1781 Mozart premiere / SAT 3-31-12 / Knighted diamond magnate Oppenheimer / Hugo-winning 1994 memoir / Cityhopper carrier / Demographic lauded in 1965 song / Beano alternative / Temple of Vesta locale

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Constructor: Scott Atkinson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: "IDOMENEO" (2D: 1781 Mozart premiere) —
Idomeneo, re di Creta ossia Ilia e Idamante (Italian for Idomeneo,[1] King of Crete, or, Ilia and Idamante; usually referred to simply as Idomeneo, K. 366) is an Italian language opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto was adapted by Giambattista Varesco from a French text by Antoine Danchet, which had been set to music by André Campra as Idoménée in 1712. Mozart and Varesco were commissioned in 1780 by Karl Theodor, Elector of Bavaria for a court carnival. He probably chose the subject, though it might have been Mozart. (wikipedia)
• • •

Best themeless I've done in a long time. Telling (I think) that it's a 72-worder (the maximum). Crisp and entertaining, with almost no pips or seeds or stones or anything to make you gag or crack a crown. Interlocking 15s are beautiful. Longer answers in the corners do their jobs, solidly, handsomely. Words are words, names are names. And all the mediocre fill is short and somewhat obscured among the array of black squares toward the center of the grid. My favorite part is probably the symmetrical musical face-off right in the middle of the grid: MONKEES vs. THE CARS! (Victory goes to THE CARS by TKO, in case you're wondering). My second favorite part of the grid was "I, ASIMOV," mainly because I guessed (and I mean Guessed) it off just the "I" in TIME (20A: It's often shown with hands). Woo hoo! Worst parts (for me, personally, as a solver) were "IDOMENEO" (not a title I know; really want it to be "I, DOMENEO") and ERNEST Oppenheimer (not up on my diamond magnates, I guess) (13D: Knighted diamond magnate Oppenheimer). But those are probably names I should know, esp. "IDOMENEO"; thus the problem is with my brain, not the puzzle. Best clue: 43A: It's often in the spotlight (XENON).

  • 16A: Singer with a black V-shaped collar (MEADOWLARK) — First thought, for reasons I don't understand at all: BOBBY VALLI (who, it turns out, is the brother of Frankie)
  • 17A: Food product for the eco-conscious (DOLPHIN-SAFE TUNA) — I want to call this clue "killer," but that seems inappropriate. Fantastic, contemporary, in-the-language phrase. THAT is what you should build themeless grids around.
  • 19A: "That man" in "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair" (EMILE) — didn't know this, but still got it easily from crosses. My main question: a. is that really how you spell "OUTA"? and b. why have I not seen that in puzzles? (not that I want to)
  • 33A: Seize, old-style (REAVE) — usually not that excited by "old-style" answers, but I like this one because it intersects another "old-style" answer, reminding us of that old adage: "Never let 'em REAVE your SNEE" (23D: Old dagger).
  • 53A: Ray with lines (LIOTTA) — saw right through this, got it off the "L." This "...with lines"-type clue is almost always an actor. 
  • 60A: Features of some Amerindian embroidery (PORCUPINE QUILLS) — got this off the "QUILLS," which, when I put it that way, is not that impressive-sounding an accomplishment. Beautiful answer.
  • 66A: Brand name used by Jersey Standard (ESSO) — off the "E," confirmed only by the fact that the next two crosses were plurals. 
  • 46A: Language that gave us "catamaran" (TAMIL) — first thought: FARSI.
  • 3D: Demographic lauded in a 1965 song ("CALIFORNIA GIRLS") — another wonderful, genuinely funny clue. "Demographic" = aptly inapt. 

  • 8D: Wheels from the Netherlands (EDAMS) — "What are some Dutch cars?" he wondered, stupidly.
  • 29D: Beano alternative (GAS-X) — that's a nice little four-letter answer. Surprised I don't see it more often.
  • 37D: Cityhopper carrier (KLM) — dang, the Dutch are all over this thing, what with their cheeses and their planes and their porcupines and ...  
  • 46D: Temple of Vesta locale (TIVOLI) — another one I didn't know. Good thing about all the stuff I didn't know was that it was surrounded by stuff I did. Crosswords!    
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


1991 Jackie Chan film / FRI 3-30-12 / Actress Watson / First name in 1970s tyranny / Tell Me More broadcaster / Pirates hangout

Friday, March 30, 2012

Constructor: Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: EMMA Watson (13D: Actress Watson) —

Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson (born 15 April 1990) is an English actress and model.
Watson rose to prominence playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series. Watson was cast as Hermione at the age of nine, having previously acted only in school plays.[2] From 2001 to 2011, she starred in all eight Harry Potter films alongside Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint.[3] Watson's work on the Harry Potterseries has earned her several awards and more than £10 million.[4] She made her modelling debut for Burberry's Autumn/Winter campaign in 2009. (wikipedia)
• • •

