Many viviparous births / FRI 9-30-11 / Muleta material / Toppers popular with jazzmen / Wheelie supporter / Natures lay idiot I taught thee to love penner

Friday, September 30, 2011

Constructor: Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none, except for that diagonal line of Ks through the middle 

Word of the Day: Muleta (31D: Muleta material => FLANNEL) —
A short red cape suspended from a hollow staff, used by a matador to maneuver a bull during the final passes before a kill. (
• • •

Pretty easy except for the SW corner, which stopped me for what must have been a couple minutes. PINKY for PIGGY (38D: Little digit? — an error I'm betting tons of people made) threw me, and then when I saw it was probably wrong, taking it out did nothing (at first), because several of the clues down there were tenuous, vague, or convoluted.  I had YELPS correct (50A: Sounds from a 3-Down), but something YELPS when it's hurt. Little yip dogs, like TERRIERs, yip (3D: One producing 50-Across). They yip. But no matter, I had that right. The main issue down there is GINGERS (44A: Choices for snaps). It's horrible in the plural (unless you are referring to slang for redheads), and it's made more horrible here by a clue that makes no sense. I know what ginger snaps are, but I can't imagine anyone saying "What flavors [plural!?] will I choose for my snaps? I know. GINGERS!" Having a crummy plural plus a completely crummy clue topped off by the intentional vagueness of "snaps" (I was thinking pictures, for a bit), made my eventual success into whatever the opposite of an "aha moment" is. An "ugh moment," maybe. Too bad, as this grid is mostly well filled, esp. for a puzzle with such a low word count. No idea what those Ks are doing there. I guess they look nice. Is this product placement for Calvin Klein (CK)? Weird.

Once again, I maintain that only Patrick Berry can fill grids like this very well. He probably would never have a. repeated -LESS, b. repeated BACK, or c. had two answers that shared a *six*-letter string. Twice ("CKLESS" and "INGERS"). That said, there's hardly any of the usual forced fill that sinks the typical overambitious Joe Krozel puzzle, so this is definitely a step in the right direction. Had to go pretty far for that RENO'S clue (6D: "___ Most Wanted" ("best-of" compilation of a popular TV cop show)), but otherwise, everything else seems well within the land of common knowledge. There's some trying too hard to be clever and not quite pulling it off, or pulling it off horribly awkwardly, as in the clue on TOM (4D: Petty recording) and POSTBOX (24D: London letter getter). Misdirection in clues is great. Torturing normal phrasing in order to pull of some bit cuteness, not so much.

Started off by going SRTA to VARMINT to LOVE TAP. Not sure how I got VARMINT (15A: Coyote, say, to a Western rancher) from just the "T," but I did. NEUTRON (22D: Deuterium has one) and COASTAL were both easy, and both gave me access to the center of the grid. Threw down SPACKLING off just the "S" and hacked away at things from there. Had CALMLY and SANELY before SAFELY and WRINKLED before FRECKLED (31A: Having been overexposed to the sun, maybe). BACK TIRE forced the latter change (28D: Wheelie supporter). No idea about SPUTNIK (16A: Subject of the 2001 book subtitled "The Shock of the Century") or OFT or FLANNEL, but I worked them out relatively easily from crosses. PORKPIES (23A: Toppers popular with jazzmen) look good on JACK LORD (26A: His character had the signature line "Book 'em, Danno")—nice '60s vibe. AGEES is an unfortunate plural (25A: 1958 Pulitzer-winning novelist and family), but easy to get. I thought SYKES was MEADE, which I think is what I was supposed to think. Apparently there were (at least) two General Georges at Gettysburg.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Sondheim's Mrs Lovett / THU 9-29-11 / Baritone piece sung by Renato / Best selling PC game released in 2000 / Curie Kelvin Fermi

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Constructor: Ben Fish

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: PLUS — Puzzle note: "Two hints for 17- and 57-Across and 11- and 26-Down appear somewhere in this puzzle"—P, L, U, and S appear in circles in the corners, and black squares make a "+" sign in the middle of the grid.

Word of the Day: Princess IRENE of the Netherlands (14A: Dutch princess who's the daughter of Queen Juliana) —
Princess Irene of the Netherlands (born 5 August 1939) is the second child of the late Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. [...] Because of the invasion of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany during World War II the Dutch Royal family chose to live in exile in Canada, where Irene attended Rockcliffe Park Public School, in Ottawa. As a teenager, she was dubbed by the Dutch press as "the glamorous Princess of the Netherlands." During the war, the Royal Dutch Brigade (the formation of Free Dutch soldiers that fought alongside the Allies) was named for Princess Irene. This was continued after the war as the Regiment Prinses Irene. (wikipedia)
• • •

Decided to solve this without stopping to check the [blurb] and still finished in regular Thursday time, so I'd say this was pretty easy. I am pretty sure I've seen this gimmick before—in that I've seen the "black squares form a symbol" gimmick several times, and the "+ is the easiest of those to make in a crossword grid. It was an entertaining puzzle almost in spite of the theme, which didn't thrill me, mainly because the theme answers seemed a bit wonky. A "+" is not a GRADE BONUS. It's merely another available grade. Part of the normal grading spectrum. No BONUS involved. "NICE" is a pretty weak adjective, and END wants to know what it's the END of. But still, we get a nice varied array of PLUS types, and unlike some recent puzzles, the fill on this one is really quite good. I went "Ugh" precisely one time, and that was at the RRN (Random Roman Numeral) (19A: Year St. Augustine of Canterbury died=>DCIV). I really like those thick stacks of answers through the middle (all the 7s PLUS the two 5s). It's very clear that Mr. Fish took good care to make the puzzle smooth, and that deserves acknowledgment and praise.

The PLUSes:

Had slight trouble getting going when it turned out I didn't know either of the women in the NW corner (IRENE, Mrs. Lovett the BAKER18D: Sondheim's Mrs. Lovett, e.g.). Otherwise, the only tricky part was inferring the theme answers (again, I didn't see the note, so didn't know for a little while that I was dealing with PLUSes). Made some wrong turns along the way, including going with SRS. over SEM (21A: School yr. section) (SRS. is a yearbook section...); PROFFER over PROFESS (6D: Claim); and SPA over MAT (59D: Bath ___). This last error resulted in a stray wrong (uncorrected) square that I had to track down at the end—specifically, I ended up with SAABS as the answer to 68A: Tries. Always bad when your mistakes look like real words. I would've gone with GAOL for 56D: Shakespearean stir (ADO), but a. there weren't enough letters, and b. I never actually saw the clue while I was solving.

