Mar 31, 2009

Tuesday March 31, 2009 Steve Dobis

Theme: THE KINGSMEN (60A: "Louise Louie" singers, and this puzzle's theme)

18A: '80s TV series with a talking car named KITT: KNIGHT RIDER

23A: 1943 Triple Crown winner: COUNT FLEET

36A: England's Charles, since 1958: PRINCE OF WALES

54A: "Nothing can stop" him, in a 1962 doo-wop classic: DUKE OF EARL

I am not familar with THE KINGSMEN or their song "Louie Louie". I think I prefer the theme title to be THE KING'S MEN. Too obscure a clue? Any way to work around "All the King's Men"?

A big leap from Monday's easy grid for me. Used lots of wite-out. The clue of 18A brought to mind Fred Dryer and his "Hunter", which was hugely popular in China in late '80s. But he does not have a talking car. KNIGHT RIDER came to China only in 1995. And we have a completely different Chinese name.

I was also thinking of Whirlaway for 23A. It runs out he was the 1941 Triple Crown winner. Have never heard of the song "DUKE OF EARL". PRINCE OF WALES was the only gimme theme entry to me. He probably should give the crown to Williams.

Across:

4A: Former Anaheim Stadium NFLer: LA RAM. Stumper. Did not know St. Louis Rams was once LA Rams. Kind of like Brooklyn/LA Dodgers. Twins was called Senators before.

9A: Lawn game using lobbed missiles: JARTS. Got it from down fills. Wikipedia says JARTS is banned in the US/Canada. I thought of BOCCI the Italian lawn bowling. Boomer had another perfect game last night. An exciting 830 (289/241/300).

14A: Fenway team, familiarly: SOX. Chicago team as well.

16A: "___ Gold": Peter Fonda film: ULEE'S. I don't believe we had ULEE'S in our old puzzle before. Always ULEE, clued as "Peter Fonda role".

17A: Rock music's __ Fighters: FOO. No idea. Wikipedia says their name is taken from World War II term "FOO Fighter", used by allied pilots to refer UFOs. See here for more etymology. The cartoonist & Chinese figurine word FOO connection reminds me of Egg FOO Young, a dish you won't find in a real Chinese kitchen table.

22A: London insurance giant: LLOYD'S. "Giant"? Like AIG/AIU?

29A: Taqueria offering: TOSTADA. What are those red-skinned diced cubes? Apples?

35A: It's a wrap: SARAN. Hard to unwrap. Do you like Food Network's "Unwrapped"? Fascinating history on American packaged food.

42A: New Zealand native: MAORI. Literally "Ordinary people" in its native language. And their dance is called HAKA.

44A: Basic ballroom dance: TWO STEP

47A: Riddles: ENIGMAS. Thought of Churchill's comment on Soviet Union: "A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an ENIGMA".

56A: Ravel work immortalized in "10": BOLERO. Just beautiful! It's a TEN (28D: Gymnast's goal). Williams liked to clue TEN as "Bo's number".

65A: Expected to land: DUE IN

68A: Filmdom ogre: SHREK. Found out this morning that SHREK is from German word Schreck meaning "terror".

69A: Muffin Man's lane: DRURY. Another stumper. Have never heard of this nursery rhyme.

70A: +, on a batt.: POS

Down:

1D: To be the truth: AS FACT. Can you give me an example of how these two are interchangeable?

3D: Israelites' departure: EXODUS. Also the title of Uris novel.

4D: Sitting Bull's language: LAKOTA. Dictonary says it's also called TETON.

5D: Son of Valiant: ARN. He has become a gimme to me. "Bride of Valiant" is ALETA, who just appeared in our puzzle two days ago.

6D: Portuguese royal: REI. The Spanish king is REY.

7D: Each one in a square is 90 degrees: ANGLE

8D: Composer Gustav: MAHLER. Learned the name of his work "Das Lied von der Erde" from doing crossword. Lied (pronounced like leed") is German art song. Erde means "earth".

11D: McCarthy era paranoia: RED SCARE. Learned this "paranoia" only after I came to the US. Quite shocking to me.

24D: S&L guarantor: FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation). Forgot. Did get SSA (31D: FICA funds it) though.

37D: Soda in a float: ROOT BEER. Well, I guess I've been living under the rock. Have never heard of "ROOT BEER float". I was expecting a perfectly ripe banana split in the middle when I ordered "Banana Split" last time. And was shocked when a big boat of dessert arrived.

42D: Boston transit inits: MTA. Massachusetts Transportation Authority? I don't know. MTA was always clued as "Kingston Trio hit" in our old puzzle.

46D: Cleansed: PURGED. I WASHED first.

48D: "I wish it could be!": IF ONLY. So many IF ONLY and "what-ifs" in our lives.

50D: Zany: MADCAP. COCA is often clued as "Zany Imogene".

51D: Melodious passage: ARIOSO. I am going to drink acorn coffee if I forget this word again.

55D: "80-'90s quarterback Bernie: KOSAR. No idea. Is Bernie KOSAR very famous? Wikipedia says he is a part-owner of Florida Panthers.

57D: "The Grapes of Wrath" figure: OKIE. The family name of the novel is JOAD.

58D: Web cross-reference: LINK. Click here if you want to learn how to make a LINK at the Comments section.

62D: East Lansing sch: MSU (Michigan State University). The Spartans.

63D: Musket suffix: EER. "Auction/profit" suffix too.

Full answer grid.

C.C.

Mar 30, 2009

Monday March 30, 2009 Donna S. Levin

Theme: Ratings

17A: Franklin's almanac-writing alter ego: POOR RICHARD

27A: Young, promising fellow: FAIR-HAIRED BOY

48A: Beneficent biblical traveler: GOOD SAMARITAN

64A: F. Scott Fitzgerald title character, with "the": GREAT GATSBY

This is about customer satisfaction ratings, correct? Since credit card ratings are POOR, FAIR, GOOD and EXCELLENT.

I like "The GREAT GATSBY", a book that I actually can understand. Also like Robert Redford's role in the movie. Fitzgerald was born here in St. Paul, MN. The Fitzgerald Center, where Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" is recorded, is named after him.

Nice theme answer sequence, from POOR to GREAT, very orderly. No clever "Little butter?" today though. Everything is so straightforward and simple. Kind of boring though. I aced.

Oh, I just learned that Chicago Tribune does not carry LA Times puzzle on their Sunday paper. Very strange. Is that the same with your local paper also? Can you come to the Comments section and tell me what puzzles are on your Sunday paper? Thanks.

Across:

11A: Chugalug's opposite: SIP. Knew "chug", did not know "chugalug". I pictured "chugalug" as something similar to quahog, the clam I did not know until you guys mentioned it a few months ago. Clams are strange, no head, no eyes.

16A: Cyberaddress, briefly: URL. Many of you find me every day by googling "Star Tribune Crossword Corner". I hope you just bookmark it. I might change the blog name someday, since our paper does not carry LA Times puzzle.

19A: "Right to bear arms" grp.: NRA. Charlton Heston served as NRA president from 1998 to 2003.

22A: Port in Yemen: ADEN. ADEN sounds like a young city to me. I was surprised to learn that "Aden may be as old as human history itself. Some also believe that Cain and Abel are buried somewhere in the city". So approximately how many years? I know nothing about Bible.

23A: Detroit labor org.: UAW. They are partly responsible for this Big Three financial mess.

25A: Furious: IN A RAGE

32A: Hosp. staffer: LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse). New abbreviation to me. Got it easily from down fills.

