Showing posts with label Thursday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thursday. Show all posts

Feb 27, 2020

Thursday, February 27th 2020 Debra Hamel

Theme: Compass Pinots - I mean pitons - no, wait, piston? Anagrams of the primary compass points modify a well-known directional phrase; and hinted at by the circled N, E, S, W at the center of the puzzle.

17A. Authentic piece of a holy relic?: TRUE THORN. True North. The magnetic inclination (the difference between True North and Magnetic North) changes over time and also depends on where you are on the globe, but if you were standing at the North Pole and pulled out a compass, it would point you towards Ellesmere Island in northern Canada, more than 300 miles away.

58A. Biblical pronouns read by James Earl Jones?: DEEP THOUS. Deep South.

11D. Place reserved for one reconciling a dispute?: MIDDLE SEAT. Middle East. Funnily, the middle seat occupant on the airplane sometimes is the cause of a dispute over the armrest.

28D. Unwelcome leftovers?: THE OLD STEW. The Old West. Depends how old. Some stews get better left for a couple of days to let the flavors develop. Obviously, there's a tipping point :)

Right then, let's dig into this one. The anagrams don't seem forced in the four theme entries which is great, Debra did have a clever observation that there are anagrams to be had; and the circled letters highlighted in the grid do give you a nudge towards finding the compass points. A great way to solve an anagram is to write the letters in a circle; perhaps that was a subtle hint too, I'm not sure if this was Debra's intention. Maybe I'm reading too much into that, but I liked it.

Now, let's get to a couple of niggles - I'm thinking that if you're going to use "THE old west" you should also have "THE deep south" and "THE Middle East". These don't really stand on their own, unlike "True North" which doesn't need the definite article. I like consistency and to me this falls a little short. Also, if you're going to use "?" in the clue as the device to hint at the theme entries, you absolutely shouldn't have a clue like 20A. Your mileage may vary, naturally.

Moving right along ...


1. Ottoman bigwigs: AGAS

5. Wildly: AMOK. Amok is a funny word, you only ever see it paired with "run". I suppose "walking amok" doesn't have the same ring to it.

9. Peaks: ACMES

14. At hand: NIGH

15. Animated explorer: DORA

16. Patterned fabric: TOILE

19. Comedian Izzard: EDDIE. One of my favorite stand-up comics, I've linked to him before. How Britain built its Empire (TV-MA for language).

20. Sound investments?: STEREOS. See intro comment.

21. Like some deliveries: SAME-DAY

23. Indy guide: PACE CAR. Nice clue - "Lonely Planet" would be my first guess, despite having way too many letters. Since 2002, Chevrolet has had the exclusive rights to provide the pace car at the Indianapolis 500, they've all been Corvettes or Camaros, unsuprisingly. I wouldn't want to pace a field of IndyCars in a Chevy Spark.

25. She walked into Rick's gin joint: ILSA. "Play it, Sam".

26. Disastrous: FATAL Yep. Pretty much covers it.

29. Comedian Garofalo: JANEANE. Thank you, crosses.

31. Folk legend Phil: OCHS

32. __ Jose: SAN. Do you know the way?

33. Connects with: TIES TO

36. Arles article: UNE. It seems a shame to consign Arles to a crossword clue. I lived there for a few weeks, and who doesn't appreciate a nice Roman adqueduct?

37. __ West Records: Nashville label: NEW. Thank you, crosses.

38. Rosy-fingered goddess who rises in the east: EOS, Thank you, crosswords.

39. AirPod spot: EAR. Pops up again.

40. Get back in business: RE-OPEN

42. Product prefix that evokes winter: SNO-

43. Die down: WANE

44. Herbie, in Disney films: LOVE BUG

46. Outset: GET-GO

47. They don't last: FADS

49. Part of Curaçao: CEDILLA. The diacritical mark under the "C". The spendidly-named map-maker Heironymus Cock named it "Quraçao" on his 1562 map of the region, but that variant didn't catch on, so Curaçao it is.

51. Rather: INSTEAD

53. Apparel brand with a spinnaker logo: NAUTICA

57. Mesh: FIT IN

60. Red-pencil: EMEND. I had the first "E" already in place, so I wasn't tempted by AMEND.

61. December 24 and 31: EVES

62. "At Last" singer James: ETTA. A lovely song.

63. Georgia team, in sports headlines: DAWGS. Bulldogs, to give them their formal name.

64. Take a chance: DARE

65. Hoarse laugh: RASP


1. Tiny colonists: ANTS

2. Structural engineering piece: GIRT. Thank you, crosses. Want to know your studs and joists from your girts? Here you go ..

3. Chills and fever: AGUE

4. Tibetan leaders: SHERPAS. Not the Dalai Lamas then. I'm not sure I'd call a sherpa a leader, but I guess they are in the mountain guiding sense.

5. Specially formed: AD HOC

6. Saskatchewan city with a 34-foot animal statue named Mac at its tourist info center: MOOSE JAW. Here's Mac, with his "cute" Lego model which looks to be about eight feet tall!

7. NHL great Bobby: ORR

8. Dodge City native: KANSAN

9. "Up and __!": AT 'EM! Funny, I talked about this last week - we had "Up and About" then.

10. Cough medicine ingredient: CODEINE

12. Inventor Howe: ELIAS. He invented and patented the lockstitch sewing machine, and was involved in a protracted lawsuit for five years with Isaac Singer, who was producing and selling machines which violated Howe's patents. Howe won, and made a lot of money over the years with royalties from Singer. He was granted a patent in 1851 for an "automatic, continuous clothing closure", the zipper as we know it today. He didn't exploit the invention, possibly because he was making money from the sewing machine royalties.

13. "Peace out": SEE YA!

18. Marsh duck: TEAL. They can't walk straight, but they can fly in a corkscrew motion at speeds in excess of 50 mph. That's some achievement! The English expression "drunk as a duck" refers to the teal's characteristic waddle on land.

22. Schoolyard retort: ARE TOO!

24. U.S. neighbor to the north: CAN.

26. One of two in Hank Aaron's uniform number: FOUR. There's a mint-condition "Hammerin' Hank" 1954 rookie card on eBay at the moment going for $37,500 if you're interested!

27. Proactiv+ target: ACNE

30. First words in an alphabet book: A IS ... for ...

32. Largest of New York's Finger Lakes: SENECA. I don't know any of the Finger Lakes off the top of my head, but I had enough letters from the crosses to fill this in without a thought.

34. Tart taste: TANG

35. Mega Stuf cookie: OREO

37. Great Basin st.: NEV. National Park in eastern Nevada close to the Utah border.

38. One may be civil: ENGINEER. I used to go to football matches back in England with a friend who was a civil engineer. His language was anything but civil when his team was losing (which was often!)

41. Message board item: POSTING

42. South, in Avignon: SUD

43. Local news segment: WEATHER

45. Settled in for the night, with "down": BEDDED

46. Surfeit: GLUT

47. Fluted on the march: FIFED. I fell for the "PIPED" trap at first, but didn't take long to correct it.

48. Jungian inner self: ANIMA. I think I knew this, but the crosses filled it in for me.

50. Momentary error: LAPSE

52. Fades to black: ENDS

54. Bit: IOTA

55. Stops shooting: CUTS. I like that movie and TV directors still have megaphones; I saw a lot in use when I worked on the lot at Warner Bros.

56. "Stat!": ASAP!

59. Gabor of "Green Acres": EVA. Her sister, Magda, was briefly married to George Sanders, who had been previously married to the third sister, Zsa Zsa. Keepin' it in the family!

I think that about covers it for today. Here's the grid, with the circled "compass rose" in the center.


Feb 20, 2020

Thursday, February 20th 2020 Bruce Haight

Theme Wildlife Safari - as the reveal across the center tells us what to look for:

36A. Tot's plaything ... and a feature of 17-, 25-, 48- and 59-Across: STUFFED ANIMAL

We're looking for an animal "stuffed" into the theme entries, to wit:

17A. Tackled the job: HAD A GO AT IT. Goat. Personally, I'd clue this as "Tried to tackle the job". If you have a go at something, you try it, it's moot whether the attempt was successful or not. Minor quibble.

25A. Range for a manhunt: SEARCH AREA. Hare. There was a great "hare hunt" in Britain in the late 70's. Author and artist Kit Williams created a jeweled, golden hare and buried it, and then published a picture book, "Masquerade" , which he said contained all the clues necessary to find the piece. It caused quite a stir and sparked a huge treasure hunt. which lasted quite some time before the jewelry was found. As time went on and the hare still hadn't been located, a canny West End theatre producer adapted the book into a stage play starring Roger Rees. People flocked to the performances hoping to gain extra clues or insight into the secret location. They didn't, but the producer made a lot of money (and yes, some of it was mine!).

