MONDAY, August 31, 2009 — Norma Steinberg

THEME: "Magician's deception" — same clue for each of three long theme answers

A very solid Monday puzzle. Consistent theme, ultra-smooth fill. There's hardly a clunky entry in the whole damned grid. Very impressive (oh, one exception: PLU. 53D: Like "mice" and "men": Abbr. Icky). Smooth grids are difficult to achieve, and since they don't result in oohs and aahs, they rarely get the credit they deserve. After hacking my way through another, much less expertly filled puzzle today, I was grateful for this one. Very grateful. Love the ironic intersection of PRIG (30D: Holier-than-thou type) and THONGS (38A: Very brief briefs), and the rhyming interplay of SEEDY (9A: Like a disreputable hotel) and REEDY (61A: Like oboe music).

Theme answers:


I really want to play Steve Miller's "Abracadabra" right now, but a. I did that recently on my other website, and b. when I did so, I got lambasted by Miller-haters for foisting that earworm upon them. So ... Olivia Newton-John? Stevie Wonder? Hmmm. How about a double header, first Louis Prima and Keely Smith:

And then one of my favorite pop finds of the last year: Kiwi singer/songwriter Ladyhawke:

["She often claims her largest influence is Electric Light Orchestra..."]

Best youtube user comment on that last video: "i maybe think this is most great song ever maked by humen people of this plnaet."

Crosswordese 101: ETS (62A: Little green men, briefly) — briefly ... In Fiction. I guess the clue just assumes we know that. Anyway, obviously this stands for extraterrestrials. I rarely see / hear the word E.T. (in the singular, let alone the plural) outside crosswords, with the obvious exception being the Spielberg movie of 1982. I picked ETS today more for its other meaning in the world of crosswords: as an abbrev. of the Educational Testing Service, the group behind the S.A.T., G.R.E., A.P., and other standardized tests. Aliens are far more frequently used to clue ETS, but if you do crosswords long enough, the Educational Testing Service meaning will come up.

What else?:

  • 1A: Joplin piano piece (RAG) — first thing in the grid. Always very helpful to have the first letters of a set of longish Downs in place. Couldn't make the potato clue work — 1D: Many an Idaho potato (RUSSET) — but the other two came quickly, providing the first word in SMOKE AND MIRRORS, which sailed across the grid.
  • 46A: Like the person in a diet ad "after" picture (LEANER) — the peril of coming at things backwards: sometimes seeing the suffix alone (-ER) isn't enough to get you over the hump. This grid is structured in such a way that if you are doing continuous solving (i.e. building off of pre-existing answers as much as possible), then you're going to end up backing into (R to L) the entire middle portion of the grid.
  • 51A: It's enough for Luigi (MARIO) ... I mean (BASTA).
  • 8D: Christina Crawford's "_____ Dearest" ("MOMMIE") — classic Dunaway:

  • 9D: Wrapped garments in Agra culture (saris) — "Agra culture" = good one. AGRA = site of Taj Mahal.
  • 18D: Barbie's boyfriend (Ken) — really wish "ball-less" could have been part of this alliterative clue.
  • 19D: Cyclotron bit (ion) — that's about as "bit"ty as you can get. Molecule(s) with electrical charge caused by gaining/losing electron(s).
  • 35D: Magic act, for one (show) — bonus theme answer!
  • 44D: Building site giants (cranes) — went looking for a company name here. A bird lover might have given CRANES a bird clue, and then changed GLOVER to PLOVER in the NW added birdiness.

