Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NYT Wednesday 7/1/09 - Farewell Michael

Working out the theme of this Wednesday New York Times crossword was a matter of seconds; but after putting in Michael and Jackson, I had some concern that my little learning of the man's career would prove a Dangerous thing. As it happens, the thematic material was fairly obvious and I'd even heard of Thriller and moonwalking.

Michael Jackson had considerably less impact on my life than most, to judge by the extent of news coverage. We haven't seen much of the original news items, but enjoyed Jon Stewart RIPping into some of the more bizarre coverage with his "Rippy Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Obitutainment". I appreciate the impact The King of Pop had on popular music, but am somewhat surprised at the impact of his death, considering the decline in Jackson's career and his history of eccentricity (perhaps that's part of the allure?).

I'm impressed by the speed with which this crossword was created and published (I'm assuming Will doesn't have a stock of obituary crosswords for people who conceivably merit that honor). The amount of theme material is remarkable, especially given almost all of it is in symmetrical answers: the exceptions being 42d Jam (a bridge needed to connect up 40a ask me) and 11a She, which just calls attention to its symmetrical opposite bye {"Farewell"}.
Solving time: 10 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 56d Pete {Rose family member}

A farewell tribute to 10d Michael, 25d Jackson, with the following clues directly relevant to the theme:
11a She {First word of 10-/25-Down's "Billie Jean"}
14a Lionel {Richie who wrote "We Are the World" with 10-/25-Down}
15a Thriller {1982 blockbuster by 10-/25-Down}
32a Dangerous {1991 hit album by 10-/25-Down}
40a ask me {"Don't you ___ for no favors" (42-Down lyric on 32-Across}
47a King of Pop {Nickname for 10-/25-Down}
67a falsetto {Vocal style of 10-/25-Down, at times}
68a Motown {First record label of 10-/25-Down}
3d moonwalking {Classic part of a 10-/25-Down stage act}
27d Gone Too Soon {Song on 32-Across}
42d Jam {First song on 32-Across}
44d Forever {With 10-Down, 1975 album by 10-/25-Down}

David J. Kahn
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersDavid J. Kahn / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares89 (47.1%)
Scrabble points316 (average 1.67)
New To Me

Sno-Caps17a Sno-Cap {Moviegoer's chocolate bite}. I need to learn these candies, preferably by eating them: Milk Duds featured in the 2009 ACPT final and I'm fairly sure Reese of Reese's Pieces got into an NYT crossword recently. Sno-Caps are chocolates covered with white nonpareils (what we Brits call hundreds and thousands).

2d Lin {Writer ___ Yutang}. Lin Yutang (18951976) was a Chinese writer whose compilations and translations of classic Chinese texts were bestsellers in the West. One of his most popular books, The Importance of Living, expresses his personal philosophy ... one of enjoying the life that's all around us without needless worry.

Atahualpa4d Inca {Atahualpa, for one}. I'd heard of Atahualpa, without being very clear about what he did and where. I see he was the last emperor of the Incas, being captured by the Spanish conquistadors under Francisco Pizarro in 1532 and executed in 1533.

Nedick's22d Nedick's {Old fast-food chain}. I'm always going to have difficulty with defunct companies like this: Nedick's started in New York City in the early 1920s and expanded throughout the northeast before succumbing to competition from the likes of McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts in the 1980s. The name was formed from the surnames of founders Robert T. Neely and Orville A. Dickinson.


nacho cheese19a nacho {Kind of cheese}. I've always thought nachos were a dish, but it seems there's a special name for the sauce that goes on the tortilla chips ... and that's "nacho cheese". You can make your own nacho cheese or buy it prepackaged.

no mas57a no más {Juan's uncle?}. In theory I had the knowledge to solve this clue, but in reality I had to ponder it for several minutes after finishing the puzzle. The same for Magdalen. To solve it you need to remember that "uncle" is what you say when surrendering (as in "cry uncle"), roughly equivalent to "no more", which is what the answer is in Spanish. An evil clue that seemed a little out of place in a Wednesday puzzle.

69a bye {"Farewell"}. I can't help feeling this is a thematic answer that got left on the cutting-room floor.

Pete Rose56d Pete {Rose family member}. Nice clue, as I was convinced this Rose family member would be a plant of some kind. When the answer turned out to be Pete, I recollected learning about baseballer Pete Rose in a previous NYT puzzle.

Riksdag65d Swe. {Riksdag locale: Abbr.}. Getting my Scandinavian countries mixed up here, I put in Nor. to start with. The thing is, Norway's parliament is the Storting, if it's the Riksdag (literally, the National Diet of Sweden) it must be Swe..

The Rest

1a Elmira {City SW of Syracuse}; 7a scam {Ripoff}; 18a sincerer {More honest}; 21a ohm {Its symbol is omega}; 22a now {Right away}; 24a hadj {Trek to Mecca}; 26a aught {Zero}; 30a evade {Give the slip to}; 35a delish! {"Yum!"}; 37a cool {Air-conditioned}; 38a NNE {Dir. from Gary, Ind., to Sault Ste. Marie}; 39a irks {Grates on}; 42a Jett {Joan of rock}; 43a CLI {Middle of the second century}; 44a Flos {Ziegfeld and others}; 45a spates {Deluges}; 50a amore {Romeo's love?}; 51a Segar {Popeye creator Elzie ___}; 52a null {Zero}; 54a OSS {Old spy grp.}; 55a pep {Vitality}; 59a Aloe Vera {Skin cream ingredient}; 64a at cost {Less than wholesale}; 70a reek {Stink up the joint}; 71a spinet {Small piano}.

1d els {Some urban rails}; 5d reaches {Gets to}; 6d alpha {Greek leader?}; 7d sts. {City grid: Abbr.}; 8d Chi {___-Town (Midwest hub)}; 9d Arno {River under the Ponte Vecchio}; 11d SLR {Certain camera, for short}; 12d hee {Laugh syllable}; 13d err {Miss the mark}; 16d lemur {Ring-tailed primate}; 20d odd {Quirky}; 23d overlie {Be positioned above}; 28d hunters {Bird dogs, say}; 29d tsetses {Flies over Africa?}; 31d dis {Bad-mouth}; 33d nom {Jean Valjean, e.g.}; 34d goes {Takes off}; 36d half {Either 50 of 50/50}; 41d sop {Appeasement}; 46d palmtop {Handheld device}; 48d gapes {Goggles}; 49d pun {Bit of wordplay}; 53d loams {Rich soils}; 58d Act I {Play starter}; 59d AFB {Vance in Okla., e.g.}; 60d lay {Minstrel's song}; 61d olé {Arena cry}; 62d rte. {Itinerary part: Abbr.}; 63d A-OK {Just dandy}; 66d TNT {Cable channel with the slogan "We Know Drama"}.

