8.11.2009

TUESDAY, August 11, 2009 — Allan E. Parrish


Theme: Let's Go to the Theater! — Theme answers end with words associated with the theater.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Homemade radio (CRYSTAL SET).
  • 59A: Last part (FINAL STAGE).
  • 3D: Baseball play that may be "suicide" (SQUEEZE PLAY).
  • 27D: Common autograph site (PLASTER CAST).
Here's what I like about the theme. None of the final words in the theme answers are used in their theater context. For example, if 27D had been ALL-STAR CAST, that would not have been good because the cast in that phrase means the same thing as the cast in the collection of theme answers. Here's what I don't like about it. It's not in any particular order. Now, I'm not sure exactly what order I would have preferred, but I know for sure that PLAY would have been last. If the theme answers had all been acrosses this would have bothered me a lot, but because two of them are downs, it's not quite so glaring. Also, I've never heard the phrase CRYSTAL SET. But I'm sure that says more about me than it does about the puzzle.

Crosswordese 101: Not much to choose from today, which is nice. We've already covered ERTÉ (4D: One-named Deco artist) and SST (13D: Bygone British Airways plane, briefly), so today we'll focus on OP-ART (2D: Eyeball-bending genre). The first several times I saw this in a puzzle, I couldn't parse it to save my life. Then the next few times, it took a few seconds but I had my "aha!" moment. Now, it's pretty much a gimme. OP-ART is generally described in clues as dizzying, eye-popping, or psychedelic.

I had a heckuva time down in the Texas area where I first entered AMFM for 68A: Car radio button. When I realized it had to start with an S, I changed it to scan, giving me Marcia for 48D: "My Little __": 1950s Gale Storm sitcom, which sounded fine to me. When it was obvious Marcia was wrong, I tried Marcie and — eventually! — found my way to the correct MARGIE.

Anything else?
  • 1A: Canseco of baseball fame (JOSÉ). I love to start off with a big, fat gimme at 1-Across!
  • 9A: Diving ducks (SMEWS). I'm sure I've seen this before, but I couldn't come up with it without a few crosses. As a matter of fact, I entered the W off of WEE (12D: Quite small) and thought it was wrong.
  • 17A: Ship-related: Abbr. (NAUT.). Lots of abbreviations today, which is never a good thing. See also AGT. (37A: CIA operative), LTS. (36D: Grads of 31-Down), and that's not even counting the slew of acronyms. Yikes!
  • 26A: Lhasa __ (APSO). I got it right today! I was just commenting on a puzzle recently that I always get mixed up on this one because I think of the phrase ipso facto.
  • 43A: Seashore fliers (ERNS). Another candidate for CW101. I think Orange once explained to me the difference between ERNS and ERNES, but I don't remember now.
  • 7D: Turntable needles (STYLI). Plural of stylus.
  • 21D: North Carolina athlete (TARHEEL). Shout-out to my girl Stardust who taught me this: Whose House? Heels' House!
  • 31D: Mil. training inst. (OCS). Officer Candidate (or Cadet) School. This is a generic term for this type of institution, unlike USMA (66A: DDE's alma mater), which specifically refers to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
  • 34D: Ticker (CLOCK).


  • 56D: Mike Doonesbury's daughter, in comics (ALEX). This seems like a pretty obscure clue for a Tuesday.
  • 62D: "Benevolent" fellow (ELK). That's what the B stands for in BPOE (Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks).
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Everything Else — 5A: Screen material (MESH); 14A: Quartet before S (OPQR); 15A: Introductory drawing class (ART I); 16A: Gives a ticket to (CITES); 20A: Say "Howdy!" to (GREET); 22A: Settings for weddings (ALTARS); 23A: Co. that merged into Verizon (GTE); 24A: Director's directive (ACTION); 30A: Greek played by Anthony Quinn (ZORBA); 32A: Small waves (RIPPLES); 34A: Moravians, e.g. (CZECHS); 36A: Polygraph flunker, probably (LIAR); 38A: Terminate, as an insurance policy (LAPSE); 39A: Mail Boxes ___ (ETC.); 40A: Follow (ENSUE); 42A: Source of Rockefeller's wealth (OIL); 45A: Nag (PESTER); 46A: Held protectively, as an infant (CRADLED); 48A: Chop up (MINCE); 49A: Actor __ Luke who played Chan's Number One Son in old films (KEYE); 50A: Off one's rocker (INSANE); 52A: Nutrition letters (RDA); 55A: Louis who wrote Western novels (LAMOUR); 57A: Chops up (DICES); 63A: "The War of the Worlds" enemy (MARS); 64A: Atmospheric layer (OZONE); 65A: Villain's forte (EVIL); (USMA); 67A: Office copy (XEROX); 69A: Stick around (STAY); 1D: Mah-__ (JONGG); 5D: Brit's raincoat (MAC); 6D: Printing slip-ups (ERRATA); 8D: Like chronicles of the past (HISTORIC); 9D: Capone feature (SCAR); 10D: Grammy-winning country singer Ronnie (MILSAP); 11D: Sci-fi staples (ETS); 19D: Patty Hearst's SLA alias (TANIA); 25D: "Numb3rs" network (CBS); 28D: Smooth transition (SEGUE); 29D: Big name in blenders (OSTER); 33D: Primped (PREENED); 35D: Congo, formerly (ZAIRE); 39D: Back-of-the-book listings (ENDNOTES); 41D: Pres. advisory team (NSC); 44D: Champagne-producing city (REIMS); 45D: Jewelry box item (PIN); 47D: The "D" in FDR (DELANO); 51D: Sophisticated (SUAVE); 53D: Skin layer (DERMA); 54D: Test one's metal (ASSAY); 58D: Don of talk radio (IMUS); 59D: Henhouse raider (FOX); 60D: Suffix with civil (-IZE); 61D: Here-there link (NOR).

