02.25 Fri

February 25, 2011
Annemarie Brethauer

Theme: Add LA — The letters LA are added to familiar phrases, creating wacky new phrases.

Theme answers:

  • 16A: Move from Crystal to Caesar's? (CHANGE OF PALACE).
  • 28A: Antelope of questionable virtue? (LOOSE ELAND).
  • 33A: "Another regulation, sorry to say"? ("ALAS, A RULE").
  • 43A: Greengrocer's grab bags? (SALAD SACKS).
  • 53A: 1997 Kevin Spacey film, and a hint to this puzzle's theme (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL).
I have very mixed feelings about this theme. As add-a-letter(s) puzzles go, the theme answers are funny and well clued (LOOSE ELAND made me LOL). Also, I'm not sure you noticed, but this blog's name is a play on the movie title "L.A. Confidential," so it's fun to see a theme based on that movie. Except … um, how exactly does the movie fit in again? We're adding the letters LA to familiar phrases (which, of course, creates wackiness). But but but … what does confidential have to do with anything? A better movie title for this theme would be something like "L.A. Is Everywhere" or "Forever L.A." or "Have You Seen L.A.?" Sure, those titles suck and the movies would probably be terrible, but you get my point. Also? Wait for it. … Too easy for a Friday.

Highlights for me today include:
  • 36A: Gait between walk and canter (AMBLE).
  • 52A: Repartee (BANTER).
  • 37D: Jackson dubbed "Queen of Gospel" (MAHALIA).

It seems like some of the clues were toughened up a little in an attempt to make this more Friday-ish. Like:
  • 5A: Curve of a cabriole leg (KNEE). I don't know what a "cabriole" is.
  • 7D: "The Silmarillion" being (ELF). I don't know what "The Silmarillion" is."
  • 25D: Jennifer Crusie's genre (ROMANCE). I don't know who Jennifer Crusie is.
See? A bunch of stuff I don't know. But the answers were easy enough to figure out through crosses.

  • 27A: Cliff, Carlos and Derrek of baseball (LEES). Phillies pitcher, Astros left-fielder, and Orioles first-baseman.
  • 30A: Mag wheels? (EDS.). This is one of those clues you've seen before if you do crosswords regularly, but if you're new to solving you have no idea what's going on. The clue is basically pointing you toward toward important people (i.e., "big wheels") at "magazines": EDitorS.
  • 49A: "Cheers" waitress (CARLA). Do you think the "Cheers" creators gave both the waitresses five-letter names just to confound future crossword puzzle solvers? Yeah, I do too.
  • 50A: Sixth rock from the sun: Abbr. (SAT.). Cute clue; terrible abbreviation.
  • 11D: French president Sarkozy (NICOLAS). His last name has never sounded particularly French to me.
  • 29D: 2004 Anne Hathaway title role (ELLA). I know the name of the movie is "Ella Enchanted," but in my head I was actually picturing the Amy Adams movie "Enchanted." I've not seen the former, but the latter is actually pretty interesting. For a princess movie.
  • 35D: Adds to (UPS). Like in the phrase "ups the ante" — something 19A: Danish poker star Gus HANSEN might do. Actually, no. The players don't determine the ante. But you'll forgive me for tying these two answers together. Because you're good like that.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 14A: Anago and unagi (EELS).
  • 58A: "Exodus" novelist (URIS).
  • 10D: Gardner of "Mayerling" (AVA).
  • 28D: Mauna __ (LOA).
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Everything Else 1A: Rigged support (MAST); 9A: Sheet of stamps (PANE); 13A: "So that's how it's going to be" ("I SEE"); 15A: An amulet may ward it off, purportedly (EVIL); 20A: Curling surface (ICE); 21A: Texter's "Heavens!" (OMG); 23A: Oscar night figure (EMCEE); 24A: Small, vocal bird (WREN); 26A: __ market (FLEA); 31A: Pound output (POEM); 32A: Has a powerful desire (for) (LUSTS); 39A: Wine Train valley (NAPA); 40A: MoveOn.org, e.g.: Abbr. (PAC); 46A: Hole maker (MOTH); 47A: Mongol sovereign (KHAN); 48A: Trap, in a way (TREE); 51A: Rye go-with (HAM); 57A: Lowdown (INFO); 59A: Compass __ (ROSE); 60A: Riding (ATOP); 61A: Took off (LEFT); 62A: Dot and Flik, in "A Bug's Life" (ANTS); 1D: "Glee" star Lea __ (MICHELE); 2D: Embarrassed (ASHAMED); 3D: Medium settings (SEANCES); 4D: Time indicators of a sort (TENSES); 5D: Gung-ho (KEEN); 6D: Rebirth prefix (NEO-); 8D: Uses binoculars, say (ESPIES); 9D: Athlete dubbed "O Rei do Futebol" (PELE); 12D: Gold or silver (ELEMENT); 17D: "Hmm ..." ("GEE …"); 18D: Embarrassing marks (ACNE); 22D: Roams (GADS); 24D: Troubles (WOES); 26D: Obstacle for Santa? (FLUE); 31D: Responded in court (PLED); 33D: King of comedy (ALAN); 34D: Shed tool (RAKE); 36D: Sets a price (ASKS); 38D: Sticking out (BLATANT); 40D: Helping (PORTION); 41D: In any case (AT LEAST); 42D: River to Boston Harbor (CHARLES); 44D: Seven-time N.L. batting champ Musial (STAN); 45D: Two or three bags of groceries, say (ARMFUL); 46D: Transforming syllable (MANTRA); 49D: Lockup (CAN); 51D: Stud alternative (HOOP); 52D: As good as it gets (BEST); 54D: Corp. exec (CFO); 55D: Fury (IRE); 56D: "What's the __?" (DIF).