Monday, June 29, 2009

NYT Tuesday 6/30/09 - You Too Should Moo

I found this New York Times crossword on the difficult side for a Tuesday. It didn't help that I'd solved most of the theme answers before realizing what was going on, so my only benefit from the theme was a confirmation of Cow Palace (for which I was grateful ... the name seemed unlikely as a venue for concerts).

How now brown cow"How now brown cow" is such a familiar phrase that I'd like to give a tip of the hat to the inventor. Unfortunately, I can't pin down its origins, although it seems likely an elocution teacher came up with the phrase and it somehow caught on with the public.

This is in contrast to that other elocution phrase, "The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain", which originated in the 1938 movie adaptation of Pygmalion, those particular words being introduced by producer Gabriel Pascal.
Solving time: 9 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 9a banks {Places of interest?}

"How now brown cow", a phrase used in teaching elocution, as indicated by 40a elocution phrase {Exercise in pronunciation ... like the first words of the answers to the starred clues}.
17a how goes it {Informal greeting}
30a now and again {At times}
47a brown bagger {One not using the company cafeteria, maybe}
64a Cow Palace {Bay Area concert venue}

Steve Dobis
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersSteve Dobis / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.74)
Theme squares55 (29.7%)
Scrabble points343 (average 1.85)
New To Me

Senate pages1a aide {Senate page, e.g.}. I was going to pass this clue by until I realized I had no idea what pages do in the United States Senate. I gather they act as dogsbodies to the Senators, delivering correspondence, preparing the chamber etc. To apply, you must be a high school junior over the age of 16, and be nominated by a Senator.

46a Bret {One of TV's Mavericks}. You need a better memory for TV trivia than mine to get this one - all I could think of was John McCain. Maverick was a comedy western from 1957 to 1962, about a family of traveling poker-players: Bret, Bart, Beau, & Brent Maverick were played by James Garner, Jack Kelly, Roger Moore, and Robert Colbert respectively.

IRS6d IRS {Org. with a code}. This would make sense when applied to the UK tax authority as you get a tax code like 522L that tells an employer how much tax to deduct at source. The IRS doesn't seem to work that way: instead the Internal Revenue Code is the collective name for all the tax laws.

Sam Nunn11d Nunn {Former Georgia senator Sam}. Learning all the former pols is going to be tough, but let's start with Sam Nunn, who was a Democratic senator from 1972 to 1997. He's currently the CEO of Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) - a charitable organization working to reduce the global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons - and has received multiple nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

55d Jeri {Ryan of "Boston Public"}. The first I'd heard of both Jeri Ryan and Boston Public, which I gather was a drama about a Beantown high school that ran from 2000 to 2004. Jeri played Ronnie Cooke, a successful corporate lawyer who unnaccountably decided her vocation was to be a teacher.


10d aquí {Here, in Honduras}. It's been a while since I last added a word to Español para los crucigramistas. aquí seems to come up only once every three years, proving helpful when compilers are trying to make a pangrammatic grid, as here.

Colt revolver set24d Colt {Revolver inventor}. I knew Samuel Colt manufactured revolvers, but wasn't clear to what extent he invented them. Revolver mechanisms had been around since around 1718, but Colt made key technical innovations that were patented in 1836 and, perhaps more importantly, pioneered the use of interchangeable parts, assembly lines, etc ... most of all, he was a brilliant salesman.

25d Kwai {"The Bridge on the River ___"}. One of my fav David Lean movies: it says a lot about the British character ... good and bad!

garbage scow37d scow {Garbage hauler}. Well, I've heard of scows, but have never before associated them with this specific definition. Scows are flat-bottomed boats used in dredging and other harbor services, which I guess covers garbage removal. The association of scows with garbage seems to be fixed in the imagination, as in science fiction, "garbage scows" are spaceships carrying waste of various unpleasant kinds.

60d Bach {"Goldberg Variations" composer}. I can't help associating the Goldberg Variations with the eccentric, but extraordinary performances of Glenn Gould (1932-1982).

63d Wiz {1978 Diana Ross musical, with "The"}. Somehow I remembered The Wiz, an African American musical version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Diana Ross was cast as Dorothy in the film version, in which the late Michael Jackson played the Scarecrow.

The Rest

5a Fiji {Island neighbor of Tonga and Tuvalu}; 9a banks {Places of interest?}; 14a grog {Sea dog's libation}; 15a Oran {North African port}; 16a I quit! {"Take this job and shove it!"}; 19a runny {Like undercooked eggs}; 20a annex {New wing}; 21a lending {Credit union's activity}; 23a deck {It may be stacked or cut}; 26a rob {Knock over, so to speak}; 27a aha! {"Eureka!"}; 36a cams {PC video gear, for short}; 39a tawny {Lion-colored}; 38a lam {Take it on the ___}; 44a recon {Scout's mission, for short}; 45a nor {Hide-hair link}; 51a ETs {U.F.O. crew}; 52a ebb {Fall back}; 53a opal {Stone for many Libras}; 55a jeers at {Mocks}; 59a jibed {Were in accord}; 63a WebTV {PC-less Internet hookup, once}; 67a irate {More than sore}; 68a unit {Newton or ohm}; 69a ache {Liniment target}; 70a zines {Fan mags}; 71a Sega {Sonic the Hedgehog's company}; 72a chop {Black belt's blow}.

1d agha {Ottoman Empire V.I.P.}; 2d iron {Hotel room amenity}; 3d down {Elevator direction half the time}; 4d egged {Prodded, with "on"}; 5d foe {"Friend or ___?"}; 7d jail {One corner of a Monopoly board}; 8d intern {Worker for free, often}; 9d birdbath {Small pool site in a yard}; 12d king {Piece moved in castling}; 13d sty {Pig's home}; 18d oxen {Plow team}; 22d nod {Affirmative action}; 27d acerb {Sharp-tongued}; 28d haler {More vigorous}; 29d Amoco {BP gas brand}; 31d among {In the midst of}; 32d garb {Clothing}; 33d aware {Clued in}; 34d inset {Boxed-off map section}; 35d nyets {Kremlin denials}; 41d unnerves {Rattles}; 42d no-go {Scrapped, as a mission}; 43d prep {Get ready for an exam}; 48d BBs {Small ammo}; 49d abacus {Device you can count on}; 50d raja {Big Indian}; 54d lilac {Pale shade of violet}; 56d Eban {Israel's Abba}; 57d -ette {Suffix with kitchen or room}; 58d tone {TV color adjustment}; 61d echo {Tunnel effect}; 62d deep {Hard to fathom}; 65d wig {Halloween wear}; 66d PTA {Education-conscious org.}.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

NYT Monday 6/29/09 - Couéism

Paula Gamache is a constructor who I came to associate with more difficult crosswords - I remember vividly the Friday puzzles she presented us with earlier in the year. This Monday New York Times crossword was easier, but still with clues that entertained and intrigued.

