Saturday, June 30, 2007

More books I've read in 2007

I finished Nicole Krauss's "The History of Love". I haven't fallen in love with any book this much since "The Time-Traveler's Wife." This book is about love and loss and living after the loss of a love. On the last page you find out that it was about so much more than you thought it was about -- and that's why I'm probably going to read it again right away. It's that magic. When I read fiction I have to have at least one character that I like and can pull for and identify with or I can't make myself stick with it. This is the only book I can think of where I liked everybody in it. Everybody seemed very real and like they wanted to do the right thing.
I also read "Kyle Baker Cartoonist Volume 2" which I picked up from the cartoonist himself in Charlotte a couple weeks ago and "The Krypton Companion" which, believe it or not, is research for a story I'm working on.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday 6-29-07

When I see that the Friday Sun puzzle is a themed one rather than a Weekend Warrior, I get a little nervous. This is silly, I know. I should have been a lot nervous.

The theme here involves taking abbreviations for the 6 noble gases and inserting them into or in front of common words and phrases to get new wonkier words and phrases. I actually glommed onto the theme pretty quick when I figured out 60A: Podiatrist? was CORN WORKER. This turned out to be only a no-pun-intended toehold however, because I know less than diddly-squat about noble gases, don't know what they are, how they're abbreviated or what the hell is so damn noble about them. So let's just say it was rough going even after I threw in the towel and looked up the names of the noble gases and their abbreviations.
Most of the new words are entertaining. I'm not crazy about 41A: Action at a Danish auction? KRONE UPPING just cuz I wouldn't say DOLLAR UPPING was something that happened at an American auction. I like 48A: Asian Brazilian expert? KOREAN WAXER and SWATHE TEAM and NEW AGE SCALE are both kind of neat.
But man, oh man, that Northwest section was brutal. Who knew ISAK Dinesen had another Frenchier pen name? Or heard of Pop painter Alex KATZ? or knew that the Spanish letter after cu was ERE? Carmen is a MEZZO? Okay, if you SEZZO. And the name of the ship that brought the Staue of Liberty to the U.S. (ISERE) is that common knowledge? Personally I would have preferred to see this paired with 1D: Shout upon arrival (IT'S ME) and clued as Cockney's shout upon arrival -- I'S 'ERE.
Oh well, the weekend's here and I am ready for it. Hope yours is a great one.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Turnabout is fair play --

This time the Sun is going to have to wait for me. In other words, commentary on the Friday puzzle will be a little later than usual. The puzzle kicked my butt to such an extent that I'm crossworded out, and I'm just going to read my book for a while.
This book, which I am loving:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hell yeah

Well, after I made mistakes in two of this week's first three puzzles -- even accused the Sun of a misprint yesterday, I thought long and hard about checking my answers from now on before I post the grid, but I decided against it. When I started crossword blogging I said I wanted to be honest about it and tell you what I missed, and every writer knows it's better to show than to tell. So I'll leave my mistakes out there for all to see.

I don't think I made any mistakes today. (1130 update: That's what I get for thinking -- 8A should be ARRIBA not ARTIBA. You'd think with all the Speedy Gonzales cartoons I've seen I'd know that one. Thanks to Elayne S for pointing this one out.) It's a Themeless Thursday by Byron Walden, so you know going in it's going to be tricky. Just how tricky we'll examine right after this SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any further until you've done today's New York Sun Crossword Puzzle. New York Sun puzzles are every bit as fun and challenging as the more well-known New York Times and they're indisputably better in one way -- they're free. If you'd like to read about an unbiased head-to-head competition between the Sun and the Times check this out. Or if you're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

This puzzle is anchored by the two long entries 36A: When you might get in after having a 15-D own (SOME UNGODLY HOUR) and 15D: See 36-Across (A DEVIL OF A GOOD TIME). So I guess the mini-theme is hell-ish or unholy terms related to having fun. Cool, even though the interconnectedness made the puzzle just a little bit easier to crack.

Other entries of interest:

16A: Shoe that's thrown to make a point (LEANER) Very clever clueing. It feels a little off though, since in horseshoes a leaner is not technically thrown, it becomes a leaner after it's thrown (if you're lucky). Not off enough for a full-fledged quibble, however.

