THURSDAY, June 18, 2009 — Dan Naddor

Theme: "Rated XX" — Theme answers all contain two X's.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: On some roads, it might be several miles after the last one (NEXT EXIT). I totally dig this answer.
  • 20A: Like interest on some bonds (TAX-EXEMPT).
  • 36A: She may oversee an estate (EXECUTRIX). Can you see this word without thinking of the word dominatrix? What? That's just me?
  • 57A: Halo 2 and Project Gotham Racing, notably (XBOX GAMES).
  • 63A: Route on which to "get your kicks," in a pop standard (SIXTY-SIX).

  • 8D: Fajitas, for one (TEX-MEX DISH).
  • 29D: Product of a major 1999 merger (EXXON MOBIL).
Crosswordese 101: Let's take a look at ST.-LÔ, shall we? Today it's clued as [59D: 1944 battle site]. ST.-LÔ was occupied by the German army in 1940. It was almost totally destroyed during the Battle of Normandy in World War II (1944). It is the capital of Manche (a département — what we would call a state), in France. Other than that, it's helpful to know that it's on the Vire River and is near Caen.

As I was solving I was like, "Wow. There are a lot of X's in this puzzle." And the "wow" part of it kept getting more and more intense as I found more and more X's. I finally figured out that it was the theme and "Aha!" That's the "Aha!" moment we love, right? Basically, I'm saying I really enjoyed my solving experience and think the puzzle is awesome. There's just this one little thing. I really, really hate to bring it up. Especially since I like the puzzle so much. But the Crossword Blogger Oath is serious business and if I neglected to raise this issue, I could get slapped with an ethics violation and then I'd have to go before the Committee, possibly lose my license, etc., etc. It would be traumatic is what I'm saying. So here's the thing. The theme answers all have two X's. The words crossing the theme answers at the X's have just the one X. There are no other X's in the grid. ... Except one. One lonely unthematic X at the cross of SOX (27D: Chicago team, briefly) and PAX (35A: Peaceful period). That X could have been any number of letters. Let's see: D, L, N, P, S, T, W, or Y. Any of those would work (unless I'm missing that any of those resulting words already shows up in a clue or answer). So yeah. Awesome puzzle. That one little X was definitely not significantly detract from the puzzle, but it was something I noticed.

