Thursday, July 31, 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Title: Themeless Thursday
Author: Karen M. Tracey
Theme: None

Sunny Spots:

  • 1a: Historic site on the Pedernales River in Texas Hill Country (LBJ RANCH). This one took me longer to get than it should have, even with the J in place.

  • 50a: Harlequinade (BUFFOONERY). Both great words.

  • 2d: Standout success from Research in Motion (BLACKBERRY). The handheld device, not the fruit.

  • 3d: 1987 U2 album, with "The" (JOSHUA TREE). Also a National Park in California.

  • 30d: Wash enders (SPIN CYCLES). Nice fill.

  • 28d: Fall decoration (INDIAN CORN). Another good one.


  • 9a: Religious leader who emigrated to America in 1774 to avoid persecution (ANN LEE). My debut puzzle (NYS 5/16/07) had a LEE theme, and Ann was one of them. She was a Shaker.

  • 15a: Cosmetics additive (ALOE VERA).

  • 16a: University of Chicago (LOYOLA).

  • 20a: Game show host with the catchphrase "Let's do crosswords" (TY TREADWAY). I couldn't decide whether this was a Sunny Spot or an SOB, so I'm leaving it here. I've heard the name, but I couldn't come up with it until I had most of the crossings. I've only seen snippets of "Merv Griffin's Crosswords" on YouTube. Ty Treadway sounds like a stage name, but it's not.

  • 22a: Real stinkers? (SKUNKS). I would have liked a cribbage clue for this one. Wins by a street, maybe?

  • 25a: Diminish (BATE). I started with WANE, changed it to FADE, and then changed it again to SATE before I finally nailed it. That's just nasty.

  • 27a: City that once had a large Yiddish-speaking population (MINSK). This probably makes a lot more sense than MIAMI, which was my first guess from the MI-.

  • 32a: Hobbyhorse (PET PROJECT). I don't recall hearing this term for a pet project. Certainly not in conversation anyway.

  • 36a: Run things? (ERRANDS). As in, things that are run.

  • 37a: It's placed midway between the gutters (HEADPIN). Cute bowling clue here.

  • 40a: What you might ask a stranger for (DIRECTIONS). One of the few easy long answers for me.

  • 44a: Figs. in police procedurals (MES). Medical Examiners.

  • 56a: ThinkPad alternatives (IBOOKS).

  • 60a: Fuerteventura, Tenerife, Lanzarote, and others (CANARIES). Referring to the Canary Islands.

  • 61a: Worn, maybe (FRAYED). Piece of string goes into a non-string-friendly bar and orders a beer. Bartender says, "Hey, aren't you a string?" To which the string replies, "No, I'm a frayed knot."

  • 62a: Incendiary (ARSONIST).

  • 1d: 2006 Soccer Hall of Fame inductee Alexi (LALAS). I never remember this guy's name. I always know it's _A_AS, but I keep thinking HALAS, LAMAS, ... Grrrr. The across clue through the third letter (see SOB section) didn't help any.

  • 4d: It's not covered by history books (RECENT PAST).

  • 6d: Settles down (NESTS). I had RESTS to start.

  • 7d: ___-Pas (drawing medium) (CRAY). These are like oil-based crayons.

  • 8d: Isn't pressed, in a way (HAS TIME).

  • 9d: "Illegal ___" (Genesis song) (ALIEN). I have this album, "Genesis", on vinyl and I still only vaguely recall the song. Much better was "That's All" and "Taking It All Too Hard".

  • 11d: Org. with a flag of five alternating green and white stripes and a blue union with 24 white stars (NYPD). I didn't know police departments had their own flags.

  • 12d: Motion picture industry pioneer Marcus (LOEW).

  • 13d: 1969 jazz album with a cover of "Got to Get You Into My Life" (ELLA). I've seen enough clues for this album lately that I knew instinctively what it was going to be.

  • 21d: Clipped joints (ROACHES). Yet another illicit drug reference by the Sun, this one slangier than most.

  • 26d: One of a pair of brother sleuths on '80s TV (A.J. SIMON). Of "Simon and Simon", which I vaguely recall watching periodically.

  • 29d: Subject of Edmond Rostand's play "L'Aiglon" (NAPOLEON II).

  • 38d: Quintillionth: Prefix (ATTO). Yeah, okay.

  • 41d: Novel with the villainous housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (REBECCA). I never read this one, by Daphne Du Maurier, but I've heard of it.

  • 43d: Evanston neighbor (SKOKIE). Both in Illinois.

  • 48d: Mass performances (HYMNS).

  • 49d: Old-style state? (SAYST). This one's a bit of a force. SAITH, sure. SAYEST, okay. But SAYST? Ugh.

  • 50d: "Back to the Future" bully (BIFF). Couldn't remember it off the top, but it sounds familiar.

  • 51d: Ultra- (UBER). Uber is a hip prefix.

  • 52d: Public discussion assemblies (FORA). Plural of forum.

  • 53d: Mossback (FOGY). Another clue word I didn't know. Even with FO_Y, I was struggling on this one.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 17a: "A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies" author Bartolomé de ___ (LAS CASAS).

  • 24a: Island about a mile off the coast of Mull (IONA). I must have seen this in puzzles before, because I sensed the answer once I had a couple of letters. But it still seems pretty obscure to me.

  • 55a: Caesar's partner (COCA). This refers to Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, who were in "Your Show of Shows" in the early 1950s. A bit before my time.

  • 59a: Black Eyed Peas vocalist (FERGIE). Now, I'll bet a lot of people didn't realize the Duchess of York was even in a band...

  • 5d: Tanzie's sister in "Material Girls" (AVA). Not a clue. I'm assuming this was a film, right?

  • 23d: Decrease the space between, as typeset letters (KERN). I don't recall ever coming across this word before.

  • 58d: Japanese figure skater ___ Asada (MAO). Mao just doesn't sound Japanese to me. I had no clue here.

This puzzle was classic Karen M. Tracey for me, which means plenty of sizzling fill in a very tough puzzle. Between the many false-starts and the number of clues I just flat-out didn't know, this one chewed me up pretty good. Finally, a few key guesses broke it open, but even then there were several crossings that remained suspect. Overall, it played more like a Weekend Warrior for me (tougher than the last couple of WWs have been), which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Title: "Oops!"
Author: Alan Arbesfeld
Theme: Dropping "ball" from phrases to form new phrases.

  • Ballpark figure => PARK FIGURE (17a: Ranger?).

