Retreat 1970s-'80s New York City club / WED 8-31-11 / Victim in Camus's Stranger / 1922 Physics Nobelist / Reindeer herder

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Beach Boys hits — 5 of them

Word of the Day: AMORIST (37A: Smitten one) —

["Did you mean 'define amorous'?" No, I didn't]

  1. One dedicated to love, especially sexual love.
  2. One who writes about love.

[Latin amor, love; see amorous + -IST.]

• • •

Pretty straightforward Wednesday fare. Only trouble I had was navigating the grid—found the theme answer placement awkward on the split answers, what with the parts being far apart and the first part being on the right and second on the left. This is one of those themes that seems far too basic. Pick a band. Pick some hits that you can arrange symmetrically ... puzzle? Repeat using playwright / plays? Author / novels? Actor / movies? I don't really understand the puzzle's reason for being. It's an OK grid, though theme density leads to some unfortunate compromises, esp. in the SW, which made me wince. LAR IBO ABOU all scrunched together like that!? That's dangerous crosswordese density. But mostly, as I say, it was fine. Adequate. Here today, gone tomorrow. The best part — and the only thing separating this puzzle from USA Today fare — is the tripartite Down theme answer, "DON'T / WORRY / BABY." Helps that that is one of the very best songs the Beach Boys (or anyone) ever recorded.

Theme answers:
  • 10A: With 64-Across, 1963 Beach Boys hit ("IN MY / ROOM")
  • 17A: 1965 Beach Boys hit ("CALIFORNIA GIRLS")
  • 23A: With 49-Across, 1965 Beach Boys hit ("HELP ME / RHONDA")
  • 57A: 1963 Beach Boys hit ("LITTLE SAINT NICK") — did anyone else try to make LITTLE DEUCE COUPE fit? What about LITTLE SURFER GIRL? (not the actual title, I know) Bah!
  • 7D: With 30- and 53-Down, 1964 Beach Boys hit ("DON'T / WORRY / BABY")
Had a few missteps here and there. Went CAIRO (off the "A") instead of RABAT (62A: African capital), and ALGERIA instead of ALBANIA (that's a big miss) (45D: Neighbor of Montenegro). Also couldn't remember STINE or STYNE (65A: "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" composer), couldn't easily get to the vague MARKER from 25D: Surveyor's stake, typically, and (shockingly) couldn't place Ronsard's "Odes" in the right year (though, now that I think of it, I do know the century) (12D: Year of Ronsard's "Odes" => MDL).

  • 1A: Reindeer herder (LAPP) — a gimme! Finally, this crosswordy answer has become a gimme. I didn't even trip on the "LAPP or LEPP" issue (an issue I invented, as LEPP is not a thing).
  • 34A: 1922 Physics Nobelist (BOHR) — his name came up at dinner tonight as we were discussing crosswordy words that every constant solver just Knows. The conversation started with a discussion of EDINA (where my wife bought many bras this past week) (I'll let her tell you about it).
  • 52A: Minor player, so to speak (COG) — I like this clue / answer pair a lot. I just didn't get it ... until I did. That "C" took a while.
  • 27A: ___ Retreat (1970s-'80s New York City club) (PLATO'S) — really, Really surprised this passed the old Breakfast Test (it's a very famous swingers' club). About as good a clue as you're going to see for PLATO'S. Way better than ["___ Republic"].

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Aunt in Oklahoma / TUE 8-30-11 / Davenport long-running Doonesbury character / Longtime New York theater critic / Popular card game since 1954

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Constructor: Bernice Gordon

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

THEME: B-RN — last word in six theme answers starts B-RN, with a different vowel (incl. "Y") in the blank spot each time

Word of the Day: DAVID BIRNEY (39A: TV/film/stage actor once married to actress Meredith Baxter)

David Edwin Birney (born 23 April 1939) is an American actor/director whose career has performances in both contemporary and classical roles in theatre, film and television. He has three children, a daughter Kate, and twins, Peter and Mollie. [...] Birney married Meredith Baxter in 1974 (the two had met costarring on the sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie). They have three children: Kate (born 1974), and twins Peter and Mollie (born 1984). Birney and Baxter divorced in 1989. In 2011, Baxter said Birney had repeatedly psychologically and physically abused her during their marriage, allegations Birney has denied. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hey there. I missed you guys. It's good to be back. Well, not so good. I mean, this puzzle ... has problems. I knew right away it wouldn't be in my wheelhouse—if memory serves, the constructor is roughly my grandmother's age, and so, understandably, her cultural center of gravity's going to be a little farther back than mine. Still, I didn't expect to have to deal with So Many Names from Yesteryear. I'm going to ask you to imagine an intersection like the EDD BYRNES / LACEY / ELLER / CLIVE BARNES one here, only replace all those names (ugh, so many proximate names) with ones that came to fame some time after 1975. Now try after 1995. If you're like me, you'd like that puzzle a hell of a lot more than this one, but that's not really the point. The point is, such a puzzle would piss off huge chunks of the solving population (I know from experience), and rightly so. Lesson: Don't crowd names together in a puzzle, *especially* ones that simply aren't universally known and all belong to one time period or field of knowledge. Theater, theater critic, "Doonesbury," and "77 Sunset Strip" don't exactly scream modern, or relevant, or well known. I'd be happy to accept any one or two of these answers, but four? And intersecting? Really, really bad form.

I haven't even mentioned the theme, which is absurd. Vowel progression isn't even in order. AYOIEU? What? BORNES is the best you could do for "BORN"? What about David BYRNE, who is infinitely more famous (today) than the double-D EDD guy? Conceptually, it's all a mess. As a friend of mine just said a few minutes ago: "Also, to help tie the theme together, it's three people, a card game, a dog, and part of a stove. So there's that." Yes. Yes there is.

