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Nov 18, 2008

Tuesday November 18, 2008 John Underwood

Theme: America's Major Wars

20A: Conflict ended 11/11/18: WORLD WAR ONE

37A: Conflict ended 2/28/91: GULF WAR

51A: Conflict ended 9/2/45: WORLD WAR TWO

11D: Conflict ended 2/2/1848: MEXICAN WAR

28D: Conflict ended 4/30/75: VIETNAM WAR

I think this puzzle was intended for last Tuesday. I also think that the original clue for NOVEMBER (11D: Election month) is "Veterans Day month".

Revolutionary War has 16 letters, so it won't fit in a 15*15 grid. Civil War and Korean War have different number of letters, and there is no way they can be put in the grid symmetrically. I wonder if John Understood has considered IRAQ WAR for 37A to add some scrabbliness to his puzzle. It also has an odd number of letter, which is perfect for a center theme fill.

Because SEATS is the answer for 64A: Places at the tables, the clues for ROW (57A: Line of seat) and SADDLE (5D: Bike seat) definitely need to be changed.

I don't think I could finish this puzzle without the theme answer help today. Some of the fills were very obscure to me: LIVIA, IVOR, INO, AMON, JABBA, ALIDA, ADARE and YONNE. Oh, I've never heard of HI HO crackers either.

Across:

1A: Handmade weapons: SHIVS. Did you see "In Cold Blood"?

2A: Black-eyed or lazy girl?: SUSAN. Can you think of a clever way to clue Brooke Shields' "Suddenly SUSAN"?

14A: Durrell novel: LIVIA. I doubt this novel LIVIA is a gimme for anyone.

16A: "__ tu" (Verdi aria): ERI. Here is a clip. I got from the down fills. What's the meaning of "ERI tu"?

17A: Get __ of yourself: A HOLD. I wonder why ADARE (62A: Antarctic cape) is not clued as a partial fill as well, you know, "On A DARE". I am not familiar with Cape ADARE.

22A: Daughter of Cadmus: INO. Is it pronounced the same as "I know"? Have never heard of INO or Cadmus.

23A: Valli of "The Third Man": ALIDA. See this poster. Why is her name incomplete?

29A: Fat Hutt: JABBA. I obtained his name from the adjacent fills. Not a "Star Wars" fan. Eek, he is ugly.

40A: Former Dodges: INTREPIDS. Why "Former"?

44A: Makes a basket: SCORES. I was picturing a handmade basket rather than the basketball basket.

59A: Eye shade?: VISOR. I like this clue.

61A:Burgundy river: YONNE. See this map. I don't think even Carla Bruni knows this river, unless her husband desperately needs the votes in the YONNE Department.

Down:

2D: Brand of crackers: HI HO. Have never heard of HI HO crackers before. I can only think of Ritz, which is also 4-letter. By the way, we call crackers "biscuits" in China.

3D: Welsh actor Novello: IVOR. I googled his name. He appeared in our puzzle before.

4D: Bad guy: VILLAIN

8D: Pudding starch: SAGO. Want some?

9D: Egyptian fertility god: AMON. Also spelled as AMEN, AMUN. I would not have got this god without the across fills. Isn't BAAL "God of fertility" also? We just had ASTARTE (clued as "Ancient Fertility goddess") the other day. ASTARTE = Ishtar.

21D: Wag of the tongue: WIT. Mine was WET. I did not know that "wag" can mean "a humorous person".

33D: Old postal abbr.: RFD (Rural Free Delivery). Learned from doing Xword.

42D: Thrill trip: JOYRIDE. Is "joyrider" a word?

45D: Fancy tie: CRAVAT. From French cravate I suppose.

46D: Column style: DORIC. Ionic is also 5-letter.

C.C.

Nov 17, 2008

Monday November 17, 2008 Doug Peterson

Theme: Terms of Address for Women

20A: The Nine Days' Queen: LADY JANE GREY

36A: Sherwood Forest damsel: MAID MARIAN

42A: Musical set in Vietnam: MISS SAIGON

56A: Flaubert novel: MADAME BOVARY

Poor Mrs. Robbinson, I don't think Doug Peterson loves her at all. But I am glad IVANA is clued as "Former Mrs. Trump". Robin Williams' "Mrs. Doubtfire" should be a great theme entry too.

This puzzle SINGS (30D: Does a number) for me, full of pop culture and literary figures that I am actually familiar with: HEIGL, GARY SINISE, uncle LEO, JEM, MADAM BOVARY, etc.

Still needed a couple of googles and wite-out to finish this puzzle. But I enjoyed it tremendously. It did not make me feel stupid.

Across:

5A: Alda sitcom: M*A*S*H. I wish ALAN (6D: Novelist Paton) were clued as "5A star" for a tie-in. I've never heard of ALAN Paton. Fascinating, Wikipedia says his first book "Cry, Beloved Country" was picked up by Maxwell Perkins, the editor of genius (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, etc.).

9A: Capital of Belarus: MINSK. Do you know that Louis B. Mayer was born in MINSK?

18A: Colombian city: CALI. It's Colombia's second largest city. Lots of drug here, I am sure.

19A: Element #54: XENON. I googled this element. Can never remeber this noble gas.

24A: City in central Israel: LOD. Can not find LOD in this map.

31A: San Luis __, CA: OBISPO. Here is the map. It appeared in our puzzle before.

45A: Slaughter of baseball: ENOS. Or "Adam's grandson". "Speaker of baseball" is TRIS.

52A: Tearjerker: WEEPER. Both sound like made-up words to me.

59A: Poppy product: OPIUM. I wonder if there is a way to legalize the OPIUM production in Afganistan. Did you watch "Charlie Wilson's War"? Philip Seymour Hoffman was simply brilliant as CIA operative Gust.

64A: Language of Iran: FARSI. I just learned the other day that "julep" is "rose water" in FARSI.

65A: "The King and I" actress: KERR. Here is a clip. I was thinking of Jodie Foster's "Anna and the King".

Down:

1D: Overflowed: SPILT. As in SPILT milk?

2D: Peninsula near Hongkong: MACAO. We spell it as MACAU in China. It's in south China. A former Portuguese colony until 1999. See it? See my hometown Xi'An?

4D: "CSI: NY" star: GARY SINISE. I like his Lieutenant Dan role in "Forrest Gump". He is also great in "Ransom".

5D: Paving material: MACADAM. Named after "J. L. McAdam, the Scottish engineer who invented it." PAVE was clued as "Macadamize" last time.

