Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Singer Green with multiple Grammys / THU 9-1-11 / Auto slogan beginning in 2000 / Negotiations of 1977-79 / Never finished only abandoned Paul Valery

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Double Double — Five answers are phrases wherein a word is doubled (e.g. "Pizza Pizza!"). Instead of being written out completely, the phrase doubles up on itself, such that each square contains pairs of every letter in the repeated word. These double-letters work for all the Down crosses.

Word of the Day: POMONA College (46A: Southern California college) —

Pomona College is a private, residential, liberal arts college in Claremont, California. Founded in 1887 in Pomona, California by a group of Congregationalists, the college moved to Claremont in 1889 to the site of a hotel, retaining its name. The school enrolls 1,548 students. // The founding member of the Claremont Colleges, Pomona is a non-sectarian, coeducational school. Its founders strove to create "a college of the New England type". In order to reach this goal, the board of trustees included graduates of Williams, Dartmouth, Colby and Yale. Since 1925, the Claremont Colleges, which have grown to include five undergraduate and two graduate institutions, have provided Pomona's student body with the resources of a larger university while preserving the closeness of a small college. (wikipedia)

• • •

Nice way to start the new month. There are very few things about this puzzle that I did not like. At the outset, I had that creepy feeling you sometimes get when you're able to solve chunks of the grid but completely unable to make sense of others. The "something's going on and I don't know what it is, dammit" feeling. The NW, in particular, was killing me. Solved stuff to the east and south of it, but couldn't do anything with that tiny little corner. S---PMINES meant nothing to me at first (17A: Eco-unfriendly coal sources). SWAMP MINES??? Had to abandon it and wander off. Ran into the theme the way a pedestrian smart-phone user might run into street sign or telephone pole or other human being. Out of frustration, I just went with BASH (10A: Blowout) (could've been, I don't know, FETE or GALA or something) and then tried SNOB and then got ULNA and somewhere in here I figured out how [Auto slogan beginning in 2000] could be "ZOOM ZOOM," which I'd wanted from the moment I first read the clue. SNOB became SNOOT and then in went ALOOF and I was off. Puzzle was much easier thereafter. Finally figured out STRIP MINES and then (for once!) knowing the theme helped me get POOHx2 and the NW went out like a lamb.

EEXXCCUUSSEESS across the middle is really incredible, especially considering all the crosses work so well, and two of them are quite long. Also wonderful that there are so many interesting longer answers: STRIP MINES, THIS END UP, FALSE GODS. Even REGIFTS made me happy—that's a nice clue: 21A: Acts frugally around the holidays, say. The criticisms I have are minor. A REACH — that indef. article just hurts me. It really does. That's a partial trying to pretend it's not a partial. Also, BABY DIAPER? No possessive? Is this in contradistinction to ADULT DIAPER? Because BABY DIAPER (62A: It may be hard to change) feels like BABY MAMA, which is slang (as well as a Tina Fey / Amy Pohler movie). Feels awkward to me. But otherwise, I got nothing. I love this puzzle. Really inventive.

Theme answers:
  • 14A: Deprecate (POOH POOH)

  • 19A: Auto slogan beginning in 2000 ("ZOOM ZOOM")

  • 41A: "Stop avoiding responsibility!" ("EXCUSES, EXCUSES!")

  • 61A: Looney Tunes sound (BEEP BEEP)

  • 70A: Pacific capital (PAGO PAGO)

Except for figuring out the theme, the only trouble I had involved names, and it didn't last long. At first I thought the HAMMS (13D: Twin gymnasts Paul and Morgan) were the HAHNS. I knew they had the same name as a famous woman, but I went with violinist Hilary HAHN over soccer star Mia HAMM. I also didn't know ACHESON (56A: Secretary of State between Marshall and Dulles). But then I did. It was weird. Had the -SON and thought, "ugh, bygone Secretaries of State." But then the God of Crosswords Gone By smote me upside the head, and ACHESON came to me as if out of nowhere. Probably didn't need him, since I got BEEP BEEP pretty easily and could work out all the Downs in that section from there, but it was nice to know my brain has mysterious hidden powers that occasionally turn on.

  • 45A: It's never finished, only abandoned, per Paul Valéry (POEM) — notice: not A POEM. Just: POEM. I studied French POEMs at a southern California college, once upon a time. Then I switched to English because my French, even after 7 years, just sucked.

  • 23A: Deep Blue's opponent in chess (KASPAROV) — one name that did not confound me. Got it off the "-AR-," mostly because KASPAROV is one of the quite small number of chess players I can name, and he fit.

  • 25D: Negotiations of 1977-79 (SALT II) — another answer (again, like ACHESON, from American history) that just wasn't there ... and then was. It's not uncommon in crosswords because of it convenient / unusual "II" ending combined with other, common letters.

  • 26D: Ad Council output, for short (PSA) — Public Service Announcement. These generally involve the sanctimonious pointing out of the obvious. "Thanks, David Schwimmer! I *will* read to my kids!"

  • 65D: Onetime name in late-night TV (PAAR) — Oh man, just realized I *really* misread this. Somehow the clue registered as "One-named name in late-night TV." After CONAN, I was at a loss. Considered JIMMY because of the two "M"s ... Still didn't fit.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Retreat 1970s-'80s New York City club / WED 8-31-11 / Victim in Camus's Stranger / 1922 Physics Nobelist / Reindeer herder

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Beach Boys hits — 5 of them

Word of the Day: AMORIST (37A: Smitten one) —
["Did you mean 'define amorous'?" No, I didn't]

  1. One dedicated to love, especially sexual love.
  2. One who writes about love.

[Latin amor, love; see amorous + -IST.]

