SATURDAY, June 27, 2009—Barry Silk

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

For me, this puzzle was about 25% harder than the last two Saturday crosswords. I made a couple wrong turns, but mostly it wsa a matter of the clues not announcing their answers to me. For 45D: __ bloc (SOVIET), I started out with VOTING but eventually corrected course thanks to the V in DAVE ( 54A: Rocker Matthews). I went with NARROW TARGET for 6D: Horse's nose, say (NARROW MARGIN). Uh, a horse wins by a nose, Orange. People don't shoot arrows at horse's noses. And for 29D: Greenfly, for one (APHID), I had NAIAD. Mayfly larvae are called naiads, and I've never heard APHIDs called greenflies. I think of them as those little green jobbers, but not as greenflies. Luckily, the crossings for these answers unraveled everything for me.

Crosswordese 101: Under the rubric of "crosswordese," we include the names of people who get mentioned in crosswords much more than in everything else we read and hear. Rex talked about the old-time actresses whose names help crossword constructors to fill a section of the grid, but whose days of fame ran out long ago—except in crosswords. 22A: Three-time all-star reliever Robb (NEN) is in this category for me. Wikipedia tells me his career peaked in his years ('98-'02) with the San Francisco Giants but when he played for the Florida Marlins in '97, they won the World Series. If you're not a baseball fan or San Franciscan, do you know who this guy is? All I know is: He's the most famous person named NEN and he spells Robb with the unusual double B.

Now, who's ready for some more clues and answers? I like the pairing of ASTRONOMY and AGRONOMIC—the tricky clue 1A: Stardom? for the first and the strictly factual 56A: Like farming for the other. Two guys named BOBBY and ALBERT meet in the middle of the grid, with 33A: 9/15/63 site of the only concert including both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones (ROYAL ALBERT HALL) and 8D: Whom "feeling good was good enough for," in a 1971 #1 song (ME AND BOBBY MCGEE). Was Bobby McGee a country boy? Because 15A: Hicksville is a RURAL AREA, where you might find a GENERAL STORE. The clue for that is 21D: Rural retailer, and generally crossword makers try to avoid repeating a clue word (other than, say, "it" or "on" or "the") in an answer. Here's Janis Joplin singing her hit:

Moving along to the bullets:
  • 16A: "I speak for the trees" speaker (LORAX). Classic Dr. Seuss but not a part of my childhood. It came out when I was 5, so maybe I'd moved on from reading Dr. Seuss by that age. I often don't know the answer when the clue is hinting at LORAX.
  • 23A: One spooning (FONDLER). Eww. Spooning is lovely cuddling, but to me "fondle" doesn't have connotations of mutually accepted touching. Do you and your honey fondle each other, or do you find the word too creepy to apply to your own affections?
  • 26A: Plant anew (RESOW). Actually, I initially had a wrong answer here, too. I had REPOT. You know why? Because you can pull out a plant and "plant it anew" in a different pot. Sowing is planting seeds, so to RESOW means...to take that seed and plant it again? Who's crouching down and planting individual seeds a second time? "Come here, you little nubbin! Get back in the dirt where I put you before." This one really doesn't make sense to me.
  • 42A: Lively (GAY). Yes, tomorrow's Pride Parade in Chicago will indeed be lively.
  • 58A: Earth (TERRA) crosses 52D: Trillion: Pref. (TERA-).
  • 14D: Questions to those who are leaving (EXIT POLL). I was thinking the clue was about party guests, and it probably would be a good idea to do an EXIT POLL to find out if you need to hone your party-hosting skills.
  • 27D: Whiz (SHARK). Nobody ever calls me a crossword shark. How can I cultivate that?
  • 33D: Have a moving experience? (RELOCATE). Am I the only one who read this clue as being about bowel movements?
Everything Else — 10A: Glow (SHINE); 17A: Peter Parker's alter ego (SPIDERMAN); 18A: Query in Matthew (IS IT I); 19A: Work (OPUS); 20A: Managed (RAN); 21A: Understands (GETS IT); 25A: Dance (HOP); 28A: Forbid (BAN); 29A: "It should come __ surprise" (AS NO); 30A: Sing, in a way (HUM); 31A: Lyrical tribute (ODE); 32A: Ring (PEAL); 38A: At any point (EVER); 39A: Johnny of the CSA (REB); 40A: Hawaiian tuna (AHI); 41A: Intelligence concern (LEAK); 43A: Rich deposits (LODES); 46A: Yossarian's friend, in "Catch-22" (ORR); 47A: Meteorological topic (AIR MASS); 49A: Recommendations (DOS); 51A: Bern or Geneva (CANTON); 53A: Abridged (CUT); 55A: "What? keep __ away? seven days and nights?": "Othello" (A WEEK); 59A: Advertiser's confirmation (TEAR SHEET); 60A: Bacon bit? (ESSAY); 61A: Prime time shows, e.g. (TELECASTS); 1D: Unlawful firing? (ARSON); 2D: Last __ (SUPPER); 3D: Father, Son and Holy Ghost, e.g. (TRIUNE); 4D: Some extremists (RADS); 5D: "Hooray!" relative (OLE); 7D: "The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom" author (ORMAN); 9D: Chinese chef Martin (YAN); 10D: More furtive (SLIER); 11D: Party leader (HOST); 12D: One end of St. George's Channel (IRISH SEA); 13D: Like some debt (NATIONAL); 23D: __ tip (FOUL); 24D: Stow below (LADE); 34D: Intimidates (OVERAWES); 35D: They're filled with longing (YEARNERS); 36D: Tragic king (LEAR); 37D: Pres. Jefferson (THOS.); 44D: "My Cup Runneth Over" singer (ED AMES); 47D: Perfect (A-OKAY); 48D: Like an otological test (AURAL); 50D: Quakers et al. (SECTS); 54D: Qatar's capital (DOHA); 56D: J.D. holder (ATT); 57D: Iran-contra affair org. (NSC).


