SATURDAY, July 11, 2009—John Farmer

THEME: No theme today—Just a themeless Saturday puzzle with some cool fill

This puzzle's got three real people's full names—all people whose first or last names pop up singly fairly often in crosswords, but John's classed up the joint by given these folks the full name treatment. There's 17A: "Night" writer (ELIE WIESEL), whose last name is usually consigned to the clues because that delicious 75%-vowels first name is so popular in crosswords. Then we have 14D: 1922 physics Nobelist (NIELS BOHR), who also has a grid-friendly first name. And rounding out the trio is 10D: "Naughty Marietta" costar (1935) (NELSON EDDY). I've never heard of Naughty Marietta, but Marietta is my brother-in-law's mom's name so I'll bet she knows of it. Poor thing. Nelson is not my favorite Eddy, though:

More highlights below—but first, Crosswordese 101! I couldn't be more excited to have a hardcore old-school crosswordese prefix to tell you about.

Crosswordese 101: OENO- is a prefix referring to wine, and it's given a good clue here: 36A: Cellar prefix. If you're anything like me, your eye filled in a couple more letters and had you thinking it said "cellular prefix." OENO is pronounced like Brian Eno, and the most common clue key words you'll encounter include vintner's, sommelier's, Napa, or wine lover's prefix.

Favorite answers and clues: School's out. Now, back to the party.

This is the sort of themeless grid pattern I prefer—all four corners having 9-, 10-, or 11-letter answers stacked together. The total word count, 72, is the maximum allowed for a themeless puzzle, but that doesn't mean we should disdain it as "just barely making the grade." On the contrary—a 72-worder is typically easier for the constructor to fill than a puzzle with a lower word count is, so there's more wiggle room to play around with the fill. The result, if you're lucky, is a puzzle that's so fresh, it may need to be slapped. This one's not off the charts with its freshness, but it's definitely got fun packed into it. Here's the stuff that pleased me:

  • 15A: Comic strip guy with an eye patch (BAZOOKA JOE). One Z, one K, one J? Super-Scrabbly phrase. Evocations of childhood bubblegum? Oh, yes. The sort of thing that we see in lots of crosswords? I wish.
  • 32A: Marked by obscenities, say (RATED R). The multi-part answers in which one part is a single letter are tricky. Saturday + tricky = recipe for happiness (or extreme frustration, depending on your mood).
  • 37A: "Don't change a thing!" ("I LOVE IT!"). Zippy spoken phrase, makes me think of those TV commercials they had promoting, if memory serves, L.A. tourism. All the people shouting "I love it!" or "We love it!"—remember those?
  • 39A: "Composer" of "Fanfare for the Common Cold" (P.D.Q. BACH). Can't say I've ever had any interest in P.D.Q. Bach, but that is an awesome name to drop in a crossword, and the composition's title is funny.
  • 56A: "Anna and the King" actress Ling (BAI). I haven't actually seen any of Bai Ling's work, but her insane fashion choices as documented by Go Fug Yourself amuse me. Yes, those are message bandaids on her shins. They read "The Hit Song" and "China Girl." She's done the message bandaids more than once.
  • 60A: Battle fatigue? (RUN ON EMPTY). I kept reading the clue as a noun phrase, but it's the verb phrase. If you're battling fatigue, you're running on empty.
  • 65A: Sign of possession (APOSTROPHE). Aaah! Love that clue. I was thinking of demonic possession, not grammatical.
  • 12D: Fast-food combo order (VALUE MEAL). In these recessionary times, everyone loves the VALUE MEAL.
  • 27D: Have a problem ordering sirloin steak? (LISP). That's a thirloin thteak, then.
  • 51D: Longstocking of kids' books (PIPPI). I loved the Pippi books and movies when I was a kid. Here's the beginning of the 1973 movie:

Everything Else — 1A: Tightens the screws (CLAMPS DOWN); 11A: One of the Karamazovs (IVAN); 16A: Indonesian island (BALI); 18A: Fashion issue (ELLE); 19A: Awesome (RAD); 20A: Uncle of Prince Wm. (EDW.); 21A: Kind of identity (SEXUAL); 23A: Curse (SWEAR); 25A: Acrylic from DuPont (ORLON); 28A: Visitors from afar? (ETS); 29A: Breathing heavily, perhaps (LABORING); 31A: __ rule (MOB); 35A: Mariner's dir. (SSE); 41A: Slalom feature (GATE); 42A: 49-Across product (TEA); 44A: Pistol-packing pacer (DUELER); 45A: U.K. honor (OBE); 46A: Suspicious looks (FISHEYES); 48A: Skip (LAM); 49A: State in northeast India (ASSAM); 50A: Fix, as a reed instrument (REPAD); 54A: Sci-fi psychic (EMPATH); 56A: "Anna and the King" actress Ling (BAI); 58A: Workers' rights gp. since 1919 (ILO); 59A: Mexican kin (TIOS); 64A: Rumors (TALK); 66A: Singles (ONES); 67A: Cats' get-together (JAM SESSION); 1D: Some radio users (CBERS); 2D: TV drama whose title appeared on a California license plate (L.A. LAW); 3D: Sodium __: salt used in airbag systems (AZIDE); 4D: Stooge with bangs (MOE); 5D: Coca-Cola quencher (POWERADE); 6D: Icy road risk (SKID); 7D: Korean automaker bought by GM (DAEWOO); 8D: IHOP orders (OJS); 9D: Trouble (WOE); 11D: Alpine goat (IBEX); 13D: Just like that (ALL AT ONCE); 22D: College dept. (ENG.); 24D: Naproxen brand (ALEVE); 26D: Santa Fe et al.: Abbr. (RRS); 30D: Former dominion that included India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (BRITISH RAJ); 32D: Verdi classic (RIGOLETTO); 33D: Hank Aaron, by birth (ALABAMIAN); 34D: Family tree? (TOTEM POLE); 36D: Large and then some (OBESE); 38D: Mystery novelist Gerritsen (TESS); 40D: They want to know (QUERIERS); 43D: Solution reaction (AHA); 46D: Budgetary excess (FAT); 47D: Adorn in relief (EMBOSS); 52D: Notwithstanding that, informally (ALTHO); 53D: Elder statesman (DOYEN); 55D: Names, as a price (ASKS); 57D: Chamber opening? (ANTE-); 61D: Put __ fight (UP A); 62D: Pierre, e.g. (NOM); 63D: Perps' patterns (MOS).


Crockett1947 said...

Thanks for the write-up, Orange. Tough puzzle with lots of great words. And, it's a Pangram as well.

mac said...

Nice puzzle and write-up! Thanks for the Pippi clip, Orange, it brought back lots of nice memories, as did Bazooka Joe! I can taste that flavor now. The little cartoons were translated into Dutch.

I also like the "Apostrophe" clue, and the thirloin one.

Good start of the day! I'm saving the NYT for lunch.

Carol said...

A challenge! Good Saturday puzzle. Was stuck on Hank Aaron for quite awhile, but finally sank in!

Liked the cellar prefix. Was thinking wine cellar but took awhile to come up with oeno for some reason.

Good write-up.

shrub5 said...

Challenging and satisfying puzzle!
Seems like I see the word "doyenne" frequently, but "DOYEN" not at all. (?)
Both FAT and OBESE appear in the puzzle -- also LABORING. Think I'll go out and walk off my breakfast....

gjelizabeth said...

Terrific puzzle and write-up! I had leaVEIT for ILOVEIT and dirt for TALK which slowed the left side down considerably as well as the wrong uncle for Prince Wm. so the middle top was blank for a while. Especially liked "Pistol-packing pacer" and "Have a problem ordering sirloin steak?".
A usage note on DOYEN: I do encounter this in the fem. form (Doyenne) in my reading, in reference to elderly stage and fashion figures usually, but I don't think I've ever seen it in the masc. form. I accept that DOYEN is a legitimate usage and wonder if others have encountered it?

jeff in chicago said...

Fun! Lots of great cluing. Several already mentioned, and I really like "Cats' get-together" and "Family tree?" I, too, had LEAVEIT for a while. I thought TALK was a good answer for "Rumors," which made me want the answer to be plural.

