MONDAY, June 1, 2009 — Gary Steinmehl

THEME: All "Hands" on deck ... — theme clues are commands that contain the word "HANDS": "Hands up!" / "Hands down!" / "Hands off!"

Not a lot of fun here. Puzzle has a very, very loose theme, but the up / down / off progression has a certain charm, I guess. REACH FOR THE SKY (20A: "Hands up!") and LEAVE THAT ALONE (55A: "Hands off!") are good (though I had trouble getting "THAT" quickly - wanted "IT"), but (and this is a big but) NO MORE QUESTIONS ... who says "Hands down!" to mean that (39A)? Do you really say "Hands down!" to mean "NO MORE QUESTIONS?" In class? At a press conference? What's most irking (to me) about this answer is that, if the clue were not supposed to be a command, the clear best possible answer (in 15 letters) is WITHOUT QUESTION. As in "He is, hands down, WITHOUT QUESTION, the best hitter in Major League Baseball." PENCILS DOWN! is a command I can hear someone saying. Who barks at people to put their hands down when they want to ask questions?

Crosswordese 101: FAQS (28D: Web pages with basic site info) — internet terminology gives constructors another handy way to use "Q" without having to use a "U." For those who don't know, FAQ stands for "Frequently Asked Questions." It is my experience that FAQS frequently go unnoticed and unread. At least once a week someone sends me an email asking me the #1 question on my website's FAQ ("Why is there always one highlighted answer / one blue square in your posted grid?"). I have learned that lots of people who find their way to my website (now sites, plural) are not used to dwelling in the virtual world. Fundamentally paper and pencil/pen people, and so you (I) have to have a ton of patience for people who want to participate and enjoy your site but are just learning to figure out how to navigate websites effectively. Half my mail involves some technical question, and sometimes those questions lead me to redesign the site to make something more intuitive / easier to understand. Anyhoo — FAQ. If you ever consider writing a site owner with a question, check to see if s/he has a FAQ first.

Long Downs in this one are good, and provide an entertainment value that the theme itself really doesn't have (except REACH FOR THE SKY, which I really like). I like that all the long Downs remind me of being in junior high and high school, when I would play VIDEO GAMEs incessantly (3D: Purchase for your Xbox), when I still ate (from time to time) in a CAFETERIA (10D: Food fight site), and when I could eat DOUGHNUTS (36D: Dunked snacks) with impunity because the matter of my own LONGEVITY (32D: Years on the job) was really not a pressing concern.

Oh boy, my internet connection seems to have left the planet. Better wrap this up and hope that things are back in order quickly.

What else?
  • 14A: _____ Litella: Gilda Radner's "Never mind!" character (Emily) — One of many SNL characters I knew about as a kid without ever having watched the show. See also Mr. Bill. Apparently my peers had late-night TV access that I didn't.
  • 61A: Old-time drummer Gene (Krupa) — A great name for crosswords.

[Gary Cooper takes notes on hepcat slang ... awesome]

  • 4D: Gonzalez in 2000 news (Elian) — Oh man, that was some drama. The kind of stuff that kept 24 hr. news networks busy before 9/11.
  • 34D: 1990s-2000s host of "The Tonight Show" (Leno) — Timely, as he just ended his stint as host on Friday. Conan starts tonight.
  • 57D: Corrida critter (toro) — I'm on a one-man campaign (as yet, largely unsuccessful) to get anything that comes up higher than your knee and / or is not wild declassified as a "critter." Won't you please join my cause?
See you later in the week,