See you Friday.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Joplin piano piece (RAG).; 4A: Witch trials town (SALEM).; 9A: Like a disreputable hotel (SEEDY).; 14A: www address (URL).; 15A: Pic (PHOTO).; 16A: Knight's protection (ARMOR).; 17A: Magician's deception (SMOKE AND MIRRORS).; 20A: Kept in reserve (SAVED).; 21A: Dewy (MOIST).; 22A: Eve's first home (EDEN).; 23A: Really smart people (BRAINS).; 26A: Cubes in a freezer (ICE).; 29A: Old salt (TAR).; 30A: Investigation (PROBE).; 31A: Read, as a bar code (SCAN).; 32A: Southern breakfast side (GRITS).; 33A: Concurrence (ACCORD).; 35A: Magician's deception (SLEIGHT OF HAND).; 38A: Very brief briefs (THONGS).; 39A: Take in or let out (ALTER).; 40A: Improve, as skills (HONE).; 41A: Apple beverage (CIDER).; 42A: __ room: play area (REC).; 45A: Lamb's mom (EWE).; 46A: Like the person in a diet ad "after" picture (LEANER).; 48A: Equipment (GEAR).; 49A: "Grrr!" is one (SNARL).; 51A: It's enough for Luigi (BASTA).; 52A: Magician's deception (OPTICAL ILLUSION).; 57A: Finish second, in a race (PLACE).; 58A: Inventor Howe (ELIAS).; 59A: Payable (DUE).; 60A: Natives of Ankara (TURKS).; 61A: Like oboe music (REEDY).; 62A: Little green men, briefly (ETS).; 1D: Many an Idaho potato (RUSSET).; 2D: Spanish fleet (ARMADA).; 3D: Danny of "Lethal Weapon" films (GLOVER).; 4D: Floored it (SPED).; 5D: "I have the answer!" ("AHA!").; 6D: Chaney of film (LON).; 7D: Takeoff approx. (ETD).; 8D: Christina Crawford's "__ Dearest" (MOMMIE).; 9D: Wrapped garments seen in Agra culture (SARIS).; 10D: Says "2 x 2 = 5," say (ERRS).; 11D: :-), e.g. (EMOTICON).; 12D: Palme __: Cannes film prize (D'OR).; 13D: 12-mo. periods (YRS.).; 18D: Barbie's boyfriend (KEN).; 19D: Cyclotron bit (ION).; 23D: Naval jails (BRIGS).; 24D: __ IRA (ROTH).; 25D: Choose not to vote (ABSTAIN).; 27D: "Pick a __, any ..." (CARD).; 28D: See 38-Down (END).; 30D: Holier-than-thou type (PRIG).; 31D: Surgery reminder (SCAR).; 32D: Wilder or Hackman (GENE).; 33D: Subsequent to (AFTER).; 34D: "Moonstruck" Oscar winner (CHER).; 35D: Magic act, for one (SHOW).; 36D: Texas symbol (LONE STAR).; 37D: Ye __ Tea Shoppe (OLDE).; 38D: With 28-Down, novel conclusion (THE).; 41D: Square dance leader (CALLER).; 42D: Live (at) (RESIDE).; 43D: Take the family to a restaurant (EAT OUT).; 44D: Building site giants (CRANES).; 46D: Shoestrings (LACES).; 47D: The Gay Nineties, e.g. (ERA).; 48D: "Fill 'er up" filler (GAS).; 50D: Just in the __ of time (NICK).; 51D: Occupied (BUSY).; 52D: Select, with "for" (OPT).; 53D: Like "mice" and "men": Abbr. (PLU.).; 54D: Land in the Seine (ILE).; 55D: Fib (LIE).; 56D: Young guy (LAD).


PARSAN said...

Sailed through in record time with only one write-over, 47d age instead of ERA. The theme answers were obvious after a few letters. My Dad was a great square dance CALLER, but clued as leader sounds incorrect. Does anyone square dance anymore? Rex, th blogger quote was very funny, and about as correct as my written French.

Anonymous said...

Still not getting PLU; Like "mice" and "men".

Sfingi said...

Thanking Ms. Steinberg for Italian word, 61A Basta! to yell at noisy kids. New word for this oldster/oldstress - 10D emoticon. One writeover, thinner replaced by 40A leaner.

53D plu abbrev. for plural - could even be irregular plural.
As the man said, very smooth; unforced.

GLowe said...

"Land in the Seine" ....

My mind gets caught in recursive feedback spoonerism loop.

The Queer Old Dean said...

@GLowe - After 50 years, someone's finally described my natural mind set. Thanks.
Any suggestions as to how to stop it?

Carol said...

Fun easy Monday puzzle.

We went on a tour of Vancouver, Canada, a couple of years ago. Our guide pointed out all the building taking place and said that the national bird of Canada had become the CRANE.

Carol said...

@Parsan - yes, square dancing is still alive and well in our California city of Clovis.

*David* said...

There was no magic here, just a puzzle that felt like a Monday but didn't have stale fill. EMOTICON, ABSTAIN, BASTA, and GRITS all made this feel different.

Anonymous said...

Great breeze of a Monday morning puzzle. Rex I am a big SM fan and would have loved to hear Abracadabra! It is great to dance to with an almost magical quality!!
Thanks for your takes!

GoG8rs said...

@Anonymous--PLU short for PLURAL, like mice and men.

Wish the Monday puzzles were't so easy and the Saturday's not so hard. This was a breeze even for moi. Loved the Agra culture clue

mac said...

Yes, this was the nicer Monday puzzle. Thank you Ms. Steinberg.

I thought of Speedos before the thongs appeared, otherwise a very quick solve.

@PARSAN: Last Saturday I squaredanced at a wedding at a summer camp in Vermont. That was the first time in many, many years, though.

jazz said...

What a great puzzle! Straightforward clues and fill...the perfect introduction for my kids to start doing crosswords.

