Showing posts with label Alex Vratsanos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alex Vratsanos. Show all posts

Jul 21, 2019

Sunday July 21, 2019 Alex Vratsanos

(Lost our internet since Wednesday afternoon. Some fiber cable cut in our neighborhood. CenturyLink guys have been digging up different parts of the road for days. Only theme summary today. If you have any question regarding fill, please go to Comments section. Thanks for the understanding.)

Theme: "Touchdown" - LAND is directly atop each moon in the seven theme set.

23A. Male reproductive system part: PROSTATE GLAND.


30A. Advice pseudonym for 56 years: ANN LANDERS.


51A. Christmas tree decorations: GARLANDS.


65A. Immiscible combo: OIL AN DWATER.


84A. Orally defames: SLANDERS.


103A. Architect's task: PLAN DESIGN.


111A. Arrive as astronauts did 7/20/69 ... and what's literally seen in seven pairs of puzzle answers: LAND ON THE MOON.


Notice all the six LANDs are parts of another words or spanning across two two/three words. None has direct LAND meaning. 111A is the only exception and it does double duty as it's over another MOON.

Alex is fond of the puzzle with rich themage. Very chaleling to design and fill a grid with overlapping theme entries.


1. One of the Magi: CASPAR.

7. Exotic pet: IGUANA.

13. Bushel quartet: PECKS.

18. Largest of the British Virgin Islands: TORTOLA.

19. Future looie, perhaps: NONCOM.

20. Hot wings did him in: ICARUS.

22. Pass receiver somewhat separated from the offensive line: WIDE OUT.

25. Antique clock molding: OGEE.

26. Brawls: MELEES.

28. Nautica competitor: IZOD.

32. Bouncing baby?: JOEY.

33. Cloth-dyeing craft: BATIK.

35. Venice vessel: GONDOLA.

37. Big name in Scotch: DEWAR.

40. Chuck who wrote "Black Belt Patriotism": NORRIS.

42. Farmwork: TILLAGE.

47. In opposition to: ATHWART.

50. Easily seen sign: NEON.

52. Plainsong singers: CHANTERS.

54. Bat used in practice: FUNGO.

57. Tailor's line: HEM.

58. Afro-Asian land: EGYPT.

60. Grieg's language: NORSK.

62. Bread holder: PAN.

63. Hitchcock's wife and collaborator: ALMA.

68. "Good golly!": MY MY.

71. "__ durn tootin'!": YER.

74. Clog cousin: SABOT.

76. 1972 host to Nixon: MAO.

77. Unsettled one?: DEBTOR.

80. Cosmonaut Vladimir: TITOV.

82. Hunter's quarry: GAME BIRD.

86. Greeting from Kermit: HI HO.

88. Neckwear in some Native American traditions: BOLO TIE.

90. Pain: HASSLE.

92. Devoted: LOYAL.

93. Hammer or stirrup: EAR BONE.

95. What Dorothy did, for most of the "Wizard of Oz" movie: DREAMT.

98. Insurance card amount: CO-PAY.

102. Uber __: food delivery service: EATS.

107. Grace conclusion: AMEN.

108. Started, as a co.: ESTD.

110. Devoted: TRUE.

114. Inundation: TORRENT.

117. Become absorbed: OSMOSE.

118. Longtime host of "The Newlywed Game" Bob: EUBANKS.

119. Lanai hi: ALOHA.

120. Winter Olympics competitor: SKATER.

121. Takes verbal potshots: SNIPES.


1. __ of vantage: favorable position: COIGN.

2. "I met a fool i' the forest" forest: ARDEN.

3. Post-apocalyptic 1987 Patrick Swayze film: STEEL DAWN.

4. Suffix with malti- and cocka-: POO.

5. Boosters, often: ALUMNI.

6. Like entertainment software with a "17+" restriction: RATED M.

7. Face-to-face: INPERSON.

8. '90s second family: GORES.

9. Juan's "some": UNOS.

10. Rm. coolers: ACS.

11. Whims: NOTIONS.

12. Blew away: AMAZED.

13. Like some horses: PIED.

14. Common ER test: ECG.

15. __ lily: CALLA.

16. Wurst topping: KRAUT.

17. Branch of Islam: SUNNI.

18. Old draft deferment: TWO A.

21. St. with the second-smallest capital: S DAK.

24. Nikkei index giant: TOYOTA.

27. Former secretary of defense Panetta: LEON.

31. Gas up?: AERATE.

32. Icon after "Not a member?": JOIN NOW.

33. Shape, as dough: BALL UP.

35. Source of electrical interference: GROUND NOISE.

36. Old Pisa dough: LIRE.

37. Russian retreat: DACHA.

38. "I Love Lucy" role: ETHEL.

39. Electric guitar vibrato producer: WHAMMY BAR.

41. Ringmaster?: REF.

43. Calif. NFLer: LARAM.

44. Witness protection plan?: ANONYMITY.

45. Econ. measure: GDP.

46. Pueblo pronoun: ESA.

48. __ Park: Queens area: REGO.

49. "Have a taste": TRY IT.

51. Attend by oneself: GO STAG.

53. Leaves: SPLITS.

55. Mardi __: GRAS.

59. Filmmaker Jacques: TATI.

61. Barbecue fare: KEBAB.

64. Big name in insurance: AETNA.

66. "Famous" Coney Island contest sponsor: NATHAN'S.