If I never saw another quad stack again in my life, that would be fine. Ideal. It's been done many times, and the whole set-up usually doesn't allow for very interesting fill—though this stack is not bad, by any means. In fact, this is as much as I've enjoyed a Krozel puzzle in a Long time (amazing what you can do when you're not stunting or going for a super low word-count). I think the puzzle might actually be Easy—I was somewhat faster than my average, but I see now that this puzzle is super-sized (15x16), so that makes my fast time even faster (relatively speaking). Took many of the small crosses to bring down a lot of those 15s, but in the end there were only a couple points of any significant struggle:

  • Couldn't figure out 30D: Formed another congress. Had RESAT, and then REWED (stupid ETHS can be spelled EDHS, as well, hence the D/T confusion) (40A: Old English letters). Got to REMET only after I somehow figured out IMITATION BUTTER (38A: Promise, e.g.). To do that, I had to change SEWN ON to SEWN IN (22D: Like many monograms on clothing).
  • My John Paul II was a POPE before he was a POLE. I can't be the only one who made that mistake. I also wrote in EPIC instead of EPOS at first (53D: "Beowulf" or "Gilgamesh").

Every other part of the grid, I moved through steadily. Stuff like DOMES and ISTH. and ARRESTEE took some pondering, but not too much. My favorite part of the grid, by far, is TRIPLE WORD SCORE (29A: Great red spot?). Great answer, even greater clue—and I despise Scrabble.

  • 17A: Dubious claim after crying wolf ("I MEAN IT THIS TIME") — took a lot of work, esp. since I came at it backwards.
  • 56A: 1991 Jackie Chan film ("OPERATION CONDOR") — Wow. Talk about your wayback machine. This is several years before Chan became a star in America.
  • 61A: Megillah book (ESTHER) — "Megillah" is a new word for me. I'm guessing it's not meant to be followed by the word "Gerillah." 

  • 6D: First name in 1970s tyranny (IDI) — first thing in the grid.
  • 31D: N.B.A. great Thomas (ISIAH) — another significant gimme.
  • 32D: Pirates' hangout (PITTSBURGH) — "Hangout"'s a bit of a stretch, but PITTSBURGH's a good-looking answer.
  • 46D: Starbucks has one (AROMA) — virtually everywhere has one. :(
  • 57D: "Tell Me More" broadcaster (NPR) — they really like shows with "Tell Me" in the title, apparently.
  • 58D: Runner with a hood (CAR) — another semi-strained clue, but very gettable, nonetheless.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Here's a birthday / tribute puzzle for you. Warning: it revolves around the lyrics to a song. If you don't know the song, the puzzle will be doable, but at least partially mystifying. The song was very popular, so I'm hoping it resonates with at least some of you. You can get the .pdf or .puz file here (at Amy's place). And here's the SOLUTION. And (spoiler alert) here's the song it's based on.


Source of Erebus Gaia in Greek myth / THU 3-29-12 / Rhône feeder / Carrier whose main hub is Kastrup airport / Cousin of a bittern / Big name in kitchenware / Electrician's alloy

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Constructor: Milo Beckman

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: The opening notes of "TWINKLE TWINKLE, Little Star" and the "NOW I KNOW MY ABCS" song — rebus puzzle with those notes across the ... middle ... sort of. (It's a 16x14 grid, so it's a little wonky):


Word of the Day: CARSON, CA (19A: Community near Los Angeles) —
Carson is a city in Los Angeles CountyCalifornia. As of the 2010 census, Carson had a total population of 91,714. Located 13 miles (21 km) south of downtown Los Angeles and approximately 14 miles away from the Los Angeles International Airport, it is known as a suburb of the city.[8] Incorporated on February 20, 1968, Carson is the youngest municipality in the South Bay region of Greater Los Angeles. (wikipedia)
• • •

An ambitious train wreck. Great idea to run the notes across the ... middle ... sort of, and NOW I KNOW MY ABCS works perfectly (in that you sing it to the tune of the notes on the left side of the grid), but then there's those notes on the right ... and nothing to sing them to ... and TWINKLE TWINKLE, which really only gets you through DO DO SOL SOL ... so the theme doesn't work. [Words sung to the beginning ...]—but what about the end notes? Again, great idea, but just Not There in the execution. Scrap. Drawing board. Next. Hey, HOW I WONDER WHAT is 14. Maybe you could shove YOU ARE in there somewhere. Symmetry would be blown, but at least those damned eastern notes would have something to do. Now, neglecting the fatal thematic flaw, the grid is not bad, and I always enjoy a rebus. Plus, the notes actually *did* (by the end), help me to get one of the answers (the SOL in SOLAR, to be exact) (44D: Kind of power), so fun was had. And I'll take ambitious over yawny (which many puzzles have been of late). But thematically this one just feels like a miss. Maybe a near miss, but still...

