Jan 31, 2010

Sunday January 31, 2010 Matt Skoczen

Theme: Running on Empty (M.T.) - Letters M & T start each two-word familiar phrases.

23A. Crisp named for an opera singer: MELBA TOAST. Named after the Australian opera singer Nellie Melba.

25A. Illusion: MAGIC TRICK

36A. Popular date destination: MOVIE THEATER

51A. 1936 Chaplin classic: MODERN TIMES. Also EXILE (19A. Charlie Chaplin, from 1952 to 1972).

72A. Frankie Laine chart-topper: MULE TRAIN. Doesn't ring a bell. Here is a clip.

89A. Painter's aid: MASKING TAPE

105A. 1979 Nobel Peace Prize recipient: MOTHER TERESA. She was from ALBANIA (4D. NATO member since 4/1/2009).

120A. Singer's voice, e.g.: MEAL TICKET

123A. Money-making knack: MIDAS TOUCH. Esp in stock market.

Very straightforward clues and natural, easy to get & "in the language" theme answers. Sometimes those question marked theme clues and resulting wordplay answers can be a bit strained. Or hilarious if the pun works for you.

When did you cotton onto the theme? I did not grok it until I completed the whole grid and studied each theme answer. Read M & T together, they do sound like "empty".

I am guessing today's constructor Matt Skoczen loves music. Look at the below clues:

44A. __ canto: BEL. Italian for "beautiful singing". New opera term to me.

98A. Con __: briskly, in music: MOTO. Italian for "with motion". Also new to me.

29D. Calliope power: STEAM. I've never heard of musical instrument steam calliope.

70D. Musical note feature: STEM. The vertical line forming part of a note.

Most of the other non-theme clues today are straightforward and "honest". The puzzle itself feels very smooth. I really enjoyed the solving. I bet JD too.

Across:

1. Amy Winehouse Grammy-winning song: REHAB. The only Winehouse song I know of.

6. Annapolis inst.: USNA. And PLEBE (110D Annapolis newbie).

10. At least as: NO LESS

16. Apr. advisor: CPA. Apr. = IRS month.

21. Hardens: INURES

22. Leia's love: HAN (Solo). From "Star Wars".

27. Pump measure: OCTANE

30. H+ and Cl -: IONS. Charged particles.

31. Ex-Dodger Hershiser: OREL

32. Squelch: NIX

33. Narcs, e.g.: BUSTERS

35. Disconcerting look: STARE. So is GLARE.

40. They're slanted: ITALICS. Indeed.

43. Starting point, perhaps: IDEA. "Perhaps"!

45. It can span centuries: SAGA

49. Union: NORTH. Was thinking of "merger" union, not the Civil War side.

56. Bankrupt Korean automaker: DAEWOO. Dae = Great. Woo = Universe. Literally "great universe". I recognize the meaning of Korean only if they are in written in Hanja.

58. Make out: SEE

60. International show: EXPO

61. State that's home to Nike H.Q.: ORE (Oregon)

62. Powwows: TALKS. Only know the Native American ceremony meaning of "Powwow". Conference

67. Completely fall apart: GO TO RUIN

70. New Orleans player: SAINT. Hey, Haltool! Who Dat?

75. Under siege: BESET

76. Uses as partial payment: TRADES IN

78. Dark genre: NOIR. Film noir.

79. Revlon offering: SCENT. Have never tried any of Revlon's perfume.

81. Dark time for poets: E'EN. And MORNS (108A. Blake's daybreaks). British poet William Blake.

82. Cut out, e.g.: EDIT

84. French pronoun: CES. French for "these".

86. Regular crowd: USUALS

94. Fashion: STYLE

97. Choice word: ELSE. Or else.

100. Hiring term initiated under LBJ: EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity)

101. Chips follower?: AHOY. Chips Ahoy!

102. Sways while moving: CAREENS

109. Source of flowing water: OPEN TAP

111. Teeny bit: TAD. And SMIDGEN (63D Teeny bit). I totally adore clue echos.

112. Words of woe: AH ME

113. Cyan relative: TEAL. Both blue.

116. Flares up: ERUPTS

125. E-bay action: BID

126. Place for a drip, briefly: IV TUBE

127. Attacking the job: AT IT. Ah, it's back.

128. __ Bubba: gum brand: HUBBA. Have never heard of this Wrigley brand. Don't chew gum.

130. Blotto: LOOPED. Both slang for "drunk". Both new to me.

131. Endangered island flier: NENE. Hawaii's state bird.

132. Nineveh's land: Abbr.: ASSYR (Assyria). Nineveh is the ancient capital of Assyria. Its ruins are opposite Mosul, on the Tigris River, in N Iraq. Stumped me.

Down:

1. Riviera resort San __: REMO

2. Business VIP: EXEC

3. Weapon handle: HILT

5. Retro headgear: BEANIE

6. Area 51 sighting, briefly: UFO

7. "Click it or ticket" subject: SEAT BELTS

8. New Hampshire city: NASHUA. What's it famous for?

9. Experts: ARTISTS

10. Strategic math game: NIM. Surprised to learn it originated in China.

11. Broadcasting: ON AIR

12. Count player: LUGOSI (Bela). He played Count Dracula in "Dracula".

13. Hibernia: ERIN. Hibernia is Latin for Ireland. A Hibernophile is a person who loves all things Irish. I mentioned this on the blog a few times before.

