Feb 23, 2016

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 Mark McClain

Theme: aka - Alternate appellations.

17A. One raising a hand (TN) : VOLUNTEER. (Tennessee)

22A. Wedge-shaped arch piece (PA) : KEYSTONE. (Pennsylvania)

26A. Byzantine or Roman (NY) : EMPIRE. (New York)

35A. Piled-high hairdo (UT) : BEEHIVE. (Utah)

38A. Fictional Korean War surgeon Pierce (IA) : HAWKEYE. (Iowa)

46A. At an earlier date (OK) : SOONER. (Oklahoma)

49A. Word in a fair forecast (FL) : SUNSHINE. (Florida)

55A. What seven puzzle answers are with reference to abbreviations in their clues : NICKNAMES

Argyle here. (Santa) Almost as much theme as yesterday, 60 vs. 68. Definitely a tick harder for me. I wonder; do all states have a nickname?


1. Egg-shaped tomato : ROMA

5. Molecule part : ATOM

9. Winter outerwear : COATS

14. Suit on a board : EXEC. A executive on a board of directors.

15. Plumber's piece : PIPE

16. Playful trick : ANTIC

19. Pedro's "I love you" : "TE AMO"

20. Answer (for) : ATONE

21. More confident : SURER

27. Many California wines : NAPAs

28. Motel charges : RATES

30. Hockey legend Bobby et al. : ORRs

31. Milk: Pref. : LACTO

32. Abbr. for some Garden State senators : D NJ. Democrat, New Jersey

40. '60s radical gp. : SDS. (Students for a Democratic Society)

41. Loved ones : DEARs

43. Tribulations : ILLs

44. Coeur d'__, Idaho : ALENE

45. One of the Musketeers : ATHOS

52. Part of USDA: Abbr. : AGRIC. (United States Department of Agriculture)

53. Top grade : A+PLUS

54. Below, poetically : 'NEATH

60. Colorful tropical fish : TETRA

61. Genealogy diagram : TREE

62. Course with ratios : MATH

63. "Save me __" : A SEAT

64. Ranch group : HERD. The Gary Larson ranch.

65. Seek divine intervention : PRAY


1. Sermon giver: Abbr. : REV. (Reverend)

2. Tic-tac-toe loser : OXO

3. Actor Gibson : MEL

4. Puncture prefix : ACU. Acupuncture.

5. Likely will, after "is" : APT TO

6. Attach with string : TIE ON

7. Tennis period since 1968 : OPEN ERA

8. Trivial : MERE

9. "Bee's knees" equivalent : CAT'S MEOW

10. Gets the better of : ONE-UPs

11. Video game pioneer : ATARI

12. Microwave beeper : TIMER

13. Composer's creation : SCORE

18. Washington MLB team : NATs

22. Drawer openers : KNOBS

23. Dog-__: folded at the corner : EARED

24. Belgian city where the In Flanders Fields Museum is located : YPRES. (Ieper, Belgium) (Ypres is the French name)

25. Window framework : SASH

26. James of jazz : ETTA. More Etta.

29. German cries : ACHs

31. Tilt : LEAN

32. Indian metropolis : DELHI

33. Paintbrush bristles material : NYLON

34. James of the Old West : JESSE

36. Small talk : IDLE CHAT

37. Change course suddenly : VEER or sheer, remember?

39. __ and kin : KITH

42. Breathe : RESPIRE

44. "Peer Gynt Suite" dancer : ANITRA

45. Part of NBA: Abbr. : ASSN. (National Basketball Association)

46. Seasonal gift giver : SANTA. Will work for cookies.

47. Curved moldings : OGEEs

48. Deliver a speech : ORATE

50. Stomach problem : ULCER

51. Microwaved : NUKED

53. Lit. collection : ANTH. (anthology)

56. Band equipment component : AMP

57. Blemish : MAR

58. Pilot's prediction: Abbr. : ETA

59. Bashful : SHY


Note from C.C.:

Happy 77th Birthday to Keith Fowler (Ol' Man Keith), who has his own Wiki page. Keith knows all about Shakespeare plays. He even lived in Stratford-upon-Avon for some time. Keith has been with the blog for a long time, since 2009, I think.

Feb 22, 2016

Monday, February 22, 2016 Janice Luttrell

Theme: Magician's Trick - Pulling a coin out of thin air.

1A. Nickel or dime : COIN and 65A. After 1-Across, pregame football ritual, and what's literally found in this puzzle's circles : TOSS

16. "You almost had it" : "CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR"

24. "Mork & Mindy" or "Mike & Molly" : SITUATION COMEDY

42. Event where many dress as Stormtroopers or Klingons : SCI-FI CONVENTION

57. What polar opposites have : NOTHING IN COMMON

Argyle here. The lack of circles shouldn't have barred you from getting this Monday mega-theme filled gem. Four grid spanners! Nice fill. Great way to start the week.


5. Zenith : ACME

9. Toboggan, e.g. : SLED

13. Fairy tale villain : OGRE and 2D. Look at wolfishly : OGLE. If ogled by an ogre, RUN.

14. Visitor from space : ALIEN

15. Soft drink nut : KOLA

19. 2016 Hall of Fame inductee __ Griffey Jr. : KEN. For those that didn't get enough baseball Sunday.

