04.08 Fri

April 8, 2011
Scott Atkinson

Theme: Incomplete Countries — Each theme answer is a city/country pair with one letter missing from the country's name, which (obviously) creates much wackiness.

Theme answers:

  • 16A: Celtic quaffs? (CARDIFF wALES).
  • 30A: Caribbean baby animal? (HAVANA CUBa).
  • 38A: Arabian guy? (MUSCAT oMAN).
  • 52A: East Asian "pet"? (BEIJING CHInA).
  • 11D: Iberian bridge? (MADRID SPAiN).
  • 26D: Mesopotamian savings plan? (BAGHDAD IRAn).
I had a hard time with this theme, but it's totally not the theme's fault. I pieced CARDIFF together completely from crosses. I'm sure I've heard of CARDIFF at some point in my life, but I wouldn't have been able to tell you it was in [W]ALES. And I thought CARDIFF ALES sounded like a legitimate thing on its own. (What do I know from ales?) So, that was baffling to me. The next theme answers I got were HAVANA CUB and BAGHDAD IRA, so I'm trying to figure out how to tack an extra letter onto CARDIFF ALES to make it … something. Obviously that didn't work. It wasn't til I got to MUSCAT MAN that I realized the theme answers were missing a letter but not necessarily the last letter. Then I looked back at CARDIFF ALES and still had to think for a minute about what letter to add back into ALES to make a country. Duh. In hindsight, CARDIFF does sound very Welsh, doesn't it? Speaking of Welsh:

  • 6A: Disaster response gp. (EVAC). Emergency Volunteer Air Corps. I only know that cuz I looked it up. Totally wanted FEMA here.
  • 14A: Conscious (AWARE). I started to write in AWAKE and then realized I better check the cross.
  • 26A: Club ingredient (BACON). Mmmm, bacon.
  • 34A: Senescent (AGING). Senescent? Definitely my word of the day.
  • 40A: Withdrawal concern (DT'S). Delirium tremens. Nasty, nasty stuff there.
  • 43A: '70s TV cop played by Robert Blake (BARETTA). I can never remember if it's two Rs or two Ts.
  • 46A: Farewells overseas (ADIEUS). French!
  • 51A: Lighting brand (BIC). I misread the clue as "Lightning brand" and had no idea what to think about that.
  • 2D: "__ (So Far Away)": 1982 hit for A Flock of Seagulls (I RAN). So at first I was all, "Cool clue. Instead of cluing it as the country, IRAN, break it up and clue it as a cheesy 80s song. Awesome." Then I realized that one of the theme answers is based on the IRAN the country and I don't like it so much any more. Unless you can make that same play on all the theme countries, I say don't do it all. [This just in: I've heard from several reliable sources that Baghdad is, in fact, in IRAQ not IRAN. I will continue to investigate this claim and let you know as soon as I have confirmation.]
  • 7D: Feb. sentiment (VAL.). Ladies and gentlemen, your clunker of the day.
  • 10D: Y for men only? (CHROMOSOME). This is a great clue/answer pair. It threw me not only because it's tricky, but also because I kind of expected this long down to be a theme answer.
  • 23D: Complaint while groping (I CAN'T SEE). I guess that depends on what you're groping. Thankyouverymuch I'll be here all week.
  • 27D: Earhart et al. (AVIATRICES). Anyone else have that A in place and start writing in A-M-E-L-I…oh crap.
  • 32D: Naval acronym (SEALS). Sea Air And Land.
  • 41D: And those following, in footnotes (ET SEQQ.). Whoa whoa whoa. Hold it right there, buddy. ET SEQQ? With two Qs? Whoa.
  • 55D: Chantilly crower (COQ). I guess this isn't a reference to Chantilly, Virginia.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 23A: Composer Stravinsky (IGOR).
  • 49D: Operatic slave (AIDA).
[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else 1A: Chuck E. Cheese's order (PIZZA); 10A: Eric the Red's birth year, roughly (CML); 13A: Lets go (FREES); 15A: "A likely story!" ("HAH!"); 18A: Old cereal box letters (RDA); 19A: __-Caps (SNO); 20A: Anderson of Jethro Tull (IAN); 21A: Pyle portrayer (NABORS); 25A: Words of affection from Luigi (CARA MIA); 28A: Astronaut Grissom (GUS); 29A: Seed alternative (SOD); 32A: Impudent (SASSY); 35A: Refinery input (ORE); 36A: Escape to Vegas, maybe (ELOPE); 37A: "__ life!" (THAT'S); 41A: 911 response initials (EMS); 42A: Hardly local (ALIEN); 45A: Assorted: Abbr. (MISC.); 47A: Dinghy thingy (OAR); 48A: Electrical sound (ZAP); 56A: "__ you nuts?" (ARE); 57A: Matching (EQUAL); 58A: Agony and ecstasy (MOODS); 59A: Dorm agts. (RA'S); 60A: 640 acres: Abbr. (SQ. MI.); 61A: Opposite of lanky (SQUAT); 1D: Cpl.'s subordinates (PFC'S); 3D: Reset (ZERO); 4D: Letter from London (ZED); 5D: "__ was saying ..." (AS I); 6D: McGregor of "The Men Who Stare at Goats" (EWAN); 8D: Circus sites (ARENAS); 9D: French Oscar (CÉSAR); 12D: Capital ENE of Kathmandu (LHASA); 14D: Way out yonder (AFAR); 17D: Shrek's love (FIONA); 22D: Like much Hawaiian lava (BASALTIC); 24D: Some Chinese restaurant decor (GONGS); 25D: Dice and ice, often (CUBES); 28D: Spiritual leaders (GURUS); 30D: It may be tipped (HAT); 31D: One commonly follows "said" (COMMA); 33D: Japanese dough (YEN); 39D: Stone monument (CAIRN); 43D: King with a trunk (BABAR); 44D: Old TV parts (TUBES); 45D: Knight's protection (MAIL); 47D: Ventura County resort (OJAI); 48D: Contemporary of Mao (ZHOU); 50D: It's behind us (PAST); 53D: Elemental suffix (-IUM); 54D: MLB execs (GM'S).


