SATURDAY, Feb. 28, 2009 - Frank Longo (Butcherbird or woodchat / Cousin of an Alewife / Toy with tassels)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

Word of the Day: ECCE - Behold. Ecce Homo are the Latin words used by Pontius Pilate in John 19:5, when he presented a scourged Jesus Christ, bound and crowned with thorns, to a hostile crowd shortly before his Crucifixion. The King James Version translates the phrase into English as Behold the Man. (

Hey, everybody. SethG today, filling in while Rex and the other cool kids compete in Brooklyn. And today we have a fairly straightforward Saturday. Not much trickery, no words from Pluto that no one's ever heard of, but really not any junk, either. I didn't solve this completely smoothly, but I blame mostly me--several times I knew what the answer was, I just couldn't think of the word. And they were not hard words. Like GAS RANGE (33D: Burner locale), or APACE (8D: With celerity). But I got through it fairly quickly anyway.

Famous people
I assume the puzzle would have been much harder for some of you if you didn't have as many entertainment gimmes as I did.

  • Kelly RIPA (16A: Gifford's talk-show replacement) replaced Kathy Gifford on that morning show with Regis Philbin.
  • Roger REES (23A: Roger of "Cheers") was that British guy (sorry, Welsh-American) who Rebecca liked on Cheers. More importantly, he's won a Tony. Yet more importantly, he was Lord John Marbury on the West Wing, in which he appeared with...
  • ROB LOWE (4D: 2001 Emmy nominee for "The West Wing"). I wanted this to be Aaron Sorkin, but I couldn't remember his name (sorry, PuzzleGirl!) and it was wrong anyway.
  • ALEC GUINNESS was an (38A: Oscar winner for "The Bridge on the River Kwai"), one of my all-time favorite movies.
  • And Omar EPPS was (60A: Dr. Foreman's portrayer on "House").

Fun after the puzzle moment
I knew the song "Georgy Girl" (40A: Group with the 1967 #2 hit "Georgy Girl," with "the"), but I couldn't remember the name of The SEEKERS. I didn't know they also sing this:

Some other stuff
  • 7D: It might be kicked after getting picked up (habit) - cute, and my first answer.
  • 6A: Cousin of an alewife (shad). An alewife is a woman who keeps an alehouse, but it's also a herring.
  • 15A: Heads of Italy (capi) - more than one capo, sure. See also 20A: Summer cooler (Italian ice). So my dad's dream is to retire to Key West and sell water ice on the beach. Apparently they strictly limit the number of vendors they allow on the beaches, and no one ever gives theirs up. Still, if anyone wants to buy a law firm, let me know.
  • 27A: Hue similar to cyan (electric blue). Cyan is the C in the CMYK color model, though I assume that anyone that knows what that means knows colors, too.
  • 57A: Toe trouble (gout). How's breakfast?
  • 18D: Cheerful, in Châlons (gai). I have a friend named Jai, but he's hippy, not French. Otherwise, he'd be mon ami. I love French!
I had two main problem areas, both well within reason for a Saturday.

First, I don't know that Latin thing. And I also didn't know what a TRUE RIB (10D: Sternum attachment) was. (Turns out, it's a rib that attaches to the sternum.) And I wasn't sure about AIR CELLS (11D: Alveoli, e.g.), either. So I stared at xxCE for a bit before filling in ECCE. Hey, at least I knew my ILIUM (49D: Part of the body next to the sacrum).

Second, I tried Based for (62A: Plant ____), which led me to Steves instead of STEVIE (43D: English poet Smith). When I finally figured out TRIKE (59A: Toy with tassels) I changed it to Stevis. (Hey, my knowledge of English poetry is only slightly better than my knowledge of Mongolian poetry.) Anyway, I finally remembered BAFTA (52D: U.K. equivalent to an Oscar), and stared for a long time at "Plant Assed" before changing it to A SEED.

Finally, speaking of poetry, I'm not sure whether I hate or I love (51D: Catullus's "Odi et ___"). It's certainly a Saturday level clue for AMO, but I figured I'd let you be the judge. Enjoy!

Good luck Rex, and all else in Brooklyn,
Signed, SethG, Royal Vizier of CrossWorld


FRIDAY, Feb. 27, 2009 - Joe DiPietro (Bygone flag / Co-firing technique used to reduce pollution / Emulates Eve / Producers of sunbows)

Friday, February 27, 2009

FRIDAY, February 27, 2009 – Joe DiPietro ("The Insect Play" playwright / Mammonism / Actress Blakley)

Relative difficulty: Medium/Challenging

Theme: None

Word of the Day: REBURN (40D: Co-firing technique used to reduce pollution from electrical power plants) - No results found! Did you mean Raeburn? (

I’m guessing Rex would rate this a medium, but I had hell with it and in fact didn’t finish it. It took me 33:17 to get down to the last two squares, and then I went in and had some eggplant, which is the only vegetable I’ll eat, and then came back out to the garage (you may recall my dad and I built an office out here last summer) and got sidetracked by some kind of scratching noise that I thought was a mouse, but it was a monster cockroach in a cardboard box. I never minded roaches as much as most people do, but that was before I knew they could make that much noise. One time in Austin I encountered a particularly strong roach in the toilet, and it took me three flushes to get him down the pipe—he just kept swimming faster against the current as the water swirled faster, and each time until the third time he would just pop back up again and start making a scramble up the side of the bowl while I sweated it out waiting for the tank to refill so I could flush him again. Another time I was doing battle with a roach in the normal fashion, and it suddenly launched itself into the air and flew at me vertically, like a little man with a jetpack. It was like watching a sudden leap in evolution. I don’t ever want to see that again. Both of those occasions were pretty traumatizing and seemed outside the scope of what we should be expected to accept from cockroaches, but neither was as disturbing as the noise this one tonight made. I really think he would have managed to start a fire in there if I hadn’t got to him in time.

So I threw in the towel on the last two squares, or really only one square, since I was pretty sure the second letter of R_BURN would be E. I did not know LEPTA (44D: Pennies: dollar :: ____ : drachma) or LEM (44A: 1960s-‘70s touchdown maker) . I don’t know much about sports, but the sport I know best is football, and I probably know more than most non-sports-fanatics about it, but I do not know Lem Barney. He played for Detroit for 11 seasons in the sixties and seventies, back when normal-sized human beings played football, and, as the clue rightly asserts, made some touchdowns. Seems like a reference to Stanislaw Lem would have been perfectly acceptable for Friday cluing, but maybe Joe and Will thought that was too easy. So, big fat F for Wade on this Friday, and I’m calling it medium-challenging. [Make that an F-minus. Of course the touchdown-maker would not have been clued in that fashion if his first name was the answer. Commenters have corrected me that this "LEM" is the abbreviation for "lunar excursion module." All right then, I'm an idiot. But shouldn't there have been a cue in the clue that the answer was an acronym?]