20. Weighty books : TOMES

21. Curved fastener : U-BOLT

22. Flabbergast : STUN

23. UPC-like product ID : SKU. (stock keeping unit)

32. Beef cut : LOIN

33. Reason for a cold sweat : FEAR

34. GI chow : MRE. (Meal, Ready-to-Eat)

35. Writing fluids : INKS

36. Parking __ : METER

38. Gaucho's weapon : BOLA

39. Dental suffix with Water : PIK. WATERPIK is a brand of water flosser. I'm not thrilled with PIK clued as a dental suffix.

40. Slim racetrack margin : NOSE. N.Y. Daily News picture of yesterday's Daytona 500 finish.

41. Slightly open : AJAR

47. Question : ASK

48. Grandson of Eve : ENOS

49. Malice : SPITE

52. Sans serif font : ARIAL.  not ARIAL

54. Hawaiian tuna : AHI

60. Tiny pasta used in soup : ORZO

61. Washington's __ Sound : PUGET. The near-by San Juan Islands.

62. "Agreed!" : "AMEN!"

63. Smile ear to ear : BEAM

64. Enjoy a novel : READ


1. Tilt to the side, as one's head : COCK

3. Small laundry room appliance : IRON

4. Nintendo's Super __ : NES. (Nintendo Entertainment System)

5. Homecoming attendees : ALUMNI

6. Refer to in a footnote : CITE

7. Clothing store department : MENS

8. Music producer Brian : ENO

9. Slopes fanatic : SKI BUM

10. Letterhead emblem : LOGO

11. Israeli airline : EL AL

12. Missile in a pub game : DART

14. Regarding : ABOUT

17. Singer James : ETTA. Just a taste; a little sip...of Etta James.

18. "My Fair Lady" director George : CUKOR

22. The "Star Wars" planet Tatooine orbits two of them : SUNS

23. Lasting mark : SCAR

24. Mishaps : SLIPS

25. Greek column style : IONIC

26. Kipling mongoose Rikki-__-Tavi : TIKKI. A short story in The Jungle Book.

27. Many times : OFTEN

28. Bridal bio word : NÉE

29. Texting icon : EMOJI

30. 1964 Tony Randall title role : DR. LAO

31. Thirst (for) : YEARN

36. Lampoon : MOCK

37. Spanish "that" : ESO

38. Array on a dugout rack : BATS

40. Japanese-American : NISEI

43. Get to the bottom of : FATHOM. The meaning "take soundings" is from c.1600; its figurative sense of "get to the bottom of, understand" is 1620s.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

44. Marked with streaks, as cheese : VEINED

45. Put into law : ENACT

46. __ contendere: court plea : NOLO. "I do not wish to contend"

49. Stuffed shirt : SNOB

50. Peruse, with "over" : PORE

51. Chichén __: Mayan ruins : ITZA

52. Fever and chills : AGUE

53. Capital of Latvia : RIGA

54. Bullets and such : AMMO

55. Soil-shaping tools : HOEs

56. Wayside lodgings : INNs

58. "Talk of the Nation" airer : NPR. (National Public Radio)

59. Yoga class need : MAT


Note from C.C.:

Ray Hedrick (Rainman) and I made today's Wall Street Journal crossword. You can click here to print out the PDF file. Congratulations on your debut, Ray. Thanks for the theme, the inspiration and fun.

Feb 21, 2016

Sunday, Feb 21, 2016 Nora Pearlstone

Theme: "Wait, What?" - Long A sound is changed into short U sound.

 23A. Good-natured complaint? : SMILEY FUSS. Like Gary and D-Otto's nits, if they have any. Base phrase is "smiley face".

 29A. Everything you eat? : GUT RECEIPTS. Gate receipts.

 36A. Skilled diver's advantage? : JUMPING OFF PLUS. Jumping off place.

 65A. Fashion show photographer? : STRUT SHOOTER. Straight shooters.

 71A. Inept painter? : MUCK-UP ARTIST. Make-up artist.

 99A. Shore breezes caused by flapping wings? : GULL- FORCE WINDS. Gale force winds. NEAR GALE (86D. 7 on the Beaufort scale) should not have been in the grid. Easy to overlook this kind of dupe in a sound change grid.

106A. Potato expert? : KING OF SPUDS. King of spades.

119A. Prop for the gravedigger scene in "Hamlet"? : SKULL MODEL. Scale model.

Great title. Captures the puzzle gimmick perfectly. 

Nora Pearlstone is Rich's alias, anagram for "Not a Real Person". Always a treat when Rich makes the puzzle. Can you believe he has not made any puzzle for the NYT  since 2008 yet he still is the 3rd most published constructor under Will Shortz era?

I'm always grateful that Rich allows 144 words for LAT Sundays. He's a pro and totally understands the difficulties in coming up with clean fill for a 21*21 grid, esp for rookie  constructors. Can Rich go low on word count? Of course he can. He made tons of themeless puzzles for LAT, NYT & other venues. He also authored this great book (don't think it has anything to do with USA Today puzzles). But he chose a 144-worder, which gives us a  cleaner and smoother grid.

Rich and his wife Kim


1. Relieved reaction : WHEW

5. __ fit : HISSY. Not HONDA.

