SATURDAY, December 26, 2009—Michael Wiesenberg

THEME: No theme today—Just a themeless/freestyle puzzle that hits at a Wednesday difficulty level

The grid features triple-stacks of 15-letter entries at the top and bottom, crossed almost entirely by 3-, 4-, and 5-letter answers. There's nothing too wild here. Instead of hashing out the long answers, let's run through the shorter stuff in the Less Familiar Fill category. It's not all quite Crosswordese 101 territory, but it's got a visa to travel there.

Say what?
  • 20A: Asian holidays (TETS). Well, if we can have Christmases and Memorial Days, we can have multiple Vietnamese New Years, right?
  • 45A: Russian pancake (BLIN). That's the singular of "blini." If you fill a blin with cheese or fruit and roll it up, you've got yourself a blintz. Or, like this woman demonstrates, fill it with cheese and top it with mixed berries with a splash of balsamic vinegar. I want some!

  • 46A: Oldest child in the comic strip "Baby Blues" (ZOE). It's time for actress ZOE Saldana to commandeer all the ZOE clues. With the year she's having? She played Uhura in the Star Trek relaunch in the spring and now she's in Avatar playing a blue alien.
  • 58A: Miss out? (DEB). That's a debutante, who's "coming out" at a debutante ball, and is a "miss" on account of being unmarried.
  • 1D: Tasty (SAPID). It's closely related to "savory," but "savory" is a word we actually might use in conversation. SAPID is a word I know from crosswords.
  • 27D: __ gratias (DEO). That's Latin for "thanks be to god."
  • 31D: Pollster Gallup (ALEC). Whoa, really? I know the ALECs Baldwin, Waugh, and Guinness, and I know the pollster Elmo Roper, but pollster ALEC Gallup? Never heard of him. Aww, he died in June so he doesn't get to enjoy seeing his name in this crossword.
  • 36D: Anchor position (ATRIP). Nauticalese! Among my least favorite breeds of crosswordese. Maybe if I'd ever taken sailing lessons, I'd groove on this sort of fill.
  • 37D: Highland hillsides (BRAES). Scottish crosswordese of the highest order. I've known this word since I was a kid...because I did a lot of crossword puzzles.
  • 48D: Stevens who sang "Pink Shoe Laces" (1959) (DODIE). I prefer Dody Goodman, who played Mary's mother on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.
  • 50D: Certain Arabian Peninsula native (ADENI). I prefer to call them Adenoids, but have not yet had any luck persuading the people of the Gulf of Aden to go along with that.
  • 54D: Traffic regs., e.g. (ORDS.) Meh. Plural abbrevs are irritating, aren't they?
  • 56D: Twain's jumping frog (DAN'L). I know Dan'l Boone and maybe Dan'l Webster, but not the hopping green Dan'l.
Crosswordese 101: Maybe I travel in weird circles, but I can't say I ever hear anyone use the term SET-TO. (22D: Tiff). Is it just me? Are you scrappy, prone to getting yourself involved in set-tos? Dictionary tells me it's informal and means "a fight or argument." Just for PuzzleGirl, here's a special SET-TO:

Everything Else — 1A: Medieval castle feature (SPIRAL STAIRCASE); 16A: Harding's Laddie Boy, for one (AIREDALE TERRIER); 17A: Health club option (PERSONAL TRAINER); 18A: Freeze (ICE); 19A: Indicates (SAYS); 20A: Asian holidays (TETS); 21A: Univ. awards (DEGS); 23A: Risked (STAKED); 26A: Actor Harris et al. (EDS); 29A: Three-time A.L. MVP (A-ROD); 30A: Help a checker (BAG); 33A: Gamblers' mecca (MONTE CARLO); 37A: Composer Bartók (BELA); 38A: Barhopping (ON A TOOT); 39A: Some specials (ENTRÉES); 41A: Uproar (TO-DO); 42A: Gadget largely pooh-poohed by men until the 20th century (WRISTWATCH); 44A: Dubbed period (ERA); 45A: Russian pancake (BLIN); 46A: Oldest child in the comic strip "Baby Blues" (ZOE); 47A: Under-the-sink item (SOS PAD); 49A: Marquis de __ (SADE); 53A: Open end? (TOED); 55A: "Do or do not. There is no try" speaker (YODA); 58A: Miss out? (DEB); 59A: With "The," 1958 Hudson/Stack movie about a former WWI ace (TARNISHED ANGELS); 63A: Longtime pal (OLD ACQUAINTANCE); 64A: Christianity dominates it (WESTERN RELIGION); 1D: Tasty (SAPID); 2D: See 40-Down (PIECE); 3D: Not std. (IRREG.); 4D: They precede mis (RES); 5D: Fusses (ADOS); 6D: Turner, for one (LANA); 7D: Really cracks up (SLAYS); 8D: Launch of 1962 (TELSTAR); 9D: 1-800-CALL-__: rival of 1-800-COLLECT (ATT); 10D: Cash add-on (-IER); 11D: Violent, probably (R RATED); 12D: Bawled (CRIED); 13D: Frowned-upon contraction (AIN'T); 14D: Views (SEES); 15D: Commit a faux pas (ERR); 22D: Tiff (SET-TO); 24D: City that inspired van Gogh (ARLES); 25D: Dean of horror (KOONTZ); 27D: __ gratias (DEO); 28D: Glares (SCOWLS); 30D: Sugar source (BEET); 31D: Pollster Gallup (ALEC); 32D: Razor cut, maybe (GASH); 33D: Dust unit (MOTE); 34D: Words before before (ON OR); 35D: Zilch (NADA); 36D: Anchor position (ATRIP); 37D: Highland hillsides (BRAES); 40D: With 2-Down, like a bikini (TWO); 43D: Next Christmas (IN A YEAR); 45D: Dirndl part (BODICE); 47D: Gérard Larcher is its current president (SENAT); 48D: Stevens who sang "Pink Shoe Laces" (1959) (DODIE); 50D: Certain Arabian Peninsula native (ADENI); 51D: Car battery pioneer (DELCO); 52D: "Barnaby Jones" star (EBSEN); 53D: Account (TALE); 54D: Traffic regs., e.g. (ORDS); 56D: Twain's jumping frog (DAN'L); 57D: Like contrarians (ANTI); 59D: Auto club service (TOW); 60D: Plaza abbr. (SQR.); 61D: Vandal (HUN); 62D: Choke or joke (GAG).


Tinbeni said...

Maybe Wed. level to you (and @ Rex & @PG) but a total TO DO for me. Probably due to being ON A TOOT yesterday.

Liked the layout, six 15 letter fills looked good. Top 3 and bottom two, no problem, 59-a, never heard of this movie (I'll watch for it on TCM).

Learned dirndl was part of a BODICE, a plus.

Wanted "Auld" ACQUAINTANCE for the OLD, to long.

Realized the RES was a plural of re before the mi in the scale, not the legal term res for the third time this week.

AIN'T - It's a southern thing
NADA = zilch (also like nil for
YODA - Star Wars was on Christmas Eve, saw the clue, knew I had heard is very recently, Duh.
SOS PAD - we had a discussion a while ago re: where we keep them.

TETS - plural? two New Years? = lame
SENAT - Fr.for senate, I'm sure everyone knew this guy.
ADENI - add an "I" to ADEN, does that make me a Dunedeni?
IN A YEAR - Next Christmas, a day late and a dollar short.

shrub5 said...

@Tinbeni: harder than a "Wednesday" for me also.

Most of the difficulty awaited me in the lower quarter of the puzzle - couldn't get a toehold with just TOW and IN A YEAR penetrating the vast emptiness. Everything above was finished so I put it down for awhile. Came back to it and remembered EBSEN, got ANTI, guessed at HUN and then gradually finished the rest off. At first I thought that maybe YOGI (Berra) said "Do or do not. There is no try" but it didn't sound wacky enough to be a Yogi-ism to me.

