Oct 31, 2020

Saturday, October 31, 2020, Jeffrey Wechsler

 Themeless Saturday by Jeffrey Wechsler 

Jeffrey is second from the left in this picture

Today we have a Jeffrey Wechsler puzzle that is a Halloween treat but not devoid of tricks.

Here are Jeffrey's very interesting and generous comments in answer to my inquiry about this puzzle:



It’s very nice to hear from you. 

Puzzle editors have a free hand in rewriting clues, and sometimes might change up to half of them in a puzzle.  I see the changes as not only a matter of trying to improve clarity and accuracy, and a way to modify the overall difficulty of a puzzle, but also an occasion for puzzle editors to exercise their own creativity.  Sometimes I appreciate the changes, sometimes not.  In this puzzle, several clue changes can demonstrate the range of alterations.

 6-Down is an interesting place to start.  Husker Gary wrote to me that it took a long time for him to figure it out.  My clue was certainly “meta (Husker - self-referential)”, but remarkably, Rich substituted [Number before Number], a different “meta” clue!  Mine was [Number to the left], meaning that SIX was to the left of the clue.  Both clues are fine, in my opinion.  Elsewhere, Rich left in one “meta” clue, and removed another.  Rich used 62-Across: [With “fix”, it describes itself] for PRE.  He changed the clue at 1-Across, which was [Its symbol is described by 2-Down’s answer].  2-Down is ONE K, and a single letter K is the chemical symbol for POTASSIUM.  Perhaps that was too much “meta” for one puzzle, especially at 1-Across.


Clue changes can make answers easier or harder to discover.  Changing the clue at 41-Across to [Pram occupant’s diaper], from the original [Apparel for a pram occupant], made NAPPY much more obvious.  On the other hand, I think that 61-Across’s [1963 Johnny Thunder hit] is much harder than the original [Example of aerial derring-do] for LOOP DE LOOP.  


It’s always gratifying when a clue that one considers rather clever is maintained, such as [Request before reaching 21?] for HIT ME AGAIN at 11-Down.  Alternatively, an editor may consider a clue too cutesy, which I think happened at 49-Across, when Rich used a straightforward clue defining TITANIA, when I had offered [One whose emotions hit Bottom?].  In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Titania is affected by a love potion, causing her to fall in love with the character Nick Bottom.  Now, I like this clue very much, but I can understand that Rich might have thought “Enough!”.  As many LA Times regular solvers might have noticed, I try to insert a Shakespeare quote (usually as a fill-in-the-blank) or reference into each puzzle I submit.  Sometimes they are used, sometimes they are not.  In this puzzle, I received a double whammy.  Besides the loss of the Bottom clue, I had a Shakespeare quote clue at 18-Down: [The air bites shrewdly; __ very cold”: Hamlet], for IT IS.  Rich changed that to the suffix ITIS.





Now let's look for the other treats Jeffrey has put into our literary bag:


1. One of the alkali metals: POTASSIUM - Like all the alkali metals, POTASSIUM is very reactive and is usually stored in mineral oil or an inert atmosphere. It does this when it is dropped into water.

10. Enjoy a meal, with "down": CHOW.

14. Lacking taste, say: UNARTISTIC - I had to replace INARTISTIC

16. Yul's "Solomon and Sheba" co-star: GINA - Rotten Tomatoes indicated it lacked 
19. Ability: SKILL and 30. Skills: COMPETENCE.

17. Where fajitas may be seen: TEX-MEX MENU.

18. Senior suffix: ITIS - Prospective graduates last spring did not get to experience SENIORITIS in person

20. Breaks down: SOBS.

22. Big extinct bird: MOA.

23. "Frozen" snowman: OLAF.

26. Chem lab substance: REAGENT.

28. Casino option: BACCARAT - James Bond playing BACCARAT against Emilio Largo in Thunderball. The dealer holds a card on the palette.

32. Exercise apparel: SWEATS - My standard outfit these days

33. Out of control: AMOK.

34. Increase: GROW.

36. Fungal rye disease: ERGOT.
37. Wheel part: RIM.

38. Attack, as with questions: BOMBARD.

40. Org. monitoring gas prices: AAA.

41. Pram occupant's diaper: NAPPY.

43. __ lily: Utah state flower: SEGO.

