9.25.2009

FRIDAY, Sep. 25, 2009 — Kurt Mueller




THEME: In Like KIN — "KIN" is added to ends of words in familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

This would have made a very adequate Monday puzzle. Maybe a Tuesday puzzle. But there is no way this very very easy puzzle has any business appearing on any other day of the week, esp. today, Friday, when the puzzle should have the most bite. There now appears to be a complete lack of difficulty gradation in the LAT puzzles, and it's disgraceful. It was bad enough when I was hammering out the late-week puzzles in 5-6 minutes. But I did this one in 3:03. That's three minutes and three seconds. Orange broke the three minute barrier. Solvers deserve more of a workout this late in the week. The week should build to a challenge, or at least a good workout. Again, to repeat, there is nothing wrong with this puzzle. It would be right at home as the first puzzle of the week. The theme answers are all colorful and cute. But Friday puzzles should be made of different, stronger stuff. I guess if the syndicated audience really wants breezy puzzles every single day, there's not much to be done, but dear god, there has to be some happy median between a bruising NYT late-week puzzle and ... well, this. Put some bite back in the late-week puzzles, Please, Rich, someone, I'm begging you.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Gear up for Halloween (PRIME THE PUMPKIN)
  • 38A: Yokel resting in the woods? (BUMPKIN ON A LOG) — I just instinctively typed "YOKEL ON A LOG," HA ha.
  • 60A: Steals the dinner cloth from Garfield's lap? (TAKES A CAT NAPKIN)
Met resistance today only at two answers. First, ON TIP TOE (36A: How ballerinas dance), first because it's only partially true, and second because "ON TIP TOE" is far, far, far from a technical dance term/concept. [How a kid might stand to get cookies] — that's my alterna-clue. The other troublemaker was MEANIE (50A: Any one of Cinderella's stepfamily, e.g.), which is true enough, I suppose, but that word has literally nothing to do with "Cinderella" per se, so I had to wait until I had nearly every cross before I saw it.



Crosswordese 101: SLUES (29A: Swings around) — I probably knew this word before I started doing crossword puzzles seriously, but it didn't sink in until I tripped over it several times, in several different grids. It's really an ugly word, and I always want to spell it SLEW (which is apparently an acceptable variant — who knew?). SLUES sounds like SLUICE, which I associate with unwanted fluids, which, again ... ugly. SLUE seems to be primarily a nautical term — "o turn about; to turn from the course; to slip or slide and turn from an expected or desired course; -- often followed by round" (answers.com). See also SLOUGH ... another seriously unpleasant word.

More on Monday.

