Bay area concert venue — TUESDAY, Jun. 30 2009 — PC-less Internet hookup once / Island neighbor Tonga and Tuvalu / Sea dog's libation

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

bay area concert venue bay area concert venue

Constructor: Steve Dobis

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "ELOCUTION PHRASE" (40A: Exercise in pronunciation ... like the first words of the answers to the starred clues) — first words spell out "HOW NOW BROWN COW"

Word of the Day: BRET MaverickMaverick is a comedy-western television series created by Roy Huggins that ran from September 22, 1957 to July 8, 1962 on ABC and featured James Garner, Jack Kelly, Roger Moore, and Robert Colbert as the poker-playing traveling Mavericks (Bret, Bart, Beau, & Brent). Moore and Colbert were later additions, though there were never more than two current Mavericks in the series at any given time, and sometimes only one. (wikipedia)

When I do these puzzles on paper, untimed, I have a really hard time assessing difficulty — I'm used to using the clock as a gauge. This one *felt* very very easy — about as easy as yesterday's, maybe easier. The front part of ELOCUTION PHRASE was about the only part of the puzzle that took some thinking, and that's only because I tried to guess it without any crosses in place (had the PHRASE part). I was not familiar with ELOCUTION PHRASE with a phrase as such. "HOW NOW BROWN COW" is a phrased used in elocution lessons to demonstrate round vowel sounds (or so wikipedia tells me). But if you Google ELOCUTION PHRASE you get ... crossword blogs discussing today's puzzle on your first page of results. That suggests the phrase ELOCUTION PHRASE isn't much of one. But still, it's very gettable and makes sense. Overall, the theme seems reasonably solid and clever to me.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: *Informal greeting ("HOW goes it?")
  • 30A: *At times (NOW and again)
  • 47A: *One not using the company cafeteria, maybe (BROWN-bagger)
  • 64A: *Bay Area concert venue (COW Palace) — my favorite theme answer. I haven't been there, but as I was working my way down the grid, I made a bet with myself that the answer for COW would be COW PALACE. And I was right. Pay up, me!

This puzzle is a pangram. It's also bionic, with all kinds of electronic parts. Check out the CAMS (36A: PC video gear, for short) and WEBTV (which still exists, though it's now called MSNTV) (63A: PC-less Internet hookup, once) and ... looks like someone left a 90s-era SEGA Genesis gaming system lying around here too (71A: Sonic the Hedgehog's company). Sometimes, moving through the grid quickly is a matter of very good luck. Take the east today, for instance. Got TAWNY off the T (39A: Lion-colored), then GARB off the A (32D: Clothing), then BRET off the B (46A: One of TV's Mavericks). All other answers in that section are pieces of cake. The ability to see answers that aren't there is far more important to solving efficiently than the fact of knowing many arcane things (though that undoubtedly helps in some situations).

There are cheater squares in the NE and SW — normally these don't distract me, but today they seem neon. Not sure why. Cheater squares are black squares that don't change the number of Acrosses and Downs. They just add more black space and make the grid easier to fill. They are under STY and over WIZ, respectively.

I just realized that I know the word "NOGO" (42D: Scrapped, as a mission) from Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire": "Edsel is a NOGO" — that's what he says, right? Man did I not like that song (from the Pop Music Nadir period 1987-91, which I have theorized on this site before).


  • 5A: Island neighbor of Tonga and Tuvalu (Fiji) — would love to spend more time in South Pacific. Maybe on our next trip to NZ (where my wife is from, for those who didn't know), we can add another island nation or two to the itinerary ... though truthfully that "island" will probably be Australia. Wife lived there for a time, but I've never been.
  • 14A: Sea dog's libation (grog) — Portland Seadogs are the name of the Red Sox AA team.
  • 2D: Hotel room amenity (iron) — had the "I" and thought "ICE ... ICER? ... ICES?")
  • 10D: Here, in Honduras (aqui) — Here in Honduras, we have no president. Thanks, military.
  • 63D: 1978 Diana Ross musical, with "The" ("Wiz") — also a Michael Jackson musical. Seeing this movie in a big downtown theater in Fresno when I was an 8-yr-old kid remains one of the more vivid movie-going experiences of my life.

See you tomorrow,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


MONDAY, Jun. 29 2009 — Yeller in Yale Bowl / Bravura performances / Old Pontiac muscle cars /

Monday, June 29, 2009

Constructor: Paula Gamache

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Good / Better / Best — three 15-letter theme answers begin with those words, respectively

Word of the Day: MOTT the Hoople (46A: Rock's _____ the Hoople)Mott the Hoople were a 1970s English rock band with strong R&B roots and dominant in the glam rock era of the early to mid 1970s. They are popularly known for the song "All the Young Dudes", written for them by David Bowie and appearing on their 1972 album of the same name.

[Awesome look for the back-up singers]

A breezy Monday. Thought I was going to break 3 minutes, but dang, there are a lot of white squares. A very open grid for a Monday puzzle (only 32 black squares — compare to 40+ in a few recent puzzles). East and west felt particularly open, with their triple sixes helping the puzzle to avoid the normal 3x4 and 4x4 drudgery of the common early-week grid (filled with some very cool words and phrases). Didn't see the theme 'til the end, when I changed WELL to BEST in BEST KEPT SECRETS (wife made same initial error, as did, I'm betting, a lot of people). I think I am going to be forever limited in my quest for faster times by really terrible typing skills. I type very fast and very sloppily, thus defeating the purpose of being very fast. I would try to slow down, but, you know, OLD HABITS (4D: Things that die hard) ...

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Seven or eight hours, typically (GOOD night's sleep)
  • 35A: Inventor's goal (BETTER mousetrap)
  • 52A: They rarely see the light of day (BEST kept secrets) — this one threw me (slightly) both because of the WELL/BEST issue, and because I was sure the figure of speech "see the light of day" was going to be literal ... so, you know, maybe something to do with BATS or MOLES or VAMPIRES or I don't know what. But no — figure of speech was a figure of speech. Fancy that.
Love the drunkenness subtheme of SIP (54D: Not guzzle) crossing both [Martini garnish] (OLIVE) and TIPSY (59A: A little drunk). SIP implies a kind of moderation, but I'm pretty sure you can SIP your way to SOUSE-hood (16A: Drunkard). I hesitated at several places in the grid — another impediment to time improvement. Balked at LOLL (42A: Do nothing and like it) — considered LAZE — and then at ETYPES (26D: Classic Jaguars), which I can never remember. The intersecting colloquial expressions didn't come to me immediately either, though I like them both: "NOT BAD!" (27A: "Hey, way to go!") / "NO BUTS!" (27D: "Forget the excuses!"). Those clues are playing Good Soccer Dad / Bad Soccer Dad. Favorite words / phrases of the day were LOW KEY (42D: Hardly ostentatious), TB TEST (29D: Diagnostic that entails sticking the forearm with a needle), and ON THE SLY (20A: Furtively).

