Dec 31, 2009

Thursday, December 31, 2009 Bill Thompson

Theme: CATCH (65A. Verb associated with the beginnings of 18-, 26-, 43- and 57-Across)

18A. Impossible to get close to: COLD AS ICE. Catch a Cold.

26A. Surrender: WAVE A WHITE FLAG. Catch a Wave.

43A. "Jerry Maguire" catchphrase: SHOW ME THE MONEY. Catch a Show.

57A. Right-click result, often: POP-UP MENU. Catch a Pop-up (fly ball).

I like how CATCH is gridded at the very end, providing the ultimate "Aha" moment. And of course, at my solving level, I'd prefer the unifying clue to be "Seize, or verb associated with the beginnings of 18-, 26-, 43- and 57-Across).

Was surprised to see VETCH (28D. Climbing legume). I faintly remember Lemonade mentioned that this plant often appeared in his parents' old old NYT puzzles. No relationship to kvetch.

A bit of slog for me. I was not engaged and did not give the puzzle its deserved attention. Still in shock and saddened by the news of Dan Naddor. His family told me that Dan passed away on the eve of Dec 28, 2009, from the complications of the cancer treatment (radiation to head/neck). He was considered cancer-free.

Dan began constructing crosswords 5 years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer at the back of his throat at the age of 48. He quickly became probably the most prolific LAT constructor in the last few years. He told me constructing crossword distracted his brain so he would not focus on how lousy he felt physically. He family believed that this prolonged his life and gave him something to strive for & enjoy. Dan enjoyed reading our comments and "entertaining my friends each week in puzzle-land".

His family have started a Facebook page under Dan Naddor and said the crossword people are welcome to visit and post. They also mentioned that he had several puzzles on queue in LA Times and NY Times, so we will see his byline in 2010. Dan, you will be deeply missed!

Across:

1. Sluglike "Star Wars" crime lord: JABBA. Jabba the Hutt. Scrabbly corner.

6. Sound from someone who's down: SOB

9. Legal orders: WRITS

14. To go, in Grenoble: ALLER. French for "go". Grenoble is a city in SE France.

15. Supermarket chain founded in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: IGA (Independent Grocers Alliance). Obtained the answer with the crosses.

16. Wore: HAD ON

17. Scrabble 10-pointer: Z TILE

20. Lifetime-guaranteed lighters: ZIPPOS. Did quite a bit of Intellectual Property investigation for Zippo in China.

22. Soft drink choice: DIET COKE

23. Out of balance: A-LOP. Yep, it exists in some dictionary Argyle checked last time.

25. __ Fáil: Irish coronation stone: LIA. Lia Fáil is pronounced like "Lee-a Fall". Had a ton of DF fun in the old TMS Daily puzzle.

33. Having a lot to lose, maybe?: OBESE. The clue sounds very Dan Naddor, doesn't it?

34. "Waiting for Lefty" playwright: ODETS (Clifford)

35. Mme. in Madrid: SRA

37. Beach toy: KITE. PAIL too.

38. Circle Line : Hudson :: Bateaux-Mouches : __: SEINE. Bateaux-Mouches ("Fly Boats". Bateaux = boats. Mounches = Flies) are open excursion boats that provide visitors to Paris with a view of the city from along the river Seine, a la Wikipedia.

39. Smart guy?: ALEC. Smart Alec.

40. Wall St. enforcer: SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission)

41. Wooden shoe: SABOT. Same root as sabotage, according to Kazie.

42. Send, so to speak: ELATE. Slangy "send", right?

46. Moo goo __ pan: GAI. Gai is literally "chicken" in Cantonese.

47. Apartment manager, for short: SUPE. Only in crossword world.

48. Lark: ESCAPADE. One of my favorite entries in this grid.

53. Indiana and Purdue, e.g.: RIVALS. Oh, I was unaware of this fact. Don't follow college sports.

59. Knot over: RETIE

60. Spitting __: IMAGE

61. Oven cleaner component: LYE

62. "__, Therefore I Am": Dennis Miller book: I RANT. See the book cover. New to me. Dennis Miller does rant a lot though.

63. Checked out before a heist: CASED

64. Nonexpert: LAY. Wrote down HAM first.

Down:

1. Cat's passion: JAZZ. Cool cat jazz.

2. Some glee club members: ALTI. Plural of alto?

4. Semi-soft Italian cheese: BEL PAESE. Literally "Beautiful Country" in Italian. I've never had it.

5. Anatomical rings: AREOLAE. Singular is Areola: Are(a) + Ola. The nipple rings.

6. [thus]: SIC. [error left as is].

7. Common prayer opening: O GOD. Not O LORD?

8. Island in the Java Sea: BALI

9. Hypotheticals: WHAT IFS

10. Imp: RASCAL

11. Personal: Pref.: IDIO. Or "Peculiar: Pref". As in idiosyncrasy.

12. Pendulum sound: TOCK. Tick too.

13. Bygone dagger: SNEE. Learned from doing crossword.

24. "Friends" friend: PHOEBE. "Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat ...".

26. Stir-fry cookware: WOKS

27. "__ Irish Rose": ABIE'S. Abie is Irish Rose's lover.

29. Nincompoop: IDIOT

30. Tithe portions: TENTHS

31. Narnia lion: ASLAN. Turkish for "lion". I've never seen "The Chronicles of Narnia". The "Born Free" lioness is ELSA.

32. Norwegian marathoner Waitz: GRETE. This lady won a record nine-time New York City Marathon. Not a familiar name to me at all. Is Grete pronounced like "great"?

36. __-deucy: ACEY. Guessed.

38. "I do not like them, __": Seuss line: SAM-I-AM. From "Green Eggs and Ham".

39. Medicinal plant: ALOE VERA

41. Traded: SWAPPED

42. Derived from observation: EMPIRIC. John Locke is the founder of Empiricism.

44. Model railroad scale: O GAUGE. Or O SCALE. We had this clue before.

45. Part of EEC: Abbr.: EUR. EEC = European Economic Community

48. Like "Lawrence of Arabia": EPIC

49. Vedic drink for an immortal soul: SOMA. The drug in "Brave New World".

50. Balancing experts, briefly?: CPAS. Nailed it.

51. Valley: DELL

52. One-named New Age singer: ENYA

54. Rat tail?: A TAT. Rat-a-tat. Good clue.

55. Friend of Pete and Julie on "The Mod Squad": LINC

56. Brother of Abel: SETH. Broth of Cain too.

58. One-eighty: UEY. Slang for U-turn?

Answer grid.

C.C.

Dec 30, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 Dan Naddor

Theme: PH LEVEL (33A. Acidity or alkalinity measurement, which is literally 8 for this puzzle's four longest answers) - There are total 8 digraph PH's in the 4 longest theme entries.

17A. Plato's field: PHILOSOPHY. What is your definition of Platonic love?

22A. Wedding hiree: PHOTOGRAPHER

45A. City named by William Penn: PHILADELPHIA. The City of Brotherly Love.

