Italian port on Adriatic — MONDAY, Aug. 31 2009 — Features of yawls or ketches / Fabrics with wavy patterns / Predecessor bridge / Visitor District 9

Monday, August 31, 2009

Constructor: Fred Piscop

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: FOUR/FOR/FORE — first words of three theme answers are homophones of one another

Word of the Day: BARI (32D: Italian port on the Adriatic) — Seaport city (pop., 2001 prelim.: 332,143), capital of Puglia, southeastern Italy. Evidence shows that the site may have been inhabited since 1500 BC. Under the Romans it became an important port. In the 9th century AD it was a Moorish stronghold, but it was taken by the Byzantines in 885. Peter the Hermit preached the First Crusade there in 1096. Razed by the Sicilians in 1156, it acquired new greatness in the 13th century under Frederick II. It became an independent duchy in the 14th century, passed to the Kingdom of Naples in 1558, and became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. (Brit. Concise Encyc.)

This was pretty bad all around. The theme is not just tired (again with the homophones), but poorly expressed. FORE AND AFT SAILS is particularly wobbly as a theme answer, and FOUR MINUTE MILER ... well, when I Google it, Google wants to know if I meant FOUR MINUTE MILE. I wish. FOR OLD TIMES' SAKE is nice, but it hardly matters. The rest of the fill in this puzzle is dull and lazy. There is no way you should have MOIRES (19D: Fabrics with wavy patterns), BARI (32D: Italian port on the Adriatic), and LAMINA (36D: Thin layer) in your Monday puzzle. Those are all dusty, high-end crosswordese words that you should pull out only if you have no other options. On a Monday, with such an easy grid to fill (your "long" answers are six letters, for god's sake), maybe you get one of those words, but not three. And EENS? (61A: Poetic nights). Ugh. The very best part of this puzzle is WAMPUM (5D: Indian beads used as money). The rest, you can have back. No idea why this passes muster in the NYT. Last time I saw LAMINA ... well, I didn't like that puzzle either, but at least it had some kind of ambition.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Roger Bannister was the first (FOUR-minute miler)
  • 35A: How something may be done, nostalgically (FOR old times' sake) — [Nostalgically] works fine just by itself.
  • 54A: Features of yawls or ketches (FORE and aft sails)


  • 39A: Old competitor of PanAm (TWA) — do we need "old?" "PanAm" already conveys old (as in bygone, as in no more).
  • 42A: Mensa-eligible (smart) — this is just inaccurate. You have to get a certain score on a test to qualify for Mensa, don't you? So simply being SMART is irrelevant. This clue assumes the Mensa test is an accurate measure of SMARTness. I have never understood the desire to be in Mensa. At all.
  • 43A: Area west of the Mississippi (plains) — true enough, but weirdly hard for me to see coming at it backwards, ---INS.
  • 49A: Visitor in "District 9" (alien) — nice, timely clue.
  • 60A: Fabric introduced by DuPont (Orlon) — would make a good ALIEN name.
  • 11D: Politico Sarah (Palin) — get used to it. She's never going away.
  • 29D: Predecessor of bridge (whist) — don't play bridge, wasn't aware it had a lineage. Know WHIST from 18c. novels, I think.
  • 55D: 40 winks (nap) — I had NOD at first.

See you tomorrow,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Architectural pier — SUNDAY, Aug. 30 2009 — 1991 Tony winner Daisy / Worthless roadster / Music in Mysore / Maker of Fosamax and Zocor

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Constructors: Ashish Vengsarkar and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Literally So"
— Clues are hyper-literal representations of their answers, which are (generally) familiar phrases, e.g. 86A: FI-TH WH--L = FIFTH WHEEL (i.e. SPARE) with "FEE" removed (i.e. with NO EXPENSE) => SPARE NO EXPENSE

Word of the Day: ANTA (83D: Architectural pier) — An anta (pl. antæ) (Latin, possibly from ante, 'before' or 'in front of') is an architectural term describing the posts or pillars on either side of a doorway or entrance of a Greek Temple - the slightly projecting piers which terminate the walls of the naos.[1] (wikipedia)

I declare this puzzle ingenious. I did not feel this way initially. Started off thinking it was fussy and confusing, mainly because I just didn't understand 23A: -IRC-MS-ANCES (take out of context). I could see that letters spelling "CUT" had been removed from "CIRCUMSTANCES," but "CUT" means "TAKE OUT" so it felt like the "right" answer should have been TAKE OUT OUT OF CONTEXT. . . Later answers proved clearer, and the puzzle became an enjoyable challenge. Once I'd finished I tried to figure out what was wrong with 23A, and finally realized I had the wrong meaning of "CUT." Your "CUT" (of profits, or stolen goods, or whatever) is your "TAKE"; it's a noun, not a verb. So -IRC-MS-ANCES = TAKE (i.e. "CUT") OUT OF CONTEXT (i.e. CIRCUMSTANCES). Got it. My brain hurts a bit from trying to make sense of these, but I do believe they all make sense. One downside — I do not believe that WORTHLESS ROADSTER is a thing (see 121A). All the other clues are versions of common words or phrases. 121A: W--THL-SS R-AD-TER feels entirely made-up.

I finished this puzzle with a sad error: had ANSA / SONAL instead of ANTA / TONAL. I knew ANSA was something, whereas I'd never seen ANTA (or forgot I'd ever seen it) (83D: Architectural pier), and since "SON-" indicated sound (i.e. of language) just fine, I didn't question SONAL as the answer to 95A: Like the Vietnamese language (tonal). I mean, yeah, SONAL hurt a little, but so do lots of little weird words. Bah. Turns out ANSA is a looped handle on a vase (or amphora). Also something to do with rings of Saturn, and last name of a novelist I don't know. ANSE is a character in Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying."

Theme answers:

  • 23A: -IRC-MS-ANCES (take out of context) — literally "CUT" (take) out of "CIRCUMSTANCES" (context)
  • 36A: ANTI--VERNMENT UN--ST (bloodless revolution) — literally "ANTI-GOVERNMENT UNREST" (revolution) without "GORE" (i.e. bloodless)
  • 52A: AR--CL- (the missing link) — literally "ARTICLE" (the) missing "TIE" (link)
  • 70A: P---ARY CARE PHY-ICIANS (Doctors Without Borders) — literally "PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIANS" (Doctors) without "RIMS" (Borders)
  • 86A: FI-TH WH--L (spare no expense) — literally "FIFTH WHEEL" (spare) with no "FEE" (expense)
  • 98A: WHAT A -ANDA DOES IN -EIS-RELY FA-HION (Eats, Shoots and Leaves) — literally "PLUS" (and) leaves "WHAT A PANDA DOES IN LEISURELY FASHION" (eats shoots)
  • 121A: W--THL-SS R-AD-TER (lemon drop cookies) — literally "WORTHLESS ROADSTER" (lemon) with OREOS (cookies) dropped
Aside from the mistake at ANTA / TONAL, the one real trouble area of the puzzle for me was the SW. This was due almost entirely to the heretofore unknown LOMI LOMI (107A: Hawaiian massage). Needed every single cross to get this one, even when I realized that the answer was going to be simply a four-letter string repeated. I got down to LO-I LO-I and even with two shots at getting that "M," I wasn't certain. You thread a MAZE? (109D: Something to be threaded) ... and MERE is 110D: Pure? I can see how both clues correct, but both clues are deliberately off-center. I chose "M" mainly because no other letter would do, and both resulting answers seemed OK. This video features a naked person who is well covered by a towel in the parts that might offend you but still if you fear even the suggestion of nudity Do Not Play

[tell me more about Graham...]