  • 38A: 180-degree turns, in slang (uies) — none of the UIE v. UEY confusion today, as I had the back end before I saw the clue.
  • 46D: Flat-topped Southwestern hills (mesas) — I mean this more as observation that complaint, but there seemed to be a Lot of plurals in the puzzle. Three times answers intersect at a terminal plural "S" (and twice more at a terminal "S" where one of the words involved isn't plural, i.e. PRIUS, KRIS, and OILS (clued as a verb). I thought constructors avoided plurals in that position if possible.
  • 34D: Bravura performances (star turns) — should have included this in answers I love. Got it off the initial "S," which I also love.
  • 48D: Old Pontiac muscle cars (GTOs) — wrote in GTEN, for some reason.
  • 50D: Decorative needle case (Etui) — venerable!
  • 53D: Yeller in the Yale Bowl (Eli) — venerabler!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


SUNDAY, Jun. 28 2009 — Locale for Apfelstrudel and Sachertorte / Tulip-exporting city / Tiny friend Dumbo / Cesar five-time gold glove winner 1972-76

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Constructor: Barry C. Silk

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "SECRET INGREDIENTS" — circled squares inside eight theme answers spell out herbs (is PEPPER an herb?)

Word of the Day: DRAWEE (114A: Party to a financial transaction) n.

The party on which an order for the payment of money is drawn.

Not among my favorite Silk creations. First off, this type of theme leaves me cold. I don't mind circled letters when they are doing something clever or interesting, but this pick-and-choose-
spell-things tactic is kind of stale — a low bar, especially without any additional element of thematic interest. If a theme answer is long enough, you can find Lots of embedded words in it. MANGO's in MANAGING EDITOR. RETINA's in PRINCETON SEMINARY. There's two new potential themes for you right there. Circling a ragged assortment of letters just doesn't feel very exciting or inspiring. I have high expectations for Silk puzzles, and there's none of his usual kick here. Further, some of the theme answers felt odd. PRINCETON SEMINARY doesn't seem a noteworthy enough place (no offense) to be a theme answer. COARSE-GRAINED WOOD was just blah. Felt weird to have to know two different middle initials for this one (I remembered MICHENER's but I didn't even know the TIMOTHY part of the MOUSE answer, let alone the "Q"!). Most of the non-theme fill seemed quite solid, but man oh man DRAWEE / WIEN is horrible. Never ever heard of a DRAWEE (114A: Party to a financial transaction) and had to infer WIEN (116D: Locale for Apfelstrudel and Sachertorte) from WIENERSCHNITZEL. It's the German spelling of Vienna, but that's a spelling rarely seen / heard over here. Very marginal financial word crossing marginal (*in its German spelling*) Austrian place = yikes. A huge black mark on an otherwise nicely filled puzzle. Just not feeling this one today.

Theme answers:

  • 23A: Battle of Trafalgar hero (Admiral Nelson) / DILL — why oh why did I write in ADMIRAL NIMITZ?
  • 38A: Oak or ash (coarse-grained wood) / OREGANO
  • 60A: Lucifer, notably (fallen angel) / FENNEL
  • 83A: Suffer for acting unwisely (pay the piper) / PEPPER

[Erik Estrada!]

  • 101A: New Jersey ecumenical institution (Princeton Seminary) / ROSEMARY
  • 124A: Tiny friend of Dumbo (Timothy Q. Mouse) / THYME
  • 17D: "The World Is My Home" memoirist, 1991 (James A. Michener) / JASMINE
  • 52D: Deadline maker (managing editor) / GINGER

The nature of the theme made the puzzle very very easy in parts — once you got the theme, if you had a circled square or two filled in, it wasn't hard to infer the herb and fill in the other circled squares. I got the theme very early — with this kind of theme, it's not hard. You need just one answer, two tops, and it's clear what the gimmick is. So I flew through most of it, but there were some patches that were quite rough. Puzzle first resisted me in the MANATEE (49D: Sighting off the coast of Florida) section of the grid — love that MANATEE crosses HOMELY, because, well, they are. I had MACAW for MYNAH (67A: Mimic of a sort), which gummed things up, and I couldn't understand 57A: Computer letters at all at first. When I saw the answer was EMAILS, I think I said "ugh" out loud. Not sure how I didn't see that. Don't know the Beach Boys song about WENDY (80A: Title girl of a 1964 Beach Boys song), so I had (misspelled) RONDA in there for a bit.

Then there was the TIMOTHY Q. MOUSE section, which was like a separate puzzle-within-a-puzzle. Rough. DRAWEE / WIEN was the big groin-kicker, but the "Q" in SQ MI (119D: 640 acres: Abbr.) was no picnic either. Took some time to get INTERS (132A: Lays low?), so the terminal "I" wasn't in place on SQ MI and without the "Q" or "I," I was confused. In the adjacent section, I wasn't sure how to spell TEENIE (128A: Like a yellow polka dot bikini in a 1961 #1 hit), and had SACHEL (?) for SACHET at first (103D: Bag in a closet). Oh, and I finished the puzzle with a mistake — misread the clue at 93D: Ones whose symbol is a harp as a singular clue, and so had IRISHMAN. This caused me to wonder, over and over, why MANDEL sounded so wrong for the genetics guy (129A: The Father of Genetics -> MENDEL).


1A: Blade for blades (scythe) — good one. Had to get it from crosses. True AHA moment.
13A: 1965 title role for Peter O'Toole (Lord Jim) — no idea. "Lord Jim" is a Conrad novel. I thought it was Kingsley Amis, but that's "Lucky Jim."
47A: Silents star Renee (Adoree) — again, no idea. Needed all the crosses. Add her to the list of other silent actresses you see in puzzles, like POLA NEGRI and MABEL Normand and THEDA BARA. The "A" cross was unknown to me: HAARLEM (34D: Tulip-exporting city).
74A: Container that's hoisted (stein) — They love to hoist their STEINs in WIEN.
121A: Co-star of "Grumpy Old Men," 1993 (Matthau) — "Odd Couple" reunited.
2D: Cesar _____, five-time Gold Glove winner, 1972-76 (Cedeno) — rough if you're not a hardcore baseball fan. I collected baseball cards at the right time (late 70s/early 80s) to make his name a gimme for me. I think he was on the Astros when I was collecting.
76D: It has 1,366 seats: Abbr. (NYSE) — without "WENDY" to help in the cross, this took me a bit.
102D: Axis leader (Il Duce) — another rough one. Had the "I" and thought "??? ... IDI AM... no ..."
107D: Snack food made by Drake's (Yodels) — started writing YOOHOOs (that's a drink), then melded that with HO HO's (a snack food, but the wrong one), and eventually ended up with the right answer. Not on my junk food menu growing up. If I was going to eat baked goods, I was going to Winchell's to get fresh-baked donuts ... maybe stop by McDonald's to get a 20-pc Chicken McNuggets. How I survived teenagedom without becoming obese is Beyond me.

