MONDAY, April 20, 2009 — David W. Cromer

THEME: Double Trouble — four theme answers are all two-word phrases where a single word is repeated.

Broke the three-minute mark on this one by a few seconds, but I was oddly disappointed that I wasn't even faster — this is the kind of puzzle you break your own speed records on. When your long theme answers are instantly gettable, it's very very easy to move through the grid with great dispatch. Once I got KNOCK KNOCK, I had a sense of what the theme might be, and then BREAKER BREAKER gave it away, and the remaining two theme answers went down instantly. That's a lot of squares to have handed to you on a silver platter. I love that the theme answers are all held together not just by their doubleness, but by their being the "starts" of various phrases.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Start of many a corny joke ("KNOCK, KNOCK")
  • 27A: Start of a trucker's communication ("BREAKER, BREAKER")
  • 49A: Start of a sound man's mike check ("TESTING, TESTING")
  • 65A: Start of a newsboy's cry ("EXTRA, EXTRA!")
HEAR YE, HEAR YE, this puzzle was pretty cool, except ... What In The World is "THE SHACK" (42D: 2007 William P. Young Christian-themed best-seller)?!?! This puzzle is Monday smooth, with familiar phrases abounding, and then ... "THE SHACK"!? Is this answer part of the puzzle's new Christian outreach program? Have most of you heard of this book? Non-Christians? I don't doubt it was a best-seller, but I do doubt it is generally well known enough to be a solid Monday answer. I'd have made it THE SHARK (Golfer Greg Norman's nickname) and then tinkered with that southern section to make it work. "THE SHACK" ... feels off, but it's the only weak spot in an otherwise pretty solid grid. The only other place I tripped was at TOKE (13D: Casino gratuity). I thought the answer was RAKE.

Crosswordese 101: We are working on keeping a running list of words we have featured in "Crosswordese 101." Right now, we've been going four weeks, and I have already completely lost track of what we've been over. I had to email PuzzleGirl last night and ask her "hey, have we done AXLE/AXEL yet?" She didn't think so. So today — AXLE (56D: Wheel shaft), and how to tell it apart, spelling-wise, from AXEL. These two words are both remarkably common in the grid, and while both are common words, for the longest time, I couldn't tell which was which. Which one is on a car, which in a skater's routine? So I developed this mnemonic — "XL" = Extra Large, which reminds me of manly men which reminds me of cars. Skaters are not "XL" — they have to be nimble and flexible, and bulk would inhibit that. The "XL" in AXLE now screams "cars" to me. No more AXLE/AXEL confusion.

What else?
  • 35A: Sea World performer (SEAL). Wanted ORCA.
  • 67A: City near Sacramento (LODI). Gimme for me, but I grew up in Central California. You see LODI not infrequently in puzzles, sometimes clued as a "wine region."

  • 69A: High-performance Camaro (IROC). Handy car model to know. IROCs aren't made any more, but they still appear with some frequency in crosswords. Bygone autos are a staple of the crossword. See also ALERO, EDSEL, etc.
  • 30D: Music genre in the 'hood (RAP) / 31D: Jewelry in the 'hood (BLING). It always makes me cringe a bit when crosswords go into "the 'hood." It's like when grannies or white middle class dads try to RAP. Gives me a queasy feeling. If the ladies on "The View" know and use the words and terms popularized by hip-hop culture (e.g. BLING), you can bet they have probably already lost their currency in the so-called 'hood. Actually, I love seeing RAP in the puzzle — I just wish the puzzle itself (i.e. the clues) didn't treat it like a cute curiosity.
  • 51D: "You can't get out this way" sign ("NO EXIT"). Awkward clue. Why not just go with the Sartre play? It's famous enough. Or ... well, it's at least as famous as "THE SHACK." I'm just sayin'.
Thanks for reading. Chime in with your own comments. See you Wednesday. PG has tomorrow's write-up.

