzzle -- like from the old TV show "Concentration" (Am I the only one that remembers "Concentration"?) Anyway, there are what I consider to be rebus crosswords, but it has to be where you can put a picture instead of a collection of letters -- I remember one puzzle where the crossing squares needed the letters K-E-Y. If you drew a key there that's a rebus. If you write in the letters it's a puzzle with a lot of letters crammed into a square -- A Cramalot, I call it. You can still call puzzles like this "rebuses" if you want to, you will in fact be in the majority. But you will also be wrong.


    Wouldn't you agree, Anatole France?


    "If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.")


    Anyway, in order to get 36a: Slant in print (EDITORIAL STANCE) to mesh with the down entries you need two letters in each box and those letters spell out what's going on in the center ring -- TIGHTROPE WALKER


    Actually, I kind of feel like I'm missing something. I don't understand why the second ring is hidden or what if anything it has to do with either EDITORIAL STANCE or the entry beneath it -- 42a: Part of a healthy lifestyle (EXERCISE REGIMEN) (I mean tightrope walking may be exercise but it's not healthy) but it didn't mar my enjoyment of the puzzle.

    Sunny Spots:





  • 16a: Storrs school, familiarly (UCONN). I know nothing about college athletics, but I always pull for the University of Connecticut, just because I love the pun embedded in their name -- Uconn Huskies.


  • 59d: Stock exchanges? (MOOS). Made me laugh.


    Sundries:




  • 1a: "Yan Can Cook" cooker (WOK). Back in the days before the Food Network Martin Yan had a PBS show where he taught Chinese cookery, mostly stir-fries.

  • 4a: He gets a lot of praise (ALLAH).

  • 9a: L'Oréal spokeswoman MacDowell (ANDIE). The pride of Gaffney, South Carolina

  • 14a: Frank's wife between Nancy and Mia (AVA). Speaking of Carolina Girls, Ava Gardner was born in Smithfield, North Carolina, and the house where she grew up is now an Ava museum. In addition to Frank Sinatra Ava was also married to Mickey Rooney and Artie Shaw, and involved with Howard Hughes and Ernest Hemingway.

  • 15a: Christmas card word (PEACE).

  • 19a: "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" Oscar winner (DONAT). The year that Robert Donat won that Oscar was 1939 and he beat out Clark Gable (Gone With the Wind); Jimmy Stewart (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) and Laurence Olivier (Wuthering Heights) to get it.

  • 20a: Collectively (EN MASSE).

  • 21a: One who sets the tempo (MAESTRO).

  • 23a: Word before guard or end (REAR).

  • 24a: "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" author ___-Dominique Bauby (JEAN).

  • 25a: He worked with Cuba in 1996 (TOM). Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr, in Jerry Maguire.

  • 26a: 1987 Wimbledon winner (PAT CASH).

  • 30a: POTUS #41 (GHWB). POTUS of course is an acronym for President Of The United States, GHWB is George Herbert Walker Bush. I've heard that his son, our current president (though thankfully not for much longer) calls Dad 41 and Dad calls W 43.

  • 31a: Narc's find (PCP).

  • 34a: Dickens girl (NELL). The Old Curiosity Shop is probably the only Dickens novel I haven't read yet. Not sure why, maybe I've let Oscar Wilde scare me off. He said (SPOILER WARNING) "One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears...of laughter."

  • 35a: Al Green's "___-La-La" (SHA).

  • 43a: Partner of 22-Down (OOH). When the children were young, Christmas morning was sometimes over in a matter of seconds. So we instituted the ooh-aah rule. You take turns opening presents and before you open you have to ooh and aah over the previous unwrapper's gift.

  • 44a: Bump on a branch (NODE).

  • 45a: That, in Tijuana (ESO).

  • 46a: Rosacea is a form of it (ACNE).

  • 48a: Superlatively soft, as a cookie (GOOIEST).

  • 51a: Casual turndown (NAH).

  • 52a: "___ to Hold" (1943 movie musical) (HERS).

  • 53a: "Cleans like a white tornado" product (AJAX). How did Ajax, the Trojan War hero and cousin to Achilles come to donate his name to a cleaning product. He was famous for his strength and courage not his hygiene.