44. W.E.B. Du Bois' Tennessee alma mater: FISK.

45. Looks of contempt: SNEERS.

47. Maker of Contadina products: DEL MONTE - DEL MONTE acquired the brand in 1997

49. Shakespeare's fairy queen: TITANIA - From A Midsumer Night's Dream

51. Evening in Paris: SOIR - Ce SOIR, nous distribuerons 250 sacs de bonbons (Tonight we will hand out 250 bags of candy)

53. Wings with rooms: ELLS - My old school is building one on the last piece of ground they can use

55. __ fog: DENSE.

59. Outer layer: RIND.

61. 1963 Johnny Thunder hit: LOOP DE LOOP - Ah, a classic of my misspent yute! YouTube if you must.

64. Footwear for the stealthy, maybe: MOCS.

65. "Where's everyone else?": YOU'RE ALONE

66. Originate: STEM - We are all trying to STEM the tide of the Corona virus

67. Like some eggs: FREE RANGE - Free at last!


1. With 31-Down, finalizes, in publishing: PUTS and 31. See 1-Down: TO BED.

2. Short race: ONE-K - .67 mile

3. Approach the gate, perhaps: TAXI.

4. Wrestling maneuver: ARM LOCK.

5. Blanche's sister, in a Williams play: STELLA 

6. Number before Number?: SIX - 6. Number before Number?: SIX - SIX is the Number before the word Number in this "meta" clue. Wow, getting the fill here was pretty easy but making the connection took me a while!

7. Belief suffix: ISM.

8. Pickup cousins, briefly: UTES - A UTE  being loaded into a pickup

9. Inconsequential: MINOR.

10. Movie SFX: CGI.

11. Request before reaching 21?: HIT ME AGAIN - This chart tells you

12. Savory baked bread: ONION TOAST.

13. Hung in the balance: WAS AT STAKE - The game WAS AT STAKE when this smallest guy on the team walked onto the field 

15. Dice, e.g.: CUBES.

21. Shortened a log: SAWED.

24. Ship that encountered Sirens: ARGO - Here the Sirens are calling to Jason

25. Rural spreads: FARMS - Here are some here in Dodge County Nebraska from the air

27. Switz. neighbor: GER - On our German tour, a cousin of mine met us in Kißlegg, GERmany and drove us to his (and my grandfather's) hometown of Heiden, Switzerland at 125 mph in a European Ford Escort

28. Campaigns rurally: BARNSTORMS - Before he landed in Paris in 1927, Charles Lindberg did this kind of BARNSTORMING

29. "That was so stupid of me!": AM I AN IDIOT.
35. Pay: WAGES.

38. Talking Heads lead singer David: BYRNE Why he left the group

39. Cone-like candy: ROLO.

42. Little veggie: PEA.

44. Patti Austin album dedicated to a legendary jazz vocalist: FOR ELLA - Her musical 
52. Dedicatory lines: ODE to Ella

46. Frivolous: SILLY.

48. Piercing locale, perhaps: MIDEAR.

50. Disinterested: ALOOF.

54. Whiskey __: SOUR.

56. Palindromic time: NOON - You movie buffs will know this is the time Will Kane had to meet Frank Miller and his gang. Frankie Laine's fabulous theme song

57. Grammy honoree: SONG - The High Noon theme song was a 1952 Oscar awardee. The Grammy's started in 1958

58. Duel tool: EPEE.

60. Mil. decoration: DSM - Eddie Rickenbacker won 8 Distinguished Service Medals

62. With "fix," it describes itself: PRE - Another fun clue. PRE is a PREFIX for the word PREFIX

63. Land's end?: DEE - The end of the word LAND not terra incognita 


Oct 30, 2020

Friday, October 30, 2020, Sean Biggins

THEME: THE "SPRAWL" OF AMERICA, with a CSO to C.C. and Boomer who live nearby this mega mall

Hello, Cornerites! It's the Chairman today, blogging on what turned out to be a pretty easy yet quite entertaining puzzle from Sean Biggins. Sean made his LAT puzzle debut not quite one year ago, and as you'll notice he seems to be a fan of splitting up the unifiers for his reveal. Today's is different from last year's, as it uses only a few circles to get you started, and then sprawls out the rest of the letters in the cities identified. Let's look at the grid first and you'll see what I mean ... follow the circles and the red letters ...

