Jan 15, 2021

Friday, January 15, 2021, Gary Larson


Title: A pun puzzle for the openminded. 

We welcome back Gary Larson who in just over three years on the big stage has numerous publications here, at the NYT, the WSJ, and the Universal puzzle. I blogged one last October, and Gary does like wordplay. All the "J"s are now "CH." It creates some fun fill and starts us on our way, as they are very gettable once you grasp the concept. The sparkly fill includes ADOPTED, ESTELLE, HEROINE, MOLIERE, ONE LOVE, STANLEY, KALAMATA, and THE OPERA;  a diverse knowledge base required so there should be no complaints. 

The theme:

16A. Levi's alternatives in the bargain bin?: CHEAP WRANGLERS (14). Wrangler jeans, Jeep Wrangler. 

23A. Bright red semi?: CHERRY RIG. This is the biggest stretch for me. First, I learned the term as Jury-rigged, which does indeed have historical precedence, over jerry-rigged, with citations in the Oxford English Dictionary all the way back to 1788. Do non-truckers think about their big rig?

36A. Dog collar for obedience school?: PRACTICAL CHOKER. A sad but apt replacement for a practical joker. 

48A. Kibbles 'n Bits?: CHUNK FOOD. Well, I never thought of dog food like junk food, nor the little pieces as chunks but you must do what you must do.

57A. Inept patsy on water skis?: CHUMP IN THE LAKE. On that note, I won't suggest you go jump in the lake but get on with the rest of the puzzle.


1. Supplies food: CATERS. Not the easiest of starts for me. 

7. Lord with a namesake sports trophy: STANLEY. Requires knowledge of Hockey's Stanley Cup.

14. Showy bloom: DAHLIA.  Sometimes sad.

15. "The Miser" playwright: MOLIERE. Studying French in school helped with this "comedy" L'avare. Molière modeled the protagonist in The Miser on a character in Aulularia (Pot of Gold), a comedy by the ancient Roman playwright Plautus (254-184 BC), according to the nineteenth-century French scholar Eugène Benoist. 

18. Rial spenders: OMANIS. The currency of the country, and two others- Yemen and Iran.

19. Ascended: ROSE. To great heights.

21. Humdinger: PIP. A colloquialism defined by another. US origin, perhaps a blend of hummer (“something that moves fast”) +‎ dinger (“something outstanding”). First attested in a newspaper article in the Daily Enterprise of June 4, 1883, at Livingstone, Montana.

27. Song heard in the film "Marley & Me": ONE LOVE.
Don't cry...okay cry. 

31. Sign of success: VEE. Winston and a clecho.

32. Sign of success: SROStanding Room Only.

33. Arte who co-owns MLB's Angels: MORENO. A CSO to Lucina.

34. Prayer __: BEADS. And yet, a second CSO.

41. Sported: HAD ON. She sported a Givenchy at the Oscars.

42. Steamed cantina dish: TAMALE. Followed by the third and major CSO to our maven on the Mexican delight, Ms. Lucy Dale.

43. I in Innsbruck: ICH.

46. Mogadishu is its cap.: SOMalia. I like the word Mogadishu.

47. Getty of "The Golden Girls": ESTELLE. She was the youngest of the actresses and the first to leave us; only Betty White carries on. Young Estelle.

51. Petition: ASK.

52. Relaxation: EASE.

53. Smarts: WISDOM.

63. Captain Marvel, for one: HEROINE. The current ONE.

64. Walking on air: ELATED. A favorite word of our own C.C.

65. Taken in: ADOPTED.

66. Parlor pieces: DIVANS.


1. Govt. agency in many 2020 headlines: CDC. Center for Disease Control. Did you ever notice dis-ease actually means the opposite of ease, like disenfranchisement?