67. Ex-Cowboy quarterback Tony: ROMO.

69. Renata Tebaldi contemporary Callas: MARIA.

70. Swiss Roll-like snack: YODEL.

72. Comic Dangerfield: RODNEY.

75. "I'm listening": TELLME.

77. Mil. award: DSM.

78. Skull and Bones member: ELI.

79. Prynne's stigma: REDA.

81. Old tape initials: VHS.

83. Metaphorical self-help aid: BOOT STRAP.

85. Most endangered: RAREST.

87. Traditionalist: OLD LINER.

90. Workstation shared by employees on different shifts: HOT DESK.

91. Middle proof word: ERAT.

94. Sentimentalism: BATHOS.

96. Website with study guides: ENOTES.

97. "Meek," in "Blessed are the meek": ADNOUN.

98. Math subj.: CALC.

99. Missouri River city: OMAHA.

100. __ colony: PENAL.

101. Gyneco-'s opposite: ANDRO.

103. Verse alternative: PROSE.

104. Sherlock's adversary Adler: IRENE.

105. Greases (up), as hair: GUNKS.

106. Court pair: NETS.

108. Sicily's only landlocked province: ENNA.

109. Friendly honk: TOOT.

112. "Interesting!": OOH.

113. Combat sport, briefly: MMA.

115. Cody Bellinger stat: RBI.


Feb 5, 2016

Friday, February 5, 2016, Alex Vratsanos

Theme: Going around the block in my town.

Alex Vratsanos, has worked his way back to Friday after two Sunday and then two Saturday LATs. He also has been published on all 7 days by the NYT. C.C. posted his INTERVIEW last year. Today he gives us a visual puzzle that requires not filling in the word TOWN in each of the theme answers. The reveal tells us to look for the theme fill on the outside (outskirts) of the puzzle. The visual requires you 'see' the word TOWN  metaphorically outside of the grid. This style is an extension of the rebus where multiple letters appear in a grid. This is actually the exact opposite of last week's puzzle where a four letter word was inserted into the fill. I thought the theme came very easily as Chinatown in San Francisco is very well known and had to be the solution to 1 across. Of course anytime a theme starts there it will be a challenge. I wonder if the grid-spanning reveal was the inspiration for the puzzle?

There are a few sparkly fill longer than the theme fill which will upset some, such as BASS SAX, I'LL TELL,  SLITHER, , BARTLETT and  SALES REP and a variety of six letter ones.  Let's look it over.

1A. San Francisco section : CHINA TOWN(5). A fun place to visit.
6A. Hailing place? : HOME TOWN (4).  This is mine.
10A. One growing up fast? : BOOM TOWN.(4). Often fueled by mine strikes. From the 1800s, looks like where I grew up.
65A. Hightail it : SKIP TOWN. (4). A bit of an outlier as it is generic.

66A. Site of Cornwallis' surrender : YORKTOWN. (4). In Virginia, sorry I get stupid at times.
67A. City on New York's Black River : WATERTOWN. (5). Pretty in the fall, but obscure. OLEAN 2?
1D. Cattle-raising district : COW TOWN. (3). Maybe this is where he meant. LINK. (2:51).

13D. Textile production settlement : MILL TOWN. (4). See 6A.

24D. Tourism hub : RESORT TOWN. (6). Where I live now.
34D. Place to see stars : TINSEL TOWN.(6). Where they make the movies. READ.

51D. Historic Omaha suburb : BOYS TOWN.(4). I will let HG and other address this place.
61D. Drama set in Grover's Corners : OUR TOWN. (3). Thornton Wilder PLAY.

The reveal:
38A. Border area, which contains a hint to solving this puzzle's 12 border answers : OUTSKIRTS OF TOWN (15).


14. Laura Petrie catchphrase : OH ROB. Mary Tyler Moore to Dick Van Dyke.

15. Will's role in "Celebrity Jeopardy!" sketches on "SNL" : ALEX. (Trebeck) A bit of self shout out here. Now how do you work VRATSANOS into the grid?

16. Cultural opening? : AGRIcultrural.

17. Slip 'N Slide maker : WHAMO. Wham-O Inc. is a toy company in Woodland Hills, California, USA. They are known for marketing many popular toys in the past 50 years, including the Hula Hoop, the Frisbee, the Slip 'N Slide, the Super Ball, the Trac-Ball, Silly String, the Hacky Sack and the Boogie Board. Per wiki. The company was born in 1948, a really vintage year.

18. Singer Halliwell : GERI.  We all remember Ginger Spice.
19. __ time : REAL.

20. National alternative : AVIS. Rental cars.

22. Playground threat : I'LL TELL. We did not tolerate squealers.

24. Word with guilt or debt : RIDDEN.

27. Symbol of strength : STEEL.
28. Those, in Tijuana : ESOS. Spanish.

29. Tennessee team, briefly : VOLS. Timely as former Tennessee Volunteer Peyton Manning preps for the Super Bowl.

31. Unveiling : DEBUT. It will be Cam Newton' s debut, number four for number 18.

35. It's double-hyphenated: Abbr. : SSN. xxx-xx-xxxx

36. South Asian garment : SARI.

37. Helical pasta : ROTINI. Sounds almost religious.

41. Get back : REGAIN.

42. Foot on a farm : HOOF. Hand: PAW   Foot: HOOF

43. Fleur-de-__ : LIS.

44. Search casually, as for a bar pickup : TROLL. Anyone else think of this classic? MOVIE. (2:37)

45. Marathon prep run : TEN-K.

46. Found (on) : BASE. I think it should say upon.

47. Toon with an odd laugh : ELMER.
49. Author Allende : ISABEL. The most successful Spanish language author?

51. Big wind : BASS SAX. Three You know what they say, even bass sax is good sax.

54. "Doggone it!" : HECK. Never hear this anymore.

