Sunday, September 30, 2007

Monday, 10-1-07

So, it's October and that means one thing at Chez Genius -- postseason baseball, the playoffs, and the World Series. Actually, the regular season is not quite over -- or there's an extra play-off round, depending on how you look at it, since the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies play one game tonight to determine who gets the NL wild card. In New York, the Yankees' run of division titles is at an end but the Evil -- well, you can't call them an empire anymore -- the Evil Group of Overrated Guys Led by the Derek Jeter, the Guy Who is Such a Hot Dog He Should Change His Name to Oscar Meyer are in the playoffs as the AL wild card. And the Mets, well, the Mets will have to be satisfied with going into the history books as one of the biggest chokes of all time.

The point is in Autumn, a young man's fancy turns to baseball, and what do we have in the October 1st crossword from Dominick Talvacchio?

We have hockey. Two New York hockety teams and one from New Jersey.

57D: Org. with members found at the ends of this puzzle's three longest answers (NHL)

And those three answers are:

20A: Silver rider (THE LONE RANGER) I didn't get this one right away. Being more of a comic book fan than an oater afficionado, I thought of the Silver Surfer rather than Tonto's pal.
33A: Hawaiian, e.g. (PACIFIC ISLANDER) A shout-out, perhaps, to New York Times Crossword blogger Linda G. vacationing as we speak in the Aloha State.

50A: 1984 George Burns sequel (OH GOD, YOU DEVIL) The only show of the new TV season I'm excited about is "Reaper" about a 21-year-old slacker who discovers on his 21st birthday that his parents sold his soul to the devil and now he must act as bounty hunter for Lucifer returning escaped damned souls back to hell. It's funny and scary and it reminds me a little of one of my all-time favorites "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" and why did I start to tell you this? Oh yeah, because in the premiere episode Satan is talking about how much he loves hockey (and he loves it pretty much for the reasons I hate it) and he challenges the protagonist to guess his favorite team. It's never revealed, but I'm betting it's the New Jersey Devils.

Not a whole lot of interest in the non-themed clues.

My hillbilly roots messed me up on 2D: Partner of haw (HEM) where I had HEE, thinking of course of Buck Owens and Roy Clark and pickin' and grinnin'.

1A: Sonny's "I Got You Babe" singing partner (CHER) Kinda wordy for a gimme. Couldn't they have just said "Sonny's partner"?

49A: Witherspoon of "Election" (REESE) The reason I don't go to many movies nowadays is cuz I don't think we have many actors as good as the ones I can see on Turner Classic Movies at home for free -- Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Katherine Hepburn, William Powell. One of the few modern actresses that can actually act is Reese Witherspoon.

That's all for today. See you Tuesday.

Sneak Peek

This is my new column for Country Standard Time Magazine. It won't be out for another couple weeks or so, but you lucky people get to read it right now.

Let’s Get Emotional

I don’t know how many country songs I’ve heard in my lifetime. I guess a gazillion would be a conservative estimate. I do know that out of that number, there are only a handful of songs that never, no matter how many times I’ve heard them, lose their ability to emotionally get to me. It might be goosebumps or a lump in the throat. It might be more embarrassing that that – that’s right, tear duct activity. I wonder why these songs retain their power and other songs that once affected me now leave me cold, but I’m not going to try and figure out why here. I’m going to talk about a few of the songs I never got over and hopefully stimulate you to think about your own such list.
The oldest one that still gets to me was recorded before I was born. Some of you may remember me talking about “El Paso” by Marty Robbins before. Well, I’m going to do it again. There is more going on in the 4 minutes and 45 seconds of this song than there is in many 445 page books I’ve read. There’s love, lust, betrayal, murder, longing, gunfights and death. And some of the lines “Maybe tomorrow a bullet may find me / Tonight nothing’s worse than this pain in my heart” give me goosebumps every time I hear them. Hell, it gave me goosebumps just now when I wrote them out.
Things end a little more happily for the lovers in another song that always get to me – “Love at the Five and Dime” from Kathy Mattea – but there’s just as much emotion packed into them. In this song Eddie and Rita, childhood sweethearts, go the distance and are still in love and still dancing near the ends of their lives, after enduring parental disapproval, poverty, infidelity and the death of a child. Lorrie Morgan’s “Something in Red” is another song similar in theme that always affects me emotionally, and if you’re guessing it’s songs about love that lasts till death do them part that get to me, I think you’re on the right track. (By the way, I know Nanci Griffith wrote and originally recorded “Love at the Five and Dime” but I prefer Mattea’s version because I heard it first and because of the awesome backing vocals of the Gentle Giant, Don Williams.)
And then there’s “Austin” by Blake Shelton.
I admit that I’ve been known to talk on the cell-phone while driving. If the traffic is slow enough I’ve even been known to read or do a crossword puzzle while driving. But every time this song comes on the radio, I pull off the road. It just wouldn’t be safe any other way. I’ve got tears in my eyes when Shelton sings the first line of this song, “She left without leaving a number. . . ” and by the time we get to “This is no machine you’re talking to, Can’t you tell? This is Austin and I still love you” let’s just say I’m in no condition to drive.
Those are my always-emotionally-affective songs. What are yours?
-- Robert Loy

Friday, September 28, 2007

"Joint Custody" is by Byron Walden and this is a tricky one, no doubt about it. (Don't forget, you won't be able to obtain this puzzle from the usual site. See preceding message for information on how to download this puzzle and procure the perfect mustard.) Some of the squares that would normally be numbered -- like the very first one in the upper lefthand corner -- are not numbered, but at least Byron tells you what you need to know -- there are four words that need to be filled into the grid clockwise. More about that later.

I am only slightly embarrassed to admit that the first entry I filled in on this puzzle was 48A: Band with the 1991 hit "I Touch Myself" (DIVINYLS) What can I say? I liked the song. And I bet I'm the only person in the world who was not a member of the Divinyls who can name two Divinyls songs. But I liked "If Love Was a Gun" too. The second thing I filled in was musical as well -- 2D and 37A which asked for the name of the song about Desmond and Molly Jones, and of course that's the Beatles' OB-LA-DI-OB-LA-DA. That song by the way is famous for a Beatle blunder, where Paul sings "Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face" instead of Molly. He decided to leave it in, accounts vary as to the reason why. As good as the Beatles song is though, I prefer the Patti Lupone version from one of my absolute all-time favorite TV shows ever "Life Goes On." Loved that show. I was a hard partying single man at the time, but Sunday nights I stayed home with the Thatcher family. I liked Lupone's version so much -- and I'm such a damn purist -- that I haven't bought the DVD release of that series because they chose to save a few bucks and put a different theme song at the beginning of each episode.

Okay, enough digression. Back to the puzzle. There was a lot of stuff in here that I did not know, for instance:

10A: Element #68 (ERBIUM) 22A: It might carry rock and roll (TRAM) I know what a tram is, but I don't get the clue.
34A: ____ Proving Ground (weapons testing facility in Maryland) (ABERDEEN) 44A: Swedish sneaker brand (TRETORN) Never heard of them. I'm strictly a New Balance man, primarily because I can always find what I need in the wide size I require, which is not the case with other brands of athletic shoes.
53A: Island once owned by James Dole (LANAI) Never heard of it.
11D: Shift worker (MODISTE) Never heard of it.
8D: Meteoric stone that can be carbonaceous (CHONDRITE) Never heard of it.
9D: Unit of radioactivity (KILOCURIE) I like this one even though -- say it with me -- I never heard of it, because I think I can figure out the etymology on my own.

