09.09 Fri

September 9, 2011
Bruce Sutphin

Theme: "Losers" — Familiar phrases have the letters RS removed (they "lose" RS, get it?) to create new wacky phrases.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Village with very little gardening equipment? (ONE-HOrsE TOWN).
  • 27A: Entrance purchases for a conditioning program? (FIrsT-CLASS TICKETS).
  • 44A: What Ruth forgot to bring to pool night? (CUrsE OF THE BAMBINO).
  • 57A: Like calls between drudges? (PErsON-TO-PErsON).
  • 66A: Failures (and in another way, a hint to 17-, 27-, 44- and 57-Across) (LOSERS).
Happy Friday, everyone! I sincerely hope it's not raining where you are. I feel like we haven't seen the sun in years and it's pretty depressing. Luckily, we have a little diversion today ….

I really enjoyed this theme. I like that it wasn't super simple to figure out each theme answer, but that it was possible with some brain work. If ONE-HOE TOWN wasn't the seed entry for this puzzle, I'll eat my hat. (Remember how we had BREAST and then BOOB in successive puzzles this week and I asked what was next? Well, this is what was next!)

I had two write-overs today. I tried ALUM where AUNT was supposed to go (11D: Reunion attendee) and SLS for SLA (25D: Radical '70s group). SLS is … something, right? Other than that, my problems were mostly brain lapses. For example, with the SQUA in place for [10D: Gripe], the only word I could think of was SQUALL and I knew that wasn't right. Couldn't get SQUAWK to appear for what seemed like forever. Also had trouble with MARCO (36A: Pool game call). That's an awesome clue. I didn't understand that we were talking about a swimming pool (and not billiards) until every single letter had been filled in through crosses. D'oh!

Sparkliest entry in today's puzzle? CUTIE PIE (39D: Honey). It's been used in the L.A. Times puzzle a few times, but the most recent appearance was more than three years ago, so I declare it fresh and sparkly.