34A: Conspiring band: CABAL. Rooted in CABALA, which was clued as "Secret doctrine" in our puzzle last Thursday.

39A: Woman's golf garment: SKORT. SK(IRT) + (SH)ORT. Made famous by Natalie Gulbis. Vera Wang's idea I think. LPGA, so worried about its low spectator turnout, invited Wang to give players a talk on how to dress (sexily) in golf course. She suggested them to get rid of the belt. Bam! Every player started to wear SKORT, including Annika.

52A: Cocktail maker: BAR KEEP. I only know bartender.

54A: Actor Afflect: BEN. Which is your favorite BEN Afflect movie? I liked his "Pearl Harbor" the most. He should run for MA Governor/Senator someday.

55A: "__ brillig, and the slithy..." Carrol: 'TWAS. Pure guess. What does "brillig" mean? Brilliant?

56A: Beautiful, in Bologna: BELLA. All alliteration. Italian guys seem to like calling girls BELLA, even if they are not beautiful.

67A: Paris Hilton's sister: NICKY. NICKY Hilton is quite talented actually. She designed some cute handbags.

68A: Nigeria neighbor: BENIN. Its capital city is Porto-Novo. Portuguese for "New Port". Originally developed as a port for the slave trade, according to Wikipedia.

69A: Hospital VIPs: MDS

Down:

3D: Nebraska tribe: OTOE. Always thought they are a "Oklahoma tribe".

6D: "__ Ado About Nothing": MUCH. Ah, the epitome of double entendre. "Nothing" is not really nothing. It's the "O-thing".

7D: Labor Dept. arm: OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). Created under the Nixon Administration. Nixon was quite respected in China due to his groundbreaking visit in 1972.

8D: Sweetheart: DEARIE. My husband never calls me "Sweetheart" or DEARIE. Always "Lao Po", Chinese for "wife".

10D: Leary's turn-on: LSD. No "tripping" wordplay.

11D: Church garb: SUNDAY BEST. New "garb" to me. I only go to church when there is a wedding or funeral.

12D: Flawed, as sale mdse: IRREG. Really? I thought it's IRR. I need to pay attention to those abbreviations.

22D: Clamorous: AROAR. Used to hate A* words. Now I like them.

24D: Sushi tuna: AHI. Yellowfin tuna. AHI means "fire" in Hawaiian. This sesame crusted AHI tuna looks so tasty. I like AHI sushi & AHI sashimi.

26D: "Dancing with the Stars" network: ABC. Easy guess. I've never watched that program.

29D: Blends together into a whole: INTEGRATES

31D: "Valerie Harper" sitcom: RHODA. Learned from doing Xword. "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" seemed to be a big deal.

38D: Fish catchers: HOOKS. Hmm, no golf? I think Rich Norris HOOKS.

40D: Dream state acronym: REM

46D: "Desert Storm" chow, initially: MRE. Why "Desert Storm"? Isn't it still called MRE now?

49D: Rubbish: DEBRIS. The plural form of DEBRIS is still DEBRIS, isn't it?

58D: Astronomical distance meas.: LTYR (Light-Year). Reminds me of Woody and Buzz Lightyear.

60D: Annapolis inst.: USNA. Might be a different clue had Sen. McCain won the presidency.

62D: Daly of "Cagney & Lacey": TYNE. Know her name. Not familiar with "Cagney & Lacey".

64D: Wildebeest: GNU. I've never understood why they change "Wild Beast" into "Wildebeest". Maybe GNUS know. Strange, isn't it? The babies and mother have so different body colors.

Full Answer Grid.

C.C.

Mar 29, 2009

Sunday March 29, 2009 Kathleen Fay O'Brien

Theme: Los Angeles Clippers

23A: Toy guns?: FALSE A(LA)RMS

24A: Education for lab rats? (LA)MAZE CLASSES

39A: Thug down in the dumps?: BLUE (LA)GOON

43A: Where the South American school grp. meets?: RIO DE LA P(LA)TA

65A: Dana Carvey doing The Police's lead singer?: (LA)STING IMPRESSION

92A: Cop who brings back the genie when he goes AWOL?: ALADDIN'S (LA)MP

94A: Dubbed-in sounds of disgust?: (LA)UGH TRACK

113A: Appropriate style of dress for exams: (LA)TEST FASHION

115A: ATM accesses that nobody can guess?: GREAT P(LA)INS

Probably too obvious if the theme title were "LA Clippers".

This is a Sylvia Plath "Ariel" puzzle to me. I only started to understand "Roses are red..." not long ago. Struggled again.

Lots of wonderful clues in this puzzle. My favorites:

38A: Head lines?: EEG. Very clever. Always "Brain scan letters" in our old puzzle.

51D: Foreign correspondents?: PEN PALS

87D: Writing feature?: SILENT W. Letter W is not pronounced in "Writing".

123A: Henna and her sisters?: DYES. Play on movie title "Hannah and Her Sisters".

Things I need your help:

62D: Not counting fas and and las, word after "holly": 'TIS. Big stumper. Why?

76D: Walks like House: LIMPS. How come? What/Who is "House"?

83D: Stretch in the '90s, e.g.: HEAT WAVE. Again, why?

To those LA Times solvers who are offered Sylvia Bursztyn's "Light Fair". Please go to LA Times website for the Rich Norris puzzle we are discussing here today.

Across:

5A: Off-the-market apple spray: ALAR. Sometimes it's clued as "Wing-shaped". Did Ralph Nader play a big role in its banning?

9A: African expanse: SAHARA. I thought of DESERT first.

15A: Hanks Oscar-winning role: GUMP. "Forrest GUMP". "Life is a like a box of chocolate..." It's all about choices actually.

19A: Like some training program: IN SERVICE. Military?

21A: Cloisonné material: ENAMEL. Cloisonné technique was first developed in China.

22A: Ending for stink: AROO. Or "Ending for buck". EROO is the ending of smack & switch.

26A: Political essay: TRACT. It's always clued as "Political pamphlet" in our old puzzle.

29A: Capital on the Hudson: ALBANY

34A: Intersection caution: BLINKER

46A: Cold symptom: SNEEZE

48A: Fight ender, briefly: TKO. Boxing term.

49A: Coal industry labor org.: UMW (United Mine Workers). First encounter with this org.

50A: Bridge bid: NO TRUMP. And NO BET (42D: "Check"). Both are new terms to me. Not a bridge/poker player.

52A: Insect-world animated film: ANTZ. This film has become a gimme.

53A: Dungeness delicacy: CRAB. Have never heard of Dungenss CRAB. Wikipedia says it's named after Dungenss, Washington. And there is an annual Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival held there every October.

54A: Furniture wood: TEAK. "Shipbuilding wood" too. Oily, oily!

56A: Cubs' A.L. rivals: SOX. Both based in Chicago.

57A: 'Enry's Broadway protégée: ELIZA. "My Fair Lady". ELIZA Doolittle. Took me a while to realize 'Enry is Henry.

59A: Mr. Magoo, notably: MYOPE. Learned who Mr. Magoo is from doing Xword.

60A: Ralph Kramden's friend: ED NORTON. Stumper. This is the ED NORTON I am familiar with. He is so good in "American History X".

63A: Where to see 60A across: ON TV

64A: Loafs on the job: DOGS IT. New phrase to me.

72A: Musical syllables: TRAS

73A: The Azores are part of it: PORTUGAL. Barry Silk clued AZORES as "Portuguese islands" in his last puzzle.