  • Ballpoint pens => POINT PENS (26a: Do masonry work on brick enclosures?). This is my least favorite of the bunch.

  • Football pools => FOOT POOLS (51a: Wading places?).

  • Pinball machine => PIN MACHINE (65a: ATM?).

  • Can you say forgiveness?
  • 41a: Making a blunder (and this puzzle's theme) (DROPPING THE BALL).

This isn't my favorite theme, but it's okay. On the plus side, it evolves from a nice helper phrase, "dropping the ball". On the minus side, three of the theme entries are adjective/noun phrases, while one oddball is a verb/noun phrase, and an awkward one at that.

Sunny Spots:

  • 60a: Hebrew toast (L'CHAIM). Great LCH letter combo, and fun to say, too.

  • 3d: Springtime prank victim (APRIL FOOL). Kind of an easy clue for such a nice fill.

  • 42d: Longstocking of kiddie lit (PIPPI). Gotta love interesting fill that ends in I.

  • 48d: Bass sound (OOM-PAH). This one took longer than it should have, as I was thinking of an actual bass, as opposed to a bass-register brass instrument (like tuba or sousaphone). But it's a nice fill.

  • 10a: "Traffic" cop (NARC). If you haven't seen the film "Traffic", it's about the illegal drug trade. Good clue.

  • 19a: Crackerjack (A-ONE). Something about this clue crossing NAACP (10d: Spingarn Medal org.) struck my funny bone.

  • 24a: Missile pact of 1972 (SALT I). Did they call this SALT I? It seems more logical that it would just be SALT, as they wouldn't necessarily have known there was going to be another. Like, you don't say "Jaws I" or "Rocky I", do you?

  • 33a: City founded by Pizarro (LIMA). Pretty obvious with a couple of crossings. Also, Brazilian supermodel Adriana.

  • 44a: Vietnam massacre site (MY LAI).

  • 47a: Favor preceder? (POR). Cute.

  • 57a: Gas brand (AMOCO). If it was 4-letters, it would have been ESSO.

  • 64a: Sighed line (AH ME), which crosses 53d: "Holy cow!" (OH, MAN). Here is your Holy cow reference. See if you can guess what it's going to be.

  • 72a: Big Brown, e.g. (HORSE). Would have loved the answer to be DOPER.

  • 73a: Private dining spot? (MESS). It's a clue I've seen before, but I still like it.

  • 4d: Moo goo gai pan pan (WOK). I've seen this clue before, too, but it doesn't hold up as well to repeat viewings.

  • 6d: Boost (LEG UP). Gives a whole other connotation to political booster.

  • 7d: Achille ___ (hijacked cruise ship) (LAURO).

  • 8d: Text scanner: Abbr. (OCR). Optical character reader.

  • 9d: Curtains (THE END).

  • 25d: Setting of Raymond James Stadium (TAMPA). My first guess after a couple of crossings was TEMPE, which was close (literally, not geographically).

  • 31d: Fleet runner: Abbr. (ADM). Admirals run (i.e., lead) a naval fleet.

  • 34d: Opening bars (INTRO). It was my first thought.

  • 38d: Big name in luggage (SAMSONITE).

  • 50d: Like "der" in Ger. (MASC).

  • 51d: "Killing Me Softly With His Song" singer (FLACK). Written about Don McLean's song, "American Pie". Here's the Fugees' version, with Lauryn Hill.

  • 52d: Colour in a landscape (OCHRE).

  • 54d: Modern workout program (TAE BO).

  • 55d: Like some eclipses (LUNAR). It had to be SOLAR or LUNAR. Mitsubishi didn't fit.

  • 56d: MVP of Super Bowl XXI (Phil SIMMS).

  • 58d: "Ten ___ a Dance" (CENTS). This is an old Rodgers and Hart tune. Here's Michelle Pfeiffer singing it in "The Fabulous Baker Boys".

  • 59d: Buck of "Hee Haw" (OWENS).

Suns of Bitches:

  • 31a: "Ararat" director Egoyan (ATOM). I did not like this clue at all. I had A_OM, crossing a song I didn't know entitled "I _RY" - 32d: "I ___" (2000 Macy Gray hit) (TRY). Well, I'm sorry, but there are several logical alternatives here. I cry. I try. I pry, maybe. And less likely, but still well within the realm of possibility for a song, I dry, I fry, or even I wry (though that one's a stretch). There are lots of fair ways to clue ATOM in this situation. This was not one of them.

  • 29d: Actor Marienthal (ELI). I guess you couldn't use Eli Manning, what with a Phil Simms clue already in the puzzle, but how about a Three Dog Night song?

Overall, this was a pretty average Wednesday for me, with several nice clues offset somewhat by a nasty crossing and a so-so theme.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Title: Bakin' Bits
Author: Tom Heilman
Theme: Substituting homophonic baking terms in familiar words or phrases
Guest Blogger: Cross-Man
  • 18a: Gluten? (FLOUR POWER) Flower Power.

  • 57a: Without having been pressed or folded? (NOT KNEADED) Not needed.

  • 3d: Like someone whose cornea is caked up? (DOUGH-EYED) Doe-eyed.

  • 32d: All there is from crust to crust? (PURE BREAD) Purebred.
A reasonable theme for a Tuesday, but one that (perhaps inevitably) requires some forcing in both the cluing and the answers. It's not as if we say "crust to crust" in normal speech, for example, and "not needed" is not a word or phrase that you would find in the dictionary. Oh, and speaking as someone who once had a ridiculously uncomfortable case of conjunctivitis, I could have done without the reference to a caked-up cornea. Blech. Call me sensitive.

Sunny Spots:
  • 36d: Park that in 1933 held the first baseball All-Star Game (COMISKEY). A true sunny spot, like all baseball fields. Given that this year's All-Star Game just went by, this is a timely clue. Unfortunately, the name went corporate back in 2003. Isn't U. S. Cellular such a charming old-fashioned name?

  • 38d: Moist, in a way (DEW-LADEN). One of the few interesting two-word phrases in this puzzle.

  • 5d: Flattery(SOFT SOAP). And here's the other one.

  • 15a: Pearl ___ (Gibson garnish) (ONION). I know martinis are somewhat popular again, but does anyone still drink Gibsons?
  • 16a: Petty of "Tank Girl" (LORI). I only remember her from "A League of Their Own".

  • 17a: Spitter's sound (PTUI). The traditional spelling, of course.

  • 20a: One way to serve potatoes (AU GRATIN). Some might say it's the only way to serve potatoes, but I like mashed as well.

