1986 Brad Davis film / SUN 10-31-10 / Jazz saxophonist/flutist Frank / 1987 Adrian Pasdar film / Athenian porch

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Fangs for the Memories" — Vampire movies, and then you draw a bat

Word of the Day: SAL soda (75D: ___ soda) —

A hydrated sodium carbonate used as a general cleanser.
• • •

Lots of pretty damned obscure movies, but a delightful puzzle experience nonetheless. A thematic tour de force, with tons of theme answers are a child's place mat activity at the end. None of the connect-the-dot letters are inside theme answers *except" the first "R" in VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, which I'm kind of obsessed with now, from a constructor's point of view. That's 18 "dots" for the drawing—to land that last one right inside a long theme answer ... that impresses me, somehow. I might just be naive. I'm wicked tired from waaaaaaaaaaalllllking so much today at the Rally For Sanity, so I don't know how much sustained writing I can do. How far did we walk? Well, we parked at Arlington Cemetery and walked to rally, so you do the geographical math. Mob scene. Public transportation largely useless (for those of us who didn't bother getting there at the crack of dawn). So: walking. Fun, but exhausting. Maybe I'll just pick at this thing for a few minutes at a time for the rest of the night. Maybe I'll make PuzzleGirl alternate 10-minute shifts with me.

Well she's out getting ice cream or something, so I'll have to forge ahead. I had two errors in this puzzle—one a stupid oversight, the other ... actually, the other wasn't an error, but a flat-out guess that proved correct. So the error—I doubt I ever even looked at the clue for 26A: High-water mark; I just have seen most of it filled in and figured, because of the theme, that the answer was BLOODLINE. Why not? I'd buy a "Concerto in B" by Gershwin (the Down cross). But no: FLOODLINE is the only thing that fits the clue. And the guess? The NAYA / SAL crossing. Never seen NAYA brand water, never Ever heard of SAL soda, so that "A," pfft. Honestly, that's a terrible clue for SAL. Rest of the puzzle was mostly EASY AS PIE (120A: "Piece of cake!"), or at least easy enough to hack through without much trouble. Never heard of many of the vampire movies, but those titles weren't hard to get.

Who orders a BANANA SHAKE? (4D: Fruit-based fountain treat)—never heard of such a thing, though of course I can imagine it. ROCOCO STYLE feels redundant (12D: What Chippendale furniture was made in). ROCOCO *is* a STYLE. Clue makes the answer fit, but :(

Theme answers:
  • 23A: 1922 Max Schreck film (NOSFERATU)
  • 56A: 1995 Eddie Murphy film (VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN)
  • 68A: 1931 Bela Lugosi film (DRACULA)
  • 97A: 1979 George Hamilton film (LOVE AT FIRST BITE)
  • 113A: 1987 Adrian Pasdar film (NEAR DARK) — directed by Kathryn Bigelow (who directed "The Hurt Locker")
  • 117A: 2008 Robert Pattinson film (TWILIGHT)
  • 125A: 1986 Brad Davis film (BLOOD TIES) — this last one appears to be very obscure—listed at imdb as "Il cugino americano," and appears to have ZERO to do with vampires. I ... don't understand.

  • 21A: Odd Fellows' meeting place (LODGE) — no idea what this means. Oddfellows are my wife's favorite candy from back home (New Zealand)
  • 55A: Saturnalia participants (FEASTERS) — "Saturnalia" makes me think of orgies, not feasting.
  • 61A: Athenian porch (STOA) — a crosswordy word that is just a reflex answer for me at this point, like STELE / STELA (which I would confuse STOA with if they weren't different letter counts)
  • 95A: Bygone flightless bird (MOA) — like Oddfellows, also from New Zealand.
  • 130A: Many visitors to Legoland (DANES) — Baffling. Aren't there Legolands of one kind or another all over the world? Is there some mother ship in Denmark?
  • 119A: Bones also called cubiti (ULNAE) — hey, new ULNA knowledge! But, really? Someone calls them that?
  • 118D: Jazz saxophonist/flutist Frank (WESS) — Uh ... OK, sure, why not? He needs a second "S," we'll give him a second "S."
  • 60D: Epoch in which mammals arose (EOCENE) — Would never know this epoch existed were it not for crosswords ... so many vowels, such a weird opening pair of letters ...
  • 72D: N.F.L. defensive lineman B.J. ___ (RAJI) — Uh ... OK, sure, why not? I wonder if there is anyone, anywhere in the world name WESS RAJI. Please write me if that is your name.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Hey, everybody. PuzzleGirl here. I managed to get out of writing anything about the puzzle by offering to take the kids out for ice cream. Worked like a charm! But Rex asked me to post some pictures from the rally today. You might have been under the impression that the rally was political in nature, but I think the following examples of rally signs clearly show that the people who attended had a wide variety of concerns/issues/opinions. Enjoy.

