SATURDAY, April 4, 2009 – Robert A. Doll

THEME: None — Saturdays are made for themeless crosswords

This puzzle took me less time to finish than the Thursday and Friday L.A. Times puzzles did. Enjoy the break, because in a few more weeks the Saturday crossword is likely to return to its usual difficulty level. If that frightens you, do not worry! We will be here to coach you through it. Remember: Looking up the answers is cheating only if you're being graded on it. Doing a crossword for fun? Then by all means, Google your heart out when you're stuck. You'll expand your knowledge base, and that's always a good thing.

If you never studied any of the Romance languages, you might have found this puzzle uncommonly challenging. I took some French and have been studying the crosswordese language for years. We'll get to the language lowdown in a minute. But first, let's focus on a little crosswordese.

Crosswordese 101:

20D: Incessantly is the clue for NO END.

Crosswords have muddled two similar phrases in my head. There's NO END, which is an idiom used to mean a large number, as in "There is no end of crosswordese out there," or the adverb "immensely," as in "She's a riot—she amuses me no end." And then there's the entirely different phrase ON END, which dates back to the 1300s (!) and means "seemingly without end." The phrase can also be part of "standing on end."

I see NOEND and ONEND's halves smushed together in the grid so much that the phrases have turned meaningless there. Same as ATE AT, meaning "bothered"—who can see ATEAT and not wonder what sort of clue A TEAT might have?

Here are the most frequent clues for our near-twins:
  • NO END means Interminably, Without letup, Incessantly, or Very much.
  • ON END is clued most often as Upright, with the "standing on end" meaning. The "without end" breed of clues includes Continuously, Without a break, Without letup, Without interruption, Ceaselessly, and Incessantly.
Whoa! Do you see that? Incessantly can mean either NO END or ON END. No wonder I fill in the END part and wait for the crossings to tell me if it's NO or ON. It's like the "Is it AVOW or AVER?" and "Is it SEE RED or SEETHE?" pairs that force us to enter tentative answers.

Marquee answers:
  • 8D: "Outside the box" solutions (EXTREME MEASURES). This one runs the full length down the center.
  • 37A: "Hawaii Five-O" order (BOOK 'EM DANNO). This criss-crosses 8D in the middle.
  • 12D: Post-Katrina retail sign, perhaps (YES WE'RE OPEN). Hey! I'm heading to New Orleans on Sunday.
  • 24D: Familiar red-white-and-blue symbol (BARBER'S POLE).

As mentioned above, there's definitely a strong Romance language vibe in this puzzle. Possibly more than I've ever seen in a single American crossword.

From French, we get two names and four words:
  • 15A: French town at the foot of Mont Blanc (CHAMONIX).
  • 18A: Ltr. opener (MESSRS). That's the abbreviated plural of "monsieur," French for "mister." I don't know about you, but I don't write a lot of letters to groups of men.
  • 28A: Like (A LA). This one's common in crosswords. The best usage, of course, is by Sesame Street's Amazing Mumford, whose catchphrase is "A la peanut butter sandwiches!" Alas, this A LA rarely gets any play in crosswords.
  • 22D: __-relief (BAS).
  • 31D: French-Swiss author Madame de __ (STAEL).
  • 58D: Debussy subject (MER). Debussy composed La Mer, or The Sea. This comes up often in the puzzle.
The Spanish language gives us three answers:
  • 32A: Gold medals, in Guadalajara (OROS).
  • 23D: Arena cheer (OLE). OLE is popular in crosswords. The more enthusiastic OLE OLE also gets some play. Hardly ever do we see the soccer cheer "OLE, OLE OLE OLE." I never mind seeing the OLEs, but I could do without OLEO.
  • 29D: Mexico's San Juan and Conchos, e.g. (RIOS). RIOS are rivers.
Italy yields an opera term and two people:
  • 26A: Extended operatic solo (SCENA).
  • 33A: Spaghetti western director Leone (SERGIO). He directed some of those classic Clint Eastwood movies.
  • 61D: Auto racer Fabi (TEO). Teo Fabi drove fast cars in Formula One races and the Indy 500.
Latin is a fertile source of crossword answers. You've got your ETC. and your ET AL. and your Q.E.D. and "Dies Irae." It was those Latin speakers in old Rome who concocted the system of Roman numerals that lives on primarily in movie copyright years and crosswords. I'm never a fan of a clue like 1D: Early 12th century year (MCI). First you convert 12th century to the 1100s, then you change 1100 to MC, and then you start guessing how early this "early 12th century year" is. This time it's 1101. At least the "early ___ century" clues point you somewhere without Googling, unlike the dreaded "year of the pope/king/emperor" clues. Quick, give me the years that Pope Benedict V was in charge. Anyone know that off the top of your head?

