8.14.2009

FRIDAY, Aug. 14, 2009 — Dan Naddor


THEME: "NO WAY!" (51D: "Forget it!" (and a clue to this puzzle's theme)) — familiar phrases have the letter string "WAY" removed, creating wacky phrases, which are then clued "?"-style.

Dan Naddor has to be the most prolific constructor at work right now (besides Brendan Emmett Quigley, I mean — no one can touch three quality puzzles a week, as far as I know). Lately he seems to be going in for grids that are choked with theme answers, several pairs of which are at least partially overlapping. That is to say his grids are ambitious, perhaps increasingly so. This is a good thing, and bodes well or my (and your) puzzle-solving future. The danger with ambitious grids is that the non-theme fill will suffer. How much are you willing to sacrifice in the non-theme fill in order to pull your Grand Idea off? That's a crucial question, and people can have wildly different opinions on the matter. I tend to have more tolerance for crap fill if the theme is great, but even a great theme can only bear so much. I say this today because I think what we have here is largely a success, which means I can point out the blotches more as curiosities and objects of consideration — i.e. I can ask of some of the iffiest non-theme answers, How Bad Are They? And How Bad is Too Bad?



My BAD list is only three entries long, but they're pretty bad. Bad/few. Yin/yang. Debt/asset. This is all to say that I think DN was able to pull the whole thing off by knowing *just* when to say when, marginal fill-wise. Here's my BAD list, in ascending order of jarringness.

  1. TNS (50A: Hamlets: Abbr.) — rotten. Seven entries in the cruciverb.com database, but the NYT and New York Sun (i.e. best of the best) have never touched it, and in every other instance TNS was clued as an abbrev. of TONS (not much better). One old Washington Post puzzle has it clued [RR runners], and I don't even know what that means. I was able to "fix" this corner, but the fix wasn't exactly light years better.
  2. NROTC (42A: Midshipman's prog., perhaps) — inferrable, from the more common ROTC, but still junky. This time, only two examples in the cruciverb database, and again, no NYT or NY Sun. An absolute hail mary. I can tell you that the examples in the database are not from the best or most seasoned constructors, either (same with TNS).
  3. ARIUM (28D: Planet ending) — Ugh. Two examples in database, neither from NYT or NY Sun. To this answer's credit, Merl Reagle used it once (with this exact clue). But He Is Merl Reagle. He's doing all kinds of acrobatic @#$# in his puzzles all the time, so I can cut him a little slack. This non-word just hurts. Like being hit upside the PATE (27A: Toast topping).

While none of the theme answers really sizzle, they're solid, and there are SEVEN of them, plus the theme revealer ("NO WAY"), so bravo. End result is more than acceptable. But a truly Great puzzle would have only one, at most, of the above three BAD answers in it. This is why Greatness is @#$#ing hard to achieve. DN has occasionally been great in the past (award-winning, in fact), and clearly has more greatness in his future.

Theme answers:

  • 19A: Alleviate a tie-up? (FREE TRAFFIC)
  • 21A: Partly built residence, perhaps? (HALF HOUSE)
  • 29A: Periscope lens kept as a souvenir? (SUB TOKEN)
  • 38A: Euphoria at Pebble Beach? (PACIFIC COAST HIGH)
  • 44A: Embodiment of a footrace? (RUN MODEL)
  • 57A: Play on a wide stage? (BROAD SHOW)
  • 59A: Shot at a DC bar? (CAPITAL BELT)

Clues could have been *way* more interesting for both PACIFIC COAST HIGH and BROAD SHOW.

Oh, and as you can tell if you look at the grid closely, I had an error. MOLTI / ASTIN instead of MOLTO / ASTON. As MOLTI and ASTIN are both perfectly good words (for other clues), I had no chance there. Dead in the water.

