Bride in Gondoliers / SUN 7-31-11 / Sally teacakes / Noted diamond family / Huntee in game / 2003 Affleck/Lopez flick / Switzerland/France separator

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Constructor: Pamela Klawitter

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Separate Checks" — theme answers are common phrases that, when taken literally, describe words that are "separated" (i.e. in two parts, separated by a black square) in different parts of the grid. "Separated" words are in circled squares for easy identification.

Word of the Day: "IL RE Pastore" (42D: "___ Pastore" (Mozart opera)) —

Il re pastore (The Shepherd King) is an opera, K. 208, written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to an Italian libretto by Metastasio, edited by Gianbattista Varesco. It is an opera seria. The opera was first performed on April 23 1775 in Salzburg, at the Palace of the Archbishop Count Hieronymus von Colloredo. (wikipedia)
• • •

I found this more difficult than your average Sunday puzzle, due largely to the fact that you had to pick up some of those circles before you could begin to have any hope of filling in the theme answers. Also, perhaps because the theme was so ambitious, many of the answers were nuts, e.g. IL RE (it's the king, alright—King of the Uglies), PIS (which I still don't get) (oh, it's P.I.s, OK; 47D: Some tails, for short), ANA'S (!?) (18A: "___ Story: A Journey of Hope" (Jenna Bush best seller)), LUNNS (99D: Sally ___ (teacakes)), etc. That ENDE / LUNNS crossing was potentially *lethal*. Never heard of either ... except I had, in fact, seen ENDE in puzzles before (doesn't mean I remembered him) (113A: "The Neverending Story" writer), which allowed me to educatedly guess the "N"; otherwise, puzzle death. Multiple ALDAS, multiple RNAS (?), someplace called LEMAN (46D: Lake ___, Switzerland/France separator) (I want to go to there, just so I can point at it and shout, "You LEMAN!"). Lots and lots of slightly creaky stuff. I admire the theme's complexity, though I'm (once again) 90% certain I've seen this theme, or one like it, in the not-too-distant past. I've definitely seen words split by black squares before. Still, for apparent level-of-difficulty alone, this one gets a mild thumbs-up, though I do have to say that BEAR PIT pretty much ruins the whole happy vibe of the puzzle (59A: Place for some animal baiting). You can put all the sex and dirty words and body parts you want in my Sunday puzzle, but animal torture just does not pass my personal breakfast test.

Theme answers:
  • TORN ASUNDER (this one confused me at first—wondered how ASUNDER was going to fit in just those four squares ...)
My last letter was the "V" in TIVO (102D: Program coordinator?) / AVES (114A: Upper class?), which required me to run the alphabet, and even then I still didn't get AVES. My only guess, now, is that AVES is a "class" of animal that is "high" because its members, generally, fly. To cross that "?" clue with the TIVO "?" clue seems over-the-top. I mean, I already had to suffer through the terrible ENDE / LUNNS crossing. Gimme a break with the AVES.

  • 24A: Bride in "The Gondoliers" (TESSA) — ??? Probably seen it before, but still, ??? Crossing NISI (7D: Not yet final, at law) was a bit scarifying. Seriously, that's three dicey crosses in this thing, at least.
  • 25A: "What the Butler Saw" playwright, 1969 (ORTON) — wanted ODETS. Saw this in Ashland, OR circa 1982. I remember it being some kind of sex farce where people were on stage in their underwear. But I was 12, so my memory could've been quite skewed by a single scene, for all I know.

  • 26A: Noted diamond family (ALOU) — they are mostly "noted," these days, in crosswords.
  • 32A: Title character in a 2009 Sandra Bullock crossword film (STEVE) — hey, it's terrible movie day in Puzzle World. "All About STEVE" in a twin bill with "GIGLI" — suddenly BEAR PIT doesn't seem quite so bad ...
  • 52A: Panamanians and Peruvians (LATINS) — took me forever. I would never refer to them as LATINS (I'd say "LATIN AMERICANS," if anything), but it's valid.
  • 76A: Huntee in a game (HIDER) — "Huntee" is a pretty dumb-looking word, but I got this instantly, so can't grouse too much.
  • 94A: French CD holder (ETUI) — wait, I have a picture here somewhere, hang on ... yeah, here we go:
  • 98A: Techie's hangout (PC LAB) — I have antipathy toward PCLAB as an answer. It's not entirely rational. No one calls the computer labs this, possibly because there are Macs there. A techie would, presumably, hang out anywhere there was a computer, or energy drinks and Cheetos.
  • 40D: Definitely not Felix Unger types (SLOVENS) — wow, you can be a sloven? I knew you could be slovenly, and I knew you could be a SLOVAK, or SLOVENE, but a SLOVEN—that, I did not know.
  • 57D: Pulitzer-winning Sheehan (SUSAN) — no idea. Wanted GAYLE, but that's "Sheehy," and her name's spelled "GAIL" anyway.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Name means princess in Hebrew /SAT 7-30-11/ Site War of 1812 Museum / Part of legionnaire's costume / Italian seaport home to Saint Nicholas's relics

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: Stratigraphist (25D: What a stratigraphist might take=>CORE SAMPLE) —

Stratigraphy: n.
The study of rock strata, especially the distribution, deposition, and age of sedimentary rocks.
• • •

Wow. Looking over this grid now, it's hard to see why the solving experience should have been so tough. In typical Berry fashion, this grid has mostly common words / names / phrases—very little in the way of "WTF??"—but the cluing, OH MY. I floundered quite a bit before I got decent toehold, and even then I lost my grip and had to go find a new one at least twice. My greatest struggle came at the very end, as I tried to fill in a tiny 3x4 section of white squares in the far NW. Blank BISCUIT .. ? Blank ANTENNA ... ? Blank LMINDED ... ? Never heard of the first (really wanted SHIT BISCUIT to be right) (1A: Another name for hardtack => SHIP BISCUIT), and have to quibble with the clues on the other two. An often-retractable car part is an ANTENNA. Maybe a HOOD ANTENNA or ROOF ANTENNA. Not a damned AUTO ANTENNA. You already have "car" in the clue, so you're essentially saying a retractable car part is a car antenna. If the clue had simply been [Often-retractable part], I would've got AUTO much more easily. Instead, I thought ROOF, HOOD, AMFM ... even after I got AU- I was just frustrated that AUDIO wouldn't fit. Boo. As for SMALL-MINDED ... that doesn't shout [Selfish] to me. It's a much bigger, or at least vaguer, state, of which selfishness might be a part. I think of bigots as SMALL-MINDED. Anyway, that corner tore me up. I only got it after finally putting SASH (1D: part of a legionnaire's costume) and HUME (2D: Fox News political commentator) in there at the same time. HUME was one of several answers that I had right immediately, on first instinct, but didn't put in ... see also PANE (20A: Italian bread) and BARI (40A: Italian seaport that's home to Saint Nicholas's relics).

