SATURDAY, October 24, 2009—Thomas Heilman

THEME: No theme today—This is a themeless Saturday puzzle or, if you will, a "freestyle" crossword

ZOMG! This is merely an easyish Saturday puzzle rather than a shockingly easy themeless. This one landed at Thursday NYT level for me—though I can't be sure, as I write this Friday evening, that the Negra Modelo didn't slow me down a tad. Though I generally find that a drink or two does not impair my crossword solving skills. In fact, I'm contemplating organizing an informal Tipsy Crossword Tournament at the next ACPT. Maybe in the hotel bar.

I haven't seen Thomas Heilman's byline in over a year, and I don't think he's done a ton of themelesses so I didn't know what to expect. The grid features triple-stacked 15s at the top and bottom. Like most triple stacks, these are mostly crossed by short answers—but there are also some kick-ass 8s and 11s intersecting them. Here are those answers:

  • 1A: Obsolete item (A THING OF THE PAST). This is a terrific crossword answer. Five words, completely natural language.
  • 16A: "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and others (CAUTIONARY TALES). I was thinking of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and tried to wedge HARRYPOTTERBOOKS in there. Nope! Needed to think of Mickey Mouse making Mephistophelean bargains for wizardly power.
  • 17A: Pet that's larger than a toy (MINIATURE POODLE). Have you seen the incredible ways Sandra Hartness decks out her poodle, Cindy? The picture gallery is here.
  • 60A: Tax service, familiarly (INTERNAL REVENUE). Can anyone tell me why I started out with NATIONAL here? That's not at all a phrase with the same currency as INTERNAL REVENUE.
  • 65A: It may be awakened after a period of inattention (RENEWED INTEREST). Ooh, I like this one.
  • 66A: Retail security staff (STORE DETECTIVES). There's a reason the store detective is not the subject of an entire genre of fiction and movies, isn't there? "Ooh, here's the gripping tale of a store detective who—snzzzxx."
  • 3D: Hid out, with "down" (HUNKERED). Gotta love hunkering down when the weather is terrible.
  • 10D: Some triangle sides (HYPOTENUSES). Do you think hippopotamuses could learn to recognize hypotenuses?
  • 23D: Half-baked (HARE-BRAINED). Hey, look, they both have h.-b. initials. I just asked my husband if he could think of anyone with those initials. He barked "Howard Barkin." Howard is, of course, neither hare-brained nor half-baked. Probably fully baked. And quite often faster than me on crosswords. Also Halle Berry. I don't know about her crossword skills. Rex, are you and Halle crossword pen pals?
  • 38D: Soviet leader who signed SALT I and II (BREZHNEV). Fun to say. Who doesn't love the ZH sound? Americans lose out. We use the sound but not the spelling. I'd like leisure much more if it were spelled "leizhure." Wouldn't you?
Clues of note:
  • 18A: Group originally named the Jolly Corks (ELKS). Aw, why'd they change their name? "Jolly Corks" is awesome. The Elks have a ridiculously grand domed building in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood. It stands out, like anything jolly and corky ought to.
  • 36A: Verdi aria that translates to "It was you" (ERI TU). What the...? Really? That's what crosswordese "ERI TU" means? Does the Spanish song "Eres Tu" mean the same thing?
  • 4D: "Yea, verily" ("IT IS SO"). It's kind of a crappy answer, but the clue took me straight to it. Gotta love a "yea, verily" when it arises.
  • 45D: Connecting flights (STAIRS). Aha! Flights of stairs connecting the floors of a building. I've seen this misleading clue before, but I still appreciate it.
  • 64D: Lab caretaker? (VET). As in a labrador retriever cared for by a veterinarian.
CARNET (46D: Customs exemption for an auto) is just bizarre. It looks like it's a strange two-word phrase, CAR NET, but it's a single word from the French for "notebook," meaning a customs permit letting you take a car across the border for a limited time. Crosscan! Do you drive to Washington State and get carnets all the time?

I'm not sure where to go for today's lesson. Not one, but two four-letter European rivers starting with O, neither of 'em the Oder? Both the ORNE and the OUSE have been covered already, Operatic ERI TU is golden crosswordese. Then there's 35D: Alice's chronicler, a folk singer named ARLO Guthrie. The Arlos win today.