Crosswordese 101: ZASU Pitts (34D: Silents star Pitts) — OMG ZASU is a woman. I swear to you that, despite writing her name in my puzzle many times over the years, I never bothered to remember (or even find out) that she was a she. Wow. Eliza Susan = eliZA SUsan = ZaSu. That's a name derivation to make any crossword lover's heart flutter. Wikipedia entry makes her sound heroic: "She overcame her unglamorous looks and wallflower tendencies by using them to craft her stage and screen persona in scores of comedies." ZASU is the ESAI of the 20th century (whereas ESAU is the ESAI of Biblical times) (41A: Son of Rebekah).

What else?

  • 26A: Church-owned Lone Star State inst. (SMU) — Southern Methodist University. Got this off the "M" — the good thing about SAMBAS, MAMBOS, and RUMBAS (all of which I tried at 20D: Latin ballroom dances) is that they all have that "M" in the same damned place.
  • 1A: Mine tram bit (lump) — hmmm. I had LODE, which I guess is considerable more than a LUMP.
  • 5A: Univ. sites (bldgs.) — deathly boring / hazy cluing.
  • 35A: Seat of Dallas County, Alabama (Selma) — my eye completely missed the "Alabama" part of this clue.
  • 61A: Davenport site (Iowa) — the word "davenport" is endlessly hilarious to me, for highly personal reasons I couldn't begin to describe. To get a hint of why the word slays me, go here and click on the speaker icon next to the sample sentence under "Word Tutor." Something about the robot intonation ... and the mysterious "two poodles" ... made "davenport" legendary for me. I completely forgot it was also a town in Iowa.
  • 62A: Argumentative retort ("are so") — I wish constructors would take a pledge to keep all playground retorts out of their puzzles. Hate 'em.
  • 4D: Plum, e.g., Abbr. (Prof.) — yeah, that's a great clue.
  • 13D: "Mrs. Battle's Opinions on Whist" essayist (Elia) — "essayist" in four letters = ELIA (pen name of Charles Lamb and Crosswordese 101 fodder).

See you Monday.

~Rex Parker

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Mine tram bit (LUMP); 5A: Univ. sites (BLDGS.); 10A: Foul line indicators (POLES); 15A: Beam of support (I-BAR); 16A: Baseball Hall of Famer Combs (EARLE); 17A: Submit taxes on an impulse? (E-FILE); 18A: "__ the mornin'!" (TOP O'); 19A: Alleviate a tie-up? (FREE TRAFFIC); 21A: Partly built residence, perhaps? (HALF HOUSE); 23A: Throw from the saddle (UNSEAT); 24A: Quebec's Festival d'__ (ETE); 25A: Ticks off (IRES); 26A: Church-owned Lone Star State inst. (SMU); 27A: Toast topping (PATE); 29A: Periscope lens kept as a souvenir? (SUB TOKEN); 34A: Goose egg (ZERO); 35A: Seat of Dallas County, Alabama (SELMA); 37A: Old dagger (SNEE); 38A: Euphoria at Pebble Beach? (PACIFIC COAST HIGH); 41A: Son of Rebekah (ESAU); 42A: Midshipman's prog., perhaps (NROTC); 43A: Asks to be excused, with "off" (BEGS); 44A: Embodiment of a footrace? (RUN MODEL); 46A: Noted pairs guardian (NOAH); 47A: Nietzsche's "never" (NIE); 48A: Feds (G-MEN); 50A: Hamlets: Abbr. (TNS.); 53A: Little guy (SHAVER); 57A: Play on a wide stage? (BROAD SHOW); 59A: Shot at a D.C. bar? (CAPITAL BELT); 61A: Davenport site (IOWA); 62A: Argumentative retort (ARE SO); 63A: Thrill (ELATE); 64A: Reddish brown (ROAN); 65A: Odessa native (TEXAN); 66A: __ Martin (ASTON); 67A: "Grand" brand of ice cream (EDY'S); 1D: Athletic (LITHE); 2D: Destroyer destroyer (U-BOAT); 3D: Sweet, nutty pie (MAPLE PECAN); 4D: Plum, e.g.: Abbr. (PROF.); 5D: "__ I forget ..." (BEFORE); 6D: "Law of the Lash" star (LARUE); 7D: Slip cover? (DRESS); 8D: Mirth (GLEE); 9D: Spike preceder, in volleyball (SET); 10D: Oil source (PEANUT); 11D: Whacks (OFFS); 12D: Long sentence (LIFE); 13D: "Mrs. Battle's Opinions on Whist" essayist (ELIA); 14D: Cainites, e.g. (SECT); 20D: Latin ballroom dances (RUMBAS); 22D: "__ the Week": 1930s record label (HIT OF); 26D: Rash source, maybe (SUMAC); 28D: Planet ending (ARIUM); 29D: Bandit one hopes to take money from? (SLOT); 30D: Irish-born actor Milo (O'SHEA); 31D: Honor for Connery (KNIGHTHOOD); 32D: Lines of thought? (EEGS); 33D: O.T. book (NEH.); 34D: Silents star Pitts (ZASU); 35D: Mountainside debris (SCREE); 36D: Sierra Club concern: Abbr. (ECOL.); 38D: According to (PER); 39D: Jawaharlal's daughter (INDIRA); 40D: Govt. obligation (T-BOND); 45D: Common pickup capacity (ONE TON); 46D: Pick up (NEATEN); 48D: Terrific (GREAT); 49D: Musical tempo modifier (MOLTO); 51D: "Forget it!" (and a clue to this puzzle's theme) ("NO WAY!"); 52D: Some trumpeters (SWANS); 53D: "Beat it!" ("SCAT!"); 54D: Fictional braggart (HARE); 55D: Top spot (APEX); 56D: It's usually taken in stores (VISA); 57D: OPEC units (BBLS); 58D: Term of royal respect (SIRE); 60D: Bucolic setting (LEA).

