Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday, June 30, 2008

Title: Show People
Author: Patrick Blindauer
Theme: Shows whose titles include MEN, WOMEN, GIRLS, and BOYS.
  • 17a: 1981 musical with the song "One Night Only" (DREAMGIRLS).

  • 61a: 2006 Best Musical (JERSEY BOYS).

  • 10d: 1989 Aaron Sorkin play (A FEW GOOD MEN). I didn't realize this was a play; the movie was great.

  • 25d: 2005 musical starring Sutton Foster (LITTLE WOMEN).

Quick write-up today. I'm totally fried and don't have much to say, so I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

This is a pretty normal, nothing fancy Monday theme. Not the sort of thing you expect from Patrick Blindauer. Until you realize that the puzzle is a pangram (uses all the letters of the alphabet) and is chock-full of scrabbly, later week letters, which is not at all what you expect on a Monday. Let's have a look.

Sunny Spots:

  • 26a: Captain in "The Caine Mutiny" (QUEEG). Famously played by Humphret Bogart.

  • 44a: Coauthor with Friedrich Engels of "The Communist Manifesto" (KARL MARX). Nice to see his full name.

  • 2d: He told the Once-ler, "Sir! You are crazy with greed. There is no one on earth who would buy that fool Thneed!" (LORAX). Dr. Seuss, of course.

  • 53d: Hungarian composer Franz (LISZT). Not my favorite piano composer (I prefer Chopin), but a great name for crosswords.

  • I also like the following as a pair:

  • 22a: Grow unchecked (RUN WILD).

  • 34a: State of panic (HYSTERIA).


  • 5a: "My Fair Lady" composer (LOEWE).

  • 10a: Sitcom in which Sherman Hemsley played a deacon (AMEN).

  • 15a: New York city on the Allegheny River (OLEAN). Also a fat substitute.

  • 20a: Not stringent (LAX).

  • 24a: Banish (EXILE).

  • 27a: Son of Daedalus (ICARUS). These were the father and son that flew too close to the sun, so the wax on their wings melted. Or something like that.

  • 37a: Skeleton's spot? (CLOSET). Great clue.

  • 41a: "Saving Private Ryan" event (D-DAY).

  • 42a: Annie ___ (free ticket) (OAKLEY). Why does this mean free ticket? What's the story here?

  • 47a: "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken" sloganeer (PERDUE).

  • 48a: Cooled one's heels? (WADED).

  • 57a: NYC commuting option since 1904 (IRT). This shows up a lot, so if you're not from NYC, just remember it.

  • 60a: Entrance requirement, perhaps (EXAM).

  • 65a: Rival of Sonicare (ORAL B).

  • 68a: Capital of France's Gard department (NIMES).

  • 69a: Gusto (ZEST).

  • 6d: Lena of "Chocolat" (OLIN). She shows up a lot.

  • 8d: Marine mammal with tusks (WALRUS).

  • 11d: Seamstress in "La Bohème" (MIMI).

  • 12d: "The ___ Dead" (1983 horror film) (EVIL).

  • 18d: Rodents, jocularly (MEECE). I'm not always crazy about words that aren't words finding their way into puzzles, but somehow this one doesn't bother me too much.

  • 26d: Made like a duck (QUACKED).

  • 33d: Mythological river of the underworld (STYX).

  • 45d: Full of vigor (LUSTY).

  • 47d: Czar whose reign ended in MDCCXXV (PETER I).

  • 49d: Mustard type (DIJON).

  • 52d: Jeter's crosstown rival (Jose REYES).

  • 55d: Industrial show (EXPO).

  • 63d: URL ender since 2001 (BIZ).

Suns of Bitches:
A few answers that I needed the crossings to get.

  • 66a: WWII correspondent ___ Robb (INEZ).

  • 3d: Soccer star Lalas (ALEXI).

  • 56d: ___ doble (ballroom dance) (PASO).

Overall, a nice Monday puzzle.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

Title: Weekend Warrior
Author: Karen M. Tracey
Theme: None

We know what to expect when we see Karen M. Tracey's name on a Weekend Warrior. Lots of sparkling fill, tough names, and a challenging puzzle. Let's see how it went.

Sunny Spots:

  • 21a: George Harrison autobiography (I ME MINE). I'm a sucker for anything Beatles.

  • 48a: Rocinante rider (QUIXOTE). Don Quixote's horse. I didn't know this, but once I had the Q it was an easy guess. And QUIXOTE is a great fill.

  • 50a: Portrayer of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (TIM CURRY). Love it. I would have loved to be at the meeting where they first pitched the script to him. I've posted a link to this video before (June 19 - Doug Peterson), when the answer was RIFFRAFF, but I'll include it here as well.

  • 5d: Raptors' rivals (CELTICS). That's the NBA WORLD CHAMPION CELTICS, to you.

  • 20d: 1992 #1 hit for Right Said Fred (I'M TOO SEXY). This is my favorite entry in the puzzle. Talk about one-hit wonders.


  • 1a: It begins "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" (REBECCA). By Daphne du Maurier.

  • 8a: Hurly-burly (TEMPEST). There are a lot of great synonyms for this: kerfuffle and foofaraw are two of my favorites.

  • 15a: Heath family members (AZALEAS). I knew I was looking for a plant; that was enough.

  • 16a: On a par with (EQUAL TO).

  • 17a: A French letter might have one (CEDILLA). (ç)

  • 18a: Not as practiced (RUSTIER).

  • 19a: 1974 Mocedades hit (ERES TU). This was just in yesterday's Times puzzle.

  • 20a: One end of St. George's Channel (IRISH SEA).

  • 23a: Letters for a Clarence House resident (HRH). Clarence House is the British royal home.

  • 30a: Dogs' resting spot? (FOOTSTOOL). Why the question mark? What am I missing here?

  • 32a: Topsy's creator (STOWE). From "Uncle Tom's Cabin".

  • 35a: Singer of the Oscar-nominated song "May It Be" (ENYA). I think she's won all the Oscars for song. My resource for this claim is crossword puzzles. Actually, maybe ELTON JOHN won one.

  • 36a: "Cheers!" alternative (SKOAL).

  • 41a: Descendant of Jacob (ISRAELITE). Nice, vowelly word.

  • 45a: Vain sorts (EGOTISTS). This has been showing up more frequently than I would expect, given its length.

  • 59a: Bank problem (EROSION). River bank, not savings bank.

  • 62a: Canaries, e.g. (ISLANDS).