So the fact that I had a rough time with it even though there were only a handful of words I didn't know and I figured out the gimmick quickly -- or at least enough of the gimmick to solve the puzzle, it turned how to be a lot more impressive than I realized. And that's true. I especially liked:

5D: Dialed up? (SOAPED) 13A: Hookers on the strip (VELCRO) I admit, I couldn't get my mind out of the gutter long enough to solve that one. (Thanks a lot, Divinyls.)
32A: Trilogy middle (PART II) way to sneak those Roman numerals in there.
39A: Spotted dick ingredient (SUET) I just read something about this uniquely British dessert, but the only ingredient I could remember was raisins, which I think are the spots.
45D: Pillow stainer (TEAR) I'm a country music fan, so I ought to know that one.
30D: El driver, e.g. (MOTORMAN) I had MOTORIST.
50A: Steeper, maybe (VAT) as in a place to steep tea, I think.

And the clockwise portion of the puzzle:
5CW: Jabbed, as a voodoo doll (STUCK NEEDLES IN)
22CW: Amenity for a pet on the road (TRAVEL BOWL)
43CW: Array with nigirti and futomaki (SUSHI PLATTER)
55CW: Hostile communications (CRANK LETTERS)

Which is pretty cool by itself, but what I didn't realize until Orange pointed it out was that each of these clockwise clues contains a joint (hence the name of the puzzle -- KNEE in STUCK NEEDLES IN, ELBOW in TRAVEL BOWL, HIP in SUSHI PLATTER, and ANKLE in CRANK LETTERS. Now that's mega-cool, and the hint at 20D: Really hit the sauce (and a hint to what you have to do to find a hidden aspect of this puzzle's Clockwise answers) GO ON A BENDER, was the frosting on the cake, frosting I wish I had paid better attention to.

I have to go now and help my beloved haul a bunch of our junk out for a yard sale, which we're having not in our yard, but in the next county. I'm sure there's a reason for this, but I don't ask questions.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


2 quick announcements -- you'll have to work a little harder for your New York Sun crossword puzzle on Friday. The usual link won't work because of some trickiness that Across Lite can't handle. Try this link instead: (Thanks to fellow blogger Orange for the tip.)
And announcement #2, the search for the perfect mustard is over. I have found it. It's Sable and Rosenfeld's Tipsy Garlic Dijon Grainy Mustard, and it is delicious -- naturally, since it's made with beer and garlic, how could it miss? I've been putting it on everything.

Try it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This themeless Thursday is by Patrick Berry and I got off to a great start by knowing 15D: 1937 film about Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush's travails (A DAY AT THE RACES). I love the Marx Brothers and although "Duck Soup" is my favorite of their films, if you want to watch "A Day at the Races" I'll watch it with you. Other Groucho character names include Prof. Quincy Adams Wagstaff in "Horse Feathers" Rufus T. Firefly in "Duck Soup" Otis B. Driftwood in "A Night at the Opera" and God in probably the weirdest movie ever made, Otto Preminger's "Skidoo".
I also got 7D: TV show based on the novels of Robert B. Parker (SPENCER FOR HIRE) I was never really into Parker's writing, but like Mr. Parker, I am a huge fan of Raymond Chandler, Parker named his detective Spencer in homage to Chandler's Phillip Marlowe, because both Marlowe and Spencer were Elizabethan poets.

That gave me two of the four 14-letter words in this puzzle. RUBBERSTAMPING (31A: Automatically approving) was not too hard to puzzle out, and TURNS TO THE SIDE (35A: Prepares for mug shot #2, say) was only slightly more difficult. One of the many professions I have followed was police officer, and when I attended the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy one of the questions I remember from our final exam was "How many pictures do you take of a suspect who wears glasses?" and the answer was 6 -- from the front, left side, right side, with and without glasses, proving yet again that there is no such thing as useless knowledge.

It was the shorter words in this puzzle that gave me trouble -- as you can see, some I never got. (I'm pretty sure 24D is ODETTA Sings Dylan, but then that gives me CARIES for 41A: Dental problems and what the heck is that? 10D: Casino poker game, I have no clue. It looks like it should be OMAHA, but that gives me H-BAR at 21A: Symbol for Dirac's constant, never heard of Dirac don't know what his constant is, and I hate all the I-bars and T-bars that mar crosswordland.

Following up on last week's festival of board games, Risk makes an appearance here at 36D: Region next to Afghanistan on a Risk board, I originally had IRKUTSK, my favorite Risk region to pronounce, but it's actually UKRAINE. And following up on yesterday's beer blast: 32D: The Cardinals' stadium (BUSCH).

35D: Elastic band (TUBE TOP) made me smile, then made me sad to think that Summer's over.

57A: Song from the 1977 reggae album "Exodus" (ONE LOVE) There are certain songs that always make you feel good when you hear them. This song is one of mine.

"One love, one heart
Let's get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (One love)
So shall it be in the end (One heart)
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right."

And on that note I will bid you adieu.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
-Benjamin Franklin

In case you haven't noticed, it's taken me a while to get back into the swing of crossword-blogging after my weekend beach getaway. But this ought to do it. Today we're talking about beer.

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy. -- Tom Waits

In Mark Feldman's "Backdraft" the end portion of each themed entry is also the name of a popular brand of beer -- back draft, get it?
Got it. Good. Let's go.

18A: New York's state saltwater fish (STRIPED BASS) Bass is most famous for their pale ale. The first thing you should know about pale ale is that it's not really pale -- well, not like wimpy American beers like Budweiser and Coors, now that's pale. Bass's red triangle logo was Britain's first registered trademark. In recent years Bass was bought out by Coors as part of their effort to bring watered-down beers to every corner of the globe. B
ass is not what it used to be.
(BTW, New York's state freshwater fish is the brook trout.)

You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer. -- Frank Zappa

23A: Plant also known as beach wormwood (DUSTY MILLER) I had never heard of Dusty Miller. If I'd had to guess, I would have said it was the name of a professional wrestler. In keeping with our alcohol theme, wormwood is what absinthe, the Green Fairy, is made from.

35A: Very rarely (ONCE IN A BLUE MOON) Blue Moon is a wheat beer, with several seasonal variations. It was originally called Bellyslide Belgian White, and I know Mark Feldman is glad they changed the name. Working the word "bellyslide" into an answer can't be easy.

"A woman drove me to drink and I didn't even have the decency to thank her."
-W.C. Fields

50A: Stringed instrument named after a Greek god (AEOLIAN HARP) Harp used to be part of the Guinness family but they broke up a couple years ago. In Britain now Harp can no longer use the harp logo because that belongs to Guinness -- and Guinness, despite what Budweiser says, is the king of beers.

56A: Outermost part of the sun's atmosphere (SOLAR CORONA) Do you know why gringos stick a lime in their Corona? It's because hops degrade when exposed to light (which is why most beers come in dark bottles) The lime is used to mask the "skunky" aroma of rotten hops. Miller comes in light bottles too, and you should probably put a lime in it too, just so it will have some flavor.