  • You have to be pretty courageous to go into battle wearing nothing but a red curtain.

  • 57a: Verizon Wireless competitor (TMOBILE).

  • 59a: Slip (MISTAKE).

  • 62a: Slater of "Ruthless People" (HELEN).
  • 65a: Build (ERECT).

  • 66a: Smelly smoke (STOGY).

  • 67a: Band often heard on the XM station Top Tracks (ELO).

  • 68a: Snorkeling gear (MASKS).

  • 69a: Elizabethan earl (ESSEX).
  • 70a: Smooth jazz feature (SAX).

  • 1d: Mass consumption? (WAFER).

  • 2d: Like a bellwether (OVINE).

  • 3d: Fate (KARMA). I always have a little bit of a problem with this pairing. Maybe it's just me but fate seems like something you have no control over and karma is what happens to you because of what you've done in the past. Or am I splitting hairs?

  • 4d: Jungle creatures (APES).

  • 5d: Good spots for gamboling (LEAS). Great word -- gamboling.

  • 6d: Missing the boat, say (LATE).

  • 7d: One in a suit (ACE).

  • 9d: "The Age of Anxiety" poet (AUDEN).

  • 10d: Mil. personnel (NCOS).

  • 11d: Comment from a modest hero (DONT THANK ME).

  • 12d: Back to back (INAROW).

  • 13d: Lay to rest (ENTOMB).

  • 18d: Geer's role in "Winchester '73" (EARP).

  • 22d: Partner of 43-Across (AAH).

  • 24d: Red hot chili peppers (JALAPENOS).

  • 27d: Slightly (A NOTCH).

  • 28d: "Somebody's Knockin'" singer Gibbs (TERRI).

  • 29d: Awards for billboards (CLIOS).

  • 30d: Part of an old United Nations name (GHALI).

  • 31d: Governor before Gray (PETE).

  • 32d: 80th prime Roman numeral (CDIX).

  • 33d: Classifies (PIGEONHOLES).

  • 35d: Play places (STAGES).

  • 37d: Severe spasm (THROE).

  • 38d: Writer Jones who's now known as Amiri Baraka (LEROI).

  • 39d: Nobel, for example (SWEDE).

  • 40d: Continental Congress leaders? (CEES).

  • 41d: Hungarian-born cosmetician Laszlo (ERNO).

  • 46d: "La Marseillaise," e.g. (ANTHEM).

  • 47d: Cell part, often (CAMERA). Cell phone, that is.

  • 48d: It may make your hair stand on end (GEL).

  • 49d: Unspecified alternative (OR ELSE).

  • 50d: Splitting syllables (TA TA).

  • 52d: Suggests (HINTS).

  • 54d: Two-time NBA All-Star Game MVP (JAMES).

  • 55d: Wolf in "The Jungle Book" (AKELA).

  • 56d: Company that encourages copying (XEROX).

  • 58d: Single-named alt-rock artist (BECK).

  • 60d: Ballplayer Brandon who struck out to end the 2006 World Series (INGE).

  • 61d: Band with the 1981 #1 album "Paradise Theater" (STYX).

  • 64d: Antepenultimate word in the opening sketch of "Saturday Night Live" (ITS). "antepenultimate" is one of my favorite words. It means next-to-the-next-to-last, as in "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"


  • Suns of Bitches:


  • 8d: Talaria wearer (HERMES). I did not know this one. Talaria are the winged sandals you see on Hermes' feet (or Mercury for any Romans in the audience.)


  • Thanks for listening.

    Norrin2

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Title: E-Trade
    Author: Alan Arbesfeld
    Theme: Moving an E from one word of a phrase to another.
    • Swing state => SEWING STAT (17a: Number of stitches per minute?). With or without the question mark, I think this clue warrants a "for example".


    • Guest of honor => GUST OF HONORÉ (24a: Passionate outburst from painter Daumier?). Might be a tad obscure for some, but I didn't mind it.

    • Stars and Stripes => STARES AND STRIPS (36a: Burlesque show happenings?). Despite the fact that I'm not crazy about the use of "happenings", I really like this fill.