10. PC debut of 1981 : MS-DOS

15. Cabbage dispensers? : ATMs. Gimme for veteran solvers. 

19. Emanating quality : AURA
20. Sadat of Egypt : ANWAR

21. Ring-shaped ocean formation : ATOLL

22. Fellow : CHAP

25. Wynonna's mother : NAOMI.  The Judds. Look so young.

26. Olympian queen : HERA

27. "Key & __": Comedy Central series : PEELE. Anon T's favorite comedians.

28. Meditation class chorus : OMs

 31. Cousin of com : ORG

33. Computer stylus battery : AAAA

35. Big strings : CELLI. One more I plural word: 112. Voices below soprani : ALTI
43. Exercise in a pool : DO LAPS. Also  7. Like some triathlon segments : SWUM

 46. One, to Juanita : UNA

47. Political fugitives : EMIGRES
48. Sgt., e.g. : NCO

50. Tampico tots : NENEs
51. Slap (on), as cologne : DAUB

53. Attorney-__ : AT-LAW

54. Flora and fauna : BIOTA

56. Bank material : SILT. Not SAND. We also have 69. Bank construction : LEVEE

57. Teen attachment? : AGERS. Teenagers. Hard to tell if the answers is singular or plural with this type of clue.

59. Quincy of '70s-'80s TV et al. : MES. Never watched the show. I figured it might be MDS.

60. Outfits : EQUIPS

62. "... against a __ of troubles": Hamlet : SEA

63. Saharan dust swirlers : SIROCCOS. Sparkly fill.

68. Cote call : COO

70. Like some marked-down mdse. : IRR. Do you have Marshalls in your area? I scored quite a few great deals there over the years.

76. Book supplement : ADDENDUM

81. Angle preceder, in texts : IMO. Viewpoint "angle".

82. Playtime : RECESS

83. 2016 Cactus Bowl sch. : ASU. No idea. Never paid attention to those bowls. Wiki said West Virginia beat Arizona State. Rich is an avid sports fan. He knows these updated sports trivia.

84. Not cramped : ROOMY

85. Bread sometimes prepared with chutney : NAAN. Also 93. Indian lentil dish : DAL. Split peas or lentils. 

87. 11-Down, say : DATUM. And 11. Sports figure : STAT. I wanted STAR.

88. Kama __ : SUTRA

90. Key in : TYPE

91. First name in skin care : ESTEE

94. Limited carry-on items : LOTIONS. Boomer always gets the TSA-Pre lane. No idea why. Big relief though, as taking off & putting on shoes is getting difficult for him, then you have added pressure from the agent and the impatient passengers behind.

96. Always, in verse : E'ER

97. Key below E : D SHARP. Already  had DS* in the slot.

102. Present in court : ARGUE. Verb "Present".

104. Garden resident : ADAM. Eden.

105. Gum ball : WAD

110. "There you are!" : AHA

113. __ Alavesa: Spanish wine : RIOJA. All crosses. Not into wines.

117. Sitar music : RAGA

118. Language that gave us "shawl" : FARSI

121. Law school newbie : ONE-L

122. Esteemed group : ELITE. Not A-LIST.

123. Hides : PELTS

124. Modest dress : MIDI

125. Close attention : CARE

126. "The Dance Class" painter : DEGAS

127. Product, as of labor : FRUIT

128. Huff relative : SNIT


 1. Winged stinger : WASP

2. "A propensity to hope and joy is real riches" philosopher : HUME (David).  I don't remember studying him in schools.

3. Pennsylvania snowbelt city : ERIE

4. Smack : WALLOP. Another nice word.

5. __ fever : HAY

6. Dope : INFO

8. Root beer source : SASSAFRAS. The root is also widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. Cantonese slow-cooked soup tends to incorporate some kind of dried root & herbal stuff.

9. Cen. components : YRS

10. How-to : MANUAL

12. Means of access : DOOR

13. Early Mexican civilization : OLMEC

14. Did a deli job : SLICED

15. Greek warrior famous for his weak spot : ACHILLES

16. Title role for which Adrien Brody won an Oscar : THE PIANIST. Haunting survival story. Did you see the movie, Jayce? There's a pickle scene.

17. Shopping spot : MART. Not MALL.

18. Body wrap offerers : SPAS

24. Like "Halloween" music : EERIE

29. Mountain passes : GAPS

30. Tesla Motors CEO Musk : ELON.  I tried his full name in a puzzle two years ago. Rich asked me to remove it, as it's not widely familiar to solvers.  Might be good for a themeless. No one debuted it yet.

32. HUD financing gp. : GNMA. Ginnie Mae. FNMA as well.

34. Number of good men? : A FEW

36. Traitor : JUDAS

37. Eel, at sushi bars : UNAGI. The smell of freshly grilled unagi is pure heaven.

38. Joe __, only MLB catcher with three batting titles : MAUER. Met him a few times. Incredibly gracious. He has twin daughters.

39. Cuban base, familiarly : GITMO

40. Unwelcome looks : OGLES

41. Sole : UNIQUE

42. Enemy lines infiltrator : SCOUT

44. Martinique volcano : PELEE. Got via crosses.

45. Astronomical red giant : S STAR

49. Singer Redding : OTIS

52. Record-breaking base stealer Lou : BROCK. We pulled an augrophed card of him from a Topps Heritage set a while ago.

54. Flat hat : BERET

55. Rose pest : APHID

58. Really clean : SCOUR

61. Hurting more : SORER

64. Dealt : COPED

65. Quake : SEISM

66. Sets in dens : TVs

67. Contrary afterthought : OR NOT

69. "Star Trek" regular ultimately promoted to Cmdr. : LT. SULU. Easy crosses a well.

