TUESDAY, September 1, 2009 — Sharon Petersen

Theme: "Wild Nights" — Theme answers are familiar phrases that begin with a word that can follow the word wild in another familiar phrase.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Stealthy felon (CAT BURGLAR).
  • 61A: Apartment building emergency exit (FIRE ESCAPE).
  • 11D: Wedding party tyke (FLOWER GIRL).
  • 28D: Boating safety feature (LIFE JACKET).
  • 68A: Untamed, and word that can precede the starts of 17- and 61-Across and 11- and 28-Down (WILD).

Crosswordese 101: Not much crosswordese to choose from today (which is awesome!), so let's talk about frequent headliner at the CrossWorld Jazz Lounge, ETTA James. She will almost always be clued like she is today — 3D: James of jazz. The thing is that you can't be fooled by thinking James is a first name! If James and jazz are in the clue, chances are it's ETTA you want.

This puzzle came together very smoothly for me and I really enjoyed it. Not a lot of snap to the theme entries, except for CAT BURGLAR, which is awesome. And I'm not sure I love the resulting phrase "wild life," but okay. There wasn't anything super flashy about the fill either, but there was enough good stuff to make it an above-average Tuesday in my book. SAY CHEESE (36D: Photographer's request) has shown up in puzzles before, but not very often so it felt pretty fresh to me. And it's symmetrical with SERENADES (5D: Woos with song), which is also a nice entry. I was able to get my pop culture on with ELAINE (20A: Friend of Jerry and George — love her!), Nora EPHRON (56A: "Sleepless in Seattle" director Nora), LONI Anderson (23A: Anderson of "WKRP in Cincinnati") and EWAN McGregor (22A: McGregor of "Angels & Demons"). I know some people don't like names in their puzzle, but I always do.
  • 10A: Calif. cop org. (SFPD). Is it sad that I only associate the San Francisco Police Department with Dirty Harry?
  • 15A: Birdie beater (EAGLE). Golf!
  • 37A: Battle of Britain defense gp. (RAF). Royal Air Force.
  • 1D: Dark purple (PUCE). Ugliest color name ever.
  • 9D: Big name in mattresses (SERTA). When it comes to mattresses, it's going to be SERTA or Sealy so you can fill in the SE and wait for the crosses.
  • 33D: First mate? (ADAM). Love it that Adam Lambert made his first crossword appearance over the weekend and would like to see more of him!
  • 38D: "The World According to __": John Irving novel (GARP). I you haven't read Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, do yourself a favor and check it out. I guess I'm an Irving fan in that I've read six of his books, including the 800+-page monstrosity Until I Find You. I swear I'm not saying this to be funny, but if you can make it through the drudgery of the first 400 pages, the last half of the book is excellent.
  • 39D: Cheyenne-to-Omaha direction (EAST). Love it that this isn't a random combination of N, S, E, or W.
  • 57D: Sitarist Shankar (RAVI). Did you know that Norah Jones is his daughter? I saw it in a crossword puzzle so it must be true.
  • 58D: European auto (OPEL). If you had trouble with this, you might want to review Rex's Crosswordese 101 lesson here.
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Everything Else — 1A: Wordsworth work (POEM).; 5A: Pipe organ knobs (STOPS).; 14A: __ snuff (UP TO).; 16A: Ballerina's bend (PLIE).; 19A: Very small amount (IOTA).; 21A: Tonsillitis MD (ENT).; 25A: Cannes cup (TASSE).; 27A: Flamenco yell (OLÉ).; 29A: Elementary school basics (ABCS).; 31A: Left ventricle outlet (AORTA).; 34A: "__ Old Man": kids' song (THIS).; 35A: "Gloria in Excelsis __" (DEO).; 36A: The Greeks' Helios, e.g. (SUN GOD).; 38A: "Oh, be serious!" ("GET REAL!").; 40A: Call __ day (IT A).; 41A: Sports spots (ARENAS).; 43A: Like Paree, in song (GAY).; 44A: Jam-pack (CRAM).; 45A: Captain's superior (MAJOR).; 46A: Grab bag category: Abbr. (MISC.).; 47A: Heart and soul (ALL).; 48A: Pie fruit (APPLE).; 50A: So (THUS).; 52A: Table salt, to a chemist (NACL).; 54A: Lupino of film (IDA).; 60A: __-Seltzer (ALKA).; 63A: Blueprint detail, briefly (SPEC).; 64A: White-tie accompanier (TAILS).; 65A: Finished (OVER).; 66A: Handy bag (TOTE).; 67A: Sidewinder, e.g. (SNAKE).; 2D: October gemstone (OPAL).; 4D: Art pieces that hang from the ceiling (MOBILES).; 6D: Game with an "it" (TAG).; 7D: Stare at obviously (OGLE).; 8D: Herbs and shrubs (PLANTS).; 10D: Watches secretly (SPIES ON).; 12D: Bread with tabbouleh (PITA).; 13D: Martin of the Rat Pack (DEAN).; 18D: Family card game (UNO).; 24D: "Not likely!" ("I BET!").; 26D: Nobelist Bellow (SAUL).; 27D: Butler's love (O'HARA).; 30D: Short-legged Welsh pooch (CORGI).; 32D: Do sum work (TOTAL).; 34D: Streetcar cousin (TRAM).; 42D: "There's __ like home" (NO PLACE).; 44D: Consistent moneymaker (CASH COW).; 46D: Middle of the road (MEDIAN).; 49D: Picks up (LIFTS).; 51D: Favorable times (UPS).; 52D: Democrat's donkey designer (NAST).; 53D: Chop House dog food maker (ALPO).; 55D: Diva's solo (ARIA).; 59D: Uncool sort (NERD).; 62D: Moose, to a European (ELK).


