FRIDAY, Sep. 18, 2009 — Jack McInturff

THEME: Addition-el – letter "L" is added to the beginning of familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

This puzzle epitomizes laziness, so my write-up will follow suit. Weak, unimaginative add-a-letter stuff. Talk about phoned in. This feels like someone's practice puzzle. This is the kind of puzzle I would make and then think "well, that was good experience, now I need to try to make something publishable." The theme is not only boring, but the first theme answer is utter FAIL, as LOVEMATCH is a thing, a real thing (in romance as well as tennis), so I was like "OK ... we're adding Rs ..." But then we were adding Ls, and I realized that the base phrase of theme answer 1 was OVERMATCH (talk about massive disappointment: at least LOVE MATCH has some color ... though adding "R" to make LOVER did seem pretty terrible).

Theme answers:

  • 18A: Hope of one placing a personal ad? (L OVER MATCH)
  • 26A: Peruvian worshiper? ("L I'M A BELIEVER") — far and away the best thing about this puzzle.
  • 42A: Knock a motorcycle daredevil flat? (L EVEL KNIEVEL) — dull, lifeless stuff.
  • 54A: Kid going nuts with building blocks? (L EGOMANIAC) — an old pun.

Best of the nontheme stuff = ZOOM LENS (20A: Camera bag accessory), though that "Z" cross was rough. Despite its "second largest" status, I've never (or barely) heard of GRAZ (1D: Austria's second largest city). The other, bigger "WTF!?" answer was ALLIS (45D: Chalmers's business partner). This means nothing to me. For me, Chalmers is the superintendent of the Springfield School District on "The Simpsons." I would have clued ALLIS as ["_____ not lost!"], though it's more likely I would have rewritten that SW corner entirely so as to avoid something as odd-man-out as ALLIS.

Crosswordese 101: ITER (58A: Roman road) — a Latin word I learned some time during my two years of intensive graduate school Latin. Had no idea it had any clout outside of Latin literature until I started encountering it as an [Anatomical passageway]. In fact, that's the more common clue — the anatomical / biological one. This Latin-specific one (with ITER's literal meaning of "road") is a bit of an anomaly. Or, rather, it's much less common than the medical term. Looking at the cruciverb.com database just now, I see a solid bloc of "road"-oriented clues. ITER is solid crosswordese, one of a reliable group of 4-letter "I" words that are on the table every time you've got to fill out some 4x4 corner of the grid. An anagram of the even more common TERI (one thing tougher than an initial "I" — a terminal "I").

Talk amongst yourselves. I've really got nothing else to say about this puzzle. Oh, wait, one more thing. I like WAMU (57A: Insolvent S&L company) (stands for "Washington Mutual"). I mean I don't like WAMU as an institution, but it's a fresh (if depressing) bit of four-letter fill.

See you Monday.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]



Get the ‘L out of here. So, okay, I’m going outside to enjoy the gorgeous day here. In Chicago we relish these nice ‘tween days between extreme hots and colds. We’ve had mid 70’s and lots of sunshine for weeks.

I now have a theory about crosswords with clever themes. In an effort to create a puzzle with a nice theme, the constructors often resort to fluff fill and lots of crosswordese, making the solution overly simple. I’m sure Rex would bear me out on that. This is one such puzzle. Friday should be much more challenging, but that’s okay, I really solve these mickey-mouse-puzzles for the good entertainment we get in this blog.

New-word-of-the-day for me was LENORE (42d).
Fun-word-of-the-day was Peek-ABOO (3d).
Ugh!-word-of-the-day was ICET (37d).

I’ve complained before about the over use of the word ICET, and there it is again, so I give Jack McInturff a low score on this puzzle.

Now I have a question about 50d: How do you pronounce “chanteuse”? I recently got into an argument on this over a Scrabble game.


Back in the 50's I attended Northwestern University in Evanson Illinois. Whenever I see the WAMU logo, I think of my Northwestern days. Waa-Mu is an original musical, written and produced almost entirely by students.
WAMU is also a public radio station geared to university students.
Rex, I loved your TERI writeup, especially your choice of Teri Garr's photo. I'm a huge fan of her as a comedienne (sexist word), but now I see her as also a sexy looking woman (sexist remark)... NO PC HERE !

