WEDNESDAY, Aug. 1, 2007 - David J. Kahn

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium-Hard

THEME: BEVERLY (@#$#-ing) SILLS (21A: With 28-Across, a late, great entertainer) - theme entries aplenty relating to her opera career

What better way to ring in August than with a little Wrath of Kahn. I mean no disrespect to the recently departed Ms. SILLS (died last month of lung cancer, age 78), but I can't find my way around opera with a map and a guide, and so I was Slow today. If "Fresh Air" (NPR) hadn't rerun an interview with SILLS recently, this puzzle might have taken me even longer. I didn't know there was even a category called LYRIC SOPRANO (29D: with 39-Across, 21-/28-Across, for one - that is an instant nominee for ugliest clue of the year). So, the puzzle is fine - it's a very Kahn-esque puzzle (he does these little topical ones well - I own / enjoy his book of baseball puzzles, as I may have mentioned before). But as single-person-themed puzzles, this is the roughest one I've done in my blogging career (the Rita Moreno puzzle being the easiest, and most enjoyable, and Sidney Poitier ranking ... somewhere in between; actually, I think I may have enjoyed this puzzle more than the Poitier one, if memory serves). ANYway...

Theme answers

  • 17A: 1966 Lincoln Center role for 21-/28-Across (Cleopatra)
  • 11D: "La Traviata" role for 21-/28-Across (Violetta)
  • 48A: 1970 Covent Garden title role for 21-/28-Across (Lucia)
  • 58A: Childhood nickname of 21-/28-Across (Bubbles) - that is the best SILLS factoid of all, by far
  • 62A: 1955 "Die Fledermaus" debut role for 21-/28-Across (Rosalinde)
  • 38D: Stage wear for 21-/28-Across (costumes) - this one stands out like a very sore, profoundly lame thumb

Oh, there's also 40D: "Sempre libera" e.g. (aria) in the grid, though I have no idea if it's something Ms. SILLS ever sang or not. Why is there not a comma between "libera" and "e.g." in that clue, btw, as there is in 5D: Earl Grey, e.g. (tea)?

Hardest part of puzzle was NE, where brazen (wrong) entry of CCIII for (ugh) 9A: Early third-century year (CCVII) slowed me way up on VIOLETTA (no "V," no way to make much sense of name ... ISOLETTA? 16A: They make green lawns (rains) and 19A: Grind down (erode) look really easy in retrospect, but without CREEP (9D: Unlikely candidate for Mr. Right) or INDY (12D: May race, familiarly), they didn't want to show their faces. INDY also looks easy in retrospect. I was thinking the answer was something beginning in "I," ending in "Y," that was somehow short for the Iditarod. It's true.

Also had a bit of trouble in the NW, with the intersecting ARCANA (1D: Mysteries) and ANSE (27A: "As I Lay Dying" father). Plural ending in "A" + insane Faulkner name I can never remember = stall. Speaking of crazy names, it's a virtual pageant today, with the never-before-seen (by me) 26A: Silas Marner's adopted daughter (Eppie - !?) and the familiar and yet oddly-named 41D: Linguist Chomsky (Noam) accompany Mr. ANSE. Give me a nice, simple name like Linda EVANS (60A: "Dynasty" actress) any day - mmmm, her shoulder pads went on forEver.

Two cute "?" clues intersect in the SW - the good 44D: Flying home? (airbase) and the great 61A: Stretches out? (comas). Paul Ryan came out of his COMA today on my soap opera ("ATWT"). I really Really wish he were still in it. Another interesting pair in the puzzle are CROAT and SERB, both clued [Balkan native].

Lastly, I have never heard of "PIN money" (18D: _____ money). Money for bowling? Any other explanation will likely be dissatisfying.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


TUESDAY, Jul. 31, 2007 - Allan E. Parrish

Monday, July 30, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

Theme: WALKS (29D: Word following the last parts of the answers to the five starred clues)

This is a fine Tuesday puzzle, with some quirky long fill. My one complaint - why is WALKS plural? I mean, I'm sure it's for reasons of construction, but its plural status is annoyingly superfluous, as WALK "follow[s] the last parts of the answers to the five starred clues" just as well as WALKS, if not better.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: *Line formatting option (triple SPACE) - this was hard. I wasn't even sure what "line formatting" meant (chorus line?). I pieced it together fairly easily after getting many crosses.
  • 11D: *College in Worcester, Mass. (Holy CROSS) - I like that this CROSSes MIRACLE (25A: Prerequisite for sainthood), not to mention the Biblical HOSEA (47A: Book before Joel).
  • 40A: *Hipster (cool CAT) - When would anyone use the phrase "cool CAT" anymore? "Hipster" is irrevocably derisive, whereas "cool CAT" is just loopy and beatnik. For the most UNcool cat ever imagined, see drawing, right.
  • 61A: *Education overseers (school BOARD) - weakest of the lot.
  • 33D: *Kids' game (patty CAKE)

I didn't get the theme til the very end because the "K" in WALKS was the last letter I entered. This is because I'd never ever heard of 46A: Explorer Zebulon (Pike), though that's probably the PIKE's Peak guy, right? Why did his parents name him after what I can only imagine is a fictional planet and / or space alien leader. "Set a course for Zebulon!"

Neither wife nor I knows what "ALLA breve" is, which is probably very sad (14A: _____ breve). Wife also didn't know ELOI (28D: "The Time Machine" race) or LAIC (34A: Not of the cloth), both of which, I informed her, were very crosswordesey. In fact, I know ELOI only from crosswords (as a former medievalist, I knew LAIC).

I like the near symmetrical placement of ALERO (2D: Last Oldsmobile to be made) and EDSEL (59D: Collectible Ford product). My love for COATI (64A: Ring-tailed mammal) as both a word and an animal is well documented. PLEB (72A: Commoner) feels like it's missing a vowel and REECE (71A: Model/volleyballer Gabrielle) looks like either a misspelled REESE or a decapitated GREECE. You decide. Speaking of "Model/volleyballer" ... that's only the second-silliest slash descriptor in today's clues. The first: 53D: Musician/wit Levant (Oscar).

Finally the ICE-T clue of the week is, apparently, 35D: "Ricochet" co-star, and the answer to today's "Guess That Mauna" challenge is KEA (38D: Mauna _____).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


MONDAY, Jul. 30, 2007 - Elizabeth A. Long

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Celebrity baseball - OR - Celebrity possessives - "'S" is added to celebrity's first name to create possessive phrase, which is then clued

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Game equipment for an old sitcom star? (Lucille's ball)
  • 35A: Game location for an actress? (Sally's field)
  • 52A: Game site for a popular singer? (Neil's diamond)

This doesn't feel like a theme. I got LUCILLE'S BALL pretty quickly - or rather, I got LUCILLE and then wondered what the trick could be. If it's "baseball," then how does the changing of the first name to a possessive fit in, theme-wise? Seems an extra, unexplained wrinkle.

I ran into just one problem in the grid, and it was major. Right around the "Ohio" region of the puzzle, I came to a dead stop at least a couple of times. 8D: Hand-to-hand fighting (combat) took far too long to come to me than it should have. But getting it (which I did, finally) should have made 9D: 8-Down ender easy. It Did Not. Since when does a TREATY end "hand-to-hand fighting." I know that the way it's clued, technically, a TREATY is supposed to end COMBAT, which is not wrong, but when that COMBAT is clued as the hand-to-hand variety (which suggests karate, pugilism, etc., i.e. one-on-one combat), then TREATY does not even show up on the radar as an appropriate word here. TRUCE would have been somewhat more expected. That, or KNOCKOUT. TREATIES are between peoples, states, nations. If COMBAT had been clued as simply [Fighting], I would have had a lot less trouble, conceptually.