Was not a fan of EURO AREA (76A: Currency union since 1999), which (still) sounds made-up. Was a fan of the fully named THOM MCAN (66A: Shoe brand reputedly named after a Scottish golfer), a guy whose first and last names have good grid cred, but aren't known for hanging out together.


  • 1A: Singer Lambert, runner-up on the 2009 "American Idol" (Adam) — something about the "the" in this clue makes it sound like it's being uttered by a very old person who doesn't watch the show: "Is that that fella from the 'Idol?' The gay one? He's gay, ya know."
  • 29A: Hymn whose second line is "Solvet saeclum in favilla" ("Dies Irae") — like THOM MCAN (bet no one's ever said *that* about DIES IRAE before), this answer usually only contributes half of itself to the grid.
  • 46A: Maker of Fosamax and Zocor (Merck) — I botched this at first because I typed in YOU AND I instead of YOU AND ME at 5D: Us, and it somehow fit because I typed it in fast without looking where the letters were going and everything was in the wrong place and long story short I thought this answer began with "D".
  • 48A: Covered walkway (stoa) — knew it was one of those Greek words ... took a few beats to remember it.
  • 84A: 1991 Tony winner Daisy (Eagan) — hell no. No way. No chance (except thru crosses). Never heard of her. 1991? Tony? Whatever you say.
  • 55D: "Excalibur" star Williamson (Nicol) — hell no. And I've seen "Excalibur." NICOL Williamson is the Daisy EAGAN of "Excalibur."
  • 120A: Modern home of the biblical Elam (Iran) — good guess. ELAM shows up in puzzles from time to time, often as an NFL place kicker.
  • 128A: Bob in the Olympics (sled) — did not know "Bob" could stand independently of "sled" like this.
  • 3D: "It's Time to Cry" singer, 1959 (Anka) — his daughter is married to Jason Bateman (of "Arrested Development" fame). I just learned that this week from NPR's "Fresh Air."

  • 14D: French river craft (bateau) — "river?" True, but "bathtub" is just as true. "Bateau" simply means "boat."
  • 15D: National monument site since 1965 (Ellis Island) — would make a nice seed entry in an Egyptian Gods-themed puzzle.
  • 81D: Music in Mysore (raga) — Mysore = #failedsocialnetworkingsitenames
  • 89D: Wii alternative (XBOX) — XBOX is god's gift to crossword constructors . A convenient way to squeeze "X"s into tiny corners of your grid. WII is also a divine gift. Double-I that doesn't come from a ridiculous Latin ending or a pope or an act in a play.
  • 99D: NBC inits. since 1975 (SNL) — "Saturday Night Live," of course. "1975" is often the giveaway for SNL.
  • 102D: Cry after the rap of a hammer ("sold!") — I like this clue. My first thought was "order!"
  • 34D: Company name that becomes another company name if you move the first letter to the end (Avis) — goes to VISA. I misread the clue and kept wondering what SAVI was known for.

Time for the Tweets of the Week (chatter about crosswords culled from "Twitter"). Forgot about this feature last week, so some of these are saved up. Thanks to PuzzleGirl for helping me keep track of these.

  • SaBNY I am 5 squares away from finishing my first times crossword puzzle. All comments about it being monday can be kept to yourself.
  • Woodie1942 Buy a crossword puzzle book, let your local Liberal Newspaper die!
  • alice_wynn In Touch magazine crossword clue: kings of Leon song: "(blank) Somebody". WTF?
  • Jencenator Why do i try and do the crossword puzzle every sunday, when i know its just gonna piss me off?
  • rognbrow sometimes I hate my job! Just been sorting out the crosswords for bank holiday weekend, nightmare and woe-betide me if I get it wrong
  • rognbrow we literally get thousand of complaints if there is ever anything amiss with the crosswords, not usually a design job apart from specials
  • KristinCanWrite @1000thmonkey most important lesson i learned in the newspaper biz? if you eff-up the daily crossword layout, you better run for your life.
  • ianmfahey You know you're a Star Wars nerd when the crossword answer to "Like Darth Vader" is "EVIL" and you think, "well, it's not that simple"
  • deniserenee I suck at crossword puzzles. I just assume all the answers are kitty, glitter, or bob saget. I'm wrong every time.
Here's something I posted on Twitter yesterday, but you all should know about it: "New weekly crossword puzzle @thedailybeast, written by Matt Gaffney. Make it a habit. Please RT." — Matt Gaffney will now be writing a weekly puzzle (every Thursday) for the newsertainment website "The Daily Beast." Sunday-sized puzzles, about Wednesday-level of difficulty (so far). He's done two already. Here's the first (from which you can get to the second). Until "The Daily Beast" can develop a good applet and/or make puzzles available for download in AcrossLite, I recommend simply printing the puzzle out and solving on paper.

Finally, though it has nothing to do with the puzzle, I'm posting my new favorite photograph of all time: my best friend, August 11, 1977. There is nothing about this photo that is not great.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Headline during Dreyfus Affair — SATURDAY, Aug. 29 2009 — Nell director Michael / Bullying seabird / Studebaker relative / Classical lyre holder

Constructor: Doug "The Thug" Peterson (ironic nickname I just gave him — he is a kind, thoughtful, softspoken man)

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: JAEGER (8D: Bullying seabird)n.

  1. (also 'gər) Any of several Arctic and Boreal sea birds of the genus Stercorarius that harass smaller birds and snatch the food they drop. Also called skua.
  2. A huntsman or hunting attendant.

[German Jäger, hunter, jaeger, from Middle High German jeger, from Old High German jagāri, from jagōn, to hunt.] (


This one was not just easy — it was possibly the easiest Saturday puzzle I've ever done, and so easy that I'm convinced there was a screw-up and this week's Friday/Saturday puzzles were switched. I'm having trouble imagining how someone could have had more trouble on this one than they did on yesterday's (though said people surely exist). You know who might have done poorly on this puzzle? Bird-haters. It was a bad day for the ornithophobic, what with CAW cawing in your ear up top (11D: Field call), a herd of EMUS running at you in the west (40A: Some farm stock), a double shot of "Peter and the Wolf" bird names — 44A: "Peter and the Wolf" bird (Sasha) + 45A: "Peter and the Wolf" duck (Sonia) — and then, finally, the puzzle's only real roundhouse punch (from my perspective): JAEGER (8D: Bullying seabird). I recognize JAEGER only when it's preceded by Andrea or followed by "-meister" (actually "Jägermeister" is spelled thusly, but I can't hear the difference). And hey, if you can't figure out what kind of "bird" SASHA is, why not throw the clue to SASHA Obama? It can't be easy knowing her sister MALIA is going to be a crossword hero like her dad, while SASHA will surely be left back (crossword frequency-wise) with the JENNAs and CHELSEAs of the world. Give the kid a break.