14. Brief moments: SECS. Nice clue.

15. Its last flight was Nov. 26, 2003: SST. Trivia is always appreciated.

16. Former French president: CHIRAC (Jacques). Retired life is not so sweet for him, obviously.

17. Harness horses: PACERS. Dictionary defines it as "a standard-bred horse that is used for pacing in harness racing".

18. It's commonly turned: ANKLE. "It's commonly twisted" too.

24. Typical, as a case: TEXTBOOK

26. Corkscrew pasta: ROTINI. Italian for "twist".

34. Therefore: ERGO

35. Thin cut: SLIT

36. Even-tempered: MILD. Not a word to describe Dennis or Windhover.

37. Greek music halls: ODEA. Plural of odeum.

38. Shakespearean merchant Antonio et al.: VENETIANS

39. "__ Alibi": Selleck film: HER. Nope. Who's the girl?

41. Silvery game fish: TARPONS. The name escaped me. Had this clue before. Huge.

42. "Are too!" response: AM NOT

49. Nick of "Affliction": NOLTE

50. Loaf's end: HEEL

52. Vet: EX-GI

53. Ringo and George each wore one: MOUSTACHE. Came to me slowly.

54. Lake-effect snow city: ERIE

55. In the mail: SENT

57. Fairy godmother's prop: WAND

59. Garden locale: EDEN. The first garden ever.

65. Pontiac muscle car: GTO

66. __ the Red: ERIC. Or Erik.

68. Quite heavy: OBESE

69. Bausch & Lomb brand: RENU

71. High pressure __: AREA

73. Curriculum part: UNIT

74. Mars counterpart: ARES. Greek god of war.

77. Suspect: SENSE

80. Skirtlike trousers: CULOTTES. Does this girl look sexy to you?

83. Inverness topper: TAM

85. Saturated with: STEEPED IN

87. "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" author: LOOS (Anita)

88. Tofu source: SOYA

90. Wheat seed: KERNEL

91. The Philippines, to Philippe: ILES. The Philippines (Islands), to a French man.

92. Pear or apple: POME

93. Broad collars: ETONS

95. "__ durn tootin'!": YER. The redneck's equivalent of "yes, of course". I've never heard of it before.

99. Armchair partner: OTTOMAN

101. Herculean: ARDUOUS

102. One sharing the wealth?: CO-HEIR. Was thinking of DONOR.

103. Noted 1588 loser: ARMADA. The Spanish fleet. Defeated by the English navy.

106. Descendant of Noah's second son: HAMITE. No idea. Ham is the second son of Noah.

107. Singer Kitt: EARTHA. Ah, "Santa Baby" for Argyle.

108. Deadly African snake: MAMBA. Terrifying head.

113. Show saver: TIVO

114. Prefix with plasm: ECTO. Meaning "outer"/"external". Opposite "endo".

117. Taverns: PUBS

118. Frozen dessert franchise: TCBY

119. __-Pei: strong dog: SHAR. The wrinkly dog. Shar = Sand, Pei = Skin. "Sand skin" refers to its rough sandy coat.

122. "Dilbert" Generic Guy: TED. Not familiar with Ted the Generic Guy.

Answer grid.

Awesome memory tag Gessica Alba for GALBA, Lemonade, thank you! Now how about ERNANI?

C.C.

Jan 30, 2010

Saturday January 30, 2010 Brad Wilber

Theme: None

Total block: 30

Total words: 72

Tough slog again. Bogged down from the very start. Wanted CAREW instead of BOGGS (1A. Winner of five of six A.L. batting titles from 1983 to 1988). Rod Carew actually is a winner of seven batting titles and retired in 1985. Wade Boggs (Hall of Famer, 2005 Class) had a stellar career with the Red Sox. His baseball cards are very affordable, even the authenticated signed ones.

Quite a few tricky clues in the grid. My favorites are the two short ones:

49A. Serial ending?: IZE. Ending of the word serialize.

8D. Drunk's chaser?: ARD. Ard is the end of drunkard, hence the literal "chaser".

Anyway, I am now resigned to the fact that I will always have to struggle with Brad Wilber puzzles. His name equals "trouble" for me. Besides, I just can't handle themeless!

Across:

6. Produce unit: HEAD. Lettuce/cabbage, etc.

10. Mil. stores: PXS. PX = Post Exchange. Three Xs in this grid.

13. Taking undeserved credit, perhaps: ON AN EGO TRIP. Alas, my multi-word trouble continues!

16. Psychotic TV pooch: REN. And TOON (57A. 16-Across, e.g.). "The Ren and Stimpy Show". I was ignorant of the fact that Ren is a psychotic. Stimpy is the cat.

17. "Fully loaded" purchase: DELUXE MODE. I am all for basics, even my iPod is Classic.

18. "Bed-in for Peace" figure: ONO (Yoko)

19. Regress: EBB

20. Next: THEN

21. Barn loft: HAYMOW. New term to me. Dictionary says it's called hayloft.

23. Fish preparation gadgets: SCALERS

25. Like "Marley & Me": RATED PG. Have yet to see "Marley & Me". I like most of the Jennifer Aniston movies.

26. Place for wallowers: STY

27. "Heartland" autobiographer: MORT SAHL. Nice to see his full name in a grid. Not aware of his autobiography though.

28. Joes at a diner: JAVAS. Coffees.

31. Aptly named novelist Charles: READE. The English novelist. Pronounced like "read". Apt indeed then!

33. Perched: ALIT

34. Casual pants, briefly: CORDS. Corduroys.

35. Friday player: WEBB (Jack). Of "Dragnet". He played Joe Friday.

37. Footwear ill-suited for stealth: CLOGS

38. Paris's __ d'Orsay: MUSEE. My favorite place in Paris.

39. Volcanic crater feature: LAVA LAKE

41. Grafton's "__ for Noose": N IS. The only way to clue NIS.

42. Seismograph stimuli: TREMORS

43. Waltz segment: BOX STEPS. Stymied me also.

47. 1844 Verdi premiere: ERNANI. Last time Dan Naddor clued as it "Verdi title bandit". I simply forgot. The opera was based on Hugo's play "Hernani". H is silent I suppose.

