Feb 28, 2010

Sunday February 28, 2010 Peter Wentz

Theme: Gross Income - ICK is inserted into common phrases/words.

22A. Martial artist's autobiography?: THE KICKING AND I. "The King and I".

37A. Protest against fiery roadsters?: RED CAR PICKET. Red Carpet.

57A. Really cool security device?: WICKED LOCK. Wedlock.

78A. Price tag in the meat department?: HAM STICKER. Hamster.

93A. Communication from perverts?: SICKOS' SIGNAL. SOS Signal.

113A. Competition for greased-up pooches?: SLICKED DOG RACE. Sled Dog Race.

16D. Preserved a liquor bottle?: PICKLED THE FIFTH. Pled the Fifth. I did not know that a bottle of liquor is also called "fifth", meaning one fifth of a gallon.

44D. Aggressive policy to increase box office sales?: TICKET OFFENSIVE. Tet Offensive. Vietnam War.

I loved the theme title "Gross Income". Very nice wordplay on the accounting term. The gross "ICK" literally comes into every theme phrase.

Last time both Hahtool and I were expecting this kind of ICK insertion in Gail Grabowski's "Gross Word" (Letter C in common phrases is changed into letter G) Sunday puzzle.

Letter K always spices up the whole grid. I counted total 16 Ks in this puzzle. The record is 30, held by Don Gagliardo (Feb 21, 2008, Thursday LAT).

Across:

1. Kept afloat: BUOYED

7. Big sizes: JUMBOS

13. Things drawn across windows: DRAPES. Not enough letters for my CURTAINS.

19. Like books for long-distance road trips: ON TAPE

20. Bob Hope Airport city: BURBANK. Near LA. I had no idea that there's a Bob Hope Airport.

21. Savor: RELISH

24. Combo wager: EXACTA. Pick the first two finishers in order.

25. "Attention!": HARK

26. 1973 Stones ballad: ANGIE. Here is the clip.

27. Columnist Bombeck: ERMA. The "Joy of Cooking" author is IRMA (Rombauer).

29. Short timetable?: SKED. Schedule.

30. Theater level: TIER

32. Foofaraw: ADO. Foofaraw is a new word to me.

33. Formal orders: DICTUMS. Or DICTA.

36. "College GameDay" football analyst Corso: LEE. For ESPN. I've never heard of this guy.

40. Neruda works: POEMS. Neruda got Nobel Literature in 1971.

42. ATF employee: AGT (Agent). ATF = Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

45. Like dried soil: CAKY. Only know this word in make-up sense.

46. Emotional work: ODE. I like this new clue.

47. Try to keep, as a title: DEFEND.

49. Madden coached them in the '70s: RAIDERS. Was unaware that John Madden coached the Oakland Raiders.

51. Pirate riches: BOOTY

53. When Hamlet feigns insanity: ACT TWO. This ACT One/Two/IV combo often gets me.

56. Not marked up: AT COST. And PROFIT (80A. Entrepreneur's goal).

60. Mortar trough: HOD. Brick hod.

61. "Classic" drinks: COKES

62. "The queen of sciences": Gauss: MATH. Maybe our Fermatprime knows this quote.

63. Thought-revealing drama techniques: ASIDES

64. Genre of the band Fall Out Boy: EMO. First encounter with the rock band Fall Out Boy.

65. Charlemagne's reign: Abbr.: HRE (Holy Roman Empire)

66. Come out with: SAY. Dictionary gives an example: Always comes out with (SAYS) the truth.

67. Check for authenticity: VET

68. Sibs, uncs, etc.: FAM. OK, Family.

69. Boxing writer Fleischer: NAT. Was he very well-known?

70. Piercing cry: SHRIEK

73. Storage facility: SHED

75. Curing solution: BRINE

77. Vow after reading vows: I DO. Nailed it.

81. LL Cool J label: DEF JAM. No idea. Does DEF stands for Definite?

83. Actor Feldman or Haim: COREY. Obtained the answer from crosses.

84. Jewish pancake: BLINTZE. Always thought it's spelled without the last E.

85. Alarm setting for one with a paper route, maybe: FIVE AM. Too late, don't you think?

89. Globule: BEAD

90. That ship: HER

91. __ brûlée: custard dessert: CRÉME. Dennis' favorite dessert.

97. Over there, back when: YON

98. Gear on the slopes: SKI MASK

100. Google had one in Aug. 2004: IPO (Initial Public Offering). I remember the hype.

101. W. Coast enforcer: LAPD

104. Letter sign-off: BEST

106. Organic compound: ENOL. Instinctive fill.

107. "__ the Boys": Katy Perry album: ONE OF. See this cover. Unknown to me.

109. Didn't hold, as dyes: BLED

111. It'll put you under: OPIATE. Great clue.

117. Energizes: REVS UP

118. Sky lights: AURORAS. Aurora is the Roman goddess of dawn.

119. "Knocked Up" director Judd: APATOW. Also the director for "The 40-Year-Old Virgin". Recognized him when I googled.

