5.25.2009

MONDAY, May 25, 2009 — Gia Christian


THEME: Double Plays — Six theme answers, which are actually three pairs of answers, where each pair's first words are opposites of one another in baseball terminology.

Wow, this is a lot of puzzle for a Monday. Six theme answers that are related not just through a general topic (baseball), but through their implication in pairs of opposites (OUT / SAFE, STRIKE / BALL, FAIR / FOUL). Really great. I think this puzzle was slightly thornier and more intricate than your average Monday (though my time was pretty avg.). Interesting phrases like OUT OF WHACK and BALL OF WAX made for a livelier and less predictable-seeming grid than Mondays often offer. I started out strong with SLAW (1A: Sandwich side) and LAILA (2D: Boxer Ali) and ASK OF (3D: Request from), but then jumped the gun on 4D: Moby Dick, notably and wrote in WHALE as the first word. WHALE TALE didn't fit, so I went back to the NW and found my mistake. Other hiccups included having OUT OF ORDER for OUT OF WHACK and not being able to get 57D: Vibrant look (glow) even though the "GL" was already in place. Otherwise, Monday smooth.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Not in working order, informally (OUT OF WHACK) — "Informally" should have told me "ORDER" was wrong.
  • 23A: Crook who doesn't need the combination (SAFE CRACKER) — Also known as a YEGG, which is a word you will see in the grid, eventually.
  • 36A: Union benefit during a walkout (STRIKE PAY)
  • 42A: Everything, informally (BALL OF WAX) — Thought the clue on this made it toughish. Very vague.
  • 47A: Promising picnic forecast (FAIR WEATHER)
  • 60A: Tendency to anger easily (FOUL TEMPER)
Crosswordese 101: BOZ (15A: Dickens pen name) — Choosing today's word was tough. I strongly considered going with SABU, primarily because I feel like you're likely to see him more often than you are BOZ, but BOZ won out. Like SABU, I learned BOZ from crosswords. No big Dickens fan, I - though I don't dislike him either. I'm just ignorant about most of his work, and tend not to go for the 800-page novel when I'm choosing reading material (exceptions = Anna Karenina and Don Quixote). "Sketches by Boz" was an 1833 collection of journalistic portraits of people and places around London. Its success launched Dickens' career, and paved the way for the serialization of his first novel, The Pickwick Papers. BOZ was also the nickname of college football great (and pro football also-ran) Brian Bosworth.

What else?
  • 65A: Grammar best-seller "Woe _____" ("IS I") — Grammarians may find it too informal and breezy, but ordinary folk with no predisposition to care about grammar might like it. My students have generally liked it.
  • 10D: Quantum physicist Niels (BOHR) — The puzzle's most famous physicist.
  • 52D: Wascally Wabbit hunter (ELMER) — Great clue for one of the greatest Looney Tunes characters.


  • 54D: Bay Area enforcers (SFPD) — Often clued via Dirty Harry (last name Callahan).
Enjoy your Memorial Day. And happy first birthday to my chocolate lab, Gabby.

~Rex

Everything Else — 1A: Sandwich side dish (SLAW); 5A: Quick __ flash (AS A); 8A: Open, as a gate (UNBOLT); 14A: Itchy condition (RASH); 15A: Dickens pen name (BOZ); 16A: Connect, as a stereo (HOOK UP); 17A: Kind of party torch (TIKI); 18A: Not in working order, informally (OUT OF WHACK); 20A: Frequently (A LOT); 21A: On the ocean (ASEA); 22A: Deli breads (RYES); 23A: Crook who doesn't need the combination (SAFECRACKER); 27A: Roll of bills (WAD); 28A: Las Vegas's desert (MOJAVE); 33A: Shooter's aiming aid (SIGHT); 36A: Union benefit during a walkout (STRIKE PAY); 39A: Vicinity (AREA); 40A: Valuable thing (ASSET); 41A: Shredded (TORE); 42A: Everything, informally (BALL OF WAX); 44A: Annual athletic awards (ESPYS); 45A: Vote out (UNSEAT); 46A: Hip-hop Dr. (DRE); 47A: Promising picnic forecast (FAIRWEATHER); 54A: Thick carpet (SHAG); 58A: Point on a wire fence (BARB); 59A: Tall story (TALE); 60A: Tendency to anger easily (FOUL TEMPER); 63A: Mrs. Peel of "The Avengers" (EMMA); 64A: Regional dialect (PATOIS); 65A: Grammar best-seller "Woe __" (IS I); 66A: Regretted (RUED); 67A: Start to nod off (DROWSE); 68A: Souse's woe (DTS); 69A: Full of pep (SPRY); 1D: Madrid misses: Abbr. (SRTAS); 2D: Boxer Ali (LAILA); 3D: Request from (ASK OF); 4D: Moby Dick, notably (WHITE WHALE); 5D: On the plane (ABOARD); 6D: Composer of marches (SOUSA); 7D: Early Mexican (AZTEC); 8D: TV dial letters (UHF); 9D: Right away (NOW); 10D: Quantum physicist Niels (BOHR); 11D: "Works for me" (OKAY); 12D: Time co-founder Henry (LUCE); 13D: Toll rds. (TPKS); 19D: Acorn source (OAK); 24D: Maine coon, for one (CAT); 25D: Give forth (EMIT); 26D: Soldier of Seoul (ROK); 29D: Fashionable fliers (JET-SETTERS); 30D: Per unit (A POP); 31D: Fluctuate (VARY); 32D: Peepers (EYES); 33D: Child star of "The Thief of Bagdad" (1940) (SABU); 34D: Persia, nowadays (IRAN); 35D: Hair goops (GELS); 36D: Opposite of NNE (SSW); 37D: Hijack-prevention gp. (TSA); 38D: "Oedipus __" (REX); 40D: Old Spice alternative (AFTA); 43D: Blockhead (OAF); 44D: Noteworthy period (ERA); 46D: Explosion remains (DEBRIS); 48D: "Big Blue" (IBM); 49D: Fast (RAPID); 50D: Obtain using force (WREST); 51D: Overplay (HAM UP); 52D: Wascally Wabbit hunter (ELMER); 53D: "__, aim, fire!" (READY); 54D: Bay Area enforcers, initially (SFPD); 55D: Icy coating (HOAR); 56D: Car (AUTO); 57D: Vibrant look (GLOW); 61D: "__ the season ..." ('TIS); 62D: Suffix with Siam (-ESE).