54A. Its white variety glows upon exposure to oxygen: PHOSPHORUS. New word to me.

I like that all of the theme answers are long-lettered one-word entries with two consecutive PH combination (instead of phrases with one word ending in P and other starting in H. You know, the word spanning P H style). Very narrowly focused, as Nancy Salomon advocates. Can you think of any other word with the same pattern?

Nice "driving" rya Dan weaved in the clues:

30A. Driveway surface: GRAVEL

32A. Driver's aid: TEE. Golf "driver".

30D. Driving hazard: GLARE

Today's Dan Naddor Index (non-theme entries with 6 or more letters) is 20. Pretty high. But not many sparkling clues. Guess that's why it's a Wednesday rather than a wicked Friday Dan Naddor.

Across:

1. Japanese noodle dish: RAMEN. I like the real soup-based, soy sauce flavored Ramen, not the instant noodle.

6. Starbuck's boss: AHAB. Starbuck is Captain Ahab's first mate in "Moby-Dick".

10. Stern's opposite: STEM. Hence the idiom "from stem to stern".

14. Words after complete or close: A SALE

15. One of the Simpsons: LISA. Bart has 4-letters too.

16. Head shape in a recurring "SNL" skit: CONE

20. Like mozzarella: SEMI-SOFT

21. Journalist __ Boothe Luce: CLARE. Wife of Henry Luce, founder of Time, Life, and Fortune.

25. "The Jazz Singer" subject: JOLSON (Al). "The Jazz Singer" is the first talkie movie ever made.

28. "The Ten Commandments" role: RAMESES. So many Rameses in ancient Egypt.

29. Lake near Niagara Falls: ERIE

35. 3.0, e.g.: Abbr.: GPA

39. Jerusalem temple site: ZION. Hence Zionism?

40. Soft-shell clam: STEAMER. Is the clam steamed? I've never had it.

43. Foul: SMELLY

48. "Over the Rainbow" composer: ARLEN (Harold)

49. 1996 bride of comic books and television: LOIS LANE. "Superman".

57. 2008 American League champs: RAYS. Lost to the Phillies in the World Series.

58. Absorbed the loss: ATE IT

59. Form 1040 IDs: SSNS. So easy to lose our identities in this Internet Age, no matter how careful we are.

60. Shoppe sign word: OLDE

61. Jr.-year exams: PSATS

Down:

1. Knocks: RAPS

3. Hurt badly: MAIM. Ouch!

4. Orbital shape: ELLIPSE

5. River past Iola, Kansas: NEOSHO. Native Indian for "clear, cold water". I've never heard of Neosho River, nor the city Iola.

6. Up in the air: ALOFT

7. Aware of: HIP TO

10. Surgeon's tool: SCALPEL

11. Contents of some arks: TORAHS

12. Chef's preparation: ENTREE. Robin mentioned tamales and black eyed peas as her New Year's Day traditional food & Jeannie has crab legs & corn on the cob for New Year's Eve. What's your family ritual? We always have walleye fish and some form of sweet mochi rice. Not often ice cream though.

13. Ann __, only woman to sign a contract with an NBA team: MEYERS. With the Indiana Pacers in 1980. Wikipedia says "She participated in three-day tryouts for the team, but eventually was not chosen for the final squad.".

21. Bedouin's mount: CAMEL. Bedouin refers to nomadic Arab.

24. Speak wildly: RAVE

25. Lockheed product: JET

26. Tram filler: ORE

31. On a pension: Abbr.: RET (Retired)

33. Spin doc: PR MAN. PR PERSON to be PC.

35. __ Grissom, former "CSI" role: GIL. Got his name from crosses.

36. Campaign hustler, for short: POL

38. Fortes: TALENTS. They are not the same to me.

39. Gung-ho types: ZEALOTS

40. Involuntary contractions: SPASMS. Cramps too.

41. "__ Company": old sitcom: THREE'S

42. Astronaut Collins: EILEEN. The first female Space Shuttle pilot/commander.

43. Ocean traveler: SHIP

44. Accident: MISHAP

46. London insurance pioneer: LLOYD

47. Ad hoc oater group: POSSE. Why "Ad hoc"?

51. Dark time for de Gaulle: NUIT. French for "night". "Bonne Nuit" is "Good night". Alliteration again.

52. Ballpark figs.: ESTS (Estimates)

54. Veteran: PRO

55. Prince of Broadway: HAL. Wikipedia mentioned that he's got a record 21 Tony Awards. That's incredible.

Huge thanks to Argyle and Al for making today's blogging possible. And a belated Happy Fermat-numbered Birthday to Lorraine!

Answer grid.

C.C.

Dec 29, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 Julian Lim

Theme: "On a Roll" - Progressively better bowling scores.

20A: Panhandler's request: "SPARE CHANGE?". Knocking all the pins down with two tries.

27A: Hit the mother lode: STRIKE IT RICH. All the pins fall with one try.

48A: Certain tour bus: DOUBLE DECKER. Two strikes in a row.

58A: Easy job, in slang: TURKEY SHOOT. Three strikes in a row.

Argyle here. This puzzle must be right up Boomer's alley. A good step up in difficulty from Monday. A new constructor for us, too. One problem: 35A: Object of a doctor's office phobia: NEEDLE. so close to 41A: Demur: OBJECT.

Turkey shoot: (This is the best description I found and I believe it is true. They use paper targets these days.) "In the old days they would put a live turkey (with a foot tied to the ground) behind a large log. They would scatter corn on the ground and as the turkey pecked at the corn his head would appear and disappear behind the log. Each participant(for a fee) would be given a shot (with a rifle). If you hit the turkey you claimed the bird."

Across:

1A: Tibetan capital: LHASA. Lhasa Apso

6A: Winged stinger: WASP.

10A: Tool in a wood shop: ADZE. A tool used to square-up beams, not often inside a shop.

15A: "At last it's clear!": "I SEE!". "D'oh!"

17A: Kiri Te Kanawa specialties: ARIAS. Born: March 6, 1944 - Gisborne, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The Maori soprano, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, is the adopted daughter of an Irish mother and Maori father and had a highly successful international opera career between 1968–2004. Not an aria, I believe.

18A: "Beautiful Girls" singer Kingston: SEAN. Sean Kingston (born 1990) is a Jamaican-American reggae fusion singer and rapper. He is best known for his debut single and #1 hit Beautiful Girls.

23A: New Orleans-to-Detroit dir.: NNE.

24A: Anacin Aspirin Free competitor: TYLENOL.

25A: Parking places: CURBS. Who started "kicked to the curb"?

31A: Third deg.?: PHD. After your B.A. and your Master's, you get your Doctorate.

34A: Invitation encl.: SASE. Self-Addressed,Stamped Envelope.

36A: Cathedral cross: ROOD. The rood from the website of the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Reading, England

38A: Coll. helpers: TAS. Teaching Assistants

40A: Gradually disappear, with "off": WEAR.

