Monday, June 30, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (RELATIVE difficulty)

THEME: "FOUND MONEY" (61A: Unexpected wallet fattener ... and what the circled words are)

First of all, if any of you work at Blogger, could you please tell someone to review my site and take me off the @#$#$@#ing "potential spam blog" list. I asked for a review days ago, and still nothing. I'm tired of doing Word Verification every time I want to post, change a post, add an image, etc.

I got in late last night - very late for me. I was with my writing group up in ... where the hell was it? Ah, here we go: The Stonecat Cafe in Hector, NY, right next to Seneca Lake. Had one of the best meals I've had (out) in many many months and, coincidentally, had a brief conversation about the meaning of the phrase "FOUND MONEY." Lizabeth called the money she was going to get for teaching in the fall "found money" because she was not planning on getting a job, her family didn't need the money, and yet the opportunity came along: bam, FOUND MONEY. I said, "but you do have to work for it..." To which she said "But it's work I love doing..." I wasn't convinced, but seeing that the stakes of the disagreement were so low, and my fried catfish so tasty, I decided not to push it. Anyway, I got little sleep and got up very late and now I have like ten minutes to write this baby.

OK - the puzzle: Very weird for a Monday. Much thornier than a typical Monday, with high highs and low lows, but no creamy center, despite the presence of an OREO in the NE corner (16A: Double Stuf cookie). While I enjoyed seeing the Q and the Z and the J, there were other parts that left me scratching my head. Why these units of currency? Surely there are billions of currencies out there. MOSUL, IRAQ bugged me the most, as it seemed quite forced - especially considering the payoff is a bygone currency. I don't know ... there was just no AHA (44A: "Now I get it!") moment to the theme. It was fine, but not sparkling. I think I'm annoyed at the fact that the currency itself was boring

Theme answers:

  • 17A: British pop group with a repetitive name (Duran Duran) - "Rio" was one of the three most important albums of my adolescence. I wore it out. That, and the Motels' "All Four One" and the Go-Go's "Beauty and the Beat."
  • 25A: Kurdistan city on the Tigris (Mosul, Iraq)
  • 35A: On-ramp (highway entrance)
  • 51A: Welch's soft drink (grape soda)

Biggest objections:

LOW IQS (13D: Reasons for special ed). I asked my wife if this was inaccurate and she said "yes." It's at least terribly misleading. There are bunch of reasons one could be in special ed, and "LOW IQ" alone seems really, really, really unlikely - the kid might have a LOW IQ, but it's more likely to be coincidental with special ed placement, not causal on its own.

TEA TASTER (48A: Lipton employee). I challenge. Is this an official job? I'm sure someone must, yes, taste the damned stuff, but ... :( [OK, OK, "TEA TASTER" is a "real thing." Fine. I'm sure Eggo employs WAFFLE TASTERS, too, and I look forward to seeing that answer in a puzzle]

OK, I'm out of time. So ...

Your List:

  • 1A: Like students in the Head Start program (pre-K) - needed every cross to get it
  • 23A: Geller who claims paranormal activity (Uri) - the puzzle's most popular fraud

  • 45A: Mark who was a swimming phenomenon at the 1972 Olympics (Spitz) - gets you a nice "Z" crossing the very un-SPITZ-like WIZEN (37D: Shrink from age).
  • 65A: Cavaradossi's love in a Puccini opera (Tosca) - blah blah blah opera five letters: TOSCA!
  • 36D: URL starter (HTTP) - if you don't know what this is, just look ... up. In your browser's address line ... yep, right there.
  • 41D: Audiologist's concern (ear) - I would have thought "otiologist" for EAR and "Audiologist" for HEARING.
  • 45D: High-ranking noncom (sgt. maj.) - ugly in its longness. Abbreviations are most tolerable when they are short. This is a rough way to score a "J."
  • 50D: Mexican state bordering Arizona (Sonora) - isn't there a resort-type place in Arizona with this name? No, that's SEDONA.
  • 63D: Big maker of checkout devices (NCR) - I remember very well when I didn't know "NCR" and it crossed with ACCRA and I cried "foul." I've since seen both NCR and ACCRA dozens of times.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld



Saturday, June 28, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Ten Grand Surplus" - K's are added to familiar phrases, resulting in wacky phrases, which are clued. 10 K's = the "Ten Grand" of the puzzle title

Took me about 10 seconds to get the first theme answer, and I groaned, first because the theme is so basic / ordinary, and second because I had 8 more pun-filled answers to go. And "K" is my favorite letter of the alphabet (by far), so this puzzle should have made me happy. But somehow their diffusion, and their use in several murderous puns, really took the krazy fun out of things. I will say this, however, in the puzzle's favor: AFTER A SKORT is niiiiice. By a factor of ... I don't know, a lot ... the most inventive answer in this puzzle. BARKTENDER was OK too, but mostly because it made me think of MOE (the bartender from "The Simpsons"), which has nothing to do with BARK, but is amusing to me nonetheless.

Theme answers:

  • 22A: Impatient kid's plea at a zoo? (show me the monkey)
  • 31A: Worrisome type at a china shop? (triple klutz) - some trouble here, as TRIPLE KLUTZ doesn't make any kind of sense, and I originally had UNKNOT instead of UNKNIT at 12D: Take apart, so for a while I was trying to imagine what a "proper lutz" was.
  • 48A: Seeking the right women's tennis attire? (after a skort)
  • 54A: Warning sign on a pirate ship? (plank ahead) - prepare for pedantry .... Ready? OK - "plan ahead," despite being a common phrase and thus valid puzzle fare, is absurdly redundant. All plans are, by definition, made "ahead" of time.
  • 61A: Source of some inside humor? (wink wink situation) - cute
  • 71A: Tree doctor? (bark tender)
  • 82A: Your basic "So this guy walks into a bar..."? (average joke)
  • 94A: Use of steel wool, e.g.? (gunk control)
  • 110A: Cheez Whiz you could blow up? (inflatable Kraft)
The biggest sticking point, for me, was caused by a couple of innocuous (or so I thought) little clues, which happened to intersect - 37D: Padded and 53A: Insinuating. I had T-O- and SNI-E, respectively, but I could not figure out how either clue meant the words that I wanted to put in there. I always think of "insinuating" in fairly broad, general terms, as a near-equivalent of "implying" - I'm not sure when the last time was that I've heard it used to mean SNIDE, but I have, so I went with it. But that left me with T-OD for [Padded] ... and the only word that goes there very nicely is TROD, but ... then I though of children in footsie pyjamas walking down a hallway, and I thought, "OK, let's try it." And it worked. Of all the nuttiness in this puzzle, this was what held me back the most. Oh, and I left out the double trouble with TROD - what the @#$# is Villa RICA (43A: Villa _____ (town near Atlanta))? I knew that RICA was a Spanish word, and that TROD was a word, so "R" it was.

The nuttiness: well, APE SUIT has got to be the most ridiculous answer I've seen in a puzzle in a Long time. It's really the clue that's ridiculous: 8A: Jim Belushi's costume in "Trading Places - I saw that movie something like 20 times as a kid, and I only vaguely remember an APE SUIT and I don't remember Jim Belushi At All. It starred Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, and those two old guys who look like the balcony critics on the Muppets (actually, Ralph Bellamy and the mustachioed Don Ameche, both very accomplished actors). Belushi is so minor in this movie that I can't even find any specifics about his role (beyond his character's name, "Harvey") on any of the major websites. By the way, this movie also featured Al Franken as "Baggage Handler #1" and Bo Diddley as "Pawnbroker." The other bit of nuttiness: ELKHART (86D: Indiana city near the Michigan border). I lived near the Michigan border (-ish) for 8 years and didn't know this. OK, it was the Michigan / Ohio border, but still. That's one of the more obscure place names I've seen in the puzzle in a while. EDINA would also be obscure were it not popping up in puzzles once every 6 months or so (and if my best friends didn't live in St Paul).


