Jul 31, 2009

Friday July 31, 2009 Dan Naddor

Theme: Say It Again? (sk X)

17A: Paul Bunyan's admission in therapy?: I HATE TO AX (ask)

27A: Formal attire for Dumbo?: ELEPHANT TUX (tusk)

43A: Plant fiber used by moonshiners?: WHISKEY FLAX (flask)

56A: Diver's tank capacity?: OXYGEN MAX (mask)

11D: Catchall source of revenue?: MULTI-TAX (task)

36D: Keep a Northeastern fort under surveillance?: VIDEO DIX (disk)

WHISKEY FLAX is not an ideal theme entry, as there is still a SK there waiting to be swapped. DIX in the last one refers to Fort DIX, named for Civil War Major General John Adams DIX.

What other sk/X can you think of? Minsk/MINX came to my mind.

Another Mount Everest for me. My "Yes, I can" hope has now resigned to "Well, I tried". Very hard. I did not understand the theme until the very end.

Cross:

1A: Queen described by Mercutio: MAB. Here is Mercutio's speech. From Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". I'm used to the "Fairy queen" clue.

4A: Cornrow: PLAIT. Bo Derek wore cornrows in movie "10".

9A: Like much "Laugh-In" humor: CAMPY. What exactly is CAMPY? Is "Friends" CAMPY?

14A: Put away: ATE

15A: Dreads wearer: RASTA. Bob Marley is probably the most famous RASTA. Love his "No Woman, No Cry".

16A: Fertilized item: OVULE. And GAMETE (49A: 16-Across cell). I had trouble obtaining both. Needed "egg" for hint.

19A: Tees off: RILES

20A: Fish in a tank: TETRA

21A: Italian omelet served open-faced: FRITTATA. I have yet to try zucchini FRITTATA. I expect it to be very soggy.

23A: Museum assortment: RELICS

25A: Balk at: RESIST

31A: Place to unwind: TUB

32A: "A Perfect Spy" author: LE CARRE. Here is the book cover. I've never heard of it. John LE CARRE also wrote "The Constant Gardener".

33A: __kiri: HARA. HARA is "belly", kiri is "cut". The Japanese samurai suicide.

34A: Selfless sort: GIVER. Donor too.

37A: Ex-Fed chairman Alan Greenspan's alma mater: NYU. A rare gimme for me. Greenspan is a disciple of Ayn Rand.

38A: Not so strict: LAXER

39A: Computer operating system: UNIX. Windows for our computer.

40A: Tabloid topic: SCANDAL. A-Rod is dating Kate Hudson now.

42A: It's illegal to drop it: LSD. I did not know the slang meaning of drop: to ingest an illicit drug orally; swallow, according to dictionary.

47A: River of the Carolinas: PEE DEE. Stumped again.

50A: The Great Barrier Reel borders it: CORAL SEA. See this map. My first Poison is a Christmas gift from Queensland.

54A: Expectant parent, e.g.: NAMER

58A: Part of "CSI": CRIME. SCENE is 5 letter too.

59A: Baseball commissioner Bud: SELIG. He used to own Milwaukee Brewers.

60A: Verb suffix?: OSE. Verbose. I did not fall into the IZE trap.

61A: Hockey lineup, e.g.: HEXAD. A group of six. I was stumped. Know nothing about hockey.

62A: Borneo swinger: ORANG. Borneo is the third largest island in the world, after Greenland and New Guinea.

63A: 1985 video game release, initially: NES (Nintendo Entertainment System). Japanese kanji for Nintendo is literally "Trust heavens".

Down:

1D: French teacher: MAITRE. I thought it's PROFESOR.

2D: Following closely: AT HEEL

3D: __ wig: '60s fad item: BEATLE. I wonder how much this original wig is worth now.

4D: Service provider? PREACHER. Great clue.

5D: Back muscle, for short: LAT. I simply forgot. See this diagram. Short for latissimus dorsi.

6D: Starting: AS OF

7D: __-Tass: news agency: ITAR. The Russian news agency. ITAR stands for Information Telegraph Agency of Russia.

8D: Sitcom set in a garage: TAXI. No idea.

9D: Organ layer: CORTEX. Latin for "bark of a tree". I thought CORTEX refers to the brain, you know, cerebral CORTEX.

10D: Some athletic footwear: AVIAS

12D: You can get it from a blast: PLEASURE. I was picturing a dynamite blast.

13D: Check-box word: YES. I like this clue.

18D: Apartment with two staircases, perhaps: TRIPLEX. So, duplex is "Apartment with one staircase"?

22D: Loyal: TRUE

24D: __ fly: run-scoring out: SAC. Sacrifice fly.

26D: Way up the slope: T-BAR

28D: Folk singer Griffith: NANCI. Stranger to me. Wikipedia says she is the original singer of "From a Distance". I like Bette Miller's version.

29D "__ I might ...": TRY AS

30D: Jack's place: TRUNK

33D: Not a whole person?: HALF MAN. "Two and a HALF MAN" helped me with this answer.

34D: [Uh-oh!]: GULP. The square brackets suggest non-verbal behavior/gesture.

35D: Like many Woody Allen characters: INSECURE. Thought of NEUROTIC.

38D: Bomb big-time: LAY AN EGG. Multipe words always give me trouble.

40D: Kid-lit poet Silverstein: SHEL. He also wrote the music and lyrics for "A Boy Named Sue".

41D: B.S., e.g.: DEG. And SCH (55D: 41-Down awarder)

44D: Best Actor winner for "Save the Tiger" (1973): LEMMON (Jack). No idea. Great clip. Al Pacino looks so young.

45D: Drill command: AT EASE

46D: Persian king who captured Athens: XERXES. Sigh. I actually watched and liked "300", in which Gerard Butler the Spartan King leads 300 Spartans fighting against XERXES, very kinky looking in the film.

48D: Miller creation: DRAMA. Arthur Miller. Anyone tried FLOUR?

52D: Phys. activity: EXER (exercise). Not a familiar abbreviation to me.

53D: "The Clan of the Cave Bear" heroine: AYLA. Boy, I can never remember this Jean Auel character.

57D: Beefeater, e.g.: GIN. No idea. I've never heard of Beefeater GIN. Dictionary defines beefeater as "yeoman of the English royal guard or a warder of the Tower of London". Hence the guard label I suppose.

Answer grid.

Thank you for the blog/private answers and comments, everyone. I appreciate and value every contribution.

C.C.

