Sunday, July 20, 2014

Where's Wado?

This week the Premier Crossword by Frank Longo is titled "Where in the Word?" which, it turns out, reveals a devious theme whereby Frank provides us with a single word as the clue and leaves it up to us to figure out where that word fits in the context of a longer phrase. The correct answers are familar enough to be recognizable on their own merits, plus they give us instructions as to where the clued word fits in, like this:


See how it works? The clue word (highlighted in red) fits into its host word as indicated by the whole phrase, so PORT is the HUB (i.e., center) of the word TRANSPORTATION, and so on. I love how that particular answer is also at the HUB of the grid. A couple of the answers are less specific in that they don't specify exactly where the word fits in, just that they are a part, or piece, of the larger word. Not all of the answers roll off the tongue as instantly recognizable phrases (LACQUERED FINISH in particular seems to need a specific context to come up in a conversation) but they are all real things, so fair enough.

The rest of the fill was fairly straight-forward and didn't put up too much resistance, hence my relatively neat completed grid with only one write-over where I impulsively entered ODE to where ODE ON ("___ a Grecian Urn" -6d) was clearly needed. Otherwise it was smooth sailing although, as usual, a few of the proper names needed all of the crosswords to appear (TERI (88d - Actress Hatcher) and RAE (11a - Actress Charlotte), I'm looking at you. The OBAMAS (81a - Malia and Sasha) went right in and it's nice to see them, I think, and they were a big help with the one problematic cross where BASEL (82d - Swiss city on the Rhine) ran through ADALE (89a - Allen-___ ("Robin Hood" narrator) ). Hmm, I just noticed that ROBIN also appears in the grid (17d - Redbreast), so there's a coincidence that probably doesn't mean anything.

Let's see, what else:

- Double Os abound in the twin crossings of DROOL (86d - What hungry wolves do) (that clue had me scratching my head for a while) and HOOF (87d - Ungulate feature) (another head-scratcher for me) with WOOLS (96a - Fuzzy fabrics). It's kind of fun to look at (but I'm easily amused).
- I know that "Interring individuals" are literally BURIERS (58d) but OH MAN (71d - "Holy Cow!") that's an ugly clue and answer pair. Some dog and bone reference would have been less gruesome than a grave-digger reference (not that there's anything wrong with grave-diggers, I would just rather not wee them in the puzzle).
- Do Freshmen still wear BEANIES (72a - Frosh's cap)  - that seems like a quaint custom from EONS AGO (45d - A long time in the past)?
- I just saw the clue "Suffix with zillion" (AIRE - 68d) in another puzzle yesterday - have we moved on from the days of millionaires and billionaires to zillionaires already? The concentration of wealth is happening faster than I realized.
- SNOOT (37d - Stuck-up type) is a word I don't hear very often yet it was in another recent puzzle (I do a lot of puzzles) clued something like "Stuff-shirt".
- One more "bleed-over" from a recent NYT puzzle with ESAU (73d - Favorite son of Isaac) making an earlier appearance as "Biblical venison preparer". I did not know either of those factoids about him, but then I'm not a student of the Bible.
- I'm always surprised when a clue like ""Daniel" singer John" ends up being his first name ELTON (29d) - I shouldn't be, but I am.
- Anyone who's not familiar with American slang is going to be puzzled by 126a "Peddled" yielding HAWKED as an answer - they're both terms meaning "sold" or "marketed" but how would you know that?
- "...bug OR A feature?" (109a) still doesn't make a lot of sense to me - is that part of a phrase that I'm supposed to know? Now "...could EAT A horse!" (35d), that's a phrase I know.
- Not to tell Frank Longo how to do his job, but for the clue to 90a ("I'M A (Little Teapot!)") I would have gone this route:

- See you next week. BE NICE TO (7a - Treat kindly) people and they'll be nice to you.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Farmers' Market

