, pub-2774194725043577, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 L.A.Times Crossword Corner: Saturday, Apr 14th, 2012, Mark Bickham


Apr 14, 2012

Saturday, Apr 14th, 2012, Mark Bickham

Theme: None (Egypt~?)

Words: 70

Blocks: 28

This is my first blogging of Mr. Bickham, and it may be Mark's first LAT Saturday (indeed anywhere, since I don't follow any other crossword blogs), and his last appearances here were a Wednesday in March with "Body Types", and the "hidden trees" puzzle from Sunday, Feb 5th. Lots of blank boxes after my first pass, but with a few minor changes and re-fill, I was able to get on his wavelength. Two spanners, and one climber;

34A. Start-up processes : INITIALIZATIONS

41A. 1991 film in which both lead actresses got Oscar nominations (neither of them won) : THELMA AND LOUISE - did not see the movie; actresses Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis lost to Jodie Foster for her role in "Silence of the Lambs"; I do know that Brad Pitt got his 'break' here - he was paid $6000 for the role.

8D. View opposed by the intelligent design movement : DARWINIAN THEORY - I am not going to start a religious debate; Darwin's Theory is that of natural selection in evolution - and leave it at that....

And ON WARD ~!


1. Campy dance gesture : JAZZ HANDS - never heard this "move" called as such- Image

10. Puts up : HANGS

15. Like capybaras and piranhas : AMAZONIAN

16. Exercise output : SWEAT

17. Caution to one who overlooks you? : DON'T STARE

18. Button material : NACRE

19. Tom, Dick or Harry : ANYONE

20. Twisted, as a grin : WRY - ah, not SLY

22. "Get a __!" : GRIP - ah, not "Life"

23. Wall map insert : PIN - ah, not "KEY"

24. "Like __ not ..." : IT OR - hey, this one was right the first time ~!

26. CIA progenitor : O.S.S. - "53A", I had OAS - the Wiki

27. __-to : HOW - ah, not "SET"

30. One of the Poor Clares : NUN

32. Oracle city : DELPHI - "53A", I goofed trying to fit "Adelphi" (University here on LI)

38. Minute groove : STRIA

39. Highland turndown : NAE

40. Fill again, as a flat : RE-LET - I was really, really hoping this was not going to be "Re-Air", as in filling a "flat" tire.....

44. Lab verification : RE-TEST

45. "Four Quartets" poet's monogram : TSE - This guy

46. Abbr. on old maps : SSR - Soviet Socialist Republic

47. Stevedores' org. : ILA - International Longshoreman's Assoc.

48. Promise : OATH

50. Friend of Pepé Le Pew : AMI

53. "My bad!" : OOPS

55. Directly : DUE - as in "due North"

56. Classic theater name : PALACE

60. Something often intended? : NO PUN

62. Semimonthly period, roughly : FORTNIGHT - Two weeks - I know this because both my parents are British, and used this phrase often

64. Grenoble's river : ISERE

65. U.S. official whose office has been vacant for more than nine of the last 50 years : TREASURER - I did not know that; I can think of some "other" offices that seem to be "vacant", too....

66. Gives up : CEDES

67. Bring order to : SYSTEMIZE


1. "Ali" actress __ Pinkett Smith : JADA - Wife of Will Smith, whose MIB³ comes out next month

2. Main Theban deity : AMON - various spellings, but basically, Egyptian

3. Buffoon : ZANY

4. "Afterburner" band : ZZ TOP - The follow-up to "Eliminator", with all their pop hits, I love this one from Afterburner

