01.13 Thu

January 13, 2011
John Lampkin

Theme: Dorky Magic Show — Words a magician might use to present the culmination of a trick are anagrammed (i.e., transformed) into words for things unlikely to be presented in a magic show.

Theme answers:
  • 15A/17A: Illusionist's act, and this puzzle's title (MAGIC / TRANSFORMATIONS).
  • 26A/28A: "Presenting: Info!" ("TA-DA: DATA!").
  • 47A/49A: "Presenting: Instrument!" ("VOILÀ: VIOLA!").
  • 56A/57A: "Presenting: Wall hanging!" ("PRESTO: POSTER!").
A few Puzzly Announcements before we get started today:
  • Planning for this year's Crosswords L.A. tournament is in full swing. The tournament will be held May 1. This year, they're using puzzles specifically for the event and I have to tell you, their constructor line-up is amazing. I'm talking amazing as in Andrea Carla Michaels, Karen Tracey, Tyler Hinman, Elizabeth Gorski…. Yeah, that kind of amazing. And if that's not enough for you to get off your butt and over to Loyola Marymount University, I can personally attest to the fact that the tournament is a blast. I was there last year and wouldn't miss it this year either. Oh wait, did I forget to mention that proceeds from the event benefit Reading to Kids? Seriously. What's not to love about this tournament. Head on over to the tournment homepage for a warm-up puzzle by Todd McClary.
  • Fireball Crosswords, an excellent independent series of puzzles available by subscription is getting ready to roll back into existence for its second year next week. These high-quality puzzles edited by Peter Gordon are on the difficult end of the range and are delivered right to your inbox 40 times per year at a price that can only be described as a steal.
  • If you want to enter Patrick Blindauer's Summer Puzzlefest (and why wouldn't you?) you should probably head over to his website right now. Final answers are due February 1, but even if you're not interested in entering the contest, you should consider getting the puzzles. Patrick is one of the most innovative constructors out there today so you know the puzzles involved in this series are excellent.
  • The 5th annual Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest will take place later the last weekend of this month at the Morgan Hill Library. I actually just heard about this for the first time this morning so I can't offer a personal recommendation, but it looks like they have some awesome (free!) puzzle workshops on the schedule for Saturday, with crossword and sudoku tournaments on Sunday.
Wow. Lots of good stuff going on in the puzzle world these days. I hope you have the time and inclination to participate in some of it!

Today's puzzle has a very cute theme, some interesting (and Scrabbly!) fill, and virtually no crosswordese. Maybe I'm biased because the first word I entered in the grid was IOWA (14A: Corny state?) and thinking about my Hawks always get me fired up, but my overall impression is that this puzzle is solid and fun. And even if you didn't enjoy this puzzle for some reason, I think you'll agree with me that it wins the award for Most Awesome Use of Vs. How crazy does TV/VCR look in the grid?? (42A: '80s-'90s entertainment combo). Add to that DÉJÀ VU and DIVVIES UP (28D: Illusion of familiarity / 31D: Distributes, as the loot) and you've got yourself a vatload of very vivacious Vs. (I apologize for that.)

The H-BEAM/RHODO- cross was the biggest problem for me (45A: Aptly named girder / 40D: Rose: Pref.). That H was the last thing I put in the grid. In fact, I had an "I" there first based on the across answer, but RIODO just didn't look right. Not that RHODO looks that much better, but at least it brought flowers to mind, so I figured it was a good guess.

  • 1A: Hand mop? (SWAB). I'm not 100% sure I understand this clue, but I know it has something to do with a deck-hand SWABbing the deck.
  • 16A: Unit of loudness (PHON). That's a real thing? Okay then. I didn't know that, but was able to piece it together through crosses.
  • 21A: Sib, either way (SIS). SIS is a palindrome, you see.
  • 29A: Track figures (ODDS). I was totally tricked by this clue. Kept picturing a track meet and thinking about all the people hanging around and the way numbers might be used. Didn't eve think of the racetrack. (Sorry, Mom!)
  • 34A: Waste time, with "around" (MUCK). If you found nothing humorous about the way this word appeared letter-by-letter in your grid, then you're a much better person than I am.
  • 59A: Mountain air (YODEL). Air meaning "tune" or "melody."
  • 64A: Julia in films (RAUL). I wonder if constructors keep a list of famous people with "two first names" they can use to trick us.
  • 65A: Clinton Cabinet member Shalala (DONNA). When I attended Hunter College in the mid-80s, she was the school's president so this was a gimme.
  • 1D: George Harrison played one in "Norwegian Wood" (SITAR). Yep yep.

