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Jan 31, 2009

Saturday January 31, 2009 Tom Pruce

Theme: None

Total blocks: 30

Total words: 70

This grid looks pretty to me. So open at four different corners, with those stacks of 7-letter words. I wonder what is the first word the constructor filled in for his grid. My guess is HEM AND HAW (21D: Procrastinate). But are they really interchangable?

I don't like the clue for LIT (10D: Lang. course). I think abbreviation should only be used when no other options are available. So many ways to clue LIT. "Set afire" is boring but works nicely in this grid. I just learned the other day that LIT is also a slang for "Intoxicated". Maybe you can tell me how you would clue LIT. I really enjoyed the non-tea LIPTON discussion the other day.

Had to google. Without a theme as my sherpa, I was daunted and lost. Did not know any of the two poets' name which intersects each other. Wanted Jennifer (Lopez) for 39D: One of Mark Antony's wives (OCTAVIA), confusing Marc Anthony with Mark Anthony. Anyway, Mark Anthony has five wives: Fadia, Antonia, Fulvia, OCTAVIA and Cleopatra. Looks like he liked women with a-ending names.

Across:

1A: Silent signal: GESTURE. Most of the people talk when they GESTURE.

8A: Mayflower passenger: PILGRIM. Vaguely remember there was a baby born EN ROUTE (2D: Along the way) to Plymouth.

15A: Brightest star in Scorpius: ANTARES. Literally rival of ARES (Mars for the Romans) due to the "similarity of its reddish hue to the appearance of the planet Mars". Interesting root. I have never heard of this red supergiant star before.

17A: Vaccaro and Lee: BRENDAS. BRENDA Vaccaro is an actress. BRENDA LEE is a singer. Neither was a familiar name to me.

20A: Ogden resident: UTAHAN. I used to imagine Poet Ogden Nash was born in Ogden, Utah. He was actually born in Rye, New York.

22A: Ancient ointment: NARD. Ah, I did remember this story. Just forgot who was the girl who washed Jesus' feet with NARD. Another Mary.

26A: Latvian chess master: TAL. The 1960-61 world chess champ. Wikipedia says Mikhail TAL is also called "The Magician from Riga".

32A: Group of seven: SEPTET. Sometimes the answer is HEPTAD.

36A: City near San Diego: OCEANSIDE. Here is the map. Easy guess. I did not know there is a city named OCEANSIDE, not to mention its exact location.

38A: Social Security pioneer: TOWNSEND (Francis). Another guess. Here is a picture of him giving a speech about his plan during 1939 New York World's Fair. I wonder what inspired him to think of this grand idea. What a mess we are facing today.

55A: "Animal Farm" author: ORWELL. See the book cover. We get the phrase "Big Brother" and "Orwellian" from his book "Nineteen Eighty-Four".

63A: Period of peace: DETENTE. I was thinking of Pax Romana. To me, DETENTE implies a "relaxing of tension" during JFK's cold war era.

64A: Poet Siegfried: SASSOON. This is Clear Ayes's summary of him: "SASSOON was an early 20th century poet, who was a decorated officer in WWI. He was nicknamed "Mad Jack" by his men for his near-suicidal exploits. He eventually became a vocal anti-war activist. He is memorialized in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. The inscription reads, "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity." I completely forgot his name. Had to google. SASSOON is "joy" in Hebrew.

65A: Loud speaker: STENTOR. He was a herald of the Greek forces during the Trojan War. And his voice was "as powerful as fifty voices of other men", according to Homer. I have never hear of this guy before. My answer was STENTER, as I wrongly guessed ERNESTE instead of ERNESTO for 43D: Che Guevara's first name.

Down:

1D: Jabbers: GABBLES. A gaggle of Geese GABBLE.

5D: Pakistani tongue: URDU. Dictionary says URDU is "essentially identical to Hindi in its spoken form but in its literary form heavily influenced by Persian and Arabic and written in an Arabic alphabet". It's one of the official languages in India too.

6D: "Giant" ranch: REATA. Learned from doing crossword. Have never seen "Giant".

8D: Umbrella cousins: PARASOLS. Here is Monet's Lady with a Parasol (facing right) once again.

12D: Drumming sound: RAT-A-TAT. Like the drum-banging at Oakland A's ballpark? So annoying!

24D: Climber's spikes: PITONS. This guy is pounding on a PITON. Rock climbing looks very dangerous.

37D: Ancient Greek poet: ANACREON. I forgot. It appeared in our puzzle last Nov. Here is what I wrote last time: "Wikipedia says he is a "lyrical poet" and notable for his "drinking songs and hymns". And his songs often celebrated "women, wine, and entertaining, and today can be considered eroticism". Very interesting information: Francis Scott Key modified Stafford Smith's melody of "To ANACREON in Heaven" for "The Star-Spangled Banner".

38D: Parts of rocker arms: TAPPETS. Here is a diagram. Does not look like "Parts of rocker arms". Whatever. Too technical for me to understand.

54D: "Boola Boola" singers: ELIS. Oh, I did not know "Boola Boola" is Yale's fight song. What's Harvard's then?

56D: Past due: LATE. I really liked "Past Due?" clue for TRE. Very clever. Uno, due, TRE.

61D: X: TEN. The wild receiver for Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald is from Minnesota. I guess we will all root for the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

C.C.

Jan 30, 2009

Guide to Blogging Comments

Below is an article Gina Trapani wrote about blogging etiquette:

"Leaving a comment on someone's weblog is like walking into their living room and joining in on a conversation. As in real life, online there are some people who are a pleasure to converse with, and some who are not. Good blog commenters add to the discussion and are known as knowledgeable, informative, friendly and engaged. Build your own online social capital and become a great blog commenter by keeping these simple guidelines in mind before you post.

Stay on topic.

Bloggers enable comments on specific blog posts to hear more about the content of the post. Don't change the subject. There's nothing more annoying than seeing a comment on a post about Hurricane Katrina that reads, "By the way, do you know anything about turtles?"

Contribute new information to the discussion.

Twelve people saying the same exact thing in one comment thread is useless and irritating. Before you comment, read the entire thread and make sure your comment offers something new to the conversation. If you don't have the time or patience to read an entire thread, then don't comment at all. The longer a comment thread the more likely someone has already said what you're thinking, and the less likely it is to be read by future visitors anyway.

Don't comment for the sake of commenting.

Commenters who only say "First!" or "Nice site" on an open thread have no business hitting that "Post" button at all. Further, only spammers comment for the sake of adding their name and URL to a web page. Useless comments will gain you the reputation for being a useless commenter.

Know when to comment and when to e-mail.

A weblog comment is a public one-to-many communication within the context of a blog post. An e-mail is a private interaction. A weblog comment that reads, "Oh yeah, that link is cool. By the way, how's your sister?" doesn't contribute to the public conversation and belongs in an e-mail message to the author instead.

