Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Title: Eight is Enough
Author: Matt Ginsberg
Theme: The whole puzzle uses only eight common letters: A, E, I, O, R, S, T, and N.
  • 15a: One more than the number of different letters in this puzzle (NINE).

This is a great example of how a clever theme does not always translate into a great puzzle. We get saturated by words that have only these letters all the time, since they're by far the easiest words to use in fill. So, in a way, the theme here is to have no interesting letters and thus few interesting words. Plus, knowing the theme makes solving super super easy, since it's not at all a problem to discount potential fills due to having the wrong letters. There are several would-be tough down clues that I honestly never even saw until I was finished.

Sunny Spots:
  • 17a: Losing team in Super Bowl XXXIV (TENNESSEE TITANS).

  • 26a: 1799 discovery that made possible the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics (ROSETTA STONE).

  • 63a: Song in "The Jazz Singer" (TOOT TOOT TOOTSIE).

  • 1a: Trying experience? (TASTE). Good clue.

  • 16a: 51, famously (AREA). Nickname of a Nevada Air Force Base that is the center of many UFO conspiracy theories.

  • 21a: Trireme equipment (OARS).

  • 23a: "The Heat ___" (IS ON).

  • 31a: Degauss (ERASE).

  • 38a: Mollusks that eat starfish (TRITONS).

  • 45a: Glass in the radio booth (IRA).

  • 46a: Hoopsters Archibald and Thurmond (NATES). Nate "Tiny" Archibald spent several years with the Celtics, including the 1980-1981 championship season.

  • 56a: "___ Hair Salon" (2004 Jenifer Lewis movie) (NORAS).

  • 59a: ___ Féin (SINN).

  • 69a: Nap follower? (STER).

  • 70a: Future duogenarian? (TEEN). Very Gordonesque clue, but nice. In other words, someone who will be twenty.

  • 71a: Schnozz (SNOOT). If it weren't for the theme, one might have gone with SNOUT here. It's not like the crossing helped.

  • 2d: Greek counterpart of Mars (ARES). I can't decide if crossing ARIES and ARES is a positive or negative. It was noticeable, but it didn't really make me smile or anything.

  • 4d: Sneaks (TENNIES). I'm thinking this is British slang. No one around where I live calls sneakers tennies.

  • 9d: Bump-spike go-between (SET). Kudos for the volleyball clue.

  • 10d: Mad features (SATIRES).

  • 24d: Galley marking (STET).

  • 41d: Tizzy (SNIT). At least tizzy is a cool word.

  • 47d: Vaughn's costar in "The Break-Up" (ANISTON).

  • 49d: Condé ___ Building (Times Square skyscraper) (NAST). Is this something people outside of New York are expected to know?

  • 51d: Dodici mesi (ANNO). Twelve months = year.

  • 60d: Japanese golfer ___ Aoki (ISAO).

Suns of Bitches:
    There were a bunch of down clues that I had no idea about. Luckily for me, I didn't need any of them.
  • 6d: CNBC analyst Ron who used to host "Street Signs" (INSANA).

  • 8d: "___ de Castro" (16th-century tragedy by António Ferreira) (INES).

  • 26d: Tony winner Roger (REES). He played Robin Colcord on "Cheers" and has been in a few other things I've seen since, but his name was never on my radar.

  • 39d: "Nuts" director Martin (RITT).

  • 61d: Composer Rota who scored "The Godfather" (NINO).

I think my comments on the theme pretty much say it all.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Setting of the Sun

This just in from Peter Gordon:

Tomorrow is the last edition of the New York Sun. I will continue to
publish the puzzles I have in the pipeline, but I'll have to charge for
them, since the Sun will no longer be paying the authors. Once those run out (probably in early March), if I don't have 2,500 subscribers paying a dime a puzzle, then I'll probably stop. So spread the word! As to where the puzzle will be, I don't yet know, but if you go to






there will an announcement on one of those.


Of course, you can check in here as well.

- Pete M

Monday, September 29, 2008

Title: Avian Anatomy
Author: Mark Feldman
Theme: Phrases derived from bird parts.
  • 18a: Keen observer (EAGLE EYE).

  • 20a: Horripilation (GOOSE FLESH). Ick.

  • 32a: Dark red sometimes called Spanish wine (PIGEON BLOOD). Double ick.

  • 48a: Jimmy Buffett fan (PARROT HEAD).

  • 50a: Certain carpentry joint (DOVE TAIL).

I'll be honest. I could have done without the flesh and blood fills. Give me goose neck and pigeon toed anyday.

Sunny Spots:
  • 52a: "Chico and the Man" costar Freddie (PRINZE). I loved this show growing up. Looking back on it now, I'm not exactly sure why.

  • 35d: Big lug (PALOOKA). Great word.

  • 15a: Yaz had 1,844 (RBIS). I've probably ranted about this before, because I have a real pet peeve against RBIS. The plural of RBI (run batted in) is RBI (runs batted in). One RBI, two RBI, 150 RBI. It's already plural. RBIS is bogus.

  • 43a: They're cobbled together (SHOES). Kind of obvious, but sorta cute.

  • 46a: Use a blowtorch on, perhaps (WELD).

  • 47a: "High ___" (1952 Gary Cooper film) (NOON).

  • 56a: Golf hole goal (PAR). Well, maybe. For really good golfers, par is not a great result. For people like me, bogey would be fine. Par is the "expected" result, but not necessarily the goal.

  • 1d: Argue over a price (HAGGLE). Reminds me of one of the great scenes in "Monty Python's Life of Brian". Here it is:

  • 6d: Grew crops without much water (DRY FARMED).

  • 12d: Stall (BUY TIME).

  • 13d: Hastened, with "up" (SPEEDED). Shouldn't this just be SPED?

  • 19d: Actor Estevez and designer Pucci (EMILIOS). Plural names are always kind of a stretch.

  • 21d: Dance that requires a bar (LIMBO).

  • 31d: Suddenly reacts to a strong wind, as a window (FLIES OPEN).

  • 32d: Holiday during which many bagel stores close (PASSOVER).

