Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Title: For Startlers
Author: Donna Hoke Kahwaty
Theme: BOO rebus

  • 7a: Game played with unmentionables? (TABOO). love it! not only is TABOO my favorite party game, but this is a terrific clue. makes you think there's some major hanky-panky afoot. this one crossed...

  • 9d: Elevates (BOOSTS). i should have realized when i had _ST_ here that something was fishy.

  • 25a: Lush (BOOZER). i found this one rather late. it crossed...

  • 1d: Site to read the writing on the wall? (FACEBOOK). awesome clue. hey, while we're on the subject, check out the facebook news feed version of hamlet.

  • 26a: Chacmas, for example (BABOONS). if you say so. this one crossed...

  • 15d: He lost a 1989 fight to Hector "Macho" Camacho (RAY "BOOM-BOOM" MANCINI). spectacular! this guy's full name was only semi-familiar to me, but i've definitely heard the nickname. the second BOO crossed...

  • 34a: Object of fear (BUGABOO). great word. not to be confused with a bugaloo, electric or otherwise.

  • 36a: Red cap (TARBOOSH). never seen this word before. but it had to be right. it crossed...

  • 10d: Tick-Licker was his rifle (DANIEL BOONE). excellent, although the clue wasn't too tough. not that i knew the name of his rifle, but ... who else is gonna have a named rifle?

  • 37a: Bum (CABOOSE). kind of like the clue for BOOZER in that it could go a lot of different ways. it crossed...

  • 39d: Last rewards? (BOOBY PRIZES). not really sure what's going on with the clue here. does "last rewards" have some other meaning that would make this clue more interesting than it seemed?

  • 54a: Made of sheer fabric (PEEK-A-BOO). not PICABO street, who would not fit into this theme. this crossed...

  • 57d: Ursine sidekick (BOO BOO BEAR). yogi's best friend. cute, for sure, but it doesn't have quite the sizzle of the other double-rebus entry. the second BOO crossed...

  • 61a: "House of ___" (1955 Robert Stack film) (BAMBOO). this was the last thing i filled in. i was looking at BA__, A_ALIE, and BOO_BEAR for a while, thinking that nothing was going to work. it finally dawned on me that there was yet one more rebus square.

happy halloween! this theme shouldn't have surprised me, because i actually considered (but did not execute) a BOO rebus for halloween. but it did, mainly because i actually got pretty far before i ran into something that just wouldn't work. (also, it's still october 30 as i write this.) once i came across DANIEL BOONE, i knew something was up--nothing in the clue suggested the shortening DAN'L, and another glance at the title confirmed my BOO suspicion. still, this was brilliantly executed. lots of rebus squares, and no symmetry; that added to the surprise. the terrific central theme entry, which was 14 squares long, necessitated the 15x16 grid. but almost all the entries were fantastic.

Sunny Spots:
you mean, aside from the whole theme? okay, there's more that i loved:

  • 48a: Confound (STYMIE). one of my favorite words. i probably use it in conversation more than anyone else i know.

  • 67a: Ocean freezer in "Cat's Cradle" (ICE-NINE). the first vonnegut book i read. it's kind of sci-fi, kind of just ... vonnegut. anyway, the idea is that somebody invents a form of water that not only freezes instantaneously, but it causes any water that comes into contact with it to freeze instantaneously also. (don't wave your laws of thermodynamics at me--i'm just the messenger.) hilarity (?) ensues.


  • 1a: Furbys, e.g. (FAD). FAD went into my grid pretty quickly, but something about the plural here gives me pause in retrospect. were furbys the FAD, or was the furby the FAD?

  • 4a: Links letters (PGA). letters on the links, not a verb phrase.

  • 10a: Drops on the ground? (DEW). good clue, though it didn't slow me down.

  • 14a: Atlantic City casino (HARRAH'S). now this one did slow me down--i started with HARROD'S. i think that's a department store.

  • 16a: What the king of diamonds holds (AXE). nice clue for a very common fill word. it doesn't quite merit pete's "bridge clues" tag, though.

  • 18a: "This is no joke" (I MEAN IT).

  • 20a: Geraint's love (ENID). this is mythology that borders on the obscure. i've heard of geraint, and somehow i came up with ENID off the D, but ... i don't remember how the story goes. "geraint and ENID" is one of the tales in the welsh cycle called the mabinogion.

  • 22a: "The Memory of Trees" singer (ENYA). ERIE rule. singer in four letters? try ENYA first. (then... SADE?)

  • 31a: Former "Tonight Show" bandleader (MARSALIS). i don't even know which MARSALIS this is. probably branford? yep, according to wikipedia.

  • 50a: ___ Bowl (annual college football game between the Big Ten and the Big 12) (ALAMO). this goes nicely with DANIEL BOONE.

  • 58a: Oscilloscope part: Abbr. (CRT). oscilloscope! of course, nowadays, the new scopes are all fancy and digital with LCD screens anyway. but still, i loved this clue.

  • 62a: Jovian, e.g. (ALIEN). someone from jupiter. although i haven't read a lot of sci-fi involving jovians. (there are no jovians in cat's cradle.)

  • 64a: Zin swiller (WINO). goes nicely with BOOZER.

  • 66a: Tangier alternative for tourists? (FEZ). i only just now got the joke in the clue. i had worked out that it's FEZ the moroccan city, and not FEZ the hat. but i think i was supposed to be tricked into thinking tangier was a comparative adjective. well, needless to say...

  • 73a: "Trouble" singer Peeples (NIA). don't know the song, didn't know she was a singer, but you say "peeples," i write NIA. my pavlovian training is very strong. (the same goes for "vardalos." i'm not quite as reflexive on "long"; that generally requires context.)

  • 74a: It has counties named Lincoln and Douglas: Abbr. (WIS). i don't even know the counties in my own state, let alone wisconsin.

  • 76a: GQ types? (EDS). meh.

  • 3d: Sequel to "The Omen" (DAMIEN). i only know this because i feel like i've entered OMENII into a crossword grid recently.

  • 4d: Golden ratio symbol (PHI). nice clue. in fact, you could say that this clue is the archetype of classical beauty.

  • 5d: Kill holder (GAME BAG). eww.

  • 7d: Pitcher Frank who led the A.L. in ERA in 1977 (TANANA). yeah, it's more sports, but you would have known this one! (but my anonymous interlocutor is not even reading this.)

  • 32d: Bully's words of authority (SAYS ME). love it!

  • 35d: Pacific Coast League letters (AAA). i know full well what the PCL is and still couldn't figure this one out. seriously, i wanted the answer to be ... PCL. i also had RHE here for a while. anyway, the answer is 100% obvious in retrospect. the PCL is one of the two triple-A leagues, the international league being the other. (and technically, the mexican league is AAA, but the level of play in it is more like advanced class A.) just for fun, the "pacific coast" league has teams in new orleans, memphis, nashville, and omaha.

