08.06 Sat


August 6, 2011

Brad Wilber

Theme: None. It’s Saturday, it’s themeless day!

Hi guys! It's Gareth here. While Angela and Doug are jolling with the word nerd herd, I volunteered to babysit you guys. I hope I can keep you entertained! To get the elephant in the room out the way, thanks for the very sweet comments yesterday!. As usual, I find that all quite awkward, so moving on...

[Aside: I solved this puzzle after putting an Apple Spice Cake in the oven, baking for a friend's birthday tomorrow (today now). Solving crosswords with baking wafting into your nostrils is very soothing!]

Today's puzzle is by themeless veteran Brad Wilber. I associate his name more with tough NYT and Newsday Saturdays that strike fear into the heart of even the bravest solvers. Saturday LAT's are, usually, a little gentler. This one has 66 entries (on the low side) but 36 black squares (on the high side). On balance, this puzzle rates on the high side in terms of difficulty to fill... but what we're looking for is entertainment, right? We don't care about the technical stuff, get on with it Bain...

My first entry was ALEE, boy is that guy hard to disguise even on Saturday! I paired it with azTECS, but then couldn't find any more traction, and wandered to the top-right, which filled itself in quite easily, and from there spidered (is that a verb? It is now!) to the bottom-right, and in no time had the whole bottom, and was getting that smug solver feeling . You know the one where you're whipping a puzzle's butt? The one that, on Saturday means trouble is ahead. Well, it was ahead; boy was the top third hard. After 5+ minutes of stuckness, I figured out OCTAD, a deliciously dirty trick if ever there was one; after that, stuff started coming together. I still needed nearly every crossing for TOMATOPLANT, a sublime clue/answer pair if ever there was one: you can grow TOMATOPLANTs on cages or stakes, but the clue could mean about anything! VELCROCLOSURE, on the other hand, also needed nearly every crossing, but brought out Mr. Frowny. I KNOW what Velcro is, but VELCROCLOSURE??? I'm off to Google... about 16 million results. Um, OK. It's clearly just me then! I ended the puzzle by having to change VOLANTa to VOLANTE. This issue came up in another puzzle, I think it was by Joon Pahk, but I didn't learn my lesson. My Webster's New World Dictionary says FAY = "n. Fairy" and FEY = "adj. Elfin.” No idea about the musical term: classical music = big empty area in my knowledge. In the end I took a bit longer than usual for a Saturday, but not off the scale.


  • 23A: Exile, perhaps (ENISLE). Crosswordese alert. Earlier in the week, there'd be a nudge in the right direction, like a reference to "marooning", but this is Saturday, so the puzzle plays dumb.
  • 26A: First National Leaguer to hit 500 homers (OTT). Know nothing about baseball, but if its three letters, odds are it's OTT. I still took it out several times!
  • 41A: Arlington, Va., post (FTMYER). These dang US forts are another knowledge lacuna. This one got filled in by perps pretty easily; the one in yesterday's NYT had me totally buffaloed though! Also, I think this is where PG lives? If so I'm sure she'll have something more to say about it!
  • 44A: Screwdriver parts, for short (OJS). Screwdriver the cocktail. The other ingredient is vodka - Stoli, perhaps.
  • 52A: 1984 Rob Reiner rock music satire (THISISSPINALTAP). I've never seen (queue gasps), still filled it in with only one or two letters.
  • 55A: Federal Reserve goal (STABLEECONOMY). Timely. I'm not saying anymore, lest I betray my economic ignorance.
  • 56A: Far from settled (UPFORDEBATE). Found that underneath ECONOMY. Odd.
  • 2D: Pre-Columbian Mexicans (OLMECS). Like I said, I went azTECS first. I can’t be the only one! Olmecs are the people who did those goofy heads that some people say have West African facial features.
  • 3D: Co. with a '90s "Friends & Family" program (MCI). No idea. These letters just appeared in my grid! Apparently a US telecom. Was probably a gimme for you guys, right?
  • 20D: Game for young matchmakers (OLDMAID). Took a lot of cogitating, that one! Extremely dated, but still a colourful answer!
  • 33D: 1984 #1 country hit by the Judds (WHYNOTME). Again I've never heard of it, but the words were easy to pick out.
  • 38D: Passing news item? (OBIT). Always find it strange how much levity there is when writing clues for this answer. Is it just me?
  • 44D: Calgary Olympics skating silver medalist (ORSER). Mystery uninferrable name of the day for me. Don't watch a lot of skating. Rock solid crossings.

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:

  • 16A: Out of the teeth of the gale (ALEE).
  • 26A: First National Leaguer to hit 500 homers (OTT).
  • 15D: River of Flanders (YSER)
  • 49D: Site of 1993 Arab-Israeli accords (OSLO).
  • 54D: Ortiz of Ugly Betty (ANA).
  • 1D: Lund of "Casablanca" and others (ILSAS).
  • 31D: Medley (OLIO).

