Sunday, September 6, 2009 — Merl Reagle

[Note: This is the puzzle that appears in the Sunday L.A. Times newspaper. If you don't get the paper, you can find the puzzle here. Scroll down to see the write-up of today's syndicated puzzle.]

Theme: "Designers' Holiday" — Theme answers are puns based on fashion designers' names.

Theme answers:
  • 22A: Confident words about a designer doing this puzzle? (HILFIGER IT OUT).
  • 32A: Encouragement from a designer's parents? (WE'RE PRADA YOU).
  • 50A/61A: Comment to a mischievous designer? (YOU'VE BEEN UP DIOR OLD TRICKS AGAIN).
  • 68A/84A: Comment about a designer's much-anticipated show? (I'VE BEEN WAITING VERSACE LONG TIME).
  • 97A: Exclamation at a designer's show? (LAUREN BEHOLD).
  • 114A: Words to a designer's baby? (PUCCI GUCCI KOO). I love that CHARO is also in the puzzle (19A: An ex of Xavier).
Bonus nontheme-theme answers:
  • 25A: Designer's initials (YSL).
  • 109D: Designer Hugo (BOSS).
My understanding is that for the foreseeable future, the Sunday calendar puzzle will run Sylvia Bursztyn and Merl Reagle on alternate weeks. If you haven't done many of Merl's puzzles, you might have some trouble. He definitely has his own style and it takes a few puzzles to get used to it. Merl is known for horrible, horrible (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) puns. I tell you what though: Even if you don't like puns, you have to admire how brilliantly he can put these themes together. Think about it. First he has to come up with the puns and they all have to be related somehow. Then he has to find symmetrical entries so they fit in a grid. Kinda makes me wonder if he has a long list of entries that didn't even make the puzzle. He's a creative genius, is what I'm saying.

The other feature of Merl's puzzles that always stands out to me is his use of "partials": typically small words that you wouldn't see in the grid but for their inclusion in common phrases. Today's partials include:
  • 41A: Little ___ effect (OR NO).
  • 74A: "This ___ a drill" (IS NOT).
  • 91A: Words to an old chap (I SAY).
  • 11D: Go ___ further (A STEP).
  • 60D: "You're ___ talk!" (ONE TO).
  • 70D: If ___ (should circumstances warrant) (NEEDS BE).
  • 78D: "Horton Hears ___" (A WHO).
  • 117D: "Indeed ___!" (I DO).
The partials in Merl's puzzles bothered me when I first started solving his puzzles but now I'm used to them. I actually sort of look forward to the ones that are parts of exclamations like today's "You're ONE TO talk!" For some reason those always make me chuckle.

I'm always pretty sure I'll see a couple answers I just plain don't know in a Merl puzzle.
  • 44A: College town near Eureka, Calif. (ARCATA). Home of Humboldt State University.
  • 53A: Pointed arch (OGIVE).
  • 106A: John who wed Shirley Temple (AGAR). Wanted it to be Black.
  • 12D: Lip or amyl ending (-ASE). I have no idea what this means.
  • 35D: Pope Nicholas III's family name (ORSINI). I know I've seen this before, but I couldn't come up with it. Hope I can next time.
What else?
  • 20A: Cugat's shakers (MARACAS). I just now noticed that Cugat is the Xavier referred to in the CHARO clue. Awesome.
  • 27A: U.S. school near Juarez (UTEP). The University of Texas at El Paso. It's in crosswords a lot, so try to remember it!
  • 40A: U.K. music label (EMI). I can never remember if it's EMI or BMI, which is also music-related (Broadcast Music Incorporated).
  • 67A: Fan favorite (IDOL). You know what's coming, right? I can't help myself.

  • 82A: Boston Garden legend (ORR). I always want this to be Larry Bird and it's always Bobby Orr.
  • 104A: Secret rival? (BAN). Deodorant!
  • 105A: Past partners (EXES).

