THURSDAY, Jul. 31, 2008 – Allan E. Parrish (1979 AC/DC seven-time platinum album / Author of a once-popular book of quotations)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

Oh, it’s really too bad that Rex is still on vacation; I’m sure he’d have some Danteësque explanation for the theme that really pulled it all together and which might mystify my math-major mind. And it’s really too bad that PuzzleGirl’s not up today, because the theme entries are expressed musically, and I’m sure she’s all over that. Me, I had quite a bit of trouble with this puzzle, but I still generally enjoyed it.

This was one of my slowest Thursdays of the year, and only part of the reason can be attributed to the distractions of my houseguests, the PBS show we were watching about an aircraft Carrier, or the continuing arctic-like conditions in my living room. Though when I look back at my other relatively slow times, often the puzzles seem to be not bad for lots of people. But I know PuzzleGirl had some problems today, too, so I don’t feel bad.

THEME: From Heaven to Hell – answers are musical and include Heaven, Earth, and Hell.

Theme answers:

  • 19A: 1979 Bee Gees chart-topper (Too Much Heaven)
  • 34A: Band with the 1970 hit “Get Ready” (Rare Earth)
  • 50A: 1979 AC/DC seven-time platinum album? (Highway To Hell) – I recognized all of the songs once I heard them, but this is the one I knew the answer to right away. Though I like Get Ready more...

Lots of stuff to talk about, and I’ve let Rex and morning people down by being so late so I’ll just get to it.

The Stuff:
  • 1A: Temple activity (worship) - wanted PRAYING. Or, really, lots of other stuff. This was one of my last fills. Don’t tell my mom.
  • 2A: Tex-Mex treats (tamales) - My first answer, and very surprised to find I was right. In honor, I will try to make it to the market today for tamales for lunch.
  • 18A: Bach work (cantata) – isn’t that a cat food commercial? Really didn’t help me to cross that with 12D: Michael ___, Bush secretary of health and human services (Leavitt) and 14D: Suffragist Elizabeth Cady ___ (Stanton).
  • 21A: Civvies (mufti) – Uh, huh? I guess it’s accurate:
    noun: a jurist who interprets Muslim religious law
    noun: civilian dress worn by a person who is entitled to wear a military uniform’s ridiculous. Mufti sounds like a sandwich, or an endearment for a small woman in a nursery rhyme. Maybe Ken dresses in mufti, GI Joe does not.
  • 25A: Great Plains tribe (oto) – crosses 22D: Multipurpose truck (ute). Lotsa cluing options here.
  • 30A: Professor Lupin in Harry Potter books, e.g. (werewolf) – Also, Michael J. Fox and Jason Bateman. I always want this to have more letters.

    I feel a little bad because my posted picture isn’t actually from Harry Potter, but I’ve never been into the series…I read the first, and saw that movie, but it didn’t draw me back for more. But...Frisbee!
  • 39A: Many Latin compositions (epitaphs) – Not epitaths, and not at all what I was expecting to put here. I’m only a little embarrassed to admit the trouble I had getting to 40D: Military wing (phalanx). I had (T)HALAN_ for a long time, crossed with 62A: Takes over (anne_es). I finally had to run through the alphabet, then I chuckled with pity at, well, me.
  • 47A: Author of a once-popular book of quotations (Mao) – when it wasn’t Bartlett, I was thinking it was maybe from Cats.
  • 55A: Blow up (enlarge) – Someday, I will not think explosion with this common clue/answer.
  • 59A: Smaller than small (teenier) – Does this work? I don’t think this works. What’s that second small doing in there? Does this make anyone else think “ice cold”?
  • 60A: Where the buoys are? (channel) – While you’re there, watch out for 10D: Harbor danger (mine(s)).

  • 1D: Fighters’ org. (WBC) – three letters, put a B in the middle and work on the crosses.
  • 5D: Radio ___ (onetime propaganda source) (Hanoi) – A bit older and I’m sure this was a gimme. I had HAITI for a long time, along with To Touch Heaven, a perfectly plausible Bee Gees song title. PuzzleGirl just sent me an email joking about Bee Gees music to make fun of the fact that I’d never heard of some country dude she likes and for another reason.
  • 9D: Menotti title character (Amahl) – Is this opera? Then the answer must be ARIA or OTELLO or FIGARO? No? Then I don’t know it.
  • 11D: Architectural pier (anta) – Is this architecture? Then the answer must be...actually, I don’t even know a standard answer here. (Sorry Ulrich!)
    20D: One that’s “perky” in the morning (coffee pot) – obvious, but still fun.
  • 26D: Chess tactic that involves attacking two pieces at once (fork) – That makes a lot of sense. In retrospect. But this was the last area I solved. My problem: I had ST MARY for 36A: One of the four evangelists, briefly (St Mark). And the chess tactic could easily have been named after someone, and 26A: County of St. Andrews, Scotland (Fife) could have been lots of stuff. I think my first stab was FORY, but I think I tried TORY and maybe WORY before changing my saint. I’m an ordained minister, but I never had to study evangelists or anything.
  • 37D: Drill instructor’s charge (trainee) – I got to this exactly when the carrier-folk on tv started taling about their new trainees.
    38D: Got around at a get-together (mingled) – I’m a good schmoozer, maybe the situation in which I’m most socially competent. Mingling is much harder if you don’t know everyone.
  • 42D: Hardly a chug (sip) - Again.
  • 44D: Football Hall-of-Famer Gale (Sayers) – His career was cut short by injury, but when he played he was one of the best ever. He’s also famous from the movie Brian’s Song, which detailed his close friendship with his (white) teammate, Brian Piccolo, during Brian’s struggle with cancer. A great movie and story, but I’ll post this Sayers video instead.

  • 49D: “Walkin’ After Midnight” hitmaker, 1957 (Cline) – I assume she wore her boots.
  • 51D: Mandlikova of tennis fame (Hana) – I have yet to fully define my wheelhouse, but 80’s tennis stars (and she was, absolutely) are definitely in it.

Sorry this was late, all. Wade tomorrow!

Signed (contritely), SethG, Royal Vizier of CrossWorld



Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: SHAKESPEARE quote attributed to Sam Goldwyn: "Fantastic! And it was all written with a feather!" (letters of SHAKESPEARE appear, in reading order, in circled squares throughout the puzzle)

REX PARKER remains on vacation in New Zealand.

Thus: I am officially not here. Not blogging. On vacation. But I can't help myself. So I'm going to mutter a few things and then let one of my surrogates take over. I had a rough time with the quote, as it requires punctuation after "FANTASTIC" to make any sense. It's not a great quote. But I'm terribly impressed that this puzzle could get PHLOX (49D: Jacob's-ladder, for one), BWANA (47D: Swahili form of address), SWALE (34D: Low marshland), and ARHAT (2D: Enlightened Buddhist) into the grid and still remain Wednesday level. And, as always, I'm impressed with Laura LINNEY (9D: Leading lady Laura), however, whenever, and wherever she appears.

Full write-up forthcoming later in the day.


PS New York Magazine on-line had a nice little write-up of this blog in its Culture Vulture / Agenda section yesterday, 7/29/08. I love publicity, but being on the other side of the world when I get it is surprisingly disconcerting. Like it's not really happening ... or like somebody fabulous and famous (say, Laura Linney) is phoning me at home, and I'm not there to take the call.

P.P.S. Ms. Linney, if you have indeed been trying to reach me (as occasionally happens in my dreams), I'll be home soon, I swear. Please call back.

