Jul 31, 2010

Saturday July 31, 2010 Timothy L. Meaker

Theme: None

Total words: 72 / Total blocks: 35

Average Word length: 5.28

FYI, 72 is the maximum word count allowed for a themeless.

This puzzle is anchored by three triple stacks of 10s in the top right and bottom left corners. A couple of 9s and 8s in Across build up the basic frame work. The Downs are mostly of medium and short length today.

I'd like to guess that the seed word is OPERA HOUSE (16A. Sight from Sydney Harbour). I hope it's a gimme for all of you, since Kazie devoted a whole episode focusing on Sydney Harbour in her Oz trip series.

E is the most used letters in crossword. Today we have 26 Es. S is very common too. 19 in this grid. Definitely not a scrabbly puzzle: no Q, V, X & Z. Still a tough slog for me. The names are killing me!

Across:

1. Not clear-cut : GRAY. Gray area. Most of the Saturday clues are "not clear-cut". Drive me nuts!

5. Census bureau, essentially : DATA CENTER. "Essentially" yes.

15. Artist Bonheur : ROSA. French artist. Died in 1899. Way too obscure for me.

17. Harpsichordist Kipnis : IGOR. Total stranger. Do you know anything about him, Jayce?

18. Aerodynamics research tool : WIND TUNNEL. Gimme for Dudley, I am sure. Warren was a pilot too.

19. Cares for : TENDS

21. Beginnings : SEEDS

22. Servers with wheels : TEA WAGONS. Oh, we call them tea carts.

25. Co. whose largest hub is at O'Hare : UAL. United Airlines.

28. Shooting sound : REPORT. Dictionary explain report as "a loud noise, as from an explosion", as in the report of a distant cannon. Learning moment for me.

29. Items in a nautical table : TIDES. Ah, for Spitzboov.

31. Pub employees : BARMAIDS. I only know bartender. Barmaids sounds outdated.

34. Show-off : HOT-DOG

35. Land in un lac : ILE. French. Island in a lake.

36. Lo-__ graphics : RES

37. Vigor : PEP

38. Suffix with string : ENT. Stringent. Even this stumped me.

39. Took off : DOFFED. I need "hat" in the clue.

41. Hands and feet : MEASURES. A foot = 12". A hand = 4". Both are measures. Stymied me.

43. Wind threat : SHEAR. Another aviation term? What does it mean?

44. "Samson Agonistes" dramatist : MILTON (John). All I know about Milton is "Paradise Lost".

45. Indirect route : ARC

46. White Sands and others : TEST SITES

49. Actress Van Devere : TRISH. First encounter with this actress.

51. Beaumont, Texas, university : LAMAR. Peeked at the answer sheet.

53. Old-time educator : SCHOOLMARM. I liked this entry.

58. Mystical amulet : MOJO

59. Where to find waiters : TRAIN DEPOT. Waiters = Those who wait. Not your restaurant waiters. Tricky clue.

60. Replacement for those left out : ET AL. Latin for "and others".

61. Weathers the struggle : SOLDIERS ON. Great fill too.

62. Rink fake : DEKE. Hockey "fake" move. Learned from doing Xword.

Down:

1. Abrasive bits : GRIT

2. Subject of Joshua Kendall's "The Man Who Made Lists" : ROGET. Roger's Thesaurus.

3. In unison : AS ONE

4. Spar part : YARDARM. Need our sailor Gunghy's explanation.

5. Stock page name : DOW. Dow Jones Index.

6. Bee: Pref. : API. Only know apian.

7. Stretching muscles : TENSORS. Thought the clue was asking for an ING ending word.

8. Hot-blooded : ARDENT

9. "Gremlins" actress : CATES (Phoebe). No idea. Wife of actor Kevin Kline.

10. Former Israeli prime minister Olmert : EHUD.

11. Judgment for insufficient evidence : NONSUIT. Is this the same as "dismissal', Lemonade?

12. Napa vessel : TUN. Wine cask.

13. Capt.'s heading : ESE. Well, it could be anywhere.

14. Family mem. : REL (Relative)

20. Oath taker : SWEARER. Only one er-ending word today, not bad at all. Our old TMS used way too many ER, RE, ED, S, EST affixes.

23. On foot, in France : A PIED. Literally "on foot".

24. Jupiter and Mars : GODS. Both Roman gods. Gunghy just mentioned yesterday that only planets are named after gods. The moons are named after the lesser characters: Titans, Fates, etc.

26. Scary snake : ADDER. Not "one who adds" ER word. Good.

27. Freetown currency : LEONE. Money unit in Sierra Leone. Freetown is the capital city.

29. Nursery purchase : TOPSOIL. Plant "Nursery", Dummy!

30. York and Snorkel: Abbr. : SGTS (Sergeants)

31. Orders : BIDS

32. Welcoming word : ALOHA. Five letters in Chinese too: Ni Hao.

33. Direct : REFER

34. Qualifying races : HEATS

37. Bombard : PELT

40. Elvis sighting, e.g. : FACTOID. I don't get this clue. Sightings are not really 'facts", correct?

41. Accidents : MISHAPS

42. Not tractable : UNTAMED

44. "Animal magnetism" coiner : MESMER (Franz). No idea. Just learned that "mesmerize" is rooted in his name. Interesting!

46. Symbol of equivalence, in math : TILDE. I don't get this clue either. I learned math in Chinese and I sucked.

47. Fake feelings : EMOTE. "Fake" is a verb here. I was in the adjective direction.

48. Man of letters? : SAJAK (Pat). Host of "Wheel of Fortune". Could be a clue for ROGET (2D) too. He is indeed a "man of letters".

50. Noodle __: old product name : RONI

52. Part : ROLE

53. Houston in NYC, et al. : STS. Houston Streets.

54. Zagreb's land, to the IOC : CRO (Croatia). I pictures a happy smile in Tinbeni. Are girls aggressive there?

55. Holbrook of "Evening Shade" : HAL

56. Eeyore pal : ROO. Kanga's kid in "Winnie-the-Pooh".

57. K2, for one: Abbr. : MTN (Mountain). K2 is the second-highest mountain on Earth after Mount Everest. I've never understood what K stands for.

Answer grid.

Here is the final installment of Gunghy's bike trip series. Great to finally "see" him in his armor. He has more pictures to share, but I can't carry on due to my lack of time. I'll link once he uploads them to Picasa or some other website.

C.C.

Jul 30, 2010

Friday July 30, 2010 Ron and Nancy Byron

Theme: Brrr! - R is added after B in each two-word B-starting familiar phrase, which then goes through a spelling change, but maintains the same vowel sound.

18A. Short-lived agitation? : BRIEF STEW. The base phrase is beef stew. Long E sound remains the same after the transformation, from EE combination to IE. BEAD/BREAD wouldn't work due to 1) same letter combination; 2) sound change.

24A. Government security for the blind? : BRAILLE BOND. Bail bond. Does Playboy really have a Braille version? Long A sound. With AI combination.

34A. Places to buy orthopedic products? : BRACE STATIONS. Base stations. Dennis said "A base station typically has satellite stations, but it's the hub". Long A sound also. Just letter A. Different from the above AI combination.

50A. Reserved section for an eight-time stolen base champ? : BROCK'S SEATS. Box seats. Hall of Famer Lou Brock. I was unaware of his stolen base record. Short O. Serious changes on this one, including the unexpected X to CK'S transformation.

56A. Place with thugs in tents? : BRUTE CAMP. Boot camp. oo sound.

What other vowel reconstruction can you think of? I came up with long I: Bide Time. Bride Time. But it has a verb phrase to noun phrase change. Not really fit the above before & after both noun phrase pattern. Besides, it has no spelling modification.

A themeless-like 72 words, with the average word length 5.31. By comparison, last Friday's Donna Levin "Hat Pun" has an average length of 4.97. I suppose some of the scrabbly letters (J, Q, V, X & Z) will return tomorrow. None today.