Crosswordese 101: You need to know a handful of folkie clues for ARLO, but Mr. Guthrie isn't the only ARLO in crosswords. There's also the comic strip "Arlo & Janis," in which Arlo and Janis are husband and wife. Arlo Guthrie's dad is folk legend Woody Guthrie. Arlo sang "Alice's Restaurant" (that link's a 2005 live video I can't embed here) and he played at Woodstock. And now you are equipped to recognize about 95% of the clues for ARLO. Sing-along time:

Everything Else — 1A: Obsolete item (A THING OF THE PAST); 16A: "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and others (CAUTIONARY TALES); 17A: Pet that's larger than a toy (MINIATURE POODLE); 18A: Group originally named the Jolly Corks (ELKS); 19A: Zaire's Mobutu Sese __ (SEKO); 20A: No longer serving: Abbr. (RET.); 21A: Bk. before Job (ESTH.); 24A: Themes (TOPICS); 27A: Try to bean, in baseball (THROW AT); 30A: Easing of tension (DETENTE); 31A: Roadside grazer (DOE); 32A: False show (PRETENSE); 34A: Fountain beverage (SODA); 36A: Verdi aria that translates to "It was you" (ERI TU); 37A: Diamond stats (RBIS); 41A: Hearty entrée (RIB ROAST); 44A: Caviar, say (ROE); 45A: Quantities possessing only magnitude (SCALARS); 48A: Veneration (RESPECT); 50A: Seat of Washington's Pierce County (TACOMA); 51A: 1956 Mideast crisis site (SUEZ); 52A: Part of a loop (ARC); 53A: "Given that ..." ("IF SO ..."); 57A: McAn of shoes (THOM); 60A: Tax service, familiarly (INTERNAL REVENUE); 65A: It may be awakened after a period of inattention (RENEWED INTEREST); 66A: Retail security staff (STORE DETECTIVES); 1D: Tiptop (ACME); 2D: Shadow (TAIL); 3D: Hid out, with "down" (HUNKERED); 4D: "Yea, verily" ("IT IS SO"); 5D: Actress Vardalos (NIA); 6D: Contracted, as an illness (GOT); 7D: Burden (ONUS); 8D: Cab hailer (FARE); 9D: Serious trip (TREK); 10D: Some triangle sides (HYPOTENUSES); 11D: WWII zone (ETO); 12D: Kung __ chicken (PAO); 13D: Second man on the moon (ALDRIN); 14D: Choose (SELECT); 15D: Safari menace (TSE-TSE); 22D: Local govt. unit (TWP.); 23D: Half-baked (HARE-BRAINED); 25D: They may end with 27-Down (OTS); 26D: Equal (PEER); 27D: Passes may result in them: Abbr. (TDS); 28D: "Yoo-__!" (HOO); 29D: Alaska and La., once (TERRS.); 30D: Remove pitch stains from (DETAR); 33D: Spanish uncle (TIO); 35D: Alice's chronicler (ARLO); 38D: Soviet leader who signed SALT I and II (BREZHNEV); 39D: Biennial games org. (IOC); 40D: Tennis unit (SET); 42D: Descartes's conclusion (I AM); 43D: Nashville sch. (TSU); 45D: Connecting flights (STAIRS); 46D: Customs exemption for an auto (CAR NET); 47D: Customer ID (ACCT. NO.); 49D: Czar known as "the Great" (PETER I); 54D: Lose color (FADE); 55D: Narrow opening (SLIT); 56D: Normandy river (ORNE); 58D: York's river (OUSE); 59D: "Miracle" 1969 World Series winners (METS); 61D: Chariot ending? (-EER); 62D: "Self-Reliance" essayist's monogram (RWE); 63D: List-ending abbr. (ETC.); 64D: Lab caretaker? (VET).


imsdave said...

Count me in for the TCT. A few beers might have helped me accept CARNET - I knew it had to be right, but that's a classic WTF.

split infinitive said...

Instead of 'store detective' think 'mall detective' which was possibly the worst movie in recent memory.
The answer to your question on 10D is 'hypothetically yes'.
I had to look up your word 'snzzxx' in the dictionary. It means 'humdinger' in Albanian. Or 'humidifier'. I forgot already.