Sfingi said...

Sarkozy is of Hungarian extraction.

Cabriole comes from the Italian word for goat - capra. How it became French. I do not know.

I had some trouble with this in the NW. HTG for MICHELLE, HANSEN and EELS. I have watched Glee once, and it wasn't that bad. No interest in gambling. I thought the Anago and Unagi were going to be Manga characters. MICHELLE and HANSEN a strong Natick for me.

Had CEO and wondered what this INeO was. SInce I'm old, and uncool, I assumed it was a new concept.

I liked the clues for TENSES, HOOP, POEM. Was surprised that Ms. Annemarie called Woody ALAN the King of Comedy, but don't disagree.


Enjoyed this puzzle! I'm not usually a fan of corny themes, but something in this one sparked my interest.

Struggled a bit with the SE corner, but eventually did finish okay.

Fave word: WREN, because I long for that sweet springtime sound.

Thought the LA CONFIDENTIAL thing was going to pay homage to this blog name, but then I realized it was referring to the title of a really bad movie.

"The Silmarillion" is the best of the J.R.R. Tolkien writings. The ELF part of the story grew out of the 'fairy folk' of Tolkien's early poems, but really there is little connection between the two. Elves may have arisen in his mind as a result of his enthusiasm for Francis Thompson's 'Sister Songs' and Edith's fondness for 'little elfin people', but the elves of 'The Silmarillion' have nothing whatever to do with the tiny leprechauns' of 'Goblin Feet'. They actually are Man before the Fall (which deprived him of his powers of achievement). The elves, although capable of sin and error, had not fallen, in the theological sense, and so they were capable of achieving beyond the powers of mankind. They become poets, writers, craftsmen, creators of works of beauty beyond human creativity. They are immortal... old age, disease, and death does not bring their work to an end while it is still unfinished or imperfect. Hence they are the inspiration and ideal of every artist.

Have a lovely weekend y'all !

Anonymous said...

Cabriole is chair/table leg or a ballet leap.

Silmarillon is a great tolkien book, precursor to lord of the rings.


No, that was ALAN King, the caustic stand-up comedian.

Rex Parker said...

Weird: hardest LAT Friday I've done in a while (6-something), largely bec. of the NW. Took a long time to even see the theme, which is the only way I got into the NW. SEANCES, TENSES, HANSEN (!?), "Similwhatever," KNEE, ... all ????

Theme feels wonky, as you point out.

Really wish the ELAND had simply escaped, instead of being cast as a whore.


Sfingi said...

@John - Woody Allen - OK, spelled different - but he's stories taller than Alan King - I guess he meant the last name. I never even thought of him. At first, I thought of Marx. Then there was the movie with (De)Niro.

WREN - I have my juncos/juncoes? (spelling, again)coming for peanuts. We have quite an orchestra already, but I fear I'm actually snowed in, today.


I had to recite the old grade school acronym MVEMJSUN in order to come up with the 'sixth rock from the sun', Saturn. I agree, the abbreviation of Sat. was lame.
MVEMJSUN = Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus; the eight(yes 8, not 9) planets in our solar system.

Yep, more snow here in Chicagoland. Ugh!

*David* said...

Tolkien should be in the same category as The Simpsons, you got to know the details. I got stuck in the bottom sections especially in the SE where I needed to use the G to get MAHALIA and then it fell into place. The cluing was lots of fun today.

PuzzleGirl said...

JNH. Seriously. Don't do that again.

Anonymous said...

Sfingi, capra is the Latin word for goat. Like Capricorn. I bet both the French and the Italian came from that.

