The Stamford Experience (Part 5)

Saturday, March 31, 2007

My fifth and final installment of "The Stamford Experience" is up at my other blog. That is all. Good night.



SATURDAY, Mar. 31, 2007 - John Duschatko

Solving time: I won't be posting my times any more...
THEME: 7D: With 27-Down and others like 10-Across and others (CONTINUED ON THE NEXT / LINE) - 10 answers run off the end of the puzzle and continue on the next line

I should not attempt to do irregular puzzles like this late at night, especially after consuming an entire bag of chips and something like a pound of guacamole. And a beer. I returned home from a screening of Orson Welles's Lady from Shanghai (during which I almost fell asleep despite the movie's goodness), and sort of poked at the puzzle for a while before finally settling down in bed and tackling the puzzle in earnest. I can't say the experience was terribly enjoyable, though I was briefly happy to finally "get" what the hell was going on. The trick (which I've seen before, and should have picked up more quickly) involved a seemingly normal Across clue that was followed by another Across clue that was simply a dash: "-". I think I last saw this cluing strategy in the Giant "H" puzzle a few months back, where answers traversed the black space formed by a Giant "H" in the middle of the puzzle grid. Anyhoo...

The "continued" answers include:

  • 10A [with 14A]: Freddy Krueger and others (slas / hers) => SLASHERS
  • 16A [with 17A]: Continental locales (airp / orts) => AIRPORTS

[side note: I had the NW corner, including HERS and ORTS, without having any idea how HERS and ORTS (perfectly good words) could be the answers to "-"]

  • 19A [with 20A]: Sell short (unde / restimates) => UNDERESTIMATES
  • 24A [with 25A]: Musician with the first record formally certified as a million-seller (Glenn M / iller) => GLENN MILLER (I had GLENN MERCER at first ... wtf?)
  • 34A [with 38A]: Jacquerie (upri / sing) => UPRISING (totally new word to me: between my decent French and my wife's Historian-ness, we came up with nothing)
  • 40A [with 41A]: One who shakes in a kitchen, maybe (seas / oner) => SEASONER (I kind of like how often these answers break into parts that are themselves actual words)
  • 45A [with 46A]: Like Oedipus's marriage (prede / stined) => PREDESTINED
  • 54A [with 59A]: Hamstrings (incapacit / ates) => INCAPACITATES
  • 61A [with 62A]: Mulling (rumi / nant) => RUMINANT
  • 64A [with 65A]: Crepe paper feature (crin / kles) => CRINKLES

The "C" in CRINKLES was the last square I filled in. I had WRINKLES and I asked Sandy, "Do you understand how 55D: Dict. label could be ARWH?? I don' t get it." She was no help. Part of me wanted to leave it, figuring it was some Saturday crap I just didn't know. Then I looked for the weakest link, which turned out to be the "W," and tada: CRINKLES.

If I never see SPERM in the puzzle again (13D: Kind of bank), it will be too soon. Not too happy about LAIN - 26D: Been intimate (with) - either. Seriously, SPERM + LAIN + "Oedipus's marriage" = me grossed out.

Please explain 24D: '00's, now (grads) to me. I think it has something to do with this decade, but ... it's not making any sense to me.

I was so thrilled to see Toots SHOR (1D: Famed host near Broadway) in the puzzle again, if only because this is the second time I've gotten to use his name since I learned it, from a puzzle, something like 6 months ago. I will put him on the Pantheon nominee list if this frequency trend continues.

FERMI (5D: Tiny distance unit) has to be the most versatile name in all of science. I find that his name is the best guess to any potentially physics-related question. He is to science crossword clues what Henry Fonda was to the Entertainment category in the original "Trivial Pursuit." In the 80's, all those Entertainment clues were oriented toward an era way before my own, and my sister and I took to answering all Entertainment questions we didn't know (most) with "Henry Fonda!?" Sometimes we were right. (Speaking of Entertainment, didn't know IRENE - 48D: Godfrey's woman in "My Man Godfrey" - but could infer it easily enough) Best thing I ever learned from "Trivial Pursuit": "Who betrayed Norway to the Nazis?" => Vidkun Quisling. We cried laughing over how completely, ridiculously obscure that answer was (to a couple of teenagers in the 80's). It became emblematic of all esoterica. I've since learned that Quisling's not That obscure, and that Quisling even got his own noun, quisling (lower-case), meaning, of course, "traitor."

Not much else in this puzzle is thrilling me, though I did like the cleverly clued ABEAM (6D: At three or nine o'clock), the split IPSO / FACTO (25D: With 5-Across phrase of clarification), which took me a while to get, and EBOOK (15A: Modern library offering), which, along with 51D: "Green _____" ("Acres"), was one of the few true gimmes in the puzzle. Also enjoyed the relatively obscure gaming answers 8D: Pari-mutuel machine (tote) and 44A: Card game with a bank (faro). I also have a certain affection for SPANK (46D: Severely outscore, slangily), having nothing to do with severely outscoring. Had forgotten that Drago's first name was IVAN (54D: _____ Drago, "Rocky IV" villain) - never saw the movie, but it was pretty iconic in my youth. Was that the "Rocky" movie with James Brown's "Living in America" as its anthem? Yes. Glorious, mid-80's, Soviet-hating jingoism. That is how I like to remember my high school days.

Lastly, did Shakespeare name his famous Forest of ARDEN after his mother? Seems weirdly Freudian. Discuss.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


The Stamford Experience (Part 4)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Part 4 of my Stamford recap is up.



FRIDAY, Mar. 30, 2007 - David Quarfoot

Solving time: as a rule, I do not rush a Quarfoot puzzle
THEME: Republicans of the late 20th century (or, none)

Orange emailed me late last night, as I was writing my seemingly eternal Stamford recap, and assured me that I would like today's NYT puzzle, and she was not wrong. It went immediately into the "Best of 2007" folder I keep on my desktop. One of the shocking things about going to Stamford is meeting all the constructors you admire and finding out that many of them are, in fact, children. OK, so Quarfoot's probably in his mid-20's, but still, he has no business being that young when his puzzles are so damned good. The rule is: if you are great, you must be old and woolly and out of shape so that I have some way to compare myself favorably to you. None of this young, cool, athletic crap. After having Quarfoot pointed out to me at Stamford, I finally went over to introduce myself and he was very friendly and I turned to introduce myself to whoever it was he was with ... and it was Mike Nothnagel, who is another of my favorite NYT Friday/Saturday constructors. Too much young talent in one place. And nice too. Seriously. It was sickening. Oh, and add Patrick Blindauer to the list of baby-faced talent. Also a really nice guy. Anyway, on to today's fantastic puzzle.

26A: "Miracle on 34th Street" director (Seaton)
27D: Greek sea god (Nereus)

How in the world did I, I of all people, end up stumbling on @#$#-ing [Greek sea god]. Had the "E" in the second position and started writing NEPTUNE only to find that it didn't fit. So I thought "Well, OK, what's his Greek name ... uh ... o my god what is it!?" It was only after I got all the vowels and the "S" that I had a vague idea. Now that it's sitting there, yes, I know (of) it. You don't see NEREUS the way you see APHRODITE or ATHENA or ARES. At least I don't. The intersecting answer SEATON was flat-out unknown to me. Again, I don't know how that's possible. Saw the title and thought "Capra?" No.

1A: With 60-Across, much-heard sound bite of 1988 ("Read my lips / no new taxes!")

First "sound bite of 1988" that came to mind? WHERE'S THE BEEF?! But that was from the 1984 campaign, though, not 1988. Didn't Mondale say it about Gary Hart? Ah, Gary Hart. Donna Rice. "Monkey Business." Sometimes I miss 80's politics. All seems so innocent now. Donna Rice really really needs to be in a puzzle. She and Fawn Hall. But back to the actual answer, which is GREAT, and has perfect rotational symmetry to boot. Gorgeous. This grid is heavily laden with notable Republicans, both in the clues and the answers. First, we have George H.W. Bush with READ MY LIPS, NO NEW TAXES, followed by

2D: "With Reagan" memoir writer (Ed Meese)
30D: Dole's successor in the Senate (Lott)
46A: Org. established by Nixon (EPA)

Three presidents, a presidential candidate / senator, another senator, and an attorney general. All Republicans. I'm surprised these guys agreed to share space with YOKO ONO (38D: "Starpeace" performer).

