Monday, November 30, 2009

NYT Tuesday 12/1/09 - Econut

This was not my finest hour: I solved the Tuesday New York Times crossword in what I thought was a good time for me, but got careless with the exo-/Alex crossing, having eco-/Alec. What's worse, I didn't realize the error until this morning when charlespignal gently put me right. The crossing I was more worried about was Allen/Alomar in the northwest, but I being aware of the dangers, I took more care to get that right.

The theme stayed a mystery until I solved 56-Across, when I realized the three long answers I already had started FA and ended ST. Although I had the end of 22-Across at that point, I was glad at least to put in the FA at the beginning, helping complete what otherwise might have been a tricky corner.
Solving time: 7 mins (solo, no solving aids, two wrong answers)
Clue of the puzz: 17a roost {Rod in a henhouse}

Jonah Kagan and Victor Fleming
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Phrases beginning FA and ending ST, indicated by 56a breakfast {Part of a morning routine ... or a literal hint to 18-, 22-, 35- and 49-Across}.
18a fairy dust {Magical powder}

22a Falcon Crest {1980s soap opera set at a winery}

35a Father Knows Best {1950s-'60s sitcom that ran on all three networks}

49a fall harvest {Occasion for pumpkin picking}
Jonah Kagan and Victor Fleming / Will Shortz
15x15 with 40 (17.8%) black squares
74 (average length 5.00)
Theme squares
55 (29.7%)
Scrabble points
310 (average 1.68)
Letters used
New To Me

14a Allen {Steve who was called Steverino}. The name Steve Allen (1921(1921-12-26)–2000) rang vague bells, but I suppose he'd better go in the New To Me as I couldn't have told you his history. I gather Steve was multi-talented, but best-known for being the first host of  The Tonight Show, and thereby pioneering the concept of the late night TV talk show. He used his nickname in the title of his memoir Hi-Ho Steverino!.

moo goo gai pan
61a moo {___ goo gai pan}. Could only get moo goo gai pan from the cross-checking, though I was not surprised to see the same starting word as moo shu pork. But I'm not sure if the two moos are etymologically related, since moo goo means "button mushrooms" in Cantonese, while the of the pork dish means "wood" or "tree".

2d Alomar {Six-time baseball All-Star Sandy}. There are two Sandy Alomars in Wikipedia: the clue refers to catcher Sandy Alomar, Jr., as his Dad was only selected once for the All-Star Game. Sandy Jr. retired in 2007 and is now the first base coach for the Cleveland Indians.

56d Bad {George Thorogood stutter "B-B-B-B-___..."}. This is a reference to George Thorogood's 1982 hit song Bad to the Bone. It's often used in movies and TV to signal the entrance of a "bad guy".


Alfred P. Sloan
41a Sloan {Alfred P. ___ Foundation}. I'm very familiar with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation name from its sponsorship of NPR. Alfred P. Sloan (1875–1966) was the long-time president and chairman of General Motors and created the Foundation (which now has assets of about $1.8 billion) in 1934.

48a exo- {Prefix with biology}. An answer I belatedly discovered I got wrong. I originally had eco- ... Is there such a thing as eco-biology? Yes, but it's not made it into dictionaries and exobiology aka astrobiology is much better known, being the study of life outside the earth.

3d Iloilo {Repetitively named Philippine province}. Does the "repetitively named" suggest a little embarrassment at the appearance of Iloilo in this corner, or is it just trying to add a little color to the clue and be helpful? I certainly appreciated the helpfulness, and having my memory jogged about the province that last appeared in the June 17 puzzle.

36d Alex {The "A" in A-Rod}. I got careless here and, having guessed at eco- for 48-Across, didn't even check this clue. Yes, I don't know much about baseball, but I have heard of A-Rod and know he's Alex Rodriguez and not Alec Rodriguez. I should probably pace myself a bit better with these puzzles early in the week ... I need to get back into ACPT solving mode, where a mistake on a puzzle is fairly catastrophic.

52d Lysol {"Disinfect to Protect" brand}. The brand Lysol is familiar (it's fairly essential in a house full of pets), but I needed a lot of crossings to get the answer, as I'm not familiar with the slogan in the clue. I gather it's Lysol's trademarked slogan and features at the end of their TV ads (which we skip over of course).

The Rest

1a Cairo {City near the Great Sphinx}; 6a ore {Mine treasure}; 9a elbow {Macaroni shape}; 15a fez {Turkish headgear}; 16a goose {Golden egg layer of story}; 17a roost {Rod in a henhouse}; 20a amie {French lady friend}; 21a in a pet {Peeved}; 26a ire {Fury}; 29a erotica {Blue literature}; 30a aqua {Blue hue}; 31a lases {Cuts with light}; 34a alums {Homecoming returnees, for short}; 40a Iliad {Tale of Troy}; 42a reed {Papyrus plant, e.g.}; 43a tweezes {Plucks, as eyebrow hairs}; 53a nearly {Almost}; 55a orca {Killer whale}; 59a floor {Knock the socks off}; 60a above {Not deigning to consider}; 62a avert {Turn away}; 63a dined {Ate in high style}; 64a ale {Drink with a head}; 65a nests {Fits one inside the next}.

1d carafe {Wine container}; 4d resect {Take out surgically}; 5d Ont. {Ottawa's prov.}; 6d off {Take out}; 7d re-air {Show again}; 8d e-zine {Net mag}; 9d Egypt {1-Across is its capital}; 10d lode {Mine treasure}; 11d boutique {Chic shop}; 12d OSS {C.I.A. forerunner}; 13d wet {Not yet firm, as cement}; 19d RAs {Univ. dorm supervisors}; 23d oiled {Like some smoothly running machines}; 24d N. Car. {Tenn. neighbor}; 25d casks {Wine containers}; 27d rums {Jamaica exports}; 28d east {Atlantic Seaboard states, with "the"}; 30d alb {Priest's robe}; 32d enl. {Blowup: Abbr.}; 33d sooth {Truth, old-style}; 34d Asner {Ed who played Lou Grant}; 35d fire {Order after "Aim!"}; 37d tie one on {Get stewed}; 38d had {Duped}; 39d wawa {Guitar pedal effect}; 44d evolve {Change over time}; 45d zeroes {Homes (in on)}; 46d escort {Front car in a motorcade}; 47d starts {Turns on, as a car}; 49d faked {Not real}; 50d arf {It might mean "I want a treat!"}; 51d llama {Andean animal}; 54d eave {Christmas light site}; 57d RBI {A sac fly earns one}; 58d toe {Nail spot}; 59d fan {Wave a palm frond at, say}.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NYT Monday 11/30/09 - Bait the Trap

This Monday New York Times crossword was typical in that I solved down the grid without paying attention to the theme ... for all I cared, playmate and Rod Carew could have been involved in some way. Only when I got to 66-Across did I realize the connection between the four longest answers - they all end with a kind of trap. Incidentally, was bait intentionally thematic at 50-Across?