48. Act as lookout for, e.g.: ABET

50. Emmy-nominated Charlotte: RAE

51. Utility offering: ENERGY AUDIT. Didn't yield readily.

54. Sch. where Buzz Aldrin got a doctorate: MIT. Unknown trivia to me.

55. Castaway's dream come true: RESCUE PLANE

56. __-pitch: SLO

58. Hand net user, perhaps: EELER. Thought eelers use pot.

Down:

1. Augurs: BODES

2. Last year of its kind: ONE BC. Oh, last non-A.D. year. I did not parse "last year" properly.

3. Nero's successor: GALBA. Will probably forget his name again next time.

4. Serengeti antelope: GNU

5. Some chamber works: SEXTETS. Group of six.

6. Geography-class mnemonic: HOMES. The Great Lakes mnemonic. Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior.

7. 007's alma mater: ETON

9. Hardly fair-weather friends: DIE-HARDS

10. Some limo sharers: PROM DATES

11. Anti-diversity type: XENOPHOBE. Xeno is a prefix for "alien/strange".

12. Popular paperweight: SNOW GLOBE.

14. Frank __, architect of L.A.'s Walt Disney Concert Hall: GEHRY. Complete stranger to me. I wrote down LLOYD, thinking of Frank Lloyd Wright.

15. Missouri tributary: PLATTE

22. Thumbs-up: YES

24. Aspiring atty.'s hurdle: LSAT

25. Courses: ROADS. Was thinking of meal "courses", not "route".

27. Amalgamate: MERGE

28. Consequences of one's convictions: JAIL TERMS. Again, my mind was in "belief" convictions direction, not guilty conviction.

29. Communion line setting: ALTAR RAIL

30. Upscale Roman shopping street: VIA VENETO. No idea. Have never been to Rome. Red roses, how romantic! Via is Italian for "avenue", right?

31. Corner pieces: ROOKS

34. Its trill opens "Rhapsody in Blue": CLARINET. Should be a gimme for Jazzbumpa. I am clueless.

35. Doormat: WUSS. No WIMP wobbling for me today due to the intersection U.

37. Plant geneticist, at times: CLONER. OK.

38. Homemade cassette with assorted songs: MIXTAPE. Mixedtape is more common, no?

40. Docs' lobby: Abbr.: AMA

41. "__ hath seen such scarecrows": "Henry IV, Part I": NO EYE. Shakespeare's stuff got me all the time.

43. Red Ryder, for one: BB GUN. It's featured in "A Christmas Story".

44. Word with bore or basin: TIDAL. Don't know what a tidal bore is.

45. Paperless read: EZINE

46. Fizzle (out): PETER

48. Not pizzicato: ARCO. Musical term for performance "with a bow". Same root with "Arc". Pizzicato is plucking rather than bowing the strings. I simply forgot.

52. That, to Teresa: ESO. Penned in ESA, since Teresa is a girl's name.

53. Diminutive suffix: ULE. Like nodule.

Answer grid.

C.C.

Jan 29, 2010

Friday January 29, 2010 Don Gagliado

Theme: THE WALLS HAVE EARS (38A. "Be careful what you say," and a hint to a feature shared by this puzzle's perimeter answers) - The string of letters EAR can be found along the outer edges (walls) of the grid. I've circled them for illustration.

1A. Poet Edward and a king: LEARS. King Lear. My first encounter with the British poet Edward Lear.

6A. "Like Mike" actress: MEARA (Anne). Ben Stiller's mother.

11A. Make on the job: EARN

69A. Wine industry reference point: YEAR. Wine vintage.

70A. Tough test metaphor: A BEAR

71A. Promise: SWEAR

1D. Shoe co. founded in Venice Beach: LA GEAR. Stymied me.

14D. Close one: NEAR MISS

38D. Like some football jerseys: TEARAWAY. Some people go nuts bidding on those game worn smelly jerseys.

52D. Show up: APPEAR

Ten EARS on the walls, perfect! A special 16*15 grid to accommodate the 16-letter unifying theme entry THE WALLS HAVE EARS. Neat that you can't find any non-theme entry containing **EAR** in the grid.

This puzzle reminds me of Don "Hard G" Gagliado's "Shoe Store" puzzle, in which each four-square corner has a box of S H O E (arranged in counterclockwise pattern and the rotation is changed one space at a time). He has a creative & exploratory mind.

Like almost every one of his puzzle that I've blogged, today's theme concept is original and fun. Absolutely no predictability when you see his byline. Always an adventure. Don has kindly provided us the inspiration for this puzzle. Scroll down to the end of this post to read.

Across:

15. When Polonius says "brevity is the soul of wit": ACT II. From "Hamlet". Stumper for me.

16. Outdoor seating area: ARBOR

17. Old knife: SNEE. This has become a gimme.

18. Equatorial African country: GABON. I had ??BON sitting there forever.

19. Lindsay's "Bionic Woman" role: JAIME (Sommers). I just remember it as French "I love" J'aime.

20. Thompson in the Theater Hall of Fame: SADA. Sorry, have never heard of you. (Sorry for the wrong person. Here is the correct one. Thanks, Sam.)

22. Scrooge's visitors: GHOSTS

24. "Ta-ta!": LATER

25. "L.A. Law" extras: ATTS (Attorneys). And ABA (30D. Org. for 25-Across)

27. City near Provo: OREM

28. Chaos: MAYHEM

29. Swipe again?: RE-SCAN. Swipe a credit card.

31. Found, as tabloid fodder: DUG UP. Dug up the dirt.

33. Rec. label across the pond: EMI. One of the "big four" record labels.

34. The duck, in "Peter and the Wolf": OBOE. Can never remember which animal represents which instrument.

36. Liver oil source: COD

37. Home of the Big 12's Cyclones: AMES. Iowa State University.

43. Thought patterns, briefly?: EEGS. The brain tests.

44. Guitar cousin: UKE. Surprised to learn that it's pronounced like "ook", not "yook" in Hawaii. Thanks, KeaauRich! We also have HONOLULU (23D. Frequent Pro Bowl site).

