Aug 31, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009 Norma Steinberg

Theme: Abracadabra

17A: Magician's deception: SMOKE AND MIRRORS

35A: Magician's deception: SLEIGHT OF HAND

52A: Magician's deception: OPTICAL ILLUSION

Also, a couple bonus words which are symmetrically placed in the grid. Perfect!

27D: "Pick a __, any ...": CARD.

35D: Magic act, for one: SHOW.

The cross-referenced fill END (28D: See 38-Down) and THE (38D: With 28-Down, novel conclusion) are also symmetrically gridded. Excellently done.

Argyle here.

A very nice start to the week. A lot of three letter entries that are words and not abbreviations. A minimum of foreign words. And so many songs I could link! (This is not for everybody. Hocus Pocus Dutch insanity.)

Across:

1A: Joplin piano piece: RAG. Scott Joplin, died 1917, was an African-American dubbed the "King of Ragtime." Ragtime is an original American musical genre whose main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or "ragged", rhythm. Maple Leaf Rag.

9A: Like a disreputable hotel: SEEDY.

14A: www address: URL. Uniform Resource Locator: a protocol for specifying addresses on the Internet.

15A: Pic: PHOTO.

16A: Knight's protection: ARMOR.

20A: Kept in reserve: SAVED.

21A: Dewy: MOIST.

23A: Really smart people: BRAINS.

29A: Old salt: TAR. Sailor

30A: Investigation: PROBE.

32A: Southern breakfast side: GRITS. Either you like 'em or you don't; nothing in between.

33A: Concurrence: ACCORD.

38A: Very brief briefs: THONGS. I don't know what to say. Images.

39A: Take in or let out: ALTER. No, not the cats.

40A: Improve, as skills: HONE.

42A: __ room: play area: REC. Should this have an indication that it's a shortened version of RECreation ?

45A: Lamb's mom: EWE.

46A: Like the person in a diet ad "after" picture: LEANER.

48A: Equipment: GEAR.

49A: "Grrr!" is one: SNARL.

51A: It's enough for Luigi: BASTA. Italian for Stop! Enough! ASSEZ in French.

57A: Finish second, in a race: PLACE. Usually in a horse race: First, WIN; second, PLACE; and third, SHOW.

58A: Inventor Howe: ELIAS. He patented the first American-made sewing machine.

59A: Payable: DUE.

60A: Natives of Ankara: TURKS. The capital of Turkey.

61A: Like oboe music: REEDY. Oh, okay.

62A: Little green men, briefly: ETS. ExtraTerrestrial being, originating outside the limits of the earth.

Down:

1D: Many an Idaho potato: RUSSET.

2D: Spanish fleet: ARMADA.

3D: Danny of "Lethal Weapon" films: GLOVER. Sergeant Roger Murtaugh.

4D: Floored it: SPED.

5D: "I have the answer!": AHA.

6D: Chaney of film: LON.

7D: Takeoff approx.: ETD. Estimated Time of Departure.

8D: Christina Crawford's "__ Dearest": MOMMIE. The story of growing up with Joan Crawford for a mother. Book and Film.

9D: Wrapped garments seen in Agra culture: SARIS. Agra District is one of the districts of Uttar Pradesh state of India, and home of the Taj Mahal. Aishwarya Rai (the World's Most Beautiful Woman) in red SARI, beautiful!

10D: Says "2x2= 5," say: ERRS.

11D: :-), e.g.: EMOTICON.

12D: Palme __: Cannes film prize: D'OR. "Golden Palm Leaf", awarded for the best film. Here are three pretty women at 2004 Cannes Film Festival: the most influentical Chinese actress Gong Li, again, Aishwarya Rai and French supermodel Laeticia Casta.

19D: Cyclotron bit: ION.

23D: Naval jails: BRIGS.

24D: __IRA: ROTH.

25D: Choose not to vote: ABSTAIN.

30D: Holier-than-thou type: PRIG. Synonyms: prude, puritan, bluenose.

32D: Wilder or Hackman: GENE.

33D: Subsequent to: AFTER.

34D: "Moonstruck" Oscar winner: CHER.

36D: Texas symbol: LONE STAR.

37D: Ye __ Tea Shoppe: OLDE.

41D: Square dance leader: CALLER. Bugs Bunny, Square Dance Caller.

42D: Live (at): RESIDE.

43D: Take the family to a restaurant: EAT OUT.

44D: Building site giants: CRANES.

46D: Shoestrings: LACES.

47D: The Gay Nineties, e.g.: ERA.

48D: "Fill 'er up" filler: GAS.

50D: Just in the __ of time: NICK.

51D: Occupied: BUSY.

53D: Like "mice" and "men": Abbr.: PLU. Plural. Nice play on John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men".

54D: Land in the Seine: ILE. Islands in a French river.

56D: Young guy: LAD

Argyle

Answer grid.

Picture of the Day: Here is great photo of our fellow LAT solver Jimbo and his family. He said: "Left to right, my son, his granddaughter, his son and "yours truly".

Aug 30, 2009

Sunday August 30, 2009 Dan Naddor

Theme: Organ Transplant - The organ is each organ-embedded common phrase is transplanted to another non-organ containing common phrase.

24A: Pool hall "Better luck next time"?: (HEART)FELT CONDOLENCES

30A: Sound of a breakup?: (EAR)SPLITTING NOISE

43A: Columbus college funds?: OHIO STATE BUCK(EYE)S

52A: Temper tantrum? (BRAIN)STORMING SESSION

73A: Steinway's idea for a large piano?: GRAND (BRAIN)CHILD

80A: Minimum for a Maybeline ad shoot?: FORTY (EYE)LASHES

91A: Place-marking lessons for readers? DOG(EAR) TRAINING

102A: Sorrows behind bars?: JAIL (HEART)BREAKS

Each of the organ is successfully transplanted to its grid symmetrical partner. Excellent!

I have never heard of base phrase FORTY LASHES, so I had a bit of trouble understanding 80A. Kidney is probably the most common type of organ plant. Steve Jobs (Apple CEO) has sparked a heated debate over his rather quick liver transplant.

There are quite a few nice long Down answers in this puzzle. I especially loved the below two-word entries:

16D: It's pressed in distress: PANIC BUTTON

61D: Segment of the western Pacific: CHINA SEAS

62D: Picnic side: POTATO SALAD

75D: "Twister" actress: HELEN HUNT

The answer just popped up to me with one or two letters filled in.