  • 22a: Region of France that borders Germany and Switzerland (ALSACE). It also was held alternately by France and Germany multiple times between the 1840s and the 1940s.

  • 23a: Job (HEIST). As in the 2008 movie "The Bank Job".

  • 28a: Hit a short golf shot to be safe, with "up" (LAY). Golf? Was basketball out of town?

  • 29a: Language of Sri Lanka (TAMIL). Sri Lankan didn't fit. Neither did Ceylonese.
  • 31a: Gulled (DUPED). Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in the dictionary?

  • 35a: Nice with (AVEC). Despite having seen Nice used this way so many times, this particular use caught me off-guard for a minute.

  • 39a: Nike rival (PUMA). At least this wasn't AVIA. I had a blue suede pair of Pumas back around 1970, but I don't think I've noticed the brand much in the
    US in recent years.

  • 40a: "War and Peace" director King ___ (VIDOR). A great name, and he directed an astounding number of movies before I was born. I don't think I've ever seen a one. Not to be confused with King Baggot.
  • 42a: Threat in "Deep Impact" (COMET). The real threat was to the acting reputations of Morgan Freeman and Vanessa Redgrave. Better than Shelley Winters in "The Poseidon Adventure", I suppose.

  • 49a: Baseball stats (ASSISTS). Baseball? Was basketball out of town again?

  • 53a: Drink of beer used to wash down a shot (CHASER). I never got this concept. If the first drink needs chasing, maybe it shouldn't have gone down the hatch in the first place.

  • 54a: Disappearing acts? (ERASURES). Sure, if you use "disappear" as a transitive verb.

  • 60a: Gannon University's home (ERIE). An awfully obscure way to clue this, but I certainly am sick of "Part of HOMES".
  • 62a: Crackers (GAGA). Two other four-letter words that could have gone here: nuts and loco.

  • 64a: Luster (SHEEN). I didn't know that Martin Sheen was so priapic.

  • 2d: Caesar's censure (ET TU). For all his achievements, old Julius only seems to get this or "veni, vidi, vici" in crosswords. How about a Rubicon once in a while?

  • 6d: Not matched up? (UNLIT). I don't really hear "match up" used as a verb in this sense.
  • 7d: National park in Utah (ZION). Previously known as Mukuntuweap National Monument. Can't see why they changed the name.

  • 8d: Debtor's letters (IOU). It wasn't going to be SOL (S*** Outta Luck, in case you're wondering).

  • 9d: Filled with delight (ENRAPT). I prithee not speak this way.

  • 11d: Midwestern tribe (IOWAS). A change from OTOES, at least.

  • 12d: El ___ (Spanish painter who was born in Crete) (GRECO). The "who was born in Crete" was hardly necessary here.

  • 21d: "___ Talkin'" (Bob Dylan song) (AIN'T). Of all the great Dylan songs out there from the 1960s, I'm supposed to know one from 2006?

  • 25d: Rapper with a trademark clock necklace, informally (FLAV). Just his last name. His first name is Flavor, in case that helps.

  • 26d: Sitarist Shankar (RAVI). Or father of Norah Jones, if you're feeling a bit more contemporary. Ravi is 88 years old.
  • 48d: Nirvana's genre (GRUNGE). A good word, but it feels like there should be a cleverer way of using Nirvana to clue it.

  • 49d: Pimply (ACNED). No, no, a thousand times no. While I'm not a big proponent of the breakfast test, I make exceptions for caked-up corneas and anything to do with acne. Using this ridiculous adjectival form only makes it worse.

  • 50d: Ocean liner? (SHORE). I think the oceans surround the land masses rather than the other way around, but I still liked this clue.

  • 51d: "Nights in White ___" (1972 Moody Blues hit) (SATIN). Never reaching the end...

  • 52d: Alla ___ (cut time) (BREVE). A vaguely familiar phrase to me; I apparently need to work on my musical education.
  • 56d: "On the double!" (STAT). And if you can't come up with this one ASAP, you need to work a few more puzzles.
  • 58d: Sigh of satisfaction (AAH). Blaah.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 5a: "The World of ___ Wong" (SUZIE). A 1957 book and a 1960 movie, which I've not read, seen, or previously heard of. The title keeps reminding me of a much later film, "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar".

  • 54d: "Peter Gunn" character Hart (EDIE). I suppose I had a better shot at knowing this, but it's really from the same bat time, same bat channel as Suzie Wong.

  • 55d: Vet (EX-GI). Even after getting it from the crossings, I had to look at it for a while before understanding what it meant.
All in all, a straightforward puzzle. Nothing exciting, but a perfectly good theme idea (albeit with some execution issues), and hardly any real junk in the fill, either.

Thanks for listening.

- Ruy (Cross-Man)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Title: Double Creatures
Author: Justin Smith
Theme: Phrases with two animals in them.
  • 4d: Elaborate presentations (DOG AND PONY SHOWS).

  • 7d: Implausible tale (COCK AND BULL STORY).

  • 15d: You might toy with your opponent during it (CAT AND MOUSE GAME).

A pretty straight-forward Monday theme here. No funky wordplay or blank stares trying to figure out what the theme entries have in common. Just a smooth, easy theme with three colorful dual-animal phrases.

Sunny Spots:

  • 23a: Cast supporters (SLINGS). Very good clue.

  • 47a: Meet, as expectations (LIVE UP TO). Great phrase, which brings to mind a scene from one of my favorite movies, "The Sting", where the guy portraying FBI Agent Polk says to Lt. Snyder, "Sit down and shut up, will ya? Try not to live up to all my expectations." What a great film.

  • 67a: Judy Jetson's little brother (ELROY). Gotta love "Jetsons" clues.

  • 70a: Poker Hall of Famer Brunson (DOYLE). Kudos for the poker reference, too. His son, Todd, is also a formidable player.


  • 17a: Ticket, in slang (DUCAT).

  • 22a: Chance to hit (AT BAT). This seems to be showing up a lot lately.

  • 25a: Bomber missions (AIR RAIDS).

  • 29a: Robotically compliant (STEPFORD). As in "Stepford Wives".

  • 37a: Bee Gees surname (GIBB). My sister had that Andy Gibb poster on her wall growing up. I had the Farrah Fawcett one. Wonder which one I should post?

  • 42a: Landing place for ships (QUAY).

  • 51a: Snobs (HIGH HATS).

  • 54a: Results of some botched hit-and-run plays (STEALS). More often than not, though, it results in a guy getting thrown out at second.

  • 65a: Football team with a gold helmet (ARMY).