Overall, I don’t feel very rhapsodic about this one. It’s an impressive grid—lots of white spaces, six grid-spanning answers, four nine-letter down answers—but you have to work real hard to fill it, and when you’re done you’re looking at some pretty ordinary words and letters. WENT ASIDE (30D: Withdrew quietly) is not very . . . anything. Neither are HAS TO STOP (2D: Can’t continue), HAVE AN OPINION ON (16A: Think a certain way about), or I’VE NEVER TRIED IT (54A: “This would be a first for me”). Quite generic answers and clues there. And ARCTIC CIR (31A: It’s a little over 65 degrees: Abbr.) is cleverly clued (some people were maybe trying to figure out if “air” made any sense for the last three letters), but that abbreviation is rather unfulfilling.


  • 5D: Pastes in Mideastern cooking (TAHINIS) – First thing I entered and on the first pass. My wife makes a lot of hummus. When I see long across answers and don’t know the first two, I immediately switch to the down clues. It’s depressing to get only a few down answers in those long clues and for them to be far-interior answers.
  • 8D: You might not get paid while working on it (SPEC) – Second thing I entered. There’s a huge liquor store in Houston called Spec's. I don't go there anymore. Because I used to go there so much.
  • 11D: Ladles (DIPPERS) – What do you call snuff where you are? And what is the verb used to refer to employing said habit? Here you dip snuff (and if you’re from a very small town, you don’t know any male who doesn’t dip snuff, unless he smokes, which is just nasty.) I hear that in the Midwest it’s called snuse, and the very ill-informed refer to it as “chew” or as “dip.” Dip is a verb, not a noun, but a person who dips is a dipper. And you don’t chew snuff; you chew chewing tobacco, which is different. “Smokeless tobacco” is a very off-putting euphemism. All tobacco is smokeless until it’s on fire, and when it’s on fire, it is no longer smokeless. That cockroach noise was really disturbing.
  • 26D and 41D: Shrunken (NOT AS BIG) – Man, that reeks, and the fact that it’s spread across two clues/answers makes it reek twice as much.
  • 27D: Yet to be engaged? (BORED) – That’s pretty good.
  • 28D: Early times, for short (AMS) – That’s pretty good, too. I had BC’s at first, and then wanted RYE.
  • 29D: “The Insect Play" playwright (CAPEK) – I wanted ALBEE, then IBSEN, and that pretty much exhausted the five-letter playwrights I knew. CAPEK is the robot guy, isn’t he? The one who’s usually clued for the answer RUR (or something like that.) Or is he the guy who invented the word “robot”? I stopped learning things a long time ago, and I just keep asking the same questions.
  • 34: Things that open and close yearly? (WYE) – I didn’t catch on to this right away, but I did pretty quickly, but then couldn’t figure out if that’s how you’d spell “Y.” I suppose there are accepted ways to spell letters, but doesn’t it seem pointless or at least wrong to have a spelling for a letter, especially when you use that letter in the spelling? Remember when you’d smart off to your teacher when she told you to look up words you can’t spell? (“How can I look it up if I don’t know how to spell it?”)
  • 39D: 1997 Demi Moore flick (GI JANE) – Another one that I didn’t get right away, because when I see words like “1997” and “Demi Moore” and “flick” I just automatically assume I won’t know the answer. But if I’d have thought about it I’d have probably gotten it before moving on. I never saw it, but I remember the trailer for it, and I remember Chrissy Hynde did a very pretty cover of Steve Earle’s “Goodbye” that was used in the movie. Here’s his version (with the goddess Emmylou Harris):

  • 46D: Producers of sunbows (MISTS) – Good grief.
  • 1A: Bygone flag (THE STARS AND BARS) – I like the answer, but the clue could be a bit spicier, you’d think. Is it really bygone? I thought the flag still sometimes got referred to as “the stars and bars.”
  • 30A: Roll (WAD) – Also what a chew of tobacco can be referred to, though it’s considered derogatory. Also Ro’s opponent in that book written without the letter E.
  • 38A: Time being (NONCE) – Somehow I knew this. Not right away, but with only one or two letters. I don’t know how. I don’t know what “natch” means ordinarily (including right now), but I can usually get it quickly in a crossword puzzle. And then I forget what it means when I’m done with the puzzle.
  • 39A: Mammonism (GREED) – I had GREE_ and put . . . Greek. Which is stupid.
  • 50A: Much of Central America, once (BANANA REPUBLICS) – Do not fear, gentle reader. I will disgust you with tales of cockroaches and chewing tobacco, but I will never inflict a Jimmy Buffet song on you.

Hope everybody's having fun at the tournament.

From Mission Control in Houston,



Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009 &mdash Brendan Emmett Quigley (Finnish architect Alvar / Like Petruchio's wench in "The Taming of the Shrew")

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Word of the Day: CRI DE COEUR — An impassioned outcry, as of entreaty or protest. (

Hey, everybody. PuzzleGirl here, filling in at the last minute for the Brooklyn–bound Rex Parker. This is going to be a quick write-up. For reasons that are not very interesting at all, I didn't get to the puzzle until midnight and now I'm really tired. And I have a million things to do tomorrow before I can take off for the tournament Friday morning. What? You're bored with this already? Okay, me too.

Awesome puzzle today, which is exactly what one (e.g., SethG) would expect from BEQ. My first time through the acrosses I penciled in two, maybe three answers, and felt a sense of dread. I thought to myself, "No! Brendan! No! I've always loved your puzzles! Don't give me an impossible solve the day before the tournament! Please don't shatter my confidence now of all times! Especially when I'm blogging for Rex! That would be so unfair! Me! Me! Me!" (The vast majority of my internal rants end Exactly. Like. That.) But I plugged away at it and with a few guesses here and there, the puzzle fell quite quickly. (Get it? Quite Quickly? Because the theme ...? With the Qs ... ?)

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Residence (living quarters)
  • 25A: It has to be asked (burning question)
  • 43A: Alumni weekend V.I.P. (homecoming queen)
  • 48A: Many Haydn compositions (string quartets)

  • 1A: Toastmaster's offering (joke) — I'm all "Um ... toast? No, that can't be right."
  • 17A: Delft, e.g. (ware) — It's that blue and white pottery from the Netherlands. Pretty!
  • 34A: Troubled (ate at) — It always takes me Way Too Long to parse this.
  • 38A: Common origami figures (boats) — You wanted cranes, didn't you? So did I. And then I wanted bowls because PuzzleDaughter actually brought an origami bowl home from school the other day. (Her commentary: "This was Really Hard to make!")
  • 46A: 1961 Top 10 hit "Hello Mary ____" (Lou) — Ricky Nelson!

  • 47A: Texans' grp. (AFC) — Once again, I'm reminded how long it's been since I paid any attention to football. I'll give you a hint, the Arizona Cardinals were in St. Louis and the St. Louis Rams were in L.A. And Carolina didn't have a team. Which made sense because Carolina is not, ya know, an actual state.
  • 56A: It comes from Mars (Twix) — I think you'll be amazed at how many different flavors of Twix there are. How come Orange Twix and Cappuccino Twix are only available in Poland??
  • 61A: Finnish architect Alvar _____ (Aalto) — The original Aalto Vase was displayed at the 1937 World's Fair in Paris.
  • 63A: Something in the air (odor) — Eww.
  • 1D: Wandering _____ (Jew) — I'm sure nobody has anything to say about this.
  • 4D: Matinee showing time, maybe (eleven a.m.) — That seems awfully early, but I do remember catching an 11am movie one year on Christmas Day.
  • 10D: "Vamoose!" ("Beat it!") — Michael Jackson!