  • 24A: Jacket label letters (ISBN). Book jacket, that is.
  • 42A: "__ it Art?": Kipling (BUT IS). Hey, even the ugly partial gets a fun clue today!
  • 47A: Morgan Freeman won its 2011 Life Achievement Award: Abbr. (AFI). I'm gonna guess this stands for American Film Institute, but I don't feel like looking it up.
  • 6D: Pistons' place (THE NBA). I used to pay a lot of attention to pro basketball back in the 80s, so the Pistons are definitely not on my list of favorite teams. Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Coach Chuck Daly … ? Not much to like there.
  • 31D: Nice compliment (TRES BIEN). Okay, I admit it. This clue tricked me. "Nice" in this case refers to the city of Nice. Which is in France. Where they speak French. (French!) Putting Nice at the beginning of the clue where it's automatically capitalized is a common trick and I was pretty sure I was at the point where I could spot it a mile away. But no.
  • 33D: Happy Meals toy, e.g. (TIE-IN). Because CRAP wouldn't fit.
  • 42D: Ones who've got your back, in Internet shorthand (BFF'S). Just yesterday, PuzzleDaughter said to me (try to imagine this in a 10-year-old girl bossy voice), "I don't get BFF's. I mean, BFF means Best Friends Forever. But BFF's? That's like saying Best Friends Forevers. That doesn't make sense." That's my girl.
  • 50D: Food in a memorable "Seinfeld" episode (SOUP). The thing that cracks me up about the Soup Nazi is that the character was based on a real person and I had heard about the real guy before the character ever appeared on the show. PuzzleDad used to go to the soup place for lunch and he mentioned more than once how weird it was. He's like "Some days you get bread. Some days, you don't. Once in a while, I'll get back to my office and there's a banana in the bag. You just don't ever really know what you're going to get with this guy."
  • 58D: Lascivious leader? (ELL). The word "lascivious" begins with the letter L, which would be spelled out as ELL (if anyone ever really spelled out letters).
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    Everything 1A: Gung-ho response (I'M ON IT); 7A: Delay (LAG); 10A: Evans of country (SARA); 14A: Buff (POLISH); 15A: Farm female (EWE); 16A: Left (QUIT); 17A: Village with very little gardening equipment? (ONE-HOE TOWN); 19A: The NCAA's Runnin' Rebels (UNLV); 20A: Lab, for one (DOG); 21A: Reject (NIX); 22A: Sends (ELATES); 24A: Jacket label letters (ISBN); 26A: Get off the shoulder, say (TOW); 27A: Entrance purchases for a conditioning program? (FIT-CLASS TICKETS); 35A: Actor Milo (O'SHEA); 36A: Pool game call (MARCO); 37A: Tiny beef (NIT); 38A: Fly on a line (LURE); 39A: Gives credit where credit is due (CITES); 40A: On the safer side (ALEE); 41A: Rational ending? (-IZE); 42A: "__ it Art?": Kipling (BUT IS); 43A: 1955 UN joiner (SPAIN); 44A: What Ruth forgot to bring to pool night? (CUE OF THE BAMBINO); 47A: Morgan Freeman won its 2011 Life Achievement Award: Abbr. (AFI); 48A: Morning talker (IMUS); 49A: Fly over the equator? (TSE-TSE); 52A: Pleased cry (YES); 53A: Droid, e.g. (PDA); 56A: Slip through the cracks? (OOZE); 57A: Like calls between drudges? (PEON-TO-PEON); 61A: Run well (PURR); 62A: Unsound (ILL); 63A: Like Napoleon (EXILED); 64A: Relaxing locales (SPAS); 65A: The Hartford logo (ELK); 66A: Failures (and in another way, a hint to 17-, 27-, 44- and 57-Across) (LOSERS); 1D: Tune carrier (IPOD); 2D: One-track (MONO); 3D: Couturier Cassini (OLEG); 4D: Med. research agency (NIH); 5D: Bar opening? (ISO-); 6D: Pistons' place (THE NBA); 7D: Last non-priest to be named pope (LEO X); 8D: "Isn't that cute?" ("AWW"); 9D: It involves mapping (GENETICS); 10D: Gripe (SQUAWK); 11D: Reunion attendee (AUNT); 12D: Stir up (RILE); 13D: Off-rd. rides (ATV'S); 18D: Worker with light metal (TINSMITH); 23D: Bonkers (LOCO); 24D: Slush Puppie maker (ICEE); 25D: Radical '70s group (SLA); 27D: __ acid: vitamin B9 (FOLIC); 28D: Amigo on the road (ISUZU); 29D: Crowd starter? (THREE); 30D: "Socrate" composer (SATIE); 31D: Nice compliment (TRES BIEN); 32D: Zhou __ (EN-LAI); 33D: Happy Meals toy, e.g. (TIE-IN); 34D: Writer of short letters (STENO); 39D: Honey (CUTIE PIE); 40D: NYPD notices (APB'S); 42D: Ones who've got your back, in Internet shorthand (BFF'S); 43D: Future George W. Bush Presidential Library site (SMU); 45D: "Hondo" et al. (OATERS); 46D: Dutch brewery (AMSTEL); 49D: A-one (TOPS); 50D: Food in a memorable "Seinfeld" episode (SOUP); 51D: Pound of verse (EZRA); 52D: White partner (YOLK); 53D: "__ Eterno": 2004 sports documentary (PELE); 54D: Active sort (DOER); 55D: Addenda (ANDS); 58D: Lascivious leader? (ELL); 59D: Big name in kitchenware (OXO); 60D: Tecs (PIS).


    Lemonade714 said...

    Sparkling write up; I think SDS is the other radical group you were thinking about.

    Steve said...

    @PG - very nice write-up. I had to pick away at this one for a while - FIT CLASS TICKETS was the first theme fill, then I could see where I was going.

    Still don't understand MARCO even in the context of a swimming pool, I guess it's some game I never played.

    Was Bruce trying for a panagram here? It's got everything except "J".

    rrh said...

