Jul 29, 2014

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 Pawel Fludzinski

Theme: Batteries Included - Eight(8!) entries with four A's and only A's plus the reveal clued as the tiny battery.

18A. Undoubtedly : FAR AND AWAY. Link

23A. Lawn option in warm climates : BAHAMA GRASS. Link

33A. Straw topper first made in Ecuador, surprisingly : PANAMA HAT. Link

46A. Twin-hulled vessel : CATAMARAN. Link

51A. Sleepover with more giggling than sleeping : PAJAMA PARTY. Link

64A. Island off Africa's southeast coast : MADAGASCAR. Link

4D. Picnic staple : PASTA SALAD. Link

29D. Missed the bus, forgot lunch, argued with the boss, etc. : HAD A BAD DAY. Link

59D. Battery found, in a way, in eight puzzle answers : AAAA. Link

Argyle here. By my count(entries with A's only), there two triple A's and ten double A's; 49 in total. All those entries but the fill didn't suffer. The theme took up 79 squares. The grid doesn't look like a Tuesday but the solve was. Very good, Pawel.


1. File attachment icon : CLIP. A paper clip.

5. Caviar, e.g. : ROE

8. Inbox fillers : EMAILS

14. Turkish currency : LIRA

15. Train station abbr. : ARR. (arrival)

16. Update the factory equipment : RETOOL

17. Long-billed wader : IBIS

                         ibis in the myst

20. Computer adventure game : MYST

21. Not any : NONE

22. Ordered : BADE

27. Heavy drinker : SOT who might 36D. 27-Across sound : [HIC!]

28. South Seas resort island : TAHITI

39. Crimson Tide coach Nick : SABAN. Current head football coach of the University of Alabama.

40. Inland Asian sea : ARAL

41. Backless sofa : DIVAN

43. Woodworking groove : DADO. More information than you probably care to know. Link

44. Competitor : RIVAL

48. Obeyed a doctor holding a tongue depressor : SAID "AH"

50. Have a good cry : SOB

58. Olympic sprinter Devers : GAIL. ESPN Where Are They Now? Link

62. Still-life object : VASE

63. Be bold enough : DARE

67. Key of Beethoven's Ninth: Abbr. : D MINor

68. __ Islands, south of Cuba : CAYMAN

69. Suffix with pay : OLA

70. Fence the loot for, say : ABET

71. Lipton alternative : SALADA

72. Recipe amt. : TSP

73. "Star Wars" guru : YODA


1. Scale, as a wall : CLIMB

2. Egypt neighbor : LIBYA

3. Notre Dame's Fighting __ : IRISH

5. Battle of Britain fliers: Abbr. : RAF. (Royal Air Force)

6. Endangered ape : ORANGutan

7. Proofreader's find : ERROR

8. One of the Gallos : ERNEST. His brother was Julio.

9. __ school : MED

10. Run __: pay later at the bar : A TAB

11. Hawkeye State : IOWA

12. Put ammo into : LOAD

13. Roy Rogers' birth name : SLYE. Leonard Franklin Slye doesn't sound like a cowboy, eh?

19. Santa __ winds : ANA

24. May honoree : MOM

25. Just barely : A TAD

26. Carrier to Copenhagen : SAS

30. Construction beam : I-BAR

31. "Look what I did!" : "TADA!

32. Advised about : IN ON

33. Golf scorecard numbers : PARS

34. Operatic solo : ARIA

35. "Avatar" race : NA'VI. From the movie.

37. Actress Gardner : AVA

38. Bit of body art, briefly : TAT

42. Voyager-launching org. : NASA

45. Napkin holder : LAP

47. Floor-washing aid : MOP

49. Cuban capital : HAVANA

52. Madison or Monroe, for short : JAS. (James)

53. Fancy tie : ASCOT

54. Brunch and lunch : MEALS

55. Stallone role : RAMBO. Rocky was on TV so I stuck that in first.

56. Took a crack at : TRIED

57. Busybody : YENTA

58. Safari and Yukon : GMCs. General Motors Company van and SUV.

60. Pastoral verse : IDYL

61. Tibetan monk : LAMA

65. Meander : GAD. Roam.

66. Jay Z's genre : RAP


Jul 28, 2014

Monday, July 28, D. Scott Nichols and C.C. Burnikel

Theme: Hello 'Dere

In comedy circles the pairing of a handsome Italian singer and a clownish Jewish comedian is common practice, and while Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis may be the gold standard, Allen and Rossi worked together for many years with this catch phrase.

It seemed fitting to use this pairing as the theme for the reappearance of the team of Argyle and C.C.

I found the puzzle a great example of a Monday, with a very gettable theme with a good reveal and many easy fill.  But there are also many middling length words like DEPART, NESTLE,  SPARSE,  STALLS,  STEAKS, UNREST,  ALL THAT,  SITS PAT, PASSOVER,  BE MY GUEST,  SO IT SEEMS which like their earlier efforts in 2012 and 2013, make you work a little bit for your porridge. After Steve blogged the first one, and Argyle his own, Scott was looking for a pinch hitter, so here I am.

