10.23.2009

FRIDAY, October 23, 2009 — Merle Baker



THEME: IXNAY! (60A: Slangy turndown and a hint to how 17-, 22-, 32-, 47- and 51-Across are formed) — take familiar phrases, say "NAY" to (i.e take out) the "IX," and get new wacky phrases; clue said phrases "?"-style; lather rinse repeat; stir

I feel like there should be a massive balloon drop to celebrate the return of (some) difficulty to late-week LAT puzzles! OK, so I can't really call a puzzle that took me 5+ minutes to do "difficult," but it's a Hell of a lot better than the softballs we've been getting the last few months. I actually had to think. A lot. Yay thinking! This is a really snazzy and well-executed puzzle, with a great theme-revealing word — IXNAY — that serves as a really effective exclamation point for the whole thing. Got the theme (or so I believed) at DON QUOTE, but then when I had some trouble getting into MISTER FIT, I thought maybe the removed letters weren't going to be the same in every case. Like ... maybe all kinds of different Roman numerals were going to get yanked out of theme answers, like VI and CL and what not. But no. Just the IXs.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Health nut? (MISTER FIT) — from "Mr. Fix-It"
  • 22A: "Make him an offer he can't refuse," e.g.? (DON QUOTE) — from "Don Quixote"
  • 32A: Where hogs go hog-wild? (SWINGING STIES) — from "Swinging Sixties" (idea of swinger pigs = highly amusing)
  • 47A: DVDs? (NON-TAPES) — from "Nixon tapes"
  • 51A: Cocktails at an exotic resort club? (MED DRINKS) — from "mixed drinks"; this one felt iffiest. It's "Club MED" and only ever "Club MED"; been to several, never heard anyone use "MED" independently.

Crosswordese 101: EVAN Hunter (18A: Author Hunter) — If you know him at all, you probably know him better as Ed McBain, the name under which he had a prolific and successful crime fiction-writing career. One of the very first vintage paperbacks in my now enormous collection was a first edition 50s paperback edition of "The Mugger." Super fantastic (book on right is from my collection as well). EVAN could show up as the name of any number of people, but Hunter is a favorite way to clue it. Look also for baseball's EVAN Longoria, 2008 All-Star and American League Rookie of the Year. Then try not to get him confused with EVA Longoria (39A: Longoria of "Desperate Housewives").

What else?

  • 26A: Eightfold (OCTUPLE) — really wanted the (made-up?) adverb OCTUPLY.
  • 36A: Satirist Mort (SAHL) — see also the far less common [Satirist Freberg] => STAN.
  • 40A: Source of 20s, for short (ATM) — I could not, for the life of me, figure out what "20s" was supposed to mean until I got the answer from crosses. D'oh! Did you know it's AUTOMATED Teller Machine and not AUTOMATIC. I found this out the hard way while doing Frank Longo's extremely awesome and brutally difficult "Vowelless Crosswords," which everyone who likes challenging puzzles really must own. Hours and hours of solving fun/torture for an obscenely low price (66 puzzles, 8 bucks).
  • 57A: Stiller's comedy partner (MEARA) — love her. As many of you know, one of the highlights of my blogging career was getting an email from her correcting some mistake I made in a write-up.
  • 2D: California city near Vandenberg Air Force Base (LOMPOC) — yikes. Pulled this, eventually, from god knows where. This must be an answer designed to give the puzzle a certain California flavor (NYT does similar provincial stuff from time to time).
  • 6D: Reproductive cell (GAMETE) — I had ZYGOTE ...
  • 10D: "I don't get it" (GO FIGURE) — I didn't get it either, not until I had nearly every cross. "GOTIGURE? GOMIGURE?"
  • 25D: Two-wheeled artillery wagons (CAISSONS) — they go rolling along in that song about war that I half-way know.
  • 30D: Notable 1969 bride (ONO) — The notable 1970 death of the Beatles followed shortly thereafter.


