FRIDAY, Jul. 31, 2009 — Dan Naddor

THEME: Terminator X — common phrases ending have their terminal "SK"s turned into "X"s, resulting in wacky phrases, which are then clued "?"-style

Good to see the late-week LA Times puzzles starting to get their teeth back a little (wait 'til you see tomorrow's ...). This one had a gloriously high "X" count (6 in the theme answers and then another 2 for good measure!), and took a decent amount of thought to work through. There were some wince-inducing moments, but the cleverness of the theme and Scrabbliness of the theme diminished their negative impact on my overall solving experience. One of the theme answers was pretty terrible — VIDEO DISK isn't really in the language except as the last two words represented by the abbrev. DVD, where it is conventionally spelled VIDEO DISC.

Other issues:

  • HALF MAN? Really? (33D: Not a whole person?)
  • EXER? Really? (52D: Phys. activity) — I have "OUCH" written next to that clue.
  • The clue on PLEASURE seems convoluted to me (12D: You can get it from a blast). I assume it's a metaphorical blast, as in, "I had a blast ... and it gave me PLEASURE."
  • HEXAD? Try using that word in a hockey rink and see where it gets you (61A: Hockey lineup, e.g.).

Still, this puzzle did not LAY AN EGG (great answer, 38D: Bomb big time). Both CAMPY (9A: Like much "Laugh-In" humor) and FRITTATA (21A: Italian omelet served open-faced) make me happy, and I don't think I've ever seen TRIPLEX, but it sure looks nice in the grid (18D: Apartment with two staircases, perhaps). SCANDAL sitting on top of WHISKEY gives the grid a cool Prohibition Era feel, like an old-fashioned CRIME DRAMA (58A: Part of "CSI" + 48D: Miller creation).

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Paul Bunyan's admission in therapy? ("I hate to ax")
  • 27A: Formal attire for Dumbo? (elephant tux)
  • 43A: Plant fiber used by moonshiners? (whiskey flax)
  • 56A: Diver's tank capacity? (oxygen max)
  • 11D: Catchall source of revenue? (multi-tax)
  • 36D: Keep a Northeastern fort under surveillance? (video Dix)

Word of the Day: TETRA (20A: Fish in a tank) — as with OPAH, I never heard about this fish until I started doing crosswords in earnest. Crosswords are teeming with these fish. Without even looking at previous clues or any definitions, I can tell you they are common aquarium fish that are brightly colored (those two facts are probably linked). TETRA is the Greek prefix for four ... perhaps they have four ... of something. Fins?

What else?

  • 60A: Verb suffix? (ose) — boo. This is literal. Why the "?" Maybe you wanted me to write in "IZE"?
  • 1D: French teacher (maitre) — had MADAME, which is half write. But not HALF MAN.
  • 28D: Folk singer Griffith (Nanci) — used to Love her. Saw her in concert twice. Had a huge crush on her from my teens well into my mid-20s. Other guys fantasized about swimsuit models or Farrah or whatever. But I was all about Teri Garr and (pre-whore) Sandy in "Grease" and Nanci Griffith. Here's the title track from what I think is probably her best album.

And here she is being impossibly cute and sounding Awesome in the late-80s (when such a feat was a near miracle):

