WEDNESDAY, April 22, 2009 — Mike Peluso

THEME: CAPE (66A: Action hero's garb, and what each first word in this puzzle's four longest answers is) — Theme answers begin with CAPEs: Cape HORN, Cape COD, Cape ANN, and Cape FEAR, which apparently is a real place and not just a movie title.

Tore this one up. Even with several lost seconds at the end trying to figure out a mistake (note to self: it's LE MANS, not LE MONS), I still ended up with ... well, if it had been an NYT puzzle, it would have been a record time by Far. I don't yet have a good sense of how the difficulty levels progress in the LAT. Early-week puzzles seem comparable, but later-week puzzles in the LAT seem somewhat easier. At any rate, this one was enjoyable, though I never caught on to the theme. I sort of caught the clue for CAPE out of the corner of my eye as I blew through that section, but didn't take it all in — just enough to answer it. Like the shape of the grid. Felt as if there were lots of open spaces, lots of mid-length answers that livened up the grid (lots of 3- and 4-letter words = inevitably heavier reliance on crosswordese, which is why grid openness, from my perspective, is good). I got SEALAB (1A: Aquanaut's workplace) right off the bat and finished off the top in no time. Then ground to a halt. Couldn't work the back end of COD LIVER OIL, and couldn't round the bend at SACK (30A: Let go). Had to use A HORSE (31D: First words of the "Mr. Ed" theme) and HAI (38A: "Bali _____") and KISSES (33D: Bite-sized Hershey products) to get started again, and then had no problems until my minor final wreck at LE MANS.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Cornucopia (HORN OF PLENTY)
  • 34A: Supplement that some claim eases arthritis (COD LIVER OIL) — Never heard of this claim, and don't think of COD LIVER OIL as a "supplement." I think of it as some horrible elixir of dubious value that grandmas used to make kids take in the '50s.
  • 43A: Texas governor before George W. Bush (ANN RICHARDS)
  • 56A: 1973 Erica Jong novel ("FEAR OF FLYING")
Crosswordese 101: Bert LAHR, the actor who played the Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz" (37D: Cowardly Lion portrayer). This guy may be a gimme for you, but if he's not, you need to commit him to memory right now. Don't be casual about it either. It took me what felt like years to get his name down. I kept wanting LEHR. Or BEHR, which is what you get when you take the first two letters of his first name and last two letters of his last name and mush them together. Plus a bear, like a lion, is an animal, so you can see my confusion. Maybe. In addition to LEHR and BEHR, another part of me thought PAAR. Speaking of (Jack) PAAR, you may as well commit him (and the spelling of his name) to memory as well. PAAR was the host of "The Tonight Show" before Carson.

What else?
  • 17A: Pleasure dome site of verse (XANADU) — "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree..." Coleridge. That's about all I remember about that poem from my Romantic Literature seminar with Arden Reed in the spring of 1990. Hmmm, I am seeing a DOME-themed puzzle ... pleasure ... Thunder ... Astro ... Capitol ... Geodesic ...
  • 45D: Lays into (RAILS AT) — I had RAILS ON. I think I was thinking WHALES ON.
  • 61A: Crooner Julio (IGLESIAS) — great-looking answer. Suave. Debonair. Here is what I know about Julio IGLESIAS:
  • 48D: "Pippin" Tony winner Ben (VEREEN) — I get him confused in my mind with Robert Guillaume, who played "BENson."
  • 57D: Alaska's first governor (EGAN) — Weird. Just yesterday on my NYT site I mentioned some things you need to know about Alaska. In addition to NOME, I mentioned ALEUT and ATKA. I was going to mention EGAN, but I thought, "Nah, not common enough."
  • 22D: Daisy Mae's creator (AL CAPP) — An oddly constant presence in crosswords. Daisy Mae is from "Li'l Abner." I am more familiar with a different comic Capp: "Andy Capp." It's about a barfly. My favorite quote about Andy Capp comes from Homer Simpson, who, while reading the comic, shakes his head in light-hearted amusement and says, "Oh, Andy Capp, you wife-beating drunk."
Finally, if you are living in the L.A. area and are reading this blog, you have no excuse for not attending the CROSSWORDS LA TOURNAMENT (this Saturday!). High-quality puzzles, great talent (including ACPT Champion Tyler Hinman doing color commentary on the finals), all for a great charity. Seriously, left coast, it's criminal if you don't go to this. Tournaments are for everyone, not just speedsters. I can't stress that enough. They're a blast. This one is Cheap! Go register now. Can we tap into the USC/UCLA rivalry in some way? Anyone want to throw down a gauntlet? At any rate, we will happily post any pictures and stories that tournament participants send our way. Read the press release below for more info — or just click on the link to the tournament at the top of our sidebar. Rex out.

