Monday, March 2, 2009

Sunset, Sunrise?

As of now, the Sun puzzle has ceased to exist. However, if enough people commit their interest, Peter Gordon will again begin to produce this fantastic puzzle. The price is incredibly reasonable at about 20 cents a puzzle. That's a dollar a week, and less than five dollars a month. Can you even buy a latte for that these days? Maybe just. So, for the price of one latte a month, you could (again) be enjoying these puzzles that are every bit as good as New York Times puzzles, a touch harder even in the early week, and a touch edgier in many respects. The vast majority are by the same quality constructors you've come to know and love.

The loss of the Sun is especially sad for constructors. There are now 250+ fewer spots per year for quality puzzles to see the light of day. And Peter Gordon is the anti-Shortz when it comes to response times. Whereas the New York Times will respond to a submission in anywhere from one to six months (sometimes longer), Peter Gordon usually responds within 24 hours! Whether for a budding constructor or a seasoned veteran, that's just a wonderful thing.

So, what are you waiting for? Are you seriously going to tell me you don't think 20+ of these puzzles in a month isn't worth five bucks? How much do you spend on videos? On coffee? On highway tolls? On vending machines? On lottery tickets? You wouldn't forego one restaurant lunch every two months to get a daily Sun puzzle? I know I would.

Think it over. Sure there are plenty of free puzzles out there. But somehow, they just don't seem to measure up. Here's the link:

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

Title: Think Twice
Author: Mark Diehl
Theme: Double edged -- all squares around the perimeter contain two letters each.

  • 17a: Fuzz busters? (RaZORBLADES). A nice clue here, evoking the slang for a radar detector.

  • 40a: Excalibur and Glamdring (BROADSWORDS). Glamdring was the name of the sword found in the troll lair in "The Hobbit" and wielded by Gandalf throughout the rest of that book and through the "Lord of the Rings". That single reference warrants a geek tag like no other reference I've ever seen. Awesome!

  • 64a: Like 17- and 40-Across (and this puzzle) (DOUBLE-EDGEd).

  • I love this theme. I really do. I knew there was something funky going on (not in the 39d: Funk (ODOR) sense of the word) when so few words were fitting where I thought they should go. The one that confirmed there was something up was HALTER, which I knew had to be right. Then I got the theme clue and it all fell into place beautifully. Not to say it wasn't still a challenge, because it was. Perfect for a Friday.

    Here are the rest of the edge clues:

  • 1a: Arctic game (CaRiBoUs). This one threw me a bit, even after I knew the theme, because I've always thought the plural of caribou was caribou (like moose and deer). I've never heard it pluralized in this fashion, though the dictionary backs it as an option. Caribou is also the name of an alcoholic concoction commonly drank in unseemly quantities at Quebec Winter Carnival. If you've been to Quebec in the winter, you'll understand the appeal.

  • 5a: 2001 Robert De Niro film (ThE sCoRe). Great film, also starring Edward Norton and featuring Marlon Brando.

  • 9a: Oscar-winning song from "Captain Carey, U.S.A." (MoNa LiSa). This classic, sung by Nat King Cole, was the first "Best Song" Oscar from a non-musical drama. Here, I hope, is a link to it. (My company has blocked my access to youtube, so I can't verify it. If it's wrong, I apologize.)

  • 13a: Derby distance (MeTRE). Derby is a city in England, hence the spelling. Not the distance of a particular race or of a hat of any kind. I confidently put MILE here before I knew what was going on.

  • 16a: "Little House on the Prairie" tribe (OSAGe).

  • 19a: Miranda Cosgrove TV character surnamed Shay (CARLy). Didn't know this at all. You might remember her as Summer, the cocky girl who becomes the band manager in "School of Rock".

  • 23a: Garner (JeNN). Just kidding. It's ReAP.

  • 27a: Slush fund purchase? (SNOWTIRe). Ouch.

  • 31a: Traverse (CoURSE).

  • 35a: Ballpark figures (ERAs).

  • 36a: "A Journal of the Plague Year" author (DeFOE). I couldn't have named a single thing he wrote other than Robinson Crusoe. I suspect I'm not alone here.

  • 38a: Affixes, in a way (IRONS On).

  • 43a: To such an extent (as) (InSOFAR).

  • 46a: Word with space or rock (OPERa). I assume that's opera space, not space opera? Maybe I'm wrong. Has "Star Wars" been made into a musical yet?

  • 49a: Nana (GrAN).

  • 52a: Injustices (WRONGs).

  • 53a: "Count me in!" (I'd LOVE TO). Great fill.

  • 57a: Drawn figure (TOOn).

  • 61a: Draw back (CoWER).

  • 69a: Certain furbearer (StOAT). Furbearer is a weird word. Are we skinbearers? Are fish scalebearers?

  • 71a: Con game (BUNKo).

  • 72a: Party mix ingredient (CoRn ChEx). Mmmmm. Party mix.

  • 73a: Cause (EnGeNdEr).

  • 74a: Military unit insignia (ArM pAtCh).

  • 1d: Shooter's device (CaMeRa).

  • 2d: It's scalloped (RiTZ). I couldn't figure out where this clue was going to save my life. Then I got it from crossings and went "Doh!".

  • 3d: Jersey municipality (BoRO).

  • 4d: They're not clean (UsERS). Drug reference.

  • 5d: Calliope kin (ThALIA). Muses. Usually, it's Erato.

  • 6d: Conveyance in an emergency (EsCAPE POD). Love it.

  • 7d: Mixed (CoED). Sensitively clued as the adjective, not the more-politically-incorrect noun.

  • 8d: Make available (ReLEASE). As DVDs, CDs, games, etc.

  • 9d: Kid's farm sighting (MoO-COW). As opposed to all those baa-cows and neigh-cows out there. This felt like a bit of a stretch, but I can accept it. I guess.

  • 10d: Columbia org. (NaSA). The space shuttle Columbia, not the city or the school.

  • 11d: Trust buster? (LiAR).

  • 12d: With prudence (SaGeLy).

  • 23d: Change, as a computer program (ReCoDe). Well, sort of. Recode typically implies that you're starting from scratch, not modifying an existing program. So, if you start from scratch to create something that does basically the same thing, is it the same computer program anymore? Maybe it depends on whether you name it the same thing.

  • 30d: Think in a logical manner (ReAsOn). "Logic is little tweeting bird chirping in meadow."

  • 42d: Citizen part (WATCHBANd).

  • 43d: Anastasia portrayer (InGrId). Bergman, of course.

  • 48d: Teases (RaGs On).

  • 51d: Ran a successful pass pattern (GOT OPEn). I like this fill a lot.

  • 54d: Top (VERTEx).

  • 56d: Kind of top (HALTEr).

  • 60d: Keep out (DEBAr).

  • 61d: Place to buy Kirkland Signature products (CoStCo). Never shopped there; never heard of Kirkland Signature products.

  • 62d: Spent (WORn).