• • •

Pretty straightforward Wednesday fare. Only trouble I had was navigating the grid—found the theme answer placement awkward on the split answers, what with the parts being far apart and the first part being on the right and second on the left. This is one of those themes that seems far too basic. Pick a band. Pick some hits that you can arrange symmetrically ... puzzle? Repeat using playwright / plays? Author / novels? Actor / movies? I don't really understand the puzzle's reason for being. It's an OK grid, though theme density leads to some unfortunate compromises, esp. in the SW, which made me wince. LAR IBO ABOU all scrunched together like that!? That's dangerous crosswordese density. But mostly, as I say, it was fine. Adequate. Here today, gone tomorrow. The best part — and the only thing separating this puzzle from USA Today fare — is the tripartite Down theme answer, "DON'T / WORRY / BABY." Helps that that is one of the very best songs the Beach Boys (or anyone) ever recorded.

Theme answers:
  • 10A: With 64-Across, 1963 Beach Boys hit ("IN MY / ROOM")

  • 17A: 1965 Beach Boys hit ("CALIFORNIA GIRLS")

  • 23A: With 49-Across, 1965 Beach Boys hit ("HELP ME / RHONDA")

  • 57A: 1963 Beach Boys hit ("LITTLE SAINT NICK") — did anyone else try to make LITTLE DEUCE COUPE fit? What about LITTLE SURFER GIRL? (not the actual title, I know) Bah!

  • 7D: With 30- and 53-Down, 1964 Beach Boys hit ("DON'T / WORRY / BABY")

Had a few missteps here and there. Went CAIRO (off the "A") instead of RABAT (62A: African capital), and ALGERIA instead of ALBANIA (that's a big miss) (45D: Neighbor of Montenegro). Also couldn't remember STINE or STYNE (65A: "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" composer), couldn't easily get to the vague MARKER from 25D: Surveyor's stake, typically, and (shockingly) couldn't place Ronsard's "Odes" in the right year (though, now that I think of it, I do know the century) (12D: Year of Ronsard's "Odes" => MDL).

  • 1A: Reindeer herder (LAPP) — a gimme! Finally, this crosswordy answer has become a gimme. I didn't even trip on the "LAPP or LEPP" issue (an issue I invented, as LEPP is not a thing).

  • 34A: 1922 Physics Nobelist (BOHR) — his name came up at dinner tonight as we were discussing crosswordy words that every constant solver just Knows. The conversation started with a discussion of EDINA (where my wife bought many bras this past week) (I'll let her tell you about it).

  • 52A: Minor player, so to speak (COG) — I like this clue / answer pair a lot. I just didn't get it ... until I did. That "C" took a while.
  • 27A: ___ Retreat (1970s-'80s New York City club) (PLATO'S) — really, Really surprised this passed the old Breakfast Test (it's a very famous swingers' club). About as good a clue as you're going to see for PLATO'S. Way better than ["___ Republic"].

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Mon Rock en Seine

Samedi, me voilà pleine de bonne volonté, en route pour le festival Rock en Seine.

Pleine de bonne volonté parce-qu'il pleuvait des cordes ce jour-là et que faire un gros trajet en métro pour finir sous la pluie, avec une éventuelle bronchite à l'arrivée, n'était pas ce que j'aurais souhaité.

Arrivée à destination, avec mon amie Margaux, nous avons donc été accueillies dans le carré vip de SFR Live Concerts.

Des vestiaires, des transats, les artistes se baladant... Un petit coin de calme au milieu de la foule.


Nous voilà donc dans l'arène de ce gros festival.
Nous pouvions entendre au loin la musique venant des différentes scènes.


Jusque-là, le temps était encore clément. Margaux et moi, armées de nos objectifs, décidons alors de partir à la recherche de looks.

Les looks à Rock en Seine, tout le monde en parle, tout le monde les photographie...


Excursion parmi la troupe de gens assis, nous repérons quelques dégaines sympas malgré la multitude K-Way qui dominait la pelouse...


Bien évidemment, une pause coca s'imposait !
Histoire de nous mettre bien dans l'ambiance et surtout après ce long trajet en métro et cette longue marche effectuée.

Ah, parce-que je ne vous ai pas tout dit.

Nous avons pris un tramway censé nous mener à l'entrée du festival.

L'entrée devant nous, on nous signalera qu'il faut faire demi-tour et qu'il était inutile de compliquer notre itinéraire... Ben oui, munis de nos billets SFR, il nous suffisait seulement de nous rendre à quelques mètres de la bouche de métro pour accéder aux festivités. En passant par un autre accès.


Je suis tout sourire pendant que nous sirotons notre boisson. Mais quelques minutes après... Le drame !



Une averse de pluie s'est abattue sur toute la zone et bien sûr, qui s'est pris toute l'eau que retenait la bâche au dessus de nos têtes ?
C'est moi.
La boulette.


Cheveux mouillés, appareil photo trempé, après réflexion et surtout parce-que j'allais décéder d'une pneumonie, Margaux et moi avons décidé d'écourter notre passage.