A reader asked me today what "clue of the puzz" means. Is everyone else too embarrassed to ask about it? My clue of the puzz(le) is a kind of MVP award for the clues: the one I thought most amusing, misleading, interesting, etc - an entirely subjective choice. It's sometimes tough to find a "clue of the puzz" early in the week, as considerable effort is put into making the clues straightforward and lacking in guile. The example I've chosen today illustrates how a piece of trivia can add a bit of spin to a Monday clue.
Solving time: 6 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 32a Paul {Left-handed Beatle}

Oliver Hill
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Phrases where the last word can be followed by 66a trap {Word that can follow the ends of 18-, 25-, 43- and 58-Across}:
18a light speed {186,000 miles per second} cf speed trap

light speed

25a as quiet as a mouse {Not making any sounds} cf mouse trap

as quiet as a mouse

43a blue-footed booby {Seabird native to the Galápagos Islands} cf booby trap

blue-footed booby

58a George Sand {French novelist who had an affair with Frédéric Chopin} cf sand trap

George Sand
Oliver Hill / Will Shortz
15x15 with 42 (18.7%) black squares
76 (average length 4.82)
Theme squares
54 (29.5%)
Scrabble points
301 (average 1.64)
Letters used
New To Me

Rod Carew
54a Rod Carew {Only American League player to win a batting crown without hitting a home run}. An odd record ... and what exactly is a "batting crown". Rod Carew is a hall-of-famer who played for the Minnesota Twins and the former California Angels from 1967 to 1985. He threw right-handed and batted left-handed. I see that Carew led the American League in batting in 1972, hitting .318, but not scoring a single homer. Presumably that's what the clue is on about? Carew's number 29 was retired by both of the teams he played for.

3d Sega {Dreamcast game company};  I solved this entirely on the basis of "game company" and I had to look up the significance of the first word in the clue: Dreamcast was the last video game console made by Sega - the company discontinued the product in North America in 2001 and withdrew from the console hardware business. Since then it has concentrated on developing software for third-party platforms.

Purple Rain
9d Let's {"___ Go Crazy" (#1 Prince hit)}. Let's Go Crazy was a hit for Prince and The Revolution in 1984. It was the opening track on both the album and film Purple Rain.

46d E Bonds {Old U.S. gov't investments}. Instinct led me to try T-Bonds, but I should have paid more attention to the "Old" in the clue. E Bonds (in full Series E U.S. Savings Bonds) were marketed as war bonds from 1941 to 1980. The guaranteed minimum investment yield for the bonds was 4 percent, compounded semiannually - not bad these days. June 2010 should see the expiration of the last E Bonds to be issued. In October 2008, news reports claimed there are several billion in unclaimed bonds. To help track down the bond owners, the US treasury set up a web site called Treasury Hunt. The system only provides information on Series E bonds issued in 1974 and after.


65a Ratso {___ Rizzo, Dustin Hoffman role}. His role in Midnight Cowboy (1969) of course. A great movie, but sufficiently grim that seeing it once is enough for me.

21d moi {"Après ___ le déluge"}. The same clue could lead to nous with a four-letter answer, since "après nous, le Déluge" was famously spoken by Madame de Pompadour to Louis XV to comfort him after the French defeat in the Battle of Rossbach. Use of the expression predated this, with both moi and nous used as necessary.

The Rest

1a west {Sunset direction}; 5a equal {___ sign (=)}; 10a ASU {Tempe sch.}; 13a aver {State as fact}; 14a nursed {Breast-fed}; 16a pep {Vigor}; 17a Riga {Latvia's capital}; 20a playmate {Child's friend}; 22a sterna {Breastbones}; 23a foci {Central points}; 24a scat {Nonsense singing}; 32a Paul {Left-handed Beatle}; 33a galas {Fetes}; 34a exo- {Prefix with skeleton}; 35a al dente {Not too soft, as pasta}; 38a zit {Clearasil target}; 41a croon {Sing like Bing Crosby}; 42a no-no {Taboo}; 49a oops! {"My bad!"}; 50a bait {Worms, for a fisherman}; 51a unmask {Reveal}; 60a te {___ noire}; 61a hrs. {60-min. periods}; 62a trendy {Chic}; 63a I ate {"I can't believe ___ the whole thing!"}; 64a SST {Fast jet, for short}.

1d warp {Twist out of shape}; 2d evil {Blackhearted}; 4d trayful {Amount of food at a cafeteria checkout}; 5d enlace {Intertwine}; 6d quit it! {"Cut that out!"}; 7d urge {Feel the ___}; 8d ash {Cigarette's end}; 10d aperçu {Hasty glance}; 11d seen as {Perceived to be}; 12d update {Supply with more recent info}; 15d DST {Summer clocks are set to it: Abbr.}; 19d pesos {Mexican moolah}; 25d ape {Mimic}; 26d sax {"Wailing" instrument}; 27d quo {Status ___}; 28d agent {15-percenter}; 29d San {___ Fernando Valley}; 30d Alt {PC key}; 31d Mae {Fannie ___ (home financing group)}; 35d arf {Terrier's bark}; 36d loo {London lavatory}; 37d Doo {Scooby-___}; 38d zoo {Where to see elephants and elands}; 39d in B {Schubert's Symphony No. 8 ___ Minor}; 40d toy {Many an item in Santa's bag}; 41d Cesar {___ Romero, onetime player of the Joker}; 42d not a bit {Zilch}; 43d boughs {Tree branches}; 44d loners {Recluses}; 45d upmost {Like Brahmins in the caste system}; 47d daddy-o {Cool cat}; 48d Bic {Inexpensive pen}; 52d Sgt. {___ Pepper}; 53d Kerr {Deborah of "The King and I"}; 54d rant {Diatribe}; 55d rear {Derrière}; 56d Etta {Jazzy James}; 57d weep {Bawl}; 59d sea {Adriatic or Aegean}.

NPR Puzzle 11/29/09 -- We're All Turkeyed Out

Again, I'm late -- we decided to spend the last day of Henry's visit chez Crosswordman doing companionable things, like finishing the jigsaw puzzle and seeing a movie together, rather than solitary activities like -- well, like blogging.

Here's this week's puzzle:
Think of three six-letter words starting with B, G and F. The last five letters of the words are the same and in the same order, yet none of the words rhymes with any of the others. What words are these?
Not too hard, I think.  Ross has some software in alpha-test mode that he used to solve it, but I wouldn't be surprised if you all tell us on Thursday that it came to you in the first five minutes!

This is the movie we saw.  I'm not a big Wes Anderson fan.  (Didn't like Rushmore -- sorry, kids! -- and had no interest in seeing The Royal Tenenbaums.)  But after a few good reviews, I thought this would be a good movie for all three of us to see.  It's still a bit deadpan for my tastes, but hey -- that's why different people like different things.  Ross was amused that yet again, all the villains had English accents.  (Michael Gambon is amazing in this movie -- or, rather, his voice is.  George Clooney -- well, don't get me wrong: I love George Clooney, but I was always conscious that it was George Clooney's voice.  I also love Michael Gambon, but trust me:  you won't leave the movie thinking, "Oh, I just couldn't stop thinking of Dumbledore...")

