SATURDAY, August 22, 2009—Peter J. Wentz

THEME: No theme today—Just a themeless Saturday puzzle

Hello! It is I, Orange, the sole member of the L.A. Crossword Confidential blogging team who has not gone to Queens for tomorrow's Lollapuzzoola 2 tournament. I was one of the test solvers, though, and the puzzles were a hoot, so I know that PuzzleGirl and Rex are in for a good time. The event's organizers, Brian Cimmet and Ryan Hecht, are themselves engaging hoots too. Maybe next year I'll lug the family to New York in August so I can make it to Lollapuzzoola 3.

I do like a themeless puzzle to be clued harder than this one is, but I thought Peter Wentz's fill felt rather like a Karen Tracey crossword—and she's one of my favorite themeless constructors. It's the combination of Scrabbly letters (eight Ks, four Js, one Z), people's names, and lively language.

Let's tackle our Crosswordese 101 lesson before moving on to today's zippiest fill.

Crosswordese 101: Let's see...ERLE and OLLA have already been covered, so let's go with presidential monograms. The only U.S. presidents widely referred to by initials are JFK, FDR, and LBJ (59A: War on Poverty monogram), but other presidents and presidental candidates get initialized in crosswords: namely DDE, or Dwight David Eisenhower, who beat AES, or Adlai Estes Stevenson. LBJ isn't today's crosswordese selection—nope, it's his successor, RMN, or Richard Milhous Nixon (34D: 1960 debate monogram). Does anyone refer to him as RMN outside crosswords? Not so much.

What are the zingiest names in the grid? These ones:
  • 14A: Role in the film "W." (JEB BUSH). Kinda unexpected to have a pop culture clue for a recent ex-governor.
  • 29A: "Cheers" actor (TED DANSON). Another first/last name combo, always cool to see in the grid.
  • 45A: Leader with a bouffant hairdo (KIM JONG-IL). "Bouffant"? My first thought was of the B52s:

  • 57A: Title host of a talk show featuring dance routines (ELLEN). That's Ms. DeGeneres, of course.
  • 62A: Big name at the Peppermint Lounge (JOEY DEE). No idea what this refers to. I may be too young for this one—and I just had a birthday a week ago, so I welcome opportunities to feel too young!
  • 1D: '80s William Shatner cop series (T.J. HOOKER). I never watched the show, but regardless, I can still appreciate the artistry of the show's title sequence:

  • 50D: "Crunk Juice" rapper (LIL JON). Here's a guy who likes to have fun with his image. The collision between KIM JONG-IL and LIL JON just might be my favorite crossing of the year.

