Aug 19, 2008

Tuesday August 19, 2008 Allan E. Parrish

Theme: FINE Tunes

20A: Fireball hit: BOTTLE OF WINE

29A: Guns N' Roses hit: SWEET CHILD O'MINE

58A: Johnny Cash hit: I WALK THE LINE

Finally we have a "Tic-tac-toe winner" (13D: XXX)! We've been losing or near-missing on this game for a long time.

Out of those 3 theme entries, I was only familiar with 58A. I liked the movie "WALK THE LINE", and I always associated "BOTTLE OF WINE" with Tom Paxton.

I liked this puzzle, a precious pangram (Thanks for pointing it out Barry). It always made me happy to see my Chinese name initials (ZQ) gridded in one puzzle. There were, of course, a few unknown names/words to me, but most obtainable from the crossing fills. I think I am getting better at making educated guesses.

Two minor flaws:

44A: "The Bronx __": ZOO. Why the quotation mark?

47D: Gray shade: PEWTER. Says who? Where can I find this "Gray shade" definition of PEWTER?

Across:

1A: Basie music: JAZZ. A quick guess. I don't know Count Basie & his Orchestra.

9A: Heat-resistant glass: PYREX. Very interesting brand name. PYR (o)= fire. REX =king. Here are some Fire-King mixing bowls.

14A: Winglike parts: ALAE. Singular is ALA.

16A: China brand: LENOX. So simple, yet so presidential. I wonder when they are going to clue Wedgwood or Noritake, both are great brands.

18A: Maddux or Norman: GREG. Hmm, the Shark attacks again today. This is GREG Maddux's Donruss 1987 rookie card. NM to MT condition. Only $8.00. The only good card in 1987 is probably Barry Bonds' rookie card.

19A: Cromwell's earldom: ESSEX. Thomas Cromwell, first Earl of ESSEX.

25A: Popular place: HOT SPOT

47A: Bombards: PELTS

53A: Annapolis or West Point: ACADEMY. Jon Stewart probably wants ACADEMY to be clued this way.

55A: QVC rival: HSN (Home Shopping Network)

57A: Wash rm.: LAV. I don't like "rm". "W.C." should be perfectly fine.

61A: Pursuit: QUEST. I was confused for a long time over the wrong spelling of the word "Happiness" in Will Smith's "The Pursuit of Happyness". Thank you Melissa.

65A: Part of VMI: INST. Now we are on a VMI binge. Poor MIT. The clue still needs "abbr.", doesn't it?

66A: Fanny of vaudeville: BRICE. I've never heard of her name before. Oh, so Barbara Streisand's "Funny Girl" was about BRICE's life. What was she holding?

70A: Astronaut Slayton: DEKE. Unknown to me. I've seen "Apollo 13", but I don't remember seeing him. Wikipedia says he was was one of the original "Mercury Seven" NASA astronauts. Oh, by the way, are you a hockey fan?

Down:

1D: Poked: JABBED

2D: Former S. F. mayor: ALIOTO (Joseph). How I wanted his name to spell the same as Justice Samuel ALITO's!

3D: Stomach acid inhibitor brand: ZANTAC. I don't think I would have got this word without the neighboring fills.

8D: Automotive bling: MAG WHEEL. New bling term to me. Good to know.

12D: Want-ad abbr.: EOE (Equal Opportunity Employer)

21D: "Liebestraume" composer: LISZT. Another educated guess.

22D: Antioxidant ion: IODIDE. No idea. Dictionary says it's "a compound of iodine with a more electropositive element or group".

30D: German port: KIEL. Foreign to me. Wikipedia says KIEL is "famous for its sailing events, including KIEL Week, the biggest sailing event in the world. See this map. It's on the Baltic.

32D: Author of "Adam Bede": ELIOT (George). Another guess. I've never heard of this novel.

35D: Scaly inflammation: ECZEMA. And 49A: In need of scratch: ITCHY

37D: Bus. school entrance exam: GMAT. Has anyone here taken this exam before?

38D: Pet protection grp.: SPCA. Aren't you bored by "grp."? Why not "agcy" for a change?

39D: Female military grp.: WAAC (Women's Army Auxiliary Corps). I got it from the perps. But I was annoyed by another "grp." clue. What's wrong with "org"? "

41D: Pilgrimage destination: HOLY LAND. It's the same as the Promised Land, isn't it?

48D: Bit of clowning: SHTICK

50D: Outpatient facility: CLINIC

51D: Horsedrawn carriage: HANSOM. This carriage just appeared in our puzzle 2 weeks ago.

54D: Dance music: DISCO. I remember we had this DISCO fever in Xi'An around 1987.

52D: Ms. Mimieux: YVETTTE . Another guess. She appeared in "Where the Boys Are".

56D: Agitate: SHAKE. SHAKE Your Bon-Bon (Ricky Martin). What does "Bon-Bon" mean here? I like the "You are my temple of desire" line.

59D: Swiss painter: KLEE (Paul). This is his "Fish Magic". Such an complex imagery. So hard to understand KLEE's hidden theme/humor. He had too abstract a mind, too poetic and philosophical.

60D: Old Italian coin: LIRA. I just learned that LIRA is a monetary unit in Turkey too.

61D: NFL passers: QBS. Who do you think is the best QB in NFL history? Joe Montana?

62D: Mary of "Where Eagles Dare": URE. No idea. I've never heard of "Where Eagles Dare". How do you pronounce her name URE? You're?

63D: One in Emden: EIN. "Ich bin EIN Berliner". What a donut!

C.C.

Aug 18, 2008

Monday August 18, 2008 Michael T. Williams

Theme: State Fare

1A: Gators state: FLORIDA

27A: Razorbacks state: ARKANSAS

31A: Rainbows state: HAWAII

49A: Jayhawks state: KANSAS

51A: Cornhuskers state: NEBRASKA

73A: Violets state: NEW YORK

11D: Fightin' Blue Hens state: DELAWARE

39D: Wildcats state: KENTUCKY

Are there any common denominator among those 8 states? Am I missing something here?

I did not know that Violets is the name of NYU's sport teams. I also had no idea that the nickname for the University of Hawaii is Rainbows.

Nice puzzle, very smooth. But I was a bit annoyed by the below clues:

64A: End of cash?: IER. Terrible editorial oversight. See CASH (59D: Money). "Back of front?" would be fine.

68D: Back of station?: ARY. Someone really needs to get creative with "ARY". I am so tried of "Back of the station". How about "End of honor/budget"?

Across:

11A: "Agnus ___": DEI. Have you read "The Da Vinci Code"? I am very intrigued by this whole Opus DEI mysterious secrecy.

14A: Student's performance: RECITAL

15A: Flax product: LINSEED

17A: Tiered bric-a-brac shelves: ETAGERE. I would prefer the clue to be "Tiered bric-a-brac stand".

