Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Title: 6 by 8
Author: Alan Arbesfeld

I whipped through 75% of this puzzle without too much problem, then hit an absolute wall in the SW corner. Literally. The entire section due west of ANAGRAM/WABASH/SHOP was completely blank. Now, maybe my brain was fried because it was the end of the day and I was tired and watching TV and sipping on some nice single malt scotch (Ardbeg 10yr -- not as smooth as some, but one of my favorite Islays), but I was drawing a complete blank on 25d: Charge, even with ARRA_ _ _ staring at me. Kudos to my wife, who thought of ARRAIGN (the correct answer), which was enough to figure out the two theme clues in the section and finally break it open. We'll revisit this some more later.

Six eight-letter words that are all ANAGRAMs (39a: See 17-, 3o-, 46-, and 61-Across and 12- and 38- Down) of each other. The clues are all circularly referential, with no additional hints as to their meanings, as follows:

  • 17a: 39-Across of 30-Across (TRIANGLE)

  • 30a: 39-Across of 46-Across (ALERTING)

  • 46a: 39-Across of 61-Across (INTEGRAL)

  • 61a: 39-Across of 12-Down (TANGLIER)

  • 12d: 39-Across of 38-Down (RELATING)

  • 38d: 39-Across of 17-Across (ALTERING)

Not particularly exciting, but not bad. Though TANGLIER feels just a tad "stretchy" to me. Does anyone ever say tanglier? "My hair is much tanglier than yours!". Hmmm...

Sunny Spots:

There is a lot of nice fill and clues in this puzzle, so let's get to it:

  • 1a: Crazies (ODDBALLS). Love "oddballs" as a fill word. Oddball was apparently also a comic book superhero. Anyone know the phrase origin of the term? The "odd" part is obvious, but why "balls"? Is it just a random noun, like "an odd duck", or does it refer to some sport or game?

  • 19a: Mined-over matter. A nice twist on the ubiquitous ORE.

  • 44a: "C'mon, help me out here". (BE A PAL). Nice "in-the-language" phrase.

  • 68a: Sticks in the snow? (SKI POLES). I might have skipped the '?'; it is Thursday, after all. Why send up a flare?

  • 4d: Thing unhooked during a hook-up? (BRA). Somehow, I don't see this clue showing up in the New York Times puzzle, do you? A little too suggestive for them; just suggestive enough for me. Wonderful! (I'm wondering if I need to add a "lingerie" tag to the blog...). Btw, did you know that "Alan Arbesfeld" anagrams to "Ale and elf bras"?

  • 30d: Pinhead dancer (ANGEL). "How many angels can dance on the head of pin?" refers to focusing too much on irrelevant details and often, in the process, missing the big picture entirely. I love the clue because it evokes the Ramones.

  • 36d: Deep Throat's org. (FBI). I honestly couldn't remember if it was the FBI, CIA, NSA, or what, but I love the clue because it reminds me of the classic movie. I'm talking, of course, about "All the President's Men", with Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford. Great film. (Get your mind out of the gutter!)

  • 50d: Argo cargo (FLEECE). From Greek mythology. Jason and the Argonauts took their ship, the Argo, in search of the Golden Fleece. Nice clue, which I got immediately.

  • 51d: Slip covers (SKIRT). Excellent. And another lingerie clue to boot.

  • 53d: Bum rap? (SPANK). Cute.

  • 49d: Sonny? (FILIAL). Get it? Like a son. "Son"-ish. Very good.


  • 20a: "Superman II" villainess (URSA). I hit this one early on and had UR_A; I wondered for a bit whether there was some rebus action going on here (Ursula, maybe?). But no, it's Ursa. I think I must not have seen this flick, as it's not ringing any bells for me.

  • 27a: Benjamin (C-SPOT). C-note and c-spot are often clued as "Benjamins" (Ben Franklin is on the $100 bill). Get used to this clue; you'll see it again.