48A. Intercepting, as at the pass: HEADING OFF. Dingo.

59A. Ready to start the day: UP AND ABOUT. I wanted "Up and at 'em" right until it didn't fit, and there was no stuffed animal. Cue rethink.

Straightforward enough theme from Bruce, I call this kind of theme a bonus - you don't need the theme to solve the puzzle, and, really, it's just a nice after-party treasure hunt to find the prizes. I do like when the circles don't make an appearance when not needed (unlike these kind of theme puzzles where the "treasure" skips up and down between rows).

And so let's continue the journey:


1. Play with strings: STRUM

6. Blubber: FLAB. Possibly the result of eating too much ....

10. __ buco: OSSO. Food! The classic recipe calls for veal shanks which are not to some people's taste. I make a version with beef shank, the all-important marrow is there.

16. Place to talk shop?: MALL. Fun clue.

19. Passionate: AVID

20. Second sequel's number: III. Unless you're a Star Wars fan, in which case I believe the second sequel was the fifth in the trilogy, of course none of that makes sense.

21. Sacred chests: ARKS

22. Thrash: WHOMP. Fun word.

23. Winter coat?: SNOW

28. Arizona landforms: MESAS 

30. TourBook-issuing org.: AAA

31. Designer monogram: YSL. Yves St. Laurent. He has one of those names which you can't imagine being attached to anything other than his profession. Do you see your tax guy or your mechanic being called Yves St. Laurent?

32. "Hasta la vista": SEE YA! 

33. Comic strip frames: PANELS

40. Forklift load: PALLET

41. Stuffy-sounding: NASAL

43. Many AARP mems.: SRS. Seniors. I started getting AARP membership invitations when I turned 50. There didn't seem to be a lot of upside to membership, I got the same discounts with AAA or just turning up. It was when I started getting mailers from Forest Lawn Cemeteries that I started feeling a little old. I got over that.

46. Issa of "The Hate U Give": RAE. Thank you, crosses.

47. Dire: GRAVE

53. Christmas poem opener: 'TWAS

54. "Hasta la vista": ADIOS! This is a Corner-coined "clecho" - same clue, echoed for a different entry.

55. "The Daily Show" host: NOAH. Trevor. He took over from Jon Stewart after being a writer on the show.

57. Nos. on driver's licenses: HTS. Heights. At least they aren't prone to change as much as WTS.

58. Sharp turns: ZAGS. Can you zag before you zig? Or zag and zag again? We should be told.

62. Succulent plant genus: ALOE

63. Gumption: GRIT

64. __ toast: MELBA. How do you know you've made it as an opera singer? You have toasted bread named for you. It seems a stretch, but Dame Nellie Melba should be proud. (Her real name was Helen Porter Mitchell, but "Mitchell Toast" didn't catch on in the Melbourne diners).

65. Sew a patch on, perhaps: MEND

66. Possessive pronoun: HERS

67. Roundup critter: STEER. Rawhide!


1. Deep rifts: SCHISMS. Mostly religious, I think.

2. New recruits: TRAINEES

3. Hobbyist's contraption: RADIO SET. Did anyone build their own short-wave radio set and transmit to the great beyond? The Internet has mostly replaced the thrill of hearing a Russian sea captain reply from his spy boat trawler

4. Sch. founded by Jefferson: U.VA.

5. Prefix with bytes or bucks: MEGA. A megabyte of storage used to cost megabucks. Those days are long gone.

6. Oddball: FLAKE

7. Tons o': LOTSA'

8. "The Rookie" actress Larter: ALI. Again, crosses, I thank you.

9. Club alternative: BLT. More Food! If you've ever had a BLT with a slice of bread in the middle, you've got a crossover club/BLT - the middle slice of bread is what defines a club - which makes a Big Mac a club sandwich.

10. Home of Minor League Baseball's Storm Chasers: OMAHA. What a great name. The minor league teams in all sports have the best names. Who wouldn't root for the Alberquerque Isotopes, the Hartford Yard Goats or the Brighampton Binghampton Rumble Ponies? And if the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimps ever made it to the big leagues and the World Series, I know where my $5 bet is going.

11. Cooking show adjective: SAVORY

12. Covers with goop: SLIMES

13. Bud from way back: OLD PAL. Slap on the back, old mate, old pal, old buddy. Wait, what's with the "old"?

18. "Grey's Anatomy" settings, for short: O.R'S. First instinct was E.R's, then ah! Surgery!

22. 33-Down's purview: WHALING. Cross-reference clue, but not far to look for the second part.

24. Path to the top: WAY UP

26. Charged: RAN AT

27. Normandy city: CAEN

29. Trips where big cats are spotted: SAFARIS. Here we are mid-Bruce safari. How apt.

33. Ship owner who described Ahab as "ungodly, god-like": PELEG. I remember him by "Peg Leg" and forget the "G". Has anyone actually read Moby Dick? I'm currently working my way though "The Gormenghast Trilogy" which I abandoned some many years ago. I'm not sure I'm going to get through it this time.

34. Stand buy: ADE

35. "Good thinking!": SMART

37. Custard dessert: FLAN

38. Considering everything: AS A WHOLE

39. Conduit created by volcanic activity: LAVA TUBE. Is this a thing? I guess vulcanologists would say so. Yellowstone National Park is one enormous caldera, so when that lava tube goes rogue, hello Idaho!

42. Cigarette ad claim: LESS TAR. Amazing to think that you could still post ads claiming your cigarettes were "cleaner", although we don't seemed to have learned a whole lot if the vaping ads and businesses are anything to go by.

43. Superhero acronym involving Hercules, Zeus, Achilles and three others: SHAZAM. No clue. Researching "Shazam superhero" I find a lot of names that don't add up to an acronym. So I'll thank the crosses, and move on, wondering why "Oggo" didn't make it into the mix.

44. Killian's, originally: RED ALE

45. Former Southeast Asian capital: SAIGON. Now Ho Chi Minh City. Do the residents still call it "Saigon"? I wonder. On my bucket list for the food!

49. Gave a shot, say: DOSED

50. Studio sign: ON AIR

51. Formatting menu list: FONTS

52. It's not hot long: FAD

56. Ones acting badly: HAMS

59. "So gross!": UGH!

60. Ante-: PRE- This was a little tricky, the clue seems to want you to find a word which would fit after "Ante-" - bellum, diluvian, one of those - but when you look closely you see you need to find a prefix, and lo, there is "Pre-". Great cluing for what might be brushed off as throwaway fill. I love these little gems.

61. Exacta or trifecta: BET. I famously bet a trifecta at Santa Anita on the wrong race - my friend and I arrived a little later than planned and we'd unknowingly missed the first race. I confidently consulted the daily racing form, wagered a two-dollar trifecta on the (already run) first race and my numbers 3-1-6 came up in what was actually race two. I didn't recognize the horse's names on the way round, but I was wasn't complaining when I cashed in the ticket.

And that is the secret to sports betting! Bet the wrong race!

Thanks to Bruce for an entertaining zoological journey. Here's the grid and I'm off to get some much-needed beauty sleep! (I need sleep, but beauty would be a bonus!)


Feb 6, 2020

Thursday, February 6th 2020 Robert Wemischner

Theme Back to Front - each theme entry reverses direction.

20A. Parvenu's business venture?: UPSTART STARTUP

25A. Quarterback's nonchalant move?: OFFHAND HAND-OFF. As demonstrated by Penn State QB Antony Morelli to RB Austin Scott.

42A. Down Under withdrawal?: OUTBACK BACKOUT

48A. TSA agent's perfected search technique?: DOWN PAT PAT-DOWN. I've had more than my share of these in my time.

A very neat theme from Robert, and going by the blog history this is his LA Times debut. I don't see him in any of the other major publications, so congratulations if this is indeed the first.

A quick Google search turns up a gentleman here in Los Angeles who is an accomplished pastry chef, cookbook author and lecturer on the culinary delights that are the dessert course. Are they one and the same?

Let's look and see what we've got to chew on in the fill!


1. Diamond problem: FLAW

5. Plush carpet: SHAG

9. Test versions: BETAS

14. Feminist poet Adrienne: RICH

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion

among the tentative haunters.

From "Diving into the Wreck" (1972)

15. It's partially submerged: HULL. I tried HULK at first but that led to the odd-looking GKUT. Happy coincidence with the extract above!

