SATURDAY, November 21, 2009—Barry Silk & Doug Peterson

THEME: No theme today—This is a themeless Saturday puzzle

I had a beer before doing this puzzle on Friday night—I'm in training for the Tipsy Crossword Challenge I'd like to hold during the ACPT—so while I think this puzzle is about as hard as a medium Friday NYT crossword—meaning tougher than most Saturday L.A. Times crosswords of the past six months—I can't swear that's an accurate assessment.

When I want to earn some money, I either work on crossword assignments or do some medical editing. So I was pleased with the biomedical slant of a bunch of the fill in this puzzle:
  • 1A: We all know what MUSCLE is from an anatomical standpoint. It's also a slangy term for Hired goons.
  • 17A: Use your ears to Heed, or LISTEN TO someone or something.
  • 21A: "Fantastic Voyage" setting in sci-fi is the BLOODSTREAM. Great pop-culture clue for a word that could be kinda boring.
  • 35A: Its contents are under pressure clues AEROSOL. Doesn't look biomedical, except that a sneeze aerosolizes horrid germs.
  • 48A: Geneticist's pursuit clues DNA RESEARCH. Just read today that there's pressure on the University of Nebraska to limit stem-cell research. Now, "stem-cell research" is a rock-solid phrase. DNA RESEARCH feels kinda iffy to me. Genetics research, sure. What does Google say? Google says "DNA research" is good for 411K hits and that there's a scientific journal by that name. (Objection hereby withdrawn.)
  • 63A: Biological catalyst is an ENZYME.
  • 25D: Solution for a fertility problem, perhaps could be a SPERM DONOR, or in vitro fertilization, or a handful of other options. My best friend's son is the genetic offspring of lucky Donor #9. (If you feel this answer pushes the bounds of what's tasteful, be glad that it wasn't clued as, say, "male grad student's side job.")
Crosswordese 101: LONI, with its 50% vowel content and two common consonants, is a useful little word for crossword constructors. 42A: She played WKRP's Jennifer refers to actress LONI Anderson, who was the blonde bombshell on WKRP in Cincinnati about 30 (!) years ago. She also had a tempestuous marriage to (and divorce from) Burt Reynolds. Most frequent crossword clues for LONI: actress Anderson; Burt's ex; and Anderson of "WKRP in Cincinnati." Oh, how I loved that show...and identified not at all with Jennifer. I wanted to be Bailey and date Andy. Here's a classic WKRP moment...that I know only from YouTube:

Non-biomedical highlights:
  • 7A: To Snub someone is to HIGH-HAT them. HIGH-HAT is also a noun and adjective. With the G and T in place, NEGLECT seemed like an obvious answer, but all the other letters were wrong.
  • 28A: To Refuse to make changes is to SIT PAT. No, wait. I don't like this one. I would like STAND PAT, but SIT PAT is a bit weaker.
  • 9D: Rakes it in clues GETS RICH. How awesome an entry would GET-RICH-QUICK be?
  • 11D: The SUV that replaced the Passport is the HONDA PILOT. We see relatively few make/model combos in crosswords, and I, for one, would welcome more. VW BUG sometimes shows up, but answers like TOYOTA CAMRY, CHEVY CAVALIER, and FORD MUSTANG would be cool too.
  • 15D: The GLIDER is a Quiet aircraft. My dad took lessons in the '70s.
  • 22D: Hands down, my favorite clue. Three less than once looks surreal—wait, is that negative twice?—but once in Spanish is "eleven" in English, so 11 – 3 = OCHO. OCHO is the funniest of the Spanish numbers, isn't it? That Ocho Cinco guy in the NFL has brought the number a great deal of pizzazz.
  • 36D: I like familiar brand names as crossword fill. The "Sorry, Charlie" brand is STARKIST canned tuna.
  • 46D: 2002 Campaign Reform Act co-sponsor is John MCCAIN. For those who suspect that President "60% Vowels" Obama gets his name in so many crosswords because of a liberal plot, here's your McCain for balance.
  • 54D: Normal in Illinois, say is a small CITY. Home of Illinois State University, neighbor of Bloomington.
  • 56D: One Instrument played with a plectrum is a LYRE. You know what a plectrum is? Nothing more than a guitar pick. I asked my husband, who plays guitar, what famous guitarists use picks. He said "Chet Atkins," so I headed to YouTube and found an Atkins/Mark Knopfler guitar duet, featuring Atkins using a thumb pick. "Atkins is so much better than Knopfler," my husband says. Dang! Knopfler is good, so that's saying something. Enjoy the music, and I'll see you next Wednesday (and in the comments lounge):

