TUESDAY, Mar. 31, 2009 - AE Parrish (Young Indian Brave in 1960 Johnny Preston #1 hit / Peace Nobelist Root / Word after ppd on sports page)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: BRAE anagrams - four theme answers, all of which either begin or end with an anagram of BRAE

Word of the Day: BRAE - n. Scots.

A hillside; a slope.

Supremely easy and, as NYT themed puzzles go, not terribly imaginative. Simple anagrams are all that are holding this puzzle together. Low theme density, anagrams neither all at beginning nor all at end of their respective phrases ... not a lot to love here, except maybe "RUNNING BEAR," which at least had the virtue of being completely new to me. Here's what I liked: PENCHANT (4D: Strong liking) and SAROYAN (5D: "The Human Comedy" novelist). SAROYAN is my homeboy (Fresno). I would have liked STABLER if had been clued via the 1970s Raiders quarterback Kenny STABLER. I have a certain respect for RIGATONI (39D: Tubular pasta), if only because when I got to that clue, I could see the pasta in question but couldn't remember how to spell it and ended up initially with RIGOTINI. So RIGATONI gave me a brief moment of amusement, which is something. All in all, though: BOREDOM (41D: Yawn inducer). But it was over quickly, so no real harm done.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Bitter-tasting vegetable (broccoli RABE) - we eat this quite a lot. It's good in soups.
  • 32A: "Young Indian brave" in a 1960 Johnny Preston #1 hit ("Running BEAR")
  • 41A: Least acceptable amount (BARE minimum)
  • 54A: Country singer with a hit sitcom (REBA McEntire)

Don't know how fast I did this - solved on paper while lying in bed - but as I near the end I was regretting not having timed myself, as I was sure this was the fastest I'd ever completed a Tuesday. Simply no resistance anywhere. I was going so fast that I had to do a few rewrites: had NEEDS for SEEKS (53D: Is in the market for) and IMPULSE for the much better IMPETUS (43D: Driving force). When I was done I noted that LIRA sits nicely stretch across both words in the phrase BROCCOLI RABE, and so I fantasized about a bygone currency theme. I got as far as OMAR KHAYYAM and gave up.


  • 17A: Word after "ppd." on a sports page (rain) - best clue in the puzzle. Especially apt given that Opening Day is just around the corner. I was wondering briefly why an abbrev. for "pre-paid" would be on the sports page
  • 18A: Like a 1943 copper penny (rare) - here's info about why.
  • 24A: Common commemorative items (plates) - having seen many ridiculous commercials for horrid plates featuring Obama, this one came easily

  • 29A: Garfield's foil (Odie) - "foil" always makes me laff when used to refer to ODIE. It's like they're characters in a 19th-century novel.
  • 62A: Baja buddy (amigo) - this clue sounds like some horrible product they sell on TV ... you know, something that's supposed to be convenient but is really useless and stupid-looking, like ... a belt that holds your beers or something like that. "Get drunker with ... the Baja Buddy!"
  • 3D: The Dixie Chicks and the Dixie Cups (trios) - "Dixie Chicks" almost always = TRIO, but they do not not not have a "The" in their name. Also "Watchmen" is "Watchmen," not "The Watchmen." I have no idea what the Dixie Cups are. Oh, "Chapel of Love." Cool. Here's something else:


  • 7D: Actress Loughlin of "90210" (Lori) - she was just in the puzzle, in a different ("Full House") guise
  • 10D: Jazzman Chick (Corea) - the non-K Korea
  • 26D: Peace Nobelist Root (Elihu) - there was a day when the name ELIHU looked insane to me. Seen it so many times now it's beginning to look ordinary.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Today's LAT was the better puzzle - See Puzzle Girl's write-up here.


MONDAY, Mar. 30, 2009 - AC Michaels (1944 thriller with Fred MacMurray / 1928 Oscar winner Jannings / Drug that calms the nerves, slangily)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x - four 15-letter theme answers that begin SINGLE, DOUBLE, TRIPLE, and QUADRUPLE, respectively

Word of the Day: WHIR - v., whirred, whir·ring, whirs. v.intr.

To move so as to produce a vibrating or buzzing sound.


To cause to make a vibratory sound.

  1. A sound of buzzing or vibration: the whir of turning wheels.
  2. Excited, noisy activity; bustle: the whir of busy shoppers.

[Middle English whirren, probably of Scandinavian origin.]

I came close to breaking the three minute mark on this one, which puts it on the easy side for me, but looking back over the puzzle, I honestly think it's got more challenging, or at least more unusual and interesting, fill than most Mondays, so I bumped its difficulty level back up to Average. It's not a terribly original theme, but as usual with Andrea's puzzles, the theme is tight and coherent, the answers are solid and colorful, and nowhere in the puzzle did I ever utter "ugh" or squint in displeasure. This puzzle is like a Double Stuf Oreo with the bleaker, dryer, darker answers on the top and bottom - SINGLE OCCUPANCY (17A: Small hotel room specification) sounds depressing and QUADRUPLE BYPASS (62A: Serious heart surgery) is clearly undesirable (unless the alternative is death - at any rate, unpleasant). Then there are the creamy middle answers, the delicious TRIPLE LAYER CAKE (47A: Baked dessert with lemon filling, maybe) and the sweet noir goodness of "DOUBLE INDEMNITY" (27A: 1944 thriller with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck) - one of the small handful of movies that originally defined "Film Noir." The dialogue toward the end of this clip is rightly legendary:

I made WHIR my Word of the Day (21A: Fan sound) because it looks wrong to me, which means I clearly can't spell it. I want it to be WHIRR, like ... SHIRR, I guess, which is a far less common word, but nonetheless, that's what I want. I feel like WHIR needs two "R"s to signify what it's doing, i.e. buzzing. One "R" just doesn't evoke the sound. The "R" is doubled, or course, in the present participle (WHIRRING) and the past tense (WHIRRED), and STIR seems to do just fine with one "R" - but STIR doesn't have to make noise. WHIRRRRRR.