17A. Nautically themed boy's outfit : SAILOR SUIT. Hello Sailor is a classic line from a working girl. Speaking of girls and sailor suits. This was very popular when my boys were little. LINK. (1:32)

25A. "9 to 5" singer : DOLLY PARTON. Hello Dolly the very successful stage play and movie about the matchmaker. SONG. (7:57). My favorite version.

47A. Filler for Tabby's box : KITTY LITTER. The ridiculously successful FRANCHISE.
And the reveal,

58A. Friendly greeting, and a hint to the starts of 17-, 25- and 47-Across : HELLO THERE.


1. Electrical pioneer Nikola : TESLA. With Tesla Motors I am sure everyone knows something of this highly charged scientist.

6. __ and bolts : NUTS.

10. Take the chance : DARE. Of course this fill is what brought Marty Allen back to mind.

14. Not whispered : ALOUD.

15. Morales of "NYPD Blue" : ESAI. Classic beginner crosswordese for a minor character on a show off the air for a very long time.

16. Charles Lamb pseudonym : ELIA.

19. Repressed, with "up" : PENT.

20. Caesar's rebuke to Brutus : ET TU. Brute. And you Brutus?

21. JFK prediction : ETA. Estimated Time of Arrival.

22. Thinly distributed : SPARSE. Like the beards on many young men, which you can see clearly in...

24. Hi-__ image : RES. My write over, as I had hi-def. Any comments on HI in an Hello puzzle?

27. Beethoven's "Für __" : ELISE. Another very common fill in early week puzzles.

29. Direction after Near, Far or Middle : EAST.

30. Three-layer cookies : OREOS. A fresh clue for another old favorite.

32. Greasy spoon orders, briefly : BLTS. Bacon Lettuce Tomato(s).

33. Green __, Wisc. : BAY. Training camp has started. Interesting that there are two Bays in the NFL.

36. Overplay on stage : HAM UP. Would like an "IT" somewhere there.

37. Nil : ZIP. So many ways to say nothing.

38. More than chubby : OBESE. Based on height and weight, I am obese.

40. NBA tiebreakers : OTS. OverTimes.

41. Put down, as linoleum : LAID. Yeah, I had a girl friend like that once, but she was not one of those...

43. Femmes fatales : VAMPS.

44. Pretzel topping : SALT. At my Auntie Annes there is so much more.

45. Far from posh : SEEDY. Like many places with linoleum floors.

51. Space between things : GAP. Am I the only one who thought of Michael Strahan's teeth?

54. Pre-riot state : UNREST. Newspeak.

55. Dinghy propeller : OAR.

56. Aww-inspiring? : CUTE. Really cute clue.

57. March Madness org. : NCAA. National Collegiate Athletic Association.

61. Poster-hanging hardware : TACK. I bet you all nailed that one.

62. Jump on the ice : AXEL. Always a nice SO to dear Clear Ayes.

63. Eye surgery tool : LASER. Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Had mine in 2011, did not go well. Not related to 1D. Stun gun kin : TASER. The one used by the police according to wiki  was invented by a man who named it after his childhood favorite Thomas A. Swift and His Electric Rifle.

64. Picnic spoilers : ANTS. And cousins...

65. Wobbly walkers : TOTS. Alliteration and a cute mental picture.

66. Credits as a source : CITES.

2. Lift the spirits of : ELATE. Euphoria here I come.

3. "Evidently" : SO IT SEEMS. Multiple word fill can be tricky.But this one was not a...

4. Doozie : LULU. Causing no...

5. Commotion : ADO.  Allowing me to ...

6. Get snuggly : NESTLE. In my...

7. Bar regular's order, with "the" : USUAL. Place next to the lamp.

8. "__-Pan": Clavell novel : TAI. An interesting book about some Hong Kong BIG SHOTS.

9. Refuses to make changes : SITS PAT. From poker?

10. Leave : DEPART.

11. Like a sentry : ALERT. We all hope....

12. Classic laundry detergent : RINSO. To me it was RINSO BLUE. Recognize the pitchman? (1:55).

13. All finished, as dinner : EATEN.

18. Antique autos : REOS. Mr. Olds old car.

23. Holiday with a Seder : PASSOVER. Or two....

25. Showroom exhibitions : DISPLAYS.

26. Website providing restaurant reviews : YELP.

28. Reed of The Velvet Underground : LOU. Lou who died this year, is the favorite of Melrose Plant.

30. "Now I get it!" : OHO. Meh.

