Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Title: Rear Ends
Author: Patrick Blindauer
Theme: Phrases whose first two and last two letters combine to make a synonym for "rear" (ass).
  • 17a: Belmont Park statue subject (SECRETARIAT) => SEAT.

  • 24a: Farm laborer (HIRED HAND) => HIND

  • 29a: Melt ingredient (TUNA FISH) => TUSH.

  • 44a: Takes out for use after a period of inactivity (DUSTS OFF) => DUFF.

  • 50a: "Pardon My Sarong" costar (BUD ABBOTT) => BUTT.

  • 62a: Endorse without question (RUBBER STAMP) => RUMP.

Thematically, this puzzle was a mixed bag for me. On the plus side, there were six theme entries (assuming I didn't miss any today) and the theme involved asses, which plays to my admittedly juvenile sense of humor. Also, it's cool not only that there are six 4-letter synonyms for REAR, but that they all can be formed as above using common names and phrases. On the minus side, the theme didn't help me at all; in fact, I had to go back afterwards to figure out what it was. And I wouldn't have noticed it at all without the title to make me look at it right. On the neutral side, the theme entries themselves were neither stellar nor duds, but were decent enough.

The Rest of the Puzzle
  • 1a: See 41-Across (SALE). I'm not crazy about references to other clues at the 1a spot, especially when it's the second half.

  • 15a: Like listing letters (ITALIC). Listing to the side, as in slanted.

  • 16a: Words said when standing in front of a train? (I DO). A bridal train.

  • 20a: Shout targets (STAINS). Shout, the detergent.

  • 21a: 60 minutes: Abbr. (DEG). Degrees are made up of minutes and seconds, just like hours are.

  • 23a: W.'s alma mater (YALE U). Ick. Yale is enough. Nobody says Yale U.

  • 26a: Early Jacko do (FRO). Jacko = Michael Jackson.

  • 34a: "The Merry Widow" composer Franz (LEHAR).

  • 41a: With 1-Across, money-saving event (FIRE / SALE). See 1a.

  • 42a: "Lost in Translation" setting (TOKYO). This movie got really great critical reviews, but I thought it was really slow and dull.

  • 46a: It may hang from a toy (ID TAG). A toy poodle, perhaps.

  • 53a: Yawl pair (MASTS). Yawls and ketches are two-masted sailboats. The yawl has the mizzen mast "yawl the way back" behind the steering.

  • 58a: Jim's "Man on the Moon" role (ANDY). Jim Carrey. Andy Kaufman.

  • 59a: Beyond help, in a way (DOA). Dead on Arrival. Ouch.

  • 64a: Lowest honor (TEN). Bridge tag. Honors are ace, king, queen, jack, and ten.

  • 2d: Queen of the Misty Isles, in the comics (ALETA). Didn't know it, but didn't see the clue either.

  • 3d: Neighborhood pub, to a Brit (LOCAL). I just this morning was listening to "Slap and Tickle" by Squeeze, which includes the line "He drove off to his local; where he felt anti-social." How strange that it shows up in a puzzle that same day.

  • 5d: Quarter halves (BITS). A quarter is "two bits".

  • 11d: Cashew cousin (PISTACHIO). Two of my favorite nuts.

  • 13d: Part of WWJD (WOULD). What would Jesus do?

  • 18d: "Tuff ___" (1986 hit for the Fabulous Thunderbirds) (ENUFF). Easy enough to figure, even if you didn't know it.

  • 24d: Hookah hookup (HOSE). Drug reference.

  • 25d: GI bill? (DOL). Why GI, exactly? This one felt a little over-clever.

  • 29d: Parlor piece, for short (TAT). Tattoo parlor.

  • 30d: Spanish cardinal (UNO). Cardinal number.

  • 31d: "Well, duh!" (NO KIDDING).

  • 35d: Sandy bark? (ARF). Oof.

  • 39d: Air force? (GUST). Went GALE first.

  • 40d: Medium ability (ESP).

  • 43d: Place to play the race card?: Abbr. (OTB). Okay, that's clever. In a non-PC sort of way. OTB is off-track betting.

  • 48d: Peanut, in the South (GOOBER).

  • 51d: Football wager (UNDER). One of the many bets one can lay is the over/under, where you bet whether the two teams' combined scores will be over or under the specified number.

  • 52d: Raga drum (TABLA).

  • 54d: Site of the rite stuff? (ALTAR).

  • 57d: Green party VIP? (ST PAT).

  • 63d: Tolkien's Legolas, e.g. (ELF). Love the Tolkein clues.

Suns of Bitches:
  • 5a: Natty of literature (BUMPPO) crossing 9d: Swiss watch brand (PIAGET) was a total guess-the-letter crossing for me. And P was about my eighth choice.

The only major problem I have with this puzzle is the BUMPPO/PIAGET crossing. A minor nit is that it's a tad heavy-handed with the punny clues. Now don't get me wrong, I love a good punny clue. But after a few too many, you just start to groan.

Happy New Year, all, and thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Title: Adverbially Yours
Author: Jim Leeds
Theme: Phrases which get -LY added to the first word to make silly adverbial phrases

  • 17a: Avoid getting beaned in an inept manner? (LAMELY DUCK).

  • 26a: Hike with great care? (GINGERLY SNAP). this was the last part of the puzzle i filled in, as i was thinking of the "walk outdoors" definition of hike.

  • 45a: Gave very little support to? (BARELY BACKED). hmm. hmmmmm. it's a good thing i decided not to create that "sexual innuendo" tag i was considering last week.

  • 58a: Use a bulletin board only once in a great while? (HARDLY TACK).

i didn't figure out the theme while i was solving this puzzle, and to be honest, it didn't do much for me when i did figure it out, since none of the theme answers really sparkled. LAMELY DUCK probably should have tipped me off, but i didn't really stop to think about it. probably would have helped me figure out GINGERLY SNAP.

Sunny Spots:

  • 3d: Depriving of virility (UNMANNING). who's the NFL's un-manning? i say brett favre.

  • 32d: It's next to Luxury Tax on a Monopoly board (PARK PLACE). both the NW and SE corners had parallel 9s, and i liked these two the best. sure, it's nice to see full names in the grid, but i'm not a big fan of 33d: "Wag the Dog" costar (ANNE HECHE).

  • 43d: One who plays hoops (B-BALLER). even BALLER would have been a good answer, but i like B-BALLER even better. hoop it up!

  • 47d: Combo utensil (SPORK). love this word. SPORK SPORK SPORK SPORK SPORK.


  • 5a: Hebrew for "my master" (RABBI). i thought it meant "teacher." i guess they could be the same thing.

  • 19a: "Purple ___" (Jimi Hendrix song) (HAZE). this song contains one of the most famous mondegreens ever: "excuse me while i kiss this guy." good song, though.

  • 31a: Former lefty, perhaps (NEOCON). i've never seen "lefty" used in a political context, but most lefty baseball players stay lefty (unlike, say, billy wagner, who was right-handed until he broke his arm in 9th grade and learned to throw with his left).

  • 35a: Get Mad again, say (RENEW). it's not tricky if you don't hide the capital M of Mad.

  • 38a: Liquid-Plumr alternative (DRANO). it'd be cool to see drano in the clue and LIQUID-PLUMR in the grid some time, wouldn't it?