55. General Bradley : OMAR.

56. Rao's competitor : RAGU. This is like suggesting a competitor for a Maserati is a Chevy.

58. Richard __, Pulitzer-winning author of "Empire Falls" : RUSSO.

62. Ranch neckwear : YOKE. Hopefully only for the livestock...
63. Old players, briefly : VCRS.

64. Root of the Progressive Era : ELIHU. An interesting MAN.


2. He lost to RMN : HHHHubert Horatio Humphrey. Also interesting.

3. Nest egg letters : IRA.

4. Migrants : NOMADS.

5. Like stars : ABOVE.

6. Witches : HAGS. Witches get such a bad rap.

7. Miss modifier? : OLE. As a school nickname....not easy to see.

8. Good qualities : MERITS.

9. Kick out : EXILE.

10. The 18th edition of his original work was published in 2012 : BARTLETT. The man and the quotations.

11. Type of arch : OGEE.

12. __-B : ORAL. What is your toothbrush, electric?

21. Without success : IN VAIN.

23. Opened : LED OFF.

25. Bank, cardwise : ISSUER. OOF.

26. Plea to remain : DON'T GO.

27. Move like ophidians : SLITHER. Fancy name (ok scientific name) for snakes. "It had to be snakes!"

30. "Catch-22" pilot : ORR. Our hockey star gets a rest for this supporting character in a wonderful book.

32. H.S. experiment site : BIO-LAB.

33. Reckless, say : UNWISE.

36. Tricks of the trade : SKILLS.

37. Annual award recipient : ROOKIE. Baseball rookie of the year probably.

39. Pitcher? : SALES REP.

40. Simba, to Sarabi : SON.

45. Company founded in Beaumont : TEXACO. Beaumont, TEXAS.

46. Scott of "NCIS: New Orleans" : BAKULA.
48. "Neato!" : MARVY. Not in my world.

50. Common fastener : SCREW. This has so many possible twists and turns, all too risque for now.

52. Crazily : AMOK.

53. Munro pen name : SAKI. If you do crosswords you should know this.

54. Corn cover : HUSK. A CSO to Gary?

57. Canine warning : GRR.

59. Canine command : SIT. Nice pairing.

60. Seagoing pronoun : SHE. Yes ships are female.

Oh my we are into the second month of the year already. Luckily with online bill paying I do not risk writing 2015 on my checks. Anyway, I hope you checked out this fun puzzle and write up and see you next time. Lemonade out.

Sep 5, 2015

Saturday, Sep 5th, 2015, Alex Vratsanos and Jeff Chen

Theme: None

Words: 70 (missing F,W)

Blocks: 32

  We have had both constructors on Saturdays in the past, but I do believe this is their first duo, at least for the LA Times.  Mr. Vratsanos started our summer off with a Memorial Day weekend puzzle, and so it seems fitting that he close out the season on Labor Day weekend (as far as I am concerned; the Hamptons will be clearing out as of Tuesday, and UPS will be cooling off as well).  Alas, this puzzle was almost as brutal as that one in May; I did get three corners and the center solved, but the SW was never going to budge - so I Googled one answer, and the rest fell into place.  Oh well.  Triple 10-letter corners in a neat pinwheel grid.  Some of the longer answers;

17a. Elementary sextet : NOBLE GASES - Nailed it. 

14d. Its capital was Xianyang : QIN DYNASTY - hmmm, I know someone who knows a little history about Zhou, and Qin

65. High wind : SOPRANO SAX
- an a semi-clecho with;

28. Baroque wind : OBOE D'AMORE - according to Wiki, it's a third lower than a standard oboe



1. Eggy dessert : ZABAGLIONE - never heard of this, but working in an Italian-style restaurant, I ran with the perps and filled in what sounded good

11. La Salle of "ER" : ERIQ

15. Occurring at a constant temperature : ISOTHERMAL

16. Computer start-up? : MINI - early meh.  Mini-computer.  I get it, but....

18. Browning product : OVEN - I did not know the gun manufacturer made ovens as well

19. Older Pevensie sister in "The Chronicles of Narnia" series : SUSAN - again, perps

20. Turned brown, maybe : SAUTÉED - could you use a "browning" oven for this~?

22. Curling piece : STONE - I can actually watch this Olympic event; I like it - but I'm a big fan of shuffleboard like the one you'd find in bars

26. Square : NERDY

27. "Do wrong to __": Shak. : NONE - nixed my NONE at 57a.