80A: Hodges of baseball: GIL. Hmmm, no Dodgers reference? GIL Hodges spent most of his career with Brooklyn and LA Dodgers. Some of the old Brooklyn Dodgers collectibles are ridiculously high priced.

81A: Niño's emphatic yes: SI SI. In Chinese, it's "Shi, Shi'.

82A: Jordon's dowager queen: NOOR. She is rumored to have been dating Carlos Slim. Not sure if he is still the richest man in this world. Listened to some of her interviews when she was promoting her book "Leap of Faith". Very compelling personality.

84A: Biological subdivision: SPECIES

88A: '60 theater, briefly: NAM. I don't understand why they picked "What a Wonderful World" for "Good morning, Vietnam". They don't really match well.

89A: Rubble creator: TNT

98A: Arch city: ST LOUIS. The Gateway Arch was designed by Eero Sarrinen, who appears in crossword often.

99A: Including: WITH

100A: Some dirty politics: SMEARS

103A: November honoree: VET. Nov 11, to be exact.

104A: Observable: IN VIEW

107A: Powerful shooter marbles: STEELIES. See this picture. They don't look like to be made of steel.

109A: Massage targets: NECKS. The answer is always ACHE in our old puzzle.

117A: Camaro __ -Z: IROC. Completely unknown to me. Here is a photo. Wikipedia says it's named after the popular competition International Race of Champions. I thought it's play on "I Rock".

118A: Boys' Choir home: VIENNA. No idea. Have never heard of VIENNA Boys' Choir before.

119A: Tidal maximum: HIGH WATER. Also a new term to me. Just learned what WATER LINE is yesterday.

121A: Makes rhapsodic: ELATES

122A: Bugs, for one: TOON

Down:

1D: Baking instruction: SIFT. Mine was STEP.

2D: Tree trunk bulge: KNAR. Made-up crossword word.

3D: Cuba, to Cubans: ISLA. I like this clue.

4D: Come down: DESCEND. Thought of ALIGHT first.

6D: N.Y.C. commuter line: LIRR

8D: What's left, in Le Mans: RESTE. French for "rest". I was thinking of gauche, the real "left".

9D: Israeli, e.g.: SEMITE. OK, this is a word I've never understood. Arabs are Semitic, right? Why Anti-semitism is about prejudice against Jewish people then?

10D: Substances similar in structure, in chemistry: ANALOGS. No idea. I thought it should be ISO something.

11D: Fogs: HAZES

14D: Teeming with activity: ALL ABUZZ. Have to get used to this kind of 2-word fill.

15D: Blowhard: GASBAG

16D: __ Minor: URSA. My first reaction: ASIA

17D: Big name in faucets: MOEN. MOEN has several joint ventures in China.

18D: Bride's throwaway: POSY. All I could think of are flowers & bouquett.

25D: "Tiny Alice" dramatist: ALBEE. I've never heard of "Tiny Alice". But five letter dramatist has to be ALBEE.

33D: Prince Valiant's bride: ALETA. Another unknown. Only Just learned ARN ("Prince Valiant's son") a few months ago.

34D: Big bully: BRUTE. Give a whole new meaning to "Et tu, BRUTE?"

35D: Treated the soil, in a way: LIMED. What's the purpose of liming the soil?

36D: Davenport native: IOWAN. "Is this heaven?" "No, it's IOWA". My favorite baseball movie: "Field of Dreams".

37D: Fingers, so to speak: RATS ON. New definition of "Fingers" to me.

39D: Auto pioneer Karl: BENZ. I need the name Mercedes to get BENZ.

40D: Others: Span.: OTROS. OTRAS is also "Others: Span."

41D: Giraffe cousin: OKAPI. Hey, tell me, is giraffe your cousin?

44D: Plug projection: PRONG. Sounds silly, but I really blanked on Plug PRONG.

47D: Gullible: NAIVE. Won't be long, Rich Norris. Sooner or later, I am going to figure out all your "Little butter?".

53D: Swan constellation: CYGNUS. Forgot this word. Latin for "swan". See this diagram. PromiseMe mentioned Rush's song "CYGNUS X-1" last time when we encountered DENEB (clued as "Star in CYGNUS". In his words, "The song is about a journey through space to the black hole at the heart of the constellation Cygnus." Maybe he will provide a clip later.

55D: Authentic: KOSHER. Opposite tref. Kind of like Arab Halal/haraam, right?

58D: P.O. sackful: LTRS. In this electronic age, still "sackful" of letters? I doubt.

59D: No longer at issue: MOOT. Or still debatable. Janus letter, 2 meanings.

61D: Numbered rds.: RTES

63D: Actor Katz: OMRI. I forgot this "Dallas" actor. He appeared in our old puzzle before.

64D: N, E, S or W: DIR

66D: Roman prefix: ITALO. Williams liked to clue ITALO as "Author Calvino". In fact, I don't believe he ever tried "Roman prefix".

67D: Star in Virgo: SPICA. New to me. Here is the diagram.

68D: Pyramids, e.g.: SOLIDS

69D: African language group: BANTU. Both Zulu & Swahili belong to BANTU.

71D: Crown location: TOOTH. I was picturing a crown over someone's head.

74D: Infomercial knife: GINSU. They are of very poor quality, correct?

75D: "Me, too!": AS AM I

78D: Show the rope: TEACH

79D: Pool accessory: RACK. Billiard. Not swimming pool.

80D: It holds locks in place: GEL. Well, I was thinking of real locks. Key does not fit.

85D: Like the Holy See: PAPAL

86D: 1999 Ron Howard film: EDTV. See this poster. I saw identical clue somewhere before. But I could not recall the film name.

90D: Lawyer's writing: BRIEF

91D: "Give me an example!": NAME ONE. Like this clue also.

93D: Jotting place: NOTE PAD

95D: Muscle spasm: TWITCH. Or TIC for a 3-letter fill.

97D: Perceived to be: SEEN AS

100D: Tour of duty: STINT

101D: Correct: RIGHT. Verb or adjective?

102D: Comic opening: SERIO. Have never heard of seriocomic before. Derived from SERI(ous) + O + Comic.

104D: Tendon suffix: ITIS. Tendonitis. Did not come to me immediately. I am used to the " Medical suffix" clue.

105D: Husband of Octavia: NERO. I know the NERO who fiddled while Roman burned. Don't know who Octavia is. Dictionary says Marc Anthony's wife is also called Octavia, a name rooted in Octavius, meaning "the eighth".

106D: Brandy letters: VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale). Unknown to me. Here is a bottle.

107D: 2000 World Series venue: SHEA. Yankees beat the Mets. I was unaware of this. My US history started in May 16, 2001, almost 8 years.

108D: Lily with an edible root: SEGO. Really? I only know tiger lily buds are edible.

111D: Cello stabilizer: KNEE. I still marvel at the CELLIST clue ("Ma, for one") the other day. Just brilliant. Crossword constructors/editors are so creative.

112D: Georgia et al., once: Abbr.: SSRS. I love this "Georgia" ambiguity. In late 1980s and early 1990s, I was very into Eduard Shevardnadze, who later became the President of Georgia. Later one, I moved to Netanyahu. I don't know what they have in common. They just attracted me.

116D: "Kung Fu" actor: AHN. No idea. Interesting trivia: His parent were the first Korean married couple admitted into the United States, according to Wikipedia. He looks very Korean. His surname AHN would be spelled An or Ang in Chinese, as in director Ang Lee. An simply means "Peace".

Full Answer Grid.

C.C.

