Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Title: Weekend Warrior
Author: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Theme: None

I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to solving I'm not in the same league as most of my fellow bloggers (I don't even want to look at Amy Reynaldo's time), so for me this puzzle was what a Weekend Warrior should be -- hard! I didn't time myself, and I didn't do it all in one sitting, but I was able to complete it without Googling. Granted, it was touch-and-go there for a bit and required some educated guesswork, some likely partials (e.g., this probably ends in ER -- that kind of thing), and more than one leap of faith that turned out to be correct.

Since pretty much the entire puzzle was both excellent and difficult, it doesn't seen to make sense to break the clues into categories today; so I'm just going to run through them roughly in order. Ready?

  • 1a: Picking from a lineup (IDING). I don't know how to (or whether to) punctuate this one, but I got it immediately. I guess I watch enough cop shows and movies, that it seemed the only logical choice.

  • 6a: Old-fashioned (MOSS-GROWN). This was one of the leaps of faith, which I took on MO__G____. This was after the whole rest of the puzzle was finished and I was staring at a pretty empty NE corner.

  • 15a: Monster Park player, familiarly (NINER). My brain was trying to find an actual player's name, so this was a "Doh!" moment.

  • 16a: "Falcon Crest" actress (ANA ALICIA). As you probably know by now, names are my weak spot. This was no help at all, and finally fell completely by crossings.

  • 17a: Andretti contemporary (SNEVA). I had the N early and guessed UNSER. NEVA (4d: "___ Get Enuf" (3LW song)) heard of SNEVA. NEVA heard of NEVA either, but at least it's inferrable (actually, I think I've seen it before as a river, but not as a song).

  • 18a: Bounty hunter in "Attack of the Clones" (JANGO FETT). This section would have been easier if I could have dredged this name up from scratch. Instead, it took several crossings before the fog lifted.

  • 19a: World Series game (TEXAS HOLD 'EM). Wonderful! The World Series of Poker, of course; not baseball. I nailed this from just the X in INEXACT (3d: Like some sciences).

  • 21a: ___ mort (dispirited) (A LA). I feel like I should have known this right off, but I didn't. I think it roughly translates to "like the dead".

  • 22a: Seraglio room (ODA). This is on my list of crosswordese words I need to remember. And I did, this time.

  • 23a: Chef's implements (PARERS).

  • Ines RiveroInes Sastre
  • 24a: Model Rivero or Sastre (INÉS). I've never heard of either of these gorgeous women. Where have I been? The N was from the crossing of OCEANUS (12d: Titan who was the brother and husband of Tethys), which I also didn't know, but it sure looked like it had to be that. If it had turned out to be OCEALUS/ILES or OCEAXUS/IXES or OCEARUS/IRES, I wouldn't have been that surprised (though I would have bitched about it).

  • 25a: Sprint (RACE).

  • 27a: Chimpanzee psychologist played by Kim Hunter in "Planet of the Apes" (ZIRA). This one goes with JANGO FETT as one I should have known but couldn't dredge up.

  • 28a: Trounce (CRUSH).

  • 29a: Old comics girl whose boyfriend was Wingey (ETTA KETT). Once I had the ETT, I knew where it was going. The Wingey part was no help.

  • 31a: Like the baseball played by the Savannah Sand Gnats (CLASS A). I like this one a lot. I've never heard of the Sand Gnats, but it's not hard to figure that they're a minor league team.

  • 32a: Bank (RELY).

  • 33a: Squidward Tentacles, for one (TOON). I don't watch SpongeBob SquarePants, but I was pretty sure this was from there. I thought they were going for what kind of an animal he was, at first. Nice clue.

  • 34a: Common childhood malady (OTITIS). Ear infection. Been there.

  • 37a: Cites (MENTIONS).

  • 41a: Capital of Libya (DINAR). You're just lucky TRIPOLI didn't fit, aren't you? (Of course, neither did ELL.)

  • 42a: "___ no thang" (AIN'T). Rap ain't my thang, but I knew this right away. I mean, what else could it be? For those who care, here's the Outkast song of the same name (Explicit Lyric Warning).

  • 43a: Buttonhole, basically (SLIT).

  • 44a: Salon, e.g. (E-MAG). You can check it out here.

  • 45a: Gather on a surface, chemically (ADSORB). This was a leap of faith with only the final B in place. I must remember it from high school or college, because I certainly haven't used it since.

  • 47a: Eagle, at times (ACE). As in a hole-in-one on a par 3.

  • 48a: Block letters? (SPF). I confidently put in IRS here, thinking they were referring to H&R Block. I only needed to look to my own blog title to get back on track.

  • 49a: Launderette liquid (SPOT REMOVER). A Stephen Wright classic one-liner: "I poured spot remover on my dog; now he's gone."

  • 51a: White wine often served with foie gras (SAUTERNES). I'm not sure I've ever had a Sauterne. Chardonnay? Sure. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chablis? Yup, yup, yup, yup, and yup. Don't know Sauternes. You can read about it here.

  • 53a: Apollo 16 lunar module (ORION). Got the OR and N. Seemed like a pretty likely choice.

  • 54a: "Archie Bunker's Place" costar (ANNE MEARA). Names names names. Luckily, I've heard of her, so a few crossings helped.

  • 55a: "What's It All About?" autobiographer (Michael CAINE). I know Michael Caine, but I didn't know he wrote a book.