31. Lab rodent : RAT. Dawn of the Planet of the Rats?

32. Bridge player's call : BID.

33. "Help yourself" : BE MY GUEST. I had the B and the rest came easily; of course my youngest performed in Beauty and the Beast. SONG. (3:30)

34. Snake on a pharaoh's crown : ASP.

35. Thumbs-up : YES. Tempted to link more music.

37. Pasta tubes : ZITI. I make a nice baked ziti.

39. Like stormy weather: BAD.

42. "It's __ and a bag of chips" : ALL THAT. My research suggests this 90's phrase which I learned from my kids originated in a Busta Rhymes (love that name) lyric. Anyone?

44. Outback specialties : STEAKS. The restaurant chain with the bloomin' onion and Paul Hogan who just divorced Linda after 17 years.

45. Delays on purpose : STALLS.

46. Designer Saarinen : EERO. On to the weird first name part of the fill, with this famous architect and...

47. Kinte of "Roots" : KUNTA. Alex Haley's great, great, great, great, grandfather is back.

48. Peruvian native : INCAN.

49. Parcel of land : TRACT.

50. Apartment vacancy sign : TO LET.

52. "... poem lovely as __": Kilmer : A TREE. I hope neither Owen or Chairman Moe are threatened but...LINK.

53. Social equals : PEERS. In Britain, the Lords and Ladies.

56. Indian spiced tea : CHAI. I like one now and then.

59. Prefix with thermal : EXO. I never saw it so it eliminated the GEO EXO conflict.

60. Compassionate handling, briefly : TLC. Tender Loving Care, which I tried to bring to this blog, sitting in for Argyle. It is my maiden Monday effort, and I now have all five days of the week done. Well, enjoy the last week in July, NFL training camps open (!) sun shining and the puzzles keep on flowing from the Corner and its friends. Thanks guys, a fun ride. See you all next time, Lemonade


Note from C.C.:

As Lemonade mentioned earlier,  D. Scott Nichols is Argyle, our Monday & Tuesday Sherpa.

Young Argyle & his dog Rags

Jul 27, 2014

Sunday July 27, 2014 Ed Sessa,

Theme: "Double Talk"- Clues, all in quotation marks (hence "talk"), serve dual purpose (hence "double talk"), explaining both words in theme answers which are all in the pattern of *ING *

23A. "Uh-oh, there's a ball and glass shards under the window"? : BREAKING NEWS

45A "Give 20% for great service"? : TIPPING POINT. Tipping was new to me when I first arrived in the US.

61A. "You shoulda seen the one that got away"? : FISHING LINE. The Annandale flea market we go on Saturdays are surrounded by many many lakes.

70A. "The children were angels and in bed by eight"? : SITTING BULL

86A. "Hooray, you're up!"? : ROUSING CHEER

112A. "Here's a good way to use your comb"? : PARTING WORDS

17D. "Who's ahead?"? : LEADING QUESTION

43D. "A daily jog is good for you"? : RUNNING ARGUMENT

So, all the theme entries are completely re-interpreted with amusing effect. It takes imagination & humor to execute this type of gimmick. Ed is a pro.

Also I love the fill today. So clean for a 140-worder.


1. Be a slacker : DOG IT

6. Soft-bodied swimmers : OCTOPI. The meat is chewy.

12. Kin of raspberries : CATCALLS. Not other fruit.

20. One may be seen with glasses : OPERA. Opera glasses.

21. Forgoes : WAIVES

22. Like sloths : ARBOREAL

25. "No sweat" : REAL EASY!

26. Prohibited : BANNED

27. Organ with a drum : EAR

28. Small strings on the Big Island : UKES

30. Presages : BODES

31. Destroys, as illusions : SHATTERS. That's why I disliked Juiced.

33. Forced with a crowbar : PRIED

35. 68-Down maker : DELI. 68. 35-Across order : BLT. I already harvested two tomatoes from our garden.

36. __Kosh B'Gosh : OSH

37. Rhone feeder : SAONE

38. "The Great Schnozzola" : DURANTE

41. Taj Mahal setting : AGRA

48. St. leader : GOV. "St" can stand for quite a few things.

49. Dull-edged : BLUNT

51. Trekkie, to some : NERD

52. Get into : DON. Oh, clothes.

53. "__ se habla español" : AQUI. Here. Spanish is spoken here.

54. Wrigley's Big Red flavoring : CINNAMON

56. Silver lining : UPSIDE

59. Pitch : HURL

60. RR stop : STN

64. Composer Camille Saint-__ : SAENS

65. Link up with : TIE TO

67. "The Dark Knight" director Christopher : NOLAN. I confused him with the creepy X-Men director Bryan Singer.

