Thursday, January 31, 2008

Friday, February 1 - Doug Peterson

The first puzzle of the month...and a constructor who's not a familiar name. If this is a debut, it's an impressive one.

Tough puzzle. After my first run-through, I had just a few answers:

1A: Temper (assuage). I don't know why I went there instead of thinking about one's temperament, but I did.

17A: Hobbes in "Calvin and Hobbes" (imaginary friend). A good guess and an excellent comic strip...right up there with The Far Side.

23A: Señora's step (paso).

28A: Tahini base (sesame).

34A: With 44-Down, Cajun dish with giblets (dirty / rice). I've never tried just doesn't sound appetizing.

1D: For one (apiece)...only because of the two acrosses I had. They also gave me 2D: Not at all sunny (somber), 3D: Fit to be tried? (suable), 4D: Id output (urges) and 5D: Mordant (acid).

8D: Fred of "The Munsters" (Gwynne).

23D: British meat pie (pasty). That must be one of those words I learned from doing crossword puzzles. It's nothing I ever ate growing up...or in my adult life.

From there I just started going through the across clues again, guessing a few things, going through the downs, guessing a few more. I did end up with some strange-looking answers for some time, but it all worked out in the end.

I did check with Dogpile to see if there was anything else that would work for 25D: Actress Gray and others, but nothing turned up that would fit...except for my first guess, Erin. I remember her from some TV show, and I always thought she was just stunning. Was I right?

Also needed the last name of 25A: Actress Kimberly of "Close to Home" (Elise). It filled in a couple of spots...and things just kept flowing after that.

I had a little trouble with the connected cluing at 19A: Prefix with 6-Down (Penta). That certainly is a prefix, but I was trying to make 6-Down the prefix...and gon just didn't make sense. I finally put it all together.

Favorite clues, answers...or both:

15A: Be negative about (pour cold water on). That's not an expression I've used, but I'm fairly certain I've heard it before. It does look good in the grid.

36A: Subject of some conspiracy theories (Hoffa).

37A: Prez's first name on "The West Wing" (Jed). One of these days I'll get that on DVD. If it's anything like "The American President," I'll enjoy it.

44A: Playboy's plea? (renew).

49A: Stereotypically smarmy sorts (used car salesman). I've known some pretty nice used car salesmen. They do get a bad rap (and rep) often.

51A: Tickled the most? (pinkest). Too funny.

12D: Before being delivered (prenatal).

27D: Make like Pac-Man (chomp).

28D: They're bound to work (serfs).

29D: "Heads up!" (watch out).

30D: It stocks blocks (ice house).

32D: Prepare for a shower, maybe (giftwrap).

45D: Longtime columnist who coined the term "beatnik" (Caen).

There were a few places where I was just lost...and saved by the crosses:

8A: Ape wrestlers (grapple). And I still don't get that. At all.

37D: Basso Hines (Jerome).

42D: Belarus's capital (Minsk). I've seen that again and again, and I still don't ever remember it. Maybe next time.

The worst wrong answer I had was at 29A: Well activity. I had gushing, instead of the correct wishing. We had a well gushed. That wasn't a bad thing.

One more long answer that's worth noting...46A: They're not easily overturned (outrigger canoes).

And that's it for tonight. Here's the grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thursday, January 31 - Paula Gamache

I rarely finish one of Paula Gamache's puzzle without resorting to Google...but today was an exception. That's somewhat surprising...considering how few gimmes I had.

But I just kept plodding along...guessing here and there, changing a few answers...and I got it. I checked the grid on the Applet and had something wrong. I changed 64A: "Finnegans Wake" wife from Anne to Anna...and my solution was accepted.

I'm always delighted to see circles in the grid. A note at the top of the puzzle (in Across Lite...I don't know about the print version) said: The circled letters in the answers to the seven starred clues, reading left to right or top to bottom, spell words that can complete familiar phrases that start with "break."

Theme answers:

16A: * Not just stupid (brain dead)...[break bread]. I'm sure they meant no disrespect with that clue and answer. It seemed a little off, although I've been known to describe myself that way on occasion.

22A: * Setting in Sherlock Holmes's "The Man with the Twisted Lip" (opium den)...[break open].

37A: * Perplexed state (wit's end)...[break wind]. I don't know if that passes the breakfast test, but I'm sure it got a few laughs.

49A: * Informers (rat finks)...[break ranks].

59A: * Dessert made from a product of a 10-Down (apple tart)...[break apart].