48 comments:

PARSAN said...

This one gave me a workout! Got the theme right away, NO WAY, and all the answers except 59a capital BELT (and shouldn't that be capitol?). I also had ASTIN right to the very end. Why was that? What are 57d BBLS? Even with years of music study, I hate musical terms (MOLTI). And after a terrible experience years ago, I shudder at the word SUMAC. Good write up and good to have you back REX.

Rex Parker said...

BBLS = bubbles. I mean barrels.

shrub5 said...

Lots of ups and downs on this one. I had HALFHOUSE but didn't get the theme until I figured out PACIFICCOASTHIGH. I finished the puzzle without googles, but had an error at 39D Jawaharlal's daughter. I had no idea that was Nehru's given name. I ended up with INDARO because I spelled CAPITAL with an O-L and had NAE for Nietzxche's "never." I guess I should have thought "NOWAY."

My favorite entry was SHAVER for little guy (cute!) I thought NOAH for noted pairs guardian and DRESS for slip cover? were clever, too. I had SAMBAS before RUMBAS and RUST before ROAN, but straightened those out rapidly.

Re OPEC units = BBLS. Did you ever wonder why there are 2 Bs in the abbreviation when there is just one B in the word barrel?? Well, here is your answer!

Overall, this puzzle seemed a little bit on the easy side for Friday and was an enjoyable learning experience!

Lurene said...

prof plum great clue?

PARSAN said...

And REX, when I tried to look up your Davenport reference I got Answers.com that wants to sell me a sofa or to put me in touch with people named Davenport. Time-Warner has gone from Google to Bing and they suck! Also, what is 4d PROF?

Rex Parker said...

Davenport link fixed.

PROF. Plum is a figure in the board game "Clue." CLUE! A clue about Clue.

rp

Soozy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Soozy said...

I'm definitely not yet up to Fridays like this. The theme was great but it took me forever to hook in to it.

I don't get SHAVER, nor did I understand BBLS until @shrub5 came along (though I've filled it in in other puzzles).