2. Spa emanation: AAH. Oooh.

3. Title Marx Brothers setting: THE OPERA.

4. Jack of "Rio Lobo": ELAM. He was a scary-looking dude.

5. Gifford's "Live" successor: RIPA. Kathie Lee and Kelly. 

6. Like logs: SAWN.

7. Huge hit: SMASH.

8. Passel: TON. Passel supposedly comes from a mispronouncing of "parcel". Ya think?

9. Niger neighbor: Abbr.: ALG. There is a sad STORY here.

10. Nothing: NIL. Important for hockey and football (soccer) fans.

11. Suspicious: LEERY. Not Timothy...

12. E on a scoreboard: ERRORS. Along with R and H.

13. Private aye: YES SIR. A little humor in the clue.

17. Often-steamed serving: RICE. Do all of you here have your own RICE COOKER?

20. It may be inflated: EGO.

21. Ceremonial display: POMP.

22. "__ out?": IN OR. Every pet owner knows this game.

24. First name in daredeviltry: EVEL. He's back!

25. Takes the bait, say: REACTS.

26. Software subsidiary of IBM since 2019: RED HAT.

28. Peace Nobelist Walesa: LECH.

29. Focused, jobwise: ON TASK.

30. Entirely without: VOID OF compassion?

34. Outlaw: BAN. Or a deodorant.

35. To a degree: SOME.

37. Villa-studded Italian lake: COMO. Or our old friend Perry the barber; I get him often. Where George hangs out.

38. Greek city known for olives: KALAMATA. Kalamata olives are rich in oleic acid, a type of MUFA (Monounsaturated fatty acids) which are linked to improved heart health and cancer-fighting properties. They're also a good source of iron, calcium, copper, and vitamins A and E.

39. Building additions: ELLS.

40. Strongly suggest, with "of": REEK. I will again LINK this scene from Game of Thrones, but please do not watch, it is awful and disgusting.

43. Bar staple: ICE. Not at Tinbeni's house.

44. Onomatopoeic dance: CHA CHA. This reminds me of the Cuchi Cuchi girl Charo and somehow really fits with a J to CH theme (in my mind).

45. Quieted: HUSHED.

47. Touch up, perhaps: EDIT.

49. Surgeon's opening?: NEURO. Neuro the boat merrily, merrily?

50. Dominated in competition: OWNED. When did this become the phrase?

54. Threw off: SHED.

55. Where to find a hero: DELI. These days, maybe the only place to find one.

56. Norse patron: OLAV.

58. Unruly head of hair: MOP.

59. Trading place: PIT. Chicago Board of Trade, e.g.

60. Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 __ minor: IN E. An ending E to match a beginning one.

61. First "Jeopardy!" guest host after Alex: KEN. WOW! We are really up to date, Ken is okay but he seems nervous to me.

62. Harris and a horse: EDS. Ed Harris who I featured for his role in ENEMY AT THE GATES.

There are 5 Fridays in January so you will see me again this month, GWATCDR. This was not the first week I blogged two puzzles, but my first Monday-Friday sandwich. I hope it was tasty. Lemonade out. 

Jan 14, 2021

Thursday, January 14, 2021, MaryEllen Uthlaut


Happy Thursday, cruciverbalists!  While it is not yet time for us to poke our heads out, I hope that 2021 has gotten off to a good start with everyone staying safe and healthy.

If you were scratching your head over the theme of today's puzzle it is safe to assume that you had plenty of (socially distanced) company.  Prison breaks are, by nature, difficult to discover.  These were.  Even after solving the "tell", this moronic marine mammal had to stare at the completed grid for several minutes before the theme answers slowly revealed themselves.

I tried looking backwards and forwards within each of the long answers. Nothing.  Puns?  Homophones? Anagrams?  Still stumped.  MaryEllen had purposely used "puzzle rows" and not "answers" in her hint to the theme so, perhaps, I should look at entire rows.  The hint also contained the word "break" so something had likely been broken apart.  Even with these insights I then wasted time looking for some form of symmetry of which there was, well, none.  Finally, it dawned on me. 

Simply put, on four rows of the puzzle, synonyms for PRISON have been broken apart and wait patiently for us to reassemble them.  Of course, once the theme had been figured out, and the letters involved had been identified, everything appeared to be obvious.

Let's start with the reveal at 65 Across:  "The Shawshank Redemption" event, and what's hidden in four puzzle rows: PRISON BREAK.