This puzzle started off with a big fat gimme for both baseball and crossword fans: Mike MUSSINA (1A: 2001-08 Yankees pitcher with seven Gold Gloves). He was in "Wordplay!" I wish Doug had included that fact in the clue, just to taunt the sports-haters among us. "I want to hate this clue, because sports are bad, but he does crosswords, and those are good, so ... [head explodes]." Went MUSSINA to IMPS (5D: Hell-raisers) to (improbably) MAWLS (18A: Heavy hitters). What's improbable is not my spelling (which is just wrong), but the fact that I was so far inside the ballpark on that one ("W" goes to "U"). ASKS was easy (21A: Puts it to), and the "K" gave "ST. LUKE" away (3D: He wrote of the prodigal son) and then the NW was done and once the front ends of those 15s were done, they went across very easily (though the TOWERS part of CELL PHONE TOWERS took a cross or two to get, 17A: Some coverage providers).

Threw URETHANE down off the "URE-" despite feeling like I might be making up a word (12D: Bowling ball material). Wrote down ELSEMERE for ELSINORE at first (14D: "To be, or not to be" soliloquy setting), briefly confusing my "Hamlet" settings with my Chaucerian manuscripts (what can I say? Job hazard). Otherwise, honestly, I walked through this thing, half asleep, sipping tea, taking long pauses to sit back and admire the grid and enjoy my apple ... and I still finished under 10. On a Saturday? Insane. This would have been a fabulous Friday puzzle. And yesterday's, a perfect Saturday. On the upside, I got enjoy to two great puzzles.

Today's names (often killers in late-week puzzles) were in my wheelhouse, occasionally without my knowing it. For instance, how the the hell did I know APTED (9D: "Nell" director Michael)? Went with APTOW at first, then realized I was thinking Judd Apatow — but I got APTED off just the "P" in INTIMATE APPAREL (15A: Revealing pieces). And I couldn't tell you one thing about Michael APTED right now beyond the info I got from this puzzle. JULES Feiffer, on the other hand, was a fat gimme — I teach a course on comics, so my knowing him is no surprise, though I knew his name well before my obsession with comics started. CHAN wasn't a gimme, but crosses took care of him no problem (23A: "Keeper of the Keys" was the last novel he was featured in). I also teach a course on crime fiction (starting Tuesday), so Earl Derr Biggers and his creation Charlie CHAN are familiar names to me. SABIN was my first guess at 41D: _____ vaccine, though I held off writing his name in, thinking answer might be SERUM (?) ... and then SERA ended up being the next-door answer (44D: Clinic supplies). Weird. Then there's PLUTARCH — easy when the "P," "L," and "U" are already in place before you even see the clue (32D: "On the Malice of Herodotus" author).


  • 8A: Headline during the Dreyfus Affair ("J'Accuse!") — if you know anything about the Dreyfus Affair, you know Zola and this phrase.
  • 33A: Worker in a big house near Big Ben (gaoler) — cute clue, but one that makes the answer Super easy to get. That answer opened up the whole SW very, very nicely. Got "I GUESS SO" off that "G" alone (29D: "Um ... all right").
  • 34A: What an antsy person might watch (clock) — great clue — one that actually made me pause and think for a few moments.
  • 41A: Otto follows it (sette) — Italian numbers will slow me down, but here I knew it was "seven" I was looking for, and so S--TE went in the grid right away, and I waited the rest out.
  • 43A: Seasoning cristales (sal) — never really saw clues on EMUS or SAL because those long Downs went down so easily.
  • 46A: Something shown off on a half-pipe (skateboard trick) — like CELL PHONE TOWERS, I had to wait for the last word on this one. Considered SKILL and TRIAL (!?), and then slapped head/said "D'oh" when the much better / more obvious TRICK fell into place.
  • 1D: Algonquian language (Micmac) — crossed my fingers and hoped it was right, since all the crosses seemed solid and it sounded right ...
  • 10D: Coast Guard noncoms (CPOs) — know this only from xwords and the TV show "CPO Sharkey," which I've never seen. From the Random Video department, here is L.A. punk band The Dickies performing on "C.P.O. Sharkey" (late '70s). Acc. to Wikipedia: "Notably, the series was the first American prime-time TV series to have a punk rock themed episode, with San Fernando Valley punk rock band, The Dickies, making a guest appearance."

  • 4D: Sash supporters (sills) — off the "S" in MUSSINA. First thoughts were of Miss America pageants or OBIS, but then this window-related meaning came to mind.
  • 30D: Creator of the stuff of legends? (mapmaker) — great clue, though again, very easy. Move off the apparent meaning of "legend" and the first place you land is the map-related meaning of "legend."
  • 34D: Old Silk Road destination (Cathay) — had to wait for a few crosses, but the name is very familiar from xwords (like DESOTO, 36D: Studebaker alternative), so no problem.
  • 48D: Ending with Sea or Ski (Doo) — when you have momentum ... when you come at every answer with at least one and usually multiple crosses in place, then the puzzle just falls and the potential toughness of the clues in many cases becomes irrelevant. I had DO- before I ever saw this clue. What's the answer going to be? DOG? Actually, SKIDOG and SEADOG are great names.
Hey, did Michael Jackson rise from the dead (as expected)? If not, can someone please explain what Google's done to its logo today?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. Whoa, just noticed (how did I not know this?) that "The Daily Beast" has a crossword puzzle now, written by a fantastic constructor, Matt Gaffney. Check it out. Not sure how regular this gig is. I'll ask him and let you know tomorrow.


Two-time president of Romania — FRIDAY, Aug. 28 2009 — Memorable 1968 movie villain / Jazz-loving TV sleuth 1950s-'60s / Destroyer in 2000 headlines

Friday, August 28, 2009

Constructor: David Quarfoot

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Ion ILIESCU (13D: Two-time president of Romania)
— Iliescu is widely recognized as the predominant figure in the first fifteen years of post-1989 Romanian Revolution politics. During his terms Romanian politics stabilized, and Romania joined NATO. However, he is often accused by political opponents and journalists of retaining communist convictions and allegiances, as well as tolerating corruption in the party he led (successively named FSN, FDSN, PDSR, and PSD) and his administrations. (wikipedia) — ILIESCU is the Grover Cleveland of Romanian politics: non-consecutive terms! ('90-'92, '92-'96 and ... 2000-'04)

First, thrilled to see David Quarfoot back and publishing puzzles again after a long break. Second, thrilled to have torn this puzzle up from NW to SE. Absolutely shredded it. Wednesday-style. Headed for some kind of new Friday record. Which brings me to third: utter debasement in the NE and SW corners. Those corners may as well have been separate puzzles. The NE alone took me as long as the entire rest of the puzzle (SW corner excluded), and SW, while somewhat more pliable, still didn't behave. Final analysis: a Wednesday/Thursday puzzle with crazy Saturday appendages, which puts the whole thing in the tough Friday range. A very, very enjoyable, if humbling, Friday experience.

