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Today's Puzzles / You auto see the April 24 crossword
« Last post by Thomps2525 on April 24, 2017, 04:46:12 PM »
Today's crossword by Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke includes this clue: "Running by itself." The answer is ONAUTO -- and the first word of each of the four longest answers can be placed "on auto" to form a new phrase:

TV series starter: PILOTEPISODE
Market research target: FOCUSGROUP
Gridiron pass-defense scheme: ZONECOVERAGE
Sheet for plotting in math class: GRAPHPAPER

Auto Zone, headquartered in Memphis, is a chain of more than 5,300 auto parts stores. Auto Zone is one of six brand names appearing today. There is also ALPO ("Brand for Fido"), ADOBE ("Photoshop maker"), ETRADE ("Online financial site"), ZESTA ("Keebler cracker") and DIRECTV ("Dish Network competitor"). Puzzle editors no longer forbid the use of brand names in crosswords. I foresee a day when someone will create a puzzle consisting of nothing but brand names.

"One-named Tejano singer" is SELENA. Selena Quintanilla's hits include Dreaming Of You and I Could Fall In Love. Tejano is a hybrid style of music also known as Tex-Mex. Considering that Selena was born in Texas, the clue could also have been "One-named Tejana singer." Selena was only 23 in 1995 when she was shot and killed by the founder of her fan club.

SELENA is not the only name appearing in today's puzzle. There is also IKE ("Cold War prez"),  OMAR ("General Bradley"), ONO ("Tokyo-born Yoko"), DRE ("Dr. with Grammys"), LORNA ("Doone of fiction"), TRUMAN ("Author Capote"), EDISON ("Menlo Park inventor") and  ESTEFAN ("Coming Out Of The Dark singer Gloria"). I foresee a day when someone will create a puzzle consisting of nothing but people's names.

Getting back to the theme of today's puzzle, all automobiles manufactured by Tesla Motors contain hardware for self-driving capability, also known as "auto-pilot." BMW is developing a self-driving car. Google is working on a self-driving car called Waymo, which means "a new way forward in mobility." I am opposed to the development of self-driving cars. Why would I want to own a vehicle that could go someplace without me? Here is a Guardian article outlining the pros and cons:
Well, this site (cruciverb) has a pretty good database of entries and where/when they were used, with links to the grids. Also,, but no links to grids. has lots of data and can link to the complete list of entries in a particular puzzle. And, of course has everything that has appeared in NYT.
General Discussion / Generally: How can I determine if a theme has already been done?
« Last post by Olrak on April 22, 2017, 01:39:10 PM »
How do I know if my theme idea was already used by another constructor?  Is there a database of some sort?  Maybe a list of quotes that have been used already.  I have had some theme ideas that turned out to be unoriginal, i.e. already done.  I'd like to save some time.
Today's Puzzles / Decompressing the April 21 crossword
« Last post by Thomps2525 on April 21, 2017, 03:55:52 PM »
Paul Coulter is Pretty Clever. His crossword today includes six two-word phrases in which the last letters of the first word are the first letters of the last word:

Compressed syntax? WORDER (word order)
Compressed carnivore? MEATER (meat eater)
Compressed piece of hardware? COMPUTERMINAL (computer terminal)
Compressed Homeland Security role? COUNTERRORISM (counter-terrorism)
Compressed gastric complaints? STOMACHES (stomach aches) 
Compressed Blue Suede Shoes as sung by Elvis? COVERSION (cover version)

Blue Suede Shoes is one of Elvis Presley's most well-known songs -- along with a few hundred others -- but the original version was by Carl Perkins. In his 1996 autobiography Go, Cat, Go! The Life & Times of Carl Perkins, the King of Rockabilly, co-written with David McGee -- the book's title came from a line in the song --  Perkins, who recorded for Sun Records in Memphis, explained the origin of the song. He was performing at a dance in December 1955 when he heard a young man tell his partner, "Don't step on my suedes!" Perkins' reaction was, "Good gracious, a pretty little thing like that and all he can think about is his blue suede shoes." Four weeks later, he had written, recorded and released Blue Suede Shoes and it quickly went to number one on the music surveys of Memphis top-40 radio stations WMPS and WHBQ and #2 nationally. Elvis recorded his own version in March 1956. Among the many other artists who have recorded the song are Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, George Jones, Johnny Rivers and Lawrence Welk. Yes, Lawrence Welk -- his version was an instrumental. Here is Perkins' original:

"Spanish seashore" is COSTA, which is not used in English. "Nothing, in Nice" is RIEN, which is not used in English. One abbreviation appears in the puzzle twice, as a clue and as an answer: CSA (Confederate States of America) is clued with "Old anti-Union gp." and STS (States) is clued with "CSA's eleven." "Latin clarifier" is IDEST, which means "That is" and is abbreviated i.e.  Many people erroneously use "i.e." when they mean "e.g.", which is an abbreviation of exempli gratia and means "For example." The Oxford Dictionary explains the proper usage of the two terms:

That's all for today. It's time for me to go, cat, go.
Today's Puzzles / April 19: Something's fishy
« Last post by Thomps2525 on April 19, 2017, 05:02:27 PM »
C.C. Burnikel came up with another clever idea. Today's crossword includes this clue: "Ingredient in some Asian soup, or, literally, what each answer to a starred clue has." The answer is FISHHEAD.

Garage alternative: CARPORT
Droopy-eared dog: BASSETHOUND 
Testimony preceder: SOLEMNOATH
Common cause of food poisoning: SALMONELLA
Garment with a fitted waist & flared bottom: SKATERDRESS

A skater dress is so named because it resembles the characteristic style of dress worn by female figure skaters. A skater dress is actually just a short A-line dress:

Salmonella is a bacteria of the Enterobacteriaceae family. There are two species, Salmonella enterica and Salmonella bongori. The bacteria were named for Daniel Salmon, a veterinary pathologist with the Department of Agriculture. Some people get flowers or butterflies or streets or mountains named for them. I wonder how Salmon felt about his name being used for bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website has detailed information about Salmonella:

The now-acceptable use of product names in crosswords is possibly getting out of hand. Today we have ARI ("Pop singer Grande's fragrance"), ALPO ("Shepherd's dinner, perhaps"), AMANAS ("Some kitchen appliances"), HPS {"Officejet printers"), NOKIA ("Finnish tech giant") and SPEEDO ("Racer's swimwear brand"). A clever clue is "Present mo." My first thought was APRIL but the answer is DEC, the month when we give and get presents.

To conclude, here is a recipe for fish head soup -- but please don't expect me to eat any!

Today's Puzzles / April 17: Today's best puzzle
« Last post by Thomps2525 on April 17, 2017, 07:47:51 PM »
Bruce Haight came up with a cute idea for today's Los Angeles Times crossword: "Highway segment for slower traffic" is RIGHTLANE -- and the end (the right side) of each theme answer can be followed by LANE.

Friends of man's best friend: DOGLOVERS
Tidy sum that doesn't sound like much: PRETTYPENNY
Sport involving some rolling on the grass: LAWNBOWLING
Forgetting the unpleasant parts: SELECTIVEMEMORY

The expression "man's best friend" was first used by Frederick II, former King of Prussia (1740-86). He was unmarried and preferred to spend time with his greyhounds rather than with people. He referred to one of his dogs as "man's best friend" and even asked that he be buried next to his greyhounds on the vineyard terrace at his residence in Potsdam. However, his nephew and successor Frederick William II instead ordered the body to be entombed next to the body of Frederick I near the Potsdam Garrison Church.

In 1967, the Beatles had a number-one hit in several countries with Penny Lane, written by Paul McCartney. There is indeed a Penny Lane in Liverpool. One day in November 1966, Paul was waiting at a bus shelter for Beatles bandmate John Lennon. While there -- or whilst, as the British would say -- Paul wrote down descriptions of what he saw, including the bank, the barber shop, the roundabout and the nurse selling poppies for Remembrance Day, and turned his dsescriptions into a song. The "shelter in the middle of the roundabout" was the Penny Lane Bus Station, which no longer exists. After the Penny Lane song was released, Beatles fans stole all the street signs.