This week Frank Longo serves up a tasty salad with a Premier Crossword titled "Mixed Vegetables". If you think the title implies that the long theme answers contain the names of various veggies with the letters all mixed up, you would be right. But wait, there's more! Just to be sure we see the full array of produce in the market basket Frank puts each vegetable in the grid with clues cross-referenced to the theme answers - that's considerate, I think. That means that the grid contains seven theme answers plus an additional six (he doubled up on one) answers related to the theme - that's what I call theme density! Here's the whole enchilada:
23a - TERRACOTTA POT (Many an earthen plant holder) (57a - CARROT)
31a - OUTLET CENTER (Mall with wholesale goods) (108a - LETTUCE)
45a - GROCERY CLERK (Food store worker) (83a - CELERY)
72a - CRASH DIET (Rapid weight-loss option) (49a - RADISH)
84a - METEOR CRATER (Impact depression near Flagstaff) (57a - CARROT)
97a - STRIKE A CHORD (Affect one's emotions) (58a - ARTICHOKE)
110a-FLIPS CHANNELS (Surfs while watching TV) (25a - SPINACH)

If I were inclined to be a picky eater I might complain about there being two servings of carrots instead of a seventh different veggie such as a tomato (yes, I know that is a fruit but I still like it in my salad) to put into my bowl. Frank actually hid a couple of additional choices in the grid with a PEA (27a - Bit in a stew) and (49d - Broccoli) RAAB, which  according to Wiki is also know as Rapini. If we add these additional ingredients we have enough vegetables to make V-8, so get out the blender! That sounds like an excellent blend for a REDUCER (85d - One losing weight). Wait, I just noticed yet another theme item hidden in the grid, the EARS at 88a (Corn units) - the cornucopia truly overflows with farmers' market goodness! With different cluing we could have had a DATE (51d - Calendar info) to munch on, too. OK, this is getting out of hand as I just spotted the RICE (18d - Paddy plant) at the top of the grid. Let's wash it all down with a BEER (67d) or perhaps an ALE (71d) and move on.

There were only a couple of head-scratchers for me in the puzzle, the aforementioned RAAB being one, and AINTI ( 37a - "__a woman?": Sojourner Truth). Now I realize that I have to learn a lot more about a very remarkable woman whose very existence has somehow heretofore escaped me. I never heard of LORTAB (7a - Brand of prescription painkiller) either but that somehow seems like a  less egregious gap in my knowledge bank.

Apparently Frank Longo couldn't resist inserting at least on groaner in a grid otherwise devoid of puns and wacky answers, so he poses the age-old question, "When is A DOOR not a door?" (11d), and the answer, of course, is grimace-producing, "when it's ajar". I almost wish that I hadn't noticed that - it's not exactly a THIGH (98d - Femur locale)- slapper.

Odds and ends:

- The FBI (66a - DOJ arm) FILE (66d - Folder filler) is neat, I think, and surely not unintentional.
- The entire downtown section of my home town is one big OUTLET CENTER (31a - Mall with wholesale goods) - shoppers come from all over the world to get "bargains" here. It's bizarre.
- Seeing RC COLA (83d) ion the puzzle reminds me that the annual Moxie Festival is happening this weekend in the next town over. Seriously, it's a real thing!
- Seeing ARAB (17d - Qatari, e.g.) sitting directly over MEIR (40d - Israel's Golda) is interesting juxtaposition, in my view anyway.
- I don't believe there is one single modern pop star referenced in the grid - is that even possible?!
- The EDSEL (89a - 1950s Ford) may have been the biggest flop in automotive history but it will live on in crosswords for eternity.

That's all - CUE (53d - Feed lines to) the closing video:

Sunday, July 6, 2014


This week Frank Longo presents us with a Premier Crossword titled, somewhat cryptically, I think, "A Dozen to Choose From". A dozen what, I wonder? A quick glance at the clues reveals no "?-style" clues, so whatever he has up his sleeve the answers will apparently be straight-forward and/or lacking punniness.