Key to my face plant was TO A HAIR (12D: Right in every detail), which I've never heard before and couldn't see until the very, very last letter up there. TO A -AIR. Very rough, esp. next to ILIESCU (13D: Two-time president of Romania), half of whose name I inferred (I'll let you guess which half); the other half I just waited out. If I hadn't been able to get ACT IV, I'm not sure when VAN DYKE would have fallen (14D: Facial feature with a point) — I was sure the clue was going for a non-human "face" of some kind (watch?). 29A: Second indicator? sent me looking for SILVER or PLACE, when I should have gone back to the "watch" idea that was wrong at 14D. And apparently I have no idea what [Chaffed] means. With that initial "J" in place, it should have been easy. But I had JARRED. Later I had (or wanted) JOLTED. JOSHED? To "chaff" is to joke around? Yes, "to tease in a good-natured way." Throw in two (more) "?" clues in 10D: Superior title? (Abbot) and 11D: One with staying power? (corset), and the whole corner spells disaster. Doable disaster, but disaster nonetheless.

SW was tough because I had only the ERROR in 53A: A bug may cause it (fatal error), and so no real access to the quadrant. Hate it when answers break in two like that. ERROR, indeed. After that, it was tentative entry after tentative entry. Never can keep LARGO and LENTO straight, so tested both, off and on, until one ended up sticking (54D: Funeral march direction). Guessed SSS right off, though wasn't sure of it for a while (39A: Recruiting org.). Tried SHA NA NA at 40D: Title syllables in a hit 1964 song, though I knew that those "N"s might be "L"s. Basically I'm floating in a mess of "S"s and "A"s until my BRAIN (18A: Major processing center) finally picked up the word play at 41D: Swiftly done? (satiric). Never been so happy to see an "R" and a "C" in all my life. Biggest "aha" moment of the puzzle was the "X" to get the very clever SAFE SEX (39D: Transmission blocker?). Smallest "aha" moment: AHAS (48A: Words teachers like to hear). This clue is absurd. I have never heard a student say "AHA" in 18 years of teaching ("well I guess that says something about your teaching skills, chuckle chortle"). Maybe a drawn out "ohhhh," but AHA, no. Plus AHA is barely a "word," and certainly doesn't want to be a plural. Yikes. Thought answer might be I SEE or even YES'M. But this answer is the lone FAIL in an otherwise marvelous puzzle.


  • 1A: Rallying cry supported by some monks ("Free Tibet!") — I always associate the slogan with white college kids and Whole Foods shoppers, but I'm sure monks actually do support the "cry," even if they don't really utter it.
  • 15A: Company with a maple leaf logo (Air Canada) — gigantic gimme. Those are always nice.
  • 17A: 2004 horror film about a passed-on curse ("The Grudge") — I think it has Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress in it. Yes, Sarah Michelle Gellar. That is all I know about "THE GRUDGE."
  • 19A: Memorable 1968 movie villain (Hal) — see, I dropped FATHEAD in at 1D: Dolt first thing, with no crosses in place, which is some serious crossword idiot savant !@#@. I then went about plucking the NW Acrosses out of the air, one by one. HAL was probably the answer that confirmed that FATHEAD was right.
  • 28A: Jazz-loving TV sleuth of the 1950s-'60s (Gunn) — I do not know his show. I know only his (ultra-famous) theme:

As a kid, I probably heard this version first ...

  • 30A: He sighted and named Natal on Christmas Day of 1497 (Da Gama) — only question here was with the "DA" ... "DE"? ... "DI"? ... went with "E" at first, until RIHANNA sorted me out (2D: One-named Grammy winner of 2007).
  • 37A: Hawthorne novel stigma (Red A) — midway point on a very quick ride from BAD DOG (7D: Rebuke to Bowser) to SODAS (52A: Pops). Very 50s/60s vibe to this whole puzzle, now that I think about it. Something about "Pops" (as slang for an older man) and SODA jerks gets me to "Bowser," who was in SHA NA NA (I know that's not the answer to 40D, but it's close ... just hear me out). I thought SHA NA NA were the ones who sang "Get A JOB" (38D: Do _____ on), but they didn't. That was The Silhouettes. Anyway, "Get A JOB" features the syllables SHA NA NA, which sound a lot like SHA LA LA. Listen:

But the title song in question at 40D "SHA LA LA" is this one, by The Shirelles:

Here's a cover:

And here's a completely different song:

  • 50A: Princess Fiona's voicer in "Shrek" (Diaz) — "voicer." There's a word only a crossword clue could love.
  • 64A: High-tech subscription aid (e-list) — no idea what the clue was going for at first.
  • 65A: Construction with many locks (Erie Canal) — the AIR CANADA of this quadrant: long and easy.
  • 67A: Where "all the people that come and go stop and say hello" ("Penny Lane") — couldn't find the tune by saying the words aloud, but somehow "PENNY LANE" leapt forth anyway.
  • 5D: Napoleon's cousin (tart) — oh, that Napoleon.
  • 6D: Kayak propeller (Inuit) — can't argue with that logic.
  • 25D: Wood blemish (knar) — went with GNAR, which is something Bowser does, I think.
  • 27D: Kaffiyeh-clad commander (emir) — learned "Kaffiyeh" from crosswords, possibly from another EMIR clue just like this one.
  • 45D: Legendary soprano _____ Patti (Adelina) — "PEPPERMINT" wouldn't fit. "Legendary soprano" will almost invariably mean "meaningless name" to me. That was true here. Patti LUPONE is the only Patti I know.
  • 46D: Swiss Guards' setting (Vatican) — wanted something like LES ALPES, though "VAT-" certainly narrowed things down.
  • 47D: Destroyer in 2000 headlines (USS Cole) — thought this might have something to do with ELIAN, for some reason (no good reason, that's for sure). Happily, or sadly, I was wrong. Very wrong.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

PS time is running out to get in on Eric Berlin's "Game Night Crosswords" — go here for more details


Ancient Spartan magistrate — THURSDAY, Aug. 27 2009 — Japanese butler in Auntie Mame / Metallic shade in Sheffield

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Constructor: Derek Bowman

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: A PATTERN — circled squares form inverted "pyramid" with seven rows. First row contains word PATTERN, and subsequent rows lose one letter at a time, spelling new words each time, until the final row, which contains the single circled square "A." Further, the word in each row provides the clue for an answer in the grid; thus seven different clues read [First row], [Second row], etc.

Word of the Day: EPHOR (2A: Ancient Spartan magistrate) n., pl. -ors or -o·ri (-ə-rī').

One of a body of five elected magistrates exercising a supervisory power over the kings of Sparta.

[Latin ephorus, from Greek ephoros, from ephorān, to oversee : ep-, epi-, epi- + horān, to see.]


