THURSDAY, July 30, 2009 — Fred Jackson III

Theme: "Today's theme is brought to you by the letter ..." — Theme answers are familiar phrases the first word of which is a homophone for a letter of the alphabet.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Photographer of a letter? (P SHOOTER). Pea shooter.
  • 26A: Letter's rest period? (T BREAK). Tea break. Is this a thing? Coffee break, okay. Tea break? Any Brits out there, please let me know.
  • 49A: Undercover operation to trap a letter? (B STING). Bee sting.
  • 56A: One who can't hold a letter? (I DROPPER). Eye dropper.
  • 10D: Letter out for a stroll? (J WALKING). Jaywalking.
  • 38D: Official in charge of a letter? (C CAPTAIN). Sea captain.
Vaguely theme-ish answers:
  • 51D: Future docs' exams (MCATS).
  • 54D: Times to attack (D-DAYS).
Crosswordese 101: To my knowledge, I have never ever heard an ENYA song. I also have no desire to hear an ENYA song. I'm sure her songs are lovely, but her music is apparently not my thing. She is a New Age artist, she is from Ireland, she has won several Grammys, and her songs include "Paint the Sky With Stars," "Watermark," "A Day Without Rain," "Caribbean Blue" and today's 58D: "Orinoco Flow."

This puzzle seemed a little more difficult than what we've been getting lately from the L.A. Times. I haven't been timing myself regularly on the LAT, but I did today and I ended up right at my average time for a Wednesday N.Y. Times puzzle. I guess it seemed more difficult to me because I scanned through the acrosses and didn't have many gimmes. Once I found a couple places to get a foothold, it all came together pretty nicely, but I almost had that Saturday "Oh crap! Look at all these empty boxes!" feeling for a while.

There were a couple clunkers and I sure would be remiss not to point them out to you. First in line is AGER (19A: Stress, it's said). Now this isn't horrible fill, it's just an awkward clue. I would prefer a fill-in-the-blank clue ("Golden ___" or "Teen___") to this one. Next is UNROBE (4D: Strip), which is a mash-up of UNdress and disROBE. Finally, if this is the first time you've encountered AGIN' (35D: Opposin') in the puzzle I just want to say I feel your pain. It's awful, but you'll just need to find a way to accept it and move on because you're going to see it again. I learned a long time ago that you can accept the way things are kicking and screaming, or you can accept the way things are without kicking and screaming, but those are your only two choices. So let's just see if we can minimize the kicking and screaming, okay?

Oh but there are some gems here too! For example, RICKETY! (25A: Ready to collapse.) Pretty sure I've never seen this word in a puzzle and it's awesome. Also CURTSY (55A: Respectful gesture). That word is so good I'm not even mad that I initially entered salute. Hmmm .... I wonder if Orange has ever curtsied ....

What else?
  • 10A: Singer Joan (JETT). Raise your hand if you entered Baez without even thinking about it.
  • 14A: Ex-TV host Stewart (ALANA). Is this Rod Stewart's wife? She had a show? Wikipedia says she hosted a 1995 talk show with her first husband, George Hamilton. Sorry I missed that one.
  • 18A: Speed Wagons, e.g. (REOS).

  • 17A: Hear again (RETRY). This one tripped me up. This refers to a trial judge hearing a case.
  • 41A: Nuts (over) (GAGA). I knew I was getting old when I would pick up the People magazine at the dentist's office and half the people in it were unrecognizable to me. Then there were these young women working in my office and I really didn't understand their shoes. And now there's Lady Gaga.
  • 60A: "Bess, You Is My Woman," e.g. (ARIA). Tricky! Did you know that "Porgy and Bess" is an opera? Well, ya do now!
  • 66A: Country singer Tucker (TANYA).