18A: Radar of "M*A*S*H": O'REILLY. Have vaguely heard of this nickname "Radar" somewhere before. Did not know his full name is Corporal “Radar” Walter O’REILLY. Interesting name.

22A: Former sports org.: NASL (North American Soccer League). Faintly remember this defunct organization (1968-1984) as I was into Minnesota Kicks collection for a very short period of time. But I would not have obtained this answer without the down clues

34A: Fluffy dessert: MOUSSE. I want a piece of this berry MOUSSE.

36A: Accordionist Floren: MYRON. Unknown to me. Wikipedia says he is best known as the accordionist on "The Lawrence Welk Show". What's the meaning of Tico Tico?

44A: Mr. T's group: A-TEAM

55A: Dyer: TINTER. Is this a made-up word?

58A: Gust of wind: SCUD. I am just so used to the "Gulf War missile" clue.

60A: "___ Restaurant": ALICE'S. I got it from down clues. Wow, this is a song title. I thought it was referring to ALICE Waters' restaurant.

65A: Lizard constellation: LACERTA. Latin for Lizard. New to me also.

67A: Ottoman Turk: OSMANLI. Again, I got it from down clues.

Down:

1D: Soft-drink choice: FRESCA

3D: The Cars singer: OCASEK (Ric). "Just What I Needed", for Danielle & Martin.

9D: Cherry brandy: KIRSCH. From German Kirschwasser (Cherry water). Unknown to me also.

10D: Serpent tail?: INE. Lots of ? clues today.

13D: Pastoral poem: IDYL. Idle, Idol, IDYL are all pronounced the same, right?

21D: Shrink time? SESS. I suppose adding an "abbr." in the clue will take way the zest of the "?".

26D: "If I had a ___": HAMMER. I like some of Peter, Paul & Mary's songs.

28D: Shark of golf: NORMAN (Greg). Ha, the Sunday collapse syndrome! Someday I am going to watch the 1996 Masters replay and see how Nick Faldo took away the green jacket from the Shark.

42D: NY gambling parlor: OTB (Off-track betting)

47D: Curcifix letters: INRI

52D: "Sophie's Choice" character: STINGO. Foreign to me. I've never read the book or seen the movie. Dictionary says STINGO is a British slang for "strong ale".

53D: Dancer Ruby: KEELER. I googled her name. I had KEE?ER sitting at this corner for a long time.

61D: Ethan or Joel of movies: COEN. The COEN brothers. I like "Fargo" a lot.

62D: Salinger lass: ESME. ''For ESME With Love and Squalor''. I've never read this short story, have you?

63D: Old World duck: SMEW. I can not see the eyes of that male SMEW. Is he dozing off? Do ducks sleep on the water?

C.C.

Aug 17, 2008

Sunday August 17, 2008 Robert H. Wolfe

Theme: Do Something

23A: Instruction to a drinker?: HAVE A SHOT

24A: Instruction to a take-out diner?: CALL TO ORDER

36A: Instruction to a battery maker?: PUT IN CHARGE

42A: Instruction to a lumberjack's assistant?: GIVE THE AX

56A: Instruction to a sculptor?: PLAN AHEAD

59A: Instruction to ship Styrofoam?: SEND PACKING

78A: Instruction to a talcum buyer?: TAKE A POWDER

80A: Instruction to a corporal punisher?: HIT BOTTOM

96A: Instruction to a wooer? GO TO COURT

99A: Instruction to a judge after a mistrial: TRY TRY AGAIN

116A: Instruction to a mime?: MAKE A MOTION

119A: Instruction to a comic?: FEEL FUNNY

I felt so uncomfortable with 42A. I know GIVE THE AX is an idiom, but I still wanted to add ME. The clue seems to be asking for "GIVE (ME) THE AX".

I would put "Follow the instructions" rather than "Do something" as the theme title. In fact, all the above theme answers feel more like orders rather than instructions to me. The constructor chose "instructions" probably because of 24A CALL TO ORDER.

I like this punny theme. If someone has been reading our comments lately, he should be inspired to create a "Beauty Salon Names" themed puzzle, using Argyle & KittyB's "Curl up & Dye", "Shear Magic", "Hair Port", "Clipper Ship", "Chop Shop" etc.

Anyway, it's a great puzzle. I can't imagine how much research work he did in order to come up with such an amazing list of theme entries with a perfect combination of letters. Look at the way he gridded those 12 theme answers - all 20-letter fills separated by 1 block, amazing! As a result, lots of 3-letter fills are necessitated in the Across. But no complaints from me today.

Some minor flaws:

1) I would clue KNELT (69D: Prepared to pray) as "Prepared to propose" because of PRAYER (108A: Supplication).

2) 76A: Parallel grooves: STRIA. The clue should be in singular form. The plural "grooves" demands STRIAE. At least, that's what the dictionary says. It's a new word to me.

3) 6D: ___ -la -la!: OOH. The clue needs a quotation mark.

4) 100D: Astern: ABAFT. Visually grating. "Toward the stern" should be fine.

I had to resort to google for help, there is no way I can finish a Sunday puzzle unassisted. It may take me another half year. But he did it. I should be able to DO SOMETHING too.

Across:

1A: Ring overhead: HALO

19A: Orphanage transactions: ADOPTIONS. "Transactions"? Sounds so impersonal and cold.

22A: Civic firm: HONDA. Great clue.

27A: Discombobulate: BEMUSE. Ha, now I understand the clue. Thought it was a made-up word yesterday.

29A: In a hopeful manner: ROSILY. I've never seen ROSILY being used in any article. ROSY, yes.

45A: Jack-in-the-pulpit, e.g.: ARUM. I missed it last time, and I missed it again today. "Jack-in-the-pulpit", what a strange name. But isn't ARUM kind of lily?

47A: Canary island: LA PALMA. Unknown to me. Shouldn't the clue be "One of the Canary Islands"?

48A: Brother of Rebecca: LABAN. I had ?ABAN for eons. Had to google. I tank on almost everything Biblical. Anyway, Wikipedia says LABAN is the father of Leah & Rachel.

52A: Play part: ACT II

63A: Spoke snake: HISSED. I was in the wrong direction, thinking the clue was asking for a special kind of spoke-shaped snake like yesterday's RALES (death rattles).

72A: Valley where David and Goliath fought: ELAH. I got it from down clues.

73A: Of bears: URSINE

85A: Hagar's dog: SNERT. From "Hagar the Horrible". Just saw this clue last week. ODIE is anther comic strip (Garfield) dog, so is OTTO (Beetle Baily). Here is a list of all those Comic Dog Names.

88A: Hindu teacher: SWAMI. The Hindu guru. The alternative spelling is SWAMY.

89A: Picked for the wrong part: MISCAST

92A: Disguised, briefly: INCOG. Short for INCOGNITA or INCOGNITO.