I really hope Dan will not change his style just to avoid annoying solvers with one or two obscure fills. Heavy themage, lots of non-theme fills of 6 or more letters (Dan Naddor Index) and low word count are his hallmarks.

It's like the predominance of yellow color in van Gogh's painting. It's just van Gogh. It's his style.

Across:

1A: "Satisfied?": HAPPY. Yes!

6A: Controversial initiation practice: HAZING

12A: Concert dancing areas: MOSH PITS. New phrases to me.

20A: What Mexican Olympians go for: EL ORO. "The gold" in Spanish.

21A: "Kick it up a notch!": EMERIL. "Bam"!

22A: Internal company info-sharing system: INTRANET

23A: Rockies music festival site: ASPEN. No idea. I always associate ASPEN with the ski resort and the ASPEN trees.

26A: Garish: LOUD

28A: Rock outcroppings: CRAGS

29A: Golfer Woosnam: IAN. Ha ha, I just mentioned the "hot-tempered Welsh golfer IAN" yesterday. But I misremembered his surname as Woosman.

33A: Elmer, to Bugs: DOC

35A: Squirreled-away item: ACORN

37A: Fighters' home: AIRBASE

41A: Body language?: TATTOO. Excellent clue.

48A: Colombian city: CALI. I have this image of CALI awash in drug dealing and kidnapping activities.

50A: Managed care gps: HMOS. Hopefully they will pay for your organ transplant.

57A: N.J. town on the Hudson: FT. LEE. Obtained the answer from Down fills.

58A: Junior: SON

59A: Itty-bitty bit: IOTA. And A TON (37D: Hardly hardly).

60A: They may be girded before battle: LOINS. Gird one's LOINS.

61A: Zagreb native: CROAT. Zagreb is the capital of Croatia.

62A: Furthermore: PLUS

65A: MP quarries: AWOLS. MP = Military Police.

67A: Text alternative: PHONE

68A: Romulus, e.g.: TWIN. Romulus & Remus are twins.

69A: AT&T rival, once: MCI. Acquired by Verizon in 2006.

76A: China setting: ASIA. "Japan setting" is better due to CHINA SEAS.

77A: Play a mean sax, say: WAIL. New definition to me.

78A: Stretching discipline: YOGA. Sanskrit for "union".

85A: Surgical solution: SALINE. Probably is needed for organ transplant.

87A: Back: ENDORSE. Don't you think Tiger Woods should ENDORSE Buick for free now?

90A: Concorde, e.g.: SST

99A: "24" superagent: BAUER. Jack BAUER. Played by Kiefer Sutherland.

100A: Markers: IOUS. I did not know "marker" is a slang for IOU.

106A: Cuban dance: RUMBA

107A: Taxpayer's headache: IRS AUDIT. Loved the answer.

108A: Go off on: RANT AT

109A: Diarist Nin: ANAIS

110A: Distribution slips?: MISDEALS. Poker I suppose.

111A: Ore appraisals: ASSAYS. Always thought ASSAY is a verb only.

113A: Old lab heaters: ETNAS

Down:

1D: Gets better: HEALS. Hope our fellow LAT solver Doreen is getting better now.

2D: 1940-'70s journalist Stewart: ALSOP. No idea. I do know his brother Joseph ALSOP though, from reading all those JFK books.

3D: Resident count: POPULATION

4D: Meteorologist, at time: PREDICTOR. Hmm, WM, add your comments here.

6D: "Battle Cry" actor Van: HEFLIN. Nope. Stranger to me. Wikipedia says he was also in "Shane".

8D: Woody Allen mockumentary: ZELIG. Simply forgot. Googled this film before. Woody Allen was dogged by the Soon-Yi distraction at Terry Gross's last "Fresh Air" interview.

9D: NYC subway line: IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit)

10D: Composer Paganini: NICCOLO. No idea. Bet this is a gimme for Crockett. He always nails those composer clues, including yesterday SUK (Czech composer Josef).

11D: Morning __: flowers: GLORIES. Mine have not bloomed yet.

12D: Gnatlike insect: MIDGE

14D: N.L. Central team: STL. St. Louis Cardinals. Albert Pujols is now a US citizen.

15D: Charlemagne's realm: Abbr.: HRE. OTTO I is the first HRE emperor.

17D:Machu Picchu builder: INCA

25D: "If I Ruled the Word" rapper: NAS. His original given name is NASIR.

27D: Just plain awful: ATROCIOUS

34D: Sun or Moon: ORB. Poetically.

38D: Amtrak's "bullet train": ACELA. The name is meant to be evocative of acceleration & excellence.

39D: It's similar to sporting clays: SKEET

40D: Salinger heroine: ESME. From his "For ESME – with Love and Squalor".

42D: Chorus line: ALTO. Nice play on "A Chorus Line".

44D: Old what's-__-name: HIS. I guessed. It's either HIS or HER. Don't understand the clue though. Why "Old"?

46D: Half of an old radio duo: AMOS. The other half is Andy. AMOS 'n' Andy.

49D: Farm workers? ANTS. Ant farm.

53D:__Bornes: card game: MILLE. Unknown to me. MILLE is just a thousand in French. Bornes is "boundary".

54D: John of England: ELTON. ELTON John. I was thinking of the toilet john.

56D: Cassette half: SIDE B

57D: Swiss capital: FRANC. "Capital" here refers to its money, not the capital city BERN. Switzland is not an EU memeber, so no EURO.

63D: Will: SHALL. Gosh, I can't believe the clue is this simple.

65D: Illegal firing?: ARSON. Barry Silk used this identical clue a while ago.

67D: __-dieu: PRIE. The prayer bench.

69D: Revolutionary soldier: MILITIAMAN

70D: The Kennedys, e.g.: CLANS. Timely clue.

71D: Loaf at work: IDLE. And RYE (74D: Loaf in a deli). Nice "loaf" echos.

73D: "Let's Get it On" singer: GAYE (Marvin). Here is the clip.

77D: Wild place?: WEST. Wild, Wild WEST. I thought Dan was talking about Minnesota Wild, our NHL hockey team.

81D: Jr. and sr.: YRS

82D: Subject with many unknowns: ALGEBRA. Stumped me.

83D: Milieu for John Muir, with "the": SIERRAS. John Muir founded the Sierra Club.

84D: "Isn't __ bit like you and me?": Beatles lyrics: HE A. No idea. It's from their "Nowhere Man".

86D: Request to Sajak: AN I. Wheel of Fortune. Vowels. AN A/E/I/O/U.

89D: Estate lawyer's specialty: TRUSTS. Because he knows how to set up trust fund?