Jul 30, 2009

Thursday July 30, 2009 Fred Jackson III

Theme: Cover Letters

20A: Photographer of a letter? P(ea) SHOOTER

26A: Letter's rest period?: T(ea) BREAK

49A: Undercover operation to trap a letter?: B(ee) STING

56A: One who can't hold a letter?: I(eye) DROPPER

10D: Letter out for a stroll?: J(ay) WALKING

38D: Official in charge of a letter?: C(sea) CAPTAIN

Hmm, 6 theme entries, quite heavy. Fred must have sifted through a ton of theme candidates. I wonder if he considered any phrase with letter Q (cue) or Y (why).

B STING and J WALKING are so evocative. T BREAK is great too. Hot scone & strawberry jam & tea. Yum!

When I first saw the question mark after each "letter", I actually thought of landlord. You know, the one who lets. Someone asked on the blog last summer why RENT is clued as "Letter amount?".

Lovely puzzle. I still had to cheat, but I fared better than I did with last Thursday's Dan Naddor "Take Action" puzzle.

Across:

1A: [Snore]: HO-HUM. And BLAH (27D: Eliciting a "So what").

6A: Blow hard: HUFF. HUFF and puff.

10A: Singer Joan: JETT. Wrote down BAEZ first.

14A: Ex-TV host Stewart: ALANA. She co-hosted the "George & ALANA" show with her then husband George Hamilton. I only knew her as Rod Stewart's ex.

15A: River to the Mediterranean: EBRO. The Spanish river. ELBE, the Hamburg river, flows into the North Sea.

16A: Guitarist's effect: WAWA. No idea. Dictionary says it's some kind of muted guitar/trumpet effect.

17A: Hear again: RETRY. I don't get this one.

18A: Speed Wagons, e.g.: REOS

19A: Stress, it's said: AGER. Probably only in crossword world. Stress does age us faster.

22A: Flea market figure: SELLER. Wrote down DEALER first. They have 4 letters in common.

24A: Tops with cups: BRAS. Nailed it immediately. Quite a crossing with UNROBE (4D: Strip).

25A: Ready to collapse: RICKETY

29A: Old Mughal Empire capital: DELHI. It's the same place as New DELHI, correct?

30A: suffix with glob: ULE. A diminutive suffix.

31A: Blocks that lock: LEGOS

33A: At the ready: ON TAP

37A: Rash preventer: TALC. Thought of ALOE, which actually treats rather than prevents rash.

39A: Like some checking accounts: NO-FEE

41A: Nuts (over): GAGA

42A: Word before radio or wave: SHOCK. SHOCK radio = Howard Stern.

44A: "I dunno": GOT ME. NO IDEA won't fit.

46A: Mark, as a ballot: X IN. No abbreviation hint? For your information, XIN means "new" in Chinese. New Year is XIN Nian. Nian means "year".

47A: Shady retreat: ARBOR

51A: Crow relatives: MAGPIES

54A: Like Burbank City Hall, for short: DECO. Have never heard of Burbank City Hall before. It's in California.

55A: Respectful gesture: CURTSY

60A: "Bess, You is My Woman," e.g.: ARIA

61A: Muskogee's st.: OKLA. What is Muskogee famous for?

63A: Heavy herbivore: RHINO. Horny, horny. RHINO's horn is more valuable than gold.

64A: Suspense novelist Hoag: TAMI. Unknown figure to me. What does her neck scarf say?

66A: Country singer Tucker: TANYA. Jimbo, happy?

68A: Muchas horas: DIAS. Spanish for DAYS. "Muchas horas" is "Many hours". I pieced the answer together from Down fills.

69A: Rile (up): STEAM

Down:

1D: Dwell (on): HARP

2D: Cheers at some World Cup games: OLES

3D: "Hell __ no fury ...": HATH. "Hell HATH no fury like a woman scorned".

5D: Like some elections: MAYORAL. Wow, there is an adjective for mayor? I only know gubernatorial.

7D: Slangy prefix meaning "super": UBER

8D: One way to sway: FRO. To and FRO.

9D: Dig discovery: FOSSIL

11D: Apollo 11 module: EAGLE

12D: Twitter message: TWEET. Sarah Palin is a Twitterati (the Twitter elite).

13D: Linger: TARRY

21D: Unavailable: TAKEN. Directly above BEYOND (48D: Not within reach of).

23D: Return call?: ECHO. Good clue.

25D: Pedometer button: RESET

28D: Possible result of a job change, for short: RELO

29D: Attend of the needs of: DO FOR. The answer is often SEE TO.

32D: "We Got the Beat" band, with "The": GO-GO'S. Here is the clip. Both the band and the song are unfamiliar to me.

34D: Part of a pickup line?: TAXI. Great clue too.

35D: Opposin': AGIN. Against. Not "fer".

36D: Remorseful feeling: PANG

40D: Cookout remnant: EMBER

43D: Barbra's "A Star is Born" costar: KRIS (Kristofferson)

45D: Accompanists?: ESCORTS. Can you clue ABETTORS as "Accompanists?" also?

50D: Signature wear for Astair: TOP HAT. In his musical TOP HAT.

51D: Future docs' exams: MCATS (Medical College Admission Tests). I forgot.

52D: Surrounding glows: AURAE. The plural of aura can also be AURAS.

53D: Mr. Clean target: GRIME

54D: Times to attack: D-DAYS

56D: "Casablanca" role: ILSA. Hey, "Here's looking at you, kid", welcome back.

57D: Cabinet wood: PINE

58D: "Orinoco Flow" singer: ENYA. Simply beautiful.

59D: Itinerate: ROAM. I only know the noun itinerary. In fact, I misread the clue as "Iterate".

62D: Colorful carp: KOI. Some of the KOI can cost thousands of dollars.

Answer grid.

C.C.

Jul 29, 2009

Interview with Jerome Gunderson

Since June 2007, Jerome Gunderson has had 6 puzzles published by LA Times. Had we switched to LAT one week earlier on March 16, 2009, he would be the first LAT constructor we encountered.

Jerome loves anagrams. And he has a terrific sense of Norwegian humor, being a great grandson of an Olaf. Last time when Dennis brought up "Water a Flower Day", Jerome responded with "Baloney! Why would anyone put more water in a river?" - one of my favorite blog Comments.

I also enjoy and value Jerome's analysis of each puzzle. He always brings out the highlight of each grid and helps us to appreciate every constructing effort.

I love imperfection in art/life, and I am really touched by Jerome's "tiny flaw in a Navajo rug" & blemish fill in a perfect puzzle analogy.

How is today's puzzle different from your original submission? Any significant change on the grid?

Today's puzzle is very different from the original submission. The first draft had TEASE hidden in TEA SERVICE. Rich canned that because tease split two words and the other theme words were contained in just one. Big mistake on my part. So tease was out the window and replaced by RAZZLE DAZZLE. That change led to altering, by necessity, a large part of the grid. The constructor is the one responsible for having to deal with that. It's not the editor's job to redo a puzzle. It's the author's responsibility.