Everything 14A: Learns cold (COMMITS TO MEMORY); 17A: Suffix with city (SCAPE); 18A: Supply next to the grill (BUNS); 19A: First name in travel (MARCO); 21A: Circular contents (ADS); 22A: Fix, as a bow (RETIE); 25A: Less inclined to ramble (TERSER); 27A: Pre-makeover condition (DRABNESS); 32A: Epoch in which grazing mammals became widespread (MIOCENE); 33A: Mg. and oz. (WTS.); 36A: Included as a postscript (TACKED ON); 37A: Humble abode (HUT); 38A: God often depicted with green skin (OSIRIS); 43A: Like many Edwardian era collars (BONED); 7A: Perceive (SENSE); 48A: __ dixit (IPSE); 49A: Exams given by committee (ORALS); 51A: Was a passenger (RODE); 1D: Boldness (TEMERITY); 3D: Co. with a '90s "Friends & Family" program (MCI); 4D: Conservatory pursuits (ARTS); 5D: "Vissi d'arte" singer (TOSCA); 6D: Square dance quorum (OCTAD); 7D: Falls heavily (PLOPS); 8D: Capital on the Gulf of Guinea (LOME); 9D: Polymer ending (-ASE); 10D: Book covering the Hebrews' 40-year wilderness exile (NUMBERS); 11D: Rainbow and Dolly Varden (TROUTS); 13D: Muppet wearing horizontal stripes (ERNIE); 14D: Resulted from (CAME OF); 15D: River of Flanders (YSER); 22D: Is put out by (RESENTS); 24D: Idle and more? (ERICS); 25D: :50, put another way (TEN OF); 28D: Peachy (AOK); 29D: Letters used in dating (BCE); 30D: Animated Flanders (NED); 34D: Common voting occasion (TUESDAY); 35D: "Out of Africa" star (STREEP); 36D: Food for leafhoppers (TREE SAP); 39D: Some campus returnees (SOPHS); 40D: Undisturbed (IN SITU); 42D: Red wine grape (MERLOT); 45D: Ribbed (JAPED); 46D: Links bugaboo (SLICE); 49D: Site of 1993 Arab-Israeli accords (OSLO); 50D: Kitsch deplorer (SNOB); 53D: Org. with a pair of gloves in its logo (IBF); 54D: Ortiz of "Ugly Betty" (ANA)


Gareth Bain said...

Sorry. There seem to be some formatting problems I can't seem to fix...

Argyle said...

One question; if you had AZTECS, when did you change it to OLMECS?

CoffeeLvr said...

Great puzzle. I liked it from the moment I saw the empty grid with its corners looking like the mounts in old photo albums! I also am taken with the offset of 27A and 36A; to my eye, it makes the grid dynamic.

Despite a first thought that it must be sports related for 1A, I filled in TOMATOPLANT and it fit! So I didn't fall for aztECS. Also THISISSPINALTAP off the get go. Gareth, no "gasp" here, just a recommendation.

My last entry to complete was TROUTS which sent me running to Google Dolly Varden Trout. It is a real name with a long story that I can't quite remember this morning. Besides that, I suppose I need to try to remember ORSER. Good luck with that.

JAPED is a great old word.

Clever clues for MARCO & TUESDAY.

Rojo said...

Hey Gareth! Pleased to see you here.

Today, sadly, we got the dreaded DNF!


Started off very similarly to you, building out from STREEP and TUESDAY and OJS (really liked that one, although I got it pretty quickly) and SLICE and getting the top two thirds of the puzzle with alacrity. Like you, the smugness wore off with that top third. Ouch.

aztECS instead of OLMECS, kept wanting city-SCAPES, but also kept wanting eight instead of OCTAD at the cross, because OCTAD never came to me, and so kept switching back and forth.

As puzzle-timer reached into 49 minutes I gave up and came for a quick peek over here at TOMATO PLANTS, and then it all fell into place.

Dolly Varden TROUTS? never heard of this. I kept wanting briteS (as in Rainboy Brite, Dolly Varden would still not have made any sense to me).

VOLANTE also stumped me. I wanted ANDANTE, although I have no idea what that means either (and I took years of classical piano), but you are correct that ALEE is pretty difficult to hide, so I knew that was wrong.

Is FEY really "Leprechaun-like"? I tend to think of Leprechauns as short, but very hairy man-creatures. *Heads off to Merriam-Webster*

a :chiefly Scottish : fated to die : doomed
b : marked by a foreboding of death or calamity
a : able to see into the future : visionary
b : marked by an otherworldly air or attitude
c : crazy, touched
a : excessively refined : precious
b : quaintly unconventional : campy"

Oh, ok, I was thinking definition 3, but I suppose it works for definition 2.

slypett said...