  • 36a: Where Naples is: Abbr. (FLA). You tried EUR, you tried ITA... nope. It's Naples, Florida.

  • 41a: Mop & ___ (floor cleaner) (GLO). Is "floor cleaner" really necessary here in a Thursday puzzle? Doesn't mop pretty much suggest floors and cleaning? Still, nothing like a good old product name to help fill those tough corners.

  • 59a: Old Testament book (I KINGS). This would have been much less of a problem for me if weren't in the hell sector of the puzzle.

  • 1d: Denizens of the deep (OCTOPI). Nice fill, nice clue. Reminds of a memory game when I was young, where you had to repeat a list of ten things that got more and more complicated as you went (One hen, two ducks, three squawking geese, etc.). Number 9 was (and I still remember this): "Nine lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep, who stalk the corners of the cove, all at the same time." Yes, I also know π to 20 places. I'm a total geek.

  • 7d: Doozies (LULUS). Like it.

  • 8d: Poll closing? (STER). Pollster, hipster, dragster, mobster, spinster... Don't get caught by these.

  • 9d: The puck's stopped here, often (CREASE). Very fitting, considering the NHL playoffs are in full swing. (Can hockey be in "full swing", or only baseball? Maybe hockey is full slap.) Anyway, for those who aren't fans, the "crease" is the area just in front of the goal.

  • 11d: South American wildcats (OCELOTS). Not only do these creatures start with a vowel, they're pretty cool cats too.

  • 24d: Focal point (HUB). Shout-out to people in and around "the Hub" which, for those of you who don't know, is Boston.

  • 34d: Terre Haute's river (WABASH). The only thing I know about Terre Haute, besides the fact that it's flat, is that it's the home of Rose Hulman Institute of Technology. But, I've heard of the Wabash (more-so in the context of trains than rivers) so it wasn't a hard fill.

  • 43d: Prefaced (LED INTO). Nice fill that would have been much more appreciated if it hadn't been in the tough SW.

  • 47d: Grapple with, in dialect (RASSLE). I was trying to parse this as something to do with linguistics. But no, it's the backwoods form of "wrestle". Now, I am almost certain that I've heard "wanna rassle" on some old TV show from my childhood (Leave it to Beaver? The Waltons? Lassie?). Someone help me out here. Please.

  • 57d: Company that has its ups and downs (OTIS). The elevator company, of course.

  • 66a: How some plays are performed (IN ONE ACT). I'm not that up on drama, so maybe someone can explain this. Isn't a play written in one or more acts? Are there plays that are written for multiple acts but performed in only one? Any drama majors out there? Please comment and fill us in.

Suns of Bitches:

Tons of names in this one, and very little to say about them except that four of them were packed into the SW corner around two words that no clues other than that they were anagrams of TRIANGLE.

  • LOM (45d: Herbert of the "Pink Panther" films).

  • NOL (31d: Lon of Cambodia).

  • LEN (37d: He played Sweeney on Broadway). Len Cariou. I thought it was LON Cheney... shows you what I know. Note that this entry crosses at the 'E' with:

  • BELLI (42a: Ruby's attorney), making this a classic "guess the vowel" crossing, for me. I suppose the fact that "Lon" showed up in the clue for 31d should have been an indicator that LON was wrong for 37d, but I didn't notice that at the time.

  • LORI (54a: Peru prisoner Berenson).

  • EDNAS (52a: Mystery writer Buchanan and others).

  • LEO (64d: Character in "The Producers" who sings "I Wanna Be a Producer").

  • AYN (5d: Novelist Rand). This is the only one of the bunch that I could fill in with no crossings.

  • DARREN (2D: "Sex and the City" creator Star).

  • BROWNE (33a: Hägar the Horrible cartoonist). I didn't know this one (I don't typically read past Dilbert and Doonesbury), but it's a common enough name that it was easy to get from the crossings. Now Jackson Browne I would have gotten right away. But hey, here's a crossword bonus: according to the link to this Hägar picture, he's carrying an épée!