Fussy puzzles always leave me lukewarm. This is a fine piece of construction, but I didn't enjoy solving it. A pretty good gauge of my enjoyment level is how succinctly the theme can be explained. Now, it's a faulty gauge, because "Breeds of Dog," for example, is succinct, but apt to suck as a theme. But in general, elegance means simplicity. Brilliant simplicity = ideal. Today's puzzle combines two theme types (both of them on Brendan Emmett Quigley's list of "10 Bull@#$! Themes," a must-read), and makes something ambitious and novel out of them. Thus, not bull@#$!. You've got your "assorted circled letters spell out a word" theme (Bull@#$! Theme #4) combined with your "theme clues are words made from a single original word, which sheds one letter at a time as we move from theme clue to theme clue" (Bull@#$! Theme #6b). Puzzle manages to pull off both theme types while also maintaining geometrical precision with the circles. Impressive. Just not a joy to solve. There is nothing, thematically, holding the puzzle together. Clues, answers ... have nothing in common, meaning-wise. The puzzle is all about shape, all about letter placement. Letters as objects, not components of words whose meanings are important. That kills things a bit for me. Then there's the fact that the theme clues are [First row], [Second row], etc. This seems wrong. [First row OF CIRCLES] is what you mean. There are 15 rows in the puzzle. So I admire the creativity and ambition here, but the puzzle wasn't my cup. It happens. No big deal.

The Rows:

  • PATTERN — 52A: First row (design)
  • PATTER — 51D: Second row (spiel)
  • PATER — 43D: Third or sixth row (dad)
  • PATE — 64A: Fourth row (head)
  • PAT — 4D: Fifth row (dab)
  • PA — 43D: Third or sixth row (dad)
  • A — 61D: Seventh row (one)

Once again, NW was a total bear for me. Moccasins have BEADs (1A: Moccasin adornment)? I thought they were just simple slip-on shoes, relatively unadorned. There must be a native American type that is more pimped out. Thought I was dealing with a rebus for a moment at the Peck clue, trying to get ATTICUS to fit in 17A: Literary lead role for Gregory Peck in 1956 (Ahab). And EPHOR is a word I'm sure I've seen before, but I couldn't remember it (2D: Ancient Spartan magistrate). Still looks alien to me. (Btw, sort of, why have I never seen EEPHUS in the puzzle? It's a valid answer, a baseball answer, and those two "E"s have to be good for something.).

Early attempts at understanding the circled squares were not great. Noticed the "P"s descending down the left of the triangle, and then the "A"s on the next "row," etc. and tried predicting where letters would be that way — with much failure. Once I'd convinced myself there was no rebus, and that the "row" clues would just come to me eventually, I got far enough in to the grid to figure out what I was dealing with, and it all came together fairly nicely. This is a good example of the difficulty coming not from the clues/answers, per se, but from the gimmick. Get the gimmick, get the puzzle.


  • 13A: With 14-Across, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam have each won this several times (LPGA / TITLE) — clue confused me. LPGA TITLE is not a single thing. It's any tournament on the tour. The "this" in the clue made me think the answer would be an event, not an event type. I had LADY in the first part and TOURS in the second at different points in my attempts to solve this.
  • 29A: New York's _____ Institute (art school) (Pratt) — I know this place from watching too much "Project Runway" over the years. PRATT and PRATTLE in same grid is mildly unfortunate.
  • 33A: C7H5N3O6 (TNT) — whatever you say. Got it all from crosses.
  • 46A: Stereo component (preamp) — ??? ... Preamplifier: n. An electronic circuit or device that detects and strengthens weak signals, as from a radio receiver, for subsequent, more powerful amplification stages.
  • 7D: Japanese butler in "Auntie Mame" (Ito) — never seen this clue for ITO before. Judge ITO's heyday is long gone, I guess.
  • 8D: Mickey Mouse's puppy pal (Pluto) — uh ... yeah, I guess he *is* a "puppy." Weird. Puppies aren't usually as big as their owners.

  • 9D: Shipping magnate Onassis (Ari) — shouldn't something cue the short form of his name? I mean, I can see that ARISTOTLE doesn't fit, but still, aren't there rules about this sort of thing?
  • 33D: Gene Roddenberry-inspired sci-fi series ("Andromeda") — couldn't tell you a single thing about it.
  • 34D: Metallic shade, in Sheffield (steel grey) — "Sheffield" because a. it alliterates with "shade," and b. because "GREY" with an "E" is British, though I can never remember the US/UK distinction there.
  • 53D: Classic Broadway musical with the song "Alice Blue Gown" ("Irene") — so classic I forgot to hear about it.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

PS PuzzleGirl's excellent, extended write-up of this past weekend's "Lollapuzzoola 2" tournament in Queens can be found here.


Ernest Borgnine title role — WEDNESDAY, Aug. 26 2009 — Wearer triple tiara / Malodorous critter / Old salt's direction

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Constructor: Gary Cee

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "_____, please" — theme answers all complete this phrase

Word of the Day: LAR (35A: Roman household god) n. Roman Mythology., pl. Lar·es (lâr'ēz, lär'-).

A tutelary deity or spirit of an ancient Roman household.

[Latin Lār, probably of Etruscan origin.]


Slow Fast Slow. Had a little trouble getting started in the NW, but once I did I tore through the puzzle until I hit the SW, where not knowing the relative smelliness of a POLECAT (43A: Malodorous critter) kept me from dusting that corner off as fast as I'd have liked. Finished the grid with an error — an error that, based on this household's sampling, a lot of people are going to make today. I don't know my Chicago radio stations by heart, so just about any bunch of letters was going to be fine with me, and 69A: Dada, to many seemed to want the answer NOT ART, so that's what I wrote in. A radio station you don't know, after the "K" or (in this case) "W," is just a random conglomeration of letters, as far as I can tell. WGN sounds better, and now rings a bell, and NONART is closer to a valid crossword answer than NOT ART. But there wasn't enough iffiness there to make me question my "T" (clearly).

Hated the theme at CHOPSTICKS but warmed up to it midway and ended up liking it just fine by the end. CHOPSTICKS was the worst of the bunch, so it was all happy surprises from then on. The NE is the section most in need of a makeover, with the yucky RETABLE (31A: Postpone yet again) and the godawful (or awful god) LAR gunking up the grid there at the bottom of those long Downs (35A: Roman household god). LAR is like LAE in that you might (*might*) keep it in your grid if it were holding something Really Beautiful in place. Otherwise, it's kind of INEDIBLE (11D: Like poisonous mushrooms). What is LAE, you ask? Exactly.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: "_____, please" (diner's request) (CHOPSTICKS)
  • 27A: "_____, please" (announcer's request) (ATTENTION) — "Your ..."
  • 36A: "_____, please" (awards show presenter's request) (THE ENVELOPE) — "May I have ..."
  • 51A: "_____, please" (operator's request) (ONE MOMENT)
  • 60A: "_____, please" (Henny Youngman's request) (TAKE MY WIFE) — I like that this is the punch line. Fitting.


