SATURDAY, November 14, 2009—Frederick J. Healy

THEME: No theme today—This is a themeless Saturday puzzle

This one's back down to the easier level we've seen in recent months. I like to be expected to work hard on a Saturday puzzle—harder than I have to work on Wednesdays. Ah, well.

I was disappointed to find the first person singular pronoun lurking in five answers:
  • 15A: "Land sakes alive!" ("I DO DECLARE!").
  • 22A: "__ no idea!" (I HAD).
  • 23A: Cooperative after-dinner offer (I'LL DRY).
  • 29A: Player's lament (I LOST).
  • 41D: "Out of the question" ("I CAN'T").
I can overlook a second use, but not a third, fourth, and fifth. Too much!

  • 30A: Voice of Mr. Magoo (JIM BACKUS). Also the millionaire Thurston Howell III on Gilligan's Island.
  • 36A: French capital? (DES MOINES). Friend visiting from out of town works in Des Moines a lot. Like the answer, but frowned at the clue.
  • 50A: "High Voltage" rock band (AC/DC). Can't embed the video, but you can watch it here. I only know "Dirty Deeds in a Dundle Jeep," as my best friend in 7th grade called it.
  • 54A: Shaq, 15 times (NBA ALLSTAR). That's one more time than Michael Jordan, who interrupted his hoops career with his baseball interlude.
  • 22D: Revival meeting shout (IT'S A MIRACLE). Dang it, the offical Culture Club video of the song by that name cannot be embedded. But Fantasia Barrino's Idol performance of Barry Manilow's "It's a Miracle" can be.

Crosswordese 101: DADO, is clued as 18A: Woodworking groove but one dictionary also defines it as the lower part of a room's wall, if your wall's two-toned; a groove cut into the face of a board, into which another board's edge is inserted (this is how it's clued today, basically); or the part of a pedestal between the base and the cornice. Top DADO clue key words to remember: pedestal part; and woodworker or carpenter's groove or slot.

Everything Else — 1A: Hide (KEEP SECRET); 11A: Video CD file format (MPEG); 15A: "Land sakes alive!" ("I DO DECLARE!"); 16A: Hipbone prefix (ILIO-); 17A: Overdid it (WENT TOO FAR); 18A: Woodworking groove (DADO); 19A: Helpful contacts (INS); 20A: Hares' tails (SCUTS); 21A: Brickell and Falco (EDIES); 22A: "__ no idea!" (I HAD); 23A: Cooperative after-dinner offer (I'LL DRY); 24A: One in a hole (DEBTOR); 27A: Does over, as an ascot (RETIES); 29A: Player's lament (I LOST); 30A: Voice of Mr. Magoo (JIM BACKUS); 33A: Island off the Tuscany coast (ELBA); 34A: Artificial movie background (MATTE); 35A: Old Italian capital (LIRE); 36A: French capital? (DES MOINES); 38A: Jeep in the movie "Cars" (SARGE); 39A: Department store section (LINENS); 40A: Fit one within another (NESTED); 41A: Rapid river thaw (ICE RUN); 43A: Lukas of "Witness" (HAAS); 44A: Score settlers? (CODAS); 45A: Like a cool fall morning (BRISK); 47A: Rx amt. (TSP.); 50A: "High Voltage" rock band (AC/DC); 51A: West Coast racing venue (SANTA ANITA); 53A: Carolers' offering (NOEL); 54A: Shaq, 15 times (NBA ALLSTAR); 55A: Shipping deduction (TARE); 56A: Like Hail Mary passes (LAST SECOND); 1D: Flightless bird (KIWI); 2D: Steinbeck title site (EDEN); 3D: Hundreds of centuries (EONS); 4D: Nevada summer hrs. (PDT); 5D: Basketball two-hander (SET SHOT); 6D: Green vehicle (ECOCAR); 7D: Sun screen? (CLOUD); 8D: Pond floater (RAFT); 9D: Diamond stats (ERAS); 10D: Rx specification (TER); 11D: Large group with upper and lower segments (MIDDLE CLASS); 12D: Many a kilt, essentially (PLAID SKIRT); 13D: Down source (EIDER); 14D: Foolish (GOOSY); 21D: "Popular Fallacies" essayist (ELIA); 22D: Revival meeting shout (IT'S A MIRACLE); 23D: "Never let __ said ..." (IT BE); 24D: Stopped running (DIED); 25D: That femme (ELLE); 26D: Winter Olympics competitor (BOB SLEDDER); 27D: Church practices (RITES); 28D: 9-1-1 respondents, briefly (EMTS); 30D: Rolling Stone co-founder Wenner (JANN); 31D: Push for (URGE); 32D: Nutmeg or sesame (SEED); 34D: Bearing (MIEN); 37D: Unpleasant duty (ONUS); 38D: Coastal plant with collard-like leaves (SEA KALE); 40D: French "gn" sounds, e.g. (NASALS); 41D: "Out of the question" ("I CAN'T"); 42D: Warming drink (COCOA); 43D: Try to strike (HIT AT); 45D: Cake with a kick (BABA); 46D: Protein-building polymers (RNAS); 47D: Longtime Yugoslav president (TITO); 48D: Laurel in films (STAN); 49D: Ranch chum (PARD); 51D: NBC show that began its 35th season in Sep. 2009 (SNL); 52D: Defense advisory gp. (NSC).