  • 6d: Peace pipes (CALUMETS). It took a bit to remember the middle vowel, but I've definitely seen this before.

  • 9d: Morgan, for one (EQUINE).

  • 10d: Billi-bi ingredient (MUSSELS). I have never heard of billi-bi, which is a soup made from mussel stock and cream. Still, there weren't many words that could fit here. And, it sounds good; now I'm going to have to find some to try.

  • 12d: Inventor who gave skyscrapers a boost (ELISHA OTIS). I knew the Otis part immediately, but couldn't remember the first name of this elevator brake inventor. My first instinct was Jeremiah, but it didn't fit. At least I was on the biblical track.

  • 22d: Mushroom popular in Asian cuisine (ENOKI). I spelled this ENAKI originally, confusing it with SHIITAKE.

  • 26d: Virginia McKenna movie role of 1966 (JOY ADAMSON). From "Born Free". It's nice to see a reference to this film that's not ELSA.

  • 27d: Breakout producer (ATARI). Breakout is like solitaire pong.

  • 29d: Russian import, briefly (STOLI). Short for Stolichnaya, the vodka.

  • 31d: Key name (LARGO). Brings to mind the Beach Boys song "Kokomo". Here's a version you may not remember.

  • 37d: Vientiane natives (LAOTIANS). I got this right away, but you gotta admit it's a weird-looking word.

  • 47d: Part of Wonder Woman's getup (TIARA).

  • 53d: Last name in do-it-yourself home improvement (VILA). Of the original "This Old House".

  • 55d: Lille's department (NORD). Well, I know it's French for "north", so I guess it makes sense that it's the name of a department.

Suns of Bitches:

There were several answers in this puzzle that I didn't know, but it still filled in surprisingly quickly for me, with the northeast corner the last to fall. Alas, I had an error in the southwest at the crossing of 61a: Ornamental flower (LANTANA) and 49d: "Cat People" woman (IRENA). I didn't know either, and guessed LANTANE/IRENE. This deserves the "guess-the-vowel" tag.

Others that I did not know, but that fell without to much hurly-burly:

  • 28a: Tiffany jewelry designer Peretti (ELSA).

  • 38a: ___ Mesa (San Diego border crossing) (OTAY). If this had been a Buckwheat clue, I'd have gotten it easily.

  • 58a: Algonquian spirit (MANITOU).

  • 2d: "On Eagles' Wings" author Weizman (EZER).

  • 4d: Endymion's kingdom, in Greek myth (ELIS). I have no idea what this clue is about. I guess ELIS is a mythical kingdom. I'm not totally oblivious to Greek mythology, but I've never heard of it.

  • 8d: Clark of country music (TERRI). The only Clark that came to mind was PETULA, and that didn't fit. I know very little about country music, and nothing about recent country music.

  • 14d: Simchat ___ (Shemini Atzereth follower) (TORAH). I didn't even know what we were looking for here, except that it was probably a Jewish word. From Wikipedia:
    On the Hebrew calendar, the holiday of Sukkot in the autumn (mid to late October) is immediately followed by the holiday of Shemini Atzeret. In Orthodox and Conservative communities outside Israel, Shemini Atzeret is a two-day holiday and the Simchat Torah festivities are observed on the second day. The first day is referred to as "Shemini Atzeret" and the second day as "Simchat Torah," although both days are officially Shemini Atzeret according to Halakha, and this is reflected in the liturgy.

    In Israel and in Reform congregations both in Israel and the Diaspora, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated on the same day.

Overall, this is the kind of Weekend Warrior I like. Plenty of great, evocative fill; plenty of tough answers, but mostly discernable from crossings. My only complaint is the LANTANA/IRENA cross, which I found to be a little nasty.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Title: Here Comes the Sun
Author: Patrick Blindauer
Theme: Hidden image of the sun, revealed by shading all occurrences of the letter I, as indicated by the theme hint entry:
  • 38a: Advice during a solar eclipse (and a homophonic hint to uncovering this puzzle's secret image) (SHADE YOUR EYES).

This is the kind of clever theme we've come to expect from Patrick Blindauer. Well-executed, with 32 "I"s forming the sun and its rays.

Sunny Spots:

Here's the unfortunate downside of this type of theme. All those "I"s make the fill difficult. As a result, there really are no stand-out entries in my mind. Don't get me wrong, the fill isn't bad at all; there just aren't any real marquee (look Joon, I spelled it right this time) entries.


  • 1a: Has an online chat with, perhaps (IMS). Instant Messages.

  • 4a: Name before Reagan in "We Didn't Start the Fire" (BEGIN). Not my favorite Billy Joel song, but not hard to figure out with a couple of crossings.

  • 9a: "Pardon me," in Italy (SCUSI).

  • 14a: Marcel Marceau character (BIP). I know this from crosswords. Nice tie-back to Tuesday's MIME fill.

  • 16a: Sensational (LURID). Lurid is a great word. Love it.

  • 17a: Puzzling (ENIGMATIC).

  • 19a: Bush appointee to the Supreme Court (ALITO), which balances (politically) 44a: Hastert's successor as Speaker of the House (PELOSI).

  • 21a: Japanese floor covering (TATAMI). The first of a set of Japanese clues, including 42a: Japanese version of chess (SHOGI), and 52a: Japanese beer (KIRIN).

  • 23a: Ending of many crossword clues for pluralized names (ET AL). Which goes along with 68a: Clarifying Latin phrase (ID EST).

  • 24a: Offed (DID IN).

  • 25a: Soft ball brand (NERF).

  • 29a: Pizza topping (SALAMI). Salami is not a common pizza topping around here. Pepperoni, meatball/hamburg, sausage, and ham are pretty much the pizza meats.

  • 31a: Lake that feeds the Mississippi (ITASCA).

  • 33a: Suggest (IMPLY). This one pairs nicely with 46a: Surmises (INFERS), as many people mistaken use them interchangeably.

  • 37a: Soul singer Thomas and food writer Rombauer (IRMAS).

  • 51a: Arabian Sea gulf (ADEN).

  • 56a: Character killed by Tess in "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" (ALEC).

  • 57a: Maverick's rival in "Top Gun" (ICEMAN). As you might expect, I'm a fan of "Top Gun". If you don't know why, go watch the movie again. I think you'll figure it out.

  • 59a: Element #41 is named after her (NIOBE). I couldn't tell you anything about niobium, but I've heard of it. So have you if you've heard this Tom Lehrer song:

  • 63a: It might be sticky (SITUATION). Very nice clue.