120. Does an usher's job: GREETS

121. Football bettor's concern: SPREAD. Same as "The Line"?

122. Buds at sea: MATEYS

Down:

1. Inclusive choice: BOTH

2. Doff a bowler: UNHAT. Bowler hat.

3. Castmate of Gasteyer, Ferrell et al.: OTERI (Cheri). All "SNL" cast.

4. Gas bag: YAKKER

5. Dermal opening: EPI. Epidermal.

6. Prefix with -gon: DECA. Decagon. Polygon with ten angles and ten sides.

7. Son: JUNIOR

9. W.'s degree: MBA. Bush got his MBA from Harvard.

10. Blackball: BAN

11. Batting next: ON DECK. So happy that Twins got Jim Thome.

12. Got around: SKIRTED

13. Night vision?: DREAM. Sweet clue.

14. Latin king: REX. Regal is rooted in REX.

15. "Unfortunately ...": ALAS

17. High regard: ESTEEM

18. Hipster's accessory: SHADES. Sunglasses.

20. It may be circled on a calendar: BIG DAY

23. Special gifts: KNACKS. Was thinking of real gifts.

28. Remote control?: MUTE. Have seen this clue before. Still like it.

31. Break: RECESS

33. Got a B-minus, say: DID OK

34. Summer refresher: ICE TEA. Iced Tea, please!

35. Traces: SPECKS

38. Tavern flier: DART

39. Hound: POOCH

41. Niagara Falls prov.: ONT (Ontario)

42. Spider, e.g.: ARACHNID

43. Drink named for a football team: GATORADE. Named after the University of Florida Gators.

48. Phase: FACET

51. Series of jokes: BIT. Was ignorant of this BIT meaning.

52. Football stat.: YDS

54. Emulate Don Juan: WOMANIZE

55. Gas mileage calculating aid: ODOMETER

57. Can't tell which __ up: WAY IS. I wrote down ONE IS first.

58. Onions partner: LIVER. Because you always cooks liver with onion?

59. Had too much: OD-ED. Overdosed.

62. Old school add-on?: MARM. "Add-on" to the old-time schoolteacher Schoolmarm.

66. Humiliate: SHAME

70. They may be close: SHAVES

71. And so forth: Abbr.: ETC

72. Convention booths: KIOSKS. Two Ks in this word.

73. Misrepresents: SKEWS

74. "I'm talking to you!": HEY

75. Like some gowns: BRIDAL. Bridal gowns.

79. Swindler: CROOK

80. Seating __: PLAN. I wanted DUCK.

82. Bowie at the Alamo: JIM

84. Parent's reminder: BE GOOD

87. Brunch drinks: MIMOSAS. Champagne & orange juice.

89. Humans and ostriches, e.g.: BIPEDS

91. Many a sci-fi villain: CYBORG. Cyb(ernetic) Org(anism). Mechanically enhanced human.

92. Former "At the Movies" co-host: ROEPER (Richard). The other co-host is Roger Ebert.

94. Bring to the majors: CALL UP. Major League Baseball.

95. "Nothing Compares 2 U" singer O'Connor. SINEAD. I love this song.

96. Experimental runner: LAB RAT

99. Stays fresh: KEEPS

102. Fundraising dinner unit: PLATE

103. Plastic duck, e.g.: DECOY

105. Subdue by shocking: TASE. Don't Tase Me, Bro!

107. Fried Cajun veggie: OKRA

108. Flat beer's lack: FOAM

112. King whose tomb was found in 1922: TUT. Poor lad!

114. Bargain bin abbr.: IRR (Irregular)

115. "Take This Job and Shove It" songwriter David Allan __: COE. Sorry, dude, don't know you.

116. College résumé fig.: GPA (Grade Point Average)

Answer grid.

C.C.

Feb 27, 2010

Interview with Brad Wilber

Brad Wilber's puzzles are just plain hard. He's a master at creating Augusta National - style late week themeless puzzles. I am just a weekend duffer who still has not figured out how to fade/draw.

Brad made his LAT debut in March, 2008. Since then, he has made 15 puzzles for the LA Times. Brad has also had 17 puzzles published by the NY Times. All of them are challenging themeless.

Hope this interview helps us get to know Brad a bit and understand the wide range of knowledge needed in order to solve his puzzles.

What is the seed entry for this puzzle? And what kind of troubles did you go through to make the grid work?

I started out with TRICK CANDLE. It was one of those moments where the entry and the clue came to me almost simultaneously, although as I write this I don't know if Rich went with my original clue or not ("It's wind-resistant?"). I found multiword entries to go on top of it, and then the Elton John song "ISLAND GIRL" presented itself as a possible crossing and as something I wanted to keep if I could. The whole northwest corner of the puzzle has been in existence for about 3 years; the rest of the puzzle went through several half-hearted drafts over a long period before I arrived at something I liked enough to submit.

Which are your favorite entries in this puzzle and which ones do you expect a few groans from solvers?

