Mar 31, 2008

Monday, March 31, 2008 Stanley B. Whitten

Theme: Oral Cavity

17A: Senior Bush pronouncement: READ MY LIPS

63A: Harmonica: MOUTH ORGAN

11D: At a loss for words: TONGUE TIED

29D: Dentyne, e.g.: CHEWING GUM

I did it! I hit the ball out of the park! No steroid, no corked bat, no google visit. It's just gone! That ball is history! My first ever cheat-free puzzle!

It's a smooth sailing from the beginning to the end. I did not chance upon any obscure words or get tangled by any "could be this""could be that" snag. I only used Liquid Paper once to correct one mis-fill.

The appearance of both 40A: SENOR and 39D: SENORITA in the same puzzle made me cringe a bit, but they are structured so nicely in the grid, so I will let it go. But I would reclue 14A: "Type of code or rug" to something else, since the word CODE appears again as the answer to clue 36D: Encryptions. What do you think?

Grid: 15*15. Total word counts: 74. Total blank squares: 34

Oh, another thing, I have a quick question for you: On Sunday's puzzle, BANJOS is clued as "Lute kin". I know kin's plural form is still kin, so, technically, the pluralized BANJO is correct, but shouldn't "Lute" be in plural form to be completely harmonious with the answer? Or do you think the clue is perfectly fine as it is? Let me have your view.

Across Entries:

5A: Calyx part: SEPAL

10A: Bus driver on "The Simpsons". OTTO. An educated guess. Have never watched this TV series.

15A: Play Tricks on: TEASE

16A: Quantum physicist Niels: BOHR. Repeat offender!

19D: Give the cold shoulder to: SNUB

20D: Island nation of east of Fiji: TONGA. Thought this country used GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS(GNH) to define their quality of life. Wrong, it is Bhutan.

21D: Retirement accounts: NEST EGGS

23D: Sponsorship: EGIS. Could also be spelled as AEGIS.

26D: Former Indian leader: NEHRU

31D: Musical sound effect: REVERB. Reverberative effective, I gather?

45D: Low point: NADIR

47D: Dusk, to Donne: E'EN. I love like the alliteration of the clue. John Donne is an English Poet. This is a great bar in Hongkong called "Dusk Till Dawn".

55D: Actor Ewin: MCGREGOR. Refreshing! I am really tired to see Actor McGregor (EWIN) clue.

71D: Farmer's place. in song: DELL. The Farmer in the Dell. Sadly, I am not familiar with any of the English nursery rhyme. I got it from down clues.

Down entries:

1D: Links vehicle: CART. Cannot understand why so many teenagers take golf cart!

4D: Wisconsin mascot: BADGER. I love our Goldy Gopher!

8D: Colorado ski resort: ASPEN

13D: Eye, poetically: ORBS

18D: Conjuring: MAGIC. I only knew and used the verb "conjure, or conjure up".

24D: Nile bird: IBIS. No question asked, it's always IBIS for Nile bird.

28D: Lower oneself: STOOP. Hello, Hillary, 3am phone call, just curious to see how low will you stoop for the April 22 primary?

41D: "Little Caesar" role: RICO. Unknown to me. I got it from across clues.

44D: Artist Magritte: RENÉ. Another surrealist. I don't get this picture. If it's not a pipe, what is it then?

46D: Drive in Beverly Hills: RODEO

49D: Church doctrines: DOGMA

51D: Exemplar of stiffness: RAMROD

53D: Truth, of yore: SOOTH. I did not know this before.

55D: British pianist Hess: MYRA. I just noticed that MYRA is also an ancient town in Lycia (Turkey).

Alright, time for baseball! Twins Vs Angels (Torii who?) tonight. Justin Moreau was 3-for-4 last year at the Opening Day against the Orioles.

C.C.

PS: Oops, I forgot to say a special Thank you to Orange (Amy Reynaldo) earlier. Without her book and her generous help, I would've never finished this puzzle unaided. She has unveiled the mystery of crossword world to me. She taught me how, and she explained to me why.

Mar 30, 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008 Robert H. Wolfe

Theme: DIET TRENDS

27A: Start of a modernized verse: JACK SPRAT DID EAT NO FAT

48A: Part 2 of the verse: HIS WIFE DID NOT EAT LEAN

87A: Part 3 of the verse: FIRST LOW CARB DIET THAT

112A: End of the verse: THIS WORLD HAD EVER SEEN

I don't know who modernized this originally delectable nursery rhyme. This new verse just looks so awful to me. I guess I dislike the single phrase structure of the last 2 lines. I want them to be complete sentence(s). I have this urge to insert an extra line of "It's the" between Part 2 and Part 3. What's your take? Do these theme entries make you grimace at all? Please let me know.

I was actually very delighted when I first saw the "DIET TREND" theme title. Like any other American woman, I am very conscious about my figure, so my brain is overloaded with Atkins, the Zone, South Beach and all kinds of absurd weight loss plans. I thought I would breeze through the puzzle with some grace and ease, alas, in the end, only NO FAT and LOW CARB made an begrudging appearance. I was also a bit startled when I paused (and winced) at the constructor's name: Robert H. Wolfe, again? That's 2 times in 3 days! Wow, our editor's pipeline must be running dry now!

OK, back to my struggle today. I got stumped immediately by 1A: BALI. I simply had no idea where Lesser Sundas was. I guess my brain was programed to see BALI clued as Indonesia Island or Resort. And, I wanted 4D: "How're you?"response (I'M OK) to be FINE. I've never heard of NINO Benvenuti, so I totally screwed up the upper left corner. I also spent an inordinate amount of time staring at the US OF A for 65D (States, in a way). Wow, what a crazy clue! Borat probably could've filled in that answer in his bikini without any across clues.

And the left middle corner was another nightmare for me. I've never heard of "The SEVEN Samurai", only knew Tom Cruise's "The Last Samurai". I recognized the word GRECO when I saw it, but if you clued it as Hellenic combiner (or prefix), then my mind was blank. It's like I knew who Pujols was when I saw his name, but if you clue it as Cardinals' first baseman _ _ _ _ _ _ , then I would be lost. I need to tidy up these loose strings of information in my brain and file them properly.

Grid Structure: 21*21; Total word counts: 142 (has reached the maximum word count for a Sunday puzzle). Total blank squares: 78.

Across entries:

1A: Island in the Lesser Sundas: BALI. Tough but fair clue.

5A: Common edible mushroom: MOREL

10A: Like Dylan Thomas: WELSH. I did not know him, filled in his name from down clues. He is Welsh poet.

15A: Exploits: ACTS. I put USES first, then quickly corrected myself.

19A: Composer Khachaturian: ARAM. Learned his name from doing crossword of course.

20A: Verdi's forte: OPERA

21A: Swiftly: APACE

23A: Boxer Benvenuti: NINO. An Italian boxer. He is a total stranger to me. What does "Nino" mean in Italian? "Boy", like Niño in Spanish?

24A: Brief Look-see: RECON (Reconnaissance). I like this clue.

25A: "Slave Ship" author: LEROI (Jones). He was in Tribune's March 10 puzzle. He is also known as Amiri Baraka.

32A: 1993 Harvey Keitel movie: THE PIANO. This movie won 3 Oscars in 1993. I've never seen this movie before. I got it only because I realized earlier on that there was a "THE" in every movie/novel title.

41A: Taking it on the __ (Fleeing from the law): LAM. Why put ING form in the clue? "Take it on the ___" is sufficient, no?

45A: Highly excited: AGOG

59A: Peter Benchley novel: THE DEEP. I've never read it. Benchley also wrote Jaws.