30. Attended to bald spots on : SODDED - because ROGAINED didn't fit

33. Stop : BAN - not END

34. University of Miami mascot Sebastian the __ : IBIS - half perps/half wag

35. Climate Reality Project founder : AL GORE

36. __ moment : A-HA

37. Flimflam : CON

38. Slap target, informally : SKEETER - that is, mosquito, and it's better to flick than to slap, especially if it's a little more dangerous, like a stinging insect

39. Airline with the EuroBonus frequent flier program : SAS

40. Alpine parrot : KEA - oh, alpine meaning mountains - I was thinking "Alps", and didn't think you'd find any parrots there

41. Misses : LASSES - oops, not LADIES

42. Salon service : TINT

43. Names : IDs

44. Slap cause, maybe : INSULT - hysterics are about the only time I'd slap anyone

45. Dr. Jones, to Dr. Marcus Brody : INDY - characters from Raiders of the Lost Ark ( and the Last Crusade )

"an army that carries the Ark before it is invincible"

46. Mesoamerican crop : MAIZE

48. Column that won't support anything : PLUME - a column from a newspaper would have been a good answer, too

50. Involve deeply : IMMERSE

53. DeMille specialties : EPICS

57. It precedes one : NOON - ah, the clock.  ZERO was not working

58. Dept. of State employee : US DIPLOMAT

62. Secretary of Education Duncan : ARNE - ALAN~? nope. ANNE~? nope.

63. Like pen pals' relationships : EPISTOLARY

64. Hoot : JEER


1. Some reds, for short : ZINfandelS

2. Not worth __ : A SOU

3. Roaring Twenties hairdos : BOBS

4. Ones for the road? : ATLASES

5. 1814 treaty site : GHENT

6. It may be shaken or pulled : LEG - or admired

7. He outlived George by 46 years : IRA - the Gershwins

8. Sacred syllables : OMs - meditations, too

9. Dumbarton denials : NAES

10. Snow Queen in "Frozen" : ELSA - did not see it; I do long to have kids some day

11. Wax theatrical : EMOTE

12. Drainage area : RIVER BASIN

13. "Help" : "I NEED A HAND"

21. Bad way to go : UNDER

23. Certain Honshu native : OSAKAN - from the Japanese city of Osaka

24. Words of emphasis : NO LESS

25. Moves stealthily : EDGES UP

27. "Pink Friday" rapper : NICKI MINAJ - I have heard OF her, but nothing from her; my Googled answer

29. Singer who had a 1959 hit with "I Loves You, Porgy" : NINA SIMONE - the double 10-letter proper names sandwiching a vague musical instrument in this corner killed me; I'm sure there are plenty of people at the corner who are familiar with Nina's work

31. "Dish it up!" : "DO TELL~!"

32. 1974 hit sung entirely in Spanish : ERES TU - popular enough in crosswords that I threw this in having just the first "E" and last "U"

38. Foxier : SLIER

42. "The Banquet of Cleopatra" painter : TIEPOLO

the artist

47. __ cards, used in ESP experiments : ZENER - I did not know these had a name; derived from the psychologist's name - anyone else think of the opening of Ghostbusters~?

49. Dieter's breakfast : MELON - ah, not TOAST

51. Petitions : SUES

52. Beantown NHL nickname : ESPO - Phil Esposito - now here's a proper name I am familiar with

54. "Look at me, __ helpless ...": "Misty" lyric : I'M AS

55. Word spoken con affetto : CARA - not AMOR

56. Final crossing? : STYX - Two weeks in a row~?  I'm getting nervous

59. Party bowlful : DIP

60. Nation since 1948: Abbr. : ISRael

61. Ed. group : PTA


May 23, 2015

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015, Tim Croce and Alex Vratsanos

Theme: None

Words: 68 (missing J)

Blocks: 29

  Well this one was just a complete "Fun Sponge".  I was just about blank on the first few passes, across and down, but then I was able to break through in some areas - but I could get nowhere in the NW, and the combined foreign words/proper names vagueness just dragged this one out way past my personal time, so off to Google I went.  Such a shame, really, but there's got to be one or two puzzles that just beat me up and take my lunch money, or I would not learn anything by trying.  Big, chunky quad-6- and 8-letter corners with two climbers;

3. Eagle touchdown site : TRANQUILITY BASE

12. It might make you comfortable : SOUND INVESTMENT

unward  :7(


1. Strips near the water : ISTHMI - ugh.  strips of land, as in "isthmuses"- so I had an "S" in there for the longest time

7. One giving you a pointer? : UNCLE SAM - he wants you

15. Tire tube, e.g. : TOROID

16. New York racing venue : SARATOGA - horse racing in Argyle's neck of the woods.  I needed the first two "A"s before I remembered this - and I lived in Albany for a few years

17. Sycophantic : SMARMY

18. Skiing maneuver : STEM TURN - did not know this, but I am sure HeartRx did

19. Strands in a tree : TINSEL - Dah~!  I was thinking strands as in "abandons", not strands of silvery metal Christmas decorations

20. Wincing words : I HOPE NOT - "you gonna spend $15K to get your roof fixed~?"

21. Ques. : INQuiry - my first thought, but it seemed a bit of a s-t-r-e-t-c-h

22. Jerry who was head coach of the Utah Jazz for 23 seasons : SLOAN - just the "L" was a WAG; the rest, perps

24. Over the limit, on the rd. : DUI - .08 is the limit here; my first "infraction" was almost 3X that

25. Verdun's river : MEUSE - UGH.  Frawnche.

28. Dominate, in slang : OWN - The NY Rangers 'owned' the TB Lightning last night, winning 5-1; going back to MSG tied 2 games a piece

29. Mighty efforts : PAINS

31. What one might need to leave : EXIT VISA

33. Buff : FIEND - you know what I am a fiend of....the summer is officially kicking in this weekend, and the summer staff has returned to the restaurants - some familiar faces again, and some new cute ones~!