And, yes, there are some minor references to turkeys in the movie, so it was a good time to see it.  I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend.  See you Thursday!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NYT Sunday 11/29/09 - Give us a Q

Before we started this Sunday New York Times crossword, I explained to Henry (not a regular NYT solver) that pun themes were standard fare for the jumbo grids. So it turned out to be, and you can see why they're popular because answers like "quaint misbehavin'" are apt to raise a laugh, or occasionally a groan, of recognition.

We fell into one trap at 94-Across, thinking the answer must be queasy living; since we already had queasy rider at that point, we wondered how the duplication got past the editor. Of course we should have doubted our own abilities, not those of the editor, and realized this when we corrected the answer to qualmsgiving.

Our solving time isn't very accurate, since we tackled the puzzle over dinner Saturday night and our attention wasn't 100% on job in hand. My impression is that this was a slightly harder challenge than usual: incidentally, there is less thematic material than we normally get for this size of the grid, but that's not unreasonable, given the difficulties of working in all those Qs!
Solving time: 40 mins (with Magdalen and Henry, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 17d eaglet {Bald baby?}

Will Nediger
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


"Cued up". qu is inserted into a word or phrase, making a pun.
22a squeal of approval {Delighted exclamation?} cf seal of approval
36a Wilde bequest {Part of an Irish playwright's will?} cf wildebeest
68a queasy rider {Carsick passenger?} cf Easy Rider
94a qualmsgiving {Causing uneasiness?} cf almsgiving
113a quaint misbehavin' {Carryin' on, in olden times?} cf Ain't Misbehavin'
4d shepherd's pique {Anger at losing one's flock?} cf shepherd's pie
50d vanquishing act {Subjugation?} cf vanishing act
Will Nediger / Will Shortz
21x21 with 72 (16.3%) black squares
142 (average length 5.20)
Theme squares
93 (25.2%)
Scrabble points
637 (average 1.73)
Letters used
New To Me

Chica Cubs
93a chica {Spanish girl}. It took a while to check this one, as chica doesn't come under C in my Spanish-English/English-Spanish dictionary, but under a whole separate section headed CH. Is CH considered a separate letter in Spanish? chica means young girl in Spanish, the female counterpart of chico, meaning "boy" ... two more entries for Español para los crucigramistas needed.

123a Riley {Poet who wrote "An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you / Ef you / Don't / Watch / Out!"}. We didn't know 110d Omar either, so there was some debate about the first letter of this answer. In fact, only an R made sense and we were happy to have this guess confirmed when we looked up James Whitcomb Riley (1849–1916). The title of the quoted poem is of course familiar as Little Orphant Annie, although I gather this was a typesetter's misreading of the Hoosier poet's intended title Little Orphant Allie. The poem inspired the comic strip Little Orphan Annie, film adaptations in 1932 and 1938, and the musical Annie. After hearing a few readings and musical interpretations, it's clear that "Gobble-uns" is a dialect rendering of goblins.

Bob Saget
41d Bob Saget {Narrator of "How I Met Your Mother"}. How I Met Your Mother is one of only two sitcoms that Magdalen and I routinely watch (the other being The Big Bang Theory). But only Magdalen has the memory for names, which is why Bob Saget is in the New To Me section. I always assumed that Josh Radnor was the narrator, since it's  ostensibly his character doing the narrating (admittedly in 2030). Bob Saget is best known for playing Danny Tanner in Full House.

80d tac {Certain X or O}. This looks to be a reference to tic-tac-toe, which is usually called "Noughts and Crosses" in the UK. I hadn't realized before that "tic", "tac" and "toe" were the names of the moves (or more likely the sequence of cells in a row, column or diagonal), but I suppose that's logical. I inevitably associate the game with the 1983 movie WarGames in which a military defense computer decides not to attack on the basis of what it learns from tic-tac-toe ... if only life were that simple!

Omar Minaya
110d Omar {Baseball G.M. Minaya}. Omar Minaya is currently manager of the New York Mets; so I guess we should have heard of him, since we occasionally see their Double-A affiliate, the Binghamton Mets. Minaya was born in the Dominican Republic, but moved to New York City at the age of 8 and grew up in Corona. He had a short career in the minor leagues before becoming a baseball scout. He became the first Hispanic to hold an MLB general manager position when he accepted that position with the Montréal Expos in 2002. He became G.M. of the Mets following the 2004 season.

116d Ned {___ Land of "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea"}. Rather prosaic name for a literary land ... oops, I see this Land is a character, not a place. Ned Land is the Canadian master harpoonist who joins Captain Nemo on the Nautilus in the famous Jules Verne novel. For future reference, other mission members are marine biologist Professor Pierre Aronnax and his assistant Conseil. Ned Land is played by Kirk Douglas in the 1954 Disney movie.


42a emu {It came up from Down Under}. Easy enough to guess the answer here, but the intention behind the wording is still a little unclear ... in what sense is "it came up" intended? If you have a theory about this please comment. For me Emu is irrevocably associated with the British entertainer Rod Hull (1935–1999), but you probably couldn't get away with that reference in an American puzzle, even though Emu did meet Johnny Carson:

umpire signaling a wide in cricket
36d wide {Call on a pitch}. For once a clue that works equally well for the national games in both American and Britain, though I think the umpiring signals are different: putting your arms straight out in a tee shape signals a wide in cricket, but safe in baseball.

The Rest

1a docs {Government pubs., say}; 5a spool {Twine holder}; 10a zine {Amateur publication, for short}; 14a vise {What a migraine might feel like}; 18a opah {Moonfish}; 19a Plan A {Primary stratagem}; 20a tonal {Like much music}; 21a Inca {Old alpaca wool gatherer}; 25a smog {Cough cause}; 26a sprit {Sail extender}; 27a idea man {Inventive type}; 28a shawl {Bit of attire for a carriage ride}; 29a one-hitter {Pitcher's feat}; 32a tied {One all, say}; 33a gentle {Tame}; 34a Rowe {"Tamerlane" dramatist Nicholas}; 35a sex {V-chip target}; 38a guard {Museum worker}; 40a debit {Bank statement entry}; 43a Snyder {Tom of "The Tomorrow Show"}; 45a cod {Fish-and-chips fish}; 46a Oman {Sultan's land}; 49a Evian {Aquafina competitor}; 54a snip {Impertinent sort}; 56a Beavis {TV character often seen in a Metallica T-shirt}; 58a flange {Pipe attachment}; 59a skip {Needle problem}; 62a sips {Tests the water?}; 64a be nice {"Don't fight"}; 66a NCAA {Game grp.}; 67a loci {Many curves, in math}; 70a quip {Bon mot}; 71a Iraq {Babylon's site, today}; 72a usages {Conventions}; 73a germ {Starting point}; 74a urns {Some pieces in an archaeological museum}; 75a Danube {Bratislava's river}; 77a let's go {"Come on, guys!"}; 79a Tati {"Jour de Fête" star, director and writer, 1949}; 81a enter {Neighbor of a shift key}; 82a Beth {"Little Women" woman}; 83a Ali {Iranian supreme leader ___ Khamenei}; 85a Tasman {New Zealand's discoverer}; 89a eau {49-Across, e.g.}; 91a infra {Red leader?}; 101a out {Not safe}; 103a isms {Schools of thought}; 104a undies {Drawers, e.g.}; 105a mere {Plain and simple}; 106a Indian tea {Darjeeling, e.g.}; 108a ashen {White as a sheet}; 109a apropos {Germane}; 111a imago {Last stage of insect development}; 112a feel {Believe}; 117a faro {Gambling game enjoyed by Wyatt Earp}; 118a belly {Paunch}; 119a atoll {Wake Island, e.g.}; 120a cede {Turn over}; 121a stew {Irish ___}; 122a slay {Put in stitches}; 124a trod {Walked}.