18A: Golf partner? So, I'm trying to think of expressions like "Golf and ___" or "____ and golf" cuz that's usually what those partner clues refer to. Here it's about cars made by Volkswagen. (PASSAT)

23A: Polycrates, for example
I'd never heard of the Tyrant of Samos, so I tried to break the word down -- "poly" of course means many, "crates" means baskets, so that was no help (TYRANT)

47A: Muppet Drummer (ANIMAL) I hadn't thought about it before, but anyone who's seen "Spinal Tap" or paid attention to rock and roll history knows how difficult it is to keep your drummer alive and with the band, so it's kind of amazing that one of the all-time rock and roll animals (so to speak) is still banging on the skins with the Muppet band.

51A: Savage of pulp fiction There were plenty of savages in pulp fiction -- Tarzan of the Apes and Conan the Barbarian, to name just two -- but only one of them was actually christened with the name Savage -- the Man of Bronze AKA the King of Torn Shirts (DOC)

52A: Garam masala component (CUMIN)
I had absolutely no idea what garam masala might be (turns out it's a collection of spices popular in Indian cuisine) and I was hampered in my efforts to figure out what it might be by the fact that I had SCORNS at 43D: Rebuffs instead of SPURNS and DIGITAL at 29D: Canon PowerShot, e.g. instead of DIGICAM. So for a long time I thought a component of garam masala might be COLON. (Of course that meant I also had CAT at 46A: Word that's a synonym of its reversal and I finally realized that PAT made more sense there -- and SCALLOP made a heck of a lot more sense than STALLOP at 43A: Coquilles St. Jacques ingredient.

57A: He cowrote "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" (TORME).
I learned this from watching the old TV show "Night Court". Judge Harry Stone was a huge fan of Mel Torme. He's not my favorite singer but "The Velvet Fog" is definitely my favorite singer nickname.

62A: Oil bases (Easels) Also water color bases, pastel bases, et cetera.

12D: "Mame" Tony winner (BEA ARTHUR). I love "The Golden Girls" I mean I really love "The Golden Girls." I have Bea Arthur's autograph and Betty White's and Rue McClanahan's. What I don't have is Estelle Getty's, and I'm not likely to get it since I understand she's quite ill and no longer signs. One of the (many) frustrations of being an autograph collector.

31D: It was dubbed "The Eighth Wonder of the World." (ASTRODOME). Nobody thinks that any more. When I think of the Astrodome, I think about the fact that they didn't think about how the grass was going to die, since it couldn't get sunlight in a domed stadium and the Astros had to cover the ground with something else -- hence the development of Astroturf.

I also liked having two very different stocking stuffers (COAL and TOE) at 52 and 56 Down, and getting a chance to see my favorite pitching coach LEO Mazzone at 58 Down.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wednesday, 6-27-07

SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any further until you've done today's New York Sun Crossword Puzzle. New York Sun puzzles are every bit as fun and challenging as the more well-known New York Times and they're indisputably better in one way -- they're free. If you'd like to read about an unbiased head-to-head competition between the Sun and the Times check this out. Or if you're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

"On the Other Hand" is by Francis Heaney, he of the nauseating neckwear. In this puzzle's themed entries every time the right hand (represented by the letter R) pops up it is replaced by the left (represented by the letter L), so that at 18A: Pour on the drinks DON LIQUORS is the other hand version of Don Rickles. You see how it works? Yeah, you have to change the spelling in each entry to get it to work, but that takes away from the wit and the elegance not one whit as far as I'm concerned.

Tony Blair becomes TONY BRAILLE at 23A: What posh books for the blind are written in?

Big Leaguer goes from the baseball diamond to the crossword grid at 32A: Popular crossword constructor Merl? BIG REAGLE. Is Merl Reagle enough of a household name that he can stand with Tony Blair and Don Rickles and be universally recognized? By casual crossword solvers?

The first three themed entries as you can see are about famous people. The next three are not, which takes away from the elegance just a whit perhaps.

41A: When babies are brought to the stadium? (RATTLE DAY)

: Blow a hole in the hull (CRIPPLE SHIP)

59A: Resting place for a woodsman? LUMBER SEAT.
A rumble seat, for those who may not know, was a feature of automobiles many years ago, an uncovered, fold-out seat in the rear of the car. It was also known as a mother-in-law seat, presumably because you could neither see nor hear the person sitting there.

Other entries of interest:

48D: Breathtaking part of a sentence? (COMMA.) Should probably be "breath-taking" with a hyphen, but I won't quibble.

62A: Places to find jack in a box? (ATMS)
45A: It has jets that cause turbulence (SPA) Clever ways to clue a couple of crossword perennials.

