02.10 Thu

T H U R S D A Y February 10, 2011
Don Gagliardo

Theme: Happy Hour — Ingredients of a dry martini are hidden at the end of the theme answers.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Delta location (RIVER MOUTH).
  • 20A: Source of showroom shock? (STICKER PRICE).
  • 35A: Standing by for an on-air appearance (ABOUT TO GO LIVE).
  • 53A: Risk calculation (SAFETY MARGIN).
  • 57A: Its components are hidden at the ends of 17-, 20-, 35- and 53-Across (DRY MARTINI).
Let me tell you what's awesome about this theme. Maybe you already noticed this, but just in case you didn't. The phrases used for the theme answers don't end with the actual words VERMOUTH, ICE, OLIVE, and GIN — it's just that the letters that spell those words happen to be the last letters of the phrase. It feels like I didn't explain that very well. Let me try this. Here's an example of what a bad theme answer would be for this theme: SKATING ON THIN ICE. Besides the fact that it's too long, it's boring how the word we're looking for is ICE and that's actually the last word in the phrase. It's much cooler that the last word of the phrase is PRICE and we have to figure out that it's just the ICE that we're interested. (There isn't any RICE in a martini, right?)

Stuff I just flat-out didn't know:
  • 19A: Actor Sitka who appeared in numerous Three Stooges films (EMIL).
  • 43A: Central Chinese city (XIAN).
  • 50D: Croesus' kingdom (LYDIA).
To be honest, there was other stuff I didn't know, like I didn't know that GONZAGA was a [34D: Spokane university], but I do know of other schools called GONZAGA so it wasn't that hard to put together, especially because I had the Z in there early thanks to [46A: Jazzman Stan] GETZ. EMIL, on the other hand … I filled him in from the back end, so just knowing that EMIL is a name didn't really help until I had fully 3/4 of the letters in place.

As for the rest of the grid, well, there is definitely some nice fill, but there are quite a few abbreviations and some clunkers too. Actually some of the abbreviations are also clunkers. (I'm looking at you, REGT. (33A: Battle gp.).) But I had to fight a bit through this one and the theme is pretty good, so I can see how someone could make the argument that it's a fair trade.

  • 14A: Martinez with three Cy Young Awards (PEDRO). Whenever I see "Martinez" in a baseball clue I can only think of Tino. And I always know that's not right.
  • 25A: "Catcher in the Wry" author (UECKER). Speaking of baseball.
  • 31A: Send (THRILL). As in the Sam Cooke song, "You Send Me."
  • 40A: Bauble (GAUD). My WTF answer of the day. I know "gaudy," but can't say I've ever seen GAUD. The U was the last letter I entered into the grid. If I had included an actual Clunkers List in this post, GAUD would probably be right on top. I haven't decided yet if I can forgive this one.
  • 51A: Fit for consumption (EATABLE). Kinda makes EDIBLE sound high-falutin', doesn't it?
  • 7D: "The Caine Mutiny" novelist (WOUK). PuzzleHusband and I were just talking about this book/movie the other day. I can't remember why exactly, but I remember I said that it's awesome. Which it is.
  • 8D: Cigar tip? (-ETTE). The question mark is a hint that the answer won't be a word you would call the literal tip of a cigar. Instead, think about adding a "tip" to the end of the word "cigar."
  • 13D: "Total Eclipse of the Heart" singer Bonnie (TYLER). You know I was going to post the "Literal Video" version of this song, but I've used that one before, so how about we mix it up a little and take a look at these knuckleheads instead:

  • 23D: Jewish social org. (YMHA). Young Men's Hebrew Association.
  • 45D: Terrified, to the bard (AFEARD). Sounds more like a backwoods kinda phrase, but okay.
  • 47D: Designated (TERMED). I tried DEEMED first.
  • 54D: "Happy Days" mom, to the Fonz (MRS. C). Oooh, I always like seeing MRS. C in the grid. It reminds me of how Fonzie always turned into such a cream puff around her.
  • 55D: Auel heroine (AYLA). I read this series (it's the one that starts with "Clan of the Cave Bear," right?) at least a hundred years ago. I remember really enjoying it, but there was no way I was going to come up with her name without every single cross.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 27A: Hershiser with a Cy Young Award (OREL).
  • 56A: Beard-preventing brand (ATRA).
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Everything Else 1A: Get used to it (ADAPT); 6A: PBS moderator Ifill (GWEN); 10A: Go for (COST); 15A: By __: from memory (ROTE); 16A: Sale modifier (ONLY); 22A: Healthy routine (HYGIENE); 26A: Make __ dash for (A MAD); 30A: Wind instrument vibrator (REED); 41A: Citi Field org. (N.Y. METS); 48A: Some are named for music genres (ERAS); 49A: Carrying limit (ARMFUL); 61A: Forest denizens (DEER); 62A: Capri, e.g. (ISLE); 63A: Quilt filler (EIDER); 64A: Used too much (OD'ED); 65A: USNA part: Abbr. (ACAD.); 66A: Puts in a hold (STOWS); 1D: Mortgage no. (APR); 2D: "De Civitate __": "The City of God," St. Augustine work (DEI); 3D: -ly word, usually: Abbr. (ADV.); 4D: Spanish fort (PRESIDIO); 5D: Rich dessert (TORTE); 6D: Food merchant (GROCER); 9D: Early Indian leader (NEHRU); 10D: Strong-arm (COERCE); 11D: Wired for sound (ON MIKE); 12D: Did a deli job (SLICED); 18D: Camera company that merged with Konica (MINOLTA); 21D: With some sauce (PERTLY); 22D: One of many jobs, in metaphor (HAT); 24D: Things to wear (GARB); 28D: Wear away (ERODE); 29D: Relay runner's assignment (LEG); 32D: Wheel securer (LUG NUT); 34D: Spokane university (GONZAGA); 36D: Play with a dog toy, maybe (TUG); 37D: Response to "You were kidding, right?" (I MEANT IT); 38D: Word of action (VERB); 39D: And friends, facetiously (ET AL.); 42D: Capt.'s heading (SSE); 43D: Like DVDs in a restricted room (X-RATED); 44D: "We can talk now" ("I'M FREE"); 49D: South American grilled meat dish (ASADO); 52D: Exhausts (TIRES); 58D: Altar promise (I DO); 59D: Fresh (NEW); 60D: Letters seen in many forms (IRS).


backbiter said...

I feel so stupid at the moment. I looked at "Catcher In The Wry" at least ten times before I noticed it wasn't "Rye". LOL. Um, no sir.
Cigarettes suck. Please do yourself a favor. If you smoke cigarettes, switch over to cigars. I promise you will be a more happy person. I swear on it!


Limme said...

@PG - No, there is no rice in a dry martini. Neither is there gin nor an olive, and quite fankly, vermouth is pushing it.

Mokus said...

@PG: your observations echoed mine so closely that I couldn't believe there's an entire continent between us.

Enjoyed the theme because gin has been my poison of choice for fifty years. I read a book about the origins and traditions of the Martini recently. I suppose bartenders can label cocktails however they wish but a Martini without gin, vermouth and an olive just ain't a Martini. I substitute onions on occasion which makes it a Gibson. I only use Vermouth to marinate the olive or onion which is about as dry as I like a true Martini.

@backbiter: give up smoking entirely and I promise you will be even happier.

mac said...

I too had a very similar experience to PG's, very nice Thursday!

I thought the green would feature in 35A, and the K in Uecker was my last letter to fill in.

Rube said...

Couldn't accept the M in TERMED but what else could it have been? Still left it blank until I took out the G, of _INg at the end and DRYMARTINI popped out and all the theme answers suddenly made sense. That M was my last letter in the grid.

The EMIL/TYLER cross was two names I didn't know, but what else would fit? Like @PG, didn't like EATABLE or GAUD, and would add to the list AMAD and ODED. XIAN was a gimme as that's where the terra cotta warriors are and I'll be there next month. FYI, it means "western peace" and is spelled Xi'an.

Although I don't drink gin, the theme was great and well executed. Some of the fill, less so.

What's with this new way to choose identity? If I get asked to sign up for something again, I'll have to go with "OpenID" in the future.

*David* said...

This one was more like a Friday workout for me. I got lots of it filled but couldn't quite close the deal. I also made a couple of errors that slowed me down, a bit frustrating but NICE theme.

