WEDNESDAY, October 7, 2009—Lee Glickstein

THEME: "A-FRAMES"—Four long answers are "framed" by the letter A

Last Wednesday was mustaches; today we have an unusual collection of 15-letter answers that start and end with A. The Wednesday puzzles are still skewing easier than one might have expected (solidly Mondayish in difficulty), but maybe the Wednesday themes are a bit more inventive than the Monday and Tuesdays? Thursday and Friday L.A. Times puzzles just irk me because I want them to be markedly more challenging, the way they used to be. And then I cry on Saturday when a themeless puzzle rolls in at Monday difficulty. But Wednesday! It's not a grievous assault on nature for Wednesdays to be this easy.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: 49th state's largest city (ANCHORAGE, ALASKA). Can you see Russia from there? Maybe from the rooftop?
  • 27A: E.M. Forster classic set in fictional Chandrapore (A PASSAGE TO INDIA).
  • 47A: Classic Italian "farewell" song (ARRIVEDERCI, ROMA). '50s movie musicals are not remotely in my wheelhouse, but the title is eminently familiar. I think I thought it was a song title, not also a movie. Here's the title tune:

  • 63A: Two-part drama that won two Best Play Tonys and a Best Miniseries Emmy (ANGELS IN AMERICA). Incredible play—I saw the HBO adaptation. Here's the scene where James Cromwell as an M.D. gives Al Pacino as Roy Cohn his AIDS diagnosis (adult language warning):

  • 39A: Houses with sharply angled roofs, and what this puzzle's four longest answers literally have in common (A-FRAMES). Now, one could argue that this clue could have dispensed with everything after the comma, requiring the solver to ponder what the four long answers have in common, lay eyeballs on A-FRAMES, and have an epiphany about what the theme entailed—but for a puzzle that's now shooting at Monday easiness, the solver's asked to do less thinking.
Crosswordese 101: Most of our crosswordese runs three or four letters, but today's selection has five. 59A: Popeye's creator is named E.C. SEGAR. What do those initials stand for? Elzie Crisler. Yeah, I'd go with the initials too. I've seen ELZIE in tough crosswords a couple times, but SEGAR pops up a little more often. You may be tempted to put SEGAL in there, but don't you do it. Popeye had a corncob pipe, and some people smoke cigars, and "cigar" kinda sounds like SEGAR. Does that work as a half-assed mnemonic? No? Okay, Popeye was a sailor man, who presumably went to sea, where one might see a GAR ( 30D: Needle-toothed fish).

