SATURDAY, July 31, 2010 
Timothy L. Meaker

Theme: None

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that y'all had trouble with this one. It was hard, right?? I sort of picked and poked my way through most of it and then only had the northeast corner left but it wasn't budging. I set it down for a while — played a little sporcle, read some blogs — and when I went back to it everything fell right into place. That's so cool how that happens.

The biggest problem I had in the northeast is that I assumed 5A: Census bureau, essentially was some kind of COUNTER (I had the TER in place). Makes sense, right? That only left three letters up front though, and MAN COUNTER seemed a little … off. Also, with the ORS in place I wanted FLEXORS for a while instead of TENSORS (7D: Stretching muscles). I was flailing around in the dark is what I'm saying.

Overall, I'd say there's nothing super sparkly about this grid, except maybe SCHOOLMARM, WIND TUNNEL, and MOJO (53A: Old-time educator / 18A: Aerodynamics research tool / 58A: Mystical amulet), and it includes an awful lot of three-letter "words," but nothing jumped out at me as blatantly horrible and when it was all said and done I felt like I'd had an actual workout. And that's a good thing!

Several people tripped me up today. Most of whom I'd never heard of.
  • 15A: Artist Bonheur (ROSA). Ringing vague, vague bells.
  • 17A: Harpsichordist Kipnis (IGOR). Or maybe those aren't bells, maybe it's a harpsichord. (Seriously? Harpsichordist?)
  • 44A: "Samson Agonistes" dramatist (MILTON). Obviously, I've heard of Milton, but the work title didn't do anything for me.
  • 49A: Actress Van Devere (TRISH). No bells (or harpsichords) none.
  • 51A: Beaumont, Texas, university (LAMAR). Again, back in the cobwebs somewhere.
  • 44D: "Animal magnetism" coiner (MESMER). Never heard of him, but now that I've read a little about him that seems awfully weird.
  • 22A: Servers with wheels (TEA WAGONS). Of course, I wanted this to be CARHOPS.
  • 41A: Hands and feet (MEASURES). Great clue. Reminded me of The Beekeeper's Apprentice (great book!), which I just finished. The characters in that book often talk about weight in terms of "stones."
  • 46A: White Sands and others (TEST SITES). I first entered MONUMENTS, which maybe doesn't make any sense to a lot of you — I used to live very near White Sands and was surprised to learn that it is, in fact, a "monument." Obviously not the kind of monument that word generally evokes for me. Or maybe you all knew that already.
  • 59A: Where to find waiters (TRAIN DEPOT). Another great clue.
  • 2D: Subject of Joshua Kendall's "The Man Who Made Lists" (ROGET). I haven't heard of this book (is it a book? ... yep) but with a couple crosses in place, the answer became clear.
  • 11D: Judgment for insufficient evidence (NONSUIT). I thought this was going to be something in Latin.
  • 40D: Elvis sighting, e.g. (FACTOID). I recently read something about how the word FACTOID doesn't mean what people usually think it means. That is, it means (basically) "unverified fact" and not "little fact." (I like what this site has to say about the confusion.)
  • 48D: Man of letters? (SAJAK). Did anyone else try SUPER here? Whenever I see a question-mark clue with the word "letters" in it, I assume the answer is going to be something about renting (letting).
  • 53D: Houston in NYC, et al. (STS.). Another great clue. And one of my favorite streets in New York. Not that I've ever spent any time there, but I love how it's pronounced.
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Everything Else — 1A: Not clear-cut (GRAY); 16A: Sight from Sydney Harbour (OPERA HOUSE); 19A: Cares for (TENDS); 21A: Beginnings (SEEDS); 25A: Co. whose largest hub is at O'Hare (UAL); 28A: Shooting sound (REPORT); 29A: Items in a nautical table (TIDES); 31A: Pub employees (BARMAIDS); 34A: Show-off (HOT DOG); 35A: Land in un lac (ILE); 36A: Lo-__ graphics (RES); 37A: Vigor (PEP); 38A: Suffix with string (-ENT); 39A: Took off (DOFFED); 43A: Wind threat (SHEAR); 45A: Indirect route (ARC); 60A: Replacement for those left out (ET AL.); 61A: Weathers the struggle (SOLDIERS ON); 62A: Rink fake (DEKE); 1D: Abrasive bits (GRIT); 3D: In unison (AS ONE); 4D: Spar part (YARDARM); 5D: Stock page name (DOW); 6D: Bee: Pref. (API-); 8D: Hot-blooded (ARDENT); 9D: "Gremlins" actress (CATES); 10D: Former Israeli prime minister Olmert (EHUD); 12D: Napa vessel (TUN); 13D: Capt.'s heading (ESE); 14D: Family mem. (REL.); 20D: Oath taker (SWEARER); 23D: On foot, in France (À PIED); 24D: Jupiter and Mars (GODS); 26D: Scary snake (ADDER); 27D: Freetown currency (LEONE); 29D: Nursery purchase (TOPSOIL); 30D: York and Snorkel: Abbr. (SGTS.); 31D: Orders (BIDS); 32D: Welcoming word (ALOHA); 33D: Direct (REFER); 34D: Qualifying races (HEATS); 37D: Bombard (PELT); 41D: Accidents (MISHAPS); 42D: Not tractable (UNTAMED); 46D: Symbol of equivalence, in math (TILDE); 47D: Fake feelings (EMOTE); 50D: Noodle __: old product name (RONI); 52D: Part (ROLE); 54D: Zagreb's land, to the IOC (CRO); 55D: Holbrook of "Evening Shade" (HAL); 56D: Eeyore pal (ROO); 57D: K2, for one: Abbr. (MTN.).