Everything Else — 1A: Hired goons (MUSCLE); 7A: Snub (HIGHHAT); 14A: Power to attract (APPEAL); 15A: Like an unexpectedly large gift (GENEROUS); 16A: Buys time (STALLS); 17A: Heed (LISTEN TO); 18A: "The Bridges at Toko-Ri" setting (KOREA); 19A: Sticking points? (MIRES); 20A: Suggested actions (DOS); 21A: "Fantastic Voyage" setting (BLOODSTREAM); 24A: Bad check letters (NSF); 27A: Land buy (ACRE); 28A: Refuse to make changes (SIT PAT); 30A: Heroic (EPIC); 32A: Cologne title (HERR); 34A: Rivera with two Tonys (CHITA); 35A: Its contents are under pressure (AEROSOL); 37A: Authority level (ECHELON); 39A: Nottingham's river (TRENT); 40A: 1973 Toni Morrison novel (SULA); 42A: She played WKRP's Jennifer (LONI); 43A: Fancy watches (OMEGAS); 45A: Benchmark (NORM); 47A: Defense agency since Nov. 2001 (TSA); 48A: Geneticist's pursuit (DNA RESEARCH); 51A: Keep entirely to oneself (HOG); 52A: Work with dough (KNEAD); 53A: Rhodes with a scholarship (CECIL); 57A: Some tattoos (INITIALS); 59A: Equivalence (PARITY); 60A: "I kid you not!" (HONESTLY); 61A: "8 Simple Rules" star John (RITTER); 62A: Son of Agamemnon (ORESTES); 63A: Biological catalyst (ENZYME); 1D: Diver's need (MASK); 2D: "It's not __ me" (UP TO); 3D: Box for training purposes (SPAR); 4D: Tabloid subject (CELEB); 5D: "Deck the Halls" ending (LA LA LA); 6D: Some commuter lines (ELS); 7D: They're next in line (HEIRS); 8D: Detailed windows (INSETS); 9D: Rakes it in (GETS RICH); 10D: Realm until the 19th cen. (HRE); 11D: SUV that replaced the Passport (HONDA PILOT); 12D: Cuckoos in clocks, e.g. (AUTOMATONS); 13D: Chinese menu possessive (TSO'S); 15D: Quiet aircraft (GLIDER); 19D: Gourmet mushrooms (MORELS); 22D: Three less than once (OCHO); 23D: Waters of music (ETHEL); 24D: "Super-duper!" ("NEATO!"); 25D: Solution for a fertility problem, perhaps (SPERM DONOR); 26D: Vehicle with a deluge gun (FIRE ENGINE); 29D: Patty Hearst's nom de guerre (TANIA); 31D: Partygoers may get their kicks out of one (CONGA); 33D: Switch magazines, maybe (RELOAD); 36D: "Sorry, Charlie" brand (STARKIST); 38D: "Locked room" mystery writer John Dickson __ (CARR); 41D: Restless (UNEASY); 44D: Hill body (SENATE); 46D: 2002 Campaign Reform Act co-sponsor (MCCAIN); 49D: Hawks (SELLS); 50D: Big name at airports (HERTZ); 51D: Jaunty greeting (HIHO); 54D: Normal in Illinois, say (CITY); 55D: One often follows a bullet (ITEM); 56D: Instrument played with a plectrum (LYRE); 58D: Some NFL pass catchers (TES); 59D: Post- opposite (PRE-).


DataGeek said...

Pretty hard for LAT - I didn't finish without errors... Seems like the OCHO clue should have been ONCE MENOS TRES. I didn't think it was "allowed" to mix languages in a clue! Wanted some form of SURROGA... in the SPERM DONOR space - just couldn't make it fit, and then couldn't get it out of my mind. TMI: Daughter was blessed with twin boys after using a gestational surrogate.

Thanks, Orange! And thanks for the MUSCLE picture to kick-start my Saturday. Got me looking forward to my workout this morning.

Tinbeni said...

Orange: Perfect & timely WKRP clip (only wished it was longer) and great write-up!!!