51A: Oliver who directed "W.": STONE. Also directed...Platoon (1986), Wall Street (1987), Talk Radio (1988), Born on the Fourth of July (1989),The Doors (1991), JFK (1991)...to name a few.

52A: They may be tossed in an Easter contest: RAW EGGS.

62. Not at all bored: RAPT.

63. Piglet's creator: MILNE.

65. List-ending abbr.: ET AL..

66. Former forest near the River Avon: ARDEN. The Forest of Arden is stated by Shakespeare to be the setting for As You Like It.

68. Voluptuous: SEXY. Big can be beautiful .

Down:

1D: Minimum: LEAST.

2D: Shrew: HARPY. In classical mythology, harpies are a lot worse than just a shrew. Harpies

3D: Sans serif font: ARIAL. No curlicues.

4D: Catches: SNARES.

5D: Green lights: ASSENTS. Give the "go ahead".

6D: Letter to Santa, e.g.: WISH LIST. Done for another year.

8D: Medium session?: SEANCE.

9D: Umbrella-toting "Batman" villain: PENGUIN. Danny DeVito as "The PENGUIN"

11D: Drawbacks: DOWNSIDES.

12D: Utah national park: ZION.

13D: Alternatively: ELSE.

21D: Julius Dithers's wife, in "Blondie": CORA. Mr. Dithers is Dagwood's boss.

22D: Art Deco designer: ERTE.

28D: "The Family Circus" cartoonist Bil: KEANE.

30D: Rescuer, often: HERO. As in the movie with Dustin Hoffman. Good film.

31D: Cajole: PROD.

32D: Vagabond: HOBO. The HOBO does get around lately.

33D: Appreciate properly: DO JUSTICE.

37D: Borrowing consequence: DEBT. But if you're big enough, you don't have to pay the consequences. What a country!

39D: How plots are planned: SECRETLY.

43D: Lengths of service: TENURES.

45D: "Sounds good!": "OKAY!".

46D: One working on columns: NEWSMAN.

49D: Lower the assessed electrical capability of: DERATE. The clue is almost word for word from the dictionary.

50D: Bring back to the firm: REHIRE.

53D: Meir of Israel: GOLDA. Elected Prime Minister of Israel, 1969 until 1974.

54D: One surrounded by the enemy, maybe: GONER. But only maybe, if he is the star of the film.

55D: Old British guns: STENS.

57D: Word with sign or strategy: EXIT.

59D: 2001 Spacey film: K-PAX.

61D: Work on a seam: SEW.

There won't be Answer Grid until C.C.'s computer is fixed. Should you have any question, please feel free to go to the Comments section and ask.

Argyle

Dec 28, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009 Sharon E. Petersen

Theme: Pals of Snell - Common S?ELL patterned word leads off each theme answer.

20A: React to one's child's achievement, say: SWELL WITH PRIDE.

25A: Retail establishment with a mollusk feature as its logo: SHELL STATION.

43A: Word processing feature: SPELL CHECKER.

50A: Imminent winner's whiff: SMELL OF VICTORY.

Those are all the S?ELL patterned common words you can find in a dictionary, I believe. Or can you think of something else?

Argyle here. Four entries but still a weak theme. Ah, it's a Monday. 7 K's though.

Across:

1A: "Outta my way!": "MOVE!". Rude start for a Monday.

9A: Place to store firewood: SHED.

13A: Cereal "for kids": TRIX.

14A: Burstyn of "The Exorcist": ELLEN. She played the part of the mother, Chris MacNeil.

16A: Golf shirt: POLO.

17A: Prez's next-in-command: VEEP.

18A: Most-preferred invitees: A-LIST.

19A: "__ and Away": Fifth Dimension hit: UP, UP.

23A: Gimlet garnish: LIME. Four parts gin, one part sweetened lime juice. Mix and serve. Garnish with a slice of lime.

24A: Beau's dozen: ROSES. Who doesn't like roses? And 31A: Treat for Pooh: HONEY. Who doesn't like honey? Honey Roses

32A: Award nominations, e.g.: NODS.

33A: Sasha, to Malia: SIS. The Presidential kids.

36A: Nursery school song opener: A B C D.

37A: Frozen waffles: EGGOS.

39A: Pain in the neck: KINK.

40A: Wednesday's child is full of it: WOE.

41A: Haggard's "__ from Muskogee": OKIE. One for you country lovers.

42A: Fab Four member: RINGO.

46A: Columbus's Santa __: MARIA.

49A: Jeopardy: RISK.

56A: All's opposite: NONE. (All or none.)

57A: Jail, slangily: CLINK.

58A: Body fuel: FOOD. And 60A: Fiber source: BRAN.

61A: Argentine dance: TANGO.

62A: Actress Dunaway: FAYE.

63A: Boston hoopster, for short: CELT.

64A: Calendar row: WEEK.

65A: Tobogganer's need: SNOW. Got the snow, need the toboggan.

Down:

1D: "The Osbournes" airer: MTV. No link (I just couldn't do it.)

3D: Panorama: VIEW.

4D: Kicked out of school: EXPELLED.

5D: Spheres of influence: REALMS.

6D: Totally wrong: ALL WET. The original allusion in this expression is unclear, that is, how moisture or dampness is related to wrongness. Here's a theory. The newly born of most species are "all wet." So maybe it means ignorant, born yesterday.

7D: The year 1052: MLII.

8D: Mosquito, e.g.: PEST.

9D: Urge forward: SPUR ON.

10D: Pueblo dwellers: HOPIS. A scene

11D: Sidestep: ELUDE.

12D: Lunkheads: DOPES.

21D: Bell-shaped bloom: LILY.

25D: "Rich Man, Poor Man" novelist Irwin: SHAW. "Rich Man, Poor Man" was a 1976 miniseries that aired on ABC in one-hour episodes a week for twelve weeks. It was produced by Universal Television and was the first time programming of this nature had been attempted. It proved to be a critical and ratings success and was the forerunner for similar projects based on literary works, such as "Roots" and "Brideshead Revisited".

26D: Bum kin: HOBO. Another bum heard from.

27D: Suffix with exist: ENCE. (existence)

28D: Celestial messenger: ANGEL.

30D: Bouncer's requests, briefly: IDS.

33D: Hole, as a putt: SINK.

34D: "Picnic" playwright: INGE. William Inge (1913-1973). "Picnic" earned him a Pulitzer Prize (1953).

35D: Hershey's toffee bar: SKOR. Watch your teeth when you bite into one of these!

38D: Hodges of the Dodgers: GIL. Major league debut was October 3, 1943 for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

39D: Football openers: KICKOFFS. A different kind of football opener

43D: Like the "h" in honor: SILENT.

44D: Shrink in fear: CRINGE.

45D: "Wild" West lawman: HICKOK. Wild Bill Hickok really existed although some of his exploits are fictionalized.

46D: 24-hr. TV news source: MSNBC.

47D: Leonardo's love: AMORE. Italian.