IBF? Whazzat? International Beer Foundation? Internal Belly Flop? International Brotherhood of Fatmen?

I'm yelping for help.

Gene said...

Struggled for over an hour and wound up with IBT and UPTOADEBATE, both wrong. I knew International Boxing (Commission?), but forgot about the "Federation." Settled for IBT Who knew the olympic skater? Not me. But give me a 98%.

Steve said...

@Argyle - I had AZTECS right up until I got COMMITS TO MEMORY, then it had to come out. Also came out at that point was "ATT" that I had before "MCI".

I had vAsCO before MARCO, that caused a couple of problems too.

Thank goodness for SPINAL TAP, that went straight in, no crossings, got me started, finally.

This was a great saturday - nothing much goes in at first, then you just chip away at it and finally it all comes together.

My final letter was the "O" in the screwdriver/skater cross. I drink those things too, and I was staring at that empty square for ages before the penny dropped.

Rojo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rojo said...

@slypett IBF is the International Boxing Federation, I believe. Hence the gloves in the logo.

slypett said...

Rojo: Thanks. I pictured the gloves as the kind ladies in the Fifties wore laid on a bed of laurel.

Gareth Bain said...

Like @Steve it was in writing COMMITSTOMEMORY. It was the other two long answers that got me! Boxing is one of those sports with numerous competing groups: I think the main ones are the WBA, IBF and WBC?

CrazyCatLady said...

Thanks for filling in Gareth.

At first glance, the grid looked daunting to me, but I immediately wrote in TOMATO PLANT, thinking it was probably wrong. I'm at the height of my tomato season right now. Once I filled in NUMBERS, ERNIE, PLOPS and ASE, I saw CLOSURE forming so that led to TROUTS. That's when I had the aha moment and realized "lace" was a shoe lace and threw in VELCRO. My kids always had velcro closures before they could tie their shoes.

THIS IS SPINAL TAP helped me get the bottom section started. Had UNDER DEBATE before UP FOR. STABLE ECONOMY - What's that?

Last section to fill in was OLD MAID, DRABNESS and that horrible ENISLE, which I had forgotten about. Tough puzzle, with a lot of write overs, but fun.

Fowler said...

I had MAYANS before AZTECS; my change to OLMECS was the next to last move made. Was it a requirement that all early Mexican groups should have five letter names?
I found it very tough but never really hit a dead end. The first three across (TOMATO PLANT through COMMITS TO MEMORY) were the most stubborn and least rewarding.

Rojo said...

@ Fowler

Yeah, I had Mayans originally too. I was all proud of myself for Aztecs. "Aha, you can't fool me, crossword puzzle," I thought. Little did I know.....

Anonymous said...

IBF = International Boxing Fed. - Got OLMECS right away (they were all gone PRE Columbus) - Why is TOMATO PLANT "caged??? - "learning cold" to any college dropout means trying to cram without preparatory work, nothing to do with "COMIT(ing) TO MEMORY" - caught a few Dolly Vardens in the N'West - delicious!!! But TROUT is also its plural! (troutS??)

CoffeeLvr said...

@Anon 4:21pm, it is not uncommon to put a cage around a plant to both support its growth and afford some protection from hungry critters like raccoon. See: http://www.motherearthnews.com/uploadedImages/articles/issues/2002-06-01/192-096-01-wire-towers.jpg

I thought of learning cold as along the lines of "I've got it down cold."

And the clue referenced two kinds of trout, or two TROUTS. So both OK with me.

CrazyCatLady said...

Anon 4:21 When you grow TOMATO PLANTs you want them to grow vertically so that the fruit is off the ground and the plants get maximum sunlight. The vines get very long/ tall and when you have limited space, up is the only way to go (and the healthiest for the vine). The traditional way to accomplish this is to use a stake or a tall circular cage-like thing. My preference is a vertical growing ladder which is v shaped and way sturdier than stakes or cages.

Uh oh, probably time to go to a gardening blog.

Sfingi said...

Googled 11 times. ORSER, OSIRIS, TROUTS (don't like pluralizing any fish), WHYNOTME, OLMEC. Got LOME, MCI, IBF on crosses.

Had AztECS, but kept thinking it had to be COMMIT TO MEMORY going the other way.

On your Crosswordese Roundup - wasn't ILSAS from Thurs.?

Saturday and difficult.

mac said...

Jeeze, Gareth, and you are a good writer, too??? You continue to amaze.

Did this one late, after a lot of puzzling all day at the Lollapuzzoola, and it was harder than the NYT. Had asperity for temerity, Aztecs for Olmecs as we all did, and did not fill in This Is Spinal Tap from 2 crosses!!

Stable economy? Up for debate.

PS. Lollapuzzoola was wonderful. Anyone in the area should come next time. We had quite a few people there who had to get on plane to join us, though!

Anonymous said...

Gareth, I think you meant to say "Cue the gasps."

Great write up otherwise!