Other fill that rocked:
  • 60A: Uses a MapQuest feature (ZOOMS IN). If you're still using MapQuest, do yourself a favor and move over to Google Maps. The photographic "street view" option is incredible, and I've seen a few nutty route suggestions at MapQuest.
  • 65A: Impressive way to walk? (ON WATER). The answer looks lousy by itself, but the clue makes it work.
  • The 39D/40D/41D trio is terrific. Words on some autobiographies are AS TOLD TO. The Stadium vendor's cry is "COLD BEER!" And an Unthinking reaction is a KNEE-JERK response.
Everything Else — 1A: "Bingo!" ("THAT'S IT!"); 8A: Corn piece (COB); 11A: Links standard (PAR); 15A: Griddle fare (HOECAKE); 17A: Went ape, like Bart Simpson (HAD A COW); 18A: Not pointless (ON TOPIC); 19A: Norfolk, Virginia, sch. (ODU); 20A: Flair (KNACK); 22A: Haunted castle sound (CLANK); 23A: It's a crock (OLLA); 25A: Contemporary of Agatha (ERLE); 26A: Bookstore section (HOW-TO); 27A: Firing places (KILNS); 31A: Perform on stage (ENACT); 32A: Kicks (FUN); 33A: Tries again, in court (REHEARS); 36A: Make good on (PAYBACK); 42A: Scrip spec (MED); 44A: Act of insurance fraud, perhaps (ARSON); 51A: Legal search subject (TITLE); 52A: Words after cut or close (A DEAL); 53A: Vacationer's accumulation, perhaps (MAIL); 55A: Style (MODE); 56A: Strict (RIGID); 64A: Down deep (AT HEART); 66A: Suffix with Marx (-ISM); 67A: "The Royal Tenenbaums" director Anderson (WES); 68A: Do some strategic schmoozing (NETWORK); 2D: Front-page grabber (HEADLINE); 3D: Name meaning "servant of God" (ABDULLAH); 4D: Sched. question mark (TBA); 5D: What toadies do, with "up" (SUCK); 6D: "That __ for the record books" (IS ONE); 7D: Block (THWART); 8D: Emotionally overcome (CHOKED UP); 9D: Suffix with ball (-OON); 10D: "You __!": "Certainly" (BETCHA); 11D: Fruit also called "prairie bananas" (PAPAWS); 12D: Very much like (AKIN TO); 13D: S'pose (RECKON); 16D: Time punctuation (COLON); 21D: Score symbol (CLEF); 24D: Suffix with govern (-ANCE); 28D: London's Victoria, e.g.: Abbr. (STA.); 30D: __ sequencing (DNA); 35D: Parts (SEGMENTS); 37D: China's Sun __-sen (YAT); 38D: Boater feature (BRIM); 43D: Regulating gadget (DIAL); 45D: Post-Taliban president (KARZAI); 46D: Fools (IDIOTS); 47D: Large unit of resistance (MEGOHM); 48D: "The Bionic Woman" __ Sommers (JAIME); 49D: Familiar adage (OLD SAW); 54D: West African currency (LEONE); 58D: "Contract With America" first name (NEWT); 61D: Face reddener (IRE); 63D: Deviate (YAW).


Jeffrey said...

Ok, I'll use Google maps to get to Lollapuzzoola. All the subways lead there, right? If I end up in New Jersey, its your fault.

How can there be a HOECAKE and a HOT CAKE?

Anonymous said...

I don't know why anyone would be up at 4:30 finishing the crossword, but I'm grateful. Saturday's crosswords leave me stumped and frustrated. Thanks for the help!

Barnfox said...

I learned, during a tour at Mount Vernon that, hoecakes were around during George Washington's time. They were made by heating the end of a hoe and then pouring on the cornmeal batter. This was cooked until done. I tasted one. Not bad but I'll take hotcakes.

Anonymous said...

Very nice puzzle with lots of fun fill and clues. More puzzles like this please !

PARSAN said...

My grandmother made HOECAKES on a regular stove and I had never heard the reason for their name. Interesting! It's pretty much the same recipe as corn pone(corn bread), only thinner and made like pancakes. Really good! I was so sure that 62a was (chubby) Checker so it took me forever to give it up. Vaguely remember hearing about JOEY DEE. The arch, KARZAI, KIMJONGIL, and LILJON really had me stumped. Didn't know ELLEN/dance connection and thought 54d was shell. Groan! Not my best Saturday.

Orange said...

@Anonymous 7:56—Exactly! I like what Peter Wentz has done with the themeless form.

@Anonymous 6:38: I'll let you in on a secret. I did the puzzle and wrote the post last night and scheduled it to publish at a respectable 7:30 Eastern time. (The blog's on Pacific time.)

Orange said...

By the way, I still haven't quite forgiven IHOP for having Corn Cake pancakes for a couple years and then discontinuing them. Those were so good! Rex liked them too. They were the official non-buttermilk pancake of the L.A. Crossword Confidential team.

ddbmc said...