I thought the puzzle was actually pretty dang easy except for the whole center area. Even after I'd gotten the note / rebus thing, I had no idea what was going on song-wise, since I had only the eastern notes (broke through at ISERE; 24D: Rhône feeder) and couldn't / didn't sing them so had no idea what they represented. I thought maybe the western notes would be a mirror image. No. Once I finally broke NOW I KNOW MY ABCS open, I put it all together. Which reminds me—that damned SW corner (and, to a lesser extent, the NE corner) killed me a little. ROO instead of OWL (67D: Pooh pal) and DDE instead of IKE (69D: Two-time opponent of 32-Across). Ouch. Up top, I don't know / didn't remember CHAOS as a place (8A: Source of Erebus and Gaia, in Greek myth), and ["Shoot!"] always throws me, as my first idea for a synonym is always "DANG!" So even with -K in place, ASK didn't come right away. Everything else was pretty straightforward. The "L" part of SOL always surprises me, no matter how many times I see it written out. Went in expecting "SO," so MAUSOLEUM took slightly longer to come into view than it should have (28D: Commence hostilities). Time was a few seconds faster than last week's, though I'm pretty sure this one's going to play harder for most folks (if the NYT times being posted right now are any indication).

  • 29A: Carrier whose main hub is Kastrup airport (SAS) — got it off the "S," but didn't really *know* it, and then doubted it after I couldn't make SPA work for 3D: Resting place (SOFA). Things worked out eventually.
  • 49A: Cousin of a bittern (EGRET) — off the "E"; pretty common crossbird.
  • 60A: Place for a butcher and two others (TUB) — Nice one. I like the "...and the rest" quality of "two others." 
  • 43D: Electrician's alloy (SOLDER) — the fact that this word is a noun always surprises me. Solidly verby in my mind. 
  • 14D: Big name in kitchenware (EKCO) — The fashion designer is Marc ECKO. I remember this because "CK" = Calvin Klein = fashion designer. Hell yeah it's a good mnemonic.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Fish salted for bacalao / WED 3-28-12 / Splitsville resident / Bygone muscle car / American Leaguer since 1954 / 1974 John Wayne film

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Constructor: Joe DiPietro

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Stuff of People — familiar phrases following a "___ OF ___" pattern are clued as if the word following "OF" were someone's first name. Thus:

  • WORK OF ART = 18A: Man's labor?
  • CRACK OF DAWN = 23A: Woman's flippant remark?
  • ARTICLES OF FAITH = 37A: Woman's journalism? 
  • BUNDLE OF JOY = 53A: Woman's package? (?!) [if you discovered the woman you picked up had a "package," I doubt you'd think of it as a "BUNDLE OF JOY" ...]
  • BOARD OF ED = 59A: Man's plank? 

Word of the Day: TINO Wallenda (41D: One of the flying Wallendas) —
The Flying Wallendas is the name of a circus act and daredevil stunt performers, most known for performing highwire acts without a safety net. They were first known as The Great Wallendas, but the current name was coined by the press in the 40s and has stayed since. The name in their native German, "Die fliegenden Wallenda", is an obvious rhyme on the title of the Wagner opera, "Der fliegende Holländer" ("The Flying Dutchman"). [...] Tino Wallenda, Karl's grandson, started on the high wire at age seven. He is the family patriarch of the Flying Wallendas and is still performing (2008) the Seven-Man Pyramid with his daughters and son, his brother-in-law Sascha Pavlata, son-in-law Robinson Cortes and family friend Jade Kindar-Martin. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not much to say here. Fine and forgettable. This felt much easier (both in terms of content and cluing) than most Wednesdays. Didn't set any record times, but was a good minute faster than last week. All the clues felt exceedingly straightforward. The only things that threw me were [Spiral shape] (I had CURL not COIL); [Like some amusement park passes] (I had ALL-AGE not ALL-DAY); [Conk] (I had BEAT not BEAN); and the Wallenda clue (like I know all the damned Wallendas, come on—my TINO started out as a TINA). The best part of this grid is clearly IN A JIFFY (40D: Right away), though I also like EX-WIFE (6D: Splitsville resident)—something about the odd "XW" combo (also, great clue). Honestly, I can't think of a damned thing to say about this puzzle that I haven't already said, so maybe some bullets, and then goodnight.

  • 15A: Added, in commercialese (XTRA) — "commercialese" is not a word I've seen much, if at all. Wonder if it would fly as an answer in its own right.
  • 34D: 1974 John Wayne film ("MCQ") — would never have known this movie existed were it not for crosswords. Other grid regulars include RUHR, INCA, GTO, LUAU, and HEDY Lamarr.
  • 45D: The Clash's "Rock the ___" ("CASBAH") — That's Monday-easy for me. You just handed me all those delicious first letters in the SW corner. Too easy to tear through a puzzle that's so generous with its cluing.