10D: * Orchard part (fruit tree)...[break free].

33D: * Fairy tale meanie (evil queen)...[break even].

I thought the theme was clever, and the construction of a puzzle like this just blows me away. The theme answers were all better-than-average fill, as was much of the nontheme fill:

18A: Where William the Conqueror died (Rouen). That's one of those words that I must have heard sometime in my life. When I had a couple of letters in place, I just knew what the answer was.

19A: Kerosene (lamp oil). This was one of the last answers to large part because of an error at 2D: "That's __!" (director's cry). I couldn't decide between a wrap (the correct answer, and the first thing I wrote) and a take. I should always go with my gut.

20A: N.B.A. center who has pitched for McDonald's, Pepsi and Visa (Yao Ming). I was at a real disadvantage here...I don't follow basketball, and I don't watch television. Fortunately, that section of the puzzle was falling into place nicely, so the crosses gave me his name.

36A: Daily or weekly, e.g.: Abbr. (adv.). I love clues like this...I get the answer, but I don't get the answer. Until later.

47A: Grill (quiz). That has to be one of the best words ever...both a Q and a Z!

57A: Major Italian tourist site (Pompeii). That was in the puzzle a few weeks fact, the syndicated puzzle for today (Wednesday...not Thursday).

58A: "Ich __ dich" (German words of endearment) (liebe).

63A: This and that (olio). Another of those words I'd never heard until I started doing crossword puzzles. I can't remember when I saw it last, though.

1D: Cellist Casals (Pablo).

6D: __ Hugo, 1975 Isabelle Adjani role based on a real-life story (Adele).

15D: Stimulated (aroused).

21D: Completely strange (alien).

23D: Music download source (Napster).

27D: They replaced C rations (MREs). When the girls were in Civil Air Patrol, we thought this was very I can't remember why. I'll have to ask them.

37D: Some luau dancers (wahines). I haven't shown a Hawaii picture in some time. Here's one from our first trip...taken for the book I plan to write about bathrooms I've visited. Reserve your copy now.

38D: Resort island ESE of Valencia (Ibiza). This was in the puzzle a few weeks ago and I hadn't heard of it. This is its second appearance since then...and a gimme now.

48D: Planetary shadow (umbra). I wouldn't have gotten it without crosses. Because I had Anne for 64A, I had umbre for looked okay to me.

51D: Author Zora __ Hurston (Neale).

52D: Popular Japanese beer (Kirin). Wouldn't have remembered that, but the crosses took care of it.

That's it for tonight. My goal is to be asleep before least in bed by then.

Here's the grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wednesday, January 30 - Peter A. Collins

Wednesday's puzzle by Peter Collins felt Thursday-tough in a few spots. The theme was easy enough, were the theme answers. But did anyone else think it seemed like an Easter theme?

Hidden in the puzzle (and revealed at 36-, 38- and 40-Across)...are a HALF / DOZEN / EGGS.

17A: Fraternity parties (keggers). The only theme answer that didn't come easily to me. I could only think of toga parties...because of Animal House, not personal recollection.

18A: Ankle-to-waist wear (legging). When I got this of several gimmes...I noticed the three G's. Thought that was just a coincidence at the time.

19A: Harpist's progression (arpeggio). Again, my piano lessons have proven to be valuable in solving crossword puzzles.

55A: 1957 Buddy Holly hit (Peggy Sue). By this time, I'd caught on. This one would have been a gimme anyway.

57A: Extreme poverty (beggary). I've worked with this population for five years, and I've never heard that expression. It was easy enough to guess. The cross at 46D: Hungarian (Magyar) was one of the Thursday-tough answers that I didn't know.

59A: "Eat your __!" (mom's order) (veggies). I don't think my mother ever said that, and I'm sure I didn't. We had to taste everything, but nothing was forced. I grew up trying everything...and disliking very few foods. I even like Brussels sprouts and liver.

A few favorites:

1A: Choice of colors (palette)...a gimme on 1A is always nice.

16A: Native New Yorkers (Oneidas).

22A: Pancho and the Cisco Kid, e.g. (amigos).

33A: 1960s-'80s Red Sox great, informally (Yaz). Now this is real sports knowledge...and I know all about him. I did have to check the spelling of his last name, though, to be sure I had it right. I learned about Carl Yastrzemski from the same friend who got me doing the New York Times puzzles in the 70s. Here he is in his younger days. I can't believe he's almost 70 now.