Mar 28, 2009

Saturday March 28, 2009 Robert H. Wolfe

Theme: None (No?)

Total words: 74

Total blocks: 36

I am confused. I thought LA Times Saturday is always a themeless. But maximum word count for a themeless is 72. Today we have 74 words. Besides, all the three long entries have "No" in theme, maybe it's a themed puzzle, after all?

17A: "No need to get so excited": KEEP YOUR SHIRT ON

37A: "No way": DON'T MAKE ME LAUGH

59A: "No idea": I HAVEN'T GOT A CLUE

(Note: My bad, I made a mistake. There are only 72 words.)

Another struggle, but not as hard as I dreaded last night. I got more than half of the grid filled. Erased a few and then googled a few. Good enough for me. I'll call it a success and move on.

I am just so enamored with Rich Norris' "It .... clues", like yesterday's "It can pick up a plane" for RADAR and the other day's "It's twirled in a rodeo" for RIATA. I like the visual images the clues evoke.

Today it's a plain fact-based "It replaced the Slovak koruna on 1/1/2009" for EURO (8D). Nice trivia, isn't it? PromiseMe' research yesterday shows that Finland is the only Nordic country that has switched to EURO.

By the way, Rich Norris confirmed to me yesterday that there is no rebus puzzle in LA Times.

Across:

1A: According to design: AS PLANNED. Got it immediately.

10A: Attended: WAS AT. Struggled with this simple fill.

15A: Prolong: STRING OUT. Unknown to me. Only knew the phrase "string along". I wanted STRETCH something.

16A: Prefix with glyph: HIERO. Hieroglyph. I knew the word, but could not spell it properly. HIERO is a prefix meaning "Sacred' or "priestly". Here are some Egyptian hieroglyphs. Sun is easy to recognize, so are the last two birds. I won't be able to tell house, mountain, god or reed though.

19A: Triage sites, briefly: ERS

20A: River of Tuscany: ARNO. "River of Florence/Pisa/Italy", whatever, the answer is always ARNO.

21A: Short-tailed weasel: ERMINE. Turn around, buddy, I want to see if your tail is short.

22A: Geometric fig.: RECT. Rectangle. RECT/RECTI is a prefix for "right"/"straight". Remember last time RECTI was clued as "Belly muscles" in our old puzzle? The singular is rectus, meaning "straight muscle of ab, thigh, etc". Rectus is Latin for "straight". Dictionary says RECTO, the right-hand page is rooted in rectus too. So is rectum (plural is recta).

24A: Kiara's mother in "The Lion King": NALA. I wrote down ELSA, the "Born Free" lioness first.

25A: Letters on seconds: IRR. Why? What are "seconds"?

27A: "__ out?": IN OR. And NEED I (28D: "__ say more?"). Have to get used to the new cluing style.

29A: "Medium" network: NBC. Unknown to me. I hope they have high ratings. GE owns NBC. And I want my GE stocks to go back to where I first bought them. Stupid GE Capital. Bleeder.

32A: Breakthroughs in therapy, say: EYE OPENERS. I got the answer immediately. Did not quite understand the rationale though.

35A: Language teaching site: LAB. Oh. I've never been to a language LAB. Science LAB yes.

40A: "The Lord of the Rings" monster: ORC. Williams always clued it as "Tolkien baddie".

41A: Visibly embarrassed: RED AS A BEET. I misremebered the phrase as RED AS BEETS.

42A: Thin swimmer: EEL. It does not look thin to me. I really love unagi sushi rolls.

44A: Speaker in Cooperstown: TRIS. HOFer. I don't have any of his baseball cards. But I have this stamp. Just learned this morning that his nickname is Spoke. Very interesting. Reminds me of that repetitive actor name Rip Torn.

45A: Bit of treasure: GEM. "Bit" here means small?

46A: Fireworks reaction: OOHS. Lots of fireworks/accidents during Chinese Spring Festival eve.

48A: What a nyctophobe fears: DARK. Gimme. Learned I had mild nyctophobia when I linked this list long time ago. Nact/nacti/nacto is prefix for "night". I feel safe when the closet light is on in the evening.

51A: Gelatin candy: JUJUBE. Have never had the JUJUBE candy. To me, JUJUBE is just Chinese date. Not as sweet as the Middle East palm dates though.

54A: Composer Khachaturian: ARAM. No idea. Soviet-Armenian composer. Wikipedia says his works were very influenced by Armenia folk music. This coin looks like in mint condition. ARAM is quite close to ABRAM, often clued as "President Garfield's middle name".

62A: Crescent shapes: LUNES. Mine was MOONS.

63A: Floating point: WATER LINE. Unknown to me. What is "Floating point"?

65A: Hematite producers: IRON MINES. I did not know the meaning of "hematite", the principal ore of iron. Hemat/hemato is a prefix for "blood". I don't know how is it related to ore.

Down:

3D: Foreknowledge: PRESCIENCE. Reminds me of Frigg, wife of Odin. She is prophetic but she never tells others what she knows. Cassandra does tell others what she knows, but no one believes her.

5D: Novelist Seton: ANYA. Pure guess. Wikipedia says she wrote a book called "Foxfire" which was later made into a film. I wonder where Firefox the browser got its name then.

6D: "The Killing Fields" Oscar winner Haing S. __: NGOR. Foreign to me. He won Oscar Best Supporting Actor for his role in "The Killing Fields". He was born in Cambodia and his father was of Chinese descent. See how ridiculous Chinese languages are. His surname (吴) would be spelled NG in Cantonese and Wu in Mandarin. The most absurd to me is Chiang Kai-Shek. He is always Jiang Jie-Shi to us who grew up in Mainland China. Maddeningly different spellings. Mao Tse-Tung & Mao Ze-Dong is not that confusing though.

7D: Lions or tigers or bears: NOUN. Great clue.

9D: Rehab symptoms: DTS (Delirium Tremens)

10D: Eddy: WHIRL

11D: Pilot: AIRMAN. I wanted AVIATOR, but there is not enough space.

12D: "Contact" acronym: SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence). Big stumper. I've never heard of the movie "Contact".

18D: Limo leaders, at times: HEARSES

24D: Peggy Lee and Marilyn Monroe, at birth: NORMAS. Only knew Marilyn's original name is NORMA Jean (For you, Democrat). Peggy Lee was born NORMA Deloris Egstrom.

26D: Dashboard letters: RPM

27D: Comic book artists: INKER. Funny Crossword INKER.

30D: Atlantic game fish: BLUE MARLIN. I've never seen a BLUE MARLIN. Why BLUE? The hue on his belly?

31D: Zoo enclosure: CAGE. Of course. But my first reaction is LOGY, as in zoology.

32D: Shogun's capital: EDO. Japanese kanjin for Shogun (将軍) is exactly the same as Chinese character for "general". Many times I understand Japanese words due to this similarity. But I don't know how to pronounce.

34D: Like much pottery: EARTHEN. These Terra Cotta Warriors are EARTHEN too.

36D: Food preservative letters: BHT (Butylated HydroxyToluene). No idea. Dictionary says it's used to "retard rancidity in foods, pharmaceuticals, and other products containing fat or oil". I checked my cooking oil, luckily there is no BHT. It sounds as toxic as Obama/Geithner's "Toxic Assets" or whatever the new name is. AIG/AIU, you can put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig.

43D: Slatted window opening: LOUVER. British spell this word as LOUVRE. Like Mona Lisa's Louvre.

49D: Meet with the old gang: REUNE. Is this a real word? I've never seen it before.