gespenst said...

Guess the fact that my daughter got me up at 5:30 and I couldn't get back to sleep enabled me to be the first commentor :)

I disagree that this is a puzzle worthy of mid-week. I had to work harder on this puzzle than I have on a Saturday in a long time. Even had to resort to google/wiki about halfway through.

I didn't find it all that inspiring, but not too bad.

Favorite: 44A/Score Settlers = CODAS

Least favorite: 6D/Green Vehicle = ECOCAR. I had HYBRID originally but scratched it out early. Guessed ECOCAR once I had the E in KEEP SECRET, b/c if it's green, it's ECO ... but seriously, does anyone actually use the term ECOCAR???? Please enlighten me if it is actually common usage, it sounds pretty stilted to me.

Oh, I also liked 24A/One in a hole ... though I kept trying to stretch ACE into 6 letters ;)

Anyhow, it was definitely more of a headscratcher for me than for Orange, but then I'm more of an average puzzler than a pro :)

Orange said...

I don't like ECOCAR at all, and I just saw it in another recent puzzle too. I never see it outside of puzzles—not in ads for hybrids, not in news articles about electric cars, not in conversations.

shrub5 said...

I didn't think this puzzle was all that easy -- had to work the cerebral matter a fair amount. Toughest area for me was the NW where I had the same experience as @gespenst described re: HYBRID/ECOCAR. Also had SCUM before RAFT as the pond floater. My new word for the day is SCUTS (hares' tails.)

Despite being a big NBA fan, I hadn't heard the term SET SHOT. Don't know how that had escaped me! Also liked the other basketball reference to NBA ALL STAR Shaq -- a gimme.

I went through the TARE vs. tret decision at 55a -- lesson learned in CW101. I had the R in place from BOBSLEDDER so it wasn't difficult!

Appreciated the clever clues for MIDDLE CLASS, I'LL DRY and CODAS. All in all, a very fine puzzle. Thanks to the constructor FJH.

Sfingi said...

Had to Google the 2 rock references 50A ACDC and 30D JANN. Even then, SW was a mess. Didn't get DesMoines. Don't understand 55A TAGS.Please explain, people. had "icejam" for 41A ICERUN, which I never heard of. We have jams here and debate whether to dynamite them.

Actually got the sports clues in SE!

Got 20A SCUTS, but had to Google after the fact. I knew only the meaning of menial work, not bunny tails.

23A ILLDRY was just on another puzzle. How often does theft occur?

mary lynn said...

What is your hangup aboutI?

mary lynn said...

about I?

