TUESDAY, October 20, 2009
Bruce Venzke

Theme: I Got Nothin' — Theme answers are three different ways of describing writer's block.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Suffering writer's block (COMING UP EMPTY).
  • 36A: Suffering writer's block (FRESH OUT OF IDEAS).
  • 54A: Suffering writer's block (DRAWING A BLANK).
I like this theme a lot! I imagine Bruce sitting around with another puzzle constructor brainstorming for ideas: "Argh! Nothing's coming to me! I'm fresh out of ideas! I'm drawing a blank! Hey ... wait a minute ...." And thus this theme was born. Also, it gives me an excuse to post one of my favorite clips from one of my favorite shows:

Unfortunately, there's quite a bit of crosswordese in today's puzzle. What with the IBIS, Jack PAAR, Max ERNST, and ESSEN. But there are a couple snappy answers too. Like ARMY MULE (11D: Military mascot), TOPNOTCH (5D: Exceptional), GUSTO (21D: Enthusiasm), and EATS DIRT (38D: Admits an embarrassing error). I was going through the acrosses first without checking the downs and had a few bad first guesses. For 15A: It smells, I entered odor instead of the correct NOSE. 18A: Coke or Pepsi struck me as soda instead of COLA. And for ACTS UP (33A: Is bratty), I first entered sasses but saw my error when I got to one of the crosses — 29D: Get fresh with (SASS). Other than the theme, nothing particularly awesome and other than the crosswordese, nothing really horrible. Overall, an enjoyable, solid Tuesday.

The only other thing that stood out to me was SUPE (34D: Apartment house manager, slangily), and I think that's just because I immediately thought of this guy. So let's get on with the CW101 and call it a day.

Crosswordese 101: I'm a little bit too young to remember EZIO Pinza in his heyday, so all I know about him I've learned from puzzle clues: He was an Italian opera singer (a bass) who, after retiring from the Met, went on to a second career on Broadway. There, he played Emile in "South Pacific" (for which he was awarded a Tony) and Cesar in "Fanny." The important thing is to figure out how to distinguish him from ENZO Ferrari, the car company founder. Anyone have a mnemonic for that?

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Everything Else — 1A: Modify to fit (ADAPT); 6A: Nile bird (IBIS); 10A: Early late-night host Jack (PAAR); 14A: __-Bismol (PEPTO); 16A: Golden Fleece ship (ARGO); 17A: Devoured every bit of (ATE UP); 19A: "Peter Pan" pirate (SMEE); 23A: Color gradation (HUE); 24A: "Days of __ Lives" (OUR); 25A: One of the Musketeers (ARAMIS); 28A: Paintings by dadaist Max (ERNSTS); 30A: Really little (TINY); 32A: Sport __: family vehicle (UTE); 35A: "Do it, or __!" (ELSE); 41A: Open fields (LEAS); 42A: Modeling session activity (POSING); 43A: Frequently, to a poet (OFT); 44A: Docking spot (PIER); 46A: Black Sea resort (ODESSA); 50A: Offers from a genie (WISHES); 52A: Small bill (ONE); 53A: Favored student (PET); 58A: Pinza of "South Pacific" (EZIO); 60A: Space-saving abbr. (ET AL.); 61A: Many sculptures (TORSI); 62A: Parking lot fillers (CARS); 63A: Complexion problem (ACNE); 64A: Krupp Works city (ESSEN); 65A: Decides (OPTS); 66A: Letters after pi (RHOS); 67A: Color-coded Monopoly cards (DEEDS); 1D: Geronimo's tribe (APACHE); 2D: Route around the construction area (DETOUR); 3D: Ancestors in Darwin's theory (APEMEN); 4D: Spitter's sound (PTUI); 6D: Acquire, as liabilities (INCUR); 7D: Cartoon flapper Betty (BOOP); 8D: Maui, for one (ISLE); 9D: Sailor (SEAMAN); 10D: Carbo-loader's choice (PASTA); 12D: It goes before beauty, so they say (AGE); 13D: __ v. Wade: 1973 Supreme Court decision (ROE); 22D: Get too personal (PRY); 26D: "__ sin to tell ..." (IT'S A); 27D: Witnesses (SEES); 30D: Henry Higgins, to Eliza (TUTOR); 31D: NYSE debuts (IPOS); 35D: Periphery (EDGE); 36D: Go with the __ (FLOW); 37D: Strategy for reducing loan payments, briefly (REFI); 39D: "Shrek" ogress (FIONA); 40D: Obligated to repay a loan (INDEBTED); 44D: Split __ soup (PEA); 45D: "Cross my heart" ("I SWEAR"); 47D: Few and far between (SPARSE); 48D: Became vaguely aware of (SENSED); 49D: Diet guru who wouldn't have recommended 10-Down (ATKINS); 51D: Reform Party founder Perot (H. ROSS); 52D: Looks boldly at (OGLES); 55D: Rash symptom (ITCH); 56D: Prefix with second (NANO-); 57D: Get beaten (LOSE); 58D: Earth-friendly prefix (ECO-); 59D: Reheat, nowadays (ZAP).


bullmktman said...