Remember that nobody likes a know-it-all.

The best kind of comments come from thoughtful, knowledgeable people who add more information about a topic. However, tongue-lashings from condescending smartypants will go over as well on someone's blog as they would in that someone's living room. Expect to get shown the door in the form of the delete button. When fact-checking, pointing out a typo or dead link or asserting a dissenting opinion, do it in a respectful, friendly way.

Make the tone of your message clear.

No one can hear the tone of your voice or see your facial expression online. Sarcasm, in-jokes and exaggerations can easily be taken the wrong way in a public forum. Remember that a simple colon and a parentheses can change the meaning of a sentence entirely. Use emoticons or additional information to communicate the spirit of your message.

Own your comment.

Anonymous commenting, while sometimes necessary, can be seen as cowardly. Build your identity and own your words by placing your name and weblog address on your comments wherever possible.

Be succinct.

Longwinded lectures are for college professors, not blog comments. Stay short and to the point. Everyone appreciates brevity.

Cite your sources with links or inline quoting.

To comment on specific bits of a blog post, copy and paste the lines in question and add your response below each section. If you're referencing information located elsewhere, provide a short summary and a link to your source so others can click through for more information at their discretion.

Be courteous.

Chances are something someone says in a comment or post is going to irk you. Still, personal attacks are unacceptable, useless and can quickly degrade a discussion to a third grade "Yo Mama" flamefest. Resist the urge, and be respectful and objective at all times.

Don't post when you're angry, upset, drunk or emotional.

There's no taking back a published blog comment - once you post, it's there for everyone to see and for Google to cache. Remember, you're not going to show your best face in the heat of an emotional moment. If you find yourself angrily typing a message into someone's blog comment box - STOP. Get up. Take a breath. Walk around. Give it a day. Revisit the thread when your head is clear. This goes doubly for public blog comments as it does for private e-mail messages.

Do not feed or tease the trolls.

No matter how many articles like this get written, there will always be people who surf around the Internet and inject pointless vindictiveness into any available textarea. Don't let the terrorists win. Do NOT acknowledge these people with refutations, disagreements or even a mention of their screen name."

Source: Geek to Live: Lifehacker's guide to weblog comments.

Friday January 30, 2009 Josiah Breward

Theme: Change of Location

17A: Pretend to be confident: PUT UP A GOOD FRONT

37A: Empty-nester's weight problem: MIDDLE-AGE SPREAD

54A: Australia's Never-never: THE BACK OF BEYOND

A couple of things first:

1) From now on, I will only comment on answers that I feel deserve attention. As I've been blogging TMS puzzles for over a year, some of answers are not fresh to me any more, though they might stump certain new solvers. If you need immediate answers for the missing entries and the rationale behind the cluing, just visit the Comments section and ask.

2) Please respect the etiquette in blogging comments. Read others' posts before you post yours. No need to reply to questions that have already been addressed by others, unless you have something new to add.

Back to the puzzle. I've never heard of "Never-never land" or THE BACK OF BEYOND before. Thought the answer might be OUTBACK OF BEYOND. I don't think I fully understand the constructor's logic in putting FRONT in the back, MIDDLE in the front and BACK in the middle. Am I missing something here?

Across:

1A: "Seascape" playwright: ALBEE (Edward). Besides "Seascape", he also wrote "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?". Another frequent crossword playwright is James AGEE, who wrote "A Death in the Family" and the screenplay for "The African Queen". Both were Pulitzer winners.

6A: Arthur Marx's stage name: HARPO. I wonder why those Marx Brothers all have a letter O at the end of their names. Why not ER? You know, Harper, Groucher, etc.

22A: Hit with a blackjack: SAPPED. This is a new meaning of SAP to me. Dictionary says it's also a noun, meaning a "leather-covered hand weapon or a blackjack."

28A: Brownish grays: TAUPES. Like the color of her gown.

32A: Florence flooder: ARNO. I would prefer "Florence flower?" (flow-er) rather than "flooder". Is flooder a well-accepted word?

33A: Defoe character: CRUSOE. He and Man Friday, that's all I know about this Defoe novel.

45A: Denim buys: LEVIS. My instinctive response was JEANS.

50A: Make certain: ASSURE. Thought of ENSURE first. Besides the "Gurantee against loss" definition, INSURE also has "Make certain" meaning.

61A: Van Dine's Vance: PHILO. Have never heard of this fictional detective PHILO Vance. Not familiar with the author Van Dine either.

Down:

3D: Flying mammal: BAT. How bats sleep upside down is beyond me. But again, I did not know that turkeys fly.

4D: Second-largest bird: EMU. Oh, I did not know this trivia. The largest bird is ostrich.

5D: Descried: ESPIED. I confused "Descried" with "Decried".

8D: Botanical anchor: ROOT. These sweet potato chips look delicious.

9D: Schools of whales: PODS. "Schools of seals, dolphines" too. Learned this meaning several months ago.

22D: Transparent fakes: SHAMS. Why "Transparent"?

29D: Indicate by signs: AUGUR. So close to the hole making tool AUGER in spelling.

44D: Hogs the mirror: PREENS. I liked this clue. Reminded me of my college years. One of my roommates (we had 7 girls living in a tiny room) hogged the mirror all the time. She was very pretty.

45D: Gracefully slender: LITHE. Sam Snead could still kick the top of a 8-foot ceiling in his late 70s. Very LITHE. And he loved steak, potatoes and ice creams all his life. Exercise probably plays more roles than diet in terms of enhancing human longevity.

46D: Mrs. Fred Mertz: ETHEL. Cute barbie set. From the Chocolate Factory episode I suppose.

51D: Coating: SKIN. How come? Coating of what?

57D: "The __ and the Pussycat": OWL. I guessed. I've never heard of this poem before.

C.C.

Jan 29, 2009

Thursday January 29, 2009 Alan P. Olschwang

Theme: Practice Makes Perfect

17A: Start of Joe Paterno quote: THE WILL

18A: Part 2 of quote: TO WIN IS

39A: Part 3 of quote: IMPORTANT

42A: Part 4 of quote: BUT

44A: Part 5 of quote: THE WILL TO

61A: Part 6 of quote: PREPARE

65A: End of quote: IS VITAL

What next? A Bobby Bowden quote? Has he said anything interesting that may catch Mr. Olschwang's attention?

Joe Paterno might be inspired by Paul "Bear" Bryant, who once said: "It's not the will to win that matters - everyone has that. It's the will to prepare to win that matters".

I was surprised that HOPER (53D: One with aspiration) is a real word. I googled HOPER, then I was asked "Did you mean Hopper"?

Some of the clues are very annoying today. I don't believe they are Olschwang's originals:

27D: Tea brand: LIPTON: TEA is already the answer for 36A: Oolong, for one. "Unilever brand" might be too vague. If you can come up with a great clue for LIPTON without mentioning the word "tea", please post in the Comments section.

