Thursday, May 31, 2007

Catching some Z's -- 15 of them to be exact!

Man, I knocked this one out of the park. I not only broke my record for fastest Friday – shattered it in fact – I don’t think I’ve ever done a Thursday puzzle this fast. 9 minutes and 22 seconds – and that’s with my wife briefly breaking my concentration by asking me if I knew where the phone was just as I was rounding third. Please don’t point out that this was an exceptionally easy one, not just yet anyway. I’d rather revel in my perceived brilliance a bit longer.

Okay, let’s do the 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. You can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

I got off to a great start on this one. Actually I got off to a good start before I even got started because I had a feeling the title "Snoozefest" (by Alan Olschwang) probably referred to Z's, the comic strip symbol for snoring -- either that or it meant a boring puzzle, which seemed unlikely. I knew 1A: Manhattan music club whose awning had the acronym OMFUG on it (CBGB) Actually the original name of the club that gave rise to the birth of punk rock was called CBGB & OMFUG (which stood for Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers.) When I was in high school I loved the Ramones and Patti Smith and Talking Heads and other bands that became famous at CBGB. But my friends all listened to Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and other metal bands which I hated. But I’m glad now because it helped me to get 4D: Debut solo album by a former Black Sabbath member (BLIZZARD OF OZZ).

From there, and with only the second Z in place I was able to get 58A: 1965 Beatles song (DIZZY MISS LIZZIE) (Aren't you proud of me, Linda?) This is probably the most famous Beatles cover song since they didn't actually write it. An American named Larry Williams wrote it in 1958; He evidently had a knack for rhyming adjectives with peoples' names since he also wrote "Bony Moronie" (covered by John Lennon) and "Groovy Little Susie", a minor hit for Little Richard. The word nerd in me has always been bothered by the punctuation in this song's title. Since there is no implication that Miss Lizzie herself is dizzy, only that she makes the singer feel that way, it should be "Dizzy, Miss Lizzie" don't you think?

Man, there are a lot of other musical answers in this puzzle. Let's take a look at them before we get on with the parade of Z's,

25A: "Fernando group" (ABBA) (a gimme if ever there was one, why do they do clue obscure ELO song titles but use big hits for ABBA, didn't they have any B-Sides?)

62D: Show with Sanjaya Malakar
, familiarly (IDOL) "American Idol" is a cultural phenomenon I've chosen to sit out, so consequently I'd never heard of 64A: Chris Daughtry's label (RCA) Evidently he's the best-selling "American Idol" contestant who was neither the winner nor runner-up of their season (he came in fourth in 2006).

65A: Consonantless refrain (EIEIO)
(of Old McDonald and a lot of my Scrabble racks fame)

71A: Saloon singer Sylvia (SYMS)
Ms. Syms was discovered by none other than Mae West. It was Frank Sinatra who called her the "World's greatest saloon singer" high praise since saloon singer was he considered himself to be.

37D: Big ___ (Outkast rapper) (BOI)

17A: Parody of a 1983 #1 hit (EAT IT)
Weird Al Yankovic's tribute to Michael Jackson's "Beat It."

3D: Gillespie contemporary (GETZ)
That's Dizzy and Stan, by the way

and (stretching things just a bit) 9D: Steep-sided gully (ARROYO) if we're talking about singing Cincinatti Red pitcher Bronson Arroyo.

Back to the Z's. In addition to the afore-mentioned musical entries, there was:

20A: Crayola color (FUZZY WUZZY BROWN) You're going to have to get the big 64-crayon box if you want to color something in fuzzy-wuzzy brown. I couldn't find a picture of a fuzzy-wuzzy crayon, but I did find something I had mercifully forgotten, a traumatizing toy from my childhood, this soap that I remember now -- shudder! -- actually grew hair as you used it. That may be why I hated to take baths as a kid.

22D: Deceives, in slang (RAZZLE DAZZLES)

5A: Makes a sharp turn (ZIGS)

5D: Asian ox (ZEBU)

23A: Wye follower (ZEE) So that's how you spell "Y"!

31A: Caldwell and Baird (ZOES) If you've forgotten Zoe Baird, she was Bill Clinton's first nominee for attorney general. She withdrew from consideration when it was discovered she had employed illegal alien as chauffeurs and nannies.

