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Showing posts with label Verna Suit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Verna Suit. Show all posts

Feb 17, 2009

Interview with Verna Suit

This interview was conducted in early January. I was hoping to publish it when we have a Verna Suit puzzle. Now I doubt it will ever happen. Our editor Mr. Wayne R. Williams has stopped communicating with our regular constructors since last November when Tribune declared bankruptcy.

The quality of our puzzles has deteriorated significantly every since. I think we should write to Mr. Williams (
PuzzlesWRW@aol.com) and ask for more quality puzzles from old constructors like Verna Suit, Barry Silk, Doug Peterson, John Underwood, Allan E. Parrish, Norma Steinberg etc. I would love to have more of Alan P. Olschwang's non-quips (Great USA Today puzzles) and Stan B. Whitten's simple & enjoyable grids.

For those who have been missing Barry Silk, he has two puzzles coming our next weekend. A Saturday LA Times themeless and a Sunday NY Times co-authored with Doug Peterson. I will link the LA Times when it's published and plan to blog it on a Sunday when most of you do not have our regular TMS puzzle.

OK, now back to the interview:

What's your background and how did you develop a passion for crossword construction?


I've always worked crosswords. I spent my federal government career playing around with language and words, and in my retirement, constructing crosswords is a way of continuing to do that. I got interested in making them around 1990 when I briefly shared a desk with noted constructor Bill Lutwiniak. I asked him what qualities a constructor needed, and he said a good vocabulary and to be a good speller. He advised that if I was interested in constructing, I should start small (13x13). That seemed a waste of time, so my first construction effort was a 21x21, on which I immediately got stuck. So I went back to baby steps and made a couple of 13x's. I moved up to 15x and over the next few years played around with grids when I had time. This was all manual, of course, in those early days. Then in 1998 I had the good fortune to meet another constructor, Carole Anne Nelson. She critiqued the puzzles I'd made so far, told me about rules I didn't know existed, and introduced me to important resources. Both Mr. Lutwiniak and Carole Anne are gone now but I'm deeply indebted to each for sending me along the right path. In February 1999 I submitted my first puzzle and it appeared in the LA Times on May 27th. Since then I've been published also by the NYT, USA Today, TMS, Games Magazine, the NY Sun, Newsday, Sterling, Adams, Dell, Penny Press, and other odds and ends of places. About a year ago I started making a crossword for the Montgomery County (MD) Friends-of-the-Library quarterly newsletter, where I get to play with my own choice of bookish themes (fun for an old English major) and be my own editor.

How would you describe your style? I notice that you like "Three Things" puzzle. How are they different from a normal themed puzzle?

Eclectic? And not very prolific. I prefer 15x over 21x, which are just longer. 15x is a nice size to solve and to make. I also prefer puzzles with themes. I first came across the "Three Things" theme in a TMS puzzle years ago and really enjoyed the challenge of working it. You know something about the individual words but not where each one starts or stops, and must rely on your intuition. I discovered they're also fun to make. I enjoy coming up with strings of the best words I can. Note: I have to apologize to solvers for the last one I did, "Three Lines", that appeared 12/3/08. I had an abundance of good "line" words and was able to fit in 6 theme strings instead of the usual 4. I sensed it was going to be a tough puzzle to solve, with all those discontinuous strings, so I wrote easy clues. But the editor apparently decided the clues should be harder and changed a lot of them. It ended up being a lot tougher puzzle than I planned.

Where do you normally get your theme inspirations?

From whatever is on my mind at the time, or from an interesting word or phrase I come across.

What kind of puzzles do you solve every day? How do you normally tackle a puzzle?

I usually start the day with a Sudoku to wake up, and work a few more of them during the day to relax. I get the Washington Post which has the Crossynergy crossword puzzle and the TMS, and often work both of them, plus Merl Reagle's on Sunday. I usually skip quotation-theme puzzles, which I've gotten bored with. I start working at 1-across and keep filling in whatever I know, wherever it is in the grid. It's a rare puzzle I can't finish these days (except for a bunch of them at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I've attended five times and am solidly in the top 70% ;-/) I do enjoy tough crosswords, though. My favorite constructors are Bob Klahn and Frank Longo.

Any tips for our TMS solvers on how to improve our solving skills?

Read a lot, work a lot of puzzles.

Thank you, Ms. Suit.

Dec 3, 2008

Wednesday December 3, 2008 Verna Suit

Theme: Three Lines

17A: Three lines: HEM RECEIVING TAN

39A: Three lines: TICKET FRONT STAG

64A: Three lines: AIR STARTING NECK

3D: Three lines: TIME PUNCH CHORUS

7D: Three lines: HAIR SHORE BOTTOM

11D: Three lines: DATE CLOTHES HEAD

What is a STAG line?

Normally I enjoy this kind of "Three Something" themed puzzles. They tend to have less blocks (30 today, compared with our average 38) and the the grid feels more open. But this morning I simply could not find much common ground with this constructor. I was larruped good.

Struggled from beginning to the end. SHIRR (14A) for "Make cloth gathers"? I only knew SHIRRED eggs. Is GNAR (19D: Snarl and growl) even a word? I've never heard of TETLEY tea (56A: Twinings rival), nor have I heard of the clue Twinings. All I drink is the real Chinese loose leaf tea.

I love the clue for EGOS (38D: Vanity cases). I was thinking of ETUI though.

Across:

1A: Lens: OPTIC. Really? I've never of OPTIC being referred as "Lens".

15A: Bourgeois sculpture: MAMAN. No idea. Why is it called MAMAN? Looks like a spider. Reminds me of ARACHNE (Spider woman of myth).

20A: Avian haven: NEST. I penned in COOP first.

23A: __-a-porter (ready to wear): PRET. Do you like Robert Altman's "PRET -a - Porter"? Pretty funny.

