Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NYT Wednesday 12/1/10 Caleb Madison - Solution

Here is the solution for the New York Times crossword puzzle dated Wednesday December 1, 2010. This is an abbreviated post as I am currently on vacation; full commentaries will resume with next Monday's puzzle.
Solving time: 8 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 40a bat {Be up}
Solution

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

Theme

The movies of 1a/66a Woody Allen {Subject of this puzzle, born 12/1/1935} in honor of his 75th birthday.
9a/64a Match Point {With 64-Across, 1-/66-Across movie of 2005}
17a Radio Days {... of 1987}
22a Alice {... of 1990}
29a Manhattan {... of 1979}
34a Bananas {... of 1971}
36a Sleeper {... of 1973}
43a Annie Hall {... of 1977}
50a Zelig {... of 1983}
57a Interiors {... of 1978}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersCaleb Madison / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 37 (16.4%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.82)
Theme squares80 (42.6%)
Scrabble points286 (average 1.52)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Other Clues

6a Bea {"Maude" star Arthur}; 14a as I recall {"If memory serves ..."}; 16a stola {Dress in the Forum}; 18a Romas {Some tomatoes}; 19a misstep {Faux pas}; 21a CST {Winter hrs. in St. Louis}; 26a ion {___ exchange}; 27a base {It's high on the pH scale}; 28a Ramon {Silents actor Novarro}; 31a amah {Asian nurse}; 32a Kan. {Dorothy's state: Abbr.}; 33a aww! {"Too bad!"}; 40a bat {Be up}; 41a año {Mayo is in it}; 42a la la {___ land}; 47a avion {Par ___}; 48a aout {Part of l'été}; 49a Idi {A mean Amin}; 51a ANC {Nelson Mandela's org.}; 52a pergola {Shaded passageway}; 55a molto {Verdi's very}; 62a anear {Close, in verse}; 63a febrility {Feverishness}; 65a TDs {Raiders make them, informally}.

1d war {Something played out in a theater}; 2d osa {Spanish she-bear}; 3d -oid {Geometric suffix}; 4d Dri {Demoisturized, in commercial names}; 5d yeomen {Palace workers}; 6d baas {Flock sounds}; 7d Elysian {Heavenly}; 8d Alston {Hall-of-Famer Walter who was a Dodger manager for 23 years}; 9d MSRP {No. on a car}; 10d A to {___ Z}; 11d tom-cat {Male with whiskers}; 12d class A {Top-level}; 13d hasten {Get a move on}; 15d CDI {Early fifth-century year}; 20d enhalo {Surround with a glow}; 22d Arab {Sheik's mount}; 23d lama {Spiritual guide}; 24d Iman {One-named 1970s-'80s supermodel}; 25d cohabit {Live together}; 27d B twelve {Vitamin involved in cell metabolism}; 29d mas {"Keep them coming, Juan!"}; 30d awe {Amazement}; 32d Kathie {TV's ___ Lee}; 35d nae {Scot's not}; 36d SNL {Show announced by Don Pardo for 30+ years, for short}; 37d pail {Construction worker's lunch container}; 38d Eloi {H. G. Wells people}; 39d rang {Phoned}; 41d aligned {Neatened, in a way}; 43d AAA map {Certain travel guide}; 44d no! no! no! {"Stop! You've got it all wrong!"}; 45d nuclei {Centers}; 46d adrift {Unmoored}; 47d Azaria {Hank with voices on "The Simpsons"}; 52d port {Left side}; 53d OTBs {Places where the Daily Racing Form is read, in brief}; 54d Ler {Celtic sea god}; 56d tan {Get bronze}; 58d ill {Excellent, slangily}; 59d oil {Lube (up)}; 60d rte. {Way: Abbr.}; 61d syn. {Dict. listing}.

Monday, November 29, 2010

NYT Tuesday 11/30/10 Kristian House - Solution

Here is the solution for the New York Times crossword puzzle dated Tuesday November 30, 2010. This is an abbreviated post as I am currently on vacation; full commentaries will resume with next Monday's puzzle.
Solving time: 5 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 1d coat {Ulster, for one}
Solution

Kristian House
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Theme answers start with an anagram of the letters OPST:
20a tops the list {Is ranked #1}
30a POST NO BILLS {Sign on a construction site fence}
39a stop-off {Brief visit along the way}
42a opts out {Declines to participate}
48a spot remover {Dry cleaner's fluid}
59a pots of money {Megabucks}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersKristian House / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 37 (16.4%) black squares
Answers78 (average length 4.82)
Theme squares58 (30.9%)
Scrabble points315 (average 1.68)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Other Clues

1a calf {Farm newborn}; 5a A-Rod {Yankees' "$275 million man," informally}; 9a begin {Test proctor's command}; 14a oral {Like dental surgery}; 15a nice! {"Good one!"}; 16a amaze {Blow the socks off}; 17a alma {___ mater}; 18a Yves {The "Y" in Y.S.L.}; 19a rotor {Helicopter part}; 23a odd {Bizarre}; 24a Kyoto {Climate-change protocol city}; 25a tad {Wee bit}; 27a Doc {Disney dwarf with glasses}; 35a IN USE {Lavatory door sign}; 37a sem. {Part of a school year: Abbr.}; 38a peas {Carrots' plate-mates}; 44a Kama {___ Sutra}; 45a R. U. R. {Play from which the word "robot" comes}; 47a Honda {Civic maker}; 52a -eer {Suffix with slogan}; 53a sad {Bummed out}; 54a sinus {Congested area, sometimes}; 56a jag {Drinking binge}; 64a equip {Rig out}; 66a silo {Fodder holder}; 67a core {Part of an apple or the earth}; 68a suave {Socially polished}; 69a anil {Source of indigo dye}; 70a avow {Solemnly swear}; 71a tamer {Whip-cracker}; 72a rind {Outside of a watermelon}; 73a lass {Glasgow gal}.