Negra Modelo is a very good beer. It goes great with spicy food, including Latin American and South Asian. Doesn't pair well with tequila. Or so I've heard! No need for a lime....

Orange said...

But the other mall detective movie, Paul Blart, Mall Cop, was sweet, if formulaic. Kudos to the filmmaker for casting a chubby, plain girl as Paul's daughter—I get so tired of the Disney Channel's propensity for casting conventionally pretty and thin girls for 99% of the parts but letting plenty of homely boys on their shows. They need to be uniformly shallow or uniformly fair and not have that double standard. PuzzleGirl, you know I'm right.

Parsan said...

The top half came so easily I thought it was going to be a breeze, but then in the SW I thought of airplanes when the answer was STAIRS. Never heard of CARNET and didn't even understand the clue for SCALARS. Oddly enough, I also had national but it all fell into place with INTERNAL...

Does anyone ever say DETAR?

I liked the long answers and found it harder than Sat. puzzles have been lately so I will not complain.

Thanks for the write-up Orange!

shrub5 said...

A super puzzle! Feared that these challenging types were going to be ATHINGOFTHEPAST. I was struck with apprehension at the naked grid with so few black squares, but bit-by-bit, I just chipped away at it.

I had potROAST for a time but ARLO helped correct it to RIB. Most of my trouble occurred in the SW area, with STAIRS, SCALARS, CARNET and ACCTNO all coming with some difficulty. The clue for STAIRS (connecting flights) had me wandering around the airport for quite awhile. I don't think a question mark would have helped. I had PALE instead of FADE for "lose color" so thought that 53A "Given that..." was IPSO. These errors, in addition to not knowing Ralph Waldo Emerson (RWE) wrote "Self-Reliance", made it hard for me to figure out the leading word for 65A -------INTEREST. Didn't much like DETAR, but at least I could reason it out.

Thank you so much, Orange, for another great write-up! Also, thanks to Thomas Heilman and Rich Norris for a very enjoyable Saturday challenge!

ddbmc said...

ZOMG, I don't know what is funnier, Cindy the Poodle or Kitty Wigs!(http://kittywigs.com/)
OH,right, we're talking puzzles here!

Took one look at the 3 x 15 stacks and thought-"Not getting through this one today!" But worked around the smaller words and eventually got the rest, with a "detar" here and there.

Carnets-from the USCIB web site,are "merchandise passports." They ease the temporary importation of commercial samples (CS), professional equipment (PE), and goods for exhibitions and fairs (EF). Who knew?

Not being a scholar,does all the junk in my garage count as "scalars?"

I, too, much prefer the "Jolly Corks"-a name derived from a bar trick, apparently!

Thanks, @Orange, for the delightful write up. Onto the scalars in my garage...

gespenst said...

The top of the puzzle was my bugaboo today. I was scared, very scared, when I saw all the long answers and had a lot of trouble filling anything in up north. But I got the bottom much more easily and worked my way back up.

The top was still pretty empty when I resorted to google, but for some reason once I googled ELKS (I had been thinking a musical group, not a social group) I was able to get the rest clue by clue.

So I went from being very scared to doing the puzzle with only one google! Hurrah!

I won't mention all the crossouts along the way ;) I do the puzzle in pen despite my amateur status, so corrections have to get progressively darker ;) But that just shows my work, lol.

I have to say, fun to get back to a challenging puzzle!!!

Orange said...

Here's the thing about triple stacks—they look fearsome, but with that many 3s and 4s crossing them, they often tumble quickly. Some of the short crossers will be gimmes, and once you have a few letters in place in a 15, you can often guess the long answer. That long answer gives you a gigantic foothold to work off of, so then you're off to the races.

GLowe said...

Did ok - had GENERAL interest, which is dumb, but it fit with PALE instead of FADE,which gave me IPSO instead of IFSO. I dont know what IPSO means, so that's all good, and then 'hey, take note of the variation on STAGES - STAIGS, funny I haven;t seen that before'.

wrote EQUILATERALS confidently right off, so the top took a loooong time to sort out, especially when I tried to everwrite ISOSCOLE/sol/SCEl however that goes.

