Sep 30, 2009

Wednesday September 30, 2009 Chuck Deodene

Sep 29, 2009

Tuesday September 29, 2009 Dan Naddor

Theme: DIETARY DUOS - Food pairings you might consume in the course of a day.

16A: Breakfast pair: COFFEE AND DONUTS

24A: Lunch pair: SOUP AND SANDWICH

41A: Dinner pair: MEAT AND POTATOES

54A: Evening ball game snack pair: BEER AND PRETZELS

Argyle again. Today's Dan Naddor Index (total non-theme entries with 6 or more letters) is 12, lower than last week's. Similar stacks of 6's on the left and right edges of the grid.

Besides the above theme entries, we also have:

9A: Saran, for one: WRAP. Or a type of sandwich you might have with your SOUP.

13A: Layered cookie: OREO. Good anytime (with milk).

40A: Pilot light site: STOVE. Cooking!

46A: Fancy burger beef: ANGUS. Strictly a beef breed (Their meat would go well with those potatoes).

30D: Want badly, as chocolate: CRAVE. Have some dark one. It's healthy.

52D: Diner orders, for short: BLTS. Crossing the last theme answer.

Very tasty Tuesday treat Dan has served up for us. All the four grid spanning theme answers are delicious!

Across:

1A: Leaders in the dugout: Abbr.: MGRS. Managers. It's about this time of year when heads start to roll in the dugouts.

5A: Univ. hot shot: BMOC. Big Man On Campus

14A: Dainty embroidered mat: DOILY.

15A: McKellen and Fleming: IANS. Sir Ian McKellen, English actor and Ian Fleming, English author.

19A: Apt to shy, as a horse: SKITTISH. Don't spook the horse. Shy – verb (used without object) (esp. of a horse) to start back or aside, as in fear.

20A: Like a dark room: UNLIT.

21A: HBO competitor: SHO. Trademarks. Home Box Office and SHOwtime: cable channels

22A: Japanese sleuth Mr. __: MOTO. Mr. MOTO is a fictional Japanese secret agent created by the American author John P. Marquand

32A: Don, as apparel: PUT ON.

33A: Keep one's __ the ground: EAR TO. Try to keep informed about something, especially if there are rumours or uncertainties. The expression "keep your Ear To the ground" comes from the way American Indians did this action to feel for the vibrations of herds of animals on the run so they would hear the vibration of hooves(at least, in the movies).

34A: Miracle-__: garden product: GRO. Plant food. Not for use on zucchinis.

35A: Bickering: AT IT. Again.

36A: When Juliet drinks the potion: ACT IV. Clever & tricky clue.

37A: Former Fed chairman Greenspan: ALAN.

38A: Incite to attack, with "on": SIC. You would SIC a dog on something with the command, "SIC 'em".

39A: Rocket engineer Wernher von __: BRAUN.

49A: Just in case: IF NEED BE.

59A: Feedbag fill: OATS. More food.

60A: "Benevolent" fraternal order: ELKS. The Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks.

61A: Orchestral reed: OBOE.

62A: Estimate phrase: OR SO.

Down:

1D: Comfy soft shoes: MOCS. What Santa wants.

2D: Understand, in slang: GROK. Origin: coined by Robert A. Heinlein in the science-fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961).

3D: Mortgage payment-lowering strategy, briefly: REFI. Shortening of refinance.

4D: Sentimental place in the heart: SOFT SPOT.

5D: Fluffy stoles: BOAS.

6D: Ho Chi __: MINH.

8D: Dancer Charisse: CYD. How 'bout them gams? Her nickname "Sid" was taken from a sibling trying to say "Sis". (It was later spelled "Cyd" at MGM to give her an air of mystery.) From Wikipedia.

9D: Separate grain from chaff: WINNOW. WH, you explain it.

10D: __ Julia, who played Gomez Addams: RAUL. Take a call on the Addams Family.

14D: Football's "Prime Time" Sanders: DEION. His Rookie Card doesn't look like he was ready for "Prime Time".

17D: Wharton's "__ Frome": ETHAN. Ethan Frome is a novel set in turn-of-the-century New England in the fictitious town of Starkfield, Massachusetts. It was published in 1911 by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Edith Wharton.

22D: Former quarterback Dan: MARINO. American Hall of Famer played for the Miami Dolphins in the National Football League. 1983–1999

23D: Being aired, as a sitcom: ON TV.

24D: Muscle cramp, e.g.: SPASM.

25D: Noticeable navel: OUTIE. Hmm, another quarterback.

26D: City near Syracuse: UTICA.

28D: Stopped slouching: SAT UP.

29D: Domed Arctic home: IGLOO.

36D: River of Florence: ARNO. Ah, the flower of Florence.

37D: Where to see wild animals in cages: AT THE ZOO. Simon and Garfunkel

39D: Modeler's wood: BALSA. Light weight and easy to carve.

40D: "America's Funniest Home Videos" host Bob: SAGET. FYI: Former "America's Funniest Home Videos" host Bob Saget is returning to the show as a guest co-host for an episode to film in October.

42D: Zodiac bull: TAURUS. Also, the Ford Taurus, an automobile manufactured by Ford introduced in the 1986.

43D: Adjusted the pitch of, as a piano: TUNED.

47D: Armstrong in space: NEIL. The first human to set foot on the Moon back in July 1969.

48D: Nerd: GEEK.

49D: __ facto: IPSO. By the fact itself.

50D: Gratis: FREE.

51D: Start of many a letter: DEAR.

53D: Old U.S. gas: ESSO.

55D: Prefix with natal: NEO.

56D: Brylcreem bit: DAB. In this ad, catch the phrase "disturbingly healthy".

Answer grid.

Argyle

Sep 28, 2009

Interview with Patrick Berry

Patrick Berry is the Tiger Woods in crossword world, arguably the best in the business.

