04.15 Fri

April 15, 2011
Matt Matera

Theme: A Different Kind of Add-a-Letter Theme — Each theme answer is the name of a person who is commonly known by two initials and last name. A third letter is added to the first two initials to create a well-known initialism. And then the clue is, of course, wacky.

Theme answers:

  • 1A: Fantasy author and forensic pathologist? (C.S.I. LEWIS).
  • 22A: Behaviorist and teen confidant? (B.F.F. SKINNER).
  • 33A: Huckster and school supporter? (P.T.A. BARNUM).
  • 49A: British novelist and medic? (E.M.T. FORSTER).
  • 63A: Children's author and roadside helper? (A.A.A. MILNE).
Again with the awesome theme! Really, really enjoyed this one. In fact, it was only after I had the whole puzzle solved and was going back through the entries in preparation for this write-up that I noticed all the little crappy fill. It honestly didn't bother me while I was solving because I was so intent on figuring out the theme answers, which I thought were really clever and amusing. The only answer that really made me scratch my head during the solve was PILAR, which apparently means [20A: Hairy]. Who knew? Well, I bet Gayle Dean knew. Dean used this clue/answer combo in a Sunday L.A. Times puzzle in August 2004. Since that time, according to the data base at cruciverb.com, it's been used three times in Sunday New York Times puzzles (2005, 2008, and 2010) and once in a Friday Wall Street Journal (2009). So. If the past is any predictor, chances are you won't see this word for another 6–7 years if you only solve the LAT. And I think that's a good thing. As for the rest of the three-letter fill in this grid, you'll be seeing all those entries a lot more often but, with any luck, not all in the same grid.

Did I mention how much I enjoyed this theme?

Highlights in the grid for me include:
  • 57A: University of Cincinnati team (BEARCATS).
  • 60A: Gangster's gun, in old-timey slang (ROSCOE).
  • 42D: Hoops embarrassment (AIRBALL).
  • 15A: Reason for a pass (LATENESS). I was thinking sports here, but this is about being late for school and needing a "late pass" from the office.
  • 19A: It merged with Kmart in 2005 (SEARS). I had a thing at work yesterday that involved Kmart and SEARS and a lot of anxiety. Not Fun to see this in the grid today!
  • 32A: Indeed (YEA). I think this clue needs a "slangily."
  • 41A: Inspiration for the Frisbee (PIE PLATE). HAha! "Here's the last piece of pie, honey. Hmm… Look at this pie plate. Doesn't it look like it would be fun to fling it across the room? Let's see if Fido will catch it!"
  • 62A: Most people (ASIANS). I've seen this clue before and I Love it.
  • 12D: Maura of "ER" (TIERNEY). She also played Lisa on "Newsradio," which I was just talking about yesterday!
  • 22D: Theda of silents (BARA). Theda BARA, Zasu Pitts … I think there's one more silent film star you need to know for puzzles. Anyone?
  • 24D: Run-down theater (FLEA PIT). Is this, like, lingo in the biz?
  • 40D: Fraternity founded at New York University in 1847 (ZETA PSI). Could have clued this as "Two random Greek letters" and I would have gotten it just as easily.
  • 53D: Boater's edge (BRIM). The boater in this clue is a hat.
  • 54D: When Tony sings "Maria" (ACT I). "West Side Story"? That's my guess.
  • 55D: Time often named (ERA). As in: The Steroid Era, The Big Band Era, The Crossword Blog Era. (Hey, a girl can dream.)
  • 58D: Spain's Queen Victoria Eugenia, familiarly (ENA). I was going to include this in the CW101 round-up, but it turns out when I originally talked about ENA, I only mentioned the "Bambi's aunt" clue, which is what you'll see 99% of the time. The other 1%, you'll see a Spanish queen clue like this one.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 5D: Tolkien's Skinbark and Leaflock, e.g. (ENTS).
  • 14D: Paris possessive (SES).
  • 25D: Before, in verse (ERE).
  • 29D: Babbling Addams character (ITT).
  • 48D: Brit. military award (DSO).
[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else 9A: Jah worshipers (RASTAS); 16A: Strike caller (UMPIRE); 17A: German shepherd (ALSATIAN); 18A: Some special forces headgear (BERETS); 21A: High sch. VIPs (SRS.); 27A: At first blush (INITIALLY); 30A: Teen follower? (-AGERS); 31A: Infer (CONSTRUE); 38A: Toon dynamo, familiarly (TAZ); 45A: Lieu (STEAD); 48A: Time, for one (DIMENSION); 51A: CD-__ (ROM); 52A: Droid in every "Star Wars" film (ARTOO); 53A: Sweet cake that's an Easter tradition in Eastern Europe (BABKA); 55A: Spots (ESPIES); 61A: Permits (ENTITLES); 1D: Thing that endures (CLASSIC); 2D: Port of SW Italy (SALERNO); 3D: "That's just wrong" ("IT'S A SIN"); 4D: "That way madness lies" speaker (LEAR); 6D: China's Northern __ Dynasty, 386-534 AD (WEI); 7D: First of the Maj. Prophets (ISA.); 8D: Three-part fig. (SSN); 9D: Creator of a popular six-color puzzle (RUBIK); 10D: First name in aviation (AMELIA); 11D: Paid (for) (SPRANG); 13D: Lost __ (ART); 14D: Paris possessive (SES); 20D: Adler's subj. (PSY.); 23D: Bungle (FLUB); 26D: Where Mandela was pres. (RSA); 28D: Dosage abbr. (TSP.); 34D: Coleridge work (RIME); 35D: __-do-well (NE'ER); 36D: Network that merged with The WB (UPN); 37D: David Beckham's org. (MLS); 38D: Half a fly (TSE); 39D: Withdrawal aid, briefly (ATM); 43D: Caught one's breath (TOOK TEN); 44D: As one (EN MASSE); 46D: Lesotho's home (AFRICA); 47D: Spoil rotten (DOTE ON); 50D: Lover's gift (ROSES); 56D: Under-the-sink brand (SOS); 57D: Arthur of "All in the Family" (BEA); 59D: __ snail's pace (AT A).