  • 1d: Wild goats of Eurasia (IBEXES).

  • 3d: Back drops? (SPINAL). I assume this is referring to a spinal as in anesthesia. I'm not sure I'm crazy about this one.

  • 4d: The Tide (BAMA). We just saw Bama in reference to Joe Namath, so this should have been fresh in your minds.

  • 6d: "Growing Up ___" (reality show) (GOTTI). I wanted BRADY here. There was such a show, wasn't there? Or was it a book?

  • 7d: Troy story (ILIAD).

  • 8d: Prefix meaning "night" (NOCTI). My problem with prefixes is I never know what vowel they're going to end with. NOCTA, NOCTU, NOCTI, NOCTO - they all seem equally plausible. In fact, it seems to me that NOCT- is really the prefix.

  • 10d: The ___ Institute of America (school in Hyde Park, New York) (CULINARY). Didn't know it off the top, but easy enough to figure.

  • 11d: Canton whose capital is Altdorf (URI). I had an inkling that this was the answer immediately, so I must have seen this before in other puzzles.

  • 18d: Arizona river (GILA).

  • 22d: Boy in "The Phantom Menace" (ANI). Short for Anakin (Skywalker).

  • 24d: Thin mint product? (DIME). Cute clue.

  • 26d: Salinger dedicatee (ESME). Classic crossword fill.

  • 32d: Marketing connection (TIE IN).

  • 35d: Myrna of "The Best Years of Our Lives" (LOY).

  • 36d: Ingrid's "Anastasia" costar (YUL). Once I had the leading Y, not much else fit.

  • 40d: Torments (AGONIZES). This is one of those weird words, in that it can refer to the act of tormenting or (more commonly) of being tormented.

  • 41d: Tlaloc's domain, to the Aztecs (RAIN). This boils down to "name some domain that would be attributed to a God".

  • 42d: Where you might get steamed (SPA). Cute.

  • 45d: Cold War prez (IKE).

  • 47d: Tout à ___ (entirely, in French) (FAIT).

  • 48d: The E of S.E. Hinton (ELOISE).

  • 49d: Put back into hot water (REBOIL). I'm not crazy about RE- words, but at least you can boil something more than once (as opposed to, say, RECOOK).

  • 50d: Act starter (SCENE I).

  • 54d: "A Simple Plan" director Sam (RAIMI).

  • 55d: "Leap ahead" sloganeer (INTEL).

  • 64d: Link letters? (URL). As in an internet link. Nice clue.

Suns of Bitches:

There were a few names I didn't know in this one, including:
  • 15a: "Dancing With the Stars" champ ___ Anton Ohno (APOLO).

  • 20a: City near Dayton (XENIA).

  • 2d: Former Secretary of Transportation Norman (MINETA).

  • But the killer crossing for me was the M shared by43a: Massacre site in Vietnam (MY LAI) and 34d: Arthur Gordon ___ (title character in a Poe novel) (PYM). I just couldn't come up with a letter that looked right in both directions.

All in all, not bad for a Thursday. Cool theme after the fact (i.e., it didn't help at all during the solve) that put a bit of strain on the fill, but well-constructed overall, with few real duds and one sticky square for me.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Title: Silly Songs
Author: Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke
Theme: Songs with gibberish names.

Alright, I'm too lazy to go research the correct punctuations on these songs, so I'm just going to insert hyphens between the syllables. If this is incorrect and it offends you, well, comment away -- I'm not losing any sleep over it.
  • 17a: With 62-Across, "silly" Police song (DE-DO-DO-DO / DE-DA-DA-DA).

  • 27a: "Silly" Iron Butterfly song (IN-A-GADDA-DA-VIDA). The story is that this song was originally to be titled "In the Garden of Eden", but was misheard by one of the bandmates (alcohol may or may not been a factor here, depending on which story you believe), who wrote it down phonetically. Either way, the new name stuck.

  • 36a: "Silly" Manfred Mann song (DO-WAH-DIDDY-DIDDY). There's a local Boston band, "The Fools", that's been around since the 70s that does a version of this song. Here's a video of it. They still tour locally, and while they are certainly older, they are still quite the fun, talented rock band.

  • 44a: "Silly" vaudeville song (TA-RA-RA-BOOM-DE-AY). I think I only know this because it was parodied so often when I was young. Probably at about the same age as "Jingle Bells, Batman smells...".

This is an interesting mix of songs, all of which I was able to nail without a single crossing once I got the first part of the Police tune. It also made me think of another silly song; unfortunately, its title, "Swinging the Alphabet" (which I never knew until today) isn't as silly as the song itself, so it wouldn't have fit the theme. But here it is, anyway. 99% guaranteed to make you smile. And, if you want a really off-beat parody, check out this bit from "The Forbidden Planet" (LANGUAGE WARNING).

Sunny Spots:

  • 14a: Shortstop Luis with nine Gold Gloves (APARICIO). He finished his playing career with the Red Sox in the early 70s, and he's definitely on my "Top 100 Coolest Sounding Names in Sports" list. Well, okay, I don't actually have such a list compiled, but if I did he'd be on it. So would Julio Lugo and Esteban Loaiza.

  • 59a: Oyster hoister's hangout? (RAW BAR). This brings back memories. Before kids, my wife and I used to go out after work to a place that had music interspersed with trivia. Periodically, they'd throw out a "raw bar" question (i.e. the first correct answer got a free raw bar entry). Once, the question was "According to [I don't remember the source], the average sexual encounter burns the equivalent calories of walking up how many flights of stairs?" Guesses were being shouted in rapid succession -- "2, 3, 7, 5, ..." -- when a girl's voice in the back screamed "100!". As if on cue, about five guys turned around and in unison shouted "What's your number?" Fun times.


  • 5a: Tupolev Tu-144, e.g. (SST). Way to make a common entry obscure.

  • 8a: Knocks the socks off (AMAZES).

  • 18a: Rotund cartoon cat (STIMPY). Stimpy still doesn't the crossword ink that buddy Ren gets, but he's starting to make some headway.

  • 19a: Executioner's item (AXE). Needed this cross to decide between APEX and ACME for 2d: Tippy-top.

  • 20a: Road trip expenses (TOLLS). Tolls are nothing compared to gas these days.

  • 22a: Gaelic language (MANX).