95A: Nagy of Hungary: IMRE. I simply forgot, again. How can I remember his name? I'm RE?

104A: Address of a DPL: EMB. DPL (Diplomat) is not a familiar abbreviation for me.

111A: Upolu resident: SAMOAN. I just learned that Robert Louis Stevenson spent the last 5 years of his life here.

121A: Van Gogh location: ARLES. This is the place where he painted "The Sunflowers". I pass by this painting every morning on the way to the kitchen. So easy to get lost in his vibrant yellow cast.

123A: Silent quality: TACITNESS. Only knew the adjective TACIT.

Down:

3D: Zero in tennis: LOVE. And 49D: Zilch: NADA.

4D: Autobahn auto: OPEL. It's part of GM.

5D: Cut apart for analysis: DISSECT

9D: Disqualified due to prejudice: RECUSE

16D: Salad green: ENDIVE. It's too bitter for for salad, don't you think so? I like Belgium ENDIVE.

17D: Aguilar of Ariana Franklin novels: ADELIA. Unknown to me. I've never heard of Ariana Franklin or any of her book.

18D: Voice box: LARYNX

28D: Molten rock: MAGMA

33D: Upright walkers: BIPEDS

36D: Insect's feeler: PALP. How quickly I forgot this word! P-ALP. Good Pedi-PALP picture.

37D: Russian range: URAL. Also the Russian river. The city Orsk is on the URAL River.

38D: Big, band tote: TUBA. What kind of clue is this?

39D: Somali model: IMAN. They seem to be very happy together.

40D: Up, in the ballpark: AT BAT

42D: Senator/astronaut Jake and family: GARNS. I've never heard of him. Wikipedia says he was aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985.

43D: NBA all-star guard: T-MAC. Rockets' Tracy McGrady.

44D: Type of artificial fly: HACKLE. Did not know this angling term. Here is a black gnat soft HACKLE.

47D: Stay sleeping: LIE IN. Dictionary explains LIE IN as "to be confined to bed in childbirth". So, how can it be "Stay sleeping"?

57D: Overly excited: HET UP

58D: Madrid month: ENERO. Ah, the Año opener.

60D: Drummer of Rush: PEART (Neil). No, he is totally foreign to me. I've never heard of this "Rush" rock band.

67D: Japanese drink: SAKE. I guess this is not really a SAKE ad. The language is in Korean, what the heck is George Clooney drinking then?

68D: Dynamic leader?: THERMO. "Hot"!

75D: That is: Lat: ID EST

77D: Touch of color: TINCT

79D: Fan extension?: ATIC. Fanatic. Or "Problem ending".

82D: Writer Janowitz: TAMA. One more unknown. She wrote "Slaves of New York". Was she a gimme to you?

83D: Actor Katz: OMRI. I googled his name. I was too deeply mired in this corner. Wikipedia says he was in "Hocus Pocus" & "Dallas".

87D: '84 Modine movie: BIRDY. Another google. Not familiar with "BIRDY" or the actor Matthew Modine.

94D: Girl's school athletic uniform: GYMSLIP. No, no, no. What year was this photo taken? 1950's?

96D: See red: GET MAD

97D: Chicago cow owner: O'LEARY (Catherine). Nope. I enjoyed reading this story though.

98D: Small bell sound: TINKLE. I wanted JINGLE.

103D: Preface: PROEM. One more new word. Kind of like preamble, isn't it?

107D: Pravda source: TASS. Ha, finally a gimme. TASS was founded in 1925. Pravda ("Truth" in Russian) was founded in 1912.

108D: Boater's walkway: PIER

113D: Unique individual: ONER

114D: Latin handle: ANSA. I don't understand why the clue is always "Latin handle"? Is "Vase's looped handle" too long?

120D: Author Umberto: ECO. I forgot his name again. He has appeared several times in TMS puzzle. I would not have any problem were it clued as "Green" prefix or something environmentally friendly.

C.C.

Aug 16, 2008

Saturday August 16, 2008 Tom Pruce

Theme: None

Total blocks: 26

So close to the 25 blocks target I mentioned a month ago. But boy, it's a hard puzzle. Lots of unfamiliar words. Some did appear in recent puzzles before, but I simply forgot. I have too selective a memory.

I am not sure what is the record for the fewest blocks in TMS puzzle history. But it's 19 for NYT puzzles, 53 blocks being the most.

Anyway, very choppy solving today. Conquered the upper right corner very quickly, and struggled in every other corner. I kept wanting LD for 32D: 45% of M (CDL) and I knew it was wrong. Had to google CALEB (40A: Novelist Carr) to get myself out of that boggy area. Then I decided to google some more.

Dislike the clue for ASCOTS (1A: Tie types) due to TIES (5D: Draws). It's an unforgivable crossword SIN (11D: Sermon topic).

Across:

7A: Syrian capital: DAMASCUS. It is indeed the oldest city in the world, isn't it?

16A: Bologna tongue: ITALIANO. Ti amo!

17A: Gave shape to: MOLDED. I like the color of this Jello MOLD.

18A: Opposite of an enlarger: SHRINKER. Not a common word to me.

19A: Sturm __ Drang: UND. UND is "and" in German. I am not familiar with "Sturm UND Drang". I do like the translation: "Storm and Urge". Sounds so rebellious.

27A: Jewish sect member: HASID. Last times HASIDIM was clued as "Members of a Jewish sect". What a strange plural form!

29A: Radio static letters: EMI. EMI is also a British record label

31A: Common mushroom: AGARIC. I wanted BUTTON. I've never heard of AGARIC before. What's on the cap of this Fly AGARIC?

35A: Empty-nesters' vacation: SECOND HONEYMOON. Really? Don't couples take SECOND HONEYMOON anytime their schedules allow and their pocketbooks permit?

40A: Novelist Carr: CALEB. Wikipedia says he was involved in the screenplay of "The Exorcist" prequel. I've never seen "The Exorcist", have you? It sounds terrifying.

41A: Oder-___ Line: NEISSE. Not familiar with this border line (German-Polish border).

42A: "Vegas $" star: URICH (Robert). Another unknown actor. Wikipedia says he also starred in "Spenser: For Hire".

47A: Stallone role: RAMBO. Here is the new RAMBO trailor.

49A: Death rattles: RALES. Oy vey, I forgot this snake again. A gimmie for Bill I am sure. He never says die, but he sometimes RALES.

52A: Pair of 501's: MII. And CDL ( 32D: 45% of M). Why is my LD wrong?

53A: Indian bean tree: CATALPA. I forgot. It was clue as "Tree with trumpet-shaped flowers" last time. Are those beans edible?

55A: Italian possessive pronoun: SUA. His. Unknown to me.

56A: With plastic: ON CREDIT. What do you think of this clue?

58A: "Java" trumpeter: AL HIRT. I don't know this "Java" man. That's a great statue.