1d coat {Ulster, for one}; 2d Arlo {Folkie who sang of Alice}; 3d lamp {Magic item of folklore}; 4d flask {Toper's back-pocket item}; 5d anyhoo {"Moving on then ..."}; 6d rivets {Construction fasteners}; 7d ocelots {Forest felines}; 8d Desi {Arnaz of "I Love Lucy"}; 9d bar tab {Toper's expense}; 10d emo {Weezer's music genre}; 11d gato {Cat in una casa}; 12d Izod {Shirt brand}; 13d nerd {Dweeby sort}; 21d type O {Like a universal donor's blood}; 22d stomp {Tread heavily}; 26d dipso {Toper, slangily}; 27d disks {PC storage units}; 28d on tap {Coming up}; 29d Cuomo {Andrew of New York politics}; 31d neo- {Prefix with con or classical}; 32d Leone {Sierra ___}; 33d laude {Honor, on a diploma}; 34d S star {Astronomical red giant}; 36d spats {Tiffs}; 40d Fredo {Corleone who broke Michael's heart}; 41d fum {"Fee fi fo ___"}; 43d thrum {Rhythmic humming sound}; 46d Rossini {"William Tell" composer}; 49d rapper {Ice-T or Ice Cube}; 50d violin {Isaac Stern's instrument}; 51d enfold {Wrap around}; 55d SoCal {L.A.'s area, for short}; 56d jest {"Surely you ___"}; 57d aqua {Light blue}; 58d Guam {Island "where America's day begins"}; 60d tsar {Pre-1917 autocrat}; 61d nova {Suddenly bright star}; 62d Eros {Amor's Greek counterpart}; 63d yews {Trees yielding archery bow wood}; 65d I've {"___ Got a Secret"}.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NYT Monday 11/29/10 Elizabeth A. Long - Bands Together

Queen Anne's laceThe theme of this New York Times crossword definitely befits the start of the solving week, and yet it seemed hard for a Monday. One problem was deciding {Something that is ultimately ruinous} would be king's ransom at 27-Across - I initially thought the theme involved the monarchy and/or court cards on the basis of Queen Anne's lace as the first thematic answer.

Then there seemed to be a string of improvised down entries that caught me off guard: hope so, new agenda and one coat, all clustered together. I find these sort of answers harder to get than regular dictionary ones. The clue for the first also suggested hoping to me - another source of confusion in the top section.

Eventually I corrected all these issues, but not without wasting a bit of time. I didn't realize how head band related to the theme answers until after the grid was completed. Interesting that three of the bands are British in origin, only KISS being American.

It's unusual for me to pick a fill-in-the-blank clue as a favorite, but it happened today: I rather enjoy seeing slang expressions like sho' 'nuff referenced, and like to spring them on Magdalen when she leasts expects it fo shizzle.
Solving time: 6 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 60d sho' {"___ 'nuff"}
Solution

Elizabeth A. Long
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Long answers start with a (rock) band, as indicated by 35a/37a head band {Hair accessory ... or a literal hint to 19-, 27-, 47- and 56-Across}.
19a Queen Anne's lace {Wildflower from which the cultivated carrot originated} cf Queen
27a kiss of death {Something that is ultimately ruinous} cf KISS
47a traffic cone {Orange item set out by a highway crew} cf Traffic
56a cream of the crop {Very best} cf Cream
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersElizabeth A. Long / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 37 (16.4%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.95)
Theme squares58 (30.9%)
Scrabble points319 (average 1.70)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



2d DeLuise {Comic actor Dom}. Here's an actor I've seen numerous times in films, and yet I had no idea of his name, which had to come completely from crossings. Dominick "Dom" DeLuise (1933–2009) was an American actor, comedian, film director, television producer, chef, and author. He was the husband of actress Carol Arthur from 1965 until his death, and the father of actor, writer, pianist, director Peter DeLuise, actor David DeLuise, and actor Michael DeLuise. He had starred in various Universal Animated Studios films, such as All Dogs Go to Heaven and An American Tail. DeLuise was probably best known as a regular in Mel Brooks' films. Above he channels Marlon Brando, portraying Don Giovanni in Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

The Doctor is IN

26a -ase {Enzyme suffix}. As in lactase, amylase, etc.

7d Spanish {"Cómo está usted?" language}. How do you do? = ¿Cómo esta usted? is in Español para los crucigramistas.

21d SPF {Letters on a Coppertone bottle}. SPF = sun protection factor.

39d FTD {Bouquets-to-order co.}. FTD = Florists' Transworld Delivery.

Image of the Day

Magic 8 Ball

40d oracles {Magic 8 Balls, e.g.}. We have a Magic 8-Ball, but I had no idea until today that it's a commonplace item in American homes ... common enough that the solver of a Monday crossword might be expected to know it.

The Magic 8-Ball is a toy used for fortune-telling or seeking advice, manufactured by Mattel. The device was invented in 1946 by Abe Bookman, who marketed and sold the device with Albert Carter of the Alabe Crafts Company (a company named for the first letters in Carter's and Bookman's first names). Carter came up with the concept of a fortune telling device but it was Bookman who invented and designed the Magic 8-Ball.

The Magic 8-Ball is a hollow plastic sphere resembling an oversized, black and white 8-ball. Inside is a cylindrical reservoir containing a white, plastic, icosahedral die floating in alcohol with dissolved dark blue dye. The die is hollow, with openings in each face, allowing the die to fill with fluid, giving the plastic die minimal buoyancy. Each of the 20 faces of the die has an affirmative, negative, or non-committal statement printed on it in raised letters. There is a transparent window on the bottom of the 8-ball through which these messages can be read.

To use the ball, it must be held with the window initially facing down. After "asking the ball" a yes-or-no question, the user then turns the ball so that the window faces up, setting in motion the liquid and die inside. When the die floats to the top and one of its faces is pressed against the window, the raised letters displace the blue liquid to reveal the message as white letters on a blue background. Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary (or recommended) to shake or jostle the ball before turning it, as doing so can create air bubbles that may visually distort the answer.

The 20 standard answers on a Magic 8-Ball are:
As I see it, yes
It is certain
It is decidedly so
Most likely
Outlook good
Signs point to yes
Without a doubt
Yes
Yes – definitely
You may rely on it
Reply hazy, try again
Ask again later
Better not tell you now
Cannot predict now
Concentrate and ask again
Don't count on it
My reply is no
My sources say no
Outlook not so good
Very doubtful
10 of the possible answers are affirmative (), 5 are negative (), and 5 are non-committal (). Using the Coupon collector's problem in probability theory, it can be shown that it takes, on average, 72 questions of the Magic 8-Ball for all 20 of its answers to appear at least once.

Other Clues

1a idle {"___ hands are the devil's tools"}; 5a bosh! {"Nonsense!"}; 9a Noah {Webster of Webster's dictionary}; 13a read {Do library study}; 14a expo {Convention center event, for short}; 15a genre {Romance or sci-fi}; 16a albs {Priestly robes}; 17a leap {___ year (period of 366 days)}; 18a ewers {Pitchers}; 22a Will I {"When ___ See You Again" (1974 #2 hit)}; 23a ISP {AOL or MSN: Abbr.}; 24a Goss {Former C.I.A. chief Porter ___}; 31a Reds {Cincinnati baseball team}; 33a d'oh! {Homer Simpson exclamation}; 34a antsy {Nervous}; 39a focal {___ point (very center)}; 42a soy {Kind of sauce}; 43a acct. {Bank no.}; 51a Hai {"Bali ___" ("South Pacific" song)}; 52a dart {It may hit a bull's-eye}; 53a sou {Nearly worthless amount}; 54a realm {Region}; 60a sleds {Toboggans}; 61a pfui! {"Drat!"}; 62a Agra {Taj Mahal city}; 63a herbs {11 ___ and spices (KFC secret ingredients)}; 64a Elbe {German river where American and Soviet forces met in 1945}; 65a rein {Bridle strap}; 66a O! say {"___ can you see ...?"}; 67a reed {Marsh plant}; 68a Drei {German three}.