Press Release
For immediate release

April 25 event to raise money for local non-profit

LOS ANGELES, CA – April 20, 2009 – Crosswords West today announced the launch of the first annual Crosswords LA Tournament. The event will bring together crossword enthusiasts from the Los Angeles area and elsewhere – all for the purpose of having fun and raising money to benefit a local non-profit organization (Reading to Kids). The puzzles will be provided by Will Shortz, Editor of The New York Times Puzzles and Games section.

Crossword puzzle tournaments have been around for more than 30 years, but have until recently taken place primarily on the East Coast. The largest tournament in the nation – the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament – is held annually in New York and has, since distribution of the 1996 documentary “WordPlay,” grown in popularity to involve roughly 700 competitors.

“Los Angeles is overdue for a similar crossword tradition,” said Elissa Grossman, tournament organizer and professor of management at Loyola Marymount University. “These events offer people a chance to get together and share something they enjoy, while at the same time, in this instance, helping Reading to Kids continue its wonderful work.”

The tournament will be held at Loyola Marymount University on Saturday, April 25 (Hilton Center, Room 100). Online registration is available through April 23 at www.crosswordswest.com. On-site registration will be available on tournament day, through 10:50 AM (doors open at 10:00 AM). Prices vary from $10 - 30, depending on the time at which a person registers and the division in which the person participates. In an effort to make the tournament appropriate for a range of skill levels, there will be Regular, Expert, Student, and Spectator divisions. (Spectators can do the puzzles along with everyone else, but will not have those puzzles scored.) Competitors and spectators will be eligible for various tournament and raffle prizes. The prizes have been donated by St. Martin’s Press, Electronic Arts, Dell PennyPress, Pentel, Watson Adventures, Kustom Imprints, and Houdini, Inc.

The tournament will culminate in a playoff that pits the top three finishers overall – head to head to head – in a puzzle completed in front of an audience. Accompanying this race to complete the final puzzle will be live play-by-play and color commentary (as in a televised sporting event) by Tyler Hinman and Michael Colton. Tyler is a crossword constructor and the five-time American Crossword Puzzle Tournament champion. Michael is a panelist on VH1’s “Best Week Ever” and “I Love the 80s” and writes for the new comedy “Sit Down, Shut Up” (on Fox).

All event profits will be donated to Reading to Kids (www.readingtokids.org) – a grassroots organization dedicated to inspiring underserved children with a love of reading, thereby enriching their lives and opportunities for success in the future. On the second Saturday of every month, Reading to Kids gathers together an average of 1,130 children and 460 volunteers for elementary school reading clubs.

For more information, please contact the tournament organizer:
Elissa Grossman
(310) 338-7401

Everything Else — 1A: Aquanaut's workplace (SEALAB); 7A: Arabic for "son of" (IBN); 10A: Software prototype (BETA); 14A: "1984" author (ORWELL); 15A: Teachers' org. (NEA); 16A: Campground arrival, briefly (RVER); 17A: Pleasure dome site of verse (XANADU); 18A: Most energetic (PEPPIEST); 20A: Cornucopia (HORNOFPLENTY); 22A: Baba of fiction (ALI); 25A: Via (BYWAYOF); 26A: Hermit (LONER); 29A: Poivre partner (SEL); 30A: Let go (SACK); 34A: Supplement that some claim eases arthritis (CODLIVEROIL); 38A: "Bali __" (HAI); 39A: Italian cheese (ASIAGO); 40A: Tender poultry (CAPONS); 42A: Stereotypical pirate leg (PEG); 43A: Texas governor before George W. Bush (ANNRICHARDS); 47A: Ont. or Que. (PROV); 49A: Feedbag morsel (OAT); 50A: Former big name on "The View" (ROSIE); 51A: Snob (ELITIST); 55A: Mag. employees (EDS); 56A: 1973 Erica Jong novel (FEAROFFLYING); 61A: Crooner Julio (IGLESIAS); 62A: What pupils do in the dark (DILATE); 66A: Action hero's garb, and what each first word in this puzzle's four longest answers is (CAPE); 67A: Lunes, por ejemplo (DIA); 68A: Squirrel's stash (ACORNS); 69A: Prolific auth.? (ANON); 70A: Morsel (ORT); 71A: Grand Prix site (LEMANS); 1D: White __ (SOX); 2D: Pitching stat (ERA); 3D: Barley bristle (AWN); 4D: Sister of Rachel (LEAH); 5D: Actor __ Ray of "Battle Cry" (ALDO); 6D: Book jacket promo (BLURB); 7D: Running the country (INPOWER); 8D: Hybrid meat (BEEFALO); 9D: Dover diaper (NAPPY); 10D: Boxers' alternatives (BRIEFS); 11D: Like 2 or 4, e.g. (EVEN); 12D: Sample (TEST); 13D: Pseudo-sophisticated (ARTY); 19D: Gp. once headed by Arafat (PLO); 21D: Org. at 11 Wall St. (NYSE); 22D: Daisy Mae's creator (ALCAPP); 23D: Not as tight (LOOSER); 24D: Spectrum color (INDIGO); 27D: She, in Lisbon (ELA); 28D: Latvian capital (RIGA); 31D: First words of the "Mr. Ed" theme (AHORSE); 32D: "__ Camera" (CANDID); 33D: Bite-sized Hershey products (KISSES); 35D: From, in German names (VON); 36D: Former transp. regulator (ICC); 37D: Cowardly Lion portrayer (LAHR); 41D: Kung __ chicken (PAO); 44D: "You cheated!" (NOTFAIR); 45D: Lays into (RAILSAT); 46D: __-bitsy (ITSY); 48D: "Pippin" Tony winner Ben (VEREEN); 52D: __ Angeles (LOS); 53D: "Don't mind __" (IFIDO); 54D: Kind of wave or pool (TIDAL); 56D: Pay stub abbr. (FICA); 57D: Alaska's first governor (EGAN); 58D: Brand for Fido (ALPO); 59D: Pleasant (NICE); 60D: Get hold of, with "onto" (GLOM); 63D: Altar in the sky (ARA); 64D: Former Opry network (TNN); 65D: Alpine curve (ESS).