He hasn't contributed any puzzle to LA Times, but his byline appears regularly in NY Times (mostly Friday and Saturday themeless). Since Sept 1999, Patrick has constructed 122 puzzles for NYT alone. He has also created puzzles for NY Sun, Wall Street Journal and the Game Magazines.

Patrick is the crossword editor of "The Chronicle of High Education". He is also the author of "Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies", absolutely the best book I've read on crossword. Doug Peterson called the 70 original puzzles contained in the book as "pure gold". Patrick also crafted "Puzzle Masterpieces: Elegant Challenges for Crossword Lovers", a sophisticated book for those advanced solvers. A classic!

Dan Naddor, Merl Reagle and a few other constructors I've interviewed all mentioned Patrick Berry as one of their favorite constructors. Dan Feyer called Patrick one of the best wordsmith in the world. I contacted Patrick and was so happy that he took time from his busy schedule and answered my questions.

What impact do you think "Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies" has had on the crossword construction world? Several constructors have mentioned that they turn to the book regularly for references and inspiration. And what new part would you add for an update?

I'm not sure the book has had a huge impact (heaven knows the sales figures have been modest), but I've received several kind e-mails from constructors who found it helpful, and that's always gratifying. I know from experience how hard it is in this biz for beginners to figure out what they're doing wrong by editorial correspondence alone.

If I ever got a chance to update the book (which seems unlikely, given what a niche market it's in) I'd probably add a short section on the actual submission process: what to say (or not say) in the cover letter, how long to wait before sending a follow-up nudge, and so on. But I only had 70 pages of text to work with -- the rest of the book had to be devoted to puzzles, appendices, etc. -- so on the whole I'm pleased at how much info I *did* manage to pack in.

What's your background? How did you get into crossword construction?

I've always been interested in puzzles, though while growing up I never thought I'd be able to make a career out of them. I graduated college with a Comp Sci degree and found work in desktop publishing, but I also contributed some puzzles to magazines. The company I was working for went bust in 1997 and I decided to see if it was possible to survive making puzzles full-time. (It is, but just barely...my puzzle talent is a mere nothing compared to my talent at living on the cheap.)

What is the puzzle you've made you're most proud of? Why is it special? What is the dream puzzle you wish to get published some day?

Not sure I have an absolute favorite among my own puzzles, but some of the second-Sundays I've done for the NYT would rate pretty high. Also "Color Change," a crossword that appeared in the New York Sun...I honestly didn't think the concept would be doable when I started it, but I was very happy to be proven wrong.

What kind of themes and fills appeal to you and what are the ones you try to avoid?

Theme-wise, I suppose I like anything that's a) funny or b) elegant. (A bit general, admittedly, but heaven knows there are plenty of themes that aren't either one.) For fills I suppose my first priority is cleanliness, second priority liveliness. Cleanliness comes before liveliness because I have a tough time stomaching dodgy entries...as a solver, one or two dodgy entries can pretty much ruin the experience for me.

Now that you've turned away from ultralow word count, what are your top concerns in making a themeless then?

Basically I'm trying to find the ideal balance between word-count and liveliness. 72-word themelesses don't interest me much because I think themeless solvers like having lots of long entries. But the less-than-60-word puzzles I've constructed have all been vaguely unsatisfying to me, as so many of the entries were (by necessity) lackluster. Obviously there's a happy medium in there somewhere, and that's what I aim for nowadays.

What puzzles do you solve on daily basis and who are your favorite constructors?

Truthfully I'm not much of a solver -- I seem to get enough of puzzles by making them. (It took me a while to realize what an anomaly this is within the biz -- I haven't met too many other constructors who feel this way.) The only puzzle I solve regularly is Cox & Rathvon's "The Puzzler," which alas recently went belly-up, though I've got my fingers crossed that it'll find a new home somewhere.

There are a great many constructors whose work I admire, but if I had to pick one favorite it'd probably be Mike Shenk, who has the extraordinary ability to make the construction look easy even when you know darn well it couldn't have been easy.

What kind of books/magazines do you read for inspirations? And besides making and editing crosswords, what else do you do for fun?

Inspiration for puzzles is, for me at least, a "wherever you find it" sort of thing...there's no specific book I'm reading, but my brain seems generally hard-wired to look for puzzle possibilities in whatever I bump up against. (Too often I find myself unconsciously considering the cryptic-clue possibilities of a word or phrase that isn't at all "in the language" and therefore useless...once you start down this path, it's hard to stop.)

Besides working on puzzles, I enjoy playing on the guitar (purely for fun - I don't play well enough for anything more grandiose than that).


Monday September 28, 2009 Fred Jackson III

Theme: The theme isn't real.

17. Hobbes, to Calvin: IMAGINARY FRIEND

35. Ideal getaway: DREAM VACATION

53. Armchair quarterback's hobby: FANTASY FOOTBALL

Argyle here.

Not bad, not bad at all for a Monday. I'm thinking FANTASY FOOTBALL was the seed for this theme. Maybe Fred will drop by and have a few words (so watch what you say).

Across:

1. Disappear gradually: FADE. And 1 Down. Passes out: FAINTS.

9. Vatican-related: PAPAL.

14. Like deserts: ARID.

15. Heavenly bear: URSA. Ursa Major, aka, the Big Dipper.

16. "__ you clever!": AREN'T.

20. Motel restriction: NO PETS.

21. T-bone, for one: STEAK.

22. Lock of hair: TRESS.

23. Med. plan choices: HMOS. Health Maintenance OrganizationS

25. Opposite of "Huh?": AHA.

28. Damascus is its cap.: SYR. Capital, Syria, Mid-East.

29. Fashion's Gucci and actor Ray: ALDOS.

31. Nudge rudely: ELBOW.

33. Makes a long story short?: EDITS.

34. City leaders: MAYORS.

38. Taken care of: SEEN TO.

39. "Rich Man, Poor Man" novelist Shaw: IRWIN. A novel written by Irwin Shaw in 1969, became a miniseries in 1976.

