F R I D A Y   November 19, 2010
Daniel A. Finan

Theme: Clueless — Five unclued answers refer to types of people who can be described as "clueless."

Theme answers:
  • 17A: - (PEABRAIN).
  • 28A: - (DINGBAT).
  • 46A: - (AIRHEAD).
  • 11D: - (NINCOMPOOP).
  • 27D: - (SPACE CADET).
  • 61A: Like five answers in this puzzle, literally and figuratively (CLUELESS).
What an awesome theme! So simple and elegant. This is one of those themes where other constructors are going, "Why didn't I think of that?" Five words for people who are clueless and then instead of cluing each one as "Clueless" … don't clue them at all! Brilliant! Of course it helps that calling people clueless results in really funny words.

There were only two things that I just flat-out didn't know:
  • 37D: ___ Affair: 1798-1800 France/USA dispute (XYZ).
  • 42D: Hindu meditation aid (MANDALA).
But that doesn't mean I didn't have a hard time with some other spots in the puzzle.

I was debating whether to admit this, but I've come this far without lying to you, so I guess I might as well. I couldn't finish this puzzle. Okay, that may not be entirely true. I probably could have finished the puzzle if I had shown a little more patience, but I didn't so I didn't. I haven't decided yet if the part that tripped me up is poorly constructed and/or clued or if my DNF was truly just a consequence of my giving up too soon. But I'm leaning toward the latter because I really like this puzzle and I'd hate for it to be ruined by an unforgivable area. Here's where the trouble started.

I'm not a hockey fan, so I don't know all the team names. I know some of them just from, ya know, being alive, but that's as far as it goes. AVS (5A: Colorado NHLers), therefore, was a mystery to me. Now I can see that the answer is a short form of Avalanche, which I'm sure I've heard of at some point. But while I was solving, I wasn't even sure about that V. The cross, 6D: Sundial number, only confused the matter because I thought the team might just has likely have been the AIM or the AXE. Yes, I'm aware that both of those are hideous names for a professional sports team but who am I to say really?? Seemed possible! But here's where the patience comes in. I should have been able to guess GIO from the clue 15A: Acqua Di __: Armani cologne. I gave up too early because I was all "Wait, you expect to know the name of a cologne? For realz?" But of course I know Armani's first name is Giorgio so if I had thought about it longer, it surely would have come to me.

With all that uncertainty in that area, what really killed me was 7D: One learning about the birds and the bees? What's up with that clue? That seems like a terrible clue to me. What's up with the question mark? Doesn't that mean "the birds and the bees" should be taken literally instead of as a euphemism? Maybe I'm discriminating against this clue/answer because I couldn't finish that section. On the other hand, maybe it's just bad. I'm eager to hear what you all think.