  • 63d: Not together (EACh).

  • 65d: Lean on (URGe).

  • 66d: Sell off rapidly (DUMp).

  • 67d: Black fly (GNAt).

  • 68d: Successor to Joseph Wapner (Ed KoCh).

  • 58a: Polish phrases, say (EDIT). Very cute clue.

  • 70a: Presumably thin guy of rhyme (SPRAT). Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean.

  • 18d: Animated TV dog (BLUE). I don't know what this references.

  • 22d: Start of a saying about forgiveness (TO ERR).

  • 28d: Hamilton (TENSPOT). I've never called a 10-dollar bill a "Hamilton", but then again I've never called it a tenspot either. I do know that Alexander Hamilton is on the ten, though, so it's not a reach.

  • 37d: Pulsating pair (CAROTIDS).

  • 47d: Spoon drummer Jim (ENO). Is he related to Brian?

  • 52d: Osso buco ingredient (WINE). First guess VEAL; second guess BONE; finally figured it out.

This was a really beautiful puzzle, and a great send-off (hopefully not forever) for the Sun puzzle series.

I've had a great time blogging and want to thank everyone who came to read and/or post along the way, and to all those who have supported me, openly and behind the scenes. You know who you are.

Special thanks to Peter Gordon who, if you ask me, shouldn't have to pay for a single drink this whole weekend. If you see this guy, show your love.

Well, in the words of one Bilbo Baggins...

I regret to announce, this is the end.
I'm going now - I bid you all a very fond farewell.


Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Title: Themeless Thursday
Author: Tony Orbach
Theme: NA

Here it is, the penultimate Sun puzzle, and a typically excellent one. But the sun (the real sun) is out and I want to go outside and play, so comments will be sparse and brief.
        1a: Cruel inquisitor (TORQUEMADA).

      • 11a: Posse members (PALS). I grew up watching western movies with my dad. Posse to me will always involve horses and cowboys.

      • 15a: Did a 180 (ABOUTFACED).

      • 16a: Davis-drawn dog (ODIE). That's Jim Davis of Garfield fame, of course.

      • 17a: Hide (CAMOUFLAGE).

      • 18a: Bubkes (NONE).

      • 19a: Piece of praise (ODE).

      • 20a: Ways (ROADS).

      • 21a: Turkic tongue (UZBEK).

      • 22a: How ham might be ordered (ONRYE).

      • 23a: Electrolyte particles (ANIONS). How might ham be ordered by a physicist? With anions.

      • 24a: Dominatrix, for example (SADIST).

      • 27a: Many pound inhabitants (MUTTS).

      • 29a: Robbie's dad (EVEL).

      • 30a: Sufi beliefs, e.g. (MYSTICISM).

      • 34a: Social goodie (TEACAKE).

      • 37a: Ghost costume cutout (EYEHOLE).

      • 38a: It's made without yeast (SODABREAD). It's made without soda too.

      • 40a: Brésil division (ETAT).

      • 41a: Small recesses (NOOKS).

      • 42a: Adds streets to, say (REMAPS).

      • 44a: Vanilla, e.g. (ORCHID).

      • 47a: French river (SAONE).

      • 49a: Scrupulous (MORAL).

      • 50a: "Fuego del Ande" singer (SUMAC).

      • 51a: Brand of energy drink (AMP).

      • 54a: Continuously (EVER).

      • 55a: "Synkronized" band (JAMIROQUAI). Never heard of them. Very Scrabbly.

      • 57a: Get ready, with "up" (GEAR).

      • 58a: "Theodora Goes Wild" star (IRENEDUNNE).

      • 59a: Throng (ARMY).

      • 60a: Done wrong (MISTREATED).

      • 1d: Soft shell grab? (TACO).

      • 2d: One-chapter O.T. book (OBAD).

      • 3d: Where "Tosca" takes place (ROME).

      • 4d: Status follower (QUO).

      • 5d: One-way street no-nos (UTURNS).

      • 6d: Endeavor (EFFORT).

      • 7d: Language of Singapore (MALAY).

      • 8d: Part of AMPAS (ACADEMY). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded the Oscar to the only one of the five best picture nominees I saw "Slumdog Millionaire." Great movie.

      • 9d: There are nine in F. for every five in C. (DEGS).

      • 10d: Orange additive? (ADE).

      • 11d: Bernard Madoff offering (PONZISCHEME).

      • 12d: Spicy Mexican marinade (ADOBO).

      • 13d: It often stays in the closet (LINEN).

      • 14d: Personal ad word (SEEKS).

      • 21d: Loose (UNTIE).

      • 22d: "Mighty Mouse" villain (OILCANHARRY). I vaguely remember this meanie, although if you'd asked me to name somebody named Oil Can I'd've gone with Boston Red Sox pitcher Oil Can Boyd.

      • 23d: Case worker: Abbr. (ATTY).

      • 24d: Prepares for a spike (SETS).

      • 25d: Subcompact from Chevrolet (AVEO).

      • 26d: Word with heat or meat (DEAD).

      • 28d: Put into service (USED).

      • 30d: Pigeon-hearted (MEEK).

      • 31d: Grain (IOTA).

      • 32d: Rough the passer? (SLAP).

      • 33d: "Kiner's Korner" interviewees (METS).

      • 35d: In a tumultuous state (ABOIL).

      • 36d: Nickname of Mariano Rivera's crosstown rival (KROD). If you wonder how Francisco Rodriguez got the nickname K-Rod and not F-Rod, you should know that in baseball notation a strikeout is symbolized by the letter K. Rodriguez strikes out a lot of batters.

      • 39d: Postulates (ASSUMES).

      • 42d: Lion, at times (ROARER).

      • 43d: Protect from the enemy, in a way (ENCODE).

      • 44d: "The ___ Man" (1971 Charlton Heston film) (OMEGA). One of my favorites, recently redone with Will Smith and a new title (which escapes me.)

      • 45d: Name on a bone-shaped ID tag, perhaps (ROVER).

      • 46d: Beat by a lot (CREAM).

      • 48d: Make ___ (strike it rich) (AMINT).

      • 50d: Draped dress (SARI).

      • 51d: Jessica Simpson, to Bronx Mowgli Wentz (AUNT).

      • 52d: Locks in a paddock? (MANE).

      • 53d: Foot, in French (PIED).

      • 55d: "Broken Flowers" director Jarmusch (JIM).

      • 56d: As (QUA).

      • Good luck at the ACPT.


        Wednesday, February 25, 2009

        Wednesday, February 25, 2009

        Title: That's Unreal!
        Author: Peter A. Collins
        Theme: Imaginary numbers (in math)
        • 25a: See 73-Across (THE SQUARE ROOT).

        • 53a: See 73-Across (OF NEGATIVE ONE).

        • 71a: Hurricane centers (EYES). "i" homophone.

        • 73a: What to do to all the letters in this puzzle's grid hinted at by 71-Across to create the symbol described by 25- and 53-Across (SHADE).