Favorite clue today is IN A SLUMP (38D. Making out too much lately). Making "out" in baseball. I was picturing kissing "make out".

Across:

1. Like volcanoes : CONIC. Are all volcanoes cone-shaped?

6. John follower : ACTS. Bible book after John.

10. IRS workers : AGTS. CPAS popped into my mind first.

14. Item of rodeo gear : RIATA

15. K follower : MART. Thought of LMNO, but then the clue would be plural "K followers". I like the "follower' echo.

16. Qatar University city : DOHA

17. Cold : ALGID. Real word.

20. Blues legend Smith : BESSIE. Wikipedia says she's referred to as "The Empress of the Blues". Stranger to me.

22. Una y __ vez: time and time again : OTRA. Only know it means "other" in Spanish.

23. Alley prowler : TOM. Short for tomcat?

26. Rahm Emanuel's talent agent brother : ARI. The "Entourage" agent Ari Gold is based on him. Minor agent & AGT (10A) duplication.

27. Ballpark fig. : EST (Estimate)

28. Flee : LAM. Yeah, lam can be a verb.

29. Whale's blowhole, e.g. : NOSTRIL. Didn't come to me readily.

31. "I'll have a grande decaf triple vanilla 2% __, please" : LATTE

33. "Earth's Children" series author : AUEL (Jean)

39. Toast opening, across the pond : 'ERE'S. "Here's to...". The H sound is dropped in Cockney dialect. Safe traveling across the pond, Barry G!

40. Bluebirds, to some : OMENS. Omen of what?

41. Stand-up guys? : NO-SHOWS. Was thinking of the stand-up comedian. There should not be a dash between "stand" and "up", even with the question mark, correct?

45. Part of un giorno : ORA. "Hour" in Italy. Giorno = Day. Unknown to me.

46. "Buy __ drink?": bar come-on : ME A

49. Ring stat : TKO

53. Sushi selection : EEL. Yummy!

54. Vintner's prefix : OENO. As in oenophile.

55. American Society of Magazine Editors annual awards : ELLIES. Whom is it named after?

59. Extreme : ULTRA

60. Software test version : BETA

61. "Hooked on Classics" record co. : K-TEL. New to me.

62. Spiteful sort : MEANY. Meanie also.

63. Paradise : EDEN

64. '60s-'70s Japanese leader : SATO (Eisaku). Japan's prime minister from 1964-1972. Nobel Peace Prize winner 1974. I can never remember his name.

65. Jimmies : PRIES

Down:

1. Actor who was a 1932 swimming gold medalist : CRABBE (Buster). Tarzan actor. Another stranger to me.

2. Former Texas team : OILERS. Houston Oilers. Now Tennessee Titans. Who knows? Not I! Don't even watch the Vikings.

3. Pesters : NAGS AT

4. "Who's there?" answer : IT IS I

5. Lincoln rival : CADILLAC. Awesome fill.

6. Dipl. official : AMB (Ambassador)

7. Tree pod also called the locust bean : CAROB. I peeked at the answer sheet.

8. Neptune's largest moon : TRITON. So many moons are named after Greek gods.

9. Canned heat : STERNO. On the buffet table.

10. Some pop-ups : ADS

11. "No time to talk now" : GOTTA RUN. Love this entry.

12. Conjectures : THEORIES. Always use "conjecture" as verb.

13. Board producer : SAWMILL. Fresh entry.

19. They don't last : FADS. Good clue.

21. Make ecstatic : ELATE

25. Initial response team, for short : EMTS

30. New Mexico county or its seat : TAOS

31. Small hair piece : LASH. D'oh, eyelash.

32. DDE's command : ETO (European Theater of Operations)

34. Negotiated : BROKERED

35. Steadfast : RESOLUTE

36. Wildly : AMOK. Run amok.

37. Unlike filibusters : TERSE

39. 1976 raid site : ENTEBBE. A Ugandan city. On Lake Victoria. I've never heard of Operation Entebbe. Educate me, Vidwan!

42. Double-reed instrument : OBOE

43. Ruins : WRECKS

44. Beethoven's "Hammerklavier," e.g. : SONATA. What does "Hammerklavier" mean, Kazie?

46. Tiki cocktail : MAI TAI

47. Endless, in poems : ETERNE. Archaic for "eternal".

48. Tests : ASSAYS

51. Under-the-sink brand : COMET. Scrub cleanser.

52. "Oklahoma!" aunt : ELLER. Aunt Eller. Clear Ayes likes "Oklahoma!". She loves nearly all the musicals.

57. You might get one at the pool : TAN. Can't fool me.

58. Mahmoud Abbas's gp. : PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization). Abbas succeeded Arafat.

Answer grid.

Here is a recent photo of our handsome, witty & caring counselor Lemonade714. I'll continue to show the key blog contributors in the next few Fridays.

C.C.

Jul 29, 2010

Thursday July 29, 2010 Doug Peterson and John Doppler Schiff

Theme: Wacky Competitions - The first word of all the theme answers is given a different meaning re-associated with the group given in the clue. Question marks in the clues indicate that the meanings are not the usual ones.

17A. Competition for witches?: SPELLING BEE. Magic spells.

27A. Competition for entomologists?: CRICKET MATCH. Insect classifiers.

43A. Competition for pastors?: STEEPLE CHASE. A church tower. This race would be over quickly, they don't move very fast.

58A. Competition for painters?: ROLLER DERBY. A derby was first a horse race, started by the 12th Earl of Derby. The hats they wore to these social occasions were likely named after the race, as are other types of races that followed, such as roller, soap-box, and demolition.

Hi all, Al here.

This write-up may be short due to a late start, because of a problem with Cruciverb. Had to wait two hours for the Fredricksburg puzzle to change online. This one seemed easier than yesterday (but fun, nice one, Doug and John, but is there a story to this collaboration?), only took me about 13 minutes, even with having to use my nemesis puzzle app. But I lost all that saved time by having to go through hoops to extract the text of the puzzle from a .sol format instead of .puz. Well, enough complaining (no disrespect meant to the puzzle itself), on with the show.

Across:

6. Northwest Passage seeker: CABOT. Giovanni (John) Caboto. Not Buffy and Jody's butler on Family Affair.

11. Spy's eye, briefly: CAM. Camera.

14. Ancient Greek dialect: IONIC. The Iliad and the Odyssey were written in old Ionic.

15. Sheepish?: OVINE. Latin ovus = sheep.

16. Carry a balance: OWE.

19. "Move it!": NOW!

20. Churl: PEASANT. Freeman, man without rank. This form of the word also gives us the name Carl.

21. Prove pleasing: SIT WELL. Waiting for the puzzle didn't sit well with me.

23. Prêt-à-porter monogram: YSL. Yves Saint Laurent. Prêt-à-Porter means ready to wear.

24. Nest egg segments, briefly: IRAS. Egg & EGGS (52A) duplication.

26. Not big bites: NIPS.

31. Churchill __: DOWNS. Home of the Kentucky Derby. They don't wear roller skates.

34. Brand that may cause brain freeze: ICEE.

35. "What have we here?!": OHO.

36. Words while anteing: I'M IN. Poker.

37. Brother of Moses: AARON.

39. Awestruck: AGOG.

40. Bridge turn: BID.

41. "First Lady of Song": ELLA. Fitzgerald.

42. Inside information?: X-RAYS. Another question mark clue, very punny.

47. R&B singer India.__: ARIE.

48. __ Sutra: KAMA. So little time, so much to read...

49. Some H.S. students: SRS. Seniors.

52. Bodybuilder's breakfast, maybe: RAW EGGS. I can't do it. I don't mind soft-boiled or poached, but the texture of completely raw is too much for me. Besides, the raw whites bind biotin, preventing it from being absorbed, so even though the yolk provides some, it's a net loss.

55. Nod off, in slang: ZONK OUT.

57. She played Bea in "Kill Bill": UMA. The Thurmanator. 1A. Cry of feigned innocence: WHO ME? (Bet you thought I skipped this clue earlier, right?)