  • 7A: 3, 4 or 5, typically, in golf (par) — my wife's first answer in the grid. My first answer: HEM (I did not say first "right" answer) (4D: Job for a tailor => RIP).
  • 14A: When Hamlet says "To be or not be" (Act III) — wife wanted ACT TWO or ACT ONE. I already had some of those "I"s in place, so no problem. Can someone make a geography/literature pun puzzle with the answer T'BILISI OR NOT T'BILISI? Maybe a Sunday? I'd enjoy that.
  • 40A: G.I.'s mail drop (APO) — I often screw up abbrevs. like this, but this one actually got me rebooted in the SW after I tripped over the damned POLECAT.
  • 47A: Mexican revolutionary played by Brando (Zapata) — if you're like me, you already had the "Z" in place when you saw this clue (from LIZ, 37D: Taylor who said "I do" eight times). Easy.
  • 59A: Old salt's direction (thar) — that's a "direction?" Wife had AHOY, which is making me laugh. ALEE, yes. AVAST, not really, AHOY, uh uh. ASTERN and ABAFT, sure why not.
  • 2D: Ernest Borgnine title role (McHale) — he had a Navy:

  • 3D: _____ FireBall (hot candy) (Atomic) — wanted RED HOT ... but "hot" was in the clue.
  • 18D: 401(k) alternative (IRA) — just had a long, complicated talk with our financial adviser yesterday, so IRAs are on my mind.
  • 25D: Jedi enemy (Sith) — I just wrote SITH onto my list of "Modern Staples" (I keep an actual list of answers I think of as the New Guard of crosswordese — stuff that's EMERGEd as a common answer in the past decade or so, or stuff that has *just* come into prominence that I'm betting will be common. Besides ANIME, most of the answers on the list are names).
  • 39D: Wearer of a triple tiara (pope) — I keep reading this as "Winner of the Triple Crown."
  • 52D: Microwaved, slangily (nuked) — interesting how a word associated with a horrific act of war has come to describe a common household occurrence.
  • 53D: "The Waste Land" monogram (TSE) — "monogram" makes me think of sweaters and luggage. Somehow I doubt Eliot went in for stitching his name into his possessions.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

[P.S. from the future ... for SYNDICATION SOLVERS (yes, you, reading this on Wed., 9/30/09): Celebrity crossword enthusiast and breast cancer survivor Christina Applegate is the 2009 Ambassador for Lee National Denim Day (this Friday, Oct. 2, 2009), a day to raise awareness about breast cancer issues as well as raise money for the Women's Cancer Programs of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), including Christina's own foundation, Right Action For Women. They're asking for $5 donations. I'm giving a little more. Go here to donate. Thanks. Back to your original programming ...]

P.S. Please check out my promotion of Eric Berlin's special crossword event, "Game Night Crosswords" — here's a link, or you can just scroll down this page to the next entry.

P.P.S. Happy Birthday, Will Shortz. Andrea Carla Michaels has made a special birthday puzzle for Will. Here is a version in AcrossLite. Find a pdf version here.


Independent Constructor Promotion: ERIC BERLIN's "Game Night Crosswords"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Eric Berlin is a veteran crossword constructor as well as the author of the outstanding Winston Breen series of children's books (puzzle mysteries — my daughter loves them). He has constructed a special suite of crosswords. This is a project Eric started on, so (as he says below), if you paid months ago via kickstarter, you have already bought these puzzles. They're going to be released any day now (August 31, to be exact). Here's a full description of the puzzles, including instructions on how to purchase them (cheap).

Game Night Crosswords!

Eric Berlin presents nine crosswords based on nine great games! Solve puzzles based on Clue, Pictionary, Balderdash, Mouse Trap, and more! Put all the answers together, send in your final answer phrase, and win a prize! (Maybe -- one random correct answer will be drawn.) What's the prize? That's for you to figure out!

The nine puzzles are at about a Thursday level of difficulty on the New York Times scale -- some a little easier, some a little harder. The average solver will get many hours of solving entertainment.

Game Night! will be released on August 31. To be eligible for the contest, pay now using Amazon Payments (preferred) or Paypal -- just choose the appropriate button below. You will be e-mailed with the location of the puzzles on the day they become available.

NOTE: These are the puzzles that were created with funding raised by Kickstarter. If you have already donated money to Eric Berlin through Kickstarter, you have already purchased these puzzles and do not need to buy them again!

One more note: This is not a speed-solving competition. I'm not going to make you race through all nine puzzles on that one day! (Though I bet some of you do that anyway.)

You'll have a full two weeks to solve all the crosswords and send me your final answer -- that should be doable for just about everyone reading this.

Click now to purchase Game Night Crosswords for just $5.99!

via Amazon:

via Paypal:


Realm of Tolkien's Middle Earth — TUESDAY, Aug. 25 2009 — Dugongs manatees / Conqueror Valencia 1094 / Beav's big brother

Constructor: Bob Johnson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: HYBRID VEHICLES (56A: Cars suggested by 20-, 26- and 48-Across?) — theme answers are two-word phrases where the two words are both car models

Word of the Day: ROHAN (34A: Realm of Tolkien's Middle Earth)Rohan is a realm in J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy era of Middle-earth. It is also referred to as Riddermark or The Mark. The realm is of significant importance in the author's most famous book, The Lord of the Rings. (wikipedia)

Liked the concept and the answer, did not like the cluing. Made-up phrases like these should have "?" on their clues. Is there an urban MALIBU, such that SUBURBAN MALIBU would make any sense? It does not appear so. Thus SUBURBAN MALIBU is not a viable phrase. Neither is ACCORD ELEMENT or MUSTANG ESCAPE. This doesn't mean they're not good theme answers — they are. Just put a "?" on the end of each one, and then the car make name in brackets, and you're there (not sure I like the "think" part of each theme clue, but that's a minor detail). Outside the theme, the puzzle was extremely easy — sub-Monday. This made ROHAN stand out like an extremely sore thumb. Saw all those "Lord of the Rings" movies, but did not remember this. Never read the books, but I have to believe that even some people who read them couldn't dredge this one up easily. ROHAN has never been in a published daily crossword puzzle. Not in the past 15 years or so, anyway. ZERO instances of the word in the cruciverb database. I often look up what I think are odd or weird words when I see them in grids, and I have never, ever looked one up that had no grid cred at all, especially on Tuesday. Seems an OK answer for a Thurs-Sunday puzzle, but here? Compared to everything around it. It's out-of-place. Jarringly so.

Feels like this whole puzzle could have / should have been made into a decent Wednesday with some tougher cluing.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Residential area of California [think Chevy] (Suburban Malibu)
  • 26A: Start of a stampede [think Ford] (Mustang Escape)
  • 48A: Part of a peace treaty [think Honda] (Accord Element)

I like that the pairs are all odd-ball pairings — car + SUV. Accentuates the whole idea of HYBRID. Nice.