8D: Katherine of "27 Dresses": HEIGL. I like its happy ending, so romantic. I also like HEIGL's "Love Comes Softly".

9D: Motley assortment: MIXED BAG

10D: Judith of "Sister, Sister": IVEY. I've never heard of IVEY or "Sister, Sister". Is she very famous?

21D: "To Kill a Mockingbird" boy: JEM. Scout's brother. Great book.

26D: Joe of "NCIS": SPANO. He is very annoying in "NYPD Blue". I've never seen "NCIS".

33D: Nasser of Egypt: GAMAL. Got it from the across fills. I only knew NASSER when the clue is "Anwar's predecessor". His full name is GAMAL Abdel Nasser.

39D: Big wave: TSUNAMIS

54D: Susan Lucci's soap role: ERICA. Susan Lucci's beauty secret is to eat lots of sardines, What's yours?

57D: Champagne name: MOET. I've never had MOET et Chandon, have you? MOET is the M in LVMH. Louis Vuitton has probably spent more money than any other luxury brands to stop counterfeit products in China.

C.C.

Nov 16, 2008

Sunday November 16, 2008 Michael T. Wiliams

Theme: Watch the Finish

23A: Thrilla in Manila, e.g.: BOXING MATCH

34A: Fielding feat: DIVING CATCH

46A: Extra door security: SAFETY LATCH

67A: Magician's secret: ESCAPE HATCH

81A: Blooming plot: FLOWER PATCH

109A: How the best cakes are made: FROM SCRATCH

114A: Chocolate chip collective: COOKIE BATCH

FLOWER, COOKIE and "How the best cakes are made", so sweet!

The constructor used up every *ATCH phrase for his theme entries. *Watch does not rhyme, and he put it in his theme title. Very clever. It would be perfect if he squeezed in NATCH somewhere.

I think I mentioned this before: When there is an odd number of theme entries, the middle one must be structured in the very heart of the puzzle, and it must have an odd number of letters. See today's ESCAPE HATCH. The symmetry of the grid demands so.

I had a very smooth solving today. Caught the theme very early on and was able to fill in all the finishing letters of the theme answers.

I love the FISH clue (81D: Catch some rays?). I was thinking of BASK since TAN & SUN did not fit. It finally dawned on me that "rays" are fish, not sunshine.

Across:

1A: Melonlike tropical fruit: PAPAYA. Yes, PAPAYA does look like melon, the taste is totally different though.

11A: Rhythmic swing: LILT. And YODELS (47D: Alpine songs).

20A: Lomond or Ness, for example: LOCH. I would not have got CCCP (9D: Cyrillic USSR) without LOCH. Somehow I can never remember CCCP. Someone mentioned "Charlie's Cold Chicken Pie" as a mnemonic last time.

21A: Member of a stand: TREE. I don't understand this one, why?

26A: S. American nation: ECUA. Its capital is Quito.

27A: Work-shoe protection: TOECAP. New to me. So TOECAP protects the shoe, not your toe?

30A: Sally Field movie: NORMA RAE. Good to see its full name.

40A: Ophelia's brother: LAERTES. I googled his name. He killed Hamlet with a poisoned blade.

43A: Layer beneath membrane: ECTOPLASM. Opps: ENDOPLASM. New to me.

57A: U.K. ref. set: OED. It has 20 volumes. Amazing. But who reads it?

58A: Dundee of boxing: ANGELO. Unknown to me. Wikipedia says he worked with ALI (112A: The Greatest) for many years. What is "a bucket guy"?

63A: Japanese vegetables: UDOS. Have you had UDOS before? I might have had it in some miso soup before. Could not remember their flavor.

78A: Membrane of grasses: PALEA. Plural is PALEAE. See this diagram. New word to me.

79A: Hale-Bopp or Kohoutek: COMET. I guessed.

90A: Doofus: SCHMO

91A: Deejay's gimmick: AUTOCUE. I don't understand this one. Why does Deejay needs AUTOCUE?

103A: Guide to Valhalla: VALKYRIE. No idea. It's "any of the beautiful maidens attendant upon Odin who bring the souls of slain warriors chosen by Odin or Tyr to Valhalla and there wait upon them". Kind of like Muslim Houri, isn't it?

105A: Travel channel?: LANE

106A: Unaspirated, like B or D: LENIS. This is also a new word to me.

107A: "___ Howser, M. D.": DOOGIE. I googled, then I realized that I had searched for this TV series before.

109A: Indigo dye: ANIL. What exactly is ANIL?

117A: Jewish month: ADAR. I bet this has become a gimme for all the TMS puzzle solvers. It's always ADAR if the clue is "Jewish month" (4 letters).

119A: Dar es__ Tanzania: SALAAM. Ha, I forgot this city again. Searched this name before. Literally, "abode of Peace". The largest city in Tanzania.

123A: Govt. issued securities: T-BILLS

Down:

1D: Dangerous insulation mtl.: PCB. I obtained this word from across fills.

2D: Orinoco tributary: ARO. It's clued as "Venezuelan river" last time. If you find a map, please share with us. This Rio Orinoco is the only thing I got.

14D: Riot queller: TEAR GAS

15D: Roman autocrat: CEASAR. He said "Veni, vidi, vici" & "Et tu, Brute?".

18D: Moors: HEATHS

28D: Flintonstones' pet: DINO

44D: :S: in music: PRESA. No idea. I don't understand the clue neither, waiting for Kittyb's explanation.

49D: Aussie rockers: AC/DC. OK, here is their "You Shook Me All Night Long".

52D: Well-plumed bird: EGRET

60D: "__ Cane": MONDO. I saw it before, very strange film.

65D: School for Sartre: ECOLE. "School for Simone" too of course. What a beautiful relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre! True love does not mean that you have to own each other physically.

68D: Hammerin' Hank: AARON. He has 755 home runs, the true home run king!

80D: Battery brand: EVEREADY. I've never heard of EVEREADY before. It does not exist any more, right?

84D: God of thunder: THOR. He always carries a hammer. Thursday is named after him.

85D: 951: CMLI

88D: Part of NRC: NUCLEAR. NRC is Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

89D: Fictional sleuths: TECS. Our editor likes to clue it as "Gumshoes".

92D: Muse of astrology: URANIA. Here is a picture. She usually holds a globe on her left hand.

93D: Pick-me-ups: TONICS

94D: Denver concoction: OMELET. Denver OMELET, looks delicious!