47A: Yemen's capital (Sana'a). This isn't the first time we've had this, but I still needed a couple of crosses.

51A: Coolest, in rap slang (illest). I'm proud to say that I know zero about rap.

63A: Tropical woe (malaria). It's not every day you see malaria in a puzzle. JimH can probably tell you how many times. Those computer guys can do everything.

64A: Fighting words (en garde)...not its first appearance.

8D: "The Wizard of Oz" scarecrow portrayer (Bolger). I had to think for a few minutes on this one. Bert Lahr appears quite often, but this may be a first.

10D: Irish exclamation (begorra). Why did I think that had an H at the end?

31D: Summation signs (sigmas).

42D: Castle fortification (rampart).

47D: Nancy's pal, in the comics (Sluggo).

48D: Sour brew (alegar). Another one I remember from past puzzles.

54D: Wrinkly fruit (ugli). I've commented on this in the past and posted this picture at least once. It's too cute...or so ugly (ugli) that it's cute.

If I counted correctly, G appeared 19 times in the of them as doubles. I like seeing Yaz above dozen...each sharing a Z with 20D: Turning gray (grizzling). Thank heavens for my Thursday appointment with Rob...or I'd be doing that!

Some of the answers that eluded me:

8A: Charlotte hoopsters (Bobcats) it from crosses.

44A: Global financial org. (IMF). Fortunately, all of its crosses were doable...including 30D: Driver (engine) and 35D: Comparable to a pig (as fat).

1D: Nuclear power since 1998: Abbr. (Pak). I was going somewhere else with that one.

6D: Univ. of Maryland athletes (Terps). What am I missing?'s short for the Terrapins. Never heard of them.

46D: Hungarian (Magyar). I already said this...but it bears repeating.

52D: Some mil. defenses (ABMs). Anti ballistic missiles, I guess.

58D: Gangbanger's gun (gat). I know even less about guns than I do about sports...or rap. And that's just fine with me.

Because I had the acrosses in the northeast, I didn't see the clue for 12D: "__, I do believe I failed you" (opening of a 1998 hit) (Adia). When I read it, though, I didn't think I knew the song. I checked it out and discovered it was a song I liked...I just hadn't paid attention to the lyrics. Here's Sarah McLachlan singing it. What a beautiful voice.

That's it for tonight. Here's the (100% accurate, I think) grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tuesday, January 29 - C. W. Stewart and J. K. Hummel

C. W. Stewart and J. K. Hummel pair up for this week's Tuesday puzzle. I'm not sure if this is their first joint effort, but it's the first one since I've been solving and blogging.

The theme is revealed at 39A: What 17-, 26-, 50- and 60-Across have in common (THEY CAN BE ROLLED). The theme answers (no...joint isn't one of them) are:

17A: It may end up in the gutter (bowling ball). Sad to say, that was a gimme...based on personal experience when I first started playing. I probably weighed about 75 pounds when I bowled my first game...I could hardly lift the lightest ball. I bowled a 19...but I managed to get a 56 on my second game. How do you suppose I remember such absurd detail from something that happened in 1961?

26A: Sweater style (turtleneck). I can't remember if I've plugged Nora Ephron's book..."I Feel Bad About My Neck." It's laugh-out-loud funny. This answer reminded me of her...and of the book. Here's the author's photo from the back cover.

50A: Classic breakfast fare (Quaker Oats). Nothing is better for thee than me. Since the most recent cholesterol fiasco, I've been eating oatmeal at least five mornings a week. Not Quaker, though...I prefer the the thick-cut oats I get at Vitamin Cottage. A little bit of real maple syrup, a few sliced almonds, some vanilla soymilk. Delicious.

60A: Item on a set (movie camera).

Sometimes I actually remember things from past puzzles. Today I got several answers...just because we've had them before.

21A: Schindler of "Schnidler's List" (Oskar). No misspelling it the first time around.

32A: Slave girl of opera (Aisa). Don't ask me which opera. [Update: This is actually Aida...from the opera of the same name. I guess I didn't remember as much as I'd thought.]

33A: Exploding stars (novae). Just the other day someone commented that the plural that appeared in the puzzle was incorrect. It should have been novae...rather than novas. Whoever you are, this plural's for you!

6D: Stellar swan (Cygnus).

38D: Fred Astaire's sister (Adele).

40D: Bow-toting god (Amor).

Favorite clues include 48A: Old timer? (sundial), 28D: Fact fudger (liar)...that's being rather kind...and 58D: Dirty reading (smut).