  • 1A: City once called Eva Peron (La Plata) - more geographical obscurity for me
  • 15A: Cross stock (pens) - great clue; I was imagining angry cattle
  • 19A: Napoleon's relatives (eclairs) - "the ... what was her name ... the Josephines?"
  • 27A: Animal with an onomatopoeic name (gnu) - I ... don't understand. Do GNU really make a GNU sound? Who gnu? (ow, it physically hurt me to write that)
  • 33A: X-rated (porno) - "Midnight Cowboy" was "X-rated" and it was not PORNO.
  • 40A: Count with a severe overbite (Dracula) - so the fangs are "severe" in that they pierce your neck - is that the joke?
  • 51A: Maker of the old Royale (REO) - sometimes I get three-letter car answers confused. Not today.
  • 70A: Young hog (shoat) - that "H" was the last letter in the grid.
  • 75A: City WSW of Dortmund (Essen) - crossword gold
  • 98A: Palate appendage (uvula) - one of your grosser and least comprehensible (by me) body parts.
  • 101A: Butch Cassidy, for one (Utahan) - seeing this monstrosity of a noun makes me feel much better about putting words like ALABAMAN and DELAWEGIAN in the puzzles I'm trying to write.
  • 117A: Hellish (Stygian) - maybe the best word in the puzzle. Love the adjectival X-to-G change.
  • 4D: Jack who wrote the lyrics to "Tenderly" (Lawrence) - no idea on all fronts (the song, the guy).
  • 16D: "A Masked Ball" aria ("Eri Tu") - man, if you read this blog regularly, you Better have gotten this.
  • 23D: Geiger of counter fame (Hans) - no idea. Good thing his name is common. Go Spain!
  • 31D: "_____ teaches you when to be silent": Disraeli ("tact") - a disappointingly literal and obvious answer.
  • 34D: Golden pond fish (orfe) - whoa ... if I knew this, I forgot it. I know ORFE only as the composer (spelled ORFF) who did that music you can hear on every other soundtrack and commercial in the known world.

  • 56D: Holler's partner (hoot) - Very good, non-owl-related clue
  • 61D: Nature's aerators (worms) - again, good; inventive
  • 63D: White wine aperitif (kir) - exotic. Can't say I've ever been anywhere where KIR was being served. Lady Miss Kier was the lead singer for Deee-Lite, who were responsible for this (one of the biggest songs of my later college years):

  • 64D: Soyuz launcher (USSR) - I got eaten up by SOYUZ some time ago, so I'm just glad it was in the clues this time, and not the answer.
  • 73D: 1958 Best Actor David (Niven) - I really should watch some of his films, as I know almost nothing about him.
  • 74D: "_____ Day" (1993 rap hit) ("Dre") - I mentioned him (and provided video of him) yesterday. DRE, that is.
  • 96D: When doubled, sings (names) - seen it! Still good, though.
  • 99D: Roxie's dance partner in "Chicago" (Velma) - never seen it. VELMA = Scooby-Doo to me.
  • 108D: Orch. section (strs.) - ick
  • 112D: Chess piece: Abbr. (knt) - oh, more ick.
  • 111D: Darth Vader's boyhood nickname (Ani) - And I thought the only ANIs were DiFranco and the black bird and the "Wheel of Fortune" purchase..

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld



Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Byron gave me a heads-up yesterday that today's puzzle was going to be one of his. I can't decide if knowing is a good thing or a bad thing. Usually, his puzzles are far more challenging (and far more entertaining) than your average puzzles, so I can easily psych myself out if I know a puzzle's by him (see also any puzzle by Bob Klahn). On the other hand, if I go into the puzzle prepared for serious war, and the puzzle is at all tractable, I get this great feeling of power, bordering on elation. Maybe this is how Genghis Khan felt. I don't know; I haven't seen the movie yet (largely because it hasn't been released). The point is, I made short work of this puzzle (well, shortish). I was prepared for far more resistance than I got, and yet ... it was still thorny enough to be a proper workout, and (mostly) as inventive and clever as I expect a Byron Walden puzzle to be.

First bit of traction was in the NE, where the disturbing PLEA (24A: Video from a kidnappee's family, e.g.) gave me the "A" that confirmed my improbably correct first guess of SASHAYS for 14D: Steps lively. Guessed AGO (11D: Long _____), which gave me the (always handy) AGORA (16A: Heart of ancient Athens), and then there was a brief pause, for which I'm grateful. Saturdays should not allow you to blow through a full quadrant of the puzzle with ease. PROTEAN went down first, though I forget why - I know about Proteus from my eternal grad school studying. I read about a lot of gods, and he was in there somewhere. Shape-shifter. Oh, maybe I guessed ATH (21A: Letter getter: Abbr.) off the "H" - my distaste for this Abbr. has been covered elsewhere. This allowed me to get the real gem of the NE, and possibly of the whole puzzle: 12D: The "I" of Elizabeth I? (Royal 'We'). Man, that's some good cluin'. Eventually, the identically clued HARPS and YOYOS fell into place (10A and 18A: They come with strings attached), and finally I was treated to a most ridiculous little word, which I claimed (aloud) was not a word at all, or at least shouldn't be: HAYS (10D: Makes bales, say).

I bounced around this puzzle a lot - much more than usual. I had pieces of the puzzle done in three different quadrants before I started knitting them together. Was helped enormously in the SW by OSSIE (60A: Malcolm X eulogist Davis), who was the plausible Davis that could have gone there (the fact that 37D: Storage rooms was a plural helped confirm one of the S's). Had a weird experience in the NW, where I wrote in MUMMIES for 1D: Corps of corpses, but then misread my own "U" as an "O," which allowed me to get ONION ROLL (15A: Piquant base for a sandwich), which then allowed me to backtrack and change MUMMIES to ZOMBIES. The best (i.e. worst) answer up there is MR. ROMANCE (17A: 2005 reality show hosted by Fabio), which raises/lowers the reality show bar in the puzzle to new highs/lows. And I thought we'd topped/bottomed out at "Date My Mom."

What was most nutso? (Besides HAYS, I mean) Well, there was ALCIDS (8D: Auks, puffins, and related birds), which I didn't know despite having just written a little chapter about crossword birds like the AUK. Ravens and bluejays are corvids. My bird taxonomy knowledge ends there. Let's see ... oh, I know so little about both weaving and mining that I had to run through half the alphabet to figure out the letter at the intersection of LOOM (4D: 1785 invention of England's Edmund Cartwright) and BEAM ENGINES (19A: Steam-driven devices that pump water from mines). Don't read historical novels (unless they are by Sir Walter Scott) and so EUGENIA whatsherface (41D: Southern historical novelist Price) was unknown to me. Guessed her off the initial EU-. Didn't know 51A: Item called a geyser in Britain (water heater), but it was easy to infer with a few crosses. After 9D: Owen _____, rebel in Shakespeare's "King Henry IV" (Glendower) and 34A: "Where's my serpent of old _____?": "Antony and Cleopatra" ("Nile"), I thought I was going to get the Shakespeare trifecta at 61A: Will work? - but sadly, the Will in question was George: 61A: Will work? (op-ed essay). I own his baseball book, "Men at Work." I heard him talk about his son recently and it was remarkably touching. I somehow doubt he would approve of the style in which I write this commentary, though he does strike me as someone who might enjoy a crossword puzzle now and again.