~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Held (on) by stitches (SEWN); 5A: Cavalry weapon (LANCE); 10A: Farm females (EWES); 14A: Multinational official currency (EURO); 15A: Starting unit (A TEAM); 16A: Retail come-on (SALE); 17A: Gear up for Halloween? (PRIME THE PUMPKIN); 20A: Heart-to-heart talk (T&Ecir;TE-À-T&Ecir;TE); 21A: Hurricane feature (EYE); 22A: Maui strings (UKE); 23A: Pin near the gutter (TEN); 24A: Per se (AS SUCH); 27A: "Frankenstein" author Shelley (MARY); 29A: Swings around (SLUES); 32A: Mahmoud Abbas's gp. (PLO); 33A: Navy ship letters (USS); 36A: How ballerinas dance (ON TIPTOE); 38A: Yokel resting in the woods? (BUMPKIN ON A LOG); 41A: Split up (SEPARATE); 42A: "I figured it out!" ("AHA!"); 43A: Withdrawal site, for short (ATM); 44A: Arcade games trailblazer (ATARI); 46A: Univ. sports organizer (NCAA); 50A: Any one of Cinderella's stepfamily, e.g. (MEANIE); 52A: Expert on IRS forms (CPA); 55A: Fest mo. (OCT.); 56A: Wood of the Rolling Stones (RON); 57A: Enter stealthily (SNEAK INTO); 60A: Steals the dinner cloth from Garfield's lap? (TAKES A CAT NAPKIN); 63A: Rink jump (AXEL); 64A: Husband and wife (MATES); 65A: Ballesteros of the PGA (SEVE); 66A: Queens team (METS); 67A: Dental filling (INLAY); 68A: Poetic tributes (ODES); 1D: Facial wall that may be deviated (SEPTUM); 2D: "Bingo!" ("EUREKA!"); 3D: Columnist, e.g. (WRITER); 4D: Alaskan gold-rush town (NOME); 5D: Cappuccino cousin (LATTE); 6D: Capital north of the Sea of Crete (ATHENS); 7D: Big name in hair-removal cream (NEET); 8D: Batman accessory (CAPE); 9D: Big bird (EMU); 10D: Annual sports awards (ESPYS); 11D: Be roused from sleep by, as music (WAKE UP TO); 12D: Yale Blue wearer (ELI); 13D: D.C. bigwig (SEN.); 18D: Put away (EAT); 19D: Handel oratorio (MESSIAH); 24D: Health insurance giant (AETNA); 25D: Roto-Rooter target (CLOG); 26D: Weeding tool (HOE); 28D: Arizona city on the Colorado River (YUMA); 30D: Soloist? (LONER); 31D: Game with Skip cards (UNO); 34D: Wrist twists, e.g. (SPRAINS); 35D: Boot with a blade (SKATE); 37D: Blueprint (PLAN); 38D: __ noire: bane (BETE); 39D: High-end, as merchandise (UPMARKET); 40D: "Give __ rest!" (IT A); 41D: Friend of Frodo (SAM); 45D: Summer drink with a lemon twist, maybe (ICE TEA); 47D: Bopped on the bean (CONKED); 48D: On the go (ACTIVE); 49D: Does penance (ATONES); 51D: Holiday melodies (NOELS); 53D: Cultivated violet (PANSY); 54D: Rap sheet letters (AKA); 57D: Read the bar code on (SCAN); 58D: Part of N.L.: Abbr. (NATL.); 59D: __ facto (IPSO); 60D: Skye cap (TAM); 61D: Dismiss, informally (AXE); 62D: Pal of Pierre (AMI).

34 comments:

Sam said...

I have to assume that Rich's easing up of the puzzles is in response to numerous complaints from newspapers, who have received complaints from their readers, and who threaten to drop the puzzle.
Let's hope this is a passing phase, and when people get more confident about solving late-week puzzles we can get back to more challenging stuff.

Carol said...

I agree with @Sam and @Rex - let's get some challenge back into the puzzle! Why "dummy down" for a few whiners?

Clue 20A Heart-to-heart talk resulting in TETEATETE is rather ironic when you realize that TETE is head in French. A head to head talk?

Parsan said...

I am not good enough of a puzzler to be doing this Friday puzzle so fast. Oh wait, it was as easy as Monday's puzzle so what does that say? @Sam is probably right about Rich, who must be dismayed at what has been happening at the LAT. Can we sign a blog petition to present our displeasure? Newspapers are in trouble everywhere with loss of subscriptions and advertising so the squeeky wheel gets the oil. I guess we're a very small wheel.

I thought the theme was clever but noticed that PUMPKIN and BUMPKIN rhyme but NAPKIN does not. Easy sailing,just writing in the answers. Never-the-less, I liked it!

Sfingi said...

Rex is right-on today. Nice Monday puzzle.

Rich - How about a little manoamano "talk" with the boys (Sam and Rex)?

shrub5 said...

Enjoyed this add-a-KIN puzzle and had a laugh at "TAKES A CAT NAPKIN". I think the clue which elicited the biggest AHA moment, though, was 23A Pin near the gutter. For the longest time, I could not figure out that little 3-letter word (TEN). Bowling!

The only other bumps in the road included 57A where I had at various times SNEAK UP ON, SNEAK UP TO, SNEAK IN ON and finally SNEAK IN TO. And I did not know the word SLUES which I filled in completely from the crosses. I had to look it up after finishing to be sure it was a word.

I liked the clues Skye cap (TAM) and Soloist? (LONER). Sure do agree with Rex and all above that something more challenging at the end of the week would be nice.

John said...

It's really dissapointing to have such easy puzzles all week long. Orange read that the level of difficulty Mon thru Fri should be no harder than a Wed, and Saturday should be no harder than Wed/Thur. Sad that so many people dont enjoy a challange.

Parsan said...