101D: Handlelike parts: ANSAE. Singular form is ANSA, often clued as "Latin handle".

115D: "__ Pinafore": H.M.S. Not familiar with this comic opera.

C.C.

Nov 15, 2008

Saturday November 15, 2008 Matthew Higgins

Theme: None

Total block: 27

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

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

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

Across:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

48A: Examined again: REINSPECTED

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

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

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

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

Down:

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

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

3D: Parts of eyes: CORNEAS

6D: Extra something: ADDITIVE

7D: Takes on: ASSUMES

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

9D: People who snoop: PRIERS

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

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

33D: Infringement: TRESPASS

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

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

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

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

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

C.C.

Nov 14, 2008

Friday November 14, 2008 William S. Richardson

Theme: Tribute to a Comedian

17A: George Carlin album: CLASS CLOWN

40A: George Carlin album: OCCUPATION: FOOLE

63A: Classic bit from 17A: SEVEN WORDS

Several months' late, but better late than never. I am sure this puzzle was submitted to our editor in late June or early July.

This constructor is new to me, but I did not encounter any unusual heavy fighting solving his gird. Many of the clues feel very familiar, so I am sure lots of editing was done.

I don't like the VOC clue (32D: Type of sch.). I would change VEST (32A: Three-piece piece) into REST, so 32D would be ROC, which is often clued as "Mythical bird of prey" by Williams.

Across:

1A: French cleric: ABBE. Curé is French for cleric too.

5A: Discomfit: ABASH. I am only familiar with "unabashed".

16A: New Greek coin: EURO. I like this clue.

20A: Well-plumed bird: EGRET. What are they looking at?

37A: Like some peanuts: SALTED. I like my nuts to be honeyed. I love HONEY (9D: Bee product), don't you?

43A: Tight spot: CORNER

49A: Tex. campus: SMU. Bush Library will be built in this campus. SMU is Laura Bush's alma mater.

51A: Goddess of folly: ATE. Learned from doing Xword. She is Zeus's oldest daughter. Wikipedia says ATE is also "the action performed by the hero, usually because of his or her HUBRIS that leads to his or her death or downfall."

53A: Layer: STRATUM

58A: Secret assembly: CONCLAVE. I always associate CONCLAVE with cardinals' mystifying process of electing a new pope.

68A: Guitar ridge: FRET. No idea. I don't know anything about guitar. See this diagram: 4 is FRETS, and 20 is fretboard.

69A: Ferrell or Banks: TYRA. Banks is the supermodel. Ferrell is in "White Man Can't Jump" starring Woody Harrelson. Very noisy movie.

70A: Steisand film: YENTL. I've never seen the movie. YENTL, Yenta (Busybody) and Yente ("Fiddler on the Roof" matchmaker), so confusing.

Down:

2D: Protuberance: BULGE. Wikipedia says "The Battle of the BULGE was the bloodiest of the battles that U.S. forces experienced in World War II. The 19,000 American dead were unsurpassed by those of any other engagement". Including all the battles in Vietnam War, I suppose?

5D: Coll. sports grp.: ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference). See this list of ACC members.

6D: Dance in France: BAL

11D: Top of fraction: NUMERATOR

33D: "The Name of the Rose" writer: ECO. Here is the book cover. ECO has been clued as Author Umberto" several times in our puzzle before.

34D: Moocher: SCROUNGER. My favorite entry. Lots of consonants.

39D: Scottish river: DEE. I guessed. I could only remember TAY. Here is the map. It's in Aberdeen.

41D: Flower element: PETAL. I always thought of "Bouquet" as a bunch of flowers, had no idea that it also meant SCENT (49D).

47D: Unsparing: SEVERE

50D: Comic Amsterdam: MOREY. No idea. I got his name from across fills. Is he in this "Dick Van Dyke" picture?

57D: Sail supports: MASTS. I like the intersection of MASTS and TARS (71D: Old sailors).

60D: Bayh or Hunter: EVAN. Know Senator Bayh, not Hunter.

65D: Org. of Ducks and Rangers: NHL. I want the clue to be "Org. of Penguins and Ducks".

C.C.

Nov 13, 2008

Thursday November 13, 2008 Alan P. Olschwang

Theme: Use it or Lost it

23A: Start of quip: THE BRAIN IS NO

37A: Part 2 of quip: STRONGER THAN ITS

47A: End of quip: WEAKEST THINK

Well, it's a twist of Thomas L. Masson's quote: "No brain is stronger than its weakest think." And it appeared initially as "The brain is as strong as its weakest think".

Is THINK a noun here? I don't think I fully understand the grammatical structure of this quip.

I also don't understand the clue for HORN (24D: Plenty, for one?). Why?

Easy puzzle though, very doable.

Across:

5A: Actress Bernhardt: SARAH. Known as "The Divine Sarah". She was so famous that the Le Figaro newspapers declared in 1899 that "everyone was coming to Paris to see two profiles: that of the Eiffel Tower, and SARAH Bernhardt''. But I've never heard of her before.

18A: Rot-resistant wood: ALDER. It's also resistant to water damage and insect infestation.

19A: Muffin pans: TINS. Hmmm, muffins, want some?

22A: City on the Rhone delta: ARLES. Here is van Gogh's "Cafe Terrace at Night in ARLES".

27A: President after Polk: TAYLOR. He is the last elected Whig president. And ABRAM (59A: Pres. James __ Garfield). "Pres." should not be abbreviated.

30A: Cameo stone: ONYX. What's the difference between ONYX and agate?

32A: Ste. Jeanne __: D'ARC. Jeanne is French for Joan, I suppose?

46A: Double dealing: DECEIT

62A: Hide in the shadows: LURK. I like how it intersects SKULKS (44D: Moves about stealthily).

Down:

1D: Glob of paint: DAUB. Move your mouse here and see if you can create your own Pollock drip masterpiece.

3D: Write off?: DELE. I like this clue.

4D: University near Tempa: SAINT LEO. I got it from the across clues. Wikipedia says Desi Arnaz & Lee Marvin attended this university.

5D: Undercoat material: SEALER

10D: Numerical array: MATRIX. Not familiar with this math term.

11D: Seed cover: ARILS. What's the difference between ARIL and testa?

29D: Mongol's tent: YURT. Turkish origin. Literally "dwelling place". Too strong an orange color inside his YURT.

35D: Needle case: ETUI. Dictionary says ETUI is rooted in old French estuier, meaning "to guard".