Nous n'aurons donc pas pu voir les concerts que nous voulions, mais nous avons quand même pu tâter l'atmosphère de l'évènement, suffisamment cool bien que très rock'n'roll pour nous avoir donné envie d'y retourner l'année prochaine... Sous le soleil !


Allez, filez sur la page Facebook de SFR pour vous tenir au courant des prochains événements !

Monday, August 29, 2011

Aunt in Oklahoma / TUE 8-30-11 / Davenport long-running Doonesbury character / Longtime New York theater critic / Popular card game since 1954

Constructor: Bernice Gordon

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (*for a Tuesday*)

THEME: B-RN — last word in six theme answers starts B-RN, with a different vowel (incl. "Y") in the blank spot each time

Word of the Day: DAVID BIRNEY (39A: TV/film/stage actor once married to actress Meredith Baxter)
David Edwin Birney (born 23 April 1939) is an American actor/director whose career has performances in both contemporary and classical roles in theatre, film and television. He has three children, a daughter Kate, and twins, Peter and Mollie. [...] Birney married Meredith Baxter in 1974 (the two had met costarring on the sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie). They have three children: Kate (born 1974), and twins Peter and Mollie (born 1984). Birney and Baxter divorced in 1989. In 2011, Baxter said Birney had repeatedly psychologically and physically abused her during their marriage, allegations Birney has denied. (wikipedia)

• • •

Hey there. I missed you guys. It's good to be back. Well, not so good. I mean, this puzzle ... has problems. I knew right away it wouldn't be in my wheelhouse—if memory serves, the constructor is roughly my grandmother's age, and so, understandably, her cultural center of gravity's going to be a little farther back than mine. Still, I didn't expect to have to deal with So Many Names from Yesteryear. I'm going to ask you to imagine an intersection like the EDD BYRNES / LACEY / ELLER / CLIVE BARNES one here, only replace all those names (ugh, so many proximate names) with ones that came to fame some time after 1975. Now try after 1995. If you're like me, you'd like that puzzle a hell of a lot more than this one, but that's not really the point. The point is, such a puzzle would piss off huge chunks of the solving population (I know from experience), and rightly so. Lesson: Don't crowd names together in a puzzle, *especially* ones that simply aren't universally known and all belong to one time period or field of knowledge. Theater, theater critic, "Doonesbury," and "77 Sunset Strip" don't exactly scream modern, or relevant, or well known. I'd be happy to accept any one or two of these answers, but four? And intersecting? Really, really bad form.

I haven't even mentioned the theme, which is absurd. Vowel progression isn't even in order. AYOIEU? What? BORNES is the best you could do for "BORN"? What about David BYRNE, who is infinitely more famous (today) than the double-D EDD guy? Conceptually, it's all a mess. As a friend of mine just said a few minutes ago: "Also, to help tie the theme together, it's three people, a card game, a dog, and part of a stove. So there's that." Yes. Yes there is.

That's two days in a row now that theme answers have been quite marginal, bordering on obscure. This bugs me for personal reasons. In my mind, every theme answer has to pass the SHERMAN ALEXIE test. This is because Will didn't know who SHERMAN ALEXIE was, and rejected a puzzle of mine almost exclusively on that basis (never mind that Alexie won the National Book Award, has been on "Colbert" multiple times, etc.). So now any time I see something like THE PURPLE ONION (!?!?) or DAVID BIRNEY (come on!) I just cringe and think, "you *must* be joking..."

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Longtime New York theater critic (CLIVE BARNES)

  • 23A: Actor in 1960s TV's "77 Sunset Strip" (EDD BYRNES)

  • 34A: Popular card game since 1954 (MILLE BORNES)

  • 39A: TV/film/stage actor once married to Meredith Baxter (DAVID BIRNEY) — interesting that he's puzzleworthy only when tied to Elyse from "Family Ties" (see, *she* has a puzzleworthy acting credential)

  • 53A: Big dog (ST. BERNARD)

  • 59A: Prime cooking spot (FRONT BURNER)

Oh, and I had an error. Had RECTOR for 4A: Person assisting a worship service (LECTOR) and never thought to correct it, despite the resulting RACEY at 4D: ___ Davenport, long-running "Doonesbury" character (LACEY). I probably just assumed that if anyone wanted LACEY, they'd use "Cagney and LACEY" to get there.

One last thing: if you are a U.S. Congressperson or a well-known or prominent Washington figure of some kind (I'm looking at you, Obamas!), or you know someone who is and who also a. solves the puzzle and b. reads my blog (even occasionally), please let me know (rexparker at mac dot com). I'm being interviewed by CBS in a couple weeks, and they apparently could use this info. I'd be most grateful. Thanks.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The "A" in U.A.W. . MON 8-29-11 / Deborah of "The King and I" / Actor Jannings who won the first Best Actor Oscar / Capone henchman

Constructor: Andrea Carla Michaels & Michael Blake

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Breakfast in New York — The last words of the first three theme answers are types of bagels. THE WHOLE SCHMEAR is an expression that means "everything" and a SCHMEAR is something that might be put on an "everything bagel."

