02.28 Mon

February 28, 2011
Jeffrey Lease

Theme: Captain, My Captain — The first word of each theme answer is a well-known captain.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: *1968 sci-fi classic remade in 2001 (PLANET OF THE APES).
  • 23A: *Chili competitions (COOK-OFFS).
  • 50A: *Reason for rhinoplasty (HOOK NOSE).
  • 58A: *1980 Disney comedy about an all-night puzzle-solving race (MIDNIGHT MADNESS).
  • 38A: Rank that goes with the first parts of the answers to starred clues (CAPTAIN).
Welcome to today's edition of "Excellent Theme Idea With Iffy Execution." I have to say I don't understand how these theme answers made it past Quality Control. CAPTAIN PLANET? Who the heck is that? CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT isn't any better and, to add insult to injury, it's clued with a movie nobody's heard of. I realize sometimes a constructor gets stuck for theme answers (believe me, I know!) but just off the top of my head, both KANGAROO COURT and AMERICA ONLINE are 13 letters and reference Captains most people have heard of, which makes them perfectly acceptable (dare I say better?) entries for this theme. I'm sincerely baffled by the choices made in this puzzle.

There were, however, a couple entries in this grid that seemed particular colorful and made me smile:
  • 43A: Jump (on) suddenly (POUNCE).
  • 25D: Lacking strength (FEEBLE).
  • 27D: Bug-hitting-windshield sound (SPLAT).
  • 20A: Jewish (SEMITIC). When I hear the word SEMITIC, it's most often in the context of something that's "anti-SEMITIC" so even without the "anti" my instinctual response is to flinch.
  • 22A: Conference including Duke and UNC (ACC). The Blue Devils and the Tar Heels are part of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
  • 28A: Liver secretion (BILE). This is another one of those words that I'd rather not see in my puzzle. Hello? Breakfast test?
  • 47A: Band-Aid and Barbie, e.g.: Abbr. (TM'S). Band-Aid and Barbie are both trademarks.
  • 53A: Corn unit (EAR). I miss Iowa.
  • 54A: Inexpensive brand (CHEAPIE). Personally, I would say "CHEAPO." You?
  • 64A: Wrinkle remover (IRON). HAha! The visual I got here was an old woman taking an iron to her face. Yeah, okay, the old woman was me. It was still funny.
  • 34D: Occurrence (HAP). Not a fan of this entry. See also 56D: "This __ silly!" (IS SO).
  • 49D: Farm (GRANGE). Thank goodness we're going to end on a rockin' note.

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 5A: Double reed instrument (OBOE).
  • 68A: School attended by many princes and prime ministers (ETON).
  • 8D: Tolkien's Treebeard, for one (ENT).
[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else 1A: One with a degree (GRAD); 9A: Bit of campaign nastiness (SMEAR); 14A: Assistant (AIDE); 15A: Course of action (PLAN); 16A: Croatian-born physicist Nikola (TESLA); 21A: Rotten (BAD); 30A: "What's up, __?" (DOC); 31A: Clean the floor (SWEEP); 32A: Was victorious (WON); 33A: Dissertations (THESES); 36A: It can be airtight or waterproof (SEAL); 37A: Fishing pole (ROD); 40A: Support garment (BRA); 41A: Slightly (A BIT); 44A: Tennis call (LET); 45A: Keg party attire (TOGAS); 48A: Like much wine and cheese (AGED); 52A: Rover's warning (GRR); 63A: Overindulge, as kids (SPOIL); 65A: Fight for air (GASP); 66A: Wedding dresses (GOWNS); 67A: Fey of "30 Rock" (TINA); 1D: Spaces (GAPS); 2D: Annoy (RILE); 3D: TV Batman West (ADAM); 4D: "I did not!" is one (DENIAL); 5D: __ nerve (OPTIC); 6D: Voting group (BLOC); 7D: Palooka (OAF); 9D: Texas Roadhouse fare (STEAKS); 10D: Grassy fields (MEADOWS); 11D: Sixth sense, briefly (ESP); 12D: Pub pick (ALE); 13D: Dorm supervisors: Abbr. (RA'S); 18D: "And so on and so forth," for short (ETC. ETC.); 19D: "True Blood" airer (HBO); 23D: Party disguise (COSTUME); 24D: Indian and Arctic (OCEANS); 26D: Dreaded (FEARED); 28D: Owie (BOO-BOO); 29D: Spectrum color between blue and violet (INDIGO); 30D: Train stations (DEPOTS); 32D: Ire (WRATH); 35D: Start of a guard dog command (SIC); 39D: Approached (NEARED); 42D: Deceived (TAKEN IN); 46D: Slow mollusks (SNAILS); 51D: Nonprofit's URL ending (ORG); 52D: The Gold Coast, since 1957 (GHANA); 54D: "Let's roll!" ("C'MON!"); 55D: __ moss (PEAT); 57D: "Monday Night Football" channel (ESPN); 58D: Chinese food additive (MSG); 59D: Wall St. debut (IPO); 60D: Wall Street index, with "the" (DOW); 61D: Smack (HIT); 62D: Prefix with athlete (TRI-).