60A: Crystalline gypsum: SELENITE. Last time GYPSUM is clued as "Selenite, e.g.".

61A: July 26th honoree: ST ANNE. I forgot again. It appeared on Josiah Breward's July 19 puzzle with the identical clue. Oh well, "Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

63A: Gnatlike flies: MIDGES

Down:

1D: Even though: AS MUCH AS. This answer did not come to me easily at all.

2D: Prehistoric period: STONE AGE

3D: Dead end: CUL- DE -SAC

4D: Roulette bet: ODD. (Addendum: Argyle told me about the online "Crimson or scarlet"clue for ODD. I don't understand it. How so?)

7D: Throws into confusion: DISCOMBOBULATES. Wow, I checked, it's a word. How absurb looking!

8D: Plato or Aristotle, e.g.: ATHENIAN

12D: More encrusted: CAKIER. CAKY is really a solid word, bad CAKY make-up, or Barry's eyelids. But of course, you guys are so good-looking (esp you Bill) that you don't need any make-up stuff.

13D: Irregular: UNEVEN

14D: Kierkegaard and Hansen: SORENS. I like SOREN Hansen, and Thomas Levet. I had my visor autographed by them.

24D: Wind from Sahara: SIROCCO. I have such difficulty remembering this hot, windy word.

28D: A Shore: DINAH

26D: Last period of Paleozoic Era: PERMIAN. No, no, I've never heard of it.

36D: Iron ore: HEMATITE. Sigh... no...

37D: Passing through a membrane: OSMOSING. Boy, not an easy word to obtain.

38D: Ozzy of Black Sabbath: OSBOURNE. What a dysfunctional family he has!

39D: Maternity ward VIPs: NEONATES. I was thinking of the doctors.

42D: Greatest degree: UTMOST. I was used to the NTH answer.

43D: Fassbinder or Rilke: RAINER. I know neither of them. Too obscure a clue.

44D: Eaves dripper: ICICLE. Very nice ICICLE photo, I could almost feel the drop.

50D: Burst of energy: SPASM. I penned in SURGE first.

54D: High: pref.: ALTI

57D: FDR power group: REA. I start to miss Stephen REA.

C.C.

Aug 15, 2008

Friday August 15, 2008 Verna Suit

Theme: SOUL OF MOTOWN (30A: 16A, 38A, and 55A, e.g.)

16A: "A Natural Woman" lady: ARETHA FRANKLIN

38A: "Part-Time Lover" man: STEVIE WONDER

55A: "Superfly" guy: CURTIS MAYFIELD

I could not finish this puzzle unassisted. I wish I could. I had a nightmare at the lower left corner. But I like this puzzle. I really like it.

I can't tell you what really constitutes a good puzzle. To quote Justice Stewart again: "I know it when I see it".

So many unexpected fills and surprising clues. Look at these compound words:

9A: Attacked: SET AT

14A: Baby Doll: CUTIE PIE

21A" Promotional links: TIE-INS

46A: For no profit: AT COST

50A: Lifter's shout: ALLEY-OOP

59A: Targeted: PREYED UPON

3D: Relished: ATE UP

22D: Spouse sibling: IN-LAW

44D: Can skip: NEEDN'T

48D: Dizzying designs: OP ART

50D: How much above?: A CUT

52D: Scientologist Hubbard: L RON

Quality clues, quality answers! This is the way crossword should be constructed and is indeed the way the new wave of constructors/editors like Stan Newman have been headed for.

Two irksome clues also:

58A: Home of the Huskies: UCONN. Definitely need a "for short" in the clue.

35D: Part of Canada's Y.T.: TER. Please don't use this clue again. It's cheating! Why not go with "Guam, e.g.: Abbr. "?

Across:

1A: Image digitizers: SCANNERS

19A: Western tip of England: LAND'S END. Foreign to me. Looks like a storm is coming.

24A: Harrison in "Star Wars": HAN. HAN Solo. FYI, HAN is also the largest among the 56 ethnic groups in China. It constitutes about 93% of the population, roughly 19% of the entire world population. I am a Han.

33A: Maestro Dorati: ANTAL. Have never heard of this conductor. Wikipedia says he was "especially well-known for his recordings of Tchaikovsky's music", and he was "the first conductor to record all three of Tchaikovsky's ballets - Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauity and The Nutcracker - complete."

41A: Tears into pieces: SHREDS

54A: Quilt with a washable cover: DUVET

60A: 1979 Alda senatorial role: TYNAN. The Seduction of Joe TYNAN. New to me. Both Meryl Streep & Rip Torn were (are??) in the cast. Is it a good movie?

61A: Shrill: STRIDENT

Down:

1D: Meager: SCANTY

2D: Screen arrow: CURSOR

8D: Caravan stopover: SERAI. I've never heard of this word.

9D: Grainy rocks: SANDSTONES

11D: Swimming pool edger: TILE. He is incredible. He has showed us how to turn an improbable into an afterthought!

18D: Capital of Spain?: ESS

24D: 1942 Bing Crosby film: HOLIDAY INN. I've never seen this movie. The only Bing Crosby movies I've seen are "The Country Girl" & "High Society". I adore Grace Kelley. I like "To Catch a Thief" & "Rear Window".

26D: Fabri or liquid finisher: ATOR. Commentator, Decorator as well.

27D: Hole maker: AWL. Interesting 7" Bone AWL.

39D: These, in Cadiz: ESTOS

40D: Morse code unit: DIT. No wobbling between DOT & DIT this time because I got DIS (42A: Bad-mouth) earlier on.

43D: Coty competitor: REVLON. L'Oreal is another major competitor of Coty, so are Unilever and P & G of course.

49D: Blue shoe leather: SUEDE. I don't understand this one, why "blue"?

51D: Ethel's tenant: LUCY. "I Love Lucy".

56D: Beatles song, "__ Blues": YER. "YER Blues". Saw this clue somewhere before.

57D: Murphy Brown's TV show: FYI. Completely unknown to me. I've never seen "Murphy Brown".

C.C.

Aug 14, 2008

Thursday August 14, 2008 Alan P. Olschwang

Theme: Money Matters

19A: Start of a quip: MONEY

25A: Part 2 of quip: IS WHAT THINGS

40A: Part 3 of quip: RUN INTO

51A: Part 4 of quip: AND PEOPLE RUN

61A: End of quip: OUT OF

I am AT A LOSS (44D: Perplexed) for words over this puzzle. There are some quality clues and lively answers. But I really don't grok this quip.

I know PEOPLE can "RUN OUT OF MONEY", but how can things "RUN INTO MONEY"? It does not make any sense to me.

Whatever, MONEY can indeed be a powerful aphrodisiac. I would buy a graded (PSA 7 or better) Topps 1952 Mickey Mantle if I were rich. How about you?

Across:

5A: Poker variation: STUD. STUD is such a virile word, so many ways to play around.