11A: "The Human Stain" novelist (Roth)
16A: Emperor for only three months (Otho)
12D: It was first performed at Whitehall Palace in 1604 (Othello)

As a lisping solver would say, OTH-ome! ROTH was a gimme and the first entry in the grid. OTHO is a mythical creature as far as I'm concerned, but I'd seen his name before and figured there were too many OTTOs for the answer to simply be OTTO. So, OTHO. OTHELLO was in yesterday's puzzle, which is weirdly coincidental. Nobody ever answered my question about whether the game OTHELLO had a racial component, i.e. are the pieces black and white to signify miscegenation? Inquiring game-players need to know.

Pop Culture Alley

35D: Robin's place (Batcave!) - speaking of Batman, Dave Sullivan has promised me that at next year's Tournament (in Brooklyn! Reserve your room now!), he will come dressed thusly:

So come to the Tournament for that, if nothing else. Seriously, I'm going to be actively advocating that people attend the tournament next year, no matter how poor a solver you think you are. It's so much fun that, believe me, you won't care (much) about your times. If you like puzzles enough to read this stupid blog, then you Definitely like them enough to go to the ACPT. Plus, I can almost promise you that you will kick Phil Donahue's ass, which should at least give you some small amount of satisfaction. (I take it back, I love you Phil, please tell your wife that "Free to Be You and Me" is the defining album of my childhood)

54A: 1999 Jodie Foster title role (Anna) - "Nell!?" Damn, wrong year. O how badly I wanted Nell. The very word makes me think of my sister making fun of that movie, which sounds cruel but is actually hilarious.

48A: Some dolls (Kens) - True enough. I also would have accepted [Dolls without balls]

59A: Actress Sommer (Elke) - I know her name well, though she's before my time. Was she ever on "Match Game?" How do I know her? Well, she was on "The Muppet Show" once, so that's a possibility. I know I own an old movie tie-in paperback with a sexy picture of her on the cover, but I can't be bothered to search through thousands of books right now. The movie was called "Deadlier Than the Male" (1966).

45D: Miller's "S.N.L." "Weekend Update" successor (Nealon)

And thus began the long march into unfunny Miller successors until finally Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon got hold of the gig and made it good again.

39D: Brand available in "fire" and "ice" (Dentyne)
53A: Pop label (Pepsi)

I miss non-X-treme gum. [Pop label] is a good clue, in that could have been a lot of things, including my first thought, a record label.

Colloquial Goodness

14D: Hood moniker (home boy) - there was a "Hood" clue in the Tournament's A Finals, too: [Hood ornaments] => PINKY RINGS. I was not sure then, nor am I sure now, if HOOD meant "criminal" or HOOD meant (presumably black) "neighborHOOD," as in "Boyz 'N the HOOD." Here, the meaning seems to be the latter.

29A: "We definitely should" ("Yes, let's") - Good, and yet the only person I can imagine uttering this phrase unironically would be someone replying to the question: "Shall we purchase a TEA COZY (31A: Service cover-up?) for Aunt Martha?" So genteel.

8D: Bored with life, say (in a rut) - yes ... I know this feeling

40D: Pitch (deep six) - is this related to "eighty-six?" No, but they mean remarkably similar things.
Vocal Stylings
  • 38D: "Starpeace" performer (Yoko Ono)
  • 15A: Singer of the Top 10 hit "Walk on Water" (Eddie Money) - really wanted Neil Diamond here
  • 6D: First name in exotica music (Yma) - AMY backwards
  • 10D: Jazz singer Sylvia (Syms)
  • 28A: Range of some robe wearers? (alto) - niiiiice clue
Final thoughts: a couple of literary clues were troubling to me. First, I feel like I should have known 3D: 1821 elegy to commemorate Keats (Adonais), but didn't. Sounds like something Shelley would write. . . and I'm right. Second, I gotta quibble, mildly, with 7D: Teases (Lolitas). I know that this is an accepted dictionary definition of the word, but dear god it's a difficult definition to believe if you've ever read the (incredible) novel. There is "teasing," of a sort, that goes on in the book, but to call Lolita "a tease" is to ignore the exceeding mental and physical cruelty of Humbert Humbert. Hmmm, what else? Oh, I had PE- for a long time before having that "D'oh!" moment when I finally realized that 56D: Place of worship was PEW. And finally I'm proud to say that I didn't fall for the old letter trick in 37D: Knuckle head? (silent K). It did help, however, that the first letter I had in place ... was the "K."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


The Stamford Experience (Part 3)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

My third installment of "The Stamford Experience" is up - it goes through the first round of puzzles on Saturday (Puzzles 1-3).


All the best


THURSDAY, Mar. 29, 2007 - David J. Kahn

Solving time: 8:20
THEME: All the DIANEs in the world - 4 theme answers are all full names of women named DIANE, each with a different spelling:

  • 36A: Big city mayor-turned-U.S. Senator (Dianne Feinstein)
  • 15D: "Gorillas in the Mist" researcher (Dian Fossey)
  • 20D: "My Dog Skip" (Diane Lane)
  • 22D: Walter Matthau's love interest in "Out to Sea" (Dyan Cannon)
Thursday Morning - so it's time for another speed recap, or as I like to call it...


Today's theme: People in the Puzzle
  • 1A: Game with an annual world championship, first held in Tokyo in 1977 (Othello) - OK, so this isn't clued as a "person," but I'm including it anyway. Honestly, I haven't laid eyes on an Othello game since I was about 10 (shortly after the first world championship, apparently). Maybe C zar will write about this entry in his Shakespeare & the NYT crossword blog today...
  • 13A: Errol Flynn portrayer in "The Aviator" (Jude Law) - I saw this movie, liked this movie, and do not remember Jude Law's being in this movie.
  • 16A: Mouseketeers name (Annette) - Gimme, though I waited for some crosses just to be sure. Merl Reagle was making various off-hand references to ANNETTE's full name during his color commentary on the B and A finals at this past weekend's Tournament. Something about having fun with a cello.
  • 17A: "The Good Girl" star, 2002 (Aniston) - Super Gimme, though I've never seen the movie. This was the first answer I filled in. ANISTON was also in Office Space, which you should see, if not memorize.
  • 19A: Emperor nicknamed "Little Greek" (Hadrian) - ONASSIS fit, but was wrong.
  • 34A: Great-grandson of Marc Antony (Nero) - More Klassical History...
  • 35A: Trombonist Winding (Kai) - Parents were high or hated him from the moment of his birth. I guess he's lucky he got into tromboning, because with that name, you could have an entirely different, far less respectable sort of performing career.
  • 41A: Harry _____, Gene Hackman role in "The Conversation" (Caul) - Hot! One of the best movies of the 70's. Very prescient. All about the culture of surveillance. Set in S.F.
  • 60A: "God bless us every one!" speaker (Tiny Tim) - ["Tiptoe ... through the tulips!" singer] or [Ukelelist of note] would have worked better for me
  • 1D: Norwegian king of A.D. 1000 (Olaf I) - Only question you ever need to ask yourself with Norwegian king clues: OLAF or OLAV?
  • 10D: Andy Warhol subject (Mao) - ANISTON gave me the "O" which made the answer here "O"bvious. Other Warhol subjects of not include Marilyn and Soup Can, neither of which fit.
  • 28D: _____ Tin Tin (Rin) - "Rin Tin Tin was a movie star. I just have a slide show" - Al Gore
  • 30D: Contemporary of Gehry and Meier (Pei) - He and EERO are really dueling hard for the "Most Ubiquitous [does ubiquity admit to degrees of relativity?] Architect in Puzzleland" Award.
  • 50D: "Fear Street" series author (Stine) - As in "R. L. STINE." The "Goosebumps" guy apparently writes for older kids as well. I had no idea. Maybe because my kid is not an older kid.
  • 61D: Photographer Goldin (Nan) - There is also a NAN Talese. That is all I know about NANs. Whoa! Her photos can get ... racy. Avert your eyes if you are ... sensitive.

Speaking of entries ... my two favorite entries of the day are:

EAT DIRT (37D: Be humbled)


PIG / IN A POKE (57D: With 63-Across, unseen purchase)

The word ONE repeats in the grid, albeit once in singular and once in plural form.