  • 56a: Bassist on the album "Girls, Girls, Girls" (NIKKI SIXX). You know you're going to get some funky pop culture from BEQ, but the bassist from Mötley Crüe? That's tough. I ended up with a guess-the-vowel situation where the last I crossed ADONAI (42d: "Baruch atah ___ ..." (Hebrew prayer start)). I was torn between I, which looked best on ADONAI, and E, which would make the bassist's nickname NIKKI SEXX, which seemed pretty plausible to me. I guessed right, but it was still a guess. Does he play a six-string bass?

  • 57a: More furtive (SLIER). I always spell this first with a Y. It just looks weird to me with an I.

  • 1d: Forthcoming (IN STORE).

  • 2d: Patronized, as a restaurant (DINED AT). Nailed this one right away.

  • 5d: Fathom (GRASP).

  • 6d: It may rule (MAJORITY). Very nice.

  • 7d: Watching (ON ALERT).

  • 8d: Sonny's wife in "The Godfather" (SANDRA). Yet another one that I couldn't pull out of the fog. I gotta start rewatching some old movies.

  • 9d: Magi, e.g. (SAGES).

  • 10d: Latch (onto) (GLOM). I love the word GLOM. This was a gimme.

  • 11d: Discharge from the military, informally (RIF). Is this short for "Reduction in Force", or does it have another root?

  • 13d: Asinine (WITLESS). This is the entry that helped me break open the tough NE section.

  • 14d: Singer Bedingfield (NATASHA). This is one of the entries that made the NE section tough for me. I know I've seen the name before, but it wasn't something I could get without plenty of crossings.

  • 20d: Trees of the birch family (HAZELS). I can't think of another tree that begins with H and fits here. HOLLYS, maybe, but I think it's probably HOLLIES.

  • 24d: Some Pashto speakers (IRANIS). I had everything but the N and had to wait for the crossings to choose between N and Q.

  • 26d: Livestock marker (EAR TAG).

  • 28d: Coagulum (CLOT).

  • 30d: Dullea of "2001" (KEIR). No clue. 100% crossings.

  • 31d: ___-partie (furniture inlay) (CONTRE). This is new one on me. Read about it here.

  • 33d: Bill Clinton often blew it (TENOR SAX). I'm not even to mention all the thoughts that went through my head on this one.

  • 34d: "Friday Night Lights" player, e.g. (ODESSAN). Apparently, this is true of the book and the movie, which were both set in Odessa, Texas. The TV show created their own fictional town of Dillon, Texas. I am totally unfamiliar with all of them.

  • 35d: Tunable drums (TIMPANI). I used to play timpani back in high school, so this was a gimme for me.

  • 36d: Bummed (IN A FUNK). This was my first thought when I read this clue, but it took a few crossings before I believed it was the correct one.

  • 37d: Anonymous guy (MISTER X). Very nice. If I hadn't had couple of crossings that I was pretty comfortable with, I would have guessed JOHN DOE.

  • 38d: 11th-century king of Norway (OLAV III). The Olavs (sometimes Olafs) show up more than most kings (almost as much as tsars). Get used to them.

  • 39d: "Impressive!" (NICE ONE). Nice one.

  • 40d: Less forgiving (STERNER).

  • 45d: Seurat's "Un dimanche ___-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte" (APRÈS). I didn't know the title, but I can read "A Sunday ___-noon..." and have a pretty good idea what's missing.

  • 46d: U. hotshots (BMOCS). Alright, you've hit one of my real pet peeves here. Skip ahead if you don't want to hear it. BMOC stands for Big Man on Campus. The plural of Big Man on Campus is Big Men on Campus, which also abbreviates to BMOC. There's no S at the end; it can be used interchangebly as a singular or plural ("He is the BMOC." "They are the BMOC.") It's the same for RBI (runs batted in/run batted in). Ortiz had 3 RBI; Manny had 1 RBI. It drives me up a wall when sportcasters say RBIS. Of course, they don't know the difference between "well" and "good" either, so what can you expect. Ok, I'm done for now.

  • 49d: Final Four game (SEMI).

  • 50d: Part of ORU (ORAL). It was either ORAL or UNIV.

  • 52d: "___ Kill" (William Shatner novel) (TEK). I've heard of "Tek War", though I never read it. Turns out the Shat has written nine books in this series: Tek War, Tek Lords, Tek Lab, Tek Vengeance, Tek Secret, Tek Power, Tek Money, Tek Kill, and Tek Net. When Tek Sex comes out, I'll start at the beginning.

So, there you have it. A fine example of what a Weekend Warrior can be. Plenty tough, but pretty fair, and filled with interesting and colorful words, names, and phrases. Nice work by Mr. Quigley.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Title: Double Down
Author: Joe DiPietro
Theme: Four long down fills include a homophonic number substitution, where the numbers progressively double: 1, 2, 4, 8. As follows:

  • Won by a landslide => ONE BY A LANDSLIDE (3d: Mountain climber in peril?).

  • Fell to pieces => FELL TWO PIECES (18d: Knock down the king and queen?). How many answers simultaneously evoke chess and Patsy Cline? Very nice.

  • Just for kicks => JUST FOUR KICKS (9d: What the fans saw with only a single punt in each quarter?). My only quibble here is that it's probably not true. If there's only one punt per quarter, it's pretty darn likely that there have been some field goals and/or touchdowns (with extra points), both of which involve kicks.

  • Ate like a horse => EIGHT LIKE A HORSE (11d: Rowing team enjoys Mister Ed?). I like it.

