FRIDAY, May 29, 2009 - Dan Naddor

THEME: "From I TO (20A: First woman to land a triple axel in competition) U" - "I" is changed to "U" in familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

Sometimes you don't have to have a complicated theme. Sometimes change-a-letter works just fine. And today's puzzle was that - just fine. The difficulty level appears to be staying low in these late-week puzzles. Or, I should say, comparatively low (takes me 2 to 3 times longer to do a NYT late-week puzzle, for instance). There were lots of gimmes lurking around the grid, just waiting to give you the toe-hold you need to climb this thing. The first thing I PUT in the grid was "I PUT" (2D: "_____ a Spell on You": 1957 Screamin' Jay Hawkins song) - I know that song from Nina Simone's version, which is great in its own right.

"I PUT" gave me ITO, but I still had to wrestle with the NW a bit, in part because SOG (4D: Soak, in British dialect) just wasn't on my radar. Once I turned MIASMA (?) to FIASCO (1A: Debacle), then the ball got rolling and never really stopped thereafter.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Flared garb for Tarzan? (JUNGLE BELLS)
  • 24A: Manage to provide morning refreshment? (MUSTER COFFEE) - I will do this soon...
  • 37A: Scarf makers? (BOA CONSTRUCTORS)
  • 46A: Wrinkle on a dessert topper? (CHERRY PUCKER) - this one grosses me out for reasons I can't / won't even go into
  • 57A: Wolves full of themselves? (BLUSTER PACK)

Crosswordese 101 - a Cluing Special: "flower" - there were many candidates for Crosswordese 101 word of the day today (OPAH, SOIE, OPART, ORC, AWN, and YMA are all notable repeaters), but the clue for ARNO has a bit of old school trickery in it that I thought worthy of mention. Specifically - the use of "flower" to mean "that which flows," i.e. a river. This trick of using a word that looks like one thing but means another (you can do it with TOWER, LOWER, etc. . . . NYT once had an entire puzzle theme based on this kind of misdirection), and the "flower" trick in particular, is old as the hills and yet still remarkably effective, especially at tripping up novice solvers. You're just lucky you got the "?" in the clue today, to let you know something tricky was going on. There's no reason Rich should have given that to you, as [Florentine flower] is actually pretty damned literal. The ARNO flows through Florence.

My favorite part of this puzzle, by far, was the NE - the tower created by "MY LEFT FOOT" (11D: 1989 Daniel Day-Lewis film) and IMPRESARIOS (12D: One putting on a show) is really majestic. I learned the word IMPRESARIO from a Paul McCartney song of the 1980s: "Take It Away"

I knew OPAH was a fish (and a candidate for Crosswordese 101 in its own right), but I had no idea it was a 7A: Fish used in sashimi, so I flailed a tiny bit up there in the N. But otherwise, I solved without much struggle.

Stuff I knew instantly - always start with what you know and build off of it for as long as you can:

  • YMA (16A: Sumac from South America)
  • FAY (35A: Actress Wray)
  • BATOR (45A: Ulan _____)
  • LAYLA (51A: Clapton hit that won the 1992 Best Rock Song Grammy) - a far inferior version compared with the original from many years earlier
  • "I PUT"
  • ABBA (26D: "Dancing Queen" group)
  • ARE (34D: "You _____ here")
  • ACNE (54D: Teen breakout?)
  • ERL (44D: Goethe's "The _____ -King")
  • IF A (23D: "_____ tree falls")

That's a lot of stuff to have just handed to you on a Friday. Lots to build off of. And I'm not even including the answers I had that I was *almost* certain of (e.g. MIT, LPS, etc.) but wrote in only after crosses confirmed them. I'd love to hear where difficulty lay for everyone. A tough cross? A completely blank patch? Let me know.