Guin said...

We have a former WAMU bank around the corner. The Chase sign just got installed last week. My husband refered to their lawn as Wamu Park. It's one of Malone's favorite dog areas. I guess it's Chase Park now; don't know if I want to take Malone to chase park.

Charlie said...

@RP -- here you go...


It is now time to follow through on my once idle threat to re-up my lapsed subscription to the NY Times Premimum Crosswords. Relying on LAT alone, I can't tell if it's Monday or Friday these days.

jazz said...

Today was OK, nice to finish it but I was really hoping for a tougher Friday. I don't know how the PuzzlePoppers 'grade' a puzzle...do they scale it from 1 to 10, or say "Oh, this one's about a Friday level?" Or do they start with the fill and say "I need clues at about a Thursday level?"

Seems like a tough job.

Anyway, I didn't mind the theme so much. I like VIA rather than ITER for a Roman road. And it's always nice to see Teri Garr...I hope she's feeling OK these days.

I guess I thought there were a lot of ordinary 3- and 4-letter fills. Reminded me of going fishing...some days you catch a lot of little ones, and that's OK, but the days you remember are when you work hard and land 2 or 3 real lunkers.

Never heard of Edith PIAF...

Karen said...

Easy. Blah. Just for fun, how many Austrian towns can you name? (I have cousins there, so I might know a few extra).

Sfingi said...

HappyHappyJoyJoy. I needed an easy one today, esp. after yesterday's NYT.

Allis Chalmers is rural stuff. Can you'all quote the John Deere and New Holland ads?

Since I didn't know what overmatch was (still don't), I was thinking and L-M combo, since I had 18A - lovermatch and 54A legomaniac first. I like that last word.

Some collectors have a 38A set - as a goal, but OCDers never stop there. Collect them all.
In life, as opposed to the land of crosswords, I love Piaf, Krazy Kat, Poe. As a philo major, don't care for Hegel; atheism/deism ok.

New for me (like all my cars) iter, cybersize, Graz. Where's Gov. of California from?

eileen said...

Can one of you guys explain to me why you would never find an atheist in a fox hole?
Is this a saying or something?
@RP: Thanks for the ITER write-up.

CrazyCat said...

@Sfingi Thanks for the explanation of Allis Chalmers. Actually I just finished The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. His father had a tractor named Alice which was an Allis Chalmers. Forgot all about it until you brought it up. @ Jazz There is a great movie from a few years ago about the life of Edith Piaf called La Vie En Rose.

*David* said...

I got nothing to say about this one, maybe I will also have to pony up for the NYT. This was really disappointing for a Friday.

CrazyCat said...

@eileen It is an old saying. If you're in a foxhole being shot at by the enemy, theres a very good chance that you're probably praying to God.

Djinn said...

Despite the under match for a Friday puzzle, this one offers a few clues of merit. For example, 45a (atheist) and 38d (seesawed). Yet and still, I must follow suit with your comments and agree that it was a disappointing solve.

shrub5 said...

IMO, LIMABELIEVER made up for any perceived deficiencies this puzzle may have. LOL. I tried to think of a potato chip brand for 29D Big name in chips! I continued along on the erroneous food reference road when I got to 25D New Balance rival. Confused it with Smart Balance, a brand of margarine so racked my brain for those names. When I eventually got AVIA through crosses, I figured it was a brand of margarine/butter I didn't know. But....it's shoes!!!

@jazz: You may not know the name Edith Piaf, but I'd bet you'd know her voice. She was a French singer whose song "La Vie En Rose" seems to be the background melody for stereotypical scenes in France e.g., sidewalk cafes, Eiffel Tower, etc.

My word of the day is: LUNKER. No, it's not from the puzzle, it's from @jazz's post: An exceptionally large specimen of something, in particular (among anglers) a fish.