Everything Else — 1A: Covers with asphalt (PAVES); 6A: Deer little one (FAWN); 10A: Little cow (CALF); 15A: "That's clear now" (I SEE); 16A: One illegally off base (AWOL); 17A: "The Thinker" sculptor (RODIN); 18A: Expected landing hrs. (ETAS); 19A: Payroll tax that funds Soc. Sec. (FICA); 23A: Fit for the military (ONE-A); 24A: Do a slow burn (SEETHE); 25A: Use a shovel (DIG); 27A: Backside (DUFF); 30A: Pub pint (ALE); 31A: Like a childhood stage, to Freud (ORAL); 33A: Like fantastic tales (TALL); 35A: Do-__: desperate (OR-DIE); 42A: Public disturbance (SCENE); 43A: Right triangle ratio (SINE); 44A: Razor-billed birds (AUKS); 45A: Diamond or ruby (GEM); 47A: Doofus (DOLT); 49A: Fed. auditing agency (GAO); 50A: "Pet" sources of irritation (PEEVES); 53A: Speed-of-sound word (MACH); 59A: Not in favor of (ANTI); 60A: Two-thirds of Santa's laugh (HO HO); 63A: Refreshing rapper/actor? (ICE-T); 64A: Lead-in for sees or seas (OVER); 65A: Pentium maker (INTEL); 66A: Say it isn't so (DENY); 67A: Floor model (DEMO); 68A: Letters before tees (ESSES); 1D: Part of mph (PER); 2D: Señorita's love (AMOR); 5D: Matched, as dubbed dialogue to mouth movements (SYNCED); 6D: Feudal estate (FIEF); 7D: Regarding (AS TO); 8D: Has on (WEARS); 9D: Summer refresher with a three-leaf logo (NESTEA); 11D: Make-__ Foundation (A-WISH); 12D: English philosopher John (LOCKE); 13D: Chef Bobby (FLAY); 21D: Terre __, Indiana (HAUTE); 22D: Serf of ancient Sparta (HELOT); 25D: Puts on (DONS); 26D: Camaro __-Z: muscle car (IROC); 29D: Lighter __: Zippo filler (FLUID); 37D: Durante's "__ Dinka Doo" (INKA); 38D: "Happy motoring" gas (ESSO); 40D: Christopher who played Superman (REEVE); 41D: Alabama march city (SELMA); 46D: Way of doing things (METHOD); 48D: Nonsilent film (TALKIE); 50D: London change (PENCE); 51D: Gone from one's plate (EATEN); 52D: Push hard (SHOVE); 54D: Preserves, as beef (CORNS); 55D: Let go, with "off" (LAID); 56D: Attention getter (AHEM); 58D: Fencing sword (EPEE); 62D: Capp and Gore (ALS).


Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the "critter" crusade. Where do I sign up? Calling TORO a critter is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

To escalate your critter crusade, I would also like to suggest that no one be allowed to use critter unless they have spent a significant portion of their lives in either Appalachia or the Ozarks, and/or have had a significant portion of their childhood diet consisting of critters, in the Rex definition.

Solid B Monday puzzle.

*David* said...

This one felt a bit loose. Having AWOL and ONEA in the same crossword seemed a bit iffy. There was the accounting duo of FICA and GAO as well. I alwys like to see AUKS in a crossword.

hazel said...

Drum Boogie! Great clip and awesome new phrase for me, cats.

OK puzzle - best part was learning about Krupa. He's in the vault now - actually I think PIKA and PACA are both in the vault now too.

Anonymous said...

when a bunch of students in the class keep raising their hands and wanting to ask more and more questions, the teacher finally has to say "hands down."

Orange said...

I'll have to ask my son if his third-grade teacher ever says "Hands down." I'm a little skeptical too.

WITHOUT QUESTION is a perfect 15-letter answer, but going that route would mean ditching the unifying exclamation point in its clue. So the theme would be less consistent, but the hands down/WITHOUT QUESTION pair is entirely apt.

If you're Godzilla, even an elephant is a mere critter. I know for a fact that Rich Norris is human-sized, but it's possible the "critter"-cluing constructors are giant monsters. I haven't met Gary Steinmehl, so I just don't know.

sanhador said...

I've been working the crossword for the last few weeks and using this site to fill in clues when I'm stuck. Today was the first day I finished without outside assistance! Wanted AONE instead of ONEA for 23A and LEAVETHEMALONE instead of LEAVETHATLALONE but all in all didn't do to bad. starting to pick up on some of the crosswordesse but nonetheless I finished. Thanks for all your help!

Orange said...

Congrats, sanhador! You'll be hooked for sure now. Finishing a Monday puzzle is the gateway drug to a full-fledged crossword addiction.

Anonymous said...

@Orange - You mean Godzilla does the LA Times? I thought he was more of a Tokyo Times kind of critter!

And yes, I am that big.

hazel said...

@Anonymous - I can see Hands Down in the classrom setting, but as more of a plea - "finally". Those other two Hands up! and Hands off! are definitely barks.

@Orange - I like Rex's rework too. WITHOUT QUESTION is much better, esp. if you think of it with an exclamation point at the end. Chipper Jones is the best switch hitter in baseball today! Hands Down! Without question!

