Advertisements

Showing posts with label Matthew Higgins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matthew Higgins. Show all posts

Feb 21, 2009

Saturday February 21, 2009 Matthew Higgins

Theme: None

Total blocks: 28

Total words: 70

Now I am feeling like "A RAISIN in the Sun (42D), completely dried up. Some of the clues/ANSWERS are relentlessly obscure to me. I definitely need the theme as my Sherpa. Themeless is too much of a Sisyphean challenge to me.

I would prefer "Abused verbally" rather than "Assailed abusively" for REVILED because ASSAILANTS is the answer for 17A: Violent attackers.

To those who did not read my Wednesday's post, Argyle will blog Barry Silk's Bonus Puzzle tomorrow morning. Also, LA Times just published Barry's themeless today. The blog will be published here on March 1 (Sunday). I have never solved a Saturday LA Times before. Very curious to see how it differs from our TMS themeless.

Across:

1A: Navigation aid: CHART. Would be easier if the clue is "Navigation map". All I could think of is COMPASS.

14A: Financial aid form: PAPER CHASE. New term to me. Chinese government paid all my college education, so I did not need any financial aid.

16A: Hokey rural humor: CORN. Did not know it's a "rural" humor.

19A: Remove from active use: SHELVE

20A: Lesser Antilles republic: DOMINICA. Here is a map.

25A: Judicial: ARBITRAL. They are not synonymous to me. "Judicial" is pertaining to the judge/justice, while ARBITRAL has something to do with arbiter or arbitration.

31A: Entrench oneself: DIG IN. Did not come to me readily.

35A: African fox: ASSE. Simply forgot. Also called Cape Fox. It "inhabits dry areas of southern Africa and has large pointed ears, silvery gray coat, and a bushy tail with a black tip".

36A: Type of boom: SONIC. SONIC boom. Like the boom from Concorde?

37A: Matador's adversary: TORO

38A: Cool or groovy: HIP. "Hep" in old times.

43A: Sound units: DECIBELS. SONE is often clued as "Loudness unit". It's 40 DECIBELS.

45A: Impedes: RETARDS. I wanted HINDERS. But it did not fit.

47A: Fillet fish: SOLE. I've never had SOLE fish. It's also called flatfish. I misread "Fillet" as a verb, so SKIN & DEBONE popped into my mind.

48A: Named: ENTITLED

50A: Belgrade's republic: SERBIA. Fully landlocked. It gained full independence in 2006. Not an EU memeber yet. SERBIA (esp Kosovo) and the whole Balkan area baffle the hell of me, very confusing civil/ethnic/religious fights.

54A: Suit toppers: ACES

55A: Fading away gradually: EVANESCING. New word to me. I only knew convalesce.

58A: Form into a network: RETICULATE. Another new word. RETIA is often clued as "Networks".

Down:

2D: Corned-beef dish: HASH

3D: Area in a basilica: APSE. Sometimes the answer is NAVE.

4D: Chronologically unbroken: REAL TIME. The clue does not feel natural to me.

5D: Hot-dish stands: TRIVETS. Was clued as "Hot-platter platform" last time.

8D: John Jacob and Mary: ASTOR

9D: Hypnotic: MESMERIC. I am used to the word "mesmerizing".

10D: Formulaic stylistically: ICONIC. This clue is too fancy for me. Why not "Like Jackie's sunglasses"?

11D: House trailer: MOBILE HOME. And RESIDENCE ((26D: Abodes)

12D: Of the rules: PROCEDURAL. Would not have got this word without the across fills. Have heard of PROCEDURAL vote many times. Never understand what it means.

13D: Slammin' Sammy: SNEAD. Hogan and SNEAD, Jack and Arnie, Tiger and Phil.

21D: Reitman or Pavlov: IVAN. Did not know the Canadian film producer/director IVAN Reitman. His lower lip is very thick.

23D: Hazardous gas: RADON

25D: Old-time actress Menken: ADAH. No idea. She died when she was only 33. Wikipedia said she was romanced by Dumas when she performed in Paris. Dumas looks so content and happy.

27D: Splashes with mud: BESPATTERS. Knew SPATTER only.

28D: Like some tablets: LINED. Here is a somewhat LINED but MESMERIC face. Lots of milliadonis in my book.

32D: Lytton Strachey's first name: GILES. Bloody blue murder! Have never heard of this British writer/critic. He died in 1932. Wrote a biography of Queen Victoria.

36D: Blacksmiths' cohorts: SADDLERS. Oh, I had no idea that there are people specializing in saddle making/repairing.

37D: Protuberance on a bone: TUBERCLE. Only knew TUBER.

44D: Trig. function: COSEC. Mine was COSIN.

45D: Ranch in the movie "Giant": REATA. Carol probably still wants RIATA.

46D: "The __ Samurai": SEVEN. Probably the most famous Japanese movie ever made. The Tom Cruise movie is titled "The Last Samurai".

56D: Quick drink: NIP

C.C.

Jan 17, 2009

Saturday January 17, 2009 Matthew Higgins

Theme: None

Total blocks: 26

Total words: 68

Now I start to admire Higgins' tenacity in coming up with themeless after themeless on Saturdays. He is obviously undaunted by the challenges of constructing a low word /block count grid.

He also seems to like 27 black square grids. I am so curious to know how he started this puzzle and which was the first word he filled in.

As usual, most of his clues are impeccably correct, straight from the dictionary. But certain liveliness is missing. And too many S and ED suffixes for my taste. LACKER (13D: One in want) sounds like a made-up word. So does BASSNESS (36D: Low quality of music?), which is nowhere to be found when I googled earlier.

Across:

1A: Louisiana county: PARISH. Is Louisiana the only state where county is called PARISH?

7A: Microscopic layer: THIN FILM. Science lab term?

15A: Hardy shrub of the honeysuckle family: ABELIA. See this photo. It's named after the British botanist Clarke Abel. Not a familiar shrub to me. Honeysuckle is too fragrant.

16A: Source of agar: RED ALGAE. Good to know. Is RED ALGAE edible?

23A: Squash pigment: CAROTENE. Also "Carrot/Sweet potato pigment". Source for Vitamin A. Good for your eyes.

26A: Wins by charms: ENDEARS. This reminds me a clue for END: Kind of ear? Very tough clue, isn't it? It took me a long time to figure out why the answer is ENDEAR.

31A: But, to Brutus: SED. Nope. My first encounter with this Latin "But". I am sure I won't remember it tomorrow morning when I wake up.

37A: Skulls: CRANIA

39A: Redhead duck: POCHARD. No idea. This POCHARD looks angry.

42A: Museum guides: DOCENTS

46A: Plants with funnel-shaped flowers: PETUNIAS. Nice picture. Do you know that PETUNIAS belong to the nightshade family?

47A: In the rigging: ALOFT. Opposite of alow. New nautical term to me. I always associate ALOFT with "High in the sky".

50A: Have a ball: LIVE IT UP. Reminded me of yesterday's NATURAL GAS (Teetotalers' bash). I could not find "It's a GAS" being referred as "Have a blast" anywhere on line. If you find the source, please let me know.

