09.14 Wed

September 14, 2011
Don Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel

Theme: Wheel of Fortune — Theme answers end with an article plus a vowel, like the way a contestant on Wheel of Fortune would say, "I'd like to buy AN A," e.g.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: *"The Music Man" number (GARY INDIANA).
  • 21A: *Sweet stocking stuffer (CANDY CANE).
  • 34A: *Lead singer in No Doubt's hit "Don't Speak" (GWEN STEFANI).
  • 42A: *Instrument using rolls (PLAYER PIANO).
  • 52A: *Seven-time Grammy-winning jazz singer (AL JARREAU).
  • 62A: Words in a classic game show that can be followed by the ends of the answers to starred clues (I'D LIKE TO BUY).
I'm not gonna spend a lot of time on this puzzle because, frankly, I don't think very much of it. The theme is extremely thin, the crosswordese is rampant, and the fill is pretty sketchy in that it includes:
  • several prefix/suffix entries (-ISH, API-, PERI-);
  • a Random Roman Numeral (DCC);
  • an awkward plural (TEMPI);
  • half of a Gabor sister (ZSA); and
  • ISIAH Thomas.
I actually do like both AL JARREAU and GWEN STEFANI (although GWEN's clue was oddly specific), but there's just not enough theme here. Three letters at the end of four entries and only two at the end of the fifth. Add to that the awkward reveal clue and, well … I'm just not feeling it.

I have now made a puzzle constructing rule for myself. If I ever find that a grid needs to contain both SOU and ÉCU, I will scrap it and start over. I don't even think having both of those words in the grid can be counter-balanced by a phenomenal theme (which, unfortunately, isn't even a consideration in this particular case).

If you all found anything redeeming in this puzzle, I'd love to hear about it in the comments. Telling me that HOBO is awesome doesn't count, though, because that's just obvious.

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 20A: Early computer (ENIAC).
  • 41A: Ernst contemporary (ARP).
  • 65A: Geological time division (AEON).
  • 24D: Vietnamese holiday marking the arrival of spring (TET).
  • 26D: Ottoman big shots (AGHAS).
  • 51D: Arctic diver (AUK).
  • 55D: "The Time Machine" race (ELOI).
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Everything 1A: Wasn't renewed (LAPSED); 7A: Fiend's tail? (-ISH); 10A: Biographical datum (AGE); 13A: World Cup chant (OLÉ OLÉ); 14A: They're "high" but not dry (SEAS); 16A: Little shaver (LAD); 17A: *"The Music Man" number (GARY INDIANA); 19A: Ginormous (BIG); 20A: Early computer (ENIAC); 21A: *Sweet stocking stuffer (CANDY CANE); 23A: Not quite a compulsion (ITCH); 25A: W-2 info: Abbr. (SSN); 26A: Perceptive (ASTUTE); 30A: Predecessor of 33-Down (JOHNSON); 34A: *Lead singer in No Doubt's hit "Don't Speak" (GWEN STEFANI); 37A: Bee fore? (API-); 38A: Plate in a park (HOME); 39A: Took by the hand (LED); 40A: Aptly named movie channel (FLIX); 41A: Ernst contemporary (ARP); 42A: *Instrument using rolls (PLAYER PIANO); 46A: Grab ahold of, as an idea (SEIZE ON); 48A: Cross to bear (BURDEN); 49A: Trivial amount (SOU); 50A: Sandbox sight (PAIL); 52A: *Seven-time Grammy-winning jazz singer (AL JARREAU); 56A: Tibetan capital (LHASA); 61A: Showy wrap (BOA); 62A: Words in a classic game show that can be followed by the ends of the answers to starred clues (I'D LIKE TO BUY); 64A: Lumber tree (ELM); 65A: Geological time division (AEON); 66A: Fare-minded one? (CABBIE); 67A: Family pooch (LAB); 68A: Command to a 67-Across (SIT); 69A: WWII fleet (U-BOATS); 1D: Prime seating (LOGE); 2D: Rickman of Harry Potter films (ALAN); 3D: Prefix with meter (PERI-); 4D: Miso bean (SOYA); 5D: Extracts (ELICITS); 6D: Place to relax (DEN); 7D: Hoops legend Thomas (ISIAH); 8D: Penn of "Milk" (SEAN); 9D: Like computer lab learning (HANDS-ON); 10D: Goya's "Duchess of __" (ALBA); 11D: Put on a spare tire? (GAIN); 12D: Upper hand (EDGE); 15D: Greets someone with more than a nod (SAYS HI); 18D: LXX x X (DCC); 22D: MSNBC rival (CNN); 24D: Vietnamese holiday marking the arrival of spring (TET); 26D: Ottoman big shots (AGHAS); 27D: Talked a blue streak? (SWORE); 28D: Musical speeds (TEMPI); 29D: French article (UNE); 30D: Shade of green (JADE); 31D: Leaves for lunch? (SALAD); 32D: Speak one's mind (OPINE); 33D: Successor to 30-Across (NIXON); 35D: Pizazz (ELAN); 36D: Tina of "30 Rock" (FEY); 40D: Tree often brought into the house (FIR); 42D: Illinois River port (PEORIA); 43D: French pilgrimage site (LOURDES); 44D: DH's stat (RBI); 45D: Can opener (PULL TAB); 47D: When doubled, sister of Eva (ZSA); 50D: A stripper takes it off (PAINT); 51D: Arctic diver (AUK); 52D: Genesis shepherd (ABEL); 53D: 1970 Kinks classic (LOLA); 54D: It's perpendicular to a threshold (JAMB); 55D: "The Time Machine" race (ELOI); 57D: Vagabond (HOBO); 58D: "Take a Chance on Me" quartet (ABBA); 59D: Dressy duds (SUIT); 60D: Thumbs-up votes (AYES); 63D: Former French coin (ÉCU).