~Rex Parker

Everything Else — 1A: Good-sized piece of meat (SLAB); 5A: Play-of-color gem (OPAL); 9A: To the left, at sea (APORT); 14A: Volcanic output (LAVA); 15A: White House staffer (AIDE); 16A: Medium for FDR's fireside chats (RADIO); 17A: Sign of things to come (OMEN); 18A: Start of many a corny joke (KNOCKKNOCK); 20A: O'Hara's estate (TARA); 21A: Flavorful (TASTY); 22A: Canadian tribe (CREE); 23A: Neighbor of Swe. (NOR); 25A: Scat singer Fitzgerald (ELLA); 27A: Start of a trucker's communication (BREAKERBREAKER); 34A: Crude in a gusher (OIL); 35A: Sea World performer (SEAL); 36A: Heredity units (GENES); 38A: "Metamorphoses" poet (OVID); 40A: Like milk on the floor (SPILT); 43A: Outside, as a chance (SLIM); 44A: Knot again (RETIE); 46A: Classic grape soda (NEHI); 48A: "Fourscore and seven years __ ..." (AGO); 49A: Start of a sound man's mike check (TESTINGTESTING); 53A: Canc˙n cash (PESO); 54A: Pampering place (SPA); 55A: Manuscript encl. (SASE); 58A: Remove by percolation (LEACH); 61A: Kept from swelling (ICED); 65A: Start of a newsboy's cry (EXTRAEXTRA); 67A: City near Sacramento (LODI); 68A: Jewelry fastener (CLASP); 69A: High-performance Camaro (IROC); 70A: Finished (OVER); 71A: Church belief (TENET); 72A: Bulletin board sticker (TACK); 73A: Monthly expense (RENT); 1D: Opening for a coin (SLOT); 2D: Tibet's Dalai __ (LAMA); 3D: State with conviction (AVER); 4D: Fruit high in potassium (BANANA); 5D: Acorn producers (OAKTREES); 6D: __ colada (PINA); 7D: Big fusses (ADOS); 8D: Hannibal the Cannibal (LECTER); 9D: Genesis craft (ARK); 10D: Breakfast stack (PANCAKES); 11D: Olfactory reception (ODOR); 12D: Pilaf grain (RICE); 13D: Casino gratuity (TOKE); 19D: NASCAR's Petty or Busch (KYLE); 24D: Gives a thumbs-up (OKS); 26D: Fall behind (LAG); 27D: One lacking manners (BOOR); 28D: Fastener for Rosie (RIVET); 29D: Upper crust (ELITE); 30D: Music genre in the 'hood (RAP); 31D: Jewelry in the 'hood (BLING); 32D: China's Zhou __ (ENLAI); 33D: King's tenure (REIGN); 37D: Unhealthful skyline obscurer (SMOG); 39D: Scatter (DISPERSE); 41D: Give permission (LET); 42D: 2007 William P. Young Christian-themed best-seller (THESHACK); 45D: Summer in France (ETE); 47D: AOL, for one (ISP); 50D: Cruise ship stop (ISLE); 51D: "You can't get out this way" sign (NOEXIT); 52D: One whose job is fitting? (TAILOR); 55D: Religious offshoot (SECT); 56D: Wheel shaft (AXLE); 57D: Ollie's sidekick (STAN); 59D: Gillette razor (ATRA); 60D: Gator's cousin (CROC); 62D: Sheltered inlet (COVE); 63D: Garden site in Genesis (EDEN); 64D: Malicious gossip (DIRT); 66D: Suitable (APT).


John said...

What??? You hand the dealer a joint and say "Here, Hit This"???? Ill have to tell my friends!!!

alex the droog said...

Smooth puzzle. Yes, THESHACK seemed bleh (But I don't like any religious-based cluing so ...), but it was easily gotten from crosses.

I really enjoyed this puzzle, close to a perfect Monday.

gjelizabeth said...

Couldn't get 69A "IRO_" or
42D "THESHA_K", not being Christian or good at cars. So I ran through the alphabet for possibles and came up with N, R, or C. That gave me "SHANK", "SHARK", or "SHACK". After scowling at those for a bit the shoe dropped. I do read the bestseller lists in the Sunday paper each week. THE SHACK is apparently about a guy who meets God (in a shack, natch) and talks about the meaning of life.

Rex Parker said...

I prefer THE SHANK.

Jeffrey said...

Non-Christian and non-The SHACK knower.

How long has Mr. (or Ms.) AIDE worked at the White House? Seems like forever.

Have you done OPEL/OPAL? I always have to think about that one.

Also had to think about BREAKER, not the canadian BREAKRE in the centre.

[disclaimer for new readers - half of what I write is true, have is attempted humour]

Unknown said...

John, i didnt get APORT right away (words that begin with A and then tha actiul words always get me) so i was thinking it was COMP for a while with that O being there

finished this one rather quickly, but as always, its fun to get on here and read the answers and their descriptions

SethG said...

Yup, I set a speed record on this one, even with already having several crosses in place each time I got to a theme answer. Nothing hard at all except that C cross, which could be impossible for lots of people.

We also may see guitarist AXL Rose. And the AXOLOTL, though we can save that one for Crosswordese 501, the graduate-level course.

Greene said...

@Rex: Too funny with the AXLE/AXEL routine. If you're a fan of The Office Michael Scott demonstrated some similiar mental gymnastics with neumonics. Something involving color coded messages on the back of his Rolodex cards. Something written in green = green is for go, as in "Don't go there." So...green means "Don't mention that the client has a gay son." Or something written in orange = "Orange you glad I didn't mention that?"

I think I had a point when I started. Probably not.

Oh yes, the puzzle. Easy, easy, easy. My best time by far. I'm closing in on that five minute mark.

Jeffrey said...

Who's there?
Apple who?
Who's there?
Apple who?
Who's there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn't say apple?
[with apologies to Amy]

mac said...

I must have done this one in record time, too. I did it almost completely downs only until I ran into the shack....

The only theme answer I had never heard of was "breaker, breaker", but it just appeared by itself!

Anonymous said...

I've never seen my name in a puzzle. Eden Leach

Rex Parker said...

BREAKER ONE-NINE, BREAKER ONE-NINE ... that's how the phrase plays in my head. Reason? Your guess is as good as mine.

I missed you guys.

Jeffrey said...

breaker one-nine, this here's the Rubber Duck...