    • Bare the brunt => BAR THE BRUNET (49a: "Don't let that dark-haired guy inside!"?). Cute.

    • Orange Bowl => ORANG BOWEL (59a: Specimen in a simian autopsy, maybe?). Eek! This is certainly a fill you would never see in the NYT. Most of the time, I find this lack of forced prudishness refreshing, but this one just kind of grosses me out.



    Sunny Spots:
    • 16a: You might get off on this (RAMP). I love this clue.

    • 47a: Musses up (TOUSLES). This is an example of a good verb fill. Not a terribly common nor obscure word, yet one that evokes an immediate image or feeling. Another good one is RATCHETS (9d: Increases by degrees, with "up").

    • 56d: Item in a tale of whoa? (REIN). This clue just cracks me up. Sorry.


    Sundries:
    • 1a: Where barkers may be found (FAIRS).



    • 10a: Fossey subjects (APES).

    • 15a: Sonoma neighbor (NAPA). California wine regions.

    • 19a: Setting for part of the documentary "Sicko" (CUBA). Michael Moore's film about the U.S. health care system. Haven't seen it, so I'm not sure where Cuba plays in.

    • 21a: 6% of L (III). 6% of 50 equals 50% of 6.

    • 30a: Sister of Goneril (REGAN). From "King Lear".

    • 31a: Fake fat brand (OLEAN).

    • 33a: Canon shooter (EOS). Camera model.

    • 41a: Sugar substitute? (HON). Are there people out there who call each other "Sugar"? Is this a Southern thing? I mostly hear DEAR (66a: Treasured). Might have been a nice balance to clue OLEAN as "Fat substitute".

    • 42a: Class action gp.? (PTA). Clever.


    • 44a: Cheesy Chihuahua chip (NACHO). A little alliteration: alluring or lame?

    • 52a: Money manager? (EDITOR). Money magazine.

    • 54a: Daughter of Cronus (HERA). ERIE rule, for me.

    • 63a: "Must've been something ___" (I ATE).

    • 65a: Digs of twigs (NEST). Rhyme time: sublime or crime?

    • 67a: 1968 A.L. Cy Young Award winner McLain (DENNY). I remember Denny Doyle, but not Denny McLain.

    • 2d: Support in skulduggery (ABET). Simple, but I love the word skulduggery.

    • 4d: Slicker, e.g. (RAINGEAR).


    • 5d: BART stop (STN). The BART is San Francisco's (Bay Area) rapid transit system.

    • 10d: Mysterious matters (ARCANA).

    • 11d: Yank who was a Red (PAUL O'NEILL). I guess this was supposed to evoke some war or national misdirection, but it was pretty clearly baseball to me.

    • 12d: Barbecue leftover (EMBER). I was slower than I should have been here because my mind was thinking food.

    • 18d: Meat (GIST). The meat of the issue.


    • 25d: Magazine that dropped "Reader" from its name and then put it back a few years later (UTNE). I only know this from puzzles. I've never read it.

    • 29d: Youngest person to win a Grammy (LEANN RIMES). Interesting trivia.

    • 37d: Earth, e.g. (SPHEROID).

    • 40d: Nurse employer (REST HOME).

    • 46d: Comedian Margaret (CHO). This one I knew. I've seen her act on television more than once.



    • 47d: "I, Tina" autobiographer (TURNER).

    • 48d: Blood type of a universal donor, briefly (O-NEG). That's O-Neg, not One-G.

    • 49d: Set in motion (BEGAN). Watch out for those verbs that can be present or past tense...

    • 50d: Saw (ADAGE). ...and those verbs that are also nouns.

    • 51d: Rodeo lasso (RIATA).

    • 55d: McGregor of "Deception" (EWAN).


    Suns of Bitches:

    • 20a: "Mr. Mom" director Dragoti (STAN).

    • 26d: "High Noon" director Zinnemann (FRED). Two director's first name clues in one puzzle? No, thanks.

    • 38d: Not know from ___ (be ignorant) (A TO B). I've never heard of this expression. I went with ADAM, even though the definition felt a little off.

    • 60d: "Criss Cross" novelist Lynne ___ Perkins (RAE). No idea.


