SATURDAY, May 2, 2009 — Alan Olschwang

THEME: The Saturday puzzle is themeless—the game is decoding tougher clues and figuring out a slew of longer words and phrases

This crossword is a bit easier than the usual Saturday puzzle—but the difficulty level should be easing back upwards soon now that the former TMS solvers have had over a month to get accustomed to Rich Norris's editorial style.

Crosswordese 101: Ah, looky here: one of my least treasured types of crosswordese, the military honor abbreviation: 10D: U.S. Army medals (DSCS). Do you know how many U.S. military awards and decorations there are? A veritable ton. DSC stands for the Distinguished Service Cross.

I generally cannot keep DSC separate in my head from a couple British honors. The DSO is the Distinguished Service Order. And then there are the honors a few notches shy of knighthood—OBE and MBE stand for order and member, respectively, of the British Empire.

What I do is stash all of these abbreviations in my head in a jumble, and hope that the crossings lead me to the right answer without any trouble. Sometimes it works okay and sometimes...not so hot.

Among the more obscure stuff:

  • 1A: The Pleiades' Alcyone, for one (GIANT STAR). Is there an astronomer in the house?
  • 27A: German aviation pioneer Lilienthal (OTTO). All I can tell you about this one is that I believe Lilienthal is German for "valley of lilies." Wikipedia says they called him the Glider King, but I like to reserve terms like that for flying squirrels.
  • 48A: Not pizzicato (ARCO). To play a stringed instrument ARCO means to use a bow, I think. The dictionary gently informs me that pizzicato means "plucking the strings of a violin or other stringed instrument with one's finger."

  • Speaking of stringed instruments, KOTOS are 51D: Japanese stringed instruments.
  • 54D: Exec gps. (MGTS). I was dithering between MGRS and MGMT.

Favorite answers and clues:

  • 15A: Touching base (IN CONTACT).
  • 17A: Where many strings are pulled (BEHIND THE SCENES).
  • 37A: Fall opportunities for high school seniors (EARLY ADMISSIONS).
  • 41A: Making a crossing (ASEA). Too much crosswording muddles the meaning of "crossing" for me, turning this clue into a temporary mystery.
  • 45A: Often-allergic attack (ASTHMA). Do you know what breed Ren, of Ren and Stimpy fame, is? He's an asthma-hound chihuahua:

  • 58A: Former Boer republic (ORANGE FREE STATE).
  • 65A: Like an imposition (A LOT TO ASK).
  • 1D: Pop singing brothers from the Isle of Man (GIBBS). The Bee Gees comprised Barry, Maurice, and Robin; little brother Andy Gibb had a solo career.
  • 8D: Classic ghost story (A CHRISTMAS CAROL). If your summer involves any ghost stories told by the campfire, be sure to regale the kids with Dickens.
  • 12D: Ruined (GONE TO POT).
  • 14D: Confirmation word (YES). I was looking for something much more specific to, say, religious confirmation rites.
  • 32D: Tumult (MAELSTROM). Terrific word, ain't it?
  • 38D: Letter opener (DEAR). You thought about putting SIRS here, didn't you?