C.W. McCall,Convoy.

Orange said...

No record-fast solve for me. I had BREAKER and immediately filled in ONENINE after it. I wasn't sure what numbers would fit after TESTING (not enough room for ONETWOTHREE, too much room for ONETWO). Bad luck hitting those two theme entries first, I guess.

According to the Wikipedia article on CB slang, "good buddy" has evolved to mean "gay guy." All I have to say to that is "10-4, good buddy!"

alex the droog said...

@Rex (based on 7:32 a.m. PDT)

You're clearly not a golfer ...

One never says that word aloud among golfers, they're contagious.

alex the droog said...

OPAL Gem from OZ
OPEL Auto from Deutschland

hazel said...

@Crosscan - Convoy!! Priceless.

@Rex - I can pretty much guarantee at least one person on your flight to/from CostaRica was reading The Shack. I've been flying to Houston once a week for the past month or so and it is absolutely everywhere. I'm nosy about what people are reading so I always make a trip up and down the aisle to check things out. I didn't know The Shack was Christian-themed, although in retrospect, this should have been obvious. I was too busy thinking about that Left Behind series, which I guess I haven't heard of for awhile. It didn't hold me up either way - as the puzzle was Snap City.

Probably the only thing I'll remember about it tomorrow is the Convoy song.

Anonymous said...

@Crosscan: For some reason we always used banana not apple for that joke. I do remember telling it ad naseum when I was a kid, you know the silly joke phase.

Otherwise this was my fastest puzzle ever! I'm pretty excited that I was under 10 minutes online (paper would have been longer). I only had 2 squares where I had to guess the letter, that darn "Shack" was the big one.

chefbea said...

this puzzle was super easy. I don't time myself but I did both the NY times and LAtimes while eating my salad for lunch. Finished both puzzles before I finished the salad.

Didnt know the shack or iroc

opal/opel - both in one day!!!

bookmark said...

"The Shack," number 1 on the NYT Bestseller list, has been on the list for 47 weeks. Bookstores have a hard time keeping it in stock. It's everywhere.

Thanks for the history of the Opel.


Rex Parker said...

I now recognize "THE SHACK" as "that generic-looking book on the bestseller rack at Barnes & Noble that looks like nothing I'd ever read." There are a lot of these. Half of them are by Jodi Picoult.


jeff in chicago said...

Almost too easy. TOKE was clearly a 4/20 answer! Now I must go clean up my SPILT NEHI.

@alex the droog: "I don't like any religious-based cluing, but it was easily gotten from crosses."

From the CROSSES! HA!


John said...

@ Alex The Droug,

Golfers are contageous???? Ohhhhhh, SHANKS... Nevermind.

Orange said...

@Jeff in Chicago: HA! on your "HA!"

From a 6/08 NYT article about THE SHACK:

But some booksellers said they were not sure that non-Christian readers were interested. At Rainy Day Books, a literary independent bookstore near Kansas City, Mo., Vivien Jennings, the owner, said she had sold only nine copies in four months. “The buzz never made it here,” she said. “What it tells me is that it is still pretty much restricted to the Christian audience.”

Campesite said...

I was going to suggest THE SHANK, but I'd have to noodle how to get the article in there.
Record-breaker (breaker) time for me as well.
Two giggles to Jeff in Chicago!

xyz said...

THE SHACK, tops on the New York Times bestsellers? Religious drivel? Good stuff.

Didn't stop me, knew IROC. VROOOM, VROOOM.

Hx. of IROC Z28

They were originally created to have a standard cheaper car for different classes of motor racers (yes, there are other kinds) to compete equally, theoretically the only difference was the driver's respective skills.

The original IROC (International Race of Champions) was held with 911 Porsches, but crashing them proved too expensive for the organizers. ERGO: Camaro Z28 IROC Edition.

Now forward it shall ever forward be good crosswordese.

Or not. ;-)

Strict-9er said...

@Greene: I was thinking the SAME thing in regards to the Michael Scott school-of-thought!!! Very Nice.

This puzzle was a lot of fun for me, mainly based the lack of difficulty! The theme answers are usually what really trip me up, but not today. Once I got KNOCK-KNOCK it was as if I hit a grand slam.

Dan said...

Rex - just over 3 minutes? I was coasting along pretty well and was just over 8 minutes. I don't even think I could type fast enough to approach 3 minutes!

Now for my favorite "Knock, knock!" joke:

Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Boo who?
Aw, don't cry...

That reminds me: Two men and a dog walk into a bar...


~LA Dan

Rex Parker said...

@LA Dan

Just *under* three minutes ... but who's counting? :)


*David* said...

I didn't time myself but this was one of those puzzles that just flew by even for a Monday. I was filling in the themes with one or two letters and that wasn't always necessary.

John C. said...

Indeed, I broke my speed record on this (at least for a LAT/NYT themed puzzle). 3:50, and it would've been a good 20 seconds quicker if I hadn't gotten stuck in the land of THESHACK and IROC.

John C. said...

Also, I got BREAKERBREAKER because of Les Savy Fav's great song "Reprobate's Resume," which includes the line "Cop's walkie-talkie squawks 'breaker breaker.'"