v-man said...

I was a fan of the flock so I enjoyed the 80's reference. Also started out with FEMA but wasn't sure about EVAC. I thought DTs was definately wrong because there wasn't an abbreviation in the clue, that answer was also a new one for me . I never knew of a double q answer. I like geography so I was into this theme. For some reason I had more trouble with yesterday's puzzle than todays.

Rex Parker said...

No, it *is* the theme's fault. I had no idea what theme was til I was done, and that's because, Again, there's no consistency. Random letter removed. Not the same letter in each case. Not from the same position. Countries have nothing in common. Give me Something besides a random letter removal that leads to ... random answers.

Also, Double-Q. I've seen a lot of footnotes. Never seen that.

Avg Joe said...

GRRRR! Did not like this one. Not. One. Bit.

Caught onto the theme early enough to be of great help, but was really put off by the randomness of it all. Oh, @PG, it's Baghdad, Iraq. I mention that cuz I really wanted some type of Jumble answer to emerge from the omitted letters. W-A-O-N-I-Q. If there's something there, I'm missing it.

@CCL, from last night. Sorry about being the spoiler. It never even occurred to me. Won't happen again.

Jalmar said...


Baghdad is in Iraq, so don't be too hard on mr. Atkinson.

lit.doc said...

Did the puzzle last night and couldn't wait to vent. I see that's already been taken care of, so I'll just agree to agree.

Theme? After I figured out CARDIFF [WH]ALES thingy (@PG, thanks for laying that one out in black and white for us!), I was thinking "hmmm, ok, missing Ws". Hit the next theme answer, saw it wasn't so, and got another beer instead of caring.

I had some really inappropriate but nonetheless apt things to say about ET SEQQ, but @Rex, a licensed professional, has already addressed that in a professional manner, so I won't even mention it.

StudioCitySteve said...

Funny - I liked this theme - had no problem with a "randon" letter being dropped from the country. Once I'd got HAVANACUB and I had CARDIF from the crosses, the rest seemed nice and natural.

@PG - VAL is not just a clunker, it's a mega-clunker IMHO.

I thought the fill was mostly great, I loved CHROMOSOME and also learned "senescent", wonderful stuff.

Tend to agree about the QQ, but then again plurals can be a stretch anyway - no-one is complaining about ADIEUS, when it's not pluralized like that in French - the correct form is ADIEUX. The stickler in me would say that if you're cluing a plural in a foreign language, you don't just take the root word and stick an "S" on the end, 'cos it flat out ain't right.

We'd rightly be up in arms if an English word was pluralized incorrectly - SHEEPS anyone?

StudioCitySteve said...