25A: Shows intestinal fortitude: STOMACHS. I sure don't have this "fortitude".

27A: For two, in music: A DUE. Dictionary explains A DUE as "together; in unison".

29A: N.T. book: EPH. Would not have got this one without the down fills. Bible is definitely my Achilles’ heel.

31A: Sound of rippling water: PURL. I only knew the Chinese sound for rippling water: gudu.

44A: Loudmouth lummox: YAHOO. I wonder why Jerry Yang picked up YAHOO for his company.

45A: Minnow cousin: CHUB. New fish to me. It's quite big. Are you sure it's "Minnow cousin"?

47A: Pen name: BIC. My instinctive thought is "AKA".

50A: Follow: ADHERE TO

53A: Martin or Kingsley: AMIS. Knew Martin AMIS only because of his affair with Tina Brown.

64A E. Lansing campus: MSU. The Spartans. I wonder if they will ever change Big Ten into Big Eleven or Big Twelve someday.

66A: At full speed, at sea: AMAIN

Down:

4D: Not std.: IRR. Are you OK with this clue?

5D: Minotaur's isle: CRETE. Some of the Greek mythology are ridiculous. How could a woman fall in love with a bull?

6D: Hook's underling: SMEE

8D: Ex-G.I.: AM VET (American Veterans). Did this answer come to you readily? I don't recall ever seeing this abbreviation before.

9D: Bared: LAID OPEN

10D: Spike TV, once: TNN

13D: Penchants: BENTS

26D: Like damp basements: MUSTY. I found some nice old Life Magazine at the flea market, but most of them are very MUSTY. The smell simply refused to go away, even after I put them under the sunshine for 3 days.

30D: Some e-mail attachments: PDFS

33D: Madagascar primate: LEMUR. INDRI is often clued as "Madagascar LEMUR".

37D: Ancient temple: NAOS. Greek for temple. I forgot. It appeared in our puzzle before.

40D: Lhasa natives: TIBETANS

41D: Lapland native: SAMI. No idea. Did not know where "Lapland" is.

46D: Shell rival: HESS. Last time our editor clued MYRA as "British pianist Hess".

48D: Normandy town: CAEN. ST LO also has 4 letters.

51D: James novel, "__ Miller": DAISY. Has anyone ever read this book?

54D: Sal of song: MY GAL. Here is the poster. Alien to me. I disliked the clue.

57D: Leslie Caron musical: LILI (1953). GIGI is another Caron musical. It's released in 1958.

60D: Designer letters: DKNY. It now belongs to Louis Vuitton. DKNY, Chanel, Dior all spend lots of money for their brand protection in China. Too many fake products.

63D: ID card letters, at times: NMI (No Middle Initial). The answer revealed itself after I filled in the across blanks.

C.C.

Oct 21, 2008

Tuesday October 21, 2008 Verna Suit

Theme: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

17A: Scene of 38A's 63A: BEIJING OLYMPICS

38A: World's best swimmer: MICHAEL PHELPS

63A: 38A's take: EIGHT GOLD MEDALS

Do you know that his nickname is "Baltimore Bullet"?

Sensational! MICHAEL PHELPS had the audacity to dream and audacity to realize his dreams.

I believe this puzzle was created immediately after he broke the record, but our editor was not flexible enough to publish the puzzle earlier. Guess he has plenty of puzzles in his pipeline.

Great puzzle, isn't it? I really like the WELT clue (33D: Mark of Zorro?), very clever, though I always associate rapier rather than whip with Zorro.

Nice to see GOA (64D) clued as "Indian tourist haven". I never liked the "Himalayan gazelle" clue before. Without Argyle, I would not have found any picture of that mysterious gazelle.

I don't understand the PODS clue though (41D: Movable classrooms). How so? If PODS refer to "Schools of whales", then the clue need a question mark.

Across:

1A: Office clerk: FILER. None of the companies I've worked has a FILER. Secretaries do the filing job. I like the TERM clue (71A: In-Office time).

10A: Koi: CARP. Look at this huge CARP.

15A: Sound defeat: ROUT And UPSET (21A: Underdog victory).

20A: Black sea port: ODESSA. I had no idea that it belongs to Ukrain.

22A: Court figure: LAWYER. I was thinking of tennis court.

27A: Tokyo, once: EDO. Kyoto was the capital city during EDO period (1603-1867). Nobel author Kawabata wrote a book called "The Old Capital".

32A: Major bore: YAWNER. Have you seen Leslie Caron's "Gigi"? "It's a bore"!

36A: Nebraska river: PLATTE. I forgot. Saw PLATTE river as a clue somewhere before. It flows into Missouri.

46A: Sucker on a shark: REMORA. New word to me. I've heard of sucker fish though. Dictionary says REMORA can "attach itself to sharks, whales, sea turtles, or the hulls of ships." So ugly.

49A: Source of archery bows: YEWS. Can you make bows out of these YEW? They don't look good to me.

69A: Yorkshire river: OUSE. This river used to stump me. Not any more.

Down:

1D: Word for the Beatles: FAB. Do you collect FAB Four items? Here is George Harrison's "When We Were FAB".

4D: Relish: ENJOY. I was thinking of the hot dog relish.

5D: Commando: RAIDER. I always thought RAIDER is a person who RAIDS and seizes counterfeid products.

8D: Solzhenitsyn setting: GULAG. I got the answer, but I did not understand the clue. I've never heard of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn before. He won Nobel Literature in 1970.

10D: Dogpatch creator: CAPP (Al). Li'l Abner comic strip.

12D: Move like a hairline: RECEDE

19D: Undergo genetic change: MUTATE

24D: Dry riverbed: WADI. No idea. How is it different from arroyo/gully?

39D: Pest from a nest: HORNET

42D: Overcharge: SOAK. I was not aware of the slangy meaning of SOAK.