Everything Else — 10A: Bag opening? (DOGGY); 16A: Dull thing, in slang (SNORE); 19A: Street address (BRO); 20A: Sun. speech (SER); 21A: Milo of "Ulysses" (OSHEA); 22A: Shellac (STOMP); 25A: Turbulent waters (RIPS); 29A: Like some felonies (CLASSA); 31A: China biggie (SPODE); 32A: Polite title (MADAM); 34A: Branch headquarters? (TREE); 36A: Inflate (PAD); 40A: Cotillion honoree (DEB); 42A: Sense of style (TASTE); 43A: Flash (GLINT); 47A: This, in Toledo (ESTO); 49A: Battle of Endor fighters of film (EWOKS); 53A: Shellac (TROMP); 55A: Ernst contemporary (ARP); 57A: Chem. unit (MOL); 62A: Out of, as work (NOTAT); 63A: It's pitched at a stake (HORSESHOE); 64A: Dreams, to some (OMENS); 2D: Like some gases (INERT); 3D: Cold burst? (ACHOO); 4D: "There's __ in team" (NOI); 5D: Spike TV, once (TNN); 6D: Avg. levels (STDS); 7D: Chitlins might be cooked with 'em (TATERS); 9D: Numbered hwy. (RTE); 11D: Like some grounders (ONEHOP); 13D: Scooby-Doo, for one (GREATDANE); 18D: It might be sent from a bridge (SOS); 23D: 15th century year (MCDL); 24D: Dabble in (PLAYAT); 26D: __ passu: impartially (PARI); 28D: Sizable refs. (OEDS); 30D: Latin I word (AMAS); 31D: Oil source (SESAME); 33D: Resolve, in a way (ARBITRATE); 35D: O.T. book (ESTH); 37D: Go cautiously (EDGE); 39D: "The Last Time __ Paris": 1954 film (ISAW); 44D: Reagan speechwriter (NOONAN); 46D: Corrida hero (TORERO); 48D: Mock (APE); 50D: Missouri River city (OMAHA); 52D: Glossy (SLEEK); 54D: Exec gps. (MGTS); 56D: Gnat, for one (PEST); 58D: "Double Fantasy" artist (ONO); 59D: Loan-insuring org. (FHA); 60D: Congeal (SET); 61D: Chicken general (TSO).


Rex Parker said...

Fun and pretty easy, except for the PARI / CLASS A intersection, which was a total guess. Uncommon Latin word crossing could-be-any-vowel ... I mean, "A" is the only good guess, but I entertained "E" for sure.

Oh, and MGTS is not good. I did what you did there.


Jeffrey said...

ORANGE FREE STATE - what this blog is when Rex or Puzzlegirl are posting

A LOT TO ASK - Response when someone tells you to put a 4 word phrase in a 9 letter answer.

gjelizabeth said...

Got the long answers and came a cropper on a bunch of the short ones. I liked the shiny things going on: "glossy" SLEEK; "flash" GLINT; GIANTSTAR; and then two shiny "shellac" clues that were anything but shiny in the answers, STOMP and TROMP.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good guesses for me today, but some synonyms threw me, like GONETOROT for GONETOPOT and INCONNECT for INCONTACT. Modernizing Ulysses with an obscure contemporary Irish actor is a bit unfair, but I guess I need to heed those quotation marks.
I thought I knew the rules for Roman Numerals (i.e. MCDL for 15th century year), but I need to bone up on that... MCDI got me off to a really bad start. Thank God for those neat little overused three-letter words (OED, ARP, MOL, ONO, TSO, SOS, DEB, SER). Filling those in first sure helps unlock the difficult crosses.

Orange said...

Hey, JOHN—please see my reply to your comment on the Thursday post.

Refresher course on Roman numerals:
M = 1,000
D = 500
C = 100
L = 50
X = 10
V = 5
I = 1

And a smaller number appearing to the left of a larger one is subtracted from it: IV = 4, CM = 900.

Dan said...

14D - I, too, was looking for something more specific to religious confirmation (my son is being confirmed tomorrow).

32D is an excellent word.

mac said...

Nice puzzle, with maelstrom the most interesting word. Was weird when mae... showed up.

I'm already looking forward to the double treat tomorrow, which I will print out!

Getting ready for the Kentucky Derby party, although I am not a horse race lover. Am actually scared to look since the injuries the last couple of years....

housemouse said...

My biggest gripe is with the use of obscure references to geography, sports trivia, etc., that practically require one to have Google up and running in order to have a chance at guessing the author's obscure meaning. Puzzle solvers shouldn't have to have Google available to solve a puzzle. Some authors just go overboard trying to be clever and even "cutesy" in obscuring their meaning.

Orange said...

@housemouse, do you have some examples? I'm not sure which clues you're referring to.

Rex Parker said...

housemouse's comment brings up one of the main differences one finds among solvers. Some like puzzles to be a breezy pastime. Some like a struggle. Further, some want only dictionary words (no brand names, no pop culture) while others revel in answers drawn from any and all aspects of our culture.

If a puzzle's well constructed, you won't need google most of the time, because the stuff you don't know will be gettable from crosses. One of the misunderstandings about fast solvers is that they know all the answers. They know a lot, but they encounter puzzling new unheard of stuff on a regular basis. You learn to make good inferences and Work The Crosses.