FRIDAY, August 7, 2009 — Gareth Bain

Are you guys sick of me yet? Rex is off on vacation today. I think he'll be updating his own blog today but asked me to cover for him here. Orange is scheduled to be back here (and at her own blog) tomorrow, so we can all look forward to that!

Super-quick write-up again today. I have a doctor's appointment this morning that I totally forgot about. Bad day to forget about a filled up 2-hour chunk of time. I'm putting PuzzleKids on a plane this afternoon to go visit their grandma in New Mexico. They're traveling "unaccompanied" so we have to get there early and I can't leave the airport until their plane is in the air. So there goes my afternoon. (Just observing, not complaining. I'm glad they have policies in place that ensure they'll take good care of my babies!)

Theme: TERrific — Theme answers are familiar phrases with the letters TER tacked onto the end creating new wacky phrases which are clued "?"-style.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Megaphone for a ghost? (BOO BOOSTER).
  • 27A: Fault-finding artist? (NAGGING PAINTER).
  • 44A: Reason to bring in a relief pitcher? (FALLING STARTER).
  • 58A: Drunk-as-a-skunk skunk? (LIT CRITTER).
LIT CRITTER was the first theme answer I got, but the rest of them were difficult for me to figure out. It could just be that I was still sleep-deprived and not totally there, but even looking at the puzzle this morning the theme answers look a little ... awkward. That's not true — not all of them do. FALLING STARTER is awesome, although it was the toughest for me to get because I wanted the 39A: Stereotypical escapee's tool to be a pick. Actually, I wanted it to be a spoon, but that had too many letters. I also mistakenly entered Ada where IDA was supposed to be (35A: Mount in Crete). So you can see why I had a little trouble over there. I knew the theme answer had to start with FALLING, but I just couldn't get it to work for quite a while. BOO BOOSTER is an okay resulting phrase, but I don't like how the original phrase is arbitrarily plural when the other theme answers aren't. ("One of these things is not like the other...")

What else?
  • 10A: "Goodbye, Columbus" author (ROTH). That's Philip Roth, right? I enjoyed his The Plot Against America.
  • 15A: Senate garb (TOGA). HAha. Hope they mean ancient Romans here and not, for example, Arlen Specter.
  • 20A: Part of a flight (STEP). I've seen this clue several times lately and — finally! — it didn't confuse me. (The answer could be stair, by the way.)
  • 38A: Programme shower (BBC). If you just can't make sense of a clue, see if one of the words can be pronounced a different way than you're thinking.
  • 2D: __ suiter: '40s dude (ZOOT). It's a good look.
  • 4D: Wikipedia article, e.g. (WEBPAGE). I had a pleasant "aha!" moment with this one. (Sometimes "aha!" moments aren't pleasant. Or maybe those aren't really "aha!" moments but [groan] moments instead. Not enough time to do an in-depth analysis right now!)
  • 5D: Words on an initial reference volume (A TO). The first volume of a series might be captioned, for example, A TO F. Next would be G to O. Then P to Z.
  • 11D: Offered (ON THE TABLE). This is a pretty sparkly clue/answer pair.
  • 18D: Katz of "Dallas" (OMRI). Wow. No idea. He's been in a couple things this millennium but nothing I've actually heard of.
  • 25D: Actor Tognazzi (UGO). Another "huh?" for me.
  • 50D: Lion tamer's prop (HOOP). With the P in place, I wanted whip here. But OGEE (61A: S-shaped molding) straightened that out.
  • 56D: Falklands War gun (BREN). If someone could 'splain the different between a BREN and a STEN, that would be awesome.
  • 60D: "Hope __ good breakfast": Bacon (IS A). Ya know what else is a good breakfast? Bacon. (Thank you very much, I'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip your bartenders and waitresses.
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Everything Else — 1A: Longtime Boston Symphony conductor (OZAWA); 6A: Pack (CRAM); 14A: Rental sign (TO LET); 16A: Grammy winner for the New Age album "Amarantine" (ENYA); 19A: Key not used by itself (CTRL); 21A: Mike holders (MCS); 22A: "Over here!" ("YOO-HOO!"); 24A: Special something (AURA); 26A: Fill (with) (IMBUE); 32A: San __, Calif. (MATEO); 33A: Negative link (NOR); 34A: Far from exciting (TAME); 36A: Questionable (SHADY); 41A: Released (OUT); 42A: Speck in the ocean (ISLET); 48A: Refreshing spot (OASIS); 49A: City on the Irtysh River (OMSK); 50A: Talk incessantly about (HARP ON); 52A: Novelist Grafton (SUE); 53A: Foot in a line (IAMB); 57A: GM line until 2004 (OLDS); 62A: Oratorio highlight (ARIA); 63A: Put away (STORE); 64A: Pal in a Stetson (PARD); 65A: Tip off (WARN); 66A: White poplar, e.g. (ASPEN); 1D: Gambling outlets, for short (OTBS); 3D: Flowering succulent (ALOE); 6D: Diagnostic pic (CT SCAN); 7D: Gets spoiled (ROTS); 8D: Just a number, it's said (AGE); 9D: Gospel duo with the single "Shackles" (MARY MARY); 10D: Election extender (RECOUNT); 12D: First-timer (TYRO); 13D: Saintly symbol (HALO); 23D: Sash traditionally tied with a bow (OBI); 26D: Apple in your pocket (IPOD); 27D: First name in Olympics perfection (NADIA); 28D: One difficult task (A TALL ORDER); 29D: Pesky swarm (GNATS); 30D: Fireplace bit (EMBER); 31D: Geometric fig. (RECT.); 32D: Rub the wrong way (MIFF); 36D: Acquired kin (SON-IN-LAW); 37D: Follows tightly, as a curve (HUGS); 40D: Slipped by (ELAPSED); 42D: Stimulus check org. (IRS); 43D: Nevis's sister island (ST. KITTS); 45D: Prefix with therm (ISO-); 46D: Froot Loops mascot (TOUCAN); 47D: Made in the U.S. (AMER.); 51D: Rootless plant (ALGA); 52D: Move a muscle (STIR); 54D: On the crest of (ATOP); 55D: Like mortals? (MERE); 59D: "Mad About You" cousin (IRA).


