MONDAY, Oct. 12, 2009 — David W. Cromer

THEME: Run Away! — theme answers end with RETREAT, WITHDRAWAL, and FLIGHT, respectively

Interesting choice of theme combined with very solid fill. Sadly, it was so easy that it was barely there. Almost utterly insubstantial. Never saw the theme, and barely saw half the clues, before I was done. When you deprive your grid of any (non-theme) answer longer than 6 letters (and precious few answers that are even that long), your grid is bound to lack compelling fill. The longer your answers, the more interesting you can be (and the harder the grid is to fill). We have 42 black squares today, chopping the grid into tiny sections of mostly 4-letter words. Kind of a snooze. Again, to the constructor's credit, there is very, very little bad fill (esp. tough when there is so much short fill to take care of — most bad fill is short fill). Only NAMER makes me wince even a little bit (65A: Christener). But then only CYPRUS gives me even a little bit of pleasure (28A: Mediterranean island republic).

[Cypress Hill, "Insane in the Membrane" — PROFANITY warning]

Interestingly, NAMER and CYPRUS were about the only places where my pace slowed at all. Went in a straight line from NW to SE, then cut over to SW, then up to W, over to E, and finally up to NE and N, with ESTES being the last thing I filled in. Speaking of ESTES...

Crosswordese 101: ESTES (8D: Colorado's _____ Park) — my sister lives very near here. One time my mom's ... boyfriend? (guy she has now lived with for well over a decade, whatever you call *that* guy ... I call him "Keith") ... was driving me to my sister's wedding in the foothills of the Rockies and overshot the turnoff and he and I ended up at ESTES Park. That is what ESTES Park means to me. And my sister. There is also an opera singer named ESTES — [Bass-baritone Simon] — and an actor named Rob (from the original "Melrose Place"). Apparently Adlai Stevenson's running mate was named ESTES as well. ESTES Kefauver. With a name like that, how in the world did he lose!? The letters in ESTES are ultra-common, even if no particular ESTES is, and so you will see ESTES in xwords from now 'til eternity.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Corporate-sponsored vacation (COMPANY RETREAT)
  • 40A: Retirement account transaction that may incur a penalty (EARLY WITHDRAWAL)
  • 59A: Local airline trip (COMMUTER FLIGHT)

See you Friday


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: A little batty (DAFT); 5A: Fills completely (SATES); 10A: Skips, as ads on a taped show (ZAPS); 14A: "Garfield" dog (ODIE); 15A: What an ump's protector protects (CHEST); 16A: Approximately (OR SO); 17A: Former Italian coins (LIRE); 18A: Main blood line (AORTA); 19A: Loch with a legend (NESS); 20A: Corporate-sponsored vacation (COMPANY RETREAT); 23A: Ruhr valley city (ESSEN); 24A: Largest continent (ASIA); 25A: Sicilian volcano (ETNA); 28A: Mediterranean island republic (CYPRUS); 33A: Place to retire to? (BED); 36A: Tournament matches before finals, briefly (SEMIS); 39A: Matador's foe (TORO); 40A: Retirement account transaction that may incur a penalty (EARLY WITHDRAWAL); 44A: "Iliad" setting (TROY); 45A: Big name in tractors (DEERE); 46A: __-mo replay (SLO); 47A: Challenge a verdict in a higher court (APPEAL); 50A: Money you owe (DEBT); 52A: Follow, as a suspect (TAIL); 55A: Love poetry Muse (ERATO); 59A: Local airline trip (COMMUTER FLIGHT); 64A: "A guy walks into a bar ..." may start one (JOKE); 65A: Christener (NAMER); 66A: Go-__: small racer (KART); 67A: Gets it wrong (ERRS); 68A: Dolly the sheep, for one (CLONE); 69A: Fencing blade (ÉPÉE); 70A: Herbal brews (TEAS); 71A: Sharpened (HONED); 72A: Crystal gazer (SEER); 1D: "La __ Vita" (DOLCE); 2D: "Later, amigo" (ADIOS); 3D: Law corporations, e.g. (FIRMS); 4D: Conical abode (TEEPEE); 5D: CAT procedure (SCAN); 6D: Greeting at sea (AHOY); 7D: __ cotta (TERRA); 8D: Colorado's __ Park (ESTES); 9D: Unwanted radio noise (STATIC); 10D: No-fly __ (ZONE); 11D: Locale (AREA); 12D: Sibilant attention getter (PSST); 13D: Brillo rival (SOS); 21D: Unable to sit still (ANTSY); 22D: Jamie Foxx biopic about singer Charles (RAY); 26D: Previously unseen (NEW); 27D: In the thick of (AMID); 29D: School org. (PTA); 30D: Lines of seats (ROWS); 31D: River through southern Russia (URAL); 32D: Unaccompanied performance (SOLO); 33D: Alpha, __, gamma (BETA); 34D: Wyatt of the Old West (EARP); 35D: Bit of medicine for the eye or ear (DROP); 37D: Suffix with meteor (-ITE); 38D: Tool house (SHED); 41D: Caustic potash (LYE); 42D: Dr. of rap (DRE); 43D: Insurrectionist (REBEL); 48D: 24-hr. cash dispenser (ATM); 49D: Cape Canaveral event (LAUNCH); 51D: Tots' rides (TRIKES); 53D: "Boot" country prefix (ITALO); 54D: Iced tea flavor (LEMON); 56D: Wide open (AGAPE); 57D: Crowd quota? (THREE); 58D: Playful river critter (OTTER); 59D: Planetary center (CORE); 60D: Cajun vegetable (OKRA); 61D: Army meal (MESS); 62D: Actress Russo (RENE); 63D: Barney's Bedrock pal (FRED); 64D: "Jumbo" flier (JET).