[Sahra Parker and PuzzleDaughter]

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Comintern creator / SAT 10-30-10 / Leandro's partner / Empathic counselor / William Herschel discovery 1787 / Treaty Fort McIntosh signer 1785

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Constructor: Barry C. Silk

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: OTTO II (31D: Holy Roman emperor, 973-83) —

Otto II (955 – December 7, 983), called the Red, was the third ruler of the Saxon or Ottonian dynasty, the son of Otto the Great and Adelaide of Italy. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was hard for me, especially in the bottom half. Sadly, most of the difficulty was due to my completely misreading a clue, and Continuing to misread multiple times, over the course of several minutes. The clue: 61A: Eponym of an Australian Open arena (ROD LAVER). What I read: 61A: Eponym of an Australian Open area. “There’s an Open Area in Australia? And ... it has an eponym??” I figured my geography just sucked and there was some large Open Area of Australia that I should just know. RED RIVER? That’s not an eponym. You’d think that between “arena” and the fact that “Open” was capitalized that I’d have figured it out. But no. Well, yes, eventually, but not for a while. Had BARN for BALE at 56D: “Oklahoma!” set piece, which didn’t help. At all. That whole (open) area down there in the SE is kind of ugly. Driving all those -ER answers into the SE corner like that! It’s not like this is a 60-worder. No need to cluster bomb -ERS like that.

There wasn’t much that I liked in this grid except B.J. THOMAS (34D: Singer with the 1966 hit “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”). Absurd proper nouns like EILAT (51A: Gulf of Aqaba city) and OTTO II (!?) (31D: Holy Roman emperor, 973-83) and CAPE CORAL (!?) (33D: Florida city on the Caloosahatchee) and WESER (?!) (7D: River to the North Sea), and the long, odd partial I QUOTE (3D: Lead-in to someone else’s words, after “and”) kept this from being terribly enjoyable. CHIPPEWA (1A: Treaty of Fort McIntosh signer, 1785) and ESCAROLE (58A: Common salad ingredient) and, to a lesser extent, EXTRA FINE (20A: Coin collector’s classification), are the only answers that really pop. POOR AT? OWES TO? MEAN TO? It’s all a bit awkward and lumbering, though I do kind of admire the aggressively 18th-century vibe of the puzzle, with both CHIPPEWA and OBERON (16A: William Herschel discovery of 1787) getting clues from 200+ years ago.

I’m writing this in northern Virginia—specifically, from the living room of PuzzleGirl, who is hosting me and my family this weekend. I’m writing in a Word document because she couldn’t figure out how to get me on to her wireless network ... only to find out that the problem was that she had given me the wrong password initially. Not that you need to know this, but I’m just saying: she just spent half an hour detectivizing the problem for me. She’s good people.

  • 22A: De Gaulle's predecessor (COTY) — Did not know this. Know COTY only as the fragrance ... guy?
  • 25A: 440 yards, for many runners (ONE LAP) — interesting. I always think of ONE LAP as a quarter mile ... which I guess that is. OK.
  • 43A: Empathic counselor of sci-fi (TROI) — she's super-common in crosswords. Yesterday BOI, today TROI. Yesterday RESODS, today ... RESODS (44D: Covers over, in a way)
  • 58A: Group 13 member, in chemistry (BORON) — The boron group consists of boron (B), aluminium (Al), gallium (Ga), indium (In), thallium (Tl), and ununtrium (Uut). (wikipedia)
  • 2D: El Cid player (HESTON) — A gimme. Otherwise, this NW corner might have been a lot harder than it was.
  • 5D: Marks in a casino (PIPS) — I had SAPS.
  • 6D: Leandro's partner (ERO) — I know these folks from the Marlowe poem "Hero and Leander." Leander swims the Hellespont—that's pretty much all I remember from that poem.
  • 47D: Stonemason's chisel (TOOLER) — Had to infer this one.
  • 50D: Comintern creator (LENIN) — short for The Communist International, dedicated to the overthrow of the "international bourgeoisie," among other things.
  • 52D: "The Frogs Who Desired a King" author (AESOP) — Not a tale I remember, but the animals made me think AESOP anyway.
  • 59D: Year the Visigoths invaded Italy (CDI) — I do not care for "CSI," but I would totally watch a show called "CDI."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Mingo player 1960s TV / FRI 10-29-10 / Longtime enemy Wonder Woman / Quaint humilator / Locale for Olivier Award winner

Friday, October 29, 2010

Constructor: Barry Boone

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: BREMEN (44D: State surrounded by Lower Saxony) —

The Free Hanseatic City of Bremen (German: Freie Hansestadt Bremen, pronounced [ˈbʁeːmən]) is the smallest of Germany's 16 states. A more informal name, but used in some official contexts, is Land Bremen ('State of Bremen'). // The state of Bremen consists of two separated enclaves: Bremen, officially the 'City' (Stadtgemeinde Bremen) which is the state capital, and the city of Bremerhaven (Stadt Bremerhaven). Both are located on the River Weser; Bremerhaven is further downstream and serves as a North Sea harbour (the name means "Bremen's harbour"). Both cities are completely surrounded by the neighbouring State of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen). The two cities are the only administrative subdivisions the state has. (wikipedia)
• • •