Which is the seed word of this puzzle? How did you come up with the set of theme answers?

Tease was the seed word. It simply occurred to me that you could take other words that meant tease and use them in a clever way by hiding them in unrelated phrases. I wanted the solver to have to work a little to catch on even though the theme is staring you in the face, right smack-dab out front.

The theme entries were fairly easy to come up with. How many phrases start with RAZZ, JOSH, KID and RIB? That easiness was pure luck. Not often does it work that way.

What's your background? How did you get involved in crossword solving/constructing?

When I was a lad my heroes were Jack London and Maxim Gorky. I was going to be as adventurous as they. Turns out that I never sailed the seas or walked the breadth of Russia. But I did land a job as a short order cook in a funky little diner. After two days training I was left on my own to handle breakfast and lunch. It became clear really quick why it is said all cooks are drunks. Each morning one of the waitresses would come in early and do the daily puzzle in the San Francisco Chronicle. I got into the habit of helping her. I don't think we ever finished one but it began a lifelong love of crosswords. In 2005 I made one and managed to get Merl Reagle to take a look at it. I thought the puzzle brilliant. A couple of days later he sent me a detailed critique. He pretty much said it might have been the crappiest puzzle he'd ever seen. His honesty (I still owe him for that) compelled me to improve. For two years I did every puzzle I could lay my hands on, and continued to make puzzles. Which I showed no one. I constantly compared the puzzles of the pros against my own stuff with the purpose of discovering the difference between the two. In 2007 I sent Nancy Salomon a few theme ideas and she liked a couple of them. In fact, she co-wrote my first puzzle and it appeared in June of that year in the Los Angeles Times. To this day she's gracious enough to respond when I ask for a helping hand.

As I was trying to be London or Gorky I wandered around a lot from town to town. Mostly in the Southwest and California. I had many jobs in my teen years. From the age of twenty to twenty nine I was an organizer for the United Farm Workers Union and a Teamster. For the last thirty years I've been a union carpenter. I live in a small town called Healdsburg. It's about an hour north of San Francisco. I'm blessed to be married to an extraordinary woman named Roxanna.

What is a perfect puzzle to you? What kind of themes/fills fascinate you?

The perfect puzzle would have Dan Naddor's cleverness, Merl Reagle's zaniness, Cathy Allis's humor, Nancy Salomon's fabulous fill, and the clues written by Bob Klahn.

I was fortunate to have lived on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona for two years. While there I learned that some rug makers purposely weaved a tiny flaw into the rug. The idea being that humans were not perfect, only the gods were. The flaw was simply a statement of humbleness. My puzzle today has the word ETES in it. It's my offering to a higher power. So I don't want to hear about it.

I enjoy any well crafted puzzle regardless of the theme. However, my favorite crosswords to solve are ones with a lot of whacky words and phrases. The whackier the better. I also love the tough Saturday type puzzle. When it comes to fill I'd rather see a phrase than a word.

What kind of references books do you use? And where do you get your puzzle inspirations?

My dictionaries are Random House Unabridged and Merriam Webster's. On line I use Onelook quite a lot. These sources are mostly for cluing and making sure my spelling is correct.

Inspiration and ideas can only come from your mind. There are an infinite amount of puzzle ideas to draw on. You simply have to find a way to tap into the billions of possibilities just sitting there unused. I don't believe that puzzles are an art form or that they take exceptional talent. I certainly don't believe you have to be a brainiac or highly educated to create one. I'm living proof of that. Most people are talented in something and most people have a good imagination. I firmly convinced that almost anybody could learn to make a crossword puzzle. Ultimately, I suppose you have to inspire yourself to accomplish anything. The inspirations of a muse are only you talking to yourself.

If anyone has a question I'd be delighted to respond.

Wednesday July 29, 2009 Jerome Gunderson

Theme: Just a Tease!

17A: Mojave Desert grower: JOSHUA TREE

26A: Flashy theatrically: RAZZLE-DAZZLE

44A: VIP at a grand opening: RIBBON CUTTER

60A: Place to wade: KIDDIE POOL

A pangram. 5 Z's. Unbelievable. There are also 6 V's in the grid. Quite unusual.

Such a tight & focused theme. RAZZLE-DAZZLE is certainly the showiest entry. Wish NEEDLE (45D: Bit of Christmas debris) were just clued as "Tease".

I had trouble with lower right corner. Penned in TROY instead of EPIC for 55D: "Cast-of-thousands movie" and messed up the whole corner.

Across:

1A: Knocks senseless: DAZES. And TKOS (52AD: Ali stats).

6A: "__ Zapata!": 1952 film: VIVA. Elia Kazan film, starring Marlon Brando. I obtained the answer from Down fills. I had ?IVA there and thought of DIVA first.

10A: Hook for landing large fish: GAFF. Faux pas is GAFFE.

14A: Send to the Hill, say: ELECT. Capitol Hill.

15A: Sister of Ares: ERIS. Twin sister to be exact. ERIS is the apple thrower who indirectly initiated the Trojan War. Greek goddess of discord.

16A: Teen follower?: AGER. Teenager.

19A: Tear to pieces: RIVE. So the person who tears the stuff to pieces would be RIVER?

20A: Coin-op eatery: AUTOMAT

21A: Moved to and fro, as a golf club just before swinging: WAGGLED. I'm glad Sergio Garcia gave up his waggle habit. Painful to watch. Just hit the damned ball.

23A: Harris' __ Rabbit: BR'ER

25A: Last Olds ever made: ALERO. Discontinued in 2004. Some source says ALERO is a Nigerian name meaning "Grace of the Land".

32A: "Tiny Alice" dramatist: ALBEE (Edward). The answer emerged itself.

33A: Rattler's pose: COIL

37A: Haunted house sound: MOAN

38A: Scout's job, for short: RECON

42A: Former wrestling star __ Brazil: BOBO. No idea. Wikipedia say this guy was credited with breaking down barriers of racial segregation in professional wrestling, and he is often referred to as the Jackie Robinson of wrestling,

43A: Luxurious fur: SABLE

47A: Up and about: RISEN

51A: Exams for would-be Mensas: IQ TESTS. Why did those Kamikaze pilots bother to wear helmets?

54A: Perfumery product: ESSENCE. ATTAR is often clued as "Essence of roses".

59A: Simon & Garfunkel et al.: DUOS

62A: Show flexibility: GIVE. A perfectly ripe mango should GIVE a little when pressed.

64A: Popular DVRs: TIVOS

65A: Seine summers: ETES. What Jerome himself said.

67A: 1"=100', e.g.: SCALE. What kind of SCALE?

Down:

1D: __ vu: DEJA. "DEJA Vu" is also a Denzel Washington movie. Very strange.