31D: Took seats: SAT. Unnecessary letter duplication. "Took a chair" would be just fine.

61D: Prefix's prefix: PRE. Just awful. So many creative ways to clue PRE. Lois would probably love "Vent opening?" clue (PREvent). I would go with "Season opener?". Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in two weeks.

I don't understand the clue for STREETS (73A: D and C, in D.C.). Why?

Also, I would like someone to guest blog Barry Silk's Fairfax County Public Library crossword. If you are interested, please email me at crosswordc@gmail.com. I want it published here next Tuesday or Wednesday.

Across:

1A: Surveying instrument: ALIDADE. Unknown instrument to me. Looks like an antique item. Is it still in use today?

8A: Token amount: MODICUM. Also, IOTA (43A: Bit), NIBLET (34D: Canned corn morsel), and DRIB (35D: Small amount of liquid), which is a new word to me. I've only heard of driblet though.

16A: Ground hugging stems: STOLONS. Oh, so there is a special name for this part of the plant. Good to know. Same pronunciation as stolen. My strawberry STOLONS were stolen by squirrels last year.

22A: Scarcity: DEARTH. Took me a while to get this word as I had CLASS rather than A LIST for 5D: Social category.

33A: On the front burner: IN MIND

55A: Online newsgroup system: USENET. Got the answer, but I forgot what USENET really is. Wikipedia says it's a "precursor to the various web forums".

Down:

6D: Oracle site: DELPHI. The site for Temple of Apollo. Those are Doric columns. How is the Delphic Sibyl different from Pythia?

12D: Implied idea: CONNOTATION. Easy long word. Not like yesterday's SALMAGUNDI. Learned that the spicy Jamaica Solomon Grundy is a corrupted form of SALMAGUNDI. I guess both has pickled herrings.

20D: Reverse direction of an electric current: COMMUTATE. New word to me. Related to mutate, I suppose?

22D: Texas airport letters: DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth). What does X stand for in LAX?

24D: Mark above a vowel: ACUTE ACCENT. Like été.

50D: Day's end: SUNSET. Fishing? What a waste of the beautiful SUNSET.

64D: Writer LeShan: EDA. I wonder why her mom named her EDA instead of Ida, or Ada. Just to be different?

C.C.

Jan 28, 2009

Wednesday January 28, 2009 Ed Voile

Theme: Dee-lightful

17A: Small gray-and-black songbird: CHICKADEE

31A: "The Four Seasons" composer: VIVALDI

49A: Restaurant employee: MAITRE D'

66A: "Gidget" star: SANDRA DEE

11D: Miscellany: SALMAGUNDI

30D: One of two rivals: TWEEDLE DEE

I have never heard of SALMAGUNDI before. Thought it would be the same as the Swedish smörgåsbord. But Dictionary says it's a kind of "salad of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, and onions, often arranged in rows on lettuce and served with vinegar and oil." Doesn't sound good to me. Right now, I am hankering for some French toast drizzled with maple syrup and slices of fresh strawberries.

I solved this puzzle the way John Roberts administered Obama's swearing-in. It looked quite simple yet I still botched a few spots. Interesting theme concept, but I felt the constructor overdid the theme entries. Six is a lot for a weekday puzzle.

I would have picked up one DEE ending, one DI ending, and add a DY ending and worked out a puzzle with four theme answers (together with MAITRE D'), or simply a puzzle with all DEE ending theme entries. I don't know, let me have your opinion.

Across:

14A: Anthracite, e.g.: COAL. I forgot the meaning of "Anthracite", thinking of the dreadful anthrax.

20A: Shinto temple gateway: TORII. Like this one. TORI means "bird", the last I is from Iru meaning "To dwell". Japanese kanji 鳥居 literally means "Bird's Dwelling". Wikipedia says it's originally designed as a large bird perch. In Shintoism, "birds are considered messengers of the gods". I wonder how Angels' TORRI Hunter got his name. People often misspell his name as Tori.

25A: Verbena plant: LANTANA. Very pretty. Wikipedia says "LANTANA berries are edible when ripe though though like many fruit are mildly poisonous if eaten while still green." I stopped picking up and sampling exotic wild berries after watching the movie "Into the Wild".

35A: Ayres and Wallace: LEWS. Both were unknown to me. My answer was ELIS.

38A: Phony: PSEUDO. Adjective here?

41A: Game similar to keno: BEANO. Have never played BEANO or bingo.

43A: Nabokov novel: PNIN. I suppose letter P is silent? "Nabokov novel" answer is always "Ada", "PNIN" or "Lolita".

44A: Audience loudmouth: JEERER. Sounds like a made-up word.

46A: D.C. old-timer: POL. This "old-timer" confuses me. Now, if Minnesota recount mess clears up and Al Franken becomes our senator, he will be a POL, but he won't be a "D.C. old-timer", right? He will simply be a "D.C. newcomer".

47A: Rehan and Huxtable: ADAS. ADA Rehan was an actress. ADA Huxtable won Pulitzer in 1970, and is currently the architecture critic for "The Wall Street Journal". Both were unknown to me.

53A: Henry VIII's court painter: HOLBEIN. No idea. Strange necklace. Is S a special symbol for something? (Addendum: The painting is Thomas More. Here is HOLBEIN's self-portrait).

57A: Profit makers: EARNERS. What do you think of the clue/answer?

64A: Arboreal lemur: INDRI. You should eat worms if you miss this answer again.

Down:

1D: $ in the bank: ACCT. I was thinking of amount.

6D: Focal point: NODE. Is this a math term? I am not familiar with this definition.

9D: Pairs of twins: GEMINIS

22D: Polliwogs: TADPOLES. Last time TADPOLE is clued as "Frog of the future".

24D: Cerebrum's neighbor: MIDBRAIN. I guessed. I don't know anything about my brain structure.

27D: King in "The Tempest": ALONSO. I only knew King Lear.

28D: Biblical prophet: ELIJAH. "According to the Bible, he did not die but was carried skyward in a chariot of fire." Does it mean that other "Biblical prophets" all died?

29D: Moon: pref.: SELENO. New prefix for me, though I do know the Greek goddess of moon is Selene.

36D: Former Sov. unit: SSR

39D: Reg. agcy.: EPA. Luckily I got the crossing PNIN, otherwise, this would be an impossible for me. The clue is so vague.

50D: Having actual existence: Lat.: IN ESSE. Opposite IN POSSE.

54D: Actor Bostwick: BARRY. I googled his name, then I realized who he is. "Bostwick" sounds Scottish.

56D: Praise: EXALT. Extol also has 5 letters.

63D: Broadcast: SENT. I often forget that the past tense of "Broadcast" is still "Broadcast".