My problems with WHIR aside, the grid is lovely, with many points of interest, especially the conspiracy theory in the middle, where Diana SPENCER (40A: Princess Diana's family name) has a run-in with a NINJA (31D: Japanese fighter). The latter clue is an instance of strange difficulty (for a Monday). I wanted a fighter plane. There is nothing in the clue to indicate that the answer is a. human or b. stealthy, both of which are quintessential NINJA qualities. I also thought CELIA was tough (58A: Oliver's love in "As You Like It"). I haven't read that play (or seen it) in years and so did Not know the answer. Ben Jonson's "Song to CELIA" is more familiar to me, as is the Simon and Garfunkel song [the song is actually "Cecilia" - I could swear they eat that first syllable at least once]. Other stuff made me pause too, but mainly because of its cool originality, not its inherent toughness. BIG BABY is a fantastic answer - one that on a Saturday could be clued as [Nickname of Celtics forward Glen Davis]. It's true - that's his (great) nickname: Glen "BIG BABY" Davis. I also love (and did Not get at first pass) TRANK (34D: Drug that calms the nerves, slangily). Colloquial, slangy, vaguely scandalous-sounding. Livens up an already lively grid. Good stuff.


  • 5A: 1928 Oscar winner Jannings (Emil) - learned of him from xwords. He joins a host of other 4-letter actors, incl. ESAI, EDIE, and SELA. Then there are the 4-letter non-actors, TONI, KERN, and OMAR. And then the 4-letter fictional character, XENA.
  • 1D: Words said in fun (jest) - I was weirdly slow getting out of the NW because of this answer. I went with JOKE. Stupid, since the "in fun" part should have triggered the phrase "in JEST" ... but no.
  • 38A: Ad _____ per aspera (Kansas' motto) (astra)- yeah, if you haven't already, you should really memorize that motto. That, and Montana's "Oro y Plata"
  • 44D: Start of a daily school recital ("I pledge") - way to improvise! I PLEDGE is not really a self-standing phrase, but it's clued perfectly, it's easy to get, and it (probably) results in a corner more interesting than it would have been otherwise. Actually, it was probably a desperation move to born out of the need to come up with something to connect those two theme answers at the odd letters "P" and "D." Whatever. I love it. Also, it goes great with "I, TINA" (33D: Singer Turner's autobiography).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

My write-up of today's LAT puzzle is here.

Cool Baseball / Shakespeare puzzle over at BEQ.


SUNDAY, Mar. 29, 2009 - E Gorski ("Bertha" composer / Gunwale pin / Pester for payment / Hook-shaped parts of brains)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Architectural Drawing" - Let's see ... a rebus puzzle where the letters "ET" are crammed into nine different squares throughout the grid; those letters are the initials of EIFFEL TOWER, which the rebus squares are arranged to look like (if you connect them together with a pen/pencil after you're done); "ET" also stands for the French word "AND," which is technically a "conjunction" but is referred to here as a FRENCH CONNECTION, which is a movie that has very little to do with France, but whatever; another movie, "AN AMERICAN IN PARIS," provides the subject for the rest of the theme answers - we are supposed to imagine this hypothetical American (not the "American" of the movie proper) wandering around Paris consuming distinctly French things from the various wine, coffee, and pastry shops. There's a big MINT PATTY in the middle of all this, but I don't think that has anything to do with the theme. The end.

Word of the Day: HEGIRA -

  1. A flight to escape danger.
  2. also Hegira The flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 A.D., marking the beginning of the Muslim era. (answers.com)
This is the craziest, most ambitious, scattered, manic, loopy, Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink puzzle I've ever solved. It was a little maddening, but for the most part, I loved it. Go big or go home. Even if you consider it a failure (I don't), at least it's a great big glorious failure and not a meek add-a-letter / bad pun failure. I found the whole thing really slippery, in that I never really knew what was supposed to be anchoring the puzzle, theme-wise. Just when I thought I had a handle on it, it morphed into something else. The doubleness of "ET" is amazing, as is the architecture of the tower - the additional movies-exploding-into-random-Frenchness was less comprehensible, but sort of beautiful in its decadence - long lovely words describing rich drinks and comestibles. Ms. Gorski constructed last year's Best Sunday puzzle of the year (James Bond/martini), and this puzzle more than lives up the high standards she set with that puzzle. The worst thing about this puzzle was the title - "Architectural Drawing"!? Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Theme answers:

  • 26A: 1951 Oscar-winning film whose title suggests a visitor to the 118-Across ("An American in Paris")
  • 45A: Wine enjoyed by 26-Across, maybe (Chateau Lafite)
  • 67A: 1971 Oscar-winning film whose title is hinted at nine times in this grid ("The French Connection")
  • 118A: Landmark inaugurated 3/31/1889 whose shape is suggested by nine squares in this puzzle's completed grid (Eiffel Tower)
  • 52D: Morning refreshment for 26-Across? (cafe au lait)
  • 55D: Napoleon's place, frequented by 26-Across? (patisserie) - a "Napoleon" is a French pastry, but you knew that

In other news, HEGIRAS / GOA / AAA would have destroyed me not much earlier in my solving career. HEGIRAS sounds only vaguely like a word I've heard before (46D: Long flights), and if I hadn't learned GOA from puzzles (57A: India's smallest state), that "G" could easily have been a "J" or even some other random letter. I don't really understand the clue at 73A: Fine rating (AAA). Is "fine" an adjective? If something is "fine," it is triple-A? With two A's in place already, I figured the last letter had to be an A as well. And so I escaped (HEGIRA'd?) unharmed.