52D: Imperfection: FLAW.

53D: Plant with tendrils: VINE.

54D: Mottled equine: ROAN.

55D: Cellist __ Ma: YO-YO.

59D: Dawn drops: DEW.

Answer grid.

Argyle

Dec 27, 2009

Sunday December 27, 2009 Barry Silk & Doug Peterson

Theme: And Another Thing ... - "And Another Thing" is inserted into two-word common phrases, creating theme answers which start with a " __ and __" familiar phrase.

23A. Result of a battle of bighorns?: BLACK AND BLUE SHEEP. "And Blue" is inserted into Black Sheep. Black and Blue. Bighorns are wild sheep. The clue is playing on "Battle of the Little Bighorns".

38A. Fire alarm during kindergarten?: SHOW AND TELL STOPPER. "And Tell" is squeezed into Show Stopper. Show and Tell.

56A. Attracting outdoorsy readers, say?: FIELD AND STREAM GOAL. "And Stream" is popped into Field Goal. "Field and Stream" is an outdoor magazine. Unknown to me.

77A. Crustacean with an electric guitar?: ROCK AND ROLL LOBSTER. "And Roll" is injected into Rock Lobster. Rock and Roll.

94A. Web site security expert?: POINT AND CLICK GUARD. "And Click" is embedded into Point Guard. Point and Click.

115A. Kids' puppet show script?: PUNCH AND JUDY LINES. "And Judy" is set into Punch Lines. I've never heard of the puppet show "Punch and Judy".

Barry (Phillies fan) and Doug (Yankees fan), also sprinkled a few baseball references in the grid:

26A. One of Rose's 4,256: HIT. Pete Rose. A record 4,256 hits.

63A. "Baseball is 90% mental; the other half is physical" speaker: BERRA (Yogi). Yankees' #8. Mantle wore #7.

40D. D.C. ball team: NATS. Washington Nationals. NL East.

66D. Minute Maid Park team: ASTROS. Houston Astros. NL Central.

Lots of proper names in this grid, no? Fortunately most of them have become gimmes to me. But I definitely needed the cheat cheat for a few hard crossings.

Fun puzzle. I was amused by the theme answers and slapped my head hard several times after grokking the tricky clues. Precious "D'oh" moments!

Across:

1. Escher Museum site, with "The": HAGUE. Escher is a Dutch painter.

6. Rolls: WADS. Money rolls.

10. Like Mr. Magoo: MYOPIC

16. Capital of Slovakia?: ESS. The capitalized letter of Slovakia.

19. When many return from lunch: AT ONE. Wanted ONE PM.

20. Vision: IDEA

21. Symphony originally dedicated to Napoleon: EROICA. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3.

22. Ball support: TEE. Golf ball.

27. Province in northern Finland: LAPLAND. No idea. See this map. It's also a regions stretching across N Norway & N Sweden.

28. It's pitched: TENT. Would be a nice clue for IDEA too.

29. Holds on to: RETAINS

31. Fishing, maybe: ASEA.

34. Apple's G4, e.g.: IMAC

37. "See ya!": I'M OFF

44. Search uncertainly: GROPE. Bet it's a gimme for President Clinton. He's a pretty good crossword solver.

47. Cross shapes: TAUS

48. Talked nonstop: RAN ON

49. Martinique, e.g.: ILE

50. Lever with a blade: OAR. Did not come to me readily.

51. Selling points: ASSETS

54. Madagascar tree climber: LEMUR. Madagascar & LEMUR. Crossword pair.

55. Commanded: BADE

60. Elided greeting: 'ELLO. In Cockney. Letter H is omitted.

61. Car wash option: WAX

67. Hoarse: RASPING. RASPY is a much better answer.

69. Ballroom that made the Lindy Hop famous: SAVOY. Stumper. Sounds quite storied.

71. Brimless caps: BEANIES

73. "The Avengers" guy: STEED (John). Emma Peel is the only character I know of "The Avengers".

75. Many a joke involves one: PUN. Many times I simply don't get others' joke.

83. Budget rival: AVIS. Car rental.

87. Colorado county or its seat: PUEBLO. The answer emerged itself.

88. Psyche component: EGO

89. Top: LID

91. Proceed: WEND. Do you actually use this word in your daily conversation?

92. Surveyor's units: ACRES. Wanted PLOTS.

99. Alleged Soviet spy Hiss: ALGER. Alleged? I thought he's a real spy.

101. Alien's course: Abbr.: ESL (English as a Second Language). I always connect aliens with illegal immigrants though.

102. Lackluster: DRAB

106. Unfinished framework: CARCASS. Not a familiar defintion to me.

112. "The Disrobing of Christ" painter: EL GRECO. Spanish painter. "The Disrobing of Christ" is one of his best known works.

114. Follower's suffix: ITE. Penned in IST.

119. Rejections: NOS

120. Gerald Ford, by birth: OMAHAN. Thought he was born somewhere in Michigan.

121. Players: CAST. Theatrical players.

122. Racing paths: OVALS

123. Places for organ repairs, briefly: ORS (Operation Rooms)

124. Apartment restriction: NO PETS. Allergy is such a big problem for many.

126. Secure, as a nautical rope: BELAY. Can never remember this word.

Down:

1. "Aquí se ____ español": HABLA. "Speak" in Spainish.

2. Travel guide: ATLAS

3. Have a cow, so to speak: GO APE

4. Open, as a large envelope: UNCLASP

5. Reggae star __-Mouse: EEK-A. Named after the race horse he always bet on, according to Wikipedia. It appeared in our puzzle before.

6. Teller's spot: WINDOW

7. Say "Furthermore ...," say: ADD

8. Collector's item?: DEBT. The question mark did not preclude me from thinking of (baseball) card.

9. Discount event: SALE

10. Tryster's request: MEET ME

12. "I'm impressed!": OOH. I always say "Wow!"

14. Slush Puppie maker: ICEE

15. Something that may help you get the picture?: CAPTION. Excellent clue. I bet camera crossed everyone's mind.

16. Kenya neighbor: ETHIOPIA

17. Its 5/14/1998 final episode was seen by 76 million viewers: SEINFELD. "The Soup Nazi" is my favorite episode.

18. Liberates: SETS FREE

24. Monument word: ANNO. Would be ESTD if there were an abbr. hint.

25. Army divisions: UNITS

30. Band piece: AMP. Music band. And HEAD (39D. Spot for a band). Headband.

33. For adults only: RATED X

35. "So soon?": ALREADY

36. Cold and moist: CLAMMY

41. Bookshelf buildup: DUST. Just had MOTE ("Dust unit") yesterday.

43. Company that acquired Lawn-Boy in 1989: TORO. Easy guess.

44. Errand runners: GOFERS

45. Bawl out: RAIL AT

46. Implicit warning: OR ELSE. It's a rather explicit warning to me.

52. Cut: SAWN. Past participle "cut".

53. Glitch: SNAG

54. "Leading With My Chin" author: LENO (Jay).