  • 46D: American Leaguer since 1954 (ORIOLE) — mildly interesting, in that the clue sort of appears to want a specific human being, but the answer is instead a team mascot. [On second thought, as someone pointed out in Comments, that "specific human being" would have to be very, very old for a Major League ballplayer... maybe this hypothetical "human being" was a ballplayer who went directly on to coach and manage ... in the American League ... and is now roughly 80 ... ?]
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. because my mom will want to see it, here's a picture of me—yesterday's Binghamton University "Photo of the Day"


Disc-shaped vacuum cleaner from iRobot / TUE 3-27-12 / Bit of pirate booty / Separator of syllables in many dictionaries / ___ bodkins! / Midwest city representing average tastes / Lava lamp formation / City where Peer Gynt premiered

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Constructor: Todd McClary

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (pushing Wednesdayish)

THEME: FEATHER ONE'S NEST (62A: Gather wealth by exploitation ... as hinted at by this puzzle's circled squares) — circled squares have a bird name sitting directly on top of its feather ... type?

  • LOON on DOWN

Word of the Day: 'ODS bodkins (35D: "___ bodkins!") —

The phrase sounds entirely suited to Tudor yokels and is a stock in trade of any author wishing for a shortcut to convey a sense of 'Olde Engylande'. 

A bodkin is a small tool for piecing holes in leather etc. This term borrows the early bodikin version of that word, not for its meaning but just because of the alliteration with body, to make a euphemistic version of the oath God's body. This would otherwise have been unacceptable to a pious audience. That is, odds bodkins is a minced oath. (The Phrase Finder)
• • •

This one's a little clunky. Do the feathers go with their respective birds, or are the groupings just arbitrary (or, rather, just based on shared word length)? Does a loon have down? A robin plumes? I don't associate those words very strongly with the words they are sitting on. Also, I had no idea FEATHER ONE'S NEST meant what the clue says it means. None. I think I had it confused with "a feather in one's cap," which I don't think has anything to do with "exploitation." Mostly I've never really heard anyone use FEATHER ONE'S NEST, with this clue's meaning or any meaning. Don't like that PLUME (20A: Smoke column) and DOWN (45A: Depressed) get different, non-bird meanings in their clues, but QUILL ... well, not really (67A: Declaration of Independence signer?). You can call it a writing implement, but I still see a feather. There were parts of the grid I liked—most notably ROOMBA, which I briefly thought was going to be ZOOMBA (sp?) which is some kind of workout / dance fad thing. I think. But ROOMBA I like better. ON THE Q.T. is good too. Those two almost make up for ERUPTIVE (?) and the insane non-drug cluing on ODS. Wobbly. That is the general feeling I got from solving this one.

  • 1A: Insignificant one (TWERP) — that clue just doesn't say TWERP to me. It's accurate enough, but there's something much harsher, tone-wise, about TWERP. Also, had trouble seeing it because I went with MACH over WARP at 2D: Measure of speed in "Star Trek" 
  • 16A: Talent agent Emanuel (ARI) — No idea, but I figured ARI Gold is a talent agent, so ... why not?
  • 32A: City where "Peer Gynt" premiered (OSLO) — never saw the clue. Saw OSL- and just dropped the "O" and kept going. 

  • 48A: Poker legend Ungar (STU) — learned from crosswords. Alternative to Disco STU.
  • 58A: Separator of syllables in many dictionaries (DOT) — again, accurate enough, but just not a Tuesday clue. See also 39D: Word usually abbreviated on timelines (ANNO). Yes, it's a "word." Just not an English word. Surprise!
  • 47D: Midwest city representing average tastes (PEORIA) — in one expression, that I know of: "... but will it play in PEORIA?" I have no idea if PEORIA really represents anything about "average" America.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Lohengrin's love / MON 3-26-12 / Singer/actress Deanna of 1930s-40s / Violinist Mischa

Monday, March 26, 2012

Constructor: Ray Fontenot

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (i.e. this was a Tuesday)

THEME: MOVING / VAN (7A: With 58-Down, vehicle for people on the go? ... or a hint to five strategically placed answers in this puzzle) — "VAN" "moves" thru five theme answers, diagonally, right thru the center of the grid

Word of the Day: Mischa ELMAN (5D: Violinist Mischa) —
Mikhail [originally Moses or Moishe[1]] (Mischa) Saulovich Elman (RussianМихаи́л (Ми́ша) Сау́лович Э́льман; January 20, 1891, TalnoyeKiev GovernorateRussian Empire – April 5, 1967, New YorkUnited States) was a Russian violinist, famed for his passionate style and beautiful tone. (wikipedia)
• • •

