MONDAY, Sep. 21, 2009 — Mel Rosen

THEME: UP, UP, AND AWAY — three theme answers begin with "UP," "UP," and "AND AWAY," respectively.

Not much to this one. I expected somewhat spicier / interesting fill given how little theme coverage there is, but it's Monday, so I don't know why I get hopes up. It's always disappointing to me when the long Downs in an unrestricted grid like this don't pop and dance. Today, I love ON THE LAM (9D: Like an escapee), but the long Downs are blah. Oh, unless you count ODE TO JOY as a long Down (which at 8, I guess it is) (39D: Poem used in Beethoven's "Choral Symphony"). That answer is aces. That's how you handle a "J" — block it at the front end so it starts an answer. Otherwise you can get very screwed very fast, and will likely have to rely on foreign words or abbrevs. "J"s are always happiest at the beginnings of words. Scrabbly letters are divas and you have to manage them, because they will bring down the whole show in a hurry if you don't. Your options for moving forward with a grid often narrow down quickly when you bring the Xs, Qs, and Zs of this world out to play. Can you tell I spent the entire weekend constructing? I am dreaming in grids now. It's not the greatest feeling. But I did get two puzzles done and I'm half way thru a Sunday-sized one, so though I feel a bit strung out, at least I was productive.

Theme answers:

  • 21A: Capable of doing a job (UP TO THE TASK)
  • 37A: Next in line to advance at work (UP FOR A PROMOTION) — this answer bugged me the most, as the phrase, as I hear it in my head, is UP FOR PROMOTION. "I'm UP FOR PROMOTION." The "A" tripped me, as I typed out my answer and still had one letter left over and couldn't figure out what I did wrong.
  • 48A: Jackie Gleason catchprase ("AND AWAY we go!")

Crosswordese 101: ELKO (61A: Northern Nevada town) — I have great affection for said town, as I drove through it once on a cross-country trip with my sister twenty years ago. I've told the story of our misadventures elsewhere. We ended up in WELLS, NV, which you will never, ever see clued as a [Northern Nevada town]. I used ELKO in the first puzzle I ever showed to the public — last year's Vice Presidential debate-themed puzzle "Don't Blink" (which you can get at my NYT website, co-written with PG, edited by Orange). We actually clued it as "city." Well, insofar as any place with just 16K inhabitants can be called a "city," sure, it's a city. ELKO is important in the history of railroads and the mail system (read here), and is the site of the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, according to Wikipedia. Most of the time, it's a place for people to gamble and sleep with hookers (legal prostitutes, "active brothels").