56A: Deadly sin that doesn't require much effort (SLOTH) Good point. I wonder why it's not more popular than lust or gluttony that really do require much more effort on the part of a would-be sinner.

5A: Scrabble players' "hands" (RACKS). In Scrabble your rack is the seven letter tiles you have to work with. When I play with my wife I always compliment her on her nice rack, cuz I'm not only corny I'm also consistent. Speaking of Scrabble, if you didn't see the Boston Globe article on one of my favorite constructors Brendan Emmett Quigley, check it out here and learn why he hates the game.

1D: Brad's beloved in "Rocky Horror" (JANET) Might be too trivial for all but the staunchest of Rocky Horror aficionados if the song "Dammit, Janet!" wasn't so catchy.

17A: Sud's opposite (NERD). I have to assume this is a misprint and should read "Stud's opposite." I'm not sure what a sud's opposite would be, but I guess it would be a beverage that was non-alcoholic and flat.
Come to think of it, I'm not even sure you can have you have just one sud.
(0700 update: It has been pointed out to me that the correct entry here is NORD not NERD and as such is the French word for North, exactly opposite of the French South -- SUD. A thousand pardons for this egregious error.)

57D: Shortening often used in cookie recipes (TBSP) This one looks like something's missing too. A tablespoon is not shortening by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe it's supposed to be "Shortening amt. often used. . . "

That's all for today. See you on Thursday.

If you're looking for commentary on Tuesday's Sun puzzle

It's after Lois and the lion. Ordinarily I would wrestle with Blogger to get the posts in the order I want, but I just found out Wednesday's puzzle is by Francis Heaney, so I have to mentally gear up.

Lion Links

You can hear some of the original ''Mbube" here:'s+Original+Evening+Birds

or with some pictures at YouTube.

A little longer clip (not from the Evening Birds but in the traditional African style:)

If you want to know the whole sad history -- even though the song earned millions in America when recorded by the Tokens, more millions when it became a hit again covered by Robert John and yet more millions in "The Lion King," the man who wrote it, Solomon Linda, died a pauper -- it's all here:

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lois -- better late than never

Man, I've really slacked off on my autograph collection. I picked up a few at the Heroes Convention -- got a great Plastic Man sketch from Kyle Baker, got a chance to tell Peter David in person how his book Imzadi absolutely blew me away. Got some books signed by Tony Harris and Mike Weiringo and other people you've never heard of.
But I haven't sent any requests through the mail since the first week of January. But the cool thing about collecting autographs through the mail is you never know when one's going to come winging its way to your mailbox. There was one in my mailbox today from Erica Durance. Ms. Durance plays Lois Lane on the "Smallville" TV show. I've got like a whole Lois Lane wing in my autograph collection cuz I've got Noel Neill and Phyllis Coates from the 1950s' TV show, Margot Kidder from the Christopher Reeves movies, Teri Hatcher from "Lois and Clark" and now Erica. (Not to mention Annette O'Toole -- who played Lana Lang in "Superman III" and Martha Kent on Smallville, and Kristin Kreuk who plays Lana on "Smallville".) I don't have Kate Bosworth who played Lois in "Superman Returns" or Dana Delany who does the voice of Lois in the Animated Superman and Justice League TV shows, but maybe this will inspire me to get busy again.


Today is my oldest daughter's birthday. Happy Birthday, Leah, we are very proud of you and we love you very much!

I kinda feel like I got the gift however, because the themed entries in this puzzle are all --

whoops, almost forgot --

EVERYDAY SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any further until you've done today's New York Sun Crossword Puzzle. New York Sun puzzles are every bit as fun and challenging as the more well-known New York Times and they're indisputably better in one way -- they're free. If you'd like to read about an unbiased head-to-head competition between the Sun and the Times check this out. Or if you're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

TODAY ONLY SPOILER WARNING: Things are about to get very corny.

Anyway, the themed entries are all punchlines to corny jokes -- and you know how much I love corny jokes. Actually, they're not the punch line; they give you the punch line in the clue. You've got to go back and fill in the collective noun part of the "How many whatevers does it take to screw in a light bulb?" It's kind of like a cross between "Hee-Haw" and "Jeopardy."

I'm going to unweildyify the clues somewhat and just do 'em all in joke format.

17A: How many ZEN MASTERS does it take to screw in a light bulb? "Two -- one to change it and one not to change it." (An alternative answer to this one -- "None, Zen masters carry their own light." Or you could forget the light bulb angle and go with my favorite Zen joke.