57. Horses running leisurely: LOPERS

58. Actress Kim of "24": RAVER. Total stranger to me.

59. Org. concerned with suits: ABA. Lawsuits.

65. Weasel out: RENEGE

68. Part of a mating ritual: I DO. And PLEDGE (75D. 68-Down, for one). "Mating ritual" sounds very DF.

69. Basking locale: SUN DECK

70. "What Women Want" actor: ALDA (Alan). Red roses, and the man I love.

71. Cluster of cloves: BULB

72. Organic compound: ENOL

74. Got by: MADE DO

78. Pet with green fur?: CHIA

79. "Ol' Man River" composer: KERN. Hi, Jerome!

80. Gp. that includes Iran and Ecuador: OPEC

81. Muttonhead: LUNK. Not lunkhead?

82. Tusked animal: BOAR

83. "Ocean's Thirteen" actor: AL PACINO. I love "Ocean's Eleven" the most.

84. Lawbreaker, e.g.: VIOLATOR

85. Acknowledgement of a deviation, usually after "but": I DIGRESS. Great fill.

90. Attach, in a way: STRAP ON

93. PC component: CD DRIVE

95. Tokyo-based computer giant: NEC. Three letter Japanese company name, what else could it be?

96. 24 Hours of __: annual auto race: LE MANS. Same as Grand Prix, isn't it?

97. Comfortable with: USED TO

98. Confederate: ALLY

103. Of the kidneys: RENAL

104. Northeast express train: ACELA. Wikipedia says the name "Acela" is meant to be evocative of acceleration and excellence.

105. Everycow: BOSSY. Nickname for a cow. Is "Everycow" a real word?

107. Sport for big grapplers: SUMO

108. Piece of cake: SNAP

110. L x XXXIV: MDCC. 50 x 34 = 1700

111. City near Santa Barbara: OJAI (OH-high). Native Indian for "Valley of the Moon." I peeked at the cheat sheet.

113. Squishy lump: GLOB

116. Argentinian Marxist: CHE. Thought he was Cuban.

117. It may be passed or tipped: HAT. Nice clue.

118. TNT alternative: USA

Answer grid.

C.C.

Dec 26, 2009

Saturday December 26, 2009 Michael Wiesenberg

Theme: None

Total blocks: 31

Total words: 72

This grid is framed by a pair of triple stacked 15-letter two-word answers at the top and bottom:

1A. Medieval castle feature: SPIRAL STAIRCASE. Nice entry. Good visual imagery.

16A. Harding's Laddie Boy, for one: AIREDALE TERRIER. Originated in Airedale, England. Laddie Boy was President Harding's dog. Stumped me.

17A. Health club option: PERSONAL TRAINER

59A. With "The," 1958 Hudson/Stack movie about a former WWI ace: TARNISHED ANGELS. See this poster. I've never heard of the movie.

63A. Longtime pal: OLD ACQUAINTANCE. My favorite fill today.

64A. Christianity dominates it: WESTERN RELIGION. Buddhism dominates Eastern religion. Hinduism too, I suppose, considering the number of followers in India.

Hard workout for me. Only penned in a few short entries on my first try. Then I gnawed and gnawed. Was amazed by how much I actually filled in before peeking at the cheat sheet.

Across:

19. Indicates: SAYS. Wanted CUES.

20. Asian holidays: TETS. Only in Vietnam.

21. Univ. awards: DEGS (Degrees)

23. Risked: STAKED

26. Actor Harris et al.: EDS. I liked him in "Stepmom".

29. Three-time A.L. MVP: A-ROD. Finally got his World Series ring.

30. Help a checker: BAG. Checker here refers to cashier, right?

33. Gamblers' mecca: MONTE CARLO. Las Vegas too.

37. Composer Bartók: BELA. Hungarian.

38. Barhopping: ON A TOOT. New phrase to me.

39. Some specials: ENTREES. Excellent clue.

41. Uproar: TO-DO. Nice crossing with SET-TO (22D. Tiff). We also have ADOS (5D. Fusses).

42. Gadget largely pooh-poohed by men until the 20th century: WRISTWATCH. Was unaware of this fact. How silly.

44. Dubbed period: ERA. I rather like this new clue.

45. Russian pancake: BLIN. Only know the plural blini.

46. Oldest child in the comic strip "Baby Blues": ZOE. Tough crossing with KOONTZ (25D. Dean of horror). I knew neither of them.

47. Under-the-sink item: SOS PAD. Yeah, I store mine under the sink.

53. Open end?: TOED. Open-toed (shoes).

55. "Do or do not. There is no try" speaker: YODA. From "Star Wars".

58. Miss out?: DEB (Debutante). "Miss" here is a noun. I was not fooled.

Down:

1. Tasty: SAPID. This word sure doesn't sound tasty. Maybe I am influenced by tepid.

2. See 40-Down: PIECE. And TWO (40D. With 2-Down, like a bikini).

3. Not std.: IRREG. IRR appears in grids more often.

4. They precede mis: RES. Scale notes. Do, Re, Mi ...

6. Turner, for one: LANA. Lana Turner.

7. Really cracks up: SLAYS

8. Launch of 1962: TELSTAR. Just learned that NASA was only established in 1958.

9. 1-800-CALL-__: rival of 1-800-COLLECT: AT & T

10. Cash add-on: IER. Cashier.

11. Violent, probably: R-RATED

13. Frowned-upon contraction: AIN'T. Widely used though.

14. Views: SEES

24. City that inspired van Gogh: ARLES. Absolutely love his "Bedroom in Arles".

27. __ gratias: DEO. Latin for "thanks to God".

28. Glares: SCOWLS

30. Sugar source: BEET. Pickled beet is very tasty, so is pickled herring.

31. Pollster Gallup: ALEC. Did not know Gallup's given name. So now we've had Elmo Roper and John Zogby, all pollsters.

32. Razor cut, maybe: GASH. Did not come to me readily.

33. Dust unit: MOTE

34. Words before before: ON OR. Was this a gimme to you?

35. Zilch: NADA

36. Anchor position: ATRIP. Just clear off the bottom. Learned from doing Xword.

37. Highland hillsides: BRAES

43. Next Christmas: IN A YEAR. Not really fond of this clue, despite its Christmas connection.

45. Dirndl part: BODICE

47. Gérard Larcher is its current president: SENAT. French Senate. Don't think Gérard Larcher is well known outside France.

48. Stevens who sang "Pink Shoe Laces" (1959): DODIE. No idea. Here is the clip. Wikipedia says she's only 13 when she recorded the song.

50. Certain Arabian Peninsula native: ADENI. Oh, the native of Aden is Adeni.

51. Car battery pioneer: DELCO. Unknown to me also. It stands for Dayton Engineering Laboratories Co.

52. "Barnaby Jones" star: EBSEN (Buddy). Recognized his face only when I googled him.

