10.29.2009

THURSDAY, October 29, 2009
Don Gagliardo


Theme: Shoes — Theme answers are familiar(?) phrases the last word of which is a type of shoe. (And there's a SHOE "box" of four squares in each corner of the grid. And no, I totally didn't notice that when I did the puzzle last night.—Orange)

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Kitchen backups (SINK CLOGS).
  • 31A: North Carolina team (TARHEELS).
  • 47A: Octane rating sites (GAS PUMPS).
  • 64A: Bonneville Speedway feature (SALT FLATS).
  • 40A: Container for the end of 17-, 31-, 47 or 64-Across; there's a literal one in each four-square puzzle corner (SHOEBOX).
I have a wide range of feelings about this puzzle. I was immediately put off by the 1A/1D crossing of EOS and ESSO. That's some pretty ugly crosswordese to have to contend with right at the very start. But things got steadily better from there. I laughed at myself when I got to the first theme answer. I had the first few letters and then had come at it from the back end and was looking at SINK*LOGS and thought to myself "Sink blogs? What the ...?" So then I looked at the clue (always a good idea) and thought "kitchen backups" meant, like, the B-team chefs — like the ones that guy yells at on that reality show — and I was surprised there was a word for that. Well, it finally clicked and then ... yuck. Sink clogs? First of all, I don't want to be thinking about my sink being clogged up. God knows what's down there, but it's sure to be slimy. Second, who uses this phrase? And why would you need to use it in the plural? Just ugly. When I got down to the reveal answer at 40A, though, I thought, "Oh, this is a cute theme!" and thought the clunkiness might be worth it. But then again with the plural thing at GAS PUMPS. I get it that it has to be plural for the theme, but I really don't like the look of it.

There are two places where I would bet a lot of you had trouble. The first one is at the cross of KAHUNA (28A: Island big shot) and KLIEG (28D: __ light: filmmaking arc lamp). I thought KAHUNA started with a C, but I've heard of KLIEG lights, so I ended up okay over there. Did some of you stick with the C? Or does everyone but me know that word is spelled with a K? Then, the crossing of OTHO (60D: First century Roman emperor) and DHS (68A: ALers who don't play the field) is just gnarly. I am not one of those people who hates to see sports clues in the puzzles. I actually kind of like them. But if it's going to be a baseball abbreviation, please give me a gettable cross. And not one that, say, could very well be OTTO instead of OTHO. There were four Holy Roman Emperors named OTTO. None of them ruled in the first century, but really, who knows that? It's perfectly reasonable to expect the answer to be OTTO. But, instead, it's this OTHO guy who, by the way, only reigned for three months. So, boo. Also kind of yucky to see both OTHO and OTOE (53D: Oklahoma tribe) in the grid — and please don't get me started on SONO- and ODO- (3D: Prefix with gram / 53A: Prefix with meter).

On the bright side, I noticed a lot of Ks and Xs as I was solving, and those are pretty cool letters. Also, HAS A SHOT AT is an awesome answer (30D: Is in the running for). And it's a treat to see the UTNE READER in its full two-word glory for a change (11D: Eclectic bimonthly digest). Overall, though, not an enjoyable solve for me. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Crosswordese 101: Here are the OMARs you need know:
  1. Five-star General OMAR Bradley.
  2. The poet OMAR Khayyám, who wrote "The Rubáiyát," the most famous line of which begins "A jug of wine...."
  3. OMAR Epps, who co-stars with Hugh Laurie in the medical drama "House."
  4. OMAR Sharif, who is most often clued in relation to his roles in "Funny Girl" and "Dr. Zhivago," but who we learn today is also, apparently, a bridge expert.
[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else — 1A: Dawn goddess (EOS); 4A: Starbucks flavor (MOCHA); 9A: Bring about (CAUSE); 14A: "__ 'nuff!" (SHO); 15A: Saint associated with the Russian alphabet (CYRIL); 16A: Weed B Gon maker (ORTHO); 19A: Took to jail (RAN IN); 20A: Alley Oop's girl (OOOLA); 21A: Displayed (SHOWN); 23A: Minnesota twins? (ENS); 24A: Snootiness (AIRS); 26A: Great server (ACER); 35A: Grassy tracts (LEAS); 36A: Illustrator Silverstein (SHEL); 38A: Rub the wrong away (ERASE); 39A: For what __ worth (IT'S); 42A: Veep before Al (DAN); 43A: Put into law (ENACT); 46A: Clears after taxes (NETS); 49A: Widely separated (SPARSE); 51A: Opposite of away (HOME); 52A: Part of a yard (FOOT); 55A: Astronomer Tycho __ (BRAHE); 58A: Western border lake (TAHOE); 62A: Demolish (TOTAL); 66A: Chicago hub (O'HARE); 67A: Tours ta-ta (ADIEU); 69A: Adlai's running mate (ESTES); 70A: Computer image dot (PIXEL); 71A: Manager Torre (JOE); 1D: Gas sign north of the border (ESSO); 2D: Columbus's home (OHIO); 4D: Obama's opponent (MCCAIN); 5D: Skinny Olive (OYL); 6D: Interbreed (CROSS); 7D: Word with five or noon (HIGH); 9D: General Mills cereal (CORN CHEX); 10D: Heavenly altar (ARA); 12D: __ guard: bit of catchers' gear (SHIN); 13D: Tons of time (EONS); 18D: Actor Kinski (KLAUS); 22D: "This means __!" (WAR); 25D: Itch source (RASH); 27D: Musket end? (-EER); 29D: WellPoint rival (AETNA); 31D: Abounds (TEEMS); 32D: Jessica of "Dark Angel" (ALBA); 33D: Exams for future litigators, briefly (LSATS); 34D: Taste or touch (SENSE); 37D: Hula __ (HOOP); 40D: Trips (STUMBLES); 41D: Thereabouts (OR SO); 44D: USN noncom (CPO); 46D: Birth-related (NATAL); 48D: Sea, to Sartre (MER); 50D: Amount of soup on the stove (POTFUL); 52D: Cartoon cat (FELIX); 54D: Outbursts from Homer (D'OHS); 56D: "Stat!" cousin (ASAP); 57D: "__ only known!" (HAD I); 59D: Meccan pilgrimage (HADJ); 61D: Latin being (ESSE); 63D: "__ you serious?" (ARE); 65D: Top with a slogan (TEE).