  • 51a: Ends of the earth? (POLES). i like this clue with a ?. i didn't like it without a ? (as in the NYT puzzle four weeks ago today), because ... well, the earth is round. it doesn't have actual ends.

  • 34d: Excellent driver (WOOD). hmm. a driver is a WOOD—a 1-WOOD, to be specific. i'm not sure why a WOOD is an "excellent driver." still, the clue was tricky enough to be pretty fun.

  • 39d: Marathon, e.g. (RACE). PERSIAN WAR BATTLE wouldn't fit.

  • 48d: Pickup line? ("HOP IN"). loved this clue.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 5d: "Match Game" host Gene (RAYBURN). old game shows are definitely beyond my ken.

well, i didn't love the theme, but the puzzle overall had enough sparkle to make it an enjoyable solve. happy new year everybody!


Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Title: Foodies
Author: Ogden Porter (Peter Gordon)
Theme: Types of people named for food
  • 17a: Tall, thin person (STRINGBEAN).

  • 25a: Insignificant person (PEANUT). I thought a peanut was someone small in physical stature, not significance.

  • 45a: Show-offy person (HOTDOG).

  • 58a: Chubby person (BUTTERBALL).

  • 11d: Crazy person (FRUITCAKE).

  • 33d: Weak person (CREAMPUFF).

Nice easy Monday theme with four six entries spread vertically and horizontally, which tends to allow a less constrained fill than four horizontal theme entries. Let's see if that plays out today.

Patrick Jordan points out that there are six theme entries, not four. I missed PEANUT and HOTDOG the first time around, as they are shorter than some of the non-theme fill. Still, I should have noticed. 25 bonus points for Patrick, and an extra kudos to Peter Gordon for a clean fill with six theme entries.

Sunny Spots:
    Well, there's definitely a good scrabbly center:
  • 24a: Charmingly old-fashioned (QUAINT).

  • 37a: Hose spouts (NOZZLES).

  • 24d: Sandwich shop chain (QUIZNOS). Love the name. Not crazy about their subs, though.

  • 3d: "Zack and Miri Make a ___" (PORNO). I haven't seen this yet, but I will. Props for putting PORNO into the puzzle.

  • 43d: Farming industry, informally (AGRIBIZ). Nice fill.


  • 5a: 1924 Edna Ferber novel (SO BIG). This sounds vaguely familiar.

  • 15a: Papas of "The Trojan Women" (IRENE).

  • 16a: Mötley ___ (CRÜE). Not my musical preference, but certainly well-known to me.

  • 20a: Common form of bowling (TENPINS). Around here, where people actually play candlepin, it's called ten-pin. No plural.

  • 21a: Ad answer to "How do you spell relief?" (ROLAIDS).

  • 23a: Tennis score effectively the same as 30–40 (AD OUT).

  • 28a: Hajj destination (MECCA).

  • 40a: Newborn's wear (ONESIE).

  • 42a: Miss-named? (NEE). Cute.

  • 43a: "___ Flux" (2005 sci-fi film) (AEON). I'm pretty sure I saw this, but it didn't leave much of an impression and I couldn't tell you much about the plot at all. In fact, I think I might have it confused with "Ultraviolet".

  • 53a: Like some odes (SAPPHIC).

  • 55a: Former percussionist with Prince (SHEILA E).

  • 64a: Grating (RASPY). As a voice.

  • 1d: Jai alai player's basket (CESTA). I know this only from crosswords.

  • 8d: Doing the same thing over and over (IN A RUT).

  • 22d: Mojito garnishes (LIMES). I've never had one, but I've seen the commercials. Warrants the booze tag anyway.

  • 37d: Pitcher's spot in the batting order, usually (NINTH). In the AL, the answer would be NEVER.

  • 45d: Paris's mother (HECUBA). This name was slow in coming, but it was in there somewhere.

  • 55d: Ladder part (STEP). Guessed RUNG at first.

  • 56d: Lamarr of "Algiers" (HEDY). The only Lamarr I know.

Suns of Bitches:

Decent Monday, with nothing horrendous, which is fine by me. For four six theme entries and some scrabbly letters, it was quite the clean fill.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

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

Sunny Spots:

  • 17a: Luau fare (ROAST PORK). Mmmmm... now that sounds good.

  • 40a: Brand of cream liqueur (BAILEYS). Booze tag.

  • 40d: It's under Wayne Manor (BAT CAVE). Easy, but I like it.

  • 1a: The IJsselmeer was part of it before construction of the Afsluitdijk (ZUIDER ZEE). This felt ever-so-vaguely familiar, but not enough to get it without using all of the crossings. And let's face it, the clue was insane.

  • 15a: Pushy, perhaps (OBNOXIOUS). I've run into a lot of these people this past week. Funny how Christmas, a season that should bring out the best in people, often does just the opposite.

  • 18a: River landing place (LEVEE). Can't think levee without my head going here.

  • 22a: Fusion predecessor (ATRA). Shaver names.

  • 23a: Mr. Spacely's first name on "The Jetsons" (COSMO).

  • 27a: Sitcom alien's home (ORK). "Mork and Mindy" here.

  • 30a: With a slight slur, perhaps (TIPSILY). Funny, I don't usually consider tipsiness an attribute of one's speech, but rather of one's ability to walk straight.

  • 36a: Title Pixar robot (WALL-E). I finally saw this recently. It was pretty cute.

  • 42a: 2008 N.L. Cy Young Award winner Lincecum (TIM). Two baseball first names in the same puzzle? Can't find anyone else named Tim?

  • 44a: Lady chapel locale (APSE). I'm not sure what the "Lady" part is for.

  • 47a: Half of catorce (SIETE).

  • 53a: Shop cleaner (WET/DRY VAC). I've always heard it called a Wet Vac, whether it does both or not.

  • 57a: Stress, in a way (ITALICIZE). I've seen this style of clue often enough that it fell right away.

  • 59a: Fancy fabrics (LAMÉS).

  • 61a: Pet for Hamlet (SNERT). From Hägar the Horrible.

  • 62a: Marmaduke, e.g. (GREAT DANE). Continuing the comic theme.

  • 1d: 1969 Tony nominee for Best Musical (ZORBA).

  • 4d: "Three Soldiers" novelist (DOS PASSOS). I think the last time I saw this name was in another KMT puzzle, though I could be wrong.

  • 9d: Some kayakers (ESKIMOS).

  • 12d: Old name for a tomato (LOVE APPLE).

  • 14d: Alternative to cat's pajamas? (BEE'S KNEES). A quick gimme, which helped drop this section.

  • 30d: Dish rack accessories (TEA TOWELS). We never called these tea towels, always dish towels. But it's funny, we had this discussion with some Canadian friends just a couple of weeks ago.

  • 31d: 2006 Spike Lee caper film (INSIDE MAN). I haven't seen this yet, but I think it's on my Netflix list.

  • 32d: What "Saturday Night Live" players are not ready for, supposedly (PRIME TIME). Gimme.

  • 46d: Grace's last name on "Will & Grace" (ADLER). No idea. Got it from crossings.

  • 50d: The Minnesota Twins retired his #6 (OLIVA).

  • 51d: Hoodwink (COZEN). Cool word.

  • 54d: Bar in a bar (REST). Sheet music, not pubs.

Suns of Bitches:
  • 16a: Amin overthrew him (OBOTE) crossing 10d: 2008 World Series MVP Hamels (COLE) is the tough name crossing of the day. I guessed ABATE/CALE.