71. Worked in a shaft : MINED. Before I read the clue, I already had ?INED in this slot, then ?UCK UP in Across. Was dazed for a second.

72. Member of the NCAA's A-10 Conf. : UMASS

73. Makeshift car door opener : COAT HANGER. Does this work on modern cars?

74. West Point, e.g.: Abbr. : ACAD

75. Label again : RE-TAG

76. Not still anymore : ASTIR

77. Red pig : DUROC. This got me last time. Again today.

78. Elder statesman : DOYEN. Don't associate this word with "statesman". Elder/senior, yes.

79. Called on the field : UMPED. Thought of CAWED.

80. "SNL" alum Mike : MYERS

83. Ford, for one : AUTOMAKER. I was not fooled, but it does have the same letter count as PRESIDENT.

88. Dozing place, perhaps : SOFA

89. Once more : ANEW

92. Therefore : ERGO. Hello Husker Chuck!

94. Honorary legal degs. : LLDs

95. Bee team : SWARM

98. Swollen, with "up" : PUFFED

100. LPGA member? : LADIES. First word of LPGA. Ryder Cup will be played here in MN this year. Too stiff a price. We do go to Sondheim Cup though. Much more affordable & fun. (Correction: Solheim Cup. Thanks, KenoRunner.)

101. They're not literal : IDIOMS

103. Virtual transaction : E-SALE

106. Ray of fast food : KROC

107. Collector's suffix : IANA. ANA suffix is more common.
108. Prude : PRIG

109. Court org. : USTA. WNBA too.

111. Netflix competitor : HULU

114. Chief Norse god : ODIN

115. Yoda trainee : JEDI

116. Landed : ALIT

119. Sunblock letters : SPF. Do any of you take Vitamin D? I feel that I should with the cold Minnesota winter.

120. Versatile ETO carrier : LST


Feb 20, 2016

Saturday, Feb 20th, 2016, C.C. Burnikel

Theme: C.C.C.W.~!

Words: 72 (missing J,K,Q,X,Z)

Blocks: 31

So nice to see our own blog host as the constructor of the 'Saturday Struggle'.  I was a little miffed by the SE corner, with just a few too many proper names, but a WAG here and there and I prevailed - within my personal allotted time AND without Google or red-letter help, no less~!  Yay~!  Triple 9x6 corners, almost triple 8-letter corners in the Down, and two 8-letter fills round out today's long answers;

32. Chain with day care : PETSMART  - I take it they have a pet-sitting service.  Also, we have a referential clue at 42a. Brand at 32-Across : IAMS

38. Refreshing ice cream with blended cookies : MINT OREO

 58. Step out : GO ON A DATE - this phrase is rather unfamiliar to me....  :7((

 63. Tom Jones hit written by Paul Anka : SHE'S A LADY - I am a huge fan of Tom Jones; I grew up listening to his records because my parents are from England.  I bought his "Rescue Me" album, long out of date, on CD from a guy in Russia through eBay - imagine that
Never Had a Lady Before (1979)


1. Siri counterpart : GOOGLE NOW - I have an Android cel phone, but not this feature/ app.  I do know about Siri, as a friend of mine was telling us how her kids were able to get "her" to find "your momma" jokes

10. Inst. with a weekly "Big Picture Science" radio program : SETI - seemed like a good WAG, but I had to have the "S" first

14. Short-term hospital service : ACUTE CARE

15. Demonym that may have a second "a" : UTAHN - strangely, I did not know exactly what "demonym" meant (tho I knew "-nym" meant 'name'); then it showed up on

16. Ignores : LETS SLIDE

17. Wise guys : SAGES

18. One of the Noldor, in Tolkien : ELF - ooops, not ENT

19. Pitcher's goal : SALE - about as close as we got to baseball today; that's a different kind of pitcher

20. Kind of red : MERLOT - not GARNET - but that's 33.3% correct 100%ly

21. Dark genre : NOIR - seemed to easy, so I left it blank at first

23. Holy __ : TERROR

25. Child expert LeShan : EDA

26. When many take breaks : AT TEN - I had TEN AM to start - right idea, wrong order

28. Work with a partner : DUET

29. Dropbox's blue box, for one : ICON

30. More, to Nadal : MAS

34. Lollygag : LOITER

37. Stay in the cooler : DO TIME - I knew this was jail related, but "sentence" didn't fit

40. Mattress problem : SAG

41. First name in couture : YVES

44. "Pipe down!" : SHUSH - I tried QUIET, but the "Q" was just not going to work

48. Child support org. : PTA

49. Road safety feature : MEDIAN - unless, of course, you drive over it; I have seen and heard people do so

51. Family __ : TREE

52. Schools abroad : LYCEES - oops, not ECOLES; that's Frawnche for school; this word translates to High School

54. Genre of the late David Bowie : GLAM - R.I.P. Ziggy Stardust

56. Dove shape : BAR - the soap, not the bird; I was onto the clue, but I was trying "EGG" or "OVA" to describe the shape of the soap bar....