As I put in my final letter I looked at the clock and thought: "Wow! By far my best Saturday NYT time EVER!" Then I remembered which puzzle I was doing. I usually do the NYT first (or, rather, fail the NYT first) but when I went to the NYT puzzle I discovered it's renew-subscription day, but I really wanted to feed my puzzle jones, so I jumped here. (Wow...that was a really boring little story. Sorry!)

Joon said...

everything a saturday LAT should be. fabulous fill, some great cluing, and challenging but not ridiculously so. great work, john (and rich)!

PuzzleGirl said...

Awesome puzzle today. I couldn't finish it in one sitting — the SW corner gave me too much trouble — but I really liked it!

I smiled when I filled in BAZOOKA JOE and PIPPI. PuzzleDaughter is totally into Pippi right now. A friend of mine said, "She's a great role model; she can pick up her horse!"

The only clunker was QUERIERS, but all's forgiven because it gave us PDQ BACH, who was big in my house when I was a kid. Super funny stuff. I think the guy who "invented" him — Peter Schickele (sp?) — is/was from South Dakota.

Gareth Bain said...

I just loved this themeless! Clues for APOSTROPHE and LISP are sublime, as are the entries BAZOOKAJOE (even if I hadn't heard of it, it just looks great), VALUEMEAL and BRITISHRAJ. Pretty much nothing icky, except, as PG said QUERIERS... On the back of Farmer's equally impresive high-word count themeless in the NYT a few weeks back, don't ask the date...

But couldn't you've given us "Hope Joanna" or "I don't wanna Dance" for Eddy Grant, I'm being fussy I know. Anyone noticed if you were to put BAILING in a crossword it looks rather odd...

Anonymous said...

By far the best LAT puzzle of the week. Really great cluing as well. I wish the LAT would add a Friday themeless as the themed puzzles are, for the most, boring and way too easy.

Nice work John !

Gary Lowe said...

Good thing I got BAZOOKAJOE without hesitating, otherwise I would have been lost.

Now I know what's in an airbag, cuz from experience I know it is the farthest thing in the world from 'air'. Hot, acrid, and smoky, it's bit unnerving - and it manifests as the curious final insult to the senses, in a staccato succession of 'ohcrap-screech-BANG-POW...WTF? I thought it was AIR in these things?'

john farmer said...

I was looking through the clues this morning to see what was changed. I couldn't figure out "Battle fatigue?" so I thought something in the grid must have been redone. But no. Same answer. I still couldn't get it for a while. That's a heckuva clue. Nice work, Rich, who also added many other nice touches (even if the ELIE clue was on the easy side for a themeless).

Thanks for the feedback, folks. I appreciate your comments.

Orange said...

@Gary, is there a crossword theme in that?

Denise said...

Great puzzle and supper blog --- "Pippi" made my day.

Brendan Emmett Quigley said...

This one was a winner, and IMHO, superior to the NY Times.

KarmaSartre said...

Great puzzle John. Like Orange, I loved the ' clue. Can't remember last time I was that misdirected.

I adored Eddy Grant's "Romancing the Stone" song. They only used about 12 nano-seconds of it in the movie.

Gary Lowe said...

Orange - because I'm desperatley parsing a quote for symmetry right now, I laughed at your comment. "What the hell, just quote myself and be careful what I say".

Or, "First part of an imminent accident, perhaps" HITTHEBINDERS (13); "Second part of n-A" SHITTHATWASLOUD (15)

I feel 85 dollars richer already!

Or perhaps you were thinking ...?

mac said...

@Gary Lowe: ever thought of stand-up comedy? I hear it pays better!

embien said...

I do believe this was my favorite LA Times puzzle so far this year. Lots of zippy fill; a pangram; what more could one ask of a themeless?

Thanks John Farmer!

Joon said...

holy crap, gareth. BAI LING = BAILING is remarkable. i guess that means she'll have to get waaaaaay more famous before her full name is ever clued in reference to her.

curiously, the word BAILING seems to be absent from the major puzzle databases. i wonder why it hasn't been used.

Crockett1947 said...

@PuzzleGirl. Peter Schieckle is the adjunct professor of music at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, if memory serves.