  • 13D: Reno's AAA baseball team (Aces) — Whatever you say!
  • 26D: "In _____" (1993 #1 album) (Utero) — In my head I had this album cover mixed up with the one for "Nevermind," which I wanted to post here and see if I could get the blog flagged again while Rex has his back turned. But ... never mind.
  • 33D: Coolpix camera maker (Nikon) — Originally entered Canon, until I realized the a wouldn't work for the Random Roman Date — 36A: Middle year of Nero's reign (LXI).
  • 49D: Lacking depth (two-d) — I'm guessing some people had trouble with this one.
  • 50D: Opposite of pobre (rico) — I was going to include the video of "Rico Suave" but I decided not to. You're welcome.
  • 53D: Certain castrato (alto) — I looked up the word castrato and I kind of wish I hadn't.
I know there's a lot I missed. Please have at it in the comments!

Love, PuzzleGirl


Muhammad's pugilistic daughter - WEDNESDAY, Feb. 25, 2009 - K Browder (Schoolmaster's rod / Brand of clothing or energy drink / Radio no-no)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Things that can be SPIKED (48D: What 21- and 52-Across and 3- and 31-Down might be)

Word of the Day: FERULE (35D: Schoolmaster's rod) - An instrument, such as a cane, stick, or flat piece of wood, used in punishing children. (

I was very lucky today - I got mowed down by FERULE last year in a disastrous SE corner that I remember vividly. OK, so I remember only FERULE, but that's something, or at least it was today. Point is, FERULE came to me easily, and thank god it did, because NO FEAR (34A: Brand of clothing or energy drink)? I suppose I would have guessed that "F" correctly by eliminating the alternatives (NO BEAR!), but I have only the vaguest sense of ever having seen said brand of clothing, and I *know* I didn't know there was any company that made clothing *and* energy drinks. Anyway, I breezed through the NO FEAR / FERULE section, but I can imagine that there are others who did not. I did not breeze through the ARAWAK section, as that is a tribe I have barely heard of (61A: Indian encountered by Columbus). One of the letters in that answer was the last I put in the grid.

I did not know that NEWS STORIES (21A: Pulitzer Prize entries) could be SPIKED. Is this the sense that's intended (Def. 5b

To add excitement or vitality to: spiked the speech with many jokes

Looking over the definitions of "spike," I've decided that my favorite is "Slang. a hypodermic needle." A "spike" can also be "A young mackerel of small size, usually 15 centimeters (6 inches) or less in length," FYI. But back to the theme - I think that, technically, you SPIKE the punch, not the bowl, so PUNCHBOWLS struck me as a little odd (31D: Party servers), though I'm sure the phrasing is accepted, just like ICE TEA is apparently accepted (9D: Summer cooler). I would have written ICED. IRON FENCES (3D: Some ornamental barriers) is a very interesting answer, and VOLLEYBALLS (52A: They may be served at the beach) is the answer one would most expect to see in a puzzle with this theme.

This puzzle provides a good example (to me) of how constant solving will make you a better solver. I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed or proud at the number of words and phrases I have learned from crosswords. I learned "STILLE Nacht" (65A: "_____ Nacht" (German carol)) only a couple days ago, and here it is, served up on a silver platter. Same thing is true of A.M.E. (28A: _____ Zion Church). You know about FERULE. Add to today's list LST (37D: W.W. II transport: Abbr.), ETUI (11D: Place for a thimble), ETO (38D: Arena where 37-Downs were used: Abbr.), and even SISAL (39D: Rope fiber).

There seem a lot of black squares today, including rarely seen "cheater" squares here and there (black squares added for ease of construction that do not affect the number of Across or Down clues). Maybe a little heavy on the abbrevs. today, but that's what happens when you make your grid chock full of 3-and 4-letter words. The abbrevs. become very hard to avoid. The good thing about the non-theme fill today is the quartet of sevens whose tails/heads meet at the center of the puzzle.

  • LECTERN (37A: Stand that a speaker might take)
  • SPINNER (39A: Randomizing device)
  • TIPSTER (7D: One with the inside track at the track?)
  • POLARIS (42D: Star in Ursa Minor)

I think they're all vivid, interesting words. They make me imagine someone giving a speech from a rotating LECTERN (rotating because it sits atop a SPINNER). Then there's the TIPSTER telling you to bet it all on POLARIS in the fifth. Will do.


  • 7A: "More than I need to know," in modern lingo (TMI) - already dated. Please never say it. This also goes for "bling," which was dated 10 years ago (I just heard some "reporter" use this word in relation to the Oscars, which is why I'm commenting on it now).
  • 14A: U.S./Mexico border city (Laredo) - Hmm, I've played "Streets of Laredo" before ... feels like I should do something different. OK, here you go:

  • 19A: Littlest sucker (runt) - oh, a piglet. "Sucker" makes me think "mosquito."
  • 49A: Muhammad's pugilistic daughter (Laila) - also French for "LAI, there!" (64A: My _____, Vietnam). I always want to spell her name LEILA, which is somebody's name, but I don't know whose. Then there's Clapton's LAYLA.

  • 22D: John's ode to Yoko ("Woman") - not one of my favorites, but since I now feel a deep and abiding connection to Lennon, I'll play ... something.

  • 44D: Radio no-no (payola) - thought this was going to be something like "profanity."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


TUESDAY, Feb. 24, 2008 - S. A. Anderson (1989 Bond Girl Bouvier / Professzor Rubik / Steely Dan's stellar seller / Slacker's bane)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Bird verbs - three theme answers (all phrased "_____ ONE'S _____") begin with verbs that are also bird names

Word of the Day: GORP (35D: Hiker's snack) - A mixture of high-energy foods, such as nuts and dried fruit, eaten as a snack.

Tuesday. More like a Monday. Birds are verbs. Believe I've seen similar theme before. Nothing new under sun, I guess. Theme density is really quite sparse - as sparse as I've seen in a good long while. Another 15 [whoops, 16! This grid is one square wider than your normal M-Sat. grid - not sure this weak theme warrants such shenanigans, but clearly I didn't notice, so maybe it's irrelevant] - starting over: another 16 might have made this more enjoyable. Or it might just have made it theme-ier.