gina713 said...

I definately struggled with this one. Doing it online I needed to switch to the regular skill level for some help. I limit myself to 30 minutes for monday thru friday puzzles. With a little more time I may have perhaps figured it all out. I never heard of flea pit, roscoe, or knew what pilar actually meant. I guess that's the beauty of crossword puzzles you learn something new everyday.

gespenst said...

Nice challenge today. Loved the theme. Starting out,I thought I'd end up googling a lot, but bit by bit I filled it in with nary a google!

AAA MILNE was my first theme answer, and at first glance I thought it didn't fit, but came back to it and realized it worked...AAA saved our bacon recently when the motor in my husband's Jeep seized up out of state, and the beauty is, you can upgrade to premium service right before you call for your 100 mile tow :)

VirginiaC said...

do you mean Clara Bow as the other silents star? I only know that because my son lives in the house she built in Culver City, CA where she used to scandalize the neighborhood by swimming nude.

*David* said...

I really enjoyed this one, didn't find it particularly difficult but did have to hop around a bit to get it completed. PILAR was a complete head scratcher couldn't even find that defintion aftwards when I googled it. I liked the way the themes were set up in different places then usual which allowed for a free flowing grid. The three letter downs on the top were a bit icky but otherwise a pretty clean grid as well.

John Wolfenden said...

I had a similar reaction to PG in that I enjoyed this puzzle more while solving it than after I went back through it with a fine-toothed comb. Pretty enjoyable though, and after yesterday's figure-it-out-after-solving theme it was nice to be able to suss out the theme today and use it to solve.

I liked "Hoops embarrassment" for AIRBALL and "German shepard" for ALSATIAN. A real head-scratcher. I was just talking to my 9-year old yesterday about seeing a 4-DIMENSIONal object.

Really wanted "Gangster's gun" to be HEATER, but ROSCOE was an interesting captcha.

Never heard of a FLEA PIT but I assume that's an old-timey expression.

Tuttle said...

I liked it. The NW corner was a pain though. Instantly penned in Palermo instead of SALERNO and even when I fixed that CSI just wouldn't come to me. What I get for not watching broadcast TV I guess. I got the ALSATIAN Britishism, but I think its odd since the Alsace is in France.

I deal with SEARS and K-Mart every day. Fear for my sanity.

ROSCOE is a great word. Seems it is from an unknown etymology but is perhaps related to the Roscoe Gun Battle waged between Pinkerton agents and the Younger Gang in 1874. In modern slang it usually refers to a policeman (from Rosco P. Coletrane).

C said...

+1 to liking the theme (or "I also liked the theme" in case Google has already trademarked +1)

Smooth solve except for the PILAR area as I was tense challenged (another way of saying I didn't pay enough attention to the clue wording) and initially had SPRINGFOR which then left me -ILI- which I then immediately put CILIA. The story has a happy ending and I eventually worked out my tense issue and the heretofore unknown PILAR. Puzzle finished and everyone had pie afterward.

Anonymous said...

InSTEAD of "Paid (for)", I think SPRANG should have been clued as "Paid, with for."

BFF SKINNER sounds like a new TV show on the UPN.

StudioCitySteve said...

Following @C's lead, +1 for the theme. Really enjoyed it.