At 17 Across we have - Angry reaction: HORNETS NEST followed at 19 Across by - "This American Life" host Glass: IRA

The end of the first answer combines with the start of the second to from STIR, a slangy word for prison.

At 27 Across we are asked to solve for - Indian noble: RAJA followed by 31 Across - Surly: ILLNATURED

As above, parts of these answers combine to yield JAIL.

..and so on,

38 Across - It went down in history: TITANIand 40 Across - Connects with: LINKSTO.  

CLINK is another slang term for prison

47 Across - Stable cleaner: SADDLE SOAand 51 Across - Tolkien tree creatures: ENTS.

PEN is, well, we get it, we get it.

Here is what this all looks like in the grid:

Now that we have successfully escaped the confines of our puzzle penitentiary let's take a look at the rest of today's challenge:


1. Bobbleheads, e. g.: DOLLS.  Do they have to represent 

6. Jury decision: AWARD.  Verdict was the first impulse but, of course, did not fit in the allotted space.

11. Pair of Grammys?: EMS.  We have seen this type of clue and answer many times previously...and you know that this MM appreciates EMS.

14. "It's __ time!": ABOUT.  A straightforward fill-in-the-blank clue.  The seven-letter modifier is implicit.

15. Old photo tint: SEPIA.


16. Dwarf who mixes up his words: DOC.  He's the one with the eyeglasses.


20. Meeting goal often not achieved: LENGTH.

21. Nuclear energy device: REACTOR.  You can build your own.

23. Lip: SASS.  Impudence by any name.

26. Firefighter's tool: HOSE.

35. Soft palate projection: UVULA.

37. Not what one would expect: IRONIC.


44. Mexican bread: DINERO.  Bread, of course, being slang for money.

46. Single-master: SLOOP.  This version of "The Sloop John B" involves both The Beach Boys and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra:


52. Palm tree superfood: ACAI.  A current-day crossword, and for some folks dietary, staple.  ACAI was found in yesterday's puzzle.  Manatees rarely eat ACAI berries.

53. Ancient home: EDEN.  If the stories are to be believed, the most ancient of all.


55. Predator with a heart-shaped face: BARN OWL.

59. Card game with trumps: EUCHRE.  Not Bridge.  Not Whist.

64. Hurricane season mo.: OCT.  The Atlantic Hurricane Season officially runs from June 1st through November 30th.

68. Cravat or ascot: TIE.  Not to be confused with 18 Down.  Two weeks ago the puzzle demanded No TIE.

69. Like Caspar Milquetoast: TIMID.  Caspar Milquetoast is a comic strip character created for the strip "Timid Soul" that launched in 1925.


70. Give a false idea of: BELIE.

71. Low: SAD.

72. Deposit in the attic, say: STORE.

73. Cheerleaders' assortment: YELLS.



1. "James and the Giant Peach" author: DAHL.  Roald DAHL was a spy, a fighter pilot and a medical inventor as well as an author.  In addition to the clue's referenced work, he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda.

2. Wind heard in Dion's "Abraham, Martin and John": OBOE.  Although oboes, of course, are heard frequently in our puzzles this is one of the best clues yet.

Dion DiMucci

3. Desolate: LORN.  LORN means lonely and abandoned.  We more often see forlorn. 

4. Organ in a chest: LUNG.

5. Decides to leave alone: STETS.  STET is a proofreader's mark for Let It Stand.  Rarely, though, do we see it used as a verb.

6. Biblical mount: ASS.


7. Harmless cyst: WEN.  This week's "I'll pass on the graphics" moment.

8. Imitator: APER.  Outside of puzzles one rarely sees, or hears, APER or Aped.  Within puzzles we commonly see them both.