Oh - my captcha today was FLOWSTP - I guess that's what happens when your PTRAP plumbing gets clogged :)

kerrys said...

Wiki says etseqq is used when the following is plural, like those in the clue.

Tuttle said...

No one mad about 10A? Not only roman numerals, but an approximation to boot.

32D needs to be clued as a plural. SEALS are members of SEa, Air and Land units. SEAL Team 1, SEAL Team 2, etc. The trailing S is not part of the acronym.

Never had a SNO-cap in my life. Never even heard of it before now.

Bubba Gump said...

ZHOU / ET SEQQ / COQ / SQ MI / IUM / OJAI - All horrible entries. Just putting in "scrabbly" letters isn't enough. They have to be real words too.

Jalmar said...

While 950 is approximate, it is the accepted estimation for the year of Erik's birth. Erik an his son Leif are very prominent historical figures in exploration, and mayhem.

The rest of the whining here is embarassing; removing a letter from each country is a consistent and easily deciphered theme. It is Friday. All the words are either real words or real abbreviations in use. Not a ridiculously obscure author of children's books, or the street where a constructor grew up. Speaking of which...

*David* said...

I had no problem with this puzzle. I was fine with the letter being omitted in different places in order to get the whacky phrases to work. There was some iffy fill but overall a sizeable improvement over yesterday's puzzle. I didn't get the theme until I was trying to fill in HAVANA CUB. I do love geo puzzles so I might be wearing rose colored glasses on this.

Jalmar said...

Also, they are not just city- country pairs. Each city is the capital of the country. The theme is quite consistent.

C said...

I liked the theme, made me think and I am not a stickler for which end of the country the letter is dropped. My geography knowledge is completely based on Soccer (football) club locations so CARDIFFALES was a gimme for me, doesn't everyone know about Cardiff City Bluebirds?

Due to my lack of knowledge about soccer clubs in Iraq, I needed all of the crosses for BAGHDADIRA.

I have read and written a lot of footnotes in my time, and I have never used/read ETSEQQ. Yeah, I learned but sometimes, I just need to grouse about something.

Disappointed that I couldn't fit ITHINKITSLOCKED into the answer for "Complaint while groping"

sjok said...

I have never seen "et seq" or "et seqq". It sounds like it should be followed by a list of kings in order of appearance or something.

I cannot find any reliable proof that a comma follows the word "said" with any greater frequency than it follows any other word.

Nighthawk said...

Stellar write-up, @PG. Nice layout of the themes. But I really loved the pictorial critique of the nuttiness of the theme. Gambolling whales. Big Val(ley's) Audra (or was it a, cheeky, grope ref.?) But really REALLY loved the "universal signage misunderstandings" BACON! Yum, indeed.

Hand up for fema before EVAC.
Other misfires: Pvts for PFCS, BIx for BIC (thinking, erroneously, AVIATRIxES, forgetting matrix --> matrices), and never heard of OJAI. Must be a left coast knowledge thing. Had the _JAI, but for some reason, the crossing 47A clue, tho I had _AR, left me headscratching.

Senescent was also my WOTD.

I agree with @RP and others about the double Q of ETSEQQ, never seen one, never hope to be one.

For 60A, had Sect (section) for SQMI.

Also not particularly enamored with the theme, tho each was good for a mild chuckle, the randomness of letter elimination spots was a bit of a deflater.

My real gripe was at 53D. IUM is an element suffix? REALLY?
So, would that mean, like, with the suffix added helium should be heliumium? Or vanadiumium? Doesn't seem to me it's a suffix if it's part of the element's name already.

Anonymous said...

While the end of the answers that can be countries with added letters can be inconsistant, they all fit the clues given.
ales for quaff
cub for animal
chia for pet
ira for savings plan
span for bridge

Rube said...

What most everone has said about FEMA, Sect, IUM, ET SEQQ, VAL, and Senescent. I'll also add that I've never heard of the (French) CESARs or EVAC giving me an E_A_ in N Dakota that I had to come here to resolve, (although I did guess the "C" correctly). VAL, indeed!

Re the theme, I guess that I'm in the "whatever" camp. It doesn't really bother me, but would rather have seen some consistency.

Avg Joe said...

Consider this a PSA. There is obviously some scum bag scouring this blog for e-mail addresses and sending out bogus messages to compile a list of active accounts (for sale, I assume). I got an e-mail today at an address I'd noted here back in January. It was captioned "l.a.crossword confidential" and said: "Hello. Is it still available? Kathy" I've gotten these in response to Craig's List ads before, but never from any other identifiable source.