  • 1A: Holder of many a sandwich (Ziploc bag) - gorgeous! The spelling on ZIPLOC alone is pure deliciousness. Love how this sandwich-related answer sits atop the other sandwich-related answer, ONION ROLL.
  • 22A: "Lost" actor Somerhalder (Ian) - words can't explain how little I care about this show. To me, it's the "Seinfeld" of the 21st century, in that many of my friends love it, but the appeal is lost on me.
  • 25A: Coming right back at you? (echoic) - like HAYS, this has a high "WTF!?" factor.
  • 39A: Heart failures? (reneges) - had NO idea this could be a noun (just as I had no idea HAYS could be a verb)
  • 43A: Doesn't need more seasoning (tastes OK) - god I love this. Ridiculous, bordering on silly, yet admirably daring and undeniably entertaining.
  • 46A: Eponymous oilman Halliburton (Erle) - do we need "eponymous" here? And you thought the only ERLE in the world was Mr. Gardner...
  • 49A: Janissary commander (Aga) - Take that, BEY and DEY! I should keep a running tally of who's winning the AGA / BEY / DEY wars.
  • 55A: Change at the top? (new do) - almost as good as TASTES OK.
  • 3D: Ruthless type (piranha) - didn't see that coming.
  • 5D: "All Eyez _____" (1996 Tupac Shakur album). Here's a cut, featuring crossword stalwart Dr. DRE (if you want to skip the epic video silliness and get to the song, move forward to the 1:20 minute mark):

  • 6D: Start of some blended juice names (Cran) - I had this in a puzzle I was constructing once. It was booed out of the room by reviewers. I still have a certain fondness for it.
  • 57A: Ingredient in a mojito highball (spearmint) - I don't care how painfully hipster / touristy these drinks have become; they are Delicious.
  • 24D: Unit that's larger than 19 trillion miles (parsec) - damn ... that's big.
  • 27D: San Diego-to-Seattle rte. (I-Five) - I spent many a day on this "rte" every summer of my life from age 10 to 16. Lived in CA, had relatives in OR and WA. Our summer vacations were all about the I-FIVE.
  • 28D: "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" instrument (celesta) - how did I know this? I can't even picture a CELESTA at the moment.
  • 30D: 100 aurar (krona) - !?!? At least I knew KRONA was a unit of currency.
  • 38D: Anthony Hopkins role in "Shadowlands" (C.S. Lewis) - never saw it, but how many answers start with "CS?" (not many)
  • 48D: Beau-_____ (French in-law)(frère) - one of my first entries. What else could it be but SOEUR ... ?
  • 53D: Manx relative (Erse) - A contracted English version of "Irish"
  • 56D: Century starter in the papacy of Gregory I (DCI) - YOTP!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of Crossworld



Friday, June 27, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

This was everything a Friday should be - tough but not back-breaking, with lots of inventive and colorful words and phrases, from TIKI TORCH (1A: Luau lighting) to LOMA LINDA (61A: San Bernardino suburb - having lived in Southern California for a while helped here). Lots of linking answers, with mutually referential radio code word clues (47D: Radio code word before 43-Down - ROMEO - and 43D: Radio code word after 47-Down - SIERRA), a luau theme (HULA - 37A: Activity near a 1-Across - pointing back to TIKI TORCH), the clever pairing of JENNY and CRAIG (36A: With 46-Across, program pitched by Queen Latifah - ironically, a big, fat gimme). As you know, normally I don't much care for clues that refer me to other clues, but here's the thing(s): HULA referred me back to an answer I already had in place, so no problem; and ROMEO and SIERRA were right next to each other (or nearly so), so no having to leap back and forth between different parts of the puzzle. JENNY CRAIG was just easy.

There were, however, six answers that I flat-out didn't know. That's pretty high for a Friday (or any day); luckily for me, many of them were short and gettable from crosses:

  • 20A: Gernreich who invented the monokini (Rudi) - I'm sure he's a national hero of whatever nation he's from; I'm guessing Germania. Go Spain.
  • 58A: Repetition mark, in music (segno) - by far the most outerspacey-lookin' word in the whole puzzle for me. My brain desperately wants to change that "e" to an "i"
  • 27A: Footballer Ford (Len) - uh, OK. Who? Aha, he was a defensive end for the Browns back when they won things (i.e. in the 1950s).
  • 29D: "Le Comte _____" (Rossini opera) ("Ory") - OK, I take back the comment about SEGNO being the weirdest answer in the grid. This answer beats it.
  • 39D: Pining pantomime persona (Pierrot) - no idea. Zero. I had seen the name "PIERROT" before, which explains how I filled in missing letters - inference.
  • 54D: Francis _____, signer of the Articles of Confederation (Dana) - honey, did you know this? I sure didn't. But I never saw any of these little Downs in the SE - got 'em all with Acrosses.

What did I love? Well, AMISH BUGGY for one (26D: Sight in Lancaster County, PA) - was that a seed answer, or one that arose out of necessity. It's nice. I had AMISH and sat on it for a while, because the only phrase I could think of was AMISH COUNTRY (despite the fact that there are "Look out for BUGGY" traffic signs between here and Ithaca that I see on a regular basis). I generally despise the post 9-11 phenomenon that is the NEWSCRAWL (32D: Ticker with headlines), but it sure makes a good puzzle answer. I wish I could press some button to make it go away when I'm watching the news. I don't like it any better at ESPN. Loved the colloquial DON'T SHOUT (17A: "Tone it down!") and TURN TO MUSH (12D: Get all sentimental). Don't agree that a "potential player" "must" pass a SCREEN TEST (24D: What a potential player must pass). And while it's nice to see IRENE CARA getting puzzle work again (15A: Singer who plays herself in "D.C. Cab"), anyone who has seen "Fame" has got to be disturbed by seeing Ms. Cara's name here in such close proximity to SCREEN TEST. IRENE CARA played "Coco" in "Fame," and Coco's "SCREEN TEST" ... didn't go so well. I'll let someone else explain. Here's IRENE CARA in what appears to be an early, failed experiment at music-video-making. It's like a child got hold of the video effects machine.


  • 16A: "Any fool can make _____, and every fool will mind it": Thoreau ("a rule") - sounds more Seussish than your average Thoreau quote.
  • 22A: Legendary abductee (Helen) - spot-on. She is legend, she was abducted (or so most say)
  • 23A: "Per Ardua ad _____" (Royal Air Force motto) ("astra") - usually ASTRA gets clued via Kansas's state motto "Ad ASTRA per aspera"
  • 40A: Crew leader (bosun) - Thank you, Mr. Berglund - my 11th grade English teacher, who taught me "The Tempest," and forced me to learn every damned word in the play. BOSUN was one of them - it's right in the beginning, I think.
  • 32A: Bellies up to (nears) - Love the way the clue sounds, but it's got a pretty narrow frame of reference to be used as a clue for the very very general NEARS.
  • 34A: Schedule maker: Abbr. (mgr.) - see also the same clue at 42A, where the answer is I.R.S.
  • 38A: Workup locales: Abbr. (ERs) - somehow "workup" sounds a whole lot less urgent than "ERS" does.
  • 60A: Billet-doux suggestion (tryst) - a gimme for me, but history tells me that Many of my readers (or potential readers) do not know what "billet-doux" means, so ... maybe not so easy.
  • 6D: Canyon tones (ochres) - please enjoy these canyon tones:

  • 7D: "The Phantom of the Opera" suitor (Raoul) - whoops, should have added this to the "stuff I didn't know" list.
  • 8D: Neanderthal (crude) - wow, an adjective. Didn't see that coming.
  • 9D: With respectful humility (hat in hand) - great, original answer
  • 10D: Loungewear (caftans) - What are these again? Hmmm, some kind of loose-fitting robe / tunic / muu-muu
  • 22D: "_____ Cardboard Lover" (Norma Shearer film) ("Her") - this should win some kind of award for "Most Elaborate Clue for a Possessive Pronoun"
  • 40D: Give up on, in slang (bag) - this reminds me only of the line "Bag your face" in the 1981 (!?) "song" "Valley Girl" - if the IRENE CARA video didn't take you back, THIS will (not necessarily in a good way). "Solid Gold"! 7th grade!