51D: Leave abruptly, as a lover: JILT. Reminds me of Julia Roberts' "Runaway Bride".

53D: Doe to be identified: JANE

55D: __- Rooter: ROTO. Often clued as "Old newspaper section" in our TMS puzzle. I never really understand what section ROTO is.

56D: Fordham's hoops conf.: A-TEN. Stumper. Have heard of Atlantic 10 conference. Don't know its abbreviation. Not familar with Fordham either. Here is a list of notable alumni. See Vince Lombardi, Alan Alda, and Denzel Washington?

57D: School closing?: MARM. Learned schoolmarm from doing crossword.

60D: Prefix with light: TWI. Oh, twilight. Is there a prefix actually meaning "light"?

61D: One-third of CDLIII: CLI. 1/3 of 453=151.

Full Answer Grid.

C.C.

Mar 27, 2009

Friday March 27, 2009 Spencer Corden

Theme: PRE - eminent

20A: Undercover cop?: LEGAL PRETENDER (legal tender)

25A: Introduction to "SeinLanguage"?: FUNNY PREFACE (funny face)

47A: Words to rouse an oversleeping ecclesiastic?: GET UP PRELATE (get up late)

54A: Cannery worker's credo?: BORN TO PRESERVE (born to serve)

I was unaware of Jerry Seinfeld's "SeinLanguage". Kazie mentioned two days ago that SEIN is German for "To be", so I was thinking maybe "SeinLanguage" is a German dialact or something.

This puzzle is quite similar to yesterday's, only a few real unknown words. But I struggled once again. Might take me a couple of months to get into Rich Norris' wavelength. I am optimistic though. After all, he can only fool me once with "Little butter?". Shame on - shame on you. Fool me - I won't be fooled again.

I don't understand the apostrophe for clue CHI (44A: T'ai __). No need/reason for that. There is a apostrophe in my hometown name Xi'an because without that mark Xian will become a totally different word. Xi'an has two syllables, Xian has one.

I am so proud that I got AIDA (53A: Musical with the song "The Gods Love Nubia"). Lots of discussions on Nubia on blog Comments section last time when we have the "Nile region" clue.

MULCT stumped quite a few solvers yesterday. But it also appeared in TMS puzzle not long ago and there were some discussions between Mark in Buenos Aires & Kazie regarding the Spanish and Latin root words. Multa is Spanish for "fine".

Here is Kazie's original post: "A couple of additional ideas on MULCT. First, I looked it up in my OED, and the original root is Latin (mulcta), often with the "c" omitted. So it makes sense that the Spanish word Mark suggested earlier would be related. Secondly, I wonder if the slang expression "to milk something" might be related too, since in Latin one form of the verb to milk is "mulctum". Latin for "woman" is "muler"--maybe that's why they've been trying to milk us for all we're worth throughout history!"

Across:

1A: Place for storage: SHED. I was thinking of SILO.

9A: PBS's "The __ Gourmet TV Show": HIPPY. Totally unaware of this show. Used to watch Rachel Ray of Food Network. Unfortunately I can't stand her EVOO.

14A: Pamplona runner: TORO. Spanish for bull. TORO the lawnmower manufacturer is based here in Minnesota.

17A: Quaff: SWIG. Noun or verb here?

19A: Inspector on the telly: MORSE. Unknown to me. Cool name though. Wikipedia says his first name is Endeavor.

23A: Drama award: OBIE. Off-Broadway award. "Drama" made me think of TNT's "We Know Drama". So I thought of EMMY first. Was used to "Theater Award" for OBIE/TONY.

24A: Storytelling slave: REMUS. Uncle REMUS. Was always stumped by BR'ER clue before.

31A: Who, in Quebec: QUI. Add one letter, we have quid, quip, quit & quiz.

37A: Vue and Aura, in the auto world: SATURNS. No idea. Know nothing about car models/prices.

41A: Gp. with Bucks and Bobcats: NBA. Got it from down fills. Both Bucks and Bobcats are such general names, they can be the mascots for any team/sport.

45A: Weakened: WANED. I don't like this clue. 4 letter repetion. "Lost energy" is better.

60A: Mope: SULK. I like K, F ending words. Tell me what kind of bird is this.

61A: "60 quartet member: MAMA. MAMA Cass I suppose.

63A: It can pick up a plane: RADAR. Is there a special term for this kind of "It ..." clue? Yesterday RIATA was clued as "It's twirled in a rodeo".

64A: Catalina, e.g.: ISLE. The same as Catalina Island?

65A: Placekicker Jason: ELAM. Sigh. I forgot this guy's name again. Wikipedia says he won two Super Bowl rings with the Broncos. And he wrote a book called "Monday Night Jihad".

67A: Roe source: SHAD. Plural can be SHAD or SHADS.

66A: __ vu: DEJA. Remember our "Jamais vu" & "Presque vu" discussions a while ago? If you haven't, you should really click on Comments at the end of my blog entry. (beside the envelope mark). Lots of informative and entertaining discussions there.

Down:

1D: Elm et al: Abbr.: STS. I was thinking of Elm tree.

2D: React to a kneeslapper: HOWL. New "laugh" defintion to me. Only know wolves' HOWL.

3D: Part of a wet quintet: ERIE. Great clue. HOMES.

4D: Dad-blasted: DOGGONE. "Dad-blasted" is a new slang to me. I was picturing a woman who blasted her ex-husband because he failed to pay child support.

5D: A right may cause one: FAT LIP. I thought "right" might be a typo. "A fight may cause one" sounds plausible. Then I checked Dictionary and found out it's a boxing term, meaning "a blow delivered by the right hand".

6D: One skipping church?: ELOPER. Oh well, I skipped church, and I was not an ELOPER. Needs a "maybe". I was acturally thinking of ATHEIST.

8D: "Smooth Operator" singer: SADE. Ah, SADE, "The Sweetest Taboo". SADE's sister is a singer too.

9D: Domestic class, briefly: HOME EC. Home Economics?

10D: Triathletes: IRONMEN. I don't understand this one. They are not synonymous to me.

11D: Concealed: PERDU. The only time I've seen PERDU is Proust's "A La Recherche Du Temps PERDU" ("Remembrance of Things Past").

12D: Models: POSES. Verb.

13D: Belgian river: YSER. This has become a gimme.

21D: Deep chasm: ABYSS

22D: Bride follower: TRAIN. Of course. But AISLE came to me first. I don't know what I was thinking.

25D: One who used to spend markkaa: FINN. Easy guess. Here is a banknote. Finnish for mark.

27D: His__: big shot: NIBS. See the word origin. Brings back yesterday's TAI-Pan, Cantonese slang for "big shot".

29D: Pelt: FUR. Stumper for me. I was in the verb direction, thinking of HIT.

34D: "Yeah, right!": I BET. And ACT SO ("38D: "Don't ___ surprised"). Lots of colloquial expressions in Rich Norris' puzzle.

35D: Diminish: FADE

39D: Holy day.: abbr.: THU. Is it because Jesus was crucified on Thursday?

40D: Any ABBA singer: SWEDE. Oh by the way, the vegetable SWEDE (rutabaga) is often pickled in China.

46D: Protected, as a home: ALARMED. Surprising clue for me.

48D: Walks on stage: ENTERS. "Walks onto a stage", right?

49D: Spanish stewlike dish: PAELLA. Literally "frying pan" in Catalan, an official language in Spain, isn't it? Sounds like a crossing of Spanish and French.

50D: Put on the line: RISKED. I was thinking of FISHED.