  • 119A: Shrunken, polluted Asian body (ARAL SEA). Fun to see the whole name of this body of water instead of just the ARAL part. (Clearly, I need to get out more.)
  • 123A: Ladies' escorts (LORDS). Raise your hand if you entered gents first.
  • 1D: Stiff and sore (ACHY). Yes I like country music. No I'm not going to include a video of "Achy Breaky Heart." You're welcome.
  • 5D: ___ water (cologne) (TOILET). Not a real common crossword answer for some reason.
  • 16D: Grosse ___, Mich. (ILE). Tried to abbreviate pointe at first.
  • 47D: UFO shape, often (DISC). PuzzleSon just asked me about Area 51 the other day. Oh boy, here we go.
  • 93D: Full of nuance (SUBTLE). Great clue for a great word.
  • 115D: Hue: abbr. (CLR.). This one hurts a little.
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Everything Else — 1A: Chance to strike out on one's own (AT BAT); 6A: Texas oil city (ODESSA); 12A: Sour character (ACIDITY); 21A: Snack brand giant (SARA LEE); 24A: Clear (EVIDENT); 26A: The Beatles, e.g. (LADS); 29A: "To what ___?" (END); 30A: Fishing supplies (REELS); 37A: Refine, as metal (SMELT); 39A: Asian occasion (TET); 43A: Designer bag, perhaps (TOTE); 47A: Abbr. after Chris Dodd's name (D-CONN.); 49A: Create dresses (SEW); 55A: Prove fallible (ERR); 56A: High-minded (NOBLE); 57A: Tortilla dough? (PESO); 58A: You can skip the flat ones (STONES); 59A: Mister, at a misión (SEÑOR); 64A: Dark and atmospheric (NOIR); 66A: Coll. degrees (BAS); 78A: If nothing changes (AS IT IS); 79A: Hearing things (EARS); 80A: Jay's heir (CONAN); 83A: Welcome ___ (WAGON); 87A: Home of "True Blood" (HBO); 88A: Pushes (GOADS); 90A: Wolflike (LUPINE); 92A: Hefty refs. (OEDS); 94A: Detectives, briefly (PIS); 95A: Actress ___ Dawn Chong (RAE); 96A: Hammer parts (PEENS); 102A: Slumber stopper (ALARM); 107A: Escapee alert, for ex. (APB); 110A: Beat by a lot, as a record (SHATTER); 118A: Steak knives, etc. (CUTLERY); 120A: Worry-free places (EDENS); 121A: Dunk (IMMERSE); 122A: 1962 Roger Corman film, "Tales of ___" (TERROR); 2D: What you're doing (THIS); 3D: Bowling alley feature (BALL RETURN); 4D: Cartoon bark (ARF); 6D: Crew equipment (OARS); 7D: Gillette's Soft & ___ (DRI); 8D: Dig in (EAT); 9D: Use S.O.S on (SCOUR); 10D: Pan-fry (SAUTÉ); 13D: Collapsed (CAVED IN); 14D: Skater Slutskaya (IRINA); 15D: Any guy, to a beatnik (DADDYO); 17D: Easy multiplier (TEN); 18D: Nevertheless (YET); 20D: RN responsibilities (MEDS); 23D: Hoedown partner (GAL); 28D: Parboil (PRECOOK); 31D: Mtn. road stat (ELEV.); 32D: Taken off a liquid diet? (WEANED); 33D: Words to Brutus (ET TU); 34D: Love, to Livy (AMOR); 36D: Jagged (UNEVEN); 37D: Eye woes (STYES); 38D: Actress Julianne (MOORE); 39D: Immune system component (T-CELL); 42D: Is behind, in a way (OWES); 44D: Blood-typing letters (ABO); 45D: Drill a wider hole in, perhaps (REBORE); 46D: Informed opinion (APPRAISAL); 48D: Staying put (NOT GOING); 51D: Dressing regally (ENROBING); 52D: Believer in a nonintervening God (DEIST); 54D: Soccer scores (GOALS); 58D: Woebegone (SAD); 62D: Slope lifts (T-BARS); 63D: Join up (SIGN ON); 65D: Pluralized y (IES); 68D: Author Allende (ISABEL); 69D: Tessio in "The Godfather" (VIGODA); 71D: Some involve attrition (WARS); 72D: Cooling pouch for perishables (ICE PAD); 73D: "Honest!" ("NO LIE!"); 75D: Partier's prop (NOISE MAKER); 76D: TV money maven (ORMAN); 77D: Low cards (TREYS); 81D: Prop finish (-ANE); 84D: Futile (VAIN); 85D: Tress trait (CURL); 86D: Stadium section (TIER); 89D: Keys (OPENERS); 96D: Doorstep delivery (PARCEL); 98D: Film board, e.g. (RATER); 99D: Certain exile, for short (EXPAT); 100D: Une ___ (1 a.m., in Paris) (HEURE); 101D: Muppet in a can (OSCAR); 102D: Sonoran Desert cry? (AGUA); 103D: ___ insects (varnish resin source) (LAC); 106D: Teen follower (-AGER); 108D: Duck's home (POND); 110D: Empirical method subj. (SCI.); 111D: Sound happy, maybe (HUM); 112D: Dough-filled convenience? (ATM); 113D: Deli choice (RYE); 116D: Metrics intro (ISO-).