Got my first taste of success with BIG APPLE, which I was certain was going to be a Babe Ruth nickname (26A: Nickname popularized by a New York Morning Telegraph sportswriter in the 1920s, with "the"). Guesses of RAH (23D: Cry that's often tripled) and PEP helped me see that one. But I didn't get much leverage out of that answer at all and had to reboot in the far SE, where I made real headway for the first time. Had EGGO and BARN (instead of SOHO, 46D: Loft-y place?) down there in the corner and knew one was wrong. Left EGGO (45D: Brand with Toaster Swirlz) and then luckily just guessed REMINISCES (42A: Chats at a high-school reunion, maybe). It fit, and crosses started to fall from there. I know PLATTSBURGH for its SUNY campus, not (at all) for being the [Site of the War of 1812 Museum]. Also don't really know SALLIE MAE (28D: Lending "lady"). Had FANNIE MAE in there for a bit. Eventually, PASTILLE took care of that problem (36A: Medicate lozenge). Guessed the ON IT part of STEPS ON IT, which allowed me to work the SW from the ground up (27D: Picks up the pace). Then after working my way into the NE and finishing it off, I came at the NW from both sides until I got down to those damned 12 blanks. Then I sat. And eventually I won.

  • 19A: Something seen on a pad (HELICOPTER) — Weirdly, wanted HELICOPTER at 12D: Aircraft that doesn't need a runway (FLOAT PLANE).
  • 28A: Name that means "princess" in Hebrew (SARAH) — I did not know that. I was expecting a Much weirder name.
  • 29A: What "the lowing herd wind slowly o'er" in a Thomas Gray poem (LEA) — couldn't make sense of clue at first because I was saying 'wind' wrong in my head.
  • 39A: Source of most of the names in "The Lion King" (SWAHILI) — had the terminal "I," so no problem.
  • 4D: Something to clean one's teeth with, maybe (POLIDENT) — the "maybe" confused me. What else are you going to do with POLIDENT? Wax your car?
  • 14D: TV family that popularized the term "parental unit" (CONEHEADS) — great clue, but terribly hard. I was, of course, thinking of TV families that actually had their own shows (HUXTABLES, KEATONS, etc.), not families that periodically showed up on a sketch comedy show.
  • 40D: Towlines are tied around them (BITTS) — the one answer in the puzzle (besides SHIP BISCUIT) that I'd never heard of.
  • 26D: "Goin' to Chicago Blues" songwriter (BASIE) — as in Count. Had the "B" and it still took me a while. I couldn't get BESSY Smith out of my head (who spelled her name "BESSIE," it turns out).

  • 35D: Guatemala's national instrument (MARIMBA) — wanted MARACAS. Shows what I know about Central American instruments.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Hardy red hog / FRI 7-29-11 / Item in lick race / Bygone theaters / Old Civil War eagle mascot / Princess Disney duck / Lethally poisoned ruler

Friday, July 29, 2011

Constructor: Paula Gamache

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: DUROC (28D: Hardy red hog) —

Duroc pig is an older breed of American domestic pig that forms the basis for many mixed-breed commercial hogs. Duroc pigs are red, large-framed, medium length, and muscular, with partially drooping ears, and tend to be one of the most aggressive of all the swine breeds. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle basically has one answer in it: EDIBLE UNDERWEAR (3D: Tasteful bedclothes?). Every other answer may as well call it a day and go home. Bonus points for driving that answer straight through both TAIL and CHERRY. Good thing STICK and MOUNTER (54A: Tire shop employee, at times) are way over on the other side of the grid, or my delicate sensibilities might have been offended. Small amount of difficulty with the OPEN TOE (43D: Showing some polish?) / MOUNTER section, and somewhat greater amount of difficulty with most everything in the vicinity of DUROC (which I've seen before, but not for years; I certainly didn't remember it at first). Some of the longer answers are nice. AUDITOR'S REPORTS (40A: Opinions about books) and INTEREST RATE CAP (6D: Borrower's protection) are zzzzzzzzzzz but CHERRY CHAPSTICK is pretty kicky (58A: It can make for fruity kisses) , and I do like TOULOUSE LAUTREC (as an artist and an answer) quite a bit (33A: Capturer of fin-de-siècle France). I had to hunt down a stupid error: had NTRB instead of NTSB (10A: Pipeline accident investigator: Abbr.). I think I had NLRB in my head. And possibly NRBQ.

Started very fast, with CLEO (1A: Lethally poisoned ruler, familiarly) and CATS coming instantly. Got EDIBLE UNDERWEAR off just the ED- and tore up the west coast from there. SW corner is a thicket of ugliness that took a little effort to sort out, but CHERRY CHAPSTICK came quickly thereafter, and then it was just a matter of running short stuff through the long stuff until the long stuff fell.

