TUESDAY, April 7, 2009 — Don Gagliardo

Theme: LABBER Three theme answers follow the pattern [X]LABBER_____.

Hey, everybody — Happy Tuesday. First I just want to say that I'm so psyched to see more people finding this blog every day. We really appreciate you hanging out with us here and hope you leave here both educated and entertained every day. In my experience, crossword people are truly some of the kindest people in the world and it has really meant a lot to me to make so many friends over at Rex's place and to have the opportunity to help build a community over here as well. So thank you! And please keep coming back!

Crosswordese 101: One thing that's really going to come in handy as you solve crossword puzzles is the Greek alphabet. I once made myself flashcards in an attempt to memorize the whole thing but I never did quite get it all the way down pat. I'm not sure which of the Greek letters are most common in puzzles and I'm too lazy to do the research right now, but I'm going to guess that it's the three-letter letters that get most of the love: ETA, RHO, TAU, PHI, CHI, and PSI. I know I've also seen KAPPA, SIGMA, and OMEGA. Sometimes the letters are clued in relation to each other, like today's [Letter after sigma]. Other times, they are clued simply as "Greek" letters or as "Frat" letters or "Campus" letters. SIGMA is also sometimes clued according to its meaning in math (i.e., [Standard deviation symbol]) and ETA is often clued simply as "H." I guess what I'm saying is, it's worth it to learn these letters. They crop up all the time.

Theme Answers:
  • 17A: Astound (FLABBERGAST).
  • 39A: Gossipy types (BLABBERMOUTHS).
  • 62A: Classic baking powder brand (CLABBER GIRL).
I'm just going to run through some of the clues/answers that stuck out to me today. Before I get to the bullets, though, I just want to point out the totally cool symmetrical longish answer pairs in the NE and SW.
  • 11D: Six-pack enhancer? (AB CRUNCH).
  • 12D: Open porches (VERANDAS).
  • 39D: Large-scale financial rescues (BAILOUTS).
  • 40D: Bozo (LUNKHEAD).
I know some people really don't want to see anything in their puzzle to remind them of the sorry state of the global financial situation. But come on! BAILOUTS right next to LUNKHEAD?! You've gotta see the humor in that! And, I don't know, AB CRUNCH and VERANDAS just feel like new and interesting entries to me. Sorta made my ears perk up, if you know what I mean. Good stuff!

What else?
  • 6A: 44th president (OBAMA). President Obama. I just like the sound of that. President Obama. Makes me smile every time.
  • 15A: Rice dish (PILAF). Not to be confused with Edith Piaf.
  • 21A: Oater actor Jack (ELAM). "Oater" is a common word in CrossWorld. I think it usually shows up in clues and not answers. I had never heard the term until I started solving puzzles obsess—er ... consistently. (It refers to old Western movies.)
  • 26A: Chain known for breakfasts (IHOP). Rex's favorite breakfast spot.
  • 32A: "Married ... With Children" dad (AL BUNDY). I didn't ever watch this show regularly, but he's one of those sitcom characters I just know.
  • 35A: One hanging around (LOITERER). Ooh. That's a little ugly, but the puzzle has so much going for it that I'm gonna let it pass.
  • 54A: "Don't __ me, bro!" (TASE). Do you guys know this story? I had heard the phrase before I knew what it was about. Just Google it up or search for it on YouTube.
  • 61A: Saturn SUV (VUE). Never heard of it.
  • 66A: Hang in midair (HOVER). PuzzleSon has been talking a lot lately about hover-craft. He totally wants one.
  • 67A: Kate's sitcom pal (ALLIE). That was ... ? Jane Curtin and Susan St. James (a/k/a Mrs. McCloud), right?
  • 68A: '60s "trip" drug (LSD). I think it's kind of funny that LSD is always clued with reference to the 1960s. It's like, "Oh no! We don't still have that crazy stuff around!"
  • 70A: Like really old bread (MOLDY). Ewwwww.
  • 1D: Hip-hop record label (DEFJAM). Love it! Let's kick it old skool with one of Def Jam's first releases:

  • 6D: Talk's Winfrey (OPRAH). PuzzleGrandma does not like Oprah. I have no idea why.
  • 7D: USS Missouri nickname (BIG MO). Never heard of this. It's one of several ships with the name "USS Missouri," this one a BB-63 U.S. Navy Iowa-class battleship. I'm sure that means something to someone.
  • 23D: Like "algae" or "termini": Abbr. (PLU). Plural.
  • 25D: Uris's "__ 18" (MILA). As much as I see Leon Uris's name in puzzles, I think one day I'll read one of his books. This one actually looks interesting. (It's about the Nazi occupation of Poland.)
  • 36D: Canines and molars (TEETH). Sometimes the clue will try to throw you off by only referring to "canines" and making you think "dogs" instead of "teeth." This clue is pretty straightforward, though.
  • 37D: Bit of work (ERG). Speaking of old skool. This is one of those words I learned when I was solving crossword puzzles as a kid.
  • 42D: "Up, up and away" defunct flier (TWA). Can't think of this slogan without thinking of the Fifth Dimension.

  • 47D: Skating gold medalist Dorothy (HAMILL). Raise your hand if you had the haircut.
  • 59D: Apothecary's weight (DRAM). It equals about 1.771845 grams. The fluid dram equals 1/8 of a fluid ounce. You were dying to know that.
  • 61D: Batman portrayer Kilmer (VAL). Always get him confused with Willem Dafoe for some reason, which is weird because they don't really look anything alike. Dafoe actually looks more like Denis Leary to me. You be the judge.

See you back here Thursday. Rex will be here tomorrow.

Everything Else — 1A: Working on, as homework (DOING); 11A: Actress Gardner (AVA); 14A: The blahs (ENNUI); 16A: "Big" London clock (BEN); 19A: Sob (CRY); 20A: Pickle holder (JAR); 22A: "It's a Wonderful Life" director Frank (CAPRA); 24A: Cyclotron particle (ATOM); 28A: Breathing organ (LUNG); 30A: Litter cries (MEWING); 38A: Suffix with web (CAM); 43A: Refined grace (ELEGANCE); 44A: Kate of "The Reader" (WINSLET); 46A: Sarge's order (TENHUT); 50A: "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz" brand word (ALKA); 51A: Hard to recall (HAZY); 55A: "That rings a bell" (OHYES); 58A: Darn with thread (MEND); 60A: Encountered (MET); 65A: __ loss: puzzled (ATA); 69A: 33-Down's field (OPERA); 2D: Airing after midnight, say (ONLATE); 3D: Way to organize all your ducks? (INAROW); 4D: Pencil remnant (NUB); 5D: Scoff at (GIBE); 8D: __ mode (ALA); 9D: Fem.'s opposite (MASC); 10D: Aptly named shaving lotion (AFTA); 13D: "Pick a card, __ card" (ANY); 18D: Qualified (ELIGIBLE); 27D: Italian cheese city (PARMA); 29D: Class with showers (GYM); 31D: Prize founder (NOBEL); 33D: Price known for Verdi roles (LEONTYNE); 34D: "How to Talk Dirty and Influence People" author Lenny (BRUCE); 41D: Revival structure (TENT); 45D: Declare (SAY); 48D: Log-in requirement (USERID); 49D: Lipton rival (TETLEY); 52D: "Waves of grain" color (AMBER); 53D: Striped equine (ZEBRA); 56D: Sound rebound (ECHO); 57D: Porker's dinner (SLOP); 63D: N.Y.'s Fifth, for one (AVE); 64D: Mop & __: floor cleaner (GLO).


Anonymous said...

USS Missouri is where the Japanese surrendered thus ending WWII. I believe that the nickname 'Big Mo' is a play on 'Little Mo' for Maureen O'Connelly (sp?), tennis player of that era.

John said...

I think Suasn St James was Mrs MacMillian of "MacMillian and Wife". Mcloud wasn't married.
(well, mabye to his horse)

Good puzzle!

Jeffrey said...

Very good Tuesday puzzle. Lots of fun fill all over the place. I will try to use LUNKHEAD in a sentence today.