This is a nice theme, and an example of the significance of a good title. Most of the time, theme answers run horizontal. When I noticed the long fills ran vertical, my first thought was that it must be a 15x16 (fairly common in the Sun). But no, a quick count showed that the grid was standard. Then I looked at the title (I should probably look at the title first thing, but I don't always think of it), and realized "downness" was part of the theme. Turns out, it's not really an integral part of the theme itself; the theme answers would work just as well horizontally. But it's an integral part of the theme's title, and it's worth rotating the grid to be able to use the very nice "double down" (a blackjack betting reference) to describe the theme.

Sunny Spots:

  • 17a: Witches' brew ingredient (EYE OF NEWT). So soon after the plastic surgery theme, it's hard not to think of Newt Gingrich here. Which is probably significantly grosser than the original thought.

  • 21a: What show-offs do with their stuff? (STRUT). Great use of the "struts one's stuff" idiom.

  • 40a: Victory away from home (ROAD WIN). The Celtics could use another one of these.

  • 42a: "Here's what's happening in your neck of the woods" speaker (AL ROKER). Weatherman for the "Today" show. He still is, right? I haven't watched morning television in years.

  • 51a: Do a job for a summer? (ADD). "Summer", as in "one who sums". Very nasty! Very nice.

  • 6d: Some "Babe" babes? (EWES). I really like this clue. "Babe" was a great movie. We took the kids to it, then went home and had pork for dinner. No lie.

  • 39d: Brown finisher, e.g. (GRAD). As in Brown University. Nice twist.

  • 43d: Top 10 song of October 1970 (LOLA). My first guess, from LO__ was the CCR song "Lodi". But the Kinks' "Lola" makes more sense. And a song about cross-dressing was pretty cutting edge back then.

  • 65d: Ship for a couples' cruise? (ARK). Almost too cute. But not quite.

  • We also find several verbal expressions, which are always colorful:
  • 1d: "Not bloody likely!" (I BET).

  • 5d: "Holy cow!" (MAN).

  • 7d: "Moving right along ..." (NOW, THEN).

  • 46d: Cry of success (I MADE IT).

  • 67d: "Got it, cap'n" (AYE).


  • 1a: Short stack spot, for short (IHOP). Nothing quite like a roadside IHOP when you're traveling. Eggs over easy, corned beef hash, and a stack of pancakes... Mmmmmm.

  • 5a: Carte (MENU). C'est français;.

  • 9a: Some e-mail attachments (JPEGS). Common image format (along with GIF).

  • 14a: Bandmate of Adam Clayton (BONO). From U2. If you watch "South Park", you'll know that Bono was absolutely skewered in an episode involving the World Record for Largest Crap. Talk about cutting satire.

  • 15a: Missing, maybe (AWOL). Absent Without Leave.

  • 19a: Star of stars? (Carl SAGAN).

  • 30a: Cerebellum section (LOBE).

  • 32a: Turbulence (MOIL). Moil is a cool word. Everyone should go out and try to use moil in a sentence sometime today. Bonus points for the best recounting of their moil usage.

  • 34a: ISP with keywords (AOL).

  • 35a: Drift (TREND). These words are similar, and you can find a definition of each that matches the other, but I'm not crazy about it.

  • 37a: On drugs (USING).

  • 44a: Chorionic villus sampling alternative, for short (AMNIO). I had BOON for BOOM at 29d: Thriving time, which gave me ANNIO here. I'm guessing this was a Peter Gordon clue.

  • 45a: Fared all right (DID OK).

  • 47a: Fab alternative (ERA). Detergent brands.

  • 48a: Portrayer of Crane and Sparrow on film (Johnny DEPP). Easy.

  • 50a: Timbuktu's nation (MALI).

  • 52a: They can be ripped or burned (CDS). Nice clue.

  • 54a: Its state quarter says "Foundation in education" (IOWA). I had the IO__ when I got to this clue; not much mystery there.

  • 58a: Response to an IM'ed joke (LOL).

  • 59a: Skip over (ELIDE).

  • 61a: Dehydrated soup brand (KNORR). I've never used this, but I've seen it in the store.

  • 64a: Pioneering computer (ENIAC). A gimme for me. And a cool-looking word to boot (no pun intended).

  • 66a: Took the wrong way? (LED ASTRAY). This clue works, but you have to be the one doing the leading; otherwise it would be "taken the wrong way". The fact that "led astray" is usually used from the victim's perspective ("I was led astray") as opposed to the instigator's ("I led [someone] astray"), makes it feel just a touch awkward. But I still like it.

  • 69a: Fairly large (TIDY). As in "a tidy sum".

  • 72a: Ocular woe (STYE). Stye shows up a little more often than I would prefer to see it.

  • 2d: Big East player from D.C. (HOYA). Georgetown has been in enough NCAA tournaments that this one was a total gimme.

  • 8d: Michelob product (ULTRA). Give me a microbrew anyday. How about a bottle of Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout? Mmmmmm...

  • 10d: P.S. org. (PTA). Around where I live, we never abbreviate "public school" as P.S.; but in New York City, where there are literally hundreds of schools, they refer to them by number. In fact, if you Google "PSnnn", where nnn is any 3-digit number, more times than not you'll probably find a New York public school.

  • 12d: Outfielder's problem, at times (GLARE). Especially during day games.

  • 22d: Birthplace of Albert Einstein (ULM). This is one of those pieces of trivia that just sticks, for some reason. I'm pretty sure I knew this well before I started doing puzzles. It's like knowing that Mark Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri.