Tore through the puzzle with only a couple of hiccups along the way. I wrote in SULTAN where MULLAH was supposed to go (51D: Islamic leader). I was cutting a diagonal through the puzzle, from NW to SE, and tried to get 51D off the "U" from TAU (55A: Letter-shaped cross ... aren't all crosses, by definition, letter shaped?). FAIL. I also floundered a bit in the southern section with 50D: Bring back, as a fashion. No good reason. Just couldn't see REVIVE. In fact, I needed five letters (!) before I got it. I mean, even REVI-- wasn't helping. Weird? I think of "Wide Load" as being a sign on a home that is being moved, which is not exactly the same as a MOBILE HOME (11D: It might have a "wide load" sign). I think I'm conflating MOBILE HOMEs and RVs/campers and trailers (i.e. in trailer parks). Some homes are more mobile than others. I like the answer, just as I like its symmetrical counterpart, SUNDAY BEST (28D: Going-to-church clothes).


  • 14A: Georgia Music Hall of Fame city (Macon) — read this as "George of the Music Hall of Fame"
  • 16A: Fashion line named for a sport (polo) — weird that a sport hardly anyone in America plays or understands should be the focal point of an extremely popular apparel brand. Why is there no JAI ALAI brand competing for this "mysterious exotic sports we don't understand" market?
  • 43A: Locale of many outsourced jobs (India) — POLO makes me think of INDIA, and now I know why:
The modern game of polo, though formalized and popularized by the British, is derived from Manipur (now a state in India) who played the game known as 'Sagol Kangjei','Kanjai-bazee', or 'Pulu'[9]. It was the anglicised form of the latter, referring to the wooden ball which was used, that was adopted by the sport in its slow spread to the west. The first polo club was established in the town of Silchar in Assam, India, in 1834. (wikipedia)

  • 64A: Colonel North, informally (Ollie) — I like the stacked 5s in the SE because together they sound like a ridiculous dance: The OLLIE WALLY SHAKE.
  • 69A: Rose who surpassed Cobb (Pete) — surpassed him in base hits. Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Rose's lifetime ban from baseball.
  • 30D: Conqueror of Valencia, 1094 (El Cid) — Wonder if anyone is sitting there wondering "what's an Elcid?"
  • 46D: Dugongs or manatees (seacows) — thank god "manatees" was in this clue. Can't remember ever hearing of a dugong before.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Softly hit ball in tennis — MONDAY, Aug. 24 2009 — Medicine woman of 1990s TV / Pagoda instruments / Tilter at windmills

Monday, August 24, 2009

Constructor: Anthony J. Salvia

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: DQ — theme answers are 3 people (1 real, 2 fictional) and a fast food chain, all of whose initials are D.Q.

Word of the Day: DINK (55A: Softly hit ball in tennis)n.

  1. A two-career couple with no children.
  2. A member of such a couple.

[D(ual) I(ncome) N(o) K(ids).]


n. Sports.

A drop shot.

[From dink, sound of a weakly hit or dropped ball.]


n. Offensive Slang.

Used as a disparaging term for a North Vietnamese soldier or guerrilla in the Vietnam War.

[Origin unknown.]


A straightforward Monday puzzle. No bells and whistles, just a bunch of phrases with one feature in common. Actually, the four "Q"s are at least a bell, if not a whistle, and they lead to at least one nice word in the crosses: BAROQUE (40D: Like the works of Handel and Bach). Other than that, not much to laugh (or cry) about. I rated it "Medium" for difficulty, though honestly I have no idea how difficult it was. I filled some out, and then went downstairs or dinner, and then filled the rest of it out in front of the TV, so whether this would have taken me 3 minutes or 4 (and that's a chasm where difficulty level is concerned), I don't know. I fell into at least one trap — SHAPE for SOLID (44D: Sphere or cube) — and I needed a lot of help to get FLARED UP (36D: Came back, as allergies; wanted it to start RE-) — and I simply couldn't think of an answer for either 23A: Little article accompanying a bigger article (sidebar) or 45A: Plaza displays (parades) at first glance. I have never seen a PARADE in a "plaza." Just on streets. PARADES through plazas makes me think only of communist countries (U.S.S.R., N. Korea, with the precision military marching and tanks and what not).

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Tilter at windmills (Don Quixote) — I feel like I'm tilting every time I try to read it. Furthest I've got is something like 500 pages. You'd think that if I got that far I could finish. But no.

  • 11D: Star of "The Rookie," 2002 (Dennis Quaid) — not his most famous film (I don't think), thus an odd clue for a Monday.
  • 25D: Medicine woman of 1990s TV (Doctor Quinn) — the show is called "DR. QUINN, Medicine Woman." This seems important.
  • 49A: Place to order a Blizzard (Dairy Queen) — as soon as I got DOCTOR QUINN (which revealed the theme), I went looking for DAIRY QUEEN.


  • 19A: City NNW of Oklahoma City (Enid) — In Crossworld, ENID is the OSLO of the U.S., with one exception — if I'd never done a crossword, I would still have heard of OSLO.
  • 29A: Biblical objects of multiplication (loaves) — first thought: FISHES?
  • 9D: Detest (execrate) that's a great verb, even if it is a little too close to EXCRETE for my comfort.
  • 10D: Think creatively (ideate) — one of my most hated crossword words.
  • 27D: Pagoda instruments (gongs) — handy that I only recently learned that a "pagoda" was not a store in the barrio.
  • 45D: Argentine dictator who was ousted in 1955 (Peron) — why am I reading words backwards today. PERON has NO REP. ENID wants to DINE. ENOLA is ALONE at the top of the list of famous planes in Crossworld. Etc.

Final dispatch from the Lollapuzzoola tournament this past weekend. I don't know of any other recaps out there — when I learn of them, I'll link to them. Here are the results from the tournament. I feel like I should mention some of my regular readers/commenters who were there, like mac and HudsonHawk and PhillySolver. I should also mention the amazingly delicious and enjoyable post-tournament dinner I had with Tony Orbach, Patrick Blindauer, and Patrick's girlfriend Rebecca Young. Patrick and Rebecca are now doing some co-constructing, and if the puzzles are anything like they are when they get together, then those puzzles will be ... I want to say "garrulous" or "sassy" or "filled with clues that are hilarious and perfect but so offensive they will never see print." Tony Orbach is the sweetest, friendliest guy you'll ever meet. I have no idea how I'm going to find the strength to go on undervaluing his puzzles, but I'll try. Anyway, that's all about that. For all those who have ever wanted to go to a tournament but thought they weren't good enough: Your Skill Level Is Virtually Irrelevant. If you really like xwords and you can hack your way through even a Wednesday puzzle, you should go. I hope more small, affordable regional tournaments like this start turning up across the country. They're a great way to add to the social dimension of this hobby.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

PS big thanks to treedweller for filling in for me on Saturday. I know lots of struggling solvers who appreciated the write-up immensely.


SUNDAY, Aug. 23 2009— Transmitter of nagana / US rebellion leader 1842 / Pitcher Reynolds of 1940s-50s Yankees / Author/poet Bates

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Constructor: Phil Ruzbarsky

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "E.U. Doings" — familiar phrases have an "E" switched to a "U," creating wacky phrases, which are then clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: Nagana (18D: Transmitter of nagana => TSE TSE) — also n.

An often fatal disease of African ungulates caused by various species of trypanosomes and transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly. Also called tsetse disease.

[Zulu -nakane.]