I found the NW to be the toughest, except for the above-mentioned guess-the-vowel name crossing. But overall it felt just about right for a Weekend Warrior.

Hope you all had a nice Christmas.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Title: Ancient History
Author: Daniel A. Finan
Theme: Yoo-hoo, anybody out there doing crosswords on Christmas?

So, I was right last week when I predicted that the streak of Themeless Thursday puzzles would end today. But I have to confess I was expecting a Christmas theme. Turns out I was all wet. But that's okay, so is Daniel Finan with his puzzle about bridges and rivers as spelled out at 11d: See 53-Down (THEBRIDGE) and 53d: With 11-Down, ancient history, symbolically (and a description of three columns in this puzzle) (WATER). The waters are at 34d: 1950 John Wayne film (RIOGRANDE) which is under 3d: Dwarf, with "over" (TOWER). (And I think that's part of the reason I didn't love this puzzle -- besides the fact that I had my taste buds set for a Christmas puzzle -- I mean, even with my spotty knowledge of geography I know that the Tower Bridge (named for its proximity to the Tower of London) is not over the river that serves as a natural boundary between the US and Mexico.) Then there's 5d: Theater district (RIALTO) over 40d: Boulder's place (COLORADO) and finally we have 9d: "Welcome Back, Kotter" setting (BROOKLYN) over 48d: Big book e-tailer (AMAZON).
Speaking of Brooklyn (and that bridge nowhere near the Amazon River) here's the beginning of one of my favorite movies:

I looked to see if there were any more over-under word combos that might be unintentionally amusing. The only one I found was 39d: Song on R.E.M.'s "Green" album (STAND) under 21d: Abbr. in a Pixar title (INC) which is a pretty weak pun on "inkstand" but it gave me a mini-chuckle.

This was another easy puzzle, even though much of it consists of (ostensibly) geographical answers and geography is my weak suit. The only thing I missed was 23d: Danish physicist Bohr (NIELS).and that was because I misspelled NIELS. No, wait a minute, that's not true I also missed 25d: Castor and Pollux, e.g. (STARS) because when I had the ___RS I thought mythologically and not astronomically and put PAIRS instead of STARS, whichg makes no sense, I realize, but what can I say? I had visions of sugarplums dancing in my head.
Speaking of which, I really don't have much to say about this lackluster puzzle, but if you missed anything, here you go:

  • 1a: Play fivesome, often (ACTS).

  • 5a: Domino fans like it (RANDB). Rhythm and Blues. I'm assuming the Domino is Fats.

  • 10a: Chili, e.g. (STEW).
  • 14a: ___ En-lai (CHOU).

  • 15a: Place for "bombs bursting" (INAIR).

  • 16a: Facetious "Got it!" (AHSO).

  • 17a: Shortened, in a way (MOWN).

  • 18a: "Like me" (ASIDO).

  • 19a: Subscription period, often (YEAR).

  • 20a: Wolfgang contemporary (EMERIL).

  • 22a: Madhouse (LOONYBIN).

  • 24a: Dashes (SPRINTS).

  • 26a: One going downhill fast (SKIER).

  • 27a: Nae sayers (SCOTS).

  • 29a: Injury (LESION).

  • 32a: Reveal (BARE).

  • 35a: ___ halide (ALKYL).

  • 37a: Actress Joanne (DRU).

  • 38a: Non alternative (OUI).

  • 39a: Checks the caller ID before deciding whether to pick up, e.g. (SCREENS).

  • 41a: Sal of song, say (GAL).

  • 42a: Flap (ADO).

  • 43a: "The better ___ you with" (TOSEE).

  • 44a: Retail (SELL).

  • 45a: Prepare to change lanes (SIGNAL). Not in South Carolina where I live. Everybody just plows on over.

  • 47a: "Serpico" commission (KNAPP).

  • 50a: This is an example of one it certainly is (RUNON).

  • 52a: Authorize (EMPOWER).

  • 56a: Pillowcase stainer? (TEARDROP).

  • 59a: Capital of Kazakhstan (ASTANA).

  • 60a: Cremains vessels (URNS).

  • 61a: Filled with talk (ABUZZ).

  • 63a: Encompassing everything (ATOZ).

  • 64a: It might be bummed (RIDE).

  • 65a: Half of a droid name (DETOO).

  • 66a: A stet negates it (DELE).

  • 67a: Trough contents (FEED).

  • 68a: Longtime Arizona Wildcats basketball coach Lute ___ (OLSON).

  • 69a: Mérida Mmes. (SRAS).

  • 1d: Tiptops (ACMES).

  • 2d: Bite (CHOMP).

  • 4d: When the day starts (SUNRISE).

  • 6d: "Jeopardy!" clue: Abbr. (ANS).

  • 7d: Filed thing (NAIL).

  • 8d: Gewgaws (DIDOS).

  • 10d: Give one's assent (SAYYES).

  • 12d: Morales in movies (ESAI).

  • 13d: Tuckered (out) (WORN).

  • 28d: Like sports cars (SLEEK).

  • 30d: Word with surgery or history (ORAL).

  • 31d: Empty, as a set (NULL).

  • 32d: Ones in the constriction business? (BOAS).

  • 33d: Make whose logo is four rings (AUDI).

  • 36d: Nancy Drew creator Carolyn (KEENE).

  • 44d: Political campaign purchases (SPOTADS).

  • 46d: Sipped (NURSED).

  • 48d: Big book e-tailer (AMAZON).

  • 49d: Thought after an afterthought: Abbr. (PPS).

  • 51d: Element #102 is named after him (NOBEL).

  • 54d: B-29 bomber name (ENOLA).

  • 55d: Brings down (RAZES).

  • 56d: ___ toe (athlete's affliction) (TURF).

  • 57d: Canal completed in 1825 (ERIE).

  • 58d: Throws, as a shot (PUTS).

  • 62d: Herpetologist employer (ZOO).

Merry Christmas, y'all. Norrin2

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Title: Cold Storage
Author: Doug Peterson
Theme: Add the "Br" sound to phrases.
  • Heart's ease => HEARTS BREEZE (20a: Simple task for a ticker?).

  • All for one => BRAWL FOR ONE (28a: Bout of self-flagellation?).

  • Anne Frank => BRAN FRANK (35a: High-fiber ballpark food item?). Ewww.

  • Bass ale => BASS BRAILLE (49a: Raised writing on a largemouth?). Despite the fact that it derives from a beer, and not a bad one at that, this is by far the weakest and weirdest of the theme entries. Bass braille? Sorry. Doesn't work for me.

  • Oohs and ahhs => BREWS AND BRAS (56a: Subtitle for a "Girls Gone Wild" video?). This one's almost as bad.

Not too much to say today, which is just as well since it wouldn't mostly be good, so let's get to it.

Sunny Spots:
    Kudos for the Boston area references:
  • 43a: "Bringing Down the House" sch. (MIT).

  • 44a: 2004 and 2007 World Series champs (BOSOX).

  • 8d: His #4 hangs from the ceiling of TD Banknorth Garden (BOBBY ORR).

  • 14a: Disappearing sea (ARAL). Crossword staple.

  • 15a: Los Angeles cap symbol (HALO).

  • 16a: Marisa of "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" (TOMEI).