Unknown said...

Fun puzzle today! My paper only publishes the puzzle's theme on Sundays...is that unusual? Or are you supposed to figure the theme out other days? I'm a newbie and it sure would help to know the theme when starting. I had to get several today to see the "-ter" connection, and had I known the theme I think it would have been obvious after the first one.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Good puzzle! Harder than NYT today.

Eddie Q said...

Does it bother anyone else that ALGA is clued as a plant? Yes, it photosynthesises like a plant, but its in a completely different Kingdom!! Maybe its just me.

Joon said...

you'll be here all week? don't you mean you have been here all week! not that i'm complaining, mind. you're a mensch! you've been doing yeomensch's work filling in at all the blogs.

eddie, it didn't bother me until you pointed it out, but you're right. ALGA is not a plant at all.

still, nice puzzle. i learned OMRI katz and UGO tognazzi from crosswords, so maybe one or both could be featured in a CW101 some day.

Anonymous said...

I think the theme goes like this: boo boo, nagging pain, falling star, lit crit. . .anyone else?

Carol said...

Had trouble with the SW corner until I finally got hoop - duh. Also, since I never bought cereal for my kids with a high sugar count and lots of artificial coloring, had no clue as to the mascot of Froot Loops. The thought of all those crayon colors floating in milk is enough to make me nauseous!

Thanks for the write-ups, PG, you're doing quite a great job with all your obligations!

Gareth Bain said...

A few notes (if you'll indulge me):
I had FALLINGSTARTER as "Result of a waiter's trip?" - I don't understand Rich Norris' clue, but that's par for the course with baseball. I'll take your word his is awesome though.
ALGA - I had clued as the Saharan "Photosynthetic organism" - fairly sure for every inaccuracy Rich Norris introduces to a crossword he removes about a hundred, and it's still sort of correct.
Oh and huge thanks to Nancy Salomon for help and feedback on this puzzle! And most importantly for NAGGINGPAINTER - I had PHANTOMPAINTER ("Casper's portraitist?") - I wasn't too happy with that as a base phrase...

Anonymous said...