  • 16A: Item in a "lick race" (OREO) — "What is 'EDIBLE UNDERWEAR,' Alex?"
  • 30A: Princes ___ (Disney duck) (OONA) — there really is no good way to clue OONA, one of my least favorite xword answers.
  • 36A: Barker who pitched a perfect game in 1981 (LEN) — on my short list of "Guys I Know Of Named LEN"; see also LEN Deighton.
  • 39A: ___ poco (soon in Sorrento) (TRA)TRA, like OONA, never good. Sometimes necessary, but never good.
  • 44A: Singer with a wide range (WREN) — didn't know range was a WREN thing. Nice not-clearly-avian misdirect with "Singer."
  • 60A: Elaine ___, first female Asian-American cabinet member (CHAO) — astonishingly, the Best of the four four-letter answers down there.
  • 9D: Parker who was one of the original faces at Facebook (SEAN) — I really can't be bothered to care about or remember anyone except Mark Zuckerberg. Maybe the Winklevoss twins.

  • 24D: Old ___ (Civil War eagle mascot) (ABE) — news to me. Assume he was named after the Pres.
  • 57D: Bygone theaters (RKOS) — studio had its own chain of theaters.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Prince's partner / THU 7-28-11 / Greek island where Zeus said to be raised / Baltic Sea feeder / Anatomical dividers / Villainous monk Da Vinci Code

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: UP — an "UP" rebus wherein all the Down answers that contain an "UP" square must be read from the bottom UP to be understood

Word of the Day: Wade BOGGS (1D: Five-time A.L. batting champ) —

Wade Anthony Boggs (born June 15, 1958) is a former Major League Baseball third baseman. He spent his 18-year baseball career primarily with the Boston Red Sox, but also played for the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. His hitting in the 1980s and 1990s made him a perennial contender for American League batting titles, in much the same way as his National League contemporary Tony Gwynn. Boggs was elected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. With 12 straight All-Star appearances, Boggs is third only to Brooks Robinson and George Brett in number of consecutive appearances as a third baseman. His finest season was 1987, when he set career highs in home runs (24), RBI (89), and slugging percentage (.588). He also batted .363 and had a .461 on-base percentage that year, leading the league in both statistics. In 1999, he ranked number 95 on the Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. (wikipedia)
• • •

I grew up idolizing Wade BOGGS, so this puzzle got off on the right foot with me. Actually, that's not true. It took me a little while to get BOGGS, as BRETT and CAREW were my first guesses (both former A.L. batting champs—Carew 7 times, Brett 3). At first I floated through the grid, in and around what would turn out to be the rebus squares. SEPTA to NEAT to LTR to RA I to AS TO ... SHALT to TSE TSE to TOIL to OUTER to ECOLE to SATIRIC and DOLOR. Finally saw MEASURED [one square] and new "UP" was the key. Took me at least another minute before I figured out why 27D: Union requirement, maybe? and, a little later, 3D: Prince's partner weren't working. --UP-- = PAUPER ... but then SEPTA becomes SERTA, which made me wonder if there was some bygone mattress commercial with a prince that I was forgetting. Once I realized PAUPER just wasn't going to work, I put "P" back in SEPTA and the upside-downness of the answer became clear. Needless to say, after that bottom half of the grid was somewhat easier than the top half (but still tough). I enjoyed this ambitious and legitimately tricky puzzle, even though I finished with an error. At 19A: Refill when you don't really need to (TOP UP), I wrote in TOPE. Seemed very, very right. Sadly, NOE (the resulting cross) makes no sense at all for 13D: Over (NOPU, i.e. UPON). Crosschecking your answers = always a good idea, esp. in a minefield of a puzzle like this one.

Three tenacious wrong answers: IN AWE for [Taken] (IN USE), WINDOWS for [They may be cleared with a spray] (SINUSES), and (funniest of all) WEES for [Pygymy couple?] (WYES)

Theme answers:
Note that the word "UP" appears in all Acrosses and no Downs (well, it's a word part in UP-DOS, but I'm gonna count it), creating a nice, consistent signal for you to read UP.

  • 15A: Villainous monk in "The Da Vinci Code" (SILAS) — once again, forgot his name. I think I just really resent this clue, which expects me to read Dan Brown or see some horrible-looking movie. Would be nice to see some love for Paul SILAS now and again, if you really don't want to use a George Eliot clue.
  • 41A: Actor Johnson of "Plan 9 From Outer Space"(TOR) — ugh, as if this puzzle weren't hard enough. Also, OUTER is in the grid. Whoops.
  • 48A: "Curb Your Enthusiasm" shower (HBO) — I think I prefer "airer" to "shower."
  • 68A: Greek island where Zeus was said to be raised (NAXOS) — also, a fine discount Classical CD label. I have a lot of NAXOS music.

  • 5D: Indication of deflation (SSSS) — easily the worst answer in the grid. A puzzle this ambitious and interesting can get away with an answer or two like this (and assorted detritus like ODER (14A: Baltic sea feeder), AHSO, RAREE, LAK, OLA, etc.)
  • 11D: It may be the only thing in a bar (WHOLE NOTE) — probably my favorite clue/answer pair in the whole puzzle.
See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. If you cannot attend the Lollapuzzoola 4 crossword tournament (coming up next Saturday, Aug. 6—details here), the tournament creators are giving you an opportunity to Solve At Home! From the tournament website:

"NEW -- Solve at home! Can't attend the tournament, but still want to play? No problem! For the low low price of $10, the complete set of puzzles from this year's tournament will be hand-delivered to an email address of your choosing. We'll ship the puzzles (in PDF format) on August 7, the day after the tournament in New York. This offer is only available through Sunday, August 14, so if you want to participate in the fun and games from afar, act quickly!"