Rex Parker said...

Exactly. Two of those captains are Nobodies. Thumbs Down. C'mon. Don't go to print with weakass theme answers. On the plus side, I *love* "Midnight Madness"—my sister and I watched it over and over and over and over on HBO in the early 80s. Paul Reubens and Michael J. Fox FTW!


Sfingi said...

I did the puzzle bottom up, so got the theme immediately. But I couldn't think of Capt. ? of the Apes, at first. Capt. Crunch of the Apes? Capt. J(ohn) Smith of the Apes?
Finally got it, but didn't know Capt. Planet.

Thought of many more famous Captains: Kidd, Nemo, Queeg, Blood, Ahab, Ginyu, Insano, Beefheart, Kangaroo, Underpants, Courageous, The Captain and Tenille? An opportunity lost.

It was still OK. Got my brain in gear.

JEWISH is a sub-category of Semitic.
All keg parties are not at fraternity parties, thus not TOGA-mandatory.

I'm so old I still say HOOKed NOSE.
But I guess that "ed" as used on such things as canned heat, etc. has gone the way of the trolley.

Anonymous said...

Captain America isnt a nobody it was a very popular cartoon in the late 80's and early 90's. It is the equivalent of Captain kangaroo just for a younger generation.

Anonymous said...

i meant to say captain planet

SethG said...

What Rex said, including watching Midnight Madness over and over and over and over with my sister. We both own the DVD.

In summary, fagabeefe.

Reno911 said...

A cheapo is someone who won't even splurge for.the cheapies.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other anonymous, I got the theme from Captain Planet! He was all about saving the environment. I loved that show.

Doug P said...

Never heard of the "Midnight Madness" movie. The Night Ranger album of the same name is less obscure. But the description on Wikipedia sounds awesome, and Rex & Seth love it, so now I've gotta see this movie!

I've heard of Captain Planet, but it came on after my peak cartoon-viewing years. And preachy cartoons aren't much fun anyway.

Anonymous said...

Can someone help me with "Etcetc" at 18 down? The computer just underlined it with a red squiggly line. Am I missing something?

I really wanted to find Captain Crunch. I think we had Captain America not that long ago.

Anonymous said...

Loved Midnight Madness. Nobody's heard of it? Unfair.

PG: In your theme reveal you stated each are a "a well-known captain." Then, you rip them for being, um, well-unknown, I guess.

Excellent visual aids today, PG.

Anonymously yours.

Anonymous said...


As the King of Siam said "etcetera, etcetera,etcetera". (So forth and so on)

Anonymous said...

I recognize that a huge proportion of the population only knows the relationship between Jewish and SEMITIC via anti-sematism, but the cringe factor of the clue/answer doesn't stop there. The peoples of all of Arabia, half of what was ancient Persia, and a huge swath of Eastern Africa are all Semitic. Further, I would guess that only a minor percent of today
's Jews are ethnically Semitic to any significant degree.

mac said...

Easy puzzle, tough theme when you don't know half the captains. Had some of the same thoughts/reactions PG did (ouch, iron!).

Checking out Midnight Maddness.

captcha: beammork!

Joon said...

i had no problem with captain planet. never heard of captain midnight or the midnight madness movie, although i'm quite familiar with midnight madness as a college basketball phenomenon. so there was only one big miss for me in today's theme, but it was a double-miss.

as an aside, it's far from straightforward to put a pair of 13s into a monday grid with 5 total theme answers. (i know, because i just had to do exactly that a few weeks ago.) 15s are soooo much easier. that said, you do it anyway because the theme is really the sine qua non of a monday puzzle, and it kinda sucks to have a "huh?" moment that never gets followed by an "aha" moment, especially on a monday.

Avg Joe said...

Hand up for most of the above admissions of not knowing things, but got through the puzzle anyway. I'm in the Meh camp.

Midnight Madness does sound interesting, but it also sounds a little too much like the plot of today's reality TV shows (read Amazing Race). Maybe I'll break down and get it from Netflix. Speaking of which, we watched "Get Low" over the weekend. Good movie, not as good as I expected. Duvall is very good in the part, but the part is strange.

Given the theme I can't believe no one has posted Captain yet.

Nighthawk said...

Great pics of alt captains in the write-up, @PG, particularly of The Captain and Tenille. I confess that during what seemed more of a hard rock tsunami, one of my secret sins was that I always liked their brand of breezy pop fluff and thought Toni Tenille was a wonderful singer.

Fun and almost auto-filled puzzle for me except for the 54D and 54A where I had iMiN for the longest time and just couldn't see CHEAPIES then. But also was stumped on GHANA so no help there. Once corrected to CMON everything else fell into place.