Best words in the grid:

1A: Prominent feature of Dracula (fangs).

15A: Search engine name (Yahoo).

70A: Center of power (locus).

13D: Country/rock's __ Mountain Daredevils (Ozark)...sharing a Z with 16A: Designer Claiborne (Liz).

37D: Mullally of "Will & Grace" (Megan). Haven't seen it but have heard the name.

53D: Parting word (adieu).

I like that 9D: Showman Hurok (Sol) is followed by 10D: Went at it alone (soloes). Not that soloes is a great word...but having SOL right after SOL looks really good in the grid. [Update: The source of the Aida problem...should be soloed. Which is a much better word than soloes.]

I've been searching the completed grid for the identical cluing that I liked so much...and just realized it was in the New York Sun puzzle. Even if you didn't do the Sun, it's worth noting. [Madison, for one] is the clue that appears twice...for capital and Avenue. Good one.

That's it for tonight. Here's the grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Monday, January 28 - Michael Blake

A fun Monday puzzle from Michael Blake...a name I don't recognize. I'll have to check the Forum later to see if this is a debut.

Whether or not it is...the theme made me laugh. I only knew one of three theme answers before I reached the give-away clue...then I was able to fill in at least part of the other two.

The theme is revealed at 55A: Singing group suggested by the starts of 20-, 28- and 48-Across (The Chipmunks)...and the theme answers are:

20A: "Future Shock" author (Alvin Toffler). The only one of the three that I knew...but the best one to know. There was only one trio that had an Alvin.

28A: Late hunter of Nazi war criminals (Simon Wiesenthal). I was only able to get his last name from crosses. Maybe I should have known this...

48A: "Sister Carrie" author (Theodore Dreiser). I don't know how I've managed to get this far in life without having heard of this book. It's under $3 on Amazon, so maybe I'd better get it with my next order...which will be "The New York Times Sweet Dreams Crosswords: 200 Relaxing Puzzles" to be released on February 5.

I had a couple of brain lapses while solving this. You know what I read the clue, you know the answer. But the word just will not come. I'm blaming it on the the fact that I started reading "A Thousand Splendid Suns" yesterday. I didn't get very far, but this morning started reading and got absolutely hooked. I couldn't put it down...and ended up reading most of it. I have about 25 pages left, but I finally got to a place of enough resolution that I could leave it for a short time. It's every bit as good...and as "The Kite Runner." Maybe even better. Maybe more haunting.

The first brain lapse was 16A: Katmandu's land (Nepal). I stared at the five squares and nothing...NOTHING...would come to mind. The second one was 66A: Thesaurus author (Roget). Both of those are things I know, and it just makes me crazy when that happens.

On the other hand, I immediately knew such things as 45A: Former senator Trent (Lott), 61A: Dragon Ball Z game company (Atari), 65A: Actress Papas or Ryan (Irene), 71A: Actress Falco and namesakes (Edies), 4D: Dolphins QB Dan (Marino), 25D: Clarence of the Supreme Court (Thomas) and 40D: "The __ Squad" of '60s-'70s TV (Mod). So I'm not completely brainless.

Multiword answers include 14A: Skip __ (lost tempo) (a beat), 5D: Finished (at an end)...seems like we just had that, 21D: Namely (to wit), 29D: "Put me down as a maybe" (I might) and 44D: First American to walk in space (Ed White).

Favorite answers in the grid:

17A: __ firma (terra).

36A: Brewing coffee produces one (aroma). I put on a pot of coffee before the puzzle was available online, then totally forgot about it until I came to this clue. I'm serious...that book has done something to me.

69A: Bullwinkle, for one (moose).

1D: __ Hari (Mata).

3D: "__ Griffin's crosswords" (Merv).

9D: Insect or radio part (antenna). That's how I finally got Nepal.

26D: Kind of class for expectant mothers (Lamaze).

27D: Noisy shouting (clamor).

28D: Anesthetize, say (sedate).

30D: Tied down, as a boat (moored).

32D: Country rocker Steve (Earle).

46D: Orkin target (termite).

The weather looked iffy all day, so I decided to spend another day at home. In addition to reading, playing the piano and watching the birds frolic, I made chicken noodle soup (with homemade noodles), baked hamburger buns for tomorrow night's dinner, and made a lemon pudding cake. I heard from both of the was a good day.