1d dos {Bobs and such}; 2d OPQ {Alphabetic trio}; 3d causeway {Florida Keys connector}; 5d splits {Gymnastic feat}; 6d plotted {Conspired}; 7d oaf {Unlikely ballet dancer}; 8d on air {Sign warning people to be quiet}; 9d LAPD {Columbo's employer, for short}; 10d zoomed {Whizzed along}; 11d invade {Maraud}; 12d naan {Tandoor-baked bread}; 13d ell {Head of lettuce?}; 14d Vishnu {Krishna is one of his avatars}; 15d inmate {One surrounded by cell walls}; 16d scowls {Looks sore}; 17d eaglet {Bald baby?}; 20d trail {Bring up the rear}; 23d ARI {N.L. West team, on scoreboards}; 24d petit {___ four}; 28d sequel {"The Dark Knight," for one}; 29d orgs. {Assns.}; 30d noun {It may be declined}; 31d exec {Suit}; 33d gem {Absolute beauty}; 37d Ben {Nebraska senator Nelson}; 39d den {Easy chair site}; 44d risqué {Blue}; 46d over {Superior to}; 47d minigolf {It may feature a windmill}; 48d aside {"Don't Be Cruel" vis-à-vis "Hound Dog"}; 51d incur {Bring about}; 52d again {Time's partner}; 53d neaps {Some tides}; 55d Pius {Name shared by 12 popes}; 57d abyss {Big gulf}; 58d Fermat {French mathematician who pioneered in the theory of probability}; 59d slide {Water park feature}; 60d Koran {Sura source}; 61d I can't! {"Impossible!"}; 63d Peale {Positive thinking proponent}; 65d cert {Legal writ, in brief}; 69d Seth {Clockmaker Thomas}; 76d Bremen {German city where Beck's beer is brewed}; 78d Gang {"Our ___"}; 82d bug {Programming problem}; 84d iron {Wood alternative}; 86d mist over {Get fogged up}; 87d acme {Greatest flowering}; 88d NASA {Astronaut's insignia}; 90d ass {Dolt}; 91d inept {Like a butterfingers}; 92d audible {Within earshot}; 94d quaffs {Hearty drafts}; 95d unseat {Prevent from being reelected}; 96d adhere {Cleave}; 97d lie low {Try to avoid detection}; 98d impala {Chevy model}; 99d verily {Forsooth}; 100d irony {It may be dramatic}; 102d timely {Opportune}; 106d is it I? {Matthew 26 question}; 107d aah {Sound at a spa}; 109d Auel {"The Clan of the Cave Bear" author}; 113d QBs {Montana and others, for short}; 114d Sol {Helios' counterpart}; 115d I do {It may be said before a kiss}.

Friday, November 27, 2009

NYT Saturday 11/28/09 - Hangover Square

This has been another good solving week for me, with all the puzzles done in under half an hour ... and all correctly what's more. Perhaps allowances are being made for Thanksgiving Day hangovers and things will be back to normal next week? I don't reckon I've suddenly got a lot better at this.

The grid started off well in the top half, and I got Rikki-Tikki-Tavi early on from just the last three letters. The bottom half was also reasonably straightforward, although we Brits don't use the term permission slip (don't ask me what the equivalent UK term is - I went to boarding schools, where such things aren't relevant).

The toughest part for me was the NW corner, where I couldn't solve any of the four letter acrosses and so had to break in via the nine-letter downs. I was hampered in getting these by having tie pin, not hat pin for the {Quaint fashion accessory} at 28-Across; Scottie at 35-Across didn't come easily either.
Solving time: 23 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 37a tee shot {Round opening}

Karen M. Tracey
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Karen M. Tracey / Will Shortz
15x15 with 31 (13.8%) black squares
68 (average length 5.71)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
325 (average 1.68)
Letters used
New To Me

9a Plano {Part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex}. The intersection of this answer and 9d prelim was the only letter I had any doubts about at the end. I reckon I might have come across Plano, TX before, but couldn't have told you where it was in the Lone Star State. The area was settled in the early 1840s and the locals suggested the name Plano ("flat" in Spanish) in reference to the terrain. It grew to be the ninth-largest city in the state and hosts the famous Plano Balloon Festival.

39a okra {Callaloo ingredient}. No one in the house knew what callaloo was, but based on the name and the ingredient, Caribbean cuisine seemed appropriate. Its main ingredient is a leaf vegetable such as amaranth or taro, and the dish almost always includes some okra and dasheen or water spinach.

Edgar Martinez
58a Edgar {18-season Mariner Martinez}; 54d ALer {Any pro designated hitter, briefly}. Spending your entire 18-year career with one major league team must be unusual. Edgar Martínez, nicknamed Gar and Papi, debuted for the Seattle Mariners in 1987 and retired in 2004. He was a designated hitter and third baseman ... from this and 45-Down, we can deduce that The M's are in the American League.

59a Evie {Singer/songwriter Sands}. Evie Sands is a Brooklyn-born singer-songwriter who achieved some success in the 60s and 70s, but stopped recording for around 20 years before making a comeback in the 1990s - a Brit-led phenomenon apparently.

5d Stevie Nicks {"Talk to Me" singer, 1985}. I have less excuse not knowing about Stevie Nicks, as she is famous as a member of Fleetwood Mac and has an extensive solo career. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. "Talk to Me" was a hit from her 1985 solo album Rock a Little.


14a tach {Dash feature}. A tough clue, and I persisted too long in my belief that printing dashes were involved. In fact, the reference is to a dashboard, the shortening of tachometer in the answer mirroring the shortening in the clue. tacho came up in a cryptic crossword we solved this morning, making us realize that Brits and Americans came up with subtly different slang terms: tacho and tach.

4d Shrek {Title film character who says "Donkey, two things, O.K.? Shut ... up!"}. Shrek was fresh in my mind from the Thanksgiving Day puzzle, so I had no difficulties here.

9d prelim {Heat, for short}. This clue was a struggle for me, as I don't think of a prelim as a preliminary heat. The meanings that come to me first are: the preliminary exam and the "preliminary matter" in a printed book.