45 comments:

tinbeni said...

Great Thursday Puzzle.
Remembered The Big Kahuna movie with Kevin Spacey a few years back, so this jumped out at me.
Any puzzle with Alley Oop's girlfriend Ooola pick's up the pace even more.
Omar Sharif has been one of the best at Bridge for at least 30 years ... and this clue for him pops up from time-to-time.
Actually had Shoe Box before the theme answers so they came easy. And I agree PG ... Sinkclogs in the plural makes little sense. Most people probably say Clogged Sink.
And it is from here (this blog) that I remember that in Canada they still have Esso and with Eso (dawn goddess, learned here, also) I thought "Hey, today is going to be FUN !!!" and it was.
ARA, Zeus's heavenly residence pops up so rarely it almost always causes me to Google. The only one today.

All-in-all a nice LAT Thursday ... they are getting more of my brain cells involved.

Nice write-up, especially the shoe phone ... very Smart !!!

Orange said...

The clunky corner fill is somewhat redeemed by its use for a higher purpose: getting those four-square SHOEs spelled out counterclockwise in each corner.

tinbeni said...

oops ... meant EOS, not eso, my typing gets a left-brain, right-brain glitch sometimes.
Adieu

docmoreau said...

Pretty clever, this one. SHOEBOX dead center and shoe sizes E's at each corner! It wasn't a clear solve for me though. In the right bottom, I spelled "meccan pilgrimage" HAJJ and "first century Roman emperor" OTTO and I couldn't
break it loose without internet assistance. And, could only remember "Alley Oop" from the early 60's hit by the Hollywood Argyles which didn't mention OOOLA.
I did get the crossing KLAUS "actor Kinski" right away. He played the vampire in the 1922 silent "Nosferatu." A good flick for this season. Good write-up,PG, and a good puzzle for a Thursday.

The Corgi of Mystery said...

When I hit the clue for SHOEBOX I actually did a double take, wondering if Rich had allowed a rebus in the LAT for the first time ever. A quick glance at the top left sorted that out though. Fill-wise, HAS A SHOT AT was nice, as well as FELIX/PIXEL.

*David* said...

I also had OTTO at first but DHS is pretty clearlty the fill for the across so I didn't mind that corner. I felt more uncertain with SHO 'nuff and OOOLA crossing SONO. OOOLA looks so wrong and then you start thinking of Land of the Lost.

The rest of the puzzle flew by with BRAHE, my new person of the day. I haven't noticed a noticeable up-tick in difficulty yet.

Sfingi said...

@Corgi - did you know Sharif was a Bridge guy?

The SHOES in the corners got me to put in 60D OTHO instead of Otto, but it didn't help me with personal Natick 59D HADJ versus anything sports, since Hajj is acceptable, also. So, Do tell what does 68A DHS mean?

Otherwise, cute puzzle.

Burner10 said...