See you Monday,


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Queen described by Mercutio (MAB); 4A: Cornrow, e.g. (PLAIT); 9A: Like much "Laugh-In" humor (CAMPY); 14A: Put away (ATE); 15A: Dreads wearer (RASTA); 16A: Fertilized item (OVULE); 17A: Paul Bunyan's admission in therapy? (I HATE TO AX); 19A: Tees off (RILES); 20A: Fish in a tank (TETRA); 21A: Italian omelet served open-faced (FRITTATA); 23A: Museum assortment (RELICS); 25A: Balk at (RESIST); 27A: Formal attire for Dumbo? (ELEPHANT TUX); 31A: Place to unwind (TUB); 32A: "A Perfect Spy" author (LECARRE); 33A: __-kiri (HARA); 34A: Selfless sort (GIVER); 37A: Ex-Fed chairman Alan Greenspan's alma mater (NYU); 38A: Not so strict (LAXER); 39A: Computer operating system (UNIX); 40A: Tabloid topic (SCANDAL); 42A: It's illegal to drop it (LSD); 43A: Plant fiber used by moonshiners? (WHISKEY FLAX); 47A: River of the Carolinas (PEEDEE); 49A: 16-Across cell (GAMETE); 50A: The Great Barrier Reef borders it (CORAL SEA); 54A: Expectant parent, e.g. (NAMER); 55A: Darfur's nation (SUDAN); 56A: Diver's tank capacity? (OXYGEN MAX); 58A: Part of "CSI" (CRIME); 59A: Baseball commissioner Bud (SELIG); 60A: Verb suffix? (-OSE); 61A: Hockey lineup, e.g. (HEXAD); 62A: Borneo swinger (ORANG); 63A: 1985 video game release, initially (NES); 1D: French teacher (MAITRE); 2D: Following closely (AT HEEL); 3D: __ wig: '60s fad item (BEATLE); 4D: Service provider? (PREACHER); 5D: Back muscle, for short (LAT); 6D: Starting (AS OF); 7D: __-Tass: news agency (ITAR); 8D: Sitcom set in a garage (TAXI); 9D: Organ layer (CORTEX); 10D: Some athletic footwear (AVIAS); 11D: Catchall source of revenue? (MULTITAX); 12D: You can get it from a blast (PLEASURE); 13D: Check-box word (YES); 18D: Apartment with two staircases, perhaps (TRIPLEX); 22D: Loyal (TRUE); 24D: __ fly: run-scoring out (SAC); 26D: Way up the slope (T-BAR); 28D: Folk singer Griffith (NANCI); 29D: "__ I might ..." (TRY AS); 30D: Jack's place (TRUNK); 33D: Not a whole person? (HALF MAN); 34D: [Uh-oh!] (GULP); 35D: Like many Woody Allen characters (INSECURE); 36D: Keep a Northeastern fort under surveillance? (VIDEO DIX); 38D: Bomb big-time (LAY AN EGG); 40D: Kid-lit poet Silverstein (SHEL); 41D: B.S., e.g. (DEG.); 43D: Withdrew gradually (from) (WEANED); 44D: Best Actor winner for "Save the Tiger" (1973) (LEMMON); 45D: Drill command (AT EASE); 46D: Persian king who captured Athens (XERXES); 48D: Miller creation (DRAMA); 51D: Average (SO-SO); 52D: Phys. activity (EXER.); 53D: "The Clan of the Cave Bear" heroine (AYLA); 55D: 41-Down awarder (SCH.); 57D: Beefeater, e.g. (GIN).


Anonymous said...

Fun puzzle!

Eric said...

Agree with Rex. Liked the puzzle. A little thornier than usual for LA and that's a welcome change later in the week. Went wrong right off the bat with Laugh in clue as Corny was my answer. Fits the clue, fits the show IMO.
All in all an "Xellently" challenging puzzle.

shrub5 said...

This one was a toughie for me, especially the NE corner. I put CORNY before CAMPY, spelled FRITTATA incorrectly, and had REJECT before RESIST. I just could not figure out PLEASURE from the clue and this ended up being the last word I filled in. When I have to resort to using Wite-out to keep on going, I'm getting testy.

HALFMAN and EXER were a couple of stinkers, however I thought TRUNK for Jack's place (I was thinking beanSTALK) and DRAMA for Miller creation (first put DRESS as in Nicole Miller, designer) were pretty clever and misleading. INSECURE and LAYANEGG were creative and fresh.

In my youth, I had an aquarium with several Neon TETRAs....but don't remember much PLEASURE in it. Seemed I was always having to clean out the thing to get rid of the algae and poop.

A nice Friday workout - thanks, Dan.