And, surrogate SethG here with the full write-up. Or full~ish. I never really clicked with this puzzle, and I fear that my write-up will be as scattershot as my solving approach was.

Where do I begin? I guess in the middle, since Rex already hit the high points.

Okay, I’ll start with NATAL (19A: Birth-related). Still no kid for the very pregnant couple living with me until yes kid. Why I’m thinking about it right now: it’s 90 degrees in Minneapolis, but the mom-to-be has my air conditioning turned up so high that I’m wearing pajamas, a sweatshirt, and covered by a blanket as I lie on the couch writing this. Brr.

(And if there’s still no kid this weekend we may play poker, and if we do they’ll both be there...)

Stuff I liked:
A friend of mine is a fellow Carleton ALUM (15A: Homecoming returnee) named Laura. Not Linney, but still a good enough excuse to link to a song of hers. I saw her in concert last year in Melbourne, a fantastic show but my camera was stolen the next day so I don’t have any pictures. But I do have a picture from a month earlier in New Zealand, where I happened to stay on a sheep farm not long after her parents did. It’s a small, small world.

I don’t need to use any BEE (24A: Comb maker) products—I shaved most of my hair off this weekend. Finally.

I don't like LIMAS (55A: Succotash ingredients), and don't like the use of the plural, but I love the word Succotash. For obvious reasons...

I think we’ve seen AWN (48A: Foxtail feature) and HEISTS (44D: The job in “The Italian Job”, and others) and ATTIC (33D: Dusty place, traditionally) and SIP (45A: Hardly a gulp) recently.

KNEECAP (25A: Gangster’s target, maybe) crosses SMACKDOWN (8D: Wrestling show).

One of the reasons I chose Carleton was because it had no frats, but I still enjoy a good TOGA (54D: “Julius Caesar” costume) party as much as the next guy. In honor of PuzzleGirl’s last day in Costa Rica I bring you the following:

Yes, I know, I’m kidding. But boy there was a lot I didn’t know in this puzzle.

What I didn't know:
ARHAT (2D: Enlightened Buddhist). Like Teddy? Would you say that (Salinger’s) Teddy has achieved arhatship? That’s just a weird word.

PHLOX (49D: Jacob's-ladder, for one). Jacob’s ladder is a biblical Stairway to Heaven and a 1990 horror film, but I think this clue is about plants. That’s just an ugly word.

BWANA (47D: Swahili form of address). My roommates live in Uganda, were there’s a bit of Swahili but mostly not. I spent time with them there, and also in Tanzania and Kenya, where it’s the dominant language, but none of us knew this.

(5A: Goober) PEAS. Uh, what? Maybe that explains why I never liked the candy. And I don’t remember hearing of SADA (18A: Thompson of TV’s “Family”), so I had a lot of trouble with the Idaho region. I originally had MASSES instead of PASSEL (5D: Large quantity), and SYL (29A: Word part: Abbr.) is an awkward Abbr. so it took me a bit to work my way out.

PEAS is just one of what seems to be an abnormally high number of fill-in-the-blank clues. Also:
  • AT AN (40A: Undisclosed location)
  • PHD (49A: Candidate)
  • “GODS (62A: and Monsters” (1998 film))
  • “NOT (11D: an option”)
  • TRA (12D:-la)
  • (26D: Magna) CARTA
  • ELLIS (30D: Island, museum site since 1990)
  • (56D: “Now) I’VE (seen everything!”)
By the way, I should mention that I really hate overly generic fill-in-the-blanks. We didn’t really have any of those today, but we’ve recently had stuff like “That’s ___!” or “Let ___” or "Be ___ and ..." Please stop.

(45D: Early colonists along the Delaware) were SWEDES. Stefan Edberg, my idol growing up, is Swedish, as is Anita Ekberg.

Asante sana,

PPPS it's Rex again. This is my absolute favorite photograph of my NZ trip so far. You can really appreciate the beauty of Lake Hawea, but at the same time, you can gaze slack-jawed at the gangly weirdo who appears to be break-dancing for a rapt audience of two dogs and a little girl. The orange gloves really seal the deal.


TUESDAY, Jul. 29, 2008 -- David Kwong and Emily Halpern ("Casablana" star, informally / GIBBONS OF TV TALK / ATOLL MAKEUP)

Relative difficulty: Easy

It was Poker Night here tonight and when the game finally broke up (one guy leaving with pretty much all the money and another guy promising he wouldn't be back next week) I had some technical difficulties, so I'm way behind schedule. Plus I'm exhausted -- from, ya know, reading, eating, and lazing around the pool all day -- so I'm going to get straight to the puzzle and who knows what I'll say?

THEME: Mediocrity -- Theme answers are phrases that include the word "great," but substitute a word that means … something less than great.

Theme Answers:

  • 17A: Mediocre F. Scott Fitzgerald novel? (The Decent Gatsby)
  • 27A: Mediocre place to scuba? (Good Barrier Reef)
  • 49A: Mediocre Steve McQueen film? (The Not Bad Escape)
  • 65A: Mediocre Jerry Lee Lewis hit? (Okay Balls of Fire)
I really like this theme. As I said yesterday, I typically don't pay attention to the themes in early-week puzzles, but I just couldn't figure out how to ignore four 15-letter theme answers. When I finally got enough crosses to figure out The Decent Gatsby, I went straight to the other theme answers and got them quickly, which helped a lot. The only teeny, tiny quibble I have with theme -- and I really hate to even bring this up because I really like the theme and the puzzle in general -- is that it includes a book, a movie, a song, and … the largest coral reef system in the world? One of these things is not like the others, folks. But I'm not going to let that stop me from saying once again that I really like this theme. I even like a lot of the fill. And, really, how often does that happen on a Tuesday?