25d Kate Winslet {Six-time Oscar nominee with a 2008 win}. Kate Winslet grew up in Reading, Berkshire, the last place I lived in the UK. After striking out seven times at the Oscars, she was finally awarded the little man for her performance in The Reader, in which she plays the girlfriend with a past, Hanna Schmitz.

The Rest

1a errs {Goes off}; 5a slob {Sty resident}; 15a tour {Travel by bus, say}; 16a reset {Zero}; 17a czar {Baron}; 18a Esso {Shell alternative}; 19a étage {French floor}; 20a hove {Hoisted, as a sail}; 21a veto {Keep from going through}; 22a liner {Cruise place}; 23a Rikki-Tikki-Tavi {Part of "The Jungle Book"}; 26a ABC {Opening string}; 27a neon lamp {Outdoor signage option}; 28a hatpin {Quaint fashion accessory}; 30a get {Follow}; 31a atts. {Argument makers: Abbr.}; 35a Scottie {One with a hard, weather-resistant coat}; 37a tee shot {Round opening}; 40a CPU {Hi-tech heart}; 42a wisely {Good way to choose}; 43a raking in {Amassing amply}; 46a MLX {When France's Philip I took the throne}; 47a permission slip {What a student might not go without?}; 51a avoir {___ froid (be cold: Fr.)}; 52a OTBs {Some parlors, for short}; 53a Okla. {The redbud is one of its symbols: Abbr.}; 55a gauge {Criterion}; 56a dill {Borscht flavorer}; 57a Baal {Deity worshiped with much sensuality}; 60a adze {Trimming and smoothing aid}; 61a teens {Time of one's life}; 62a sent {Text message status}; 63a roar {No mere chuckle}.

1d etch {Do some impressions}; 2d razor-back {Sharp, narrow range of hills}; 3d RCA Victor {Early LP issuer}; 6d lose to {Be bested by}; 7d ousting {Bouncer's job}; 8d brooklet {A little running water?}; 10d let it pass {Take the situation in stride}; 11d asana {Yoga posture}; 12d Negev {It comprises the southern half of Israel}; 13d Oteri {"Scary Movie" actress, 2000}; 24d knit {Grow together}; 26d ah so {"Gotcha," humorously}; 29d ptarmigan {Fully feather-footed flier}; 32d The Mikado {"Pooh-Bah" source}; 33d toll plaza {Where the going rate is charged?}; 34d Styx {Final course?}; 36d episodes {Series composition}; 38d eins {One abroad}; 41d unitive {Promoting harmony}; 44d airers {Drying racks}; 45d goblin {Little mischief-maker}; 47d Paget {Pathology pioneer Sir James ___}; 48d evade {Shake}; 49d rouge {Compact stuff}; 50d lobar {Kind of pneumonia}.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

NYT Friday 11/27/09 - Orts

If I didn't expect a Thanksgiving Day puzzle yesterday,  I certainly wasn't anticipating "Post-thanksgiving fare" in this Friday New York Times crossword. In fact I missed "a leg" and "a wing" in the top two long answers until Henry kindly pointed them out to me ... although the grid is at first sight meets the requirements of a themeless, the three long answers are clearly themeful.

Not that I didn't notice the timeliness of 59-Across. In fact that area was where I really got started on the grid: I hadn't made much impact in the top two-thirds, but the bottom third fell out easily (with the exception of Dade/Ederle - see below) and was done-and-dusted inside 7 minutes. The other trouble spot was the Ada/Denton's intersection and a couple of minutes at the end were spent debating the options at these two crossings.

We don't yet have the "turkey leftovers" problem, as we're eating our big turkey dinner today so we could enjoy the better weather yesterday. Our pessimism about the conditions outside was borne out by a light fall of snow this morning. As I write this, Henry and Magdalen are busy working on baking a pie and prepping the turkey and I really should wind up now and see if they need an extra pair of hands.
Solving time: 21 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 28a in control {Running things}

Ed Sessa
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


The aftermath of Thanksgiving Day: 59a turkey leftovers {Post-Thanksgiving fare}, evidence of which is found in the two other long across answers:
17a a wing and a prayer {Hope born of desperation}
36a a leg to stand on {Justifiable basis for one's position}
Ed Sessa / Will Shortz
15x15 with 30 (13.3%) black squares
72 (average length 5.42)
Theme squares
43 (22.1%)
Scrabble points
279 (average 1.43)
Letters used
New To Me

1a slumber {"Enjoy the honey-heavy dew of ___": Shak.}. Unfortunately, morning seemed a much more plausible dew time and that held me up some. Too literal for the bard I guess. The line spoken by Brutus - his reflection on the carefree nature of youth.
Boy! Lucius! Fast asleep? It is no matter.
Enjoy the honey-heavy dew of slumber;
Thou hast no figures nor no fantasies,
Which busy care draws in the brains of men;
Therefore thou sleep'st so sound.
From Julius Caesar Act II Scene 1
blanket sleeper
16a Denton's {Dr. ___ (infant sleepers)}. Tough for an outsider, especially with the first letter crossing the "most populous county of Idaho". A sleeper in this context is what the infant sleeps in, not the infant itself ... I think Lucius would have outgrown his. Dr. Denton's is a brand of Dr. Denton Sleeping Garment Mills of Centreville, Michigan, founded in 1865. It was much the best known blanket sleeper brand through to the first half of the 20th century and became a genericized trademark, as did "Trundle Bundle" and "Jama-Blanket" apparently.

Dade City
52a Dade {___ City, suburb of Tampa/St. Petersburg}. Another tough reference, and for me Dade was a "long shot, for sure". The difficulty was the crossing with 48d Ederle, of course. I thought about the answer for a minute or two and then remembered Miami-Dade County from the September 8 puzzle. If Miami's county could be named after Major Francis L. Dade, then so could a Floridian suburb and I got lucky. Dade City is nicknamed "Tree City" and is the seat of Pasco County.

low men on the totem pole
2d low man {Figure on a totem pole, figuratively}. This refers to an idiom I'm not really familiar with ... "the low man on the totem pole", meaning someone of low status in an organization. In fact, the term arises from a misconception about totem poles: their ordering implies no hierarchy and the lowest figure is sometimes the most important. The most totem poles we have ever seen in one place was at Sitka National Historical Park, which we visited in the fall of 2008.

48d Ederle {1926 English Channel crosser}. Another answer where I scratch my head and wonder if anyone is likely to know the reference, even in America. An additional problem was the possibility of air hose for 63-Across, which I favored for a while. Gertrude Ederle (1905–2003) was an American swimmer, the first woman to swim across the English Channel, which she did from France to England in 14 hours 31 minutes. The nasty English papers suggested she cheated by swimming "under the lea of one of the accompanying tugs". This clip suggests hers was the first NYC ticker tape parade, which looks to be wrong (it may have been the first to honor a woman).


5d bogs {Things near Baskerville Hall}. Nice to see a reference to one of my favorite authors. My first thought was tors, but we already had tor at 59-Down. Eventually bogs came to mind. The story centers around the fictional "Great Grimpen Mire", which supposedly was inspired by Fox Tor Mires in Dartmoor. The definite Sherlock Holmes for my generation was the great Jeremy Brett (1933–1995).