54A: Sap of energy: ENERVATE

55A: Moves in and out: WEAVES. What is moved "in and out"? Shuttle?

56A: Final courses: DESSERTS. What is this dessert? Looks like corn flour.

57A: "Gunsmoke" star: ARNESS (James). Uh-uh, nope. Strange name. Feels like letter H is missing from ARNESS. This girl looks very pretty.

Down:

1D: Cure-alls: PANACEAS. Sad to hear about Steve Jobs' health problem. Maybe he should have continued his vegan lifestyle rather than eating meat again. Who knows.

2D: Act of enduring without yielding: ABIDANCE. Such an exact definition.

10D: Prattled: NATTERED. And GAB (34A: Shoot the breeze)

11D: Batted one's eyes, for example: FLIRTED. I was thinking of the idiom "Not bat an eye".

12D: Start burning: IGNITE. Very rigid clue.

24D: Massive ref. work: OED (Oxford English Dictionary). Massive indeed, 20 volumes.

32D: Serving to pull: TRACTIVE. I thought the answer would end in *ING.

34D: Possessive case: GENITIVE

35D: Fred and Adele: ASTAIRES. Probably the most famous dancing siblings.

37D: Large slow moving beetles: CHAFERS. Here is a CHAFER. Unknown to me. Too small to move slowly.

38D: Generic game pieces: MEN. This clue is getting stale. Oscar Wilde once said "MEN marry because they are tired; women because they are curious; both are disappointed."

44D: Loser at Little Bighorn: CUSTER. If the clue is "Winner at Little Bighorn", whom would you think of? Sitting Bull or Crazy Horse?

53D: Author of "Saving Fish from Drowning": TAN (Amy). I've not read this book yet. "The Joy Luck Club" is fascinating read.

C.C.

Dec 6, 2008

Saturday December 6, 2008 Matthew Higgins

Theme: None

Total blocks: 24

Total words: 66

Nice looking grid, isn't it? So open. Only 24 blocks (black squares). This is a record for us. More often we have between 27-32 on a Saturday themeless puzzle. NY Time's fewest block record is 18.

I think I am going to count the total words for Saturday grids from now on. 66 sounds quite low. Our average is probably 70. FYI, the maximum words allowed for a TMS themeless is 72 (78 for themed puzzle). This puzzle holds the record for lowest word count (only 59) in Jim's database.

The plethora of affixes (S, ER & ING) still bother me. But they sure helped me tremendously in tackling today's offering. TARSALS (26D: Ankles) are "Ankle bones", not "Ankles", right?

I have to say again, this grid just looks so pretty.

Across:

8A: Run playfully: SCAMPER. This word always brings to mind the photo of JFK Jr. crawling out of the Oval Office desk. He later said in an interview that the space was too small for Bill Clinton and Monica to play around.

15A: Quintessence: EPITOME. I would like to see QUINTESSENCE clued as "Epitome" some day.

16A: Greek cafe: TAVERNA. New to me. Ink, is this a neuter or a feminine noun?

17A: Invigorate: LIVEN UP

18A: Ice-breaking remarks: OPENERS

19A: Old Turkish title: AGA. I have a question regarding AGA Khan. Is it an Irani hereditary title? Where is his office based? I seem to remember a Pakistani AGA Khan who was active in the 1950s and dated some Hollywood actresses.

20A: Goldbrick: SLACKER. Not familiar with this slang. I was thinking of ingot.

27A: Sees a mental picture: ENVISIONS

29A: More inadequate: LAMER. INANER came to my mind first.

30A: Makes certain: SEES TO IT

31A: Action of endearment: CARESS. And LONGINGS (33D: Strong persistent desires). Hmmm, "amor vincit omnia". What a wonderful 15-letter phrase! Perfect for a Valentine's Day theme answer.

32A: Swinging freely: PENDULOUS. This is the only "ing" clue that I liked.

37A: Athenian philosopher: SOCRATES. He said "Know thyself".

41A: Word-weary: BLASE

42A: One of Sri Lanka's languages: SINHALESE. Or Sinhala. Fascinating, Wikipedia says "Sinha" means "lion", and "la" means "to seize". Unknown to me. The only Sri Lanka language I was aware of is Tamil. And I always associate it with the Tamil Tiger force.

43A: Stadium top, often: DOME. Can you believe that the Twins new stadium will be roofless?

44A: Mold, mildew and smut: FUNGI

45A: Bristle: SETA. Bristly would be setal or setose.

46A: Dos Passos trilogy: U.S.A. I was so happy I finally remembered this trilogy.

49A: Slap the cuffs on: NAB

54A: ABaAabAB rhyme scheme: TRIOLET. No idea. Waiting for Clear Ayes to explain what this scheme is. Funny how it has "Trio" as prefix rather than "Octo" since it has eight lines.

Down:

1D: Interacts: RELATES. I like how it intersects with TOLD (23A: Informed). Wish the clues reflected the tie between the two.

2D: Mediocre imitator of an artist: EPIGONE. New word to me. All I could think of is copycat.

3D: Cockle or mussel: BIVALVE. Oyster is also BIVALVE too. Do you like raw oysters? So tasty!

6D: Light-sensitive photographic coating: EMULSIONS. Got it from the across clues.

7D: Resembling a calyx: SEPALOID. Wow, it's a word. I did not know this. Sepal-oid.

9D: Canaveral and Coral: CAPES. Have never heard of Coral CAPE before.

14D: Scan-line patterns: RASTERS. Another new word to me.

21D: Bruising: CONTUSING. The noun form contusion is more commonly used, isn't it?

24D: Arrange: DISPOSE. Not a familiar definition to me.

28D: Cubic meter: STERE. Who actually uses this word in their daily life?

29D: Classic Gene Tierney film: LAURA. Ha ha, I got LAURA today. Felt a bit sorry for LAURA Bush. She deserves a clue.

31D: Red dye from insects: COCHINEAL. Completely unheard of. Sounds so cruel to crush the insects to get the dye. Wikipedia says the COCHINEAL insects live on cacti. Look at these harvesting baskets.

35D: Conclusion: CLOSURE. I wonder any constructor has thought of a "SURE" puzzle, you know, with CLOSURE, COMPOSURE, EXPOSURE, LEISURE, MEASURE, etc.

36D: Small, bushy-tailed monkey: TAMARIN. New monkey to me. It's tiny. Strange mustache. Wikipedia says TAMARIN's gestation is "typically 140 days, and births are normally twins". And they live to be 18 years old when in captivity.

38D: "I was a __ Werewolf": TEENAGE. I forgot. Mr. Higgins used the same clue in his last puzzle. Looks scary.

42D: Guarantee: SURETY

44D: Peggy Lee classic: FEVER. See this clip. I guessed. I actually thought of NEVER first.

53D: One of Bobbsey Twins: NAN. I bet our editor does not like Indian food. Otherwise, he would have clued NAN as "Indian bread".

C.C.

Nov 15, 2008

Saturday November 15, 2008 Matthew Higgins

Theme: None

Total block: 27

Ah, only if I had a hammer! I wound pound SORRIEST (16A: Superlatively wretched), REDDEST (40D: Most embarrassed), SNAPPINESS (25A: Brisk quality) and MADNESS (37D: Lunacy) out of this grid.