40. Give body to, as hair: TEASE. And 44. Like fine coifs: STYLED.

41. Obvious disdain: SCORN.

42. Meditator's syllables: OMS. Hands up; who read this as mediator? Yeah, me too.

46. Coarse file: RASP.

47. Rub it in: GLOAT.

49. Key in the sea: ISLET.

52. Defective, as wiring: FAULTY.

58. Summoned the butler: RANG.

59. Peace Prize winner Wiesel: ELIE. Nobel Peace Prize Winner in 1986.

62. Between-your-toes grains: SAND.

Down:

2. Weapons storehouse: ARMORY.

3. Baby seat cover?: DIAPER.

4. Pieces jigsaw puzzlers usually start with: EDGES.

7. Kazakhstan, until 1991: Abbr.: SSR. Soviet Socialist Republic. Here Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan since 1997, is in North-Central Kazakhstan. The city of Almaty (South-Eastern Kazakhstan), formerly Alma-Ata, was the capital.

8. Assertions: SAY SOS. Parents everywhere: "...because I SAY SO!"

9. Peel, as a rind: PARE.

11. Game played with a baby: PEEK-A-BOO.

12. "Raggedy" girl: ANN. With her brother, Andy.

13. Inc., in England: LTD. Limited. A firm, usually associated with British registration, that is organized in such a way as to give its owners limited liability.

18. Appointment-confirming words: IT'S A DATE.

19. Dix and Knox: Abbr.: FTS. Fort Dix, NJ and Fort Knox, KY.

23. Set with a sharper picture, briefly: HDTV. High-Definition Television.

24. Inlaid designs: MOSAICS.

26. Traffic jam honker: HORN.

27. "Isn't that cute!" exclamations: AWS.

31. Persistently worrying: EATING AT.

32. "__ Eyes": 1975 Eagles hit: LYIN'. I never realized it was such a long song, 6:23.

33. Poetic dusks: EENS.

34. Bryn __ College: MAWR. Seal and location.

36. Draw inferences from: READ INTO.

37. Farm output: CROP.

38. The bus stops here: Abbr.: STA. Station

41. Mythical man-goats: SATYRS. Don't confuse it with the monster Centaur (head, trunk, and arms of a man, and the body and legs of a horse).

42. "Va va voom!": OO-LA-LA.

43. Marlee __, Best Actress winner in "Children of a Lesser God": MATLIN. More of her. "Va va voom!" and "OO-LA-LA".

46. Notes after dos: RES. do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti.

48. Garage jobs: LUBES.

50. British machine gun: STEN. STEN is an acronym, cited as derived from the names of the weapon's chief designers, Major Reginald Shepherd and Harold Turpin, and EN for Enfield. FYI: The Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) was a UK government-owned rifle factory in London Borough of Enfield. The factory produced British military rifles, muskets and swords from 1816. It closed in 1988. STEN

51. Baker's fat: LARD. And 55. Blubber: FAT. BAD!

52. Stodgy old-timer: FOGY.

53. __ Four: Beatles: FAB. FABulous.

54. Every bit: ALL.

56. "__ scale of 1 to 10 ...": ON A.

Answer grid.

Argyle

Sep 27, 2009

Sunday September 27, 2009 Alan Arbesfeld

Theme: Put the Finger on - ID(identification) is inserted in familiar phrases.

23A. Ella while scatting?: RAP(ID) SINGER. Ella Fitzgerald was noted for her scat singing.

29A. Bow-wielding Southern god?: DIXIE CUP(ID). Cupid is the love god. Dixie = Southern states.

36A. Cholesterol check?: LIP(ID) SERVICE. Lipid is rooted in Greek lipos, "fat/grease".

58A. Possible reply to a dentist's "Where does it hurt?": ON THE CUSP(ID). I just point the hurting tooth to him.

79A. Twisty hair style for active people?: SPORTS BRA(ID). Miley Cyrus probably should have worn a sports bra.

99A. Japanese sake, e.g.?: ASIATIC FLU(ID). Don't like the answer. ASIAN FLU yes. Asiatic sounds very archaic. Sake (SAH-kee) is Japanese rice wine, so is mirin.

104A. Candy, cookies and soda?: K(ID) RATIONS. Ancel Keys, who formulated K-ration, was also credited with first introducing the benefits of Mediterranean Diet to Americans.

117A. What Depp did, over and over, to acquire the auction item he so badly wanted?: JOHNNY REB(ID). Johnny Reb/Rebel is slang for the Confederate soldier.

Very clever theme. Adding/deleting letters has quickly become my favorite type.

Had several trouble spots today, esp in AQUINO (86A: Marcos's successor) & GDANSK area. I could picture AQUINO's face, couldn't remember how to spell her English name, very different from the Chinese translation that I was familiar with. She just died last month.

Across:

1. Denial on the base: NO SIR. Military base.

6. Smelling __: SALTS. Some people collect smelling salts bottles. Weird.

11. Hummus holder: PITA. Don't like chickpeas.

19. Get away from: ELUDE

20. "__ Ben Jonson": literary epitaph: ORARE. Latin for "pray". "Pray for Ben Jonson". S simply forgot. Saw identical clue before.

22. Nautilus captain: NEMO. From Jules Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" (Thanks, Martin).

25. 1939 Garland co-star: LAHR (Bert). Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz".

28. Singer Brewer: TERESA. Unknown to me. "Baby, Baby, Baby" sounds sweet.

31. River of Cologne: RHINE

35. Bull: Pref.: TAUR. As in tauridor (bullfighter). Taurus too.

40. Cockpit datum: AIRSPEED

44. Renée of silent films: ADOREE. Learned her name from doing Xword. French actress.

45. Uses as support: RESTS ON

47. Magnetic Field?: SALLY. Field is capitalized. Nice clue.

48. 17th-18th century British poet Nicholas: ROWE. Dramatist as well.