I worked down the grid, top-to-bottom, left-to-right, as I always do and I filled the first couple of long theme answers in easily enough, and while I noticed they shared a lot of common letters I couldn't see any obvious connection - I considered the letters in "a dozen" or maybe "twelve", but neither of those theories worked so on I went, without any idea what was going on.  The rest of the theme answers all seemed to share the same set of letters in various combinations and numbers, but the unifying theme still evaded me - happily, and predictably, Frank made it all clear with a reveal answer at the bottom of the grid and it all made perfect sense - and I learned something to boot:

23a - HALLOWEEN PUMPKIN (Jack-o'-lantern)
32a - HOW WILL I KNOW? (1986 #1 hit from Whitney Houston)
36a - WILHELM KLINK (Colonel on "Hogan's Heroes")
55a - MEN WALK ON THE MOON (7/21/69 New York Times headline)
66a - PHENOMENAL WOMAN (1978 Maya Angelou poem)
101a-PINEAPPLE PIE (Dessert at a tropical-themed party, maybe) (Possibly a hint at the theme, too?)
103a-MAKIN' WHOOPEE (1928 Eddie Cantor song)

115a-HAWAIIAN ALPHABET (It uses only the twelve letters A, E, H, I, K, L, M. N, O, P, U (like eight long answers in this puzzle) )

That, my friends, is some pretty nifty constructing - finding seven phrases (in addition to the reveal) that are reasonably well known (although a 1928 Eddie Cantor song might leave some scratching their heads), have the right number of letters, and getting them into the grid with the necessary symmetry, that's a work of art!

I reproduced my own completed grid today because that's about as close to perfection as I ever get and it's actually almost legible. You can clearly see my mis-steps, where I impulsively entered NANCy before the crossing theme answer demanded an I so NANCI it is (56d - Country/folk singer Griffith); and since the Brits usually employ an S where we Americans would use a Z, I guessed that "Corn, to Brits" would naturally be MAIsE, but along came ZEKE (121a - "The Wizard of Oz" farm hand) to show me that the sneaky bastards spell it with a zed. (According to the Collins English Dictionary (, "Maise" means something entirely different: "noun (Scottish) 1. a measure of herring; 2. a straw basket for transport on horseback". Who knew?

Having eight long theme answers in the grid necessitates a lot of short fill to make everything work and I think Frank did an admirable job of keeping the worst stuff to a minimum - although III (116d - 20% of XV) does have kind of an air of desperation about it, at least he tossed in a little math exercise to spice it up).  He also managed to get a triad of "LI_" words in with LIU (10d - Lucy of the screen)), LIN (35d - Jeremy of basketball) and LIE (96d - __ in wait) all present and accounted for. I just noticed at the very bottom of the grid we have IAN (117d - Scottish "John") right next to its anagram ANI (Singer DiFranco) - if you have to use three-letter words you might as well have fun with them, I guess.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

- I wanted "man-o-war" for "Stinging box jellyfish" (1a) - I never heard of SEA WASP, but wiki has this to say about them: ""Box jellyfish" and "sea wasp" are common names for the highly venomous Chironex fleckeri.[1] However, these terms are ambiguous, as "sea wasp" and "marine stinger" are sometimes used to refer to other jellyfish."" They can be deadly.

- I can remember watching the event that gave rise to the 7/21/69 New York Headline when man first set foot on earth's ORBITER (19a - Satellite, to its planet).
- Maya Angelou was indeed a PHENOMENAL WOMAN and she is greatly missed in this world.
- The NEW MILLENNIUM  is well under way and Y2K seems quaint and long ago - time flies when your having fun.
- There's no denying that toads are WARTY, but it's still a strange word.
- Anyone who remembers Eddie Cantor probably remembers Jimmie DURANTE, too.
- Samuel ALITO pisses me off - he's one of the Supreme Court Justices that objects to women MAKIN' WHOOPEE so they would deny insurance coverage for birth control based on "sincerely held religious beliefs" - that's bullshit; it's something the IMAM might pronounce to the IRANIANS.
- Now I need a drink - see you next week.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Frank Longo returns to basics with this week's Premier Crossword titled "Perfect Presentation", which is soon revealed to be one of his trade-mark riddle puzzles. It's always fun to try to figure out the riddle and the answer as I progress down the grid but today I had the answer before the riddle was complete, which turned out to be hugely helpful in solving the whole thing. I was stuck in a few places around the grid but once I knew the theme I was able to piece the rest together from the letters I already had in place. It went like this:

116a-DON'T MOVE A MORSEL! (Riddle's answer)


I probably would have gotten a bigger chuckle if I knew the riddle before I had the answer, but that's my problem not the puzzle's.  As always, a tip o' the hat for the symmetry of the theme answers which has to increase the difficulty for the constructor. (I wonder if when he has all the words in place he says, "don't move a letter!"?)