Liked this one OK. It has some fantastic mid-range answers (which, in this puzzle, are the longest answers), especially NUDE BOMB, which is a jolt from my childhood (54A: 1980 Maxwell Smart film, with "The"). Also really enjoyed FLEA BAG (40D: No posh hotel), DUNCE CAP (36D: Quaint humiliator), and the two-part BICYCLE / STAND (7D: With 6-Down, common sight outside a school building). The grid shape feels very ordinary, very common, like it was lifted right out of some generic themeless template. Its structure allows for words of only 8 letters or shorter—hence, a lot of tired, shortish stuff. High-end crosswordese like ORLE (46A: Shield border) and DENEB (45A: Star in the Swan constellation) and XIAN (23A: Capital of Shaanx province) and EXOCET (15A: Missile that sank a British destroyer in the Falklands War) rubs elbows with low-end crosswordese like INCAS and ACRO and AMO and DELE. Answers like LALALA, RESODS, SOLIDER, and NASTASE (24D: The court's Bucharest Buffoon) don't do much to endear the puzzle to me either. The puzzle is redeemed somewhat in the clues, many of which are quite clever. But I like my themelesses with somewhat more sizzly fill than this one provided. Did this one in 7-something, which is fast, but not record-fast. Didn't encounter any significant trouble. AVOCET for EXOCET started me off a little wobbly, and BREMEN was a complete unknown to me, but everything else went in fairly easily.

There's an interesting array of pop culture clues in this puzzle—I did not know the 10D: Longtime enemy of Wonder Woman (ARES), but the answer makes sense, given the classical context of her origins (e.g. I know WW worships Athena ... who, coincidentally, my daughter is dressing up as for Halloween this year). "Sk8er BOI" (50A: "Sk8er ___" (2002 top 10 hit)) I know just 'cause, and it was reinforced in my brain when it was mentioned recently on the (fabulous) podcast "The Bugle" (John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman). Avril Lavigne (the singer of "Sk8er BOI") is, for reasons too complicated and ridiculous to get into, part of a running joke on the podcast. I don't know who Mingo is (8D: Mingo player of 1960s TV), but I am vaguely familiar with the actor ED AMES (entirely because of crosswords). Looks like Mingo was the "American Indian friend" of Daniel Boone in the eponymous '60s TV series. Sounds like an evil space emperor, but I think I have him confused with Ming the Merciless and/or Mungo Jerry.

  • 31A: Company at the forefront of the dot-com boom (NETSCAPE) — Yes, I remember their browser well. '90s!
  • 44A: Club cousin (BLT) — sandwich, not card suit.
  • 51A: Locale for an Olivier Award winner (THEATRE) — no idea what to do with this one, but answer was fairly easy to infer—got TROUPE first (42D: 51-Across unit), oddly enough.
  • 9D: Sawyer's successor in Chicago (DALEY) — never heard of Sawyer, but Chicago-to-DALEY is a pretty easy move.
  • 11D: Discipline symbolized by a painted circle (ZEN) — don't think I knew that. Had the "Z" so getting the answer was easy anyway.
  • 12D: Style associated with washboards (ZYDECO) — off the -CO, actually wrote in ROCOCO.
  • 51D: Alternative to a carpet lift (T-BAR) — wow, never heard of a "carpet lift." It's essentially a conveyor belt. They didn't have these where I skied as a kid.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. One of my own crossword puzzles is featured today at Brendan Emmett Quigley's (fabulous) crossword site. Kindly check it out.

P.P.S. This made me laugh (contains profanity)

P.P.P.S. Back in September, I designed a puzzle for tomorrow. You can get it here (as .puz file or printable .pdf), or print it out below.

The Washington Brawl

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Yankee manager who wore #37 / THU 10-28-10 / Poison of life per Bronte's Rochester / Barnard's locale Great Expectations / Greene Godfather gangster

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Constructor: David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: A Halloween riddle...

Q: WHAT IS A / GHOST'S FAVORITE / DESSERT? (17A: With 27- and 35-Across, a Halloween riddle)

A: BOOBERRY PIE AND / I SCREAM (43A: With 60-Across, answer to the riddle)

Word of the Day: Picaroon (43A: Picaroon=>BANDIT) —

    1. A pirate.
    2. A pirate ship.
• • •

Pretty easy, though a barrage of annoying, gnat-like little proper nouns kept me from flying through this thing as fast as I thought I should have. I didn't care too much for this Halloween-week offering. Too cutesy. Pulled straight from a joke book for third-graders. Much preferred yesterday's simple, smooth, clever spookfest. This tired groaner isn't fit to hold center stage in a NYT puzzle. As for the gnats:
  • 15A: ___ Greene, "The Godfather" gangster (MOE) — seen the movie, of course, but the name just didn't come. I wanted ABE (likely bec. of Vigoda)
  • 51A: Italian TV channel (TRE) — I still can't really believe this clue is serious. How in the world should I know an Italian TV channel? Or is the idea that it's just a number ... channel three? Weird.
  • 3D: Elaine ___, George W. Bush's only labor secretary (CHAO) — I'm sure I've seen her and been flummoxed by her before. The only CHAO I know readily is Knives CHAO, a major character in the "Scott Pilgrim" comics (and, I assume, the movie, though I haven't seen it). Although her name's spelled CHAU, so nevermind.
  • 39D: Barnard's ___, locale in "Great Expectations" (INN) — ??? I see a theme developing. Minor character in a movie, obscure foreign TV channel, minor figure in a pres. admin., some place in a book ... clearly the cluer is trying really hard to throw down little speed bumps, likely anticipating that the hackneyed joke will be far too easy for Thursday solvers to get...
  • 42D: Debbie who won three swimming gold medals at the 1968 Olympics (MEYER) — I have some vague memory of having encountered her in crosswords past.