  • 2D: In a sorrier state (WORSE). Oh, I had some trouble up in the northwest corner too, where I plopped an "ER" at the end of this one assuming that's how it would end but was, ya know, wrong.
  • 9D: Label for many Tom Petty hits (MCA). Random!
  • 18D: Day's "will be" (SERA). I didn't understand this one until I had gotten the whole answer from crosses. It's a reference to Doris Day's hit song "Que Sera Sera."
  • 30D: Part of R&D: Abbr. (DEV.). Research and Development. But you knew that.
[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else — 5A: Siren, for one (ALARM); 10A: Sound rebound (ECHO); 20A: Playwright's device (ASIDE); 22A: Coincide (AGREE); 23A: Turn in (RETIRE); 25A: Most dependable (SUREST); 32A: Start of a confession, maybe (I LIED); 38A: Louvre Pyramid architect (PEI); 39A: Aptly named lab apparatus (BELL JAR); 41A: Zip (NIL); 44A: Gp. with big busts (DEA); 51A: Holy (SAINTLY); 53A: Experience (UNDERGO); 58A: Approximately (OR SO); 63A: Wood site (SHED); 66A: Further (ELSE); 67A: Kind (TYPE); 68A: Not on the level (SHADY); 69A: Batik artist (DYER); 3D: Be ready for (AWAIT); 4D: Desperados (BANDITS); 5D: Bowling initials (AMF); 6D: China neighbor (LAOS); 7D: Cultural opening? (AGRI-); 8D: Rounded edges, usually (RIMS); 10D: Dorothy Parker forte (EPIGRAM); 11D: Job (CHORE); 12D: Perfects (HONES); 13D: Advent (ONSET); 19D: Stretched tight (TAUT); 24D: Pop singer Brickell (EDIE); 25D: Emmy winner Thompson (SADA); 27D: From dawn to dusk (ALL DAY); 29D: Back (out) (OPT); 33D: Land in la mer (ILE); 35D: Ethereal (UNEARTHLY); 36D: Org. with covert ops (CIA); 37D: It merged with Air France in 2004 (KLM); 39D: Bond girl Ekland (BRITT); 43D: Give comfort to (CONSOLE); 46D: Holy (BLESSED); 48D: Insurer at One Lime Street, London (LLOYD'S); 50D: Needing to be fielded, as a baseball (IN PLAY); 51D: Baseball, for one (SPORT); 52D: Striking grouping (ARRAY); 54D: Sixth-day Christmas gift (GEESE); 55D: It might be tall (ORDER); 60D: "Nice!" ("OOH!"); 61D: "CSI" sample (DNA); 62D: You've just reached it (END).


imsdave said...

Well, I'll step up and be the first to admit it. Fail. I wasn't smart enough to dismiss RIODA and left it in. Oops.

Loved the puzzle - interesting theme, left-right symmetry, and I also got a kick out of the double V's. I first thought it was a little light on theme content, but went back and saw there are 50 theme squares.

Thanks to Mr. Lampkin and, as always, PG.

ps - with all the puzzling news, I thought I'd just mention that the Westport (CT) Public Library crossword tournament will be held on February 5th. I've been the last two years and found it to be a blast. Will Shortz usually attends. Information on the tournament can be found here

SethG said...

Never had the F, I mentally started with the D until the U appeared.

Nice symmetry. [Back (out)] is a really weird clue for OPT. [Striking grouping] is a kinda weird clue for ARRAY, wonder if AMF was clued similarly at some point. And END gets a strange clue given its placement in the grid.

Please! (Asleep...)

Van55 said...

Another fail here. RIODO for RHODO. Tsk on me.

Otherwise, I thought it was a very nice puzzle with minimal crap fill.

Rex Parker said...


I mean, RIOJA = kind of red ("rose?") wine, and RHODO is not a thing, so ...

That cross is a fatal flaw. If RHODO weren't a horrendous non-word that I've never seen in a puzzle ever, my opinion would be different. Object lesson—you never ever ever want some stupid little cross to overshadow your clever theme.


Doug P said...

Clever theme today, and I liked seeing the unusual grid pattern.

I didn't like RHODO, but it didn't bother me too much because I guessed correctly, thinking it had something to do with RHODOdendrons. My first reaction was "Why not RHODA?" but then I realized the crossing entry POSTER was part of the theme.

John Wolfenden said...

My favorite theme in a long while. Hands up for RIODO, but this is the rare puzzle that I really have no issues with.