I also think UNQUESTIONABLY would work - does 3 x 14 violate some construction principle?

I clearly have too much time on my HANDS today!

Orange said...

Hazel, when there are three theme entries, one goes in the middle. Can you center it in a 15-square-wide grid when it's got an even number of letters? No. Occasionally a grid will shift to being 14 or 16 squares wide (or tall) to accommodate an even middle entry. WITHOUT QUESTION could also be split into two equal parts with a black square between.

Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

Kinda liked it, kinda didn't. The themes did seem clued a little strangely, but I was able to get them no problem. I actually had more issues with LEAVE THAT ALONE than with NO MORE QUESTIONS; because No More Questions seems like a more in-the-language answer than Leave That Alone. Both are totally fine, though. Also, for some reason at first I thought the theme was phrases you'd hear during a robbery, which is another reason that Leave That Alone confused me.

Favorite clue: Refreshing rapper for ICE-T. Didn't see that one coming for some reason.

Also, congrats Sanhador! Welcome to the addicted to crosswords club. :)

chefbea said...

Fun easy puzzle though I had a Natick at the R in oral and Iroc.

Glad to see Bobby Flay

Guess a lot of puzzles have Leno today

Lime D. Zeze said...

Loved the Krupa video! Thanks for posting it. He was pretty amazing.
Thought the puzzle was so-so. Agree about "hands down"

Joon said...

LEAVE ___ ALONE is certainly "in the language," but i question the THAT. "LEAVE ME ALONE," sure. "LEAVE IT ALONE," okay. "LEAVE THAT ALONE" sounds forced to me. i agree with the general consensus on NO MORE QUESTIONS. WITHOUT QUESTION would have been all right, without a ! anyway. it'd be a little bit odd to clue a sentence fragment as a spoken exclamation.

and while we're here, i also didn't like REACH FOR THE SKY as clued. i think of it as being a perfectly in-the-language phrase, but a metaphorical one meaning to set lofty goals, not as a spoken imperative. finally, even setting aside the fact that i wasn't wild about any of the three actual theme answers, i'm not overfond of this kind of theme in general, where the commonality is in the theme clues rather than the answers. you have to be pretty lucky to get theme answers that are all in the language, as today's puzzle aptly demonstrates.

the fill was very nice overall, although some of the cluing seemed odd to me. EMILY and ORAL are not exactly monday clues (although i don't think you can call ORAL/IROC a "natick"... though i promised myself i wouldn't get into that argument again). elsewhere, i'm getting a little tired of GAO as an acronym; apparently it's never been clued in a major puzzle as the 2000 literature nobelist. why on earth not? i can understand why not on a monday, although if you ask me the general accounting office isn't all that monday-worthy either. i'm warning everybody now, look out for that in a late-week puzzle (especially if you see my byline... cue evil cackling).

Charles Bogle said...

Congratulations @sanhador! I'm relatively new too and can relate to your nice feeling...try today's NYT puzzle

I agree w Rex and others: the "Hands Down" clue was a real stretch

I got stuck on 32D: "Years on the job." Having done a fair amount of employment law in my day, I instantly put down SENIORITY--and stayed with it a while. Fortunately, realized LONGEVITY was the right word--same number of letters!

Love Krupa and thanks for the great clip. I recommend the boxed set of Anita O'Day CDs for fans of Krupa/O'Day...a legendary singer who recently passed. Come to think of it, ODAY would be good crossword word...

Orange said...

Joon, EMILY Litella is a gimme for much of the 40+ age group, even in a Monday puzzle. Honest. Have you seen Toy Story? That's one of Sheriff Woody's canned phrases meaning "Hands up!" Here's a sound file. Buy the DVD for your kid in another year or two.

PuzzleGirl said...

@sanhador: Let me add my congratulations and tell you that I initially entered A-ONE instead of ONE-A, so you're not alone!

@Joon: When your little one gets a little older, you might become more familiar with "LEAVE THAT ALONE."

Solid Monday for me.

Denise said...

Was hoping for a Gilda clip, but loved the Krupa. Thanks.

Happy to hear from a new solver.

I am getting faster (but not in any particular order).

mac said...

Nice puzzle, and like Rex said, especially good D clues and answers. I tried to put "Reaching for the moon", somehow sounds more familiar to me

@sanhador: congratulations with your success. Yes, you're hooked, and you'll be doing a lot of other things a lot less from now on!