THURSDAY, August 13, 2009 — Don Gagliardo

Theme: ALFRED HITCHCOCK — 7D: Born 8/13/1899, he directed the answers to the starred clues.

Theme answers:
  • 21A: *Very difficult task, in slang (MURDER).
  • 29A: *Aristophanes comedy (THE BIRDS).
  • 38A: *You may be picked up if you're under it (SUSPICION).
  • 49A: *Music to an interrogator's ears (I CONFESS).
  • 57A: *Loony (PSYCHO).
  • 12D: *Sunnybrook Farm girl (REBECCA).
  • 41D: *Dizziness (VERTIGO).
  • 51D/13D: Something 7-Down is famous for, which is symbolically depicted in circled squares where the director's name briefly passes through five of his movies (CAMEO SCENE).
Crosswordese 101: We've already covered ELBE (19A: North Sea feeder) and ERLE (47A: Perry's creator), so let's talk about ERG today. I remember ERG from back in the old days. I've seen it many, many times in puzzles and not once ever used the word in conversation. Most of the time it's clued like today, 25A: Unit of work. But sometimes they'll throw in another related science-y type word like joule or dyne. Watch for it. You'll definitely see it again.

Very ambitious theme today! And I think it was pulled off very well. Lots of three-letter words were required to make the grid work, but only three of them were clued as abbreviations, so that's pretty good. The only real clunker of the whole puzzle was SLEETY (70A: Like some icy weather) and I'm totally willing to overlook it since the rest of the puzzle is so smooth. (Except that, of course, I didn't overlook it, I brought it up here in the blog, but hey! that's what we do here: bring up stuff that we overlook to let you know we're overlooking it.)

At first, I wasn't completely thrilled with CAMEO SCENE. I think cameo appearance or cameo role (or even just plain old cameo) is in-the-language while CAMEO SCENE isn't. But, you know what? Hitchcock was famous for putting himself in scenes of his films and I think in this particular case, I can be talked into calling them CAMEO SCENEs. Only for him though. Sometimes you just need to put your foot down and I just did.

Oh yeah, one more small gripe. I solved this puzzle while watching Rachel Maddow so I wasn't completely focused on it. When I entered ALFRED HITCHCOCK, I assumed the circled letters were ... something, and I would figure it out later when I could give it my full attention. Personally, I think I would have gone without the circles. But that might not totally be fair for people relatively new to crossword puzzles, so let me know what you think about that. Also, since his name didn't go through VERTIGO and REBECCA, I might have clued those as non-theme-related and made them a little inside joke. Kind of a cameo if you will. But maybe that's just crazy. I don't know. These are the things I think about! Aren't you glad you don't have to live in my brain!

Real quick funny story about VERTIGO. I was having mild dizzy spells several years ago. Nothing really traumatic, but enough that I thought I better have a doctor take a look. I don't remember why I had a bunch of red tape to go through, but for some reason I did, and I remember talking to a young woman at the check-out desk and she asked me what I had been seen for. I said "vertigo." She looked at me like she had no idea what I was talking about. So I said, "Vertigo. You know, dizziness." She's all, "Oh, dizziness! Yeah, that's what we call it." Alrighty then!

Okay, one more thing. (I really feel like I'm rambling today.) These are the Hitchcock movies I've seen: Dial M for Murder, The Birds, Rear Window, Rope, and North by Northwest. I've probably seen bits and pieces of others, but those are the only ones I've watched all the way through. I've never seen Psycho! How is that possible?! Well, it's probably because I found The Birds utterly and completely terrifying, so I decided Psycho would be too much for me.

Okay, okay:
  • 17A: Infant who succeeded Russia's Empress Anna in 1740 (IVAN VI). Got it from crosses. Sounds like it might be an interesting story though.
  • 26A: Freelancer's encl. (SAE). Self-addressed envelope.
  • 33A: Sans opposite (AVEC). French!
  • 37A: Educator LeShan (EDA). I always think Ada and Ida first. But it's always Eda.
  • 51A: Pressing issue? (CREASE). Ironing!
  • 62A: Seesaw need (TWO). Also, the tango.
  • 69A: Indus R. country (PAK.). The R. in this clue really threw me off. Until — d'oh! — it's for River. The Indus River. One day I'm going to learn my rivers and clues like this won't confuse me.
  • 3D: Full of, with "with" (FRAUGHT). Excellent word! Don't think I've ever seen it in a puzzle before.
  • 9D: Political hot button (DEATH PANEL). Of course I'm kidding. It's really TAXES.
  • 30D: "Chico and the Man" setting, briefly (EAST L.A.). Here's the problem with clues that reference shows like this from my childhood. I get sucked into the black hole of YouTube and it's very difficult to make my way out. I start watching all the great theme songs: Barney Miller, Welcome Back Kotter, Sanford & Son. Then I see there are clips from those shows available and that's it. I'm pretty much done for the day. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a "Chico and the Man" clip that I thought was really really good, so I'll leave you with this.