I got stuck trying to come up with a non-profane alternative to #$CK around.

The END.

mac said...

Liked this puzzle a lot, as well as the write-up and Norwegian Woods.

The H in Rhodo was also my last letter, but that was an educated guess. Have we seen hones a lost in crosswords lately?

@SethG: Huh? I can't figure out your first paragraph.

*David* the Magnificent said...

I got stuck in the BELL JAR/DEJA VU area as well but just like Doug RHODO makes sense as in the plant so felt comfortable with that cross. A fun solid puzzle for a Thursday overall wasn't too difficult but had spots that kept me sitting for a while scraching my head.

ddbmc said...

Who knew?
AMF was founded in New York in 1900 as American Machine and Foundry, a manufacturer of industrial equipment for the tobacco industry. AMF moved into bowling dramatically after World War II, when AMF automated bowling equipment and bowling centers became profitable business ventures.~Wiki

To be safe on the Fourth,
Don't buy a fifth on the third.
— James H Muehlbauer

RHODO, in Greek, means ROSE-a "combining form, used in the formation of compound words." Usually used "before" as in RHODODENDREN or RHODOLITE. PREF. abbreviation then means: PREFACE, so not a deal breaker for me. (I mean no snook here!:)

Barnacle Bill said...

@Mac-Nickname for RICHARD....

John Wolfenden said...

Nice AMF trivia and epigram, ddbmc.

I suppose Ogden Nash's

Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.

would qualify.

C said...

RiODO didn't look right, guessed on the H just like some people.

Good puzzle, lots of interesting answers such as DIVVIESUP and the theme was fun to work through. I did have _UCK in the grid and can truthfully say that my mind never went into the vocabulary realm that Richard Pryor worked his magic. Now, if I was solving a BEQ puzzle, all bets are off ...

Anonymous said...

I loved DIVVIES UP and DEJA VU. Wow I have something in common with PG...Donna Shalala was my chancellor while attending Wisconsin in the 90s :)


Anonymous said...

"Presenting:Glottal stops"


Vega said...

And also, BANDITS and desperados are both really good words. Super-cute theme. I too enjoyed the vivacious Vs, but I'm biased.

WOW, did I love the "Norwegian Wood" video.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Fail for me too...
Rhodo and phon were over my head. Clever puzzle, a few "shady" clues, but good points for originality. Maybe friday or saturday a more apt destination?

-Sam in MT

Van55 said...

@Rex -- not that you need reinforcement, but xwordInfo shows zero uses of RHODO in the NYT database that dates back to -- 1993?

On the other hand, searcy of dictionary.com comes up with the following:

"rhodo-  a combining form meaning “rose,” used in the formation of compound words: rhodolite.

"< Gk, comb. form of rhódon rose1
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2011

"Medical Dictionary
rhodo- or rhod-
Rose; rosy; red: rhodopsin."

imsdave said...

Just back to correct by misspelling in my comment of RHODO - I actually did have RIODO, not RIODA, as posted. Thought process was frighteningly similar to Rex's.

But while I'm here, let me offer this alternative version to "Norwegian Wood" (it is inferior to the album version, but still pretty damned good).

Buddy Rich

I played lead trumpet in my high school jazz band and we played this arrangement. I always had to sit out the next number from exhaustion after playing the end of this.

Fowler said...

I was also caught by the RHODO / RIODO mixup. I knew it was wrong, but I respect it anyway. I just never thought of an H BEAM.

Hand Mop = SWAB refers to the use of the word "Hand" to designate a sailor or deckhand.

xxpossum@html.c said...

LOVED this puzzle! Almost thought it was friday today!Missed a coupla letters in the grid, but that's O.K. It's got to the point that I can guess which clues PzlGrl will have a problem with:Day's "will be" I figured she would need help from her extended puzzle family. This puzzle gelled for me perfectly (about) and left me wondering how they will top it 2morrow. L8R,y'all.

Avg Joe said...

What's not to like about RHODO? Sure, it's not something you might discuss over coffee, but it's legit and it was inferrable from Rhododendron. Besides, you simply cannot have a puzzle that mentions Dorothy Parker without some type of oblique reference to horticulture. It would be criminal.

At least 34A didn't refer to her telegram to her publisher while on her honeymoon. :-)

ddbmc said...

@PG and @imsdave, loved both renditions of "Norwegian Wood!" Be still my heart! I still miss the Fab Four Mop Tops. Buddy Rich was a fav of my dad's, too.

@Van55, what I said. ;)

Tuttle said...