Joon said...

i started with INCA BELIEVER and was trying to figure out how M->NC was going to be a theme. LIMA BELIEVER is quite a bit better.

i didn't think the puzzle was bad at all, but i do miss the days when the LAT fridays were actually tough. my solving times throughout the week are roughly constant now.

Orange said...

I liked the theme better than Rex did. Yep, it was no more than Wednesday difficulty, tops. Liked the intersection of ATHEIST (though I rebut the accuracy of the saying referenced in the clue) of DEISM. Kinda dug the overall European vibe, with German GRAF crossing GRAZ; Italian San REMO and ROME (anagrams!), a Roman road ITER (though ROME + [Roman road] shouldn't be in the same puzzle), and Il DUCE; Ukraine KIEV; and French PIAF.

There was an ALLIS-Chalmers plant a couple miles from where I grew up; my friend's dad worked there 'til he got laid off in the trendy Destruction of American Manufacturing Capacity that picked up speed in the '80s.

mac said...

This was too easy for a Friday, but ok anyway. Lima believer was the best answer, and I to stare at this "l-overmatch. Maybe it's a fashion term, also called "matchy-matchy".

I liked to see alack, but I thought an "officer" wouldn't be found in the trenches with the grunts. Hope I'm not offending anybody...

Chanteuse is very hard to pronounce for English-speakers. It may be closest to the u-sound in excuse, but it isn't exactly like that.

Orange said...

@mac, overmatch means "be stronger, better armed, or more skillful than." As in "At the crossword tournament, I was overmatched by Tyler Hinman."

SethG said...

Weird synchronicity...

I got LIMA BELIEVER, saw NEIL Diamond right below that, and then was thrown off when nothing tied to the other theme answers. I don't like inconsistency.

I've visited the Sevenhill Cellars winery and the City of Seven Hills. Turns out, a lot of cities are built on seven hills.

Parsan said...

ALLIS Chalmers popped into my mind and I thought "What is that and how do I know it?". Looked it up and still don't know, having never knowingly seen an AC orange tractor,etc.

Interesting to see SEESAWED after the recent big discussion on Rex's NYT blog about the play and movie TWO FOR THE SEEWSAW.

Did not know SITKA or AVIA but guessed ar the A after everything else filled in.

Actually liked this puzzle better than most.

mac said...

@Orange: thank a lot.

@SethG: Neil is stalking you.
Happy New Year.

JIMMIE said...

Bartlett's credits William Thomas Cummings, a catholic chaplain, as saying "There are no ATHIESTs in foxholes" in Bataan in 1942. On the other side are the LIMABELIEVERS, and in the middle is DEISM. Take your pick today.

It was a bit strange for Friday, tho.


You can't grow up in the midwest without knowing about Allis Chalmers and their orange tractors.
AC was founded in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Vestiges of AC are still seen in that area--- for instance West Allis is a suburb of Milwaukee. I often wondered if there is a West Allis, why isn't there an East Allis.

JIMMIE said...


Today's obits said Aage Bohr, the 1975 Nobel Prize winner, and son on Niels, died. So the clue Nobel winner Bohr has two answers, and I would think that Aage with three vowels would be very useful.

Or is Aage already known?

Charles Bogle said...

overall disappointing puzzle, although not totally without some redeeming features. Didn't particularly care for the theme..seemed hastily put together. My other main objections: REBA, ICET, LEEZA, ADZE (?) just plain unimaginative fill, agree here w djinn and johnsneverhome...thanks orange agree w nice byplay ATHEIST/DEISM; also liked REAPER, LITHE, SITKA, byplay of GRAF and GRAZ...on the whole, not a great week for this puzzle

ddbmc said...

And here, I thought the theme was "What the "L? (WTL)" Sounds like most felt that way about today's puzzle! Thanks for the tidbit on the "atheist" answer. Liked @Charlie's Motels video link: "Take the L out of Lover and it's Over" That crossed nicely with "Motel and Lovermatch." Walked by Steffie Graf at the US Open, many years back, but that was before her "lovermatch" with Andre...

Anonymous said...

Hi Rex,
For a while your blog added to my enjoyment of working the LAT crossword. I've been at it a couple of years, am certainly no expert, and have no real awareness of the nuances of elegant construction.