46D: Surgically remove: RESECT. New word to me.

47D: Complete: ENTIRE. I wanted INTACT.

48D: Hardly sufficient: MEAGER

55D: Smoke mass: CLOUD. See, The Rolling Stones used "Off of" in their song "Get Off of My Cloud".

59D: Oates novel: THEM. No. Have never heard of this novel before. Our editor likes to clue OATES as "Bellefleur" writer.

C.C.

Aug 15, 2008

Friday August 15, 2008 Verna Suit

Theme: SOUL OF MOTOWN (30A: 16A, 38A, and 55A, e.g.)

16A: "A Natural Woman" lady: ARETHA FRANKLIN

38A: "Part-Time Lover" man: STEVIE WONDER

55A: "Superfly" guy: CURTIS MAYFIELD

I could not finish this puzzle unassisted. I wish I could. I had a nightmare at the lower left corner. But I like this puzzle. I really like it.

I can't tell you what really constitutes a good puzzle. To quote Justice Stewart again: "I know it when I see it".

So many unexpected fills and surprising clues. Look at these compound words:

9A: Attacked: SET AT

14A: Baby Doll: CUTIE PIE

21A" Promotional links: TIE-INS

46A: For no profit: AT COST

50A: Lifter's shout: ALLEY-OOP

59A: Targeted: PREYED UPON

3D: Relished: ATE UP

22D: Spouse sibling: IN-LAW

44D: Can skip: NEEDN'T

48D: Dizzying designs: OP ART

50D: How much above?: A CUT

52D: Scientologist Hubbard: L RON

Quality clues, quality answers! This is the way crossword should be constructed and is indeed the way the new wave of constructors/editors like Stan Newman have been headed for.

Two irksome clues also:

58A: Home of the Huskies: UCONN. Definitely need a "for short" in the clue.

35D: Part of Canada's Y.T.: TER. Please don't use this clue again. It's cheating! Why not go with "Guam, e.g.: Abbr. "?

Across:

1A: Image digitizers: SCANNERS

19A: Western tip of England: LAND'S END. Foreign to me. Looks like a storm is coming.

24A: Harrison in "Star Wars": HAN. HAN Solo. FYI, HAN is also the largest among the 56 ethnic groups in China. It constitutes about 93% of the population, roughly 19% of the entire world population. I am a Han.

33A: Maestro Dorati: ANTAL. Have never heard of this conductor. Wikipedia says he was "especially well-known for his recordings of Tchaikovsky's music", and he was "the first conductor to record all three of Tchaikovsky's ballets - Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauity and The Nutcracker - complete."

41A: Tears into pieces: SHREDS

54A: Quilt with a washable cover: DUVET

60A: 1979 Alda senatorial role: TYNAN. The Seduction of Joe TYNAN. New to me. Both Meryl Streep & Rip Torn were (are??) in the cast. Is it a good movie?

61A: Shrill: STRIDENT

Down:

1D: Meager: SCANTY

2D: Screen arrow: CURSOR

8D: Caravan stopover: SERAI. I've never heard of this word.

9D: Grainy rocks: SANDSTONES

11D: Swimming pool edger: TILE. He is incredible. He has showed us how to turn an improbable into an afterthought!

18D: Capital of Spain?: ESS

24D: 1942 Bing Crosby film: HOLIDAY INN. I've never seen this movie. The only Bing Crosby movies I've seen are "The Country Girl" & "High Society". I adore Grace Kelley. I like "To Catch a Thief" & "Rear Window".

26D: Fabri or liquid finisher: ATOR. Commentator, Decorator as well.

27D: Hole maker: AWL. Interesting 7" Bone AWL.

39D: These, in Cadiz: ESTOS

40D: Morse code unit: DIT. No wobbling between DOT & DIT this time because I got DIS (42A: Bad-mouth) earlier on.

43D: Coty competitor: REVLON. L'Oreal is another major competitor of Coty, so are Unilever and P & G of course.

49D: Blue shoe leather: SUEDE. I don't understand this one, why "blue"?

51D: Ethel's tenant: LUCY. "I Love Lucy".

56D: Beatles song, "__ Blues": YER. "YER Blues". Saw this clue somewhere before.

57D: Murphy Brown's TV show: FYI. Completely unknown to me. I've never seen "Murphy Brown".

C.C.

Aug 5, 2008

Tuesday August 5, 2008 Verna Suit

Theme: That Is (i.e) Extra

17A: Part-time girlfriend?: SEMI SWEETIE

27A: ID a gastronome?: FINGER FOODIE

44A: Assault tour crew member?: HIT THE ROADIE

60A: Early bird warm-up wear?: ROBIN HOODIE

I've never heard of ROADIE. I like the other 3, esp FINGER FOODIE, deliciously clued.

This is a very creative theme idea. I wonder what other similar words this constructor pondered while creating her grid. If she is a real gastronomist, COOKIE & BEANIE might be in her thinking process.

Or if she is into sports, she could be be musing on ROOKIE, BOOKIE, GOALIE and BIRDIE. I also thought of COOLIE, SORTIE, STOOLIE and WEENIE (?). OKIE might not be OK.

And of course the sweet words like CUTIE, DEARIE & CHERIE.

What else can you think of?

I struggled with puzzle. Got mired in the N crossing beween ANETO and ANEMO and could not get the letter R between NORNS and SIDRA. And encountered pockets of problems here and there.

Across:

1A: "Politically incorrect" host: MAHER (Bill). A stupid "not cowardly"mistake. He is funny though.

2A: Envelop closer: CLASP. I don't like the repetition of "CL" both in the clue and in the answer.

14A: Wind: pref.: ANEMO. As in "Anemometer". ANEMO came from Greek "anemos", meaning wind. Too obscure to me.