  • 53D: Cherokee Strip city (Enid) - western ... four letters ... yeah, it's probably enid. Maybe OREM or RENO, but probably ENID. ENID is DINE backwards, I just realized.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


THURSDAY, Jun. 26, 2008 - David J. Kahn ("UPIDSTAY" LANGUAGE)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Yves Saint Laurent (7D: Legendary name in FASHION) - three theme answers plus four symmetrical "YSL" rebus squares

Wow, DJ Kahn (his hip-hop / street name) is good. This is an elegant tribute puzzle, befitting the purveyor of elegance that it honors. I do like it when common bits of crossword fill (YSL is one) get repurposed in new and interesting ways (see the "ERG" rebus a while back). Here's the only problem with this puzzle - it was too easy. Why? Because once you've got the first two letters of 7D, the other 13 letters are easy, and you've basically cracked the puzzle wide open. Add in the fact that YSL has been in the news recently because of his death, and everything becomes very easy to figure out.

Theme answers:

  • 7D: Legendary name in 31-Across (Yves Saint Laurent)
  • 31A: See 7-Down (fashion)
  • 43A: Product introduced by 7-Down in 1971 (cologne) - this answer feels kind of arbitrary and not particularly central to the life and times of YSL, but ... Germany advanced to the UEFA finals yesterday, so I'll give COLOGNE some leeway.

And the rebus squares:

  • 17A: Rube's opposite (cit YSL icker)
  • 4D: Knocks to the ground (la YSL ow)
  • 21A: New York's _____ Building, tallest in the world in 1930 (Chr YSL er)
  • 11D: Orchid variety (lad YSL ipper)
  • 54A: Check attachments (pa YSL ips)
  • 36D: "Ben-Hur" extra (galle YSL ave) - oh that answer is goooood
  • 60: Extra shuteye (beaut YSL eep)
  • 53D: Lock opening (ke YSL ot) - by far the hardest of these rebus answers to get. I guess I just don't use or encounter this phrase a lot

I am sure DJ Kahn meant no offense, but ... aren't there a lot of Satanic references in this puzzle, especially for a puzzle meant to honor someone who just died? I mean, did YSL make A PACT with the devil? (59A: Make _____ with the devil) Is he now SATAN'S Mistress? (46A: "_____ Mistress," 1982 horror flick) Is he currently enjoying a cruise in Charon's boat on the river STYX? (5A: It circles Hades nine times) Throw in a reference to "Paradise Lost," the most SATANic of all EPIC poems (33A: "Paradise Lost," e.g.), and ... well, you can see why I have to ask the question.


  • 1A: Omani's money (rial) - Here's the thing about RIAL - it's disturbingly close to RIEL (monetary unit of Cambodia), which is what I put here. Iran and Yemen also have RIAL as their currency.
  • 9A: Pro Football Hall of Fame coach who once played for the New York Yankees (Halas) - you could have stopped at "coach" - in five letters, I'm guessing HALAS. It's just good crossword sense.
  • 34A: "Upidstay," language (pig latin) - fantastic - goes especially, euphonically well with its symmetrical counterpart, TIRE IRON (39A: Tow truck tool)
  • 37A: Girl's name that's a butterfly genus (Greta) - that, I did not know. And will surely soon forget, but no matter. This was more original than a Garbo clue.
  • 38A: First name in erotic writing (Anaïs) - her first and last names are both pretty crossworthy.
  • 50A: 1974 hit by Mocedades ("Eres Tu") - the modern counterpart to the equally popular Verdi aria, "ERI TU."

  • 56A: What may be paid when someone dies (respects) - this, sitting upon BEAUT YSL EEP, is kind of sweet. Turns BEAUTY SLEEP into an oddly apt euphemism for YSL's death. I'm not much for euphemisms, and this was likely unintentional, but I like it anyway.
  • 63A: River to the English Channel (Orne) - wanted ARNE, but that's the composer.
  • 66A: Liz Taylor's husband before Fisher (Todd) - The only memorable husband of any note in my adult life: Fortensky. Not great puzzle fare.
  • 3D: Potsdam Conference attendee (Attlee) - surprised I don't see his name more in puzzles. He was P.M., preceded and succeeded by Churchill, which makes Churchill oddly like Grover Cleveland.
  • 18D: Cyclades isle (Ios) - where they all drive IONs (40D: Discontinued Saturn)
  • 24D: Phone greeting in Central America ('alo) - most of us could not get away with this in our puzzles, but most of us are not DJ Kahn.
  • 30D: Word with brain or price (scan) - had SCA- and was still puzzling over it ... "scab?"
  • 37D: With 8-Down, one who grew up on MTV, maybe (GEN / X'ER) - i.e. me. When people talk about GEN X'ERs, they mean me and my friends. We are now old and not quite as hip as GEN X'ER makes us sound.
  • 43D: Whom Taylor defeated for president in 1848 (Cass) - 8 marriages, and she still found time to run for office. Amazing.
  • 47D: "De Oratore" writer (Cicero) - easy easy. The only Latin orator you need to know. I guess you could've been suckered into VERGIL on this one, but ... seems unlikely.
  • 60D: Actress _____ Ling of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" (Bai) - again, if you are DJ Kahn, you can do whatever the hell you want, it seems. Actress no one knows + movie no one saw? In one clue? No problem.


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld



Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Re-clued RE-words (each theme answer begins with prefix RE- and is clued as if the word were actually two words - so it's like the RE- loses its prefixity in the cluing, I guess)

If a theme can't be described clearly in one reasonably succinct sentence, there's a good chance I didn't like it much. Today's theme was clever, but had a lot of inconsistencies (I thought) in execution. Imagining the answers as two words instead of one entails pronunciation change ... some of the time. The RE- is a true prefix ... some of the time (i.e. I would use the word "admission," but I would not use the word "storation" or "daction"). Wife and I both agreed that while REINHABIT is almost certainly a valid word that someone somewhere has used at some time to describe something, it's still not much of a word. Still, the theme is admirably intricate and occasionally catchy. Plus it was terribly easy, so I didn't have much time to get mad at it.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Talk in one's sleep? (rest oration)
  • 24A: Building the Berlin Wall? (Red action)
  • 34A: Equestrian addiction? (rein habit) - daughter's going to something called "pony camp" this summer. I will surely let you all know how that works out ... anything that makes Sahra more like Lisa Simpson is OK by me
  • 46A: Back burner? (rear range)
  • 54A: Literacy campaign? (read mission)

By far my favorite part of this puzzle is the apt / ironic placement of MOE (11A: Duff beer server on TV ) among three different kinds of alcohol, two of which Moe has probably never heard of, let alone served in his drinking establishment. If there's COGNAC (5A: Snifter filler) or MADEIRA (11D: Dessert wine) at Moe's, it's in a very dusty bottle behind the bar. Moe's best customer Barney is the kind of person who would drink ETHANOL (13D: It gives punch to punch) - straight, if he had to. I should give MOE a little more bartenderly credit. After all, he was once able to produce a very special order for Barney's YokoOnoesque girlfriend without a moment's hesitation: a single plum floating in perfume served in a man's hat. Pretty remarkable.


  • 15A: Building with lots of wings (aviary) - KFC!? No? (very nice clue)
  • 15A: Hobby farm occupant (ant) - is this still a hobby? ANT farms seem sooooo 1950s. Poor substitute for a real pet. Whoa, "ANT FARM" is a brand name! Like "XEROX" and "KLEENEX"! From Wikipedia:

The best-known formicariums are examples of "Uncle Milton's Ant Farm," for which the ants are sent to the purchaser through the mail, upon receipt of the coupon enclosed with the Ant Farm. The educational toy is made by Uncle Milton Industries in Westlake Village, California, and has sold over 20 million Ant Farms since 1956 and which owns the brand name "Ant Farm". This type of formicarium is for observing worker ants and its effectiveness in serious ant propagation is limited.