If you had any trouble with this puzzle, it likely involved one or more of the following answers:

1D: Actor Snipes of "Blade" (Wesley) - a gimme, but experience tells me that many of you haven't the foggiest clue about pop culture post-Kennedy administration (if then), and I know only about six of you will have deigned to see "Blade," so...

3D: Owner of MTV and BET (Viacom) - again, easy for pop culture fans, maybe not so easy for shut-ins like yourselves (I'm teasing!). Actually, a shut-in would probably watch a lot of TV.

24A: Organic salt (oleate) - ????

22D: Speaker's spot (lectern) - this word just wouldn't give itself up. For a while I had just the initial "L," and all I could think of was PODIUM, ROSTRUM (!?), and DAIS. Really needed the "C," which I finally got (last thing I filled in, I think), when I got...

30A: Captains of industry (tycoons) - that is one cool word, now that I look at it. Sounds good, rhymes with "raccoons." Since I didn't have TREATY for a long time, I didn't have the "Y" here, just the initial "T," and as with LECTERN, the initial letter alone did nothing for me.

41A: IBM/Apple product starting in the early 90's (Power PC) - I had one of these circa '95. The crazy consonantal pile-up at the end there looks good in the grid.

42: A _____ (kind of reasoning) (priori) - I'm always surprised when this word shows up in the grid. Feels very specialized / esoteric, and yet I've seen it multiple times this past year.

50D: Winston Churchill flashed it (V sign) - great clue. Gotta love an entry starting "VS..."

Lastly I would like to GROUSE (45D: Bellyache) about 51D: Love of one's life (amour) ... in France, maybe. And even then, AMOUR is just love, not necessarily the hyperbolic kind suggested by the clue.

Enjoy Monday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


SUNDAY, Jul. 29, 2007 - Brendan Emmett Quigley

Saturday, July 28, 2007

[NOTE: printed grid has typo in it. 5D and 27A should be PINE TAR and ELY, respectively]

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

TH-TH-TH-THEME: "Th-Th-Th-That's All Folks!" - familiar phrases have unvoiced "TH" sound added to end, creating new silly phrases, which are then clued

So ... there's a "TH" on the end. Hmm. OK. That's ... an idea. The title is misleading, in that there are no repeated "TH" sounds, there's no stuttering, and the "TH" sounds come at the end of the phrases, not the beginning.

Theme answers:

  • 23A: Somebody else's soaking dentures? (not one's cup of TEETH)
  • 37A: Ghost in a battery? (cathode WRAITH)
  • 16D: Good eating and living? (highway to HEALTH) - insofar as this is a play on an AC/DC song, I like this one
  • 62A: Avoid being captured by guitarist Richards? (escape KEITH) - the first theme answer I got; the one that gave me the "..." reaction with which I opened this commentary
  • 70A: Baby twins? (double YOUTH)
  • 92A: Sherlock at the Space Needle? (Seattle SLEUTH)
  • 43D: Very detailed scope? (thorough BREADTH)
  • 109A: Billionaire's last dollar? (bottom of the WEALTH) - tried to make BARRELTH into a word

The phrases created by this theme are often amusing, but as far as theme concepts go, this one's pretty slight. The non-theme fill is at best just OK, and at worst awkward or tortured or otherwise forced. Even when I found something to love, something to hate came along right afterward to ruin it all. Case in point:

9A: Just folks? (ma and pa) - loved it. The puzzle had an impressive array of rarely seen double-A's, including this one, AAHS (89A: Joyous sounds) and AARP (90A: Org. with the motto "The power to make it better"). There's also the even more rarely seen double-Y in 102A: Poet Omar (Khayyam). But MA AND PA was ruined for me by its parallel neighbor...

21A: Athlete's slump (off year) - now I can't deny that an OFF YEAR falls under the category of "slump," but it's a Very, Very specific kind of slump. A YEAR-LONG slump is a hell of a slump. Most slumps don't fall into that category. And non-athletes can have OFF YEARs as well, so ugh. Worse, though, were two crosses that ran through both MA AND PA and OFF YEAR...

  • 12D: "The Eyes of _____" (public TV science show) (Nye)
  • 15D: Nirvana attainer (Arhat)

I had OFF -EA- for a long time because None of the letters I might put in there made any sense. NYE is ... how have I never heard of said show? What does that title even mean? (note: when I ask questions, feel free to answer, but do so in the Comments section, and Read Previous Comments to make sure others haven't already answered. Thank you). And as for Arhat. Yikes. I guess I know far less about Nirvana than I thought. That's the most made-up-looking answer in the grid.

Three things I liked:

9D: Farm animal, in kidspeak (moo cow) - somewhat tainted by its proximity to the whole OFF YEAR / NYE / ARHAT debacle, but admirably colloquial and daring enough for me to give it thumbs up.

42D: Some residents, by census classification (POSSLQS) - holy moly, not sure where I pulled this from. Definitely needed the Q, that's for sure. Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters, in case you were wondering. Seems a Dumb classification, as gay folks somehow don't count, and yet opposite-sex roommates do? Hmm. Whatever, it looks Great in the grid.

48D: Wife, colloquially (missis) - up there with MA AND PA for folksy goodness. I should take to calling my wife the MISSIS. If she, er, doesn't mind.

Just noticed that AMORE (58A: Love, in Livorno) and RAHAL (64A: 1986 Indy 500 winner), which sit one atop the other, form a kind of crooked AMORAL, which runs through HIGHWAY TO HEALTH. Now that I'm writing it out, it seems much less meaningful. AMORAL ... HELL. There's something there. There are also two "Star Wars"-related answers today, 79A: Skywalker portrayer (Hamill) and 106D: Fictional princess (Leia).

Mysteries and annoyances:

  • 27A: Aviation pioneer Eugene (Ely) - really? this nobody? with ELIS (44A: Their mascot is Handsome Dan) already in the puzzle? OK.
  • 42A: Wing: Prefix (pter-) - wanted ALEO (?!), got PTER, which I know as a prefix only from PTERODACTYL.
  • 53A: Actress Barbara (Bain) - ??? starred on "Space: 1999" with Martin Landau, or so I read.
  • 5D: Batter's material (pine tar) - I had, no foolin', PINATAS ... til the Bitter End.
  • 20D: Change, as a manuscript, in Britain (subedit) - ugh. Not a word I've ever seen or heard.
  • 34D: Thor Heyerdahl craft (Ra I) - I KNEW this, but Only because of previously being mystified by it and imagining that its name was "Rai."
  • 39D: Egyptian god of wisdom (Thoth) - I know this only from reading the current "Conan the Barbarian" comic books (published by Dark Horse, very good).
  • 82D: "Call Me Irresponsible" lyricist (Cahn) - I cannot keep LAHRs and LEHRs and HAHNs and COHNs and CAHNs straight at all, never ever, not to save my life. Damned penultimate "H"!
  • 103D: Rook's spot on a chessboard (A-one) - nobody doesn't like chess notation!

In short, I was UNAWED (94D: Not impressed) by this puzzle, despite its occasional enjoyable moments. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


SATURDAY, Jul. 28, 2007 - Manny Nosowsky

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Very simple, elegant grid shape for a reasonably simple, elegant Saturday puzzle. The strangest part about the puzzle, to me, was the quality of its short answers. The ones on the outskirts of each quadrant were astonishingly easy (about half gimmes), while the ones in the center of the puzzle, joining all the quadrants together, were the most challenging part of the puzzle. The quadrants opened up really fast once a few of those four-letter border answers were in place - but I slogged through the center of the puzzle (fitting home of the word BOG) with educated guesses, stepping over odd terms or names I'd never heard of before. I completed the grid very, very quickly (for me - somewhere in the 12 minute range), and then spent over five minutes trying to ROOT OUT (55A: Expose and destroy) my one wrong square. The square in question ... is not that surprising.