"Well ya see, Norm, it's like this... A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers."
-- Cliff Clavin

Other entries of interest:

25D: Something that might come to a head. No, not beer, an IDEA.

40D: Tide type (NEAP) For some reason I always want spell this "NEEP".

9D: 1972 biography subtitled "The People's Lawyer" (NADER). At my house, we don't call Ralph Nader the people's lawyer -- my wife doesn't anyway. She calls him the dirty bastard that took enough votes away from Al Gore to put that SOB George the Second into the White House. It took a long time for her to forgive me for voting for Nader in 2000. What can I say, I

was young and naive and idealistic and I voted for who I honestly thought was the best man for the job. (Don't worry I learned my lesson, and in 2004 I voted against W and only incidentally for Kerry.) She really was mad about it. You might say it was the nadir of our relationship. (But then again, you might not.)

32D: Kipling title character (KIM) Kim is my wife's name. Thank you for 14 wonderful years and for forgiving me for voting for Nader.

50D: He's second to Bonds in career home runs (AARON) Don't even get me started.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tuesday puzzle

Still napping. What can I say? it was a great weekend. We went back to where we spent our honeymoon -- only this time we didn't have any kids with us like we did on our first honeymoon.
And the puzzle? It's got a sitcom theme; you don't need me.


Sally Forth is not one of my favorite comic strips. It's all right, but nothing special. But it's pretty obvious that creator Francesco Marciullano understands Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) . I have it, and I dread the coming of cooler weather and shorter days. Every year I look for something that I can look forward to or hold onto to keep from going under in full-blown Winter depression.
One thing I will be holding onto this Winter -- my fantasy baseball team The Astro City Irregulars won the championship today. Right now I feel like that ought to be enough to keep my head above the rising tide. We'll see how it feels in January. But I've been playing fantasy baseball for 6 or 7 years and I've never won it all before, so I'm going to enjoy this as long as I can.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Monday, 9-24-07

My beloved and I have just returned from our "What-Autumnal-Equinox?" weekend getaway at Myrtle Beach. We had a great time but I need a nap to rest up from my vacation. Therefore I won't have much to say about this Monday puzzle. Hey, it's a Monday puzzle, how much is there to say?
"Unfinished States" is by Alan Arbesfeld, and it is pretty much what that title suggests it is. Each of the themed entries end with a different 4-letter state abbreviation or shortcut. So we get:

20A: Amount necessary to achieve a result (CRITICAL MASSachusetts)

31A: Best Actor of 2003 (SEAN PENNsylvania)

36A: Unpredictable (HIT OR MISSissippi)

48A: Clean without a machine, as delicate clothes (HAND WASHington)

55A: Assumes responsibility for steering a ship (TAKES THE CONNecticut) I wasn't very familiar with this expression. I've heard it a time or two -- maybe on "Star Trek: The Next Generation"? -- but I must not have ever read it, because I thought it was "take the con" as in "controls." Oh well, you learn something new every day -- even Monday.

I liked 59A: Breakfast for someone who orders "an everything with nothing" cuz it sounds vaguely Zen-ny but it's actually an everything BAGEL with no cream cheese or butter.

That's it -- nap time. Thank you for your understanding.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Friday 9-21-07

I have an announcement to make. Tomorrow and for the next couple of weekends I will be guest-blogging at Madness. . . Crossword and Otherwise for my crossword buddy Linda G. who will be winging her way to Hawaii. Linda's focus is the New York Times puzzle, so I guess that means I'll be slumming it with an inferior puzzle -- I'm joking, I love the Times puzzle; it's my second favorite daily. I may simulblog (now there's an ugly word) and post my musings on the Times puzzle here as well. It depends on what's going on at Chez Genius.

On to the puzzle at hand -- a Weekend Warrior from Byron Walden. I had less trouble with this one than I usually do from late week Waldens, primarily because of my trove of bad TV knowledge. I knew 39A: Show that begat "Lobo" was BJ AND THE BEAR even though I never watched that show about a truck-driver named BJ and his pet monkey named after Alabama football coach Bear Bryant (I'm not making this up) or its spinoff about the wacky misadventures of a crooked sheriff. How could I forgot? One of the best dogs I ever shared my home with was a Chesepeake Bay Retriever who was named BJ in honor of the truck-driver character. (No, I did not name him.)

I also got LINDA EVANS at 23A: Costar of "The Big Valley" fairly quickly -- I first tried to make LEE MAJORS fit, then, thinking of Lee J. Cobb, I guess, I tried to convince myself it might be LEE J. MAJORS. Then with the L I was able to get DEWCLAWS (1D: Parts of dogs' feet) Then with the W in Dewclaws I was able to get WINE(Something) (17A: Taster's choice?) and I was off to the races.

Sometimes having an unusual letter in place can help you. With nothing but the J in "BJ and the Bear" and the L in STALK (36A: Pursue stealthily) and a vague recollection of an article about a movie I never saw I was able to get 32D: Subject of the 2004 documentary "Control Room." (AL JAZEERA). And sometimes it can't. I had the Z from "Al Jazeera" and a couple other letters, but it took me a long time to puzzle out PUZZLE OUT at 49A: Get, with some effort.

The rest of the puzzle took its time coming together. I had BOAT RACE at 57A: Paddling for pleasure? so that messed me up a bit. I actually did the translated math at 56A: 475% of CCCXVI (MDI) and with that final "I" I thought I had 61A: Its flag has the Union Jack in the upper left; the only 6-letter country I could think of that ended with the 9th letter of the alphabet was Tahiti and I wrote that down. (As it turned out, it wasn't a country at all, it was a state -- HAWAII.

Other entries of interest:

8A: Mustard, for example (COLONEL). We've seen some classic board games in the puzzle this week -- Careers, Stratego -- and now Clue.

16A: Snowdrop or thimbleweed (Anemone) Only because it gives me a chance to tell this joke:
Two shepherds were rushing to Jerusulem to see what all the commotion was about when they saw a roadside stand and stopped. "Whaddya got?" Achtul asked. "Mango juice, fresh dates, and palm fronds," the vendor replied. "Well, I want some juice and dates, but what are the palm fronds for?" Bechtel asked. The vendor replied "They're all the fashion in Jerusalem... you gotta have them... everybody who is anybody is carrying them... these are very fresh, and the price is right!" So the shepherds each bought some palm fronds.
As they got closer to the city they noticed more stands selling palm fronds, but the prices were higher and the selection was not as good. "We were smart to buy our fronds back there," Achtul said. "Yes, we were," Bechtel agreed, "These are the best looking fronds I have seen anywhere!"
Then, as they approached the gates of Jerusalem, they saw another roadside stand with brightly colored flowers in place of the green palm fronds. "Whaddya got?" Achtul asked. "Mango juice, fresh dates, and anemones," the vendor replied. "I see you bought palm fronds. Those are OK for the hicks, but the hot setup in the big city is anemones! You should get some!"
The vendor's eyes seemed a little shifty, but his words and manner were convincing. Achtel turned to Bechtel and said, "Well, I guess we better buy some then." But Bechtel pulled him
away from the stand saying, "Are you kidding? With fronds like these, who needs anemones!"

25D: Hale part (STREET) I didn't figure this one out till just a minute ago. Barbara Hale played Della Street on the old Perry Mason TV show.