15A: Errs on esses: LISPS

21A: Line from Mork: NANU NANU. Often see NANU clued as "Half of Mork's sign-off".

33A: Kind of metabolism: BASAL

36A: Steffi of tennis: GRAF. Amazing career wins, they are perfect together.

37A: Kid's punishment: NO TV

38A: Dilly: LULU. Here is LULU's "To SIR (49A: Galahad's title) With Love". I liked the movie.

41A: Fusses: ADOS. OK, let's talk about Shakespear's "Much ADO about Nothing" today. Is "Nothing" really "Nothing"?

42A: Riga resident: LETT

43A: Collar inserts: STAYS. What is exactly a STAY?

47A: Labor grp.: UAW (United Automobile Workers)

48A: Touch of frost: NIP. I like this clue.

52A: Relies on: TRUSTS IN

63A:Beethoven dedicatee: ELISE. "Für ELISE".

64A: Norse goddesses: NORNS. Goddesses of Fate: Here is a painting of the famous 3 NORNS: Urðr (Past Fate), Verdandi (Present Fate) & Skuld (Future Fate). I know none of them. I am not familiar with Norse mythology, or any mythology.

66A: "101 Dalmatians" author: DODIE (Smith). I got her name from the down fills. I did not know her. I like her bangs. Is the haircut suitable to her oblong face shape, Katherine?

Down:

1D: Billiard stroke: MASSE. I like "The Hustler", don't you?

2D: Pico de __ (Pyreness peak): ANETO. Really tough crossing beween ANETO & ANEEMO. Why is the guy on the left wearing shorts? It feels cold.

3D: Macho types: HE-MEN. Oh, I see, maybe this is the reason why: He wants to be a "HE-MAN". Then catches a cold/bug on the way back home and sleeps for days.

5D: Perfume ingredient: ROSE OIL

6D: French key: CLE. Or CLEF (nf). The calculator key is TOUCHE. She is wearing the "CLE de Peau" enhancer.

8D: Tec's terrier: ASTA. "The Thin Man" dog. I don't like the clue. Isn't "Tec" a shortened form of "Detective"? Or is it a widely accepted word just like "info"?

9D: Son-of sit-comes: SPIN-OFFS. I dislike this clue. It does not sound cute to me at all.

10D: Phony: PSEUDO

22D: Newborn: NEONATE. And 61D: Born in Bordeaux: NEE.

27D: Marlowe's Doctor: FAUSTUS. "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus". I've never heard of this novel or Christopher Marlowe. I only knew FAUST and the "Faustian bargain".

30D: Lady of Lisbon: DONA

35D: Assigned time: SLOT

28D: Thalia's sister: ERATO. Muse of love poetry. Thalia is the muse of "comedy and idyllic poetry". Several words have ERATO hidden in them: accelerator, generator, adulterator, exaggerators, etc. Someone ought to make a rebus puzzle out these words and credit me as his MUSE.

29D: Cane palm: RATTAN

39D: Emulated Lindbergh: FLEW SOLO

43D: Drinking straws: SIPHONS. Ha, I even had difficulty obtaining this word, mainly due to STAY & NORNS.

49D: Libyan gulf: SIDRA. This is a map for Gulf of SIDRA. Unknown to me also.

50D: One way to do crossword: IN INK. I cannot do mine without "Wite-Out".

55D: Footnote carrier: IBID

56D: Unless, in law: NISI. Add an E, we've got a word for Japanese American NISEI.

C.C.

Aug 1, 2008

Friday August 1, 2008 Verna Suit

Theme: "See 'n Say"

17A: Lunch combo: SOUP AND SANDWICH

23A: Footwear combo: SHOES AND SOCKS

38A: Flag combo: STARS AND STRIPES

49A: Little girl combo: SUGAR AND SPICE

60A: Bonebreaking combo: STICKS AND STONES

I don't like seeing 5 repetitive "combo" in the above clues, very lazy. Given the creativity shown by the constructor on the theme entries, I suspect our editor might have tinkered with the constructor's original submission. Anyway, a "duet" sounds more appealing to me than a "combo".

This is a beautiful grid. I am so impressed with those S* & S* phrases. I was thinking of a similar T* & T* puzzle, but I could only think of "Thick and Thin" & "Toss and Turn". What other T*& T* phrases can you think of? They have to be 10-letter long I suppose, 15- letter will be ideal of course.

Several clever clues in today's puzzle, and several eyebrow-raising abbreviated answers too.

Across:

1A: Profundity: DEPTH. Wish the clue were "The third D (3-D)" to pair up with CCL (20A: Half of D). I've never realized that there is a "C C" in every "half of D".

6A: Erect: RAISE. Would have had a nice little sub-theme if RAISE were clued as "Worker's demand" since we have 56A: Workplace safety grp. (OSHA) & 30D: Work Station (DESK).

11A: VW predecessors: STU. Great clue. STUVW, in alphabetic order.

15A: Former defense secretary Les: ASPIN. "LES" was clued as "Aspin from Wisconsin" on July 8.

22A: Plumps (for): OPTS. I've never heard of "Plumps for" before. Dictionary defines the phrase as "Supports enthusiastically", but that would be "ROOTS for", how could it be "OPTS for"?

28A: Potato style: MASHED. The green pieces on top are chives, aren't they?

34A: Race of Norse gods: AESIR. I forgot. Had AESI? for a long time. AESIR is "the principal race of gods, led by Odin and living at Asgard." Very interesting root: "Old Norse, pl. of āss, god), no wonder they live in Asgard.

43A: Gov't security: T NOTE

45A: Annie or Harry Potter: ORPHAN

67A: Bit of binary code: ONE. This ONE is for you, xchefwalt.

68A: "The Highwayman poet": NOYES (Alfred). What a confusing name: NO YES. Thomas probably will "NOYER" into this name again.