Tuttle said...

Sfingi, the French cabrioler is from the Italian capriolare "To jump into the air" (which in turn derives from the word for "goat"). The lightness of the furniture's style combined with the bent-leg form apparently gave the French the idea the table was getting ready to leap.

SethG said...

THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995) didn't fit. AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999) did. I've really got to review my 1990s movie chronologies. With 3 of the 4 LAs being inserted after an A, I thought it was an AL insertion theme for a while.

Ham _on_ rye sure, but I wouldn't call ham a rye go-with. They've apparently got some weird delis in LA.

Avg Joe said...

I had mixed feelings about this one, and found it quite difficult overall. I really enjoyed The Hobbit and the Trilogy, but know of no other Tolkien works. So elf and several other answers had to come exclusively from crosses. The theme seemed a little strained, but OK overall. I'd give it a C.

We had a small but nasty storm blow through here yesterday afternoon. A 20 car pile up with several semi's involved closed the Interstate and taking a 2 lane highway detour took us 2 1/2 hours to travel 6 miles. Clear, sunny and 10 degrees this morning, but more snow forecast for tonight.

Anonymous said...

Felt more like a Saturday than a Friday, but there's nothing wrong with a good challenge.

Speaking of challenges, if anyone can figure out how LA Confidential ties into this theme, then maybe you can explain how Kim Bassinger won an Oscar for her small, uninteresting role in the movie. Seriously. I saw the movie after she won, and I kept waiting for a memorable scene from her. Still waiting.

Anoa Bob said...

Had some issues with 46D "transforming syllable" for MANTRA. This only works if ones mantra is "Om" or some such, but a mantra can be and I suspect most typically is composed of multiple syllables (15 for me).

Poker, especially Texas Hold 'Em, has become an international rage and the top players international superstars. Gus HANSEN is one of those. Another top player I saw in a puzzle not too long ago was Phil IVEY. I expect we'll see more and more poker terms and players in future crosswords.

Anonymous said...

"L.A. Confidential" is a really bad movie? John, what are you smoking? Your comments are stranger than usual today, and that's saying something.

Strange-looking grid too.

Rube said...

At the risk of picking a nit, Saturn is a gas giant, not a "rock", although it probably does have a metallic core.

Since I couldn't finish this last night without falling asleep, I'd classify this as a medium hard Friday. Didn't know HANSEN, never heard of any of the LEES, LOL at the loose eland, and thought SALADSACKS was reaching. Hand up for wondering what CONFIDENTIAL has to do with anything.

Hmmm. Guess I'll have to Netflick LA Confidential.

KJGooster said...

I pretty much agree with PG today. Liked the theme overall, didn't quite agree with the revealer, thought it was way too easy.

And I have to agree with Anon@8:39 and completely disagree with JNH -- I thought LA CONFIDENTIAL was a really good movie, and that "The Silmarillion" was far from Tolkien's best. L.A. Confidential has a 99% rating at RottenTomatoes, and an 8.4/10 score at IMDB. Some of the Silmarillion stories are indeed beautiful, but as a whole, it's really hard to get through. To each his own, though.

John Wolfenden said...

I also felt ambivalent about the theme execution. My first thought was, how can there be a 14-letter word at the bottom that isn't really one of the theme answers? It's trying to straddle the fence between being a theme revealer, which it really isn't, and a theme answer. Taking away LA to make CONFIDENTIAL doesn't fit with the others.

I liked "Hole maker" for MOTH and "Transforming syllable" for MANTRA. Also cool to see BLATANT in the puzzle. Not crazy about "Hmm..." for GEE.

When I worked as supervising editor on the World Poker Tour, I spent a lot of time staring at Gus Hansen's giant noggin. He works out a lot and has a penchant for flexing his guns when he wins a tournament.

I read Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast" awhile ago, and there some good stories about his friend Ezra POUND in there. One involved a poet friend of Pound who was a heroin addict. Hemingway was charged with taking care of him while Pound was out of town, and the only food he would consume was milk.

I always want it to be Mauna KEA and it turns out to be Mauna LOA every time. Maybe some day...


I'll grant you that some critics (and you)thought LA CONFIDENTIAL "was a really good movie." IMO, it just didn't do it for me... too much sex and violence for my taste. I'm just tired of all the police shoot-em-up and exploitation "fluff" that we're seeing so much in the theatres lately. On the other hand, The Silmarillion is uplifting, thoughtful, and beautiful... something we need more of. You are so right though, it requires a lot of deep thinking. I just think it's a book that needs to be read BEFORE getting into The Lord of the Rings series (including The Hobbit).

Anonymous said...