That's two days in a row now that theme answers have been quite marginal, bordering on obscure. This bugs me for personal reasons. In my mind, every theme answer has to pass the SHERMAN ALEXIE test. This is because Will didn't know who SHERMAN ALEXIE was, and rejected a puzzle of mine almost exclusively on that basis (never mind that Alexie won the National Book Award, has been on "Colbert" multiple times, etc.). So now any time I see something like THE PURPLE ONION (!?!?) or DAVID BIRNEY (come on!) I just cringe and think, "you *must* be joking..."

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Longtime New York theater critic (CLIVE BARNES)
  • 23A: Actor in 1960s TV's "77 Sunset Strip" (EDD BYRNES)
  • 34A: Popular card game since 1954 (MILLE BORNES)
  • 39A: TV/film/stage actor once married to Meredith Baxter (DAVID BIRNEY) — interesting that he's puzzleworthy only when tied to Elyse from "Family Ties" (see, *she* has a puzzleworthy acting credential)
  • 53A: Big dog (ST. BERNARD)
  • 59A: Prime cooking spot (FRONT BURNER)
Oh, and I had an error. Had RECTOR for 4A: Person assisting a worship service (LECTOR) and never thought to correct it, despite the resulting RACEY at 4D: ___ Davenport, long-running "Doonesbury" character (LACEY). I probably just assumed that if anyone wanted LACEY, they'd use "Cagney and LACEY" to get there.

One last thing: if you are a U.S. Congressperson or a well-known or prominent Washington figure of some kind (I'm looking at you, Obamas!), or you know someone who is and who also a. solves the puzzle and b. reads my blog (even occasionally), please let me know (rexparker at mac dot com). I'm being interviewed by CBS in a couple weeks, and they apparently could use this info. I'd be most grateful. Thanks.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


The "A" in U.A.W. . MON 8-29-11 / Deborah of "The King and I" / Actor Jannings who won the first Best Actor Oscar / Capone henchman

Monday, August 29, 2011

Constructor: Andrea Carla Michaels & Michael Blake

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Breakfast in New York — The last words of the first three theme answers are types of bagels. THE WHOLE SCHMEAR is an expression that means "everything" and a SCHMEAR is something that might be put on an "everything bagel."

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Legendary San Francisco music/comedy club where Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen have performed (THE PURPLE ONION).
  • 28A: Ali Baba's magic words (OPEN SESAME).
  • 46A: Bad place to live when the river rises (FLOOD PLAIN).
  • 52A: Everything ... or what might cover an everything 62-Across? (THE WHOLE SHMEAR).
  • 62A: Item whose varieties include the endings of 20-, 28- and 46-Across (BAGEL).
Good Monday morning, everybody. PuzzleGirl here. As some of you probably know, Our Fearless Leader got "stuck in Detroit" last night and sent up a flare that was pointed right at me. I could have said no. I mean, I'm pretty exhausted from the earthquake and then the hurricane this week. The earthquake — well, I know it wasn't a huge one, but it's the biggest one I've ever felt. And I know all you Californians think we're big wimps out here for getting panicked about it, but I just have to say that y'all didn't have people flying planes into your buildings just a short ten years ago. Around here when a building starts shaking, there's no way not to panic.

So anyway, Rex got all whiny and pathetic and when he does that I can't stand it. I'm such a sucker. I have half a mind to spend the whole blog talking about Rachel Maddow and my weight-loss program (two things Rex accuses me of obsessing about), but I won't do that to you. I mean Rachel is awesome, and yes, as a matter of fact, I have lost 20 pounds, but we have more important things to talk about. Like, say, the puzzle ….

I tell you what. A big ol' Q right in the very first square is an awesome way to start a puzzle, amirite? As it turns out, there was much more Scrabbly goodness to follow. You got your Xs, your Z, your J … as a matter of fact I'm pretty sure what we've got right here is a pangram, which can actually be kind of helpful. If it's starting to look like there's a lot of Scrabbliness in the grid, you start to look for it. So if you're having trouble coming up with an answer, you think about whether there's a word with a Q or a V or a K in it that might work, and sometimes that allows you to hit on something pretty quick.

I have mixed feelings about this theme. I think it's probably fine but, I guess I'm not much of a bagel connoisseur. I know there's such a thing as an "everything bagel" and I know that a "schmear" is something you put on a bagel, but I couldn't tell you any more details about either of those things. Can a schmear be cream cheese? Or maybe that's exactly what a schmear is. Can it be anything else? Answers, people! I demand answers!

Also I've never heard of THE PURPLE ONION or the phrase "THE WHOLE SHMEAR." I'm not saying that the puzzle is necessarily bad just because I've never heard of those things. I'm just saying that I've never heard of those things. The great thing about Monday is that not having heard of a couple things doesn't mean the puzzle is undoable. Chances are (especially if you're dealing with Andrea and Michael) the crosses are all solid and the cluing is straightforward. So, really, no worries.

Most of the time when I'm blogging a puzzle, I like to look through the grid and see which entries jump out at me as especially colorful. Typically, they're the longer non-theme entries — I like to see colloquial phrases and words that seem to me inherently awesome for one reason or another. In today's grid, I don't see anything particularly colorful jumping out at me, but the Scrabbly letters distributed throughout do lend a lot of sparkle to this grid. I'm liking PIXEL, ROLEX, LEVI, SLEAZE, and JUMP. Wait, did somebody say JUMP?