C.C.

Jan 27, 2009

2008 Championship Tribute Barry Silk

Theme: 2008 Championship Tribute

18A: With 29-Across, sports organization: MAJOR LEAGUE

29A: See 18-across: BASEBALL

40A: 2007 MVP for the 47-Across, shortstop Jimmy: ROLLINS

47A: 2008 winners of 62-Across: PHILLIES

62A: The "Fall classic": WORLD SERIES

1D: 2008 All-Star of 47-Across, second baseman Chase: UTLEY

4D: MVP of the 2008 62-across, ace pitcher Cole __: HAMELS

For those who have not solved this puzzle, I've uploaded the grid to Scribd. Just click on iPaper, then print it out. Barry also kindly provided us the special puzzle he made for Fairfax County Libray presentation on Jan 17, 2009. Very clever theme entries.

As for this Tribute puzzle, the last two answers I listed above are not symmetrically placed, so technically they are not part of the theme. But I think they fit in perfectly. TUES (51A: When the All-Star Game is played) and GMS (71A: 29-Across VIPs) are great baseball related fills too.

Lots of cross-references in this puzzle. Might be a bit tough for non-baseball fans. I thoroughly enjoyed the solving. It made me feel so smart. I think Barry should have sold this puzzle to Phillies. They can do a special Crossword Solving Day, you know, like Bobblehead Giveaway Day.

Across:

4A: Islamic militant group: HAMAS. It has become a "terrorist group". Fatah is not.

9A: Chipmunk of pop music: ALVIN. This music just sounds so jarring to me.

24A: Swiss stereotype: YODELER. I was thinking of watchmaker.

28A: Nittany Lions' sch.: PSU (Penn State). Why do they call themselves Nittany Lions? Reminds me of ninny.

52A: Horizon arc measurement: AZIMUTH. See this diagram. Too complicated for me to understand.

56A: Cell: suff.: CYTE. No idea. Dictionary gives an example of leukocyte (white blood cell). Also, the prefix for cell is CYTO, as in cytoplasm.

65A: Govt. investigation: INQ. Inquiry? Why "Govt. investigation"?

67A: Young salmon: SMOLT. I wonder how long it takes for this SMOLT to mature into this big salmon.

68A: "All Things Considered" network: NPR. "Fresh Air" network too. Terry Gross is sharp.

Down:

2D: Brigham Young University site: PROVO. Ken Jennings, the all-time champion of "Jeopardy", attended this university, so is our Barry G, Johnny Miller, Mitt Romney etc. See this alumini list.

3D: Ecclesiastical assembly: SYNOD. This word always escapes me.

6D: Woman of La Mancha: MUJER. No idea. I was thinking of señora.

7D: Old Testament prophet: AMOS. A minor one. I am more accustomed to the " "Famous cookie maker" clue.

10D: Pay no mind: LEAVE BE. New to me. Can you make a sentence with this phrase for me? I only know "Let it be".

11D: Carrot or Onion: VEGETABLE. I love the symmetrical placement of VEGETABLE and FRUIT TREE (35D: Orchard entity).

29D: Gaucho's weapons: BOLAS. Spanish for balls. What kind of material are those?

40D: It sounds real bad: RALE. Williams likes to clue RALE as "Death rattle".

41D: Todd Rundgren's rock band of the 1960's: NAZZ. I googled this band name. What's their most famous song?

44D: Puritanical ban: BLUE LAW. Now this ban is still valid in some states, right?

55D: Langley, for the CIA: HDQRS. I see HQS more often.

56D: 100-lb. units: CWTS (Hundredweights). New abbreviation to me.

63D: License to drill?: DDS. Great clue.

64D: "Strange Magic" rock band: ELO. Here is the song. I guessed. Three letter band name has to be ELO or REM.

C.C.

Tuesday January 27, 2009 Adele Mann

Theme: SCHOOLS (36A: Educates)

17A: Winged Foot or Sawgrass: GOLF COURSE

53A: Sentence: PRISON TERM

11D: Big time for batters: MAJOR LEAGUE

25D: Kind of suit: CLASS ACTION

"School Subject" is probably a better theme title.

I can't believe I've never heard of Sawgrass GOLF COURSE before. It's PGA Tour's headquarters. But "Winged Foot" clue alone is enough for me. I remember Phil Mickelson's nightmarish collapse there in 2006 US Open. I would never understand why he decided to go with the driver on the last hole.

My favorite US Open is 2002 Bethpage Black. Brutal weather, brutal rough, brutally entertaining, esp with Sergio Garcia's endless whining. Lots of fans cheered for Phil, but Tiger never relented his lead. I hope the drama repeats this year.

I just don't feel "Sentence" is synonymous with PRISON TERM, do you? I wonder if the constructor thought of CREDIT CRUNCH for the theme answer. Fannie Mae is asking for another $16 billion aid from the government now, Freddie Mac wants an additional $35 billion. Plus the $700 billion for the Wall Street bailout, and the $825 billion stimulus package Obama is asking. We are talking about real money, right?

Across:

1A: Org. of Wie and Webb: LPGA. Followed both Michelle Wie and Karrie Webb for a few holes at the US Open last year. Karrie Webb is in Golf HOF. Very nice person. She seldom smiles though.

10A: City on the Irtysh River: OMSK. Here is the map again. This has become a gimme for me. The city on the URAL River (14A: Caspian feeder) is called ORSK. I can't find a map. But it's there.

16A: Okinawa city: NAHA. Got it from down fills. Can never remember this city name. Okinawa belongs to those Blue Zones, where you will find lots of centenarians living a happy & healthy life. Loma Linda, CA is also in the Blue Zones, so is Sardinia, Italy. See their secret. Nuts, ah, nuts, I love nuts.

33A: Singer Janis: IAN. Here is her "At Seventeen". I googled her name.

34A: Sherwood or Epping: FOREST. Know Robin Hood's Sherwood FOREST. Have never heard of Epping FOREST. What is it famous for?

38A: One-time link: AT A. One AT A time.

45A: Coach Rockne: KNUTE. Of Notre Dame. I bought a Sports Illustrated for Kids once (simply because Babe Ruth is on the cover) and read a brief bio of KNUTE Rockne. He died in a plane crash. So did golfer Payne Stewart and Baseball HOFer Roberto Clemente. Very sad. Flying can be so risky.

49A: Of plants: BOTANIC. What is "Of animals" then? I am drawing a blank here.

58A: Stop up: CLOG. Have never heard of "Stop up" before. Strange "up" phrase.

60A: Abbr. on folk music: TRAD. Traditional?

Down:

4D: Nobel and Noyes: ALFREDS. ALFRED Noyes is the guy who wrote "The Highwayman". No-yes is pronounced the same as "Noise". I wonder if anyone is named Yes-no.