SAPID? Come on.
ADOS, TO DO, SET TO? Kinda repetitive.

Despite the above petty gripes, I really enjoyed this puzzle and its orneriness. Nicely done, Michael W.

Tinbeni said...

We are mere crossword mortals.

Forgot to mention additional fave:
Marquis de SADE - as a Hedonist, whose favorite resort is Hedonism II, Negril Jamaica, I LOL at this "fun loving guy" in a puzzle.

Thought for certain I had this wrong since I wanted 'Saudi' for "Certain Arabian Penunsula native" at 50-d, then groaned at ADENI.

Had a mis-type earlier, re-considered, maybe I am a Dunedini.


Whew! Six 15 letter words. That’s a stretch for me, but I did it !
I knew Warren Harding’s dog was named “Laddie Boy”, so I guessed it was an Airedale Terrier and bingo! That unlocked the downs across the top. Struggled with “Barhopping” (ON A TOOT). (63a) “Longtime Pal” (OLD ACQUAINTANCE) was a gimme, and so that unlocked the downs across the bottom. Once I got the top and bottom filled in the rest seemed easy. I was surprised at how quickly I got this puzzle solved considering how difficult it seemed at the onset. I learned a long time ago that I should never let a tough puzzle intimidate me and discourage me from completing it… I just keep moving around in the clues until I get a sure hit.
Well it sure AINT a Wednesday level puzzle for me!

I can’t believe that we’d see ATRIP again for “Anchor position” (36d), but there it is. Aside from that, there weren’t many new words for me to learn.

I sure didn't like INAYEAR for "Next Christmas."

I had forgotten about DODIE Stevens, but got it from the crosses. When I was a cool teen in the 50’s I wore pink shoelaces with my blue-suede shoes. Also a classy pink brocade dress shirt with Mr. B (Billy Eckstine) "rolled" collar and a blue knit tie. Seems fruity now, but it sure was “IN” at that time. Also I had a DA (Duck’s *ss) haircut.
Hearing this clip brings back fond memories of those “happy days”. Anyone else?

Looking forward to future challenging puzzles from Michael Wiesenberg.

Ohhhhh thaaaank youuuu, Orange, for the BLIN/Blintz recipe. Yummmmm!
I’m going out for breakfast today. Hmmm! I wonder what they’d say if I ordered a Ruskie pancake (BLIN) in my Greek restaurant (Mother's Cafe)?


Oh yeah, I agree with @Tinbeni, ADENI is very awkward for that clue.


Thanks for the link to the Catholic Encycl.
That could be useful for those latin terms that occur so often in puzzles, but again I complain:
You have to know the word (eg. DEO) before you can look it up, and I don't have Google at my breakfast table.

Rex Parker said...

Somehow loved this one despite the infelicities (esp. ADENI, yikes). The 15 stacks are excellent. Found it very doable until the lower portion, esp the SW, where SOS PAD just bludgeoned me. Last letter I filled in was that "D" (for "D'oh!").

WRIST WATCH and KOONTZ added life to the middle portion. Good stuff overall.


lit.doc said...

I'm blazing N to S (picture cold molasses, really) thinking "Wednesday, yeah, maybe even Tuesday" (except for the insipid SAPID). Then I hit that lower quarter. Geez.

Thought I got through it, but ended up with a few groaners. Given the nods to Christmas, New Years, Western religion, and church Latin, and having T______E_ANGELS, I thought OK, TWO EASTER ANGELS. Never heard of the movie and, hey, the clue named two stars.

Also stumbled over DEI (Latin? Italian? Huh?), which made ON A TOOT slow, especially due to my extensive ignorance of nautical terms. And ADENI?? Puleeease.

mac said...

Very good puzzle, where I had the same experience in the S as Rex did, had to plug away at the crosses until it only could be "tarnished". I like them this way!

I think I will nibble some more.

chefbea said...

Not a Wednesday for me either. Had to come here to finnish.