68. Brazilian dance opener : BOSSA (Nova)

69. Jamboree quarters : TENTS

74. "Enough already!" : TMI

76. Therefore : ERGO

77. Like this answer : ACROSS. So meta.

78. Things : ENTITIES

80. Indian flatbread : NAAN

81. Mauna __ : LOA. "Long" in Hawaiian.

82. Part of a family business name : SONS

84. Unmanned flier : DRONE

85. Copier size: Abbr. : LTR

91. Hold 'em opener : ANTE

92. Most monumental : BIGGEST

94. Aloe targets : SORES

95. Batt. terminal : NEG

97. Sources in a modern bibliog. : URLS

98. Playwright Chekhov : ANTON. Masha, one of  "Three Sisters",  was modeled on his future wife, a stage actress.

99. Mason : STONEMAN

104. '50s first lady : MAMIE

106. Cocktail hour spread : PATE

107. Hieroglyphic serpent : ASP

109. Wisconsin city on Lake Michigan : RACINE. Not familiar with this city. Siren, Wisconsin has a Burnikel Road.

110. Mass approval : AMEN AMEN

115. Beltway : RING ROAD

116. Each : A PIECE

117. Like a good watchdog : ALERT

118. Chant : INTONATE. Only know the noun "Intonation".

119. Headed for the Styx : DOOMED

120. Helps through difficulty, with "over" : TIDES


1. Lou of Fox Business Network : DOBBS. I used to watch him faithfully in his CNN days.

2. TV book club creator : OPRAH

3. Actress Davis : GEENA

4. "__, Therefore I Am": Dennis Miller book : I RANT

5. Become fond of : TAKE TO

6. Possess : OWN

7. Cockatoo quarters : CAGES

8. '90s "New Yorker" editor Brown : TINA. Sharp wit. She bought this famous cartoon & published it immediately. Like LA Times crosswords, "New Yorker" has a long queue of cartoons.

"No, Thursday's out. How about never - is never good for you?"

9. Didn't shop around, maybe : OVER-PAID

10. Benchlike seat : PEW

11. Distributing : ISSUING

12. Liked, with "for" : CARED

13. Greek war god : ARES

14. Not decided, in skeds : TBA

15. Comic with a satiric news show : COLBERT. I prefer Jon Stewart. Who's your favorite comic, Jayce?

16. Colorful ring : AREOLA

18. Zap : LASE

19. Stone and others : SLYS

24. Caesar's "that is" : ID EST

29. Maintain : KEEP

32. Endangered Sumatrans : RHINOS

34. Kim Possible's sidekick __ Stoppable : RON. No idea. Never watched Kim Possible.

35. "An Inconvenient Woman" novelist : DUNNE

37. Three-mo. period : SPR

38. LED component : DIODE

39. Open, for one : TOURNAMENT

40. Bad things : EVILS

41. Kindergarten basics : ABCS

42. People people : GLITTERATI. People magazine.

44. Gothic novelist Radcliffe : ANN

46. Phnom __ : PENH

47. God in both Eddas : ODIN

50. Political family spanning three centuries : TAFTS.  I even remember Bob Taft. Must be some scandals.

53. Cries of discovery : AHAs

55. Mine in Milan : MIO

56. Citrus hybrids : UGLIS. Very juicy.

57. It may contain steps : PLAN

58. Perform, in a way : SING

62. Digging : INTO

63. Have-__: disadvantaged ones : NOTS

64. Reliable, as a citizen : SOLID

66. Prince William's alma mater : ETON

69. Workout wt. : TEN LB

70. Jamboree attendee : SCOUT. Have any of you read "The Mockingbird Next Door"? Harpee Lee called Truman Capote a "psychopath".

71. Some savings accts. : IRAS

72. Prefix with diction : BENE

73. Not posted yet : UNSENT

75. "Understood" : I SEE

77. Puzzled, after "at" : A LOSS

79. La-la lead-in : TRA

82. Script outline : SCENARIO

83. Aptly named Quaker cereal : OHS. I've been enjoying the Test Kitchen steel cut oatmeal D-Otto mentioned on the blog a few months ago. Too bad he does not like it himself.

86. Master again : RE-LEARN

87. Ain't good? : ISN'T. Grammatically.

88. Place for a to-do list : NOTE PAD

89. Garden product word : GRO. Miracle-Gro.

90. Bankruptcy result, briefly : REORG

93. "__ Viejo": Carlos Fuentes novel : GRINGO. Carlos Fuentes said Spanish was the only language he could make love with. That's why he only married Mexican women.

96. Plague : GNAW AT

98. "Duck Dynasty" airer : A AND E

99. Rub ingredient : SPICE

100. Bacteria found in the GI tract : ECOLI

101. Stuck in muck : MIRED

102. Wrestler known as "the Giant" : ANDRE. He was in The Princess Bride.

103. Tweeting locales : NESTS. Not Twitter tweet.

104. Spouse on the Seine : MARI. Husband.

105. Ugandan despot : AMIN

106. Organic fuel : PEAT

108. Poppy prop : STEM

111. Minn. shopping mecca : MOA. Mall of America, where Gary & his wife will visit next month.

113. GI's address : APO

114. Beatty of "Deliverance" : NED. Wish I did not see the movie. 


Jul 26, 2014

Saturday, Jul 26th, 2014, Kevin Christian

Theme: None

Words: 72 - Pangram~!