Well, as I mentioned above, I kept the upper left stacks "alive" and intact for a long time, because I saw an opportunity for a couple of new entries. I hope people have fun in that area of the puzzle. WALDO PEPPER was the opposite of a "favorite," but maybe some out there will remember the movie. Nice early role for Susan Sarandon. Interestingly, there was a real-life screenwriter named WALDO SALT, who won Oscars for "Midnight Cowboy" and "Coming Home." There must be a connection, eh?

What is your background and how does that influence your puzzle style?

I'm the son of two teachers and I now work as a college librarian. I have to field questions from students in all disciplines, and I have to help develop the collection in all those disciplines, as well. A lot of my regular work life is about "something for everyone," or "be ready for anything," and maybe that is reflected in my puzzle philosophy. I tend to mix eras as well, without thinking much about it. For some, that adds charm, and for others, I'm letting the nostalgic overshadow the contemporary. Back in my teens I used to tackle the Sunday New York Times puzzle with almost complete dependence on a phalanx of crossword dictionaries and the patient coaching of a dear "Phone-a-Friend"--a school colleague of my dad's. My pop-culture radar was so narrow--she had to do all the heavy lifting on Big Band singers and Hedda Hopper and Ipana toothpaste and goodness knows what else. Maybe the way I work sometimes is an unconscious tribute to the breadth that Roberta tried to give me over those many years.

None of the five Wilber LAT puzzles I've blogged is themed. What are the reasons behind your preferences for themeless?

The sad-sack copout answer is that theme ideas don't come easily to me any more. Once upon a time I was as guilty as anyone of overworking the rebus, or the letter-drop, or whatever, so that when some editors declared certain theme avenues officially dead, I felt I had fully participated in the flogging. Now, with the moratorium in place, even though I have a sincere interest in jump-starting that side of my puzzle brain and becoming more versatile by doing some early-week or mid-week themed puzzles, I have an idea that it's harder than ever to break in. I'm tough on themes as a solver, too, which scares my constructor side. I'm pretty much on board with Brendan Quigley's essay "Ten Bullshit Themes," which you link to in your December interview with him. To deliver a theme with "wow factor" in today's market, it takes at least some inspiration, not just determination to get more mileage out of an old jalopy of a theme. Fortunately, we have many constructors out there who maintain good connections to their Muses.

I guess I've managed a modest bagful of nice themes over the years, especially in my early work with Dell and with John Samson at Simon & Schuster. I wouldn't mind seeing a stronger comeback for some of the kinds of themes the late Frances Hansen did--like where each theme entry is the response to an interview question. I did one in that vein called "The Chicken and the Ego," which read like sound bites from a celebrity rooster with poultry puns in each one. It's probably still kicking around out there in reprints. Well, you may see me on a Wednesday or Thursday someday. Since October I haven't done any puzzles for publication except a few for the student newspaper--the Houghton Star--at the college where I work. That forced me into themed mode a bit. We'll see. Themed or themeless, I'd like to get back into constructing again now that some other writing projects are finished.

As far as the "hurray for themeless" side of the coin, I like the potential for more multiword entries and the challenge of trying to engineer the first appearance of a word or phrase. I think most constructors are tinkerers, in that we look at many, many different fill configurations before we commit ourselves. Themeless puzzles allow for maximum indulgence of tinkering, since you're not working around letter combinations that are locked in because of the execution of a theme.

What makes a themeless sparkle for you? The fresh multi-word entries? The never-appeared cool names?

Yes, all those things, plus great cluing--tricksy but fair, with a few clues where I learn something. Like most people I admire unimpeachably "clean" fill in a themeless. The Patrick Berry plateau. And I'm often intrigued by themeless puzzles with a dual byline--I find myself speculating on how the collaboration actually worked. I'd love to try it sometime. Who's game?

What references tools do you use for cluing and fact checks? And from where do you draw puzzle inspiration?

Ah, this is where working in a library comes in very handy. I don't stock my home office with reference works aside from the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, because I have ready access to so many items that can help with verifications. Having said that, sometimes I make a beeline for Wikipedia like everybody else, even after I've issued caveats to students about it. (This question reminds me that
I went to grad school with someone who was pursuing a library science degree specifically to further his puzzle career. The puzzle career ended up being relatively brief from what I can see, but I hope he recouped his investment!)

Puzzle fodder can come from everywhere. The nice thing about having lots of friends who are writers is that I'm not the only one to whip out a notebook in the middle of conversation and write down an idea somebody else gave me. Sometimes my friends realize instantly what I am doing and even propose their own clues! The best puzzle entries are usually ones that you just run into in daily life, not ones you have to unearth, so I make a point of not "trolling" for puzzle entries. Enough of them come along without me doing that.

What is the highlight of your crossword career? And why?

It's hard to beat the first time you see your name in print. For me that was in Dell Champion [magazine] in the early 1990s sometime. I wasn't too long out of college, and I remember setting the magazine on the coffee table, open to the right page, and trying to go about my day but feeling drawn back to stare at the puzzle.

