Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Man Of Letters

What better person to help endorse the new word game from than Pat Sajak? The "Wheel of Fortune" host of the last (can it be?) 25 years has lent his considerable cachet to a game called "Lucky Letters" that is now featured on his latest website venture, Pat Sajak Games. You have the opportunity to win lots of (fake) money by systematically solving crossword puzzles; along the way there are some game-show style features like the opportunity to bet all or part of your bankroll on solving a word. If you can solve the entire puzzle during the Lightning Round, then you win.

The game is available in online format (the puzzle changes daily), or a downloadable version (trial version is free; full version is $19.95) with hundreds of different puzzles. Give it a try!

Monday, December 26, 2005

He Was Gr-r-r-r-eat!

In the wake of Kellogg's news that Frosted Flakes (or, as it's called, "Frosted Flakes (Of Corn)") will be served to our Winter Olympians in Torino this February, comes this appreciation of the man who gave Tony The Tiger his unique voice, the late Thurl Ravenscroft. It's written by novelist, essayist, and all around good person Elizabeth McCracken. It's also illustrated with a pic of Tony that looks like early 60's production art.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Christmas To All

Christmas 2005. Yes, as you can guess, a much different Christmas (as my sister in law put it: "a new kind of normal"). But one still filled with the joy and wonder of the birth of the Christ Child, and all the reminisces of Christmases past and the hope of Christmases yet to be.

As for the heroine of Nancy's two books, "Melissa" will have a wonderful season filled with presents, music and fun.

I hope yours is as merry.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Congrats, again, Robair

Now he's making them as well as solving them: Robair has sold his first crossword puzzle to The Los Angeles Times. It is a themeless, meaning it will be appearing on a Saturday. Exact date to follow.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Thinking Pink

Merchandise tied into the release of the new Steve Martin version of "The Pink Panther" is now heading into the stores, ahead of the film's planned February 10, 2006 release date.

Animation fans will get a kick out of Jerry Beck's latest paean to the animated Panther, Pink Panther: The Ultimate Guide To The Coolest Cat In Town. You'll be pleased to know that the book carries a Filmography of the Panther and friends that originated years ago on this website in our Animation department. It's been added to by Beck and our friend from Japan, Charles Brubaker. And let's give a plug to Jerry's fine websites, Cartoon Research and Cartoon Brew (with Amid Amidi).

There is another interesting book due out from the daughters of the man who helped create the animated Panther. Meet The Pink Panther, targeted to children, was written by Friz Freleng's daughters Hope and Sybil (that's Sybil pictured above).

If you click on the links to the merchandise, you can buy those and other related products and give this website a few cents in return.

December 8, 1980...

...two college sophomores, riding in a beatup old 1965 Chevrolet Malibu, northbound on the Garden State Parkway heading back from what is now Richard Stockton University, are flabbergasted to find out that somebody had the utter balls to shoot and kill one of the Beatles. We later learn that Howard Cosell broke the news to most of the rest of the world during a Monday Night Football game.

It, of course, is twenty-five years later, and I don't know if we're any closer to the sort of world that John Lennon "imagined". But he did leave us some great tunes, both with the Fab Four and as a solo act. (We even forgive him the whole Yoko thing.)

Plenty of reminders of the day, especially if you listened to Jay Sorensen's morning show on WJRZ this morning. There's no bigger Beatlemaniac on our airewaves, and you know Jay's got the goods. I believe if you go to Allan Sniffen's fine WABC tribute site, you'll find sound files of what we listened to on 770 AM that evening.

Spookiest thing: before she died, Nancy rigged up this computer to play Beatles MIDIs at random on bootup. It played a MIDI of "Imagine" this afternoon. Of all days.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Apocalypse Soon

From the AP wire:
Meanwhile, syndicator King World Prods. has also given the go-ahead for a fall 2006 launch to its one-hour daytime show featuring Food Network personality Rachael Ray. The tentatively titled "The Rachael Ray Show" has been cleared in more than 70% of the country.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Robair Wins A Crossword Tournament

At least he didn't have to wait as long as Ellen Ripstein.

Yesterday was the annual Community Blood Services Crossword Tournament in Ridgewood, New Jersey (just over the border from Paramus). At left, a picture of the winner, the one and only Robair. He won the trophy you see and a $500 check and the thrill of being North Jersey's crossword king.

The finals were a nailbiter. It was basically a two-person race, Robair, and a woman by the name of Elaine who is better known in the National Puzzler's League as "tyger". Robair had a rocky road to his finish, with 31-Down entered as ALOT rather than ATON which screwed up his crossers. But eventually he figured out one of the hardest answers, 36-Across, COTEDOR (Cote d'Or). He walked over to tyger, who finished first, to congratulate her on her win! But he saw that the F in square 24 was entered as an L on her grid, giving Robair the victory. Tough luck for tyger, a smart lady and a great competitor.

On hand to run the tournament was Nancy Schuster, a veteran crossword editor known for her many years working on the Dell magazines. Other guests in the house included New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz (who entertained with some great word games and a selection of bad clues from published NYT puzzles), Washington Post puzzle editor Fred Piscop, and constructors Paula Gamache, Michael Shteyman, and David J. Kahn.

Robair's laid down the gauntlet that he's going to be a force this year at Stamford.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The First Month...

It is now one month to the day that my wife Nancy has left us, and it feels like in some ways she's still here. Her spirit is still a large part of me. In other ways she seems to be guiding me through this journey I'm supposed to be flying solo through. My house taxes were due this week, and they hadn't been paid yet, mostly because I couldn't find the tax bill that had an exact amount. In frustration I grabbed a handful of random papers off Nancy's desk (where I do most of my work these days), and raised them above my head as if to throw them down on the ground in frustration - and there was, written in maroon lettering, 3RD & 4TH QUARTER TAX BILL - DOVER TOWNSHIP.

Whew. As if Nancy had willed it.

There have been trying moments, but we are doing fine. I want to publicly thank everyone who's given support, advice, prayers, and good wishes over the past month and change that we've been in this transition. I also want to thank everyone who went to and supported Nancy's publishing projects based on her homeschooling of our foster daughter (who is also doing fine). In a few days when the final numbers come in I will be proud to write a nice check for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, who will benefit from all transactions of Nancy's books in October.

There are, however, a few that I wish NOT to thank, and that is the handful of death-industry companies that have nothing better to do than to scan obituaries and identify widows and widowers to market monument stones and burial plots to. As we mentioned on this blog a few years ago, Nancy and I had purchased our final resting place already, so there was no need for these vultures to insensitively prey on me.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Jack Back At Spano's

Great news if you like a little piano with your dinner: my friend Jack Candy is back at Spano's Restaurant in Point Pleasant, starting next week. Jack's been out of action after an automobile accident some months ago in which he broke his hip. And his recovery has not been uneventful; at one point it was in doubt he'd ever play again. But he's finally well enough to take his rightful place at Spano's piano.

Jack is a tremendously talented musician who has pressed on with his craft in spite of becoming sightless several years ago, and also has had the added challenge of a kidney transplant. Even with the auto accident, none of this has kept Jack down, and the news I got today from his longtime friend Karen Hedden (who, by the way, gave him that kidney) that he'd be back at Spano's was a great emotional lift.

More about Spano's at their website.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Friday, October 21, 2005

Great Website!

That's all I had to say upon encountering the website of veteran bass player Tom "T-Bone" Wolk, who has played with damn near everybody. That's him you hear on that opening bassline on "Maneater" by Hall & Oates, very much inspired by Motown bass whiz James Jamerson (one of Bone's heroes). There's a candid gallery with some great pictures of Tom, G.E. Smith and guest artists (like Eric Clapton and Lonnie Mack) taken during his years in the SNL Band. Thanks much to Callie Ray for passing along the link and always keeping her eyes open for this stuff over the years!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Fair Warning

I have tomorrow's USA Today puzzle. Link when available.

Monday, October 10, 2005

New Place To Sudoku

My crossword friends and I are entirely sure that the puzzle craze Sudoku will never entirely replace the crossword, but we note with interest that some of the biggest names in crossworddom are embracing this new form.

Merl Reagle, who does the great weekly crosswords found primarily in the San Francisco Examiner and online periodically at, now has a Sudoku online at his website. The neat interface allows you to enter an answer number on the big dash or mini test-numbers right below.