Blocks: 33

   Kevin Christian has had a steady run of mostly Monday and Tuesday level puzzles for the LAT, though he does have a Thursday and a Friday among the 11 grids that have been reviewed on this blog - and today's themeless has a gratuitous self shout-out at one across~! A true pinwheel design with all four corners consisting of triple-9 letter chunks, and a mini-pinwheel of eight-letter entries in the center, too - that made for tough going, but I did finish, but with a red-letter cheat to see what I had wrong - no Ta-DA~! for me   :7(    I had two squares wrong; see below.  Some of the longer fill;

15a. Poe title locale : RUE MORGUE - Oh, I am so disappointed with myself; this should have been a gimme, since Iron Maiden has a song by the same title - "Murders in the Rue Morgue"

12d. One in a bar lineup : VODKA SHOT - I don't do vodka; the night would get started with one bourbon, one scotch, one beer....and then I would do this song, by request, for karaoke

58a. Cyan relative : TURQUOISE

32d. Garden color : TOMATO RED

(must go) o-n-w-a-r-d- - - - - - - ~!


1. Bounty mutineer : CHRISTIAN - Fletcher vs. Bligh - the Wiki

10. __ ordo seclorum: Great Seal words : NOVUS

16. Words of refusal : I DON'T

17. Versatile seasoning : ONION SALT

18. Singer's better half? : SIDE A - Har-har~!!!

19. Screwball : WACKY - not KOOKY

20. Mariner's direction : AFT

22. Game similar to pinochle : SKAT

23. Letters after Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's name : D NH - Democrat, New Hampshire; this was a bit of a stretch for me; more about this history-making woman here

24. Spend leisurely, with "away" : WHILE

26. Zap, in a way : TASE

27. __ Provinces : MARITIME

30. __ tight : SIT - Dah~!  Went with AIR first

31. Informer : STOOLIE - my "E-magazine" made this slow to appear

34. Chose, in a way : X'ED

35. "On __ Majesty's Secret Service" : HER - James Bond #6, 1969, George Lazenby's only stint as our favorite British Spy

36. Fighting : COMBAT

37. Nucleic acid sugar : RIBOSE

39. She played Mia in "Pulp Fiction" : UMA

40. '90s-'00s reliever Robb : NEN - Baseball; C.C. nailed it, I am sure

42. Kitchen set : DINETTE - my little table project has run into a slight snag; more below

43. Base : BAG - Baseball; did you get it, C.C.~?  Only when doing the write-up did I get brained by the V-8 can

44. Pretax figure : SUBTOTAL - I had "suM total", and that didn't help with trying to figure out what "Jordan" we were talking about

46. Rat-__ : A-TAT - not just a sound effect, but a NYC musical duo, too

48. Kind of line : PARTY

49. 2000 Richard Gere role : DR. T

52. Nodding : DOZY

53. FICA benefit : SSI - Social Security Insurance - OOPS~! Supplemental Security Income (Splynter)

54. Madewell parent company : J.CREW

56. Like rock's U2 : IRISH

61. Cobra feature : VENOM

62. Credit card charge, perhaps : ANNUAL FEE

63. Utopias : EDENS

64. Rang true : RESONATED

1. Game attendees : CROWD - Dah~!  I threw in an "S", for the plural nature of the clue, and that screwed me

2. Province of southern China : HUNAN - A gimme for our blog host

3. Clinton Labor secretary Robert : REICH

4. "Nothing's broken!" : I'M OK - how you explained to mom that time when you built a ramp out of plywood and milk crates, then tried to jump over all the toys you could find in the yard - and didn't quite make it....

5. "Spider-Man" movie company : SONY - Somehow, I knew this

6. __-80: old computer : TRS

7. Grocery chain initials : IGA

8. Starbucks request : AU LAIT

9. Big name in streaming : NETFLIX - I tried it, but they had nothing I wanted to see; I just end up buying the Blu-rays or DVDs

10. "__ for Noose": Grafton novel : N IS

11. Horace, for one : ODIST

13. Most restless : UNEASIEST

14. Growing symbol : STATE TREE - Well, it is growing, and it is a symbol

21. Recklessness : TEMERITY

24. Reports : WRITE-UPS - Like those here at the blog

25. Get going : HIE

27. Soprano group : MOB - I think this would have been better clued as "THE Sopranos", but it is Saturday

28. Graphic novelist Moore et al. : ALANs - Perps and WAGs

29. Twin Cities suburb : EDINA - Boy, C.C., this one has you all over it~!

31. Explore with a tank : SCUBA DIVE

33. Women's issue, familiarly : O MAGAZINE - bit of misdirection, as the capital "W" made me think we were talking about the actual magazine, Women

38. Where Antwerp is: Abbr. : BELgium

41. Jordan, e.g. : NBA STAR - The river, the country~?  Then I got the "STAR" part, but still, I was not sure if this was the British model "--- star" Jordan; ah, the basketball star, Michael