John Wolfenden said...

Super theme. I was going nuts trying to find a common thread to the last words of the theme answers, but like PG I found it very satisfying once I cracked it. Describing the elements as "hidden" was an important clue.

Good level of difficulty, I felt like this puzzle had to be wrestled to the ground. the YMHA/THRILL cross confounded me...just couldn't think of the old-timey meaning of "Send."

As PG wrote, REGT is probably the biggest clunker. Seems like it would make more sense as an abbreviation for "regent" than "regiment."

Tuttle said...

You think edible sounds hifalutin? I had "potable" in there and no clue how to spell GONZAGA. IMHO potable and edible are both "fit for consumption" while EATABLE just means it will fit down my throat. May poison me, but it can be eaten.

AFEARD may sound like the backwoods a'feared but it looks a lot more stupid without the second E.

REGT seems more common in British usage while Americans tend to use rgmt.

Does anyone ever clue LYDIA as "tattooed lady"?

SethG said...

Nice Whatever!

The martini puzzle I did last year included RIVER MOUTH, clued as [Delta area]. It did not include ice. The drier your martini, the less vermouth. And ice is a component? There's as much rice as there is ice in a properly made martini.

There was a lot of stuff I didn't love in this puzzle, but I'm not sure if EATABLE or AFEARD is at the top of the list.

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

I can't help myself when I say that, as @PG experienced, I too was shaken by some of the fill, but stirred by the sparkling theme.

Had no idea about 49D ASADO, 43A XIAN (though had a palm slap to the forehead once I saw it), nor EMIL Sitka, and that U in 40A threw me (had GAaD crossing TaG). Plus, for some reason, just could no see the first and last letters of 22D _A_, was stumped by XRATED, and my initial fill for 47D was TappED.

I too wondered about the spelling of Ms. Auel's heroine (played in the flic by Daryl Hannah)as I stared at A_LA in the cross with DR_MARTIN_ and was thinking about those boots when the Aha! of the theme hit me.

Loved the clip of the late, great, Sam Cooke, @PG. Back in the day, one of the popular AM radio stations used to sign off each night at midnight with that song. If you weren't already driving home with your date, you knew you were WAAY behind the curfew curve if you heard it. Good times, great memories! Also, loved "knuckleheads", my favorite pejorative.

hydraton The creature in the movie "The Abyss"?

lit.doc said...

Yes, nice Fridayish level of difficulty. Excellent theme execution but, as I don’t go near gin, I can’t comment on its accuracy. Hand up for REG’T being one of the ugliest abbrev’s I’ve seen in a while.

Also less than thrilled by EATABLE. Legal, yes, but it was just mean to make me try to work around POTABLE for so long. And 21D “With some sauce?” Sass, sure, but sauce? YMJA also held me up for a while (yes, it’s a legit answer, just wrong in this case).

Agree with @PG that AFEARD sounds like a hillbilly’s utterance, but FWIW it shows up in Henry V, The Tempest, and Macbeth.

C said...

Nicely themed puzzle. Lots'o Baseball which is good as pitchers and catchers report soon and the dark days of sports end (yay!)

I made extra cash in college bar-tending my parents friends x-mas parties. That in itself is funny as I don't drink hard alcohol and really had no idea how to make any mixed drinks but I faked it and got through. This gentleman came up to me and ordered a dry martini. By this point, I had made a few martinis and had done some reading so felt pretty confident that I could handle his order. Got the gin, the olive and as I reached for the vermouth he stopped me and told me to say 'Vermouth' over the glass, which I did, he then took the glass, thanked me and left me a tip. At the time in my naivete, I wondered why he just didn't fricking order gin but then I realized, after tasting a martini, martini drinkers are kinda out there.

Larry Sittig said...

Finished in the southwest corner because I spelled XIAN with an 's.' (Wrong, but it is pronounced 'sh.' And to make a fine point, it looks like it's central China, but because of the sparse population of the far west, is considered western China, and the name means 'western peace.') I understand ASADO to be a way (fire-grilling) of preparing dishes, not always meat (e.g. pimientos asados), and not the dish. So that took a while.