33A: Japanese sports car line (NISSAN Z)

53A: Showerheads, e.g. (NOZZLES)

56A: Wood dresser (ADZ)

6D: Don Juan's mom (INEZ)

7D: Sheep, at times (GRAZERS)

50D: 1949-51 heavyweight boxing champ ____ Charles (EZZARD)

61D: It's an indeterminate form when raised to its own power (ZERO)

Whew, well, I think that's all of them. But I might have missed one or two Z's.

All this talk about Z's has made me sleepy. But i did want to mention a few other clues I found noteworthy.

16A: Gray Davis follower (REB) Yeah, I tried to get "Schwarzenegger" to fit in there too, but it doesn't refer to the erstwhile Governor of the Golden State. Gray refers to the Confederate Army color and Jefferson Davis was President of the CSA. My favorite clue for a three-word answer this month.

59A: Where Chang and Eng Bunker were born (SIAM) Where else would Siamese twins be born?

19A: Auto museum auto (REO). Since Oldsmobiles are defunct 40D: No-longer-made model could have used the same clue.

14A: Join a class (ENROL) This word never looks right to me. It looks like it lost a vital L.

69A: Long lunches (HEROS) When one sandwich has this many different names -- hero, sub, po' boy, grinders, et cetera -- it's easy to come up with misleading clues for them.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Themeless? I don't think so.

This "Themeless" Thursday puzzle is by David J. Kahn. I put "Themeless" in quotes because I think it has a theme. Not only that, I think it has at least a couple of sub-themes.

What am I talking about? Find out right after the 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. You can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here

This puzzle has two 15-letter entries spanning the entire length and width and breadth of the puzzle. 8D: 2002 Woody Allen movie (HOLLYWOOOD ENDING) and 32A: Last-second upset victory, say (STORYBOOK FINISH). Do you not see some similarities between a Hollywood ending and a storybook finish? Don't they both imply a feeling of happily-ever-after at the conclusion of a story or an event? Do you not think that maybe happily-ever-after is the theme of this puzzle?

But I said there were sub-themes too, didn't I? How about girls-whose-names-sound-like-meadow-synonyms-wearing-flowers-around-their-necks?

48D: Anakin's daughter (LEIA)

20A: Gifts for malihinis(LEIS)
(A malihini, of course, is a visitor to Hawaii)

45A: Rachel's older sister (LEAH) My friend Rex is on record as having stated that most crossword puzzle solvers are atheists. Not sure how he arrived at this conclusion, but if it's true, then crosswords must be nigh impossible for your typical solver. In this not-atypical puzzle, we have, besides Rachel and Leah, (whose story is told in Genesis 29-35) references to Hinduism 12D: Hindu princess (MAHARANI) and Zen 35D: Zen question (KOAN) and Taoism 48A: Zhou dynasty philosopher (LAO TSE) as well as every church everywhere 34D: Pedal pusher? (ORGANIST)

If we expanded the theme to four-letter-words starting with L, we could also include 23A: Zodiac animal (LION)

Want another subtheme? All right how about nudity and erotica?
What do I mean?

I mean 40D: Page from old pinup magazines (BETTIE) Bettie page was an unlikely sex symbol -- graduate of Peabody College in Nashville Tennessee, blonde in the age of Marilyn and Jayne -- but something about her bangs and that look of sexy innocence she always showed the camera made her the pinup queen of the 1950s and Playboy Magazine's Miss January 1955. She disappeared in the late 50s when she became born again and attempted to become a missionary. Her popularity was revived in the early 80s and she was the subject of a 2005 movie The Notorious Bettie Page.

29D: "The Kiss" painter (KLIMT) It's h
anging on my bedroom and has been there ever since Kim and I got married.

25D: Responds to "Bottoms up!" (MOONS) This one probably belonged in yesterday's
"ass" puzzle.

Of the truly nonthemed entries I liked these:

2D: Kiddie lit housekeeper Bedelia who's not good with idioms (AMELIA) For a while my youngest daughter just devoured the Amelia Bedelia books. Amelia had absolutely no understanding of idioms -- If you told here to dress the turkey she's put a suit on it. I always empathized with Amelia because I can be a little too literal myself sometimes.

1D: Oft-toasted toroids (BAGELS) I love a good garlic bagel but I've never heard them called toroids before. I don't even know what toroid means. After looking it up on I still don't. I mean
"a ring-shaped surface generated by rotating a circle around an axis that does not intersect the circle"?? I'm not a math major; can I just get mine with veggie cream cheese ?