Boon's Animal House buddy / WED 7-27-11 / Indiana Jones accouterment / Visigoth king who sacked Rome / Eerie 1976 movie / City at confluence Ouse Foss

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Constructor: Bill Thompson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: NOELS (37A: Seasonal songs ... or a hint to 17-, 25-, 46- and 59-Across) — theme answers are familiar phrases where -EL has been removed from end of word in the phrase, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: ALARIC (62A: Visigoth king who sacked Rome) —

Alaric I (Alareiks in the original Gothic) was likely born about 370 on an island named Peuce (the Fir) at the mouth of the Danube in present day Romania. King of the Visigoths from 395–410, Alaric was the first Germanic leader to take the city of Rome. Having originally desired to settle his people in the Roman Empire, he finally sacked the city, marking the decline of imperial power in the west. (wikipedia)
• • •

After I got the first theme answer, my thought was "Ugh, NOEL, not this theme again." But when I was done, I looked NOEL up on, and couldn't find a single puzzle that had used NOEL as a theme answer. This seems impossible. Why do I feel like I've done some version of this puzzle not just once, but many times? Weird. Anyway, not much to say about this except the theme feels pretty tired. Half the theme answers are cute (bottom half), the others, not. With so many -EL words out there that are also words (or names) without the -EL (e.g. BARREL, LAPEL, LABEL, CAMEL, etc.), not sure why those first two theme answers aren't better—or why this wasn't a Sunday-sized theme. Fill on this one is interesting in parts—NEAR THE TOP (27D: In second place, say) and RATIONS OUT (11D: Distributes stingily) are interesting phrases—but there really is far too much dreck. ALARIC over RESEEK (!!?) crossing OLE OLE and multiple WANDAS (48D: Stand-up comic Sykes and others) is super-ugly, as is the multiple OCHERS and REALES (9D: Old Spanish silver coins) crossing the never-lovely EDUCES. But, on the plus side, it's a great puzzle if you're a fan of the word "THE" — three appearances!

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Groom? (WEDDING CHAP)
  • 25A: Verbal exchange about a harsh review? (PAN DISCUSSION)
  • 46A: Demand during a roadside negotiation? (THROW IN THE TOW)
  • 59A: Stylish Lionel? (MOD TRAIN SET) — "LIONEL" = yet another word that could've been de-EL'd
Strangely, the toughest clue for me was 1D: Things to draw (BOWS). Got it all from crosses and still had no idea how the clue fit the answer. It was only as I was about to google [bow draw] that I realized, "Ohhhhh. *That* kind of bow" (i.e. the kind that shoots arrows). Also had a lot of trouble with BOWS's symmetrical counterpart, MTNS (57D: The Dolomites, e.g.). I know Dolomite as a blaxploitation hero. I couldn't tell you what continent they're on, let alone what country they're in. I'm gonna say eastern Europe / western Asia. . . aha, northeastern Italy. Well, that's eastern Europe-adjacent, at any rate. KAHLO is a kool name for krosswords (36D: Mexican artist Frida). SCRAG looks cool, but it's a word I've never seen anywhere *but* crosswords (41A: Skinny sort). Cheri UTERI would be a great theme answer, though I'm not sure for what theme (29D: Gestation locations). I think of moonshine or hooch when I think of the bottle marked "XXX"; I do not think of ALE (30A: Bottle marked "XXX" in the comics). Everyone knows SOOEY is used for calling piggies; less well known is the fact that UIE is used for calling ELANDS (49D: Safari antelopes).

  • 1A: Univ. with the cheer "Roll Tide!" ('BAMA) — obvious even without the long-running ESPN College Gameday ad built around this "cheer."
  • 40A: City at the confluence of the Ouse and Foss (YORK) — "Ouse" looks distinctly French, and Foss I've never heard of, so this took some work.
  • 50D: Boon's "Animal House" buddy (OTTER) — completely forgot this. Luckily, I got it all from crosses and never even saw the clue.
  • 10D: Trademark forfeited by Bayer under the Treaty of Versailles (ASPIRIN) — Bayer = German company.
  • 61A: Leandro's love, in a Handel cantata (ERO) — Like HERO but with an ELISION (21A: Will-o'-the-wisp feature)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


German port on Weser / TUE 7-26-11 / Kid-lit elephant / Jan Brady player on Brady Bunch / Early Ron Howard role / Bridge maven Sharif

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Constructor: Michael Black

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (*for a Tuesday*)

THEME: Road Sign Colors — answers are road signs, clued solely via their colors

Word of the Day: Catherine PARR (43D: Henry VIII's sixth, Catherine ___) —

Catherine Parr (Katherine, Kateryn, Katheryne or Kathrine); 1512 – 5 September 1548) was Queen consort of England and Ireland and the last of the six wives of King Henry VIII of England. She married Henry VIII on 12 July 1543. She was the fourth commoner Henry had taken as his consort, and outlived him. She was also the most-married English queen, as she had a total of four husbands. (wikipedia)
• • •

So it's just road signs, with the added little bonus that they are all different colors (hence the unusual and slightly tougher-than-usual theme answer cluing). Pretty good idea for an early-week puzzle, with interesting longish fill throughout. A bit unusual to have so many Across answers be as long as or longer than so many Across theme answers—MAKE A BET, DIET SODA, EVE PLUMB (my favorite answer; 44A: Jan Brady player on "The Brady Bunch"), and LONE STAR are all the same letter count as DEER XING and HOSPITAL, and much longer, of course, than EXIT and STOP. Usually, theme answers are the longest answers in the puzzle. Occasionally a Down answer (assuming the theme answers run Across) is as long as or longer than the shortest theme answer. This is just convention, but it's one that I like. Keeps the theme answers distinct; separates them from the rest of the herd; gives them pride of place. But no big deal.

Bigger concern is the pangram (use of every letter of the alphabet). All I can think of when I see a pangram is "I wonder how much better this grid *could've* been if the constructor hadn't tried to pull off such a bush-league stunt." Thankfully, today, the grid is at worst average, so there's no obvious casualty of the pangram—made me suffer through JOS and IZE, but I guess I can handle that. WHOA, I take that back. That damned "C"—I was wondering why there's that terrible REC / DECI- cross, and at first I thought it was the nearby "X"'s fault, but there's already an "X" in the theme answer DEER XING, so that "X" wasn't necessary for the pangram. But, it turns out, the "C" was. If you have to go REC / DECI- to pull off your little pangram, It Is Not Worth It. Just Say No.