What else have we got here?
  • Three sometimes-unsavory *IT words are partying here. 38A: __ for tat (TIT), OK, that's all right. (Quit snickering. A TIT is also a...kind of bird, you know.) 42A: Point to pick (NIT), OK, NITs aren't just lice eggs, they're also small things to complain about. (Etymology moment for the day: NIT dates back to the Old English word hnitu, so lice have been around for centuries. Or millennia.) 68A: Acne spot (ZIT)...hmm, there is no way to make that one not gross.
  • 12D: Korean soldiers (ROKS). Hmm. ROK is an abbreviation for the Republic of Korea armed forces. Was ROK used during the Korean War to refer to individual members of the ROK army? I'll bet at least five of you know the answer.
  • 32D: "Hawaii Five-O" nickname (DANNO). Some people think this should be spelled with one N, but there's some compelling evidence that the two-N spelling was preferred by those writing the show's scripts. You wouldn't believe the amount of bloodshed among crossword constructors arguing about the most correct spelling—they just want to get it right, that's all. (Actress Linda DANO is available for one-N clues, of course.)
  • 44D: Interpret via mouth movements (LIP-READ). This comes in handy when you want to know exactly which swear word a coach or player is using on televised sports.
Everything Else — 1A: Perform in a play (ACT); 4A: Skilled (ABLE); 8A: Check signers (PAYERS); 14A: 1950 Edmond O'Brien suspense classic (DOA); 15A: Sliding __ (DOOR); 16A: Hide out (LIE LOW); 20A: Parking spot money taker (METER); 21A: Sly (FOXY); 22A: Grating sound (RASP); 23A: 1/60 of a min. (SEC.); 25A: "Was __ hard on him?" (I TOO); 35A: "What __ is new?" (ELSE); 36A: Washroom, briefly (LAV); 37A: Is ahead (LEADS); 43A: Sam of "The Piano" (NEILL); 45A: Dapper guy? (DAN); 46A: __ about: approximately (ON OR); 51A: Far from tanned (PALE); 52A: Conclude (END); 53A: Loud crowd noise (ROAR); 56A: Community service org. (YMCA); 66A: Freezing period (ICE AGE); 67A: Pesky kid (BRAT); 69A: Clinton press secretary Myers (DEEDEE); 70A: Tax time VIPs (CPAS); 71A: Commercials (ADS); 1D: Eve's mate (ADAM); 2D: Ice cream holder (CONE); 3D: Diplomat's forte (TACT); 4D: Has a crush on (ADORES); 5D: NYC's Bronx, e.g. (BOR.); 6D: Bread purchase (LOAF); 7D: Thus, to a logician (ERGO); 8D: __ win: go all out (PLAY TO); 9D: Afflict (AIL); 10D: Beginning of time, figuratively (YEAR ONE); 11D: Film lioness (ELSA); 13D: Trade (SWAP); 18D: "Steppenwolf" writer Hermann (HESSE); 19D: Way off the turnpike (EXIT); 24D: Young cow (CALF); 26D: Lubricates (OILS); 27D: Health Net rival (AETNA); 28D: One with a trade (PLIER); 29D: Moving about (ASTIR); 31D: Give the slip (EVADE); 33D: Figure of speech (IDIOM); 34D: Stars, in Latin (ASTRA); 39D: Thomas __ Edison (ALVA); 40D: Scuff or scratch (MAR); 41D: Suffix with differ (-ENCE); 46D: Neatness (ORDER); 48D: Paris palace (ÉLYSÉE); 49D: Moore of "Ghost" (DEMI); 50D: Maps within maps (INSETS); 53D: Vice squad action (RAID); 54D: A single time (ONCE); 55D: "The African Queen" co-screenwriter (AGEE); 57D: "The Suze Orman Show" channel (CNBC); 58D: 50-and-over org. (AARP); 60D: City near the Sphinx (GIZA); 61D: Word before rain or rock (ACID); 62D: Sewer rodents (RATS); 64D: The "L" in XL: Abbr. (LGE.); 65D: Goat's cry (MAA).


Gareth Bain said...

The 4X15 theme entries is what makes this puzzle cool for me. That and ANCHORAGEALASKA which has got Michelle Shocked going around in my head , which is a good thing!

Not sure if it would be fair to have no hint that AFRAMES is part of the theme, considering it's a short entry, and thus there would be no reason to suspect it more than the other 73 entries other than it's in the middle. I take it this is a continuation of the discussion with Henry Hook about helper entries...

The crazy part of SEGAR for me is the spelling. Especially when you have Singer Bob SEGER, singer Pete SEEGER, and the SEGA console game platform. I went with two e's for a while which slowed me down.

mac said...

Nice theme, after two answers I could fill in the A's to make life easier.

I never knew ROK stood for Republic of Korea, thanks! Never knew Popeye was written/drawn by a woman! Maybe that's why spinach is always pushed in the show.

Orange said...

Mac, Elzie SEGAR was a man. You see why he went by his initials?

CartBoy said...

Next time I'm herding goats, which probably will be in a petting zoo, I'm going to attempt communication using "maa" as the dominant syllable. My guess? I'll be as successful as meowing with my cat.

Parsan said...

Caught on to the theme early so filled in those answers first. NW was so easy I thought "Uh-Oh", but then it got more interesting.

Lots os names, both real and fictional; ADAM, DEEDEE, SEGAR, AGEE, NEILL, DANNO, HESSE.