An easy and somewhat lackluster Sunday. A single letter change seems an insufficient basis for a Sunday-sized puzzle theme. And just six theme answers? I feel cheated. Plus I just hate the word "DOINGS," and the phrase "E.U. DOINGS" has no currency and thus makes a strange title for a puzzle. Maybe PuzzleGirl will feel differently about the puzzle. She was supposed to do this write-up with me, but when we returned from yesterday's crossword tournament in Queens, she had what she believed was a migraine and went straight to bed. She's still sleeping. The apartment we're staying in gets the NYT delivered, but ... it was some small version with no magazine (!?!?!). What the hell? I'd say someone stole parts of the paper, but there's only one other apt on this floor, and I don't think anyone's home. I was looking forward to some good old-fashioned dead-tree solving, but no. Back on-screen again.

Had next to no problems with this puzzle (despite the usual small assortment of mystery answers). The one part that baffled me was the 5A: Logical beginning? (patho-) / 9D: Native: Suffix (-ote) crossing. I tried and failed to think of a resident of anywhere that ended in -OTE. I could think of tons of -ITES, but no -OTES. So despite the fact that I knew knew knew the prefix had to be PATHO-, not PATHI-, I wavered for a bit at the very end when deciding what vowel to put here as my final answer. What's a good example of an -OTE-suffixed word? All I can think of are COYOTES and PEYOTES.

Theme answers:

  • 23A: Used a push-button toilet? (pressed the FLUSH)
  • 40A: "I can't drink beer this late"? ("It's past my BUD time)
  • 55A: Dairy regulator? (BUTTER business bureau)
  • 77A: Baseball official gets revenge? ("The UMPIRE Strikes Back") — cute
  • 93A: "The bolt alone is sufficient"? ("works without a NUT")
  • 114A: Story of a small Communist barbarian? (The Little Red HUN)

Had a fantastic time at Ryan and Brian's "Lollapuzzoola II" crossword tournament yesterday. There were close to 80 contestants, plus an assortment of prominent constructors and other folks helping run the event. I don't know how well I did, as for some reason I didn't bother to check final results (not sure if they were even posted). Hang on, I'm going to check now ... hey, I came in 12th! That's hot. That is also, without a doubt, as close as you will ever see my name to that of Ellen Ripstein (former ACPT champ who sat next to and embarrassed the hell out of me throughout the day). O man, Poor PuzzleGirl.
She was 5 points (out of over 7000) away from being on stage for the "Local Division" Finals. I was in the "Express Division," which meant I was assured of winning nothing, but I had a blast nonetheless, and the puzzles were of very high quality. Nearly every puzzle had some added dimension (a Boggle dimension, an "act out the theme answer" dimension, etc.) — on the final puzzle, Ryan and Brian actually performed the clues for the theme answers on stage. You had to pay attention, because on paper the clues simply said "Movie 1," "Movie 2," etc. There was a version of "Family Feud" (which PG and I missed because we spent too long at lunch), and an interstitial game of Yahtzee that was won by a former student of mine, Aaron Riccio (whom I was happily surprised to see there). It was great to see some younger contestants there. Had a nice conversation with Aaron and Neville "Don't Call Me Longbottom" Fogarty and Laura Radloff, all of whom were really smart and funny. Lots and lots of familiar names and faces there too. Too many to mention. Will Shortz showed up at the very end for the Finals (I should mention that Dan Feyer was the tourney's big winner). R&B will certainly have their own recap. All in all, a wonderful, well-run, affordable tournament with a pleasantly relaxed and informal vibe. I'll certainly do more to promote it next year.


  • 21A: House Republican V.I.P. Cantor (Eric) — House Whip (not quite as good as Reddi-Whip). I was going to post a video here, but for various reasons (not all of them having to do with Cantor himself), they were all unbearable, as most of what passes for political discussion on television is these days.
  • 27A: The Jaguars, on scoreboards (JAX) — they really do have the best scoreboard name abbrev. of any team in any sport anywhere.
  • 28A: "White trash," e.g. (slur) — this answer is weird to me. Most of what we call "slurs" would Never have been printed in a NYT puzzle clue, and yet "white trash" is OK. Could any other "slur" (particularly a racial slur) have gone here without offending the hell out of a chunk of the puzzle's audience?
  • 36A: 12-time Pro Bowl player Junior (Seau) — rhymes with "SAY Ow," not BUTTER BUSINESS BUREAU.
  • 39A: Neural network (rete) — never saw this clue, which is nice, because RETE is one of my least favorite bits of desperate crossword fill.
  • 50A: Largest city paper in the U.S.: Abbr. (NYT) — Vain much? And "largest" how? By weight? Price? (I know the answer is "circulation")
  • 63A: It was destroyed by Godzilla in "Godzilla Raids Again" (Osaka) — I would pay good money to see a western called "Godzilla Rides Again." First step, and biggest challenge: casting Godzilla's horse.

  • 73A: Cantilevered window (oriel) — just realized that two of my favorite high-end crossword words have the same vowel pattern: ORIEL and OSIER. This is interesting only to me so I'm not sure why I'm typing it.
  • 76A: Extinct relative of the emu (moa) — gigantic NZ birds and occasional prey of the equally extinct HAAST'S EAGLE (still waiting for that one to appear in a grid).
  • 83A: _____ Chinmoy (late spiritual leader) (Sri) — total guess.
  • 113A: Pitcher Reynolds of the 1940s-'50s Yankees (Allie) — they could've used him last night. That would have been a neat trick. "Now entering the game ... Zombie ALLIE Reynolds!"
  • 14D: Sister in Chekhov's "Three Sisters" (Olga) — one of those crossword-common fictional names I always forget, like ANSE and OLAN.
  • 15D: Five-time Wimbledon champ (Borg) — went with GRAF. She only won it seven times.
  • 16D: 1960s sitcom title role (Jeannie) — obvious in retrospect, but without the "J" from OBJET (14A: Curio) the answer was oddly hard to see.
  • 18D: Transmitter of nagana (tse-tse) — whoa ... thought "nagana" was some kind of martial art and was looking for some version of SENSEI.
  • 42D: U.S. rebellion leader of 1842 (Dorr) — oh, embarrassment. I have no idea who this is. Although it's possible I've seen DORR in the puzzle before and made the very same comment. Electoral reform. DORR stood up for the little (white) man.
  • 58D: P.M. between Netanyahu and Sharon (Barak) — you might know him better in his more crossword-common EHUD form.
  • 95D: Curtis of cosmetics (Helene) — wanted ELAINE.
  • 94D: Cane accompanier, maybe (top hat) — shouldn't this get-up automatically get some kind of "bygone" or "Fred Astaire" cluing? Does anyone dress this way anymore except at Halloween?
  • 100D: Gearshift mechanism, informally (tranny) — this is not the first definition that comes to mind when I hear the word "tranny." The kind I'm thinking of often lacks a gearshift mechanism ...
  • 111A: Author/poet Bates (Arlo) — no idea. Seems he was a 19c. newspaper editor and educator who rocked some fantastic facial hair.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


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