  • 34d: Like some triples (STANDUP). Baseball clue. At first, I was thinking college dorm rooms, but even there you have room to lay down.

  • 43d: Get cheeky with? (SPANK). Cute.

  • 49d: Nonkosher (TREF). I learned this from puzzles.

Suns of Bitches:
  • 11d: 11th-century French saint (THEOBALD).
  • Yeah, okay.

Not too much to say about this one. It was okay, but it didn't thrill me.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Title: Buried Treasure
Author: Daniel A. Finan
Theme: Two squares are 'X' for the down clue and 'SPOT' for the across clue.
  • 18a: Is unjustifiably critical (TAKES POTSHOTS).

  • 9d: Smoked salmon (LOX).

  • 62a: Character voiced by Estelle Harris in "Toy Story 2" (MRS POTATO HEAD).

  • 48d: Deficiency of element #8 (ANOXIA).

  • 25d: Lush (TOSSPOT).

  • 39a: Rule for finding buried treasure ... and a hint to making sense of this puzzle (X MARKS THE SPOT).

I'll be honest, I got the middle theme hint right away and wasn't sure what was going on. Then I hit the "Toy Story" clue and thought it was "MR POTATO HEAD". "Ah!" I said to myself. "The buried treasure is a POT! (Perhaps of gold?)". I was then disappointed when I got TAKE POTSHOTS AT, as it the tense didn't fit the clue. Finally I looked at the center clue again and realized that X doesn't mark the POT, it marks the SPOT. And all was well in PeteLand.

Sunny Spots:

  • 3d: Castle in the air (DAYDREAM). Great clue and fill, plus it reminds me of one my favorite Don McLean songs. Actually, one of my favorite songs, period.

  • 1a: Color similar to robin's-egg blue (JADE).

  • 5a: Pitch (SPIEL). Pitch can mean so many different things, it's impossible to guess without some crossing help.

  • 10a: They might have underwires (BRAS). Very easy clue for a Friday. Does anything besides a bra have an underwire? Here's one that may not have an underwire. It certainly sends a mixed message, but it is an EYE CATCHER (8d: It attracts attention).

  • 14a: Tapas bar dessert (FLAN).

  • 15a: Zenith alternative (SANYO).

  • 16a: Move like molasses (OOZE). Another really easy clue for a Friday.

  • 17a: Legends (KEYS). As in the parts of charts or maps that tell what the symbols mean.

  • 23a: "Full House" dog (COMET). Never watched the show, but it sounds like a dog's name.

  • 30a: "Lenore" writer (POE).

  • See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
    Come! let the burial rite be read -the funeral song be sung! -
    An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young -
    A dirge for her, the doubly dead in that she died so young.

  • 31a: Crepuscular (DIM). Relating to twilight.

  • 33a: Superlatively stylish (TONIEST). This one makes me cringe a little. Toniest? Really?

  • 37a: Lixiviates (LEACHES). Tough verb, but nice.

  • 46a: Personal possession (CHATTEL).

  • 55a: One who whimpers (SOBBER). I'm not crazy about forced -ER words.

  • 57a: "Dead Ringers" star (IRONS). I'm assuming Jeremy here, but I don't care enough to actually go look it up.

  • 61a: Dawg (BRO). If you've ever seen Randy Jackson on "American Idol", you know what they're talking about.

  • 65a/42d: Sequoia, e.g. (AUTO, TREE). I have no problem with cluing two words the same. In fact, sometimes it can really spice up a puzzle. But, at least one answer needs to be interesting. AUTO and TREE? Not so much.

  • 68a: El ___ (Spanish newspaper) (PAIS). I'm assuming this means "The Country", since it's close to the French "pays".

  • 69a: Under-21 request, sometimes (HIT ME). FAKE ID didn't fit. Of course, we're talking about blackjack here, not someone's age.

  • 1d: Idlewild, today (JFK). The airport.

  • 2d: It might be tapped out (ALE). Hmmm. I'm not sure about this one. If they mean that ale is tapped out of a keg (i.e., drawn from), then that feels like a bit of a stretch in usage. "Tapped out" tends to mean there's nothing left, but the term is applied to the keg itself, not the no-longer-contained-within ale.

  • 7d: Graphic novel artist (INKER). I'll forgive the -ER in this case, because it gives me an excuse to post the following very funny piece.

  • 10d: ___-chic (fashion style) (BOHO).

  • 11d: One who helps with the rent (ROOMIE).

  • 12d: Tenochtitlán citizens (AZTECS).

  • 24d: Room in the game Clue (SPA). I don't recall a spa anywhere in Clue. A quick check reveals that the rooms are the study, kitchen, dining room, ballroom, library, billiard room, conservatory, lounge, and hall. What gives?

  • 26d: They might give you 2% (MILKMEN). Cool clue, but pretty obvious, I thought. Still, it does evoke this great commercial.

  • 32d: Characteristic of a transitional period in the Stone Age (MESOLITHIC). As long fill goes, words like MESOLITHIC are kind of meh.

  • 34d: 2002 Owen Wilson movie (I SPY).

  • 36d: Lead, e.g. (PART). As in lead role.

  • 41d: Away from the city, say (OUTBOUND).

  • 50d: Try for an apple (BOB). An apropos clue, as it is finally apple season around here.

  • 58d: Two-time NBA MVP Steve (NASH). Not my favorite Nash, but okay.

  • 63d: Honey Graham ___ (Quaker cereal) (OHS). See, now here's a place where you could have had fun with the clues. 58d: Graham ___, 63d: Honey Graham ___. That would have rocked!

  • 64d: Hollywood ending? (DEE). Cryptic letter clue. Could have gone with "Start to drive?" here and "Prepare to drive" at 66d: Wood in a golf bag? (TEE). Sometimes they're plastic, but most are still wood.

Suns of Bitches:
  • 44a: Tentlike dwelling (YURT). You know it's Friday when you get YURT in a spot that could have been YURI with only minor tweaks.

  • 6d: "3 on a Toothbrush" author (PAAR). News to me.