9A: Archipelago member: ISLET. Is "Keys" a kind of ISLET?

16A: Tall military hat: SHAKO. Now, what's the name of that showy red stuff atop the hat? Strange shape, strange position!

20A: Atlanta's transit system: MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority). No idea. I strung the answer together from down clues.

22A: Fleetwood Mac hit: SARA. Here is the song. I've never heard of it before.

28A: Sister/Wife of Zeus: HERA. And their mother is RHEA.

29A: Restaurant employee: MAITRE D'. I like the intersection of this word with RISTORANTE (30D).

33A: Iowa city: AMES. The Cyclones (Iowa State) are here.

38A: Turbulent: ROILY

42A: Haggard novel: SHE. I simply forgot. Saw this clue before. Here is the book cover.

43A: CoverGirl rival: ALMAY. I like CoverGirl's LashBlast.

47A: Tex-Mex menu choice: TOSTADA. This Avocado TOSTADA looks delicious.

59A: Classify: SORT. Does "pegged" in "Have someone pegged" mean "classified" also?

63A: Iron pumper's pride: LATS. I would not have got this one without the down fills. Not a familiar term to me.

67A: Cato's way: ITER

68A: Sundance Kid's girl: ETTA. Have not seen ETTA clued as "Kett of comics" for a long time.

70A: Carolina rail: SORA. Looks like she is ready to attack.

71A: Virginia dance: REEL. Pure guess. Not a familar dance to me.

Down:

1D: Likewise: AS AM I. I wanted ME TOO.

3D: Pushes beyond endurance: OVERWHELMS. Interesting way to define OVERWHELMS.

4D: Cuts canines: TEETHES

6D: L'chaim or prosit: TOAST. Hebrew & German respectively. "Gan Bei" in Chinese.

7D: Bathsheba's Hittite hubby: URIAH. Certainly not a gimme to me. I have such difficulty remembering this Dickens character.

8D: Disadvantage: DETRIMENT

9D: Ending of a belief: ISM. Hmmm, no guts to clue it as "The ending of sex"?

10D: Gives a look at: SHOWS TO. Ha, this answer did not crumble so easily to me at all.

26D: No-no: TABU. Needs a variation mark in the clue.

27D: __d'Italia (bicycle race): GIRO. Another guess. Dimly remember this race at Lance Armstrong's "It's Not About the Bike".

30D: Italian eatery: RISTORANTE. "Restaurant" in Italian. Unknown to me. I pieced it together from the perps.

31D: K-12, in education: ELHI (Elementary & High school). I could picture the frown from KittyB.

46D: Writer of "The Faerie Queene": SPENSER (Edmund). Foreign to me. Easily inferable though. Are you familiar with this poet and his poem?

48D: Toothy deg.: DDS (Doctor of Dental Science/Surgery). Not sure which one is the license to drill.

52D: Muse of lyric poetry: ERATO. "Lovely" name.

62D: Tina of "30 Rock": FEY. She certainly rocks!

C.C.

Aug 13, 2008

Wednesday August 13, 2008 Robert H. Wolfe

Theme: Horsing Around? Neigh!

17A: City horse-to-be?: MARE (MAYOR) ELECT

62A: Equestrian leather work?: REIN (RAIN) MAKER

11D: Stable stall? MANE (MAIN) OFFICE

28D: Horse's blinder?: BRIDLE (BRIDAL) VEIL

This would have been a perfect Derby Day puzzle.

I was so enthralled by those homophonic puns, very interesting to solve. I wanted to merge 38A & 40A and somehow created **SADDLE**. I like puzzles with a run-through theme answer.

This constructor is very good at wordplay, and I think he loves animals, which are often found roaming around in his puzzles. I wonder when he is going to clue WOLF.

I am not fond of putting too many *SS words in one grid: ASS (44D: Pompous fool); USELESS (21A: Serving no purpose); HISS (47A: Spy Alger); ROSS (13D: Flag fabricator); SASS (31D: Lip). HARASS (47D: Really bother).

Quite A FEW (37A: Not many) new words/names to me, but they were all conquerable by the crossing fills.

Across:

5A: Firefighter's sprayer: HOSE. I like this outdoor sink with HOSE reel. It does not look too sturdy though.

9A: Truman's birthplace: LAMAR (MO)

16A: Balbo or Calvino: ITALO. I am tired of this clue. Why not clue it as "From Rome, prefix" to please all those ITALOphiles?

19A: Canonical hour: NONES. Here is a wonderful list Ken found last week:

Vigils: Night prayer
Matins: Sunrise prayer (note the spelling)
Lauds: Also at sunrise
Prime: first hour (6:00 am)
Terce: third hour (9:00 am)
Sext: 6th hour (12:00 noon)
None: 9th hour (3:00 pm )
Vespers: Sunset
Compline: (just before bed)

20A: Printing guide: STENCIL

25A: Ring above the collar?: HALO. Such a heavenly clue! I like it.

26A: Some roof ends: GABLES. What purpose do GABLES serve? Or are they just decorative features?

35A: Gold: AURUM. I only know its symbol is AU. Had no idea of its complete spelling. AG is for silver.

38A: Destroyer escort: FRIGATE. Foreign to me. I got it from the down fills.

40A: Sporting dog: SPANIEL. Spot looked so confused.

43A: Arab garments: ABAS. Yawner. Have some courage to rebel. "ABAS le roi"!

45A: Empirical philosopher: LOCKE (John). Know him only because of his "tabula rasa" idea, which was originally pioneered by Aristotle.

53A: Contrary: ADVERSE

64A: Filaments: HAIRS. Are you happy with this clue?

66: In __ veritas: VINO. So true, "There is truth in wine".

67A: "___ Shrugged": ATLAS. I've never read the book, probably as difficult as Sylvia Plath's "Ariel". I don't think I can understand.

69A: Novelist Shusaku: ENDO. Unknown to me. He wrote "The Samurai". Interesting way to clue ENDO, which is also the prefix for "Inner". See EXO (63D: Outer: pref). But I suppose the direct oppsite of ENDO is "ECTO".

Down:

1D: Money for mendicants: ALMS. "mendicant" is a new word to me.

2D: Perfectly: TO A T

5D: Greek sun god: HELIOS. Sol for the Romans.

6D: Nancy of "Access Hollywood": O'DELL. What's that red dot on her dress?

8D: Caesar's penultimate words: ET TU. BRUTE just appeared yesterday.

9D: Narrow and elongated: LINEAR

18D: Itchy skin woe: ECZEMA. I can never remember the spelling of this word.

26D: Faux pas: GAFFE. Isn't GAFFE a big "faux pas"?

27D: Of the ear: AURAL. Or OTIC.

29D: Racing sled: LUGE

39D: Follows: TAILS. Have to show you again this PREHENSIBLE TAIL Argyle found last week.

41D: Call to arms: ALARUM. Unknown to me also. It's the archaic spelling of ALARM. The clue should have "once" to indicate its old-fashionedness.