49. Anesthetize: DEADEN

55. Prayers are often said on them: KNEES

57. __ standstill: AT A. Wrote down ON A.

61. Orch. section: STR (String)

62. Mason's job?: CASE. D'oh, Perry Mason. Got me.

64. __ bit: slightly: A WEE

65. Lustrous fabrics: SATEENS. Cotton fabric. Used to think they are from silkworm too.

66. Condition that might bring you to tears?: BOREDOM. So true.

68. Lagged behind: TRAILED

73. Duds: TOGS

81. Free TV spot: PSA (Public Service Announcement)

82. Cork people: IRISH. Shout-out to Windhover's wife Irish. Cork is a county in Ireland.

84. Menlo Park middle name: ALVA. Thomas ALVA Edison, The Wizard of Menlo Park.

85. Open hearing, in law: OYER (OH-yer). New word to me. I do know OYEZ, often clued as "Court cry".

90. Oldest Little Leaguers: TEENS. Boy, some of them look too old to be teens.

92. Pants cuffs, to Brits: TURNUPS. Also new to me.

109. Lowlife, slangily: CREEPO

112. President between Harry and Jack: IKE. Nicknames in clue, nickname in answer.

119. Like Nash's lama, in verse: ONE L

121. Professeur's pupil: ELEVE: French for "student".

122. Running score: TALLY

123. Blubber: BAWL

124. Once, long ago: ERST. Root for erstwhile too.

125. Decisive times: D-DAYS

126. British submachine guns: STENS. The "Israeli submachine gun" is UZI.

Down:

2. Skin care brand: OLAY. I like Olay Total Effect eye cream.

3. The United States, e.g.: SUPER POWER. China too.

4. First name in dictators: IDI (Amin). Uganda.

5. Ocean phenomenon associated with wildlife mortality: RED TIDE. Caused by red algae I think.

7. ''Rule, Britannia'' composer: ARNE (Thomas)

8. Doesn't keep up: LAGS

9. Dissertation: TREATISE

11. __ sci: POLI

12. Big-screen format: IMAX

13. South Pacific vacation mecca: TAHITI. Mecca for Gauguin.

14. Overdue thing: ARREAR. Often in plural form.

15. Never before topped: UNSURPASSED

17. Present opening?: OMNI. Omnipresent. Nice clue.

24. Had a feeling about: SENSED

32. New staff member: HIREE

34. Sponsor's urging: ACT NOW

36. Small songbirds: LARKS. Tits too.

37. Rare altar reply, fortunately: I DON'T. Shouldn't it be "unfortunately"?

38. Like steamy films: R-RATED. Like the porn scenes in "Love Actually". Nice movie though.

39. Hindu scripture: VEDA. Sankrit for "sacred lore/knowledge".

40. Egyptian symbol of life: ANKH. The cross with a loop.

41. Take the honey and run: ELOPE. Lovely clue.

42. Impish: ELFIN

43. Groups of two: DYADS

46. Blender brand: OSTER. Forgot again.

50. Slips past: EASES BY. Can you make a sentence for me?

52. Sammy Davis Jr. autobiography: YES I CAN. I have the book.

53. Italy's La __: SCALA. The opera house in Milan.

56. "Ivanhoe" author: SCOTT. Sir Walter SCOTT. See the bookcover.

59. New Jersey team: NETS

60. Wombs: UTERI

63. Schoolyard retort: ARE SO

64. Paris possessive: A MOI

66. Informal eatery: BAR AND GRILL. Good fill.

67. Japanese city known for its beer: OTARU (AW-tah-roo). Looks pretty. Have never had OTARU beer. Beer is just so filling.

69. Hockey stat: ASSIST

70. H.S. juniors' exams: PSATS

71. Words after cop: A PLEA. Cop a plea.

74. Polish city where Solidarity was founded: GDANSK (guh-DAHNSK). Also new to me. What a strange name, full of consonants.

76. Capable of being scattered: DIFFUSIBLE

77. Japanese immigrant: ISSEI. Literally, "first generation".

81. Insect stage: PUPA. Larva, PUPA and imago, three stages.

83. Remington product: RIFLE

87. Stop dramatically, as smoking: QUIT COLD. More familiar with quit cold turkey.

88. Live in: OCCUPY

91. Ward of "Sisters": SELA. She is in "The Fugitive".

93. Tellers?: RATS. Nailed it.

95. In some respects: OF SORTS

97. Like English, to most Americans: NATIVE

98. Publishing VIP: EDITOR. The clue is asking for an abbreviated answer.

100. Cara and Castle: IRENES

105. New York college whose team is the Gaels: IONA. This has become a gimmie.

107. Table scraps: ORTS. One of the earliest crosswordese I learned.

108. Russian refusal: NYETS

110. Ostrich relative: RHEA. Flightless.

113. Potter's oven: KILN

114. Slow Churned ice-cream brand: EDY'S. Marketed under Dreyer's in the west coast.

117. "The Beverly Hillbillies" dad: JED. Would not have obtained without the Across answers.

Answer grid.

C.C.

Sep 26, 2009

Saturday September 26, 2009 Barry Silk

Theme: None

Total blocks: 33

Total words: 68

There are exactly 34 Across and 34 Down fills. Very balanced. We don't often see an equal number of across and down entries.

Hey - it's Dennis. I really enjoyed this puzzle. Not just because it's a Silky, but also because a) there's no three-letter answers, a real construction feat (probably the reason why this puzzle is not a pangram), and b) there's a pair of stacked ten-letter entries in each of four quadrants, and I love the longer answers. Also several of the clues and answers hit home personally, as you'll see as you go through the write-up.