Orange said...

@mary lynn, in general, it's frowned upon for a crossword to duplicate a word in multiple answers, or in an answer and a clue. Exceptions are made for small words, like IN or TO, but having I in there five times is beyond what I'd expect to see. Two is about the limit before it raises my eyebrow.

@sfingi, 55A is TARE. See this post for a Crosswordese 101 writeup about TARE.


I have mixed emotions over Healy's puzzle. Let's start with what I liked:
I always like these 10 letter stacks... the six phrases were well constructed (ie. not a lot of cheap crosses).
I like that it was slightly on the difficult side.
I learned two new words (SCUTS & MATTE), but didn't learn any new proper nouns.
I loved some of the devious clues. Thought DESMOINES = "French capital" was a bit of a stretch for me. Other cute clues were "sun screen" for CLOUDS and "Down source" for EIDER. But the really genius clue was "Score settlers" = CODA (as in musical scores).
I really loved the movie "CARS", because it took place on my beloved Route 66, so the clue for "Cars" jeep (SARGE) was pretty exciting to see.
Another cool entry was Rum BABA (yummm BABA!).
Something you WON'T hear after Thanksgiving dinner: I'LL DRY (23a).

Now for my bitching part... you all know that I'm not into the bitching thing, but I have to speak up today. I know I'm going to get a lot of opposition on this statement, but I truly believe this:

Three different constructors used TER with the same clue "Rx spec". The probability of this happening three times in one week, as a mere coincidence, is astronomical. I once before accused a constructor of being a plagarist and got shot down for saying that, but now my suspicions are raised to a new high level. Constructors should think up ORIGINAL CLUES!!!! I realize that some established crosswordese is going to be used and that it's necessary for filling in a nicely themed puzzle, but outright plagarism of clever clues is something that I can no longer tolerate. It's gotten to an epidemic level. I'd really like to hear some defense on this from the major constructors (as well as the blogmeisters).

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Orange said...

@JOHN, here's what makes TER lousy fill: Not only is it almost never seen in the wild, it also has incredibly limited clueing options. [Rx specification] is not remotely a "clever clue." If you try to get clever with a TER clue, you're going to piss off solvers because (a) it'll be harder to figure out and (b) the payoff is nil. Common clues for boring answers are a convention within the crossword business, just as the inclusion of those common answers is a regular occurrence.

When you see the same clue/answer in close proximity, it's not plagiarism on the part of the constructor. That would require the constructors to know what's in other puzzles before they've been published—and remember that puzzles are usually submitted months before publication.

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Well I can't accept your last statement about submission lag. You can't tell me that the constuctor fraternity isn't close knit and they don't know what each other is doing.
There's something highly improbable about these totally "chance occurances"... do the math.


Oh, and I just noticed Healy's ILLDRY "theft" also.

And there is no such word as ECOCAR... it's a constructor's concoction. What's the probability of two constructors independently coming up with that? Bahhh !!!!

tinbeni said...

@gespenst & @Shrub5
Thought this was a proper Saturday LAT and the hardest/testiest puzzle this week.

The clues & answers were generally very cleaver, is it NSA or NSC, Ilia or Ilio, Setshot (couldn't remember at first what they called that), guessed ACDC from the cluing, even Des Moines (after Italian capital) for example kept me on my toes.

Hated ECOCAR, GOOSY, ICERUN not common terms I have ever heard or used. (Isn't goosy spelled goosey?)

Learned SCUTS, finally remembered CODAS & the CW101 DADO. And I like a puzzle that required the 'grey matter' to become engaged.

A "2 cups of coffee" solving time for a puzzle done in "the first person ... I, I, I, I, I."

Orange (RP & PG) please remember what is probably TOO easy for you is a challenge for us regular folks.

Orange said...

@John, you are seriously barking up the wrong tree. There is nothing here but coincidence. Joon (a mathematically savvy physicist with a PhD who teaches at Harvard) poked around with probabilities, based on the number of answers in the crossword databases, and the odds were something like 1 in 2 or 1 in 3 that any two puzzles would share an answer. Joon did the math.