Besides those, the only clues that really got me were:

  • 21d White of the eye (SCLERA). I should know this, but I didn't; and

  • 28d First rank (PRIMACY). I started with PRIVATE, then went to PRIMARY before finally settling on the correct answer.

All in all, a little name heavy for me. Especially in the SW.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Title: Ooh, Oui!
Author: Louie (Lee) Glickstein

Before we start, I'd like to draw your attention to the poll question over there on the right. I've received one comment, indirectly, that seems concerned that I'm posting this the evening before the puzzle comes out. Peter Gordon asked me to wait until at least 10pm (Eastern time) the night before, which I have been doing. I may continue to do this regardless of the results of the poll (as it's frankly easier for me -- my mornings tend to be pretty hectic), but I figured I'd at least give people a chance to voice their opinions. Thanks. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled blog...

I like this puzzle, though it seemed hard when I was doing it due to some false starts, which we will get into a bit later, and the fact that it took a while to glom onto the theme. Once I nailed one theme answer and figured out what was going on, the rest of the theme answers fell swiftly.

Theme: Taking words with an "ee" sound and adding an "oo" sound to get an "oo-ee" sound. Got that? Well, it's easier to look at the examples, so let's do that:

  • 17a: Hong Kong farmer's call? South China Sea becomes SOUTH CHINA SOOEY.

  • 33a: Pauses made while saying nonsense? Hee-hawing becomes HOOEY HAWING.

  • 41a: Ones who hoard nautical markers? Beekeepers becomes BUOY KEEPERS.

  • 57a: What might be heard after an objection is overruled? Attorney's fee becomes ATTORNEY'S PHOOEY.

  • BONUS: Author Lee Glickstein is listed as Louie Glickstein. Cute.

Do you like this theme? I'm kind of torn myself. It's kind of clever, I guess. Are you bothered by the fact that three of the answers are -OOEY and one is _UOY? Are you one of the people who pronounce BUOY as "boy" rather than "boo-ey"? All in all, I'll give the theme a "B" for effort and move on...

Sunny Spots:

  • 29a: Launch of October 4, 1957 (SPUTNIK). Love the name Sputnik. Always have.

  • 39a: Fighting ___ (unofficial mascot of Mississippi's Delta State). (OKRA). Are you kidding me? The Fighting Okra? How f-ing cool is that! Wonderful trivia and amusing to boot!

  • 45a: Writing on the crawl? (CREDIT). This clue absolutely killed me. I just couldn't figure out what it was looking for until I got it from the crossings. Then it hit... the "crawl" is the scrolling credits after a movie or TV show. Now, I might quibble that the answer should be CREDITS, not CREDIT, but a single credit is certainly a (small) bit of writing, so it's technically correct. Kudos for producing a wonderful "Aha!" moment.

  • 53a: Flavor of the month (CRAZE). Nice, colorful phrase.

  • 10d: Square, e.g. (ISOGON). Pandering to my math background here. An isogon is a polygon with all angles equal.

  • 28d: "Built for boyhood!" sloganeer. I don't recall hearing this slogan, and in today's world it would no doubt be labelled "sexist", but somewhere deep down I knew the answer was going to be TONKA. And it was.

  • 39d: Car ad setting. (OPEN ROAD). There's just something relaxing about the term... no traffic, no speed traps, no hassles, just cruising along with the iPod playing...

  • 47d: "Thong Song" singer. (SISQO). No, it's not music I listen to, but I have heard of the guy, and it's a cool-looking crossword fill. And besides, it gives me an excuse to post a picture of some thongs...

Oh, wait... you thought I was going to post... ?

C'mon people, this is a family show!


  • 25a: Calif. airport. You know it's going to be either LAX or SFO. In this case, it's the latter. San Diego's code, btw, is SAN, but it's rarely clued as such.