I thought a Ming Jar was some kind of science thing, like a Leyden jar, so I was surprised to find out that I was dealing with the Ming of Ming vase fame, i.e. the dynasty. Had a little trouble coming up with THE SIMS (43A: Best-selling PC game released in 2000), but once the definite article was in place, the answer was obvious (which is good, because I was *not* getting SIMON despite having SI-ON) (34D: One who says a lot in a game). The "table" of 9D: #33 on a table (ARSENIC) is of course the periodic table. "Te reo" means simply "the language" (65A: Language known to native speakers as "te reo"=>MAORI). Didn't know GINSU was a "type" of knife. Thought it was a brand. Love the triad of Curie, Kelvin and Fermi for EPONYMS, though for some reason all I can picture (or hear!) when I look at this clue is Alvin, Simon and Theodore:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Vamp Negri / WED 9-28-11 / Root used as soap substitute / Player of TV junkman / Eighth-inning hurler often / 1960s Bye

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Constructor: Steve Salitan

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: CLOUT (65A: Influence ... and a hint to 20-, 26-, 46- and 56-Across) — "CL" is taken OUT of four familiar phrases, creating four wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: SETT (59D: Paving stone) —
A badger sett or set is a badger's den, usually consisting of a network of tunnels. The largest setts are spacious enough to accommodate 15 or more animals, with up to 300 metres (980 ft) of tunnels and as many as 40 openings. It takes many years for the animals to dig these large setts. Setts are typically excavated in soil that is well drained and easy to dig, such as sand, and situated on sloping ground where there is some cover. (wikipedia) [I realize this isn't the definition that was clued, but I like this one better— thanks to Chicago sports radio talk show host Dan Bernstein for pointing it out to me recently]
• • •

This is a puzzle I like more in retrospect than I did while solving it. I've seen several versions of the -OUT puzzle before, so this is not-at-all original, concept-wise, but at least a couple of the theme answers are cute, and the long Downs are pretty nice as well, especially REDD FOXX (37D: Player of a TV junkman) and SET-UP MAN (9D: Eighth-inning hurler, often). It always gets me down when the short fill is terrible, and it's pretty damned grievous today. I realize that the best that short fill can be is inoffensive, but if that's the best it can be, then that should be the goal. Even with cheater squares I'm having to deal with EDO (53A: Tokyo, to shoguns) and SETT ... two ugly Latin plurals in the same tiny quadrant with ACTA and SERA (60A: Anti-snakebite supplies, e.g.) ... the World's Worst Partial in AAND. I almost wish AMOLE had been a partial (to go with ACOW) because I botched that one (31A: Root used as a soap substitute). It's not a pretty word. You want people marveling at your nice long stuff, not groaning at the gunk in the works. To sum up: a recycled concept, adequately executed, with some nice longer fill.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Iodine in a barber's first-aid kit? (EAR CUT SOLUTION)
  • 26A: Doofus given a pink slip? (ASS DISMISSED)
  • 46A: One modifying goals? (AIMS ADJUSTOR) — extremely vague (and dull) clue made this one the hardest to get. 
  • 56A: Cronus and Rhea's barbecue remains? (ASH OF THE TITANS) — easiest one to get, by far.
Speaking of Titans, I know who Argus is, but I did not know Argus-eyed meant ALERT. I remembered that THETA  was an [Angle symbol in trigonometry] only after I changed BRIE to PATÉ to get the initial "T" (BRIE tastes lovely while PATÉ tastes like dog food, hence my solving instinct). I've seen POLA Negri in puzzles many, many times (25A: Vamp Negri), and yet still hesitated. Brain couldn't quite accept that POLA was a real name. I had to manually override it. I just googled "serpent" to see how exactly it is different from "snake" (short answer: it isn't), and noticed that "The Serpent" was a 1916 silent film starring POLA Negri's crossword compatriot, THEDA "Don't call me THETA" BARA. Just a little bit of trivia for you to forget in a few minutes.

You know who's a big fan of serpents (by which I mean "snakes")? Dana Delany. You can see her discuss her herpetological interests here, in this interview with Jimmy Kimmel. She also discusses crosswords, including her experience co-constructing a Sunday NYT puzzle with Matt Ginsberg this past summer (interview starts around the 16 min. mark, in show's second segment). I want to thank her for saying such kind things about this blog, and for giving Jimmy the opportunity to ridicule my name, repeatedly, on national television. A huge thrill and honor on both counts.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Creator of GOP elephant / TUE 9-27-11 / Larklike bird / Noted 1964 convert to Islam / When repeated noted panda

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Tuesday)

THEME: COUNTRIES (34D: Sovereign lands ... or what are hidden in the answers to the six starred clues) — loose assortment of country names are buried inside familiar (or at least vaguely familiar) phrases

Word of the Day: PIPIT (44A: Larklike bird) —
The pipits are a cosmopolitan genus, Anthus, of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. Along with the wagtails and longclaws, the pipits make up the family Motacillidae. The genus is widespread, occurring across most of the world, except the driest deserts, rainforests and the mainland of Antarctica.
• • •