60A: USN part: NAV (Navy)

61A: Irregular lumps: NODULES

63A: Hoarded: SAVED UP

67A: Hellenic combiner: GRECO. Greco is "a combining form representing Greek in compound words: Greco-Roman". In fact, other than Greco-Roman, I've never seen Greco being attached to any other word.

69A: Malaysian wraparound: SARONGS. Indian wraparound is SARI (or Saree).

73A: Worker nest-egg leg.: ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act). Ouch! Impossible!

74A: Brazilian woman's title: SENHORA

77A: Escape of fluid: LEAKAGE

81A: Cabal member: INSIDER

85A: Get up: ARISE

86A: Not Threatened: SAFE

91A: Coarse file: RASP

93A: Diva's moment: ARIA

95A: Paint additive: DRIER

98A: Uris or Trotsky: LEON. I always associate Leon Trotsky with Frida Kahlo, some affair was going on between them I think.

102A: Ground grain: GRIST

106A: Cave hanger: BAT

108A: Muse of epic poetry: CALLIOPE. Tough one, it can also be spelled as Kalliope.

118A: Where lovers work?: ON AIR. Good clue.

119A: Printers' measures: PICAS

121A: "God's Little __": ACRE. Have never read the novel, nor watched the film.

122A: Of the past: RETRO

123A: Look after: SEE TO

125A: Girl of a Salinger title: ESME

126A: Reverie: DREAM

127A: Wormy shapes: ESSES. Why "wormy shape" instead of "worm shape"?

Down entries:

1D: Lute kin: BANJOS. (Added later: Kin here is the plural form)

2D: ESA rocket: ARIANE. I had no idea. The dictionary says that ARIANE is "a French-built, three-stage, liquid-propellant rocket for launching satellites into orbit around the earth" ESA is European Space Agency. So, what's NASA's equivalent of ARIANE then?

3D: Surgical cutter: LANCET

4D: "How're you?" response: I'M OK. Now I think I like this colloquial expression.

5D: Phoneme: MORPH. Really, are they the same?

6D: __ citato (in the work cited): OPERE. Abbr. op. cit.

8D: Sensual: EROTIC

9D: T-top car: LANDAU. No idea.

10D: Ralph _ Emerson: WALDO

13D: Glenn and Turow: SCOTTS. Knew Scott Turow due to ONE L and Presumed Innocent. Have never heard of Scott Glenn.

14D: Manush baseball: HEINIE. Another Detroit Tiger's guy? It was Al Kaline just yesterday. And look at 90D: TIGER. Some conspiracy here!

15D: From: AS OF

16D: Make a deal with the D. A.: COP A PLEA. Perfect! I love this answer.

17D: Lancaster film: THE TRAIN. No, not familiar with this film.

18D: "Dombey and __": SON. Ow, another Dickens work. Headache for me.

28D: Big name in vodka, briefly: STOLI (Stolichnaya). No idea, what does Solichnaya mean? Is it just another brand name like Budweiser?

29D: "Newsboy" painter: INMAN (Henry). OK, I got it. Here is the painting.

30D: PAU's successor: OAS. Tired of this clue and answer. Try something else.

35D: Printing measures: EMS. What's the difference between "em" and "en" in terms of printing measures?

37D: Drags behind: TOWS

39D: Ancient European: GOTH. "The Teutonic who invaded and settled in parts of Roman Empire between 3rd to 5th centuries", so says the dictionary. So the gloomy word "Gothic" has nothing to do with Goth then?

40D: Noted screenwriter: AGEE (James). Katharine Hepburn had some interesting words to say about James Agee's alcoholism in her biography ME: Stories of My Life. Obviously, Agee, Bogart, John Huston had a great time working on The African Queen.

47D: Outcast: LEPER

48D: Dangles: HANGS

49D: Words of concern: I CARE

50D: "The __ Samurai": SEVEN. Just for your information, the plural form of Samurai is still Samurai. Japanese film (1954).

51D: _ ex machina: DEUS. OK, so Deus is God, literally it's "God from the machina". Here is a better explanation: "In Greek and Roman drama, a god lowered by stage machinery to resolve a plot or extricate the protagonist from a difficult situation". It has extended the meaning to "a person or event that provides a sudden and unexpected solution to a difficulty." Kind of like "White Knight"?

52D: "La _ Bonita": ISLA. Madonna's song. The Beautiful Land. Spanish language I gather. Not sure.

55D: Assam or hyson: TEA. Assam is Indian black tea. Hyson is Chinese green tea.

56D: Embankment: LEVEE

64D: Singer Shore: DINAH. She was a great golfer. She founded LPGA's Dinah Shore Golf Tournament (today's Nabisco Kraft, a Major).

65D: States, in a way: US OF A. Now I am a bit confused, did Borat say "US of A", or "US and A"?

66D: Actress Debra: PAGET. Vaguely remember her name. Have seen Ten Commandments a few times, but I never paid attention to who played Lilia. In fact, the only actor I know from that movie is probably Charlton Heston.

68D: Sound like a bird: CHIRP. Does the clue bother you? It feels that the clue is asking for an adjective/adverb. I wanted CHIRPY.

71D: Characteristic clothes: GARB

72D: Lose traction: SKID

75D: Alphabetical trio: RST. Same clue, same answer, same author (see March 18 puzzle).

78D: Big land mass: ASIA

79D: Will of "The Watsons": GEER. I did not know GEER, nor was I familiar with the TV Series.

83D: Bedside pitcher: EWER

87D: Overly enthused ones: FANATICS

88D: Weather map line: ISOTHERM. It's "a line on a weather map or chart connecting points having equal temperature". Iso is a root word for equal (Greek), therm is heat.

89D: God of Islam: ALLAH

90D: Detroit player: TIGER (the baseball team)

91D: CSA type: REB (Rebel)

95D: Parties: DOS

96D: Phrase differently: REWORD

97D: Person with pressing problems: IRONER. Now, I think this clue needs a "?" behind the clue, don't you think so?

99D: Slip away: LAPSE

100D: Dated platters: OLDIES. Dictionary says that "Platter" is a slang for a phonograph record.

101D: Some kin: NIECES

103D: Cold pack: ICE BAG

104D: Blouse part: SLEEVE

105D: Dyed: TINTED

108D: Type of portable memory: CD ROM

109D: Egg-shaped: OVATE. I only knew OVAL. Not aware of OVATE before.

113D: Nice notion?: IDEE. French for idea.

114D: Mortgage figure: RATE

115D: Old Italian bread: LIRA. Bread is "Money" here. Euro has replaced Lira obviously!

117D: Menlo Park initials: TAE (Thomas Alva Edison). Dubbed the "The Wizard of Menlo Park".

I am totally exhausted now. Gotta have some high carb & high fat breakfast! Enjoy your Sunday, everyone!

C.C.

Mar 29, 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008 Josiah Breward

Theme: NONE

Definitely a stumper for me today, lots of unknowns. The clues are tough, but not wicked or senseless. I like the Saturday's open grid feel, but I just feel so lost and rootless without the theme guidance.

I had an uncharacteristically great start, devouring the upper left corner like a hungry lion. Even SAMUEL PEPYS jumps into my mind without any extra spur. Wonderful, all I really need to know, I learned from doing crossword!

But all the other spots are like Fallujah, so tough and forbidding. It's simply beyond my strength to tame the whole field. I spent about 35 minutes on the puzzle, then I quit.

Grid: 15*15, total 71 words (maximum is 72 for a Saturday), total blank square: 30.

ACROSS entries:

1A: From one side to the other: ACROSS. Hmm, a bit meta. Can you self-reference clue like this?

7A: Tex-Mex menu items: TOSTADAS. Want some?

15A: Definite rules?: THE LAW. Great clue. I like it when a preposition or definite article is embedded in the answer. Very tricky but it provides me with a precious "Aha" moment.