Never heard the word blin. Guess thats cuz you never order just one.

Cant't believe I had trouble with 30 down!!! Is a sugar beet red???

ddbmc said...

I wrestled with today's puzzle, but then not like Gable V. Owings! Sapid is new to me, so that delayed the upper half of the puzzle. I had better luck in the middle and lower half and moved back up to finish. Didn't know "Tarnish Angels" off the top of my head, so (gulp) I Googled.

I know we had "Atrip" awhile ago. We spoke of Bela Bartok and SOS pads v. Brillo.

Thanks, @JNH, for the "Tan Shoes and Pink Shoelaces." Had never heard that song.

Wanted "on a tear" instead of "on a toot."

All in all, the puzzle was a nice break from the past few days of non-stop cleaning, wrapping and cooking! Time to "beet" it to the couch!
As always, Thanks, @Orange, for the write up.

Anonymous said...

The whole name of Twain's celebrated jumping frog was Dan'l Webster, or Dan'l for short when he was being encouraged to jump.

The whole story...one of Twain's best--can be found here:



split infinitive said...

@JNH: I too struggle with the Latin. Wikipedia has a great (long) page with Latin terms and expressions. Perhaps you could print it and tuck it into your dictionary. I can't link directly but here -- I hope -- is the address:

http: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Latin_Phrases_(full)

I hope this works and helps!
split & co.


Thank you for that link to Latin words. I started to print it out and then realized that it would be a book of 111 pages, so I put the link in my favorites instead.
However, it still wouldn't have helped in this case, because knowing "___ gratis" wouldn't lead me to DEO.

ddbmc said...

That would be "Tarnished Angels...."

Thanks,@Split, for the Latin link!

Sfingi said...

Very difficult for Sfingi. After going through the short words as well as I could, had to Google the dog and the movie before I could get anywhere. Those 2 (Rock and Robert) were in another movie (Written on the Wind) with the lovely Ms. Malone which won Oscars. Not this soaper.

Did not know famous sayings of Yoda, the frog, SAPID, the cartoon, or Gerard Larcher.
What bothered me was I Googled ALMVP (didn't even know what sport it was til I saw DiMaggio) and nothing with "ro" and 4 letters was on the list. Got it through crosses. Thought Mr. Rodriguez was basketball.

Suddenly remembered the wristwatch from a friend who flies. That's the reason men started to wear them.

SET TO is old fashioned, apparently.

I wanted "Connie" for DODIE Stevens. Googled them both to clear it up for me? They're both actually half Italian. Poor Dodie is homely, so even tho she was the youngest to sell a million, she was mostly a backup.

I don't get 63A TOED.

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Whenever you see a preposition before or after a word, in this case the word END, it implies a prefix or suffix to that word. The word END after OPEN implies a suffix to the word OPEN. The first thing I thought of was OPEN-EYED, but no it turned out to be OPEN-TOED (as in shoes). Also, the question mark tips us off that there's some trickery involved.
Pretty lame, huh?

For instance, the clue "Star follower" might be for KIST or LIGHT.

I think we need a Crossword 101 lesson on this kind of trickery.

Sfingi said...

@John - Don't like it. If it said open ender, then maybe. Wait a min - what's the preposition? Open is a verb or participle adjective. End is a verb or noun. Not that that makes any dif as to why I don't accept it.

Another gripe - I'm sick of SADE as the Marquis de. Why not the wonderful singer, pronounced Shah-day? I hear she finally has a new album coming out next year (5 days?).

Night, John.

Jan said...

Loved this puzzle, but definitely harder than Wednesday level for me. Are levels subjective or is there a way to measure them?

This one was just hard enough so that I couldn't finish it in one sitting, went to bed, then in the morning got all the rest - that's how I do the harder puzzles that I think I'll never complete. It's usually easy to finish them in the morning when my brain is rested - more satisfying than using Google help. This time I dreamed about doing the puzzle, only in my dream each clue had a picture for extra help!