Theme answers:

  • 21A: Strain to see over the top (CRANE one's neck)
  • 41A: Eat humble pie (SWALLOW one's pride)
  • 59A: Be a street peddler (HAWK one's wares)
Another about which there isn't a lot to say. The middle is oddly, delightfully Scrabbly, such that I can excuse the absurd density of abbreviations in there. XBOX goes nicely with GAMERS (27D: Arcade fans). ON KP (39D: Preparing hash for G.I. Joe, say) brings the total of military abbrevs. in this puzzle to three, though the clue makes it sound like the answer should be PLAYING WITH DOLLS - see also SSGTS (44D: U.S.M.C. noncoms) and PFC (65D: Low-rank inits.). I have never seen PEGS defined the way it is today (51A: Hard throws to first base, say). Did you hit the runner? The first basemen? That definition of PEG I know. Maybe you PICKED the runner off? Unclear. The "A" on Hester's chest is "Scarlet." I know this because of the title of the novel in question - "The SCARLET Letter." If it were "The RED Letter," then RED A would be right at 62D: Stigma borne by Hester Prynne. Not sure what to make of X AND O (58D: Tic-tac-toe alternatives); phrased that way, I'd expect to see X OR O. Honestly, I first expected the answer would be games of some sort - HANGMANS? I guess the plural makes it hard for that sense of the clue to be correct.

Best answers of the day - the symmetrical pairing of WIGGLE ROOM (19A: Margin to maneuver) and PAPER TIGER (65A: Toothless enemy). Wonderful, interesting, dynamic answers.

Valiant attempts to make this puzzle more exciting than it is can be found in the aggressive rhyming in clues like 3D: Hummus scooper-upper (pita) and 66D: Steely Dan's stellar seller ("Aja"). One of the hits off of "AJA" - PEG!


  • 17A: Ancient region with an architectural style named after it (Ionia) - highly desirable word for its voweliness. Along with AIOLI, one of the few five-letter words that are 80% vowels.
  • 28A: G.P.S. offering (map) - clue signals abbrev. Boo. No fair. I had RTE.
  • 69A: Norwegian coast feature (fjord) - with the nice OSLO pick-up (73A: Capital on a 69-Across).
  • 5D: Land-use regulators (zoners) - ouchy. See also SSS (53A: Sound of bacon frying), which is worse than it might have been given its role in adding "S"s to the ends of three different words. Feels almost like cheating.
  • 10D: Haberdashery accessory (tie clasp) - TIE CLIP wouldn't fit. What's the difference between a tie clip and a TIE CLASP. Turns out: nothing.
  • 11D: Slacker's bane (work) - don't I know it.
  • 14D: 1989 Bond girl Bouvier (Pam) - Mystery Answer of the day. Never heard of her. "Bouvier" is Marge Simpson's maiden name. You may need to know that some day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


MONDAY, Feb. 23, 2009 - A Arbesfeld (Stretchable holder / "_____ 18" (Leon Uris novel) / Hoverers over sports stadiums)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: BAND to BUND - five theme answers end with BAND, BEND, BIND, BOND, BUND, respectively

Word of the Day: CUMMERBUND - A broad sash, especially one that is pleated lengthwise and worn as an article of formal dress, as with a dinner jacket. (

Rather than talk about this puzzle's theme, I'll just refer you to the last time this puzzle was published - Monday, April 30, 2007. Not this puzzle exactly, but same idea. Same vowel shift. Only one theme answer overlap, though, in RUBBER BAND (17A: Stretchable holder). Not much to say beyond this. It was a Monday puzzle.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Stretchable holder (rubber band)
  • 23A: Loony (around the bend)
  • 35A: Strong family connections, idiomatically (the ties that bind)
  • 47A: Tax-free investment (municipal bond)
  • 57A: Tux go-with (cummerbund) - turns out I don't know how to spell this word; thought it was CUMBERBUND (from "cumbersome"?)

It was a good day to be a crime fiction fan, though NOIR is only appropriate if you're talking about the movie adaptation of "The Maltese Falcon" (21A: Genre for "The Maltese Falcon"). "Hard-boiled" is closer to accurate for the novel. And even then, no one called film "NOIR" in 1941. Weird to think of "The Maltese Falcon" as being a genre that had yet to be invented / defined. Just found out yesterday that Joe Gores has written a prequel to "The Maltese Falcon" called "Spade and Archer." Really want to read it, though I really want to read Lots of things, so who knows when / if that will happen. Oh, and the best answer of the day: HIRED GUNS (32D: Armed thugs). The only way it could have been better is if it had been HIRED GOONS.


  • 29A: Endings with mountain and election (eers) - biggest 'ouch' of the puzzle. Plural suffix! Almost makes STER look pretty (63A: Suffix with poll or pun)
  • 52A: "_____ 18" (Leon Uris novel) ("Mila") - big fat ?????? Maybe this was crosswordese back in the day. A day I was absent from crosswording class.
  • 1D: 50-acre homestead, maybe (farm) - I thought this was going to be something Way more technical / specific.
  • 3D: Internet guru (web master) - man I wanted it to be me. I fit!
  • 13D: Modern-day birthday greeting (e-card) - one of my most hated of e-answers. EMAG is still the champ. ETAIL is closing fast.
  • 10D: OK! magazine topics (celebs) - We had this word just this past weekend. Many CELEBS on display last night at the Oscars. I saw none of the nominated movies. Except "Kung Fu Panda." True story.
  • 28D: Wry comic Mort (Sahl) - last night's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award was presented to non-wry comic Jerry Lewis (whom I adore)

  • 44D: Hoverers over sports stadiums (blimps) - the reason I changed CUMBERBUND to CUMMERBUND
  • 46D: One guffawing (roarer) - uh, OK. I wonder if you could've picked up the guffaw at 43A: "That's a good one!" (ha ha) in some kind of cross-referential clue without making the cluing terribly awkward.
  • 55D: Hot-weather quenchers (ades) - I like this about as much as I like E-CARD, and like CELEBS, we saw ADE just this past weekend as well. I wish there was hot weather to quench. This morning. Just snow. More snow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS I wrote a Tournament-related post last night for all those who are attending or considering attending this weekend's tournament in Brooklyn. See it here.


2009 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I just now registered for the tournament in Brooklyn this weekend (Feb. 27-Mar. 1).

You can still register online here.

This posting is intended as a forum for readers who are attending the Tournament. Identify yourself, ask question, swap contact information, whatever.

I have to say that the tournament is one of the most ridiculously friendly environments I've ever been in in my life. If your reasons for not going are anything other than financial, I encourage you to reconsider.

At any rate, I'll be there, disguised as my alter ego, a mild-mannered professor from upstate New York.

So, if you're going, shout it out in the Comments section of this post.

Best wishes,

PS for unofficial tournament t-shirt info, go here. Shirt features a crossword blogger-themed puzzle by master constructor Vic Fleming.


SUNDAY, Feb. 22, 2009 - B Silk + D Peterson (Hedingham Castle locale / '70s small-screen role for Robert Young / Simmons competitor)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "The Cruciverbalist" - theme answers are 6 steps in the construction / publication of a crossword puzzle

Word of the Day: MNEME - the persistent or recurrent effect of past experience of the individual or of the race (m-w online); also, one of the three original muses; also, a retrograde irregular moon of Jupiter.