Latin also provides plenty of legalese phrases, such as 36D: Concerning (IN RE). That one is also memoese now. 27D: Latin horn (CORNU) wasn't ringing any bells for me, but then I looked up CORNU in the dictionary. The upper left and right "horns" of the uterus are called cornua (plural of cornu), and assorted horn-shaped bits of bone, cartilage, and brain also carry the CORNU name. Did ancient Roman marching bands play the cornu? I have no idea. (The picture is from Craftster.org and it's a cross-stitch pattern.)

My favorite clue today is 29A: Wear and tear, e.g. (RHYMES). I love this sort of trickiness. Sure, it looks like we're talking about erosion, corrosion, rust, and dinginess, but instead we need to kick it super-literal here. The words "wear" and "tear" rhyme with one another. Similar clues may give a pair of words that are SYNonyms rather than rhymes, so be ready.

Pop culture bullets:

  • 1A: Spider-Man's girl (MARY JANE). What a terrific way to start off at 1-Across. A crisp and zippy 1-Across is always welcome—especially when you can answer the clue without needing a zillion crossings. I prefer Tom Petty's "Last Dance with Mary Jane" to Spidey's beloved.
  • 9A: "Candle in the Wind" dedicatee (LADY DI). The Elton John song.
  • 19A: "Flowers for __": Daniel Keyes sci-fi classic (ALGERNON). I read the book in high school and have never seen the Cliff Robertson movie, Charly.
  • 50A: CBS forensic drama (CSI).
  • 2D: Philip of "Kung Fu" (AHN).
  • 54D: __-1: "Ghostbusters" vehicle (ECTO).
I'll be back tomorrow with the syndicated Sunday puzzle. Then I'm off for vacation and will be back next weekend. In the meantime, PuzzleGirl and Rex Parker will take excellent care of you.

Everything Else — 16A: "That was exhausting!" (IMBEAT); 17A: Red-handed (INTHEACT); 21A: Minute (WEE); 22A: Drifts on waves (BOBS); 25A: Feline sign (LEO); 35A: Completeness (ENTIRETY); 39A: Hedonist's pursuit (PLEASURE); 41A: Bursts (ERUPTS); 44A: U. of Maryland athlete (TERP); 45A: One of numerous childhood spots? (MEASLE); 47A: Goddess of the dawn (EOS); 48A: Military operations centers (BASES); 51A: Prelude to a deal (ANTE); 52A: Not in favor: Abbr. (OPP); 53A: Peevish (PETULANT); 57A: Kind of number or clock (ATOMIC); 59A: Communicate well with (RELATETO); 63A: Ability (TALENT); 64A: Competitor's payment (ENTRYFEE); 65A: Music provider (STEREO); 66A: Hangs around to see (STAYSFOR); 3D: Stoolie (RAT); 4D: Jewish Community Center gps. (YMHAS); 5D: One of the Coen brothers (JOEL); 6D: "I hate to be __, but ...": complaint opening (ANAG); 7D: With grace (NICELY); 9D: Prom coach (LIMO); 10D: Words of agreement (AMENS); 11D: Sound units, briefly (DBS); 13D: Are afraid to (DARENOT); 14D: "Piece of cake!" (ITSEASY); 30D: Nonsense (HOKUM); 34D: Lose it (GOAPE); 38D: Put up (ERECT); 39D: Mosquito Fleet craft (PTBOATS); 40D: Was enthusiastic about (LEAPTAT); 42D: Moppet (TOT); 43D: Vane dir. (SSE); 46D: Like some partners (SILENT); 49D: Gumption (SPINE); 51D: Some partners: Abbr. (ATTYS); 55D: Resort near Snowbird (ALTA); 56D: Not (NARY); 60D: Reason for a repeat? (EFF); 62D: Anthem preposition (OER).