34. Shuttle sites : LOOMS - I took a moment to consider the Space shuttle, or a weaving shuttle - ah ha~!

35. "The Simpsons" shower : FOX TV

36. Drops : SINKS

37. Cuban genre also called the "contradanza" : HABANERA

40. Belgian-born artist with the 2012 Grammy-winning album "Making Mirrors" : GOTYE - total fun sponge

41. Slangy "No reason" : "CUZ" - because.  If I'm writing  dialogue, I spell it " 'cos "

42. Flattened, as a flat : RASED - the flat reference to an apartment building should have clued me into the British spelling of raZed

43. Kid with a trombone : ORY - Did not know this guy

44. Start of a wistful remark : "AH YES...."

46. ID checker : TSA - part of Homeland Security

47. Tiger Electronics' Poo-Chi, for one : ROBOT DOG - I was thinking "robo-pet" at first

50. Give nothing away : CLAM UP; and clecho at 26d. Giving nothing away : STONY

53. Pal of Beegle Beagle : GRAPE APE - I did watch this, I think

54. '60s defense secretary McNamara : ROBERT - I did actually recall this proper name

55. Entering with care : EASING IN - huh - last week, we had Eased Out

56. Right, in a way : AVENGE

57. Smooths : SLEEKENS

58. Liquidated? : MELTED


1. "Let's go" : IT'S TIME

2. ZzzQuil alternative : SOMINEX - eh, I spelled it wrong; happens in the 'down'
4. __-la-loi: outlaw : HORS - more F'n Frawnche

5. Art with no lines : MIME

6. Theocritus works : IDYLS

7. It carried FDR to a 1943 "Big Three" meeting : USS IOWA - I had the first "S" and the last "A", and this was a pretty good WAG

8. Lane on Broadway : NATHAN - Clever clue, but didn't fool me; this guy

9. Theban ruler in "Antigone" : CREON - had to Google

10. Standing __ : LAMP - Ugh, really~?  I mean, I get it, but....

11. Novel ending : ETTE - meh.  I thought it was NoveLLA

13. Not a good way to run : AGROUND - Ooops~!

14. Short prayer? : MANTIS - the bug, that is

23. It may be insured : LOSS

27. Draw out : EVOKE

29. "Cars" studio : PIXAR

30. "Building a healthier world" sloganeer : AETNA

32. Virtual chats : IMs

33. Time keeper? : FOB - I was trying to come up with a magazine Time collector, but it's just the watch chain we're looking for

35. Trouble : FAZE - as in "that did not --- me"

36. Sisterly : SORORAL - ah - the other kind of sister

37. Christiaan who invented the pendulum clock : HUYGENS - this guy

38. Rise again : RESURGE

39. Modified : ADAPTED

40. Indulges and then some : GORGES

41. Most of his works were for solo piano : CHOPIN - a WAG having just the "I"

44. Bit of grandmotherly advice : ADAGE

45. Ejection interjection : "SCRAM~!"

48. Tyke of vintage TV : OPIE

49. Quite a run : TEN-K

51. "A temporary insanity curable by marriage," per Ambrose Bierce : LOVE - cute

52. Explorer Tasman : ABEL


Apr 12, 2015

Sunday April 12, 2015 Alex Vratsanos

Theme:  "Book Case" -  With THE (66A. Word that precedes the start of each answer to a starred clue to form a 112-Across best-seller), each theme answer starts with a John Grisham legal thriller. And THE is placed at the very center of the grid.

23A. *Protectorate, e.g. : CLIENT STATE. I know it as "Puppet state". The Client.

28A. *Pirate lords' group in "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" : BRETHREN COURT. No idea. Wikia shows that "The Brethren Court is composed of the nine Pirate Lords, the greatest pirates in all the Seven Seas". The Brethren.

34A. *Rises to the occasion : SUMMONS UP COURAGE. Needs "the", no? "Summons up the courage".  The Summons.

59A. *Trios and quartets, e.g. : CHAMBER MUSIC. The Chamber.

71A. *Salsa, e.g. : PARTNER DANCE. The Partner.

93A. *Some undergrad awards : ASSOCIATE DEGREES. The Associate.

100A. *They're hard to sway : FIRM BELIEVERS. The Firm.

112A. Author with over 275 million books in print : JOHN GRISHAM

Here is a list of his thrillers. Quite a few start with THE, but no workable phrases start with "Litigators",  "Testament",  "Racketeer", "Confession" or "Rainmaker". Alex's theme entries are quite complete. Constructors are very thorough with research and theme answer selection.

What's your favorite Grisham book? Mine is "The Pelican Brief".


1. Google __ : CHROME. Browser. I like my Firefox.

7. Propels, as shells : OARS

11. Back to school, once? : MARM. Tricky clue. Schoolmarm.

15. Triangle calculation : AREA

19. Clipper's find : COUPON. Have you ever used Groupon?

20. Dry and crack : CHAP

21. City near Santa Barbara : OJAI. Chickie's daughter lives here.

22. "A Few Good Men" co-star Moore : DEMI. Probably my favorite Kevin Bacon movie.

25. Drive aimlessly : TAKE A SPIN. Great fill.

27. Mythological name meaning "all-gifted" : PANDORA. I did not know the "all-gifted" meaning. Bill G is getting gifts every day, then, with his various Pandora stations.

