SATURDAY, October 31, 2009—Samuel A. Donaldson

THEME: No theme today—This is a themeless Saturday puzzle, a.k.a. "freestyle" crossword

Happy Halloween! My costume is "very tired person staying up too late to blog about this puzzle, despite having had a very long and rainy day to be followed by a cold evening of wearing her feet out trick-or-treating." Super-easy to make. The accompanying yawns are what really sells it.

Okay. Puzzle time! Rich Norris wasn't kidding when he said the signs of moderate retoughenization wouldn't be evident before November. Once again, one of my fastest-ever themeless solving times here. I may have a memory lapse, but I think this is "Not that" Sam Donaldson's first published themeless.

I'm partial to grids with four quadrants of stacked, longish answers. This one's got just two such quadrants, but they have quad-stacked 9s rather than the standard triple-stacked fill. The puzzle combines lively and fresh words and phrases with a lot of ordinary fill, which stands in contrast to the Saturday NYT crossword, which had lots of uncommon but not exciting fill. Sure, TESTS and EMOTE are pretty boring words, but I'll take them over stilted or obscure words.

Here's most of the long stuff and the clues/answers I liked best:
  • 1A: War and more (CARD GAMES). I didn't see that one coming. Even with GAMES in place, I was still thinking of actual war.
  • 15A: Strain (OVEREXERT). I like the X, but wish it had been put to better use—the crossing is the partial AXE TO.
  • 17A: Place with trays (CAFETERIA). Super-easy clue, no?
  • 32A: Cosmetic surgeries (NOSE JOBS). Again, easy clue—but crispy crossword entry.
  • 40A: Sherry, often (APERITIF). OK, this is my cue to look up this word, and probably not for the first time. Turning to the dictionary...aperient, "(chiefly of a drug) used to prevent constipation"...wait, just, a little further...here it is. Apéritif is from a French word which draws on the Latin aperire, "to open." You drink it before you eat to whet your appetite. You eat an appetizer for the same reason, purportedly, but the two ap— words are unrelated. Appetite stems from Latin words meaning "desire for/seek after." Not that anyone asked, but I think sherry is gross.
  • Here's the nutty Star Wars zone. 47A: Film that's out of order? is a PREQUEL, while 13D: End of a pentamerous serial is PART V. If you're lucky, that is, PART V is the end of the series. Crazy George Lucas went for VI.
  • 53A: Seeking advancement at any cost (ON THE MAKE). I almost went with ON THE TAKE, but TAKE has another home in this puzzle.
  • 60A: Eastern Canadian province grouping, with "the" (MARITIMES). I'll bet the people near Canada's Pacific coast wish they could be called the Maritimes, too. The Maritime Provinces are Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. How many of you have been to any of those? I've hit Ontario and British Columbia and that's it.
  • 62A: Smithsonian collection (AMERICANA). Hey! I went to the National Museum of American History for my first time this summer. Here's some AMERICANA for you:

    That George Washington was a hottie, huh? Talk about your American beefcake.

  • 4D: Cologne crowd? (DREI). "Two's company, but three's a crowd."
  • 9D: Child actor's chauffeur? (STAGE MOM). Alternatively, a virtual mother who's going to the party alone is a STAG E-MOM.
  • 10D: R.E.M. vocalist Michael (STIPE). Who's in the mood for "Man on the Moon"? How about with a little Bruce Springsteen for good measure?

  • 11D: Tolerates teasing gracefully (TAKES A JOKE). See? This could also have been MAKES A JOKE, though that would be a fairly flat answer, and ON THE MAKE could've been ON THE TAKE. I find that the most of the time when someone says "Can't you take a joke?"—really, that person was being a jerk and the jokee should not be expected to "take a joke."
  • 27D: Unwavering (FOUR-SQUARE). Not a term I use. Isn't "four square" also a playground game using a ball?
  • 38D: One with immunity (DIPLOMAT). I blew my son's mind when I told him that people with diplomatic plates on their cars can probably get away with parking illegally.
As usual, we have several nominees for Crosswordese 101. There's 16A: Turkic inhabitant of Russia (TATAR), and there's 31D: Hairlike parts, such as those that help geckos cling to walls (SETAE). The latter's singular form is SETA, which can also be clued as a two-word partial (as in "___ date") if you're looking to avoid crosswordese. But I like me some rocks and minerals, so I bring you...