Here's Liz Gorski on crossword pangrams — all you need to know.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: [White] (SPEED LIMIT)
  • 26A: [Yellow] (DEER XING)
  • 37A: [Green] (EXIT)
  • 40A: [Red] (STOP)
  • 53A: [Blue] (HOSPITAL)
  • 64A: [Orange] (MEN WORKING)
Got slowed down, fittingly, by DEERXING, esp. as it was crossed with the mystifying (at first) TRAD. (21D: Like much folk music: Abbr.). Also went with SOUP for STEW (16A: Bouillabaisse, e.g.) and SHORES for SHOALS (48D: Lighthouse locales). I don't think Better Than EZRA has had a hit this century, and they had only a handful in the last, so they hardly seem like a Tuesday-level clue (70A: Rock's Better Than ___). That said, I got that answer instantly.

  • 28A: Without a time limit, as a contract (OPEN END) — no "-ED" on the end?
  • 57A: Professional with an apron (BAKER) — Had "B-KER" and reluctantly wrote in "BIKER"...

  • 4D: German port on the Weser (BREMEN) — also feels Harder Than Tuesday (that's the name of my Better Than Ezra cover band)
  • 14A: Bridge maven Sharif (OMAR) — too bad you can't really hide "Sharif" behind a misdirection. I mean, if your clue were [Cheese lover Sharif] or [Philatelist Sharif], I would still plunk OMAR in the grid, instantly.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Horse-drawn vehicle often mentioned in Sherlock Holmes stories / MON 7-25-11 / Flowers on proverbial path / Opposite of deletes in typesetting

Monday, July 25, 2011

Constructor: Nina Rulon-Miller

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Garnishes — drink garnishes. That is all.

Word of the Day: DOGCART (20A: Horse-drawn vehicle often mentioned in Sherlock Holmes stories) —

A dogcart is a light horse-drawn vehicle. There are several types:

  • A one-horse carriage, usually two-wheeled and high, with two transverse seats set back to back. It was known as a "bounder" in British slang (not to be confused with the cabriolet of the same name). In India it was called a "tumtum" (possibly an altered form of "tandem").
  • A dogcart having four wheels and seats set back to back was a dos-à-dos. "Dos-à-dos" means back-to-back in French.
  • Another four-wheeled dogcart was called a "game cart".

A young or small groom called a "tiger" sometimes rode, usually standing, on a platform at the rear of a dogcart driven by the person on whom he was in attendance. // Frequent references to dogcarts are made by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his writings about fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, and indeed by many other Victorian writers, as it was a common sight in those days.

• • •

An oddly basic and thin theme. Just drink garnishes. Those garnishes make for fairly interesting fill, I guess, but I generally like a *little* more ambition / imagination in my puzzle themes. Also, CELERY STICK? Bah. I see that it's called "STICK" quite a bit in various places on the internet, so it's clearly acceptable, but I'm going out on a pretty thick limb and saying that "STALK" is more common ([bloody mary "celery stalk"] got me about 50% more hits than the "stick" version of that search). STALK is a more interesting word, and it feels righter, and with "STALK" maybe ugly answers like ISMS (59D: Beliefs) and STETS (69A: Opposite of deletes, in typesetting) could've been avoided. Maybe. Puzzle played slightly harder than usual, largely because of DOGCART and various miscues with the garnishes (STALK ... had the -ICE in SLICE but wrote in JUICE, which is just stupid, but I still did it; wife went with TWIST at first). Unusual NE and SW corners, with a couple of showy 9s running through both. All in all, an adequate puzzle, but without much to enjoy or remember.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Whiskey sour garnish (ORANGE SLICE)
  • 27A: Gibson garnish (PICKLED ONION)
  • 47A: Martini garnish (PIMENTO OLIVE) — I know this garnish as "OLIVE"
  • 62A: Bloody Mary garnish (CELERY STICK)
DOGCART is an interesting word but a complete and utter outlier in a Monday grid. Made the typical ENURE for INURE mistake (65A: Accustom), which added (very slightly) to my relative slowness. Really nice clues on both SPEEDO (10D: Big name in small swimwear) and PRIMROSES (33D: Flowers on a proverbial path), which is perhaps my favorite answer in the grid. Nope, changed my mind. SPLIT ENDS is my favorite (32D: Hair woe). I know LIDO from the eponymous Deck on "The Love Boat."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orphan girl in Byron's Don Juan / SUN 7-24-11 / Northernmost borough of London / Vast in verse / Noted 1991 Harvard law grad

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Constructor: Kurt Mueller

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Nine of Diamonds" — nine baseball phrases, which are clued as wacky non-baseball phrases (baseball is played on a diamond—hence the puzzle title)

Word of the Day: IDEOGRAM (84D: Emoticon, e.g.) —

An ideogram or ideograph (from Greek ἰδέα idea "idea" + γράφω grafo "to write") is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms. (wikipedia)
• • •

Once again it's hot and once again I'm tired (more so), so this time the write-up really will be short. This puzzle should break hard, difficulty-wise, depending on whether you're a baseball fan or not. Once I caught onto the theme, I needed only a cross or two to get most of the remaining theme answers. Not much challenge. In fact, I finished this in 7:35, which is about a minute and a half faster than my previous NYT Sunday record. That ENFIELD (77A: Northernmost borough of London)/ NGO (78D: Vietnam's ___ Dinh Diem) section gave me a little fright (don't know either), but the fill and cluing elsewhere were a cinch. I barely noticed most of the theme answers, so my attention went more to the fill. There wasn't a lot to love—IDEOGRAM and RUBS IT IN (51D: Adds insult to injury, say) are OK, but otherwise, not much stands out. STOOP TO (82D: Reach at a lower level) is awkward as a stand-alone phrase; SPEWERS would be unfortunate in the singular—it's worse in the plural (24D: Some volcanoes); and CCC is just ... I don't know what (62D: Junk bond rating). But aside from an ENORM (77D: Vast, in verse) here and a NOSER there (91A: Brown-___) , everything seemed fine. Forgettable, adequate, fine. The theme concept is kind of cute—I just wish there'd been more resistance in this thing.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Cuts in a cardboard container? (BOX SCORES)
  • 31A: Yelled initially? (CALLED OUT AT FIRST)
  • 44A: So-so formal dance? (FAIR BALL)
  • 46A: Went far too slowly during the 10K? (WALKED IN A RUN)
  • 63A: Piece of black-market playground equipment (SWING FOR THE FENCES)
  • 83A: Wool or cotton purchase request? (BATTING ORDER)
  • 85A: Disgusting advice? (FOUL TIPS)
  • 98A: Whiskey bottle dregs? (BOTTOM OF THE FIFTH)
  • 113A: Nobleman after a banquet? (FULL COUNT)