Bullet points (cuz that's how I roll):
  • 1A: "Casablanca" star, informally (Bogie). I think I've been watching too much golf, because I really wanted to spell it "bogey."
  • 16A: Bejeweled topper (tiara). Every once in a while I see an otherwise normally clad young woman wearing a tiara in public. I always wonder if that's her go-to fashion accessory or if she lost a bet or what.
  • 21A: Gibbons of TV talk (Leeza). Couldn't find the clip, but this reminded me of the Sports Night episode where Casey McCall (Peter Krause's character) goes on a blind date with a woman whose name is spelled "Lisa" but pronounced "Leeza." He has a truly cringe-worthy conversation with her about how is ex-wife's name is also Lisa, but "pronounced the normal way." What's really weird though, is that in "Six Feet Under," Peter Krause's character has an ex-girlfriend named Lisa who comes back into his life and he eventually marries her, and in "Dirty Sexy Money" his character's wife's name is Lisa. What's up with that?
  • 38A: Atoll makeup (coral). I've seen the word "atoll" in the puzzle before, so today I decided, as a gift to you, I would finally look it up. You're welcome. Turns out an atoll is "a ring-shaped ribbon reef enclosing a lagoon in the center." The term was popularized by Charles Darwin who, of course, wrote On the Origin of Species, which my dad is actually reading right now. We're not sure what's wrong with him.
  • 41A: Quick-witted (sharp). I had the S here and I knew it was a word that shared a bunch of letters with "smart" but wasn't "smart." Weird.
  • 69A: Barbie's beau (Ken). Did you know Ken has a last name? It's Carson. The weird thing is that I was going to tell you about how, for some reason, Ken always makes me think of Nancy Drew's boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. And Nancy's father's name is Carson Drew. Eerie.
  • 73A: Hose material (nylon). Is this just referring to pantyhose or are garden hoses made out of nylon too?
  • 1D: "Little Women" woman (Beth). Someday I will have a puzzle published with BETH as one of the answers and I guarantee you right now that I'm cluing it in relation to the Kiss song and not to "Little Women." Not that there's anything wrong with "Little Women." Or anything particularly right with Kiss.
  • 4D: "For sure!" ("Indeed"). This word sounds best if you can also refer to the person you're talking to as "my friend." For example: Person A: Wow, that Peter Criss can really sing. Person B: Indeed he can, my friend. Indeed he can.
  • 5D: Suffix with journal (ese). Huh? I had no idea this was a thing. Or rather, I've always chuckled at the phenomenon of journalese but I didn't know it had a name. Some funny stuff here.
  • 11D: Scope out, pre-heist (case). As in "case the joint." Speaking of heists, if you liked Ocean's Eleven and haven't seen Ocean's Thirteen yet … what are you waiting for? Go rent it now. It's awesome.
  • 18D: Items of apparel for Dracula (cloaks). Don't like the plural here.
  • 26D: _____ welder (arc). Whatever you say.
  • 28D: First name in book clubs (Oprah). You know what's weird about my grandmother? She hates Oprah. I don't know why but she can't stand the woman. If Oprah's name comes up in conversation, Grandma scoffs and rolls her eyes and mumbles under her breath. I've seen Oprah in situations where I thought she was really, really good but I can't get over the fact that she puts herself on the cover of her magazine every freakin' month.
  • 33D: "All My Children" vixen (Erica). I heart Susan Lucci.
  • 40D: Roget's listings (synonyms). Weren't we just talking about Frank Caliendo the other day? He does a bit in which President Bush says that synonym is his favorite flavor.
  • 45D: Alley _____ (oop). I haven't really been into basketball much in the last few years (like, since the Magic-Bird era), but there's nothing prettier in basketball than the alley oop.

  • 67D: One of a snorkeler's pair (fin). The second time PuzzleHusband and I came down here to Costa Rica we had been married about seven months. PH went out boogie boarding and got caught by a wave so big that he lost his fins and his wedding ring! At that point in time, my dad had managed to hang onto his wedding ring for 34 years, an observation I made several times that day. And, yeah, I've made it a few times since then too.
Thanks again for putting up with me the last couple days. Seth will be here filling in tomorrow and Thursday, then I think Wade is on for a couple days, and I'll be back after that. I'm pretty sure Rex will be back eventually. I'm sure I missed a few things, so please have fun in the comments….

Pura Vida, PuzzleGirl



Monday, July 28, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-medium

Hi, everybody. PuzzleGirl here, still broadcasting from the lovely, although somewhat rustic, Nosara, Costa Rica. Hey, I've got wireless Internet, so I'm not complaining. Today I hope to answer the question that seems to be on everyone's mind: "What do you mean 'blog a crossword puzzle'?!" Seriously. My parents have houseguests and my mom was bragging to them about me having this blogging gig, which is Totally Cute and I can't tell you how much I Love it. But, you know, people who don't read this blog every day have a hard time wrapping their heads around what it is we actually do here. A lot of people pick up a crossword puzzle every once in a while and finish it or not finish it, and when they're done they put it down and forget about it. I know. It doesn't make any sense to me either.

Other people -- like us -- have a completely different experience. Like many of you, I'm sure, I found this blog when I had given up on a puzzle and was Googling for an answer I just couldn't come up with on my own. I loved Rex's writing so much that I started to pop in every once in a while, but it seemed like some days it was hard to keep up. And I hate it when I can't keep up. So I started doing the puzzle every day and checking in here every day. Then I saw Word Play and it was pretty much all over. I was hooked. (Does it bother anyone else that some places the movie is referred to as "Word Play" and others as "Wordplay"? I thought so.) So AddieLoggins and I went to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in February where we met Rex, Orange, PhillySolver, and a bunch of other awesome people who seemed to be just about as nerdy as I am (I'm not going to speak for Addie). When I got home, I started to look at the other crossword blogs, JimH's and Orange's and … oh my God! Some days there are, like, six other puzzles I could be solving and reading about. I'm gonna need a spreadsheet!

You get the idea. I guess this is just like anything else people are interested in. Once you're into it, there's a Lot to talk about and, thanks to the Internet, you can make it a small part of your life or a big part of your life depending on the size of that part of your brain that obsesses about stuff. That part of my brain is, apparently, relatively large. (I'm pretty sure I just got an Amen from PuzzleHusband.) But enough about me, let's see what I think about the puzzle.

THEME: Site-Specific (72A) -- Each theme answer is a phrase that refers to a specific location.

Theme Answers:

  • 1A/21A: Begin from scratch (start at square one)
  • 41A: Move into the limelight (take center stage)
  • 59A/73A: Be beaten by the rest of the field (end up in last place)
On early-week puzzles I don't generally even notice the theme until I'm done, but this one sort of demanded attention from the get-go with the referential clue at 1A. I'll be honest. That annoyed me a little. But once I completed the puzzle and took another look at it, I decided it was pretty cool that the first theme answer STARTed the puzzle, the second was right in the CENTER, and the last was right where it belonged: in LAST PLACE.

Although we all seem to have wildly different opinions on this every time it comes up, it seems to me that there aren't too many of the old standbys in this puzzle. ERIE, AHOY, ESE, OMEN, EPA, OMIT, AGEE. I don't know, does MANX count? How about STAT, DYNE, and IRAQI? Possibly OHIO and LEES. But that's it. That's all I'm giving you. The rest of the fill was good for the most part and occasionally awesome.

Good Fill:
  • 18A: Tailless cat (Manx). This breed originated on the Isle of Man (not the ISLE of Wight: 25D).
  • 26A: Number of a magazine (issue). Today we get a nice, straightforward Monday clue.
  • 45A: Once did (used to). Have you ever heard someone say they "used to could" do something? Bizarre.
  • 47A: Element of a doctrine (tenet). Also, former director of the CIA George.
  • 51A: Recreation center posting (rules). I was stuck on activities, dances, classes.
  • 66A: Lets or sublets (rents). I kept skipping right over "lets" and reading "sublets" as a noun, so that slowed me down a little.
  • 70A: Peeved, after "in" (a snit). Now this is a phrase I might actually use. (As opposed to "in a pet," which seems to come up relatively frequently in the puzzle, and which I would never use.)
  • 3D: Extremely well-behaved child (angel). I have heard from a variety of sources that my children are angels when I'm not around.
  • 8D: Nasal congestion locale (sinus). Eeewww.
  • 9D: Sam Houston served as its president, senator and governor (Texas). What in the Sam Houston could I possibly have to say about this one?
  • 28D: Unit of force (dyne). Memorize it. You'll need it again.
  • 30D: Cleanser whose name comes from Greek myth (Ajax). Note to self: After you learn the Hebrew months and the European rivers, get a grip on Greek mythology.
  • 31D: High-priced seating area (loge). Not to be confused with luge. Two totally different things.
  • 32D: Performers Peggy and Pinky (Lees). When I was in high school, I was in most of the music groups. In the pops choir, we had a "solo night" two or three times a year. One of my fondest memories of my grandfather is how he went on and on after one solo night about how much I reminded him of Peggy Lee when he saw me up there on that stage.
  • 38D: Nix, presidentially (veto). When my eye scanned "Nix" and "president" all I could think of was Nixon. And all the words that sprang to mind were inappropriate for the puzzle.
  • 52D: Tilts (lists) and 54D: Tilt (slant). Nice.
Not So Much:
  • 19A: Emulate a mob (riot). I always think of a crowd at, say, a concert as a mob. In my experience, though, there is very rarely rioting involved on those occasions. Except at that one Guns N' Roses show.
  • 65A: It's "catchy" (snag). A little too cutesy for my taste.
  • 71A: 7-6, 2-6, 6-4, e.g. (sets). This makes no sense to me at all. Those numbers represent the scores of the sets, not the sets themselves.
  • 42D: Such a jokester (cutup). Not sure what the "such" adds to this clue.
  • 59D: What modest people lack (egos). I guess if you define ego as an inflated sense of self-worth, this clue/answer pair works. I don't know. That's a pretty narrow definition for a Monday.
Awesome fill:
  • 6A: Heart of the matter (gist). Good word.
  • 36A: Woodsy (sylvan). Pennsylvania means, literally, "Penn's woods." Huh. I bet you people in Pennsylvania already knew that.
  • 40A: Coffee, in slang (joe). My favorite slang word for coffee. I just wish the clue had been "Coffee, slangily."
  • 10D: Lurch from side to side (careen). Awesome word.
  • 53D: Ho-hum feeling (ennui). Definitely not a ho-hum word.