And @RP, I'm still chuckling over the HEXAD at the hockey game comment.

Anonymous said...

I found it harder than most on a Friday, even when I quickly got the theme, but finished it. It's rainng here AGAIN which is beginning to wear me down and feeling brain malaise. Had braid for PLAIT and also corny for CAMPY before figuring it out. How does IHATETOAX fit with the others?

Anonymous said...

Preferred the fill compared the theme answers which got old really fast and were easy to decipher. Not bad for a Friday.

Al said...

Anon @8:21, I stared at that for awhile, too. I hate to ASK. X replaces SK in all the answers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Al! And Rex, you "X-plained" it but I overlooked it. My bad!

Denise said...

Thanks for the intro to Nanci -- nice music.

I did this puzzle, a smooth fill, in my (very temporarily) quiet house while eating a lobster sandwich. Life is good.


Tough puzzle for an old man.
Struggled with corny instead of CAMPY (9a), but eventually got it when I realized there are no atheletic footwear that starts with an O. Then the MULTITAX (11d) cinched it.
The hardest part for me was NW... forgot about Queen MAB (1a) and just couldn't get the French professeur thing, MAITRE. Kept thinking that maitre was the word for maid, but thanks to my old uncle GOOGLE, I eventually succumbed to MAITRE.
I guess I'm not up on baseball terms, but I thought SAC fly had something to do with a Stategic Air Command scramble.
Shel Silverstein books were much read by my kids when they were tots and I enjoyed them too (to this very day)... especially THE GIVING TREE and WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS. If you have younguns, by all means get a hold of some of these books or at least check out his official website at---
You'll love it !
I don't know if taking 2 hours is par for a Friday Chicago Tribune (LAT) puzzle.

shrub5 said...

Like @Denise, I quite enjoyed the Nanci Griffith music. Here is the iTunes review of her 2009 album "The Loving Kind." Thought y'all might like to get a sense of her now.

"Texas singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith has flirted with many different genres over the years, but her most convincing stage has been that of simple folk and country songs that allow her literate tales to resonate with carefully orchestrated backing and her own sweet, telling voice. Griffith's voice has roughened over the years, adding gravity to her tales of hope and doom. While she likes to express her views as a straightforward story writer -- the title track addresses Richard and Mildred Loving, a Virginia couple whose landmark 1967 Supreme Court case ended the ban on interracial marriage -- Griffith's best songs are those that use their melodies to bring forth the sentiment. "Up Against the Rain" remembers another doomed Texas songwriter, Townes Van Zandt, with a sweeping sorrow haunting its notes. "Cotton" recounts the life of President Lyndon B. Johnson, "Not Innocent Enough" is an anti-death penalty tract, detailing the case of Philip Workman executed in 2007 for the 1981 killing of a Memphis police officer in spite of new evidence proving his innocence. Griffith remains a conscience among songwriters."

Joon said...

i think the ? is in the {Verb suffix?} clue because it could be interpreted as "suffix that goes on verbs," like, say, -ING. as opposed to a suffix that goes on the root word "verb" itself.

i notice the return of the []ed clue today: [Uh-oh!] = GULP. this one seems to be the opposite of yesterday, when [Snore] clued HO HUM. i guess either way works; i hadn't ever given much thought to this convention, though. anyway, it looks like my explanation yesterday wasn't quite correct (or maybe just wasn't quite complete).

ddbmc said...

Headbutting and High Sticking come to mind when using Hexad in a hockey rink! X marked the spot today-longer solve, but good. Jack's place? Box? with Jill? On a hill? Wasn't thinking car, so the aha/doh moment was great!

Anonymous said...

This was a tough puzzle for me. I used google for several of the clues until I got going. I got that the endings were x, but didn't think about substitutes for sk until I got video Dix. I still don't understand Jack's place. Duh...I just got it when I reread the clue now.

Anonymous said...

I must have lost my sense of humor with this puzzle, and did not enjoy the far reaching clues dispersed with so easy clues, like tetra that I knew 20 years ago. Explainations were well explainatory I guess....

eileen said...