One trait of this puzzle was alternative answers that are different by one letter. I can see at least three: 47-Across can be DUI or DWI, 8-Down can be ret. or rtd., and 60-Across can be Igor or Ygor. This sort of thing doesn't give me trouble on a Monday, but can be the stuff of nightmares later in the week!
Solving time: 6 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 4d old habits {Things that die hard}

Good, better, best. Things keep improving as you go down the grid, perhaps echoing Coué's mantra "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better".
17a good night's sleep {Seven or eight hours, typically}
35a better mousetrap {Inventor's goal}
52a best-kept secrets {They rarely see the light of day}

Paula Gamache
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersPaula Gamache / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.22)
Theme squares45 (23.3%)
Scrabble points284 (average 1.47)
New To Me

DUI47a DWI {Drunk motorist's offense, briefly}. I was confident this was going to be DUI, as I've seen enough "DUI - you can't afford it" signs to last a lifetime. It seems that the offense is driving under the influence (DUI) in some states and driving while intoxicated (DWI) in others. A good thing 42-Down resolved the issue.

Vail61a skis {Equipment at Vail}. One thing that surprised me about the area we live in is the number of ski resorts within easy reach. From the name, I suspected Vail was in the Alps, but I gather Vail is a Colorado ski resort, the second largest in North America after Whistler Blackcomb.

10d Nolte {Nick of "48 HRS."}. I know of Nick Nolte, but couldn't have told you whether 48 Hrs. was a TV series or a film. Turns out to be an action comedy from 1982, in which Nick plays cop Jack Cates who joins forces with parolee Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy in his film debut) to track down Reggie's criminal associates.


46a Mott {Rock's ___ the Hoople}. Mott the Hoople are a band even I've heard of, thanks to their anthem All the Young Dudes resounding through school corridors in the 1970s. The band's eccentric title was thrust upon them by producer Guy Stevens who'd read a Willard Manus book of that name.

60a asst. {Igor, to Dr. Frankenstein: Abbr.}. Such clues are definitely blogger-bait, as I just have to research whether Igor was in the original Mary Shelley book. It turns out not (also Shelley's Victor Frankenstein wasn't a "Dr."). Igor, the ubiquitous lab assistant in horror movies, started with an unnamed dwarf in Metropolis; the assistant in the first Frankenstein film (1931) was identifiably an Igor, but called "Fritz". Last year's animated movie Igor further cemented the name in this context into the public's imagination.

4d old habits {Things that die hard}. I really liked this clue: I first took it at face value, wondering what died hard; then realized the clue referred to an idiom, but couldn't recall it easily.

Toyota Prius23d Prius {Fuel-efficient Toyota}. We were lucky enough to enjoy a ride in a Prius on our recent Virginia trip. What actually impressed me most was the camera that gives you a rear view display when you are reversing - that looks to be very handy.

Ore-Ida28d Ore-Ida {Frozen potato brand}. Had encountered this before in crosswords, but still not tried it. It's easy for me to confuse this with one-letter-different Oneida, the tribe name that's also a nearby city and county.

The Rest

1a limo {Prom night transportation}; 5a Paar {Jack who once hosted "The Tonight Show"}; 9a incur {Bring upon oneself}; 14a ecol. {"Green" sci.}; 15a once {"___ upon a time ..."}; 16a souse {Drunkard}; 20a on the sly {Furtively}; 21a tut {When repeated, sound of disapproval}; 22a Agee {James who wrote "A Death in the Family"}; 23a preemie {Early delivery in the delivery room}; 27a not bad {"Hey, way to go!"}; 30a Kris {Kristofferson of music}; 31a Oct. {Columbus Day mo.}; 32a orbit {Moon's path}; 33a snip {Salon sound}; 34a suey {Chop ___}; 38a Uies {180-degree turns, in slang}; 39a oils {Removes a squeak from}; 40a range {Where 43-Across run free}; 41a TDs {Super Bowl stats}; 42a loll {Do nothing and like it}; 43a horses {Mustangs, e.g.}; 44a sat home {Did nothing}; 48a geniuses {Brainy bunch}; 56a olive {Martini garnish}; 57a do as {"___ I say, not ..."}; 58a neut. {Neither fem. nor masc.}; 59a tipsy {A little drunk}.

1d Lego {Plastic block brand}; 2d icon {Pic you can click}; 3d moot {Not worth debating, as a point}; 5d poised {Self-confident, as a pageant contestant}; 6d angle {Journalistic slant}; 7d achy {Sore all over}; 8d ret. {Like Gen. Colin Powell: Abbr.}; 9d issues {Topics of debate}; 11d cue {Pool player's stick}; 12d use {Take advantage of}; 13d Rep. {Dem.'s opponent}; 18d negate {Make null and void}; 19d strips {Prepares to streak}; 24d mourns {Expresses great sorrow}; 25d ice age {Freezing period}; 26d E-Types {Classic Jaguars}; 27d no buts! {"Forget the excuses!"}; 29d TB test {Diagnostic that entails sticking the forearm with a needle}; 30d knoll {Small, rounded hill}; 33d smile {"Say cheese!"}; 34d star-turns {Bravura performances}; 36d roomie {Dormmate}; 37d erotic {X-rated}; 42d low-key {Hardly ostentatious}; 43d honest {"Really and truly"}; 45d HDTVs {Modern viewing options, for short}; 46d mesas {Flat-topped Southwestern hills}; 48d GTOs {Old Pontiac muscle cars}; 49d seek {Hide-and-___}; 50d étui {Decorative needle case}; 51d SSTs {Former fast fliers}; 52d bot {Automaton, for short}; 53d Eli {Yeller in the Yale Bowl}; 54d sip {Not guzzle}; 55d PDA {BlackBerry or iPhone, briefly}.

NPR Puzzle - 06/28/09 Now and Then

Here's the puzzle for this week.
Take "tire" and "exhaust." They're both things a car has. But as verbs, in a non-car sense, they're synonyms. The challenge is to name two articles of apparel, things to wear, each with 4 letters, and as verbs, in a non-apparel sense, the two words are synonyms. What words are they?
Pretty easy to get one of the words, and then work back through likely synonyms to get the other item. Start with everything you're wearing now; if that doesn't take care of the problem, go find someone wearing more clothes!