Ada County
8d Ada {Most populous county of Idaho}. Essential to know this if (like me) you weren't sure of the Dr. Denton's reference in 16-Across. I must have come across Ada County in one of the crosswords I've done this year, as it rang vague bells from somewhere. It's the county that contains the state capital Boise, another "City of Trees" as it happens.

30d Tati {Comical Jacques}. Jacques Tati (1907–1982) is another favorite of mine - how nice to have two such in a Friday puzzle! His best-known film is probably Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953) but I enjoy the two surrounding it more: Jour de fête (1949) and Mon Oncle (1958). Here's Tati trying to get his head around a "modern kitchen".

61d VHS {Beta beater}. Misleading, but is it fair given we normally think of VHS as winning out over Betamax? I guess the clue is OK technically, because Beta was the casual name of the format; I don't think of it like that as I never went down that route, my first player being a VHS one. In fact, I cashed in the pension from my first job to buy a VHS player ... ah, the folly of youth!

The Rest

8a aristos {British V.I.P.'s, to Brits}; 15a console {Place for buttons}; 19a MMV {Pope Benedict XVI's election year}; 20a sloe {Shrub akin to the cherry plum}; 21a Lippi {"The Feast of Herod" painter}; 22a Paar {1950s-'60s NBC host}; 24a I may {Wishy-washy response}; 26a line {Quick note}; 28a in control {Running things}; 31a beats {Reporters' areas}; 32a baa {Farm sound}; 33a no go {Scrubbed}; 35a net {After everything has been taken into account}; 40a ape {Copier}; 41a gilt {Illuminated, in a way}; 42a née {Social register word}; 43a get by {Survive adversity}; 45a drag races {Some head-to-head competitions}; 50a tree {Gallows}; 51a pear {Orchard product}; 53a tra-la {Part of a merry refrain}; 55a TASS {News source in a 14-Down}; 58a men {Playing pieces}; 62a oriente {Where Japón is}; 63a airhole {Site for a seal, maybe}; 64a reprove {Dress down}; 65a tresses {Means of tower access, in a fairy tale}.

1d scampi {Garlicky dish}; 3d UNIVAC {First computer to predict a U.S. election outcome}; 4d MSN {Yahoo! alternative}; 6d El Al {JFK-to-TLV carrier}; 7d Renoir {"Le Moulin de la Galette" artist}; 9d reply {E-mail option}; 10d INRI {Cross inscription}; 11d staple {Fasten with a click}; 12d toy piano {Schroeder's instrument in "Peanuts"}; 13d one in ten {Long shot, for sure}; 14d SSR {Former map inits.}; 18d demonstrate {March, say}; 23d robe {Boxer's name holder}; 25d a lot {Ever so much}; 27d est {French direction}; 29d naggy {Shrewlike}; 31d boner {Blockheaded move}; 34d gang {What graffiti may signify}; 36d aperture {Optical opening}; 37d let 'er rip {"O.K. ... go!"}; 38d olde {Aged, in an earlier age}; 39d dead {Gone to glory}; 40d agt. {Hollywood fig.}; 44d beaker {Lipped lab container}; 46d Arafat {Peace Nobelist of 1994}; 47d cameos {Cinephiles often watch for them}; 49d senses {Sanity}; 51d pay TV {Entertainment by subscription}; 54d Leno {A successor to 22-Across}; 56d stir {Hurly-burly}; 57d sore {Vexed}; 59d tor {Prominence}; 60d Lee {Winner at the Battle of Cold Harbor}.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NYT Thursday 11/26/09 - Join the Parade

A Very Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Before printing the puzzle, we speculated on whether this New York Times crossword would have a Thanksgiving Day theme, and I suggested on past form that this was unlikely. However, I had to eat my words after five minutes or so, when Macy's popped up as an answer and it was clear their famous parade was the subj.

I didn't really notice this during solving, but I particularly like the way the three selected balloons are consistently formed (i.e. NAME the ANIMAL). I had hoped to find pictures of each balloon to show you, but this doesn't look to be possible for Elsie (she only lasted from 1963 to 1968) and Felix (1927-???? ... the first large parade balloon).

So here instead, is Shrek, which we're going to look out for this year, because the nurse practitioner at our local health center is one of his handlers. We said we'd look out for her, but she points out that the TV coverage (in the "suspension of disbelief" spirit) never shows the people holding the strings.

Postscript: reader DL has kindly provided images of Felix and Elsie - see below. The latter admittedly is not a Macy's balloon, but you get the idea.
Solving time: 13 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 2d eta {Letter after Z}

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


Characters - all of the form [Name] the [Animal] - seen in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, as indicated by 51a parade balloon {What 20-, 31- and 40-Across were each introduced as by 47-Down} and 47d Macy's {See 51-Across}.
20a Kermit the Frog {Introduction of 1977}


31a Felix the Cat {Introduction of 1927}
40a Elsie the Cow {Introduction of 1963}

Felix and Elsie
Paula Gamache / Will Shortz
15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
76 (average length 4.97)
Theme squares
52 (27.5%)
Scrabble points
331 (average 1.75)
Letters used
New To Me

25a O'er {Thoreau's "On Fields ___ Which the Reaper's Hand Has Pass'd"}. We passed right by Henry David Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond on one of our trips visiting Coffee Jones and Dino_Burger. I hope that after I've read the book, we can get to look around there. The line in the clue is the title and first line of an eight-line poem ... one not inappropriate to the season.
On fields oer which the reaper’s hand has pass[e]d,
Lit by the harvest moon and autumn sun,
My thoughts like stubble floating in the wind
And of such fineness as October airs,
There after harvest could I glean my life
A richer harvest reaping without toil,
And weaving gorgeous fancies at my will
In subtler webs than finest summer haze.
“On fields o'er which the reaper's hand...” by Henry David Thoreau
39a tad {Skosh}. I was apparently the only person in the household not to know what a skosh is. Henry (a Japanese speaker) even provided an etymology: it comes from the Japanese sukoshi, meaning "a bit" or "a few" ... it's said the term was picked up by soldiers serving in the Korean War and got into the language that way.

Marie Osmond doll
11d Adora {Marie Osmond's ___ Belle dolls}. In between her singing career and Dancing with the Stars, Marie Osmond brought out a line of dolls, originally sold exclusively on QVC, but now in retail stores and on the internet. Her first doll was named "Olive May" after her mother and set a collectible record on QVC. She's since created "Remember Me," "Baby Adora Belle", "Vote For Me", and her hallmark doll, "Adora Belle".

12d Carol {"___ of the Bells" (holiday favorite)}. Interesting juxtaposition with the previous clue. Can't say Carol of the Bells is a holiday favorite for me, as this is the first time I've heard it. It was composed by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Dmytrovych Leontovych and originally known as the Ukrainian Bell Carol. Hang on, I have heard it before ... it's the tune in this Wal-Mart commercial from 2007.