Nice writeup, PuzzleGirl.

Karen said...

What time does the puzzle actually go live?

The 1A answer DOING bothered me. I think I'm expecting 1A's answer to have a bit more zing, a more interesting clue than the rest of the puzzle. Something more like...LUNKHEAD. Now that's a great word.

ArtLvr said...

Neat theme words and not-so-usual fill too. Just last night I was passing along the "BRAT" remedy for digestive system disorders where bland diet is needed -- bananas, rice, applesauce and tea -- and lo, here's TETLEY, plus a bit of ALKA Seltzer.

Stay well, all...

Rex Parker said...

PLU was not amusing to me, and I too didn't like the clue on DOING. But overall I really liked this. Great theme answers and wonderful longer answers (esp the SW corner, as you say).

Thank you for the DEF JAM.

hazel said...

Great LAT puzzle. Love the blabbermouth centerpiece. Lots of them in the world. I think Oprah falls into this category. Not a gossip, but just a person who talks too much. Also liked seeing and saying Clabbergirl.

Sandy said...

Is it just me, or is CLABBERGIRL a horrible word? First time I saw that brand in the store, I wondered what the heck they were thinking.

Also thought OH YES was kind of lame.

But otherwise a fine Tuesday to go with my oatmeal.

So, you actually went and made flash cards. Guess now I have to stop talking the talk and follow through with my own.

Eric said...

@puzzlegirl. Thanks for this blog and the education that helps me be a better puzzle solver. Although these aren't rated I can tell whether I'm doing better by the times improving.

Liked this puzzle today although PLU gave me an issue and I agree about CLABBERGIRL. Never heard of it and I don;t know what the ad people were thinking.

chefbea said...

Good Tuesday puzzle and right up my alley (always watched Kate and Alli)

Much more to talk about over here : tea,bread,pickles,baking powder. It's all baseball on the other blog.

Actually met Dorothy Hammil. She is from Greenwich. She came into the flower shop where I worked many years ago. Never had her hair cut though.

Good write-up Puzzle girl

*David* said...

I liked the OPRAH and OBAMA crossing. AB CRUNCH was my favorite answer and PLU was my least.

We got in a few people from Hollywood. First time I saw WINSLET in a puzzle, CAPRA, and the classic AVA.

hazel said...

@Sandy - what is that you hate about CLABBERGIRL?

Jeffrey said...

Do you think the "BB" in the theme answers is a hidden reference to baseball?

LA BB - Los Angeles baseball.

toothdoc said...

Yeah, fastest Tuesday yet and a "teeth" clue - remember to floss :)

always good writeups PG

toothdoc (aka puzzlepupil)

SethG said...

PLU was brutal.

I used to be in packaged goods (PLU = Price Look-Up code), and I have never ever heard of Clabber Girl. Which is pretty unusual--I know A LOT of grocery products. I do tend to avoid the baking aisle, though.

"A family owned business, Clabber Girl’s parent company, Hulman & Company, also owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway." And that's the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology's Hulman. The things we learn...

Sandy said...

Isn't clabber some sort of sour milk? It just sounds yucky. Why would you call a girl that? Don't you want your baking powder to sound light and airy and soft, not like a combination of clobber and clammy.

Jeffrey said...

Wasn't CLABBER LUNKHEAD an old-time baseball player?

toothdoc said...

@crosscan, no I think you are thinking of CLABBER Lane who fought Rocky ;)

dk said...

Hi pals from East Coast x-word land.

Forget about CLABBER girl and go Davis Baking Powder.

And I look like ELAM when I am on LSD.

Back to my AB CRUNCH.


obertb said...

Just you hurry on over to
for more than you ever wanted to know about Clabber Girl, except what you probably DID want to know, which is how they came up with such an improbable name.

This, though, from freedictionary.com:

Noun 1. clabber - raw milk that has soured and thickened
dairy product - milk and butter and cheese
Verb 1. clabber - turn into curds; "curdled milk"

Joon said...

didn't know CLABBERGIRL either, but i'll agree with the consensus on this one: sweet fill. i'll try to use BAILOUTS in a sentence today. (wait, no i won't.) i even liked OH YES and LOITERER. and i had no problem with DOING, although a peppier clue would have been appreciated (maybe like ["Nothing ___"] or ["What are you ____!?!?"]).

i never saw PLU until coming here. it's ... unfortunate. but the clu is somewhat clever.