Crosswordese 101: MICA! Today it's clued as 55D: Flaky mineral and indeed, it's easy to break off sheets of mica. Talk about cleavage! Mica's got it in spades. Other popular clues for MICA include isinglass and easily split, shiny, or translucent mineral.

See you all here again on Wednesday. In the meantime, be kind to one another! Naughty children will be sent to their rooms without any Halloween candy.

Everything Else — 1A: War and more (CARD GAMES); 10A: R.E.M. vocalist Michael (STIPE); 15A: Strain (OVER-EXERT); 16A: Turkic inhabitant of Russia (TATAR); 17A: Place with trays (CAFETERIA); 18A: Director Kurosawa (AKIRA); 19A: Aide's job (ASSISTING); 20A: Doctor's orders (TESTS); 21A: Rolls on the lawn (SOD); 22A: Hard to nail down (ELUSIVE); 24A: Social blunder (GAFFE); 28A: Eritrea's capital (ASMARA); 30A: Ness et al. (ELIOTS); 32A: Cosmetic surgeries (NOSE JOBS); 36A: Vegan entrée (TOFU); 37A: Imported cheeses (EDAMS); 39A: Cajun pod (OKRA); 40A: Sherry, often (APERITIF); 42A: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show costar (OAKLEY); 44A: Grab before someone else does (SNAP UP); 46A: It merged with Kmart in 2005 (SEARS); 47A: Film that's out of order? (PREQUEL); 50A: PC panic button (ESC); 52A: Mammal of Madagascar (LEMUR); 53A: Seeking advancement at any cost (ON THE MAKE); 59A: Take out __: borrow money (A LOAN); 60A: Eastern Canadian province grouping, with "the" (MARITIMES); 61A: Saltpeter, to a Brit (NITRE); 62A: Smithsonian collection (AMERICANA); 63A: Spirited horse (STEED); 64A: Nielsen ratings subjects (TELECASTS); 1D: Caesar's partner Imogene (COCA); 2D: Actress Gardner et al. (AVAS); 3D: Court call makers (REFS); 4D: Cologne crowd? (DREI); 5D: Prepares (GETS SET); 6D: Has an __ grind (AXE TO); 7D: Yucatán's capital (MERIDA); 8D: "__ Brockovich" (ERIN); 9D: Child actor's chauffeur? (STAGE MOM); 10D: Height (STATURE); 11D: Tolerates teasing gracefully (TAKES A JOKE); 12D: Formal answer to "Who's there?" (IT IS I); 13D: End of a pentamerous serial (PART V); 14D: TiVo option (ERASE); 23D: Will Rogers prop (LASSO); 24D: "__ grip!" (GET A); 25D: Crooked (ALOP); 26D: High wind (FIFE); 27D: Unwavering (FOUR-SQUARE); 29D: Messy situation (SNAFU); 31D: Hairlike parts, such as those that help geckos cling to walls (SETAE); 33D: St. with counties named Comanche and Choctaw (OKLA.); 34D: Uncle Remus's __ Fox (BRER); 35D: Speaks (SAYS); 38D: One with immunity (DIPLOMAT); 41D: Buried (INURNED); 43D: One leading a spartan lifestyle (ASCETIC); 45D: Marine bird (PETREL); 47D: Blueprints (PLANS); 48D: Ignited again (RELIT); 49D: Cry on cue, say (EMOTE); 51D: U.S.: county :: U.K. : __ (SHIRE); 54D: Moniker (NAME); 55D: Flaky mineral (MICA); 56D: Latin 101 verb (AMAS); 57D: Colleague of Lane and Olsen (KENT); 58D: Those, to Teresa (ESAS).


Sfingi said...

I first had "on the move," for 53A ONTHEMAKE; "verse," for 23D LASSO, "snatch," for 44A SNAPUP, "assistant," for 18A ASSISTING." Not to bad.

I think of 4-square with the rousing hymn, Walk in Jerusalem Just Like John ("They say the city is just foursquare, and I declare I'll meet him there.")

Most of the foods don't meet my breakfast test: 36A TOFU and 38A OKRA. Texture problems. I'll have the cheese, please.

Personal geography Natick 7D MERIDA crosses 28A ASMARA.