Also, having no green thumb, can someone explain about a cultivated violet being a PANSY?

CONKED best clued word.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with everyone - more difficulty please

Martha said...

Agree with everyone about the disappointing ease of the late week puzzles. How's a beginner like me supposed to know when I'm getting better at puzzle solving? I started to feel good halfway through this puzzle, and then realized that wasn't due to my skilly but because it was *way* to easy a puzzle for a Friday, and felt let down... :(

crazycatlady said...

Thanks Rex, for voicing our concerns. This was way too easy for a Friday and I am fairly new to solving. I would really like more of a brain workout. I guess I'll have to pay for the NYT.
It was a cute puzzle though. I plant pansies every winter in my garden. I never knew they were a cultivated violet. So, I guess I did learn something along with SLUES. Also I have never heard Christmas Carols (HOLIDAY MELODIES) referred to as NOELS. Is it just me?

James said...

NOEL has no musical connotation. It could be considered a HOLIDAY LYRIC, but not a HOLIDAY MELODY

GLowe said...

Well, wiki says Carol = Noel = Song or Hymn.

Regarding slue: I have in my mind slue foot, a tripping technique in sports (he gave him the ol' slue foot), and slue about, which I imagine as a full-rudder turn.

Joon said...

wiki can say anything it wants, but m-w is a real dictionary and it says

Main Entry: no·el
Pronunciation: \nō-ˈel\
Function: noun
Etymology: French noël Christmas, carol, from Old French Nael (Deu), Noel Christmas, from Latin natalis birthday, from natalis natal
Date: 1811

1 : a Christmas carol
2 capitalized : CHRISTMAS

honestly, this is not a usage i'd ever encountered until i started solving lots of crosswords (and i'm really, really into christmas carols). but it's legit.

i didn't find this puzzle quite as easy as earlier ones this week, but most of that was related to ON TIPTOE. EN POINTE is the same number of letters and actually is a technical term for how ballerinas dance.

Guy who posts definitions said...

NOEL

PANSY

ICE TEA

mac said...

This is just what I've come to expect of the LA Times puzzle, unfortunately. My favorite clue/answer was the Skye cap one!

Didn't we have a discussion once about ice tea / iced tea? (Just trying to get everybody of the "too easy" subject.....).

bluebell said...

Our paper dropped the LA puzzle for a brief period; when I wrote the editor to ask what gives, she said they had had complaints about the difficulty level. When the LA puzzle came back the levels had changed to what we are getting.

It is not just that they are easy; it is that the clues as written are often pedestrian. I look for more clever use of language.

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

I agree with you Rex, about the normal week's progression of easy to hard, and I (we) appreciate you voicing our concerns... BUT WHO IS LISTENING? Is this just another voice in the wilderness. Is there someone of more influence in the newspaper community who our complaints should be directed to?

You missed the fourth theme answer--- SNEAKINTO is also a KIN word.
But then it wasn't a "?" clue either.

I also thought using TETE-A-TETE, (Fr. head-to-head) for a heart-to-heart talk was rather strange. To me tete-a-tete is anything but a soft heartfelt talk. I think of it as more confrontational, more competitive, and more assertive in tone.

I was disappointed today because there was no NEW-WORD-OF-THE-DAY for John.

Steven said...

The market's the market; I have little doubt that the puzzles will not be gradationally tougher throughout the week, as that's what the syndicated money has demanded. Notwithanding that, I do agree that Friday should be tougher, but I'm not threatening lost revenue in the way the syndicated papers are, if their readers are upset, so the LAT has no reason to listen to my (our?) opinion. So, I appeal to all of you great writers at this blog to stay with it even if it stays easy! I've learned a lot from your writing, and I'd hate to see you become so disappointed with the ease of the puzzles on Thurs/Fri that you abandon your concept (Or, at least do the same thing with the NYT).

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

After watching the Jay Leno Show and seeing his street interviews with stupid college students of today... few could answer simple history or world events questions. So maybe the LAT crosswords are geared for American college graduates (overly simple and loaded with pop-culture clues).
A sad, sad commentary on the serious dumbing down of America's youth!

Charles Bogle said...