The Zen master went up to a hot dog vendor.

"What'll ya have?" asked the pork peddler.

"Make me one with everything," replied the Zen master.
After the weiner wagon man made him a hot dog the ZM gave him a 20 dollar bill. When no change was forthcoming he asked the merchant about it, and he said, "Change must come from within."

23A: How many PROGRAMMERS does it take? "None, that's a hardware problem."

35A: How many PSYCHOLOGISTS does it take? "One, but it has to really want to change." This is a very old joke. Do psychologists even try to get anybody to change anymore? Don't they more often try to get people to accept themselves for what they are, or failing that, take medication for the rest of your life that will keep those scary feelings far enough away that you don't ever have to confront them?

48A: How many SURREALISTS does it take? Fish. (There are an unlimited number of alternative responses to this joke. Here's one of them: "Two, one to hold the giraffe, and the other to fill the bathtub with brightly colored machine tools.")

56A: How many NEW YORKERS? "None of your #$%@& business!". Well, that sure makes me excited about coming to Brooklyn for the 2008 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I live in Charleston, South Carolina, which is consistently listed as the politest city in America, so it'll be a real culture shock for me.

BTW, I guess every state has their own light bulb jokes, some would only make sense to residents of that state. Here's a few:

Q: How many Californians does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Six. One to turn the bulb, one for support, and four to relate to the experience.

Q: How many people from New Jersey does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Three. One to change the light bulb, one to be a witness, and the third to shoot the witness.

Q: How many Floridians does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Don't know for sure, they're still counting.

12D: How many MARXISTS? None, -- the bulb contains seeds of its own revolution.

35D: How many PLUMBERS? One -- but that's just an estimate.

I'm gonna go try and figure out where the last 18 years went. I'll leave you with a few more light bulb jokes.

Q: How many amoebas does it take to change a light bulb ?
A: One. No, 2. No, 4. No, 8. No, 16. No, 32.......

Q: How many Bush Administration officials does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; it's condition is improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are totally unfounded, and the result of delusional "spin" assaults from the fanatic, elitist, liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably and anything you say undermines the lighting effect and dims its ego. Why do you hate freedom?

Q: How many women with PMS does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. Only ONE!! And do you know WHY? Because no one else in this house knows HOW to change a light bulb! They don't even know that the bulb is BURNED OUT! They would sit in the dark for THREE DAYS before they figured it out. And, once they figured it out, they wouldn't be able to find the light bulbs despite the fact that they've been in the SAME CUPBOARD for the past 17 YEARS! But if they did, by some miracle, actually find them 2 DAYS LATER, the chair they dragged to stand on to change the STUPID light bulb would STILL BE IN THE SAME SPOT!! AND UNDERNEATH IT WOULD BE THE WRAPPER THE STUPID @*!#$% LIGHT BULBS CAME IN! WHY? BECAUSE NO-ONE EVER CARRIES OUT THE GARBAGE! IT'S A WONDER WE HAVEN'T ALL SUFFOCATED FROM THE PILES OF GARBAGE THAT ARE 12' DEEP THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE HOUSE. THE HOUSE! IT WOULD TAKE AN ARMY TO CLEAN THIS #@*$!#@ HOUSE!

The Man Sleeps Tonight

Hank Medress passed away last week.

You may not know who he is. Even the name of the band he fronted -- the Tokens -- may be unfamilar to you. But I bet you know their big 1961 hit "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." This is probably the only #1 American hit that was a cover of a song first popular in Swaziland, Africa. It was written by a man named Solomon Linda and recorded in 1939 by him and his band The Evening Birds. It sold 100,00 copies under its original title "Mbube," which is Swazi for "lion."

Several years later it came to the attention of Pete Seeger of the folk group The Weavers. They recorded a version of it that was instrumental except for the "Wimoweh's" and some other melodic but nonsensical syllables. That's what they titled it: "Wimoweh."

That's where Hank Medress and the Tokens come in. Hank had originally started out in doo-wop with Neil Sedaka, but when Neil went solo, Hank formed the new band. They had a Top 15 hit with "Tonight I Fell in Love." They were caught up in the folk boom of the early 60's and when they got a chance to audition for a couple of super-producers at RCA they chose to audition with "Wimoweh." The producers liked it but decided it needed more lyrics before it could have a chance at mainstream success. So they wrote the verses, and titled it "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." And the rest is Hitsville history. The Tokens never really had another hit, but Medress went on to become a very successful producer, producing "He's So Fine" by the Chiffons, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" and other hits for Tony Orlando and Dawn. He even worked with former New York Doll David Johannson on creating his Buster Poindexter persona.