    Yes, I remember the swimming pool game called Marco Polo. It was fun as kids. And PG, great story about the Soup Nazi !

    Pete said...

    This was one of the better remove letters puzzles in a long time, with one of the best reveals.

    @Steve - If you don't understand Marco Polo, get down on your knees and thank whatever god/concept you believe in for that blessed ignorance. It's pure hell to live next to a house with a pool and a couple of 10 year olds listening to them shouting Marco! Polo! for hours on end. It's also the stupidest game of all time - back in the day we played Blind Man's Bluff, which is essentially Marco Polo, but had to do it silently. We were both tougher and more solicitous of our neighbors. Kids these days!

    Steve said...

    @pete - Thanks have been given! :)

    VirginiaC said...

    DNF on this one, just couldn't get my head around it. Did the same thing with alum/aunt which threw me off for quite a while, for 22A had emails instead of elates, which I still don't like. And @pz, all I could think of for 33D was gimmick, which didn't fit. Oh well, I guess Fridays are never faves here.

    All in all, not fond of the puzzle, loved the write-up!

    PicoDeGallo said...

    I just found this blog. You guys are awesome. I had fun with this puzzle today.

    *David* said...

    I figured out the theme right away with ONE HOE TOWN, fill to make the Onion proud. My only real slow spot was the NE corner where I put in ALUM and then was thinking GRAD, my mind never goes to family members even though I've seen that clue a lot. For a remove the letter(s) Friday it ws better then most.

    Brian said...

    I'll be smiling all day thinking about PG's comment on Happy Meals toy

    Misty said...

    Lots of trouble with this one. Got stuck on "Dale" Evans even though the only country song I ever heard her sing (back in the dark ages) was "Happy Trails." That led to getting stuck on "Alum," like lots of other folks. Got "tickets" right away, but never did get "fitclass"--since I exercise at home rather than at the gym, I suppose.

    But am always happy to see Irish actor Milo O'Shea in a puzzle. He should've won an Oscar for playing Leopold Bloom in the 1967 Joseph Strick film of "Ulysses"!

    I agree, great write-up, PG!

    Tom said...

    Loved, loved, loved your blog today, PG. I had tears running down my cheeks laughing at your comment about the Happy Meals toy clue. "Because CRAP wouldn't fit." LOL!

    I'm still laughing.

    The muse is with you today.

    Anonymous said...

    Yes the best part of this puzzle was PG!! Thank you :)

    Rube said...

    Great puzzle. Great write-up. Also got slowed down in the NE with dale Evans -- one problem with being an oldie.

    Got stuck in Oregon and HTG for ICEE -- that got things going. Cleverest misdirection goes to "Nice compliment". Got the theme and a chuckle from ONE HOE TOWN.

    Anoa Bob said...

    DNF on this one. BFFS (42D) crossing AFI (47A) undid me.

    Got the theme at 17A ONE HOE TOWN but 27A FIT CLASS TICKETS was too much of a stretch, so to speak. FITness CLASS yes but FIT CLASS no. And who the heck buys TICKETS to go to these?

    Had Treat at 33D for the Happy Meal clue. How is this a TIE IN? Or is that one word TIEIN?

    Whenever I see "Nice" in a clue, I immediately think French city so nailed TRES BIEN at 31D. "Nice" is almost always the first word in this oft used ruse to disguise the capital "N". If it came later in the clue, the capital "N" would give it away

    I can't squawk too much. Any puzzle that has SQUAWK (10D) in its grid buys a lot of forgiveness for perceived shortcomings elsewhere, in my book.

    Keith Fowler said...

    Yes, it's already been said, but I really enjoyed the commentary, PG. Your CRAP note was a knee slapper.

    A tough puzzle, but I managed. I think of all the letters we have "lost" before, this "er" business was unusually tough.

    mac said...

    Fun puzzle and great comments, PG. Had the alum as well, and squawk was the last word I finished filling in.

    Who is Ruth with the bambino? One hoe town is my favorite, second peon to peon. Is it ok that "pool" is in the clues twice?

    CoffeeLvr said...