After finishing this puzzle, my first thought was: you left out some steps - i.e. all the hard work and frustration. Where is TRY TO JUSTIFY OBVIOUSLY HORRIBLE FILL? Or, RUN IFFY ENTRIES BY YOUR CONSTRUCTOR FRIENDS? Or, BANG HEAD ON KEYBOARD (all of which I've done)? My final thought, however, was so what? The theme entries are a bland description with no payoff. No punchline. No humor. No twist. Was "SEE BYLINE IN NEWSPAPER" supposed to be funny? I don't get it. The imagined quote / recipe goes nowhere. If the step-by-step instructions had been a soup recipe, at least I'd be left with something vaguely useful. I just don't understand how this puzzle got past the "cute idea" stage. Another problem with puzzles of this type is that the theme answers have to be symmetrical, so you get phrasing issues as constructors try to make the "steps" come out to a certain length. Step 2 is particularly awkward. DEVELOP BEST ENTRIES? It's not photography, and you don't send them to training camp. Maybe you DECIDE ON the best entries. I don't know. This one left me quite cold. There's nothing clever about the theme; further, there's very little of interest in the non-theme fill. The grid is very competently put together - hardly anything feels forced, and only MNEME (104A: Memory principle) made me screw up my face even a little. But mainly the puzzle was overly easy and predominantly bland. Perhaps not LAME (107D: Unconvincing), exactly, but not exciting either.

Theme answers:

  • 26A: Cruciverbalist's Step 1 (brainstorm theme ideas)
  • 39A: Step 2 (develop best entries)
  • 59A: Step 3 (construct suitable grid)
  • 66A: Step 4 (research and write clues)
  • 85A: Step 5 (send puzzle to editor)
  • 105A: Step 6 (the payoff) (see by-line in newspaper)
I learned some foreign locations today - never heard of Hedingham Castle before, though today I learned it's in ESSEX (67D: Hedingham Castle locale). What is it? It's a medieval castle with the best preserved Norman Keep in all of England. Never been to Germany, so HARZ Park was new to me (70D: Germany's _____ National Park). In fact, HARZ may be the only answer in the entire grid that was even vaguely unfamiliar to me. I've had Tuesday puzzles that threw me more curves than this one did. I have never been on the LEE Highway (62D: Virginia's historic _____ Highway), but at least I can guess whom it was named after.

I think my favorite entries of the day were EARTH WORM (112A: Night crawler) and DR. WELBY (86D: '70s small-screen role for Robert Young) - from "Marcus Welby, M.D."


  • 22A: "Hamlet" star, 1990 (Mel Gibson) - ooh, I also like this. I mean, the man himself appears to be a crazy anti-Semite, so boooo, but his full name looks good in the grid.
  • 25A: Belgian city in W.W. I fighting (Ypres) - an important crossword word. See also Milo O'SHEA (50D: Milo of "The Verdict," 1982) and SYD (75D: Barrett of Pink Floyd).
  • 35A: World's top-selling car model starting in 1997 (Corolla) - at least I get some trivia with my puzzle.
  • 63A: "I Saw _____ Again" (1966 hit for the Mamas & the Papas) ("Her") - didn't sound familiar until I added the words "Last Night" to the end of the title:

  • 80A: Fort Meade org. (NSA) - Hey, NSA, where were you Friday, when I wanted you?
  • 96A: 2003 Afghani film that won a Golden Globe (Osama) - nothing really to do with that OSAMA.
  • 110A: Product once pitched by Bill Cosby (Jell-o) - I remember the pudding pops commercials the best.
  • 116A: One edition of the Wall Street Journal (Asia) - really? That's your clue for ASIA? The one nutso clue on an otherwise right-over-the-plate cluing menu.
  • 4D: Twin-_____ aircraft (engined) - I winced a little here. The "D" ... it hurts.
  • 27D: Alphabetical foursome (MNOP) - goes nicely ... well, it goes, at any rate, with RRR (60D: Elementary school trio).
  • 28D: Desktop array (icons) - second day in a row that "array" has been in the clues. Also second day in a row for ... I won't give it away for syndicated Sunday solvers. But it's up in the NE and it's ... not the loveliest answer in the puzzle.
  • 37D: Pope after John X (Leo VI) - I need a "Better Know A Pope" segment for this blog.
  • 43D: "Annie" song with the lyric "Too busy / Too crazy / Too hot / Too cold / Too late / I'm sold" ("NYC") - as my wife said re: "Annie," "I know one song from 'Annie.' That song is 'Tomorrow.'" Here's a different song about NYC.

  • 72D: Modern advertising medium (taxi) - I was looking for something way more "modern" than this at first.
  • 90D: Setting for Melville's "Omoo" (Tahiti) - this should be a gimme. OMOO, TYPEE, South Seas, Melville. Crossword Solving 101.
  • 99D: "_____ Live," longtime Food Network show ("Emeril") - I wonder if this clue was changed to promote the Food Network in advance of next weekend's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament's Awards Banquet, which is apparently going to be a Food Network event of some sort. Details unclear. Maybe others know more.
  • 103D: Simmons competitor (Sealy) - had SERTA. Why not?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS I got a signed 8x10 photo of "Cliff" from the old IHOP ads yesterday (actor = Cliff Bemis). Some nice reader put him up to it. That makes 3 signed 8x10 glossies for my Rex Parker Hall of Fame. Send more!


Woman's name meaning "peace" - SATURDAY, Feb. 21, 2009 - Nothnagel + Walden (Methyl orange or Congo red / Some collectible Dutch prints)

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: SYMMETRIC MATRIX (23A: Rectangular array that's identical when its rows and columns are transposed, as this puzzle's grid)

Word of the Day: DRUSE - A member of a Syrian people following a religion marked by monotheism and a belief in al-Hakim (985–1021), an Ismaili caliph, as the embodiment of God.

Short write-up today, partly because I'm very busy and partly because I want to go bang my head against the wall for a while right now. I did not find the puzzle hard at all, as you can tell by the difficulty rating. In fact, I finished in about the half the time it took me to do yesterday's puzzle. And yet I still managed to make a mistake. I looked the grid over and over and over and couldn't see how. So I check (Google) all my "weird" answers (i.e. stuff I couldn't have defined before I did the puzzle, e.g. REDOXES - 13D: Electron-transferring reactions, briefly) to see if they exist in real life. It's not til I get to my last weird answer that I find the problem - "Wha ... wait ... you mean there's no such thing as a WEED BIN?" No, but there is a profanity-laden rap song called "Bin Laden Weed," in case you're interested:

I had WAX paper before I ever saw 37D: Trough (feed bin), and I just figured WEED BIN was one of those old-timey, WTF answers that you see from time to time on Saturdays. Never questioned it, because WAX paper seemed so solid and WEED BIN ... it's two recognizable words, anyway. FAX paper (37A: Kind of paper)? I thought that was just called "paper." Harrumph. Mike and Byron are too smart and crafty not to have planned that little pitfall. Or else I am alone in my buffoonery, inventing problems where no person in his right mind would have any.