Will Shortz, the big guy at the New York Times, has three books of Sudoku out under his own name, published by St. Martin's Press. Link to order on Amazon coming soon, cause we gotta make money soon, y'know.

Dave's Endorsement for NJ Governor


As both "candidates" are now choosing to hide behind attack ads for their opponents, I support neither one.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Remember the good old days of gas price wars? Apparently, they're back in the South Jersey town of Bridgeton.

Two competing stations, Garden State Fuel and Major Gas, are the lowest-priced gas stations in the state, according to the website New Jersey Gas Prices. As of this evening, the Major station was pumping unleaded regular at $2.289 a gallon - now far below the price of gas just before Hurricane Katrina hit in the last week of August. (Prices in the Toms River area are now in the $2.61-2.70 range, still above pre-Katrina levels.) Garden State Fuel, at last count, was a cent above Major's low-water mark, $2.299. The whole Bridgeton-Millville area in a relatively sleepy part of South Jersey boasts the lowest gas prices in the entire state.

Be interesting to see where this one goes, particularly amid reports that the price of gas is going up on a national basis.

Update: A third station, Coastal Mart, on the same street, has also joined the fray. As of 10/9, all three stations pump regular gas at $2.289.

Back To Blogging

Mark Evanier on the TV Guide size change, and some of its Annenberg-era politics.

TV Guide became taboo in our house due to its becoming the Fox Network house organ after Rupert Murdoch's purchase of the magazine.

Me, I use Yahoo! TV to find out what is on, as well as the guide built into my set-top box. Save a tree, y'all!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Nancy's Everlasting Memorial

This is Nancy's page at It will eventually feature remembrances from those close to her, and now has a slide show of pictures of Nancy from early childhood to just a few months ago.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Services for Nancy Mackey

Visitation will be Tuesday, October 4 from 5-8 p.m. at the Anderson & Campbell Funeral Home, Main Street, Toms River.

Catholic Mass to be held Wednesday, October 5 beginning at 10:00 a.m. at St. Joseph's RC Church, Hooper Avenue, Toms River.

Internment to follow at Whiting Memorial Park, Manchester Township.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Nancy Mackey 1954-2005

Sure, you probably know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And you're probably sick of hearing it, but hear me out here, folks. If you know me personally, you're probably aware that I am one of the people personally touched by breast cancer, my wife having been diagnosed in 2002.

This morning, my wife, Nancy Mackey, became one of the statistics.

A few weeks ago, Nancy was feeling just fine, not really too bad. But things just started happening. Mobility problems ensued, and we had initially suspected the bulging discs in her back.

Early on the morning of September 19, Nancy fell on her way from the living room to the kitchen. Our local police EMS whisked her away to the ER, and following more tests, the sad news came back: bone cancer, most prevalent in the lower back, and spreading elsewhere.

Nancy died at 9:40 this morning, surrounded by family. Her suffering was blissfully brief, and her passage into the next world was as peaceful as anyone would hope for.

We will link to Nancy's obituary, beautifully written by her cousin Catherine, when it's published.

The best way to honor the legacy of Nancy Mackey is to make a donation to The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. If you don't feel like doing it online, the snail mail address is P.O. Box 650309, Dallas, TX 75265-0309.

And if you want to donate in another way, I suggest you go to and purchase copies of Nancy's books, "Melissa's Journey" and "Melissa's Journey: Year Two", the chronicles of Nancy's adaptation of the New Jersey Core Curriculum to serve the needs of a developmentally disabled homeschool student. All of the proceeds from this book in October 2005 will go to the Komen Foundation.

Thank you all.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Chris Schenkel 1923-2005

Saturday afternoons in the winters of my youth meant a 90-minute excursion into the world of professional bowling, courtesy ABC Sports. And the voice who brought that excitement into our living rooms for years has been stilled with the death today of sportscasting legend Chris Schenkel.

The mellifluous, smooth-as-silk voice seemed as if it was made for bowling, with its hush-hush concentration attitude (though fans today are encouraged to whoop it up as if they were at an NBA game). His voice helped illuminate the exploits of guys like Dick Weber, Carmen Salvino, Mark Roth, Marshall Holman and many others who put on the short-sleeved shirts and funny shoes, and threw that ball down the lane.

Schenkel called many other sporting events, including Olympic games (he was there when Nadia Comaneci scored her 10's), Indianapolis 500's, college and pro football games (he was one of the first to call New York Giants games on TV) and Masters golf.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

DUH! Of The Week

I rarely broach Presidential politics in this blog, and I prefer that this blog doesn't get too political, but....

President Bush's approval rating in the wake of handling the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina is now 39%.

Seven of ten respondents in the survey say they disapprove of his handling of gasoline prices.


Mr. Bush is a Texan. He has plenty of rich oilman friends that he'd prefer become richer. That's why you're paying upwards of $3.00 a gallon for gas (although it has gone down - the station closest to my home slashed the price by A WHOLE DIME this morning!), and not $1.00 like you should.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

#6968 - Benson Perfect, Until.....

A questionable double and a clean home run.

I would hate to see the Mets early next season play their 7000th game without once throwing a no hitter.

Trading Post Goes Bye Bye

Think of it as the old-style "Trading Spaces" with the sped-up footage of the room being cleared...and the episode stops right there.

After two years and one day - the site went live on September 1, 2003 - the Trading Post site hosted here has now been discontinued, due to a sea change in the way "Trading Spaces" and other shows of its ilk are now being perceived by the public and staged by the TV networks eager to suck up to corporate sponsors' wishes. We thank you for your interest and kind words over the years (yes, even you, Discovery lawyers)... but it is time for the Mackey Bros. to move on to other projects.

Sometime in the next month, the various bus sites hosted here will go back on line... watch here for more details.

Friday, August 26, 2005

#6961 - Not Tonight

Steve Trachsel just gave up a hit with two out in the sixth - exactly one more batter than Pedro went hitless on last night - to keep the most unfortunate streak in baseball alive.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

So Bye, Bye, Miss America

The management of Boardwalk Hall has granted the Miss America organization its request to go elsewhere with their little pageant, which is now going to be held in January rather than September, and now somewhere other than its home since 1920 - Atlantic City, New Jersey. This sets the stage for new corporate benefactor CMT to move the pageant to Nashville, which is the most likely scenario. (And we were worried about Disney moving the whole shebang to Orlando.)

There was a time when Atlantic City pretty much just had Miss America as a source of local pride - that, and the distinction of lending its street names to the Monopoly board. But now, at a time when Atlantic City has become something much more, with its myriad shopping and entertainment options, the city is just going to let Miss America go away quietly.

And perhaps, after all, it's just as well. Bert Parks, and much of what Miss America stood for at one time, have been dead for years. There was a time where being Miss America really meant something, and many of those ladies became huge celebrities in their own right. Names like Bess Myerson, Lee Meriwether, Mary Ann Mobley and Susan Powell became household words. And Vanessa Williams became a huge star in spite of being Miss America - a disgraced Miss America who had previously posed nude for photographs which were published in a national magazine.

While the Miss America organization runs a robust scholarship program and fosters awareness of many worthy causes through its platform program, it's not the stepping stone to stardom it was years ago. Can you name any of the last 10 Miss Americas? Do you even know who Miss America is right now? Unless you have a very personal connection to one of them, you probably can't.

But you probably know who won every "Survivor" since it began.

#6960: Pedro Flirts With The No-No Again

But not as long as he did in LA a few weekends ago. He took it into the sixth inning before giving up a clean hit down the first base line. And then another one.

Howie Rose: if you come across this, you can see exactly how many games the Mets have played at left. Your guess of six thousand, nine hundred sixty something was pretty darn close.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Michael Brecker..., and has been, a very talented saxophone player (who was at one time - the 1984-1985 season - sax soloist in the Saturday Night Live Band). However, at minimum, Michael Brecker is a human being, subject to illnesses, and right now he's facing a doozy of one - a bone marrow disease that inhibits his ability to produce blood cells. He is in search of a donor. I want you to go to and go to the link on the front page that says "Michael's Current Challenge". There you will find a letter from his wife discussing the specific illness that Michael has and the steps you can take to see if you are the match that can save his life. Thank you.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

More Puzzles In More Places

Check the sidebar often... you never know when new puzzles will pop up there.