ONE ALL (7D: Common soccer score)


TEN ONES (65A: Change for a sawbuck)

Lastly, I had "Prince Valiant" on the brain (it happens) and so had ARN (Valiant's son) for AWN (11D: Bristle). And I'm not familiar with the use of HYPO to mean 56D: Injection. To me, the HYPO is the whole injecting apparatus, not the name of the act it performs. If you follow. On that trifle, I bid you good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


WEDNESDAY, Mar. 28, 2007 - Burton Clemans

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Solving time: low 7's
THEME: anagrammatic phrases - 5 theme answers are each made up of three 5-letter words that are anagrams of one another:

17A: Harvests more Anjous than needed? (reaps spare pears)

23A: Judges the crying of comic Johnson? (rates Arte's tears)

39A: Imposing look from an angry king? (large regal glare)

51A: Tiny parasites spring from a Los Angeles newspaper (Times emits mites) - I like how the New York Times wants to make it clear that it's the LOS ANGELES Times that has the infestation...

63A: Freshest stories? (least stale tales)

I had some dumb, dumb mistakes sitting in this grid for a while, including PARES SPARE PEARS - I think my mind came up with the anagram quickly and so I failed to re-consult the clue to see if it made any sense (answer: no). I also wrote the correct YAP for 46A: Kisser, but when I couldn't get 48D: Pair of nappies? to work starting with a "P" I somehow misremembered the clue for YAP as something having to do with talking, and changed the "P" to a "K," giving me YAK. This gave me K--- for the "nappies" clue, which didn't work either. Eventually I rooted out the errant "K" and put back the "P" - giving me PEES for the [Pair of nappies?] clue. (Side Note: the recent clue [Third of September] (pee) sent hundreds of people Googling their way to my site, even after they had the answer right, just to figure out what the @#$ it meant). Lastly, as far as stumbles go, I confused one WWII-era answer with another, writing in ETO (European Theater of Operation) when what I wanted was of course EDO (60A: Old Tokyo). Now maybe you're thinking "But Rex, the EDO period ended in 1867 - it's not WWII-related at all." Yes, but Japan is, so in my American brain ... it's all good. Eventually I figured out that ETO was wrong because ITEAL just made no sense for 52D: Old toy company that made Rubik's Cube (Ideal).

1A: Watermelon rind, e.g. (waste)
6A: X-X-X part (tac)
9A: Development units (homes)

The first three across answers, right along the top edge of the puzzle. What did I have? TRASH / TAC / PLOTS. One out of three ain't bad. Oh wait, yes it is. Was unsure of the "A" in TAC because it could have been TIC (hell, it could have been TOE, I suppose), and I was getting Nothing for the Down cross 7D: Culturally advanced (avant). I have never heard AVANT used in English in any way except in the phrase avant-garde. There's also the French phrase occasionally heard in English, avant la lettre. But AVANT on its own? No, not in my world. HOMES is an OK answer for the 9A clue, but as you all know, I am still waiting for the day when it receives its perfect clue, [Great Lakes mnemonic].

15A: Ex of Artie and Frank (Ava)

A gimme. She is crossword gold. I have to stand up for her, though, and say that I'm a bit tired of her being clued by reference to how many men she's been with / married. She gets clued in reference to multiple men more than any actress I know. Maybe if Elizabeth Taylor showed up in the puzzle more, Ava would have some competition. It just seems mildly disrespectful that she gets more credit for the guys she slept with than for the many movies she starred in - like The Killers. That's a great movie. Try that next time.

20A: Coastal flier (erne) - CAW!

21A: Quart halves: Sp. (pintas) - educated guess! So Columbus's ships were named "The Little Girl," "The Saint Mary," and .... "The Pint?" Was it very tiny? Or was it like a floating pub?

27A: Long or short measure (ton) - totally stumbled on this one. I don't know my tons. As far as I know, a ton is 2000 lbs. That, apparently, is the "short ton" - the U.S. ton. The "long ton" was a British Imperial unit of measurement equal to 2240 lbs. Except for its use in the shipping industry, it has been replaced in Britain by the metric tonne - 1000 kg. For all your ton info needs, go here.

43A: Hawaiian coastal area (Kona)
38D: Fragrant necklace (lei) - Hawaii. Reminds me of my family's trip to Hawaii two years ago. Next family trip: Cancun! In Nine Days! It just occurred to me ... how will I blog from a beach in Mexico? I think the answer to that question is: Yes, I will have another margarita, thank you.

61A: Bum (heinie) - gross. I have nothing against asses, but that word just rubs me the wrong way. I really, really wanted the answer to be some version of HOBO, and with the "H" in place, believe me, I was trying desperately to make it happen.

6D: Swinelike animal (tapir) - got this fast, off just the "T" - he will make a nice addition to my crossword zoo (which currently includes OKAPI, ONAGER, MARTEN, ELAND, ORIBI, TIGON, and LIGER. Oh, and of course, their fearless leader, ERNE).

58D: Modern pentathlon gear (epées)
68A: _____ fixes (obsessions) (idées)

Intersecting French feminine plurals! Hot. These answers joins PEES, TEPEES (4D: Conical abodes), and LESSEE (41D: Time-sharer, e.g.) in a Double-E Extravaganza (which sounds like a bra sale for plus-sized women ... but isn't).

29D: 1972 Nixon host (Mao)
30D: Ash holder (urn) - I had some eye-skip problem over here in the west for a second and I honestly, though very briefly, thought that the answer to [Nixon host] was URN. Me: "Was he cremated?" Me again: "That's a pretty cruel way to refer to a dead president."

47D: Kutcher of "Punk'd" (Ashton)
69A: Either actress twin on "Full House" (Olsen)

What kind of pop culture hell are you trying to create down here in the SW corner? And ew, gross, these answers intersect. Get a room!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS I'm tempted to let ENOL (25D: Hydroxyl compound) into the Pantheon, as I've seen it many times in crosswords and Nowhere else. I don't really like it, though, so maybe I'll discriminate against it based on its ugliness - it'll be just like belonging to a sorority! "Sorry, ENOL, you're smart and nice and all, but you're kinda pudgy and your clothes are totally 1995. See ya."


The Stamford Experience (Part 2)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The second installment of my Stamford Tournament recap is now up at my other blog, for those of you who care.



TUESDAY, Mar. 27, 2007 - Lucy Gardner Anderson

Solving time: 5:29

THEME: Public Transportation PSA - four theme answers are all highway warning signs that are likely to force you to slow down - e.g. 17A: First sign of a highway headache (Road Work Ahead) - and then 66A suggests that there is an "alternative to avoid the headaches" of those signs. That alternative?: the TRAIN.

[updated, 2pm - see green print, below]

I'm back on track with today's puzzle, which seemed quite a bit easier than yesterday's to me. No strange words or phrases in this one at all. I actually went slower than normal because I was aware on Monday of making a ton of general typing and grid navigation errors. I do not have mad keyboard skillz yet. Not at all. So I was methodical, and it worked out. I've seen road sign themes before in puzzles, but this one has the nice twist, with the public transportation alternative to driving showing up in the far SE (where theme keys and twists often show up - like a little afterthought). A little too much crosswordese in the grid (e.g. ALAI, IGOR, DELE, EKED, ARIA, AMOR), but the main attractions here are the fairly colorful theme answers, so OK. There is some non-theme fill of note, including 26D: Deli pancake (latke) and 30D: Battleship blast (salvo). If I ever wanted to start a food fight in a deli, I would start with a LATKE SALVO for sure. I can barely look at the word DELI right now, though ... it is a treacherous, evil little word for what it did to me this past weekend. . . let's just say it took another, nicer little word and gagged it, bound it, shoved it in a basement, and then assumed its identity. And I bought the impersonation hook, line, and sinker.

1A: Mammoth (giant) - I entered GREAT - a mistake, but one that still allowed me to guess (correctly) 1D: Encircled (girt). Sometimes mistakes are felicitous. This happened at least once to me this past weekend during the Tournament. I guessed an entire theme off of an answer that turned out to be flat-out wrong. Dumb, dumb luck. The other initial wrong answer I had in the grid - I somehow thought that Eisenhower went to BAMA instead of the US Military Academy. - 16A: Ike's alma mater: Abbr. (USMA)

25D: Prince Andrew's ex (Fergie)
32D: TV word before and after "or no" ("Deal")

Pop Culture from the 80s and today. Actually, we could reclue FERGIE in a contemporary fashion - how about [Vocalist on "My Humps"] or [She sang about her "lovely lady lumps"]. Half of you know what I'm talking about, and the other half are puzzled, horrified, or both.