Watch out for them goblins. Going to rain here, so I'll be eating a lot of Skor bars and my husband, a lot of Snickers.

scott said...

The grid was nice, lots of nice stuff, and really no objectionable fill. Some plain, maybe boring fill, but no bizarre abbreviations or awful crosswordese.

CARDGAMES was nice and a really nice clue for it. Most of the other long entries were excellent I thought. FOURSQUARE, TAKESAJOKE, MARITIMES, AMERICANA, CAFETERIA are great entries. Their cluing however was just ridiculously easy and uninventive (except for foursquare which was just bizarre. foursquare is a playground game with a ball first and foremost)

Harder cluing Sam/Rich (I imagine Rich)!

tinbeni said...

When a x-word causes me to check the accuracy of an answer, and I had not a clue as to the Capital of Eritria or the Yucatan, my first thought is "Okay, this is good, a bit of a challenge !"

Not aware how the clue 'unwavering' makes it 'Foursquare' (got it with the crosses) and for me there were a couple other Gaffe's ... but I did get that one !!!!

All-in-all a nice Saturday LAT puzzle though I thought a Halloween or World Series theme would have been appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Like Sfingi, I had ASSISTING for assistant. I tried PREVIEW on 47d since these films often show clips out of order, otherwise it was a smooth for me solve today. All the coaching from Orange, PG and Rex is paying off.

Favorite clue is "high wind" for FIFE. I like the misdirection to GALE and enjoy musical clues.


Happy Halloween everyone!!!!
Orange, you are soo devoted to your kiddos (including us, the children of the grid). Take a nice bubble bath today and just crash...you deserve it!
After yesterday's SNAFU, I'm a little leery about making another GAFFE, by agreeing with the bloggers... but, I too found this puzzle to be a fast solve.
It was an enjoyable solve though, lots of clever entries and clues [applauding Sam here].
Starting right off with CARDGAMES = "War and more". Also loved: TESTS = "Doctors orders", SOD = "Rolls on the lawn", PREQUEL = "Film that's out of order".
But two are outstandingly cute: FIFE for "high wind" and PARTV for "End of a pentamerous serial".
Oh yeah, and DIPLOMAT for "one with immunity". These are the cute little things that perk up a tough (?) Saturday puzzle.

Had mistakenly put in AGENTS for ELIOTS and tried SNATCH before I figured it was SNAPUP.

Never heard of ALOP for crooked... wasn't even in my dictionary.

I thought the stacks of 8 niners were pretty obvious to solve.

Learned two new words today: MERIDA and INURNED (which I had INTERED). Somehow IN URN seems just the opposite of being buried.
Another thing I learned: I didn't know that SEARS now owns Kmart. I guess the theory is--- you put two losers together and you get a winner... the Chicago method!

I was in Nova Scotia, PEI, and New Brunswick last year, so MARITIMES was a cinch for me.

Thought the centerpiece words of this puzzle were:

Glad to see MICA in the CW101 today. It brings back memories of my grandpa's potbelly stove in the living room. It had little windows made of MICA, but grandpa called it ISINGLASS, which I now know to be MUSCOVITE.

Orange, I groaned when I saw your cute "a virtual mother who's going to the party alone is a STAG E-MOM"

If you ever get a chance to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Smithsonian Institution, by all means, do it. It's called "The Nation's Attic" and it contains zillions of wonderful artifacts that only the elite (like crossworders) would appreciate.

Orange, great writeup today...thanks.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the "drink before dinner" spelled so many way that I waited for the crosses to fill it. My French cousins would insist upon "aprertif", and even spellcheck hates that one (though it also hates itself, so what does that tell you?).

Speaking of my French cousins, and as a former fencer, I would like to finally see the word "piste" crossed properly, that is, in relation to fencing rather than skiing.

I found this puzzle interesting if not challenging; just over five minutes. Not a bad week, overall for the LAT. I still find myself chuckling over yesterday's "weird" answer.


Rex Parker said...

ASMARA / MERIDA is pretty bad. Otherwise, thought this was fairly fresh and entertaining. STAGE MOM / NOSE JOBS = fantastic.


Anonymous said...

@johnsneverhome said it all for me!

Had a good time with this one.

Carol said...

Sorry, hit enter accidently. My post was Anonymous 8:38.