  • 38d: It establishes that there can be no religious test for public office (ARTICLE VI). I is congress, II is the executive branch, III is the supreme court, and after that i have no idea.

  • 47d: Financial writer Marshall and singer Lisa (LOEBS). ugly fill, but forgivable in such an otherwise beautiful puzzle.

  • 55d: Outfielder nicknamed "Mr. Tiger" (al KALINE). our third baseball clue. two notable facts about KALINE: 1. he went straight to the big leagues after signing at age 18, never playing in the minors. 2. he finished his career with exactly 3000 hits.

  • 68d: Michael Hayden's org. (CIA). i should probably know who that is, right?

Suns of Bitches:

  • 43a: Vibe rival (URB). they're magazines, i'm guessing. but i've never heard of either one.

  • 59a: Sprinter Pistorius (OSCAR). apparently, that's him in the picture. never heard of him.

  • 2d: One of the cats in "Cats" (ALONZO). let's see, grizzabella, macavity, .... i'm done.

  • 45d: Queens's ___ Park (REGO). no idea.

  • 56d: Charlotte ___, St. Thomas (AMALIE). i'm at least pretty sure this is a place name of some sort.

well, this is simply a brilliant puzzle. the write-up doesn't do it justice. i'll blame it on the fact that it's the end of the week, i'm tired, and friday isn't my regular gig. see you all on tuesday.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Title: Themeless Thursday
Author: Will Nediger
Theme: N/A

Hmmm, this themeless Thursday puzzle actually seems to be themeless. That's unusual. Maybe I'm missing something.

Hey, maybe it's a pangram.

Nope, unless I screwed up somewhere (always a possibility) it lacks a Q.

Sunny Spots:

64A: Did the Wright thing? (FLEW) Well, DESIGNED A BUILDING won't fit, so you know he's talking about Orville and Wilbur and not Frank Lloyd.

48A: Chase scenes were often seen during its broadcasts (SNL) I was kinda torn on this one as to whether it belonged here or in the Suns of Bitches category. I like the clue, but shouldn't it have a question mark after it or at least some indication that the answer is an abbreviation?

59A: Certain toy, for short (PEKE) I mean, if they're going to let us know the dog's name has been shortened, shouldn't they do the same with "Saturday Night Live"?

58D: Novel idea? (PLOT) By the way, next month is National Novel Writing Month, and I intend to participate. If you think you might to write a novel in November (no pressure, it doesn't have to be a good one, as it says on their website "Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved") you can get more information here.


24D: Cranny (NOOK) If these words mean the same thing, why do we always say "nook and cranny" instead of "nook" or "cranny"?

55D: Movie character who says "The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of." (SPADE) Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in "The Maltese Falcon." As far as hardboiled detectives go, I was always more of a Chandler than a Hammett man, but this is a great movie and a great line -- changing only letter from Prospero in Shakespeare's "The Tempest": "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep." Carly Simon later had a hit song with the same title as Mr. Spade's famous line (minus the "uh").

(By the way you can win a few bar bets by challenging your fellow imbibers to quote the last line of "The Maltese Falcon". Most people think the "dreams" line is it, but the last line is actually from the guy Spade makes his poetic pronouncement to. He says, "Huh?" and that's the last lien of the movie.)

62D: Producer of Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" album (ENO) Musical reference, three letters, it's got to be ENO. It's interesting though that he's associated with this short musical name as his real full name is Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno.

45D: Like some marriages (SAME SEX) I try to keep politics out of my crossword commentary. I don't always succeed but I do try. I can't help wondering though why the party that prides itself on staying out of people's personal lives is the same party that wants to tell you who you can and cannot marry.

67A: Doctor's words (TRY TO RELAX) The only time a doctor has ever said this to me was during a procedure where it is impossible to relax.

42A: Circles (ENGIRDLES) When I was a kid, "girdle" was the punch line of every other dirty joke. I still remember this little ditty from second grade:

"Yankee Doodle went to town a riding on a turtle, turned a corner just in time to see a lady's girdle."

I wasn't too sure exactly what a girdle was but I knew it was both dirty and hilarious.

Suns of Bitches:

50A: Pussy thing on a puss (ZIT) Not too difficult to figure out once you get your "u" sounds all straightened out. But still -- Yuck! I doubt you'll ever see the word "pussy" in a New York Times clue.

See you next Thursday.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Note: I'm on vacation (DisneyWorld) this week with little to no access. I wrote this post last week before I left, and it is going to be briefer than usual. Also, don't be offended if I don't respond to comments. See you next week.

Title: So Sioux Me
Author: Laura Sternberg
Theme: Crazy "HORSE" (phrases that contain the letters HORSE in some order).
  • 17a: Place where arrangements are made (FLOWER SHOP).

  • 23a: What an exchange student might experience (CULTURE SHOCK).

  • 31a: University of Paris, familiarly (THE SORBONNE).

  • 47a: Travel organization with the slogan "Adventures in lifelong learning" (ELDER HOSTEL).

  • 55a: Subway fare? (HERO SANDWICH). This feels vaguely redundant to me -- a hero is a sandwich -- but that's a minor nit.

  • 66a: Sioux chief (and what can be found in the circled squares?) (CRAZY HORSE).

Here, six nice theme entries are given a little extra breathing room from the 15x16 grid. I like that all of the scrambled HORSEs span two words in the theme entries. And the title makes me smile to the point of forgiving any nits I might harbor.

The mostly-unadulterated works:
  • 7a: Pro Bowlers' org. (NFL). Did you notice the capital B? That changes it from a bowling org to a football org. Nice clue.

  • 10a: Liver disease, for short (HEP C). Hepatitis C. Proof again that the Sun plays by different rules than the Times, which eschews reference to disease.

  • 14a: Director with complete control over a film (AUTEUR).

  • 15a: Brett's opposite number at Giants Stadium (ELI). Both the Giants, quarterbacked by ELI Manning, and the Jets, quarterbacked by Brett Favre, play their home games at Giants Stadium.

  • 16a: Renuzit target (ODOR).

  • 19a: Lily of the ___ (plant in the amaryllis family) (NILE). VALLEY didn't fit.

  • 21a: "All seats are sold" sign (SRO). Standing room only.

  • 22a: Davis of "Do the Right Thing" (OSSIE).

  • 27a: Milan fashion house (ARMANI).

  • 30a: Podcast source (ITUNES).

  • 36a: Golden Fleece quest ship (ARGO).

  • 37a: Handy (OF USE).

  • 42a: Rally ender, often (SMASH). In tennis.

  • 46a: Like the WTO (INTL).

  • 50a: Eponym of the New York City mayor's mansion (GRACIE).

