SUNDAY, Sep. 30, 2007 - Kelsey Blakley

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: AEIOU (17D: Fivesome seen in order in the answer to each starred clue) - in every theme answer, every vowel appears once, and in alphabetical order


I uncovered this theme very early - had GAME MISCONDUCT in place already when I hit 17D, and when I saw that the "fivesome" in question was A-I--, I took one look at GAME MISCONDUCT and knew instantly what I was dealing with. All theme answers were easy to get from there, sometimes with only a little help from crosses. The non-theme fill was a lot of fun- a lot of colorful, unusual words, but almost nothing that made me think "are you #$#%-ing kidding me?" Which is nice, because who really wants to be hurling profanity at the computer on the Lord's Day?

Theme answers:

  • 23A: *Ice hockey penalty (game misconduct)
  • 13D: *Professional courtesy in pricing (trade discount) - a new term for me
  • 34A: *Tongue-in-cheek (facetious)
  • 40A: *Somewhat in jest (half-seriously) - great phrase
  • 68A: *Sign of coming danger (gathering clouds) - kinda like the opposite of a bird flying by on the right (if you did last week's puzzle, you'll understand)
  • 94A: *Drifter (wandering soul) - reminds me of really bad half-hour series on HBO twenty years ago called "The Hitchhiker" - really poorly written serial about a laconic hitchhiker who gets in lots of R-rated-nudity situations somehow...
  • 102A: *What "dele" means (take it out) - love this one; reminds me of the great Franz Ferdinand single "Take Me Out" - that song is like two songs: starts one way, and then at the minute mark, totally segues into a different, but still awesome-sounding song. Where was I?
  • 119: *Barnyard fixture (watering trough)
  • 58D: *Time during a graveyard shift (late-night hour)

I am late this morning - spent my normal blog-writing time in Ithaca last night with my brilliant writing group - so I am going to do a fifty-yard dash of a write-up this morning, starting, of course with ...

57D: Poet who wrote "The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on" (Omar) - OMARR, OMARR ... OMAR? When I said OMARR needs to go away, I did not mean that he should get a haircut, put on a fake mustache, and then try to sneak back in. I need a break from all look-alikes and near-homonyms: no OMARS, no O'MARAs ... just recede into the past for a while, OK? Good. (see Fri. and Sat. puzzles if you have no idea what I'm talking about)

2D: Silas of Continental Congress (Deane)
104D: "The Family Circus" cartoonist (Keane)

They rhyme. Further, "THE Family Circus?" I had no idea about the definite article. I wonder if that comic is popular at THE Ohio State University?

16D: Maker of Bug-B-Gon (Ortho) - wanted ORKIN
12D: City of New Orleans operator (Amtrak) - I did not get this until the song drifted through my head just this second:

"Good morning America, how are ya?
I said 'Don't you know me, I'm your native son.
I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans.
I'll be gone 500 miles when the day is done."

8D: Derisive gesture (snook) - ??? If Shrek had a cousin, this would be his name.

20: Footballer-turned-politician Swann (Lynn) - great wide receiver for the Steelers in the 70s. Lost race for governor of Pennsylvania recently.

1D: Annual literary award (Edgar) - that's for mysteries, in case you didn't know

9D: Periods in prison, e.g. (ordeals) - mine was not, btw

5D: Jewish crepe (blintze) - no idea these were Jewish. Jewish food? at IHOP? OY(S)! (6D: Exclamations of exasperation)

24D: Biotite and Phlogopite (micas) - I can tell that that clue's going to get serious Google traction

98A: Colorless, flammable gas (ethylene) - more science I don't really know

79D: _____ nitrate (amyl) - and still more (though I have heard of this...)

117A: Tin: Prefix (stanno-)
122A: New Hampshire senator John (Sununu)

I would like to suggest we coin the word STANNOSUNUNU. I am open to suggestions as to what it should mean.

55A: Patron saint of metalworkers (Eloi) - hands up if you know ELOI only as a ["Time Machine" race].

45D: Development sites (uteri) - hellish clue. Had it ending in "S" forever and wondered, aloud, "What the hell are UTERS?"

41D: English playwright Ayckbourn (Alan) - me and my English Ph.D. never heard of this guy.

102D: Italian poet Torquato _____ (Tasso) - me and my English Ph.D. nailed this guy.

25D: Home of "The Diane Rehm" show (NPR) - never heard it

34D: Christopher Morley novel "Kitty _____" ("Foyle") - vintage paperback collecting comes in handy...

115A: Actress/spokeswoman Belafonte (Shari) - her dad was in the puzzle recently, for "The Banana Boat song," I think. Day O!

32A: Surgically excise (resect) - gross

116A: Ancient Greeks region (Aeolia) - 5/6 vowels! Beat that.

89A: Roman historian (Livy) - more ancient greatness

114A: Israeli statesman Barak (Ehud) - heard the name a lot. Never seen it written out, I don't think.

88A: Dan _____, former N.B.A. star and coach (Issel) - big white guy, played for the Nuggets. Love the throwback basketball clues. Speaking of Denver...

52A: Rocky Mtn. highs? (elevs.) - had ELEWS because at that "W" cross I had the sensible WINES for 54D: Chiantis, e.g. (vinos)

84D: Nielsens (TV ratings) - looks good in the grid

71D: Role in "The Color Purple" (Celie) - never saw it. This role was played by Whoopi.

82D: Lick again (rewet) - Gross. And, not a word!

93D: Saint-_____, capital of France's Loire department (Etienne) - also, a band.

I'm out of steam, and can't concentrate 'cause daughter is coughing like a consumptive. Must go.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


SATURDAY, Sep. 29, 2007 - Robert H. Wolfe

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Somewhat more lively fill than yesterday's themeless puzzle, with a number of curious and occasionally cool entries. Lots of multi-word answers, several of them highly colloquial exclamations, which I tend to love. I wasn't amazed by the puzzle, but overall it was solid Saturday fare. Maybe a touch on the easy side - I finished the NW corner in about 20 seconds and thought there must be some mistake; this can't possibly be a Saturday puzzle. But then things slowed down a bit, I hit patches of ridiculous / unknown / made-up-sounding words, and it ended up feeling plausibly Saturday-ish after all.