53. Account: TALE

54. Traffic regs., e.g.: ORDS (Ordinances)

56. Twain's jumping frog: DAN'L (Webster). Completely foreign to me. Why Dan'l instead of Daniel?

57. Like contrarians: ANTI

59. Auto club service: TOW

60. Plaza abbr.: SQR. Square?

61. Vandal: HUN. Like Attila.

62. Choke or joke: GAG. Superb clue. Nice rhyme.

Dec 25, 2009

Friday December 25, 2009 Dan Naddor

Theme: Deliver-ANCE - ANCE is attached to the second word of a common phrase.

16A. Communist revenue management?: RED FINANCE. Redfin. The freshwater minnow with red fins. Communist = Red.

21A. Atonement from a soda jerk?: FOUNTAIN PENANCE. Fountain pen. Soda fountain. Atonement = Penance.

32A. Love that blossomed in a music store?: CD ROMANCE. CD-Rom. Love = Romance.

48A. Voice of choice? FAVORITE SONANCE. Favorite Son. Voice = Sonance.

55A. Square up with actor Jack?: PAY PALANCE. PayPal. My first encounter with actor Jack Palance. Wikipedia says he won an Oscar for "City Slickers".

Today's Dan Naddor Index (non-theme entries with 6 or more letters) is 24. Very high. Great columns of triple 7's in each corner. The total word count is a themeless-like 70.

While solving this puzzle, I thought of Dennis' s trivia on the only four words in the English language which end in "dous": tremendous, horrendous, stupendous and hazardous.

Tough slogging for me. Lots of tricky clues. My favorite is NARC (24D. Buster?). I still don't get POS (55. Bldgs. with boxes). PO Box, yes. Why buildings?

Across:

1. Hoodwink: CON

4. Exhausted, with "out": WIPED. Crossing DIE (8D. Go kaput).

9. Exaggerated fanfare: HYPE

13. Mayo is in it: ANO. Spanish for "year". Mayo here refers to the month "may". I was thinking of the sandwich spread mayo.

14. Italian deli offering: PANINI. With a bit of grilled eggplant. Yummy!

15. Skyrocket: SOAR

18. Toro, in sushi bars: TUNA. Toro is the fatty belly portion of the tuna. Very tasty.

19. Become: AMOUNT TO

20. Small batteries: AAS

26. Tarzan creator's monogram: ERB (Edgar Rice Burroughs). Stumped me.

28. Mike famously bit him in a 1997 fight: EVANDER (Holyfield). Tyson bit Holyfield's ear.

29. __ date: SET A. Wrote down UP TO first.

31. Torpors: INERTIAS

36. Faultfinding: CAPTIOUS. New word to me.

39. Old Dodge: DART. And PINTO (14D. Old Ford). Car makers and models are definitely my blind spots.

43. Prayers: ORISONS. Same root with oration. Learned from doing Xword.

44. Edible ginseng plant: UDO. Both the leaves and stems are edible. Japanese veggie.

47. Comic strip cry: WAH. Baby cry?

51. Waitress at Mel's: FLO

52. More isolated: LONELIER

53. Town-line sign abbr.: ESTD (Established)

57. Bum: REAR. I am surprised by the cluing.

58. Starts: ONSETS. Noun "starts".

59. __ station: GAS

60. Dash for a recipe, maybe: SALT

61. Restaurant row?: SCENE. The brawl "row", not those lines of seats.

62. Mexican Mrs.: SRA

Down:

1. Some wine containers: CARAFES. The left one?

2. Another: ONE MORE

3. Surely: NO DOUBT. Of course!

4. Classified: WANT AD

5. Rare way for football games to end: IN A TIE. And EVEN (23D. Neck and neck).

6. Attribute to, as blame: PIN ON

7. Ref. work: ENC (Encyclopedia). Or OED.

10. 1982 Eddie Rabbitt/Crystal Gale duet: YOU AND I. No idea. The tune sounds familiar though.

11. Elixir: PANACEA

12. They can fix slips: ERASERS. What slips were you thinking? Lingerie?

17. Frolic: FUN

22. Clinton cabinet member Federico: PENA. Alas, his name escaped me again. Tony Peña next time, please!


25. Fed the kitty: ANTED. Pot kitty. Nice clue too.

30. "Don't __ innocent": ACT SO

31. AOL exchanges: IMS

33. New Look designer: DIOR (Christian)

34. Food-box word with a cable car in its "o": RONI. Rice-A-Roni, the San Fransisco Treat.

35. Depose: OUST

36. Strongboxes: COFFERS

37. Asian border lake: ARAL SEA. The shrinking sea. Good to have its complete name for a change.

38. Like a deciding moment: PIVOTAL. Pivotal moment.

40. Shade providers: AWNINGS

41. Wheels on a track: RACE CAR. Race track

42. Russell of "Black Widow": THERESA. Nope. I like how she looks.

44. Ben Hogan won it four times: US OPEN. Gimme. Ben Hogan had the most effective swing.

45. Contribute: DONATE

46. First-year law students: ONE LS. First year law students.

49. "Family Ties" mom: ELYSE. Simply forgot.

50. King preceder: A LA. Shouldn't it be "King preceders" (plural)?

54. 2000 Gere title role: DR T. "Dr. T and the Women". So star-studded. But I've never heard of the movie.

56. Mandela's org.: ANC (African National Congress)

Answer grid.


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!

C.C.

Dec 24, 2009

Thursday December 24, 2009 Elizabeth A. Long

Theme: A Prolonged Effort - The vowel in the second word of a common phrase is drawn out, as indicated by the first word.

20A. Too long a ride?: STRETCH LI(I)MO. Stretch Limo. The word limo is literally stretched.

37A. Too many relatives?: EXTENDED FA(A)MILY. Extended Family. Family is extended.

54A. Too much information?: SPREADSHEE(E)T. Spreadsheet. Sheet is spread.

Quite an original and innovative theme. Excellent theme clues. Bravo Zulu, Ms. Long!

The number of theme entries is rather sparse. Maybe the constructor could not find workable phrases with possible elongated OO or UU manipulation.

I fared much better than I did yesterday. Favorite entry is EL PASO, TX (38. City SSE of Las Cruces, NM). Very cool (though frustrating) fill.

Across:

1. Spare underwear: THONG. What I am wearing.

6. Thermometer part: BULB

10. Farm female: MARE. Ewe too.

14. Joyous shout: WAHOO. And WHEE (34A. Swinger's cry) & HALLO (36A. Fox hunt call). I did not know "Hallo" is a shout used in fox hunting.