  • 19A: Dit's counterpart in Morse code (dah) - one of my most hated "words"; reeks of desperation. But that's why it exists, I guess. "Help me DAH, you're my only hope."
  • 29A: Janis's hubby in the funnies (Arlo) - Is this supposed to be more or less obscure than [Folkie Guthrie]?
  • 30A: Old lottery org. (SSS) - that's the draft lottery
  • 39A: Long-horned goat (ibex) - one of many super-crosswordy words today; see also INCA (43A: Atahualpa's people), NENE (62A: Protected state bird), and ADELE (48D: Dancer with Fred)
  • 45A: Chuck wagon load (grub) - great colloquialism
  • 51A: Mag. wheels (eds.) - to explain (because there will be questions from some of you) - a "wheel" is a big (wheel of?) cheese, a higher-up, a mover/shaker, and the big shots at MAGazines are EDitorS, it seems.
  • 53A: Six-Day War arm (uzi) - I did not understand the clue, as I was reading "arm" metaphorically (as an extension). Thankfully, I never saw any of these short Downs in the SW when I was actually doing the puzzle. AIR DUCT (36D: Ventilation system part), SNEEZER (37D: Blessing receiver), and SCARILY (38D: In an alarming way) went right in with no problem.
  • 59A: Suffix with hypn- (-otic) - wife balked at this, as she assumed the "O" went with "hypn-," as in "hypno." I didn't blink at this, though OTIC is its own word and could be clued as such. I might have used [Suffix with psych- or cyan-] here.
  • 9D: Coffee lure (aroma) - must finish write-up quickly so that I can get to my coffee which I can smell even now despite the fact that I haven't started making it.
  • 18D: Hit 1992 U2 "single" ("One") - I see the cute thing you're doing there with the "single" / "One" question. Only it was literally a single, so it's weird to put it in quotation marks suggesting the word's not being used specifically. I actually like this song a lot.

  • 32D: Passe wedding vow verb (obey) - are we sure it's "passé" for everyone?
  • 42D: Report card notation (absence) - teacher wife balked at this answer as well; she assumed "notation" meant something like a check mark. An absence is more like a stat. I had no problem with this clue.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS there was a little get-together of xword "wheels" in NYC yesterday. Here's a pic:

clockwise from L: jon delfin, mark danna, paula gamache, tony orbach, ashish vengsarkar, andrea carla michaels, patrick blindauer (not pictured: robert leighton)


Word of the Week: TANSY (with Mozart accompaniment)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

(from Friday, June 20, 2008)

[from Medeival Latin athanasia, medicine to prolong life, fr. Greek a- + -thanasia (fr. thanatos death)]

a plant of the genus Tanacetum, esp. a common herb with a strong aromatic odor and a very bitter taste; also, a tansy-flavored cake or pudding

Musical Accompaniment: First movement of Mozart's Clarinet Quintet:

More crossword goodness tomorrow.





Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Things you "DRAW" (67A: Something you can do to the starts of 17-, 21-, 37-, 53- and 60-Across)

One of those themes that I did not get until it was all over. In fact, I had finished without ever seeing the clue that linked the theme answers all together, so for the first few moments after I finished, I stared at the long answers trying to figure out what I was missing. It's a nice theme, with my only quibble being exceedingly minor. You can certainly DRAW all the words in question, but for some reason, in my head, all the phrases begin "DRAW A" except the one involving curtain, for which I want "DRAW THE..." Weird. Anyway, fine work, though because of the high density of theme squares, there are some iffy moments where not terribly desirable answers had to be forced into the grid because not a lot else would work (see below).

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Hotel offering (BATH towel)
  • 21A: Bow-taking occasion (CURTAIN call)
  • 37A: Poker face (BLANK expression)
  • 53A: Cinema offering (PICTURE show)
  • 60A: Flintlock need (GUN powder)

When you overlap long theme answers like this, you increase the likelihood you'll have to rely on abbreviations or partials (e.g. "OB LA" - 8D: Syllables before "di" or "da" in a Beatles song) or generally ugly fill to get the job done. I think Barry mostly does the best with the hand he's dealt himself (he pulls the theme overlap in the south off a little better than he does the one in the north). The biggest construction challenge, and the place where the puzzle feels weakest, is in the SW, where the gorgeous KENTUCKY (38D: Home of Mammoth Cave) gets you into some scary territory in the crosses, with a terminal "C" word over a terminal "K" word; that may seem innocuous, but go ahead and try to take out the answers that are there and put in new ones. It's rough, and even the passable results are not pleasing. CHOO (55D: When repeated, a train sound), IDNO (54D: Fig. on a driver's license), and ROOTY (65A: Like ground around a tree) are all kind of icky, and in such high density their ickiness is only magnified. ROOTY took me forever to get because the only place I can accept seeing that word is in the IHOP special "ROOTY Tooty Fresh 'N' Fruity." To this corner's credit, it has Jack PAAR (53D: Jack who quipped "A funny thing happened to my mother one day: Me") and the lovely ANOUK Aimée (62A: Actress Aimee).

The biggest stumbling block for me, however, was the damn Lawrence Welk clue (64A: With "and" and 47-Down, Lawrence Welk's intro), which is clumsily executed (parts out of order, an "and" inserted in the middle), and which I therefore handled very clumsily. I figured A ONE was followed by AND A, and I knew that "A" was right, so ... despite the fact that I really wanted the (correct) PETITES for 49A: Dress store section, I had PENITES. It was only after I forced "T" in there and let the chips fall where they may that my initial misreading of the clue became evident to me. One more example of why I don't like the "See some other clue" variety of clue.


  • 9A: Valuable violin (Amati) - STRAD is also acceptable in five letters
  • 16A: French-speaking African nation (Gabon) - ooh, I like this
  • 26A: Charisse of "Singin' in the Rain" (Cyd) - R.I.P.
  • 43A: Armchair athlete's channel (ESPN) - one of two channels I watch in the morning (the other is a 24-hr. news network which is a bit like a heroin addiction in that I know it's bad for me but I can't stop)
  • 46A: Grier of "Jackie Brown" (Pam) - "I'm a long-time woman!" - I have this promotional picture hanging on the wall right behind me - just next to Muhammad Ali's autograph - although mine doesn't have the stupid "Parental Advisory" label on it:
  • 2D: Pong maker (Atari) - one of many answers that made me feel like a kid again. See also MARCIE (10D: Friend of Peppermint Patty) and EGGO (56D: Frozen waffle brand)
  • 6D: Bride's worldly possessions (dowry) - this felt strange to me. I don't think I knew that a DOWRY was Everything She Has In The World. I thought it was just an amount paid in money and/or goods to the husband by the bride's family.
  • 28D: Seconds and then thirds (more) - "seconds" wasn't enough for you? You need "thirds" to get MORE? How is "seconds" not MORE?
  • 34D: _____ City (Baghdad district) - I laughed when I was going over the puzzle because I have no memory of seeing the parenthetical part of this clue, and I remember thinking "Wow, SADR's pretty tough for a Tuesday when you've only got [_____] City staring at you"
  • 46D: Us Weekly rival (People) - you can read this crap, fine, but please don't ever ever ever complain about "the media" or how celebrity-obsessed we are and how it distracts us from issues of material importance to blah blah blah. You care about Brangelina's twins? Fine. That's your right. Just never open your mouth to make any kind of social commentary or criticism about anything ever, As YOU are the problem (not "the media," not celebrities). This "shut up" injunction also applies to liberals who smoke. It's your right, smoke away. Just keep your mouth shut about anything even vaguely environmental, you @#$#ing hypocrite. A smoking environmentalist? Really? I'm no advocate of public beatings, but ... next week: why people who talk on cell phones while driving should be literally thrown under a bus. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


MONDAY, Jun. 23, 2008 - Andrea Carla Michaels and Patrick Blindauer (DEUCE TOPPER, IN CARDS)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Words of consolation