91D: Dashes: DARTS

92D: In the open: OUT

93D: Rodeo rope: RIATA. Sometimes it's REATA.

94D: Wine mentioned in Hungary's national anthem: TOKAY. Oh, I was unaware of this fact. Have never heard of TOKAY wine either.

95D: Egypt-Sudan region: NUBIA. Verdi's Aida is set in NUBIA.

96D: Calm water metaphor: GLASS

98D: Catcall: HISS

99D: Leave quickly, in slang: BAIL. No idea. I wanted SCAT.

102D: Dandy dude?: JIM. JIM-dandy is new to me. Dictionary defines it as "one that is very pleasing or excellent of its kind".

104D: Author LeShan: EDA. This has become a gimme.

105D: USNA grad: ENS (Ensign)

106D: English singer Corinne Bailey __: RAE. Got her name from Across fills. She looks exotic.

Answer grid.

C.C.

Aug 29, 2009

Interview with Michael Wiesenberg

Remember this Michael Wiesenberg Saturday puzzle? He stacked six long fills at top and bottom of the grid, four of them spanning the grid. GIRL, INTERRUPTED is such an excellent entry.

Mr. Wiesenberg started contributing to the LA Times in early 2008, and all of the 7 published puzzles are themeless. He probably has his own long list of 15-letter movie titles, TV series, celebrity names, or just common phrases.

Not often do we have a constructor with a Wikipedia entry. Michael Wiesenberg has one. Merl Reagle has one too. Hope you enjoy the interview. A pleasant surprise for me.

What is the seed entry of this puzzle? Which part of the grid gave you the most trouble during the construction?

This puzzle would never have come about nor would it have been published were it not for my persistence and Rich Norris's patience and kind feedback. The puzzle went through eight iterations. The original puzzle had 72 words. Rich didn't like the pattern nor was he happy with several of the entries. Rich had already published several of my puzzles, so he must have thought I had some salvageable capabilities, and was kind enough in his rejection to enumerate his objections. To increase the efficacy and interest of the puzzle, I removed two blocks, lowering the word count to 70. This changed the essential nature of the puzzle, so I basically started the fill all over. The first submission had SPIRAL STAIRCASE as the 15-letter entry. Rich objected to too many partials. I hadn't considered three of them actually to be partials; I thought they were standalone phrases. I didn't think A HAIR ("tiny bit"), ACT TO ("Perform in a certain way"), or I SAID were partials. But of course the editor is the final arbiter in such matters, and Rich's instincts are good. To remove the partials, I started again from scratch, this time with THREE MUSKETEERS. Again Rich raised good objections; again I started over, this time with the present 15-letter entry (HOSTILE TAKEOVER). Rich liked the fill, but had reservations on some of the entries. He suggested a change to clear up a problem. I went with Rich's suggestion and also changed a few other entries, and ended up with what I hope is a good fill with interesting entries and no obscurities.

No particular part of the puzzle gave me more trouble than any other. I just kept juggling entries around, trying to keep them all lively, until I got a good fill. Since it's a themeless puzzle, I could redo entire sections to meet Rich's objections.

How would you describe your style? Why do you prefer constructing themeless over themed puzzles?

My style in themeless puzzles is to have as many 15-word entries as possible or as few entries -- or both. I like "stacks" of 15s. I have had puzzles published with as many as 10 15s and as low a word count as in the low 60s. Working within those constraints, I then try to fit in as many lively entries as possible, among them as many phrases as I can. I don't prefer themelesses over themed puzzles. I have different criteria for themed puzzles. In the latter, I try to be very specific and have the entries as closely linked as possible. I like punny themes. I would rather have four or five entries than three, but if three work well, I would certainly prefer three good entries to more that are only so-so.

What is your background and how did you get into crossword construction?

I originally started constructing crossword puzzles long before software was available to assist, in fact, long before personal computers were even generally available. I had several puzzles published in Master and Quality (Quinn Publications) in the '60s. I did these by hand on graph paper, assisted by the letter cubes of a 3D Scrabble-like game whose name I can't recall. There were some 100 cubes, each with the same letter on all sides, which cubes players would place one at a time in a standup grid between them, trying to form words with each successive addition. I juggled the cubes on a flat surface to fill in grid sections. When I successfully completed a section, I would write the letters in the graph paper. Even with that help, I would fill dozens of grids in constructing one puzzle, and devote many hours to the task. I calculated that based on the time it took to construct a puzzle and the low pay rate at the time I earned under 25 cents an hour. In the '60s, the main constructors of crossword puzzles were prison inmates, for whom such a non-cost-effective use of their time was not counterproductive.

I ceased constructing for many years. I worked as a technical writer in the computer field. As such, I had access to and knowledge of many kinds of software. When I heard of Crossword Compiler, I decided to reenter cruciverbalism. For five years I constructed a monthly puzzle for PuzzlePlanet.com. For seven years I did a monthly puzzle for PokerPages.com. All those puzzles had crossword themes, and can be seen here: http://www.pokerpages.com/interactive/crossword/crosswords.htm

I contributed 24 puzzles to "The Everything Crossword Challenge Book." For two years I did a puzzle regularly for "Advance for Nurses," a national publication. For five years I did a monthly puzzle for "LA Direct," a slick magazine published in Studio City, CA, for a Southern California audience, with puzzles specifically about that region (local beaches, nearby cities, movie studio-related entries, etc.). I did a weekly puzzle for six months for another online site.

I do more than construct puzzles. I have written five books and am working on two more. I have a monthly column in Card Player magazine. I also construct a monthly puzzle for Poker Player magazine.

What is a perfect puzzle to you? Who are your favorite constructors?

There ain't no such animal as a perfect puzzle. There are good puzzles and bad puzzles. Bad puzzles seem to be more common. These are often found in specialty magazines, particularly those that are not in the top echelons of publications. They have too many words (78+ in a 15x15), unkeyed squares, two-letter words, and too many three-letter words. They stretch too hard to fit in theme entries. Also in the bad puzzle category are most of the puzzles created by computers with little or no human intervention. These have no spark of originality, no sparkle. Good themed puzzles are characterized by clever linking of the theme entries. I like rebus puzzles, letter additions or subtractions that form new punny entries, and clever leaps of intuition. Good themelesses are, I think, characterized by the Fridays and Saturdays of the NYT and the LAT. Among my favorite constructors are Gorski, Salomon, Reagle, and Longo.

Besides crossword construction, what else do you do for fun?