16. Valuable violin: AMATI. Could be "STRAD" so wait for some confirmation.

17. Italian wine region: ASTI. If you only do crosswords, you'd think this was the only wine region in Italy. Strictly speaking, Asti isn't a wine region, it's part of the Piedmont region and a DOCG.

18. Founder of Edom: ESAU. Thank you, crosses.

19. R2-D2 or BB-8, e.g.: ROBOT. or Droid. Both characters from "Star Wars", the former much more familiar than the latter.

23. Beantown NHL nickname: ESPO. Boston Bruins legend Phil Esposito.

24. "__ whiz!": GEE

32. Vague time period: WHILE

33. Spots for AirPods: EARS. Fun clue. AirPods are those wireless Apple earbuds. Personally I'd rather have my earbuds connected, so I don't lose one or drop one down a drain (and I would!) They're also ferociously expensive.

34. One may be decorated for the holidays: FIR

35. Sprightly: AIRY

36. Marmalade bits: RINDS

38. __ Ren, "Star Wars" villain: KYLO. More "Star Wars". Completely unknown to me, but the crosses were sound.

39. Trig. function: COS. I remember SOHCAHTOA from my high school math days, but I've no idea what the significance of the cosine being a function of length of the adjacent side of the triangle over the hypotenuse. It was terribly important when I was 15, but I've not really needed it since. The hypotenuse does feature in a rather jolly Gilbert and Sullivan song, here rendered by the English National Opera.

40. Aloha State bird: NENE

41. Plumlike fruit: SLOES

46. Disney doe: ENA, or "Aunt Ena" as she is known in the movie.

47. It's just over a foot: SHIN

55. Tropical porch: LANAI

56. Murdoch who received the 1978 Booker Prize for "The Sea, the Sea": IRIS. It could have been Rupert, as his tabloid empire published as much fiction as the entire history of Booker prize nominees and winners combined and still continues to do so.

57. "What's the big __?": IDEA

58. Habituate: INURE

59. Retail outlet: MART

60. Mattress option: KING

61. Zaps: TASES

62. Neverland pirate: SMEE

63. What this puzzle does here: ENDS. I like this, but it's an item for friendly argument. In numerical order, indeed it's the last clue, but in the common style of across, then down, then the end would be LIT in this puzzle. My puzzle ended with DENEB when the crosses helped me out.


1. German spouse: FRAU. Could be "HERR" so don't jump to conclusions.

2. Speech therapy target: LISP

3. Tries to look: ACTS

4. Plant leaf pest: WHITEFLY

5. Himalayan guide: SHERPA

6. "Prizzi's Honor" director or actress: HUSTON. Anjelica, the actress, and father John, the director.

7. Word of regret: ALAS, poor Yorick!

8. Excess: GLUT

9. Scrubby wastelands: BARRENS. This as a verb noun was new to me. I'm familiar with "barren wastes" as an adjective. Mark this one down as a learning moment.

10. Chewed the scenery: EMOTED

11. Perfume that sounds forbidden: TABU. Apparently, it "features a dazzling mixture of jasmine, narcissus, rose, ylang-ylang and amber notes." So now you know. Suitably dazzled.

12. Surmounting: ATOP

13. "Pull up a chair": SIT

21. Arthur in the International Tennis Hall of Fame: ASHE

22. Seaweed-based thickeners: AGARS

25. Buckeye State sch.: OHIO U. They're the Bobcats, the Buckeyes, with something of  a lack of imagination, are Ohio State, or THE Ohio State University, as they like to style themselves.

26. Leading: FIRST

27. Brightest star in Cygnus: DENEB

28. Taken in: HAD

29. "All Because __": 2005 U2 song: OF YOU. Not one of their best-known tracks, but the video is a lot of fun.

30. Steakhouse order: FILET

31. Picked dos: 'FROS

32. Dr Pepper Museum city: WACO. I've been to the Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta. It was oddly very interesting.

36. Postgame postmortem: RECAP

37. Skin pics: INK

38. Yukon gold rush region: KLONDIKE

40. Au pairs: NANNIES

41. Burlesque bit: SKIT

43. "'__ the Jabberwock, my son!'": Carroll: BEWARE  "... Beware the Jabberwock, and shun the frumious bandersnatch." What a great flight of fancy that poem is.

Interestingly, in some published versions, the line is "Beware the Jabberwock, and shun. The frumious bandersnatch". I'll try to find a copy of the manuscript to check this one out, but I suspect the period is a mistake because the first line of each verse is capitalized per the convention of the day.

"Beware the Jabberwock and shun
The frumious bandersnatch".

44. Have great plans: ASPIRE

45. Pure: CHASTE

48. Mike's "Wayne's World" co-star: DANA. Mike Myers and Dana Carvey.

49. Obligation: ONUS. Sometimes a burden. If it's an obligation it's on us.

50. Gets in the crosshairs, with "at": AIMS

51. Disneyland transport: TRAM

52. Norse god: ODIN

53. Make (one's way): WEND

54. Old horses: NAGS. Old horses never die, they just say "neigh".

55. Put a match to: LIT

... and I think that pretty much wraps it up. An enjoyable debut from Robert. Here's the grid!


Jan 30, 2020

Thursday, January 30th 2020 Dan Margolis

Theme: That's that - the theme entries are clued literally with a description of each one:

20A. "That's fine": POWDERED SUGAR. Very fine indeed. The Brits call it icing sugar, also known as confectioner's sugar in these parts.

27A. "That's all folks": THE HUMAN RACE. This was my first theme solve which put on the right wavelength. I noticed the missing comma from the Looney Tunes hook line. Very nice cluing.

49A. "That's not the point": PENCIL ERASER. I seem to use all the eraser before I've used all of the pencil which probably says more about my inaccuracy than the design of the pencil. I've got stand-alone backups.

58A. "That's rich": CHOCOLATE CAKE. Chocolate and kale in the same puzzle - as I said last week why do I crave chocolate, and not kale?

So, a nice theme and .... and? The fill is pretty sluggish, there's not a lot to admire. A workmanlike puzzle, but too many obscure names for me and too many throwaway entries to get too much enthusiastic about. It's a shame because there were some great clues for an otherwise dull fill. Let's go explore!


1. Healthful berry: ACAI. It could be GOJI so wait for a cross to confirm.

5. Sommelier's concern: NOSE. Why don't we just say "this wine has a fine smell?" A sommelier's nose could also be an asset.

9. San Antonio cagers: SPURS

14. Bananas: LOCO. Crazy like a ... chicken? I like El Pollo Loco's grilled chicken.

15. "... the __ blackness of the floors": Poe: EBON

16. "The Fox and the Grapes" storyteller: AESOP

17. Dutch cheese: EDAM

18. Way to go: ROAD

19. Queen's milieu: DRAMA. Drama queen. This one made me smile.

23. Get going: HOP TO

25. "Knives Out" Golden Globe nominee de Armas: ANA. Thank you, crosses. I'm not familiar with the movie and checking her credits on IMDb, I've not seen any of the movies she's appeared in.

26. Lansing-to-Flint dir.: ENE

32. 1960s chess champ Mikhail: TAL. Crosses to the aid again. I'm sure chess enthusiasts will know all about this gentleman, but a little before my chess-conscious time.

33. Mustard family member: KALE

34. They're tapped: KEGS

37. Bundle: PILE

39. On the money: RIGHT

42. Kentucky coach with 876 victories: RUPP. I went with RUUP first for no good reason, which made SUREE look a little strange. Easily fixed. Legendary basketball, fifth on the all-time wins list.

44. Foolhardy: RASH

46. __ avis: RARA. "Rare bird". I learned this from crosswords past, thankfully, as it helped with the crossing proper names.

48. Mex. title: SRA. Señora (from Sonora!)

53. Withdrawal site: ATM

56. Carnival city: RIO

57. Words before "so sue me": I LIED

63. Polynesian language: MAORI

64. Sitar music: RAGA. Here's a raga mix of "Uptown Funk"; you just cannot watch it without smiling!

65. Yemen's Gulf of __: ADEN

68. Conclude with: END ON

69. Indicator: SIGN

70. Feet-first race: LUGE

71. Video chat choice: SKYPE

72. "What __ is new?": ELSE

73. MP3 player: IPOD. Do Apple even make these any more? It seems your phone does everything that an iPod did, with the added bonus of, well, being a phone.