  • 12D: Twitter message (TWEET). Twitter's slogan should be "Because you don't waste enough time online." Speaking of Twitter....
[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else — 1A: [Snore] (HO HUM); 6A: Blow hard (HUFF); 15A: River to the Mediterranean (EBRO); 16A: Guitarist's effect (WAWA); 22A: Flea market figure (SELLER); 24A: Tops with cups (BRAS); 29A: Old Mughal Empire capital (DELHI); 30A: Suffix with glob (-ULE); 31A: Blocks that lock (LEGOS); 33A: At the ready (ON TAP); 37A: Rash preventer (TALC); 39A: Like some checking accounts (NO-FEE); 42A: Word before radio or wave (SHOCK); 44A: "I dunno" ("GOT ME"); 46A: Mark, as a ballot (X IN); 47A: Shady retreat (ARBOR); 51A: Crow relatives (MAGPIES); 54A: Like Burbank City Hall, for short (DECO); 61A: Muskogee's st. (OKLA.); 63A: Heavy herbivore (RHINO); 64A: Suspense novelist Hoag (TAMI); 65A: Meddling (NOSY); 67A: Witnessed (SEEN); 68A: Muchas horas (DÍAS); 69A: Rile (up) (STEAM); 1D: Dwell (on) (HARP); 2D: Cheers at some World Cup games (OLÉS); 3D: "Hell __ no fury ..." (HATH); 5D: Like some elections (MAYORAL); 6D: Toast opening (HERE'S); 7D: Slangy prefix meaning "super" (UBER-); 8D: One way to sway (FRO); 9D: Dig discovery (FOSSIL); 11D: Apollo 11 module (EAGLE); 13D: Linger (TARRY); 21D: Unavailable (TAKEN); 23D: Return call? (ECHO); 25D: Pedometer button (RESET); 26D: Sounds of rebuke (TUTS); 27D: Eliciting a "So what?" (BLAH); 28D: Possible result of a job change, for short (RELO); 29D: Attend the needs of (DO FOR); 32D: "We Got the Beat" band, with "The" (GO-GOS); 34D: Part of a pickup line? (TAXI); 36D: Remorseful feeling (PANG); 40D: Cookout remnant (EMBER); 43D: Barbra's "A Star Is Born" costar (KRIS); 45D: Accompanists? (ESCORTS); 48D: Not within reach of (BEYOND); 50D: Signature wear for Astaire (TOP HAT); 52D: Surrounding glows (AURAE); 53D: Mr. Clean target (GRIME); 56D: "Casablanca" role (ILSA); 57D: Cabinet wood (PINE); 59D: Itinerate (ROAM); 62D: Colorful carp (KOI).


shrub5 said...

I just loved this puzzle! However, I got off to a very slow start by immediately plopping down two wrong answers: BAEZ for singer Joan (my hand is raised) and OMAR for Barbra's costar (I had "A Star is Born" confused with "Funny Girl"). Moved on to the other Joan which led to my first theme answer JWALKING. Then things began to go better for me; knowing the theme helped a bunch thereafter.

Lots of fresh clues in this puzzle. I especially liked those for HARP, WAWA, TAXI, FRO. I had AURAS before changing to the other (I now know) acceptable plural AURAE.

@PG: I have to comment on two of the pictures up there. #1: I'd really like to know the caption on the burly fellow curtsying and #2: what's with the combo Minnie Mouse-esque hairdo and the "I stuffed my upper torso into a motorcycle helmet" top on Ms. GAGA?

BYW, I feel the same about People magazine....and I SUBSCRIBE!!!!!

Anonymous said...

This was fun! I usually try to do the puzzle without finding the theme because, for me, that is harder, but I needed it today. After I got PSHOOTER it all came together. Hand up for Baez instead of JETT. I think AGIN is legitimate and still used in some rural areas. Favorite clue 34d -Part of a pickup line? TAXI.

John said...

Hand up for BAEZ. Joni Mitchell sang "Big Yellow TAXI"

A really lite and fun puzzle!

Great write up! Have a Funderful Day!

Anonymous said...

Hand up for Baez! Got Jett later on.

Anonymous said...

RICKETY was clever which led to TARRY which threw out Baez and resulted in JETT. Best pickup line -- Having moved the previous week 500 miles away from home, a young man in the supermarket approached me and asked "Don't I know your Mother?" It was so bizzare but original (and a little creepy, but he was so cute) so I went out with him.

Carol said...

My hand is up with everyone else's. Do listen to Enya and really like it even if New Age and I'm definitely old!

UNROBE - ugh! Guess you have to stretch things some times to get the puzzle done.

Where do you find these pics! I'm still laughing!

Joon said...

my hand is down--luckily, i came at that corner from below, after i'd already picked up on the theme, so JWALKING was in place before i saw the clue. very cool puzzle; i just wish this one and the NYT hadn't run on the same day, but of course that's nobody's fault. life is just odd like that.

Anonymous said...

An interesting LAT theme puzzle for a change. Rickety was a fun clue, and I can't remember seeing curtsy in quite a while. A few places where either the clue or fill were awkward, but all in all a fun solve. I picked up the theme early, but I imagine for those who didn't it would have been a little tougher slog.

Anonymous said...

I thought J Walking was the best of the letter clues and made about the most sense to me (literally) I figured Baez was too "dated" to fit in this puzzle so Jett came right away.


A very fun puzzle, and again I say, "Puzzlegirl's blog is even more entertaining than the puzzle itself."

This was a puzzle that I wished would go on and on, with all the letters of the alphabet.

Had to think a bit when it came to SHOCK radio... guess I'm just not hip to the Sirius thing and Howard Stern.

"Tops with cups", BRAS (24a) got a huge LOL from me.