16A: Tiger in the Hall of Fame: AL KALINE. Mr. Tiger. The first name that popped to my mind was actually Ty Cobb. Cobb was the first ever Hall- of-Famer, wasn't he?

17A: Change a file code: RENAME

18A: Fetal sac: PLACENTA. Plural form can be "Placentae" or "Placentas". Wonder why so many medical terms take their roots in Greek language.

19A: Cunning: ARTFUL

20A: Part of RSVP: S'IL. No more question on my wobbly G8 drunk clip, s'il vous plaît, let's just talk about Carla's nude photos!

24A: Patronage: EGIS. Can also be AEGIS. Aegis is the shield of Zeus. Dictionary says "Athene's aigis was a short goat-skin cloak, covered with scales, set with a gorgon's head, and fringed with snakes". Look at this picture. That's Medusa's head. Her gaze would not turn me into a stone at all. She does look monstrous though.

24A: Old English letter: EDH. No idea. Dictionary says it can also be spelled as ETH.

26A: Chemical suffix: ANE. I am always at a loss when facing chemical suffix clue, too many choices: ASE, ENE or ANE.

30A: Walesa of Solidarity: LECH. Nobel Peace Winner 1983.

32A: Admiral or cabin boy: SAILOR. Why is "cabin boy" a sailor? (Update: Dennis said a "cabin boy" serves the captain and senior officers on a ship, hence sailor.)

34A: "Malcolm X" director: LEE (Spike)

35A: Event before a golf tournament: PRO-AM. Want a chance to win Bay Hill, John Daly? Pay attention to your Pro-Am time next time!

37A: Groom oneself: PRIMP

38A: Port St. __, FL: LUCIE

40A: Sapporo sash: OBI. Why Sapporo all the times? Spice up the clue with some other exotic Japanese city name!

41A: Skater Sonja: HENIE. No idea.

42A: Overthrow: USURP

43A: Itchy problem: TINEA. I was not aware of this skin problem until this morning. Looks awful.

46A: Passes on: RELAYS

48A: Astronaut Aldrin: BUZZ. I like Buzz's take on Lisa Nowak's intrepid restroom-less 900-mile love pursuit. Gutty statement in my view.

55A: Spanish painter Joan: MIRÓ. Max Ernest & Dali are the other 2 Surrealists who have an insatiable appetites for crossword fame.

59A: Peter of "Six Feet Under": KRAUSE. Unknown to me. I wanted O'Toole, but it did not fit.

63A: Bad egg: EVIL DOER

65A: Pastoral poems: IDYLLS

66A: Snake River people: NEZ PERCE. Unknown to me. Here is the definition: "A Native American people formerly inhabiting the lower Snake River and its tributaries in western Idaho, northeast Oregon, and southeast Washington, with present-day populations in western Idaho and northeast Washington."

67A: Verdugo and others: ELENAS. I can not think of any famous Elena either, can you?

68A: Woody?: TREELIKE. Why the question mark?

69A: Shaped like a stringed instrument: LYRATE. Only knew Lyra. Good to learn its adjective form though.

Down clues:

1D: Gillette razor: ATRA

2D: "Silkwood"star: CHER. Have never watched this movie. I see it's written by Nora Ephron. I am going to put it in our Netflix queue. I adore Nora.

3D: Cloth tear: RENT. Ha ha, my effort yesterday is paid off, so quickly!

4D: Some Norwegian kings: OLAFS

5D: Noted diarist: SAMUEL PEPYS. But who wants to read his diary when Anais Nin is calling?

6D: Suffer in the heat: SWELTER

7D: Bugle cal: TAPS

8D: Stan's comic partner: OLLIE. Got it this time.

9D: Viking poets: SKALDS. Also spelled as Scald. "A medieval Scandinavian poet, especially one writing in the Viking age."

10D: Center X: TAC

12D: Airheads: DING A LINGS. Have never heard of this expression before. All my American friends are very nice people, they never speak any slang or negative thing when I am around.

13D: Legal paradoxes: ANTINOMIES. Not familiar with this legal term either. OK, so, anti is anti, nomes is Greek for law, and "antinomy" is "a contradiction between principles or conclusions that seem equally necessary and reasonable". Good.

14D: Cecil of cartoons, e.g.: SEA SERPENT. Here is more information for you. I've never heard of Beany and Cecil cartoon.

23D: Vamoose: SCOOT

25D: At random: HAPHAZARDLY

27D: Power to attract: ALLUREMENT. I use "enticement" occasionally, never "allurement".

28D: Belgian waterway: MEUSE RIVER. Great clue, great answer, so nice to see RIVER is part of the answer. The Meuse originates from France, flowing north to the North Sea through Belgium and the Netherlands.

29D: Make worldly: SECULARIZE. I have an affinity for good verb, this is one of them.

31D: U.S. Middle East peace envoy: HABIB. Philip Habib.

36D: Less: MINUS

44D: Old Testament book: EZEKIEL

47D: Zen enlightenment: SATORI. This is definitely a gimme for Lakers' Phil Jackson, he is a Zen Master.

52D: Sunken ship: WRECK

54D: Stratum: LAYER

56D: Greek wine flask: OLPE. It appeared on Feb 6 puzzle, almost the identical clue. Here is a picture.

58D: Song of the LPGA: AREE. She was one stroke away from beating Grace Park for the 2004 Nabisco (one of LPGA's Majors). She has a Twin sister name Naree, also a LPGA member. South Koreans are so talented in golfing.

61D: Venetian blind part: SLAT. I've never heard of Venetian blind.

64D: 2nd-smallest State: DEL. I love Senator Biden (DE) and his wits. "A noun, a verb and 9/11", the best rip I've ever heard!

C.C.

Mar 28, 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008 Robert H. Wolfe

Theme: "RE + ___ING = A Whole New word + ING " (update later: I think I kind of like the constructor's clever theme idea, I just hate the ING Tsunami).

17A: Matching up twosomes again?: REPAIRING

21A: Following up a fault? RESERVING

33A: Handing down old bike?: RECYCLING

46A: Follow-up ram? REBUTTING

59A: Second phone-in?: RECALLING

66A: Double checking a grade: REMARKING

A few things first:

1) I've just learned that our crossword editor, Wayne Robert Williams (ask as Josiah Breward or Willy A. Wiseman) actually does spend his oh-so-precious time editing the original puzzles submitted by various constructors. I received an email yesterday from a constructor who explained to me why my admonishment of his certain cluing was not his fault.

I was always under the impression that only Will Shortz (NY Times) & Peter Gordon (NY Sun) and a few other well known crossword editors change heavily (as much as 50%) the original clues to reach their desired difficulty level. This Williams guy seems to juggle so much projects on his hands (Daily Crossword, Daily Commuter, Daily Jumbo) every day that I thought he just foisted upon us any crossword he got from others. Frankly, his "Chicago Local Poet" puzzle on March 20 Thursday was crying for editing.

2) I've also learned from Orange that that it's actually an accepted practice in the cruciverbalist (crossword constructors) world for editors to edit their own constructions. Rich Norris of LA Times, Stan Newman of Newsday (the most responsive editor in my view) and other editors all publish their own puzzles under different pseudonyms. So my criticism of Mr. Williams' editing his own work was not on solid ground. However, he has never deigned to reply to me or addressed any of my questions, so I will continue to vent my displeasure over certain clues, fair or not.

OK, back to the puzzle. This is, without a doubt, the worst TMS puzzle I've ever solved. Had I known this was the puzzle waiting for me on the newspaper this morning, I would've stayed in bed. What a hideous construction! This Mr. Wolfe needs to turn off his obsession with ING and let go of his "Idée fix" with France. He simply let his admiration for Peter Mayle go overboard.