See you Friday,


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else —
  • 1A: Skills-sharpening piano piece (ETUDE); 6A: El __, Texas (PASO); 10A: SoCal cop force (LAPD); 14A: Bolshevik leader (LENIN); 15A: "Baseball Tonight" station (ESPN); 16A: Prefix meaning "same" (EQUI-); 17A: Elementary (BASIC); 18A: Bit of sports info (STAT); 19A: To-do (FUSS); 20A: Pose a question (ASK); 21A: Capable of doing a job (UP TO THE TASK); 24A: "To whom __ concern" (IT MAY); 26A: Tarzan actor Ron (ELY); 27A: Improvises lines (AD LIBS); 29A: Solidify (JELL); 31A: La __, Bolivia (PAZ); 34A: Group fight (MELEE); 35A: Pervasive quality (AURA); 36A: Yard event (SALE); 37A: Next in line to advance at work (UP FOR A PROMOTION); 40A: Astound (STUN); 41A: Corp. leaders (CEOS); 42A: Acted boldly (DARED); 43A: Subj. for some immigrants (ESL); 44A: Berlin "Mister" (HERR); 45A: Mother with a Nobel prize (TERESA); 46A: More than damp (WET); 47A: With __ breath: tensely anticipatory (BATED); 48A: Jackie Gleason catchphrase (AND AWAY WE GO); 53A: Sorrow (WOE); 56A: Sweet-talk (COAX); 57A: Dabbling duck (TEAL); 58A: Puts behind bars (JAILS); 60A: Roof overhang (EAVE); 61A: Northern Nevada town (ELKO); 62A: Pop music's Hall & __ (OATES); 63A: Lose, as skin (SHED); 64A: Eject, geyser-style (SPEW); 65A: Internet giant with an exclamation point in its name (YAHOO); 1D: Napoleon's exile isle (ELBA); 2D: Oolong and pekoe (TEAS); 3D: Not practiced (UNSKILLFUL); 4D: 502, to Nero (DII); 5D: Burden (ENCUMBER); 6D: Annoying, like a kid brother (PESTY); 7D: Concerning (AS TO); 8D: Minor quarrel (SPAT); 9D: Like an escapee (ON THE LAM); 10D: Southpaw's nickname (LEFTY); 11D: Greenish-blue (AQUA); 12D: Kitty or kisser (PUSS); 13D: Floppy with data (DISK); 22D: Daddies (PAS); 23D: Building wing (ELL); 25D: Attach with rope (TIE ON); 27D: Cause to chuckle (AMUSE); 28D: U.S. Cabinet divisions (DEPTS.); 29D: Foreman in court, e.g. (JUROR); 30D: Bow-toting god (EROS); 31D: Assigned as the partner of, as in dance class (PAIRED WITH); 32D: Medicinal plants (ALOES); 33D: "The Prisoner of __": 1937 Fairbanks film (ZENDA); 35D: Imitator (APER); 36D: Unwavering look (STARE); 38D: Plastic overlays for artwork (ACETATES); 39D: Poem used in Beethoven's "Choral Symphony" (ODE TO JOY); 44D: Fell with an axe (HEW); 45D: Playground game (TAG); 46D: Applied Simoniz to (WAXED); 47D: Underneath (BELOW); 48D: Unreturnable serves (ACES); 49D: Ark builder (NOAH); 50D: Pianist Brubeck (DAVE); 51D: Shrill bark (YELP); 52D: Open one's eyes (WAKE); 54D: Butterlike spread (OLEO); 55D: Exxon, once (ESSO); 59D: Small battery (AAA).


    Charles Bogle said...

    Thank you Mel Rosen for a very enjoyable Monday...nice theme and for my money a general absence of the usual early week tired old fill...also an improved start to the week compared to last...like RP< I liked ONTHELAM; also like MELEE, anything to do w Jackie Gleason; didn't, but now, know ELKO and those TEAS

    btw, can't help but notice and observe that there are two identical Qs and As viz today's NYT and neither is the dog in the Thin Man. Coincidence?

    Sfingi said...

    Zipzip. Never noticed the theme. Only one rewrite, 16A EQUI over homo. Latin and Greek.

    By the way, in NYS Sherrill, with 3k is a city. Hempstead with a 750K is not. To become a city, it must begin as a town/village/hamlet and must apply for a charter. The state can accept or reject, but once a city, always a city. So, it doesn't matter if Utica loses almost half its population going from 110 to 60, it's a city. Further, a city is a 1st class city if it's >175K, not how classy it is.

    Picky Bastard said...

    UNSKILLFUL should not be a word. You take a prefectly good noun, add a suffix to it for the negative, fine, I'll buy that. But to then add a prefix to negate the suffix you just added is just wrong. Boycott UNSKILLFUL for unskilled.

    shrub5 said...

    This was a fun solve and I was UPTOTHETASK to get it done without errors or reference aid. My only writeover was YELP over YIPS which was obviously wrong with the S.

    Had the same thought as @rp about UPFORAPROMOTION. Liked the clues for PESTY (annoying, like a kid brother) and PUSS (kitty or kisser.)