25A: Marion Ross TV role, briefly (MRSC). For those of you who've never seen the TV show "Happy Days" Ms. Ross played Mrs. Cunningham -- or "Mrs. C' as Fonzie called her. This amused me because it looks like MR SC (Mister South Carolina) and I think that amused because I'm getting tired and silly. I'd better sign off.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Back to the Beach

Wouldn't it be nice if we could have fun, fun, fun all summer long? Well, don't worry baby, in my room I get around on a (web) surfin' safari, and I've bagged a good Wednesday puzzle for you today.

And this time the title makes sense!

First, help me Rhonda, we've got to do the 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. You can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

"Beach Boys" is by Gary Steinmehl, and it's all about guys whose last names sound like something you might see at the beach.

20A: Lead singer of the Buzzcocks (PETE SHELLEY) Some of these entries might be a little obscure. I don't think Pete or the Buzzcocks have put out any music since 1993. I'm not even sure if the Buzzcocks are stil buzzing they've broken up and reformed so many times.

28A: 1979 Wimbledon runner-up to Bjorn Borg (ROSCOE TANNER) This might be a tad obscure too unless you're a tennis junkie or an avid Court TV viewer. Tanner's tennis career might be lackluster but his rap sheet is interesting reading. He's spent time in a German jail for refusing to pay child support -- he's been in trouble in Florida and New Jersey for the same reason. In January 2006 he was sentenced to two years in prison for writing a bad check to pay for a boat. He is currently on probation until 2012.

47A: "Under Siege" star (STEVEN SEAGAL) He's not just an actor -- well, movie star, "actor" might be stretching it a bit, his last 13 films have gone straight to video -- he's also a blues singer, an animal rights activist, environmentalist, an energy drink creator, and (he claims) a reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist lama -- but not one of those girly man navel-gazing lamas, but a kick-ass lama.

59A: Operaman portayer on "Weekend Update" (ADAM SANDLER) Not a big Adam Sandler fan. In fact I told my kids that I was never going to watch an Adam Sandler movie. (Learn from my mistakes, don't ever tell your kids you're never going to do something.) Of course they knew that my favorite modern actress is Reese Witherspoon and I wanted to see all of her movies. So what happened? Of course, much to the delight of my offspring, Reese and Adam made a movie together -- "Little Nickie". How did I solve this dilemma? By having the kids holler for me whenever Reese was onscreen. That way I saw all of her contribution to the film and only what could not be avoided of Mr. Sandler.

Other beachy entries include 33D: US Airways Center team (SUNS) 7D: Spanker, e.g. (SAIL) 39D: Hi sign (WAVE) 57A: Spirited? (WET) 54D: Noggin (BLOCK, as in sunblock) and I can tell you just ha
ving come from the beach that Americans are getting bigger but bathing suits are getting smaller and there were ESPIALS (30D: Observations) of ASS (23A: Braying beast) GALORE (A gogo)

I also liked 44A: Old Bailey happening (TRIAL) because it gives me a chance to mention my favorite fictional barrister Rumpole of the Bailey. I wanted to mention him yesterday during the discussion of perukes but couldn't work
him in. Great series of books by John Mortimer, great BBC series starring Leo McKern, and some of the best audiobooks ever -- make sure you get the ones read by McKern.

1A: Brand of saltine (ZESTA) This is Keebler's brand of dry square cracker, presumably what the elves make when they're not busy making cookies. Saltine by the way used to be a trademark of Nabisco, but they lost it when other companies started using the name and Nabisco did not do enough or sue enough to stop them. (A little legal lesson for you. Rumpole would be proud.)

52A: Tirane is its cap. (ALB) I did not know that. But then again all I know about Albania I learned from watching "Cheers"

64A: "Confusion" band (ELO) How many obscure Electric Light Orchestra songs are there? As a fan of this band and of crosswords and palindromes, if I ever saw them in concert I would shout, "Ole, ELO!"

That's all I have for today. See ya Thursday.

A Boy Named Rene Maria

When I’m not working, crosswording, blogging, writing or raising children, I like to read. I’ve been reading and enjoying Francine Prose’s book “The Lives of the Muses” and I just finished the chapter about Lou Andreas-Salomé, who was a serial muse, having inspired (among others) Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke and Sigmund Freud. I’m more interested in poetry than philosophy or psychoanalysis, so I particularly appreciated learning about Lou’s relationship with Rilke. He was actually born with the name René Maria Rilke, and it was Lou who convinced him to change his first name to the more masculine Rainer.
I can’t help wondering why she didn’t also point out that Maria is not a real macho name either, and that maybe he should sign his poems just Rainer M. Rilke.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Why not "Gone With the Win"?