Besides crossword construction, I write fiction and nonfiction for publication. I also hike and cycle.

Saturday, August 29, 2009 Michael Wiesenberg

Theme: None

Total blocks: 40

Total words: 70

Are you surprised that HOSTILE TAKEOVER (31A: It might involve a proxy fight) is Mr. Wiesenberg's seed entry? I'd have guessed JAVA APPLET (16A: Small program with a browser interface), my favorite out of the 9 long & lively Across entries.

I was actually thinking of the Board of Directors control, you know, like the proxy fight William Achman launched against Target, so the answer did not jump to me immediately.

Pleasant solving experience today. I was able to fill in most of long fills on the first pass, thanks to the accessibility of the crosses. Normally I feel lost and hopeless on Saturdays without theme as my Sherpa. Those multiple-word entries just do not pop up as easily to me as they do to others.

But then I struggled mightily with HAS A SHOT AT (54A: Might achieve) and lower right corner. Still cannot believe my eyes that THIRTY NINE is the answer for 59A: 78 half. How could it be so simple?

Across:

1A: Largest oceanic dolphin: ORCA. Yep, it's not really whale.

5A" "__ consummation devoutly to be wish'd": Hamlet: 'TIS A. No idea. It's from his famous soliloquy "To be, or not to be".

9A: Hi-tech battler: BOT. Short for "robot". It's "a software program that imitates the behavior of a human, as by querying search engines or participating in chatroom or IRC discussions."

12A: Wood finishing tool: BELT SANDER. Here is an electric Bosch BELT SANDER.

15A: Brooklyn, say, briefly: BORO (Borough)

17A: Surrealist Tanguy: YVES. Obtained his name from Down fills. I don't get his "Indefinite Divisibility" at all.

18A: Long-distance messages?: SMOKE SIGNALS. Great clue.

20A: Prepare for a storage, as a carpet: ROLL UP

23A: Barry who played Lt. Gerard on TV's "The Fugitive": MORSE. Complete stranger to me. I've only seen Harrison Ford's "The Fugitive".

24A: "Rumor has it...": I HEAR. "Rumor has it..." is also a Jennifer Aniston/Kevin Costner movie.

25A: 1876 Twain hero: TOM SAWYER

29A: Health insurance giant: CIGNA. Thought of AETNA first.

30A: Incredulous dying words: ET TU. Caesar's last words" "ET TU, Brute?".

39A: Memory principle: MNEME. Muse of Memory as well.

40A: Ice cream flavor: PISTACHIO. Have you tried mochi ice cream? It has PISTACHIO flavor as well.

45A: Minor, legally: PETIT. Same as "petty"?

46A: When Ovid's "Ars Amatoria" is believed to have been published: ONE BC. Just fill in ONE BC whenever you are not sure of those Roman years.

47A: Notable show biz sisters: GABORS. Zsa Zsa, Eva & Magda.

48A: Home of NBA's Thunder: OKLOHOMA CITY. Completely unknown to me. They were Seattle SuperSonics before 2008.

53A: Landing: PIER. The clue just does not feel complete. Shouldn't it be "Landing place"?

58A: Letter-bottom abbr.: ENCS

60A: "Silent Spring" subj.: DDT

61A: River to the Seine: OISE. See this map. It's pronounced like wäz.

62A: Singer born Eithne Patricia Ní Bhraonáin: ENYA. Well, 4-letter singer, who else could it be? Maybe SADE. Wikipedia says ENYA is an approximate transliteration of how Eithne is pronounced in her native Irish.

Down:

1D: Part of a propositional phr.: OBJ (Object).

2D: "The Crying Game" actor: REA (Stephen).

3D: XXXI x V: CLV. 31x5= 155

4D: Obliquely: AT A SLANT

5D: About 1/3 of Maine's I-95D: TNPK (Turnpike). Big stumper. No idea, sir.

6D: Hanging out, say: IDLE. Had trouble understanding the grammar of the clue/answer.

7D: Spies: SEES. Verb.

8D: Drawing intro: ART I

9D: Flaubert heroine: BOVARY. "Madam BOVARY". The only Flaubert novel I've actually read. Don't we all want things we can't or shouldn't have?

10D: Words implying consequences: OR ELSE

11D: One pitching: TOSSER

13D: Japanese warrior: SAMURAI. Japanese kanji for SAMURAI is the same as Chinese character, simply means "servant" (noun) or "to serve" (verb).

14D: For one: A POP. And ANY (56D: At least one). Clue echos.

15D: Yet: BY NOW

19D: Early ABC show, for short: GMA. D'oh, "Good Morning, America". I had G?A sitting there forever.

21D: First state admitted to the Union from the Northwest Territory: OHIO. Again, 4 letter, it's either OHIO or IOWA.

22D: Longevity: LEGS. Tricky clue.

25D: Saw things? TEETH. I feel so clever to have nailed this one. The question mark indicates that "saw" is not a past tense of "see" here.

26D: Emperor who deposed Pope John XII: OTTO I. The first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Easy guess.

27D: Mindanao peak: Abbr.: MT. APO. Dan Naddor clued it as "Philippines' highest peak: Abbr." last time. APO simply means "master" or "grandfather".

28D: Czech composer Josef: SUK. Nope. It's pronounced like "sook". And Josef is "yaw-zef". He looks like a politician.

32D: Europe's __ de Genève: LAC. LPGA's annual Évian Master is played on the shores of Lake Geneva. Very pretty golf course.

33D: Vicarious feeling: EMPATHY. This word is bandied a lot during Justice Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing.

34D: Singly: ONE BY ONE

35D: Nix: VETO. Latin for "I forbid".

36D: Qatar dignitary: EMIR

37D: Soaks, as flax: RETS. Learned RETS and the "Nerve network" RETE from doing Xword.

40D: Exhausted: POOPED

41D: How many Colonial debts were paid: IN KIND. Have never heard of the phrase "payment IN KIND". The Wikipedia entry says KIND (or sometimes kine) means "cattle". Kine is an archaic plural of cow.

42D: Choose: SELECT. Penned in OPT FOR immediately.

43D: Slope contractions: T-BARS

44D: Bavarian beef?: ACH. German for "Oh!" /"Oh no!"/"Alas". I was stumped.

47D: Nub: GIST

49: "__ Be Back With You"" Steve Forbert song: OH, TO. No idea. Could not even find a YouTube clip.

50D: Half a fish: MAHI. Literally, "strong" in Hawaiian. Red Lobster's seared MAHI-MAHI is pretty good.