60A: Cooperstown position (UPSTATE) I guess this clue is not at all misleading if you're not a baseball fan. If you are it's hard to think of anything other than the Baseball Hall of Fame there.

54A: Saint who originated the ontological argument (ANSELM) I did not know this. If I understand correctly, an ontological argument says the fact that we can conceive of God, that means He exists -- which sounds pretty iffy to me, Saint Anselm. I can conceive of winning the Powerball Lottery but week after week it refuses to become reality.

That's all for today. See you tomorrow at "Madness. . . Crossword and Otherwise."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thursday 9-20-07

Today we're going on a treasure hunt with one of the Green Genius's favorite crossword constructors Patrick Blindauer. The name of this puzzle "Booty Call" really got me off on the wrong foot, especially after I got 17A: Comic book sobriquet (MAN OF STEEL). After I had the first letter I thought it might be MIGHTY THOR, one of my favorite comic books when I was a kid, but when I saw that wasn't going to work, and realized it was one of Superman's many nicknames, I wasn't any better off. Keeping the title of the puzzle in mind, I thought of the popular exercise program from a few years ago "Buns of Steel," and I thought "Aha, that's the theme -- phrases where one would substitute the word "buns" or some other synonym for the body part known in some quarters as "booty". "
Needless to say, I was barking up the wrong dog. This is pirates' booty -- loot, plunder, swag. Part of the reason I think I was confused was because yesterday was International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Forget Superman and pay attention to the puzzle instructions at 23- and 45- Across: CONNECT THE X'S WITH TWO LINES, and if you don't see the buried treasure just refer to 34A: After following the instructions to make a big one, hint that tells you where to look around to find hidden booty (X MARKS THE SPOT) . And in the center of that big X you made when you connected the four little X's, reading clockwise from space 49 is the word GOLD. Which is a lot better than finding BUNS, especially if you NEED CASH (8D: Subway ad come-on).

Other entries of interest:

38A: Naval noncoms (CPOS) (Back on September 5th, Patrick Berry did a puzzle called "Reinitializing the Program" wherein he changed one letter in the title of popular TV shows with initials or acronyms in the title. One of the ones he used and that I discussed was CPA SHARKEY, which was a take-off on an old Don Rickles sitcom called "CPO Sharkey." I got a comment from someone who'se never commented here before or since, and all he or she said was Don Rickles didn't play an accountant. It was "CPO Sharkey, proving that they hadn't read the blog entry where I talked about the joke. The only thing I could think was that this person had a blog alert for "CPA Sharkey" and he or she flies in every time they find an example of such and "correct" the ignorant blogger. I just thought I'd try it again and see if this person showed up again.)
So -- Remember that great old Don Rickles accounting sitcom "CPA Sharkey"? That was a great show.

40A: Kind of thermometer (ORAL) The best kind, as far as I'm concerned.

49A: Sheila's greeting (G'DAY) Sheila of course is Australian slang for woman.

26D: Only Stratego piece with a letter on it (SPY) Another great game from my childhood, Careers on Tuesday, now Stratego. In this capture the flag board game, the spy was the weakest piece, anybody could capture him, but if he was stealthy enough to sneak up and attack the Marshall (the most powerful piece on the board) the spy could take him out.

36D: Baby shower (SONOGRAM) That shower (that which shows) shower (involving wetness or presents) and the flower (that which flows) flower (which grows) thing is an oldie but a tricky.

Thanks, y'all are my pride and joy, et cetera.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wednesday 9-19-07

I really didn't care much for Alan Arbesfeld's "New York Minute". It's what most people call a rebus puzzle, but I call a cram-a-lot-of-letters-into-one-box puzzle, because a rebus is (according to the American Heritage Dictionary): A representation of words in the form of pictures or symbols, often presented as a puzzle, and since there is no picture or symbol that I know of for "week" or "hour" it's not a rebus. (I know I'm in the minority on this opinion, but that's never stopped me before, I'm in the minority in most of my opinions.)
And if you think that's nitpicky, here's my main beef with this puzzle. We've got WEEK up there in the upper lefthand square, DAY in the upper right, HOUR in the lower right -- so what's going to be in the lower left -- well, since our time measurements are getting smaller I'm thinking it's got to be MINUTE or SECOND but no, we go from WEEK to DAY to HOUR to YEAR. That makes no sense. I guess the time-marches-on thing could work if we started at the lower left and went from YEAR to WEEK to DAY to HOUR, but who starts a puzzle at square #63?
And even though I should have known there was no such thing as a minute-end clearance sale, you can tell by all the erasures that I'd never heard of COMMON YEAR (38D: 1999, e.g.) and I had trouble with 48A: OR FIGURES I figured those figures were either RNs or DRs, but they were MDs. Took me a long time to figure out 49D: Dog "house" (BUN) referred to hot dogs, and i think you're stretching it past the breaking point calling a hot dog bun a dog house.

Oh well, some days are like that. You just appreciate the good clues and hope things will go better for you tomorrow.

I did like 45D: They're the pits (STONES) and 2D: Country singer Morgan (LORRIE) because Lorrie Morgan is a great country singer and she does "Evening up the Odds" which is my wife's and my song.

Happy Birthday, Baretta!

Robert Blake is 74 years old today. He is famous for his work as a child actor in the "Little Rascals" short features from MGM, and for the role of Little Beaver in the "Red Ryder" western series. While still a youngster he did movies with Laurel and Hardy and with Humphrey Bogart -- Blake is the little Mexican boy that sells Bogie the lottery ticket in "Treasure of the Sierra Madre."
As an adult he starred in the film adaptation of Truman Capote's account of murder in Kansas "In Cold Blood" as well as "Of Mice and Men" "Tell Them Willie Boy is Here" and "Electra Glide in Blue." His most famous role is probably the Emmy-winning part of undercover detective Tony Baretta.
Blake deserves credit for one other thing as well. Unlike O.J., he's smart enough to realize that once you get away with killing your wife it's important from then on to keep your nose clean.
And you can take that to the bank.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tuesday 9-18-07

"How's That Again?" is by Trip Payne and if you like those wacky wordy type puzzles, you know like h-o-p-e-s for "dashed hopes" or bopper for "teeny bopper" and hoRN for "Little Big Horn" you'll like this one. If you have a choice between doing it in the New York Sun paper version or in Across Lite, go for the paper today. There's one clue that doesn't translate electronically and even though it's explained by a note from the editor, it would be more fun in the old-fashioned paper version.

And away we go:

6D: OTTAWA (UPPER CASE CAPITAL) 13D: G r o g g y (SPACED OUT DAZED) 15D: Intrepid (BOLD COURAGEOUS) This is the one that doesn't work in Across Lite, which eveidently can't do bold type. And I just realized it doesn't work in Green Genius either, where I put all the clues in bold type.

Other entries of interest:

27A: Liberal foil of Archie (MAUDE) That's Archie Bunker, of course. Maude was Edith Bunker's cousin and after a couple of guest shots on "All in the Family" spun off into her own series. For the first couple of years she had a housekeeper named Florida Evans, a character that proved so popular that she too got her own series "Good Times", which was a spin-off of a spin-off. It may not be the only time that's happened but it's the only one I can think of. I liked "Maude" all right, but I much preferred Bea Arthur's other long-running series "The Golden Girls". I'm still hoping to complete my Golden Girls autograph collection. I have everybody except Estelle Getty who played Sophia, Bea Arthur's character Dorothy's mother (even though Getty is a year younger than Arthur) who unfortunately is now to ill to sign autographs. If you have one laying around let me know.