Also tried to hammer in some abomination like KRUZCHEV for BREZHNEV.

Van55 said...

I found this one a bit more challenging than most LA Times Saturday offerings, particularly in the lower left quadrant. CARNET and ACCTNO and SCALARS and TACOMA (clued as the seat of Pierce Co. WA) took some time to fall into place.

Had PALE rather than FADE at first, which made things more difficult than they should have been.

Scott said...

SCALAR is a math term contrasted with a VECTOR which tells you both magnitude and direction. Think of a vector as an arrow with both a certain length and direction. The length of the arrow alone is a scalar.

Carol said...

Not being at all mathematical, had never heard the word scalar and tried to figure out how to put Lewis Carroll into the 4 spaces for Alice's chronicler. Finally managed Tacoma and things started falling into place in the SW corner.

I, too, balked when I saw all the long entries. You're right @Orange, once you get enough short answers, they start to show themselves.

Interesting that both The Wizard's Apprentice and Alice in Wonderland were in the same puzzle. Makes one wonder just what those folks were drinking, smoking, ingesting when those stories were written!

So happy that the LAT is getting back to more challenging puzzles. Thanks to whoever should be taking the credit!

Tinbeni said...

It took me two cups of coffee to finish. The downs helped a lot but I still do not understand "Cautionary Tales" from the Sorcerer's Apprentice" clue.
Briefly stuck in SW corner until I realized it was Store not House detective which led to the Stairs and then the math came easily, Suez led to Brezhnev correct spelling and then the two "o" rivers made for a nice, better Saturday challenge.

Always enjoyed Arlo's "Alice" ... a great unique name.

Nothing hare-brained today.


This puzzle has given me a RENEWED INTEREST in the LAT. Well it's drizzly rainy chilly here today, so I'm just HUNKERED down with my puzzle and my special CWP pencil (the one with a huge eraser). Oh yeah, and the hazelnut coffee is essential. So, I'm having a good Saturday with a fairly good puzzle... for me it was hard , but I got it all right with just a few hurdles.

Did not know SEKO (19a) and ERITU (36a), but with good cross clues it went pretty good. Right away I wanted to plug in ELOs instead of ELKS out of habit. And I got so hung up on COW instead of DOE for {Roadside grazer}. Sometimes the common crosswordese gets in your way. Also, I wanted to do POTROAST instead of RIBROAST, I guess because pot roast is a fave of mine.

I always get those O rivers mixed up... OISE, ORNE, OUSE. There must be a good way to remember which is which.

Oh yeah, and the big mental block was CAUTIONARYTALES (16a). I kept thinking of Canterbury Tales.

Fave clues: Lab caretaker (VET) and Connecting flights (STAIRS).

Fave entries: DETENTE, YooHOO, and HYPOTENUSES (I think that word was responsible for my taking the trigonometry courses).

My unfave word was going to be CARNET. Then I read Orange's writeup and now I have an appreciation for the validity of this word.

As I took my big 100 day Route 66 TREK last year, I kept singing Arlo Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land". So, thank you, Orange, for including that reminiscent clip.

Puzzle up , hunker down, and have a wonderful weekend !

CrazyCat said...

I too felt fear when I saw the puzzle this morning. However all the long acrosses were pretty easy for me to get. As others, I got messed up in the SW. CARNET? Also wanted to fit Lewis Carroll in for Alice's Chronicler. Found out today his real name was Lutwidge Dodgson. Loved HARE BRAINED. Thanks Orange. Love the poodle pic.


Orange, your advice is so good when dealing with these intimidating long entries.

Wel, I think I'll now go out to my garage and DETAR my REO.

CrazyCat said...

Also thought connecting flights had something to do with air travel. I've seen similar clues before so I should know that.
As far as HYPOTENUSES??? If you say so.

xword55 said...

Thanks for all the interesting comments. I am sorry about CARNET. Not the best entry, I know, but I'm just not skilled enough to spot some really tough spots before I get buried by them.. Generally, I construct happily away, taking care of what I think are all the tough spots, get really invested in the grid, and then I discover a spot like the SW corner in this grid. When I got there I didn't have many options out, and you'd really not want to see some of the things I came up with and sent to Rich. Rich is a great editor though, and he worked with me on this one. I don't remember all the details, but I do recall that his suggesting RIBROAST helped solve some problems. CARNET isn't ideal, but it was the best of a not so ideal lot. The entry that bothered me the most was ITISSO. Rich saved that one with a great clue.