1. Cream __: ALE

2. Fish that's salted and dried to make bacalao: COD. Originally from the Portuguese, where bacalhau is the name of the fish.The Norwegians have assimilated the dish into their national cuisine where it is now spelled "bakalau". There's more to a bit of dried fish than meets the eye. Here's balalau con tomate.

3. Like Pentatonix numbers: A CAPPELLA

4. Flying insect with prominent eyespots: IO MOTH. Not sure that I knew this. ACAI and LOCO helped me out though.

5. Bookish type: NERD

6. Wind up on stage?: OBOE. Nice clue!

7. Fly like an eagle: SOAR

8. Win over: ENDEAR

9. Hapless sort: SAD SACK

10. Ucayali River country: PERU. The main headstream of the Amazon river, it becomes the Amazon at the confluence with the Marañón.

11. Grammarian's concern: USAGE

12. Type type: ROMAN. Times New Roman, for example, which was commissioned by the London Times newspaper in 1931.

13. Just-in-case item: SPARE

21. "The Caine Mutiny" novelist: WOUK

22. Paternity identifier: DNA

23. Web address letters: HTTP

24. Atheist activist Madalyn: O'HAIR. A new name to me. I'm familiar with the golfer Sean O'Hair, not so much atheist activists.

28. Deface: MAR

29. "When We Were Kings" boxer: ALI. And Joe Frazier; the movie covers the famous "Rumble in the Jungle" heavyweight championship fight from Zaire in 1974.

30. Pola of the silents: NEGRI. Another proper name requiring crossing rescue for me today.

31. Poetic contraction: E'ER

35. Dressed to the nines: GUSSIED UP

36. Wild period: SPREE

38. Uncommon sense: ESP. It looks like it has lost its "abbreviation" status.

40. Actor Holbrook: HAL. Another unknown proper name for me today, hence grateful for the "RARA" cross.

41. Amount past due?: TRE. "Uno, due, tre, quattro ...." Nice cluing again for a little word.

43. Ranch bud: PARD

45. Wonder Woman, for one: HEROINE

47. Plot-driving song, perhaps: ARIA. I assume arias drive the plot lines of operas?

50. Zilch: NIL

51. Rough around the edges: COARSE

52. High-pH compound: ALKALI

53. Summits: ACMES

54. "__ goodness": THANK

55. Temperamental: MOODY

59. Edit for size, as a photo: CROP

60. Follow: TAIL

61. Confident juggler's props: EGGS

62. Candy __: CANE

66. It may need a boost: EGO

67. Flanders who inspired the band Okilly Dokilly: NED of "The Simpsons" fame. There's a band from the UK called "Ned's Atomic Dustbin" who named themselves for a sketch from a BBC radio comedy show which aired in the 60's.

And with that, it's okilly dokilly, here's the grid!


Jan 23, 2020

Thursday January 23rd 2020 Bruce Haight

Theme: Cash Up - Five theme entries in the downs contain currencies running south-to-north:

3D. New Year's Day event in Pasadena: ROSE PARADE. Peso, or $ in most Latin counties (the Philippine Peso symbol is ₱.) There's what possibly is an urban legend that there is an upsurge in U-Haul rentals in the East and Midwest after the Rose Parade when the lovely Californian weather is usually on parade, along with the floats and people decide to move.

10D. Finish impressively: END WITH A BANG. Baht, or ฿.

21D. Lamb Chop puppeteer: SHARI LEWIS. Lira, or ₺. The Italian Lira is now defunct, having gone the way of the Euro, but Turkey still has theirs.

25D. It helps you go places: TRAVEL BUREAU. Ruble, or ₽. The symbol was officially adopted in 2013 following a public poll.

34D. Get support, in a way ... and what the puzzle circles do: RAISE MONEY. Yen, or ¥. I like how this is both the reveal and a theme entry in its own right.  Clever.

Another solid puzzle from Bruce, and again, we're looking at a 16x15 grid; I think this is the third Thursday in a row sporting that grid configuration. It's not impossible to place the two 12-letter theme entries in a 15x15 grid, but adding the extra row gives a little more elbow room and potentially a less scrappy fill. Bruce is just a "J" short of a pangram here, when I see Q, X and Z in a puzzle I start to look out for the J's, K's, V's and W's.

Let's take the grand tour:


1. Spunky: SCRAPPY

8. Longest-serving Japanese prime minister: ABE. Shinzō Abe, who is the current prime minister and has held the office since 2012.

11. Ave. crossers: STS.

14. Steel foundry input: IRON ORE

15. Traction-improving: NON-SLIP

17. "Try some!": TASTE IT! I need no further encouragement.

18. Lamaze class attendee: DAD-TO-BE

19. Expectant time: EVE.

20. One of the family: SIS

22. About 24% of the U.S. Congress: WOMEN

23. Stations: DEPOTS. Are these synonymous? To my mind, stations are for passengers and depots are for freight or stabling locomotives on the rail network.

26. Place for choppers: HELIPORT

29. Not quite right: AWRY

30. Oodles: A LOT

31. Broadway song that begins, "The most beautiful sound I ever heard": MARIA. From "West Side Story".

33. Brief encounter: BRUSH. Brush off, brush by and a brush with the law are all brief encounters of different types.

34. Flag thrower: REF. American Football. I can't think of another sport where a flag is thrown to indicate that an infringement has occurred.

37. Co-tsar with Peter I: IVAN V. Nice clue, I enjoyed the "co-star" play on words.

38. Saucepan cover: LID

39. Missile Command game company: ATARI

41. Place to stay: LODGE

42. Newcastle Brown __: ALE. A very famous beer in the UK. Like the Bass "Red Triangle" symbol, the iconic blue star logo, which was introduced in 1928, is instantly recognizable.

43. Starts bubbling, maybe: BOILS

44. Fleecy one: EWE

45. Loafs: LAZES

47. Strong suit: ASSET

48. Lost, as a big lead: BLEW

49. Way back when: ONCE

50. Rum drink: DAIQUIRI. I wasn't sure how to spell this, I had to let the crosses help me out.

54. Competition that includes snowboarding: X GAMES

57. Pianist Rubinstein: ARTUR

58. California's __ Gabriel Mountains: SAN. The backdrop to the Rose Parade. Pasadena is in the San Gabriel Valley.

60. Egg cells: OVA

61. Like the most busy busybody: NOSIEST

64. Mid-Michigan city: SAGINAW. I first learned this city from Simon and Garfunkel's song "America" from their Bookends album.

67. Uganda's capital: KAMPALA

68. Accessory for an Aquaman costume: TRIDENT

69. Before, in poems: ERE. 

Maid of Athens, ere we part,
Give, oh, give me back my heart!
Or, since that has left my breast,
Keep it now, and take the rest!
Hear my vow before I go,
Ζωή μου, σᾶς ἀγαπῶ

Lord Byron - Maid of Athens

I'm not sure I understand the device of the last line in Greek - it translates as "My life, I love you!" but it doesn't rhyme with "go", neither in Greek nor English. Any scholarly folk have any idea what Byron was doing here?

70. Coffee hour sight: URN. It was a vase with feet last week.

71. "Sounds right to me": I'D SAY SO


1. Positioned: SITED

2. Really want: CRAVE. Why can't I crave kale? It's always fried chicken or truffles.

4. Tiny toiler: ANT

5. Name in eerie fiction: POE

6. Proper to a fault: PRISSY

7. Himalayan legend: YETI

8. "Furthermore ... ": AND

9. Fluffy wrap: BOA

11. Sportscast technique: SLO-MO

12. River near Vatican City: TIBER. Rome's river. The name of Trastevere, one of my favorite districts in Rome, comes from the latin Trans Tiberim, "beyond the Tiber".

13. Exhausted: SPENT

16. "Hold it!": STOP

24. Short, in a way: OWING

27. Gives the slip: ELUDES

28. Part of LAPD: LOS. Because none of the alternatives of Angeles, Police or Department would fit.

31. Pedometer unit: MILE. This is a little odd, I think. I wanted "step" at first, because that's what pedometers measure. A pedometer, strictly speaking, doesn't measure distance although it can provide an estimate based on an individual's stride length.

32. Swear: AVOW

33. Sport coat: BLAZER

35. Writer Gardner: ERLE

36. Rock that, oddly, loses to paper: FIST. I was trying to think of a type of rock at first, something along the TALC lines, then the penny dropped.

40. Puccini opera: TOSCA

46. Boxer Laila: ALI

49. Ventura County city: OXNARD

50. German word of gratitude: DANKE

51. Wildly cheering: AROAR. I've grown to like this word, I thought it was a little contrived when I first encountered it.