Argyle said...

Am I the only one who read this clue as being about bowel movements?

Only a crossword shark would think of that! LOL

PuzzleGirl said...

Why yes, Orange, you are indeed the only one. Yuck! I also get tripped up by the LORAX every time. I really like the ZAXes though. And all those kids with the same first name (Dave).

Pretty easy puzzle overall. Thanks for the Janis!!

Carol said...

Dr. Seuss and Shakespeare in the same puzzle! Cool.

Great writeup.

Anonymous said...

Why is the LAT puzzle posted several hours later than it has been?

gjelizabeth said...

I popped in PERSONAL instead of NATIONAL for "Like some debt", which led me seriously sideways for a while. Thanks for the Janis Joplin. It's good to have a reminder of how sweetly her voice flowed.

Denise said...

I too thought about the host wondering why people were leaving the party.

That would have been some concert at the ROYAL ALBERT HALL!! I bet no one left their seats.

Sfingi said...

Fondler is definitely a sickening word. So, being a bit anal is not as bad as being a molester
I thank Mr. Silk for throwing us senior citizens a few bones.
Janis Joplin, Dave Matthews,Beatles,the hop, soviet, old-style gay,general store (my great-grandfather had one in Marlboro, NY.
These days even rural,agro areas have Wal*Mart.
I liked the cross of terra/tera.

Gary Lowe said...

Liked the puzzle, liked the clue "... Horse's Nose", disliked "Like some debt".

There must have been some hanky-wringing over cluing FONDLER, fer sher.

Don't recall ever seeing TEARSHEET.

Gareth Bain said...

11 Seconds harder for me, despite complete gimme at 8D. Lots of other gorgeous stuff too. NEN was a new one for me. And a South African (by birth, anyway) at 54A!

Anonymous said...

I got bogged down in the southwest: put IDEAL for 47D Perfect, didn't know the Othello quote, first had ICEMASS for 47A Meteorological topic, and just stared at 60A Bacon bit? for ages. I should have paid more attention to the "?" rather than focus on the breakfast item. One Google to get LORAX helped with the Northeast, led me to EXITPOLL. Eventually ground out the rest of the puzzle, tho' messily. Thank you Mr. Silk for a fun Saturday AM.


Wow, another simple Saturday puzzle...no challenge here. It went like Silk! Took me less than an hour, got all clues correctly, and never needed any Google-aid.
Struggled a little with AIRMASS (43a) because I abbreviated Thomas Jefferson (37d) as THOM instead of THOS.
Also I kept trying to get GIGA instead of TERA for Trillion: pref. (52d)
Thought DOS (49a) for "recommendations" was a little lame for a clue.
Thought ISITI (Is it I?) for query in Matthew was very clever. I think it was the disciple Peter who asked Jesus that.
Well, thank you, Mr. Silk, for a very enjoyable puzzle and thank you, Orange, for the very nice blog.


Goes to show you how uncultured I am... 60a Bacon bit? I saw the question mark, so I knew it wasn't breakfast food, but I kept thinking of Kevin Bacon's acting bits, instead of Francis Bacon's essays.

