Saturday, June 13, 2020, Michael Wiesenberg

Saturday Themeless by Michael Wiesenberg

Another fine themeless puzzle from our professional gambler/author and crossword constructor from Calgary.

Here is the Amazon link to buy Michael's latest book which you see below. I think it might be a Father's Day request!

Michael was very generous in sharing his construction techniques and I have included it at the end of the write-up above the grid. It is very informative and fascinating

Everybody ante-up as Michael has dealt us all a winning hand:


1. Top of the slopes: SKI HAT 

7. Recuperation area: POST-OP.

13. Pokémon species with lightning bolt-shaped tails: PIKACHU crossing 3. Ford subcompact: IKON seemed strange and ICON more logical but the K of PIKACHU stuck with me. This IKON is sold in Mexico and is  made in India where it is called the Ford Figo.

Ford Ikon

15. Jane Eyre, for one: HEROINE 49. What "T" may mean: TRUE 5 TRUE/False Jane Eyre Questions

16. Like many store-bought juices: FROM CONCENTRATE - Reduces shipping weight and promotes shelf life

18. They might result from omission: SINS.

19. Muscat money: RIAL - I assume this is after Ramadan is over

20. Badly damaged Asian sea: ARAL.

21. Like BOS and ATL: INTL - Airports

22. Golf bag features: STRAPS - Tiger Woods caddying for his son Charlie

24. Big name in Argentine politics: PERON.

28. Extensive, themed tattoo: SLEEVE - Howard and Raj show their SLEEVE tattoos were fake (2:21)

30. Filmmaker's __ light: KLIEG - Or for TV game shows

31. Digitizes, in a way: SCANS.

32. Bit of physics: ION.

35. Placement question: WHERE DOES THIS GO? 

38. Yang partner: YIN Here 'ya go

39. "A Gallery of Children" author: MILNE - Here's a used first edition for $200 which predates his Winnie The Pooh series

40. Yellowish color: OCHRE.

41. Personally give: HAND TO.

42. Fifth __: WHEEL - An unwanted person or a  luxurious road home

43. Really fancy: DESIRE - "Do you fancy a game of golf?" is more likely to be heard in Britain

46. Reasons for repeating courses: EFFS 

48. Bakery finisher: ICER.

50. Bedazzles: AWES.

54. Insomniacs have them: SLEEPLESS NIGHTS - People my age Tossin' and Turnin' with Bobby Lewis!

58. Bundt, e.g.: CAKE TIN.

59. Squeak by: EDGE OUT.

60. "That's a shame": IT'S SAD.

61. Legendary Manhattan eatery: SARDIS - Also famous for its wall of caricatures. Can you guess the names of the three below? *Answer at the bottom of the write-up


1. Tanning nos.: SPFS - Sun Protection Factor and 
50. Too much sun, they say: AGER 

2. Te Kanawa of opera: KIRI - New Zealander Dame KIRI Te Kanawa portrayed Australian Dame Nellie Melba on a Downton Abbey episode set in 1920's

4. Challenges for directors: HAMS.

5. Notre Dame is in it, oddly: Abbr.: ACC - The Irish are no where near the Atlantic Coast 

6. Side issue?: THORN - Frank Lary was a "good old boy" from Alabama and a THORN in the side of the N.Y. Yankees from 1955 - 1961. He was 27 - 10 against them in the years they won six World Series. I wonder if Boomer and C.C. have this card.

7. Fenced-in area: PEN.

8. Food scrap: ORT - A cwd staple

9. Title words after "ours is a love," in a Jimmy Dorsey classic: SO RARE A favorite of my mom's

10. Queen topper: TIARA 

11. At hand: ON TAP - This seems like a lot

12. Skins: PEELS - The act or the results

14. Restocking criterion: UNITS SOLD Six ways to increase sales of slow-moving stock

15. Daughter of Loki: HEL - She, uh, got around! No judgement here!

17. Where many orders are taken: CALL CENTERS 

21. 1959-'60 heavyweight champ Johansson: INGEMAR - 19-year-old Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) was in Miami and asked to spar with INGEMAR in 1959. The Swede got angry when he couldn't lay a glove on him.