45. Shade: TINT

46. Latin I word: AMO. Amo (I love), Amas (You love), Amat (He/She loves).

47. It's not on the level: SLOPE

49. Oceanic phenomenon that affects weather: LA NINA. Penned in EL NINO.

53. Baroque composer Jean-Philippe: RAMEAU. No idea. Is his hair real?

55. Jump in a rink: AXEL. Bet it's a gimme for Clear Ayes/Robin.

57. Unbalanced: A-LOP. Yep, it's a real word. Santa double-checked! Haysacks, all A-LOP.

58. Ever: AT ALL

59. Lens holders: FRAMES

61. Back talk: LIP

62. Erosive force: WIND. Erosive indeed.

63. Like candied fruits: GLACE. SWEET, anyone?

64. Revolutionary Chopin piece?: ETUDE. An intuitive fill. Not familiar with Chopin's "The Revolutionary Étude".

66. Play to __: A TIE

67. Dull: MATTE. Like some photos.

68. Where gobs go: TO SEA. Gob is slang for "sailor". Gimme for our Navy guys Frank and Spitzoov, I hope. if so, splice the main brace!

Down:

2. French card game similar to whist: ECARTE. Got me. Écarté (ey-kahr-TEY) is literally "discarded". Card game for two players.

3. Casey's turns: AT-BATS. And MUDVILLE (28D. Casey's team). Love the poem "Casey at the Bat". "... But there is no joy in Mudville— mighty Casey has struck out."

4. Ipanema's city: RIO. Maybe Argyle can find a good clip of "The Girl From Ipanema".

5. Do a number: SING. Musical "number".

6. College choice: MAJOR

7. Undid: ERASED

8. Adequate, and then some: A BIT MUCH

11. Blue book entry: ESSAY

12. Object of loathing: ANATHEMA. Know the meaning, not the exact spelling.

13. Mahdi, in Islam: REDEEMER. Mahdi (MAH-dee) is the Muslim messiah, like Jesus. New to me.

24. Sitter's offer to a tot: LAP

26. Garbage haulers: SCOWS

32. Bearded butter: GOAT. Butt-er, the one who butts. Goat butts.

35. Nevada city on I-80: ELKO. What's so famous about this city?

37. Health Net rival: AETNA. Named after the Sicilian volcano ETNA.

39. Iron ore: HEMATITE. Literally "bloodstone". Hemat(o) is prefix for "blood".

40. Dorian Gray's flaw: EGOMANIA. Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray". I cheated on this one.

41. Like exes: SEPARATE. Like the Edwards. Was amazed by the thick hair of John Edwards when I met him.

42. Bambi relative: ENA. Bambi's aunt.

47. __ Paradise, "On the Road" narrator: SAL. Nope. Have never heard of this novel.

48. Parimutuel bet: EXACTA. Picking the top two finishers in order.

50. Mishandling: ILL-USE. Same meaning as "misuse", right?

51. Shrugger's comment: NO IDEA. Well, I don't shrug my shoulders when I say so.

54. Respected one: ELDER. Esp in China/Japan, you don't argue with the elders.

56. Arab potentate: EMEER. See EMIR more often.

59. Tightening target: FLAB.

60. Jazz sessions: SETS

63. "Today" rival, briefly: GMA (Good Morning America)

65. Haul: TOW

Note from today's constructor:

“The Walls have Ears” was inspired by an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle. I am very fond of many old cartoons, and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is so fun because of all of the wordplay. The particular episode that I was watching featured an office of a spy headquarters, and wallpaper that featured images of ears. A wonderful subtle touch was that although it was never said, the image hearkened to the phrase from spy movies, etc., “the walls have ears.” Naturally, I decided right there that I had to do something with that. The phrase is 16 letters long, which adds a constraint to making the puzzle. I tried for putting as many different letters before EAR as I could around the ‘walls’ of the puzzle.

An interesting sidelight is that this puzzle was submitted a long time ago, last spring I think. It had to be shelved until a reasonable time elapsed after a similar theme was published. That theme was INNER EAR, which had EAR straddling words in a phrase. So it was a surprise when Rich e-mailed me in December that I had to change the puzzle. I had an entry, HERE HERE, which is inaccurate. It should be , HEAR HEAR. An ironic fate, being that HEAR HEAR has two ears in it. It was unfortunate, because I had a really good fill going in that corner. I had to do major revisions affecting half of the puzzle. Anyway, I was able to get the present version accepted before the deadline, and I just squeaked it by for January."

Answer grid.

C.C.

Jan 28, 2010

Thursday January 28, 2010 Donna S. Levin

Theme: Sex Change - "Sex" in each familiar phrase gets a vowel change.

20A. Music lessons for Bill Clinton?: SAX EDUCATION. Sex Education. Clinton loves sax.

39A. Documentary about Chicago's relationship with its team?: SOX AND THE CITY. "Sex and the City" (TV series or the movie). Chicago White Sox.

57A. More equitable of two civil case juries?: THE FAIRER SIX. The Fairer Sex (Women). Was unaware that civil case only needs 6 jurors.

Rather unexpected theme concept. Light but amusing theme clues & answers.

My favorite is SAX EDUCATION. Received no sex education when I grew up. Sex was a forbidden topic in our school. I also laughed at SOX AND THE CITY. Great documentary title. Complicated relationship I am sure. "The City" probably loves the Cubs more.

A friendlier Thursday for me. Plenty of "fill-in-the-blank" partials definitely helped.