5D: Trip: STUMBLE. Verb.

6D: Checked out thoroughly: VETTED. Brutal vetting process in politics.

7D: Bargain tag abbr.: IRR

8D: Penthouse feature: VIEW

10D: Use Listerine, say: GARGLE

11D: Mentally quick: AGILE. "Physically quick" too.

12D: Peggy Lee signature song: FEVER

13D: Feckless Corleone brother: FREDO. He is indeed feckless. Sonny is hot-headed and reckless. Michael is just a perfect Godfather, calculated and ruthless.

18D: Bern's river: AARE. Or AAR. The river flows from the Alps into the Rhine. Aa is an old German for "running water". R is "river" I presume?

22D: It may be unmitigated: GALL. Is "unmitigated GALL" a common phrase?

28D: Letter-shaped beam: Z-BAR. No idea. Like this?

29D: Buddhist sect: ZEN. I like how it mirrors ZIN (31D: California red, briefly) in the grid.

34D: Cardholder's woe: DEBT

35D: Car bar: AXLE. Nice rhyme.

36D: Textile worker: DYER

39D: Fall away: EBB

42D: Trash holders: BINS. Wrote down CANS first.

43D: Romantic lowerings: SUNSETS. Did not come to me immediately. I was stumped by "lowerings".

44D: __ Pieces, candy brand: REESE'S. I've never had this candy. Do they taste similar to M & M?

46D: Mozart's "__ fan tutte": COSI. Italian for "Thus do all (women)" or "Women are like that". COSI = thus, in this way. Fan=do. Tutte=feminine form for "all". Mozart's comic opera (buffa). Alien to me.

47D: Ruffles potato chip feature: RIDGE

48D: Fed-up employee's announcement: I QUIT

49D: Potbelly, e.g.: STOVE. Wikipedia says the potbelly sandwich name is derived from the potbelly STOVE.

53D: Hindu "Destroyer": SIVA. Or Shiva. Plus Brahma the "Creator" & Vishnu the "Preserver". Hindu Trinity.

56D: 1960s-'80s Chevy: NOVA. No idea.

57D: Calm under pressure: COOL. "Grace under pressure" = COURAGE (Hemingway).

58D: "All __ being equal...": ELSE

61D: Hydroelectric project: DAM. China's Three Gorges DAM is the world's largest hydroelectric project.

Answer grid.

C.C.

Jul 28, 2009

Tuesday July 28, 2009 Scott Atkinson

Theme: WAIT (49D: Bide one's time, and a word that may precede the answers to starred clues)

17A: *"We aren't finished here": IT ISN'T OVER

53A: *"Give me another sec": I'M NOT READY

11D: *"It's on the tip of my tongue": DON'T TELL ME

28D: *"I haven't told you everything yet": THERE'S MORE

All of the theme answers contain 10 letters. I wonder if the puzzle is inspired by NPR's "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!".

Americans are rather impatient. We want things HERE and NOW. I suppose impatience can be a virtue. It drives and speeds up innovation/progress at various fields. Had we waited and waited for the perfect moment, I doubt men would have landed on the moon.

It felt like I was climbing up the stairs in the middle. The grid just looked pretty to me. I also like how IDLE (50D: Just sitting around) parallels WAIT. Nice to see BUSY (24A: In use, as a phone line) in the puzzle too. Just WAIT!

Across:

1A: Potato holders: SACKS. Potatoes are nightshade veggies, so are tomatoes, eggplants and bell peppers.

10A: Kids' party occasion, briefly: B'DAY

14A: Andean beast: LLAMA. Alpaca & LLAMA are both domesticated guanacos.

15A: Actress Gershon: GINA. Does GINA Gershon strike you as sexy? I've only seen her in "Showgirls".

19A: Tolstoy's Karenina: ANNA. Impossible love story often ends tragically.

22A: Encourage: FOSTER

25A: Cinco de Mayo celebrations: FIESTAS

26A: Acela Express operator: AMTRAK. Acela is pronounced ah-CEL-la. Wikipedia says Acela is meant to be evocative of acceleration and excellence.

29A: Mottled T-shirt: TIE-DYE. Such a bright burst of colors.

30A: Broadway's George M.: COHAN. I always want to spell his name as COHEN.

32A: Wall St. takeover: LBO (Leveraged Buyout).

35A: __ & Chandon champagne: MOET. Part of Louis Vuitton.

40A: Bugs' pursuer: ELMER. ELMER Fudd.

41A: Noble's home: ESTATE. Misread the clue as "Nobel's home". That would be SWEDEN.

44A: Deteriorate, slangily: GO SOUTH

46A: Chopped liver spread: PATE. PATE de foie gras, yum!

47A: Group together: LUMP IN

48A: Dover fish dish: SOLE. I love walleye.

49A: The LPGA's Michelle: WIE. Michelle WIE likes wearing dangling earrings.

56A: Filly's father: SIRE

57A: Menthol cigarette: KOOL. Lots of interesting cigarette ads in those old Life magazines.

58A: Author Zola: EMILE. The French plantation owner in "South Pacific" is also called EMILE.

Down:

1D: __ to none: poor odds: SLIM. Like my chance of finishing a LAT Friday/Saturday/Sunday puzzle without cheating.

3D: Eve's oldest: CAIN. Then Abel, then Seth.

4D: Canada hwy. distances: KMS

5D: Puerto Rico's capital: SAN JUAN. I just realized that SAN JUAN is "Saint John (the Baptist)" in English.

8D: Washington's bill: ONE. Nice president clue to pair up with GARFIELD (9D: President after Hayes).

10D: Sounding like marching bands: BRASSY. I suppose Jazzbumpa's trombone sounds BRASSY too.

12D: Nighttime breathing disorder: APNEA

23D: Multivolume Brit. references: OEDS (Oxford English Dictionaries).

25D: "The X-__: FILES.

26D: Very top: ACME. And ATOP (52A: At the apex of).

27D: Drop anchor: MOOR

29D: Silky-voiced Mel: TORME. Nicknamed "The Velvet Fog".

33D: Woodstock singer Joan: BAEZ. There might not be iPod today had Joan BAEZ actually married Steve Jobs.

36D Bongo-playing '50s-'60s sterotypes: BEATNIKS

37D: Get out of Dodge: FLEE. "Get out of Dodge" is a new slang to me. I've vaguely heard of Dodge City.

39D: Spitter's sound: PTUI. Whoa, no more PTUI, otherwise, Elissa might just give up LAT.

42D: __up (absorbed, as gravy): SOPPED. SOP also means "bribe".

44D: Cinderella's slipper material: GLASS

45D: Protruding navel: OUTIE. Opposite INNIE.

46D: They often have deep ends: POOLS


54D: Bovine bellow: MOO. Alliteration.