Did you count the ER's are in this puzzle? Dizzying! Not to mention RE, ED, S'es.

I cannot even find one sparkling clue, can you? I know I keep complaining about Alan P. Olschwang's Quip/Quote puzzles, but there have never been an excess of annoying affixes in any of his work.

Across:

1A: Puget Sound port: TACOMA. Bing Crosby was born here. TACOMA is from "Tocobet", Indian name for Mount Rainier.

18A: Psychosomatic crucifixion wounds: STIGMATA. I had no idea that the plural form of stigma is STIGMATA.

19A: Founds: CONSTITUTES. New definition to me.

23A: Lesser Sundas island: TIMOR. See this map. I only know East TIMOR. I also forgot where "Lesser Sundas island" is.

28A: Highland dance: REEL. Or "Virginia dance".

29A: Orthodox Jewish schools: YESHIVAS. Was this a gimme to you? It's a new word to me.

32A: Distinct mus. tones: STAC (Staccato). Is this a common abbrevation? How do you shorten "Legato" then? "Leg"?

37A: Pillager: MARAUDER. I just learned "maraud" a few days ago.

42A: Chemical sedimentary rock: TRAVERTINE. Another new word. Dictionary says these rocks exist extensivly in Italian city Tivoli, hence the name TRAVERTINE, which is "a form of limestone deposited by springs, esp. hot springs, used in Italy for building."

45A: Land of the dead: HADES. Or the underworld god himself. Brother of Zeus and Poseidon. Husband of Persephone.

46A: Part of PST: STD. PST is Pacific Standard Time.

47A: Cyclades island: KEA. See this map. I don't know how Mr. Higgins found this obscure island. Why not Mauna ____?

48A: Examined again: REINSPECTED

51A: Barbeau of "The Fog": ADRIENNE. Wow, gorgeous photo. Are those real?

53A: No difference: ALL ONE. You would not believe it, but I really did not know that ALL ONE is the same as "No difference". "All the same", yes. Also ONE (22A: Undivided). I don't like seeing two ONE's in one grid.

55A: Misses narrowly: SKIRTS. Are you OK with "Misses" in the clue?

57A: Group of seven: SEPTET. Or HEPTAD.

Down:

1D: Pot cover: TEA COSY. Nice strawberry TEA COSY.

2D: WWI battle site: ARGONNE. See ARGONNE Forest? Not a familiar name to me.

3D: Parts of eyes: CORNEAS

6D: Extra something: ADDITIVE

7D: Takes on: ASSUMES

8D: Nocturnal arboreal African primates: POTTOS. No idea. His eyes look like glasses.

9D: People who snoop: PRIERS

12D: More sordid: SEAMIER. Mine was SEEDIER.

26DL Seven Wonders lighthouse: PHAROS. See this drawing of 1909.

33D: Infringement: TRESPASS

36D: Ancient fertility goddess: ASTARTE. I forgot. It appeared in our puzzle before. "God of fertility" is BAAL.

42D: From that location: THENCE. I only knew whence.

43D: Fassbinder or Rilke: RAINER. A gimme for Melissa I am sure. She mentioned Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" sometimes ago. I've never heard of RAINER Fassbinder. He was a German film director.

49D: Actress Sommer: ELKE. I googled her name. Great picture.

50D: Football infraction: CLIP. Not a football fan. What is a CLIP?

C.C.

Nov 1, 2008

Saturday November 1, 2008 Matthew Higgins

Theme: None

Total blocks: 27

Total words: 68

Letter S must be all constructors' favorite letter. It can start a word and end a word. It can be followed by either a vowel or a consonant. I guess that's why we see it popping up everywhere in the grid, esp the first row & last row, first column and last column.

We get 27 S'es today, too many for my taste. But one thing I really like about Higgins' puzzle is the lack of pop culture and actor/actress names, which often stump me. Additionally, he always does solid research on his clues. Nearly all of them are dictionary-accurate, though not lively.

Some of the clues today are pretty good:

32A: Virginia, for one: REEL

5D: Half and half?: ONE. Without the "?", the clue would be good too, but boring.

50D: Bannister, for one: MILER. Roger Bannister is the first man to run the mile in less than four minutes.

Across:

1A: Considers probable: SUPPOSES. Three S'es for the first word, three S'es for the last word (SCORSESE).

9A: Nabokov novel: LOLITA. Have you see the movie remake? My favorite Jeremy Irons movie is "Damage".

17A: Squatter: NESTER. Homesteader. I thought a "Squatter" is someone who squats.

20A: Sinuous: SERPENTINE. "Sinuous" is a new to me. I know "tortuous" though.

26A: Greek harp: TRIGON. It's "an ancient Greek stringed instrument with a triangular shape". New to me. I only know LYRE. If you find a TRIGON picture, please share with us. I could not find one on the internet. (Addendum: Here is a TRIGON picture, and here is LYRE).

28A: Roman deck count: LII. 52. Also the "Number of weeks in a year" for the Romans.

30A: Fix firmly: SECURE. I like the verb cluing.

35A: Wheys: SERA. I am more familiar with the "Blood fluids" clue.

42A: State in northwestern Mexico: SONORA. It's bordering Arizona.

53A: Cancellation: RESCISSION. Only knew the verb RESCIND.

57A: Bay windows: ORIELS. I tend to confuse ORIELS with ORIOLES.

60A: French department on the bay of Biscay: VENDEE. See this map. I've never heard of it before.

61A: Subtraction starters: MINUENDS

63A: "Mean Streets" director: SCORSESE. Have you seen "Mean Streets"? Looks interesting.

Down:

1D: Groups in groups: SUBSETS

3D: Like plunder at sea: PIRATIC. I wanted PIRATEY. I've never heard of PIRATIC before.

9D: State of being cheerlessly solitary: LONELINESS. LONELINESS can be beautiful and inspiring, esp if you are comfortable being alone.

11D: Tilt to one side: LIST. Is this solely a nautical term?

12D: Arteries' innermost linings: INTIMAE. New to me. The plural form of INTIMA can also be INTIMAS.

13D: "I Was a __Werewolf": TEENAGE. Have you seen the movie? It looks horrifying.

14D: Gland near the kidneys: ADRENAL. This is where adrenaline comes from, correct?

21D: Ballet movements: PLIE. These girls are pretty.

27D: Close calls: NEAR-MISSES

29D: Forms into small pellets: GRANULATES. OK, I checked, it's a word.

41D: Statements of obvious veracity: TRUISMS

43D: Semi-translucent glass: OPALINE. It's the same as opalescent, isn't it?

C.C.

Oct 11, 2008

Saturday October 11, 2008 Matthew Higgins

Theme: None

Total block: 27

I really don't understand why Mr. Higgins continues to construct themeless. If the only weapons he has are those annoying affixes-laden "artificial long fills" (Embien's term) and obscure libraian words, then he should give up. There should be a limit on the number of ER, RE, ED, EST, ING & S allowed in a puzzle.