Barry said his seed entry was Cole Hamels. He had released 2008 Phillies Championship Tribute on our blog in Jan 2009. HAMELS was part of the theme answer, clued as "MVP of the 2008 Phillies". C.C. mentioned that the puzzle eventually made it into Phillies' organization.

Across:

1A: Dr.'s calendar item: APPT (Appointment).

5A: Arizona's southwesternmost county, or its seat: YUMA. Do you remember '3:10 to Yuma'? I remembered the 1957 version, with Glenn Ford & Van Heflin, but not the 2007 remake with Russel Crowe & Christian Bale.

9A: Narrow one's brows (at): SCOWL. Look displeased/angry.

14A: Tigger's pal: POOH. Just vaguely remember the characters of "Winnie The Pooh" in Hundred Acre Wood.

15A: "Stop pouring now!": WHEN. Think our DFettes ever say 'when'?

16A: NFL commentator Long: HOWIE. He was a great defensive end.

17A: Prefix with marketing: TELE. Telemarketing. We all love telemarketers.

18A: Phillies pitcher who received the 2008 World Series MVP Award: COLE HAMELS. Obviously, one of my favorite clues. Cole got us only our second World Series Championship in over 120 years. He's married to Heidi Strobel from Survivor.

20A: Car roof with removable panels: T-TOP. Here's an example.

21A: Instants of revelation, as for puzzle solvers: AHA MOMENTS. Who doesn't love that moment when the light comes on?

22A: Easier version, in music scores: OSSIA. From the Italian for 'alternatively'. Was originally spelled o sia, meaning "or be it".

24A: Iditarod destination: NOME. A great test of endurance for both people and dogs.

25A: Sports intermission: HALF TIME.

28A: Elvis's swivelers: HIPS. But not everyone got to see them initially. Early TV shows kept the camera above his waist when he performed. Watch this example from the Ed Sullivan show.

32A: Co-proprietor: JOINT OWNER. Scrabbly J.

34A: French 101 verb: ETRE. I was expecting 'amas' or 'amat' (Latin) from force of habit.

35A: Existing independent of experience, in logic: A PRIORI. Deductive or presumptive. Opposite a posteriori. Buckeye has given us several long lectures on A PRIORI.

36A: Libya neighbor: TUNISIA. It's at the very top of Africa. See it? Capital city is Tunis, which was gridded in our puzzle on Thursday. An intentional ALGERIA trap.

38A: Pimples: ZITS. Almost put a picture here but didn't, 'cause it wasn't pretty.

39A: Photographer known for his black-and-white American West scenes: ANSEL ADAMS. I love his photographs. This is my favorite of his works; I want that road.

41A: Citrus peel: ZEST. Only the colored portion of the rind. The white pith is bitter.

42A: Emits, as pheromones: SECRETES. I love how it perps 29D, 'It's a secret'.

43A: Part of MSG: MONO. Monosodium glutamate. The Chinese restaurant next to my hobby store is always filling our dumpsters with empty MSG drums.

44A: Snow coasters: SLEDS.

47A: Angler's item: FISHING ROD

53A: Bra size: B CUP. A bit smaller than this one, and a LOT smaller than this one.

54A: Carefully entering: EASING INTO. Ah, the images...

55A: Cube maker Rubik: ERNO. We should all have this guy memorized by now.

56A: Goaded, with "on": EGGED. Wanted 'urged' initially.

57A: Fiddling tyrant: NERO. He fiddled while Rome burned.

58A: Flat fee?: RENT. Good clue. British call apartment "flat".

59A: Hotsy-__: TOTSY. We have many on this blog.

60A: Dutch export: EDAM. Named after the town in the Netherlands where the cheese was first made.

61A: Souped-up Pontiacs: GTOS. My favorite muscle car. This is identical to one of the ones I had.

Down:

1D: Is __: probably will: APT TO.

2D: Meter experts?: POETS. Poetic meter. Very clever.

3D: Golfers' tops: POLO SHIRTS. I was initially going for something involving a visor.

4D: 2002 film about a musician who survived the Holocaust: THE PIANIST. Remember Adrien Brody's liplock on Halle Berry at the Academy Awards?

5D: Girls' rec. center: YWCA. Since 1858. YMCA was established in 1844.

6D: "Here comes trouble": UH OH.

7D: Skin pigment: MELANIN. Albinos are not able to produce melanin.

8D: Wind-speed measurer: ANEMOMETER. From the Greek 'anemos' (wind); measures wind speed. Here is a simple one.

9D: Humiliate: SHAME. I was expecting 'abase'.

10D: Arrive: COME. Nope. Not touching it. Lois, any comments?

11D: Wilson of "Marley & Me": OWEN. He's been here in Philly lately shooting a movie.

12D: Droop like aging flowers: WILT. Any time I see 'wilt", I think of Wilt Chamberlain -played for Philly and the only player to score 100 points in an NBA game. He claimed in his book to have "slept with 20,000 women". Must've been a narcoleptic.

13D: Not so much: LESS.

19D: Self-government: HOME RULE.

23D: Range below soprano: ALTO.

26D: Dirt-cheap: FOR A SONG.

27D: Like some remote-control planes: TWIN ENGINE. We sell quite a few R/C planes, and about 90% of them are single engine. Twin engines add a whole new level of complexity, just as they do in real thing.

28D: German university town: HEIDELBERG. HEIDELBERG University is one of Europe's oldest educational institutes.

29D: "Don't tell anyone": IT'S A SECRET

30D: Schoolmarmish: PRIM.

31D: Sailors' milieus: SEAS. Was expecting 'bars'...

32D: Cool cat's music: JAZZ. JAZZ typifies Barry's hallmark scrabbliness.

33D: Mayberry tyke: OPIE. An old friend who visits often.

37D: Washington team: NATS. Washington Nationals. The doormats of the National League.

40D: Treated with disdain: SCORNED. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I speak from experience.