Parsan said...

Sailed through with only one write-over, had money instead of EARLY WITHDRAWAL. No wait, had cart instead of KART, for a second.

What would we do without PSST, Dr. DRE, OKRA, PTA, and ODIE?

I live in TROY, a city that after the Revolutionary War was classicly named along with other up-state NY cities; Syracuse, Ithica, Utica, Rome, etc. It's Latin name Ilium, was the setting for some of Kurt Vonnegut's books, some written when he lived here. We also claim Uncle Sam and the inventer of detachable collars, no longer in use but a god-send to wives before washing machines.

ESTES Kefauver was one of the most powerful senator of mid 20th century and was a Presidential candidate twice, losing one election to Stevenson even after overwhelmingly winning state primaries. Politics then, as now, was controlled by political bosses, not the people. He headed the Kefauver Committee that investigated organized crime (Mafia), a sensation in the country that was shown on live TV, certainly one of the first to directly connect the congress with the people.

Thanks Rex for the write-up!

shrub5 said...

Buon giorno!

I was happy to see that the theme I thought I detected was correct! I wasn't sure there was one.

Liked BED (Place to retire to?) and THREE (Crowd quota?) -- they made me LOL. Many foreign destinations today, from Sicily to CYPRUS to TROY, then to Russia and ESSEN and so on.

Love the word DAFT. I will try to find an occasion to use it today -- shouldn't be hard!

@Parsan: Thanks for the interesting info on Troy and Kefauver.

hazel said...

Whatever girl solves puzzle without incident.

jazz said...

"ITALO?" That's a new one on me. Otherwise, OK for a Monday. I was a little, um, unSATEd with only three theme answers (and not inspired ones, at that) and the multiple short answers.

Still, most were legit (no contrived acronyms or initials) and there were very few three-letter fills (bravo, Mr. Cromer!).

Like @shrub5, I like the word DAFT...sounds British to me, somewhere between silly and out-and-out nuts.

And I liked the clue for THREE (Crowd quota?). Nice writeup, Rex, and we're all looking forward to more cleverness tomorrow!

bluebell said...

Daft is British to me too, spoken by a dowager as in "Don't be daft!"

I could probably live without Odie in the crosswords. Bad enough that he slobbers all over the comics.

Unaccompanied performance made me pause: unaccompanied means without instruments, to me. Solo means singing without a singing partner or partners.

Gareth Bain said...

OK, first time I ever solved ANY daily puzzle in less than 3 minutes, but I feel more disappointed than exuberant. The clues were beyond easy to being just about telegraphed, guessing the lack of longer words contributed as well though. Theme is decent enough, with 40A bringing out a juvenile snigger, but yes there wasn't too much pizzazz, and it's easier to have clunky-free fill with 3 theme entries and 42 blocks, just saying.

Parsan said...

Speaking of DAFT, has anyone seen the Sandra Bullock movie "All About Steve" where she plays a nutty cruciverbalist? It got very mixed reviews. I haven't seen it (and don't plan to), but the personalites that I surmise from our terrific three and other puzzle makers who have written on the blog are totally different from the description of the character in movie reviews.

mac said...

