THURSDAY, April 9, 2009 — Donna S. Levin

Theme: Tacky Tacky Theme answers are four different definitions of the word tack.

Hey, gang. I'm so happy to be here today. I got sick, like, two weeks ago with this, I don't know, flu kinda thing. Fever, chills, aches that morphed into a nasty head cold and topped off with two days of migraines. It was awful. Today is the first day I've felt relatively healthy since then. And here's the thing. Ever since I was pregnant with my son — who will turn 10 this year — I have completely lost my ability to multi-task. I mean completely. I need to focus on one thing At. A. Time. And that's even if I'm well! So if I'm sick, I'm pretty much just sick. That's it. There's nothing else going on in my world. I can somehow manage to do the Absolute Bare Minimum of what a mother-type responsible human being has to do in a day — even blogging a puzzle or two since I made a commitment to do that. But it's no fun. And I don't feel like the end product really reflects who I am. It just reflects how pathetic I am when I'm sick. Because, as I mentioned, there's nothing else going on when I'm sick. So yeah. I'm done being sick now. I'm getting back into the swing of things and actually looking forward to puzzling and blogging and ... oh s**t! Where did all this laundry come from?!? Okay, enough about me and my miserable life. Let's get to the puzzle.

Crosswordese 101: I'm gonna have to go with [Ambient music pioneer] Brian ENO for today. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about Mr. Eno because, to be perfectly honest, I don't believe I've ever heard his music, which is most often described in clues as "ambient." I don't really know what that means. In my mind it sounds kind of New Age-y or ... I don't know, weird. That's what I think it probably is. Weird music. Totally showing my ignorance here and truly hope I'm not offending any ambient musicians who might be reading this! But here's what I've learned about him from crossword puzzles. I think of him as a well-rounded musician more than just a performer because he is clued as a "performer," "composer," and "producer." He has worked with David Bowie, U2, and Talking Heads. He had something to do with the band Roxy Music and he had an album titled "Another Green World." And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you need to know about Brian Eno.

So, the rest of the puzzle. I happen to know that some people don't really appreciate this type of theme. Me? I like it. I think it's pretty cool that someone can not only think of that many definitions of the same word, but can put them into phrases that have right number of letters to make a symmetrical puzzle. I recall someone explaining recently that they don't like these themes (Joon, was that you?) because the resulting phrases are boring. That there's nothing fun or cool about them. And I get that. I really do. I mean, just take a look at these ...

Theme Answers:
  • 26A: Tack (CARPET FASTENER).
  • 42A: Tack (SAILOR'S HEADING).
Yes, as stand-alone phrases they are pretty dry. But I choose to be impressed that someone's brain thought "Hey! The word tack can mean a lot of different things. I bet I can make a puzzle out of that!" All day long I look at things, read things, think about things and just hope that a puzzle idea will just pop into my head. But, in general, it doesn't. Like maybe I'm just not wired that way. What actually come to me more often are ideas for songs. But that inevitably happens when I'm driving or doing something else that makes it impossible to write it down and then ... it's gone. I know. It's sad really. There I go off on a tangent again. And this puzzle has a lot of good stuff to talk about, so let's get back to it.