52. Knocker's words: IT'S ME!

53. Zinger: QUIP

55. Chris of "Captain America": EVANS. Thank you, crosses.

56. Handled: SAW TO

59. Wine made from Muscat grapes: ASTI

62. Camera type, for short: SLR. Single-Lens Reflex. When introduced, allowed the photographer to frame the picture looking through the lens of the camera, rather than a separate viewfinder lens.

63. You basked for it: TAN

65. USO show audience: GI'S

66. Wyo. neighbor: IDA.

That just about wraps it up for today!


Jan 16, 2020

Thursday, January 16th 2020 Bruce Haight

Theme Side of Beef - the six theme entries sit on the sides of the plate - as the reveal entries suggest:

41A. With 45-Across, meat cut that suggests six aptly placed puzzle answers: FLANK and 45A. See 41-Across: STEAK

So we go look for the flanks of the puzzle, and sure enough we find:

1D. "Squarely unconventional" Nissan: CUBE. Cube steak isn't steak, cubed - it's the shape of the holes that the tenderizer makes which brings us to ....

13D. __ chocolate: SWISS. Cube steak and Swiss steak are really the same thing - cube steak is put through a tenderizer known as a "swisser", and guess what, so is Swiss steak. The result though, as chicken-fried steak, is rather lovely. My gravy is a basic white sauce, garlic powder, a ton of dried sage and cracked black pepper. I believe KFC stole my recipe :) This is not KFC:

26D. Tavern order: ROUND. The nicest words to hear - "My round!".

38D. Slacks alternative: SKIRT. Ever had steak fajitas? You've had skirt steak. The old "butcher cuts" are the cheapest, and best, you just have to know how to cook them. The Interwebs are your friend.

56D. Vegas __: STRIP. Usually a New York Strip, but here decamped to Las Vegas!

67D. Keister: RUMP.

Another 16x15 grid this week to accommodate the theme, which I liked - Food! But a couple of minor nits for me, the repeat of the SWISS/CUBE themers and, when we get to 17A, the other niggle. All minor though. I like Bruce's puzzles, usually a solid theme, some misdirection, and some entries to discuss (or argue!) about. Let's go and see what's in store:


1. Barbecue remnants: COBS. This one puzzled me. I know the answer from crosswords past, but I wanted to look up the etymology of the word and I drew a blank. I assumed it had got something to do with coal cobs, but I couldn't find a reference to burned-out barbecue coals - then Lemonade came to the rescue, he pointed out that the clue is referring to corn cobs! Silly me.

5. Personal identification?: ITS ME!

10. Rolaids rival: TUMS. I prefer this clue to last Thursday's.

14. Iris layer: UVEA

15. Part of a "Star Wars" name: DETOO. R2-D2.

16. "__ it first!": I SAW

17. Tower of London guards: BEEFEATERS. It's a nice word, but there's steak in the theme, so I would either have tried to avoid this fill or tried to find a "matching" entry at 69A to complement it.

19. Local bond, briefly: MUNI

20. PC key: ENTER

21. Classic car: REO. Ransom E. Olds' car company, based in Lansing, Michigan.

22. Frozen floaters: BERGS

23. Celebratory smokes: CIGARS

25. 2019 awards for Giannis Antetokounmpo: ESPYS. He won both "Male Athlete of the Year" and "NBA Player of the Year" hence the plural.

26. Elaborate style: ROCOCO. A little over-elaborate for my taste, but you can't deny the artistic brilliance:

29. Checks out: EYES

31. Artist Yoko: ONO. I think YOKO/ONO or ONO/YOKO has rescued more crosswords than can be counted in grains of sand.

32. "Nashville" actress Judith: HOAG. Who she? See 18D.

35. Currently: AS IT IS

39. Vases with feet: URNS

43. Understand, in slang: GROK. Well known in these parts, as we often find people "grok the theme".

44. Kremlin refusal: NYET in denial as is ...

46. "Me? Never!": NOT I! denial again!

47. Original "Star Trek" studio: DESILU

49. Princess from Alderaan: LEIA. One of the few "Star Wars" characters I don't have to think too hard about.

51. Links standard: PAR. Not my standard, that's for sure. Why is it called "golf"? Because all the other four-letter words were already used.

52. Manilow song site: COPA. I'll spare you the earworm.

54. Giants' div.: NL WEST. Baseball's San Francisco Giants

56. Mopes: SULKS

59. __ bag: DOGGIE. Not Doggy?

62. Sporty car features: T-TOPS

63. To's partner: FRO

64. Fitting tool: SIZER. Rings, I think.

68. Lower-APR deal: RE-FI

69. Restaurant list not for everyone: SECRET MENU. Fun, but generally not so secret - pretty much anyone who eats at the In 'N Out burger chain knows about "animal style"; there's a similar secret item at Disneyland's Tomorrowland, the Galactic Burger "alien style".

71. Shiraz's land: IRAN. Nailed it! Not IRAQ! I'm off to do a lap of honor around the FLANKS.

72. Giants and Titans: TEAMS. I'm going to guess the New York Giants in this case, to match the NFL's Tennessee Titans. We've had both GIANTS today.
* So, name the other five pairs of team names across Hockey, Football, Baseball and Basketball. 30 seconds, go!

73. Physics matter: ATOM

74. Nectarine centers: PITS

75. Donkeys: ASSES

76. Filing tool: RASP


2. Baker: OVEN

3. Vegetable that may stain a cutting board: BEET

4. Seattle-based insurance giant: SAFECO. I had no idea this lot were an insurance company, I've even been to Safeco Field in Seattle and it never crossed my mind to wonder about the company with the naming rights.

5. Mont. neighbor: IDA.

6. Colorful fish: TETRA

7. Range rover: STEER. Home, where the deer and the antelope (and apparently the steer) play. No discouraging words though, to make you feel ...

8. Gloomy: MOROSE

9. Daybreak deity: EOS

10. One involved in multiple problems?: TIMES SIGN. Did you learn your Times Tables by rote? I can still chant "One 12 is 12, two 12's are 24,  .... "

11. Take by force: USURP

12. Shabby: MANGY

18. "The Art of Loving" author Fromm: ERICH. With Judith HOAG at 32A, this was a near-Natick for me, I'm not sure I've heard of either. "H" seemed the best guess, and so it was.

22. Honey bunch: BEES

24. Blunders: GOOFS UP

27. Deli specification: ON RYE. Yes please, I love a deli sandwich on rye, preferably pastrami from Katz's in Manhattan's Lower East Side. What a great Food! puzzle today!

28. Traffic markers: CONES

30. Talking on and on: YAKKING

33. __-rock: ALT

34. Highlander: GAEL

36. Overused theme: TROPE. Nope, a cliche is an overused theme. A trope is the use of figurative language, an image or a figure of speech, which may be commonly recurring.

37. Bits: IOTAS

40. Map markers: STICK PINS. I thought these were called push pins - stick pins are much more decorative and used as costume jewelry or lapel decorations. Would you put these in a map?

42. Scottish rejection: NAE

48. Result of a poor investment: LOSS

50. Crème de la crème: A-LIST

53. Commercial charges: AD FEES

55. German city where the Bauhaus movement began: WEIMAR. And the Weimar Republic.

57. Where embryos grow: UTERI

58. Like much diet food: LO-FAT

60. Black-and-white whales: ORCAS

61. Grammy winner Eydie: GORMÉ. Thank you, crosses.

65. Letter that rhymes with three others: ZETA. Not Catherine Zeta-Jones?

66. Nephew of Cain: ENOS

69. Transit map abbr.: STA.

70. Snaky shape: ESS

Today I learned that Safeco is an insurance company, and I learned the name of a Grammy winner. File away for for future use!

* From 72A earlier, the teams are:

Cardinals - Arizona (NFL) and St. Louis (MLB)
Kings - Sacramento (NBA) and Los Angeles (NHL)
Panthers - Carolina (NFL) and Florida (NHL)
Rangers - Texas (NBA NFL) and New York (NHL)
Jets - New York (NFL) and Winnipeg (NHL)

I hope I got that right, I was testing my own memory!

And hopefully, accurately, the grid:


Jan 9, 2020

Thursday, January 9th 2020 Christopher Adams

Theme: ? When Victor Hugo sent an ingenious telegram to his publisher to ask how sales of  his new novel "Les Miserables" were going, to save money he sent just "?" He received the reply "!" Which leads us in a roundabout fashion to ...