Across:

1. Trip with much hardship: TREK. Easy start.

5. Ampule: VIAL. Misread the clue as "Ample".

9. Bikini blast, briefly: H-TEST. No A-TEST wobbling today due to the intersecting HANOI (9D. Capital on the Red River).

14. Prefix with port: HELI. Heliport, a landing place for helicopters. I blanked.

15. FAQ responses, e.g.: INFO

16. Belittle: ABASE

18. "Gosh darn it!": RATS

19. Language that gives us "floe": NORSE. I only know Norse gives us "troll".

23. Oscar-winning role for Forest: IDI (Amin). In 2007. What's your favorite Forest Whitaker movie? Mine is "Good morning, Vietnam" .

24. PC backup key: ESC

25. Corrosion-resistant metal: IRIDIUM. Used in hardening platinum for alloys (as for surgical instruments). The suffix "ium" suggests metallic element.

29. Letter flourish: SERIF

31. Sgt. Snorkel's pooch: OTTO. Used to stump me.

33. An A will usually raise it: Abbr.: GPA

34. Science opening?: NEURO. Opening of the word neuroscience.

36. Most congenial: NICEST. Like PJB-Chicago.

42. Event with a piñata: FIESTA

43. Stuffing stuff: EIDER. Eider down. Pillow stuffing. I was thinking of Thanksgiving turkey.

44. "Exodus" hero: ARI. Learned from doing Xword.

45. At the top of the heap: BEST

47. Roman __: thinly disguised fiction: A CLEF. Real story depicted in fictional guise. Like Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar", her semi-autobiography. "Roman à clef" is French for “novel with a key.” Roman = Novel. Clef = Key.

51. Often scandalous book genre: TELL- ALL. It's a genre?

54. Dawdle behind: LAG

56. Old name of Tokyo: EDO. Before 1868.

60. With alacrity: APACE. "Alacrity" is a new word to me. I do know "celerity" though. Same meaning: "speed".

63. Ruminate: MUSE

64. Prefix with dextrous: AMBI. Ambidextrous. Prefix meaning "both".

65. Its capital is Apia: SAMOA. More often we see APIA clued as "Samoa capital".

67. Despicable: VILE

68. Almost boil: SCALD. Always associated the word with "boiling" rather than "almost boil".

69. Political cartoonist Thomas: NAST. The guy who created GOP elephant/Democratic donkey.

70. Israeli statesman Weizman: EZER. Former Israeli president Weizman in 1990s. I forgot. Hebrew name meaning "help".

Down:

1. One of Luther's 95: THESIS. Martin Luther's "The Ninety-Five Theses".

2. Like "The Day the Earth Stood Still," in 2008: REMADE. Easy guess.

3. Alchemist's creation: ELIXIR

4. Hawk family bird: KITE

5. High-tech invader: VIRUS. Took the Geek Squad guy almost two hours to get rid of the virus on my computer last time.

6. Of one mind: IN ACCORD. Very well matched.

7. Aptly named shaving lotion: AFTA. "After".

8. Became unhinged: LOST IT

10. Govt. security: T- BOND. How is it different from T- BILL again?

11. Otologist's concern: EAR

12. Org. dodged by draft dodgers: SSS. Plenty of D alliteration.

13. Driver's starting point: TEE. Golf club "driver".

21. Take down: DEFEAT

22. Did a laundry chore: IRONED. Ironing can be soothing.

26. "__ a Kick Out of You": Cole Porter: I GET. I figured it's either I GET or I GOT.

27. "__-daisy!": UPSY

28. Welcome spot: MAT. Welcome mat.

30. "What You Need" band: INXS. The Australia band. Pronounced like "in excess". I've never heard of the song.

32. Carryalls: TOTES

35. Lacking capacity: UNABLE

37. 2002 movie with Manny the Mammoth: ICE AGE. Was unaware of the movie. Is Manny the big guy?

38. Newspaper concern, esp. lately: CIRC (Circulation)

39. Bold Ruler, to Secretariat: SIRE. Unknown trivia to me.

40. Versailles eye: OEIL. French for "eye".

41. Schedules of problems to be dealt with: HIT LISTS. I always connect "hit list" with Mafia murder.

42. More than plump: FAT

46. Jenna of "Dharma & Greg": ELFMAN. Her name escaped me. She's pretty good in "Keeping the Faith".

48. Musical based on an 1862 novel, for short: LES MIZ. "Les Misérables". Who can forget Susan Boyle's "I Dreamed a Dream"?

49. Safe to put away: EDIBLE. Thought of the storage. Was ignorant of the "eat" meaning of "put away".

50. More artful: FOXIER. Not SLIER this time.

52. Henry Blake's title on "M*A*S*H": LT. COL (Lieutenant Colonel). Stumper.

53. Good place to get?: AHEAD. "Get ahead". Got me also.

55. "Give it __!": A REST

59. Uninhibited party: RAVE

60. The law, according to Mr. Bumble: ASS. No idea. From "Oliver Twist". Mr. Bumble said " The law is a ass, a idiot".

61. Lobbying gp.: PAC. NRA came to mind first.

62. Org. for GPs: AMA

Answer grid.

C.C.

Jan 27, 2010

Wednesday January 27, 2010 Daniel A. Finan

Theme: NURSERY RHYMES (37A. Mother Goose offerings, or in a different sense, this puzzle's title) - the first word of each rhyming phrase can be found in a plant nursery.

17A. Longing for a fronded plant?: FERN YEARN. Frond is the leaf of the fern.

21A. Zinfandel, but not sake?: VINE WINE. Sake is Japanese rice wine.

23A. Oxygen emanating from a lawn?: GRASS GAS. The answer made me laugh.