51D: Just like that: AS IS. The sale tag words.

52D: Supervision: CARE

55D: Woodsman's makeup: TIN. The TIN Man in "The Wizard of Oz". Did anyone think of the hot-tempered Welsh golfer Ian Woosman first?

57D: Hot spot?: TEA. Mine was SPA.

Answer grid.

Picture of the Day: Here is great photo of our fellow LAT solver Embien standing by part of wood pile. He and his wife heat their house with a wood stove. Here is a beautiful view of his front deck. Embien said: "Doesn't look its best this time of year as the crop out there (purple vetch) was harvested in July and it's too dry to plant winter wheat yet. We live waaay out in the country, about five miles west of Banks, Oregon, in the foothills of the Coast Range."

C.C.

Aug 28, 2009

Friday August 28, 2009 Elizabeth A. Long

Theme: S-lopped Over (Familiar ST-beginning phrases with S lopped)

17A: Insect's working hours?: (S)TICK SHIFT. Manuel transmission.

24A: Seaman who saw it all? (S)TAR WITNESS. One who provides crucial information in a criminal case. TAR is slang for sailor, so is GOB.

34A: Split end?: (S)TRESS FRACTURE. Common sports injury. Split ends are often seen in long hair, hence TRESS.

46A: London museum's hidden camera locations?: (S)TATE SECRET. Often classified. TATE museums.

53A: Where two-wheelers aren't allowed? (S)TRIKE ZONE. Over home plate. Between batter's knees and shoulders.

Hmm, a beautifully woven tapestry, but with an eye-catching flaw. The clue for CAST (37D: Fracture treatment) should have been changed.

Lots of fill-in-the-blanks in this puzzle:

28A: __ Moines: DES

43A: Gal__: PAL

49A: __Alto: PALO

57A: __ Corning, maker of Fiberglas: OWENS

6D: Rapper Mos __: DEF. Mos DEF = Most Definitely.

13D: __ the line: TOE. Did not like the "line" due to ON LINE (21A: Where users meet).

32D: End in __: A TIE

48D: Horse __: SENSE

A clear sign that Rich Norris is continuing his eased-up cluing for Friday & Saturday. Perfect for me, as I've sadly realized that I am simply not able to handle his normal late week puzzles.

Across:

1A: NBA stats: PTS (Points)

4A: Meccan, e.g.: SAUDI. Mecca is a city in Saudi Arabia. The holiest city of Islam. I did not know people of Mecca are called Meccan though.

9A: Silver fish: SMELT. I've yet to try fried SMELT someday.

14A: The Rams of the NCAA's Atlantic 10 Conf.: URI (University of Rhode Island). The answer revealed itself. I forgot that their mascot is a ram.

15A: Popular place to go downhill: ASPEN. The Colorado ski resort.

16A: Something not done: TABOO. Sigh. I was picturing some rare/medium meat that's not well done.

19A: Peace goddess: IRENE. Gimme.

20A: Tools with teeth: RAKES

29A: Scout's concern: TALENT. Sometimes the answer is RECON.

30A: Site of bedlam: ZOO. Liked the clue.

31A: One-named model on many romance novel covers: FABIO. The Italian long-haired model. Not my type.

32A: Attention-getting sounds: AHEMS

38A: Young Aussie hoppers: JOEYS. Baby kangaroos are called JOEYS.

39A: Plumbing outlet: DRAIN

40A: 911 response outlet: EMS

41A: Tiny African threat: TSETSE. Good to see the fly's full name.

50A: Must: HAVE TO. Wrote down NEED TO first.

51A: Malice: VENOM

52A: Former #1 woman pool player Corr: KAREN. Nicknamed "the Irish Invader". Unknown to me, though her face looks familiar. Must have seen on on ESPN before.

58A: Gave in: CAVED. Mine was CEDED.

59A: Israeli weapon: UZI. The "British weapon" is STEN.

60A: Do figures, in a way: SKATE. Figure is defined as "a movement, pattern, or series of movements in skating" in dictionary. Is that how figure skating got its name? I was thinking of numeral figure.

61A: Doglike scavenger: HYENA. The "laughing" scavenger.

62A: Whole lot: TON

Down:

1D: Rotten: PUTRID

2D: "M*A*S*H" system: TRIAGE. The military medical prioritizing system.

3D: Perverted types: SICKOS

4D: Impudence: SASS

5D: Burning issue?: ASH. Got me. Very clever.

6D: News letter: UPI. And TASS (29D: Soviet news agency)

8D: Back from a trip, say: IN TOWN. Thought of RETURN first.

9D: Clown's accessory: STILT. I was picturing the big nose on a clown's face.

10D: Sausalito's county: MARIN. Not familiar with Sausalito, a Bay Area city. Wikipedia says both ISABEL Allende and Amy Tan live there.

11D: Charles's miser: EBENEZER (Scrooge). "Dickens' miser" would be SCROOGE. Given name in clue = given name in answer. Surname in clue = Surname in answer.

12D: Like the road in a classic ballad: LONESOME. Stumper. James Taylor's "That LONESOME Road".

18D: Flooey lead-in: KER. Also lead-in for plop/plunk.

25D: First Arab letter: ALIF. The first Hebrew letter is ALEPH.

28D: Ask for more: REORDER

27D: Scrubbing brand: SOS. So you wear glove when using SOS?

31D: Five-time Emmy winner Tina: FEY. What a great job with Sarah Palin. "I can see Russia from my house."

33:D Attila, notably: HUN. Attila the HUN.

34D: Western weapon: TOMAHAWK. Awesome answer.

35D: Interstate feature: REST AREA

36D: Museo display: ARTE. Spanish/Italian for art. Museo is Spanish/Italian for museum.

38D: Air Force One, e.g.: JET

41D: Asian holiday: TET. Well, it's only a Vietnamese holiday. Would you call Bastille Day an "European holiday"? I don't think so. It's only a French National holiday.

42D: It's often served with soda: SCOTCH

43D: End successfully: PAN OUT

44D: Former NBA star Mourning: ALONZO. No idea. He last played for the Miami Heat.

45D: Chinese menu offering: LO MEIN. LO = dredge up. MEIN = noodles. It's not stir-fried. CHOW MEIN is. CHOW simply means "to stir-fry". All Cantonese.

47D: Olympics contest, e.g.: EVENT

49D: Dispensable candy: PEZ. This puzzle has three Z's, one J, three V's and 5 K's. Quite scrabbly.

51D: Hindu sacred text: VEDA. Sanskrit for "sacred lore, knowledge".