This is a Wednesday puzzle. It's not even close to a Tuesday. How do I know. It took me 4:42, a full minute longer than my typical Tuesday. Also, when I finished, I was in *2nd* place on the NYT applet—that has literally never happened. As we speak, I'm in 4th, and falling, but even A Division solvers are taking over 4. This is not a complaint—it's just to say that the puzzle was clearly misplaced. Mis-slotted. The theme is kind of blah—random COUNTRIES, so what?—and the theme answers are often painfully unsnappy. I don't think I've ever seen the phrase CHICKEN YARD, though I can at least imagine what it is. Never seen a DIGITAL YEARBOOK, but I assume it's a thing. ROPERUG? Again, I can imagine it, but I've never heard the term. But you can't deny those answer have COUNTRIES in them, which is really all that's required. Central middle was the toughest for me. My farm was TWO ACRE rather than TEN ACRE (it's not as if either is some kind of standard—again, a non-snappy phrase) (42D: Like a small farm, perhaps), and so HEINZ (47A: Ore-Ida parent company) and ZION (48D: The Jewish people) and even ANIMAL INSTINCTS were all hard to see. Never heard of a PIPIT (or I have, and then forgot). Most of the rest of the fill was mediocre, except for THE WALRUS (5D: Character in a Beatles song), which is great. Too bad it doesn't have a country name inside it—it really should, for symmetry's sake. So let's all pretend there's a country called HEWAL. OK? Done.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Area in front of a coop (CHICKENYARD)
  • 23A: *Modern school memento (DIGITALYEARBOOK)
  • 35A: *Braided floor covering (ROPERUG)
  • 37A: *More than enough (TOO MANY)
  • 50A: *Elemental parts of human nature (ANIMALINSTINCTS)
  • 57A: *Discover to be fibbing (CATCHINALIE) 
Short stuff is pretty junky all around, but that's what you'd expect in most people's theme-dense puzzles. I was proud to remember the 39D: Creator of the G.O.P. elephant, and then sad to find out that I'd misremembered his name as NASH (it's NAST). Tried CAUGHT IN A LIE first even though it's obviously the wrong verb tense. Thought the wine bar request was the TAB (really didn't read the clue well enough I guess—57D: Request inside (or outside?) a wine bar (CAB). I always botch relative adjectives when the adjective ends in "Y"—SLYER looks just fine, but I guess not (29A: More clever=>SLIER). Good thing I couldn't buy LYNG LYNG as a panda name (26D: When repeated, a noted panda=>LING). Lots of Beatles in this puzzle today, but I'm gonna go out with some PIXIES instead (46D: Fairies)—it's my 8-year wedding anniversary, so (like every other day of the year) I'll do what I want. I love you, honey. xoxo

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Lightning-fast Bolt / 9-26-11 / 1941 chart-topper Maria / Part of 2005 Harry Potter title / 1987 Stanley Kubrick classic

Monday, September 26, 2011

Constructor: David Gray

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: BACK (67A: Word that can follow the start of 20-, 38- or 50-Across) — Football theme, with theme answers beginning with words QUARTER, HALF, and FULL, respectively:

QUARTER POUNDERS (20A: Some McDonald's burgers)
HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (38A: Part of a 2005 Harry Potter title)
FULLMETALJACKET (50A: 1987 Stanley Kubrick classic)

Word of the Day: DUANE Allman (26D: One of the Allman Brothers) —
Howard Duane Allman (November 20, 1946 – October 29, 1971) was an American guitarist, session musician and the primary co-founder of the southern rock group The Allman Brothers Band. He is best remembered for his brief but influential tenure in that band, his expressive slide guitar playing and improvisational skills. // A sought-after session musician both before and during his tenure with the band, Allman performed with such established stars as King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Herbie Mann. He also contributed heavily to the 1970 album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos. // In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Allman at #2 in their list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, second only to Jimi Hendrix. His tone (achieved with a Gibson Les Paul and two 50-watt bass Marshall amplifiers) was named one of the greatest guitar tones of all time by Guitar Player. / He died in October 1971 in a motorcycle accident. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a very nice little Monday. There's nothing very showy about it, but the theme answers are lively and the theme itself is solid and multi-layered. Progression of first words makes sense in its own right, but then throw in "BACK" and you've got an appropriately autumnal football theme. I spent much of the day watching and listening to football, including watching my Lions come back from 20 down and beat the Vikings in OT. It'll be nice when they actually beat a solid, winning team, but they can only play who's on the schedule, so I'll take what I can get.

This puzzle was very easy, even for a Monday. I was butterfingers on my keyboard, continually botching input, and I still beat the 3 min. mark by a good 15 seconds. Got all the 15s with no hesitation. Needed many crosses to get LOADED DICE for some reason (10D: Items for gamblers who cheat — I think of a pair of dice as *an* item), and forgot briefly about DUANE Allman, but other than, it was just fill in the blanks / wrestle with the keyboard. Oh, I had I'M HERE for IN HERE (5D: "Yoo-hoo" response) and misspelled USAIN (USEIN?) at first. These are all very minor things, but they'll add seconds to your time. I wonder how many people are going to claim (once again) never to have heard of USAIN Bolt (59A: Lightning-fast Bolt). Every time he appears, I'm surprised by how many people shrug and go "who?" Not knowing DRAYS, I understand.

I'm currently obsessed with the year 1980—watching movies and listening to music from that year like crazy. Why am I telling you this? Primarily because I'm currently listening to a band called KROKUS. Seeing that name in the grid would make me exceedingly happy.

Enjoy your Monday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Scavenging Southern food fish / SUN 9-25-11 / Often-parched gully / Leonine movie star of old / Black Watch soldier's garb

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Constructor: Paul Hunsberger

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Entwisted" — familiar phrases have their N "twisted" to make a Z, creating wacky phrases, which are then clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: MUDCAT (33D: Scavenging Southern food fish) —
(Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Animals) any of several large North American catfish living in muddy rivers, esp in the Mississippi valley (Collins English Dictionary) (
• • •
Coincidentally, as I pasted in that definition of MUDCAT (a southern fish), "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" came on ...

This theme did next to nothing for me, though the grid offered up some amazing surprises along the way—I'm a particularly big fan of "IT'S ALL GOOD!" "WHAT THE HEY!" and GROUPIES. A rapper might have GROUPIES and a POSSE. KID ZAPPER would be a good rap name. Now Kenny Rogers's "Lady" is on

OK, I'm turning Spotify off now. I've see the N->Z puzzle done, and done much better, before. I found SEE JUSTICE DOZE to be, by far, the worst theme answer in the puzzle: both because the base phrase feels less solid than the others, and (more importantly) because of the vowel-sound change in the "Z" word. No other theme answer has that. I get that you're just tipping Ns on their sides, and nobody said sound was relevant, but nonetheless, as the only sound-changer, this one sticks out badly. Not surprisingly, the toughest part of the puzzle for me was everywhere around, and especially above, SEE JUSTICE DOZE. My last letter was at the MUDCAT (?) and MCM crossing. A HAM is a ham radio operator? That's what they call themselves? OK. I don't especially love the crossing of REEL and EELS, but I would watch an animated movie review show called "REEL EELS" where two cartoon EELS review the latest offerings from Hollywood and then give their take on some vintage film that has fallen off most people's radars—like, say, "Fatso" (1980), which just arrived for me today via Interlibrary Loan. I would pay to see those EELS review "Fatso."