Three 15- letter answers:

  • 17A: "Nonsense!" ("That's ridiculous!") - what I said after filling in NARCO (6D: Pusher)
  • 36A: Delicacy (sensitive nature) - I was looking for exotic food here
  • 55A: "I'm not volunteering!" ("Hey, don't look at me!") - truly awesome answer

As I said, the NW fell fast, with MATA HARI being the first answer into the grid (15A: She was executed in 1917) and the surrounding answers falling quickly thereafter. Mort SAHL is back in the puzzle again, this time as a Kennedy joke writer (2D: Joke writer for many Kennedy campaign speeches), and though OMARR is gone, astrology is not, as we are treated to the unexpected STAR SIGNS (3D: Astrological set). Had absolutely no idea about CLEM (20A: Boy in the comic strip "Rose is Rose"). This seems a very cruel clue, as I believe there to be very little overlap between the people who read "Rose is Rose" and the people who solve the NYT Crossword. VERY little. In fact, I would venture to say that if you are an adult who still reads the Sunday funnies for pleasure, there might be something wrong with you. Not necessarily ... just see your doctor. Especially if you ever actually laugh. Other things in the puzzle that befuddled me:

  • 25A: Minute (teentsy) - oh how I challenge that spelling...
  • 11D: Scarlett O'Hara's mother and others (Ellens) - I saw the movie once, so this character's name was nowhere to be found in my brain
  • 12D: W.W. II vessel (E-boat) - oh sure, why not give every letter a boat? That seems fair.
  • 27A: African evergreen shrub (Erica)
  • 26D: Nicholas Gage title character (Eleni) - I know this (vaguely) only from its past appearances in crosswords, and got it only with several crosses in place
  • 23D: Director of the Associated Press, 1900-35 (Ochs) - not even a first name for this guy? (it's Adolph)
  • 34D: "Piece of My Heart" singer Franklin (Erma) - took one look at clue and thought "well, I'm pretty sure it's not going to be ARETHA, so I'm out..."
  • 53D: 2002 Literature Nobelist Kertesz (Imre) - I don't ... read ... much

Never heard of "Tonka," but SAL MINEO (62A: "Tonka" star, 1958) was easy enough to get with just a few crosses. It does not look like the kind of movie I would like ... or that could get produced today ... for various reasons:

One movie that was made recently, and that was pretty damned good, was "Sin City." Based on the Frank Miller comic of the same name, this movie was the first DVD I played when I got my surround-sound system last year. Shook the house. So cool. Anyway, I guess people think Jessica ALBA is hot. I ... do not. I mean, she's lovely, don't get me wrong. But ... I don't know, too young, too obvious. But that's just me. I'm weird that way. If I'm supposed to find something sexy, I tend not to. Had trouble at the 59A: Ring of anatomy (areole) and 56D: Land of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (Ned) crossing. Wanted AREOLA, and so had NAD ... which is not a word you can really let stand for long. Vaguely recalled a character (not a place) called NED Land, and so fixed things. Totally guessed at ALI (58D: Figure in the Sunni/Shia split) - did you know that there are issues with the Sunni/Shia split in American prisons? It's true. The things one learns... Am used to thinking of ARILS (when I think of them, which is next to never) as seed coverings, not appendages (7D: Botanical appendages). Was proud to get ENS (39A: One-striper: Abbr.) off just the "S" - military abbreviations are not my thing.

My favorite clue in the grid is 33A: Like VCRs in the 1970s (new). I absolutely love how ridiculously, comically, brazenly far that clue goes to get a super-basic word like NEW. Also liked 9D: A telly may get it (BBC), though that one was much more obvious. Oh, I almost forgot the super-tricky 28D: Tout's opposite (rien). So cruel, what with TOUT's being an English word and all - hard to see that French coming. I could go for some tasty POLENTA (44A: Cornmeal concoction) right now, but I'm hoping my wife and daughter will actually make chocolate pancakes, which would be even better. I have to go provide encouragement.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


FRIDAY, Sep. 28, 2007 - Harvey Estes

Friday, September 28, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Despite two triple-stacks of 15-letter answers, this puzzle left me a little cold. Looking this puzzle over for clews (!) as to why I feel this way, the only answer I have is that the puzzle is resolutely un-Scrabbly. 90 squares given over to 15-letter answers and no high-value Scrabble letters. In fact, just one "V" and one "Y" and nothing else that would liven things up in the least. An answer like ASSESSMENT ROLLS is both boring and ... well, it seems like a crutch, especially at the bottom of the puzzle, where all those common letters give you tons of options for your Down crosses. I realize that 15-letter answers, especially stacked ones, need common letters. But here, there is nothing to break the monotony - though I am impressed that only two of those five "S"'s in ASSESSMENT ROLLS were used to create plurals. Way to show restraint.

The stacks:

Up top:

  • 1A: Doesn't sit well (leaves a bad taste) - immediately wrote in RUBS THE WRONG WAY...
  • 16A: Class in which various schools are discussed (Art Appreciation) - like every half-clever solver, I assumed that "schools" referred to fish and so was looking for something aquatic here, like MARINE BIOLOGY or the like.
  • 17A: One way to solve problems (by trial and error)

And down south:

  • 57A: Daydreaming, e.g. (escape mechanism) - liked this one
  • 62A: Completely gone (dead as a doornail) - also nice
  • 63A: Records of interest to real estate agents (assessment rolls)

I had no idea a VARMINT was a 4D: Predatory critter. I thought it was just a critter, particularly one being hunted by Yosemite Sam. First answer in the grid was ARLO (7D: 1968 folk album) - total guess; nearly chose JOAN or BAEZ. ARLO gave me the cool OMEN (19A: Red sky, perhaps), which gave me the grossly clued ACNE (9D: Adolescent outburst). I like the colloquial feel of DIDN'T (10D: Louis Armstrong's "Oh _____ He Ramble") and KINDA (28D: Rather informal?), the latter of which I use in informal written correspondence all the time. Also loved "I'M IN" (51A: Hacker's cry of success), if only because it wasn't clued by way of poker (you say that in poker, right?). "30 Rock" is one of only three or four sitcoms I watch with any regularity, so 33A: "30 Rock" creator (Tina Fey) was a gimme. LOVE her. Hard for me were LEGIST (21A: Expert in ancient law) and TOE OUT (49A: Front wheel divergence) and all the longish Downs in the SW:

  • 42D: Curly-haired "Peanuts" character (Frieda) - ???????? Wanted FRANKLIN ...
  • 43D: 20th-dynasty ruler (Ramses) - I was thinking China at first ...
  • 44D: Lois Lane player Durance and others (Ericas) - which incarnation of Lois is she???

Didn't know TETON (23D: Dakota tongue) as anything other than something Grand in Wyoming (is that right?). Two words I don't care for at all: TOOTLE (14D: Drive along leisurely) and ENROOT (15D: Firmly establish), and these two stand right next to each other in the NW. Yuck. They do cross the lovely TUPELO (24A: City on the Natchez Trace), though, which simultaneously makes me think of Elvis and Van Morrison. Besides 1A, I also had initially wrong answers for 48D: It may be wrapped in a bun (tress) - I had TWIST?? - and 40A: Balloon attachment (gondola) - I had PERGOLA, which ... I don't even know what that is. Just looked it up:

An arbor or a passageway of columns supporting a roof of trelliswork on which climbing plants are trained to grow.


Had worst time in the "Georgia" section of the puzzle, where none of the answers felt secure. Got ARMORIAL right away (37D: Relating to heraldry) but was missing the first three letters of I MEAN NO (41D: Emphatic turndown), and none of the crosses was making any sense to me. Already told you I didn't know what the hell TOE OUT meant, so didn't get that. Had -RIS for 41A: Object in a Monet painting (iris) and -MES for 46A: Frauen, across the border: Abbr. (Mmes.), but my brain could do nothing with either answer for a while. Then I ran through the alphabet and the shoulda-been-obvious IRIS came into view, and the puzzle was done quickly from there.