Hank Medress was 68.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Monday, 6-25-07

SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any further until you've done today's New York Sun Crossword Puzzle. New York Sun puzzles are every bit as fun and challenging as the more well-known New York Times and they're indisputably better in one way -- they're free. If you'd like to read about an unbiased head-to-head competition between the Sun and the Times check this out. Or if you're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

"Grand Film Openings" is by David J. Klahn. Six movie titles -- everything from horror to humor -- are included in the grid, and a seventh title is a word that go in front of the first word in the other six to create a familar phrase.

Let's start with that key 7th one:
40A: 1988 Tom Hanks film (and a link to the starts of this puzzle's other six film titles) (BIG)

And we'll start this Big Time off with 3D: 1981 John Cleese film (TIME BANDITS)

18A: 1953 Vincent Price film (HOUSE OF WAX)
This one was remade a couple of years ago, but in that one I think "wax" referred to Paris Hilton's range of facial expression.

23D: 1959 Charlton Heston film (BEN HUR) Paul Newman was actually offered the role before Heston, but he turned it down because he didn't think he had the legs for a tunic.

31D: 1935 Fred Astaire Film (TOP HAT)

2003 Chris Rock film (HEAD OF STATE)

62A: 1938 Ronald Reagan film (BROTHER RAT)

And although it won't result in a movie title, you can also put the word "big" in front of:

47A: Tulsa industry (OIL)

70A: Gawked at (EYED) as in "There ain't nothing in the world like a big-eyed girl to mnake me act so funny, make me spend my money, make me feel real loose like a long-necked goose.

45A: Criticize severely (BASH)

39D: Stubbed thing (TOE)

27D: Carnegie haul? (STEEL)

60D: Off-price event (SALE)

And of course, for those whose sense of humor hasn't matured any since playground days: 48A: Became exhausted, with "out" (PETERED)

One other entry I find worthy of comment:

22A: Try rye, say (IMBIBE) Good luck trying rye at most bars or liquor stores. If they have any it will be a dusty bottle of something by a distiller better known for other products. Rye whiskey used to be the most popular alcoholic beverage in America. George Washington made 11,000 gallons of it one year, but it has lost a lot of ground to the sweeter, heavier-bodied bourbon. There are signs that rye may be making a comeback, however.

And I will be making a comeback tomorrow.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Friday 6-22-07

SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any further until you've done today's New York Sun Crossword Puzzle. New York Sun puzzles are every bit as fun and challenging as the more well-known New York Times and they're indisputably better in one way -- they're free. If you'd like to read about an unbiased head-to-head competition between the Sun and the Times check this out. Or if you're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here

There are some good things about getting older -- wisdom, serenity and a chance at obscure 70's TV show clues that young whippersnappers don't have a chance at. I couldn't get started on this Weekend Warrior by Karen M. Tracy at 1A or 1D like I like to. I couldn't get started at all -- not until I got to the last down 60D: "____ Ramsey" I knew that one, by HEC. And I'll tell you why. When I was growing up there was only one television in the house, one television with only three channels. And Dad was in absolute control of it. So even though I was a romantic comedy-variety show guy, I had to watch westerns and cop shows, cuz that's what my Dad liked. (Well, I didn't have to, I could go read a book, and I usually chose to do that rather than watch "The High Chapparal" or "Cannon") "Hec Ramsey" starred Richard Boone, who is probably best known for "Have Gun, Will Travel" as a former gunfighter now the sheriff in a turn of the twentieth century Oklahoma town, coming to grips with new technology. It only lasted two years and it wasn't even a weekly show. It was part of an experiment where they had four different shows that rotated in and out of that time slot. "Columbo" was one of them, and so was Dennis Weaver's "McCloud." the only one I liked was "McMillan and Wife" with Rock Hudson and Suzanne Pleshette, kind of a romantic comedy with lighthearted-mystery plots. Dad hated it, so I rarely got to see it.