  • 54a: Not on the road (AT HOME).

  • 59a: Note that Kenny G held for 45 minutes, 47 seconds (E-FLAT). Pick-a-letter-from-A-to-G FLAT

  • 60a: "Phenomenon" judge Geller (URI).

  • 61a: Any piece in Robert McG. Thomas Jr.'s book "52 McGs" (OBIT).

  • 65a: Super day in the U.S.? (TUES).

  • 71a: Schoolyard challenge (MAKE ME).

  • 72a: Cheers for picadors (OLES).

  • 73a: Correspondent Samantha of "The Daily Show" (BEE). She is hysterical. Love the show. Love Samantha Bee.

  • 1d: Go with the wind (WAFT).

  • 2d: Hoop or skirt preceder (HULA).

  • 3d: Hugh Laurie's alma mater (ETON). This is the dude that plays Dr. House on "House, M.D.". If you've seen the show but never heard him off the show, you'll be amazed at how British he normally sounds. I was.

  • 4d: Anchors can be seen on them (NEWSCASTS).

  • 5d: Pool hall stick (CUE).

  • 7d: Indira Gandhi's maiden name (NEHRU).

  • 8d: Blow away (FLOOR).

  • 9d: Projecting edge (LIP).

  • 10d: Island that's second to Java in population (HONSHU).

  • 11d: Light-headed person? (EDISON). Yeah, okay.

  • 12d: Regulate (POLICE).

  • 13d: Streams (CREEKS).

  • 18d: JFK jet, once (SST).

  • 22d: Prefix meaning "bone" (OSTEO).

  • 24d: Game with red, yellow, green, and blue cards (UNO).

  • 25d: Asia Minor money (LIRA).

  • 26d: "Ich bin ___ Berliner": JFK (EIN).

  • 27d: Deposit sites (ATMS).

  • 28d: Baba au ___ (RHUM). Mmmmm...

  • 29d: Cactus League city (MESA).

  • 32d: Garrett of "'Til Death" (BRAD).

  • 33d: Closely examine the figures? (OGLE). Cute.

  • 34d: Roulette bet (NOIR). Black, in French.

  • 38d: They have barbs (FISH HOOKS).

  • 40d: Part of a quarter note (STEM).

  • 41d: ___ Girl (former Seventeen rival) (ELLE).

  • 43d: Stickup (HEIST).

  • 45d: Spender of bahts (THAI).

  • 48d: Thompson of "Howard the Duck" (LEA).

  • 49d: Like aspirin: Abbr. (OTC). Over-the-counter.

  • 50d: "___ Love" (1997 Da Brat hit) (GHETTO).

  • 51d: Get more gas (REFUEL). Went with REFILL first.

  • 52d: Female cat in "Garfield" (ARLENE).

  • 53d: Ocean liners? (COASTS).

  • 56d: Nightingale, e.g. (NURSE).

  • 57d: Des Moines university (DRAKE).

  • 58d: Best Musical of 1975, with "The" (WIZ).

  • 62d: Marcia's "Desperate Housewives" role (BREE). Aww, no "Klute" clue? ;)

  • 63d: Schools of thought (ISMS).

  • 64d: Left and right ends? (TEES). Cryptic letter clue.

  • 67d: Peruvian singer Sumac (YMA). Crossword staple.

  • 68d: Bears (HAS). As in "bears a striking resemblance", I suppose.

Decent puzzle. No complaints.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Title: Making Out
Author: Tony Orbach
Theme: Two-word phrases that begin with ways of making an out while batting

  • 17a: Thing causing a buzz kill? (FLY SWATTER). i dig this clue.

  • 21a: Candy that did not, in fact, kill Mikey (POP ROCKS). i'm relieved to learn that he's alive.

  • 36a: Doing the Macarena, e.g. (LINE DANCING). hey, macarena!

  • 44a: Concern for someone holding put or call options (STRIKE PRICE). no idea what this is.

  • 54a: 1978 Goldie Hawn movie (FOUL PLAY). never heard of this movie.

  • 64a: Sloppy joe ingredient (GROUND BEEF).

what a great theme! six terrific phrases (well, five and STRIKE PRICE, which is a big "wha?" for me), for the six ways of making an out: fly out, pop out, line out, strike out, foul out, ground out. (there are other, more esoteric, ways to make an out, but they don't have convenient two-word verb phrases ending with "out.") and a perfect way to mark the passing of the 2008 baseball season. congratulations to the philadelphia phillies. (they haven't won yet, as of this writing, but they're well on their way.)
update: they're playing through an absolute downpour. you hate to call the deciding game of the world series early because of rain, but this is absurd. they're practically underwater.
update again: they finally called the game, but only after the rays had rallied to tie it. i'm cheering for tampa bay (sort of), but this is unbelievably fishy. the last inning should never have been played, and by rule, the phillies should be winners.

Sunny Spots:

  • 31d: Hershey's product (KIT KAT). first of all, these are delicious. second, i like seeing KITKAT in the grid.

  • 42d: Sports reporters' spot (PRESS BOX). good fill. lots of consonants, and an X is always welcome.


  • 1a: Both: Prefix (AMBI-). one is all right, but i'm going to complain slightly about also having 71a: Prefix meaning "strange" (XENO-) and 60d: Conference starter? (TELE-). even though i like the X (crossing PRESS BOX), and i also sort of like the cryptic clue for TELE-.

  • 5a: "Little ___ of Horrors" (SHOP). nice way to spice up a boring word.

  • 9a: Water stopper (DIKE). i had PLUG here for a while. (a short while.) with 0 working crosses, it didn't last long.

  • 20a: Part of NIMH (MENTAL). national institute of MENTAL health. nothing to do with rats or mrs. brisby/frisby.

  • 25a: Gain a lap? (SIT). cute clue.

  • 26a: Breakfast bowl bit (FLAKE). now this one seemed a bit dull. there are more interesting definitions of FLAKE as cluing options.

  • 39a: Band with the compilation album "Ticket to the Moon" (ELO). it's always something. but by now, you know what you're getting with a peter gordon puzzle: for a proper noun, you're going to get a fresh clue even if it means you've neeeeever heard of it, day of the week be damned. of course, ELO very much falls under the umbrella of what i call the "ERIE rule": if it could be ELO, it is. so, band in three letters? try ELO first. (then REM.)

  • 41a: F in music class (FORTE). only FORTE? last week we were treated to fortississimo! still, a nice misleading clue.

  • 42a: Ready for an operation (PREP). ready, the verb. this goes nicely with 8d: Cops catch them (PERPS).

  • 46a: Tail, maybe (SPY ON). tail, the verb.