55D: Comedian Philips: EMO. Interesting, baby name origin says EMO is German for "serious", I always thought EMO is just short for emotional.

Answer grid.

C.C.

Jul 27, 2009

Monday July 27, 2009 Samuel A. Donaldson

Theme: Half Off

20A: Borax haulers, in classic ads: TWENTY MULE TEAM

31A: Cowboy's topper: TEN GALLON HAT

41A: Poker game where one might stand pat: FIVE-CARD DRAW

57A: CBS sitcom since 2003: TWO AND A HALF MEN

Argyle blogging.

I think TWO AND A HALF MEN was the first theme entry and went up from there. SHEEN (54D: Charlie of 57-Across) is the main character, Jon Cryer (who was in a LAT puzzle recently) is his uptight brother, Alan, and Angus T. Jones portrays Alan's young son, Jake. From season four.

Famous picture of a FIVE CARD DRAW poker game.

Tom Mix and his TEN GALLON HAT.

TWENTY MULE TEAM borax.

Across:

1A: Thingamajig: GISMO. Also spelled as GIZMO.

14A: __ of the tongue: A SLIP.

15A: Celebrity chef Bobby: FLAY. Bobby Flay, (born in New York City) is an American celebrity chef, restaurateur, Iron Chef, and television personality. His cooking style is Spanish, Mexican, and Southwest. Go figure.

16A: Provo's state: UTAH. SSE of Salt Lake City.

17A: Trailblazer Daniel: BOONE.

18A: Bad thing to yell in a crowded theater: FIRE. The First Amendment doesn't extend to this!

23A: Best kind of situation: NO LOSE. I had win-win, at first.

25A: Getting the job done, briefly: TCB. Taking Care of Business.

26A: Pig __ poke: IN A.

35A: "... __ saw Elba": ERE I. "Able was I ere I saw Elba".

36A: Sport __: versatile vehicle: UTE. The utes are coming for us.

37A: LAPD alerts: APBS. The Los Angeles Police Department issues All-Points Bulletins.

46A: Sam's Club competitor: COSTCO.

49A: Confucian "path": TAO.

50A: That, in Tijuana: ESA.

55A: Words of understanding: I GET IT.

60A: Darkroom images, for short: NEGS. Negatives.

61A: Radioer's "Back to you': OVER.

62A: New Wave band __ Boingo: OINGO.

66A: Actress Mary-Kate or Ashley: OLSEN. The OLSEN TWINS.

Down:

2D: Big name in gloves: ISOTONER. by Totes

3D: It's to the far right on freeways: SLOW LANE.

4D: Sal of "Exodus": MINEO. Press release.

5D: Where pirates prey: OPEN SEA. Arr, matey.

8D: Lash of old oaters: LARUE. His hat looks to be only about two gallon.

9D: Place for mascara: EYE LASH.

11D: "Yada, yada, yada": ETC., ETC.

12D: President Obama: BARACK. Literally "blessed" in Arabic or "peach" in Hungarian.

13D: Hitchhikers' digits: THUMBS. Today's constructor is a professor at the University of Washington, and a lawyer. Besides constructing crosswords (puzzles published in The New York times, Chronicle of Higher Education, USA Today, and The Sun Crossword, and now LAT), one of his published articles is A Hitchhiker's Guide to International Estate Planning.

23D: TV's Nick at __: NITE.

28D: Chimney duct: FLUE.

30D: Not much: A TAD.

33D: Non-Rx: OTC. No perscription needed for Over The Counter items.

34D: Without ice: NEAT.

38D: False appearance: PRETENSE.

39D: Kim of "L.A. Confidential": BASINGER. Photo. She won Oscar for the role.

43D: Some West Indian religious cultists: VOODOOS. Also, voduns, people who practice the voodoo or vodun religion.

44D: Racetrack border: RAIL. Saratoga Race Course Opening Day is Wednesday!

46D: Forty winks: CATNAP.

47D: "Animal Farm" author George: ORWELL.

48D: Inferior cigar: STOGIES. Named after Conestoga, a town in in Pennsylvania.

53D: Quarterback Brett with a record 464 TD passes: FAVRE. "Brett Favre will be returning to the NFL this week with the Minnesota Vikings, according to my sources. There is also a chance Favre will not be returning to the NFL this week with the Vikings, according to my sources...." - By Norman Chad, Monday, July 27, 2009 washingtonpost.com columns. Brett FAVRE looks good in Viking's uniform.

56D: Etiquette author Post: EMILIY.

58D: "The Thin Man" dog: ASTA.

59D: Yanks' third baseman, familiarly: A-ROD. Alex Rodriguez.

Answer grid.

Argyle

Jul 26, 2009

Sunday July 26, 2009 Nora Pearlstone

Theme: Midafternoons - PMS (132D: Times of day hidden in eight puzzle answers)

23A: Temporary solution: STOPGAP MEASURE

54A: Controversial excavation method: STRIP MINING

94A: Key equivalent to B-flat: A-SHARP MAJOR

130A: It can help you organize windows and wallpaper: DESKTOP MANAGER

17D: Startling Stories, e.g.: PULP MAGAZINES

29D: One making a large withdrawal?: HOLDUP MAN

66D: Maker of Marlboro: PHILIP MORRIS

68D: Laptop power saver: SLEEP MODE

I did not find any other non-theme **PM** combination fill in the grid, did you? Pretty neat! Nora Pearlstone, anagram of "not a real person", is the alias name of our editor Rich Norris.

STRIP MINING is new to me. Normally the answer to B-flat is just A-SHARP, so I was surprised by the following MAJOR. But again, I know nothing about musical terms. PHILIP MORRIS is my first theme fill.

I don't understand the clue for ATM (109A: Vegas contraption offering the best odds?). Why "best odds"?

Across:

1A: Mollusk shell materials: NACRES. Also called mother-of-pearls.

7A: "Piece of cake": NO SWEAT

14A: Charts with axes: GRAPHS

20A: Maintain: ALLEGE. ASSERT has 6-letter too.

21A: What a stalwart won't give? ONE INCH. I wanted AN INCH.

22A: Liturgy: RITUAL. I confused liturgy with litany.

25A: Harlem theater: APOLLO. Have heard of this theater. Did not know the exact location though.

26A: Arnold Palmer's Pennsylvania birthplace: LATROBE. No idea. LATROBE is about 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Wikipedia says Steeler's training camp is there.

27A: "Lemme __!": AT 'EM. What does the phrase mean?

28A: Physicist with a law: OHM. OHM's law. Named after the German physicist George OHM.

30A: Fraternal org.: BPOE

31A: Golf iron socket: HOSEL. It's the part where the shaft is installed.