19A. Big musical number ... or what 60-Across is to four puzzle answers?: SHOW STOPPER

and when we navigate downtown, we find:

60A. Decisive ending: EXCLAMATION MARK

So let's see what this is all about:

16D. Musical revue performed in the nude: OH! CALCUTTA! Two show-stoppers here, I guess, one in the first act and one at the end. The title of the show is a play on a French phrase which you'd use to be complimentary about someone's - ahem - derrière.

18D. Musical whose first run won 10 Tony Awards: HELLO, DOLLY! 

38D. Musical featuring ABBA songs: MAMMA MIA!

39D. Musical awarded a special Pulitzer in 1944: OKLAHOMA! The Pulitzer jury was a little vague about why the prize was awarded, the citation just says "A special award for Oklahoma".

So we've got an unusual grid size (15x16) and East-West symmetry only. Why? To accommodate the theme. The 15-letter reveal needs to live alone, so in a regular puzzle it would have to occupy the middle row, and you can't fit the other themers around it, neither across nor down. So stretch the grid and abandon the N-S symmetry. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, as long as the concessions to the theme don't reflect badly in the fill. In this case, I'm not sure.

Purist's section - you certainly shouldn't have OH! CALCUTTA!, and you shouldn't have any other exclamation marks anywhere else. (Hello, 6D and others.) If you want to build a puzzle around a punctuation mark, you have to be consistent. If you can't find four theme entries that work with your reveal, either toss the puzzle away with a "ah, well, I tried" or think of a new way of tying those musicals together.

With that, let's see what's in store as we go down the aisles, not stopping to pick up any one of the 17 three-letter words littering the shelves:


1. Coffee holder: CUP. Not URN nor MUG then. I think we need a campaign to stop coffee appropriating tea's vessel of choice. It's a cup o' tea in my book.

4. "Top Chef" host Lakshmi: PADMA

9. Droop: SAG

12. Tapped-off remnant: ASH. Hopefully not seen around for much longer.

13. Thread holder: SPOOL

14. T'ai __: CHI. Fill in the blanks and move on.

15. Club condiment: MAYO. Do you need mayo with a club sandwich? Mayo-be you do.

17. "Fiddler" meddler: YENTE

18. Chemistry Nobelist Otto: HAHN

22. "My Friend" title horse: FLICKA. I read this book as a kid, I remember very little about it, it seemed a little formulaic maybe? Boy loves horse, horse is sick, boy gets sick, boy gets well, horse lives.

24. Coral creatures: POLYPS

27. "A Legacy of Spies" author: LE CARRÉ

29. Makes a mess of: FOULS UP

30. St. Teresa's town: AVILA

31. VII x XIII: XCI. The desperate act of a constructor. Short of options? Throw a roman numeral in there, no-one will notice. I know, I've done it myself.

33. Rodeo performer: ROPER

34. Catchall abbr.: MISC. ET AL is a temptation here.

35. Pool tool: CUE

36. Eat in style: DINE. That would preclude dining at the diner, which is amusing. I read recently that Amtrak are doing away with the dining car on most of their services, a shame. There's definitely something stylish about dining on a train. When I commuted into London as a youth, my train had a bar car. The journey home was an hour and one minute, and a very convivial hour it was too. Some folk were known to miss their stop intentionally to have "one for the road" and then catch the next train back.

37. Dramatic accusation: ET TU

38. Paris transit: METRO. I love the art deco signage on some of the stations - I think this one is just below Montmartre.

40. Deca- minus two: OCTA-

41. GPS part: Abbr.: SYST. Global Positioning System.

42. Smart __: ALECK

43. Eco-friendly certification letters: LEED. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, as we all know. Or not.

44. Tablet named for an organ: TUMS. My "tum" is an organ? I guess. "STOMACHS" doesn't fit. Not sure I like the twee euphemism here.

46. Kosher food carrier: EL AL

48. Preserve, in a way: EMBALM

51. "The Joy Luck Club" novelist: AMY TAN. On my "to-read" list. My dad taught me how to play mah-jong with a set he brought back from Hong Kong when he was stationed there with the British army in the 20's and 30's. Many years later in Beijing in 2008 I joined a pop-up game in a little square near the Drum Tower. The locals were surprised that I knew how to pick up the tiles, let alone play the game (albeit very slowly!)

55. Philosopher __-tzu: LAO

56. Short rest: NAP

58. Word for a woman: SHE

59. Hosp. area: I.C.U.

64. "I like that": NICE

65. Cool beans or warm fuzzies: IDIOM

66. Great Lake city: ERIE

67. MC alternative: AMEX. I didn't get the "MC" at first, so this needed some help from the crosses. MC : Mastercard AMEX : American Express

68. Yoga pose: ASANA

69. Word for men: LADS. It's a bit of an oddity, this clue. "Word for ..." doesn't add anything and doesn't misdirect either. Curious.


1. Dash attachment: CAM

2. NATO founding member: USA

3. The Curies, e.g.: PHYSICISTS

4. Propaganda battle: PSYWAR. Psychological Warfare.

5. Tarzan raisers: APES

6. "Cut it out!": DON'T!

7. Con __: briskly: MOTO

8. Syrian city: ALEPPO

9. Member of a 1990s girl group: SCARY SPICE which ties in with 63D later on.

10. Spa sigh: AHH!

11. Martini default: GIN. You'd think so, but I bet a dollar to a donut that if you ordered a martini and didn't specify, you'd get vodka, or at least be asked which vodka you wanted. The "James Bond" martini has both gin and vodka, and lilet blanc.

20. Gumbo pod: OKRA. Tends to be a little polarizing, this innocent vegetable, due to the "slime" factor. I use it regularly when I cook Indian food.

21. Refill a glass, say: POUR

22. Fire sign: FLAMES. I get the wordplay here, but aren't flames the fire itself, not a sign of fire? I'm not sure, perhaps someone can explain the chemistry behind the plasma.

23. Flippancy: LEVITY

25. Mambo legend Tito: PUENTE. "Oye Como Va".

26. Nutella, e.g.: SPREAD

28. Shines: EXCELS

29. Cutthroat, as competition: FIERCE

32. Meet-__: romcom device: CUTE. Totally unknown to me.

45. Radius neighbor: ULNA

47. "You said it!": AMEN!

48. Justice Kagan: ELENA

49. Pithy saying: MAXIM

50. Lawn game: BOCCE

52. Wonder Woman topper: TIARA

53. Pungent: ACRID

54. Zaps for dinner: NUKES

57. Sketchbooks: PADS

58. "The Da Vinci Code" priory: SION

61. Supervillain Luthor: LEX

62. Hermana de la madre: TIA. Aunt. A certain proficiency in Spanish required for this one - "Sister of the mother".

63. __ B: 9-Down's professional name: MEL

So here's the grid in all its 16x15 mirror-symmetry glory ...

But first, I learned "LEED", "PSYWAR" and "MEET-CUTE today. Always a good day when you go to bed more learnèd than you began it. The problem is that I think my brain was already full, and those three new 'uns just pushed some important stuff out, although I think I'll try and forget "MEET-CUTE". Now, where did I leave my car?

... as promised the grid - and where the heck did I leave the corkscrew?


Jan 2, 2020

Thursday, January 2nd 2020 Derek Bowman

Theme: Sewing class - the theme entries all refer to the reveal answer later in the puzzle:

17A. One who leaves garments 50-Across: SEAMSTRESS. Probably a little old-fashioned now; I'd probably use "tailor" to describe needle-wielding men or women.

25A. One who leaves audiences 50-Across: STAND-UP COMIC. I worked with a guy once who was an IT consultant and had a stand-up comedy act riffing on  .... IT consulting. It didn't strike me as something that would exactly leave you rolling in the aisles.

38A. One who leaves patients 50-Across: BRAIN SURGEON. Very, very small ones, I hope.

and the unifier ...

50A. See 17-, 25- and 38-Across: IN STITCHES

A high-quality puzzle from Derek for the second day of the New Year. There's some real sparkle in the fill and some very elegant construction with the stacked 9's and 8's in the downs in the northeast and southwest. Nary a clunker to be seen, there's plainly a lot of effort that's gone into this one. A lot of the markers for this puzzle are more "Saturday-like" - average word length, number of blocks, those kind of things.

Let's see what else jumps out:


1. Common email attachments: PDFS

5. Fired (up): AMPED

10. Tablet with Siri: IPAD

14. Singer between Melanie and Joan at Woodstock: ARLO. Arlo Guthrie appeared between Melanie and Joan Baez's sets at the 1969 festival at Yasgur's Farm, which was actually nowhere near Woodstock being a good 60 miles away.