43D: Mork's friend: MINDY. Played by Pam Dawber.

45D: Slangy "Beats me!": DUNNO.

46D: Windex targets: SPOTS

47D. Word after bare or square: FEET

48D: "Othello" traitor: IAGO. Another frequent visitor. No Moor!

49D: USMC rank: SSGT. Staff Sergeant (E-6). Would've been my next rank had I stayed in.

50D: Goes quickly: HIES

51D: Other, in Oaxaca: OTRA. Feminine. OTRO is masculine.

52D: Dire Destiny: DOOM. Nice alliteration.

Answer grid.

Should you have time, try to solve Barry's Newsday Stumper today. It's quite the hammer.

Dennis

Note from C.C.: Happy Birthday, Dennis! Thanks for the fun, knowledge and words of wisdom you bring to us every day.

Sep 25, 2009

Friday September 25, 2009 Kurt Mueller

Theme: Kinship - KIN is inserted into a familiar phrase.

17A. Gear up for Halloween?: PRIME THE PUMP(KIN). Dictionary defines "prime the pump" as "to increase government expenditure in an effort to stimulate the economy". So the current economic stimulus package is pump-priming, correct?

38A. Yokel resting in the woods?: BUMP(KIN) ON A LOG. "Like a bump on a log" = unmoving/inactive. New idiom to me.

60A. Steals the dinner cloth from Garfield's lap?: TAKES A CAT NAP(KIN). Take a catnap. Garfield is a cat in comic strip "Garfield".

How I wish the last theme answer started with KIN*! It would be very balanced.

We seem to follow the old TMS Daily mode now. Monday and Tuesday puzzles get a bit tougher than normal and the late week puzzles are considerably easier.

How do feel about this trend? Happy? Unhappy? Come to the Comments section and let me know your opinion.

Across:

1. Held (on) by stitches: SEWN. It's clued as "Attached with thread" the other day. Rich mentioned he tries not to repeat the same clue for at least 2 months.

5. Cavalry weapon: LANCE. Oh, still no Armstrong reference? "It's Not about Bike" is a great read.

10. Farm females: EWES. Tell us more about EWE or you, Windhover. What are you going to bring to the Farmer's Market tomorrow?

15. Starting unit: A-TEAM

20. Heart-to-heart talk: TETE-A-TETE. Just mentioned this phrase the other day. Literally "head to head".

21. Hurricane feature: EYE

22. Maui strings: UKE. Waiting for Al for some G string education.

23. Pin near the gutter: TEN. Or SEVEN.

24. Per se: AS SUCH

27. "Frankenstein" author Shelley: MARY. Poet Shelley's wife.

29. Swings around: SLUES

32. Mahmoud Abbas's gp.: PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization). Abbas looks like a person of reason. Arafat was hopeless.

36. How ballerinas dance: ON TIPTOE

41. Split up: SEPARATE

43. Withdrawal site, for short: ATM. Ha ha, money. I was picturing a REHAB center.

44. Arcade games trailblazer: ATARI

46. Univ. sports organizer: NCAA

50. Any one of Cinderella's stepfamily, e.g.: MEANIE. JD has over 60 versions of Cinderella.

52. Expert on IRS forms: CPA. This answer pops up way too often.

55. Fest mo.: OCT. Octoberfest.

56. Wood of the Rolling Stones: RON

57. Enter stealthily: SNEAK INTO. There is a KIN inside this phrase.

63. Rink jump: AXEL

65. Ballesteros of the PGA: SEVE. He'll be at the British Open next year. No Tom Watson miracle I am afraid.

66. Queens team: METS. Sigh! Tigers won again, Jazzbumpa/Fred.

Down:

1. Facial wall that may be deviated: SEPTUM. New word to me. The clue means nothing to me.

2. "Bingo!": EUREKA. Ah, California!

3. Columnist, e.g.: WRITER. "Blogger, e.g." too.

4. Alaskan gold-rush town: NOME. Gold-rush around 1899, when NOME was the most populated city in Alaska.

5. Cappuccino cousin: LATTE

6. Capital north of the Sea of Crete: ATHENS

7. Big name in hair-removal cream: NEET. Rival of NAIR.

9. Big bird: EMU. Big and flightless. I like the two "Big" clue echo.

10. Annual sports awards: ESPYS. ESPY Awards = Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards.

11. Be roused from sleep by, as music: WAKE UP TO

12. Yale Blue wearer: ELI. "Boola Boola" is Yale's fight song.

18. Put away: EAT. Got the answer from Across fill. Not a familiar definition to me.

19. Handel oratorio: MESSIAH. Handel's most famous work.

24. Health insurance giant: AETNA. Named after the volcano ETNA. AETNA might have start ed as fire insurance company.

25. Roto-Rooter target: CLOG

26. Weeding tool: HOE. I am going to grow zucchini next year. Sounds fun.

28. Arizona city on the Colorado River: YUMA

30. Soloist?: LONER. Reminds me of the single bullet theory. Who do you think killed JFK?

31. Game with Skip cards: UNO

34. Wrist twists, e.g.: SPRAINS. I've sprained my left ankle three times.

35. Boot with a blade: SKATE

38. __ noire: bane: BETE. Literally beast. BETE noire = black beast.

39. High-end, as merchandise: UPMARKET. New word to me.

41. Friend of Frodo: SAM. Easy guess. Have never read "The Lord of the Rings".

45. Summer drink with a lemon twist, maybe: ICE TEA. Or ICED TEA. The latter is more common. I only drink hot tea.

47. Bopped on the bean: CONKED

48. On the go: ACTIVE

53. Cultivated violet: PANSY. Delicate yet hardy.

54. Rap sheet letters: AKA

58. Part of N.L.: Abbr.: NATL

59. __ facto: IPSO. Literally itself. facto= fact. IPSO facto = by the fact itself.