  • 65a: Toes up, so to speak. (DEAD). In Britain, they say "tits up" to mean the same thing. We were working with a British company once, and during a meeting they referred to a project that was tits up. I had no clue what they were talking about and whether it was good or bad. I had to ask.

  • 8d: Founder of the Stoic school of philosophy. (ZENO). I don't know how I knew this, but once I saw that it started with Z, it just popped into my head and I was sure it was correct. I only took one philosophy class in college and I'm pretty sure Zeno wasn't part of it.

  • 9d: Number of Fingers? (ERA). It took me way too long to figure this clue out. Rollie Fingers was a baseball pitcher who had one of the coolest mustaches in all of sports.

  • 18d: Timeworn. (HOARY). I had WEARY at first, which really slowed me down.

  • 19d: Introduction to geometry? (SOFT G). You're not still falling for these types of clues, are you? Anything with "introduction", "leader of", "first of", etc..., especially if it's a question-mark clue, it likely to be one of these "it's-the-letter-itself" clues.

  • 59d: Spare part? (PIN). I so wanted this to be RIM and, while there is a pin on the inflaction valve of a spare tire, I'm pretty sure this a bowling reference.

  • 30d: Rare color? (PINK). No, no, no. Medium is pink. Medium-rare is pink with a reddish center. Rare is red.

  • 32d: Gymnast Strug. (KERRI). I knew this one right away, then questioned it when it wasn't fitting in with my erroneous IRATE (see below).

  • 48d: Quick punches. (JABS). Echoes of Monday's boxing theme. Also a great lead-in to:

  • 52d: Baseball's all-time leader in walks allowed. (RYAN). Nolan Ryan is also the all-time leader in strike-outs and seasons played. Plus, he was one tough dude. This is what happened when Robin Ventura decided to charge the mound, after getting hit by a Ryan fastball. It was no contest.

Suns of Bitches:

I got off to a horrendous start in the NW, thanks to going with EROS instead of AMOR for 2d: Valentine's Day deity. I was pretty sure 3d: Not drooping was going to be TAUT (which it was), but that gave me _RA_ for 14a: Neighbor of Yemen, which I figured had to be IRAN or IRAQ (I know, they're not that close, but they are in the general vicinity). Took a while to backtrack to the more reasonable OMAN. Add to the mix 1a: Exam for the college-bound, for which I would have entered SAT immediately if it had been a 3-letter answer. But... 4-letters? ACT doesn't fit. PSATs are a little early. SATS fits, but it's a singular exam. Well, the answer is SAT I, which is the standard math/verbal (and now essay) exam, as opposed to the SAT IIs, which are subject exams. Then we top this whole mess of a section (for me) with the absolutely horrendous 4d: Like some films (IN THREE-D). There aren't words enough to describe how much I hate this fill. It's either THREE-DIMENSIONAL, or it's 3-D. It's not THREE-D. This shows up a lot in puzzles, especially of late it seems, and I truly hate it. From now on, puzzles with THREE-D in them get the "threed" tag. Wear it in shame. :)

Other false starts/rough spots:

  • 15a: Powerful person. (MOVER). I had the M and started with MOGUL here; then tried MAVEN before I finally got to the correct answer.

  • 21a: Tzimmes. (ADO). Wow. Great word that seems like the answer ought to be plural, but on a Wednesday? Nasty!

  • 38a: Charlie Chan portrayer Warner. (OLAND). Warner Oland was born in 1879 and has been dead for 70 years. That's all I have to say about that.

  • 24d: Done by its own staffers. (IN HOUSE). I have a tendency to read in words that aren't there (as might be obvious to you already, since there are probably occurences of missing words in this very blog that I didn't catch), and I kept reading this "Done in by its own staffers". So, I was looking for some kind of treasonal (treasonish?) behavior.