9. Slope: RISE.

SLOPE INTERCEPT (y = mx + b) 

10. It may be crunched: DATA.

11. Spell-checker, say: EDITOR.  Literally true but I'd bet that most of us first thought of something word-processing-related

12. Lacking in joy: MOROSE.  Our second ASS of the day (if one chooses not to count Peter Griffin):


13. Rustled (up): SCARED.  Colloquialisms.  SCARED up something to eat, Rustled up some grub.

18. Bangkok native: THAI.  There is nothing else quite like a tuk-tuk ride through the streets of Bangkok, THAIland.

22. Private laugh: CHUCKLE.  Chuckles are laughs that are quiet, inward or suppressed

24. Golfing mishaps: SLICES.

25. Camera type, briefly: SLR.  A Single Lens Reflex camera uses a mirror and prism to allow the photographer to see exactly what will be captured on the film or digitally.

27. Rural road feature: RUT.

28. Prefix with fauna: AVI.  A reference to the birds of a particular region.  I am most familiar with these:

29. Stick (out): JUT.

30. 2019 Mena Massoud title role: ALADDIN.

32. Free of commissions, as a mutual fund: NO LOAD.

33. Young Darth: ANI.  A "Star Wars" reference and a "diminutive" name to boot.


34. Cookie containers: TINS.

36. Indigo plant: ANIL.  I only know this from crossword puzzles...and the perps helped to recall it.

39. Having four sharps: IN E.  This answer obviously assumes that the clue was talking about a Major musical key.  The relative minor of E Major is C Sharp Minor and it also has four sharps.

41. Absalom, to David: SON.  A biblical reference to a story about family dynamics.


42. "PAW Patrol" fan: TOT.  Paw Patrol is a children's television series that premiered in 2013.


43. Special ___: OPS.  Both OPTS and OPS in the same puzzle!

45.  Caviar:  ROE.  I went to a sushi bar and ordered salmon roe.  It was a spawn-taneous decision.

47. Clogs: SABOTS.  In this instance, a shoe reference.  My friend Jon's father had a small sailboat that we would sometimes take out in the marina.  It was far too small for the open sea.  The logo on the sail, and the type of boat it was, was a SABOT.

48. Thorny shrub: ACACIA.  Both ACACIA and ACAI in the same puzzle!

49. Made a sudden move: DARTED.

50. Rounded hammer part: PEEN.  Usually, we hear ball peen hammer.

54. Lumpy, as a knit fabric: NUBBY.  This type of fabric is rarely seen in crossword puzzles but it has been seen before.

56. Comes down on one side of something: OPTS.  An intentionally somewhat obtuse clue?  Not incorrect, merely less straightforward than it needed to be.  Oh, wait, it's a crossword puzzle.  They do that all the time.

57. Court order: WRIT.

58. Ride to the prom: LIMO.  Perhaps riding in a LIMO is now commonplace but it sure wasn't when this manatee was in High School.  Further, unless PROM is considered to be an abbreviation for something, there is nothing in the clue that indicates LIMO in lieu of Limousine.

60. Algonquin language: CREE.  Often, CREE is clued with a reference to the Canadian indigenous population.

61. Severe criticism: HELL.  We rarely see "semi-swear-words" in puzzles.


62. Fence crosspiece: RAIL.


63. Manages to get, with "out": EKES.  We see this one a lot.  I sometimes get confused between EKES and EEKS.

66. Military address: SIR.  A bit of misdirection as APO (Army Post Office) is commonly seen as an answer to similar clues.

67. "To Autumn," for one: ODE.  What would a puzzle be without ODE somewhere in the grid?



Notes from C.C.:
1) Wendybird, hope you and Jack make a full recovery soon!
2) Happy Birthday to dear JD, who also enjoys traveling the world like Hahtoolah. The second picture was taken from the same trip but on a cruise ship, I think.

JD and Bob, Switzerland, 2017

Jan 13, 2021

Wednesday, January 13, 2021 Ed Sessa

 Theme: SPEAKING UP.  Each theme entry illustrates vocal communication, at increasing volume levels.

17. Source of damaging rumors: WHISPER CAMPAIGN.   A systematic circulation of a rumor, typically in order to damage someone's reputation.  To WHISPER is to speak softly with little or no vibration of the vocal cords especially to avoid being overheard.