  • 23a: It lost out to "Braveheart" for Best Picture (BABE). There's something amusing about this. Both very good films, but just not two that you would tend to think of at the same time.

  • 24a: Ding Dong alternative (HOHO). Click on this picture to see the full-sized painting by artist Craig Stephens, who does a painting every day. Check it out; many are available to buy.

  • 41a: Suffix for halogens (INE). The halogens are fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, and astatine.

  • 43a: Pot heads? (LIDS). It's a bit of a stretch to call a lid a "head", but it's a cute clue.

  • 51a: 1917 Kentucky Derby winner ___ Khayyam (OMAR).

  • 54a: Big name in Scotch whisky (DEWAR). Not my Scotch of choice; I prefer the peatiness of the Islays -- Lagavulin, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Ardbeg, etc. Still, thumbs up for the reference.

  • 65a: They're full of themselves (EGOTISTS).

  • 66a: Element #8 (OXYGEN).

  • 1d: Vocal fanfare (TADA).

  • 5d: Floor-washing robot (SCOOBA). Here's a video of one in action, coincidentally featuring a song by STYX (13d: "Renegade" band).

  • Gimlet
  • 7d: Gimlet or screwdriver, e.g. (TOOL). A gimlet is a boring tool; not as in unexciting (though it may be that as well), but as in a sort of hand drill.

  • 9d: Player on a Queens bench (MET).

  • 10d: Creator of the Three Laws of Robotics (ASIMOV). A little continuation of the robot mini-theme.

  • 11d: Alcopop brand (ZIMA). Alcopop is a new one on me. But BRITNEY SPEARS didn't fit, so ZIMA was a good guess.

  • 15d: Dog collar dangler (ID TAG).

  • 23d: Broadway Joe's alma mater (BAMA). Joe Namath and Alabama.

  • 25d: Adopted last name of singer Anita Colton (it's pig Latin for what she hoped to make) (O'DAY). The pig Latin bit is over-the-top. And do we know she hoped to make "dough"? Maybe she just sings because she loves it.

  • 26d: Bunch of bananas (HAND). I think I've heard this before, though I've never heard anyone actually use the term in this context. Still, it makes good sense if you consider a banana to look like a finger.

  • 31d: ___ longlegs (DADDY). I like that this crosses Do-wah-diddy-diddy.

  • 32d: Actresses Adams and Brenneman (AMYS). I barely even noticed this clue. I couldn't put a face on either, but they sound vaguely familiar.

  • 33d: Ready for print (EDIT). Good use of ready as a verb.

  • 45d: Item in a steering wheel (AIRBAG).

  • 46d: New York county (OSWEGO). Need a few crossings before this became clear.

  • 47d: One of the Sopranos (MEADOW). I don't watch the show, but it sounds enough like a name and the crossings were easy.

  • 48d: Remove certain vermin from (DERAT). So, if you finished constructing this puzzle and decided DERAT had to go, would you DEDERAT the grid? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • 51d: It can be twisted (OREO). Nice clue for a common word.

  • 52d: Proponent of a classless society (MARX). Karl, not Groucho.

  • 55d: "Escape to Chimp ___" (Animal Planet show) (EDEN). I've seen this show once or twice. Nicely current reference for a common fill.

  • 57d: 1999 Matthew McConaughey movie (ED TV).

Suns of Bitches:

  • 27d: Massey of "Love Happy" (ILONA). I've probably seen this before, but it's not a name I remember. The film stars the Marx Brothers, and also features Marilyn Monroe.

I enjoyed this puzzle. To me, it felt a touch easier than yesterday's, and no where near as scrabbly, but I liked the theme answers and a good bit of the fill. That's pretty much what I want in a Wednesday puzzle.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Title: A and Q from A to Z
Author: Derek Bowman
Theme: Pangrammatic (uses all letters) "Jeopardy!" ad slogan.

So, the "A and Q" means answers and questions, which is the format of "Jeopardy!", and the "from A to Z" refers to the pangrammatic aspect of the phrase.
  • 20a: With 37- and 53-Across, a pangrammatic promotional phrase (WATCH JEOPARDY / ALEX TREBEK'S / FUN TV QUIZ GAME).

I like the pangram theme here. It's cool that someone noticed that this was a pangram. Certainly JEOPARDY, ALEX TREBEK, and TV QUIZ take care of most of the hard letters.

Sunny Spots:

Some nice fill here, especially for a Tuesday, with some cool letter combinations and scrabbly fill.

  • 9a: Unrewarding position (MCJOB). I always like this one. So current and descriptive, and has that great MCJ letter combo.

  • 39a: Green liqueur flavored with wormwood (ABSINTHE). True absinthe, with wormwood, is still illegal in the United States; however, some companies are filtering out the banned chemical, Thujone, that comes from the wormwood, and selling the resulting product.

  • 44a: Chris Noth's role in "Sex and the City" (MR BIG). I never watched the show, but I still like the fill.

  • 5d: George mag cofounder (JFK JR). Just a great letter sequence.

  • 11d: Assembles in a makeshift manner (JURYRIGS). Very good.

  • 36d: "Master of the House" musical, familiarly (LES MIZ).

  • 55d: Rapper who was in "She Hate Me" (Q-TIP). I don't care for rap, and I don't recall ever hearing this song, but I like the fill. Would have prefered a simpler clue like "Swab".


  • 1a: Bloomie's rival (SAKS). I'm assuming this is Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue.

  • 15a: Criticism (FLAK). Great word.

  • 18a: With 28-Down, Elton John's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" singing partner (KIKI / DEE). I remember this one well. It brings back memories of junior high school and listening the Casey Kasem's Top 40 count down. Here it is.

  • 24a: West ender? (ERN). Cryptic suffix.

  • 26a: Phat (RAD). Peachy.

  • 32a: Be in harmony (JIBE). Many people mistakenly say "jive" when they mean "jibe". One of my pet peeves.

  • 35a: Last part of many a novel (EPILOGUE).

  • 42a: 1987 Suzanne Vega hit (LUKA). Sad song about child abuse. If you've forgotten it, here it is.

  • 49a: "Shameless" singer DiFranco (ANI).

  • 52a: Kiwi's relative (EMU). Australian birds.

  • 57a: Dog on "The Jetsons" (ASTRO). Love "The Jetsons". Great clue.

  • 61a: Lose one's balance? (SPEND). Cute clue.

  • 63a: Omphaloskepsis impediment? (LINT). Okay, omphaloskepsis is the contemplation of one's navel. This happens enough that we need a word for it? I've got to believe this is a Peter Gordon clue.