40D: V formation: NECKLINE. Yes, indeed, "It may be plunging".

46D: Rheostat: DIMMER. What? DIMMER in 1890 already?

C.C.

Nov 12, 2008

Wednesday November 12, 2008 Edgar Fontaine

Theme: TERROR TRAIN (55A: Film starring first names of 21A, 33A and 42A)

21A: "The Naked Chef": JAMIE OLIVER

33A: "The Father of Radio": LEE DE FOREST

42A: "Old Iron Pants": CURTIS LEMAY

Boy, I was not familiar with any of those nicknames. I recognized JAMIE OLIVER's face when I googled his name. I must have seen him on "Iron Chef America" or some other Food Network program.

I was stumped last time when LEMAY was clued as "Wallace’s running mate". But I never bothered to read details of the Wikipedia entry. "Old Iron Pants", what a strange nickname! Have never heard of LEE DE FOREST either. I always thought Edison or Tesla is "The Father of Radio".

Easy puzzle though. Most of the unknowns were obtainable from crossing fills. I really like the clue for I DO (41A: Rite answer?"). Yesterday's "Union Contract?" is great too. ASIA is the answer for 66A: One side of the Urals, so to avoid any kind of remote duplication of clue/answer, I would have clued ABACI (2D: Asian calculations") as "63A counters" (63A: Sphere of sweat: BEAD)

The clue for EDGAR (67A: Degas or Bergen) made me laugh. Way to go, Mr. EDGAR Fountaine.

Across:

15A: Gag reflex?: HAHA. Funny clue.

16A: Waterfall fallout: SPRAY. The clue reminds me of "Deliverance", with those dangerous stretches of rapids.

18A: Joie de vivre: ELAN. I love Frédéric Fekkai's "A Year of Style". I like his view on "Joie de vivre".

19A: Irregularly notched: EROSE. Probably only a crossword word, isn't it?

23A: Mythical mariner: SINBAD. I wonder if SINBAD worshipped Poseidon/Neptune as his god of sea. Or do Arabs have their own sea god?

29A: Jodie of "The Accused": FOSTER. She won an Oscar for "The Accused". I've never seen it. I don't like her movies. "The Silence of the Lambs" is very scary.

39A: Gen. Arnold's nickname: HAP. I forgot. He is a five-star general. Was he as famous as Gen. Omar Bradley/George Marshal?

46A: Sagan series: COSMOS. I guessed. I've never heard of Carl Sagan or COSMOS.

48A: Bounding main: OCEAN. I know "main" can refer to "sea", but why "Bounding"? Or is it a common phrase?

49A: Greek god of war: ARES. It's Mars for the Romans. Do you also think that Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus?

65A: Singer Simone: NINA. Nope, I've never heard of her name before. Which song(s) is she famous for?

Down:

1D: "Gigi" setting: PARIS. "Thank Heaven for Little Girls". I like the happy ending. "We will always have PARIS" at the end of "Casablanca" is so sad.

3D: Neighbor of Oman: YEMEN. It's also the "Neighbor of Saudi Arabia". San'a, strange capital name.

4D: Indy 500 sponsor: STP. Often clued as "The Racer's Edge".

9D: "The Waste Land" poet: T. S. ELIOT. Here is the poem. Why "For Ezra Pound" in the upper left corner? Hmmm, "April is the cruelest month...". I disagree.

11D: Part of Can.: PROV. I was thinking of the actual name of the provinces.

21D: Green shade: JADE. Ersatz JADE can bring you bad luck.

22D: Lummoxes: OAFS. Add one letter F, we have "flummox". English can be very confusing.

24D: Summoned: BADE

27D: Quantum theorist Niels: BOHR. He won Nobel in 1922. His son Aage Niels BOHR also received the Nobel Physics in 1975.

28D: Muse of verse: ERATO. "Muse of Love or Erotic verse", to be exact. "Muse of epic poem" is Calliope, and "Muse of lyrical poem" is Euterpe.

34D: Japanese novelist Shusaku: ENDO. I guessed. Have never heard of him. Wikipedia says his most famous work is "Silence" and Martin Scorsese "announced his intention to shoot a film based on the book in summer 2008".

35D: Cain's nephew: ENOS. Also HOF Slaughter.

47D: Tomei of "In the Bedroom": MARISA. Have you seen "In the Bedroom"? Is it good? I only saw her "My Cousin Vinny".

53D: Post sans postage: EMAIL

54D: Knobby: NODAL

59D: Pisa's river: ARNO. Or "Florence's river". A 4-letter Italian river has to be ARNO.

C.C.

Nov 11, 2008

Tuesday November 11, 2008 Barry Silk

Theme: Hits for the Cycle

20A: Mom or pop, but not both: SINGLE PARENT

34A: Two fold setback: DOUBLE WHAMMY

44A: Three-pronged attack: TRIPLE THREAT

60A: "Breezing Up" painter: WINSLOW HOMER

Wow, a cycle, and a natural cycle! Wikipedia says "There have been 14 natural cycles in the major leagues." And the last player to hit for the natural cycle is Brad Wilkerson of Montreal Expos (June 24, Expos versus the Pirates).

I am not familiar with "Breezing Up" or WINSLOW HOMER. I only wish that the entry for 60A started with HOMER* to be consistent with other theme answers.

I don't like the clue for EARNS (9D: Takes home) due to HOMER. I hope it's a SILKY (25A: Soft and lustrous) puzzle to you. The intersection of AQI & AQUINO gave me lots of trouble. And I struggled with lower right corner.

Across:

8A: Mock: JEER AT

14A: EPA pollution measure: AQI (Air Quality Index). Barry crossed AQI with AQABA (Red Sea gulf) in his last puzzle. Really hard crossing with AQUINO (2D: Woman of the Year). Corazo AQUINO succeeded Marcos and she was Time's 1986 Woman of the Year.

16A: Mexican state on the Pacific: OAXACA. Have you been here before? What's the origin of this name OAXACA?

19A: Scandinavian coins: KRONER. Of Denmark and Norway. Singular form: KRONE.

23A: Hydroxyl-carbon compound: ENOL. I am used to the "Organic compound" clue.

29A: Bandanna: DO-RAG. Interesting word origin from Wikipedia: "A popular folk etymology claims that the term derives from drive-on rag, a term first used by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War to refer to a mulim bandage often used as a head covering."