42. Common Internet symbol : DOT - yup, pretty common

45. Three in one : TRIUNE

47. Holyfield rival : TYSON

49. Go with the flow : DRIFT

50. Take in again : RESEE

51. Coarse cloth : TWEED

54. California's San __ Capistrano : JUAN

55. Part of a fast-food meal, maybe : COLA

57. __ Pinafore : HMS

59. "ER" extras : RNs

60. Status chaser? : QUO


  My idea of doing a "stone" finish on the rook table has been compromised by the fact that Home Depot does not carry a stone finish paint in a "Stone" color; really~???  Two stores carry brown, beige, and light beige ( light beige~?).  Michaels art store was no help; I will have to try A.C. Moore, or just go with plan B; a faux marble finish using a sponge.  I have done it before, and it does look pretty cool.

Jul 25, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014, Jacob McDermott

Theme: AUTO-fill. ( I could not resist this after reading yesterday's interview with JW who refuses to use the auto-fill feature of the crossword computer programs, and of course today being all about cars).

Not sure why, and nothing to cry about, but I saw the theme immediately after filling in SAND CRAB. It still takes some solving to find the right car companies, but it was all good and the reveal, the tricky 'tear apart' meaning for rent masking the simple theme of taking an automaker name, split it, and use the front for the beginning of first word of a two word phrase and the rest for the end of the second word. The theme phrases went from  very good (BUILDING BLOCK and DOCKING BRIDGE) to FIRE HAT. The fill had some fun non-theme like AGATHA, BYE NOW, KING ME, LOFTED, ROCOCO, URBANE, RATLINE,  DON’T DELAY and SIDEKICKS. It looks like Mr. McDermott, (who has one prior LAT back in June 2012, but had two NYT publications in 2013, his NYT debut on my birthday) is still hedging on too much long fill, but he used minimal blocks to get this one done. Let us see where Jacob has driven us.

17A. *Beach scuttler : SAND CRAB (8). When I moved down here and visited a house near the ocean, I was shocked by the number of these guys in the yard. My favorite English Teacher in College drove an old SAAB which had no reverse. Made driving and parking a challenge.

24A. *Platform used when mooring ships : DOCKING BRIDGE (13). I will let the boaters explain this, as I DODGE my responsibility.

39A. *Headwear for a hose user : FIRE HAT (7). Not sure of this phrase (Fireman's Hat?). My girl friend weighs 100 pounds and wants this FIAT.

50A. *Lego unit : BUILDING BLOCK (13). I wonder  if this was the seed entry. My father used to always drive a BUICK.
And the reveal:
62A . Wheels on loan ... or, as the circles show, what four puzzle answers have done? : RENT A CAR. As I always say, the reveal is the key to the fun and the renting (tearing apart) of the car names is cool.


1. Went through with : DID. Good start for me.

4. Places to get stuck : RUTS.

8. Mr. Miyagi's art : KARATE.The movie was brought back to many by the constant references on How I Met Your Mother. Pat Morita of Happy Days fame was great.

14. Prefix with hazard : ECO.

15. Oft-fried vegetable : OKRA. There are only a million vegetables that people fry.

16. Army chopper : APACHE.

19. One concerned with show horses? : BETTOR. My degenerate gambler friends always bet Win/Place not Show. Very cute clue.

20. 101 course, briefly : INTROduction.

21. "Later" : CIAO. Italian, now, like AmEx, accepted world wide.

23. Filmmaker Riefenstahl : LENI. I have had this controversial filmmaker BEFORE.

27. "Later" : BYE NOW.

29. Phrase of clarification : AS IN.I had trouble sussing this one, though it looks easy.

30. Part : ROLE. Mine is to explain.

31. Selma, to Bart : AUNT. Not sure I can tell her from her sister Patty Bouvier.

34. Shindigs, ultimately? : FESTS. Wanted FETES for some reason; I blame Steve and NC.

38. Scandinavian rug : RYA. Another repeat Friday word, this one from JW in May.

41. Soc. Sec. supplement : IRA. This clue for Individual Retirement Account took me longer than it should have. It was a...

42. Kind of pain? : ROYAL.

44. Victim of Atalanta in the Calydonian Hunt : BOAR. I do not want to bore you with this MYTH, but if you want to get a glass of wine and sit and READ....