Richard Stengel
22d edit {Time manager's directive?}. It's getting towards the end of the week, making it fair game to hide a proper name at the start of the clue. So Time is the magazine and the person in charge has to edit it. Richard Stengel (file away in case he comes up some day) has been the editor since 2006.

Grinder Haven
43d hero {Grinder}. Another tricky clue, exploiting the many different nicknames across the USA for the submarine sandwich. Here is a list of the other names that can be used: hoagie, blimpie, bomber, cosmo, Italian sandwich, poor boy, po-boy, rocket, spuckie, torpedo, tunnel, wedge, zeppelin.

The Rest

1a zero {Nobody}; 5a foggy {Not clear}; 10a race {Human ___}; 14a A to B {First step in a series}; 15a inane {Dopey}; 16a Edam {Mild cheese}; 17a Paco {Rabanne who was the costume designer for "Barbarella"}; 18a galas {Big dos}; 19a fora {Public discussion venues}; 23a ass {Jack or jenny}; 26a ideals {Paradigms}; 27a Shōgun {James Clavell best seller}; 29a livid {Incensed}; 33a Jed {Clampett patriarch}; 36a ibis {Head of the Egyptian god Thoth}; 37a Ave. {Commonwealth in Boston, e.g.: Abbr.}; 38a pace {A slowpoke may be asked to pick it up}; 44a exits {Emergency info on a plane}; 45a heckle {Badger}; 46a imaret {Turkish hostel}; 49a fer {Pro, informally}; 50a key {Swipe card alternative}; 55a aces {Big diamonds, maybe}; 56a raree {___ show}; 57a ripe {Smelly, as post-workout clothes}; 60a NYSE {Trading letters}; 61a a deaf {Turn ___ ear}; 62a afar {In the distance}; 63a astr. {Observatory subj.}; 64a least {Bare minimum}; 65a lets {"Sure, I'm up for it"}.

1d zap {Sound on "Batman"}; 2d eta {Letter after Z}; 3d rock-solid {Highly unlikely to change}; 4d oboe {Wind in a pit}; 5d figment {Bit of imagination}; 6d on air {Studio alert}; 7d Galt {"Who is John ___?" (question asked in "Atlas Shrugged")}; 8d gnat {Tiny irritant}; 9d yeshiva {Place for Torah study}; 10d reffed {Called the game}; 13d e-mags {Online compilations, briefly}; 21d roux {Gumbo thickener}; 23d as fit {Comparable to a fiddle}; 24d Sheba {"Solomon and ___," 1959 biblical epic}; 28d GIs {They may be found in a tank}; 29d Levis {Some casual wear}; 30d ICEE {Frozen drink brand}; 32d hast {Verb with "thou"}; 33d jack-knife {Double over}; 34d école {Molière's "L'___ des femmes"}; 35d Dewey {Loser of 1948}; 38d pec {Push-up muscle, briefly}; 40d exed {Crossed (out)}; 41d literal {Verbatim}; 42d the left {Democrats, as a whole}; 44d eraser {Stationer's item}; 46d Ipana {Classic toothpaste name}; 48d a rest {"Give it ___!"}; 49d fleas {Tiny pests}; 52d bade {Commanded}; 53d area {Department}; 54d oral {Not written}; 58d Pat {Unisex name}; 59d ers {Stammering sounds}.

NPR Puzzle 11/22/09 I Wasn't Kidding -- We Did Get the Joke!

Oops -- I'm late! I'm afraid that in the rush to buy the last fresh turkey at the supermarket (which, luckily for me, was also the smallest: I only have Henry and Ross to feed) and then get home in time to make dinner and make Henry's bed, I forgot today was answers day. Let's get on with it, shall we?

This week's puzzle is:
Think of a word containing the consecutive letters O-K. Remove the O-K, and you'll get a new word that's a synonym of the first word. What words are these?
The answer is JOKESTER and JESTER.  This wasn't an easy puzzle, although I realized very early on that it had to be an unusual word that didn't have a lot of inflections.  So all the verb forms (smoke, smoker, smoked, smoking, for example) were ruled out.  But even though I CHEAT, I wasn't able to solve it with Ross's software.  That's because the word "jokester" did not appear among the several hundred words with OK in them in "Edited English."  (In TEA, "edited English" means all the really and truly for-sure words.  "Unedited English" is the probably, but don't sue me if you aren't allowed to play this in your Lexulous or Scrabble game, words.  Jokester was in the second category, but so were several hundred other words.)  I was reluctant to explain this on Sunday because it could either have been too much help, or more likely, too confusing.

I didn't make the lovely cupcakes here, but I sure wish I had one now to eat. Not relevant to the discussion at hand; I'm just saying.

Henry is here with us; he's currently trying to solve a Patrick Berry crossword puzzle, which is harder for him because although he's been living in the US for almost 11 years now, he's not even trying to learn all the sports, pop culture, and advertising slogan terms that Ross has. But I have to hand it to Henry -- when the clue read "Madison's veep," meaning some 19th century politician who served as vice-president under James Madison, I told him he was more likely to know the answer than either Ross or me . . . and he did! (Gerry, the fellow who gave us gerrymandering.)  (Just because I'm American doesn't mean I know anything about our history...!)

I also have to hand it to Henry -- only he made an effort to come up with a JOKESTER's definition of Lame Duck. It turns out to mean "One who defaults on the stock market." Weird, hunh? (Well, I thought so.) I found it when I was reading a romance novel (my secret other life) and thinking about which words were likely to have been in use in 1814.  If you're interesting in other examples, I found, you can read about it here.

I hope everyone has (or had) a very happy Thanksgiving!  We will as well:  because Thursday is supposed to have clearer weather (there's showers and snow forecast for Friday and Saturday), we're making Friday be Thanksgiving (in the culinary aspect) and making Thursday be a walking-in-a-local-state-park day. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NYT Wednesday 11/25/09 - Worn to a Frazzle

After a tough start to the week, this Wednesday New York Times crossword seemed relatively straightforward. It's one of those ideas where the theme isn't very noticeable when solving, although I just managed to work it out towards the end. My early analysis didn't include the central down answer 25d tree sap, which is much less obvious than the four symmetrically disposed long entries.

The one reservation I have about the theme is the inclusion of flag. It seems to me that flag can only be an intransitive verb - you can flag (get tired), but not flag someone else (tire them out). The other words are either only transitive in this context (drain, exhaust, sap) or both transitive and intransitive (tire). Since it's unusual to see this kind of inconsistency in an NYT puzzle, I wonder if I've misinterpreted the theme in some way: perhaps you're meant to consider tire as the key answer, which everything else is synonymous with?
Solving time: 9 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 40d rotation {Pitchers are often put in this}

Allan E. Parrish
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Phrases ending with synonyms for "wear out".
17a radial tire {Goodyear offering}
61a pirate flag {Blackbeard flew one}
10d dual exhaust {Feature of many muscle cars}
24d shower drain {Where lost hair may accumulate}
25d tree sap {Syrup source}
Allan E. Parrish / Will Shortz
15x15 with 34 (15.1%) black squares
76 (average length 5.03)
Theme squares
49 (25.7%)
Scrabble points
312 (average 1.63)
Letters used
New To Me

Carrie Chapman Catt
6a Catt {Suffragist Carrie Chapman ___}. Carrie Chapman Catt (1859–1947) was president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) from 1900 to 1904 and 1915 to 1920. NAWSA was by far the largest organization working for women's suffrage in the U.S. I wondered where women got the vote first: the UK or the USA? It looks like American women won the race via the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. British women didn't obtain full equality with men until 1928, although there was a strange first step: the 1918 Qualification of Women Act enfranchised women who were over the age of 30; providing they were householders, married to a householder or holders of a university degree.