Gotta go finish grading exams so I can get out of town this weekend without too much work hanging over my head. Also, I want to get back downstairs to catch the end of the Giants/Rangers game. So ... Let's see ... what's left to say. Only real trouble spot of any size was the NE, where I had the tail ends of all the 7-letter Acrosses, but couldn't bring any of them down! Unh! Of those three answers, I'm most embarrassed by not getting BRIDGES much, much sooner (7A: George Washington and others). The only answer my brain really wanted was GEORGES, which, as you can see, is ridiculous. Never read "Jane Eyre" (that I can recall), but that awesome Rochester quote kind of makes me want to (16A: "The poison of life," per Brontë's Rochester). My first thought upon reading that clue: ABSINTHE. I had an absinthe cocktail this past weekend in New York. Surprisingly delicious. My friend and host (who paid, god bless her) just kept ordering interesting-sounding cocktails, then not liking them and passing them down to me and our mutual friend, who liked them quite well, thank you very much. My original order was a whisky drink with cracked-pepper-infused Sazerac rye and some kind of ginger liqueur and possibly something else in an old-fashioned glass, on the rocks. It was bleeping brilliant. Loved seeing YAKIMA in the grid (45D: Washington city, river or tribe)—I know it well because a. my father grew up in the state of Washington and we went there every summer for years, b. Raymond Carver (one of my favorite writers) grew up in YAKIMA, c. my friend Robert used to call games for the YAKIMA Bears.

And so to bed.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Ill-fated ship of film / WED 10-27-10 / 1920s chief justice / 1955 novel made into 1962 1997 films / QB's utterance

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Constructor: Jay Kaskel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: COUNT DRACULA — four answers have a draculicious sound to them (clued with four "?"-style clues)

Word of the Day: "The POSEIDON Adventure" (9D: Ill-fated ship of film) —

The Poseidon Adventure is a 1972 American action-adventure disaster film based on the novel of the same name by Paul Gallico. It concerns the capsizing of a luxurious ocean liner by a tsunami caused by an under sea earthquake and the desperate struggles of a handful of survivors to journey up to the bottom of the hull of the liner before it sinks. // It won the Academy Award for Best Song for "The Song from 'The Poseidon Adventure'" (also known as "The Morning After"), which became a hit single for Maureen McGovern, as well as winning an Academy Award for Special Achievement in Visual Effects. Shelley Winters was also nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a film for the role. The cast of the film includes five past Academy Award winners - Winters, Gene Hackman, Jack Albertson, Red Buttons and Ernest Borgnine - as well as numerous Academy Award-winning off-screen artists and technicians such as the film's composer John Williams, screenwriter Stirling Silliphant and editor Harold F. Kress, to name just a few. Parts of the movie were filmed aboard the RMS Queen Mary. (wikipedia)

[Wow, this song is Horrible]

• • •

Cute theme, interesting grid, not an obscurity in sight (with nifty little bonus theme answers in FANG62A: Part of a vampire — and GORIER34A: Displaying more violence). Tough getting started as the theme answers and theme-revealer are mutually referential (thus offering no initial help), but once I shoved REALITY BITES into place (square by square), and BLOOD showed up in the next theme answer, I had a good idea what I was dealing with. Still, struggled briefly in the NE (never saw "The POSEIDON Adventure," so that ship was Nowhere on my radar), and also briefly in the NW (tried NO DICE, NO SALE, and NO SOAP (!?!?) before NO DEAL (2D: "Sorry, Charlie")). But I absolutely killed the bottom half of the puzzle and ended up with a fairly normal Wednesday time in the end.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Comment on life by 52-Across? ("REALITY BITES")
  • 28A: Deposit and withdrawal site for 52-Across? (BLOOD BANK)
  • 43A: Crib plaything for a young 52-Across? (BAT MOBILE)
  • 35A: Result of an encounter with 52-Across? (PAIN IN THE NECK)

I GUESS (46D: "Um ... OK.") you could consider ATHROB a nod to the horror theme (1D: Like the heart during a horror movie). Ditto HEROINE, as clued (49A: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, e.g.). Not a bad little Halloween-week puzzle, all in all.