Overall, not terribly hard for a Friday, but a decent workout. Would have been a bit harder if the central theme entry hadn't been so obvious. A nice puzzle.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Title: Themeless Thursday
Author: Jeffrey Harris
Theme: None

Sunny Spots:

  • 1a: Go-go gadget? (DISCO BALL). A great clue and awesome fill at 1-Across.

  • 17a: Pu pu platter portion (SPARE RIBS). Mmmm... spare ribs.

  • 43a: "14 Shades of Grey" group (STAIND). I saw these guys live a few years back. Very good. Here's the song you'll know, if you've heard them before. Or the following, which is my favorite:

  • 8d: Drives in the back seat of a car? (LIBIDOS). This was hands down my favorite clue/answer pair in the puzzle. Inspired!

  • 35d: Song with the repeated lyric "Mr. Mojo risin'" (L.A. WOMAN). I like the Doors. Always have. Plus, for you puzzlers out there, "Mr. Mojo Risin'" is an anagram of "Jim Morrison".

  • 18a: Hotel founder Ritz (CESAR). I didn't know this, but thankfully it's a normal-enough name.

  • 19a: Signal to start speaking, perhaps (TONE). At the tone, please leave a message...

  • 20a: Wryly incredulous query (IS THAT SO?).

  • 22a: Woodworking tools (AWLS). I generally think of awls more in terms of leatherworking, but I guess they're used for wood as well.

  • 25a: Murrelet relative (AUK). I had the _UK before I even read this clue, so it wasn't a big stretch to figure out.

  • 26a: Two points, maybe (FEE). Points here as in percentages, as when closing a mortgage.

  • 27a: Gambol (CAVORT). Both excellent words.

  • 29a: After-dinner mints, e.g. (FREEBIES).

  • 31a: Go off the edge of the page (BLEED). Thank you for choosing a clue that passes the "breakfast test".

  • 32a: British logician famous for his diagrams (VENN). Gimme for a former math major. Venn diagrams are those overlapping circles that describe the unions and intersections of sets.

  • 35a: Swain (LOVER). Classic old-style fill.

  • 38a: Taiwan's setting (CHINA SEA). Gimme.

  • 45a: Farceur (WAG).

  • 46a: Runner-up to Sorenstam at the 2005 LPGA Championship (Michelle WIE). I didn't even see this clue, but it's a name you should know. At 18 years of age, she's already been a pro for three years and is absolutely phenomenal. Her attempts to compete with the men have not been particularly successful to date, but I wouldn't bet against her in the long run. She's a superstar.

  • 47a: Mnemonic of film (JOHNNY). Keanu Reeves film, a few years before the much more successful "Matrix" series.

  • 48a: Green Al (GORE). Bet you don't often think of Al Gore and Al Green at the same time, do you? I know I don't.

  • 49a: Precisely (ON THE DOT).

  • 52a: Painter of "The Absinthe Drinker" (MANET). I put in M_NET and waited for the crossing. Never can keep those two straight.

  • 53a: Neighbor of Greece (MACEDONIA).

  • 58a: 2007 film with the tagline "You can only imagine the truth" (ATONEMENT). I still haven't seen this. Need to.

  • 59a: New pet owner, perhaps (NAMER). This is such a horrendous fill, and yet I knew immediately - with no crossings - what the answer was going to be. I'm not proud.

  • 60a: Woods's chipper (SAND WEDGE). I've bitched about the difference between chipping and pitching before. I reiterate my stand.

  • 1d: Attachment on a spinning wheel (DISTAFF).

  • 2d: Like current heads of state (IN POWER).

  • 3d: He was credited as Man Dodging Debris in "Spider-Man 2" (STAN LEE). The original creator of Spiderman. Cool trivia.

  • 4d: The asteroid belt's largest body (CERES). I must have heard this recently, because I knew it right away.

  • 6d: Word after "Don't pass" and "Don't come" on a craps table (BAR).

  • 7d: Slugger from Louisville (ALI). Cute, but easy.

  • 21d: C-4 alternative (TNT).

  • 27d: "Convoy" narrator, e.g. (CBER). You wanted to forget this C.W. McCall song forever, didn't you? Well then, don't click on this link then.

  • 28d: Dancer Koklova who was Pablo Picasso's first wife (OLGA). I had the OL__ before I even saw this clue, so it was pretty obvious.

  • 30d: Like all known perfect numbers (EVEN). If you don't know what these are, you probably don't care. But here's a link just in case. Warning: It's mathy. But you knew that.

  • 31d: Asia, e.g. (BAND). Speaking of songs you'd just as soon forget, how about "Heat of the Moment"?

  • 33d: Body part protected by a greave (SHIN).

  • 36d: The largest of the Ryukyu Islands (OKINAWA).

  • 37d: Setting for part of "Forrest Gump" (VIETNAM).

  • 38d: Bach specialty (CANTATA).

  • 40d: "Girl With a Pearl ___" (Vermeer painting) (EARRING).

  • 41d: Contemporary (AGEMATE). I've never heard of this word, but it made complete sense once I filled in the missing G.

  • 48d: Pink flamingo alternative (GNOME). If you like tacky garden accessories, why settle for alternatives? Go for both, and add a color ball as well.

  • 50d: First word of the theme song to "The Monkees" (HERE). "Here we come!"

Suns of Bitches:

  • 9d: "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" star (LASSER). Not a name I recognize.

I thought this puzzle had pretty nice fill, but I must admit I found it a bit easier than expected for a Themeless Thursday. Still, it evoked many pictures and links, which is a plus for blogging. So, we'll give it a general thumbs up.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Title: "Oh, Yes!"
Author: Lee Glickstein
Theme: Adding an "Oh" sound at the end of phrases.
  • You are here => YOU ARE HERO (17a: What Leander said to his lover?).

  • Rent to own => RENT TO ONO (21a: Provide Yoko with quarters?). This one amused me quite a bit. I wonder what kind of a tenant she'd be?

  • Cowbell => COW BELLOW (35a: Intimidate author Saul?). This is the only one of the group that didn't actually change the spelling of the original phrase. But I'll forgive that since it gives me an excuse to post this clip.