  • 6A: Holy pilgrimage (HADJ). This one was tricky because it can also be spelled haj, which obviously wouldn't fit today, or hajj, which would. Had to check the crosses to be sure.
  • 10A: Party invite letters (BYOB). I started out with the perfectly reasonable guess of RSVP. Different kind of party, I guess.
  • 22A: In better order (TIDIER). Started here with neater. Again, reasonable. But wrong.
  • 25A: D.C. attraction, with "the" (MALL). This is one of those times when too much familiarity is a bad thing. I live here in the D.C. area and could think of about 50 D.C. attractions off the top of my head. None of which had four letters. I finally decided to just skip it and come back to it after I got a cross or two.
  • 40A: Catchall abbr. (MISC). Initially entered et al.
  • 52A: Cheerless (DRAB). Started out with glum.
  • 3D: Pres. Grant's alma mater (USMA). Okay, this is pretty funny. Guess what I entered at first. UCLA. Seriously. UCLA! When was Grant alive again? Oh yeah, 1822—1885. And UCLA? Founded in 1919. So I guess I was a few years off. I crack myself up sometimes.
  • 28D: Bunting, for one (FINCH). I was thinking of the baby sleeping bag thing here and not the bird.
Stuff I Just Didn't Know:
  • 59A: "We have met the enemy and he is us" speaker (POGO). Okay, again with the cracking up. I'm all "Isn't Pogo a comic strip?" Why yes, PuzzleGirl, it is. "But there must be some famous philosopher or general or something named Pogo that I'm getting confused with the comic strip, right?" Uh no, PuzzleGirl, it's just from the comic strip. Alrighty then.
  • 60A: Pivot (SLUE). Looking it up now ... "slue: v. intr 1. To turn about an axis; pivot." Would love to know if any of you knew this word.
  • 61A: Language of southern Africa (BANTU). This is one of those that I kinda knew somewhere waaaay back in the cobwebs, but couldn't quite come up with. Knew it ended with "TU," which was confirmed by crosses, but had to wait for the first three letters.
  • 1D: Lights out (GITS). Let's just say I'm Googling like crazy and I still don't git it. Someone explain this in the comments, please!
  • 13D: Physicist represented in the play "Copenhagen" (BOHR). If you put a gun to my head and told me I had to come up with the name of a physicist I would not be able to do it. No, I don't feel good about that.
  • 32A: Artificial being of Jewish folklore (GOLEM). This word came up in a puzzle recently with a strange clue. I can't remember if it was here or in the NYT. But this clue is the definition that I know.
  • 33A: Sites in la Méditerranée (ILES). French for islands. The French in the clue indicates that the answer will be French as well.
  • 39A: Short cut (BOB). We were talking about the Dorothy Hamill cut the other day. Does that qualify as a bob?
  • 41A: Ostracizes (SHUNS). I would really like to see un-shun and re-shun in the puzzle someday.

  • 46A: "I have an __!" (IDEA). Me: "I have an ... ache? I have an ... echo? I have an ... oast?!"
  • 8D: Like Syrah wine (DRY). Don't know anything about wine, but figured this had to be the answer.
  • 9D: "Be right there!" (JUST A SEC). HAha! Did you get this one today, Don G.?
  • 11D: Mountain sighting (YETI). Not really though, right?
  • 24D: LP's 33 1/3 (RPM). Sometimes it helps to be old. You whipper-snappers out there probably don't even know what this means!
  • 27D: Cover story? (ALIBI). I don't know about this question mark. I think the alibi interpretation of "cover story" is just as common as the magazine interpretation, which would mean the question mark is unnecessary. I just realized I haven't included a music video yet today. Let's fix that now.

  • 29D: Like a shutout (NO-RUN). Baseball!
  • 30D: Southfork surname (EWING). The family name from the old TV series "Dallas." I didn't ever really watch "Dallas," but I loved me some "Knots Landing."
  • 41D: Reagan era prog. (SDI). Strategic Defense Initiative, a/k/a "Star Wars."
  • 43D: City from which Vasco da Gama sailed (LISBON). Also a small town in Iowa home to All-American, 165-pound, University of Iowa wrestler Ryan Morningstar. Go Hawks! (Sorry. I'll try really hard not to do that again.)
  • 45D: Golfer Isao (AOKI). Remember this guy! You will see him again! Trust me!
  • 58D: Cops' org. (PBA). Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.
Off to tackle the laundry now. Thanks for stopping by. Rex'll take care of you tomorrow.

Love, PuzzleGirl

Everything Else — 1A: Medicine cabinet item (GAUZE); 14A: Naughty way to live (INSIN); 15A: Beige shade (ECRU); 16A: Ashcroft's predecessor (RENO); 20A: Trade (SWAP); 21A: Exist (ARE); 23A: Physics units (ERGS); 34A: Be in debt to (OWE); 35A: Low-pH substance (ACID); 36A: Elixir (TONIC); 38A: Stumble (TRIP); 47A: Grim film genre (NOIR); 48A: Drapery ornament (TASSEL); 51A: Inquire (ASK); 62A: Reach across (SPAN); 63A: In order (to) (SOAS); 64A: Cotopaxi's range (ANDES); 2D: Once again (ANEW); 4D: Like some change purses (ZIPPERED); 6D: San Simeon castle builder (HEARST); 7D: 160 square rods (ACRE); 8D: Like Syrah wine (DRY); 10D: Horse's headgear (BRIDLE); 12D: Formerly (ONCE); 18D: Fury (RAGE); 19D: Jousts (TILTS); 25D: Landlocked African nation (MALI); 26D: Drink with marshmallows (COCOA); 31D: Weightlifter's stat (REPS); 32D: Yaks (GABS); 36D: Indefatigable (TIRELESS); 37D: Mount in Thessaly (OSSA); 38D: Graham Greene novella, with "The" (THIRDMAN); 40D: Runway VIP (MODEL); 44D: Follows (ENSUES); 48D: An oz. has six (TSPS); 49D: At the summit of (ATOP); 50D: Big account (SAGA); 51D: Color similar to turquoise (AQUA); 53D: Tear (REND); 54D: It gets the pot going (ANTE); 55D: A/C spec sheet units (BTUS); 57D: "Xanadu" band, for short (ELO).


smev said...