The beginning of my regular appearances in newspaper markets and the emergence of the crossword blog kind of coincide, and lots of rewarding moments have come from the instant-feedback world constructors now live in. An entire puzzle getting a good reception...or individual entries solvers liked, or clues I wrote that the editor kept and then the blogosphere approved, etc. Criticism, especially memorably worded, can turn into a favorite moment because it's the quickest route to insights on what the audience needs from you. There's not much point in being defensive about minutiae in a puzzle that doesn't go over well--you just let it shape your approach and hone your instincts on how to deliver something that has plenty of rigor but also has "solver empathy."

I made my L.A. Times debut during the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament a couple of years ago, and that was a highlight. I was flattered that Rich felt the piece had the kind of panache that would please everybody at ACPT using it as an incidental practice puzzle, and it was the beginning of an ongoing working relationship that I really value.

What kind of advice would you give to solvers who struggle with your puzzles? Personally I just feel so inadequate tackling your work.

Yikes, that sounds like a question for somebody else to answer. Some of you will know Joon Pahk, who's a frequent blog contributor and a talented constructor in his own right. He used to experience epic frustration levels over puzzles of mine, but I think he'd say he's kind of "cracked" me in the last year. We have some common interests--we both are tennis fans, I think, and have strong literature/art/theater backgrounds--so perhaps that helped him stick with me a bit longer. Maybe he'll write in to say that there IS hope!

I haven't set out to be anybody's nemesis, but I do like my puzzles hard, and I admit I tend to construct and clue for the Solver Who's Seen Everything--the Amy Reynaldos and the Dan Feyers of the world. I would hope that part of the answer to getting better at my puzzles is simply getting better at late-week difficulty in general. But I'm always open to the idea that if solvers find me continually inaccessible then the onus is on me to do something about it. Making puzzles vocabulary-based rather than a minefield of proper nouns is something I've become more conscious of. I'm known in my circle for having the best memory for names and titles--nobody will play "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" with me, for example--so I've found I must take care to adjust my ideas of "well-known." It's such ticklish territory, isn't it-- discussions of what solvers "should" know? One person's first fill-in is another person's last.

Even if it is a constructor's responsibility to keep to the familiar, I think solvers--myself included--can expand their "familiar" and make great leaps in proficiency by even just nudging up their alertness to stuff in their environment, in the media, etc. Did your neighbor get a new aquarium fish originally bred in Japan? Did the TV chef use a fancy liqueur in a recipe? New baby in "Baby Blues" or botanically-named character in "Brenda Starr"? A mental note--or a literal note--on any one of these things could rescue you on a given day. Laura CHINCHILLA just became the first woman president of Costa Rica--how long before some enterprising constructor does something with that? And look for new twists on the old standby entries. Brian ENO just scored the film version of "The Lovely Bones"--I haven't run across that clue yet, but you can bet there is a puzzle already in the pipeline somewhere that leaped on that little nugget.

What kind of crosswords do you solve daily and who are your favorite constructors?

As far as newspaper puzzles I stick mostly to the New York Times and the L.A. Times. I pick one or the other to solve Monday through Thursday, and then Friday through Sunday I do pretty much all the puzzles on Orange's blog. There are quite a few themeless constructors who get a fist pump from me when I see their byline because I enjoy them so much: Byron Walden (not just for his august initials), Joe Di Pietro, Patrick Berry,
Paula Gamache, Barry Silk, Doug Peterson, Brendan Emmett Quigley, Tony Orbach, Mark Diehl--I've left people out, I'm sure. For themes I look for Liz Gorski, David Kahn, and Joe Krozel. I do buy crossword puzzle books, too. I'm waiting for Frank Longo to do another Cranium Crushing Crosswords--and I haven't gotten The Wrath of [Bob] Klahn yet, but I look forward to it.


Besides crosswords, what else do you do for fun?

Another milieu where I have some name recognition is in the opera blogosphere, because I write about New York's Metropolitan Opera (even though I don't live in New York City and only go to the Met once or twice a year!) When I'm at the ACPT event in Brooklyn [the latest edition completed just last weekend], I always meet a few people who know of me both in the puzzle context and the opera context. That's really fun for me. These are the people for whom opera entries are gimmes--a small population!

I collect antique editions of juvenile mystery series, like the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and quite a few others. I read a lot in contemporary fiction and history, and I'm a new convert to online book swapping. I'm a big sports watcher; I visited Vancouver B.C. last summer so I spent more time on the Olympics this year than I do normally. I'm also a film buff. I've said before on the Wordplay blog that I'm nearing the end of a long project to watch every film ever nominated for an Oscar in "major categories." I'm good with most genres except for monster movies and horror. Since childhood I've had an overactive startle response--not an asset in the movie theater, although I guess I'm glad to be a source of mirth for my friends! I enjoyed stuff like "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Exorcist" as part of the Oscar project, but I have to say that when I got around to "Aliens" (1986), I watched most of the last act on fast-forward. Does that still count?