Sfingi said...

Didn't understand the theme until I read PGs explanation.

Otherwise, easy. Unsure about the spellings of AUK and ECU.

Why is it Wed. is so easy and Thurs. so hard?

Gareth Bain said...

I loved the theme! Always like to see annoying crossword-ese retooled into a theme! That said there was annoying crossword-ese to spare in the rest of the puzzle! Guess that's what can happen when you try for a sixpack theme!

Anonymous said...

Why do you say only 2 in the fifth....jarreau....EAU...that's 3 vowels, too!

Anonymous said...

An 'A'
An 'E'
An 'I'
An 'O'
A 'U'
The vowels in order ...
How they say "I'd like to buy ..."
on Wheel-of-Fortune.

Six theme's on Wednesday is impressive.

C. C. said...

Putting 62 theme squares in a strict AN A, AN E, AN I, AN O and A U order constrains the grid considerably. We don't like crosswordese either.

Conrad said...

Not a bad puzzle. Theme answers weren't too easy or too hard. Sure, there was a little extra Xwordese, but I quite liked some of the fill (LAPSED, ELICITS, ASTUTE).

Matthew said...

Wasn't terribly impressed, but I didn't hate it either. Liked PULLTAB -- there's something you don't really see anymore on cans. Otherwise, just kinda okay. Kinda like Wednesday in general.

Tuttle said...

Did not like 3D.

Perimeter is not an English formation. It is derived in whole from the Greek where peri- is a prefix with metros not 'meter'. Cluing it as it was is the same as "prefix with od" since 'period' was derived similarly (Greek peri + hodos). Now, if they'd clued it "prefix with scope" it would have been correct since periscope is an English formation not an Ancient Greek one.

Anonymous said...

I like that they took the frequently occurring (and moan-inducing) "ana, ane...," and turned it into a theme. You'd enjoy it more if you think of it as a parody.

I'm a fan of this blog (I check it several times a week), but today, I think PG just woke up on the wrong side of the puzzlebed.