A couple things I didn't know, but got easily through crosses:
  • 33A: Building toy with an apostrophe in its name (K'NEX). Eerily similar to Legos.
  • 61A: "__ & Mrs. Miller": 1971 Beatty/Christie film (MCCABE). I was six in 1971.
  • 64D: "Babi __": Shostakovich symphony (YAR). No idea.
What else?
  • 1A: Words spoken with glass raised (A TOAST). Love this. It has to be said with just the right inflection and it's very ... what's the word? Graceful maybe. Or perhaps, if one is less charitable, snooty.
  • 30A: Tic-tac-toe loser (OOX). This is ugly but, really, with so many X's in the grid, I'm sure it was inevitable.
  • 40A: Delivery person? (MOM). Why when I see a clue like this do I think of the doctor? I guess because sometimes the answer is the doctor. But it's been the mother in a couple of recent puzzles and it tripped me up both times. Never again!
  • 60A: Otto minus cinque (TRE). Italian!
  • 65A: Begin successor (SHAMIR). The key to this one is pronunciation. In this case, Begin is not a synonym of start, but rather the Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. See how the capital letter trick works? They put a proper name at the beginning of the clue to make you think it's just a regular word and capitalized only because it's the first word in the clue. It's very sneaky.
  • 68A: In folders, say (SORTED). Is there anything better than having all your papers sorted and in their proper folders? No. No, there is not.
  • 2D: Alcatraz, familiarly (THE ROCK). Awesome movie.
  • 4D: 49th-state police gp. (AST). Alaska State Troopers. I think that's all I'll say about that.
  • 6D: Gas company with a star logo (TEXACO). Crossing NEXT EXIT. Nice!
  • 23D: Portly pirate (SMEE). Runner-up for your CW101 lesson of the day. Smee is Captain Hook's sidekick in Peter Pan.
  • 38D: Guy with a helpful online list (CRAIG). Anyone know his last name? No? I'll look it up for you. Craig Newmark. You're welcome.
  • 40D: Dallas NBAer (MAV). Not to be confused with a Cleveland NBAer, which would be a CAV.
Everything Else — 7A: Bellicose declaration (IT'S WAR); 13A: Disciplines (CHASTENS); 16A: Snookums (DEARIE); 18A: Run out, as a subscription (EXPIRE); 19A: Pitching stat (ERA); 22A: HMO workers (DOCS); 24A: Beef sources (COWS); 25A: They're just looking (EYERS); 28A: Made sexual advances (to) (CAME ON); 32A: Colorful card game (UNO); 34A: Campus hangout (QUAD); 43A: Gumbo pod (OKRA); 44A: Jedi adversary (SITH); 47A: In the style of (À LA); 48A: PBS benefactor (NEA); 49A: Sounds of hearty laughter (HA HA HA); 51A: Rattler's threat (VENOM); 53A: __ to one's neck (IN UP); 55A: Some House votes (NAYS); 66A: South Australia's capital (ADELAIDE); 67A: Bottom lines (TOTALS); 1D: Broken out in blemishes (ACNED); 3D: Southern Mexican (OAXACAN); 5D: Proofer's mark (STET); 7D: Bordeaux brainstorm (IDÉE); 9D: Overly sentimental (SAPPY); 10D: News article (WRITE-UP); 11D: Go public with (AIR); 12D: R&B artist Des'__ (REE); 14D: His Western White House was dubbed La Casa Pacifica (NIXON); 15D: Brood (STEW); 21D: Deletes (X'S OUT); 26D: Genetic initials (RNA); 31D: It fits in a lock (OAR); 34D: In the capacity of (QUA); 37D: __ out a living (EKE); 39D: Central Chinese provincial capital (XI'AN); 41D: __ Miss (OLE); 42D: Often tailless feline (MANX CAT); 45D: "We're done here" (THAT'S IT); 46D: Halloween jaunt (HAY-RIDE); 49D: Sticky (HUMID); 50D: High points (APEXES); 52D: "The Audacity of Hope" author (OBAMA); 54D: Apollo's creator (NASA); 56D: H.S. health course (SEX ED); 58D: Much of the MTV Generation (X'ERS); 61D: Cheyenne hrs. (MST); 62D: Comic Margaret (CHO).


Sandy said...

Unless you write in "Rest Exit" and can't figure out what "acred" means. Sometimes I just give up too soon - I assume it's just me that doesn't know something, instead of checking the logic of my answers.

My first week in America I was in a car with another international student who turned and asked, very seriously, if they had "Food Exits" in New Zealand. Shoot, we barely have highways.

Brendan Emmett Quigley said...

Even though I already made a puzzle with this exact same theme (http://is.gd/15kuz), I found this to be a joy to solve. Dan's suddenly square on my radar lately.

Joon said...

sweet puzzle. and i dug the extra non-thematic X. it's my favorite thing about the puzzle, actually. it's like a little private joke at the end of a lengthy narrative.

AST is pretty bad, but i've usually seen it clued as atlantic standard time (one time zone east of EST, which includes halifax, and ... probably nothing else of note). that's slightly less bad than alaska state troopers. OOX is probably the worst thing in the grid, but it's pretty understandable and forgivable in light of the challenging theme.

i've seen CRAIG clued as {Internet list founder Newmark}, so ... yeah, i actually knew his last name.

i'm chuckling because i only knew K'NEX and MCCABE from previous crosswords. babi YAR i knew before crosswords, but it did not make me chuckle. it's actually one of the more horrific things ever referred to in crosswords. the clue today seems so innocuous, doesn't it? babi yar is the name of a ravine outside of kiev where there was a one-time massacre of something like 30,000 jews during the nazi occupation of ukraine. yevgeny yevtushenko wrote a poem about it called "babi yar," and shostakovich then composed a symphony based on the poem. last month when there was a {"Babi ___"} clue in the NYT, jim horne at wordplay wondered if it passed the breakfast test only because it was obscure enough that most people don't know what it means. imagine how jarring it would be to see AUSCHWITZ in a crossword.

John said...

I saw the movie in college.

I finally got YAR, once I had ADELAIDE spelled correctly.

Very much a fun solve!

Orange said...

I know why the spare X is there—because the NYT record for most X's in a daily puzzle is 13, and PAX takes this one to 14 X's. Alas, the public records are only kept for the NYT puzzle, so record-breaking LA Times and CrosSynergy puzzles aren't listed anywhere that I know of. Maybe someone like Bob Klahn has that info in his database; I dunno.