48D: Gordon ___, aka Sting: SUMNER. New to me again. I only knew Sting as Sting.

52D: Goldoni of "Shadows": LEILA. I've never seen "Shadows". Have never heard of her name either. (Addendum: The answer is wrong, should be LELIA)

C.C.

Aug 12, 2008

Tuesday August 12, 2008 Norma Steinberg

Theme: The Sound of Music

17A: Chopin song to Caesar's enemy?: ETUDE BRUTE

65A: When King David sang?: PSALM TIMES

10D: Handel's reveries? SUITE DREAMS

25D: Strauss' NYT setting?: WALTZ STREET

Oh how I struggled with the theme today! I did not know the musical meaning of SUITE, and I had no idea that Handel wrote many keyboard SUITES. "SWEET DREAMS" kept popping into my mind and I started to think that this might be a wordplay puzzle.

I wish ACT (20A: Behave) were clued as "Play part" to further enhance the musical sub-theme:

44A: Famous fair lady: ELIZA. Here is the original Broadway poster.

31D: Webber hit: CATS

53D: La __ (Milan's opera house): SCALA

I also wish POLO (35D: Equestrian game) was clued as "China explorer" to pair us with ASIA (36D: China's land). I don't believe the clue for TIED (23D: Even-steven) is the contructor's original submission. She would not have overlooked EVEN (18D: __ as we speak).

Anyway, I enjoyed this puzzle very much. It felt so feminine and pretty. Lots of girl power in the grid. And none of them is unyielding.

Across:

10A: Swedish auto: SAAB. I often wonder why this company name is SAAB AB rather than just SAAB, so repetitive.

15A: Stretch of land: TRACT. and 11D: Land measure: ACRE

22A: Show up for: ATTEND

24A: Cleansing routine: SHOWER. "Jump in the SHOWER...". Dolly Parton has such an enviable body, so sexy. I really want the rainbow, but I don't want to put up with the rain.

26A: "Dallas" matriarch: ELLIE. I lapsed into ELLEN again. I've never seen "Dallas".

30A: Secondhand ride: USED CAR

39A: Kind of queen: DRAMA

50A: Part of a poppy: STEM. I planted SEED first.

54A: Move it: HASTEN. I've never heard of "Move it". "Hightail it" yes!

58A: Rival of Athens: SPARTA. Pure guess. I don't know why SPARTA is the "Rival of Athens". Not familiar with Greek history or mythology.

69A: Actress Shire: TALIA. She is Connie in "The Godfather".

70A: Muppet with a unibrow: BERT. I don't understand this picture. What is that long stuff coming out of the peanuts jar? Looks elastic.

Down:

2D: Fire starter: MATCH

3D: Former planet: PLUTO. 冥王星 in Chinese. Literally "Star of the Underworld King". means "King" in English. More than 7% of the total population in China has as surname. That's about 93 million, 1/3 of the total US population?

4D: Punk rocker Vicious: SID. I don't know anything about his songs. I just love so much the "You were my little baby girl" poem he wrote to his girlfrend Nancy. So simple and sweet.

5D: J. Ringling's partner: P. T. BARNUM. Unknown to me. I pieced his name together from the across fills.

7D: Fry lightly: SAUTE. What's the difference between SAUTE and Stir-fry?

27D: Units of light: LUMENS. Another unknown. Easily gettable.

29D: Empower: ENABLE. I don't like the clue. I hate the repetition of letter (s) in both the clue and the answer. So many other ways to clue "ENABLE". The same with SLAB ( 58D: Thick slice). "Thick piece" would be just fine.

32D: Famous cookie maker: AMOS. This constructor clued AMOS as "Writer Oz"in her last puzzle. Listen, this is Melissa's favorite AMOS.

42D: One of the U.S. Virgin Islands: ST. THOMAS. Pure guess. Here is the map. Have you been there before?

45D: Plugging away: AT IT. OK, this is another phrase that bothers me. In which dictionary can you find "AT IT"?

67D: Big blue: IBM Think!

C.C.

Aug 11, 2008

Monday August 11, 2008 Allan E. Parrish

Theme: "Rhyme with MUCK"

18A: Leaving Las Vegas lament: ROTTEN LUCK

62A: Word in Don Rickles' insults: HOCKEY PUCK

4D: Defenseless target: SITTING DUCK

25D: FX network series: NIP TUCK

27D: Shift blame: PASS THE BUCK

Good puzzle, but I was not really aweSTRUCK by the construction, no Z or Q. I guess I should not always expect such scrabbly letters from Allan E. Parrish. But I think his rhyming themed puzzles start to bore me now.

I do like those strikeout K's in the grid, and the J & X. The puzzle feels very smooth, no forced fill or strained clue. I did not know EISEN (16A), RAL (23A), SERGEI (33A), HIS'N (70A) and MYNA (38D), but all were inferable by the crossing fills.

Across:

1A: One meaning of X: KISS. Here is Rodin's "The KISS".

9A: Dutch cheese: GOUDA. Or sometimes EDAM.

14A: Race in "The Time Machine": ELOI

16A: Rich of the "NFL Network": EISEN. His mug looks familiar to me, but I would not have got his name without the crossing fills.

20A: Organic fuel source: PEAT BOG

23A: '60s singer Donner: RAL. Again, I pieced his name together from the perps. I like this album title.

24A: Dude from Dubuque: IOWAN. Ha, I thought "Dubuque" is a city in Scotland. Here is the map. Great clue. This is the fasinating "American Gothic" from the IOWAN Grant Wood.

26A: Undulation: RIPPLE. "Undulation" reminds me of yesterday's PGA Championship. 41 down, 1 more to go Sergio!

28A: Tip over: UPEND

31A: Inventor Tesla: NIKOLA. Good to see "Tesla" as part of the clue rather than as the answer to "unit of magnetic flux density".

33A: Composer Rachmaninoff: SERGEI. Wikipedia says that Vladimir Horowitz might have gotten his "rhythmic snap from Rachmaninoff". His hands look quite small. Does anyone know the difference between SERGEI and SERGEY in Russian?

35A: Smoke conduit: PIPE STEM. Hmm, very interesting names. Must be a very satisfying experience to insert the tenon of the PIPE STEM into the mortise of the PIPE BOWL.

40A: Like wise: DITTO. That's what Sam replied to to Molly when she said "I love you" to him in "Ghost". He really loved her though.

42A: Sharp rival: SONY

43A: 2006 Steve Martin role: CLOUSEAU. Remember this picture? That's Molly Sims. She is in the upcoming "Pink Panther 2".

45A: Customer: PATRON

50A: African wild dog: JACKAL. His tail looks rather bushy. Our ex-governor Jesse Ventura ("The Body") used to call the local media as "JACKALS". He is a hard man.