It's relatively an easy battle for me, esp with the annoyingly ubiquitous INGs, which rendered a few otherwise tough-to-get entries easily inferable. "The Count of Monte Cristo" happens to be one of my favorite books, and I just blogged about ARAN a few days ago, so I swept through the upper right corner with no effort.

But I did get snared on the lower right corner, esp the intersection of 63A & 58D. I never knew that "RENT" could be a noun meaning small fissure, always thought that "RENT" is the past particle of the verb "REND". So my 58D was LEGID for a long time, I thought LEGID might be a variant of LEGIT, or "On the level" has another meaning that I was not aware of. So I spent a long time sulking at the clues. I had to google ODEA and CELT. I forgot the former and I did not know the latter (BRETON).

Grid: Total words 78, total blank square: 38.

Across entries:

1A: Hawaiian port: HILO

5A: Machu Picchu honcho: INCA

9A: "The Count of Monte Cristo": DUMAS. The 2002 remake with James Caviezel as Edmond Dantes was pretty good. I still think that Tim Robbins & Morgan Freeman's The Shawshank Redemption is the best. Is there a special genre name for these kind of prison-break style movies?

14A: Slaughter of baseball: ENOS

16A: Madagascar primate: INDRI. It's a short tailed LEMUR, which was clued on March 13 puzzle.

19A: Hebrew month: SIVAN (the 9th month)

20A: Least desirable portion: DREGS. Yep, this puzzle is pockmarked with dregs.

23A: Unbroken stretch: STREAK

25A: Town near Caen: ST. LO

28A: Support pieces: I BEAMS

40A: Concert halls: ODEA. Saw it before, then I promptly forgot. The singular form is Odeum.

41A: Like pigeons' walk: TOE IN. The clue is asking for an adjective, is "Toe In" an adjective?

44A: Exploits to the nth degree: MILKS. I actually do not feel so bad for Paul McCartney. Heather Mill did not milk him dry.

48A: Watch the boxer?: PET SIT

50A: Greek letter: ETA

51A: Travel on Pegasus?: RIDE. I got it from the down clues. But really, I had no idea what was "Pegasus". And at this point of my solving, my mild displeasure with the question mark had been elevated to medium disgust (later upgraded to total scorn). Pegasu is "a winged horse, created from the blood of Medusa, that opened the spring of Hippocrene with a stroke of its hoof, and that carried Bellerophon in his attack on the Chimera."

54A: Helix: SPIRAL

68A: Gage book: ELENI. Did not know the author, did not know the book. Pure guess.

69A: Actor Morales: ESAI. Ah, Tony Rodriguez of NYPD Blue. Of the bunch, Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits) is probably my favorite.

71A: Car type: SEDAN

73A: Tear: RENT. Noun.

Down clues:

1D: Goat groups: HERDS. Don't get it. Herd is already a group of goat, how can you add an extra S?

2D: Like some gases: INERT

3D: Long strider: LOPER

4D: Type of orange: OSAGE. Never heard of this orange. Osage is alway an Indian tribe name to me.

5D: Leb. neighbor: ISR

6D: Black in Paris: NOIR. Or Bete _.

7D: Pine pieces: CONES

8D: Feeling of dread: ANGST

9D: Take off, in a way: DISROBE

10D: Letters for 1506: MDVI (just for mkat :-))

12D: Islands off Galway: ARAN. Appeared on Sunday March 23 puzzle, clued as Islands off Ireland.

13D: Warble: SING. Finally an innocent ING.

18D: Babel or Stern: ISAAC. Knew Stern, did not know Babel, who died ages and ages ago. What's wrong with Issac Asimov?

24D: Tartan wrap: KILT

27D: Christian of fashion: DIOR

30D: To you, in Toulouse: A TOI

32D: Smelting waste: SLAG. Scum, dross, all junk.

33D: Caper: ROMP

34D: Singer Brickell: EDIE

35D: Breton, eg.: CELT. Did not know the meaning of Breton.

36D: Chatters: YAKS. Yak is also the Tibetan ox.

38D: Barbed remark: GIBE

45D: Steak order: SIRLOIN

47D: Rhino relative: TAPIR. It looks like this.

52D: More critical: DIRER. Not when you are in fault-finding mood obviously. Dire situation.

53D: January in Juarez: ENERO

55D: Stamp pad: INKER

57D: Kofi of the U.N. : ANNAN. Well, he is not with the U. N. any more. Ban Ki-Moon has been the new Sheriff for over a year.

58D: On the level: LEGIT

59D: Eurasian deer: ROES

60D: Perry's creator: ERLE

61D: For both sexes: COED

62D: Dancer Pavlova: ANNA. She is famous for her portrayal of a swan in The Dying Swan and Swan Lake. Wikipedia says that she is the first ballerina to travel around the world. She once said "Happiness is like a butterfly which appears and delights us for one brief moment, but soon flits away." So true!!

63D: Car loan lender: GMAC (General Motors Acceptance Corporation). Didn't GM sold it to some private investment firm? Target is also trying to divest its once profitable Credit Card Unit I think.

C.C.

Mar 27, 2008

What's Your Tool? Pool Result

Question: What's Your Tool?

Total votes: 363

Pencil: 151 (41%)

Pen: 200 (55%)

Online solving: 6 (1%)

Others: 6 (1%)

Thank you for the participation.

C. C.

Thursday, March 27, 2008 Alan P. Olschwang

Theme: Quip

20A: Start of the Evan Esar quip: TO THE NIGHT OWL

37A: Part 2 of quip: IT'S ALWAYS BETTER

57A: End of a quip: LATE THAN NEVER

Technically, Esar quipped "To a night owl, it's always better than never". It seems a bit arbitrary and capricious for a constructor to alter someone's original quip at his own convenience to construct a crossword grid, don't you think so? My nerve is a bit chafed by this granular unevenness in an otherwise very pleasing, smooth & Monday-like puzzle.

If not for the upper left corner AREOLE snag, I would have reached the Emerald city and seen the great Wizard of Oz unaided! I found my yellow brick roads very early on, after 37A revealed itself to me. I easily hoed patches and patches of the loose fields, and I did not really find any hard clumps of dirts, all easily crushable.

On a non-crossword related issue, I think I tend to bristle at things that might not raise your ire at all. Take Clinton's explanation for her Bosnia sniper fire faux pas for example, she said: "I say a lot of things - millions of words a day - so if I misspoke, that was a just a misstatement." Many pundits and reporters pounced on her faulty memory blips.

I actually believe that people do misspeak for things that they may not have experienced. I know I would not even consider venturing to Bosnia under that risky situation. I am, however, bothered by her "millions of words a day". How could that be? At what speed? Faster than an auctioneer?

Someone actually counts the amount of word an auctioneer speaks per minute, and it will take Hillary 40 hours talking non-stop to reach a million word. Is she so privileged that her day is consisted of more than 24 hours? I tend to take the meaning of words very literally due to my lamentable lack of understanding of American idioms and slangs and the habitual exaggeration of certain stuff in American culture.

Now back to today's puzzle, the Grid structure is : 15*15

187 filled squares, 38 blank squares, total words 76 (Across 35, Down 41). Maximum word account for Monday-Friday puzzle is 78 in case you have not paid attention to it.

Here we go:

1A: Valise: BAG. La valise, the suitcase.

4A: Earthquake: SEISM

9A: Car lifts: JACKS

15A: Banks of baseball: ERNIE. Or Els of PGA (or South African golfer Els, Big Easy Els, etc)

16A: Square: UNHIP

17A: Salton or Sargasso: SEA

18A: Face the day: RISES

19A: Saturn or Mercury: DEITY. Both Roman Gods.

23A: Jumble: OLIO. This is a typical Crosswordese (words that only appear in Crosswords). ORT, ETUI, ALEE are of the same ilk.