  • 1A: You can stick them in your ear (Q-TIPS). Ear doctors across the country are cringing en masse. But hey, if the average person has a GLOB (10A: Soft, thick lump) of something in there, they're gonna go for the Q-TIP. It's probably better to just accept it and move on.
  • 17A: Bolivian capital (SUCRE). I believe Bolivia has two capitals. Or used to have two capitals. Or something. The other one is … I'm trying to think of it myself instead of looking it up … LA PAZ? Yesss!
  • 24A: Extremity (END). I wanted this to be ARM but already had the E in place, which made me question the cross for a hot second, but I got over it.
  • 25A: Got rid of some tobacco juices, say (SPAT). Ew.
  • 42A: Poet/playwright Jones (LEROI). I once read a book by his first wife called How I Became Hettie Jones that, as I recall, was very interesting. I should probably say, though, that I also read Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose in that general period of my life and when I tried it again last year I found it unreadable. So who knows. It might be awesome, it might suck.
  • 61A: Group of birds (BEVY). Is it quail that come in a BEVY? Apparently, it can be any number of animals, but "especially" quail (according to Merriam-Webster online).
  • 68A: 45 or 78 (DISC). You whippersnappers out there probably don't even know what this means. Sometimes it pays to be old.
  • 22D: Minimal lead in baseball (ONE RUN). For some reason, I kept reading this clue as "Minimal lead in BASKETball" and couldn't think of a three-letter anything that would make sense here. D'oh!
  • 32D: What a murder suspect needs (ALIBI). Okay, this is funny. I had ALI in place and thought "A LIFE?" Like some accused murderer is at home preparing for trial and his snotty teenage daughter tells him to "get a life." Probably not her best move.
  • 47D: Examined deeply (PROBED). I cut a picture out of a newspaper many years ago because it really made me laugh. It was a guy sitting behind a desk and he was caught at just the wrong time for the picture. He had a dorky kind of surprised look on his face. And the caption said, "Joe Smith is the subject of a long probe." Someday I'll find it and share it with you. So you've got that to look forward to.
Love, PuzzleGirl


Foo Fighters frontman Dave / SUN 8-28-11 / West African monetary unit / 1813-14 vice president

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty:

THEME: "Add-A-Long-E Day" — long E vowel sound is added to a word, which is part of a longer phrase that is wackily clued.

Word of the Day: GROHL (115A: Foo Fighters frontman Dave) —
David Eric "Dave" Grohl […] is an American rock musician, multi-instrumentalist, and singer-songwriter who is the lead vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter for the Foo Fighters; the former drummer for Nirvana and Scream; and the current drummer for Them Crooked Vultures. (wikipedia)
• • •

Today I discovered that preparing to guest-blog is akin to waiting to open gifts on Christmas Day, only the excitement is even more palpable - not only do you want to find out what's inside your present, but you also don't yet know who's giving it to you. Will it be a visual tour-de-force from Elizabeth Gorski, or a guaranteed-to-be-original theme from BEQ jam-packed with fresh clues? It wasn't, but when I saw Mr. Berry's byline, I felt a rush for what lay ahead yet almost a tinge of non-surprise given how often he's able to publish quality puzzles on Sundays.

Add-a-sound themes are not new, but you can expect strong theme entries across the board when Mr. Berry is the constructor. Most of today's eight are very good. My favorite may have been REIGN OF TERRIER (26A: Canine king's regime?), which conjures a funny image and feels natural as a clue-answer pairing. PARTYING GIFT (76A: Set of shot glasses for Christmas?) was nice to eventually figure out, though the clue seems less than precise given there is a vast range of items suitable for partying not particularly restricted to shot glasses.

LITTLE ORPHEAN ANNIE (89A: Sharpshooter Oakley when she was a charming young musician?) was by far the most difficult to discover as ORPHEAN was completely unknown to me. It makes sense if it's an adjectival form of Orpheus, but not knowing the word made it a little less fun to solve. I'm a bit weak on polar wildlife, so KODIAK MOMENT (56A: Encounter with an Alaskan bear?) was also tough. Overall, the theme was a good execution of a tried and true idea.

Other theme answers:
  • BEER BURIAL POLKA (23A: Lively dance performed as a six-pack is being laid to rest?)
  • BOTANICAL GUARDIANS (41A: Eco-warriors?)
  • PARKING METEORS (108A: Interstellar valet's job?)
  • MILES PER GALLEON (113A: Ship info kept for the Spanish armada?)

The clues were easy enough to support a fairly steady solving tempo, but there were a couple parts of the grid that tripped me up. Never heard of GERRY (68A: 1813-14 vice president) or the aforementioned KODIAK, so that area was the last to fall. I'll assume that NICKERS are sounds made by horses (39D: Stable sounds).

A couple cross-referenced clues strive to spice up the tired OMAN (66D: It's due south of Iran) and ARID (81D: Like the climate of 66-Down). But who's to notice when they're next to the two best non-theme entries, STARCHART (34D: Plan for the evening?) and DESDEMONA (51D: Brabantio's fair daughter). There's a one or two other sparkly entries here and there, but these two beauties really caught my eye. As the longest down entries in the grid, you can bet that Mr. Berry ensured they were lovely.

Nice clues for common words:

Construction Thoughts

I promised Rex to bring the constructor's perspective, and there's just a couple notes about the puzzle worth mentioning, if you'll allow a bit of speculation.