  • 49a: Steve Carlton's nickname (LEFTY). how apropos! while reading about world series game 3 (at which LEFTY, looking like death warmed over, threw out the ceremonial first pitch), i learned an interesting bit of trivia: carlton, at age 41, was actually the pitcher that jamie moyer defeated in his major league debut in 1986. now it's 2008, and moyer, going on 46, is pitching in the world series. incredible.

  • 50a: Div. of the Department of Transportation (FAA).

  • 59a: Where Jaime Escalante taught H.S. (EAST LA). i have no idea who jaime escalante is. is this from that cheech marin movie?

  • 67a: "I don't mind ___ / Except as meals": Ogden Nash (EELS). i loved this clue. first of all, any ogden nash is a nice addition to a puzzle. second, EELS would be pretty ugly to clue by ordinary means, whether as the noun or the verb.

  • 68a: Sunny (SOLAR). really? sun-related, sure. but sunny? that seems off to me. you couldn't say "it's very SOLAR out today" or "this runs on sunny power." is there a sentence in which the two are interchangeable?

  • 70a: Make a pile, maybe (RAKE). almost works well as a misdirecting clue for "make a pile of money."

  • 3d: ___ Mawr (Pennsylvania college) (BRYN). mildly weird coincidence: earlier this evening my wife and i were trying to name the seven sisters. i don't even remember why--perhaps somehow related to the ivy leaguers puzzle from yesterday? anyway, i think we concluded that BRYN mawr was the seventh one.

  • 4d: "I'm saving this seat" ("IT'S TAKEN"). okay, it's conversational, but it's still a bit dull.

  • 5d: Put back into place, as a broken bone (SET). i'm always interested to see how this gets clued. i read once that SET has the most definitions of any word in webster's dictionary.

  • 9d: Old Chrysler division (DESOTO). give me hernando over old cars any day.

  • 10d: Apple that requires juice (IMAC). i suppose there's only so many variants on this clue; this one seemed a little tired. on the other hand, i love my IMAC. best computer i've ever had.

  • 11d: He exiled Khan to the planet Ceti Alpha V (KIRK). khaaaaaan!

  • 18d: Newcastle Brown ___ (ALE). do i have to give it the "booze"/"beer" tag just because ALE is in here? i mean, ALE is in practically every singe puzzle.

  • 24d: State that borders Chihuahua (SONORA). it took me a little while to correct my first attempt, SONOMA, especially as i'd never heard of STRIKE PRICE.

  • 27d: Became animated (LIT UP). this could have been another baseball clue. at least it wasn't smoking.

  • 33d: Penman's flourish (SERIF). i realize there are people with decent handwriting in the world, but to me, this is strictly a typesetting word.

  • 35d: Speechless dwarf (DOPEY). also, the only beardless one.

  • 37d: Back on board? (AFT). good clue.

  • 44d: Flip (SNAP). "flip" doesn't have as many meanings as SET, but there are a lot. sassy, upend, somersault, ...

  • 47d: Recently (OF LATE). this is a nice expression.

  • 51d: "Ragged Dick" author (horatio ALGER). for once, this is actually the most famous title associated with ALGER. i wouldn't have thought peter had it in him.

  • 54d: Former Portland WNBA team (FIRE). i don't know most of these, but i know they tried to name many of them "after" the NBA team in the same city. so blazers and FIRE, okay--makes sense.

  • 56d: Home dusters, often (UMPS). yeah, they have that little brush that they use to brush the plate after it gets dirt on it. tough clue. most of the time i'm onto the tricky UMP clues, but not tonight, despite the unfortunate non-invisibility of jeff kellogg and the rest of tonight's umpires.

  • 58d: White counterpart (YOLK). i was waiting to see what this was going to turn out to be. even with _OLK in place, i was still uncertain.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 19a: Actress Ramirez of "Grey's Anatomy" (SARA). not only have i never heard of her, but she doesn't even look at all familiar. of course, i don't watch the show.

  • 43a: 1976 Don Knotts movie about a place-kicking mule (GUS). place-kicking mule, you say? this i gotta see.

i loved this puzzle, but it did feel a bit sports-heavy. i didn't mind, because i love sports (and baseball in particular), but i was just talking with somebody who is waffling about subscribing to the sun puzzles because she feels they are too sports-oriented. i hadn't noticed myself, but now that she's called it to my attention, the first thing i see is today's baseball-themed puzzle with a bunch of other sports clues (UMPS, FIRE, LEFTY). it gave me pause.

see you around.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Note: I'm on vacation (DisneyWorld) this week with little to no access. I wrote this post last week before I left, and it is going to be briefer than usual. Also, don't be offended if I don't respond to comments. See you next week.

Title: The Old College Try
Author: Joon Pahk
Theme: Ivy League team names
  • 20a: Prog rock band with guitarist Robert Fripp (KING CRIMSON). Harvard.

  • 11d: Song on the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" album (HEY BULLDOG). Yale. According to Wikipedia, Bulldogs are the third most common college mascot, after Eagles and Tigers. Who knew?

  • 29d: Outwardly powerful but inwardly weak person (PAPER TIGER). Princeton.

  • 58a: They're found at the ends of 20-Across and 11- and 29-Down (IVY LEAGUERS).

Some people might consider this theme vaguely arbitrary, since there are eight Ivy League schools of which only three are represented. While it is true that "complete set" themes are really nice, consider that:
  1. Jamming eight entries into a 15x15 puzzle is insane.

  2. Finding an unrelated phrase that includes BIG RED and BIG GREEN is likely impossible.

  3. Few that didn't go to one of the snubbed schools would argue that Harvard, Princeton, and Yale are the crown jewels of the Ivy League.

So, I've got no problem here at all.

Answers with few comments and no pictures:
  • 5a: D-Day beach (OMAHA). Also a poker varient.

  • 10a: Counterfeit (SHAM).

  • 14a: "___, I'm a Big Girl Now" ("Hairspray" song) (MAMA). Didn't know, but easy to figure. Here it is.

  • 15a: Bravery in battle (VALOR). Goes nicely with 16a: Statue subject, perhaps (HERO).

  • 17a: Farm team members (OXEN). Baseball misdirection.

  • 18a: Prosperous outlying community (EXURB).

  • 19a: Church choir song (HYMN).

  • 23a: Android, for short (BOT).

  • 24a: Fraternal order member (ELK).

  • 25a: "Chains of Love" pop duo (ERASURE). Didn't know this.

  • 27a: Determine the worth of (APPRAISE).

  • 32a: Flowerpot spot (SILL).

  • 33a: "___ of Love" (1989 Al Pacino film) (SEA). Also with Ellen Barkin and John Goodman. Tense film. I recommend it.

  • 34a: Skirt fold (PLEAT).

  • 36a: Does nothing (LOLLS). Like me, right now perhaps, next to a pool at the Caribbean Beach Resort... Mmmmmm....