  • 37A: 26 of the 44 U.S. presidents: Abbr. (ATTYS.) — interesting stat, but that doesn't quite make up for the ugliness of ATTYS.
  • 58A: Arizona is the only state to have one (ZEE) — fantastic clue.
  • 107A: Coporate shake-up, for short (REORG) — one of my least favorite crosswordisms, but I used it once, so I can't complain too much.
  • 114A: Rita Hayworth's femme fatale title role of 1946 ("GILDA") — an early and important movie in the film noir canon.
  • 118A: Toothpaste brand once advertised as having the secret ingredient GL-70 (GLEEM) — guessed it off the "M" but had no idea about the advertising claim.

[It's "*fewer* cavities," jackass! Less Gleem, more grammar!]

  • 13D: Orphan girl in Byron's Don Juan (LEILA) — yuck. Make it Ali or don't make it at all.
  • 99D: Noted 1991 Harvard Law grad (OBAMA) — see ATTYS., above
  • 2D: Perform Hawaiian music, say (CROON) — I was utterly unaware that Hawaiian music had anything to do with crooning.
  • 98D: Confederate general who won at Chickamauga (BRAGG) — must be the guy the Fort is named after. The only BRAGG I know (very well) is Billy:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Native of central Caucasus / SAT 7-23-11 / Big mystery during summer of 1980 / Ancient rival of Assyria / Friendly things in old ads

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Constructor: Tom Heilman

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: OSSET (13D: Native of the central Caucasus) —

n. a member of an Iranian people living in S Russia and N Georgia, chiefly in Ossetia in the Caucasus. (Collins Eng. Dict.)
• • •

OSSET is like RUCTION, only more so ... though now that I see the relation to "OSSETia," I can at least say I've heard of the region involved (South Ossetia, to be specific—there must be some kind of troubles there, otherwise why would it be in the news? Here it is—declared independence from Georgia in 1990, fought two wars with Georgia in (1991, 2008), now autonomous but not officially recognized by Georgia). All this info doesn't make me like OSSET any more. The rest of the puzzle seems pretty strong, and "WHO SHOT J.R.?" is one of my favorite answers of the year (31A: Big mystery during the summer of 1980). I thought this puzzle was pretty damned hard, but then my time came in just a shade over yesterday's—i.e. pretty normal for a Saturday. Biggest trouble spots involved (not surprisingly) complete mystery answers: the aforementioned OSSET, the "come on it's an abbrev. for 'horizontal'" HOR (32D: Biblical mount where Aaron died), the "I know that word only from 'Canterbury Tales'" REEVE (30A: Town council president, in Canada), and the "why haven't you memorized him by now?" NEY (47A: Waterloo marshal).

Started with JETÉ (1D: "Grand" or "petit" dance move), which I knew was right both because it *felt* right, and because the "J" in the first position seemed highly likely for the Across (and it was: JET STREAM1A: It's a blast for some balloonists). Speaking of "blast," South OSSETia was an "autonomous oblast" during the Soviet era. Aaaaanyway, JET STREAM gave me ENUF (7D: Sufficient, informally) gave me WIFI (20A: Provider of a hot spot at a coffee shop?) gave me "THE WIRE" (5D: It was Obama's self-professed favorite TV series). Didn't get far after that and had to restart with SPECS (36D: Design info) and GAZPACHO (44A: A dish best served cold). That took care of the west, mostly (that REEVE part was pretty intransigent). Had O-STAR (!?) for ORION (46D: Giant in astronomy), so didn't get into the SE for a while. REVENGE (one of my favorite topics) got me started again in the east (love the successive twin clues for this and GAZPACHO, btw). SVELTER came easily from there (40D: Relatively sylphlike), and SE corner was easiest of all. Finished in the NE, where I found HORSE (instead of BULL) HOCKEY, and a GRASS STAIN whose clue I still don't fully understand (12D: Yard stick?). Is it that the stain "sticks" to your pants? Yeesh. Last letter in the grid was the first "S" in OSSET. Shocked to get the "Congratulations" signal from my software.

"Sylphlike" looks awfully (and unfortunately) like "syphilitic."

  • 15A: Asian symbols of wisdom (ELEPHANTS) — the whole damned continent thinks this?
  • 22A: Alexander's need (GIN) — Ran the alphabet at -IN, hit GIN, remembered that there was such a thing as a "Brandy Alexander," and figured liquor was a good guess.
  • 40A: "Friendly" things, in old ads (SKIES) — I always hate when "old" things are well within my memory. Disconcerting.

  • 55A: Bit of décor at Trader Vic's (TIKI TORCH) — at first I was thinking of Trader Joe's. Once I got straightened out, this wasn't hard at all.
  • 2D: Ancient rival of Assyria (ELAM) — EDOM ELOM ELAM ELOI who the hell knows!?
  • 51D: 1982 high-tech film ("TRON") — a very big deal that I completely ignored. I was too busy playing actual video games at the corner 7-11 and/or pizza parlor.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Family in John Grisham's Skipping Christmas /FRI 7-22-11/ Pool exhibitions / Filming process multiple aspect ratios / Fantastic figure children's lit

Friday, July 22, 2011

Constructor: Todd McClary

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none

Word of the Day: AQUACADES (3D: Pool exhibitions) —

A water spectacle that consists usually of swimming and diving with musical accompaniment. (
• • •

I apologize in advance for the briefness of this write-up. It's not just the hottest night of the year, it's the hottest night of the 12 years I've lived in this damned town. We have one room with A/C, and my wife is currently trying to sleep in there—the sound of my typing will not help, and let's just say the hottest night of the year is *probably* not the best time to be annoying my wife with my (admittedly heavy) clackitty-clacking. The heat somehow did not keep me from attending a Level 3 (hard) yoga class this evening in a non-air-conditioned studio, so I'm a little beat. Plus some jackass in my neighborhood apparently has a Lot of firecrackers he forgot to set off on the fourth, so it sounds like there's a full-on gun fight going on about a block away. None of this is conducive to clear or thoughtful writing. So, to be brief...