Not a big fan of this one. The "hint" to the theme doesn't make any sense, and the A-L-A combo for 3 of the 4 theme answers is a little confusing and not very elegant. And some of the clues (KNEE, HANSEN, ROMANCE, etc) seemed to be trying too hard to be obscure rather than thought-provoking or interesting.

CrazyCatLady said...

My experience with this was similar to @PG's. Had the most difficulty in the SE since I had had DIANE instead of CARLA, didn't get the transforming syllable clue at 46D. I agree with @anoa Bob. There are many MANTRAs in Sanskrit and often om is only the first syllable. Liked BANTER and BLATENT. 36A AMBLE was odd. Didn't know HANSEN or any of the LEES. Thought 46A Hole Maker, MOTH was cute once I finally got it.

There's a chance of snow in the some of LA valleys tomorrow. Weird.

StudioCitySteve said...


Didn't understand PAC, didn't like DIF, wasn't impressed with how BLATANT was clued and agree with SethG about HAM.

Agree with everyone's theme comments, and I'm a two-thumbs-up for the LA Confidential movie.

shrub5 said...

Fairly smooth solve and an easy Friday. A couple of bumps in the road -- I had Santa's obstacle a FIRE before FLUE, and PEN for lockup before CAN. Also thought Sarkozy's name was probably NICOLAI. Favorite clue was 'medium settings' for SEANCES (cute).

@StudioCitySteve: PAC = political action committee.
MoveOn.org info in wikipedia.

TWG said...

PAC = Political Action Committee

I thought the SE was a really slick section of crosswords. Maybe that's because I made it through unscathed and felt proud of myself? I also feel for the CEO/CFO mixup in the SW which left me scratching my head (INEO? Duh, not!).

I thought blog regulars would like this theme, since this is the LA Crossword Confidential blog! It's strange to see so many people slamming the theme. This was a solid puzzle. "Medium settings" is a great way to clue SEANCES.

My least faves: SAT (terrible abbreviation) and DIF (even worse).

Oh yeah, the movie is pretty good too. Have a good weekend everyone.

(Shrub beat me to the punch on a couple of comments!)


Anonymous said...

Thought this was easier than most Fridays. Quite a bit of subtlety in the clues and outside the box thinking which I like quite a bit.

JIMMIE said...

I dunno, the hint was good for me. As soon as I got LACONFIDENTIAL I knew that there was an extra LA in the theme answers, and looking at LOOSEELAND, yep there it was.

And I liked the movie. The AMBLE gait, for a horse, is very cool looking, if not the BEST.

Anonymous said...

Thought the theme worked perfectly fine myself. I took the "confidential" in its secretive sense; e.g., the letters "la" had been hidden/ closeted together within otherwise ordinary phrases.

I slogged through The Silmarillion as a Tolkein afficianado when it first hit the market back in the late 70s, and I can't say I enjoyed it much either. Too many exotic names and places introduced per page for my taste. It did however flush out his infinitely more accessible Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series with an amazingly detailed back history.

CrazyCatLady said...

@JIMMIE when I saw AMBLE I thought maybe it referred to the Tennessee Walking Horse or American Saddlebred, but couldn't find a gait called AMBLE when I googled those breeds. After checking out Wiki, it seems that horses that are considered "gaited" amble, but the ambling gaits have different names for different breeds. So I stand corrected. Thanks.

Joon said...

the theme was fine. reveal was odd, but only a little. the movie ... i have strange memories of it, because it was the movie i watched on a date with my first and only ex-girlfriend. basinger is indeed utterly forgettable, but guy pearce and russell crowe were quite good, and i'd never heard of either one before then. also james cromwell. i like that guy.

the SAT clue is beyond odd. why clue a perfectly normal english word as a really awkward abbreviation? even if you told me you needed SAT to be an abbreviation for something, SATurday stands out head and shoulders above anything else it could be. just bizarre.

i learned lea MICHELE's name from a patrick berry rows garden last year... and somewhat surprisingly, have used it in crosswords i think four times since, counting today. i think this glee thing might have legs.

mac said...

Agree with PG, not coherent enough. Some decent clues and answers, but the total experience was not great.

Larry Sittig said...

Left me cold.

DIF is unacceptable. That is always written as DIFF.

I agree with the comments on SAT, especially @Joon. By the way, there are I don't know how many thousands of rocks between Saturn (Jupiter first) and the sun, called the asteroid belt. I know it's being used as a synonym for planet, but are asteroids not more appropriately called rocks?

There are some clever clues and lively entries, but when the theme answers are so unimpressive and the theme reveal answer leaves all scratching their heads, well ...

Tomorrow's will be better, I'm sure.