24A: Turns right: GEES. Enough left and right turns (HAWS)! Try something else. Please jump into the Comment section and share with us if you have a better clue for GEE/GEES.

28A: Cowboy movie: WESTERN

31A: Lay waste to: DESPOIL. Learned this word in 2003 when the rampant looting took place in Iraq and some of the museum pieces were despoiled. But to borrow a line from Rumsfeld: "Stuff happens, democracy is messy, freedom is untidy."

34A: The best __ plans...: LAID

36A: Designer Ashley: LAURA. Never heard of her, a pure guess.

43A: Actress Witherspoon: REESE. I like her "Walk the Line" & "Sweet Home Alabama" only.

48A: Comebacks: RETORTS. I was on the wrong train, putting RETURNS first.

53A: Seine: NET. Got it this time.

54A: Unsolicited ms. encl. SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope).

56A: Viral lump: WART

62A: Bloodsucker: LEECH

64A: Transmitter: RADIO

65A: Drs.' group: AMA (American Medical Association). I am very impressed by the extensive work DWB (Doctors Without Border) has done so far, very far reaching.

69A: Overbearing: BOSSY

70A: Bubbly: PERKY. Want the old effervescent Katie Couric back.

71A: Big Band, for one: ERAS

Down entries:

1D: Confer: BESTOW

2D: Interstice of a leaf: AREOLE. I think I saw this word in TMS puzzle before. Maybe it's AREOLA. Not sure.

3D: Free of charge: GRATIS

4D: Desiccated: SERE

5D: Poetic name for Ireland: ERIN. Good to see ERIN and EIRE (26D: Emerald Isle) in the same puzzle.

6D: Badge of honor: INSIGNIA

7D: Blockade: SIEGE

8D: Interlocked: MESHED

9D: Self-defense system: JUDO. Putin's favorite sport. He is a black belt.

11D: Cool it!: CHILL OUT

12D: Set of a part: KIT

13D: Mata Hari, for one: SPY. A femme fatale.

21D: Steaming: HOT. I kind of like the almost intersection of HOT and NIGHT.

27D: Winged: ALAR. Wing parts are ALAE. Ala is Latin for wing.

29D: Actress Barkin: ELLEN. Not impressed by her role in Ocean's 13.

38D: Beret filler: TETE. Tired of this clue too. Let me see... Port City in Mozambique, no, I don't like it. Don't like French head either. I can not think of anything else.

38D: Resident of a new region: SETTLERS

39D: Tempe sch.: ASU (Arizona State University).

41D: Spatula: SPREADER

47D: Petty dictator: SATRAP. Identical clue on Feb 27 puzzle.

50D: Devastate: RAVAGE

51D: Nervous vibration: TREMOR

52D: Horizontal layers: STRATA

55D: Sedimentary rock: SHALE. Filled in from the down clues. It's "a rock of fissile or laminated structure formed by the consolidation of clay or argillaceous material."

60D: Small notch: NICK

C.C.

Mar 26, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 Philip J. Anderson

Theme: Lament (Homophones)

17A: Baker's lament?: I KNEAD (NEED) A VACATION

38A: Bored big game hunter's lament?: SO WHAT ELSE IS GNU (NEW)

59A: Frustrated sailor's lament?: I'M KNOT (NOT) ON THE HELM

Ai ya (Chinese for D'oh)! I missed another precious opportunity to finish a puzzle unaided today. I simply forgot SISAL for Agave plant, and had no idea that MITER could also be a carpenter's box. I also put CLINCHED instead of STITCHED for 40D: Sewed up. My March Madness moment I suppose! So I screwed up the whole corner. Oh well, next Wednesday then. Anderson is probably the only constructor whose wavelength I share.

Grid Analysis (15*15):

Total words: 78 (37 Across, 41Down). Total blank square: 34

I forgot to mention yesterday that besides the center row and center column, the grid (always diagonally symmetrical of course) also has a center square (or cell). In today's case, it's the letter L (intersection of 38A and 29D). That's why the total square counts for the grid is always an odd number (191 from Monday to Saturday's 15*15 puzzle and 441 for Sunday's 21*21 puzzle).

Today's grid has only 4 less blank squares than yesterday's, yet it just felt so open. I don't know why yesterday's puzzle bothered me. I had a quick check last night at some of the puzzles we've done, and found out that I actually enjoyed quite a few with similar counts of 3-letter words (if not more). Maybe yesterday's grid just did not fit my eyes.

Across entries:

1A: Employees: STAFF. Did not fall to the S trap due to the quick crumbling of 5D: FAA

5A: Ballet Bend: PLIÉ. Past participle of verb Plier (Bend in French). There are 2 plié styles: demi-plié (half bend) and grand-plié (full bend).

14A: Preminger film: LAURA. No idea. Pure guess. Knew Preminger only because his given name OTTO keeps coming up in the puzzle.

16A: Ticklish doll: ELMO. Silly.

20A: Physical starter?: META. Metaphysical. Ah, Aristotle and his Metaphysics! I guess those ancient Greeks did not have much to do in their spare time besides going to their mall (AGORA), so they contemplated about life and universe hard and deep. Nowadays, who else except Bernard-Henri Lévy has the time or élan to think?

22A: Beekeeping site: APIARY. Where are you, bees?

23A: Japanese zither: KOTO. Here is a beautiful picture of women in traditional Japanese kimino playing KOTO. A gimme for our fellow solver AlohaSpirit in Seattle I hope!

25A: Fraternal org.: BPOE (Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks)

26A: Word to the wise: ADVICE. Not "word from the wise"? I don't get it. Don't you get advice from the person who is wise?

29A: "Micheal Collins" star: REA (Stephen). Tired of him. Time to challenge us with Latin Mens REA (guilty mind).

34A: Settle down for the night: ROOST. Wow, I always thought only birds roost.

37A: Keanu in "The Matrix": NEO. Not much going on with Keanu lately.

42A: Nautical lift: DAVIT. Here is a DAVIT for you.

43A: Strict: STERN

44A: Jodie Foster film: NELL

47A: Matched up: PAIRED. Why "matched up"? Isn't "matched" sufficient?

48A: Pitcher Hershiser: OREL. Another repeat offender.

50A: Brewer's grain: MALT

51A: Pat and Debby: BOONES. Father and daughter ("You Light up My Life".)

54A: Islet: AIT. It's clued as River inlet on Sunday's puzzle.

62A: Metric meas.: KILO

63A: Merit: RATE. Yep, let EARN rests for a while.

64A: Partner of vice?: VERSA. Vice Versa is also a 1988 film title.

65A: List ender: ET AL

66A: French/Belgian river: YSER

67A: After-market purchase: ADD-ON

Down entries:

1A: Actor Pickens: SLIM. A total stranger to me. Was his original name SLIM?

3A: Uncle's mate: AUNT. Wonder how Carson (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) reacts to this clue.

4D: Strange: FREAKISH

5D: Air-travel watchdog grp.: FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)

6D: Socrates' pupil: PLATO

9D: Adventure: ESCAPADE. I love this word and desperado, both evoking an image of some bold, fearless, wild and daring acts. I am totally buying the conspiracy theory that Roger Stone is behind Spitzer's escapade exposure.

10D: One's specialty: MÉTIER. Pas de problèm!

18D: Oasis fruit: DATE. Have you ever tried fresh palm date before? So delicious!

24D: Group of eight: OCTAD. The other word "Octet" is a composition for 8 voices.

25D: Beauty's beau: BEAST. I often wonder why "Beauty and the Beast" is not "The Beauty and the Beast", or "Beauty and Beast". What's the rationale behind the inconsistency of "the"?

26D: Burning desire: ARSON. Need a question mark here: Burning desire?

27D: "Lorna __-": DOONE. Learned from doing crossword of course.