Saturday February 27, 2010 Brad Wilber

Theme: None

Total blocks: 31

Total words: 70

Brad Wilber mentioned in his interview that "As far as the "hurray for themeless" side of the coin, I like the potential for more multiword entries and the challenge of trying to engineer the first appearance of a word or phrase". In today's puzzle, he packed 17 multiword entries, including the stacked 11s in the top and bottom of the grid.

Interesting to learn
that his seed entry is TRICK CANDLE (17A. It won't go out). I had guessed SPRUCE GOOSE (15A). Brad's original clue is "It's wind-resistant?". Which one do you like better?

I struggled again. It's really a Herculean task to complete a Brad Wilber puzzle.

Across:

1. Game with a hollow ball: TABLE TENNIS. We just call it Ping-Pong in China.

12. Pink Floyd guitarist Barrett: SYD

15. Unexpected nickname of a Hughes Aircraft plane built mostly of birch: SPRUCE GOOSE. Should be a gimme for those regulars who follow this blog. Carol & Dick's "Spruce Goose" photo was featured in our "Picture of the Day" last August.

16. Iberian land, in Olympic shorthand: POR (Portugal)

18. 2008-'09 Japanese prime minister Taro __: ASO. I confused this dude with Shinzō Abe, another Japanese prime minister.

19. Hitchhiker's need: RIDE

20. 1960s "New Left" org.: SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). Was unaware of the "New Left" moniker.

21. Hypothetical links: APE-MEN. The evolutionary hypothetical links. I was in the "IFS" direction.

24. Annual event won five times by Fred Couples: SKINS GAME. Was thinking of a regular PGA tournament. SKINS GAME is held each Nov/Dec after the PGA season. Fred Couples was nicknamed "Mr. Skins" due to his incredible dominance in this event.

26. False: Pref.: PSEUDO. As in pseudo-intellectual.

30. Announcer Hall: EDD. Announcer for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno".

31. Slick, in a way: GLIB. In talking.

32. "Car Talk" airer: NPR. "Car Talk" has a tremendous podcast followers as well.

33. Worthless thing, in slang: DOG. New slang to me then.

34. Table d'__: HOTE. Literally "Host's Table". Same as "prix fixe".

35. Trees in giraffe diets: ACACIAS. Oh, I did not know this. Wikipedia says giraffes have a tough tongue that can withstand the thorns of acacias.

39. Upset winner at the 1992 Kentucky Derby: LIL E. TEE. No idea. What does E stand for?

41. "Dream Along With Me" singer: COMO (Perry). Here is the clip.

42. Teachers' gp.: NEA (National Education Association). I am used to the National Endowment of Arts abbr.

44. "Citizen X" actor: REA (Stephen). I've never seen "Citizen X".

45. Brand of daminozide, a growth regulator: ALAR. It's always clued as "Banned apple spray".

46. Predatory fish: GAR. The needlefish, having long jaws with needlelike teeth.

47. Men's periodical, in British slang: LAD MAG. Have never heard of this slang. Makes sense though.

51. Fixture near a playground, perhaps: PARK BENCH

54. "Yo, Hadrian!": AVE. Latin for "Yo". Hadrian is the Roman emperor from 117 to 138, total stranger to me.

55. Information technology giant: UNISYS

56. Hawk's cause: WAR

58. __ to the city: A KEY. Got the answer from Down entries. Not fond of this partial.

59. Med. checkup initials: LDL. The bad cholesterol.

60. Treasured correspondence: LOVE LETTERS. Ah, my sweet high school days!

63. Hanna-Barbera collectible: CEL

64. Ibsen classic: A DOLL'S HOUSE. Awesome entry.

65. Metal precioso: ORO. Precioso is Spanish for "precious".

66. 1975 Robert Redford title role: WALDO PEPPER. My first encounter with "The Great Waldo Pepper".

Down:

1. Instep coverer, at times: T- STRAP

2. Blooming times: APRILS. Fell into the trap and misread the clue as "Booming times".

3. Show indignation: BRIDLE

4. Time management expert?: LUCE (Henry). The founder of Time magazine. Great clue.

5. Johann __, 16th-century defender of Catholicism: ECK. Simply forgot. He argued against Martin Luther.

6. Film-noir heroes: TECS (Detectives)

7. "By Jove!": EGADS

8. Demand-based, briefly, as charter plane services: NONSKED. Nonscheduled. Got me.

9. Tacit approval: NOD

10. 1975 Elton John chart-topper: ISLAND GIRL. Didn't come to me readily.

11. Runs very slowly: SEEPS

12. Musical that parodies Arthurian legend: SPAMALOT

13. El Capitan's locale: YOSEMITE. Was ignorant of the rock formation El Capitan (The Captain) and its location.

14. One in service to the queen?: DRONE BEE. Was too slow to connect "queen" with "queen bee".

22. Anti-intellectual epithet: EGGHEAD

25. Loved one: IDOL

27. Pops open: UNCORKS. Wine.

28. Printer resolution meas.: DPI (Dots Per Inch)

29. Sunkist offering: ORANGE SODA. I've never developed a taste for soft drinks.

35. Cliff-diving mecca: ACAPULCO. JFK honeymooned here.

36. Holey vessel: COLANDER. I was picturing a leaking ship "vessel" rather than the kitchen utensil.

37. Texas Panhandle city: AMARILLO. Literally "yellow" in Spanish. All of the triple 8s in this corner are one-word entry.