Very choppy for me, for a Monday. Flat-out didn't know two answers, which is more apt to happen to me on a Thursday or Friday than a *&^ing Monday. One of those answers, ELMAN, was particularly exasperating because it brought back memories of a messed-up clue from days gone by—specifically, from this puzzle, where [Violinist Mischa] was used to clue AUER, only *Leopold* AUER was the violinist, not Mischa. Mischa was an actor. Aaaaaaaanyway, ELMAN, eh? DURBIN, eh? (27A: Singer/actress Deanna of the 1930s-'40s) Ugh. OK. Not Monday fare for me, but OK. I love the long Downs on this one, but my main (big) problem with this grid is how invisible the theme answers are. There are so many other Across answers of the same length that they don't stand out. For some reason I find this phenomenally annoying. I'm impressed at how straight the VAN drives, but that's all I'm impressed by, theme-wise. The placement of MOVING / VAN is absurd. It's an OK puzzle, misplaced on a Monday.

Theme answers:
  • 13A: Alternative to chocolate (VANILLA)
  • 21A: Sir Walter Scott novel ("IVANHOE")
  • 36A: Native of Cuba's capital (HAVANAN) — not your loveliest / most plausible adjective
  • 49A: State of bliss (NIRVANA)
  • 61A: Desert procession (CARAVAN)

Screwed up by going with LAMÉ over LACE (2D: Fabric that doesn't block much light). Got completely befuddled by 53D: Long-haired uglies (HAGS). Had H-GS and definitely considered HOGS. NEW ERA was like pulling teeth (18A: Time of change). I made up some time at the end because I knew the crosswordy stuff like ELSA (33D: Lohengrin's love) and DAKAR and NOOR. All in all, 1m 20s longer than last week's Monday, and just a few seconds shy of last week's Tuesday.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Caesar's first wife / SUN 3-25-12 / Old Soviet naval base site / Kentucky Derby Epsom Oaks for two / Interrupter of Dagwood's naps / Bud schoolgirl in Mystery Edwin Drood

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Two-For-One Special" — phrases made up of two words wherein a letter appearing twice in the first word and then another letter appearing once are flipped to make the second word, e.g. TRIVIAL TRAVAIL, where the two Is and one A in TRIVIAL become the two As and one I in TRAVAIL

Word of the Day: FLAT RACES (75D: Kentucky Derby and Epsom Oaks, for two) —
Flat racing is a form of Thoroughbred horse racing which is run over a level track at a predetermined distance. It differs from steeplechase racing which is run over hurdles. The race is a test of speed, stamina, and the skill of the jockey in determining when to restrain the horse or to impel it. (wikipedia)
• • •

I didn't enjoy this one, mostly because I just couldn't get my head around the theme at all. If I had stopped to think about it long enough, I could've pieced it together while I was solving, but a. that's not how I solve and b. it wouldn't have helped me solve any better. I could see letters being switched, but the pattern eluded me. Still, I pushed forward, and was able to put together the answers without too much trouble, just based on the clues and just the vaguest sense of the theme concept. I got the first theme answer and thought switch would have something to do with placement of letters, and then I got three double-letter answers in a row and just couldn't see how they paralleled the first theme answer. Then I thought the TWO of "Two-For-One" just had to do with contiguity ... until I hit DOMED MODEM, where none of the switched letters are contiguous with one another. Exasperating. Maybe interesting conceptually, but no great fun to solve. Fill seems fine, though FLAT RACES is an utterly new phrase to me, and CORNELIA (64D: Caesar's first wife) only ever wanted to be CORDELIA (truly maddening, given how many damn letters they have in common). Thank you for letting me UNBOSOM all of that (47D: ___ oneself (share private thoughts)). . . I think I'm using that correctly. (I know I will never use it again)

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Ordeal that's no big deal? (TRIVIAL TRAVAIL)
  • 27A: Large cloth sign with nothing on it? (BARREN BANNER)
  • 29A: Toy hammer? (MATTEL MALLET) — OK, I'm at least a little impressed that theme answers here are stacked *3* high
  • 50A: Soft yet easily breakable "Star Trek" creature? (BRITTLE TRIBBLE)
  • 66A: Hemispherical computer add-on? (DOMED MODEM)
  • 68A: "Ride 'em, cowboy," e.g.? (RODEO ORDER)
  • 79A: Big house that's not as big? (SMALLER SLAMMER) CLUEANSWER
  • 99A: Goddess of gas? (ETHANE ATHENA)
  • 102A: Get part of one's shirt under control? (CORRAL COLLAR)
  • 108A: What the Gorgon Stheno does in Greek myth? (PURSUES PERSEUS)
  • 19A: Hitchcock thriller set in Brazil ("NOTORIOUS") — I own this and still couldn't come up with the answer straight away.
  • 22A: Nation bordering Svizzera (ITALIA) — took a few beats for me to get that "Svizzera" was just Italian for "Switzerland."
  • 34A: Ending with sex or symbol (-ISM) — nearly ended with an error because I had -IST here. Thankfully, I was thorough enough to check on 14D: The Andrea Doria, for one, and I was pretty sure STEAT SHIP was wrong ... 
  • 46A: Gulf of Oman port (MUSCAT)MUSCAT sounds like a person. Took me a few seconds to accept that it was a place.