55A. Steep, e.g.?: HERB VERB. You steep the "herbal tea", hence a verb for herb I presume.

57A. Like areas above the timberline?: TREE FREE. Trees do not grow above the timberline.

61A. Group devoted to small, woody plants?: SHRUB CLUB. What's the difference between shrub and bush?

Heavy themage. Total 63 theme squares. Very Dan Naddor-ish, isn't it? Esp with the first and last pair of stacked theme answers.

I got the unifying entry NURSERY RHYMES rather quickly, but did not understand the theme until I was completely done. Had thought the theme answers were all arbitrary. Then the precious AHA (6D: Cry of realization) hit me. Very clever tie-in. Loved Dan's subtle metapuzzle gimmick. Or "You've got to dig deep to find the theme...", in his own words.

The clues are a bit trickier than our normal Wednesday, no?

Across:

1. Bridges of "The Big Lebowski": JEFF. He's "The Dude" in the movie. A bowler.

5. River projects: DAMS. I like how it crosses DREDGE (5D. Channel maintenance machine).

9. Ritz cracker alternative: ZESTA. The Keebler brand. Two Zs in the grid. And only Q away from a pangram.

14. Swedish furniture giant: IKEA. So easy to get lost inside IKEA store.

15. Ostrich cousin: RHEA

19. Connection: NEXUS

20. H.S. dropout's test: GED (General Equivalency Diploma)

27. Spews: EGESTS. Thought of ERUPTS.

28. Bench press target, briefly: PEC

29. Côte d'Azur view: MER. French for "sea". Nice is at Côte d'Azur (the French Riviera). We also have "water" EAU (52A. __ Claire, Wisconsin).

30. Scratch or dent: MAR

31. Ed.'s pile: MSS (Manuscripts). Used to stump me.

32. Rural skyline cylinder: SILO. For forage.

34. Rock collection specimens: AGATES. Raw agates do not look pretty at all.

42. Cloverleaf element: ON-RAMP. Highway interchange "Cloverleaf".

43. Follower of once?: UPON. "Once upon a time ...".

45. Some TVs: GES

48. Scrap for Spot: ORT. Spot is a common dog name. Alliteration.

49. Anaheim team, on scoreboards: LAA. Silly name: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

53. Pair of blows: ONE-TWO. No idea. Boxing term?

59. Govt. auditing gp.: GAO (General Accounting Office)

60. Fruit soda brand: FANTA. No Coca-Cola brand in our house. Loyal Pepsi consumers.

66. "I Kissed __": Katy Perry hit: A GIRL. Not familiar with the song or the singer.

67. Diggs of "Private Practice": TAYE. Loved him in "How Stella Got Her Groove Back".

68. Golfer Isao: AOKI. Just remember the AO combination in both his give name and surname.

69. Kidney-related: RENAL

71. Joan at Woodstock: BAEZ. Nicely intersects BIZ (65D. Show __).

Down:

1. Choice of "Choosy moms," in ads: JIF. "Choosy moms choose Jif"

3. Not agin: FER. "For". "Agin" = Against.

4. Werewolf's weapons: FANGS

7. Griffin and others: MERVS. Merv Griffin created "Jeopardy".

8. Cleaning product prefix: SANI. Got it from Across.

9. "Riders of the Purple Sage" author: ZANE GREY. Have faintly heard of the book. Full author name is always desirable.

10. "Maid of Athens, __ part": Byron: ERE WE. "Ere" = "Before". I guessed.

11. Discrimination fought by suffragists: SEXISM

12. Talks trash to: TAUNTS

13. Size up: ASSESS. Typical grid (right/bottom) edge word, with all the four Ss.

18. Polite country affirmative: YES' M

22. Not o'er: NEATH. Poetically.

23. Modern rental car feature, briefly: GPS

24. Hold back: REIN

25. Scopes Trial gp.: ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). Was unaware of the Scopes Trial.

26. Turkish mount: ARARAT. The landing mount of Noah's Ark.

30. Christie heroine: MARPLE. Miss Marple.

33. Plata counterpart: ORO. Spanish for "gold". Plata = "silver". "Oro y Plata" (gold and silver) is Montana's motto.

35. Place where sweaters get fit?: GYM. "Sweat-ers" = Ones who sweat. Hot clue!

36. The Mustangs of coll. football: SMU (Southern Methodist University). The answer emerged itself.

38. Winter wonderland creator: SNOW FALL. Lovely Heidi Klum "Wonderland".

39. Shortstop's boot: ERROR. "Boot" is misplay of the ground ball.

40. Foil alternative: EPEE. Was picturing the wrap "foil", not "fencing weapon".

41. Fly high: SOAR

44. Worn-down pencil: NUB

45. Was successful: GOT FAR. And SEEN IN (47D. Shown to a seat). Tricky little multi-words, esp with the tense.

46. Bring to a boil?: ENRAGE. With the question mark, I still thought of liquid boil. Dummy!

50. Pleads in court: ARGUES

51. Simple poetry pattern: ABAB

54. Aquarium denizen: TETRA. Maybe Dennis has this species in his fish tank.

55. "__ it coming": "Serves him right": HE HAD. Again, obtained the answer with Across help.

56. Eng. lesson: VOCAB (Vocabulary).

58. "¿Cómo ____ usted?": ESTA. How do you reply then?

62. Bakery product: RYE

63. Mauna __: LOA. Hawaiian for "long".

64. Strummed strings: UKE. The Hawaiian strings. Nice parallel with LOA.

Here is a picture of our Jazzbumpa in full orchestra uniform. It's taken in Dec 2009 before their Sebelius concert.

Note to newcomers: I have a permanent Blog Photos link on the blog sidebar. If you want to join us there, do email me (crosswordc@gmail.com) your picture.

Answer grid.

C.C.