Al said...

-ase endings indicate enzymes. Amylase is in saliva and breaks down starches into sugars, and various lipases are water soluble and go to work on lipids (fats) that are not.

Anonymous said...

In my Philadelphia Inquirer the clue for 115D is "popular brand of stain remover."

Joon said...

i only just today realized i have No Idea what charo, cuchi-cuchi, or cugat refer to. fascinating to read up on them (mostly her) on wikipedia.

Anonymous said...

The only explanation for me is that I am in a time warp. Pittsburgh Post Gazette LA puzzle for today, 9-06,is themed "Great Direction". Help! SMS Save my soul!

PuzzleGirl said...

@Anon 1:30: Scroll down to the next post. The notes at the top of the posts explain the discrepancy.

shrub5 said...

I liked today's earlier puzzle better. This one was a bit of a grind. New words for me were OGIVE (pointed arch) and IES (pluralized y). I had PAPERS on the doorstep before PARCEL. I also had GUCCI GUCCI KOO and URAL SEA which led to "EXGUT" for certain exile. (!) Yeah, I knew that was wrong but I was just stumped.

My favorite clue was for WAR (Some involve attrition.)

Re: ENROBING -- the only time I have seen a form of this word used was when a friend of mine was appointed to a judgeship. The induction ceremony was called an enrobement.

mac said...

Nice Merle Reagle puzzle - I look around for his work every Sunday.

@PuzzleGirl: do you think Orsini sounds familiar to us because of the veal dish?
I also tried to put in Pte or Pnt instead of Ile.

@Joon: I've learned more about Charo today than I ever wanted to know....

*David* said...

I seem to be getting ADD as I get older I simply can't do the Sunday puzzles in one sitting. I finish half get up do something else and then come back a half hour later tofinish it off.

Problems were the LAC/AGAR and SARA/ASE crossings. I also tried to abbr. PTE for Grosse, ___ Mich. clue. My fav of this punny puzzle was PUCCI GUCCI KOO. The Cugat/Charo, ORSINI, and ARCATA were my new information for the day.

Djinn said...

Shrub5: "Enrobe" is also used in culinary descriptions. A caramel center enrobed in dark chocolate, or veal enrobed in a cream sauce, for example.

Charlie said...

@PG -- listen to the song "EMI" by the Sex Pistols, and you'll never get the two confused again.

Anonymous said...


Orange said...

Try looking at the October 17 post.