  • 16A: Makes less than a killing (DOES OK) — "a killing" is not on any scale that I'm aware of, making "less than" an odd direction.
  • 60A: Frozen water, to Wilhelm (EIS) — Also, to Werner. And Waldheim. And presumably all Germans, whether their names begin with "W" or not.
  • 39D: QB's utterance (HUT) — this may be the first time anyone's ever used "QB" and "utterance" in the same phrase. Fine word, but not a sports word. "Whilst we were in the huddle, Brett Favre once quipped..." Um, no.
  • 47D: 1955 novel that was made into 1962 and 1997 films ("LOLITA") — teaching this in my 1950s Crime Fiction course this term. Movie-wise, I highly recommend the 1962 film [two Shelley Winters films in one puzzle!] and highly recommend that you avoid the horrid, humorless 1997 adaptation at all costs.
  • 53D: 1920s chief justice (TAFT) — in four letters, I knew it was him, but I forgot that he was chief justice well *after* he was president. TAFT is from Ohio. Crosswords will ask you to know this at some point. Trust me.
  • 54D: Subject of the book "Six Armies in Normandy" (D-DAY) — second "D" was the very last letter I filled in. Before I read the cross clue, the only answer that was popping into my head was DRAY...
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. "Puzzling Future" — article on crosswords featuring interviews with me and other Pomona College students/alums — is now online here.


Event of 10/30/10 / TUE 10-26-10 / Sobriquet for Bill O'Reilly / Eric who played Hulk 2003 / 1918 song girl whose name sung stutter

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Constructor: Chris Handman

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: 10/30/10 — tribute puzzle dedicated to this weekend's RALLY TO RESTORE SANITY (1A: With 17-Across, event of 10/30/10), hosted by Jon STEWART (41A: Organizer of the 1-/17-Across), and MARCH TO KEEP FEAR ALIVE (54A: With 65-Across, event of 10/30/10), hosted by Stephen COLBERT (39A: Organizer of the 54-/65-Across), both being held in Washington, D.C.

Word of the Day: Michael CERA (31D: Michael of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World") —

Michael Austin Cera (pronounced /ˈsɛɹə/; born June 7, 1988) is a Canadian actor best known for his roles in Arrested Development, Superbad, and Juno. Cera received two Canadian Comedy Award Best Actor nominations in 2008 for his work in Juno and Superbad, winning for the latter. Since 2008, Cera has starred in Year One, Youth in Revolt, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Paper Heart and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. (wikipedia)
• • •

Well, I knew this one was coming (I'll tell you how later), but I didn't know what it would look like, exactly. Don't like the non-symmetry of the theme answers, or the arbitrary (and equally non-symmetrical) bonus theme answers (PAPA BEAR and EMMY) (6A: With 10-Across, sobriquet for Bill O'Reilly used by 39-Across and 72A: Award won for 39- and 41-Across's programs). Theme answers also Very (too) easy to get if you are aware of the march/rally, and (probably, I guess) hard as hell if you somehow aren't. The grid as a whole seems pretty solid, with LADY LUCK (28A: Gambler's best friend?) and ANATHEMA (48A: Object of loathing) and AIR BALL (7D: Complete miss in basketball) and TAG TEAM (46D: Wrestling duo) providing some lovely (and, ironically, symmetrical) zing.

Strangely (considering I'm going to the march/rally) I don't have much to say about this one. There it is. . . Lots of cross-referenced theme clues are a minor annoyance. Michael CERA and Eric BANA (10D: Eric who played the Hulk in 2003) are important actor names to know, as they will likely become 4-letter crosswordese in the near future, if they aren't there already. The only answer I had any trouble with today was, briefly, OMB (21A: White House fiscal grp.) — it's the Office of Management and Budget, but OMB is not an initialism I see much, so I needed crosses to pick it up.

Went to doctor today re: sinus issues (ugh). We'll see how long treatment takes to help ... already a little better, but this *#$& has been fluctuating so much that I am not allowing myself to be optimistic yet. How is this relevant? I'm very tired, and going to bed now.

[32D: 1918 song girl whose name was sung with a stutter]

See you tomorrow,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Guitar accessory that adds vibrato / MON 10-25-10 / Angsty music genre / Silents star Normand / Comeuppance for evil actions

Monday, October 25, 2010

Constructor: Jonah Kagan

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: STARTS WITH A BANG (39A: Has an exciting opening number, say ... or what the answer to each starred clue does?) — theme answers start with BOOM, WHAM, BAM, and POW, respectively

Word of the Day: WHAMMY BAR (11D: *Guitar accessory that adds vibrato) —

A whammy bar, tremolo arm/bar, or vibrato arm/bar is a component of a guitar, used to add vibrato to the sound by changing the tension of the strings, typically at the bridge or tailpiece. The whammy bar enables the player to quickly vary the tension and sometimes the length of the strings temporarily, changing the pitch to create a vibrato, portamento or pitch bend effect. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was both more interesting and slightly tougher than most Monday puzzles. Still easy, of course, but strange enough in cluing (16A: Like some on-the-spot wireless networks for AD HOC?), and filled with enough mildly odd proper nouns (LETO, MABEL (38A: Silents star Normand)) to keep things from being over toooo quickly. I'd never heard of a WHAMMY BAR, so that right there was enough to set me back to something closer to Tuesday time. The duller short stuff is hardly noticeable given the lovely mid-range stuff like MARTIANS (5D: Invaders in an H.G. Wells story) and BAD KARMA (9D: Comeuppance for evil actions, supposedly) and HOT TODDY (42D: Warm bedtime beverage). All in all, an exemplary Tuesday-ish puzzle. Here's a STRANGE coincidence (53A: Bizarre), given the theme of the puzzle—the name of the conference at which I gave a keynote address this past weekend was entitled "KAPOW!"