54D: Category in the game Careers (FAME) Haven't played this one in a long time. You had to reach a certain measure of life-goals in money, fame and happiness points. I always aimed for a lot of happiness, just enough money to keep afloat, and zippo fame. If my life were a game of Careers I'd say I won.

5D: Contest at the bar? (LIMBO) how looow can you go?

34A: Illegal firing (ARSON) I love this clue, but it makes me wonder -- when does a crossword editor decide to use the question mark at the end of the clue? I do a lot of cryptic crosswords where all the clues involve wordplay and misdirection and none of them have question marks, so I'm okay without them, and actually I had less trouble with this clue than with Contest at the bar? where I thought pubs and public defenders.

61A: "Conjunction Junction" conjunction (NOR) Most of the "Schoolhouse Rock" songs were incredibly catchy. I've never been able to get them completely out of my mind. That's why I can tell you that NOR was not one of the Conjunction Junction railyard man's three favorite cars. He uses "nor" exactly once in the song, but he uses "and" like 25 times.

30D: Having no talent for and 39D: Unsuited -- two clues, meaning basically the same thing, both five letters, two different answer BAD AT and INAPT.

62A: Star-____ Sneetch (Seuss character) (BELLY) Another masterpiece from the good doctor, showing the evils of prejudice, the pointlessness of trying to be something you're not and the inevitability of somebody and convincing you that your self-esteem problems can all be solved by giving some huckster all your money. Not bad for a children's book, huh?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Monday 9-17-07

"Bespectacled" is by Gary Steinmehl and the way it works is spelled out in 59A: Disparaging name for someone who wears glasses (and a hint to this puzzle's theme) (FOUR EYES.) In other words, all themed entries have four I's, to wit:

17A: Unpublished O.J. Simpson book (IF I DID IT) Since O.J. is in trouble again -- for breaking into a hotel room and stealing some sports memorabilia (thankfully this time he didn't kill anybody) -- his next contribution to the world of literature might be titled "If I Had Any Sense or Self-Respect Whatsoever."

23A: The Gipper's team (FIGHTING IRISH) 37A: Number eight iron (PITCHING NIBLICK) I don't think most modern golfers know the difference between a mashie niblick and mashed potato. The only reason I do is from reading P.G. Wodehouse.

45A: Beachwear, for some (STRING BIKINI)

It was a pretty easy Monday puzzle -- even though I didn't get 39D: Actress Taylor of "Ransom" or 42A: Comedian Carol or 44A: Moon of Jupiter; It's LILI, LEIVER and LEDA, for those of you keeping score at home.

Other entries of interest:

64A: Good Witch of the North in "The Wizard of Oz." (GLINDA) Well, only after those Yankee film-makers got hold of it. In L. Frank Baum's books, Glinda is the Good Witch of the South.

9D: "Gee whillikers" (WELL I'LL BE) These don't seem like synonyms to me. "Gee Whillikers" sounds like something one of the Little Rascals might say, and "Well, I'll be. . ." seems much more mature.

I thought High top? at 1-Across was a pretty cool clue for AFRO.

I'll take Crossword-E's for a thousand, Alex: EMUS (41A) ELI (62A) ESPN (56D) ERLE (29A) and ENS (40A)

31D: Beer that competed with Schaefer (RHEINGOLD)
Rheingold is famous for many things -- their annual "Miss Rheingold" competition in the 40's and 50's where beer drinkers got to vote for the lady who would wear the coveted crown, for being one of the few advertisers who didn't run scared when Nat "King" Cole became the first black man to host his own television show. And they're famous to me because I used to enjoy their barrel-shaped Chug-A-Mug bottles before they went out of business in 1976.

Get ready!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I can't remember exactly when I started doing crossword puzzles, but it was probably around the third grade. Every Sunday after church we'd stop at Newell's drug store in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina and while I was spending my allowance on the new issues of Mad Magazine or Cracked or Spider-Man, I'd also pick up the latest Dell Crossword Puzzles. (Yeah, I know Dell's crossword magazines today are nothing to write home about, but back in 1967, before Will Shortz and Games Magazine and the whole new wave of crosswords, Dell was by far the best thing going -- and I was quite the little snob about it too, refusing to sully my hands with any other crossword publications.) Then came that awful day when I realized that Newell's had missed an issue of my favorite crossword magazine and shortly after that I had my first magazine subscription -- to Dell Crossword Puzzles Magazine.

Crosswords were what I loved the most, but I still remember some of the other puzzles Dell ran back in those days -- they had the Bowl-A-Score Challenger, where you had to anagram 9 or 10 letters into one word for a strike and/or two words to pick up a spare. I remember how proud I was when I "bowled" my first perfect 300-point game. There was Solicross, which was like a solitaire Scrabble where you tried to get close to Dell's top score, and acrostics, which Dell for some reason called "anacrostics" and cryptograms and all kinds of neat stuff -- including word ladders where you had to change a word like "black" to another word like "white" by changing one letter at a time. You had to do it in as few a steps as possible and I remember how excited I was one day when I actually did a word ladder in fewer steps than those genius editors at Dell. I ran to show my mom and she burst my bubble right off the bat, pointing out that I used "rold" as one of my steps and that was not a word. I told her it sure as heck was, and to prove my point I went and got a bag of Rold Gold pretzels and showed her how vocabulary was sadly lacking.

This charming childhood reminiscence is brought to you by Patrick Berry's "Color Change" puzzle, where we change the word "black" to the word "white" one letter at a time. It takes 14 steps of course. This is not a classic word ladder or word-chain or whatever you want to call it, since most of the circled "words" are actually part of larger words. But come to think of it, I guess it is because all the words can stand alone.

Here they are:

BLANK verse
SWINE fever
TWICE a year

Not bad, but I can do better (albeit without having to work my ladder into a crossword grid)


9 steps. And there's probably a shorter way.

Not too many other entries stand out, although I love the clue for GHOSTWRITE (54A: Take cash but not credit).

That's all for today. It's been a rough day -- rain, traffic jam, flooded home office, broken chair -- and I'm going to start the weekend a little early with my new favorite beer -- Lienenkugel's Sunset Wheat.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thursday 9-13-07

Well, I won't be complaining about the theme of today's New York Sun puzzle because it's Themeless Thursday. And nobody can complain that there are no interesting letters because it's by Karen M. Tracey and that means it's got plenty of those Scrabbly letters that lesser constructors find difficult to work into puzzles -- including 4 Z's and 3 K's, 2 V's a J and an X. No Q, but that's the only one she left out.

The two longest entries are at 16A: Do-it-all device which might should have been clued as "Do-it-all device for do-nothings" since UNIVERSAL REMOTE will satisfy all the needs of no one but couch potatoes, and 59A: Where Mirabelle Buttersfield sells gloves in the movie "Shopgirl". I have neither seen the movie (though I might now that I've become a fan of Claire Danes after she was so good in the movie "Stardust") nor read the Steve Martin novel (though I know that in the book she worked at Neiman Marcus), but this wasn't hard to figure out once the crossing letters started to fall into place. It had to be somewhere upscale since Wal-Mart might sell gloves but they don't employ gloves salespeople.