Tom Heilman

Lex said...

What a fantastic puzzle! Lots of fun colorful entries, and plenty of terrifically tricky Saturday clues. Yay for thinking! So glad that the puzzles have been inching back up there lately. Thanks to Messrs. Heilman and Norris for a superbly satisfying Saturday exercise!

Continued kudos too to Orange, PG, Rex, and all you commenters. Y'all never fail to amuse, enlighten, and entertain- thanks!

@crazycatlady: Make sure to click Orange's link to see all 8 of the poodle pics.


This comment has been removed by the author.

@Tom Heilman
No, no, no...I thought CARNET was one of the best entries in your puzzle. It's good to learn new words, even if they're seldomly used.
Nice job!
It's so nice when the constructors chime in. I believe that we solvers like to hear the thought processes and editing dynamics that go on during the puzzle construction. Thank you for commenting.

Lex said...

@Tom: Thanks for stopping by! It's always enlightening to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the process. Helps me appreciate the challenges facing the constructor and editor in making a good puzzle. I'm glad you and Rich found an acceptable solution, because this grid was definitely too good to throw away! Thanks again for a great puzzle!

jeff in chicago said...

Excellent puzzle and great write-up.

Jolly Corks is truly fantastic. I had just about decided on becoming a Mason, but the Elks just got a boost!

mac said...

Great LAT Saturday, and great write-up. Carnet was no problem, I think it is an international word to do with export.

Acme/Andrea is going to be happy with the tiptop definition, although I think of tiptop meaning A-ok, and tippy-top the acme.
Maybe I'm confusing it with Dutch.
Scalars were not familiar to me, but came with crosses.

I guess that dog likes all the attention! The camel outfit was the best, I thought.

My kitchen smells of short ribs and lemon/almond cake. Good thing on a wet, grey day.

Joon said...

i was at least 75% sure sethG would have chimed in already with the horrible math pun about what you get when you cross a mountain climber with a mosquito (or even a TSETSE), but he hasn't, and i won't either because it's very nearly the worst pun of all time, and i like you guys.

CARNET! i know it's a french word, but i thought it meant ticket. like an admission ticket. notebook? that sounds vaguely familiar. really fun puzzle, though. the 3s and 4s associated with the top triple-stack were a lot cleaner than the ones at the bottom, i thought. but i got a big kick of out BREZHNEV running alongside his (kind of) forebear PETER I, and the parallel *ETEN_E words DETENTE and PRETENSE.

Charles Bogle said...

@Tom Hellman-thank you for a terrific puzzle, and hat's off to Orange for a wonderful-write-up. I thank @scott for explaining SCALARS...I had same fits in SW quad as shrub5, van55 and some others, same trouble w CARNET and struggled before light bulb popped on for IFSO. Also enjoyed the misdirection clues like "connecting flights," "Alice's chronicler"--very clever. Some other faves here: TSETSE, HAREBRAINED, HUNKERED

Anonymous said...

"Eri Tu" is Verdi's great baritone aria in "A Masked Ball." I got that right away. The Sorcerer's Apprentice had me stuck in the lands of Paul Dukas and Disney. But hey! I got 'hypotenuses'right away. Now we just need a 'Safari clue' for Hypopotenuse. Waddaya think?? :o)

bluebell said...

Long ago I lived in Sumner, WA in Pierce County, near Tacoma, so that was a great gimme today.

I started with equilaterals, and wasn't willing to give them up until the crosses made me do it.

Scalars and carnet are my words for the day--

I'm also grateful for the behind the scenes look at puzzle constructing. I'm in awe.

Greene said...

Sometimes those triple stacks of 15 can stab you in the back...like when you confidently throw down ORCHESTRAL WORKS instead of CAUTIONARY TALES and then start making up 3 and 4 letter words for the downs because you just can't make yourself believe your first entry in the grid could possibly be wrong. There's nothing wrong with putting in A-ONE instead of ACME (don't tell Andrea) and misspelling NIA as NEA and PAO as POW is there? Okay, so I took it out. Someday, I'm going to construct a puzzle featuring all my wrong answers and outrageous guesses.