I discovered a new crossword blog a couple of days ago, and I'm hooked on JimH and his inimitable style. I just spent fifteen minutes trying to explain what I like...about his writing style, his philosophy, his sense of humor. I give up! Just follow the link in the sidebar or click here for The JimH Crossword Blog.

That's it for tonight. Here's the grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sunday, January 27 - Mike Nothnagel

I'm pretty sure this is the first Sunday puzzle Mike Nothnagel has had since I started doing the New York Times again a year and a half ago...not counting the diagramless that appeared last month.

The title, I NEED MY SPACE, made me think it would have something to do with the solar system.


The theme answers are all in-the-language phrases, each with the word room added to it. The new phrases are then clued.

24A: Like a useless photo lab employee? (afraid of the darkroom). I got this one right away. I'm not sure if that means it was easy...or if I was just on Mike's wavelength. Have I mentioned that he's one of my favorite constructors?

39A: Offers breakfast to students before first period? (brings homeroom the bacon). One of the best theme answers.

53A: Beer sources for genteel guests? (powderroom kegs).

72A: Reminder to a forgetful judge on bowling night? (the ball's in your courtroom).

92A: What talk show guests have before the broadcast? (greenroom party).

107A: Sign outside a church lavatory? (no restroom for the wicked). The best one.

126A: Where a Monkee changes after a game? (Davy Jones' lockerroom).

There's so much nontheme fill to love...a plethora of Scrabbly letters and multiword answers, plus plenty of words that you just don't often see.

First, the multiwords...5A: Succeeded in (won at), 31A: Imported by plane (flown in), 84A: 1977 George Burns film (Oh, God!), 117A: Short-hop plane (air taxi), 131A: Handily defeated (aced out), 3D: Laredo or Nuevo Laredo (border town), 10D: 1976 horror film whose score won an Oscar (The Omen), 18D: Seldom-used golf club (one iron), 19D: Over (at an end), 39D: Offer to buy at auction (bid on), 49D: Host of public radio's "This American Life (Ira Glass), 50D: Cubs' protector (den mother), 58D: Attempt to trick (put-up job), 85D: "Right Place Wrong Time" singer, 1973 (Dr. John), 99D: Prescription phrase (one a day) and 105D: Singer with the #1 country album "80's Ladies" (K. T. Oslin).

Favorites crosses...for one reason or another.

17A: Drag show accessory (boa) and 17D: Eccentric friend on "Designing Women" (Bernice). Boa allowed me to guess her name correctly.

35A: "Let's go, Miguel!" (vamos) with 35D: __ 1, Yuri Gagarin's spacecraft (Vostok). Thank you, Spanish 101 and World History.

59A: Sharp turn (zig) with 59D: "Beetle Bailey" soldier (Zero).

65A: Sauce thickener (roux) with 52D: Increase, in a way (wax).

66A: Name in a hymn (Jesu) with 66D: Schmo (jerk)...let me clarify that what I like is the letter J .

67A: Worthless talk, in slang (bilge) with 57D: Rap enthusiast, in slang (B-boy)...good guesses, since I'm not familiar with either expression.

104A: Ring stats (TKOs) and 104D: Italian province or its capital (Trieste).

121A: Music with jazzlike riffs (ska) and 122D: Kind of beef (Kobe).

133A: 1964 Quinn role (Zorba) and 106D: Playful movement (scherzo).

A couple of days ago I didn't recognize the name of a band...and was chided for it by an anonymous reader. I got it this time. 90A: Band with the 1989 hit "Stand" (REM). You can hear it here, but I don't like it was well as "Losing My Religion."

Other clues and answers I liked:

1A: Literary elephant (Babar). Who doesn't like Babar? And who doesn't like getting the first answer?

36A: Wally's TV brother, with "the" (Beav).

78A: Early invader of Britain (Saxon).

115A: Satirical paper, with "The" (Onion). "America's Finest News Source." See for yourself here.

135A: Tasty bit (morsel). I didn't need to bake bread today, so I made dog biscuits. They must be tasty, because the boys went nuts when I took them out of the oven.

5D: Cereal topping (raisins).

9D: Religious retreats (ashrams).

14D: Day spa accessories (loofahs).

42D: Guthrie's follower at Woodstock (Baez). I saw the movie enough times that I almost think I was there. Ronald Ray-gun...zzzzzzap!

54D: Poland Spring competitor (Evian).

55D: Owen __ , John Irving character (Meany). Great story.

88D: Expensive strings (Strad).