5. Egypt's Mubarak : HOSNI -more Egypt

6. WiFi necessity : ANTENNA - usually built-in

7. Actress Vardalos : NIA

9. Kvack's housemate : SNERT - ah, Hägar the Horrible

10. TV mall, basically : HSN - Home Shopping Network

11. Like tongues in a gabfest : AWAG - Did not need a "WAG" to get this one (but it did change my "life" to grip")

12. Giza attraction including the Great Pyramids : NECROPOLIS - literally, "death city" - more Egypt

13. Flash : GARISHNESS

14. Folk tale meany : STEP-SISTER

21. "Judge me by my size, do you?" speaker : YODA

25. Back in : RETRO

27. Melodramatic : HISTRIONIC

28. Running amok : ON THE LOOSE

29. Bugged : WIRE-TAPPED

31. Wrist-to-elbow bone : ULNA

33. Substitute word : LIEU

35. Cedar shake alternative : TILE

36. Insistent retort : I AM SO

37. Puzzle pieces, in Sydney? : ZEDS - "Zee" tiles in Scrabble; I watch the UK version of Top Gear; they use Zed, too, and the word coupé - with the "E" pronounced; makes a slick car like the "280ZX" sound awkward.... (Added later: There are two Z's in Puzzle.

42. Not very much : A TAD

43. Really went for : LEAPT AT

49. Massachusetts university : TUFTS - hey - it's an .edu site~!

51. Parsonage : MANSE

52. Largest pelvic bone : ILIUM

54. Guaranteed : SURE

57. Business head? : AGRI -business

58. Bistro awning word : CHEZ

59. Peut-__: French "maybe" : ETRE

61. Video game letters : NES - Nintendo Entertainment System

63. Hi-__ graphics : RES - no Hi-Res graphics on your NES; but they were for its time

Answer grid.


Notes from C.C.:

1) Today's constructor Mark Bickham is Placematfan on the blog.

2) I got this email from Norma Rosenfield of Marbles: The Brain Store


What: Marbles: The Brain Store’s Fourth Annual Crossword Tournament featuring unpublished NYT crosswords by Will Shortz

Who: Marbles: The Brain Store –

When: Saturday, April 28, 2012

  • Mall of America in Bloomington, MN
  • Mall in Columbia, MD
  • Philadelphia/King of Prussia Mall
  • Downtown Chicago, IL at 55 East Grand Ave.


Parachute Jump said...

Ahem - here in the great NE where I live, there are these mysterious green mailboxes out on the street, the same size and shape as a regular send-a-letter mailbox, but green, and without a front flap that opens. What are they?
Sorry Lemonade714, but you weren't even close.
When the letter carriers arrive on their route, they have much too much mail to fit on their little carts (yes, here the mail people actually walk, as do many others of us), so they stash the overflow in these green mailboxes, which they come back to periodically to load up on more LL Bean catalogs.
I am glad to demystify such a vital topic.
Thank you Sallie, JD, and Bill G. for your welcomes. I will eventually get all of you straight. In the meantime, I'm as puzzled as ever.

Barry G. said...

Morning, all!

Most difficult puzzle this week, which is only fitting for a Saturday. I got THELMA AND LOUISE easily enough, but the other long answers were hard to uncover.

I've coincidentally been doing a lot of research lately on the war being waged by Intelligent Design proponents, but could only think of DARWIN'S THEORY or DARWINISM as an answer to 8D. I honestly don't think I have encountered DARWINIAN THEORY once in all my research, but I'm sure it's perfectly valid nonetheless.

Similarly, I just couldn't come up with INITIALIZATIONS, even after getting every single letter except the Z (obviously, I was also having trouble figuring out the tricky clue to 37D). Once I finally got it (by running through the entire alphabet until I got the *tada*), it made sense. But I just couldn't see it before that. I actually had INITIAL STATIONS for awhile, which is just as bad.

HeartRx said...

Good morning Splynter, C.C. et al.

Nice puzzle today placematfan, and nice write-up, Splynter! After the first pass I had very few entries that I was sure of. I kept sinking further and further south, until I found myself at the bottom. I finally got a foothold in the SE, and worked my way back up from there.

I had “sly” before WRY, “life” before GRIP, “cat” before AMI, didn’t know JADA Pinkett Smith or NIA Vardalos, and I put mOSNI before HOSNI. Tiny thorns in an otherwise elegant puzzle were RE-LET, RE-TEST and AWAG. Clever stuff that made me smile LEAPT AT, JAZZ HANDS, ON THE LOOSE.