The rest of the puzzle was great. Noticed the odd symmetry immediately and thought the puzzle would have something to do with insects, which is what I see crawling toward the NW corner if I focus only on the black squares. Never heard of SYMMETRIC MATRIX and at one point had SYMMETRIC METRIC until ANAKIN came to the rescue, as he sometimes does (25D: Obi-Wan's apprentice). Tore into the puzzle quickly. First entry - STATLER (15D: Country music's _____ Brothers), followed immediately by GO LEFT (17A: "Haw"), LATVIA (20A: NATO member since 2004), and TRIMS (21D: Prunes). Guessed RAGAS (1D: Hindu musician's source material for improvisation) despite not-clearly-plural cluing, and that allowed me to see the SYMMETRICAL part of 23A. NW should have been tough, but AZURES (14A: Certain blues) made the crosswordy AZO DYE (2D: Methyl orange or Congo red) apparent, and I think there is someone from the old NYT Crossword Puzzle Forum named ZULEMA - thank god, because I've never heard the name, otherwise (3D: Woman's name meaning "peace"). Loved the clue on RAZOR (1A: Item with clear face value?). Thought it might be some kind of acne cream at first.

Back to "weird" answers for a moment. Here were mine for the day:

  • "THE V.I.P.s" (6D: 1963 Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton drama) - had -VIPS and just threw the "THE" up there. What else could it be?
  • NO-PEST (41D: Brand of insecticide strips) - I had ANTS instead of APES at first, which is definitely an instance of "The Simpsons" @#$#ing with my head - they've feature space-going ants and space-going APES.

  • EVELINE (12D: Title woman of a story from James Joyce's "Dubliners")
  • ERNESTO (58A: Automaker Maserati) - that one ended up being easy to guess given crosses

I love that this was a suitably tough and highly imaginative Saturday puzzle that managed to have answers that were predominantly Not from outer space. Nothing feels forced. And it's really my own damn fault for falling into the WEEDBIN (my new phrase for committing wholly to an answer that in retrospect is hilariously wrong).


  • 16A: Cry of relief at an accident scene ("He's alive!") - macabre! I love it! I had HE'LL BE OK at first because I stuck ELI (10D: "Hostel" diretor Roth), which I somehow knew, into the 9D instead of the 10D slot.
  • 22A: Grp. with the debut single "10538 Overture" (ELO) - "Grp." and three-letter length told you all you needed to know here:

  • 27A: Stud alternative (ear clip) - sounds more painful than it is. I'm guessing.
  • 29A: Fruit salad waste (stems) - great, odd clue
  • 30A: Where pizza originated (Naples) - trivia!
  • 31A: Some collectible Dutch prints (Eschers) - not sure why "collectible" is in this clue
  • 34A: Round-bottomed vessels (woks) - nice misdirection with the ambiguous "vessels" there.
  • 35A: Split and boned entree (scrod) - surprised how fast I got this. Had similar feeling about DRUSE (47D: Believer in al-Hakim as the embodiment of God)
  • 36A: A choli is worn under it (sari) - as with the clue, this one makes a valiant stab at Saturdayness. Maybe CHOLI should have been my Word of the Day.
  • 45A: "Collage With Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance" artist (Arp) - stone cold gimme. Three letters and the title is basically telling you it's "Dada".

  • 49A: Who wrote "I dwelt alone / In a world of moan, / And my soul was a stagnant tide" (Poe) - you see a pattern here. Monday answers given fantastic, informative, lively Saturday cluing. If you've gotta serve the basics, may as well dress them up pretty.
  • 5D: They may be seen on a lake's surface (reflected images) - probably the most forced answer in the grid, and yet not really That forced.
  • 9D: A little cleaner? (vac) - I did a little dance in my mind when this was the first thing I came up with, and it ended up being right.
  • 24D: 1990s HBO sketch comedy series ("Mr. Show") - memory! Had the "MR." part and recalled this show instantly. I didn't want it much, but David Cross is one of the funniest guys on the planet, so it's probably worth checking out. Profanity and sacrilege ahead:

  • 31D: Dido (escapade) - whoa. What? I think she meant more to Aeneas than that.
  • 32D: German chancellor, 1998-2005 (Schröder) - recalled him. Thankfully 2005 was not that long ago.
  • 44D: Self-response to "Must we put up with this?" ("I say no") - We had a similar weird response to one's own hypothetical question in a late-week puzzle last month. I guess it works.
  • 52D: Home of Presque Isle Downs racetrack (Erie) - and one last Monday-in-Saturday-clothes answer

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


FRIDAY, Feb. 20, 2009 - P Gamache (2003 memoir of a TV executive / Big Daddy player on 1950s Broadway / Decoy accompanier)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: RAREE (36A: Street show) - this word is not in the Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary. Not on its own, at any rate. The term is "RAREE-show" (the entire first page of Google search returns for "RAREE" reveals the same thing). Definition: "1. a show carried about in a box: PEEP SHOW, 2. a cheap street show: CARNIVAL"

A very doable puzzle, but one that threw tacks in my way at every turn. I haven't seen a puzzle with so many answers, especially big answers, that I'd simply never heard of before:

  • 1A: Aids in artful deception (weasel words) - not a phrase in my vocabulary. Took me forever to see it, mainly because I had -RIT and still couldn't see WRIT (1D: Bailiff's concern). I don't think I knew WRITs had anything to do with bailiffs.
  • 6D: Square, in 1950s slang, indicated visually by a two-hand gesture (L-seven) - Not alive in 50s. Never, ever heard of this (though I can visualize it, which is nice). There is a girl band from the 90s called L7. I can't believe this phrase is the inspiration for their name . . . and yet, it's' true. Wikipedia!

The band took its name from a 1950s slang phrase meaning "square," but is often mistaken as a reference to the sex position, "69". The slang phrase "L7" can be heard in the classic Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs song "Wooly Bully" ("Let's not be L7, come and learn to dance..."), and in the Rick James song "Bustin' Out" ("L7- just a little too damn straight...").

  • 26D: Extension of the terms of a marine insurance policy (shore cover) - "marine insurance policy?" I couldn't even imagine what that phrase meant, let alone what the answer to the clue could be.
  • 20A: Big Daddy player on 1950s Broadway (Ives) - no idea. None. Burl IVES? Actually, yes. And here I thought he was just a chubby avuncular crooner of songs of yore.
  • 25D: Measure of a newborn's health, named for its developer (Apgar Score) - Again, no clue. Just ... none. I had up to -GAR SCORE and was hoping to discover that legendary comics artist E.C. SEGAR had secondary career as a studier of newborns. The "P" in APGAR was the very last letter I filled in. PHIAL (29A: _____ of Galadriel (gift to Frodo Baggins))!!? Really? That's a thing I'm supposed to know. Well, I knew PHIAL was a word, and that was enough.
  • 13D: Big Apple excursion operation (Circle Line) - a gimme if you live in NYC, I'm guessing, but I needed many, many crosses to make it inferrrable. My big problem, solving-time-wise, was having NSA for CIA for a very, very long time (16A: Org. in the 1982 film "Enigma"). I know a song called "Circle Line," but I don't know who sings it ... aha, Rodney Allen. Any music/video? Let me see ... nope. But here's a completely unrelated song I found while noodling around at lastfm. It has a great title.