30. Post-bath powder : TALC

32. Cooper's tool : ADZE

33. City, quickly : URB. "Quickly" indicates an abbr.

42. Divulge : BLAB

45. Set right : ORIENT

46. Matches in a pot : SEES

47. Sheeps' clothing? : WOOLS. Lovely clue.

49. Far from 100% : ILL

50. Unbelievable : FISHY

51. Fillers of envs. : LTRs

52. Physicist Tesla : NIKOLA

53. Romantic murmur : COO
54. Some univ. staff : TAs

55. Relative of -ship : HOOD. Adulthood. Friendship. Distant relative, I guess.

56. Battleship success : HIT. Board game again.

57. Super Bowl III winning coach : EWBANK (Weeb). The only coach to win both NFL and AFL championships. Joe Namath days.
63. Italian who was a contemporary of Euler : LAGRANGE. Total stranger to me. Wiki said this guy "became the first professor of analysis at the École Polytechnique upon its opening in 1794." I know a guy who graduated there.

65. Strategic WWI river : MARNE. Needed crossing help.

 67. Trickier to drive on : ICIER

68. Traveler's oasis : HOTEL BAR. Steve Kroft said "Yes!"

76. Texas oil city : ODESSA

77. Welcome home? : MAT. Nice clue also.

78. "Other people," to Sartre : HELL. Hell is other people.

79. "__ work is done" : OUR

80. Zip : NIL

81. Co-Nobelist with Rabin and Peres : ARAFAT. 1994. The year I left Xi'an and my loving family.

84. Lucas princess : LEIA

85. Clothing prefix meaning "small" : PETTI.  As in petticoat.

87. Proper : DUE

88. "Super Bass" singer Nicki : MINAJ. Not fond of her. You?

89. Weaving component : WEFT

90. Neverland creator : BARRIE

91. Increases, with "up" : AMPS

96. Alley __ : OOP

98. Currency honoring Mandela : RAND

99. Actress Kunis : MILA. She and Ashton are a cute couple.

106. Soloist in a 1925 Broadway title song : NANETTE. Oh, "No, No, Nanette".

111. Result of sleeping in : LATE START

114. Disney CEO since 2005 : IGER (Bob)

115. Coagulate : CLOT

116. 84-Down for Fonda : ULEE. And 84. Something for a star : LEAD ROLE

117. Disentangle after a fumble recovery : UNPILE

118. Sci-fi escape vehicles : PODS

119. Touch up : HONE

120. Neuter, in a way : GELD

121. Transgressor : SINNER


1. Soyuz insignia : CCCP. Soyuz is Russian for "Union".

2. Hidalgo greeting : HOLA

3. Trash : RUIN

4. Slanted column : OPED. With slanted views.

5. Speech problem : MONOTONY

6. Fee payer, perhaps : ENTRANT

7. 31-day mo. : OCT

8. "... thou damned whale!" speaker : AHAB

9. Sources of daily pressure : RAT RACES

10. Some small suits : SPEEDOS

11. Good sense : MOTHER WIT. Holy cow. I never heard of this phrase.

12. Close to closed : AJAR

13. Earn big time, with "in" : RAKE

14. Look : MIEN

15. Accumulate on a surface : ADSORB. Not a word I use. "Absorb", yes.

16. Lincoln or Bush : REPUBLICAN

17. Arabian commander : EMIR

18. Informal negative : AIN'T

24. "Do the Right Thing" pizzeria : SAL'S

26. Puncture lead-in : ACU. My uncle (mom's older brother) is an expert in acupuncture.

29. Lao-__ : TZU
31. One who's always right? : CUSTOMER. Indeed.

34. Capital of Cyprus? : SOFT C. The first letter in Cyprus is soft. The answer is normally CEE.

35. Dickens' Heep : URIAH

36. "__ Solemnis": Beethoven work : MISSA. Sadly, I know nothing about classical music.

37. Word of indifference : MEH

38. Unseen : PERDU

39. Mission control go-ahead : A-OK

40. Ooze : GOO

41. Fashion magazine spin-off : ELLE GIRL. I thought it was discontinued a while ago.

43. Word after string or sing : ALONG

44. British fellow : BLOKE

48. Got steamed : SAW RED

51. Literary Doone : LORNA

52. Not as inclement : NICER

55. Collections of plant specimens : HERBARIA. Learning moment for me. Herb aria.

56. Pair of cymbals : HI-HAT

58. Vamp Theda : BARA. Does she look attractive to you?

60. Fr. titles : MMES

61. Aromatic fir : BALSAM

62. Annual parade celeb : ST PAT. And 77. Parade twirler : MAJORETTE. Parade echos.

63. Accounting entry : LINE ITEM

64. Boston-D.C. service : ACELA

68. Pilot maker : HONDA

69. Hatred : ODIUM

70. Moved with Scotty's help : TELEPORTED. "Star Trek"

72. Eighth Commandment taboo, per KJV : THEFT. King James Version.

73. __ Dame : NOTRE

74. Affectionate nickname : CUTIE

75. Ohio natives : ERIEs

82. Q&A part: Abbr. : ANS (Answer)

83. Musical fourths : FAs

85. "24 Caprices for Solo Violin" composer : PAGANINI
86. Fumble, say : ERR

89. "Rubáiyát" vessel : WINE JUG. "...A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread..."

90. Minsk's country : BELARUS

92. Brett who played Oscar Madison's TV wife : SOMERS. I only know Suzanne Somers.

94. LeBron, again, briefly : CAV

95. Parking lot mishap : DING

97. __ Kids: "Sesame Street" brand : PBS

100. Go wild : FLIP

101. Conniving Shakespearean soldier : IAGO

102. Permanently mark : ETCH

103. "Mission: Impossible" theme composer Schifrin : LALO

104. Retired Monopoly token : IRON

105. Poet Silverstein : SHEL

107. "Those Guys Have All the Fun" subject : ESPN. I passed by ESPN's Shanghai Office in 1999 and I had no idea what ESPN was about.