Overall, a really challenging and fun Saturday puzzle - thanks Mark! Now all you need is a Friday to complete the cycle. Anything coming up?

Tinbeni said...

Placematfan: My Saturday Ink Blot looks kinda sexy.
Fell into the: Sly/WRY & Life/GRIP traps.
Liked seeing SNERT & YODA in the grid.

Since I do these "on-paper, in-Ink, I can't "run through the entire alphabet and get a *tada*".
I just call it "what it is" ... a DNF.

Cheers to all at Sunset.

Avg Joe said...

Good morning. Thanks for the write up Splynter.

Wow! This was a brute, Mark! Very much like a themeless Silkie. Just enough there to provide a few toe holds, but not enough to make any area the least bit easy. First fills were Jada, Hosni, Snert and Delphi. After that it became an erasurefest. Lots of clever cluing and misdirection. Final fill was that N in HSN, and even then it took a few seconds to get it. Doh! Well done. Also, it's always pleasant to discover that the constructor is a contributor to this blog.

desper-otto said...

Greetings, Saturday Soldiers!

I thought this one was gonna get me, but that'd make two DNF's in one week. I couldn't let that happen.

My bistro awning said CAFE for awhile, and my WIFI necessity was a NETWORK. That slowed things down ATAD.

My showstopper was WIRETAPPED. I had HOP-TO, and refused to let it go. And I'm never sure if it's ILO or ILA. When I finally switched to ILA, TAPPED appeared and HOP had to go.

I thought the clues for RELET and NOPUN were brilliant. Even with all those missteps, I still finished under my self-imposed time limit, so life is good.

Parachute Jump, that's very interesting about the green mailboxes. I've never seen any in the various places I've lived. I thought it was gonna turn out to be a TARDY -- small version of a TARDIS. Welcome.

Good job, Mark and Splynter!

Steven J. St. John said...

DNF in the NE... I'm sure I knew Necropolis but couldn't come up with it or GARISHNESS.

Still, very tight puzzle for a only 28 blocks. Nice one!

desper-otto said...


Splynter, I thought the puzzle pieces were simply pieces of the word "puzzle" rather than Scrabble tiles.

WindHover, thanks for dropping by yesterday. I always enjoy your "take" on things.

Anonymous said...

A love(?) song:

Yellowrocks said...

Great puzzle. There were no hang-ups and it was a very fast solve until the last 3 clues in the NW which I tackled last. JADA, ZZTOP, and JAZZHANDS were all unknowns and took quite a while. I couldn't accept that JADA was a name.

AGRIbusiness reminds me of the interesting posts last night. It seems so many of us have had other occupations to start.

I trained as a Director of Christian Education, but found the hours incompatible with motherhood. I waitressed quite a bit so hubby and I could work at different times of day and have one of us always home with the two toddlers. For a time I worked the second shift in a TV factory making electron guns. I saved my entire wages for a down payment on our first home. I didn’t mind it too much because I knew it was temporary.

Later, when I taught school the children were older and I could afford a babysitter when necessary before and after their school hours.

In Japan the teachers were amazed that every single educator in our group had started life as a non teacher. That never happens in Japan. People don't reinvent themselves the way Americans do.

Grumpy 1 said...

Well, this one certainly gave me fits. Thanks for the expo, Splynter. Great puzzle, Mark.

I thought the NW was going to be easy when HOSNI, NIA and SNERT were my first fill. Alas, nothing else in that corner was obvious, so I moved on to the NE. Get a room? Nope. A life? Nope. Finally came to GRIPs with that one.

After poking around and picking off the easy ones, trying out, tossing and putting back a few entries, I finally had everything except the 4 by 4 block in the NW corner. DON'T STARE and ANYONE gave me _ _ TOP and the only band I could think of was ZZ TOP.