Puzzled said...

Both this and yesterday's puzzle were both very good examples of solid Monday/Tuesday puzzles. The difficulty isn't there for the more experienced solvers, but they more than made up for it with lively fill and smooth solves. Not much crosswordese in either, plus they each had a good variety of stuff outside of the usual early week puzzles.

Sfingi said...

@PuzzleGirl, I need to know - Why do you say nights after wild as the theme? Is this just your take?

Anyway, I did this in 15 min., which for a newbee like me, feels terrific. Furthermore, I scarcely looked at the questions! Unreal. Something clicked. I don't know Ewan, but it didn't matter. I had to read clues/questions afterwards to appreciate them.

mac said...

This was the first time I did a puzzle completely "downs only", so I missed a lot of the clues and answers....

I agree with PuzzleGirl about the earlier John Irving books, the last couple haven't been so great. He is also a wrestler! Or he was, he hurt himself and someone else pretty badly and his wife made him stop, I think I recall.

Carol said...

Nice solid Tuesday puzzle. Was tickled with Corgi as we adopted a dog from the SPCA and were told it was part Corgi - so we named her "Corky" only to find out from the vet she's mostly Jack Russel terrier (along with who knows what). She can leap from floor to the top of a recliner in one bound and is impossible to catch when playing chase.

shrub5 said...

@PG: I enjoyed the write-up accompanied by John Mellencamp's "Wild Nights". Of note, he co-founded "Farm Aid", yearly concerts (since 1985) which raise money to help sustain family farms.

I took WILD LIFE in the sense of: The forest fire threatened the wildlife.....rather than: He led a wild life. So I like that theme answer as well as the rest.

When I saw the word PUCE, it reminded me of this article from ScrappleFace:

Ridge Resigns to Become CEO at Crayola Maker

(2004-11-30) — Citing creative differences with the Bush administration, Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge today resigned his cabinet post to become the new CEO of Binney & Smith, makers of Crayola crayons.

“It’s a growth opportunity for me,” said an emotional Mr. Ridge at a hastily-called news conference. “I’m 59 now, and it’s time to move beyond the five colors in the Homeland Security Advisory System. At Binney & Smith, I’ll oversee an operation that often packs 128 different shades into a single box.”

Privately, associates of Mr. Ridge acknowledge that he has often clashed with President George Bush over expanding the multi-hued terror alert warning.

“Tom told me that the president’s view of terror threats is too simplistic,” said one unnamed Ridge confidant. “Bush sees the threat level in stark terms– green, blue, yellow, orange and red. But Ridge wanted to convey more shades of meaning. When he tried to get the president to add fuscia, salmon or even PUCE, he was rebuffed.”

PARSAN said...

Easy breezy Tuesday! PG- as you wrote, Etta James is almost always referenced as a jazz singer but I wonder what she would call herself? In her long career she sang and recorded gospel, pop, and is in the Blues, Rockibilly, and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. She was recently in the news over her comments about Obama asking Beyonce to sing "At Last" at an inaugral party where he danced with his wife,(a song she made famous and considered her theme song), instead of asking her to perform. She referred to his big ears and said Beyonce was "gonna get her ass whupped", but later said it was all a joke.

GLowe said...

- ELK = MOOSE? I'm sure this tidbit is legitimized in Wiki somewhere, but sheesh.

- @Carol, if you have a JRT (as we do), you'll need lots of energy to keep up, and the dog will train YOU. Don't worry, they're patient but insistant ....

Burner10 said...

I liked the opal opel thing in the NW SE spots.
Don't understand the Adam Lambert comment - need 2nd cup of coffee.

PARSAN said...

@shrub5 -Thanks for the quote. So funny!

Scott said...

ELK = MOOSE and better yet,

I agree with all above, this puzzle was a nice smooth early week solve, nice grid, but light on sparkle. Loved the OPAL/OPEL in parallel spots!

John Irving is uneven and the books are repetitive. A Prayer for Owen Meany is outstanding and is definitely the best of the ones I've read.

*David* said...

Was hoping for a bit more difficulty in a Tuesday puzzle but it felt identical to yesterday's. There was no resistance anywhere. For an easy puzzle I suppose it was solid but on the other side I don't really remember much about it, which can't be a good thing.

Rex Parker said...

Cheater squares in this one are bugging me in this one more than they normally do, perhaps because they seem entirely unnecessary ...