The first thing I notice about the grid is that two theme entries on the top and bottom are right on top of each other, which tends to be uncommon because filling around them is much more difficult. Constructing is often a game of maximizing your choices so that you can pick the freshest, most original fill. In this case, many more words must pass through both long entries, so your choices are cut down, whereas if they're not in adjacent rows then a few black squares can go between them. What you get in exchange is a feeling of higher theme density and the elegance of the stacking. (Merl Reagle seems to be the champion of this stacking technique, hop over to his website for some wonderful examples.)

In part of the grid seen above, you'll see that the top pair of theme entries have 9 down words passing through them, which is going to constrain the fill in those areas. You may also notice that three of the four across entries at the top of the grid are abbreviations, which constructions try to avoid.

Another small consequence is that in order to make the stacking work, the constructor was forced to shift the lower of the two entries over by 1 square, so that REIGN OF TERRIER begins in the second column instead of the first. This introduces a "cheater" black square to the left of REIGN. A cheater square is one that is added to a corner of the grid to reduce the number of intersecting words but doesn't increase the word count of the grid. Constructors tend to avoid them when possible.


It's tough writing a crossword blog post. Kudos to Rex for doing it every day.

Signed, Kevin Der, final guest blogger of the week


Ripley's love / Sat 8-27-11 / What Faroe Islands granted 1948 / Oblong temptation / Camels' resting places

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Constructor: Ashton Anderson

Relative difficulty: Easy

Word of the Day: ORLOP (16A: Lowest deck on a ship) —

The orlop is the lowest deck in a ship (except for very old ships). It is the deck or part of a deck where the cables are stowed, usually below the water line. It has been suggested the name originates from "overlooping" of the cables.

It has also been suggested that the name is a corruption o
f "overlap", referring to an overlapping, balcony-like half deck occupying a portion of the ship's lowest deck space. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word descends from Dutch overloop from the verb overlopen, "to run (over); extend".

From Wikipedia (natch)

• • •

I’m Wade, and I’ll be your blogger today. (Fresh ground sarcasm, sir? Zest of buffoonery, madam?)

We’ll tune in to the regularly scheduled puzzle write-up in a moment. But first:

I got a charge yesterday out of Seth’s friend’s Kickstarter video. I don’t know the guy from Adam Rich, but I’m generally eager to sign onto any cause or crusade I only vaguely understand (which is how I wound up babysitting a howler monkey one Easter weekend. Man, those things are loud! And real territorial and belligerent when it comes to hidden eggs), so I want to continue the plug here. Filmmaker Whit Scott has until next Saturday to meet the final $7,871 of his $30,000 goal for the making of Rolled: Thirty-Two Years of Toilet-Papered Houses. If he falls short of the $30,000, he gets none of the money. It’s like Who Wants to be a Millionaire except that that irritating music doesn’t play constantly.

Let’s get him there, crossword people! We’re the phone-a-friend lifeline! Some of y’all
sound pretty rich, what with your talk of artisanal cheeses and private islands on the moon, so fork over! I ponied up yesterday after determining that the kids’ shoes could hold out another couple of months if I just lopped off the end caps with my Old Timer. Yeah, there are plenty of other worthy projects, I know—-Millions of them! It’s staggering!--but you could sit around and die on a big pile of money before you figured out the perfect allocation of all your resources, so why not just give this guy $20 now? Or $50? I sold some blood and gave him a hundred bucks. (Not my blood, of course.)

This is the way
stuff works now, the way stuff gets done. We got what we said we wanted—-we banished the gatekeepers and got internet democracy out the wazoo—-but instead of free ice cream for everybody all the time we get an unlimited supply of YouTube clips that serve up every single precious moment of Pink Lady and Jeff.
You satisfied?

Hell, no, you’re not!

That’s where filmmaker Whit Scott comes in. He’s going to make some new stuff.

About today! Well, about a weirdly well-organized toilet-papering commando unit with institutionalized membership going back 32 years. Suburban anthropology sounds to me like! Will it be any good? Beats the hell out of me. But it will probably be better than Pink Lady and Jeff. (I hope he uses that as a blurb on the DVD case: “Better than Pink Lady and Jeff! Maybe!”—-some guy on internet.) And it’ll be new and about right now or at least about what 32 years ago looks like right now to one guy, which is close enough. Can’t have everything!

I know what some of you are saying: “What’s so wrong with Pink Lady and Jeff?” You aren’t the people I’m talking to. I’m talking to the skeptics with their arms crossed who are grumbling something about hmmph hmmph hmmph why can’t he make it in the marketplace hmmph hmmph hmmph.

This is the marketplace! That’s my point! This is the marketplace! We broke the old one! The one everybody was a part of. It gave us great things (Andy Griffith Show and The Red Headed Stranger) and it gave us not so great things (Pink Lady, but everybody calls it Pink Lady and Jeff for some reason.) Whatever, we didn’t like it so we threw the whole thing out, and now this is what we got: (a) an apparently talented and driven guy over there (say hello to Whit Scott) who has something he wants to make for us but not all the money the various vendors and governmental entities require in order to enable him to make the thing he wants to make for us, and (b) some people over here (that’d be us) with nothing but Pink Lady to watch while we munch on our Grey-Poupon-covered artisanal cheeses in our teak-decked moon houses.

That’s the marketplace. We’re it.

Send Whit Scott some money for his movie.

Send me some money too while you’re at it.

And Rex!


I flew through this one in pretty top Saturday time for me: 19:00 flat, and I was screwing around making some notes now and then, though I doubt that added much to the time. I wound up with one wrong letter through not checking the grid: I had OSS/TASS instead of OAS/TAPS (42A: W.W.II Agency and 34D: It causes lights to go out). Anything under twenty minutes on Saturday rates an easy from me. (“That's what she said!”)