I better sign off for now. The monkeys get up pretty early around here. And if the monkeys ain't sleepin', ain't nobody sleepin'. Hope to see you all back here tomorrow.

Pura Vida, PuzzleGirl


SUNDAY, Jul. 27, 2008 - Mike Nothnagel and David Quarfoot (UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE IN JORDAN / "THINK BIG" SLOGANEER)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Going Every Which Way" - rebus puzzle with squares representing RIGHT, LEFT, UP and DOWN

Copped the theme straight off, but still found the puzzle quite challenging. Turning UP all those direction squares was a bit exhausting, especially since some of them were really, really cleverly disguised, e.g. S[UP], DOG! (92A: Slangy street greeting). There was only one part of the puzzle that I found really irksome, to the point that I wish the entire area had been torn out and remodeled: the hyper-Germanic far south, where two different Wagner opera heroines duked it out with some African range I didn't know (ATLAS - 152A: Africa's _____ Mountains), somewhere in Jordan I didn't know (PETRA - 156A: Unesco World Heritage Site in Jordan), and Tolkien's crazy-ass middle name (REUEL - 148A: The second "R" in J. R. R. Tolkien). When I wrote in ELSA for (139D: "Bridal Chorus" bride), I honestly didn't know if any letter after the initial "E" was correct. At that point, I didn't even know I was dealing with Wagner. I just knew that ELSA ... was a name. In some crosswords. Yuck. Otherwise, a pitch-perfect Sunday - very doable, but not too doable.

Theme answers:

Man, I'm not sure I can list them all...

  • 29A: Popular 1970s British TV series ([UP]stairs [DOWN]stairs)
  • 1D: Block (dam [UP])
  • 30D: Went from second to first, say ([DOWN]-shifted)
  • 16D: Barely fair, maybe ([DOWN] the [RIGHT] field line)
  • 16A: Command to an overly friendly canine ([DOWN], boy)
  • 37A: "Now you're talking!" ("All [RIGHT]")
  • 36D: Erect (standing [UP][RIGHT])
  • 101A: Football defensive line position ([RIGHT] end)
  • 72D: Secured, in a way, with "on" ([LEFT] a [DOWN]payment)
  • 71A: Liberals (The [LEFT])
  • 84A: Cause of unemployment ([DOWN]-sizing)
  • 38A: Took the risk ([LEFT] it [UP] to chance)
  • 38D: Not brought home ([LEFT] on base)
  • 41D: Awake by ([UP] at)
  • 70D: Sentiment suggesting "Try this!" ("It's [RIGHT] [UP] your alley!")
  • 90A: "Amen!" ("[RIGHT] on!")
  • 95A: Arrangements (set-[UP]s)
  • 125A: Exasperated teacher's cry ("Sit [DOWN] and shut [UP]!")
  • 113D: Happen, slangily (go [DOWN])
  • 89D: Took it easy (rested [UP])
  • 137A: Missing glasses' location, usually ([RIGHT] where you [LEFT] them)
  • 105D: Common entry point (stage [RIGHT])
  • 140D: Bazooka Joe's working peeper ([LEFT] eye)
I'm sure I skipped one or two in there, but really, at this point, I don't care. I'm just trying to beat my laptop's remaining battery time.

We are in Dunedin, NZ, on the very large property of some extended family. There are horses and dogs, and a sheep, who this morning was just hanging out in the front yard, grazing. Got to feed a cow and heifer this morning after a long, beautiful, muddy walk, so that was good. It's all too beautiful, really. Not sure what else I can say about it. Maybe I'll show another picture or two in a bit.

Points of interest:
  • 20A: Genus of poisonous mushroom (amanita) - YIPE (19D: Exclamation of surprise)! That's the most outer-spaceish answer of the lot, today.
  • 25A: Nickname for a bodybuilder (Muscles) - something about this answer seems so dated / campy to me.
  • 27A: Junior in the N.F.L. (Seau) - sometimes it pays to watch ESPN. A great defensive player (safety?) who languished on the perennial also-ran Chargers for nearly his entire career.
  • 53A: Opening screen option on many an A.T.M. (Español) - ooh, I like this clue.
  • 56A: "Think big" sloganeer (IMAX) - I like to blog every "sloganeer" clue, on principle
  • 66A: Tic-tac-toe plays (X's and O's) - very very nice. Sahra liked this one (She was watching me solve over my shoulder for a while)
  • 68A: Warner Brothers shotgun toter (Elmer) - easy and great. For other animated fare, see also TOM (147D: Cartoon feline)
  • 79A: Ralph who co-wrote "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (Blane) - YIPE x 2. This is as bad as the poisonous mushroom genus, as far as I'm concerned.
  • 81A: Cartoonist Keane (Bil) - of "Family Circus" "fame"
  • 86A: It might follow a slash mark (divisor) - lovely. Took me a while - I was aided by a Roman numeral guess at 62D: Benedict III's predecessor (Leo IV)
  • 94A: Ball with a yellow stripe (nine) - frightfully clever.
  • 102A: Old musical high notes (elas) - no idea what this means, but I know this term ... from crosswords.
  • 103A: Deuce beaters (treys) - never heard anyone use this term in real life, except occasionally when a sportscaster refers to a three-pointer in basketball.
  • 119A: A hyperbola has two (foci) - a guess. Math constructors must have their math clues.
  • 133A: Part of a shark's respiratory system (gill slit) - this phrase feels entirely made up. What's the difference between a gill and a GILL SLIT?
  • 153A: A super's may be supersized (key ring) - man, I needed this answer. Was having real trouble, briefly, with the Downs down there.
  • 2D: Birds that can sprint at 30 m.p.h. (emus) - also, apparently, good swimmers (we got tricked on an EMU question on quiz night because they included this bit of trivia, throwing us completely off the EMU scent)
  • 5D: French orphan of film (Lili) - ???
  • 6D: Camper's aid (sterno) - weirdly, I get STENO and STERNO confused
  • 12D: Cyclades island (Ios) - pretty sure we had this very recently. Well ... here it is again. Don't confuse it with EOS (Greek goddess of the dawn)
  • 15D: Hollow center? (double "L") - goes nicely, in its self-referentiality, with SILENT U (87D: Building component?)
  • 42D: Bootleggers' bane (T-men) - why were Treasury Men after bootleggers? Tax avoision?
  • 43D: Son-in-law of Muhammad (Ali) - ALI was an educated guess. Not sure what else, in three letters, it was going to be
  • 48D: Proposed "fifth taste," which means "savory" in Japanese (umami) - I don't even understand the clue, let alone the answer. There are four other tastes? Salt, sweet ... dancer and blitzen?
  • 55D: Tasmania's highest peak (Ossa) - Kiwi folk here did Not know this one. And Tasmania's just over ... there (I'm pointing NW)
  • 58D: Z-car brand (Datsun) - had forgotten about these. DATSUN is now Nissan.
  • 60D: International oil and gas giant, informally (Oxy) - the only OXY I know gets rid of pimples.
  • 81D: Construction project that gave rise to the Ted Williams Tunnel (Big Dig) - nice. Timely. Also, one of the few positive references I've heard made about the Big Dig.
  • 98D: Pal of Kenny and Kyle (Stan) - love the "South Park" references.
  • 129D: Singer Mann (Aimee) - just got her new album, which has the awesome, hard-to-alphabetize title "@#%&*! Smilers"
I gotta stop. Tired. Family awaits. Children beginning to overrun my work area.