52D: Decks in a ring: KOS (Knock outs). Wish there were an abbreviation hint.

54D: Light line: RAY. RAY Of hope? The "line" bothers me too.

55D: "__been meaning to tell you...": I'VE. That "Wo Ai Ni", Chinese for "I love you".

56D: "Jeopardy!" great Jennings: KEN. Alas, H&R Block.

Answer grid.

Picture of the Day: Here is great photo of Dr. Dad and his family. It's taken 7 or 8 years ago. From left to right: Dr. Dad, his wife Kathy, daughter Jennifer who is now 26 years old and living in New Jersey, and daughter Danielle who is now 14 and starting high school this year.

C.C.

Aug 27, 2009

Interview with Don Gagliardo

Ever since we switched to LA Times Daily Crossword on March 23, 2009, there have been a very few Thursday puzzles that were enjoyed by almost every solver in terms of theme creativity, solvability, "wow" factor and lack of "huh?". Don Gagliardo's ALFRED HITCHCOCK is one of them.

Don placed 10 theme answers in the grid, and intersected ALFRED HITCHCOCK with five movies in which Hitchcock had a cameo role. Don's "Hard G" puzzle is my all-time "Shock and Awe". I also loved his HUSH HUSH MEETING tremendously.

Don "Hard G" Gagliardo started constructing puzzle in Sept 2006. Since then, he has had 38 puzzles published by LA Times. I am constantly amazed by his originality and bold thinking. Now every time I see his byline, I expect some thrilling theme. Hope you enjoy the interview.

What inspired this puzzle? What are the other theme answers you considered but failed to make the cut?

This puzzle which is to appear Thursday, August 27, was simply inspired by numbers. The goal was to come up with a unique approach, so I chose something we all love, money. My original intent was to have the denominations one, five, ten, twenty and fifty. I had phrases like FABULOUS FIFTIES, ROARING TWENTIES under consideration. All the phrases had to do with positive adjectives associated with denominational numbers. I then realized that I had left out the rare two-dollar bills. I also thought that the two-dollar bill adjective should be contrary to the nature of the other bills because they are such odd-balls. To further enhance their contrariness, I thought the theme answer should come down the page versus the across for the others. I went with three across theme entries (one, five and ten dollar bills) and took a chance that I could find a way to work in the two-dollar bill going down. By incredible luck, I was able to cross the three across entries with the one down entry that I had chosen. To even further enhance the difference, I purposely created asymmetry in the puzzle, attributing it to the down theme answer in the clue. It sounded simple, but it sure became complex!

Which fills do you think might get "huh?" from the solvers and which ones are you most proud of?

The RICOLA cough drop may not be known everywhere (I can still hear the TV jingle). There is a major Chinese city, XIAN, which people may not know. PINKO is a funny word that may have last come up in a MASH episode, but is long gone and possibly unknown to younger people. The phrase "WE'RE ON" is possibly new to puzzles and may throw off solvers. Because it may be a first in puzzles (I don't see it in any databases), it would be a point of honor to have come up with it. I like combining abbreviations and words, which I did a couple times, and there is a short name in there, all of which creates unusual and interesting letter combinations.

How would you describe your style? You seem to like letter play. I truly love your HARD G and HUSH HUSH MEETING.

Yes, I love playing with quirky letter and word situations. You mentioned the HARD-G and HUSH-HUSH MEETING puzzles, thank you Zhouqin. The G puzzle was not originally intended as it was. I was playing with long theme answers with lots of J-sounding Gs (inspired by Ginger Rogers!) and thought, what if I could make all the down words be hard-Gs. Then I expanded it to include as many Gs as I could get into the puzzle. The HUSH-HUSH MEETING was literally the inspiration for that puzzle. I liked the phrase, and my inclination was to apply some aspect of letters to the phrase.

What is the most memorable puzzle you've made? Why is it so special?

I had a puzzle with 30 Ks in it last year (2/21/08). It was memorable mostly because of the wonderful response that I got from solvers.

What is a perfect puzzle to you? Who are your favorite constructors?

The perfect puzzle is the one that really turns the wheels in my brain. I like it when I struggle with all the clues, and suddenly it seems like all the answers happen at once. Two of my favorite puzzles of all time, and this in the Will Weng days at the New York Times, were by Peter E. Price and Edward J. O'Brien. Price's puzzle was a themeless Sunday, but with a very elaborate interlock of intriguing words and phrases. O'Brien's puzzle also had incredible interlock, with three stacked 21's, and the theme was extremely fun, with rhyming made-up phrases. I got hooked then, and have enjoyed the endless imaginations of constructors over a long period of time. There are many wonderful ones out there now, too many to mention, and I love them all!

What is your background and what prompted you to make your first crossword?

Because my father introduced me to puzzles, my desire was to give back to him. Thus my first efforts were to make puzzles for my father. I constructed puzzles on and off since junior high school, but waited until I was about 50 to start getting serious about it. My background is a rounded education, with interests mainly in the arts and sciences. By trade I am a piano technician.

Besides constructing crossword, what else do you do for fun?

Barbara (my wife) and I like to play Scrabble and piano. Lots of nature walks, especially with our doggy Violet, are always welcome. There are many subjects that interest me, so my reading tends toward non-fiction. Comic books are a passion of mine, which is ironic because I read few as a child. I also get in some occasional golf.


Thursday August 27, 2009 Don Gagliardo

Theme: Money Talks - Common phrases ending with currency denominations.

23A: Lofty bills?: HIGH FIVES. HIGH FIVE is a celebratory slap.

38A: Superior bills?: TOP TENS. OK, here is a David Letterman's TOP TEN George Bush moments. What's the fun with #5 "I like to fish"?

50A: Adored bills?: LOVED ONES. Your spouse & kids & friends & pets are your LOVED ONES.

8D: Hated bills (that appropriately spoil this puzzle's symmetry)?: TERRIBLE TWOS. Toddlers start to get defiant at age two, hence the name.

For the grid to be symmetrical, TERRIBLE TWOS would have to be placed in column #8 rather than #9. (Updated later: My mistake. According to Orange, for a symmetrical grid pattern, the L in TERRIBLE TWO should have been black.)

I was very surprised to hear that two-dollar bills are very rare in the US when I first arrived in Minnesota. We use them a lot in China.

Lively theme clues, esp 8D. So creative to grid the odd-ball TERRIBLE TWOS Down and intersect all the other three cheerful Across theme entries.