Had "failing" STARTER for way too long before finally getting it with HOOP (also wanted whip) and HARPON. I still think failing starter makes more sense. Knew Mt.IDA because that is also the name of the area in Troy, NY where the Emma Willard School is located. Good job this week, PG! Big plans with the kids away?

Anonymous said...

18 Down is OMRI. 21 Across is MC. The graphic has this wrong.

Anonymous said...

PG got it right (OMRI) as mentioned in her write-up. The puzzle as printed was incorrect.

John said...

Puzzlegirl, How do you do it? If Orange or Rex is in a bad mood Yyou know it immediatly. But You seem your same chipper self all the time! Amazing!! Thanks for all the great write-ups!!

James said...

Actually Gareth, FALLINGSTARTER is not baseball lingo that I am familiar with. A FAILINGSTARTER maybe, or an INJUREDSTARTER, but those are definitely not familiar phrases after we lose the -TER.

Also, "par for the course for baseball," I love it!


Bacon is correct, but finishing a crossword puzzle IS A GOOD BREAKFAST too. Too bad I didn't enjoy this one very much.

I had NAGYINGPAINTER (27a) which I thought was much more funny. You know, John Nagy the TV artist? Do a Google search on "Nagy painter" and see how many artists are named Nagy...Wow!

I thought the Falklands War gun (56d) was a STEN, but oh well the cross to IAMB wouldn't work that way.

Some pretty worn out clues like, STEP, ENYA, IDA, OMSK, OGEE, ARIA AURA, ALOE, TYRO... yattita-yattita... Mr. Bain, let's bring out some new stuff!

And your TERrific theme was TERrible !

Putting Gareth Bain on my DO-NOT-DO list.

But Puzzlegirl, you'll always be tops on my blogger list. Thank you for redeeming a TERatoid puzzle.
You always do a great job, even when you're in a hurry.

Anonymous said...

Not a terrible puzzle, but not a great one either. No problem solving it, but it lacked any sort of flow because of clunky cluing and fill. Nothing jumped out at me that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

A really annoying puzzle. I HATED it!! What a waste of paper..

shrub5 said...

I had a little trouble with 19)A Key not used by itself (CTRL.) Figured that I had something quite wrong until [d'oh] it came to me.

MERE (like mortals) and HUGS (follows tightly, as a curve) were amusing.

As @Eddie Q noted above, referring to ALGA as a plant is just plain wrong. Likewise, fungi (e.g., yeasts, molds, mushrooms) are not in the plant kingdom.

IPOD for 26D made me think of the Mae West line.....revised for the 21st century: "Is that an IPOD in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"

I enjoyed the puzzle although I thought it was a bit easy for a Friday. @Gareth Bain: Thanks for coming to this site with your comments. It's always great to hear from constructors.

Crockett1947 said...

Dorothy, the theme is something our illustrious bloggers come up with after solving the puzzle. It is in no way "official," but ties the theme entries together in some manner. Sunday is the only puzzle that has a published theme, and I find it somewhat cryptic at times.

Sfingi said...

So, the yoohoo, booboo and litcrit reduplications were meaningless? I'm not there, yet.

@Johnsnever home - yes Nagy; a thing with artists or Hungarians would be good. Yes, worn out words.

Got fatally hung up on PARD. Thought it should be an abbrev.
for pardner.

@Dorothy Yes, the theme is not given during the week. It is, in USA Today, which I don't think is as bad as Rex says.


Here's one for Crosswordese101:
An IAMB (53a) (or iambus) is a metrical foot used in various types of poetry. Originally the term referred to one of the feet of the quantitative meter of classical Greek prosody: a short syllable followed by a long syllable (as in i-amb). This terminology was adopted in the description of accentual-syllabic verse in English, where it refers to a foot comprising an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (as in a-bove).
I keep seeing this mysterious IAMB thing in crosswords and so I decided to do a little Wikipedia "research" on this.

*David* said...

A bit late to the party, took me as long as a typical Friday but the theme did nothing for me. The clueing was well-done but the fill felt like a rehash of many things seen before.

Probably favorite clue was for NADIA, seeing the IN-LAWs on a Friday did nothing to improve my mood.

Anonymous said...

Not too bad for a Friday, I know it could have been much worse but I didn't get a big smile on my face.

Denise said...