9D: Trademark refrigerant: FREON. I can never remember this product. Can I find it in our refrigerator?

10D: Streaking: ON A TEAR. I like this clue and the answer.

13D: Economist Marx: KARL. Weird to see him clued as an "Economist", though he really was one. These are the pictures that used to adorn our school walls: Chairman Mao, Lenin, Starlin, Engels and Marx, the so called "Fathers of Communism".

22D: Preminger and Graham: OTTOS. Know Preminger, not Graham.

26D: Second brightest star: CANOPUS. No idea. It's indeed brighter than the other stars. The brightest is Sirius. Both ending in letters "us", have to be rooted in Greek then, masculine form.

33D: Lemieux milieu: ICE. I suppose "Lemieux milieu" sounds better than "Crosby milieu".

36D: Lazy lady?: SUSAN. Good clue. The "Smart guy?" would be ALEC.

42D: Orange-red food dye: ANNATTO. New word to me. Dictionary says ANNATTO is "a yellowish-red dyestuff obtained from the seed aril of ANNATTO shrub (also called lipstick tree), used especially to dye fabric and to color food products such as margarine and cheese."

44D: Court decision: DECREE. Paul McCartney can now marry his girlfriend, who has just received her divorce DECREE.

45D: "Show Boat" composer: KERN (Jerome). Got him this time.

49D: Beer choice: BOCK. Absolutely no idea. Feel so full just looking at the picture. So dark. I don't drink beer.

50D: Stew pot: OLLA. I've never seen a "Stew pot" OLLA before. To me, OLLA is this kind of Indian pottery. Very beautiful!

C.C.

Jan 26, 2009

Monday January 26, 2009 Jo Vita

Theme: Animal in Action

17A: Marine gliders: FLYING FISH

63A: Sport utility canine: HUNTING DOG

11D: Avian mimic: MOCKINGBIRD

26D: North Atlantic flier: HERRING GULL

Happy Spring Festival! 春节快乐!

I have never heard of HERRING GULL before. Are they fond of herrings? I wish there were a HEARING GULL instead. HERRING does not really fit the theme pattern here.

I think "Clique" alone is enough for IN-GROUP (53A: Elite clique), since ELITIST is the answer for 28A: Snob.

I believe this is Joe Vita's first TMS puzzle. If so, congratulations.

Across:

1A: Food for Silver: OATS. "Hi-yo, Silver". That's all I know about "The Lone Ranger".

2A: Michelangelo masterpiece: PIETA. The only work Michelangelo ever signed. I thought of DAVID first.

16A: Layer: COAT. Paint?

27A: Musical time unit: BAR. Not familiar with this exact definition. Music was regarded as a corrupt Western capitalist product and was not taught when I grew up. The loudspeaker blasted "The East is Red" every morning to wake us up.

32A: Mil. probe: RECON. I was thinking of the "A Few Good Men" style military probe.

33A: Razor choice: ATRA. Gillette should send free razors to our editor for this free publicity.

57A: Old Gray Mare, for one: NAG. Have never heard of "this folk song" before.

Down:

2D: To a man: ALL. First encounter with the phrase "To a man". Or maybe I saw it before and just did not pay attention to its usage. I tend to check the dictionary when the word is long and complicated.

5D: Braided danglers: PIGTAILS. Brought to mind the long "Braided danglers (queue)" hairstyle the Manchurians forced upon Han people till 1912, when Sun Yat-Sen and his followers finally overthrew the Machurians. That's why he is often referred to as the "Father of Modern China". About 92% of Chinese (almost 20% of the entire global population) are of Han ethnicity.

6D: Diabolical: INFERNAL

9D: For a short time: A WHILE. Often see people write AWHILE when A WHILE should be used.

12D: "Gigi" setting: PARIS. Here is the trailer. "Gigi" is probably Colette's most famous novel.

24D: Kazakhstan range: URALS. European/Asian border.

42D: Food poisoning: PTOMAINE. New word to me. Dictionary says this word derives from Greek "ptoma" meaning "corpse".

45D: Aphrodite's child: EROS. Greek equivalent of Cupid. This will be a great Valentine's Day gift. ARES, the bellicose Greek war god, is "Aphrodite's lover".

49D: Duke's location: DURHAM. The only thing I know about Duke is Coach K & the lacrosse scandal.

52D: Keenan or Ed: WYNN. Got the answer from across fills. Know either of them.

53D: Arboreal lemur: INDRI. Literally "there it is".

54D: Nostril: NARIS. Plural NARES.

64D: Org. of Capitals and Senators: NHL. Holy cow! I've never heard of Ottawa Senators or Washington Capitals. Great clue. I had no idea that there are so many teams in NHL.

C.C.

Jan 25, 2009

Sunday January 25, 2009 Norma Steinberg

Theme: Face It

23A: Flirtatious signal: EYE CONTACT

25A: Snoop-for-hire: PRIVATE EYE

54A: Reporter's talent: NOSE FOR NEWS

73A: Meager: HAND-TO-MOUTH

103A: Scarves and such: NECK PIECES

105D: Sweater style: TURTLE NECK

36D: Old hearing devices: EAR TRUMPETS

39D: Performed without a score: PLAYED BY EAR

My theme title would be "Funny Face" because it's twisted and browless. The EYES are facing each other, so are the EARS (symmetrically). The NOSE is sitting above the MOUTH, but not directly.

Interesting to have two NECKS gridded below the MOUTH. But what animal has two NECKS? Guess it's just a wordplay of "NECK and NECK" here.

Clues I disliked:

1D: Took straw: DREW. Bad letter duplication. Besides, why not "Sketched"? It fits today's "Face" theme nicely.

5D: Manuel's hands: MANOS. HAND is already an answer for the puzzle, though it would be tough to clue MANOS without mentioning "hands".

Clue I adored:

65A: Interest free? BORED. Just brilliant.

Easiest Sunday puzzle I've ever solved. No googling. Did get help from my husband on several entries.

Across:

21A: Classic Alan Ladd Western: SHANE. Wikipedia says Edith Head, who won eight Oscars (out of 35 Academy nominations), was the costume designer for SHANE.

32A: Fruits with hard rinds: GOURDS. Cubumbers also belong to the gourd family, they don't have hard rinds though.

43A: Reconnoiter: SCOUT. Garrison Keillor writes a weekly column for our Star Tribune every Sunday. I don't know why he calls himself "The Old SCOUT".

52A: Leafy veggie: KALE. How to cook KALE/mustard green properly? They taste terrible when stir-fried.

53A: River island: AIT. Is there any famous AIT in the US?

58A: Vestibule: FOYER. Here is Degas's "Le FOYER de la Danse" again.

61A: Theater sections: LOGES. Was President Lioncoln sitting inside a LOGE when he was assassinated?

76A: Bellicose deity: ARES. Greek God of War. The Roman equivalent is MARS. The Norse counterpart is THOR, right?