And now, culled from Twitter, your Puzzle Tweets of the Week:

  • ericmathew As a train we are filling out a crossword puzzle. Only at 2am and in nj.
  • nicavecmini sat on a train drinking wine and listening to some retards doing a crossword
  • MikeHasTweets Why do I even bother with post-Wednesday crosswords? (not rhetorical)
  • zsumoz Saturday's NY Times crossword dominated. In pen. #willshortz
  • mssilhouette On My Fifth Crossword Puzzle As I Watch The Golden Girls
  • foodjobsbook If you are good at solving crossword puzzles, consider a career as a freelance cookbook indexer.
  • wineoffensive It's a Jay-Z unplugged kinda day. Also an NYT xword kinda day. A baking kinda day. You know, a piquito enchildas verde kinda day...
  • shewillbeapples: Crossword clue: Autograph site (4 letters). Me: "Boob?" Dad: "U need to engage your brain before you open your mouth.”
You can Follow Me on Twitter at

And lastly, one announcement today — the upcoming Lollapuzzoola 2 Crossword Tournament, hosted by Ryan Hecht and Brian Cimmet. Here's the info provided to me by Ryan (for more infor, contact


  • WHAT: Lollapuzzoola 2: Son of Puzzoola, a fun-filled crossword tournament
  • WHEN: Saturday, August 22, 2009 from 11am to 5pm
  • WHERE: Community Church in Jackson Heights, NY (that's part of Queens -- and it's the church where Scrabble was invented!)
  • WHO: Hosted by Brian Cimmet and Ryan Hecht of the blog "Ryan and Brian Do Crosswords" and the podcast "Fill Me In"
  • HOW MUCH: $20, payable online via PayPal or pay at the door when you arrive.

It's a crossword tournament with assorted twists... Last year's event included a Name That Tune puzzle with live musical accompaniment, a snack puzzle (three secret entries in the grid were CHI-PSA-HOY, and you had to eat a cookie), a surprise game of Twister (theme entries included RED, BLUE, RIGHT, LEFT, FOOT, HAND, etc.). We were even honored with a visit from the Puzzlemaster himself, Mr. Will Shortz.

We can't give away the secrets of this year's tournament, but we have confirmed a few of the puzzle constructors -- Peter Gordon, Todd McClary and Mike Nothnagel will be providing three of the six puzzles featured in the tournament. We'll also be having ACPT-style finals, with two skill level divisions and dry-erase board solving for the finalists. And of course we'll be offering our patented Google Tickets, making those Friday- and Saturday-level puzzles a bit more manageable for the everyday solvers.

Some snacks and drinks will be provided. Prizes will range from unique to useless. What more could you want?

That's all. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


SATURDAY, Jun. 27 2009 — Influential 1996 video game / Actress co-starring in TV's Burn Notice / Cocktails lacking hard liquor / RICO Act enforcer

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Constructor: Trip Payne

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: LACTEAL (36D: Milky) adj.

  1. Of, relating to, or resembling milk.
  2. Anatomy. Of or relating to any of numerous minute intestinal lymph-carrying vessels that convey chyle from the intestine to lymphatic circulation and thereby to the thoracic duct.
n. Anatomy.

A lacteal vessel.

[From Latin lacteus, from lac, lact-, milk.]

This one was easy around the edges, with a mild squares of death in the middle. The corners went down so fast that I don't remember working on them at all. I had an embarrassing revelation in the NE when I couldn't understand why I'd never heard of a poet called ANGELO [insert initial] ... and then I got the "U" (from SELF-CONSCIOUS -> 31A: Uncomfortable, in a way). Oh, right. Maya ANGELOU (12D: "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie" poet). Not that obscure after all.

But that's the only hiccup I had in any of the corners. The real issue for me was a roughly square area with 23A: Henchmen at the top and 46A: Yellow squares, perhaps at the bottom. This area was a bear. I had several answers traversing it — BLESS ME FATHER (35A: Start of a confession) and ANCESTOR (24D: Genealogical discovery) came quickly — but my inability to get SELF-CONSCIOUS and, especially, EYE CHART (the key to the whole thing) forced me to push letters around a bit in there. Wanted an "S" on the end of 26D: They have connections (kin), which hurt. Actually wrote in ELEPHANT once at 21D: It begins with an E (in two ways) and then tried desperately to figure out why it made sense (it didn't). Every F-starting gov. abbrev. in the world came to me at 39D: RICO Act enforcer except FBI. And I honestly never knew that TOMB RAIDER was a video game. I knew the movies were based on something ... now I know (43A: Influential 1996 video game). Still, this center-square problem was a problem only by comparison to the rest of the puzzle, which was cake.

EYE CHART!!!! I had E-ECHA-- and went through the alphabet to try to make sense of that second letter. Y, as you might know, is quite near the end of the alphabet.

Opening gambit: DO RAGS - GIA - AMIS. NW was done in about 30 seconds. Couldn't figure out 29D: Some pellets (sleet) and so had to reboot completely in the SW, which was, again, not hard. CHRIST - HIC - CRAT. SW up in flames. BLESS ME FATHER took me to the east coast, where I worked into the NE via the HO CHI Minh Trail (30D: _____ Minh). HOOD - HORSED - EAGER etc. Up here was the small ANGELOU snag, and one of two pop culture WTFs?!!? First, "Pushing Daisies" has been canceled. It ran for 22 episodes. LEE Pace is light years from a household name (27A: "Pushing Daisies" star _____ Pace). The show was critically acclaimed, to some extent, but ... I mean, not enough people watched it to keep it on the air, and even those people probably don't know the actors' names. Sharon GLESS's name I know, but not not not from whatever "Burn Notice" is (10D: Actress co-starring in TV's "Burn Notice"). Putting both those actors in one corner seems like contemporary marginal pop culture overload. And if you're overloading ME, that's saying something. But in the end, I didn't really struggle, so I can't complain too much.