I am on indefinite leave after this. No idea when I'll have reliable computer access again before I return to the States. So I leave you (until further notice) in the capable hands of Puzzlegirl OR Wade OR SethG (who should feel free to add pics and video to this write-up as they see fit).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Cousins of oribis and dik-diks: SATURDAY, Jul. 26, 2008 - Barry C. Silk (CONDUCTOR OF MANY TV EXPERIMENTS)

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

A very easy breezy Saturday *except* for the NW, where nearly half my fifteen minutes were spent. Never watched whatever MR. WIZARD is (1A: Conductor of many TV experiments), I've seen REEBOKS but not RHEBOKS (2D: Cousins of oribis and dik-diks), though to my credit I got the -BOKS part easily enough. The All Blacks recently played the SPRINGBOKS of S. Africa, I think (and lost, here in Dunedin). Tonight, the All Blacks take on the Wallabees of Australia. Dear Australia, your rugby team name is Ridiculous. Perhaps if you change it, you will win more often. Just a suggestion. So the NZ/AUS match tonight is Huge Business here in NZ, and I am at a massive family gathering where, after "tea" (that's "dinner" to you and me), the men (...) will gather around the TV and watch / talk rugby. I am in for some kind of schooling, I expect. "Let's teach the American about rugby!" All I know about rugby is that there are no helmets involved and the All Blacks uniforms are totally flash. I want one.

Oh, SNAP, we just got wireless to work, so I'm getting off this clunky desktop and work on the Mac, huzzah. Now I can do a screen grab and get the finished grid for you all.

Well, I'm back on the clunky desktop, which is actually less clunky than my laptop when it come to mouse-work. I should have brought my wireless mouse on the trip - touchpads just aren't as fast, for me. Anyway, the puzzle:

Started easily enough with 9A: Many people get 100 on it (IQ test) - once I tested the "Q" crossing - 10D: Big telecom company (Qwest) - I knew I was right. NE corner was done in under a minute. No foolin'. Only real STUMBLEs (13D: Err) occurred at 54A: Second biggest city in Russia's Orenburg region (Orsk), where I entertained only OMSK and then OREL ... maybe OPEL. Not sure I knew ORSK was a real place. Had ERGO for IS TO (26D: What a colon may mean) and GAS LIT for OIL LIT (25A: Like some old lamps) and EST for OST (61D: Right turn from Nord) - the capital "N" should have told me the language wasn't French. Had real ISSUEs with the ISSUE-region of the puzzle (32A: Children). Made a complete and utter (and, it turns out, correct) guess at 24D: New York Congresswoman Slaughter (Louise), and finally worked that narrow passage to the NW down to a single blank square - the NEB. / IBMS crossing. Creighton sounds like it's in NYS (29D: Home of Creighton U.), and computers never occurred to me where "servers" was concerned (35A: Many servers). Once I put the "B" in, I figured I was home free with a sub-10 min. time. But no.

The Mix:

  • 19A: Scottish : Mac :: Arabic : _____ (Ibn) - love it. Nice counterpoint to IBMS. Also, being in NZ makes me think often, and fondly, of Scotland - Mac names everywhere. DUNEDIN = EDINBURGH ... just upside-down and backwards. And with palm trees.
  • 20A: Where Charles de Gaulle was born (Lille) - there are other, more LILLE-ish clues out there. Alain de _____, for instance. Also, isn't LILLE known for its textile production?
  • 23A: Advent number ("Noel") - Proud of my brain for sticking with this one the 10-12 seconds it took to piece it together. Thought "12" as in "12 Days of Christmas," then thought 25 - number of days on an "Advent" calendar (?), then thought "NOEL," but didn't know why. Then figured out what was meant by "number."
  • 27A: "Frank TV" airer (TBS) - only just saw this clue. Hmmm. No idea what "Frank TV" is.
  • 30A: They don't respond favorably (noes) - wanted NAES then realized I wasn't in Scotland.
  • 33A: Snack for a dragonfly (gnat) - no idea why, but this is the first thing that came to me.
  • 52A: Ventura County's most populous city (Oxnard) - woo hoo, I got this with only a cross or two. Helps to have lived part of one's life in S. California. OXNARD always sounds vaguely obscene to me - like we're talking about a part of the OX that ought not be discussed.
  • 55A: The Guinness book once dubbed her "television's most frequent clapper" (Vanna) - as in White. Seems like the firstness of her name should be indicated somehow.
  • 57A: Mount Saint _____ (Alaskan/Canadian peak) (Elias) - no idea. I worked it out, somehow.
  • 65A: 1966 Pulitzer-winner poet Richard (Eberhart) - noooo idea. Thankfully all those Downs were Pieces of Cake.
  • 67A: Heartbeat halves (systoles) - we had this in a recent late-week puzzle, making it relatively easy to turn up here.
  • 1D: High point of the O.T. (Mt. Sinai) - "That part where Moses totally kicks ass!" - it's a literal and figurative "high point" - neat.
  • 3D: Stockbreeding devices (weaners) - I shudder to think what one of these looks like. Fake teats?
  • 6D: Hospital procedure, for short (angio) - did not come easily to me, but since my dad was a doctor and I spent some time in and around hospitals, I figured the term would eventually come to mind. And it did. One of the earliest articles of Rexiana is a "Slip to Go Home" written out for one of my stuffed animal dogs when I was very very young. Five? Six? Anyway, it had made-up medical stats on it and was titled "Doggy's Angiogram"; only a radiologist's son could pull that one off before grammar school.
  • 11D: Pond denizen (teal) - went for TOAD, obviously. Daughter was mauled by ducks today at the Dunedin Botanical garden - they know when people are bringing them little packets of seeds, and they care naught for the sensitivities or phobias of small children. Sahra was tall enough to fend them off with good humor. Other, smaller children were not so lucky. At least one had to be physically rescued by an adult.
  • 21D: Title woman of song who "lives in a dream" (Eleanor Rigby) - didn't come immediately, but with a few crosses, it fell right in place, which helped my time on this puzzle considerably.
  • 31D: Oahu "thank you" ("Mahalo") - easy if you've ever been to Hawaii; probably hard if you haven't.
  • 38D: Melodramatic outburst (sob) - SOB is weird as a noun.
  • 39D: They may have just one or two stars (B movies) - great clue, though I got instantly.
  • 40D: Ore galore (bonanza) - Clue is great; "Ore Galore" was rejected for the Bond film in favor of her sister, Pussy.
  • 43D: Players with saving accounts? (goalies) - another great clue that I got instantly. Watching UEFA this summer helped.
  • 47D: Columbus discovery of 1493 (St. Kitts) - I've stumbled on other Columbus discoveries in the past, but today, bam, I nailed this one. No hesitation. Thanks to the "K" from OMSK (now ORSK).
  • 52D: She won the 1970 National Book Award for Fiction (Oates) - Joyce Carol. Another one that just came to me, despite my never having read much by her. "Where Are you Going, Where Have you Been?" - that's her, right? That story is creepy.
  • 53D: About 5.5 Europeans (Danes) - making Denmark more populous than NZ by somewhere between 500K and a million people.
And I'm done. Must socialize. I'm getting a reputation for reclusivity.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