In all seriousness though, wonderful Saturday puzzle. I grade it slightly harder than Orange does, but then she's a slightly better solver than I. Kudos to Mr. Heilman. Oh, and here's a little Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Jeffrey said...

Ah, the CARNET. Yes indeed, every time I want to drive to Seattle, I have to wait in line at the CARNET booth...no, wait, that's the ferry. No CARNET required. Just a passport.

housemouse said...

I'm not a fan of long answers, so I didn't really get into this puzzle so much. I would really like to see a return to including quips and quotes in the puzzles. The "theme" puzzles with "wacky" answers don't seem very wacky to me, but they just don't fit my sense of humor, I suppose.

Frankly, if editor Norris plans to make all the puzzles more "challenging" (his word for it; mine would be obscure), I hope I can persuade the editor of our paper to start getting the puzzles from a different source.

If I have to be connected to Google all the time or try to discern someone else's obscure sense of humor in order to do a crossword, sorry, but that's too much time for me to spare, especially on a weekday. I'm willing to cede the weekend to those with more time to spare, but weekday puzzles should be less deliberately obscure...and have less sports trivia, preferably.

Wayne said...

"Eres Tu" means "it is you", present tense. To say "it was you" in Spanish is "Eras Tu". Just one little vowel change from the present tense to the past. There's another way of saying "it was you" in Spanish because the language has two forms of the past tense but I'll spare you details unless you request them.


(and RP)
I do the exact same thing: putting down a word(s) that you are cock-sure is correct. Then you cleverly force-fit crosses to make your entry work. I wish Rex Parker would coin a word (like he did for natick) for this false start, because it happens to me over and over. I'm sure other people go through this mess from time to time also.

PJ said...

Tried working around communist threat, then slumbering giant (both fit!) til I got 'renewed interest.' Took me two damn days!

cheezguyty said...

When I read the clue "Retail security staff", I wanted so badly for 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' to fit. Drats!, one letter too long. ; )

I solve the puzzle in pen: the only mistake I had was writing BUNKERED for HUNKERED. I know it's not a word but it sounded possible, right?

I could have sworn that CAUTIONARY TALES was used in a recent puzzle, I just know it.

I've never seen INTERNAL REVENUE by itself before, and the tag 'familiarly' seems more appropriate for the abbreviation IRS.

I don't really get the clue for RENEWED INTEREST. If it is awakened isn't it already renewed? Could have been clued better, IMHO.

I really wonder about the legitimacy of the word HYPOTENUSES. It just doesn't sound right to me, and I couldn't find it in any online dictionaries. However, I did learn that hypothenuse is an alternate spelling.

THOM McAn is one of those rare individuals whose first and last names make frequent appearances in crosswords. It helps when they're both short and don't really clue as anything else.

My favorite entries were A THING OF THE PAST, MINIATURE POODLE, HARE-BRAINED, and BREZHNEV. New ones for me were Mobutu Sese SEKO, CARNET, ORNE, ETO, and OUSE. The best clues were "Seat of Washington's Pierce County" (because I love learning new geography), "Descartes's conclusion" (kept wanting to put in SUM [the Latin equivalent]), and "Lab caretaker?".

I hope it is obvious by how much I've dissected this puzzle that I really liked it. I love to see those 15-letter entries (and love it even more when I solve them) and it's great to see some more grit in the last few puzzles. Let's hope there's more where that came from!

Orange said...

@cheezygeyty, HYPOTENUSES is completely legit, and if you Google it you get a bunch of dictionary and other reference websites. Is there a chance you Googled with a typo? (I hate when that happens!)


Way back when I was the mathematician for the company I worked for, we used "hypotenii" for the plural of hypotenuse. I never heard anyone use the cumbersome word "hypotenuses" any more than the word radiuses for radii.

Orange said...

"Hypotenii" sounds like one of those whimsical made-up plurals like "feti" instead of "fetuses." I don't think you'll find a single reputable dictionary that uses an "i" in the plural of hypotenuse.