Hammered away at the center, and once that broke, I entered the SE, expecting a fight, but not getting one. All three long Acrosses went over easily. Last letter was the "A" in UVA (47A: Sch. founded by a president) / RAVERS (44D: Movie critics, sometimes).


  • 19A: Author of "Time's Arrow," 1991, a novel written in reverse chronological order (Amis) — TMI. The part where you describe the novel is trivia and does nothing to help solvers get the answer. You know "Time's Arrow" = AMIS or you don't. Not that trivia isn't interesting; it just feels gunky when it's used unnecessarily in a clue.
  • 33A: Quebec's Festival d'___ (Été) — lots of easy short stuff like this in the puzzle. I didn't *know* it, but it's the first and only answer that came to me. Three letters, French, starts with vowel...
  • 45A: Drink whose name suggests its vitamin content (Hi-C) — more easy short stuff.
  • 48A: Receiver of some contributions (Roth IRA) — liked this. Hard to parse if you come at it from the front. From the back, a bit easier.
  • 50A: Year that Acre fell in the First Crusade (MCIV) — knowing the First Crusade started in MXCVI helped narrow things down a little.
  • 58A: Contents of a certain household box (cat litter) — breakfast test! ILL AT EASE! (52A: Uncomfortable).
  • 5D: Hero of "Boyz N the Hood" (Tre) — never saw this clue. I saw the movie. Not sure I would have remembered the kid's name.
  • 25D: Budgetary bigwig, for short (CFO) — off the "F" in SETS ON FIRE (28A: Lights). Still didn't help me get LACKEYS (23A: Henchmen). Kept wanting BACKERS (!?).
  • 50D: Birthplace of poet Paul Verlaine (Metz) — METZ is easy to get. I recommend having the last three letters already in place before you ever look at the clue.
  • 55D: BBC's Sports Personality of the Century (Ali) — yeah, he probably deserves that.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


FRIDAY, Jun. 26 2009 — Lower Slobbovia creator / Walled-off enclave in Iraq / Techies affiliated with major electronics chain / Kangaroo carrier

Friday, June 26, 2009

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Dopp kit (24D: Dopp kit items -> COMBS)

From "World Wide Words"

[Q] From Wiley: What does the dopp in dopp kit (shaving bag) mean, and where did the term originate?

[A] I am indebted to the American Dialect Society, and in particular to Jim Rader, for the answer to this question, which otherwise I couldn’t find in any of my reference books. The word Dopp is a registered trade mark of a man’s toiletry kit. It was designed by Jerome Harris for his uncle Charles Doppelt, a German immigrant to Chicago in the early 1900s. So it’s presumably an abbreviated form of Mr Doppelt’s family name. The word became widely known during the Second World War when GIs were issued Dopp kits. The company was purchased by Samsonite in the early seventies.

A lovely themeless Friday puzzle from Lynn Lempel, whose byline I haven't seen for a while (or so it seems). A real start-and-stopper. Took a little time to get traction in the NW, and then boom, I torched the whole west coast. Tried to come back up the center and got stopped cold by what turned out to be SIT BY, which I couldn't parse to save my life (35A: Be indifferent). Rebooted very quickly in the NE with a STEN / EVENT / OVERDO combo, which took me back to the center, and once that was done, down the east coast. Last stand was the SE and man, it was ugly. If I ever heard of BENGHAZI (33D: Libya's second-largest city), I forgot about it. No problem, just work crosses. But no ... a very plausible, very wrong answer got me stuck in a very deep hole. Went with BANNED instead of BARRED at 39D: Forbidden, and then, with the "O," the (erroneous) "N," the "S" and the "E" in place, wrote in NONSENSE for 46A: Cry of reproof. Now I knew something was wrong very soon thereafter, as I could get no vowel to make sense in the answer N-RE for 46D: It's taken for a ride. Only by taking out NONSENSE (which, I'm telling you, felt Soooo right), did I finally get / see FARE, and then things fell from there.

Other stellar error of the day @5A: Lower Slobbovia creator: saw the phrase "Lower Slobbovia" and already had -APP and so without even blinking wrote in LAPP. I figured that was the name of place that LAPPs live. Then I saw the "creator" part of the clue and thought ... how does a LAPP "create" the place where he lives. Then I noticed the cross: LAMDEN? I don't know New Jersey, but ... oh, #$#!, CAMDEN. CAPP. "L'IL ABNER!!!!!" [shakes fist at sky]

Speaking of comics, the first issue of "Barack the Barbarian" came out on Wednesday. It's a CAMPY (32A: Like drag shows) political parody comic, and I got two issues so I could get both covers. Not surprisingly, it's the second of these that sold off the rack:

I was so, so proud of myself for getting the NW relatively quickly — specifically, for sniffing out AAA MEMBER. First word in grid: LIANA (2D: Tropical climber). Crosswordese. Also the name of dear friend / ex-student, and a novel by Martha Gellhorn, FYI. Somehow, I guessed that 3D: Check from a deck? was AVAST, but the double-A it created with LIANA seemed wrong, so I didn't write it in. But I knew (in my bones) that "tower" in 17A: One calling about a tower, maybe had to refer to a tow truck, and eventually, the AAA part clicked and AVAST and AAA MEMBER went in and I was off.

Biggest FAIL of the day was trying to come up the middle from down south. Had the -GAR part of CIGAR (32D: It usually has a band around it) and tried every vowel in the pre-G slot and couldn't get anything to make sense. "-AGAR ... HAGAR? ... -EGAR? -IGAR? -OGAR? -UGAR? SUGAR? Does SUGAR have a band around it? Did ELGAR? Nope, I got nothing." Moron.