  • 33D: Battered repeatedly, in slang (WHALED ON) — always want to spell this "WAILED ON." Correct spelling brings to mind images of one man flogging another with a sea mammal.
  • 43D: Biological divisions (GENERA) — Latin plural of "GENUS."

That is all. See you Monday.

~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Angle (SLANT); 6A: Like disco dancers (GO-GO); 10A: "Wow" (GEE); 13A: Explorer __ de León (PONCE); 14A: Structural sci. (ANAT.); 15A: Nightclub in a Manilow song (COPA); 16A: Atlanta university (EMORY); 17A: Health nut? (MISTER FIT); 19A: Prefix with dermal (EPI-); 20A: PC support person (TECH); 21A: Village paper? (VOICE); 22A: "Make him an offer he can't refuse," e.g.? (DON QUOTE); 25A: Toy in a holster (CAP GUN); 26A: Eightfold (OCTUPLE); 27A: Winter mo. (JAN.); 28A: Arg. neighbor (URU); 29A: IM provider (AOL); 30A: Arles assent (OUI); 31A: Get ready, briefly (PREP); 32A: Where hogs go hog-wild? (SWINGING STIES); 36A: Satirist Mort (SAHL); 37A: Blood classification letters (ABO); 38A: "__ who?" (SEZ); 39A: Longoria of "Desperate Housewives" (EVA); 40A: Source of 20s, for short (ATM); 41A: Spokane university (GONZAGA); 45A: Comfort for a griever (SOLACE); 47A: DVDs? (NONTAPES); 48A: Concert venue (ARENA); 49A: Takes to court (SUES); 50A: Tolkien tree creature (ENT); 51A: Cocktails at an exotic resort club? (MED DRINKS); 53A: Bugs chaser (ELMER); 55A: Greek love god (EROS); 56A: Lighten up? (DIET); 57A: Stiller's comedy partner (MEARA); 58A: Form 1040 ID (SSN); 59A: Lhasa __ (APSO); 60A: Slangy turndown, and a hint to how 17-, 22-, 32-, 47- and 51-Across are formed (IXNAY); 1D: Swimwear brand (SPEEDO); 2D: California city near Vandenberg Air Force Base (LOMPOC); 3D: Consecrate using oil (ANOINT); 4D: Big name in 40-Acrosses (NCR); 5D: Mystery writer Josephine (TEY); 6D: Reproductive cell (GAMETE); 7D: In the cooler (ON ICE); 8D: Deep wound (GASH); 9D: Polo Grounds hero (OTT); 10D: "I don't get it" ("GO FIGURE"); 11D: Gastronomes (EPICURES); 12D: Gone from the plate (EATEN UP); 15D: Photoshop command (CROP); 18D: Author Hunter (EVAN); 20D: Turnpike collection spot (TOLL GATE); 23D: Small game bird (QUAIL); 24D: Resting atop (UPON); 25D: Two-wheeled artillery wagons (CAISSONS); 27D: "A __ of Wine, a Loaf of Bread ..." (JUG); 30D: Notable 1969 bride (ONO); 31D: Food in a flat box (PIZZA); 32D: 11-Down, e.g. (SAVORERS); 33D: Battered repeatedly, in slang (WHALED ON); 34D: ThinkPad maker (IBM); 35D: Camp shelter (TENT); 36D: Bun seeds (SESAMES); 40D: Rent-__ (A-CAR); 41D: Attends (GOES TO); 42D: Tarzan, e.g. (APEMAN); 43D: Biological divisions (GENERA); 44D: Down a sinful path (ASTRAY); 46D: Additions (ANDS); 47D: Zaps in a microwave (NUKES); 49D: Salon sound (SNIP); 52D: Pocatello's state: Abbr. (IDA); 53D: Brit. record label (EMI); 54D: Latin law (LEX).

41 comments:

imsdave said...

Thought this was a great theme and a good workout. A good ten minutes for me.

I'm with Rex on the balloon drop. The whole week seemed like a huge step in the right direction, difficulty-wise.

Really looking forward to tomorrow.

WHALEDON - who knew?

Carol said...

Yes, indeedy - to once again think!