Of all the rebus squares, I love E-TickET the most (74A: Modern traveler's purchase)

  • 21A: 1986 self-titled album whose cover was Andy Warhol's last work ("ArETha") - I thought this was the one with "Freeway of Love" on it, but that was "Who's Zoomin' Who?" "ARETHA" had the duet with George Michael, "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)"
  • 10D: Insurance giant (AETna)
  • 59A: Police dept. employees (dETs.)
  • 37D: "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" director, 2007 (LumET)
  • 64D: "Rhyme Pays" rapper (IcE-T)
  • 65D: Work without _____ (a nET)
  • 93A: Chopin's "Butterfly" or "Winter Wind" (ETude)
  • 93D: Light (EThereal)
  • 94A: Adjust, as a clock (resET)
  • 95D: Snow globe holders (ETageres)
  • 99A: Bubble over (seEThe)
  • 101D: Jazzy Waters (EThel)
  • 116A: Beginning (onsET)
  • 117D: To be abroad (ETre)
  • 121A: Some collars and jackets (ETons)
  • 121D: Pins and needles' place (ETui)


  • 29A: "Cinderella Man" co-star (Crowe) - I have trouble remembering this guy's name. Wanted ZELLWEGER (!?). Then I wanted GIAMATTI (!!?). I know the cast, and yet never saw the movie.
  • 61A: Deuce follower (ad in) - common answer, but that didn't keep me from wanting TREY.
  • 82A: How photography books are usually printed (glossily) - that is one ballsy adverb. I am trying to find an instance of its use, but Google keeps insisting that I must mean [glossy photography]. Listen, you stupid machine, I typed what I typed, give me my hits list!?
  • 60D: Pester for payment (dun) - to me, "DUN" is a color. Learned this verbal meaning from xwords.
  • 87A: Gunwale pin (thole) - I barely know what "gunwale" is. To me, THOLE is Thomething a Thinner might want to Thave. And yet the word was in my brain somewhere. Perhaps in the UNCI, which I didn't know I had until today (125A: Hook-shaped parts of brains).
  • 107A: Geographically named S.U.V. (Tahoe) - Is "Lakeily" a word? If so, I would have preferred that to the more general "geographically"
  • 113A: Philosopher Zeno of _____ (Elea) - always, always botch this. I know it's EL... something. And then ELOI and ELAL and ELON get in there and clog up the works.
  • 127A: Cousins of zithers (lyres) - I have a student who is a professional zither player. Her name is Cindy. I saw her at the mall last night. And thus concludes today's "Window on My World"
  • 5D: Soviet comrade (tovarich) - ?!?!?! Never seen or heard it. Thought it was someone named Tova Rich.
  • 15D: "Bertha" composer (Ned Rorem) - normally a puzzle double-threat (you might see either his last or first name in your grid on any day of the week), here we get both barrels.
  • 16D: Knitter's stash (skeins) - "stash" - unless you're getting high off the SKEINS, this word seems slightly inapt. [actually, knitters are telling me this is a technical term - perfectly apt]
  • 31D: Small drum of India (tabla) - pretty uncommon, though I've seen it before.
  • 38D: Andy Capp's wife, and others (Flos) - the only thing I love more than one FLO is multiple FLOS.
  • 69D: Comment from over the shoulder, maybe (hint) - I was imagining someone saying something over his own shoulder, at someone he was leaving. If anyone tried to over-the-shoulder HINT me, I would go totally Christina Applegate on them.
  • 82D: Verizon forerunner (GTE) - knew this. Don't know why.
  • 102D: Fictional elephant (Horton) - nice change of pace from the more common BABAR (though, as a French elephant, BABAR is probably feeling pretty snubbed right now).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Orange has today's LA Times (LAT) Sunday write-up over at "L.A. Crossword Confidential" - did you know the LAT Sunday puzzle (ed. Rich Norris) doesn't appear in the LAT? They have a completely different Sunday Calendar puzzle. Confusing ... but twice as much puzzle action, which can't be bad.


Having no aisles in architecture - SATURDAY, Mar. 28, 2009 - J Krozel (Big catch of 2003 / Title apiarist of a 1997 film / Grosbeak relatives)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy/Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: APTERAL -


1 (esp. of a classical temple) not having columns at the sides
2 (of a church) having no aisles
(C19: from Greek apteros wingless; see apterous)

(Collins English Dictionary - my Webster's 3rd International does not have that second def.)

Despite having an abundance of words and phrases I was not familiar with, this puzzle felt pretty breezy. As I've said before, puzzles with many 15-letter answers tend to look daunting but be far easier to unlock than those that keep you in the 5-10-letter range - too long to be easy or common, too short to open up huge chunks of the puzzle. I had an error at the end, but in a place where I just can't feel that bad. I had PONTO / ERLO instead of the correct PONTE / ERLE (18A: Common sight in Venezia + 5D: "Phineas Finn" character Barrington). Admittedly, ERLO is a stupid-sounding name choice, but PONTO VECCHIO sounded right to my ears, and I figured this ERLO guy was just someone with a ridiculous name from some story I've never heard of. Don't know what "Phineas Finn" is and never heard the name Barrington ERLE. ERLE Stanley Gardner, yes. This guy, hell no. Crossing an Italian final vowel ... eh. Whatever. I'd complain, but I just liked the puzzle too much to let a stupid little vowel diminish my pleasure.

I liked the puzzle primarily because, as with last week's, it felt good like a late-week puzzle should. It required thought, but I made steady progress, and even the nutso stuff was ultimately gettable through fair crosses with spot-on clues. At first, I thought I was going to have to complain slightly about the puzzle's being too easy, because I strolled around the east side of the grid and the puzzle never laid a hand on me. I scored at will. Put down MER (28A: La _____ Caspienne) and then SUSANN (34A: "Valley of the Dolls" novelist) and then VEGAN / NOPE (11D: One on a strict diet + 24A: Casual rejection) with absolutely no problem. Then, with no crosses, I put down BISCOTTI at 36A: Crunchy cafe treats ... and it was right? Too good to be true. Those long Downs in the east fell quickly and before I knew it I was halfway done with a Krozel Saturday and I had nary a scratch on me.

Then I crossed the BE MINE line (36D: Words from the heart?), and things slowed down somewhat. The W and NW were the slowest, and last, to fall. Up top, I threw SCARLET TANAGERS (17A: Grosbeak relatives) across the grid - smiling all the way, as that is a bird I learned from xwords, and very recently at that. I was less sure about the INTERNAL part of INTERNAL REVENUE (seemed too obvious) (15A: Estate taxes, e.g.), so I waited on the crosses to confirm that. Downstairs, ON ONE'S PLATE was obvious, but I figured it could be LOTS or ALOT in the first position, so I waited (50A: Tons of work to do). Also waited on the PLEASURE part of PLEASURE CRUISES (53A: Carnival offerings). Then it was just a matter of getting those long western Downs to drop.