55D: Greek letters: PSIS. PSI looks like this. Pronounced like "sigh".

56D: Compensate for oversleeping: RUSH. I've forgotten what "oversleeping" feels like. Have to get up early for the blog.

57D: Low-lying area: VALE. So many 4-letter "Low-lying areas": VALE, dale, glen, dell.

58D: Key with four sharps: Abbr.: E MAJ. Guessed. You know, I can never understand why musical education was considered bourgeois and forbidden during Chinese Cultural Revolution.

Complete Answer Grid.

C.C.

Mar 26, 2009

Thursday March 26, 2009 Bonnie L. Gentry

Theme: What Chutzpah!

21A: Operational headquarters: NERVE CENTER

26A:Classy office door adornment: BRASS NAME PLATE

46A: 2006 Political best-seller, with "the": AUDACITY OF HOPE

52A: Beside one another: CHEEK BY JOWL

Boomer bought me "The AUDACITY OF HOPE" when it first came out. But I've never got the opportunity to get it autographed. Now it's collecting dust on my shelf, together with my Obama baseball card and the inauguration pin.

CHEEK BY JOWL is a new idiom to me. But thank God I know JOAN (55D: Rocker Jett). Every time I link Michael Bolton's "Can I Touch You There" on the blog, someone will return with a link of JOAN Jett "Do You Want to Touch Me".

What I've noticed about Rich Norris' puzzle, besides those tricky "Little butter?" (4D: KID) wordplay, is the vivid evocative descriptions. For example:

27D: It's twirled in a rodeo: RIATA.

63D: It sometimes needs a boost: EGO

I like them a lot. Seldom saw them in our old puzzles.

There were only a couple of real unknowns to me in this grid. But I struggled. My conclusion? Rich Norris and I can't talk. He is not "straightforward" and "honest" with me.

Across:

1A: Alp top: PEAK. Thought of SNOW.

5A: Sounding shocked: AGASP. And PALE (10A: Looking shocked). I am in "shock and awe" of these 2 clues. Just great!.

14A: A8 manufacturer: AUDI. Thought A8 might be another kind of V8 juice.

15A: Decisive refusal: NEVER. I was thinking of NO WAY first.

16A: Double-click: OPEN. Of course. But I blanked.

18A: Lacking skepticism: NAIVE. You've got to have a very skeptical attitude when you face this new crossword editor.

19A: __ dixit: IPSE. Learned from doing Xword. Literally "he himself said it". Maybe you can make a sentence for me. I've never used this phrase in daily conversation.

20A: Ocean delicacy: ROE. I pictured EEL. Now I crave some perfectly grilled sweet unagi. The aroma is simply intoxicating. I can almost smell it.

23A: She played Ulla in "The Producers": UMA. Easy guess. Have never seen "The Producers". I love this Ulla/UMA connection.

25A: Estrangement: RIFT

37A: Clavell's "__-Pan": TAI. See the bookcover. Literally, TAI-Pan means "Big Class" in Cantonese. TAI, "big". Pan, "class". Or "big shot" & "big potato" in our slang.

38A: Ma, for one: CELLIST. D'oh, Yo-Yo Ma. I was thinking of Ma Bell.

41A: Rx writers: MDS. Mine was DRS.

42A: 1943 penny metal: STEEL. Unknown to me. I did not know that 1943 penny is rare.

44A: "Proud Mary" band, for short: CCR (Credence Clearwater Revival). Here is the clip. I was stumped again.

51A: Corp. that once owned Hertz and Hilton: UAL (United Air Lines). Oh really? I was totally unaware of this history. Very short-lived though.

63A: Irish Free State successor: EIRE. Heard of this "Irish Free State" (1922-1937) from watching Liam Neeson's "Michael Collins".

68A: "Roots" Emmy winner: ASNER. Another guess. Don't remember him in "Roots".

69A: Capital south of Lillehammer: OSLO. Another guess. I did not know where Lillehammer is. According to Wikipedia, it means "the Small Hamar". Hamar is town name. Literally "steep rock". I was disappointed that it had nothing to do with hammer.

Down:

1D: "I Kid You Not" author: PAAR. Unknown to me. Is it an interesting read? Henry VIII's wife is PARR, two R's.

2D: 100 cents: EURO. I felt so dense this morning. Just could not think of this damned EURO.

3D: Part of "The Sound of Music" farewell song: ADIEU, ADIEU. I can't remember this song. Edelweiss" does not fit, nor does "Do-Re-Me", the only two songs I could think of.

4D: Little butter? KID. Sometimes RAM is clued as "Butter?". Playing on the verb butt. RAM butts. Get it? Butt-er.

6D: Transmission component: GEAR

7D: Tel __ - Yafo: AVIV. Literally "Sping". I only know Tel AVIV, "Hill of Spring". Had no idea there is a trailing Yafo.

9D: Rain, briefly: PRECIP. Precipitation.

10D: Indicate: POINT AT

11D: PDA entry: APPT (Appointment).

13D: Fed. power dept.: ENER (Energy). Not a familiar abbreviation to me. Our current Secretary of Energy is Steven Chu. Chinese American. Nobel Physics winner. Newly minted Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke is also a Chinese American. Both their surnames are Cantonese spelling. Chu is Zhu in Mandrin Chinese. LOCKE is simply Luo. (Note: How do you think of my clues: "Soft tail?" as in softener or "Damp end?" as in dampener?)

21D: "Illmatic" rapper: NAS. Learned his name from doing crossword. What does "Illmatic" mean?

22D: Key of Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1: E FLAT. Pure guess.

24D: Submissions to ed.: MSS (Manuscripts)

26D: Upside down sleepers: BATS. Only learned this facts a few weeks ago.

28D: PBS's science guy: NYE. The "Science Guy".

29D: IM offerer: AOL. No waffling between AOL and MSN today.

30D: Punish with a fine: MULCT. This is a word that I keep remembering and keep forgetting.

31D: Gin cocktail: TOM COLLINS. New to me. It's often served in a glass called Collins glass, which is also new to me.

32D: Become, finally: END UP

36D: Salinger dedicatee: ESME. Salinger's "For ESME – with Love and Squalor".

38D: Louisiana Territory explorer: CLARK. I don't know the extent of Lewis and CLARK exploration.

39D: Needing salt, perhaps: ICY. It snowed here again yesterday. But no more salt is needed.

43D: Enters stealthily: EDGES IN

45D: '50s oldies syllables: SHA. No idea. I know nothing about '50s oldies. SHA-la-la?

47D: Secret doctrine: CABALA. Did not come to me immediately, though I often read Madonna/Demi Moore CABALA/Kabala stuff on gossip magazines.

48D: Tennyson works: IDYLLS. Occasionally you will find two or four line pastoral poems in some Chinese landscape paintings.

49D: Eye or ear ending: FUL. "Mouth ending" too.

54D: Streets liners: ELMS. No ELMS along our streets.

57D: Deterioration: WEAR. Mine was TEAR.

59D: Like the Sabin vaccine: ORAL. Salk's vaccine required injection.

60D: Jared of "American Psycho": LETO. Know his name. Have never seen "American Psycho". In Greek mythology, LETO is Zeus' mistress. Apollo's mom. She was born in KOS/COS, from which we got COS lettuce (Romaine), clued as "Lettuce variety" in our old puzzle before.

Full Answer Grid

C.C.