  • 28d: Plantation in a 1936 novel (TARA). Ditto here, though I probably got this one from playing Trivial Pursuit.

  • 31d: Relent (BEND).

  • 33d: Metric prefix? (ISO). Cryptic clue -- it's a prefix for "metric", not a prefix from the Metric system.

  • 36d: Arthur Cravan's genre (DADA). I don't recall ever hearing the name Arthur Cravan, but what other 4-letter genre starts with D? Apparently, he was quite the interesting chap, and his life was the basis for a graphic novel by Dark Horse Comics.

  • 38d: Bully's target, perhaps (NERD). Or geek, or wimp.

  • 49d: Hill biggie (POL). Capital Hill, that is.

  • 53d: "Holy Sonnets" poet (DONNE). I didn't know this, but it wasn't hard either. Most poet clues I just go by the letter patterns. There aren't that many poets that I know by poem name. You've probably heard his Holy Sonnet X, if not by that name:

    Death, be not proud, though some have callèd thee
    Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
    For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
    Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
    From rest and sleep, which yet thy pictures be,
    Much pleasure, then from thee much more, must low
    And soonest our best men with thee do go,
    Rest of their bones and soul's delivery.
    Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings and desperate men
    And dost with poison, war and sickness dwell,
    And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
    And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then ?
    One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
    And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

  • 55d: Droops (WILTS).

  • 57d: Input (ENTER). The verb, as in to input data.

  • 60d: Go around and around, in a way (EDDY). Another word that more often used as a noun.

  • 62d: Skateboard park fixture (RAMP). HALFPIPE didn't fit; what else could it be?

  • 63d: Bar selections (RYES). Not for me. I'm not a rye fan at all. Give me single-malt scotch any day. Preferably Islay.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 56a: Banda ___ (Indonesian tsunami site of 2004) (ACEH). Huh?

  • 68a: 1989 Heisman Trophy winner Ware (ANDRE). I'm not a football fanatic, but I watch the NFL enough that I know most of the big names. Usually a Heisman Trophy winner makes a big enough splash in the NFL that you can't help but know who they are. Not so here. In fact, Andre is #1 on "Page 2"'s Biggest Heisman flops. He eventually went to the Canadian Football League and flopped there as well. Let's pick a different Andre next time, shall we?

  • 70a: ___ Squalor (Lemony Snicket character) (ESMÉ). Oh, no! New life for the dreaded ESMÉ. Guess we'll be seeing more of her. This character name is almost certainly derived from the J.D. Salinger novel.

  • 4d: Port town on the English Channel (POOLE). Hunh.

  • 25d: Singer on the big screen (LORI). I suppose I'm supposed to know her. After all, she was in "Footloose" 25 years ago. So was Kevin Bacon, but he's done one or two things since then.

This was an enjoyable puzzle for me. Not too difficult, but enough tricky clues and smiles to keep me happy. Nice job.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Title: Bury the Hatchet
Author: Randall J. Hartman
Theme: Insert the word "AX" into common phrases to get new phrases.
  • Strip mine => "STRIP, MAXINE!" (16a: Command to the promiscuous widow in "The Night of the Iguana" to take her clothes off?).

  • Favorite son => FAVORITE SAXON (22a: Pet German of yore?).

  • Blood relation => BLOOD RELAXATION (37a: Quiet time for a Los Angeles gang member?).

  • Chicken wing => CHICKEN WAXING (48a: Process of taking hair off a fraidy-cat?).

  • Ted Knight => TAXED KNIGHT (59a: Gave Sir Lancelot everything he could handle?).

I like this theme; it's clever and amusing. It's pretty easy to guess what's going on just from the title, but with entries like CHICKEN WAXING, who cares! Very nice indeed.

Sunny Spots:

  • 13a: "Let's Make a Deal" choice (DOOR). This show was way more than the sum of its parts. It was legend. I'll take the box where Carol Merrill is standing...

  • 14a: The point (0,0) (ORIGIN). You know I like the math clues.

  • 10d: "Rats!" (DOGGONE IT). Very nice.

  • 30d: Some mounds in the ground (MOLE HILLS). How sweet would have been to have MOUNTAINS in the same puzzle...

  • 38d: "Champagne Supernova" band (OASIS). Good song! Here's a link.

  • 47d: Lustful desire (LIBIDO). Great word.

  • 1a: Where the N.Y. Rangers play their home games (MSG). It's a flavor enhancer and a sports arena. Here, of course, it refers to Madison Square Garden.

  • 4a: Slander or libel (DEFAME).

  • 10a: Pop (DAD).

  • 15a: ___ Miss (OLE). I know this from NCAA basketball tournament pools.

  • 18a: Rickey ingredient (GIN). I've never had a Lime Rickey, but I do drink the occasional summer gin and tonic.

  • 19a: Soda bottle size (LITER).

  • 20a: Class (ILK). Ilk's an okay word.

  • 21a: Prankster's missiles (EGGS). I really wanted PEAS here. Eggs are hardcore.

  • 26a: Blissful place (EDEN). Just watch out for serpents.

  • 28a: Jacques or Pierre (NOM). French for "name".

  • 34a: Hall of Fame third baseman George (BRETT).

  • 41a: Grover's second veep (ADLAI). If his name didn't have three vowels, no one would remember who he was.

  • 42a: Chowderhead (DOLT). Chowderhead's a great word; it would be nicer if it were fill instead of clue.

  • 43a: "Boohbah" watcher (TOT). Not familiar with the show, as it's been a while since I've had young kids. But it wasn't hard to figure out.