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice puzzle overall, but I have to say I was really annoyed with the clue for 3-Down. The clue for SQUEEZE PLAY contains the word "play" -- this has to be one of the worst clues I've ever seen in an LAT puzzle.

MM said...

I had similar issues with the "Texas area". Did you notice the repetition in one of the theme clues and answer: "Baseball play..." = SQUEEZE PLAY ?!

chefbea said...

Didn't realize the theme til I was finnished.
Since we are getting ready to move to North Carolina I am thrilled to know the name of their team!!! What sport is that? or are all their teams called the tar heels?

Orange said...

Anonymous and MM: Jinx! One of you owes the other one a Coke. A good exercise when you encounter a flawed clue (or a horrible word in the grid) is to try to come up with a better one. Can anyone think of a good SQUEEZE PLAY clue that doesn't use the word "play"?

PuzzleGirl, ERNs and ERNEs are the same thing, spelled two ways. They're sea eagles with an eagley-looking visage and a creepy screech (someone once posted a link to that bird's call). The TERN is more of a gull-like bird.

shrub5 said...

I completed this fairly rapidly, stumbling only in the center where I entered INC at Mail Boxes ___, which led me to want "indexes" or "indices" for 39D) Back-of-the-book listings. However, this didn't fit so after getting more of the surrounding fill, I realized my error and changed INC to ETC. I use Mail Boxes ETC frequently for mailing packages so I should have known that.

I didn't know SMEWS for diving ducks but got it from crosses -- then it rang a very dim bell. Charlie Chan's Number One Son KEYE Luke is now filed in my show biz trivia drawer.

35D) Congo, formerly = ZAIRE reminded me that it is not the other way around. My knowledge of the names of African countries is pretty spotty. Acc. to Wikipedia, the current full name for Congo is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, not to be confused with its neighbor (just plain ol') Republic of the Congo. There's a game on Sporcle.com where one tries to name the countries of Africa within 10 minutes. On my first try, I got less than half of them. Sporcle is an entertaining website -- check it out!

Anonymous said...

How about manoeuver? Except for the doubleplay on "play", good puzzle!

Anonymous said...

I remember my brother building a crystal set, a common hobby back in the days of yore. It really worked! I knew SQUEEZE PLAY but kept trying to find some other word because I couldn't believe they would use the same one. It must have been an editing ERRATA. "My Little Margie" ran on early TV. She had a very screechy voice. Excluding PLAY, it was a fun puzzle.

Anonymous said...

I first wrote in SQUEEZE BUNT because "play" was in the clue. SQUEEZE PLAY is a better answer, and "bunt" could have been used in the clue.

Good Tuesday though.

Carol said...

I had the same problem with 'play' as both clue and answer. Otherwise a pretty good puzzle for a Tuesday. Thought it funny that just this past Sunday's LAT puzzle had the clue "autograph site" at 1A and the answer was CAST. Also, yesterday's puzzle had DICES as the answer to 27D.

Anonymous said...

In keeping with the theme --a baseball play that may be "suicide" -- how about, TOO BIG A LEAD, as in getting picked off at first base?

Fred said...

For SQUEEZE PLAY how about "Bunting strategy"?

Steve said...

The squeeze play clue really irked me. I didn't fill it in until all the crosses made it have to be. Could be clued as "Baseball strategy to bunt a run in".

James said...

"Playing" off earlier suggestions, how about "Suicidal baseball strategy"?

KJGooster said...

It's probably too vague for a Tuesday, or too morbid in general, but how about "Way to commit suicide?" for SQUEEZEPLAY.

@chefbea: The North Carolina Tar Heels are the athletic teams for the University of North Carolina (in Chapel Hill), in all sports.

@PuzzleGirl: I know I'm being picky, but that's what we do here! I'm pretty sure your blog pic is of a fiberglass cast -- PLASTERCASTs don't usually come in colors.

docmoreau said...

I would've simply clued SQUEEZE PLAY as "it could be suicidal." It helps to have grown up in the 50's for CRYSTAL SET and "my little MARGIE." I believe that Gail Storm, Margie, passed away recently.