  • 26a: Singer's tongue (YIDDISH). Isaac Bashevis Singer was a Nobel-winning author, and leader of the Yiddish literary movement, according to Wikipedia. I never heard of him, but that didn't mean it was hard to figure out the answer.

  • 31a: Role for Keanu (NEO). Of "The Matrix".

  • 34a: "You don't say!" (GEE) and 52a: "Holy cow!" (OMIGOSH). Two nice in-the-language entries.

  • 66a: God head? (DEMI). Cryptic prefix.

  • 69a: "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" costar (CRUZ). Penelope I assume, but I'm too lazy to look it up.

  • 1d: With 18-Across, bought shots on credit (RAN A TAB).

  • 3d: Place where you won't find free spirits? (CASHBAR). These two are enough to warrant a booze tag, don't you think?

  • 4d: Bauhaus artist Paul (KLEE).

  • 5d: Che Guevara portrayer in 1969 (Omar SHARIF).

  • 9d: "The Father of English History" (ST BEDE).

  • 12d: River through Rochester (GENESEE).

  • 13d: TV's "Science Kid" (SID).

  • 38d: Hawk or Raptor, e.g. (NBAER).

  • 39d: Pond swimmer (KOI).

  • 41d: Snoopy often drove one (ZAMBONI).

  • 49d: Spot alternative (BOWSER). Dogs' names.

  • 50d: Pandemonium (BEDLAM).

  • 51d: "Star Wars" good guys (REBELS).

  • 53d: Garage door opener company (GENIE).

  • 59d: Math game with matchsticks (NIM). I vaguely remember this from years ago.

  • 62d: Ratite on a ranch (EMU). If you knew that a ratite was a flightless bird, you'd be all over this one.

  • 63d: Virtuoso (WIZ).

Suns of Bitches:
  • 33a: Son of Prince Valiant (ARN).

  • 22d: Actress Lisa (RINNA).

  • Forty lashes with a wet noodle for crossing ARN and RINNA. What are you thinking?
  • 2d: "Colección de ___" (2002 Shakira album) (ORO).

  • 37d: Iranian city that's the birthplace of Omar Khayyám (NISHAPUR). Say what?

  • 57d: "Stoned Soul Picnic" songwriter (NYRO). Never heard of him/her.

I must say I really didn't care too much for this puzzle. The theme felt lame and there too many fills I didn't like, including the ARN/RINNA cross which is just hideous. Maybe I'm just in a bad mood. You guys can decide.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Title: A Flurry of Activity
Author: Brent Sverdloff
Theme: The puzzle contains five circled letters: S, N, O, and W in the corners and R in the middle. Each of the puzzle's four theme answers begins with a word that rhymes with SWORN, and ends with a word that can follow SNOW.

  • 17a: *Bald car parts (WORN TIRES). WORN rhymes with SWORN, and SNOW TIRES are ... tires that are designed for snow.

  • 63a: *Builder of an immense domed nest of twigs (THORN BIRD). i do not know this bird. i guess a SNOW BIRD is something... perhaps also a kind of bird? it turns out, i just don't know birds.

  • 11d: *Basic breakfast cereal (CORN FLAKES). i'm all over this one, thank you very much. :)

  • 29d: *Admiral in C.S. Forester novels (horatio HORNBLOWER). and i know what a SNOW BLOWER is.

what an odd theme! what would cause somebody to think of it? i never would have figured it out without the notepad hint. in fact, after solving the puzzle, i stared at the theme answers and couldn't figure it out. i noticed the SNOW part, but couldn't really figure out why they all started with _ORN. i guess not noticing the circled R in the middle pretty much killed my chances at figuring out what was going on. anyway, yes, the theme is a veritable flurry of activity: four theme answers, five circled letters, some anagramming, some "this can follow that"... you name it, this puzzle had it.

Sunny Spots:

  • 28a: Beset in two ways at once (WHIPSAW). awesome word.

  • 47a: Gallivant (TRAIPSE). both of these words are terrific.

  • 56a: Total screwup (FIASCO). this one, too.

  • 60d: God with an eight-legged horse (ODIN). wanna know the story of ODIN's eight-legged horse, sleipnir? sure you do! so the aesir (the norse gods) lived in asgard, whose walls had been destroyed in a war with the vanir (some other norse gods). a stonemason named blast (have i mentioned how much i love names from norse mythology?) came by and offered to rebuild the wall, but in return he demanded freya, the most beautiful of the goddesses, as his wife, and the sun and the moon as well. (sounds like defense contractors in the 21st century, doesn't it?) the gods were outraged at this price, but they wanted the wall, so loki thought of a way to trick blast into building at least part of it for nothing. they agreed to his price, but only if the work was completed within 6 months. well, blast set to work with the help of his incredibly strong horse, svadilfari. the deadline approached and he was much closer to finishing than they had hoped. ODIN threatened to kill loki if the gods were actually forced to pay up, but he had another trick coming. loki took the guise of a lovely mare and lured svadilfari into a thicket for three days. without him, blast couldn't finish the job. enraged, he revealed his true form (that of a rock giant) and thor promptly killed him with one blow of his hammer. eventually, loki returned from gallivanting about with svadilfari and gave birth to an eight-legged foal named sleipnir, whom he gave it to ODIN as a gift. thus endeth the story.


  • 9a: "___ Libre" (2006 Jack Black film) (NACHO). jack black is silly.

  • 20a: Florida bay city, for short (ST. PETE). the nearby 25d: Florida bay city (TAMPA) is, um, nearby. but no BOCA, OCALA, or OPA to be found!

  • 26a: Literally, "puffed up" (SOUFFLÉ). i tend to like etymology clues. this one makes a lot of sense.

  • 39a: In the buff (BARE). so many pic options... what would pete do?

  • 40a: Word after shopping or shooting (SPREE). half of this clue would not be found in a NYT puzzle.

  • 42a: Coordinate, as watches (SYNC). the internet has let me down: i can't find a video clip of "synchronize watches!" from parker lewis can't lose. i can't even find an image. lousy internet—56 kajillion terabytes of useless crap, and no "synchronize watches"? ah well, i was probably the only guy who liked that show, anyway.

  • 54a: Goddess of ancient Egypt (ISIS). okay, but she's no ODIN.

  • 70a: Hamlet's cousin? (TOWN). i've seen this clue, but i like it anyway.

  • 7d: Pentathlon event (ÉPÉE). i originally misread this as "pentagon event." that would be pretty funny, if the department of defense still used ÉPÉEs.

  • 9d: Second-largest city in New Hampshire (NASHUA). also the city where i met pete mitchell at a bridge tournament over labor day weekend.

  • 13d: Legal, in a way (OF AGE). is this sexual innuendo? it didn't occur to me while solving, but now i sort of think it is.

  • 27d: Incite (FIRE UP). when i had the F, i was hoping this would turn out to be FOMENT. i love that word.

  • 33d: Letterman's letters (CBS). this one had me for a while (especially since i had NUDE for BARE, and couldn't figure out 33a). eventually i realized it was referring to david letterman, not just any old varsity letterman.

  • 48d: Wayne Manor butler (ALFRED). apparently he's surnamed pennyworth. i did not know that, but i don't really read comics.

  • 49d: Magi's offerings (GIFTS). specifically gold, frankincense and myrrh. hey, how come you never see MYRRH in a crossword grid?