28D: "Wheel of Fortune" buy: VOWEL. These might be tough for those solvers in Asia/Europe who do not watch "Wheel of Fortune".

33D: Word with bite or barrier: SOUND

35D: Angle maker: BEVEL. Nailed it this time.

36D: Agave plant: SISAL. Have to commit this word to my memory!

39D: Wall hanging: TAPESTRY.

40D: Sewn up: STITCHED. Naturally!

45D: Palindromic Asian leader: LON NOL (Cambodian Prime Minister)

47D: Track through a forest: PATH

50D: Carpenter's box: MITER. Never knew this before.

56D: Animal group: HERD. Talk about over-thinking and unthinking. I stretched myself to the world of PETA and SPCA, and there is no abbreviation mark in the clue to suggest that, you dummy!

58D: Fed: TMAN (Treasury)

60D: PAU's successor: OAS (Organization of American States). I bet Castro took it as a badge of honor to be excluded from OAS. As for PAU, it stands for Pan American Union.

61D: One Gabor: EVA

OK, I am ready for an Alan O. Olschang's quip/quote puzzle. Bring it on!

C.C.

Mar 25, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 John Underwood

Theme: Slip

17A: Slip: PETTICOAT (Half Slip)

26A: Slip: RECEIPT (Paper Slip)

35A: Slip: FREUDIAN GAFFE (Freudian Slip)

47A: Slip: DECLINE (Quality/Quantity/Standard slip)

56A: Slip: YOUNG GIRL (Slip of a Girl)

OK, I've heard your voices, to borrow a line from Justin Timberlake's song, "I am bringing sexy back" on Thursday. But what's the raison d'ETRE (15A) for you guys to read my "Struggle Part" of the blog? Je ne comprend pas!!! Misery loves company?

I've never heard of the expression "She is a mere slip of girl, or he is mere slip of a lad", so it took me forever to figure out where I was going. It would really really drive me crazy had this new constructor Mr. Underwood used the pottery term Clay Slip.

Grid Analysis (15*15):

Total words: 78 (37 Across, 41Down). Total blank square: 38

I only realized this morning that the grids, as a rule, always have a center row (Today's puzzle: FREUDIAN GAFFE) and a center column (Today's puzzle: BRAY DEALT PONE). And they are always made up of an odd and equal number of squares on each side. That's why the total word counts for Across or Down are always odd number, hence the total word count for the whole grid has to be an even number.

There are 16 3-letter blocks in today's puzzle, very clunky and ungainly. Please do not put IRE and IRK in the same puzzle any more. And I am not fond of the intersection of 35A & 37D. The words FREUD & FEUD should never be put so close together. But it could be worse, suppose he put FEUD directly under the letter F in FREUD instead of the F in GAFFE, imagine how I would react!

Across clues:

1A: Pizzazz: ZING. I put ELAN first. I really do not like the letter of the clue makes a second appearance in the answers, unless it is alliteration, like Split into splinters: SLIVERED (Sunday March 23.).

5A: Small amounts: DABS

9A: Discompose: ABASH. I mis-read it as Decompose. So I was in the "rotten" direction.

16A: Rich cake: TORTE. Interesting. My dictionary says that Torte comes from German or Italian word Torta (cake, or tart) or Latin Torta (kind of bread). Wonder if anyone has ever made any savory torte before.

20A: Other side: ENEMY. Not fond of this clue.

21A: Exclude: DISBAR. I have nothing to say about this word. I keyed in this word only because I do not want to receive another email complaining about my omitting of certain non-gimme clues.

25A: Joe and his comrades: GIS

27A: Allocation plan: BUDGET. Without the letter B from the down EBB, I would've filled in TRIAGE. My brain was trying hard to allocate Katrina victims to different hospitals.

29A: Record of a voice-over: DUB

39A: In good order: NEATLY. Put NICELY first.

40A: Collection pieces: ITEMS. Had _ _ _ MS in place already, so I put in POEMS, thinking of Carl Sandburg and his annoying Chicago Poem collection last Thursday.

45A: Most remote, initially: ULT (Ultimate)

46A: Take for granted: ASSUME. I don't take your help for granted, guys. I deeply appreciate every piece of information you've offered to me.

50A: Star Wars, initially: SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative). I was thinking of Lucas' movie, not Reagan's Star Wars Proposal. OK, so initially it was SDI, then Clinton changed the name to BMDO (Ballistic Missile Defense Organization) in 1993, then Bush renamed it MDE (Missile Defense Agency) in 2002. Why did they keep changing the name? Trying to leave their own distinctive presidential legacy? Trying to claim the credit that they created some new initiative?

53A: Give a ring: PHONE

55A: "Six O'Clock" painter John: SLOAN. The painting is "Six O'Clock, Winter". OK, Mr. Underwood, even if you hate winter, you should not, and you can not omit the name part of a masterpiece. The season (Winter) and the time (pm) is essential to the the understanding of the subject of this painting.

60A: To the point: TERSE

61A: Hostile to: ANTI. Don't quite like the clue.

63A: Not so ordinary: ODDER. I am not fully convinced of this clue either.

64A: Kettle of fish: MESS. Never knew this expression before. It's also a comedy movie nobody probably have watched.

65A: Scottish terrier: SKYE. Are they the same? Wikipedia explains that "SKYE" and "Scottish terrier" are 2 different breeds of terrier.

Down entries:

1D: Use a stun gun: ZAP. Since Tase/Taser did not fit, I started thinking that maybe the Israeli gun UZI could be used as a verb. ZAP never entered my mind, esp since I could not get ZING for 1A.

4D: Box office take: GATE. I wanted CASH. At this point of my solving, I was only sure of AREA for 14A, so all my guesses were wild.

5D: Falseness: DECEIT

6D: Hee-haw: BRAY. Donkey cry.

9D: Top story: ATTIC. I was trapped. I was on the train of "Headline news". The fact that I misread 9A Discompose as Decompose only made things worse.

10D: State capital meaning "Wooded": BOISE. I never knew this before. But it was easily inferable.

11D: Asian peninsula: ARABIA. Ugh. I felt stupid to miss this one. Wanted it to be Malay or Korea. Neither fitted, so I ran away from this corner in utter exasperation.

12D: Subway loops: STRAPS. The overhead hanging loop.

13D: Quarter deck?: HEARTS. I love this clue!!

18D: Innocent heroine: INGENUE

21D: Remove hidden ears: DEBUG. Great clue too.

23D: Wide separation: GULF. Had some problem with this word, esp since I could not get 27A BUDGET quickly enough.

26D: Inclined to flow: RUNNY

28D: Stefani or Verdon: GWEN. Knew Stefani well, vaguely heard of Verdon. Why not give PBS anchor Gwen Ifill a try. I like her style.

29D: Distributed hands: DEALT. Of course, I fell into the _ _ _ ED bunker.

32D: Championship: TITLE. Not a gimme to me at all.

33D: Bringing up: RAISING. Love the movie Raising Helen starring Kate Hudson. Her How to Lose a Guy in 10 days is pretty good too.

34D: New newts: EFTS. Another tough one for me.

36D: Frighten off: DAUNT. I put SCARE first.

37D: Clash of clans: FEUD

42D: Makes greater: ADDS TO. Good clue, simple yet trappy due to S.

43D: ___ over (fainted): KEELED. For some unfathomable reason, I penned in ASA instead of AKA for 42A: Pseudonym intro (AKA). What/Who was I thinking? So I was hellbent to put SWOON in, even though the clue was clearly asking for a past tense.

44D: Conflict compromise: ACCORD. I thought of some kind of armistice or treaty. Stupid! I was actually reading a short article on Oslo Accord last night.

46D: Poster boy: ADONIS. This word always reminds of the "Hunk Flunks" JFK Jr.