  • 45D: _____ Rivera, Calif. (Pico) - usually nail the Calif. place names. Not today.
  • 52A: Loch _____, on the River Shannon (Ree) - Not to be confused with the RAREE.
  • 34A: Year of the last known Roman gladiator competition (CDIV) - now That's how you clue a random Roman numeral. More inferrable than I thought, actually, since Rome's fall is traditionally dated to 476 (making a 5c. date guess a good one). I was not thinking so clearly when I actually solved this, so vague knowledge of Roman history helped not at all.

Fridays rarely smack me around like this. Oh, there are usually a few smacks, but this one was unrelenting. But, thankfully, they were smacks and not full-fledged punches, and so, slightly achy and red about the head and shoulders, I finished the puzzle.

Along the way, there was some joy. KISS MY GRITS! (49A: 1970s-'80s sitcom put-down/catchphrase - that clue was really hard to type). Who doesn't love Flo? And grits? Actually, I don't think I've ever had grits. Closest I ever got was, let's say, Cream of Wheat. I own many a Mike SHAYNE novel (40D: Private detective Mike of Brett Halliday novels), so it was nice to see him today - also nice to get any answer easily today. Usually my favorite answers of the day are among the long answers, but today it's the rotationally symmetrical pair of DUCK CALL (10D: Decoy accompanier) and TAX EXILE (33D: Wealthy Cayman Islands resident, maybe). There's something quirky and charming about both of them - which I guess I'd say about any answer with two Xs in it. I also have a certain admiration for the poetic-sounding stacking of

KLATCH (21A: Gabfest)
SCUTTLE (24A: Sink)
SHANTIES (28A: Crude dwellings)

AS A MAN seemed a bit forced (25A: How Viola is disguised in "Twelfth Night"), as did I MAY (23D: Words after "if" or before "as well"). "I MAY as well?" The "MAY as well" part hangs together, but the pronoun is arbitrary. A WALK, while fine, had an annoyingly vague clue: 30A: Go for _____. The real down side of the puzzle, one that is somewhat excusable in puzzles with four blocks of long answers, is the abundance of abbrevs: AGCY, ORS, SCH, ELO, CIA, SSNS, RMS, PSS, RIT (39D: Slowing, in mus.), BSMT. Real estate ad abbrevs. are among my most hated of abbrevs., so seeing two today was no joy.


  • 33A: Antigen attacker (T cell) - a gimme that helped me reboot the puzzle in the center after I'd died in both top corners.
  • 37A: 2003 memoir of a TV executive ("Roone") - Arledge. Former chairman of ABC News. Died in '02.
  • 44A: Switch (beat) - is this a verb? As in "go get me a switch so I can BEAT you, son."
  • 53A: Recyclable (aluminum can) - cute. It's a noun, not an adjective.
  • 2D: Strauss's "_____ Nacht in Venedig" ("Eine") - a gimme. Weird, as I know almost no German and have never heard of this Strauss piece. Must be German or "One Night in Bangkok"

  • 4D: "The Tudors" airer, briefly (SHO) - gimme, though I've never seen it. You'd think that frequently teaching Renaissance literature would make me desperate to see it, and yet ... no.
  • 11D: Cave (spelunk) - a verb?
  • 12D: Pet with short legs and a hard coat, informally (Scottie Dog) - went looking for something in an armadillo.
  • 24D: Slate, originally (shale) - wanted something to do with EMAGs.
  • 34D: Juniper product (cone) - I had SLOE, which makes no sense, and yet kind of does.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS The "Chicago Tribune" published a little article yesterday about this blog.


Conductor noted for wearing turtlenecks: THURSDAY, Feb. 19, 2009 - K Der (Marshalls competitor / Bond villain in "Moonraker" / Boomer's kid)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: EXTRA, EXTRA (57A: Old street cry, or what's in 18-, 23-, 34-, 42- and 51-Across?) - theme answers are familiar phrases with one EXTRA letter added to the beginning, creating wacky phrases, which are clued, "?"-style; the added letters are, in order, E, X, T, R, and A.

Word of the Day: AVULSE - To separate or tear away a body part, as from an accident or surgery. (

I loved this puzzle. That is, I loved it until the SE, where my love was seriously compromised by a horrendous crossing of ugliness. I wanted to AVULSE that corner from the puzzle. In fact, I did. Or, rather, I quickly rewrote it to make the ugliness go away.

I admit it's a bit bland. ARE isn't great and ITER is a bit too xwordy, but ULNA and AS IS aren't exactly winners either. Besides, I did this version in about two minutes with just pencil and paper. A little effort and surely even better fill would emerge. I'll take NuGrid over the current grid if only because my way = no AVULSE (47D: Tear off forcefully) / A.M.E. (47A: Letters on some churches) crossing, which, though I guessed the "A" correctly, is a "Natick Principle" violation in my book (despite its involving only one proper noun). It especially bugs me when a crossing of not terribly common terms happens a. at a vowel, and b. at an initial, or part of an abbreviation. Since AVULSE is a fantastically uncommon word, I'd expect that "A" cross to be something gettable, or at least something that would make "E" impossible, because I really, really wanted "E," and Latin-wise, the "E" prefix makes total sense. EVERT, EGEST, EJECT. The only reason I guessed "A" was that "A.M.E." rang a very faint bell, and I could imagine that the "A" stood for something common like "American." Turns out it stands for "African," as in "African Methodist Episcopal." In retrospect, I'm sure I've seen "A.M.E." before. But ... wow, that corner is just painful. OK, I'm done. On to the awesomeness.

I love when the theme answers don't just work (i.e. pass muster) - they snap. They sizzle. AWES CRAVEN (51A: Amazes a horror film director?) is very clever, as is RADIOS AMIGOS (42A: Transmits a message to Pancho and pals?), despite the vowel sound change both entail. I'm not exactly sure what kind of "WINDOW" is being referred to in the clue for EBAY WINDOW (18A: What might have the heading "Collectibles" or "Toys & Hobbies"). I'm guessing it's just a web browser window, but does the "WINDOW" have the "heading?" Maybe so. XRAY OF HOPE (23A: Optimistic scan at the dentist's?) and TURBAN LEGEND (34A: Story of Ali Baba?) round out the long and impressive list of theme answers. Going six deep, all Acrosses, is a very impressive feat.

In typical KDer-esque fashion, this puzzle crackles with inventive fill and Scrabbly letters. In fact, I think it was probably excessive fondness for the "Q" that got this puzzle into trouble in the SE (56A: Starters and more -> SQUAD / 54D: Water colors -> AQUAS). Sometimes you have to know when to say when. But the X's today are phenomenal - and they're everywhere. Two answers with two X's in them - the last theme answer, as well as the dramatic TJ MAXX (1D: Marshalls competitor) - and then a fifth "X" at the end of DRAX (55A: Bond villain in "Moonraker"). I had DR. NO where DRAX was supposed to be at first, though I knew he was the eponymous villain in "DR. NO," not "Moonraker." Then there are the ZEES (50A: Scrabble 10-pointers). Penelope CRUZ (37D: "Volver" actress, 2006) does not interest me, despite her beautiful first name, but OZAWA ... OZAWA I like, especially dressed up in this sartorial clue - 67A: Conductor noted for wearing turtlenecks. If you are going to do a Google Image search of [Ozawa] and have an aversion to Japanese/Canadian porn stars, I suggest you turn the SafeSearch function "ON" before you begin. Or just search [Ozawa conductor]. That seemed to do the trick.