*David* said...

I was good with the theme, nothing spectacular but an interesting idea. I actually liked mini theme SOU/ECU and FIR/ELM in the same puzzle. Might as well go all out with SOU/ECU when you have one of them in there.

Misty said...

I knew that one of these days listening to "Wheel of Fortune" would pay off! My husband watches it while I finish cooking dinner, so while I don't see it, I hear it. Huge help with this puzzle.

I liked "Gary Indiana" (one of my favorite "Music Man" tunes) and "player piano."

Now am puzzled why we say "an a" or "an i" but "a u"? Why isn't it "an u"?

Pretty good Wednesday, as far as I'm concerned.

Ron Worden said...

I also did not get the theme until I read P.G's writeup. I did like the Johnson and Nixon cluimg and sharing the n. clearly two of our historys worst presidents and from separate parties.

Dennis said...

I don't understand 37accross. Will someone please explain it to me.

Golfballman said...

At first I thought the theme was famous people, you've got Gary Player and John Candy sitting right there on top.

Tom said...

Ditto to Ron Worden's observation about the pairing of Nixon and Johnson. I thought that was clever. I also thought that PGs pan of the puzzle was an overreaction. It wasn't that bad of a puzzle. Maybe PG's having a bad day.

C said...

I am OK with the puzzle overall. Fill doesn't bother me too much, good memory test. I liked the theme, didn't figure it out without the reveal and that makes me like it a bit more.

Things I liked in the puzzle is the inclusion of AEON and FLIX which is close to Aeon Flux, a film starring Charlize Theron, a personal favorite of mine so I found something non-HOBO to like about the puzzle, challenge met @PG ;^)

CarolC said...

Loved the theme - agree with Anon 8:21 it's a clever parody of the annoying cluing in other puzzles where the answer is "AN" fill in the blank of the random vowel du jour.

PG, I do agree that SOU and ECU in the same puzzle are a bit much. I thought managing to fit both GWEN STEFANI and AL JARREAU in was well done. A little mini music theme with them, LOLA, ABBA, TEMPI, Music Man, PLAYER PIANO, and even a LOGE seat. Overall, for me it did ELICIT a laugh, which is how I like to start my day. Thanks CC and Don.

Tom said...

@Dennis-API is a prefix relating to bees, like in "apiary."

Anoa Bob said...

There seems to be a negative correlation in crosswordpuzzledom between theme density and fill quality. As the former goes up, the latter goes down.

I think that today's offering fits that pattern. Yep, there's quite a bit of crosswordese but there are six theme entries, all of which have to be in order---i.e., there's no option to shift entries around to get smoother fill.

I never heard of GWEN STEFANI and the only song that I know from "The Music Man" is the one about "Trouble In River City": "It starts with "T" and that rhymes with "P" and that stands for Pool." (I'm a pool player). Oh yeah, and a song about a whole bunch of trombones.

So with two theme entries outside my solving zone and lots of crosswordese, I'm in PG's corner on this one.

CoffeeLvr said...

I rate this puzzle as "okay." I was not as annoyed by all the crosswordese as @PG, but I do see her point. When I finished, I only saw the A, E, I, O & U at the ends of the theme entries, and was pretty disappointed; the inclusion of the articles kick it up a notch.

I don't think of ELM as a lumber tree, rather as a shade tree. They grow very quickly, so unlikely to be fine grained. Also, cannot think of a single use in describing furniture, cabinetry, flooring or home framing. (No, I didn't Google it.) I had to remove OAK when LOLA and JAMB insisted on living in that corner.

The part I liked best was the echo of Monday's NYT, with LAB, SIT in the bottom row.

Alexscott said...

Not sure why you come down so hard on this puzzle, PG. I liked the theme, especially since it's not obvious until you solve the reveal. It would have been better if CANDY CANE had a musical tie-in, since the other four did. I really liked the JOHNSON-NIXON cross. I was sure it was going to be a couple of popes when I had JOHN___, so it was a nice surprise. Also, I've always liked Random Roman Numerals in puzzles, especially when they're easy to solve with a little math.

