FRIDAY, Jul. 24, 2009 — David W. Cromer

THEME: Ick — letters "IC" are added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

There should be a rule about add-a-letter puzzles: there has to be something meaningful about the added letters, or some clue has to tie things together with some kind of playful phrase. I always think of a "SPIN" puzzle I once did as a good example of this kind of theme: "SP" went "IN" to familiar phrases, thus creating the wacky. You gotta do something. Something. "IC"? Arbitrary. Random. No good. But here's what's weird — this "IC" theme could have been partially salvaged and made vaguely presentable had 12D: "Now that makes sense" ("I SEE") been cleverly clued — say, as a pun tie-in. [Comment upon figuring out the theme of this puzzle?]. Come on. You know that's good.

Theme answers:

  • 18A: Break from soldiers' training? (BASIC RELIEF) - playing on "bas-relief"
  • 24A: Clown settlement? (ANTIC COLONY) - playing on "ant colony"
  • 38A: International affair? (TOPIC OF THE WORLD) - playing on "top of the world"
  • 49A: O. Henry stories? (IRONIC WORKS) - playing on "ironworks"
  • 60A: Copperfield's limo? (MAGIC WHEELS) - playing on "mag wheels"

I give the theme answers a "C." Like ANTIC COLONY and MAGIC WHEELS, but the rest are kind of lifeless.

Crosswordese 101: Shaquille O'NEAL (64A: Center of Cleveland?) — great, very up-to-date clue today on this very common crossword answer. O'NEAL is starting center on the Xword All-Star team, for sure. You see O'NEAL a lot (it's vowely), and SHAQ has pretty good grid cred as well. Mr. O'NEAL lends himself to great clues, as he is huge and famous and funny and has been in at least one bad mid-90s movie ("Kazaam"). He also likes to give himself ridiculous nicknames like "The Big Aristotle" or "Wilt Chamberneezy." He will be playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers next season, alongside one of the NBA's two biggest stars: LeBron James. O'NEAL already played, and won three rings, with the NBA's other biggest star: Kobe Bryant.

What else?

  • 27A: Old waste allowance (TRET) — uh, what? I wrote in TARE. What on god's green earth is TRET? The freedictionary.com site says: "(Com.) An allowance to purchasers, for waste or refuse matter, of four pounds on every 104 pounds of suttle weight, or weight after the tare deducted." The cruciverb database turns up 17 examples of its prior use in crosswords, so this is some kind of high-end crosswordese I just haven't been (un-)lucky enough to stumble across before.
  • 54A: Pizza chain (SBARRO) — only ever seen SBARRO in airports.
  • 58A: Like Bizet's only symphony (IN C) — do Not understand cluing "INC." this way. The "IN + random letter" music clue should be used only for INB, INF, and sometimes INE, IMHO.
  • 6D: August comment ("IT'S HOT") — this clue? It's not. Too arbitrary. And, in the southern hemisphere, largely inaccurate. Tie-in to WHEW shows imagination, though (41D: See 6-Down).

  • 26D: Vividly colored fish (OPAH) — nearly my Crosswordese 101 word. About the only -P-H word there is.
  • 40D: Burkina _____ (FASO) — more crosswordesiness. Landlocked west African nation. Its capital: OUAGADOUGOU.
  • 52D: Maker of Advantix cameras (KODAK) — love KODAK because of its twin Ks. Wouldn't mind seeing ADVANTIX in a puzzle.
  • 55D: Proverbial thorn (BANE) — I don't think I understand this. Where does the "proverb" come in? If something is a "thorn" in your side, then it is a BANE to you. I get that. BANE is also a poisonous plant, but not necessarily a thorny one.
  • 57D: England's Portsmouth Harbour and others (RIAS) — super crosswordy word. RIAS are kind of like FJORDS except FJORDS are produced by glaciers and RIAS by rivers.