He could have fiddled with the grid a bit and made LANCES (55A: Knight's weapons) singular. He could have tied it in with ITO (21A: Simpson trial judge) and created a O. J. Simpson themed puzzle, with CHASE in the middle.

I really dislike the clue for ASCENDANCE (42A: Coming into prominence). The clue is asking for ASCENDING, isn't it? "Several" in the ROES (27D: Several small Eurasian deer) made me feel condescended. The clue for ARABLE (42D: Suitable for farming) is simply horrible. SUITABLE is the answer for the crossing 51A "Fitting".

I do like "Type of committee" for STEERTING (6D). Nice one.

Across:

1A: "When __ Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd": LILACS. "And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night..." Whitman's elegy for Lincoln. Nice "O Captain! My Captain!" animation.

15A: Ark's resting place: ARARAT. I always thought that Mountains of ARARAT and Mount ARARAT are the same.

16A: Soapstone: STEATITE. New word to me.

17A: Bell's clapper: TONGUE. I had no idea that the metal in the middle of the bell is called TONGUE.

18A: Horse-drawn vehicle operator: COACHMAN

19A: Lack of sufferance: INTOLERANCE. Are you OK with the clue? It feels so strained to me.

21A: Simpson trial judge: ITO (Lance). He has never written a book about the trial, has he?

22A: Himalayan gazelle: GOA. I always want YAK, which is an ox. Argyle found this GOA picture last time when we had the "Tibetan gazelle" clue.

25A: Cantankerous state: ORNERINESS. I always associate ORNERY with stubborn.

30A: Edible mushroom: MOREL. Another 5-letter edible Asian mushroom is the long-stemmed ENOKI, which has a very firm, chewy and textured taste if prepared properly.

34A: Helen's conductor: PARIS. He was portrayed by Orlando Bloom in "Troy". The guy on the left is Hector, played by Eric Bana ("Munich"). Helen's wife is Oenone.

47A: Part of APB: ALL. I had a mental block and wrote down AIR, thinking of the Air Pollution Index.

48A: Evil-doers: MALEFACTORS

53A: Compel with force: COERCE. Another "compel" clue is 38D: Compel: ENFORCE.

54A: Spotless: UNSOILED

57A: Thrust out: EXSERT. Unknown to me. I wanted EXERT.

Down:

1D: Cinch tightening straps: LATIGOS. No idea. Is LATIGO the white leather belt around the horse's stomach?

3D: Verbena plant: LANTANA. Doesitinink mentioned this Geoffrey Rush movie "LANTANA" last time. Have you seen it?

5D: Greater omentum: CAUL. No idea.

9D: Corps, pipes and officers: PEACES. Peace Corps, peace pipes, peace officers. Wow, is this a legitimate cluing? I do like it though.

10D: Portion of humanity: RACE. "Portion"?

12D: Degree of eminence: STATURE. I wish the constructor had tied in Lincoln with the clue.

14D: Ancient Greek beverage: OENOMEL. OENO is prefix for wine, MEL is from Greek MELI, meaning honey. I've never heard of this drink before. I only knew mead.

20D: Futhark alphabet: RUNES. Saw this clue before.

26D: Descried: ESPIED. I tend to confuse descry with decry.

33D: Highest point: PINNACLE. I rather like PINNACLE golf balls. Distance Doesn't Have to be Hard: Softer Feel.

34D: Winged horse: PEGASUS. I forgot. It's created from Medusa's blood. Red PEGASUS is the old Mobil mascot.

35D: Moon orbiter's apogee: APOLUNE. Absolutely no idea. It's opposite perilune, which is "Moon orbiter's perigee".

37D: Diatribes: SCREEDS

48D: Flexible type of armor: MAIL. New meaning of MAIL to me.

49D: Persuade gently: COAX. Lovely "Maggie May": "... I laughed at all of your jokes, my love you didn't need to COAX..."

C.C.

Sep 6, 2008

Saturday September 6, 2008 Matthew Higgins

Theme: None

Total blocks: 27

I had an epiphany earlier. I suddenly realized what was really missing in Higgins' puzzle: vitality. I just could not find much spontaneity or creativity in them. It felt like he made up this grid just by looking at the dictionary and reference books.

If you look at his clues carefully, nearly every one of them is theoretically & factually correct, but most of them just feel so stiff and wooden. I guess I am too instinctive and intuitive a person for his rigidness.

For example:

57A: Stringed instruments: CELLOS. No flaw in the clue. But "Yo-Yo Ma's instruments" will evoke some vivid memories/images for the solvers, at least, for me.

34D: Hone: SHARPEN. Again, the clue is fine, but boring. "Make a point, perhaps" will force the solvers to think a bit, and add some flavor to the grid.

50D: Figure of worship: IDOL. Once again, the clue is correct. But why not "David Cook, e.g." to perk up the puzzle?

Also, I would prefer the clue for PAGAN (23A: Idolator) to be "Heathen", it's just visually jarring to see IDOL as the answer and part of the clue.

REPEAL (15A: Withdraw formally) & RECLAIMS (37A: Gains restoration) are perfectly fine words. And I suppose RETOOLS (2D: Changes the machinery) is OK too. But REDARES (37D: Challenges anew)? And is PERVADER (51A: Something that permeates) really a word?

Across:

1A: Visual aids: GRAPHS

7A: Bucolic: PASTORAL. Here is Beethoven No. 6 (PASTORAL).

16A: Not counting: LET ALONE. What kind of clue is this? I don't understand it.

18A: Tiresome long: UNENDING

19A: Yankees in Dixie: NORTHERNERS. I learned a new phrase this morning: "Whistle Dixie". Dictionary explains it as "to indulge in unrealistically optimistic fantasies". Kind of like "have a pollyanna notion about certain things", isn't it? Have you used "whistle Dixie" before?

21A: ___ generis (of its own kind): SUI. New to me.

22A: Neil Simon's nickname: DOC. Did not know this. This is a list of baseball players' nicknames. Maybe Mr. Higgins should try to create such a sportspeople nicknames themed puzzle rather than indulging himself in his affixes infatuation.

25A: Spunk: PLUCKINESS. And 56A: Proximity: NEARNESS. Yawner, yawner!

29A: Beset: ASSAILED

30A: Intrinsically: PER SE

41A: Target on the green: HOLE. Just how deep is a HOLE? Do you know? Do you want to know? I know the diameter is about 4 1/4 inches. I would clue KITE (27D: Fork-tailed bird) as "Tom of the Champions?" (Champions Tour) to pair up with HOLE. Tom KITE won U.S. Open in 1992 and certainly has the name recognition.

42A: Prodigious: PHENOMENAL. JVJ24601 mentioned on Wednesday that "Michael Phelps is to be the host for the new season premier of SNL on 9/13."

45A: Waterproof wool cloth: LODEN. I forgot. LODEN appeared as "Waterproof cloth" on a Sunday puzzle before. It's made of sheep wool. Here is happy family all in LODEN coat.

46A: Reggae relative: SKA. Are you very familiar with the "calypso music"?

48A: Products of the body's fuel-burning system: METABOLITES. Another new word to me. I only knew METABOLISM.

54A: Twist together: ENTANGLE

55A: Tristan's beloved: ISOLDE. No idea. It's a Wagner opera. Have you seen this movie before?