Jan 26, 2010

Tuesday January 26, 2010 Dan Naddor

Theme: Saintly Cities of Cee A - Add SAN (61A) to the first names of 16A, 20A, 33A, and 59A to get cities in 56A.

16A: *Big name in tequila: JOSE CUERVO. Tracy Byrd might buy you a round. San Jose.

20A: *Mexican muralist: DIEGO RIVERA. Self-portrait. San Diego.

33A: *Spanish painter (1746-1828): FRANCISCO GOYA. Self-portrait. (No Nude Maja today). San Francisco.

50A: *Roger Federer rival: RAFAEL NADAL. Tennis Poster Boy. San Rafael.

56A: Home to this puzzle's theme: CALIFORNIA.

61A: Word that forms a city when combined with the first names in answers to starred clues: SAN.

Argyle here.

I thought for sure this was at least a Thursday puzzle, what with all the open squares I had but when I got to the South-West corner (how appropriate), 61A turned on the light bulb and filled in the picket fences. Still, it is a hard Tuesday but it is Dan's and it is doable.

Here is a list of more "San" cities in California.

Across:

1A: "I did it!": "TA-DA!".

5A: Outplays: BESTS.

10A: Jack's inferior: TEN. (playing cards)

13A: Holly genus: ILEX.

14A: Draw a better bead on: RE-AIM. I didn't find it in the Dictionary.com.

15A: Pitcher Hideo: NOMO. Nomo was the second Japanese native to pitch in the major leagues, and was famous for his "tornado" delivery.

18A: Gossip tidbit: ITEM.

19A: Abu Dhabi's federation: Abbr.: UAE. United Arab Emirates

22A: Actor Brody of "The Pianist": ADRIEN. (his abs)

24A: Pep: ENERGY.

25A: __ one mind: disagreeing: NOT OF.

26A: Fri. preceder: THU..

29A: Short film role: CAMEO. Hitchcock was famous for his brief appearances in his films.

30A: Some: A FEW.

31A: On the double: PRONTO.

38A: For all to see: OPENLY.

39A: Submissive: MEEK.

41A: Gas brand with a landmark sign outside Fenway Park: CITGO.

45A: Vegas cube: DIE. (plural is dice)

46A: Iraqi seaport: BASRA.

47A: Opposed (to): AVERSE.

49A: "The Picture of __ Gray": DORIAN. The only published novel (1891) by Oscar Wilde, it was made into a film and released in 1945, featuring Hurd Hatfield as Dorian.

54A: Gold units: Abbr.: KTS.. In U.S., karat is used for "proportion of fine gold in an alloy". CA, the Gold Coast.

55A: Big pictures: Abbr.: ENLS.. (enlargements)

58A: Fight-ending calls, briefly: TKOS.

59A: Insect stage: IMAGO.

60A: Animal whose fur was used for Crockett's cap: COON. What boy wouldn't want one.

62A: Slow to catch on: DENSE. Like me and today's offering.

63A: Barley beards: AWNS. Is it a "gimme" yet?

Down:

1D: Baja border city: TIJUANA. And not far from San Diego.

2D: What you "take" when you sit down: A LOAD OFF. (off your feet)

3D: Military no-show: DESERTER. They're locked-up in TIJUANA!

4D: Lumberjack's tool: AXE.

5D: UCLA player: BRUIN. No Boston Bruin today, wrong coast.

6D: Extra wide, on a shoebox: EEEE.

7D: Puppeteer Tony: SARG.

8D: VCR successor: TIVO.

9D: Campfire treat: S'MORE. Who can have just one S'MORE?

10D: For the full length of a pregnancy: TO TERM.

11D: Come to light: EMERGE.

12D: "Skip the sandwich dressing": "NO MAYO". Words I've never said.

15D: Skin care brand: NIVEA.

17D: B-G link: CDEF. (alphabetically)

21D: Working undercover, for short: INCOG. (incognito)

23D: Corn Belt state: IOWA. I'll bet it hurt to have put a Midwestern state in this CA puzzle.

26D: Gave it a shot: TRIED.

27D: Mubarak of Egypt: HOSNI.

28D: "I give up!": "UNCLE!".

31D: Angel dust, briefly: PCP.

32D: Happy Meal extra: TOY.

34D: Lariat loop: NOOSE.

35D: Poet Khayyám: OMAR.

36D: "That's not news to me": "YES, I KNOW".

37D: Soda-making process: AERATION. Puts the bubbles in it.

40D: Topeka natives: KANSANS.

41D: Insertion marks: CARETS. This.

42D: The Donald's daughter: IVANKA. Her mother is Ivana.She born October 30, 1981.

43D: Nonstick coating: TEFLON.

44D: Lawn makeup: GRASS.

46D: Western tie: BOLO. What the good old boys are wearing.

48D: Spanish hero played by Heston: EL CID.

49D: Willem of "Spider-Man": DAFOE. No abs shot for him.

51D: Appoint: NAME.

53D: Uses a spade: DIGS.

57D: Color TV pioneer: RCA.

Answer grid.

Starting in February we'll only see Dan Naddor's puzzles every other week.

Argyle

Jan 25, 2010

Interview with Peter Gordon

Several LA Times crossword constructors and hardcore solvers have mentioned on our blog the superior quality & incredible inventiveness of the NY Sun puzzles, arguably the best in the country while the paper existed (2002-2008).

The man behind all the innovation and brilliance is Peter Gordon (the taller one. Merl Reagle is to his right), who challenged and actually caused improvement of the overall puzzle quality and payment to constructors of the NY Times during his editorship at the NY Sun. Mr. Gordon is also a very accomplished constructor. He has had 76 puzzles published by the NY Times alone since 1993, not to mention all the great puzzles he constructed under the pseudonym Ogden Porter at the NY Sun.