@Rex - sure must make blogging it more interesting! Liked your comments.

PuzzleGirl said...

Yay for thinking! And yay for Scrabbly letters! I've always thought GONZAGA was a cool name for a college (and some other schools, including a high school here in the DC area).

hazel said...

Cool gimmick. Didn't really pay attention to all the theme answers, but liked the IXNAY reveal.

Since Monday, I've spent approximately 13 more minutes on the LATs puzzle than I did last week, which breaks down to a few minutes a day of extra thinking. Hmm. I suppose its a start. So, Yay.

Joon said...

LOMPOC, whoa. other than that, a smooth grid with a cool theme, and clues with some actual bite! i like that a lot. okay, i didn't love SAVORERS, but GO FIGURE/EPICURES/EATEN UP is an absolutely terrific corner.

SWINGING STIES tripped me up because i was thinking of SWINGING STRIKES, even though i thought i'd already figured out the IX theme. SIXTIES didn't occur to me until after i finished. still, i agree with rex that swinger pigs = hilarity.

if i'm not mistaken, this is a pangram, not that i generally care about such things. but the fill had a lot of pizzazz. in fact, it had PIZZA, which is 71% of pizzazz. or 83% of pizzaz, which is a legit alternative, although not the way i like to spell it.

Orange said...

@Joon, you mean pizazz, of course.

I didn't like this puzzle as much as Rex did. SAVORERS left a bad taste, and for a minute I thought NON-TAPES was lousy fill rather than a theme entry and it colored my opinion. The IXNAY tie-in is cool, though.

*David* said...

Puzzle was a story of two parts. The first 85% fell like most LAT puzzles do. The last 15% because of bad fill TURNGATE versus TOLLGATE had me stumped for way too long. I couldn't for the life of me remember Mort SAHL despite seeing him in numerous puzzles. Kind of frustrating after flying through most of it, oh well.

Charlie said...

Ah yes, I agree. A nice theme (I loved DONQUOTE which broke the dam for me) and I appreciate the *somewhat* return of late-week difficulty.

From the nitpicking department: IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo five years ago.

Parsan said...

IXNAY--Pig latin so popular in the 40's; used by people when they didn't want little ears to understand the conversation. Also considered hip. Consosants removed from the front and added to "ay" at the end, leaving all words beginning with the first vowel. "Exray Arkerpay" (Rex Parker). Everyone probably knows this.

Really liked this one and a real "wow" when I got the theme after finishing. Know EVAN only from cws and don't know TEY but it filled in. SW and NE gave us SESAMES--EATEN UP, SAVORERS--EPICURES, and WHALED ON--GO FIGURE. Cool!

Good write-up and puzzle!

shrub5 said...

How about "...as the PAISSONS go rolling along..."? I had this because I answered POPGUN instead of CAPGUN and thus Mr. Hunter's name was spelled EVON instead of EVAN. I hate it when that happens.

Loved this puzzle and the theme! Enjoyed figuring out the theme answer's root phrase which added a little bonus fun to each one. LOL'd when I got PIZZA for "food in a flat box"... also DIET for "lighten up?" and ELMER for "Bugs chaser."

@RP: What, no SPEEDO photos in the blog?

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

I'm with Rex... I thought this was a cool puzzle too.
For some weird reason I caught on to the theme right away. After DONQUOTE, I thought aha, the IX is left out. After that I got all the theme phrases and all the crosses just fell in place. Never heard of GONZAGAS University, but the easy crosses revealed that pretty quickly and so I looked it up and sure enough, there is such a school. Their website is interesting... a unique teaching style. I have to say that I laughed out loud when I got GONZAGAS...thought immediately of a school for Gonzo. To all you serious Gonzite students... excooooz me !

Fav word(s): GOFIGURE {I don't get it}. I use this phrase a lot when I'm doing CWs.

Unfav word: TECH {PC support person}. I had GEEK... which I hate.