As soon as I finished this puzzle (in remarkably good time), I wrote Andrea to tell her I did not understand the theme. Or, rather, I did not understand the cluing on the theme answers. I could see that all the theme answers were cliche expressions of consolation, but what the hell is the fourth, third, second, first runner-up stuff all about? Those numbers are meaningless and arbitrary. If you are somehow talking about four different, separate, discrete runners-up, then why does it start at fourth? It's all just mystifying to me. I suppose that when you finish a puzzle in only a hair's breadth over three minutes, you can't really complain with a straight face, but still ... I remain in the dark about what the cluing was all about. Cluing aside, it's a nice little puzzle. I think I freaked Andrea out - implying that I disliked the puzzle as a whole, which is not the case at all. She says it was inspired by hearing people say lots of consoling things to ACPT runner-up Trip Payne, who would have won the tournament had he not made an error. Interesting origin story. Andrea (or Patrick) can explain further, I'm sure.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Words to a fourth runner-up ("win some, lose some")
  • 26A: Words to a third runner-up ("you did your best")
  • 43A: Words to a second runner-up ("we still love you") - that's the most pathetic of the bunch
  • 58A: Words to a first runner-up ("close but no cigar")

I could have / should have had a sub-3 minute time today, but the theme answers flustered me enough to cause a minor slow-down, and there were several other places where I tripped needlessly. I had TESTUBES for god's sake; it's two words, dummy! And I wondered what element could start "UI-" (answer: TIN - 23A: Its symbol is Sn). While I did not write in EDDAS for SAGAS (48A: Norse myths, e.g.), I did write in PEAK for ACME (10A: Summit), and (less surprisingly) ROUSE for ROUST (35A: Push out of bed). Lastly, mistake-wise, I wrote in PAYSCALE for PAYSLIPS (39D: Salary indicators). Yes, I see that the clue wanted a plural - I just like PAYSCALE as an answer So much more than PAYSLIPS that I couldn't resist (actually, PAYSLIPS never occurred to me until much later).


  • 22A: "Casablanca" star, informally (Bogie) - I made myself watch this last year. I had been holding out, on some unknown principle, for decades. The movie was OK. I love Peter Lorre in anything. BOGIE was easy enough, but my initial reaction was to think of something one might have called Ingrid Bergman - since she's the one who's always in the puzzle (as ILSA).
  • 37A: Swiss artist Paul (Klee) - love him, love his name.
  • 39A: Jack who pioneered late-night talk (Paar) - I never can remember the PAAR / PARR distinction (the latter is the name of Henry VIII's sixth wife, Catherine)
  • 42A: Alice's cake instruction ("Eat me") - tee hee. This always reminds me of Judy Davis's drunken story-telling in "The Ref," a highly under-rated and largely forgotten early 90s comedy. The audio is out of sync on this clip, but ... it's still rich.

  • 64A: Borscht vegetable (beet) - I learned this past weekend, while out at the lake, that there is such a thing as a candy cane BEET. Red and white stripes, super-sweet. This is not likely to get me over the "Beets Taste Like Dirt" revulsion I have to eating the things, but it's ... interesting nonetheless.
  • 32D: Killer whale that does tricks (Shamu) - Haven't seen him in a while. See ORCA a lot. Is SHAMU still alive? Is there more than one? Free Willy!
  • 57D: Deuce topper, in cards (trey) - "Deuce topper" is one of those weird phrases that make sense only in crossworld, if at all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


SUNDAY, Jun. 22, 2008 - Pamela Amick Klawitter (LONG-ARMED SUMATRANS)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Chain Reaction" - theme clues are part of a long word chain that links all theme answers. Chain is composed of two-word phrases that interlock - FOOD COURT, COURT CASE, CASE CLOSED, etc.

Got a frantic email from the a senior editor at a Major publication last night asking me to explain the theme of today's puzzle. He'd finished but was still at a loss. I think my explanation and his subsequent message indicating he'd figured it out crossed in the mail. At any rate, I wonder if other people experienced similar bafflement. I got the theme easily, but I have to say that if I had started with 25A: CIRCUIT BOARD _____ ROOM SERVICE (foot locker) instead of 23A: FOOD COURT _____ CIRCUIT BOARD (case closed), I would have been completely flummoxed. What in the world is a "BOARD FOOT??????" OMG, when I google I get a glossary of lumber terms.

A unit of cubic measure for lumber, equal to one foot square by one inch thick.

Am I alone in not knowing this??? All the other two-word phrases in this chain are very familiar, common, in- the- (nonlumberjack)- language phrases, that BOARD FOOT stands out like a thumb that is sore after you tried to drive a nail through a BOARD FOOT and hit your thumb instead. Terrible. Otherwise, this puzzle's theme is clever, and tricky in that you have to build the answer from crosses - it's unlikely you could just look at the blanks in the clue and get it. This made it hard to blow through the grid. On Sundays, I like to go crashing into open parts of the puzzle when I solve those big theme answers. But today's weren't big at all (every one = 10 letters), and movement from one section to another was more deliberate and purposeful than more standard Sunday puzzles. This does not mean the puzzle was difficult - for all that the theme slowed me down a bit, there was nowhere in the grid that I ever got stuck.



In AcrossLite format, "TRAILHEAD" and "COUNTERTOP" are written as single words, which looks and feels like an error, though I guess that's technically how you write those words. I'm not sure how I feel about this inconsistency.

There were some great crosswordy words in today's puzzle, like ACRE (1A: Third Crusade site), which I always like to see in its non-unit-of-land costume, and OCELOT (57A: Pet animal of Salvador Dali), the clue to which provided me with OCELOT trivia I will not soon forget. The crossword zoo continues with the EFT (69A: Young newt) and ORANGS (71A: Long-armed Sumatrans) and CAGER, which is not an animal, but is clued as such (70D: Bull or Buck, e.g.). All these animals (and CAGER) are words that become familiar and unremarkable to you over time if you do enough crossword puzzles.

I'm calling foul on 26D: Place for an opinion (op-ed), for reasons I don't think I even have to explain. [I was mistaken - OP in OP-ED does not stand for "opinion," so I hereby retract this foul call. My apologies]

Best answers in the puzzle: FREELOAD (58A: Sponge), WHEELIE (82D: Something to pop), and CALIBER (88A: Bore). Most mystifying word (to me): AMOLE (44D: Soap plant).


  • 5A: Citadel trainee (plebe) - my (negative) feelings about this word are on record. Just gives me a weird feeling in my face when I say it. Ditto SELVAGE (65A: Fabric border). There's just something vaguely sickening about the words. They sound like disease symptoms.
  • 30A: Like some sacrifices (supreme) - oh I don't like this. How about [Like some Pizza Hut pizzas]?
  • 60A: Sylvia Plath poem that begins "I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap root" ("Elm") - that "L" was an out and out guess. The "root" part helped.
  • 81A: "Father _____," hit 1990s British sitcom ("Ted") - o man, thank god this was just three letters with easy crosses. You started losing me at "1990s," and by the time you got to "sitcom," I was absolutely lost. If my wife and I are doing cryptics in "The Listener" (NZ), and she's reading the clue, as soon as I hear "Who played...?" I groan audibly and then shout "Next!" Non-American TV is a (near) complete mystery to me. One exception is "Kath & Kim," which is soon to appear in a U.S. version - please dear god make the Australian version available in the US on DVD right now! You ... DVD gods! It's better than 99.9% of what's currently on our stupid networks.
  • 86A: French word before deux or nous (entre) - knew the nous, not the deux.
  • 100A: Julia who starred in "Sabrina," 1995 (Ormond) - I only just this second realized that I have her confused in my head with Juliette Binoche.
  • 110A: Tennessee teammate (Titan) - "mate" ... of whom? Team member, maybe.
  • 2D: Prince Albert, for one (coat) - for a while I had COOT and really really wanted to keep it.
  • 3D: Gift that might cut (rose) - yeah, I guess. Do thorns "cut" or "prick?"
  • 6D: Dweller along the Mekong (Lao) - mmm, "dweller" ... crosswordesey.
  • 4D: Newly developed, as technology (emergent) - I'm torn between loving this for its modernity and hating it for its businessspeakiness.
  • 14D: Played the enchantress (allured) - How can you have "enchantress" and ODYSSEY (95A: Tale of a trip to Ithaca) in your puzzle and not link them! Circe!
  • 41D: Vikki who sang "It Must Be Him" (Carr) - Here it is. Is this from a show? ... it's pretty bad, lyrically.
  • 52D: Cut decoratively (sculpt) - do not like "cut" here ... too deliberately and unclevely misdirective.
  • 63D: Calyx part (sepal) - another great xword word.
  • 64D: They were seen at Black Power meetings (afros) - they sure were. They were seen on all kinds of black people, and a few misguided white people. Aretha rocked a nice 'fro back in the day:

  • 75D: "Syriana" actress Amanda (Peet) - nice to see she's getting into non-crappy films. She shares a name with the purveyor of my mom's favorite brand of coffee.
  • 80D: It's in front of a mizzen (main mast) - eeks. Sailing. Thankfully the answer is not overly technical, or I'd have been lost.
  • 83D: Write on a BlackBerry, maybe (text) - I'm not sure I'll ever become a texter. I may have missed that train. Too much fussy button-pushing on a small contraption, and for what? I'll just call you. Or better yet, send you a letter - mmm, snail mail - I love snail mail more than ever now, since it's so rare that anything worth reading (besides my magazine subscriptions) ever comes in the mail. Getting hand-written cards / letters is weirdly a huge thrill.
  • 93D: Garcon's handout (carte) - when's the last time anyone called the waiter that in non-ironic fashion outside of France? I mean, it means "boy." Are we still calling the "help" "boy?"
  • 94D: Bordello patrons (Johns) - I'd have preferred "Hooker" or "Whorehouse," but Bordello will do.
  • 97D: Channel for interior decorators (HGTV) - if that's true, that's a pretty small target audience...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS I had an incredibly delightful time out on Quaker yesterday with reader Dave Eckert and his family (Picture!). Everyone was so kind and generous and genuinely fun to talk to. Dave's father was a newspaperman Back In The Day and I stood there in rapt attention as he told me stories about The International Herald Tribune and Katharine Graham ... and he kept saying "Oh, I'm talking too much" and I was like "Are you kidding ... tell me more!" Oh, and he is somehow also a musical theater producer. Just the most fascinating guy I've met in a long time. They grilled vegetables for me because they knew I was a "vegetarian" (which, to them, was somewhere on the exotic spectrum between "Nigerian" and "extra-terrestrial"). It was adorable. And the vegetables were really good. And I sneaked a taste of chicken, but don't tell anyone. Boat ride on the lake at sunset with Dave and his wife and (wife and I both agreed) supremely impressive daughter (smart, funny, beautiful). The whole evening was ridiculously enjoyable. And I had no connection to these people besides the fact that Dave comments on my blog from time to time. I'm really grateful for the kindness and hospitality of you and your family, Dave. Thanks a lot.


SATURDAY, Jun. 21, 2008 - Tyler Lewis Hinman (100 NANOJOULES)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: almost...

Kwik Kommentary today as I am oddly busy. This almost never happens on a Saturday, but today ... one of my readers is in town and he's buying me dinner! Actually, I think we're having dinner on a boat on a lake in N. Penn. If I don't return tomorrow, you all now know my last known whereabouts, OK?

I enjoyed the strange grid today, and was intrigued by the long fill, in that I was sure a theme was developing when I noticed that the two 15-word Acrosses were PRIMARY ELECTION (22A: One may have runners) and FIRST IMPRESSION (44A: Something given at a meeting). Then on the grid-spanning Downs, you've got LEADING ARTICLES (9D: Front-of-magazine pieces) and finally, to round it all off ... TWO-MINUTE DRILLS (3D: Fourth-quarter strategies)??? It's like some cruel and / or fabulous joke. "One of these things is not like the others?" ("Sesame Street" .... anyone? - by the way, watch this, and then you will see why, as a very small child, I loved "The Electric Company" and thought "Sesame Street" was for ... what's a non-offensive word for "kids who are not that bright?"). Anyway, the TWO in TWO-MINUTE DRILLS not only doesn't belong, it's like it's tweaking its nose at the other long answers: "Yeah, I got your ONE right here! Psych! I'm a TWO, ya @#$#ing sheep." TWO-MINUTE DRILLS is surly and only vaguely coherent.

Wife just pointed out that Tyler's initials are spelled out by the black squares. Vanity! And here I thought the puzzle credit, "Tyler LEWIS Hinman," was just Tyler's new, big-boy name...


  • 1A: Midwest farmers work later on it: Abbr. (CDT) - EZ, though I thought DST.
  • 8A: Group whose logo has a clock set at 11:00 (Elks) - Wow, that's ... Watchmen-esque. Do ELKS graze at 11? What gives?
  • 12A: E. S. _____, game company that popularized Yahtzee and Scribbage (Lowe) - no idea, and I only just now realized that "Scribbage" was not "Cribbage." I'm guessing it's some hybrid abomination of God's gaming will.
  • 16A: Like "Beowulf," in brief (Anon.) - trying to think ahead of the curve, or ahead of the trick, or whatever - trying to anticipate cleverness, I tried ANIM. (see the recent "Beowulf" movie, if you dare)
  • 18A: Six-Day War battleground (Gaza) - knew it involved Israel somehow ... GAZA is a good way to work a "Z" into your puzzle.
  • 21A: Its drops may be alarming, with "the" (Dow) - had trouble computing the clue at first, but when I got the answer, the clue seemed perfectly accurate.
  • 27A: _____ Center, second-tallest building in Chicago (Aon) - I'm guessing many non-Chicagoans balk at this every time it shows up (maybe once a year). If it weren't for the certainty of CAR CRASH (23D: Ending of many a chase scene) (and the impossibility of CIR CRASH), I'd have guessed ION.
  • 28A: Filler for a gun (caulk) - having the "UL" in place made this a lot easier than it might have been.
  • 31A: Planet system in several "Star Trek" episodes (Rigel) - the site of my one real problem; I was sure this was RIGEL (I never watched "ST" much, but it sounded right), but if RIGEL was right, WTF was LAN (33D: Iberia : Spain :: _____ : Chile)??? A very clever deliberately misdirective clue that supposes two things. 1) you will think "Iberia" is a place, not an airline, and 2) you don't know any specifically Chilean airlines. You know that LAN stands for Local-Area Network, but that's all you'll know.
  • 36A: Girl who's the "you" in the lyric "I'll see you in my dreams" (Irene) - "Goodnight, IRENE" (song starts at about the 4:30 mark). IRENE is one of the most popular female names in the crossword, despite no one's being named IRENE anymore.
  • 42A: Cartoon character who fathered octuplets (Apu) - HA ha. It's true. Great clue for him. No "Kwik-E-Mart" to tip people off.
  • 43A: Old N.Y.S.E. ticker symbol that's now just "T" (ATT) - why just "T"? Weird. NYSE is a common crossword abbr. in its own right.
  • 52A: Pioneering agriculturalist Jethro (Tull) - "We need more flute!"
  • 54A: La _____, capital of Buenos Aires province (Plata) - wow, this puzzle is really S. America happy. "ORO Y PLATA" is, of course, Montana's state motto, in case anyone asks.
  • 57A: Psychologist Havelock (Ellis) - I know this why? He must have studied sex. Oh yeah! Important predecessor of Kinsey.
  • 7D: Actress O'Connor of TV's "Xena" (Renee) - Someday I will list every Damned RENEE that has ever appeared in the puzzle. RENEE is up there with IRENE, in that they both get around, crossword-wise.
  • 8D: 100 nanojoules (erg) - physics, three letters, ERG, move on...
  • 10D: Buzz producer (kazoo) - wanted YENTA. I only wish I were kidding.
  • 13D: Moles go behind them (enemy lines) - well you know right away you're dealing with a mobile kind of mole, so you can check face mole off your mole list. Animal moles go underground, not "behind" things, so you're left with spy moles ... after that, it's hop skip jump to ENEMY LINES.
  • 20D: Portable shelter (pack tent) - never heard the phrase. PUP TENT, yes. I assume a PACK TENT is one you can carry ... in your pack.
  • 37D: Title role for Greta Garbo (Camille) - Looking for NINOTCHKA ... not finding it.
  • 38D: Swedish home of Scandinavia's oldest university (Uppsala) - weirdly easy. Not sure why. Had the "PS" and knew it instantly.
  • 45D: Locked, as a lavatory (in use) - nice tie-in with TOILET SEAT (24D: Can opener?)
  • 49D: Late 1940s event, in headlines (N-test) - well, they can't all be gems. This corner is redeemed by the clue for SOT (61A: Rummy). I didn't know "rummy" was anything but a card game until I saw "The Days of Wine and D'oh'ses" (a "Simpsons" episode). I have learned many olde-timey expressions from that show, primarily from Mr. Burns.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