59. Unrestricted city expansion ... and what begins in the circled letters (and ends in uncircled ones for you to find): URBAN SPRAWL. URBAN SPRAWL is loosely defined as the extended area outside of a major metropolitan area, created to contain more housing and retail development that are automobile-dependent. But watch this video to get more info from an expert

16-across "__-country:" and 17-across "Realize one's apprenticeship goal:"


ALT-Country is Country Music that has more of a rock-and-roll presence. An example might be:

LEARN A TRADE is great advice for recent HS and or college grads, as there will always be a market for good electricians, plumbers, etc

22-across "In the best way:" and 25-across: "I do" sites:"


IDEALLY, this blog would be a bit easier to create! Already 1-1/2 hours in, and not even past the tip of the iceburg!

ALTARS, in the plural form ... hmm ... might there have been a double-wedding ceremony? Note the high altar and low altar

38-across "Heaps:" and 40-across "Fight (for):" and 41-across "They're shifted:"


LOADS, as in I have three loads of dirty clothes, all heaped in piles

VIE - to fight for, as in two competing business vying for market share

GEARS - shifted, as in a manual gear box on very few cars these days. When I was 15-1/2 years old, and had my "learner's permit", my Dad taught me how to drive on a car fitted with a stick shift. My current car, a 2020 Subaru Crosstrek, has a 6-speed manual gear box. Don't even mind it, driving in the Phoenix Urban Sprawl

50-across "Connection:" and 52-across "Rested, maybe:"


HOOK-UP or HOOK UP. One can mean how you connect your DVD to your TV; the other, well, the Millenials must've thought the word "tryst" was too out-dated ...

SAT DOWN is what I did before blogging this puzzle!

What I found so clever in this puzzle is that the circled letters, are also the airport codes for these four cities! Click on these links ATL, DAL, LAS, and HOU to learn more about these airports. As some of you frequent flyers will note, DAL and HOU are not the primary airports for Dallas and Houston. Southwest Airlines is the major carrier at these two airports.


1. Second-southernmost Pac-12 sch.: ASU. Arizona State University Sun Devils, in Tempe, AZ. CSO to Lucina, shankers, and C Moe. Tempe might be considered part of the Phoenix Urban Sprawl.

4. Smile broadly: BEAM. I had GRIN at first before the perps corrected it. BEAM could also refer to a car's headlights, as in "low" or "high" beams. Looks like this car is smiling broadly, no?!

8. Fall, as real estate prices: SLUMP. I waited for perps to fill in this as well. According to Realtor dot com: "Despite relatively steady home price appreciation in May, the U.S. housing market is on the precipice of an extended price slump, according to a CoreLogic report released Tuesday. ... The company's May forecast predicts a month-over-month price decrease of 0.1% in June and a year-over-year decline of 6.6% by May 2021."

13. Guy: MAN.

14. Photo finish: SEPIA. Might as well get this "out of the way"!! Google found this lone image for me:

15. What drones may do: HOVER.

19. Subarctic forest: TAIGA. Complete WAG. New word for me. Here is what I found: TAIGA

32. WNBA position: CTR. Center, abbr. Lisa Leslie played her entire illustrious career with the Los Angeles Sparks. Leslie was a three-time WNBA MVP, two-time WNBA Finals MVP, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time WNBA Champion. Leslie also has four Olympic gold medals. The left-handed Californian was also the first woman in the WNBA to dunk. Leslie is not only one of the most decorated and talented players to compete in the WNBA, she is one of best to ever play the game.

35. Coconut candy bar: MOUNDS. "Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don't. Almond Joys have nuts; MOUNDS don't." When you "don't" choose MOUNDS.

37. Four Corners st.: N. MEX. A CSO to Owen KL. When you're addressing a letter, use NM. My sister lives a half hour north of Taos. The Four Corners:

42. Galleria filler: ARTE. In the old days, the clue would've read: "Comedian Johnson"

43. Unflappable: SEDATE. Calm and undignified

45. From Seattle to Vancouver, B.C.: NNW. Directionals are always a good fill in xword puzzles

46. Jetta relative: PASSAT. Both are made by Volkswagen. Both the 2019 Volkswagen Jetta and the Volkswagen Passat offer a stylish body. However, the Volkswagen Jetta is more compact with its 185.1-inch-long body with a width of 70.8 inches. The Volkswagen Passat is a little larger with a 191.9-inch-long body with its width at 72.2 inches. According to Norm Reeves in Irvine