@Crosscan, if you end up in NJ, you'll be fine! Good luck today at the LLPZZLA! #7 train out of Grand Central should take you to Queens...
Hot cake v. Hoe Cake-
How can there be a Bloody Mary AND a Bloody Caesar??? Same idea, different ingredients. (Love the Clammato juice and gherkin!)
@Orange-thanks for holding down the fort! Bouffant threw me off-wanted Diana Ross or B-52's. Got the whole northern part of the puzzle in record time and was feeling quite smug, then was stymied below the equator! So much for getting better on Saturdays! You're right about Google Maps--just checked out the Lollapuzzoola local and looks like a nice area to visit on a sunny day--however, it's pouring on and off in NYC today-no fun. Just discovered son headed out surfing. Praying he doesn't get caught in the rip tides! Gotta find more puzzles to do, so I don't worry.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 7:56—Exactly! I like what Peter Wentz has done with the themeless form.


I think this puzzle is one of my favorite LAT efforts in quite a while. The fill was lively and with quite a lot of stuff you don't ordinarily see. Agree about the Kim Jong Il/Lil John crossing was great as was that entire area of the puzzle. I don't believe I've ever solved a Wentz puzzle before. Enjoyed your writeup too !

Anonymous said...

Awesome fill and some great clues, just a bit too easy on the whole compared to most saturday puzzles.

shrub5 said...

I cruised along smoothly on this puzzle until I hit the wall in the SE corner. I placed KIKIDEE at the Peppermint Lounge. I could not recall which politician made the "Contract with America". When I finally got NETWORK, then NEWT came into focus. (BTW, I prefer this newt.) So then I knew KIKI was wrong. Because I wasn't getting anywhere here, I decided to move over to the SW corner where even more trouble was waiting for me. I was so pleased with myself that I got KARZAI and then with the K I attempted to put one of the endless spelling variants of KHADDAFFI at 45A. He has puffy hair, doesn't he? Well, of course this led to all kinds of mess over here, too. Eventually, all was resolved with a little wite-out, a little google (for the "Crunk Juice" rapper.)

As a left coast denizen, I wasn't up on my Virginia schools. OK, ODU = Old Dominion University. D'oh. I also learned that PAPAWS are prairie bananas. Never have eaten one. I thought BETCHA might come with a Sarah Palin reference. And this is the first I've seen of MEGOHM (looks like an "A" is missing on that word.)

This puzzle was super-fun, tough but doable with patience, and elicited several oohs, ahas, allrights and a few other noises. Thanks, Peter and a big thank you to Orange for your enlightening comments!

john farmer said...

MEGOHM was a topic on cruciverb-l a few months ago. Consensus was that that's the way the word is spelled, no problem in using it. The discussion had one very memorable line from John Lampkin: "...my current girlfriend was named Meg Ohm. Our relationship short-circuited when she put up too much resistance."

Very nice puzzle from Peter W. today. A little more resistance in the bottom than the top, for me.

edith b said...

If you are old enough to have down the Twist when it was new - early 60s - you may remember Joey Dee and the Starlighters as one of the early practioners along with Chubby Checker of that dance.

One of the first Rock n Rll dances that I learned as a young teen.

Greene said...

I really enjoyed this puzzle immensely and with a 20 minute solve time, just the right level of difficulty for me. Compare this with the 2+ hours spent on the NYT puzzle and I still couldn't finnish. Argh!

The whole KARZAI, KIM JONG-IL, LIL JON intersection was amazing and unexpected, as was cluing KIM JONG-IL via the bouffant doo. Too funny.

I had a bit of a senior moment with JAIME Sommers. I forgot for a time this was the character name. I couldn't get Lindsay Wagner out of my mind. Come to think of it, I couldn't get Lindsay Wagner out of my mind back in the 70s either.

@Orange: Joey Dee and The Starlighters were BIG in the early 1960s and The Peppermint Lounge in NYC was their venue (where they often performed with The Ronettes). There was actually a semi-bigraphical movie starring the group called Hey, Let's Twist which made The Peppermint Lounge world famous (for a time, anyway).