FRIDAY, Jun. 20, 2008 - Mike Nothnagel (OLD-TIME COMIC ED)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

A more than decent puzzle that was marred for me by an impossible crossing - I've heard of a PANSY, but not a TANSY (38D: Member of the aster family). And MAIER (42A: Two-time gold medal skier of the 1998 Olympics) could have spelled his name a billion ways (I went with MEIER) - If you google MAIER, this particular MAIER (Hermann) doesn't even come up on the first page. For god's sake, there are other, more famous skiiers named MAHRE. Other near-MAIERs of note include Bill MAHER, the comedian, MAIJER the supermarket, MEYER the wiener guy, etc. Few things I hate more than obscure words intersecting at a vowel. And TANSY ... ugh, that was basically the epicenter of the one part of the puzzle that gave me any trouble. I wasn't that fond of HESSE either (52A: State bordering Lower Saxony), but at least I could guess that one with reasonable accuracy. Side note: Congratulations to Germany on their (ultimately) exciting win over Portugal in yesterday's UEFA quarterfinals.

I didn't really understand that way DUNGEON MASTER was being used in this puzzle (15D: Underground movement leader?). I'm assuming it's a Dungeons & Dragons-specific reference, but I'm not sure how people who were not nerdy boys between 1977 and the present would know that. If the clue is not D&D-specific, then how in the world does 11D: A 15-Down might have control over them (warlocks) work? The clue that gave me the most trouble for what in retrospect appears to be no good reason was 43D: Ballpark (inexact) - I had the -ACT and could do Nothing with it. I think this is because "ballpark" expresses a degree of closeness, where INEXACT emphasizes non-closeness. In short, "ballpark" appears a positive assessment, and INEXACT a negative. Still ... I should have gotten it sooner. Not that many plausible answers in seven letters ending in -ACT.


  • 14A: Head of an alley? (one pin) - good one. I think the NW was the second-hardest section for me. I had REUNED (3D: Came back together), TRUE TO (16A: Not forsaking), OP-ED (22A: Kind of column) and not a lot else. Nothing else, in fact, until I retro-fitted SPEED IT UP (4D: "I haven't got all day!") into the NW after piecing it together from its tail end.
  • 19A: Old-time comic Ed (Wynn) - uh ... no idea. I like how he's on top of old-time comic-writer SEGAR, though (23A: A National Cartoonists Society award is named for him). SEGAR did "Popeye," and he is probably the most prominent cartoonist in the world of crosswords after CHAS. Addams. Oh, and NAST, who did political cartoons.
  • 27A: City on the Trans-Canada Highway (Medicine Hat) - a great entry
  • 30A: Nashville-based awards org. (CMA) - way outside my wheelhouse, but got it quickly anyway. Guess I've seen that initialism a lot without paying it much mind.
  • 31A: So much, on a score (tanto) - sidekick of the Lone Ronger
  • 32A: Carter's second secretary of state (Muskie) - oh, his second secretary of state. Gotcha (i.e. I got some crosses and vaguely remembered a guy with this name from when I was a kid).
  • 44A: Using devices (sly) - enigmatic clue that is yet precise. I like it.
  • 45A: 1990 Grammy winner for her album "Days of Open Hand" (Suzanne Vega) - woo hoo! A great triumph for me, this one. Got it off the "SU-" Recall that I was in college when this won a Grammy, and that this period of time (1987-91) was the lowest point in pop music history. Example, the year before Ms. Vega (who is not horrible) won her Grammy (for "Best Recording Package"??), Michael Bolton won Best Male Vocalist for "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" (suffer!), and crossword fans the Indigo Girls ... lost the Best New Artist Grammy to ... (wait for it) .... (drum roll) .... Milli Vanilli! I blamed it on the rain.
  • 53A: Film role for Russell in 1993 and Costner in 1994 (Earp) - an excellent clue, in that it makes you think there's some film series at issue (Batman?), when in fact, no, there just happened to be two EARPy films released within a year of each other ("Tombstone" and "Wyatt Earp"). Coincidence.
  • 56A: Course for the dead? (Styx) - Brains? "Brains! Must ... have ... brains!"
  • 57A: Exciting experience, in slang (trip) - is this slang current anymore? Feels very Arsenio-era to me. Oh, unless you mean *drug* experience ... then I guess it's still used. I wouldn't know.
  • 65A: Craft often utilizing rubber bands (tie dye) - fashion that only someone on a 57A could love
  • 7D: Title role in a 1986 Woody Allen film (Hannah) - total gimme ... horrifies me that this movie is 22 years old. The clue felt contemporary to me, HA ha.
  • 8D: Loser to Audrey for the 1953 Best Actress Oscar (Ava) - in three letters, really, who else is it going to be? CHE? LON? EMU?
  • 12D: Provision for holding certain jobs (age limit) - good answer. Feels fresh.
  • 20D: Dirt spreader (yenta) - I thought I killed this word and its variants? Oh, Dungeon Master! I got something for you...
  • 26D: Gretna Green rebuffs (naes) - when I first read this clue, literally none of it made sense to me. And I've visited / lived in Scotland on multiple occasions. Gretna Green is "small but thriving," according to Wikipedia. I managed to miss it.
  • 28D: Miami team, informally ('Canes) - good clue. Most folks'll think pro teams first. I know I did.
  • 29D: Classless one? (tutee) - TUTEE is a horrible word, but this clue livens it up a bit.
  • 36D: Teens' escapades (joy rides) - "Teens?" How about "felons'"? I think you can JOY RIDE at any age. As a final sadistic gesture, allow me to tie this all back to the aforementioned worst period in pop music history (1987-91) by referring you to this gem by supergroup Roxette. That's right, my college years were probably the only period in music history wherein Roxette could become a supergroup. Four #1 singles, two #2 singles ... and that was weak by comparison with their success in Europe. Any sociological / astrological / epidemiological explanations for their astonishing success would be most welcome.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Someone named Brad Arington seems to have accidentally posted his response to yesterday's puzzle ("LIES") as a private message to me instead of as a comment on the site, so I thought I'd do him the favor of posting it here for all to see. I'll leave it to you all to answer his final question - although I can tell you now that given my options, I choose (a.). Here you go: "Cheers!"

You have to be kidding! Not a single theme answer was something that anyone would ever LIE about. At best, even reasonably intelligent folk might confuse, say, EST for EDT, depending on the time of year, or acute for obtuse, or Esau for Isaac. But lie about it? And not even an idiot would confuse 9 a.m. for 5 p.m. And only a deranged person would intentionally lie about Els being a tennis player or Agassi being a golfer -- what end would they gain? These aren't lies and this puzzle is far from clever -- and certainly not the best of the year. So what does that make you -- deranged or an idiot? Cheers.


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