Maybe it was the long layoff. Maybe it was not having a Monday puzzle to ease me into the week, but this one seemed a little bit tougher than your typical Tuesday puzzle.

Granted it may have something to do with the fact that I solved it after a day at the beach where a couple or more adult beverages were consumed. My greatest contribution to crossword knowledge may be that I have definitely proved once and for all that beer does not improve your crossword-solving abilities.

And even now, entirely aleless, I'm still not sure I understand the title.

We'll get to specifics right after we do our 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. You can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here

"En Zone" is by Patrick Barry, and the theme involves dropping the letter D from several common phrases, like so:

17A: The purposes of frames in eyeglasses? (LENS SUPPORT) rather than "lends support"

24A: Restrictions against wearing galoshes and wet suits? (RUBBER BANS)

47A: Barrier between bachelor pads? (MENS FENCES)

57A: What victorious World Series players will probably remember most? (THE FOUR WINS) is probably my favorite of the bunch, just because I love baseball. For those of you that don't, the World Series is best 4 out of 7 seven games, so naturally they'll remember the four wins.

Cute theme, fairly amusing, a nice challenge for a Tuesday, but what am I missing about that title? I've said before that one of the things I really appreciate about the Sun's puzzles is the way the titles tell you something about the theme, albeit so obliquely that you don't get it until well into the puzzle or even after its completion. But I'm still scratching my head over "En Zone." Is it just that they dropped the d from " The area at either end of a football field between the goal line and the end line"? If so, what does football have to do with anything? And what about the fact that the title "en zone" is itself either meaningless or misleading -- or at least inconsistent. I mean two of the themed entries have "en" taking the place of "end", but two do not. I am well aware that it's likely I'm just missing something and the longer this rant goes on the stupider I'm going to look when somebody explains it to me, but for now I gotta say I don't get it.

But that does not prevent me from enjoying the puzzle and entries like:

27A: Tellers offerings (STORIES) Did you try to make twenties or fifties work? Turns out it was tale tellers not bank tellers.

40D: What the Once-ler's factory produces in Dr. Seuss's "The Lorax" (THNEEDS) I bow to no one in my appreciation of Dr. Seuss. I think he's every bit as great a genius as Lewis Carroll (and not nearly as creepy.) If you're not familiar with his 1971 ecological classic "The Lorax" the word "thneeds" probably held you up for a minute or two, trying to figure out what you had wrong. A thneed, by the way, is
a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove. It's a hat.
But it has OTHER uses. Yes, far beyond that.
You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets!
Or curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats!"

8D: Chew toy coating (SLOBBER) That sound you just heard was all the dog-owning solvers shouting, "You got that right, Pat!"

34A: Best of the Beatles (PETE) Pete Best was the original drummer for the Beatles, who was replaced by Ringo Starr shortly before they hit the big time. Reasons for his dismissal are varied, depending on who you ask. Best backers say it was because he was the handsomest member of the band and got all the female attention. Others say its because his drumming was workmanlike at best. One thing all accounts agree on is that the fact that Best refused to wear the moptop Beatle hairstyle, preferring to retain the 1950s style pompadour was a source of conflict.

40A: Death is a part of it (TAROT) Yes, Death is a part of the Tarot, a scary-looking part. But don't worry, if you're having a reading and turn over the Death card, it does not necessarily mean you're going to die. It could signify the falling away of old habits and old ways of looking at life. It could signify a new and glorious beginning. Or it could mean that the long dirt nap is imminent.

11D: Common alley name (BOWLARAMA) The suffix arama or orama enjoyed a huge heyday in the 1950s and 60s, where it was tacked onto the back of everything from jukeboxes (Rockarama) to miniature golf courses (Puttarama). It's gone the way of fender fins now, but you can see a selection of some of the more outrageous examples here.

19A: Peruke (WIG)
And not just any wig, but those fluffy, frilly powdered things that men wore in the 17th and 18th centuries. Now you only see them occasionally on British judges, and on Pete Best who wants the world to know that he will wear his hair any way he has to to get into a band.