  • 39a: Nile biters (ASPS).

  • 41a: Big name in jeans (LEVIS).

  • 43a: Menu next to File (EDIT).

  • 44a: Whittier College's team nickname (POETS).

  • 46a: Fender bender reminders (DENTS).

  • 48a: Female reproductive cells (OVA).

  • 49a: Heinie (REAR).

  • 51a: 1942 Albert Camus novel, with "The" (STRANGER).

  • 53a: Dilapidated place (RAT TRAP). Love it.

  • 56a: Dir. from Staten Island to Shelter Island (ENE).

  • 57a: Bush's nickname for senator Barbara Boxer (ALI).

  • 64a: Scrubbed, as a space mission (NO GO).

  • 66a: Cause to panic (ALARM).

  • 67a: One of two answers on a simple test (TRUE).

  • 68a: Reprimand, with "out" (CHEW).

  • 69a: Olduvai ___ (archaeological site in Tanzania) (GORGE).

  • 70a: End of a vague threat (ELSE).

  • 71a: Fabled race runner-up (HARE).

  • 72a: Forest moon inhabited by Ewoks (ENDOR).

  • 73a: Make a big stink? (REEK).

  • 1d: Out of control (AMOK).

  • 2d: Metered vehicle (TAXI).

  • 3d: Sign of what's to come (OMEN).

  • 4d: Nativity scene item (MANGER).

  • 5d: Much more than what is required (OVERKILL).

  • 6d: Full-length skirt (MAXI).

  • 7d: Grad (ALUM).

  • 8d: Clydesdale, e.g. (HORSE).

  • 9d: Bowers (ARBORS).

  • 10d: Librarian's admonishment (SHH).

  • 12d: Strong suit? (ARMOR).

  • 13d: "The Count of ___ Cristo" (MONTE).

  • 21d: Applaud (CLAP).

  • 22d: Get exactly right (NAIL).

  • 26d: Plum relative used to flavor gin (SLOE).

  • 27d: "Stat!" (ASAP).

  • 28d: Coin of Cuba (PESO).

  • 30d: Likely tournament finalist (SEED).

  • 31d: Roof overhangs (EAVES).

  • 35d: Slight coloration (TINT).

  • 37d: Like many sports broadcasts (LIVE).

  • 38d: Capital indicator on a map (STAR).

  • 40d: Put back in after striking out (STET).

  • 42d: Flowing ribbon, as at a party (STREAMER).

  • 45d: Wraparound garment (SARI).

  • 47d: Performed in an a cappella group (SANG).

  • 50d: Lay waste to (RAVAGE).

  • 52d: Like some German nouns (NEUTER).

  • 53d: Dressing option (RANCH).

  • 54d: Hello, in Hilo (ALOHA).

  • 55d: End zone marker (PYLON).

  • 59d: Rendered fat used in cooking (LARD).

  • 60d: Hence (ERGO).

  • 61d: First name in courtroom fiction (ERLE). Also, the first name of Halliburton. Maybe I will remember that...

  • 62d: Bit of skulduggery (RUSE).

  • 63d: Search out (SEEK).

  • 65d: Be in the red (OWE).

Note to all you constructors out there. Easy doesn't have to be boring. And this puzzle is an example of a well-executed Monday. Interesting fill and clues, all easily gettable, make for a pleasant solve. Nice job.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Title: Swiss Cheese
Author: Justin Smith
Theme: HOLE rebus
  • 20a: Song that includes woofs in its chorus (Who leT THE DOGS OUT). I got this right away, but as I listen to the song again, I can't tell if they're saying "woof woof woof" or "who who who". You decide.

  • 37a: What you might use to finish this puzzle (THREE hole PUNCH).

  • 57a: Unified entities (INTEGRATED WholeS).

  • And the crossings:
  • 18d: Irascibility (CholeR).

  • 28d: Reflecting no sound (ECholeSS).

  • 56d: Tevye's creator (SholeM).

I've got to be honest -- I was underwhelmed by this theme. Too many little things about it just rubbed me wrong. Let's take them in order of annoyance.

Firstly, the title was both too easy and too inapt. Swiss Cheese just screams HOLES, doesn't it? I mean, what else would one expect? But Swiss Cheese does not imply three equal-sized, regularly-spaced holes. The real theme of this puzzle is the three-hole punch, which is a fine concept. Unfortunately, it only allows for three rebus squares, which makes for kind of a ho-hum solve. But at least give it a title that fits, and save the Swiss Cheese title for another, more appropriate theme.

Secondly, I wasn't crazy about about the long fills. WHO LET THE DOGS OUT is great; no complaints there. The middle one defines the theme, so okay, though it's too bad HOLE has to sit there as a standalone word. But that's life. But INTEGRATED WHOLES is just kind of blah. I don't find it interesting, and I don't like that "wholes" sounds just like "holes" -- it would have been nicer to find a fill that hid the rebus more like the first one.

Thirdly, I wasn't crazy about the short fills. SHOLEM, CHOLER, and ECHOLESS? Not so much.

Fourthly, two 12-letter themes and an 11-letter theme make for a bit of an ugly grid. Late-week puzzles should be more open and elegant. Those 5-square blobs of black on the east and west coasts of the puzzle are unfortunate.

Finally, and yes we're getting really nitpicky here, it would be pretty difficult to actually use a three-hole punch to "complete" the puzzle (even if the size was correct), since the holes run diagonally. You can usually only get about an inch or so of the paper's margin into the machine. :)

The Rest:

  • 4a: Professor played by Christopher Lloyd (PLUM). Never saw this 1985 film of "Clue", but didn't need to. My first thought was "Back to the Future", and I couldn't remember his name there so I skipped past it. It's Dr. Emmett Brown, if you were wondering.

  • 14a: Main man? (TAR). The main is the ocean.

  • 15a: "The ___ Report" (1976 book) (HITE). A book on female sexuality that came out when I was 14; of course I read it.

  • 16a: Prominent Shaker (ANN LEE).

  • 17a: 2000 Best Picture nominee (CHOCOLAT).

  • 19a: 1995 A.L. MVP (Mo VAUGHN). He was with the Red Sox at the time. Here's one of my favorite Mo Vaughn moments. Aaron Sele throws tight on George Bell, who charges the mound. Sele steps aside and Mo Vaughn comes charging in from the first base side and flattens Bell. Good stuff. Check it out here.

  • 22a: Secretly (SUBROSA). According to the American Heritage Dictionary: "from the practice of hanging a rose over a meeting as a symbol of confidentiality". I much prefer the cone of silence, myself.

  • 24a: Reuss River's canton (URI). I'm sure I've seen this in puzzles before. I knew it was going to be vowel-consonant-vowel, but I needed crossings to nail it.