And please, ATRA is not a beard preventer, it is a beard remover. What would Rex Parker call that, a fatal fail?

But the hardest was NE corner, because the only musical Bonnie I thought of was Raitt. Nothing was working until I googled Catcher in the Wry.

Ratty said...

Didn't care for this one. Too many obscure answers. But I did have some insight into what makes a successful puzzle to me.

One thing is obscure clues are better than obscure answers. Case in point: "Go for" = COST. I like that one because that's not one of the first things you think about when you see that phrase out of context. But the answer is a perfectly plain word. Even when I got the answer it took a few moments of mental wrangling to make sense of it and I think that final mental wrangling is much to be sought after in a successful puzzle. (Another great clue for that might be "Set back.")

One of the other things that delights me in a puzzle, though, is a direct contradiction of my first insight: I like it when the answer is something obscure that I happen to know. I know a lot about classical music. If I know Chopin is well-known for his ETUDES, that gives me a little thrill. If the answer is MAZURKAS then that's a much bigger thrill and more liable to piss other people off. So rules. Go figure.

Didn't get the theme until it was explained here in this blog. Exceptional cleverness and agility on the part of the puzzler is also very pleasing so now I appreciate this puzzle a bit more.

Avg Joe said...

The solve was a struggle all the way through for me, but I enjoyed it a lot. Did have one error. I had RIAN instead of XIAN, thinking the cross was R Rated. Oh well.

@C: I haven't had a martini in 30 or more years, but used to make them in a similar way back in the day. If you have gin and an olive, you're merely drinking gin. For it to be a martini, vermouth is a requirement. So.....I bought a bottle of vermouth and would simply hold that bottle near glass after the other ingredients were in place. Said I was "Showing" it to the drink, which thereby ordained it a martini. We moved a few years ago and while cleaning out the old house I found that bottle vermouth, still unopened. It served its purpose.

CrazyCatLady said...

This was a challenge for me as well, although I appreciated the difficulty level and really liked the MARTINI theme. The NE and SW were both a mess. Didn't know EMIL or UECKER. I had PUREED before PERTLY which didn't help matters. ON MIKE seemed off to me since I thought MIC was the short name for microphone. Disgruntled hand up for REGT and EATABLE. I wanted to squeeze in PALATABLE. Had no idea about LYDIA.

As far as AFEARD, I remember hearing many years ago (before cable, internet, cell phones) that some people in parts of Appalachia were so removed from society, that they still spoke a form of Elizabethan English. Have no idea if it's true, but an interesting concept.

PG Loved the Total Eclipse video. Always love seeing people mock that song.

JIMMIE said...

Just plain Martinis are made with the same ingredients, DRY or not.

My first input was 17a, where I immediately put in NorthEgypt, which set me back a good bit, but finally made it through. It was all fun. Yeah, REGT was lame.

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

Sorry technical difficulties. This is interesting.
Appalachian English

Avg Joe said...

That was interesting, CCL. Unfortunately, it reminded me of a joke:-)

A convent was undergoing a major renovation and there were a large number of workers on site. One day, a young novice Nun approached the Mother Superior of the convent. She said: "Mother Superior, I'm deeply concerned for the souls of some of the workmen. They use such foul language, I fear they'll be forever damned."

The Mother Superior tried to calm her fears: "Don't be concerned child. They are God fearing men. They merely call a spade a spade."

To which the novice replied: "Oh no Mother Superior. They call it a $&*#ing shovel!"

Sfingi said...


Also thought green room. Also, poTABLE, but that's drinkable. Prefer EdiBLE. Did have bROkER before GROCER.

For some reason, I saw the VERMOUTH and OLIVE before the theme and thought - "That would be a nice theme - food hidden in phrases." And so it was.

@CrazyCat - The Bard was from the hollers.

@PG - include EIDER as very crosswordy.

@Larry Sittig - had the same thoughts about beard and China. A hormone might be a preventer.

Clue 41A gave me the answer for NYT 18A.

Anonymous said...

Go For = COST ? Sorry, I still don't get it. ONMIKE is weak. Otherwise the martini business is clever.

John Wolfenden said...

Anonymous, "go for" as in "These here umbrellas go for twenty bucks."