1d Iraq war {It started in 2003 with the bombing of Baghdad}; 3d labeled {Tagged for identification}; 4d Edsel {1950s Ford flop}; 5d Bela {Lugosi of horror films}; 6d oxen {Plow team}; 8d hope so {[Keeping fingers crossed]}; 9d new agenda {Incoming administration's to-do list}; 10d one coat {Minimal paint job}; 11d arrests {Nabs}; 12d He's {"___ Just Not That Into You" (2009 film)}; 15d gel {Hair goop}; 20d -nik {Suffix with refuse}; 25d shy {"Once bitten, twice ___"}; 28d Ida. {Boise's home: Abbr.}; 29d sod {Lawn base}; 30d Dan {Aykroyd of the Blues Brothers}; 32d shafted by {Handed a raw deal from}; 36d elf {Santa helper}; 37d boo! {Hiss accompanier}; 38d Ayn {Literary Rand}; 41d Carrera {Classic Porsche model}; 42d scuffle {Fight that's less than a brawl}; 44d Charger {San Diego footballer}; 45d calorie {Some diet drinks have one}; 46d timpani {Kettledrums}; 48d ism {Doctrine}; 49d Cooper {Author James Fenimore}; 50d ere {Before, poetically}; 55d E-card {Modern greeting form}; 57d ass {Long-eared equine}; 58d tube {Toothpaste holder}; 59d hied {Hurried}; 60d sho {"___ 'nuff"}.

NPR Puzzle 11/28/10 - Say That One More Time?

Here's this week's puzzle:
Name the setting for an old television show that was also a series of popular movies. The answer consists of two words, with five letters in each word. The last three letters of the last word plus the first three letters of the first word, in that order, name a country. What country is it?
Okay, with Henry and Ross both here, this one was tedious but not impossible.  The hardest part for me was to get straight which three letters went where.  So I'll make it easier for all of you:

If Will wanted a state instead of a country, and the answer was KANSAS, then the setting would be SAS-- --KAN.  But while we were trawling through a list of countries, I couldn't keep it straight and made Henry split the countries' names into the right pattern.

Submit your answer to NPR here.  And PLEASE don't give too much away in the comments.  It's an easy puzzle, unless you don't see it, and it would be far too easy to hint.  Comment on the Thursday post.

Just as I did last week, I'm going to jumble up some photos representing the country and the TV show/movie.  (Solved the puzzle?  Want to argue with me about my photo selection?  Email me with your complaints -- Magdalen (at) CrosswordMan.com.  I got my reasons.)







Time for ...


P I C K   A   R A N G E

This is where we ask you how many entries you think NPR will get for the challenge above.  If you want to win, leave a comment with your guess for the range of entries NPR will receive.  First come first served, so read existing comments before you guess.  Ross and I guess last, just before we publish the Thursday post.  After the Thursday post is up, the entries are closed.

Did I not give enough thanks to Nameless NPR Intern on Thursday?  Clearly not because once again we have "around 2,000" as the answer. But our tie-break rule covers this situation.  Even though Mendo Jim commented before Jordan, Jordan hasn't won a prize (whereas Mendo Jim has won so many prizes, he is a prize -- and we treasure him!), so Jordan is our winner!

Send me your address, Jordan, and we'll get the prize out to you.  Magdalen (at) CrosswordMan.com.

[As always, troublemakers risk winning the American Girl puzzle book, so play nice.  :-)]

Here are the ranges:

Fewer than 100
100 - 200
200 - 300
300 - 400
400 - 500

500 - 600
600 - 700
700 - 800
800 - 900
900 - 1,000

1,000 - 1,100
1,100 - 1,200
1,200 - 1,300
1,300 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,500

1,500 - 1,600
1,600 - 1,700
1,700 - 1,800
1,800 - 1,900
1,900 - 2,000

2,000 - 2,100
2,100 - 2,200
2,200 - 2,300
2,300 - 2,400
2,400 - 2,500

2,500 - 3,000

3,000 - 3,500

3,500 - 4,000

4,000 - 4,500

4,500 - 5,000

More than 5,000

More than 5,000 and it sets a new record.

Our tie-break rule: 
In the event that a single round number is announced, AND two separate people picked the ranges leading up to and leading up from that round number, the prize will be awarded to whichever entrant had not already won a prize, or in the event that both entrants had won a prize already or neither had, then to the earlier of the two entries on the famous judicial principle of "First Come First Serve," (or in technical legal jargon, "You Snooze, You Lose")

Saturday, November 27, 2010

NYT Sunday 11/28/10 Jeremy Newton - All Spruced Up

This Sunday New York Times crossword seemed fairly tough even allowing for it being a supersized 23x23 grid, rather than the usual 21x21. With Henry aka Hub 1.0 here to help, I was hoping to finish in well under 30 minutes, but we spent a lot longer in the end.

We struggled to get a start in the NW, largely due to that elusive gets an A {Passes with flying colors} at 1-Across. The work in this area proved worthwhile, though, as we got the key 3-Down and 5-Down within five minutes of starting. It was another five minutes or so before we started scenting a rebus at work, when answers like 9d Del Monte {Canned foods giant} failed to fit.

Trafalgar SquareOnce we'd seen the pattern of ONs emerging, we realized they must relate to Christmas trees, although this was the first I'd heard of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. It is presumably as iconic as the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree, donated to the people of London by the city of Oslo each year since 1947 (it is also a Norway spruce, generally over 20 meters tall).

At one point we confidently predicted the ONs would always descend in knights' moves down the grid, but we had to revise that view when the tree started to splay out at the oblongs/ironist level. Further adjustments were needed to cope with the surprising (but delightful) Tony! Toni! Toné!, and the isolated "light" on the trunk at the none/Etons crossing.