78A: Abominable snowman: YETI. Myth or legend?

83A: Author of "Siddhartha": HESSE (Hermann). See the book cover. Unknown to me. Wikipedia says Hermann won Nobel Literature in 1946. He also wrote Steppenwolf . This name sounds familiar to me somehow. Oh, "Born to be Wild".

85A: Small cooker: GAS RING. Oh, I did not know this is called GAS RING in English. But why "cooker" instead of "burner"?

87A: Georgia University: EMORY. Interesting, I just found out that this university does not have a football team. How strange!

91A: Jargon: PATOIS. The plural is still PATOIS. What is the difference between PATOIS and argot?

95A: Herschel's planet: URANUS. I guessed. Have never heard of this astronomer/composer. He discovered URANUS in 1781.

109A: Related on mother's side: ENATE. AGNATE is "Related on father's side".

110A: Ex-Spice Girl Halliwell: GERI. Ginger Spice, the girl with one knee on the ground.

111A: Pundit's newspaper pg.: OP-ED. Who is your favorite columnist? I like David Brooks.

Down:

15A: Humphrey Bogart film: "High __": SIERRA. Have never seen this movie. The only Bogart movie I've watched is "Casablanca".

16D: Iowa State city: AMES. The Cyclones.

35D: Anatomical networks: RETIA. Singular is RETE.

44D: Mudville batter: CASEY. Ah, baseball, "CASEY at Bat". "... But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out."

55D: Man who portrayed Chan: OLAND (Warner). Got the answer from across fills. Charlie Chan often commented "Ah So", a Japanese expression actually.

56D: Mechanical man: ROBOT. I like the position of ROBOT in this grid.

57D: Marsh of mysteries: NGAIO. Last time MARSH is clued as "Ngaio of mysteries".

62D: Combat mission: SORTIE. Pilot's mission, to be exact.

65D: Fights: BOUTS. Boxing term. The answer did not come to me immediately.

69D: Rhyming verse: POESY. Dictionary says POSY is a variant of POESY, meaning "a brief verse or sentimental phrase, especially one inscribed on a trinket". Sounds romantic.

77D: Boxing proximity: RINGSIDE. New term to me. Boxing is too hard for me to watch.

79D: Awareness of one's position: BEARING. Are you OK with this clue?

81D: Cheesecake picture: PINUP. This is probably the most famous PINUP. Hugh Hefner told NPR that Betty Grable was "his inspiration for founding the Playboy empire".

92D: Designer Simpson: ADELE. Have never heard of this designer name before. I am used to seeing ADELE clued as "Fred's dancing sister".

95D: John Ruskin's "__ This Last": UNTO. No idea. Is this a very well-known essay?

C.C.

Jan 24, 2009

Saturday January 24, 2009 Josiah Breward

Theme: None

Total blocks: 31

Total words: 70

Do you know the shortcut to calculate the total words? You add the number of upper-left corners (the numbered squares that form the starts of two entries), and then add that to the grid's highest number. So, in today's grid, the number of those upper-left corners is 7: BRIGADES/BLACKLIST, RIBALD/RESPECTERS, WEBER/WOODSHED, RSO/RATIONALES, SAUK/SOLAN, CGI/CEDER and CMDR/COOGAN. And the grid's highest number is 63 (Across). Therefore, the total word count is 70. Learned this trick from Patrick Berry.

I struggled with this puzzle. Felt like a snowflake falling into Hades. So many abbreviations. I would prefer "Gesture of obeisance" over "Gesture of respect" for CURTSY (19A), as RESPECTERS (9D: Those showing deferential esteem) is an answer in the grid. But is RESPECTER even a word?

I think I've had enough Josiah Breward/Willy A Wiseman (aka Wayne Williams, our editor) puzzles.

Across:

1A: Military units: BRIGADES. So their commanders are called Brigadier Generals, I presume?

17A: Suffered anguish: AGONIZED. And ATE CROW (33A: Suffered humiliation). One painful puzzle.

23A: Beer buys: KEGS. I wrote down ALES, which are not really beer, right? I've never had ale before.

24A: Unit of magnetic flux: WEBER. Named after German physicist Wilhelm Eduard WEBER, a total stranger to me. I was thinking of TESLA, which is surprisingly related to WEBER. It equals to one WEBER per square meter.

25A: Sides of a cube: SIX. OK, a cube does have SIX sides. Why did I think it should have eight sides?

27A: Brit. quartermaster: RSO. Regimental Signals Officer? Not sure of this answer. (Addendum: RSO stands for Regimental Supply Officer).

29A: B.C. fuzz: RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). I did not know that "fuzz" is slang for cop.

32A: Letters on a GI's letter: APO

37A: Like peekaboo fashions: SLITTED. Like this ?

39A: Source of hyoscyamine: HENBANE. No idea. Maybe hens know. Dictionary says HENBANE is of the nightshade family, having sticky, hairy fetid foliage and greenish-yellow flowers, and possessing narcotic and poisonous properties esp. destructive to domestic fowls." This word 'hyoscyamine" does sound very toxic.

40A: Computer mavens: TECHIES. I was shocked to see Microsoft/Intel laying off such a high percentage of their employees, very spooky.

43A: Hebrew letter: YODH. No idea. It's the 10th letter of the Hebrew alphabet. I only know the first letter Aleph. The first letter of Arabic alphabet is Alif.

44A: Pub. submissions: MSS (Manuscripts)

45A: Karachi's nat.: PAK. Have never seen Pakistan abbreviated this way before. She is my favorite PAK, a young LPGA Hall of Famer. Her name is acturally (Se Ri) PARK, a very common Korean surname meaning "simple". Baseball fans probably know Chan Ho PARK, a new Philly.

46A: PC pic: CGI. Computer-Generated Imagery? I got this from the down fills.

53A: Singer Gibb: ANDY. Here is his "I Just Wanna Be Your Everything". Not a familiar ANDY to me. I like him.

54A: "The Kid" star Jackie: COOGAN. I googled this kid. He looks intelligent.

58A: Canonical hour: COMPLINE. Stumper. It's "the last of the seven canonical hours, or the service for it, originally occurring after the evening meal but now usually following immediately upon vespers."

Down:

1D: Exclude: BLACKLIST. Ostracize has 9-letter as well.

2D: Household novel: ROGUE MALE. Here is the book cover. I've never heard of the book or the author. I thought "Household" is just a "household", and ROMANCE does not fit.

3D: Like noncarbon-based compounds: INORGANIC. I found the best organic whole cashew (raw) in a SuperTarget store a couple of months ago. So sweet and fresh. Much better than the Trader Joe's ones.

7D: Suffix in linguistics: EME. As in morpheme. I misread the clue as "Suffix in language", so my answer was ESE.