Will's on-air puzzle was based on this or that: three word phrases with "or" as the middle word. He provided a two-word phrase in which the first word rhymed with the first word of the "X or Y" answer. For this week's value-added puzzle, I'm going to do the same thing only for three word phrases with "and" in the middle. So if the clue is Plough Men, the answer could be Now and Then.

Poor Taft

Shut Eyed

Bossed `Round

Fix Batch

Quick Scan

These Hues

Blue Sky

Guy Barge

Dover Trout

Date Free

Cross Burn

God's Friends

Go Refold

Been Chronic

Saturday, June 27, 2009

NYT Sunday 6/28/09 - Eight Herbs and Spices

Magdalen and I solved this jumbo New York Times crossword on Saturday night after a day on the road. We didn't seem as sharp as usual, and our hazed brains had difficulty finding any explanation for the circles. In fact our search for such was in vain, but after we intuited what the secret ingredients were, the long answers came easily enough.

I'm guessing the idea for this puzzle came from KFC's "secret blend of 11 herbs and spices", although space only allowed for eight in the grid. KFC supposedly keep Colonel Sanders's original recipe a closely guarded secret, but when William Poundstone analyzed some of their chicken coating for Big Secrets, he only found four ingredients (salt, black pepper, flour and MSG).
Solving time: 40 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 1a scythe {Blade for blades}

Eight long answers contain hidden herbs and spices in the circled squares:
23a Admiral Nelson {Battle of Trafalgar hero} - dill
38a coarse-grained wood {Oak or ash} - oregano
60a fallen angel {Lucifer, notably} - fennel
83a pay the piper {Suffer for acting unwisely} - pepper
101a Princeton Seminary {New Jersey ecumenical institution} - rosemary
124a Timothy Q. Mouse {Tiny friend of Dumbo} - thyme
17d James A. Michener {"The World Is My Home" memoirist, 1991} - jasmine
52d managing editor {Deadline maker} - ginger
If I've seen Dumbo at all, it's been a while. I vaguely remember a mouse, but not his name.

Michener Art Museum
James A. Michener was a surprise when he popped out at 17-Down. The art museum carrying his name in Doylestown, PA had an exhibition of my great-uncle Harry Leith-Ross's paintings in 2006.


Barry C. Silk
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersBarry C. Silk / Will Shortz
Grid21x21 with 69 (15.6%) black squares
Answers140 (average length 5.31)
Theme squares110 (29.6%)
Scrabble points586 (average 1.58)
New To Me

47a Adorée {Silents star Renée}. Renée Adorée (1898–1933) was the stage name of French actress Jeanne de La Fonte. She remembered most for her role as "Melisande" in the World War I epic The Big Parade (1925).

James Brady89a gun law {The Brady Bill is one}. I thought Magdalen knew all about the law, but it seems gun laws aren't really her specialty. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act aka the Brady Bill, in effect from 1994, requires background checks to be performed on purchasers of handguns. Originally this meant a five-day wait, but since the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) came online, approval can now be instantaneous. The act is named after James Brady, Press Secretary to Ronald Reagan, who became an ardent supporter of gun control after being permanently disabled in the assassination attempt on the president.

2d Cedeño {Cesar ___, five-time Gold Glove winner, 1972-76}. César Cedeño is a former baseballer - a center fielder for the Houston Astros when he won the Gold Glove awards.

Espo73d Espo {Former Orr teammate, familiarly}. The Boston Bruins seem to get most of the crossword ink devoted to ice hockey, thanks to Bobby Orr's convenient surname. His Bruins teammate was Phil Esposito, known as Espo for short, who subsequently moved to the New York Rangers.

106d Reiser {Paul of "Mad About You"}. This is a good example of a clue where I'm at a complete loss, not even having heard of Mad About You. I discover this was a sitcom in the 1990s centered around a newly married couple in New York City, played by Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt.

Yodels107d Yodels {Snack food made by Drake's}. Yodels are frosted cream-filled cakes similar to HoHos.


1a scythe {Blade for blades}. A great clue to kick the puzzle off: our first thought was rapier, where the blades would be the dashing fellows of the days before firearms.

13a Lord Jim {1965 title role for Peter O'Toole}. The clue strangely passes up referencing the fine Conrad novel in favor of a mediocre screen adaptation which came three years after Peter O'Toole's breathtaking debut in Lawrence of Arabia.

72d paisano {Buddy}. A Spanish word (literally "peasant") that means "friend" (often as a term of address):
paisano among people of Spanish or Italian descent in America, a person from the same area or town; hence, a friend.
From The Chambers Dictionary
The Rest

7a bedlam {Pandemonium}; 20a tear at {Rip into}; 21a at ease {Loose}; 22a overawe {Cow}; 25a Solomon {Last king of a united Israel, in the Bible}; 26a tea {Chinese export}; 27a a log {Sleep like ___}; 28a tenure {Kind of track}; 30a wend {Proceed}; 31a in his {"God's ___ heaven, all's right with the world"}; 33a NoHo {Manhattan neighborhood}; 35a Athens {Two-time host of the Olympics}; 43a age {Antique, say}; 46a Ken {Obama cabinet member Salazar}; 48a mammal {Platypus, e.g.}; 50a lam {Hasty escape}; 53a ruder {Not so civil}; 56a e-mag {Slate, e.g., informally}; 57a emails {Computer letters}; 58a a rag {"She's ___ doll" (4 Seasons lyric)}; 63a NCAA {ESPN topic}; 64a Pan Am {It was flown by James Bond in "Dr. No"}; 66a yield {Investor's concern}; 67a mynah {Mimic of a sort}; 69a plaza {Site of many a fountain}; 70a Sam's {___ Club}; 71a spec {You may work on it}; 74a stein {Container that's hoisted}; 77a get-up {Costume}; 79a tease {Kid}; 80a Wendy {Title girl of a 1964 Beach Boys song}; 81a Emil {Runner Zátopek}; 88a eels {Spiny ___ (aquarium fish)}; 91a Aron {Elvis's middle name}; 92a so do I {"Me too"}; 94a rye {Bar stock}; 95a Angela {German chancellor Merkel}; 96a Walesa {1983 Peace Nobelist}; 98a art {Magazine department}; 100a die {Stop}; 108a doodle {Daydreamer's doing}; 110a Moab {Biblical kingdom}; 111a St. Leo {Fifth-century pope}; 112a -itis {Medical suffix}; 114a drawee {Party to a financial transaction}; 118a cash {Transaction option}; 120a lid {Upper limit}; 121a Matthau {Co-star of "Grumpy Old Men," 1993}; 127a amoebic {Amorphous}; 128a teenie {Like a yellow polka dot bikini in a 1961 #1 hit}; 129a Mendel {The Father of Genetics}; 130a corrode {Eat away}; 131a unrest {Tumult}; 132a inters {Lays low?}.