STAND ON ONE'S TOES came pretty easily (3D: Try to get a better view, say), but UNCONDITIONALLY (2D: Without reservations), despite being a pretty obvious answer, was occluded by an entry about which I was dead certain, and dead wrong: I had IBO for EDO at 25A: Nigerian native or language. And, I'll have you know, my answer was a correct answer - just not for this grid. Defintion of IGBO (also IBO):
  1. A member of a people inhabiting southeast Nigeria.
  2. The Benue-Congo language of the Igbo. (answers.com)
As for EDO - please read the following:

The Bini (also known as the Edo or Benin) are an ethnic group in Nigeria. They are the descendents of the people who founded the Benin Empire, which was located in south/mid-western Nigeria. The Bini speak Edo language, one of many languages in Nigeria. (answers.com)

EDO is common in crosswords as the former name of Tokyo under the Tokugawa Shogunate, 1603-1868. But EDO got the ERLE treatment today - a reasonably familiar word given a powerfully obscurifying clue. It happens. Anyway, IBO meant that I was UNC--B... where UNCONDITIONALLY was supposed to go. Eventually, I did the reasonable thing and accepted my lack of expertise on things Nigerian. I let IBO go, and magically, the grid righted itself. I ended up finishing the puzzle at the heart of one of the crosswordesiest words in the puzzle: ERG (30D: Dyne-centimeter). That section, with the very unknown APTERAL (22D: Having no aisles, in architecture), and the only barely familiar SINGER (35A: _____ Building, company headquarters erected in 1908 in New York City, at the time the tallest building in the world), had me walking rather than sprinting toward the finish line. The clue on SINGER probably shouldn't have "erected" in it, given the presence of ERECT elsewhere in the grid - at SIT ERECT (34D: Be no slouch in class?). But I doubt anyone noticed or cared.


  • 1A: Big catch of 2003 (Hussein) - Figured it probably wasn't a fish. And ELIAN was four years earlier. And didn't fit.
  • 20A: It's north of the Dodecanese Islands (Samos) - I had SAMOA for a few seconds.
  • 42A: Looped vase handle (ansa) - hi-end crosswordese. I can spell "hi-end" that way today, and today only, because HI-SPEED (1D: Like many Net connections) has given me license. Man, that answer threw me. "Is the Internet Hispanic?"
  • 45A: Title apiarist of a 1997 film (Ulee) - wow, this puzzle has a Lot of crosswordese. I guess good cluing and a lively grid can make the tedium of common fill virtually disappear. Cool.
  • 48A: French shooting match (tir) - new to me, though I remember "tirer" meaning (among other things) "to shoot, as a gun," so this answer must be related.
  • 49A: Cager who starred in "Kazaam" (O'Neal) - he's a double-threat, name-wise - SHAQ is another grid favorite.
  • 55A: Intrepid palace employees (tasters) - just saw a skit featuring a royal taster on the newish TV show "Important Things, with Demetri Martin," which I think helped me get this answer fast. I can't find that clip, so here's ... a clip:

Important Things with Demetri MartinWed 10:30pm / 9:30c
Brains - Jokes About Brains
Joke of the DayStand-Up ComedyFree Online Games

  • 6D: Serpent's tail? (-ine) - ah, a suffix. I had TEE.
  • 8D: Five-time winner of the Copa do Mundo (Brasil) - super-easy if you just translate the phrase to "World Cup"
  • 10D: Prizes for video production (AVAs) - Hmm, I know the VMAs. But not these.
  • 27D: Object of Cavaradossi's affection (Tosca) - never seen it, never heard it, don't know what it's about, and even though it shows up pretty often, I never have a problem. It's always one of my first opera-related guesses.
  • 40D: Southern snappers, briefly (gators) - piece of cake.
  • 43D: Old tombstone abbr. meaning "at the age of" (aetat) - wow, freaky. Here we go: "abbreviation of aetatis, abbreviation of anno aetatis suae, 'in the year of his or her age'; aged"; so, in case you missed that, AETAT is an abbreviation of an abbrevition, and you Do Not see that every day.
  • 51D: O.T. book (Num.) - I had NEH at first
  • 52D: Title of respect in 8-Down: Abbr. (Sra.) - the "of respect" part threw me. It's just a title, short for SENHORA, right? I guess it's more "respectful" than other things one might call a woman, but still, wouldn't [Title in 8-Down: Abbr.] have worked just as well?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Saturday LA Times solvers: check out Orange's write-up at "L.A. Crossword Confidential"


THURSDAY, Mar. 26, 2009 - E Safran (Chinese porcelain with a pale green glaze / Shipping mainstay of the 1600s / 1899 gold rush locale)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy/Medium


A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown –
Who ponders this tremendous scene –
This whole Experiment of Green –
As if it were his own!

-Emily Dickinson

(20A: Start of a poem by Emily Dickinson that continues "But God be with the Clown, / Who ponders this tremendous scene")

Word of the Day: CELADON - n.
  1. A pale to very pale green.
  2. A type of pottery having a pale green glaze, originally produced in China.
Difficulty level today is hard for me to gauge, as I'm guessing it's going to be all over the map. I first thought "Aargh, I don't know this poem," but I have some familiarity with Dickinson's sound and style (my sister wrote her senior thesis on Dickinson), so the quotation ended up being remarkably easy for me to unravel. Thank god it rhymed I can easily imagine the poem slowing people down a bit, especially in that northern section, which I escaped with very little damage but which looks daunting in retrospect. I had no idea what was meant by the phrase "Shipping mainstay" in 5D: Shipping mainstay of the 1600s (galleon). Actually, it was just the "mainstay" part that was confusing me. "Mainstay" is a nautical term, so I had no idea if it was being used metaphorically or literally. And I think I thought GALLEON was a coin. I entertained GALLEYS for a while. But a GALLEY is just a part of a ship, right? No, man, it's got two meanings too - it's a kind of ship and a ship's kitchen. Again, I'm just glad I didn't get pulled under up there. Also glad that I was reading a comic called GOLEM (5A: Dimwit, in Yiddish slang) at the time I solved this puzzle. As for LLOYD and OSLER ... no.