I got footholds throughout the grid on the first pass: PAT (19A: Bit of consolation); NABORS (24A: “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." Star); CLAN (44A: Group sharing a coat of arms); ADUE (53A: Not apart, in scores); SSNS (56A: ID figures); RAP STAR (44D: The Notorious B.I.G., e.g., plus various partials like 60D (Like Beethoven's sixth),which experience hath taught me would be IN something (IN F in this case.)

Early missteps included SHY for COY (4D: Far from forward); LENIN for PALIN (6A: Author of “America by Heart” [I'm sort of kidding, but I did think of that with the IN in place]); GOV for DMV (58A: ID issuer); KEEL for HULL (43A: Bottom of the ocean)[What's a keel then?]; the afore-alluded OSS for OAS; and (best trap of the puzzle) EROTIC for XRATED (3D: Beyond suggestive). I feel like I've fallen into that trap before. In other puzzles, I mean.

All of that adds up to a puzzle that turned out easier than I would have liked for a Saturday (but it means I won't be up til 2:00 a.m., unlike most times I've subbed on a Saturday), but I can't really fault anything about the puzzle. I don't think I've seen IT'S GO TIME before (60A: “Let's roll!”), which in the context of the puzzle sounds like somebody's uncle trying to be hip. I don't think I've seen GLAMROCK in a puzzle before (12D: 1970s music genre.)

  • 10A: Times up? (HIGHS). Damn right question mark. Hardest clue for me to parse at the end of the puzzle.
  • 20A: Google rival (BING). Is anybody using Bing? Or anything other than Google? Why do we need more than one search engine? Dogpile still exists, I just found out. Do people still ask Jeeves stuff? These are not rhetorical questions despite my not really caring about the answers.
  • 21A: Scriveners (PENMEN). I don't buy this at all.
  • 40A: Black-and-white (SQUAD CAR). I like this one. Wasn't thinking cop car at all. “Kojak with a Kodak” would have also been good. I heard that one on Smokey and the Bandit the other day. (Whit, make your movie!)
  • 50A: Offensive time? (TET). Damn right question mark! What does that mean?
  • 2D: Oblong temptation (ECLAIR). This puzzle is really trying to be dirty up there in the NW, isn't it?
  • 13D: What the Faroe Islands were granted in 1948 (HOMERULE). I'm guessing that wasn't real controversial. Whoever granted them homerule probably forgot they even ruled them. (“The Faroe Islands? What? Want homerule? What are the Faroe Islands? Oh. Way the hell up there? Sure, tell 'em to knock themselves out. Homerule away.”) I married a Scot and we had our pre-marriage honeymoon in Orkney, where the map is actual size (“one mile = one mile”), and Orkney is way up there. North of that are the Shetlands. North of the Shetlands, and it's a long way north, are the Faroes. North of that and you're going south.
  • 35A: Camels' resting places (ASHTRAYS). This one didn't fool me for a second. That's probably why the puzzle was as easy as it was. It's a down answer giving the first letter in eight across answers.
  • 47D: Ripley's love (ODDITY). I had a wrong letter in there and didn't see ODDITY for awhile so was thinking of Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien.

  • 52D: Fireplace (INGLE) and 55D: Shoulder (BERM) are simply unpalatable words. They sound like the names of Swedish muppets.
If Whit Scott makes his goal and at least some appreciable portion of it came from Rex's readers I will have my son take a video of me singing "Bennie and the Jets" with the uncorrected lyrics I've misheard for the past 35 years. Or not do that. Your choice.

P.S. Hey, it's Rex here, coming to you from the rough streets of Minneapolis (actually, it's one of the most beautiful, livable places I've ever spent a significant amount of time in, and very much on our short list of "Places We Might Move Once the Girl Goes to College"). Two things: One, I love this grid. Freshness abounds, and the addition of ACROBATIC into the whole SEXCAPADE / X-RATED nexus is worthy of special commendation. Two, for those of you who haven't already been bombarded by my announcements on Twitter and Facebook, Huffington Post Books is now featuring a slideshow of some of the more interesting / salacious / ridiculous covers from my vintage paperback blog, "Pop Sensation" (view slideshow here). Enjoy, tell a friend, and I'll see you back here on Monday (barring hurricane-related complications). ~RP


Put down in writing / FRI 8-26-11 / Line in the sand? / 1956 movie monster / Romulus and Remus, to Rhea Silvia

Friday, August 26, 2011

Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley

Relative difficulty: REAL EASY. (1A: Like a snap.) Well, not for me, probably for someone.

THEME: none

Word of the Day: INDITED (37A: Put down in writing) —

Indite is an extremely rare indium-iron sulfide mineral, found in Siberia. Its chemical formula is FeIn2S4.

It occurs as replacement of cassiterite in hydrothermal deposits. It is associated with dzhalindite, cassiterite and quartz.[1][2] It was first described in 1963 for an occurrence in the Dzhalinda tin deposit, Malyi Khingan Range, Khabarovskiy Kray, Far-Eastern Region, Russia.[3]

From Wikipedia. Read more here.
• • •

Yah, I did not find this easy at all. I did find the right half of this easy (for a Friday!). My browser actually crashed about 15 minutes into my solve, and when I re-opened it again I filled in this:

My first answer: PICKET LINES. That's good, right? I mean, it's the wrong answer, but it's a pretty good one. (This is for 9A/46D: Strike zones, of course.) Fixed it pretty quickly with TORTE/A-TEAM, and the rest of the NE followed. NEATO/STETS started off the SE, GRAPE APE soon followed, and that was done too. Last to fall on that side was the middle, where I've never heard of the 39A: Deep orangish hue (MARS RED), had no idea how RENTAxxxx would finish, and I had NFL instead of NFC at first.