50A: Heat-resistant glass: PYREX. I always wonder why Corning did not sue Anchor Hocking for its Fire-King brand. PYREX is Greek for Fire-King after all.

54A: Coral segment: POLYP. New to me. Which segment is POLYP? Is it edible?

63A: Kyoto garment: KIMONO

66A: Supercomputer maker: CRAY. I forgot. CRAY appeared in our puzzle before.

67A: Mystery man: MR. X

71A: Weekend follower: MONDAY. Ah, "MONDAY MONDAY".

Down:

1D: Ran out: LAPSED

3D: Sicilian sir: SIGNOR. It's Xian Sheng in Chinese.

7D: Talk of Toledo: ESPANOL. See this Top 30 Languages of the World. #2 for ESPANOL.

10D: Unusual stuff: EXOTICA. So close to EROTICA.

22D: Like some films: RATED R

26D: __ Linda, CA: LOMA. New to me. See this map. What is it famous for?

27D: J-O connection: KLMN. I suppose there is no other way to clue to this string of letters.

28D: "Divine Secrets of the __ Sisterhood": YAYA. Have you seen the movie?

32D: Too, too cute: TWEE. No idea. It does not sound "Too, too cute" to me. In fact, it does not sound cute at all.

45D: Layered board: PLYWOOD. I don't know much about PLYWOOD. Is it cheaper than plain wood? Can you make PLYWOOD out of walnut/cherry trees?

46D: Grumman fighter plane: HELLCAT. Here is a picture. I've never heard of it before.

53D: Persian victor at Thermopylae: XERXES. XERXES I to be exact. I am not familiar with him or the Battle of Thermopylae, which is "one of history's most famous last stands" according to Wikipedia. General Patton did mention this battle in the movie "Patton", but I did not pay attention to it.

55D: Nina's sister ship: PINTA. And Santa Maria.

63D: Rudyard Kipling novel: KIM. I got it from across fills. Have never heard of this novel before. More than 1/5 of Koreans have KIM as their surname, including Kim Jong-il.

64D: Union contract?: I DO. I like this clue. I DO.

C.C.

Nov 10, 2008

Monday November 10, 2008 Michael T. Williams

Theme: Shape Up

17A: Starting all over again: BACK TO SQUARE ONE

38A: Prepare to be surrounded: CIRCLE THE WAGONS

59A: Geometric arrangement of binomial coefficients: PASCAL'S TRIANGLE

I've heard of PASCAL'S TRIANGLE, but I have no clue what it is. CIRCLE THE WAGON is a new idiom to me. Is "Katy bar the door" a well-known phrase?

I like this puzzle. Nice theme and straightforward cluing. And a gentle spa-coddling for my raisin-in-the-sun like brain.

Across:

14A: Panache: BRIO. Are you familiar with the musical term "con BRIO"?

15A: Ostriches' kin: RHEAS. RHEA is also the mother of Zeus, Hades, Hera, Poseidon and Demeter in Greek mythology.

21A: Abalone opener: OTTER. Wikipedia says some OTTERS are expert in opening shellfish.

27A: Assassinated Israeli leader: RABIN. Nobel peace winner 1994. He was assassinated in 1995. President Clinton called RABIN "a martyr for peace". I wonder if the constructor thought of BEGIN & Sadat & Camp David when he worked on this grid.

31A: Money plant?: MINT. I like this clue.

42A: Sicilian volcano: ETNA. Literally "I burn" in Greek. The Sicilian resort is called ENNA. See ETNA and ENNA?

44A: Granter of wishes: GENIE. Is there a "Granter of dreams" in any lore/myth?

68A: Palm fruits: DATES. Inaccurate clue. Chinese DATES are not "Palm fruits". I really miss the fresh dates and the tree-ripe persimmons in Xi'An.

Down:

3D: Guitar run: LICK. No idea. What is "LICK"? I don't understand the clue either. What does "run" mean?

7D: Next in a series: abbr.: SEQ (Sequel). I would not have got this one without the across fills.

9D: NASA's partner: ESA (European Space Agency). I am tired of this clue.

12D: Use a diapason: TUNE. Is "diapason" a special musical term?

18D: Holland or Lincoln, e.g.: TUNNEL. Not familiar with Holland TUNNEL.

24D: Small-time gambler: TINHORN. New word to me.

25D: International accord: ENTENTE. So close to détente.

26D: Goulash or slumgullion: STEW. Not familiar with slumgullion. It does not sound or look appealing to me.

40D: Island near Corsica: ELBA. I had no idea that ELBA belongs to Italy.

51D: Beaver Cleaver's dad: WARD. I guessed. Have never watched "Leave it to Beaver".

C.C.

Nov 9, 2008

Sunday November 9, 2008 Robert H. Wolfe

Theme: Selective Collective

27A: Group of pooches: OODLES OF POODLES

120A: Group of tropical fish: MASSES OF WRASSES

16D: Group of swine: SCORES OF BOARS

34D: Group of food fish (var.): SCADS OF SHADS

37D: Group of jumpers: LOADS OF TOADS

39D: Group of jumpers, briefly: SLEWS OF ROOS

59A: Group of male donkeys: STACKS OF JACKS

I've never heard of the tropical fish WRASSES (120A). Why there is a "var." mark for 34D?

What a puzzle! Now I feel like a raisin in the morning sun, not dried up and not plump either. I think I still have some moisture left.

I've never filled in so many blanks on a Sunday puzzle. The simple rhyming theme certainly helped. And there was no obscure medical/chemical term intersecting one another to frustrate me.

Had to do a few googling and a few V-8 moment wite-outs in the end. But today's efficient solving makes me feel rather smart. Not much to complain except the clue for SASH (86A: Pageant ID). The abbreviated ID is asking for an abbreviated answer. A simple "Pageant wear" will do the job.

Across:

9A: Type of committee: AD HOC. And another Latin phrase: HIC (77A: __ jacet).

21A: Dentition: TEETH. Dention and teething are synonymous, not TEETH, right?

25A: Mediterranean island nation: MALTA. Its capital is Valletta.

26A: Parkinson's medication: L-DOPA. I forgot. It appeared in our puzzle before.

32A: Gang follower?: STER. Gangster, mobster, teamster, etc.

36A: Kind of tea or remedy: HERBAL

60A: "__ the Explorer": DORA. Lovely DORA bedding set for a small girl.

80A: Switched switch: OFF ON. I don't understand the grammar of the clue.

88A: Both haves of a fly?: TSES. Tsetse. I guess there is no other better way to clue TSES.