Let's play "Did He or Didn't He Know It - 'Celebrity' Edition"

  • 4D: Funnyman Don (Knotts) - Yes he did
  • 6D: Physician William (Osler) - No he did not
  • 18A: David _____ George, British P.M., 1916-22 (Lloyd) - No he did not
  • 8D: Singer with the 2008 gold record "And Winter Came ..." (Enya) - Yes he did (though not as clued). I guess I'll have to listen to the song to find out what happened next. (Just kidding - I'd be bleeding from my ears inside of a minute)
  • 39A: Former Nebraska senator James (Exon) - No he didn't
  • 31D: 1985 Meg Tilly title role (Agnes) - Yes he did (movie title = "AGNES of God")
  • 58D: Warren who founded a rental car company (Avis) = Yes he did
  • 24A: Barker of the Cleveland Indians who pitched a perfect game in 1981 (Len) - Yes he Guessed and was Right (I must have had his baseball card at some point, otherwise I don't know how I know him)
While the north should have slowed me down but didn't, there were two places where I fumbled around. I have probably seen CELADON before (46A: Chinese porcelain with a pale green glaze), but it did not come back to me at all today. Sounds like an island or a sea monster or something impressive and possibly nautical. Hey, CELADON KNOTTS. There's a puzzle theme there somewhere. The other part where I struggled a bit was in the far south, where the "V" was the last letter I put in the puzzle. I had ADAPT for RIVET at one point (62A: Fix), and I kept expecting it to fall into place with every new letter I fixed - and yet I ended up needing every letter to see it. TROVE (50D: Antique dealer's happy discovery) seems weirdly clued to me. A TROVE of what? Letters from George Washington to a brassy young dominatrix? (That would be good.) Or is a TROVE some valuable piece of antique furniture?

Bullet me:

  • 10A: International company with the slogan "Home away from home" (El Al) - I've seen this exact clue before and it still took me several crosses to get
  • 14A: North African city captured by the Allies in 1942 (Oran) - also the setting of Camus's "The Plague"
  • 28A: Refuge for David, in the Bible (Dead Sea) - almost 1400 ft below sea level.
  • 38A: Radio geek (ham) - reclued, this answer could have been paired with EMOTE (59A: Chew the scenery)
  • 21D: South American monkey (Titi) - TATI, TATA, DATA, DANA, DANE, DAVE etc. Sorry, got distracted there thinking of amusing ways to connect actor Jacques TATI and the TITI (in family-friendly fashion)
  • 25D: Monkeyshine (antic) - more monkey! In the ... singular? O ... K.

  • 29D: Philly hoopster (Sixer) - gigantic gimme. [Dr. J was one] might have been slightly tougher.
  • 30D: Extremely large, old-style (enorm) - this word shows up more often than you'd think, and is usually clued via its alleged "poetic" quality.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


WEDNESDAY, Mar. 25, 2009 - J E Rosman (Raw material for Wrigley, once / Umiak passenger / Heartbreaker who's back in town in a 1980 Carly Simon hit)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: -ATCHES -ITCHES - four theme answers are all two-word phrases wherein the first word ends in -ATCHES and the second word ends in -ITCHES

Word of the Day: CHICLE - A gummy exudate used in the manufacture of chewing gum. It is contained in the bark of a tall evergreen tree, Achras zapota (Sapotaceae), a native of Mexico and Central America. The latex is collected and carefully boiled to remove excess moisture. When the water content is reduced to 33%, the chicle is poured off and molded into blocks. The product is an amorphous, pale-pink powder, insoluble in water, and forming a sticky paste when heated. In the manufacture of chewing gum, the chicle is cleaned, filtered, and sterilized, and various flavoring materials and sugar are added. (Sci Tech Encyclopedia)

I didn't time myself on this one, but I wish I had, as I think it was the easiest Wednesdays I've done in ages. I filled in with no real problems and only a handful of hesitations. Everything just fell in the way I dream about when I dream about being super awesome. Perhaps this is because fully 12 letters of every 15-letter theme answer were known entities once you understood the theme (which, for most people, I'm guessing was right after solving the second theme answer). Further, there's nothing terribly loopy about any of the fill, except (for me) the clue on STEM (12D: Skier's turn). I have apparently performed a variant of the STEM (the snowplough) without even knowing that that was what I was doing. Interesting (more about the STEM turn here). That NE corner is the only place I can providing anyone any real resistance. I know that that's where my wife is currently stuck. She has one letter to go - the "M" in SAN ANSELMO / STEM. I knew SAN ANSELMO almost instantly, both because my aunt lives there, and because of the great Van Morrison song "Snow in SAN ANSELMO" - can't find any youtube or clips of it, sadly, so here's a little iPod widget with another song from the same album, plus a song that represents the other potentially rough part of that NE corner: "JESSE" (9A: Heartbreaker who's "back in town" in a 1980 Carly Simon hit). Oh, and to top things off, a little 31A:

Create a playlist at MixPod.com

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Debugs computer programs, e.g. (catches glitches)
  • 24A: Responds to rashes (scratches itches)
  • 41A: Does some mending (patches britches) - [Does some mending in the 19th century], maybe. "Britches," HA ha.
  • 54A: Lines up the sewing (matches stitches) - the answer that sounds most made-up to me; then again, I don't sew, so I have no basis for judgment

My Ideal Theme Answer for this puzzle:

[Dognaps] => SNATCHES BITCHES - come on, you know that's good.