  • 66a: Finders' keepers? (FEES). As in finders' fees. Cute.

  • 1d: Like distorted data (SKEWED).

  • 3d: Harvey of "Reservoir Dogs" (KEITEL). Not my favorite Tarantino film. I much prefer "Pulp Fiction".

  • 6d: 1979 Sigourney Weaver thriller (ALIEN). Fun film.

  • 7d: Blue-and-white shark (MAKO).

  • 8d: Do double Dutch, e.g. (SKIP ROPE).

  • 9d: Shrek voicer (Mike MYERS).

  • 22d: Wings it (AD LIBS).

  • 27d: ___ Ghraib (Iraq prison) (ABU). Very topical.

  • 30d: Actress Shire of "Rocky" (TALIA).

  • 31d: 1994 Peace co-Nobelist Shimon (PERES).

  • 32d: Canasta card (JOKER). I never played canasta, but it was still pretty easy.

  • 37d: Inquire about (ASK AFTER). Sounds a bit old-fashioned to me, but not hard.

  • 39d: It flows in bars (ALE). It shows up often, but it's beer, so we like it.

  • 45d: Skullcap with a propeller (BEANIE). Oh, this brings back memories of Quisp cereal.

  • 50d: San Francisco's ___ Vista Park (BUENA).

  • 51d: Performers in black-and-white striped shirts (MIMES).

  • 56d: Sport in which you try to beat your opponent using clubs? (GOLF). Funny clue. Excellent.

Suns of Bitches:

Surprising, none for me. All the names were well within my wheelhouse, and/or really easy to figure out.

I have to say, I really liked this puzzle a lot. Cool theme phrase and chock full of scrabbly letters, with 4 Js and 7 Ks, and some really cool words. Even the short fills popped with words like KIKI, FLAK, MAKO, LUKA, Q-TIP and JIBE. Very, very nice. Keep up the good work, Derek Bowman.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

Title: Ending Up in Europe
Author: Peter A. Collins
Theme: Phrases that end in European cities
  • 18a: John Gotti's nickname, with "the" [United Kingdom] (TEFLON DON).

  • 20a: Tiffani-Amber of "Beverly Hills 90210" [Germany] (THIESSEN). Do you realize how hard it is to find a picture of her that's actually appropriate to post? Nice to know people love you for your acting talent.

  • 61a: Trattoria apéritifs [France] (CAMPARIS). This seems a little stretchy for a Monday to me.

  • 63a: Minnesota city where the first Target store opened [Spain] (ROSEVILLE). Roseville. Minnesota. Really, we're supposed to know this?

  • 10d: Villain in "The Incredibles" [Italy] (SYNDROME). I've seen the film, but I couldn't remember the name off the top.

  • 40d: Irreligious individuals [Greece] (HEATHENS).

For the most part I like these theme entries, though I'm not convinced they're all Monday fare. Still, the theme was simple enough and the crossings were, for the most part, super-easy. So, no harm no foul, I guess.

I have to do a quick write-up today, as I'm exhausted and need to get to bed.

Sunny Spots:
  • 39a: Clint Eastwood TV series (RAWHIDE).

  • 41a: Caligula, for one (EMPEROR).

  • 7d: Explosive shell thrown by hand (GRENADE).

  • 45d: Places of prophecies (ORACLES).

I like the crossing 7s through the center of the puzzle. They're especially interesting if you consider them as phrases: RAWHIDE EMPEROR and GRENADE ORACLES. I don't know, I think Emily Jo Cureton might be getting to me.


  • 1a: Fitness regimen based on martial arts (TAE BO).

  • 6a: Taj Mahal's home (AGRA). Standard trivia fare.

  • 14a: Cartoon character Fudd (ELMER). Get that wascally wabbit!

  • 16a: The end of December (YULE).

  • 23a: Margarita glass liner (SALT). Personally, I prefer them without salt.

  • 44a: New York City divisions, informally (BOROS).

  • 48a: Project Patriot org. (DAR). Daughter's of the American Revolution.

  • 49a: Ball honoree, for short (DEB). Do debutantes still have balls, or is that a thing of the past. It certainly doesn't happen in my neck of the woods.

  • 51a: 1992 John Goodman film (THE BABE). Not to be confused with "Babe". I think John Goodman is a great and underrated actor.

  • 58a: Baking potatoes (IDAHOS).

  • 65a: Folklore monsters (OGRES). We've been seeing a lot of OGREs lately. How about some ORCS, ENTS, and ELVES to balance things out?

  • 2d: With 1-Down, early software trials (ALPHA/TESTS). As a software engineer, I appreciate these entries.

  • 3d: Letter that might include an emoticon (EMAIL).

  • 4d: Tête toppers (BERETS).

  • 5d: Bauxite and cinnabar, e.g. (ORES).

  • 8d: WWII fliers (RAF). Royal Air Force.

  • 9d: Tips of shoelaces (AGLETS). Another common vocabulary trivia.

  • 21d: Word with green or house (SALAD).

  • 25d: Puzzling problem (POSER). I like the word POSER, even though it kind of sounds made up.

  • 30d: "Doctor Zhivago" heroine (LARA).

  • 31d: Activewear brand (IZOD).

  • 32d: In-group outcast (NERD). Yeah, but what if nerds are the in-group? I don't actually like the word "outcast" here. Nerds are not necessarily outcasts. It depends on how shallow the "in crowd" happens to be.

  • 35d: Fly-by-nighters? (OWLS). Cute clue.

  • 37d: Skewered dish (KEBAB). One of several possible spellings for this word.

  • 50d: Snoopy's breed (BEAGLE).

  • 52d: ___ lane (where carpoolers drive) (HOV). High-occupancy vehicles.

  • 53d: Boxers Max and Buddy (BAERS).

  • 55d: Product whose business is in the pits? (ARRID). Okay, that's clever, though not particularly appealing.

  • 58d: 1963 movie role for Shirley (IRMA La Douce).

  • 59d: Make dead meat (DOOM). Couldn't get a first-person-shooter video game clue here, huh?

  • 62d: Magic show sound (POOF). You gotta love POOF. If I had a list of favorite onomatopoeic words, POOF would definitely be on it.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 26a: "Magic Tree House" book series illustrator Murdocca (SAL). Didn't know this one.

  • 29a: Six-time Pro Bowl center Kreutz (OLIN). I suppose I should know this, but somehow, I don't recall ever hearing the name.