89A: "The Right Stuff" org.: NASA. Pure guess. I've never heard of the movie "The Right Stuff" .

92A: Prairie coverage: OAT GRASS. Oh, I did not know that this grass is called OAT GRASS. So different from wheatgrass.

95A: Swanson of Hollywood: GLORIA. She appears in almost every JFK biography due to her affair with Joe Kennedy Sr.

97A: Disney World attraction: EPCOT. Have you been to EPCOT Center?

107A: Everett of "Citizen Kane": SLOANE. I googled his name. I found the movie hard to follow.

111A: such being the case: AS IT IS

123A: Plant with two seed leaves: DICOT. No idea. See this Monocot vs DICOT link. What are "two seed leaves"?

128A: Century plant: AGAVE. The fiber AGAVE yields is called sisal hemp.

132A: Desert traveler: NOMAD

133A: DOD part: DEPT. DOD is Department of Defense.

Down:

1D: Poetic stanza: STROPHE. I would not have got this word without the across fills.

2D: Spaces between leaf veins: AREOLES. The singular form is AREOLA, which was clued as " Ring around the pupil" last time.

4D: Space station of old: SKYLAB. From 1973-1979. MIR was de-orbed in 2001.

6D: New bread abroad: EUROS. I like this clue.

9D: Start of sphere: ATMO. Atmosphere.

10D: View from Mount Pisgah: DEAD SEA. Where is Mount Pisgah? I only see Mount Nebo.

15D: Capp of comic strips: ANDY. Hmm, I'd love the clue to be ANDY Garcia related.

17D: Long-snouted animal: TAPIR. He is ugly, like a pig. I did not know his name before.

28D: Day's march: ETAPE. Again, without the adjacent fills, I would not have obtained this word. I don't think I understood "Day's march" last time when we had the discussion.

29D: Bay window: ORIEL. See this link.

45D: Animal fat: LARD. It's pork fat. Suet is beef/mutton fat.

47D: Thin wdt.: NAR. Narrow? What is "wdt"? Width?

50D: Defeat decisively: TROUNCE

51D: Bombing runs: SORTIES

52D: Corey of "Murphy's Romance": HAIM. Another google. Have never heard of Corey HAIM or "Murphy's Romance" before.

53D: Silents star Theda: BARA. The Vamp. I often confuse her with the "It" girl Clara Bow.

55D: Oscar winner Kedrova: LILA. She won Oscar for "Zorba the Greek".

63D: Supreme Court Justice Black: HUGO. What case is he famous for?

74D: Far from the flock: LOST

94D: Diamond of "Night Court": SELMA. Is she the pretty girl on the front row? I've never heard of her name before.

96D: Fretting: IN A STEW

98D: Tapioca source: CASSAVA. Have you had fresh CASSAVA before?

102D: Yellowstone attraction: GEYSERS. Great picture.

108D: Eviction: OUSTER

109D: Trooper's gun: RADAR. Or the Nehi drinker (M*A*S*H).

119D: Vincent Lopez theme song: NOLA. I could only find this theme music clip, not the song.

C.C.

Nov 8, 2008

Saturday November 8, 2008 Allan E. Parrish

Theme: None

Total blocks: 30

This does not feel like an Allan E. Parrish puzzle, does it? There are no Z, Q or X. I think Barry Silk's puzzles are more consistent, with all those scrabbly letters.

I just had a quick look at my blog summery earlier. Since Jan 21, we've solved 45 Alan P. Olschwang puzzles, 28 Alan E. Parrish, 25 Michael T. Williams, 20 Barry Silk and 18 Josiah Breward. I wish John Underwood could be more productive. Some of Norma Steinberg's and Stan Whitten's puzzles are very entertaining too.

I don't expect much grumbling about this puzzle today. Pretty straightforward cluing. Most of the new words are obtainable from the adjacent fills. The clue for TRADE NAME (33D: Corporate ID) should not be abbreviated.

Across:

1A: '80 arcade game: MS. PAC-MAN. Stumper for me. I only knew PAC-MAN.

15A: Bologna tongue: ITALIANO. Both Jude Law and Matt Damon are great in "The Talented Mr. Ripley". I like "Tu Vuo' Fa L'Americano", though I don't understand the meaning of the lyrics.

17A: Denial: NEGATION

20A: Loss of memory: AMNESIA. I also love "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". It's about AMNESIA, lacunar AMNESIA to be exact.

23A: Show shock, e.g.: REACT. "It's not what happens to you, but how you REACT to it that matters". Hard to obtain Epictetus' stoical self-discipline though.

26A: NASA orbiter: ISS (International Space Station). Our editor likes to clue ESA as "NASA's ISS partner".

27A: 1997 Nicolas Cage movie: CON AIR. Some of it is too violent for my taste. I like the song "How Do I Live".

31A: Space station visitor: ASTRONAUT. I have an autographed John Glenn picture.

34A: Behind with bills: IN ARREARS

39A: Ones with a will: TESTATORS. What is the word for "Ones without a will"?

45A: Old-time actress Renee: ADOREE. I forgot. Saw this clue before. She was a silent film star. And she died when she was only 35, without a will.

46A: D-Day vessel: LST. It's used in "Saving Private Ryan".

55A: Aircraft pioneer: CESSNA (Clyde). Ha, I forgot all about him & his aircraft. My poor graying brain!

59A: Spanish pianist Jose: ITURBI. No idea. Here is ITUBRBI playing Chopin's "Fantaisie-Impromptu".

61A: Molded dishes: ASPICS. I am going to try this vegetable ASPIC someday. Marvelous idea to sprinkle over some pistachio nuts.

62A: Pittsburgh players: STEELERS. They have won 5 Super Bowls. Vikings: 0.

Down:

1D: Mediterranean island: MINORCA. Great map. See MINORA & Majorca? They belong to Spain. I've never heard of it before.

3D: Public spectacle: PAGEANT. What a mysterious case with that little PAGEANT princess JonBenet!

5D: Tickets: CITATIONS

12D: Vertical bar between panes: MULLION. Unknow to me. These are not MULLIONS, are they? They are horizontal.

24D: Piranha: CARIBE. No idea. Ozzi Guillen likes to call Twins players "Piranhas".

30D: Greek advisor at Troy: NESTOR. Another unknown. Dictionary says NESTOR is "the oldest and wisest of the Greeks in the Trojan War and a king of Pylos." He was an Argonaut and was 110 when the war started. I don't remember seeing him in "Troy".