Thanks to my guest writers for covering for me this weekend. I'm off again this coming weekend, but I think I'll be able to maintain the blog myself for that stretch. I'll be in D.C. visiting PuzzleGirl and attending the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally/march with my family. Should be a great time — assuming I can figure out why I'm having such stupid trouble breathing through my stupid nose for the past few months (and esp. the past week). I'm turning into some kind of troglodyte mouth-breather for no apparent reason, esp. at night (horrible!!!). It's making me a bit murderous. But that's really neither here nor there where you're concerned.

I like that BAD KARMA intersects DEATH SPASM. It also intersects PRAY TO BOWIE, thus suggesting a way *out* of BAD KARMA as well as a possible consequence of it. Speaking of SPASMs, I capped off my weekend away from home by seeing comedian Louis CK last night in Ithaca. I have literally never seen a stand-up comedy show live, but I like Mr. CK, and his F/X TV show, so much, that I decided to give it a shot (actually, my thoughtful wife noticed he was playing, bought the tickets, picked me up from the bus station, provided me with snacks for the car, and drove me straight to Ithaca to see him, god bless her). Anyway, I have never laughed so hard in my life. Well, I have, but only with my very best friends about ridiculous things. So technically I should say that I've never laughed so hard at a stranger. Before the show started, the guy sitting behind us was Such a douchey idiot that I was sure he was going to annoy us during the performance, but he didn't get a chance because even he was laughing so hard he couldn't breathe well enough to say any more douchey things. Louis CK is a (very profane) artist. Recommended ++. I'd play you a clip, but I'd probably get angry, offended letters. Oh, wait, here's one that played on network TV; that should be OK.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Toy that's thrown (BOOMERANG)
  • 11D: *Guitar accessory that adds vibrato (WHAMMY BAR)
  • 35D: *Hoodwink (BAMBOOZLE)
  • 64A: *Situation set to explode (POWDER KEG)
I'm wiped-out from my weekend — haven't had a decent night's sleep in I can't remember when — and I'm *way* behind on my teaching work, so I gotta run.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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Former Buffalo Bills great Don / SUN 10-24-10 / The Altar / 1960s chess champion Mikhail / Seven-line poem

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Risky Business" — Casino puns. Also: Burt Bacharach.

Word of the Day: OROZCO (31D: "The Epic of American Civilization" muralist) —

José Clemente Orozco (November 23, 1883 – September 7, 1949) was a Mexican social realist painter, who specialized in bold murals that established the Mexican Mural Renaissance together with murals by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and others. Orozco was the most complex of the Mexican muralists, fond of the theme of human suffering, but less realistic and more fascinated by machines than Rivera. Mostly influenced by Symbolism, he was also a genre painter and lithographer. Between 1922 and 1948, Orozco painted murals in Mexico City, Orizaba, Claremont, California, New York City, Hanover, New Hampshire, Guadalajara, Jalisco, and Jiquilpan, Michoacán. His drawings and paintings are exhibited by the Carrillo Gil Museum in Mexico City, and the Orozco Workshop-Museum in Guadalajara.[1] Orozco was known for being a politically committed artist. He promoted the political causes of peasants and workers. (wikipedia)
• • •

SethG here, talking about casino puns. They're puns. About casino games, mostly, or at least (in the case of the OTB and maybe STAKE) betting.

Theme answers:
  • 22A: London-based place to play the ponies? (OTB IN ENGLAND). "Oh to be in England" is the first line of Home Thoughts from Abroad, by Browning. Not to be confused with Home Thoughts from ABOARD (1D: "All ___!"), which is pretty boring since most boards can't think.
  • 30A: J. D. Salinger character's favorite game? (HOLD 'EM CAULFIELD). By a far stretch the most awesome of the theme entries, and I don't think I'm just saying that because I play hold 'em and love Salinger. Wouldn't surprise me at all to learn this was the seed entry.
    Not my favorite clue, though--Hold 'em Caulfield sounds more like a nickname for the guy who plays the game than the game itself, though the clue references the game.

  • 48A: Game played with dice set on fire? (CRAPS SUZETTE). Flambé! Tasty, when it's the crêpe. Less so when it's taken literally. Perhaps 99A: Actress Langdon (SUEANE)'s original name was SUZETTE before she made up a shortened form?
  • 64A: One-armed bandits? (SLOTS OF LUCK). Without the question mark, this would be a perfectly fine clue for SLOTS.
  • 71A: Relative of a bingo caller? (KENO SPEAKER). A puzzle I blogged about here last year included JOHN MAYNARD KEYNOTES as its central theme answer. It was clued incorrectly, referencing the economist instead of the boat captain. The economist's speeches were JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES KEYNOTES.
  • 88A: Card game played Reynolds's way? (BURT BACCARAT). Heh, he said Reynolds's. This was the first theme entry I got. Everything I know about baccarat I learned from Ian Fleming novels. Did you know Burt Bacharach wrote the score for Casino Royale? The 1967 version--in the new one, with Daniel Craig, they play hold 'em instead of baccarat.