69A: Dashing Flynn: ERROL. Know him, have never seen any of his movies though. Interesting book title - "My Wicked, Wicked Ways".

Down:

2D: Son of Cain: ENOCH

4D: County div., often: TWP (Township)

5D: San Simeon castle builder: HEARST. Got it from the cross fills. "San Simeon castle" is not a familiar name to me.

6D: Hazardous gas: RADON

7D: Varied: abbr: ASSTD (Assorted). What do you think of this clue?

8D: None for me, thanks: I PASS

11D: In good order: SHIPSHAPE

26D: Vocalist Vikki: CARR. Unknown to me. I googled her name. Here is her "It Must Be Him" & "All The Time".

33D: New state name: HAMPSHIRE. Another clever clue. New HAMPSHIRE.

41D: Title for M. Clouseau: INSP (Inspector). I have no idea who M. Clouseau is. I've never heard of "Pink Panther" before. This picture popped up when I googled "Inspector Clouseau".

46D: Anti-Red grp.: HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee). I pieced the answer together from the perps. Vaguely remember seeing this word in someone's comment before. Wait....OK, it's from Melissa. She mentioned HUAC when she remarked on Zero MOSTEL a few weeks ago.

48D: African menace: TSETSE. Good to see a full fly. Here is a female TSETSE. How sad, this deadly fly kills 3 millions livestock in this region every year.

50D: Prepared for action: READY. See, here is good example of how a constructor/editor can make a clue more interesting, tricking people to think of a past tense verb. A present tense "Prepare for action" is also a valid clue since READY can also be a verb.

55D: Stand for something?: EASEL. I like the question mark in the clue.

C.C.

May 5, 2008

Monday, May 5, 2008, Verna Suit

Theme: Three Red Things

17A: Three red things: HERRING MEAT WOOD

59A: Three red things: SNAPPER LIGHT ANT

3D: Three red things: CARPET WINE COATS

11D: Three red things: CROSS EYE CABBAGE

Why COATS? Why plural form? Where is the consistency?

Oops? Mr. Williams? RED comes after WHITE and BLUE? Or are you totally confused by Juliette Binoche's "Three Color Trilogy?" Why released these puzzles now rather than the 4th of July week?

I think I was still heavily NOTTED by yesterday's NOT puzzle. Could not untangle my cluttered brain this morning to completely demystify this ridiculous TONG crossword. Got mired in the ERNIE/SAENS corner. Did not know Composer Saint- ___ and simply forgot Journalist Pyle. Penned in HOIST for 50D: Holdup, and could not get ENTEBBE for 57A: Israeli raid site.

Good puzzle though. I like how CORAL is anchored in the very center of the grid, although I wish it were clued as color related. I love the way this constructor sprinkles politics into the crossword. This time it's Bill MAHER and Michael Moor's SICKO. Remember her KARL (Rove) and SCOOTER (Libby) puzzle? And the Clinton insinuated White House, White Water, Lies, Willy sub-theme in her last offering?

ACROSS:

1A: Flaky minerals: MICAS. MICA is "crumb, grain" in Latin. How flaky is it? I don't think I've ever touched a MICA.

14A: Wise words: ADAGE

20A: Talk of Toledo: ESPANOL. Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

21A: Greek houses?: FRATS. I like this clue.

25A: Pretenses: POSES

28A: Model Banks: TYRA. Hmm, TYRA, POSES & BARE, like this picture?

34A: Writer Sinclair: LEWIS. Finally, an author I know. The pride of Minnesota. I guess a __Libby (Scooter) clue would have made this puzzle too politically pronounced.

37A: Unit of force: DYNE. This word seems to visit us every week. DYNE comes from Greek "dýnamis", power.

46A: Caesar's garb: TOGA

47A: Micheal Moore movie: SICKO. Good intention, but too one-sided in delivery.

54A: Hops dryers: OASTS

57A: Israeli raid site: ENTEBBE. Never heard of ENTEBBE raid. Also known as Operation Thunderbolt.

62A: In __ (where found): SITU

65A: Cartoonist Thomas: NAST. Tired of this clue. Why not try Condé __?

66A: Say it __ so! ISN'T. Does this refer to the movie or what?

67A: Cubic meter: STERE. Though spelled differently, I still do not like Meter and METRE (53D) appear in the same puzzle.

DOWN:

1D: "Politically Incorrect" host: MAHER (Bill). I like his OUTRE satirical style.

2D: that is.: Lat: ID EST

5D: Net wielders: SEINERS. Did this one trap you also?

13D: Affirmative action: NOD. The three-letter blank actually does not leave you any chance to go to the "policy measure" direction, does it?

24D: Common nester: SPARROW. Hmm, 2 birds today, see 6D: EAGLE.

26D: Journalist Pyle: ERNIE. Here is more information. I adore this "Big Easy" ERNIE.

27D: Composer Saint- __: SAËNS (Charles Camille Saint-Saëns). Tough! Completely unknown to me. Composer name is definitely my Achilles' heel. This morning I have no desire for OMEGA watch or HERMES Birkin bag. I only want to have some knowledge and feel smart for a day. "Poor sorry Devil... shows me the fruits that rot on the tree, and the trees every day leaf out anew..." I am willing to sell my soul.

35D: World -weariness: ENNUI. Yes, Jeopardy is jejune now.

36D: Afrikaner: BOER

37D: Party Pooper: DRAG. Are you talking about our Playboy Bill MAHER?

39D: Friend of Fidel: CHE. I like how this word intersects with 45A: HERO. CHE was/is a hero to many.

46D: Chinese secret society: TONG. One more time, Mr. Williams, TONG is Chinese American secret society. I am speechless, you've really reached the epitome of arrogance. We deserve a competent editor like her.

48D: Dead as a doornail: KAPUT

50D: Holdup: HEIST

52D: Capp lad: ABNER. Li'l Abner.

