The Marbles Amateur Crossword Tournament was a bunch of fun. Alas, spending Saturday afternoon in a puzzle-intensive setting has wiped me out, so I have only a fraction of the usual blogogenic energy. But Dan Naddor's one of my favorite L.A. Times puzzle-makers, so here goes.
Crosswordese 101: Let me hit you up with three unrelated morsels of crosswordese. What famous people named ILIE can you think of? There's pretty much just 109A: Nastase of tennis (ILIE). ELIE has more options—there's writer ELIE Wiesel and two current fashion designers, ELIE Saab and ELIE Tahari. Today's second crosswordese entry is ELO, short for Electric Light Orchestra: 67D: "Evil Woman" gp. (ELO). That "gp." abbreviation in the clue, by the way, is your signal that the answer's an abbreviation. ELO had several other big hits in the '70s or early '80s, like "Don't Bring Me Down," "Telephone Line," and the Xanadu soundtrack. They're about as popular in crosswords as rock producer and ambient music composer Brian ENO. Our third ORT (that's classic crosswordese meaning a food scrap or leftover) is 115D: Estuary (RIA). This is one of those words I rarely see outside of crosswords, but it flows into the puzzle regularly. My dictionary tells me it's a "long narrow inlet formed by the partial submergence of a river valley," but you'll see the word "estuary" in many of the RIA clues.
- 24A: Winner's prize in a programming competition? (VICTORY LAPTOP)
- 29A: Frijoles prep area? (BEAN COUNTERTOP)
- 41A: Writing surface available only occasionally? (PERIODIC TABLETOP)
- 54A: Peak that reeks? (FOUL TIP-TOP)
- 78A: Crew cut after a sloppy wrestling match? (MUD FLATTOP)
- 88A: Milk of Magnesia bottle cap? (PHILLIPS SCREWTOP)
- 99A: Proof of evil purchases? (PANDORA'S BOX TOP)
- 110A: Shirt needing a chemical rinse? (SEPTICTANKTOP);
- 15D: Convertible for a Canadian hockey player? (MAPLE LEAF RAGTOP)
- 40D: "Say hello to your average asphalt contractor"? (MEET JOE BLACKTOP)
- 1A: Offering at the fast-foodery El Pollo Loco (BREAST). Well! That's one way to get the puzzle off to a bold start at 1A.
- 22A: 1982 Toto hit (ROSANNA). A blogquaintance reports telling a Trader Joe's cashier that Toto's "Africa" is her number-one jam. Does that put you in the mood to seek out that song? Go ahead. I won't tell if you sneak over to YouTube or just play it on iTunes.
- 23A: Star who's out? (HAS-BEEN).
- 63A: One of the Simpsons (JESSICA) and 97A: "The Simpsons" disco guy (STU). JESSICA Simpson is a pop/country singer and not a toon. Disco STU has decorated his disco jacket with studs.
- 117A: "No damage done" (IT'S OKAY).
- 122A: Elements on the road (HONDAS). The Honda Element is one of those super-boxy small SUVs.
- 6D: Area defined by an el (THE LOOP). My kind of town, Chicago is.
- 46D: House shower (CSPAN). As in the channel that shows (is a "show-er" of) the House of Representatives.
- 55D: Clandestine maritime org. (ONI). I lied. This one's not a favorite. But I wanted to tell you that (1) it's short for Office of Naval Intelligence and (2) it's one of those things I'd never know if it weren't for crosswords. And now you know it.
- 56D: Worst (PITS).
- 79D: Stamp-selling org. (USPS). Somehow, my brain tried to think of retro things like the company that gave out Green Stamps back in the day. I think you need to be over 40 to have any memory of trading stamps. Anyway, the USPS is just our postal service.
- 92D: Avoid perishing? (PUBLISH). As in professors needing to "publish or perish."
- 105D: It's a gas (XENON). Yes. Yes, it is a gas.
If you're like me, you're happy when a crossword includes a lot of people's names. Many others don't care for names in a crossword because they can be a "you know it or you don't" test, especially vexing when two less common ones crash into each other and create an insoluble square. Here are today's names.
- 36A: Soprano Maria (CALLAS).
- 77A: Syngman of Korea (RHEE).
- 83A: 10th century emperor dubbed "the Great" (OTTO I). Two words: first name plus Roman numeral.
- 121A: Alan and Diane (LADDS).
- 4D: Truman veep Barkley (ALBEN). The name Alben never quite caught on, did it?
- 14D: Columbus sponsor (ISABELLA).
- 32D: GRF's veep (NAR). That's Nelson A. Rockefeller.
- 72D: Gideon Fell's creator (CARR). I learned this in another puzzle but promptly forgot it. Fell is John Dickson CARR's character, a sleuth who exclaims "Archons of Athens!" when frustrated. Hey, me too.