@Orange--A harder puzzle might have Robinson Cano, NY Yankee left batting, right throwing 2nd baseman in an -ANO clue. And speaking of baseball, during the game last night, did anyone catch the reference a broadcaster made to Dag Hammarskjold? Got to be a sports first!

Thanks Orange!

Parsan said...

@Orange--Also wanted to say ANGELS IN AMERICA was one of the finest productions ever shown on TV. Proof that TV can, but rarely does, rise to the level of being an art form.

Carol said...

An okay Wednesday puzzle. Still looking for more challenge.

Was tickled by a young cow being a calf. Knew heifer wouldn't fit. How many people know that cows are females? Their male counterparts are bulls or steers.

Great write-up @Orange. Thanks for all the videos. It's actually getting more interesting to read the blog and comments than to do the puzzle!

GLowe said...

OT - I wish I was a headline writer. Today's sports section had this gem:


Hall of famer, fer sher.

*David* said...

I guess as a sign of the (LA) times I didn't notice the fill(39A) that tied the theme together and instead pondered it on my own.

Joon said...

i haven't seen lee glickstein's byline since the setting of the sun, so that was nice. on the other hand, his sun (and NYT) puzzles were almost always tricky wordplay themes, whereas today's LAT offering was rather more straightforward. i wasn't really excited about most of it (and was relying heavily on the crosses for ARRIVEDERCI ROMA), but ANGELS IN AMERICA makes up for it.

gary, "tigers give berth to twins" is one of the greatest headlines of all time. thank you for my new facebook status.

ddbmc said...

Loved this puzzle, as my namesake, DeeDee Myers, was a clue! Of course, different spelling.

Enjoyed the "A Frame" theme. Especially loved the clip from "Angels in America." Agree with Parsan. Excellent production. That clip was used in HBO's newest documentary, "Outrage."

@Mac, easy to see why you'd assume Elzie was a woman...Elsie the Borden Cow, was named after Gail ( an ambisextorious name-Sniglet, perhaps?)--I know, gender neutral would be the PC phrase!-Borden, a philanthropist, businessman and inventor. He invented the first commercial method of condensing milk. I wouldn't "steer" you wrong!

It appears that this puzzle did not use "cheater squares." I might be finally catching on??!

Thanks @Orange, as always for the write up, complete with smiles.


Orange, I loved your clips and writeup much more than the puzzle.
It was okay, but until I saw the AFRAME hint, I would never ever figure out the theme... I guess my presbyopia kicked in.

I'm not a big fan of fill-in-the-blank type clues eg. {"Was___hard on him?"} Ugh! Seems like this style of cluing indicates a lazy constructor. Not much in the way of humor today either. I would rate Glickstein just fair.

I have a friend whose name is Hesse, not Herman though... he tells me it's pronounced like the rhyme to 65d, HAAS.

Some fave words:
ÉLYSÉE, DEEDEE, and especially Dapper DAN.

It seems like every time we get YMCA, there's a link to the song by the Village People. Orange, thank you for not using that clip.

Thought TIT across from NIT was kind of cute, but I probably would have clued them both quite differently. But how else could you clue the word ZIT?

Omigosh, Mario Lanza... whatever happened to him?

Now after seeing the Pacino clip, I want to go out and rent that movie.

crazycatlady said...

Nice write up Orange. Thanks! I found this puzzle to be easy, but pleasant. I agree with you about the IT words. Last week we had ACNE. This week ZIT. Yuck!
That's not a visual I want before breakfast. Angels in America was excellent. I have the sound track as well. Had no idea who created Popeye. That was the most difficult part of the puzzle fore me. Now I know. @Johnsneverhome from yesterday - The Huntington is a gem. I could spend days there. My favorites are the Japanese garden, cactus garden, American collection and the veranda of the main residence. I'm glad you had the chance to enjoy it.

chefbea said...

easy fun wednesday puzzle. Got the theme right a way.Not much else to say.