  • 64d: Number in "A Chorus Line" (ONE). okay, that's clever.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 33a: Plastic shoes in which Jibbitz charms are placed (CROCS). i think something is going on here that i don't understand.

  • 51d: Former capital of Alaska (SITKA). whoa. i normally like hard academic clues, but historical geography is not my forte.

a strange puzzle, to be sure, but a fairly enjoyable one. i don't think i've seen brent sverdloff's byline before. if this is a debut, then congratulations to brent. i'll see you all next tuesday. in the meantime, have a merry christmas and a happy hanukkah.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Title: One, Two, One, Two, One, ...,
Author: Ogden Porter (Peter Gordon)
Theme: Phrases that start with five alternating letters.

  • 19a: Nickname on "The Howard Stern Show" (BABA BOOEY).

  • 58a: Center fielder for the Red Sox (COCO CRISP). Well, actually he was traded in November to Kansas City for reliever Ramon Ramirez. Did you know his real first name is Covelli?

  • 9d: "Too Many Rings Around Rosie" musical (NO, NO, NANETTE). Another indirect Red Sox link, as this was supposedly the play that was financed by selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

  • 16d: "Hubba hubba!" (VA VA VOOM).

  • 17d: 1958 Frankie Avalon hit (DEDE DINAH). I didn't know this one.

  • 28d: Sampler at a Chinese restaurant (PUPU PLATTER).

  • 29d: Emphatic affirmative, in Acapulco (SI SI SENOR).

  • 35d: Dancer with high boots (GO-GO GIRL).

Here's a simple Monday theme, with 8 entries packed into 15x16 puzzle. The 5-square black blobs are a touch unsightly, but understandable given the amount of theme entries.

Sunny Spots:
The thing about having so much theme is that you have very little control over the rest of your fill, so it's not surprising there are no real non-theme standouts.


  • 1a: 1967 Triple Crown winner, familiarly (YAZ). More Red Sox, this time it's hall-of-famer Carl Yastrzemski.

  • 7a: "___ Room" (2002 Jodie Foster film) (PANIC).

  • 12a: Is for you? (ARE). Cute.

  • 16a: Article of food (VIAND).

  • 18a: Sleeping disorder (APNEA).

  • 22a: Debunked thing (HOAX).

  • 25a: Mrs. Robinson portrayer Bancroft (ANNE). From "The Graduate". Great film.

  • 26a: Lab safety is one of its concerns: Abbr. (ASPCA). Tricky for a Monday, but not terribly.

  • 29a: Partner of hide (SEEK). My first instinct was HAIR, as in "neither hide nor hair...".

  • 32a: Rock guitarist Steve (VAI). He played guitar in the devil's showdown with Ralph Macchio in "Crossroads".

  • 38a: Coca of "Your Show of Shows" (IMOGENE). I know this from puzzles.

  • 41a: Italian ice cream (SPUMONI). Mmmm.

  • 45a: Apples and pears, e.g. (POMES).

  • 46a: Japanese prime minister Taro ___ (ASO). Is this a tough fill for a Monday, or should people know this?

  • 50a: "Family Guy" creator MacFarlane (SETH).

  • 56a: Bit of a draft? (SIP).

  • 65a: Darts venue (PUB). Beer and pubs = booze tag. Throw in 51d: Mexican beer brand (TECATE) for good measure.

  • 70a: Intrinsically (PER SE).

  • 3d: First of three consecutive rhyming letters (ZETA). ..., zeta, eta, theta, ...

  • 7d: "This is your brain on drugs" ad, e.g.: Abbr. (PSA). Public service announcement.

  • 20d: Pen name (BIC).

  • 21d: Washington Indians (YAKIMAS). Isn't that a rooftop carrier?

  • 27d: Bathday cake? (SOAP). Almost cute.

  • 33d: Having memory problems (AMNESIC).

  • 42d: Astronomical phenomena (MOONSETS). There's a beautiful moonset photo by Shane Rucker here. I will respect the copyright and let you go there to see it.

  • 48d: Creator of Sadie Hawkins (AL CAPP). From Li'l Abner

  • 49d: Drug that can cause memory blackouts, in slang (ROOFIE). Drug reference.

  • 61d: He shared two screenwriting Oscars with Coppola (PUZO). "The Godfather" author.

Suns of Bitches:

None for me.

Fine for a Monday. Good theme with lots of entries. Nothing terribly offensive or difficult. Not so easy as to be unentertaining. That's all I ask.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

First of all, I would like to thank Joon for stepping in on Wednesday. We lost power for 5 1/2 days, which is a long time to be "off the grid". It's good to be back, and thank you to those who sent messages of support. The above picture is a close up of a lawn near my home (not mine -- I live in the woods). When you see how each individual blade is coated with ice, you realize why the trees, especially the evergreens, got so unbelievably weighted down. It was really all quite spectacular and beautiful, like everything was made of glass. Somewhat dampened by the no electricity thing. :) Our street was finally brought online by a crew who drove up to New Hampshire from Tennessee.

Okay, enough of that. Back to the program.

Title: Position Papers
Author: Robert A. Doll
Theme: Newspaper rebus
  • 1a: Swank prize (GOLDEN GLOBE). This was so obvious after the first couple of letters that the rebusness was almost immediately revealed.

  • 7d: Go around the world (GLOBE TROT).

  • 8a: John McCain has one (SILVER STAR). Funny how it's mostly gold.

  • 14d: Astronomy item (STAR CHART).

  • 37a: #1 hit in the summer of 1978 (THREE TIMES A LADY). Lionel Richie, then with the Commodores.

  • 20d: Frequently (MANY TIMES OVER).

  • 67a: "The father of modern China" (SUN YAT SEN). A touch of nastiness crossing this with 46d: Greek peak (MT OSSA).

  • 44d: Juice brand sold in pouches (CAPRI SUN). My kids used to drink this all the time. It should have come to me sooner.

  • 68a: 2005 Richard Gere film (BEE SEASON).

  • 52d: Friend of Clara Edwards (AUNT BEE). From "The Andy Griffith Show".

Ok, I get the "Papers" part of the title, but not so much the "Position" part. Is there significance to where the rebus squares fall? I thought maybe it was a geographical thing, but it seems that would put the Globe in the northeast (Boston). Of course, there are many papers with the same or similar names. I'm pretty sure I'm missing something here, and I have no doubt someone will clue me in.

Sunny Spots:

  • 19a: Sign of trouble (BAD OMEN).

  • 27a: Kenneth Grahame character (MR TOAD).

  • 26d: Cartoon spy Natasha (FATALE). Of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

  • 15a: Uniform adornment (EPAULET).

  • 16a: Native (ENDEMIC). Nice word.

  • 17a: Benz contemporary (DAIMLER).

  • 21a: 1993 inductee in the Songwriters Hall of Fame (ANKA). I saw this was four letters and immediately thought ANKA. I think it fits the ERIE rule.

  • 26a: Topps rival (FLEER). Makers of baseball cards.

  • 34a: Actress Bingham of "Baywatch" (TRACI).

  • 35a: Fool's gold (PYRITE). I used to be into rocks and minerals as a kid, so I remember this one.

  • 40a: Moon of Uranus (OBERON).

  • 48a: Rams teammate of Deacon and Rosey (MERLIN). Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, and Rosey Grier, who along with Lamar Lundy made up the "Fearsome Foursome". I know him more as a broadcaster.