60. With 29-Down, cabbage variety: BOK. Along with 29D. See 60-Across: CHOY.

61. Typeface type: ARIAL. Very plain, sans-serif (no flourishes), proportional font (smaller size letters like "i" take less width than a "w" would).

62. Agree to participate: OPT IN.

63. __ out: barely manage: EKE.

64. Some are urban: MYTHS. If someone tells or emails you something unbelievable, it probably is. These are always from a friend of a second-cousin's neighbor, or a guy from work has a friend who heard that... Check them out on Snopes.com before forwarding them on. And then don't forward them on.

65. Vampire's concern: STAKE.

Down:

1. Thin, as smoke: WISPY.

2. Signs of optimism: HOPES.

3. Hollywood dad or his acting daughter: O'NEAL. Ryan, Tatum.

4. Thickness measures: MILS. 1/1000 of an inch. Also an abbreviation for millions. Also a unit of angular measurement equal to 16400 of 360 degrees and used especially in artillery.

5. Cream puffs: ECLAIRS. This makes me hungry. To me they aren't the same thing though. Eclairs are long, have custard filling and are iced with chocolate. Cream puffs have whipped cream filling, are roundish in shape and are dusted with powdered sugar. Both can be made from the same dough however, choux pastry.

6. Source of cold comfort?: CONTAC. Over The Counter, non-perscription "medicine" brand name.

7. Batter's fig.: AVG. Wanted RBI here.

8. They hang in seafood restaurants: BIBS. Good one.

9. Not a good shot: ONE IN TEN.

10. Links appointment: TEE TIME. Golf.

11. Pre-railroad transport: CONESTOGA. Deja vu with this answer.

12. Missing in the mil.: AWOL. Absent without leave.

13. Little cry: MEWL.

18. Cross letters: INRI. Iesus Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm, Latin for Jesus Christ, king of the Jews.

22. New Deal prog.: WPA. Works Progress Administration.

25. Aspen rooftop sight: SKI RACK.

27. 1980 Turner launch: CNN.

28. Natural prefix: ECO. Ecological.

30. Big bikes: HOGS. Harley Davidson cycles.

31. "Mine!": DIBS.

32. Leave out: OMIT.

33. Not nodding: WIDE AWAKE.

37. "The Tortoise and the Hare," for one: ALLEGORY. Figurative language, description of one thing under the image of another. A form of linguistic analogy. Others: exemplification, comparisons, metaphors, similes, and parables

38. Sam Adams, maybe: ALE. That will go well to wash down my eclair. (kidding).

39. "We __ the Champions": ARE. I'll spare you the Freddy Mercury (Queen) video.

41. Bon mot: EPIGRAM. A brief, clever memorable statement: To be safe on the Fourth, Don't buy a fifth on the third.— James H Muehlbauer.

42. Playbook symbols: X'S AND O'S. Sports diagram starting positions.

44. Poetic preposition: ERE.

45. Shrubs with edible nuts: HAZELS.

46. Latin love: AMOR.

49. To some extent, colloquially: SORTA.

50. Hexahedral puzzle inventor: RUBIK. The cube.

51. "Gypsy" composer: STYNE. Jule. Also composed music for Funny Girl.

52. Yahoo: RUBE. Shortened form of Rueben, a typical country man's name. Well, back in the 1800's, maybe.

53. Bad way to run: AMOK. Run amok.

54. Thin opening: SLIT.

56. Didn't surrender: KEPT.

59. "Well, __-di-dah": LAH. Six fill-in-the-blanks in this puzzle.

Answer grid.

Here is part III of Gunghy's series. Click here to see all his photos.

Al

Jul 28, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 Mike Peluso

Theme: PRIME (70A. Steak rating, and word that can precede the first words of the answers to starred clues) - The first word of each ER-ending phrase can follow PRIME.

17A. *Funny story : RIB-TICKLER. Prime rib.

27A. *Financial analyst : NUMBER CRUNCHER. Prime number.

47A. *Influential one : MOVER AND SHAKER. Prime mover.

63A. *Diversion while waiting : TIME-KILLER. Prime time.

Argyle here.

I have two problems with 27A: 1) I always thought it was NUMBERS CRUNCHER (turns out I was wrong) and 2) This may reopen the discussion of what a PRIME number is (I hope I'm wrong).


We just had CARVED ROAST and now we're having PRIME RIB. You vegans hang in there, we will get back to tofu and soy eventually.

PRIME MOVER - I thought this meant the main impetus behind an idea but the Wikipedia disambiguation covers so much more, including a entry for Australian English.

Across:

1. Tug trailer : BARGE. Or tug leader. I think a tug pushes a barge, not tow it.

6. Grand __ : SLAM. Another disambiguation page. Did you know there was a GRAND SLAM in curling? I sure didn't!

10. Tach nos. : RPMs. Tachometer / Revolutions per minute

14. Slobber : DROOL.

15. "Othello" villain : IAGO. (Shakespeare)

16. Strategic Chinese border river : YALU. Between China and North Korea. Map.

19. Stereotypical insomnia cause : DRIP. From a faucet.

20. Stocking style : MESH.

21. Hub once known as Orchard Field : O'HARE. Chicago.

22. Icicle site : EAVE.

23. Where to get PIN money? : ATM.

25. Seniors' D.C. lobby : AARP.

34. Cub Scout group : DEN.

35. Asteroids game company : ATARI.

36. Knickknack shelf item : CURIO.

37. Demolish : RUIN.

39. Grey Goose alternative, familiarly : STOLI. Stolichnaya® vodka. Product of Russia. 80 Proof.

41. Places for notes : PADS.

42. "The King" of golf, to fans : ARNIE. Arnold Palmer.

44. Consider responsible for : OWE TO.

46. Cruise milieu : SEA.

50. Robert of "The Sopranos" : ILER.

51. '50s campaign button name : IKE. President Dwight David Eisenhower.

52. Holders of chips? : POTS. Poker

54. Stone memorial : CAIRN.

58. Art class subject : VASE.

62. Sandusky's lake : ERIE. Sandusky is a city in Ohio and the county seat of Erie County.

65. One of the Ivies : PENN. University of Pennsylvania.

66. Prefix meaning "peculiar" : IDIO.

67. Husband and wife : MATES.

68. Omelet essentials : EGGS.

69. Fires : CANS.

Down:.

1. Classified ad abbr. : BDRM.

2. Two-time Indy champ Luyendyk : ARIE. He won in 1990 and 1997.

3. Takes badly? : ROBS.

4. Bruce Wayne's city : GOTHAM. Batman

5. Quarterback Manning : ELI. Football, New York Giants (2004–present)

6. Punjab sect member : SIKH.

7. Like a land for dreamers? : LA-LA. Sometimes known as Los Angeles.

8. Time, for example : AGER.

9. Wells's island doctor : MOREAU. The Island of Doctor Moreau is a 1896 science fiction novel and has been made into a movie on three occasions.

10. Biennial team golf competition : RYDER CUP. Competition between pro teams from Europe and the United States.

11. Put another way : PARAPHRASE.

12. XII years before the Battle of Hastings : MLIV. The Battle of Hastings, which took place on 14 October 1066. (MLXVI) take away 12 (XII) gives you 1054 (MLIV)

13. Apartment manager, briefly : SUPE. Superintendent.

18. Halley's and Hale-Bopp : COMETS.

24. Timetable abbr. : TBA. "To Be Announced"

26. Anti-apartheid org. : ANC. The African National Congress.

27. Prefix with surgeon : NEURO.

28. Disagreeable : UNINVITING.

29. Betray, stoolie-style : RAT ON.

30. Grandstand filler : CROWD.

31. Agitates : RILES.

32. Down-yielding duck : EIDER.

33. Sub __: confidentially : ROSA.

34. Wee bit o' Dewar's, say : DRAM. There you go, Tinbeni. A dram is the traditional Scotch whisky measure. A pour. The amount is determined only by the generosity of the pourer.