Tuesday puzzles will never be difficult. Never more than slightly tougher than Mondays. Today, 15 seconds tougher for me.


Greene said...

Extremely smooth and easy puzzle. Zipped through without any errors at all.

Count me among John Irving's fans. My favorite book is probably "A Prayer For Owen Meany," but "The Cider House Rules" is a very close second. Please don't ever see the film Simon Birch which was a seriously misguided attempt to bring "Owen Meany" to the screen. Just terrible.

I have been less impressed with Irving's output lately; I kind of liked "A Son of the Circus," but just about everything after has done little for me. Still, I keep reading...and hoping.

jazz said...

Just one guy's opinion...too many names, titles and initials in this one.

Theme was OK, but maybe we've been spoiled with some really good themes and executions lately, so will have to settle for merely "ok" today.

Thanks as always!

PARSAN said...

@REX - Since I am new to all of this I don't "get" some of the terminology. What are cheater squares?

hazel said...

Liked the puzzle just fine - was v. happy to see my CORGI mix in the middle of things where she likes to be.

@Carol, I think our rescue dog is almost all CORGI, and she can't leap worth beans - she does love her ALPO - and pretty much anything else put in her bowl - though.

Started off doing the downs and had RINGBEARER for FLOWERGIRL for a few seconds.

Soozy said...

Nobody notice OPAL and OPEL? When I filled in the latter, I thought "hey, that seems like a silly oversight..." then checked and realized the two clues were placed just opposite each other--I just love little hidden things like that!

As said before, nothing too terribly difficult but just a good, steady solve. Fun times!

Lex said...

Thanks for the fun writeup, PG!

@GLowe: Yes, the animal Sarah Palin calls a "moose" would be called an "elk" by Britons and Europeans.

I agree with most of you: easy breezy Tuesday puzzle today. No real resistance anywhere, but the fill was smooth and the theme was rock solid.

I was especially struck by the timely irony of having a WILDFIRE in the LA Times puzzle today.

Charles Bogle said...

thank you very much Sharon Peterson for a lively and entertaining Tuesday...for all the reasons well-stated by PG, Puzzled, @burner10, @carol, @shrub5 et al....OPEL/OPAL was cute....agree w criticisms of John Irving's last five or six efforts; loved Owen Meany; a friend read from it at my son's memorial service--very powerful...liked seeing SAUL Bellow and heartily recommend him to anyone not familiar...start w a novella like "The Bellarosa Connection"

OHARA for "Butler's love" cleverly threw me a bit...loved CATBURGLAR

Anonymous said...

ALPO is an anagram of OPAL. Woulda been cool if 12d were either LOPE or POLE instead of PITA.

ddbmc said...

I did this puzzle extra early this AM (4am east coast time!) and have been on the run all day! Nice to read all your comments. Thanks, @Shrubb 5,loved the quote about Tom Ridge! For @PG, John Iving was in the film "The World According to Garp" briefly, in the high school wrestling scene w/Robin Williams. He's got a ref shirt on and whistles the pin. Read a "Prayer for Owen Meany" so long ago, but recently saw "Simon Birch," which is based on that story. Always brings me to tears! Missed the "wild" connection totally. TGFPG! (and Rex AND Orange)Puce is an ugly word, but Etta James version of "At Last" is an all time fav! Hope the wild fires die down soon new LA!

humorlesstwit said...

@PG - You just wasted at least a half hour of my life. Fifteen minutes were spent looking for Van's version of Wild Night on the web, another fifteen looking for my Tupelo Honey tape (found the box, not the tape).
Note to musicians: Never try to cover Van Morrison. Ever.

Bohica said...

@Parsan: Chaeater Squares are any black square which can be removed from a crossword diagram, along with its symmetrically opposite black square, without decreasing the total word count of the puzzle. A puzzle may be rejected if its diagram contains too many cheater black squares.

Pretty boring puzzle today, hope tomorrows theme has more life to it.

Jet City Gambler said...

@Parsan: Following up on what Bohica said, the cheater squares are in the L-shaped blocks in the NW and SE. You could lop off the short end of the "L" and the word count would be the same.

If you solve a lot of puzzles, you'll begin to notice the cheater squares, because that means the constructor had some difficulty with that area, so look for weird stuff like letter runs or Roman numerals. Sometimes you can suss out an answer that way.

Breezy puzzle, but I was disappointed in how bland the clue for SFPD was ... what, no Karl Malden and Michael Douglas reference? No Bullitt? No Harry Callahan?

Sfingi said...

So, how many are too many cheater squares? Also, are there ever any acceptable 2-letter words?

62D The North American elk is so handsome. The moose is so -- not so handsome. We have moose in Upstate NY, no elk. People here buy everything shaped like moose.

1D puce has been described as the color of the flea. Apparently, puce means flea in (gasp) French. In the days of leisure suits, my hubby had a Geoffrey Beene suit, vest and all, of puce.

So much about Garp. The woman who cut her tongue out was a total turn off, but the expression, "the undertoad," was wonderful.