Maybe I am paying more attention to the "tapestry weaving" after reading Bob Klahn's interview, but I did notice quite a few echo clues.

Was XI'AN (12D: Ancient Chinese capital) a gimme to you today? Did you think of me when you filled in it? I've mentioned so many times before, XI'AN was the capital city for Zhou, Qin, Han & Tang, four major dynasties in China, I was born and grew up there, hence my Chinese name Zhouqin. Chairman Mao & the Chinese Communist Party picked Beijing over XI'AN as China's capital in 1949.

Do read my interview with Don "Hard G" Gagliardo regarding his thought process on this puzzle.

Across:

1A: Type of large TV: PLASMA

7A: Erwin of '50s TV: STU. Not familiar with STU Erwin or any of his shows. He died in 1967. Nice consecutive "TV" clues.

10A: With 13-Down, opportunity for better luck?: NEXT. And TIME (13D: See 10-Across). Great cross-reference & intersection.

14A: Swinger in a box: HITTER. Penned in BATTER immediately.

15A: "__ making a list ...": Christmas music: HE'S. "Santa Clause is Coming to Town".

16A: Et __: ALII. Latin masculine plural. Et alia is neutral plural. Et aliae is feminine plural.

17A: Looking to be helped out: IN A JAM

18A: Cardinal point suffix: ERN

19A: Go-go go-between? TEAM. Why? I got the answer from Down fills. (Note: Go, TEAM, go)

20A: Strung along: LED ON

21A: Irene of "Fame": CARA. Also Italian (feminine) for "beloved". Cara Mia = My beloved.

26A: Shore shoe style: OPEN TOE

29A: "Incidentally ...": BY THE BY

33D: Excavated areas: PITS. Like the XI'AN Terracotta Warriors PITS.

34A: Author Godwin: GAIL. No idea. She looks like an author who writes something serious, like "Away From Her".

40A: Razor-billed bird: AUK. The Arctic black-and-white diving bird.

41A: Curly- tailed dog: AKITA. Originated from the AKITA Prefecture, Japan.

43A: Oklahoma native: OTO. Or OTOE.

44A: To __: A TEE

45A: "Jeepers!": HOLY COW! And YIKES (32D: "Jeepers!")

48A: Ancient septet: WONDERS. Seven WONDERS of the World.

52A: Julie Kotter's spouse, in a '70s sitcom: GABE. Again, got the answer from Down fills. It's from the TV sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter". He is the teacher with a ruler.

55A: Erotic deity: EROS. Erotic is rooted in EROS.

56A: Gushes: SPEWS. Crossed WELL (58D: Gusher source). Another great intersection. The clues are very Bob Klahn-ish.

61A: Toon Chihuahua: REN. Wrote down RIN, thinking of RIN Tin Tin. I am used to see REN clued as "Stimpy's pal".

62A: Author Allende: ISABEL. Sigh! Her name escaped me. Just heard her interview on Minnesota Public Radio a few weeks ago. Chilean-American author. Very imaginative. Hard to tell whether her stories are real or not.

63A: __ Accords, 1993 Isreal-PLO pact: OSLO. Rabin was assassinated because he signed the OSLO Accords.

64A: Word spoken with a head slap: D'OH. Carol calls it her V8 moment.

65A: Swiss cough drop: RICOLA. Stumper, though this clip sounds very familiar. RICOLA is abbreviation of the company's German name Richterich & Compagnie Laufen.

66A: Occupant of a tiny house: DOLL. Some of those 1950's Madam Alexander hard plastic dolls cost hundreds of dollars.

67A: Tokyo-born artist: ONO. Oh, I had the misconception that she was born in NY, then moved to Tokyo as a kid.

68A: One way to be aware: KEENLY. Good clue. KEENLY aware.

Down:

1D: "Dr. __": PHIL. Nicely placed above OPRAH (26D: Chicago-based daytime host), who launched Dr. PHIL's career. Both yawner, yawner though. Give me Ellen any day.

2D: Ticket window sight: LINE

4D: The Red Storm of the Big East Conference: ST JOHN'S. No idea. Wikipedia says Governor Mario Cuomo graduated from this university.

5D: Be dead serious: MEAN IT

6D: Equip, as a posse: ARM. Brought to mind Gary Cooper's "High NOON" (39D: High time?")

7D: Bundle: SHEAF

9D: SEALs' gp.: US NAVY. Our ex-governor Jesse Ventura was a Navy SEAL.

10D: Tony winner Richardson: NATASHA. Sad to see her name. She died of that skiing accident. Wife of Liam Neeson (Oskar in "Schindler's List").

11D: It's usually pd. monthly: ELEC

21D: Tight: CHEAP. Did not know "Tight" can mean stingy as well.

24D: Disco adjective: GO-GO. Unfortunately "Go-go" is also part of the clue for 19A.

25D: Approximate leaving hrs.: ETDS. ETD = Estimated Time of Departure.

27D: Liberal, to Archie Bunker: PINKO. Refers to the communists, right?

28D: Amazon business, say: E-TAIL

30D: Eddie who founded a clothing chain: BAUER. Again, obtained the answer with crosses. Have never heard of the chain.

35D: "Was __ blame?": I TO

38D: Folded fare: TACO. Alliteration.

42D: Acetaminophen brand: TYLENOL. Easy guess. I did not know the meaning of acetaminophen.

44D: Much of a Sunday paper: ADS SPACE. Or of all those gossip magazines.

46D: Exert to excess: OVERDO. Another alliteration.

47D: "It's our turn to perform!": WE'RE ON. Oh well, mine was WERION, since I had RIN instead of REN for the crossing 61A. So I had huge trouble parsing my answer.

49D: Monster nickname: NESSIE. The Lock Ness monster, legend of Scotland.

51D: "Tiny Bubbles" singer: DON HO. Another cross help.

53D: Kid's assertive retort: AM SO

54D: Ringer: BELL

57D: "Heaven's __ vault, studded with stars...": Shelley: EBON. Struggled with this answer. EBON is poetic "black". I wanted A BIG, Heaven's A BIG vault. Makes sense to me.

59D: Elicit guffaws from: SLAY. So many words/phrases for "crack up".

62D: Vex: IRK. IRE can be a verb too.

Answer grid.

Picture of the Day: Here is beautiful photo of the Bee's family. From left to right: Melissa Bee's daughter (tank patrol member for the San Jose Sharks), the conjunction Barb B (Melissa's Mom), and our blog "It" girl Melissa.

C.C.