With the C in Hec I was able to get the ultimate across clue 64A: Walkman insert (CASSETTE) and I think it's only because of my boomer status that I knew that. You kids don't remember when Walkmans (Walkmen?) played cassettes, do you? Hell, you probably don't remember walkmans. 56D: Not much (A BIT) 57D: Penitent period (LENT) and 58D: Rim (EDGE) were easy to build off of CASSETTE and then I got 62A: Like some markets (EMERGING) and 60A: Space-saver in a studio (HIDE-A-BED) and I was off and running -- or so I thought. Things would slow up considerably before I finished the puzzle -- and one word, I'll just confess right here, I had to cheat to get. My fault, I fell in love with the wrong answer and refused to let go even though things were obviously not going to work out between us.

After polishing off the Southeast portion of the puzzle, I skipped around a bit, filling in stuff here and there. I knew 61A: "A person's a person, no matter how small" speaker (HORTON) because "Horton Hears a Who" is one of my favorite books by one of my favorite writers -- Dr. Seuss. For my money, "Horton Hatches the Egg" is Seuss's greatest masterpiece -- pretty much all you need to know to live a good life is in those pages -- but ". . Hears a Who" is magnificent too. And I got 26D: Place in the title of Bruce Springsteen's debut album (ASBURY PARK) because his album "Born to Run" changed my life and I had to track down his earlier records -- "Greetings From Asbury Park, New Jersey" and "The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle". They were good, but not as good as "Born to Run." I got 17A: National Institutes of Health headquarters (BETHESDA) because I went to the Small Press Expo there a couple years ago, and evidently Bethesda doesn't have much going on, because every traffic sign directed you to NIH facilities.

The rest of the puzzle proved more difficult, but I was able to piece it together. 52D: Real (ECHT) was not a word I was familiar with. And 12D: Squidlike mollusk (CUTTLEFISH) was tough because the only cuttle I've ever heard of was not a fish but a bone for parakeets to peck on.
Hey, you don't suppose that's where cuttle bone comes from, do you? (I just learned that's exactly where cuttle bone comes from and they're also used (or were used at one time in toothpastes, antacids and in jewelry-making as well as seeing that Tweety gets her calcium.) Grown cuttlefish are ugly by the way, but aren't they cute when they're little babies?

I appreciated 27A: Takes stock (RUSTLES) and 50A: "Good enough" (IT'LL DO). I've never seen the show in question, so I had to piece together ADDISON at 41D: Derek's ex-wife on "Grey's Anatomy". I knew 8D: Inits in 1974 news (SLA) (which stood for Symbionese Liberation Army, the group that kidnapped and brainwashed heiress Patty Hearst) because in 1974 I had not yet given up on the news. I'm not even sure how I knew 21A: Powerful pieces in ajedrez (REINAS) but I pulled it out from somewhere. Ajedrez is chess, by the way, and the reina is the queen.

And still the Northwest portion kept kicking my ass. What word did I have to cheat to get? 15A: Forecasting tool (EXIT POLL) It's a great clue and I'm embarrassed that I had to resort to such measures but I just did not know the intersecting 6D: Bridge that connects Brooklyn and Queen (KOSCIUSZKO) or 5D: Present-day tennis (OPEN ERA) (I completely misunderstood the clue and was trying to think of a game that tennis might have evolved from. But my biggest problem was that I could not mentally let go of Tarzan. I was sure that 2D: Forest swingers was APES and not AXES.

That's all I have for today. Let's do it again on Monday, when maybe I won't have to resort to cheating.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Much Ado About Nothing

Everywhere else love makes the world go around; love is all you need; love is a many-splendored thing; love is patient, love is kind; love is higher than a mountain, love is thicker than water; love is like oxygen, you get too much you get too high, not enough and you're gonna die; love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.
But in crosswords, as in tennis, love is nothing -- bupkus, diddly-squat.

SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any further until you've done today's New York Sun Crossword Puzzle. New York Sun puzzles are every bit as fun and challenging as the more well-known New York Times and they're indisputably better in one way -- they're free. If you'd like to read about an unbiased head-to-head competition between the Sun and the Times check this out. Or if you'd rather decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here

"Lots of Love" is by Anthony J. Salvia, and he has crammed three and four letter synonyms for nothing in this grid. Some people call this type of puzzle a rebus, but to me a rebus is a picture puzzle -- perhaps the most famous example being the old TV show Concentration -- and it only works in crosswords when the word or series of letters is something that can be drawn instead of written out -- like k-e-y or h-a-n-d. It won't work here; if you put a big 0 in each of those spots you won't get any real words, so it's not a rebus puzzle, it's a "cram-a-bunch-of-letters-into-one-box" puzzle.