  • 116A: Old Soviet naval base site (ODESSA) — one of those answers I can just throw across based on just a cross or two (in this case, the A). Supercommon crossword place name, esp. as 6-ltr. answers go. 
  • 49D: Phoebe of "Drop Dead Fred" (CATES) — I saw her very briefly rushing down the stairs of the subway station at Union Square just last week. Also saw NYT reporter David Carr (whom I recognized from the documentary "Page One"), right outside the NYT building, and NY Knicks point guard Baron Davis, who was filming something on the east side of Union Square.
  • 2D: ___ Bud, schoolgirl in "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (ROSA) — I had ROSE. Too spot-on, I guess.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


1957 hit for Perry Como / SAT 3-24-12 / Oyster Bay hamlet / Melodic passages / Jerboa's home / Volstead Act opponents / NYC commuting debut of 1904

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Constructor: Barry C. Silk

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: SYOSSET (24A: Oyster Bay hamlet) —
Syosset is a hamlet (and a census-designated place) in Nassau County, New York, in the northeastern section of Town of Oyster Bay near the North Shore of Long Island. The population was 18,829 at the 2010 census. It is served by the Syosset railroad station, the Syosset Post Office, the Syosset Central School District, the Syosset Public Library, the Syosset Fire Department, and the Jericho Water District. (wikipedia)
• • •

The corners on this one—virtually all the 10s—are nice. The SW is the worst of them all, and the only real problem there is ODER-NEISSE (26D: ___ Line (German/Polish border)), an answer I retrieved from the deepest depths of my brain (after discarding ODENSE-something) only because I'd run into it in crosswords before. An answer like that is a real drag, because if you don't know it (and why should you?) there's virtually nothing about it that's inferrable, so you can only get it through slow process of torture. Strap it to a chair and pull its teeth. Miserable. This is the big problem with the puzzle's worst answer—SYOSSET. This is NY provincialism at its worst. A "hamlet" no bigger than, oh, let's say, TRURO (gag), and its spelling is nuts, and and and. That's the sore-thumbiest answer I've seen in a long time. Everything else in this puzzle is at least plausbily familiar to all. Famous names, general vocabulary, some crosswordese (see ARIOSI, e.g. 21A: Melodic passages). And then there's SYOSSET. There's no reason anyone outside the greater NY area should know what the hell that is. Is it fair? Well, all the crosses are gettable (or, in the case of "IVY ROSE" (???) inferrable (11D: 1957 hit for Perry Como)), so, yeah, sure. But torturous tooth-pulling metaphor applies here, too. Moreso. That answer nearly WHELMed me.  And by the way: if WHELM means [Overpower], then "overWHELM" means ... [Overoverpower]???

Got started by dropping down PAS (4D: Part of une danse) and TSARS (7D: Pre-Soviet succession) and a very tentative AMA. This allowed me to see PASTRAMI. In inferred the HOT and was off and running (1A: Stage Deli staple). Had SATAYS for SAMOSA (6D: Chutney-dipped appetizer), but that's really the only write-over I had in the whole puzzle. Oh, no—I stupidly wrote in plural SARIS (instead of correct SAREE 30A: Ranee's wear) before MORAY EEL set me straight (10D: Crevice-lurking predator). Thought the clue on BASE PATH was very clever (33D: Diamond lane). Once I plunked that down, ETHEL MERMAN became obvious (off the "-TH-") (53A: 1951 Tony winner for "Call Me Madam") and then that corner was done. NE took me the longest, which was almost entirely SYOSSET's fault. Finished in 10-something on paper. No idea if that's fastish or normal. I know it's not slow (my slow Saturdays are pushing 15 or higher when I'm solving on-screen).

  • 15A: Writer who held 14 honorary doctorates (ISAAC ASIMOV) — ASIMOV shows up not infrequently in puzzles. Not many V-ending words out there. 
  • 29A: Singer of the 2011 #1 hit "Someone Like You" (ADELE) — Justifiably, deservedly famous now. Hurray.