  • 57d: Jumeirah ___ House (hotel on Central Park South) (ESSEX). Reasonable guess after a few crossings.

Overall, a decent Monday, with more-difficult-than-usual theme entries balanced by generally really easy fill.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Title: Would You Believe?
Author: Joe Bower
Theme: "Get Smart" good guys.
  • 19a: Sassy (SMART-MOUTHED).

  • Agent 99
  • 24a: #2 hit of January 1984 (99 LUFTBALLONS). Love this song by Nena, which I've blogged before when NENA was the fill.

  • 44a: They preside over presidential impeachment trials (CHIEF JUSTICES).

  • 49a: Micromanager, for example (CONTROL FREAK).

Ok, first the positives: I loved "Get Smart" and I love that it was made into a theme. My first thought when I saw the title was "Get Smart", but I wasn't convinced that it would actually be the theme (it's true, ask PuzzleGirl, who's currently guest-blogging over at Amy Reynaldo's place). But having said that, I feel less than fulfilled by the theme entries. First of all, three of the entries are characters and one is the organization they work for (CONTROL). I suppose this is okay if you treat the final entry as the tie-together for the first three. But what bothers me most is the SMART entry. Agent 99 is called "99" and the chief is called "Chief". But Maxwell Smart is called "Max" or "Maxwell" (or "86"), not "Smart". I find that this annoys me, perhaps more than it should. MAXWELL HOUSE is 12 letters; what's wrong with that? Good to the last drop.

Sunny Spots:

    First the beer clues:

    Yard of Ale
  • 8d: Heineken beer brand (AMSTEL). Props for the beer clue, but deductions for picking a crappy one.

  • 17d: Beer bash leftovers (EMPTIES).

  • 37d: It might be sold by the yard (ALE).

  • Then the sexy lingerie clues:

  • 14a: Maxim rival (FHM). Comedian Ron White said, "Guys, you can back me up on this. You've seen one woman naked... you want to see the rest of them naked." That about sums it up. Is there another reason men buy these magazines?

  • 34a: Like some bras (PUSH-UP).

  • And a couple of other entries of note:

    Sego Lily
  • 1a: Lilies of the Valley of the Sun (SEGOS). This was a cool clue that I had a hard time parsing at first. Of course, once I got the answer it made complete sense, and that's the hallmark of a great clue.

  • 16a: Brooks's costar in "Finding Nemo" (Ellen DEGENERES). Nice to see her last name in a puzzle for a change.


  • 6a: One-time go-between (AT A). As in "one AT A time". Cute.

  • 9a: Powerball relative (KENO).

  • 13a: Three-time A.L. batting champ Tony (OLIVA). I guessed GWYNN at first, which threw me off for a while.

  • 21a: Genre associated with turntablism (RAP). "I got two turntables and a microphone..." - Beck

  • 22a: Gobs and gobs? (SEAMEN). I'd like to assume there's no intentional double-entendre here, because if there is then it's way over the proverbial line.

  • 28a: "Breaking News" novelist (Robert MACNEIL). Of the "MacNeil/Lehrer Report".

  • 30a: L squared (MMD). 50 x 50 = 2500

  • 41a: Ashley of "High School Musical" (TISDALE).

  • 47a: Rupture (HERNIA). Ouch.

  • 56a: Test type (TRUE/FALSE).

  • 57a: Word with drug or energy (CZAR). Not as common a spelling as TSAR, but still shows up with fair regularity, especially in late-week puzzles.

  • 58a: Budget add-on? (EER). Cryptic suffix.

  • 59a: Free from errors (EMEND). Nice use of free as a verb.

  • 1d: Puts some green on? (SODS). My grandfather and great uncles used to run a sod farm in New Hampshire. It was mostly for golf courses, but at the time they also grew sod for Fenway Park, which is pretty cool.

  • 2d: No, for one (ELEM). Nobelium, a rare-earth metal.

  • 3d: Prefix with byte or watt (GIGA). Could also have been KILO or MEGA.

  • 5d: Hyundai SUV (SANTA FE). This is an especially tough fill if you're working backwards, as I often do. I had ___TAFE, and was drawing a complete blank.

  • 6d: Natural (AFRO). Imus would call it "nappy". I was not familiar with the term "natural" in this context.

  • 7d: Home to hundreds of millions (THE USA).

  • 9d: Time magazine called her "a first responder in the advance guard of style" (KATE MOSS).

  • 11d: Bid, maybe (NOD). If an auctioneer is locked into you, you can bid with the very slightest of motions. It can be a pretty thrilling experience.

  • 24d: Common caliber (9 MM).

  • 25d: Punching-in time, for many (9 AM).

  • 27d: Plain-Jane (BLAH).

  • 32d: Danseuse's wear (TUTU). Also, Archbishop Desmond.

  • 33d: Letter (EPISTLE).

  • 34d: Shells propelled by two rowers (PAIR OARS). This is not a term I'm familiar with. Makes sense, but sounds a little funky.

  • 36d: Body bag? (SAC). Kind of a sick clue.

  • 40d: ___ soup (Charleston dish) (SHE CRAB). Called such because of the addition of crab roe (eggs).

  • 43d: 3-D display (DIORAMA).

  • 45d: Not flat, in a way (FITTED). Referring, I assume, to sheets.

  • 55d: Arm of Israel (UZI). Cute clue for a common fill.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 29a: Bugsy's wife in "Bugsy" (ESTA).

  • 50d: Brest bear (OURS). I studied several years of French (granted, quite some time ago), and I don't remember this word. It strikes me as intentionally obscure.

  • 52d: "The Bookseller of Kabul" author Seierstad (ASNE). I don't recall seeing this one before. It's the #162,035th best selling book on Amazon, which happens to be over 20,000 places behind Amy Reynaldo's "How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle: Tips, Tricks and Techniques to Master America's Favorite Puzzle", which you should buy even if you like the Sun puzzle better.

All in all, despite my complaints about the theme, I found this to be a decent and challenging puzzle. Actually, it was quite hard in spots, which is what I expect from a Friday puzzle, but without any noticeably unfair crossings. Nice job.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Title: Themeless Thursday
Author: Doug Peterson
Theme: None

Sunny Spots:

  • 1a: Indication of a bun in the oven? (BABY BUMP). I really like this entry a lot. Very nice 1a fill.