  • 35A: Red stain in a lab (eosin)
  • 35D: Young members of a convocation (eaglets)

EOSIN is a former enemy whom I should have seen hiding there in ambush. I had ROSIN and RESIN here, which gave me RAGLETS for EAGLETS. Since I had No indication that 35D was an avian answer, I figured RAGLETS was just one of those Saturday words that you don't know, but accept as a real world in someone's universe. The center of the puzzle was hard, as I've said, because after the easy NAILS (27A: Aces), and TABOR (24D: Drum accompanying a pipe), I was stuck. I wasn't even That sure of TABOR. I've taught Homer a lot, but had no idea about 28D: Island said to be the home of Homer's tomb (Ios). And BOG (30A: Common site of archaeological remains) just felt a bit unsolid (as BOGs are wont to do). Also never heard of 25D: The _____ Marbles (Elgin). They are a large collection of marble sculptures removed from the Parthenon in the early 19th century and brought to Britain, probably illegally. Nobody beats the western colonial powers for despoiling the world of its art - not to mention its natural resources, happiness, etc.

So happy to see the quick return of ONE O' CAT (15A: Sandlot game) to the grid. Today we learn that this mystery game is played on a "sandlot." What will we learn next? HAD DIBS (1A: Claimed as one's own) was one of those very tentative guesses, where I mentally filled it in and then tested the Downs in my head. And they worked. Lucky. Gimmes up in the NW include 19A: Rock guitarist born David Evans (The Edge) - guitarist of the band U2 - and semi-frequent puzzle denizen 5D: Immobile in winter (iced in).

In the NE, I took a stab with ARBORED (18A: Lined with trees) which gave me the easy SPAS (8D: Bath and others), which gave me PILSNER, which was wrong. But PALE ALE came out eventually (16A: Draft pick). Hurray for Mike Brady as a beautiful clue for STEPDAD (20A: Mike Brady of "The Brady Bunch"). Someone will tell me whether ARLENE (22A: Longtime "What's My Line?" panelist) is a first or last name. I'm guessing the latter, but that seems absurd. I got 13D: "_____ and Franklin," 1976 biopic (Eleanor) simply by thinking of all the Franklins I know. After Franklin from "Peanuts," FDR was the next one my mind went to, which made ELEANOR easy. As for TARTANS (9D: Carnegie Mellon athletes), why would you name yourself after a fabric pattern?

What HAD DIBS was to the NW and ARBORED was to the NE, ON A TEAR (41A: Running wild) was to the SW - tentative but ultimately correct guess that opened the quadrant right up. It's a very multi-wordy, colloquial quadrant, with not only ON A TEAR, but NOW WHAT? (31D: "Again?!"), IN A RUSH (32D: With no time to lose), and THE REST (54A: Others), the last of which has lodged the "Gilligan's Island" theme song in my head this morning (song used to end its list of castaways with "... and THE REST" until the phrase was later changed to "the Professor and Mary Ann").

In the SE, NON-HERO (36D: Melville's Ishmael, e.g.) is insane, and yet because of its Moby Dick-ness, I kind of like it. ARTISTE (53A: Pro performer) also feels pretty forced, but unlike NON-HERO, it has nothing to redeem it. OLOROSO (38D: Bristol Cream ingredient) is a kind of sherry and totally off my radar. I filled in CLAR (49D: Woodwind instrument: Abbr.) instantly, and then came ROOT OUT. With that "U" in place, SILENT U was a piece of cake (39D: Guide feature?). 46A: First name in electrical engineering sounds hard, but once you get a few crosses, it's clear that it's just TESLA's slightly less known first name, NIKOLA.

I'm 85% recovered from illness, and was well enough yesterday to go see "The Simpsons Movie." No spoilers, but I will say it CHEERED (49A: Made happy) me quite a bit.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


FRIDAY, Jul. 27, 2007 - John R. Conrad

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: DUST - rebus puzzle where "DUST" must be crammed into six symmetrically organized squares

The "Challenging" part of this puzzle is that you rarely see a theme puzzle on a Friday. I think this is the second one this year. The last one was a CAT and DOG rebus, if memory serves (which it often doesn't, so if you care about such things, look it up yourself). I'm not sure why DUST is so ... important that it should interrupt my regularly scheduled themeless puzzle and force itself upon me. I ended up enjoying the puzzle somewhat. I've done worse puzzles, that's for sure.

DUST answers:

  • 4A: Medevacs, in military slang (DUST-offs) - didn't know this
  • 4D: Quarrel (DUST-up)
  • 9A: Shop coat? (saw DUST)
  • 12D: Furniture protector (DUST cover)
  • 2D: Went kaput (bit the DUST) - my favorite DUST answer
  • 31A: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee known as the White Lady of Soul (DUSTy Springfield) - this was a gimme, as I Love her, and thus the first clue that I was dealing with a rebus - her full name obviously didn't fit. Sadly, I had the D-S part and so still thought the first part was DUSTY (spelled out, not rebused). Eventually SECRECY (3D: Opposite of openness) gave me the "Y" I needed to figure it all out.
  • 37A: Nebulous stuff (interstellar DUST) - along with HIT TUNE (46A: Billboard listing), a very iffy-sounding phrase
  • 42D: Black & Decker offering (DUST Buster) - clever
  • 43D: Classroom sneeze elicitor (chalk DUST)
  • 62A: Janitorial tool (DUST mop)
  • 57D: Cleaning product with the slogan "It's that fast" (EnDUST)
  • 63A: Big band era standard ("Star DUST")
Had a good feeling when 1A: Breakers communicate with them (CBs) was a gimme, but after I got that one, I stalled out for a bit. Very very proud of myself for getting CHEESES (24A: Things wheeled in supermarkets?) after only about five seconds of thinking about it. Had a lot of trouble in the far north, as almost none of those answers came readily to me. I've complained about not knowing SHAKO (8D: Cadet's topper) before, and I failed to know it again today. As for OSAKA (21A: City of canals) ... I had OMAHA, that's how much I didn't know that one. Had HAMAS where FATAH (7D: Palestinian group) was supposed to be. And URIAH (15A: Officer slain in the Old Testament) ... well, I haven't gotten that far in my bible-reading yet.

DADO (19A: Carpenter's groove) is hilarious to me as my wife and I were bonding over having No Idea what this word meant only a couple days ago when it showed up in some puzzle she was doing. I call my older cat, Wiley, BADDO DADDO sometimes ... when No One is around. My wife will be ashamed that I had No Idea what 22D: It contains the elastic clause referred to until I had many letters. I assume that's ARTICLE I of the Constitution. Of the United States. Of America. I'm also assuming that ALTE (58A: Aged Frankfurter?) means OLD in German.

For 1D: Half of a 1970s-'80s comedy duo, I really wanted either LAVERNE or SHIRLEY. I got CHEECH. Only other interesting pop culture answer today is BEV (23A: Roseanne's mom on "Roseanne"), which I could not recall despite having watched that show a lot. KURT (59A: Maestro Masur) would have been pop culture if it had been clued [Aging MTV personality Loder].

I'm tired. Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


THURSDAY, Jul. 26, 2007 - Joe Krozel

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: East to West - all Across answers that begin on the far west side of the puzzle appear to be unclued, but are actually the second parts of the corresponding Across answers that end at the far east of the puzzle.