Additionally, he's a remarkable crossword solver, and a two-time division winner at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Enjoy this refreshing & informative interview; I thoroughly did.

Can you tell us a bit more of the Fireball Crosswords you've just launched? Why all themeless? Do you have a specific target solvers in mind?

Fireball Crosswords are weekly puzzles that are e-mailed directly to you. It's $10 to subscribe ($10.61 if you pay by PayPal) for 50 puzzles. Subscription info is at www.FireballCrosswords.com. You can also pay an extra $30 and request a specific answer to appear sometime during the year, or an extra $60 to have your answer at 1-Across. I've gotten quite a few of these requests, surprisingly.

They're not all themelesses, but probably more than 40 will be. This way I'll do a theme if I get a good idea, but if I don't, then I can just do a themeless. My target solver is someone who can't get enough high-quality, tough puzzles online. There are plenty of easy puzzles available, but not too many hard ones. These should be a nice challenge even for an experienced solver.

What is a typical day like for you as an editor for Sterling Publishing? And what are your major responsibilities there?

I am responsible for overseeing all the puzzle and game books that Sterling publishes, now under the Puzzlewright Press imprint. There's no typical day, but in any day I might do some of these:

* Edit a manuscript and make a book out of it
* Test-solve a puzzle book
* Look through manuscripts submitted by authors
* Meet with the art department to discuss covers
* Work on the layout of a puzzle book
* Check over a book-in-progress from the other puzzle editors there, Francis Heaney and Patrick Blindauer
* Analyze sales numbers to see what's selling well and what isn't
* Come up with a way to repackage old material in a new format
* Think up titles for books
* Find authors for books we need written
* Answer e-mails from authors who are working on books
* Negotiate with authors on contract terms for books
* Try to make licensing deals with organizations whose logos we want to put on our books
* Look over proofs of back covers, covers, inside pages, etc.

Which one is more fun, creating a puzzle yourself or editing others' grids? And how do you describe your own editing style?

I prefer creating a puzzle myself. I don't want to edit others' grids. I do it only to remove something I don't like. I'd love it if I got grids with only great entries and nothing I disliked, but there's a lot that I don't like, so I often changed grids. I think that words that are seen only in crosswords (ESNE, SNEE, etc.), partials, unfamiliar abbreviations and the like shouldn't be used unless necessary. So if I saw something I didn't like, I'd try to get rid of it. Sometimes I couldn't, and I'd live with it. But surprisingly often it was possible to redo an area and get rid of something I didn't like. When I see a simple corner with two partials and a lousy entry, that says to me that the constructor didn't try hard enough. I spent way too much time editing the Sun puzzles. But I wanted them to be good, and that took time. Also, I tried to avoid repeating clues. In one calendar year I had fewer than 10 repeats. It meant that I'd have to spend a little more time on each clue coming up with something new and interesting, but often it would be a nice new clue, so it was worth the effort.

What kind of theme/fill attract you? And what kind of entries do you try to avoid in your puzzles?

I like themes that have never been done before. So when I got ones where it was four phrases that started with words that could follow the last Across word in the grid, I'd send a form rejection. I've seen that one too many times. And the add-a-letter-or-two-or-three or subtract-a-letter-or-two-or-three is also overdone, but at least there you can have some fun. So I'd run those occasionally, but I got so many of those themes I could have run one every day. Like I said above, I try to avoid things that you know only from crosswords. NENE is a good example. Sure, it's the state bird of Hawaii. But you probably know that only from crosswords. Can you name Hawaii's state tree? If not, why should you be required to know its state bird? (The state tree is the KUKUI.) I have no problem with words like ARIA and OREO. They show up a lot more in crosswords than in real life, but they're perfectly familiar words outside of crosswords, and I don't understand why anyone complains about them.

Where do you normally find your crossword construction muse? And what kind of newspaper/books/magazines/website do you read for inspiration?

The muse can come from anywhere. I might read or hear a phrase and get inspired. I have dozens of little scraps of paper with theme ideas jotted on them. And sometimes the ideas sit around for years before I can come up with enough other entries to make a theme. I write a current events crossword for The Week every week (http://www.theweek.com/puzzle), so I have to pay attention to the news. I read The Week every week, which I get as soon as they go to press so I know what will be in the next issue when I write the puzzle. I've read The New York Times every day since around 1991 (except for when I was on my honeymoon), and I read the comics in Newsday regularly. With a full-time job, plus The Week, plus Fireball, I don't have much time for books, but when I do read, it's usually nonfiction. I watch very little TV (well under two hours a week). I check out the crossword blogs when I have a puzzle, but most of my web surfing is for news.

What puzzles do you solve every day and who are your favorite constructors?

I solve the Times every day. I do Matt Gaffney's puzzle each week. I like the meta-puzzle aspect. I definitely will be doing the new variety cryptics in the Wall Street Journal. I'm almost done solving "Atlantic Cryptic Crosswords" so I'm glad to have more to keep my variety cryptic crossword fix filled. I don't regularly solve the L.A. Times or CrosSynergy, but I see them when we make books out of them. I look at the Newsday answer grid every day after reading the comics. And I'll peek at others now and then, including the Onion, Quigley, Wall Street Journal, Reagle, Chronicle of Higher Education, Tausig, Boston Globe, etc. Each month I download them all and I have enough to keep me busy for hundreds of hours if I ever have the time.

Besides having SUDOKU on your license plate, what are the other surprising things people might find about you?

After college, I went to the Joe Brinkman Umpire School in Cocoa, Florida. It was a five-week program for people who wanted to be professional umpires. I didn't make it to the minor leagues (only about 15% of the class does), but I umped for several summers in Brooklyn, and may well do it again sometime.

Also, I collect postcards that say "Greetings from" on them. I have more than 8,000.