@Rex- I entered in all those same Latin dances but tried salsas, too, which doesn't have the common m in the middle. Thanks for the write-up!

PARSAN said...

@Lurene - Aha! Should have figured that out. Thanks!

PARSAN said...

@Rex - You too!

Anonymous said...

Kind of a nice puzzle for a Friday, most answers within reach for my brain. Thanks Rex for the post!

Anonymous said...

I was so pleased with myself when I got Prof. for plum instantly. I love it when that happens.
Great write up, Rex! You are king! Oh, and great puzzle, Dan ! :o)

Anonymous said...

Question - As a newcomer, I don't know who the author is when a post is removed. Rex or the writer of the post? And why. Just curious!

Carol said...

Never heard of Maple Pecan Pie, but sounds quite yummy!

Good challenging puzzle for Friday, actually managed to get the theme right away, but it took awhile to finish.

Thanks for the write-up.

chefbea said...

Fun puzzle and much easier than NYT.

I too had molti/astin

Joon said...

if you write a comment and then delete it later, it shows up as "this post has been removed by the author." if rex or another blog admin removes a post for whatever reason, it vanishes without a trace.

i thought this was a really, really good puzzle. TNS had me shaking my head, but NROTC and -ARIUM struck me as just ordinary bad fill, not anything heinous. and the theme was enough to make the whole puzzle sing, although i agree about the cluing possibilities for PCH. i picked up on the theme really early, but was expecting the reveal to be WAY OUT instead of NO WAY. i ended up liking NO WAY better, though.

amen to the "playground retort" ban. ick. i'll also note one of my pet peeves: IRE as a verb. all the reputable dictionaries i've seen have it listed only as a noun. you could still pluralize it, though. yeah, it's ugly (kind of like "happinesses," say), but not as ugly as making up verbs.

Greene said...

@Chefbea: Hah! I said just the opposite thing about the relative difficulties of the NYT and LAT puzzles today over at Rex. Actually, I enjoyed both puzzles but found the LAT thornier -- no doubt because I have trouble wrapping my brain around the "add some letters, drop some letters" themes. Anyway, I picked my way through one aha moment at a time.

My thanks to Rex, Orange, and PG: I got SCREE, ELIA, and SNEE without even thinking. I might just be ready for Crosswordese 201.

I always forget that one can actually clue SUMAC without a reference to Yma.

Glowe said...

At first I was ticked with PROF, because I missed the abbr. In hinsight I like it.
Very good puzzle, very nice theme.

Agree that the themes could have had better clues. Impressive that KNIGHTHOOD and MAPLEPECAN, both quality downs, cross three themes each.

Re: ARESO - it's either a playground retort or a partial, like "You ___ beautiful/dead/in trouble/gonna get it/stupid ...". At least until Luigi Areso wins the Tour de France or something ...

Anonymous said...

Little SHAVER is an old-fashioned reference to a small boy, usually referred to with affection.

shrub5 said...

@soozy: Shaver = a young boy. It's an old-fashioned expression and often seen as "little shaver."

I don't know the origin. Shavers are too young to shave.

PuzzleGirl said...

I've been slacking off on commenting lately because I haven't been getting to the puzzles until late in the day. So I wanted to make sure to get in here today and say something!

For 5D: "BEFORE I forget ..." I had "IN CASE I forget ..." and I had SKIRT for DRESS. So those two wrong guesses created a lot of problems up there in Northern Minnesota.

Didn't like TNS but really wasn't bothered by -ARIUM. Thought it was kinda cute and smart-assy (and, yes, reminiscent of Merl Reagle).

Love the theme! Fun puzzle, Dan!

Oh, and I won a bet with myself that ZASU would be CW101 today.

Anonymous said...

I preferred the LAT's previous two puzzles compared to this one. Very easy for a Friday plus I thought the theme was boring. Solid construction, but the fill was pretty dull. No wow factor.