Waiting for the Sun

Hope you're enjoying your Memorial Day holiday. No Sun puzzle today, but while we're waiting I thought I'd share another of my favorite autographs with you. This one is from comic book artist Ethan Van Sciver. At last years' Heroes Convention I asked him to sign my copy of "Green Lantern: Rebirth," and he gave me more than I asked for.
If that isn't cool, I don't know what is.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My 201st Post

Sometimes it’s good to know what you’re up against. When I see the name Byron Walden (especially if it’s under the words “Weekend Warrior”) I know I am about to enter a realm where you have to watch your step because nothing is what it seems and there are traps everywhere.

You probably know when you see the name "Green Genius" that you're about to get a 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. You can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

Because I know that Byron Walden is a trickster, I'm on my guard right from the start, so at 1A: Beethoven, et al, I immediately think ST. BERNARD. I'm not a hundred per cent sure, but I check and make sure I've got a good strong eraser and I write it in. Off the E in Bernard, I get EVILS (Pandora released them) and I think "This puzzle is going to be easy." That is the last answer I get in the northwest for a long time.

So I skipped down to 32A: Liz is his vet (ODIE). Garfield's owner (roommate?) has had a crush on her since 1979, and they've recently taken their relationship a notch or two above pet owner and pet doctor. I love it when comic strip romances work out.

Now I've got the first letter (E) in 45A: Wind with a misleading name, but I'm thinking something with East or easy that is actually out of the North and rough. I'm nowhere near the orchestra, which of course is where the ENGLISH HORN is found. It's name is doubly misleading, by the way, since it's neither English nor a horn. It's an oboe and it apparently originated in Austria.

I also had had the opening O in 32A: Brahmin realm, but I'm barking up the wrong dog again. In the Indian caste system, the Brahmin are the priests. But Byron had in mind the Beantown Brahmin. OLD BOSTON proves to be elusive for some time.

I've talked before of my ignorance about the difference between Ural and Aral, but when I see a clue like 29D: Orenburg's river and notice the answer is four letters, I'm willing to bet it's one of them. I guess URAL. Correctly as it turns out. This helps me get 36A: The Fool is in it (Tarot) And then I get 21D: Dagger part (HAFT). (Well, I get it after a brief, meaningless dalliance with HILT.) I also get 30D: A throw might go over it (SOFA).

And then I got my second long answer and my favorite answer in the whole puzzle. 25A: Bad poker hand (BUSTED FLUSH). Why is this my favorite entry? Because it reminds me of one of my favorite writers, John D. MacDonald, and one of his greatest creations, Travis McGee. Travis McGee was a "salvage consultant" and that means if you lost something or had something taken from you, McGee would find it and bring it back for half its value. He lived in Fort Lauderdale on a houseboat called the Busted Flush, so named because that's how he won it, his poker opponent had a busted flush. (For those of you of who don't play poker, a flush is all cards of the same suit and it is a very good hand, a busted flush is four cards of one suit and one of another and it is useless.) McGee is one of the most interesting characters in mystery fiction, sort of a beach bum Philip Marlowe. He was one of the first environmentalists, and if you read the 21 books in order you can see how Florida and America changed from the 1960s to the 1980s. You can get a taste of John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee here, although it's not from a Travis McGee novel. It's from "Reading For Survival", and I think MacDonald deserves knighthood or sainthood or something just for this alone.

It's late and I have a lot to do, but I need to hit just a few more

61A: Classic loafer (LOTUS EATER) I was looking for a shoe.

66A: Some Warhol subjects (POP BOTTLES) Not what he's mos
t known for, but he did paint some supermarket stuff other than soup cans.

15A: Bar exam? (TRIVIA QUIZ) I love
this one. I know by the question (and by the byline) this has nothing to do with a legal exam, so I'm thinking breathalyzer or field sobriety tests. But it was something a lot more fun.

20A: 1915 Charlie Chaplin short (A NIGHT OUT) I love Chaplin, but this was too obscure for me. I had ANOTHER ME, then I had A NIGHT OWL, eventually got the right answer, but only after I cheated. Yes, I admit I Googled 10D: Hungarian city near the Serbian border (SZEGED). This is called Karma, because I teased Rex for Googling one a few days ago, and because I told my son last night I never Google for crossword answers.

35D: Series parts (BALL GAMES) I love seeing an answer like this take shape, especially when the payoff is in a field I love, like baseball.