I didn't really like the inclusion of both HIGH (in AIM HIGH - 40D: Set a lofty goal) and HIGHLY (43D: To a great degree) in the puzzle, but then I noticed that Ethiopia's Haile SELASSIE was there too, and that made the whole HIGH thing so perverse that I ended up kind of liking it. ARISTA crossing ARTISTA is a little much. The ATCHES/ITCHES thing means that we're already getting massive amounts of letter string repeats. Rein it in!


  • 32A: Collect splinters, so to speak (sit) - as in "... on the bench." "Ride the pine." ETC. ETC. (10D: Blah, blah, blah, for short)
  • 34A: Nutmeg State sch. (U Conn) - wrote in U TENN at first :(
  • 57A: Coral creation (atoll) - wrote in SHOAL at first. A SHOAL is made up of sand, silt, or small pebbles.
  • 59A: Only beardless dwarf (Dopey) - is that because he's pre-pubescent. He always creeped me out the most of the dwarves.
  • 18D: Umiak passenger (Inuit) - UMIAK, of course, means "woman's boat."
  • 25D: Tiramisu topper (cocoa) - mmmm, good stuff
  • 35D: What oysters "R" during "R" months (in season) - first, I can't recall ever seeing this wacky punning use of "R" as a verb in a clue that lacked a "?" at the end. Second, I had no idea about oysters and R-less months until I got crushed by a puzzle where one of the answers was RLESS. I stared and stared at it. Didn't help.
  • 42D: Raw material for Wrigley's, once (chicle) - Weird coincidence: I ate a whole package of CHICLEts yesterday, which almost never happens. I think it had been sitting on my candy rack for years (yes, I own a vintage metal grocery checkout lane candy rack with various Life Savers flavors represented on one of the main crossbars)
  • 48D: Brussels-based alliance (NATO) - Brussels? Hmm. Not sure I knew that.

Signed, Rex Parker, Kind of CrossWorld

LAT solvers: Amy Reynaldo's got today's Jack McInturff puzzle all written up over at "L.A. Crossword Confidential"


TUESDAY, Mar. 24, 2009 - P Harrison (Clanton at the O.K. Corral / Brother of Little Joe on '60s TV / Bargains for leniency)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium/Challenging

THEME: POLICE (62A: They can be found in 20- and 55-Across and 10- and 26-Down) - slang words for the POLICE are found at the beginning or end of non-police phrases

Word of the Day: ALGID -

  2. marked by prostration, cold and clammy skin, and low blood pressure - used chiefly of a severe form of malaria
Yesterday at the new L.A. Times crossword blog, I wrote about a Pancho Harrison puzzle that was, in many ways, the opposite of his NYT puzzle today. That puzzle had a very rudimentary, almost non-descript theme, but the fill was solid and uncringeworthy and even had some sparkle here and there. This puzzle has a Hot theme - one I did not pick up until very late, when I had to pick it up (in order to figure out what the hell was going on in my SE corner). The non-theme fill, however, is really rough in a few places. The SE was by far the weirdest.

First, I had trouble grasping the clues. None of the long Acrosses (all fine words) came to me at first, even with their first two letters in place. Is (0,0) necessarily the ORIGIN on a graph (59A: (0,0) on a graph). Do all graphs ORIGINate at that point? Or maybe that's just the technical term for that particular point. I guess that's it. No matter, ORIGIN did not spring forth. PO- did not give me POLICE, though I didn't spend much time contemplating what the theme answers had in common at that point. And SOLDER ... I was expecting an actual alloy name here, like, say (US) STEEL (21D: J.P. Morgan co.); instead I get a more general noun that means "Any of various fusible alloys, usually tin and lead, used to join metallic parts" (answer.com).

I have no complaint about the long Acrosses down there - I think they were clued at a slightly higher-than-Tuesday level of difficulty, but that's a very subjective call. What's not subjective is the horrid monstrosity that is ALGID (49D: Chilly). Never seen it, never heard of it, never. I already have a -GID word to describe cold, and that word is FRIGID. Why anyone thought we needed a second word is beyond me. I muddled my way to a slowish 5-minute-flat solving time, and then spent something close to 20 seconds just staring at the intersection of what turned out to be ADS (49A: Some Super Bowl Sunday highlights) and ALGID. The only letters I considered putting there for a while were "Y" and "T" (YLGID? TLGID?), both of which were clearly wrong (though when I finally put in "A," I wasn't exactly confident of that answer either). Football abbrev. in -DS is (almost?) always YDS or TDS. I checked every cross in ALGID (at that point, I hadn't really looked to see how POLICE was correct). Then started sticking in vowels, and ADS seemed right, so boom. Or thud. The end. I would like ALGID next to DEICE for their reverse takes on heat, but both words are phenomenally ugly, so I have to pass.

There was one other clunker section in the grid: the far east. IS AN (28D: "This ____ outrage!") next to NARD (29D: Source of a fragrant oil) next to GUTE (30D: "_____ Nacht" (German words of parting)) is aesthetically unpleasant. Here's the NARD rule. If you have a super ugly word, one that sounds and looks bad, like NARD, then you have to dress its neighbors up in ribbons and bows and Sunday finery, or else the Ugly will expand exponentially. Luckily, in this case, the Ugly was contained by the stalwart STAN THE MAN (10D: Musial's nickname).

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Adolescent boy's growth (peach FUZZ)
  • 10D: Musial's nickname (Stan THE MAN)
  • 26D: Dehydration may help bring this on (HEAT stroke) - another clue whose answer did not come easily
  • 55A: Bargains for leniency (COPS a plea) - had noun/verbtigo here at first and put an "S" at the end of the answer at first, thinking "Bargains" was a plural
If you can make it out of the ugly patches, there's some wonderful stuff here. The theme I already LAUDED (1A: Wrote an ode to). It's hard not to love colorful stuff like KANGAROO (39D: Emblem on the Australian coat of arms) and ALSO-RANS (57A: Dukakis in 1988 and Dole in 1996) and DOOFUS (6D: Goofball), though that last one took some work. I also, inexplicably, love the clue on DASHING (27A: "Jingle Bells" starter), perhaps because it evokes an entire song with just one word - a song that makes me happy and nostalgic as we now start to leave This Brutal Winter in the rearview mirror. I also have nostalgia for Joan JETT (41A: Joan of the Blackhearts), as I used to hang out at Round Table Pizzeria playing Donkey Kong and listening to "I Love Rock and Roll" over and over. Easily the best thing about 1982 for me.