53D: Downing Street distance: METRE. Good clue. He is my favorite 10 Downing Street resident.

I forgot to mention earlier that there are quite a few actors/actresses' names in this puzzle, characteristic of Ms. Suit's style. But all of them are gimmes to me today.

C.C.

Apr 23, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 Verna Suit

Theme: THREE BLUE THINGS

17A: Three blue things: PRINT TOOTH GRASS

57A: Three blue things: STREAK JAY CHEESE

3D: Three blue things: CHIP DANUBE BERRY

11D: Three blue things: JEANS RIBBON BELL

Alright, it looks like Hillary is hellbent on fighting until the very last "Bitter" end, since she has scored a string of big BLUE States wins. Why can't Obama close the deal?

Anyway, I don't care. I only want to know how Jeff Immelt faces shareholders' PILLORY today in PA. I want to know how he spins his rationale for the GE's disastrous report. More "BLUE Chips blue" excuse? Bear Stearn's collapse? What on earth happened during the last month of the quarter? Gosh, this guy is unbelievable!

I've never heard of BLUE DANUBE, BLUE TOOTH and BLUE STREAK, but the "BLUE" theme eased my solving pain tremendously. My nightmare this morning was the MAU MAUS and MaCrae part of the puzzle. After penning in TSAR, I put SCORN for "Pillory purpose" (SHAME). Have never watched the "Terminator", so "I'M BACK" did not succumb to me easily. I've heard of TAMIL Tigers many times, but I had no idea that TAMIL refers to the language. Philip AHN, MAU MAUS, MaCrae were all strangers to me. Wanted BHUTAN for 46A: Borneao sultanate (BRUNEI), but NOKIA and DEEJAY both said NO.

So, I called Mr. Google, and we had a short but intense flirting.

ACROSS:

1A: PC alternative: MACS

5A: Intruded: BARGED

11A: Tight spot: JAM

14A: Massage target: ACHE. Massage again? Didn't you just have one yesterday? Oh ACHY!

15A: Former San Francisco mayor: ALIOTO (Joseph). No idea. Gavin Newsom is enough for me!

20A: Old photo color: SEPIA

21A: Harrow rival: ETON. James Bond's school. Churchill attended Harrow.

23A: "___ the Explora": DORA. Hi Dora!

29A: Unhip one: NERD

34A: Philip of "Kung Fu": AHN. See here for more information.

35A: Velvety flora: MOSS. Too unhip! Try her next time! That's my perfume. (Update later: The Opium girl in the picture is supermodel Kate MOSS)

36A: Lake near Syracuse: ONEIDA

37A: '50s Kenyan rebels: MAU MAUS

39A: Sowing site: SEEDBED

40A: "Terminator" sequel words: I'M BACK

41A: Micro-processors': abbr.: CPUS (Central Processing Unit)

43A: Parasitic creature: LEECH

44A: Take off: DOFF

45A: Refuses to: WON'T

46A: Borneo sultanate: BRUNEI. Its capital city is Bandar Seri Begawan, no wonder the constructor used the island name for the clue. Here is a map.

52A: Prefix for one: OENO. Hey, any oenophilia here? OENO is also "Goddess of Wine" in Greek Mythology.

54A: Scrapbook: ALBUM

61A: Luxury watch maker: PIAGET. Faintly remembered it.

64A: Hounds, sometimes: BAYERS

DOWN:

5D: Night flyer: BAT. Wish it were clued as "Baseball player's club", it would be great companion for MISS (13D: Not hit).

7D: Unruly mob: RIOTERS

8D: Aged: GOT OLD

9D: Culture: pref.: ETHNO. As in Ethnology.

13D: Not hit: MISS

19D: Shortened, as sails: REEFED. Did not know it until today.

24D: Actress Aimee: ANOUK. Saw AIMEE clued as "Actress Anouk" before.

26D: French door parts: PANES

27D: Sri Lankan language: TAMIL

28D: Pillory purpose: SHAME

30D: Tee preceder: ESS. Put "TO A" first.

32D: Classic theater: ODEON. Better than "Music Hall" clue.

35D: ___ Picchu: MACHU

36D: French eggs: OEUFS. Hmm, want some oeufs brouillés?

38D: Gordon of "Oklahoma": MacRae. See here for more information.

39D: Tanning lotion letters: SPF (Sun Protection Factor). I think mine is SPF30.

41D: Mint function: COINAGE. I put REFRESH first, but quickly corrected myself.

44D: Record player?: DEEJAY. Why question mark?

45D: Polish Peace Nobelist: WALESA. Nice touch here by the Editor. He avoided "Nobelist Lech" due to clue 43A (Leech).

47D: Cell phone maker: NOKIA

49D: Crying sound: WAH

50D: Nile snakes: ASPS. As lethal as SEPS?

53D: __ and terminer: OYER. No idea. Wanted COMMENCER but could not cram it in!

55D: Old VOA parent: USIA (United States Information Agency). Used to like VOA China.

56D: Shea nine: METS. Hello Santana, we miss you!

58D: Police call letters: APB (All Points Bulletin)

59D: $ percentages: CTS (CENTS)

C. C.

Apr 15, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 Verna Suit

Theme: 3 WHITE THINGS

17A: 3 white things: WATER BREAD HOUSE

61A: 3 white things: LIE SOX CHOCOLATE

3D: 3 white things: RAT ELEPHANT MEAT

11D: 3 white things: SAUCE COLLAR WALL

And some NECCO wafer (52D) and some unagi sushi rolls (25D: EEL). YUM! (40D: Dee-lish!)