108. Slender : THIN

109. Account : TALE

110. Part of FEMA: Abbr. : EMER

113. Nancy Drew's guy : NED


Feb 22, 2015

Interview with Alex Vratsanos

This is our first encounter with constructor Alex Vratsanos, who has had 10 puzzles published by the New York Times alone. Alex hit for the cycle (his puzzles appeared in every day of the week) with his 8th puzzle last June. That's a record!

Alex was also published by the Chronicle of Higher Education (a collaboration with George Barany),  and in Twenty Under Thirty, and he has several additional puzzles that have been accepted by the LAT.

XWord Info Picture

How did this theme come to you and what were the other theme answers you also considered but discarded?
This concept of using a decade to indicate a letter count came to me in early summer 2014, though in the form of the '80s. Finding nothing usable with eight E's, I ran through the remaining possibilities and found that '60s was the only one that had a chance of working. I guess I got very lucky to find six theme entries that were the right lengths and could intersect.
I don't think I could make a 6-themer work for a 21*21. I would not be so imaginative & daring to start the first theme entry at Row 6 and stack two pairs the way you did. Can you tell us a bit about your grid designing process? What were the trouble spots during the filling?

With the six theme entries in place, I started the fill at those words that crossed three of them. After finding ones that worked, I turned to the areas between TAKIN' IT TO THE STREETS and the other Across theme entries, leaving the areas at the top and bottom of the grid for last. I am very pleased with the changes Rich made, the biggest one being shortening the title (from "Puzzle of the '60s") and in adding the asterisk to it and the theme clues. I also must thank my friend Ned White for the support he gave to this puzzle during its development.

What's your background? And how did you get into crossword construction?

I constructed my first crossword in August 2006, while still in middle school. Over the next few years, I learned the language and rules of crosswords and submitted my first one in February 2009, but it wasn't until June 2011 that I received my first acceptance and publication. I have since had about 20 puzzles accepted by the major outlets, but this is my LA Times debut. Outside of Crossworld, I am currently completing an A.A. in Business Administration at Lehigh Carbon Community College, and plan to begin pursuing a B.S. in Accounting at Kutztown University this fall.

What kind of theme & fill fascinate you and what kind do you try to avoid in your grids?

Being a Scrabble fan, I try to include entries with the less common letters where I can. On the other hand, I try very hard to avoid partials and dupes of short words like IN and ON.

Which part do you enjoy the most in the construction process: theme development, filling or cluing?

Of those three, filling is my favorite and cluing is my least favorite.

What kind of reference tools do you use for crossword construction & cluing?

I use Crossword Compiler for constructing, and I take advantage of all the online and print resources that most constructors use. Once I have a puzzle pretty far along, I run it by George Barany and his team, and they in turn make incisive suggestions on how to improve it.

Besides crosswords, what are your other hobbies?

My other hobbies include chess, a variety of sports and other games, and staying up to date on the stock market. I guess that may not sound like much, but my academic studies and job at Walmart #2145 take up a lot of my time. I am very glad to have had time to answer these questions, though. :-)

Sunday, February 22, 2015 Alex Vratsanos

Theme: "The '60s*" - Each theme entry has 6 T's.

39A. *Congressional authorization of its creation was partly contingent on its forbidding
polygamy : UTAH STATE CONSTITUTION. Some sects there still practice polygamy.

45A. *Gossip : TITTLE-TATTLE

67A. *1976 Doobie Brothers hit : TAKIN' IT TO THE STREETS. Gimme, D-Otto?

93A. *Knocking sound, in Joyce's "Ulysses" (longest palindromic word in the OED) :
TATTARRATTAT. Neat trivia. Learning moment for me.


28D. *Jolson classic : TOOT, TOOT, TOOTSIE

So did you get the theme before coming to the blog?

Very seldom do we get an asterisk mark in the theme title. Rich might be worried that the theme is tricky for solvers to grasp. Some might think those long 10's in the Across spots are theme answers. Normally when we have asterisk marks in theme entries, we have a reveal entry.

Construction-wise, this puzzle is technical feat.


1. Alice's cat : DINAH.  "Alice in Wonderland".

6. Dix follower : ONZE. 11 in French.

10. Site of the house that inspired "American Gothic" : IOWA

14. Bikini specs : C-CUPS

19. "Fear of Fifty" author Jong : ERICA

20. Vacuum : VOID

21. Diagnostic tool : MRI SCANNER. And 25. Criminals are often behind them : PRISON BARS. Lovely stack of 10's crossed by WIIMOTES (12D. Nintendo controllers).

23. Kid : JOKE AROUND. One more 10.

26. Blood-typing letters : ABO

27. Show mastery of : SHINE AT

29. Parrot : MIMIC

30. Tenn. athletes : VOLS. Tennessee Volunteers.

32. Money changers?: Abbr. : EDS (Editors). Money magazine.

33. Purposeless : OTIOSE. Not a word I use.

36. IRS hiree : CPA

46. Skipped town, maybe : MOVED

47. Newsman Roger : O'NEIL. Hey, AILES has the same letter count.

49. Ship staff : MAST. Tricky "staff".

50. From one tone to the next, in music : STEPWISE. New concept to me.

53. Vouchsafes : BESTOWS

56. Han River capital : SEOUL. Of course I was thinking of the Han River in China.

59. Henri's here : ICI

60. Fleur in heraldry : LYS. Or LIS.

61. Ward with Emmys : SELA

62. "So-o adorable!" : AWW

64. Mild, chili-wise : ONE ALARM. How high can you go?

73. Terminus : END POINT

74. With 123-Across, personal annoyance : PET. And 123. See 74-Across : PEEVE

75. Judge : DEEM

77. Pacific finger food : POI. Never had it. But I like baked taros & taro cakes.

80. "You Gotta Be" singer Des'__ : REE. We had this singer before.