Rudi Gernreich
3d Rudi {Gernreich of fashion}. Rudi Gernreich (19221985) was an Austrian-born fashion designer who fled Nazism at the age of 16 and settled in Los Angeles. As a designer, he was noted for some controversial concepts such as the monokini and the thong swimsuit. He was also a strong advocate of unisex clothing, dressing male and female models in identical clothing and shaving their heads and bodies completely bald. He was also known as the first designer to use vinyl and plastic in clothes, and designed the Moonbase Alpha uniforms on the television series Space: 1999.

18d Lum {Abner's radio partner}. In the sort of cryptic crosswords I solve, lum is inevitably defined as a chimney (or a chimney-pot hat) as that's its meaning in Scots dialect. Nice to have this alternative: Lum and Abner was a 15-minute serial comedy created by Chester Lauck (who played Columbus "Lum" Edwards) and Norris Goff (Abner Peabody), hillbillies always stumbling upon moneymaking ideas only to get themselves fleeced by their nemesis Squire Skimp.

53d lot {Place to play stickball}. Stickball is apparently the street version of baseball, a broom handle serving as the bat and some kind of rubber ball in lieu of a baseball.

62d ROK {"M*A*S*H" extra}. This was a tough one to research and I'm still not 100% sure about it. It looks like ROKs was the slang term for Republic of Korea troops in the Korean War, though I'm not sure to what extent the term was used in the singular. Vietnam Veteran's Terminology and Slang lists it, but there are few if any other glossaries to back it up. Anyway, here's the obligatory M*A*S*H clip:

63d FHA {Shelter financing org.}. The Federal Housing Administration was created during the Great Depression as part of the National Housing Act of 1934. It seems to be both an insurer of mortgages and a provider of mortgages and its business has grown significantly as a result of the Subprime mortgage crisis. With many of the riskiest borrowers requiring help from FHA, it's been estimated that eventual government losses from the FHA could reach $100 billion.


16a unto {Golden rule preposition}. This was fresh in my mind after a discussion on Saturday night: we'd been discussing a notice in the school where the G&S concert had been held. The notice started with the usual "walk, don't run/pick up after yourself/...", then a mysterious last line "self-to-self". Someone suggested this might be a shorthand for the Golden Rule. The clue seems to assume the wording attributed to Jesus of Nazareth - "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Luke 6:31, Matthew 7:12) - though the Golden Rule predates Christianity and has its roots in a wide range of world cultures.

27a Amahl {Boy soprano in a Menotti opera}. You encounter Amahl in crosswords rather more than real life. Amahl and the Night Visitors was first performed in 1951 and is a Christmas classic, being about a crippled boy (Amahl) who is visited by the Magi en route to Bethlehem and miraculously healed.

Sir George Everest
54a Everest {Mountain previously named Peak XV}. Everest was given its official English name in 1865 by the Royal Geographical Society. Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India recommended the mountain be named Everest after his predecessor in the post, Sir George Everest.

4d Eri {"___ tu" (Verdi aria)}. If you wind up with ERI in a grid, you're not exactly spoiled for options (compared to IRE for example). Since the demise of Eri the Assamese silkworm (see ironic September 17 puzzle), the aria from Un ballo in maschera is about the only respectable option, the Estonian conductor Eri Klas getting just the occasional look-in.

9d Theo {Lt. Kojak}. I was a big fan of Kojak back in the day, and I was asking Magdalen what happened to all the cop series named after their single central character - Columbo and Cannon also spring to mind. Why do most cop shows have ensemble casts these days? Magdalen says that Hill Street Blues is responsible, exposing the phoniness of everything that had gone before and irrevocably changing the way crime series were written.

29d Arab {One with an "al-" in his name, often}. The al- being the equivalent of "the" in English. Surnames beginning with "al-" often refer to the place where the person's ancestors were born. For example, Saddam Hussein's original surname was al-Tikriti, meaning "the person from Tikrit".

The Rest

1a J.Crew {Catalog clothing retailer since 1983}; 10a dish {Signal receiver}; 14a azure {Like a clear sky}; 15a amah {Eastern domestic}; 19a Adam {One cast out of paradise}; 20a Sri {___ Lanka}; 21a sun {Weather map symbol}; 22a hotline {Red telephone's connection}; 24a Semite {Israeli or Palestinian}; 26a ready {Good to go}; 30a prefix {Pro- or con-}; 32a LaRosa {Crooner canned on live TV in 1953}; 34a elephant {Political symbol}; 38a gnaw {Act like a rat}; 39a cress {Salad green}; 41a aloe {Skin cream additive}; 42a asbestos {Litigation-prompting insulation}; 44a Souter {Justice replaced by Sotomayor}; 46a Rastas {Many Marley fans}; 48a psalm {Song of David}; 49a Haydn {"The Creation" composer}; 52a applet {Bit of Java programming}; 56a Lon {Chaney of the silents}; 57a bra {Item with underwires}; 60a Nana {"Peter Pan" dog}; 64a Citi {One of American banking's Big Four, for short}; 65a coos {Talks lovingly}; 66a Rhone {River of Lyon}; 67a élan {Panache}; 68a ankh {Hippie's cross}; 69a sacks {Plays resulting in yardage losses}.

1d jars {Shakes up}; 2d czar {White House policy appointee}; 5d weasels {Sneaky sorts}; 6d catnip {Inside of a toy mouse, perhaps}; 7d ami {Buddy, in Burgundy}; 8d Tar Heels {North Carolina gridders}; 11d India {Destination of Vasco da Gama}; 12d stand {Put up with}; 13d homey {Warm and comfy}; 23d trip {Make a misstep}; 27d alga {Pond organism}; 28d man's {___ best friend}; 31d fess {Come clean, with "up"}; 33d Acts {Bible book after John}; 35d Alta {Utah ski area}; 36d noel {Seasonal air}; 37d term {Kind of life insurance}; 40d rotation {Pitchers are often put in this}; 43d sane {Compos mentis}; 45d openers {Church keys}; 47d splash {Play in the pool, say}; 49d hence {Ergo}; 50d avail {Be of use to}; 51d yenta {Spreader of dirt}; 55d SPCA {Shelter org.}; 57d bloc {Political grouping}; 58d rank {Needing a bath badly}; 59d ages {Seemingly forever}.