See you Monday (or, possibly, later today, in Comments section),


Everything Else — 1A: Debacle (FIASCO); 7A: Fish used in sashimi (OPAH); 11A: "Good Will Hunting" setting, briefly (MIT); 14A: Racket (UPROAR); 15A: Denpasar is its capital (BALI); 16A: Sumac from South America (YMA); 17A: Flared garb for Tarzan? (JUNGLE BELLS); 19A: Old platters (LPS); 20A: First woman to land a triple axel in competition (ITO); 21A: Crumb (LOUSE); 22A: Levels (TIERS); 24A: Manage to provide morning refreshment? (MUSTER COFFEE); 26A: Orbital point (APSIS); 29A: Keisters (PRATS); 30A: Alphabetical orders? (BLTS); 31A: Mogadishu native (SOMALI); 35A: Actress Wray (FAY); 37A: Scarf makers? (BOA CONSTRUCTORS); 40A: Wheat beard (AWN); 41A: Short stops (PAUSES); 42A: Silk, in St.-…tienne (SOIE); 43A: Finely contoured (SLEEK); 45A: Ulan __ (BATOR); 46A: Wrinkle on a dessert topper? (CHERRY PUCKER); 51A: Clapton hit that won the 1992 Best Rock Song Grammy (LAYLA); 52A: Off-the-wall piece on the wall? (OP ART); 53A: Humanities degs. (BAS); 56A: Tolkien creature (ORC); 57A: Wolves full of themselves? (BLUSTER PACK); 60A: Modern, in Mannheim (NEU); 61A: Tales and such (LORE); 62A: Yacht spot (MARINA); 63A: Sixth of five? (ESP); 64A: Odessa-to-Waco direction (EAST); 65A: Lacing aid (EYELET); 1D: Big film maker (FUJI); 2D: "__ a Spell on You": 1957 Screamin' Jay Hawkins song (I PUT); 3D: Florentine flower? (ARNO); 4D: Soak, in British dialect (SOG); 5D: "We want to hear from you" (CALLUS); 6D: Ingredients in a McFlurry, perhaps (OREOS); 7D: Very heavy (OBESE); 8D: Not so bright (PALER); 9D: Every (ALL); 10D: Memorable (HISTORIC); 11D: 1989 Daniel Day-Lewis film (MY LEFT FOOT); 12D: One putting on a show (IMPRESARIO); 13D: Café cup (TASSE); 18D: "Despite what I just said ..." (BUT); 23D: "__ tree falls ..." (IF A); 24D: Odds and ends: Abbr. (MISC.); 25D: Not quite a B (C-PLUS); 26D: "Dancing Queen" group (ABBA); 27D: Cutting-edge farm parts (PLOWSHARES); 28D: It's hoisted on ice annually (STANLEY CUP); 31D: Serpentine (SNAKY); 32D: Home of the NCAA's Buckeyes (OSU); 33D: Whitney et al.: Abbr. (MTS); 34D: "You __ here" (ARE); 36D: River to the North Sea (YSER); 38D: In working order (OPERABLE); 39D: 1917 abdicator (TSAR); 44D: Goethe's "The __-King" (ERL); 45D: Sell out (BETRAY); 46D: Knockoff (CLONE); 47D: Falls heavily (POURS); 48D: Discomfit (UPSET); 49D: Ailurophobe's dread (CAT); 50D: Last word in doughnuts (KREME); 53D: Rescue, with "out" (BAIL); 54D: Teen breakout? (ACNE); 55D: Game with no card lower than seven (SKAT); 58D: Mauna __ (LOA); 59D: Ante- (PRE-).


PuzzleGirl said...

Hey, everybody. Remember how I told you yesterday that you need to remember the ERL King? Well, I hate to be the one to say "I told you so"....

FIASCO is an awesome word. I thought the clue for EAST was particularly tricky — 64A: Odessa-to-Waco direction. When I looked at the grid and saw the answer had four letters, that gave me pause. Usually those X-to-X direction clues are only three letters and for the geographically challenged (like me), they're just random combinations of N, S, E, and W. (Obviously not completely random — I know there can't be a NSW, for example.)

PLOWSHARES and STANLEY CUP held me up for a while because I didn't know APSIS and the clue for BLTs was tricky enough to throw me off.

Don't really understand how Keisters = PRATS, but will look that up now.

Mmmmmm... Krispy Kreme!

gjelizabeth said...

I liked that the contructor got CONSTRUCTOR into the central line. "Keister" and PRAT gave me pause also, but I'm assuming that you land on your keister when you take a pratfall. This did seem a little easier than most Fridays. I was pleased that I figured out the theme from the first two theme answers but I was still slow in the bottom half.

Carol said...

Had difficulty with NW corner and finished that last. Once I got BOACONSTRUCTOR (cute) understood the theme of the puzzle. Thanks PG for the ERL lesson yesterday!

For some reason I thought today was Saturday (retirement does this to one!) and thought the puzzle fairly easy until I realized it's Friday. Anyway, all in all a good puzzle.

I still didn't understand ARNO being a flower until your explanation, Rex. Just got it on the crosses. Thanks! Something to remember.

Orange said...

I had way too many wrong turns on this one and it ended up taking me longer than any other Friday LAT in recent weeks.

Another word you might see in the tricky clues Rex reviewed is "shower." [Senate shower] might make you picture naked, soapy elected officials, but it's CSPAN, which shows the Senate proceedings.

Crockett1947 said...

Good morning Rex et.al! Rex, I did start with what I knew: ITO, ABBA, IFA, ARE, OSU, but I still had a shotgun spray of words and letters here and there, Did Tarzan even wear pants? I was wanting to find some short form for loincloth to put into JUNGLEBELLS. I got the two lower theme entries first and used the theme to help me in the northern parts. Not having a clue on the song and movie references, I was pleased to work everything out and finish a Friday with no aids or look ups.

Have a great Friday, all.

Gary Lowe said...