Also, Games Magazine and Kappa Publishing, for whom I've authored some puzzles, have beefed up their online presence.

Kappa Puzzles
Games Magazine

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Baseball Closer To Home

Last night, the Toms River American Little League team came up short in their effort to gain another World Series berth. Toms River, of course, is most noteworthy for its 1998 team that won the World Championship. (The town is blessed with among other things exceptionally good youth baseball camps.)

While I'm disappointed that the team is going no further, I'm proud of our town's young athletes, and it's also a source of personal pride because two of those young men were in my instrumental music classes at North Dover Elementary and one used to live right down the street from me. We'll get 'em next time!

Monday, August 15, 2005

6951: No Hitter, Minus Five Batters

Pedro Martinez took a no hitter into the eighth inning and was rewarded with a loss. When I was in the shower this afternoon before the game began, it was almost an affirmation: "Pedro is going to pitch a no-hitter today." On my way to the gig in Little Egg Harbor today, I kept hoping that today was indeed going to be the day. But alas....

Like I said, it's gotta happen. You just can't go all this time without one.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The "Journey" Continues

Nancy Mackey has released the second volume of "Melissa's Journey", the adaptation of the New Jersey core curriculum standards to meet the needs of profoundly disabled individuals in a home school environment. Go to for more details.

News Blues: Life After Jennings

ABC backhandedly spotlighted what is increasingly wrong with television news by showcasing what was so right about it for two hours of primetime last evening.

ABC blew out its irresponsible "Brat Camp" show (two kids have gotten back into trouble since the taping - don't you know by now that TV doesn't solve problems?) for a commercial-free tribute to Peter Jennings, the ABC anchor and reporter who died over the weekend.

There was much footage of Peter all over the world reporting, finding facts, satisfying his (and our) curiosity about issues as far ranging as the existence of Jesus and why Daddy beats his kid for not performing on the baseball field. Great historical footage, too, of Jennings' first foray into network news, anchoring the ABC evening news way back in 1965, when his competition was three guys named Huntley, Brinkley and Cronkite. One wonders how the mature, field-savvy Jennings would have stood up to those three icons. (Eventually, David Brinkley joined ABC and teamed up with Jennings on election night and other occasions.)

At the anchor desk, Jennings excelled in knowing when to add to the story with words, and when to shut up, during live special reports. But thankfully, Jennings spent as much time away from the anchor desk as he did at it.

The tribute showed clearly that as long as TV is obsessed with constant cross-promotion and getting high ratings, there can never be another Jennings (a point echoed by the likes of Lynn Sherr, Barbara Walters and others) and you might as well hire a fluffy newsreader away from Fox News Channel who's never even had a passport but can tell you more than you need to know about Jacko. It was almost like watching a funeral for TV News the way it was in the days of integrity.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I Wanted Her To Be A Hilton

I saw the finale on Tuesday night of "I Want To Be A Hilton" and was absolutely rooting for Jackaay Watt, the landscape yard worker affectionately known as "Trailer Park Barbie". However, it was not to be as Jaret Cellmer of Texas was awarded the prizes, trips, luxury.

Jaret's speech at the end was not the most polished thing I'd ever heard, while I was happy to see both finalists cleaned up real nice. But if I ever need a ton of gravel for my yard, Jackaay will be the first person I call.

Now, about Kathy Hilton. What a magnificent presence on this show! I find it hard to believe she has two real flighty girls as daughters. It also bears mentioning that Kathy Hilton was the non-actress of the three Richards sisters. You may have heard of her sisters Kim and Kyle, both of whom were very popular as teens (Kim was best known as McLean Stevenson's daughter on "Hello, Larry").

LA Times Puzzle

Here is today's LA Times puzzle! Enjoy!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

#6944: Four Is Still Not Zero

In spite of a brilliant performance by Jae Seo today and a win to go with it, the Mets are still holding on to that distinction that in 44 major league seasons, no pitcher wearing the team's uniform has thrown a no hitter.

C'mon, Mets. Sometime before I die.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Ladies And Gentlemen, The Incomparable Labamba

For the last four days of July, I was a devoted attendee of Toms River Fest. (In spite of my employment with the Toms River Regional Schools, I could not volunteer this year due to the care our foster child requires. I was content to attend in that case.)

I was excited to see Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and seeing them brought back good memories of seeing them 20 years ago at some concert, I don't remember where (maybe it was at the Pony, perhaps the old Tradewinds). Bob Bandiera always used to hang around Y-107 because he would routinely record at the studio down the street, so it was great to see him again.

And this guy? Best damn bar band trombone player in the world, Richard "Labamba" Rosenberg, known to all as the goofball in the purple suit on the Conan O'Brien show (and one of the few things worth watching about the show), and leading the horn section into battle on a Sunday afternoon just west of Gernerd Field on the campus of Toms River High School North. (Photo by me. Do not take.)

Auspicious Anniversary

My crossword-creating career, such as it has been, officially kicked off one year ago today with a submission to Games Magazine entitled "Signals". I was going to post the puzzle, but I can now see that it is a subpar effort no editor would touch.

It did have some colorful words such as WIEZ (which was Pauly Shore's old MTV nickname), KUMAR (as in "Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle"), and NANTZ (which is the sportscaster Jim, which was actually misspelled once in a Liz Gorski puzzle in a Simon & Schuster edition). But for those words there were some real clunkers!

Egyptian ferryboat patron - AKEN
Its capital is Taillin - ESTOVER
Classical guitarist Asaad - ODAIR
Folksinger Cargill - ACIE
Acct's concern - TCO

That's four fairly obscure words and a meaningless abbreviation in a puzzle that should really be no more than Wednesday difficulty.

I have since created about seventy puzzles, mostly 15x15, with a few 17's and a 23 thrown in for good measure. Editors have accepted seven of my puzzles so far: three for Games, two for LA Times Syndicate, and one each in USA Today and The New York Times. That's only a .100 batting average, but I'm still learning and still honing my skills.

Robair has created significantly more puzzles but has yet to make a sale, in spite of a very innovative puzzle sitting on Will Shortz' desk right now that... no, I won't spoil that just yet. You'll hear of it soon enough when it happens. Meantime, watch soon for some news of coming attractions (as I alluded to this morning).

Site News And Notes

  • We'd like to thank some of our longtime correspondents for checking in with us, asking about the whereabouts of some areas of the site. Specifically, a shout out to Lew Del Gatto, now formerly of the Saturday Night Live Band, hanging it up after 30 years (more or less) with the show, and to toonatics Greg Method and Charles Brubaker, adding a couple elusive Blue Racer credits to our 70's DePatie-Freleng filmography.
  • We are most likely going to be taking down our Trading Spaces pages for good, due to a sudden downturn in interest in the program, not only on our part, but on the public's.
  • The New Jersey Transit and Public Service Bus pages are going to be going back up sometime in the fall due to their historical significance.
  • Watch soon for an announcement of a new joint effort between two of the three Mackey Brothers. If you've been following my recent exploits, you're sure to enjoy it.
  • On a somewhat related note, Rich Norris has informed me that my latest LA Times Crossword puzzle will be appearing one week from today, next Tuesday, August 9, 2005. Look for it in your local rag. (Incidentally, the name "Lila Cherry", under which I was credited, is a pseudonym for Norris, which anagrams into "Really Rich". Hopefully, Mr. Norris will be crediting me properly this time.)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Conan O'Brien - My Take

I'd like to elaborate on a comment I made on Amy Reynaldo's blog about Conan O'Brien.

There was a word in the NY Sun crossword today CRUNK. I was confusing it with "Krunk", the all-purpose stuff mentioned numerous times on the Conan O'Brien show, "back when it was good", I mentioned.

The truth is that Conan's show just ain't that good any more.

Case in point: about a year ago, one of Conan's newest little bits of business was showing random clips from episodes of "Walker, Texas Ranger", which is a show that appears on a network that had been recently came into the NBC family, USA. He would push some sort of lever on his desk and there's Chuck Norris kicking the teeth out of someone under the thin guise of being a Texas Ranger. (Far as I know, in real life, Texas Rangers don't kick people.)