This puzzle felt like it was originally constructed for TV guide, very movie-concentrated. I was annoyed by the inconsistency in the cluing of actors'/actresses' names. If you clue ABLA as Jessica, ADAM as Comic Sandler, EMIL as Actor Jannings, then 58A: MAE should be simply clued as Actress West, no need to mention the movie title (West of "My Little Chickadee"). The cluing for the role parts is pretty consistent, everyone of them has the movie/TV title: "Casablanca" heroine (ILSA), "Damn Yankees" vamp (LOLA), Ted's "Cheers" role (SAM).

Anyway, I tanked again today. I guess I was still dazed by yesterday's ULRIC/SHIV puzzle. And this vast field of Movie/TV related entries is definitely my TERRA INCOGNITA. I've got to find a way to turn this Achilles' heel into strength, somehow.

I threw in the towel very quickly, oh, probably after 15 minutes of floundering, then started my hot and heavy flirting with Mr. Google! Did not enjoy this puzzle at all.

Across clues:

4A: Ms. Andress: URSULA. Alright, let's start with her picture in Dr. No.

10A: Atlas section: ASIA

14A: Physician's org: AMA. Told you yesterday I was IATROPHOBIC. But I guess it will drive some people nuts if it's clued as "Japanese pearl diver". I wonder why most of the AMA Divers are women.

15A: Self-assured: POISED

19A: Date tree: PALM. Clue is not accurate, should add "Some". Look at these dates, they don't grow on palm trees.

20A: Foes: ENEMIES. They are us.

23A: Preserve, in a way: CAN

23A: "The Persistence of Memory" and others: DALÍS. Need to add "Painter" in the clue. Here is the painting.

24A: Founding Shaker: ANN LEE. Mother ANNE LEE. I've never heard of her.

26A: Late-night news hour: ELEVEN. I wish the entry were ÉLÈVES. It would be a perfect match for 65D: ÉCOLES.

29A: Tiny particles: SPECKS

36A: Approaches a red light: SLOWS

37A: Qatar's capital: DOHA. Today is the last day of DOHA Forum.

39A: Willy follower: NILLY. I thought of WONKA first, but quickly dismissed it.

41A: Smelting waster: SLAG

42A: Warning sound: ALARM. I put ALERT there for a long time.

44A: Remove errors from: DEBUG. "Remove errors" is sufficient, not need to add "from".

47A: Lunatic: MANIAC

49A: 1936 Loretta Young title role: RAMONA. Had no idea about this film. I am surprised by the specificity of the clue though, is 1936 that essential to string together the answer?

53A: __ incognita: TERRA. Unknown land. The plural form is TERRAE incognitae.

56A: Ted's "Cheers" role: SAM (Malone). Ted Danson role. No idea. But I am pleased that the Editor decided to put the pianist SAM on the DL today.

58A: West of "My Little Chickadee": MAE. Filled in MAE simply because she is the only West in Hollywood. Have never heard of the movie. (Update from superfrey: Adam West is the original Batman)

59A: Corridor: HALLWAY

64A: Aleutian island: ADAK. No idea. Looks like ATKA is also an island here. (Update from Dennis: ATTU is another Aleutian island)

65A: Schools near Seine: ÉCOLES

68A: Burns or Browning: ROBERT

69A: Pres. or CEO.: LDR (LEADER). No, nope, not familiar with this abbreviation at all.

Down clues:

1D: Spoke crow? CAWED. I like this clue a lot.

2D: Appliance maker: AMANA

4D: Rebels: UPRISES. Verb form here.

8D: Memorize: LEARN

9D: Extras: ADD-ONS

12D: "Casablanca" heroine: ILSA. OK, she said "Play it, Sam". Now I am waiting for RICK to appear in the next puzzle.

18D: Actor Jannings: EMIL. I vaguely remember I saw his mug before. Maybe his name came up when I was searching for Runner Zatopek.

24D: Moose toppers: ANTLERS. I prefer the clue to have "?".

28D: "National Velvet" author Bagnold: ENID. "Author Bagnold" should be sufficient!

30D: "The Bridge on the River __": KWAI. No, total stranger to me.

31D: Certain N. C. O. : SSGT

32D: Comic Sandler: ADAM. Mr. Deeds.

33D: "Damn Yankees" vamp: LOLA

35D: Actress Jessica: ALBA. She and mkat both eat peach for breakfast! Isn't she beautiful?

38D: "Tosca" tune: ARIA. Puccini work.

43D: Swedish city opposite Copenhagen: MALMO. Alright, here is the map. See Copenhagen (København) on the left?

45D: Had to ask directions: GOT LOST

48D: Cajoler: COAXER

50D: Jodie Foster film: NELL

52D: Tasty wafter brand: NECCO (Acronym for New England Confectionery Company).

55D: Per annum: A YEAR. Groan!

56D: Criticize severely: SLAM. Hmm, Hillary, I wonder who is the real "Elitist" here? Not someone who attended Wellesley College? Not someone who spent years working for the ""the ultimate establishment law firm"? Not someone who earned over $100 million in the past 8 years?

57D: Verdi opera: AIDA. The only Verdi opera I know.

60D: Maple genus: ACER. Also a big PC manufacturer

62D: Jamaican music: SKA. Nope. I only like Bob Marley & his Reggae.

63D: Fireplace shelf: HOB

C.C.

Mar 10, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008 Verna Suit

Theme: Flower Girls

A17: Ernestine's creator: LILY TOMLIN

59A: Porky's girlfriend: PETUNIA PIG

10D: Henry James title character: DAISY MILLER

24D: Puzzle theme: FLOWER GIRLS

OK, do you still stubbornly believe our puzzle mirrors the NY Times' difficulty patten? If so, this is not a Monday puzzle, it belongs to Friday/Saturday. Granted, it's a new constructor, so it takes time for us to get into her wavelength. But the editor could easily reworded several clues if he wanted Monday to be the easiest. The conclusion: TMS crossword is random.