"Columbus craft" is PINTA ("The Painted One") -- but is it really? Historians say La Pinta was a nickname. Ships in Columbus's time were named after saints. Columbus also had the Santa Clara (which was nicknamed La NiƱa) and the Santa Maria. No one is certain what the Pinta's real name was. For more information about the three ships, go to

And before you ask, no, I don't believe there was ever a ship called the Santa Claus.
General Discussion / Re: How do you guys come up with good crossword clues?
« Last post by ryanspuzzles on April 17, 2017, 02:14:04 PM »
Fantastic advice everyone. Thank you.
Today's Puzzles / Figuring out the April 16 crosswords
« Last post by Thomps2525 on April 16, 2017, 03:38:32 PM »
Today's Los Angeles Times crossword by C.C. Burnikel is titled "Action Figures" and features eight familiar terms adapted to apply to famous people:

Sally having fun? PLAYINGFIELD
Nathan at quarterback? PASSINGLANE
Doris during a workout? TRAININGDAY
Comical Samantha busy stitching? QUILTINGBEE
Director Oliver working on pizza dough? ROLLINGSTONE
Nicolas taking a swing? BATTINGCAGE
Singer Al making a strike? BOWLINGGREEN
Lucille on a trampoline? BOUNCINGBALL

Brand names used to be taboo in crosswords but are becoming increasingly common. Today's puzzle includes OREO ("Sister brand of Nilla"), OLAY ("Maker of Regenerist products"), IMAC ("Computer with a Magic Keyboard") and SERTAS ("Perfect Sleepers, e.g."), and ATE was clued with "Had Subway fare."

"Many a pizza slice" is OCTANT. I was unfamiliar with this word. It dates from the late 17th century and comes from the Latin octo, which means "eight." Merriam-Webster defines octant as "an arc of a circle equal to one eighth of its circumference, or the area enclosed by such an arc with two radii of the circle." Now I won't be baffled if I ever see pizza advertised at a particular price per octant,

Timothy Polin's New York Times crossword today also includes names of action figures -- more specifically, Western actors. Even more specifically, Western actors and their horses. The puzzle is titled "Saddle Up!" and the actors' names are directly above the names of their horses: ZORRO is on TORNADO, CISCOKID is on DIABLO, TONTO is on SCOUT, LONERANGER is on SILVER, ROYROGERS is on TRIGGER, and DALEEVANS is on BUTTERMILK.

My favorite Western actor was Gene Autry, whose horse was named Champion. During Autry's lengthy movie/tv career, three different "Champions" appeared in his films:

The Reel Rundown site has photos of several Western stars and their horses:

That's all for today. I'm going to go take a west. Er, I mean rest.

Book Releases / Re: New York Times crossword puzzle books
« Last post by Glenn9999 on April 13, 2017, 03:34:16 AM »
Anyway, I suggest getting all seven volumes from a local bookstore. These stores need our support.

Not trying to be snotty here, but should note that the ones I'm aware of would never carry anything like this.  Ever.  Unless you count "Pennypress" or "Dell" as "anything like this", of course.

Anyhow, thanks for the heads-up (and thankfully they're not novel-bound).

Edit: and a question.  How does this set differ from the set released in February I see on Amazon?  I suppose these are actual quarterly releases?  And how does one tell the difference between one and the other?
General Discussion / Re: How do you guys come up with good crossword clues?
« Last post by Glenn9999 on April 13, 2017, 02:22:13 AM »
Let me add some detail here. I make a weekly puzzle for our local library and I figure most of my audience doesn't do very many crosswords so I try to keep it between Monday and Wednesday level.

I guess by "pretty bland" I mean most of my clues come across as the sort of brief "definition" clues you see in big puzzle magazines

It won't be too hard if you're keeping it around the Tuesday level.  Remember that you can always change context on a piece of fill.  You can go with some dictionary part in some way, but you can apply it to culture of various kinds too.  For instance, if you look up a word and figure out it's in a popular song or movie title, you can always pop it in as a fill in the blank or something related and jazz up the grid that way.  For instance, to use an example from today's publications, you could code ATLANTA as [Georgia capital] or [Golden Globe-winning Donald Glover series].   The first is about a Mon/Tue level, the other one is late-week stuff.  Of course, you wouldn't want to do that on a word that by itself is hard, but it's a way to change up things and more or less is what Stickler is suggesting.
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