Since I had developed quite the aversion to "WTR" (which, by the way, was a show my wife just loved), I really didn't think that much of the bit, and that was about the time I decided I should really be in bed at 12:30 to be awake to teach the kiddies the next morning.

A few weeks ago, I chanced into the living room at about 12:50 a.m., and decided to keep it on NBC until such time that "Street Smarts" (which, unfortunately, has been cancelled after five seasons) started on GSN. There's Conan O'Brien, sitting at his desk... and he's got the lever... and he pushes the lever... and there's Chuck Norris kicking the teeth out of someone!

Jesus Christ! At least when Ernie Kovacs did seemingly repetitive things like "The Nairobi Trio", he gave them different little things to do every time. But this "Walker" bit hadn't changed ONE IOTA since Conan introduced it. And not only that but I hear that Conan still does his "In The Year 2000" bit... and it's 2005. (He's still got the great Labamba doing that falsetto bit, which is good because Labamba is a killer bone player.)

And Conan is taking over for Leno in 2009?

Hopefully there'll be someone better who hasn't come to the fore yet to take over for Dave on CBS when his time is up.

It's hard for me to say this, as back in the day, I used to be one of the happy recappers of Conan's show for a fansite, but... now, I'd have to drink rather heavily to appreciate his brand of "humor".

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

S--t! Did I Just See The Word S--t On My TV?

I wish I had the evidence on this, but I'm at my non-TV'd computer right now.

During "So You Think You Can Dance" on the Fox Network, there was a brief closeup of a prospective auditioner in her bedroom. Right in the shot was a poster, one of the words of which is a popular four letter word for solid human waste. I couldn't read the rest of the poster due to the TV PG D-L bug covering it up.

This may only have been apparent to HDTV viewers, as it was at the extreme left of the HDTV screen and may not have survived the crop into 4:3.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Number Two

Sometimes I think there's no hope for society.

On my way back home from a weekend in Atlantic City Sunday night, I saw a car pulled over on the shoulder of the Garden State Parkway. Standing outside in full view of all passing motorists was one of the younger occupants of the car, who had decided to do a Number One right then and there. Less than a quarter mile from an off ramp that would have led to gas stations, restaurants and stores that have open public bathrooms.

I didn't think to check the car for out-of-state plates or perhaps an up-north car dealership decal that would have tabbed our peeing friends and his parents as BENNIES. But methinks that's what was going on there.

Hey, Gov. Codey! How's this for a slogan?

The Jersey Shore: New York and Northern New Jersey's Toilet.

Friday, July 15, 2005


All e-mail addresses on the domain are no longer valid.

If you need to contact me with a question or information about this website or any of its components, or had been legitimately corresponding with me on a address, the new public address is

SPAMMERS: you will be reported to all applicable authorities should you spam, phish, spoof or otherwise abuse this address. Don't even try it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

All Of A Sudden, I've Become Lila Cherry

The thrill of seeing the LA Times puzzle in print was inexplicably deflated when I saw Lila Cherry's name credited to the puzzle instead of my own. Check your local papers and see if the puzzle is credited to Lila Cherry but the first across clue is "Conde Nast women's magazine". That is indeed my puzzle.

Puzzle's Theme

Obviously, the theme of the puzzle has panned out to be great film directors who never were awarded an Oscar, in spite of tons of nominations and critically acclaimed work. The theme came to light the morning after the Oscars, when I watched in relative horror as Martin Scorsese failed to stride to the podium for on his fifth nomination.

I did some poking around the Oscar annals and came up with a hefty list of other directors who were in the same boat as Scorsese - and the two who best worked in the context of the crossword were Stanley Kubrick (who should have at least gotten a nomination for "Full Metal Jacket" and whose other nominated films included "Dr. Strangelove", "2001" and "Barry Lyndon"), and Alfred Hitchcock (whose 1960 nomination was for a little film called "Psycho", one of the most terrifying cinema experiences ever).

Two weeks from today we have the USA Today puzzle, and post game discussion to follow.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Building A Better INXS

I saw the first episode of "Rock Star: INXS" which is running three nights a week through the summer and early fall on CBS. The conceit of this show is to attempt to find a new lead singer for INXS, which has been largely without one since frontman Michael Hutchence did himself in.

So on the reality show landscape we have now overlaid the rock and roll lifestyle. Therefore, while we anxiously wait for Smoking Gun to find drug busts or DUI's on these folks, we are going to bet the farm on the red-tressed, multiply tattooed Heather to win this thing and take INXS in a new direction as its first-ever female lead singer.

What is really buzz about this show is they somehow got Dave Navarro involved. The singer, who is most famous for stints with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane's Addiction (as well as his marriage to Carmen Electra), is sort of a host, sort of an honorary member of INXS, and Brooke Burns is sort of a host as well.

I'd rather watch something like this than the increasingly artificial "Big Brother" and its constantly artifical host, Mrs. Les Moonves.

LA Times Puzzle Tomorrow!

The proprietor of this website makes his newspaper crossword debut tomorrow as the author of the July 13, 2005 Los Angeles Times Crossword Puzzle. If you want to solve the puzzle online, you can go to the Los Angeles Times site and look for the link to Crosswords. You may need to register to do this. While not entirely necessary you can solve the puzzle offline by downloading the puzzle file (lat050713.puz) and playing it in the free Across Lite software you can also download at the LA Times site.

You can also do the thing in the newspaper, in pen and ink, just like our fathers used to on the train out of Ronkonkoma.

Wait! How do I know if my newspaper carries the LA Times Puzzle?

Very simple. Check your newspaper today (Tuesday) and look for a crossword puzzle. (Not that 11x13 "chumpword" puzzle. It's regulation size, 15x15.) If the puzzle that appears on 7/12 is from Tribune Media Services (distributors of the LA Times Puzzle), and the first Across clue is "Cairo's river", then you're in business.

The puzzle may or may not carry a byline; today's is by Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke.

The editor is Rich Norris, and looking over my original clueset for this puzzle, I expect changes especially since this is a Wednesday puzzle (and also because that's what editors do). He also changed the grid some because the original had a word which could be construed as an ethnic slur in it, but clued very innocently. Reminds me that there's a report, maybe apocryphal, that Eugene T. Maleska, the esteemed former editor of the New York Times crosswords, once ran a puzzle that included a clue "The ____ mightier than the sword". Mmm-hmmm.

Once the smoke clears (because I don't want to spoil your fun of doing this puzzle), I will discuss the particular theme. Until then enjoy the puzzle.

Check at the sidebar over to the left for other upcoming dates... we've been shipping out tons of puzzles lately and hopefully will make a few more sales with them.

Friday, July 08, 2005

"Melissa's Journey"

Nancy has graciously asked me to talk a little about that book that has been appearing in the sidebar of my Blog for the last few weeks.

"Melissa's Journey" is the true story of how the New Jersey State Core Curriculum is adapted to meet the needs of a multiply-challenged individual we call "Melissa" in the book (confidantes know her by another name; we had to change it due to privacy concerns). The book covers the period between July 2001 and July 2002 and makes some very interesting side trips, including how the curriculum and plans were adapted to cope with the September 11, 2001 tragedy.

The target audience for this book is homeschool parents who wish to adopt their state standards in their program. I suggest if you're in this category, you should go to and read more about this project.

Another volume is in the works, by the way.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

If Real Life Were Like "Reality" TV

Every other t-shirt, hat, and license plate would be fuzzed out.

Think about it.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Next Brass Tacks Dates

We have been lax in updating these, as our vocalist Jim reminded me last night.

Monday, July 4 - Barnegat Docks, 7:00-9:00 p.m. followed by fireworks (Thanks for coming!)

Friday, July 15 - Sea Oaks Country Club, Little Egg Harbor Township (Dinner dance)

Saturday, July 23 - Ocean County Library, Toms River (Free concert)

The official Brass Tacks site is NOW UP!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

that was annoying™

My partner in crime, Robair, informs me that there are BACK TO SCHOOL displays up at Staples already!

There are some schools that aren't even finished yet and Staples is worried about making sure Johnny has enough looseleaf paper to make it through the school year.

Between that and the TV networks incessantly pushing fall shows before the calendar reads July 1, can't we just enjoy summer for a change?