  • 26d: Sigher's phrase. (AH ME). I had ALAS to start.

  • 31d: Peeved. (IRKED). I had IRATE to start.

  • 55d: Riemann ___ function. (ZETA). Full disclosure -- I was an f-ing Math major (albeit some years ago now), and I had absolutely no clue what this answer was. Want to know what it is? Ok, sure. From MathWorld:
    The Riemann zeta function is an extremely important special function of mathematics and physics that arises in definite integration and is intimately related with very deep results surrounding the prime number theorem. While many of the properties of this function have been investigated, there remain important fundamental conjectures (most notably the Riemann hypothesis) that remain unproved to this day. The Riemann zeta function is defined over the complex plane for one complex variable, which is conventionally denoted (instead of the usual ) in deference to the notation used by Riemann in his 1859 paper that founded the study of this function (Riemann 1859). It is implemented in Mathematica as Zeta[s]....

    Got that? Good.
Alright, on that note, let's call this one a wrap. Nothing more to see here...

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Title: To the Nth Degree
Author: Kevin George and Bonnie L. Gentry

Theme: Add the letter 'N' to the ends of common phrases.

  • WONDER BRAN (17a: Awe-inspiring source of dietary fiber?)

  • CRIMINAL LAWN (27a: Part of a prison yard?)

  • KLONDIKE BARN (49a: Item raised on a Yukon farm?)

  • FIT TO A TEEN (64a: Tailored for prom night wear?)

It took a while for me to glom onto the theme here, because my brain was trying to do a twist on WONDER BREAD, not WONDER BRA (because I'm such a wholesome, salt-of-the-earth, Norman Rockwell kind of guy).

Ok, maybe not, but that's what I was thinking all the same.

Anyway, it's a nice enough theme. None of the answers are particularly amusing, but they're okay. And they give me an excuse to post pictures like the one above.

Sunny Spots:

Piper at the Gates of Dawn

  • 4d: Pink Floyd member Barrett (SYD). This should actually be ex-Pink Floyd member Barrett, as Syd dropped out of the band to wrestle with his own sanity back in the 60's. If you've ever listened to way-before-Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd (we're talking Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Saucerful of Secrets here), then you've heard Syd Barrett. He also put out a couple of solo albums that are downright freaky.

  • 44a: Cobalt or Neon. I was thinking GAS at first, forgetting that cobalt is a solid in its natural form. Either way, I was on the wrong track. The clue refers the Chevy Cobalt and Dodge Neon, and the answer is, of course, CAR.

  • 70a: Pea jackets. I used to wear a Navy pea coat during the cold months at college in Montreal. I did not wear the more literal answer: PODS.

  • 30d: Muck-a-muck (NABOB). This is a great clue! It also reminds me of the Tenacious D song Wonderboy, though they use the variation "mucky-muck".

  • 33d: Nutcracker suite? (NEST). Nice clue.

  • 10d: Rather formally? (DANIEL). Love this clue! Just beautiful.


  • 50d: MLB team with a bridge in its logo. (NY METS). No, I'm not a Mets fan. Still, this is a cool clue. I also love how NYMETS looks almost like NYMPHETS in the puzzle. Hmm.... dibs on that theme!!

28d: Pharmaceutical giant that once sold Vioxx (MERCK). Nice looking fill word. Not many words that end in RCK.

58d: Overhead lighting? (HALO). Would have preferred a reference to the multi-million-selling video game, but that's okay.

53a: Drove around (TOOLED). Anyone know the origin of "tooling" to mean driving? Is it because cars used to be so unreliable that you needed to carry tools? Inquiring minds want to know.

38a: Future fish (ROE). I guess this is technically correct. It's just that all the roe I've seen has been in food form, and I hope to God it doesn't become fish after I've eaten it. Perhaps a "perhaps" is in order here.