FRIDAY, Jul. 25, 2008 -- John Farmer (Five-time Horse of the Year, 1960-64 / Turkey's wattle / Baseball's Belinsky and Jackson)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy


Those of you who were around last night know that Rex sent up a smoke signal asking for one of us benchwarmers to get in the game. Okay, it was a little more high-tech than a smoke signal, but apparently not by much. After I responded to the plea for help, I checked in with Wade who said his power had gone out during the last episode of "The Sopranos" and was writing to me from his Blackberry. So he's no help. No idea where Seth is. He's young, so he's probably out gallivanting somewhere. Which leaves you with me, PuzzleGirl. Let's just try to make the best of it, okay? Hey, it could be worse -- we could have a sucky puzzle today, but we don't. I like this puzzle a lot! I had many Aha!'s, only a couple WTF?'s, and, who knows? Maybe some of the fill reminded me of a story or two. Let's find out.

Good stuff:

  • 15A: Continue the journey (ride on). Also the name of the bus service in Montgomery County, Maryland. I had MOVE ON at first.
  • 18A: How some are offended (mortally). With the MO in place I wanted MORALLY, but of course that doesn't fit.
  • 23A: Tribulations (ills). Had WOES here.
  • 25A: Baseball's Belinsky and Jackson (Bos). When I saw that I needed to do the write-up for today, I admit I panicked a little. Sometimes I can't even finish the Friday puzzle! So I did get some help from PuzzleHusband. About this particular clue, PuzzleHusband says "I just don't think of Bo Jackson as a baseball player." Fair enough.
  • 30A: Visitors (sojourners). Great word.
  • 35A: Cousin of a woodcock (snipe). Sounds like these are good birds for crossword puzzles. Wikipedia tells me they have "cryptic" plumage. Whatever that means.
  • 40A: Ones with read faces? (timepieces). Also Eric Clapton's two-volume "best of" compilation. I was on the right track here but kept thinking it should end with -WATCHES or -CLOCKS.
  • 56A: "Your children are not your children" poet (Gibran). Apparently the third best-selling poet in history after William Shakespeare and Lao Tse.
  • 57A: Bank of America Stadium team (Carolina). Again, went straight to PuzzleHusband for this one. He immediately said, "Carolina Panthers?" and I'm all, "Well, PANTHERS has the right number of letters but doesn't fit with the crosses." The cross I had was the O from NOSH (54D: Have a little something). Ya know, the 4th letter of CAROLINA. D'oh!
  • 1D: Goal of middle management? (trim waist). Again, I was on the right track here, but with the I*T in place I thought it would end with DIET.
  • 3D: Acting (ad interim). Note to self: Learn more Latin.
  • 12D: One with a high Q score (celeb). I knew this had something to do with movie stars. I found the following explanation here: "Twice a year, 55,000 families are asked their thoughts about 1,800 public figures in entertainment, sports and business: Have you heard of them? Are they one of your favourites? How much do you dislike them? The answers are transformed through a mathematical equation into a single numeral. That number, the Q Score, is the oldest and best-known gauge of celebrity." So now you know.
  • 13D: Five-time Horse of the Year, 1960-64 (Kelso). Since it wasn't Seabiscuit, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, or Affirmed, I couldn't come up with it without the crosses.
Great stuff:
  • 44A: Got by (did OK). With D*D*K in place I thought for sure I had hosed something up. Aha!
  • 53A: Start of a "Name That Tune" bid ("I can…"). As in "I can name that tune in three notes." I've been told that an aunt of mine was a contestant on "Name That Tune" in the 1970's. She didn't win, but legend has it she went home with a year's worth of Rice-A-Roni (2D: Quaker Oats product).
  • 7D: Rolling Stones hit just before "Honky Tonk Women" ("Jumpin' Jack Flash"). When I had WOES instead of ILLS, "Brown Sugar" came to mind but, obviously, didn't fit. PuzzleHusband isn't a big Stones fan, but "Jumpin' Jack Flash" is on the same album as "Sympathy for the Devil" and, as far as I'm concerned, every song mentioned in this paragraph Rocks. The. House.
  • 31D: Some court contests (one-on-ones). Love this one. So many different types of courts.
  • 32D: Shortage in a rush-hour subway (elbow room). Got this with only the B in place. Awesome answer.
  • 42D: Intimate (suggest). I knew I was on this puzzle's wavelength when my first thought was "'intimate' is a verb here, not an adjective." I guess you can only fool me so many times with that one.
  • 16A: In Dutch (up a creek). I understand "up a creek" but have never heard the expression "in Dutch."
  • 20A: Practice (ply). PuzzleHusband: "You know, like 'ply a trade'?" Gotcha.
  • 22A: Turkey's dewlap (wattle). Pretty sure I've heard "wattle" before, but never "dewlap."
  • 62A: Weed (hasheesh). No. No. No. Possibly with a "Var." designation, but spelled this way? No. Plus, I thought weed was marijuana. Isn't hashish ... something else?
  • 34D: Dry state (soberness). Sorry, but I have to protest this one too. The word is "sobriety." "Soberness" might work in other contexts, but not in the one where "sober" means "dry."
  • 46D: Base of support (plinth). My favorite new word of the day.
Thanks for putting up with me again today. Maybe Rex will be here tomorrow….

Pura Vida, PuzzleGirl


THURSDAY, Jul. 24, 2008 -- Matt Ginsberg (Jacqueline Susann novel, and the problem with some of the answers in this puzzle /Roughly triangular racket)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

Hey, everybody. You've got the whole damn second string here today. I'm PuzzleGirl, and I'm coming to you from beautiful, sunny Costa Rica today. SethG is, well, he's in his living room. And Wade would love to blog from his new office except he and his dad couldn't quite get the whole thing built in time. Lots of good stuff in this puzzle, which is what you'd expect from a Thursday. But it's not just me here. Let's hear from the rest of the team:

SethG here. Hey, look! It's a picture of what PuzzleGirl claims is Costa Rica, but yo hablo enough español to know that Costa means coast, and she's sitting by a pool. Or is that even her? How are we to know? Maybe PuzzleGirl is actually a lonely 65-year-old man from Hackensack! I tried to take a picture of my living room, which is actually my living room, but my hair doesn't look good, PuzzleMomToBe looks like she feels, and PuzzleDadToBe Pbo was sitting at an angle we'll call "unflattering." Today is PMTB's 30th birthday, PuzzleBaby's 0th will be any day now. Also, I'll stop using those awkward names now. Sorry bout that.