Speaking of Steve Martin, he shows up again at 27A: Steve Martin title role of 1996 (BILKO).
Another long -- and Scrabbly -- entry is at 15D: Famed student of Leopold Auer (JASCHA HEIFETZ). If you want to hear -- and see -- some heckuva violin playing, watch Jascha playing Mozart.

I don't live in New York but I got 57D: NYC sports radio station with an apt call sign (WFAN) because I listen to the Mets games on XM satellite radio.

Speaking of XM, this past weekend on the 60's station they played all the hit songs with girls' names in the title, which helped me to get 5D: 1968 hit by the Turtles (ELENORE) even though I originally thought this title included the young lady's last initial and filled in ELINOR G.
Well, in my defense, I don't think I've ever seen the song's title written out before and the chorus -- which contains absolutely the laziest piece of song-writing in the history of music -- goes like this:

"Elenore, gee I think you're swell
And you really do me well,
You're my pride and joy, et cetera."

See what I mena about lazy? Come on, "Swell" and "Do me well' ain't exactly Shakespeare, but then the Turtles just give up and tell Elenore to fill in the blanks herself -- although they do redeem themselves slightly by rhyming "et cetera" with "love me better" by the end of the chorus.

Having ELINOR G by the way made it difficult for me to get 34A:Sharing one's feelings (EMPATHIZING) because I couldn't think og anything that started with the letters GMPA.

7A: Relief pitcher Armando (BENITEZ) He's horrible. Your arthritic granny can pitch better than him. I've had him on my a couple of my fantasy baseball teams and he's never failed to lose me points.

8D: Third of eight (EARTH) This is always gonna be hard for me. I had the planets and their order in the Solar System drilled into my head in elementary school. The NINE planets. MVEMJSUNP. May's Violet Eyes Make John Sit Up Nice. Period. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.

51D: One of Donald Duck's nephews (LOUIE) Ahh, useless knowledge, my specialty. Do you know how to tell these triplets apart? Huey wears a red hat, Dewey blue, and Louie green. Did you know that Donald's girlfriend Daisy Duck has three lookalike nieces? Do you know their names? April, May and June.

That's all for today. But come back tomorrow, all right? I've been looking for just the right words to express my gratitude and affection to those of you who spend a little time here at Green Genius and I think I've finally found them -- Y'all are my pride and joy, et cetera.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Wednesday 9-12-07

I don't really have much to say about "Twist Endings" from Gary Steinmehl. It was a fine puzzle, but like the first two this week, pretty prosaic, thematically speaking. Today it's two-word phrases with the second word anagrammed and clued. Like so:

4D: Work on an octogonal sign (PAINT STOP) And I have to confess I don't quite get this one. What is it supposed to be? Paint pots? Paint spot? (presumably an attempt to turn your big white dog into a dalmatian) Paint tops? Paint TSOP? (Which stands for The Sound of Philadelphia, the theme song to the TV show "Soul Train.")

10D: Extra chin supporter on a helmet? (SPARE STRAP) Presumably referring to "spare parts" but possibly a groundskeeper's unneeded sheets -- "spare tarps" or a hunter's "spare traps." Or maybe it refers to those poor souls born with way too many buttocks, the tragedy of "spare prats."

32D: Letter decoration on a canvas? (BRUSH SERIF) Yeah, probably brush fires, but maybe it describes people the action of people who don't like to dip their French fries in ketchup, but instead prefer to paint that condiment on -- "Brush fries." Or maybe since constructors have been known to blur the distinction between the letter I and the numeral 1, it could be about stopping before you flick crumbs off of two poor people -- "Brush 1 Serf"

17D: Insincerely polite meddlers (GREASY SNOOPS) and 40D: Low-quality blade sharpener (BAD STROPS) and I'm pretty sure that's "Greasy spoons" and "Bad sports."

And then there's 16A: Messy frank (CHILI DOG) An anagram of "Chili God," the winner of the Texas cooking competition, as well as 26A: "That's no lie!" (I SWEAR) which I'm sure you all recognize as the words of the cockney cross-dresser when he confessed to being the notorious Queen of Crime -- "I was 'er."

Other entries of interest:

Speaking of anagrams, 42A: Actress in "The Fugitive" (SELA WARD) as was pointed out in a memorable NPR Weekend Edition Sunday Puzzle, you can reverse the name "Sela Ward" to describe something that bartenders do.

And speaking of actresses that I had crushes on, Sela Ward just gets better with age, but when I watch "Star Trek: The Next Generation" I can't figure out what I saw in Marina Sirtis, who played Counselor TROI (38-Down).

62A: Color similar to cranberry (GARNET) A couple of years ago I changed my birthday from January 21st to May 21st. I did this mainly because I hate, despise, loathe Winter and getting older was unpleasant enough without having to deal with it in the middle of these brutal South Carolina Winters. But another reason was that green is my favorite color and my new birthstone is emerald, much cooler than my old one -- the boring-ass garnet.

30D: Big supporter (D CUP) Cracked me up. (I never said my sense of humor was sophisticated.)

There are a couple of mistakes in my completed grid. 7D: "Foundation" author Asimov should be ISAAC not ISAAS. 24A: Court tie should be DEUCE not _EUSE, 24D: Partner of DeLuca should be DEAN not _EAN. 53A: Flash memory forerunner I was sure had to be CD ROM, and since I didn't know 54D: Alternative name of hopscotch was POTSY and not DOTSY I ended up with ED ROM.

12D: Popular brand of mints (CERTS) If they're so popular, how come I can't find them? All I see are those ones that blister your mouth in the name of breath freshness.

8D: Sartre novel (NAUSEA) I had NO EXIT, which is by Sartre, but it's a play. Sorry, I know as much about French Existentialists as I do about Dotsy -- I mean Potsy.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Tuesday September 11th

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 -- No, you know what, they're better. That's right, I said it, the New York Sun's puzzles are better than the New York Times's puzzles, and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be Peter Gordon and to keep putting out this superior product and have everybody just blog, blog, blogging and yak, yak, yakking about the Times, Times, Times. Look, if you don't have time for two great puzzles a day, do the better one, do the SUN -- (we now return you to your regularly scheduled spoiler warning) -- 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 puzzles check this out. Or if you're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

I wonder if familiarity with certain constructors is a help to solvers or a hindrance. "TV Audo Problems" is a pretty straightforward puzzle from Patrick Blindauer, based on simple TV show title puns. But I've seen him do so many envelope-pushing puzzles lately that I psyche myself out, expecting the puzzle to turn into a TV and I'm expected to program the Tivo or somesuch. The clue for 1-Across was Dreads and my first thought was "It must be FEARS." Then my second thought was "No, this is Blindauer, it must be trickier than that. Maybe he's referring to dreadlocks or something." Then I remembered it was Tuesday.

The TV puns are:

17A: Mechanic's request? (GIMME A BRAKE)

28A: Yankee sitting on the bench? (AMERICAN IDLE)

45A: Program about Chicago's mayor (THE DALEY SHOW)

59A: Spot for some medieval tennis? (KNIGHT COURT)

11D: Pleasant stupor? (HAPPY DAZE)

35D: Conga line of flatfish? (SOLE TRAIN)

Other entries of interest:

57A: Possible reply to "Would you like some more haggis?" (NAE) Considering that haggis is made from the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep boiled in the sheep's stomach, it's not a possible nae, it's a definite nae.