@EdithB: Weren't we cool back in the 1960s doing the twist?

Jerome said...

Peter- I've been solving crosswords for 30 years. Your puzzle today is one of my all-time favorites. Just magnificent!

choirwriter said...

@ddbmc, who said, "Got the whole northern part of the puzzle in record time and was feeling quite smug, then was stymied below the equator! So much for getting better on Saturdays!"

Exactly! I was so pleased with myself in the top half, and was even thinking critically that this was WAY too easy for a Saturday, when, Bam! Great clues in the bottom, though, and very clever. Loved walking on water and knee-jerk.

ninjohn said...

Not to get too technical, but MEGOHM = 1,000,000 Ohms. An OHM is resistence to current flow such that 1 Volt applied across a 1 Ohm load produces a 1 AMP curent flow - which is a lot of juice.

In the short circuit situation, you have no MEGOHM's and things go snap-crackle and the circuit breaker pops. In that scenario, your girlfriend would have little resistence and things would heat up quickly, until your breaker popped.

enlightenment through Crosswords!.

Sfingi said...

@ninjohn -Love it when you talk dirty!

Joey Di(Nicola) and the Starliters. 1959. A dance for every tune.

Difficult South for me, too.
Abdullah almost Obadiah

Kim, Karzai, Jeb, Newt - wait, don't I see a theme?

Bohica said...

My puzzle was sans "certainly" for 10D You____! and the clue for 24D was "Clear conclusion?" in leiu of Suffix with govern. If hoecakes were cooked on a hoe why the gridle reference?

Joey Dee had the hit "Peppermint Twist" (named for the venue) capitalizing on Chubby Checker's new dance craze.

Overall good puzzle no crap fill except maybe ODU.

@Orange thanks for the great write-up and clips, entertaining as always.

Joon said...

this puzzle had a lot of pizzazz (and by that i don't mean ZEES). the long entries are so lively that it's very easy to forgive the short ones that aren't (RMN, -ANCE, -ISM, -OON, STA, ODU). three suffixes is normally two more than i'd like to see in a themeless, but today the only thing that tripped me up was that {Suffix with govern} wasn't -ATOR!

just got back (not all the way home, but back to a computer) from the tournament and it was a blast. orange, you should definitely schlep the fam out here for next year's version.

jazz said...

Wow! I did a Saturday with no look-ups! (That's a first.)

This was like two puzzles to me...the top half was (I thought) really straightforward, while the bottom half took me a long time to noodle out.


Actually, I think Peter Wentz intended a theme: WORLD LEADERS.
There's seven of them-
- George W Bush (JEBBUSH)
- Karl Marx (ISM)
- Sun YAT-sen
- NEWT Gingrich
and if you want to stretch it a little, Sarah Palin 10d "You BETCHA".

Anyway, thought this puzzle followed suit with the easy Thursday & Friday puzzles.
I guess the Lollapuzzoola attendees needed a break this week.

Thought 42a was an ugh!
Scrip spec = MED
Is scrip supposed to be an abbreviation of prescription?

@John Farmer... got a real chuckle out of your Lampkin "girlfriend, Meg Ohm" thing.

There weren't many cutesy clues except for maybe 65a "Impressive way to walk?" = ONWATER, so this puzzle didn't rank very high on John's Puzzle-o-meter.

mac said...

Hah! I didn't read all of your comments because I want to do this puzzle tomorrow! I did 8 of them and I'm a little tired. I'll check this part as well.

mac said...

You are right, this was an outstanding puzzle, done with my Sunday breakfast.

@Orange: bring that family next year! Joon brought his adorable little boy (very tickelish) and there was another tiny baby at the end. It was a great day, with a lot of interesting and nice people. I'm coming back next year!

Joon said...

mac, that was you tickling sam during the pizza party? you should have introduced yourself! now i remember meeting you but not your name or even what you look like.