GLowe said...

Although it is out there in the Atlantic with all the other Maritime provinces, Newfoundland is not considered a maritime province. I never bothered to ask why.
"Hairlike parts, such as those that help geckos cling to walls". When the clue needs a chapter, I know I don't know the answer.


Really? I always thought Newfoundland was a part of the Maritimes. Then what province is it? BTW, my most lovable creature was a big oafish (but sweet) Newfoundland dog. He was the runt-of-the-litter, but got to 120 pounds. His siblings got to 160 pounds. You can imagine the damage this bull-in-a-china-shop could inflict. Him merely walking under the dining room table and it tips over. Him bolting right through the screen door. Him dragging me off the couch because he wanted to go out. Thank God though, he was potty trained. Funny how us devoted dog lovers put up with so much. Anyone else have a Newfie?


@Dan N
You guys really need an [out-of-public] tête-à-tête.
You're both geniuses and very nice people... PAX baby!

GLowe said...

The three maritime provinces existed at the time of confederation - 1867 - and I think that's when the term was enshrined. NLD didn't join Canada until 1949 asI recall, and by then nobody cared if they were grouped together with the other 3 or not. THere was a time when the maritimes considered banding together to have more of a political voice in confederation.

There you have it - an idiot's dim recollection of 8th grade Canadian history (an excellent alternative to counting sheep, BTW), augmented by 10 seconds on wiki.

GLowe said...

Also, for your edification on PC-dom, Newfies are split down the middle on whether 'Newfie' is perjorative (sp?) or not. I've given up using it even though I have close friends who say they don't mind, I have another who bristles at the term.

Substitutes "Islander", or "From the Rock" haven't pissed anyone off in my experience. "Newfoundlander" (especially if you pause at the 'f') will make the room go awkwardly silent .....

shrub5 said...

This puzzle was a Halloween treat and, as with most of this week's puzzles, seemed to be a move in the right direction along the difficulty path.

I fell into the 'intered' trap after I had the IN-----. The correct spelling is actually interred so it wouldn't fit anyway but INURNED doesn't equate to "buried" -- IMO.

I was familiar with MERIDA due to news coverage of the Mérida Initiative, a security cooperation program involving the US and Mexico, as well as some Central American and Caribbean countries. Its mission is to combat drug trafficking and organized crime.

TATAR was seen in yesterday's puzzle with the clue of Golden Horde member! Cute clues for FIFE (high wind) and Cologne crowd? (DREI). Pentamerous (which my spellcheck highlights) is a new word for me. I had TALC before MICA which cause a minor SNAFU in the SE corner. TALC came from having ON THE TAKE instead of MAKE. Got it all worked out eventually.

This was a fine puzzle chock full of fresh clues and answers. Learned a lot today, thanks to Sam and to Orange.

@Sfingi: I curse my grocery store for putting out Halloween candy in early September. I can't resist those mini candy bars and always have to buy another bag or two as it gets closer to Halloween. A dieting tip is to buy Halloween candy that you don't like so you won't be tempted. I have never followed that advice.

Rex Parker said...

And you, John, are a pumpkinhead.

Off to get new headphones and computer speakers, and also tons and tons of candy (people drive to our neighborhood to do their trick'r'treatin', so it gets Nuts). Will blast Berlioz. Kids love Berlioz, right?

Enjoy your Halloweens,

bluebell said...

I confidently wrote esthete for 43d, then had to back out once the crosses showed my error. Knew Sears and Kmart are now one, because I thought it was another step in the cheapening of the Sears brand (I grew up in a family that shopped the Sears catalog regularly, and my children when young wore Toughskins.) Had to Google Merida and Asmara for the ending and the beginning respectively. Overall enjoyed the puzzle.

chefbea said...

Couldn't parse partv. Kept saying par-tv.

Happy trick or treating to all


Of course Berlioz! Even his tomb in Cimetière de Montmartre, Paris is spooky.
But you should also play the obligatory, Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor.
I'm looking forward to scaring all thoses little "Ween" urchins with my "Ming the Merciless" costume... darn, now if only I could find those candy bars that I hid from myself a month ago.

Margaret said...

The San Francisco Chronicle today finally ran the Brendan Emmett Quigley puzzle with the sportswriter theme answer. Hmmm, I wonder why this was so easy for me? Couldn't be because I read all about it a week ago, could it?