  • 44a: Self starter? (ESS). Cryptic clue! Don't fall for these.

  • 45a: Sea on the border of Kazakhstan (ARAL). This one shows up a lot, often as "Asian sea" or "Shrinking sea".

  • 54a: Maui gifts (LEIS). Wahines on Tuesday, Maui on Wednesday. I might have swapped those.

  • 55a: Tic-tac-toe loser (OXO). There are six possible answers to this: OOX, OXO, XOO, XXO, XOX, and OXX.

  • 56a: New York theater awards (OBIES).

  • 58a: Last word in the Pledge of Allegiance (ALL). That's a really easy clue for a Wednesday.

  • 62a: Under the weather (ILL).

  • 63a: "___ Ambition" (2007 Jessica Simpson movie) (BLONDE).

  • 64a: "Jurassic Park" costar of Goldblum (DERN).

  • 65a: Numero uno número primo (DOS). First prime number, in Spanish. I don't know enough about the language to know why the first "Numero" doesn't have an accent like the second one. Maybe it's a typo.

  • 66a: Shop tool (SANDER).

  • 67a: Jazz trombonist Kid ___ (ORY). I know this from puzzles.

  • 1d: Recurring theme (MOTIF). Motif's a decent word.

  • 2d: In a way, in a way (SORTA). Cute. Sorta.

  • 3d: Tear up, maybe (GRIEVE).

  • 4d: Bro of Joltin' Joe (DOM). Referring to the DiMaggio brothers.

  • 5d: Part of BCE (ERA). Before the Common Era.

  • 6d: Handyman (FIX-IT). That's "Mr. Fix-it" to you.

  • 7d: Twinkle-toed (AGILE). Another one where the clue is more sparkling than the fill.

  • 8d: Furry animals (MINKS). Most mammals are furry. Is this a reference to the fact that people make fur coats out of them? Either way, it reminds me of Season 5 American Idol, when Simon Cowell called Kelly Pickler "a naughty little minx". Man, was she cute, but you can't fake that kind of stupid.

  • 9d: Chemical suffix (ENE). I'm not sure if this is better or worse than an "a-to-b direction" clue. Thoughts?

  • 11d: Put in a row (ALIGN).

  • 12d: Cub Scout groups (DENS).

  • 13d: Hi-tech connection (DSL).

  • 17d: Goad (PROD).

  • 21d: Bring to bear (EXERT).

  • 23d: Bring up (REAR). I didn't figure it was going to be PUKE, but you never know. This isn't the Times, you know.

  • 24d: Between the sheets (IN BED). I've heard both of these as the phrase you're supposed to add after reading a fortune cookie fortune. "Big things will be coming your way..."

  • 25d: Jessica of "Fantastic Four" (ALBA).

  • 28d: Org. of Hawks and Raptors (NBA).

  • 29d: Word with school or guard (OLD).

  • 32d: "Sweet Talkin' Woman" band (ELO). This was huge when I was growing up. In case you can't place it, here it is.

  • 33d: Four-time Emmy winner for Outstanding Drama Series (L.A. LAW). Good show.

  • 36d: Big bang letters (TNT).

  • 39d: Othello piece (DISC).

  • 46d: Cell impulse transmitter (AXON).

  • 48d: Jacqueline du Pré's instrument (CELLO). Also Yo-yo Ma's.

  • 49d: Eucalyptus the Beanie Baby, e.g. (KOALA). What else could it be?

  • 50d: ___ Valdez (EXXON). Don't drink and drive! Especially not oil tankers.

  • 51d: Exceedingly (NO END).

  • 52d: Bamako's river (NIGER). Easy enough with a couple of crossings.

  • 53d: Pritzker-winning architect Frank (GEHRY).

  • 54d: Chewed out, with "into" (LAID).

  • 57d: B&O stop (STN). I never know whether this is going to be STN or STA. I'm pretty sure I've seen it both ways.

  • 59d: "Dinner and a Movie" channel (TBS).

  • 60d: Only president other than LBJ born in Texas (DDE). Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bush the Elder was born in Massachusetts. Bush the "Is it over yet?" was born in Connecticut.

  • 61d: Plop or plunk lead-in (KER). Yeah, okay.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 27a: "Dancing With the Stars" judge Goodman (LEN). Names are always my downfall. Luckily there were no hard crossings here.

  • 31a: Explorer Tasman (ABEL). Ditto.

  • 40d: Pibb ___ (soda brand) (XTRA). Didn't know this one.

First, as a constructor, there's something just a little inelegant about having a black square in the top left (and bottom right) corner. It's usually a huge red flag that screams "I'm having trouble filling this section". Sometimes it's critical to an otherwise open crossword (which, at 19.5% black squares, this one is not); sometimes it is necessary to support a "theme clue" as the last entry in the puzzle (again, not the case here); and sometimes it's worth it for the snazzy fill in those shortened entries... let's see... MSG, DSL, STN, and ORY... nope, not that either. So, I'm guessing this puzzle, with its five theme entries, was just a bear to fill.

As a solver, I thought the theme was great, but the fill was only so-so. A couple of nice entries, but overall there was more sparkle in the clues than in the fill. I found a good portion of the puzzle to be just a bit on the dull side for me.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Title: Plastic Surgery Gone Bad
Author: Mike Torch
Theme:Words that sound like they're a combination of a famous person's last name and a body part. As follows:
  • 20a: What the plastic surgeon created after I asked to look like a “Star Wars”actress? (PORTMAN TOES). Reference to Natalie Portman. Homophone of "portmanteaus".