Feeling mildly better today, so I'll do a shortish commentary. I have seen this style of puzzle before, though I think the answers actually ran on to the next line (rather than the same line, as is the case here) and may have broken mid-word (rather than between words, as is the case here). At any rate, the only difficulty in this puzzle lies in figuring out the theme; once you've got it, none of the answers should give you much trouble.

"Theme" answers

  • 10A / 1A: Opposite of all (not / one)
  • 15A / 13A: Loser (also / ran)
  • 18A / 16A: Try, as something new (test / out)
  • 22A / 19A: Like some low-rise buildings (three- / story)

  • 30A / 26A: Places where fans may gather to watch a game (sports / bars)
  • 36A / 34A: Noted 1829 West Point graduate (Robert / E. Lee)
  • 40A / 37A: Deem appropriate (see / fit)
  • 44A / 41A: Irish playwright who wrote "The Shadow of a Gunman" (Sean / O'Casey)
  • 47A / 45A: Countryman of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (West / German)

  • 55A / 51A: Target of chondrolaryngoplasty (adam's / apple)
  • 62A / 59A: Barely (by a / nose)
  • 65A / 63A: Comforting words (it's / okay)
  • 68A / 66A: What some browsers browse (the / net)

Didn't know WEST GERMAN or SEAN O'CASEY, but they were both easily inferrable.

I would have called the Wal-Mart symbol a "SMILEY face" (42D: Symbol in Wal-Mart ads) Is his actual name "SMILEY?" I don't know why 4D: London shades are GREYS. Is it 'cause it's GREY there a lot? (see also 26D: Cloud up (befog)).

My favorite feature of this puzzle is the intersection of 4A: Common Halloween costumes (ghosts) and 7D: Hamlet, to Claudius (stepson). Hamlet's father famously appears to him as a GHOST and tells him to avenge his death at the hands of Claudius (Hamlet's uncle). I was annoyed when NEPHEW wouldn't fit for the Hamlet clue, but then it all made sense in the end.

There were probably a few too many abbrev.'s in this puzzle (TREAS., SWED., NAUT., ANON., SDS, SASE, REL., DST., INC., RPM) and HES (60D: Guys) is just godawful, but otherwise, a very enjoyable puzzle.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


WEDNESDAY, Jul. 25, 2007 - Ed Early

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Snarky quote by 54-Across" (CHICO [Marx])

And the quote is:


Can't write much today because I'm sick. Ugh.

Two other quote-related answers in the puzzle (well, three, one of them in two parts)

  • 27A: Sibling of 54-Across (Harpo)
  • 28A: With 53-Across, noted comedy group, in brief (Marx / Bros.)

I'll write more later in the day if I'm up to it.

Take care.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


TUESDAY, Jul. 24, 2007 - Bruce Adams

Monday, July 23, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "-IES" - Familiar phrases ending in "S" have penultimate letter doubled, and then "IE" sandwiched between the double letters and the final "S," resulting in absurd phrases, which are then clued, question-mark style

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Angry rabbits in August? (hot cross bunnies)
  • 25A: Hens at the greatest altitude? (highest biddies)
  • 42A: Cat lady's mission? (keeping tabbies)
  • 55A: What a Chicago ballpark bench holds? (White Sox fannies) - that one's pretty good

You can tell a theme sucks (as I've said many times before) by how difficult it is to explain. What the hell is this so-called "theme?" Cutesy long E sound? Two problems here, beyond the general ridiculousness. One, there are two -NNIES words, and only one each of -DDIES and -BBIES. Either one of the -NNIES should have been dropped, or one of the others should have been doubled. I'm just sayin' - a little elegance would be nice, especially if your general premise is this loopy. Second, all the phrases are noun phrases, except KEEPING TABBIES, which is a verb phrase. Yuck. Can I get a little parallel construction up in this @#$#@$?

ESPERANTO (1A: Language in which plurals are formed by adding -oj) over COUTURIER (15A: Christian Dior, e.g.) is nice, but completely unexpected on a Tuesday. That's Friday stuff right there (I had BRAND NAME, at first, for COUTURIER). You rarely see 9 over 9 in a Tuesday. Impressive. I had real trouble getting into that NW. Well, small trouble. But trouble, nonetheless. ECHO saved me (1D: Greek nymph who pined away for Narcissus - hurray for my semi-Classical education). Most of the fill is fairly standard stuff. I did not know (or reforgot) 25D: 1944 Chemistry Nobelist Otto (Hahn). Ditto 38A: Whence Goya's duchess (Alba). ANNULI (11D: Tree rings) makes sense, Latin-wise, but I don't think I've seen the term before. Me and flora ... we're not close. More Latin at NISI (7D: Not yet final, in law) - which I inferred because ... well, it's Latin alright, so it's recognizable as a word in some language. That is all it had going for it. APICES (37D: Zeniths) looks nuts. I had APEXES. The AEROS (33A: Houston skaters) get more puzzle action than any minor league team in the history of sports, let alone hockey. GO SEE (27D: "Take a look!") is iffy, but I'll allow it. There is a very beautiful comic about NAT (58D: Rebellious Turner) Turner's Rebellion by Kyle Baker - one of the greatest things in comics art from this past year. I like the positioning of ABE (41D: Face on a fiver) - ABE was tall, but ... ABBE (standing right next to him) is taller (38D: French cleric).

I'm off to make a further dent in the damned Potter book. Sahra finished The Prisoner of Azkaban today. By herself. She's in Indiana visiting relatives, and she called me, and after she described the pony ride on Seeker or Changer or Chaser or whatever her horse's name was, the only thing she wanted to talk about was Potter. She's 6. Say what you will about the HP books - they have single-handedly made my daughter leap from good to great reader in about two months. Rowling has created a powerful (and, I'll go out on a limb and say, enduring) mythology - marketing alone can't get books in a kid's head the way good writing can.

Enjoy Tuesday - I'll be advising another dining hall full of gremlins (I mean incoming students).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


MONDAY, Jul. 23, 2007 - Randall J. Hartman

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: SPOT and its anagrams

Super-boring "theme" - not even identifiable as a theme until the puzzle is completed. Those are some of the shortest theme answers I've ever seen too - so much so that I had a hard time seeing them all, even when I was done.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Traps off the coast of Maine (lobster POTS)
  • 28A: Ball catcher behind a catcher (back STOP)
  • 34A: Source of disruption to satellites (sun SPOT)
  • 42A: Sleeveless shirts (tank TOPS)
  • 56A: Gotham tabloid (New York POST) - I was trying to think of a fictional newspaper from the world of "Batman"
My time was Terrible - the worst I've had on a Monday in ... well, forever. I had completed the grid in about 4 minutes, but my grid was wrong. And wrong. And wrong again. Because I had no clue about the "theme," I had LOBSTER NETS. This is what happens when you do the puzzle too fast. Now, my first idea about my error was a red herring - I had SALUT for SALUD at first (1A: Toast to one's health), and I had TEC for DET (5D: Investigator: Abbr.) - but when LOBSTER seemed inevitable, I figured out my error. Then when my grid came back bad, I started doubting SALUD / DET, even though clearly nothing else works there. So I lost time mulling that over. My main problem was a few places to the east, where I had RUNS as the answer to 7D: Steals, with "off" - runs off, steals away ... it made so much sense at the time that I actually believed it was a gimme. My super bad luck was that the wrong N from RUNS gave me the wrong NETS (instead of POTS). The more I looked at NETS ... well, let's just say I knew OULER was not a word - that OILER was a much better answer for 15A: Ship from the Mideast, but RUNS had to be right, so ... must be some arcane thing I've never heard of. But when I saw that I had ALEE for 8D: Skin cream ingredient, that's when I knew something was wrong wrong wrong with NETS. Once that dawned on me, my errors were gone within five seconds.