No Sun on Monday, so I'll see you on Tuesday. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My 200th Post

On Friday my parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary Bob and Joan, Mom and Dad, Grandma and Poppy! One of the things I've done for the party is go through over a half century of photographs for a slideshow display. While doing so, I came across this, my favorite picture of me. You might think it's sad that in the 47 years since this picture was taken there hasn't been one that I've liked more, that photogenically I peaked at age 2, but I think the sense of wide-eyed wonder on my face is something that I've tried hard to hold onto in the face of advancing cynicism. Arthur Rimbaud said "Genius is the recovery of childhood at will." and that's the best definition of it I've ever heard. In the criminally underrated movie "Joe vs. the Volcano," Meg Ryan's character says "My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement."
Which brings me to the story behind this blog's name. I took the name Green Genius for my writing endeavors many years ago when I was a strict vegetarian and that was what the "green" referred to. (The "genius" referred to my habit of constantly overrating my intelligence.) I'm not a vegetarian anymore, but doing crosswords reminds me every day of how much I don't know, how much there is to know, and I've kept the "green" title, but in the sense of childlike and uncynical, wide-awake and in constant total amazement.
Now you know. . . the rest of the story.

Elision Fields

Well, in case you can’t tell from all that scribbling and scratching down there in the corner of my puzzle page, I had a tough time with this one. And mostly because I refused to follow my own prime directive which is – No matter how sure you are that a letter or a word is right, if it won’t intersect properly with crossing answers ERASE it.

I’ll get more specific 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. You can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

Don’t think that because this puzzle put me through the wringer that means I didn’t enjoy it – I did. A good crossword like a good dominatrix can kick your ass and make you like it. And “Elision Day” is a good puzzle. As any English major will tell you elision is the omission of a letter or syllable; the word shows up a lot in crossword puzzles, usually in its verb form as “elide” (where it likes to mess me up cuz I always think it should be “elude”. It looks to me like each of the themed entries elides an initial “it”, like so:

20A: Whiteout, e.g. (SNOW PROBLEM) (rather than “it’s no problem.”)

38A: Headline after writer Bellow recovered from an accident? (SAUL WELL AND GOOD.) Saul Bellow is probably best known for “The Adventures of Augie Marsh” and “Humboldt’s Gift” (which won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize). The only thing I’ve read of his is “Henderson the Rain King,” which I enjoyed very much. As you can see from how long “The Lives of the Muses” has been over there on the “Currently Reading” section of my blog, I don’t have much time to read these days, but I hope to soon and when I do I intend to read more Saul Bellow.

57A: Sign outside the principal’s office? (SCOLD IN HERE)
So far, so good. I knocked out the three long themed entries; now all I have are two short ones.

45A: Stay up all night worrying (STEW LATE) It’s no problem here – I mean ‘sno problem.

But then the fan gets all messy:

28A: Rejected Las Vegas motto (SIN THERE). I struggled with this forever. I had MACED at 22D Beaten, in a way instead of MATED, and I was sure it was right and I refused to erase it. Oh yeah, I played the alphabet game, considered “mated” but said, “No, that doesn’t make any sense. Just cuz you’re married doesn’t mean you’ve lost.” I refused to open the door to the possibility that I was looking at this wrong and thereby make room for the correct chess-related answer to come in. There were other problems in that neck of the woods too. It took me a while to get 11D: 1996 screen role from Jonathan Pryce (JUAN PERON) . I’m not familiar with Mr. Pryce and with just the J and the first N in place, I thought he must have been playing the part of John Somebody. I wasn’t sure if 30D: Runabouts, e.g. was REOS or GEOS. And something in the back of my mind kept saying a WASP is more of a Protestant person than a petulant person (25A)

Oh, and 37A: Flop-___ (like hounds) (EARED) the easiest clue in that quadrant refused to make sense to me for a couple minutes or more. And speaking of hounds, I’ve never heard of RIVAL Dog Food (12D: Rival rival (ALPO)) probably because I don’t shop for dog food at Big Lots. I’ve never heard of a sarrusophone either. (Sousaphone yeah, but sarrusophone? It can’t be very common, my spell checker lights up like a pinball machine every time I write it out.)

Anyway, that whole northeast section of the puzzle was a mess, but by some miracle I got it all right – only to neglect the northwest. I originally had BLABS at 1A (Shoots the breeze) and I didn’t correct it even when I got TAIWAN at 4D (Top 10 island in terms of population.), so I ended up with BLATS at 1A, LENNA at 2D instead of HENNA (Shrub of the loosestrife family) BRISK at 1D instead of CRISP (Bracing) and KARAPET instead of PARAPET at 24A (Roof-deck wall).