  • 34a: What the plastic surgeon created after I asked to look like “The Man in Black”? (CASH EARS). Reference to Johnny Cash. Homophone of "cashiers".

  • 46a: What the plastic surgeon created after I asked to look like the author of “Delta of Venus”? (NIN KNEES). Reference to Anaïs Nin. Homophone of "ninnies".

  • 61a: What the plastic surgeon created after I asked to look like a “City Slickers”actor? (CRYSTAL EYES). Reference to Billy Crystal. Homophone of "crystallize".

This is pretty cute. Portman toes and Crystal eyes sound really smooth to my ear. Cash ears is just slightly off, due to the accenting of the first syllable instead of the second. Nin knees sounds pretty awkward to me. Still, I like the concept. And knowing the theme did help on the latter clues, which it should on a Tuesday.

Sunny Spots:

  • 9a: New Orleans cooking style (CAJUN). If there's one thing we like better than food clues, it's spicy food clues. And it's a cool word to boot.

  • 15a: Tunnel of ___ (amusement park ride) (LOVE). This is cool clue, but I'm wondering -- has anyone actually been on a "tunnel of love" ride? I feel like it's one of things I read about in books (and Dire Straits songs), but have never actually seen. I've been on Disney's "It's a Small World", does that count?

  • 39a: Fertilized egg (ZYGOTE). Nice word for a Tuesday.

  • 48a: Unanalyzed info (RAW DATA). As a software engineer, I like this fill a lot.

  • 36d: With 58-Across, attempt to deceive using flattery (SNOW JOB). Another great phrase.

  • 41a: Topnotch (PRIMO). This is a nice change from the all-too-common A-ONE.

  • 43a: Scores (A LOT). Tricky for an early week puzzle.

  • 44a: Flips over (ADORES). Another tricky clue for a Tuesday.

  • 6d: Torture ___ (genre of the “Saw” films) (PORN). I had never heard the term "torture porn" and I don't go for the "Saw"-type films, but you have to admit this is a colorful, if disturbing, phrase.

  • 45d: Admit making a mistake (EAT CROW). Very nice fill. And "Crow" always reminds me of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), one of the funniest shows ever to be on television. Snippets don't do it justice, but here's one anyway.


  • 1a: “Hey,buddy, over here!” (PSST). A nice gimme to start off the puzzle.

  • 5a: Simians (APES). They just ran "Planet of the Apes" on TV again last week. Such a classic.

  • 14a: The Kentucky Derby, for example (RACE). This could be a Triple Crown year. Go Big Brown!

  • 16a: Dumbfound (AMAZE).

  • 17a: Arab League member (OMAN).

  • 19a: Arab League member (SYRIA). I prefer it when repeated clues are interpreted differently each time. I find this use kind of bland.

  • 18a: Sudoku puzzle, essentially (GRID).

  • 23a: Onetime JFK arrival (SST).

  • 24a: Authority (SAY SO). "On whose say so?" Nice idiom.

  • 25a: Yearly observance: Abbr. (ANNIV.). Tough to end in a V without resorting to abbreviations like this one.

  • 27a: One down in Durango? (UNO). Not "One down, in Durango"; rather "One, down in Durango".

  • 30a: Built a new wing (ADDED ON)

  • 40a: Fan mag (ZINE). Short for "magazine".

  • 50a: Wahine’s wear (LEI). A wahine is a Polynesian or Hawaiian woman. I can see how, if you didn't know the word, this might be a tough clue; but it shows up so often in puzzles that it turns into a gimme.

  • 51a: Pool worker (STENO). Do steno pools still exist? Do stenographers still exist outside of courtrooms? There was a day when many large corporations (and the U.S. military) hired people (predominantly women) skilled in shorthand and transcription. I honestly don't know if anyone still does, or whether this is an area where technology has made the job obsolete. Either way, this is a tough clue for a Tuesday.

  • 53a: Stretchy fabric (LYCRA). Somehow, a Jeff Foxworthy line comes to mind: "Just because it comes in your size doesn't mean you should wear it!" Listen to the man.

  • 64a: Mathematician who introduced the symbol e for the base of natural logarithms (EULER). Gimme for me, but I studied math.

  • 66a: “Heck!” (DARN)

  • 67a: Hill builders (ANTS)

  • 68a: Sister of Thalia (ERATO). Referring to the Greek Muses.

  • 70a: Pirelli product (TIRE)

  • 71a: Skeptic’s shout (PSHAW). I like PSST better than PSHAW, as expressions go. Personally, I've never said "Pshaw". I prefer the more Dogbertian "Pah!".

  • 72a: Thanksgiving tubers (YAMS). Actually, they're good all year round.

  • 73a: Nae sayer (SCOT). Cute.

  • 1d: Supports (PROPS). With the spate of REP and CRED clues lately, I'm surprised this one wasn't clued as street slang.

  • 2d: Its flag features the Southern Cross (SAMOA). Easy enough to figure out after a couple of crosses.

  • 3d: One of the Spice Girls (SCARY). You know what's scary? The fact that I knew this answer. And I couldn't right now name a single Spice Girls song (I'm sure I've heard them, and a title or two are probably familiar if I saw the names, but nothing is coming to mind).

  • 4d: Revival enclosures (TENTS). Nice clue here.

  • 5d: Water silk, e.g. (ALGA). I'm not used to seeing this in its singular form, but it was still easy enough to figure out.