The un-rebused ON in Conan at 110-Across bothered us towards completion - we thought he must be the answer, then hesitated to put him in because we had so much got into the habit of squeezing ONs into a single square. However, it has to be said that we'd happily dealt with several others of these earlier on without confusion.
Solving time: 42 mins (with Henry, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 104a nacho {What might go for a dip?}
Solution


Jeremy Newton
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

"A shining moment". The puzzle celebrates 148a The Tree Lighting Ceremony {Annual Manhattan event (represented symbolically in this puzzle)}, the following answers being relevant to the theme:
3d/5d the Wednesday after Thanksgiving {When 148-Across traditionally takes place}
15d Rockefeller Center {Where 148-Across takes place}
17d Norway spruce {Traditional centerpiece of 148-Across} 
The shape and lights of the tree are represented by rebus squares containing ON, affecting the following answers:
24a all on red {Roulette bet}
36a onion {Source of some rings}
50a one iron {"Butter knife" of golf}
64a on auction {Up for bidding}
79a on the button {Exactly right}
89a big on {Nuts about};
94a on-set {Kind of romance between actors}
108a emotional {Worked up};
112a I'm on to you! {"Don't try any more tricks!"}
119a oblongs {Stretched figures}
121a Tony! Toni! Toné! {R&B funk trio with the 1990 hit "Feels Good"}
124a ironist {One using twisted humor}
153a none {Zero}

 9d Del Monte {Canned foods giant}
10d Avon {Cosmetics giant}
11d her honor {Title for Judge Judy}
43d Fonda {Hardly a plain Jane}
44d long I {Capital of Iceland?}
58d ion storm {Magnetic disruption in space}
60d Ronettes {1960s girl group, with "the"}
72d monk {Man in the hood?}
75d Bono {One-named rock star}
85d con man {Fraudster}
87d mon ami {Frenchman's term of address}
92d canyon {Echo producer}
109d on a spree {Bingeing}
113d on simmer {Just below the boiling point}
120d on switch {Start for 148-Across?}
122d on the ice {Not benched, as in hockey}
123d on budget {Not overspending}
125d on a timer {Set to go off, say}
143d Etons {Wide-lapel jackets}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersJeremy Newton / Will Shortz
Grid23x23 with 93 (17.6%) black squares
Answers171 (average length 5.10)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points693 (average 1.59)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



121a Tony! Toni! Toné! {R&B funk trio with the 1990 hit "Feels Good"}. Tony! Toni! Toné! is an American new jack swing/R&B group from Oakland, California, popular during the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s. During the band's heyday, it was composed of D'wayne Wiggins on lead vocals and guitar, his brother Raphael Saadiq (born Charles Ray Wiggins) on lead vocals and bass, and their cousin Timothy Christian Riley on drums. Other members were Elijah Baker, Carl Wheeler, Randall Wiggins, and Amar Khalil, who is the current lead singer of the group, and Antron Haile.

The group's name is derived from Andy García's portrayal of an Italian American sharpshooter in The Untouchables. In high school, a friend of D'wayne joked that the teacher would call him "Tony, Tony, Tony" if they saw the way he was dressed. Originally, the band went by "Tony, Tony, Tony" as a joke, until they realized it had a nice ring to it.

Above is the number-one R&B single Feels Good.

The Doctor is IN

71a PMs {10 Downing St. figures}. PMs = Prime Ministers who reside at 10 Downing Street.

73a KOA {R.V. refuge org.}. KOA = Kampgrounds of America, a franchise chain of North American campgrounds.

115a Na-Nu {When repeated, an old sitcom farewell}. Mork's greeting on Mork and Mindy is "Na-Nu Na-Nu" (pronounced "nah-noo nah-noo").

152a loc. {Footnote abbr.}. As in loc. cit. (short for loco citato, meaning "in the place cited").

155a Seger {Leader of the Silver Bullet Band}. I.e. Bob Seger.

8d isla {La Palma, e.g.}. island = isla is in Español para los crucigramistas.

16d is a {"Yes, Virginia, there ___ Santa Claus"}. See Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

63d EAP {Literary inits.}. EAP = Edgar Allan Poe.

Image of the Day

gecko licking its eye clean

84a geckos {Creatures known to lick their own eyeballs}. Geckos are small to average sized lizards belonging to the family Gekkonidae, found in warm climates throughout the world. Geckos are unique among lizards in their vocalizations, making chirping sounds in social interactions with other geckos. Gekkonidae is the largest family of lizards, with an estimated 2,000 different species worldwide and many others likely yet to be discovered. The name stems from the Indonesian/Javanese word Tokek, inspired by the sound these animals make.

All geckos, excluding the Eublepharinae family, have no eyelids and instead have a transparent membrane which they lick to clean. Many species will, in defense, expel a foul-smelling material and feces onto their aggressors. There are also many species that will drop their tails in defense, a process called autotomy. Many species are well known for their specialized toe pads that enable them to climb smooth and vertical surfaces, and even cross indoor ceilings with ease (it is believed that the van der Waals force may contribute to this capability). These antics are well-known to people who live in warm regions of the world, where several species of geckos make their home inside human habitations. These species (for example the House Gecko) become part of the indoor menagerie and are often welcome guests, as they feed on insects, including mosquitoes.

The largest species, the Kawekaweau, is only known from a single, stuffed specimen found in the basement of a museum in Marseille, France and one documented sighting in the wild in 1870. This gecko was 60 cm (24 in) long and it was endemic to New Zealand where it lived in native forests. It was probably wiped out along with much of the native fauna of these islands in the late 19th century, when new invasive species such as rats and stoats were introduced to the country during European colonization. The smallest gecko, the Jaragua Sphaero, is a mere 16 mm long and was discovered in 2001 on a small island off the coast of the Dominican Republic.

Other Clues

1a gets an A {Passes with flying colors}; 8a Idaho {Home of Hells Gate State Park}; 13a strings {A lot of an orchestra}; 20a ache for {Really, really want}; 21a sever {Break off}; 22a too soon? {"Are we not joking about that yet?"}; 23a bleated {Sounded sheepish?}; 26a in cargo {How pets may fly}; 27a saw {Came to realize}; 28a Eno {Avant-garde composer Brian}; 29a lam {Quick flight}; 30a hoe {Something groundbreaking?}; 31a Rik {N.B.A.'er Smits, a k a the Dunkin' Dutchman}; 32a wow {Amaze}; 33a tear-drop {Shed thing}; 38a visceral {Felt in the gut}; 41a Dr. T {Richard Gere title role of 2000}; 42a soft color {Peach, e.g.}; 45a Fey {Onetime "S.N.L." regular Tina}; 46a Sun Chips {Snack food with a Harvest Cheddar flavor}; 51a assess as {Deem}; 56a NNE {Austin-to-Waco dir.}; 57a afraid {Frozen, perhaps}; 59a Gretel {Escapee from a witch in a Grimm tale}; 61a PGA {Swingers' grp.}; 62a absence {It may be put down on a roll}; 68a allergy {Strong aversion, colloquially}; 70a Kodak {Kind of moment}; 74a ebb {Reflux}; 76a étuis {Places for needles}; 77a elapse {Go by}; 82a Graces {Mythological triad}; 83a sty {Porker's place}; 86a atomic {Itty-bitty}; 88a eso {"Cómo es ___?" (Spanish "Why?")}; 90a ribcage {It guards the heart}; 96a Rajiv {One of the Gandhis}; 99a MGM {___ Grand}; 101a Las {Vegas opening?}; 102a Sha {___ Na Na}; 104a nacho {What might go for a dip?}; 110a Conan {Big name in late-night}; 114a Mel {Brooks or Blanc}; 116a yay me! {Cry of self-pride}; 117a rise {Beginning}; 118a nus {Preceders of xis}; 126a pays {Is worth doing}; 127a pesto {Trattoria topper}; 129a I-beam {Letter-shaped support}; 131a aces {Provides service that can't be beat?}; 132a ward {Stave (off)}; 134a hue {Part of a sunbow}; 136a Tzu {Shih ___ (dog)}; 137a smut {Blue stuff}; 139a strifes {Bitter quarrels}; 142a entered {Input}; 144a Let It Be {Beatles' last studio album}; 151a AAMCO {Transmission repair franchise}; 154a Eve {Christmas ___}; 156a Gish {Lillian of silents}; 157a sue {Seek damages}; 158a OSS {Org. that infiltrated Nazi Germany}; 159a tsp. {Rx amount: Abbr.}; 160a rage {In thing}.