  • 18A: 1998 Grammy winner for narrating his book "Still Me" (Reeve) — Double meaning of "still" there always made me a little uneasy.
  • 26A: "All the world's a stage" monologue setting (Arden) — as in "The Forest of ..."
  • 40A: Kangaroo carrier? (Qantas) — Q's were very uncoverable today. Had the "QA" beginning of this answer before ever seeing the clue, so ... easy. In the NE, GEEK SQUAD (11D: Techies affiliated with a major electronics chain) was pretty easy for me, which left only the small matter of figuring out how COLLOQUIUM got shrunkified? COLLOQUY feels familiar, but in a twenty-years-ago kind of way: "Hey, didn't we go to high school together? COLLOQUY, right?"
  • 50A: Walled-off enclave in Iraq (Green Zone) — oooh, good answer.
  • 53A: Franklin in Phila., e.g. (Inst.) — wanted MINT, but that's not an abbrev.
  • 20D: Guy who needs no 24-Down (baldy) — shouldn't there be somewhere in the clue that signals derisive name-calling :)
  • 41D: Bridge guru (Goren) — even though he's apparently in newspapers all over the country, I learned about him from crosswords.
  • 42D: Family car, informally (wagon) — I was expecting something Way more informal. Like "Family Truckster"

[Metallic Pea!]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

My write-up of today's LA Times puzzle is here.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


THURSDAY, Jun. 25 — Spirited cries / Red remover maybe / Hinged pair of pictures / Craggy crest / Tee follower

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Constructor: Bill Zais

Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Number of the Down clue is first word in five theme answers, e.g. 3D: <--- Plastered (sheets to the wind) —> signifying familiar phrase "THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND" (i.e. "drunk"). Repeat same effect at 5-, 7-, 20- and 40-Down

Word of the Day: EPISTLE to Philemon — The Epistle to Philemon is a prison letter from Paul of Tarsus to Philemon, a leader in the Colossian church. It is one of the books of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is the most important early Christian writing dealing with forgiveness. (wikipedia)

Late start this morning as normally I rely on the bustle of wife and kid getting ready for work/school and dogs generally spazzing out to wake me up completely, but this morning — last day of school year for wife, third day of summer for daughter, dogs ... uncharacteristically mellow. Not yet hot or bright enough in the morning to force me out of bed (for which I should probably be grateful). At any rate, I don't have tons to say about this puzzle anyway. It's an interesting, odd little construction. The conceit — where the clue number is part of the answer — is something I've seen before, and recently. I think Brendan Emmett Quigley did a puzzle remarkably similar to this over at his site recently. I could be misremembering badly, but I know I've seen this trick some time in the past few months. Anyway, it's clever, though in this case it involves creating a weirdly shaped grid with huge black chunks at top and bottom, likely a byproduct of getting the Downs involved in the theme answers (3, 5, 7, 20 and 40D) to line up in symmetrical fashion. I rated the puzzle Medium mostly because it went from Hard ("What the hell are these damned arrows supposed to mean?") to Easy ("Oh, 3 SHEETS TO THE WIND ... got it") as soon as I grasped the theme. I don't like the arrows in the theme clues, as they confuse more than they clarify. I still don't quite see how they work. I guess they are supposed to be saying "this number is the first word in the answer." Not sure how else you'd indicate the concept, though, without a theme-revealing answer. Maybe the arrow was the best option.

Theme answers:


  • 3. <--- Plastered (sheets to the wind)
  • 5. <--- Gambling game (card stud) — hate the clue here. Something more lively, please. Nearly all these clues today are dull and lifeless. Why didn't KINKS get a music clue (69A: Garden hose problems)? Why (dear god why?) didn't "MAD MEN" get a TV clue!? (29A: Psychos)
  • 7. <--- Sherlock Holmes novel, with "The" ("Percent Solution") — not one of his better known works.
  • 20. <--- One starting a career, perhaps (something)
  • 40. <--- Work period (hour week) — least favorite, as the phrase, in my head, is "40-hour WORK week"; Google seems marginally to back me up on this, though there's plenty of attestation for the "WORK"-less version as well. Alabama votes "WORK"-less!

[first Google hit!]

Lots of plural ugliness today. I can tolerate the plural OTS (35D: What buzzer beaters may lead to, briefly), but RAHRAHS, ETTES, and SYSTS ... less so. RAH is a spirited cry. RAHS would have worked. RAHRAHS (10A: Spirited cries) just sounds stupid. And abbreviating suffixes and (many) abbrevs. is never ideal. Avoid if you can help it. Toughest part of the grid for me was the SW, where EPISTLE would not come. I kept thinking Philemon was some character from mythology or Greek tragedy. Not having EPISTLE kept HOP IN (maybe the best answer in the grid) from showing his face. For reasons I don't quite get, I couldn't see SHEAR even with all letters but the "H" in place.


  • 1A: Formal club: Abbr. (assoc.) — "formal" threw me badly. "Formal?" OK.
  • 16A: Red remover, maybe (eye drop) — clever. Wanted HUAC or something like it.
  • 38A: Hinged pair of pictures (diptych) — very familiar to me from my days as a medievalist.
  • 45A: Either of two emcees (cohost) — oh man I wanted a real name here. Kept trying to think of famous hosts who were related to each other.
  • 47A: Where "wikiwiki" means "to hurry" (Hawaii) — that's just obvious, right? I mean, even if you don't *know* it, just saying the clue out loud pretty much tells you the answer. "Wikiwiki" even looks like "Waikiki."
  • 1D: Craggy crest (arete) — crosswordese 201. I usually look for the word "ridge" in my ARETE clue, so I didn't get this instantly. Just almost instantly.
  • 14D: 20-vol. work (OED) — or you can access it online, where there are no volumes. That is what you will be doing in the fyooture, if you aren't already.
  • 12D: Rarely read letters (spam) — looking for actual letters here, and while many of us ignore spam, LOTS of people read it. If there were no efficacy to SPAM, it wouldn't exist. Plus, sometimes you don't know something is SPAM *until* you read it.
  • 13D: Race before a race (primary) — wanted PRELIM...
  • 46D: Tee follower (hee) — wanted VEE. HEE goes nicely (i.e. ridiculously) with HOO (11D: Part of a sob).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Widower of Maude on The Simpsons - WEDNESDAY, Jun. 24 2009 — Chantilly's department / Uniformed comics dog / Flying Cloud of 1927-36

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Constructor: Corey Rubin

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "TAKE AN AD OUT" (60A: Promote one's business, maybe ... or a hint to 16-, 23-, 30-, 41- and 47-Across) — "AD" is removed from familiar words/phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: ROISTER (41D: Whoop it up) — intr.v., -tered, -ter·ing, -ters.

  1. To engage in boisterous merrymaking; revel noisily.
  2. To behave in a blustering manner; swagger.

[From obsolete roister, roisterer, probably from Old French rustre, ruffian, alteration of ruste, from Latin rūsticus, rustic. See rustic.]