Agree that the messy corners were more than redeemed by the shoe boxes - so cute! Didn't know utne reader, now I do. I think any puzzle with a shoe theme is sweet.

ddbmc said...

@Sfingi-DHS=designated hitters.

The NW cornerbaffled me, at first. Went through a list of all the "grams"- mail, tele, mono--which I guess was it's purpose. Got Ohio, but the rest was slow. I always forget Eos, so shame on me. "Gas sign, north of the boarder,threw me off the CW101 "Esso." Kahuna and kleig were gimmes just based on life experiences. We have a family member who is quite tall and big-we call him "KingcomeonIwannaeata, the big Kahuna," plus a trip to Hawaii helped! 32A, I had "lawn" but then realized the plural, so knew that wasn't right. Laughed at ODO, because it was one of those "d'oh" moments. CW enlightenment for the day:Brahe, Utne Reader, Cyril,Hadj; Nostalgia Moments: Ooola,Shel,Felix,Estes,Omar (sigh!),(sink)Clogs (high school footwear!). Loved the pix of Agent 86 with his shoe phone!

GoG8rs said...

I had fun with this clever puzzle--mainly do to my misreading and/or misinterpreting the clues and laughing at my goofs. Example: 54D Homer's cry--I was thinking classic Greek poet and was looking for "aves," "deos" or something. Well, DUH for me. Couldn't get 66A because of that and I misspelled Otoes (how that is possible I attribute to recent eye surgery which I maintain has fogged my brain. I use that excuse for everything, including scraping a dent in the car yesterday.)
I have no problems with so called "unpleasant" words because I don't think of the meaning , just whether they fit. It's the same (non) thinking I do about where meat comes from: as far as I am concerned, meat comes from the grocery store. I don't want to think any further back than that!

shrub5 said...

Very clever, enjoyable puzzle today! I did not notice the "shoe" in each corner, although the 40a clue clearly tells us something is there. D'OHS (Outbursts from Homer and me.)

My only error was the misspelling of SONO (I had sona) and since I didn't know Alley Oop's girl, I couldn't see that OOALA was wrong.

Favorites: Minnesota twins? (ENS) and Rub the wrong away (ERASE) -- I first read it as rub the wrong way.

I've seen UTNE so many times in puzzles but have not seen this magazine -- anybody out there read it?

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

OH MY !!!
I had mixed feelings about this puzzle... hate/love!
So much that I hated, but there was some redemption in the clever SHOE corners and a few great clues, but sometimes we have to put up with a lot of crap just for sake of cleverness.
My big stinkos are those "cheap construction" fill-in-the-blanks clues, that I call the "blankety-blanks". For example, "___'nuff", "For what ___ worth", "This means ___", "___only known!", and "___ you serious?".
These clues are ____ to me!!!!
(Did I use four underlines?)

But how can I go into Thursday with an attitude? Sooo, there are some good things here (besides the fun theme): OOOLA and Olive OYL crossing with CYRIL. FELIX the cat crossing with PIXEL. KAHUNA crossing with KLIEG. Wow, these are great words for a puzzle.
And whenever I have to learn some new words, my puzzle-o-meter rating goes way up. Learning about UTNEREADER, Tycho BRAHE, and OTHO really made lots of points.

I had mispelled KAHUNA as KAHONA... guess I was thinking of Kahoneys, LOL. Also I had OTTO for OTHO and that just screwed up the DHS cross.

Even though it wasn't a particularly fun puzzle for me, I thoroughly enjoyed Puzzlegirl's writeup (as usual). The only thing that would have made it even better, would have been a video clip of Jessica ALBA. So ok guys, here she is in all her glory---
JESSICA ALBA

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

Who cares if Omar Shariff is a bridge expert. His real claim to fame is the movie Dr. Zhivago. IMO, that was the #1 movie of all time.

Please tell me more about the UTNE READER.

Rex Parker said...

A little swagger has returned to the LAT. Finally.

Blew thru this one and didnt' read the revealer closely enough to notice the SHOE boxes in the corners. Nice touch; def. excuses OTHO / OTOE / ESSO / SONO / etc.

Toady said...

What I learned about solving puzzles today: it's always a good idea to look at the clue.

Guess I'll have to give that a shot.

Can't imagine why I haven't figured that out before!

GLowe said...

Question: without the very clever boxes, would this be considered in the same category as 'word that can follow/precede' puzzle? Are these kinds of puzzles going to become a thing of he past?

Glowe said...

THE past...

Joon said...