2002Angels said...

Help me understand the value of calling a puzzle "easy" or "simple." For those of you who did, if you intended to feel superior, then congratulations.

I guess that my failure to answer "fondler" and "gay" says something about my personal life.

This puzzle failed to please or "overawe" me.


Snotty remarks to other bloggers is unkind and totally unnecessary. Expressing joy over getting an "easy" puzzle is just as valid as telling what things you struggled with or opimions on the construction.

Gary Lowe said...

@2002 - One person's 'easy' is another's 'hard' - Saturday is supposed to be the hardest, so the comments are relative to the day of the week. I found this to be an easier Saturday, although I did not finish (bogged on the SE), whereas the NYT I didn't get a dozen answers before packing it in.

Why would anyone care about your personal life? Words are words, you can read into them what you like. I had a friend once who played with her necklace all the time, absent-mindedly - she was a FONDLER in my mind.

Charles Bogle said...

Terrific puzzle from Mr. Silk and great write-up @orange!

I had some problems similar to those of @carol, @denise, @anonymous (first); thanks @johnsneverhome for the "Bacon bit?" ESSAYS explanation

What a wonderful and taxing mental exercise, fun to do and more fun to finish despite the SW corner...what a snare

How does CANTON apply to Bern and Geneva? Where does TERA for trillion come from?

Got bollixed up w termsheet for TEARSHEET and almost couldn't figure out FONDLER...not my idea of "spooning"

LADE means "store below"?-who knew?

ARSON for unlawful firing threw me, I was sure it was a discrimination Q. At least three Biblical/Church references...a clever and inspired test through-and-through!

chefwen said...

@Charles Bogle - A Canton is a small administrative division of Switzerland. Often in crosswords you will see a clue Tell's Canton (as in William Tell) and that is Uri, a good one to know.

I stumbled through this one and had to come here to fill in some gaps, FONDLER for one and SLIER over shier. Didn't know the LORAX guy so horax was ok by me.

mac said...

This was one of my favorite LAT puzzles. Both this newspaper and the NYT have top people constructing today!

Although I've done puzzles for quite a while, I have never heard of "Nen", Robb or otherwise. Even my baseball-nut husband hadn't heard of him, but the reason may be that in the late 90's we were living in England.
Lorax I have seen before, but I think it's one of the few Seuss books I haven't read (to my son). Love most of them.

@Orange: great write-up, and agree about the fondler. Thanks for a little bit of Janis.

Rex Parker said...

Every time ROBB NEN (both name parts good) shows up in a puzzle, my site lights up with Google searches. Store his name away - you'll need it later.

@sfingi, I love the idea that Dave Matthews is for senior citizens. I've never heard that before. But it makes sense. To me. Now. Maybe in 20 years I will find him listentoable.


2002Angels said...

"Snotty remarks to other bloggers is unkind and totally unnecessary."

@JOHNSNEVERHOME: I agree -- that's why I brought those remarks to light.

There's a big difference between "I found this puzzle easy" or "Fortunately, this puzzle was simple for me" and stating factually, "This puzzle was easy and simple."

A little humility goes a long way.


@sfingi, @rex
Dave Matthews Band got in deep doo-doo here in Chicago a few years ago. Even our illustrious Mayor Daley made some strong remarks about them. Seems that their custom coach decided to release it's holding tanks just as it was going over one of our (grated) bridges. Timing was bad... a large tour boat was on the Chicago River just below the bridge and hundreds of tourists got a yucky "Taste of Chicago". Dave Matthews was taken to court and heavily fined.

Orange said...

I dunno, 2002Angels—to me, adding the "to me" part sounds more like boasting. But really, when someone says the puzzle was easy, they mean nothing more than that they personally found it easy. They're making no comment whatsoever on other people's skills. All of us who are regular solvers and routinely talk about the puzzles have yo-yoed up and down—sometimes we swear a puzzle's the toughest Thursday puzzle in months and are surprised when others say it was easy, and sometimes we cruise through a puzzle and find that others struggled with it. It all depends on the individual's knowledge base, alertness, and mood.

Charles Bogle said...

@chefwen, thanks for the low-down on CANTON

Want a light nightcap? Try the JUMBLE...i kid you not!

Gary Lowe said...

... perhps there's more gaiety tomorrow. Tomorrow's always funday, a Sunday's, after a little rest.

Anonymous said...

For some unknown reason I thought of bundler rather than fondler and took myself down a knotty path. Some answers were so obvious that I couldn't trust myself that they were right--so I struggled--needlessly.