33A: Nasser was its pres. (UAR) - United ... Arab ... Republic? Yes! I'm right. Man, this country barely ever existed. 1958-1961!
48A: Nashville sch. (TSU) - total guess. Had the "S," knew Nashville was in TN, did the math.

21A: U.K. heads (PMs) - a far more decorous clue than the one I would have used

Today's Puzzle Celebrities

39A: Dame Nellie _____ (Melba) - uh, I said "celebrities" not "toast types."
52A: Hammarskjöld of the U.N. (Dag) - his name always sounds to me like a mild oath, as in "Dag, I missed my train." I get this guy confused with Thor Heyerdahl. A lot.

[Late addendum: Orange alerted me to the fact that "dag" is AUS / NZ slang. I asked my Kiwi wife if she knew about this ... which prompted the following email from her, which contains far, far more about DAG than you'd ever want to know:
Oh yes. There is an iconic NZ comedian whose alter ego is/was "Fred Dag." His theme song was "where would you be without your gumboots." Most Kiwis my age could sing that to you.

Using the word in a sentence: You would say "he's a real dag," or, when referring to a funny incident or person, "what a dag."

Other meanings/useage: to rattle your dags = get a move along (comes from the original meaning of the word, which is the dried poop on the rear end of sheep, which will indeed rattle as sheep move across the paddock).]
13D: Entertainer Max or Max, Jr. (Baer) - BOHR, LAHR, BAER ... all prominent crossword names whose spellings I will botch no matter what.
19D: Painter Nolde (Emil) - Love his stuff. It's often creepy.

See what I mean?

53D: Comedian Sandler (Adam) - some perverse part of me wants to see his new movie with Don Cheadle (I think it's actually not a perverse part of me, but the part of me that respects Don Cheadle). I like ADAM in the grid today because he's just downwind of ERRED (27D: Slipped up) and only a few columns away from EDEN (57D: Idyllic spot). There's even an apple clue in the puzzle, but it's used to clue New York - 64A: Big Apple ltrs. (NY, NY) - and not the instrument of humankind's demise. Alas.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


The Stamford Experience

Monday, March 26, 2007

I have posted Part 1 of my tournament write-up, "The Stamford Experience," over at my other blog (which has no clear theme or purpose yet, actually) - this is to keep from spoiling the puzzles for readers of this blog who haven't done them yet. Most of what I write isn't about the puzzles themselves, but still, I wanted to keep the write-up in a separate place from my daily Times write-ups. I have So Much to say that it's going to take me several days to get it all down. So, you can read Part 1 now, and Parts 2 and later as they become available. I think there will probably end up being something like five parts.



SATURDAY, SUNDAY, MONDAY, Mar. 24-26, 2007 - Rich Norris, Fred Piscop, and Eric Fischer

[updated 5:15 pm]

Solving time: unknown (Sat), unknown (Sun), 6:27 (Mon, ugh)


Saturday, Mar. 24: none
Sunday, Mar. 25: "OOH!" - theme answers have familiar phrases ending in "OOH" sound, where "OOH!" word is respelled to a homonym and then clued, e.g. 122A: Sitting Bull being evasive? (Run-Around Sioux)
Monday, Mar. 26: Fauna - three theme answers have the words CREATURE, BEAST, and ANIMAL in them, respectively

Snap shots of each puzzle:


This puzzle, particularly its upper half, was harder than anything I encountered all weekend during the ACPT. Maybe my feeble attempts to solve it on Saturday morning - I didn't stick it out; too distracted by anticipation stress - were part of the reason that I was so off my game for Puzzle 1 on Saturday (one of two puzzles wherein I had a mistake, from what I can gather from my scores). At any rate, Rich Norris's puzzle was brutal. I think I rode in the elevator with him at least once this past weekend. FYI.

58A: Drink mentioned in Rupert Holmes's song "Escape" (pina colada) - if you're like me (and god help you if you are, really) you were as grateful as a potential drowning victim being thrown a life preserver when you got to this clue, one of the puzzle's few true gimmes. I read the clues for the entire first half of the grid and got nothing. Finally I scanned around for SOMETHING I knew, and this was it. Thus the SE corner was the first thing to fall, and my pre-competition morning was not a completely demoralizing disaster. I was also aided significantly in the completion of this puzzle by another fairly obvious alcohol-containing clue: 39A: Some come with twists (martinis) - though I was in such highly-wound tournament mode that my first thought was GANGSTERS (you have to go way down the list of "twist" meanings to make that one make sense).

56D: "_____-in His Lamp" (Bugs Bunny classic) ("A Lad") - Another clue I was very happy to see. Not a total gimme, but close. Didn't know it, but it was inferrable.

32A: Fedora feature (snap brim) - I, ridiculously, entered WIDE BRIM, but that BRIM part really helped me out, so sometimes wrong answers aren't all bad. As long as they're temporary, I guess.

15A: "Pretty fishy, if you ask me" ("I smell a rat") - If your fish smells like rat, I would advise that you not eat it and call the Health Code people immediately. This answer came to me out of nowhere, when I had absolutely nothing in the NW. It didn't help much at first, but the little traction it did give ended up being enough. The most brutal Down cross for me up here was 8D: They're pressed into service (iron-ons). I had IRONERS, and then the fabulously made-up IRONORS. I briefly considered IRON ORE before realizing that the stupid shade of green they wanted at 28A: Shade of green was NILE, putting the "N" where I had had an "R" and giving me a nice, belated, somewhat deflated little "aha" moment.

30A: The Rams of the Atlantic 10 Conf. (URI) - that's University of Rhode Island. They are occasionally in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, but not this year. Not even the NIT for them this year. Did I mention that there was NCAA Women's Basketball action (I think that's what it was) in Stamford at the same time as the ACPT, and so the hotel workers had little referee uniforms on? I thought they were dressed up for us. But no.

21A: Group that included the L.A. Express (USFL) - awesomely dated football reference. I remember this league Very Clearly. The Boston team had some kind of sine wave on its helmet. The Breakers, maybe? Anyway, this league lasted about as long as the much later, much goofier football spinoff, the XFL. Has HE HATE ME been a puzzle answer? Best Jersey Name Ever.

48A: Shakespearean title (thane)
33D: _____ B'rith (B'nai)
49D: Hanger? (noose)
55A: Black on the screen (Karen)

These answers all have something in common. Only tournament attendees will know what it is. I will tell you all later.

Cool New Information for Me
  • 43A: Literally, "disciple" (Sikh) - Forget what I had here first, but it sure wasn't SIKH
  • 62A: _____ Hilario, Brazilian-born N.B.A. star (Nene) - yet another reason for NENE to be in the Pantheon. I question the use of the word "star" in this clue.
  • 54A: Cagney player in the "Cagney & Lacey" pilot film (Swit) - a mystery at first, and then I got the "W" and knew immediately who it was. The Swit-Gless resemblance is undeniable.
  • 24D: Parts of perianths (sepals) - I call this clue "The Brutalizer," especially considering it intersected another clue at which I could only stare blankly: 41A: Pier grp. (ILA). Perianths and SEPALS are parts of flowers. I had _EPA_S, then figured the first letter had to be "S" (from 24A: Utah senator who co-sponsored a 1930 tariff act (Smoot). But the "L" could have been anything, as far as I was concerned. Cursed botany.
  • 1A: Stock report heading (Most Active) - Wait, let me just walk over here and look at my most recent ... oh wait, that's right, I've never seen one of these in my life. MOST ACTIVE reminds me simultaneously of rapper Mos Def and the band Let's Active, and if you get both those references then I tip my non-existent hat to you indeed. Actually, all tournament solvers probably have some idea who the rapper is, by now...
  • 20A: Grandma Moses' first name (Anna) - who knew? Not me.
  • 5D: _____-Mints chewable antacid (Alka-) - why oh why did this take me So Long to get. ALKA is the gold standard of antacid prefixes. Rookie mistake. (For a major, major Rookie mistake, read my Stamford write-up later today, wherein I will detail my triumphs and tragedies - more former than latter, though the latter make for better stories).
  • 57A: Detroit's _____ Arena (Cobo) - I lived outside of Detroit for many years and could not come up with this for a good long while. If it had been clued [Detroit's _____ Hall], I think I would have got it instantly.