Greene said...

@Rex: What child could possibly resist Symphonie fantastique? With the "March to the Scaffold" and the "Dreams of a Witch's Sabbath" what more do you really need?

Personally, I like to blast the film score from Psycho at my house. Just hearing those insistent string rumblings during the Overture makes me nervous (don't get me started on the shower music sequence).


Aha... I just found my CD of Symphonie Fantastique... gonna play that tonight...gonna skeeeer them little demons!!!!

Van55 said...

Very nice puzzle. Knew Merida because an on-line acquaintance has a cigar shop there.

Or am I being sycophantic? Not to prolong yesterday's perturbation.

Anonymous said...

@Orange - The correct definition, hence clue, for NOSEJOB: Telling someone drinking coffee a joke sufficiently funny to make them spew said coffee out their nose.

mac said...

Nice little puzzle; some of these answers just popped out, others needed a little teasing.

I liked the four square and the high wind.

Is nobody standing up for sherry? I will, I love it, although only in winter. I like mine medium dry and dry.

@JNH: A friend brought her dog into my house, and my cat raced to the porch and flew through the screen door. You could hardly see the rip! I don't have a screened porch in the current house, it seems to be out of fashion around here.

Sometime in September I put out the candy corn to signal that summer is over (at last....). Early december I replace them with Christmas chocolates, and it's spring when I put out the pastel easter eggs.

One year in yet another house we made the entrance look very scary and played this moaning and shrieking tape. The poor kids backed away from our gate!

mac said...

For a real Halloween puzzle go to Crossynergy today.


Halloween Trick or Treat is officially over here at 8 pm. I had outdoor speakers and played very loudly, a pipe organ rendition of Phantom of the Opera (Bach's Tocatta in D). It attracted lots of curious kids in costume to my candle lit and black-lighted "haunted" house.
I wore an authetic "Ming the Merciless" costume and a long creepy moustache. Had 103 of the little candy beggars... good turnout, but the weather was superb. Heheheh, I really scared them!!! AND I HAD GREAT FUN DOING IT!
Punkinhead goes poof !

Sfingi said...

I guarded my mother's house, and only one big kid came - a girl I used to hire for yard work. Gave her a whole bag, thereby saving myself from a heart attack. My husband had our house, a corner house which has been known to be visited by 75 ghouls. Also has the big tv - was the Yankee game on? - If not, he watched RAI. I'll watch Dr. G here.

I read somewhere that Sears made a big mistake financing their Sears do-it-yourself houses right before the depression, since they had to foreclose, making them the bad guys. We still have a couple around here, yellow brick bungalows.

@John - did you merely dye your 'stache and wear your Chinese jammies?

Happy All Saints, y'all.

ddbmc said...

Missed out on all the Halloween fun tonight, as we were off to hockey in Long Island. It was treacherous trying to get out of the neighborhood, what with all manner of ghost, goblin and bloody characters. Would have loved to have trick or treated at JNH's or Sfingi's house tonight, but maybe Mac's house would have been better-I could have gotten a glass or two of sherry! (certainly needed it after the game!) Used to dress up and play scary music for the T and T'ers. My kids would always insist on the sound track from Ghost Busters and MJ's "Thriller." I loved playing the Bach Fugue in D minor. Still have it in vinyl. How old am I!?
Buenos Noches! Feliz Dia de los Muertos! Will miss JNH's pumpkin head. Turkey head next?


I used professional grease paint on my mustache, but extended it down to my chin... I did look insideously evil. The costume was an authentic Mandarin silk caftan (sp?) and skull cap that I bought in China. Some people referred to me as Doctor Fu Manchu, but I was trying to look more like Ming The Merciless (guess I needed that high-collared cape though).
Getting all that the grease paint off with cold cream was hell.

@ddbmc... NO TURKEY UGLY HEAD !!!!
I'm ugly enough.

ddbmc said...

@JohnsNH, Getting your kicks on Route 66 works just fine, then! Or you could go as a pilgrim? Plymouth Rock???? Ming? ;)



ddbmc said...

@JNH, thanks for the fling with Ming! I remember watching the Flash Gordon episodes--on tv of course. My dad was a BIG Flash Gordon fan!
Bet your costume was great!