8D: Grasslike plant: SEDGE. I can never commit this swamp SEDGE into my memory. I think my brain is full.

13D: The king of France: LE ROI. Louis XIV is called LE ROI Soleil. Why would he want to dress that way?

14D: Start of a rehab program: DETOX. "Start"? I thought the whole process is called DETOX.

27D: Fundamental grounds: RATIONALES. I was thinking of PRINCIPALS (I always confuse principal with principle), which also has 10 letters.

28D: Haste: SPEEDINESS. They are not the same to me. Haste has a negative understone.

30D:Dangerous insulation mtl.: PCB. Learned from doing Xword. I don't know why they are "Dangerous".

34D: Out of control: RAMPAGING. Reminds me of those RAMPAGING looters in Baghdad after the invasion. I wonder how many valuable piceces are missing from their National Museum.

35D: All in all: ON BALANCE

36D: About to swoon: WEAK-KNEED. When? When you see this?

47D: Gannet goose: SOLAN. SOLAN goose, yes, but not "Gannet goose".

50D: Spandex brand: LYCRA. I wonder why DuPont named it LYCRA. It's not a Greek/Roman/Egyptian goddess or anything, right?

54D: Letters for Spock or Riker: CMDR (Commander). Not a familiar abbreviation to me.

55D: Eye defect: suff.: OPIA. As in myopia. New suffix to me also.

C.C.

Jan 23, 2009

Friday January 23, 2009 Willy A. Wiseman

Theme: Heady Stuff

20A: Calming look?: TRANQUIL EYES (Tranquilize)

39A: Organs purchased on the sly?: BLACKMARKET EARS (Blackmarketeers)

55A: Kenny Loggins' rhinoplasty?: SOMEBODY NOSE (Somebody Knows)

"Blackmarketeer" is a new verb to me. I also have never heard of the song "Somebody Knows", so the PUN (63D: Play on words") for SOMEBODY NOSE did not come to me readily.

I was going to complain that EYES and EARS are plural while NOSE is singular, then it dawned on me that I only have one NOSE on my face.

Very bad clue for LUG (61D: Earlike part), as EARS are part of the theme entries. A simple "Pull/Drag" would be just fine. Is the brown colored section LUG? I have never heard of it before.

Across:

15A: Samoan port: APIA

19A: Toss about, as ideas: BANDY. Learned this word a couple of months ago.

23A: Taiwan currency: YUAN. I thought it's called 台幣 (Taiwan dollar) there. YUAN is the currency in Mainland China. Literally, "round".

24A: Florida raptor: OSPREY. Ah, the fish hawk.

28A: Boxer's stats: KOS (Knockouts)

38A: Small barracuda: SPET. New fish to me. I did not know the meaning of "barracuda" either. Looks menacing.

40A: Slick: OILY. I though of WILY first.

44A: Chemical suffix: INE. Could be ANE and ENE too. Williams likes to clue INE as "Serpent ending".

45A: Beethoven dedicatee: ELISE. "Fur ELISE".

46A: PAT value: ONE. No idea. Why? What is PAT?

47A: Perk up: ANIMATE. Intransitive?

50A: Silver or Leibman: RON. Learned RON Silver's name from doing Xword. Have never heard of RON Leibman. He looks familiar. I must have seen him somewhere before.

51A: Noble Italian family: MEDICI. Absolutely no idea. I only know ESTE (of Ferrara). Wikipedia says the MEDICI family were "a powerful and influential Florentine family from the 13th to 17th century. The family produced three popes (Leo X, Clement VII and Leo XI)."

53A: Chinese secret society: TONG. Not true. "Chinatown's secret society", yes.

64A: Actress Washbourne: MONA. Alien to me. The only MONA I know is her (or she?). Wikipedia says MONA Washbourne played Higgins' housekeeper Mrs. Pearce in "My Fair Lady" (1964). Oh, I forgot. I also know MONA Charen, the Neocon columnist.

67A: Any part of EAP: INIT. It took me a while to realize EAP is Edgar Allen Poe.

69A: Tierney and Tunney: GENES. Is GENE Tunney very famous? I've never heard of him.

Down:

2D: Professional golfers' circuit: TOUR. Meet Ryo Ishikawa, the sensational Japanese golfer, the youngest ever (born in 1991) to reach the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings. He was invited to play at 2009 Masters.

4D: Wet out: RAINY. "Wet out"? Isn't it a verbal phrase? "Wet" is enough for me.

5D: New Guinea language: PAPUAN

6D: Man-Lion figure: SPHINX. How an Egyptian figure became part of Greek mythology is beyond me.

7D: Continental crust: SIAL. Obtained the answer from across fills. Do not know what SIAL is.

8D: Grain-field weed: TARE. The Biblical weed? I am more familiar with the "Truck weight allowance" clue.

9D: Convent head: ABBESS. I only know ABBOT, the "Monastery head".

22D: "__ Got Mail": YOU'VE. Very romantic. Meg Ryan's "Courage Under Fire" is very confusing to me though. I still don't know who is telling the truth and who is lying.

27D: China's Sun__: YAT-SEN. "Father of Modern China". He was Chiang Kai Shek brother-in-law. His name is spelled as Sun Zhong-Shan in Mandarin Chinese.

32D: Legal phrase: IN REM. Latin for "In a thing". Here is the explanation. Unknown to me. But isn't "thing" RES in Latin?

33D: __ Ridge Boys: OAK. No idea. Easy guess though. Here is a clip.

38D: Poivre companion: SEL. French for "salt". Poivre is "pepper".

40D: Small portion: MINIM. Another new word to me. Dictionary says MINIM is roughly one drop of liquid. "Small portion" indeed then.

41D: Colonial blackbird: ANI. Here is the picture again. Why "Colonial"?

48D: Not accented: ATONIC. Was this a gimme to you? This is my first meeting with ATONIC.

52D: Val d'___, Fr.: ISERE. The ski resort in France. Our editor clued ISERE as "Grenoble's river" last time.

58D: Hautboy: OBOE. "Hautboy"/hautbois is French for OBOE.

59D: Very dry: SERE. Probably the same word origin as the verb SEAR.

C.C.

Jan 22, 2009

Thursday January 22, 2009 Alan P. Olschwang

Theme: RUN ON (50D: Talk and talk)

20A: Start of a quip: A MAN IS NEVER

33A: Part 2 of quip: TOO BUSY TO

41A: Part 3 of quip: TALK ABOUT

52A: End of quip: HOW BUSY HE IS

I don't believe "Talk and Talk" is Olschwang's original clue for RUN ON. He is too professional and experienced to make this kind of clue/answer duplication mistake. His original might be "Gab and gab".

I also don't think LEAD (32A: Blaze the trail) and LED (51A: Set the pace) belong to the same grid. They are just one word in different form, which should not be allowed in crossword construction. Would be alright if LEAD was clued as "Component in recalled toys" or something metal related.