  • 3d: Maker of the arcade classic Tempest (ATARI). You don't have to have played this game (though I have) to guess that the answer's going to be ATARI. If you don't remember the game, here's a clip (not the original, but you'll get the idea).

  • 24d: L.A. flaw? (SMOG). A weak "L.A. Law" pun.

  • 28d: La Salle of "ER" (ERIQ). Let's see, Eriq La Salle hasn't been on "ER" since 2002. Has he done nothing of consequence since then?

  • 29d: Villain in "The Lion King" (SCAR).

  • 33d: Cavil (CARP).

  • 35d: Broadway role for Christopher Plummer (IAGO). From "Othello", not to be confused with 50d: Opera based on a Shakespeare play (OTELLO). That's a tough too much Othello in one puzzle for me.

  • 41d: They often wear dark eyeliner (GOTHS). One of the best ever "South Park" episodes is called "Raisins", and features Stan joining the Goths after Wendy dumps him for Token. It's really phenomenal all the way through. Here's a clip near the end of the episode.

  • 48d: Art Deco designer (ERTÉ). We've been seeing a lot of him lately, too.

  • 56d: King Julien in "Madagascar," e.g. (LEMUR).

Suns of Bitches:


Other than the 15x16 construction, to accommodate the long central theme entry, there's nothing particularly unusual about this puzzle. It's a nice, easy Monday to get your week started.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Title: Weekend Warrior
Author: Doug Peterson and Barry C. Silk
Theme: None

Sunny Spots:

  • 7a: Bunk (CLAPTRAP). Claptrap is a great word, apparently deriving from its attempt to gain applause.

  • 16a: It has many layers (HENHOUSE). Gosh CATHOUSE would fit, too, in a way. Of course, we already have BORDELLO (36d: House with a lot of johns), which is also a fantastic clue.

  • 35a: Test requirement, at times (NUMBER TWO PENCIL). This should have been way easier than it was. I guess it's been too long since I've had to take a standardized test that was not on-line.

  • 56a: Wedge alternative (STILETTO). Excellent.

  • 2d: 1890 Henry James novel, with "The" (TRAGIC MUSE). The fact that I didn't know this one does not detract at all from its awesomeness.

  • 3d: What this clue have (BAD GRAMMAR). This one's part grin and part grimace. But the grin wins.

  • 7d: Team with the 1980s mascots Ribbie and Roobarb (CHICAGO WHITE SOX). Nice fill, with interesting trivia associated with it.

  • 28d: It fell on Neil Armstrong in the summer of '69 (TICKERTAPE). Superb.

  • 29d: Where some dissections are performed (SCIENCE LAB). I actually had BIOLOGY LAB to start, but this is almost as good.


  • 1a: Turns up (AT BATS). Excellent deception here. A turn being "up", in baseball, is an "at bat". Actually, that's not officially correct, since walks, errors, and a few other sundry events do not count as at bats, even thought the batter was, in fact, at bat.

  • 17a: Nuts (MADMEN). It seems a shame not to reference the TV series of the same name that is up for more than a dozen Emmy Awards this year.

  • 18a: "Don't mind that" (IGNORE IT).

  • 19a: Encourage (EGG ON). Goes well with HENHOUSE, don't you think?

  • 20a: Intel collectors (SCOUTERS).

  • 21a: Old-style letter opener (SIRS). Admit it, you were picturing some kind of desk knife. I know I was, but I'm in the middle of a Lawrence Block novel where such a device has been used as a murder weapon, so maybe it's just on my mind.

  • 31a: Steak-___ (UMM). I had -UMS, which slowed me down on the BAD GRAMMAR fill.

  • 32a: Northern Italian city (VERONA).

  • 38a: Aoki of the links (ISAO). Gimme for me. This is a name I knew before crosswords, and it shows up enough to keep it fresh. He was (is?) a hell of a putter.

  • 39a: Azadi Tower city (TEHRAN). I've never heard of this tower, but the city name was easy enough to discern with a few crossings.

  • 41a: ___ verte (grayish-green pigment) (TERRE). I'm assuming this means "green earth".

  • 43a: Discovery of Daniel Rutherford (NITROGEN). There's a Rutherford Physics Building at McGill University, but that's named for Ernest Rutherford, who discovered protons and postulated the orbital theory of atoms. I can't find anything that indicates they're related.

  • 45a: The WHO used it to fight malaria (DDT).

  • 47a: Winter holiday of southeast Asia (TET). Gimme.

  • 48a: Vancouver Canucks logo animal (ORCA).

  • 50a: Mourned in meter (ELEGIZED).

  • 53a: Ticket's target (VOTER). As in a political ticket. Good clue.

  • 54a: New Orleans sweets (PRALINES).

  • 57a: Shell holder (PIE PAN). Pralines and pie shells. You're killing me here. Don't you know I'm on a diet?

  • 58a: Certain aerophone (TENOR SAX).

  • 59a: Having a mortgage, e.g. (IN DEBT). Seems to me there's a difference between having debts and being in debt. The latter tends to imply a negative overall balance, doesn't it?

  • 1d: Tops (ACMES).

  • 4d: Tops (AT MOST). I confidently filled in UTMOST here, which was really hard to change, except that ATBUTS wasn't making any sense at all for 1a.

  • 6d: Fig. that never ends with four zeros (SSN). Gimme.

  • 8d: Bionicle brand (LEGO).

  • 10d: X-ray particle (PHOTON). Also a type of Star Trek torpedo.

  • 12d: Penitent (RUER). One who is penitent is called a penitent. Don't you love the English language?

  • 14d: Sulky state (PET).

  • 26d: Did a line, say (SNORTED). This kind of blatant drug reference would never see the light of day at the Times.

  • 30d: "Labor omnia vincit" is its motto: Abbr. (OKLA). This is basically, find an abbreviation that fits and makes sense. Any state would do, but OKLA fit.

  • 31d: Second, e.g. (UNIT). Unit of time, to be exact.

  • 37d: "Here Come the Warm Jets" musician (ENO). Thank God for these crosswordy gimmes; they gave me a foothold.

  • 44d: Pinched the cheek of (GOOSED). Sassy clue.

  • 50d: "La Tosca" sculptor (ERTÉ). Add this to the gimme pile.

  • 52d: Hellenic consonant (ZETA).

  • 53d: Silver streak, say (VEIN). As in a vein of (silver) ore.

  • 54d: Yukon Terr. setting (PST). Pacific Standard Time.