  • 40A: Jerboa's home (DESERT) — forgot jerboas were animals and went looking for a country.
  • 46D: "Ev'rybody Wants to Be ___" (Disney film tune) ("A CAT") — nooo idea. This is from ... "Lady and the Tramp"??? No. Dang it. It's 1970's "The Aristocats." Never seen it.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Figure skater Brasseur / FRI 3-23-12 / 1993 rap hit in which Snoop Doggy Dogg popularized term bootylicious / Ancient talisman with mathematical properties / Minnie Moocher feature / Ponyo writer/director Hayao / Vronsky's love / Beater of full boat in poker

Friday, March 23, 2012

Constructor: Steven Riley

Relative difficulty: REALLY EASY

THEME: none

Word of the Day: "DRE DAY" (56A: 1993 rap hit in which Snoop Doggy Dogg popularized the term "bootylicious") —
"Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin')" (released as "Dre Day") is a hip-hop single by Dr. Dre, with a guest appearance by Snoop Doggy Dogg, from the 1992 album The Chronic on Death Row Records. The song was released as a single in 1993. (wikipedia)


• • •

I nearly set a Friday record, and I was solving on paper. In fact, I'm certain this is an on-paper record for me, for Friday. It's a nice, lively, clean grid, but the cluing could've been dialed up a bit. Too many gimmes, and some long gimmes at that (e.g. "JERSEY SHORE" 47A: Hit MTV series starting in 2009; BRAIN FREEZE 19A: Ice cream gobbler's woe, etc.). There was some clue trickiness around a couple of actor names, most notably BROSNAN (36D: Pierce with lines) and ANNE (43A: Archer of film), and I can see how some people might have been utterly locked out of stuff like "DRE DAY" and MIYAZAKI (31D: "Ponyo" writer/director Hayao), but that's all right over the plate for me. The problem with a puzzle this smooth and easy and unthornily clued is that there's not much to say. A pleasant way to spend a handful of minutes on a Friday.

  • 36A: "The Godfather" enforcer who "sleeps with the fishes" (BRASI) — Luca BRASI. Everyone who knows that film knows this answer. 
  • 39A: "Minnie the Moocher" feature (SCAT) — is it possible that this song was in the "Blues Brothers" movie? I feel like I know it, but I don't know how ... YES. I was right. Hurray for my memory and its ability to retrieve 32-year-old trivia.

  • 53A: Vronsky's love (KARENINA) — come on. 
  • 4D: Ancient talisman with mathematical properties (MAGIC SQUARE) — No idea what this is, but MAGIC filled itself in, and then the Q showed up (28A: Beater of a full boat in poker = QUADS), and what else could it be?
  • 12D: Figure skater Brasseur (ISABELLA) — a nice attempt to toughen things up, and yet I filled this in entirely off just the "IS-".
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Silents star Nita / THU 3-22-12 / Laulau side dish / Wearer of crown since 1952 / Celebrity widowed in 1980 / O Henry winner Region of Ice 1967 Dead 1973 / 1930s migrant / Bramble book of Robert Bridges poems

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: -EAKS / -AKES — STEAKS phrase flipped to STAKES phrase and vice versa. Ditto BREAKS/BRAKES

Word of the Day: BURL (54D: Small knot) —
  1. A knot, lump, or slub in yarn or cloth.
    1. A large rounded outgrowth on the trunk or branch of a tree.
    2. The wood cut from such an outgrowth, often used decoratively as a veneer.

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/burl#ixzz1poAwJALo
• • •

I'm really surprised this theme passed muster. Can't you do this kind of thing with like a billion different words? These phrases aren't funny. I barely know what "chopped steak" is. Thursdays should be much more interesting and adventurous than this. Tough cluing kept this Thursday-tough, but this things's a real disappointment, theme-wise.

Theme answers:
  • 19A: Entrees for one of Dion's backup singers? (BELMONT STEAKS)
  • 30A: Discounts at garages? (PARKING BREAKS)
  • 36A: Severely reduced wagers? (CHOPPED STAKES)
  • 52A: What mechanics may do as part of a tuneup? (SERVICE BRAKES)
Started this one strangely, spilling backwards into the middle of the grid starting with EN LAI, then "IT IS I" to STAN to "CONAN" to OKIE. Not sure what happened after that. I know I threw in I THEE with no help, and then got RAKE. The "Dion's back-up singers" part of the theme clue gave me the BELMONT I needed to get going in the NW. Figured out STEAKS and got NE from there. Had most trouble with the E and SE. Honestly, -PPED STAKES did nothing for me. Guessed OHM'S LAW off just the "W" but was not at all sure (38D: Current principle). Couldn't get TREED (49D: In a tough spot) or OVERT (50D: Plain) to fall from their first letters. No way I could see ON ALERT from [Primed]. Couldn't see COLLEEN (56A: Irish lass) because SHEILA was stuck in my head (wrong country). Tough. But ultimately doable.