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Everything Else — 1A: Toto's two? (ARF ARF); 7A: PC key next to the space bar (ALT); 10A: Needle bearers (FIRS); 14A: Soap opera, e.g. (SERIAL); 15A: Grassland (LEA); 16A: Certain util. (ELEC.); 18A: Interoffice memo, maybe (FAX); 20A: Fifth bk. of the Torah (DEUT.); 24A: Gazzara or Stiller (BEN); 27A: Seldom seen (SCARCE); 34A: Clinton's department (STATE); 35A: Towel word (HIS); 41A: Chocolate-making vessel (VAT); 43A: Chocolate lover, often (TOT); 44A: Fetch (GO GET); 53A: Bunny __ (HOP); 54A: "Fantasia" frame (CEL); 56A: Words with distance (AT A); 59A: Ale designation (PALE); 60A: "La Bohème" heroine (MIMI); 63A: Intervene (STEP IN); 65A: "Omigosh!" ("EGAD!"); 66A: Vocation: Abbr. (OCC.); 67A: Hire (TAKE ON); 68A: "It slipped!" ("OOPS!"); 1D: Lateral remark (ASIDE); 2D: Goes back (to) (REVERTS); 4D: "__ She Sweet" (AIN'T); 5D: Toyota __4: SUV model (RAV); 6D: Like the worst excuse (FLIMSIEST); 8D: X-ray vision thwarter (LEAD); 10D: ATM __ (FEE); 11D: Lacking social graces (ILL-BRED); 22D: Old Mideast org. (UAR); 23D: Color TV pioneer (RCA); 28D: Vindicate (AVENGE); 31D: Heat unit, briefly (BTU); 32D: [error left as is] (SIC); 36D: Turnpike features (SIGN POSTS); 39D: Pasty Hawaiian staple (POI); 40D: Gut-punch reaction (OOF); 42D: Local cartographer's creation (AREA MAP); 45D: Reason for a search party (ESCAPEE); 46D: "Four Quartets" poet (T. S. ELIOT); 48D: Uncommon sense? (ESP); 50D: "Wow!" ("OOH!"); 52D: Legally prohibit (ESTOP); 55D: Controversial Bruce (LENNY); 58D: Fem. advocacy group (YWCA); 59D: Chinese toy (PEKE); 61D: Fingers (ID'S); 64D: 1960-'61 chess champ Mikhail (TAL).


PARSAN said...

Thanks Don for a fun puzzle! And PG, if The Birds scared you DON'T see PSYCO! I saw it back in 1960 and it was the only movie I ever saw that made me stay overnight with a friend rather than go home alone. However, to those used to heads, arms, legs, etc. being chopped off in the cinima today, it might seem ho-hum. Original for it's day, it was a great PSYCHOlogical drama with a shocking final reveal. PG, a really interesting write-up!

Anonymous said...

Ooh, I loved this puzzle! I guess because I love Hitchcock movies. I don't know that I've ever seen fraught in a puzzle either, not sure I've even written it until just now. Fun!

Guy Who Knows His Fictional Dogs said...

I thought it was Sandy (Little Orphan Annie's dog) that went ARFARF.

Carol said...

I thought that the answer to 1A might be LONG O'S.

I couldn't take a shower in a tub with a shower curtain for years after seeing "Psycho" - needed a glass door I could see through!

Joon said...

really nice theme, and an impressive feat of construction, what with five theme answers intersecting the central 15, and four more stacked in pairs in the corners. and i think i'd like this puzzle even more if it weren't the third hitchcock-themed puzzle i've done in the past year.

Anonymous said...

Great puzzle! Thanks, Don!

Anonymous said...

...and thanks to Orange, too!

Soozy said...

Theme on this puzzle was excellent and pretty well executed; I wasn't even upset about the number of early films included (I CONFESS I didn't know the names of all of those...).

Fill was decent, FRAUGHT was fun. A lot easier to solve, I felt, than a usual Thursday puzzle--but then again maybe I'm just getting better! :]

@PG Yay for wordy write-ups! I look forward to them nearly as much as I do the puzzles themselves. Thanks!

Denise said...

I hope that Turner Movie Classics is celebrating today, and that they will show the old oldies. I have seen REAR WINDOW dozens of times, and could watch it again today.

As for the puzzle, as soon as I got the theme, I was cookin' -- sad to say that it took a while to get there. THE BIRDS did it for me -- AHA --

Rex Parker said...