I mostly enjoyed this grid. Cluing seemed pretty damned hard, but I managed to make it through in an above-average but reasonable time. The smaller corners, with the longish Acrosses, are quite a bit better than the bigger corners, with the longish Downs. Specifically, I could do without AQUACADES (do these still exist? where do you go to see them?) and OPEN MATTE (an odd technical term I'll never remember) (33D: Filming process for multiple aspect ratios). Both feel very plucked-by-computer-from-a-wordlist. But the other longer answers are mostly nice. Enjoyed the LIFELIKE SEX SCENE (49A: Natural + 54A: R-rated element) and the idea of CLIP-ON TIE as a "fashion" (!) (31D: Hassle-free fashion item) and I could practically smell the AROMATIC MGM GRAND (16A: Redolent + 7A: Vegas Strip hotel). There were few answers that I really didn't like ... in fact, aside from the aforementioned long stuff, only one thing besides the obviously terrible REECHO (30A: Come back again) struck me as a real problem: KRANKS (27D: Family in John Grisham's "Skipping Christmas"). Who the what the? How in the world is anyone supposed to know this? Is that Grisham novel a classic? Widely known? So widely known one might be expected to know the family name? When did that happen. Nothing about the clue makes the answer inferrable. Doesn't feel like a legit answer at all. Didn't get the vowel until I *finally* deciphered LAST LAP (35A: It's signaled with a white flag). KRINKS seemed more likely, but only because of Kris KRINKle, which is obviously not his name. The MOWS clue kind of blows because the "(down)" part is completely unnecessary (20A: Cuts (down)). Red herring nonsense. DYSON (45D: James who invented the Dual Cyclone vacuum cleaner) crossing LYNDA (48A: ___ Bird, daughter of L.B.J.) at the "Y" felt a little dycey for few seconds, but I don't think any other letter makes any kind of sense there.But most of this was solid and entertaining.

  • 1A: California river, county or mountain (SHASTA) — first thing in the grid, after confirming the final "A" with ARS (6D: "___ Grammatica" (classic work on Latin)). Drove past Mt. SHASTA and drank SHASTA soda during many a summer trip as a kid.
  • 28A: 2003 movie involving Christmas Eve robberies ("BAD SANTA") — this puzzle really should've appeared in December.
  • 38A: Co-writer of Michael Jackson's posthumous hit "This Is It" (PAUL ANKA) — I only know one "This Is It." Nope, two.

[God I loved this song as a kid. I'm kind of an unrepentant Loggins fan. I blame "I'm Alright," from the "Caddyshack" soundtrack]
  • 7D: Island where Rafael Nadal was born (MAJORCA) — and not, as I initially guessed, CORSICA :(
  • 11D: Movie box set? (RAISINETS) — the "set" part is reeeaching, but I still like it.
  • 35D: Second pope, following St. Peter (LINUS) — I'd've gone Pauling or Van Pelt, but that's just me.
  • 42A: Style on Japanese screens (ANIME) — this one got me. I was sure the screens were decorative (and not movie/TV).
  • 20D: The "1" in 1/2, e.g. (MONTH) — an old trick that nonethless Totally got me.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Mewing passerines / THU 7-21-11 / 1985 NL MVP Willie / Bridge at Narni artist / Courtier who invites Hamlet to fence with Laertes

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Constructor: Michael Sharp

Relative difficulty: I have no idea

THEME: SLICED / CHEESE (36A: With 38-Across, deli purchase ... or a description of the answer to 17-, 26-, 47- or 55-Across) — theme answers are cheeses, which the "?"-style clues "slice" into wacky phrases

Word of the Day: SIR Barton (3D: ___ Barton, first Triple Crown winner, 1919) —

Sir Barton, (1916–1937), was a chestnut thoroughbred colt who in 1919 became the first winner of the American Triple Crown. // He was sired by leading stud Star Shoot out of the Hanover mare Lady Sterling. His grandsire was the 1893 English Triple Crown champion, Isinglass. // Sir Barton was bred in Kentucky by John E. Madden and Vivian A. Gooch at Hamburg Place Farm near Lexington. Madden raced him in his two-year-old season. He was entered in six races, winning none. Madden sold the horse in 1918 for $10,000 to Canadian businessman J. K. L. Ross. // Ross placed Sir Barton in the hands of trainer H. Guy Bedwelland jockey Johnny Loftus. At three, he made his season debut as a maiden in the Kentucky Derby. He was supposed to be the rabbit for his highly regarded stablemate, a horse named Billy Kelly. (A rabbit is a speed horse set up to wear out the rest of the field, thereby allowing another horse to win.) However, it was Sir Barton who led the field of 12 horses from start to finish, winning the race by five lengths. Just four days later, the horse was in Baltimore and won the Preakness Stakes, beating Eternal. Again he led all the way. He then won the Withers Stakes in New York and shortly thereafter completed the first Triple Crown in U.S. history by easily winning the Belmont Stakes, setting an American record for the mile and three-eighths race, the distance for the Belmont at the time. Amazingly, Sir Barton's four wins were accomplished in a space of just 32 days. He was voted the 1919 Horse of the Year, American racing's highest honor. (wikipedia)