38. Hannity of punditry: SEAN. He drives me nuts.

40. Rustic expanse: LEA

43. Fuse, in a way: ARC WELD. New phrase to me.

48. Reconcile: MAKE UP

49. Disinclined: AVERSE. It needs "with "to"', no?

50. Natural steam source: GEYSER

52. Constitution part, perhaps: BY LAW

53. Fox hunt cry: HALLO

57. Opp. of a petitioner, in court: RESP (Respondent)

58. Perched on: ATOP

61. 3-D stat: VOL (Volume). Why? I don't understand the rationale for this clue.

62. Handy article: THE. Definite article. "Handy" indeed.

Answer grid.

C.C.

Feb 26, 2010

Friday February 26, 2010 Doug Peterson

Theme: (In)CH In - CH is attached to the end of the second word of a common phrase.

20A. Taking pictures of potatoes and pasta?: SHOOTING STAR(CH). From "shooting stars." Watch your carbs.

30A. Trapdoor in an Old West saloon?: COWBOY HAT(CH). From "cowboy hat." Ten gallon capacity.

40A. Group of show-offs?: HOT DOG BUN(CH). From "hot dog buns."

54A. Spiel from a maestro?: ORCHESTRA PIT(CH). From "orchestra pit".

HI THERE gang. I've been in a few orchestra pits, and occasionally have trouble with pitch, so I can relate.

It's JazzBumpa, your KEMOSABE trombonist. Do you think they're GROANERS? I loved them all! I had all kinds of trouble, and went for red letters all over the place.

Across:

1. Predatory group: PACK, as in wolves.

5. Grifter's ploy: SCAM. Swindle, defraud, gyp. Definitely not NICE.

9. Jerk: SCHMO. A stupid or obnoxious person, so I guess it fits.

14. Stadium near Citi Field: ASHE. Named for the late tennis star Arthur ASHE.

15. Pear, for one: POME. According to Wikipedia, "A pome is an accessory fruit composed of one or more carpels surrounded by accessory tissue. The accessory tissue is interpreted by some specialists as an extension of the receptacle and is then referred to as "fruit cortex", and by others as a fused hypanthium or "torus"; it is the most edible part of this fruit." There will be a quiz.

16. From the other side: THEIR. I'm thinking over THERE, but THEY'RE in position in THEIR place over THERE. So THERE!

17. Topical treatment: BALM. Salve, me!

18. Bring down: RUIN. I had RAZE, which caused more problems.

19. Has coming: EARNS. Paycheck, punishment, revenge, etc.

23. Has a connection with: TIES INTO. This is OK, but I could not TIE INTO it.

24. Diamond brothers' surname: ALOU. NEIL has a brother named ALOU? NOPE, they are Matty, Felipe and Jesus Alou. Not your average ball players.

25. DJIA part: Abbr.: AVG. Dow Jones Industrial Average. Huge gap down yesterday, before scrambling back, but still ended off for the day.

26. PC key under Z: ALT. On my desk top and lap top, it's a Windows flag symbol. ALT is under X. Tsk, tsk.

27. Circuit: LAP. Once around the track. Or this.

35. "Baudolino" novelist: ECO. Italian novelist Umberto ECO. Didn't know this one. I did read "Foucault's Pendulum." Weird ending, but still better than anything by that hack Dan Brown.

36. Massage target: ACHE. Melissa - I have this knot under my left shoulder blade . . .

37. Lee who founded the Shakers: ANN. From Wikipedia. "The Shakers were originally located in England in 1747, in the home of Mother Ann Lee. Both Quaker and Shaker groups believe that everybody could find God within him or herself, rather than through clergy or rituals, but the Shakers tended to be more emotional and demonstrative in their worship. Shakers also believed that their lives should be dedicated to pursuing perfection and continuously confessing their sins and attempting a cessation of sinning." So, why aren't there more of them?

38. Ink holders: PADS

39. Sixers, on a scoreboard: PHI. The City of Brotherly Love. Not my experience. Perhaps Dennis can fill me in.

44. "Kidding!": NOT. Well, are you kidding or NOT?

45. Project's conclusion?: ILE. No comment. (ILE is the end of "Projectile")

46. Meat seasoning: RUB: "Aye, there's the RUB!

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there's the respect

That makes calamity of so long life;"

- Piglet, or Hamlet, or one of those guys from the PEN.

47. Chiseled abbr.: ESTD (Established). Chiseled into the cornerstone of a building.

49. Like radon: ODORLESS. I shall smell no evil. It seeps out of the earth in some places. Here is more than you want to know about it.