Haven't had any food in a few days

Anonymous said...

johnsneverhome====He died!

Whitney said...

Didn't know ROKS, had EOKS and PAYEES but knew PAYEES were the ones getting the check. Oh, well. Also, had BAA for MAA, sent me searching for ANGELSINAB-----. Derp.

The Oregonian had an article about lice today - http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2009/10/delousing_keeping_your_wits_ab.html. Gross.

Jerome said...

It seems that most folks have missed the fact that all the theme answers end with a place name. Beyond the theme entries being framed in A's, it's this fact that makes this puzzle deserve a "Well done!"

shrub5 said...

I liked this theme and even more so after @Jerome pointed out that all the theme answers have place names. Three other short answers are framed in As as well: AETNA, ASTRA, ALVA. Made one error - spelled ARRIVaDERCI ROMA wrong and didn't catch it with the crossing aLYSEE. Guess my French and Italian spelling could stand some improvement. Because of all the positive comments here, I think I'll rent the video of "ANGELS IN AMERICA."

Charles Bogle said...

@glowe thanks for the headline; that is priceless! Agree w carol-an okay Wednesday puzzle, and still better than the average really mundane puzzles we've been griping about lately, although w ZIT NIT TIT I had the sinking feeling the puzzle was designed for Middle Schoolers, tee-heeing in the background and watching ICarly...but then split personality of puzzle w things like HESSE, ANGELSINAMERICA, an EM Forster title etc came roaring back...btw who the heck is ELSA, movie lioness? Was in a spot of trouble when Simba or Leo wouldn't fit...liked LIELOW, DOA great E O'Brien noir. Don't believe had heard of ROKS before, ditto for GAR...good to learn!

Anonymous said...

@Charles Bogle
ELSA was the "Born Free" lioness. CW101 fare.

Lee Glickstein said...

How nice to see my puzzle discussed in such length here. Yes Joon, I haven't been making clever puzzles like I used to, though I do have a good idea for one. I've been enjoying your puzzles. Wanna collaborate?


PuzzleGirl said...

@GLowe: Another thanks for the headline. That's priceless. Now if only my Twinkies could get their hands on a miracle....

@shrub5: Ooh, ASTRA and AETNA are even symmetrical. Awesome.

Enjoyed this puzzle very much. Thanks for stopping by, Lee.

Sfingi said...

Finally got here.

These rhymes - nit tit zit - remind me of the Dolch Sight Word Lists - (but gross version) teachers use for kids and ESL. English is difficult as a second language because of the seeming lack of rules. One rule that works most of the time can be seen with Danno/Dano. If the vowel is followed by a double consonant, the A is short; by a single, it is long. Other examples- lemming lemur, tonnage toner, pinnning pining, etc.

One of my (older) prisoners went to the box for throwing the tv across the room because he signed up to watch Popeye & Bluto, and the others wouldn't go for it. Life is hard. What sort of name is Elzie - LZ? or a shortened Biblical name?
Don't tell me I'm evil, but we used to laugh about our family names Dorcas and Osmer, - and they were Biblical.

Lanza (Alfred Arnold Cocozza - which means cucumber) supposedly died young from the results overweight. He believed he had Enrico Caruso inside him, and played him in the film, The Great Caruso. I rather like his voice. And his looks. Anyway, this summer, at the infamous Lawrence MA, we heard a young fellow named Caruso who'll be in a musical about Lanza.

My only error at first was 25A - why not "Was itso hard" for "Was ITOO hard." Is this supposed to be some sort of common idiom? I say not.

And Brer Rabbit - he lay low.


I tutor newcomers to the U.S.A.,
those who are interested in becoming citizens. ESL is hard enough to teach, but when it comes to IDIOMS, forgetaboutit !
This is an area of American English that most of my students complain the most about, and usually I'm at a loss for words.
I usually give each of my students the Dictionary of American Idioms (Makkai, Boatner, & Gates). It has over 8,000 entries. I use it for myself also, especially for CWs.
Just a word to the wise.