Embarrassing. Let’s go back to the Northeast, where I got everything right even if I didn’t know what I was doing. I still don’t like the answer SIN THERE. Maybe it’s just sour grapes, but shouldn’t that be SIN HERE not SIN THERE. And why was it rejected? It’s not any worse than “Sin City” or “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

Oh well, I’m ready to forgive and forget and move on to other entries of interest.

55A: Brand with a logo of red, blue and green stripes (JIF) the Jif logo hasn't changed much over the years. You can still tell that this is an old bottle however, because they're bragging about containing hydroganated fat and corn syrup.

53A: The Popeil of vacuums? (ORECK) Not sure I get the connection here. Davis Oreck is not nearly as annoying as Ron Popeil, the genius behind the Veg-O-Matic, the Dial-O-Matic, the pocket fisherman, inside-the-egg scrambler, the smokeless ashtray, hair in a can spray and the originator of the immortal words "But wait, there's more!" and "Now how much would you pay?"

21A: He played all 44 of his World Series games against the Yankees (REESE). Pee Wee Reese is also famous as the only National Leaguer to ever reach base three times in one inning, but baseball fans know him best as the guy who came and put his arm around Jackie Robinson on the Dodgers' first road trip during the 1947 season when Robinson became the first black man to play major league baseball. This simple gesture silenced a hostile crowd. Reese and Robinson were one of baseball's best double play partners for many years.

There are a lot more interesting clues here but I'm beat. I'll see you Friday.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Putting the WE in Wednesday

"You and I Must Intervene!" is by Steven Ginzburg, and if you like wordplay, you are in for a treat, but first:

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. You can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

"You and I Must Intervene" means that that we, or at least the letters W and E are inserted somewhere amongst the themed answers. Hilarity ensues. (I'm serious, I love this stuff.)

What am I talking about?

17A: One who has roasts without hosts? (MC ESCHEWER) M.C. Escher, of course, was the artist who did those beautiful, beguiling but bizarre-perspectived paintings like this one:

An MC eschewer, on the other hand, is someone who foregoes a master of ceremonies. Great clue, great artist, great answer. (I'm gushing, I know, but I told you I love this stuff.)

27A: Result of a fire at a candy shop? (SWEETS ABLAZE) nee "sets ablaze." I guess after the candy store caught fire they had a big sale on Red Hots.

44A: Lunch order for a spider family? (COBWEB SALAD) The Cobb salad originated at the Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood. It contained lettuce, tomato, bacon, avocado, chicken breast, hardboiled eggs, roquefort cheese and chives. Nothing in there would be particularly appealing to an arachnid family.

60A: Pooch with a second wife? (REWED ROVER) The thought of doggy divorcees taking another trip down the aisle made me laugh out loud. (By the way, unless I am very much mistaken, I think you would be amazed if you knew how many pictures of doggy brides and grooms there are on the internet.)

Other entries of interest:

12D: "Wild Child" singer (ENYA) So what did crossword constructors do before new age music? make ANYA Seton work somehow?

35A: They're unarmed, but dangerous (EELS) a much cleverer way to clue than "sushi offerings"

26A: Place for falsies (BRA) Yes, the Sun is (relatively) racy at times.

7D: Turn left (HAW) Anybody know an easy mnemonic to remember which direction is "gee" and "haw"?

38D: Department of Labor Program (JOB CORPS) which provides education and vocational training to low-income young people. It was started in 1964 as part of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. Like other wars on concepts -- drugs, terror -- this one is proving difficult, if not impossible, to win. But Job Corps is still in there fighting the good fight, along with its idealistic international brother the Peace Corps.

43A: Venomous snake (I'm going to save the answer for my punch line). I once knew a college mathematics professor, a very serious man. In all the time I knew him I only heard him tell one joke, and this is it: A long long time ago one of the angels came to God and said, "There's a problem with the snakes, they refuse to obey your order." So God summoned the snakes before him and asked them what was the problem. The snakes said, "We can't what you told us to do; we can't go forth and multiply."
"Why not?" asked God.
"Because we're adders," answered the snakes.
Now, that may not be the funniest joke you've ever heard, but I think I injured some internal organs laughing at it. Maybe you had to have been there, or maybe you just had to have waited years for him to say anything jocular.