38. Much-followed ratings, with "the" : NIELSENS. TV ratings service.

40. Opinion opener : "I THINK".

43. Before, to Keats : ERE.

45. Symbol of strength : OAK.

48. Frigid : ARCTIC.

49. Bulletproof vest material : KEVLAR.

52. Stinker Le Pew : PEPÉ. Cartoon skunk.

53. State bordering Wash. : OREG. Oregon

55. Verdi's slave girl : AIDA. Opera

56. Statement of commitment : I'M IN. Poker, again.

57. Classic autos : REOs. Early Oldsmobile's.

59. Some choristers : ALTI. Singular, ALTO.

60. Appear : SEEM.

61. Gaelic tongue : ERSE.

64. Brat : IMP.

Answer grid.

As we all know, Gunghy finished 13 miles short of 4000 in 11 days in his Yamaha Raider in early July. Here is part II of his series. The scenic ones. Click here for all the Gunghy photos.

Argyle

Jul 27, 2010

Interview with Harvey Estes

Many of us were awed by Harvey Estes' May 30 "Divided Countries" puzzle, in which eight country names are divided and span across mostly two word phrases, and each country is individually placed in the grid as well.

Harvey is one of the top constructors in the country. He has had 116 puzzles published by NY Times alone, making him the 8th most prolific NYT constructor of all times.

Additionally, Harvey's work has also appeared in CroSynergy, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NY Sun, Games Magazine, etc. He's also one of the contributors to The Crosswords Club, edited by Rich Norris.

Hope you enjoy this insightful, informative and fun-filled interview.

I liked that the unifier OUTER CLOTHES is positioned at the very heart of the grid crossing each other & the pinwheel layout of the other four theme answers. Is this the grid you had in mind immediately after you had the theme set ready or did you also try several other grid alternatives and then picked the best?

Actually, placing OUTER CLOTHES at the center was Rich's idea. I had titled the puzzle "Outer Garments" (just to give it a name when we discussed it) and I had S(COWL) at the center of the grid. Rich's approach was better, so we went with it.

What kind of troubles did you go through to finesse the grid?

The main problem was finding theme entries that would fit symmetrically into the grid. Once that was settled the grid wasn't so hard. The theme is always the hardest thing. Once I get that nailed down, I can usually hammer out a fill for it. A 15x15 grid is a small place. I tell all the interesting words and phrases, "You can run, but you can't hide" ... okay, that's just constructor bravado, but it's a fun thing to say whether it's true or not.

Who introduced crosswords to you and how did you get into crossword construction?

My dad always worked crosswords when I was a kid, so I grew up around them. Later on I got interested in cryptic crosswords via Games magazine and the first puzzles I constructed were cryptics. They're still my favorite, but the market is so small I don't get to do them much. In the early '90s Stanley Newman offered a correspondence course in crossword construction, so I took it and that led to my first puzzle being published with Newsday. That got me started in crosswords as a hobby, but over the years it has gradually become a full-time job.

You have lots of puzzles published by NY Times, LA Times, NY Sun, etc. How do you describe your style? What kind of themes/fill appeal to you? And what are the kind that you try to avoid?

I like pun themes the best, but they're hard to do, and sometimes it's tricky to sell an editor on a theme. What works and what doesn't is pretty subjective. You hate to see hours and hours of work go down the drain because of disagreements about consistency with an idea that's deliberately nonsense in the first place. So I do more straightforward themes than I used to. In my fills I like to work in phrases as much as possible, because I think they're usually more interesting. I also like to think I get pretty clean fills but I guess most constructors think that about their own work. Each individual has a different opinion about which less desirable words can be tolerated and which can't, so that's another call that's very subjective. I can't think of a theme type that I try to avoid. I'll try anything once, cruciverbally. A while back I saw an article in which an editor said he really hated a particular theme because he had seen it so many times and hoped never to see it again. So I immediately got to work on a puzzle that used the theme but, hopefully, put a twist on it to make it more interesting. I sent it to a different editor, though.

Where do you normally find your construction muse? What books/magazines/website do you read for theme inspirations?

I used to go to Barnes & Noble a lot; sitting and reading and listening to the soft music would often get me going. Then they changed the music from instrumental to mostly vocal and now it's like reading with an annoying person trying to talk to you. I should sue them. But mostly the muse lives wherever people use language. Watching TV, reading the paper, making small talk, you never know when a phrase will stick in the mind and start tugging at you, whispering, "There's a theme here, there's a theme here ..." I guess the trick is to find the places and situations that help your mind to become receptive to new ideas.

What kind of references tools do you use for crossword construction and clue accuracy check?

I dunno, I guess all the usual suspects. I hate to admit it, but if I'm worried about accuracy, I often just retreat to a safer clue. Life is too short to spend hours researching one clue out of 144.

What is the highlight of your construction career and what is the puzzle you are most proud of?

These days I don't think there are any highlights; I just enjoy the day-to-day life of making puzzles. A crossword well-done is its own reward. I used to think, if I could just get a puzzle in this venue or that, then I will have arrived. But every venue has some good puzzles, some not so good. Who knows, maybe an editor used one of my puzzles and thought it was so-so, but, what the heck, the deadline was bearing down. Years ago when she was working with Dell, Nancy Schuster said to me, "You know, I don't love every single puzzle that I publish." Remembering that puts things in perspective for me. I'm just making crosswords, not working on a cure for cancer. So that makes my favorite puzzle the one I'm working on now. Unless it really sucks. In which I case, I just use it to vacuum the carpet. But if I had to pick favorite puzzles, I have two candidates. Both were turned down by almost every editor a knew. Finally CROSSW RD magazine printed the one with the jokes about cannibals and a health magazine printed the one with the bran muffin joke. Both magazines later went out of business, so I guess that makes me the Terminator.

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

I don't solve much. Constructing puzzles takes a lot of time, and more importantly, it's a lot more fun (not to mention that it pays the bills). I construct full-time, so solving can seem like working on my day off. Anyway, I'm too critical. I look at someone else's puzzle and think, "Well, I wouldn't have done it that way ..." and then I remind myself that the constructor could just as easily say the same thing about one of my puzzles. Everybody has his or her own style. So I don't really have a favorite constructor. If I'm solving a puzzle and I like it, then that constructor is my favorite for the moment. I guess that makes me a Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young solver: love the one you're with.

Besides crosswords, what else do you do for fun?

I like working with music. I play guitar and bass and sing a little for the contemporary service at church, along with doing music with children, at a nursing home, parties, and for whoever else has less demanding standards and questionable taste.

Tuesday July 27, 2010 Harvey Estes

Theme: OUTER CLOTHES - Circled squares at the end of each theme entry contain the name of a type of outer garment. (Note: LA Times website does not support circled squares, click here to see where the circles are.)

17A. Emergency exit with a ladder : FIRE ESCAPE. Cape. The most iconic is probably Superman's. But here, Santa, meet your match.

60A. Robotic solar system explorer : SPACE PROBE. Robe. For boxers/judges. One for the ladies.

10D. Pioneer's wagon : CONESTOGA. Toga, forum garb. The only one word theme entry. Tell me this wasn't your first image.

32D. Gibbon : LESSER APE. Serape. Mexican wrap, as shown on this festive guy. The only theme entry where the clothing spans two words.

The unifier is placed in the very middle of the grid as two cross-referencing perps:

38A. With 24-Down, category of garments fittingly found in the circled letters : OUTER

24D. See 38-Across : CLOTHES

And a bonus entry at the bottom of the grid:

66A. Put on fancy attire, with "up" : DRESS. Like this. Quite smart looking.

Hey, it's Dennis; my turn in the barrel. Had one stumble in solving this one, which was putting 'Glenda' for 2D.

Just a couple observations about today's offering: this puzzle has only 34 blocks, low for a Tuesday, resulting in an impressive Dan Naddor Index (non-theme entries with 6 or more letters) that C.C. used to highlight in Dan's puzzles: 20.