I, for one, MUCK about and screw around. Or... well, you know.

As an IT professional conflating data and information (why clued with the abbrev?) makes me uncomfortable, but it's acceptable in common usage.

Larry S said...

Apparently a lot of people always enjoy a good Dorothy Parker EPIGRAf. (I apologize to those more genteel than that.)

@Avg Joe, perfectly stated defense of RHODO, which I inferred from RHODOdendron, because I've never heard of riodo. Oh, and now that I've checked around, I see that it's because riodo's not a word. I guess that makes it a horrendous non-word, too.

Friends, the fact that RHODO has never appeared in a puzzle makes it especially welcome, rather than inappropriate. (And how many times has riodo appeared in puzzles?) The only quibble you can legitimately make is that a prefix is not exactly the same as a combining form.

Clear, fun, clever, delightful puzzle. Kudos to John Lampkin.

Eric said...

RIODO fail here too. I tried to think of different plausible beam shapes, but H didn't occur to me. And I'm so used to seeing Spanish in puzzles that Greek never occurred to me -- not that RHODO would have in any case...
So, is an H-BEAM just an I-beam turned on its side, or are the proportions different?

Liked VOILA VIOLA best of the anagrams. Also liked BELL JAR and
and seeing Dorothy Parker in a clue.
And "You've just reached it" -> END. Nicely meta, as someone said of the black-square L's a couple of days ago.

Never heard of PHON, but got it from crosses. I've never of SONE either, except from puzzles. They're both units of perceived loudness. Decibels, on the other hand, are measurable, since they don't depend on human perception, but they're not strictly a loudness unit; though they're used for that, other things are measured in decibels too, e.g. amplifier gain, signal/noise ratio.

@Anon 10:02: LOL!

Rex Parker said...

"Friends, the fact that RHODO has never appeared in a puzzle makes it especially welcome, rather than inappropriate."

The logic there is terrible, for reasons too obvious to go into. And "especially welcome?" Look, if you want to defend the pig, fine, but don't try to put lipstick on the pig and tell me it's a pretty lady.

The fact that so many people botched *that* square in *that* (non-)word means there was a significant problem. All the defense of RHODO- in the world won't change that.

And I can tell you exactly how often RIODO has appeared in a (legitimate) puzzle, before today: exactly as many times as RHODO, i.e. zero. That's. The. Point.

Very enjoyable puzzle otherwise. But fatal is fatal. If you want to trick solvers, do so with legitimate words, trick cluing, etc., not some prefix found in only one well known word.

Avg Joe said...

Oh, I forgot one thing. I liked seeing AMF in the puzzle. It took a while to dredge that out of the memory bank, but they were the largest manufacturer of bowling alley equipment for years...prolly still are. At one time, it was a division of Brunswick. There was also a notable misdirect in the cluing since ABC stands for the American Bowling Congress, which sanctions most if not all league bowling.

hazel said...

Great puzzle.

RHODOchrosite is a very beautiful (obviously rose-colored) mineral, so it was a gimme for me. Go geology!! Since RHODOdendrons are also very beautiful, I like to think of RHODO as a lovely prefix and not a horrendous nonword!!

LIVESTRONG everyone!

Anonymous said...

The "D" in end is the last letter I put in the puzzle. I was pleased.

Sfingi said...

Greek affixes are important, too, along with Latin. Think dent/dont or homo/homo.
How about the German word for red: rot! (pr. roht)

Got the theme right away. Some of the other stuff took forever.
HTG: AMF, MCA, Brickell, Ekland.
One article referred to the plastic surgery on Ekland's mouth as a "trout pout." Which puts me in mind of another possible crossword theme?

Mini-themes - 1. holy; 2. aptly named.

@Fowler - thanx for explanation of hand.

@PG - Agreed with everything you said today. Actually IA is more soyey than corny these days. Almost more short dark green squares than tall light green on the terrestrial quilt.
Puzzle was pretty good, too.

Larry S said...

I know I should defer to Rex Parker's expertise, but fools rush in .... Not to be argumentative, just conversational, I'd insist that since a strength of English is its million-plus words (with its important Greek and Latin affixes, as Sfingi points out) we should especially welcome additions to crossword vocabulary. CW people are word people and may be grammatically, lexically and orthographically conservative, but we love to learn new words. Let's call RHODO our WOTD!

"rhodo-" appears in Amer Heritage Dict as a prefix meaning rose and is used in the fairly common word rhododendron. And as PG wrote, "... at least it brought flowers to mind, so I figured it was a good guess." That seems plenty enough to validate its inclusion in the CW lexicon. That's not lipstick on a pig!