46D: PI, e.g. (DET) Another instance of my psyching myself out. I was thinking math not Magnum.

32D: Drops a liner (ERRS) That would be a line drive.

26D: Grace period? (AMEN) My favorite clue in today's puzzle. Two words, two plays on words. Rather than a period of time to pay, this is a punctuation mark, so to speak, when you pray.

13D: Phonograph record (DISC) I wrote a column awhile back for Country Standard Time Magazine, pointing out that we need a new name for CDs -- before they're replaced by something else. CD, of course, stands for compact disc, and they're only compact in comparison to LPs (Long Players) which of course are scarce as hen's teeth these days.

Monday 9-10-07

"It's Your Move" is by James Sajdak, and it's all about games. If this was a Patrick Blindauer puzzle (and a little later in the week) we'd probably be able to play all these games on the converted crossword grid, but since it's Monday we'll have to settle for just being able to see their names pop up.

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 -- No, you know what, they're better. That's right, I said it, the New York Sun's puzzles are better than the New York Times's puzzles, and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be Peter Gordon and to keep putting out this superior product and have everybody just blog, blog, blogging and yak, yak, yakking about the Times, Times, Times. Look, if you don't have time for two great puzzles a day, do the better one, do the SUN -- (we now return you to your regularly scheduled spoiler warning) -- 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 puzzles check this out. Or if you're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

20A: Classic blues label of the '50s and '60s (CHESS RECORDS) Actually named after the two Polish immigrant brothers who started the label -- Phil and Leonard Chess.

28A: "Regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it" source (CHECKERS SPEECH) This of course was the speech Richard Nixon gave when he was accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions and was about to get booted off the Eisenhower Presidential ticket. Checkers was a cocker spaniel that somebody gave Tricky Dick and he talked about how much the kids loved the dog, and how his wife didn't wear furs buta good old "respectable Republican cloth coat." I can't help wondering how American history might have been different if this speech hadn't gone over as well as it did.

44A: Advice from Horace Greeley (GO WEST YOUNG MAN) Horace Greeley was editor of the New York Tribune, the most influential newspaper of its day. He was a reformer, a politician who helped form the Republican Party and ran for president in 1872. But he is remembered today only for this four-word phrase from an editorial he wrote about homesteading.

51A: One who wants to go back to past ways (REVERSIONIST) This is the most modern of the four games mentioned. Chess, checkers and Go are all centuries old and nobody knows who invented them, but Reversi (also known as Othello) was invented in 1880 in England
by Lewis Waterman and John W. Mollett.

Other entries of interest:

59D: TV home of the Braves (TBS) That used to be true, but now TBS shows fewer than half of the Braves games. Most games are on Sports South or Fox Sports. Next year TBS will show Sunday afternoon MLB games and some playoffs, but no Braves unless they happen to be playing that Sunday or make the playoffs.

9A: Mother of Castor and Pollux (LEDA) And not just those two but also Clytemnestra (wife and murder of Trojan War hero Agamemnon) and Helen of Troy. Zeus seduced her while in the form of a swan. I wonder why he didn't try that with Io or any of the other maidens he lusted after.

64A: Safari sighting (ZEBRA) I had a more dangerous safari in mind at first. I had COBRA.

19A: Beyond the ____ (outside the bounds of acceptable behavior) (PALE) Your etymology lesson for today: "Pale" in this sense refers to a stake driven into the ground (the words pole and impale are from this same root) usually to form a barrier or a boundary. A lot of times it was the boundary of a city and people beyond the pale, beyond the city limits, were thought to uncivilized.

10A: Old comic strip character Kett (ETTA) Considering that comic strip ran for 50 years, it seems odd that Miss Kett is remembered now only by crossworders.

"A Wrinkle in Time" is a book that made a big impression on me. Its about three kids who use time-travel -- specifically, a tessaract, which allows one to take a shortcut through time via a time wrinkle -- and other extraordinary means to rescue two of the kids' father who has been abducted by something evil and exiled to a hellish planet of absolute conformity. It led to several sequels -- "A Wind in the Door" "A Swiftly-Tilting Planet" and others.
The author of those books Madeleine L'Engle passed away last week at the age of 88.
Here are three things I loved about her.
1. She frequently said that childrens' books were too difficult for adults to understand. Considering that Einstein’s theory of relativity and Planck’s quantum theory were the basis of "Wrinkle" she was probably right.
2. God knows her work was too difficult for the book burners to understand. "A Wrinkle in Time" is on the most-banned books list year after year. Even though Ms. L'Engle was a deeply religious woman and many of her books were based on Biblical themes, the Christian censors didn't get it, and their reaction to anything that challenges them or goes over their heads is to ban it.
3. She was married to Hugh Franklin, who played Dr. Charles Tyler on my favorite soap opera "All My Children."

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Happy Birthday, Buddy Holly!

No spoiler warnings in today's blog and no symmetry in today's puzzle. It's the birthday of the one true king of rock and roll -- Buddy Holly -- and we're celebrating by breaking all the rules.

Frank Longo's Weekend Warrior puzzle for September 7th, 2007 is asymmetrical, and it's a perfect example of why I think the crossword's slavish devotion to symmetry has run its course. It seems to me that symmetry has stuck around mainly to keep constructors honest, id est, so they can't just slap up a black square whenever they get lazy. But I think most modern constructors, at least in reputable publications, take too much pride in their work for that to be necessary.

Obviously Longo didn't go asymmetrical here cuz he was lazy. There are 8 15-letter answers in this puzzle and 2 11-letter answers and only 25 black squares. A great puzzle with some great fill that might not have been possible with symmetry.

It took me a while to finally accept the fact that this one was not going to symmetrical no matter which way I turned -- for a couple of seconds I thought it might be diagonally symmetrical -- but when I did, I said "Cool!" and got to work. I got 1A: "The way things were explained to me. . . " (AS I UNDERSATAND IT) pretty quickly with just the U in UTILE (4D: Of service), the S in SSE (9D: Salem-to-L.A. heading), the T in THX (10D: Texter's expression of gratitude) (By the way, as a follow-up to the "charactar" trait word search entry, I hear that teachers no longer correct text-message and IM shorthand like "THX" and "enuf" on papers that kids turn in. God knows what this generation's crossword puzzle will look like, assuming they even have anything like that. Can you solve puzzles if you have no attention span and nobody ever taught you how to spell?) and the N in NORSE (12D: Like Tyr). (I have a soft spot in my heart for the Norse Gods which began by reading Thor comic books as a kid. Tyr is their god of combat -- although all of those guys liked to fight. Tuesday is named after him.)

Once I got 1A, I was able to get EMT (7D: Worker at a pile-up) and I knew 2D: Qaboos bin Said's domain was going to be SULTANATE of something or other. Then after I got 17A: Nth degree (ULTIMATE EXTREME) and a few of the three-letter answers in Oregon, I was able to get 1D: Broadway song that comes before "Adelaide's Lament" (A BUSHEL AND A PECK)

And -- major digression on the way -- this is my favorite answer in the puzzle, actually my favorite answer of any puzzle in recent memory. My maternal grandmother passed away when I was eleven years old, but I remember her singing this silly little song to me -- "'Cause I love you, a bushel and a peck You bet your pretty neck I do! Doodle, oodle, oodle. Doodle, oodle, oodle. Doodle oodle oodle oo -- and when she would get to the "Doodle-oodles" she would blow on my neck and make that farty noise that all little kids love. What a cool grandmother.