It's a beautiful day and I have things to do outside, so very quickly:

- DESCRY (63a - Catch sight of) is my new word for the day - it seems like a very useful verb that I should have known.
- We have a PAYEE (92a - Check casher, say) getting some spending money at the DRAWEE (1d - Bank in a check transaction).
- LEELEE (101d - "Joan of Arc"star Sobieski); seriously?
- The ISLES (86d - Makeup of Hawaii) (I wanted "lava ") are where they do the HULA (88d - Wakiki wiggling). I kept looking for a "lei" in the grid since that seems like something Frank might do, but I couldn't find one. Maybe MAGMA (6d - Molten Rock) is one of the UNITS (122a - Subparts) of the mini-theme.
- CENS. (25d - 100-yr. stretches) has an air of desperation about it, but I suppose this alternative clue would have been too obscure: "The Center for Embedded Networked Sensing is a research enterprise funded by the National Science Foundation based at the University of California, Los Angeles. CENS was established at UCLA in 2002." (Wiki)
- speaking of desperation, I googled REUNE (19a - Meet with fellow grads) and found this definition at "to hold a reunion; back formation; popular among desperate crossword puzzle constructors" (emphasis mine).
- "Film terrier" (73d) should always be "Asta" - TOTO took me completely by surprise.
- One last NIT (82a - Little peeve): "Performs like Snoop Lion" (85d) is incorrect as a clue for RAPS, and here's why (from wiki, of course): "In 2012, after a trip to Jamaica, Snoop announced a conversion to the Rastafari movement and a new alias, Snoop Lion. Under the new moniker, he released a reggae album, Reincarnated, and a documentary film of the same name, of his Jamaican experience, in early 2013. He is currently working on his last solo studio album under his rap moniker Snoop Dogg. (emphasis added)".
- I really, really wanted "Dr. of radio" (103d - LAURA) to be "fever", because of this guy:

See you next week.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Solar Summit Sec

Either I'm way over-thinking the puzzle or this week's Premier Crossword, titled "Remaking The Longest Day" " is the most deviously clever puzzle Frank Longo has offered up recently.  The title suggested to me that the theme answers might involve anagrams of "the longest day" since "remaking" in puzzle terms can mean rearranging letters. When I arrived at the first long answer, clued with a "?" of course, I could see the answer should be MOISTER MUSCLES which clearly is not a rearrangement of "the longest day", but I'm pretty good a doing the Jumble ("That Scrambled Word Game" by David L. Hoyt and Jeff Knurek, that appears on the same page as the crossword puzzles) and it didn't take me long to see that the letters could be arranged to spell "Summer Solstice" which of course is "the longest day" in astronomical terms. Since we in the northern hemisphere enjoyed that phenomenon just yesterday (June 21) it seems appropriate to celebrate with a puzzle tribute.

I was cruising through the grid and having fun trying to guess the theme answers just from the available letters and I had all but one filled in by the time I arrived at the bottom of the grid. That one theme answer (or so I thought) caused me immeasurable grief because one crossword which was rock-solid produced an "A" in the answer, and there is no "A" in "summer solstice". And yet there it was, and I couldn't get rid of it, so what's up? Well, it turns out Frank had planted a little trap for unsuspecting solvers.