81. Zenophile? : STOIC. Zeno the Stoic.

84. "Plum Island" author Nelson : DEMILLE. Marti & Hahtoola might have read this book.

86. Apple sites : ORCHARDS

89. Bone: Pref. : OSTE. Also OSSE.

91. Metroliner successor : ACELA

92. Shrek creator William : STEIG

103. Red team : SOX

104. Little work for a gardener? : BONSAI. Cute clue/answer.

105. Educational org. : PTA

106. The Aragón feeds it : EBRO

107. As a companion : ALONG. Oh, like in "Come along".

109. 1930s Rhine/Zener experiment : ESP TEST. Another learning moment for me.

113. L.D.S. school : BYU. Why did you go to BYU, Barry G? Were you a Mormon for sometime?

114. When vacations often don't start? : SOON ENOUGH. True.

119. Experiment subjects : GUINEA PIGS. Great entry also.

121. Alabaman, e.g. : SOUTHERNER

122. Walked : TROD

124. They're under heads : TORSI. Not NECKS.

125. "A Series of Unfortunate Events" villain Squalor : ESME. No idea. But inferable given Salinger's "For Esme – with Love and Squalor".

126. Six-yr. pols : SENS (Senators)

127. De-pressurized? : EASED


1. "I've seen this before" feeling : DEJA VU. Sparkling fill.

2. Asimov classic : I, ROBOT

3. Inventor on Serbia's 100-dinar note : NIKOLA TESLA. Full name!

4. Opening day starter : ACE. And 43. One making many calls : UMPIRE

5. 2011 FedEx Cup winner Bill : HAAS. Son of Jay Haas.

6. Egg-shaped : OVOIDAL. Same as Oval, right?

7. Morphological component, in linguistics : NOUN STEM. Another word I never used, but  inferable.

8. Fan mag : ZINE

9. Source of Norse mythology : EDDA

10. Mischief-maker : IMP. Hi there Spitzboov!

11. "Catch-22" pal of Yossarian : ORR

13. St. Francis' home : ASSISI

14. "Is it okay, mom?" : CAN I

15. "Mad Money" network : CNBC

16. Italian article : UNA

17. Rate word : PER

18. Many AARP members: Abbr. : SRs

22. Tailed orbiter : COMET

24. Butler created by Mitchell : RHETT. "Gone With the Wind".

31. Asian mushroom : SHIITAKE. When I worked in Guangzhou, my lunch was often rice noodles with shiitake.
34. Blowup cause : TNT

35. U.K. component : ISL (Island)

36. __ service : CIVIL

37. Art of verse : POESY

38. Long range : ANDES

40. 1944 invasion city : ST LO

41. DFW postings : ETAs. Dallas–Fort Worth.

42. Docket item : CASE

44. Trailer, say : TOW

47. Dictionary cousin of arch. : OBS. Obsolete.

48. Bygone depilatory : NEET

51. Out of vertical : TILTED

52. French game in which the king is the highest card : ECARTE. Do any of you play this game?

54. Roam : WANDER

55. Ran through a reader : SWIPED

57. Durham sch. : UNH

58. Jack Reacher creator Child : LEE

63. Yemen became its 160th mem. in June, 2014 : WTO. Unaware of the trivia. But it was a big deal when China joined WTO in 2001.

65. Ophidiophobe's fear, perhaps : ASP. OK, fear of snakes.

66. Great Society program : MEDICARE

68. Shabbily dressed : IN RAGS

69. "My country __ ... " : 'TIS

70. Prov. bordering four Great Lakes : ONT

71. Kids' TV quartet : TELETUBBIES. Four main characters from left to right: Tinky Winky, Laa-Laa, Po & Dipsy.

72. Get cash for : SELL

76. __ culpa : MEA

77. Goal pair : POSTS

78. Bug-B-Gon maker : ORTHO

79. Climber's implement : ICE AX

82. World Golf Hall of Famer Aoki : ISAO

83. Corner key : CTRL

85. Falcons quarterback Ryan : MATT

87. Good guess in Battleship : HIT. Another game I never played.

88. WWII weapons : STEN GUNS

90. 1991 Pinatubo event : ERUPTION

94. Common batteries : AAS

95. Sched. opening : TBA

96. Doesn't blow off : ATTENDS

97. Coquette : TEASE

99. Sirloin alternative : T-BONE

100. Writer __ de Balzac : HONORE

101. __ Lie, first U.N. secretary-general : TRYGVE. One more learning moment for me. He's Norwegian.

102. Contained : HOUSED

107. "A Bug's Life" colony : ANTS

108. City near Provo : LEHI. We see OREM more often.

110. Boot camp NCOs : SGTS

111. Immaculate : PURE

112. Gift-wrapping aid : TAPE

114. Retiree of 2003, briefly : SST

115. Winning combo : OOO

116. Possession indicator : OUR

117. Marvel : GEM

118. The Battle of Austerlitz precipitated its end: Abbr. : HRE. Stumper for me.

120. Royal pain? : PEA. "The Princess and the Pea".