Down:

3D: Revealing glimpses: APERÇUS. It's always "short summary" to me.

5D: Muddle: HASH. Are you really synonymous? In what sense?

6D: In a languid manner: SLEEPILY

7D: Dashed with headlong haste: PLUNGED

8D: Virgil's Trojan hero: AENEAS. Vaguely remember this name due to an earlier DIDO (Queen of Carthage) puzzle. DIDO killed herself when abandoned by AENEAS. How sad! Men can be so cruel! It's from Vigil's epic poem, "The Aeneid".

12D: Revel boisterously: ROISTER. This is another new word for me. I like the adjective "roisterously", very noisy-looking.

14D: Easily deciphered: LEGIBLE

24D: Cornerstone tablets: STELAE. Singular form is STELE, or STELA.

30D: Cardsharp's maneuver: PALM. "Carsharp" is new word to me.

32D: Supergiant star in Cygnus: DENEB. I forgot again. Here is the map. Wikipedia says that DENEB, together with Altair and Vega, forms the Summer Triangle.

33D: Financially rewarding: ECONOMIC

35D: Part of TNT: TOLUENE. The second T in TNT. I had no idea. I was thinking of the "We Know Drama" TNT network.

36D: Calgary's province: ALBERTA. Ha, Stephen Harper comes from ALBERTA.

38D: Implant: INSTILL

39D: Gets by with less: MAKES DO

40D: Cuts slits: SLASHES

48D: Horace or Aimee: MANN. Have heard of Horace MANN, not Aimee. I always associated Aimee with actress Anouk.

49D: Mislay: LOSE. I've never used this word "mislay" before. Can you say "The key was mislaid"?

C.C.

Aug 9, 2008

Saturday August 9, 2008 Matthew Higgins

Theme: None

Total block: 27

Sigh...another Matthew Higgins, what can I say?

Annoying amount of affixes and obscure words. Maybe Mr. Higgins should give up this ambitious themeless idea and plunge into themed puzzles for some badly needed batting practice and minor league training. Amazing how he can come up with 27 blocks every Saturday.

Look at how many ER, RE, ED he employed to create this grid, not to mention those pesky S'es:

15A: Puts back: REPLACES

61A: Raised letter designer: EMBOSSER

62A: More compressed: DENSER

1D: Gave a big hand to: PRAISED

45D: Those relaxing: RESTERS

37D: Populated: PEOPLED

And the irksome RENCOUNTER (27D: Hostile contest). Have you ever heard of it before? I have not. What a desperate a 10-letter word for a desperate constructor who desperately needs RE & ER affixes.

Sloppy editing job from our editor too:

6D: Frozen fruity treats: ICES

50D: Unfreeze: DEICE

58A: Wheel-driving channel: MILLRACE. Completely unkown to me.

29D: Garden tractor brand: WHEEL HORSE. Another unknown.

I had to flirt with Mr. google a few times, and I don't think I enjoyed the experience at all.

Have to share with you this interesting piece on Matthew Higgins.

Across:

1A: Perfect maker?: PRACTICE. PRACTICE makes perfect.

9A: Chucklehead: STUPES

16A: Sword of Damocles, e.g.: THREAT. This is Richard Westall's "The Sword of Damocles", the symbol of hidden perils of power.

17A: Cause supporter: ADHERENT

18A: Speakers' platforms: ROSTRA. Singular is ROSTRUM.

20A: Bony-plated dinosaurs: STEGOSAURS. I googled this one. Could not get the letter G and O. See this picture. Why is it called STEGOSAURUS? Needs some polishing with the clue. Terrible repetition of "saurs". Can you come up with a better clue?

22A: Rope fiber: SISAL. Named for SISAL, Yucatán.

24A: Worsted fabric: SERGE. Yawner. It's time to recognize the genius in SERGE Gainsbourg. No other song is more exotic and erotic than "Je T'aime... Moi No Plus": "Je vais et je viens, entre tes reins..." What other words do you need?

25A: U.S. Medical grp.: NIH (National Institutes of Health). I would not have got this one without the down clues.

26A: Splicing device: EDITOR. New to me. I always thought EDITOR is a person.

28A: Extinct bird: MOA

30A: Expression wish: DESIRE. I DESIRE U2.

37A: Lay down asphalt: PAVE. Now we are on PAVE binge. I kind of miss ET AL now.

46A: Narrative poetry: EPOS. Epic poetry. Also new word to me.

48A: Sleekly graceful: FELINE. Dictionary has another definition for FELINE: "Sly, stealthy, or treacherous".

52A: __ the ticket!: THAT'S. I don't understand this one. Is it a slang?

53A: Fitted for grasping: PREHENSILE. New to me also. So close to COMPREHENSIBLE.

57A: Blow a gasket: LOSE IT. SEE RED is clued as "Blue a gasket" last time.

60A: Make manifest: EVINCE. No need to "Make". "Manifest" is sufficient.

63A: Wakame and kelp: SEAWEEDS. I like wakame. Kelp is too coarse for me. My favorite SEAWEED is nori. Delicious!

Down:

2D: Beach close cause: RED TIDE

3D: Especial to special, e.g.: APHESIS. I've never heard of this term before. Was it a gimme to you?

4D: Some flowering vines: CLEMATISES. CLEMATIS the "Virgin's Bower".

9D: Russian count's wish: STROGANOFF. Or STROGNOV. Vaguely heard of it before. It's named after Russian diplomat Paul Stroganov. It's "a dish of tender beef strips, mushrooms, and onions cooked in a sour-cream sauce and served with noodles or rice." Russians put sour-cream in everything.

10D: Porky's sweetheart: PETUNIA. Learned this from doing Xword. PETUNIA was always a flower to me before.

21D: Fourpence piece, once: GROAT. Ha, I wonder if Mark (Buenos Aires) knows this English silver. I had on idea.

23D: Tribal knowledge: LORE

38D: Judge favorably: APPROVE. Are you happy with the "Judge" clue?

39D: Elects: VOTES IN

43D: Dark igneous rock: DIABASE. Another unknown. Here is a picture. Amazing how those yellow flowers can survive and bloom there.

44D: Inveigled: ENTICED. I did not know the meaning of "Inveigle". I only knew "Inveigh".

51D: Slug trail: SLIME. Icky!

C.C.

Jul 26, 2008

Saturday July 26, 2008 Matthew Higgins

Theme: None

Total blocks: 27.

If this is the direction to approach the 25 blocks target I mentioned last Saturday, I would prefer to solve a 37 black- squared puzzle.

Too many affixes, esp suffixes. I truly dislike and despise any grid with a heavy reliance on S, ING, ER, EST, which really cheapen the construction in my view. This has become a hallmark of Mr. Matthew Higgins' puzzles. I wonder why he is so stubbornly sticking to this clumsy style.

Had a very tough time battling through this monster, stumped by quite a few obscure names/words. But I should not have looked at the constructor's name first, which put me in a very negative frame of mind immediately.

I do like seeing LION (26A: MGM mascot) and ROAR (60D: Leonine cry) in the same grid. And reeling in URANUS (65A: Seventh planet) brought a smile to my face. Loved Dr. Dad's blue ball.