The answer in question appears at 98 across which is symmetrical with the other theme answers and exactly the same length, and it's clued with a "?" so it HAS to be a theme answer, right? Well, maybe it is but it's not the same as the other ones because it's not an anagram of "summer solstice".  I finally realized this when I re-read the reveal clue that Frank had provided at 121 across: "June event "remade" six times in this puzzle". I had originally thought this was expounding the obvious until I went back and counted and discovered I had seven "theme answers":

23a - MOISTER MUSCLES (Biceps with more sweat?)
32a - MILERS COSTUMES (Running specialists' outfits?)
44a - RECLOSE SUMMITS (Shut down skiing peaks again?)
67a - IMMERSE LOCUSTS (Put cicadas under water?)
74a - CRUMMIEST SOLES (Most inferior shoe bottoms?)
98a - IMMORTAL CUSSES (Never-forgotten four-letter words?)
106a-CUSTOMER SMILES (What a store manager likes to see on faces?)

Frank Longo's grid symmetry is legendary - there's no way he's going to stick a non-theme answer in a place that should by all rights be included in the theme. So I played around with "immortal cusses" and the best anagram I could come up with, consistent with the theme, is SOLAR SUMMIT SEC, which I suppose could be a term to describe the exact moment when the sun reaches its northern-most point in the sky. That would be a literal definition of "Summer Solstice" so I could certainly make that work in terms of the theme.

That's my theory, anyway. I'd be interest to hear if anyone else has any ideas as to what's going on with that rogue answer, but I'm sure it's not just a failed attempt at a seventh anagram of "summer solstice" - at least I hope it's not.

The rest of the fill is all pretty standard stuff and I spent so much time studying the theme issue that I really didn't notice much to comment on. There was one of those unfortunate SMASHUPS (89d - Bad wrecks) of proper names that often cause me grief, with "Whoopie's "The Color Purple" role (42a - CELIE) intersecting with both "Sci-fi writer Stanislaw ___" (34d - LEM) and " "How the Other Half Lives" author Jacob) (36d - RIIS) - I guessed right in both crosses but honestly, any vowel seemed like it would work in either place.

That's all.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pop Geography Quiz!

This week Frank Longo serves up a Premier Crossword titled "National Replace-ments" which provides pretty much all I ask of a puzzle. It was funny and punny with just enough crunchiness to make it challenging, educational (at least to those of us who are geographically-challenged) and the non-theme fill was mostly devoid of the type of crossword dreck that always sets me off.

The theme answers are classic Longo fare whereby he replaces a word in a common phrase with another word to produce a wacky new phrase, but with and additional twist. The clues utilize the names of the capital cities of various nations and the answers contain the national name as part of the wacky phrase. If you're not up on the world capitals you could have some trouble. I have to admit I didn't recognize every city name but I was able to INFER (62d - Conclude) what nation was needed with no problem. I didn't even need to consult the GAZETTEER (14d - Dictionary of geography) that Frank helpfully provided. In the end we have this array of  national capitals:

23a - INFORMATION BELIZE (Old directory-assistance request, in Belmopan?)
31a - SWEDEN THE POT (Add an inducement, in Stockholm?)
36a - ELECTRIC QATAR (Rock-band staple, in Doha?)
58a - YEMEN MERINGUE (Tart pie topping, in Sanaa?)
68a - HUNGARY MOUTHS TO FEED (Dependents expecting meals, in Budapest?)
77a - BAHRAIN BUSTER (Really tough puzzle, in Manama?
101a-PASS THE BHUTAN (Hand over a duty, in Thimphu?)
104a-HELP ME RWANDA (Beach Boys hit, in Kigali?)
118-NINETEEN-HAITI FOUR (Orwell novel, in Port-au-Prince?)