The key themed words are consistently placed too. In this type of circle gimmick, those circled words are not always consecutively placed and can appear anywhere in the theme entries; the beginning, middle or end. A well-done Tuesday puzzle.

Across:

1. "A Death in the Family" author James : AGEE.

5. Name on a fridge : AMANA. I swear, if you only did crosswords, you'd think there was only one brand of Appliances (Amana) and one brand of TVs (RCA).

10. Quote as a reference : CITE.

14. What flags do in the wind : FLAP.

15. Beeper : PAGER. Remember these? Seem so archaic now. The first ones basically just transmitted phone numbers, and you'd put '911' at the end if it was really important. Oh, and we quickly figured out how to send obscene words using just numbers.

16. Jazzy Anita : ODAY. She changed her name from Colton to O'Day, pig latin for 'dough', as in money.

19. Luggage tag datum : NAME.

20. Building additions : ANNEXES.

21. Steamed up : ANGERED.

23. Caesar's "that is" : ID EST.

24. Contract provision : CLAUSE. Not him.

25. "Way cool!" : RAD.

26. Train track : RAIL. Alliteration.

29. Woodland deities : SATYRS. The Nymph pursuers. Wow, so realistic!

32. Atoll enclosure : LAGOON.

34. Demi of "G.I. Jane" : MOORE. Say what you might about her, but she got herself in incredible shape for the movie. Definition like this does not come easily.

35. Frosty's smoke : PIPE . Friend of mine did one of these with a fake blunt instead of a pipe. Neighbors with kids weren't thrilled.

40. Wind blast : GUST. This is what a serious crosswind landing looks like when the wind is gusting perpendicular to the flight path.

41. Up to one's ears (in) : AWASH

43. Aussie lassie : SHEILA . Very topical, given Kazie's recent outstanding slide show.

45. Take a bad turn : WORSEN

47. Razor's cutter : EDGE

48. Homer, to Bart : DAD

51. "Angels & __": Dan Brown best-seller : DEMONS. It precedes The Da Vinci Code and explores the Illuminati. A great read, one that resulted in a few bleary-eyed mornings for me.

53. "Don't even go __!" : THERE

55. Arachnoid zodiac sign : SCORPIO

57. Spiny lizards : IGUANAS. Kinda stately looking, huh?

59. Wrist-to-elbow bone : ULNA. Here. Have we had 'humerus' in a crossword before? Seems like a good crossword word.

62. Kid's summer haven : CAMP.

63. Chart holder : EASEL.

64. Mix with a spoon : STIR.

65. Many a proposal is made on one : KNEE. My first thought was 'bet'.

67. Cops, slangily : HEAT.

Down:


1. Festive gathering : AFFAIR. I'm not sure how 'festive' he's feeling.

2. Witch who helped Dorothy get home : GLINDA. Here.

3. Merited : EARNED.

4. Fencing blades : EPEES.

5. Recess at St. Peter's : APSE. As shown here.

6. PC alternatives : MACS.

7. Turkish title : AGA.

8. Tibet neighbor : NEPAL. Has anyone from our group been there?

9. Sports venues : ARENAS.

11. Challenging words : I DARE YOU. Those words have gotten me in trouble more than a few times. In his interview, Harvey said for non-theme fills, he likes to "work in phrases as much as possible, because I think they're usually more interesting."

12. Not exactly exciting : TAME .

13. Gawked at : EYED .

18. Crowd scene actor : EXTRA. X is the only scrabbly letter in this puzzle.

22. U.S. Pacific territory : GUAM

27. Back in time : AGO

28. Debtor's letters : IOUS

30. B&O and Reading : RRS

31. Filming site : SET

33. Financial aid criterion : NEED

35. Fido's foot : PAW

36. "Letters from __ Jima": 2006 film : IWO. One of the greatest battles in Marine Corps history. They were fighting an enemy that wasn't so much on Iwo Jima, as in it. Cost over 6800 Marine and Army lives to take it, but by securing the island, American bombers were able to use the island as a strategic emergency landing area, coming back from strikes on the Japanese mainland. Saved many pilots and crews.

37. "Sorry about that" : PARDON ME. You betcha.

39. Fix, as a fight : RIG.

42D. Rope fiber source : HEMP.

44. Ease off : LETUP.

46. Spread publicly, with "about" : NOISED. Yeah, it's legit; has anyone ever heard it used?

48. Indicate : DENOTE.

49. Oil-rich peninsula : ARABIA.

50. Most of 49-Down : DESERT. Nice link w/above.

52. Like stock without face value : NO PAR. Story of my golf game.

54. Tough to take : HARSH.

55. Use a straw : SUCK. Uh.......no; not gonna.

56. Scot's family : CLAN. Check out these Scottish clan crests.

57. Tops, as a cupcake : ICES. Hey, if you're gonna indulge, indulge!

58. Salon applications : GELS. You too can look like this.

61. Wall St. group : ASE (American Stock Exchange).

Jul 26, 2010

Monday July 26, 2010 John Lampkin

Theme: Visual Arts - Each two-word phrase starts with a form of visual arts.

17A. Bodybuilder's pride : SCULPTED ABS. Here (for the Ladies) / Here (for the Men)

28A. Melted dip for steamed lobster : DRAWN BUTTER. Where the best lobsters are: right, Mainiac?

42A. Table-ready hearty entrée : CARVED ROAST. Medium rare.

54A. Colorful butterfly : PAINTED LADY. Here is a set of five butterfly photographs from constructor John Lampkin. Here is a sound clip of "The Butterfly and the Rose", a movement from John's 8-movement woodwind quintet called "A Walk Through Shaw's Garden", commissioned and performed by the Equinox Chamber Players and recorded on Albany Records.

Argyle here.

Eighteen 3-letter words but also, eighteen 6-letter words. Four pairs of echo clues.

Notice the black square in the very center of the grid? You won't see a non-theme entry in the middle of a John Lampkin puzzle.

Across:

1. Mr. Potato Head maker : HASBRO.

7. Mickey and Minnie : MICE.

11. Calculator display, briefly : LCD.

14. Find not guilty : ACQUIT.

15. "__ in the Morning": talk show : IMUS. Don Imus, shock jock. (I'll spare you any image.)

16. "Caught you red-handed!" : "A-HA!".

19. Plead for a treat, dog-style : BEG.

20. Barely make, with "out" : EKE.

21. FHA loan : MTGE.. Federal Housing Administration, mortgage.

22. Diver Louganis : GREG.

23. "__-doke!" : OKEY.

25. Melville's sequel to "Typee" : "OMOO".

26. Flirtatious one : TEASE.

27. -, on an AA batt. : NEG. Plus, 54D. +, on an AA batt. : POS. Great clue echos.

30. "Wait a moment" : "ONE SEC".

32. "Dagnabbit!" : "NERTS!". Now there is a word I haven't heard in a while.

33. Quaint horse-pulled winter rides : SLEIGHS.

35. Machine gun syllables : RAT-A-TAT.

39. Psychoanalyst Fromm : ERICH.

41. Surgeon's stitch : SUTURE.

46. "Fill 'er up!" filler : GAS.

47. Say "Ditto" : AGREE. And 51. "__ here": "Ditto" : SAME. Another echo.

48. Catch sight of : ESPY.

49. Goes back out, as the tide : EBBS.

50. Gal. or oz. : MEAS.. Measure.

51. Horse trade : SWAP.

52. Mideast political initials : PLO.

53. "The Lord of the Rings" tree being : ENT. If you see any female Ents, please contact Treebeard, care of Fangorn Forest.

58. Poem of tribute : ODE.

59. Seer's sign : OMEN.

60. __ d': headwaiter : MAÎTRE.

61. Blue : SAD.

62. Blood supplies : SERA.

63. Depletes : USES UP.

Down:

1. Possesses : HAS.

2. Gp. with UNC and Duke, among others : ACC. Atlantic Coast Conference (college sports)

3. Windshield-cleaning tool : SQUEEGEE.

4. Like a heavy parka : BULKY.

5. Ready to pick : RIPE.

6. Mel of the Giants : OTT. Baseball.

7. Central area in a big city : MIDTOWN.

8. "There's no hope for me," in oaters : "I'M A GONER".