Faced with a choice of AMAZONIAN or AriZONIAN, it was pretty obvious where the piranhas live. The JA was the last to fill since JADA and AMON weren't known tome at all and JAZZ HANDS is not an expression that I'm familiar with.

I made so many changes along the way it's hard to tell which letter was the last one in some places. If I had been using an eraser I'm sure there would have been holes worn in the paper.

CrossEyedDave said...

Cheated like crazy.
i also deleted my wifes email history to make room, so it's time to get out of Dodge, (im goin fishing) before boot hill gets another member.

If you never hear from me again, you will know what happened.

(i swear it was all ads...)

Anonymous said...

Jada Pickett was/is? married to Will Smith.

Avg Joe said...

A point of clarification for me on Jada. I don't follow the "People" circuit in the least. But I do use Yahoo email, and every time I log on to that page, they have a "trending" top 10 list. Yesterday, Jada Pinkett Smith was the top item at one point. I saw that name and said "Who the hell is that?" and clicked on it. If it hadn't been for that, today would clearly have been a DNF for me. So I guess the public's morbid curiosity with celebrities lives can be useful in unexpected ways. :-)

Montana said...

There were very few clues I was sure of today.
Isn’t it interesting though, how a letter or two can jog your memory for a correct entry?
I came here to read Splynter’s write-up. Thank you! All clues make sense now.
Mark, you are incredible!

Has anyone noticed that when you read today’s comments, the avatars are on the right side, but if you go back and read yesterday’s (or any earlier day) the avatars are on the left side? Or is it just my iPad and computer?


Splynter said...

Hi again~!~

Yeah, D-otto, you're right - I missed that this morning - "Z"s being a part of "puZZle" - but I like my answer, too~!

As for Jada and Will, I found this


Irish Miss said...

Good morning everyone:

Great puzzle, Mark, and fine expo, Splynter.

Finished w/o help but had some write-overs: stepmother before stepsister; iliac before ilium.

Perps helped a lot with the spanners.

Happy Saturday all.

Lucina said...

Hello, Puzzlers. Great expo, Splynter.

Except for the NE I thought this was fairly easy for Saturday and I naively filled JOIN HANDS, knew JADA HOSNI, NIA then moved on without a second glance. Silly me! JAZZ HANDS, really?

As I sashayed downward NUN, DELPHI, YODA and ULNA gave enough letters for THELMA AND LOUISE then the bottom. Last to fall was the NE.

Ditto for get a LIFE and BRASS for button material. After many erasures GRIP appeared as did NACRE, SWEAT, HANDS and then the light went on to finish the columns.

I also thought ZED referred to the zz in puzzles.

Very clever, Mark, thank you. I especially enjoyed NO PUN.

Have a super Saturday, everyone!

Zcarguy said...

Morning all,

I usually work the puzzle from top to bottom , except on Fridays and Saturday's , I look for a " soft " area in the puzzle that I can get a toehold in and go from there, and since I solve in pen and paper I always check for perps before I continue, I don't like ink blots,

Without any perps, I thought of Thelma and Louise at 41A , and just like they did in that movie... I went for it.
That was a sad ending to that movie by the way....

Hated to see that T-Bird go to ruin ..!

I got HANG up in the NE corner after putting in Metropolis at 12D , but after a little SWEAT and AWAG
I got a GRIP on that corner and moved on,

Favorite ..Don't Stare

Y'all have a good weekend

Lemonade714 said...

Wonderful, fun, difficult but ultimately done. Thank you PMF, otherwise WHS

Zcarguy said...


Splynter's explanation to 37D also makes sense, due to the British influence in Sydney Australia

windhover said...

If my comments when Joe originally posted the HDT quote implied that I didn't think you "got it", I apologize. That certainly wasn't my intent or appropriate.
As I said yesterday, we all do what we have to do, when we have to do it, and if we end up doing what we love, we're luckier than most.
Chucking the NMS into the weeds worked for me, even though family and friends were disappointed, and it seems it did for you, too.

LaLaLinda said...