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Legendary San Francisco music/comedy club where Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen have performed (THE PURPLE ONION).
  • 28A: Ali Baba's magic words (OPEN SESAME).
  • 46A: Bad place to live when the river rises (FLOOD PLAIN).
  • 52A: Everything ... or what might cover an everything 62-Across? (THE WHOLE SHMEAR).
  • 62A: Item whose varieties include the endings of 20-, 28- and 46-Across (BAGEL).
Good Monday morning, everybody. PuzzleGirl here. As some of you probably know, Our Fearless Leader got "stuck in Detroit" last night and sent up a flare that was pointed right at me. I could have said no. I mean, I'm pretty exhausted from the earthquake and then the hurricane this week. The earthquake — well, I know it wasn't a huge one, but it's the biggest one I've ever felt. And I know all you Californians think we're big wimps out here for getting panicked about it, but I just have to say that y'all didn't have people flying planes into your buildings just a short ten years ago. Around here when a building starts shaking, there's no way not to panic.

So anyway, Rex got all whiny and pathetic and when he does that I can't stand it. I'm such a sucker. I have half a mind to spend the whole blog talking about Rachel Maddow and my weight-loss program (two things Rex accuses me of obsessing about), but I won't do that to you. I mean Rachel is awesome, and yes, as a matter of fact, I have lost 20 pounds, but we have more important things to talk about. Like, say, the puzzle ….

I tell you what. A big ol' Q right in the very first square is an awesome way to start a puzzle, amirite? As it turns out, there was much more Scrabbly goodness to follow. You got your Xs, your Z, your J … as a matter of fact I'm pretty sure what we've got right here is a pangram, which can actually be kind of helpful. If it's starting to look like there's a lot of Scrabbliness in the grid, you start to look for it. So if you're having trouble coming up with an answer, you think about whether there's a word with a Q or a V or a K in it that might work, and sometimes that allows you to hit on something pretty quick.

I have mixed feelings about this theme. I think it's probably fine but, I guess I'm not much of a bagel connoisseur. I know there's such a thing as an "everything bagel" and I know that a "schmear" is something you put on a bagel, but I couldn't tell you any more details about either of those things. Can a schmear be cream cheese? Or maybe that's exactly what a schmear is. Can it be anything else? Answers, people! I demand answers!

Also I've never heard of THE PURPLE ONION or the phrase "THE WHOLE SHMEAR." I'm not saying that the puzzle is necessarily bad just because I've never heard of those things. I'm just saying that I've never heard of those things. The great thing about Monday is that not having heard of a couple things doesn't mean the puzzle is undoable. Chances are (especially if you're dealing with Andrea and Michael) the crosses are all solid and the cluing is straightforward. So, really, no worries.

Most of the time when I'm blogging a puzzle, I like to look through the grid and see which entries jump out at me as especially colorful. Typically, they're the longer non-theme entries — I like to see colloquial phrases and words that seem to me inherently awesome for one reason or another. In today's grid, I don't see anything particularly colorful jumping out at me, but the Scrabbly letters distributed throughout do lend a lot of sparkle to this grid. I'm liking PIXEL, ROLEX, LEVI, SLEAZE, and JUMP. Wait, did somebody say JUMP?

  • 1A: You can stick them in your ear (Q-TIPS). Ear doctors across the country are cringing en masse. But hey, if the average person has a GLOB (10A: Soft, thick lump) of something in there, they're gonna go for the Q-TIP. It's probably better to just accept it and move on.
  • 17A: Bolivian capital (SUCRE). I believe Bolivia has two capitals. Or used to have two capitals. Or something. The other one is … I'm trying to think of it myself instead of looking it up … LA PAZ? Yesss!
  • 24A: Extremity (END). I wanted this to be ARM but already had the E in place, which made me question the cross for a hot second, but I got over it.
  • 25A: Got rid of some tobacco juices, say (SPAT). Ew.
  • 42A: Poet/playwright Jones (LEROI). I once read a book by his first wife called How I Became Hettie Jones that, as I recall, was very interesting. I should probably say, though, that I also read Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose in that general period of my life and when I tried it again last year I found it unreadable. So who knows. It might be awesome, it might suck.
  • 61A: Group of birds (BEVY). Is it quail that come in a BEVY? Apparently, it can be any number of animals, but "especially" quail (according to Merriam-Webster online).
  • 68A: 45 or 78 (DISC). You whippersnappers out there probably don't even know what this means. Sometimes it pays to be old.
  • 22D: Minimal lead in baseball (ONE RUN). For some reason, I kept reading this clue as "Minimal lead in BASKETball" and couldn't think of a three-letter anything that would make sense here. D'oh!
  • 32D: What a murder suspect needs (ALIBI). Okay, this is funny. I had ALI in place and thought "A LIFE?" Like some accused murderer is at home preparing for trial and his snotty teenage daughter tells him to "get a life." Probably not her best move.
  • 47D: Examined deeply (PROBED). I cut a picture out of a newspaper many years ago because it really made me laugh. It was a guy sitting behind a desk and he was caught at just the wrong time for the picture. He had a dorky kind of surprised look on his face. And the caption said, "Joe Smith is the subject of a long probe." Someday I'll find it and share it with you. So you've got that to look forward to.
Love, PuzzleGirl

Combinaison de rue

Suite et fin de la série réalisée avec Mehdi.

Tenue décontractée cette fois-ci, j'ai ressorti la combinaison de l'été dernier... Que j'ai regretté de ne pas avoir embarquée dans ma valise pour les vacances.





Combinaison - Topshop
Headband - Adéli Paris
Espadrilles - TOMS
Bracelets - H&M et bracelets indiens
Sac - Atelier de création textile x Yvonne Yvonne

On ne zappe pas la braderie de demain !

