04.12 Tue

April 12, 2011
Jerome Gunderson

Theme: On-Again Off-Again — Each theme answer is a compound word or a two-word phrase where each of the two parts can be preceded by both ON and OFF in familiar phrases.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Where sea meets sand (SHORELINE).
  • 25A: Behind-the-scenes worker (STAGEHAND).
  • 51A: Distract (SIDETRACK).
  • 61A: Sentry's job (GUARD DUTY).
  • 37A: Light controller—either of its first two words can precede either part of 17-, 25-, 51- and 61-Across (ON/OFF SWITCH).
Very nice theme for our Tuesday puzzle this week. I thought the reveal clue seemed more convoluted than was probably necessary, but I didn't really spend any time trying to come up with something better, so you can take that criticism with a grain of salt. Theme answers themselves are nice, especially STAGEHAND and SIDETRACK. Nothing super sparkly in the grid, only a little bit of crosswordese, seems like the abbreviations were all kinda bunched there in the middle so by the time I got to ALT. (after DEC. and RTE.) I thought "Okay, enough with the abbreviations already!" and then there weren't any more. Made me feel like I had special powers or something.

Two words in the grid made me chuckle because to me they're just strange words. TATAR (59A: Steppes native) and PITHY (42A: Brief and forceful). To me, TATAR always seems like it should be something else — TARTAR? TARTAN? — or maybe it's like someone trying to say TATER in a hifalutin way. And PITHY, well that just sounds like someone lisping, right? I actually used the word "pissy" in an email this morning. (If you're wondering — and I'm sure you are — I was telling someone in my office that I was in a pissy mood and it kinda seemed like this other person in the office needed to be yelled at so I was volunteering.)

  • 5A: Syrup brand (KARO). Mmmm, syrup.
  • 9A: Scatter (STREW). Oh here's another one. I know this is a perfectly legitimate word but have you ever heard it actually used? Or have you only heard it as, like, something STREWN about?
  • 19A: Like most attics (DUSTY). I tried MUSTY first. I guess the basement is more MUSTY and the attic is more DUSTY.

  • 23A: Links elevator? (TEE). Cute. The TEE "elevates" the golfball.
  • 56A: Place for a pint (BAR) and Place for a cup (BRA). Cute.
  • 10D: Liar's undoing (TRUTH). Oh if only this were true. Sometimes the TRUTH doesn't seem to make any difference. Sigh.
  • 39D: Suffix with cord (-ITE). I don't think I know what "cordite" is. Should I look it up? Oh okay, I will. Hold on.
    cordite noun: a smokeless powder composed of nitroglycerin, guncotton, and a petroleum substance usually gelatinized by addition of acetone and pressed into cords resembling brown twine.
    Alrighty then.
  • 50D: Western dry lakes (PLAYAS). Again, I'm sure this is right, but it doesn't fit with my experience of the word PLAYA. I mean, PLAYA is a beach right? I was tyring to think of ARROYO and, what's the one that starts with W? WADI? Yes, WADI. I think those things are all related, but different.
Crosswordese 101: I don't really know what an ARBitrageur is (except that it is presumably a person who engages in ARBitrage). All I know is that ARBitrage has something to do with Wall Street trading and hedging. Thank goodness that's all I need to know for crossword-puzzle purposes. Clues for ARB will almost always include one word from Group A and one from Group B:
Group A: Wall St., NYSE, market, trading, hedge fund
Group B: hedger, trader, specialist, whiz, figure
See how today's 45D: Wall St. hedger follows the pattern? Well, that's pretty much what you need to know about ARB.