60. Skye cap: TAM. Skye is an island in Scotland. The clue plays on skycap the airport porter.

61. Dismiss, informally: AXE

62. Pal of Pierre: AMI. Boring clue, isn't it? Alliteration won't help.

Answer grid.

When you have time, read this crossword article Dennis linked yesterday. The constructor Bernice Gorden is 95 years old and still at it.

Come back tomorrow to celebrate the birthday and the guest-blogging debut of a regular commenter.

C.C.

Sep 24, 2009

Thursday September 24, 2009 Jack Sargeant

Theme: RUNNER (48D. Ball carrier, and clue for 20-, 40- and 59-Across)

20A. See 48-Down: ICE SKATE BLADE. Figure skating is beautiful to watch.

40A. See 48-Down: TRACK COMPETITOR. Ah, the Lightning Bolt (Usain), probably the most famous Jamaican after Bob Marley.

59A. See 48-Down: LONG NARROW RUG. Now I want a Navajo runner rug, with a purposely woven flaw.

Normally I am not fond of same clue for different theme answer puzzles. This one is rather unique, with the defining RUNNER structured in the grid.

Not familiar with this constructor Jack Sargeant. Could be his debut. If so, congratulations!

JimmyB, one of our regular commenter, wrote a very informative post yesterday:

"Today marks the 6-month anniversary of switching to the LA Times crosswords. In that period Rich Norris has presented us with 159 puzzles (only counting Monday's through Saturday's) submitted by 67 different "constructors". Five of those constructors were actually Rich himself. Most often used by far is Dan Naddor with 22 puzzles. Next most popular are David W. Cromer, Don Gagliardo, and Donna S. Levin with 7 apiece. Doug Peterson and Jack McInturff are close behind with 6. Thirty-six constructors have been used only once."

I forwarded the information to Rich Norris. Rich responded: "Thanks to Jimmy for the update. I haven't kept count since March, but I do keep track on an annual basis. Through October 31st, I will have published 95 different constructors in 2009, not including me."

Across:

4. Strokes on a green: PUTTS. The other golf reference is SAM (21D. Golf legend Snead). I think Rich Norris likes Ben Hogan more. Hogan had the most efficient swing.

14. What the Mad Hatter served: TEA. Mad Hatter is a fictional character in "Alice in Wonderland".

15. Apple's instant messaging software: ICHAT. Guessed. I am using a PC.

16. No longer tied up: LOOSE. Adjective here.

18. Barton of the Red Cross: CLARA. The Red Cross founder.

19. Divided country: KOREA. Divided at the 38th parallel. Since 1948.

23. Piano part: PEDAL

24. Bando of baseball: SAL. Got his name from Down fill. Don't know much about the old Oakland A's. Did pull a Catfish Hunter autograph out of a blaster box once.

25. Airport waiter: CAB. And SEMIS (31D. Big rigs).

28. Sheds feathers: MOLTS

32. Stereotypical eye patch wearer: PIRATE. "Aaarrr!"

34. Start of an order to an attack dog: SIC. "SIC 'em!"

37A. Partner of woes: CARES. Why? I am at a total loss.

39. Fed. org. concerned with workplace woes: OSHA. I like the consecutive "woes" weaving.

44. Ill-advised: RASH

45. Pageant topper: TIARA

46. Old draft org.: SSS (Selective Service System)

47. Clothes: ATTIRE. And TAILORED (43. Fitted, as a suit).

50. Slow mover: SNAIL. Edible snail would be ESCARGOT.

52. Canada's smallest prov.: P.E.I. (Prince Edward Island). No idea. It's on the right coast. Just learned that there are ten provinces and three territories in Canada. How are those territories differ from provinces?

53. Fashionable boot brand: UGG. OK, they all wear UGG boots. From left to right, Kate Moss, Eva Longoria and Jennifer Aniston.

55. Starbucks offering: LATTE

64. Descendant: SCION. Chinese often call ourselves as "Descendants of Dragon".

66. Walking __: euphoric: ON AIR

68. Fill with wonder: AMAZE

69. Three-card scam: MONTE. No idea. Have no knowledge on card games.

70. Cocktail party bowlful: DIP

71. Chair craftsperson: CANER. Alliteration again.

73. Va. clock setting: EST

Down:

1. Vegas attraction, with "the": STRIP. Sitting above STRAP (34D. Subway rider's aid).

3. Went off course, at sea: YAWED

4. Burglar: PICKLOCK. New word to me.

5. Golden State sch.: UCLA. The Bruins.

7. Empty truck's weight: TARE. The "Waste allowance" is TRET.

9. Acid neutralizer: ALKALI. It turns red litmus paper blue.

11. Weather Channel offerings: FORECASTS. Still summer here, but my morning glory suddenly stopped blooming yesterday.

13. Grazing site: LEA

22. Once around the track: LAP. Would prefer a different clue as TRACK is part of the theme answers.

26. Pal of Aramis: ATHOS. And Porthos. Dumas' "The Three Musketeers".

27. Nursery rhyme trio: BEARS. "Goldilocks and the Three BEARS".

29. Fond du __, Wisconsin: LAC. Any fellow solvers there? I know we have quite a few from the Madison area.

30. Horse's gait: TROT

33. Louis XIV, to his subjects: ROI. Louis XIV is known as "le ROI Soleil (the Sun King). Haute couture originated in his reign.

35. Hot under the collar: IRATE

36. Spanish dialect that's now standard: CASTILIAN (ka-STIL-yuhn). No idea. Only know Catalan.

38. Period of time: SPAN

41. Greek X: CHI. The "Greek T" is TAU.

42. Paleozoic __: ERA

49. "Which came first?" item: EGG. Or chicken.