Thanks for everything, Puzzle Girl!

The puzzle felt uneven to me, and I still don't think the theme answers quite "work."

Just my opinion.

GLowe said...

Good puzzle, your comment about Nancy is understood and appreciated - she's taken out the trash on my projects before, too.

ddbmc said...

As a newbie, hadn't come across Omsk yet; tyro was in a puzzle a week or so back; "alga" clue was definitely misleading, but got it in the crosses. Once I got toga, couldn't stop thinking about John Belushi et al in "Animal House!" "To-ga! To-ga!"
@JohnsNH, thanks for the I-amb explanation.
John Nagy painting kits were followed by Bob Ross's painting techniques. (RIP)

@PG, hope the kids made it to NM ok! Had to do that with my kids once, and it's nerve wracking until they are safe at the other end! Great job this week-esp. after losing sleep from the "American Idol" trip! (What will they do without Paula???)

Howard B said...

Quick note, none of the finishing phrases with -TER have to be "in the language"; that's part of the wordplay of the puzzle. The "in the language" phrases are those before the -TER addition.

So FALLING STAR is a completely legitimate phrase, which becomes the sillier FALLING STARTER theme entry. The themes aren't supposed to be the "normal" part of this puzzle. Just my 1 1/2 cents, for those confuzzled by it :). ('Starter' is the regular baseball part of the answer).

Like it, dislike it, but stuff like IAMB and OGEE will invariably pop up here and there; it helps to recognize them when they rear their heads. Ideally, you don't like to see much of them, but they do offer a toehold once you're aware of them. (I've seen ENYA more than enough times, personally).

Anonymous said...

I thought all the themed answers were fine (booboos, nagging pain, falling star) except for 58A (lit crit). I presume "crit" means "critic," but, since the other answers do not contain abbreviations, the integrity of 58A suffers a bit. Just me or what?

Anonymous said...

I agree about "lit crit." I understood what it meant, but didn't think it qualified as a commonly used phrase in the same way as "booboos" or "falling star."

PuzzleGirl said...

Hey, everyone. Finally have a minute to sit down today in a place other than the car. Fortunately, PuzzleGirl's Taxi Service is taking a vacation!

@dorothy: I just wanted to expand briefly on the answers you got about the theme. My co-bloggers and I typically come up with some kind of name for the theme. The theme itself is there, it's part of the puzzle, the constructor actually built the puzzle around it. But in the L.A. Times, the puzzle does not have a title except on Sundays. So we just make up a title. (Obviously, this does not apply to themeless puzzles, which generally run late in the week.)

@JOHNSNEVERHOME: I totally understand your feelings but hope you don't put constructors on your do-not-do list after only one bad experience. I have been disappointed by puzzles by some of my favorite constructors on occasion. Not often, or they wouldn't be my favorites! But definitely on occasion. And there are some constructors I just know I'm not going to like who surprise me once in a while.

@Howard B: Where the heck have you been? And, more importantly, will we be seeing you at Lollapuzzoola??

@Anonymice: "Lit crit" means "literary criticism." I think I would call it a genre. And it's always always always referred to as "lit crit" in conversation. That would be a conversation among, say, English majors. :-)

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, The clue for FALLING STARTER has nothing to do with Baseball! Think Waiter, appetitiser course as in "Starters".

Anonymous said...

"@Anonymice: "Lit crit" means "literary criticism." I think I would call it a genre. And it's always always always referred to as "lit crit" in conversation. That would be a conversation among, say, English majors. :-)"

Right ... but "falling star" and "booboos" aren't restricted to the conversation of a small subset of the population. I just don't think "lit crit" is common enough to be in the same company. Whatever, we (I did the puzzle w/ FIL) got it eventually, but that one really left me flat.

Charles Bogle said...

From Charles Bogle: A day late and a dollar short but I finished it and considered doing so a minor triumph. Agree w @*david* and @denise: "theme" answers left me "puzzled"

Loved AT

Anonymous said...

A STEN is a 9mm submachine gun; The one with the clip that sticks out the side. It was phased out of use in the 1960s

A BREN is a 7.62mm light machinegun. It's the one with the clip that sticks out the top. It had a service life of nearly 60 years being used from before WWII up to and including the 1991 Gulf War.