53A: Deceitful one: KNAVE

56A: Middle Eastern grp.: PLO. Vs. Hamas.

58A: Coffee bean variety: ARABICA. Beautiful berries.

70A: Boondocks possessive: HIS'N. I still don't understand this one. Why add letter N?

71A: Kentucky fort: KNOX. Also President Polk's middle name.

Down:

1D: Some seaweed: KELP. Very grainy and coarse. Only good for vegetarian dashi broth. I like miso soup.

5D: "One L" writer: TUROW (Scott). He also wrote "Presumed Innocent". "One L" is a good read, short too.

6D: Work shoe: BROGAN. It appeared in our puzzle before.

9D: Non-Jewish: GENTILE. Or Non-Mormon, according to the dictionary.

11D: Stage a coup: USURP

12D: Temporary tattoo: DECAL

13D: That's just over a foot: ANKLE. I like this clue.

19D: Continental sound: EUROPOP. Here is "Believe" from Dima Bilan (Eurovision 2008 winner), for Melissa. She likes Plushenko. That violinist is Edvin Marton, the very talented Hungarian composer. He is playing his Stradivarius.

28D: Parris Island org.: USMC (United States Marine Corps). I've never heard of Parris island before. Where is the Marines HQ?

29D: Orange coat: PEEL

30D: Cube-make Rubik: ERNO. I like this Rubik scene from Will Smith's "The Pursuit of Happyness". But why not "Happiness"?

34D: According to plan: IDEALLY

36D: One third of a WWII movie?: TORA. It's a good movie. "To" means "sudden" in Chinese too.

37D: Son of Seth: ENOS. Or "Slaughter in baseball".

38D: Talking starling: MYNA. What?

50D: Holy war: JIHAD. Those people who take part in JIHAD are called mujahideen (singular is mujahid). Wikepedia says "In Islamic scripture, the mujahid contrasts with the QAID, one who does not join the JIHAD". Dictionary explains QAID (also spelled as CAID) as "Muslim judge, tribal chief". Those constructors should probably consider this word for their next pangram.

51D: Like a bunch: ADORE. I initially misread "Like" as an prepostion.

52D: Powdered chocolate: COCOA

54D: "Catch-22" star: ARKIN (Alan). I've never seen "Catch-22". Like his role in "Little Miss Sunshine" thought.

60D: Mafia leader: CAPO. Haven't see CAPO clued as "Guita device" for a while.

61D: Writer Haley: ALEX. I truly felt the culture shock when I read his "The Autobiography of Malcolm X". Very educating though.

C.C.

Aug 10, 2008

Sunday August 10, 2008 Stanley B. Whitten

Theme: Avian Adventure

23A: Connected in an avian manner?: DOVETAILED

25A: Avian dance?: TURKEY TROT

109A: Avian con game?: PIGEON DROP

111A: Avian lawyer?: LEGAL EAGLE

30D: Avian architect?: CHRISTOPHER WREN

39D: Avian mimic?: PARROTFISH

44D: Avian tournament?: ROUND ROBIN

45D: Avian guardian?: SCARECROW

47D: Harassed avian style?: HENPECKED

Why "Avian mimic?" for 39D? I don't understand it.

Here are some more bonus "Avian" fills:

7D: Birds in barns: OWLS

13D: Birds' display areas: LEKS. It appeared on an April puzzle before. I simply forgot.

5D: Insect-eating birds: TITMICE

I am very curious to know if the above entries are the constructor's originals. The fact is that neither "Avian" nor "Birds" is really needed in the clues. The constructor/editor deprive the solvers a certain "Aha" moment by repetitively writing in "Avian" in every theme clue, how boring! I wonder why he CHICKENED out on Larry BIRD, which could be a perfect tie-in theme title. I thought of GOOSE Goosage earlier. He is now a HOFer and deserves some recognition in the crossword world too.

I dislike the following fills:

79A: Squeal to a halt: SKID

87A: Bad part of town: SKID ROW

107A: Pub potations: ALES

27A: Alternative to lager: ALE

And of course, the clue for I DO (46A: Wedding vow) should definitely be reworded due to VOW (89A: Pledge). Other crossword editors probably make this kind of mistake 2 or 3 times a year. For our "splicing device" (EDITOR), sky is the limit.

Overall, it's a good puzzle. Not exactly a SNAP (120A: Piece of cake) for me, but much easier than the previous Sunday's puzzles and more enjoyable. And the grid is very pretty and neat. I've never seen 2 theme entries running through in one line, separated by one block (23A & 25A, 109A & 111A).

Across:

6A: Bean paste: TOFU. Wrong clue. TOFU is bean curd. Bean paste is a completely different soybean product.

10A: Actress Oberon: MERLE. Unknown to me. Wikipedia says she was nominated for Oscar for her role in "The Dark Angel".

15A: Pers. with a handle?: CBER. I don't like the way "Pers." is abbreviated. In fact, CBER is a well accepted word, there is no need for clue abbreviation.

19A: Mites: ACARI. Singular is ACARUS. New to me.

28A: Wire thickness units: MILS

29A: Eyelike window: OCULUS. Like this one at the Pantheon (Rome).

32A: False report?: MISFIRE

37A: Tank toppers: TURRETS. Unknown to me. Look at this squirrel. I always thought of TURRETS as the top of some castles.

42A: Rock debris: SCREE. Another new word to me. It came from the old Norse word skriða (landslide). Here is a SCREE slope.

47A: Kingdom founded by St. Stephen: HUNGARY. Not familiar with St. Stephen. Pure guess. Here is Lang Lang's Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody #2.

50A: Certain grasses: REEDS. I filled in WEEDS first. Tricky clue.

56A: Addams family cousin: ITT. Learned from doing Xwords. Not familiar with this TV series.

59A: Highland tongue: ERSE. The Scottish Gaelic. Irish Gaelic is just Irish, right?

60A: Outline: CONTOUR

62A: Gather greedily: SCOOP UP. "Greedily"?

67A: Part of EKG: ELECTRO

71A: Veteran's abbr.: RET. Doesn't RET always refer to those high positioned generals?

74A: Nurse: CARE FOR. I dislike the clue due to RNS (53A: Hosp. personnel), even if N in latter is in abbreviated form.

84A: Swayed to and fro: ROCKED. I wonder who owns the original JFK's Rocking Chair now.

86A: Cay or key: ISLE. And INLET (101D: Channel opening). And AIT (113D: River island). Can also be spelled as EYOT. Strange looking word, isn't it?

92A: __ chloride (refrigerant): ETHYL. I googled this answer.

93A: Extreme poverty: PENURY

94A: Animal Planet's "___ Manor": MEERKAT. Dutch for "Lake cat", though it's not a cat. It belongs to the mongoose family. I've never heard of this animal. If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to knee (on your knees boy!).