56. Talia of "The Godfather": SHIRE. My favorite actress of Hobbit heritage.

57. Harrow rival: ETON. Totally cricket.

58. Sound after ah: CHOO. This one, I get. Ahchoo. I'm considering buying stock in Kimberly-Clark.

59. Less brusque: NICER. Rude and Curt. If my name were "Curt" I would find this repugnant.

60. Kevin's "Tin Cup" co-star: RENE (Russo). And Kevin Costner. Though the cups might be optional.

61. In a bit, poetically: ANON. Back at ya, later B'RER.

62. "Brigadoon" composer: LOEWE. Alan Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical about a strangely magical Scottish town. I spent a century there one night, but the Whiskey was HERCULEAN.

63. Sibling, in dialect: B'RER. A brother of Remus's niece.

64. Casual dissent: NOPE. Ain't gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent.

Down:

1. Brewer Frederick: PABST. What'll you have? Pabst Blue Ribbon! Alas, I put in Coors.

2. Leading Japanese brewery: ASAHI. Leading glass company too. True story. Some visitors came from Asahi Glass. Their business cards were in Japanese on one side, and English on the other. On the English side, they said: Asahi Grass Company. I am not making this up.

3. Lover of Daphnis: CHLOE. Ravel knew them when they were young.

4. Friend in old Westerns?: KEMOSABE. Don't care for the clue. Not just any old westerns!

5. Elastic: SPRINGY. And Boingy.

6. Matter: COUNT. If it matters, I'll count it. Or, I'll let the COUNT decide.

7. Plácido's pal: AMIGO. Mi amigos, I was expecting a specific person, not a generality.

8. Retail store department: MEN'S. Where guys might go to slack off.

9. Tiger's asset: STEALTH. Well . . .

10. "Cuchi-cuchi" entertainer: CHARO. She is well known for being famous.

11. Requiring superhuman effort: HERCULEAN. But just right, if you have the right dad.

12. Ho Chi __ City: MINH. Named for the National hero of Viet Nam.

13. Hosp. areas: ORS. Operating rooms. Or ERS, emergency rooms. Of course, I guessed wrong.

21. Record, in a way: TIVO. New, hi-tech crosswordese.

22. Powder source: TALC. A mineral, if you're playing 20 questions. AKA, H4Mg3Si4O10(OH)2

26. "... __ additional cost to you!": AT NO. But wait, there's more ...

28. Elec. designation: AC/DC. Alternating current / Direct current. Not one of my favorite groups, and not so current. I do like seeing it cross "circuit."

29. Ritzy: POSH. And possibly spicy.

30. Crunch's rank: CAP'N. Cute. It got me. Daws Butler did the voice. I thought it was Jim Bacus.

31. Cuatro doubled: OCHO. I ate this one up.

32. Jambalaya basic: WHITE RICE. Really wanted something more spicy. (See 29D.)

33. Find repugnant: HATE. I love the way this crosses ILE.

34. So-so center?: AND. Center of the expression "so-and-so." A so-and-so is someone who is not NICE.

38. Tavern keeper: PUBLICAN. I did not know that. From public house, perhaps? Is that where PUB comes from? So, if someone is a tavern keeper, then does something else, then become a tavern keeper again, is he a - Hold on. No politics!

40. "Howdy!": HI, THERE. Hola mi amigas y mi amigos.

41. Shoppe modifier: OLDE. As in curiosity, maybe?

42. Pun, often: GROANER. Well, I'd say that depends on who you ask.

43. Tupperware sound: BURP. Excuse me, but nobody has ever called me "Tupperware" before. Maybe I associate with too many PUBLICANS.

48. Thread site: SCREW. Machine screw. But you knew that. Didn't you?

49. Weasel relative: OTTER. Playful as an OTTER works for me. Playful as a weasel just doesn't seem right.

50. Mindless worker: DRONE. You just never know what The Google will reveal.

51. Prefix with centric: ETHNO. ETHNOcentric. My group is better than your group. I had HELIO, which caused no end of problems.

52. Exclusive story: SCOOP. I always like exclusive stories about ice cream.

53. Performed superbly: SHONE. Like the recently completed lady's skating programs. Nothing short of HERCULEAN!

54. Wheeling's river: OHIO. What is the greatest feat of strength on the map? Wheeling West Virginia on the Ohio River. I can't remember important stuff, but dumb jokes stay with me forever.

55. Balkan native: SERB. Serbians and Croatians have the same (or very close) spoken language, but different written languages.

56. Show with a "Weekend Update" segment, briefly: SNL. Saturday Night Live. Crossward stalward. Pick a skit.

Answer grid.

Pretty good puzzle, and fun to blog. That's all, folks.

Cheers!

JzB

Feb 25, 2010

Thursday February 25, 2010 Gary Steinmehl

Theme: HEAD (65A. Word that can precede each word in 17-, 38- and 61-Across) - All three component words in each theme entry can follow HEAD.

17A. Detectives assigned to unsolved mysteries?: COLD CASE HUNTERS. Head Cold. Headcase (a mentally unstable person). Headhunters (professional recruiters).

38A. Intermission queues?: RESTROOM LINES. Headrest. Headroom (Nautical term for "the clear space between two decks", new word to me). Headlines.