32A: Do not disturb: LET BE

34A: W. vis-à-vis E: OPP. West/East. Opposite direction.

36A: Money pile?: Abbr. MSS (Manuscripts). Money magazine. Tricky clue.

37A: With 81-Down, game played on a three-walled court: JAI. And ALAI (81D: See 37-Across).

39A: Govt. division: DOJ (Department of Justice). I was stumped.

42A: Title woman about whom Clapton sings "You've got me on my knees": LAYLA. About Pattie Boyd.

44A: Year in Augustus' reign: ONE BC. The N from ANT (38D: Colony resident) allowed me to fill in the answer immediately.

47A: Political payoff: SOP. Bribe.

51A: Goneril's victim: REGAN. Both King Lear's daughters. The bad ones.

60A: Half of Bennifer: J. LO. Bennifer = Ben Affleck + Jennifer Lopez.

61A: Erotic god: AMOR

63A: Pencil puzzles: MAZES

64A: Old Boston Garden nickname: ESPO. Sigh. All I could think of is Bobby ORR. How can I remember Phil ESPO Esposito?

67A: Like horseshoes: U-SHAPED

70A: Both: pref.: AMBI. Like ambidextrous.

73A: Uto-Aztecan tongue: NAHUATL. Wikipedia says avocado, chili, chocolate, tomato are all of NAHUATL origin.

75A: Capital of Yemen: SANAA

77A: Not too soft: AL DENTE. Italian for "to the tooth". I like pasta/veggie/fruits to be firm. I like everything to be firm.

79A: CCX x V+ I: MLI. 210x5+1=1050

80A: Long-necked runner: RHEA. Flightless.

82A: Nautical ladder rung: RATLINE. No idea.

84A: Court period: Abbr.: SESS. Supreme Court?

85A: Israeli port city: EILAT. Of course I thought of HAIFA first.

87A: Fantasy spirit: ELF

89A: "Sleepy Hollow" actor: DEPP. I don't find Johnny Depp attractive.

92A: Piques: SNITS

93A: Kung __ chicken: PAO. Mostly with cashew nuts.

99A: Aware of : HEP TO. Or HIP TO.

100A: In the 60s, say: MILD. Oh, temperature.

102A: Chemical suffix: ANE

104A: Snapple's __ Madness: MANGO. MANGO stain is tough to remove.

106A: French military cap: KEPI. With a flat, circular top and a visor. I simple forgot.

112A: USCG rank: CPO (Chief Petty Officer). USCG is United States Coast Guard.

114A: Jupiter, e.g.: GOD. Greek for Jupiter is Zeus.

115A: East German secret police: STASI. Nailed it this time.

117A: Violinist's aid: ROSIN

120A: Not stifling: AIRY

122A: 109-Across charge: FEE

124A: Emerald Isle: ERIN

125A: Woozy: IN A DAZE

128A: Low-level clouds: STRATI. Singular is stratus.

133A: Puts on ice: CHILLS

134A: Best: OPTIMUM. Is this a noun or an adjective?

135A: It's fixed by a bank: CD RATE

136A: Per se: AS SUCH. Per se is Latin "By itself".

137A: Annual Georgia tournament, with "The": MASTERS. Augusta, Georgia.

138A: La Scala offerings: OPERAS

Down:

1D: Pelé's org.: NASL (North American Soccer League). I only knew MLS (Major League Soccer).

2D: B.C. neighbor: ALTA. Alberta.

3D: One concerned with duds?: CLOTHIER. I was thinking of failure duds.

4D: Printer's proof: REPRO. Needs a "briefly" hint.

5D: Toaster waffles: EGGOS

6D: Lobster habitat: SEABED

8D: Actress Tatum: O'NEAL. She won Oscar for "Paper Moon", the youngest ever to win an Oscar (age 10).

9D: Not off one's rocker?: SEATED. I did not know "off one's rocker" is a slang for crazy, so the question mark wordplay was lost on me.

10D: Not tricked by: WISE TO

11D: Digital food additive code used in Europe: E NUMBER. No idea. E stands for Europe.

12D: Horiz.: ACR. Across.

13D: Kojak, to friends: THEO. Van Gogh's brother is called THEO too. "I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream".

14D: Family nickname: GRAMPA. Ye Ye in Chinese.

15D: Pants problem: RIP

16D: Phrase indicating small progress: A TO B

18D: Saintly rings: HALOS

19D: Tart fruit: SLOES

24D: Speaker since 2007: PELOSI (Nancy). Didn't we just have Boxer last Sunday? Guess Dianne Feinstein is next.

33D: Blow one's stack: ERUPT

35D: Giza attraction: PYRAMID

40D: Whale of a guy?: JONAH. I was ignorant of the Biblical JOHAH & whale story.

43D: Yeats' "___ and the Swan": LEDA. Easy guess. Since LEDA is sometimes clued as "The Swan lady".

45D: Exquisite gem: BIJOU. Wouldn't have got the answer without Across help.

46D: Rank abov Pfc.: CPL (Corporal)

48D: Early Arizona natives: PIMAS. I forgot.

50D: Joy Adamson lioness: ELSA. The "Born Free" lioness.

52D: Bond and others: AGENTS

53D: Headlands: NESSES. Learned this word from doing Xword.

56D: Stock phrase: NO-PAR

57D: Caribbean nation: GRENADA. Interesting, they speak English there. I thought Spanish is their official language.

64D: Tangle up: ENMESH

65D: Intravenous solution: SALINE

74D: Schubert vocal work: ART SONG. Schubert composed many Lied, German for ART SONG.

76D: First in a series: ALPHA. Greek alphabet series I presume.

78D: Think piece: ESSAY. Strange clue. Is "think" here a noun?

83D: Classic toothpaste: IPANA. Here is an old IPANA commercial.

88D: Parents: FOLKS

96D: "Sands of Iwo Jima" costar: JOHN AGAR. No idea. Wikipedia says he was Shirley Temple's first husband.

97D: Unveil, in poems: OPE. Poetic open.

98D: T. __: REX

101D: Can't abide: DETESTS

105D: Simple card game: GO FISH. No idea. Shouldn't the name be GO FISHING then?

107D: "Sit!": PARK IT

108D: "Am I the only one?:": IS IT ME

110D: State of Grace?: MONACO. Grace is capitalized, referring to Grace Kelly.

112D: First to stab Caesar: CASCA. I just knew it's not Brutus.

113D: Cores: PITHS

116D: "__ time": Hemingway work: IN OUR. Got the answer from Down fills.

118D: Wall St. "500": S AND P. S &P 500 index.

119D: "Do __ to eat a peach": Eliot: I DARE. Have to thank Clear Ayes for the answer. For those who only solve LAT Sunday puzzle, don't miss Down the Aisle video Clear Ayes linked a few days ago.