  • 7d: Best Musical the year before “42nd Street” (EVITA). Name a musical that starts with "E".

  • 8d: Arizona city known for its red rocks (SEDONA). Namesake for the Kia Sedona?

  • 9d: 1969 Newman role (CASSIDY). From "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", with Robert Redford.

  • 12d: Commando weapons (UZIS). Is it a commentary on modern society that this one was so easy?

  • 13d: Without ice (NEAT). Do people still order drinks neat? Or is this an old-time phrase. Or is it only only used for certain drinks? Me, I just say "no ice" or "straight up".

  • 21d: Little grimace (MOUE). Moue has been showing up a lot lately. Seems like every other puzzle, but probably not quite that bad. I still like the word, but it's starting to get stale.

  • 22d: Safety spot (END ZONE). Reference to a safety in football, whereby the offense is downed in their own end zone. Not very safe at all.

  • 26d: Human herbivore (VEGAN). Here's a picture of me with a well-known vegan.

  • 28d: Online music source (NAPSTER). Remember when Napster was free and Metallica was out suing people for piracy? Here's a classic video from that time, lampooning Metallica for basically being greedy bastards. Regardless of which side of the controversy you fall on, the video's pretty funny. (Content and language warning!).

  • 29d: “Number Four, Bobby ___!” (children’s book) (ORR). This is a gimme for Boston sports fans.

  • 31d: Longtime Senate colleague of Kassebaum (DOLE). Four-letter senator beginning with D? Has to be DOLE or DODD.

  • 32d: Nebraska county that borders Iowa and Missouri (OTOE). I'm not used to seeing this clued as a county, usually it refers to the tribe.

  • 33d: Basketball tournament souvenirs (NETS).

  • 34d: Anastasia’s father was one (CZAR). Here we have the less-common spelling of TSAR.

  • 37d: Range rovers (HERDS). I had HEADS at first, as in heads of cattle.

  • 42d: Plastic bag thickness measurement (MIL). I don't know why I know this, but it was a gimme.

  • 52d: Honshu city (OSAKA)

  • 54d: “The Second Coming” poet (YEATS). I don't know my poems very well, but I know Yeats was a poet and it fit. There was also a Cranberries song called "Yeats's Grave". I can't find a decent video of them doing it, but here is a surprisingly good version that someone posted on youtube.

  • 55d: Pessimistic sort (CYNIC). Nice.

  • 56d: Nostalgic style (RETRO)

  • 57d: Plus (ASSET). The noun form: That's a plus.

  • 58d: Grand Cherokee maker (JEEP). Easy.

  • 60d: Drab (BLAH).

  • 62d: In good condition (TRIM). As in "fit and trim", which was not what I was thinking when I read the clue. I was thinking along the lines of coins: mint, proof, etc., so this took a couple of crossings to nail.

  • 65d: Socratic H (ETA).

Suns of Bitches:
  • 10d: Poehler of “Baby Mama” (AMY). No idea.

  • 59d: “One of ___” (Willa Cather novel) (OURS). I didn't know this one, but the crossings were easy.

  • 63d: Novelists Brashares and Packer (ANNS)

All in all, a pretty nice puzzle with some trickier clues than one might expect. Which is one of the things I really like about Sun puzzles in general -- the early-week puzzles tend to have a little more zing to them than those in the Times.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day

No puzzle today due to the holiday.

Vietnam Women's Memorial - Washington D.C.
Photo by Pete Mitchell

This is a day to honor all who died fighting for what they believed in, as well as those who stood with them. It is a day to set aside politics, motivations, and global strategies and to focus on each individual man and woman who made the ultimate sacrifice, sharing the pain of their families and friends. It is a day to remember that opposing a war is not the same as opposing the soldiers who fight it. It is a day to say thank you; most of us cannot even begin to imagine what you have been through. Above all, it is a day to pray for peace, that someday these sacrifices will no longer be necessary.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

Title: Auto Trailers
Author: Alan Arbesfeld
Theme: Phrases with car manufacturers hidden at the end.
  • SOLAR PLEXUS (18a: Abdominal network).

  • HELP ME RHONDA (24a: Song that knocked "Ticket to Ride" out of the #1 slot). Not my favorite Beach Boys tune (I'm kind of partial to "In My Room"), but nice fill.

  • ANNO DOMINI (35a: Words before a date)

  • LOSES A TURN (43a: Has to wait for the next round, perhaps). We love all things related to games and game shows. Very nice.

  • ANTONIO GAUDI (50a: Spanish architect who designed the unfinished Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona). Didn't know this one.

  • REGAL BEAGLE (62a: "Three's Company" hangout). This one's super! My favorite of the theme fills.

The strength of this theme is not so much in the concept, which is fine, but in the nice variety of colorful fill, which is quite excellent.

Sunny Spots:
  • 15a: A play might be seen better with this (SLO-MO). This shows up periodically, but it's a cool fill with a relatively unusual vowel pattern.

  • 47a: Weenies (TWERPS). Twerps is great word. I mean, just look at it.

  • 21d: Collectible paper items (EPHEMERA). Epherma comes from the Greek for "a day", and it's used to describe things that last, or were designed to last, a relatively short period of time. Great, descriptive word.

  • 27d: Base kid (ARMY BRAT). Excellent. I wonder if they're called that because of some particular family's kids that really were brats. (PB2, any comment here?)

  • 40d: Locker room shower? (ESPN). Very nice.

  • 65d: Gray head? (LEE). As in Robert E. LEE, head of the Confederate Army. Great clue.