Suns of Bitches:

Nothing particularly hard about this puzzle. A good, solid Tuesday.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Title: Punchy Language
Author: Mark Feldman

Theme: Phrases that start with boxing punches:

  • HOOKED ON PHONICS (17a: Product that can ordered by calling 1-800-ABCDEFG).
  • JABBERWOCKY (35a: Poem that begins "Twas brillig").
  • CROSSWORD SOLVER (56a: You, right now)

I guess finding phrases for "straight right" and "uppercut" is a bit much to ask, so it's an okay theme for a Monday. I do like the reference to Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky", which happens to be one of the few poems I can recite from memory.

Sunny Spots:

Let's start with the wonderful crossing of BEER CAN (37d: Frat party leftover) and RED MEAT (51a: Mutton, e.g.). Between this and the boxing theme, can this puzzle get anymore masculine? Add in 16a: "American ___" (1999 Jason Biggs movie) (PIE) and 6d: Baseball Hall of Famer Boggs (WADE), whose extramarital girlfriend posed for Penthouse back in the 80's, and you've got yourself a guy's guy puzzle going! RAH RAH! (1d: Enthusiastic). Finally, we'll cap it off with a war reference, 24d: Civil War general (SHERMAN), a plate of NACHOS (27a: Cheesy snacks), and a pair of ARGYLES (21a: Socks with diamond-shaped patterns).


  • RUHR shows its head for a second puzzle in a row, this time clued not as the river but as simple 9d: Germany's ___ Valley.

  • Awkward fill includes one RE-, 1a: Broadcast again (RESHOW) and two -ERs, 20a Agent of maturation (RIPENER) and 32a: Snake, at times (HISSER). I also couldn't help wanting to see 38d 10-time Gold Glove winner Alomar be SPITTER. But no, it's ROBERTO. For those who don't remember, Roberto infamously spit at an umpire back in 1996 during an argument over a called third-strike. Classy!

  • Besides the above-mentioned HOOKED ON PHONICS, there were some other advertising clues, including LESS TAR (13d: Light cigarette ad claim), PSA (public service announcement) for 30a: Ad Council ad, e.g.:Abbr., and SSN (457-55-5462, for LifeLock CEO Todd Davis).

Suns of Bitches:

No real trouble spots, as one would expect from a Monday. I couldn't remember ELOISE (2d Plaza girl created by Kay Thompson), but I've seen it before and certainly knew it was right once it fit. Also had a false start with DROP IN instead of STOP IN for 3d: Visit briefly, and initially (no pun intended) thought 19d: S.I. is part of it was referring to Sports Illustrated, not Staten Island.

All in all, a nice Monday.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

Title: Like Heads and Tails
Author: Kelsey Blakley

I thought this was a very decent Friday puzzle. Plenty of fill I didn't know, yet everything was "gettable" through common sense and crossings. Let's get right to it, shall we?

Theme: Two-word phrases, with each word starting and ending with the same letter. For you techies: "x*x x*x", where x is some letter. Okay, not a particularly thrilling theme, but it'll do. Here are the theme entries:

RUHR RIVER - Mülheim is on it
I know the Ruhr region from when I used to play Diplomacy, the classic multi-player strategy board game with no die rolls or random factors. It's all negotiation and tactics. Makes sense there's a river there.

SEES STARS - Reacts to a blow on the head
Been there, done that.

I had no clue on this one, and got the last name completely by crossings. Turns out this is the full name of "Pip", from Dickens's "Great Expectations". What can I say, I was a math/computer guy; I never studied the classics. Shame on me, I guess. :)

TEMPEST TOST - "Send these, the homeless, ___ to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" (last lines of "The New Colossus")
I was not at all familiar with this phrase or poem, but it is on a plaque on the Statue of Liberty, so I suppose I'm supposed to know it.

DROPPED DEAD - Keeled over
Yeah, okay. It fits the theme.