108D: Company with a star logo (Texaco). That took too long to figure out, even though I know that "You can trust your car to the man who wears the star...the big, bright Texaco star."

There were a few things I didn't know but managed to get from crosses:

21A: Baseball Hall-of-Famer Edd (Roush).

99A: Poker game with four hole cards (Omaha)...never heard of it.

56D: "A maid with hair of gold," in an old song (Katy). I guess I don't know the old song.

68D: Rob of "Melrose Place" (Estes).

93D: Seine tributary (Oise).

100D: "Le Misanthrope" playwright (Molière ). I think we just had this, so I'd better remember it.

My favorite wrong answer...95D: Blanket holder (chest). I really wanted Linus, even if the crosses didn't make any sense.

That's it for tonight. Here's the grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G

Friday, January 25, 2008

Saturday, January 26 - Karen M. Tracey

I struggled with Karen Tracey's last New York Times puzzle...and I struggled with this one. I checked in with Dogpile to get a few of the more obscure answers, then just kept at it.

Only a couple of gimmes...34A: Vitamin A (Retinol), 56A: Biblical woman who renamed herself Mara (Naomi), 55A: Minnelli of Broadway (Liza), 28D: Honeydew alternative (casaba) and 47D: Six-time Grammy winner Mary J. __ (Blige). To say that I didn't have much of a toehold would be putting it mildly.

Dogpile gave me several unknowns, including 19A: "Isaac's Storm" author Larson (Erik), 20A Player of the Queen Mother in "The Queen," 2006 (Syms), 42A: "Turandot" composer Ferruccio __ (Busoni), 62A: Blues guitarist Vaughan (Stevie Ray), 14D: Playwright/painter Wyspianski (Stanislaw)...can you imagine learning to spell that in preschool?, 30D: "The Thief's Journal" author (Jean Genet) and 35D: __ Raymonde, player of Alex Rousseau on "Lost" (Tania).

How Karen Tracey knew all of those names to include them in a puzzle is way beyond me.

That gave me enough of a start that I could actually start working some of the crosses. That's not my preferred method of solving, but sometimes that's what we amateurs have to do. In case I haven't said it lately, I don't think that using a search engine is cheating. I consider it a learning tool...whatever it takes to improve one's solving skills.

Favorite answers include 30A: It's prohibited by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (junk fax), 37A: Kind of party (pajama), 40A: "New York City Rhythm" singer (Manilow), 57A: What kids might roll down (hillsides), 8D: Peaked (anemic), 12D: Potential canine saver (root canal), 13D: Personal manager (majordomo)...the only one I know is Zazu from "The Lion King," 32D: Tops (number one), 39D: Reels (lurches), 43D: Look askance (squint), 45D: Rapture (bliss), 49D: Hyundai sedan (Azera), and 54D: Pomeranian or Dalmatian (Slav).

Favorite clues...1A: Cash cache, often (cookie jar), 29A: They don't stay hot for very long (fads), 38A: General equivalent (Admiral), 61A: Cold weather (teens), 7D: Peer group setting? (jury box), 9D: Dwarf, maybe (red star) and 50D: Fresh (sassy).

Oenophiles had a bit of an edge with a couple of clues...18A: Spanish table wine (Rioja) and 40D: Light white wine (Moselle).

My worst wrong answer was 45A: Dad's rival. Knowing that the second letter was an A, I wrote in A and W. When I couldn't get any of the downs, I knew I had something wrong. It finally dawned on me that another root beer competitor was Barq's.

Don was on the computer downstairs, so I couldn't confer with him on 24A: Please, to Pachelbel. In the first place, I couldn't figure out what language they were looking for. When I finally guessed it was German, I didn't have a clue about the answer...bitte.

If I've ever heard the word ecocar (27A: Green vehicle), I don't remember it. And I don't think I'd like to drive around in one of these.

I can hardly keep my eyes open...and I had two cups of coffee after dinner tonight. I'm looking forward to my day at home tomorrow. It was a tough week, and I'm ready to just chill for a couple of days.

Here's the grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Friday, January 25 - David Quarfoot

When I saw David Quarfoot's name on the byline, I was a little nervous. I scanned the clues and saw several gimmes...even thought I might be able to nail this one.

I was wrong.

Which is not to say that I didn't do fairly well, given that it was a Quarfoot puzzle. I ended up with only a few blanks...all filled in after a quick visit to Dogpile.