- 112D: Pennington et al. (TYS). Ty Pennington is the sleeveless guy on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Ty Treadway hosted the late Merv Griffin's Crosswords game show.
- 100D: Synthetic fiber (ARNEL). Yes, it's an erstwhile textile fiber whose manufacture ceased years ago. ARNEL is also the first name of Arnel Pineda, a Filipino guy who went from playing covers in the Philippines and having his friend put clips on YouTube to...the current lead singer of the band Journey. Yes, that Journey. He sounds a lot like Steve Perry, doesn't he? This discontinued synthetic fiber was in the NYT crossword recently, which led to my frittering away 45 minutes watching new-Journey videos on YouTube.
Everything Else — 7A: Intimidate (DAUNT); 12A: Add one's two cents (CHIMEIN); 19A: Long Island university (ADELPHI); 21A: Like some trucks going uphill (INLOW); 26A: Fish caught in pots (EELS); 27A: Fatty acid salt (OLEATE); 28A: Rorschach "image" (BLOT); 33A: "I didn't know that!" (GEE); 34A: Former Radiohead label (EMI); 35A: Circle dance (HORA); 39A: Start of an idea (GERM); 49A: Midas's undoing (GREED); 51A: Confuse (CROSSUP); 52A: Charlie Brown's cry (AARGH); 53A: Come to terms (AGREE); 57A: Newton fruit (FIGS); 58A: Hold back (RESTRAIN); 60A: Penn, e.g.: Abbr. (STA); 61A: "Here's hoping ..." (IPRAY); 66A: Sluggishness (INERTIA); 69A: Japanese chess (SHOGI); 71A: Chargers' org. (AFC); 73A: Sign of desperation (LASTGASP); 84A: Poet's feet (IAMBI); 86A: One working on the sheep (SHEARER); 87A: Ideal for dieters (NOCAL); 93A: Prepare to be shot (POSE); 94A: Escargots (SNAILS); 95A: Tight-fitting (SNUG); 98A: Many ATM deposits (CKS); 106A: Counterfeit (FAKE); 108A: Smooth routine (GROOVE); 113A: Fundraising events (DINNERS); 118A: Farm song refrain (EIEIO); 119A: Latvia neighbor (ESTONIA); 120A: Paging devices (BEEPERS); 1D: "Humph!" (BAH); 2D: Food std. (RDA); 3D: Some Caltech grads (EES); 5D: Acceptance __ (SPEECH); 7D: Fairway chunk (DIVOT); 8D: Doddering (ANILE); 9D: Gastric woe (ULCER); 10D: Absent from (NOTAT); 11D: "Scotty, __ beam up" (TWOTO); 12D: Call (out) (CRY); 13D: Jan. 1st, e.g. (HOL); 16D: Opposite of exo- (ENTO); 17D: When some ties are broken, briefly (INOT); 18D: 40 winks (NAP); 20D: Safeguard (INSURE); 25D: Gym unit (REP); 29D: Lazarus, for one (BEGGAR); 30D: Become visible (EMERGE); 31D: They put on shows (AIRERS); 33D: Shoot the breeze (GAB); 36D: Crime boss (CAPO); 37D: Places in the heart (ATRIA); 38D: Saturated (SOGGY); 42D: Post-ER destination (ICU); 43D: Magic, on scoreboards (ORL); 44D: Specks (DOTS); 45D: Last Supper question (ISITI); 47D: "For shame!" (TUT); 48D: Acidity nos. (PHS); 50D: Freedom from govt. control (DEREG); 54D: Hi-__ (FIS); 59D: "__ sure you know ..." (ASIM); 62D: Climber's spike (PITON); 64D: Champs-…lysÈes sights (CAFES); 65D: Company with a spokesduck (AFLAC); 68D: Eschew the doorbell (RAP); 69D: Persian potentates (SHAHS); 70D: Surround (HEMIN); 74D: Fire sale phrase (ATCOST); 75D: Such that one might (SOASTO); 76D: Rubbernecking cause (PILEUP); 77D: Fabric flaw (RIP); 80D: The N.L. doesn't use them (DHS); 81D: Trip souvenir (TEE); 82D: Credit-reporting company now called Experian (TRW); 85D: '50s political slogan (ILIKEIKE); 89D: Parisian pronoun (ILS); 90D: Airport safety org. (TSA); 91D: Kind of kick (ONSIDE); 96D: Discuss (GOINTO); 99D: __ Tour (PGA); 101D: Finnish mobile phone giant (NOKIA); 102D: Fussed over, with "on" (DOTED); 103D: Egg-shaped (OVOID); 104D: Some auction sales (REPOS); 106D: Big bash (FETE); 107D: Cathedral recess (APSE); 110D: Bro, for one (SIB); 111D: Aries or Taurus (CAR); 114D: Denouement (END); 116D: Airline to Stockholm (SAS).