This was (for me) the hardest Saturday LAT puzzle in at least 6 months. I wished I was drinking a scotch Orange when I started (and finally, completed) alas,6:00 am is a bit early, even for me.

The clues were a step-up in cleaver, though a few induced a groan when a cross got me/kept me back on track. (TES,58d, for tight-ends, now that's a stretch).

NW & SE corners, No Problem!!!

But when my first impression for 25d, Surroga... wouln't fit, Spermcount made no sense, and vasectomy wasn't anywhere close ... it just had to be doner time. Best cluing IMHO.

Hated the math in Spanish to English @ 22d OCHO. I realized there are clues/answers in other languages but using two in one clue seemed unfair ... no PARITY!

12d AUTOMATONS (Cuckoos in clocks) was nowhere on my radar or line of thinking. Totally by the crosses.

And since BLIMP wouldn't fit, I finally gave into (thought of) GLIDER, 15d.

Time to go outside even though it is kinda nippy ... its down to 66 here.

shrub5 said...

@Orange: Agree with your feeling about SIT PAT. Seems that stand pat or sit tight sound more 'in the language.'

Until I came here, I did not understand the 22d Three less than once clue even though I got the answer OCHO correct. Verrry tricky.

I enjoyed the difficulty level of the puzzle and, with persistence, managed to finish without resorting to google. I made one error which I should have caught -- spelled ECHELON with an S rather than a C, making the "Locked room" mystery writer John Dickson 'SARR'. I had MUDDY for Waters of music for a while but that got fixed. Hadn't heard HIGH HAT used to mean snub, 'til now.

This was a terrific puzzle, as I have come to expect from these two constructors. Chock full of fresh clues and answers and no lousy fill. Can't beat that!

Rex Parker said...

Simply the best puzzle the LAT has featured in months. And months. This is what late-week puzzles should look like. Just fantastic. I did it in mid-5s, which is way faster than I thought. Definitely a thorny, clever workout.

SPERM DONOR crossing DNA RESEARCH! MCCAIN and SENATE! Love the clue on BLOODSTREAM. All meat, no filler.

Nice job, guys.


Anonymous said...

Came apart in the northeast corner - did not help that I had take note instead of listen to - threw off everything. Really good puzzle for a wet Saturday morning! My first clue was John Dickson Carr - think I read all of those books.


Verrry hard puzzle for me. Needed a little help from Google on the HONDAPILOT. After that and a lot of gray-matter action (oiy!), I finally got it done. We wanted more challenging LAT puzzles and so here they come! Thanks, Rich, for hearing us. This was a NEATO, super-duper puzzle! I actually enjoyed most of the fill also.
But, I kept looking and looking, thinking that somewhere in here is a theme...Nope!
I could probably do some nit-picking on this puzzle (like the OCHO clue), but I'm so enthralled to get a tough Saturday CWP, I just want to say "YAY BARRY!"

I'm guessing that everyone got stuck in the MIRES in the SE corner. And somehow starting out with a plural "goons" and ending up with a singular MUSCLE sort of threw me right from the start.
How many of you had to sing Deck the Halls before getting LALALA?
I kept trying to fit in SOARER for GLIDER.

Loved the CONGA clue.
I liked the clue for SENATE (Hill body) and the clue for HEIRS (they're next in line).

Why did I keep thinking of Thailand something for (18a)KOREA? I think the Bridge on the River Kwai was blocking some of my neurons.

Wow, today I learned a lot:
Morrison Novel/SULA
John Dickson CARR
NFL pass catchers/TES
Agamemnon's son/ORESTES

Uh oh! Now we've resurrected that old controversy over HIYO versus HIHO (51d).

Not only did I have a good puzzle today, but the sun is out in Chicagoland!!!!

Orange said...

@John: And also "YAY, DOUG!" Don't forget Doug P. in the shared byline.


If you've never seen Fantastic Voyage, this clip is a must see:



Sorry Doug... I missed your name.
I should have figured that a puzzle like this would take two heads to construct.
Only one problem with that...it also takes two heads to solve.

Carol said...

Yay! A tougher LAT Saturday puzzle! Got stuck in NE corner for awhile but managed to get it a bit at a time with no Googles.

@Orange - great video clip of Chet Atkins & Mark Knopfler. Thanks.