Much better than yesterday's update. Very descriptive. Thanks.

Crosscan said...

I can't think of anything to write about this puzzle.

Carol said...

Nice Tuesday puzzle.

@PG I remember EZIO is Pinza because both his first and last names have i's in them.

Parsan said...

Agree with Crosscan. Only write-over, eats crow instead of EATS DIRT. Also think ITCH is a reaction to, not a symptom of a rash. Do you itch and then get the rash, or do you get the rash and then you itch? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Thanks for the video PG!

doc moreau said...

Does anyone besides a "supe" call an SUV a "ute?"

jazz said...


You're right, @parsan, I'm not sure how I'd clue that one, but admitting an embarrassing error isn't one of them.


...and @docmorau is right, only crossword puzzlemakers call SUVs UTEs and supers SUPEs. I admit, "sport utes" is heard a little bit.

Liked ATEUP and ACTSUP so close together. Not so fond of TORSI as plural torso...torsos is preferred according to dictionary.com.

But hey, it's Tuesday! Smile and enjoy the extra sunny hours that we all have, now that the puzzle only took a few minutes!

ddbmc said...

11D-Military Mascot/Army Mule made me smile and think of those old goofy movies, with "Francis the Talking Mule"- Francis Goes to West Point;Joins the WACS; in the Navy, etc....voice provided by Chill Wills and Donald O'Connor, as Francis' sidekick. O'Connor quit making the movies, because the mule got more fan mail than he did!

Betty Boop was another smile inducer. Watched those cartoons,(Boop-Oop-A-Doop!) along with "Felix the Cat,"(last week's graphic) and his Magic Bag of Tricks. Betty was the most famous sex symbol on the animated screen, and was important to animation history for being the first cartoon character to fully represent a sexual woman, according to Wiki.
Even if the puzzle wasn't a total brain tickler, it had a few nice moments. Thanks, @PG, for the "Sports Night" clip. Hockey is a great game to watch, but tough to write about!

shrub5 said...

Didn't know the Army had a mascot ARMY MULE. According to wiki, there are actually three mules that serve at the USMA in West Point. The mule corps (LOL) are present at many athletic events, parades and other ceremonial activities.

I liked EAT DIRT and GUSTO. Oh, and "ogress" from the 39D clue.

@Parsan and @jazz: We used "eat dirt" pretty regularly at work in the sense indicated by the clue. Don't know what that says about our performance....

Charles Bogle said...

thanks ddbmc for highlighting Army Mule, those movies and Betty Boop, and thanks PG for a super write-up; I really enjoyed the puzzle; actually caught onto the theme earlier than usual for me; saw some unusual Tues fill picked up by crosswordese, and got a smile by 26D ITSASIN "to tell a lie..." one of my favorite Billie Holiday songs

Rex Parker said...


This puzzle was just OK. Didn't like APEMEN and SEAMAN, nor COMING UP and ATE UP, so close to each other in grid (or in grid together at all).

The added laff trak on that "Sports Night" clip is Torturous.



GLowe said...

"Proceeds, earthworm-style" would be fun, no?
I actually clued EATSDIRT recently and went with "Backs down, bitterly". Dunno if that'll fly or not.
"Earth-friendly prefix" = ECO. I guess ... around here we have the word Eco-terrorist in the paper at times, I guess that could = "earth-friendly freedom fighter" in their eyes. I think it's more aptly "Earth-related prefix" than earth-friendly, though. Otherwise ECOCIDE is a tough word to explain.

GLowe said...

Oops. What if that puz sells? OK, belated spoiler alert - do not look at the previous post. THere's a 1 in [counting past 10] something chance I will have ruined your solve 5 months from now .....

Anonymous said...

I have eaten crow, eaten humble pie, eaten my words, eaten sh*t, but never eaten dirt, with the exception of the time I pissed off my older brother and was lying face down in mud.

ddbmc said...

@GLowe, you're forgiven. Speaking for myself, I'll probably forget the clue....


Public Service Announcement said...

Why You Shouldn't Surreptitiously Sneak Crossword Puzzles While Trying to Appear Productive:

I definitely misread the clue "admits an embarrassing error" as "emits an embarrasing odor."

On top of that, thanks to willy-nilly stealth solving, of COURSE the only letters I have filled in are the last two (RT).

Because I am apparently about as mature as a six year old, I had to try and cover my raucus giggle with a pretend cough. Turns out that making emphysemic donkey noises is NOT the best way to give peers the impression of being hard at work.

And THAT, folks, is why I love crosswords.

Joon said...

to add to carol's mnemonic, ferraris have ENgines, hence ENzo.

bunny said...

@Public Service Announcement: LOL. I'd actually be ROTFL except that I'm at work surreptitiously reading the blog. So instead, I'm wiping off Diet Coke and spit from my computer screen.