  • 8A: They may be surrounded at parties (PIANOS). My first thought? Kegs.
  • 24A: Retired New York senator Al D'__ (AMATO). Yesterday we saw Ed Koch and today Al D'AMATO. Both were in office when I lived in New York. Good times.
  • 25A: Hi-__ (FIS). Tried "res" first and thought, "Well that's interesting that a 1980 DeLuise film has the same name as a 1969 Dustin Hoffman character."
  • 49A: Place for flock members (PEW). I was way too focused on literal sheep here. Totally slipped my mind that a religious congregation can be referred to as a flock.
  • 50A: "I __ your long lost pal": Paul Simon lyric (CAN BE). Oh sure, why not.
  • 54A: Given, as custody (AWARDED). I tried "granted" first.
  • 65A: Shell's shell, e.g. (LOGO). Cute clue. Shell Oil's logo is a … shell.
  • 3D: Vintage R&B record label (STAX).
  • 5D: Court star with the autobiography "Open" (AGASSI). Bought it for PuzzleDad sometime in the past year. Christmas? Father's Day? One of those two.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 22A: Pitts of early cinema (ZASU).
  • 39A: "Entourage" agent Gold (ARI).
  • 66A: Aquarium denizens (TETRAS).
  • 54D: Word in a basic Latin conjugation (AMAT).
[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else — 1A: "When I __ kid ..." (WAS A); 14A: Set up: Abbr. (ESTD.); 16A: Like a maelstrom (ASWIRL); 19A: Cash in Nashville (JOHNNY); 20A: Rolls to the gate (TAXIES); 21A: Colorful cats (CALICOS); 30A: Second degree? (MBA); 33A: In spades (AMPLY); 35A: It's usually four (PAR); 36A: Former 56-Across team (EXPOS); 38A: Cuisine that includes phanaeng (THAI); 40A: English walled city (YORK); 41A: Guard dog command (SIC 'EM); 43A: "__ be a pleasure!" (IT'D); 44A: O3 (OZONE); 45A: Unlock'd (OPE); 52A: Salon sound (SNIP); 56A: Baseball div. (N.L. EAST); 60A: Mel Gibson persona (MAD MAX); 63A: Ring of color (AREOLE); 64A: "Popeye" surname (OYL); 67A: "Bottle Rocket" director Anderson (WES); 68A: Colony workers (ANTS); 1D: Showed relief, in a way (WEPT); 2D: Deported? (ASEA); 4D: Madison Ave. symbolizes it (AD BIZ); 8D: Kind of party (PAJAMA); 9D: Get away from the others (ISOLATE); 10D: In the slightest (A WHIT); 12D: "Yes __?" (OR NO); 13D: Stallone and Stone (SLYS); 18D: Set (READY); 21D: Stand offerings (CAB RIDES); 23D: Odd, as a sock (UNPAIRED); 25D: 1980 DeLuise film (FATSO); 26D: "Can you dig it?" response (I'M HIP); 29D: "Wayne's World" co-host (GARTH); 31D: Shouldered (BORNE); 32D: Out of line (ASKEW); 34D: Golfer's concern (LIE); 44D: "Swan Lake" maiden (ODILE); 47D: Wild goats with recurved horns (IBEXES); 48D: Makes void (ANNULS); 51D: Gladiator's defense (ARMOR); 53D: Window-making giant (PELLA); 55D: Tupper ending (-WARE); 57D: Many millennia (AEON); 58D: Certain NCO (SSGT); 59D: General __ chicken (TSO'S); 61D: Tipping target, so it's said (COW); 62D: Drano component (LYE).


Avg Joe said...

This ranks as my personal favorite theme ever. The puzzle was at or near the peak of my abilities all the way through, but I did finish without a single google. The x in Taxies was the last to fall. I've not heard of Stax, but it makes perfect sense once solved.

Avs took a long time to get cuz I couldn't get unstuck from Nuggets and Rockies even though I knew both were wrong. But it finally did emerge due to the small number of choices with the A already in place. I agree that the clue for son is among the worst I've seen, but wtfdik. Gio only came thru the crosses, but I appreciate the explanation.

All in all, a very good challenge and an excellent puzzle.

Teenage Mom said...

Yeah, always have the "Birds and Bees" talk with your son, not with your daughter. Works out real, real well that way.

Tinbeni said...

This may be my "All-Time" favorite puzzle.

As a plus, my real initials ARI again made the grid. Yippie ...

The five theme clues "____" did NOT leave me CLUELESS ... they were an inspiration.
Joyful AHA moments when each fell.
Followed by V-8 can head slap with a DUH !!!

At 12D I had "Yes DEAR?" until I noticed the question mark. Crosses took care of that easily.
(I am wearing my "Yes Dear" T-shirt).

PAJAMA party? I still don't understand what this could be ... maybe I should go to a store and get some of these.

Also liked the NL EAST / EXPOS pairing.

For MAD MAX I did consider Mr.Gibson's persona to be 'asshole' but it wouldn't fit.

General TSO'S chicken is a fave ... hmmm, guess I know what I'm having for dinner, post-Sunset toast to everyone.