I thought maybe the theme had to do with the human body - MUSCLE, BLOODSTREAM, DNARESEARCH, ENZYME, SPERMDONOR, but I guess AUTOMATONS would be a real stretch!

jazz said...

I'm with Rex on this one. What a great puzzle! Nprtheast corner was indeed the hardest...

Maybe experienced puzzlers have seen it before, but "Three less than once" is an inspired clue! I didn't get it, even after I had it!

Happy Going-Into-Thanksgiving-Week, all!

Orange said...

@DataGeek: If the clue had been [Once menos tres], there would have been no trickery at all, just a demand that the solver know some Spanish. The language mixing is key in this clue—it looks like English "once" (one time) but is really Spanish "once" (eleven). I love tricky Saturday clues!

CrazyCat said...

Yippee! This puzzle was definitely a challenge for me, but I made it though with only one google and that was because I misread SORRY CHARLIE BRAND as SORRY CHARLIE BAND. There IS a song called SORRY CHARLIE but it's by a band named WEEN which obviously didn't fit. Finally realized my mistake and that was one of the easiest clues. I guess I need to get out the readers. Other than that, loved everything else, clever clues and fun fill.
Thanks Barry and Doug and thanks Orange. WKRP was one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Love to go back and look at the hair.

CrazyCat said...

Oh yes and I did sing Deck the Halls and this was at 3:00 a.m. while on puppy potty patrol.

ddbmc said...

Very meaty puzzle today! Yessss! Took me MUCH longer than RP, but then, he's the "44th Greatest Puzzle Solver in the Universe."

Highhat makes me think of Fred Astair "Puttin' on my highhat..." Never knew it meant "snub."

Thought "Passport" was a Nissan car! I have a Honda Pilot and still couldn't get that until the crosses! (LOVE my Pilot-just wish it was better on (ome)gas.

33D-Switch magazines, maybe? Reload=terrific clue, along with Once-totally tricked by that one!

Snickered at @Orange's alternate clue for "Sperm donor."

van Damme! That is some fine picture!

Loved the Atkins/Knopfler video. Just finger lickin' good!

Yours til Turkeys fly....

ddbmc said...

Oops. One quibble. I count four "lalalala's" at the end of "Deck the Halls"

Djinn said...

Found much to admire in this Saturday puzzle. My worst misstep came from 19a. I had MINES for MIRES, which worked, up until I needed HEIRS. The other glitch happened by first thinking that commuter lines might be car pool lanes instead of ELS, but these were minor troubles.

The party kicks in CONGA line made me laugh.
All in all, a pleasurable solve. Thanks!

Sfingi said...

Had no trouble with NE corner or Spanish numbers. But, when I found I couldn't move because of so many factual names - the ones I didn't know atall like TRENT, RITTER, CARR, CECIL, SULA, HONDAPILOT and the ones I just couldn't conjure like LONI, KOREA, ETHEL, MCCAIN, TANIA, I decided to Google like crazy and then finish. It worked.

I have a square Omega 1968 (gift from hubster) which reminds me of the Philip Johnson Museum of Art bldg. in Utica, from the air.

I wanted Jack Paar for "I kid you not."

I do think I like, or at least respect, Barry Silk's puzzles.

Are there no mathy comments about 58A PARITY?

obertb said...

Happy to report that the Univ of Nebraska Board of Regents--not the brightest box of crayons, those guys--nonetheless did vote to uphold the Univ Med Center's right to do stem cell research. It was a tie vote, so the current policy remains in effect.

Good CW today! A little tougher than usual, very little bad fill. Loved the [Three less than once] clue.

Didn't we just have John Dickson CARR in another CW recently?

docmoreau said...

Early afternoon, and already there is nothing I can add other than high praise to Silk and Peterson for a good challenge. Oh, one thing... who is this guy TSO(s)?

Gareth Bain said...

Wow over 10 minutes! Was an action-packed grid too. Yay to a hard Friday and Saturday LAT!

So why is it all I want to focus is on is that I didn't like the clue for 48A, the answer seemed fine by me BTW... The clue says "pursuit", surely the DNA research is the means of pursuit and not the pursuit itself??? Maybe if you define research as "new knowledge about", but that seems off, somehow?

Gareth Bain said...