They don't have the experience, and tend to read clues at the most literal meaning, which is perfect for today! As they get better, they'll be able to grow through the week.

Thanks for all you guys/gals add to my enjoyment!

hazel said...

Very smooth solve. Nicely clued. And the grid mates Rex mentions (SEEDY/REEDY & THONG/PRIG) totally add value to the straightforward Monday constraints. Like a school uniform with a sassy belt. Very nice.

@Rex - next time there's a magic theme, how about Santana and Black Magic Woman? More free advice!!

Rex Parker said...


Clovis! I grew up next door in Fresno! I miss the dry heat.


Orange said...

@Jazz: Hey, how old are your kids? Too old for the good crossword books for kids out there?

Helene Hovanec and Trip Payne are trusted constructors for kids; I think Helene focuses more on younger kids and a variety of puzzles, and Trip on crosswords for the 9-14 age group.

toothdoc said...

2 crosswords from opposite coasts completed in less than 10 minutes total - good day. Agree with Rex that this puzzle won the coastal puzzle war today. Nicely done.

GLowe said...

@Dear Old Queen;
Crank up a Boney M album, on continuous play, until your head explodes.

... by the rivers of babylon babble on baa baa lawn la la bon bon ..... [poof/splat!]

chefbea said...

Yes another easy monday puzzle.

Love grits and had it several times when we were in North Carolina

Charles Bogle said...

super write-up Rex--terrific Monday puzzle nicely-themed, unconventional but spot-on fill. Liked BRIGS juxtaposed w PRIG eg--a lot of thought went into this nifty puzzle. Agree w @jazz, @hazel, @mac, @toothdoc..this clearly the superior coastal puzzle. And thanks to folks here I found a newsshop near where my two older kids live in Seattle that carries the Tacoma paper w the LA Puzzle

oops-have to retract that comment about the coastal puzzle since the Seattle paper had a NY Times puzzle but not your NY Times puzzle

btw-Anyone interested in magic and very fine fiction should consider taking out of the library "Carter Beats the Devil" by Glen David Gold--fantastic book of about five yrs ago...now he's out w a new book centering around Charlie Chaplin which I can't wait to read called "Sunnyside"; to quote our President, "it's on my nightstand..."!

PARSAN said...

I have a great breakfast/brunch grits recipe with cheddar and garlic(optional),if anyone wants it. My northern friends here in upstate NY were dubious until they tried it -- most asked for the recipe. CAROL and MAC, so glad to hear that square dancing is alive in California and Vermont!

shrub5 said...

I'm late today. Easy but entertaining puzzle. Any spot I hesitated on was handled by the crosses. "Agra culture" and "mice and men" clues were great!

@Carol in Clovis: LOL, state bird of Canada = CRANE! At times I think some cities just permanently have cranes downtown. I can visit some cities twice in 10-15 years and it seems the whole downtown area is always under construction.

@rex: LOL (repeatedly) at youtube comment. Have to give that person some credit for trying very hard to write his comment in English, translating from some Borat-like tongue.

@mac: Since you were thinking of Speedos and thongs, I included the Borat picture above for you. We call it the slingshot.

@Orange: thanks for the puzzle book recommendations - I've got some birthdays for kids in that age range coming up.

Bohica said...

Internet down here until an hour ago, never knew I'd miss it so much. Missed the Sunday blog on account of it. And I agree with the majority: great Dan Naddor puzzle, if not his best surely in the top 5!

@Charles Bogle: Anything we can do to help. Don't know if you're a footbsll fan but ESPN's John Clayton (football hall of fame for writers) got his start at the TNT. I wish we could have provided you with better weather for your weekend, we had been setting records earlier this summer!

PLU had me for a while too until doh! Plural: mice (mouse) and men (man). Agree with Rex, that was ugly/gnarly fill. Could have been clued as "Frosty Westering's school" (long time football coach at Pacific Lutheran University PLU).

I hope we don't see a Dan Naddor before Thursday or Friday this week, last Wednesday's is still haunting me!

Charles Bogle said...

(Hanks @Bohair...so far so good in the Seattle/Tacoma area...daughter goes into hospital here tomorrow for six days of tests so once she's settled in I'll have some good puzzle assistance. And eldest son pointed me to an old-style news shop w out-of-town papers. Oh, and now having done the "real" NY Times puzzle today, the LA puzzle definitely tops it!

Orange said...

@Charles Bogle: Sending out good wishes for your daughter's tests.

choirwriter said...

@Bohica: Now you've done it. I've gotta let out my alma mater PLU cheer (must be shouted with heavy Scandinavian accent): "Lutefisk! Lutefisk! Lefse! Lefse! We're da mighty Luterans, yah, sure, you betcha!"

Whew. Okay. Thanks.