15. Drag one's feet: TARRY

16. Prepared-salad seller: DELI

19. www addresses: URLS

20. Feel compassion for, with "on": TAKE PITY

21. Some are imperfect: TENSES

23. "Louisiana Real & Rustic" chef: EMERIL. One of his first cookbooks, published in 1996. Lagasse and his mentor, Paul Prudhomme were responsible for the creation and development of what was described as "New New Orleans" cuisine.

24. Plot: CONNIVE

28. "It's all false!": LIES!

30. Chilling: EERIE

31. Yoga surface: MAT

32. Kid around: JEST

33. Formerly employed by The Company: EX-CIA. I think this might have been my favorite clue of the day.

34. Campsite bunks: COTS

35. Longship propeller: OAR. Hopefully more than one.

36. Playwright Chekhov: ANTON

37. Cold Stone buy: CONE. The Cold Stone Creamery ice-cream parlor franchise, not without its critics in the franchise world.

41. Approach stealthily, with "on": SNEAK UP

42. Can't-miss: NO-LOSE

46. San Diego County racetrack: DEL MAR. "Where the surf meets the turf". It certainly is a lovely spot, but I think Santa Anita, with its backdrop of the San Gabriel mountains is prettier.

47. Violent storms: TEMPESTS

“Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell: Ding-dong
Hark! now I hear them,—Ding-dong, bell.”

- William Shakespeare, The Tempest

49. Point after deuce: AD IN. Advantage to the server in tennis. I didn't know this before crosswords taught me.

52. He reveals the Wizard: TOTO

53. Bite like a puppy: NIP AT

54. Air filter acronym: HEPA or High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance, which his something of a mouthful. This fixed my "CON LECCE" mistake at 34D. Not quite sure what I was thinking there.

55. Several: A FEW

56. Full of hot air: GASSY

57. "Not so fast!": EASY!


1. Tomato __: PASTE. Had PURÉE first. Was wrong.

2. Fantasize: DREAM

3. Raisin bran tidbit: FLAKE

4. Bath's county: SOMERSET. You can't bathe in the baths in Bath, sadly. They say the water quality is not safe as it's untreated. Didn't seem to do the Romans any harm though.

5. Number one Hun: ATTILA. I don't think I could name another Hun if my life depended on it.

6. Convenience store: MART

7. Salmon, to bears: PREY

8. Ambulance destinations, briefly: E.R.'S

9. "The Hunger Games" setting: DYSTOPIA. A great word, but I'm not sure I'd use it to describe the "setting" for the Hunger Games movies. I'd say the setting was the locale, which may have been dystopian. Minor niggle.

10. "Search me": I DUNNO

11. Orangey fruit: PERSIMMON. The wood of the tree was used to make golf clubs back when woods were made of wood. Would Woods' woods be wood? Tiger should tell us.

12. Make easier to bear: ALLEVIATE

13. Studies in detail: DISSECTS

18. Rods for roasting: SPITS

22. Suffix with persist: -ENCE. Least favorite of the day, but sometimes you need a crutch.

24. Smokehouse process: CURING

26. On deck: NEXT UP. Baseball.

27. House Beautiful subject: DECOR

28. Got word about: LEARNED OF

29. Biblical descendant of Jacob: ISRAELITE. And a great excuse to listen to some ska courtesy of Desmond Decker and The Aces.

32. Employment statistics: JOBS DATA

33. Not leaving to chance: ENSURING

34. How café is often served: CON LECHE. Usually espresso and scalded milk mixed 50/50.

36. "My Way" lyricist: ANKA

37. Appropriate: CO-OPT. Later-in-the-week example of cluing. Are we looking for the verb or the adjective?

39. Grumpy response to "Are you awake?": I AM NOW

40. Bad blood: ENMITY

43. Actor Milo: O'SHEA

44. Pedometer count: STEPS

45. Long exam answer: ESSAY

47. Baking amts.: TSPS

48. Greek vowels: ETAS

51. Long of "Third Watch": NIA. A very useful name for crosswords. There were only four three-letter entries today, as I mentioned at the top of the blog word lengths tend to get longer as you progress through the week.

And that wraps things up for this Thursday. I hope you all had a good New Year, onwards to 2020!


Dec 26, 2019

Thursday, December 26th 2019 Jeff Stillman

Theme: Dance Moves

I've highlighted the four dances in the grid for you in case you didn't see them during your solve. The reveal rather painfully spells out what to look for, I'd have been inclined to leave out the row numbers and just let the solver go dance-hunting.

Let’s go clue-hunting!


1. [This is so frustrating!]: ARGH! Not the best of starts

5. Ceiling: LIMIT

10. Mail often diverted to a separate folder: SPAM. Microsoft's spam filter gets a little over-enthusiastic, I make a point to check my junk mail every couple of days, there's often something in there I should read. I had a couple of emails from Lemonade a few weeks ago that got the Microsoft treatment and he probably wondered why I was ignoring him.

14. Sainted pope called "the Great": LEO I. There were 13 Popes Leo, therefore ending with Leo XIII. All sorts of opportunity there for crossword compilers stuck for an entry. If you think about it, Leo I would never have heard the term. By the time there was a II, the original had joined the choir celestial a good couple of hundred years before.

15. Modern Persian: IRANI. I want the next pope to style himself "IRAN I" just to cause confusion.

16. Celestial bear: URSA

17. Mosque bigwig: IMAM, "I, Mam" the sequel to "I, Carly", featuring her mother.

18. Daring move: BOLD STROKE

20. Barnyard mom: SOW

21. Bath-loving Muppet: ERNIE

22. Priest's robe: ALB

23. KITT on "Knight Rider": TRANS-AM. Not necessarily. There are two KITT characters, the first from the original 1982 series which is a Trans-Am, and the second from the 2008 TV pilot for the series reboot which was a Ford Shelby GT500. This is the kind of obfuscation that causes fights during trivia contests.

25. Hanging Gardens site: BABYLON

29. "You can tell me": SAY IT

30. Inhabitants of a myrmecologist's farm: ANTS

32. Big time: ERA

33. Thompson of "Thor: Ragnarok": TESSA. Who knew? Not me.

35. Getty and Rockefeller: OIL MEN. Because "CENTERS" doesn't fit.

38. Street moves since the '70s ... and what the black squares on rows 3, 5, 11 and 13 do: BREAK DANCES. Remember "b-boys" from a couple of weeks ago?

40. Unfolds: BLOOMS

42. Pertaining to the small intestine: ILEAC. A bit odd really, as the ileum is one of three sections of the small intestine.

43. Chest bone: RIB

44. Fling: HURL

46. Hardship: RIGOR

50. Judicial self-disqualification: RECUSAL

53. Zoe of "Avatar": SALDANA. I had a sulk around this section. The mess of SALDANA, ILIAC, ICARLY, LECID, ATNOS and AMATO seemed very clumsy, and just inviting cries of "Natick Foul".

55. Genetics lab material: RNA

56. Ragged: TATTY

58. Floral garland: LEI

59. Three-flavor block: NEAPOLITAN. This was such a treat when we were kids. Chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream ALL AT THE SAME TIME! I think we had to go to confession after eating it and plead forgiveness.

62. Mount Olympus group: GODS

63. "You Needed Me" singer Murray: ANNE. Thank you, crosses.

64. REO Speedwagon guitarist Dave: AMATO. Ditto

65. One is often hard to resist: URGE

66. Site in a Steinbeck title: EDEN

67. Network points: NODES

68. Financial aid criterion: NEED


1. Top celebrity groupings: A-LISTS. A-LISTER last week, A-LISTS today. Can be tricky to parse, especially in the downs.

2. Ride-hitching fish: REMORA

3. "Scram!": GO AWAY!

4. Word for a guy: HIM

5. Scales aloft: LIBRA

6. Facial apparatus in a Dumas novel: IRON MASK

7. Neighbor of Mauritania: MALI

8. Behind on bills: IN DEBT

9. Poetic contraction: 'TIS

10. Like a sourpuss: SURLY

11. Math test parts: PROBLEMS

12. Inquire or require: ASK

13. Novelist Rita __ Brown: MAE

19. File folder feature: TAB

21. Prize: ESTEEM

24. Explosion maker, briefly: NITRO

26. Not separately: AS ONE

27. Mine find: ORE

28. A Bobbsey twin: NAN

31. Rock bottom: NADIR

34. "Rizzoli & Isles" actress Alexander: SASHA

36. Nickelodeon sitcom starring Miranda Cosgrove: I, CARLY

37. Massenet opera about a Spanish hero: LE CID

38. "Hogan's Heroes" star: BOB CRANE

39. Auto insurance giant: ALLSTATE

40. Cold call?: BRR!

41. Fabrication: LIE

45. In the prior month: ULTIMO. Instant and proximo are its temporal cousins.

47. In great numbers: GALORE

48. Stressed out: ON EDGE

49. Elevated: RAISED

51. Let loose, as hogs: UNPEN

52. __ Tomé and Príncipe: SÃO. I discover this island nation is located off the central equatorial coast of west Africa. I was guessing that they were two islands off Brazil or Portugal. Wrong!