99A: Container for a fossil fuel: COALBIN

103A: Cheap cigar: STOGY. Could also be spelled as STOGIE. I just learned this STOGY is short for Conestoga, a town in Pennsylvania.

106A: Weasel cousin: ERMINE

115A: Spartan market: AGORA. The Greek mall.

119A: Staircase support: NEWEL

Down:

6D: Linen fabric: TOILE. Hmm, too blue for my taste. That bed looks so small.

9D: One causing a downfall: UNDOER

11D:Successful mimic: EMULATOR. Knew EMULATE. Had never used EMULATOR before.

15D: Shop-at-home guide: CATALOG

17D:Berkshire college: ETON. Since 1440.

24D: Affectedly nonchalant: AIRY. Oh, has anyone read Hugo's "Les Miserables"?

33D: Feudal estate: FIEF

41D: Subside, as symptoms: LYSE. Got it from the across clues. I am not familiar with this medical term. Initially I filed in EASE. Another tricky clue.

49D: Unnamed work: OPUS. What exactly is OPUS? Why is it "unnamed"? Also, what's the difference between a orchestra and a symphony orchestra? I received no musical education when I grew up.

50D: Like Miss Congeniality: NICEST. Silly movie.

52D: Cannes water: EAU. And AGUA (107D: Spanish water).

63D: Detachable container: POD. How so? Why is it "Detachable"?

69D: Clouded by sediment: ROILY. I like the clue and the answer. I like this kind of seemingly inconsistent cluing (in terms of part of speech).

70D: Architectural projection: ORIEL. The Bay window.

82D: Dry gulch: ARROYO. Her name is ARROYO (Gloria) too, and she is the President of the Philippines.

83D: For eternity: EVERMORE. How I wanted it to be NEVERMORE! We can have one more bird related clue (The Raven).

88D: Castle cell: DUNGEON. Do you like "The Count of Monte Cristo"?

90D: Of a parent-child Freudian relationship: OEDIPAL. Oedipus complex.

100D: Horn for reveille: BUGLE

103D: Jam or pickle: SPOT. "Tough SPOT", maybe yes. But SPOT, I am not sure. I can not see any commonality between Jam/pickle & SPOT.

105D: Arch type: OGEE

110D: Bobbsey twin: NAN. Another boring clue. Have you ever had Tandoori-baked NAN before?

C.C.

Aug 9, 2008

Saturday August 9, 2008 Matthew Higgins

Theme: None

Total block: 27

Sigh...another Matthew Higgins, what can I say?

Annoying amount of affixes and obscure words. Maybe Mr. Higgins should give up this ambitious themeless idea and plunge into themed puzzles for some badly needed batting practice and minor league training. Amazing how he can come up with 27 blocks every Saturday.

Look at how many ER, RE, ED he employed to create this grid, not to mention those pesky S'es:

15A: Puts back: REPLACES

61A: Raised letter designer: EMBOSSER

62A: More compressed: DENSER

1D: Gave a big hand to: PRAISED

45D: Those relaxing: RESTERS

37D: Populated: PEOPLED

And the irksome RENCOUNTER (27D: Hostile contest). Have you ever heard of it before? I have not. What a desperate a 10-letter word for a desperate constructor who desperately needs RE & ER affixes.

Sloppy editing job from our editor too:

6D: Frozen fruity treats: ICES

50D: Unfreeze: DEICE

58A: Wheel-driving channel: MILLRACE. Completely unkown to me.

29D: Garden tractor brand: WHEEL HORSE. Another unknown.

I had to flirt with Mr. google a few times, and I don't think I enjoyed the experience at all.

Have to share with you this interesting piece on Matthew Higgins.

Across:

1A: Perfect maker?: PRACTICE. PRACTICE makes perfect.

9A: Chucklehead: STUPES

16A: Sword of Damocles, e.g.: THREAT. This is Richard Westall's "The Sword of Damocles", the symbol of hidden perils of power.

17A: Cause supporter: ADHERENT

18A: Speakers' platforms: ROSTRA. Singular is ROSTRUM.

20A: Bony-plated dinosaurs: STEGOSAURS. I googled this one. Could not get the letter G and O. See this picture. Why is it called STEGOSAURUS? Needs some polishing with the clue. Terrible repetition of "saurs". Can you come up with a better clue?

22A: Rope fiber: SISAL. Named for SISAL, Yucatán.

24A: Worsted fabric: SERGE. Yawner. It's time to recognize the genius in SERGE Gainsbourg. No other song is more exotic and erotic than "Je T'aime... Moi No Plus": "Je vais et je viens, entre tes reins..." What other words do you need?

25A: U.S. Medical grp.: NIH (National Institutes of Health). I would not have got this one without the down clues.

26A: Splicing device: EDITOR. New to me. I always thought EDITOR is a person.

28A: Extinct bird: MOA

30A: Expression wish: DESIRE. I DESIRE U2.

37A: Lay down asphalt: PAVE. Now we are on PAVE binge. I kind of miss ET AL now.

46A: Narrative poetry: EPOS. Epic poetry. Also new word to me.

48A: Sleekly graceful: FELINE. Dictionary has another definition for FELINE: "Sly, stealthy, or treacherous".

52A: __ the ticket!: THAT'S. I don't understand this one. Is it a slang?

53A: Fitted for grasping: PREHENSILE. New to me also. So close to COMPREHENSIBLE.

57A: Blow a gasket: LOSE IT. SEE RED is clued as "Blue a gasket" last time.

60A: Make manifest: EVINCE. No need to "Make". "Manifest" is sufficient.

63A: Wakame and kelp: SEAWEEDS. I like wakame. Kelp is too coarse for me. My favorite SEAWEED is nori. Delicious!

Down:

2D: Beach close cause: RED TIDE

3D: Especial to special, e.g.: APHESIS. I've never heard of this term before. Was it a gimme to you?

4D: Some flowering vines: CLEMATISES. CLEMATIS the "Virgin's Bower".

9D: Russian count's wish: STROGANOFF. Or STROGNOV. Vaguely heard of it before. It's named after Russian diplomat Paul Stroganov. It's "a dish of tender beef strips, mushrooms, and onions cooked in a sour-cream sauce and served with noodles or rice." Russians put sour-cream in everything.

10D: Porky's sweetheart: PETUNIA. Learned this from doing Xword. PETUNIA was always a flower to me before.

21D: Fourpence piece, once: GROAT. Ha, I wonder if Mark (Buenos Aires) knows this English silver. I had on idea.

23D: Tribal knowledge: LORE

38D: Judge favorably: APPROVE. Are you happy with the "Judge" clue?

39D: Elects: VOTES IN

43D: Dark igneous rock: DIABASE. Another unknown. Here is a picture. Amazing how those yellow flowers can survive and bloom there.

44D: Inveigled: ENTICED. I did not know the meaning of "Inveigle". I only knew "Inveigh".

51D: Slug trail: SLIME. Icky!

C.C.