        Here's a puzzle for the math geeks. In math, an integer is any non-fraction (i.e., ..., -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, ... ). A rational number is any number that can be represented as the simple quotient of two integers (i.e., a/b, where a and b are integers). Then you have irrational numbers, like "e" and pi, that cannot be so simplified. Combine the rationals and irrationals to get the set of "real" numbers. But that's not enough to solve all the equations that need solving. That's why we need "imaginary" numbers, defined as a product of a real number and "i" -- defined, as noted in this puzzle -- as the square root of -1 (so, i x i = -1). Armed with this new definition, we can define "complex" numbers, which have both a real and non-real component (e.g., 3 + 2i). Suffice it to say that this opens up new doors in mathematical analysis.

        As a former math major, this puzzle tickled my fancy. But I can't help wondering how accessible this phenomenon is to the average crossword-solving crowd. Still, it's a nice execution, with the shaded "i"s forming another "i" in the grid.

        • 1a: Aria man, maybe (BASSO). Did you try TENOR first? Who could blame you?

        • 15a: Gabonese president Bongo (OMAR). See? Epps and Sharif aren't the only Omars out there if you look. And we know Peter Gordon looks.

        • 17a: Obfuscate (CLOUD). Obfuscate is a great word. It generally implied intentional clouding, to make something more difficult to understand for someone else. Why would one want to that, you ask. Well, I first became aware of it when programming in Java some years back. It was a relatively straightforward procedure to "decompile" someone's program, thus gaining access to the original source code and logic therein -- something that might want to be protected by the author to avoid pirating. Obfuscation was a routine that garbled the source code so that it was difficult to read by humans, but would still compile to function in the same way as the original.

        • 22a: Thing that can be very sticky? (DAM). Sticky, as in made of sticks. Ugh.

        • 24a: With 28-Across, 1935 nominee for Best Picture (TOP/HAT). With Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

        • 35a: Blowhard (GASBAG). Is this one word or two? I'm not sure.

        • 41a: Morse morsel? (DAH). Morse code is refered to as dots and dashes when written, but dits and dahs when heard. So, a morse code morsel in three letters could easily be DIT, DOT, or DAH. Put in the D and wait for the crossings.

        • 43a: Denis of "The Ref" (LEARY). I love Denis Leary. This was a pretty silly film, but has its amusing moments for sure.

        • 49a: Led (RAN). It took me a while to find the synonym here. Ran, as in ran a company, say.

        • 52a: Former Manhattan punk music club, familiarly (CBS). Some might find that CBGBs is enough of a stretch without resorting to a "familiar" shortcut. I got it easily enough, but there are better clues for CBS.

        • 58a: Where monkeys go bar-hopping? (ZOO). Ugh.

        • 60a: Signs up (ENROLLS). I'm more used to seeing this with one L, but both are legitimate.

        • 67a: Deuce follower, sometimes (AD OUT). Tennis scoring.

        • 68a: 2008 All-Star center fielder McLouth (NATE). Must be an NLer, as I've never heard of him.

        • 69a: Son of Solomon Levy in an Anne Nichols play (ABIE).

        • 70a: Word on Pooh's pot (HUNNY).

        • 72a: "___ on Entebbe" (1977 TV movie) (RAID). I remember this like it was yesterday. I was in my teens, a formative period.

        • 3d: Cargo measures (SHORT TONS).

        • 4d: Part of NSW (SOUTH). New South Wales, Australia.

        • 5d: Gobs (OODLES).

        • 6d: 1999 Claire Danes film, with "The" (MOD SQUAD). Could have easily been used to clue OMAR Epps, above.

        • 12d: Easy-to-play instrument (KAZOO).

        • 26d: Pope during the Great Schism (URBAN VI). I'm not crazy about Pope clues, but they're not usually that hard to figure out.

        • 29d: "The African Queen" co-screenwriter (AGEE). I think I must have seen this a few times in puzzles, because it came to me much quicker than I would have thought it might.

        • 38d: Court buildings? (GYMS). Basketball courts, particularly.

        • 42d: Did some work as a char (HOOVERED). I didn't know fish did housework. Apparently, there's another meaning of char I was not familiar with.

        • 56d: Olympic skiing gold medalist Alberto (TOMBA). Some athletes have personae that last well beyond their limited Olympics exposures. Tomba is one of these unforgettables.

        • 57d: "Well, obviously!" (NO DUH).

        • 61d: Bergman's "Casablanca" role (Ilsa LUND).

        Thanks for listening.

        - Pete M.

        Tuesday, February 24, 2009

        Tuesday, February 24, 2009

        Title: Puzzle of the Week
        Author: Ogden Porter (Peter Gordon)
        Theme: Real and fictional people named for days of the week

        • 17a: Author of "My Secret Garden" (NANCY FRIDAY).

        • 23a: Identical twin character in "There Will Be Blood" (PAUL SUNDAY).

        • 30a: Protagonist of several Jasper Fforde novels (THURSDAY NEXT).

        • 39a: Christina Ricci film role (WEDNESDAY ADDAMS).

        • 47a: All-Pro center for the Indianapolis Colts (JEFF SATURDAY).

        • 55a: Cubs player who prevented two protesters from igniting an American flag on the outfield grass during a 1976 game at Dodger Stadium (RICK MONDAY).

        • 67a: "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" actress (TUESDAY WELD).

        where to begin? first of all, this was a cool theme, very simple but well-done. seven long theme answers is a lot for a 15x15 puzzle... which is why peter had to super-size the puzzle to 17x15 to fit them in. (yes, most people in puzzles would call it 15x17, but i've decided i've got to be my own man, so i'm going to call it rows x columns, which is what everybody else in the world does anyway.) i can honestly say i've never done a 17x15 puzzle, so it was a new experience, but not an unpleasant one. the theme would have been even cooler if the entries had been in logical order, but the lengths didn't match up well enough for that despite the convenience of wednesday as the only 15.

        second: i have never heard of most of these people. the two pro athletes, yes, although they are bordering on non-famous. saturday is an all-pro, but he's also an offensive lineman, and most offensive linemen are totally anonymous to all but the most hard-core NFL fans. monday is a player whose name i know, but he's definitely from before my time, and while he was a good player, he wasn't a great one. and i know who wednesday is, even though i've never watched the addams family TV show or movie(s?).

        but the other four... yikes. i'd never heard of tuesday until WELD showed up in the december 24 NYT puzzle with the clue [Tuesday in Hollywood]. friday—no idea who that is, although i have heard of dragnet's sgt friday. and sunday... well, didn't see that movie. and thursday? that's a totally improbable name for a person. i didn't even know who jasper fforde was until KMT made him the marquee entry in a NYT themeless in november.

        Sunny Spots:

        • 43d: Harvard Yard building (DORM). right down the street. the building in the picture is thayer, where i lived as a freshman.


        • 7a: Scratch the surface of, maybe (ETCH). nice clue, with the literal sense not being the first to come to mind.