22. Emitted, with "out": SENT.

23. "L.A. Law" and "Law & Order": TV SHOWS - The latter show was much "grittier"

24. Garden State, e.g.: Abbr.: PKWY - It'll cost you $8.25 to go from the southern tip of N.J. to the N.Y. state line on this longest highway in N.J.

25. Pre-coll. catchall: ELHI - This 50-yr. educator has never heard this word except here

26. French nada: RIEN - Even I can translate this song title sung by our frequent cwd chanteuse (How 'bout dat word?). In German it would be: Nein, [37. German pronoun:] ICH bereue nichts
27. "... __ a perfum'd sea": Poe's "To Helen": OER - Poe's tribute to the woman whose "Face launched a thousand ships"

29. App tester's concern: EASE OF USE - I didn't write apps, but I wrote lab instructions for 13-yr-olds for over 40 years

32. "__ kidding?": IS HE 

33. Fiona, for one: OGRE - A curse turns her into an OGRE at night

34. Caroling unit: NOEL.

36. Patronize, with "at": DINE - We did DINE out the other night and I left a huge tip

41. Holiday season additions: HIREES - Santas and Easter Bunnies e.g.

43. First of a box set: DISC I.

44. __ de rire: burst of laughter: ECLAT - More Française

45. Personals verb: SEEKS - I know our literary types here could write a fictional personal ad for Jane Eyer

47. Provides (for oneself): FENDS 

49. Common face card value: TEN - Working tools for our constructor Michael

51. "__ you think it was?": WHO'D.

52. Sewing shop buy: ETUI - Another cwd staple, er, word

53. Bygone boomers: SST'S America's SST never flew despiser JFK's efforts

55. School support gp.: PTA.

56. Metaphor for a cover-up: LID - Every mall seems to have this store

57. Whole Foods Market competitor: IGA - A vintage ad from an IGA store in Auckland, N.Z.

Now, as promised, is a fascinating look at Michael's constructing process and his publications: 

For themeless puzzles I start with a grid that will present some  challenges. In this case that was three 15-letter entries crossed by  three vertical entries, two of each of these crossing two of the long entries. First, I put entries in at 14D, 17D, and 26D. I then found 
three 15-letter entries to fit.

I have a word list that consists of "good" words and expressions that  I have been collecting for years. Many of these entries have never appeared in published crossword puzzles and I try to fit in as many of these as I can. (For example, FROM CONCENTRATE has not appeared anywhere -- till now.) Meanwhile, my main word list contains over a million entries, graded such that the best (in my estimation) entries have higher scores and I use those (that fit!) with the highest scores. When constructing a puzzle, after I have the "bare bones" entries in place, I isolate sections and fill each separately. For example, I first worked on the NE corner (7D to 22A). When I had what looked like a good fill, I did a screen capture of the grid, deleted the words I had just added, and started again. I did several fills in that section. I chose the best one of those, and saved the grid. I then went through the process again, this time the NW corner. 

Meanwhile, the NE corner was still in place. If the fill I choose for any section doesn't allow for good fills in the rest of the puzzle, I can always go back and insert one of the saved screen captures. By the time I'm done, my screen capture file might have as many as 50 
partial fills, any of which I can return to. By saving these partial fills as I go I don't have to start from scratch any time I come to a dead end.

When I have what looks like a good complete grid, I then check the puzzle stats for duplicates. I try not to use the same three-letter combination more than once. For example, having FROM CONCENTRATE dictates not having any other FROM (like WHEREFROM). Also, having POSTOP, I couldn't also have PREOP. I keep weeding what many call 
crosswordese from my word lists. (For example, I have eliminated virtually all Roman numerals. I don't consider MMLXV to be a "word.")

I constructed this puzzle in August, 2019. It was accepted six months later, and scheduled for publication four months after that.

My area (Alberta) is beginning to open up. Until this week I had not been out of the house for over two months. The downtime provided a good opportunity to work on my next book, the second collection of Canadian Crossword Puzzles. (The first is at and The new 
book will have more puzzles (125) than the first and be priced lower. 

I also constructed a collection of poker-themed crosswords 
( I have written several books on gambling in general, poker in specific, and computers, all of which are available on Amazon.

*Sardis' caricatures are Barry Manilow, Tom Hanks and Ed Asner