Didn't get to this puzzle until this morning (Monday, Mar. 26). Just couldn't bring myself to look at a puzzle right before the Tournament's Puzzle 7 on Sunday morning. Very burnt out. It's worth noting that both my errors this weekend were made on the days' initial puzzles, 1 and 7. I always fancied myself a morning person, but I think that without my morning routine, and my normal sleep patterns, I'm actually a bit worthless in the morning.

So I hacked away at this puzzle this morning. I really loved it despite the theme's not being particularly original. Anyone who got the chance to see the "Wordplay" outtakes on Saturday night really had to love the theme answer at 23A: Cuddly sheep? (embraceable ewe). We got to see more of Jon Stewart solving the puzzle that he solves in the movie - he comes to a clue that is something along the lines of [Like Little Bo-Peep's sheep], and his response is something like "I'm going to go with [CENSORED]!" When some people in the audience asked later what Stewart says (I think it was partially beeped in the footage we saw), Will wouldn't say the word, but said that it "begins with 'F' and ends with 'LE'." The best part was hearing the people behind me wonder out loud what that could be, and hearing one of them say, "Oh, it must be FINDABLE." I couldn't tell if it was a joke. I didn't hear anyone laughing (except me, in my own head, at this person's apparent misunderstanding - at least she got the suffix right).

1D: French port (Brest)
2D: Debussy opus (La Mer)
30A: 16th-century council city (Trent)

It's very European up in the NW of the grid. LA MER looks funny in the grid - looks like a comparative adjective, as in TENNIS SHOO (62A: Expulsion from a court?) is a LAMER answer than MOUNTAIN DO (77A: Hillbillies' coif), which is pure gold.

The rest of those theme answers, by the way:

46A: Conservatives waiting in line? (right on queue)
94A: What van Gogh said regarding ears? ("I don't have two")

11D: Cub leader (Akela) - this is from Jungle Book, apparently. I had NO idea what this meant when I had all the squares filled in. I thought AKELA might be the chick from who attended a BEE in a recent movie, but she spells her name differently.

29A: Operatic prince (Igor) - which opera? Was Frankenstein made into an opera?

17D: Calling the author of "In Cold Blood"? (ringing Tru) - I'm just putting this in here because In Cold Blood is one of the greatest books ever written. Capote's writing in that book is unbelievably subtle and gorgeous. One paragraph of Capote is worth a bookful of MAEVE Binchy (77D: Novelist Binchy), I say. My publishers once forced me to include her in an Encyclopedia of Popular and Contemporary Writers that I was editing. Meanwhile, they excluded Art Spiegelman on grounds I still don't understand. Clearly I have never forgiven them.

15D: Kin of -kin (-ule)
117A: Edible spherule (green pea) - A cute pair, these two. Are there other colors of peas?

110D: Alums do it (reune)
125A: Downsize without layoffs (attrite) - these two win the "Wrongest-Looking Words" prize for the day

54A: Pilot's vision problem (red out) - never heard of this before. All Googles of the phrase direct me to Visine-related pages.

86A: Biographer Leon (Edel)
82D: Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt (Alice) - people I don't know (I have heard of EDEL before, vaguely - he has a crossword-friendly name)

25A: Simple digs (lean-to) - Euphemistic clue. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that no one who ever lived in a LEAN-TO ever referred to it as "digs." Well ... maybe some hippie trying some alternative living experiment circa 1971. But that's it.

58A: Blood: Prefix (hemo-)
90D: Verne skipper (Nemo)
100A: Action film hero Williams (Remo)

Scrooge McDuck's other, illegitimate nephews. Introduced in an ill-conceived comic book venture in 1964, these characters were instantly reviled by the public. In 1965, Disney had them quietly killed off.

Pop Culture Alley

  • 75A: Carnaby Street types (mods) - didn't know it. Before my time. Seems like it was once an interesting place that has had everything distinctive and interesting sucked out of it by the disease that is chain-store culture.
  • 47D: 2001 Sean Penn movie ("I Am Sam") - of all the Sean Penn movies in the world, this is the one you foist on me on a bleary Monday morning? I will say that the soundtrack is pretty great - some of the best Beatles covers I've ever heard, including stellar versions of "Two of Us" by Aimee Mann and Michael Penn and "Across the Universe" by Rufus Wainwright.
  • 107D: Prince Valiant's son (Arn) - this guy! Learn his name. He will return. As will 8D: Clerical garment (alb). I don't think ARN ever wore an ALB, but I would like to see these two words in a sentence together, somehow.
  • 119A: Oscar-winning director of 2005 (Ang Lee) - I like that in the grid his name looks like it could also be clued [Option on a multiple-choice geometry quiz?]
  • 104A: Monokini's lack (bra) - What the hell is a monokini? If the diagrams here are any indication, then no one should ever, Ever wear a monokini. Ever. Why not try a nice SERAPE (114A: Taxco wrap) instead.
I'll leave you with 35D: Stays for another hitch (re-ups) because it is suffused with nostalgia for me. As I may have mentioned before, the very first time I completed a NYT Sunday puzzle (1991, I think), the very last answer I got was RE-UP, a word which, at the time, seemed quite obscure. I remember that feeling, knowing I had it right and the puzzle was done: total self-satisfied triumph. I had defeated Maleska. From then on, I was hooked.


Man my time sucked. This one felt like Puzzle 1 felt during the Tournament - seems like it should be easy ... so why am I flapping around like a fish in a bucket? I'm going to blame tiredness, though I see other tournament solvers didn't seem to have many problems.

First, the theme: you call this a theme? CREATURE, BEAST, and ANIMAL make a theme?! If this is all I had to go with, I'd at least have reversed the order in which the theme answers appear, so that I'd have a nice A, B, C progression in my synonyms. Or I'd have made my ANIMAL answer alliterate like the others. Something!

Monday Latin!

32A: Daily allowance (per diem)
46D: Where originally found (in situ)

I was not expecting this. Tricky Monday fare, especially the latter. I gotta stop selling the Monday puzzle short - low expectations always gets me into all kinds of trouble. IN SITU made the SE a bit thorny, accompanied as it was down there by GRAMME (48D: British weight), which is not a word I've seen before (I assume it's just GRAM with extra letters for extra Britishness, like the "U" in "colour," e.g.).

Alligator Wrestling!

43D: Alligatorlike reptile (caiman)
41A: Worker in a stable (hostler)
31D: Photographic film coating (emulsion)

These answers were horribly slippery, especially the last one, which took me forever to get, even with half the letters in place. I don't think I could tell you what a HOSTLER does, or how a CAIMAN is different from an alligator, or a crocodile for that matter.


Have I ever told you about the word "could?" How it is the wrongest-looking word in the world to me. I use it all the time, like all English-speaking folk, but if I look at it too long, it starts to creep me out. It looks Nothing like how it sounds. Why "would" and "should" don't bother me, I don't know. But "could" ... it has an inexplicably sinister quality when taken in isolation and really placed under scrutiny. "Could" is my best example of a perfectly ordinary word that just looks wrong. Today's "could" word is DESTINE, which even now is freaking me out. It wants to be DESTINY ... but also DESITIN. And possibly DENTINE. I had a very hard time seeing it as the correct answer for 30A: Preordain. Crossing EMULSION isn't help me come to peace with it. I'm not crazy about UPRISE (2D: Revolt) either - without its -ing suffix, its a pretty ungainly little word.

5D: Day of the wk. ... or an exam usually taken on that day (Sat.) - if you are going to double-clue like this, I'd prefer that the answer make sense for both clues when spoken aloud. "Sat." does not equal "S.A.T.," neither when spoken nor when written. I'm glad I didn't see this clue at all while trying to solve the puzzle.

53A: Four-alarm fire (inferno)

Ah, hell. I realize this isn't clued by reference to Dante, but INFERNO will always mean "hell" to me, which is appropriate in a grid filled with ANGST (51D: Uneasy feeling), DEFECT (10D: Flaw), and, above all, DOOM (33D: Inevitable destruction).

62A: _____ quilt (modern memorial)

I realize that there are technically many A.I.D.S. "quilts" out there, but still, I think of the quilt as one unit, and a proper noun: THE A.I.D.S. Memorial Quilt.

42A: Humor that's often lost in an e-mail (sarcasm) - also often lost in blogs. Believe me.