Sydney OMARR (50D: Astrologer with the autobiography "Answer in the Sky") needs to go on up to the Spirit in the Sky and get the hell out of my puzzle for a while (see Wednesday).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


THURSDAY, Sep. 27, 2007 - Peter Wentz

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "The Shift Key" (61A: What is being held in 17-, 32-, 38- and 45-Across)
- theme answers are all symbols found on numbers on a keyboard

I wasn't too thrilled by this theme, and the rest of the fill didn't do much to increase my level of enjoyment. The theme is clever enough - I like the numbers as clues, and I really like the main theme answer, THE SHIFT KEY. But for some reason I can't get very excited about symbols on a keyboard, even exclamation mark! Too ... ordinary. Workaday. "Please press the 'pound' key ... now." Yawn.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: 90 (parentheses)
  • 32A: 3 (pound sign)
  • 38A: 1 (exclamation mark)
  • 45A: 7 (ampersand)

Wanted TINA but got IKE (60A: Turner in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) - enjoy his funky hairdo. For some freaky reason, PELOTA (35A: Jai alai ball) was one of the first words I put in the grid. I don't speak Spanish, so I have no idea why the word for "ball" just came to me like that. The very first answer I put in was DOT EDU (1A: End of many college addresses), which I got instantly, but ... is potentially objectionable. We say "dot edu" but we don't write "dot." I actually like the answer for its funky look. Just seems nonstandard. One answer I'm going to object to is IDS (69A: Walletful, informally). First, the clue makes No sense. Is "Walletful" formal? No. It's barely a word, so while it's true that IDS is informal, it's not an informal word for 'walletful.' Second, do people really have wallets "full" of IDS? I have a driver's license and a University ID. I have many cards with my name on them, but those don't normally count as IDS. In other objection news: officialDOM (11A: Suffix with official)? I know it's a word, but god it's ugly, and when your first hits at Google are all dictionary sites assuring you something is a word ... I say pick another word. Would you ever call anyone an ULTRA (6D: Extreme sort)? I thought not. Also, I groaned at 37A: Lake _____ (trout). It's clever in a way that puns are clever and yet I usually don't like them. "Oh, good one ... I was thinking TAHOE, but I see you were using 'Lake' adjectivally. That's some nice work." Etc.

On to the fun stuff. Loved 58D: It's rarely seen under a hat (afro). Had the -RO for a while and couldn't figure it out. Clever. The ubiquitous ENO shows up again, this time in one of his many disguises: [musician who is responsible for something you've never heard of ... in three letters ... guess who?]. Today, 16A: "Another Green World" musician. I would enjoy SOUR Skittles if I still ate candy (50A: Skittles variety). I did enjoy Graham GREENE's "The Power and the Glory" when I chose it for my ill-fated book club's first book (68A: "The Power and the Glory" novelist, 1940). I was the only one who liked it (women readers ... whadyagonnado? I'm kidding!), and it provided a phrase that I still use, occasionally, facetiously, to refer to my wife: "... the small, set mouth of an educated woman." I like the sound of the words DAP (1D: Drop bait lightly on the water) and DENALI (11D: 20,320-foot Alaskan peak - also known as "Mt. McKinley") and ONE GIG (12D: Capacity of many a flash drive, informally - it's a very informal day today in the Times, it seems). In the category of "World's Strangest Way to clue 'MISSOURI,'" we have 8D: _____ Valley Conference in college sports. Is Alan Jay Lerner a singer? "SHE Wasn't You" sounds like a country song (7D: Alan Jay Lerner's "_____ Wasn't You"). Oh, he's THAT Lerner. Gotcha. MOLIÈRE (30D: Pseudonym of Jean Baptiste Poquelin) is a fabulous playwright, though his name always reminds me of a Judd Nelson / Molly Ringwald / Anthony Michael Hall exchange in "The Breakfast Club":

JN, tearing up a book, speaking sarcastically about the value of literature: "It's wrong to destroy literature. It's such fun to read. And ... [looks at spine of book] 'Molay' really pumps my nads."

MR, smiling: "Molière."


AMH, sincerely: "I love his work."

[JN throws book at AMH]

Lastly, I do not thank the Times for forcing me to remember one of the stupidest times in all American politics: the late 90s - 31D: _____ Report of the 1990s (Starr). Let us never mention 1997-1999 again, OK? Good.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Happy 4th Anniversary, honey.


WEDNESDAY, Sep. 26, 2007 - Lee Glickstein and Craig Kasper

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Broadway musicals - 13 starred clues all have answers that are titles of famous Broadway musicals

Wow, this puzzle was kind of a shocker, first because of the sheer number of theme entries and their impressively symmetrical placement (including a CABARET - EVITA - CANDIDE triple-stack right in the middle of the puzzle); and second because some of the non-theme fill was really high-end, insane-looking stuff. I'm surprised that I did this puzzle as quickly as I did - the theme was easy to get (I got it off of 1A, after I realized SHARON was not the "Stone" in question), so that helped, but there's a fat handful of words I've either never heard of or never seen clued in the way they were today.

Theme answers:

  • 1A: *Stone of Hollywood (Oliver)
  • 7A: *Home for Will Rogers and Garth Brooks (Oklahoma)
  • 16A: *What some unscrupulous e-businesses do? (spam a lot) - best clue / theme entry by far
  • 19A: *Torn (rent)
  • 31A: *Extremely narrow winning margin (hair)
  • 35A: *Kind of club (cabaret)
  • 41A: *A Peron (Evita)
  • 44A: *Student of Dr. Pangloss (Candide)
  • 46A: *Lover of Radames (Aida)
  • 62A: *Renown (fame)
  • 67A: *Site of much horsing around? (carousel)
  • 69A: *Perform ostentatiously (showboat)
  • 70A: *Destiny (kismet)
Now it's time for the first ever installment of "What Does That Look Like?"

Ever wonder what you'd get if you crossed a Minnie MINOSO (15A: 1950s All-Star outfielder Minnie) with a Sydney O'MARR (1D: Astrologer Sydney) [whoops, it's an apostrophe-free "OMARR" - he's not Irish, I guess]? Of course you haven't. Until today, that is. In the grid, the cross was tough (I thought) - in real life, it would not be much prettier:

OK, he's handsome enough, but ...

Uncle Fester?

Next, many of you may be thinking "Hmmm, LAVALIER sounds familiar, but I can't quite picture it..." Further, you are almost certainly thinking "What the hell is a K-PAX and why have I never heard of it?" [answer: it's a horrible movie and 99.9% of America never saw it, so you're not alone] Here are some helpful visuals. LAVALIER (18A: Bejeweled pendant):

K-PAX (8D: 2001 film set in a mental institution):

Let's see if I can knock the rest of these off in a short paragraph. I blanked on COXES (20A: Regatta crew leaders) and CARAVAN (20D: Dodge on the road - "something about a CAR..."), and had SITUATE for SET DOWN at first (30D: Lay). An ANADEM (48D: Ancient garland) is simply a "wreath or garland for the head." A DIADEM is a crown, which I'm sure you knew. I have never seen OCULAR as a noun (28D: Eyepiece), and I have never heard of ALISO Viejo (52D: _____ Viejo (California city near Laguna Beach)). I know nurseries are for taking care of babies, but NEONATAL nurseries (47A: Like some nursery care)? ... o, this must mean a hospital "nursery" - I was thinking, "Who puts their newborn in a nursery? Isn't that a little young?" Maybe I was thinking daycare. Love the FRIEZE (68A: Architectural decoration) / LAMAZE (49D: Kind of class) intersection, though was briefly unsure if the intersection was "S" or "Z." Two rarely-seen words that I got very quickly were REBEC (24D: Renaissance instrument) - from my Ph.D. training - and EVAH (57D: Cole Porter's "Well, Did You _____?") - from my love of Cole Porter, which I developed backwards, from an early 90s tribute album ("Red, Hot, and Blue"). BRINE is a very unappetizing word (29D: Curer of feta cheese), though feta is, of course, tasty (despite sounding a bit like FETID). Lastly, I love a good "Simpsons" clue - 13D: Place to which Bart Simpson makes prank calls (Moe's). Hell, I love any "Simpsons" clue, but you know that. Here is a master list of Bart's calls to Moe over the years.