The rest of this was pretty easy, though CRANE could have been COUGH (6A: Whooping _____); CREEL's kind of challenging (63A: Fish basket); and San PEDRO Bay isn't necessarily familiar to non-Left Coasters (49A: Los Angeles's San _____ Bay). Oh, and ENESCO (12D: Georges who composed "Romanian Rhapsodies") is rough for a Monday. If I hadn't seen him before (commented on him, even), I would have been lost. At sea, even. Never heard of 45D: Aviation pioneer Sikorsky (Igor), but really, in a Monday puzzle, what other first name is this guy gonna have?

That's it.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


SUNDAY, Jul. 22, 2007 - David Levinson Wilk

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Worst Pickup Lines"
- self-explanatory

Yet another constructor named "David." That makes EIGHT of you who have published puzzles since I started this blog last September. "Nancy" is a distant second, name-wise, with three. As for the puzzle - I had heard a LOT of these lines before, making filling in the long theme answers very, very easy. My only problem was exact phrasing, which I botched a couple of times, but the botching was always easily fixed. I finished this puzzle in 13:42, crushing my old record time for a Sunday puzzle (which I set just last week).

Theme answers:

  • 23A: "Pardon me, are you from the Caribbean? Because ..." ("Jamaican me crazy")
  • 30A: "I know it's not my business, but if you were a laser..." ("You'd be set on stunning")
  • 48A: "Say, is it hot in here...?" ("Or is it just you?")
  • 66A: "Sorry to bother you, but do you work for NASA? Because..." ("You're out of this world")
  • 85A: "Excuse me, I seem to have lost my phone number - ..." ("Can I have yours?")
  • 102A: "I don't mean to pry, but are you from Nashville? Because..." ("You're the only TEN I see")
  • 114A: "Even though we've never met, I'm sure your last name is Campbell. That's because..." ("You're Mmm Mmm good") - this last one is the Absolute Worst of the lot, which I suppose makes it Great, considering that's the point of the theme...
Trouble spots:

In the NE, I wrote ATLANTA, GA for 16D: City that won the first N.F.L. championship before realizing the crosses wouldn't work. Eventually, I worked out that it was AKRON, OHIO - what the hell is the love affair between the puzzle and this city??? It must be the most popular city name in the puzzle, or at least the most popular city with a "K" in it. ONE NINTH (15D: About 11%) was bizarre, but I sort of liked it.

In the "Kentucky" region of the puzzle, I had to go on faith. All the following Downs were iffy and/or mysterious to me:

  • 52D: Japanese who won the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize (Sato)
  • 56D: Afghan airline (Ariana)
  • 57D: British tax (cess)
  • 58D: Orders to plow horses (haws)

There's also another, nearby Down that I'd Never heard of: 50D: One _____ (kids' game) (o' cat). When was this ever a kids' game? Before electricity? Before ... tag? Thankfully, after wrongly entering SHIMMY for 55A: Hip-shaking dance, I figured out that it was CHA CHA, and that answer ran through All Five of the above mystery clues. Without it, I would clearly have been a dead man.

In the "Georgia" region of the puzzle, I was mystified, briefly, by 96A: Lemonade + _____ = Arnold Palmer (ice tea), especially since, first, I thought it was spelled ICED TEA, and second, two of the crosses are really weird. Since when is 87D: #2, informally VICE? VICE President ... is not informal. Like all right-thinking people, I put VEEP here. Also, do kids really take ECON (88D: H.S. course) in high school. I didn't see an ECON course til college. After what felt like forever, I finally retrieved SCOTT Simon's name from my head (101A: NPR's _____ Simon), and VICE and ECON fell, reluctantly, into place.

Lastly, the great SW had a few tricky entries, including the arbitrary TWO-FOOTER (78D: Easy putt, say) and the surprising PERRY COMO (77D: Recipient of the first gold single awarded by the R.I.A.A.).

Final notes: we have yet Another "MOESHA"-related clue again today (98A: Title teen in a 1990s sitcom - far more gettable than yesterday's insane YVETTES). We also have some guy named ADE (26A: Humorist George). I guess that clue's better than the more standard [Summer drink], but not by much.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Four pop culture clues I left off last night (I was tired from reading Harry Potter til after 3am the night before)...

  • 39A: Collins of '70s fun (Bootsy) - I know him primarily from a Dee-Lite video ("Groove is in the Heart") from 1991.
  • 123A: Catfish Row resident (Porgy) - I know this name primarily from a Nina Simone version of "I Loves You, Porgy" (from the musical "Porgy and Bess," I assume).
  • 64D: Band with the 1999 hit "Summer Girls" (LFO) - man, this is the most lethal pop culture clue I've seen in a Looooong time. I barely remember this song, and I did not remember this "band's" name.
  • 76D: 1998 Sarah McLachlan hit (Adia) - a crossword staple. Her music is Soporific!

We now return you to your Sunday. -RP


SATURDAY, Jul. 21, 2007 - Raymond Young

Friday, July 20, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

I thought overall this was a great puzzle. Tough, but doable, with lots of interesting fill. But the whole thing is marred, for me, by the very first clue in the puzzle.

1A: Faux pa? (stepfather)

I had SPERM DONOR. Why? Well, it was closest thing I could think of to "faux" where fathers are concerned. "Faux" implies not only fake, but cheap. A cheap fake. A knockoff. An imitation. Not as good. Less than. Ersatz. As a STEPFATHER myself, let me just say that this clue is officially invited to bite me. It's phenomenally insulting. Why not make the answer ADOPTER, or GOD - I mean, since you've already gone to the trouble of demeaning non-sperm-related paternal relationships, why not go all the way? I can barely bring myself to refer to Sahra as my "stepdaughter" because it feels like I'm qualifying something - it feels like I'm diminishing my love for her, actually. It's accurate enough, but the qualifier "step" ... almost feels like a betrayal when I say it. It's fine that she refers to me as her "stepdad" - she has a perfectly good biological father, so she needs to distinguish. But I don't. Anyway, if I'm a "faux pa," then she's a "faux daughter," and just try telling me that to my face. I am almost as committed to non-violence as a Quaker, and yet I would seriously kick your ass.

Whew. I feel better. On to the good stuff.

Crossing AMORIST (12D: Love lover) and EROTICIST (22A: Purveyor of hot stuff - HA ha) - genius. I wish the clue [Purveyor of "Hot Stuff"] had also been in the puzzle, with the answer DONNA SUMMER.

I got started on this puzzle with 16A: Not yours, in Tours (à moi) - thank you H.S. French. This got me nothing. The weirdest gimme of all time - and the one that confirmed that the awkward TEAMERS (7D: Special-_____ (football players used only in specific situations)) was in fact correct - was 8D: French novelist d'Urfe (Honoré). I am going out on a limb and saying that I am the only person among all 4000 of us reading this blog today who has not only heard of but actually written about this guy. Actual, published, I-got-paid-to-do-it writing. Finally some of my super-obscure knowledge pays crossword dividends. Seeing this answer here was a little like the time I took a break from my weekend-long Ph.D. exams (40 pages of writing in 3 days) on medieval Scottish literature only to walk into a movie theater and see a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Mel Gibson as the Scottish hero I had just been writing about, not two hours earlier. My dusty corner of the library turned Hollywood blockbuster before my eyes. Surreal. I was so delirious from exam anxiety that I thought I might be seeing things.