Vous trouverez des tailles allant de 38 à 42 pour les vêtements, 39 et 40 pour les chaussures et des accessoires... Sans oublier, une bonne ambiance garantie !


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Foo Fighters frontman Dave / SUN 8-28-11 / West African monetary unit / 1813-14 vice president

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty:

THEME: "Add-A-Long-E Day" — long E vowel sound is added to a word, which is part of a longer phrase that is wackily clued.

Word of the Day: GROHL (115A: Foo Fighters frontman Dave) —
David Eric "Dave" Grohl […] is an American rock musician, multi-instrumentalist, and singer-songwriter who is the lead vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter for the Foo Fighters; the former drummer for Nirvana and Scream; and the current drummer for Them Crooked Vultures. (wikipedia)
• • •

Today I discovered that preparing to guest-blog is akin to waiting to open gifts on Christmas Day, only the excitement is even more palpable - not only do you want to find out what's inside your present, but you also don't yet know who's giving it to you. Will it be a visual tour-de-force from Elizabeth Gorski, or a guaranteed-to-be-original theme from BEQ jam-packed with fresh clues? It wasn't, but when I saw Mr. Berry's byline, I felt a rush for what lay ahead yet almost a tinge of non-surprise given how often he's able to publish quality puzzles on Sundays.

Add-a-sound themes are not new, but you can expect strong theme entries across the board when Mr. Berry is the constructor. Most of today's eight are very good. My favorite may have been REIGN OF TERRIER (26A: Canine king's regime?), which conjures a funny image and feels natural as a clue-answer pairing. PARTYING GIFT (76A: Set of shot glasses for Christmas?) was nice to eventually figure out, though the clue seems less than precise given there is a vast range of items suitable for partying not particularly restricted to shot glasses.

LITTLE ORPHEAN ANNIE (89A: Sharpshooter Oakley when she was a charming young musician?) was by far the most difficult to discover as ORPHEAN was completely unknown to me. It makes sense if it's an adjectival form of Orpheus, but not knowing the word made it a little less fun to solve. I'm a bit weak on polar wildlife, so KODIAK MOMENT (56A: Encounter with an Alaskan bear?) was also tough. Overall, the theme was a good execution of a tried and true idea.

Other theme answers:
  • BEER BURIAL POLKA (23A: Lively dance performed as a six-pack is being laid to rest?)
  • BOTANICAL GUARDIANS (41A: Eco-warriors?)
  • PARKING METEORS (108A: Interstellar valet's job?)
  • MILES PER GALLEON (113A: Ship info kept for the Spanish armada?)

The clues were easy enough to support a fairly steady solving tempo, but there were a couple parts of the grid that tripped me up. Never heard of GERRY (68A: 1813-14 vice president) or the aforementioned KODIAK, so that area was the last to fall. I'll assume that NICKERS are sounds made by horses (39D: Stable sounds).

A couple cross-referenced clues strive to spice up the tired OMAN (66D: It's due south of Iran) and ARID (81D: Like the climate of 66-Down). But who's to notice when they're next to the two best non-theme entries, STARCHART (34D: Plan for the evening?) and DESDEMONA (51D: Brabantio's fair daughter). There's a one or two other sparkly entries here and there, but these two beauties really caught my eye. As the longest down entries in the grid, you can bet that Mr. Berry ensured they were lovely.

Nice clues for common words:

Construction Thoughts

I promised Rex to bring the constructor's perspective, and there's just a couple notes about the puzzle worth mentioning, if you'll allow a bit of speculation.

The first thing I notice about the grid is that two theme entries on the top and bottom are right on top of each other, which tends to be uncommon because filling around them is much more difficult. Constructing is often a game of maximizing your choices so that you can pick the freshest, most original fill. In this case, many more words must pass through both long entries, so your choices are cut down, whereas if they're not in adjacent rows then a few black squares can go between them. What you get in exchange is a feeling of higher theme density and the elegance of the stacking. (Merl Reagle seems to be the champion of this stacking technique, hop over to his website for some wonderful examples.)

In part of the grid seen above, you'll see that the top pair of theme entries have 9 down words passing through them, which is going to constrain the fill in those areas. You may also notice that three of the four across entries at the top of the grid are abbreviations, which constructions try to avoid.

Another small consequence is that in order to make the stacking work, the constructor was forced to shift the lower of the two entries over by 1 square, so that REIGN OF TERRIER begins in the second column instead of the first. This introduces a "cheater" black square to the left of REIGN. A cheater square is one that is added to a corner of the grid to reduce the number of intersecting words but doesn't increase the word count of the grid. Constructors tend to avoid them when possible.


It's tough writing a crossword blog post. Kudos to Rex for doing it every day.

Signed, Kevin Der, final guest blogger of the week

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ripley's love / Sat 8-27-11 / What Faroe Islands granted 1948 / Oblong temptation / Camels' resting places

Constructor: Ashton Anderson

Relative difficulty: Easy


Word of the Day: ORLOP (16A: Lowest deck on a ship) —

The orlop is the lowest deck in a ship (except for very old ships). It is the deck or part of a deck where the cables are stowed, usually below the water line. It has been suggested the name originates from "overlooping" of the cables.