  • 51a: It's indispensable to vie (EAU). Water is key to life, even for the French.

  • 54a: Certain subatomic particle (PION).

  • 59a: Charles Foster Kane's dying word (ROSEBUD). If you haven't seen "Citizen Kane", what are you waiting for?

  • 66a: Ancient warship (TRIREME) I know this from some game I used to play years ago. I think it might be Sid Meier's Civilization.

  • 2d: WWII agcy. (OPA). Letters, letters, letters... I hate three-letter-agency clues. They could be anything.

  • 4d: Slow (DUMB). Eek. Something about this just feels... well, insensitive at the least.

  • 5d: Cinders of old comics (ELLA).

  • 8d: Spanish golfer Ballesteros (SEVE). A gimme for me. I've watched enough golf to know the old-timers.

  • 10d: CEO, e.g. (LDR). Ick.

  • 11d: Corruptible (VENAL). Great word.

  • 12d: Rapper who wrote the book "The Way I Am" (EMINEM). ERIE rule again, since DRE doesn't fit.

  • 28d: Dos y seis (OCHO). 2 + 6 = 8.

  • 35d: Gilpin of "Frasier" (PERI).

  • 36d: Fulda feeder (EDER).

  • 45d: Like bialies (ONIONY).

  • 48d: Reflective sorts (MUSERS). Eh.

  • 56d: "The Dragons of ___" (Carl Sagan book) (EDEN). I don't recall if I read this, but I know the title well.

  • 60d: They're not just het (BIS). Reference to hetero- and bisexuals. Well, at least this is hipper than the "Cry heard at a recital" clue of last week. Or maybe not... what kind of recital was it, anyway... ;)

  • 64d: Reliever Robb (NEN). We just saw this. I knew it then, too.

Suns of Bitches:
  • 30a: Fashion designer Ricci (NINA). "Woman's name" would have been just as helpful a clue, for me. But the crossings were easy.

  • 57d: Val and Joan's mother in the comic strip "Stone Soup" (EVIE). Ditto.

  • 58d: Olympic swimmer Torres (DARA). Ditto.

  • 3d: "Love Story" composer Francis (LAI). I never even read this clue. Thank goodness, because I would have had no idea.

This puzzle seemed really easy for a Friday. There were many clues that felt downright Monday-Tuesday-ish, and there was very little long fill for a 76-word puzzle. Overall, it was okay. I reserve the right to upgrade if I get a stunning explanation of the "position" part of the theme.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday, December 18th

Title: Themeless Thursday
Author: Patrick Jordan
Theme: None

Another themeless Thursday. That makes three in a row. (I don't know, of course, but I have a feeling next Thursday's (12-25) puzzle will have a theme.) And this one's even easier than the last one, which seemed especially easy for a themeless Thursday. This one feels more like a Themeless Tuesday, were there such a beast. As you know I do my puzzles in pen so I can see justy where I messed up, and there's only one scratch-out here and that was at 25a: Battlers' rattlers (SABERS) and that only because I went with the British spelling -- SABRES.

  • 1a: Big-box store? (SAMSCLUB).

  • 9a: Winter Olympics event (SLALOM).

  • 15a: Emigrant's need, maybe (EXITVISA).

  • 16a: Attempts, with "at" (HASAGO).

  • 17a: Prepare for a DVD release, perhaps (REMASTER).

  • 18a: Inception (OUTSET).

  • 19a: Jay or Ray, say (ALER). Toronto Blue Jay or Tampa Bay Ray, two teams that play in the American League East.

  • 20a: Manages an air line? (SKYWRITES). This was kinda cute, but not too misleading thanks to the two word air line.

  • 22a: Original cargo of the Cutty Sark (TEA). I had no idea. How then did it come to be associated with Scotch?

  • 26a: Bynes of "Hairspray" (AMANDA). About the only young star I can think of who's not misbehaving all over the tabloids.

  • 29a: ___ Jon (crunk pioneer) (LIL).

  • 30a: Saturn vehicle? (UFO).

  • 33a: Corporate character with a mule (JUANVALDEZ). That mule's name is Conchita, by the way. Here Conchita and Juan meet New York's famous Naked Cowgirl.

  • 35a: Rigging support (SPAR).

  • 36a: Pitched right (ONKEY).

  • 37a: Jeffy and Dolly's creator (BIL). Bil Keane, creator of the comic strip Family Circus. Believe it or not, it used to be funny.

  • 38a: It's tapped for sap (MAPLE).

  • 39a: Seethe (STEW).

  • 40a: Mal de mer symptom (QUEASINESS).

  • 42a: End of days? (ESS).

  • 43a: Space heater? (SUN). The second outer space clue, after the Saturn UFO thing. Not enough for even a mini-theme though, is it?

  • 44a: Clichéd claim from a conglomerate (WECARE).

  • 45a: Mounts (STEEDS).

  • 48a: Looking sickly (WAN).

  • 49a: Realistic (CLEAREYED).

  • 52a: Nano- reciprocal (GIGA).

  • 56a: One with a game plan? (HUNTER).

  • 57a: Having nowhere to run (CORNERED).

  • 60a: Mad (INSANE).

  • 61a: Neighbor of Myanmar (THAILAND).

  • 62a: Took a gander (PEERED).

  • 63a: Surgeon, slangily (SAWBONES).

  • 1d: Antibody sources (SERA).

  • 2d: A camel might follow it (AXEL).

  • 3d: Act out silently (MIME).

  • 4d: Go back to square one (STARTANEW).

  • 5d: Rite Aid rival (CVS).

  • 6d: Loaded (LIT).

  • 7d: Doesn't abstain (USES).

  • 8d: Sounds from doodles (BARKS). I've heard of Labradoodles (half Lab, half poodle) but I'm not sure what a doodle is.

  • 9d: Variety focus (SHOWBIZ). I know there's all kinds of ways to mislead in clues, but if you're talking about the magazine Variety shouldn't it be italicised?

  • 10d: Plant family that includes cinnamon (LAUREL).

  • 11d: Not dormant (ASTIR).

  • 12d: Mural on a wall of a church in Milan, with "The" (LASTSUPPER).

  • 13d: Arch with a double curve (OGEE).

  • 14d: Clever comments (MOTS). I thought a mot had to be bon to be clever.

  • 21d: Where the Clintons met (YALELAW).

  • 23d: Begrudge (ENVY).

  • 24d: ___ Quonsett (Oscar-winning role for Helen Hayes in "Airport") (ADA).

  • 26d: La Toya and Janet, to Blanket (AUNTS). I stopped paying attention to Michael Jackson years ago. Somebody please tell me he doesn't have a kid named Blanket.

  • 27d: "Figures" (MAKESSENSE).

  • 28d: TV character employed at Gary's Shoes (ALBUNDY).

  • 31d: Like crocodile tears (FALSE).

  • 32d: Metallurgy samples (ORES).

  • 33d: "Three Tenors" colleague of Plácido and Luciano (JOSE).

  • 34d: Item with 21 pips (DIE).

  • 35d: Seat of Tom Green County, Texas (SANANGELO).

  • 38d: Muscovite, e.g. (MICA).

  • 40d: Spoiled (QUEERED).

  • 41d: Work on a patchwork (SEW).

  • 43d: Imperturbable (SERENE).

  • 46d: Language closely related to Bashkir (TATAR).