15. Most of Ohio's northern boundary: ERIE

16. Cameo gemstone: ONYX. Three X's in this grid.

17. Mideast language: IRANI. Thought their language is called Persian/Farsi.

18. A 66-Across lacks one: TAIL. And MANX (66. Critter with no 18-Across). Love cross-references.

19. Nureyev's negative: NYET. Russian for "no". Alliteration with foreign words again.

23. Sway: TEETER

24. Presidential pollster John: ZOGBY. Nope. Not familiar with this name.

27. Sellout signs: SROS

29. Orders: DECREES. Oh, noun "orders".

31. Matter in court: RES. Latin for "thing".

41. Inscribed monument: STELA. Or STELE.

42. Piano piece with "primo" and "secondo" parts, e.g.: DUET

43. Plural feature, usually: ESS. And DEES (57D. Substandard marks). One spelled-out letter entry in a grid is enough.

44. Sends a check with the order: PREPAYS. PayPal handles everything now.

46. Columnist Barrett: RONA. The gossip columnist.

49. Chop-chop: APACE

50. Calendar divisions: MONTHS

58. Weaponless self-defense: JUDO. "Gentle way" in Japanese. Their DO = Chinese TAO (way).

61. Good way for dreams to come: TRUE. Good clue.

62. Board for nails: EMERY

63. "__ happens ...": AS IT. "As It Happens" is also a CBC radio program. I find the host Barbara Budd's voice very soothing.

64. Diet label word: LITE

65. Some closet contents: LINEN. Made of flax fiber.

67. Son of Seth: ENOS

68. So yesterday: PASSE

Down:

1. Peel in a drink: TWIST

2. Roaring Camp chronicler: HARTE (Bret). Know the name, not the story.

3. Hub near the Loop: O'HARE. The Loop in Chicago.

4. Large chamber groups: NONETS. Composition for nine.

5. Thyroid problem: GOITER. Caused by iodine deficiency.

6. Aleph follower: BETH. The second letter in Hebrew alphabet.

7. River through Kazakhstan: URAL

8. DXXX ÷ X: LIII. 530 ÷10= 53

9. Mexico neighbor: BELIZE. I have a very confused Central America map in my brain.

10. LBJ or JFK: MONOGRAM. Thought of DEMOCRAT immediately.

12. Ham site: RYE. Rye bread.

13. Request to an oper.: EXT (Extension)

21. Stand very close to: CROWD. Nice clue.

22. Chocolate-flavored coffee: MOCHA

25. Misrepresent: BELIE

26. Sounds angry: YELLS

28. Lets the fur fly?: SHEDS. Nailed it.

29. Postpone: DEFER

30. Brown sauces: SOYS. Was picturing the brown roux sauce rather than soy sauce.

31. Breathing: Abbr.: RESP. Respiring? Not familiar with the abbr. at all.

32. More than usual: EXTRA. Somehow the grammar of the clue confounded me.

33. Prohibitive, perhaps: STEEP. As prices.

39. Civil rights org.: NAACP

40. Matter components: ATOMS

45. Seuss turtle: YERTLE. Yertle the Turtle.

47. Useless: NO HELP

48. Lack of vitality: ANEMIA

52. Word spoken with a raised glass: HERE'S. "Here's to ...".

53. "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" composer: STYNE (Jule). Wikipedia says he composed "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow". Too bad. I've never heard of him.

55. Joyce's motherland: ERIN. Sometimes it's Eire. James Joyce.

56. Focus opening: AUTO. Autofocus.

58. Dilemma: JAM. In a jam.

59. "Royal Pains" network: USA. Was ignorant of the TV series "Royal Pains".

60. Loud noise: DIN

Answer grid.

C.C.

Dec 23, 2009

Interview with Brendan Emmett Quigley

Those who solve NYT & the Onion puzzles regularly are probably very familiar with Brendan Emmett Quigley and his cool contemporary puzzle style.

Since August 1996, Brendan has had 124 puzzles published by NY Times alone. His works have also appeared in LA Times, NY Sun, Newsday, The Chronicle of Higher Education, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, etc. He also authored over thirty different books. In his website, Brendan offers very topical and off-beat puzzles every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

In my previous interviews, Dan Feyer, Rex Parker and Merl Reagle all mentioned Brendan as one of their favorite constructors. Hope you enjoy these few glimpses into the mind of a very talented and successful crossword constructor.

To many LAT-only solvers, this is our first encounter with you since the TMS switch last March. What is your background and how did you get into crossword construction?

Back when I was in college, I had a really shitty summer job: I photocopied cases for a law firm. In the summer leading up to my senior year, there was a new policy implemented that forbade us from listening to the radio while we did this shitty job. Since I needed something to distract myself somehow, I turned to the New York Times crossword. I'd never solved one before, but in those three months of dutifully doing them every day, I got hooked. When I went back to school (UNH), I decided to try my hand at making them. Through dumb luck, the first one I made, I sold to the New York Times. And I've been selling them to, well, just about everybody in those 13 years since.

As a professional puzzle constructor, what is a typical day like for you? And what are common misconceptions people have about you?

After I kiss my wife Liz goodbye (she's a psychologist), I make the back-breaking eight step commute to my office in our condo. After doing all the daily puzzles and reading all the crossword blogs, (as well as some news sites, sports sites, music sites, etc.), I'll tackle whatever puzzle needs to be done that day, whether it's one for my blog, a one-off for a client, or for the regular syndicates I sell to. Of course, the muse hardly ever speaks to me at in morning. So it's usually more web-surfing. Researching ideas. IM-ing. etc. I almost always get my groove going only well into the afternoon, and it is without fail that I'm really firing on all cylinders when Liz comes home from work.

As for common misconceptions, I'm taller than people imagined.

What is the highlight of your construction career and what is the best puzzle you've made? Why?

There's been a bunch of highlights, I think. It's kind of tough to pick just one. Well, if we limit it to just this year: My blog took off, I was honored to have a puzzle in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament; I think my book of diagramless crosswords came out fantastic; plus I made puzzles that were referenced on episodes of "Jeopardy!," and "Sunday Night Football" (two different puzzles).

We seem to get a lot of "Word that preceeds/follows ... " style puzzle theme in LA Times. What's your view on this trend and what kind of theme really appeals to you as a solver?

I wrote a controversial post for my blog, "Ten Bullshit Themes." I had that "word that precedes/follows" gimmick at #5. It's not bad in and of itself, it just seems a little half-baked.

What themes work? Stuff we haven't seen before. Innovation. Up to the minute references. Humor.

As a constructor, what makes an non-theme entry spark? The freshness? Scrabbliness? Boldness? I'd like to know your definition and standard of an excellent fill.

Fill should be never before seen stuff. Since a lot of puzzles nowadays are computer assisted, a lot of us puzzlemakers have the same databases. So a lot of the so-called "fresh stuff" (the scrabliness, the up-to-date-stuff) that are in the database tend to keep coming up again and again. Seems like constructors nowadays aren't really that interested in being the first to use certain entries. Well, I don't want to make a blanket statement and say everybody doesn't like to go fresh, but we know who they are.

What's your view on grids with low word/block count or those who really stretch the rules of construction?

Cluing a puzzle is a necessary evil, so if I can get a lower word count I'd much rather go that route. Besides, if you have a more open grid, there's a better chance that you can get those new fresh entries in there.