Thus concludes my 3-day write-up. Quite an OLIO (15A: Hodgepodge) of information and reaction. One more break, and then I'll try to get my Stamford commentary done before bedtime.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Please Stand By ...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Please stand by for a report on the 30th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which just finished up this afternoon at the Marriott in Stamford, CT. I still need to find out whether it is kosher (or "Unkosher" - which was a clue I ran into this weekend - or did it run into me?) to discuss Tournament puzzles, and how much. If I do so, I will probably do so on my other blog (linked from this site), so that people who come to this blog and do NOT want to know about the puzzles (because they plan on solving them themselves) can avoid my discussion.

So, stand by. My Stamford write-up is forthcoming. Lots to say.

Also, I apologize for promising and not delivering blog entries this weekend. I will make up for it with a super-sized entry tonight - Saturday, Sunday, and Monday puzzles, all in one blog entry!

Talk to you soon,


FRIDAY, Mar. 23, 2007 - Manny Nosowsky

Friday, March 23, 2007

Solving time: too long
THEME: long answers that eluded me for ridiculous amounts of time (or, none)

Running out the door, almost literally, so Mr. N's amazing puzzle gets short shrift. I had to cancel my dermatologist's appt because I have so much ticky tacky organizational crap to deal with before I hit the road in the early afternoon. So ... I hope that funny looking mole doesn't mutate over the weekend (I'm Kidding ... I have no such mole, though my dad did once, and it was malignant ... he's OK now ... but you see why I have to get checked ... and I'm telling you this why?)

Sahra really wanted to see "the big puzzles" from the final round of the tournament, so I showed her the very end of Wordplay this morning before school. She was very interested in who would win - "looks like Trip's winning!" - and was Especially curious about Al's empty boxes fiasco at the end (in case you haven't seen it, guy who finishes first doesn't double-check his grid and leaves two squares blank, squandering a sure victory). It was so weird to be able to say to her "I'm going to be in that room tomorrow." She keeps saying "I hope you win" despite my many assurances to her that I will not. Her mom: "It's like karate ... you just do your best." Sahra, to me: "... but what if you win?" Me: "That's not going to happen, honey. Maybe someday, but not now." Sahra: "Oh ... I hope you win." Etc. She looked all over the house today for a good luck charm, and somehow decided on a feather she found on the street many months ago, I think. It's awfully beat-up, but I'll be damned if I'm going to spurn Any good luck charm handed to me by a beautiful, earnest six-year-old girl. So I'll be the one with the ratty gray feather. And possibly my squishy Krusty the Klown toy. No crossword clothing of any kind - though I do have this weird desire to try to get Will Shortz to sign my Partridge Family "Crossword Puzzle" album. Maybe another year.

1A: Moguls on a ski run (bumps) - damn it, I was thinking it was a trick question, with a different meaning of "moguls," but no. Just BUMPS. Why even have "on a ski run" there???

6A: Gimcrack (whim wham) - words that went through my mind: HOOHA, THINGAMAJIG, BAUBLE, TRINKET, and such and such. Never heard of WHIM WHAM, but it's a nice phrase (it's not one word, is it?)

20A: Vikings, e.g. (NFC team) - this is a great answer, because you start out thinking Norsemen, and then you get football, but of course your first answer is NFL TEAM, which thus prevents you from seeing the very long 21D: "Enough joking around!" ("Can the comedy!") for a while because instead of a "C" you've got an "L" in the first position. A beautifully orchestrated little trap.

26A: _____ -humanité (lèse) - Yesterday it was ETAT clued via "Homme d'_____" instead of "Coup d'_____" and now its LESE clued via "-humanité" instead of "-majesté." Good example of how nutso cluing often hides a very common, or at least familiar, answer.

23A: Stoker of literature (Bram) - Gimme! Another Dracula-related answer (see yesterday's VLAD). Still, I would have liked to see an answer here where "Stoker" meant "one who stokes." Any good "stokers of literature" you can think of?

31A: Really succeeds (goes to the top) - Waterloo! I had GOES TO THE -O- and could not think of a thing, which from where I'm sitting right now seems Impossible. But it's true. Without the "P" here, LIPREAD (26D: Not hear a single word?) remained impossible for me to see for very long. That LIPREAD clue is great, by the way.

34A: Spans (stretches across) - as in "This answer STRETCHES ACROSS the entire grid," which it does, right ACROSS the middle. Clever.

44A: _____ Galerie (Manhattan art museum) (Neue) - One of maybe five words I know in German. DANKE, NEIN, EINE, HAUS ... and I'm done.

45A: Christmas entree (goose) - I've only ever seen this in Dickens's A Christmas Carol, but nonetheless I guessed correctly, and this answer saved me when the bottom half of the puzzle was a vast wasteland.

47A: Means (of) (dint) - "Oh no you DINT!"

49A: Hoydens (tomboys) - @#$#-ing awesome word, and I'm so proud of myself that the synonym TOMBOYS came to me almost instantly. For other things you might not want to call a woman, see 3D: Femme fatale (man-eater): "Watch out boy / She'll chew you up." Man, I am so playing that song right Now on my iTunes.

52A: Sweet wine (muscatel)
24D: Light, white wine (moselle) - wine names routinely kill me (see the recent RETSINA!) and these two ... their horrid little twins. MOSELLE is the evil twin, in that I Really didn't know that one, whereas I'd heard of MUSCATEL from the song "Red, Red Wine" by The Replacements (not the Neil Diamond / UB40 song, but a much harder rock song). Paul Westerberg shouts about lots of different kinds of alcohol in that one.

54A: Pitcher Don of 1950's-60's Cubs (Elston) - New to me.

58A: "Acoustic guitar" or "push lawn mower" (retronym) - hot hot HOT. Best answer in the grid. I struggled over it for a while, and the struggle was worth it. Word "retro" shows up in another clue, though - 1D: Some retro chairs (bean bags) - is that legal? Usually grid and clues don't share words.

5D: Priory of ____, group in "The Da Vinci Code" (Sion) - probably a gimme for half of America, but not for me. I've avoided this book like the plague that it is.

9D: Teacher, in dialect (marm) - great word.

33D: Parlor piece, for short? (tat) - puzzle was well over before I understood what the hell this meant. But when I figured it out - it's short for TATTOO - I had to concede its greatness.

45D: Were friendly (got on) - I hope I can say that you tournament-going people "were friendly" when this weekend is over. I'm out of here.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


THURSDAY, Mar. 22, 2007 - Karen M. Tracey

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Solving time: untimed, but very fast, possibly my fastest Thursday ever - maybe 6 minutes?
THEME: "Case closed!" - four theme answers all have "Case closed!" as their clue. The answers are as follows:

17A: "End of discussion!"
24A: "I've heard enough!"
41A: "Not another word!"
54A: "We're done talking!"

This puzzle could have been harder. That is about my only complaint. The long colloquial expressions in the theme answers are all really lively, and while some of the non-theme fill was mysterious to me, the vast majority of it was quite good, with a couple of stellar clue / answer pairings. Today is Thursday, so a necessarily short entry. Sorry, Karen.

The mysteries:

1D: "Good-night _____" (old TV sign-off) (Chet) - A bit before my time. This was part of the sign off on the "Huntley-Brinkley Report," NBC's news program from 1956-1970. The full sign-off was "Good night, Chet" - "Good night, David. And good night for NBC News." I somehow thought the answer was going to involve Carol Burnett or George Burns or some comedian. Not sure why.

28D: Lifeboat crane (davit) - looks terribly made-up. The "V" was the very last letter I entered because despite my love for diners and coffee (I can almost taste the Stamford IHOP fare), it took a long time for the "V" cross, JAVAS (36A: Orders of "draw one" at a diner), to come to me. Do waitresses really speak like this any more? If so, tell me where, because I will totally go there, especially if the waitress looks / acts like Flo or the cook / owner / manager wears a crazy white beanie like Mel did.

Anyone remember Mel's last name?! I didn't 'til I saw it just now while trolling for the above pic. SHARPLES! Great name.

