S A T U R D A Y
August 6, 2011
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)