New word:LOMPOC (2d)

Fav writeup: EVAN Hunter (18a)

I want to say thank you to Rich and the LAT and especially to Merle for providing a very stimulating Friday puzzle. We do need to give praise as well as criticism. And, of course, I want to thank Rex for making an entertaining puzzle even more entertaining. Sheesh, sounds like the Academy Awards.

Rex Parker said...

... and *I* would like to thank JOHNSNEVERHOME for his tireless dedication to commenting. John, your "I'm with Rex" t-shirt is in the mail (I should make some of those).

rp

crazycatlady said...

Really cool puzzle and neat theme. When I got to IXNAY I was able to get all the theme answers except for SWININGSIXTIES. I just kept looking at that SWINGINGSTIES thinking what? D'oh. LOMPOC is north of Santa Barbara on the other side of the GAVIOTA pass (where the CA coast makes a bend). The second O is a long O as is the O in GAVIOTA. If you saw the film Sideways, I believe the scene with the crazy, naked, biker was filmed in LOMPOC. I'm glad our puzzle is returning to normal. Hooray! There was another language similar to Pig Latin called Ithig. Where ITHIG was inserted before each syllable. Thanks Rex for your write up.

Greene said...

Harder LAT puzzles = Thank God (or Rich). I almost gave up on the LAT, so I'm glad I stuck it out.

I was slow on the draw with today's gimmick, so I actually had to struggle/think a little. What a pleasure.

More please!

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

To LAT: "Please, sir, I want some more GRUEL!"

No doubt the crazycatlady is into that valley-girl-speak.

Martha said...

I, puzzle newbie, also love that LA Times puzzle is getting harder! I struggled through this one, in an enjoyable way, and really loved the theme. Only one I didn't see was NixONTAPES. (Also thought MixEDDRINKS was the weakest one.)

I'm glad they're considering balancing the desires of some to be able to zip through a puzzle with the desires of others to *earn* the accomplishment of finishing the puzzle! (I also needed *every* cross to get GOFIGURE... :)

Joon said...

orange, my dictionary has pizzazz (my preferred spelling), pizazz, and pizzaz. (but not pizaz.) i agree that pizazz > pizzaz, but pizzazz trumps all. any word that has more Zs than non-Zs = awesome.

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

@crazycatlady
OMG, gag me, I'm totally clueless on Valspeak and ithigi ithigknow ithignoithigthing ithigaithigbout ithig.

@Joon
this puzzzzle hazzz lotzzz of pizzzzazzz

@all
inkthay i illway amscray eforebay i etgay ooedbay

bluebell said...

I'm giving myself a dummy award today--kept trying to see how the first syllables were in Pig Latin--the brain must have needed more coffee.

Knew Gonzaga well--my institution of higher learning played them in basketball, and they always had strong teams.

Astray always brings to mind the classic prayer of confession--"we have erred and strayed...like lost sheep."

crazycatlady said...

@Jonhnsneverhome

I'm like totally into, you know, val speak. Except, gag me, I like live in the 909. Eeewww. That's soooo grodie. What ev...
Clueless in Claremont

Good grasp of Ithig John! It's fun when you can say it really fast. Learned it in Jr. High School so teachers and parents couldn't understand what we were saying.

Fred said...

I thought this weeks puzzles struck a pretty good balance between not-too-easy and not-too hard. Much better than previous weeks puzzles which were too easy.

ddbmc said...

A "jug" of wine, a loaf of bread, the LA Times CWP and this blog! What could be betta?

I definitely felt some steam rising from my brain on this puzzle! Thanks to Rich, Merl, RP,PG and O,and the fellow commentators, for making this happen.

Could not remember Gonzaga to save my life, (i googled...mea culpa! It was the ONLY one, I swear!!), but once I saw the name, I remembered coming across it while helping my boys do their college searches.

I liked the IXNAY theme and like @RP, puzzled over the "swinging s(ix)ties" for a minute. Loved "anoint", "Sahl" (he would do his clean act for the Ed Sullivan Show, as I remember-yet shannigans STILL occur at the Ed Sullivan Theater!); actually had a Llasa Apso once! (sniff!)Didn't know Tey or Hunter, but glad to make their acquaintances!