The West half: much harder. For 15A: Kind of stew (OX TONGUE), I had each of MERINGUE and MELANGUE at one point. Uh, yeah. Well, I said I had some trouble, right? And I wanted LOESS for LOAMS, because my mind for puzzle geology is like that for puzzle music--I can never remember which words are which, so if a word is from the right genre and fits, I go with it. But ATLAS was much better than GLOBE for 3D: What may hold a world of information?, and I eventually came up with REAL EASY and worked my way through the rest.

Last to fall was the SW. I tried about every French spelling I could think of for 43A: Hundred Years' War leader (JOAN OF ARC), without being sure that was even a French thing. I might have guessed South American, maybe 'cause I'm thinking One Hundred Years of Solitude? At least I knew she was French. I wanted ARMADA all along, eventually figured out the very-well-clued-but-I-should-have-seen-through-it-all-along 35A: Give a hand (DEAL IN), and was finally able to flesh out the long downs and finish up.

Oh, by the way, SethG here, sitting in for the vacationing Rex. He's actually vacationing a few miles from my house, so he could write this from my living room if he really wanted, but the man deserves a break. Because he works hard year-round writing this for us, sure, and I and the other guests can attest to the fact that it's not easy and it takes some serious time, but also because he bought me dinner the other night. If anyone else would like to buy me dinner sometime, let me know and I'll sub for you on your blog.

I'll sub for, like, anyone. Even for Brendan Emmett Quigley, who might need a sub for a bit. Read all about the reason, the adorable, 7 pound, 5 ounce, 20 inch long reason, at his most recent blog entry at You can solve the puzzle there, too. It's good.

  • 14D: Like Life Savers (TORIC) — Not to be confused with Lightsabers, which are more phallic.
  • 7D/8D: Absolutely! (SURE CAN/YES SIR) — I like it when they use the same clue for different answers, and having them consecutive is a really nice touch. Not so nice: Having it right next to 36A: Think that just maybe one can (DARE TO). At least they avoided having 41A be "Yes We Can" mottoist (OBAMA).
  • Opposites can be nice too, though I like it better when they're actual words I would ever use spelled the way I would spell them. Not so much with 17A: Eye openers? (DILATERS) or 54A: Like pupils that are too small (MIOTIC). These, and I think too much else of the puzzle, feels like words that fit rather than words that were chosen for their word-awesomeness. *cough*ALAMODES*cough*
  • I don't know if 55A: Big, purple Hanna-Barbera character (GRAPE APE) was chosen for awesomeness or not, but GRAPE APE is awesome.
  • 11D: Dollar store? (RENT-A-CARS) — Store can be plural? Or rent-a-car can be a noun? Yeuk.
  • 24D: Tiny amount (WHIT) — How appropriate!

    Every little bit helps. See here for details, or see Whit's page here. And, like GRAPE APE, Whit is awesome too.
  • 56A: Take stock? (INVEST) — This was not RUSTLE. How was this not RUSTLE? This should have been RUSTLE.
  • 33D: Hardly seen at the Forum (RARA) — "Rare", in the language of the Forum. Lotsa question-mark clues today.

  • 44D: Certain foot specialist (ODIST) — When you see "foot", you should think poetry. Anyway, I had an E at the beginning of 44D with my French spellings of JOAN OF ARC, so I guessed ELIOT. In my mind, poetry is also like geology and music. At least I feel bad about the geology part.
Congratulations, BEQ!

Signed, SethG, Royal Vizier of CrossWorld


Michael of "Superbad" / THU 8-25-11 / Harold of the Clinton White House / Lepidopterist's tool / Patty Hearst alias / Tennis great born in Serbia

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Constructor: Patrick Blindauer & Francis Heaney

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Food Pyramids — Circled letters form the name of a food in the shape of a pyramid.

Hi hi, Andrea Carla Michaels here getting to blog today's SASSY (1D: Fresh) puzzle. The lovely PuzzleGirl will help me technically: editing, embedding the images and doing my laundry, because she's just that kind of friend! Speaking of friends, should I recuse myself because Patrick Blindauer and Francis Heaney and I are close buddies? Full disclosure: Patrick and I are frequent puzzle collaborators and I'm going to Patrick's wedding in a couple of weeks.* Well, I would pass on guest-blogging, if I didn't honestly love this puzzle and felt the least bit conflicted. Instead I've got lots to say about this little gem … and Rex was nice enough to let me sit in and say it!

First of all, let's look at the construction. You've got four food "pyramids" stacked across the grid: SOUR CREAM, COBB SALAD, SNOW CONES, SWEET ROLL. Clever, clever construction, if not the most nutritious four-course meal. Love me some Cobb Salad, tho you never know what you are going to get. Sometimes they forget the avocado and put peas in there, sometimes there is a hard boiled egg, sometimes blue cheese delicately sprinkled, sometimes just a huge chunk. It's always an adventure! Hmmm, now that I think about it, is a COBB SALAD a "food" per se or a type of meal made of up different foods? Same slight stutter in initially wanting SNOWpeas because I was unsure if snow cones were food. (By the way, do not, I repeat, do not look up "SNOWCONES" in the Urban Dictionary.)

One minor quibble, theme-wise. Being a start-at-1A solver, I'm not sure I wanted the theme circles to be given away in just the second entry of the grid .… I would rather have been enlightened at the end.

Loved that the grid was rife with food imagery! Patrick and Francis sweetened the solving experience with a little SUET here (4D: Ingredient in some English pudding … yuck), a little ROCA there (49D: Almond ___ (candy brand)), sprinkled with LESS SALT (24D: Dietary dictum for one with hyper tension … and with an echo of EKCO (30D: Kitchenware brand), all washed down with some wine (48D: Blush stoppers (CORKS)).