EDDIE EAGLE - NRA mascot for kids
Wasn't sure what to expect when I looking for a picture of this dude; was half-expecting a gun-toting, Dirty Harry-type bird. Not to be confused with Eddie the Eagle, of Calgary Olympics fame.

Sunny Spots:

Lots of things I liked in this puzzle.

Let's start with IPANEMA (Rio neighborhood) which, if nothing else, is famous in song .

Then, of course, there's SITH (Jedi fighters). For the uninitiated (are there any of you left?) these are the evil dudes who fight the Jedi Knights, not the Jedi themselves.

I also like LATE TAG (Slide follower, perhaps), though it will probably piss off those who think there's too many sports clues in crosswords. I find this clue so evocative of a summer baseball game that I can almost hear the glove slapping the runner's leg, while smelling popcorn, hotdogs, beer, wafting on a warm breeze... mmmmm....

Ok, I'm back now. Where were we?

Ah, yes. ALP (Edelweiss locale), which I love solely because of the Sound of Music, which is on my "favorite movies" list.

SAD SACK is a great entry, clued straightforwardly as "Pathetic person". Here's a picture of the 1st issue of Sad Sack comic, which sold for almost $4,000.

SET (Game with 81 different cards) is a great pattern recognition game for kids. There's also now an on-line version via the New York Times puzzle page.

Clues I particularly liked:

  • BBS - Cheap shot
  • ALIASES - Pen names?
  • BALED - Made a bundle from
  • LIAR - Whopper creator
  • SOCK - Darn it (maybe a little too "cute", but okay).
  • DEBRA - Messing with Eric McCormack on the "Will & Grace" set


ABYSMAL (Horrible): This reminded me of one my failures at this year's ACPT, where a particularly nasty (for me) section could have been broken open if I had come up with (if I recall correctly) ABYSMS.

ORD (Airport code for O'Hare): If you travel at all, you've probably been there. Believe me, I've seen this code plenty.

I.M. PEI (Mile High Center architect): If it's an architect in a puzzle, there's a damn good change it's PEI.

ADEPT (Expert): Nice noun/adjective twist.

ARNE ("Judith" composer): Crosswords love Thomas Arne. He also composed "Rule, Britannia!". Not to be confused with ARNO, which is a river.

LIRA (Maltese currency replaced by the Euro on January 1, 2008) and RIAL (Yemeni capital): A couple of twists on money that are usually referenced via Italy/Turkey or Iran.

Suns of Bitches:

Lot's of tough clues in this puzzle, but no real killer sections. The nastiest knot is probably the junction of:

ANA - "The Guardians" novelist Castillo
NIC - CNN correspondant Robertson

But both names are viable, and stannic rings a bell, so it seems fair enough to me.

Other toughies:

  • EPEES - Passado pokers. If I'd known that a passado was a fencing thrust, this would have been a breeze. I was thinking it was some locale, like a bullring maybe. Still, it was obviously correct once it fit.
  • DIDO - "___ Queen of Carthage" (Christopher Marlowe play). No clue. The only Dido I know is the singer .
  • ERIN - "Zoey 101" actress Sanders. Nope.
  • ELF - Sechs + fünf. Really? That's the best clue you could come up with for "elf"? Hunh.
  • BARR - Epstein-___ virus. It's a herpes virus. Breakfast test, anyone? :)
  • MELILOT - Sweet clover. Never heard of it.
  • TAY - Scotland's Firth of ___. Ditto.
  • ELEA - Ancient Greek city on the coast of Lucania. No clue.
  • CDI - Last year of Anastasius I's papacy. This may be my all-time least favorite way to clue Roman numerals. Are we really supposed to know the years that popes lived, reigned (paped?), and died? I don't think so. I am hereby branding all puzzles that include these clues with the (perhaps eventually) infamous "year-of-the-pope" label. Hate them, hate them, hate them.