This whole thing reeks of one of those fake duets that were obviously recorded in different studios at different times, doesn't it? Well, it's not. The real story is that PuzzleGirl and I were married in a private ceremony in Enid, Oklahoma this past weekend, Oklahoma being the only state in the country where it's legal for a woman to marry a dog. Yes, that's the other bombshell: I'm a German Shepherd. On the internet nobody knows that, of course. Our first order of business after our marriage ceremony, which was presided over by Fergus, who has that authority by virtue of being a sea captain on his home planet, was to fulfill our lifelong dream of adopting SethG. So now all three of us live in a yurt in Swampscott, Mass., raising organic beets and stuffing trouts with sage. Some people may think it's funny, a woman marrying a dog and the two of them adopting a grown man against his will. Well, I bite those people. We're no different from you. We do puzzles. It's what we do. It's who we are. This is your Thursday puzzle team.


THEME: Once Is Not Enough (35A: Jacqueline Susann novel, and the problem with some of the answers in this puzzle). Theme answers are phrases that should start with a repeated word, but in the puzzle the phrase begins with the word only once.

Theme Answers:

  • 17A: Hollow-point projectiles (dum[-dum] bullets)
  • 22A: Mutually beneficial interaction (win[-win] situation)
  • 45A: Puerto Rican-born P.G.A. star (Chi [Chi] Rodriguez)

  • 56A: Child's fair-weather wish (rain, [rain,] go away)
Other stuff we want to talk about:
  • 10A: Klingon on "Star Trek: T.N.G." (Worf). I do not like it when the Star Trek stuff turns up in the puzzle.

  • 14A/46D: Writer of "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" (Alex Haley). Got this one with no crosses. Reminds be of Gertrude Stein's "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas" in that it doesn't really make sense, does it?

  • 15A: Originator of the equation e to the power (pi * i) + 1 = 0. If it’s Math, EULER's a good bet.

  • 21A: Pixie-esque. ELFIN is a word. ELVIN is not.

  • 25A: Roughly triangular racket (crosse). Looked this one up and then felt really stupid. Yes, boys and girls, it's the stick used to play lacrosse.

  • 28A: Chemistry Nobelist Hahn, who co-discovered nuclear fission (Otto). Remember this one -- he's sure to be back. My least favorite Nobelists are chemistry Nobelists.

  • 51A: Impoverished (dirt poor). Have you read The Glass Castle? This phrase will forever remind me of that book. It's an awesome memoir about a girl who grew up, you guessed it, dirt poor. Her parents (alcoholic dad and mentally ill mom) are eccentric and brilliant. While the book describes neglect that can only be categorized as appalling, it also forced me to think hard about privilege and today's common practice of "over-parenting." I tried to find the video of “We ate sand” from Raising Arizona. I failed. You ate sand?!?

  • 58A: Usher's offer (seat). Almost seems too easy.

  • 60A: "Your Majesty" ("Sire"). I think Rex prefers Your Majesty.

  • 1D: Synthetic (made). Wanted FAKE at first.

  • 3D: Dole’s 1996 running mate (Kemp). Remember the bumper stickers that changed it to Dope and Hemp?

  • 4D: River bends (oxbows). That’s a dang fine word. Never seen it in a puzzle. Long overdue.

  • 5D: Like a leopard (feline). I'm glad this wasn't my first thought: SPOTTY.

  • 7D: Incense resin (elemi). Another one to take note of -- you'll see it again for sure.

  • 11D: Norwegian king who converted the Vikings to Christianity is OLAF I. Not Olav. Is that the same SIRE with two allowable spellings or was it two different dudes?

  • 12D: Portion of an advertising budget (radio). Does this clue/answer really work? This really works. I used to do stuff with stuff like that, but now I do this.

  • 13D: One of the Mudville players on base when the mighty Casey struck out (Flynn). Beautiful. Just beautiful. From the original version of the poem:
    But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
    And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
    And we know that a LULU (6D) is a beaut.

  • 21D: Taken in (eaten). Could have gone down so many wrong paths: altered, scammed, there must be more. Arrested, perceived. Furled.

  • 26D: Slots spot (Reno). Reno is The Biggest Little City in the World, you know. This answer reminds me of the time I shot a man in Reno. Why? Just to watch him die.

  • 31D: Preschoolers? (roe). I get it. Fish. Everybody’s against me. Even Roe. Not anymore, Wade.

  • 34D: What you used to be (thee). But it yoused to be THOU, too.

  • 37D: "You ____!" (cry while hitting oneself on the head) (idiot). At our house we cry "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" (hitting ourselves on the forehead three times for emphasis). See also 48D, idiom.

  • 42D: Mass dismissals (purges). You do not want the visual image this answer gave me.

  • 43D: Duke Atreides in "Dune" (Leto). Whatever you say.

  • 49D: _____ Weasley of Harry Potter books. Let's see Ron, Fred, George … what the heck is the little sister's name? Oh yeah, Ginny.

  • 52D: Toddler's cry of pain ("Owie!"). I know some of you don't like this word. You mentioned it last time it was in the puzzle. And the time before that. I think maybe it's time to let it go. "Owie" is a noun, not an exclamation. You get an owie. You don't cry "owie." Sit, boy, sit!
So, that's your puzzle and that's our show. Rex will be back tomorrow. Until next time,

Pura Vida! PuzzleGirl, Wade and SethG



Tuesday, July 22, 2008

[IMPORTANT NOTICE: THE PUZZLE FEATURED IN THIS BLOG ENTRY MAY NOT BE THE ONE FEATURED IN YOUR PAPER - read the opening paragraph of the write-up (the part in italics) for an explanation]

Relative difficulty: Easy / Challenging (The West!?!?)

THEME: A to Z to A (39A: Theme of this puzzle) - zigzagging pattern of circled squares form words that begin with "Z" and end with "A," then begin with "A" and end with "Z" - and so on. Two such interlocking patterns stretch from corner to corner, intersecting at a "Z" in the puzzle's dead center

The following correction appeared in today's paper:

Crossword Puzzle

Because of a production error, some copies of Wednesday’s paper contain an outdated crossword puzzle and its solution. If you look here first, proceed with caution. If the answer in the solution to one across also appears in the puzzle above it, you have a paper with the wrong crossword. If the solution to one across matches Tuesday’s puzzle, you’re in the clear, and on your own.

The outdated puzzle appears to be this one from last June. I assume they'll print both puzzles tomorrow or something, or subscribers can complete the puzzle online or download it in Across Lite format on the Times' puzzle page.