1d static {Interference}; 3d Yamaha {Kawasaki competitor}; 4d tri- {Numerical prefix}; 5d harasser {Tormentor}; 6d et al {Abbr. after some names}; 7d Bangor {City on the Penobscot}; 8d été {When école is not in session}; 9d deltoid {Shoulder muscle}; 10d lase {Perform high-tech surgery on}; 11d a son {"And she shall bring forth ___": Matthew 1:21}; 12d menu {It may be written on a blackboard}; 13d lose to {Finish behind}; 14d ovo- {Egg: Prefix}; 15d rel. {Brother or brother-in-law: Abbr.}; 16d drown {Be covered with, with "in"}; 18d I won {Cry of glee}; 19d mend {Heal}; 24d long {Time-consuming}; 29d raw egg {Possible source of salmonella poisoning}; 32d irk {Bug}; 34d Haarlem {Tulip-exporting city}; 36d homely {Plain}; 37d Edam {Cheese town}; 39d enuf {Ample, informally}; 40d no end {___ in sight}; 41d Erma {Witty Bombeck}; 42d dean {School appointment}; 44d gala {Bash}; 45d Elsa {Designer Schiaparelli}; 49d manatee {Sighting off the Florida coast}; 50d Lapp {Dweller on the Arctic Circle}; 51d Aral {Uzbekistan's ___ Sea}; 54d day spa {Place for a masseuse}; 55d Elia {"Dream Children" essayist}; 59d gazelle {Swift runner}; 61d Els {2002 British Open champ}; 62d emceed {Made introductions, say}; 65d mat {Gymnast's need}; 68d NSW {Australian state: Abbr.}; 71d Sep. {Equinox mo.}; 75d idly {Without purpose}; 76d NYSE {It has 1,366 seats: Abbr.}; 78d upward {To the stars}; 79d tenet {Principle}; 81d egad {Old expletive}; 82d Muni {Bond type, briefly}; 84d yawner {Big bore}; 85d Trac {Gillette's ___ II}; 86d hole {Argument weakness}; 87d roam {Meander}; 90d Alpo {Purina brand}; 93d Irishmen {Ones whose symbol is a harp}; 97d someone {A person}; 99d TNT {Coyote's supply in Road Runner cartoons}; 102d il Duce {Axis leader}; 103d sachet {Bag in a closet}; 104d eBay {Web site with the headings "Toys & Hobbies" and "Music"}; 105d allude {Refer}; 109d Oster {Blender brand}; 112d iMac {G4 or G5}; 113d tam-o {___-shanter}; 115d Attu {North Pacific island}; 116d Wien {Locale for Apfelstrudel and Sachertorte}; 117d emer. {Like 911: Abbr.}; 119d sq mi {640 acres: Abbr.}; 122d HBO {"Curb Your Enthusiasm" airer}; 123d aid {First ___}; 125d 'tis {Poetic contraction}; 126d Ont {Home of Point Pelee Natl. Park}.

Friday, June 26, 2009

NYT Saturday 6/27/09 - Coming Home

This is an abbreviated form of my usual blog post, as I'm on vacation with only occasional internet access. We're now back in Pennsylvania, but right across the state in Pittsburgh for a memorial service. Tomorrow we'll be back home, allowing the normal blogging routine to be resumed.

I loved solving this Saturday New York Times crossword, which combines a quality fill with great clues. In addition to the many nicely misleading cluing such as "Rock samples" for demo tapes, it's good to see the teasing way in which the familiar Post-its and cat litter etc get treated. 32-Down is about as devious as you can get with a misleading initial capital.
Solving time: 30 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 32d iotas {Is in Athens?}

Trip Payne
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersTrip Payne / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 33 (14.7%) black squares
Answers68 (average length 5.65)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points304 (average 1.58)
The Clues

1a demo tapes {Rock samples}; 10a gnash {Rub together}; 15a one or more {Any}; 16a lento {"Proceed slowly"}; 17a red pepper {Salad ingredient}; 18a eager {Keen}; 19a Amis {Author of "Time's Arrow," 1991, a novel written in reverse chronological order}; 20a vespers {They're observed in the evening}; 22a Gia {Actress Scala}; 23a lackeys {Henchmen}; 27a Lee {"Pushing Daisies" star ___ Pace}; 28a set on fire {Lights}; 30a hood {Punk}; 31a self-conscious {Uncomfortable, in a way}; 33a été {Québec's Festival d'___}; 34a hoc {Post ___ (after-the-fact)}; 35a bless me father {Start of a confession}; 42a -crat {Auto finish?}; 43a Tomb Raider {Influential 1996 video game}; 45a hic {Drink whose name suggests its vitamin content}; 46a Post-its {Yellow squares, often}; 47a UVA {Sch. founded by a president}; 48a Roth IRA {Receiver of some contributions}; 50a MCIV {Year that Acre fell in the First Crusade}; 51a ice up {Freeze}; 52a ill at ease {Uncomfortable}; 57a shale {Oil source}; 58a cat litter {Contents of a certain household box}; 59a tells {Relates to}; 60a spritzers {Cocktails lacking hard liquor}.

1d do-rags {Rappers' wrappers}; 2d enemies {They're opposed}; 3d mediate {Talk to two 2-Down, say}; 4d oops {Mumble after a fumble}; 5d Tré {Hero of "Boyz N the Hood"}; 6d amp {Excite, with "up"}; 7d pop {___ psychology}; 8d ere {Outmoded preposition}; 9d servers {Waitstaff}; 10d Gless {Actress co-starring in TV's "Burn Notice"}; 11d neap {Spring's opposite}; 12d Angelou {"Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie" poet}; 13d stereos {They're often playing at home}; 14d horsed {Cut up, with "around"}; 21d eye chart {It begins with an E (in two ways)}; 23d lofts {Throws up}; 24d ancestor {Genealogical discovery}; 25d CFO {Budgetary bigwig, for short}; 26d kin {They have connections}; 29d sleet {Some pellets}; 30d Ho Chi {___ Minh}; 32d iotas {Is in Athens?}; 35d brioche {French bread}; 36d lacteal {Milky}; 37d mosaics {Multipart art}; 38d EMT {Defibrillator user, for short}; 39d FBI {RICO Act enforcer}; 40d educate {School}; 41d reviser {Agent of change}; 42d Christ {Word that first appears in Matthew 1:1}; 44d ravers {Movie critics, sometimes}; 46d pipes {Water bearers}; 49d hull {Bottom of the sea?}; 50d Metz {Birthplace of poet Paul Verlaine}; 53d lap {You could stand to lose it}; 54d ltr. {Delta, for one: Abbr.}; 55d Ali {BBC's Sports Personality of the Century}; 56d tit {Black-throated ___ (Asian bird)}.