  • 25a: It contains uracil (RNA). If you say so.

  • 26a: Carbon-date, e.g. (AGE). Nice clue.

  • 27a: Unlike absolute values: Abbr. (NEG). Absolute values are positive by definition.

  • 29a: Bass parts (PEGS). I guess tuning pegs. Are there other pegs on a bass? Not on mine.

  • 44a: Subject of a museum in Austin, Minnesota (SPAM). Somehow I knew the answer here was SPAM. I couldn't have told you where the Spam Museum was, but my subconscious must have remembered.

  • 49a: Start to go? (GEE). Cryptic letter clue. Potty humor.

  • 51a: "This Is the Life" singer Macdonald (AMY). This is not music I tend to listen to. Here it is:

  • 53a: Broadway success (HIT SHOW).

  • 60a: Very ardent (RAH RAH).

  • 61a: Premature (UNTIMELY).

  • 64a: Eponymous pants wearer Bloomer (AMELIA).

  • 3d: Cow (BROWBEAT). Excellent.

  • 6d: Jazz fan, perhaps (UTAHAN). The problem with sports teams moving from city to city is that their names no longer make sense. The New Orleans Jazz was a very logical team name. So were the Minneapolis Lakers, for that matter. What's next, the Buffalo Heat?

  • 8d: Degust (SAVOR). Degust sounds a lot less pleasant that savor, doesn't it?

  • 9d: Caterpillar roll component (UNAGI). Crossword constructors must have given great praise when sushi went mainstream.

  • 12d: Like many a moved picture (REHUNG). Also, the title of an email reply regarding "American Idol" season three?

  • 13d: Good dishers (YENTAS). Not really tricky at all. Is there another meaning of disher besides one who spreads gossip?

  • 31d: Runner-up to Secretariat in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness (SHAM). Nobody remembers the losers.

  • 33d: Part of WYSIWYG (SEE). What you see is what you get.

  • 36d: Roadhouse (INN).

  • 38d: Good class for a lazybones (EASY A).

  • 39d: International waters (HIGH SEAS). Also, the main.

  • 42d: Defunct GM brand (GEO).

  • 45d: Where balboas are spent (PANAMA). For some reason, I knew this. I think there was a currency puzzle a while back with ROCKY BALBOA in it, wasn't there? Ah yes, here it is... August 6th.

  • 46d: Upstanding music? (ANTHEM). Cute.

  • 52d: "South Park" puppet (MR HAT). Very nice.

  • 58d: Oil company founder Halliburton (ERLE). Seen this before. Still didn't remember.

  • 59d: Narwhal's protrusion (TUSK).

Despite the underwhelming theme, this wasn't a bad puzzle. Just not one of my favorites.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Smurfsday, October 23rd 2008

Good day, Sun solvers, Robert Loy back at the Thursday helm.

Title: Blue Man Group
Author: Kevan Choset
Theme: Probably should be "Smurfiversary" but I'm going with "Smurfs in the Sun" because I have better visuals.

One of the things I enjoy most about crossword puzzles is learning about things I knew nothing about. Take for instance the Smurfs. Somehow I have managed to live a half century without ever seeing a Smurf cartoon or reading one of their comic books or eating one of their cupcakes or otherwise encountering these blue woodland creatures. If you had held a gun to my head and told me to name three Smurfs, I would say "Papa Smurf, Smurfette, and . . . oooh! look over there" and try to disarm you. So get out your three-ring smurfbooks if you want to take notes. Let's learn about Smurfs.

71A: Creature that made its first appearance on October 23rd, 1958 (and a hint to the first words of 18-, 23-, 36- 52- and 58-Across) (SMURF) Yes, today is the 50th anniversary of the Smurfs, who first appeared on October 23rd, 1958 in the Belgian comics magazine Le Journal de Spirou, the creation of cartoonist Pierre Culliford who is better known as Peyo. At first they were minor back-up characters in a strip called "Johann and Peewit" but quickly became popular enough to star in their own series of comic albums and after that they became a worldwide cartoon phenomenon.

In this puzzle we meet:

36A: 1954 Literature Nobelist, informally (PAPA HEMINGWAY) Papa Smurf was the leader of the Smurfs, distiniguisable by his red clothes and white beard.

18A: Large venomous snake (KING COBRA) Once when Papa Smurf was out of town, an unscrupulous smurf manages to get himself elected as king by bribing the voters with raspberry juice. He turns out to be a despot, civil war ensues and Papa Smurf is pissed with his people when he returns for "acting like humans."

23A: Its subtitle is "A Novel Without a Hero" (VANITY FAIR) Vanity Smurf was -- wait for it -- vain, always carrying around a mirror so he could blow kisses at his reflection.

52A: Convenient (HANDY DANDY) I'm guessing he was good at fixing stuff.

58A: Dinner spinner (LAZY SUSAN) That's right, Lazy Smurf was lazy. Evidently in Smurf culture entire personality is summed up in your name. Missing from this puzzle (but equally scrutable) are Hefty Smurf, Brainy Smurf, Grouchy and Dopey Smurf (moonlighting from their mining job in Snow White) Sloppy Smurf, Slouchy Smurf, Nosy Smurf and on and on and on. So, as it turns out if you find yourself in the unlucky circumstance of having a gun pointed at you and the requirement that you name three Smurfs, just start reeling off adjectives and (occasionally vocations), you can't miss.

By the way, contrary to popular belief Smurfette is not the only female Smurf in the village. There was also Granny Smurf and Sassette Smurf. But since Sassette is just a kid and Granny is (of course) a Grandma, Smurfette gets all the attention.
Sunny Spots:

1A: Dueling instrument (BANJO) The second-most famous scene from the movie "Deliverance", and actually it was a duel not between banjos but between a banjo and a guitar. It went to number two on the pop charts and inspired several parodies such as Martin Mull's "Dueling Tubas" and Saturday Night Live's Dueling Brandos sketch.

25D: Fictional Charles (NORA) Nora Charles of the Thin Man series of movies was played by Myrna Loy. When I was growing up people used to always ask me if I was related to her. (I'm proud to say I lied and said that Aunt Myrna was one of my favorite relatives.) Nobody asks me that anymore and it makes me wonder if she's been forgotten. Too bad, she was a heck of an actress.

21D: Charisse of "Silk Stockings" (CYD) Another favorite actress of mine, Cyd Charisse left us earlier this Summer at the age of 86. Starting out as a dancer, Charisse's legs were reportedly insured by MGM for five million dollars. Perhaps her most amazing feat was staying married to the same man for sixty years, not easy to do in Hollywood.


4D: Yankees manager Girardi (JOE) Looks like the Sun is still Empire State-centric. Otherwise why not clue it as "Rays manager Maddon"? I mean Tampa Bay is in the World Series and the Yankees are nowhere near it.