Are you AKA HandsomGuy from yesterday?

CrazyCat said...

I ATEUP this puzzle. I started after my second cup of coffe and ZAP it was done.
TORSI is very questionable in MHO. I remember seeing the ARMYMULE at Army/ Navy football games. As I recall it wore a little blanket with a big A. Thought ogress was cute. My new puppy's mom is named FIONA. My new PET is an ogress at times, but cute as a button. Loved the pic of Schneider the SUPE. Too bad about his co-star. An EZIO PINZA/Some Enchanted Evening clip would have been fun. Thanks P.G.

JIMMIE said...

Eating dirt ,to me, refers to horse or auto racing, when you are not in the lead. But that might be an embassasing error on my part.

mac said...

Nice Tuesday puzzle with a nice theme. Just never called my super supe, I don't think he would show up next time I need him. I also ate crow...

Thanks Joon and Carol for the perfect mnemonics.

Bohica said...

Liked the theme, the fill not so much. EATDIRT? I never. PAAR, ARGO and SMEE all in the same corner? Too much crosswordese.

But, on a positive note liked ARMYMULE, and it appears as though we've stepped up a bit over the last few weeks of LAT early week puzzles. Bring on Friday!

BabyUcanDrivemyCar said...

Add to @Carol & @Joon's mnemonics-Ezio Pinza-also has two z's..Some Enchanted Evening, I would like to drive a Ferrarri!

PSA, pretty darn funny!

Public Service Announcement REDUX said...

@bunny: No, I wish! I'm just AverageLookingGirl. Your American Every(wo)man who loves shirking responsibility and finding fart jokes in the most unexpected of venues.

But thank you! I'm always proud to do my part in contributing to fine mists of diet coke and saliva. :D

Ferdinand Porsche said...

Carol's mnemonic doesn't rule out Ezio Ferrari, and BabyUcanDrivemyCar's doesn't rule out Enzo Pinza.

Luckily, Ferdinand is never in the puzzle.

Margaret said...

I didn't love the abundance of UP (ATEUP, ACTSUP, COMINGUPEMPTY) but otherwise OK. On the other hand, I now solve mainly so I can come read the blog after, so who cares about the puzzle itself!

embien said...

@margaret, exactly. The blog is the entire show anymore, what with, how to say it?, tuning the puzzle for the vocal minority.

Anonymous said...

GustoTutorEzio !

- - - Ciao


BabyUcanDrivemyCar said...

@Ferdinand, Ezio for you to say!

Sfingi said...

@Carol - for Italians, that's no big whoop.
Knock knock. Who's there? Sam and Janet. Sam and Janet Who? (To music -) Sam and Janet Evening, you will meet a stranger.

EatsDirt could better refer to biting the dust, pushing up daisies, feeding the worms - hmmm - earth + death idioms as theme for a puzzle.

@PublicSA - Emphysemic donkey noises - a.k.a. nerd snort laughs - love it. Nerds are always as productive in 5 min as others in 50.

@BabyU - cute

@mini theme - OPT OFT, which constitutes a sentence.


32A Sport __: family vehicle = UTE....blahhh
We went through this about a month ago. Pretty soon UTE will become CW101... horrors!

Why do I always think of GOAT whenever there's an Army mascot clue? Is that the Navy's mascot?

PG, I like your funny depiction of Bruce sitting around with constuctor's block. I get into those funks myself when I sit down to do watercolor painting... creativity wanes and I just can't paint. I always blame it on my muse taking a day off of work.

I'm a card carrying member of the Nerd Anti-defamation League, so WATCH OUT GUYS!!!!! You may get slimed.
And BTW, I do snort and chortle a lot.

Whitney said...

I love mnemonic devices! How about: EZIO - EZIO (Easy, old) guy I've never heard of. Of course, this could work with about a googolplex of old guys in crosswords I've never heard of...ENZO - I'm in the zone (EN the ZOne) when I'm driving my ferrari. That's all I got. Plus I'm late to the party (my MO)...Fun puzzle and loved your scenario of how they came up with the theme, Puzzlegirl :)

Pete Ptui said...

Pneumatic mnemonics,Pneumatic mnemonics,Pneumatic mnemonics!

split infinitive said...

Let's not forget that the word 'humiliate' stems from 'earth-y' (and thus 'wormy' roots!
You folks crack me up. Thanks for guffaws, chortles, and snorts. This is much better than Comedy Central TV.
Card-carrying nerd here. Former rock collector too.
Here's looking forward to tougher late-week puzzles in the near future. [Raising my glass of Tab]. My brain would be shrinking if it weren't for reading the commentary and the the comments here.

GLowe said...

"Former rock collector" ?!

BWAHAHAHA.... Ahem. I mean that's nice, @SI. [BWWWHUMPHchokespitkaff]- sorry, a bit o' the H1N1 goin on, nothin to see here folks.