Bug Chaser (Elmer) was cute-yesterday's clue was Bug (vex); Today, "pizza" was the answer, but yesterday "pizazz" was the clue (style); Today "DVD's?" (nontape), yesterday's: Video tape type (VHS). Just "non-tape" alone conjures up all thoughts of Nixon, Rose Mary Woods and the 18 1/2 minutes gap of tape...but I digress!

@CrazyKat Lady, I hadn't heard of Lompoc, but loved the movie "Sideways." If you are a wine connoisseur, watch "Bottle Shock," another delightful wine lovers movie.

On to the weekend puzzles! Viva la difference!

ddbmc said...

Oops! that would be "shenanigans."

Anonymous said...

Reading this stuff is fun and educational most days. I'm one of the people you sneer at who liked the puzzles my paper had before the LA Times, but I get some of the stuff you find confusing--like 20's come from ATM's (all mine do) and yes, I know who Evan Hunter is. I don't understand all the excitement about themes but today I don't understand your explanation and that's a first! Somehow I am supposed to know that 17 across is Mister Fixit with the "ix" dropped, but why is Mr. Fixit a health nut? Help, please.

JIMMIE said...

@PARSAN
I agree about the formation of pig latin, and this puzzle breaks the sow's language. IXNAY is not NAY with an IX added, in pig latin, but is NIX with AY added. So I kept looking for how to add AY to the end of the theme answers. But the puzzle went well anyway, and was thoroughing enjoyable,

Bohica said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle, even though I didn't get the theme until the reveal answer. I new it was a "missing letters" theme at DONQUOTE, but couldn't figure what was missing from the others. Even then I couldn't put the ix in NONTAPES (until I came here) Doh!

Loved the eight letter answers in the SW (except SAVORERS). I always thought it was wailed on too. Now I have a picture in my mind of Jonah smitin' him some Philistines with an orca!

Thanks for the nice write-up Rex, you were almost pleasant, I haven't heard you glow this much in like forever it seems.

Thanks also to Merle Baker, Rich Norris and the LAT editors.

I think a ticker-tape parade is in order!

Anonymous said...

@Anony12:09 - MISTERFIT is a health nut (Mr. Fit), which replaces Mister Fixit (which is a real phrase) by having the IX taken out.

I would like to think that in the great majority of cases, there wasn't sneering going on, just an honest appreciation for a variation in solving difficulty through the week.

Charles Bogle said...

great write-up and super puzzle; thank you LAT and please keep up the fine work

Only now, after reading RP's write-up and comments like ddbmc and @bohica;s above, do I really "get" the theme and realize just how clever it is...answers with IX taken out!; wow, a lot of thought and creativity went into this construction--

Elsewhere: loved LOMPOC (locale in W.C. Fields' classic "The Bank Dick"); GOFIGURE (an expression I've actually had to use in court on rare occasion when at an absolute loss for words; it always get a healthy response), EPICURES; GONZAGA; ASTRAY; CAISSONS...thanks LAT and RP

wilsch said...

Great puzzle. I'll be interested to see tomorrow's themeless entry now that the difficulty level has bee raised somewhat.

Orange said...

We should not be surprised if this Saturday's puzzle is on the easy side, or if next week's puzzles are. Editor Rich Norris told me we'd see the changes in November, so there may be some "aw, man, too easy" puzzles in the interim.

Wayne said...

I have had a subscription to the L.A. Times since I first moved out here in 1989. Today was weird because I did not receive my paper. Apparently, the L.A. Times has struck a deal with the Orange County Register in which the same delivery person will now deliver both papers to their respective subscribers. Well, they screwed up today and gave me the O.C. Register. I was very irritated as you can imagine. So, I remember you all talking about how you go on line to do the puzzle so I tried it. It was odd at first but I got used to it & actually liked that it told me when I was wrong. BTW, I don't normally time myself when doing the puzzles but the online version does. It took me 46 minutes to do it. I told you I was slow. We attempted to subscribe to the online version but the paper gave us a better deal. They seem not to want people to go to the online version which would be fine for me - I'd like to save some trees. BTW, the O.C. Register is BORING!, but it has 3 crossword puzzles.