17A: Horizontal lines on graphs (X AXES) Not that tough a clue, but what a weird looking answer. "Xaxes" looks like a science-fiction invader of some kind.

29A: Play money? (ANTE) You gotta pay to play.

32D: Place for care instructions (TAG) Although I've noticed more and more t-shirt designers are putting care instructions directly on the inside of the shirt which is one of those ideas it's hard to believe no one came up with before. Who needs those scratchy tags that love to stand up and make you look stupid?

55A: Smart player (ADAMS) That would be Don Adams, portayer of "Get Smart"'s agaent Maxwell Smart, who was anything but -- smart, that is.

63D: Post-surgery stop, briefly (ICU) You know, I hate it when celebrities I've built elaborate puns around fade from the spotlight. Remember Olympic champion downhill skier Picabo Street? Did you hear that she was donating a bunch of money to a hospital to build a new post-surgery stop? Yeah, they're going to name it after her and call it the Picabo ICU.

Suns of Bitches:

Nothing to get the blues about. I did have NTH at 69A: High degree instead of the correct PHD and I misspelled NIECE at 67A: Goddaughter, often but that's just because I can't remember if it's I before E except after C or before C.
That's all I've got for this week. See you next Smurfsday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Title: Threepeats
Author: Samuel A. Donaldson
Theme: Phrases that repeat sets of three letters three times consecutively.
  • 20a: Technical problem with Amazon's e-book reader? (KINK IN KINDLE). I was not familiar with Kindle, the book reader. Learn something new every day.

  • 27a: Finest feed for horses? (TOP SHELF ALFALFA).

  • 47a: Asian city-state's evils? (SINS IN SINGAPORE).

  • 54a: Put trust in the Lone Ranger's friend? (COUNT ON TONTO).

I'm pretty sure I've seen a similar theme before, but that's okay. And with the execption of Kindle, for me, all the resulting phrases were solid and smooth.

  • 1a: Drinks made with sweetened spiced liquor and eggs (FLIPS). I've never heard of this before, which is surprising for a booze clue.

  • 6a: Suggested actions (DOS). As in dos and donts.

  • 16a: Usher's beat (AISLE). I like the use of beat here, indicating the place where they patrol.

  • 18a: Stamped correspondence (SNAIL MAIL). Snail mail is a great example of a retronym -- a distinguishing term applied to something that didn't used to need distinguishing. In other words, before email came around, you didn't need to say "snail mail"; mail was mail. Other examples: regular coffee, analog watch, rotary telephone, conventional oven, etc.

  • 22a: "A Long Time ___" (song from "The Most Happy Fella") (AGO). In a galaxy far, far away?

  • 34a: Gin flavoring (SLOE). Is sloe used for anything besides gin? Either way, this and the above FLIPS warrant a booze tag.

  • 38a: Do a pole dance, maybe (STRIP). What the heck, we'll add a strippers tag as well.

  • 52a: Springfield barkeep Szyslak (MOE). "The Simpsons". You should know this by now.

  • 60a: Wine featured in "Sideways" (PINOT NOIR). Funny film. I hear it singlehandedly destroyed the Merlot market for months afterwards.

  • 69a: Cape Ann's county (ESSEX). I have a theory that at least 80% of clues that mention a county have the answer ESSEX. And no, I'm not going to do the research necessary to prove or disprove it.

  • 1d: Antiaircraft fire (FLAK). FLAK is a cool word. Nice to see the K holding its own without that C crutch helping it out.

  • 2d: Song on Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Green River" album (LODI). It's the only CCR song I can name in four letters. If you were alive in the 70s, you've heard this song.

  • 7d: Potent beginning? (OMNI). Cryptic prefix clue.

  • 8d: Part of a poem (STANZA).

  • 9d: Scrub (CALL OFF). That's a great clue.

  • 10d: Drink garnish (LIME). More booze-related cluing.

  • 12d: "___ Stone" (ABC series) (ELI). Seen the ads.

  • 24d: Nancy's friend, in the comics (SLUGGO). Also, comedian Ron White's dog. MATURE CONTENT WARNING: The following clip contains strong language and content of a sexual nature. If you're going to be offended, just skip over it.

  • 25d: Less certain (IFFIER). As you know, I'm not a big fan of -ER words. But this one's okay. In fact, I rather like it.

  • 27d: Protector of Daddy Warbucks (THE ASP). I feel like I should have known this, but I didn't.

  • 28d: Part of the "Survivor" slogan (OUTWIT). "Outwit. Outplay. Outlast." And no, I'm not a big fan.

  • 31d: Manhattan Project scientist (FERMI).

  • 37d: "Saturn Devouring ___ Son" (Goya painting) (HIS). An elaborate clue for a simple word. And what else would even fit?

  • 43d: Dumbo's mouse pal (TIMOTHY). I should have remembered this without any crossings, but I needed a couple to jog my brain.

  • 45d: Break for toddlers (NAPTIME). Hey, it's a break for adults, too. Nothing like a good nap.

  • 48d: Adjective or adverb, e.g. (NOUN). Very nice.

  • 58d: Use a stun gun on (TASE).

  • 59d: Fredro Starr's rap group (ONYX). Not my cup o' tea.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty nice Wednesday puzzle. Not too difficult, but enough tricky clues to make it interesting. Good job.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Title: A New Beginning
Author: Lee Glickstein
Theme: Four words get their prefix changed to an antonymous prefix which is also a standalone word, thus forming a wacky two-word phrase

  • 20a: Music nut? (STEREO MANIAC). mono -> stereo.

  • 37a: Inmate dream? (CON VISION). pro -> con.

  • 43a: Where to buy underwater vessels? (SUB MARKET). super -> sub. except that there actually is such a thing as a SUB MARKET. it's a sandwich shop.

  • 58a: Put up warning signs? (POST CAUTIONS). pre -> post.

honestly, this theme didn't do much for me. part of it, i'm sure, is the fact that i didn't understand the theme while solving the puzzle. i tried and failed to figure it out a few times, even though i knew from the title that it had to be something involving a change at the start of each entry. it obviously wasn't added letters, so prefixes... anyway, i worked it out but not until i was done. the other thing i didn't like about it is that none of the original words, and none of the modified theme entries, really struck my fancy. they're just kind of ... there. monomaniac is interesting, i guess. but that's it. 1 out of 8 isn't such a hot ratio.

Sunny Spots:

  • 30d: ___-flicker (tricky football play) (FLEA). common word, but great clue. a flea-flicker (why is it called that?) is when the QB hands off to the RB, who goes forward into the line like it's a running play, but then turns around and pitches back to the QB, who then throws downfield.

  • 39d: Carter-era missile pact (SALT II). strategic arms limitation treaty II: sodium's revenge. this seems like fresh fill.