See you Monday,

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Devious, in a way (COY); 4A: Bad states (SNITS); 9A: You often see a lap in one (CHAIR); 14A: Bullet in a deck (ACE); 15A: Strange (OUTRE); 16A: Kind of trader (HORSE); 17A: Royal sleep disturbance, in a tale (PEA); 18A: Break from soldiers' training? (BASIC RELIEF); 20A: Ill-advised (RASH); 22A: Flames' org. (NHL); 23A: Gives the slip (EVADES); 24A: Clown settlement? (ANTIC COLONY); 27A: Old waste allowance (TRET); 28A: Resemble strongly (PASS FOR); 33A: ID necessity, often (PHOTO); 36A: Plow into (RAM); 37A: Like Chinese dishes, frequently (TO GO); 38A: International affair? (TOPIC OF THE WORLD); 42A: It may be gross in med sch. (ANAT.); 43A: OPEC member (UAE); 44A: Development units (HOMES); 45A: Picks (SELECTS); 47A: Monopoly card (DEED); 49A: O. Henry stories? (IRONIC WORKS); 54A: Pizza chain (SBARRO); 58A: Like Bizet's only symphony (IN C); 59A: Night light (NEON); 60A: Copperfield's limo? (MAGIC WHEELS); 63A: Short sentence about a long term (I DO); 64A: Center of Cleveland? (O'NEAL); 65A: Some plots (ACRES); 66A: "I reckon not" ("NAW"); 67A: Noodleheads (GEESE); 68A: "Siddhartha" author (HESSE); 69A: It's up to you (SKY); 1D: "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" director (CAPRA); 2D: Shore thing (OCEAN); 3D: Dough-raising need (YEAST); 4D: __ story (SOB); 5D: Fine point (NUANCE); 6D: August comment (IT'S HOT); 7D: Warbling sound (TRILL); 8D: IPO overseer (SEC); 9D: Malibu and Tahoe (CHEVYS); 10D: Guadalajara greeting (HOLA); 11D: Ideal for Joshua trees (ARID); 12D: "Now that makes sense" ("I SEE"); 13D: Trio in an NBA game (REFS); 19D: Entitle, as an altered file (RENAME); 21D: Ancient Indo-European (HITTITE); 25D: Swift reptile (CROC); 26D: Vividly colored fish (OPAH); 29D: Used as an elevator (STOOD ON); 30D: Blob's lack (FORM); 31D: Rubberneck (OGLE); 32D: Eye cells (RODS); 33D: NEA supporters (PTAS); 34D: Fine-tune (HONE); 35D: Fall birthstone (OPAL); 36D: Itinerary abbr. (RTE.); 39D: Have a better crew than (OUTROW); 40D: Burkina __ (FASO); 41D: See 6-Down (WHEW); 46D: Group with common interests (CIRCLE); 47D: Some booth occupants (DINERS); 48D: Proverbs follower: Abbr. (ECCLES.); 50D: Heiress, perhaps (NIECE); 51D: Equestrian tools (REINS); 52D: Maker of Advantix cameras (KODAK); 53D: Blizzardlike (SNOWY); 54D: Urban hazard (SMOG); 55D: Proverbial thorn (BANE); 56D: "A Death in the Family" novelist (AGEE); 57D: England's Portsmouth Harbour and others (RIAS); 61D: "As if!" ("HAH!"); 62D: Mariner's hdg. (SSE).


mac said...

Easy puzzle, especially after I got the trick right away; it wasn't hard to fill in IC in the other answers.

What is that about gross anat? Part for the course, I would think. Also the first time I saw a ria with an actual location.

Thanks for the Fay Claassen. I think I spotted a little Rotterdam Harbor in the background.

Joon said...

i had the same thought about I SEE, but ... yes, i admit it. {Comment upon figuring out the theme of this puzzle?} is good.