57. "Iron Chef America" host Brown : ALTON

60. Hunger Games competitors : TEENS - I am in the middle of reading "Catching Fire", book 2; I have the third one waiting....and I am not going to see the movie until I am done

61. "We don't promise you a rose garden" sloganeer : U.S. MARINES

62. Transposes letters, say : ERRS


1. Lead source : GALENA - Galena is the ore that lead is derived from; Galina is the Russian name for "Helen"; I knew one when I lived in Jacksonville, FL

2. Spotted cat : OCELOT

3. Company : OUTFIT - There's a running joke in the movie "Payback" (starring Mel Gibson) about the criminal organization's name the "syndicate" being changed to the "outfit"

4. Alfa Romeo sports cars : GTs

5. More, to minimalists : LESS

6. Flash : ECLAT - and a clecho at; 13d. Flash : INSTANT - two different definitions

7. Got down pat : NAILED - C.C.'s turn of phrase when getting a longer fill in a crossword puzzle with no crossings is "Nailed It", and I like to use it, too

8. Diner kitchen shout : "ORDER UP~!"

9. Minute : WEE - now that's a "wee" mini-skirt~!

10. Heineken logo feature : STAR

11. It's trained on a nest : EAGLE-CAM

12. Name meaning "God's gift" : THEODORE

15. Tweeter, say : USER

20. Phrases on seals : MOTTOS

22. Sends in : REMITS

24. Musical piece : REED - dah~! Not reST

27. Icel. is its only member without a standing army : NATO

29. "Perhaps" : "I MIGHT."

31. Soap, for example : SERIES

33. Short stops? : STAs - StaTIONs

34. She played Arwen Undómiel in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy : LIV TYLER

35. Albee's "The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?," e.g. : ONE-ACTER

36. Enjoy The Atlantic : READ - Argh~!  Not SAIL - as in the Atlantic, not THE Atlantic

Ghostbusters (1984)

38. Government nutrition guide : MY PLATE - the website

39. "Holy cow!" : "OMIGOSH~!" - interesting fill

43. Wilde tragedy : SALOME - here's where I started running into trouble

45. Roger Ebert's Illinois birthplace : URBANA - proper name #2

46. Ready for dinner : SEATED

47. Reason for Luther's excommunication : HERESY

49. Target section : MEN'S

50. Family matriarchs : NANAs

53. Ages : EONS

55. "The Social Network" actress Rooney __ : MARA - #3

58. Gloomy one : GUS - "Gloomy Gus"

59. Pickles on "Rugrats" : DIL- #4


Note from C.C.:

Happy Birthday to Argyle our sweet Santa, who has guided us through over 660 puzzles. Argyle always keeps a close eye on the blog so no comment is accidentally junked by Blogger. He also replies to each question posted on an old post. Off the blog, he's my close friend & trusted adviser. Thanks for all you do for me and this blog, Santa!


Feb 19, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016, Steven J. St. John

Theme:  I almost MIST the theme.

Another blast from the past constructor returns. SJSJ, who pumped out 12 puzzles for the LAT and then disappeared for a few years. He gives us an usual grid with four down fill including the reveal as the theme. You can read his 2013 INTERVIEW in which he expressed his desire to do innovative themes. Many you may have only a HAZY memory of his prior efforts, but I do not thinks this one was too MURKY. What it does feature are some great sparkly fill: EMOTERS,  AT LEAST,  SASSOON,  TRAILER,  HAIRPIN,  NEUTRAL, CLUSTERED TOTAL LOSS,  HUMILIATE,  UNFREEZES and two which are longer than the theme answers: SWEET AS HONEY,  HIGH SPIRITED. Getting all of these and using a minimum of three letter fill was excellent. Let's look.

3D. Suspected of misdeeds : UNDER A CLOUD (11). Brings to mind this from my childhood.
8D. Spent : OUT OF STEAM (10). I am too, I cannot pick any link.

29D. Psychedelic rock classic of 1967 : PURPLE HAZE (10). We start this week with Purple Rain and now we are in a Haze.

And the reveal:
23D. State Department neighborhood ... and what 3-, 8- and 29-Down all have? : FOGGY BOTTOM (11). There is a STORY about this name. I wonder how many knew this trivia? I got the fill from the perps, not sure if I would have recalled the name. Time for a tune.

1. Fry : SAUTE. We are starting out with another puzzle that Steve would enjoy. This is from the French for Jumped, I guess because the oil is so hot?

6. Kung __ chicken : PAO. In which the meat is sauteed!!

9. Market Fresh sandwich and salad seller : ARBY'S. Three food clues to begin, wow.
14. Time of old Rome : ANNUM. Year in Latin.

15. Unevenly distributed, in a way : CLUSTERED.

17. Brought on : LED TO.

18. Write-off : TOTAL LOSS. March 15, business tax return day is fast approaching.

19. Charming : SWEET AS HONEY. This was hard and took a lot of perps but is very fresh fill.

21. D.C.'s Walter __ National Military Medical Center : REED. I learned of this hospital when Eisenhower had his heart attack.

22. Mennen lotion : AFTA.

23. Govt. mtge. insurer : FHA. Federal Housing Administration

26. One hoping to provide many happy returns? : CPACertified Public Accountant (I wonder what they call private accountants?).