OMAR sharif is indeed a bridge expert. he used to play with the legendary italian blue team of the 1960s and 70s (although i think most of his experiences with them were in the 80s, when they were a little past their prime). pietro fourquet's bridge with the blue team is arguably the greatest bridge book of all time, and sharif is featured in it (although not prominently). so sharif is in my favorite bridge book and my favorite movie, top secret!, in which he has the misfortune to be in a car that gets compacted down to a roughly person-sized box. hadn't thought about him that way before, but that's kind of cool.

oh yes, the puzzle. i usually like it when a constructor puts "extra effort" into a puzzle's theme, so i enjoyed the SHOE boxes in the corners. i think it makes up for the fairly hideous SINK CLOGS. unlike PG, i had no problem with GAS PUMPS; that's what they're called. as for the H in OTHO/DHS, yeah, it's a tough crossing, but figuring out the theme should help you there. absent the theme, of course OTTO and DTS would be a nicer fit there, or even OTRO and JRS since i like the HAJJ spelling more than HADJ.

Joon said...

gary, i think "these things are all in the same category" is a notch above "these things can all follow/precede this other word" as a theme genre. others may disagree.

Carol said...

As @Sfingi asked - just what are DHS? Since I don't follow baseball, I haven't a clue.

Pretty interesting puzzle, though, and didn't see all the E's until you pointed them out @PG. Liked the shoe theme and have to say that we have had SINK CLOGS in the plural as our bathroom has 2 sinks that are connected at the drain! Yuck!

Had to Google the Roman Emperor as I'd never heard of OTHO.

ddbmc said...

@Carol, as I mentioned in my post, DHS=Designated HitterS. A DH hits for a pitcher in the American League.The designated hitter cannot be used for any other player than the pitcher, in the AL. Pitchers in the National League bat in the normal rotation of the line up of players. AL pitchers are "princes" who sit in the dugouts while someone else hits for them....(lol)

@Joon-great clip from "Top Secret!" Still chortling.

Ruth said...

The way I look at it, DH's DO play the field. They ONLY play the field. Unless you want to say pitching isn't equivalent to playing the field. Then what is it? Anyway, batting is not playing the field, is it?
And, no C in the Hawaiian alphabet, so gotta be spelled Kahuna.

Maestro said...

Since I am a barefoot neophyte of the x-games, I don't responsibly fathom that which should annoy. I enjoyed today's challenge, but had to work it from the SE corner in a NNW pattern. The NW shoe box drove me crazy, although I am old enough to remember Esso gasoline at about $.39 cents a gallon! The four EEEE's in the corners; clever.

BTW, what does everyone keep in their shoebox? Probably old puzzles! LOL!

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

@ddbmc
I, like Carol needed the DHS explanation... thanks

All I know about baseball are the usual obligatory CW101's: RHE, ERA, and RBI.

Ruth said...

Oh nevermind. I was thinking about the pitchers, not the DH's. My bad.

Anonymous said...

Joon: LOL ...Great clip from Top Secret. I always love it when great stars take on a scene below their "image".
PG Thanks for the CW 101 on the Omar's. With all due respect if the clue was only "Sharif" I believe most CWord solvers would know instantly the four letter answer.
Also OTHO is about as obscure as a clue for a Roman Emperor as can be imagined. The DH led to the answer but that too is obtuse.
The "shoe" in the corners was cute, wide shoes ... EEEE
Finally, I started with Rice Chex, then changed it to Bran Chex before I stumbled on the correct Corn Chex probably because I prefer Honey Nut Cherrio's

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

I just can't see myself sitting for hours watching a boring baseball game...well maybe if I had my NYT Crossword Book with me. But some people really get into this game... the great American pasttime (if you say so).

Today's Headlines: Susan Finkelstein Arrested For Prostitution To Get World Series Tickets.
Seems this woman was willing to do almost anything to see her beloved Phillies. Allegedly, she placed an ad on Craig's List describing herself as "a tall, gorgeous, blonde who is a huge Phillies fan" and then suggested that she was “creative” and that she’s sure that she can find a way to help each other. That got her arrested.

NOW THAT'S A REAL BASEBALL FAN!

jazz said...

Wow.

Levels and levels of shoe stuff. Lotsa admiration for Don Gagliardo (unfamiliar to me before).

Thought the theme was weak, with SHOEBOX in the middle and EEEE (a width) at the corners. Then saw the theme answers. Never did see the S-H-O-Es in the corners until PG pointed them out!

Nice Thursday. Thanks PG!

The Corgi of Mystery said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Corgi of Mystery said...

@Sfingi: I do play a fair amount of bridge, and I think OMAR Sharif is pretty well known as a bridge player among those who do.

Edited to say: I just noticed that Joon got there first, and with all the details too ;).

Lemonade714 said...