This one was very good, I thought. "Ambitious" is the right word. Did HITCHCOCK appear in either "Rebecca" or "Vertigo?" If so, that's too bad. But no big deal, in the end. Love the stacked phrase "FAX MURDER" up top. Also love FLIMSIEST, and (as always), anything having to do with vengeance.

I imagine Carl shouting, "AVENGE my MURDER, LENNY!"

(no "Simpsons" fans out there? ... OK).


P.S. "Psycho" is one of the greatest films ever made, and certainly the best B-movie of all time. A revolutionary U-turn (is that an oxymoron?) in H's career. The shower scene is only a small part of its greatness.

*David* said...

I found it a smooth solve other then trying to first fit CECIL(LE sic) B DEMILLE into the main theme. He was born yesterday, a little information is dangerous.

I need to see some of the earlier Hitchcock movies from the 40's. My hardest section was in Washington where the ARF ARF stymied me for a bit and I had to work up from Portland.

Anonymous said...

Love the theme, well executed. I don't see what the problem is with SLEETY. The only thing I didn't like was ILLBRED, is this a phrase that other people recognize. It makes sense, but it seems forced to me.

Did anyone else have REPLETE instead of FRAUGHT? ERG quickly showed me I was wrong, but it threw me for a sec.

shrub5 said...

Kudos to Don Gagliardo for a wonderful tribute puzzle. The clues/answers were fresh and original (@PG, I liked FRAUGHT, too!) surrounding a large amount of theme material.

We watched the "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" TV show in the late '50's-'60's. I remember him starting each show with "Good eeeevvvening" in that characteristic droll voice of his.

I knew the answer MIMI from "Rent" rather than "La Bohème." ☺

Note: The version of this puzzle that I printed from the LAT website does not have any circles nor does clue 51D mention any. (??)

PARSAN said...

@REX - If you liked FAX MURDER you would probably like the touching IVAN VI MURDER because, in fact, he was "done in" by orders of Catherine II. Russian history is FRAUGHT with SUSPICION by many an ILLBRED PSYCHO who REVERTS to MURDER.

Puzzler said...

As a Hitchcock fan it would be hard not to like this puzzle. A fun puzzle even for non-Alfred fans. Two really well constructed LAT puzzles in a row. As PG mentioned, Sleety was ugly, but I had no problem with the rest of the fill.

As for cameos, Hitchcock's appearance in Lifeboat was ingenious. I won't spoil it here for those who have never seen the film.

KarmaSartre said...

I assumed the circled letters were an acronym for Rapid Descent Into Chilling Cinema.

Puzzler said...


Hitchcock had cameos in both of those films.

No circles on my grid which is why I wish constructors wouldn't waste their time using them. What's the point if a bunch of solvers don't even know they were supposed to be part of the puzzle.

KJGooster said...

Nice theme today. No circles on my grid either. I guessed ALFREDHITCHCOCK right away off the A in ALT -- always nice to go border to border early.

I was hoping to see Notorious included, though -- it's an all-timer. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are two of the best ever.

Soozy said...

For all you mentioning the circles (or lack of circles, as the case may be), that's because on the LAT website we got starred clues instead. I've noticed on prior occasions that the circles present in the print version don't show up on the compy, but often they're not clued any different way to give us a hint. Can't wait to be back in LA to fill out my dailies with a pencil and have my circles back!

choirwriter said...

@soozy: My local paper carries the LAT puzzle, and we didn't get circles either, just stars, which was fine with me.

Before I got the theme, I filled in "influence", as in "under the influence", for 38A ("You may be picked up if you're under it" - like a DUI, get it?). Then I realized that Hitchcock never directed a film titled "Influence", so I had to start over. Doh.

@pg: I sure do look forward to your commentaries - they make solving the puzzle even more fun, because I like to predict what you will have to say about various clues/answers. Thanks for your dedication!

choirwriter said...

PS - I thought today's puzzle was MUCH easier than yesterday's -- They must have put them in the wrong order. :)

Greene said...

I loved this puzzle. Wonderful tribute to one of the great directors. I recently caught The 39 Steps during a Hitch festival on TCM and remember thinking it was a bit "over the top" and maudlin for a Hitchcock film. Quite unexpectedly, I caught the same title, shamelessly lampooned, on Broadway by a cast of 4 actors playing about 40 different parts and cramming in as many Hitch references as possible. It was just about the funniest thing I've seen in years and it made me think how ripe that old film was for spoof.

@Rex: I agree with you 100% about the greatness of Psycho, a film that is vastly underrated, but is a masterpiece in style and suspense. The score by Bernard Hermann is equally magnificent and extremely evocative. The overture always gives me chills.

jazz said...