  • 105A: "Please consider playing the wheel again"? (DON'T ROULETTE OUT) I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. After thinking about it for a while after I finished the puzzle, I at least figured out that it's a play on "Don't rule it out."
  • 118A: Pot with a pile of chips? (STAKE PLATTER) I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean, but I assume it's a play on "steak platter". Is a platter a kind of pot?
  • 18A: One of the Three B's (BACH). The others are BURT and ARACH.
  • 21A: Film festival name since 1990 (SUNDANCE). This was named after Robert Redford's character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

  • 25A: Street bordering New York's Stuvesant Town (AVENUE C). As opposed to a different Stuyvesant Town. Do I have to tell you how many songs BB wrote for Avenue Q? C also 16D: Flashlight battery (C CELL).
  • 29A: Laughing (RIANT). This is apparently a word.
  • 38A: Donut shape (TOROID) is from a different root than 70A: Participants in an annual run (TOROS). I really wanted the latter to be a turkey trot of some sort.
  • ROT STAC SCOTTO TAC. I really wanted these to be words of some sort.
  • 114A: Split personality? (CROATIAN). This makes a lot more sense if you know that Split is a city in Croatia. I, for example, did not know that.
  • 3D: TV character with dancing baby hallucinations (BEETS).
  • 9D: L overseer (CTA). The Chicago Transit Authority runs the elevated trains.
  • 20D: N.B.A. star nicknamed the Candy Man (ODOM) is Lamar Odom, not Sammy Davis Jr.
  • 43D: Rock band with an inventor's name (TESLA). So 111A: Alphabetically first inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (ABBA) is, among other things, the Hebrew word for father. When I was in 3rd grade, before I actually knew anything about music, I used to confuse them with Black Sabbath.
  • 46D: Tropical menace (ANACONDA). I actually tried to fit GOLCONDA at one point for 123A: Vine-covered colonnade (PERGOLA). This makes me think of Sir Mix-A-Lot, but I'll spare you the link. Same for 90D: Smooth operator (ROUE) and Sade.
  • 57D: Give for free (COMP). Say, in a casino. Or maybe tickets to a Bacharach show.
  • 72D: Hall & Oats, e.g. (POP DUO). Burt Bacharach, on the other hand, is often a solo act. Pop is also the 11 seed in the Women's division at this week's USA Ultimate Club Championship tournament.
  • 95D: Trial of the century defendant (LOEB). Of the last century. When I think of Loeb, I think of her wedding for some reason. I was not there.
  • 98D: "Shanghai Express" actor (OLAND) is old.
  • 76D: Coach Dick in the N.F.L. Hall of Fame (LEBEAU). My best and worst moments in solving the puzzle, which you should feel free to skip over if you hate football. This totally threw me off, because Dick LeBeau was inducted into the Hall of Fame just this year for (at least officially) his accomplishments during his 14-year playing career (for the Lions, Rex's team), not for his 36+ years as a coach or his 50+ years in the league. He's currently the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, my team, about whom I pride myself on knowing everything that's important to know. I know who he is, of course, so I'm totally embarrassed by how long it took me to come up with his name when I had something like LEBxxU in place.

    And since we're on halls of fame, because I can, here's audio from Myron Cope, the Steelers' radio color commentator from before I was born until just before his death a few years ago. (When he passed away, my parents called at 6am to make sure I heard the news from them.) He's the only football commentator in the National Radio Hall of Fame.

    I'm currently cat-sitting for Thelma and Louise, but when they go back home I'm planning to get a cat and name him Myron. I can't watch the following video without getting chills, and if you grew up with me or spent any significant time in Pittsburgh in the same era, I'm guessing you can't either.

    My towel and I will be at McGovern's for the Miami game, today at 107D: Common time for a duel (NOON). Feel free to stop by and say hi!

Okay, I've rambled enough. Time for your Tweets of Last Week, puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse:
Rex will be back tomorrow, but I'm sure we'll get more Andrea soon.

Signed, SethG, Royal Vizier of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


1969 Peace Prize grp. / SAT 10-23-10 / "84 Charring Cross Road" author Hanff / 2008 book "How to Break a Terrorist" / "King Joe" composer

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Constructor: Will Nediger

Relative difficulty: Medium


Thank you and good night!

Hi! It's Andrea Carla Michaels again, held over one more night, because Rex is still gone (Because what happens in the Village of Hempstead, about 25 miles (40 km) east of New York City, stays in the Village of Hempstead, about 25 miles (40 km) east of New York City … especially if there is an LIRR strike!)

NO NO NO NO there is no strike. Where do you think he is, France? He just asked if PuzzleGirl and I would step in one more time. Because Angela is crazy busy with her new job, I will babble and PG will embed.

