SUNDAY, August 9, 2009 — Edgar Fontaine

Theme: "Initial Exposé" — Theme answers include made-up first and middle names of famous people who are known by their initials.

[Note: This is the syndicated L.A. Times puzzle. It does not appear in the actual newspaper, but is available for free at cruciverb.com.]

Theme answers:
  • 27A: Author who's rarin' to write? (EAGER BEAVER WHITE).
  • 45A: Daredevil writer? (HANG GLIDER WELLS).
  • 67A: Explosive blues singer? (BIG BANG KING).
  • 92A: Hard-hitting mystery writer? (PILE DRIVER JAMES).
  • 109A: Threatening, but harmless, showman? (PAPER TIGER BARNUM).
  • 15D: Merchant who moonlights as a union boss? (LABOR LEADER BEAN).
  • 44D: Poet surfing the Net? (WEB BROWSER YEATS).
Crosswordese 101: Well, we've already covered ODER (31A: River through Silesia), ÉTUI (113D: Fancy case), and ROE (115D: Sushi ingredient). There are quite a few contenders for today's spot — as is typical in a Sunday puzzle — but I'm going to go with the one I assume gives people the most trouble: AT. NO., which is an abbreviation for atomic number. Today it's clued as 118A: 13 for Al, e.g. but the clues for this answer are always tricky. Basically, if there's a number in the clue and you can't make any sense of it at all, shift your thinking to the periodic table. Even if you don't know it by heart (God knows, I don't), you should be able to recognize the abbreviation for an element. Remember: sometimes it's only one letter. But wait! How do you know the answer's not AT. WT. (atomic weight)? Well, if you're not sciencey, you don't. It's more likely that the answer will be AT. NO., but you just don't know for sure so you have to check the crosses.

CW101 Runners-Up:
  • 54A: Sainted Norse king (OLAV II).
  • 74A: Brewery fixture (OAST).
  • 116A: On the safer side (ALEE).
  • 40D: Icelandic epic (EDDA).
  • 71D: Serengeti grazer (ELAND).
  • 108D: New newts (EFTS).
Fun theme, well executed. I found this to be a relatively smooth puzzle with a few thorny spots, specifically the NW corner. I'm not sure I like that SHOGI / OTHO cross (3D: Chess, Japanese-style / 19A: Emperor after Galba). I'm guessing that tripped a lot of people up. I entered Otto at first — totally reasonable guess, right? — but stogi just looked all kindsa wrong so I had to rethink it. I don't know where I've seen SHOGI before, but it was way back there in the back of my brain somewhere, so I did finally figure it out. (Speaking of looking all kindsa wrong: (5D: Unicellular life) AMEBAE? I've just gotten used to the idea of spelling it ameba instead of amoeba. Not fair to throw in the pluralizing E!)

Other tricky answers? I was sure 50A: Jazzman Calloway's birth name didn't have Cab in it anywhere. Thought it might be Charles or something. But no, it's CABELL.

I know I've seen the word THOLE before (82A: Pin on a rowboat), but I got it totally through crosses today. Pretty sure I've never seen ANADEM before (75D: Ancient wreath for the head) but the crosses were straightforward. Well, except for SPAWN (79A: Give rise to), where I first entered cause. The other stupid mistake I made was entering Lou for ROY at 52A: Campanella of Ebbets Field fame. Campanella and Pinella are the same person in PuzzleGirl World.