You are a very creative and prolific constructor, where do you get your inspirations? What kind of books/magazines/websites do you read?

Thanks.

My Inspirations? All the usual places. Day to day life, things I might read, things Liz might say, etc.

I just started Thomas Pynchon's "Inherent Vice." The only magazine I read is "Wired." Websites? ESPN, SI, Pitchfork, Drudge, PopDose, the Gawker media pages, Rex Parker, Crossword Fiend, etc.

What kind of puzzle do you solve every day? And who are your favorite constructors?

Well, I solve the New York and LA Times puzzles every day. I'm also a massive sudoku nut. Lately, I've been turned onto Thomas Snyder's beautiful handmade (!) sudoku puzzles.

As for favorite constructors? The list is enormous. But let me share this. I was chatting with Francis Heaney, who is a top-flight editor as well as puzzlemaker, about Patrick Berry's latest tour-de-force. Except I was being a doofus, and I didn't refer to Patrick by name. Instead I called him "The Crossword Jesus." Francis interpreted that sobriquet as belonging to Frank Longo, who, let's face it is another god among men. So I could easily have been referring to Frank. Then I was thinking about it later, Mike Shenk could stake a claim as "The Crossword Jesus" as well. Maybe we could get some panel discussion sometime of those three guys: "The Three Crossword Jesuses," I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but those guys are all awesome.

What are your planning for 2010 construction-wise? Any special books?

I'm just planning on expanding the blog's empire.

Wednesday December 23, 2009 Brendan Emmett Quigley

Theme: G-CLEF (69A. Staff figure, and a hint to the starts of 17-, 23-, 37-, 53- and 59-Across) - The first words of the theme answers - Every Good Boy Does Fine - yield the mnemonic for EGBDF, the notes on the lines of the treble clef.

17A. 1989 Bobby Brown hit: EVERY LITTLE STEP. Have never heard of the song. Bobby Brown is the ex-husband of Whitney Houston.

23A. "Well played!": GOOD GAME

37A. Culture Club lead singer: BOY GEORGE. He seems to be in legal trouble all the time.

53A. Serves a sentence: DOES TIME

59A. Metaphorical search tool: FINE-TOOTHED COMB

Very nice successive order!

Today's constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley is also a musician. He plays for the band Boston Typewriter Orchestra in his spare time. And he tends to sprinkle various music/musician/band references in his puzzles. So, besides the music theme and the two music related theme clues, we also have:

58A. "Watermark" musician: ENYA. I liked her "May It Be".

4D. Singer Grant: AMY

25D. "__ in a Manger": AWAY. Lovely (Celtic Woman).

26D. "Watermelon Man" musician Santamaría: MONGO. Total stranger to me. Wikipedia describes him as an Afro-Cuban Latin jazz percussionist.

35. __ voce: softly: SOTTO. Literally "under" in Italian.

57D. Rapper Snoop __: DOGG

60D. "Discreet Music" composer Brian: ENO

How was your solving experience today? The new words/names, the trickiness of the clues and the D'oh moments all felt like a Friday puzzle to me. Maybe I was just not in the constructor's wavelength.

Across:

1. Civil War org.: CSA (Confederate States of America)

4. Multilevel marketing giant: AMWAY. Huge presence in China. AVON too.

9. Political pamphlet: TRACT

14. Witch: HAG

15. Thanksgiving decoration: MAIZE. Indian corn.

16. "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speaker: HENRY (Patrick). I confused him with Ethan Allen.

20. Cunning trick: WILE. Wrote down RUSE first.

22. Suffix with cyan-: IDE. Cyanide. Blue color I presume.

28. Dinar spenders: IRAQIS. IRANIS too. This puzzle is only one letter J away from a pangram.

30. Caterer's container: URN. For Coffee.

32. Military action?: SALUTE. Oh, the greeting. I was picturing the real military action.

33. Stir-fry additive: MSG. Not in my stir-fry.

36. Licensing prerequisite, often: TEST

40. This, to Ricardo: ESTO. Also ESTA.

43. "What the Butler Saw" playwright: ORTON (Joe). No idea. I've never heard of the playwright or the play.

44. Did nothing: SAT

47. Page size with four leaves: QUARTO. New word to me. Makes sense, since quart- is Latin prefix for "four".

50. Words to a backstabber: ET TU. "Et tu, Brute?", Caesar's rebuke to Brutus.

51. Brit. monarch's title: HRH

52. Disentangle: UNKNOT

55. Soreness?: IRE. Without the question mark, the clue will be valid too.

56. Certain candidate's goal, briefly: PHD. Got me.

65. Unanimously: AS ONE

66. Icy look, maybe: GLARE. Tiger Wood's cold glare can be very intimidating.

68. Gas used in arc lamps: XENON. Noble gas. Rooted in "xeno", prefix for "alien"/"foreign".

Down:

1. Some baseballers do it all game long: CHEW GUM. Yes indeed.

2. Redeemers: SAVIORS

3. Lasting quite a while: AGELONG

5. Adjusted opening?: MAL. Maladjusted. Nailed it.

6. Game system played with gestures: WII. Nintendo.

7. AIDS-fighting drug: AZT. The name escaped me again.

8. Bigfoot cousin: YETI. The Abominable Snowman.

9. Second Amendment-supporting gp.: THE NRA. And THE ABCS (46. What preschoolers learn). I think one THE is enough for a grid.

10. __ judicata: decided case: RES. Latin for "thing". Res judicata = a thing adjudicated, a decided case.

11. Many an auction piece: ANTIQUE

12. Movie trailer?: CREDITS. The film enders. Very clever clue.

13. Prepare for printing: TYPESET

19. "Family Guy" mom: LOIS. Stumper. I wonder if our Lois knows.

24. Helicopter's predecessor, briefly: GIRO. Or Gyro, right?

29. Der __: Adenauer epithet: ALTE. Konrad Adenauer's nickname. Der Alte is German for "the old man".

37. Delivered: BORN

39. Migratory antelopes: GNUS. Had no idea that they migrate.

40. Big name in credit reports: EQUIFAX. Wikipedia says it's considered one of the three largest American credit agencies along with Experian and TransUnion. Not a familiar name to me at all. Credit/CREDITS duplication, though of different meanings.

41. Dawn follower: SUNRISE. Wanted MORNING.

42. Hired: TAKEN ON. Did the answer come to you immediately?

44. Classic shoe polish brand: SHINOLA. Nope. Have never heard of the brand.

45. Stereotypical toy soldier: ARMY MAN. Not enough blanks for my GI JOE.

48. Hit list: TOP TEN

49. Roman emperor in 69 A.D.: OTHO. The emperor with a short three-month reign. Tripped me again.

54. Private eye, briefly: TEC (Detective)

61. Dr. Mom's forte: TLC

62. "2001" computer: HAL

63. Before, in verse: ERE. Simple palindrome.

64. OED offering: DEF (Definition). I am using Webster's New World College Dictionary. How about you?

Answer grid.

C.C.