FRIDAY, May 22, 2009 — Mike Peluso

THEME: ADDLERS! — letter string "LERS" is added to the first word of familiar two-word phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

Usually add-a-letter / add-a-letter-string puzzles have some rationale for the letters involved, like, I don't know, one answer might be "PIN," and part of the clue would tell you that it had something to do with the theme answers (all of which would have had a "P" put "IN" to them in some wacky fashion). I don't know what to do with "LERS." The addition thereof does indeed get some nifty phrases, and changes the meaning (in each case) of the base word to which it is appended, but something about the non-stand-alone quality of "LERS" bugs me a bit.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Social butterfly's flower pot? (MING ler's VASE)
  • 36A: Breakfast for a cuddly person? (NEST ler's EGG)
  • 43A: Adam's tavern? (SAND ler's BAR) — That's actor/comedian Adam SANDLER being referenced there, in case you didn't know.

  • 57A: Old West outlaw's accessory? (RUST ler's BELT) — Perhaps my favorite, although none of them is particularly hilarious or otherwise impressive.
Overall, I found this one pretty easy for a late-week puzzle. If there was any real difficulty, it was in the clues, not the answers themselves. Did you trip over 34D: Do to do (SCALE). I know I did. That section was the last one I completed, and it was only after completion that the musicality of "Do" (as in "Do, re, mi, fa, etc.") occurred to me. I also experienced some hesitation at 41A: What matters (BE ALL), as I've never heard or seen the phrase BE ALL without END ALL hot on its tail. There were a few somewhat obscure names in the puzzle, including ELIHU Root (an experienced crossworder's gimme - 47A: Nobelist Root) and ADOLF Dassler (15A: Adidas founder Dassler), whose name I guessed off the -LF. There's a more famous ADOLF, but you aren't apt to see him in puzzles. Today in particular he would have been overkill. You've already got STASI in there (31D: East German secret police) — enough negative Germanity for one day. See also SAAR (22D: German coal region).

Crosswordese 101: ARUM (1A: Jack-in-the-pulpit family) — my first thought on reading this clue was LILY. I tried it. It didn't work. Turns out LILY is its own family (Lilium). Then why did my brain go "LILY?" Well, funny story. There is a plant called the ARUM LILY, about which I just discovered the most interesting fact: "Although called the arum lily, it is neither an arum (the genus Arum) nor a lily (genus Lilium)" (plantzafrica.com). Further, the ARUM LILY is also known as the CALLA LILY — so even its alternative name is still a lie. I hope you found that helpful. As for the actual genus ARUM, the following is from the Columbia Encyclopedia:
The family is characterized by an inflorescence consisting of a single spadix (a fleshy spike bearing small flowers) and a usually showy and flowerlike bract (modified leaf) called a spathe, which surrounds the spadix. The titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) of Sumatra, which also is grown in a number of botanical gardens, has one of the largest inflorescences of any plant, the spadix reaching a height of 10–15 ft (3–4.6 m) above the ground.
In addition to having LILY for ARUM, I had SILT for LIEN (21D: Bank holding), LOREN for AIMEE (32A: "A Man and a Woman" actress), and SINGLER'S BAR (?) for SANDLER'S BAR. And still finished in just over 5. How I can go so fast while making so many mistakes, I don't know.

What else?
  • 5D: Decrease (BATE) — Oh I don't like this. No, not at all. It's like the decapitated corpse of the right word has come back to haunt the puzzle.
  • 44D: Corker (LULU) — I like that LULU (44D: Corker) and BEBE (29D: Neuwirth of "Cheers") get to hang out together today. If only they could have hooked up with COCO Chanel and Lady GAGA (ask your kids) and gone to see the DADA exhibit at the MOMA (damn, that last one doesn't quite work, but it's close).

[See non-acoustic, dance version here]

See you Monday,


Everything Else — 1A: Jack-in-the-pulpit family (ARUM); 5A: __ nova (BOSSA); 10A: Like most radios (AM/FM); 14A: End of a dash (TAPE); 15A: Adidas founder Dassler (ADOLF); 16A: Barrie pirate (SMEE); 17A: Took too much (ODED); 18A: Damage badly (TOTAL); 19A: Gadgets used in drivers' education? (TEES); 20A: Social butterfly's flower pot? (MINGLER'S VASE); 23A: Exodus landmark (SINAI); 24A: Sacred Egyptian symbols (SCARABS); 28A: Puzzle page feature (REBUS); 32A: "A Man and a Woman" actress (AIMEE); 33A: Accent in the pantry? (MSG); 36A: Breakfast for a cuddly person? (NESTLER'S EGG); 39A: Slurpee alternative (ICEE); 41A: What matters (BE-ALL); 42A: End of a lap (KNEE); 43A: Adam's tavern? (SANDLER'S BAR); 46A: Bering, e.g.: Abbr. (STR.); 47A: Nobelist Root (ELIHU); 48A: Keys (ISLES); 50A: Manufacturers' headaches (RECALLS); 53A: Copies, briefly (DUPES); 57A: Old West outlaw's accessory? (RUSTLER'S BELT); 61A: Practice for the main event (SPAR); 64A: Main event venue (ARENA); 65A: Aged wheel? (BRIE); 66A: Mortgage holder's offer, for short (REFI); 67A: Pick-me-up (TONIC); 68A: Artist's pseudonym formed from the French pronunciation of his initials (ERTÉ); 69A: It follows the last Gospel (ACTS); 70A: One in a black suit (SPADE); 71A: Not natural (DYED); 1D: Energy sources (ATOMS); 2D: Spokes, say (RADII); 3D: Southernmost Ivy League sch. (U. PENN.); 4D: Civil rights activist Evers (MEDGAR); 5D: Decrease (BATE); 6D: It might be a clue (ODOR); 7D: Frequent reelers (SOTS); 8D: Serbs and Croats (SLAVS); 9D: Company with fowl-mouthed ads? (AFLAC); 10D: Little star (ASTERISK); 11D: Parisian Mrs. (MME.); 12D: Professional charge (FEE); 13D: Julio, por ejemplo (MES); 21D: Bank holding (LIEN); 22D: German coal region (SAAR); 25D: Answers from a flock (AMENS); 26D: Sire (BEGET); 27D: Rocker Bob with the Silver Bullet Band (SEGER); 29D: Neuwirth of "Cheers" (BEBE); 30D: Consumer (USER); 31D: East German secret police (STASI); 33D: Philanthropist's antithesis (MISER); 34D: Do to do (SCALE); 35D: Photo finish? (GENIC); 37D: Some attys.' degrees (LLBS); 38D: Matmid Frequent Flyer Club airline (EL AL); 40D: "Apollo 13" costar (ED HARRIS); 44D: Corker (LULU); 45D: Sommelier's array (REDS); 49D: Filled in (SUBBED); 51D: Hurdles for seekers of 37-Down (LSATS); 52D: Sharpen (STROP); 54D: Designer Ellis (PERRY); 55D: Cream of the crop (ELITE); 56D: Mount (STEED); 58D: Yakutsk's river (LENA); 59D: City west of Tulsa (ENID); 60D: Beat fast (RACE); 61D: Arg. title (SRA.); 62D: Chest muscle (PEC); 63D: Near the tail (AFT).