  • 17a: Coffeehouse dunkables (BISCOTTI). This has the double bonus of being a cool word and a tasty food.

  • 35a: Telecommuting reduces it (CARBON FOOTPRINT). I'm in quandary. I drive about 65 miles each way to work in a Honda CRV. It's mostly highway, but it's quite hilly, and I normally average around 25 or 26 miles to the gallon with cruise control set around 72 mph. Yesterday, as an experiment, I drove as passively as I could, trying to maximum fuel efficiency. I was able to average over 33 mpg round trip, at an average speed of about 60 mph (slower up hills). So I can improve my fuel efficiency better than 25%, but at the cost of adding 20% to my time, which is about 40 minutes a day. Is it worth it? Hmmm...

  • 8d: Brown Bears' adversaries (PRINCETON TIGERS). It's not the (some college) Brown Bears, it's the Brown (University) Bears. Nice clue!

  • 25d: "What would your mother say?!" (SHAME SHAME). Very good.

  • 44d: She accompanied Ferris on his day off (SLOANE).


  • 9a: Razzie Award winners (WORSTS).

  • 15a: Part of M.E. (EXAMINER). Gumme for anyone who reads or watches crime dramas or murder mysteries.

  • 16a: First name in the second group of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees (ARETHA). Not group as in musical group; group as in collection of inductees. In other words, she was inducted during the second year of inductions.

  • 18a: Scaled-down racer (GO CART). For some reason, I wanted to spell CART with a K.

  • 23a: City on the Black Warrior River (TUSCALOOSA).

  • 25a: Sticky treat (SMORE).

  • 28a: Battle of the Bulge arena: Abbr. (ETO). European Theater of Operations. This shows up with a fair amount of frequency, so remember it. Not to be confused with EDO, which is an old name for Tokyo.

  • 29a: Comic book sidekick with a chauffeur's cap (KATO). We just saw KATO in a puzzle recently, so this was easier than it might have been.

  • 31a: Ventriloquist Lewis (SHARI).

  • 34a: Kids' hangout (LEA). Kids as in baby goats.

  • 38a: Ivan directed her in "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" (UMA Thurman). Has anyone seen this film? I thought the previews looked kind of amusing, in a leave-your-brain-at-the-door, campy way, but I've heard it was pretty bad. Anyone care to offer a review?

  • 40a: Borscht Belt outburst (OY VEY). The Borscht Belt, according to Wikipedia, is an area of the Catskills where New York jews go for vacation. It feels like a vaguely pejorative term to me; is it?

  • 41a: Dangerous street drug (METH). Just SAY NO (39a: Refuse). Back in the 80s when Nancy Reagan started her "Just say no" crusade, there was a comedian we saw who jumped all over it, saying, "She has a plan to stop homelessness, too. It's called 'Just get a house!'". Still makes me laugh.

  • 45a: Their outcomes are never in doubt (SHOW TRIALS).

  • 49a: Syrup brand (EGGO). I'm familiar with the frozen waffles. Didn't realize they had a syrup, too.

  • 50a: Chiromancer's reading material (PALM).

  • 54a: Oil low in erucic acid (CANOLA). Erucic. Now, there's a weird-looking word.

  • 58a: Code broken by squealers (OMERTA). Mafia code.

  • 59a: Attaching a new handle to (RENAMING). Handle is getting pretty trite these days. It seems way overused in puzzles.

  • 61a: Doesn't dwell on (SEES PAST).

  • 1d: Nixon crony Rebozo (BEBE). Strangely, this one was vaguely familiar. I think I've seen it in puzzles before.

  • 2d: Botanical angle (AXIL). We've had the AXLE, AXEL, AXIL, AXL discussion here before.

  • 4d: Where "you can hang out with all the boys," according to song (YMCA). I'm not including a link to this one. I don't think it's necessary.

  • 9d: Sign of puppy love? (WAG). I started with LAP.

  • 10d: Black Bears' town (ORONO). University of Maine.

  • 11d: Nuke, perhaps (RECOOK). No, no, no. You reheat things in a microwave, not recook. In order to recook something, you'd have to uncook it first, which, as far as I know, is impossible. It's either cooked or it's not.

  • 12d: Isn't eliminated (STAYS ALIVE). Unlike, say, the Los Angeles Lakers, who are quite eliminated.

  • 21d: Needlework design? (TATTOO). Cute clue.

  • 24d: Kidd stuff (LOOT).

  • 26d: One who can keep on running after hitting the wall (MARATHONER).

  • Orrery
  • 27d: Orrery element (ORB). It's one of those things that shows how the planets revolve.

  • 30d: Like muesli (OATY). OATY is kind of lame.

  • 31d: Riffraff (SCUM). Riffraff is a great word. Also a side character in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". Man, I love Tim Curry, but he truly has no shame.

  • 36d: Pro-Lincoln cartoonist (NAST).

  • 48d: Galwegian, e.g. (SCOT). From Galway.

  • 50d: Grill (PUMP). As in, for information.

  • 57d: Estonian Air partner (SAS). Almost as frequent as EL AL, but not quite.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 19a: Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover model Benitez (ELSA). Swimsuit models have names?

  • 22a: "The Loom of Years" poet (NOYES). I was not at all familiar with this one. Here's an excerpt from the poem:

  • The leaves of the winter wither and sink in the forest mould 
    To colour the flowers of April with purple and white and gold:
    Light and scent and music die and are born again
    In the heart of a grey-haired woman who wakes in a world of pain.

    The hound, the fawn, and the hawk, and the doves that croon and coo,
    We are all one woof of the weaving and the one warp threads us through,
    One flying cloud on the shuttle that carries our hopes and fears
    As it goes thro’ the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years

  • 32a: '40s Nobelists Hahn and Stern (OTTOS).

  • 60a: Oscar winner Wright (TERESA). She won Best Supporting Actress in 1943, for her role in "Mrs. Miniver".

  • 42d: French painter Daumier (HONORÉ). I half-recognized this after I filled it in.

All in all, I liked this puzzle. Fairly challenging, but nothing so tough that it couldn't be figured out. The SE was the last section to fall for me, but that doesn't mean it went down in order, because it didn't. Of course, I was watching the Celtics and "Hell's Kitchen" as I was doing it, but still, it took some thought to break open a couple of sections. Nice job.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Title: Atom
Author: Alan Olschwang
Theme: The entire puzzle uses only the letters from the first half of the alphabet: A-to-M.