  • Hip boot => HIP BHUTTO (44a: Cool former prime minister of Pakistan?).

  • Bookmark => BOOK MARCO (54a: Schedule Polo for a performance?).

  • Wounded Knee => WOUNDED NEO (64a: Injured "Matrix" character?).
  • The Wounded Knee massacre was not a high point in American history. In fact, it's a little morbid to use it as theme fodder.

Six theme entries isn't always easy to do, especially when they overlap like the first two and last two do. There does seem to be a lot of tragedy and loss interwoven into this theme; Hero and Leander, Yoko Ono, Benazir Bhutto, and Wounded Knee all evoke a sense of sadness for me. I don't think that was the intent of the constructor.

Sunny Spots:

  • 3d: Cover subject of the first issue of Us magazine (PAUL NEWMAN).

  • 32d: Gives a high gloss to, in a way (SPIT SHINES).

  • A nice set of off-beat food choices includes:

  • 15a: Gourmet mushroom (MOREL).

  • 16a: Fuzzy fruit (KIWI).

  • 22d: Vegetarian cuisine choice (TEMPEH).

  • 39d: Source of low-fat meat (EMU).

  • 14a: Chemical featured on a 1989 "60 Minutes" segment (ALAR).

  • 20a: "Save Me the Waltz" novelist Fitzgerald (ZELDA). F. Scott's wife. Clues for Zelda generally go here or to the Nintendo series.

  • 23a: Unaristocratic, to a Brit (NON-U). I learned this from puzzles.

  • 28a: 1956 Glenn Ford film remade in 1996 (RANSOM).

  • 32a: With 36-Down, 1984 Cyndi Lauper hit (SHE / BOP). I had forgotten about this one. I didn't need the reminder.

  • 40a: Emmy-winning "Miami Vice" actor (OLMOS). Another 80s clue, though I really enjoyed "Miami Vice", especially in the first couple of seasons. It was really revolutionary for its time, featuring great new music and often going several minutes with little or no dialogue as the music and visuals said it all. It was also one of the first shows that didn't always feel like it needed to tie everything up in a cute little bow by the end of the show.

  • 41a: Sweet ending (OSE). Glucose, sucrose, fructose, etc.

  • 47a: Trick-taking game played with a 32-card deck (ECARTE).

  • 50a: French seasoning (SEL). Salt.

  • 66a: Limerick popularizer (LEAR). Lear's limericks are actually pretty bad, if you ask me. "But Pete", you say. "Most limericks are pretty bad." Well, you may have a point. There certainly are some funny ones, but most of those are too obscene to be included here. But Lear's? Judge for yourself.
    There was an Old Man with a beard,
    Who said, 'It is just as I feared!
    Two Owls and a Hen,
    Four Larks and a Wren,
    Have all built their nests in my beard!'

  • I mean, please. Actually, I once defended the artistic merits of limericks in a Haiku forum (posts were all supposed to be in the form of Haiku) with the following:
    Lim'ricks for you; not
    "art" like haiku; but I; de-
    cry; your point of view.

  • 69a: "Say It ___ So" (1983 Hall and Oates hit) (ISN'T). I really wanted AIN'T here, but that's Weezer.

  • 71a: "Jim Rome Is Burning" airer (ESPN). Never watched the show, but I've heard of it.

  • 1d: Former CEO of Def Jam (JAY-Z). Seen this one before.

  • 4d: Former home of Picasso's "Guernica" (PRADO). Easy guess.

  • 6d: Former host of "Last Comic Standing" (Jay MOHR).

  • 7d: Algonquian speaker (CREE).

  • 8d: The world's largest particle physics lab (CERN). According to Wikipedia, this originally stood for "Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire".

  • 9d: Fate who spins the thread of life (CLOTHO).

  • 10d: Home of the Beacon Journal newspaper (AKRON). This clue could have just said "U.S. city" for all the help it was.

  • 18d: Tried to get a seat (RAN). In an election year, this one should be a gimme.

  • 26d: GI tract bacterium (ECOLI). Ick.

  • 27d: 1997 N.L. Rookie of the Year Scott (ROLEN). For some reason, I knew this right off the top. And that's unusual, as I don't follow the National League at all.

  • 34d: Scanner brand (EPSON).

  • 45d: With 67-Across, colorful bird that feeds on insects (BEE EATER). This would have been cooler as a single entry with EEE in it.

  • 50d: Golf garment (SKORT). Went for SHIRT first, then SKIRT. SKORT is a weird word, and not easy when crossings ARNO (63a: Illustrator of more than 100 New Yorker covers).

  • 52d: "George of the Jungle" character (APE).

  • 53d: Inner circle (CADRE).

  • 55d: Filthy lucre sources? (ORES). Meh.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 1a: Inspector in Agatha Christie stories (JAPP). I should probably know this, but it doesn't look familiar at all.

  • 54d: Maidenform rival (BALI).

  • 56d: Judah's second son (ONAN). I've seen it, but I still needed the crossings. It's a name I'm going to remember.

This had a good mid-week mix of tough and easy fill, the long fill was decent, and the theme was fine, if depressing in spots. All in all, not one of my favorites, but a decent puzzle for sure.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Title: Ultimate Band of Fiction
Author: Mark Feldman
Theme: Fictional characters whose last names end with a musical instrument.
  • 3d: Main character in "The Omen" (DAMIEN THORN).

  • 10d: Hazzard County hottie (DAISY DUKE).

  • 21d: "Vanity Fair" girl (BECKY SHARP).

  • 31d: TV character who came out of the closet in "The Puppy Episode" (ELLEN MORGAN).

  • 39d: 1971 role for Donald Sutherland (JOHN KLUTE). Yes, Joon, another "Klute" clue. You really need to go rent this movie.

Be honest. If it weren't for the title, would you have figured out this theme? I think it would have taken me a while to see it. Which is to say, it didn't help me in the least during solving. Luckily, the puzzle wasn't particular difficult, so the lack of theme help didn't matter. In fact, the theme clues were pretty straightforward "you know it or you don't"-type clues.