Rubber Bullets:

  • 16A: Brighton bye-bye (ta-ta) - TA-TA would seem to have more to do with age than geography at this point. Feels antiquated, quaint. Do younger people in Britain say it?
  • 17A: Augments (adds to) - ugh, didn't know it immediately so put an "S" at the end. What's a DOSFUS!?
  • 25A: "I Pity the Fool" star (Mr. T) - "I Pity the Fool" was a TV show for about a minute in 2006. A reality series about MR. T. It's also MR. T's most famous catchphrase, which he originated as Clubber Lang in Rocky III.
  • 2D: Tree with catkins (alder) - never can remember this. The NW was another place that slowed me down a bit, though that was mainly the faulty of #$#ing U.N. DAY (3D: It's observed on Oct. 24). I demand to know who "observes" it. No one I know.
  • 9D: Clanton at the O.K. Corral (Ike) - well, I never heard of him, but he sounds reasonably famous, and the crosses were easy, so no complaints.
  • 52D: Al who created Fearless Fosdick (Capp) - yay, a comics gimme. Best of all - he's with the POLICE.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


MONDAY, Mar. 23, 2009 - R Sowell (Longtime Comiskey Park team, informally / Astronaut Shepard or Bean / Psychologist/writer LeShan)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Chuck it - all theme answers all have a [verb meaning 'throw'] + A + [noun] structure

Word of the Day: PICAYUNE (6D: Petty) - adj.

  1. of little value: PALTRY, MEASLY
  2. concerned with trifling matters; petty, narrow, or small-minded in point of view

As a noun, PICAYUNE refers to a Spanish half real piece formerly current in Louisiana and other southern states; also, something very small or of the least value (Webster's 3rd Intl)

A very easy puzzle with a forgettable theme but some great, great fill, especially for a Monday. LOOK MA (38A: Words cried before "No hands!"), it's PICAYUNE. PICAYUNE is dazzling stuff - why can't more early-week puzzles rock crazy-looking (and yet reasonably familiar) fill like that? I mean ... this puzzle is a @#$ing pangram! On a Monday? And it was still a Monday-level puzzle in terms of difficulty (I finished in a fast-for-me 3:06). The Scrabbly stuff didn't feel forced, it just felt entertaining. I'm really, really impressed. Wish the theme did more for me, but on a Monday, I guess I really don't care. I just want the grid to shine, and this one did.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Fix part of dinner with lettuce, carrots, peppers, etc. (toss a salad) - the phrase "tossed salad" is forever ... tainted, for me, by a Chris Rock routine wherein he explains what it means to "toss someone's salad" in prison. Lettuce is not involved.
  • 10D: Participate on Election Day (cast a vote)
  • 36D: Show childish anger (throw a fit)
  • 58A: Prepare to camp (pitch a tent)
Back to the interesting fill: CHISOX is a great baseball word (48D: Longtime Comiskey Park team, informally). I like it much more than BOSOX, despite my great love for the Red Sox as a team. CHISOX is sassy and out-of-the-ordinary, grid-wise, without being made-up or overly old-timey. LOOFAH is another cool word, and one I knew instantly but had trouble spelling (38D: Sponge used in a 39-Across). LU, LOU, LOOFAS, no, it's not plural you idiot, etc. Strangely, my only detectable slow-downs occurred there and at 1A, where nothing but nothing would come to me for 1A: Point the finger at (blame) except ACCUSE. I didn't pick it up until the third cross fell into place. Ugh. Otherwise, this thing went down fast. Two things that helped speed me up considerably. First, somehow AZORES just came to me (43A: Islands west of Portugal). I know it's not exactly a hard clue, but usually with islands and rivers I haven't actually visited, I need at least a cross or two. AZORES I got off just the "S." Second, there was EDA (44D: Psychologist/writer LeShan), whom I, and many others, know only because of crosswords. Her name is custom-made for the grid. She is first tier, prime choice, grade A crosswordese.


  • 40A: Retail giant selling dog food, birdcages and such (Petco) - where we buy our pet stuff. I don't like their logo, which I have feelings about only because I found myself staring at it for a long time two days ago as the dogs and I waited in the car for my wife to get the dog food. It's mainly the dog's right ear that bothers me - half lame umbrella, half cat-brain probe. See for yourself:

  • 21A: Bacon units (strips) - This clue makes me laugh. I don't eat bacon anymore, but I think you all should replace "strips" with "units." Does bacon come in "slabs?" I considered "slabs." I feel like there's another "S" word for bacon units, but I can't think of it.
  • 56D: Astronaut Shepard or Bean (Alan) - Bean? I know Orson Bean and Mr. Bean, but not this astronaut. When did he do his astronauting? Hey, he walked on the moon the same month I was born. Cool.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

New blog dedicated to the LA Times puzzle starts today: "L.A. Crossword Confidential." Rotating authors (I'm one of them). Aimed particularly at novice and casual solvers. We'll see what comes of it.


SUNDAY, Mar. 22, 2009 - J Pahk/M Matera (Eponymous Dr Alzheimer / Having only forepart visible beast in heraldry / Typeface imitative of handwriting)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Closing the Deal" - nine theme answers are all phrases that end with words that are also card games

Word of the Day: ISSUANT - adj.

  1. Heraldry. Designating an animal with only the upper part depicted.
  2. Archaic. Emerging.
An interesting theme that I never saw. Finished and then went back trying to understand what the theme could have been. It's obvious, really, but since none of the clues for the theme answers seemed to have any unifying principle, the theme never dawned on me. Admittedly, I wasn't looking too hard, but still, weird. I like the theme, even though I've never heard of the card game SET. I thought maybe the neighboring ZOOT SUITS was the theme answer, SUITS seeming a much more likely name for a card game, but no, symmetry would not allow for that. So I looked up SET, and there it is. A real thing.