  • 55d: Sch. with a Hartford campus (RPI). The only school I knew was in Hartford is Trinity College. I tried TRI for a bit, but it didn't last.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 23a: City between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (LOD). I was thinking NOD, which I think is mentioned in Genesis, or was that NOB? You know, the land that Cain was banished to.

  • 40a: White, to a wahine (KEA). Well, it's a step up from the Mauna ___ guess that we usually have. Apparently, Mauna Loa means "long mountain", while Mauna Kea means "white mountain" (as it is typically snow-capped). Makes sense now.

  • 13d: 1985 William M. Hoffman play about AIDS (AS IS). My feeble brain thought this clue said William H. Macy. I blame Stephen Colbert, who coined the name Filliam H. Muffman to describe Macy and his wife, Felicity Huffman. Damn you, Colbert... Either way, I had no clue what this was.

You know, there are remarkable few SOBs in the puzzle, considering it's a Weekend Warrior. We've had Tuesday puzzles recently with more. All in all, I'd say this was a very nice themeless. Not as challenging as they can be (I was easily able to complete it in a single sitting), but entertaining for sure. Nice job.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 20088

Title: Location! Location! Location!
Author: Mark P. Sherwood
Theme: Phrases whose preposition is implied by the relative location of the remaining words.
  • 17a: 1953 Ira Levin novel (A KISS DYING). A KISS before DYING.

  • 40a: Divided fifty-fifty (HACUTLF). CUT in HALF.

  • 66a: 1975 film set at the First Brooklyn Savings Bank (NOON DOG DAY). DOG DAY afterNOON.

  • 11d: Phenomenon exhibited by psychokinesis (MIND MATTER). MIND over MATTER.

  • 28d: Disappeared, maybe (GROUND WENT). WENT under GROUND.

I've seen themes like this before, and they can be fun. I wasn't expecting the short 40a (cut in half), so that section threw me for a bit, especially crossing SAGUARO, which I'm not at all familiar with and, once I got 40a, was figuring might also be a theme entry. But I'm a big fan of "Dog Day Afternoon"; it's one of my favorite Al Pacino films.

Sunny Spots:

  • 61a: Head of the army? (LATRINE). A very nice potty clue.

  • 48d: Six-pack abs? (BEER GUT). Awesome.


  • 1a: Watch winder (STEM).

  • 14a: Sitcom with the character Alex Rieger (TAXI). This is the character played by Judd Hirsch. I didn't watch "Taxi" much, so I didn't know this right off. But once I had the trailing "I", it was a pretty easy deduction.

  • 16a: Fey of "Baby Mama" (TINA).

  • 19a: Bit of hardware (T-NUT).

  • 25a: Make a reduction (SIMMER). Great cooking clue.

  • 26a/72a: White, in a way (ANGLO and SNOWY, respectively).

  • 31a: Sympathy accompanier (TEA). "Tea and Sympathy" was a 50s play and film, starring Deborah Kerr.

  • 34a: Eating right? (GEE). Cryptic clue. The rightmost letter in "eating" is 'g'.

  • 36a: Bayonet, e.g. (STAB). Using bayonet as a verb here.

  • 39a: Pigeon English? (COO). Cute, sort of.

  • 51a: Corsetiere's creation (BRA).

  • 53a: Nestlé candy sold under the Wonka brand (NERDS).

  • 54a: Bums (CADGES).

  • 57a: "Help!" is one (OLDIE). You know, I still don't think of Beatles tunes as "oldies". I guess it's all perspective. "Hey, Ringo, you just sit there and hold this umbrella..."

  • 65a: "Between the Lines" author Hershiser (OREL). Name a Hershiser. I guess some baseball players can read and write.

  • 68a: ___ Reader (alternative media bimonthly) (UTNE). I only know this from puzzles.

  • 70a: 1997 film title character surnamed Jackson (ULEE). Of "Ulee's Gold".

  • 71a: Body art, for short (TATS). Not all body art involves tattoos. There's painting, too. Here is one of my favorites, from Storm Thorgerson, who is responsible for many of the great album artwork for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Alan Parson, Peter Gabriel, and others. Here's one of his posters, entitled "Pink Floyd - Back Catalog". Fantastic! I highly recommend checking out his site.

  • 1d: Hind's counterpart (STAG). A hind is a female deer.

  • 2d: Third base coach's sign when the count is 3-0, typically (TAKE). For those not into baseball, "taking" a pitch means having no intention of swinging at it, even if it's right down the middle.

  • 4d: ___ Command ('80s arcade game) (MISSILE). Fun, classic game, though I was never all that good at it.

  • 5d: Nasser contemporary (Anwar SADAT).

  • 6d: Loser to Affirmed in all three Triple Crown races (ALYDAR). For some reason, I remember this. I can't imagine why.

  • 7d: Male monarque (ROI). French for king.

  • 8d: Big biceps, familiarly (GUNS).

  • 10d: Once in a while (AT TIMES).

  • Nymphs and Satyr
  • 13d: Mythical hybrid (SATYR). Part man, part goat, the satyr symbolizes man's unquenchable libido. Here's a great painting, entitled "Nymphs and Satyr", by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

  • 18d: Glabrous (SMOOTH). This sounds like one of those made-up words in Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky", like frumious and frabjous.

  • 22d: "21" sch. (MIT). Referencing the film about MIT students who work out a system to beat the casinos at blackjack.

  • 38d: "What You Want wid ___?" (Gershwin tune) (BESS). From, of course, "Porgy and Bess".

  • 41d: Middle ear? (COB). This is really pushing it. Okay, so the cob is in the middle of an ear of corn. Get it? Middle ear? Ugh!

  • 42d: Over (FINITO).

  • 45d: Speedo product (GOGGLES). Banana-hammock didn't fit.

  • 55d: It comes from the heart (AORTA).

  • 56d: "Sinatra at the ___" (1966 album) (SANDS).

  • 58d: Paw (DADDY). Yeah, it's late in the week enough to get away with this. Tricky clue, especially in New England where parents are never referred to as maw and paw.

  • 60d: Bookbinding leather (ROAN).

  • 62d: Pal of Palin (IDLE). Michael Palin and Eric Idle being key members of the Monty Python crew.

  • 63d: Renfrew refusals (NAES). Renfrew is a Scottish town, west of Glascow.

  • 64d: Peer group? (EYES).

  • 67d: Cagayan de ___ (provincial capital of the Philippines) (ORO). In three letters, there weren't that many viable options.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 10a: "House of Meetings" novelist Martin (AMIS).

  • 12d: Toughen (INURE).