I would rate this fairly easy, because although I don't time myself, I see my only writeover was CaliSTOGA for CONESTOGA (38A: Pioneer carrier). That would be my Word of the Day, but you can look it up yourself. Just do not google SNOWCONES! I'm serious! I'll never sleep again!

Being a lady of a "certain age" (OLDIE?) I had an easier time with certain clues, e.g. SHE'S A LADY (33A: 1971 Tom Jones hit). How cool is that that Francis and/or Patrick spotted the word SALAD in there???!!

And I still vividly remember the SLA and TANIA (37A: Patty Hearst alias).

Some folks might have had trouble in the heavily-peopled far right middle section, what with EDIE (28D: Falco, of "Nurse Jackie"), the aforementioned TANIA and ICKES (40A: Harold of the Clinton White House). ICKES will live up/down to his name and be icky for some. Why on earth did Harold's parents not change their name when they had the chance? Younger folks are probably more likely to suss out KYLE (60A: "South Park" Boy), CERA (27D: Michael of "Superbad") and ELMO (15A: Friend of Zoe and Abby). I didn't know who Zoe and Abby were. "Sesame Street" premiered in 1969 … I was already ten and knew my alphabet fairly well at that point, so the Muppets were not part of my education. Though I have a vague recovered memory of two silhouettes mouthing, "MMM … OP … MOP"! Trickiest clue, I'm guessing, was "55D Mad people, e.g.: Abbr." If that tripped you up, the answer is EDS., which is short for editors, as in editors of MAD Magazine. Get it now? You're welcome! In my lifetime, we've gone from "What me worry?" to "No worries." Whenever someone says "No worries" instead of "You're welcome," I always feel compelled to respond, "Some worries!" (Then again, I'm Jewish.)

You could see the constructors' predilection for Broadway peek out with the RAITT clue referring to Bonnie's dad John, rather than the "Let's Give Them Something to Talk About" songstress. Bonnie lives here in San Francisco. We have mutual friends and I occasionally run into her, and we have this weird vibe where something always goes terribly wrong between us (once she sort of accused me of stressing out her blind poodle, but that's another story for another time!).

Speaking of San Francisco, I took TROLLEY CAR (54A: Conductor's place) as a personal shoutout to me. But then again, I take everything personally … even CLOBBER (my favorite word in the puzzle!)

Needless to say, these two brilliant creators rarely have DRECK (58A: Shoddy stuff) in their puzzles. The closest they come is DIPL. (42D: Embassy worker), which a little birdie told me may even have been changed. If WEEP were simply changed to PEEL, DIPL. would be transformed into DILL, two more food references (!). Plus you wouldn't lose their clever SEOUL entry (44D: City whose name sounds like a fish). That, by the way, is why Patrick and Francis are too clever by half … and I mean that in a good way … Their SEOUL is a triple Seoul Food/Sole Food/Soul Food pun! And, as we know, Seoul is the brevity of wit! (You would, however, lose the lovely Ms. Fay WRAY (51D "King Kong" costar, 1933).)

Finally, I would be betraying my Minnesota roots if I did not mention the very light Scandinavian theme (by light, I mean a total of two clues!). Scrabble players will recognize RYAS (29D: Scandinavian rugs) if they know their three-letter words (-YA also takes a P front hook!) … and PELLE (45D: "___ The Conqueror" (Max Von Sydow film)) is Norwegian, even tho Max Von Sydow (who was nominated for an Academy award for his role) is Swedish. That was a gimme for me as I have been in love with his son Clas going on 35 years now! Fun fact: Max Von Sydow (who's played everyone from Jesus Christ to the Exorcist to Ming the Merciless to the assassin in "Three Days of the Condor"; he was in all the early Bergman films and was the knight who played Chess with Death!) looks just like the picture on a $20 bill.

And on that (twenty-dollar) note, I'll say CIAO! (56A: Foreign farewell)

HUG (34D: O, Symbolically),


* P.S. By the way, if you love Patrick's puzzles, be sure to check out his website. And you can hop on over to the Crossword Fiend Forum for a little puzzle I made for Patrick and his lovely-bride-to-be Rebecca in lieu of a proper engagement present!


Exotic dancer executed in 1917 / WED 8-24-11 / Fester and Vanya / River to the Rhine / 1983 Mr. T comedy

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Constructor: Kelsey Blakley

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Prepend-a-Vowel — Throw the vowels at the beginning of each of the longest entries in order. Beyond that, there's nothing that these phrases have in common as far as I can tell.

Word of the Day: LEAN ON ME (39D: 1989 movie featuring principal Joe 
Clark) —
Lean on Me is a 1989 dramatized biographical written by Michael Schiffer, directed by John G. Avildsen and starring Morgan Freeman.Lean on Me is loosely based on the story of Joe Louis Clark, a real life inner city high school principal in Paterson, New Jersey, whose school is at risk of being taken over by the New Jersey state government unless students improve their test scores. This film's title refers to the 1972 Bill Withers song of the same name. (wikipedia)

• • •
Hello everyone - it's Neville here, visiting from my regular post over at Crossword Fiend. Like Rex said, you're in for a real treat over the few days. I'm personally excited for what's coming up on Sunday, but enough about Rex's vacation. Let's get to this puzzle!

I struggled to figure this theme out for the longest time. Right off the bat I was filling in wrong letters left and right. AIR BASES are (3D: Homes for drones), but hey, so are ant farms. I did really like that NW corner construction - X-RAY LABS and MATA HARI are both nice entries. The opposite corner has LEAN ON ME, which is fine, but the rest isn't quite as fun. It serves its purpose.