TRET... this isn't the first time i've actually seen it in a grid, but those times are definitely outnumbered by the number of times i've seen TARE and somebody (usually orange, i think) has commented about both terms. TARE is actually a word that i think of as being pretty common, because it's what you do to a scale or balance in (say) a chemistry lab before weighing out reactants. (or in a kitchen, before weighing out ingredients.) as a verb, it's roughly synonymous with "zero." TRET i've never seen anywhere except in a crossword.

Brendan Emmett Quigley said...

Shaq's won four rings. How soon we forget that gift wrapped championship for the Heat. Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs were robbed.

KJGooster said...

I had "EVELA" for 64A: Center of Cleveland? at first -- it still doesn't register that Shaq is a Cavalier. And the Shaq-to-Cleveland deal was what, a month ago? Nice to see such a timely clue, though I'm sure the puzzle was created more than 4 weeks ago. Do you suppose the original clue was 64A: Center of Phoenix?

SethG said...

HI?TITE didn't exactly give me much help on (T)RET, either.

I started with GEEKS for GEESE, and hdg. is an awful abbr. The O'NEAL clue was nice, OUTROW not so much, and Burkina FASO borders TOGO.

Denise said...



My daughter is in China and went to the same place. Sooo cute!!

When I do a puzzle like this, I picture myself in Brooklyn, raising my hand to have my paper picked up and having the people around me say, "Wow."

I sat next to a guy who told me he had won the rookie division his first year. HE WAS FAST!!

I'm not that fast, but I am improving.

Somehow TRET went right in -- I too wondered about "proverbial."

*David* said...

Hooray for Cromer coming to rescue the LAT this week. The puzzle was solid if not imaginative but compared to what we've had its a breath of fresh air.

What was there one abbr.? Some of the clues were sly including the ONEAL, I DO, and SKY ones. Had ACRES wheres HOMES was until I got ACRES.

Orange said...

@Denise, I won the ACPT rookie prize in 2005. Then Ken Jennings, the all-time top Jeopardy! champion, showed up to follow in my footsteps by winning the rookie trophy in 2006, when I placed 5th overall, but he later acknowledged that he could not hope to keep pace with me. That was awesome. (I humbly admit that I cannot hope to equal Ken's game show record.)

@David with asterisks, I did the same thing with ACRES and HOMES.

shrub5 said...

@KJGooster: I'll bet you're right about the Shaq clue. When I finally got ONEAL (had a lot of trouble in that area), I was blown away. Very timely and clever clue! Shaq joined the Cleveland Cavaliers on July 3.

@BEQ: Two words: Dwyane Wade (2007).
Two more words: Golden State (2008).

Other basketball-related answers: REFS, HORSE, PASSFOR.

I don't understand 67A) Noodleheads = GEESE?

I loved the clues 17A) Royal sleep disturbance, in a tale (PEA) and 63) Short sentence about a long term (IDO).

Rex Parker said...

But Shaq won three rings *with KOBE*. At least that's what I thought I said.


Anonymous said...

I kept moon for a night light. I should have realized that Friday's puzzle wouldn't have such an easy clue. I didn't understand the IC theme until I read the blog.

Thanks for educating me on a daily basis.

Gary Lowe said...

"There outta be a rule ...." *sigh*

I had about 20 'works in progress' in my CCW folder until I read BEQ's "10 Crappy themes" epistle.

I now have about 7 ...er 6.


Just couldn't find Burkina Faso in any dictionary of mine...I guess I need some later editions...so had to resort to the "ER", Google.
I aslo kept trying to fit in MOON for nightlight but the cross REINS tipped me off that it's NEON. I prefer a moonlit night to neon, especially in those sleazy motels I stay in.
Now for the booger of this puzzle: ONEAL (64a). There is a skyscraper in the center of Cleveland called One Cleveland Center or ONECC. What a headache when you are so sure you got it right and none of the crosses fit. I thought this clue was the cleverist one of the year. Thank God for this wonderful blog or I would have gone insane before days end.
Well, I really thought this was a good Friday puzzle... loved the theme, but didn't see it till I finished... now IC !
I find Rex's blogs (et al) to be even more entertaining than working out the puzzle.
I was on vacation for the past few weeks and I had access to newspapers with crossword puzzles which I faithfully filled out daily, but I had no access to a computer. Man, was I ever disappointed that I couldn't see this blog... proof that the blog is more fulfilling than the puzzle itself. But I guess being in the Canadian Rockies in July is rewarding enough!