28. Hammer number : RAP. MC Hammer that is.

30. Big name in hairstyling : SASSOON. Vidal.

32. Hyperbola part : ARC.

33. Sudden stream : SPURT.

35. Pull on : TUG AT.

36. Flee : BOLT.

38. Adjudicates : TRIES. And the companion 31D. Seek redress : SUE.

40. Maple syrup target : EGGO. The waffles. Food!

41. Nearly : ABOUT.

43. Take badly? : POACH.  Tricky clue and a cooking term.

45. Taoist complement : YIN. Love the compliment complement deception.

46. Uncommitted : NEUTRAL.

48. Farrow of film : MIA. She was young once (PEYTON PLACE) and caught the eye of Frank and other older men.Sinatra. Her mother was Maureen O'Sullivan who went to school with Vivian Leigh in England.

49. Ottoman title : BEY.

50. Tack on : ADD.

51. "A Death in the Family" author : AGEE. One of many who died young from hard living in the 1950s. LINK.

53. Relative of Rex : FIDO. More Rover, Rex and Fido talk?

55. Energetic and enthusiastic : HIGH SPIRITED. Great long fill and never used before.

59. Run up the score on : HUMILIATE. I bet the New England fans did not like this ARTICLE.

62. Place for a Char-Broil : PATIO.

63. Removes restrictions on, as funds : UNFREEZES. Freezing assets is a very powerful tool for law enforcement.

64. Hole __ : IN ONE. Golf.

65. Third-longest African river : NIGER. behind the Nile and the Congo; 14th longest in the world.

66. Uncertain no. : EST.

67. Handles : NAMES.


1. "Do the Right Thing" pizzeria : SAL'S. The downs too start with food.
2. From the top : ANEW.

4. Certain student : TUTEE. 

5. Hams : EMOTERS. I think they are really over-emoters.

6. First-serve figs. : PCTS. Tennis percentage which are "in."

7. Island reception : ALOHA.

9. If nothing else : AT LEAST. Or maybe at the very least.

10. Depend : RELY.

11. Pal : BRO.

12. Start of an engagement? : YES. Really cute clue for a simple fill as it is accurate that the engagement starts when he/she says yes.

13. '60s protest org. : SDS. Students for a Democratic Society. This GROUP was very active during my college days.

16. Big bag carrier : SANTA. A nice CSO to Argyle. Do you carry one of these BAGS?
20. Modify to fit : ADAPT.

24. Philly trademark : HOAGIE. Food again!

25. "They that have done this deed are honourable" speaker : ANTONY. Our Friday dose of Shakespeare. JULIUS CAESAR  Act 3, Scene 2.

26. Changing place : CABANA. A familiar site for all Floridians.
27. Examined closely : PROBED. Some ALIEN ideas?

34. Brazilian-themed Vegas hotel, with "The" : RIO. Home of the WSOP.
37. Tsk relative : TUT.

39. Nebula Award genre : SCI FI.

42. One may begin with "In a world ... " : TRAILER. Movie trailer.  LINK

44. U-shaped, more or less : HAIRPIN.

47. Longhorn rival : AGGIE. Texas rival Texas A&M.

52. Adlai's running mate : ESTES. In JFK wanted the nomination as VP and Stevenson wanted him but the delegates picked KEFAUVER. He served with Al Gore's father and made many enemies by being against segregation.

54. 1997 Elton dedicatee : DIANA.He redid his tribute to Marilyn.

55. "Spenser: For __" : HIRE. I really enjoy the books created by Robert PARKER.

56. Annoyance : PEST.

57. Hessian article : EINE.

58. Achieves : DOES.

59. Fifth-century conqueror : HUN.  ATTILA anyone?

60. Athlete's wear, for short : UNIform. Not to be confused with university in the English speaking world.

61. It increases during plant growth: Abbr. : MFG. I love this clue, as manufacturing clearly increases when a plant gets bigger.

Welcome back SJ squared. Thanks for the ride. Italian festival week end here.
Enjoy all. Lemonade out.

Feb 18, 2016

Thursday, February 18th, 2016 Bruce Haight

Theme: Kerannng! Car crash calamities. Eight cars are involved in accidents around the grid.

As explained by the grid-spanning reveal:

38A. Car mishaps that occur at this puzzle's four circles : T-BONE COLLISIONS.

No crash-test dummies were injured in this experiment
If you didn't have circles in your puzzle then look at the grid at the bottom of the post and the "t-bones" should become clear (if you hadn't spotted them already).

1A. "Pay attention!" (Ford) : FOCUS! & 3D. Type of pride (Honda) : CIVIC

9A. Minute Maid Park player (Chevy) : ASTRO & 11D. Beat (Ford) : TEMPO

46A. Venomous snake (Dodge) : VIPER & 48D. Space explorer (Ford) : PROBE

51A. Atlas, for one (Nissan) : TITAN & 53D. Western skiing mecca (Chevy) : TAHOE.

Very slick puzzle from Bruce. There's a lot to admire here - the theme itself, the quintuple-stacked 5's in each corner, the bisecting grid-spanners across and down, the long downs, and the tricky single-entry points to the corner blocks. This could have been a beast without solid crosses, and there would be a real temptation to load up the 3's with crosswordese.

I'm not sure the car brands in the clues were necessary and might actually have detracted from the challenge, but I wonder if test solvers struggled without them.

I don't think the theme entries themselves need any clarification - maybe non-sports folks would like the confirmation that baseball's Houston Astros play at Minute Maid Park; Atlas was one of the Titans in Greek mythology for the non-classicists among us.