Theme answers:

  • 25A: Painful prod (red-hot POKER)
  • 27A: Engagement gift (diamond SOLITAIRE)
  • 50A: Conflict of 1973 (Yom Kippur WAR)
  • 57A: Showcase Showdown prize, perhaps (dinette SET)
  • 67A: Fancy salad ingredients (artichoke HEARTS)
  • 83A: Speakeasy supply (bathtub GIN)
  • 92A: Subject of a nursery rhyme that has only eight different words (London BRIDGE)
  • 109A: Big name in real estate (Century TWENTY-ONE) - they do not write out the number, but OK
  • 119A: Classic name in chain restaurants (Pizzeria UNO) - if memory serves, many people across the country know Nothing of this Pizzeria. We have one in town, so no problem here.

What I didn't like so much about the puzzle was the deluge of answers that seemed not to be real things. Nutty names were the biggest problem. I have a lot of respect for a puzzle that is reasonably dense thematically and has a pretty high degree of Scrabbliness. And yet it felt a bit like the puzzle got ugly and iffy in places because the grid was straining to be so K- and Z-filled. Any one or two of the following names would be OK in a puzzle, but this many ... just hurt:

  • ROS (38D: Author Asquith of children's books)
  • ALOIS (34D: Eponymous Dr. Alzheimer)
  • LEE AAKER (65A: Star of 1950s TV's "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin") - this was the real groaner. I literally stopped my timer and looked it up once I got it. Ugh. The guy's name looks like a minor planet in the Star Wars universe. Maybe fans of "Duffy's Tavern" knew this. Not me.
  • ITURBI (69D: Pianist Jose) - I know that I have seen his name before, but that didn't help much today. I got two other names stuck in my head: Hideki IRABU and Claudio ARRAU (though perhaps if the clue had been asking for ARRAU, my brain would have gone to ITURBI - who knows?).

  • PYE (95A: English poet laureate Henry) - that little section of threes was a killer for me, as I can't spell TOW-HEADED (TOE!) and so had No idea what 85D: Certain m.p.g. rating: Abbr. was supposed to be. HE... HE... once I got the "W" then HWY became obvious.
  • EGDON (77D: Thomas Hardy's _____ Heath) - I've read 4-5 Hardy novels in my time, but all I remember in terms of geography is WESSEX.
  • NICOLE (41D: Designer Miller) - at least NICOLE looks like a name someone might actually have.
The cluing was also a bit too clever for its own good in places. I still don't understand the clue on UNIT (113D: Second, e.g.). Is it a math thing? A military thing? Is KTS supposed to be "karats?" As in gold. So pure (100%) gold is 24 KTS (49D: 24 of them = 100%: Abbr.)? I would have preferred a chess piece clue here, which is really, really saying something. Why would a comic, in particular, say "TOP THIS?" (84D: With 62-Across, comic's challenge). Is he or she at some kind of Comedy Slam? Sounds more like a rhetorical question than a "challenge."

Then there's the non-name stuff that didn't go down too well. NAOH is ugly as sin (111D: Sodium hydroxide, chemically). CLONK is in fourth place, at best, in the "Noises You Can Make From CL-NK" contest (35D: Dull, hollow sound). DAMOZEL (93D: Young woman, old style) appears to have modern currency only as the title of a painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "The Blessed DAMOZEL." Weird - those pre-Raphaelites were all self-conscious medievalists - that word was "old style" even to Rossetti. Speaking of old-style words, you'd have to be into heraldry to have any clue what ISSUANT was (98A: Having only the forepart visible, as a beast in heraldry). That whole MIRABEL section (88A: Montreal-_____ International Airport) was bad news for me. An airport I didn't know ... ITURBI and ISSUANT ... a singular @!@#ing KUDO (81A: Singular praise?). Aargh. RONDE was new to me (6D: Typeface imitative of handwriting), SPIREA stirred only dim memories (42D: Flowering shrub), and OZMA ended up, sadly, as OZMO - clearly a princess's name should end in "A," but ESOS was an instinctive entry (118D: Juan's "those") and I never thought to change it.

I ended up mixing up stuff I didn't know with ugly stuff in that last paragraph, so let's move on to the good stuff. BATHTUB GIN is fantastic, as are ZOOT SUITS (52A: Bygone party attire) and DINETTE SET. HATE MAIL (36D: Often-anonymous intimidation technique), while a downer, is fresh and original. CROW BAR (15D: One with prier engagements?) and TAKES A WALK (16D: Leaves) right next to each other makes me think of a very cool, very violent mob movie. You know, tell one guy to TAKE A WALK so you can beat the remaining guy with a CROW BAR. That's how it's done, right? Anyway, good, vivid stuff. Also like ARTICHOKE HEARTS being at the "heart" of the puzzle.


  • 21A: Manuscript marks noting possible errors (obeli) - I learned this from crosswords. Used in ancient manuscripts, just to be clear. Singular is "obelus" [from Late Latin obelus, Gr. obelos, spit]
  • 30A: In Sicily it's about 10,920 ft. high (Mt. Etna) - ever since my MT. ABO / MOABO disaster at the tournament, I'm kind of sour on mountain answers that include the "MT" as part of their names.
  • 76A: Man with cups and pieces (Reese) - cutish. I do love Reese's candy, in general.
  • 103A: "A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a _____; what else does a man need to be happy?": Albert Einstein (violin) - well, "woman" didn't fit, and then I got the "V" and remembered that Einstein played.
  • 9D: "Full House" actress Loughlin (Lori) - she might have been in the "WTF!?" category for many of you. Understandable. Sadly, I have a certain familiarity with bad TV, particularly bad bygone TV.
  • 33A: "Zoom-zoom" sloganeer (Mazda) - I wrote MIATA at first. That's partially right.
  • 88D: Home of Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie Woogie" (MoMA) - a museum in four letters, and the work is clearly modern art - there's really only one answer (though maybe the TATE has some modern stuff, I don't know). The painting has such a vibrant, evocative title. The painting itself looks like a road map to Toon Town or a badly frozen Pac-Man screen.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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