    Decent puzzle. Running late. Not much else to say.

    Thanks for listening.

    - Pete M.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Title: Terminus
    Author: Gary Steinmehl
    Theme: Wordplay theme in which TER is removed from the end of two-word phrases

    • 18a: Catapult barrage? (ROCK LOBS). i bet "rock lobster" means something by itself (a kind of lobster, i guess), but to me, it calls to mind only the following so-campy-it's-brilliant song:


    • 20a: Short skirts from overseas? (FOREIGN MINIS). this was the first theme entry to fall for me, but i still didn't figure out what the theme was. (also, the first thing that comes to mind when i think of FOREIGN MINIS is smart cars.)

    • 39a: Vehicle to Invesco Field? (BRONCO BUS). being a football fan definitely helped here, although i still don't like the name invesco field. bring back mile high!

    • 60a: Poser's backache? (PORTRAIT PAIN).

    • 65a: Jam ingredient of the South? (DIXIE CAR). i'm sure i'm supposed to know who or what dixie carter is or was. somebody will clue me in, right?


    a very nice wordplay theme, cleanly executed and with a very clever cryptic title (TER/minus). by the way, what's with the puzzle titles being in all caps this week? it wasn't like that before, was it? bring back lowercase!

    Sunny Spots:

    • 44d: Duplicates (XEROXES). gotta love anything beginning with an X (my favorite letter) and especially anything containing multiple Xs. especially this verb, which despite the protestations of xerox corp of america, is a common uncapitalized english word. i'm of the opinion that there's no such thing as a proper verb: if it can be used as a verb, then it can't be proprietary. (not that i'm a rigid adherent to capitalization rules ...)

    • 5d: Grass alternative (ASTROTURF). ASTROTURF is almost extinct by now at the professional level (replaced by fieldturf), but it still looks great in the grid. this also goes nicely with 42d: Groundskeeper's purchase (SOD).


    Sundries:

    • 1a: "Goodness!" (OH DEAR). a perfect clue, equaling the answer in quaintness.

    • 10a: Gilda Radner character Baba (WAWA). this was only about 20% familiar to me.

    • 17a: One side in a casual football game (SHIRTS). the other side is skins--but not the redskins, my hometown team, who competed hard but didn't have quite enough to beat the cowboys on sunday night.

    • 22a: Grass (POT). there's our obligatory drug reference. we actually hadn't had one in a while, at least not on a tuesday. this is not related to ASTROTURF or SOD.

    • 25a: Quattros, e.g. (AUDIS). i wanted SCHICKS, but it wouldn't fit. i guess my first instinct should be AUDI when possible.

    • 24a: Giants manager of the 1940s (mel OTT). this guy definitely should be your first instinct any time "giants" are mentioned. or really, any time it's sports and the answer is three letters, although hockey's bobby ORR and golf's ernie ELS will also figure in.

    • 36a: Cerveza ingredient (AGUA). i think cerveza is spanish for beer, no? so... beer tag?

    • 38a: Drops on crops (DEW). i'm not a fan of cutesy rhyming for the sake of cutesy rhyming, but this is a great clue.

    • 42a: Boxcars half (SIX). this clue, along with 50a: Snake eyes pair (ONES), is a good use of craps slang ("boxcars" = double sixes = a roll of 12 on a pair of dice, and "snake eyes" = double ones = a roll of 2). together, they combine with 55a: Game with a board whose center is 5'8" off the floor (DARTS) for a very gaming-centric california region of the grid.

    • 45a: Stocking stuffer (FOOT). nice misdirection there.

    • 54a: They're green (TYROS). metaphorically green. and not eco-, either, just inexperienced.

    • 59a: Get behind (OWE). i guess this works if you think of the clue intransitively. but you couldn't use it to replace most uses of OWE, which are transitive: you OWE money or you OWE creditors.

    • 69a: Current sci. (ELEC.). is ELECtricity really a science? ELECtritude? ELECtricology?

    • 70a: Handy thing? (ARM). okay, not bad.

    • 72a: Branch headquarters? (NEST). that's good. are we on a roll?