Theme answers: 
  • 21A: Result of being badly beaned? (GREAT DAZE)
  •  23A: Scraping kitchen gadget with nothing in it? (EMPTY ZESTER) — since when does a zester Ever have anything "in it?" Awkward.
  • 45A: Pale yellow-shelled sea creature? (MAIZE LOBSTER)
  • 60A: View the effects of a big lunch in court? (SEE JUSTICE DOZE)
  • 67A: Fluorescent candy? (HIGHLIGHTER PEZ)
  • 92A: "Cheers" spinoff mania? ("FRASIER" CRAZE)
  • 113A: Hapless Roman ruler? (EMPEROR ZERO)
  • 115A: Taser for children? (KID ZAPPER)  
How is OLAV an alternative to Ole or Edvard? Like ... an alternative name you might give your child if he were Swedish? Very weird clue. Again, foam is the defining characteristic of a cappuccino, not so much of a LATTE. I've never heard of FREE-RUN chickens. In America, we call them "FREE-RANGE." NITE Owl is the name of one of the heroes in "Watchmen"—I don't remember the cafe from "L.A. Confidential," though it hardly matters as the answer was easy to infer.

  • 5A: Often-parched gully (WADI) — one of the sillier-sounding geographical words, but I still like it.
  • 9A: Goal of phishing (SCAM) — I wrote in SPAM, but that's more the phishing itself than the goal.
  • 19A: 1997 best seller subtitled "Her True Story" ("DIANA") — first guess: LEONA.
  • 41A: Leonine movie star of old (LAHR) — Cowardly Lion portrayer of crossword fame.
  • 64A: Land of King George Tupou V (TONGA) — Did you know that Tonga was named the sixth most corrupt country in the world by Forbes magazine in 2008. Wikipedia!
  • 10D: Polyphemus, to Odysseus (CAPTOR) — all I could think of was CYCLOPS, but I guess he was CYCLOPS to everybody, not just Odysseus.
  • 70D: Unemployed persons with full-time jobs (HOME MAKERS) — interesting clue.
    Kind of ingratiating clue. I half-expect it to be followed up with "... am I right, ladies?!?"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. today is the 5th birthday of this blog. [noise maker sound]!


Ice-T Ice Cube persona / SAT 9-24-11 / Warszawa instrumentalist / Disallowed FedEx destination / Museu do Indio site / Aarnio innovative furniture designer

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Constructor: Jeremy Horwitz

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: ELLEN Ochoa (13D: Astronaut Ochoa) —
Ellen Lauri Ochoa (born May 10, 1958) is a former astronaut and engineer, and current Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center. (wikipedia)
• • •

Ha. More, please. I loved this puzzle, in part because I Smoked it, but in greater part because it's all-around fun, and [Bum rap?], in particular, is up there with the greatest clues of all time ("BABY GOT BACK").

I don't know what the record for "?" clues is, but this one has a ton: ten, to be exact. I tend to get annoyed around the half dozen mark, and today was no exception on that count, but today there was always some new revelation or joy to take away that annoyance almost as soon as it arose. The trickiest part of the whole puzzle for me was the NE, which wasn't really hard except I couldn't figure out what RESED meant or what it had to do with fixing ribs. Turns out the "Put" in 26A: Put on cloud nine is past tense, which means SENT, not SEND, which means the ribs are RESET, not RESED. Figuring out PREFER (9A: Go for first) and settling that RESED business took more time than anything else in the puzzle, and still I came in under 8 (Fast for me, for a Saturday).

I dropped in HEADLAMP instantly (1A: Bit of miner's gear), and had HEADLAMP, HEP, POSITIVE, and MOVIE THEATER (7D: Place to witness a big scene?) without even beginning to break a sweat. That NE corner put a little resistance into the puzzle (only know one Ochoa, and her name's LORENA), as did EVAS (not familiar to me) (27A: Spacewalks and moonwalks, briefly) and ARLEN (I always forget him—I know ARLEN better as the home of Hank and Peggy Hill) (45D: Composer nominated for an Oscar for "Blues in the Night"). Had MACRO for MS/DOS (34D: Kind of PC command), so that needed undoing. SIT UNDER is a weird expression (53A: Attend the lectures of), but it was inferrable. No idea who Wallis Simpson is, but there are only so many "titles" and with a few crosses, HER GRACE came up easily (49A: Title for Wallis Simpson). The biggest baffler of the day was [Bum rap?] ... "something about BABY ... GOATS? What the hell?" Always good to work up a high level of annoyance toward a clue and then, upon solution, have that annoyance change to an equally high level of admiration.

I had some vague memory of DEIMOS (4D: Martian moon) but let the crosses fill it in nonetheless. My Saturn moon knowledge is shaky, but I knew about FedEx and P.O. BOXes (22A: Disallowed FedEx destination) (and I had the "X" from LATEX), so I was able to polish of DEIMOS and move into the western portion of the grid. Not sure what I was looking for before AERIALS (37A: Once-common urban skyline sights), but I'm sure it was something Much more antiquated than the actual answer. I've almost completely forgotten high school trigonometry, so SECANT (57A: Curve-cutting line) needed some nudging from crosses, but wasn't too tough. TEA LEONI is a constructor's best friend if said constructor needs some eight-letter fill (58A: She played Jane in "Fun With Dick and Jane," 2005). Really wish she was in more stuff, so she didn't seem like eight-letter crosswordese. I thought "bloomers" in 59A: Where traditional bloomers gather were flowers, so ANKLES was a (pleasant) surprise. Never heard of "Warszawa," but three letters, starts with "E," instrumentalist—yeah, that's ENO (2D: "Warszawa" instrumentalist), just like "Fictional creature blah blah blah," three letters, starts with "E"—that's ENT. Also, a three-letter site for something Portuguese-sounding? Probably RIO (56D: Museu do Indio site).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Gaston who wrote Phantom of the Opera / FRI 9-23-11 / He famously asked why didnt you burn tapes / Juicer detritus