Sorry my voice is SOOOO raspy.
It was all those cigs I puffed on yesterday ... damn, that smokeout thing is hard on the throat.

badrog said...

Love those Scrabble-y X and Z crosses!

X in 20A TAXIES leads to 3D STAX
Z in 22A ZASU leads to 4D ADBIZ
X in 47D IBEXES leads to 60A MADMAX
And best of all:
Z in 44A OZONE suggests X in 36A EXPOS via 37D XYZ, and also yields the Y for 40A YORK.

The above were actually more helpful than the theme in allowing a 100% look-up-less solve. Together they made this easier than a typical Friday puzzle.

Mokus said...

A nice challenge and a highly entertainingnFriday CWP. The theme was one of the best ever. I kept thinking of Archie Bunker for some reason.

It's always amusing to see people get their shorts in a wad over perceived sexist clues and answers. The clue here doesn't say the ONLY one learning about human reproduction. It could just as easily have been "daughter" but that would have required more squares ya know?

PuzzleGirl said...

I guess I didn't think of Teenage Mom's comment as pointing out sexism as much as it was about making a pretty damn funny joke.


In the NW corner I was totally CLUELESS... Had to look up STAX and ESTD just didn't make any sense to me, so that cross became sort of a Natick for me. Otherwise I caught onto the theme pretty quickly once the NINCOMPOOP was revealed.
I agree with prior comments... probably my favorite puzzle of 2010, but then I've said that several times before. I just think that Dan Finan did a fine job in constructing this puzzle.

Now my mission for today is to use all five theme words on someone, so WATCH OUT!!!

ANNULS really screwed me up because I mispelled it as ANULLS. What a PEA BRAIN I am! (first application).

I didn't think any of the clues were too hard, but I did agree with you, often I just give up.
I have ADD, and so either I hyperfocus and waste a lot of time mulling over a difficult clue, or I lose patience and just declare it a DNF. Usually I tend towards the former. To me, speed is not a virtue, but endurance is... something I learned from running the 10K.

@Teenage Mom
Yeah, it sure was great when my teenage SON told me all about the "birds and the bees". I learned so much!

Anonymous said...

Dustin Hoffman character was "RATSO" not "FATSO"!


PuzzleGirl said...

@Bill: Yes, exactly. That was my point.

Tuttle said...

Had the classic Motown label Soul in instead of the southern R&B label STAX for a while.

I really wanted something else for 26D. Alas, 'suckas' didn't fit.

Joon said...

i agree with PG here: wonderful theme, and inexplicable cluing for SON. actually, that entire (tiny) corner is pretty wince-worthy: it shouldn't be hard to fill, and yet 3 of the 4 words (AVS, GIO, and VII) aren't really desirable fill.

so that kinda sours the puzzle for me a little bit. but yeah, great theme concept. and SPACE CADET is particularly awesome.

This comment has been removed by the author.
This took me 10 seconds and it's the first time I tried this said...


and North Dakota doesn't suck.

Odile said...

I heartily disagree with 44D. I'm the evil, slutty, twin of Odette, and I haven't been a "Maiden" since I was 14.

PuzzleGirl said...

@JNH: I can't figure out why you would post a link to another version of the same song I posted on the blog. Please explain your thought process.


For one of my art classes, we had to paint several MANDALAs ... what fun! Prior to that, I had never heard of these meditation aids.

This comment has been removed by the author.
PuzzleGirl said...

I guess it's not a big deal. Yesterday you asked for clarification on something I talked about in my post. Today you post the same song I posted. Your habit of including 3-4 links every day is irritating to me. I get the feeling sometimes that you really need your own blog instead of spending so much time "enhancing" mine.

SethG said...

I agree with Joon's agreement with PuzzleGirl.

Sfingi said...

When Hubster was in Jr. High he convinced a 4-yr. old neighbor that he was in the Navy with Popeye.

@John - it must be great having you as a student! No whining!