What else?
  • 39A: Insurance that covers bridges? (DENTAL). Took me a while. I don't really like to think about dental appliances unless I absolutely have to.
  • 56A: Ocular sphincter (IRIS). Eww.
  • 90A: Creamsicle color (ORANGE). No doubt a shout-out to our creamsicle-y co-blogger.
  • 97A: High-tech card interpreter (READER). I was expecting something a little more high-tech-sounding than this. Even scanner maybe.
  • 103A: They work on wheels (POTTERS). Took me way too long to get this one. I'm glad it wasn't clued as [Harry and Sherman]. Actually, now that I think about it, I kinda like the clue [Harry and Sherman].
  • 125A: Christian name? (DIOR). This would be fashion design Christian Dior. I used to work with a guy named Brent Dior who named his son Chris.
  • 4D: __ pole (TOTEM). First wanted North, then thought of Inter. Interpole is something, right? Oh wait, it's Interpol without the E. Whatever. I finally got around to TOTEM.
  • 6D: "God Bless America" inning (SEVENTH). When did they start singing "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch, by the way? I'm guessing it was shortly after 9/11.
  • 7D: Part of WATS (AREA). Y'all old enough to remember WATS lines? Or maybe they still exist. The last time I remember using one was in high school, so that was, like, a hundred years ago.
  • 8D: Sicko, for short (PERV). Awesome answer. Never seen it in a puzzle before.
  • 46D: Lizard's habitat? (LOUNGE). Always makes me think of, well, this.
  • 58D: Inasmuch as (SINCE). I, personally, never like to use the word SINCE unless I'm talking about a temporal relationship. But maybe that's just me.
  • 102D: Gibberish, metaphorically (GREEK). As in "It's all Greek to me!" (Or as they say in Greece: "It's all Japanese to me!")
  • 111D: Tiger Woods's wife (ELIN). They've been married for almost five years now. You'd think we would have seen her more often by now.
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Everything Else — 1A: Autograph site (CAST); 5A: "Yesterday!" ("ASAP!"); 9A: Hefty competitor (GLAD); 13A: Twist together (ENLACE); 20A: "A __ technicality" (MERE); 21A: To a degree (SOME); 22A: Pressure, loan shark-style (LEAN ON); 23A: Help out at the trampoline (SPOT); 24A: "Did you __?!" (EVER); 25A: Florida Marlins uniform color (TEAL); 26A: RoboCop, e.g. (CYBORG); 32A: __ War: 1850s conflict (CRIMEAN); 33A: Perjure oneself (LIE); 34A: Deep-seated (INBRED); 36A: Connecting (BETWEEN); 41A: Vermont ski resort (STOWE); 53A: Green-lighted (OK'D); 55A: Horse of the Middle East (ARAB); 58A: Africa's largest nation in area (SUDAN); 60A: Blue-pencils (EDITS); 61A: Dead center? (TOMB); 62A: "Oh, brother!" (MAN); 63A: Series opener? (MINI-); 64A: Hill worker (AIDE); 66A: Geppetto wished on one (STAR); 70A: Keep out of the lineup (REST); 76A: Houston school (RICE); 77A: Actor Mineo (SAL); 78A: Cheese with veins (BLEU); 84A: Comme ci, comme ça (SO-SO); 85A: Bring in (EARN); 86A: Try to hit with (TOSS AT); 88A: White House nickname (IKE); 89A: Take up, perhaps (HEM); 96A: Much of Chile (ANDES); 98A: Seriously restrained, as a prisoner (IN IRONS); 100A: Thwart (STYMIE); 102A: GM debut of 1964 (GTO); 108A: Rochester's love (EYRE); 114A: Frock wearers (FRIARS); 117A: Bibliography abbr. (ET AL.); 119A: Go quietly (TIPTOE); 120A: Malibu landmark (PIER); 121A: "Clair de __" (LUNE); 122A: Luth. or Meth. (PROT.); 123A: Answered with attitude (SASSED); 124A: Like a stained shirt pocket, maybe (INKY); 126A: Title word in an annual Guy Lombardo classic (SYNE); 1D: Sine's reciprocal, in trig (COSEC); 2D: How some stocks are sold (AT PAR); 9D: It doesn't conceal much (G-STRING); 10D: "Gigi" composer (LOEWE); 11D: Indian wet nurse (AMAH); 12D: Place for a bagel with a schmear (DELI); 13D: City in California's Imperial Valley (EL CENTRO); 14D: Napoleonic Wars marshal (NEY); 16D: Galvanic cell part (ANODE); 17D: Like baked apples (CORED); 18D: Certain B.S. holder (ENGR.); 28D: James Dean persona (REBEL); 29D: Milton's "Lycidas," e.g. (ELEGY); 30D: Trident feature (TINE); 35D: Turned on the waterworks (BAWLED); 37D: Blender name (WARING); 38D: Grandson of Adam (ENOS); 39D: Antelope named for the sound it makes when frightened (DIK-DIK); 41D: Sings like Ella (SCATS); 42D: It has a Lovers card (TAROT); 43D: 2004 Democratic keynoter (OBAMA); 47D: DLX ÷ X (LVI); 48D: Beyond tipsy (LIT); 49D: Word before boom (SIS); 51D: Perching places (LIMBS); 57D: Grammy winner Bonnie (RAITT); 59D: Some grandkid spoilers (NANAS); 63D: Jiffy Bag, e.g. (MAILER); 65D: All-natural abode (IGLOO); 68D: Arrange, as a deal (BROKER); 69D: Chemical relative (ISOMER); 72D: Suit material (SERGE); 73D: Nano or Shuffle fillers (TUNES); 79D: Indy additive (STP); 80D: Pacific finger food (POI); 81D: Comm. method reputedly used by Koko the gorilla (ASL); 83D: Cellular structure (HIVE); 84D: High roller? (SEMI); 87D: Went (all over) (TRAIPSED); 89D: Capital WNW of Manila (HANOI); 91D: Haile Selassie worshiper (RASTA); 93D: "The very __!" (IDEA); 94D: Wired, so to speak (JITTERY); 95D: Opera heroine, often (SOPRANO); 99D: More stately (NOBLER); 100D: Fertile Crescent land (SYRIA); 101D: Fools, with "up" (TRIPS); 104D: Nabs using trickery (TRAPS); 105D: Log item (ENTRY); 106D: Yak, yak, yak ... (RUN ON); 107D: Walloped, old-style (SMOTE); 110D: Big __: baseball's David Ortiz (PAPI); 112D: Fix, in a way (GELD).


shrub5 said...