I hope you enjoy this Inauguration Tribute ("Air and Simple Gifts"). I really love the clarinet solo part. What a stellar quartet: a Jewish violinist, an Asian cellist, a Black-American clarinetist and a female Latino pianist. Isn't America beautiful? In fact, Chinese characters for America "Beautiful Country".

Across:

14A: Numskull: IDIOT. "Numskull" is a new word to me. The adjective is "Numskulled". Does the stupid "ding-a-ling" have an adjective form?

17A: "West Side Story" heroine: MARIA. Also the heroine of "The Sound of Music". Very nice clip. I have not heard/seen "Raindrops on roses..." for almost 3 months.

43A: Manitoba tribe: CREE. The answer is invariably CREE for any "Canadian tribe" clue.

44A: Gray and Moran: ERINS. Memorized this name from doing crossword. I know either of them. I suppose both of them are of Irish ancestry?

50A: Long, narrow inlets: RIAS. See this photo.

59A: Publishing grp.: ABA (American Booksellers Association). New abbreviation to me. I am used to seeing ABA clued as "Lawyers' org.".

6!A: City on Baranof Island: SITKA. I guessed. Had no idea where Baranof Island is. Wikipedia says SITKA is the largest city in the US by area.

64A: Range of the Rockies: TETON. Hmm, The Grand TETON. I think TETON (French), TITTEN (German) and TIT (English) might all derive from one word. What word is it then?

67A: Borneo ape, briefly: ORANG. I got the answer. Did not know where "Borneo" is. Dictionary says it's "an island in the Malay Archipelago, politically divided among Indonesia, Malaysia, and the British-protected sultanate of Brunei".

Down:

2D: First grandfather: ADAM. "First father", "First husband", "First" of all. "Second offender" though. Look at how happy this future "First grandma" (Marian Robinson) looks.

10D: Honorable retirement title: EMERITUS. It's a title for those retired professors, right?

12D: Eagle's nest: AERIE

25D: Draft org.: SSS. Here is the SSS classification. ONE A appears in our puzzle almost every week. I don't know where I got the idea that SSS does not exist any more.

27D: Queen of Olympus: HERA. Wife/sister of Zeus. This lady is constantly jealous of and extremely vindictive of her husband's lovers.

28D: Justice Warren: EARL. Surprised to see Chief Justice John Roberts stumbled at Obama's swearing-in. Obama did vote NO at Robert's confirmation though.

33: Disney sci-fi flick: TRON. I just can't remember this film name.

34D: Mongol's tent: YURT. The Great Wall of China was built during Qin Dynasty (Xi'An is its capital city) to prevent the Mongol intrusion.

36D: Persons: ONES. I have never seen plural ONES referred to as "Persons". Only familiar with the singular ONE. Can you make a sentence with ONES for me?

38D: Western lawmen: MARSHALS

46D: Stops in open water: LAYS TO. New nautical term to me. Dictionary defines LAY TO as "To put (a ship) in a dock or other place of safety".

47D: Above it all: BLASE. I got the answer, but I did not quite understand "Above it all". Is it a slang?

48D: Picture puzzle: REBUS. Here is a NY Times' Valentine's Day REBUS puzzle. A big heart will emerge once you connect all those embedded small "heart". Very creative, isn't it? Our editor has never offered us a REBUS puzzle. I think we are smart enough to handle one.

C.C.

Jan 21, 2009

Wednesday January 21, 2009 Willy A. Wiseman

Theme: NN-ending Famous Names

17A: "Songcatcher" co-star: AIDAN QUINN

36A: Former Georgia Senator: SAM NUNN

56A: "Little Big Man" director: ARTHUR PENN

11D: "Death in Venice" author: THOMAS MANN

27D: Star of "Captain Blood": ERROL FLYNN

*ANN, *ENN, *INN, *UNN, *YNN, the only one missing is *ONN. I bet Wiseman searched hard for an *ONN ending famous name but came up with nothing. He did compensate this with BONN (6A: Beethoven's birthplace).

I've never heard of "Songcatcher", "Litttle Big Man" or "Captain Blood", but the theme answers were not difficult to obtain, given the easy crossings and self-evident theme.

I dislike the clue for SOWED (60A): Scattered (seeds) since SEED POD is the answer for 42D: Vanilla bean. Also, why "Vanilla bean" for SEED POD? I don't get it.

Across:

15A: Half of CXIV: LVII. Roman 57. I am so happy that I am not a Roman. I don't think I can calculate without first converting those Roman numerals into Arabic numbers first.

16A: Auto-racing org.: NHRA (National Hot Rod Association)

21A: Kern and Robbins: JEROMES. JEROME Kern composed "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes". JEROME Robbins won an Oscar for directing "West Side Story". I knew neither of them.

24A: Argentine port: PARANA. See this map. I've never heard of PARANA River/port. My wrong guess was MARANA.

33A: Municipal grp.: DPW (Department of Public Works)

38A: Islands of Indonesia: ARU. Here is ARU Islands again (lower right corner).

39A: NHL coach Bowman: SCOTTY. Wow, 11 Stanley Cups, very impressive. Too bad, his name means nothing to me.

45A: Some changes: CENTS

49A: Peace pipe: CALUMET. No idea. Dictionary says CALUMET is "a long-stemmed sacred or ceremonial tobacco pipe used by certain Native American peoples." Native Indians seem to love feathers for decorations.

51A: Bay of Alaska: PRUDHOE. Have never heard of PRUDHOE Bay. Easy inference though.

Down:

8D: Martial arts masters: NINJAS. It's rooted in Chinese 忍者. Nin is "endure". Ja is "person". I know the name, did not know that they are "Martial arts masters".

9D: SF gridder: NINER. Wikipedia says San Francisco 49ers have won 5 Super Bowls, and they "share the Super Bowl win record with the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers". For another 10 days?

12D: Art Deco artist: ERTE. "Symphony in Black" is probably ERTE's most famous image.

24D: Platte River valley people: PAWNEES. New word to me. Does PAWNEE have any special meaning in their own language? Can't be PAWN related.

25D: Canton folk: SWISS. Good clue. I was thinking of those folks I left behind in Canton (Guangzhou), China. Did anyone think of those football Hall-of-Famers in Canton, OH?

26D: Stupor: pref.: NARCO

37D: Ref's cohort: UMP. Look at this guy's impressive bobblehead collection. I wonder if he has a 1960' UMP nodder.

40D: Screes: TALUSES. I did not know the meaning of "Scree". Checked the dictionary and it explains "scree" as TALUS, broken rock debris at the base of a cliff.

44D: Gas in Glasgow: PETROL. Good alliteration.

52D: Shaped with an ax: HEWN

50D: First-class: A ONE. And ONE A (53D: SSS class)

C.C.