49D: At the center: INNER

50D: Locks up: SHUTS

53D: Corn mix: PONE. Never had this before. Not interested in any corn product.

58D: Flattened fish: RAY. What is this? Why is it flattened?

59D: Heavy-duty cleanser: LYE

My prediction for tomorrow's puzzle author: Philip J. Anderson.

C.C.

Mar 24, 2008

A Few Updates

1) Crossword Searching Tools
I've added both OneLook & OneAcross to my "I Love These Links" sidebars. I find them to be equally effective. Give them a try if Mr. Google fails you.

2) Who is Josiah Breward?
For Monday-Friday puzzle solvers, please read my Saturday's blog entry about Josiah Breward (aka Wayne Robert Williams, our puzzle Editor). NYTanonimo found out this shocking link for us. It turns out that almost 25% (15 of the 61 puzzles) I've blogged since Jan 21 came from the Williams clan. Are you stunned? I don't mind nepotism, but how can an editor edits his own construction?

3) ATIP & A-LOP
Feste found A-LOP (Saturday March 22 puzzle) at The Oxford English Dictionary. The definition is "hanging over on one side". Example: "1865...hay-stacks, all a-lop." But ATIP can only be found at crossword dictionary.

4) Comments
Crossword related comments ONLY please. Next time a distasteful political attack comment such as the Rick Santorum one (Saturday) comes up, I will delete it without warning.

I enjoy reading your daily solving experience, complaints, praise and observation of the puzzle, and I am happy that you are willing to share with us. But, please keep your comments as pithy as possible. If you want to post some lengthy information from another website, don't copy and paste, it soaks up too much space. Just provide with a link (code it in HTML). Or you can simply type in the website address.

Please also write your comments in proper English. Comments written in all CAPITAL letters or all in small letters are very tough on my eyes.

For keys to the puzzle, please visit Chicago Tribune's Crossword Website first. If you still can not find what you want, then send a question to the Comment section.

5) Questions? Just ask!
For those who visits this blog from Asia, Europe, Latin America, Canada, please feel free to jump in with your comments, even if your syndication puzzle is lagged weeks behind us (as in Vietnam & Philippines).

I am very interested in hearing from you how you solve this TMS puzzle as a foreigner (I figure not all of you are Americans living abroad). And if you have any question regarding any clue, please do not hesitate to ask. Remember, there are no stupid or embarrassing questions in this crazy crossword world!

6) Recap
From now on, I will skip the "How I struggled" part in front of my daily recap. I slog through different mud than you do due to my special background, and I don't think you are quite interested in reading my misery. Instead, I will put on a few lines of my observation of the crossword structure or a few entries that I feel worthy highlighting.

Lastly, I want to say "Thank You" to all of you (esp Dennis) for patiently answering my ceaseless WHY, HOW SO questions every day. I am deeply grateful for and appreciative of your generous help. 谢谢!

OK, now chime in on your Monday puzzle experiece!

C.C.

Monday, March 24, 2008 Diane C. Baldwin

Theme: Location Phrases

21A: Special clique: INNER CIRCLE

47A: Strained boundaries, maybe: OUTER LIMITS

3D: Elite: UPPER CRUST

30D: Sleeper car option: LOWER BERTH

Very symmetrical theme entries. Nice & easy! I polished it off in probably 20 minutes, cheated only once for TORS.

Grid Analysis:

Size: 15*15


Total Word counts: 78. This has reached the maximum word counts for a Monday to Friday themed puzzle. For your information, the maximum word counts is 72 for themeless Saturday puzzle, 142 for Sunday's themed (and titled) 21*21 puzzle.

Total black squares: 36

Across clues:

1A: Faithful: TRUE. Faithful? How about "Unfaithful"? I love this Diana Lane/Richard Gere movie. The Ai Du (Ali Farka music) is featured in the bathtub scene, very exotic and erotic.

10A: Whiskey spritz: SODA

15A: Wide-eyed: NAIVE. I put AGAPE first.

16A: Zenith: APEX. I put ACME first.

18A: Gun-toting: ARMED

19A: Slammer unit: CELL

26A: Theatre angel: BACKER. Why British spelling? No need here!

28A: Short-changed: SWINDLED

42A: Regarded highly: ESTEEMED

46A: Chocolate substitute: CAROB. Have never had this before. I hate all kinds of ersatz food substitutes.

55A: Political coalition: BLOC. One thing I would advocate is to change CIA's Assassination Manuel. Just gun down the halfwit Ahmadinejad, his hard-line conservative bloc will be automatically dismembered. Easy crumble! No need for another war.

56A: Archie Bunker's wife: EDITH

58A: Part of RPI: INST (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

62A: Iditarod rides: SLEDS. Its terminus is NOME.

Down entries:

5D: More ridiculous: INANER

7D: Soil sweetener: LIME. No idea. Only Miracle Growth for our garden.

9D: Mao's bailiwick: RED CHINA

10D: Sanctified: SACRED

12D: Small valley: DELL

21D: Dangerous time for Caesar: IDES. IDES of March. In Roman calendar, ides can also be the 15th of May, July or October.

28D: Sturdy: SOLID. I put STOUT first.

29D: Bit of weakling: WUSS

37D: Assortment offering: SAMPLERS

41D: High rocky hills: TORS. Did not know this word.

44D: Sympathetic sorrow: PATHOS. Here is the definition: PATHOS is a quality that evokes sympathy, sorrow. Interesting, here is another word: BATHOS. It's defined as "A false or overdone pathos that is absurd in its effect." Can anyone give me an example?

46D: Referenced: CITED. Don't foist upon me any words that cannot be referenced in my dictionary, no more ATIP please!

C.C.

Mar 23, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008 Alan P. Olschwang

Theme: Play Ball

24A: Two-land road feature: CENTER LINE

34A: Make no mistake: GET IT RIGHT

36A: Quit messing with: LEFT ALONE

53A: Steno's writing: SHORT HAND

68A: Spouted dispenser: MILK PITCHER

80A: Very soon: ANY SECOND

100A: One way to jump in: FEET FIRST

102A: Subway current resources: THIRD RAILS

113A: Insect eater: FLY CATCHER

No quip from Mr. Olschwang? He is either reformed or this is another constructor name printing error. It's probably latter but I prefer the former. Kind of feel like Ed Voile's work.

Nevertheless, I love this puzzle, it's the most aesthetically pleasing TMS puzzle I've ever done. Doesn't it the finished grid look great to you? Every ball player is in his proper position. Superb execution of the theme in my view.

I was overjoyed when I saw the titled theme - I love baseball, and I was able to fill in almost all the theme entries after PITCHER revealed itself.

All right, let's play ball!

Across entries:

1A: Relative of CHiPs: LAPD. My first reaction: The TV series CHiPs spin off? I just checked Erik Estrada yesterday and I remember this strange spelling CHiPs. Had no idea that CHiP refer to California Highway Patrol.

9A: Rustler's rope: LASSO. "Bola" in Spanish I gather?

20A: Israeli statesman: EBAN (ABBA). His command of English is superb, even Kissinger was mesmerized. My one-time crush Netanyahu called him "the founding father of Israeli diplomacy". Oh, by the way, ABBA is "father" in Hebrew language. I love so many of Eban's quotes: Better to be disliked than pitied; You can't achieve anything without getting in someone' way. My favorite is: "His ignorance is encyclopedic." That's me.

21A: Key above G: A-FLAT

23A: Hebrew month: ELUL (the 12th month)

27A: Dispersed: SCATTERED

29A: Man of old Rome: VIR. Or viri, Latin for man or manliness, as in virile. Look at these nuggets of information.

30A: Nine: pref. ENNEA. Greek for nine. Latin is nona/non.