32D: Conductor Toscanini: ARTURO. I forgot his name, again. He has appeared twice in our puzzle before. He was a conductor for the New York Philharmonic for 10 years (1926-1936). He looks so intense.

35D: One-time link: AT A. One AT A time.

36D: Island near Martinique: ST LUCIA. See this map.

37D: Mollycoddles: COSSETS. Any other synonym besides pampers?

40D: Mouth: ORIFICE

44D: French port on the channel: CALAIS. Forgot also. Shouldn't the clue be "French port on the English Channel"?

47D: "Countdown" network: MSNBC. I only watch "Hardball with Chris Matthews" now.

51D: Fractions of a joule: ERGS. 1 joule = 10 million ERGS.

52D: Frobe of "Goldfinger": GERT. No idea. Got his name from the across fills.

58D: Latvian chess maker: TAL (Mikhail). He was born in Riga, Latvia. See this picture. I've never heard of Iakov Damsky.

C.C.

Nov 7, 2008

Friday November 7, 2008 Barry Silk

Theme: How Now Brown Cow

20A: Feeling Okay?: HOW ARE THINGS?

29A: Occasionally: NOW AND THEN

46A: Rolling Stones hit: BROWN SUGAR

56A: Farmer's outing contest: COW CHIP THROW

I was bewildered by Barry's choice for 46A. I wanted a BOW* phrase, thinking of a WOW rhyming theme. (Addendum: I was not aware of "How now brown cow" phrase. Thanks, Chris.)

I've never heard of COW CHIP THROW. I did not know the meaning of COW CHIP. How can people stand the smell?

Are you OK with the HORNET clue (67A: Charlotte pro)? Shouldn't be "New Orleans pro"? I also don't understand the STRIP clue (55D: Get into your birthday suit?). How so?

Across:

1 Math proof letter: QED. Have not seen ERAT (Often clued as "Part of QED") for a while.

4A: Triton's sch.: UCSD (University of California, San Diego). I did not know that Tritons is their mascot.

14A: Verse starter?: UNI. No guts to clue it as "Sex starter"?

15A: Lanai neighbor: MAUI. I wonder why Hawaiian language are so vowel intensive.

16A: Having a tapering end: POINTY

18A: Tournament passes: BYES

23A: Luke's Jedi mentor: OBI-WAN. Do you know how the author came up with this name? It sounds very Japanese.

33A: Glum drop: TEAR. Very unexpected clue. I like it though.

44A: Linguist Chomsky: NOAM. I forgot. Saw this clue before. Is he very famous?

48A: Key with 3 sharps: A MAJ. I suppose "3" indictes that the answer needs to be abbreviated.

53A: QVC rival: HSN (Home Shopping Network). QVC will be a very scrabbly answer for "HSN rival".

54A: Court decree: ASSIZE. This is a new word to me. I thought of WRIT.

59A: #1 hit by the Fleetwoods: MR. BLUE. Here is the song. New to me also.

62A: Purim's month: ADAR

65A: Soda brand: NEHI

68A: C. Everett __: KOOP. I googled. He was Reagan's Surgeon General.

Down:

1D: Cape Cod clam: QUAHOG

4D: Eclipse shadow: UMBRA. Partial shadow is penumbra.

6D: Mutton fat: SUET. Is it the same as lard?

9D: Beatnik instrument: BONGO DRUM. BONGO was clued as "Drum type" in Barry's last puzzle. Here is "Let There Be Drums" again.

12D: MO town: STL. I am used to the "Cardinal's letters" clue.

13D: Part of a wd: SYL And PHRASE (64A: String of word).

27D: Cameo stone: ONYX. This ONYX tile looks broken.

31D: Injustice: WRONG

32D: Bo's number: TEN. Very sexy bellyrolling scene.

33D: Brownstone, perhaps: TOWNHOUSE. Or this brand of cracker, perhaps.

37D: Roof with removable panels: T- TOP

40D: Nonvenomous snake: BOA. I had no idea that it's nonvenomous.

43D: Comparable to candy or kisses: AS SWEET. How old is this sign?

45D: Plains tribe: ARAPAHO. Sigh, I forgot again. It's been in our puzzle 3 times since I started blogging.

49D: Desert illusion: MIRAGE. Do you like "The English Patient"?

50D: Portuguese islands: AZORES. See this map. It's in North Atlantic. New to me.

51D: Gems: JEWELS

57D: Slugger Aaron: HANK. We often see AARON clued as "Slugger Hank".

59D: Radar gun meas.: MPH

C.C.

Nov 6, 2008

Thursday November 6, 2008 Alan P. Olschwang

Theme: Eloquence in Politics

20A: Start of Mario Cuomo quip: YOU CAMPAIGN IN

36A: Part 2 of quip: POETRY. YOU

54A: End of quip: GOVERN IN PROSE

Wow, I always thought this was Hillary Clinton's original quote. I am eager to see if Obama can deliver what he has promised. I've been mesmerized by his oratory style, very poetic.

Mario Cuomo had left the political arena when I arrived in the US, so I don't have a good understanding of his political philosophy. This is such a great line, so succinct and true. It kind of reminds me Beverley Nicols' quote on marriage: "Marriage is a book in which the first chapter is written in poetry and the remaining chapters written in prose."

Quite a few EE combinations in the grid. Very bad clue for MERGE (31D: Blend together). See 9D: Amalgam: BLEND. A simple "Traffic sign" would have avoided this duplication. I also dislike the clue for NATO (56D: Amer.-Eur. alliance). Canada and US are NATO members. Mexico is not. Why "Amer." then? The clue is not tight.

I also don't understand the clue for GEES (42A: Launch forces). How so?

Across:

1A: FBI agent: G-MAN

9A: Full-scale attack: BLITZ. I am glad the campaign ad BLITZ is over.

17A: NYC theater: ANTA (American National Theatre and Academy). No idea. Is it very famous? Why British spelling for "Theatre"?

18A: Afrikaner: BOER. "Farmer" in Dutch.

28A: Orch. section: STR

29A: Disney dwarf: GRUMPY. Hmm, too bland a clue. I really like the "Happy colleague?" clue for "DOC" last time. "Sleepy friend?" or "Dopey pal?" or "Bashful buddy?" all sound great.

32A: Apple leftover: CORE. And PIP (36D: Apple seed). Have you tried honeycrisp yet?

33A: Scottish River: TAY. It's the longest river in Scotland.