    @PicoDeGallo, welcome. This is a fun place; come back soon.

    @mac, think Babe Ruth.

    @PG, the BFF cartoon had me laughing out loud; poor clueless banana.

    @PG, I was going to complain that you were ignoring the bright spot on the Pistons' lineup, Grant Hill, until I looked him up and found he was on the team from 94-99. Then I had a head smack moment; he was my son's favorite player, but he was too young to follow basketball as a toddler in the 80's. I got the kid an official (translate: expensive) teal Hill jersey on one of my business trips to Dearborn. Of course, soon after, the interest in b-ball cooled.

    I got stumped on the puzzle right after it came up, same glitches as others with Sds, Alum, Ist before IZE, bot before PDA. So I cheated and have to count this as a DNF. Things I forgot: the Hartford ELK, AMSTEL beer, SARA Evans. What did I learn: Milo O'SHEA, the Runnin' Rebels are at UNLV.

    Pretty funny theme answers; I wish I had just tackled the puzzle when I was fresh and firing on all cylinders.

    Bruce S. said...

    Thanks for the nice write up PG. Glad that most seemed to enjoy the puzzle. Your hat is safe, that was the only theme entry Rich liked when I first sent a puzzle with this theme to him. He rejected it and I gave it another go. Sometimes it pays to keep at it.

    Anonymous said...

    OK, I'm new at this, and I finally got the answers to the words that lost their RS's. However, what does "cue(curse) of the bambino" have to do with "what Ruth forgot to bring to pool night"? Could someone please explain this to me?

    Anonymous said...

    @Anon 11:36 After the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth (aka The Bambino) to the Yankees, they didn't win the World series until 2004 or something like that. Their inability to win the World Series for those 60-70 years was known as "The Curse of The Bambino". Thus, CU[RS]E OF THE BAMBINO

    Helpful Guy said...

    @Anon 11:36: Let me Google that for you.

    Steve said...

    BTW, I should mention that the official name for a TIE IN in the Happy Meal in the merchandise licensing world is a "Premium" which always makes me laugh.

    I prefer @PG's definition, but the movie marketers of this world probably wouldn't agree

    mac said...

    At The Hartford, they call their logo a stag, not an elk.

    Rojo said...

    Sad, a DNF, because of that NE corner. Alum instead of AUNT, EmAilS instead of ELATES, dAle instead of SARA, just ugly.


    Theme was wonderful though, I particularly liked CUE OF THE BAMBINO.

    @mac But it's an Elk Stag, no?

    Anonymous said...

    Actually, the Hartford logo is of a European Red Deer, not an elk at all. It was taken from the painting "The Monarch of the Glen" painted by Sir Edwin Landseer. Prior to that it was a Hart(=Stag) fording a stream. Get it, Hart Ford(ing)? Man, that's some really good logo picking there.

    And it is a stag, though that's irrelevant to whether it's an elk or not, Stag(or Hart)/Hind = Buck/Doe = Male/Female, not species.

    badams52 said...

    Completely did what @PG did with Alum before AUNT and didn't get MARCO till the O fell in place.

    Nice story about the Soup Nazi.

    @PG you didn't disappoint with your happy meals toy comment. I myself was thinking "trash" and "chEap," but CRAP is a better description. When I only had the E in place I was thinking, they couldn't really be wanting chEap could they?

    Blue Tongue said...

    The Slush Puppie clue got me today. I did think ICEE at first, but didn't write it in, believing the two were competitors, not conspirators.

    Does anybody use ICEE/Slushee in their convenience store soda/fountain drinks - in place of actual ice? The Mountain Dew combo is great! And it doesn't get watered down...

    Anonymous said...

    I agree with PG, but I first tried Treat for Happy Meal toy!

    rrh said...

    I wonder if weekend crossword puzzles will honor 9/11 victims and heroes in any way.....

    checarina said...

    I don't understand "Sends" as a clue for ELATES at all. I would get it if it were "Sends over the moon" or something, but as it is, I'm just confused. Can someone enlighten me?