Anonymous said...

The Capitol is the actual domed building in DC. However, the city (and it's surrounding roadways) is called the Capital.

There used to be a commercial for Gillette or some other razor company that showed a dad shaving and mentioned "little shavers" at the end of the spot (the dad's little son was mimicing him below).

choirwriter said...

@parson: "capitOL" refers only to the actual government building housing the state legislature. "CapitAL" refers to everything else: the city, the capital letter, the capital idea. (As a teacher of state history, I had to figure this one out a long time ago!)

I was a total wash-out on this puzzle. Lame brain could not grasp the missing word theme. Doh.

choirwriter said...

@anonymous10:40: JINX!

jazz said...

I really liked this one. a couple (3) google clues, and once I got "NO WAY", I could back-gigure the rest of the themed clues.

Not sure that "Pay taxes on an impulse" is EFILE these days, and agree with TNS as less-than-great. But overall, I had a lot of fun with this one.

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

Rex, a really great writeup for a really great puzzle. I thought this one shows Naddor's genius in many ways. I agree that on a heavy theme puzzle we have to accept some trashy fill. The ones I gagged on the most were: BLDGS (5a) with a horrible clue, TNS (50a) wasn't even a theme cross, LITHE (1d) with a wrong definition of "athletic". I too am being overly critical of a well constructed puzzle, but those things still bother me. Having said that, I want to say Kudos to Dan Naddor for so many entertaining puzzles of recent.

Now I need an EEG to examine these "lines of thought".

As well as very clever theme clues, there were many other clues that I thought were also good and funny:
EFILE (17a) "submit taxes on an impulse" was good.
DRESS (7d) "slip cover" was funny.
So was "Bandit one hopes to take money from" (29d) SLOT. Thought about POLS, but that's plural.
LIFE (12d) for "long sentence" was clever too.

56d says "It's usually taken in stores" and the answer is VISA... a sad commentary on our society that that word wasn't CASH.

SCREE (35d) is also a gravely mulch that I use in my rock gardens.

First time that I've seen ROAN (64a) in a puzzle not referring to a horse.

How many of you tried to use OLEO instead of PATE for a toast topping?

I have two questions- anyone? anyone?
- What does PROF (4d) have to do with "plum"?
- Why is BBLS the abbreviation for barrels?

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

A better clue for TNS (50a) would have been "High IQ Group" (Triple Nine Society). It's a high-IQ group open to anyone scoring at or above the 99.9th percentile, approximately an IQ score of 150. Most of these blog crossworders would have known that right away.

Anonymous said...

@JOHNSNEVERHOME Answers to your questions, or where to find them, are in the previous posts.

PARSAN said...

@Greene - I will take Yma SUMAC over sumac SUMAC any day!

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

@Anonymous
In the words of Emily Litella... "Never mind".

PurpleGuy said...

I guess I'm in the minority today, which is why I've been putting off posting.
I tghought this was a horrible puzzle. No enjoymeny whatsoever, even though all the answers came to me.
The NYT puzzle was much more breezy and fun.
Glad I had that to start my weekend off well.
Sorry Mr.Naddor. One of the worst IMHO.

JaJaJoe said...

Lurene 8:24 AM: "prof plum great clue?"

RParker 8:29 AM : "PROF. Plum is a figure in the board game "Clue." CLUE! A clue about Clue."

JohnsNeverHome 11:03 AM: - What does PROF (4d) have to do with "plum"?

Still CLUE-less -- and thinking this blog supports solvers > creators -- I hope we see more light herein about 4D.-/

PARSAN said...

@JaJaJoe - "Clue" is a popular board game over 20 years old which was also made into a movie. It is a mystery and players try to solve a murder. Trying to guess who commited the crime and with what weapon (knife, rope, etc.), all the characters in the game have names of colors (Miss Scarlett, Colonel Mustard) and -voila- PROFessor Plum!

embien said...