All in all, it's not an experience that I want to repeat again.

Across:

1A: Low bow: SALAAM. Literally "peace". SHALOM in Hebrew. MIR, the old Russian space station, also means peace.

7A: Brake-lining material: ASBESTOS. Ugh, I struggled here. Would have got it if it's clued as litigation related.

15A: High-pitched: TREBLE

16A: Most immediately available: READIEST

19A: Companion of Caspar and Melchior: BALTHASAR. Toughie. Of the three magi, I only know Caspar.

21A: Unit of magnetic flux density: TESLA. Now how can I remember this word? I always lose it at the bottom of the River Lethe.

23A: Sourish: ACIDIC. What's different between "sour" and "sourish"?

28A: Group of nine: ENNEAD. Here is Gustave Moreau "Apollo and the Nine Muses".

33A: Light anchors: KEDGES. KEDGE was clued as "Small anchor" on an earlier puzzle.

41A: Rudder post lever: TILLER. I totally forgot this nautical aspect of TILLER.

45A: South American plain: LLANO

54A: Fly lava: MAGGOT

59A: Movement away: DISPERSAL. Only know "Disperse" & "Dispersion".

56A: Bishop's jurisdiction: SEE. There is actually a slight religious overtone in this puzzle.

61A: Maryland athlete: TERRAPIN. Just saw TERP the other day. I wonder why this album was called the Terrapin Station.

63A: Larry Fine, for one: STOOGE. The other two are Moe & Curly. Saw someone was selling their bobbleheads at the flea market a few weeks ago. Very ugly.

64A: Informative: EDIFYING. Ungainly crossing with EDGINGS (43D: Decorative borders).

66A: Evaluate anew: REASSESS. A savior word for all the crossword constructors I am sure. It's a miracle that we have not seen REASSESSESS.

67A: Diagrams a sentence: PARSES

DOWN:

1D: Stationary sculptures: STABILES. Not an easy word to pull out of my memory. This is Alexander Calder's STABILE "Man".

2D: Man from Tripoli, Greece: ARCADIAN. Had no idea that there was even a city named Tripoli in Greece.

7D: Daughter of King Minos: ARIADNE. Another stumper. I actually knew who she was, just could not remember her name. She gave Theseus, the Minotaur slayer, the clue to the labyrinth built by Daedalus and his son Icarus. And she was later deserted by Theseus.

8D: Pressed together in rows: SERRIED. New word to me.

11D: Web spots: SITES. And 34D: Web makeup: SILK.

12D: Wonderland service: TEA SET

13D: Stableman at an inn: OSTLER. Or HOSTLER. Another new word to me.

27D: Undiluted: NEAT

38D: Coffin carriers, at times: CAISSONS. I've never heard of this word before. Dictionary explains CAISSON as "a horse-drawn vehicle, usually two-wheeled, used to carry artillery ammunition and coffins at military funerals".

40D: Lacking vitality: TONELESS. It's clued as "Lacking shading" in one of Higgins' earlier puzzles.

39D: Allied (with): IN LEAGUE

42D: Intros: LEAD-IN

44D: Decor one throws?: RUGS

46D: Spanker: BEATER. Are you OK with this clue?

48D: Coypu fur: NUTRIA. No, I've never heard of it. I pieced the answer together from the across references. Looks so close to the artificial sugar NUTRA sweet.

50D: Appears without warning: POPS UP

53D: Feudal masses: SERFS

58D: Tampa Bay team: RAYS

C.C.

May 31, 2008

Saturday May 31, 2008 Matthew Higgins

Themeless

Hey, only 3 ING suffixes today: TRUMPING, TOEING & REVISING. And a few tolerable amount of ER, RE & S affixes. This constructor Mr. Matthew Higgins is getting better.

I had a nightmare at the DIS corner this morning. I simply had no idea what was 37A: Alaskan peninsular (SEWARD), though I vaguely heard of "SEWARD's Folly" before. And I penned in WAVERING for 39D: Changing, as one's opinion (REVISING), thinking of those politicians constant flip-flopping. Did not know what was 56A: Roman for Pluto (DIS). I had never heard of DRESSAGE either. Was not familiar with the carpentry meaning of TOEING (65: Driving nails obliquely). And NINON was a complete stranger to me, so were ABULIA & SYENITE.

Got very flustered earlier on, and quickly surrendered to Google.

ACROSS:

1A: Hindu maxims: SUTRAS. Know this word only because of "Kama SUTRA". Isn't it strange that a country that contributed this to the world can be so prudish about Richard Gene's public kissing?

7A: High-ranking military officer: BRASS HAT. Who is the highest BRASS HAT in Pentagon now? I suppose you can not call Secretary Gates as one.

15A: Deeply absorbed: ENRAPT

16A: Adjust to specifications: REGULATE

17A: Abnormal inability to act decisively: ABULIA. Can also be spelled as ABOULIA. Dictionary says it's "loss or impairment of the ability to make decisions or act independently". It's derived from Greek word " abouliā" indecision ( a-, without; boulē, will).

18A: Light musical production: OPERETTA

19A: Of a school period: SEMESTRAL. Can also be spelled as SEMESTRIAL. I did not know this. Only knew SEMESTER.

22A: General Arnold's nickname: HAP. Saw it in a TMS puzzle before, then I promptly forgot. General Henry H. Arnold.

26A: Elevator man?: OTIS. Why question mark? Here is model Carré OTIS. She has become a Buddhist.

28A: Large rays: SKATES. Ha ha, I caught it this morning!

33A: Free from obligation: EXEMPT

35A: Memory trace: ENGRAM. What, RANG ME?

45A: Crapshooter: DICER. And RAKE (20D: Profligate one), though it's not clued as "croupier's tool".

49A: Practice exercise: DRY RUN

52A: Bang: SLAM

54A: Brain cell: NEURON. Oh, my impulse carrier.

56A: Roman Pluto: DIS. Nope, nope. I barely know Pluto as the god of underworld. I looked up in the dictionary, it says Orcus is the Roman counterpart of Pluto. Very confusing, this Pluto, Hades, Orcus & DIS.

57A: Sea of Queensland: CORAL. Gimme for me. Someone down there in Queensland used to send me a bottle of Tendre Poison every Christmas.

59A: Neat and trim condition: NATTINESS

61A: Breadcrumb and cheese cover: AU GRATIN. Is it ready?

63A: Lack of vitality: ANEMIA

64A: Arizona city: PRESCOTT. Unfamiliar to me.

66A: Affected lovers of beauty: ESTHETES. Our Editor has become very arty lately. AESTHETE was clued as "Refined lover of beauty" on Sunday May 18, and ESTHETIC is clued as "Having a love of beauty" on May 20 Tuesday. What's next? "Memoirs of an Aesthete"?

67A: Infuriate: ENRAGE

DOWN:

1D: Land between tide marks: SEASHORE. And 10D: Wave action: SURF

2D: Zero in the loss column: UNBEATEN

3D: Topping like The Donald?: TRUMPING. I like this clue.

4D: Death rattle: RALE. Mr. Higgins used this identical clue in his April 19 puzzle.