I have to tell you about one more song she sang to me that I will never forget. I don't know where she got the song but this is how it went:

I bought a wooden whistle
But it just wooden whistle
So I sat down and went boo-hoo!

Then I bought a steel whistle
But it steel wooden whistle
So I sat down and went boo-hoo!

Then I bought a tin whistle
And now I tin whistle all day long!

The boo-hoos were accompanied by some histrionic emoting that never failed to crack me up. I think it's not too much of a stretch to say that this song my grandmother sang to me was the foundation of my lifelong love of puns.

Okay, digression over. I do Frank Longo's Sunday puzzles (not sure who they're syndicated by) cuz they always have some interesting clues even if the puzzles are kind of easy. This puzzle wasn't easy but I must have been on Longo's wavelength cuz I finished it in better-than-average time for a Friday. The entry that caused me the most problem was the four-letter word at 26A: Circle's lack, which I was sure had to be EDGE and it turned out to be ENDS.

I apologize for the lack of illustrations today. I tried to find one for 31A: Bearded ____ (reedling) (TIT) but Google Images must be malfunctioning, for some reason the only bearded tit pictures I could find were of birds?!

Have a great weekend.

I suppose I should be glad she spelled "trait" correctly

(Note: crossword commentary will be slightly delayed while I reel from the shock of what I am about to share with you. It should be up by Friday afternoon; in the meantime I can tell you that those of you obsessed with symmetry are in for an eye-opening experience.)

If you still don't think that our nation's number one health problem is not obesity but stupidity, please take a look at this word search my eighth-grader brought home from school the other day:
You're supposed to find 15 positive character traits in this puzzle. the title should be a hint that the ability to spell correctly is not one of them -- "Charactar"?
And that's only the beginning. Kindness is misspelled -- no i. To the teacher's credit she did catch this one and tell the students about it. She did not mention anything about "charactar" or "Persaverance." Nor did she mention that at least four of these words you're supposed to find are not character traits -- I mean "leader" How in the hell is leader a character trait? Encouraging is not a character trait, though it may describe someone who has the character trait of encouragement. Faithful is not a character trait -- Faith is, faithfulness is. Trustworthy is not a character trait, trustworthiness is.
By now the fact that the whole last column is missing should come as a surprise to no one. It's bad enough that you have to have the "persaverance" to find the "charactar" trait of "leader" but all you're going to find is "leade."
And don't try to excuse this by saying the teacher just grabbed something to keep the kids quiet for a couple minutes. I went to the website listed at the bottom of the page. It's a teacher's site that makes up word searches using the words you input, so the teacher uploaded all those words and all those "charactar" traits.
Look, I'm all for teaching kids good character traits -- but how about "preparedness" how about "attention to detail"?

The king returns

For those of you who've been on the edge of your seats since you read my open letter to Harris Teeter grocery stores and their decision to pull the king of soup -- split pea -- off their deli soup aisle, I got a response today.

Thank you for your email. We are actually reviewing the fall selection and the split pea soup will be back in. It will be in the stores at the end of September/early October.

Thanks for being our customer!


Harris Teeter Customer Relations

I hate cold weather, but maybe there is one good thing about Summer ending.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Thursday 9-6-07

To those who say that the crossword puzzle is played out, passé, yesterday's news,
That all the good themes have been used, reused, overused and abused,
I say the old game's still got plenty of power,
And here to prove it is my friend, Patrick Blindauer

And I sure hope hope I've been mentally pronouncing his name correctly, otherwise my poem is ruined and I'll have cleared off that space on the mantel for my Pulitzer needlessly.

Recently Blindauer has turned crossword puzzles into an acrostic, a word search, a chess problem and a deck of cards. Today he brings us a more modern diversion -- this crossword puzzle turns into a video game.

How in the -- ? Find out 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 -- No, you know what, they're better. That's right, I said it, the New York Sun's puzzles are better than the New York Times's puzzles, and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to be Peter Gordon and to keep putting out this superior product and have everybody just blog, blog, blogging and yak, yak, yakking about the Times, Times, Times. Look, if you don't have time for two great puzzles a day, do the better one, do the SUN -- (we now return you to your regularly scheduled spoiler warning) -- 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 puzzles check this out. Or if you're ready to decide for yourself you can download this puzzle and join in on the fun here.

"Hop to It" comes with a "See Notepad" suggestion, and I definitely suggest you follow that suggestion. The notepad says:"Moving up, down, left, or right, go from the shaded square in the bottom row to one of the five shaded squares at the top using only squares that contain the letters of 36-Across. You may not move to any particular square more than once."

In other words it's just like 36A: Game that's the theme of this puzzle (FROGGER) . In case you're not familiar with Frogger, it was a video game introduced in the early 80's, where you guided a frog across a busy highway and a dangerous waterway safely to his home -- theoretically. There were cars and trucks and crocodiles and other hazards you had to avoid to keep from becoming tiny green roadkill. It looked a little something like this:

You'll notice that most of those hazards are here in this puzzle as well -- there's a CAR in 53A: Calling (CAREER) and a TRUCK in 55A: Started, as a conversation (STRUCK UP) (although for some reason, only the first four letters are circled so it's actually a TRUC, not sure why the K didn't get a circle.) Up in what would be the watery portion of the puzzle we've got a CROC at 20A: Thornton's role in "The Alamo" (CROCKETT) and a LOG at 22A:Robert of "Jagged Edge" (LOGGIA).
By the way, I see two possible paths that will get your frog to safety in this puzzle, depending on whether you take a right or a left at the G in LOG. Ignore those poorly-erased red lines on the left side of the puzzle. I did those before I remembered that you couldn't go diagonally.

Other entries of interest:

6D: Drives crookedly (ABETS) Great clue. I was thinking SWERVE and ZIG-ZAG and even SLALOM.

9A: He outmanaged Sparky in the 1970 World Series (EARL) That would be Earl Weaver, hot-headed manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Up until recently he held the record for most ejections until Atlanta Braves skipper Bobby Cox passed him this season. Weaver was a very successful manager but I hated his baseball philosophy. Weaver wasn't interested in bunts or steals or hit and run plays or other plays that make baseball so exciting. It was all about waiting for the three-run homer.

29D: He and his brother were very close (ENG) You can't get much closer than Siamese twins.

30D: Bolted down nuts, maybe (ATE) and 51D: Buggers (PESTS). A couple more misleading clues, in the first instance I was thinking about screws and wrenches and in the second I was thinking about. . . well, British sodomy.

I didn't get 48A: Maxim makers, for short? because I had 28D: 2002 M. Night Shyamalan film (SIGNS) wrong. I had EDA at 48-Across, but when I realized it should be EDS, I still didn't get it. Is that EDS as in Educators?

45A: Diana of "The Avengers" (RIGG) A pretty recognizable name clued straightforwardly, but I had to mention it if I was going to run her picture, and I definitely did want to run her picture.