Thank you all for the kind messages of congratulations yesterday. Sorry I didn't reply. I was in prison. On which, more later.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


TUESDAY, Sep. 25, 2007 - Randall J. Hartman

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Food transportation" - theme answers are all two-word, "food + transportation" phrases

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Food transportation ... that Harry Belafonte sang about (banana boat)
  • 24A: ... that's an ambulance, in slang (meat wagon)
  • 37A: ... that a rube might fall off (turnip truck)
  • 48A: ... that may be upset (apple cart)
  • 59A: ... that's a source of easy money (gravy train)

Question: What does Rex Parker do to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his blog?

Answer: Take the day off

Talk amongst yourselves.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


MONDAY, Sep. 24, 2007 - Fred Piscop

Monday, September 24, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Location? - three theme answers begin with HERE'S, THERE'S, and WHERE'S, respectively

This isn't much of a theme, and yet it hardly matters because the theme answers are colorful and the non-theme fill is tremendous, especially for a Monday. Fellow xword blogger Orange semi-ruined this puzzle for me by sending me a message telling me how she thought this puzzle was everything a Monday puzzle should be. Her message was marked "No Spoilers" - and yet knowing that I was supposed to expect goodness made the goodness less affecting when it came. But I still enjoyed the puzzle quite a bit. And I set a record time for me - 3:36 or 3:37, I forget. One of those.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Old "Tonight Show" intro ("HERE'S Johnny")
  • 39A: Admonition to a showboating athlete ("THERE'S no 'I' in 'team'")
  • 53A: Kid's book with a hidden character ("WHERE'S Waldo")

This puzzle has a whole lot of what I like in late-week puzzles: colloquialisms and multi-word answers. In fact, several answers are multi-word colloquialisms, including:

  • 14A: "In my opinion..." ("I'd say...")
  • 9D: Benchwarmer's plea ("Play me!")
  • 41D: Zero (not a whit)
  • 66A: Out of favor, informally (in bad)

Not to mention THERE'S NO 'I' IN 'TEAM', the great multi-word colloquialism in the middle of the puzzle. Did not know 22D: Nita of silent films (Naldi) - actually, I'm almost certain I've seen this answer before, but her name just didn't stick. She crosses 25A: Bygone Rambler mfr. (AMC), which is a gimme for me, for reasons I don't understand. GMC sounds like it could be right too, but there's no one (I'm fairly sure) named NGLDI, so no problem there. I had a hell of a time with EYE SHADE (5D: Poker player's headgear), first because I hate poker-mania and the elevation of loser poker players to TV personalities and the general culture of dickishness that goes along with poker. Second, because I call an EYE SHADE a "visor," I think. Coolest non-theme answer in the puzzle: TOWNIE (46D: Local noncollegian, to a collegian). Reminds me of "Breaking Away." Second-coolest non-theme answer: VENAL (49D: Open to bribery). Least favorite word in the puzzle: CREME (29D: Oreo's filling). I feel about CREME the way I feel about BLEU and THEATRE, i.e. not good.

Thanks to ALF (6A: Furry TV extraterrestrial) and PACMAN (27A: Classic arcade game) for representing the 80's today. My kind of OLDIEs (44A: Almost any doo-wop tune).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


SUNDAY, Sep. 23, 2007 - David Levinson Wilk

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Flip-Flops" - terms on either side of "FOR" in familiar phrases are switched to create new, silly phrases, which are clued

[updated 12:37 p.m.]

Despite an easyish theme, this was not a snap solving experience for me. The non-theme fill did not flow easily - but that's a good thing. I like to chew on the Sunday puzzle a little rather than just breeze through it. There were some odd phrases, or names I didn't know (or barely knew), so I never got in a groove. I don't really have a lot to say about this puzzle generally. It was fine. I'll dive right in. First...

Theme answers:

  • 23A: Rolled sixes while on Water Works, in Monopoly? (broke for Go) - does "broke for" mean "made a move for" here? Is Water Works twelve spaces from Go on a Monopoly board? Is that it? Just say 'yes' or 'no'
  • 28A: Doesn't throw away, as a stage prop? (keeps for play)
  • 35A: What a sushi chef loves to hear? (compliments for fish)
  • 48A: "8 Minute Abs," according to some? (the best for workout)
  • 69A: January 15? (a day for King)
  • 83A: Was late to an appointment at the cosmetician? (lost time for make-up) - I like this theme answer best
  • 95A: What scientists working for Gatorade have? (knowledge for thirst) - iffiest, though I had ADVENTURE FOR THIRST at first, which is even iffier
  • 108A: Dylan not liking Dell computers? (Apples for Bob) - OK, I changed my mind: this is the best theme answer
  • 115A: Like pro bono work? (all for free)
Here is something I know is going to screw people up: 19A: Good, to Guido. Of course "Guido" is Italian, but many people, like me, will enter the more familiar (albeit Spanish) BUENO instead of BUONO here, and then be completely flummoxed by the (very cool) Down clue 3D: A bird flying by on the right, to the Greeks when it seems to start with the prefix GEO-. That whole NW was actually a little tricky for me, as I had FBI instead of BBB (1D: Kicked off), FAIT instead of FINI (24D: Done, in Dijon), LOUP instead of ROUE (32D: Wolf), and I have only barely ever heard of BROMINE (31A: Element that's liquid at room temperature - most people are going to want MERCURY here; I know I did).

A number of high-end vocabulary words, both in the clues and in the answers:

  • 10D: Develop anacusis (go deaf)
  • 58A: Vatican emissary (Nuncio)
  • 88D: Rear seating section in a theater (parterre) - The PARTERRE is a bit hard for me to visualize, even after much Googling; when the word is used (rarely) it appears to be roughly synonymous with Orchestra seating in contemporary theater divisions, though there appears to be a more specialized meaning of the term related to the blocks of seats at the back of a theater - a meaning derived from PARTERRE in gardening.

As you all know, I am bad with royalty from the Middle East, so FAHD (109D: Late Saudi king) was something I had to get from crosses. Otherwise, there weren't many answers from outside my general body of knowledge. One more name I didn't know: 71D: Pulitzer-winning novelist Shirley Ann _____ (Grau). Oh, I forgot about 126D: Actress Graff (Ilene) - holy crap! She was the mom on "Mrs. Belvedere!" Now there's an 80's sitcom that time forgot. And yet it lasted for 117 episodes! I am soooo tempted to sing the theme song right now. One of Ms. Graff's latest projects appears to involve lesbian Catholic schoolgirls. Hmmm, that sounds ... educational. Netflix!