@mac: I still don't understand the Skye cap answer...could you enlighten me? @martha: point well-taken-how are we relative newbies to know if we are getting better? I for one really can't tackle a Friday NYT (I couldn't get to second base yesterday) but would love for the oft-entertaining LAT to be half-way between the back of a cereal box complexity, and the NYT...I believe the Newsday puzzles, which I haven't tried in a while, get harder as the week goes by? @shrub5: thanks for explaining what TEN meant as pin near the gutter! And TETEATETE as often as not is the literal head-to-head, not heart-to-heart. Nice byplay w BETE noire though. Also liked: CONKED, MEANIE (my impulse was "not attractive"), and, now that I know what it means, SLUES. Also: ATONES very timely. Agree w RP theme was nice. Just look at all the hackneyed fill: EWES, CPA, EMU, SCAN...how is SAM a friend of Frodo? Alas, no AHA or EUREKA moments for me, and I needed a few-

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

A tam is a cap worn by the Scots. The Isle of Skye is in Scotland.
Yeah, sort of a stretch there.

Margaret said...

Sam and Frodo are from Lord of the Rings. Sam (Samwise Gamgee) is Frodo's gardener who ends up going to Mordor with him to destroy the ring. In many ways, Sam is the hero of the story.

Anonymous said...

WOW ... 3:03
Is that in pen or pencil ???
LAT puzzels are so easy ... why even bother doing them ?

crazycatlady said...

@Joon and GWPD

Thanks. So now I know. This is why I do crosswords and come to this blog.

crazycatlady said...

Also tam is short for tam o' shanter. It's bit like a beret with a pom pom on the top. I once lived on Tam O' Shanter Lane which I found slightly embarrassing.

Kim said...

Although I also would like more of a challenge, I'm not so sure we "deserve" anything. Let's face it, we get these puzzles for free. Sure, we can complain but we don't have a very good bargaining position.

mac said...

@crazycatlady: I would never live in Hicksville, NJ, and I turned down one house when we were returning to CT because the street name was awful, Dingle Lane or something like that!

I think tete-a-tete is simply a private talk, nothing more confrontational. Heart-to-heart may be a little more deep.

Djinn said...

A swamp is the only definition for slough I ever learned before today. Now I see that it's an alternative spelling of "slue" Who knew?

Charles Bogle said...

@johnsneverhome, @crazycatlady, @margaret: many thanks for the explanations on TAM and SAM. I see the Skye cap clue is pretty witty. Throw in SLUES and that's at least three neat things I've just learned!

split infinitive said...

The problem with the LAT puzzles switching over from Li'l Wayne Will.i.ams to Rich Norris (and mysterious gal Joyce) is that Rich followed hallowed NYT tradition wherein puzzles get progressively tougher thru the week. The hand off between editors was poorly signposted -- there was and is no indication that Wednesday is more difficult than Monday and not as hard as Friday. Before, it was "all easy, all the time."

Compare the xw to the sudoku which comes with a scale indicating its difficulty, either numbers or stars. Each day you know what you're up against. It's been suggested on another blog that the LAT/Trinune use a similar system so that the erstwhile solver knows what to expect. People who don't like easy puzzles can skip Mon and Tue, people who don't enjoy trickier puzzles can bypass grids later in the week, or fire up google or drag out the almanacs and dictionaries. problem "solved" for beginners and for more experienced gridmeisters.

Something like that might calm the waters. Other ideas?

Bohica said...

The only way for us to get the puzzles back to a stronger progression is to write to the editors of our local papers, that's how they got easier - that's the only way they'll get harder. Money talks! Us complaining in this forum isn't doing any good (except maybe venting our anger).

toothdoc said...

The irony to the financial pressure to "dumb down" the LAT puzzles is that, as a midwestener, I subscribe to the online NYT for the puzzle because it is challenging. I want to accomplih something when I finish a Friday or Saturday. I would not pay for this late week fill-in-the-blank 10minute endeavor.

Whitney said...

Agree with all about the difficulty level - BUT it was my fifth puzzle today so it was nice to solve it in under 5 minutes. A breeze, a zephyr of a puzzle, if you will.

I figured en pointe would be the correct answer for ONTIPTOE. Could've been clued as "Eagerly expectant" or perhaps "______: The Music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo". Whatever :)

Jan said...

Oh darn. I thought I was just getting better at crosswords!