You raise a good point about so many people getting it wrong. That's a yellow card, though, not a red (fatal flaw) one. I bet, one, that won't happen the next time, implying two, I bet there will be a next time!

Turning from this tempest in a teapot, I raise my Rioja to you, you are a great puzzler, Mr. Parker!

John Lampkin said...

Since I have rhodochrosite in my gem and mineral collection, and since I own 30 rhododendrons, and since it has strong dictionary support, RHODO was not a problematic choice for me, especially for a Thursday.

With all due respect, Rex is mistaken. RHODO appeared in the NY Times on a Saturday in 1992, clued as "Rose: Comb. form". It has two other more recent citations as well in Matt Ginsberg's database.

What was perhaps unfair was the cross with H BEAM. It never occurred to me that there would be confusion with I BEAM, so apologies to those who felt unfairly deceived. The flaw though lies with that cross. There is absolutely nothing wrong with RHODO.

In any case, I was certain that Rex would be applauding the puzzle wildly since this is not anything close to a pangram. ;-)

Thank you P.G. and thank you all for the critical feedback, both pro and con. I appreciate it greatly.

SethG said...

Cruciverb database has 1 entry for RHODO, 30 for RHODE. RHODE isn't ideal, is always clued with a partial, and is probably not any constructor's first choice. You wanna bet that in all 30 cases the E made for a better cross than an O would have? Or do you think other constructors maybe thought RHODO was not very good?

My opinion: RHODO sucks, but it's the cross that made it fatal. Which...is exactly what Rex said.

HUTCH said...

Yeah- I'm there.Me too for rioda! But lets hear some comments about H-beam. I know a lot of constuction guys and the've never mentioned an 'H' beam.

Mokus said...

I started the puzzle this evening and, although most of you have gone to bed, I need to say that I loved it! Then I read the comments and I loved them too! Fascinating back and forth today.

I was smiling all the way thanks to the Doris Day clue. It seems like soon after I got my driver's license in 1957 (when I was just a little teen) there wasn't any way to escape Que Sera Sera on the car radio. And ya know? She was right!

Anonymous said...

@John - I have a buddy who started a job with a parts store and got an order for 3200 Shooks - day one, no kidding. Not wanting to look like an idiot, he phoned around and hit his 3rd or 4th supplier before somebody clued in into "S Hook" as a plausible explanation for "Shook".

Not big on HBEAM as the orientation seems to be wrong. Used to use HCLIPS on roofing panels because that's how they sat after installation. Why would one take an IBEAM and orient it to it's weak side?

I think RHODO is fair game, tho, especially because we learn something. Plus it's english and in the dictionary. Had it crossed "HELLO", there'd be no issue, IMO.

Avg Joe said...

I've had a bit of construction experience in my lifetime. While no steel monkey, I've been on a lot of job sites and worked with a broad variety of materials. If I've learned anything from all this, it's that there are no hard and fast rules relating to what things are called. Some are manufacturer specific, others are argot. Of the 26 letters in the alphabet, it's likely that at least half are co-opted in the naming of various types of brackets, fasteners or support members. An "H" beam is certainly one of the recognized types of steel beams. It is distinguished from an "I" beam by broader flanges, which gives it greater resistance to side sway, and thus the distinction. IMHO, you owe no apologies for using this term, Mr. Lampkin.

As PG points out in the FAQ's, there is no right or wrong way to solve a puzzle. It occurs to me that the biggest argument against that cross in today's puzzle is that it slowed down the solve time. For those of us that are hoping to learn something rather than set a new record, this is of no real consequence.

Thanks for a good puzzle, and a lively discussion.

mac said...

What a good LAXC day! Congratulations PG and partners.

Anonymous said...

I'm also one of those who didn't start until this evening. I can never finish Friday and Saturday puzzles and only finish Thursday about one third of the time. But I came close to finishing this one, mostly because it was fun! and so I kept at it. I especially liked Voila Viola. Even as I type the words it makes me smile. Thanks.
em jay


I used to be involved with structural engineering for designing massive machinery. We often used H-BEAMS instead of I-Beams. Basically an H-BEAM is an I-Beam turned on its side. So why the distinction then? LOAD APPLICATION! If the loading produces a lot of bending stress, we used the beam as an I-Beam (where the flanges are dominant), however if the load application produces a high amount of shear stress, we used it as an H-BEAM (where the webs are more important). Both are equally valid in a crossword puzzle.