'Lights out'- beats it, hies, skedaddles. Hence - 'gits' (gets out/away).

Jeffrey said...

I knew SLUE.

Your music video is just an empty black square on my sereen so I have to guess what you picked. I'd say either The Four Tops, Pavarotti or John Tesh.

Rex Parker said...

I knew SLUE - learned it the hard way, as you did today.

Took me forEver to understand the GITS clue too. Ugh.

Had my only real trouble at POGO. I'd entered POLK there (?!) and then it changed to POLO (Marco?), but I ended up with SALA for [Big account]. Knew that was Not right. Finally POGO (comics!) dawned on me as the correct answer, which is sad, because as soon as I saw it, I thought "I knew that." Still, done in 5 and change.

Denise said...

I love this kind of puzzle -- as a former English teacher, I eat up vocabulary! I knew SLUE -- I don't know why. I know a lot of words.

"Dallas" was my Friday night treat after Brownies (I was the leader) and putting the three girls to bed. I had to be quick -- this was before DVRs!

No I'm gonna just LIGHT OUTTA HERE (GIT)!

John said...

I knew SLUE. Same as Rex.

I looked at 1D and thought "WHAAAAT??", Then the light bulb went off, "Oh, Vamooses"

Nebraska Doug said...

GITS - I didn't get it till I came here. I had it filled in, but didn't understand it, and Googling didn't help. Pretty weak in my opinion. POGO - surprised me as well, I was trying to think of politicians. I seem to remember seeing SLUE in puzzles a few times, it came to right away for some reason. Overall a fairly easy puzzle.

hazel said...

Re: GITS, definitely a recognizable word here in the South. I think the past tense LIT OUT is a much more commonly used expression than the present LIGHTS OUT - at least as it relates to GITTIN.

Thought the puzzle was straightforward, neither a joy nor a slog for me - just a solid solving experience - like doing somewhat interesting homework.

Anonymous said...

@PG You know one more thing about Brian ENO: Musician in any incarnation (performer, producer, arranger, etc), 3 letters, is always ENO. Always.
Don't know that I've ever read POGO, but that quote has to be the most recognizable quote from a comic of all time. Well, at least from a non-insipid comic. There's got to be a Charlie Brown citation up there somewhere.

alex the droog said...

@PG I loved this puzzle for the same reasons you seemed to and we made many of the same first guesses. This is a very favorite type of theme for me I call it related-unrelated because the answers are all cool and make sense, but you must solve another puzzle/quiz to get the answers. Once I got TEMPORARYSTITCH, I knew what kind of theme it was and it was fun anticipating the exact wordings. In fact I entered EQUINEEQUIPMENT based on two letters near the end and then figured out that the first part was wrong.

Not one bad/awkward clue as GITS was fine. It was all that would work there and the crosses were right on!

chefbea said...

Liked the video - Alibis . who is singing it. Did everyone see Etta James on dancing with the stars Tues. Etta is crosswordese.

Didn't understand gits til I got here. Knew slue

Feel better puzzle girl. Nothing better than folding laundry to help you relax

chefbea said...

also... anyone notice 48down

SethG said...

Roxy Music sang More Than This, but that's long after Brian Eno left the group. I assume any ambient musicians reading this are more offended by your inclusion of Tracy Lawrence than by you not knowing much Eno. Glad you're feeling better!

I didn't know the bird, and didn't know the baby thing; I thought of the pleated flags and such. I also considered HAAJ, UCLA and RSVP.

I entered THIRD MAN from the TH. I have no idea what that is or who Graham Greene is, which means crossword knowledge is finally starting to take over. No idea about GIT, though.

humorlesstwit said...

I was kind of put off by the inclusion of both BRIDLE and STABLEEQUIPMENT, but otherwise a nice puzzle. Well maybe except for the GIT. I would have preferred cluing via the British Slang.

@SethG - You should rent The Third Man, one of the great films of all time.

Karen said...