The gimmes:

9A: 23-Across and others (beiges)...23A: Shade shade (ecru). Don't ask me how I got that immediately.

15A: One and only (true love). I thought it was too corny to be true.

18A: Key that doesn't include 58-Across (E major)...58A: It's almost a B, scorewise (A sharp). I am truly thankful for piano lessons...some things have stayed with me.

25A: Biblical miracle setting (Cana).

26A: Powerful piece (queen).

47A: Meccan pilgrim (Hadji).

55A: Spotter's confirmation (I see it).

65A: Judge of films (Reinhold). I love his that I got it.

1D: Henry Clay or William Jennings Bryan (statesman).

3D: Versatile actors may play them (dual roles).

11D: Stuck (in a rut).

12D: 11 1/2" soldier (GI Joe).

I liked the identically clued...but very different...34A: Pilot's place (sky) and 60A (gas range).

I also liked the words I could make by different parsing of multiword answers. 63A: Fancy haberdashery item (ascot tie) becomes A SCOTTIE...46D: Calm (at ease) becomes A TEASE. I came up with entertaining clues as well.

Speaking of multiword answers, others include 1A: War-torn Baghdad suburb (Sadr City), 16A: Weather Channel topic (El Niño), 29A: Call from home (yer out), 31A: 1936 N.L. leader in slugging percentage (Mel Ott)...the two names tripped me up, 37A: Part of Manhattan's Alphabet City (Avenue C), 39A: "Be honest" (don't lie), 2D: It forbids religious tests for political office (Article VI), 7D: It might hold a couch potato's potato (TV tray), 34D: Enter gently (slide into), 35D: Head of state known to his people as "Dear Leader" (Kim Jong-il), 36D: "Of course" (yes, indeed), and 43D: Swee' Pea's creator (E. C. Segar).

This was some of the best fill I've seen in a long time. Maybe I was just more on Quarfoot's wavelength opposed to other times when I've had fewer than a dozen solid answers.

It wasn't a gimme, but it didn't take long to remember 17A: Fleet runner of myth (Atalanta) when I had just a couple of letters in place.

Tripped up on 53D: Underhand? (peon)...thought I was so clever when I filled in palm.

I have an early meeting tomorrow and a long day to boot. I'm so ready for my Saturday at home. Have I mentioned how much I'm lovin' my no-driving day?

That's it for tonight. Here's the grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thursday, January 24 - Matt Ginsberg

I loved this puzzle...on so many levels. Matt Ginsberg might become one of my new favorite constructors.

The theme was revealed at 63A, and I didn't have any of the theme answers until then. And it finally began to make sense. When I read the clue [Words missing from the answers to the eight starred clues], it dawned on me why I hadn't been able to figure out 15A: 1961 chart-topper for Ray Charles. HIT THE was the answer to 63A...and the hit song was [HIT THE] (Road, Jack).

The other seven theme answers, which fell into place rather quickly at that point, were:

13A: Party game [HIT THE] (piñata).

19A: Vie for votes [HIT THE] (campaign trail).

37A: Get off to a quick start [HIT THE] (ground running).

55A: Get it exactly [HIT THE] (nail on the head). You gotta love a gimme that long.

62A: Shoot perfectly [HIT THE] (bullseye).

28D: React to gunfire, maybe [HIT THE] (floor).

31D: Fail [HIT THE] (skids).

There were a few things I didn't know, but the crosses were doable...and I managed to finish without resorting to Dogpile. I love when my guesses pan out...that happened a few times as well. Good guesses include:

9A: Phil who sang "Draft Dodger Rag" (Ochs). Had *C*S, and I knew the first letter was a vowel. Guessed the O in the cross at 9D: California hometown of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (Ojai)...not familiar with either show or California. That gave me HCL for 11D: Stomach acid, to a chemist...Hydrochloric acid?

35A: "Mother of all rivers" (Mekong).

59A: Vein locale (coal mine)...although I had gold mine at first.

61A: Classic Studebaker whose name means "forward" in Italian (Avanti).

38D: __ Jeeves of P. G. Wodehouse stories (Reginald). I had enough letters that nothing else would have worked...but I've never heard of the stories.

53D: Walter who wrote "The Hustler" and "The Color of Money" (Tevis). The first letter didn't come easily, though. I was missing something on the cross at 51A: Calif. setting (PST)...finally had my aha moment.