Aug 26, 2009

Wednesday August 26, 2009 Dan Naddor

Theme: COURT BUSINESS (33A: What chambers of commerce do, and this puzzle's title - common phrases ending with words used in court.

17A: Exterior attractiveness, to a Realtor: CURB APPEAL. You file an APPEAL to the appellate court when you are not happy with the lower court decision.

20A: Beethoven's affliction: LOSS OF HEARING. The purpose of a preliminary HEARING is to decide whether the case against you should be dismissed or go on trial.

50A: Drug safety test: CLINICAL TRIAL. You are tried by a jury or by a judge (bench trial).

55A: Replay feature: SLOW MOTION. You can file a A MOTION before, during or after the trial. The judge either approves or denies your MOTION.

Chambers of Commerce, esp American Chamber of Commerce in China, play an essential role in courting business. Great wordplay on "court".

I hope my understanding of the above legal terms are correct. LAW (49A: Bar code?) is a lovely bonus fill. Sounds so hard to pass a bar exam. Remember the JFK Jr. "The Hunk Flunks" headline? He failed twice.

Look at the first and last pair of the theme answers. Dan Naddor is really into overlapping them now. I also counted 22 entries with 6 or more letters. I am going to call it as Dan Naddor index from now on.

Definitely a tougher puzzle than yesterday's, but the theme answers all came rather easily.

Across:

1A: Paul of "American Graffiti": LE MAT. I've actually seen "American Graffiti". Don't remember this guy at all. Ron Howard, yes.

6A: Big Apple sch.: CCNY (the City College of NY). Based in Manhattan.

10A: One often looking down?: SNOB. Great clue. I was picturing someone who always looks depressed.

14A: Part of Caesar's boast: I CAME. Well, Caesar did not really speak English. "Veni, vidi, vici": I CAME, I saw, I conquered.

15A: Former manager Felipe: ALOU (Felipe). Father of Moisés.

16A: Bishop of Rome: POPE. POPE Benedict is way too conservative.

19A: Wilson of "Wedding Crashers": OWEN. He used to date Kate Hudson, who is currently seeing A-Rod.

22A: Hunk: GOB. In what sense are they synonymous?

24A: Drei minus zwei: EINS. 3-2=1. Shouldn't "zwei" (German for "two") be capitalized? All German nouns are.

25A: Flummoxed: AT SEA

26A: Embraces, as a philosophy: ADOPTS

28A: Site for sapling: NURSERY

30A: Old Italian bread: LIRA. "Bread/capital" often refers to the currency.

31A: Lined up: IN A ROW

38A: Like a banquet: LAVISH. Chinese banquet can be really opulent.

41A: Thorny shrubs commonly with yellow flowers: ACACIAS. I vaguely remember Kazie said these flowers are called wattles in Australia.

44A: Livestock food: FORAGE

46A: Billiards bounce: CAROM. Often confuse CAROM with MASSE.

47A: James of "The Godfather": CAAN. The hot-tempered, reckless Sonny Corleone.

58A: Soap actress Sofer: RENA. Forgot. I linked this picture before. I remember those flowers on her shirt.

59A: Isle where Macbeth is buried: IONA. Pure guess. Scottish Isle, 4 letter, what else could it be?

61A: Scott in a landmark civil rights case: DRED. Tangentially related to the theme too.

63A: Kind of pressure that can cause headache: SINUS

Down:

1D: Driver's documents: Abbr.: LIC. What's your eye color?

2D: Old French coin: ECU. Sometimes it's SOU.

3D: Vermont music festival town: MARLBORO. No idea. See this map. Is it named after the MARLBORO man?

4D: Early Christian pulpit: AMBO. It escaped me. I linked this AMBO before. It's "a raised desk, or either of two such desks, from which the Gospels or Epistles were read or chanted".

5D: Afternoon service: TEA SET

6D: Menu fowl: CAPON. Is it often stuffed?

7D: Staff symbols: CLEFS. Musical staff.

8D: Wordsmith Webster: NOAH. I am using a Webster's College Dictionary.

10D: Golf pro shop array: SPORTS WEAR. Of course, I was thinking of those drivers/irons/putters.

11D: Not in any way: NOWISE. New word to me.

12D: Feature of some corkscrews: OPENER

13D: Popular analgesic cream: BENGAY. My husband uses Cryogel for his bowling elbow pain.

18D: Pitchfork-shaped letter: PSIS. And NUS (32D: Frat letters).

21D: Hitter of 755 homers: AARON (Hank). The real home run king. Dennis probably has his rookie card.

22D: Hoedown dancer: GAL. Does GAL here carry a country girl connotation?

23D: Lyrical: ODIC. Of an ode.

27D: Three-time Editorial Cartooning Pulitzer winner: PAUL CONRAD. Unknown to me. Wikipedia says he was the chief editorial cartoonist for the LA Times from 1964 to 1993. And he was named in Nixon's enemy list in 1973.

28D: "Parsley is gharsley" poet: NASH. Ah yeah, I don't like parsley at all.

29D: Ocean State sch.: URI (University of Rhode Island). I blanked. Did get OSU (56D: The Buckeyes, initially).

31D: Bird venerated by ancient Egyptians: IBIS. Yep, the ancient Egyptians consider the bird sacred. Thoth, the god of wisdom, has a head of an IBIS.

34D: "Spider-Man" director: RAIMI (Sam). Was it a gimme to you? I've never heard of this guy.

35D: New Deal prog.: TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority)

36D: Breeding horse: STALLION

43D: French satellite-launching rocket: ARIANE. Pronounced like ar-ee-AN. Completely stranger to me. Wikipedia says it comes from the French spelling of the mythological character Ariadne, daughter of Minos. She helped Theseus escape the labyrinth, but later was cruelly deserted.

44D: Old MacDonald's place: FARM. "Old MaDonald had a FARM, E-I-E-I-O...".

45D: Whopper toppers: ONIONS. Would have been a perfect rhyming clue if the answer were singular.

47D: Duplicate: CLONE

48D: Fighting big-time: AT WAR

51D: Members of Gil Grissom's team, briefly: CSIS. Crime Scene Investigators? I got the answer from Across fills. Have never watched CSI or any of its spin-off.

53D: Yours, in Tours: A TOI. Je suis tout A TOI, chéri.

57D: Super __: game console: NES (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Answer grid.

Picture of the Day: Here is great photo of our farmer/philosopher Windhover. The picture was taken on his 61st Birthday (12/7/2006) by his beautiful wife "Irish". I also liked this quiet view off his back porch.

C.C.