PG, stop beaming your mistakes into my brain! I did the same things with HAJJ, RSVP, NEATER, ETAL; okay, I put USNA for Grant because I was thinking 'it could be naval or marine academy, neither makes sense'. I forgot it's military (and not army) academy. And I know SLUE. Although I may conflate it with SLEWed around. GITS was my last word too, I had to do an alphabet run on it. I like this kind of theme. Homonyms are fun.

Rex Parker said...

GITS isn't bad - clue was just tough / oddly worded. Don't be so quick to say nothing else works there, though. I'm guessing that corner could be written many different ways, but yes, you couldn't do it by changing just one or two letters. Hmmm, you could go:


Yes, TITS is legal.

But I think it's fine as is.


Sandy said...

Did the puzzle while daughter was getting proper hair cut in grown-up salon. I let her tell him what she wanted and went off and didn't look. Came out very nice. Sorry, was that off topic?

Anyway. POGO? GITS? Does the LAX have a higher number of ugly words than the NYT. Not saying POGO is ugly, but GITS - bleah.

Misread clues (maybe I shouldn't do the puzzle with so many distractions.) "Xanadu" bRand and RunAway VIP both stumped me for way longer than they should.

I don't mind these kinds of themes, but they don't wow me. Still, they're better than "woo hoo, change a letter and clue it wacky!" which I'm sort of getting sick of, but understand, because there's not much else to do.

PG, I'm glad you're back on form. I think I have a photo somewhere of your family on The Mall.

john farmer said...

I agree with humorlesstwit. "The THIRD MAN" is one of the great great films. About 10 years ago, the BFI ranked it the top British film ever.

Cluing it as a "Greene novella" is an interesting choice, since it's much better known as a movie. Greene wrote a film treatment, then the screenplay, then the movie was made. A year or two later, the treatment was published. It was never intended to be a novel or novella.

The Holley Martins character played by Joseph Cotten in the movie is Rollo Martins in the book.

Glad you folks are doing the L.A. Times. GITS got me too. Last answer I wrote in the grid.

ArtLvr said...

Me too, I knew SLUE which can also be spelled slew -- and there's also the homonym slough, a backwater off a river! As kids, we used to go ice-skating on the Slough in River Forest IL.

Someday we'll see the full name of ISAO AOKI, by which time I hope to recall the double AO!

Jeffrey said...

@Sandy - lucky daughter. I had a haircut too and as usual they did it exactly as my wife told me to tell them.

Jeffrey said...

@Sandy - lucky daughter. I had a haircut too and as usual they did it exactly as my wife told me to tell them.

Dan said...

I had problems reading today as well. I saw "runway" as "runaway" and "shutout" as "shout-out." Shout-out?

I need more sleep.

Joon said...

Joon, was that you?

guilty as charged.

i'm also from the DC area, but for some reason, MALL came to me right away. what else has to include "the" and has four letters? i guess it's true that simply not being able to think of anything else doesn't necessarily mean MALL will come to mind quickly.

i think i knew SLUE before crosswords, but i've definitely now seen it more in crosswords than out.

i'm trying not to be appalled by your physicist comment. have you heard of isaac newton or albert einstein? if not, well, the next time somebody asks you for a physicist in four letters, you can use my name (although it's not going to be the right answer).

Mike said...

PG, great writeup, and glad you're feeling better! This puzzle was way harder than it should have been thanks to the haze I'm in after Passover. It's amazing how much worse your brain works at recall when you're running on only two hours of sleep. This one was full of crosswordese, though, like ECRU and ENO and ELO (so many E's!), so it was relatively easy to get random letters that way.

One thing to note here is that clue about Grant's alma mater. I totally had U__A too, and as someone from Los Angeles, UCLA instantly came to mind. That clue is a great misleading clue for the people in the crossword's city of origin. Good stuff!

Don Gagliardo said...

These puzzles are fun because you just don't know what is going to show up in the boxes. I was not familiar with stable equipment, not being a horse person, so I will be interested in looking that one up. "Holy pilgrimage" always makes me leary, because I know it is spelled two ways, HAJJ being the most common, ironically. I love Isao Aoki, if for no other reason than he almost overtook Jack Nicklaus in the U.S. Open once. I wonder how much longer his name can stay in puzzles. I hope long! Southfork really dates me, since Dallas has not been on TV for quite a while. I hear they reran them in India. Loved the Pogo quote in 59-across. I am also going to have to look up GOLEM. Sounds intriguing! Great puzzle, especially any time you can get a Q in there, it's extra credit!