Friday, September 23, 2011

Constructor: Mike Nothnagel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

 Word of the Day: Gaston LEROUX (24A: Gaston who wrote "The Phantom of the Opera") —
Gaston Louis Alfred Leroux (6 May 1868[1] – 15 April 1927) was a French journalist and author of detective fiction. // In the English-speaking world, he is best known for writing the novel The Phantom of the Opera (Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, 1910), which has been made into several film and stage productions of the same name, notably the 1925 film starring Lon Chaney; and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 musical. (wikipedia)
• • •

I was slow on this one, but that's almost entirely due to the fact that I have residual head cold nonsense going on between my ears. It's a meaty puzzle, but there's nothing particularly brutal about it. I started out by crossing GEODE with "ERES TU" (5D: 1974 lyric repeated after "Como una promesa"). Sadly, only one of these was right, and cleaning up that little mess was more work for my brain than it ought to have been. Eventually sorted the AGATE business out (1A: It has rock bands), but not before putting in GURU for LAMA (24D: Asian spiritual guide). Then EXEMPT for EXCEPT (22D: Not counting). And then later: ADD ON for TAG ON (25A: Include as an extra) and GLUTES for GLUTEI (27D: Muscles strengthened by squats). Other than that, steady progress, though in a disconnected way: NW, then NE, then SW, then (finally) center, and (finally finally) SE. Note that EXCEPT and GLUTEI (both of which I initially botched) are major connectors between the center and the corners of the grid. SE was by far the easiest section. Felt like a Tuesday puzzle up in there. Strange. Anyway, the grid is lovely—fully of solid, familiar, yet lively answers that were mostly a pleasure to uncover. LOW PH was the one that tricked me the worst (44D: Vinegar quality), and THE SAUCE was the one I liked the best (58A: Something a drunkard is liable to hit). I continue to despise the word ROLF (48A: Give a good rubdown), but that's really just my personal hang-up.

Toeholds, by section:

NE: EDO (9D: Old Tokyo) and TORSO (13D: Many a sculpture)
Center: RATE (30D: Put on a scale)

In the bottom part of the grid, I slid in and out of sections using crosses—OFTEN got me OFFERS got me ROLF. GLUTES (wrong, but close) got me EATS AT got me MEET. Most helpful answer of the day was ABBEY ROAD (3D: 1969 #1 album for 11 weeks) (It also happens to be one of my very very very favorite albums). With the whole GEODE debacle, with nothing falling smoothly into place, I just thought "... must be a Beatles albums. Late Beatles. LET IT BE? No ... ABBEY ROAD! Ding ding!" Nice musical subtheme up there in the NW, with "ERES TU" parallel to ABBEY ROAD and crossing LEROUX—whose novel was the basis of a famous musical, and whose name is also the name of a band I kind of like (OK, so it's LA ROUX—close enough for me).

  • 15A: Informal show of approval? (STANDING O) — dang, that's a good clue. I was halfway through asking myself "How is a STANDING O informal?" when I got that it wasn't the thing but the (slangy) phrase itself that was at issue. Other Os of note are KAREN O, SANDRA OH, SADAHARU OH, and WENDY O. WILLIAMS.
  • 18A: Juicer detritus (PEELS) — briefly convinced myself that PULPS was a word (and it is, in reference to cheap magazines of the early-mid 20th century).
  • 2D: Series ender, sometimes (GAME SEVEN) — cool clue. I tried to stretch ET CETERA. Didn't work.
  • 31D: Music style derived from samba and jazz (BOSSA NOVA) — this music style always reminds me the Robert Palmer album "Heavy Nova." There is absolutely no good reason for this. 

  • 49D: Object frequently painted by Degas (TUTU) — interesting phrasing, as (presumably) he's painting the dancer, who happens to be wearing said "object." Unless there's some still life with TUTU I'm unaware of. 
  • 45D: Attachments to pronator quadratus muscles (ULNAE) — it's a very muscly puzzle, with the GLUTEI and the pronator quadratus and what not. Very BUFF.
  • 43D: He famously asked "Why didn't you burn the tapes?" (FROST) — the poet to his wife, just after their sex video went viral.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


English author Edward Bulwer- / THU 9-22-11 / Songwriter Jimmy Senator Jim / Ritual in which bitter herbs are dipped / Cuban name 2000 news

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Constructor: Jeff Dubner
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: D [?] LY! — five theme answers all start with D [?] LY (by sound), where [?] is a different vowel sound (vowels progress from A to U consecutively)

Word of the Day: Edward Bulwer-LYTTON (41D: English author Edward Bulwer-___) —
Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton PC (25 May 1803 – 18 January 1873), was an English politician, poet, playwright, and prolific novelist. He was immensely popular with the reading public and wrote a stream of bestselling novels which earned him a considerable fortune. He coined the phrases "the great unwashed", "pursuit of the almighty dollar", "the pen is mightier than the sword", and the famous opening line "It was a dark and stormy night (wikipedia)
• • •

This was a very easy Friday puzzle to me, as I never saw the theme until I was done, and with stacks of long Acrosses in the NW and SE corners, the grid looks/feels more themeless than themed. So it's a Tuesday-type theme that played like a Wednesday but looked and felt like a Friday. And yet today is Thursday. No matter—I still had a good time. I think BEN STEIN'S is an unholy abomination of an answer (it's an enormous partial trying to pretend that it isn't) (12D: Win whose money, in a bygone game show?), but everything else seems pretty solid, and the theme answers are bouncy (!) and original-seeming. I thought the theme would have something to do with fisherman, since there were those symmetrical answers about a [Fisherman's relation?]. But that never panned out, and I finished the puzzle ... puzzled. Most befuddling part of the puzzle was the last letter I put in—the "A" in RAUCH (who?) (46D: Jon ___, at 6'11" the tallest player in Major League Baseball history) and ATL, which I did not understand At All. "Atlanta is between two Plymouths? What?" I see ATL for Atlanta all the time; for "Atlantic," not so much. About as much as I see PAC for "Pacific" (outside of the term "PAC-12 Conference," that is).  As for RAUCH, my first thought was ISNER, since I saw "tall" and "player" and I remember thinking he had a good name for crosswords. But he's a tennis player, and spells his name "John." My proudest moment of the solve was dropping in both LLD (41A: Barrister's deg.) and LYTTON. I'm no Anglophile, so the ease with which these answers came to me surprised even myself.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: London newspaper (DAILY MAIL)
  • 23A: Turkey's location (DELI COUNTER)
  • 33A: Taking one's sweet time (DILLY-DALLYING) — a great center answer
  • 44A: Singer with the hit country album "Backwoods Barbie" (DOLLY PARTON)
  • 54A: "Gotcha," formally ("DULY NOTED") — confusing, as "Gotcha" can mean several things.  
I thought I had a cold on Monday, and then Tuesday I felt so good I thought I was mistaken, but today, whoa boy. My body feels fine, but my head is a wreck, so I have to keep this brief so I can get some rest.