Tougher-than-usual Wednesday, due largely to the nature of the theme. That is, it's often harder to move through grids where so many answers involve trying to see unfamiliar phrases, unintuitive phrases created by letter removal. So the puzzle was doable, but just slower-going than your average Wednesday (for me). I'm pretty sure I've seen AD OUT before (maybe with tennis cluing). Or maybe that was AD IN. Or maybe both. At any rate, despite the impressively high theme density, I wasn't much of a fan of this one. Theme phrases were a bit blah (except RIO ACTIVITY and ROLLER BLING, which are kind of nice). TONS of black squares to make this grid work (42 is up near the high end of legal) and yet there was still a lot of unlikeable fill. Two variants (2D: Newbie: Var. TIRO + 13D: Fencing thrust: Var. RIPOST)? Two partials beginning with "A" ("A RUT" + "A CASE")? SHTETL (65A: "Fiddler on the Roof" setting) and RAO (67A: Indian novelist Raja _____) and "LOVE IS" (26A: Vanessa Williams/Brian McKnight duet) all strike me as less than optimal (and ONER always strikes me that way - 56D: Lollapalooza). All in all, not terrible, just slightly disappointing. Maybe I would have liked "LOVE IS" better if it had been clued as the creepy comic strip "about two naked eight-year-olds who are married" (Homer Simpson).


Theme answers:

  • 16A: Talking like a junkie? (drug diction) — from "drug addiction"
  • 23A: Agnostic's display? (show of a doubt) — from "shadow of a doubt"
  • 30A: Sunbathing at Ipanema? (Rio activity) — from "radioactivity"
  • 41A: Rink jewelry? (roller bling) — from "roller-blading"
  • 47A: Letter carrier's uniform? (mailing dress) — from "mailing address"

I had my biggest struggles trying to get the tail ends of ROLLER BLING and MAIL DRESS. My wife wiped out in the GEKKO (50D: Gordon _____ ("Wall Street" role)) / RAO, having somehow missed a lot of America's 1980s in part by not being an American or living in America at the time. She also said "I don't know who Moe Howard is," and then I said "I think the 'Howard' is throwing you," and then she said immediately "Oh, like Larry, Moe and Curly? ... I still don't know what he pokes." This is why pop culture has its perils. Speaking of EYES (54A: Targets of a Moe Howard poke), I don't get why shoemakers use DYES any more than any other maker of dyed things uses DYES (51D: Shoemakers' supplies). DYES do not seem very shoe-specific to me. At all. But I'm no cobbler (i.e. I actually *have* a PIE CRUST — sorry, that's a weak (and week-old) callback). MABEL (47D: Normand of old movies) and ROISTER (41D: Whoop it up) are a couple of old-fashioned bits of fill that are likely to slow or stop some people today. Hardly anyone knows who MABEL Normand is any more (I kept thinking NORMA DESMOND here) and no one outside a Renaissance Faire (perhaps a MERRY ANDREW) uses ROISTER.


  • 1A: "60 Minutes" correspondent starting in 1991 (Stahl) — a gimme/lucky guess. Got me off to a nice start.
  • 20A: Canape topper (paté) — "topper" is a very xwordy clue word, up there with "denizen" and "slangily."
  • 21A: "The Hot Zone" virus (ebola) — were RHESUS monkeys involved (43D: What "Rh" may stand for)? I think some kind of monkey was. More than you want to know about EBOLA here.
  • 40A: Widower of Maude on "The Simpsons" (Ned) — Maude died when she plummeted out of the stands at the Springfield Speedway after being shot by a T-shirt cannon.
  • 66A: Wahine's offering (lei) — "offering" is kind of like "topper" in that it has a lot of clue cred.
  • 6D: Fence supplier (thief) — took me a while to understand the gist of the clue.
  • 9D: Pear variety (anjou) — hey, it's not BOSC, for once.
  • 14D: Uniformed comics dog (Otto) — first thought: SNERT. Also, kept reading "uninformed."
  • 24D: Blazin' Blueberry drink brand (Hi-C) — The apostrophe makes it Xtreme!
  • 27D: Chantilly's department (Oise) — "Chantilly" makes me think of only one thing:

  • 32D: Batman after Michael (Val) — VAL Kilmer was Batman for exactly one film: "Batman Forever" (1995). The "Michael" of the clue is Michael Keaton.
  • 52D: Flying Cloud of 1927-36 (REO) — learned this just a few days ago, and here it is, back again, for an encore.
  • 61D: Tuskegee U. locale (Ala.) — "locale" "topper" and "offering": a fine clue-word triumvirate.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Slapstick puppet show — TUESDAY, Jun. 23 2009 — Villain in 2009's Star Trek / Bygone barrier breakers / Simpson and Kudrow

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "(Mama Said) Knock You Out" OR "Down Goes Frazier" — beginnings of four theme answers represent four punches, the last of which drops the guy to the canvas

Word of the Day: HADJ (10D: Journey to Mecca) (also HAJ or HAJJ) — In Islam, the pilgrimage to Mecca required of all Muslims at least once in their lifetime, provided they are physically and financially able. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. By tradition the pilgrimage is undertaken between the 7th and 12th days of the last month of the Islamic year. At Mecca, the pilgrims are obliged to perform several rituals, including walking seven times around the Ka'bah shrine. They must also visit holy places outside Mecca and sacrifice an animal in honor of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac. In conclusion, they return to Mecca and perform a farewell circling of the shrine. (Britannica Concise Encyc.)

A solid effort from Mr. Madison. At first I didn't like DECK, which is punch+result where the others are just punches. But then I realized that DECK was probably last in the sequence for precisely this reason. After being pummeled several times, the imagined opponent finally goes down. The puzzle seemed to be of average Tuesday difficulty, though I got gummed up several times with wrong initial answers: STAND for ALTAR in the NW (1A: Place for an oath), ISR. for SYR. in the SE (65D: Leb. neighbor), and finally, SHARE for SHOOT in the south (54D: "Tell me"), and worst of all, UAR for UAE in the middle (41A: Mideast fed.), which meant that Citi Field was occupied by a team of MR. T's. I would pay to see the Dodgers play the MR. T's. I usually see the local AA Binghamton METS (36D: Citi Field team) play several times a year. "Citi Field" still does Nothing for me in terms of "signaling" "METS"; I'm still stuck on SHEA, I guess (a much more familiar and less off-putting name).