48. First name on the Supreme Court: ELENA. ELENA Kagan. Nominated in Obama's first term; a year after Sotomayor.

56. Fortified with fur, say: LINED. Hmm ... not fond of the clue, but YMMV ...

58. Shoshone Falls state: IDAHO. Another western state. Here's an earworm for your listening pleasure. At the 2:45 mark, you'll know what IDAHO:

64. Game noise: RAH. The Dad's joke cheer: "Rah rah ree... kick 'em in the knee! Rah rah rass... kick 'em in the other knee!"

65. "Sicko Mode" rapper Travis __: SCOTT. Perps. Travis Scott? Really? Complete unknown. I'm not big into rap ... you?

66. "Curb Your Enthusiasm" actress Essman: SUSIE. More names. Nothing in her bio stands out, although CYE was a pretty popular series on HBO. Larry David - co-creator of Seinfeld. Here's an interesting fact: SUSIE used to be a pescatarian

67. Ivy League nickname: ELI. Moe-ku #1:
Harvard grads never
Play Three Dog Night. Who wants to
Know, ELI's Coming?

68. Bone: Pref.: OSTEO. From the Greek "osteon", meaning bone

69. Little terrors: IMPS. I wonder how Halloween will be celebrated tomorrow with the COVID-19 situation?

70. Red Wings, on scoreboards: DET. CSO to JazzBumpa, our resident Day-twah-ter. The DETroit Red Wings are one of the “Original Six” teams that made up the NHL from 1942 until the league's expansion in 1967, and are not only one of hockey's oldest franchises but also one of its most successful teams, having won 11 Stanley Cups. The city of Detroit is nicknamed, "Hockeytown"

1. Prized violin: AMATI. AMATI has seemed to have taken over "STRAD" as the favored, prized violin these days in xword-ese

2. Course with greens: SALAD. Cute clue. But I would rather play THIS course with greens:

3. Remove, as a knot: UNTIE. Interesting how this word can be used as a verb, in the present or past tense, to refer to removing a knot, and as an adverb in the past tense to refer to a team which has not played a game in which a "tie score" was the final outcome. E.g., the Pittsburgh Steelers remain unbeaten and UNTIED through their first 6 games ...

4. Event in the 2002 film "Spellbound": BEE. A CSO to my fellow blogger, melissa bee. Regarding the movie, here is the trailer ... I wonder how well a crossword puzzle would be received using some of these words?

5. Org. established by Nixon: EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. We had this on Tuesday this week ...

6. Affectations: AIRS. In a snobbish, or grandiose manner ... Moe-ku #2:
When hanging her clothes,
Jane brags of their cost. She puts
On AIRS when she AIRS.

7. Frenzy: MANIA. How about a little "Sonic MANIA"??

8. Yiddish word meaning "little town": SHTETL. Pronounced "SSHTEh-tle". Some definitions refer more specifically to it as a small Jewish town in Eastern Europe. "Oh SHTETL of Bethelem, how still we see thee lie?"

9. "A Raisin in the Sun" writer Hansberry: LORRAINE. Wikipedia Sidney Poitier starred in it on Broadway

10. 2019 NCAA men's basketball champions: UVA. University of VirginiA. The Cavaliers from Charlottesville. Ralph Sampson was their first superstar basketball player, back in the early 1980's. UVA suffered somewhat of an embarrassment, being the first ever #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament to fall to a #16 seed in the first round (2018). But they more than made up for it by running the table in the 2019 tournament. One of the stars of that team, Ty Jerome, was drafted by the Phoenix Suns

11. __ school: MED. One of those abbreviated words that does not require an abbr. clue; and along with 12-down PRE, a reference to courses taken, or ones "major" field as an undergrad ... PRE-MED

14. Sinuous ski races: SLALOMS. Sinuous --> maybe a word for a spelling BEE? Means: having many curves and turns. As in a SLALOM race. One of the top SLALOM racers in the world is featured in this short video clip ...