  • 1A: Vitamin C source from Southeast Asia (STARFRUIT) — I see these at the supermarket sometimes, but I've never tried them. This answer was not easy for me to pick up.
  • 10A: Songwriter Jimmy and Senator Jim (WEBBS) — Jimmy Webb wrote "Wichita Lineman" and a lot of other popular songs of the later 20th century. 

  • 15A: It has just 16 rules of grammar (ESPERANTO) — I love this answer, especially followed closely by ALEUT (16A: Western language historically written in the Cyrillic alphabet)—that's a hell of a language duo.
  • 29A: ___ Street, main thoroughfare in "Peyton Place" (ELM) — People know that? Yikes. 
  • 1D: Ritual in which bitter herbs are dipped (SEDER)ERNS was the first word I put in the grid. SEDER was the second.
  • 11D: Cuban name in 2000 news (ELIAN) — I wonder about ELIAN. Mainly what I wonder is: how long will he be crossworthy? Forever? His name is soooo lovely from a crossword standpoint, but that incident doesn't seem like something with long-term historical implications. But if it's easy for me to recall (it is), then maybe we'll still be seeing it 20 years from now, though I think future young people are going to be a little annoyed that they're being asked to remember something so trivial.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    California locale just south of Camp Pendleton / WED 9-21-11 / Morlock's counterpart science fiction / Part of rock's CSNY / Pringles alternative

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Constructor: Peter A. Collins

    Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

    THEME: INNER CITIES (60A: Urban areas (as hinted at by the circled letters in this puzzle's grid)) — theme answers are California cities (why California? I don't know). Circles inside those cities spell out the names of other cities (*not* California cities)

    Word of the Day: Graham NASH (51A: Part of rock's CSNY) —

    Graham William Nash, OBE (born 2 February 1942) is an English singer-songwriter known for his light tenor vocals and for his songwriting contributions with the British pop group The Hollies, and with the folk-rock band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Nash is a photography collector and a published photographer. Nash was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Crosby, Stills & Nash and as a member of The Hollies in 2010. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    This is a mess. Why are the cities California cities? Moreover, why are three of them not-at-all-well-known California cities. I grew up in California, lived there til I was 21, and I've barely heard of three of these—certainly couldn't locate them with any confidence on a map (BAKERSFIELD, I know, though there's no way in hell I'd say its Cal State campus is a salient, identifying feature—there are a ton of Cal State campuses). And the circles?! They aren't consecutive, they contain random city names ... why does this puzzle exist? Even the revealer doesn't make any sense. The circled letters form cities *within* cities. INNER CITIES tells only half the story. If RENO were inside some random word or familiar phrase, then you could say it's an INNER CITY. But you have forced us to come up with these marginal California cities ... why? Why, when the revealer doesn't even require it? They're INNER no matter what they're *in*side. RENO inside PREMONITION would be an INNER CITY. RENO inside GARDEN GROVE is just torture. If you're going to force me to accept spaced-out circles (one of the ugliest things in all of crossworld), then there better be a damned good reason.

    RENO can be found inside at least one other California city—one that's better known than all these so-called cities. One that is also a California State University campus site.

    Theme answers:
    • 17A: California home of the Crystal Cathedral (GARDEN GROVE) (RENO)
    • 26A: California locale just south of Camp Pendleton (OCEANSIDE) (ENID)
    • 38A: California State University campus site (BAKERSFIELD) (ERIE)
    • 52A: California's Sonoma County seat (SANTA ROSA) (TAOS)

    Got thrown by many clues today—California cities were the primary obstacles, but other things also provided resistance. The second "D" in MID-SIZED CAR, for instance (11D: Toyota Camry, e.g.). I was sure the adjective was "MID-SIZE" and so wrote in MID-SIZE AUTO. Grammar aside, it looks like my instincts were justified. Industry standard seems to be D-less "MID-SIZE." So that sucks. LUNETTES?? I don't know what these [Ornamental crescents] are—can't picture them—but crescents are moon-shaped, so OK. RENIN? (54D: Kidney secretion) Forgot. ENUF? (god that's ugly) (28D: Sufficient, informally) Misread clue and wrote in ENOW (also ugly, also commonish in xwords). Stared at [Part of rock's CSNY] and thought "?????????" I know very well who Crosby, Stills, NASH & Young are, but I've never heard them given the university-like initialism before. Absolutely baffling to me. RAMROD and "flintlock" are familiar terms in retrospect, but I couldn't get from one to the other easily at all today (50D: Flintlock accessory). I'd say RUBBER-NECKING or RUBBER-NECKERS caused a traffic jam way, way before I'd say RUBBER-NECKS (which I just wouldn't say) (25D: Causes of some traffic slowdowns). RUBBERNECKS is a verb to me.

    • 20A: Morlock's counterpart in science fiction (ELOI) — more crosswordese (see also every circled city). Nice to see the Morlock out and about.
    • 71A: Pringles alternative (STAX) — never heard of them. STAX is a record label.
    • 1A: Humped ox (ZEBU) — strangely, knew this instantly. I don't know many *kinds* of ox, but I know this one, primarily because it was once on "The Simpsons," as a vocabulary word that Lisa was trying to teach Maggie.
    • 42D: One who deals in rags? (PIANIST) — very tough, but clever. I was thinking rags = tabloids.
    • 35D: The Rolling Stones' "___ You" ("MISS") — could think only of "TATTOO You," which is the name of a Stones album.