9. Dice unit : CUBE.

10. Tee preceder : ESS. S, T.

11. Maze runner : LAB RAT. And 12. Maze runner's incentive : CHEESE. Adjacent clue echo.

13. Cloak go-with : DAGGER.

18. Thompson of "Howards End" : EMMA. A story of class struggle in turn-of-the-century England.

22. Suggests indirectly : GETS AT.

23. Yoko's family : ONOs.

24. __ Ration: dog food : KEN-L. The dog must be well fed by now, what with all the Ken-L ration we've had lately.

25. Prom corsage : ORCHID.

26. "My, my, that's a no-no" : TUT, TUT. Four Ts.

28. One of 90 in a right angle : DEGREE.

29. Like band music : BRASSY. All bands, JzB?

31. Flour strainers : SIEVES. Personally, I'd rather sift my flour than strain it.

34. Having fewer marbles? : SCREWIER.

36. Harbor pushers : TUGBOATS.

37. Saudi, usually : ARAB.

38. Thomas Hardy heroine : TESS.

40. Biblical cry of praise : HOSANNA.

42. Stars' brief film appearances : CAMEOS.

43. Meeting to-do list : AGENDA.

44. Not for kids, as films : R-RATED.

45. Pocket PC entry : APPT.. Appointment, which is why they are called: 52. Pocket PCs, e.g. : PDAs. (personal digital assistant). One more echo.

49. "Dallas" matriarch Miss __ : ELLIE. Dallas was a TV prime time soap opera.

55. Ostrich kin : EMU.

56. Joanne of "All the King's Men" : DRU. All the King's Men is a 1949 drama film based on the novel of the same name. It is the story of the rise of politician Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) from a rural county seat to the governor's mansion. His affair with Anne Stanton (Joanne Dru) would be scandalous because she's the daughter of an ex-Governor. Joanne Dru was the elder sister of Peter Marshall, the original host of the Hollywood Squares.

57. Nope's opposite : YEP.

Answer grid.

Two more notes:

1) This is the first time that our blog presents a puzzle in a unified way. The puzzle itself, key theme photographic art & music are all provided by the constructor. If you are inspired by John's music or want to learn more about his artistic work, please visit his website.

2) Tomorrow's puzzle involves circles, which are unsupported by LA Times website. A pdf file will be released on the blog Comments section around 9:00pm tonight.

Argyle

Jul 25, 2010

Sunday July 26, 2010 Nora Pearlstone

Theme: Tee for Two - Letter T is added to the start of the second word of each two-word familiar phrase, which also has letter T as the end of its first word. The resulting phrase with two Ts spanning in the middle is then humorously clued.

23A. Monster affected by a moon phase? : CRESCENT TROLL. The base phrase is crescent roll.

37A. Levy on butchers? : MEAT TAX. Meat ax.

69A. Warren weeping? : RABBIT TEARS. Rabbit ears. Rabbits live in warrens. Bet it brought a smile to our Warren and his lovely wife Ruth.

76A. Japanese chicken snacks? : EAST TENDERS. Not familiar with the base phrase "EastEnders". Does it refer to the BBC show?

106A. Can for old smokes? : BUTT TIN. Butt in.

124A. Attacker's fruity treat? : ASSAULT TRIFLE. Assault rifle.

17D. Small pie à la Pollock? : ABSTRACT TART. Abstract art. Pollock's work is truly hard to understand.

41D. Stuff that sticks for years? : GREAT TAPE. Great ape.

49D. Taunting from the Miami bench? : HEAT TRASH. Heat rash. Miami Heats (NBA).

65A. Bakery supply for wrapping cake boxes? : DESSERT TWINE. Dessert wine.

Fun theme. Fun clues too. I liked that all the theme entries are two-word phrases, which give the theme a narrowed focus.

Some may not pay attention to those transformed second T* word, but none of them has the repeating pattern. Rich Norris (Nora Pearlstone is his alias name, anagram of "not a real person". ) covered a wide range of possible T starting words:

1) T with various vowels/vowel combination: short a, long a, ar, ea, e & i. I suppose Rich found no sparkly To or Ty phrases.

2) T with consonants: TW & TR(A/I/O). TH is missing. Thought it's a good combination to play around. No, Jerome/John?

Total 49 Ts in the grid, eclipsed only by the most used crossword vowel E (53).

My favorite clues today:

122A. Split payment? : ALIMONY

116D. Females with pig tails : SOWS. The clue made me laugh.

Across:

1. Get at : ACCESS

7. Like lambs : GENTLE. I wanted SILENT, thinking "The Silence of the Lambs". We also have TAME (118D. Easy to manage).

13. 1983 invasion site : GRENADA

20. President Ahmadinejad's capital : TEHRAN. Mad man.

21. Pioneer Day celebrant : UTAHAN. Not familiar with Utah's state holiday "Pioneer Day".

22. Dressed : ENROBED

25. Chips Ahoy! maker : NABISCO

26. Filet mignon, e.g. : ENTREE

27. Black Sea country : UKRAINE. Awesome entry.

29. Diglyceride, for one : ESTER. Know the answer, not the clue.

30. Performance rights org. : BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc)

31. Craving : URGE

33. Give a hand : ASSIST

35. Yeats's homeland : ERIN. Poetic name for Ireland.

36. Response to an e-mail wisecrack : LOL

40. "Here's the __ ..." : THING

42. Many a Monopoly sq. : AVE

43. Sole : ONLY

45. Abbot's address: Abbr. : RT. REV. Retired Reverend I suppose. (Correction: It stands for Right Reverend. Thanks, Lemonade.)

46. Spiffed (up) : SPRUCED

48. Illustrator N.C. : WYETH. No idea. He's the father of Andrew Wyeth, known for his "Christina's World".

50. The younger Saarinen : EERO. The older Saarinen is Eliel.

51. Boo follower : HOO. Boohoo.

54. Toon flapper Etta : KETT. Can never remember this old comic figure.

55. __ Plaines, Illinois : DES

57. 1980s South African pres. : P.W. BOTHA. Was confused by the PWB combination. Total stranger.

60. Starts the kitty : ANTES

63. Mouse site : PAD. Computer mouse.

66. College fund-raising targets : ALUMS

71. U.K. award : OBE (Order of the British Empire)

72. Newbie : TYRO

73. Everycowboy : TEX

74. Skip : OMIT

75. Hook (up) : RIG

79. Carrion eater : HYENA

80. Asian holiday : TET. Only in Vietnam.

81. '90s N.Y. Philharmonic conductor Kurt : MASUR. Another stranger.

82. Westernmost of the Sunda Islands : SUMATRA

84. Mean at a univ. : GPA

86. South Dakota, to Pierre : ETAT. Pierre here refers to the typical French name instead of the capital city.

88. Word before and after "vs." in a Mad feature : SPY. Spy vs. Spy.

89. Italian vineyard region : ASTI. Do you like "Stealing Beauty"?

92. Culture: Pref. : ETHNO

96. Read : PERUSED

99. Scrawny : GAUNT

101. Good earth : LOAM. Nice play on "The Good Earth".

102. Co. that spun off the Baby Bells : AT&T

103. Wasteland : HEATH

108. Luau instrument : UKE

109. 19th Amendment proponent : CATT. Carrie Chapman Catt. Suffrage.