Sometimes short answers hold some interest for me. Today I wondered out loud why VON (92A: German name part) doesn't appear in the grid that often, while ELO (93A: "Shine a Little Love" grp.) won't go away. I know, I know, it's the "V," but still ... it seems unfair somehow. In addition to ELO, Today's puzzle featured two more three-letter answers from the realm of pop music, both of which look like someone was spelling on drugs. I mean, what business does Ringo have naming his kid ZAK ("it's spelled like YAK!") instead of ZACH (short for Zachary) (62D: Ringo's eldest)? And I thought the COO in "Hoochie COO" had an established "C"-spelling, but oh no, Rick Derringer likes to mix it up with the funky "K" (87D: "Rock and Roll, Hoochie _____") - wouldn't the puzzle normally include the artist in a clue like this? Is it that Rick Derringer is a total nobody and so no one would be helped by his inclusion? Is the phrase "Rock and Roll, Hoochie KOO" so ubiquitous that it no longer matters who used it first? Need answers.

I'll finish up with a mixed bag of answers ... who knows what I'll say?

  • 26A: Whirlpool alternative (Amana) - don't know why I'm amused by this misdirection; maybe because my first thoughts were SPA or SAUNA or STEAM BATH
  • 41A: "Say Say Say," say (duet) - another former Beatle in the puzzle, as well as a pre-freakshow Michael Jackson; as with the "Mr. Belvedere" theme song, I am tempted to sing ... this song was popular a couple years before "Mr. Belvedere" went on the air.
  • 17D: The Beatles arrive in New York in 1964 on this (Pan Am) - the third Beatles-related clue of the day. Subtheme!
  • 76A: Historical separation (Apartheid) - this separation was ... historical? In that ... it happened in history? I think my problem here was a I wanted a general word, not a specific "separation."
  • 106A: Three-day holiday (Tet) - again, thinking general term, getting specific answer
  • 103A: Some moonrocks (basalt) - my science knowledge is poor, but I pieced this together
  • 107A: Hero of Sophocles' "Electra" (Orestes) - if science is a weakness, Classics are a strength; this was a gimme (I talked about Orestes just last week in class)
  • 8D: Like Mozart's Symphony No. 10 (In G) - spent a while thinking "Mozart didn't write ten symphonies. He wrote nine." Then realized I was thinking of Beethoven. :(
  • 56D: Mitch Miller, e.g. (oboist) - wasn't he a gymnast too??? Whoops, nope, that was Mitch Gaylord, HA ha.
  • 63D: _____ newt (witches' brew ingredient) (eye of) - yesterday NEWT, today, a newt-related clue. Fantastic.
  • 66D: Hogwarts professor (Snape) - double magic clues! Reminds me of my daughter's Harry Potter-themed birthday party yesterday. SNAPE was one of the answers in the trivia game the teams played (after kids were sorted into teams by ... the sorting hat ... oh yeah, we went all out)
  • 86D: TV character from the planet Melmac (Alf) - like "Mr. Belvedere" (how many times can I mention that show today?), a paradigmatic 80's sitcom. A (to my mind, embarrassing) favorite of my best friend Andrew. [whoops, not his favorite - his dad's. My apologies]
  • 90D: B'way buys (tkts) - this killed me (slightly); the very last letter in the grid was this "K" - I tried all the vowels first. Didn't help that I couldn't fathom what was intended by the cross, 94A: Arcade (walk). Had WAL- and, imagining only a vowel could complete it, came up with nothing. "WALE ... isn't that something to do with corduroy?"

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

UPDATE - Announcement: If you live in the Cleveland area, there are two upcoming crossword events you might be interested in. First, there's "An Evening with the Puzzle Master" (that's Will Shortz, duh) to benefit the Cuyahoga County Public Library - info here; second, on Saturday, Sep. 29, from 9:30 a.m. to noon, the "Inaugural Shaker Heights High School Latin Club Crossword Tournament" will take place in the Shaker Heights High School Cafeteria in Shaker Heights, OH - you can download an informational flier from here.


SATURDAY, Sep. 22, 2007 - Mark Diehl

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Don't know how I managed to do this in around an average time, because looking at it now, there is much that seems insane and unknown to me. Spent a few minutes fumbling around in the NW and getting nothing except SALTS (5D: Smelling things) and REMITS - which was wrong. So I moved on. My first answer in the grid was OWNS UP TO (20A: Admits) - why was that a gimme? Then with just that "N" in place I got NAP TIME (21D: When the kids are out - great clue), and between those two answers, I managed to polish off the NE and center of the puzzle in fairly short order. But had to struggle in every quadrant but the NE.

With -ATORIUMS in place at 33A: Rest stops? I filled in MORATORIUMS. Would not give it up until YOW at 42A: "That hurts!" provided a "Y" that meant 33D: Source of lecithin had to be SOY BEAN, which meant MORATORIUMS was wrong and had to start with an "S." Further problem: I though the word in question was SANITARIUMS, which, it turns out, is an alternate spelling of the correct answer: SANATORIUMS, which looks wronger and wronger the more I look at it. But eventually I gave in to SANATORIUMS, and the SW went down from there.

Notable answers in the SW:

  • 35D: Part of the Tribune Company (Newsday) - pairs nicely with another publication, THE NATION (14A: Weekly since 1865), in the NW
  • 49A: Not broadside (end on) - I know HEAD ON, but not END ON ...
  • 52A: Jaguar maker (Atari) - !?!?!? It's a video game?
  • 54A: Band active from 1995 to 2002 (N*SYNC) - had TONIC here for a few seconds ... no, of course you don't know who TONIC is. It's a stupid answer.
  • 47D: It's hard to walk on (corn) - wouldn't know. I have a bunion, I think, but no CORNs.
  • 46A: One use for anise (biscotto) - the rarely seen singular form of this word. Nice.

Here's what the grid looked like after the SW was completed (I decided today I wanted to freeze-frame the solving experience at about midpoint):

In the SE, the long Acrosses were fairly easy to get, but that upper part of the quadrant was on the verge of remaining vacant until I saw the life preserver that was 36A: Dobby or Winky, in Harry Potter. I performed the voice of Dobby only last night while reading to Sahra, so I'm well aware that Dobby is a House ELF. That answer, mercifully, gave me the first letter to all the long Downs in the SE. The best of those was 38D: Kind of crystals (Folgers), followed closely by the cleverly clued EL NINOS (36D: Current events around Christmas). The "Hamlet" clue / answer is weird; you never refer to scene numbers without also referring to act numbers. You would say Act I, Scene iv, not just SCENE FOUR (53A: When Hamlet first sees a ghost). Besides ELF, my other 3-letter gimme down here was 51D: "The Partridge Family" actress (Dey). Had no clue about the Rialto Bridge, so CANAL took a while (45A: Rialto Bridge sight).