Sunny Spots:
  • 1a: Body of science (CADAVER). Morbid? Sure. But it's still a great fill at 1-Across.

  • 8a: Wiseguy (MADE MAN). Raise your hand if you tried MAFIOSO first. I did.

  • 15a: College professor's community (ACADEME). I want this to be ACADEMIA, but I've been disappointed regarding this fill before recently, so I was ready for it.

  • 16a: Mother-of-pearl source (ABALONE).

  • 17a: Evil (DEMONIC). The fact that this crosses DAMIEN is a nice touch.

  • 22a: Collection of electronic newsgroups (USENET). Gimme for me. Usenet was bigger than the World Wide Web back when everything was still text-based. Can you imagine web sites with no pictures? It wasn't that long ago.

  • 23a: Billy Blanks workout (TAE BO). I didn't recognize the name immediately, but the AE left no doubt what the answer was going to be.

  • 25a: Southpaw (LEFTY).

  • 36a: Fake-out in a rink (DEKE).

  • 39a: Daughter on "The Jetsons" (JUDY).

  • 40a: First "American Idol" winner Clarkson (KELLY). I didn't watch "Idol" back then. Picked it up in Season 5.

  • 41a: Cinematic technique (SLO-MO). We just had this fill yesterday. It's like a slo-mo replay all over again.

  • 46a: Grig, e.g. (EEL).

  • 47a: "___ Song Trilogy" (TORCH).

  • 48a: LaBeouf of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (SHIA). I knew this, but I can imagine the crossing of this with 48d: Govt. loan agency (SBA) might have given some people fits.

  • 50a: Ban's predecessor as U.N. secretary general (ANNAN).

  • 51a: Place for taps (BAR ROOM). Not the bugle call here.

  • 53a: Its mascot is Mr. Bluelight (K-MART).

  • 55a: Son of Cain (ENOCH).

  • 58a: Birds do it (WARBLE). Love the clue. Calls for some Ella Fitzgerald, don't you think?

  • 62a: Word with box or boy (POOR).

  • 65a: Generally (AS A RULE).

  • 67a: One of the Leeward Islands (ANTIGUA).

  • 70a: Where krónur are spent (ICELAND).

  • 71a: Inflatable life vest (MAE WEST).

  • 72a: Sublets (RERENTS). I'm not crazy about RE- words, which tend to show up a lot on the bottom row or rightmost column of puzzles.

  • 2d: Amtrak train name (ACELA). This shows up quite a bit.

  • 6d: Arab chieftain (EMIR). Ditto.

  • 12d: Phoebe, to Saturn (MOON).

  • 13d: Hathaway of "Get Smart" (ANNE). She played Agent 99 in the movie version.

  • 24d: Hit on the bean (BOP). I would have gone with a Ramones clue on this one.

  • 33d: "The Elements of ___" (Strunk and White book) (STYLE).

  • 34d: "___ la vista, baby!" (HASTA). Classic Ahhnold.

  • 44d: Like some missiles (AIR-TO-AIR).

  • 52d: Discus great Al who won gold in four consecutive Olympics (OERTER). I'm not sure if I know this from puzzles, or whether I knew it before. Either way, it's fairly deeply instilled now.

  • 56d: What an umpire's indicator indicates (COUNT).

  • 57d: Cerberus's threesome (HEADS). The three-headed dog of Greek mythology.

Suns of Bitches:


This puzzle ran a little smoother for me than yesterday's. The 15x16 construction was necessary to accommodate the lone 10-letter entry, BECKY SHARP, since central entries in a standard 15x15 must have an odd number of letters. Unfortunately, when CADAVER is your bright spot in the non-theme fill, you know things are a bit on the dull side. Not a bad puzzle, by any means, but a little more sparkle would have livened this baby up a bit.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Title: How Does That Feel?
Author: Justin Smith
Theme: Tactile adjectives used in a non-tactile way.
  • 17a: Artificial intelligence topic (FUZZY LOGIC).

  • 27a: Unpaved edge of a road (SOFT SHOULDER).

  • 45a: Awkward situation (STICKY WICKET).

  • 60a: Relaxing music genre (SMOOTH JAZZ).

This theme didn't do much for me while I was solving, as it seemed like kind of an arbitrary set of adjectives. But in retrospect, I guess it's okay. The fact that the adjectives are being used in a different, non-tactile way adds that little extra that makes it hold together reasonably well for a Monday.

Sunny Spots:

  • 4d: Tornadic toon from Warner Bros. (TAZ). One of my favorite cartoon characters.

  • 5d: In ads, it's spelled R-O-L-A-I-D-S (RELIEF). Solid pop culture reference.

  • 11d: Hershey's offering in a yellow wrapper (MR GOODBAR). Mmmm... chocolate.

  • 47d: TV character who got notes signed "Epstein's Mother" (KOTTER). I used to love this show. I'm not sure what that says about me.

  • 10a: Interfraternity council prez, e.g. (BMOC). Big Man On Campus.

  • 14a: Shade by the beach? (AQUA). Almost too easy.

  • 15a: Castaway (EXILE).

  • 16a: Humor writer Bombeck (ERMA).

  • 20a: 5% of LX (III). This is the easiest Roman numeral math we've seen in a while.

  • 22a: Instructions starter (STEP ONE).

  • 24a: "You may relax, soldier" (AT EASE).

  • 37a: Icy coatings (HOARS).

  • 39a: Former NFL quarterbacks Stabler and O'Brien (KENS). You know I'm not good with first names, but this one was a no-brainer for me.

  • 43a: Like many replays (SLO-MO).

  • 48a: "The Truth About ___ Geller" (James Randi book) (URI). Name a Geller. And no, Sarah Michelle is spelled GELLAR.

  • 49a: Lubricant reservoir in a crankcase (OIL PAN).

  • 53a: Chiquita products (BANANAS).

  • 59a: '70s teen idol Garrett (LEIF). I'm pretty sure my sister had a poster of Leif along with Andy Gibb.

  • 64a: Pet problem? (PEEVE).

  • 2d: Declaration to one's boss (I QUIT).