@Rex, I imagine the [RR Runners] Wash. Post clue for TNS is probably for trains.

Doesn't make it any less despicable as fill, though.

chefwen said...

@PurpleGuy - I'm with you but only half way, didn't hate this puzzle, but was not crazy about it either, and I also thought the NYT puzzle was more enjoyable and breezier.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't get ice skaters out of my mind for 46A (noted pairs guardian)! I also failed to plug in to the (?) clues until the very end. TGIF.

Karen from the Cape said...

I really liked the ARIUM clue! It's even a fun suffix to type out. When it emerged from the puzzle I had an honest to god AHA moment. And it's hardly worse than the 'direct end'=ORY clues.

Anonymous said...

Didn't care for theme at all. All the answers felt forced, plus it was very easy to figure them out. Thumbs up for the construction, but thumbs down for the theme and puzzle.

AnonyLowe said...

@Jaja: I suspect you are Miss Scarlet, throwing a wrench in the library.

Or, you might one of the people who never played the board game CLUE. (Tha's a clue about CLUE, referring to a clue; consider yourself clued in).

Google "board game clue", and take whatever link that meets your fancy.

Guin said...

I liked this one a lot. Couldn't get much at first, but once I got going things sort of fell into place. Of course I was sitting on the davenport drinking tea with one labrador, so that may have slowed me down.

Anonymous said...

having trouble getting on Cruciverb.com

sfingi said...

@Soozy - shaver is an old-fashioned term for a little boy who was a wood shaving off the "old block." Then Norman Rockwell created a picture of a little boy watching his father shaving and wishing he could, too, which enforced the meaning of little boy.

I thought there were many very clever clues as reported by you'all; however, this is another time I finished w/o seeing the theme, and wondered what the blzs it was about.

SO, how do people withdraw their answers, and is there a window in which another person might have seen the answer before it's withdrawn?

Denise said...

Love Aretha -- thanks for that.

My 2 year old grandson said to his 41/2 year old brother, "Henry, you say 'no.'"
Henry said no.
Then Noah, the younger one said, "Yes. See -- you say no, I say yes. We fight."

Schoolyard retorts:

"Am not" & "Are not" & "Am so" & "Are so," etc.
They fill up the squares, but does it ever really happen?

That said, I enjoyed the puzzle, and had a happy morning thinking about the wprd play.

Glowe said...

@Denise

"Does Too!"

Anonymous said...

Thought you were a little hard on Dan today, Rex. I thought it a fun solve ... maybe because I got the theme early and things went smoothly thereafter. One boo hiss from me was TNS 50A Hamlets: Abbr.

Question about yesterday. Can anyone tell me how AVENGE works for 28D Vindicate? My thesaurus was no help in linking these two. BobH

Anonymous said...

@ANON. 12:28AM Bob H I took the connection to be the sense of justice held by groups outside standard laws, such as the Hatfield's and the McCoy's, the Mafia, and "in the hood". One feels vindicated (justified) in taking revenge (AVENGE) when a member of the group,or the group has been perceived as wronged. A stretch? Probably, but that is my guess.

Geometricus said...

Rex, you are truly the Simon Cowles of Crossworld. I LOVE your analysis of this puzzle. Highly entertaining, even when I can't agree with some of your conclusions.

I teach (like you) high school math (unlike you) so this summer vacation I have dedicated to crossword workouts, especially getting better at Fri & Sat NYT puzzles, with the eventual goal of attending the big contest in NY someday some year in Feb.. I'm happy to say, under your tutelage this summer, I have done almost every NYT puzzle and looked at your commentary for encouragement and/or counsel, and I can feel myself getting a little better, a little faster at crosswords. Often you make me mad by calling "easy" a puzzle I had LOTS of trouble with, but occasionally I get a thing you missed, so I feel better. But I always enjoy your review, for the same reason I love watching Simon on Idol: you have high standards and do not lower them for anybody. Thank you and keep up the good work.