TEAMERS and HONORE confirmed the sad correctness of STEPFATHER at 1A, which made the rest of the NW pretty easy. I didn't know that PEENS were 4D: Tool parts for bending and shaping. I thought they were just the parts of hammers that you struck with. TITLING was a bit forced for 2D: Calling. Ditto, though to a lesser extent, ENTENTE for 3D: Dove's desire. SNAP PEA (1D: Stir-fry vegetable) is, in fact, snappy.

ORIENTATED (56A: Became adjusted) is a really ugly word with apparently superfluous letters. What's the difference between ORIENTED and ORIENTATED? The only SUMAC (48D: Cashew family member) I know is Yma SUMAC. Are there really edible, cashew-like things called SUMACS? SEA EAR (25D: Abalone) is also new to me. IRENIC (44D: Peaceful) is not new, but highly unusual. I had EDENIC until RIO DE La Plata at 43A made that impossible.

You could make a really odd dinner menu out of this puzzle: open with MANICOTTI (11D: Italian for sleeves") and SNAP PEAS, close with TAPIOCA (36D: Dessert Calvin doesn't like in "Calvin and Hobbes") and HOHOS (47D: Snack cake brand since 1967).

Both OPERA MUSIC (50A: Libretto accompaniment) and HAND CAMERA (54A: Little shooter) feel really weird. Neither the OPERA nor the HAND appears to really want to be there. It's as if they're being coerced into making an appearance just to make the grid work, not because they make for a perfect, in-the-language phrase.

Two mysteries:

  • 53A: French painter of Napoleonic scenes (Gros)
  • 30A: "Moesha" actress Wilson and others (Yvettes) - this gets my vote for most hilariously arcane pop culture clue of the year

Best clue / answer: 38A: Something often looked for on a rainy day (taxi cab). RAINBOW would have fit, but "rainy" in the clue seemed to preclude that answer. Thankfully, I had the "X" from today's mountaineering clue (seems like there's at least one a week), 23D: Scaling aid (ice axe), so I was in good shape to get TAXI CAB.

This is not at all a Scrabbly puzzle, but given the amazing feat of 4-stacking 10 letter answers in both the NW and SE, I'm willing to let it slide. Yesterday's puzzle had enough Scrabbly letters for one weekend.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


FRIDAY, Jul. 20, 2007 - Barry C. Silk

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: none

This one played like a Saturday for me, with many many answers I didn't know. Thank god for gettable crosses - and for my D&D / medievalist background, which helped me get POLEAX (27A: Hacker of the Middle Ages) off just the final "X." Speaking of "X," this puzzle is a pangram, which means it contains every letter of the alphabet at least once. And yet, strangely, it doesn't feel like a very Scrabbly puzzle. I was a bit dismayed at one point at how many damned 1-pt letters I had floating around the grid, giving me next to No help with the crosses. None of the fill is very daZZling, so maybe the Scrabbly letters don't stand out as much for that reason. Who knows?

Didn't know:

15A: Like some fruit bats and petrels (tube-nosed) - not sure what a "petrel" is, frankly. Ah, I see it's a sea bird, not unlike the ERNE. Kind of a TERN / ERN hybrid.

12D: Cousin of a hyena (aardwolf) - !!!! I think this was in my D&D "Monster's Manual." WTF?

4D: Female role in "Chicago" (Velma) - likely a gimme for the millions of you who have seen it. I have never cared to see it. To me, VELMA will always be, first and foremost, a character on "Scooby Doo."

9D: City on the Permian Basin (Odessa) - never heard of this "basin." At least I've heard of ODESSA. It's ... the birthplace of Yakov Smirnov, if I remember correctly.

30D: Work unit: Abbr. (ft. lb.) - if it's not ERG or DYNE, I don't know it.

35D: Poet Seeger (Alan) - not ringing any bells

45D: It's massive and relatively hot (B-star) - To me, this was "insert-letter-here"-STAR. Put MOVIE between B and STAR, and I'd be very happy with this bit of fill.

43D: Drinks a toast (skoals) - knew it, just couldn't spell it (SKULLS?)

46D: _____ Waitz, nine-time New York City Marathon winner (Grete) - knew it, just couldn't spell it (GRETA?)

49D: Artist John, known as the Cornish Wonder (Opie) - I can't wait to see what tomorrow's clue for OPIE will be (see yesterday's less obscure but still non-"Andy Griffith"-related clue for OPIE). Some obscure ode to a pastry, no doubt.

52D: Malay Peninsula's Isthmus of _____ (Kra) - as in "This answer sticks in my ...."

What I loved:

  • 1D: Opportunities to run away from home (at-bats) - fantastic baseball-related clue
  • 37A: Tough companions? (molls) - the very last thing I got, and worth it
  • 44A: Botanist's beard (awn) - just happy that I remembered it (even if I did initially confuse it with Prince Valiant's son, ARN)
  • 31D: Black-and-white (squad car) - nice misdirect with the adjectival-looking clue
  • 41A: Relief may follow it (bas) - great clue
  • 10A: Vacuum maintainers (seals) - another misdirect, but one I saw through quickly
  • 24D: First home of the University of Nevada (Elko) - I'm sure I told you about the one lonely night I spent in ELKO with my sister on a cross-country trip when I was just 18 (she was 16). It was ... memorable for its seediness. Old people on gambling junkets had taken every respectable motel room in town. Anyway, we survived our phone-less motel and its curbside streetwalkers. Come to think of it, I think that motel was in WELLS, just outside ELKO. The gambling elderly kept us out of ELKO.
  • 57A: Loser in a casino (snake eyes) - just a great, vivid expression, and one that's hard to get without the right crosses in place.

The end. Working all day tomorrow, and off to bed now.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


THURSDAY, Jul. 19, 2007 - David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: 20A: With 28-, 48- and 56-Across, riddle whose answer appears in the circled squares...

RIDDLE: What implement / can be produced / from potassium / nickel and iron?
ANSWER (spelled out in circled squares): K NI FE

I thought riddles were supposed to be fun, or funny, or at least clever. This is just a dull fact. [OK, I'm an Idiot ... K = Potassium, NI = Nickel, and FE = Iron, as helpful commenters have noted; so the theme *is* clever, after all, I suppose - in its way]

As with many Kahn ("Khan!") puzzles, this was thorny throughout, though not particularly vicious in any one part - except perhaps the NE, which was home to two of several answers I did not know, and at least one misstep. For 9D: "Odyssey," for one (poem) I had EPIC, which made me then consider ERST for 9A: Ex- and IDEE for 19A: Abbe de l'_____, pioneer in sign language (epee) - never heard of the latter. Also never heard of 16A: Talk radio's _____ & Anthony (Opie) - You lost me at "Talk radio" (I can't think of any worse way to spend my time, except perhaps going under the dentist's drill).

Other stuff I didn't know...

5A: Project Blue Book subject (UFOs) - "blue books" are what my students write midterms / finals in. They are the only "blue books" I am familiar with.

18A: Turns about, as a mast (slues) - I know I have claimed I don't know this answer before, but I'm claiming it again.

51A: Kentucky's Athlete of the Century (Ali) - I guessed it from its three-letteredness, but I don't normally associate ALI with the Bluegrass State.