  • 3d: ___ Kabloozie (character voiced by Ruth Buzzi in "Sesame Street" shorts) (SUZIE). I'm not sure if I knew this or whether it just made sense.

  • 6d: Nerve cell impulse transmitter (AXON).

  • 8d: Nutmeg State Ivy Leaguers (ELIS). Even if you don't remember that Connecticut is the Nutmeg State and that Yale is in Connecticut, you've seen this answer enough that "Ivy Leaguers" should have done it for you.

  • 10d: "C'mon, buddy, help me out" (BE A PAL).

  • 25d: Yard sale caveat (AS IS).

  • 29d: "Ditto" (SO AM I). Reminds me of the first minute and a half of this clip...

  • 30d: Ruinous damage (HAVOC). Havoc is a really cool word.

  • 36d: Opposed to organized labor (ANTI-UNION).

  • 41d: NEA part (NATL). I went with ARTS here at first, until I was 46d and realized it shouldn't be (you rarely see an answer word in another clue in a well-edited puzzle).

  • 43d: It's got you covered (SKIN). Cute.

  • 46d: Partner of arts (CRAFTS).

  • 50d: Instrument with 88 keys (PIANO). A total gimme, but I do love the piano.

  • 51d: Lumbermill tools (ADZES).

  • 54d: Like a sports car, briefly (AERO). Ummm. Okay. I guess. Kinda.

  • 55d: They're unarmed, but dangerous (ASPS). Bit of a stretch for a clue, but okay.

  • 56d: "Peter Pan" character (SMEE). A crossword staple.

  • 61d: "Reading the ___" (2008 book subtitled "One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages") (OED). I need to get this book; it sounds fascinating. And no, I'm not being facetious; I really want to read it.

  • 62d: Triangular sail (JIB). Love sailing clues. Even easy ones.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 65a: Little ___ ("Hairspray" role) (INEZ). I'm sure I've seen this name before, but I needed the crossings to get it.

  • 40d: Journalist Nellie (BLY). Ditto.

  • 52d: Mozart's "Le ___ di Figaro" (NOZZE). Tough for a Monday, but a nice fill word.

This was a fairly Scrabbly puzzle for a Monday - in fact it's a pangram, using every letter at least once - and is a typical example of how Monday Sun puzzles differ from Monday Times puzzles. The Sun is almost never as easy as a NYT Monday, which is why it's a favorite among puzzle connoisseurs, and why it would be a crying shame for this puzzle to go the way of the dinosaur if the Sun should go under at the end of this month as it's threatening to do. Any wealthy puzzlers out there want to step in and invest in the Sun?

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Title: Weekend Warrior
Author: Tom Heilman
Theme: None

This is a classic Weekend Warrior which, for me, means hard. I had to scrabble for toe-holds and tease out answers section by section until it finally fell open. As such, I'm not going to bother trying to separate the hard from the easy, the "good" from the questionable. Let's just take 'em as they come.

  • 1a: Definitive statement (LAST WORD). Very nice fill that frankly took me longer to get than I'd like to admit. In fact, the NW was the last quadrant to fall.

  • 9a: Springy? (FONTAL). Yeah, I get it, but... eh.

  • 15a: Cofounder of Lucky Duck Productions (Linda ELLERBEE). I didn't know this at all, but it's a name I recognize so I was comfortable with it once it filled in.

  • 16a: Spanish city that's the capital of Asturias (OVIEDO). No idea. Doesn't ring a bell at all.

  • 17a: Naval formation (FLOTILLA). Another one I should have gotten more easily. For some reason I had ARMADA on the brain, which obviously doesn't fit, but it successfully blocked out any other useful thoughts. I hate when that happens.

  • 18a: 1980 remake of "Down to Earth" (XANADU). I'm familiar with the film, though the fact that it's a remake of something is news to me. Great fill word, though, with the leading X and trailing U. Beautiful.

  • 19a: Color-changing climber (TREE TOAD). This one feels like the kind of fill you put in because it's the only thing that fits. Nothing glaringly wrong with it, but it's just filler.

  • 21a: Dance in triple meter (JIG). Not too many dances in three letters.

  • 24a: "___ to Deodorant" (Coldplay song) (ODE). Great twist on a common word.

  • 25a: Self-titled #1 album of 1982 (ASIA). The original "supergroup", I believe. Never liked them.

  • 27a: Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary (GEICO). Ok, that's obscure.

  • 28a: Particles of the meson family (PSIS). I didn't know this one, but was happy when I was able to shove a Greek letter in there. It just felt right.

  • 29a: Sub spot (BENCH). Sub as in substitute. My first guess was OCEAN.

  • 33a: Blokus piece (TILE). I thought, even after I got this right, that Blokus was some guy's name, like an author or artist. Turns out it's a board game, but not one that I've seen before.

  • 36a: Sub spot (DELI). A nice partner to the BENCH, above.

  • 37a: Volcano of Ecuador (COTOPAXI). This is a really cool-looking nasty fill word. It's not like it's something you could guess, or even nod and say, "Yeah, that looks right". I think I've seen it before somewhere, but I needed the crossings to get it.

  • 46a: Low rollers (TIRES). I wasn't crazy about this clue. Even with TI_ES, I had to run through the alphabet to find what made sense. I almost settled on TIDES.

  • 49a: Gelatin brand (KNOX). Vaguely familiar. Very vaguely.

  • 51a: Happens to (BETIDES). I got this one off the leading B. Somehow, I just knew that's where this one was going.

  • 53a: Bath suds? (ALE). Bath the city, I would say.

  • 54a: Like a good drill team (IN STEP). Almost went with IN SYNC first, but thought better of it.

  • 56a: Bad (SINISTER). Sinister literally means "from the left" or "left-handed". Any of you out there get ruler-slapped by a nun for writing with the "wrong" hand?

  • 58a: 1952 Brando role (ZAPATA). Nice fill word.

  • 59a: Good (OBEDIENT). Well, sort of. There have been some pretty obedient bad people in history.

  • 61a: Fester (ULCERATE). Ewwww. (PB2: I can see why we'd want to avoid this one...).