OMG, it's noon and I'm the first to post???
I guess I wasn't the only one who struggled with this one. Actually it was painful! I had to declare a "DNF", which for me is hard to do because I usually like to SOLDIER ON. That SW corner was a mess.
Since I did not finish 100% correct, I feel like I'm unworthy to critique, so therefore I won't say anything bad.
Thank God for Puzzlegirl and her terrific writeup or I'd consider this morning a total waste of my time. Thank you @PG, you salvaged my day.

Rex Parker said...

Grid's actually not that interesting, and puzzle tries to make up for it with nutso cluing on a lot of proper nouns. Cheap.

But it was definitely tougher than normal for the LAT, so that's a plus.

Anonymous said...

Easily 20 years ago, one of the news weeklys, Time if I recall, had a piece on a phenomenon among undergraduates to boil a topic down to one concept and concentrate on that. I don't recall the article well enough to say if the article was derogatory, implying that the writer took the word in its rigorous sense as in "not really a fact", or as a diminutive, meaning that it was a distillation of the course material. Anyway, I'm glad to be set straight on this (I think).

Tinbeni said...

Geez, I knew it was Saturday from the number of Proper Names I didn't know.
The same ones listed by PuzzleGirl.

I'm starting to think I'm getting dumber or maybe just need stronger coffee on Saturday.

First fills were that SCHOOL MARM and TRAIN DEPOT.
Then up top I got the OPERA HOURSE & WIND TUNNEL.
GRAY area gave me YARDARM.
AS ONE, yielded ROSA & IGOR.

Then there were the write-overs or wouldn't-fits.
Like dismissal for NONSUIT.
Carhops for TEA WAGONS.

Some great clues, like Hands and feet for MEASURES.
Some anwsers a bit obscure:
"Gremlins" actress, CATES. The only actor I remember from this 1984 movie was Hoyt Axton and the cute little criters.
"Animal magnestism" coiner, MESMER. Who? I'll look him up. Oh, that German Physician who died in 1815.

All-in-all, a total slog.

Joon said...

c'mon, MESMER is way more famous than those other folks. his name was even made into a verb.

i thought this wasn't any harder than a usual saturday, but i was pretty unimpressed with the fill. as PG astutely noted, there's a lot of 3-letter answers in the grid, of which few are words: ARC, PEP, ROO, and TUN. the others: DOW, API-, ESE, REL, UAL, ILE, RES, ENT, STS, CRO-, HAL, MTN. the longer stuff was better, but a little blah. i liked SOLDIERS ON and FACTOID.

mac said...

Pretty tough LAT puzzle, I think, not sure since I haven't had time to do a lot of puzzles the last couple of months. Other things take up so much of my day! I'm sure I'll pay for it at the Lollapuzzoola... Especially the last two days the NYT and LAT puzzles have had an unusually high number of words or names I had never heard of.

Phoebe Cates is a nice actress, I think married to Kevin Klein. I read about Mr. Mesmer just recently, and his name the root of "mesmerize", but of course I forgot.....

CrazyCatLady said...

My feelings about this puzzle? Well, yuck pretty much sums it up. It was a big DNF for me. There just didn't seem to be any wit or sparkle going on except for PG's excellent write up. MESMER did not mesmerize me, nor did any of those other names - CATES, ROSA, IGOR, LAMAR. ROGET, MILTON and HAL I'm ok with, but the clues? Lots of crummy abbreviations didn't help either. Oh well - it's off to the gym for me.

JIMMIE said...

DNF for me. I agree with Rex: nutso clueing.

Fowler said...

My first fill was VAT, which of course turned out to be TUN. But while this one looked daunting at first, it was fairly easy after I tackled the many three letter fills. UAL and ILE started things rolling. I found the SE corner hardest - but not really.

Irritated_Prof said...

I got it all except for the southeast corner- "Deke"? "Mojo"? Yike.

Eric said...

This was hard for me, but pleasantly so, despite a DNF due to one stinking "U" (NONSUIT x UAL). I'd guessed the latter had to be _AL, but that still left most U.S. carriers as possibilities -- especially as I too was expecting Latin for the down clue.

NE came easily -- OPERA HOUSE and WIND TUNNEL were my first fills.