56A: Subject of some Thomas Moore poetry (Erin)
49A: Irish oath (begorrah)

Oh how I love the Irish! Grrrr. My first mistake was reading "Thomas MORE" for "Thomas Moore" and thinking "what the hell else did he write besides Utopia?" The mystery with BEGORRAH wasn't so much the answer as how to spell it, especially the end of it. I mistakenly had ALTS for HGTS at 53D: Elevs., so had an "A" and not an "H" in the final position, plus I had nothing in the penultimate position, as nothing was making sense for the cross, 52D: Constitution: Abbr. (anat.) (one of the few answers in the puzzle that I don't like). To counter the Irish presence in the grid, I'm glad that the puzzle was willing to crack out the 60A: British guns (stens). Take that, Seamus! (I am totally joking, so please no angry, drunken emails, thanks).

58A: Homme d'_____ (etat) - I know of the "Coup," not the "Homme." I assume it just means "statesman" or something close to that. Someone will enlighten me.

Kwik Kakes
  • 21A: Player with the first retired number in baseball (Gehrig) - new baseball knowledge for me
  • 23A: Common time to start on a trip (dawn) - I , however, will be starting my trip (to Stamford) in the early afternoon, after my new dermatologist finishes checking me from head to toe for skin cancer! Because that's how I prepare for All my various tournaments.
  • 35A: "What _____" (1996 Sublime hit) ("I Got") - my absolute favorite clue in the grid. None of this ["_____ Rhythm"] crap. I think Sublime's lead singer died of a heroin overdose, but this song, "What I Got," is one of the brighter spots in the mid-90s music landscape. This answer is also part of a trio of first-person partials in the grid, including also 16A: "___ Dancer" (1973 Nureyev documentary) ("I am a") and 24D: "Look what _____!" ("I did")
  • 38A: Castellaneta, the voice of Homer on "The Simpsons" (Dan) - Sadly for this "Simpsons" fan, I never even saw this clue. Ms. Tracey knows what I like (although the clue could have been Shortz's). She is rapidly approaching David Quarfoot as grooviest, most Rex-pleasing constructor (and not just because she has said nice things about this blog publicly ... though that doesn't hurt). So get cracking Mr. Quarfoot. Less math-teaching, more puzzles for Rex.
  • 61A: "The Secret of NIMH" figures (rats) - one of my wife's favorite books, and thus a gimme.
  • 25D: Unlikely steakhouse patron (vegan) - nice way to clue this. VEGANs will not eat steak, it's true. They will also not eat an OMELET (46A: Dish you might flip over)
  • 34D: Jason of the N.B.A. (Kidd)
  • 48D: N.H.L.'er Nystrom (Eric)
  • 4D: Tricky tennis stroke (drop shot) - with GEHRIG (above) these answers make for a very sporty puzzle overall.
  • 23D: Remove (detach) - so easy and yet I just stared at DET-C- for what seemed like ever
  • 10A: Dracula's inspiration (Vlad) - The Impaler! Best historical nickname Ever!
  • 10D: Companion of Brahma and Shiva (Vishnu) - intersecting VLAD at the "V," and giving the grid a cool, multi-cultural look while also creating a death-dealing / universe-preserving dyad.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Non-crossword add-on:

Chris Ware animation from new Showtime version of "This American Life"


WEDNESDAY, Mar. 21, 2007 - Ed Early

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Solving time: 9-something (on paper)
THEME: OSCAR (26D) WILDE (32D) quotation: "Work is the ruin of (17A) the (40A) drinking classes (61A)."

This will brief, as there is not a lot to like in this puzzle. I am not a fan of quotation puzzles in general, and this quotation - I don't really get it. I'm an English Ph.D., and I'm just sort of shrugging at it. I guess it means that work sucks if you like to party. Of all the OSCAR WILDE quips out there, this one is surely among the lamest. I do like the puzzle construction here, with OSCAR running down the far west coast and WILDE symmetrically positioned on the east. But, now that I think of it, I do not, at all, like the way that THE (40A) is made to anchor the quotation, and the whole grid, with its central position. I like definite articles in answers when they are part of a phrase, but THE cannot handle this kind of puzzle pressure on its own. As far as non-theme entries go, most of it is yawn-inducing, and some of it just unlikeable. Standout fill includes 26A: Shaped like a plum tomato (oblong) - I had trouble with this one, but ended up admiring it in the end - and, especially, 46A: Plan for peace, in modern lingo (road map) - very current, very in-the-language, fabulous.

15A: Blue matter (smut) - I'm seeing SMUT a lot lately (in the puzzle, I mean!). Would have liked "material" here instead of "matter," but I see what you're going for: playing off of phrases like "gray matter" and "reading matter." I briefly thought that the answer had something to do with IBM ("Big Blue"), but after a cross or two, the answer was obvious.

11D: "Is so!" retort ("Ain't!") - uh ... I challenge. This is the worst of the "schoolyard retort" brand of answers that I've ever seen. Surely, even in the heart of Hickville, USA, the imagined child in question would say "No it ain't!" I have a hard time imagining even the most mentally-challenged southerner just shouting "Ain't!" all on its own.

1D: Toddler's cry when thirsty ("Wawa!")
29D: With 2-Down, toddler's game (peek- / a-boo)

First, toddlers do not deserve to have fully three grid answers given over to them. Second, PEEK and ABOO are in insane spatial relationship to each other. If you're going to split a phrase like this, make the relationship between the two parts interesting / pleasing. Third, 1D and 2D make the NW corner read WAWA / ABOO. Too many nonsense phrases too close together. I kind of like WAWA as an answer, though when I was a child, I (or was it my sister) used to ask for WADEER (accent on the second syllable). I think I have that right. My mom will let me know.

29A: Relief measure of Elizabethan times (Poor Law)

I do not like, and I don't know why. Maybe I wanted it to have a more spectacular, interesting, and possibly Olde Tyme name. POOR LAW just lies there. Dead behind the eyes. It's not even very descriptive.

38A: Cramped space (cubby)

CUBBIES are where first-graders keep their hats and mittens and assorted detritus from the school day. I know this because I witness said first-graders and their CUBBIES every week. "Cramped" is an awfully weird adjective to describe a CUBBY. I know that CUBBY means a small room, technically, but something about "cramped" just seems wrong. What are you trying to fit in there, for god's sake?

48A: Andy of TV's "Andy's Gang" (Devine)

Means absolutely nothing to me. The only DIVINE I know spelled his name with the "I" and was a major cult movie figure for his standout roles in many John Waters' films. Whoa, "Andy's Gang" was a kids' show that ran throughout the late 50's, and featured ... well, I'll let imdb tell you:

"A TV Show where Andy, with a studio audience full of loud screaming kids, would show movies. At the opening of the show he had a puppet friend called "Froggy". To get the frog to appear Andy and the audience would have to scream "Plunk your Magic Twanger, Froggy". There would then be a big puff of smoke and the frog would appear."

That has got to be the best / worst / most insane and potentially innuendo-laden catchphrase ever featured in a children's show. Another phrase I must learn to work into conversation. I believe I will ritualistically utter the phrase just before I start each of the tournament puzzles this weekend.

34A: Bill killer (vetoer)
43A: Slow-pot (cooker)

The first falls under the much reviled category of Odd Jobs, where -ER ending is added to a word, resulting in a noun that is technically legal but nowhere in the language. See also "I'm the Decider" and "I'm a Uniter, not a Divider." Sadly, the person who uttered those phrases is also, in fact, a VETOER. I'm surprised he has not publicly declared himself such. These weak -ER words are made worse by their close, symmetrical relationship to one another, hugging the heart of the puzzle, the aforementioned THE. VETOER THE COOKER! Yeah, that's a hell of a creamy middle, that is.

67A: Cries of regret (ays)

Am I supposed to take that seriously? This makes me think of Bumblebee Man wailing "Ay ay ay, la policia!" The definition I came across says that AY is "Used before me to express distress or regret." So ... it's really HALF a cry of regret.

4D: Nunavut native (eskimo)
19D: Pianist José (Iturbi)

Well, if nothing else, today I learned where Nunavut is.