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Slapstick puppet show (PUNCH and Judy)
  • 33A: "I'm ready for anything!" ("SOCK it to me!")
  • 44A: Go get some shuteye (HIT the sack)
  • 57A: Yuletide tune ("DECK the Halls")

Some great pop culture fill that was right up my alley, like ZZ TOP (17A: "Sharp Dressed Man" band), the 2/3 bearded trio that was hugely popular when I was a teenager (early MTV era). My favorite of their songs:

A couple of comics answers helped me out today too: STAN LEE and INKER (39D: Worker on a comic book). I'm glad to see that INKER is becoming (or so it seems to me) a more common and legitimate word, as it is certainly a distinct and important job in the making of comics, especially for the big two, D.C. and Marvel. Not that thrilled that STAN LEE (9D: Co-creator of the Fantastic Four) has to share the puzzle with LEE (29A: Kind of tide), which is so close by, but that's a minor problem. Saw the new "Star Trek" a few weeks ago, and the (sadly one-dimensional) character of NERO has been on mind a lot. Coincidentally, just prior to solving this puzzle, I finished reading the second issue of a three-part adaptation of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." So I went from "Star Trek" comic to a puzzle containing both "Star Trek" and comics. Cool.


  • 6A: It's bugled on a base ("Taps") — wow, "bugle" is really ugly as a verb, especially in the passive voice.
  • 14A: Electron tube with two elements (diode) — helps to know the words ANODE and DIODE, even if you're ignorant like me and don't really know what they do. CATHODE is far, far less common as far as crosswords go.
  • 23A: Didn't bother (left be) — another place that slowed me down, as I couldn't get LET BE to stretch out to six letters.
  • 55A: Drink said to prolong life (elixir) — in medieval alchemy. Apparently you were supposed to be able to distill the ELIXIR of life from the Philosopher's Stone. What were they smoking?
  • 62A: da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM (iambs) — well that's an original clue.
  • 70A: Bygone barrier breakers (SSTs) — barrier = sound
  • 1D: Carpenter's tool with a curved blade (adz) — because I went with STAND at 1A, I went with SAW here.
  • 23D: Simpson and Kudrow (Lisas) — I'm a fan of both.
  • 58D: Casino game with Ping-Pong-like balls (Keno) — you don't see the adjective "Ping-Pong-like" much.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


MONDAY, June 22, 2009 — Neural transmitter / Aviator Post / Fragrance named for a Musketeer / Storage for forage

Monday, June 22, 2009

Constructor: Fred Piscop

THEME: The puzzle is brought to you today by the letter C. Each theme answer begins with a homophone of "cee."

Word of the Day: AXON (38A: Neural transmitter) — An axon or nerve fiber is a long, slender projection of a nerve cell, or neuron, that conducts electrical impulses away from the neuron's cell body or soma. ... Axons are in effect the primary transmission lines of the nervous system, and as bundles they help make up nerves. Individual axons are microscopic in diameter (typically about 1μm across), but may be up to several feet in length. The longest axons in the human body, for example, are those of the sciatic nerve, which run from the base of the spine to the big toe of each foot. These single-cell fibers of the sciatic nerve may extend a meter or even longer. (Wikipedia)

Hi, everyone. It's PuzzleGirl hanging with you today. Rex is a little under the weather and asked me to cover for him which, of course, I'm always delighted to do. Why? Because I crave attention. But you knew that already.

Seems like every time I turn around I'm solving a puzzle by Fred Piscop. Fortunately, Fred is an awesome constructor, so it actually turns out to be a good thing! I pretty much glided my way through this puzzle with only two minor hang-ups. First, I entered cactus for NETTLE (49A: Prickly plant). Totally understandable, right? But then I didn't know 64A: Aviator WILEY Post and I feel pretty bad about that. He was the first pilot to fly solo around the world! His plane, the Winnie Mae, is on display at the Air and Space Museum out near Dulles, which I keep meaning to take my kids to, but I just haven't gotten to it yet. Dang! My procrastination bites me in the butt again! When will I learn?

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Emphatic south-of-the-border assent (Sí SÍ SEÑOR)
  • 26A: Beginning piano student's exercise (C MAJOR SCALE)
  • 45A: Parting words (SEE YOU LATER)
  • 62A: Wind that cools a beach (SEA BREEZE)
Straightforward theme, well-executed. And, ya know what makes a good Monday puzzle? A minimum of crap fill. (Actually, that makes a puzzle good on any day of the week, but it's so much less likely on a Monday.) This puzzle includes the regulars RENO, ELIE, ORCA, DDT, ESSEN, IRE, and OSHA, but look what else we get: JAPE, DEBIT CARD, ACURA, ARAMIS! Good stuff! Let's talk about it:

  • 4A: Trailer's connection to a car (HITCH). I wonder if this would have been easier or harder if it had been clued to the Will Smith movie.
  • 15A: Japanese automaker (ACURA). It's a luxury Honda. When I don't need the mini-van any more, I'd like to get a Honda.
  • 21A: Mocking remark (JAPE). Sounds like remark that might be made by a scamp or a scoundrel. Or maybe these guys.

  • 33A: Feeds, as pigs (SLOPS). That's the coolest word ever for feeds.
  • 39A: Vagrant (HOBO). I think I've mentioned before that one of the characters on my favorite kids' show — iCarly — is obsessed with hobos. Here's one of my favorite exchanges.
    Sam: Let's do a project about hobos!
    Carly: What's the connection between hobos and science?
    Sam: Aren't they affected by gravity or something?
  • 66A: Suffix with rocket or racket (-EER). Okay, this should have gone on the "puzzle regulars" list.
  • 5D: Winter river obstruction (ICE JAM). This sounds like it might be the catch-phrase for a winter concert that takes place in my hometown (Fargo, ND).
  • 9D: Fragrance named for a Musketeer (ARAMIS). Can you name all three? I sure can't, but I'll look them up for you. It's just one of the services I offer. ... They are Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. You're welcome.
  • 10D: Quick, cashless way to pay for things (DEBIT CARD). PuzzleHusband and I decided that we were going to stop using our debit cards because it made it way too easy to go over budget. So, he gave me a bunch of cash the other day to last me until the end of the month and ... yeah. I'm gonna need some more.
  • 32D: Outfielder Slaughter in the Baseball Hall of Fame (ENOS). This is a gimme for everyone by now, right?
  • 40D: Hatfield/McCoy affair (FEUD).
  • 46D: Cyclops feature (ONE EYE). I wonder why I always picture some sort of marine creature when I think of cyclops. I'm constantly amazed at the things I know enough for crosswords but not at all in real life. For example ...
  • 56D: Storage for forage (SILO). I don't believe I've ever seen the word forage used as a noun. Something new. Every day.
With any luck, Rex will be back tomorrow. See you in the comments.


SUNDAY, Jun. 21 2009 — Invader of Europe in 1241 / Scottish hillsides / Pot grabber / McCain residence for 5 1/2 years

Sunday, June 21, 2009

: Matt Ginsberg and Pete Muller

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Famous Last Words" — 12 famous people are clued by their last words

Word of the Day: Exsiccate (56D: PARCH) — intr. & tr.v., -cat·ed, -cat·ing, -cates.