  • 62a: City on the Loire (NANTES).

  • 63a: Brief buzz creator (TEASER AD). The "AD" part seems redundant, but it's still okay.

  • 1d: Ring leader? (LEFT JAB). I'm pretty sure I've seen this clue before and I still didn't get it right away. Wonderful clue.

  • 2d: Standing order (ALL RISE). Cute.

  • 3d: Fizz ingredient (SLOE GIN). Well, it's an ingredient in a sloe gin fizz. Not fizz in general. But good fill.

  • 4d: Kopf, across the Rhine (TÊTE). I don't know much German, but I know that dummkopf basically means "stupid head".

  • 6d: Like a mango (OBLONG).

  • 8d: Broadcasting no-no (DEAD AIR).

  • 9d: Source of the heart stimulant digitalis (FOXGLOVE). This piece of trivia was actually lodged in the deep recesses of memory. Not sure why.

  • 11d: Original MTV veejay Blackwood (NINA). No idea.

  • 12d: Shade of pink (TEA ROSE).

  • 13d: Included as a bonus (ADDED IN).

  • 26d: Massachusetts town in Middlesex County (ACTON). I live in New Hampshire, so this wasn't unfamiliar.

  • 28d: Make erect, with "up" (PRICK). Wow! This clue/answer combination is a bit, if I may say, ballsy, don't you think?

  • 30d: Cool (HIP). This is amusing in that anyone who still says "hip" is decidedly not cool.

  • 32d: Name engraved on the Claret Jug in 2002 (ELS). The Claret Jug is the trophy given to the winner of the British Open.

  • 34d: Gym entrance requirement, sometimes (LATE PASS).

  • 37d: Watch brand (CITIZEN).

  • 38d: Senators hear it before facing off (O CANADA). That's the Ottawa Senator of the NHL.

  • 39d: A winner might have it (TOP SPIN). Reference to tennis. Or ping pong or volleyball, I suppose.

  • 40d: Common cartoon ending (IRIS OUT). This is a term I was unfamiliar with, but it makes total sense once I got it.

  • 42d: Rampaging (ON A TEAR).

  • 43d: Cornmeal mush (POLENTA).

  • 47d: Like some underwear (EDIBLE). This is not at all where I was expecting this clue to take me, but I certainly got a good chuckle out of it.

  • 48d: Tutor to Nero (SENECA).

  • 51d: Frequent costar of Humphrey (BETTE). Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart.

  • 52d: 45 halves (SIDES). I used to collect 45s (for you young-uns, those are vinyl singles, played at 45 rpm instead of the usual 33 1/3), so this one didn't fool me. Great clue.

  • 57d: Marco, to Omar Khayyam (SIRE). Another piece of trivia I just didn't know.

This is exactly what I expect and like in a Weekend Warrior. Like a good Saturday NYT puzzle, I expect to have to poke and prod until things unfold. Too easy and it's unsatisfying. Too hard and it's not fun at all. A decent struggle that ultimately required no Googling to solve? Perfect.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Title: Those Were the Days
Author: Alex Boisvert
Theme: Quip by comedian Demetri Martin



I know a lot of people aren't fans of quip and quote puzzles, since you only get one "Aha" moment instead of perhaps several. But I like Demetri Martin's brand of humor, so this one was fine by me.

Sunny Spots:

  • 8d: Rehearsal (DRY RUN). I'm not sure what the origin of this phrase is, but it might be military (i.e., without live ammo).

  • 11d: Pickle (QUANDARY). Good word, with a Q to boot.

  • 44d: Palace guard, perhaps (EUNUCH). This amuses me because it reminds me of my all-time favorite "Dilbert" cartoon.

  • 5a: Sale spot (YARD). Yard, barn, tent, ... pick one.

  • 9a: Excite (PIQUE).

  • 14a: "Piece of My Heart" singer Franklin (ERMA). Aretha's older sister. Janis Joplin's version is a cover of this original. Hear it here.

  • 15a: Prefix with mensch (UBER). I do like the prefix UBER-.

  • 17a: Da ___ (from the top, in music) (CAPO).

  • 19a: Barbecue sides (SLAWS). It's a rare barbecue that has multiple slaws, but okay.

  • 23a: Italian sandwiches (PANINI).

  • 24a: 180, familiarly (UEY). Guessed the correct spelling the first time.

  • 25a: POTUS #34 (DDE). Eisehower, the 34th President of the United States.

  • 32a: Fidel's brother (RAUL).

  • 40a: Like the accent in "crème" (GRAVE). High school French to the rescue again.

  • 41a: Verklempt person's cry (OY VEY).

  • 45a: Beast in Numbers (ASS). We're talking Bible here.

  • 50a: Longtime Kentucky basketball coach Rupp (ADOLPH). I didn't know this, but it's a common enough name that it fell pretty easily.

  • 56a: Rapids transit? (CANOE). I'm not sure why the '?' is necessary here. My first instinct was KAYAK, as it has nicer letters. Here's a nice Winslow Homer painting on the subject.

  • 58a: Jamaican tangelo (UGLI).

  • 59a: Quarters where quarters might be played (DORM). Quarters is the bugle call indicating it's time to return to quarters for the evening. Hear it here.

  • 61a: Popular cat name (CLEO). Really? People name their cats Cleo? I've never met a cat named Cleo. Or is there something about this clue that I'm missing?

  • 62a: Railroad company known as "The scarlet woman of Wall Street" (ERIE). I'm sure there's a story here, but I'm too lazy to digging for what it might be.

  • 64a: Felled (HEWN). This was in the destruction zone of the puzzle, along with 55d: Struck down (SLEW), 57d: Hack (AXE), and the red herring, 56d: Hack (CAB).

  • 1d: Offering at epicurious.com (RECIPE).

  • 2d: It's called Masis in Armenian (ARARAT). This clue has Peter Gordon written all over it.

  • 5d: Superlatively scrumptious (YUMMIEST).

  • 12d: Motor City org. (UAW).

  • 13d: Overhead rumblers (ELS).

  • 30d: "Cantar de ___ Cid" (Spanish epic poem) (MIO).