In the NW, with the final "-PY" in place, I finally got 1A: Mad magazine feature (Spy Vs. Spy), which gave me the first letters of all the Downs up there - highly important, given the craziness of the puzzle's first three Downs:

  • 1D: Figure in many jokes (St. Peter) - was looking for PRIEST or RABBI. I don't like jokes and thus don't know many.
  • 2D: Troop group (phalanx) - this took me forever. On further review, I proclaim PHALANX to be one of the very weirdest-looking words in the English language.
  • 3D: Arabs who are not in OPEC (Yemenis) - usually it's the country, not the people, who are in (or out of) OPEC.

My favorite answer up here is PAMELA SUE, the throwback answer that nobody sees coming when they look at a simple-looking clue like 17A: Martin of Hollywood. She played Nancy Drew before going on to play the improbably named Fallon Carrington Colby on "Dynasty." ENIS (25A: 1990s N.F.L. running back Curtis _____) was unknown to me - far more unknown than his NFL counterpart answer in the NE - CBS SPORTS (9D: Home of "The NFL Today").

Other noteworthy clues:

  • 9A: Spherical bacteria (cocci) - here's a non sequitur: I had a T.B. test yesterday (needed for volunteer work I'm doing). Result appears to be negative (no big lump in my arm at injection site).
  • 18A: Quaint contraction (shan't) - My mom is the only person I know who would use this contraction unironically.
  • 26A: _____ Paradise of Kerouac's "On the Road" (Sal) - something else I've never read.
  • 41A: "Pinocchio" character voiced by Mel Blanc (Cleo) - I always forget this fish's name.
  • 10D: Bishop Museum setting (Oahu) - randomest clue! What non-Hawaiian is going to know that?
  • 13D: Cantillates (intones) - well there's a new word for me ... "Cantillates," I mean, not INTONES.
  • 11D: Small sunfish (crappie) - not an appetizing name.
  • 44D: Rounds: Abbr. (rtes) - I don't get it. How are rounds "routes?"
  • 15D: 1995 political book subtitled "Leader of the Second American Revolution" ("Newt") - I can't actually believe a book that pompous-sounding ever saw the light of day.

Finally, a big thank you to Mark Diehl or Will - whoever was responsible for cluing LEE as 28D: The General _____, "The Dukes of Hazzard" auto. Along with PAMELA SUE Martin, and the immortal "SIT ON IT" (26D: "Happy Days" catchphrase), the General LEE formed a kind of trinity of Rex's Early TV-Viewing History.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Happy Birthday to my daughter, now 7.


FRIDAY, Sep. 21, 2007 - Paula Gamache

Friday, September 21, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

Parts of this puzzle were easy to do, but I had such a horrible time up top, and then had one square where I had to make a complete and utter (correct) guess, so I had to go with a "Challenging" rating. My first pass through the short Downs in the top third of the puzzle left me with about four answers, only two of which I was reasonably sure of. Hey, they all start with "A":

  • 1D: Thrashers' home in the N.H.L.: Abbr. (Atl.)
  • 6D: Vote for (aye) - I toyed with YEA and even PRO...
  • 9D: Lambs: Lat. (agni)

Had DUSTY for SOOTY (7D: In need of a sweep - I only just this second got that the sweeping was of the chimney variety...), FATE for DOOM (10D: Destiny), and BASIC for NAIVE (13D: Simple). Had ENGR for ENGS (15D: Some specialize in elec.), which is nearly right. Should have noticed the plural, but ... I don't like that you can apparently abbreviate "Engineer" with or without the "R." Or did I make the "ENGR." abbreviation up? It's possible.

Puzzle took me longer than it might have because I refused to move on. I get that way sometimes, especially if I'm working on a nearly totally self-contained part of the puzzle, where I know that "moving on" will not necessarily bring me new, needed information to help me solve the hard part.

This was a very political puzzle, with three of the nine 15-letter answers (one in each bank of three) coming from the world of contemporary American electoral politics. The best of these (from a solver's standpoint) is "THERE YOU GO AGAIN" (16A: Classic line of debate?), which is meaningless to you if you were not reasonably grown up in 1980, when Reagan said it (condescendingly, Ward Cleaverishly) to Carter during their debate. [Now I have the Dolly Parton song "Here You Come Again" in my head and it Will Not Leave - but that's OK, 'cause I love Dolly] I absolutely refuse to listen to any talk radio (except NPR) because, well, people are idiots. I don't care if the talk radio is liberal or conservative. No thanks. So I have no idea who this Randi Rhodes person is (sounds like a pro wrestler) because I have never not ever not even once heard anything aired on AIR AMERICA RADIO (37A: "The Randi Rhodes Show" network). The last political clue is just the simple LIBERAL DEMOCRAT (53A: Left-of-center party member).

I loved the multi-wordishness of the long answers in this puzzle - four of the nine have four or more words! In addition to the Reagan quotation, there's:

  • 1A: Just the pits (as bad as bad can be) - 6 words! Is that a record!?
  • 30A: Sewn up (over and done with)
  • 57A: "I'll take whatever help I can get" ("Any port in a storm")

Funny that so may people went for LSD TRIP over EGO TRIP yesterday - you were one day early for LSD it seems (39A: It'll change your mind - it sure will). My total-guess square was at the intersection of BAIN (46A: Winner of three consecutive Emmys for "Mission: Impossible" - before my time! BAIN of my time = Conrad Bain) and BLAS (46D: Longfellow's "The Bells of San _____"). BLAS is officially the ugliest, worst, least sonorous word I've seen in the puzzle. At least today it is. I thought my Longfellow bell knowledge had to extend only as far as ATRI, but no; more bells, more stupid names. There were a number of correct answers it took me a while to understand (see SOOTY, above), including TMS (56D: Logos and the like: Abbr.) - TM = trademark - and SHIM (2D: One just filling up space), which I always thought was something one did up a tree. But maybe that's SHIN. Or SHIMMY. But then I remembered that when my friend helped me install a door to my basement, we had to use many SHIMs to get the damned frame to sit true.

Here's a bunch of clues / answers I liked:

  • 47A: Batman creator Bob (Kane) - more clues like this, please
  • 58A: Pro team whose mascot is a blue bird named Blitz (Seattle Seahawks) - I've been a fan for almost thirty years and I still didn't know this. You'd think the "bird" and "Blitz" part of the clue would have clued me in.
  • 52D: With 4-Down, black magic (Dark / Arts) - I've got a little girl in the firm grip of Harry Potter mania, so the DARK ARTS are familiar to me, especially in the context of "defending" oneself against them.
  • 11D: String player? (cat) - cute
  • 21D: They may give you a seat (caners) - I should hate this... but I don't.
  • 22A: Illumination indication ("I see...") - Aha! I see...
  • 5D: Arm raiser, informally (delt) - I was thinking NERD or some other kind of class know-it-all. Arnold Horshack came to mind.
  • 36D: Perfect (hone) - ah, a verb! I had A-ONE!
  • 34D: Peculiar: Prefix (idio-) - I just like that this came to me instantly

Here's a bunch of clues / answers I didn't know:

  • 3D: Second of 24 (beta) - I had BETH, going Hebrew (right?) over the far easier (to me) Greek.
  • 21A: Songwriter Coleman and others (Cys)
  • 8D: Ragged edges, in metalworking (burrs) - wanna stump me? More metalworking clues. You know what I know about metalworking? LITTLE OR NOTHING (17A: Just a bit, if that).
  • 12D: Ottoman officers (Aghas) - I kinda knew this, but only kinda.
  • 22D: Spring river phenomenon (ice run) - no idea what this means, but it sounds cool.
  • 31D: 1856 antislavery novel ("Dred") - never heard of it. A "novel?" About DRED Scott?
  • 45D: New Hamphire's _____ State College (Keene)

I'd like to thank the puzzle for making ALTE a gimme for me (48D: Old man, in Mannheim). Lastly, a goat says what now? MAA (55D: Billy's call)??? That sounds right to my ears, but looks all kinds of wrong on paper.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


THURSDAY, Sep. 20, 2007 - Alex Boisvert

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "The Old Man and the Sea" - rebus puzzle in which each of the words in that title are positioned, in order, symmetrically throughout the grid; central 15-letter answer is ERNEST HEMINGWAY, clued by way of reference to the title in question (35A: Author of a 1952 novel published in full in Life).