NYT Friday 6/26/09 - Still VA-Cationing

Staunton, VAThis is an abbreviated form of my usual blog, as I'm on vacation with only occasional internet access. We've spent a couple of nights in Staunton, VA, the peculiarities of which include giant metal sculptures of watering cans, books etc; also Anne Hathaway's Cottage, a thatched B&B simulating the even more famous Stratford-on-Avon landmark.

Actually, we found Staunton delightful - the sort of college town we are thinking of retiring to when our 25-acre property in the Endless Mountains becomes too impractical. For now though, we are heading back north, to the Pittsburgh, PA area for one night before crossing the state to get home.
Solving time: 22 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 22d soapy {Ivory-covered?}

Lynn Lempel
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersLynn Lempel / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 28 (12.4%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.63)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points333 (average 1.69)

1a flat {What a 17-Across might get assistance with}; 5a Capp {Lower Slobbovia creator}; 9a doges {Bygone magistrates}; 14a lived a lie {Was perpetually dishonest}; 16a event {Calendar listing}; 17a AAA member {One calling about a tower, maybe}; 18a Reeve {1998 Grammy winner for narrating his book "Still Me"}; 19a in spades {To the extreme}; 20a Barkin {Ellen of "Ocean's Thirteen"}; 21a late fee {Fine, in a sense}; 22a said so {Made a claim}; 23a Ren {Nickelodeon title character}; 24a colloquy {Formal discussion}; 26a Arden {"All the world's a stage" monologue setting}; 29a goads {Cattle drivers}; 30a USO {Grp. of major supporters?}; 31a lend {Give up for a while}; 32a campy {Like drag shows}; 33a balk {Resist}; 34a FDA {Recalling org.}; 35a sit by {Be indifferent}; 36a redye {Make even brighter, say}; 37a assuages {Softens}; 39a bun {Dog holder}; 40a Qantas {Kangaroo carrier?}; 41a gang war {Rumble}; 45a fumier {More vaporous}; 46a for shame {Cry of reproof}; 47a lapse {Concentration problem}; 48a marriages {Occasions that begin with misses?}; 49a Orlon {Knitwear material}; 50a Green Zone {Walled-off enclave in Iraq}; 51a peens {Tool parts for bending and shaping}; 52a mend {Make sound}; 53a inst. {Franklin in Phila., e.g.}.

1d flail {Beat}; 2d liana {Tropical climber}; 3d avast {Check from a deck?}; 4d tempered {Like some steel}; 5d Camden {New Jersey city that was home to Walt Whitman}; 6d Albee {Winner of three Pulitzer Prizes for Drama}; 7d pies {Quiches, e.g.}; 8d per {Minute or hour lead-in}; 9d derails {Thwarts}; 10d overdo {Exaggerate}; 11d Geek Squad {Techies affiliated with a major electronics chain}; 12d enviously {Way to watch someone win the lottery?}; 13d Sten {Antique gun}; 15d deafen {Pierce the ears of}; 20d baldy {Guy who needs no 24-Down}; 22d soapy {Ivory-covered?}; 24d combs {Dopp kit items}; 25d yoke {It can hold a team together}; 26d Alfa {Romeo might go after it}; 27d Red Square {Military parade site}; 28d DNA sample {Bit of forensic evidence}; 29d gates {Mountain passes}; 32d cigar {It usually has a band around it}; 33d Benghazi {Libya's second-largest city}; 35d sateens {Sheet materials}; 36d runs in {Arrests}; 38d unison {People often sing in it}; 39d barred {Forbidden}; 41d Goren {Bridge guru}; 42d wagon {Family car, informally}; 43d amens {Famous last words}; 44d reset {Back to zero, say}; 45d flop {Lay an egg}; 46d fare {It's taken for a ride}; 48d MGM {Letters associated with a lion}.

NPR Puzzle Answer -- Sunday 06/21/09

Here's this week's puzzle:
Name a well-known TV personality with five-letter first and last names. Each name contains exactly 14 straight lines and no curves. Who is this?
The answer --
Here's the line count: 2 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 14 and 4 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 4 = 14.

We've already revealed how we solved it here. How did you solve it?

Sorry this is late -- we're in Staunton, Virginia. Poor Ross -- we're in a lovely, funky coffee shop/Internet cafe, and we've just endured nearly an hour of bloviating from a good ol' boy (he just said "tomaydah" and wasn't being ironic) sitting nearby. This guy was pontificating to a woman whose husband sells guns at a local sporting goods store. According to him, the ONLY reason America hasn't been invaded in 230 years is because all our enemies know that ALL Americans are armed & dangerous. In their circles, I gather this might well be true. Other tidbits of local wisdom: Four states (Montana, South Carolina, Texas and "VURR-mont") all want to exceed [sic] from the Union. Oh, and you can make a fortune through bartering; all the richest people in Staunton did it that way...

Anyway, Ross really couldn't solve a Friday crossword with this guy in his right ear, so he's moved over to a quieter area of the cafe. I'm too lazy, stubborn, and bullheaded to follow him. I managed to keep my tongue to myself until the bit about everyone being armed and thus "protecting" America from invasion. (The government is completely useless, in case you hadn't noticed; and the Democrats won the last presidential election by LYING all the time ...) I said I would be more worried about being shot by "friendly fire" in that scenario. The old coot and his gun-happy companion detected no sarcasm in my comments but they ignored me, mostly likely because of my distinct "Northrun Accent" . Anyway, the coot felt my concerns unreasonable as, after all, everyone (with a gun, this is) knows The Rules. He was convinced this makes us all completely safe, although the young woman did concede to her chum that not everyone she encountered with a loaded rifle was aware that he had to carry it pointing up or pointing down.

Understand, Staunton is less than 120 miles away from Blacksburg, Virginia, home of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) where a legally armed student killed 32 people and wounded several others. With apologies to people who support the Second Amendment, I remain unconvinced that selling guns to everyone who wants them is the secret to keeping the populace safe.