111. Tough spot : SCRAPE

113. Saltimbocca herb : SAGE. Was ignorant of the exact family sage belongs to.

114. Seat holder: Abbr. : SEN. Senate.

115. Flightless New Zealanders : KIWIS

117. Ruthless leaders : TYRANTS

120. Rubbed the wrong way : CHAFED

127. Time keeping action? : RENEWAL. Time magazine.

128. Treads heavily : STOMPS

129. List shortener : ET ALIA

130. Women's department array : DRESSES

131. Most balanced : SANEST

132. "Have patience" : NOT YET

Down:

1. LAX tower service : ATC. Air Traffic Control. I forgot.

2. What a stickler may stand on? : CEREMONY. Why? Don't get this clue.

3. Bedspread fabric : CHENILLE. Chenille fabric.

4. While opening : ERST. Erstwhile.

5. Pelvic bone : SACRUM

6. Scornful type : SNEERER

7. Like some instinctive reactions : GUT

8. Caesar's closer : ET TU. "Et tu, Brute?". Caesar's dying words.

9. Sussex stoolie : NARK. Did not know the Brits call informant "nark". Weird, it sounds the cop "narc" to me.

10. Chest : THORAX

11. Singers' refrains : LALAS. One more time for Lucia to think of her mother.

12. Join up : ENLIST

13. Beginning : GENESIS

14. Protein-building polymer : RNA. Only know it as "Genetic letters".

15. Kathryn of "Law & Order: C.I." : ERBE. Her name escaped me. We had this actress before.

16. Uproar : NOISE

18. Trick : DECEIVE

19. Decorated : ADORNED

24. Deny the truth of : NEGATE

28. Med. research org. : NIH (National Institutes of Health)

30. Lose, as a big lead : BLOW

32. To be, in Quebec : ETRE

34. I-90 in Mass., e.g. : TNPK (Turnpike)

38. U. of Maryland team : TERPS

39. Declare : AVOW

44. Financial report hdg. : YTD

47. __ Reader: alternative media anthology : UTNE. Named after its founder.

51. Sting, for instance : HOAX. Sting operation. Not singer Sting.

52. Tout's hangout, for short : OTB (Offtrack Betting)

53. "Yahoo!" : OH BOY

56. Roy Rogers's birth name : SLYE. His real name is Leonard Slye. Might be one of Dennis "Did you know...". I simply forgot.

58. Brittany seaport : BREST

59. Je t'__: French "I love you" : AIME

61. Historic canal : ERIE

62. U.S. Army E-6 : SSGT. Staff Sergeant.

63. Pope creation : POEM. English poet Alexander Pope.

64. Four-line rhyme scheme : ABAA

67. Coffee holders : URNS

68. __ vivendi: lifestyle : MODUS. I only know "joie de vivre".

70. Small bell sound : TING

73. Room service convenience : TRAY

77. Layered skirt : TUTU

78. Old Roman ldr. : EMP. ldr = leader. Meh!

79. Goes after : HAS AT

83. Product with "Robusto!" flavors : RAGU

85. View from Martha's Vineyard, Mass. : ATL. Atlantic ocean.

87. Golf shop bagful : TEES

90. "Tsk" relatives : TUTS

91. Whole : INTACT

93. Indoor buzzer? : HOUSEFLY. Superb clue/answer.

94. Blunt fiction : NAKED LIE. I like this answer too.

95. Rainbow, to some : OMEN

96. Early luxury auto : PACKARD

97. 24/7 business : ETAILER

98. Three-syllable feet : DACTYLS. How I wish dear Clear Ayes were here to give us an example!

100. Secure, in a way : TIGHTEN

104. Give it a go : TRY

105. Bother no end : HARASS

106. Former Mormon leader Ezra Taft __ : BENSON. Peeked at the answer sheet. He has a distinguished look.

107. Almost touching : NEAR TO

110. Airport postings : TIMES

112. Fusilli, e.g. : PASTA

119. Has dinner : SUPS. And EAT (126. Dinner exhortation). Dinner echos.

121. Royal decree : FIAT

123. Tam wearer's turndown : NAE. Scottish for "no".

125. D-Day craft : LST (Landing Ship Tank)

Answer grid.

I have a question: Does Nora Pearlstone sound like a porn star name to you? We continue to get quite a few Japanese porn spams on last Nora "PMS" themed Sunday puzzle, even after we deleted all the possible links in the main write-up and the Comments section. Darling Santa has to delete them nearly every day.

C.C.

Jul 24, 2010

Saturday July 24, 2010 Mark Diehl

Theme: None

Total words: 66

Total blocks: 36

Average Word length: 5.73

The total block count is relatively high compared with its word count, but 12 are help squares in each corner, consuming 1/3 of them.

The puzzle is framed by a 11/13/15 on top and a 15/13/11 at the bottom. All of them are multi-word entries:

1A. Co-star of TV's "Chuck" : ADAM BALDWIN. Cross-referenced with MY BODYGUARD (56A. 1980 film debut for 1-Across). Have never heard of this dude. Looks cool. I liked how the cross-referenced pair bookends the grid.

12A. One might raise the roof : CRANE OPERATOR. Was thinking of something temper related.

14A. Situations that aren't clear-cut : BORDERLINE CASES. My favorite entry today. This might be the seed entry.

52A. 1983 ELO hit with the lyric "She loves that drivin' beat" : ROCK 'N' ROLL IS KING. Blind spot for me.

55A. They may be spotted at pet stores : CALICO KITTENS. Not a pet person. So, yeah, another blank stare.

Very difficult solving for me. Unable to sync with the constructor. I seldom do on Saturday, regardless of who constructs the puzzle. The clues are just too tricky & ambiguous.

Across:

16. State with a five-sided flag : OHIO. Unknown trivia to me. Boy, that's strange looking, isn't it?

17. Raccoon kin : COATI. With long & ringed tail.

18. Multipurpose lyrics : LA LA. Because they are often refrained, Santa?

19. Story : LEVEL. Was in the tale "Story" direction.

21. Cat lead-in : SNO. Snowcat.

22. Plush, in a way : PILED. As velvet.

23. Top quality : GRADE A

25. Oregon Trail river : PLATTE. A gimme for our Oregon gang.

26. It's often smoked in Sweden : EEL. I thought it's pickled there.

27. Kind of well : ARTESIAN. Named after the French region Artois. It's "a well that is dug into the ground to the water table and is under pressure and will spray out of the well head like a oil geyser". Who knows?!

31. Some rtes. : RDS

32. Luminescent critter : FIREFLY. Awesome fill. With two Fs.

33. Org. that infiltrated Germany in the '40s : OSS. I am used to the "CIA forerunner" clue.

36. Exude an air of disinterest : BLOW COLD. Also a new phrase to me. Crossing BRISKLY (36D. How a cool wind blows). Blow duplication.

37. Balderdash : PAP. Only familiar with the baby food definition.

38. For only a select few : SECRET

41. Very much : SORELY. For those who have been missing Clear Ayes,, she has a photo for us today.

43. Aquiline nose, e.g. : TRAIT

44. Area between N. and S. Korea : DMZ

47. Capital east of Dhaka : HANOI. Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh. My brain nerve for directions is damaged. So, no idea, Sir!

48. Goes on to say : ADDS

49. One of the fire signs : ARIES

51. "Let's go!" : C'MON

Down:

1. Airport board heading : ARRIVALS

2. Grooved, in carpentry : DADOED. Here is a dado joint. Did not know it can be a verb, Jerome!

3. Hydrocarbon suffix : ANE. Learned from doing Xword.

4. Hired gun, briefly : MERC (Mercenary)

5. Official ties of New Mexico : BOLOS. Neckties!

6. Like bees : APIAN

7. Tempo marking : LENTO. "Slowly".

8. Bavarian trio : DREI. Three in German. A gimme for Kazie/Spitzboov.

9. Mil. branch from 1943 to 1978 : WAC. Women Army Corps. Stumper.

10. Restaurant guide category : ITALIAN

11. Margarita option : NO SALT. Hmm, that would not be margarita.

12. Stuck : COHERED. Tricky clue.

13. Got a new tenant for : RELET

14. Tony-winning star of "Where's Charley?" (1948) : BOLGER (Ray). Only know him as the scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz".

15. 1986 Best New Artist Grammy winner : SADE. Had the S in place, so SADE came to me immediately. Love her.