To dry up or cause to dry up.

[Middle English exsiccaten, from Latin exsiccāre, exsiccāt- : ex-, ex- + siccāre, to dry (from siccus, dry).]

A very doable puzzle, but one that took a lot of effort to get through because of the nature of the theme. The clues (the last words) provide only oblique hints as to what famous person they belong to, and even then, those hints are usually only really obvious in retrospect. I mean, is there anything about "I'm going to heaven!" that really screams "BO DIDDLEY?" Not that I didn't enjoy the puzzle; I did. Some of the last words were oddly apt, or funny, though only GROUCHO's last words were easy to attribute to their speaker.

Theme answers:

  • 1A: (With 13-Across) "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has got to go" (Oscar / Wilde)
  • 27A: "Die, my dear? Why, that's the last thing I'll do!" (Groucho Marx)
  • 32A: "That was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted" (Lou Costello)
  • 53A: "Where is my clock?" (Salvador Dali)
  • 71A: "Leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub" (Conrad Hilton)
  • 87A: "I've had 18 straight whiskies. I think that's the record" (Dylan Thomas)
  • 94A: "Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something" (Pancho Villa)
  • 110A: (With 113-Across) "I've had a hell of a lot of fun and I've enjoyed every minute of it" (Errol / Flynn) — yesterday would have been his 100th birthday. See lovely tribute here.
  • 20D: "I have not told half of what I saw" (Marco Polo)
  • 48D: "Eva is leaving" (Eva Peron)
  • 46D: "I live!" (Caligula)
  • 68D: "I'm going to heaven!" (Bo Diddley)

Biggest struggle was in middle of the puzzle, for three reasons. One, no idea who CONRAD HILTON was, though I could have guessed he had something to do with the Hilton hotel chain. The CONRAD part ... not forthcoming. Add to that the insane-looking and (to my mind) fairly useless abbrev. or James, JAS. (64A: Madison or Monroe: Abbr.), and then throw in my complete inability to recall a movie I actually saw, "JUNO" (64D: 2007 film that won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay). That "J" was the very last letter I filled in. Also had crazy trouble in the NW, where my refusal to believe OMIT was the answer for 1D: Strike out kept me from getting a good toehold. If I leave something out, I have OMITted it. I see that OMIT can mean "remove what has already been set down," but I would use the word CUT, and the puzzle would usually use the editorial word DELE. Bah. Otherwise, it was just bad luck on my part up there. MAORI seemed an improbable answer for 18A: Kapa haka dancer, so I didn't commit to it, and SASH (2D: Tiara go-with), COLE (3D: Porter, for one) and RISE TO (5D: Meet) were all oddly elusive. I wasn't stumped so much as I was stumbling. Feels like I went at that corner several times before it fell. In fact, I'm pretty sure I had to get WILDE in the NE in order to get OSCAR in the NW, which finally broke things open. Oh, and I almost got Naticked by the GANT / NWT crossing (51D: Eugene _____, hero of "Look Homeward, Angel" / 63A: Yellowknife is its cap.). Yikes. NWT = Northwest Territories.


  • 19A: "I, Robot" extras (automata) — so ... robots, then.
  • 30A: Pair in an ellipse (foci) — learned this from crosswords.
  • 47A: Scottish hillsides (braes) — a handy Scotticism to have in your arsenal.
  • 57A: Fleischer and Onassis (Aris) — I keep looking at this answer and wondering what an "ARIS" is.
  • 79A: Pot grabber (narco) — oh, man. Love the clue, though I hate the word NARCO (we say "NARC!").
  • 82A: Ones sharing Durocher's astrological sign (Leo) — I don't get it. His name is LEO. Is he really named for his own astrological sign?
  • 107A: Korean carmaker (Daewoo) — still don't see these much. Hyundai and Kia, I see.
  • 9D: Invader of Europe in 1241 (Mongol) — went looking for a specific person here.
  • 112A: Supreme leader? (Ross) — oddly enough, this was part of a joke on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon just two nights ago (topicality = Iran).
  • 10D: McCain residence for 5 1/2 years (Hanoi) — "Residence?" Really? I gotta say, if I'm being held against my will and tortured, I'm probably not going to think of the place where that's happening as my "residence." Am I getting mail there? No? Ok, not a "residence."
  • 11D: U.S. island occupied by Japan during W.W. II (Attu) — learned it when I learned ATKA (the other crosswordy Alaskan island of note).
  • 21D: 1970 N.F.L. M.V.P. John _____ (Brodie) — no idea. Little worried about that "D" for a few seconds until I figured out the cheesy trick at 31A: Red ball? (edam).
  • 45D: Magician's name suffix (-ini) — this clue seems odd / dated / nuts.
  • 86D: Hipster's persona (Mr. Cool) — :( ... JOE Cool, I know. Mr. Clean, I know. This guy, "???"
  • 97D: Contents of Pandora's box, except for hope (ills) — very nice. And informative.
  • 100D: Ford role, familiarly (Indy) — wrote in CLEO without even thinking, as hers was the only name that came to mind when I got ASPS at 99D: Phobia of 100-Down. INDY here = Indiana Jones. Ford = Harrison.
So I've started using Twitter fairly regularly now, and one of my favorite things to do is troll the Twitterverse for mentions of the word "crossword," just to see how people talk about puzzles. Some things I'm learning: lots of people solve USA Today and People crosswords (sorry, it's true); lots of people do the crossword at work (and apparently have very little "work" to do at work); and Lots of people associate puzzle-solving (fairly or not) with being a. old, b. nerdy, or c. bored/boring. I'll leave you with a small sampling of this week's

"Puzzle Tweets"
  • chimpocalypse I'm so boring I downloaded a crossword app for my iPhone. Now I just need a knitting app and a complaining about the kids of today app
  • KBFina Why am I still doing xwords at 4 am? I think there needs to be an intervention.
  • ThinkSideways Day 12 of Turning 40: I now like doing crossword puzzles. What's next, bingo?
  • OdeToCode Passed a guy on the highway who was clearly holding a crossword puzzle and pen at the steering wheel. HELLO!! 5 letter word. Starts with m.
  • sylviegreen69 I'm sick of living in the sticks, we don't get newspapers and our Town Criers shit. You should hear him trying to cry the crossword.
  • paullemat I'm in the NY Times Crossword Puzzle Today - 6 Down! Yeah!!!! [my favorite by far]
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


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