        • 14a: Nonprincipled (AMORAL). immoral = evil, as an act; AMORAL = lacking morals, as a person; nonmoral = not related to morality, as an issue. however, i don't know the difference between unprincipled (the word i would have used for this clue) and nonprincipled, which my dictionary doesn't recognize.

        • 19a: With 35-Across, musical inability (TIN/EAR). i've seen this in crosswords surprisingly often, but the most memorable was in a jonesin' theme with COPPERHEAD, NICKELBACK, LEAD FOOT, IRON LUNG, GOLD TEETH, and BRASS BALLS.

        • 25a: ___ Alex (2005 Preakness and Belmont winner) (AFLEET). why do i remember this? i have zero interest in racing. i guess it's just such an unusual name.

        • 46a: Seth of "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" (ROGEN). he's an okay actor, but i like the movies he's written. the clue also goes nicely with 64d: Pornographic (BLUE).

        • 51a: Evil demon (GHOUL). as opposed to all those good demons.

        • 60a: Hard-to-make point in craps (FOUR). i'll take your word for it, i guess.

        • 74a: Sweats might be worn during it (PHYS ED). this clue struck me as odd. usually, when a clue refers to the answer with a pronoun, it's a tricky clue involving some sort of attempt to conceal the category of the answer. this clue, however, is pretty straightforward. why not [Class in which you might wear sweats?]

        • 11d: Like "Wall-E" (RATED G). they say that the oscars were yesterday (two days ago, by the time anyone reads this). it turns out that wall-e was one of two movies i saw in 2008. (the other one, indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull, was not nominated for any oscars.) it was pretty good, and definitely better than crystal skull, so i'll give it the joon for best picture of 2008.

        • 12d: Alec's "Star Wars" role (OBI WAN). genuine class.

        • 13d: Restaurant with Moons Over My Hammy (DENNY'S). i used to eat there pretty often when i lived in palo alto and there was nothing else open after 11 pm. it was sad. i don't actually like their food, but anything is better than nothing.

        • 36d: Sister of Zsa Zsa (MAGDA). definitely the third-best gabor sister in crossworld.

        • 47d: ___ joint (place to eat, drink, and dance) (JUKE). is tihs 1950s slang, or does it just feel that old?

        • 62d: "When the cat's ___ ..." (AWAY). when i took french 1 back in 8th grade, i made a point of memorizing lots of french proverbs, just for fun. one of them was, "quand le chat est parti, les souris dansent." there was another one about cats, too: "nous avons beaucoup de chats à fouetter" (we have a lot of cats to whip). what is the deal with cats and gruesome adages? i guess after we whip our cats we can think of more than one way to skin them.

        • 65d: Did too many lines of blow, say (ODED). drug reference.

        Suns of Bitches:

        • 54a: Photographer William who's known for his pictures of Weimaraners (WEGMAN). until i googled this, i assumed he took pictures of people from weimar, like goethe and schiller. apparently, weimaraners are dogs.

        • 18d: "Giant" ranch (REATA). what does this even mean? i know what a REATA is. it's not a ranch of any size.

        • 25d: Iraqi politician Chalabi (AHMED). never heard of this guy, but it's a common arabic name.

        • 38d: "Teach Your Children" group, for short (CSNY). this must be some new york thing that i'm not in on. i know "CSI: NY," but not CSNY.

        • 57d: Extremely (NO END). this wasn't hard, of course, but i just wanted to put it here because i'm feeling ornery. NO END has no right to be an adverb, does it?

        i guess that's all for me. i'll miss the sun puzzles dearly. here's hoping the sun will rise again some day. in the meantime, thanks to peter for his tireless efforts over the last 7-8 years, even though i've only been around to enjoy the fruits of those efforts for the last 12 months.


        Monday, February 23, 2009

        Monday, February 23, 2009

        Title: Pinstripers in the Hall
        Author: Michael T. Williams
        Theme: Nicknames of Hall-of-Fame Yankees players

        • 18a: Bronx Bomber in Cooperstown (JOLTIN' JOE). Joe DiMaggio.

        • 24a: Bronx Bomber in Cooperstown (OLD PROFESSOR). Casey Stengel.

        • 38a: Bronx Bomber in Cooperstown (THE SULTAN OF SWAT). Babe Ruth.

        • 52a: Bronx Bomber in Cooperstown (THE IRON HORSE). Lou Gehrig.

        • 62a: Bronx Bomber in Cooperstown (MR. OCTOBER). Reggie Jackson.

        Okay, first things first. It's no secret that I'm a die-hard Red Sox fan, so there's only so much love I can give to a Yankees puzzle. But it's a cool theme, and I knew all but the Casey Stengel one (which I know I've heard, but I couldn't place without looking it up). Minor quibble that two start with THE, which is kind of undesirable in a crossword, but not a huge flaw.

        • 17a: Sound of a wet impact (SPLAT). Which might leave a 28a: Irregularly shaped stain (SPLOTCH). I've always been a fan of the onomatopoetic words.

        • 37a: 50th state greeting (ALOHA). This is the gimme that corrected my one false step at 10d, where I had CONTAINS for 10d: Holds in check (CONTROLS).

        • 45a: Holy Frenchwoman: Abbr. (STE).

        • 46a: London cathedral (ST PAULS). Unusual to have two "saint" clues, especially so close together.

        • 66a: Arctic coat (PARKA). RIME, my first instinct, didn't fit.

        • 1d: Pasta sauce (PESTO). I love PESTO. The only thing we grow consistently in our pitiful garden is basil, so summertime is pesto time. Man, you can almost smell that picture, can't you?

        • 5d: Straight (HETERO).

        • 8d: Word left behind by the Lorax (UNLESS). I need to go back and read this again, as it seems to get more puzzle action than most Seuss stories.

        • 9d: Actor Mahershalalhashbaz ___ of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (ALI). This is oddly guessable. I still haven't seen the film. I think I'll wait for it to show up on Netflix.

        • 11d: Ramada alternative, informally (HOJO).

        • 21d: Factotum (DO ALL). I never heard of a factotum, which is a servant hired to do a wide variety of jobs. I think I need one.

        • 26d: Norwegian saint (OLAF). I never know whether this is going to be OLAF or OLAV. I've seen it both ways, and I'm not sure there's a pattern.

        • 34d: University of Maryland player, for short (TERP). The Terps get more crossword ink than most college mascots, that's for sure. Although the Georgetown Hoyas get their due as well.

        • 39d: Full of electrical interference (STATICKY). Wow, that just looks wrong, doesn't it?

        • 41d: Animated clownfish voiced by Alexander Gould (NEMO). You had me at animated fish.

        • 48d: One-named comedian in "Jingle All the Way" (SINBAD).

        • 59d: David Copperfield's first wife (DORA). Didn't know this, but never saw the clue. This is usually clued via "Dora the Explorer".