    Re: 47A) with _____ breath: tensely anticipatory, I was reminded that it is BATED, not baited. Bated is a shortened form of abated and in this phrase refers to a state in which one nearly stops breathing due to anticipation or suspense. "Bated breath" was first used by Shakespeare in "The Merchant of Venice" where Shylock says to Antonio:

    Shall I bend low and in a bondsman's key,
    With bated breath and whispering humbleness, say this:
    'Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;
    You spurned me such a day; another time
    You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies
    I'll lend you thus much moneys'?

    *Daivd* said...

    I liked this for a Monday felt it was better then the standard dial-in puzzles we've been getting.

    jazz said...

    This was a good Monday. Few 3-letter fills and the ones that were there were legit.

    I liked PAIREDWITH and ACETATES, ENCUMBER and ONTHELAM...long downs are so often an afterthought.

    And the difficulty was reasonable for a Monday (not hard, but not so simple that my HS freshman child could do it without help!)

    The usual ELKO (vs RENO) and EROS (vs ARES) had me do a couple sitcheroos...and COAX (ends in X, not an abbrev or acronym) was a nice touch. But shouldn't JELL be GEL? I guess maybe I've seen it both ways. And FUSS x PUSS, AQUA x EQUI in the NE corner is a nice symmetric touch.

    All in all (for my taste), I give it a Monday 9 of 10!

    Nice job, Mel (and good writeup as usual, Rex!)

    Parsan said...

    @shrub 5--The Shakespeare quote was like music to the ears. And speaking of music, I was hoping for a little DAVE Brubeck on the blog this morning. His "Take Five" (written by saxophonist Paul Desmond) was about how long it took me to do this puzzle by pen.

    I liked this puzzle, but of late have been wishing for less mindless clues. When we get 65A-"Internet giant with an exclamation point in its name", they might as well have added "having three vowels and the next to last letter of the alphabet". I know, that's an exaggeration but clues that are subtle make solving the puzzles more fun.

    Only correction tie up for TIE ON. I liked the theme. Learned a new town ELKO.

    It's a beautiful day here in the northeast with the leaves just beginning to turn. My favorite time of the year. President Obama is coming to town today to speak at a community college about 10 minutes away, but admission is by invitation only. Well, there's always TV.

    gespenst said...

    Who knew "teal" meant: "Any of various small freshwater ducks of the genus Anas that are brightly coloured and have short necks; A dark, somewhat bluish, green colour; a dark cyan; having a bluish-green colour"

    Well, I apparently *I* didn't, but I do now ;)

    I had to add the "a" in "up for a promotion," but I think I've heard both so it didn't bother me.

    Learned Elko (had Reno, though I don't even know whether it's actually a northern NV town).

    Good Monday puzzle.

    Parsan said...

    @gespenst--did you notice 57A TEAL and 11D AQUA, both blue-greens?

    Bohica said...

    Finally, a nice Monday puzzle! And one not constructed by the editor (Orange, that's your cue to pop in with an anagram of Mel Rosen).

    Liked UP TO THE TASK and ENCUMBER. Didn't like JELL.

    This puzzle has me looking forward to the rest of the week.

    Orange said...

    @Bohica: Lem Snore?

    chefwen said...

    @shrub5 - Always wondered where BATED breath came from but never took the time to look it up. Now I don't have to. Thanks!
    Also didn't think JELL looked right, now I'll have to look THAT up.

    ddbmc said...

    Would "baited breath" come from eating worms? Had "heir" for Herr, but realized my err; Totally missed the 502 to Nero, but it appeared with the cross. Eros Elmn?
    Been through Reno, but not Elko. Maybe next year's Lollapuzzoola and the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering could be a joint convention. Crosswords and cowboy poetry-could be the start of a beautiful relationship! Yee Haw!

    tmac said...

    Did no one notice that this puzzle is a pangram? You always have to factor that in when critiquing a puzzle. Any constructor that manages to fit the entire alphabet into the puzzle deserves an extra little break on the quality of the fill. Good job Mel!

    P.S. This comment is also a pangram.