21 comments:

Crosscan said...

Wabbits, wabbits, wabbits!

Great Monday puzzle.

imsdave said...

Ditto, what Crosscan said. Everything a Monday should be and more.

sasesqretd said...

Ditto, ditto. But I am so sports challenged, I had no idea what was going on until I read the blog. Sigh.

gjelizabeth said...

I didn't do this puzzle! Worked through the (Tribune Media Services) puzzle in my San Jose MERCURY NEWS, thinking it was a little flat, even for a Monday, then pulled up this blog and discovered I'd been had! My first clue should have been that the puzzle wasn't credited to a constructor. I've emailed the Entertainment Editor as no puzzle page editor is listed anywhere in the newspaper or online. I asked (does "please" in all caps qualify as begging?) that they resume publishing the L.A. TIMES daily puzzle and told him about your wonderful blog. Anything else I can do?

Orange said...

I recognized that the six theme entries began with ump calls, but had not noticed that they were paired. Thanks for that, Rex.

@gjelizabeth: Oh, no! I wonder if they swapped in the daily commuter puzzle. Was it an unthemed and lifeless puzzle? Calling all San Jose Mercury News readers: Please join Elizabeth in writing to the Mercury News. Contact info here; who did you write to, Elizabeth?

gjelizabeth said...

@Orange: Unthemed and lifeless would be an accurate description. 1A "Part of a daisy" PETAL, if that helps identify it. I emailed Charle McCollum, asking that he forward it to the appropriate person if necessary. I'll let you know about any follow-up.

Charles Bogle said...

Agree this was A LOT of Monday fun...in my opinion, tons more than today's nyt

While I was pleased to finish, I was utterly clueless it had a theme until I came here!

Took a while to get HOAR by crossing and thus learned a new word. Love Dickens but never knew he used BOZ as a pen name

Second day in three I've seen a certain female athlete's first name...guess it's got great vowels

I think what I liked best about this puzzle was that it had a little bit of everything, time-era wise

Safe day to all-

chefbea said...

Had no idea what the theme was til I got here. When I got out of whack and safe cracker I wanted all the theme answers to have ACK in them.
Haven't gotten my NYTimes puzzle delivered yet. Guess thoey are busy celebrating Memorial day.

Enjoy the holiday. Guess lots of you will be having slaw at your cookouts...Maybe red white and blue cole slaw

Anonymous said...

While "out of whack" is certainly an "informal" version of "out of order," the answer "ball of wax" for 42A is certainly not an "informal" version of "whole ball of wax" (or anything else I can think of). In fact, I have never heard anyone use the phrase without the initial "whole." The clue could have been massaged to make the answer work. Aside from that one small weakness, it was a great puzzle with a terrific and well executed theme.

SDS

Carol said...

Harder than the usual Monday, but enjoyed it. Like chefbea started on the assumption that ACK was the theme.

Good puzzle with plenty of challenges, but was excited to finish with no Googles!

chefbea said...

Just did the NY Times. This was much better

hazel said...

Awesome Monday puzzle! Actually took me longer - maybe a minute - than the NYT. First time ever, I think. Anyway, awesome puzzle because it got my day started right (thinking about baseball) and the Braves' 3-game weekend sweep of the 1st place Toronto Blue Jays!!

You just cannot go wrong with a baseball puzzle. Period. End of story.

Plus I'd never heard of BOZ before? And I've read mountains and mountains of Charles Dickens. Love him.