1d gabs {Doesn't shut up}; 2d éclat {Razzle-dazzle}; 4d sea {Pirate's realm}; 6d no end {Ceaselessly}; 7d ardor {Intense heat}; 12d Oreo {Cookie with creme}; 13d stirs {Wakens}; 14d tonic {Picker-upper}; 18d Gogol {"Diary of a Madman" author}; 19d snow {December fall}; 24d Alpo {Dinner in a can}; 25d Devo {"Whip It" band}; 34d arc {Discus path}; 35d Ossa {Mount in myth}; 37d ici {Here, in Dijon}; 39d Irae {"Deus ___" (1976 sci-fi novel)}; 40d res {Low-___}; 46d snakes {Winds}; 47d unbolt {Detach, in a way}; 48d IFC {Movie co. behind "Wordplay" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"}; 49d prep {Ready}; 52d stab {Blind guess}; 53d sel {French seasoning}; 54d Aggies {Texas A&M athletes}; 55d says so {Asserts something}; 65d uke {It's picked in Maui}; 66d cob {Part of an ear}; 67d tau {Torque's symbol}; 69d ETA {Gate projection, for short}; 78d EEG {Stream of consciousness, for short?}; 80d Hsi {Chu ___ (legendary Confucian sage)}; 81d tag {What it must do}; 82d GIs {PX patrons}; 89d bit {Shtick}; 91d bloat {Swell}; 93d as am I {"Right there with you"}; 95d Tao {Chinese "way"}; 96d remop {Clean again, as a floor}; 97d ameba {Tiny creature}; 98d jolly {Like St. Nick}; 100d gluts {Overfills}; 103d hiree {Firm newbie}; 105d cynic {Sarcastic sort}; 106d house {Take in, as guests}; 107d ousts {Sends packing}; 110d Cy Young {Award named for a Hall-of-Fame pitcher}; 111d netizen {Blogger, e.g.}; 128d Edsels {Flops in lots}; 130d asleep {Out}; 133d afro {Extra-large top?}; 135d ethno- {Start for -centric}; 136d tries {Essays}; 138d Utes {Western tribe}; 139d stag {Kind of party}; 140d Thai {Cuisine with pad see ew noodles}; 141d REMs {Signs of dreaming}; 145d toga {It was wrapped around the Forum}; 146d B Neg {Rare blood type, for short}; 147d Eyre {Jane at Thornfield}; 149d Lou {Funny Costello}; 150d CVS {Walgreens rival}.

Friday, November 26, 2010

NYT Saturday 11/27/10 Xan Vongsathorn - The Saturday Face-Off

I was quite surprised to finish this Saturday New York Times crossword in the same time as yesterday's as it seemed like the clock was running down in several places with little progress made. I guess it helped that I knew many of the longer answers that formed the backbone of the grid - once determined, the extra letters these give propel you forward into solving a hitherto blank area.

we've got a bone to pick with youThere was a nice gimme at 22d sept {Deux into quatorze} and I built from it immediately with etch and Eton at 23-Down and 26-Across. From there I headed north into the corner, not falling for bridge very long at 17-Across and remembering arf! arf! (1-Across) as the flavor of the month from the puzzle on November 15. The NW corner was done within the first 6 minutes.

From there I worked down into the SW corner and also made excellent progress in the SE, but without being able to connect them up. Although I could see 7-Down would end blink I couldn't figure out what would lead up to it until the NE corner was done with 13 minutes on the clock.

That just left the area around bobblehead (49-Across) to do and once that longish answer was in place the remaining difficulties seemed to fall away. Apropos of bears (see 31-Down), I saw my first black bear up close on Thursday evening, driving back from a Thanksgiving party. From what the locals say, they are very common in our neighborhood, but it's taken nearly four years as a resident for me to spot one within a few yards (from the safety of the car thankfully).
Solving time: 16 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 31a sez {Casual remarks?}
Solution

Xan Vongsathorn
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersXan Vongsathorn / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 30 (13.3%) black squares
Answers72 (average length 5.42)
Theme squares0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points323 (average 1.66)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



42d Navaho {Adjective-less language}. Navajo or Navaho (native name: Diné bizaad) is an Athabaskan language (of Na-Dené stock) spoken in the southwest United States by the Navajo people (Diné). It is geographically and linguistically one of the Southern Athabaskan languages (the majority of Athabaskan languages are spoken in northwest Canada and Alaska).

Navajo has more speakers than any other Native American language north of the U.S.-Mexico border, with more than 168,438 self-reported speakers in 2005, and this number has increased with time. During World War II, the language was used as a code in the Pacific War by bilingual Navajo code talkers to send secure military messages over radio. This had the advantage of being an extremely fast method of encrypted communication; the code was never broken by the Japanese.

Typologically, Navajo is an agglutinating, polysynthetic head-marking language, but many of its affixes combine into contractions more like fusional languages. The canonical word order of Navajo is SOV. Athabaskan words are modified primarily by prefixes, which is unusual for an SOV language (suffixes are expected).

Navajo is a "verb-heavy" language — it has a great preponderance of verbs but relatively few nouns. In addition to verbs and nouns, Navajo has other elements such as pronouns, clitics of various functions, demonstratives, numerals, postpositions, adverbs, and conjunctions, among others. Harry Hoijer grouped all of the above into a word-class which he called particles (i.e., Navajo would then have verbs, nouns, and particles). There is nothing that corresponds to what are called adjectives in English: verbs provide the adjectival functionality.

The Doctor is IN

29a pct. {Poll fig.}. pct. = percent.