Friday, June 17, 2005

A Face That Can Sell Vacuum Cleaners

Remember Trading Spaces? That show that used to be on TLC where people swapped houses and redecorated rooms? I have no freaking idea about the show that replaced it, but what we miss most about the old TS are the people. Those who are walking zombie-like around the hostless landscape of the post-Paige Davis TS are doppelgangers for the real stars of the show.

Take for example this lady. You will remember Genevieve Gorder as the very blonde, very buxom, very crafty designer of many great rooms. Along the way she became the spokesperson for Swiffer. Six months or so ago, Swiffer was all set to roll out the new Sweep Vac, but ran into some recall snafus and an entire ad campaign with Genevieve was trashed. Well, the bugs are out of the vac, and Gen rides again with her most appealing commercial to date for the Swiffer folks. Here's a teaser image; more to come next week sometime when I get back from a couple of days R&R. (Today was the first day of my summer break. I trimmed my lawn and changed the oil and washed and cleaned out my van. That's a big accomplishment for the first day.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

New Blog

Of all the years to pick to be a rookie at Stamford, why did it have to be the year Amy Reynaldo buzz-sawed through the joint, winning B and dashing all my hopes for top rookie? Read her blog, just started this morning, and see what other interesting stuff she has to say about crosswords and other matters.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Puzzle Update

The August 2005 Games should now be on newsstands. Look for my latest published puzzle, "In The Chips" on page 19.

It was announced this week that The New York Times will now be paying out the highest rates in the puzzle industry as of July 3 - $125 for a 15x15 daily, and $600 (!) for a 21x21 or 23x23 Sunday. When Will Shortz was appointed puzzle editor of the Times in 1993, these rates were a mere $50 for a daily and $150 for a Sunday, so Will is cognizant of the fact that the Times puzzles are the best in the business and their constructors should be so compensated.

I found out from Will in the process of congratulating him on the rate raise that my first NYT puzzle will be appearing within a few weeks (as coyly noted a few weeks ago). When I get a definite date, I will let you know.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Personal to S.A.

The little flaps on the shirt go under the tie.

(Hope someone translates that little fashion tip.)

#6892: Oh, So Close

Pedro Martinez has been the most exciting pickup on the Mets, and once again he has delivered a solid victory. Unfortunately, along the way, he gave up two hits and took his no-hitter into the seventh inning.

I am dead solid convinced that if anyone is going to break this 43-year curse, it's got to be Pedro.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Of course, I said the party doesn't begin until I sell a crossword to the New York Times....

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Come See The Tacks

Never too early to get out and playing for the people again, so the mighty Brass Tacks Orchestra takes its act to the people this Wednesday, June 1, 2005 for a free outdoor concert at Veterans Park in Bayville, just off Exit 77 on the Garden State Parkway. 6:00 p.m. (the concert was part of a rally for Gubernatorial candidate Robert Schroeder).

The Tacks will also be at Barnegat Docks for July 4 (fireworks thereafter) and at the Ocean County Library in Toms River on Saturday, July 23, as part of the Carousel of Music. This is always one of our best concerts of the year so come out and enjoy. (Don't forget about the Dover Township Municipal Band every Friday night in July and August, an Ocean County tradition.)

The Sea Oaks Father's Day Dinner Dance has been CANCELLED. We will be appearing next at Sea Oaks on July 15.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Puzzled Yet?

Puzzles by yours truly are beginning to take over the world. Besides pending puzzles for Games (August 2005) and Los Angeles Times (date TBA), I've just been informed that I'll be making my USA TODAY debut on Wednesday, July 27.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Sweeps Marred By Paramount TV

And with the "American Idol" finale in the books, our long national nightmare - otherwise known as the May 2005 Sweeps - is now over. (Granted, we still have the "Street Smarts" tournament finale at 4 a.m., but everyone will be asleep by then.)

What was the low point of the Sweeps? Paramount Television has to be called on the carpet for its extensive coverage of the wedding of child rapist Mary Kay Letourneau to her victim. I saw nothing romantic or fairytale about the whole thing. M.K.L. was a teacher who violated one of her students. This does not redeem what she did.

And Paramount's sponsorship of their nuptials - they will deny it up and down, but I'll bet they covered everything from the cheesy wedding band to the stale coldcuts that were served at the reception - almost screams out for a boycott of their programs by anyone who thinks that this is helping our nation's moral fabric go straight to hell.

Anyone remember when "Entertainment Tonight" used to cover ENTERTAINMENT? Me either.

And speaking of newlyweds, CBS, please, no more "Rob and Amber" ANYTHING. Don't put them on "Big Brother" with Mrs. Les Moonves, or anything else of the sort.

It's Carrie

We breathed a collective sigh of relief. The country girl from the midwest bested the stars-n-bars Southern rocker, but we got a pretty good show in the process as all of the finalists were paired (or tripled) off with (we're told) their own idols to perform duets. Some rang pretty true: Bo's take on "Sweet Home Alabama" with Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Carrie joining up with Rascal Flatts. We're still pretty darn convinced that Vonzell Solomon would have been a great Idol after her duet with Billy Preston on "With You I'm Born Again".

We applaud the selection of Carrie Underwood because we're still smarting over last year's selection of Fantasia Barrino over Diana DeGarmo. It wasn't a very good year for the 2004-model Idols as neither made much of a dent on the music map. (I think William Hung got more work than either of them put together.) Compare that to past Idols like Kelly Clarkson and '03 runner up Clay Aiken (both of whom are coming to Toms River this summer - check this out), who are still on a lot of people's lips. But we're looking forward to a fresh voice on the country scene and hope to hear some great stuff from Carrie Underwood.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

AI: Who Will Win?

Other bloggers have been chiming in on who they think is going to win "American Idol" tonight - we're still waiting for a prediction from fellow crossword constructor Stella Daily, who's been following the competition for some time (she's a singer herself). Up until last night, I really thought Bo Bice was going to take it. Now it seems to be a tossup.

Bo sang well, but his material was a little on the dreary side. While Carrie had some good songs (including a Martina McBride cover), her pitch was all over the place.

I had to keep in mind what I'd been telling my sixth-grade students the other day during their auditions for their positions in intermediate school band next year - you're going to be nervous during an audition. Some of the AI advisors (as I call Randy, Paula and Simon - they don't really sit in judgement and don't really have a sway over who ultimately gets in) had read the nerves on both contestants' faces, including the usually unflappable Bo.

If Vote For The Worst is to be believed, tonight's winner will be Carrie Underwood. And in some small measure, I agree. But neither of the two finalists are going to be poorer for the experience; both will get record deals in some way. And my favorite, Vonzell, already had a small album out; someone's gotta get that one bigger distribution, or at least a chance to record some new stuff now that she's been through the "Idol" finishing school.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Why I Won't Be Watching The Indy 500 This Year

Mostly because I'm marching in a parade, but I'm a little taken aback by all this media fuss over Danica Patrick.

Where oh where were you people when Sarah Fisher was in the same situation just a few short years ago? She was at Indy. She even won a pole for one Indy Car race. But here comes the infinitely more marketable (read "prettier") Danica, who is driving for owners Bobby Rahal and David Letterman, and everyone wants a piece of her now.

With Sarah in NASCAR now (she's racing the 20 car in the Grand National West series), we'll likely be reading about Sarah winning her fifth Daytona 500 years from now. And then I will say "Told you so."

UPDATE: The Indianapolis Star recently interviewed Sarah, who is going to be tangentially involved with the 500 (as a spotter for a driver whose chief mechanic is Sarah's boyfriend). Her thoughts on Danica Patrick? "When I first started in these things, it was my first job right out of high school. I was just kind of thrown in. I'm happy that (a woman) finally has the opportunity to step in with first-class equipment. I just wish it was me."

So do we, Sarah.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Who Wants To Win An Emmy?

Sure, she's already got a shelf full of them for hosting "The View", but Meredith Vieira has definitely arrived with her Emmy win tonight for hosting the daytime version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire".

Oh, there was plenty of hue and cry when she was picked, but she was right for the role from the start, and with 585 episodes already in the can, she's going back for at least a few seasons more. Of course, someday ol' Dave will be sitting across from Meredith getting questions (and a kiss at the end - who doesn't get a kiss from Meredith upon leaving the show?)