I'll be honest. I finished this puzzle and stared at the long answers trying to figure out the theme. Then I looked at the title and back at the long answers again. Nothing. I wrote an email to fellow blogger Amy Reynaldo to see if she had figured it out. Just before hitting the "Send" button, I tried one more time... what could the title possibly mean? Then I saw it... A to M. Looked back at the puzzle. Sure enough, the whole puzzle (not just the long answers) used those letters. Hunh.

Okay, so here's the deal. Yes, it's cool that you can construct a puzzle using only half the alphabet (albeit, the easier half), but if it's that hard to realize what's going on, is it worth it? I did a puzzle for the LA Times last year (7/6/07) that featured phrases with the E dropped out. I went out of my way to fill the remaining grid without using the letter E, and no one really noticed until it was pointed out. Was it worth it? Well, it sold a puzzle, so it was worth it to me. I don't think the solvers much cared. The fact is, today's theme adds zero enjoyment to the solving of the puzzle. There's no humor or wordplay involved at all. In fact, it's essentially a themeless, only with a J and a few Ks to show for it.

Okay, enough about the theme. Let's check out the entries.

Sunny Spots:

  • 1a: Boxer LaMotta (JAKE). Subject of the film "Raging Bull", for which Robert DeNiro won an Oscar. It was also nominated for Best Picture and Director (Scorsese), but lost out on both counts to "Ordinary People" (Redford), which I don't disagree with. I own the DVD and love DeNiro as an actor, but frankly I find this movie hard to watch more than once. As opposed to, say, "Taxi Driver", which I can watch over and over. Or "Sixteen Candles", which also prominently features a guy named Jake.

  • 66a: Manicurist in Palmolive ads who said "You're soaking in it" (MADGE). This one's right in my wheelhouse; I've probably seen these commercials a thousand times growing up.

  • 19a: Prisoner of Jabba the Hutt (LEIA). I'm a sucker for Star Wars references.

  • 28d: ___ Sutra (KAMA). It's like the Hite Report of 4th century India.

  • 5a: "Cherchez la ___" (FEMME). This is not an era of music I particularly want to remember. I forced myself to go listen to it, so you should too. Suffering is always best shared among friends.

  • 10a: Hall of Fame baseball manager Connie (MACK).

  • 14a: It has two lameds in its name (EL AL). Are there any other airlines out there? No? Just this one? Okay.

  • 18a: Capital of France's Nord department (LILLE). Near the border of BELGium (65a: Brussels is its cap.).

  • 20a: The Golden Globe lifetime achievement award is named after him (CECIL B DEMILLE).

  • 23a: Flo's TV boss (MEL). From "Alice".

  • 36a: World Cup teammate of Akers and Foudy (Mia HAMM).

  • 40a: "Mamma Mia!" song (GIMME GIMME GIMME). Two MIAs, back-to-back. Must be intentional.

  • 43a: Zeno's home (ELEA). I think this one was on my crosswordese list before ACPT 2008, but it seems to show up just infrequently enough that I forget it since the last time.

  • 45a: With ___ aforethought (MALICE).

  • 46a: Estes was his running mate in 1956 (ADLAI).

  • 48a: Small bit (FLECK). Started with SPECK.

  • 52a: Half-___ (java order) (CAF). I figured this out easily enough, but it's not a term I'm familiar with. Is it half decaf half regular coffee?

  • 63a: Beatnik's expression of understanding (I DIG).

  • 67a: Swit costar (ALDA). From "M*A*S*H", the series.

  • 69a: Adorn with precious stones (BEGEM). I'm torn on this type of verb. On the one hand, no one uses this language these days. On the other, it's kind of cool sounding.

  • 1d: Clampett patriarch (JED). From "The Beverly Hillbillies"

  • 2d: Baldwin of "Pearl Harbor" (ALEC).

  • 6d: Unlike toadstools (EDIBLE).

  • 7d: Put one's cards on the table, maybe (MELD). I grew up playing cards, so this was a breeze.

  • 11d: Amtrak speedster (ACELA). Shows up a lot in puzzles.

  • 13d: New Zealand parrot (KEA).

  • 27d: One-named model who wrote the children's book "What Are You Hungry For?" (EMME). I only know this name from puzzles; didn't know she wrote a kid's book.

  • 30d: "La ___" (1987 Lou Diamond Phillips film) (BAMBA). Good film about Ritchie Valens, also featuring Joe Pantoliano and crossword regular Esai Morales. Here's a clip..

  • 34d: "Zounds!" (EGAD).

  • 37d/64d: Guy's female friend (AMIE/GAL). Same clue for two answers. In this case, the first Guy is the French name (rhymes with "bee"), as in La Fleur.

  • 38d: LXXXVIII x XXV (MMCC). This one looks harder than it is. 88 x 25 is 8800 x 25% = 2200.

  • 39d: Lamblike (MEEK). This requires a link to a classic scene from Monty Python's "Life of Brian".

  • 42d: Social blunder (GAFFE).

  • 46d: ATV part (ALL). All-terrain vehicle.

  • 55d: Certain foot (IAMB). This might have tripped me up if we hadn't just seen "Salute using feet?" for ODE in yesterday's puzzle.

  • 56d: Winglike parts (ALAE).

  • 58d: Oasis singer Gallagher (LIAM). I had NOEL to start. Couldn't remember which was which (or do they both sing?).

  • 59d: "___ hands are the devil's tools" (IDLE).

  • 60d: John musical (AIDA). The musical, based on Verdi's opera, by Elton John and Tim Rice.

  • 61d: Oakland Oaks' org. (ABA).

Suns of Bitches:

A real potpourri of strange names in this one. I have enough trouble with remembering common names. Still, except for one crossing they fell out pretty quickly.
  • 25a: 2005 NBA Rookie of the Year ___ Okafor (EMEKA). I'll readily admit I didn't watch much basketball in 2005.

  • 29a: 2003 Peace Nobelist Shirin ___ (EBADI).

  • 54a: Peggy Parish protagonist (AMELIA BEDELIA). This one I got completely by crossings, with a guess at the D, where it crossed ADHEM, below.

  • 10d: Director of "Au Revoir, Les Enfants" (MALLE).

  • 50d: "Speed Racer" star Hirsch (EMILE).

  • 53d: "Abou Ben ___" (Leigh Hunt poem) (ADHEM).

Overall, the fill wasn't bad. But the theme and long answers fell a little flat for me, casting a bit of a pall over the rest of the puzzle. Not one of my favorites.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.