PuzzleGirl said...

Thanks to everyone who explained GITS. It just never occurred to me that "lights" might be a verb, but it makes perfect sense now.

@Sandy: I actually looked through our touristy D.C. pictures last night. I had a couple of you guys in front of the reflecting pool, but I think the Mall is technically on the other side of the Washington Monument. And I don't think we made it all the way over there on our little excursion. (I could be totally wrong about that, of course. Speaking of which....)

@joon: Thanks so much for your restraint! It's not easy coming out here in public and admitting all the stuff you don't know! My knowledge base is more in the English literature / music / pop culture area -- not so much the science. In fact, that's how I would describe both Newton and Einstein: scientists. At least I know that much! Fortunately, in the unlikely event that someone puts a gun to my head and tells me I need to name a physicist, now I know three! So thanks!!

addie loggins said...

Glad you're feeling better, PG! I had a pretty easy time with this one (just over 9 minutes, which is quick for me on a Thursday). I had POGO but didn't get the reference, so I was happy to see that it was correct.

I also initially had rsvp for BYOB, and started with ucla (until I realized that couldn't possibly be right). But they I changed it to usna, which was also wrong, so there you go.

Didn't understand GITS until I got here, and I'm still not crazy about it.

Suprised myself at how quickly ENO, HADJ, ECRU, BOHR, ERGS, and BANTU came to me -- definitley getting into that xword mindset.

Did not know SLUE.


Karen said...

Would you all think of listing which crosswordese you've already covered in a sidebar? I'm thinking that you've done ELO and ECRU but I can't be certain anymore.

PuzzleGirl said...

@Karen: Just yesterday we were talking about how best to do that. It won't be long before we can't remember either! We'll do it soon.... Thanks!

Joon said...

karen, if you love crosswordese, check out this site. the alphabetical archives page is particularly informative.

embien said...

I knew SLUE, but I came about it the hard way, initially putting in TURN (wrong), then when TIRELESS came up, changed it to SPIN (also wrong). It was only when ELO appeared (Xanadu being one of my all-time favorite roller disco movies) that it became SLUE. Whew.

People at the "other" blog also had big problems with GITS. I imagine it's not kosher to put in a link to it here, but I dunno for sure (I'll refrain to be on the safe side).

SethG said...

PG, you know four--didn't you learn Bohr from this puzzle? Me, I've probably lived with more than four physicists...

The sad thing with GITS for we was that I _did_ realize "lights" might be a verb. My best guess was sports, where if you really light someone up you maybe git 'em good. Like Limas Sweed did to Corey Ivy after almost blowing the season, or Stephen Curry did to Wisconsin's defenders. But to get to GITS from the clue that way would have been slang on top of slang, tortured at best.

Campesite said...

I learned from crosswords that Brian Eno composed the Microsoft startup sound.

Strict-9er said...

Just wanted to say hello and let you know how awesome I think this BLOG is! I work the lunch shift as a waiter in an Italian joint and we've been experiencing a lot of down time recently (imagine that). So, my co-workers and I have been supplementing our time with the LAT crosswords which appear daily in the Detroit Free Press. We're all fairly amateur/intermediate at best, thus making this BLOG extremely resourceful for us! So yeah, thanks for doing what you do.

Rex Parker said...


So glad it's useful. Please comment any time. Feedback on the puzzle from solvers of all skill levels is really valuable.

Is the Free Press going to last (in a paper version, I mean)? I thought it was one of those papers that are "in trouble."

Former Wolverine,

Donna L. said...

I always find it interesting to read the comments, pro and con, about my puzzles, and I try to glean some nugget of wisdom therefrom that will allow me to make the puzzles I construct more enjoyable for the solvers. FWIW, my original clue for GITS was "Notting Hill jerks" (proving that the Julia Roberts/Hugh Grant movie has been on TV way too often). Rich Norris is a heck of a lot more clever than I, and changed the clue to one that's playfully misleading. I kinda like his.

Thanks for all the comments.


chefbea said...

glad you chimed in Donna

Rex Parker said...

Yay, constructors. Thanks, Donna.

jeff in chicago said...

That was one funny write-up, PG.

I stuck with FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) for way too long. Ditto RSVP. Liked this puzzle!

Strict-9er said...


Everyone keeps saying they're going to stop printing the paper so many days a week but thus far it's yet to happen. So I'm not sure what the actual verdict is...

adi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.