45. Sixth-day creation : ADAM. Man, this was tricky too.

46. Verdi motif : TEMA. More Italian, hmm, McDermott?

48. Places to see bowlers : ALLEYS. Not the cricket pitch this time, eh Boomer?

55. Tolstoy title name : ANNA. One way to look at this title for all you BOOK CLUB people.

56. Secure, in a way : SEAL. He should not have been as Heidi left him.

57. Impose fraudulently : FOIST. It makes me think of the three stooges  and what comes before second.

60. Disconcerting looks : STARES.

64. Demand upon reaching the other side : KING ME. Very difficult to parse, but good Friday clue/fill.

65. Fictional blue bovine : BABE. Paul Bunyan.

66. The Wildcats of the Big 12 Conf. : KSU. Never to be confused with the boys from Manhattan, the JayHawks.

67. Rains hard? : SLEETS. I wanted sheets, as in it is coming down in sheets.

68. Dutch town : STAD.

69. Ella, in the States : SHE. Some Spanish (Italian too?).


1. Fred : William :: Ricky : __ : DESI. Did you Love Lucy?

2. Positive words : I CAN. I think I can, I think I can....

3. Urgent ad words : DON'T DELAY. order now!!!!!

4. Florid 18th-century style : ROCOCO.
5. The Dnieper flows through it: Abbr. : UKRaine. An area in the news all too much lately.

6. Bingham of "Baywatch" : TRACI.  Lots of stuff on the internet.

7. '50s vaccine pioneer : SABIN. Polio oral vaccine.

8. Skewered fare : KABOBS. Kebab, tomato, tomahto.

9. Arboreal critter : APE. Anyone seen the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, yet?

10. Rope ladder rung : RATLINE. Complete unknown term. More for the boaters to explain, Jeannie where are you?

11. Pretended to be : ACTED.

12. Adventurous beachwear : THONG. Look if you must.  LINK 1. LINK 2.

13. Creepy : EERIE.

18. Go on and on : DRONE. No longer what we think of with this word.

22. Mystery award : AGATHA. Dame Agatha Christie.

25. River in a 1957 Best Picture title : KWAI. Really fine MOVIE. (3:09)

26. One may lead to a feud : RIFT.

27. Cold response : BRRR. I was thinking figuratively at first.

28. Fluctuate wildly : YO-YO. Big dieting word these days.

32. Cosmopolitan : URBANE. David Niven for me....

33. "The Matrix" hero : NEO. Future urbane?

35. Robin and others : SIDEKICKS. I got this solely from the perps as there are entirely too many Robins.

36. Room service item : TRAY. "Yes, I would like to order a tray please."

37. BJ's competitor : SAM'S. These places are just too big, but great if you have a large family.

39. Bolted : FLED. Not Usain.

40. Sea once fed by the Amu Darya River : ARAL. No idea, but the letters are easy.

43. Out there : AT LARGE. I am not sure which one was meant.
Idiom: at large
1. Not in confinement or captivity; at liberty: a convict still at large.
2. As a whole; in general: the country at large.
3. Representing a nation, state, or district as a whole. Often used in combination: councilor-at-large.
4. Not assigned to a particular country. Often used in combination: ambassador-at-large.
5. At length; copiously.

45. Metal giant : ALCOA. ALuminum COmpany of America.

47. Air balls, e.g. : MISSES. Used often in basketball telecasts.

49. Hit in the air : LOFTED. A soft fly ball to left...

50. Luxuriates : BASKS. Here, it is in the sun.

51. Up to : UNTIL.

52. Silly : INANE. An apt word for much of my blogging style.

53. Clothes : GARBS.  It used to mean stylish ones; from the French garbe meaning graceful outline, which may explain why Greta Guftasson chose her stage name..

54. Pasture call : BLEAT. A word I have not heard in years. This SOUND.(0:18).

58. Ceremonial accessory : SASH. The sash is critical.

59. "Indeed" : TRUE.

61. ER staff member : EMT. Emergency Medical Technician. Nit, they work for the fire department or the ambulance services, IMO..

63. Spurs' org. : NBA. National Basketball Association.

Well another month flying by, another puzzle from a constructor named Jacob (thank you JMc);   I leave you with the image of the 2012 Miss Universe from Rhode Island, Olivia Cuplo, who reminds us even the smallest garden can grow roses. Lemonade out.

Jul 24, 2014

Interview with Jeffrey Wechsler

Jeffrey Wechsler calls himself a "cruciverbal Rip Van Winkle". He had three puzzles published by the New York Times in the 1960s, then he took a 40-year break and started making puzzles again in 2009. 

Since Sept 2012, Jeffrey has 26 puzzles published by the LA Times. I love the creativity & spontaneity in his themes & fill. 

How did this theme come to you and what were the other theme entries you also considered but discarded? 

I never really know how most themes occur to me; they often just pop up out of nowhere, while I'm reading, when I'm in bed, while I'm driving (that's dangerous!)  Sometimes themes emerge from a given word or phrase -- in this case it was GOOSENECK LAMP, although I don't know why I was thinking of that term.  This theme specifically required a name of a bird to be followed by a body part, so there weren't many options.  When I had three good ones, I left it there.

I don't recall a 3-themer from you, since your puzzles tend to be heavy in themage.  How did your grid designing & filling approach differ from a 4- or 5-themer grid?