With those caveats, I must say that I'm finding your recent posts to be excessively harsh and critical and reading them is beginning to diminish, rather than enhance, my enjoyment of the puzzle.

Several things today but the main one was about 45D Chalmer partner (as clued in my paper). Is a puzzle to only have something you know about? Growing up on a farm in Nebraska I knew right away that the answer was ALLIS. I also knew that Chalmer should have an "S" on the end of it.

A big part of the enjoyment for me is encountering things I know nothing about and learning wile figuring out the answer.


GLowe said...

Hitchens has a great paragraph or two about being an atheist in a foxhole, in God is Not Great.

SethG said...

Bob, you're certainly entitled to your opinion about Rex's writing style. But as for the example you mentioned, I'm not sure how it supports your case. Had you not grown up on a Nebraska farm, what would you have learned about from that answer?

Last week Rex had never heard of [Tennis great Lew (HOAD) who won three of the four majors in 1956]. A few weeks ago he hadn't heard of [Former #1 woman pool player (KAREN) Corr]. He didn't complain about them, and we all learned who those people are.

But a clue like [Chalmers's business partner]? What if the answer had been NAGEL, would you have learned something about that or would it just be a random exercise in filling out the crosses? Because there is a Chalmers & Nagel, so it'd be accurate, but you still have no clue what that means.

(By the way, Edward Allis died 12 years before the merger with Fraser & Chalmers...)

Anonymous said...

I really liked the atheist/foxhole fill and clue, but that was about it. Not sure what is up with the LAT these days, but when Thursday/Friday puzzles feel like Monday/Tuesday ones it's time to look elsewhere...besides the NYT that is. Here's hoping the LAT Saturday puzzle will end the week on a high note. Otherwise I'll wait and see if it's worth coming back.

choirwriter said...

Now, some of you mentioned that the "Lima Believer" answer made up for some of the lameness of this puzzle. But geez -- in Peru, it's not pronounced LIE-ma, it's pronounced LEE-ma, so even that answer doesn't hold up. I couldn't figure out what "EEma Believer" was, until I mispronounced it and got the pun. Perhaps if the clue had to do with large legumes instead of something Peruvian?

Very sad attempt at a puzzle, this one.

housemouse said...

Not bad, IMO. Not good, either. Some of the clues were strange, as in LOVERMATCH. I would call LIMABELIEVER a visual match, rather than an auditory one. I guess it's sort of 2 puns in one: one for Lima, Peru and one for lima bean. At least the cross clues were good enough that I didn't have to hook up with Google all the way through. Being tied to Google is annoying. I still hope that they'll use more with embedded quips and quotes.

Anonymous said...

Setting aside the puzzle's difficulty, or lack of it, for the moment, I think you folks missed one of the niftiest aspects of this theme. Wherever the "L" was added, what was originally a long vowel--OVER, IM A, EVEL, EGO--changed to a non-long vowel sound. In fact, had IM A become LIE-MA, that would have been inconsistent. It had to become LEE-MA. That sound change can't be an accident, and for me, it takes what might have been a mundane theme and makes it special.

Getting back to difficulty: maybe these puzzles have gotten easier. For those of you who pooh-pooh it, here's a thought. Have you ever picked up a Friday puzzle, solved about one-third of it, and given up in disgust? I have, many times. Today, I finished. Made me feel good. Maybe you can remember the first time you finished a Friday and how it felt. It might help you understand.



@JS I agree with you, finishing a puzzle and having fun doing it is the MOST VICTORIOUS! Not finishing fast, not finishing correct, not finishing before anyone else; no, it's just finishing that matters.
It's like running the marathon and getting satisfaction that you came in last, BUT YOU DID FINISH! I get great satisfaction from the feeling of "endurance". If you are struggling with an impassable CW, just put it down for a while and come back to it later. Sometimes after a nap or going out for a walk, the lightbulb goes on.

Scott McElhinnie said...

I just expect more of a struggle with a Friday puzzle. I like it to be harder. Or maybe I got smarter. No, it was a poor puzzle.