Okay, enough politics. Here are the answers to this week's value-added puzzles.









hastings (this is obscure -- I gather it's an archaic term for early vegetables, especially peas)

See you Sunday!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

NYT Thursday 6/25/09 - By The Numbers

Seneca RocksThis is an abbreviated form of my usual blog, as I'm on vacation with only occasional internet access. Yesterday we drove from Buckhannon, WV to Harrisonburg, VA, along the rollercoaster that is US-33 as it crosses the Allegheny Mountains.

We had fine views of the wittily named Seneca Rocks and I even saw my first black bear in the wild as it crossed the road in front of us. Now we're staying a couple of days in Staunton, VA, birthplace of Woodrow Wilson and home to his Presidential Library.
Solving time: 12 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 6a spas {Places to press the flesh?}

The clue number forms part of five answers, the left arrows helping to point this out. (It is easier to make the theme work with down answers, because this allows more low numbers to be incorporated.)
3d three sheets to the wind {<--- Plastered}
5d five card stud {<--- Gambling game}
7d Seven Percent Solution {<--- Sherlock Holmes novel, with "The"}
20d twenty something {<--- One starting a career, perhaps}
40d forty hour week {<--- Work period}

Bill Zais
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersBill Zais / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.00)
Theme squares55 (29.7%)
Scrabble points284 (average 1.54)
Other Clues

1a assoc. {Formal club: Abbr.}; 6a spas {Places to press the flesh?}; 10a rah-rahs {Spirited cries}; 13a pottery {Some arts and crafts}; 16a eye-drop {Red remover, maybe}; 17a rewards {Bonuses}; 18a tie {It's just a formality}; 19a do as I do {"Follow me"}; 21a cot {Motel extra}; 22a -ettes {Diminutive endings}; 24a Mom {Apple pie companion?}; 25a avers {States}; 27a Srta. {Sp. title}; 29a madmen {Psychos}; 31a outrun {Leave in the dust, say}; 33a ere {Long introduction?}; 34a Eton {English town near Windsor Bridge}; 37a Tso {General on a Chinese menu}; 38a diptych {Hinged pair of pictures}; 41a Ste {___-Foy, Que.}; 42a beta {Kind of blocker}; 44a Mah {Start of a Chinese game}; 45a co-host {Either of two emcees}; 47a Hawaii {Where "wikiwiki" means "to hurry"}; 49a Auel {"The Shelters of Stone" author}; 50a shear {Clip}; 52a NNE {Anchorage-to-Fairbanks dir.}; 54a re-ups {Signs on for another tour}; 57a tow {Result of an emergency call, maybe}; 58a outgrow {Get too big for}; 61a tri- {Prefix with -logy}; 62a epistle {Philemon, e.g.}; 64a Grecian {Like the Trojan horse}; 66a linseed {Oil source}; 67a step one {Starting instruction}; 68a ends {What circles lack}; 69a kinks {Garden hose problems}.

1d arête {Craggy crest}; 2d say it {"Tell me!"}; 4d ord {JFK : New York :: ___ : Chicago}; 6d sta {RR building}; 8d ardor {Heat}; 9d systs. {Methods: Abbr.}; 11d hoo {Part of a sob}; 12d spam {Rarely read letters}; 13d primary {Race before a race}; 14d OED {20-vol. work}; 15d two am {Wee hour}; 23d err {Drop the ball}; 26d vee {Migration formation?}; 28d anima {Inner self}; 30d Decca {Record label of Bill Haley and His Comets}; 31d OTB {Gambling site: Abbr.}; 32d use {Milk}; 35d OTs {What buzzer beaters may lead to, briefly}; 36d net {What you keep}; 39d painted {___ Desert}; 43d aaa {Like some baseball teams}; 46d hee {Tee follower}; 48d wrote {Penned}; 50d stele {Archaeological find}; 51d hop in {Cabbie's line}; 53d ergs {Parts of a joule}; 55d prank {Call that may result in an abrupt hang-up}; 56d sines {Math figures}; 59d -ule {Diminutive ending}; 60d ort {Crumb}; 63d sss {Snake's warning}; 65d CPI {Cost-of-living meas.}.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NYT Wednesday 6/24/09 - Ad Free

Buckhannon, WVThis is an abbreviated form of my usual blog, as I'm on vacation with only occasional internet access. We're currently in Buckhannon, WV, where an American cousin of mine lives: like many of his generation, my grandfather's brother Harry emigrated to the USA at the age of 17 to seek his fortune and a respite from the asthma that plagued him in his native Scotland. We are in Buckhannon to visit his daughter, whom I hadn't seen since the 1970s, to exchange family gossip and show off our respective photo albums.

We stayed in a B&B overnight so didn't get a chance to download and try the Wednesday New York Times crossword till the morning. We were able to solve it a lovely cafe called The Daily Grind, where we've been enjoying their tea and free wi-fi for a couple of hours.

Cinco de MayoI don't have too much time for clue commentary, but will explain 7d ano {Mayo is part of it}, as it threw me for a loop on first encounter. This is not the condiment mayo, nor the County Mayo, but the fifth month of the year in Spanish, hence the answer. Magdalen and I have good reason to remember Mayo, because our first marriage ceremony in 2007 was on the Cinco de Mayo in Lexington, MA.
Solving time: 25 mins (with Magdalen, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 6d thief {Fence supplier}

Five phrases with ad removed, making a pun. This being indicated by 60a take out an ad {Promote one's business, maybe ... or a hint to 16-, 23-, 30-, 41- and 47-Across}.
16a drug addiction {Talking like a junkie?}
23a Shadow of a Doubt {Agnostic's display?}
30a Radio activity {Sunbathing at Ipanema, e.g.?}
41a rollerblading {Rink jewelry?}
47a mailing address {Letter carrier's uniform?}

Corey Rubin
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersCorey Rubin / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 42 (18.7%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.69)
Theme squares68 (37.2%)
Scrabble points319 (average 1.74)
Other Clues

1a Stahl {"60 Minutes" correspondent starting in 1991}; 6a tab {It may be run up}; 9a A-OK {Hunky-dory}; 12a airier {More delicate}; 14a oh no! {"I don't believe this!"}; 15a NRA {Many-armed org.?}; 18a jar {Be discordant}; 19a Roth {Rock's David Lee ___}; 20a pate {Canapé topper}; 21a Ebola {"The Hot Zone" virus}; 26a Love Is {Vanessa Williams/Brian McKnight duet}; 29a pry {Be nosy}; 34a tpk {Plaza locale: Abbr.}; 37a -osis {Suffix with psych-}; 38a Laz {With 22-Down, recliner brand}; 39a prie {___-dieu}; 40a Ned {Widower of Maude on "The Simpsons"}; 45a cow {Female whale}; 46a hoaxes {E-mails from Nigerian princes, e.g.}; 53a acres {The 40 of a "back 40"}; 54a eyes {Targets of a Moe Howard poke}; 55a modi {___ operandi (methods)}; 59a baa {Cote call}; 63a Esq. {Barrister's abbr.}; 64a elks {Group with a Grand Lodge in Chicago}; 65a shtetl {"Fiddler on the Roof" setting}; 66a lei {Wahine's offering}; 67a Rao {Indian novelist Raja ___}; 68a UV ray {Tanning element}.