xyz said...

LAT Difficulty lately seems all over the board, at least to me, and certainly not so rigidly progressive. There was a Weds or Thurs in the past two weeks that had huge gaps in my fill once done with it. I agree, this one was easy but very pleasant. I liked the theme (Cape Ann - the wee cape!) and lots of interesting diverse fill. I like the cluing of the LAT puzzles personally, they seem so much less serious than NYT.

Big quibble

LE MANS is not a Grand Prix race (Formula 1) it is an endurance race, but good enough for rote stuff, I mean crosswordese. I mean honestly now how many of you can find the three and four letter rivers on a map?


VaBeach puzzler said...

This puzzle was pretty old-timey: COD LIVER OIL, PEPPIEST, FEAR OF FLYING, AL CAPP, ALDO Ray, CANDID Camera, Mr. Ed -- even Ben VEREEN.

BTW, my local newsaper recently started running the LAT puzzle (Tribune Media's former crossword source retired) and it's an improvement. But readers apparently are gnashing their teeth over its "difficulty." I fear we'll get some word-search type substitute if they complain too much... The editor has suggested that puzzled puzzlers check out your blogsite and others. My fingers are crossed.

Rex Parker said...

Thank the editor for me.

jeff in chicago said...

Loved, loved, loved this puzzle. Theme fills were all in the language, yet didn't give away the theme easily. Lots of great non-theme fill. BEEFALO, INDIGO, SEALAB, ASIAGO, GLOM, BLURB, ALCAPP, etc. One of the PEPPIEST puzzles I've seen in a long time, IFIDO say so myself.

Thanks Mike!

PuzzleGirl said...

Yeah. What everybody said. XANADU to me is an Olivia Newton-John song. That's pretty sad. I have Bert LAHR down now, but can Never remember how to spell Jack PAAR (I even mistyped it just then).

Orange said...

VA Beach puzzler, I just got off the phone with a reporter for a Connecticut newspaper that recently switched from the Tribune to the LA Times crossword. There, too, they've had vocal grumblers complaining about their new puzzle. Perhaps what Will Shortz and I have to say about the LA Times crossword will persuade them to look more favorably on it, eh? I'll be sure to post a link to the article here when it's published.

Rex Parker said...

Grumblers should take a breath. Their puzzle died. They got an upgrade. They're lucky, and eventually they will see that.

Editors better be patient instead of caving to the grumbling. It would be a shame to see them stick some horrible easy/boring puzzle in their papers in place of the LAT.

Which reminds me - few people write their editors with approving statements. Maybe those who LIKE their new puzzle should dash off a note to their newspapers' editors telling them so. Come on. Do it.


Orange said...

YES! What Rex said. If your newspaper only recently picked up the LA Times crossword and you're enjoying it, please do write to your paper's editor. Otherwise, you might get a lousy puzzle foisted on you instead, and nobody's going to be blogging about a lousy puzzle.

Jeffrey said...