Anonymous said...

Loved these long themed answers, knew CLABBERGIRL since I could stand in the kitchen. PLU was trial and error only ???

LEONTYNE Price in a xword puzzle, waaaaaaay cool! DOING required a few crossing words to get. IHOP has awful food, when new in 1960's was really good, now serves 57D! LOITERER, what a neat word, was pleasantly obvious giving many crossing confirmations.

God, I love these LA Times puzzles, this one was so fun.

Oscarthegrouch said...

I don't understand the problem with PLU. It's in the same dictionaries that every other word is.
This kind of prejudice strikes this solver as blind bigotry. How is that possible with 3 little letters?
Maybe you don't use this abbr. in your line of work, so it's unfamiliar. Maybe many many other people do.
Do you dislike things that are unfamiliar? If so, better stop solving crosswords right away. You might accidentally learn something.

Anonymous said...

This is a subject of some controversy, but "Big Ben" originally referred to the large bell in the tower, and not the clock. People now also use the term to refer to the clock, and the tower, but purists insist this is incorrect. As for me, "Big Ben" will always be Ben Roethlisberger.

Anonymous said...

I always thought clabber was a type of siding on the house, never knew it referred to milk. Intresting...


Anonymous said...

@Roxy - I believe you're thinking of clapboard siding. That leaves clabber as purely, simply, rotten milk.

Sandy said...

Oscar you really are a grouch! Hazel asked me what I didn't like about clabbergirl instead of assuming I was a bigot. You could do the same with the "plu" people. It is possible to disagree without being mean. I actually didn't mind PLU that much myself.

chefbea said...

you can disagree without being disagreeable. I love that saying

Rex Parker said...

Dude lives in a trashcan. Give him a break.

PLU is rare in puzzles. Complaints have nothing to do with validity and everything to do with elegance. It's a rare and ugly abbrev that no one but a lexicographer would use "every day." There are, however, uglier abbreviations:

Some I found in the cruciverb database:



Everyone here loves learning stuff. Idiotic to suggest otherwise.


Joon said...

oscar, it's not bigotry. abbreviations that are not in common usage except by those in a certain line of work are objectively bad as crossword fill. just because something is in the dictionary doesn't make it a desirable crossword answer.

also, i don't think anybody here is against learning things, but i also don't think anybody's life is really enriched by knowing that "plural" can be abbreviated PLU.

Don Gagliardo said...

I am very amused by Crosscan's comment that BB LA could stand for Los Angeles Baseball. Very creative! Who knows?! Maybe I was influenced subliminally to make this puzzle.

The LA Crossword Confidential is a wonderful forum for anyone who loves crossword puzzles. I am enjoying it immensely, and I am certain it will help me to become a better constructor. There's always room for improvement! I appreciate all of the comments that appear here, and it is an honor that people care enough to take the time to share their thoughts about my work.

humorlesstwit said...

Oscar.... caused me to reflect, and yes, I am a bigot. I don't like words that end in U, abbreviations or not. Frankly, I abhor them. I don't use them if at all possible, and when I do so I'm told I make facial expressions combining horror and disgust. I accept that about myself, and to be perfectly frank, or is that HOWTOBEPERFECTLYFRANK, I doubt I'll change. To any constructors lurking, please refrain from using such verbiage in the future.

Thank you.

*David* said...

I think Oscar has tongue firmly planted against cheek. He's being as light-hearted as a grouch can be, allow a little PLUrality.

Sandy said...


Thanks for coming by. Always grateful to have constructors come by and join in the conversation.

In other PLU news, we have some fairly fancy butter called PLUGRA


Sandy said...

Dang - I'm logged in as my wife again. Sorry about that. This is Rex, Kiwi notwithstanding.

Anonymous said...