Even a cranky old curmudgeon like me has to love the inventiveness and humor in these answers, and the clues are all clever enough to let you get the answer without knowing every capital (but you do have to be familiar with the underlying phrase - if you don't know that Sanaa is the capital city of Yemen and you never had Lemon Meringue pie, you're screwed if you don't know all the crosswords). I'm guessing many solvers are too young to remember when telephone operators were needed to complete a call or provide a number when you said, "Information, please". Now that I look back at all of the theme answers, maybe being a cranky old curmudgeon is a requirement to complete the puzzle since phrases like "sweeten the pot" and "pass the baton" may not be young solvers or those not familiar with American idioms - but hey, that's what the crosswords are for! Oh, I just noticed that Frank sneaked in a bonus question: "Its capital is Bucharest" gives us ROMANIA (20a). On an even punnier level than the theme clues, we could include "Amer. money"(97d) which is USD , the abbreviation for US Dollar, which is the "capital" of the United States! OK, I won't BELABOR (129a - Argue in too much detail) the theme any longer.

As I said, the non-theme fill is pretty nifty, too, with only a smattering of BLATANT (6a - Hardly subtle) examples of stuff you only see in puzzles. It's a good thing, though, that Sue Grafton is a prolific writer who wrote a series of novels with titles like "O IS for Outlaw" (72d) though, because her works show up in the grid quite often. Likewise prefixes are sometimes necessary to get constructors out of a "fix" and the likes of ECT (60d - Outer: Prefix) and LIPO (37d - Lead-in to suction) are are unavoidable. Don't get me started about NTH (61d - High degree). End of RANT (80d - Speak wildly), lest you get the idea that's my FORTE (130a - Long suit).'

Miscellaneous notes:

- Is ANN Curry (10a) really a "Journalist?
- Bill HALEY and His Comets (104d) are rock and roll pioneers whose music influenced my youth.
- Do women still wear CULOTTES (44a - Divided-skirt garment)?
- "Premaritally named" is about as good as a clue for NEE (63d) can be, I think.
- OPERANT (52D - Producing an effect) was a new word for me.
- I have had lots of cats in my lifetime, but I never heard of the Egyptian MAU (71d) - they're quite pretty.
- CCC (40d - 300, to Livy)  also stands for Civilian Conservation Corp, a program that I think we should bring back: The Civilian Conservation Corps was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families, ages 18–25 as part of the New Deal.(credit Wiki)
- I wonder if  many solvers ever actually IRONED (100d - Pressed) anything, given the prevalence of wrinkle-free fabrics?
- I could do a whole other RANT about the CULT (115d - Unorthodox sect) of gun-NUTs (118d - Brazil __) being whipped up in a Second Amendment frenzy by the NRA (122d - Pro-gun gp.) but I gave my ASSURANCE (111a - Promise) to be non-political, so I won't.
- We have EVE (120d - Cain raiser) in the Garden of EDEN (85d - Early Utopia) - she called it HOME (76a - Place to live) until the trouble started.
- I did not know that an ELM dropped samaras (93d): samara is a type of dry fruit where one seed is surrounded by papery tissue that helps carry the seed away from the tree as the wind blows. (
- It's Father's Day so don't forget to wish your PAPA (92d - The old man) a happy day, or remember him if he's gone.

ISRAELITE (78d - Manna eater (really, Frank?))reminds me of this; obviously it's the theme-song for the puzzle with its HUNGARY MOUTHS TO FEED:
Love and peace - see you next week.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Beam me up, SCOTTIE!

23a - BUMPKIN ON A LOG (Rural lumber-jack resting after chopping?)
33a - LONG WINTER'S NAPKIN (Extended cloth used for messy cold-weather meals?)
48a - BARKIN GRAPH (48a Chart showing the highs and lows of actress Ellen's career?)
69a - PUSHKIN BUTTON (Item pinned on to support a Russian poet's election to office?)
86a - SANTA ANAKIN (One of the Skywalkers dressed up as St. Nick?)
101a-PIGSKIN IN A BLANKET (Afghan-wrapped football?)
114a-VACUUM PUMPKIN (Clean a jack-o'-lantern with a Hoover?

It's too nice to stay inside so that's it for this week. Kudos (50d - PRAISE) yo Frank for another fine puzzle with a lot of neat stuff I don't have time to mention. Oh wait, I will mention my favorite clue/answer: 111d - Lab safety org.? > SPCA - I have two Labrador Retrievers so I didn't fall for that little bit of misdirection, but I bet a lot of solvers did!

See you next week.