Constructors don't care one whit about which boring answers their peers might be using to hold a puzzle together. If they're showing each other their work pre-publication, I guarantee you the only thought they'd have about TER would be "Wow, I would work really hard to get that out of my puzzles." It would not be "Ooh, I've got to get TER into my puzzle. And what's the usual clue? I'm going to steal that because it's so juicy, I can't resist it." Constructors do notice really clever clues used by their peers—they admire them, but they try not to recycle them because many solvers will remember the clue and who originated it. You'd look like a hack if all your clever clues were written by someone else—and Will Shortz, for one, doesn't like it when constructors recycle clues (other than the boring ones with no good alternatives).

Crockett1947 said...

@jnh Take two aspirin and don't call me in the morning. Chill, friend, it's only a puzzle!!

Orange said...

@John, ECOCAR appeared in the NYT crossword in 2006 and 2008. If you Google it, you get over 200,000 hits. The LAT constructors did not make it up. I'd rather clue it with reference to the EcoCAR Challenge than pretend that that it's a common noun applied to hybrids, because it's not commonly used that way.

ddbmc said...

Coffee had yet to kick in, so like Shrubb5, NW corner was not jelling, even though the phrases were common. Had to agree, 5D SETSHOT, didn't come to mind-had rim shot first, as my b-ball vocab is pretty paltry.

GM actually has an "EcoCar" challenge, so it is probably time to add it to our CW knowledge base. College kids are challenged to create them!

@JNH-Not sure constructors are to blame for the similar words and clues. I would think the editors would be keeping an "I" on those!

I must be learning something here at the old CW Ranch,as I didn't have to Google at all. BUT I still plugged a bit at things. Funny, how I'll set aside the puzzle to dry some dishes or wash some linens, come back and see the answer as plain as plaid skirts!

ddbmc said...

@Orange, sorry, was typing away and didn't see your EcoCar reference before I posted.


"It's ONLY a puzzle" ??
I take puzzles seriously and I'm sure the constructors do too. Rip-offs are becoming far too common in American literature and now its becoming pervasive in crossword-puzzledom. Should we just sit by and accept thievery in the non-tangible world? To a constructor, these are assets... would you have the same flippant attitudes if say, your car was stolen?

tinbeni said...

When I came to 10D Rx Specification, I just entered TER figuring it's the 'new 3 letter word of the week.'

ORANGE, I understand and agree with your comments to JNH, but I too said to myself, "three times in one week." Well that happens with EON, ERA, and a plethora of other 3-letter fill words also. SO, I'll just grin-and-bear it.

Orange said...

@John, it's not theft. All constructors are using largely the same pool of words—the English language, common phrases, more familiar foreign words, etc. How do you propose to make crosswords if constructors are forbidden from using legitimate fill that has been used before? It can't be done unless you're willing to have a crappy puzzle that can't be solved.

split infinitive said...

Academia & GM appear to have inspired the EcoCar phenom with the EC challenge; a few marketing efforts later and the word didn't catch fire in the wider English-speaking community. Still, it's a clear word with okay linguistic lineage, and it would be hard to not understand the meaning the first time you see it! It's a noble effort, building such cars. I liked Orange's defiinition better.

The above paragraph is a resume of breakfast-table conversation today, minus the talk about who makes a better omelette.
split & co.

GLowe said...

I think ECO and GREEN are considered fair game to put in front of anything you're trying to sell that has even a hint of environmental friendliness to it. ECOCAR is, IMO, an oxymoron, but no one asked me. Up here we have the ECO-Tarsands, being exploited with the new Green Strip-mining techniques.

A while back, the NYT Sunday ran a puzzle where the theme was almost identical to one 3 years previous. Two different constructors, vastly different grids and fills. The original was Nancy's, so I emailed her about it and asked 'what up?'. Philisophically, she said, it has to be a coincidence, and what possible harm can from from it either way? (That's coming from a veritable 'hall of fame' constructor).