Eric said...

@Hazel. Couldn't agree more. Enjoyed the puzzle thoroughly although probably because it was more challenging than the nyt which isn't fair yo the nty as I found that to be a typical Monday delivery.
Rex, can't tell you how grateful I am for your write-ups. Whether I respond or not (sometimes it's all been said and I hate to repeat) I very much enjoy them both here and at your site.

mac said...

Great baseball puzzle, although I needed Rex's explanation to see the theme... (Also thank you for the link to Merle Reagle's puzzle in yesterday's blog).

Just this morning is was talking to someone about "Copenhagen" and here Niels shows up!

Jake said...

I got SAFECRACKER immediately after WHITEWHALE and chuckled.

Mike said...

I know I'm late to this thread, but I had to comment here for two reasons.

First, indeed, this was WAY better than the NYT in every respect. No awkward fill, well-done theme, and NO CIRCLES (go to Rex's blog if you don't usually do the NYT to see the controversy today).

Second, this was my fastest time on a xword puzzle in a long time. I solved this puzzle in 4:17; I was just blazing through this today. Unlike a number of people who have fast times, I did actually figure out the theme early, and it helped me a lot, for example with STRIKEPAY, which would have confused me otherwise.

Anyhow, great puzzle, Rich!

Anonymous said...

Rex, et. al.,

Thanks so much for two great blogs. I follow the NYT in syndication and the LAT in "real time." I'm something of a newbie in the world of crossowrds (a ctually a Sudoku refugee) so I appreciate the learning experience. Keep it up.

Joon said...

i liked this puzzle (how could i not? it was terrific), but what's with the badmouthing of today's NYT puzzle? that seems totally out of place here.

SDS/anonymous 10:22, BALL OF WAX has its own dictionary entry. it's definitely legit.

Mike said...

@Joon,

I'm not sure that badmouthing the NYT puzzle is totally out of place here; after all, the NYT and LAT puzzles are the two best daily puzzles, and comparing them on two xword blogs run or co-run by the same person doesn't seem all that strange. Besides, occasionally when the NYT puzzle is bad and the LAT puzzle is good, Rex will note that on his NYT blog. Maybe I did go a bit overboard though. Just for the record, I did badmouth the NYT puzzle over at Rex's blog too. :)

However, I actually think that today is a great day to compare the two puzzles, if only to point out what makes up a good Monday and a bad Monday puzzle. The NYT was a strikingly bad Monday puzzle, whereas the LAT was a notably good puzzle, for Monday or any easy puzzle. Pointing out why each was good and bad could actually be pretty interesting and a primer for new solvers who may not have enough solving experience to know what makes for a good and a bad puzzle. Just a thought...

Orange said...

Actually, Mike et al., the NYT puzzle was not bad. It just felt lackluster in its theme. A bad puzzle would have a crappy, inconsistent theme (the MAGNOLIA was a bit jarring to thematic consistency, but it was still [1] three hidden trees, [2] split among words, [3] in movie titles). A bad puzzle has lousy fill (imagine seeing words like INDRI and PTAH). A bad puzzle has clues that don't quite work.

I'll go on record as not liking to see puzzles tarred. This isn't an LAT-vs-NYT blog, it's an LAT blog. My other blog, Diary of a Crossword Fiend, does cover multiple crosswords, but I try not to set them in competition with each other. It's not necessary to tear down one puzzle in order to praise another.

Mike said...

Orange,

Points taken and agreed with. It was a poor choice of words on my part. I guess what I mean by "bad puzzle" is bad relative to the usual quality level of said puzzle. I think it's definitely true that yesterday's NYT was not up to the usual standards, but you're completely right; it was not a "bad" puzzle by any means in terms of off cluing or a totally inconsistent theme.

I guess I've been spoiled by the good puzzles thanks to your blog, Orange. Diary of a Crossword Fiend is actually what got me into doing puzzles every day in the first place; I was only doing the LAT maybe once a week or so for a while, and then stumbled onto your blog and haven't looked back since.

I realize that I may come across as a jerk on this blog, thanks to both my railing on the Bursztyn puzzles in the past and now this. I promise you that I'm not a jerk in any way in real life, and that I don't derive pleasure whatsoever from putting things down. I'm just passionate about crosswords, as I think we all are, and when a puzzle is noticeably weaker than usual, it hurts me a little bit, since I'm so used to the excellence of the LAT and the NYT and formerly the Sun, and I therefore feel compelled to point lesser quality puzzles out.

As someone with a theater background, I'm used to harsh criticism, both in terms of giving and receiving. But I totally accept that criticizing puzzles may not feel constructive to a lot of people here, and so I'll refrain from it. I'll also try my darndest to refrain from comparing the NYT and the LAT, even though I do think that Rex has set a mild precedent for that on his blog, and that it can be constructive and helpful to new solvers who might not do both. Regardless, this is an LAT blog, and as you said, Orange, not a comparison blog.