  • I had AMES/ENURE here, which seems like a much more logical guess if you don't know the novelist, which I don't. This is actually worse than your standard "guess-the-vowel" cross, since ENURE is clearly an acceptable answer for 12d, so I didn't even consider this a guess when I filled it in.

  • 46a: 1988 remake directed by the creators of Max Headroom (DOA). Another one I didn't know, exacerbating that tough center section. Do you realize how many viable movie titles fit the pattern DO_?

  • 73a: "Murder by Death" character Skeffington (TESS).

  • 24d: Arizona license plate image (SAGUARO).

So, except for SAGUARO and the AMIS/INURE crossing, I liked this puzzle quite a bit. It was plenty challenging for me (~20 minutes), especially that center section.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Title: Well, Um...,
Author: Pancho Harrison
Theme: Adding ER to phrases.
  • 17a: Burglary under cover of darkness? (NIGHT CAPER).

  • 63a: Captain of the Yankees after gaining a lot of weight? (JUMBO JETER).

  • 11d: Drunk flamingo? (TIGHT WADER).

  • 27d: Cheat a sot? (SCREW TOPER).

Another workmanlike theme. Decent, but not earth-shattering. Jumbo Jeter cracks me up; if I had time I'd doctor up a nice image for you, but I don't.

Sunny Spots:

  • 20a: Curly's job in "City Slickers" (TRAIL BOSS). This was the Jack Palance character.

  • 48a: Two-time Grammy winner for Best Male Jazz Vocal Performance (MEL TORME). Nice to see the full name.


  • 1a: Queen, in Quito (REINA). I don't know much Spanish, but I've seen this one before.

  • 10a: Olla podrida, e.g. (STEW).

  • 15a: Notes from short people? (IOUS). Good clue.

  • 16a: City with a notable property listing? (PISA). I love this clue. Listing, as in leaning. Wonderful.

  • 19a: "Spice Up My Kitchen" network (HGTV). Home & Garden channel. Makes sense.

  • 25a: Bred (FOSTERED).

  • 31a: Ocho + tres (ONCE). 8 + 3 = 11.

  • 40a: Sing "The Lonely Goatherd," say (YODEL). I have a soft spot for "The Sound of Music", so I really like this clue a lot.

  • 43a: Best (IDEAL). Interesting that this falls right next to 45a: Distribute hands (DEAL), but there's nothing wrong with that.

  • 51a: Lemmon's costar in "The Odd Couple" (MATTHAU). This was a very good film. It's been years since I've seen it; I need to rent or own it soon.

  • 54a: Defenseman who ended his career with the Chicago Black Hawks (ORR). Bah! He'll always be a Bruin.

  • 55a: Thrombi (CLOTS). I knew thrombosis, so this wasn't much of a stretch.

  • 56a: French art movement of the late 19th century (SYMBOLISM).

  • 62a: Opportune (RIPE). This is interesting in that it the meaning feels right, but it doesn't seem to quite satisfy the substitution test. You would say "the time is ripe" or "it's an opportune time", but I don't think either "the time is opportune" or "it's a ripe time" quite fit. Still, it was easy enough to figure, so it's probably nitpicky.

  • 67a: "Doin' the Pigeon" singer (BERT). Yep, that's Bert from Sesame Street.

  • 69a: Band with the 2000 #1 hit "It's Gonna Be Me" ('N SYNC).

  • 4d: Perfect game, e.g. (NO-HITTER). All perfect games are no-hitters, but not all no-hitters are perfect games. In a perfect game, nobody even gets on base (i.e., no walks or anything).

  • 5d: U.K. P.M. Clement (ATTLEE).

  • 12d: 1985 autobiography subtitled "A Success Story" (ESTÉE Lauder).

  • 18d: Smokey spotter in a big rig, maybe (CB'ER).

  • 24d: Any of seven Chinese puzzle pieces that can form a square (TAN). The puzzle is called a tangram. I never really thought about what the individual pieces were called, but it's certainly logical.

  • 29d: Atlanta WNBA team (DREAM).

  • 38d: Venice's Bridge of ___ (SIGHS).

  • 41d: Like carbon monoxide (ODORLESS). Got this just from the O.

  • 49d: Former New York Liberty player Rebecca (LOBO). This is one of the only former-WNBA players I've actually heard of. Probably because she played college ball at UConn the year they went undefeated.

  • 50d: Brand of condoms (TROJAN). TROJAN shows up in puzzles, but usually as the USC team, not the condom.

  • 51d: Golden Arches pork sandwich (MCRIB). I had forgotten about the McRib. Do they still make that?

  • 52d: Coworker of Dilbert (ALICE). I'm a big Dilbert fan, so this was a gimme for me.

  • 53d: Take by force (USURP).

  • 57d: Disco song that went to #2 in 1979 (YMCA). No, I'm not going to include a link to this song. It was held out of the #1 spot for three weeks by Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy".

  • 61d: Richie's mom, to the Fonz (MRS C). I watched "Happy Days" growing up, so this was a no-brainer.

  • 63d: "Aunt ___ Scrap-Bag" (Louisa May Alcott series) (JO'S). Never heard of this, but it was pretty easy with the J in place.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 34a: "Kangaroo Notebook" novelist Kobo ___ (ABE).

  • 3d: Congo River's ___ Falls (INGA).

Another decent puzzle. Nothing terrible, but nothing terribly notable either. And, as I've said before, that's not a bad thing.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Title: Woof!
Author: Chuck Deodene
Theme: New phrases made up of strings of words that fit in front of "dog", e.g. Underdog, bird dog, attack dog, etc.

  • 17a: Beset by a feathered swarm? (UNDER BIRD ATTACK).

  • 37a: #1 grasslands tour leader? (TOP PRAIRIE GUIDE).

  • 57a: On a quest for a certain spicy food? (HUNTING HOT CHILI).

  • 23d: Play spaces for pets (or a description of 17-, 37-, and 57-Across) (DOG RUNS).

It's cool that there are nine common "dog prefixes" that split out into three 15-letter phrases. This is very nice, tight Tuesday theme, with none of the theme entries feeling particularly forced or strained, and tied together nicely by the central down entry.

Sunny Spots:

  • 20a: Secret police of the Nazis (GESTAPO). As distasteful as this is, it's a cool word. I was a huge "Hogan's Heroes" fan growing up, and to this day it amazes me that someone was able to successfully pitch the concept of a sitcom set in a Nazi POW camp.

  • 53a: Where to see the latest models (CAR SHOW). Sorry, no supermodel pics here. Blame the fill.