Let's see what else we've got:


6. Time for new growth: Abbr. : SPR.

"This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes."

14. Select group : A-LIST

15. Eastern ideal : TAO

16. Absolute : SHEER

17. Summer Olympics competitor : DIVER

18. Symmetrically placed Monopoly sqs. : R.R.S. Railroad Stations. Liverpool Street, King's Cross, Marylebone and Fenchurch Street in the London version.

19. Bambino's parent : MAMMA

20. Musical narrated by Che : EVITA

21. Squeeze (out) : EKE

22. Cosmetician Adrien : ARPEL. Close to a personal natick with the "A" crossing "ASMARA", but I guessed right.

23. Info-gathering mission : RECON

24. Entanglement : WEB

25. Guffaw evokers : RIOTS

26. Way up the mountain : GONDOLA. A lot more comfortable than the old chair lifts and t-bars.

29. Slowpokes : SNAILS

33. 1945 battle setting, familiarly : IWO. Jima.

34. "Macbeth" witches, e.g. : TRIO. Shakespeare's "weird" or "weyward" sisters were never named.

41. Jabbers : YAKS

42. Lip-reading alternative: Abbr. : A.S.L. American Sign Language. Did you notice at the start of the singing of the National Anthem at the Superbowl that CBS put a camera on the ASL interpreter for about three seconds, and the producer never showed her again? Somewhat defeats the purpose.

43. Subtlety : NUANCE

44. Writer who used his actual middle name as a pen name : DR. SEUSS

50. Place for a key: Abbr. : IGN. If one of the puzzle's eight cars hadn't put a key in the ignition this morning, that would have been one fewer accident.

56. Pianist known for his Beethoven interpretations : ARRAU. Thank you, crosses

57. Most preferred, in texts : FAV

58. RollerCoaster Tycoon World publisher : ATARI. A video game. I don't play them.

59. Pope after John X : LEO VI

60. Seine sight : ILE. The famous cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris is located on the Ile de la Cité.

61. Can't be beaten : IS HOT

62. Not yet up : IN BED

63. Yalie : ELI

64. Calf-roping loop : NOOSE

65. Monopoly stack : DEEDS

66. 67-Acr. has one : SYL. Syllable.

67. Show contempt : SNEER


1. Sound mixing control : FADER. Take your pick.

2. Bar staple : OLIVE

4. Be of __: help : USE TO

5. Suppress : STRANGLE

6. Scattered : STREWN

7. Subject to ticketing : PARKED ILLEGALLY. Very nicely automotive-related in tune with the main theme.

8. NCAA's "Granddaddy of them all" : ROSE BOWL. So nicknamed because it's the oldest college football bowl game. Played on New Year's Day just up the road from me in Pasadena.

9. Capital of Eritrea : ASMARA. I didn't know this, and as I mentioned, was almost naticked with ARPEL. Guessed right.

10. Lewis with Lamb Chop : SHARI.

12. Convened again : RE-MET. Grammatically OK, but have any of us actually used this?

13. Educational hurdles : ORALS. EXAMS went in, EXAMS came out.

27. Prize for a picture : OSCAR

28. Beef cuts : LOINS. In legend, a particularly tasty loin was knighted by King James I to become the Sir Loin.

29. Rooting place : STY. I tried BED first for plant roots.

30. Larry O'Brien Trophy org. : N.B.A. The championship trophy named for the Postmaster General turned NBA Commissioner.

31. "Fine with me!" : A-OK

32. Connections : INS

34. Familia member : TIA

35. Harry's Hogwarts cohort : RON. Potter's buddy Weasley.  I read about 100 pages of the first book, but never got into it.

36. Firm ending? : INC.

37. Verb ending : -OSE

39. Hardens into bone : OSSIFIES

40. Keeps up : SUSTAINS

44. Ancient Celtic priests : DRUIDS

45. Present to the public : UNVEIL

46. Well-founded : VALID

47. Adler of Sherlock Holmes lore : IRENE. She appears in "A Scandal in Bohemia" and Holmes scholars like to refer to her as Sherlock's love interest.

49. Like many roofs : EAVED

52. "Challenge accepted!" : IT'S ON

54. Got up : AROSE

55. Gunpowder ingredient : NITER. Along with sulfur and charcoal.

I think that's it from me. Here's the grid, complete with circles and the "T" patterns shown in blue.


Feb 17, 2016

Interview with Todd Gross

Todd Gross is a friend I wish I could meet someday. Todd has been incredibly kind and supportive of our blog and my construction efforts from the very start.

Today is our third puzzle from Todd, who made the very first Fireball crossword. Todd also has 13 puzzles published by the New York Times.  His works have also appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The Chronicle of Higher Education. In the past few years, Todd has been helping David Steinberg with the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project.

Todd lives in Mesquite, NV
I did not do research. I presume you sifted through quite a few *D*D*D* movies and decided to go with three 15-letter only?

I looked at some lists of movies to find ones with three D's in their titles.  There are surprisingly few of them.  I didn't start out looking for 15-letter movie titles, but finding CROCODILE DUNDEE and INDEPENDENCE DAY, both of which I really wanted to use, I tried to find another 15-letter movie and was lucky to find STAND AND DELIVER.