        Countdown to ACPT. Can't wait! If you're one of the three people who have followed this blog, be sure to introduce yourself and say hello. I'll probably be in the bar. :)

        Thanks for listening.

        - Pete M.

        Friday, February 20, 2009

        Friday, February 20, 2009

        Title: Oscar-winning Roles
        Author: Jeremy Horwitz
        Theme: Fictional roles that won "Oscars" in their fictional universe
        • 1a: With 69-Across, Oscar-winning star of "Queen of the Night" in 1992's "The Bodyguard" (RACHEL / MARRON).

        • 20a: Oscar-winning star of "Tropic Blunder: The True Story Behind the Making of the Most Expensive Fake True War Story Ever" in 2008's "Tropic Thunder" (TUGG SPEEDMAN).

        • 38a: Oscar-winning star of "A World for Two" in 1954's "A Star Is Born" (VICKI LESTER).

        • 55a: Oscar-winning star of "To Serve and Protect" in 1997's "In & Out" (CAMERON DRAKE).

        Wow, what a way to round out Oscar week. I have to say that, despite the fact that only TUGG SPEEDMAN even sounded familiar, I really like this concept a lot. I found all the other names to be plausible enough, and none of the crossings were that nasty, so it was quite the nice Friday puzzle.

        • 11a: Laurence Fishburne series (CSI). Name a series in three letters...

        • 14a: One of the Andrews Sisters (MAXENE). I had the MAX and went with MAXINE, but it was soon clear from the crossing that this was not the correct spelling.

        • 15a: Fictional spy Rider (ALEX). I'm not familiar with this series of spy novels by Anthony Horowitz.

        • 17a: Learned scholar (SAVANT). I always thought a SAVANT was a natural talent more than a scholar, but I guess that's the idiot savant.

        • 19a: Unit replaced by the siemens (MHO). 23a: 100 nanojoules (ERG). Our physics fix of the day.

        • 27a: Italian composer Antonio (SALIERI). If you've seen "Amadeus", you'll remember this name.

        • 33a: The Enforcer's boss (SCARFACE). Is this from the movie "Scarface", or is this some comic I am not aware of? When I see "The Enforcer", I think Dirty Harry movie.

        • 36a: Tropical beach garment (SARONG).

        • 40a: Coca-Cola offering (FRESCA). Does anyone drink this stuff? I think it's the worst tasting soda I've ever tried. Even worse than Tab.

        • 45a: Flat fee (RENT). Very nice clue.

        • 48a: "Did it start without me?" (AM I LATE).

        • 54a: It gets bigger when stroked or massaged (EGO). Sexual innuendo tag.

        • 66a: Balletic opposite of en l'air (A TERRE). If you're not in the air, you're on the ground.

        • 7d: Misses at a rodeo (GALS). Another very nice clue.

        • 9d: Site of Hercules's first labor (NEMEA). For some reason, my first instinct was NIMES.

        • 13d: Decreasing? (IRONING). Very cute.

        • 21d: Balenciaga parent company (GUCCI). I've never heard of Balenciaga, but somehow I knew this answer instinctively.

        • 23d: Staggered start? (ESS). Cryptic letter clue.

        • 25d: Idol (GRAVEN IMAGE). Nice fill.

        • 29d: Get angry and defensive (BRISTLE).

        • 39d: "Enigma Variations" composer (ELGAR). Elgar is probably most known for his "Pomp and Circumstance" march, played at most graduation processions.

        • 40d: Geometric term coined by Benoît Mandelbrot (FRACTAL). Excellent. Get some math geekiness in here. I'm not going to explain them, go here or here for more info.

        • 41d: Go back into the ring? (REMARRY). Okay, that's pushing it a bit much. There's often a fine line between clever and over-the-top. It's hard to define, but this one stepped over.

        • 46d: Brand of chewing gum (MENTOS). Mentos makes gum? Who knew?Does it do the same thing that the mints do when you add them to Diet Coke?

        • 49d: Moises of "Hannah Montana" (ARIAS). This is didn't know, but I didn't need to. And I prefer it over some obscure Italian opera reference.

        • 50d: Where the pa'anga is spent (TONGA). Obscure clue, but with T___A, it was easy to guess.

        • 52d: Cathouse cheese (MADAM). There's something unsettling about this clue. The use of the word "cheese" in the context of a cathouse sends my mind to places I'd just as soon it not go. "Whorehouse head" would be more suggestive, but at the same time would feel... I don't know... cleaner?

        • 53d: Honshu seaport (AKITA). I went with OSAKA first, as I expect we were meant to.

        • 62d: Full house sign (SRO). Standing Room Only. I never knew this before doing crosswords. New Hampshire doesn't have a lot of standing room only shows, I guess.

        Only one more week of Sun puzzles. This is a mixed blessing for me, as I will miss the quality puzzles terribly. But I'm not sure I'm going to miss blogging them. Don't get me wrong, it's been fun, but it can also be a chore. Without the help of Joon and Norrin2, I'd have bailed long ago. It will be nice to have a break.

        Thanks for listening.

        - Pete M.

        Thursday, February 19, 2009

        Thursday, February 19, 2009

        Title: It's an Honor to be Nominated . . . Again
        Author: John Farmer
        Theme: Actors nominated twice for Academy Awards for the same role.

        If you had asked me to name somebody nominated twice for an Academy Award for the same role, I could have told you about Paul Newman (17A: 1961 and 1986 nominated role for Paul Newman (only five times has the same actor been nominated for the same role in two films) (FAST EDDIE FELSON ) and that's only because it seems so weird to me that of all the great roles Newman played he won his only Academy Award for "The Color of Money" and he was great in it, of course, but it wasn't a great movie and anybody can look good playing opposite Tom Cruise.

        If I'd racked my brain I probably could have got 47A: 1972 and 1974 Oscar-nominated role for Al Pacino (MICHAEL CORLEONE) even though I haven't seen any of the Godfather movies -- or the Sopranos or any other gangster-related shows. Just have zero interest in gangsters, I guess. (Pacino didn't win an Oscar until "Scent of a Woman" which was not one of his best roles either, if you ask me. )

        And maybe if you had a gun to my head I could have come up with 26A: 1944 and 1945 Oscar-nominated role for Bing Crosby (FATHER O'MALLEY) only because it seems Bing was always playing either a priest or a guy on the run with Bob Hope, crooning to Dorothy Lamour.

        But I did not know 33A: 1964 and 1968 Oscar-nominated role for Peter O'Toole (KING HENRY II) or 56A: 1998 and 2007 Oscar-nominated role for Cate Blanchett (QUEEN ELIZABETH I). I don't know, maybe movies about ROYALTY (16A: Payment to an author, perhaps) appeal to me as movies about gangsters. O'Toole by the way played King Henry in Becket and The Lion in Winter. Blanchett played Queen Elizabeth in Elizabeth and Elizabeth: the Golden Age. The same year she was nominated for that latter Liz, she was also nominated for playing the role of Bob Dylan in I'm Not There.