31a sez {Casual remarks?}. sez is a slang form of "says".

39a teed {Ticked}. As in "I'm really teed/ticked off".

2d rec. {Ping-Pong or dancing, for short}. rec. = recreation.

4d A Train {"Quickest way to Harlem," in song}. Reference to the Billy Strayhorn jazz standard Take the "A" Train.

30d Pitt {British leader in the Seven Years' War}. I.e. William Pitt, the Elder.

36d Elia {"Old China" essayist}. Old China is in Last Essays of Elia.

37d retd. {Like many offs.}. retd. = retired, offs. = officers.

55d are {Is for you?}. "Is" becomes are when associated with "you", as in "you are ...".

Image of the Day

Ozzie Smith

47a bobblehead {Bouncer in a sports stadium?}. A bobblehead doll, also known as a bobbing head doll, nodder, or wobbler, is a type of collectible doll. Its head is often oversized compared to its body. Instead of a solid connection, its head is connected to the body by a spring in such a way that a light tap will cause the head to bobble, hence the name.

Although bobblehead dolls have been made with a wide variety of figures such as vampiric cereal pitchman Count Chocula, beat generation author Jack Kerouac, and Nobel-prize-winning geneticist James D. Watson, the figure is most associated with athletes, especially baseball players. Bobblehead dolls are sometimes given out to ticket buyers at sporting events as a promotion. Corporations including Taco Bell (the 'Yo Quiero Taco Bell' Chihuahua) , McDonald's (Ronald McDonald), and Empire Today (The Empire Man) have also produced popular bobbleheads of the characters used in their advertisements.

Other Clues

1a arf! arf! {Reaction from one who has a bone to pick?}; 7a fast draw {Duel action}; 15a welter {Confusion}; 16a idle rich {Working class's antithesis}; 17a Écarté {Game with tricks}; 18a roulette {Literally, "small wheel"}; 19a tare {Word on a scale}; 20a snee {Old dirk}; 21a Zoe {Tony winner Caldwell}; 22a senioritis {High-class affliction?}; 25a Benz {Patent-Motorwagen inventor}; 26a Eton {Historic institution near Slough}; 27a ados {Buzzes}; 28a go see! {"Check it out!"}; 30a Pnin {Nabokov novel}; 32a The Biggest Loser {Show in which many pots disappear?}; 38a ate {Took back, as words}; 40a ale {Moose Drool or Trout Slayer}; 41a end it {Send a Dear John letter}; 44a sore {Like some eyes}; 45a slit {Turtle's eye, often}; 46a jail {See 33-Down}; 49a Eva {Bond girl player Green}; 50a Aral {District in southern Kazakhstan}; 51a Jeri {Ryan of "Star Trek: Voyager"}; 52a calamari {Mediterranean appetizer}; 54a Anitas {Novelist Diamant and others}; 57a The Raven {It uses 20 different end rhymes for "ore"}; 58a winery {Aging establishment}; 59a soda jerk {Float maker}; 60a seemed {Felt}.

1d awe {Something to be struck with}; 3d flat note {Harmony spoiler}; 5d retro {Back in}; 6d free-range {Like some chickens}; 7d first one to blink {Defeated contestant in a face-off}; 8d Adonis {Male doll}; 9d slues {Turns sharply}; 10d tele- {TV segment}; 11d Dré {N.F.L. cornerback ___ Bly}; 12d Ritzes {Alternatives to Triscuits}; 13d Act One {Show opener}; 14d wheeze {Allergy symptom}; 22d sept {Deux into quatorze}; 23d etch {Do some impressive work?}; 24d I dig {"Gotcha"}; 25d bozo {Chowderhead}; 28d geld {Deprive of vitality}; 31d steel jaws {Features of some bear traps}; 33d bail {Cost to get out of 46-Across}; 34d Serb {Dinar earner}; 35d sale item {Something intended to move fast}; 41d ejects {Red-cards, say}; 43d dialed {Got on the horn}; 44d soarer {Kite, often}; 45d shrine {Iconic building?}; 47d brave {Unlike chickens}; 48d eenie {Kids' rhyme starter}; 50d A maj. {Setting of Mozart's only clarinet concerto: Abbr.}; 53d Ara {Neighbor of Scorpius}; 56d Syd {Folk rock singer Straw}.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

NYT Friday 11/26/10 Gary Steinmehl - Z Movies

I think allowances may have been made for post-Thanksgiving torpor in the scheduling of this Friday New York Times crossword. 16 minutes may be the fastest time I've logged for a themeless puzzle (or close to it). I assume we'll get back to normal with a stinker for the Saturday puzzle.

But was this crossword really a themeless? It meets the requirements by having just 70 clues/answers, but the long entries make a set, and I've considered the puzzle as themeful for that reason. I certainly got a big advantage from observing the thematic pattern and being familiar with at least two of the titles: if I've not come across The Mark of Zorro exactly, it's a title one can easily infer.

telephone dialer?For once I solved a themeless in pretty-much top to bottom order, getting Ice Station Zebra after 3 minutes, the useful index finger (17-Down) at 5 minutes, and Mark of Zorro at 9 minutes. Finally Prisoner of Zenda was reached with 11 minutes on the clock.

That just left some mopping up to do in the harder corners of the grid - particularly the top right and bottom right as far as I recall. I didn't help myself in the latter area by having tersest for 53-Across, making it a lot harder to recognize the six-letter downs.
Solving time: 16 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 15d pools {Crawl spaces?}
Solution

Gary Steinmehl
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]

Theme

Long answers are all movies where the last word starts with a Z.
16a Ice Station Zebra {1968 Rock Hudson action film}
30a Mark of Zorro {1940 Tyrone Power adventure film, with "The"}
46a Prisoner of Zenda {1937 Ronald Colman adventure film, with "The"}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersGary Steinmehl / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 32 (14.2%) black squares
Answers70 (average length 5.51)
Theme squares41 (21.2%)
Scrabble points330 (average 1.71)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Video of the Day



27a Bette {"___ of Roses" (1995 adult contemporary album)}. Bette of Roses is the eighth studio album by American singer Bette Midler, released on Atlantic Records in 1995. It became Midler's final album for the label, twenty-three years after the release of her debut and breakthrough The Divine Miss M. The title Bette of Roses is a play on one of the tracks included; "Bed of Roses". Above is the final track I Believe In You.

The Doctor is IN

20a RNs {H.M.O. personnel}. RN = Registered Nurse, H.M.O. = health maintenance organization.

25a sec {Heartbeat}. As in "in a sec/heartbeat".

28a BoSox {Green Monster's squad}. The left field wall at Fenway Park is nicknamed the Green Monster.

29a boater {One on board an outboard}. outboard n. a boat with an outboard motor [MWCD11].