Oh, and Misty, it's a u, not an u because the letter u is pronounced with a consonant y at the beginning (as in "you"). Using a or an is always dependent on the sound, not the spelling.

Anonymous said...

I liked the theme and getting "I'd like to buy" enabled me to finally figure out the Music Man clue. It was almost the last thing I filled in because the number I wanted was seventy six. Finally realized that number wasn't a number. Doh...

Misty said...

Hey, Alexscott, Many thanks to U for the explanation. I now get it!

JIMMIE said...

@Tuttle. Skopeo is Greek for look out, so I believe both PERImeter and periscope have Greek origins, nothing English about 'em.

I thought the CW was at least OK, with the last entries filling out JOHNSON and NIXON.

CP said...

I like this puzzle a lot, but some others didn't get the theme right way. To me, Wheel of Fortune is not a "classic" (i.e., in black in white TV) game show, as opposed to let's say "What's My Line," "Password," "To Tell the Truth" or even my all time favorite "Queen for a Day." So that is what threw me off.

JOHNSON/NIXON crossing was just marvelous.

Van55 said...

I didn't like SSN or DCC a bit.

Most of the other three letter fill was wanting.

Didn't even get the theme until I finished solving.

Alexscott: Is it correct to say, "This is an historic occasion?" I hear that usage of "an" vs "a" quite frequently.

Sfingi -- if you can forgive and come back, I guess I can too.

Tinbeni said...

When I saw SSN & DCC, I thought of you.

TEMPI, ELICITS, LOURDES, with a HANDS-ON PULL-TAB trumped the crosswordese for me.

Damn, the Morlocks never get any credit ...

Cheers !!!

Ruth said...

Liked it. Got the theme about halfway through, didn't really need it to get the answers but admired the concept and construction. There you have it--an AYE vote.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I didn't see the whole theme right away, I had Candy Cane and Gwen Stefani filled in and realized it would be a Wheel of Fortune thing and just put in the A/O/U with out the AN/A in front.

Little Shaver clue today, 16A, possibly a play on 1D from yesterday?

mac said...

I liked this one a lot, especially because of all the an-s, and then a- for the U. That was perfect.

Having both sou and ecu in the puzzle absolves them! Love the Nixon/Johnson abutting.

Alexscott said...

Van55: I think using a vs. an before words beginning with h is a style preference as opposed to a hard and fast rule. I see an more with British usage, but as long as you're consistent, I say use whichever you would normally say. (Though you should always use an for words like herb, where the h is silent [except in British speech, where the h is spoken--except that they would use an anyway] . . . say, this is getting confusing now, isn't it?)

Don't even get me started on possessives involving names that end with a silent s.

CrazyCat said...

Wow!@Van55 - I also thought of you today, with the RRN (random Roman numeral) and the horrific SSN. Welcome back!

I was OK with the puzzle, although it didn't knock my socks off. I say an A, an E, an I, an O, a U and sometimes a Y. OLE, OLE!

GWEN STEPHANI gets two thumbs up!

Anonymous said...

@ CC - cool theme, nice execution. Density limits your choices for fill, bet it was a bearcat to fill. But the theme shoulda caught you a break from this crowd. tip o' the hat to ya fwiw ...

Rojo said...

I kind of like the theme. Especially since I got the crosses for the I'D LIKE TO BUY early and that helped me with AL JARREAU (I instinctively put in A U at the end, rather than AN U) and PLAYER PIANO. Also, has anyone noted that the sixth, semi-orphaned vowel, Y, as in "A,E,I,O,U, and sometimes Y" turned up right at the end of I'D LIKE TO BUY. I thought that was a nice touch.

The rest of the fill, however, didn't do a whole lot for me, with the exception of the previously noted JOHNSON/NIXON cross.