Since the crossword puzzle is usually on the same page as the bridge column, I am surprised there was any doubt about OMAR SHARIF as an expert, since he did the Goren daily write uo with Tannah Hirsch.

ddbmc said...

Is it wrong to want to play bridge (or anything else) with Omar Sharif? He's still so incredibly handsome! I can almost hear "Lara's Theme" now....
Lara's Theme

Charlie said...

To add a LA angle to the Sharif bridge chronicles, he partnered in the past with former UCLA head football coach Tommy Prothro.

Count me among the crowd willing to give the constructor a pass on the clunky fill in exchange for innovative themes and increased late-week difficulty.

chefbea said...

Whats not to love about a puzzle about shoes!!!!

A few words that were stumpers but all in all a fun puzzle

What is DHS....looks almost like DSW (a shoe store)

Charles Bogle said...

Another sign of nice-to-see-returning difficulty w LAT, some clunkiness and cheapos (as noted hy jnh) notwithstanding. Still don't know UTNEREADER--what's it like? Upper NW corner also baffled me; very discouraged at start and came at the puzzle diagonally up starting in SE quad. Learned a lot. I may be off-base or overly-sensitive, but "SHO'NUFF" struck me as potentially offensive and I was very surprised to see it. Liked HASASHOT and liked the theme

Tuttle said...

Ancient history is right in my wheelhouse so Otho was easy (Eos as well). Sure there were Holy Roman Emperors named Otto but not only were they not in the 1st century but the HRE itself wasn't formed until the 10th century.

I thought Omar Sharif was in The Bridge Over The River Kwai, but I was wrong. Still, solved the clue.

I really, really dislike words from non-Latin alphabets like Arabic (hajj) or Cyrillic (none in this puzzle, but St. Cyril was an answer) since their Latin spelling can vary so much.

carc90405 said...

20a got me too. Had OOALA with SONA. 60d OTHO not a problem since DHS was easy for someone [me] who often watches baseball while doing a crossword. Would POTFUL be correct for "Amount of soup on the stove" if some had already been served? Needed a [?]. Really enjoyed this puzzle.

embien said...

PG and I couldn't be further apart on this one. I thought this was possibly one of the top puzzles of the year in the LAT, and DHS was wonderfully clued (think how boring if it had been clued as that federal department).

Pete P'tui said...

Otho was also the name of the rather over the top interior designer in the movie "Beetlejuice." Betelguese is a constellation in Orion's belt.
Here's the last scene in "Beetlejuice." Notice the much younger Alec Baldwin (he and his brothers are CW clue regulars!
Shake Shake Shake Senora

chefbea said...

No one has told me what DHS is.. Please

Orange said...

@chefbea, c'mon, you know how this works! If you ask a question in the afternoon, it's probably already been asked—and answered!—in the comments. See 8:55 am for your answer...and again at 10:27. Thanks, ddmbc, for fielding the question!

mac said...

How can I not like a puzzle about shoes! Almost have to admit to a fetish. I buy them as souvenirs, where-ever I go. Good thing my husband likes leather (footwear) too.

I like the construction as well, although I needed to be told about the shoes in the corner. The DSW that ChefBea mentions is the Designer Shoe Warehouse, a big barn of a place (there may be several) full of shoes.



I've had sink clogs on Christmas Eve in London, and Christmas day in CT!

I'm not a bridge player, but the puzzles have taught me about Omar Sharif.

chefbea said...

DHS got it now. Thanks orange

gespenst said...

I really enjoyed the puzzle! More challenging but still not requiring google.

Being a Blue Devil, I wasn't thrilled to see Tar Holes, I mean Tar HEELS in the puzzle, but I guess for the sake of the theme ...

DH got SALT FLATS for me right off.

Only tricky thing was cornchex, for which I had cornPOPS, whoops.

Proud of myself for getting eos, cyril, omar (knew him for bridge, not movies), brahe, klieg, teems, hadj right off the bat. I spelled hadj right b/c I already had the DHS cross (baseball fan here).

Sfingi said...

Thanx for all the responses to DHS.

When my hub told me what they do, and I think this is something new (well, not done a half century ago) I consider it cheating! I need a designated sports answerer. I would have liked a designated gymn attender in HS. How about a whipping boy? Yeesh.

The Utne reader is very nice, rather intellectual and slightly left from center. It reprints stuff from other magazines icluding foreign. I use to subscribe, but dropped all subscriptions - won't even send money to public radio - since as soon as one is on a list, along come the massive mailings. I buy Vanity Fair every month in the Supermarket, and only get Utne if it's at B&N when I'm there and have leafed through it. It can be checked out at www.utne.com