31A: Actress Garson: GREER. OK, her classic is Mrs. Miniver, I have not forgotten yet.

40A: Military welfare. org: USO (United Service Organizations). I was confused by the word "Welfare". I was thinking of an organization that helps financially strapped or injured soldiers.

41A: Father of France: PERE. If I did not know French, I would probably go to the direction of founding father road.

42A: Vasco __ de Balboa: NUNEZ. Know him, but never know how to spell his name.

43A: Exclude: DISBAR. American politics can be so cruel and unforgiving. A victim-less reckless behavior brought down an otherwise brilliant governor in less than 3 days. And now rumors run amok about possible disbarment!

47A: Forewarning: THREAT

49A: Geom. figure: CIR (Circle)

57A: Caen's neighbor: ST. LO. Both D-Day cities. Here is the map. See St Lo and Caen on the left side?

58A: Mr. Serling: ROD. The Twilight Zone guy. So many noteworthy RODs in this world, those crossword guys can pick up anyone who catches their fancy at the moment.

59A:Socrates' pupil: PLATO

62A: Initials in want ads: EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity)

65A: Brain areas: CEREBRA. Single form Cerebrum. Have you visited Ken Jennings' blog before?

67A: Portuguese cape: ROCA. No idea. The dictionary says "Roca is a cape in W Portugal, near Lisbon: the western extremity of continental Europe."

71A: Paraphernalia: GEAR. I did not know the meaning of "Paraphernalia". OK, para is Greek for beyond, phere is dowry. How can it become "gear" in the end? Strange.

72A: Breakfast-time serving: OAT BRAN. Sounds very unappetizing to me. Does anyone actually eat this stuff?

74A: Neurological test letters: EEG

75A: River island: AIT. Dictionary says it's a British dialect for Island. Same pronunciation as Eight.

77A: Start of a verse: UNI (Universe)

84A: _ diem (seize the day): CARPE.

87A: Wide shots: MISSES. I misread the clue as "wild shots", and I was thinking of Phil Mickelson's wild tee shots, still, MISSES fit perfectly.

91A: Camera holder: TRIPOD

93A: Surfers' shopping place: EMALLS. Internet surfing. I like this clue.

95A: Wage-slaves' refrain: TGIF

98A: Gold in the Sierra Madre: ORO (Spanish for gold). This is one of the very few Spanish words I actually know. Let me see what is Spanish for Gold medal... Medalla de oro. Why is it feminine form? Weird. Is Oro also a feminine form? Anyone speaks Spanish here?

99A: Some NCOS: CPLS (Corporal).

106A: Islands off Ireland: ARAN. Here is the map, quite close to Galway.

107A: Iroquois tribe members: ERIES

108A: Starbucks jumbo-size: VENTI. Too bad, their stock price has tanked.

110A: Broken: FRACTURED

112A: Longfellow character: ALDEN (John). No idea. Only know a few lines from Leonard Cohen, that's about all the English poems I've touched. OK, “The Courtship of Miles Standish”, looks like a love triangle story to me.

115A: Salamander: NEWT. Let's try Contract with America author Gingrich, or even better Clinton's "Cry Baby" Gingrich. This guy actually has some great ideas.

118A: Performing: DOING

119A: End of the small intestine: ILEUM. Plural ILEA. ILIUM is the "upper portion of either hipbone", plural ILIA. These Latins are all Greek to me.

120A: Singer Ed: AMES. My ignorance is really encyclopedic and far-flung. Have never heard of him.

121A: Adam's grandson: ENOS. Or Slaughter of Cooperstown.

122A: Sports pages' figs: STATS. My husband pores them over like it's our financial statement.

Down clues:

1D: Christopher or Pinky: LEE. Know neither of them.

2D: Silent communication, briefly: ASL (American Sign Language). It's also called Ameslan.

3D: Break because: PAUSE TO. I don't like the clue.

4D: Sweet sounding: DULCET. I did not know this word. Somehow I want it to be sucre, which sounds so sugary and sweet.

5D: Religious denomination: SECT

6D: Lookout man, for example: ABETTOR

11D: Split into splinters: SLIVERED. Wonderful alliteration. I love it.

12D: Disinfects: SANITIZES

13D: Cheri of "Saturday Night Live": OTERI. Learned Michael Lorne (SNL producer) and her name from doing crossword. I've never watched SNL.

14D: Overseer: SUPERVISOR

15D: Man who died from lying: ANANIAS. Nope. I like this word though: a chronic liar. But "Every man is born truthful and every man dies a liar." Forgot who said that.

16D: Calling into play: USING

17D: Singer Cherry: NENEH. Swedish singer, how am I supposed to know her?

18D: Bothered: ATE AT. I start to like this kind of answer, with a preposition in to throw you off. Much better than excavating some obscure dead actors to frustrate me.

25D: Some M.I.T. graduates: EES (Electrical Engineering)

28D: Plains tribes: ARAPAHO. It's a "tribe of North American Indians of Algonquian speech stock, once dwelling in the Colorado plains and now in Oklahoma and Wyoming." No idea. These Indian tribes give me problems too.

I don't think I am good at anything actually. I do know the madman Ahmadinejad, and I know the new Russia puppet Dmitri Medvedev, and I know how to pronounce their names correctly. That's about it.

32D: Hebrew letter: RESH (20th letter). A big sigh here. No idea.

35D: Rug rat: TODDLER

37D: Apollo's mother: LETO (Greek). Roman is LATONA. Apollo's birthplace is DELOS (Oracle of Apollo)

38D: Blinkers: TURN SIGNALS

44D: Relative of toucan: BARBET. So pretty. What kind of berry is that?

45D: Greek malls: AGORAE. This clue made me laugh. Let's go to the mall, Socrates!

46D: Detection Device: RADARS

48D: Abbr. on a cornerstone: ESTAB

49D: Reduce the air intake: CHOKE

51D: Blah, blah, blah...: ETC ETC

54D: "Misery" director: REINER (ROB). Only saw his A Few Good Man.

59D: French writer Marcel: PROUST. "Remembrance of Things Past" is simply too complicated for me to digest. My mind is not sophisticated enough to understand those convoluted western philosophical thinking. They give me headache.

60D: Repair-shop car: LOANER

61D: End of many plays: ACT III

64D: Online currency: ECASH. I like this ECASH, EMALL, EJOKE stuff.

68D: Bullfighter: MATADOR. Mata(r) is spanish for "to kill". Odd. How can "To Kill" evolved into a bullfighter? Torero sounds reasonable to me, as "Toro" means "bull" in Spanish.

70D: Make haste: HIE

73D: Tapes: RECORDINGS

76D: Bloodhound, at times: SNIFFER

79D: In particular: SPECIALLY

81D: French designer's monogram: YSL (Yves -Saint-Laurent).

85D: Worker: EMPLOYEE

88D: Shrill: STRIDENT

92D: Omen: PORTENT

94D: Michaels and Hirschfeld: ALS. Do you believe in Miracles? YES!

95D: I am open to instruction: TEACH ME. Yes, please!

96D: Elegantly stylish: GENTEEL

100D: Noisy quarrel: FRACAS. Oh the Ferraro fracas! I actually admire her never-back-down attitude. She stands up for what she believes, even if it's wrong.

101D: Castle and Dunne: IRENES

102D: Boob tube spots: TV ADS

103D: Athenian slave: HELOT. The dictionary says that HELOT is "one of a class of serfs in ancient Sparta, neither a slave nor a free citizen.". So technically the clue is not correct then?

104D: Type of ink: INDIA. Also called Chinese ink.

105D: Classic Michael Caine film: ALFIE. I only saw the Jude Law's Alfie.

106D: Garfunkel or Buchwald: ART. Never have time to read Buchwald I'll always have Paris. But Paris is in my mind.

I am done!

C.C.