It has also been suggested that the name is a corruption o
f "overlap", referring to an overlapping, balcony-like half deck occupying a portion of the ship's lowest deck space. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word descends from Dutch overloop from the verb overlopen, "to run (over); extend".

From Wikipedia (natch)

• • •

I’m Wade, and I’ll be your blogger today. (Fresh ground sarcasm, sir? Zest of buffoonery, madam?)

We’ll tune in to the regularly scheduled puzzle write-up in a moment. But first:

I got a charge yesterday out of Seth’s friend’s Kickstarter video. I don’t know the guy from Adam Rich, but I’m generally eager to sign onto any cause or crusade I only vaguely understand (which is how I wound up babysitting a howler monkey one Easter weekend. Man, those things are loud! And real territorial and belligerent when it comes to hidden eggs), so I want to continue the plug here. Filmmaker Whit Scott has until next Saturday to meet the final $7,871 of his $30,000 goal for the making of Rolled: Thirty-Two Years of Toilet-Papered Houses. If he falls short of the $30,000, he gets none of the money. It’s like Who Wants to be a Millionaire except that that irritating music doesn’t play constantly.

Let’s get him there, crossword people! We’re the phone-a-friend lifeline! Some of y’all

sound pretty rich, what with your talk of artisanal cheeses and private islands on the moon, so fork over! I ponied up yesterday after determining that the kids’ shoes could hold out another couple of months if I just lopped off the end caps with my Old Timer. Yeah, there are plenty of other worthy projects, I know—-Millions of them! It’s staggering!--but you could sit around and die on a big pile of money before you figured out the perfect allocation of all your resources, so why not just give this guy $20 now? Or $50? I sold some blood and gave him a hundred bucks. (Not my blood, of course.)

This is the way

stuff works now, the way stuff gets done. We got what we said we wanted—-we banished the gatekeepers and got internet democracy out the wazoo—-but instead of free ice cream for everybody all the time we get an unlimited supply of YouTube clips that serve up every single precious moment of Pink Lady and Jeff.

You satisfied?

Hell, no, you’re not!

That’s where filmmaker Whit Scott comes in. He’s going to make some new stuff.

About today! Well, about a weirdly well-organized toilet-papering commando unit with institutionalized membership going back 32 years. Suburban anthropology sounds to me like! Will it be any good? Beats the hell out of me. But it will probably be better than Pink Lady and Jeff. (I hope he uses that as a blurb on the DVD case: “Better than Pink Lady and Jeff! Maybe!”—-some guy on internet.) And it’ll be new and about right now or at least about what 32 years ago looks like right now to one guy, which is close enough. Can’t have everything!

I know what some of you are saying: “What’s so wrong with Pink Lady and Jeff?” You aren’t the people I’m talking to. I’m talking to the skeptics with their arms crossed who are grumbling something about hmmph hmmph hmmph why can’t he make it in the marketplace hmmph hmmph hmmph.

This is the marketplace! That’s my point! This is the marketplace! We broke the old one! The one everybody was a part of. It gave us great things (Andy Griffith Show and The Red Headed Stranger) and it gave us not so great things (Pink Lady, but everybody calls it Pink Lady and Jeff for some reason.) Whatever, we didn’t like it so we threw the whole thing out, and now this is what we got: (a) an apparently talented and driven guy over there (say hello to Whit Scott) who has something he wants to make for us but not all the money the various vendors and governmental entities require in order to enable him to make the thing he wants to make for us, and (b) some people over here (that’d be us) with nothing but Pink Lady to watch while we munch on our Grey-Poupon-covered artisanal cheeses in our teak-decked moon houses.

That’s the marketplace. We’re it.

Send Whit Scott some money for his movie.

Send me some money too while you’re at it.

And Rex!


I flew through this one in pretty top Saturday time for me: 19:00 flat, and I was screwing around making some notes now and then, though I doubt that added much to the time. I wound up with one wrong letter through not checking the grid: I had OSS/TASS instead of OAS/TAPS (42A: W.W.II Agency and 34D: It causes lights to go out). Anything under twenty minutes on Saturday rates an easy from me. (“That's what she said!”)

I got footholds throughout the grid on the first pass: PAT (19A: Bit of consolation); NABORS (24A: “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." Star); CLAN (44A: Group sharing a coat of arms); ADUE (53A: Not apart, in scores); SSNS (56A: ID figures); RAP STAR (44D: The Notorious B.I.G., e.g., plus various partials like 60D (Like Beethoven's sixth),which experience hath taught me would be IN something (IN F in this case.)

Early missteps included SHY for COY (4D: Far from forward); LENIN for PALIN (6A: Author of “America by Heart” [I'm sort of kidding, but I did think of that with the IN in place]); GOV for DMV (58A: ID issuer); KEEL for HULL (43A: Bottom of the ocean)[What's a keel then?]; the afore-alluded OSS for OAS; and (best trap of the puzzle) EROTIC for XRATED (3D: Beyond suggestive). I feel like I've fallen into that trap before. In other puzzles, I mean.

All of that adds up to a puzzle that turned out easier than I would have liked for a Saturday (but it means I won't be up til 2:00 a.m., unlike most times I've subbed on a Saturday), but I can't really fault anything about the puzzle. I don't think I've seen IT'S GO TIME before (60A: “Let's roll!”), which in the context of the puzzle sounds like somebody's uncle trying to be hip. I don't think I've seen GLAMROCK in a puzzle before (12D: 1970s music genre.)