5D: Foolishly imitative: APISH

6D: Conditions: STATES

7D: Battle weapon: BROAD AX. I had no idea.

8D: Abounding: REPLETE

12D: Bigot: HATER

13D: Churchill's successor: ATTLEE (Clement). Do you like David Brooks? I do, here is his Op-Ed with a brief mention of ATTLEE.

14D: Needler: TEASER. Dislike the intersection with SER (30A: Sun. homily)

24D: JFK, LBG, et al: DEMS. Would've filled in PRES if not for the D from 23A: Was in charge of (HEADED).

32D: Electoral district: WARD. Once and Again, no Sela WARD, you don't like her anymore?

36D: Dawn 'til noon: MORN. "Stay for just a while. Stay, and let me look at you..." Enjoy this September MORN and this September MORN (Paul Chabas). That's indeed too little of a MORN, and too much of a maid, isn't it?

38D: World of scholars: ACADEMIA

40D: Equestrian event: DRESSAGE. DRESSER means "To tame/train" in French (like DRESSER/Entraîne a dog).

42D: Igneous rock: SYENITE. Completely unknown to me. Dictionary says it's "an igneous rock composed primarily of alkali feldspar together with other minerals, such as hornblende". It's originally quarried in SYENE (now Aswan), Egypt. "-ITE" is a just a suffix meaning component, like NORITE, another Igneous rock. Too complicated.

43D: School skippers: TRUANT

44D: Mongol tent: YURT. Here are two YURTS in the Mongolia steppe.

46D: Type of clause or hatch: ESCAPE. Unknown to me. What are they? (Update: Here is Chris' explanation: an escape hatch is a submarine term for a way to get out of the boat in the event of an emergency, an escape clause is a legal term for a way to void a contract in the event of a failure to deliver.)

47D: Self-rising and all-purpose: FLOURS

48D: Firing-ranging object: TARGET

49D: Tore: SPED

50D: Write music: NOTATE

53D: Ngaio of mysteries: MARSH. I had never heard of her name before. Wikipedia says she was one of the four original "Queens of Crime" (Agatha Christie was another one).

55D: Sheer rayon fabric: NINON. Here is the definition: "A sheer fabric of silk, rayon, or nylon made in a variety of tight smooth weaves or open lacy patterns". Dictionary says this word probably came from French NINON, pet name for Anne, meaning "favor, grace".

58D: Add spirit to the punch: LACE. I am not familiar with this LACE. Adriana Lima's LACE looks pretty potent here, doesn't it?

60D: __ do-well: NE'ER. Yawned with ennui on this clue. Will we ever get poetic Mr. Williams? NE'ER?

C.C.

May 10, 2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008 Matthew Higgins

Themless

What a surprise! No ING in the whole grid. Remember this constructor's excessive use of ING's in his Feb & March puzzles? But there are just way too many annoying affixes in today's puzzle:

S: SADDENS, NODS, CLOCKS, TAMES, SODS, OLES, EMS, SENSES, DIALS, EGOS, XENOPHOBES, CHORISTERS, LIMNERS, SCIENTISTS,

ED: MISTRUSTED, REUSED, OMENED, INFURIATED,

ER/OR: ELICITOR, LIMNERS, BREEDER. ENAMELER.

RE: REUSED.

The overabundance of letter S just INFURIATED (29D) me, though it did speed up my solving considerably.

I had problem with my opening tee shot again this morning. I've never read Henry V, so I had no idea who Prince Hal was, not to mention his fat, jolly companion. The clue actually made me think of Little John. I always thought the protein in grains are GLUTEN, I have never heard of ALEURON before. FRESNEL (8D) was a complete stranger to me also. I thought 30A: Store fodder was asking for a noun, so I was trying to think of a grain or other crop. Then I wrongly wrote down IRENA for 27A: Dunne or Ryan, So my 23D: Wriggling became ANTY (My faulty spelling of ANTSY).

Went through a few other troubles too, but none debilitating.

ACROSS:

1A: Prince Hal's fat, jolly companion: FALSTAFF. Sir John FALSTAFF. Somehow I just cannot bring myself to read Shakespeare's works, or any other great literature. I am simply not interested in them.

9A: Times: CLOCKS

15A: One who evokes a response: ELICITOR. I only knew ELICIT. English is strange, why the suffix sometimes is OR and sometimes is ER? This word ELICITOR reminds me of SOLICITOR. Is LICITOR a word? Let me check... No, it's not, but LICTOR is a word. Here is the definition: "(in ancient Rome) one of a body of attendants on chief magistrates, who preceded them carrying the fasces and whose duties included executing the sentences of criminals."

16A: Montana's capital: HELENA. ENNUI. How about this Victoria's Secret model HELENA Chistensen?

17A: Florida Native American: SEMINOLE. I totally forgot this word. OSCEOLA was clued as "SEMINOLE chief" on a March 8 TMS puzzle.

18A: Portended: OMENED. I did not not know that OMEN can be a verb too. The noun form of "portend" is "portent". English is definitely strange.

20A: Had misgivings about: MISTRUSTED

25A: Gibbon, for one: APE. Got it this time.

26A: Spinning measure: VORTEX. Hard for me, I had big problem with 27D.

30A: Store fodder: ENSILE.

37A: Ancient Brit: PICT. I wanted CELT. Need to commit this PICT into my brain.

48A:Tranquil: SERENE. Penned in quickly due to hint of "S" from 9D.

53A: Formula Western: HORSE OPERA. SPACE OPERA for Sci-Fi genre.

56A: "Lucky Jim" author: AMIS (Kingsley). Knew the author, did not know the book. See also 55D: ALAS. 37D: PERHAPS. What's the obsession with S today?

57A: Engross: ABSORB

58A: Tending to expand: DILATIVE

59A: Fraternity hopeful: PLEDGE. Not familiar with this term. Have never attended any school in the US.

61A: Cloisonne creator: ENAMELER. I like this Cloisonne Flower Vase.

63A: Nonmigratory bird: RESIDENT

DOWN:

1D: Joyous: FESTIVE

2D: Protein in cereal grains: ALEURON. No idea. It derived from Greek "Aleuron" meaning meal.

3D: Ornamental sign painters: LIMNERS. Only knew the verb LIMN.

4D: Laboratory denizens: SCIENTISTS

7D: Paper folded in half: FOLIO. 2 Paper related clues today. See 50A: Piece of paper: SHEET.

8D: Lens developed for lighthouses: FRESNEL. The lens is named after French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel.

9D: Sunday singers: CHORISTERS

10D: Madagascar primate: LEMUR. Repeat offender.

12D: Cuban coin: CENTAVO

13D: Leg joint protector: KNEE PAD

14D: Makes despondent: SADDENS. See 62A: Feels (SENSES). Dreadful S's!

23D: Wriggly: EELY

27D: Folk fearing foreigners: XENOPHOBE. I misread the clue as Folk-fearing foreigners. I heard of Xenophobia on TV sometimes, but I could not spell it properly. "Xeno" is a prefix for "foreign, strange", Greek origin. I've never head of XENOPHILIA though.