Hi Everyone ~~

What a challenging, fun Saturday puzzle! Congrats, Mark/placematfan ... I really enjoyed this. Like others have mentioned, I pretty much worked this from the bottom up. JAZZ HANDS just did not come to me at all - I guess I was concentrating on dancing 'feet!' The easily "get-able" long answers helped to open up sections. My one hold up there was wanting to start 27D- HISTRIONICS with 'Hys-' ... I guess I was thinking of 'hysteria.' The SE was the last to fall - I, too, had 'Cafe' before CHEZ and that messed up that corner.

I had a number of write-overs but it all came together and it was really satisfying to finish on my own. I loved the misdirection on a number of clues and agree with others on some of the really clever ones: NOPUN and DON'T STARE - great!

My last fill was 3D - 'Buffoon' - ZANY. I never realized that it was a noun as well as an adjective ... a learning moment.

Thanks for a wonderful write-up, Splynter ... I, too, saw ZEDS as actual puzzle pieces, and not the letters - 'Zs.' I love to see the different takes on the same clues. BTW - your choice of illustration for JAZZ HANDS was perfect! >^.^<

Beautiful weather here in CT ~~ Enjoy your day, everyone!

Vairnut said...

Nice puzzle! Started off slow, had words all over the place. Finally got all but the NW and SE done. Had to look up a few words for the NW, but got it filled in. Looked up TUFTS, and finished the SE with no more problems. My favorite word in the puzzle? HISTRIONICS.

Bob Fosse said...

Jazz Hands

Anonymous said...

Nobody had 22 across "Get a ROOM"?

Zcarguy said...

Anon 9:51

No, I knew my Step Sister will rat on me ...!

Yellowrocks said...

Splynter, I love your cute JAZZHANDS kitten. I have a similar picture on a card, but she is looking up, not down.

I have a wall switch that turns off my modem, TV cable, land line phone, and Internet access. I fastened my cute kitten over the switch so that it won't be turned off accidentally. Kitty seems to saying, "Stay away! I'm guarding this switch.”

BTW I enjoyed your blog

Jayce said...

Grumpy 1, at 9:44 AM, mentioned get a room.

Tinbeni said...

Anon 11:51
re: "Get a ROOM"?
Obviously you didn't READ the comment by Grumpy 1 @9:44.

Avg.Joe 10:13
I already knew that Will Smith wife was named JADA. Very unique IMO.
I also saw THAT "trending" top 10 list" yesterday on Yahoo. Can't remember EVER clicking on one of them.
As such, JADA was my first entry. I think my second was Pepe's AMI buddy.


PK said...

Interesting challenge MB/PMF! Good job, Splynter!

Knew JADA because I used to watch Oprah who had her on a lot. Came up with AMAZONIAN next. Thought I was on a roll then hit a long dry spell. JAZZ HANDS is a gimme for dance movie fans.

Lots of "Z's" in this puzzle. But didn't dare snooze.

Hands up for "room" at 22A. Erased SWEAT several times. Couldn't get the NE corner for the longest time. NECROPOLIS came to me but I looked it up to see if it was a real word.

34A never got a "Z" there. I was sure it had to be two words since it was so long. I was wanting something that meant INITIAL public offering like for a new stock on the market. Finally put an "E" in Darwinean and an "L": elATIONS. Didn't like it but...

Had everything else so was pretty happy to do a Saturday.

AVGJOE & Gary: I see we're all in a huge severe weather watch. Stay safe!

Rube said...

Curses! Had to Google for JADA 'cause also didn't know ZZTOP or NIA, had (the much more common spelling, IMO) AMAN and had discarded ZANY as the wrong part of speech. The T in ZZTOP was my last letter. In retrospect, NIA does appear in xwords on occassion and should have known her.

Took forever for DARWINIANTHEORY as I was thinking evolution or selective or natural. The wag of _HANDS gave me the D and the rest followed, given the other, many crosses.