121D: Korean border river: YALU. China/Korea border river. A rare gimme river for me.

123D: Ancient Dead Sea land: EDOM. Learned from doing Xword.

126D: Sixth Greek letter: ZETA

127D: "__ Tu": 1974 hit: ERES. "ERES Tu" is literally "You Are" in Spanish.

129D: Tot's need, often: TLC. Again, no abbreviation hint in the clue. I thought of NAP.

Answer grid.

C.C.

Jul 25, 2009

Saturday July 25, 2009 Brad Wilber

Theme: None

Total blocks: 27

Total words: 72

I had lost the battle before I even started. As soon as I saw Brad Wilber's name, I froze. His puzzles are all hard.

My grid looked rather empty on the first try. But my sparse fills are mostly correct. The following names are absolutely gimmes to me:

41A: Tommie of the "Miracle Mets": AGEE. God in "Oh, God!" says "The last miracle I did was the 1969 Mets". Hilarious.

50A: 2002 British Open champ: ELS (Ernie). David Duval won in 2001.

29D: Bush Supreme Court nominee: ALITO (Samuel). I wonder if anyone considered MIERS (Harriet). John Roberts is a Bush nominee as well.

I misread lots of clues today. All in all, too steep a mountain for me to climb.

Across:

1A: Colt 45, e.g.: MALT LIQUOR. Of course, I thought of baseball's Houston Colt .45's (now Astros).

11A: Shelter protests: ARFS. Animal shelter.

15A: Joy to the max: EXUBERANCE. Recklessly wrote down *EST at the end.

17A: Emmy-winning 1972 TV concert film: LIZA WITH A "Z". No idea. I liked Liza Minnelli's "New York, New York".

18A: Logical start? IDEO. Ideological.

19A: Greet the visitors?: BOO. Nice clue. Fans BOO the visiting team.

20A: Comparison words: AS A. There is nothing as beautiful AS A dewy red rose on a summer morning.

21A: Washington summit: RAINIER. No MT?

25A: Palais du Louvre resident, once: ROI. Oui, c'est vrai. Louvre is once a royal palace.

27A: Hybrid garment: SKORT. Had more fun following Natalie Gulbis than Michelle Wie during last year's US Open. She looks adorable in SKORT.

28A: Brief turndown: 'FRAID NOT

31A: Abbr. in a genealogy volume: DAU. Daughter I suppose. Not a familiar abbr. to me.

32A: Film follower: SEQUEL

39A: Street corner feature: SIGNAGE. I just call it SIGN.

35A: Site of semicircular canals: EAR. Was thinking of the waterway canal.

36A: "__ No Sunshine": 1971 Bill Withers hit: AIN'T. Here is the clip. Not a familiar song to me.

37A: Bismarck's realm: PRUSSIA. Gimme for Kazie.

42A: Logos, e.g.: Abbr.: TMS (Trademarks)

44A: Military brass?: BUGLES. I was in the high-ranking military officer direction.

45A: Knock over: ROB. "Knock over" is a new slang to me.

46A: Olivier's "Rebecca" costar: FONTAINE (Joan). Unknown to me. See the poster.

48A: Filing material: EMERY

51A: Comprehend: GRASP

55A: Best Buy's Geek Squad, e.g.: TECHIES. Best Buy is headquartered here in MN.

57A: New Deal dam-building org.: TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority)

59A: Battle of Chancellorsville victor, 1863: LEE. Stumped. Have never heard of Battle of Chancellorsville, Robert E. LEE's "perfect battle" because of his risky but successful division of his army in the presence of a much larger enemy force, according to Wikipedia.

61A: Prescription that might give you shakes?: LIQUID DIET. I was thinking of the trembling shakes rather than the milk/protein shakes.

64A: Head turner, at times: REIN. Sigh, too wicked a clue for me. I would never have thought of a bridle.

65A: 1988 winner of seven Olympic swimming medals: MATT BIONDI. No idea. He looks handsome. All the talk was focused on Mark Spitz when Michael Phelps won 8 golds at the 2008 Olympics.

66A: Celtic language: ERSE

67A: Opportunity for a Hollywood hopeful: SCREEN TEST

Down:

1D: Peach __: MELBA. I've never had this dessert. In Chinese myth, peach is the divine fruit of gods. It symbolizes long life and immortality.

2D: Hypothetical particle: AXION. No idea. But -ON is suffix for subatomic particle.

3D: Manila's island: LUZON. The largest island in the Philippines, where Martin's wife came from.

4D: Not yet filled: Abbr. TBA

5D: "Johnny Belinda" Oscar nominee: LEW AYRES. I forgot. I googled his name before. Wikipedia says Jane Wyman feel in love with him while filming this movie and left Ronald Reagan for LEW AYRES, "albeit unsuccessfully".

6D: Where a pupil sits?: IRIS. Clever clue.

7D: Saudi neighbor: QATARI. People of Qatar. I misinterpreted Saudi as Saudi Arabia the country.

8D: Granite State sch.: UNH (University of New Hampshire)

9D: Ovoid wind instruments: OCARINAS. I forgot. Dictionary says this word is diminutive of Italian oca, meaning goose, because its mouthpiece is shaped like a goose's beak.

10D: Exiled Shah Mohammed __ Pahlavi: REZA. Who the heck knows his middle name? Anyone? Anyone?

11D: Didn't sleep __: A WINK. Is this an idiom?

12D: Car tuning aid: RADIO DIAL

13D: Allowed to graze: FREE RANGE

14D: Durango and Sorento: SPORT UTES. I've never heard of Sorento.

22D: Lobby add-on: IST. Lobbyist. Excellent clue.

24D: Helpful: OF USE

26D: Dedicated lines: ODES

30D: Small antelope: ORIBI. Can never remember this antelope name. His horns are rather short, erect though.

32D: You'll need one for your flat: SPARE TIRE. I thought of the apartment "flat".

33D: Indoor rowing machine: ERGOMETER. New machine to me. Ergo is a prefix for "work".

34D: North American Francophone: QUEBECOIS. "-Phone" is a suffix for "speaker of a language". Francophone, Anglophone, etc.

36D: Inflame: ANGER

38D: One having an identity crisis?: AMNESIAC. Another diabolic clue. I struggled of course.

40D: Kipling's "Limpin' lump o' brick-dust": GUNGA DIN. No idea.

43D: Cardinal's insignia: STL. St. Louis Cardinals.

46D: Memo opener: FYI

47D: Perceptive: ASTUTE

49D: Lake Geneva feeder: RHONE

52D: Dress introduced by Dior: A-LINE. Learned this fact while doing some googling on DIOR some time ago.

52D: Navel orange's lack: SEEDS. I wish cherries have no pits.