  • 10A: Times up? (HIGHS). Damn right question mark. Hardest clue for me to parse at the end of the puzzle.
  • 20A: Google rival (BING). Is anybody using Bing? Or anything other than Google? Why do we need more than one search engine? Dogpile still exists, I just found out. Do people still ask Jeeves stuff? These are not rhetorical questions despite my not really caring about the answers.
  • 21A: Scriveners (PENMEN). I don't buy this at all.
  • 40A: Black-and-white (SQUAD CAR). I like this one. Wasn't thinking cop car at all. “Kojak with a Kodak” would have also been good. I heard that one on Smokey and the Bandit the other day. (Whit, make your movie!)
  • 50A: Offensive time? (TET). Damn right question mark! What does that mean?
  • 2D: Oblong temptation (ECLAIR). This puzzle is really trying to be dirty up there in the NW, isn't it?
  • 13D: What the Faroe Islands were granted in 1948 (HOMERULE). I'm guessing that wasn't real controversial. Whoever granted them homerule probably forgot they even ruled them. (“The Faroe Islands? What? Want homerule? What are the Faroe Islands? Oh. Way the hell up there? Sure, tell 'em to knock themselves out. Homerule away.”) I married a Scot and we had our pre-marriage honeymoon in Orkney, where the map is actual size (“one mile = one mile”), and Orkney is way up there. North of that are the Shetlands. North of the Shetlands, and it's a long way north, are the Faroes. North of that and you're going south.
  • 35A: Camels' resting places (ASHTRAYS). This one didn't fool me for a second. That's probably why the puzzle was as easy as it was. It's a down answer giving the first letter in eight across answers.
  • 47D: Ripley's love (ODDITY). I had a wrong letter in there and didn't see ODDITY for awhile so was thinking of Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien.

  • 52D: Fireplace (INGLE) and 55D: Shoulder (BERM) are simply unpalatable words. They sound like the names of Swedish muppets.
If Whit Scott makes his goal and at least some appreciable portion of it came from Rex's readers I will have my son take a video of me singing "Bennie and the Jets" with the uncorrected lyrics I've misheard for the past 35 years. Or not do that. Your choice.

P.S. Hey, it's Rex here, coming to you from the rough streets of Minneapolis (actually, it's one of the most beautiful, livable places I've ever spent a significant amount of time in, and very much on our short list of "Places We Might Move Once the Girl Goes to College"). Two things: One, I love this grid. Freshness abounds, and the addition of ACROBATIC into the whole SEXCAPADE / X-RATED nexus is worthy of special commendation. Two, for those of you who haven't already been bombarded by my announcements on Twitter and Facebook, Huffington Post Books is now featuring a slideshow of some of the more interesting / salacious / ridiculous covers from my vintage paperback blog, "Pop Sensation" (view slideshow here). Enjoy, tell a friend, and I'll see you back here on Monday (barring hurricane-related complications). ~RP

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Put down in writing / FRI 8-26-11 / Line in the sand? / 1956 movie monster / Romulus and Remus, to Rhea Silvia

Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley

Relative difficulty: REAL EASY. (1A: Like a snap.) Well, not for me, probably for someone.

THEME: none

Word of the Day: INDITED (37A: Put down in writing) —

Indite is an extremely rare indium-iron sulfide mineral, found in Siberia. Its chemical formula is FeIn2S4.

It occurs as replacement of cassiterite in hydrothermal deposits. It is associated with dzhalindite, cassiterite and quartz.[1][2] It was first described in 1963 for an occurrence in the Dzhalinda tin deposit, Malyi Khingan Range, Khabarovskiy Kray, Far-Eastern Region, Russia.[3]

From Wikipedia. Read more here.

• • •

Yah, I did not find this easy at all. I did find the right half of this easy (for a Friday!). My browser actually crashed about 15 minutes into my solve, and when I re-opened it again I filled in this:

My first answer: PICKET LINES. That's good, right? I mean, it's the wrong answer, but it's a pretty good one. (This is for 9A/46D: Strike zones, of course.) Fixed it pretty quickly with TORTE/A-TEAM, and the rest of the NE followed. NEATO/STETS started off the SE, GRAPE APE soon followed, and that was done too. Last to fall on that side was the middle, where I've never heard of the 39A: Deep orangish hue (MARS RED), had no idea how RENTAxxxx would finish, and I had NFL instead of NFC at first.

The West half: much harder. For 15A: Kind of stew (OX TONGUE), I had each of MERINGUE and MELANGUE at one point. Uh, yeah. Well, I said I had some trouble, right? And I wanted LOESS for LOAMS, because my mind for puzzle geology is like that for puzzle music--I can never remember which words are which, so if a word is from the right genre and fits, I go with it. But ATLAS was much better than GLOBE for 3D: What may hold a world of information?, and I eventually came up with REAL EASY and worked my way through the rest.

Last to fall was the SW. I tried about every French spelling I could think of for 43A: Hundred Years' War leader (JOAN OF ARC), without being sure that was even a French thing. I might have guessed South American, maybe 'cause I'm thinking One Hundred Years of Solitude? At least I knew she was French. I wanted ARMADA all along, eventually figured out the very-well-clued-but-I-should-have-seen-through-it-all-along 35A: Give a hand (DEAL IN), and was finally able to flesh out the long downs and finish up.