Margaret said...

Am I the only one who uses "go figure" more in an ironic sense (instead of "Duh" or "Imagine that") rather than meaning "I don't get it?" For example, you tell me your child loves candy -- I respond "Huh, go figure." The clotheshorse says she was out shopping? "Go figure."

Margaret said...

PS Forget to mention that Emo Philips is playing a comedy club in my neighborhood this weekend. Yes! Emo Philips of crossword fame!

split infinitive said...

Rex.
"Balloon drop" is a stunning turn or phrase, Both Ann Meara and Uma Thurman (or their signatory proxies) really do respond to email. I was amazed. I can just barely get distant cousins to reply but some celebrities do write back.

You realize that the first half of your pen name is X-Ray in Pig Latin, right?

Very glad to see a tougher puzzle today. Mr. Norris must be be happy to restart doing what he is so good at. Took some doing but we solved it without harming innocent bystanders or using online help. A few too many place names, maybe, but very few complaints!

split infinitive said...

Uh oh, "turn of phrase" was what I meant. I am not very good at typing on someone else's mobile phone.

Sfingi said...

though I finished, and Googled only to verify a couple of things, I'm still having theme problems. Same problem as @Bohica - I knew what Baker was trying to do with DONQUOTE, but couldn't create sentences with IX stuck in for all of them. "Swinging" was not a '60s word.

I thought I was the notable 1969 bride, and still married (to the same guy). Some said Chapman should have aimed a little to the side of Lennon.

Never heard of LOMPOC, EMI, the "The Polo Grounds, EVAN Hunter."

St. Luigi Gonzaga, 16th century Jesuit who died of plague while caring for sufferers (not savorers. Check out funny asksistermarymartha.blogspot.com

I know how much some hate using "re" or "un" at the begining and "er" at the end of verbs. How about unsavorer or resavorer to really get us to clench our teeth.

@Wayne - finally figured out BTW - too bad for youse guys! I thought it was Booker T Washington.

@Joon - BTW - in Italian, double z indicates the sound "tz" (think pizza); so I'd have to go with pizaz, or you (I) might feel pressed to say pitzatz.

split infinitive said...

Sfingi -- your posts are consistently wonderful and funny -- but double ZZ in Italian can veer toward 'ts' or 'tz' depending on locality. Both are considered correct. One grandmother says it one way and one of the others pronounces it differently, but they never fail to communicate with each other, compete for best insalata mista, or to complain about my bad accent. They really should have their own TV show.

This d@~n phone has no spell check, so forgive me for any bad typing errors.

Burner10 said...

Hooray! I got swined on Tues, fever broke this morning and all day at home with no headache to noodle through this happy puzzle. Have been unable to post, but sign me on for most of the sentiments expressed today.

mac said...

One of the best LAT puzzles I have done in a long time!

There were two references to Idaho, and even though I lived in Boise for two years, I only know about Gonzaga because of a basketball-playing nephew.

Loved "Sideways"! Haven't had Merlot since I saw it (not).

Sfingi said...

@Split I - You made my day. Everyone loves nona. I actually loved my mother-in-law, Natalie, who died a couple years ago at 94. Sicilian from Bagheria, a suburb of Palermo.

@Burner 10 - was it awful? Are you young? It looks like they may be right this time about H1N1 being like the 1918, killing the young because their immune systems overreacted. Apollinaire died of it and he was a big strapping fellow. Also Edmond Rostand, Egon Schiele (has appeared in our crosswords), Max Weber, and the Fatima witnesses. The second wave (will we have one?) was worse, and the flu should have been called the Kansas flu. A younger guy who insisted on visiting caught it from my g'pa and died.

choiwriter said...

Clueless...I was absolutely clueless with this theme. Even after I finished it, I could not make the connection between piglatin and leaving out "ix." Sigh. Thank God for this blog, where I can finally fill in the holes in my brain!