When a grid is relatively light on theme entries, I sometimes use that as an opportunity to attempt the inclusion of long Down entries.  Used properly, they add interest for the solver and constructor alike. When I first submitted this puzzle, it actually included a 15-letter Down entry -- IT'S NOT VERY CLEAR -- going straight down the center!  Rich Norris felt that the phrase was not sufficiently in-the-language, and requested a revision of the grid.  I must admit that Rich has slapped me back into reality a few times on that score, and I've been attempting to moderate (or at least verify) my efforts in that regard.  After all, as Shakespeare wrote about Julius Caesar,  "As he was ambitious, I slew him." 

I was surprised to learn from David's interview that you don't rely on any wordlist and still construct by hand. How long did it take you to fill today's grid? And what tools do you use when you get stuck in a spot?

I don't recall how much time was needed to complete this particular construction.  Filling grids can vary from a few hours to many hours spread over many days for particularly intractable grids.  

I hope the other interview didn't give the idea that I eschew all word lists.  I use Crossword Compiler, which offers wordlists that fit certain given letter patterns for a single word-space.  In David Steinberg's definition, that still qualifies as a "hand-made" grid, because I do not use the Autofill option.  As I noted in that interview, I will not use Autofill; for me, that goes beyond the point of true authorship of a puzzle.  If I can't fill a particular section of a grid between the Crossword Compiler prompts and my own knowledge, that puzzle will remain incomplete.

What kind of themes and fill interest you and what kind do you try to avoid in your puzzles?

I sometimes try to work out themes that create interesting (I hope) variations on standard theme formats, like add or delete a letter (or letters), or words broken between two adjacent words, or a word of which segments become letters that surround the themers.  I've also recently been attempting grids that include visual components that fit within the parameters of the LA Times crossword.  Rich has shown an interest in a few of them, but they needed revision, so we shall see what eventually appears.   My RIVERBEND was one of those puzzles, where river names were found within L-shaped arrangements of circles.  But as you may recall, some sources published the puzzle without circles, and some actually published the puzzle with the river names already filled in.  (Fate dealing another blow against ambition, perhaps?)

If possible, I like to devise a theme that seems sui generis, or at least appears fresh or unusual.  One example is the "THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A" puzzle.  Here, again, the idea came out of nowhere  -- I don't know why that children's ditty came into my head.  However, when it did, it fascinated me and became a challenge to accommodate into a puzzle.  As Lemonade noted in his perceptive review, it was a puzzle bound to make solvers take sides -- pro or con.  But I appreciate that Rich Norris accepted it.
I have avoided the theme genre that involves a revealer like NEW BEGINNINGS, leading to themers that start with a word that can follow NEW, like AGE, MEXICO, DEAL, and so on.  For some reason, this seems too simple a format to me, although there is obviously nothing wrong with it. 

I love the clue for MEL OTT [Giant with power] & I'm so happy to see LAURA [Golfer Davies, seven-time Ladies European Tour Order of Merit awardee] finally gets some recognition in crosswords. What reference tools do you use to spice up your clues?
You can probably thank Rich Norris for both of those clues; they weren't mine.  At this point, I don't think I've yet become attuned to the wavelength of LA Times cluing.  I often come up with clues that I think are amusing, clever and fair, but many of them are discarded and replaced.  Given that reality, I should probably hold back on the spice, since my original clues already seem to be overspiced, or at least improperly spiced.  And ironically, given your inquiry, I rarely use any in-depth references to find unusual factoids, beyond Wikipedia ("If it's on the Internet, it must be true!" Yeah, sure), and a few very basic sources.  

I remember our first LAT from you is a themeless grid. Do you still make themeless or have you shifted your attention to themed grids only?

As you know from my David Steinberg interview, I returned to crossword construction after a 40-year hiatus.  In retrospect, it was very odd that I re-entered the puzzle world by trying to create themeless puzzles.  I had a few published (in the New York Times, and Stan Newman's Saturday Stumper).  However, I quickly realized that the level of expertise now prevalent among themeless constructors is so high that it was foolhardy to continue within that format.  Indeed, the themeless category apparently comprises a very large proportion of crossword submissions to major outlets, resulting in a great backlog of that type.  Thus, forgoing the themeless format is practical if I want to see my puzzles published.  It also frees me to search for other interesting theme concepts, and allows more scope for puns and other wordplay.

What puzzles do you solve every day & which constructor's puzzles are most difficult for you to solve?

Most of my effort within the crossword field is now limited to construction.  The only crossword I solve daily is the LA Times (I also solve Sunday New York Times puzzle.)  Because it is now my major outlet, I feel I should maintain direct contact with its themes, daily difficulty levels -- and clues!  I read Diary of a Crossword Fiend to keep up with trends in the other publications.  I attend the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, but do so as a non-competing entrant.  That means I solve the puzzles, but I do not hand in my completed (or incomplete) puzzles for scoring.  Speed-solving doesn't appeal to me; it somewhat undermines my pleasure in working things out at my own pace.  From observation of other participants, I'd say my solving ability is somewhere slightly above the middle of the group. 

(Thanks to Lemonade for making this interview possible.)