With "Swan Lake" maiden (44D), I kept thinking there must be an alternate spelling for ODETTE (ODETE perhaps), never thinking about the other character ODILE, so that really slowed me down a bit.

ZASU Pitts came easy, but that's cuz of my age. If it weren't for that, I would have stuck with ADMEN instead of ADBIZ.

I wrote in BATH instead of YORK and that kept me from the XYZ cross for quite a while.

I love the clue for 50A,
"If you'll be my bodyguard
I CAN BE your long lost pal
I can call you Betty
And Betty when you call me
You can call me Al"
~ Paul Simon lyric.

Rex Parker said...

The theme is, as you say, brilliant. The execution, pretty good. MANDALA sticks out like a sore thumb (obscurity-wise), and there's no way it was necessary in that corner. Give up your "X" and go for something better, I say. But again, this is good. Very good.


Rex Parker said...

PS agree that SON clue is stupid and that Teenage Mom was funny.

Rex Parker said...

It's funny, Angela, it's as if he really can't see you or hear you. Maybe he thinks this *is* his blog. Phenomenally disrespectful (i.e. he uses your blog to pontificate but clearly barely reads you), and yet typical, and kind of funny.

howardlwatson said...

I made AVs ans Son ok. The one I still don't get is "tipping target" a cow???

Anonymous said...

@HowardLWatson - Cow Tipping is a long standing rural myth.

Rube said...

I too thought the theme was well executed and the puzzle well constructed. Had trouble in the NW primarily by spelling ZASA with two Zs and not being able to fit Nastazi in 5D. Googling AGASSI broke the whole area open, but meant a DNF. Agree with Joon about the area.

MANDALA was definitely my WOTD. It apparently means "circle" in sandskrit. Learning a new word like this makes my puzzle day.

CrazyCatLady said...

Loved this puzzle, though I wasn't able to finish without two googles. One for AVS and one for STAX. The theme was Excellent. Lots of great CLUELESS words. Liked seeing Al D'MATO and then the "You Can Call Me Al" clue. Thanks for that clip @PG. "Graceland" is on my list of top 10 albums of all time. Agree about the bad SON clue and laughed at @Teenage Mom's comment. Wrote in SNACKS before PIANOS. That's where I hang out at parties.

The @JNH, @PG and @RP comments are extremely entertaining.

@Tinbeni - You should try a PAJAMA party sometime, they can be quite entertaining. I once hosted a martini/PAJAMA party for 40 ladies (who were also my co-workers). It was hilarious, especially seeing the city council members in their PJs, robes and slippers.

C said...

I enjoyed today's puzzle. I've enjoyed the comments even more and, of course, our hostess's writeup of said enjoyable puzzle.

Hands up for KEGS as my first answer for 'Things you stand around at parties'

John Wolfenden said...

Tough but rewarding. Thought it would take longer but this was a smooth solve even though difficulty level was high.

I thought VII for "sundial number" was a bit arbitrary, although I salute any Roman numeral answer that's not clued simply as a math problem.

Daniel's cultural references were right up my alley, like MAD MAX, STAX records and WES Anderson.

A good mixture of literal and figurative cluings with some ambiguity like "Colorful cats" for CALICOS.

What was the last party you went to where people gathered around a piano? Maybe if your friends are all musicians or you're a millionaire and can hire a piano player.

Apparently a bottle of Acqua di Gio will set you back $60-$70. Much like the piano player, not in my price range.

I love "Tipping target" for COWS. It reminds me of the movie "Heathers."

Liked seeing EXPOS after someone posted earlier this week about the Toronto Blue Jays being the only Canadian team left in the MLB after the Expos left.

TeenageMom's post was the funniest of the week so far.

Is it just me, or can AREOLE be spelled 8 different ways?

ddbmc said...

NW corner was vexing, as STAX could not be "conjured," no way, no how. Thus TAXIES for "Rolls to the gate" did not roll into my mind!