I love this puzzle. Love it. One of the most provocative and ambitious and imaginative Thursday rebuses I've seen in a long time. Maybe it's the English professor in me ... but I doubt it, as I've never actually read "The Old Man and the Sea" (what self-respecting English professor's going to admit that?). Very fortuitous that the title is composed of six three-letter words, all of them rebus-able - also convenient that ERNEST HEMINGWAY is a puzzle-friendly 15 letters long. I had the MAN square in the NE and then, of course, went looking for other squares I could shove MAN into. Worked from the NE down through ERNEST HEMINGWAY to the SW, where I got a little stuck. Then discovered that an entirely different word was shoved into one square down there: AND. At that point my brain went "MAN + ERNEST HEMINGWAY + AND = THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA" - and I was on my way.

Rebus squares:

THE - 1D: Peloponnesian War participant (A[THE]ns) + 14A: Longtime Vicki Lawrence character ([THE]lma) [yesterday, JOEY Lawrence, today, Vicki Lawrence ...]

OLD - 15A: Burn slowly (sm[OLD]er) + 7D: Gave up one's hand (f[OLD]ed)

MAN - 16A: One of the Munsters (Her[MAN]) + 13D: Flow out (e[MAN]ate)

AND - 45D: Odd jobs (err[AND]s) + 58A: Like llamas ([AND]ean)

THE - 59A: Truck stop sign ("Ea[T HE]re") + 50D: Old Testament book (Es[THE]r) - for whatever reason, this was the hardest for me to uncover ...

SEA - 60A: Unpleasant feeling (nau[SEA]) + 53D: Move to first class, e.g. (re-[SEA]t)

Two embarrassing moments. One, I had an error. I thought EYSS sounded way better as a Germanic last name ("EdelwEYSS??") than the correct WYSS at 34D: "The Swiss Family Robinson" author Johann. If I'd only known the relationship between Austin and Dallas better, I'd have been OK (32A: Dallas-to-Austin dir. - SSW). Embarrassing moment two was when my first entry in the grid was Andrew SHUE (10A: Andrew of "Melrose Place"). Didn't know a lot of the highbrow stuff in the puzzle, but the cast of a crappy 90s melodrama? No problem. Oh, and one more bad screw-up on my part: had ROONEY then CARNEY for the (in retrospect, obvious) CAGNEY (43D: Oscar winner for "Yankee Doodle Dandy").

Some things I didn't know:

  • 19A: Baryshnikov's birthplace (Riga)
  • 22A: Pioneer in I.Q. testing (Binet)
  • 26A: Home of Sao Miguel Island (Azores)
  • 11D: German poet who wrote "Don't send a poet to London" (Heine) - I know this guy only from crosswords...
  • 30A: British general in the American Revolution (Howe) - when talk goes to war and generals and what not, my eyes glaze over...
  • 3D: Dr. Skoda of "Law & Order" (Emil) - will Never understand the popularity of this soporific show
  • 6D: Some chain hotels (Omnis) - ??? Oh I see, it's a brand name.
  • 37D: South American monkey (titi) - I think I "know" this in the sense that there's a part of my brain that maintains a store of familiar-sounding 3- and 4-letter words for things one might find in a crossword. I know I've seen TITI before (tee hee).

Love the dated slang of BOFFO (5A: Terrif), though it took me a while to get. I didn't know that -FER was considered a suffix in the expression "Twofer" (8D: Suffix with "two"). I got it instantly, but if I'd ever used the expression (unlikely) I think I'd have hyphenated it...? Who knows? I always think of a FLASK as a liquor-containing vessel that a drunk / sophisticated gentleman of the west / private eye keeps under his tattered coat / waistcoat / trench coat - not as a 29A: Lab container. You might take a swig from a FLASK while enjoying a CLARO (31A: Light-colored stogie) - wouldn't know, never smoked a cigar in my life. See SITAR in the puzzle a lot but never stopped to give much thought to what shape it is (42A: Pear-shaped instrument).

Clues and answers I love: CHUTES is a very good answer for 43A: Rodeo sights - one that had me baffled for a bit; I wanted CLOWNS. Also loved the clue for AHEM: 26A: Faux cough. Perfect description of that word- which- is- not- a- word- but- more- a- sound. Impressive that the puzzle manages to incorporate both B-SIDES (5D: Elvis's "Hound Dog" and "Anyway You Want Me") and B-GIRL (48D: Old nightclub employee) into the puzzle - both cool retro answers. Great clue on the otherwise unremarkable BISON (22D: Animal on the backs of three state quarters). Lastly, the very familiar GIULIANI is hidden (temporarily) behind one of his (to my mind) lesser-known accomplishments (38D: Politician who wrote the book "Leadership"). His name is freaky-looking, in that vowels unnaturally outnumber consonants 5 to 3. Hmmm, I guess OBAMA's ratio is nearly as bad. Not sure yet how this issue will affect my voting.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


WEDNESDAY, Sep. 19, 2007 - Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Barnyard babies in Australia - first word of each theme answer is a barnyard baby, if your barnyard is in Australia and you raise kangaroos for some reason

In a rush this morning, so sorry to the puzzle authors if I give this short shrift. They closed my daughter's school (literally ... just poof, gone, no school ... crazy hippies!) and so we are in something of a scramble mode to figure out what to do next. Grrr. ANYWAY...

This theme is cute, but there's one problem, and that problem is...

JOEY LAWRENCE (28A: Actor who got his start on TV's "Gimme a Break")

So many things about this answer are irksome / hilarious. First of all, JOEY is totally out of sync with all the other baby animals in the puzzle (CHICK, COLT, CALF) in that you would not find him on a farm in North America. Second, JOEY LAWRENCE is well known enough to be a theme answer in a puzzle??? He "got his start" on TV's "Gimme a Break"? OK, my question is - then what happened to him? Because I couldn't name one damned thing he's been in since. Was he on "Blossom" for a while? My first answer here was GEORGE CLOONEY, but first of all, that didn't fit, and second of all, GEORGE got his start on "The Facts of Life" (with crossword stalwart Charlotte RAE), not "Gimme a Break" (you understand my confusion).