20. Certain handout : LEAFLET

22. Toy in resealable cans : PLAY-DOH. Nice clue/answer.

24. "__ is the language of the unheard": M.L. King Jr. : A RIOT. Have never heard of this quote before. What does it mean? Sounds violent to me.

25. Dispensary stock : PILLS

28. Credit checker Experian, formerly : TRW. No idea.

29. Continental trade org. : EEC (European Economic Community)

30. Virgin America hub: Abbr. : SFO. Peeked at the answer sheet.

33. Negotiating asset : OPEN MIND. Another great entry.

34. Watering holes : SALOONS. Watering hole = bar/saloon.

35. Bond activity? : SPYING. James Bond.

38. Macy's logo : STAR

39. Triage MD : ER DOC. Had ERD?? forever.

40. High-tech engineering acronym : CAD/CAM. Computer-Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing. Got me.

42. Eightball loser, often : RACKER. Don't know any pool terms.

44. Title name in an unfinished Dickens work : DROOD. Dickens's "The Mystery of Edwin Drood".

45. Whitish : MILKY

46. Chameleon-like Woody Allen character : ZELIG. Woody Allen's mockumentary (1983). We had this clue before.

49. String music direction : ARCO. With the bow. I can never remember this term.

50. In __: as found : SITU

53. Tip of a pen : NIB. Neb too, right?

54. RR depot : STA

Answer grid.


Here is a sweet photo of our beloved Clear Ayes & her granddaughter Rachael. she said the picture "was taken on Easter Eve 2010 when my granddaughter and I were making a huge mess dying Easter eggs. They weren't exactly works of art, but we had a great time making them and every one was colored with splashes of laughter". She'll be back with us once her family issue is resolved.

C.C.

Jul 23, 2010

Friday July 23, 2010 Donna S. Levin

Theme: Hat Pun - The first word of each two-word familiar phrase is replaced by a type of hat, and the resulting phrase is humorously clued.

20A. Opportunity to examine some headwear? : CLOCHE ENCOUNTER. The base phrase is "close encounter". Cloche hat is bell-shaped & close-fitting, worn by those flappers in 1920s. Last consonant sound change.

33A. Call-in broadcasting for chefs? : TOQUE RADIO. Talk radio. Chefs wear toque. Vowel & last consonant changes.

40A. Northerners who dress with Scottish flair? : TAM YANKEES. "Damn Yankees" the musical. First consonant change.

47A. Hats that are soft and angular? : BOWLER OPPOSITES. Polar opposites. First consonant change also.

Minor inconsistencies. Tough to come up a focused set of theme entries with consistent sound change.

Still a fun theme theme. Wish clues were more consistent though: the first & last theme clues have a direct reference to hat, not the middle two.


Other than one Q, no other expensive letters (J/V/X/Z) today. And plenty of 4-letter words (total 36) in the grid, which always makes the puzzle accessible, to me any way. FYI, the average word length in this puzzle is under 4.97, shorter than our average Fridays.

Across:

1. Stage routines : ACTS. Rare to gain an immediate toehold on Fridays.

5. Full of spunk : SASSY

10. Shenanigan pullers : IMPS

14. Multilayer farm site? : COOP. Hens lays eggs again and again, hence "multilayer"?

15. Twaddle : TRIPE. Twaddle suggests silly talk. Tripe is just rubbish. No equation to my ears.

16. "Ta ta!" : CIAO

17. It's entered and processed : DATA

18. Needle bearers : PINES. Pine needles.

19. Pachacuti, for one : INCA. Have never heard of Pachacuti (literally meant "earth-shaker"), Inca Empire builder.

23. Grub : EATS

24. Recycled T-shirt? : RAG. Not the cryptic signal "recycle".

25. Carol beginning : ADESTE. "Adeste Fideles".

28. Proactiv target : ACNE

30. One of a cup's 48: Abbr. : TSP (Teaspoon). I bet Jazzbumpa saw "... A Cup's...". He's been concerned about the deflation effect on bra size in crossword.

35. Pampas weapon : BOLA

36. "Seinfeld" actress Julia __-Dreyfus : LOUIS. Elaine Benes.

37. Posed : SAT

38. Idol whose fans are known as Claymates : AIKEN

39. Gray area?: Abbr. : ANAT. Gray's Anatomy.

42. Condiment for pommes frites : SEL. French for "salt".

43. Livens (up) : PEPS

44. Delicate : DAINTY

45. Mendicant title : FRA

46. God attended by Valkyries : ODIN. We just had AESIR yesterday.

55. Plant used for first aid : ALOE

56. More than 70% of Earth's surface : OCEAN

57. Stretched just short of the breaking point : TAUT

58. Tidings : NEWS

59. Sudden movement : START. Thought of JERK.

60. Gumbo ingredient : OKRA

61. "Gee willikers!" : GOSH

62. Keep an __ the ground : EAR TO

63. McJob performer : PEON. Did you think of TEMP also?

Down:

1. Versatile, electronically : AC/DC. Didn't emerge easily.

2. Historic Newcastle resource : COAL. Don't know where Newcastle is. Not familiar with the idiom "selling coal to Newcastle" either, a foolhardy or pointless action, a la Wikipedia.

3. Miss Gulch's bête-noire, somewhat literally : TOTO. " The Wizard of Oz" dog, which appears in many of Donna's puzzles.

4. Garb for Apollo : SPACE SUIT. Pictured the Greek god Apollo, not that I know what garb he's wearing.

5. Religious guardian : ST. PETER. For heaven. No abbr. hint in the clue.

6. Astrological ovine : ARIES. Ram sign.

7. __ Fein : SINN

8. Blueprint item, briefly : SPEC

9. "Just give me an answer already!" : YES OR NO. Nice answer/clue.

10. Hockey infraction : ICING. No idea. Don't follow hockey.

11. After-dinner item : MINT

12. Step : PACE

13. Look down on the clouds, perhaps : SOAR. Dudley our pilot guy would love this clue.

21. Can't take : HATES

22. Seven sheikdoms fed. : UAE (United Arab Emirates)

25. Rand's shrugger : ATLAS. "Atlas Shrugged".

26. Shortbread cookie surname : DOONE. Got me. Have never had "Lorna Doone".

27. Peer : EQUAL

28. Apple or ale lead-in : ADAMS. Adam's ale = water.

29. Pierre, e.g. : CITY. I've got to think of South Dakota next time Pierre comes up.

30. Perfunctory : TOKEN

31. Wintry woe : SLEET

32. Flower name derived from the French for "thought" : PANSY. New trivia to me. Pencer is French verb for "to think". Sounds similar. (Correction: It's penser. Thanks, Kazie!)

34. PDQ cousin : ASAP

35. Halter, perhaps : BIKINI TOP. In a way, yes.

38. "Henry & June" role : ANAIS. Stumper. Returned my Netflix on this movie. Could not warm myself to it.

40. Lady Hillingdon is a cultivar of one : TEA ROSE. Yellow and has a tea fragrance. See here.

41. Enlarge, as a house : ADD ONTO

43. Ante- equivalent : PRE

45. Meat : FLESH

46. Victor Vasarely's genre : OP-ART. Victor Vasarely was a Hungarian French artist whose work is generally seen aligned with Op-Art, says Wiki. Total stranger to me.

47. Explosion : BANG

48. It's found in tubs : OLEO. Not bathtub.

49. Awes : WOWS

50. Tetra- times two : OCTA. Prefix for "eight". Tetra, "four".

51. Fruit with a "check the neck" ripeness test : PEAR

52. Steal : TAKE

53. Slovenia capital : EURO. "Capital" always refers to "currency" in late week puzzles.

54. Ollie's sidekick : STAN

Answer grid.

In the next few Fridays, I am going to show a recent photo of our regular blogging contributors. We start today with Darling Santa Argyle. He said: "My cousin took a picture of me saying a prayer before his son attacks my hair and beard. I'm not gonna showing the "after" picture." Argyle's nicknames: Scott, Scotty, Cid/Sid, Skid, Skidney, El Cid and "Hey, you".

C.C.