35a R. E. Lee {1935 Pulitzer-winning biography}. Reference to Douglas S. Freeman's four volume biography R. E. Lee, A Biography.

45a Cline {"She's Got You" singer, 1962}. I.e. Patsy Cline (1932–1963).

8d penny {Wise leader?}. As in "penny wise (and pound foolish)".

15d pools {Crawl spaces?}. Crawl in the swimming sense ... definitely one for Pavlov's Guide to Crosswords.

38d Handel {"Ezio" composer}. Ezio is an opera by George Frideric Handel.

41d niños {Young hijos}. son/daughter = hijo/hija had better go into Español para los crucigramistas now.

Image of the Day

point shoes

37d pointe {___ shoes (ballet wear)}. A pointe shoe is a type of shoe worn by ballet dancers when performing pointework. Pointe shoes developed from the desire for dancers to appear weightless and sylph-like and have evolved to enable dancers to dance on the tips of their toes (i.e., en pointe) for extended periods of time. They are normally worn by female dancers, though male dancers may wear them for unorthodox roles such as the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella, Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, or men performing as women in dance companies such as Les Ballets Trockadero and Grandiva. They are manufactured in a variety of colors, most commonly in shades of light pink.

Other Clues

1a writhed {Showed great discomfort}; 8a poults {Turkey tots?}; 14a Harvard {Lamont Library locale}; 15a per diem {Like some expense reimbursements}; 18a sines {They can make waves}; 19a no-no {It's out of bounds}; 21a knit {Grow together}; 22a madly {One way to be in love}; 24a Leah {"Dressing Rich" author Feldon}; 26a tubes {Sights in an intensive care unit}; 32a gritty {Strongly realistic}; 34a Iowan {Dweller along the Skunk River}; 36a annex {Take over}; 37a Ph.D. {Many a prof}; 40a Isis {"Aida" chorus subject}; 41a Niger {Where Hausa and Djerma are spoken}; 42a boar {Adonis' undoing}; 43a pet {Sitter's charge, maybe}; 44a dike {Big bank investment?}; 50a evasion {Political tactic}; 51a coaster {Thing under a tumbler}; 52a resets {Transplants}; 53a tersely {Without any gas?}.

1d whisks {Egg beaters}; 2d Racine {County south of Milwaukee}; 3d irenic {Peaceful}; 4d TV set {Show case?}; 5d hats {They have crowns}; 6d era {Big time}; 7d DDT {It's been banned in the U.S. since 1972}; 9d orzo {Italian side dish}; 10d Ude {Ulan-___, Russia}; 11d libretto {Book}; 12d ternate {Like a clover leaf}; 13d smasher {Atom ___}; 17d index finger {Telephone dialer?}; 22d musky {Like some perfume}; 23d Aboo {"Bug ___" (1999 Destiny's Child hit)}; 24d learn {Wise up}; 26d torte {Calorie-rich dessert}; 27d borax {Ingredient in artificial gems}; 28d Bates {Katharine Lee ___, writer of "America the Beautiful"}; 29d bower {Garden shelter}; 30d militias {Revolutionary War groups}; 31d zone {Neighborhood}; 32d gripper {Vise}; 33d reserve {What things may be held in}; 36d Aiken {Conrad who wrote "Ushant," 1952}; 39d dreary {Gray}; 42d bless {Smile upon}; 44d do it! {Darer's cry}; 45d czar {Powerful person}; 47d SSE {Tampa-to-Ft. Myers dir.}; 48d Oct. {Time of much raking: Abbr.}; 49d foe {One to counter}.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NYT Thursday 11/25/10 Bill Thompson - Scrabbly One

A very happy Thanksgiving to you all. I confidently predicted to Hub 1.0, who is staying with us for the vacation, that this Thursday New York Times crossword would have a holiday theme. Not so, and neither does it really have the quirkiness we've come to expect at this time of the week.

I'd threw in across answers here and there all the way to 65-Across without solving any of the theme ones; so having seen that last across clue, the question was whether these were the one-tile letters or not - I certainly suspected that, as I doubted there were numbers of tiles greater than one that would have five-plus letters associated. And the obscure letters would certainly make for an interesting theme.

Angelina BallerinaSo I was primed to solve 24-Down as Avenue Q when I got to it. That helped determine the other long answers, though I casually started with Generation X at 36-Across. Correcting that to Generation Z helped a lot with the awkward top right corner, where I had ethane rather than ethyne at 16-Across and torn at rather than tore at at 18-Across.

I also had a little trouble at the crossing of Angelina and Taxco (14-Across and 7-Down), E being potentially viable for the intersection, to my mind. This area did for Hub 1.0, who also didn't know of Loretta Swit. Perhaps we're ignorant for not knowing of Taxco, but we did wonder why Angelina was clued etymologically - leaving the ending ambiguous - when a reference to Angelina Jolie, Angelina Ballerina, or the like, would have been so much more helpful.
Solving time: 11 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 30a vee {Tee follower}
Solution

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

Theme

Theme answers end with low-frequency letters in the English language: J, K, Q, X Z. This being indicated by 65a one {Number of tiles per Scrabble set for the letter at the end of the answer to each starred clue}.
 17a Malcolm X {*Omaha-born human rights activist}
 36a Generation Z {*Today's kids, demographically speaking}
 59a Special K {*Brand with the challenge to lose one inch from your waist in two weeks}
 24d Avenue Q {*"What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?" musical}
 27d L. L. Cool J. {*Performer born James Todd Smith}
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersBill Thompson / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 34 (15.1%) black squares
Answers74 (average length 5.16)
Theme squares42 (22.0%)
Scrabble points309 (average 1.62)
Letters usedABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
FeaturePangrammatic
Video of the Day



15d ECTO {___-1 ("Ghostbusters" vehicle)}. Ghostbusters, titled on-screen as GhostBusters, is a 1984 American comedy film written by co-stars Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis about three eccentric New York City parapsychologists-turned-ghost exterminators. The film was released in the United States on June 8, 1984 and like several films of the era, teamed Aykroyd and/or Ramis with Bill Murray. It was produced and directed by Ivan Reitman, who also directed Stripes, and stars Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, and Ernie Hudson. The film made US$291,632,124 in the United States alone, the equivalent of $538,260,000 in 2010 prices, ranking the film as the 32nd biggest grossing in U.S. box office history after adjustment for inflation. In the movie, the Ghostbusters travel in an "Ectomobile" with the vanity plate ECTO-1 (see trailer above) - a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor limo-style endloader combination car (ambulance conversion).

The Doctor is IN

1a Dio {The Divine, in 23-Across}. Dio is "God" in Italian.

4a Swit {"M*A*S*H" co-star}. I.e. Loretta Swit, who portrays Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan on M*A*S*H.