Never heard of MIDNIGHT MADNESS the movie, but was familiar with the phrase from basketball enough that I filled that part in with about 50% confidence. Looks like from all the positive comments it goes on my NetFlix list.

I agree, the worst part of the puz was the clunkish HAP. But not enough to make the whole puz a clunker for me.

The ZZ Top clip made my morning, so thanks, @PG.

*David* said...

I missed out on the MIDNIGHT MADNESS craze that swept 1980. Now MIDNIGHT RUN which came out around the same time would have been immediately recognizable and had that awesome music.

Theme was definitely a head scratcher, maybe trying to be different for the sake of being different.

Orange said...

Never heard of that MIDNIGHT MADNESS, nor Captain Planet, nor Captain America.

KIRK CAMERON would have been a fun addition to the theme, no?

StudioCitySteve said...

Less than 10 minutes for a Monday gets my week off to a nice start, especially when I learned something (never heard of the MIDNIGHT MADNESS movie but the crosses solved it for me).

I loved GRANGE, shuddered at ETCETC and I'm not convinced that dissertation is a synonym for THESIS - don't you produce a thesis for your Master's degree and a dissertation for your Doctorate? (I don't have either so I can't say from personal experience).

On a vaguely-related subject I'm still new to this blog and I'm not sure if the print edition Sunday puzzle gets written up here? I was seething with how excruciatingly-poor yesterday's Merl Reagle puzzle was and wanted to see if it was just me.

Anonymous said...

To me, Midnight Madness refers to the late-night bowling events we went to on Friday/Saturday nights - with the lights turned down, the black light/neon glow of the pins and balls, and the super-loud music.
All the old farts went home, and the lanes were opened up to us young'uns. Now I'm an old fart - and I wonder if kids even find bowling fun anymore...?

Anthony said...

@StudioCitySteve, double yeah. Noticed the incorrect equation of theses and dissertations last night but was too tired to bother griping. And yes, as I was doing Merle Reagle's puzzle yesterday I just kept saying "Reeeally?!" over and over.

Rube said...

We've got a generational thing going here in that I, an oldie, never heard of Captain PLANET but remember well watching Captain MIDNIGHT on TV in the early 50's. He flew a jet! A big thing at the time. He apparently had a radio show but I don't remember this.

I agree re the THESES/Masters and Dissertation/PhD issue.

As I understand it, all Middle Easterners are descended from Shem, one of Noah's 3 sons, hence the term Semites. I had Hebraic before SEMITIC, my only writeover.

A pleasant Monday puzzle. Like Doug P and others, I just put MIDNIGHTMADNESS on my Netflix que. Isn't the basketball thing March Madness?

Anoa Bob said...

"Dissertations" and THESES (33 Across) have both specific and generic meanings, the former relating to masters and doctorate degrees, and the latter relating to lengthy, in depth thematic writings. So the clue and entry worked for me in the generic sense.

JIMMIE said...


Yesterday's LAT CW by Merl Reagle was a little lame, what with numerals added: 1,2,7 and 3. But the theme of spoofs on Oscar film names was cute: THESOCIALNITWIT,THEKIDSAREALL WRITEOFFS, TOLSTOY3, 127SHOWERS, THEKINGSPEACH, THEFRITTER, RECEPTION, BLACKENEDSWAN, TWOGRITS, and WINTERSTROMBONE.

Anthony said...

Weird. Just logged back on and noticed that my 10:10 post ended up with "Anthony" on it. Go fig.

lit.doc said...

OK, Rocky, this time fer sure. And meaning no offense to @Anthony.

TWG said...

Wish there could have been room for "Captain Obvious," as he seems to be showing up more and more in popular lexicon. Alas, at 14 letters, it just missed.

I really want to see the Midnight Madness movie now.

I wouldn't get all bent out of shape about the thesis/dissertation distinction. I understand the distinction but it's pretty common for doctoral students to refer to their final document as a thesis. My Ph.D. advisor always referred to it as your thesis. File it under the "This ISSO silly" category.


Anonymous said...

Aren't crosswords trying to appeal to younger generations? If that's the case, then Captain Planet was a much better choice then Captain America. And also...

BILE! BILE BILE BILE BILE! BILE AND BREAKFAST! HAHA! Now you'll be thinking of it all day!!!!!

HUTCH said...

I know little about semitism but was taught in school that semitic meant aperson spoke a certain language, thus jewish people were semitic as well as certain arabians etc.etc.etc.Any comment?wishanth

Lisa said...

What do you mean Captain Planet is a nobody????

Captain Planet
He's our hero
Gonna bring pollution down to zero!
He's our powers magnified
And he's fighting on the planet side...

But I agree captain obvious would have been the most awesome answer ever.

I never heard of Captain Midnight, though. Can't get everyone with every answer.