I didn't get those NW names either, but Googled ROGET, which (a) makes perfect sense, and (b) opened up the sector -- _G_R as a first name was pretty obvious, even if I didn't get the reference.

The mini-theme of WIND TUNNEL and SHEAR had me looking for an aeronautical answer to "took off". The other, military mini-theme (SGTS, SOLDIERS ON, REPORT) was merely amusing.

MESMER was a gimme; that, plus STS, CRO, and HAL opened up the SW.

I'd heard of "Samson Agonistes", but not (or I forgot) who wrote it, but crosses gave me MILTON anyway.

Noodle RONI? Never heard of it. Guess it's a Rice-a-Roni spinoff? Yup. Horrid, klunky name though.

Last to fall (except for that "U"), was the SE. I'd never heard of LAMAR Univ., but it was at least somewhat plausible from crosses. I Googled it too, to check my guess.

I should have got MOJO from the MO__ ... but I didn't; it had to wait for the "J". (L.A. Times puzzle -> MOJO -> Mr. Mojo risin' -> "L.A. Woman" ... nice!)

Here's another +1 for "Hands and feet" -> MEASURES. Confused me up big-time, but it's good anyway.

Tinbeni said...

I forgot to thank you for the FACTOID link.
I was thinking along the lines of the CNN trivia triffles.
Therefore 40d, Elvis sighting, had me thinking along the line of "urban legends."

Just because Franz MESMER became the source of the word mesmerize doesn't mean I would automatically associate him as the coiner of "Animal magnetism."
I think this was a bit obscure.

Same with the MILTON work sited.
The former wife of George C. Scott, TRISH.
The Harpsichordist, IGOR. All crosses and I said to myself "Looks good to me" and "Who cares?" ...
"WTF is a harpsicord? Something like a piano?"

Do all Captains head ESE (East SouthEast)?
Are all Indirect routes an ARC?
Finally, aren't COBRA's scarier than ADDER's ...
What does an adder look like?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Anonymous said...

Had to resort to Google, yig. It was hard--got up early to get in an 18 miler, so that's my excuse. I only did the puzzle after the run.

CrazyCatLady said...

Oh yeah. I forgot TRISH. Never heard of her. K2=MTN? DEKE?
@Tinbeni I concur. Your points are precisely many of the answers that frustrated me.

Sfingi said...

However, my problems were with some of the smaller fill words. Although I got the 8-10 letter answers using a new ability I suddenly have of seeing the whole thing, I couldn't get some words that don't yield to this, perhaps due to "nutso" clues.

I don't agree that ENT is a true suffix for STRING, as it changes the root meaning, whereas IER could be.

The longest words I didn't get were TOPSOIL and NONSUIT. I had babyOIL and NOcaUse. Never called a show off a HOTDOG.

As for names, I didn't know the harpsichordist and was amazed how many KIPNIS people there are.
Did not know LAMAR U. Didn't know
TRISH Cates, but liked the movie which to me was an allegory on babies vs. adolescents.

Lived in NYC for a while and knew HOUSe TON St. is so pronounced. Warning: when in Midtown don't look up, or you're a rube from Jardooville. For a time, it seemed, you'd better not wear anything but black for same reason.

Naturally, Didn't know DEKE (sports). Hate, questions like IOC abbreviations.

Too me, MESMER and MILTON are mainstream, but I've been a SCHOOLMARM.

K2 is the name of the 2nd highest mountain. Has a real name, Godwin-Austin. I think we used to hear a lot more about it, before it was established that Everest was tallest.

C said...

Hmm, after reading the comments, I had to go back to make sure I got the answers entered correctly. I didn't have too much trouble with this puzzle, for some reason.

I started with DEKE (easy one for me, big hockey fan) and worked my way upwards. I stuttered on the NW corner but got GRIT quickly and the answers opened up.

Fun puzzle.

Anonymous said...

It was established that Everest was tallest in 1852. How old are you?

CrazyCatLady said...

OK - now that I actually have time to kvetch, I want to say that at 58 I've never heard of K2. Furthermore, I don't get mountain climbing. I live a stone's away from a MTN with a 10,000 ft. summit. I can see it from my bedroom window. People are constantly falling off, getting lost, scorching, freezing to death or being smothered by avalanches. What's the draw? Now as far as DEKE goes - the only DEKE I've ever heard of is the frat DKE known for hunky football players and rowdy parties. Maybe TMI?

CrazyCatLady said...

Stone's throw

mac said...

CCL:I'm with you. Or if you want to put yourself in harms way like that, don't marry and have kids. I have read too many sad stories about that. In addition, the people in charge of trying to save these fools also put their lifes on the line!

*David* said...

I'm feeling pretty good about finishing with no errors and no Google. I didn't find this one very difficult. I sat for half the time on one letter TENSORS/REPORT where I had TENDON and I knew DEEDS wasn't correct. Oh well that's what happenes after doing a xword puzzle at 1 AM.

I didn't know quite a bit but the crosses helped me out everytime. An odd shape for the puzzle, this one felt similar in the cluing to a Newsday stumper.