    • 13D: Ursula of "The Blue Max" (ANDRESS) — here's the thing about Ms. ANDRESS: If you include her first name in the clue, then no other part of the clue really matters, because there's only one famous Ursula.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. this is so awesome I had to tell you about it right away—Frank Sinatra on how he acquired his crossword habit (personal letter to Eugene T. Maleska, former ed. of the NYT Crossword Puzzle).


    Playmate of Tinky Winky Dipsy Po / MON 9-19-11 / Annual celebration on 9/19 / Immature egg cell / California-based oil giant / Onetime money in Spain

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Constructor: Julian Lim

    Relative difficulty: Medium

    THEME: TALK LIKE A / PIRATE DAY (27A: With 44-Across, annual celebration on 9/19) — pirate-themed bonus answers include:

    • DAVY JONES' LOCKER (17A: Where plank-walkers end up on 27-/44-Across)
    • SHIVER ME TIMBERS (57A: "I don't believe it!," on 27-/44-Across)
    • ARRR (1A: Common interjection on 27-/44-Across)
    • AHOY (65A: Hello, on 27-/44-Across)
    • AVAST (25A: "Hold it!," on 27-/44-Across)
    • BOOTY (46A: Treasure on 27-/44-Across)
    Word of the Day: John RHYS-Davies (4D: John ___-Davies of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy) —
    John Rhys-Davies (born 5 May 1944) is a Welsh actor and voice actor. He is perhaps best known for playing the charismatic Arab excavator Sallah in the Indiana Jones films and the dwarf Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in which he also voiced the Ent, Treebeard. He also played Agent Michael Malone in the 1993 remake of the 1950s television series The Untouchables, Professor Maximillian Arturo in Sliders, King Richard I in Robin of Sherwood, General Leonid Pushkin in the James Bond film The Living Daylights, and Macro in I, Claudius. Additionally, he provided the voices of Cassim in Disney's Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Man Ray in SpongeBob SquarePants, and Tobias in the computer game Freelancer. He is also the narrator for the TV show Wildboyz. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Was sure I'd done a "Talk Like a Pirate Day"-themed puzzle before, and sure enough, I was right. Three years ago, Alex Boisvert crossed TALK LIKE A PIRATE and SHIVER ME TIMBERS in the middle of a Friday grid. I consider this one of the stupider "holidays" on record, and don't know anyone who "celebrates" it. The idea was funny the first time anyone heard about it, which, by my watch, was five years ago or so. (wikipedia says this "holiday" was created in mid-90s, but so what? Just 'cause some guys say "this here's a holiday" doesn't make it so). Please, those of you out there thinking of the "Talk Like a Pirate Day"-themed puzzle you'd like to do, I beg you, throw it away. It's done. Done and done.

    Grid is a mix of crosswordese (of which my most hated is OMAHAN) and cool longer answers (POKE AROUND, CLOSE IN ON, LOSE NO TIME). Just heard a BASSOONist on my classical music station this morning talking about the BASSOON repertoire. NEC (43A: Asian electronics giant) is one of those initialisms that I simply never remember. AEC, NCR, NEC, bah. Michigan trounced EMU yesterday, just as the Lions trounced the Chiefs today. Good day for southern Michigan, is what I'm saying.

    Weirdest word in the grid is OOCYTE (37D: Immature egg cell), but it's one I've seen in puzzles before, so once I saw that initial "OO" sequence, I knew what I was dealing with. I am always a little shaky on the final vowel in PESETA (8D: Onetime money in Spain). For some reason, PESETO sounds right. PAC-MAN figures prominently in the new novel "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline (as well as on the book's cover design). If that book isn't a movie inside of five years, I'll eat my hat (44D: Dot-chomping character in a classic arcade game). I didn't know ARCO was still a "giant" (55D: California-based oil giant). Once the ARCO Arena in Sacramento was renamed the "Power Balance Pavilion" (ugh), I figured ARCO was on the downslide. They've been a subsidiary of BP since 2000.

    If you haven't yet purchased PENGUIN Classics Crossword Puzzles (ed. Ben Tausig), which came out at the end of last month, you really should, not least because I have a puzzle in there (38A: Bird in a "tuxedo"). Many top constructors contribute their work to the collection, including Brendan Emmett Quigley, Tony Orbach, Joon Pahk, Will Nediger, Lynn Lempel, Matt Gaffney, Deb Amlen, Sarah Keller, Andrew Ries, and Patrick Blindauer. Speaking of Mr. Blindauer, I was fortunate enough to attend his wedding to Rebecca Young this past weekend in St. Louis (or very nearby, at any rate). Ceremony was out on a deck at a vineyard just after a rain. Very lovely, and a formation of geese even did a honking fly-by *just* after they said their vows. It was very funny/magical. I'd watched the geese take off a bit earlier and they were headed away into the distance. Apparently they circled back. There was a nice contingent of crossword folk there, including Angela Halsted, Andrea Carla Michaels, Tony Orbach (a groomsman), Steve Salitan, and Peter Gordon. The only down side was that it was Freezing (for St. Louis in the summer, that is). Oh, and we got stuck in Detroit on the way out, which I've gotten over, apparently. Delta held up our flight for a crew that was needed in Detroit (i.e. not our crew; just *a* crew). Why the crew wasn't at the airport on time, why the airline held the plane knowing that nearly everyone on it would not only miss their connections, but (in our case) miss their last plane out, why we weren't given prompt, courteous explanation of all this while we waited, I don't know. But there it is.

    One thing Delta, and anyone else who does *business* in the Binghamton, NY area, might want to do is teach their employees how to pronounce "Binghamton." Gate attendant stared right at the name and said "," and then flight attendant later said she hoped we would all enjoy our flight to "Birmingham."

    Binghamton (rhymes with "gingham-ton"), as you may know, was devastated by floods last week. "Devastated" is not an exaggeration. Many businesses will not be coming back and many homes have been heavily damaged, if not outright condemned. We drove through an area today that had clearly been under about 7 feet of water (you can see muddy high watermarks on buildings and foliage all over town). Immediately after the worst of the flooding, MacArthur Elementary School looked like this:

    The school lost nearly all its equipment and supplies and is now desperately trying to replace what it lost. The school district is now accepting monetary donations in the form of a check or money order payable to: "BCSD / MacArthur Flood Fund" and mailed to: BCSD / MacArthur Flood Fund, Binghamton City School District, 164 Hawley Street, Binghamton, NY 13901. This is not exactly a wealthy area of the country, and schools are generally underfunded even under optimal conditions. Please consider making a small donation if you are at all able. Thank you. (Some teachers have individual wishlists—for more information, please see the Binghamton City School District's website and scroll down just a tiny bit)

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Homeric cry? / SUN 9-18-11 / Famous Georgian born in 1879 / Rogers on a ship

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Constructor: Josh Knapp

    Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

    THEME: "DON'T ...!"Eight theme answers are phrases that start with "Don't."