Slapped in PALERMO early and had a little do-over there when it obviously wasn't working. Loved ALSATIAN, learned PILAR. In fact I had SPRUNG before SPRANG, and was wondering what a PILUR was, but something was nagging at the back of my mind and PILAR just looked better, so I guess I fluked that fill.

FLEA PIT was common usage in the UK when I was a kid, there tended to be at least a couple of cinemas in most towns, one of which was the downtrodden one which got all the old reruns, the other was the upscale one with the new releases.

The fleapit was cheaper (and probably more fun for us kids). In my town the fleapit was the Theatre Royal, the upscale Odeon got the new releases.

StudioCitySteve said...

@Tuttle - yes, Alsace is in France, but might be better to say "currently in France" as the region has flip-flopped between the two countries over the centuries.

The local food is very Germanic - lots of pork, sausages, fried potatoes. The regional specialty is pickled salted cabbage, choucroute alsacienne, aka sauerkraut.

Snigger - my captcha is "WHOROPA" - perhaps a lady of the Alsace night?

Rube said...

I also liked this puzzle. In the NE had trouble with the PSY/Pilar cross because the only Adler I could think of was Kurt Herbert, a conductor and former director of the San Francisco Opera. But mus(ic) just didn't fit. Remembering that a depilatory cream is used to remove hair corrected my SPRuNG and got me PILAR. Also had _KINsEy at first, but he didn't fit the pattern.

In the SW, wanted humANS for "most people". ROSCOE was there in the cobwebs, but had to run thru the 3 letter Greek letters to confirm it.

Wikipedia tells me that German Sheperds are also called ALSATIANs. My FOTD.

CoffeeLvr said...

After solving, I googled BABKA. Maybe I will make one soon. Sounds like a really tasty cross between a yeast bread and a cake. Good with a cup of . . .

Joon said...

i, too, loved the theme. the grid design is almost like a themeless, with only 72 words. i think the reason many of us didn't notice or mind all the 3s is that the long stuff was pretty lively.

PG, the YEA clue is the opposite of slang. think "indeed, thou speakest truly." the slang word that's pronounced that way is spelled "yay," and i don't think it's at all synonymous with "indeed." it irks me to see people spell it YEA when they mean yay (or yeah, which is pronounced differently).

clara bow is, i think, actually somewhat famous even outside of crosswords, and she's not the only way to clue either CLARA or BOW. (i actually see her more often in the context of IT GIRL showing up in the grid.) nita naldi and pola negri are the other xwords-only silent film stars rattling around in my brain. amazingly, they both have terrific xword names (both first and last!) that are also pretty much unique. i've never seen any other avenue of cluing NITA, NALDI, POLA, or NEGRI.

anon 9:09: no, the SPRANG clue is precisely right as is. you can't say "i paid dinner"; you would say "i paid for dinner" or "i sprang for dinner." that's what the "(for)" in the clue denotes.

true story: many years ago, matt matera and i were in the same bible study along with a woman named PILAR. apparently it's a somewhat common girl's name in spanish, meaning pillar. nothing to do with hair.

hebow44 said...

Solved the entire east side, but just couldn't put enough together for the west. May have to read more books or watch more Discovery Channel. I know I've seen it before, but still have to ask ... who came up with Artoo? I always thought it was R2D2. How do you spell the last name? Have we ever seen it referenced in a puzzle?

Mace said...

Artoo-Detoo. Both halves show up in puzzles.

mac said...

If I had gotten to the puzzle earlier, my post would have been a combination of StudioCitySteve's two!!
Very nice puzzle.

The birthplace of the frisbee is a bakery in Connecticut. A friend once gave me a Babka at easter baked in a terra cotta plant pot. It is delicious, a little like panettone.

Anonymous said...

The English use Alsatian(France) instead of
German Shepherd much as Black and White milk cows are "Freisens"(Denmark) and not "Holsteins" (adjoining area in Germany).

Two World Wars influence this no doubt.


Leland said...

Southwest Italy? Look at a map. Most of Italy is further west than Salerno.
Seniors are high school VIPs? Maybe in the age of self esteem and 100 valdictorians per class, but somehow I think it's like it always was. I.e most high school seniors are nobodies.

Anonymous said...

"Yea" is not slang when used, for example in the Bible, as a synonym for "indeed," "truly," "verily." If I were a biblical scholar, or even not senile, I could come up with a quote for y'all.

Rob said...

Cool, just found your site. Apparently, The Boston Herald uses the LAT crossword, now I know where to go (besides the answer grid on a back page). Totally stuck on this one, more so than usual. I figured the theme clues were two words, so that didn't help any. For the frisbee inspiration, I got "the plate" LOL! Oh well. Already had rastas & umpire, so when I got to 13d, Lost ____, I put ark. Damn you Mr. Jones!! Just commenting to let you know that I think it's great to have some place to banter over the days crossword.