imsdave said...

Wonderful write-up. I enjoyed today's puzzle, with the highlight for me of being able to intuit CORNU from cornucopia.

'Charly' is an unfortunate product of 1960's film experimentation. While Robertson's portrayal is stunning, the movie is almost unwatchable due to it's gimmickry.

My new favorite game is trying to figure out who is doing the blog today in the fewest number of sentences. Today, I got it in one.

Rex Parker said...


Good eye on that Romance Languages thing. Did it too fast to notice, but you're quite right. I only recently learned how to spell STAEL, even though I read her in college. Well worth knowing, as I have seen her at least three times in puzzles now.


ArtLvr said...

p.s. Cornucopia = horn of plenty! The second half is related to the Latin for copious...

PETULANT and petition are likewise related in that the Latin root pet- means "seek". (Not sure why the first turns into asking in a whining way.)

I'd still petition you all to shrink this new blog's line width just a skosh, so your comments and our solution can fit side by side on the screen without overlap? Pretty please?

Orange said...

ArtLvr, PuzzleGirl is our layout expert. But I can tell you what I see on my screen—a 2.5" wide solution grid beside a 3.5" wide swath of text.

PuzzleGirl said...

What you see on your monitor depends on your monitor and browser settings. On a Mac, you can make things bigger or smaller by holding down the apple key and pressing + or -. That works for both Firefox and Safari. It's been a while since I've used a PC, so I'm not sure how you make the changes in IE. You can also set your monitor's resolution in Settings (Mac) or Control Panel (PC) to vary how sites look. I laid this blog out so that when I look at it there's all kinds of room on both the left and right, thinking that would give everybody enough leeway for their individual browser/monitor settings. (I'm going to post a screen-shot of what my monitor looks like at the bottom of this post so you can see what I mean.)

Greene said...

Loved seeing BOOK 'EM DANNO, but need the "murder one" tag to really make this answer sing. Did Danno ever book anybody for a crime other than murder one?

I managed to forget all my medical Latin and fouled up CORNU with CORNO (Italian for french horn). What can I say? I've been studying Beethoven symphonies lately and the manuscript pages are littered with passages marked "corno" and "corni" all over the place. Of course, there's also cor anglais, but that's French for english horn (a sort of alto oboe which is not really a horn at all). Beethoven doesn't ever seem to use the cor anglais...ok, now I'm just rambling.


Fun puzzle. Thanks Orange for your insights into the Romance Languages.

Anonymous said...

Puzzle Girl's comment almost makes it sound like IE is the only browser you can use on a PC. Not so, of course, and the use of Ctrl + or Ctrl - works just as well in Firefox on a PC as do Apple + or Apple - on a Mac.

William Reid said...

Excellent write-up. As a retired guy who finally has the time he always wanted to spend on puzzles, movies, music and books, I relish all the wonderful crossword blogs. I've been reading Rex for two years, and LAC is becoming a fun habit too.

chefbea said...

@puzzle girl your drawing of the cornu etc reminded me of a drawing I did when my girls were growing up. I was trying to explain puberty etc and drew a picture similar to yours. When I finnished... my oldest daughter said " Mom you have drawn a court jester"
We still laugh about it to this day

xyz said...
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