  • 10d: Capital of Nepal (KATMANDU). Also a somewhat repetitive Bog Seger song.


  • 1a: Many a miniseries (SAGA). My first guess here was EPIC, which slowed me down.

  • 14a: Peaty expanse (MOOR). I'm going to treat this as an indirect reference to Scotch. Mmmmm.

  • 15a: One of the archangels (URIEL). Once I had the UR- I was pretty sure what this was.

  • 16a: Plot line? (AXIS). Seen this clue before.

  • 21a: "Big ___ House" (2000 comedy) (MOMMA'S). This film, which stars Martin Lawrence and crossword-favorite NIA Long, gets a horrendous 4.6 out of 10 rating at, which somehow doesn't surprise me at all.

  • 23a: Political nickname based on a middle initial (DUBYA). Gimme.

  • 34a: "Madeline" character Miss Clavel, e.g. (NUN). Love the Madeline stories. Excellent.

  • 36a: Izzard of "The Riches" (EDDIE). I have absolutely no idea why I know this, but I knew the answer right away. I couldn't tell you what the man looks like.

  • 42a: Auction ender? (-EER). Cryptic suffix.

  • 64a: Boy band formed in 1995 ('N SYNC).

  • 2d: Ace (A-ONE). Ace usually clues a noun or a verb; here it's the adjective.

  • 3d: "___ and Monsters" (1998 Ian McKellen film) (GODS). I haven't seen this film, about the last days of "Frankenstein" director James Whale, but it won an Oscar for the screenplay and was nominated for actor (McKellen) and supporting actress (Lynn Redgrave). I need to add it to my video rental list.

  • 4d: "Freeway of Love" singer Franklin (ARETHA). Don't know the song, but don't need to know it to get this one.

  • 5d: Process server's document (SUBPOENA). Nice fill.

  • 6d: Rush, e.g. (TRIO). These guys were huge in Montreal when I was in college back in the early 80s. One of the most successful Canadian bands in history, I would think. "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."

  • 8d: Ben Bernanke's group, with "the" (FED). Alan Greenspan's successor at the Federal Reserve.

  • 9d: Served alight (FLAMBÉ).

  • 12d: Book designer's measure (PICA). Pica and elite were (are?) the too main type sizes, back in the days of the typewriter.

  • 24d: Expand, in corporate-speak (UPSIZE).

  • 25d: Unable to sit still (ANTSY). Does this word pre-date the expression "ants in the pants"? Is there a relationship there?

  • 26d: Aimed-for amount (QUOTA).

  • 29d: Not of the clergy (LAICAL). I paused here, because I though LAIC was the adjective form. LAICAL felt weird.

  • 32d: Apple product (CIDER). What a breath of fresh air to not have this answer be IMAC or IPOD.

  • 38d: Sri Lanka export (PEKOE TEA). I recall seeing another similiar clue very recently, either here or in the Times.

  • 39d: Beyond happy (ECSTATIC). Good fill word.

  • 45d: Cracked wise (JOSHED). To me, cracking wise packs a little more edge to it than joshing.

  • 50d: At the home of, in French (CHEZ).

  • 58d: VIPs at winter meetings (GMS). This is a baseball reference to General Managers. In my book, the MVP of GMs is Theo Epstein, who finally pulled the Red Sox off the brink of perpetual-oh-so-close-but-no-cigar-ness and has built a strong organization at all levels. Thanks to Theo, Red Sox fans can again enjoy baseball as baseball, without having the season's results inextricably tied to our own emotional well being. Cubs fans, you know what I'm talking about.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 41a: Historic Incan capital (CUZCO). This one I needed the crossings on. I'm sure I've seen it before, because it looks vaguely familiar.

Nothing fancy here. Just a solid Tuesday puzzle.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Title: Street Closings
Author: Sarah Keller
Theme: Phrases that end in names of Manhattan streets.
  • 17a: Endodontist's treatment (ROOT CANAL).

  • 22a: Largest piano (CONCERT GRAND). I have an 1863, 7 1/2' Chickering concert grand in my living room, almost identical to this one shown.

  • 36a: 1913 Igor Stravinsky ballet (THE RITE OF SPRING).

  • 47a: Some recording studios (ECHO CHAMBERS).

  • 55a: Unconquerable obstacle (BRICK WALL).

Admission #1: I never would have figured out this theme without the title. Not being from NYC, I know of Wall Street and Canal Street. Grand Street sounds vaguely familiar. There are probably Spring Streets in most cities; I know Concord, NH has one. I've never heard of Chambers Street.

Admission #2: I double-checked to see if there was a Dip Street and a Cream Street, which seemed no less likely than a Chambers Street.

Admission #3: My lack of understanding the theme didn't detract much from my overall solving experience. The theme entries were solid Monday fare.

Sunny Spots:

  • 45a: Small piece of food (NIBLET). Especially corn, which counts as a starch.

  • 9d: Potato chip go-with (ONION DIP).

  • 21d: Fountain drinks (MALTS). Mmmm... nothing like a good chocolate malt.

  • 37d: Banana split ingredient (ICE CREAM).

Can you tell I'm on a diet? These are all things I've not seen much of in the last month. On the bright side, I've dropped 15 pounds since the beginning of July.

  • 14a: "The thrill of victory and the ___ of defeat" (AGONY). The famous "agony of defeat" skier from "Wide World of Sports" was Vinko Bogataj (how's that for crossword fodder). Here's a clip about him.

  • 16a: Like a babe in the woods (NAIVE).

  • 27a: Secret love affairs (AMOURS).

  • 33a: Gandhi's wear (DHOTI). I hesitated on the first letter for a second, but it felt right.

  • 42a: Annual theater award (OBIE). As I understand it, the Tony awards are for Broadway shows, while the OBIE awards are for Off-Broadway (O.B.) shows. I'm sure someone out there will correct me if I've oversimplified this.

  • 44a: DDE's command in WWII (ETO). There was a time that this would not have been obvious to me, but it shows up all the time. It stands for European Theater of Operations.

  • 53a: Guitar ___ (video game) (HERO). Aptly skewered by a recent South Park episode.

  • 60a: Bewildered (AT SEA).

  • 65a: Irish poet William Butler ___ (YEATS). "All empty souls tend toward extreme positions." Wonderful.

  • 2d: It can be bruised or massaged (EGO).

  • 3d: Scooby-___ (cartoon dog) (DOO). I like that this puzzle includes both this and 33d: Artoo-___ (DETOO).