Can we sail the NYT boat to all the CAPES?

Anonymous said...

I can do without the PLO reference.

*David* said...

I am surprised no one mentioned all the foreign language fill. We got our German with VON, Arabic with IBN, Spanish with ELA/DIA, and French with SEL.

I found the puzzle uneven with some places slowing me down and others I flew through.

This puzzle also has the easiest clue I've ever seen ___ Angeles, I mean come on, in the LAT, that clue. I rubbed my eyes like 20 times(OK a bit more)) on that one.

Lemonade714 said...

ANDY CAPP is a wonderful British cartoonstrip, but not related to AL CAPP in any way; I believe the name is from the cockney version of Handicap. I am not sure if you were serious, or I am just old enough that Al Capp and Lil Abner mean more to me.

Sandy said...

As a not-so-sporty person, I'm going to need some sort of crosswordese trick to tell ORT and OTT apart. Got anything up your sleeves on that one?

Otherwise this seemed pleasant but unremarkable.

mac said...

@Sandy: good question. I could use some help with my Orrs and Otts.

I liked this puzzle, pretty smooth and not too predictable. I also thought the - Angeles was surprisingly easy.

@Lemonade714: Like Orange, I thought of Andy Capp, but thanks for the reference to the root of the name, how funny!

Cod liver oil is newly appreciated, and not just for arthritis, but this morning I read somewhere on the internet that cherries do the trick as well. Thank goodness!

Dan said...

@PuzzleGirl - I'm just as sad. I half expected to see a link to a YouTube video of XANADU here.



~LA Dan - whose hometown newspaper could use a crossword puzzle update; I can hear my 92-year-old grandpa grumbling about it now...

Orange said...

(Mac, it was PuzzleGirl who wrote today's post, not me.)

Sandy, let's see:

Bobby ORR, hockey great
Mel OTT, baseball great
ORT, food scrap

I'm not seeing any handy mnemonics there. An ice skatORR vs. a guy with a baseball bOTT? (Ouch.)

Anonymous said...

@Orange - It was Rex who wrote today's post, or at least it was signed Rex. Miscellaneous Simpsons references support that.
You guys should put your avatar at the top each day - I tend to think the post authored by the person behind the Avatar the jumps out at me that day.

SethG said...

I think "Not as tight" is at least as easy a clue as LOS'. That's the one that I noticed, anyway.

Bobby Orr was number 4.
He was stocky, he played hockey.

It won't always work to tell you the answer to all the clues, but at least it rhymes so you might be able to remember it and thus tell Bobby Orr from Mel Ott with most clues for one of them. As for remembering that ORT is not an athlete, I got nothing.

I like capes.

xyz said...

Heartily second that idea of avatar for puzzle write up author although a paragraph into it it's usually getting clear. You three all do a good job.

ORT? The Ort cloud is the solar system's leftovers where comets form?

orig: Middle English orte, food left by animals, probably from Middle Dutch : oor, out + eten, to eat.

Not much help ..... I can't remember it either, Sandy but the sports guys are easy maybe the three will tie together now ....

Lemonade714 said...

Interesting bit of trivia is that both Bobby ORR and Mel OTT, wore number 4.

Jeffrey said...

Not to spoil Seth's poem, but Mel OTT also wore number 4.

ORR sounds like Oar which you use in the water which becomes ice when frozen so you can play hockey.

*David* said...

OTT=On The (baseball) Team
ORR-On (f)Rozen Rink (scooby reference)
ORT-Of Remaining Tablescraps

chefbea said...

Fun easy puzzle. Drove through Cape Fear in North Carolina a few years ago. Had great ham there!!!

@mac I read about the cherries being good for you. Guess all red foods do the trick!!!

Strict-9er said...

As a rookie, these words messed my whole world up today: ORT, GLOM, AWN, ARA, & ESS.

Can anyone explain both ARA & ESS to me?

Orange said...

I'm just glad I was able to recognize that today's post was not by me.

ARA is the name of a constellation named after the Latin word for "altar." ARA also pops up as legendary Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian (also a character in Rudy, I think).

ESS is an S-curve in crosswordland, or the letter S. Let's say you're skiing or driving on a mountain road in the Alps with lots of switchbacks—one might say there was an ESS shape to the ski course or road.

AWN is an old-school crossword answer, as is ORT. I started doing crosswords as a kid so I used ORT in a high school term paper. The teacher circled it with a question mark, mystified as to what I meant. Dude! Orts! From crosswords! How was he to know?

SethG said...

I never said I knew anything...

(I thought he wore #12 from reading this list of clues incorrectly. Math is hard. I also figured he was related to Ed Ott. He's not.)