I slogged like a blind man this morning. Could not find my way out. Struggled hard at every corner. The fact that SCOOTER (Libby) & KARL (Rove) appeared in the same puzzle was very disconcerting.

Here are some of the across entries.

1A: Cut ruthlessly: HACK. That's how I solved your puzzle Ms. Suit!

5A: Get lost!: SCRAM

10A: Cowgirl Evans: DALE

15A: Colorado brewery: COORS

16A: Sale caveat: AS IS

A17: Ernestine's creator: LILY TOMLIN. I had no idea who/what Ernestine was. For all I knew, she could be another Mona Lisa, or another Scarlett O'Hara, or another Rubik's Cube, so I was wracking my brain for a painter/composer/author/creator's name. Never watched Laugh-in. Tomline played the wisecracking Ernestine in it. Hated the clue.

20A: Sault __ Marie: STE.

23A: Has aspirations: HOPES. You aspire, you strive, you pursue, you seek, and you hope? Are they the same?

22A: Hit single's companion: B SIDE. Sounds so clunky to me.

23A: Crisp fabric: TAFFETA. This word is of Persian origin, meaning "Twisted woven", considered to be high-end fabric according to Wikipedia.

25A: Brit's indignant comment: I SAY. Bloody.

27A: Property claim: LIEN

28A: Upscale department store, briefly: NEIMANS. Neiman Marcus. Needlessly Marked up. Kohl's is all I can afford.

32A: My bad!: I'M SORRY

35A: Sea of Israel: GALILEE. Is it a gimme for you?

37A: "Gentlemen prefer Blondes": LOOS (Anita). Never heard of her. The movie (Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, 1953) was OK.

38A: Francis and Dahl: ARLENES. Complete strangers to me.

42A: Greek: HELLENE. No idea.

45A: Proximal: NEAREST

46A: _fixe (obsession): IDEE. My current idee fixe: Hillary the fish slimer. Can you believe they will stoop that low to curry favor with the voters? Well, at least, I learned that there was a difference between gutting a fish and sliming a fish.

48A: Dawdled: TARRIED

52A: Unspoken: TACIT

55A: "Midnight Cowboy" role: RATSO. Never watched this movie. Had no knowledge of Ratso. It sounds like a stoolie to me.

57A: 1011: MXI. Yep. Our editor is having a Roman Numerals Fest lately. 2 in yesterday's puzzle also.

58A: Cracked open: AJAR

59A: Porky's girlfriend: PETUNIA PIG. Walt Disney cartoon characters. I simply did not know. (update: I was wrong. It's Warner Brother's Looney Tunes).

61A: "Communist Manifesto" author Marx: KARL. Marx, Engles, Lennin and Chairman Mao. That's the stuff I grew up with, not Porky Pig or Mickey Mouse.

62A: Michaels of "SNL": LORNE. It was clued as Actor Greene in yesterday's puzzle.

63A: Pastrami purveyor: DELI

64A: Former mates: EXES. God, I hated this word "Mates".

65A: Basketry willow: OSIER. What a weird looking word. I am sure I will forget it next time.

66A: Menu plan: DIET. Why? I was thinking of Steak & Potato, Fish & Rice, Clam noodles, you know, a real meal menu.

Down entries:

1D: Composer of "The Planets": HOLST. My brain simply refused to take in certain names. This guy was on Friday's puzzle.

2D: Novelist Brookner: ANITA. What's wrong with Anita Hill? Has anyone ever heard of Anita Brookner?

3D: Staff symbol: C CLEF

4D: E or G, e.g.: KEY. I like how 3D and 4 D are stacked together.

5D: Motorcycle's little brother: SCOOTER

6D: Guests: COMPANY. I filled in letter "S" all too eagerly.

9D: Certain ISP: MSN.

10D: Henry James title character: DAISY MILLER. The only James' book I read is The Portrait of a Lady, and I could not dislodge the main character's name from my dense brain at this moment.

11D: __ Spumante: ASTI. The wine.

13D: Salinger girl: ESMÉ. For Esmé with Love and Squalor. Never read it.

18D: "A League of __ own": THEIR. Tom Hanks, Madonna, Geena Davis were all in it. I don't know why I dislike this movie.

22D: Cash for Security: BAIL. I put Bond first.

24D: Puzzle theme: FLOWER GIRLS. The clue should be "This puzzle's theme", don't you think so?

25D: Black or White: SEA. Good clue. Here is the map for White Sea.

29D: Medicinal plant: ALOE. Sometimes it's SENNA.

31D: Mobutu _ Seko: SESE. Nope, never heard of him. The Zaire President. The only African evil men I knew were Idi Amin and Charles Taylor (the Liberia dictator).

32D: Reitman or Pavlov: IVAN. Ivan Pavlov, yes, Reitman No.

33D: Soggy ground: MIRE

34D: Actress Ward: SELA. Our crossword editor's favorite actress.

42D: Top-forty song: HIT TUNE. I suppose so.

43D: "Lou Grant" star: ED ASNER

44D: Writer Jones: LEROI. Completely, utterly, totally unknown to me. (Update: I got this information from a reader. Jones is also known as Amiri Baraka. Poet, Black activist, author of many excellent books like "Blues People" and "Black Music".)

49D: Mile High Center architect: I. M. PEI. He also designed the Louvre Pyramid and JFK Library.

50D: Napoleon's punishment: EXILE

52D: Make off with: TAKE. Steal.

53D: Trojan War hero: AJAX. Also a cleanser brand, "Stronger than dirt".

54D: Give a hoot: CARE

56D: Italian bell town: ATRI. The Bell of Atri. Did not know this tale, never read Longfellow's poem either.

59D: Middle East grp.: PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization). Abbas is their current leader. What a mess Arafat left behind! Or rather, what a mess Arafat created!

Have a good week.

C. C.