22a Ozma {Baum princess}. See Princess Ozma.

30a vee {Tee follower}. As in teevee.

43a SSR {Est., e.g., once}. Reference to Estonia, once a Soviet Socialist Republic.

46a mls. {Approximately 946 of these make a qt.}. Milliliters and quarts.

51a Espo {Hockey's Phil, to fans}. I.e. Phil Esposito.

64a Epps {Hayes portrayer in "The Mod Squad," 1999}. I.e. Omar Epps.

3d ogling {Viewing with elevator eyes}. "elevator eyes" look you up and down.

4d Slo {___-pitch}. Slo-pitch is a type of softball.

37d rosas {Latin lover's bouquet, maybe}. Not Italian this time, as their plural of rosa is rose; so probably the Spanish for "roses" is intended, though the Latin (language) accusative plural is also rosās. See rosa.

Image of the Day

KerPlunk

34a Ker- {Plunk preceder}. Kerplunk is an onomatopoeic word for a thudding sound, but I definitely got the answer from KerPlunk the game ... a great favorite in my childhood.

KerPlunk was first marketed by the Ideal Toy Company in 1967. It consists of a plastic tube, a number of plastic rods called straws and a number of marbles. The plastic tube stands upright on a base that contains four separate trays and the straws are passed through holes in the side of the tube to form a "web". The marbles are then placed in the top of the tube and held in place by the web.

At the start of play, the entire tube is rotated so that a hole in the base of the tube is aligned with the active player's tray. Players take turns removing a single straw from the cylinder while trying to minimize the number of marbles that fall through the tube and into their tray. Once a player has committed himself to a particular straw by touching it, they must remove it. The player who accumulates the fewest dropped marbles wins.
The onomatopoeic name of the game derives from the sound of the marbles tumbling to the base of the cylinder when a straw is removed.

The game is still available today, manufactured and marketed by the Milton Bradley Company in the UK and by Mattel in the USA, although the modern version uses a pink tube rather than the original purple-colored tube. There are also other versions of it, such as a Toy Story-inspired version that uses a tube shaped like a rocket ship and Little Green Men figures instead of marbles. In addition, the KerPlunk Game to Go features a collapsible tube, making it more portable than the standard version. Another game has also been released known as KerPlunk 2. The rules are the same, except the marbles that come with the game are colored and, after falling, move around a spiral pathway similar to that of a Gumball machine. It also has flashing lights and an assortment of sounds.

Other Clues

8a go to it {Get started}; 14a Angelina {Woman's name that means "messenger of God"}; 16a ethyne {Simple hydrocarbon}; 18a tore at {Mauled}; 19a a nit {Pick ___ (quibble)}; 20a lacs {Supérieur et Érié}; 23a Genoa {Ligurian capital}; 25a tonal {Having harmony}; 28a -oon {Suffix with ball}; 29a erg {Physics unit}; 32a Only You {1955 Platters hit}; 35a succeeds {Follows}; 38a Ferguson {Plessy v. ___ (landmark Supreme Court decision)}; 40a Eos {Gate opener for Apollo}; 41a tea-sets {Afternoon services}; 42a SNL {Drew Barrymore hosted this show at age 7: Abbr.}; 47a quail {Bouquet : pheasants :: covey : ___}; 49a Jetta {Volkswagen model}; 53a stir {Hubbub}; 55a L. Ron {"Dianetics" author ___ Hubbard}; 56a akimbo {How some gym instructors stand}; 61a dinner {Many a campaign fund-raiser}; 62a muscatel {Sweet wine}; 63a engine {It goes in front of a coal tender}.

1d damage {Split or crack}; 2d inaner {More asinine}; 5d will {It may be good or free}; 6d inmate {Con}; 7d Taxco {Mexican silver center}; 8d get {Trick}; 9d Oto {Chiwere-speaking tribe}; 10d thro {"And ___ the field the road runs by": Tennyson}; 11d oyez! oyez! {Courtroom cry}; 12d in a mood {Feeling gloomy, say}; 13d tetanus {Lockjaw}; 21d snout {Part of a pig}; 26d ancien {___ régime}; 31d Eres Tu {Mocedades hit subtitled "Touch the Wind"}; 33d yens {Urges}; 34d kegs {Gunpowder holders}; 35d san {Japanese surname follower}; 36d grasping {Comprehending}; 38d Ft. Meade {Where the N.S.A. is headquartered}; 39d eelskin {Some wallet material}; 42d slip-up {Blunder}; 43d strato- {Prefix with cumulus}; 44d stolen {Like some kisses}; 45d rankle {Irk}; 48d It's Me {"Hello ___" (Todd Rundgren hit)}; 50d Elia {Director Kazan}; 52d Omni {Bygone science/sci-fi magazine}; 54d resp. {Sued party in a legal case: Abbr.}; 57d Ben {Michael Jackson's first #1 solo hit}; 58d Ore. {Calif. neighbor}; 60d ccs. {Hosp. units}.

NPR Puzzle 11/21/10 -- No, I Didn't Know Maseru is the Capital of Lesotho

Here's this week's puzzle:
What two world capitals can be found by rearranging the letters in the phrase "serial number."
I looked at those letters, saw BERLIN and anagramed the rest using TEA.  No joy -- but only because I'm ignorant and had no idea that MASERU is the capital of Lesotho.  So, yes, one needs a list of world capitals to play this game.

My challenge with the photos was to find photos from Berlin (a northern hemisphere modern Western city) and Maseru, a southern hemisphere African city) that didn't immediately give the game away.

BERLIN:

MASERU:

BERLIN:

MASERU:

MASERU:

BERLIN:

BERLIN:

MASERU:

For Mendo Jim -- the only brave soul willing to take a chance on clumping the photos -- the right answer was Berlin: 1, 3, 6, 7 and Maseru: 2, 4, 5, 8.

Time for ...

P I C K   A   R A N G E

Here are this week's picks for the ranges:

Fewer than 100
100 - 200
200 - 300
300 - 400
400 - 500

500 - 600
600 - 700
700 - 800
800 - 900
900 - 1,000

1,000 - 1,100 -- Henry
1,100 - 1,200
1,200 - 1,300
1,300 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,500 -- Ross

1,500 - 1,600 -- Magdalen
1,600 - 1,700
1,700 - 1,800
1,800 - 1,900
1,900 - 2,000 -- Jordan

2,000 - 2,100 -- Mendo Jim
2,100 - 2,200
2,200 - 2,300
2,300 - 2,400
2,400 - 2,500 -- Marie

2,500 - 3,000 -- David

3,000 - 3,500 -- DAPF

3,500 - 4,000 -- Jimel

4,000 - 4,500 -- Tom

4,500 - 5,000

More than 5,000

More than 5,000 and it sets a new record