1d Sadr {Baghdad's ___ City}; 2d tiro {Newbie: Var.}; 3d a rut {Stuck, after "in"}; 4d high seas {Buccaneers' place}; 5d led {Set the tempo}; 6d thief {Fence supplier}; 7d ano {Mayo is part of it}; 8d bone-dry {Parched}; 9d Anjou {Pear variety}; 10d Oral-B {Name in dental hygiene}; 11d karat {Unit of purity}; 13d ripost {Fencing thrust: Var.}; 14d Otto {Uniformed comics dog}; 17d caw {Call from a farm field}; 22d Boy {See 38-Across}; 24d Hi-C {Blazin' Blueberry drink brand}; 25d apt {Just right}; 26d L. Ron {Scientology's ___ Hubbard}; 27d Oise {Chantilly's department}; 28d void {Tear up, so to speak}; 31d ill {Off one's feed}; 32d Val {Batman after Michael}; 33d -ize {Suffix with final}; 34d Trix {Fare "for kids"}; 35d pine {___ tar (baseball team supply)}; 36d kegs {Things to tap}; 39d plasma TV {Device with a flat panel}; 41d roister {Whoop it up}; 42d own {Part of M.Y.O.B.}; 43d rhesus {What "Rh" may stand for}; 44d BOS {A.L. East team, on scoreboards}; 45d CLE {A.L. Central team, on scoreboards}; 47d Mabel {Normand of old movies}; 48d a case {Make ___ for (support)}; 49d Iraqi {Operation ___ Freedom}; 50d Gekko {Gordon ___ ("Wall Street" role)}; 51d dyes {Shoemakers' supplies}; 52d Reo {Flying Cloud of 1927-36}; 56d oner {Lollapalooza}; 57d data {What's spread on a spreadsheet}; 58d idly {Way to stand by}; 61d Ala. {Tuskegee U. locale}; 62d Thu {Day after so-called "hump day": Abbr.}.

Monday, June 22, 2009

NYT Tuesday 6/23/09 - Strike Zone

This is an abbreviated form of my usual blog, as I am currently on vacation with limited internet access. Normal service will be resumed shortly.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 34d kite {Toy you might enjoy while running}

Four phrase starting with synonyms of "strike":
20a Punch and Judy {Slapstick puppet show}
33a sock it to me {"I'm ready for anything!"}
44a hit the sack {Go get some shuteye}
57a Deck the Halls {Yuletide tune}

Caleb Madison
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

CompilersCaleb Madison / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.85)
Theme squares44 (23.3%)
Scrabble points343 (average 1.81)
Other Clues

1a altar {Place for an oath}; 6a taps {It's bugled on a base}; 10a hgts. {Elevs.}; 14a diode {Electron tube with two elements}; 15a a lot {Loads}; 16a Aral {Asia's shrunken ___ Sea}; 17a ZZ Top {"Sharp Dressed Man" band}; 18a Lola {1970 Kinks song}; 19a Dora {TV explorer of note}; 23a left be {Didn't bother}; 26a Arlo {Guthrie at Woodstock}; 27a Cys {Baseball's Young and others}; 28a I'm A {The Monkees' "___ Believer"}; 29a lee {Kind of tide}; 31a etch {Impress permanently}; 37a foci {Centers of circles}; 40a attic {Room at the top of stairs}; 41a UAE {Mideast fed.}; 42a Roman {Tacitus or Tiberius}; 43a sect {Not a mainstream religion}; 46a heli- {Prefix with pad}; 48a sea {Mermaid's realm}; 49a rte. {Mail carrier's assignment: Abbr.}; 50a awe {State of shock}; 52a eggs {Custard ingredients}; 55a elixir {Drink said to prolong life}; 60a make {Mercury or Saturn}; 61a in on {Wise to}; 62a iambs {da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM}; 66a even {Tied}; 67a quoi {Je ne sais ___}; 68a fiery {Like redheads' tempers, supposedly}; 69a Nero {Villain in 2009's "Star Trek"}; 70a SSTs {Bygone barrier breakers}; 71a Edgar {Mystery writer's award}.

1d adz {Carpenter's tool with a curved blade}; 2d Liz {Eight-times-married Taylor}; 3d tot {Tyke}; 4d adopt {Take on}; 5d republic {Form of government Plato wrote about}; 6d talc {Baby powder ingredient}; 7d aloha {Lei giver's greeting}; 8d polar {___ opposites}; 9d Stan Lee {Co-creator of the Fantastic Four}; 10d hadj {Journey to Mecca}; 11d Groucho Marx {He said "Here's to our wives and girlfriends ... may they never meet!"}; 12d tardy {Arriving after the bell, say}; 13d slays {Wows at a comedy club}; 21d Neet {Classic brand of hair remover}; 22d dot {E, in Morse code}; 23d Lisas {Simpson and Kudrow}; 24d emote {Ham it up}; 25d fact checker {Magazine staffer}; 30d étui {It has many needles}; 32d CFOs {Bus. honchos}; 34d kite {Toy you might enjoy while running}; 35d oat {Basis for a Quaker cereal}; 36d Mets {Citi Field team}; 38d cacti {They have many needles}; 39d inker {Worker on a comic book}; 42d real life {Actuality}; 44d high IQs {140 and up, say}; 45d heel {Cad}; 47d let {Tennis umpire's cry}; 50d ad-men {Some Madison Ave. workers}; 51d weave {Drive drunkenly, perhaps}; 53d genus {The "Homo" in "Homo sapiens"}; 54d shoot {"Tell me"}; 56d I said {"In case you didn't hear me the first time ..."}; 58d Keno {Casino game with Ping-Pong-like balls}; 59d anis {Spanish liqueur}; 63d meg {Computer unit, informally}; 64d bra {Cup holder?}; 65d Syr. {Leb. neighbor}.