Wanted South American for the capybara clue as Rio is the only place I've seen them. (They run wild in the parks, or at least they did 40 years ago.)

Enjoyed seeing FORTNIGHT, as one of my favorite units of velocity is "furlongs per fortnight".

Had many of the same writeovers as others in this very enjoyable puzzle: plus ANTENNA/hoTspot. Personally I would say SYSTEMatize.

Jayce said...

I have a friend who lives in Heliopolis, Egypt, so I over-confidently entered it for 12D. If I had given it more thought, I would have realized it was not the right answer because Heliopolis is a suburb of Cairo and thus quite a ways away from Giza; also it is not exactly an "attraction" even though it is one of the nicer neighborhoods in the greater Cairo area.

Thunder, lightning, and rain are finished here it seems; the sun is out and it has warmed up to 56 degrees.

Jayce said...

What Rube said :)

Avg Joe said...

Jayce, 12D was the site of several of my erasures. But the crosses were aligning for some sort of ...opolis, so I too out REair, put in RELET and then filled in mEtROPOLIS. That T in relet also gave me enough to guess stepsister. Then HANG finally occurred to me, so that fixed the N and _A_RE remaining in 18A finally got me to my pencil on paper Tada moment.

PK, We've had one pretty serious round of weather pass. That one scared me a little because I was watching it just explode out of thin air between Hebron and Wilber on radar. It only dropped .20", but we had numerous lightning strikes within 1 mile and it knocked out satellite TV for 20 minutes. Sounds like it could get rough again tonight. You're in E KS aren't you? If it's central, you'd better keep an eye out too.

Bill G. said...

I enjoyed this puzzle more than usual for a themeless Saturday. I too especially enjoyed the NO PUN clue. Was that yours, Mark, or Rich's?

Parachute Jump, I'm glad you're enjoying yourself. Have you considered filling out a profile so we can learn a little about you?

The rain is gone. Just cool and windy now. Still pretty. If the wind doesn't let up, I think I will skip my bicycle ride.

I am enjoying the new little coffee shop. I like patronizing it because it's a Mom-and-Pop-type place rather than a Starbucks-like chain. They had an open house along with the neighboring businesses including a petting zoo and free Belgian hot chocolate. Yummy.

Jerome said...


Horribly done-

If a really mellow dude goes HISTRIONIC, that's IRONIC SHIT, man.

Bill G. said...

I agree with Rube about systematize. Hey Rube, how about adding some more to your profile? It would be nice to know what you do and where you are from. I like your image of Lil Abner. What about Daisy Mae? I love the way she was drawn.

I remember Nia from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. What an enjoyable movie!

HeartRx said...

Bill G. @2:23, Rube has just enough on his profile to make me realize I like him: He has enough wine corks leftover to make trivets. (^0^)

Husker Gary said...

How do you know there is bad weather in Nebraska? The University cancelled the spring football game in Lincoln with 70,000 tickets already sold and Jim Cantore is reporting from outside the stadium. Hang on Joe!

PK said...

Restless wind and enough clouds to make one edgy here in E KS. Big red blob on the radar map in central KS where my wheat and good friends are. Won't call until tomorrow, but wondering. Wheat is insured, friends aren't.

Also wondering whether it would be worthwhile to go spend the night in my daughter's dungeon (aka basement). Probably won't.

placematfan said...

Wow! What a puzzle! Ingenious! A gem! A rara avis! A puzzle like this just somehow--I don’t know--reaffirms my faith in all that is good. I mean, wow, ya know. And there’s just something about a puzzle like this that just seems to indicate--I don’t know how--that it’s constructor is handsome and charming and noble and . . .

Wait a minute. . . . Okay, um, I’ve just read C.C.’s notes and realized I’m not hiding behind my user name. Damn. Judge, I’d like to have that last paragraph stricken from the record, please. Man, I miss my lurker days.

Seriously, though, thanks to all for the feedback, and to Splynter for the write-up. And props to Rich (and Patti?) for the cluing. I’m batting about .100 in the Themeless Game, as it took ten or eleven rejections before Rich accepted this one; but I’m happy to have gotten on base.