The picture, by the way, is not a trick photo - it is from when Meredith actually played a celebrity episode of the ABC version of the show.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

More Puzzles From Dave

We wish to apologize for problems with the Blog over the past few days. Every so often, the Falkland machine hiccups and forgets we have Blogger to deal with, and we have to tell it we're here. (This was a similar to a problem we had once when our former host had a hardware failure.)

I do have some good news, and it's not that I saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico. (Believe me, I tried to get Geico when it became available in NJ, but that fell through for reasons I care not to recount.) I will be having some more crossword puzzles published. Two more for Games Magazine! I'm becoming part of the furniture over there. Run, don't walk, and get the July issue of Games World Of Puzzles to do my 15x called "Celebrity Pantry." And I have one coming in the August 2005 Games Magazine. Don't forget, my LA Times puzzle is coming soon (and I'll let you know as soon as Rich Norris puts it on the schedule).

When I finally crack into the NY Times, we will have a party somewhere to celebrate. You'll learn more if it happens.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

No Phishing Allowed

When banks I don't even have an account with start sending me mail on my otherwise unpublished address to update my "account" information - including such private details as my mother's maiden name and my social security number - then it's time to change my private e-mail address.

Therefore, within the next several weeks, if you regularly correspond with me, you will be given a brand-new top-secret e-mail address to use - and it will no longer be on the domain. In fact, we're not telling you where it is going to be... at least here. This is also in part due to the technical problems we've been having of late (See above post).

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Moving The Neck Further Down The Bottle

We note with bemusement Governor Codey's just-revealed plan to install a third traffic lane on the Garden State Parkway between Exit 80 in Toms River to Exit 63 in Manahawkin.

All this does, IMHO, is moves the traffic bottleneck down further. Right now, it's a zoo getting off the parkway in Exit 80, just before the final three-lane stretch merges down to two, anytime in the evening, most of all a Friday evening when the parkway becomes rife with bennies. It's the residents of Manahawkin and Long Beach Island that are going to feel the inconvenience when their third lane disappears, sometime in the early part of the next decade.

Why not just widen the damn thing all the way down to Atlantic City? Much of the Parkway traffic now is tour buses and others wanting to get down to that gambling mecca.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"Move On Up"

I've never been a big fan of the ageless technique of co-opting songs for use in ads. That said, I'd like to publicly chide Toyota for taking Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up" and turning it into possibly the next "Nobody But Me" (classic song turned into a commercial pass-around). Everyone's gonna glom onto this song, and that's pretty sad, considering it's one of Mayfield's lesser-known treasures. I'm not sure I wanna hear it every five minutes in commercials touting gas-guzzling, too-big-for-their-own-good SUVs.

Paul Shaffer took the tune down a few keys and arranged it as bumper music (remember that?) for the Saturday Night Live Band, and later pulled it out on episodes of "Late Night With David Letterman" on nights when the Tower Of Power Horns sat in.

The only nice aspect of the whole deal is that a few bucks is going to Mayfield's estate (he died in 1999, years after an accident that caused neck-down paralysis).

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

#6878: Not The Day For Jae

Never mind. Jae Seo will not have a no-hitter. He gave up a two-out hit in the fifth.

#6878: C'mon, Jae!

Jae Seo has no-hit the Phillies through four. Five more innings. Fifteen more hitters. Do it, man.

Friday, April 22, 2005


As always, any mail sent to any address at is subject to being discarded unread. Any sender name and subject line combination that even smacks of spam or vague content is grounds for immediate deletion. You've all been warned.

Monday, April 18, 2005

What A Wynn-derful World

Lest this become a baseball blog, we remind you that we still have our Trading Spaces Store in operation.

Soon to be added is the book Yes You Can: Home Repairs Made Easy, by veteran Trading Spaces carpenter-babe Amy Wynn Pastor. Yes, we make no bones about the fact that she is a remarkably good looking woman. But can she ever build things! And the book - which I browsed tonight at my local bookstore - is a treasure trove of hints on how to do practically everything around your house, from fixing leaky toilets to painting. It's written in a straightforward style and for you Amy Wynn fans there are plenty of pictures of your home improvement heroine. If you click on the hyperlink, you can get the book from Amazon and throw a few cents toward the continued operation of this website.

Baseball As Usual

You're the CEO of a large international corporation that does business in all corners of the world. Due to circumstances beyond your control, your employees underperform. Do you:

a) call together your COO, your CFO, your other high ranking officials, for a skull session to see what you can do, or

b) throw together a statement to give to the press saying "Enough is enough", chastise your entire staff for not acting like "true employees", and publicly call for your staff to pull it together?

That is why baseball is such a wacky business.

Friday, April 15, 2005

#6854 - Mets Come Close To That Elusive No-Hitter

As close as one can come without getting one. Aaron Heilman hurled a one-hitter - the only hit coming from Luis Castillo - against the Florida Marlenes tonight as the Mets streaked to their fifth consecutive win after starting the season with five straight losses. It was, in fact, Heilman's first complete game.

This has got to be the year. Maybe tomorrow? Pedro is going up against Al Leiter.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

#6851: Pedro Comes Pretty Close

Thank goodness the Mets took one from the Braves. And Pedro Martinez was the man today as Mr. Who's Your Daddy only gave up two hits.

The no-no could come this year if Pedro keeps doing what he's doing!

Friday, April 08, 2005

"Trading Spaces" Fansite Reopens With Four New Recaps

About two years ago, your webmaster began watching a humble but growing little cable TV design show called Trading Spaces. It had an interesting premise, two neighbors swap rooms for two days and redecorate a room for $1000 or less, with the help of a professional designer and a carpenter.

In spite of our championship of the show (and a lot of good vibes from those who worked within the show), Trading Spaces was on its way to becoming one of cable's biggest hits.

Until the day that people stopped watching it.

Then the show's producers and network got pretty desperate, and started making changes to rekindle people's interest in the show. The winds of change were apparent with the beginning of this season, where there were now a selection of rooms to choose from and one being a jackpot bonus room worth more money, plus a more "verite" feel to the proceedings that made these new episodes a chore to recap.

Now, TLC is on the verge of premiering a new, reformatted Trading Spaces that bears only a vague resemblance to the original format, with the chief difference being that the show has lost its central guiding presence with the dismissal of hostess Paige Davis. We feel that the new TS is going down the wrong road, emphasizing homeowner/designer/carpenter conflict and the sort of pathos that typifies everything that has gone wrong with the genre (see under "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"), rather than the giddy, harmless fun of the original.

For those reasons, Dave and Robair present the new Trading Post Goes Old Skool, which will now feature highlights and recaps from the first four years of the show. It's almost as if Season 5 never happened, with the exception of one celebrity show that hews to the old format as done in Seasons 1-4. We may be expanding the site's focus to include Trading Spaces Family, which has happily stuck with all the original trappings of the 2001 vintage TS, from graphics and theme music to attitude.

We hope you enjoy our take on these older shows, many of which are no longer being aired.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Intel Presence In Computer Commercials Gets Even More Obnoxious

I think it's a co-op requirement, but for years any computer commercial that has made mention of Intel processors have always had to stop dead for five seconds so that Intel's logo animation and theme can be played.

It's gotten worse. Intel, apparently, now wants its logo to be a certain size on the screen. Mainly, MUCH LARGER. So much so, that Dell now has to move its end-of-spot tagline out of the way to make way for the Mega-Intel logo.

Makes me glad I have AMD chips in all my machines.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Crossword No. 2

My first published crossword puzzle appeared around the first of the year in the February 2005 Games Magazine.

I've just sold a second, and for the first time, it'll be in the newspaper. I will be having a puzzle within the next few months in the Los Angeles Times. This puzzle is syndicated around the country by Tribune Media Services, and is bylined so you'll open the newspaper and when you see "Puzzle by Dave Mackey" on there, you'll say, "Hey, I know that guy" or "Hey, that's my son's music teacher!" or "Hey, this puzzle is too *%?/#&@! hard!" (Actually, it'll run midweek, so it is not that hard.)

After the puzzle appears, I'll tell you what led to its creation.