3D: Capital on Luzon (MANILA) and 17A: Group with the hit album "The Beat Goes On" (VANILLA FUDGE) I have to call a foul on that second clue. Vanilla Fudge was a psychedelic band from the late 60s. Their only hit was a trippy cover of Diana Ross and the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hanging On." That song was not on their second album "The Beat Goes On," which really didn't have any songs on it -- there were recordings of Thomas Edison speaking and Winston Churchill and FDR, there were pieces of songs from Cole Porter, the Beatles and Mozart and Beethoven and there was a lot of noise that wouldn't have sounded pleasant even if you were tripping on the best LSD ever. The album was a mess and probably sunk the band's chances of making it big after their first album showed some promise. Unlike their other albums of the same period this one was never released on CD. To call it a "hit" album is grossly inaccurate.

10A: Hefty competitor (ZIPLOC) (Before I grasped the theme I had the L in place and I penciled in GLAD) and 10D: It won the 1947 Oscar for Best Song (ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH) "Song of the South" may be the only Oscar winner that's never been released on video or DVD in the US. This film, Disney's first with live actors, is all about Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus stories, and the reason Disney won't release it is because they fear it would be perceived as racially insensitive. It's been probably 40 years since I saw it, and I would love to see it again. Not much chance of that, I don't think, since it recently wound up as number five on a list of most controversial movies of all time. Meanwhile, "Sanford and Son" endlessly reruns.

24D: Location of the 1967 World's Fair (MONTREAL CANADA) and 67A: Its capital is St. George (GRENADA) Salvia loses a few style points here for having both of the "nada" entries be geographical and have the crammed letters in the last box.

61A: 1960 World Series hero (BILL MAZEROSKI) and 63D: Converge (on) (ZERO IN). And in thrilling come-from-behind fashion Salvia regains the points he lost. He does this by reminding me of a time when the New York Yankees got their asses handed to them. Bill Mazeroski will always be venerated by Yankee haters for his walk-off homer to win the '60 series.

Other entries of interest:

46A: Bolt with no threads (STREAK) I just love this way of describing a fad that was very popular when i was in high school.

23D: They might get swung at if they go through the strike zone (SCABS) A double pun seemingly about baseball but actually about labor relations. A great clue.

56D: Sommer of "The Oscar" (ELKE) It should be noted that Ms. Sommer doesn't have any Academy Awards, but she starred in a 1966 film about the award ceremony.

47D: Soldier's knapsack (KIT BAG) I mentioned the other day how corny my sense of humor is, to prove it I submit this joke from a 1920's college humor magazine that I've cherished for years

We want to know if a sleeping bag is the same thing as a knapsack.

22A: Like Scrooge McDuck (MISERLY) Donald Duck's uncle (created by Carl Barks) may be a miser, but he's one of the great misers of all time. His fortune stands at five multiplujillion, nine impossibidillion, seven fantasticatrillion dollars and sixteen cents. And unlike most misers, Scrooge knows how to have fun. He likes to burrow through his money like a gopher, and dive in it like a porpoise, and toss some of it up in the air and let it fall back on his head.

For the 9 brave firefighters who lost their lives on Monday

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wednesday, 6-20--07

SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any further until you've done today's New York Sun Crossword Puzzle. New York Sun puzzles are every bit as fun and challenging as the more well-known New York Times and they're indisputably better in one way -- they're free. If you'd like to read about an unbiased head-to-head competition between the Sun and the Times check this out. Or if you'd rather decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

In "Setting Things Straight" by Peter A. Collins, all the themed words -- which happen to be the four compass directions, West, North, South and East -- (which also happen to have to figured heavily into Tuesday's New York Times puzzle; nobody can say that crossword puzzles have lost their sense of direction) -- are diagonal. It's not hard to figure out how to set them straight once you know they're there, but help is at 39A: With 30-Down, counterclockwise manuever required to rectify the diagonal words in this puzzle's corners (FORTY-FIVE DEGREE PIVOT) if you need it..

Interesting puzzle. I'd like to see crosswords do more with the diagonal aspect.

Other entries of interest:

26A: Tenzing Norgay, for one (SHERPA) Serendipity is a wonderful thing. Ordinarily this would leave me scratching my head and it probably will the next time I see it. But I knew it today because I happen to be reading a magnificent book called "The History of Love" by Allison Krauss, and I had just been reading the part where this young girl mentions that she has an anorak tested by Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa who climbed Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary. If only more constructors would challenge me with entries concerning stuff I read in the last hour I might be almost as fast as Orange.
And I think if my last name was Norgay, I'd have to name my child Neitherstraight.