Themeless construction is, I think, a different beast than themed construction. The glory of it is that the alphabet is your oyster and you don’t suffer the limitations of all the locked letters of a themed-puzzle skeleton. My biggest mistake has been, as some Crossword Sage (don’t remember who) warned against, getting too attached to fill. Ironically, esoterica/crosswordese are more unwelcome in a themelesses than in a themed--I mean, you’d think, “Harder puzzle, harder words,” right? . . . Nope. One tenet of themed construction is that a small number of obscure entries are acceptable as long as the perps are universally recognizable, but this doesn’t apply to themelesses, as much. Most, if not all, my rejections from Rich were due to my not adhering to this: I’d get so attached to a section of fill that took hours to place and that I loved (but that had that one fatal entry), and out of stubborness refuse to redo that section, and then in a fit of Cruciverbalistic Denial (my Doctor of Letters diagnosed me) I’d actually spend more precious hours finishing the puzzle, submitting it, and two months later I’d open the by-now familiar e-mail from Rich that said something like, “Great puzzle, Mark. Love to accept it but for this one entry . . .” The last such entry was SNCC, which came up about 15 times on, so I risked it (or went into denial--one of the two). Thing is, even though Rule Number One of Themeless Construction might be “No esoterica/crosswordese!”, that rule can be broken if the editor thinks your puzzle is groovy enough to offset the presence of one or two clunkers. . . . It’s a crapshoot, sometimes.

Also, themeless grids are usually impossible, or extremely difficult, to redo, section-wise; while with a themed puzzle an editor might ask for revisions (assuming he likes the theme), it seems to be understood that acceptable revisions of a themeless are unlikely, hence are rarely requested--that’s my experience thus far.

It’s also worth noting that Will doesn’t like a themeless puzzle whose grid looks like a themed; i.e, 15-letter entries in NYT themelesses usually only appear in stacks, thus signifying, visually, a themeless grid. Contrastingly, Rich gives you much more room to play with long entries (thanks for that, Rich); ostensibly Rich feels that the fact that a puzzle appears on a Saturday is sufficient to denote its themelessness, regardless of whether the grid might look like a themed puzzle.

Other than that, to my understanding Themeless 101 is, self-evidently, about Scrabbly/interesting entries (especially the long fill) and as few black squares as possible. And it doesn’t hurt to try to have a really cool 1-Across.

Yoda said...

A disturbance in the force I feel.

Reading Jesus books Windhover is. Apologies offered he did. New tricks the old dog is learning.

Jeromes joke funny it is.

Ice in his comment Tinbeni left out.

Lemonade comment short it is.

placematfan said...


I’d seen on that JAZZHANDS had only been used in three puzzles (Seems like every 10+-letter entry with Z, X, Q, J, or some combination thereof that you can think of has been used at least once.), so I started there and got psyched when AMAZONIAN and DONTSTARE fell into place, and then it was on. It wasn’t until after the fact that I realized how rarely-used the phrasing, as Barry G. commented on, of DARWINIANTHEORY is, and that was a bit underwhelming. While making the puzzle, I didn’t like the humdrum INITIALIZATIONS, but it had a Z and it was the best I could do to keep the SW and NE stocked with lively fill, because I wasn’t going to let go of THELMAANDLOUISE. And, like I said, I’m really just honored to have swung and made contact today. Because . . . Seriously, y’all (forgive me--raised in Georgia), it’s like going to a Cruciverbaholics meeting, introducing myself, admitting that I can’t stop submitting themeless puzzles with obscure words to the LA Times, and going home that night, bingeing on Crossword Compiler and doing it all again, and facing one more “morning after” of an e-mail from Rich saying, “Great puzzle, Mark. But there’s this one entry . . .” But I’m happy to be able to say that, presently, I’m on the wagon, in spite of ILA, AWAG, AMON, and even INITIALIZATIONS.