  • 1a: Street cred (REP). I feel like "cred" has been showing a lot lately.

  • 4a: Stunned (AGASP). A had AGAPE to start.

  • 16a: National competitor (ALAMO). This one didn't fool me; I immediately thought rental car.

  • 17a: It holds the mayo (JAR).

  • 20a: It can be bid (ADIEU). I was hoping for a bridge fill here (A CLUB, perhaps? Or ONE NO), but it was not to be.

  • 22a: ___ noche (tonight, in Spanish) (ESTA).

  • 23a: Sheep's tail? (ISH). My first thought was PEE (last letter of "sheep"), but it's ISH (as in sheepish). Either way, it gets the crytic clue tag.

  • 28a: "Talk to ___" (HER). Am I missing something here? This feels like a really weak clue for HER. "Talk to the hand!", now that's a phrase worthy standing alone.

  • 29a: California's motto (EUREKA). I think I learned this back in high school when we studied Archimedes.

  • 33a: Band leader? (BEE). I was already in this mindset from the sheep clue, above, so this was easy. Another cryptic clue.

  • 39a: Rap (BLAME). Rap as a noun. Very nice.

  • 42a: Religious group (SYNOD).

  • 46a: Quinella, e.g. (BET). In horse racing, the quinella bet is for the top two horses in either order, as opposed to the perfecta where order matters.

  • 48a: Compass creation: Abbr. (CIR). The circle-drawing compass, not the navigational compass.

  • 60a: Arabian Peninsula coastal city (ADEN). It lies on the Gulf of Aden, too, so you may see it clued that way.

  • 66a: Land in the Seine (ILE). French for "island". This comes up a lot.

  • 67a: Teed off (ANGRY). This is notable because the 5-letter answer to this clue is much more typically IRATE.

  • 68a: Siouan-speaking Indians (OTOES). Another crossword staple.

  • 69a: NAFTA signer (CAN). It's either USA, CAN, or MEX.

  • 70a: Supply with fuel (STOKE). As in a campfire or coal stove.

  • 71a: Dos, e.g. (NOTES). As in do re mi.

  • 72a: Annapolis affirmative (AYE). Annapolis referring to the U.S. Naval Academy.

  • 1d: Indian prince (RAJAH). This shows up about equally with and without the trailing H.

  • 4d: Take on (ASSUME). As in resonsibility.

  • 5d: Day-___ (GLO). I like that this cross SLOMO. Would be nicer if the entire phrase were included. Day-Glo does not make a good fashion statement.

  • 6d: Surfing fan, perhaps (AOLER).

  • 8d: ___-Novo (capital of Benin) (PORTO). Didn't know this one off the top, but it was pretty easy to figure with a couple of crossings.

  • 9d: Hootenanny lass (GAL). Props for using the great word "hootenanny".

  • 10d: "___ ELO" (hit album of 1976) (OLÉ). The hit you'll remember from this is "Evil Woman".

  • 11d: Move toward the airstrip (TAXI).

  • Howard SternDon Imus
  • 12d: Stern contemporary (Don IMUS). Contemporary of, but not equal to, Howard Stern.

  • 13d: Bite (NOSH). NOSH is another great word. I have to start using it more in everyday conversation.

  • 19d: Like French doors (PANED.)

  • 25d: A one-two-three inning makes it go down (ERA). Earned Run Average, for a baseball pitcher.

  • 26d: The Blues Brothers and Indigo Girls, e.g. (DUOS). Nice clue.

  • 30d: Article in Der Spiegel (EINE). Probably the most common German word in crossword puzzles.

  • 31d: It may be hard to undo (KNOT). I was hoping for something cool and edgy when I read this clue, like ZIPPER or BRA STRAP or BAD PERM, but not this time.

  • 33d: Leave, in slang (BLOW). As in "Let's blow this joint!", which, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with Spike Lee movies.

  • 36d: Louis Armstrong Stadium divider (NET). Next to Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the U.S. Open of tennis is played.

  • 37d: Kimmel Center sch. (NYU). We have to remember that the Sun is a local NYC newspaper. I'm sure this clue is a piece of cake if you're from around there.

  • 38d: Poetic preposition (O'ER)

  • 39d: Tref 'wich (BLT). Tref means non-kosher. I learned this recently from puzzles. And hey, it's a food clue.

  • 45d: One with a chevron: Abbr. (NCO). Non-commissioned officer. I don't know my insignias, so I count on crossings. The clue may as well be "Name a military rank: Abbr.".

  • 49d: "Um ... OK" (I GUESS). Nice phrase.

  • 51d: Ancient Greek theater (ODEON). This shows up a lot.

  • 52d: "That's swell!" (NEATO). Golly gee, that's peachy keen.

  • 53d: Heavy metal bar, maybe (INGOT). Good clue surface reading.

  • 54d: Seat of New York's Oneida County (UTICA).

  • 57d: They're often rolled over (IRAS). Cute.

  • 59d: Brand in the freezer (EGGO). Leggo my Eggo! More food.

  • 64d: Caustic stuff (LYE)

Suns of Bitches:
  • 41a: Macula's locale (EYE). Didn't know this one; got it from crossings.

  • 56d: "Brave ___" (William Steig children's book) (IRENE). Ditto.

I didn't think this puzzle was particularly difficult for a Friday, but it was very enjoyable. Nice theme entries and decent fill, with enough things I didn't know off the top that made sense once I got them from the crossings to keep me interested. Good job.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.