  • 48d: Turn informer (SQUEAL). for once, this wasn't RAT, SING, or even FINGER. SQUEAL is a great fill word, and the clue has some nice deception; i thought initially it was something (a beep, maybe?) that tells you when it's your turn in a video game.

  • 51d: Extremely, in slang (MONDO). also the name of the big dumb guy in blazing saddles, no? anyway, i feel like this word is a time capsule buried by california surfer dudes in 1986 and unearthed by lee glickstein for this puzzle.


what's that, you say? not a category? i beg to differ. and for balance, we have one blue clue, two red clues, and one ... er ... purple, maybe, or yellow. not green; that would be nader.

  • 19a: Bill of Rights? (O'REILLY). "of Rights" here is a little sketchy, but he is bill of fox news, which leans pretty far to the right. a tricky clue for a tuesday, but i liked it.

  • 6d: McCain's opponent (OBAMA). i can't help but feel that this clue was insultingly easy. even easier than yesterday's OBAMA clue.

  • 21d: Ross Perot's political party (REFORM). this one at least took me a couple of seconds to remember.

  • 63d: Bush 43, to Bush 41 (SON). i have only ever seen them referred to by their president number in another crossword puzzle. still, that one time was enough for me to fill this in instantly.


  • 4a: Author of "The Island of the Day Before" (umberto ECO). i have this strong impression that i like this guy's writing, but i definitely haven't read any of his books. i read the first 15 pages of baudolino in a bookstore once and thought it was interesting, then bought it as a gift for somebody else.

  • 7a: Paper money source (AD SPACE). tough clue here: money source for a (news)paper, not a source of paper money.

  • 14a: Extremely (TOO). this isn't a straightforward, tuesday-style clue, but it passes the substitution test: "he's not extremely bright." see also the similar, and similarly obliquely clued, FAR (24a: Much). could these have been clued together as TOO/FAR? that might have been fun.

  • 16a: Court do-over (RETRIAL). why isn't it LET? it's always LET.

  • 18a: Up-in-the-air guess: Abbr. (ETA). my fingers twitched to EST before i thought twice about what "up-in-the-air" might refer to.

  • 29a: Ultra-loud, in music (FFF). fortississimo!

  • 34a: "A Lesson From Aloes" playwright Fugard (ATHOL). definitely a famous playwright, but what is the deal with crosswords and their a lesson from aloes obsession? that was used to clue ALOES on a monday (!) NYT earlier this year. the only fugard play that i knew prior to crosswords was master harold and the boys. oh, and ... blood something. ah, blood knot, wikipedia tells me.

  • 40a: "That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest" penner (THOREAU). this clue doubly irked me: 1. penner. 2. i disdain THOREAU (and, to a lesser extent, all the transcendentalists). smug bastard.

  • 42a: Gassed up? (AERATED). this was the last thing i filled in. not that hard a clue, i guess, but i wasn't on the right wavelength.

  • 61a: Eddie's "Coming to America" costar (ARSENIO hall). good name. i even liked his late-night show. it feels like forever since he was famous, though.

  • 66a: When shadows are shortest (NOONDAY). i think of this as an adjective, but my dictionary says it's primarily a noun.

  • 67a: Lisa Simpson's instrument (SAX). feels much easier to me than the SAX clue in my own sun puzzle a couple months ago, but then, i used to watch a lot of the simpsons.

  • 68a: Followed your gut instinct? (ATE). EAT/ATE is another word that seems to get the ? clue treatment disproportionately often. i liked this one.

  • 1d: Squirrel (STASH). the verb. it seems like there were a bunch of tough clues for a tuesday, doesn't it? it would have helped immensely to have (away) at the end of the clue.

  • 2d: Inner tube? (AORTA). got this one off the first A, but only because AORTA is one of those words comes up enough that if you think it might be AORTA, it always is. (don't confuse it with ATRIA, though.) in that regard, it's just like ERIE, ALE, and ...

  • 4d: Olympic event won by Matteo Tagliariol in 2008 (ÉPÉE). yep. never heard of this guy, but a four-letter olympic event in a crossword? it's gotta be. i did catch the gold-medal match in women's saber, not that i remember the names of either fencer.

  • 5d: Disinherit (CUT OFF). that's harsh. not only will i refuse to pour you another drink, but you're not getting your inheritance either.

  • 7d: Graceland middle name (ARON). if you didn't know this name (elvis's middle name), or CAL (12d: Baseball Hall of Famer Ripken), or ELY (13d: Ron who played Tarzan), the NE was probably awfully tough for you, due to the tricky clues for ADSPACE and OREILLY. luckily these are pretty familiar names... except for ELY, which i only know through crosswords (but i've seen it many times in crosswords).

  • 11d: Be off, in a way (AIL). another non-tuesday clue, if you ask me. i tried ERR first and was getting no love.

  • 22d: Jason's ship (ARGO). this isn't a particularly exciting fill word or clue, but i do love me some mythology, so i had to mention it.

  • 27d: Pigeon parrot? (COOER). ugly word, cute clue. hey, where's APE?

  • 32d: Histology is a branch of it: Abbr. (ANATomy). histology is the examination of bodily tissues under a microscope. or something like that. i'm not a doctor; i'm just married to one.

  • 34d: In "duh" mood? (AT SEA). this one didn't work for me.

  • 41d: Like some wells (ARTESIAN). i got this instantly, but i can never remember what the hell an ARTESIAN well actually is. twelfth-grade geology is like that for me: i remember lots of terms, but no understanding. i wonder when we'll see HORST and GRABEN in a puzzle.

  • 59d: Jacks and blocks, e.g. (TOYS). i can't figure out if this clue is trying to be deceptive.

  • 61d: "High Hopes" creature (ANT). wha? the only thing "high hopes" means to me is a pink floyd song from "the division bell." at least it's not hope floats.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 47a: 1982 Disney film based on an S.E. Hinton novel (TEX). she wrote something besides the outsiders? and it was also made into a movie? news to me.

  • 3d: New York Rangers center Scott (GOMEZ). i have heard of hockey. actually, i may even have heard of this player! wasn't he on the devils at one point? do i really remember such things? i've never followed hockey. wow, it turns out i'm right. maybe he doesn't belong in this section. eh, whatever--he's already here.

  • 28d: 1953 John Wayne movie (HONDO). this, on the other hand, i have surely never heard of. i only know this as the nickname of 1960s washington senators slugger frank howard.

this was a strange puzzle experience. the theme couldn't have been less helpful to me in solving. i felt that the clues were definitely at a super-tuesday level. (and i'm not talking about presidential primaries, despite the plethora of political clues today.) and yet, my enjoyment of the puzzle was not significantly diminished by either of these facts.