Oh, by the way, SethG here, sitting in for the vacationing Rex. He's actually vacationing a few miles from my house, so he could write this from my living room if he really wanted, but the man deserves a break. Because he works hard year-round writing this for us, sure, and I and the other guests can attest to the fact that it's not easy and it takes some serious time, but also because he bought me dinner the other night. If anyone else would like to buy me dinner sometime, let me know and I'll sub for you on your blog.

I'll sub for, like, anyone. Even for Brendan Emmett Quigley, who might need a sub for a bit. Read all about the reason, the adorable, 7 pound, 5 ounce, 20 inch long reason, at his most recent blog entry at You can solve the puzzle there, too. It's good.

  • 14D: Like Life Savers (TORIC) — Not to be confused with Lightsabers, which are more phallic.
  • 7D/8D: Absolutely! (SURE CAN/YES SIR) — I like it when they use the same clue for different answers, and having them consecutive is a really nice touch. Not so nice: Having it right next to 36A: Think that just maybe one can (DARE TO). At least they avoided having 41A be "Yes We Can" mottoist (OBAMA).
  • Opposites can be nice too, though I like it better when they're actual words I would ever use spelled the way I would spell them. Not so much with 17A: Eye openers? (DILATERS) or 54A: Like pupils that are too small (MIOTIC). These, and I think too much else of the puzzle, feels like words that fit rather than words that were chosen for their word-awesomeness. *cough*ALAMODES*cough*

  • I don't know if 55A: Big, purple Hanna-Barbera character (GRAPE APE) was chosen for awesomeness or not, but GRAPE APE is awesome.
  • 11D: Dollar store? (RENT-A-CARS) — Store can be plural? Or rent-a-car can be a noun? Yeuk.

  • 24D: Tiny amount (WHIT) — How appropriate!

    Every little bit helps. See here for details, or see Whit's page here. And, like GRAPE APE, Whit is awesome too.

  • 56A: Take stock? (INVEST) — This was not RUSTLE. How was this not RUSTLE? This should have been RUSTLE.
  • 33D: Hardly seen at the Forum (RARA) — "Rare", in the language of the Forum. Lotsa question-mark clues today.

  • 44D: Certain foot specialist (ODIST) — When you see "foot", you should think poetry. Anyway, I had an E at the beginning of 44D with my French spellings of JOAN OF ARC, so I guessed ELIOT. In my mind, poetry is also like geology and music. At least I feel bad about the geology part.

Congratulations, BEQ!

Signed, SethG, Royal Vizier of CrossWorld

Trois jours à Genève

Rentrer à Paris le 15 août n'était pas une bonne idée.

La ville est calme, le boulot quasiment inexistant... Alors je suis allée rendre visite quelques jours à mon père, ma belle-mère et mes petites soeurs.

Ils ont décidé de quitter notre belle capitale pour s'installer dans un environnement plus paisible, troquer leur appartement pour une jolie maison, avec vue sur le lac... Plus enivrant qu'une vue sur un immeuble.

Alors, comment se divertir en trois jours à Genève ?

- Passer une journée au bord d'une piscine. Je suis arrivée au bon moment : canicule.
35 degrés me tendaient les bras.




-Faire du bateau sur le lac, accessoirement de la bouée à la tombée de la nuit. La lumière est incroyable.








-Faire de l'accrobranche. J'en rêvais, l'idée me trottait dans la tête depuis des mois. Une fois arrivée sur place, j'ai endossé mon accoutrement de Lara Crotte Croft, me suis glissée dans la peau de Jane (la meuf à Tarzan t'as vu) et me suis lancée à la conquête de la nature.

Sauf que je peux vous dire qu'au bout de dix minutes, j'étais tétanisée.
Mon père qui me garantissait que la sensation de vertige n'existait pas, parce-que bien accrochée, a menti.

Si il y a bien une chose contre laquelle je ne peux pas lutter, c'est ma peur du vide.
J'ai été servie : angoisse, panique, coeur qui bat on ne peut plus vite... J'ai clairement perdu la gueule devant mes petites soeurs qui ne se sont pas gênées pour me narguer.

Une comédie se déroulait : je bramais des insultes entre chaque étapes et m'agrippais aux arbres comme un enfant qui refuse de quitter ses parents.

Je sentais la pression monter, la crise de nerfs arrivait, mais à force d'entendre mon père qui répétait que tout se passait "dans ma tête", et qui m'a fait bien comprendre que je devais me surpasser et arrêter de flipper devant chaque obstacle, j'ai finalement décidé de me taire et de prendre sur moi.


Les petits challenges de la vie, les défis persos que l'on se lance et qui nous prouvent que l'on est "capable de".

J'ai fini mon parcours sans soucis, même avec le sourire et bien que cela puisse paraître stupide à lire, j'ai été fière de moi, j'ai accompli quelque chose qui me paraissait insurmontable.


- Se ballader dans le Vieux Genève. Charmant.















-Organiser un barbecue. Ben ouais, à Paris, c'est compliqué alors quand l'occasion s'y prête...




-Passer régulièrement au Mc Do, juste pour savourer ces délicieux chaussons aux pommes dont on nous a privé en France.
Je ne vais pas m'en remettre.


- Se rendre à Megève (où la neige n'était, bien entendu, pas au rendez-vous), dans la montagne pour déjeuner, faire le plein d'air frais avant de reprendre son train le lendemain pour Paris.






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