18. Turnpike toll factor: AXLES. The most expensive toll rate, I would think, is for "18-wheelers" - five AXLES - typically 3 AXLES on the "cab" and two on the "trailor"

20. "Justice League" actress Gadot: GAL. GAL Gadot was crowned "Miss Israel" in 2004 and competed in the Miss Universe Pageant. Part of a star-studded cast, the "Justice League of America" is team of fictitional heroes (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman - GAL's role - et al) created by DC Comics. The 2017 film starred GAL as well as Ben Afflick. Also, a CSO to our Cornerite Garlic GAL

23. Wall St. deal: LBO. Leveraged BuyOut. Where a company's management uses outside capital to buy back enough shares to have controlling interest. Notable LBO's include: Hilton Hotels and PetSmart, Inc. Had this same entry on Wed's. puzzle by Frank Virzi, with a similar Wall Street clue ... could this be the LEDE story today?

24. "__ Got a Friend": YOU'VE. "When you're down and troubled, and need some lovin' care ... "

26. __ numeral: ROMAN. I = 1; V = 5; X = 10; L = 50; C = 100; D = 500; M = 1,000.

Moe-Ku #III:

Bad things occur in
Threes. Traced to a ROMAN guy
Who cried: "I, I, I,"

And, no, yesterday's 48-down answer did not inspire this!!

27. Harsh: STERN. This STERN can be pretty "harsh" ... :-)

29. Snarky: SNIDE. I've been known to use a few SNIDE remarks from time to time ... LOL!!

31. Austin music festival, initially: SXSW. All you need to know about SXSW. Stands for South by Southwest, I think ... Texan Cornerites? Comments?

32. Part of a hand: CLAP. "If you're happy and you know it CLAP your hands"

33. Synagogue reading: TORAH. Maybe done at a synagogue in a SHTETL?

34. Role for Dustin: RATSO. Role for Jon: Joe - Joe Buck - pretty provacative film for 1969. Listen to the movie's "theme song"

36. Gives a hand: DEALS. So, if a DEALer in Texas Hold 'Em gives you just one card, could this be called (32-down) a CLAP??

39. Bleak: DESOLATE. Ok, follow the instructions and offer your answers below in the comments section ...

41. Synagogue guest, perhaps: GENTILE. I was actually thinking of THIS Gentile. Wouldn't it be ironic if he were Jewish??!

43. Surprises big-time: STUNS. Like this?

44. Spill the __: gossip: TEA. A more modern metaphor meaning the same as, "Spill your GUTS" or "Spill the BEANS"

47. Rather like: AKIN TO. Moe-Ku #4:
Brokaw's AKIN TO
Jennings, but I wouldn't say
That he's Rather-like ...

49. Mix in: ADD. If we are talking about drinks, I rarely ADD anything, other than maybe a garnish.

51. Mtn Dew sister brand: PEPSI. Yesterday's puzzle had PEPSIS. Today's had the "singular". Is Friday the melting pot for like answers?? I am not sure why "Mountain" (Mtn) Dew is abbreviated in this clue . . . "no Coke, PEPSI"

53. Had a row?: OARED. Funny. Row, as in fight? Ow! Nope, row as in "row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream ..."

54. Large mammal: WHALE. A slight bit larger than our resident sea mammal - the Malodorous Manatee - but also one that breathes via lungs. Thar she blows!

55. Like a perfect game: NO-HIT. Now that the World Series is over, perhaps best to recall and remember the man who pitched no only perfect world-series game. At least HE was able to pitch the entire game, and beat the Dodgers ... The Tampa Bay Rays manager will be remembered for eternity for pulling Snell too early. Sorry, tinbeni and WC. I was hoping the Rays would take it to game 7

57. Band instrument: DRUM. My son-in-law is a percussionist and plays the DRUMs; but he excels at the marimba, too. My daughter ain't half bad on the bassoon ...

59. GI show gp.: USO. Remember when Bob Hope emceed all of the United Service Organization shows for our troops in Vietnam?

60. Pepsi alternatives: RCS. I didn't know you could use a one clue's answer for another clue, in the same puzzle? Interesting ... RC's, as in Royal Crown.

61. Droid: BOT. Short for Ro-BOT. R2D2, et al

62. Cairo cobra: ASP. Like the alliteration; Cleo's Cairo Cobra also works

63. Sheboygan's st.: WIS. Hate to end the blog on a sour note, but Wisconsin can be abbreviated WI or Wisc, IMHO. What sayest the cheese-heads??

OK, Knuckleheads, give me your best shot below!