Please pardon the liberty I took with space, but Saturday’s a writing day for me, one; and, two, seeing your puzzle published is somewhat akin to seeing your kid graduate high school or college or something, and speaking for myself, it’s hard not to feel a parent’s pride, if you will, on Publication Day. I once heard an anecdote, if I recall, in which a young musician seeks out Dizzy Gillespie backstage after a performance and says, “Mr. Gillespie! I’m a huge fan! I play, too! But I just can’t get over my stage fright! What do you do, Mr. Gillespie, when your hands are sweating and your heart is pounding and your body’s shaking and breathing just seems like the hardest thing in the world to do?!” And the reply is, “Listen, child, the day that feeling goes away is the day I put my horn down and never pick it up again.”

Kinda did, kinda didn’t, make my point, really, that story, but I’m gonna leave it, anyway.

Rube, I can’t convey the width of my smile at the fact that serious-minded people are out there in the world throwing around the term “furlongs per fortnight”.

Bill G., I’m pretty sure the NOPUN clue was Rich’s.

Oh, yeah: lastly, I’d just like to quickly extend a special Thank You, generally but very specifically, to Frank Longo for doing what you do: I love your work.

PK said...

Saw a piece on weather channel from near Wichita. The spring proms for several schools were being moved to safer quarters because of tornado warnings. Don't cancel the prom for goodness sake! Doesn't everyone want to send daughters in strapless dresses out in severe weather warnings?

PK said...

Mark/pmf: Chuckling over your comments on puzzle making. Know the feelings. Pretty much mine when I was submitting free-lance stories for publication. Helps if you have a publisher who loves your work and allows reworking. Hang in there, guy, it was a fun puzzle, challenging and not cryptic enough to be annoying. Look forward to seeing more of yours.

Rube said...

Tx, @Mark, for your constructor's view on the making of a puzzle. Always enjoyable. ('Course it always helps that the reviews are positive.)

@BillG & @HeartRx: I joined Blogger 2-1/2 years ago when getting back into crosswords and have not given my profile one moment of thought since -- until today. Sooo, FWIW, some basic info is now online for all to see. (Although I just realized there's no mention of the wife and 2 grown kids.)

BTW, I'm always on the lookout for bass recipes. I've just recently developed a recipe for Striper jerky if anyone's interested. It's... interesting!

Anonymous said...

@placemate - 20 lines in Preview mode!!!!!

Grumpy 1 said...

@Rube 1:13, I really laughed at your "furlong per fortnight" comment. We once had a pop quiz in Calculus where the answer would be a velocity. The units in the given info were mixed between metric and English, so the velocity units were going to depend on the conversions used. One of my classmates inquired about the units for the answer and the instructor just said curtly "Your choice, I can verify, since I know the conversion factors." You guessed it: furlongs per fortnight was my classmates choice.

Avg Joe said...

Weather update from SW of Lincoln. We got hit hard for about an hour. 1.5" of rain during that period. 1.7" so far today. The 30-45 mph wind shifted, in order, from SE to E, to SW then to NE during that hour. I've never seen that happen that quickly. Round 2 is over and we're in a lull. Looks like there could be several more.

Mark. Thanks for filling out the elation. That was fun.

Yoda said...

Ahhhhh...back to normal things have returned.

Chickie said...

Hola Everyone, Thanks Splynter for the super writeup of the puzzle by mark Bickham. I had only a few fills the first run through but with plugging away and some lookups with Mr. G. finally finished.

Hands up for Stepmother before Stepsister and life before grip. Those errors made the NE corner a bear to finish, especially since Relet was also part of that area.

Thanks for the clueing for TSE--not half a fly, but TS Elliot's initials. This was a nice change

Fortnight is well used in novels by English authors, as well as in many PBS English offerings. I've written to a pen friend in England for over 60 years and she uses the term all the time. A fun word, that I don't think I've seen in a puzzle before.

Our weather seems to be clearing nicely. The sun is lovely.

Have a great weekend, everyone.