61A. Shower gifts for brie lovers?: CHEESEBOARD SETS. Headcheese is defined as "A jellied loaf or sausage made from chopped and boiled parts of the feet, head, and sometimes the tongue and heart of an animal, usually a hog". Yuck! I am glad I've never had (or heard) of it. Headboard (of bed). Headsets.

I've never seen a theme with a defining word that can precede three different words in each theme entry. Very ambitious, isn't it? Reminds me of this constructor's last "LINCOLN CENTER" puzzle. Just ingenious! Gary Steinmehl not only placed LINCOLN CENTER in the very heart of the grid, he also embedded ABE in each of the four theme answers.

Although I am not familiar with every "head" word, the resulting theme phrases all sound natural and fun to me. I also love the twisty clues for the below small words:

27A. Stable diet?: HAY. Nice play on "Staple diet".

29D. House call?: YEA. The congressional vote.

36D. Like a whip?: SMART. Idiom: smart as a whip. I was thinking of the lashing whip.

64D. Fled or bled: RAN. Good rhyme.

Across:

1. Quick kiss: PECK. I like how it crosses PACK UP (1D. Get ready to go).

5. Bond player, seven times: MOORE (Roger)

10. Confiscated auto: REPO

14. End of a fronton game?: ALAI. Literally the end of the term Jai Alai. Fronton is the Jai Alai arena. Stumped many of us last time.

15. Back list: INDEX

16. Court cry: OYEZ. And NINE (19. High Court count). The High Court (Supreme Court) has NINE justices.

21. Calls, in a way: RADIOS

22. Waste not: USE. Just could not think of a three-letter word synonym for SAVE.

23. Navig. guide: GPS

26. Quarterback Roethlisberger: BEN. With the Pittsburgh Steelers. A pretty good golfer.

30. Soak through: PERMEATE. Nice word.

33. Siesta shawl: SERAPE. It's a wrap!

35. Local groups: UNIONS

37. Start of a theory: IDEA. Ah, no wordplay on "start".

42. Hawaii's "Valley Isle": MAUI

43. Midwestern landscape: PLAINS

44. Ring setting: CIRCUS. Was thinking of the wedding ring.

47. Carrying capacities: ARMLOADS. Came to me slowly.

51. Pavement warning: SLO. Wrote down WET first.

52. Word processor setting: TAB

54. Mad Hatter's drink: TEA. "Alice in Wonderland".

55. Fjord relative: RIA. Narrow inlet. Fjord is the Norwegian long & narrow inlet.

56. Like some bio majors: PRE-MED

59. Daphne eloped with him on "Frasier": NILES (Crane). I've never seen "Frasier".

66. Crucial artery: AORTA

67. Regarding, to counsel: IN RE

69. Watch secretly: SPY ON

70. "Just a coupla __": SECS

Down:

2. Kay Thompson's impish six-year-old: ELOISE. The girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel.

3. Mobile maker: CALDER (Alexander). The sculptor who invented the mobile art.

4. William the pirate: KIDD. William the Kidd. He was hanged for piracy in 1701. New to me. Interesting crossing with KIDDO (20A. Buddy boy).

5. Hamm of soccer: MIA. Wife of Nomar Garciaparra (ex-Red Sox).

6. Switch positions: ONS. Or OFFS.

7. River forming part of Germany's eastern border: ODER. Kazie just mentioned yesterday that it flows north to the Baltic.

8. Betty Ford Center program: REHAB

9. Oozes out: EXUDES

10. Prefix with tiller: ROTO. Rototiller.

11. Sleeping aid: EYESHADE. Got a lovely pillow-like lavender-scented eyeshade for Christmas.

12. A pop: PER

13. Jigger's 11/2: Abbr.: OZS. Dictionary defines jigger as "a small whiskey glass holding 11/2 ounce".

18. Clear and convincing: COGENT

24. Poker holding: PAIR

25. Condescend: STOOP. Penned in DEIGN.

31. Partner of words: MUSIC. Shouldn't it be "Partner of lyrics"?

32. Gay leader?: ENOLA. Enola Gay, the WWII bomber. Got me.

34. Unilever laundry soap brand: RINSO. I've never heard of this brand.

38. Train guide: RAIL

39. Continental: EUROPEAN

41. Away from the coast: INLAND

42. Roast hosts, for short: MCS

45. Sport __: family vehicles: UTES. We had plenty of discussions (and whining) about this fill before.

46. Equal to, with "the": SAME AS

48. Actress Dahl: ARLENE

49. No-calorie cola: DIET RC. Have never tried RC Cola.

50. Gets fresh with: SASSES. Classic right or bottom edge word. Four Ss.

53. Dizzy's jazz: BEBOP

57. Wine list heading: REDS

58. Fishing craft: DORY

60. Cow-horned goddess: ISIS. Maybe JD can tell us more about this Egyptian goddess of fertility.

61. Comic Margaret: CHO. Of Korean descent. Her stuff is often too racy for my taste. Cho is Cao in Chinese.

62. Cut off: HEW