43A: Big galoot: OAF. KLUTZ will be a great fill too. Very scrabbly.

51A: A Gabor: EVA. I like this Anne Bancroft "Yma Dream" too. I suppose you can add Uma (Thurman), Oprah, Yoko (Ono), etc. Oh, Yo-Yo Ma too. Who else can you think of?

52A: Thelma or Tex: RITTER. Know Tex RITTER, not Thelma.

61A: Andy's radio partner: AMOS. I memorized it from doing Xword. Did you listen to it when you were a kid?

67A: Low-blow weapon: KNEE. Very unexpected clue for me.

Down:

2D: Canon rival: MINOLTA. I am not familiar with this brand. It's merged with Konica in 2003.

3D: Insurance statistician: ACTUARY

4D: Rights grp.: NAACP. Wow, it's founded in 1909.

5D: Go under: SUBMERGE

7D: Primal goddess of Greeks: GAEA. She is the Mother Earth. Her husband Uranus is Father Sky. They are parents of Titans and the ugly Cyclopes. Zeus is their grandson. I am getting better at this Greek Mythology.

11D: Sir Walter Scott hero: IVANHOE. Nope, I've never heard of this hero or the book. Interesting, Wikipedia that Robin Hood is mentioned in this novel also.

13D: Final letter: ZEE. Another insipid clue. What about "Head of Zoo"?

27D: "The One I Love": R.E.M. Here is the song. What does "Another prop has occupied my time" mean?

35D: Rumor spreader: GOSSIP

38D: Ones who pine: YEARNERS. Is this even a word?

40D: Poetic planet: ORB

44D: Truly amazing: AWESOME. I love Doesitinink's "There is no charge for awesomeness." AWESOME!

57D: Fertility goddess: ISIS. It's a Egyptian goddess. This is ISIS nursing her son Horus. Notice her cow-horned head? That's her symbol.

C.C.

Nov 5, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 Edgar Fontaine

Theme: Nanny (Fine) Rhyme Time

20A: 1977 PGA Championship winner: LANNY WADKINS

50A: Slugger with second-most grand slams: MANNY RAMIREZ

3D: "Lethal Weapon" star: DANNY GLOVER

25D: Candy brand: FANNY FARMER

LANNY WADKINS is a familiar name to most golf nuts. He used to cover every PGA Championship for CBS. I did not know that he won 1977 PGA. Filled in MANNY RAMIREZ quickly, though I had no idea that he has the second-most grand slams (20), only 3 behind the record holder Lou Gehrig. Had no problem getting DANNY GLOVER. But FANNY FARMER was new to me.

Nice and easy puzzle for me. There were several unfamiliar names, but most were obtainable from the adjacent fills. I liked how the two Across theme answers intersect the two Down clues.

My favorite today is the clue for YUAN (52D: Dynasty before Ming). YUAN is mostly known as "Chinese Currency ". YUAN Dynasty (1271-1368) was founded by Khubai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan.

In his poem, Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem wrote: In Xanadu did Kubla Khan /A stately pleasure-dome decree /Where Alph, the sacred river, ran /Through caverns measureless to man/Down to a sunless sea."
The Dynasty before YUAN is called Song, and the Dynasty after Ming is Qing, the last Dynasty in China. Had to memorize this in primary school, the same as you did for all the 43 US Presidents I suppose.

Most of the crossword constructors must be excited that Obama won the election. Now they can have fun cluing his two daughters' names: Malia and Sasha, very crossword-friendly, plenty of vowels.

Across:

1A: Brewski: SUDS. This reminds me of a clue for ALE: "Bath suds". Bath is the spa capital of the UK. It's located in south-west England. See it? It's close to Bristol.

5A: Shoot from a cover: SNIPE. I love Clint Eastwood/John Malkovich's "In the Line of Fire".

10A: Principal Skinner's nemesis: BART. I got it from the down clues. Have never watched "The Simpsons".

14A: Grizzly weapon: CLAW

23A: Opposite of the seven seas?: DRYLAND. I did not know that DRYLAND is a word.

29A: "Pursuit of the Graf __": SPEE. I've never seen this movie, have you? I cannot understand the fun of "I am as mad as Hell, and I am not going to take it any more!" in Peter Finch's "Network".

31A: "Exodus" hero: ARI. He is portrayed by Paul Newman in the movie.

32A: Bases on balls: WALKS

35A: FDR's Blue Eagle: NRA (National Recovery Administration). NRA is also National Rifle Association of course. I wonder why it's called Blue Eagle instead of Brown Eagle?

38A: Nabokov novel: PNIN. Learned from doing Xword. Have never read this book.

39A: RPM part: REV. I wrote down PER first.

45A: Fire from a low-flying aircraft: STRAFE. I can never remember this word. So close to STRIFE in spelling.

53A: River of Pisa: ARNO. Here is the map. See Florence and Siena?

56A: Bible version: DOUAY. No idea. I strung the answer together from across fills. What is DOUAY?

Down:

2D: Of an arm bone: ULNAR. Ulna: ULNAR. Radius: RADIAL.

4D: Tchaikovsky ballet: SWAN LAKE. Very pretty.

5D: Gives rise to: SPAWNS.

9D: Applied scientist: ENGINEER. I would not have got this answer without the across fills. Such a narrow definition of ENGINEER.

21D: Kissers: YAPS. I sure have problem with English slangs.

26D: Gallico novel, "Mrs. __ Goes to Paris": 'ARRIS. Have you read this novel? I've never heard of it before.

27D: Laughing: RIANT. Present particle of French verb "rire" (laugh). Risible has the same root. (Note: Thanks, Martin.)

32D: Merchandise: WARES. New definition to me. I always associate WARE with hardware, software, silverware, etc.

37D: Magnificent: SPLENDID. Do you like NPR's "The SPLENDID Table"?

38D: First public performance: PREMIERE. Same pronunciation as premier, right?

48D: Love in Limousin: AMOUR. Good alliteration in the clue. "Love in Louvre" (Cupid & Psyche) will be great too.

48D: Silk -cotton tree: CEIBA. See this picture. Kind of like cotton, isn't it? New word to me. Wikipedia says it's also called kapok, and it's a sacred symbol in Maya mythology.

49D: Pound and Stone: EZRAS. Know the poet Pound, have never heard of EZRA Stone before. What is he famous for?

51D: Sushi wrapping: NORI. I also love NORI rice cracker.

55D: Keanu in "The Matrix": NEO

C.C.