    • 73a: Losers' hangout? (SPA). no, i guess not. this one fell flat.

    • 74a: President of Egypt before Sadat (NASSER). this guy has an incredibly crosswordy name when you consider it's six letters, contains only two vowels, and neither of those comes at the beginning or the end. i feel like i see him in the grid all the time, and it just shouldn't be that common.

    • 1d: Saturn's wife (OPS). i couldn't decide if this one belonged in sunny spots (mythology) or suns of bitches (uh, mythology i don't really know), so i split the difference. OPS was in last friday's chronicle of higher education puzzle with the clue [Roman goddess of plenty], and i had never heard of her at the time. (i know, i know. i'm better on greek than roman.) she's the roman equivalent of rhea. by the way, is the world ready for a baseball stat geek clue for OPS? i say yes.

    • 3d: Vagabond (DRIFTER). for once, it's neither HOBO nor NOMAD.

    • 4d: Italian bread (EURO). just to be sure we're not on a roll, here's my vote for the stalest clue in crossworld. well, i won't hold it against them.

    • 7d: Helgenberger of "CSI" (MARG). i think she pronounces it "marge," but this weird spelling means she'll be in crosswords forever.

    • 8d: Wheat pasta in Japanese cuisine (UDON). yum...

    • 9d: DLXXX x V (MMCM). 580 x 5 = 2900. because this one crossed two theme answers, i actually stopped to work it out. usually i don't bother, even though i'm pretty fast at mental arithmetic, because it's quicker to get it from crosses.

    • 11d: Kept from happening (AVOIDED). i lucked out here: i had _V___ED and plugged in AVOIDED even though AVERTED is a better answer. probably saved me 15-30 seconds, not that anyone cares. what's less interesting to others, talking about your crossword solving times or talking about your fantasy sports teams?

    • 12d: Requirement for e-tailing (WEBSITE). somehow i was expecting a more specific answer.

    • 13d: Ding-a-ling (ASS). what, again? do we need a ding-a-ling tag?

    • 19d: Car company headquartered in Seoul (KIA). the korean economy is notable for having a small number of megaconglomerations (samsung, LG) which manufacture pretty much everything from electronics to kitchenware. but KIA and hyundai still seem to make only cars.

    • 23d: ___ Brite (laundry product) (OXO). this is also a valid scrabble word meaning "oxygen-containing."

    • 26d: Be in a bee (SEW). SPELL and QUILT wouldn't fit.

    • 28d: Morrow of "Numb3rs" (ROB). i've heard of this guy, but i guessed ELI here with no crosses. i think the odds were on my side--not only are there a zillion other ROBs, but ROB is also a common verb, whereas ELI has to be clued as a proper name. (okay, the odds aren't so much on my side if you take into account the fact that his name's ROB, not ELI.)

    • 30d: Prickly pears, for example (CACTI).

    • 31d: "... ___ in a galaxy far, far away ..." (AGO). if you think about it, one of the weirdest things about the star wars series is that it is supposedly set in the distant past (and i don't mean the late '70s). how come they went to all that trouble to make it look futuristic?

    • 37d: Indonesia is part of it in the game Risk (AUSTRALIA). risk sighting! woot! now we need to get YAKUTSK and/or KAMCHATKA into the grid.

    • 40d: Partner of then or again (NOW). this one came to mind instantly. i'm not sure why i wasn't distracted by thinking about the phrase "then again," which is what usually happens.

    • 51d: Like a schoolmarm (STRICT). since i learned the word "schoolmarm" from crosswords, i'll have to take their word for it.

    • 58d: 1997 John Leguizamo film (SPAWN). based on the todd mcfarlane comic. i was aware of this movie, but forgot that john leguizamo was in it, actually.


    Suns of Bitches:

    • 63d: "My Friend ___" (1949 Marie Wilson film) (IRMA). the parenthetical "1949 marie wilson film" part of the clue didn't make it any easier for me, but it made me feel better for having absolutely no idea about the answer. i've never even heard of marie wilson, but apparently the team of dean martin and jerry lewis debuted in this film, and i have heard of them.


    a fine tuesday puzzle. very good theme, nice fill, no major complaints. see you next time.

    joon