I liked Toto's Two (ARFARF) for some reason. And FEE for the clue ATM ___ seemed lame. Too many other better possible FEE clues, I think.

And call me nuts, but I wasn't that affected by Psycho. Liked Rear Window, though.

shrub5 said...

@choirwriter: the Hitchcock puzzle was done today because it is his birthday (see 7 Down.)

@guy who knows his fictional dogs: I'm still laughing hours later at your "name."

Anonymous said...

Finally a puzzle I enjoyed! My paper had starred clues, no circles for me either. Enjoyed the blog and posts. FYI, fax and taxes held me up today.

chefwen said...

Took me a while to get going but once I got old Alfred I just zoomed through the rest.
I've seen most of his movies and to be quite honest, they scare the liver out of me. A lot of time looking at the screen through splayed fingers.



I really loved this puzzle, but then I'm sure my pro-Hitchcock bias kicked in. Still think "North By Northwest" was a masterpiece. And then for acting, "Notorious", with Ingrid Bergman (the all time best actress) and Cary Grant (a terrific actor with charisma).

Thought TOT for "Chocolate lover" and IDS for "Fingers" was a bit weak, but considering that few abbreviations and nutsy crosses were used in a puzzle like this, it wasn't bad. Actually, for Gagliardo to work in 8 Hitchcock clues, this was an A++ puzzle.

Ok, how many of you tried to fit in ETUI instead of FIRS (10a) for "needle bearers"?

Will we ever see a puzzle that does not at least one French word in it? What's with the French and Spanish bias in crossword puzzles? Why not a Swedish word?

GLowe said...

You mean like SAAB, yesterday?

GLowe said...

You mean like SAAB, yesterday?

GLowe said...

Nice! ... active buttons, nothing greyed, no process indicator, 30-second wait, yet: the response is processed twice.

This newfangled interweb is clearly beyond me, after 25 years in IT ....

Sfingi said...

Saw stars, not circles.

How about 50D "ooh" with 68A "oops"
with 40D "oof"
60A "Mimi" with "arfarf" Mini-themes

"Ill-bred" is old school - my G'ma's time.

@Parsan - funny!
@Johnsneverhome yeah - how about some German and Italian. How about IKEA.

North by Northwest was my favorite.
Why not NxNW?

It was an excellent puzzle.
One Q: Shouldn't ESP have an indication that it is an abbrev.?

GLowe said...

@sfingi: my sources say no ... ask again later.


Besides the cameo thing, maybe all you Hitch fans have noticed what other thing makes his movies so unique... all lighting is done at a low level causing long eerie shadows. I can spot a Hitchcock movie immediately just from this characteristic alone.
Another thing you'll notice: Hitchcock had a penchant for icy cold blondes as the lead actresses, e.g. Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Eva Marie Saint, Janet Leigh, and Tippi Hedron. Can you name 3 more?

ddbmc said...

@JOHNSNEVERHOME, I'll take a Norman Bates stab here and say: Carol Lombard-Mr. and Mrs. Smith; Doris Day-The Man Who Knew Too Much; and Marlena Dietrich-Stage Fright. Also, Dany Robin- Topaz. Hitch cast the marvelous Maureen O'Hara in Jamaica Inn and I'm guessing swore off redheads after directing her, as she was very smart and undoubtably gave him a run for his money!
@Sfingi-thanks for the spell check on Ikea....


Oh I forgot about Marlena Dietrich.
Madeleine Carroll was an early Hitchcockian blonde in the 'The Thirty-Nine Steps', made in 1939.
Barbara Leigh-Hunt was in 'Frenzy', but I'm not sure if she was also a blonde.
OMG, and how could we forget Vera Miles in Psycho?

Anonymous said...

What a fitting way to celebrate Hitchcok's birthday (August 13, 1899, by the way, was Friday the 13th!). "North by Northwest" was Hitchcock at his best. Watch the opening credits of this film. The vertical and horizontal lines, which eventually become the United Nations building, resembles a crossword grid, don't you think?

Wayne said...

This was a fun puzzle for me. As soon as I got Rebecca, I got Hitchcock and that got my motor running. I thought that the "Chico" clue was "garage" but I became suspicious of how easy that was so I held back. Good thing I did.

@pg: "The Birds" also scared the you-know-what out of me as a teen so I skipped "Psycho". BTW, I've been to that town in N. California where they filmed The Birds & I got an eerie feeling from just being there. Also, I love Rachel Maddow!

I was pleasantly surprised to see "fraught" in the puzzle. Love that word. As for Swedish words and other languages in puzzles, I think the constructors go with languages that are taught in high school.