54D: Word before four or point: PETIT. Know the small cake PETIT four. Not PETIT point.

56D: Colonnade choices: ELMS. The #2 meaning of colonnade in dictionary: a series of trees planted in a long row, as on each side of a driveway or road. New definition to me.

58D: Vague feeling: VIBE. Wanted AURA.

62D: Super Bowl div.: QTR. Thought of AFC/NFC. This puzzle has three letter Q's, two Z's & one X. Quite scrabbly.

63D: Semi-colon?: DOT. Good clue. Colon : has two dots.

Answer grid.

C.C.

Jul 24, 2009

Friday July 24, 2009 David W. Cromer

Theme: ICed - IC is inserted into familiar phrases.

18A: Break from soldiers' training?: BASIC RELIEF

24A: Clown settlement?: ANTIC COLONY

38A: International affair?: TOPIC OF THE WORLD

49A: O. Henry stories?: IRONIC WORKS

60A: Copperfield's limo?: MAGIC WHEELS

Hmmm, IC, maybe I SEE (12D: Now that makes sense) is a better theme title.

I did not know there is a special term for those chrome wheels. Mag wheels are so named because "the aluminum is mixed up with a bit of magnesium to form a stronger alloy", according to one article.

Another hard puzzle for me. Lots of misdirections. I just don't think I am capable of solving late week puzzles. My "Yes, I can" hope has faded into "Probably not", just like some of Obama's ambitious plans.

O'NEAL (64A: Center of Cleveland?) clue is tricky. I actually knew Shaq was traded to Cleveland Cavaliers last month. I remember his "Win for Ring for the King" (LeBron James) quote in the newspaper. But I did not make the connection. Thought it's just another wordplay on the very center of word Cleveland.

Across:

1A: Devious, in a way: COY. Plunked in SLY immediately.

4A: Bad states: SNITS. My husband is easily peeved.

9A: You often see a lap in one: CHAIR. Ha ha, I was picturing someone's lap, but I could not see a CHAIR.

14A: Bullet in a deck: ACE

15A: Strange: OUTRE. Tried EERIE first.

16A: Kind of trader: HORSE. Could only think of FUR.

17A: Royal sleep disturbance, in a tale: PEA. Hans Christian Andersen's "The Princess and the PEA".

20A: Ill-advised: RASH. Is "Ill-advised" the same as "Ill-considered"?

22A: Flames' org.: NHL. Our NHL team is Minnesota Wild.

23A: Gives the slip: EVADES. "Give the slip" is a new phrase to me.

27A: Old waste allowance: TRET. After the deduction for TARE (the weight of a vehicle).

28A: Resemble strongly: PASS FOR

33A: ID necessity, often: PHOTO. The clue is asking for an abbreviated answer, isn't it?

36A: Plow into: RAM. Dictionary explains "Plow into" as "to strike with force". New to me.

37A: Like Chinese dishes, frequently: TO GO. My instinctive reaction is FATTY.

42A: It may be gross in med. sch.: ANAT

43A: OPEC member: UAE. The world's tallest building (Dubai Tower,2,684 feet) is in UAE.

44A: Development units: HOMES. And ACRES (65A: Some plots). I thought of the fictional plots.

45A: Picks: SELECTS

47A: Monopoly cards: DEED

54A: Pizza chain: SBARRO. No idea. Not a fan of pizza or Italian food. The logo looks like SHARRO.

58A: Like Bizet's only symphony: IN C. I had IN? sitting there forever.

59A: Night light: NEON. Nice rhyme. I was in the moonlight direction.

63A: Short sentence about a long term: I DO. Tricky clue. I thought of prison term/sentence.

66A: "I reckon not": NAW. Hillbilly slang I suppose.

67A: Noodleheads: GEESE

68A: "Siddhartha" author: HESSE. Has anyone read this book? Hermann HESSE also wrote "Steppenwolf". He won Nobel Literature in 1946.

69A: It's up to you: SKY. Of course! But I was too stupid to know.

Down:

1D: "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" director: CAPRA. I watched "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" simply because of Chris Matthews. It's one of his favorite movies.

2D: Shore thing: OCEAN. Sure.

4D: __ story: SOB

5D: Fine point: NUANCE

6D: August comment: IT'S HOT. And WHEW (41D: See 6-D). I don't understand the rationale for the WHEW clue.

7D: Warbling sound: TRILL

8D: IPO overseer: SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission)

9D: Malibu and Tahoe: CHEVYS. Oh, cars.

10D: Guadalajara greeting: HOLA. What do you normally say when you pick up the phone? Chinese say "Wei", same pronunciation as Michelle Wei's surname.

11D: Ideal for Joshua trees: ARID. Joshua trees grow in desert.

13D: Trio in an NBA game: REFS. Wow, I did not know this. Not interested in basketball.

19D: Entitle, as an altered file: RENAME

21D: Ancient Indo-European: HITTITE. No idea. It's "a member of an ancient people who established a powerful empire in Asia Minor and Syria, dominant from about 1900 to 1200 BC".

25D: Swift reptile: CROC. Did not know CROC is a reptile member.

26D: Vividly colored fish: OPAH. Or TETRA, another colorful fish.

29D: Used as an elevator: STOOD ON

30D: Blob's lack: FORM

31D: Rubberneck: OGLE. The answer is always GAWK.

32D: Eye cells: RODS. I forgot this "Eye cell" meaning of ROD.

33D: NEA supporters: PTAS

34D: Fine-tune: HONE

35D: Fall birthstone: OPAL. Birthstone for October.

36D: Itinerary abbr.: RTE

39D: Have a better crew than: OUTROW. Wrote down OUTMAN.

40D: Burkina __: FASO. I've never heard of this landlocked nation. It's in West Africa.

46D: Group with common interest: CIRCLE. "Charmed CIRCLE, Gertrude Stein and Company" is a very interesting read.

47D: Some booth occupants: DINERS

48D: Proverbs follower: Abbr.: ECCLES. Bible book. Stumped again.

50D: Heiress, perhaps: NIECE

51D: Equestrian tools: REINS

52D: Maker of Advantix cameras: KODAK. Not familiar with Advantix. AIG replaced KODAK as a DOW component several years ago. Now Kraft Foods has replaced AIG.

53D: Blizzardlike: SNOWY

54D: Urban hazard: SMOG

55D: Proverbial thorn: BANE

56D: "A Death in the Family" novelist: AGEE. James AGEE also co-wrote the script for "The African Queen".

57D: England's Portsmouth Harbour and and others: RIAS. I don't know Portsmouth Harbour is a RIA, which is often just clued as "Narrow inlet".

61D: "As if!": HAH

62D: Mariner's hdg.: SSE. Oh well, it can be any direction.

Answer grid.

C.C.