Another funny clue, "part of a pickup line", TAXI (34d).

Thank you, Fred Jackson III, for making my breakfast time a chuckler, and not just a chucker.

PurpleGuy said...

I agree that the writeup from PuzzleGirl was very entertaining. I'm sorry to say, but I enjoyed the writeup much more than the puzzle.
It didn't do anything for me. Rather meh.

ddbmc said...

I actually liked today's puzzle. Guess I'm easily entertained! @PG, the curtsy picture elicited that diddy: "What does a Scottie wear"....etc. Not pretty! Jwalking-tried to do it as Jay, as in Leno's bits, but that didn't fit, then got the theme. Hand up for Baez, but got the T for tarry and everything flowed. There are Wawa markets in central Jersey....Alana Stewart WAS married to G.Hamilton & Rod...never watched the show, which I think she actually did with George. Magpies love to pick up glittery things, maybe Lady GaGa? That isn't a flash light in her top, right? Just a flash bulb reflection?? Lil Aber! Lookin'fine agin! @PG, Enya's music was featured in Irish Tourism Board ads a few years back. Generally, any New "ager" stuff is Yanni, her or Tesh... prefer rock myself.

gjelizabeth said...

Loved this puzzle. It took me 1 hour and 40 seconds to do online, though that included jiggling my sweet grandbaby. However, despite the long minutes staring perpexedly at the screen and mentally sorting through the alphabet I finished without googling. Particularly liked GAGA as that's what my grandbaby calls me (or will after she gets past the ga ga ga ga ga ga ga stage). Thank you Fred Jackson III and thank you Puzzlegirl.
Some of my original missteps: ashes for EMBER; federal for MAYORAL; tsks for TUTS. You can see why it took me an hour.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with purple guy! I always enjoy the write ups, especially when the puzzle is a bit out of reach.

*David* said...

My experience was similar to PGs so I moved around and it all came together pretty quickly except the NE where I had CARP for 1D. Enjoyed the puzzle with a couple of clunkers but overall good times for a Thursday.

My first Joan is always Jett but it helps when you already have the J.

Jimmie said...

Great puzzle and blog. But what are the rules concerning brackets as in 1A? Do brackets mean example? or e.g.? or as in? or what, exactly?

Joon said...

jimmie, the brackets mean that the word inside is to be interpreted as a gesture, rather than a spoken word. in this case, saying "HO HUM" is essentially equivalent to snoring. the clue can't be


because that's a verb (or noun), and HO-HUM is an adjective. and the clue can't be


because you wouldn't literally say "Snore" to indicate boredom; instead, you'd actually snore.

chefwen said...

I'm just wondering how often I am going to get messed up with tsks for TUTS and auras for AURAE, seem to fall into that trap every time. Now I'll start doing the opposite and get messed up in reverse.

Had TWEET in so I didn't fall into the Baez trap.

Fun puzzle, all went down smoothly. Thank you Mr. Jackson III.

KJGooster said...

@PG: I'll bet you've heard Orinoco Flow (Sail Away) even if you didn't know it was Enya -- that song was everywhere.

Had a little trouble in the W with TBREAK (what?), and I really wanted ICAPTAIN (Aye, captain!)

PurpleGuy said...

My biggest quibble, which I erroneously posted on the NYT blog, was with the clue for JWALKING.
That term is for crossing the street illegally between crosswalks or corners. It is not a stroll.
When I stroll, I don't JWALK.
Trust me. I've gotten a ticket for it !

Anonymous said...

As for 10A, didn't we just have "Baez" a few days ago? Went with "Jett" just to see what would happen, and it paid off. Anybody think 52D ("aurae") awkward? Wrote in "auras" with complete confidence, only to be proved wrong later on when I came to 67A.

Orange said...

@PurpleGuy: But the clue isn't about jaywalking. It's about the letter J going for a stroll. Similarly pea-shooters have nothing to do with photographing letters, but that's what's in the clue for P SHOOTER.

I have been jaywalking slowly lately thanks to the orthopedic boot. Luckily for me, the cops in Chicago don't seem to give many tickets for jaywalking. (It'd be nice if the traffic wouldn't accelerate, though. That's just mean.)

PuzzleGirl said...

@KJGooster: I just now this minute realized what song that is. I just needed the "Sail Away" part. And now it will be stuck in my head! Ugh!

PurpleGuy said...

@Orange- thanks for taking the time and patience to explain that to me.
I hereby retract my quibble !
As Emily Littella(Gilda Radner) would say-Nevermind !

My brain must have been on vacation today.
Hope it comes back tomorrow !

Jimmie said...

Joon: Thanks for the great explanation. I'm just learning the rules for CW, even though I been doin'em all my life.