Fun puzzle today and I enjoyed the recap, PG. I just love words that end in U, but you all gnu that,

- - Robert

Don Gagliardo said...

Thanks, Sandy, for making me feel welcome here. I would like to share a few observations about this puzzle that might be interesting.

The inspiration for the puzzle is the unusual name Clabber Girl. I was reminded of this when going to purchase baking powder for waffles. I realized that there are not too many word formations like Clabber, and the two that I could think of are quite fun.

My first submission had a grid that did not work out for a reason that I cannot recall. Rich Norris suggested the design that came out today. I saw that it had a lot of good possibilities, but I did see that dang-blasted U stuck at the end of a three letter word. I decided that the potential for really good fill far outweighed one little three-letter word that ended in U, so I went with the design. Judging from the banter, I guess that three-letter word was more significant than I could have anticipated. At least it made for good conversation.

This is not the first time that Rich has made an insightful suggestion that has turned out well. He is very generous with his ideas, and they are always very helpful. I can't speak for other constructors, but I often rely on Rich's experience to help get through some tough situations.

That's all I have for now, although if anyone would like to pose questions, I will be happy to respond.

Denise said...

Just want to say I was a rookie in Brooklyn this year, and I am so happy to have a female superstar/blogger/role model. I do love Rex, though.

Anyway, thanks for what you do.

I think that soured milk is what was used as a rising agent before the invention of baking powder. Think about "starter" for sourdough bread.

(I'm 62.)

PuzzleGirl said...

Hey, everybody. Just wanted to pop in real quick one more time while I have a minute. I wanted to let you know that I always follow all the comments on this blog even though I sometimes don't have time to chime back in. (Like my kids are on Spring Break this week, so it's difficult for me to spend as much time at the computer as I would like!)

@John: Of course you're right. How could I forget "MacMillan and Wife"??? Do you think there's any chance a title like that would make it onto TV these days? Yikes.

@Karen: I thought I had it figured out that the puzzle is available at midnight Pacific time, but it's been up quite a bit earlier the last couple of weeks. Except for that Sunday calendar puzzle which was super late two weeks ago but bright and early this week. So I guess the answer is: Who knows?? (Sorry.)

@Sandy: Yes! Flashcards! I need to make some with the stupid rivers on them....

@humorlesstwit: You're going to have to change your blog name if you keep posting funny stuff like that!

@Don G.: Thanks so much for stopping by. It's always a lot of fun for us to learn more of the back story to the puzzles and I think I can speak for Rex and Orange when I say that we truly hope the feedback found here is helpful for constructors.

@Eric and Denise: I don't remember seeing you two around here before so I just wanted to say welcome. And please pipe up with comments any time!

Night, all!

addie loggins said...

I'm late, I'm late, is anyone still here?? But I loved the puzzle and wanted to say so, even if I'm only talking to myself. I don't think I've seen BAILOUTS, LUNKHEAD, or ABCRUNCH before in a puzzle, and I love them all. And TASE?! Very modern cluing (although, when this puzzle finds its way into a book in five years or so, people will be all "Wha??!?")

I got CLABBERGIRL immediately -- weird the things one has in ones head.

Hovercraft, PG? Oh well, I was wondering what to get PuzzleSon for his birthday (Shh, don't tell)

Addie (aka PuzzleSister)

Gareth Bain said...

That was an extra fun puzzle, primarily because of the long non-theme answers... just loved ABCRUNCH and ALBUNDY and BAILOUTS. I guessed PLU off the bat (but you should've seen my face.) What Don said is true... it's a small price for all the other lovely entries in that quadrant. I also looked funny at TASE and the M of BIGMO was the last letter. ELAM is crosswordese (for us young'uns anyway) and it isn't sticking in my head. Oh and OBAMA sure is amenable to crossword grids.

Is anyone still here?

hazel said...

@Don - your insights into the puzzle were very interesting - particularly as I seem to be one of the few fans of CLABBERGIRL. I love that word, and buy the baking powder. I guess I've never associated her with the rotting milk images that have cropped up here. Rather, the word kind of makes me think of JABBERWOCKY.

Anyway, nice puzzle!!