  • 47d: Faith factions (SECTS).

  • 49d: "My Three Sons" son (CHIP).

  • 50d: Crescent-shaped figure (LUNE).

  • 51d: Capital on the Persian Gulf (DOHA).

  • 53d: Its flag says "God is great" 22 times (IRAN).

  • 54d: Simmons of Kiss (GENE).

  • 55d: Throws in (ADDS).

  • 58d: Lacking experience (RAW).

  • 59d: Calligrapher's point (NIB).

  • Have a great day, Norrin

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    Title: Bawdy Parts
    Author: Stephen Kennedy
    Theme: Phrases which end in a homophone of a body part

    • 17a: "Spamalot" group that demands a shrubbery (KNIGHTS WHO SAY NI). love this answer! ten thumbs up.

    • 22a: 1996 grammar book (WOE IS I). i got this one right away, because i've actually seen this show up as fill a couple of times. i haven't read the book (it's by patricia t. o'connor), but it's a cool title.

    • 56a: Ride up the slope (SKI TOW). now this one tripped me up. i had SKI BAR for a while (before i had figured out the theme, obviously).

    • 61a: Crazy (MAD AS A MARCH HARE). this answer is also excellent. not only that, but it goes nicely with 15a: Cuckoo (LOCO) and 52a: Cuckoo (NUTS).

    • 9d: 1958 Dion and the Belmonts hit (NO ONE KNOWS). this took me forever to parse. i literally needed every crossing, because i thought it started with NOON something. anyway, never heard of this song, but it's from 50 years ago, so i didn't expect to know it.

    • 32d: Partner of Richard Rodgers (LORENZ HART). woe is i! want to hear i's tale of woe? no? well, all right, skip down to the next bit then. (i'll wait.) okay, here's i's tale of woe: richard rodgers is the famous broadway composer who worked with lyricists oscar hammerstein and LORENZ HART. however, richard rogers (note the different spelling—a distinction which would have prevented my woe, had i known about it) is the british architect who designed the totally bad-ass centre pompidou in paris with his italian collaborator, RENZO PIANO... which also has ten letters. even after i had filled in LORENZ through crosses, i was still thinking architecture, because i thought maybe "renzo" might be short for LORENZO, which i know is an italian name. but of course, then PIANO wouldn't fit in the remaining three spaces... so then i got nervous about a rebus, even though by this time i'd already seen and filled in a bunch of *ed clues. mighty confused, i was, until everything finally came together.

    so anyway—great theme, with some excellent answers, plus relatively complete body coverage in knee, eye, toe, hair, nose, heart, and nuts (wait, no, scratch that last one). there's a minor irregularity, in that the theme answers aren't the longest ones in the puzzle. usually you can only get away with that if the theme answers are all acrosses, in which case you can have some longer downs. that wasn't the case today, which necessitated the *s on the theme clues.

    what took me longer to figure out is what necessitated the oversize 15x16 grid. i'm not complaining, mind—more puzzle, same price—but it's not required by an odd-length unpaired theme answer, or a 16-letter entry. perhaps it's due to the fact that the theme answers interlock: KNIGHTS WHO SAY NI crosses NO ONE KNOWS at the O, but the square below NO ONE KNOWS has to be a block. that doesn't absolutely require a taller grid, but maybe the fill just worked out better that way.

    (oh, by the way, in case you hadn't already worked it out, my name is joon and i'll be your blogger today, subbing in for the thoroughly snow-jobbed pete.)

    Sunny Spots:
    what, after all that? well, yes, there were some nice things, but nothing as sunny as the two longest theme answers. let's just dive in.


    • 6a: "___ Cowgirls Get the Blues" (EVEN). i knew the answer to this, but i ... don't know this. it's a song, right? (update: no, apparently it's a movie with uma thurman. thanks to pat jordan for the correction.)

    • 14a: Former Homeland Security head Tom (RIDGE). i really "shouldn't" have known this. (i don't follow politics much.) but i do. tom RIDGE was governor of pennsylvania at the time of 9/11. when bush made the cabinet position, RIDGE was the first guy to fill it.

    • 21a: Without end (ON AND ON). nice answer here. also, thank god it's not NO END. i hate that expression.

    • 25a: Blackmail (EXTORT). blackmail, the verb.

    • 28a: Amontillado holder (CASK). this clue/answer pair definitely evokes the story "the CASK of amontillado" by edgar allan poe. hey, look over here: it's the 36a: Name of one of the three mascots of the Baltimore Ravens (POE). i didn't know the mascot names (i'm guessing the others are edgar and allan?), but i know that baltimore was POE's hometown and the ravens are in fact named for his poem "the raven." here's james earl jones reading it:

    • 41a: "Forgot About ___" (1999 rap song) (DRE). no, doctor, i didn't forget.

    • 43a: Clothes model (WEARER). this clue seems more specific than the answer, no?

    • 45a: Makes immune (EXEMPTS). immune from a rule, i guess. you can't be EXEMPTED from, say, chicken pox.

    • 48a: Orsk's river (URAL). i tried NEVA, then LENA. but i think i'm supposed to know this, because i've seen it before. ORSK is a great name.

    • 67a: Like a line, to a math prof (ONE-D). one-dimensional, since you can describe a point on a line with a single real-number coordinate. i suppose i can give this clue pete's "threed" tag. he doesn't like the way letter+number clues go into the grid with the number spelled out but the letter un-spelled-out. i don't have a problem with such answers, although some days i'm slower to see them than others. today, the crossing of ONE-D with SUE ANE (see below) had me scratching my head for a while.

    • 70a: Word sung twice before "whatever will be, will be" (SERA). que SERA SERA. as you might guess, SERA means "will be" (in french).

    • 71a: Sports car option (T-TOP). another letter by itself, but there's no spelled-out number this time.

    • 4d: Cylindrical appetizers (EGG ROLLS). okay, now i'm hungry.

    • 10d: Simple shelters (LEAN-TOS). i like when you can legitimately pluralize a preposition. or maybe it should be LEANS-TO, like ... i dunno, attorneys general or something?

    • 12d: Cassiterite, e.g. (TIN ORE). if you say so. this seems like kind of a weak answer. even if it's legit, it's pretty dull.

    • 19d: Instrument played by Bleeding Gums Murphy (SAX). simpsons reference. bleeding gums murphy is the guy who taught lisa how to play the blues, then died.

    • 24d: 2008 All-Star second baseman Kinsler (IAN). i'll admit it: there was a whole lotta sports in this puzzle. this guy (who was having an MVP-caliber 2008 season until he broke his elbow) from baseball, 60a: NBA tiebreakers (OTS) from basketball, 26d: Bear Bryant's real first name (PAUL) from college football, and 57d: Sports org. responsible for selecting host cities (IOC) from the world of the olympics.

    • 33d: Tag end? (GEE). cryptic letter clue.

    • 35d: One-fifth of MML (CDX). 1/5 of 2050 = 410.

    • 39d: Dashiell contemporary (ERLE). there are only so many ways to disguise this answer. today, ERLE stanley gardner gets clued in relation to dashiell hammett.

    • 42d: Cassowary cousin (EMU). i just like the word "cassowary." supposedly, the word EMU may originally have been used by natives to denote the cassowary.

    • 44d: Where many models can be seen (AUTO SHOW). you know, i'm not even sure the clue refers to car models. these shows tend to also be full of disturbingly thin women gesturing at the cars.