Other crosswordese in the puzzle that we've already covered:
  • 24A: Old Great Lakes natives (ERIES).
  • 64A: Cold capital? (OSLO).
  • 6D: George W.'s first press secretary (ARI).
  • 27D: __ Spiegel: German magazine (DER).
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Everything Else 1A: Poker Flat chronicler Harte (BRET); 14A: Plane opening? (AERO-); 15A: Farsi-speaking republic (IRAN); 16A: Sports venue (ARENA); 20A: Mob enforcer (HITMAN); 21A: Gp. concerned with fluoride safety (ADA); 28A: Christmas mo. (DEC.); 29A: Water temperature gauge? (TOE); 31A: Pro vote (YEA); 32A: USPS carrier's assignment (RTE.); 33A: Words of sympathy (I CARE); 35A: Potato cutter (RICER); 40A: Flora eaters, perhaps (FAUNA); 43A: Pilot's no. (ALT.); 44A: Toothed tool (SAW); 47A: Unused (NEW); 48A: Rock guitarist's aid (AMP); 54A: Spring time (APRIL); 58A: Anatomical ring (AREOLA); 63A: Carrying a lot of weight (OBESE); 65A: Largest continent (ASIA); 66A: Used hip boots (WADED); 67A: Feat (DEED); 68A: Winemaking waste (LEES); 1D: Lambasted (BASHED); 2D: Put to work again (REHIRE); 3D: Titillating (EROTIC); 4D: Singer with the Mel-Tones (TORMÉ); 5D: Brick baker (KILN); 7D: Attacked with clubs and such (RAN AT); 8D: In the future (ONE DAY); 9D: Glum (SAD); 11D: Fact-finding process (RESEARCH); 12D: Understanding between nations (ENTENTE); 13D: Method (WAY); 18D: It stretches from Maine to Florida (EAST COAST); 22D: Make better, as cheddar (AGE); 25D: Lord's laborer (SERF); 26D: Falling object's direction (EARTHWARD); 30D: Stumblebum (OAF); 33D: Roadside rest stop (INN); 34D: Clairvoyance, briefly (ESP); 36D: Like many a slick road (ICY); 37D: Passé (OUTDATED); 38D: Lash flash? (WINK); 40D: Scale fourths (FAS); 41D: Fictional Arabic woodcutter (ALI BABA); 46D: Ares or Mars (WAR GOD); 48D: Stimulate (AROUSE); 49D: Uncle __: Berle nickname (MILTIE); 52D: How to turn something into nothing? (ERASE); 53D: Effect's partner (CAUSE); 55D: Go by bike (PEDAL); 58D: Youngest to reach 500 HRs (A-ROD); 59D: Auto club offering (TOW); 60D: What mad people see? (RED); 62D: Pint contents (ALE).


Nighthawk said...

Seemed a fun and fairly straitforward puz as I was going through this. A few speedbumps needed crosses due to cluing that just didn't ring bells, like 37D, or the baseball one at 58D, as did the revealer.

What really made it sparkle tho was to read @PG's write-up, which gave me an understanding of the mechanics of the theme. I thought, Outstanding!

And then, for some reason, immediately thought of Pat Morita's Mr. Miyagi's command to his Karate Kid pupil Daniel to "wax on, wax off."

Then I began to notice how many answers, which had surprised me by their inclusion, had a sort of "turn on, turn off" relationship, all of which tickled my inner fourth grader: EROTIC, AROUSE, BRA, AREOLA. Left me with this implied earworm

Also thought some of the cluing was pretty clever for a Tues, like, as @PG mentioned, 56 and 57A
and 38A's "lash flash?".

Also got a low-brow chuckle out of inclusion of both TATAR and RICER.

Nice work, Mr. Gunderson.

StudioCitySteve said...

I really enjoyed this today. Different cluing for a lot of the answers and a pretty smooth theme.

I'm with @Nighthawk when I kept turning up "turning on" words, I like the mini-theme there.

Really fun puzzle, got my Tuesday off to a nice start!

Tuttle said...

BRET Harte and HITMAN in the same corner? Nice.