    Word of the Day: FAVRE (59D: Packer of old)Brett Lorenzo Favre (pronounced /ˈfɑrv/;[1] born October 10, 1969) is a former American football quarterback who spent the majority of his career with the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL). He was a 20-year veteran of the NFL, having played quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons (1991), Green Bay Packers (19922007), New York Jets (2008) and Minnesota Vikings (20092010). Favre is the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 70,000 yards, over 500 touchdowns, over 300 interceptions, and over 10,000 pass attempts. He officially retired on January 17, 2011. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    Oh, hello.

    Ian Livengood here ...

    ... posting under my non de plume F.D.R. (Franklin Delano Romanowski). I'm filling in for Rex while he's at Patrick and Rebecca's wedding.

    Golf clap for the lovely couple.

    I'm going to make myself comfortable and dive right in.

    (fills pipe with bubbles)

    (swirls glass of brandy)

    (props feet up on half caribou, half tiger-skinned ottoman)

    Even though I got the theme immediately, I still really enjoyed this one. Thanks, Mr. Knapp. It reminded me of these puzzles from Mike Torch and Michael Sharp(!). The grid is clean and the theme answers are lively, so nothing to complain about.

    I suppose you could do this type of theme with an infinite number of words. But this one gains tightness, and NYT credibility because the resulting answers are all supahfresh. My favorite theme answers were DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS and DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE. Great stuff.

    Really enjoyed DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB, too. I've heard DON'T HAVE A COW MAN with and without the "Man," but that hardly matters. Also, I've heard people say "DON'T QUOTE ME ON THAT" and "DON'T QUOTE ME ON THIS" with pretty equal regularity.

    Theme answers:
    • 38A: ... MESS WITH TEXAS
    • 52A: ... BELIEVE THE HYPE
    • 73A: ... QUIT YOUR DAY JOB
    • 88A: ... QUOTE ME ON THIS
    • 103A: ... TALK TO STRANGERS
    • 16D: ... MOVE A MUSCLE
    • 62D: ... HAVE A COW MAN


    The puzzle has some great fill here -- BEACH BALL (3D), MADE A DENT (38D), GET REAL (35A), HOTWIRE (93A), QWERTY (88D), OWN GOAL (95A), JELLY BEAN (75D), OMIGOSH (61D) and DYSLEXIA (12D). And IRENE (81A) gets a t(r)opical (storm) clue. Speaking of Irene, I didn't lose power in NYC, and didn't get to use the bottled water and batteries I hoarded Contagion-style. Oh well. Next hurricane season.

    I loved the clues for DYSLEXIA (13D), TOMCAT (58A) and ADVERB (99A). VIRUS (53D: Hacking tool) gets my clue o' the day award--I was thinking what kind of saw starts VIR??.

    (smacks forehead)

    Well played Shortz/Knapp, well played.

    Obviously really enjoyed the Simpsons mashup at 60A/62D as well. Because I love the Simpsons. And cookies.

    Any writeovers, you might ask? You betcha. Shuffle for CLASSIC (9D), Idiom for TROPE (39D), Tire for SODA (50A--can't believe I fell into that trap), Starr for FAVRE (59D), Spam for SCAM (98A), Near for SEEN (114A). I am sure I've see the clue for SCAM (98A: E-mail from a Nigerian prince, usually) before, but still enjoyed it. For those feeling ambitious, S(P/C)AM would be a great entry for words that share the same clue. Just think about it, Mr. Farrell. I did not really understand the clue for ELOPE (22A: Opt for the window instead of the aisle?). Yes, I get that by avoiding walking down the aisle, people would elope. And yes, I understand the wordplay with the airplane, but what does the window have to do with wedding? Am I missing something? It is still a fresh clue for ELOPE, though, so I applaud the effort.

    ASC (87A: Camera operator's org.) and HADRON (91D: Large ___ Collider (CERN particle accelerator)) were total mysteries to me, but the crossings were all fair. The last letter of the grid to fall was the "P" in the EL PAIS/PIU crossing. I would venture a guess that some people might not be familiar with the Spanish newspaper, and if they do not know the Spanish word for "country," then, well, they are out of luck. I have seen PIU in grids before. Apparently it's appeared 10 other times since 1993. But I have never remembered it. In past puzzles I would wait for the crosses, but this time I wasn't able to. Damn you PIU/ELPAIS. Here is some alternate fill:

    Is that better? Maybe. But it definitely doesn't have a Spanish newspaper crossing an Italian musical term.

    The two staircases running from the NE to SW should be the easiest part of the grid to fill. Outside of the staircase, the words can end with a the same letter. Inside the staircase, they can start with the same letter. For example The "Q" in 73A/73A can begin both words. If the staircase was running the other direction(NW to SE), the "Q" would have to end one of the words. This way is much easier to create and fill.

    I imagine the Center West portion of the grid was filled like this.

    Once the theme answers and black squares were put into place, MA(D/K)E ????? or MA(D/K)E A ???? had multiple possibilities. Since there were so many options, everything to the north of "BELIEVE THE HYPE" can be filled without worrying about redoing 57A and below. This is how a Sunday grid is filled, I think. Since there are so many little areas to worry about, if you can isolate one area and lock in some answers, it's easier to move around and fill the grid.

    A fun Sunday romp. Thanks again Mr. Knapp.

    Starting today, I'm taking over the J.A.S.A. crossword class for Caleb Madison, so hopefully solvers can enjoy something from us in the near future.

    One last note. Thanks to Rex (and to Amy and Deb, for that matter) for blogging everyday. It's really hard work, but they certainly make it look easy.

    In case you missed it (and I am sure some of you did), here are the wonderful, wonderful highlights from the Redskins/Giants game last week. Go Skins!

    Signed, Ian Livengood, Feudal Baron of the CrossWorld


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