It's hardly the end of the world, but if you get one of these messages, be wary of it.

Alexscott said...

I've been a book editor for a long time (including a fair share of academic texts) and have never come across ET.SEQQ. Et. seq. is vaguely familiar, but et. seqq. is just obscure. So that kind of blew. I kept thinking, Is SQ.MI. wrong or is EQUAL the one? Because there can't, just can't be two Qs in a row.

But I didn't have a problem with the theme, I actually liked it. Trying to figure out what city and country and which letter made it a little more interesting.

sjok: "Said" is always followed by a comma in dialogue (if "said" precedes the quotation, as in: I said, "Hold the bacon, please").

Nighthawk: IUM most definitely is a common suffix for elements. Not only do 80% of the elements end in -ium, if you look at the heavier end of the periodic table, you'll notice "einsteinium," "copernicium," "rutherfordium," etc. Notice a pattern? Sorry, but I couldn't just let that go.

Agree with Steve about ADIEUX. But there is plenty of precedent for foreign words used regularly in English getting Anglicized (indexes is now more commonly accepted than indices; and you'd likely see beaus more often than beaux in the context of boyfriends).

Tuttle said...

You actually help point out another issue with the clue Jalmar; Who the heck is this EriC the Red fellow anyways?

So, Roman numerals, an approximation AND an incorrect transliteration of Eirīkr.

Which is not to say it wasn't a gimee, just bad form IMO.

Anonymous said...

I also felt that the theme seemed clunky -- a good idea but the randomness of which letter was missing made it seem a bit forced.

Also wanted to echo what was said yesterday about being careful about including spoilers from TV shows or other things in the comments -- was all ready to watch my DVR'd American Idol last night but came here first, unfortunately...

badams52 said...

Nice write-up PG.

Also wanted fema for EVAC.

Didn't think of Amelias..tried AVIATors but it wouldn't fit.

Loved the clue for ELOPE (Escape to Vegas).

As Jalmar said: Not just city/country pairs, but capital city/country pairs.

Loved the theme, but then again, I love geography and capitals and love ? clues for theme answers. Had ALES and CUB which helped me to realize the missing letter of a country theme. Quickly figured Beijing, China was another one and went from there.

OJAI is a little obscure, but I remember seeing it a few weeks back. I know it from the highway we had a fatal car crash on on the way back from Santa Barbara - a corvette slammed into us then fell over an embankment causing the death of the driver and passenger. Never took that highway again.

@BubbaGump: ZHOU is a real word. It is the sir name of Zhou Enlai - the leader of China after Mao Zedong.

CAPTCHA for the day:
Datier - better to go out with.

CrazyCatLady said...

I too thought the theme was slightly random. BEIJING CHIA was cute though. I Liked the write-up, especially the BACON signage.

@Badams52 OJAI isn't all that obscure. There's a famous hotel/spa/golf resort there and its home to many artists. It shows up in puzzles a lot.

That's a terrible story. Was that on the 101?

@Avg Joe - not to worry. I fell asleep. Too bad about Pia. She was really good. I have a feeling she'll be back.

backbiter said...

I frequent Club Habano every weekend. It's a cigar bar one mile from here. I could not get that outta my mind. I got Havana Cub strictly from crosses, and kept thinking the "L" was missing from "Havana Club". That completely screwed me when figuring out the theme. I didn't catch on until Beijing Chia. So, that's two crap themes in a row. So, I'm psyched about the themeless tomorrow. Please, don't disappoint me.



Avg Joe said...

@Anon 3:33 et alia, again I apologize. I live in the central time zone, and it simply escaped me that my rant might spoil anyone's viewing for the evening. As I said to CCL, it won't happen again. Mea Culpa.

SethG said...

So the thing about VAL is it's a perfectly good name.

The theme entries did nothing for me. Maybe MADRID PAIN instead, or NAIROBI ENYA if you wanted to get meta. Or OSLO? NO WAY!. These were just flat.

Oh, and VAL.

CrazyCatLady said...

Yeah, I forgot to mention VAL. That really sucked.
Joan Van Ark (Valene Ewing) looked so much better before she had freaky plastic surgery.

Ian said...

Really not crazy about the theme. Before you spelled it out for me, PG, I kept wanting to make BAGHDADIRA one word. I was trying to pronounce it in my head as one word until I read the explanation of the theme.