Lastly, I love the scifi mini-theme up in the N and NW. JERI (14A: Ryan of "Star Trek: Voyager") followed immediately by YODA (15A: Film character who says "Named must your fear be before banish it you can") ... and intersected by NIMOY (4D: "I Am Spock" autobiographer)!? The nerd factor in that nexus is so high that I don't think it can be accurately measured. Very daring, Mr. Der.


  • 30A: Boomer's kid (X'er) - my parents are a tad too old to be boomers, but I am right in the XER sweet spot. Both my parents were born *during* the war. Don' t know what that makes them.
  • 68A: Unfortunate date ending (slap) - I love this clue, but I sure hope it's a girl slapping a guy and not the other way around. The latter scenario would make "unfortunate" a horrible euphemism.
  • 69A: Dickens's Mr. Pecksniff (Seth) - I really should read more Dickens. To me, SETH is a fantastic comics artist and illustrator.
  • 3D: Amount of debt, old-style (arrear) - singular!? Wow, how "old" are we talking? Both the definitions in my Webster's Third International Dictionary that are marked "archaic" are not debt-related. Guess I need to crack out my OED. Ugh. It's downstairs. Too lazy.
  • 7D: Home of the City of Rocks National Reserve (Idaho) - been to the state many times, but never heard of this "city". It's eerie-looking. Its "inhabitants" are all rocks that look like strange, ghost-like creatures.
  • 10D: Ancient pillager (Hun) - poor Huns. Known for only one thing.
  • 12D: "Wedding Album" recording artist (Ono) - Oh, Yoko. You can't stay away for long, can you?

  • 19D: Prop on "The Price is Right" (wheel) - this took me way longer than it should have. I forgot about that damned gigantic wheel.
  • 36D: Dortmund denials (neins) - the Dortmunder novels of the late Donald Westlake are worth checking out. Speaking of speaking German, here is one of my favorite German-speakers - Rainier Wolfcastle!

  • 55D: Precursor to Surrealism (Dada) - Dada I generally like, but Surrealism, not so much. Melting watches and bird-headed ladies only do so much for me.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


WEDNESDAY, Feb. 18, 2009 - S Gelfand (Bug-building game / Clark's crush on "Smallville" / Porter's regretful "Miss" / Dickensian cry)

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (I feel like I'm saying that a lot)

THEME: Gear shift - theme answers start with PARK, REVERSE, NEUTRAL and DRIVE, respectively, and the whole theme is tied together by the "possible title" "SHIFT / GEARS" (8A: With 61-Across, a possible title for this puzzle)

Word of the Day: FIE - Used to express distaste or disapproval.

A typical "first words related" theme with a nice corner-answer bonus. Not much more to say about that, except that REVERSE SPLIT is a new one to me (28A: Corporate action that increases the par value of its stock). Caused some slowage in the eastern section - where I was happy to see ALACK today (25D: Word of woe), after having tried and failed to force said answer to work in a puzzle last Thursday. But back to the theme - got the first theme answer early when the NW gave me PARK and I somehow remembered that PARK CITY, UTAH is the 19A: Home of the Sundance Film Festival. If you'd simply asked me where it's held, I would have said "uh ... somewhere in Colorado?" Next theme answer was REVERSE SPLIT, which I couldn't see at all, so ... moving on. I think I meandered down to the bottom and Somehow remembered the title "DRIVE ME CRAZY" (50A: 1999 Melissa Joan Hart movie). I doubt anyone here (by which I mean, you) saw it. I sure didn't. Melissa Joan Hart was the star of the long-running "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," and "DRIVE ME CRAZY" was a teen romantic comedy. DRIVE + PARK gave me the theme, which made NEUTRAL SHADE (41A: Bone, for one) easy to pick up. SPLIT in REVERSE SPLIT was probably the last thing I filled in. Somehow I did all that in 6+ minutes. No errors today, though ...

What in the world is COOTIE!? (5D: Bug-building game) - I see that it is a bug-building game, but it's one I have never played, or seen on TV, or seen at other people's homes, or seen in a toy store (that I recall). Are COOTIEs still being produced? It seems so. Been around a while. Missed me entirely. I'm more an "Operation" / "Sorry" / "Hungry Hungry Hippos" kind of guy. Oh, why am I mentioning this? Because the "I" was a Very tentative entry for me. REI (23A: King, in Portugal) was an educated guess based on the fact that (I think) Spanish for "king" is REY. Portuguese is a fine language, I'm sure, but to me it simply signifies "nutso spelling coming up!"

The real problem in this puzzle - the place that caused the most trouble both for me and my wife (and thus, perhaps, for many of you) was the NE, which I am calling "IT CORNER," as in 15A: The Beatles produced it and 12D: Cigarettes have it. The Beatles clue was galling. The Beatles produced BEATLEMANIA. "The Beatles produced MANIA." "These cigarettes have TAX." Don't like when the tricksiness of clues involves forcing the phrasing. Also, FIE = 11D: "For shame!"??? I thought it was much more negative and defiant, not a rough equivalent of "TSK" (which is what I had here at first). Even INS seemed oddly clued (10D: Favored bunch). I think of the folks in Congress or other elected positions as INS. They got elected. I guess that means they're "favored." If this is "IN" in the social sense, then I guess I don't hear people use INS that way enough. A-LIST ... ELITES ... IN CROWD, maybe.

[I tried to find Marshall Crenshaw's "The In Crowd" ... instead, you get this.]


  • 1A: Hits with bug spray (zaps) - rings untrue for me. Bug zappers zap bugs. Raid kills bugs dead, but without electricity.
  • 14A: Ex-politico with a Nobel and an Emmy (Gore) - "Simpsons" tidbit: on a trip to Knoxville with Bart, Nelson, and Millhouse, Martin Prince spends his last remaining money on a Talking Al Gore doll. The doll's one line: "You are hearing me talk."
  • 34A: Sari-clad royal (rani) - lots o' little gimmes to help you get started today. ADLAI also helped a lot (2D: First name in 1950s politics). Same for ALI (46A: Noted convert to Islam in 1964) and OTIS (27D: Porter's regretful "Miss")
  • 36A: Dickensian cry (meh) - just kidding, it's BAH, as in Humbug
  • 7D: Shawnee chief at the Battle of Tippecanoe (Tecumseh) - woo hoo. Fun. Great answer. Got it off the -UM-.
  • 28D: Physician/synonymist (Roget) - I had no idea "synonymist" was a word. That seems a ... pretty narrow field.
  • 35D: Clark's crush on "Smallville" (Lana) - not LOIS. Apparently on "Smallville" LANA now has superpowers, a development which is causing mass nerd hysteria on-line.
  • 36D: From Sucre, say (Bolivian) - love this. Forced me to remember where the hell Sucre is. I was looking for something French here at first.
  • 43D: Shakespearean soliloquist (Hamlet) - I am waiting to see the clue [Soliloquist/synonymist]. Not sure what the answer would be.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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