Wait--I do know something. The cosmic debris is the Oort cloud. And checking the pedia, I find that it's named after Jan Oort, who stimulated radio astronomy.

mac said...

Wow, both redanman and SethG mentioning the Dutch. Something for a country the size of Connecticut.

@Orange: I would have sworn it was you this morning! I guess I never looked at the signature. You both have this very factual and critical start, then get nice and didactic.
Your tip about Orr the Ice-skatorr absolutely did the trick for me! Thanks a lot. Sorry, Lemonade 714, that didn't help at all.
I think an avatar at the top of the LAT blog is a good idea.

SethG said...

Isn't it twice the size of New Jersey? And you got, what, 4 times as many people as New Zealand, right?

'Cause I mentioned Mount Cook today, too, albeit elsewhere.

Did someone say Vanuatu?

Rex Parker said...

Dude, don't start talking smack about NZ. It'll get real ugly real quick.

(Actually, we enjoy making fun of Sandy's home country ... our favorite population comparison is to Dallas-Fort Worth ... though that whole metro area is actually the 4th largest population ctr in the US and thus has about 50% more people in it than the entire country of NZ. A better comparison might be to the "Valley of the Sun" - Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale).

For having only 4 million people in it, NZ is a pretty bad-ass little country.

xyz said...

I'm from Connecticut.

I wish I were in New Zealand ...

mac said...

@rex and @SethG: I really think it is as small as CT: it takes less than two hours to drive across (we drive fast, though) and about 2 1/2to 3 hours North to South. But, talking about New Zealand, where do you think the name came from? And when I visited, many locals told me they had plenty of Dutch friends, who probably moved there in the late forties / early fifties.
I just got back from Holland, and I am always amazed at how open this society is; on a popular talkshow, from 11 to 12 pm (they do go to bed later) major captains of industry and politicians show up to make their case. Anybody is allowed to ask them questions, the odd pop singer, the new Muslim mayor of Rotterdam, a writer who is plugging his latest book.
I feel the quality of life is just wonderful, and I suspect it's the same in New Zealand.

Jeffrey said...

Interesting to note that Briitsh Columbia and New Zealand both have around 4.3 million people. I'd love to visit one day.

Joon said...

OTT rhymes with hot, which hockey is not. so in hot weather you play baseball instead. by the by, later in the week you might see 1949 peace nobelist john boyd ORR stealing some of bobby's clues.

i learned the word ORT from a games magazine puzzle long ago--but it wasn't a crossword. it was a cryptogram (okay, technically it was a dszquphsbn) called "ort report." i don't even remember the quip--something about julia child. okay, that probably didn't help. and probably whoever came up with the title of the puzzle was a crossword person, quite possibly mike shenk or even will shortz himself. so ... no, nobody knows this word outside of crosswords.

gjelizabeth said...

Actually, lots of people outside of crosswords know the word ORT. They're all stitchers/embroiderers and to them an ORT is a snipped end of thread. The word matters to stitchers because flicking thread bits around creates a mess, so stitchers will often have a container to stuff the thread bits into, called, naturally, an ort jar, ort box, or ort bag. I have no idea when the "leftover bit" meaning slid from table scraps to thread/yarn scraps, but it is truly in wide usage among American stitchers.

Gareth Bain said...

LAHR, EGAN... & ORR & OTT too, for that matter, are all crosswordese I've had to learn since switching from local (South African) puzzles to American puzzles. I had crosswordese down pat (a lot of which has died out / is gradually dying out - saw ERN in NYT today), so nice in a way to have "fresh crosswordese."

I'd like to point out that LAT grumblers do have a valid complaint. There is a surprisingly large sub-population of crossword solvers, who despite solving for a very long time, never graduate beyond about a Tuesday, not sure why. Has anyone suggested Newsday as an easier alternative to LAT that's still of a very high quality. Me I'd much rather solve the LA Times, but it might be an alternative. Dangerous thing to say here >WHISTLES<.


SethG said...

Sorry, I meant to be making fun of Holland. I love New Zealand.

(And some of the fellow travelers I met in New Zealand were Dutch, and they uniformly spoke English about as well as I do.)

On to Thursday...

Ben said...

@Orange, @Anonymous
That's funny, the Rexitude of today's post continually jumped out at me. From the YouTube music clips to the capital letters used for emphasis (by Far, this one is Cheap) to the illustrations, colored fonts and bullet points, its authorship was as immediately apparent to me as a Hendrik Hertzberg Comment in the Talk of the Town section of the New Yorker (most fans know it's him without having to turn the page to see the byline). Rexword-ish all the way.