Zhouqin (C.C.) Burnikel said...

I love your theme title. Brilliant!

Rex Parker said...

Thank you, C.C. ADDLER is a completely made-up -ER word, which of course makes it right at home in the world of crosswords. For example, go here to see ALTERER and SLAVERER ... in the same grid!


Carol said...

Took me a long time & a couple of Googles to finish this one! Also started with lily and then went to arum. Still couldn't get NW corner until the rest of the fill. Minglers as social butterflies - cute.

Orange said...

O the Germanity!

"The arum lily is neither an arum nor a lily. Discuss." I'm surprised I didn't know that particular tidbit after all these years of seeing ARUM and LILY and SEGO lily in my crosswords.

Anonymous said...

I feel hopelessly inadequate today. Oh, I did the puzzle OK, but something about the writeup makes me want to un-delete my spam mail and do some e-shopping.

*David* said...

For me this was my easiest Friday puzzle in a while. I moved slowly at the beginning but didn't make any mistakes. Once I got my first theme answer, I moved quicker since I had four letters for the next theme answer automatically, which was a sizeable gimme, usually its a letter or two.

The cluing was well done with many tricky ones Fowl mouthed ads?(where's the duck?) and Answers from a flock, my favs.

Brendan Emmett Quigley said...

This was the first puzzle in like forever that I didn't even notice what the theme was whilst solving it. I think it has more to do with exhaustion from the move versus anything puzzle related. Usually a puzzle has some amazing stuff, some good stuff and some bad stuff. This puzzle had no amazing and bad stuff, so it must be good, right?

Started off with ADOLF as I knew those shoes (the only sneakers I wear) were named after the founder's first and last names, not the All Day I Dream About Sports (or sex) backronym.

Gary A. Hill said...

The clue "little star" for asteroid is incorrect. An asteroid is a "false star," because it looks like a star, but is not a star at all. Ignorance of this term leads many people to use the word "factoid" for a small fact, when it should properly mean something that appears to be a fact, but is not.


Now just when I'm saying, if I see another ERTE in a crossword I'm going to barf, there's an enlightening fact in the clue that I never knew before.
Romain de Tirtoff was a Russian-born French artist and designer known by the pseudonym Erté, the French pronunciation of his initials, R.T.

gjelizabeth said...

Gary, I also started out with ASTEROID but later stumbled to the right answer ASTERISK, which is, indeed, "a little star", just not in the sky. I found the cluing in this puzzle delightful and had great fun. My favorites were "Accent in the pantry", "Do to do", and "One in a black suit". My mind started playing with double meanings and I wondered if anyone has ever used the common "Professional charges" clue for MALPRACTICE?

*David* said...

Originally “factoid” was an ironic term indicating that the “fact” being offered was not actually factual. However, CNN and other sources have taken to treating the “-oid” as if it were a mere diminutive, and using the term to mean “trivial but true fact.”

Gary A. Hill said...

Oh, it's "asterisk"? I haven't finished the puzzle yet. Never mind.

mac said...

What a fun, light-hearted puzzle, with wonderful clueing! I needed a little pick-me-up at this time, with my little piece of dark Dutch chocolate.

No real problems anywhere, a little plodding when a name had to be found, but nothing serious.

The Jack-in-the-pulpit is a protected plant in Connecticut; I'm always glad to find them between the ferns, in shady parts of the yard.

Charles Bogle said...

Whew! This one sure put me in my place.

Got about 80 pc right w aides like google and even basically got the theme, although I was sure it was RUSTLER'S VEST, not BELT, and hence my SE quad was hopeless. Lower SW left open too

Again, LA inside references threw me, eg, for "Adam's Tavern," I had no idea until I came here that it was Sandler. I cobbled together SADDLER'S BAR sure it was Adam of the Biblical story and fitting ADDER almost in; egads

Well, it sure fired up my imagination, if not the chemistry to get the right answers. I'll look forward to doing better next Friday!