Hand up for DNF, but still enjoyed the struggle and the theme(as CLUELESS as I can be, I at least I finished the theme answers!) AVS was a gimme, naturally.

Ya think @Teenage Mom's alias is Bristol?


PAJAMA Party was "back in the day" (although @CCL has given it new life!)and now usually called (with kids)a "Sleep Over." Mostly the sleep over involves no sleep, on either the kid's or parent's part. One memorable one involved Cheese Doodles reappearing half digested on my couch....

imsdave said...

Genius level theme. I had a few problems. Had AWHIRL first for ASWIRL, RES for FIS, and ashamedly, BOURN for BORNE (I have always admitted that I don't spell very well). Again, I found this harder than the NYT effort today, yet loved every minute of both.

Have a great weekend all.

CrazyCatLady said...

@ddbmc LOL! Sounds familiar. There was always that one kid that would get sick in the middle of the night and I would have to drive him/her home wearing, guess what? My PJs. They were also called "Slumber Parties". Now that's an oxymoron for you!

Margaret said...

Once again I've had the exact same struggles/delights with the puzzle as PuzzleGirl! Same issue with AVS and SON, Hi-res, etc. so I particularly enjoyed today's write-up. Paul Simon's song is insanely catchy; thanks for the link!

Anonymous said...

Surrounded at parties - first thought was celebs - what can I say, I was raised in So Cal. Then the birds and bees thing got me started thinking about people who study avian species and entomology. All in all, not a great puzzle for me but I did love the theme!

having trouble woth sign in process so will try anon.


Joon said...

MANDALA was great, i thought. it's a very cool thing. good to get some culture in there, particularly non-eurocentric culture. and it's friday, so if somebody hasn't heard of it, but the crosses are all fair, then they learn something. i wouldn't call it obscure, but i'm often surprised at what people who are not me know or don't know. fwiw, it googles up well (11 million hits) even though it has nothing to do with computers. plus, pretty pictures.

rz said...

NW was a DNF for me as well. made every flub the others mentioned plus a few more. Soul for STAX. ZulU for ZASU. rIO for GIO (river water cologne? what was i thinking?)

wanted "Rolls to the gate" to be a limo or Silver Shadow.

Van55 said...

I agree with SethG's agreement with joon's agreement with PG.

Brilliant theme. Mostly brilliant puzzle with some issues.

MANDALA was totally outside my sphere of knowledge, but it came together easily from the crosses.

I also got SON from the crosses rather than from the [late week] clue.

I also agree with RP's agreement with PG re JNH. Though he's mostly harmless, it does seem that he is clueless at times and (perhaps unintentionally) disrepects our hostess.

wilsch said...

Excellent puzzle. MANDALA was also a Canadian R&B/Soul band in the mid-late 1960s. I saw them at an outdoor concert in Phila. with Pink Floyd (I think) around 1969 or '70.

Tinbeni said...

Down in Jamaica (hmmm, that would be a great beginning for a song) they have:
Tuesday Night is PAJAMA Night in the Disco.

@ 11:00 PM, No PJ's ... No DJ (you don't get in).

Well for over 40 trips I would go "wearing" what I wear to bed:
Gold snake pinky ring.
Gold chain with two gold "pop-tops."
Maybe my Nautica watch (sometimes I forget to take it off).

(Hey, they serve booze to this crowd in a glass glass. This at a Resort where there is an "All Included Open Bar" 20 hrs per day. And some yahoo will drop his/her glass, shattering it all over the dance floor ... and I'm not cutting up my feet on vacation. The concept of using plastic receptables hasn't caught on).

And almost every time I'm AWARDED 1st prise for
"Sexiest PJ's" ... which, of course I refuse since I'm NOT wearing any.

But you're suggestion about a PAJAMA party with 40 ladies does sound tempting.

*David* said...