26. Buzz among local gossips: TALK OF THE TOWN.  A person or event that many local people are interested in or excited by.  To TALK is to express or exchange ideas by means of spoken words -- presumably at a conversational level of volume.


43. Nickname of two Six Flags roller coasters: SCREAM MACHINE.  To SCREAM is to speak with intense or hysterical emotion.  Other than the mentioned thrill ride, this phrase seems not to be commonly in-the-language.  But it is the title of a jazz piece written for the U. S. Army Band by composer Mark Taylor [one of my favorites.]  Impressive and under 2 1/2 minutes.  Give it a listen.

57. Question asked with a raised voice, as demonstrated in three long puzzle answers: CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW.  Reasonable question at times - and made famous in an ad campaign a few years ago.

Hi, Gang. JazzBumpa here to give you a good talking-to.  Now, pay attention and don't make me raise my voice.  


1. Hang out in alleys: BOWL.  A game in which balls are rolled on a green or down an alley at an object or group of objects.

5. Sporty sunroofs: T TOPS.

10. Job jar item: TASK.  A piece of work to be done or undertaken.

14. Cuatro y cuatro: OCHO.  4+4 = 8, in Spanish speaking countries.

15. Sprightly movement: RONDO.  A musical form in which a main theme is alternated with contrasting sections.

16. Lamb pen name: ELIA.  Charles Lamb wrote a series of popular essays that first appeared in THE LONDON MAGAZINE between 1820 and 1825.   Lamb borrowed the surname of an Italian co-worker from several years earlier. 

20. Vietnam holiday: TET.  The Vietnamese lunar new year.

21. "What the Constitution Means to Me" award: OBIE. Annual off-Broadway theater award. The on Broadway award is the Tony.

22. Like Boo Boo and Baloo: URSINE.  They are bears.

23. Lead source: ORE.   Natural rock or sediment that contains one or more valuable minerals, typically containing metals, that can be mined, treated and sold at a profit. 

24. Novelist Deighton: LEN. [b 1929]  A British author. His publications have included cookery books, history and military history, but he is best known for his spy novels.

25. Wile E. Coyote's supplier: ACME.

It never ends well

32. Takes short cuts?: SNIPS.  As with scissors. 

34. Part of S&L: LOAN.  An organization from which money is borrowed.

35. FDR 34-Across org.: NHA. National Housing Administration, authorized by law in 1934.  The purpose of the law was to “encourage improvement in housing standards and conditions, to provide a system of mutual mortgage insurance, and for other purposes.” The law created the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC.)
36. One of 1,225 in the first published edition of "War and Peace": PAGE.  One side of a sheet of paper in a collection of sheets bound together, especially as a book, magazine, or newspaper.

37. They have their pride: LIONS.  The collective noun for a group of lions is a "pride."

39. Put a halt to: STOP.  End.

40. Is for a few: ARE.  Plural, present tense form of the verb "to be."

41. Carson forerunner: PAAR.  Jack [1918 - 2004] was an American author, movie actor, radio and television comedian, and talk show host. He is best known for his stint as the second host of The Tonight Show from 1957 to 1962.

42. Hostess snack cakes: HOHOS.  Small, cylindrical, frosted, cream-filled chocolate snack cakes with a pinwheel design based on the Swiss roll. 

47. Tavern orders: ALES.  Suds.

48. Apollo vehicle, briefly: LEM. Lunar Excursion Module
49. Many miles: FAR.  Some distance.

52. Entertained: AMUSED.  

55. Vegas rival: RENO.  Nevada cities with gambling casinos.

56. Hot Dijon season: ETE.  Summer in France, not mustard spice.

60. Verdi opera: AIDA.

61. Pants style: CAPRI.  Close-fitting calf-length tapered trousers, usually worn by women and girls.

62. Retin-A target: ACNE.  Inflamed or infected sebaceous glands in the skin; in particular, a condition characterized by red pimples on the face, prevalent chiefly among teenagers.

63. Altar words: I DOs.  Weddings.

64. Stall for Time?: KIOSK.  Meaning I suppose, Time Magazine, since a KIOSK is a small open-fronted hut or cubicle from which newspapers, refreshments, tickets, etc., are sold.