I think we should retire the answer RAN AT. The cluing has devolved into simply equating the phrase with violence.

syndy said...

wasn't aladddin a wood cutter? well what was he in real life before the monkey? anyway that slowed me up (and I"VE read the forty thieves)ALSO I say AIRPLANE! AND isn't a mob enforcer a leg breaker?going right to murder ain't cost effective! but I liked so much about this puzzle I did not see RED!FLORA EATERS! brillig!!Water temp gauge!

C said...

Excellent puzzle matched by @PG's excellent write up. The theme and all of the supporting mini themes made for a fun puzzle to contemplate after finishing. Not a difficult puzzle to finish but worth the effort.

ONOFF make me think about music and now I am hoping that I have that Mission of Burma album on my work computer.

hebow44 said...

Enjoyed the puzzle, but was one letter short of finishing. The cross at 49D and 43A left empty. Don't understand FAS being scale fourths, and after seeing the answer I do understand the ALT for Pilot's no., though I kept thinking of the pens. Perhaps a better clue (for me) would have been, Pilot's ht. I too liked the pint and cup cluing. With the first in you had to flip your focus for the second.

Anonymous said...

@hebow44 - Think 'do re me FA sol la..' for the fourth.

CoffeeLvr said...

Loved Flora eater for FAUNA. PUB before BAR at 56A slowed me way down in the SW.

Not only were the theme entries compound words, so was EAST COAST, and EARTHWARD comes close. Plus ONE DAY, WAR GOD, ALI BABA, & OUTDATED. Longest stand alone word was RESEARCH; the derivation reveals that it is RE + CHERCE in French. My point, a few too many.

Anonymous said...

I loved seeing WARGOD in the puzzle. Especially since Ares and Mars are usually the answer...

Three ducks walk into a BAR - the fourth one ducks.

Peter said...

I'm sorry, you get a pint in a PUB, not a BAR. Jusy saying.

I agree with the comment on PLAYA -- it is much more commonly known as a beach (spanish). Reminds me of Menudo: "Vamos a la playa, o-o-o-o-o..."

Luke said...

A dyslexic walks into a bra...

Off topic alert...haven't got to this puzzle yet because today's San Jose Mercury News ran a front page splash on a Hinman/Horowitz puzzle. Is this puzzle on anyone's radar?

It was originally published in the NY Times and praised by the likes of Will Shortz as one of the greatest puzzles ever.

The Merc printed the puzzle, and while I found it clever, no puzzle that easy deserves the kind of accolades it's been garnering.

Still, it's nice to see a crossword story make the front page.

StudioCitySteve said...

Here's the link to the article @Luke mentions ...


Confused said...

So, Off Guard is a phrase? WWW&/orH?

badams52 said...

@Confused, your "WWW&/orH?" caught me off guard. What do you mean by that? ;)

Liked the theme. Was amazed at the double on/off for each of the theme words. Usually they talk about the last or first word, but this one had both!

Tatar also reminds me of tartar.

For 39D I was proud of myself for having Ial before the crosses made it wrong.

Noticed the sensual mini theme in the puzzle myself.

Agree with @Peter that you get a pint in a pub. Messed up the SW corner till I changed it to BAR.


brainylagirl said...

The Burning Man Festival is held annually on "The Playa," a huge expanse of flat, alkali desert land on the edge of the Black Rock Desert. But I more commonly use it to mean "beach," like the rest of you.

"Where a cup goes" - BRA made me chuckle.

I liked the preponderance of slant clues (water tester?, flora eater? &c.), which usu. remind me more of British crosswords -- a little more challenging than straight synonyms or trivia in American puzzles.

Anonymous said...

loved lash flash had pub went to bar most of what i didnt know or understand was able to figure out with crosses

John Wolfenden said...

Thanks, Luke and SCS for the tip about the Horwitz/Hinman puzzle. I just finished it and the theme is pretty ballsy and well-executed. I like puzzles made by constructors who are new to the game, as they tend not to fall into the conventional modes of cluing we've become used to from the veterans.

the redanman said...

CAPTCHA = chrome

This was chrome-plated, two days in a row the LAT bests the NYT in puzzledom.