I just got to the puzzle and I loved it with a capital L but found it surprisingly easy. Once I got the theme, the blank spots with a couple of letters became readily apparent. I seem to insult people a lot because all I needed was DET to get SPACE CADET and NIN for NINCOMPOOP.

My least favorite clue was for SON but with the S and N it came through. Get to know them SPORTS TEAMS! MANDALA needed every cross I'm sure that could've been reworked into MANDELA.

JNH no comment, some posters on here entertain me and some I just ignore because they are incomprehensible. Oops I commented, too late. :)

CrazyCatLady said...

@Tinbeni - if you lived in earthquake country, you'd probably want to be more adequately attired when you retire for the evening. You never know when you might have to exit the house in the wee hours. The 1994 Northridge quake at 4:00 am taught me that lesson. Your Jamaica resort sounds wild!

Nighthawk said...

"O... M... G!!!" I thought as I was laughing when the revealer at 61A finally dawned on me.

I like the late week puzzles for their trickiness and cleverness. And though don't do well actually solving them, I appreciate the work of the constuctors. This one had me grumbling most the way through about how the heck one could possibly hope to complete this beast with 7 and 10 blank clues. More pesky than those annoying cross-referentials.

Slowly things began to open up and when I saw that 27D was SPACECADET, I went and re-visited the other un-clues. Had _ _ _ _ OS for 8A, fleetingly thinking, along @ddbmc's lines of "cheese doodles," that it might have been chetOS before quickly discarding them, thinking that would not be a party I'd want to attend. Then NINCOMPOOP materialized and was quickly followed by the others, but then still hadn't got to the revealer.

Loved @PG's great write-up. For a relative rookie in Crossworld, I really appreciate the CW101s, hoping to slowly retain enough of them to one day graduate to the "Bigs" and complete a late week unaided. So doubly inspiring was today's confession about the use of Mr. Google.

ZASU and TETRA are new additions to my personal CW101 list (both are familiar, but I'll look for them now, rather than, as I did today with TETRAS, try to think of every 6 letter critter that can swim). Had MANtras until he swam into sight and keyed the rest of the SW.

Had "clam" for Shell's shell for way too long.

Ended up with a usual late week DNF after help from Mr. G for AVS, GIO (agree, thanks for that explanation @PG), ZASU, FATSO (causing a forehead slap), XYZ and ODILE (had ODInE, confusing it with a recently seen movie).

Could not understand why 18D READe looked so clunky until I realized what I had thought was a perfectly good AMPLe needed a Y, my last letter.

FATSO beside IMHIP crossing AMPLY tickled me.

Scully2066 said...

Wow what a great theme and fun clues. Yesterday's puzzle left me clueless and today's did too but for such different reasons!

PG thank you for as always for your great write-ups and quips. I learn so much from you.

While it would have been great to see a few tasty clues in today's puzzle, it sure did not lack for sparkles. MADMAX, MANDALA, CALICOS and all the theme answers are fit the bill.

Everyone have a great weekend and ready for Monday!

Tom in the D said...

Well I'm happy to say I almost finished. Being a red wings fan I certainly know who the avalanche are. I was quite glad to see it wasn't the "lanche". I agree that this thing was awesome. The biggest sticking point for me was OZONE. Otherwise it was a fairly easy puzzle. Considering I didn't finish wednesday or thursday puzzles I was amazed I only had 1 square blank. Great write up pg as usual. All the comments were extremely entertaining. I'm going out of town for the holiday and I won't be able to get the l a times crossword while I'm gone so have a great thanksgiving, I'll see you in a week or so.

Anonymous said...

@Tom in the D - Get it on line. Go to http://www.cruciverb.com , register (it's free). Download AcrosLite, then start accessing the puzzle wherever.

Im hip said...

MANDALA isn't obscure. Read Tom Robbins, Joseph Campbell or Carl Jung.

I never heard of PELLA, but the crossings took care of it.

xxpossum@hotmail.com said...

DNF.First time for everything, I guess.Couldn't even Google myself out of this one.GOT ME!!!!!