54. Chem. class data: AT. NOS. Atomic Numbers, apparently. I thought the Atomic Number abbreviation was simply "AN" but that appears to have been a figment of my chemistry teacher's imagination.

57. Not very much: A TAD

59. Rob Roy's refusal: NAE. When Kirkintilloch founded their football (fitba') team in 1878, they named themselves "Kirkintilloch Rob Roy" in his honor, and are still known thusly today, which I find rather splendid.

60. Boundary: END

61. PC-to-PC hookup: LAN

62. Rev: GUN. As in engine. If my last name were Gunn I'd become a preacher just so I'd be called "Rev Gunn". Or Counter. "The sermon was given by Rev. Counter".

Dec 19, 2019

Thursday December 19th 2019 Gary Larson

Theme B-ing - punning on the B-present participle riff:

18A. Flashy accessories for a vagabond?: BUM BLING

37A. Barn extension where pack animals sleep?: BURRO WING. This was the one that set me on the theme path.

61A. Heckle musician Gordon Sumner?: BOO STING. A lot of musical references from my youth today. Sting was a substitute teacher before the Police broke, my sister worked with him at a comprehensive school in South London.

3D. Owner of the most pubs in town?: BAR KING

45D. Warning at a spelling contest?: BEE PING. That reminds me, I must change the batteries in my smoke detectors.

When I collected the theme entries together, I just wanted a "BI-" to complete the vowel set, but it was not to be. Understandable, the only candidate I could find was replacing "BUMBLING" with "BIASSING" and I'm not sure how to clue that one. So fair enough, Gary, a good puzzle with a nice theme.

Let's tread the boards:


1. Troubleshoots, as programs: DEBUGS. Been there, done that. Back in the day, it was also known as "dump cracking" which involved going though a two-foot pile of fan-fold paper with a highlighter and a ruler looking through the memory dump of the mainframe. I got pretty good at it. Probably because I was pretty good at putting the bugs in there in the first place. The very first program I wrote had an infinite loop, but I still managed to make a career out of IT. I laughed when I first went to present at Apple HQ, their address was "One Infinite Loop", I felt they'd named the campus for me.

7. Sharp humor: WIT

10. Rain protection: TARP

14. Marked by twinkling: STARRY

15. Brian of ambient music: ENO. U2 producer of note, and elevator music king. He was a founder member of Roxy Music, here playing synth in spangly gloves with a youthful Bryan Ferry. Talented chap.

16. Diaper cream ingredient: ALOE

17. Like nickels, to dimes: LARGER. Yes, why is that? I want my currency to get heftier the more valuable it is.

20. Swedish retail giant: IKEA. I went to my local IKEA a couple of weeks ago. It's legendary that the store is impossible to find your way out of, but on the way back to my car a lady asked me how to get out of the parking lot. I tried to explain, but realized I had no idea either. I did help her figure out which of her stop lights was out though, so something good came of it.

21. Runs of luck: STREAKS. Good or bad.

22. "Moonlight" Oscar winner Mahershala: ALI. Thank you, crosses.

23. Most smooth: SUAVEST. Nice word.

25. Put to use: TAP. As "tap into".

28. Most likely to snap: TENSEST. Two "mostests" within a couple of entries.

30. One-named singer with 15 Grammys: ADELE. She helped fix my ALL-STAR/A-LISTER mess at 11D

32. "By that logic ... ": ERGO ...

33. Wrongdoing: SINS

36. Ventricular outlet: AORTA

40. Martin Van __: BUREN

43. "Heavens to Murgatroyd!": EGAD!

44. Trails off: EBBS

48. Astrologer to the rich and famous: O'MARR. Known to me only from crosswords.

49. Tasty bites: MORSELS

51. Boston's Back __: BAY

52. French chef's "Ta-da!": ET VOILA!

56. Years on end: EON

57. Potato gadgets: MASHERS. I use a ricer, a little more effort but a lot smoother result. If I want chunky mash I use the old fork technique.

59. Crunch at breakfast: CAP'N

63. Sex therapy subject: LIBIDO. Rich is getting racier in his editing.

65. Mom's sister: AUNT

66. Greek letter: ETA

67. Close soccer score: ONE NIL To the Arsenal. Last week's "Man. U." rivals reappear. If you want to know what Arsenal, One-Nil, the USSR and the Pet Shop Boys have in common, then you either have too much time on your hands, or you will Google "One-Nil to the Arsenal" as I did.

I'm usually judicious with my links, but this week there's too much good music, or weirdly awesome music, to ignore.

Producer: What effects do you want in this video?
Pet Shop Boys: Yes!

68. Calf-length skirt: MIDI

69. French film ending word: FIN

70. Packed (in): WEDGED


1. Broadband initials: DSL. Digital Subscriber Line. It seems a little old-fashioned, but I still have DSL broadband.

2. Online seller: E-TAILER

4. Impel: URGE

5. Musical set at Rydell High: GREASE. Los Angeles does have some wonderful Art Deco public buildings, this is Venice High School, one of the locations used in the movie to represent Rydell High.

This is my local power distribution station built in 1949 on Cahuenga Avenue in North Hollywood. We don't build 'em like that any more, more's the pity. I admire it every time I drive past.

6. Turk. neighbor: SYR, Syria, to Turkey.

7. Streaming services, e.g.: WEB TV

8. Accustom (to): INURE

9. Some library volumes: TOMES

10. Chitchat: TALK

11. Big-time celeb: A-LISTER. I went with "ALL STAR" first, then gradually backed off as it slowly didn't work with anything else.

12. Youngest Weasley brother: RON. I didn't know he had brothers. Not a problem, I doubt any of the siblings are well-known enough to make the crossword.

13. Mastermind game piece: PEG

19. WWII Philippine battleground: BATAAN

21. Genre with bite: SATIRE

22. Had a bite: ATE

24. KGB country: USSR. "Go West! (with the Pet Shop Boys), Go West!"

26. Bottom-row PC key: ALT

27. Samosa veggie: PEA

29. Like a designated driver: SOBER

31. Venetian magistrates of yore: DOGES. Nice living quarters, too.

34. Holiday quaff: NOG

35. Hindu masters: SWAMIS

38. Turmoil: UNREST

39. Show that launched Clay Aiken's singing career, familiarly: IDOL. The "American Idol" talent show. I'm sure that I must have heard some of Mr. Aiken's output, but I couldn't name a song from him if my life depended on it.

40. Move up and down: BOB

41. Actress Thurman: UMA. One of those entries you might as well just print in the grid and have done with it.

42. Novelist Chandler: RAYMOND

46. Deborah Harry's band: BLONDIE. I saw Blondie live at Hammersmith Odeon in 1978. I was quite taken with Ms. Harry. I think it's OK to confess at this temporal distance that I was smoking weed before the gig which might have something to do with me thinking they were the best band I'd ever seen. I was distressed to discover later that she was dating the guitarist. Oh, the innocence of youth.

47. Tax form ID: SSN

50. Wisconsin city north of Chicago: RACINE. Aren't all Wisconsin cities north of Chicago? Just wondering ... I suppose north and north-west.

53. Fence supplier: THIEF. Nice clue. A fence traffics stolen goods, hence "thief".

54. Starbucks size: VENTI. I always forget the sizes in Starbucks, or maybe never bothered to remember them. "Small", "Medium" and "Large" work just fine.

55. "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" instrument: ORGAN.

Producer: How many solos do you want on the track? 
Iron Butterfly: Yes!

58. Spot of wine?: ASTI. Nice clue for an old crossword staple.

60. Under the covers: A-BED. Best use of the word comes in the eponymous monologue in Shakespeare's "Henry V"

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

61. Collision sound: BAM

62. Arles assent: OUI

63. Almost empty: LOW

64. Ancient: OLD

And with that, I think I'll disappear down the YouTube rabbit hole for a while and re-live the 70's and 80's.

Here's the grid! Et Fin