51. Judge's concern: LAW

54. Travelocity mascot: GNOME. I liked this new clue.

56. Stock market transaction: TRADE

57. North African capital: TUNIS. Nice parallel with EGYPT (58D. Exodus locale). TUNIS is the capital of Tunisia. I wonder if anyone fell into the CAIRO for the capital trap.

60. Seep: OOZE

61. Any minute now, to a bard: ANON

62. "The Fountainhead" author: RAND (Ayn). Waiting for Windhover to comment on her philosophy.

63. Baptism or bar mitzvah, e.g.: RITE

64. Anatomical pouch: SAC

65. Nashville awards gp.: CMA (Country Music Association). Started in 1967. Tell me what Jessica Simpson & Carrie Underwood have in common.

Answer grid.

Picture of the Day: Here is a photo our fellow solver Bill and his wonderful wife Nancy at his sister's wedding a week ago. Both Bill and Nancy love solving Xword. Bill often makes me laugh with his witty and grumpy comments. Ask him if you have any question on computer or bluegrass.

C.C.

Sep 23, 2009

Wednesday September 23, 2009 Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily

Theme: In Fine Fettle - Phrases/name that start with a word indicating good health.

17A. Hydration from underground: WELL WATER. We used well water until I was about 10. Public well. Quite a way from our house. Tough on winter days.

29A. Thunder on a radio show, e.g.: SOUND EFFECT. Music recordings are never referred to as sound effects.

45A. In a rage: FIT TO BE TIED. Extremely angry.

61A. House majority leader of the early 1970s: HALE BOGGS. Unknown figure to me. Wikipedia says he was one of the seven members of the Warren Commission and he dissented from the single bullet theory. It also says he disappeared in 1972 while flying over a remote section in Alaska.

Also a bit of baseball undertone:

66A. Baseball Hall of Famer Speaker: TRIS. Inducted in 1937, same year as Cy Young. The first class (1936) includes Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb & Honus Wagner.

69A. Not tagged in time: SAFE. Twins won again! So did the Tigers though. We are still 2 1/2 games behind.

18D. "__ on first?": WHO'S. The classic Abbott and Costello sketch.

Very straightforward puzzle. Quite a few simple multiple-word answers.

Across:

5. Get ready for surgery: PREP

9. Beethoven's "Für ____": ELISE. Her true identity remains a mystery.

15. Victoria or Geneva: LAKE. Lake Victoria is Africa's largest lake. LPGA holds its annual Evian Masters on the shore of Lake Geneva. It's played one week before British Open.

20. Horseshoer's workshop: SMITHY

21. "All set!": I'M READY

23. Excuse designed to elicit sniffles: SOB STORY. Asians tend to bottle up their personal woes.

26. Busy pro in Apr.: CPA. His days are numbered!

37. Bird on a dollar: EAGLE. I'd like to be a bird in my next life, chasing autumn all over the world.

40. Undiversified, as a farm: ONE CROP. Waiting for Windhover to comment.

42. Old French money: FRANC. Or ECU/SOU for three letter answers.

44. Head of France?: TETE. Tête-à-tête (tet-ah-tet) = head to head.

49. "The Waste Land" poet's monogram: TSE. Ah, our old days' of "Half a fly"! I bet Wayne R Williams still uses the same clue in his current self-syndicated puzzles.

50. Made a mess of: LOUSED UP

52. Mouth the lyrics: LIP SYNC

56. White Rabbit's cry: I'M LATE. Easy guess. Have never read "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland".

64. "Uncle Tom's Cabin" author: STOWE

Down:

1. Dog's dogs?: PAWS. Dogs is slang for feet. Got me. I wanted PUPS.

2. Utah city: OREM. See this map. So glad that I was not the only one who was perplexed by SLC (Salt Lake City) abbreviation yesterday.

5. Hedonistic fellows: PLAYBOYS. Hugh Hefner even owns a crypt next to Marilyn Monroe.

6. Maze scurrier: RAT

9. Payment from a contestant: ENTRY FEE

11. It sells a lot of build-it-yourself furniture: IKEA. I wonder why IKEA has not gone public, neither has Cargill.

22. Desert Storm ration, for short: MRE (Meal Ready to Eat)

24. Mutton fat: SUET. Beef fat too. LARD is pork fat.

25. Explosive compound: TNT

26. Grain husks separated in threshing: CHAFF. Used to confuse CHAFF with CHAFE.

27. Lab dish inventor: PETRI

28. G sharp's equivalent: A-FLAT. Oh, by the way, why does major key sound happy and minor key sound sad?

30. It's not fiction: FACT. Could be stranger than fiction.

31. "Snowy" wader: EGRET

33. Conical residence: TEPEE. And TENT (35D: Shelter for roughing it).

39. Altar attendants: ACOLYTES. Love fresh fill.

40. Aunt Bee's grandnephew: OPIE. I bet we can find Ron Howard reference in a puzzle on any given day.

43. Tie settlers, for short. OTS (Overtimes)

47. Game often played with a 24-card deck: EUCHRE. Got the answer from Across fills. Wikipedia says EUCHRE, invented around 1860, is responsible for introducing the Jack (Joker) into modern packs.

51. Novelists' creations: PLOTS

55. Attached with thread: SEWN

57. Taj Mahal city: AGRA. "Slumdog Millionaire" was shot in AGRA and Mumbai.

58. "Woohoo, the weekend!": TGIF

59. Being, to Caesar: ESSE. Sum is a first person singular of ESSE, as in "Cogito, Ergo Sum".

62. "La Cage __ Folles": AUX. Ah, one of Lemonade's favorite plays. I like the remake "The Birdcage" starring Robin Williams.

63. Wahine's gift: LEI. What kind of flowers are they wearing?

Answer grid.

A special "Thank you" to Al for the technical help lately.

C.C.

PS: Nice sausage links yesterday, esp Jazzbumpa's "since" and "yikes!". Some exotic ingredients from Kazie. Fun to read. Missed Lois's playful word weaving essay.