• • •

So here's how this goes: I notice (I forget how) that GORGONZOLA (17A: French writer with snaky hair and a petrifying gaze?) breaks into two words, creating a phrase that is also a funny mental image. So then I brainstorm cheeses to see if I can break them in similar fashion, and I don't really get anywhere; at this point I'm not trying very hard ("trying very hard" = getting on the damned internet and finding massive lists of cheeses, seeing if any of them break into phrases, and then deciding if any of those are well known enough as cheeses to be theme answers in a non-Cheese Monthly puzzle). I have lots of such scribblings and lists and half-hearted theme stirrings lying around in various parts of my office. Weeks or months go by and I'm cleaning my office and I find my original notes. And I try a little harder with the cheese brainstorming, somehow ending up with four cheeses that can be organized in a grid with rotational symmetry. The problem / challenge—some of the "sliced" phrases are nuts. Preposterous. I mean, wacky answers always are, but a couple of these are loony. I then decided that the majority were good-loony. But four cheeses didn't really seem quite ... there yet. So I pondered a "reveal." And then, magically / luckily, SLICED CHEESE presented itself. Perfect description of what's going on, *plus* the answer breaks into two parts of equal length—considered a first Across / last Across split, but then noticed I could put it right in the middle. And there you go.

You could make the argument that this puzzle is basically one solid theme answer + three answers that were forcibly and brutally conscripted into theme service. But I figure if you're going to go wacky, go big or go home. And if MA'S CAR PONE isn't going big, wacky-wise, I don't know what is (55A: Mom's special road-trip corn bread?). That phrase is so improbable, so surreal, that I can't help but love it, the way you might love a cross-eyed, three-legged dog that can yodel. Fact: I considered cluing this answer [Mom's fish, after taking a rave drug], which I love even more, but I didn't think that meaning of "E" was in-the-language for most NYT solvers, so I backed off. That's right, MA'S CAR PONE is me backing off. If I could send one of these theme answers home, it would be LIMB URGER, if only because "URGER" is barely a word (47A: One trying to shake a leg?). My original clue for PRO VOL. ONE was [In favor of the first bk.?] — I don't like that "Abbr." at the end of 26A: In favor of the first book?: Abbr.; seems unnecessarily confusing. Which part is abbreviated? Who knows?

Seems like at least half the clues were changed this time, possibly because I clue like a maniac. My clues tend to be reaches—usually not ridiculous, but often pushing the limits of traditional crossword puzzle solver knowledge, usually in the direction of stuff I love. Will wisely lost my "Simpsons" clue for JASPER (1A: Traditional March birthstone) and my yoga clue for CORPSE (46D: Zombie, essentially). Many of the other changes were a matter of de-pop-culturefication, or simple concision. It's a bit weird to get your puzzle back and have it be unrecognizable in parts. I had no idea JASPER was a stone. I'm serious. I knew my clue on JASPER would get changed, but I figured it would be changed to JASPER Johns. So 1A was a mystery to me. I actually thought Will might have changed the answer itself. Then I hit the 1919 Triple Crown winner, which I also did Not know, and thought, "Huh ... I'm going to be unable to complete my own puzzle. That'll be a first." Clues on OSAKA (34D: City of 2 1/2+ million at the mouth of the Yodo River) and DANKE (13D: Comment preceding "Gern geschehen") and COROT were also new to me, though, to be fair, my own original clue on COROT would probably be mystifying to me. I know he's French, and pre-Impressionist, and that's about it (32A: "The Bridge at Narni" artist).

As for the fill in general, I'm pretty pleased with it. Least pleased with the ALG. / AB OVO / OSRIC section (I'd kill OSRIC if I could—ironic, since he's one of the few characters who *don't* die at the end of "Hamlet" ... wait, he doesn't die, does he? I'm reading that Branagh makes him die, but I don't remember that being part of the play...) (42D: Courtier who invites Hamlet to fence with Laertes). Love STEEL TOE (10D: Common work boot feature) and FOOTRUB (7D: Service that requires no shoes) and BEEFSUP (and the fact that BEEF crosses BURGER) (41D: Fortifies). Also love TOPLESS (!) (44A: Like some bars and beaches) and, for reasons I really don't fully comprehend, the clue on FIBER (52A: ___ One). In my original submission, I cross-referenced 31A: "Beat it!" ("GET OUT!") and 20A: Dissolve a relationship (END IT). Will dissolved that relationship. I now realize I could have triple-cross-referenced these answers with EXES (28A: Joint custody parties), but it's probably a good thing that that idea occurred to me very late. Happy to bring Willie MCGEE back into the light, however briefly, and to have him sitting right next to BIRDS (he played for the Cardinals) (49D: 1985 N.L. M.V.P. Willie). If this puzzle has no other distinction, it will go down in history as the first appearance in the NYT crossword of one Mr. Justin BIEBER (65A: "Baby" singer Justin). The floodgates are open. The Age of BIEBER is well and truly upon us. God be with us.

Finally, I discovered that Will has a sly sense of humor. Check out his clue on BARB (53D: Sharp put-down). My first thought upon reading it: "touché."

  • 21A: Antelope of southern Africa (RHEBOK) — had clued this as [Oribi cousin] but Will (in a very useful email he sent me, explaining some of his clue changes) said: "For any solver who doesn't know what an oribi or rhebok is, the clue would be meaningless. So I was more explanatory"
  • 62A: It's developed during training season (ROSTER) — I forget what my original clue was here, but this clue (a good one) took me a while to figure out (it'd been a long time since I'd seen this puzzle; it was accepted sometime in the fall of '10, I think).
  • 4D: Obsolescent communication devices (PAGERS) — I think I had them as "simple"; I'm glad Will went one step further and relegated them to "bygone" status.

  • 46D: Zombie, essentially (CORPSE) — coincidentally, wife and I just started watching AMC's "The Walking Dead" (I read the comic and decided I'd give the TV show a go). It's about zombies. Best part of the viewing experience so far is when zombies are trying to bust into a department store where survivors are holed up. One zombie picks up a big rock and starts trying to break the glass, and wife and I exclaim, at Exactly The Same Time (and word for word), "They know how to use tools!?" (All earlier evidence suggested they were pretty simple (and slow) creatures)
  • 37D: Mewing passerines (CATBIRDS) — I love this clue, in part because it kind of looks like nonsense.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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