Mar 25, 2009

Wednesday March 25, 2009 Jack McInturff

Theme: RULE (62D: Govern, or word that can follow the first word of the four longest puzzle answers)

17A: Valley girl's "Ick!": GAG ME WITH A SPOON

27A: Cliché framed above many a hearth: HOME SWEET HOME

48A: Spaceflight management center: GROUND CONTROL

64A: Yellow-skinned apple: GOLDEN DELICIOUS

Why "Valley girl" reference for GAG ME WITH A SPOON? The Frank Zappa "Valley Girl" song? HOME RULE is a new term to me.

Did you feel today's puzzle was more difficult than yesterday's? I had lots of wite-outs for the cleverly tricky clues:

21A: Wagon pullers: TEAM. Mine was OXEN.

70A: Play area?: STAGE. Mine was SCENE, which is actually "Play part".

9D: MA and PA: STS (States). I made up my own word PTS (Parents), knowing clearly MA is not Ma, PA is not Pa.

26D: Bank feature: ATM. Mine was DAM, thinking of river bank.

46D: Old French capital?: FRANC. Replaced by Euro in 2001. PAREE sprang to my mind first. FRANC is often clued as "Old/stale French bread?".

49D: Put in stitches: DARN. Mine was SEWN. I figured "Put" might be past tense.

65D: When the French fry?: ETE. What a great clue. Scorching hot! I blanked though. I need a "summer" or "season" to think of ETE.

Our fellow solver Fred, who has had puzzles published by LA Times, mentioned in yesterday's Comments section that "the ramp between Wednesday and Thursday is steep in terms of difficulty". So, be prepared for tomorrow's fight.

On a scale of 1-5, Monday and Tuesday's level of difficulty for our puzzle is 1, Wednesday is 2, Thursday and Friday, 3, Saturday and Sunday 4.

To Star Tribune solvers, if you want LA Times puzzle in our paper, please write to Susan Barbieri (Assistant Features Editor) and let her know your views. I wish they had asked our opinion before they made the switch. Her email address is: susan.barbieri@startribune.com

Across:

1A: Blue or brown follower: EYED. I think I have brown eyes, though my drivers's license says BLK.

15A: Jet-black gem: ONYX. Wikipedia says it could be of other colors too. Greek origion, meaning "claw/fingernail." So called because the mineral's color sometimes resembles that of a fingernail, pink with white streaks.

23A: Donizetti aria "Regnava __ silenzio": NEL. No idea. Here is a clip. I've never heard of Italian composer Zonizetti or "Regnava NEL silenzio" ("Silence Reigned"). So what does NEL mean?

25A: Storyteller: LIAR

33A: Finance major's deg.: BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration). New abbreviation to me. Wish I had attended school when I first arrived here.

35A: When repeated twice, "et cetera": YADA. Always thought it's repeated three times.

43A: Sweater synthetic: ORLON. Clued as "Synthetic fiber" in yesterday's puzzle.

45A: Unheeding: DEAF. Also LEAF (24D: Table section). I like this kind of F or K ending words.

60A: Jacket type worn by several Bond villains: NEHRU. Interesting trivia. I did not know this. I still have not figured out who killed the evil Greene in "Quantum of Solace".

67A: "A cat must have three different names": ELIOT. I don't know this particular poem, but I do know the musical "Cats" is based on his cat poems.

68A: Savings choice: IRAS. The clue needs an abbreviation hint, doesn't it?

69A: Give sparingly: DOLE. Why "sparingly"? The rescue package government DOLEs out is huge. Oh by the way, Linda mentioned last night that "abstemious" and "facetious" are the only two English words with all the vowels in order. She also said "dreamt" is the only English word ending in "mt".

72A: Impressionist: APER. Very unexpected clue.

Down:

3D: Caltech sr.'s goal, often: ENGR. Ah, LA Times, another CA reference. Remember Monday's "Fellow Dodgers, e.g." for TEAMMATE?

4D: Rectangular game piece: DOMINO

5D: Holy animal?: COW

10D: School play prop: PAPER HAT

27D: "They'll Do It Every Time" cartoonist Jimmy: HATLO. Unknown to me, HAT LO, is he very famous? This woman looks very dominating.

29D: Hard-to-find guy of kids' books: WALDO

31D: Land where Moses died: MOAB. East of Dead Sea. In current Jordan.

33D: Internet opinion piece: BLOG. Exactly, "opinion piece", might be wrong. Blog is short for weblog.

34D: 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate: BARR (Bob). I had no memory of this guy at all. Could only think of Ralph Nader.

38D: Elvis classic: HOUND DOG. No idea. Is it really classic? Sounds so repetitive and boring.

41D: Jacques of "Mon Oncle": TATI. Got this French actor's name from across fills. "Mon Oncle"("My Uncle") won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1958, according to Wikipedia.

44D: 22.5 deg.: NNE. See more Compass Points. I drew a blank on this one also. Have never seen NNE clued this way before.

50D: Recognition: CREDIT. How fortunes change for Tim Geithner. March Madness indeed. However, he really should get the CREDIT for Dow's near 500 point soar on Monday.

51D: New York tribe: ONEIDA. Literally "erected stone".

56D: Hip bones: ILIA. Singular Ilium. I often confuse ILIA with ILEA (the ends of small intestines). Its singular form is ileum. They have the same pronunciation, correct?

58D: Prefix with sol: AERO. Aerosol. It's often clued as "Sabb model" in our old puzzle.

63D: Rehab admission: USER. The answer did not come to me readily.

Answer Grid.

C.C.

Mar 24, 2009

Tuesday March 24, 2009 Dan Naddor

Theme: Texas Lolita's Favorite Things (Note: Lolita is a town in Texas, my theme title is just for fun)

17A: Centennial State rock?: COLORADO BOULDER

22A: Wolverine State fire?: MICHIGAN FLINT

35A: Peach State wide open spaces?: GEORGIA PLAINS

47A: Cotton State sculpture?: ALABAMA MOBILE

54A: Cornhusker State Town Car?: NEBRASKA LINCOLN

I like the theme and theme answers. Very clever. I wonder how the constructor would clue Embarrass, Minnesota.

I did not know the nickname for Colorado is "Centennial State". Found out later that it became a state in 1876, 100 years after the the Declaration of Independence, hence the name.

I also like the extra descriptive phrases and trivia that accompany the clues. Feel like I've learned a few new things and I enjoyed very much the new clues, so refreshing. For example:

26A: It will never fly: EMU. It's always "Flightless bird' in our old puzzle.

24D: Bell hit with a padded hammer: GONG. Again, always "Big bell" in TMS Daily.

41D: Dolly, the clone, was one: EWE. Always "Ram's mate".

As LADY (62A: Disney dog") is an answer in the grid, I am not fond of the clue for ROMEO (15: Ladies' man). Come to the Comments section if you have a better idea.

I'd like to make a suggestion today. When you comment, please let me know which clue is your favorite or least favorite and why. Due to my special background, some of humor or subtlety intended by the constructor or editor is lost on me. And I don't want to miss the fun.

Across:

21A: Frontier bases?: OUTPOSTS. I had the ending letters *STS in place, then I thought of OLD WEST. But you can't pluralize OLD WEST, can you?

29A: One in a "Flying" circus act": WALLENDA. Have never heard of "The Flying WALLENDAS". Wikipidia says their name in German, "Die fliegenden Wallenda", is an obvious rhyme on the title of the Wagner opera, "Der fliegende Holländer ("The Flying Dutchman"). Basebal HOFer Honus Wagner's nickname is also "The Flying Dutchman". His T206 is the most valuable baseball card. Record is $2.8 million. Graded, of course.