I enjoyed the puzzle but found it super hard and had to call on Prof. Google a lot today. Expected, I guess, for a newbie. Thanks to this blog-Rex, Orange and PG, I can at least make a stab at it which I couldn't do before.

I'm also a huge Nanci Griffith fan. Her music is a PLEASURE to listen to. Check out this nice duet with Adam Duritz from the Counting Crows: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZz_I5mW6ag

Anonymous said...

This was one stupid puzzle as are most of the L.A. times puzzles. Laugh in humor was satire. Borneo swinger? How about Orangutan? Multitax how is that a source of revenue? You might want to look up the definition of revenue.

Gary Lowe said...

Laugh-in humor, if it was satire, was campy satire. Isn't the "R" in IRS enough of a definition to go with, taxonomy-wise?

I got ORANG along with the swinger thing, so I thought, and then mis-read 9D as "Orang layer". Now I've got swingers and layers and rangi-tangs in some big orgy, which couldn't possibly be so I gave up in defeat.

Good theme, especially since I didn't have to solve it to enjoy it.

bev said...

@eileen: Thanks for the link to the Nanci/Adam duet. Most enjoyable! I'll add it to my pod. :-)

embien said...

I liked the puzzle but was "puzzled" by the non-theme themelike entry TRIPLEX and the "X" in OXYGEN. I thought that sort of thing wasn't considered kosher?

*David* said...

This puzzle worked me over. Tougher then usual clues and answers. No breeze for me, this one was Triple XXX. I had to use most of my tools in the arsenal to finish this puppy with no help or errors.

My big problem was lots of first fill-in errors. I put in NEUROTIC for Mr. Woody Allen did the CAMPY by Laugh-In. My big break was putting in NYU for Greenspan. I got the theme immediately but it didn't help much. Keep the tough ones coming!

PurpleGuy said...

I really enjoyed this puzzle. Had some of the theme answers filled, but didn't see the "X"for "SK" switch until I filled in MULTITAX. That was my big DOH/AHA moment.

Xellent writeup ReX.
Great puzzle Mr.Naddor.

eliselzer said...

I enjoyed today's puzzle for the most part (most of the same complaints as Rex), but I just couldn't stop thinking about Futurama. In the year 3000, Fry's pronunciation of the word "ask" is considered archaic as the language has evolved (devolved) so that everyone pronounces it "ax." This theme reminded me of that and kept me smiling.

eileen said...

Gee Bev,
You are quite welcome!

Anonymous said...

My Baltimore born husband still says 'x' for 'sk' and 'z' for 's' ( as in zink).

mac said...

This puzzle was pretty easy to me, but the theme, the sk to x, made me laugh because I thought it was a NY/CT thing, I hear it here all the time!

housemouse said...

Why is Dan Naddor providing a Friday puzzle? I thought his obscure puzzles were for the weekend. AFAIK< Friday morning is not part of the weekend for most of us working stiffs! If they are going to emphasize puzzles that rely on cutesy interpretations and an umbilical line to Google, they could at least use the right words in the puzzle.

Naddor used "ovule" for fertilized item in 16A. This is incorrect, if you look at a medical dictionary. The ovule is the egg BEFORE it is fertilized, not afterwards. It can also be called the ovum, although this is also used for the fertilized egg before it begins to divide. At any rate, it would help if the puzzle makers would access a dictionary on some of their words.

Orange said...

Housemouse, the clue can be read two ways: "an item that has already been fertilized" or "an item that can be subject to fertilization." If an OVULE can still be fertilized by something, the clue works.

Stan said...

Good puzzle!

Loved seeing Beatle wigs, cornrows, and dreads all in the same corner.

Joe Vaughan said...

I learned a lot from this puzzle and had a couple of hours of fun. And isn't it fun that we are after really. So, I have trouble reading that some people are not too happy with this definition or that clue.. Relax.. life is short.

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