All in all, there was much to like in this puzzle. Even the tough clues were plenty fair, so there's not a lot to complain about. Nice job.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Title: Themeless Thursday
Author: Sue Alexander

Overall, I thought this was pretty easy for a Themeless Thursday. A few tricky clues, but most were very straightforward.

FEET ON THE GROUND (Position of sensibleness and practicality).
HEAD IN THE CLOUDS (Indication of woolgathering).

I really like this pair, as it reminds me of the lyrics to "This Must Be the Place" by Talking Heads, which was covered by Shawn Colvin and is part of the soundtrack for "Wordplay". Very nice. (Note: The Talking Heads version says "head in the sky").

Sunny Spots:

BIKER BAR (Hangout where you might see a lot of hogs): Not only is "Hog" a nickname for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, HOG is also the stock exchange abbreviation.

DO OR DIE (Desperate): Nice fill.

OATS (They can be wild): A nice, subtle sex clue. Does anyone ever refer to "wild oats" in any context besides sowing them? I didn't think so.

GOREN (Author of "Bridge is My Game"): I play duplicate bridge at least once a week (state championships coming up this weekend), so any bridge clue gets a "shout out" from me. Bridge is a fantastic game of logic and subtleties. Learn to play bridge! :)

TARP (An automatic one injured Vince Coleman in 1985, forcing him to sit out the World Series): What a great clue to spice up a potentially bland fill. Sure, it's a long clue for a short answer, but it's pretty damned amusing (unless you're Vince Coleman, I guess).

IGOR (Housemate of Frau Blucher): Nice reference to Young Frankenstein.

WRESTLES (Tries to pin down): Nice clue.

NO DOUBT ("Don't Speak" group): Hear it here if you don't remember it.


OTTO (Wanda's boyfried in "A Fish Called Wanda"): I've seen the movie, but I don't remember the name. I do, however, recall that OTTO was the name of the fish in "A Fish Out of Water". Funny how the brain works.

TREETOP (Angel's perch, perhaps): Christmas tree, that is. Reminds me of joke, but I'll leave at that for now.

RAT (Hit singer, maybe?): I assume we're talking about an informant here, not a member of the Rat Pack.

MOONWALKER (Alan Bean, for one): Fourth man to walk on the moon.

TUE (Day when Oscar nominations are announced): Record albums are typically released on Tuesdays also. Why is that?

TENSES (Pluperfect and others): Too easy for a Thursday. Is there any other possible answer here?

SICK AS A DOG (Not just under the weather): How sick is a dog? And what have you been feeding him?

OBIE (Benson of the Four Tops): Another one to add to the OBIE/ODIE/OPIE list.

BRAHMS (Wagner contemporary): Love Brahms! If you're not sure why Brahms is considered one of the greatest composers of all time, check this out.

Suns of Bitches:

ROH (South Korea's ___ Moo-Hyun): Modern world leaders are certainly fair game, but I didn't know it.

NORA (Radio reporter Raum): I guess I don't listen to enough radio (almost none since I got an iPod).

ATES (Comedic actor Roscoe): He was born in 1895 and has been dead for over 45 years.

RAFFIA (Basket material): Straightforward clue, but not one I knew. I started with RATTAN.

Alright, that's quite enough for a first post. Probably too much, since no one even knows it's here yet.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M

Welcome to Sun Blocks

Ok, here's the deal. Ever since the Green Genius stopped blogging the New York Sun crossword puzzle, I've felt there was a void in blogland. The Sun puzzles are easily as good as, and typically more challenging (especially early-to-mid-week) than those in the New York Times. And they're free.

So, I've decided to take the plunge and give it a shot. I don't guarantee the quality or regularity of posts, as I frankly don't 100% know what I'm getting myself into here, but I'm going to try -- at least for a while. Since the Sun puzzles are released a week at a time on-line (and since my life has a tendency to be hectic), I should be able to store them up ahead if I need to. We'll see how it goes.

Please bear with me. It may be a bumpy ride for a while. :)

- Pete M