I liked SIBYL (39A: Fortuneteller) over TROY (47A: Movie featuring Peter O'Toole as Priam), as both figure prominently in the Aeneid, which I teach often. Also liked the beautifully symmetrical crossing of NILE and DELTA (58D: With 66-Across, Egyptian agricultural area). SET A DATE (38D: Plan for nuptials) took me way longer than it should have, considering I got DATE early. I thought the Rolling Stones were somehow involved with the Windows 95 start-up sound, but no, it was BRIAN ENO (40D: Musician who created the Windows 95 start-up sound), seen here in his less common complete-name form. Happy to get RED WINGS right off the bat - years spent in Michigan pays off - and NOT happy to get baffled by 37A: Affluent duo? (efs), especially given that you almost never see the letter "F" spelled out like that. ICKY (60A: Like worms).

Boston was a blast, especially the first night, when I got to see the first regulation shutout at Fenway by a Red Sox rookie (Kason Gabbard) since Roger Clemens on July 26, 1984, and by a Red Sox rookie lefty since Roger Moret on Sept. 24, 1971.

The next day was not as great, as we got beat up by a terrible KC team, but the game was still a lot of fun. We sat in the first row of the rightfield seats, and so right up against the Red Sox bullpen. I could have poked many a pitcher if I'd been so inclined. Crowds of elated kids would descend on our seats at every inning break to try to get a look or wave from their favorite players (especially Jonathan Papelbon).

I think I got Mike Timlin to smile at me. He may have been smiling at some hot chick nearby, I can't be sure.

Anyway, Sox are now on a losing streak while Yankees are on a winning streak, which I told everyone would happen eventually, even though sportscaster after sportscaster called the Yankees "dead." Why will nobody listen?! The Yankees are like Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" - you think she's dead in that tub? Well then I hope you like knives, 'cause you're about to get stabbed with one. Anyway ... Fenway was gorgeous, as was the weather, and I saw Crossword Fiend's book at the COOP bookstore in Harvard Square, so all in all it was a winning trip. Glad to be home - though I came home to find sick wife :( Summer colds are horrrrrible.

Speaking of which - must go take care of morning child care now.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


WEDNESDAY, July 18, 2007 - Tibor Derencsenyi

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Linda G here again for the vacationing Rex Parker.

I'll be the first to admit that I let out a long groan when I saw that the six theme answers were clued as "Example of 41-Across."

Fortunately, I knew the trick was to start with the downs, and before long, I was on to it.

The theme, running horizontally through the grid at 41A, is FAMOUS LAST WORDS...and the six theme answers are:

1A: So long

7A: Gotta run (the northeast corner was the first to come together for me, so this was my tip-off to the theme)

39A: Sayonara

45A: Au revoir. Not sure I could have spelled it correctly without some of the downs. I learned Spanish, not French.

73A: Time to go. I wanted toodle-oo here, but the downs wouldn't work with that.

74A: Bye bye

In addition to the theme answers, there were three multiple word answers: 16A: "That's fine" (okay by me), 19A: Not fighting (at peace), and 71A: "Be delighted" (I sure can). I had a problem with the last one, though. "Be delighted" sounds more like I'd love to, and that's what I initially entered.

I loved seeing 17A: __ Quimby of children's books (Ramona). My girls loved the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary...Beezus and Ramona, Ramona the Pest, and Ramona Quimby, Age 8 were our favorites.

One of the things that stumped me also turned out to be one of my favorite clues/answers in the puzzle...1D: Rock bands? (strata).

Other favorites include 51D: Black Russians may go on it (bar tab) and 72A: Low tie (one all).

Didn't know 24D: Actress Dawson of "Rent" (Rosario). Thank heavens for acrosses.

Also didn't know 55D: Buffalo hockey player (Sabre). Don wasn't much help with this one. Again, it came together with acrosses.

I liked the side-by-side polar clues...26D: Polar denizen (bear) and 27D: Polar explorer (Byrd).

Thought that 28D: Salty septet (seas) was pretty clever as clues go.

Mr. Ed is back in the grid (43D: Four-footed TV star), as is kabob (57D: Barbecue offering). By the way, kabob is my preferred spelling. I think it was recently spelled kebab. That just looks wrong.

I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I think we had eel just the other day...although maybe it was in the New York Sun. It appears today at 20D (Unagi, at a sushi restaurant). Count on me not to eat it...ever.

I'm not the pickiest (18A: Most finicky) when it comes to analyzing a puzzle. If I can find a half dozen things to love, I'm a happy solver. And I'm a happy solver today.

The King of CrossWorld will be back tomorrow, most assuredly with some good Boston and Fenway Park stories for his loyal fans. I'm sure he missed us as much as we missed him. Welcome back, Rex.

Linda G

This post also appears at Madness...Crossword and Otherwise.


TUESDAY, July 17, 2007 - Natan Last

Monday, July 16, 2007

Linda G here, filling in for a couple of days while the King of CrossWorld is away (62A: Not at home).

The first time I guest-blogged for Rex, some time in early April, I made the mistake of saying that I was excited to be Queen for a Day. It caused quite a stir, and I never (well, rarely) make the same mistake twice.

I don't recall seeing Natan Last's name on a New York Times puzzle before. If this is a debut, Natan...job well done. [Update: Thanks to reader, Liffey Thorpe, for sharing the following: "According to Will Shortz's post in today's puzzle comments, Natan Last is a high school student and the fifth-youngest constructor to be published in the NYT."]

The theme is revealed at 64A: How the answer to each of the nine starred clues repeats (at both ends)...and the nine theme answers are:

17A: 1942 film with the line "What makes saloonkeepers so snobbish?" (Casablanca). I remember the movie but not the line.

24A: Bench sharer (teammate).

41A: Japanese grill (hibachi). Everyone had a hibachi in the early seventies. I don't remember the last time I saw one--either the word or the grill itself. Great fill.

56A: Underwater creature whose males give birth (seahorse). If humans reproduced that way, how do you suppose it would affect the birth rate in this country?

10D: They live on acres of Acre's (Israelis).

11D: Rick Blaine in 17-Across, e.g. (lead role). Two theme answers connected...very nice.

27D: Many-acred homes (estates). We had 30 acres in Arkansas, but I don't think of that as an estate. The house would have had to be larger than the 1,200 square feet that it was.

39D: Classic Chinese military treatise, with "The" (Art of War). I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't know this. I haven't had a history class since the late sixties, and I just didn't retain that bit of information.

40D: Fearful 1917-20 period (Red Scare). According to this article, there was a second period from the late 40s to the late 50s.

Other things I didn't know...but was able to get from crosses:

1A: Rocker Ocasek (Ric). Many of you know that he was the lead singer for the Cars, but I didn't have a clue until I looked him up here.

31A: "Illmatic" rapper (Nas). I don't do rap.

3D: Sportscaster Bob (Costas). If it isn't Howard Cosell, I don't know him...which in no way implies that I liked Howard Cosell.

58D: Mario __, Nintendo racing game (Kart). I know as little about Nintendo as I know about sports.

49D: River nymphs, in Greek myth (naiads). I actually know the word. I just never remember how the @&%# to spell it. Those vowels make absolutely no sense.

But did you notice how many times X appeared in the grid? Three times, for a total of six X words--four of them all in one area. Would that be the Texas portion of the grid? My geography isn't very good, either...the last geography class I took was around the time of John Kennedy's assassination. Anyway, the X words:

9D: Instrument that wails (sax). Guitars, for the record, gently weep. Sax crosses with 19A: Look inside? (Xray).

59A: Fort __, N.J. (Dix), crossing with 60D: More, in commercialese (Xtra).

65D: Be a pugilist (box), crossing at 72A: The "S" in WASP (Saxon). That's awfully close to sax, but I'll allow almost anything for an X in the grid.

I always enjoy multiword answers. Today we have 15A: Walt Whitman's "__ the Body Electric" (I Sing), 48A: When Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr dueled (at dawn), and 14D: Start liking (warm to).