As for pianist ITURBI, that's a great name. I half knew it, in that I had written in ITURRO and then ITURBA before FINAL (41A: Event before vacation, maybe) put that final "I" in there. That was actually where I finished the puzzle: at the FINAL / FRET (41D: Feature of some necks) intersection. It was hard because not knowing José's name, I had --NAL for FINAL (and despite giving FINALS every year, I couldn't see it), and not knowing DEVINE's name (above), I had -R-T for FRET, and the only "necks" I could picture were human. Sadly, WATTLE was too long to fit.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


TUESDAY, Mar. 20, 2007 - Laura A. Halper

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Solving time: mid-5's, I think (on paper)
THEME: homonymic phrases beginning with "A" - e.g. 20A: Gather sailors? (accrue a crew)

The other theme phrases:

  • 11D: Love something offered at home improvement stores? (adore a door)
  • 29D: Wow Willie? (amaze a Mays)
  • 55A: Dismay Reiser or Revere (appall a Paul)
Weak to go to proper names twice, but otherwise a very enjoyable little lark of a theme. I could not get into a good rhythm, my initial guesses or ideas were wrong or didn't fit a lot of the time - e.g. I wanted MATCH or ARSONIST for 9A: Fire starter (spark) - and many clues just left me thinking "???" when I first looked at them - e.g. 41A: Traffic reg., e.g. (ord.) - but, as Randy Jackson would say, I worked it out. The one real hiccup was the far west, where my blanking on ---TER for 27A: Roofing pro (slater) kept me from getting easy access to the whole western area. Didn't help that I could not for the life of me come up with LIME for another key western clue, 33A: Foul-line material (the only word anyone ever uses in baseball parlance is CHALK, though I'm sure LIME is technically accurate). SLUGgy brain (27D: Slimy creatures => SLUGS) kept fabulous fill like GIZMO (42A: Doodad), STEALTH (46A: Like the B-2 bomber), and POLKA DOT (39D: Spot on a tie, perhaps) from exploding into my head with the energy I would have liked. Maybe it's a good thing that I felt slow when in reality I did the puzzle in a respectable time. My expectations are high. Tournament high. Which reminds me:

Countdown to ACPT Tournament in Stamford: 3 days

3D: A Waugh (Alec) - also [A Baldwin]

4D: Compound of iron (ferrite) - I had FERRATE, which is only slightly better than FERRET.

27A: Stork delivery (neonate) - first of all, this is false, as (I recently learned) storks don't actually do this. Second, if you did in fact believe such avian lies, you would never, ever use the word NEONATE. Stork = cute; NEONATE = cold and technical. Unless you have actually named your kid NEO NATE, which would be adorable. In any case, I defy you to find me an instance where the words "stork" and "neonate" have been used in the same sentence. Go on... that's right, open a new window ... do a Google search ... enjoying the literature on "stork bite?" Good...

34A: Rock's Green Day, e.g. (trio) - I know this because a certain cellist I know loves Green Day, which thus forced me to pay attention to them.

39A: Not really there (phantom) - also [Loopy comic strip, with "The"]; see sidebar

40D: Like Betamax (obsolete) - best clue / answer pairing of the bunch. As I've said before, we owned a Betamax when I was growing up. For about three months in 1981, I think. Here are some factoids for you, re: the VHS / Betamax war (from some site with the dubious name
The war was over by the late 1980s, although supporters of Betamax have helped keep the format going in a small niche market. Betamax production in America ended in 1993, and the last Betamax machine in the world was produced in Japan in 2002.
"The Last Betamax" would make an awesome name for a parody of a Hollywood movie. Tom Hanks has to escape from a P.O.W. camp and swim to Japan to find The Last Betamax because it contains the tape that has conclusive proof that Jesus fathered a son and that the bus will explode if it goes under 50mph.

Battle for the PANTHEON

Today marks the first day of Spring, which means I have to decide on new inductees to the Pantheon. Pronto. Today's puzzle has UMA (38A: Actress Thurman). But what of ANKA (50A: "Diana" singer) and AGEE (62A: Pulitzer winner James) and URIS (58D: "Topaz" author) and RONA (12D: Gossipy Barrett - is she still alive? This answer is so 70s!)? They all deserve serious consideration. Names are tricky when it comes to Pantheon induction, because they aren't everyday words, so they can't be judged on their crossword frequency / rareness ratio. This means that the name has to be almost exclusively associated with one person, or so common (RAE) in crosswords that it can't be denied.

Anyway, I'll make my decisions by tomorrow, and amend the Pantheon sidebar accordingly.

Enjoy what's left of your Tuesday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Your assigned reading for today is this great discussion of pronouns and cranky old people.

PPS Hey Laura A. Halper (today's puzzle constructor)! Any relation to Santos L. Halper?

From Wikipedia:
When Bart complains he never gets any mail, Marge gives him the family's junk mail. Bart is only interested in a credit card solicitation from MoneyBank. He fills out the application, and when pressed for a name, he uses Santa's Little Helper (the company reads the name as "Santos L. Halper"). Amazingly, the credit card application is approved, and before long, Bart is sporting his very own credit card.


MONDAY, Mar. 19, 2007 - Richard Chisholm

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Solving time: 4:27
THEME: POT _____ - first words of four theme answers can all be preceded by POT to form a familiar phrase, e.g. 17A: Sinuous Mideast entertainer (belly dancer)

SINUOUS!? That word always makes me think of some ropy, wiry guy whose SINEWS I can see. Turns out, those two words (sinuous / sinews) are unrelated, "sinuous" being derived from L. sinus, curve (I thought sinus mean cavity more precisely, but whatever). The adjective to describe the ropy, wiry guy above would be "sinewy." Clearly "sinuous" is not in my vocabulary. I would never, ever, in a million years, have called a BELLY DANCER "sinuous" (not the one I have in my mind, anyway). The word now makes me think simultaneously of sinews and sinuses, neither of which are sexy. To me. I like the gender equity of the puzzle, as BEEFCAKE (37D: Muscle mag photos) balances out BELLY DANCER in the opposite corner of the grid. Eye candy for everyone.

Other Theme Answers

26A: Chance, at cards (luck of the draw)
42A: One way to fall in love (head over heels)
56A: Host of a Friars Club event (roast master)

I had TOAST MASTER for ROAST MASTER, briefly, because that phrase is way more in my (if not The) language, and ... because I don't think I'd actually looked at the clue at the point that I wrote it in. Happens sometimes on a Monday.

The one major problem I had with this puzzle was the abundance of plurals, especially plural names, which should really be kept to a minimum (0-1 per puzzle, IMOO). Here we have:

7D: Raggedy _____ (dolls) => ANNS
13D: Senators Kennedy and Stevens => TEDS
44D: Tara plantation family => O'HARAS

Then there's URLS (21A: www addresses), ATMS (25D: Places to get quick money, quickly), OAFS (47A: Blockheads), RUSES (28D: Stratagems), and (worst of all) ALLS (38D: Cure-_____ (panaceas)). Further, many of the celebrity names were very lazily and uninterestingly clued. Consider the monotony of the following:

6A: Designer Lauren (Ralph)
18D: Explorer Sir Francis (Drake)
39A: Comic Caesar (Sid)
30D: Poet Whitman (Walt)
31D: Poet Ogden (Nash)
51A: Novelist Ambler (Eric)

And with just slight embellishment:

35A: Golfer Palmer, familiarly (Arnie)
10D: Jazz's Hancock or Mann (Herbie)
13D: Senators Kennedy and Stevens (Teds)

I know Monday is supposed to be easy, so you clue these answers more obviously / directly than you do on other days of the week. Fine. But easy does not have to be colorless.

The best name in the puzzle is AMY, first because it's my sister's name, second because it's the name of another crossword blogger of note, and finally because it's clued 33A: David Sedaris's comic sister, and AMY Sedaris is hilarious to me.

REAIM (41D: Adjust one's sights) is crap fill. CRY UNCLE (5D: Throw in the towel) doesn't fill me with joy, either. SAY UNCLE = way more in-the-language, as Google can attest.

Other observations
  • 6D: Theater district (Rialto) - what? I know it's a common theater name, but a district?
  • 14A: How most mail goes nowadays (by air) - I wanted a five-letter word for "electronically," which is surely the right answer
  • 11A: Lunch counter sandwich, for short (BLT) - I had SUB, perhaps because that's what I had for lunch yesterday
  • 20A: Ballpark fig. (est.) - I had RBI; then when the "E" went in, I thought "Oh, it's E.R.A." Wrong again.
  • 51D: To be, in old Rome (esse) - ESSE wants into the Pantheon, as does AUDI (24D: BMW competitor). New inductions coming in the spring, so ... keep your fingers crossed, boys.
  • 1D: French cleric (abbé) - It's a crossword standard (Pantheon-worthy?) but as French goes, it's a little off the beaten path. For a Monday, that is.
Countdown to ACPT in Stamford: 4 days

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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