9D: Like a hokey joke (CORNBALL) In case you haven't already figured it out, this could have been clued "Like the Green Genius's sense of humor." And to prove it, here is something else that amused me, that same M.C. Escher picture as above, but this time in the medium of Legos:

Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Halfway home

I think I probably learn something from every crossword puzzle I do. One thing I learned from this one is that if the clue is "Prefix meaning half" and you've _EMI, you've still got a long way to go.
Before we get started here's your 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 good as the more well-known New York Times, and they're indisputably better in one way -- they're free. You can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

Middle 50% is by Pete Muller. He tells you what he's cooked up in 56A: Partially obscured (and a hint to this puzzle's theme) (HALF HIDDEN). I'm about to show my ignorance yet again, but I was done with the puzzle before I went back and figured out what the theme was all about. And then I got SEMI right away in the middle of CRUISEMISSILE (51: Modern war weapon), but hemi, from 23A: 1982 Michael Palin movie (THE MISSIONARY), and demi, from 18A: Car part with a warning (SIDEMIRROR) left me scratching my head for a minute. I thought hemi was whatever the hell it is Chrysler is bragging about in those commercials (I know as much about cars as I do prefixes) and that Demi was Mrs. Ashton Kucher. (I did like the 18A clue a lot, you'd think a car part with a warning would be something more dangerous than a mirror, but "objects are closer than they appear" is definitely a warning.)

So, it turns out that "semi" is the most common prefix for half, as in semicircle, semifinal, semiconscious, et cetera. But "demi" will work too, as in demigod, the offspring of a deity and a mortal so he's a half-god, or demitasse, which literally means half a cup. Most of the other demi- words are archaic or obscure, including demicircle, which means semicircle. There are a bunch of hemi-words, but most of them I've never heard of but might be useful, like hemicrania, a pain in one side of the head. And of course, hemisphere. There's also hemidemisemiquaver, which means a 64th note. (I've lost track here, is that a half of a half of a half note?) It's a great word, not much chance I'll be able to use it in conversation.

Hey, did you know that the logo of the St. Louis Blues hockey team is a hemidemisemiquaver? (Maybe it won't be as hard as I thought.)

Wait a minute, I just noticed that SPHERE (14D: Globe) actually intersects with the HEMI portion of 23A, so that must mean -- Yep, there is GOD (6D: Mars, e.g.) crossing DEMI. And, let's see, okay it must be TONE (37D Pitch) to make "semitone." But again since semi is the more common prefix, semisecession, semiripens and semigem at least look like they might mean something.

Other entries of note:

15A: BP gas brand (AMOCO) Hard to believe that British Petroleum owns American Oil Company.

55A: Pope of the mid 100s (PIUSI) Nobody likes these obscure pope clues, but with this one, since he's from early on in the Christian church, you know there won't eb any V's or X's.

67A: Part of POSSLQ (SEX) POSSLQ was a term coined by the US Census Bureau for Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters. It was briefly in vogue during the late 70's, but you don't see it much anymore.

1D: Get a wife? (WED) Not really sure why this clue has a question mark. That's literally how you get a wife. Maybe because it sounds semi-similar to "Get a life."

13A: Progeny of Aphrodite (EROS) Back in those days humans and gods had of interaction. Aphrodite was actually jealous of a mortal woman named Psyche and she sent her son Eros to make Psyche fall in love with the ugliest man on earth, but Eros either disobeyed or pricked himself with one of his own arrows. At any rate he fell in love with Psyche, who got his buddy Zephyrus (the West Wind) to blow her to this cave where he used to go and make love with her all night. He would not allow her to turn on the lights because he didn't want her to know who he was, and the wings were a dead give away. But her sisters convinced her to take a peek and Eros flew off. Psyche went to Aphrodite to find Eros, and Mom gave her a series of impossible tasks to perform culminating with a trip to Hades. But everywhere she went, gods were willing to help her out, even guys like Charon, and she eventually married Eros and became immortal. Even more unlikely she became friends with Aphrodite.

62A: River through western Kazaakhstan (URAL) No, I haven't researched the difference between Ural and Aral yet, but it's on my (extensive) list of things to do.

Speaking of SECESSION (29D: Breakaway) Everybody knows that people in favor of this are called seceshes, and during the Civil War many were called Johnny Secesh. (A little joke for everybody who was at Stamford this year.)

46D: Dr. Seuss's real last name (GEISEL) He actually wrote several books (including under the name Theo LeSieg (Geisel spelled backwards) before he became famous as Dr. Seuss.

8D: They're untitled (COMMONERS) Not the same thing as being nameless.

45A: Use a blinker (SIGNAL) This could also have been clued as "something people driving in front of me seem to have forgotten how to do nowadays."

Have a semiprecious Tuesday.