Not a multiword answer, but when I look at the grid I keep seeing it as one. 69A: Bor-r-ring voice (drone) keeps looking like Dr. One.

In addition to Casablanca, there are several other film-related answers, including:

44A: "Me, Myself & __," 2000 Jim Carrey film (Irene). Didn't see it. I can only take Jim Carrey in small doses.

46A: Peter of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (O'Toole). Read the book, didn't see the film.

55A: Actor Milo (O'Shea).

8D: Christie who created Hercule Poirot (Agatha). Books and films.

Favorite clues include 37A: You might crack one while playing (smile) and 36D: It might need to be settled (score).

While I'm filling in for Rex (today and tomorrow), this post will also appear at my site, Madness...Crossword and Otherwise.

See you tomorrow.

Linda G


MONDAY, Jul. 16, 2007 - Elizabeth A. Long

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium to Challenging

THEME: 25D: With 22-Down, what the ends of the four starred clues are examples of (how to fix / your hair)

Theme answers:

  • 17A: It rolls across the Plains (sage brush)
  • 11D: Juice drink brand (Ocean Spray)
  • 31D: Alluring dance (striptease)
  • 65A: Beehive contents (honeycomb)

The wording on that theme-revealing clue is infelicitous in the extreme, and I don't like the layout of the theme-revealing answer: the verticality of the two parts is OK - a nice twist - but I really don't like that YOUR HAIR is a step higher than HOW TO FIX. Answers should read left to right and Top to Bottom. The higher second part hurts my head. Plus, when I got to 22D and saw "see 25D," then saw the wording on 25D, I resented being run around (if you solve on paper, you won't appreciate this as much as if you solve on-line, where you can't see all the clues at a glance). So I got slowed up some and ended up with another average Monday time (mid-low 4's).

So overall, a fine Monday puzzle, with some awkwardness of construction that made me wince - but I'm willing to admit it just may be a personal thing against what I perceive as fussiness in a grid. I thought some of the non-theme fill was pretty challenging and vibrant. 3D: Rapper Snoop _____ (Dogg) and nearby 5D: Snarling dog (cur) make a nice pairing, as do the once (LIRA) and future (EURO) coins of Italy. 59A: Saint _____, Caribbean nation (Lucia) did not come to me at all at first. Aren't there many Saint somethingorothers in the Caribbean? The Latinate crossings of 52A: Wife of Marc Antony (Octavia) and 45D: Cautions (caveats) also added a bit of BRIO (55A: Vivacity) to the grid. Lastly, CANASTA (9D: Card game with melding) gives me fond memories of long Pacific coast road trips as a kid, during which my sister, step-sister, and I would play CANASTA and other card games over and over and over as a way of entertaining ourselves during the Long drives, first from Fresno to Medford, OR, and then on up to Bellevue, WA. I am grateful that I we didn't have any technological distractions greater than a Walkman. The trip, I'm convinced, would have been far less memorable.

I'm out of here tomorrow (Fenway-bound) and won't be back til Thursday's puzzle. Linda G will be taking over for me for the next two days, so stop in and say 'hi' to her.

Good night,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


SUNDAY, Jul. 15, 2007 - Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "In the Beginning" - familiar phrases have "IN" tacked on to the beginning, creating wacky phrases which are then clued.

The theme answers:

  • 23A: Dire proof-of-purchase slip? (Invoice of doom)
  • 28A: What Dr. Frankenstein tried to do? (Instill life)
  • 36A: Bored kayaker's movements? (Indifferent strokes)
  • 56A: Much-needed windfall? (Income to the rescue)
  • 74A: Like workers' salaries under a miserly boss? (Increase-resistant) - this was by far the hardest for me, primarily because "crease-resistant" is the least familiar base phrase of the whole bunch
  • 91A: Hogwarts? (Invocational school) - this was second-hardest, for no good reason, especially since this house is in High Harry Potter gear at the moment (Sahra's latest obsession)
  • 102A: Sharply focused Warsaw residents? (Intent Poles) - I like this one a lot
  • 112A: Clairvoyants' charges? (Intuition fees)

I rated this puzzle "Medium" because I felt like I really had to struggle in parts; and yet I ended up with something close to a record Sunday time, so I don't know what's going on. I was very, very, very lucky to the get the first four Acrosses right out of the box, especially since the first two were only semi-educated guesses.

  • 1A: Ancient Greece's Seven _____ (Sages)
  • 6A: Wrinkled melon (casaba)
  • 12A: "Well, yeah!" ("Duh!")
  • 15A: Doctrine (ism)
Off of 1A, I was able to make a good dent in the NW, but even with SK, then SKI, and then, I'm not kidding, SKILIF- in place, I could not not not see SKI LIFT at 5D: It takes up many chairs. In fact, that final "T" was nearly the last letter I entered in the grid. The biggest problem for me, though, was a stretch of territory running from about Colorado to Louisiana and then up to South Carolina - a stretch which I will call the the BAROJA-DOME pass. Lots of uneven, shaky ground on this pass, with rattlers and crocs all around. Here are the legs of the journey, in order:

66D: Basque novelist Pio (Baroja) - maybe I should call this the "Roswell" portion of the puzzle, because this answer is from Outer Space. My reaction: "The Basques have novelists now?" I feel as if I may have seen this answer before, and said something similar. BAROJA runs into ...

88A: Missouri city (Joplin) - without the "J" or "P," I was totally lost. ROSLIN was the only thing coming to mind. JOPLIN cuts over into...

89D: Egyptian coin (piaster) - I recognize this as a word, but I don't think I could have told you what it meant before today. From here, take INVOCATIONAL SCHOOL over to...

95D: Something that helps you follow the game? (spoor) - one of the ugliest words in the English language. I have honestly never heard of it. I assume it has something to do with hunting... yes: the track, trail, or droppings of an animal - nice. Ugh. Knowing SPOOR would have made the following stretch of road a lot easier...

101A: Crown insets (opals) - I kept wanting OPALS, but that kept giving me SPOOR, which is clearly not a word. Only it is. A word. Ugh. Oh, and I had trouble with the "L" in OPALS because of the intersecting answer, whose clue was mystifying to me...

85D: "The Witches" author (Dahl) - UPDIKE wrote "Witches of Eastwick," and besides URIS (who wrote nothing with "Witches" in the title), I couldn't think of a name to go here. Had the -AH- part and considered HAHN at one point, only because that would have given me a recognizable word at my next, and final, leg of my treacherous trans-grid journey...

85A: _____ of the Rock (Jerusalem shrine) (Dome) - HAHN at 85D would have given me HOME, and "HOME of the Rock" sounds correct, if a bit like an advertising slogan. But finally giving in to OPALS at 101A set everything in motion, so HAHN became DAHL and HOME became DOME and that, my friends, was that.

Other interesting bits:

  • 66A: Water pipes (bongs) - wow, really? On a Sunday? OK.
  • 21A: Axis, of a sort (entente) - "Axis" seems a stretch here. The whole NE was tough for me, as this answer paralleled the odd (to me) NAME DAY (25A: Annual celebration, for a Catholic), and both of them run into 17D: Gangster Lansky (Meyer) - whose name I barely know. I also forgot that DENIRO (12D: "The Good Shepherd" director, 2006) ever directed anything, which didn't help matters in the NE.
  • 113D: William Tell's birthplace (Uri) - Had UTZ. And ULM. Contemplated UZI.
  • 122A: Rocky's girl (Adrian) - my good friend Kathy used to teach in ADRIAN, Michigan, so we have said "Yo, ADRIAN!" in the Rocky voice a lot. A lot.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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