I know almost nothing about the "Ring" cycle, so SPRITES? If you say so (1A: The Rhinemaidens in the "Ring" cycle, e.g.). The only author of "The Dead" that I know is Joyce ... right? And it fit, but the years were all wrong (9D: O. Henry Award winner for "In the Region of Ice" (1967) and "The Dead" (1973) = Joyce Carol OATES). "Bramble BRAE" means less than nothing to me (32D: "Bramble ___" (book of Robert Bridges poems)). Perhaps if I had any idea who Robert Bridges was ... Robert BURNS would've helped here. Maybe. Otherwise, I was on fairly comfortable ground, and benefited from a lot of well-placed gimmes, SANTINI being foremost among them (7D: "Great" part for Duvall). ONO and ZAK were also easy (57D: Celebrity widowed in 1980 / 24: Ringo's drumming son). Don't know what/where Laulau is, but its "side dish" couldn't be much else but POI. TÊTE pretty much solved itself (29D: Casse-___ (French brainteaser)). Same with OKIE (28D: 1930s migrant). Didn't know MISS U.S.A. straight off, but had the MISS in place before I ever saw the clue, so there wasn't much guesswork there (12D: Wearer of a crown since 1952). Final letter was the "G" in COG / GEM (36D: Certain tooth / 48A: Sweetheart).
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    1962 Neil Simon musical / WED 3-21-12 / Horsehide leather / Southwestern spread / Bees big company in personal care products

    Wednesday, March 21, 2012

    Constructor: Peter A. Collins and Joe Krozel

    Relative difficulty: Medium

    THEME: ARETHA FRANKLIN (42A: Singer born March 25, 1942)— an almost-birthday tribute puzzle?

    Word of the Day: Koh-i-NOOR diamond (47A) —

    The Kōh-i Nūr (TeluguకోహినూరుHindiकोहिनूरPersian/Urdu: کوه نور ) which means "Mountain of Light" inPersian, also spelled Koh-i-noorKoh-e Noor or Koh-i-Nur, is a 105 carat (21.6 g) diamond (in its most recent cut) that was once the largest known diamond in the world. The Kōh-i Nūr originated in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India along with its double, the Darya-ye Noor (the "Sea of Light"). It has belonged to various Hindu,PersianRajputMughalTurkicAfghanSikh and British rulers who fought bitterly over it at various points in history and seized it as a spoil of war time and time again. It was most recently seized by the East India Company and became part of the British Crown Jewels when Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of Indiain 1877. It was traditionally known as Syamantaka-mani and later Madnayak or the King of Jewels, before being renamed Kohinoor in 18th century by Afghan Ahmad Shah Abdali.
    The diamond is currently set into the Crown of Queen Elizabeth and on display at the Tower of London. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    ARETHA and her music are well known to me, so no trouble there (except with "BABY I / LOVE YOU"—which is really awkwardly placed on the grid and not one of the first ARETHA hits that comes to (my) mind, though I love it). The rest of the grid was at least semi-tough, or semi-toughly clued, so I think my time on this was normal. Maybe even slightly slow. I'm still getting used to what my average times are *on paper*, so ... who knows? I don't understand why this puzzle exists. She's *going* to turn 70 in four days? Has there ever been such a flimsy premise for a tribute puzzle. They probably pre-wrote it for her death, and that just didn't come fast enough, so here we go. (Sorry if that sounds cynical, but if obits are often largely pre-written, why not tribute crosswords?) I like the way the non-centrality of the singer's name is offset by the serendipitously symmetrical QUEEN OF SOUL. The choice of representative songs seems good (with the severed, upside-down "BABY I / LOVE YOU" being the notable exception).

    Theme answers:
    • 30A: Nickname for 42-Across (QUEEN OF SOUL)
    • 5D: 1968 hit for 42-Across ("THINK")
    • 52D: With 10-Down, 1967 hit for 42-Across ("BABY I / LOVE YOU")
    • 16D: 1967 hit for 42-Across ("CHAIN OF FOOLS") — here's the real serendipity: getting this answer to intersect the two main theme answers. Whole grid was built around this three-answer framework.
    • 43D: 1967 hit for 42-Across ("RESPECT")

    Got BLURTS right off but didn't write it in bec. I couldn't confirm crosses. I THINK I started with SORE and then RANCHO (13A: Southwestern spread). Kept looking for familiar, non-literary Spanish place names at 2D: Sancho Panza's land (LA MANCHA)—getting that answer was a big "D'oh!" Couldn't get into the NE at all from the west side. Had TH- and couldn't see THE LOT (7A: Everything), DE- and couldn't see DEAR ONE (?) (14A: Precious), COR- and couldn't see (didn't know) CORDOVAN (which seems more adjective than noun) (16A: Horsehide leather). Had to build that corner from the bottom up (slower). Rest of the grid was event-free, except for where I wrote in SORTED for SIFTED (65A: Examined thoroughly, with "through") and misspelled HOARD (51D: Stash) as HORDE. Clue on BURT'S was interesting (52A: ___ Bees (big company in personal care products)). About as good as a clue is going to get for BURT'S. Never heard of "LITTLE ME" (40D: 1962 Neil Simon musical). Always thought "Yowzer!" was spelled "Yowza!" That is all.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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