        Only other Oscar winner I see in this puzzle is at 29D: Charles portayer (LOY) . That's Myrna Loy, who did not win an Oscar for her role as Nora Charles in the Thin Man movie series or any specific role. Instead she won a lifetime achievement award shortly before she died in 1993.

        A couple of other entries that caught my eye:
        68A: Part of "ST:DS9" (TREK) That's Star Trek: Deep Space 9 for those of you who don't geek out in a trekward direction.
        12D: Former province of France (ALSACE) Never heard of it, but geography is my weakness.
        49D: Heir to the throne of Thule, in the comics (ARN) Son of Prince Valiant.
        33D: Brass rings, maybe (KNOCKERS) Don't know why I like that one as much as I do. But I do.
        Be here next week when we bid a tearful to the Thursday Sun puzzle.

        Wednesday, February 18, 2009

        Wednesday, February 18, 2009

        Title: Screenwriting Can Be a Drag
        Author: Andrea Carla Michaels and Patrick Blindauer
        Theme: Oscar-winning screenplays that feature crossdressing.
        • 4d: 1992 Best Original Screenplay Oscar winner featuring cross-dressing (THE CRYING GAME).

        • 14d: 1982 Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nominee featuring cross-dressing (VICTOR VICTORIA).

        • 23d: 1959 Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nominee featuring cross-dressing (SOME LIKE IT HOT).

        Well, it must be Oscar week. This is the third puzzle in a row that features Oscar winners past (and also the third 15x16 grid). Today we get films featuring men dressed as women (or in one case, a woman pretending to be a man dressed as a woman). It seems a fairly straight-(no pun intended)-forward theme, which always has me wondering what I missed when I see Patrick Blindauer's name involved. Well, if there is something, I can't see it right now.

        The rest:
        • 7a: It runs in the woods (SAP). It's almost maple syrup season around here. Yummm.

        • 15a: Word with gun or dog (TOP). Here's to Lt. Pete Mitchell.

        • 17a: Cruise stopover (ISLE). My first instinct was PORT, but I should have know ISLE was more likely. Nothing to do with Tom Cruise this time.

        • 27a: "Peter and the Wolf" duck (OBOE). This is a classic by Prokofiev, where each instrument plays the theme of a different character.

        • 30a: 1990s computer hit with teleporting books (MYST). This was a groundbreaking puzzle game, and one of the first to appeal to women as much as men.

        • 36a: Rockies manager Hurdle (CLINT). Who? Luckily I had _LINT by the time I came back to this one, which narrowed the choice considerably.

        • 43a: Result of puppy love? (NIP). Cute.

        • 44a: Old Olds (CIERA). You wanted ALERO here, I know you did. But have no fear, it shows up at 58d: Old Olds (ALERO).

        • 45a: City with the burial site of a noted Indian (AGRA). That's Indian from India, not Native American. Agra is the site of the Taj Mahal.

        • 49a: "Jaws" craft (ORCA). Some movie trivia is easier to recall than others. This one I'll never forget. A classic.

        • 51a: Yellow spots' spots (RETINAE). I didn't get this. I guess yellow spots are a vision thing.

        • 55a: "The Mystery of ___ Vep" (IRMA). Didn't know it.

        • 59a: Part of a mean mien? (SNEER).

        • 64a: Race in the library? (ELOI). Common crossword fare. Remember it.

        • 68a: Mix-a-Lot's title (SIR). Don't know that much about rap, but I know this name.

        • 70a: Part of the inn crowd? (ROOMER).

        • 6d: All together (EN MASSE).

        • 10d: Detailed, as instructions (STEP BY STEP).

        • 11d: Lotharios (ROMEOS).

        • 26d: Salt shaker? (SEA). A salt is an old sailor.

        • 31d: Five-ninths of MLXXXIX (DCV). Didn't bother with the math on this one; just filled it in based on crossings.

        • 33d: Plant food brand (MIRACLE GRO). Nice fill.

        • 48d: Givens on "Jeopardy!" (ANSWERS). Robin Givens was on "Jeopardy!"? Well, not that I know of, but anything's possible. I know Robin Quivers has been. Either way, we're not talking proper names here, but the answers which are given such that the contestants can ask the appropriate question.

        • 50d: Signaled on "Jeopardy!" (RANG IN). Continuing the "Jeopardy!" theme.

        • 56d: Calls outside of one's calling area (ROAMS). Fair warning for you US Cellular users out there... your unlimited nights, weekends, and incoming calls don't count if you go to Canada. My wife's been working there for a few weeks and just got dinged with a $400+ cellular bill. Yikes!

        Not too easy, but nothing too hard. Just what the doctor ordered for a Wednesday.

        Thanks for listening.

        - Pete M.

        Tuesday, February 17, 2009

        Tuesday, February 17, 2009

        Title: International Film Festival
        Author: Jerzy Whitmore
        Theme: Best Picture winners whose title begins with a nationality

        • 4d: Best Picture of 1996, with "The" (ENGLISH PATIENT). based on the novel by michael ondaatje, which i'm told is quite good.

        • 7d: Best Picture of 1971, with "The" (FRENCH CONNECTION). the french lieutenant's woman wouldn't fit, it's from the wrong year, and it didn't win best picture.

        • 19d: Best Picture of 1999 (AMERICAN BEAUTY). i've actually seen this one, which is saying something. (i don't normally watch movies.) not only that, i loved it. it's my second-favorite movie ever. so a big thumbs-up here.

        a nice, tight, little theme. this is the second consecutive oscar-themed puzzle, and i read yesterday (on a crossword blog—where else would i have heard it?) that it's oscar week. does that mean we're in for a whole week of these? i hope not, but it's not nearly as depressing as the thought that we only have another week and a half's worth of sun puzzles at all.

        it's also the second consecutive 15x16 puzzle, to accommodate the 16-letter FRENCH CONNECTION. but this one was symmetric.

        Sunny Spots:

        • 21d: Poles on the equator, maybe? (EXPATS). this clue made me smile. just brilliant! indeed, the equator does not pass through poland.


        • 16a: Hollywood agent Emanuel whose brother Rahm is the White House chief of staff (ARI). somebody told me this factoid a few months ago. i can no longer remember who. but this might have beaten the ENC clue from last week for the "largest clue length/answer length ratio" record.

        • 17a: Goes on a bender (BINGES). booze tag, i guess.

        • 18a: One who makes fancy invitations, maybe (ENGRAVER). i wouldn't have minded an albrecht dürer clue here.

        • 26a: Title for some dignitaries (EXCELLENCY). i think if you're good enough at whatever it is you do, you should get to be called "your EXCELLENCY." peter gordon, for instance, should have this title.

        • 28a: "Exodus" novelist (URIS). neither this clue, nor 34d: Contemporary of Moses (KAREEM), has anything to do with the old testament.