  • 31d: Result of dropping a can of corn (ERROR).

  • 32d: "You may ___ on it" (Magic 8 Ball pronouncement) (RELY). For those of you who never broke one of these open, here is what the inside die looks like.

  • 33d: Winter precipitazione (NEVE). A little stretchy, but I know it's "neige" in French, so it's not totally out there.

  • 34d: Walter's "Hopscotch" costar (GLENDA). Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson.

  • 35d: "What hump?" speaker (IGOR). From "Young Frankenstein".

  • 37d: Second-largest Mediterranean island (SARDINIA).

  • 38d: Illuminati symbol (EYE).

  • 39d: "Birthplace of ___ Pioneers" (phrase on an Ohio quarter) (AVIATION).

  • 43d: Sobbing syllable (HOO). Half of Boo-hoo. Kind of weak.

  • 45d: Current TV cofounder (AL GORE).

Suns of Bitches:

  • 60a: Spaceship in "Wall-E" (AXIOM). I never saw the movie, so this was crossings only.

  • 4d: "The Shock Doctrine" author Klein (NAOMI). Hitting my first-name weakness again here.

  • 7d: "And Then There Were None" director Clair (RENE). Ditto.

Overall, this puzzle was just okay for me. The theme was fine, for a quote, but I wasn't crazy about the non-theme long fill. QUANDARY was good, if not exciting. YUMMIEST... well, jury's still out on YUMMIEST. SARDINIA and AVIATION are both a little dry.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Title: Reading for a Bit Part
Author: Jeremy Horwitz
Theme: Films based on books in which the book's author makes a cameo appearance

  • 18a: 1989 film in which author Stephen King plays a minister (PET SEMATARY).

  • 36a: 1999 film in which author John Irving plays a stationmaster, with "The" (CIDER HOUSE RULES).

  • 59a: 1996 film in which author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. plays a sad man on the street (MOTHER NIGHT).

This is the kind of interesting trivia that makes for a cool theme. I don't remember the film "Mother Night", but it stars Nick Nolte and gets reasonable reviews on IMDb.

Sunny Spots:

  • 1d: Moot (ACADEMIC). I just love the word "moot". Reminds me of a great SNL skit with Jesse Jackson, "The Question is Moot". It may take a couple of minutes to download, but it's worth it.

  • 43a: North America's highest mountain (DENALI).

  • 2d: Squid (CALAMARI). Nice pair of words ending in "I".

  • 39d: Blobby light source (LAVA LAMP).

  • 9a: Paddles, maybe (HAZES). "Thank you, sir, may I have another."

  • 17a: Singer/actress Lohan (ALI). Lindsay's little sister.

  • 22a: Outcast (EXILED). Adds a little Scrabbliness to the NE corner.

  • 23a: Arabic for "commander" (EMIR).

  • 27a: Snow or blow (COKE). It's been a couple of days since we've had a good drug reference clue. Well, wait no longer.

  • 28a: Woman in charge of a bordello (MADAM).

  • 30a: "The Pagan Stone" author Roberts (NORA).

  • 31a: Phone button (STAR). I had OPER to start. Actually, that's not entirely true. I had MUTE, then OPER.

  • 32a: Tabriz residents (IRANIS).

  • 34a: Word with feet or shoulder (COLD).

  • 48a: Heart of the matter (PITH). Literally.

  • 51a: Loco (BATS). I'm sure I'm not the only one who tried NUTS first.

  • 55a: Medium relative (ORACLE).

  • 57a: Automobile pioneer Gottlieb (DAIMLER).

  • 63a: Holiday music (BLUES). I was fooled, going with NOELS. But no, it's the sultry and awesome Billie Holiday.

  • 3d: Port-of-Spain setting (TRINIDAD).

  • 4d: Hitchcock's first color film (ROPE).

  • 5d: Former "At the Movies" cohost (EBERT).

  • 7d: Stubborn sort (ASS).

  • 8d: Confederate commander at Gettysburg (LEE). Yesterday featured ASS and MEADE; today we ge ASS and LEE. Go figure.

  • 10d: Tomfoolery (ANTICS).

  • 11d: Big fan (ZEALOT). Part of the Scrabbly NE.

  • 12d: Cry of discovery (EUREKA).

  • 13d: James Dean's infamous Porsche (SPYDER). Infamous because he died in it, in a head-on collision.

  • 19d: Got the gold, e.g. (MEDALED).

  • 21d: Grammer part (CRANE). I was little slow on the uptake on this one. The references are to Kelsey Grammer, who played Frasier Crane.

  • 25d: One of the Ten Plagues (LOCUSTS).

  • 29d: Joan of art (MIRO). Cool clue. Cool artist.

  • 38d: Take a piece from (UNARM). We just had a piece twist yesterday, so this one wasn't quite as fresh as it might have been.

  • 40d: Steel anniversary (ELEVENTH).

  • 44d: Fission gear? (A-BOMBS). That's pussion it a bit, don't you think?

  • 45d: Sentence abbreviator (PAROLE).

  • 46d: Square figure (STATUE). Good one.

  • 47d: "Hand With Reflecting Sphere" artist (ESCHER). Gimme for me. I love Escher's work.

  • 49d: Limited financial risk (HEDGED).

  • 53d: 1986 Indy 500 champ Bobby (RAHAL). I know almost nothing about auto racing and I know this name, so it must be pretty easy.

  • 60d: Point of writing (NIB). The writing tip of a pen.

  • 61d: Nancy's role on "Rhoda" (IDA). I didn't know it off the top, but it felt right when I got it.

Suns of Bitches:

Surprisingly, none.

This was a decent Wednesday puzzle for me. Not spectacular, but decent. On the minus side, I'm not crazy about starting off with 3-letter across fill. The NW corner kind of sets the mood for the puzzle, so I prefer a little more flash in that area and in the across clues in general. On the plus side, the down fill was quite good. And, at 72 words, it's getting down into themeless territory for word count, which is a bonus for a mid-week themed puzzle. Add in the interesting theme, and you've got yourself a pretty nice puzzle.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.