29D: Extremely angered: INFURIATED

34D: Lounge lizard: CREEP. I've never heard of the slang "Lounge lizard" until this morning.

36D: Mouthpiece part: REED

38D: Disreputable: IGNOBLE. Saw this word before, but I've never used it.

39D: Become more vulgar: COARSEN

41D: Nuclear reactor type: BREEDER. Not familiar with BREEDER reactor at all.

43D: Nautical distance: SEA MILE. It appeared on April 11 puzzle.

44D: Invigorate: ENLIVEN

45D:Dinner finale: DESSERT. I like this clue.

50D: Twilled worsted fabric: SERGE. Do you like SERGE Gainsbourg? I do! Here is a beautiful S, S & S song for you. Enjoy!

C.C.

Apr 19, 2008

Saturday, April 19, 2008 Matthew Higgins

Theme: NONE

I feel that our editor has been saving this themeless puzzle just for this specific Saturday to coincide with Pope Benedict's visit. There are 2 "Christian"s in the clue, and "Book, bk, bks". NICENE, ECCLES, and BABI all have some religious overtone. And 9D: CISTERCIAN (under the rule of St. Benedict) is kind of self-revealing, isn't it? Or maybe I am just over-stretching my imagination?

I tanked again today. I think I am still in my C. C. Sabathia style slump now, "My arms feel fine, I just can't command either side of the plate".

I actually had a shock and awe start, filling in APERÇUS, CYCLIST TONG, UPSET and SATRAP like they were all sweet "OREO". I dazzled myself by conquering the whole upper left corner in less than 3 minutes. Then I rushed to the other battle fields eager to vanquish all the insurgents. But I was greeted with heavy resistance everywhere I set my feet upon. Horrible. I could not even get TONELESS for 63A. My TREELESS stood proudly there until the very end.

ACROSS:

1A: Signed for: ACCEPTED

9A: Of the ribs: COSTAL. No idea. The root word is "costa", Latin for rib.

15A: Disappearing communication device: PAY PHONE

16A: Glacial epoch: ICE AGE

17A: Some of Whistler's works: ETCHING. Did not know who Whistler was, but the answer was easily inferable.

18A: Molded: SHAPED

19A: Death rattle: RALE. Pure guess. I forgot this word.

20A: Sparkling: GLISTENING

22A: Weather of a region, so to speak: CLIME. Poetically I suppose?

24A: Organic compound: ESTER

26A: Underdog wins: UPSETS

28A: Rocky outcrops: TORS. Great picture. Want to take a walk?

30A: Petty tyrant: SATRAP. Nailed it this time.

31A: Part of ASCAP: SOC (Society). Don't like it. This abbreviation just doesn't fit my eyes.

32A: Soviet news agcy.: TASS (Abbreviation of Telegraphic Agency of the Soviet Union, in Russian). Ah, gimme for me, mainly because of my intense interest in him for a short period of time. Now it's ITAR-TASS in Russia, with ITAR focusing on domestic news and TASS on international affairs. Oh, the Soviet newspaper is PRAVDA (The Truth).

35A: Designer Christian: DIOR. J'adore! For those who dare, try Poison, in the evening!

37A: Webber play: CATS

42A: Humiliated: ABASED

47A: Icelandic epic: EDDA

48A: Creed of Christians: NICENE. Nicene Creed. No idea.

49A: One of a set of bks: VOL

50A: Black suit: CLUBS. Good clue.

52A: Certain dagger: SKEAN. Hmm, this would be the second time Dennis met with Ms. SKEAN. Hope he remembered her name.

53A: Free from bondage: EMANCIPATE. Like this Emancipation of Mimi? Very creative name for her latest album: E=MC2. I figure it's "The Emancipation = Mariah Carey 2". What does that 2 stand for then?

56A: Persian sect: BABI. Now replaced by Baha'i. I wanted SHIA.

57A: Tex-Mex pick: TAMALE

58A: Word for barely acceptable writing: READABLE

61A: Signer-upper: ENROLLER. What the heck is "Signer-Upper"? Is it the person who "Sign-up?"

62A: Hereditary ruler: DYNAST. Ah, that's how we got Dynasty! Good to know.

63A: Lacking shading: TONELESS

DOWN:

1D: Revealing glimpses: APERÇUS. Or a synopsis.

2D: Tree with trumpet-shaped flowers: CATALPA. See this picture. I can smell summer.

3D: Tour-de-France racer: CYCLIST

4D: Transitory things: EPHEMERAS. The plural form can also be EPHEMERAE. Don't you wish you saved all your childhood ticket stubs/programs? Stunning price on Ebay!

5D: Greek letter: PHI. Ugh, dislike the clue due to 23D. Can't you reclue this as something Philly related, to salve the wounds of those depressed Philly fans? Good job, Santana, you rocked last night!

6D: Chinese secret society: TONG (堂). Literally "assembly hall". In fact, it's a "Chinese American secret society". You won't find TONG in modern China.

7D: Writer Medeleine L'___: ENGLE. No, completely unknown to me. Oh, she also graduated from Smith College, she might have bumped into Sylvia Plath then.

8D: Stops: DESISTS

9D: Member of an austere monastic order: CISTERCIAN. It's "a member of an order of monks and nuns founded in 1098 at Cîteaux, near Dijon, France, under the rule of St. Benedict." Looks like the word CISTERCIAN is derived from Cîteaux the site.

10D: Earthy pigments: OCHERS. Here is more information for you. Drdad probably knows a ton about this stuff.

12D: Starch from cassava root: TAPIOCA. "Tapioca Pearl Tea" is a very popular drink in Southern China and Southeast Asia.

13D: Meeting schedules: AGENDAS

14D: Business books: LEDGERS. Too bad, Mr. Higgins missed a precious opportunity to pay tribute to Heath Ledger. It's so hard letting you go, Heath, you were so young!

21D: Arose: STOOD. I mis-read this clue as "Arouse".

23D: Greek letters: ETAS

27D: Most long, thin, and frail-looking: SPINDLIEST. This guy is really getting very wordy today.

32D: Monitor cursor mover: TRACKBALL

34D: Sick and tired: FED UP. That's how I felt about the whole Bittergate brouhaha. Crazy!

37D: Wished for excessively and culpably: COVETED. Oh, that's what "COVET" means! Thank you for the detailed explanation. Should I stop coveting certain things then?

38D: Incongruity: ANOMALY

39D: Father of Ajax: TELAMON. No, no idea. The dictionary says he is "an Argonaut and friend of Hercules, and the father of Ajax and Teucer." It also says that TELAMON is "a figure of a man used as a supporting pillar." It looks like this.

41D: Striped fabric: TABARET. It's "a durable silk or acetate fabric having alternating stripes of satin and moiré, for drapery and upholstery."

43D: Within view: SEEABLE

45D: Makes possible: ENABLES

45D: Withholders: DENIERS. This suffix of "er" sounds so arbitrary to me.

47D: Bk. of the Old Testament: ECCLES (Ecclesiasticus). Just found out that ECCLES, the Australian neurophsiologist, won Noble Prize (Physiology/Medicine) in 1963.

51D: Off. skill: STENO

C.C.