Other theme answers:

  • 18A: "Pretty Woman" and "Waiting to Exhale" (chick flicks) - this should have had some qualifier attached to it; the moniker CHICK FLICK is colloquial, not a standard film category. Also, I was surprised to learn that CHICKs dig movies about whores. Interesting.
  • 48A: Shooter of westerns (colt revolver)
  • 62A: They're exercised when cycling (calf muscles)
OK, moving quickly through the puzzle. Originally had STAG for BOAR (1D: Animal hunted in one of Hercules' 12 labors) and then TCU for ORU (14A: Evangelical sch. with a 4,000+ enrollment). Do they even make AIM (17A: Alternative to Gleem) anymore? I remember it from childhood, so it came easily enough. We briefly considered sending Sahra to the local Jewish school, but you, er, have to be Jewish, so that's a problem. Why am I mentioning this ... oh right, 20A: Shul's shepherd (rabbi). The poor harp seal continues to be the only exemplar of EARLESSness (26A: Like harp seals). I'm disconcerted by how quickly SAHIB came to me (33A: "Master") - I think I know the word only from vaguely racist caricatures of servile Indians. I though that if you "winged" someone, you just sort of grazed him, but apparently, no, you MAIM him (38A: Wing, e.g.). Helen Mirren is hot, so feel free to put her in the puzzle all you want, even if the answer is a total retread like QEII (56A: Oscar-winning role for Helen Mirren, in brief). I was surprised to find out how wide my range of knowledge of salsa names is, as ORTEGA came to me almost instantly for 66A: Rival of Old El Paso, though our salsa of choice is ... Amy's, I think. Or something else organic. Grossest answer in the puzzle (also most unknown to me) = LAC (68A: Useful insect secretion). The very word "secretion" should be banned from the puzzle, not least because it's an anagram of "erections" (plural!).

As for the Downs, CAFTAN (8D: Beach cover-up) is not a word I've seen or thought of in a long time. I think I did not associate it with the beach. I'm not sure what I associated it with. It's clear I haven't given CAFTAN much thought at all. It sounds foreign / religious. I wanted SARONG here. Speaking of foreign (if not religious), why did I know BEY (21D: Old Turkish title) right away? I feel like that word has been sitting in a dusty corner of my brain since the Maleska era. Loved the pairing of ICKES (12D: Clinton adviser Harold) and ICKY (57D: Totally gross), as well as LIARS (52D: Specialists in storytelling?) and YARN (70A: It's hard to believe). Not too happy to see crosswordese like OMOO and YMA (71A: Singer Sumac) and ARNE (36D: "Rule, Britannia" composer). Also, while I love "The Simpsons," I was a bit dubious about D'OH (44D: "What an idiot I am!"). No, not dubious, as the definition fits OK. It's just that DUH fits too, in a way, though perhaps not as well. Anyway, I had DUH for a bit. Lastly, how many beams are there, exactly, that are shaped like letters??? "Z" is a new one on me (37D: Letter-shaped beam).

Favorite answers in the puzzle: the insane LOQUAT (49D: Plumlike Chinese fruit) and the DiMaggio-endorsed MR. COFFEE (39D: Automatic-drip machine maker).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


TUESDAY, Sep. 18, 2007 - Chuck Deodene

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Helpful person's line" = clue for three theme answers, which are all phrases a helpful person might utter after, well, helping someone

This took me longer than your average Tuesday, I think. Missed the first two Acrosses and so my first entry was ZONED (9A: Districted), and then I built off of that. I think it's generally slower going when you work the puzzle in a (generally) right to left direction - always getting the back end of Across answers, which is a lot less helpful (generally) than the front end. For instance, had the THANK ME part of 17A: Helpful person's line ("No need to thank me") and all I could think of was "Aren't you going to thank me?" or "Shouldn't you thank me?" or "Feel free to thank me," all of which are less "helpful" than "ungracious" or "a$$holish." So I went in a vaguely clockwise pattern on this one, starting in the NE and ending in the NW - not sure when I did the far north. It got done.

Remaining theme answers:

  • 32A: With 42-Across, helpful person's line ("Glad to be of / assistance")
  • 61A: Helpful person's line ("It was my pleasure")

I had a hard time with the theme answers because I kept wanting to give the helpful person lines from when she was actually being helpful, e.g. "Might I be of assistance?" That was my first stab at 32A. Didn't help that the "T" in MIGHT was right - from the lovely EXPATS (18D: Sojourners abroad, for short). Also had "It'd be my pleasure" at 61A.

Did not like DUMB at 1A: Inane, mainly because that's a highly colloquial use of DUMB, which I was not expecting from the Times today, especially given that the clue is not colloquial at all. Wife loved DUMB, but only because she got it right away (like many of you, I'm sure). Sometimes, I think too much. Wife also enjoyed and readily answered 56A: Spode ensembles (tea sets), but she's from a tea-drinking, Brit-loving country, so she would. I'd heard of "Spode," but could not place it at all and needed the entire back end of this answer before I could guess it. Never heard of the word "Kriegsmarine," but 2A: Kriegsmarine vessel (U-boat) was easy enough with a cross or two. U-BOAT is very nearly Crossword Pantheon material. I remember the 1989 Bay Area earthquake well (I was in Scotland and found out about it from a newsstand sign - low tech!), but had no idea there was any place called LOMA Prieta involved (26D: 1989's _____ Prieta earthquake). Being rather unhandy, I've only vaguely heard of PVC (62D: Piping compound, briefly), though I am well aware of the shopping channel QVC, which would be a great puzzle entry. Realized after reading 15A: Payload delivery org. (NASA) that I had no clear idea what "payload" meant. I associate it with ads for pick-up trucks, for some reason. Very thrown at first by the idea of a fowl ending in -AB. Then recalled a bird called a SQUAB (53D: Fowl entree). No idea what this bird looks like - let's find out... Gross. Baby pigeon. Here's one uncooked:

And here's where you can go for advice on how to start your own squab business. Good luck!

There were some good names in today's puzzle, including SATCHMO (8D: "Hello, Dolly!" jazzman), ZSA ZSA (9D: One of the Gabors), and LULU (33D: "To Sir With Love" singer, 1967). Not-so-great names include ... well, just ALEC (41A: Writer Waugh), the Waugh that Time would have Completely Forgotten were it not for crosswords. I hear and use the word CLIQUE (60A: Coterie) often enough, but it looks startlingly fancy when written out. This may be the first fall (near fall) when I have actually noticed ASTERs (27A: Autumn bloomer). The crossword was right all along - they do bloom in the fall. They're all over the local woods right now, in at least two colors. Off-putting entries in today's puzzle include DEET (13D: It's repellent - it sure is) and JOHNS (23A: Vice squad arrestees, perhaps), and SEEDY (55D: Not yet gentrified) - that last clue is funny because it assumes that all SEEDY places are just yuppie habitats in the making. I'm pretty sure some SEEDY places are just SEEDY and destined to stay that way. Lastly, I've never ordered an "adult" film from my hotel room, but if I saw one entitled "STELLA (40D: _____ Artois beer) SAYS YES (43D: Agrees) to NUDISM" (38A: Philosophy of bare existence?), I must say I'd be tempted.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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