Anonymous said...

@Rex - I'm happy to inform you that you can get rubberized pizza at a S'BARROs at almost any rest stop up and town the NY Thruway.

PurpleGuy said...

Great writeup. Your clue for 12down is spot-on !

My only speedbump was in the NE section. I always get befuddled with HOLA and OLLA.
Even though I live in the South West.
What makes a CROC "swift," 25down ?

Jimmie said...

I never heard of SBARROS. Are they here in SCal? WHEW and ITSHOT were lame. Never heard of TRET. Knew HITTITE because Uriah was one, before King David did his thing to him to get Bathsheba.

Bizet only wrote one symphony, in the key of C. Great clue.

Love you guys

David Marlow said...

5 stinkers in a row to these eyes.

My main quibble: MAGWHEELS and MAGICWHEELS. It's the only one of the 4 using a letter that can be soft and hard, in this case a G that's hard in MAG and soft on MAGIC. So I kept saying to myself, "Maj something, maj something."

Totally not fair.

Great write up, Rex.

embien said...

Turns out Sbarros are nearly everywhere, but unless you habitually go to the "food court" (where little actual food appears) in malls, you may have missed them. (I was totally amazed to find that there are nearly ten locations in Oregon--I thought there were none within 1000 miles!)

Sbarro locations

chefwen said...

Being in the steel industry for 12 years knew TRET right away.
I messed myself up in the lower left where I put in outman for OUTROW, doh! Also had geeks before GEESE, you'd think that would be noodle necks, not heads. Not being into basketball at all I figured that ONEAL must be one special building in Cleveland. Double DOH!!

sfingi said...

Since I never got the theme, I tried to build from little words. Tried tare, tref; looked up tret to see if it was more than a German word (step). Also had evela yet was afraid to try Hittite.
A mess.

Sbarra does not have an apostrophe. It means to obstruct.

Anonymous said...

Whats with "croc" and no abrivation?

The blag is great, usually better than the puzzle.

Keep up the good work

Anonymous said...


Charles Bogle said...

Am a day late and a dollar short. Missed two words--had HIT for RAM and gibberish for STOODON. Otherwise was personally very challenged and pleased. I don't usually get that far on Fridays (now make it early Saturday am)

Agree the theme left me hungry. But did like seeing O'Henry in there-

Jan said...

No Sbarros in central Oregon, so even though I figured "bane" must be right (since nothing else even came close) I couldn't imagine a pizza chain name starting with "sb".

Can anyone explain the bane/thorn/proverb connection?

Anonymous said...

Georges Bizet was a musical prodigy of sorts, who died very young. He only wrote one symphony, the Symphony No.1 in C, of course. As a classical musician, I knew this from my listening to classical public radio, as well as owning a recording of the piece. BUT, to expect the general public, even the crosswording public, to get this one was really going a bit far. Clues like "Bus. suffix" or "Ltd. but in the USA" might have been equal to the level of the friday puzzle without being so jargon-y.

Anonymous said...

Georges Bizet was a musical prodigy of sorts, who died very young. He only wrote one symphony, the Symphony No.1 in C, of course. As a classical musician, I knew this from my listening to classical public radio, as well as owning a recording of the piece. BUT, to expect the general public, even the crosswording public, to get this one was really going a bit far. Clues like "Bus. suffix" or "Ltd. but in the USA" might have been equal to the level of the friday puzzle without being so jargon-y.