32A: __ generis: unique: SUI. New to me. Literally "of its own" in Latin. SUI is also a Cantonese surname (XIAO in Mandarin Chinese), as in fashion designer Anna SUI.

51A: Italian veal dish: OSSO BUCO. I've never developed a taste for Italian food or olive oil. Too strong.

53A: Pah preceder: OOM. Did not come to me immediately.

59A: Quaint "Holy moly": EGAD. Is "Glory be" quaint also?

60A: John of England: ELTON. John MAJOR popped into my mind first. It has 5 letters too.

64A: To be, in old Rome: ESSE. Yesterday it's "To be, in Tijuana" (ESTAR), the same lower right corner. Maybe tomorrow we will see "To be, in Tours" (ETRE).

Down:

1D: Juice drink with a hyphenated name: HI-C. Holy cow! Can you believe I've never heard of this brand name? I only drink tea & water. Sometimes I drink soup. Or should I say I "eat" soup?

3D: Minute particles: MOLECULES

4D: One of the deadly sins: SLOTH. Last time this year I was struggling with Williams' "Two-toed sloth (UNAU) and "three-toed sloths (AIS).

7D: O'Neill's "__ for the Misbegotten": A MOON. New play to me. "Misbegotten" sounds like a wrong word President Bush would say.

8D: Blunt rejection: REBUFF. Putin style, NYET, no matter how many times you look into his eyes and search for his soul.

9D: Play the piccolo: TOOTLE. I've never seen a piccolo in person. Wikipedia says piccolo is the highest instrument in the orchestra or band. Now only manufactured in C.

12D: "Rhyme Pays" rapper: ICE-T. Had he spelled his name correctly as ICED - T, he probably would not make so many appearances in crossword.

18D: Bitter complainer: RAILER. Only knew the verb RAIL. I don't like the ER repetition in clue/ANSWER, though I can't think of a better way to clue it.

19D: Words before smoke or flames: UP IN. Stumper. Are both UP IN smoke and UP IN flames slang?

22D: Copy cats?: MEW. Lovely clue. Cats MEW/MEOW.

33D: Like a 12-0 verdict: UNANIMOUS. Reminds me of "12 Angry Men".

34D: Basketball Hall of Famer Dan: ISSEL. No idea. ISSEL, strange name. OK, I will try to connect him with salt, since SEL is French for salt. IS SEL.

37D: Neeson of "Taken": LIAM. Have never seen the movie "Taken". But LIAM was probably a gimme for many. He's been in the news a lot lately due to his wife's tragic death. He also stars in "Rob Roy". And Rob Roy's refusal is NAE (58D). I liked his "Michael Collins" a lot.

42D: Derivatives of it are used in sunscreen: PABA (Para-AminoBenzoic Acid). This word got me again. I wanted ALOE. Dictionary says PABA is "a metabolic acid found in yeast and liver cells; used to make dyes and drugs and sun blockers".

43D: Privilege loser, often: ABUSER

44D: Equally yucky: AS BAD

49D: Watery trenches under drawbridges: MOATS. My hometown Xi'An has one of the best preserved city walls in the world.

50D: Italian lawn game: BOCCE. I forgot this game again.

51D: Like Ogden Nash's lama, in a poem: ONE L. It's always "Scott Turow title" in our old puzzle. I like this change.

52D: Big name in video games: SEGA. Only found this morning that SEGA stands for "SErvice GAmes of Japan".

Full Answer Grid.

C.C.

Mar 23, 2009

Interview with Rich Norris

Rich Norris is the editor of LA Times Daily Crossword, which replaces TMS Daily edited by Wayne R. Williams in many local newspapers starting today.

He is also a very accomplished crossword constructors. His puzzles have been published by NY Times (186, second only to Manny Nosowsky, stunning!), NY Sun, Newsday, CrosSynergy, Wall Street Journal, etc.

I asked (via email) Mr. Norris a few questions that had been burning in my mind for two weeks. I hope you enjoyed the interview. I did.

Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you start crossword constructing and then editing?

I've solved puzzles since I was a teenager, but didn't try to make one until many years later, in the '90s. I sent two puzzles to Will Shortz at the NYT. Will's policy of crediting the constructor, which was a new policy at the Times, was certainly an incentive. Luckily, he accepted one. I did a lot of constructing for about six years--as many as 200 puzzles per year in a dozen different markets, including frequent NYT themeless puzzles. I heard in late 1999 that the LA Times editorship was about to be vacant, so I applied and was fortunate enough to land the job. I had learned a lot about editing from my association with Will, who wrote me a nice letter of recommendation. No doubt that helped. ;-)

LA Times puzzles get progressively more difficult as the week goes, while our old TMS Daily are randomly placed. Is that the major difference between the two puzzles? Do you also shun partial fills and "cheater squares" like Williams? What kind of fills are you trying to include or exclude?

I don't know enough about Wayne Williams' TMS puzzle to compare it to mine. I'm aware that he didn't use graduated difficulty, which is a concept I strongly believe in. Solvers come to the newspaper with a broad variety of solving skills. I think graduated difficulty provides the most amount of enjoyment and challenge for the largest number of solvers each week. I also think it helps puzzlers improve their solving skills.

I don't exclude partial phrases, but I do ask constructors to use them in moderation--usually no more than two in a 15x15 puzzle. As for fill, I like contemporary words and phrases. I ask constructors not to overload a grid with proper names, and not to allow two tough names to cross each other. When there is popular culture in a puzzle, I think it should be spread around: music, TV, movies, sports, science, literature, etc.

Can you describe to us what a typical editing process looks like? What percentage of the grid/cluing do you normally rework?

On average, I probably change anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the clues. The majority of these changes are to adjust difficulty, avoid repeats of recent clues, and improve accuracy. I don't change that many grids, but if there are obscurities or answers that I think are too tough for a particular day of the week, I'll ask constructors to make changes. If they're unable to do it after one or two tries, then I'll help out.

You seem to have a core group of constructors who work for you on regular basis. How do you assign the puzzles to them? Or do they just submit a puzzle and then you rework to decide the difficulty level & allot to a different day?

I hardly ever assign a puzzle. Constructors send me work whenever the Muse visits them. I guess with some, she visits more often. (I think of the Crossword Muse as a "she" in honor of Margaret Farrar.) Constructors are a pretty savvy bunch. Most of them know when they're making a puzzle whether it's a Monday or a Wednesday or a Friday, and they try to clue accordingly. Puzzle placement during the week usually depends on theme difficulty. The simplest, most obvious themes will occur earlier in the week. Wordplay and trickery are generally reserved for the end of the week.

While it's true that some constructor names appear fairly regularly in our puzzles, it's still a wide-open market. I publish an average of 100 different constructors' work every year. This year, in less than four months (I edit about a month ahead), I've already published the work of more than 50 different constructors. You'll also see new constructors regularly. Last year there were 22 debuts.

I saw some of your ACPT photos, you look so serious. What do you do for fun? What would people find one thing that's most surprising about you?

LOL. I'm terrible in front of a still camera. I'm certainly serious about my work, but I don't think of myself as an overly serious person. I think you'll see plenty of playfulness in LA Times clues, especially later in the week.

When I'm not puzzling, I'm probably spending time with my wife, golfing, playing the piano (love Beethoven and the Romantics), shooting pool, or just walking outdoors. My wife also loves the same things I do: puzzles, golf, pool, the outdoors.

Hope this was helpful, and thanks again for asking. I hope you enjoy the puzzles.

Thank you, Mr. Norris.