So there you have it on the plagiarism thing for THEMES, never mind shop-worn short fill. TO suggest some constructor out there is going "gee, have to find a way to work ETUI into the fill somewhere", well, how does that even make one whit of sense?

britta said...

I found this puzzle to more challenging than recent Saturdays have been. However I know TER which used to stump me. So for me it's become a gimme. It seems to me like EON, EONS, ERA, and ERAS show up in almost every puzzle. TARE almost as much. I just consider it boring, but probably necessary fill. I learned a new meaning for MATTE. Put in ICEFLO for ICERUN. Also learned SCUTS 20 across. I'm with Sfingi on DES MOINES/French Capital? Is it just that it's a capital city with a French name? Can someone explain? My favorite was Many a kilt, essentially PLAID SKIRT. The thought of kilts always conjures up images of Mel Gibson in Braveheart and the battle scene where the warriors flip up their kilts and moon the enemy.

crazycatlady said...

That comment above was by me. I guess my daughter used my computer when she was home this week and signed me off my google account.

Jerome said...

Thank you, Orange, for having the patience of Job, and for defending constructors of such stupid and vile charges.

Jet City Gambler said...

That's a pretty silly accusation, that puzzle constructors conspire to all stick a piece of crap fill like EPEE into a puzzle all in the same week.

Check out Will Shortz on The Daily Show back in 2003. They discuss that very same thing:


Fill like TER, OGEE, OONA, are the mortat that lets the constuctor drop the cool big bricks in there like PLAIDSKIRT or ITSAMIRACLE.

Rex Parker said...

@John, I love you, but you're way, way off base here. No one but no one "rips off" answers, esp. not crud like I'LL DRY or TER. Odds aren't even close to astronomical that TER would appear in multiple puzzles. Those are three of the most common letters in the language. There are 88 instances of TER in the cruciverb.com database. Did they all rip each other off?

Constructors strive for originality, but there is no way in hell that Every word you use will be previously unseen. Just try to get crosses to work without using at least some common (or crossword common) fill. To call repeats of TER or anything else "plagiarism" betrays phenomenal ignorance about how puzzles are made. Someone might steal a THEME idea, for sure (harder to do now that puzzle databases exist and people can get called out), but small fill ... no one is paying attention to that. There is nothing proprietary about it. Just nothing.

Further, I have seen a puzzle idea I had sitting on my desk top, theme answers and all, show up in a puzzle in the paper. So ... independently, two people had the same idea. It happens, and probably way more often than you think. Of all the things to be mad about re: puzzles, the repeating of TER just seems absurd. You're free to be annoyed, but you really should stow any suggestion of "plagiarism" or "theft." Constructors are a tight-knit community (at least some of them are), but they construct largely in isolation, and have maybe one or two people they bounce ideas off of. And nobody in their right mind would say "ah, TER, I gotta steal that."


Sfingi said...

@Orange - thanx - My sight isn't what it used to be! No wonder "tags" makes no sense.

@John@Rex - that's kinda what I was wondering. You can't avoid 3-letter fill, but isn't ILLDRY somewhat unusual to have been chosen twice in a week, even if cruddy? Perhaps they are subjected to the same PBS or NPRI. Heaven forbid it's the same soap opera, but something they're both influenced by. Or - worse case - someone walked by your desk, and...or worst case - they both sleep with Judith Exner.(I mentioned ILLDRY 6 hrs. ago.) It is as common as all the first letters of that letter just happening to line up to spell F--K.

Now I'm wearing myself down by boredom over this dead horse-skin.

ddbmc said...

Thanks, @Jet City G, for the John Stewart/Will Shortz piece! That was my moment of Zen!