Great great concept. Really marvelous. But WTF is up with the far west. BABY who??? Man, if only I'd known MUNICH (46A: Birthplace of composer Richard Strauss). Had the -ICH and wrote in ZURICH, which OH, YOU only confirmed (27D: "What a kidder!"). The whole Western patch felt like a fragile cake, about to fall apart at any second; it still looks that way to me, with many awfully tenuous answers. YOU in OH, YOU intersecting YOU in YOU'LL (42A: "_____ regret it!"_)?? AHH (34A: "That feels great") and BYE (38A: Free pass, of sorts) one atop the other?? AHH and OH, YOU and YOU'LL all have quotation mark clues - all clued as expressions. And then there's the too-cute THE U.N. (28D: N.Y.C. country club?). After ZURICH, I had THE U.R., which is meaningless, but the only thing I could think to put there was "S" - i.e. THE U.S. - that's the country where NYC is... right? I should have turned up U.N. but didn't. So I utterly failed at this puzzle, after totally torching the rest of it. Oh, well, OH YOU, AH, ME, etc. Lastly, let me iterate: BABY who? (26D: Child in a 1980s custody case)

Theme answers:

  • 1A: Coors product (Zima) - started with BEER (something someone might actually drink). Fixed it fairly quickly thereafter. I think that corner may be the second hardest section in the puzzle.
  • 4D: Ingrediente en paella (arroz) - had ARROS, remembering ARROZ Con Pollo but not how to spell it. This made me want something like SERTA for the next theme answer...
  • 23A: Keebler cracker brand (Zesta) - eat ZESTA with Perle MESTA then sleep on SERTA.
  • 24D: Flagstaff's place (Arizona)
  • 52A: Madison Ave. trade (ad biz) - again, must plug "Mad Men"

  • 53D: Ethan Frome's wife (Zeena) - really? OK.
  • 70A: Animated film hit of 1998 (Antz)
  • 58A: Ball's comic partner (Arnaz)
  • 39D: The Rock (Alcatraz) - The Rock is also a movie. And a wrestler.
  • 9D: Cubic _____ (gem) (zirconia)
  • 9A: Frank in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Zappa)

Great long answers transect this puzzle's midsection. Especially like WENT TO POT (6D: Deteriorated) and OIL BARON (40D: Getty or Rockefeller). Would have liked STRIDENCE (36D: Harsh quality) better if it had been STRIDENCY, which sounds more like a word, but it'll do. Scariest moment (besides my total derailment in the west) was in the SE, where HENRIETTA (63A: Queen _____ Maria, mother of England's Charles II and James II) ran smack into the impossible-seeming NARZ (61D: Onetime "Concentration" host Jack). Almost had to rename "The NATICK Principle" "The NARZ Principle," but "A" was the only really reasonable guess there. "E" is a close second. Had never heard of (or barely heard of) LINEAR A (43D: Ancient Cretan writing system), but I pieced it together. Crosses were reasonably fair.

I would like to use my favorite part of the West - BOT (26A: Sci-fi sidekick, maybe) - to talk about the local Quiz Night we went to last night with my in-laws. It was the most ... local ... thing I've been to in a long time. Possibly ever. Took place in the Lake Hawea community center, in the main room, where there was a roaring fire and we were looked down on by giant placards displaying the names of Lake Hawea Men's and Ladies' Lawn Bowling Champions, past and present. The Quiz Night featured a raffle (every team of 4 paid $20 and brought a wrapped gift for the raffle - when one of our tickets was drawn and my wife went up to get a gift, Nick (husband of wife's stepmom, not wife's dad ... long story) shouted "grab something shaped like a bottle" (hoping to score some wine, which we did). Anyway, there were about a dozen teams in the room and there were seven rounds of questions and sometimes it paid to be an American ("What was Dirty Harry's last name?") and sometimes it did Not ("What are the names of Hairy Maclary's dog friends in 'Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Diary?'"; "What is the current height (depth?) of Lake Hawea"?). There was an entire set of questions straight out of the 1954 Edmonds Cookbook (a NZ classic) ... there was a parsley sauce controversy ... Anzac biscuits ... it's all a blur. Who was the only athlete at the 1976 Olympic games not to be given a sex test? Hint: it's not Nadia Comaneci. Answer: Princess Anne. It was only after we returned home that I was informed that the answer was the Actual Princess Anne and not a horse of the same name. Seven rounds, this quiz was. Oh, the connection to BOT. Well, it's a "Star Wars" connection, at any rate - one of the questions was "What sort of creature is Chewbacca in the 'Star Wars' movies?" - only the questioner pronounced "Chewbacca" with the accent on the first syllable, making it sound a bit like "Chupacabra." After I translated, I got it instantly. I couldn't begin to recreate for you how she pronounced "Wookie." The whole event was fun. Very fun. There was an auction at the end of the night. We came in third and would have won if a. anyone had listened to me that MEDICINE was one of the categories of prizes awarded by Nobel, b. we hadn't changed our Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion answer to accommodate my overly certain mother-in-law, c. I hadn't overridden myself on the location of the ruins of Carthage - I blurted out (to my teammates) "Tunisia" (right answer), but then changed it to "Libya" (wrong). They screwed up and robbed me of my fantastic correct answer to "What was the name of Tarzan's chimp?"; I got CHEETA, but they said it was something like Nikima. So ... third place. There were huge beers all around and tea and various cakes. Most of the money raised - all, in fact - went to some charity or other. By the end, I just wanted one more round so we could pass those smug bastards sitting next to us who were clearly stealing our answers.


  • 5A: N.Y.C. theater area (B'way) - semi-tricky
  • 15A: Surrealist Magritte (René) - ceci n'est pas un crossword blog
  • 16A: Apple instant-messaging program (iChat) - I love that there is almost no part of that clue that would have made any sense to anyone 30 years ago.
  • 17A: Lovers of fine fare (gourmands) - GOURMANDS should come here, where the native cuisine is startling fresh and tasty.
  • 21A: Madden, and how (incense) - wanted JOHN
  • 25A: Aurora's Greek counterpart (Eos) - you should know this instinctively by now, really.
  • 29A: Restaurateur Toots (Shor) - one of the greatest names in xwordpuzzledom.
  • 35A: Honeybee genus (apis) - thank you, Virgil
  • 51A: Highlands refusal ("Nae!") - I do love the Scotticisms, Och!
  • 65A: Stiller's comic partner (Meara) - love her; I'd put her in every puzzle if I could
  • 1D: Goes this way before that (zigs) - love that this sets off the zig-zag pattern without actually being a part of it
  • 5D: Military bigwig (brass hat) - kind of a dumb phrase. I guess if your wig is big, then it needs a brass hat to protect it.
  • 10D: Truman's last secretary of state (Acheson) - NO idea, even though I'm nearly certainly he's been in my puzzle before
  • 11D: Unit of loudness (phon) - whoa ... really? First I've heard of it.
  • 22D: Three R's org. (NEA) - Do they really use the phrase or concept "Three R's" anymore. If so, they should be disbanded.
  • 31D: Cubs, but not Bears, for short (NL'ers) - icky answer, but nice clue
  • 32D: When said three times, "et cetera" ("yadda") - to appease the "Seinfeld" fans out there. "Remember that episode when Elaine..." No. No I don't.
  • 33D: Ol' Blue Eyes classic ("My Way") - Here you go:

  • 47D: Part of a bray (hee) - the other part: HAW
  • 49D: "Of course, senor!" ("Si si!") - I'm growing fond of this sycophantic Spanish-type answer
  • 55D: German river to the Fulda (Eder) - perhaps for the first time ever, I nailed this answer. Had the -ER, went to type YSER (instinctively), then checked myself and went with EDER. Take that, Germany. (but then MUNICH came back and bit me ... so much for defeating Germania).
  • 59D: 9-mm. gun of W. W. II (Sten) - like EOS, something you should Just Know (if you want to ace the crossword, that is)
  • 64D: Schubert's "The _____-King" (Erl) - Take it away, Ulrich.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS somebody else will be doing tomorrow's write-up. I should be good for the weekend.


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