PuzzleGirl said...

Wow, good catch on the baseball clue, everyone! I didn't notice that! I did notice that both OP-ART and ART I are answers though. Oops!

Crosscan said...

Risky baseball strategy.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Joon said...

i'd just like to point out that "strategy" is a pretty inapt description of a squeeze play. it would more properly be considered a "tactic," since it's a one-time occurrence. a strategy would be something more overarching, like having fast players and stealing lots of bases.

Crosscan said...

The manager's strategy is to use the squeeze play whenever the opportunity arises.

Charles Bogle said...

@Orange: for a Tuesday, I'd recommend "Baseball move that may be 'suicide'. I too did not get the theme until coming to PG's nice write-up. I erred putting RUS for "Mail Boxes" and could not complete until figured out ETC. Also had trouble w DDE since other abbreviations were organizations-NSC-or words-AGT- OCS LTS etc. Eisenhower, MILSAP, Canseco and a Charlie Chan minor actor--interesting mix; tougher for me than usual Tuesday



I too

Anonymous said...

The puzzle might have had a minitheme, with LIAR, INSANE, and FOX...but it probably should've added STUPID too.

*David* said...

A bit more challenging then a usual Tuesday. I also sat on the PLAY and had BUNT in there at first. Lots of general trivia fill which I like except some of it was really old like KEYE and MARGIE. We also got our seemingly requisite alphabet soup of OPQR.

James said...

@Joon: Tactically speaking, I agree.

Ruth said...

Chef Bea, here's a quote to tell you what you're in for:

"If God is not a Tar Heel, why did he make the sky Carolina Blue?"

Denise said...

I vote for James.

I did this puzzle fairly mindlessly. It is warm and sunny and August. What could be a problem?

Anonymous said...

Baseball suicide or a couple of others mentioned above. Not hard to come up with a much better clue than the one used in today's puzzle.

OPQR is a cheap out as well.

jeff in chicago said...

Just OK for me. The PLAY issue is almost unforgiveable. How did that get past so many? (Including PG!!!) The two ARTs hurt as well. ERNS and SMEWS? Nice!

I could not let go of SAVVY for SUAVE. Having the S and the V meant it HAD to be right...right?

GLowe said...

West looks a bit scrabbly - I'm guessing the puzzle is pangrammatic? Pretty solid puzzle, I like geopgraphy ZAIRE (which I knew) and CZECHS (which I didn't).

Agree with 'Suicidal BB tactic' as an alternative, or 'Suicidal execution, perhaps?' for later in the week ...

Bonus for 'test one metal' ....

The only thing I don't like is the alpha sequence.

Anonymous said...

I like "possible suicide at home"

Anonymous said...

To be honest, even the term 'suicide play' is one I would have rejected as an editor. 'Suicide squeeze' is by far the most commonly used description or perhaps 'suicide squeeze play'. Even suicide bunt is much better than suicide play. All in all a terrible clue and answer.

choirwriter said...

Pretty scrabbly for a Tuesday, but I really enjoyed that. Fox, xerox, Zaire, Zorba, Czechs, ozone, suav, smews -- bring it on! No excuse for "play" and "OPQR."

Anonymous said...

Just discovered the Dictionary.Com crossword cheat site

It found SQUEEZEPLAY off the SQ___EP___ with the clue given.

CartBoy said...

Wake me up with a real theme. Pretty lame...

patdugg79 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"Chop up" and "chops up" clued in the same puzzle? Had me making sure I wasn't going crazy for awhile. Still not sure if I am or not . . .

Orange said...

It's completely fine to reuse words in more than one clue. Sometimes it messes with the solver's head, though, when different meanings of the word are meant. (If you've ever done a CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle by Bob Klahn, you're familiar with that sort of trickery.) At least they were synonymous this time!

sfingi said...

Add "evil" to the liar,insane,fox group. I like the 2 forms of chopping. I guess I like/look for mini-themes, even if they exist only in the minds of those who believe in them.
Had to ask my husband what a squeezeplay was after I got it. Very long explanation for the likes of me.

Anonymous said...

Squeeze play and play in the clue bothered me a bit too. But after a clue in our local weekly (The Enumclaw Courier Herald) "fuzzy ball used in tennis" = tennis ball, I can forgive it. There are just some clues that require a word from the clue to be in the answer. That being said "baseball ploy" may have been better, and less misleading.

Soozy said...

Besides all the fun x's and z's throughout this puzzle, I didn't enjoy it much; it took me about twice as long as a Tuesday generally does. Wasn't terrifically fond of the chop up/chops up clues, even if they're technically legit, nor of the alphabet chain. Lots of abbreviations that seemed a bit out-of-reach, too! Ah well...

Joon said...

anonymous 11:21, "suicide play" would indeed be a terrible answer. but it's not the answer in the puzzle. SQUEEZE PLAY, on the other hand, is a perfectly fine, in-the-language baseball term.