Musings of an idiot:
Someone from Somalia is a Somali, not (or maybe) a Somalian;
Someone from Iran is an Irani or an Iranian;
Someone from Pakistan is a Pakistani, not a Pakistanian
Someone from India cannot be an Indi, but what about Indiana? Is someone from Butte a Button, or a Butt?

Where's Ogden Nash when you need him ....

Rex Parker said...

Merl Reagle goes *off* about IRANI in Coral Amende's "The Crossword Obsession." His insistence on its terribleness (as a crossword answer) made me laugh. Safe to say I will Never put IRANI in any future puzzles I might create (unless there is absolutely positively nothing else to be done, I guess). When in doubt, follow Merl.


Orange said...

Actually, Gary Lowe, there are those who say that IRANI is not a correct way to refer to an Iranian, that it has a specific connotation. Likewise, someone from Afghanistan is not an Afghani—that means something else. They're Afghans. (Don't ask me what exactly Irani means. Afghani, I think, is a coin.)

The Wikipedia page on demonyms (names for people from certain places) is kinda fun. Oslovian? Taswegian? Congolese? Hongkonger? Savoyard? Damascene? Haligonian? Mumbaikar? Niçois? Malagasy? Sydneysider? Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

I really struggled in the 3X3 section from the PUC from Pucker to the UST of Bluster. I had to walk away for a bit and only then got OPART and the rest fell. UGH. I also had TUNA for OPAY, but that resolved itself as I got the crosses.


Anonymous said...

I thought Tarzan had JUNGLEBALLS.

GLowe said...

Good stuff. Is Irani only in puzzles, or have we seen it elsewhere? Assuming that Iraqi is proper and Iraqian isn't, what gives it special status? The Q?

Also, are you guys New Yorki's? (I'll stop spamming up your most excellent blog after that one...)

Glowe said...

Sorry, I lied ...

@Rex, you'll be good to go the day some indo-aryan Queen writes her autobiography: "I, Rani".

Charles Bogle said...

Thank you Rex for a very interesting analysis...shows me how far I've got to go...did manage to complete just about the entire eastern half but very little western and totally blanked on the long theme answers. Oh well, wait until next week!

Joon said...

orange, i had to look up taswegian. it looked like a crazy blend of tasmanian and glaswegian... and lo and behold, that's exactly what it is. weird.

- bemused cantabridgian

humorlesstwit said...

@Orange - I started reading your Senate shower bit, and I immediately thought of PAGE. Made the your subsequent line about soapy, naked senators really, really ichy. Unfortunately logical, but still ichy.


Wow! Two terrific puzzles in a row... can't wait to see if Saturday & Sunday will make it a home run.
ABBA is used a lot in crosswords. I always thought the singing group ABBA took the name from the Aramaic Hebrew word in the bible for Abba, Father. Not! It is an acronyn formed by the first names of the singers: Anni, Bjorn, Benny, and Agnetha (...mmmmmm!)
Thought the Florentine flow-er for the river ARNO was extremely clever.
The crosses revealed JUNGLEBELLS pretty quickly and so the U substitute for I made the theme apparent right off. Now solving BOACONSTRUCTOR etc was a piece-of-cake. I've found that concentrating very hard on the first theme word(s) is a great strategery.
If you haven't seen Daniel Day-Lewis's film MY LEFT FOOT, by all means go rent it... it's a great movie.
Well, again, knowing your French and German is essential (TASSE, SOIE, NEU). I didn't know that TASSE is Fr. Cup, but I figured it out from Demitasse, the teensie cup that I drink espresso from.
I always thought that Keisters were BUTTS. PRATS??? Maybe that's where the term prat-fall comes from.


Crossword abusers use IRANI instead of the correct IRANIAN.
So, then is someone from Persia a Persi or a Persian?
Rex, why not make up a list of common constructor liberties?
I'm sure many of your followers could add to that list.

Greene said...

Ah...another fine puzzle. I can always count on the LAT to make me feel like a competent solver again after I get kicked around by the NYT. After many puzzles, I have finally caught on to that "flow-er" deception in the cluing. Didn't take me as long to learn that trick as it did the old AT. NO. answer. ATNO? What the heck is ATNO? (Why atomic number, of course.) Arrgh. I've misstepped over that one but plenty.

I love the film My Left Foot which earned Daniel Day Lewis an Acadamy Award. Then there's this parody which strikes me as being simultaneously hilarious and in incredibly poor taste. Unfortunately, I can't hear the film title now without thinking of this little ditty.

Eric said...

Found this fairly easy going once I gave up on my insistence on trying to force "left feet" as in two left feet and realized I had the saying confused with the movie.

mac said...

I can't remember when I've laughed so much reading the comments! Soapy politicians, New Yorki's etc. (and you know what I mean by etc., anon.!).

I also started with Miasma, and wanted an extra s in impresario, but otherwise it was pretty smooth.

Opah is moonfish, apparently. SushiSon doesn't remember eating it, though.

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