  • 5d: Tour de France competitor (CYCLER). And this is different than a cyclist how?

  • 6d: "At the Center of the Storm" author George (TENET).

  • 7d: Long-armed ape, for short (ORANG).

  • 10d: Corp. division (R AND D). These kinds of fill can be tricky if you're not expecting them.

  • 22d: Religious official who sings in Hebrew (CANTOR).

  • 23d: Resident of Nebraska's most populous city (OMAHAN).

  • 25d: Round dance leader (CUER).

  • 38d: Worshiper's contribution (TITHE). Not all worshippers tithe (give 10% to the church). In fact, I bet a very low percentage do.

  • 46d: Possible response to "How are you?" (I'M OKAY). My first stab was I'M FINE, but it dropped quickly.

  • 47d: Swiss math great who solved the Königsberg bridge problem (EULER). I remember this from discrete math. Here's a description of the problem and solution.

  • 48d: "Everybody Hates ___" (CHRIS). Chris Rock show.

  • 50d: Culture medium gelatin (AGAR).

  • 52d: "Stay" singer Loeb (LISA). Here's a link.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 39d: AnnaSophia of "Bridge to Terabithia" (ROBB). This is the only clue that I got from crossings. Not a name I'm familiar with.

Fast and easy, with no cringing. That's what I like in a Monday puzzle. Of course, I'm not a speed solver, so "fast" for me is in the 5-minute range. I wouldn't be much faster than that with the answers in front of me.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday, July 18, 2008

Title: Shuffle the Deck
Author: Joe DiPietro
Theme: Card spoonerisms.

Alright, before we even start. If you're not familiar with spoonerisms, you need to be. These are a favorite device among crossword constructors, so you need to know what they are. Read more here. Go ahead, I'll wait...

Okay, now that you know what they are, don't worry; there will virtually always be an indicator that spoonerisms are involved. It can be in the fill, as it was today, but more commonly it is referenced in the title (e.g., "Reverend Spooner goes to the blah blah blah", where the blah blah blah indicates a common link among the base phrases). So, if SPOONERISM didn't fit in today's grid, they might have entitled it "Reverend Spooner Plays Cards", or some such. Alright, let's get to it.

  • Eight of hearts => HATE OF ARTS (17a: Philistine's characteristic?).

  • Ace of spades => SPACE OF AIDES (23a: Assistants' area?).

  • Queen of diamonds => DEAN OF KWAI MENDS (34a: Movie river's senior member gets better?). This is the most painful of the bunch. Like most puns and wordplay, some just flow and some feel really forced. This leans toward the latter. Okay, it's leaning so far it fell over.

  • Six of clubs => CLICKS OF SUBS (48a: What's heard in the computer lab when the regular teachers are sick?).

  • 57a: What each of 17-, 23-, 34-, and 48-Across is (SPOONERISM).

I actually like good spoonerisms, and these were mostly okay. Even the KWAI MENDS one is so bad it made me laugh. Not as much as DICKS OF SIMON'S might have, with a suggestive American Idol clue, but hey, that's just me.

Sunny Spots:

  • 11d: It begins "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" (AMENDMENT I).

  • 28d: General manager of the Mets (OMAR MINAYA). Nice to see the whole name for a change. And certainly fair in a NYC puzzle.

  • 64a: What kids do when it counts? (HIDE). This is phenomenal clue. Love it! Reference, of course, to not being "it" in hide-and-seek.


  • 10a: Animal with a scut (HARE).

  • 14a: Bank job, say (CAPER). Also a really tasty food; we use capers all the time.

  • 16a: Flock's cry (AMEN). Good clue.

  • 20a: They can be seen in the middle of summer (EMS). Cryptic clue. Not fooled for a second.

  • 26a: Gulf of Guinea island (SAO TOME).

  • 30a: B.A. Baracus portrayer on TV (MR T). Pity the fool.

  • 42a: His favorite dish is green eggs and ham (SAM).

  • 52a: "___ I Promise You" (2000 'N Sync hit) (THIS). Didn't know it, but there's not much else that fits.

  • 56a: With 53-Across, explicit HBO series (REAL / SEX).

  • 60a: Boot brand (FRYE).

  • 61a: Title for Mozart (HERR). If this didn't come immediately to mind, go watch "Amadeus" again.

  • 63a: Whack (STAB). As in, to take a stab/whack at.

  • 65a: Middle schooler, maybe (TWEEN).

  • 1d: Gut feeling? (ACHE). I've seen this one a few times; the question mark really gives it away.

  • 5d: Universal donor's blood typing category (GROUP O).

  • 10d: Locale of a John McCain statue that calls him a "famous air pirate" (HANOI). I'm embarrassed that I didn't get this right off the top.

  • 18d: Oil filter brand (FRAM).

  • 24d: Blackfish's relative (ORCA).

  • 25d: Hyperbola pair (FOCI).

  • 27d: It frequently follows you (ARE). I've seen this clue before, too, but I still like it.

  • 33d: Subotica residents (SERBS). I was figuring Subotica to be a region, but it's a Yugoslavian city.

  • 35d: Expo '70 locale (OSAKA).

  • 38d: Org. that catches mules (DEA). Mule is a slang term for one who smuggles drugs.

  • 42d: Inhales, with "down" (SCARFS). I like that this was clued as a verb. Excellent.

  • 43d: The "A" of A&M Records (ALPERT). That's Herb Alpert, of the Tijuana Brass, whose version of "Spanish Flea" was used on "The Dating Game" when the bachelors walked out. Here's a funny scene when Andy Kaufman is one of the bachelors.

  • 47d: Classless? (ABSENT). A bit of a stretch, but okay.

  • 50d: Former post of the 7th Infantry Div. (FT ORD). Of Monterey Bay, California. Former, because the base was closed in 1994.

  • 54d: "Nine Stories" girl who says "I'm extremely interested in squalor" (ESME). It's getting to the point where ESME is my first instinct when I need a girl in 4-letters.

  • 55d: 2006 movie subtitled "The Last Stand" (X-MEN).

  • 58d: Prov. whose capital is Charlottetown (PEI). Prince Edward Island.

Suns of Bitches:
    There were only a few answers I totally didn't know, but none of them were particulary hard to figure, which is unusual (for me) for a Friday.
  • 19a: Composer Hefti who wrote the theme to "The Odd Couple" (NEAL).

  • 22a: Orphan of old comics (DONDI).

  • 23d: "People" composer (STYNE).

I thought this was a very enjoyable Friday puzzle. No complaints.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.