Speaking of cold mountains, I had a tough time with 34A: St. Bernard's mount (ALP) because I wasn't mentally flexible enough to see "mount" as anything other than a horse or something you ride on. I even seriously wondered for a second if Saint Bernards ever used skis.

19A: River near the Leaning Tower (ARNO) If you've got a choice between one of the greatest American gag cartoonists and some river in Italy, why go with the river?

I reallly enjoyed for no particular reason two entries in the Texas portion of the puzzle: 67A: They ususally hit in the middle of the batting order (RBI MEN) and 70A: Certain scrubber (SOS PAD)

1A: Left fielder in the "Who's on First" routine (WHY). It's no secret that my sense of humor is pretty old-fashioned -- all right, corny. But I love Abbott and Costello and I love this routine. I've seen it a hundred times and I laughed again when I went and watched it again a couple minutes ago. Let me set the defense for you -- Who is on first, What is playing second and I Don't Know is at the hot corner and at short it's I Don't Care. Your battery is Today pitching to Tomorrow and out in the outfield we have Why in
left, Because in Center. And I don't know about right field. (And no, I don't mean I Don't Know is playing third base and right field, I mean Abbott and Costello never told us who was in right -- of course, they didn't, because Who's on first.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Tuesday, 6-19-07

Great puzzle. But I don't know, maybe it's just a tad too tricky for the second day of the puzzle week and should have run a day later -- or maybe I just wanted it to run on Wednesday because there was a Wednesday in the Addams Family and that would have amused me. (No, it doesn't take much, does it?) The theme eluded me until I was almost finished with the puzzle even though it's right there in the title. But truth be told, those are my favorite kinds of themes. I enjoy being baffled.

(Well, you know, mildly baffled.)

SPOILER WARNING: Don't read any further until you've done today's New York Sun Crossword Puzzle. New York Sun puzzles are every bit as fun and challenging as the more well-known New York Times and they're indisputably better in one way -- they're free. If you'd like to read about an unbiased head-to-head competition between the Sun and the Times check this out. Or if you'd rather decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

"The Addams Family" by Bob Klahn has nothing to do with Gomez, Itt and Morticia. What you need to do to solve this one is add the letters a-m-s to four common words or phrases to get new, slightly-wonky phrases like:

17A: Every package of copy paper? (ALL THE REAMS) (nee ALL THERE, I'll do the first one for you, but you're going to have to add (well, no, I guess, subtract now) your own AMS from here on)

28A: Ancient king has a gas (RAMSES HOOTS) There were several pharoahs named Ramses (or sometimes Ramesses, something to keep in mind if anybody ever wants to do an "Add a mess" puzzle) but the term usually refers to Ramses II, the greatest of the great Pharoahs, husband of Nefertiti (and 7 others) father of Amun-her-khepeshef (and approximatelt 109 others). Kudos to Klahn for getting EGYPT (32A: Site of a pyramid scheme) right at the foot of the pharoah.

44A: Like heroes of melodramas? (DAMSEL AWARE) One thing I like about puzzles like this is although sometimes the new phrases can be clunky, sometimes they're so good I want to add them to the dictionary. Don't you like "damsel aware" better than "scoping for chicks" or "checking out the babes"?

58A: Not afraid of falling while erecting skyscrapers? (USED TO BEAMS)

The toughest clue for me was 30D: Glass sipper (STRAW) because I kept seeing it as "glass slipper."

Maybe it's just me, but OOLALA (2D: "Hubba hubba") this seems like a very ROMANTIC (12D: Like candlelit dinners) puzzle. Inspired by ERATO (43D: Muse for Millay), we're ONE TO ONE (11D: Even, as odds) under the night ORB (11A: Heavenly body). We've got a YEN (46A: Kashiwazaki cash) to STRIP (21A: Caesar's locale, with "the") down to our TOGAS (61A: Forum finery).

GRR (37A: Pound sound)
you bring out the BEAST (65A: Barbarian) in me.

Why no, I don't think you're a TART (6D: Vinegary)

And I'm sure I'm the only person in the world who thinks there's anything remotely racy about Burger King's signature sandwich -- 26D: Prodigious prevarication (WHOPPER). But the first dirty riddle I ever heard was:

Q: How did the Dairy Queen get pregnant?
A: Burger King pulled out his whopper.

And you never forget your first, do you?