By the way, did you notice the films are in chronological order?
Did you have a low-word count in mind when you designed the grid? We don't often see a themeless-style grid with dedicated 51 theme squares. Where were the trouble spots for you in the filling process?

I wasn't intending to make a low word count puzzle, but the way I construct, I usually start with a lower word count grid and add blocks if I can't find a way to fill the grid cleanly.  With THREED on the bottom row, it was natural to have a stack of 8-letter entries on the other side.  But that wasn't working well so I added the pair of black squares to make the first and last across entries 7-letters long.  And I was able to make that work (Rich didn't ask me to revise my grid and didn't make any changes).

The rest of the grid seems pretty normal to me.  There's even several 3-letter entries in the upper left/lower right corners, which I usually try to avoid.  Having three 15-letter theme answers helps keep the word count low.
What's your background? Who introduced you to crossword solving and later on construction?

I discovered puzzles when I was young.  I'm not sure how I was introduced, I just remember seeing them on magazine stands and eventually buying them.  But I didn't like crosswords, they were too hard!  I remember being excited when Dell Pencil Puzzles & Word Games first came out, because it didn't have any crosswords!  Alas, I'm not sure what year that was, mid-late 70's sometime.

I don't have much memory of crosswords specifically until 2008, when I posted a dorky little crossword (5x5) on Ken Jennings's blog site.  A fellow named Bill MacDonald (see saw my puzzle and suggested I try making actual publishable crosswords.  So I decided to give it a try.  As you know, there's a lot to learn before you can make publishable puzzles.  I was lucky Will accepted my 3rd submission (I might have given up if I'd had 8 or 10 rejections without any acceptances).  Rich accepted a submission at about the same time.  And I've been making (not always publishing) crossword puzzles ever since.
What kind of theme and entries interest you the most and what kind do you try to avoid in your grids?

As a constructor, I'm trying to think of original theme ideas.  These puzzles are more interesting to make than themes you've seen many times before.  Original ideas by their nature don't fit into categories well, but I will say I like puzzles with meta answers.  I'm trying to learn to create good ones, I have more to learn.  I'm generally not big on wordplay themes, because they've been done a lot and there are several constructors that are better at making them than me.

As for entries I like and ones I try to avoid, I don't think I'm unusual there.  I really like trivia, so I like entries like RAYEWRY that are interesting but not very well known.  I also like entries that can be figured out even if they aren't well known (you may not know what a DUCHY is, but you've heard of a duchess and a monarchy, so the word makes sense for its definition).  I really don't want to offend people, so I try to stay away from entries that might bother somebody.  I'm also not fond of phrases that feel like words just spliced together...but they do come in handy sometimes (like 13 Down). 

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

I've found all three of those enjoyable at times and frustrating at other times.  Theme development is probably the most fun because it's more creative and less mechanical...but when you try and try and you can't think of enough theme entries for a puzzle, the mechanical process of cluing can be a delight by comparison.  Filling is somewhere in between, with choosing a grid pattern being creative and filling the grid with words more mechanical.  I'm really working to improve my main word list, because all too often I find ugly entries keep being suggested by Crossword Compiler, and I can't find a good fill.  A better list would definitely make filling more enjoyable.

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

I look up pretty much everything online.  I like using Google autocomplete to help me learn about words/phrases/titles I otherwise wouldn't have known about...though this is pretty tedious to do.  Wikipedia helps me with facts than can allow for interesting clues, helps me find entries for specific letter patterns.  When I first started, I spent a lot of time looking at existing clues so I can come up with something different.  Now I only look up clues if I can't think of one (it happens more often than I want to admit).  Matt Ginsberg's clue database is particularly good, but I've also used XWordInfo and to look up clues.
What is the best puzzle you've constructed? Fireball #1? I love that puzzle.

If you saw all of my rejections, you'd know I'm not a great judge of which of my puzzles are good.  I'm still surprised by which ones get accepted and which don't.  Personally, my favorite is my first accepted puzzle: the Sunday New York Times crossword titled LET'S PLAY BINGO.  It's not just my first acceptance, it's rather memorable with the bingo card in the middle.  Jim Horne had to rewrite his grid display code to handle an image in the center like that.

I'm also amazed I got to co-author the NYT puzzle that commemorated the crossword's centennial.  Even better, it was with David Steinberg, who of course spearheaded the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project, which clearly shows his interest in crossword history.  But we submitted our puzzle before the project had started, and before I knew how appropriate it would be to share a byline with him.

You're in good company liking my Fireball puzzle.  Amy wrote a nice review on her blog.  And Peter Gordon is especially choosy, since Fireball only publishes one puzzle per week.

Besides crosswords, what else do you do for fun?
Since I've already mentioned David's blog, let me say I'm really interested in crossword puzzle history, especially learning about different constructors.  We are an interesting, creative, diverse bunch, who have developed this unusual skill, only a very few making a living from it.  In the old days, about the only feedback you'd get was from editors you submitted to.  Much of my research has been posted on David's blog, but there will be more in the future.  Including an interview I recently did by phone with a constructor who's almost 90 now.

Other than that, I lead a pretty quiet life.  I'm actually on disability because I don't handle stress well.  So I spend a lot of time at home leading a low-stress lifestyle, much of it in bed.  I realize that doesn't sound fun to most people, but it helps me a lot.  When I do have energy, I like traveling to different places.  I also like learning things, hence my interest in trivia.  And, of course, crosswords.