Of course, we don't open the champagne around here unless and until I sell a puzzle to the New York Times.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Mets No-Hitter Watch Moves To DaveMackey.Com

I am pleased to be hosting the Mackey Bros. annual countdown (or count up) of major league baseball games since a New York Mets pitcher has thrown a no hitter. Robair hosted the count last year on his now-dormant Eggplant blog.

The last time a Met has pitched a no-hitter is ... well, NEVER. For all the great pitchers the Mets have had over the years - Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, Bobby Ojeda, and most lately Tom Glavine - no Mets pitcher has ever been able to retire all 27 batters. With Pedro Martinez on staff this year, we've got a good shot. And The Yankees will NOT be his "daddy" this year!

This is my 40th season as a Mets fan. I've waited long enough. So has Robair. C'mon Pedro! And Let's Go Mets!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Warning: Fake E-Mails Received, Purportedly from PayPal

Don't be fooled. Within the past two days, I received two emails allegedly from PayPal asking me to verify my account. I did not follow the link in the message; instead, I went to PayPal and saw that my account was indeed verified and valid.

It's always a good idea to check the message source in these e-mails. The message headers I received looks like this:

Received: (qmail 33181 invoked from network); 30 Mar 2005 18:57:08 -0000
Received: from (HELO (
by with SMTP; 30 Mar 2005 18:57:08 -0000
Received: by (Postfix, from userid 0)
id 120C083633; Thu, 31 Mar 2005 02:19:53 +0000 (UTC)
Subject: Update And Verify Your PayPal Account
Content-Type: text/html
Message-Id: <>
Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2005 02:19:53 +0000 (UTC)

Really odd that PayPal would be using a company in Taiwan to send e-mail.

Further down, there is words to the following effect.

It has come to our attention that due some internet frauds some accounts have been stolen. We now must take some actions and verify all PayPal users.

However, failure to update your records will result in account suspension.

Please update your records. Once you have updated your acco unt records, your PayPal session will not be
interrupted and will continue as normal.

To update your PayPal records click on the following link:

Bad grammar and misspacings. And PayPal is supposed to be this big company that can afford to speek and spel rite.

Also, the URL as given doesn't even work. When moused over, the following appears:

When you go to the numeric IP address, you are taken to a website in Cyrillic Russian.

So we've got three countries involved. PayPal has been notified, but hopefully you spamming scumbags who are reading this who think they've got an easy mark here - WATCH YOUR SORRY BUTTS.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Fox Cancels "Point Pleasant"

Thank goodness. I live a few miles from the actual Point Pleasant and that town isn't like that at all.

If we can blame any one person for "Point Pleasant"'s demise, it would be...

The guy who screwed up the phone numbers on "American Idol" the other night!

British "Batfink" Box

If you click on this link, you will be transported to Amazon's U.K. ordering page for a box set of "Batfink" on DVD, featuring all 100 episodes on four DVD's. These discs look handsome. (Incidentally, we do not get kickbacks on ordered merchandise from the Amazon U.K. branch.)

Now the bad news. These are PAL DVD's and they will not play on U.S. televisions, which are NTSC. The DVD's are encoded for Region 2; the U.S. is in Region 1.

If there's anything good that can come out of the shockingly meager press coverage the death of Hal Seeger has received, perhaps it will be a remembrance and awareness of Seeger's cartoon programs. And perhaps some enterprising U.S. distributor will get this complete "Batfink" set out in a format that Americans can enjoy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Phone Call You're Bloody Not Likely To Hear Made

Hello, Fox Television Network. How may I direct your call?

Yes, I'd like to speak to programming.

What is the nature of your call?

I'd like to speak to the idiot who decided not to run "Life On A Stick" tonight.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

HAL SEEGER 1917-2005

We regret to inform you that Hal Seeger, whom we honor in a special set of pages on our website, has died. Mr. Seeger, 87, died on March 13, 2005. There will be more information on our Hal Seeger site.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Bobby Short 1924-2005

Just a few short words about Bobby.

What a genius.

He was part of the fabric of New York City for years, and he did it mostly from behind a piano at the Cafe Carlyle, where he held court for over 35 years, playing and singing the standards. Bobby also made movies and commercials, including a very well-arranged version of the "Charlie" perfume theme song. Bobby Short died today of leukemia at the age of 80, and he had been planning to tour the world after wrapping up his stint at the Carlyle this summer.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Usually when I pop a movie into the DVD player, I doze off and fall asleep about 30 minutes in, particularly if the day at work has been a little on the draining side.

Such was not the case with "Ray". What a mesmerizing cinematic experience, and not at all deadly dull - even in the almost 3-hour-long "added footage" version.

Jamie Foxx is definitely deserving of his Best Actor Academy Award. He BECOMES Ray Charles, down to the facial mannerisms, the bobbing around at the piano, and his speech mannerisms. But lest it become a one-dimensional "In Living Color" parody, Jamie throws his considerable acting skill behind it and takes it to levels never before seen from someone who cut his teeth in sketch comedy. Foxx did some of his own performing, mostly songs from early in Ray Charles' career; when the more familiar tunes came up on the soundtrack, Foxx mimed to the original Ray Charles recordings like "Hit The Road Jack" and "Georgia On My Mind".

If you're a music buff, you'll enjoy the significance of the contacts he makes along the way - meeting up with a similarly young Quincy Jones early in their careers, signing with Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun (nicely played by Curtis Armstrong) of Atlantic Records, touring with sax player David "Fathead" Newman (who the closing titles note still tours the world and practices a healthy drug-free lifestyle). His switch in the late 1950's to ABC-Paramount Records is also given some play, in a nice scene where the Atlantic honchos are chiding him for making a business decision, but eventually Ertegun, realizing the Atlantic resources aren't as deep as ABC-Paramount's, gives Charles his blessing for the move. Of course, at ABC-Paramount, Charles started out doing songs like "Hit The Road Jack" and later migrated into country stylings with choir and string backgrounds, songs like "Born To Lose" and "I Can't Stop Loving You".

The frequent scenes of Ray Charles and others shooting heroin are mostly what gives this film its PG-13 rating. But his heroin use is not without consequence, as we see him going through withdrawl (without the benefit of methadone) in gripping scenes.

If you don't have one, you can get either the Widescreen Edition or the Deluxe 2-Disc set, by clicking the links. Do it, and you'll see why Mr. Foxx deserved his Oscar.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

1851: Unlucky Number For NJT

NJ Transit bus 1851 (a 1994 Flxible) was the site of a fatal shooting yesterday when it was running the 62 route in Newark. Yet, that number seemed oddly familiar.

I checked my archives and remembered that on May 31, 2004, Academy Lines bus 1851 was involved in a serious accident on the Garden State Parkway. 43 passengers were injured in the crash involving a 1999 MCI 102DL3 coach. Academy still runs other buses in this series, notable for their plain-white appearance.

In case you've wondered where our bus pages are, we are not in any great hurry to bring the NJT info back up, since it is now slightly outdated... at least the fleet photos may be back soon. We will definitely be bringing back the Public Service bus pages as well.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Site Update

The Animation pages, a database of cartoon credits from a number of studios, including a complete filmography of Hal Seeger Productions, has now been restored to this site. Enjoy!

A Modest Proposal

GSN, The Network For Games, routinely features an hour of black-and-white programming from old kinescopes in its 3 a.m. timeslot. Programming is culled from the Mark Goodson-Bill Todman archives, featuring shows like "Password", "What's My Line", "To Tell The Truth", and "Beat The Clock" among others.

This one is a no-brainer for GSN. Apparently, the network can get pretty darn cheap the syndicated library of "You Bet Your Life" which was packaged in 1961 under the title "The Best Of Groucho" for local syndication by NBC Films. When the films were repackaged, editors very carefully removed all references to NBC (except for the NBC "snake" in the show's closing logo) and the show's sponsors which included DeSoto-Plymouth Dealers, Ford and Toni Home Permanent, which explains grainy closeups of Groucho in some scenes. New open and close bumpers were edited in.

The films have been relatively unseen in recent years, with the exception of a package of original cuts of the show (with all original bumpers, commercials and logos kept in) that have aired sporadically on PBS stations. The show had a surge of interest in the mid-1970's (during a nostalgia craze which included a major revival of Marx Brothers movies, including the suppressed "Animal Crackers"), when the syndicated films began showing up in late-night time slots on local stations and got huge ratings against 11 p.m. network-affiliate newscasts.