It was nice but easy; some clues and answers I didn't even see because I did most of it downs only. I agree, "namer" is not pretty, unless it is a shout-out to Andrea Carla Michaels.

It's great how we learn to be on the look-out for things because of reading this blog: yesterday I did some other puzzle online, and when it opened up the first thing I noticed were the two cheater squares!

Daft took a little while; I think it sounds British, too. I'm flying to London tomorrow! A friend in England just emailed me this morning after returning from Cyprus late last night. Her words: The weather was lovely, the place awful.

chefbea said...

very easy puzzle

The other night I couldn't sleep so around 2 in the morning I turned on TV and saw a rerun of Three Company...Don Knotts etc

Sfingi said...

Then there's Billy Sol Estes, scandalous Texan; but, that's a last name. Come to think of it, why would they name a park after a first name?

So many different ways to deduce a theme, common letters, rhymes, even ideas. Did not get the theme 'til reading this forum, but it being a Monday, finished w/o the need.

Getting sick of epee, clone, lire, Odie and Essen. PTA vs PTO is always anxiety causing. O Well.

Gee, the word "pizzazz" ala @Gareth Bain might be fun.

@Jazz Italo as in Ital-Greek (also known as Greco-Italian).

Daft - oldster/oldstress word.
R U daft?

@Parsan - Classical revival place names in Upstate NY corresponded with Greek Revival architecture (columns on farm houses). Utica was a Tunisian port that's now silted in, the opposite effect of falling into the sea. The Federalist architecture (2 stories, 5 windows across, door in middle), an American invention, was discarded. Before that, in the Colonial period, New Englanders were still on the Medieval (2nd story overhangs, timbering, multiple gables) while the Spanish in Florida were onto the Baroque, since styles in Europe, from whence both came, swept from South to North.

@Bluebell -
"Dogs drool, Cats rule."
(Quoted from my beloved dearly-departed, clean, dry Grayling. Yes, he said that. I think.)

Googled Estes Pk. Named after one Joel Estes of Missouri, an 1859 gold-rusher (Hmm, another goofy -er word).

Lemonade714 said...

Bluebell, you must not like rock and roll where the guitar SOLO, the bass SOLO, or the drum SOLO are all staples of a night's performance.

toothdoc said...

I'm torn, this was my first sub-4 minute solve. Does it count if it is the LAT??? ;) I'm going to say it does on a Monday.

Geometricus said...

ESTES to me will always be connected with model rockets. My boyhood was puncuated by my brothers and I building and repairing this brand of balsa-wood and cardboard solid fuel reusable rockets. Now my kids shoot them off. Very fun! Yes I beleive the brand of rockets came orignally from Estes Park, CO.

wilsch said...

I remember when I was a little kid (pre-school aged) my father and grandfather watching the (Estes) Kefauver hearings on the tube. Or maybe it was Joe McCarthy. I too like the word "daft". It was intersting to see "Italo" clued without "Calvino".

bluebell said...

Lemonade 714--I rest my case. In the instances you cite, the solo (an instrumentalist taking the lead without a partner soloist) is accompanied--backed up by other instruments.

Rex Parker said...

I kinda don't like TERRA in the puzzle and "MediTERRAnean" in the clue for CYPRUS. Not horrible, by any means, but if I'd been editor and caught that, I'd have changed the CYPRUS clue for sure.


chefwen said...

@Hazel - I forwarded the article on annoying phrases to my husband who likes to say "it is what it is", which bugs me, he replied, "Whatever, it is what it is."

Super easy yawner of a puzzle, was done before I knew I was doing a puzzle.

hazel said...

@Chefwen - kindred spirit with your husband! I like saying "it is what it is" too! Unlike many of my other "habits", it doesn't annoy my husband, though. God love him.

Orange said...

First time I heard "it is what it is," people were discussing Britney Spears' use of the phrase in an interview after being spotted driving with her baby on her lap. Then Donald Rumsfeld used it, further cementing its odiousness for me.

Charles Bogle said...

last and least...just got back from a disappointing fall foliage New England wkend..so much rain and cold this summer the leaves shut down..missing the brilliant colors. But plenty of apples. Very glad to find a decent Monday LAT; let's hope last week's trend continues @parsan thanks for ESTES...look what you've started

hazel said...

Wow - that's quite a trifecta - me, Donald Rumsfeld and Britney Spears (two of my all-time favorite people for obvious reasons) all in one odious little group.

Thanks for the association, Orange!