I am tempted to just have a one-word post … that word being SHATNERESQUE!!!!!!! And maybe throw in a video of Kevin Pollak doing William Shatner doing James T. Kirk doing Shakespeare … but then all our heads would implode and there may be a good puzzle coming up Sunday!

Plus Will Nediger who is fast becoming one of my favorite constructors deserves much more space and praise than one word! Glancing at the database, he seems to only have been making puzzles for about five years, and they are mostly Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays awash with Z's and Q's and J's. I mean REALLY awash!

Remember that Sunday that was all long phrases starting with Q and A like QUIET AMERICAN, QANTAS AIRWAYS? Or the one where he had like ten words that he added a QU to (SQUEAL OF APPROVAL, QUEASY RIDER)? Or that composer one (BIZET SIGNAL, PLAY LISZT). We are talking serious puzzle genius here!

This one is an X short of a pangram, but 27D "Shell Alternative" (ESSO) has been renamed EXXON, so I count that.

Where to begin? The NW corner overall had a slightly negative vibe, what with NO NO NO NO, I DARE NOT, NONE, and, if you speak franglais, I suppose IN ON can be parsed I, NON. But what fun, imagining all the possibilities for 1A "Couples' activities once considered scandalous." My first instinct was SWAPPING, but finally decided it may still be slightly scandalous … in parts of Fresno. WALTZING? Who knew? WALTZING must have been the Lambada of its day. But what day exactly was that?

Yesterday I posted a film clip of "I, ME, MINE" that featured John Lennon and Yoko Ono WALTZING … and just because I love him and that clip made me cry, I will post it again. Oh no? (Ono?) Who's gonna stop me?

My biggest dilemma was 43A "Athlete stripped of 1994 national title." I mean, which sport? It's a sad state of AFFAIRs that it could have been any sport. Like there was that Canadian runner who had his medals taken away, and what about Flo-Jo, and all the steroid baseball guys … and the ones that bet on their own teams … and that swimmer … and the Tour-de-France bicyclist … and that African runner who may be a man. I mean, who hasn't had their title stripped?

But in the end it was just that mean skater girl, TONYA HARDING. Though, I can't believe that was 1994 and I can still hear Nancy Kerrigan crying over and over again "Why me? Why meeee?" So many times that I started to feel a weird, misplaced temptation to break her other knee. (By the way, I will actually forgive TOO HARD crossing with HARDING, because I am Queen … for a Day!)

In a psychic (but wrong) moment, I actually had YA in the spaces above the YA in TONYA, because my initial entry for 38A "I'm gone" (ADIOS) was SEE YA. I didn't change SEE YA to ADIOS till I got the S from SAVANNA (39D "Zebra zone"). But what the heck are zebras doing in Georgia?!

Do you see how clever Will JKQXZ Nediger slipped the Z's into the Zebra zone clue even when they weren't in the answer? I actually considered Zambia and Tanzania first. Thank god they were both too short and too long, respectively.

JAI ALAI (53A Activity requiring three walls) all spelled out elevated it from crosswordese to fabulousness. Plus the little classical cluster of JUNO and ARGO was saved by making the former a film reference.

So other than little cleanups along the way, e.g. 58A Coo had to become CAW and 14D Cows transmogrified into EWES … (Damn, I keep trying to type transmoogrified as a little joke and spellcheck keeps correcting it.) Plus I had to change my STUFFED shirt to a more demure V-NECKED one.

HELENE/HEREIN gave me pause, as HELENo/HERoIN seemed more amusing.

Yet again, my illiteracy loomed as I haven't read "84 Charing Cross Road," but I did see the film, and HELENE seemed a fitting name for the Anne Bancroft character. (My mom went to high school with her so we had to see every movie of hers that ever came out … and this one isn't so bad. It has Anthony Hopkins and Dame Judy Dench … and it's based on a true-story.) Never mind the Charing Cross, I have to discuss the crazy-assed-possibly-Natick-y-Z AL ZARQAWI/FOOZLE cross. Hint: When in doubt, Will Nediger + Saturday = Z! FOOZLE?! OK, so golf is filled with words like FOOZLE and MULLIGAN and, um, PAR.

30D "Fire man?" was clever. SAINT ELMO, patron saint of fire and being tickled.

My final entry was the last letter in AL ZARQAW- . So, what was the first letter of 42A "1969 Peace Prize grp."? I had – LO, so I had a choice: I was pretty sure the PLO hadn't won any peace prizes … yet. ELO seemed more likely to have orchestrated Electric Lights than a peace treaty … and J.LO would have been a very little Jenny from the Block in those days, if she were even alive. (Actually, Ms. Lopez coincidentally was born in 1969, but I don't think they give out peace prizes just for being born … yet). So, by process of elimination, it must be ILO, the International Labour Organization. (OK, I admit I googled that and J.Lo's bday post-solve).

And now, I must leave you .… I know I'm going to be up all night as it is, wondering what exactly is "discreet" about punishment meted out in the WOODSHED. Perhaps a couple is getting the strap for WALTZING??! Will Nediger, you naughty naughty boy! Thank you for this dance. ;)


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