        • 31a: With 50-Across, investor's option (ROTH/IRA). nice to see the whole thing in here. it's almost always just IRA.

        • 33a: Punches up, as punch (SPIKES). good clue. booze tag x2.

        • 42a: Order from a bar regular, with "the" (USUAL). souse it up! i'm going to be three sheets to the wind by the time i'm done blogging this puzzle.

        • 44a: "Hardcore troubadour" Steve (EARLE). learned this name from crosswords. he's some kind of country rocker. i prefer baseball hall-of-famer EARLE combs myself.

        • 53a: Host of the 1980 Winter Olympics (LAKE PLACID). also some kind of 3rd-rate horror movie from the recent past, i think.

        • 59a: Mathematical minima and maxima (EXTREMA). this was a very X-ful puzzle.

        • 63a: Device for making grooves in wood (ROUTER). this clue is so last millennium.

        • 70a: Hoover or Roosevelt, e.g. (DAM). i had DEM here for a second, even though i've seen this exact clue somewhere else in the past week.

        • 2d: News agcy. owned by the Unification Church (UPI). i did not know that. is this common knowledge?

        • 3d: Hall of Fame quarterback Dawson (LEN). i've been seeing this guy's name a lot recently, for no really good reason. he was the MVP of super bowl IV, just in case you ever find yourself doing this sporcle quiz.

        • 5d: Copped thing (PLEA). i so wanted this to be FEEL.

        • 8d: Strong-legged Armstrong (LANCE). okay, cute clue, though i bet his arms are also a lot stronger than mine.

        • 24d: Fire up (AROUSE). such restraint shown in the cluing here. no sexual innuendo to be found.

        • 40d: Snake-oil salesman's offering (ELIXIR). good word, fun clue.

        • 46d: Sierra Nevada offering (PALE ALE). good grief. i'm cutting you off, mister!

        • 48d: "10" star (BO DEREK). this was not a best picture winner.

        • 54d: Viking rival (AMANA). apparently viking makes appliances. i was definitely looking for a football team here.

        • 56d: Members of a firing squad? (AXMEN). i don't think i've heard this term used to describe wielders of metaphorical axes, only literal ones.

        Suns of Bitches:

        none, surprisingly. this was my fastest tuesday solve in quite some time.

        overall, a nice puzzle and a very smooth grid. i don't recognize the constructor's name. if this is a debut, then congratulations to jerzy whitmore. (edited to add: it's not a debut. jerzy whitmore is actually experienced constructor jeremy horwitz in anagrammatic disguise. thanks to orange for the tip-off.)

        see you next week.


        Monday, February 16, 2009

        Monday, February 16, 2009

        Title: All the Presidents' Best Actors and Actresses
        Author: Ogden Porter (Peter Gordon)
        Theme: Oscar winners who share last names with U.S. Presidents
        • 28a: Best Actress of 1960 and 1966 (ELIZABETH TAYLOR).

        • 35a: Best Actor of 1964 (REX HARRISON).

        • 57a: Best Actress of 1931 (HELEN HAYES).

        • 4d: Best Actress of 1970 and 1973 (GLENDA JACKSON).

        • 11d: Best Actor of 2001 (DENZEL WASHINGTON).

        Breakin' the rules. Breakin' the rules. Here we have a 15x16 that is non-symmetrical with non-symmetrical theme answers. Did it bother you? Did it affect your enjoyment of the puzzle? This is one of those oft-debated issues among constructors. Are the rules of symmetry there for a reason, or are they just some snobbish clinging to an obscure set of rules for no apparent reason. I won't get into that too deeply here. Personally, I like the symmetry of crosswords. It pleases my mathematical sense of order. But I can honestly say I wasn't bothered by the lack of order during this fairly-easy Monday solve.

        The rest is going to be quick, as I'm tired and want to go to bed.

        • 4a: Potential petter's discouragement (GRR). This feels weird to me, as it's the pettee that is doing the discouraging.

        • 17a: Like the Empire State Building (ART DECO).

        • 23a: Sound from the anteater in "B.C." (ZOT). Don't recall this one.

        • 24a: Broke (TAMED).

        • 42a: Mexican state on the Gulf of Tehuantepec (OAXACA).

        • 46a: Star-Belly and Plain-Belly Seuss creatures (SNEETCHES). Very nice.

        • 63a: Puts an end to (ERADICATES).

        • 65a: Vitality (ZING).

        • 3d: Woven mat of Japan (TATAMI).

        • 6d: Dad's product (ROOT BEER). I've been fooled by a Dad's clue before, so I was onto it this time. As I recall, it was "Dad's rival", which was AANDW (a nasty sequence of letters).

        • 9d: Be taught incorrectly (MISLEARN).

        • 31d: Missouri county (OSAGE).

        • 38d: Is in the lead by a little (HAS AN EDGE).

        • 46d: Former president of Indonesia (SUHARTO). I remember this from "The Year of Living Dangerously".

        • 47d: Rum ___ Tugger ("Cats" cat) (TUM).

        • 54d: Umenyiora of the New York Giants (OSI). Never saw the clue. Which is good, since I wouldn't have known this at all.

        • 56d: Tips of skis? (ESSES). Cryptic letter clue.

        That's all for tonight.

        Thanks for listening.

        - Pete M.

        Friday, February 13, 2009

        Friday, February 13, 2009

        Title: Wacky Weekend Warrior
        Author: Trip Payne
        Theme: None, in the traditional manner of speaking.

        The Wacky Weekend Warrior is a Trip Payne specialty that comes around every once in a while. Some people might find it off-putting, as the vast majority of fill are not real words or common phrases. In fact, most of it is quite contrived or totally fabricated. But does that make it unfair? I suppose it could easily be, for what are the rules and standards of a puzzle that, by definition, is breaking the rules and standards? I'm not sure that there's a definitive answer to that question. Perhaps it totally a judgement call. But I can tell you this: I found absolutely nothing unfair in this puzzle. In fact, I thought it was surprisingly easy -- much moreso than I expected based on the recollection of my last experience with a WWW. The reason it wasn't too hard, I think, is because most of the wacky phrases are combinations of two words that are common enough, but just aren't typically used together. And the clues to each half, at least in this puzzle, were pretty straightforward. So, just let your mind go and trust your instincts, and things fall apart nicely. It may be an advantage if you're one of those people, as I am, who tend to coin their own words via the application of standard English patterns where they don't necessarily belong. So for me, for example, MAZERS was an immediate gimme.

        And let's look at the obvious benefits of this wackiruleiositude: a wide-open, 52-word themeless, with only 22 black squares. No 3-letter words! Only four 4-letter words! Trust me, that's hard to do using a standard dictionary. And it's beautifully solvable, and entertaining to boot. And isn't that what puzzles are all about?

        I won't be blogging any of the "normal" fill(and there wasn't much). We'll take a purely wackiscenic approach.

        Sunny Spots:

        • 19a: It might read "Home: Who cares; Away: Whatever" (BORED SCOREBOARD). I just love this clue.