My one error was at the OTHO/SHOGI crossing noted by PG. I had OTTO/STOGI -- didn't know the answer to either so this looked as good as anything.

I liked the theme, figuring it out at HANGGLIDERWELLS. After that one, of course, it became easier to come up with the others.

I haven't used a Jiffy Bag as a MAILER. I was thinking more along the lines of microwave popcorn. But a Jiffy Bag sounds like something I should look into.

Memo to all crossword puzzle constructors: I loathe any clues/answers having to do with Roman numerals, especially math problems with them. Puhleeease (I'm begging) stop this odious practice. I'll gladly take any other crappy fill.

As has happened with some other Sunday LAT puzzles, a couple of clues were missing from the printed out version (83D and 84D). Seems like the editors, or whosever job it is to format these things, could put more of clues in the second DOWN column so that the first DOWN column doesn't flirt with the border.

Orange said...

ELIN Woods probably doesn't get out much, what with having a toddler and a baby to tend to.

Al said...

I actually don't mind the occasional Roman Numeral answer, as long as there aren't more than one in a puzzle. It gives me at least one answer that I'm sure of...

Joon said...

OTHO = my first answer in the grid. he was one of the emperors in the year of the four emperors (69 AD): galba, otho, vitellius, and vespasian. and yeah, he and vitellius did not rule for very long. neither did galba, actually, since he only took over in mid-68. at this point, though, i can no longer really explain why i still know these things. i never even took roman history.

shrub, believe me, no constructor likes the idea of putting roman numerals into the fill. they're way down there on the list, but ahead of a few things, like obscure foreign words, variant spellings, and mystery acronyms. and if you're going to have one, better a math clue (which is 100% solvable) than a vague clue like {Year during pope X's reign}. and al, i don't think you'll ever see multiple roman numerals in the same grid, unless of course you're solving the world's worst crossword.

fun theme today, if a bit odd. took me a while to cotton to it, but by the end, i was able to plunk down PAPER TIGER BARNUM with no crossings. i spent some time trying to shoehorn w.h. auden in where w.b. yeats belonged. i assume everybody else had this problem, too?

Anonymous said...

I expected 84A to be a French word to match the clue--very disappointed in soso. Also hated
5D--amebae. Give me a break! Otherwise a fun Sunday puzzle--some obscure and others very easy.

Anonymous said...

I would have preferred it if the initials in the theme answers actually related somehow to the person's name. BB/bigbang ? Working in Blues would have been more appropriate IMO. Tent/top for the T in PT is another for example. So the theme was kind of flat for me in that sense because the answers were far too random. Probably a bit overambitious as is, and one that didn't realize its full potential.


Enjoyed this puzzle, but sure couldn't finish it during breakfast time, even with those extra 3 cups of coffee.
Had the OTHO vs. OTTO thing wrong.

Kept trying to use EMBUED for INBRED (34a).

Well the word-of-the day for me was SHOGI (3d). Thank you, Puzzlegirl, for the nice photo of that tiled game. Now I want to learn how to play Shogi, maybe having a good time with Shoji Tabuchi of Branson.

A good thing that 47d was a Roman Numeral math problem or once again I would have used OLAF instead of OLAV (54a).

Wow, Tiger Woods's wife is a real hottie. I don't think I've ever seen a photo of her before.

I too mistakenly used LOU for ROY (52a).

Some very clever clues:
"Insurance that covers bridges", DENTAL (39a).
"Dead center", TOMB (61a)
"Christian name", DIOR (125a).
"It doesn't conceal much", GSTRING (9d)
As well as the clever theme phrases.
I measure the quality of a puzzle by how many clever twisted clues there are... this one had 16, so it ranks an A+ in my book.

Dan said...

But Orange, don't you agree ELIN Woods should be all over crosswords by now? I only see one other use.

Joon, I was going to make the exact same points about Roman numerals. But here's something I hope you didn't know: one of the last Tribune/W.R. Williams puzzles had FOUR Roman numeral entries! (I solved the last two weeks of TMS out of curiosity when the big switch was going down - that was the most appalling thing I found.)

Learned both SHOGI and SHOJI not from crosswords, but in real life! Well, by working on a musical set in Japan. SHOJI is a "Sliding Japanese screen", per the clue in the NYT last week.

Anonymous said...

I, too, fell into the OTTO/OTHO trap. For later use, as needed: Otto was the name of four emperors of the Holy Roman Empire (HRE), unimaginatively distinguished by Roman numerals. Otho was (briefly) ruler of the (unmodified) Roman empire. Doubtless he was pretty un-holy, but so was the HRE, famously described as neither holy nor Roman nor an empire. There were no subsequent Otho emperors, at least none that made it into the history books.

Denise said...

Was there a Joe Camponella? In my little world in my head, I found one. Luckily, I fixed it.

The theme was a little silly, but I knew who all the people were, and the crosses made it easy.

Everyone out enjoying the summer Sunday?