My slow movement through the theme entries due to a lack of a common thread beyond the added letter (though it's not listed on the BS theme list) was slightly alleviated by some familiar content. AOLERS was an unfortunate freebie to see, but AFL-CIO looks nice in the grid. EVADE and ELATE are very familiar five-letter entries. With those in place, I could get things like ARTIST from the not-too-specific clue of (12D: iTunes search category).

Theme answers:
  • ATROPHY CASE (17A: Physical therapist's assignment?)
  • EBONY FISH (24A: Blackened seafood?)
  • ISLANDER TRIAL (36A: Castaway's day in court?)
  • OLIVE BAIT (49A: Lure for Popeye's sweetie?)
  • UNIT PICKING (59A: Choosing between pounds and kilos?)

I've hinted at it, so how about I spit it out. The theme didn't do much for me. I got a smile out of 2 of the 5 theme entries. There was nothing pulling them together. Sometimes I thought it was fishing related (FISH & BAIT), other times I thought it was a legal theme (CASE & TRIAL). I want a tight theme when you're adding just a single letter, especially if each is a different vowel. It's not a bad theme, but it's not mind-blowingly awesome, either. Some of my disappointment comes from the fact that I can think of another way one might clue UNIT PICKING.

  • (11D: Wife of BrutusPORTIA — There's also a Portia in The Merchant of Venice - that's a different one. There's a girl on this season of Big Brother whose name I thought was Portia, but it's actually Porsche. I don't blame her - I blame her parents.
  • (52D: Med-alert bracelet, e.g.ID TAG — This fell easily with the D and T in place - clearly two words.
  • (20A: Gossip, to an AussieYABBER — Yammer + jabber = YABBER. No, it more likely comes from an Aboriginal language. Oh well. Sometimes made up etymologies can be more fun that the real ones.
  • (45D: Runt's groupLITTER — Yes, a litter is a group with a runt, but it feels weird saying that the litter is the runt's group, as though it has possession of the litter. Quite the opposite!
Signed, Neville, Prince of CrossWorld


1972 #1 hit for Sammy Davis Jr / TUE 8-23-11 / Cousin of Muhammad / Pupil coverer / British boob tube / Frozen dessert franchise

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Constructor: Michael Farabaugh

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

THEME: Bolt — that's the clue for four theme answers

Word of the Day: ALI (23A: Cousin of Muhammad) —

Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (Arabic: علي بن أﺑﻲ طالب; Transliteration: ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, [ʕaliː ibn ʔæbiː t̪ˤɑːlib]; 13th Rajab, 24 BH–21st Ramaḍān, 40 AH; approximately October 23, 598 or 600 or March 17, 599 – January 27, 661) was the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and ruled over the Islamic Caliphate from 656 to 661, and was the first male convert to Islam. Sunni Muslims consider Ali the fourth and final of the Rashidun (rightly guided Caliphs), while Shi'a Muslims regard Ali as the first Imam and consider him and his descendants the rightful successors to Muhammad, all of which are members of the Ahl al-Bayt, the household of Muhammad. This disagreement split the Ummah (Muslim community) into the Sunni and Shi'a branches. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not my favorite kind of theme. Also, a theme that could've gone much deeper—to six answers at least, probably more. Bolt = eat food quickly. Bolt = large roll of cloth. Better to shorten up these answers and add a couple more than just have four, esp. when one is LIGHTNING UNIT (?). That's literally correct, I suppose, but UNIT is painful in that phrase. This puzzle wasn't so much difficult (compared to other Tuesdays) as it was hard to move through quickly. I'd get the front end of a theme answer, but it would not lead easily to the back end at all. UNIT? Bah. Even LEAVE didn't help me get SUDDENLY. IN A HURRY seemed plausible. Crosses there were weirdly hard to turn up, as STOW and WELD and DELL did not come easily. The grid seems mostly solid—I'm just underwhelmed by this type of theme, and by the execution of this particular incarnation of this theme type.

Theme answers:
Can't write much more. I have to be up at 4:30am to catch a 6:15 flight. I'll be checking in periodically over the next few days, but you'll mostly be in the hand of capable and entertaining substitute writers—a different one every day! Hope you enjoy the tail end of your summer as much as I plan to enjoy mine (mine will involve a state fair, very dear friends, and probably more alcohol than I've consumed so far this calendar year).

  • 15A: Instrument heard in Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe" (OBOE) — I had no idea that was an OBOE. I nearly wrote in OGEE because I had MEAN instead of MODE at first for 8D: Number in statistics.
  • 33A: The "she" in the lyric "She walked up to me and she asked me to dance" (LOLA) — keeping with the musical theme. Here's a song I actually feel like playing for you.

  • 37A: Frozen dessert franchise (TCBY) — Or, as I always think of it, "I Can't Believe It's Not Yogurt" (it's actually "The Country's Best Yogurt")
  • 64A: Half of a famous split personality (HYDE) — big help when I was flailing away down there in the SW.
  • 3D: They have homes that many people visit (WEBSITES) — this clue feels like a stretch. They have "homes?" Yes, there's a "home" page, but if you are going to use "homes" in a way no one does when speaking about WEBSITES, your clue needs a "?"
  • 38D: 1972 #1 hit for Sammy Davis Jr., with "The" (CANDYMAN) — from "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" — enjoy.

  • 48D: British boob tube (TELLY) — I'm not sure that's equivalent slang. "TELLY" is a neutral term. Also, actor Savalas.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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