    • 45d: Ponch portrayer (erik ESTRADA). a rare treat for him, as he's normally a first-name-only guy in crosswords.

    • 47d: "You really shouldn't have!" (TSK). no, really. you shouldn't have.

    • 49d: Jerks (SCHMOS). fun word. i like SCHMO and SCHWA because how many words are there with one vowel and four consonants where the vowel goes at the end? (answer: just those two, apparently.)

    • 46d: Safety pair: Abbr. (PTS). oops, here's another sports clue in disguise. you get two points (PTS) for a safety in football.

    • 53d: In addition (AT THAT). i like this fill. it's the kind of conversational english that you say all the time, but never think about consciously.

    • 55d: Part of FWIW (IT'S). for what it's worth.

    Suns of Bitches:

    • 54a: "Casablanca" director Michael (CURTIZ). something is weird here. how come the director of the best movie of all time isn't famous? does that seem okay to you?

    • 11d: Detergent brand since 1927 (OXYDOL). mrrr?

    • 18d: ___ Lung (villainous snow leopard in "Kung Fu Panda") (TAI). never saw this clue, thankfully.

    • 50d: Actress Langdon (SUE ANE). apparently she starred in two movies with elvis in the 1960s. neeeever heard of her, and this is a pretty crazy name.

    well, this was a terrific puzzle. if it's a debut for stephen kennedy, then i congratulate him. either way, i anxiously await the follow-up. see you tuesday. or maybe friday.


    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    Title: Out of Order
    Author: Kelsey Blakley
    Theme: Wordplay theme consisting of two-word phrases which get their first two letters switched

    • 16a: Bewitching fun? (POTION PLAY). the option play is a staple of college football offenses, and this year, NFL offenses too.

    • 19a: Forearm bone occultation? (ULNAR ECLIPSE). i liked this one.

    • 36a: Fleet quarters? (ARMADA INN).

    • 56a: Ambiguous influence? (UNCLEAR POWER). it's pronounced "un-kyoo-lar."

    • 61a: Sufficient cough medicine? (AMPLE SYRUP). this one made me smile, too.

    this was a very nice theme--five rock-solid entries, several of which had some chuckle value. and definitely easy enough for a tuesday.

    Sunny Spots:

    • 24a: "Desire Under the Elms" dramatist (eugene O'NEILL). usually we see O'NEAL (tatum, or shaquille), and occasionally buck O'NEIL, but rarely do we get treated to america's greatest playwright. this isn't my favorite of his plays, but long day's journey into night and especially the iceman cometh are excellent.


    • 1a: Knights' titles (SIRS) and 5a: Tale of adventure (GEST). a nice 1-2 punch to start off.

    • 26a: "Some Like It Hot" actress (marilyn MONROE). i'm pretty sure i've never seen any of her movies, including this one. does that make me a bad person? or just a young person?

    • 28a: Pass path (ARC). unless it's a bounce pass, i guess.

    • 29a: "Telephone Line" rock band (ELO). ERIE rule is definitely in effect for these guys.

    • 34a: Onetime rubber capital (AKRON). funny headline on the onion today: "u.s. senate drops lieberman, reid to make room for lebron james in 2010." why do i mention this? lebron is from AKRON, that's why. and somebody has to pay tribute to what this man is doing on the basketball court this year.

    • 39a: Capital of Ghana (ACCRA). i won't plug the sporcle geography quizzes here, but ... let's just say this was at the front of my brain.

    • 43a: "Around the Horn" cable channel (ESPN). ugh, i can't stand "around the horn." but i do like when ESPN shows, you know, sports.

    • 47a: Gp. that won the 1969 Nobel Peace Prize (ILO). the international labor organization. er, make that labour. (apparently it's too international to spell it the american way.)

    • 48a: Abbr. in some city names (HTS). cleveland heights, brooklyn heights, ...

    • 50a: 2006 Australian Open and Wimbledon winner Mauresmo (AMÉLIE). since 2006, she's won only one minor tournament. she's a bit of an enigma to me.

    • 60a: Jon Arbuckle's pooch (ODIE). did you know that "garfield" is still an active comic strip? as in, jim davis is still writing it, and a new one comes out every day? it was my favorite comic when i was maybe 7. even by the time i was 10, though, it seemed impossibly dated.

    • 65a: Round whose losers compete in a consolation game (SEMIS). in some tournaments, sure.

    • 67a: Dodge City gunslinger (wyatt EARP).

    • 68a: Furtive summons (PSST). hey, it's the return of PSST. it seems like we haven't seen it in a little while. i like this clue, too. it's subtle, just like PSST itself.

    • 69a: Cut down, perhaps (EDIT). i wish they would stop EDITing so many trees out of the rainforest.

    • 5d: Become a paid athlete (GO PRO). when i was a college senior, i got annoyed of people asking me, "so what are you going to do after graduation?" i eventually started telling people i was planning to declare for the NBA draft. (for context, i'm about 5'9", 140, i have no stamina, and i'm hopeless going to my left.)

    • 7d: Musically detached: Abbr. (STAC). staccato. not sure why, but this is the first thing that comes to mind when i think staccato:

    • 8d: Mayberry sheriff (andy TAYLOR). i only dimly knew this. OPIE is usually the one who shows up in the grid.

    • 10d: Indiana native (HOOSIER). where does this word come from? i don't know, and apparently, neither does anybody else.

    • 11d: Trademarked version of reversi (OTHELLO). i played this game a lot when i was a kid, but ... give me a shakespeare clue any day.

    • 14d: Disneyland's setting (ANAHEIM). wait, you mean los angeles of anaheim, right?

    • 17d: Not taken in by (ONTO). apparently, it is so hard to clue a straight-up preposition that this word is never, ever clued as a straight-up preposition. of course, i can't think of a good clue for this, either, all though there are non-sucky FITB possibilities.

    • 32d: Broodmares, e.g. (DAMS). this one had me temporarily befuddled until i realized what kind of DAMS we were talking about. (the kind that bear foals.)

    • 35d: Cap locale (KNEE). i hope this is referring to the patella, and not some gruesome mafia-style violence.

    • 40d: Lady Bird Johnson's real first name (CLAUDIA). i'm not sure i would have remembered this without crossings.

    • 45d: X tenth? (PIN). er, okay. X is the symbol for a strike, which involves knocking down ten PINs. but what's with the clue? is it supposed to remind us of "extent"?

    • 49d: "Little Orphan Annie" henchman (THE ASP). this used to get me, but now this is like the fifth time i've seen it in a puzzle, and i am no longer gotten.

    • 57d: "Tonight Show" tomahawk tosser Ed (AMES). same goes for this guy.

    • 59d: Literary governess (jane EYRE). somehow i made it through high school and college without having read any austen, or anything by a brontë sister (this one's by charlotte). i'm still not quite sure how.

    • 63d: Spliff stuff (POT). drug reference!

    Suns of Bitches:

    • 28d: King of comedy (ALAN). jewish comedian, 1927-2004, according to wikipedia. he seems like kind of an ur-seinfeld.

    • 51d: Street with converted stables, to a Brit (MEWS). huh? what?

    i liked the theme a lot, but the fill and clues were a little short on pizzazz. overall, it was a workmanlike tuesday. see you next week. or maybe tomorrow.