Carol said...

Fun puzzle.

Only question I have is ACNED. Past tense of acne? Hmmm.
Kind of a stretch.

Orange said...

Carol, ACNED is kosher. It's an adjective derived from "acne," says my dictionary.

Anonymous said...

ACNED is Kosher? Hey Moishe, that steer looks kind of ACNED, think it's ok to to butcher it?

Charlie said...

I was not at all a fan of AST either (seeing NEXP EXIT on my grid cleared this up pretty quickly), but it's time once again to get off of our collective high horse... Alaksa State Troopers is proper name of the agency.

From the State's website, here is a list of all the law enforcement agencies in Alaska.


"Alaska State Police" nowhere to be found.

*David* said...

Great puzzle, I'm not even going to discuss the inevitable minor quibbles points because it was such a joy. With the X factor I found it easier then a usual Thursday. I also have no problem having a X left out of the theme and do find it more endearing then lonely.

This was the one for the week no doubt, as Dan continues to raise the bar.

gjelizabeth said...

Great puzzle!
Hated the movie MCCABE AND MRS MILLER. Mostly hated the disconnect between its promotion as a romantic comedy and its reality as a tragedy. I went to see it sorely needing a bit of lightness in my life. The filming was gorgeous but the movie ends with one lover dead in the snow and the other stoned in an opium den. Shoot me now.


Probably the bestpuzzle of the decade... kudos to Dan Naddor for a very difficult puzzle to construct, but a very easy puzzle to solve. Easy because once you notice the theme (which happens quickly), the possibilities get narrowed down due to the X's.
I haven't solved a puzzle in less than half hour for a long long time.
MANXCAT (42d) was a problem... kept trying to use LYNXCAT and that made MOM (40a)into a MOL.... hmmm !
And yes, I got MAV (40d) and CAV mixed up.
I hate to be a nit picker, but isn't apices the plural of apex and not APEXES (50d)? I guess that's another of the constructor-liberties, and so the X works in.

By the way, Route 66 is my middle name... in the next few days I will be launching probably the biggest Route 66 photo website ever. Watch for it on Flickr's JOHNSNEVERHOME. Sorry for the shameless plug.

Anonymous said...

I agree w assessment wonderful puzzle, joy to solve, nice theme

a lot of Q's in here too. Amazed non-lawyers can get QUA. Same for EXECUTRIX as female form of Executor. MOM as "delivery" person was also nice, clever gender play

@Orange, many thanks for the history lesson on St.-Lo

sorry to have to disagree w @gjelizabeth for once; I loved "McCabe and Mrs. Miller"

when and what were K'NEX anyway--what generations?

got this one today and enjoyed it much more than today's NYT!

Orange said...

Anonymous 9:31, the thanks go to PuzzleGirl today! They sell K'Nex now. I don't think my son has had any.

JOHN, both apex plurals are OK. Kosher, even. And I tried to get that LYNXCAT in there too! Despite the fact that the famous tailless cat is the Manx. I just saw NX and CAT and my brain went straight to the lynx.

Wasn't the phrase "Alaska State Troopers" bandied about a lot last summer, with the Palingate firing?

mac said...

Very nice puzzle! We have a manx cat in the house, visiting with our son, who calls him his roommate.

"Sorted" is used a lot by my English friends, in "I've got it all sorted", or figured out.

I'm on to CrosSynergy, yesterday's was wonderful!

eileen said...

I just loved today's puzzle for all the aforementioned reasons given in these comments. And yes, I also wanted LINXCAT.
Thanks Puzzle Girl for the St. Lo tutorial.

Lime D. Zeze said...

Wasn't confused by "Begin successor" but I could see why people might be. ("successor" kind of gives it away I think). The other Middle East name that I sometimes mispronounce is Sharon, as in former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon. I always want to say "Sharon" as in Sharon Tate (bad example, I know, but she's the first Sharon I thought of).

Norm said...

I thought maybe the extra X was to avoid perfection. Isn't that how you avoid the jealousy of the fairies? Or I am totally mixing up my folklore?

Sfingi said...

my husband, a criminal defense attorney, said executrix is a word purposely used to make a female witness look bad, and prosecutrix to put a bad light on the D.A.

Babi Yar reminds me of the other crossword favorite Baba Yaga, a character in a Russian fairy tale - a hag witch who lives in a hut on chicken legs - don't get nightmares!