        • 23a: Remove all the males from (DE-MAN). I'm thankful this was clued without reference to surgery of any kind.

        • 26a: Garden Ornaments "R" Us customer, sometimes (GNOME PICKER).

        • 28a: What cheerleaders clean their equipment with (POM-POM BRUSHES).

        • 44a: The scourge of one-celled supervillains everywhere (ALGAEMAN). This is by far my favorite fill! "Algaeman away!"

        • 6d: What the word "powwwwoww" needs (LESS W). There's something beautifully elegant about this one (all politics aside). Love it.

        • 7d: Craze that led to the infamous Guacamole Riots (AVOCADO MANIA). I'm not sure if this should be all one word or not. I guess it doesn't much matter, since nobody will ever use it again.

        • 1a: Flabbergasts the Hollywood community (STUNS L.A.). Also, what the Celtics team does (again) this next playoff season.

        • 8a: Labyrinth creators (MAZERS). As I said above, this was the first entry I put in. What else could it be?

        • 14a: How clothier Strauss ended his letters (LOVE, LEVI).

        • 16a: Topnotch ring of flowers (ACE LEI).

        • 17a: Where armor eyeholes are located (ON A VISOR).

        • 18a: Former flame of basketball player Malone (KARL EX).

        • 21a: Old video game company dwindles down (ATARI WANES).

        • 24a: David's golf cart, perhaps (DUVAL RIDE). This took me longer than it should have because I wasn't expecting the two halves to relate. In other words, I wasn't thinking of golfers named David; I figured it was some reference to the Biblical David.

        • 31a: Atticus to Scout, or Sarabi to Simba (MOVIE PARENT).

        • 32a: What corkscrews do (OPEN WINES).

        • 39a: What you might expect in a mixed drink called a White Jamaican (MILK AND RUM).

        • 41a: Running mate of Nia "C.C." McCain? (SARAH PALINDROME). You have to notice that Nia "C.C." McCain is a palindrome to get this.

        • 43a: What a two-letter Romance-language translation of "the" might be (IL OR EL).

        • 45a: Steal diamonds, slangily (NAB ICE).

        • 46a: Auction offer from actor Pickens (SLIM'S BID). "What we've got here is... failure to communicate!"

        • 48a: Notice a soft drink (SEE SODA).

        • 1d: Commercial aimed at the untidy (SLOB AD).

        • 2d: Jot down, infinitively (TO NOTE).

        • 3d: Charlottesville school's sheep, for short (U.V.A. RAM).

        • 5d: Problem after the nave was waxed (SLIDING PEW).

        • 8d: Says "I tried needlepoint twice, but I was only so-so," for example (MAKES A PUN).

        • 10d: Hyphenated word meaning "completely flat" (ZERO-ARCH).

        • 11d: Capable of scatting to a jazz orchestra, e.g. (ELLA-LIKE).

        • 12d: Wears away further (RE-ERODES).

        • 13d: More than five bucks (SIX DEER).

        • 15d: Rain protectors that would be very likely to rust (IRON UMBRELLAS). Another one I got right away.

        • 20d: Silversmithing, reading lantern code, etc. (REVERE SKILLS).

        • 25d: "Please pay attention to me, madam," à la Mike Hammer (LISTEN, DAME).

        • 27d: Feature of a clear complexion (NO PIMPLES).

        • 28d: Economist Greenspan, after succeeding Benedict (POPE ALAN). There's some definite amusement factor here.

        • 29d: Put on too many terry cloth garments at once (OVERROBE).

        • 30d: Operatic solo about a fur coat (MINK ARIA).

        • 31d: What cleaning tools bring up in confessionals (MOP SINS).

        • 35d: Brass instrument at 25% off? (TROMBO). This is almost a cryptic, removing 25% (two) of the eight letters in TROMBONE.

        • 36d: Charity concert for ornamental flowers (MUM AID). Very nice.

        The Downsides:
        There are a few clunker fills. Mostly partials, which in a "normal" puzzle don't typically exceed five letters.
        • 4d: "___ dull moment!" (NEVER A).

        • 9d: It might be hailed (A CAB).

        • 34d: Wear ___ (something Uncle Miltie used to do) (A DRESS).

        • 37d: ___ text (do some editing) (EMEND A).

        What more can I say? I enjoyed this puzzle thoroughly.

        Thanks for listening.

        - Pete M.

        Thursday, February 12, 2009

        Thursday, February 12, 2009

        Title: Happy Birthday
        Author: Ogden Porter
        Theme: The bicentennial of the birth of Darwin and Lincoln.

        It's an interesting coincidence that Lincoln and Darwin were born on the same day and the same year. For our purposes it's somewhat unfortunate that their birthday is on a Thursday this year since it makes for a pretty easy-for-a-Thursday puzzle, though Mister Gordon -- excuse me, Mister Porter -- does make it interesting. Use use of numbers means this puzzle is not strictly by the numbers.

        I think even if I hadn't just read an article about Darwin and Lincoln in Smithsonian magazine I would have remembered that they shared a birthday. All I had to do was slide Abe into the 14-letter slot (16A: He was born on 56-Across: ABRAHAM LINCOLN) and Charlie into the 13-letter slot (37A: He was born on 56-Across: CHARLES DARWIN) and then slip their birthday into the aforementioned 56-Across -- only FEBRUARY TWELFTH wouldn't fit, FEBRUARY TWELVE was iffy-sounding. A couple of scratch-outs later and I realized we had numbers in our crossword puzzle. 56A: See 16- and 37-Across 12FEBRUARY1809.

        Cool. And it led to 6 more crossing down entries with numerals.

        56D: When SNL ends: 1AM

        57D: Jr. alternative: 2ND

        55D: Air Force stealth jet: F117

        58D: Part of many toll-free numbers: 800

        59D: Bond: 007

        60D: When Clinton was prez: 90S

        and a couple more acrosses too:

        63A: M: 1000

        66A: Pioneering Boeing planes: 707S

        By the way also born on February 12th (though not in 1809) are Boston Celtic Bill Russell and Doobie Brother Michael McDonald

        So you probably figure guys born 2 days before Valentines Day all have beards.
        Well then how do you explain Salem Witch Trials instigator Cotton Mather (born February 12th, 1663)?

        Easy, he decided to grow his Darwinesque beard on top of his head.

        Other cool entries include 53A: Satisfactory UPTOSNUFF

        22D: Aviation editor of Cosmopolitan in the 1920s EARHART I mean, who knew Cosmo ever had any interest in aviation other than articles about joining the mile-high club.

        I was less impressed by 5D: Cyberjunk SPAM MAIL just because I've never heard it called that. It's usually either "spam" or "junk e-mail." I do like the word cyberjunk though, conjuring up images as it does of "Sanford and Son" as written by William Gibson.

        That's all for me. Happy birthday, Abe, Bill, Cotton, Charles and Mike.

        See ya next Thursday.