Favorite clues include 27A: You, to you, or me, to me (self), 43A: Swell place? (sea), 3D: Zooid (animal), 14D: Largest of a septet (Asia), 20D: 10 Benjamin Franklins (grand), 26D: Ticker tape letters? (EKG), 30D: Chapter's partner (verse), 58D: Doth own (hath) and 60D: Unsafe? (out).

The best nontheme answers:

18A: How trapeze artists perform (aerially).

31A: Where Wounded Knee is: Abbr. (S. Dak.).

42A: Hockey great Jaromir (Jágr). Never heard of him, but what a great name.

2D: Capt. Sparrow, e.g. (pirate). Not my kind of movie...but he's definitely my kind of pirate.

7D: Morgue ID (toe tag). Morbid, but a good answer.

43D: Mrs. Woody Allen (Soon-Yi). They're definitely not my favorite couple, but her name works well in the grid.

46D: Abominate (loathe). I like both the clue and the answer...great words.

I also liked some of the multiword answers. 40A: Corrida chant (ole ole), 10D: Selected (called on) and 45D: Entertaining (open to)...appropriately deceptive clue for a Thursday. Nice.

That's it for today. Here's the grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wednesday, January 23 - Henry Hook

Henry Hook's puzzle was on the difficult side for a Wednesday...despite the fact that two of the long theme answers were absolute gimmes.

20A: "She's Like the Wind" singer, 1988 (Patrick Swayze). I was definitely a "Dirty Dancing" fan. There was just something about the way Patrick Swayze moved. If I'm not mistaken, he didn't just sing the song...he also wrote it.

55A: Like some days of summer, in song (lazy, hazy, crazy). Those days of sodas and pretzels and beer. Nat King Cole, 1963.

I struggled a bit with the third one...36A: Aster (Michaelmas daisy). It didn't help that I had a wrong answer for 31D: Stylish (smart)...had sharp instead.

I'm not really clear on the theme. Obviously the last word of the answers all rhyme...but I'm sure there's more than that. I guess it's that each theme answer has a different spelling for the same sound...AYZE, AISY, AZY.

It probably goes without saying that I loved that Z appeared four times!

Things I absolutely did not know and would never have gotten without doable crosses:

9A: Some Spanish Surrealist paintings (Mirós)...that's Joan Miró i Ferrà. I've never heard of him...but this is one of his paintings. Surreal.

49A: Hadrian's predecessor (Trajan). Emperors are not my strong suit.

1D: Michael of R.E.M. (Stipe). Don't know who he is...or what R.E.M. is.

9D: Its motto is "Manly deeds, womanly words" (Maryland). What kind of motto is that?

10D: Resort island near Majorca (Ibiza). Never heard of it...but I'd probably like it.

38D: Sister magazine of Jet (Ebony).

50D: Title girl with a gun in a 1989 Aerosmith hit (Janie)...never was a big Aerosmith fan, but I liked "Dream On."

54D: English drama critic Kenneth (Tynan).

I had some really good guesses that panned out...43A: Part of the Dept. of Homeland Security since 2003 (FEMA), 51A: Musical based on a T. H. White novel (Camelot), 58A: She said "Don't get mad, get everything!" (Ivana), 3D: Travis who sang "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" (Tritt)...Randy was the only Travis I could think of, 7D: Willa Cather's "One of __" (Ours), 11D: Longtime "Hollywood Squares" regular (Rose Marie) and 33D: Winter carnival structure (ice palace).

I was pretty sure that 8D [Hasenpfeffer, for one] was stew. Here's how to make it...if you're so inclined. I'm definitely not.

Favorite clue...24A: C's in shop class? (clamps).

There were some excellent answers in the grid. It was hard to pick the very best...

15A: Delete (X out).

23A: Understanding (entente).

27A: Something detested (anathema) gets the award.

45A: Tabby (house cat).

62A: To say in Spanish? (decir)...two years of Spanish paid off handsomely.

4D: Public relations effort (outreach).

5D: Bettor's option (exacta).

40D: Despite expectations (after all).

46D: Dermatologist's case (eczema).

47D: Caribbean's __ Islands (Cayman).

There's one answer that doesn't make sense to me...37D: On the line (at hazard). Should AT be in caps...or am I parsing something wrong? I give up.

I was very saddened by the news of Heath Ledger's death today. I'm especially sad for Matilda, the little girl who will grow up without her Daddy.

He was an incredibly talented young man...his acting in both "Monster's Ball" and "Brokeback Mountain" brought me to tears.

Rest in peace.

That's it for tonight. Here's the grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G