Of course, the game (rudimentary as it was) took a backseat to the interviews of the contestants conducted by Groucho Marx, which were largely concocted by a staff of writers who projected Groucho's seemingly adlib quips on large projection screens out of site. More material was filmed than needed (and yes, I said filmed - the show was actually shot on film and then edited into a half-hour unit, with some of the rest of the material adapted for an NBC Radio version) to ensure the best material would get on the air.

The result? Classic television that seemed unpredictable, but was very tightly controlled by producer John Guedel, directors Bernie Smith and Bob Dwan, and writers Hy Freedman and Howard Harris. George Fenneman was the straight man/announcer, and at various times the band was led by Jack Meakin and Jerry Fielding.

All of which is pretty attractive to GSN's 3 a.m. audience of insomniacs. How about it, GSN? Pay the freight and get Groucho back on TV.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Seventy-Six Trombones.... Minus Seventy-Five

BULLETIN: Tonight's (February 24) performance of "The Music Man" has been cancelled due to the impending snowstorm. For more information visit the Our Gang website.

Right now I'm in rehearsals for a Thursday opening of "The Music Man", which is being mounted by the Adult Division of the Our Gang Players in Barnegat, NJ. (Here's some more information from the Times Beacon.)

The show, of course, is the brainchild of Meredith Willson (shown here on a first-day cover of his 1999 stamp), who wrote book, music and lyrics and collaborated with Franklin Lacey on story. Willson again hit paydirt in the 1960's with "The Unsinkable Molly Brown", but also did a number of other things, including sit for a few years as a panelist on the ABC panel show "The Name's The Same".

I will be playing trombone for this show. I love doing pit work; I just wish I had more opportunities to do so close to home. This is a smallish pit, but we have some good players and they've all made "the new guy" feel at home. Steve Strouse is our musical director, a wonderfully talented individual, and our brass section also features trumpeter Ray Bohn, who also plays a little bass. Students from Pinelands High School and Southern Regional High School will round out our pit.

I urge you to come out and see this show and support local theatre. However, if you want to see how others have treated this golden material, I point you to a couple of DVD's you can scarf from Amazon by clicking on the links: the 1962 big-screen version with Robert Preston as Professor Harold Hill and Shirley Jones as Marian the Librarian (and Ron Howard, back when he had hair), or the more recent ABC TV-movie with Matthew Broderick as Hill and uber-adorable Kristen Chenoweth as Marian.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

$524 vs. $38

The official notebook of for several years has been my trusty Compaq Presario 700 series. Apparently, a common problem of this computer is cracks developing in the lid near the hinge mounts. Just before Christmas, the unit finally gave and the lid snapped in two at one of the hinges. I took the unit to an authorized Compaq service facility, where the quote to fix came back to a nifty total of $524 - which would entail replacing the entire lid, including the LCD screen. That's almost the cost of a new notebook, and I wasn't prepared to pay that cost.

Fortunately, I decided to scour around eBay for the lid bezel, and I found one at a reasonable price - $30. I gleefully clicked the Buy It Now button and the part arrived a few days ago. It only took a few minutes to get the old lid off and the new lid on; the only thing was I didn't have a Torx bit small enough (I think it's a T7) so I had to use a small jeweler's screwdriver. Plus shipping, the whole repair job cost me $38.

If there's one thing I learned from my father, who was really handy with tools and knew his way around a car forward and backwards, it was that if you have just a little know-how, you can save yourself big bucks if you do little fixes yourself. Leave the big jobs to the experts, but do what you can yourself. My little notebook is doing fine and I'm using it right now to post this, in fact.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Hosting Update

We are back live on thanks to a new hosting order just placed with Globat... They are giving us five times the storage space and two and a half times the bandwidth at a much reduced price than that Brand X webhosting company we used to use offered us.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Due to bandwidth issues with our soon-to-be-former service provider (to which I just paid a hefty fee for account renewal), is going to be going away for a little while. This includes all features hosted on this site, including Trading Post.

We cannot afford to pay the freight for dedicated hosting.

We are looking into other agreements with other service providers. If you communicate with us via e-mail, I will be contacting you personally with other information. In the meantime, you may enjoy reading, if you desperately need that daily dose o' Dave. Hopefully I can be a little more blogospheric here.

Thank you,
Dave Mackey

Monday, January 24, 2005


Due to an increased volume of unwanted e-mail, the emailbox HAS BEEN DISABLED. Anyone that legitimately corresponds on this address will be diverted to a new, unpublished address. For general inquiries, please see below.

Also, anyone wishing to crack this security please note:
  • I do not have a mortgage on my home
  • I do not need help in carnal areas
  • I do not need to promote this website or send mass quantites of e-mail
In short, please leave me alone and go spam somebody else. Thank you.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Animation Updates Elsewhere On The Web

Scrappyland, the latest website offering of my longtime friend Harry McCracken (who by day is editor-in-chief of PC World and brother of novelist Elizabeth McCracken), is now open for business. The site celebrates the now-unfortunately-obscure character of Columbia cartoons in the 1930's, whose exploits were delinated by such cartoon talents as Dick Huemer, Art Davis, Sid Marcus, Ben Harrison and Manny Gould.

Also, we note the change in url for Charles Brubaker's DePatie-Freleng Website, which is in the process of being redesigned and expanded. There is some overlap in what I do and what he does, but he does it so much better. The filmography on both our sites is now dangerously close to complete, as regards theatrical cartoons. We are missing the credits from five "Blue Racer" cartoons. We both have gotten the credits for all of the "Dogfather" cartoons and I've now got them up on my 1970's DFE list.

Confession: if there's one thing I'd like to see again from DFE's archives, it would have to be the wonderfully obscure "The Oddball Couple", an authorized refry of Neil Simon's "Odd Couple" concept featuring a neat cat (Frank Nelson) and a sloppy dog (Paul Winchell), which ran for a couple of seasons on ABC beginning in the fall of 1975. The series has been seldom seen since its brief network run; it was never syndicated. Someone's got it somewhere. But where?

Friday, January 14, 2005

One Singular Sensation, One More Time

Mark Evanier weighs in on the impending return of "A Chorus Line" to Broadway. Sure, it's a little early to get excited about - the revival doesn't officially open until September of 2006 - but it is definitely something to get excited about when one of Broadway's landmark shows returns.

Years ago, I was involved in a production of "A Chorus Line" as part of one of the best pits I ever had the pleasure of playing in. Most of the brass section was imported from the Brass Tacks Orchestra lineup at the time. The Broadway return of the show will most likely put an embargo on local community productions, so hopefully I'll get the chance to play this show once again. (If this production runs as long as the original does, I will be in my sixties once it hits the community boards again. Yikes.)

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Happy 35th Birthday To...

I want to wish a happy 35th birthday today to two institutions I'm happy to have had at least some association with over the years.

Long before being the fictitious "sideways" school in the books of Louis Sachar, I was one of the first students at the Wayside School in New Jersey when it opened its doors on January 5, 1970. It was a wonderfully modern school plant that's still in existence today and hopefully they did something nice to mark the date. (Hopefully not opening the time capsule buried in the cornerstone and reading the embarrassingly bad poetry inside.)

While we were getting used to our new school, our moms at home (except maybe for my mother, who wouldn't budge from CBS soaps for anything) got their first glimpse of Pine Valley, as ABC premiered a new soap opera entitled "All My Children." The show nominally featured Ruth Warrick, who had been featured in films such as "Citizen Kane", as the matriarch of a family of interesting characters. (Note: Ruth Warrick made her final AMC appearance on the anniversary show; she died on January 15.) Buried somewhere in the melange of people populating any soap was a true daytime original - the vixenish, scheming, and eventually much-married Erica Kane, played to the hilt by Susan Lucci. AMC continues today and Lucci is still there, lovely as ever after 35 years. For a brief time, I was an active AMC viewer and participant on the Usenet discussion groups devoted to the show, and for a time maintained the show's cast listing, tracking the show's regular and semi-regular cast. (On at least three occasions, I noted an actor named Patrick Page in the cast - not knowing that eventually he would marry our beloved Paige Davis in later years.)

So happy birthday to both the Wayside School and AMC!