65. Clarinet need: REED.


1. Greet formally, as at the start of a sumo match: BOW TO.

2. Earth tone: OCHER.  A brownish yellow pigment containing ferric oxide.

3. Mutant big cat: WHITE TIGER.  A variant of the Bengal Tiger with a genetic loss of pigmentation. Such a tiger has the black stripes typical of the Bengal tiger, but carries a white or near-white coat.

4. __ Gatos, California: LOS.  An incorporated town in Santa Clara County, California, United dtates. The population is 30,222.  The name mean "The Cats,"  in honor of the cougars and bobcats indigenous to the nearby foot hills   

5. Late game show host with seven Emmys: TREBEK.  Alex [1940-2020]  He was the host of the syndicated game show Jeopardy! for 37 seasons from its revival in 1984 until his death in 2020.

6. "Gran __": 2008 Eastwood film: TORINO.


 7. __ in a blue moon: ONCE.   Meaning rarely.  A blue moon is either the second full moon in a single month, or the third of four in a single season.  If interested, read more here

8. Kissing on the kiss cam, for short: PDAPublic Display of Affection.

9. Even: SO MUCH AS.  

10. Her Majesty's service?: TEA SET. A TEA Service - pot, cups and sugar bowl.

11. Others, in old Rome: ALII.  Latin, of course.

12. Put one's name on the line?: SIGN.  As, for example, a document.

13. Immortal "Citizen": KANE.   Main character of a 1941 American drama film by Orson Welles, its producer, co-screenwriter, director and star. 


 18. Opinion surveys: POLLS.

19. Image creators, for short: PR MEN.  Not artists, but experts in propaganda Public Relations.

25. Loads: A TON.  A non-specific large quantity.

27. Monkey relative: APE.  Monkeys have tails, APE's do not.

28. Biota growth: FLORA.  Vegetation.

29. Undecided: ON THE FENCE.  Uncertain which way one will fall.

30. Owl's call: WHOO.  They never wonder where or why.

31. Catches some z's: NAPS.  Snoring.

32. Places for hot waxes: SPAS.  Commercial establishments offering health and beauty treatment through such means as steam baths, exercise equipment, and massage.

33. One pulling in pushers: NARC.  Nicely worded.  A narcotics officer.

37. Outgoing officeholder: LAME DUCK.  One who's term is about to end.

38. Perfect Portions pet food brand: IAMS.

39. Abel, to Adam: SON.  It's all relative.

41. Throwback diet: PALEO.  Eat like a cave man?  I don't think so.

42. Handmade stadium sign: HI MOM.  Sometimes seen on TV.

44. Gut courses: EASY As.    a college or university course requiring little work or intellectual ability.

45. Becomes less overcast: CLEARS.  Clouds parting.

46. Playwright Ibsen: HENRIK. [1828 - 1906] This Norwegian playwright was a pioneer of realism, and his later works were considered scandalous.  After Shakespeare, he is the 2nd most performed dramatist.

50. Even things: ATONE.  Make amends or reparation.

51. Said 63-Across a second time: REWED.  I did this.

52. Antioxidant-rich berry: ACAI.  The açaí palm, Euterpe oleracea, is a species of palm tree cultivated for its fruit, hearts of palm, leaves, and trunk wood. Global demand for the fruit expanded rapidly in the 21st century and so the tree is cultivated for that purpose primarily.

53. Downton Abbey's Daisy, for one: MAID.  Later promoted to kitchen assistant.

54. Go back, on a PC: UNDO.

55. Default result: REPO.   Repossession.

58. "Bali __": HAI.  A show tune from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. The name refers to a mystical island, visible on the horizon but not reachable, and was originally inspired by the sight of Ambae island from neighboring Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, where author James Michener was stationed in World War II.

59. AirPod spot: EAR.  A small speaker phone worn inside the ear.

So ends our Wednesday conversation.  How you found it informative.  Stay safe, wear a mask, keep your distance, and remember to use your indoor voice.

Cool regards!