So, from @Orange's link to AC/DC, I come to find out that: "The phrase "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" is an homage to the cartoon "Beany and Cecil," which Angus Young (band co-founder) watched when he was a child. One of the cartoon's characters was named Dishonest John,(DJ, you dirty guy!) who carried a business card that read: "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Holidays, Sundays, and Special Rates."~~Wiki
Just injecting a silly moment, to redirect from the "ter-se" talk above. Have to agree, there was no moral "ter"pitude here. No ter-conspiracy!

Rex Parker said...

Again, puzzles coming out same week may have been written / accepted months or even (in some cases) years apart. Lags are constantly changing and occasionally enormous.


@Orange Rex, et al
Thank you for your kind replies to my indignation. I have personally been the victim in some serious rip-offs, so I guess I'm just super sensitive to these issues. Also I've been an expert witness in several landmark cases of patent infringements, so again that just makes me more perceptive.
Your explanations were given with much thought, and hence they are also taken with much thought. I have a much better understanding now that I've heard from the CW experts. I apologize to the blog hosts for any brouhaha that I incured... I know that it distracted from all the good comments. IMO, this really was a good puzzle and I'd like to take back any "inappropriate" words (thank you, Larry King). Finally, I'd like to apologize to Mr. Healy (and any other constructors) for my offensive remarks.
I'm off my soapbox and drinking hot cocoa (with marshmallows).
Now if I could just find some Rum BABA!

SteveH said...

I think I crossed a line. I'm online checking for answers to a crossword and not waiting until the next day - two days in this case. I think this is serious, especially if I'm commenting on a blog about it.

Saturday is usually the only day that trips me up and today was no exception. I always had a rule that I would NEVER go online and search. so much for that rule.

I got everything except for the NW corner (except for the Matte/Jann intersection. I couldn't get enough crosses to figure out 1, 15, 17 across. I had BIOCAR and couldn't bring myself to question it. CLOUD should have occurred to me, but nope. I did not (!) like RAFT for "Pond floater" and I've never seen SCUTS before. I had too many blanks. Often, when I come back to a crossword later in the day, answers seem to magically come to me, but not today.

For some reason, I haven't seen clues like "Rx specification" very much. TER is new to me. Isn't there something like "TID" that fits too?

I had to work at the rest of the puzzle, but it was satisfying. I was talking to myself just like Mr. Magoo before the name came to me. I thought of ONUS but didn't think it was a proper use of the word. My favorite clue was "Score settlers".

Thank you for the blog, I think. I just have to resist checking in until late in the day.

Sfingi said...

@John - brouhaha is why we come here! Otherwise, we're cleaning the attic or washing the kitchen floor.

What I can't stand about this eco-green stuff is when you want to search for something the color green, it's close to impossible. For instance, try to locate a green toy zebra. Can't do it.



Just to show how ridiculous this "GREEN" thing is---
The DOT has posted signs in the construction zones of Interstate 88 saying "We're Building Green." Something about recycling asphalt and concrete.
Not to say anything about the fact that the purpose of the construction is to add 4 additional lanes... doesn't that add to additional air pollution for Illinois? What's so GREEN about that?

It's not easy being GREEN!!

crazycatlady said...

Such a brouhaha today on this blog. If anyone missed Jet City Gambler's Daily Show Will Shortz link - check it out, very apropos. Back to Kilts. As a devout Presbyterian, I'll take a man in a kilt any day, he just has be able to play the bagpipes in MHO. Love the knee socks too. Is anyone else here in PST?

Burner10 said...

Fun bloggage today - I have a great idea - could we come up with a happy little TLA (three letter acronym) that we could perpetuate virally and that would provide more cluing options for TER.
I thought perhaps last nights excesses was the reason I struggled with todays puzzle - I'm shocked I even got the whole right side but then hit the wall.

Okay - advice for new drivers in crowded cities TER
Take Every Right...


Okay, you asked for it !

GLowe said...

Let me plagiarize (and amend slightly) something from Cru:

"Hey gang, can I clue the answer TER as 'suffix with OT?'"

[various wishy-washy answers]

Kevin McCann: Not. [end of thread]