@docmoreau http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Tso%27s_Chicken. I'd never heard of it before doing American crosswords... With 2 "S"'s it has a habit of cropping up a lot! Just checked, the general hasn't been featured on our hosts' Crosswordese 101 feature yet, sure he's on the to-do list. Might be a nucleus of a theme: GENERALTSO, COLONELSANDERS...

Whitney said...

Good times...ORESTES was in my (syndicated) NY times puzzle today. Learned this "ORESTES killed Clytemnestra for her role in killing ORESTES' (asshole) father, AGAMEMNON. This is all dramatized in Aeschylus's Oresteia (named after our boy here)." from Rex's blog! Sweet connections, learnin' is fun!

A note on Normal, Indiana. Toshiba did some PR/Marketing thing that pitted Normal, IN and Boring, OR against each other to see who could make the most exciting video about their new laptops (or some such thing...). It was big news in Boring. Obviously.

Whitney said...

Oh, another thing about the (syndicated) NY puzzle today is that NETWT was in it. Was there ever a conclusion on which is better NETWT, NTWT or NITWIT? :)

Orange said...

@Gareth, I think DNA research or other scientific research is a pursuit in the same way that crossword solving and scuba diving and a writing career are pursuits. I felt the way you did at first, but those analogies helped the clue make sense to me.

Tinbeni said...

As to PARITY (59-a), the closest I could come up with had to do with using 'equivalent languages' in the 22d clue to OCHO, oh I got the answer, but just didn't like it, (as I stated earlier).
Apparently the others thought it was 'cute/cleaver' cluing ... ergo, "zipper" (Oh well, that's OK too)

@docmoreau - The TSO's Chicken (13'd) I googled later, sounds good. So in the future I will look for it. But Chinese food here in Tampa Bay is nothing like when I work in NYC or LA.

@JNH - your "Fantastic Voyage" clip was a total hoot!!! I ended up watching the other clip's at the site. Don't want to give it away, but it looks like a "fun hobby."

@Orange - Wanted more of the WKRP clip, found it. "As god is my witness ..." A truly classic Thanksgiving TV themed show.

@ddbnc - I counted 8 La's after the Fa in the refrain (no biggie). But my first reaction to 5-d's clue was, "Good! OK! Time for the Holiday's being mentioned in our puzzles."


I'm surprised that @DataGeek didn't explain PARITY.
It is both a math term and a computer term. In computer memories, the bits making up the bytes are verified with something called a PARITY bit. If the sum of the data bits is an even number, then the PARITY bit is zero. If the sum of the data bits is an odd number, then the PARITY bit is one.
Usually the last bit (of the eight) is the PARITY bit. So when you see the error message "PARITY ERROR" pop up, now you know that there was a memory bit that got dropped out. Not all computer systems use a PARITY method.

PARITY is also an important concept in Economics with regard to international trade.


General TSO'S Chicken and all the talk about Chinese restaurants reminds me of the scene in the movie "The Christmas Story" where the waiters were singing Deck the Halls---

That is my fave Christmastime movie... well, next to Doctor Strangelove.

chefwen said...

@JNH - I agree, that Christmas movie was the best. You got me laughing thinking about those waiters.

Started out on the wrong foot again by filling in windfall for GENEROUS, hiya for HIHO, and Delta for HERTZ. Needless to say, I had a lot of fixin to do, which I finally managed to do.

Used to have a HONDA PILOT, it was waaaay to big for a little shrimp like me. After I would park it, I would step back and laugh my A** off at the sideways job that I usually pulled off. Could barely reach the tail gate to close it. Finally traded it in for a RAV4 which is much more manageable.

Fun puzzle, thank you Mssrs. Silk and Peterson.

hazel said...

I'm drinking a gin and tonic and thought this puzzle was an absolute snap, a breeze, easy as pie. That's not to say I didn't like it, but I got to ride the rare constructor wavelength - and that felt pretty cool.

Very enjoyable solve.

Rube said...

IMO, PARITY = Equivalence refers to the NFL salary cap.

Enjoyed this puzzle immensely. However, any puzzle I can do w/o Google is no harder then a medium Thursday NYT.

mac said...

Fantastic puzzle, best I've done on the LATimes site in a long time. Congratulations gentlemen, and also Orange for a really inspired write-up.

Muscle and High hat were new expressions for me (got a lot to learn), but everything else was smooth enough with a good deal of zing.

Sfingi said...

@John - Yes. That's the stuff. We used to have parity checks; just wanted a fresh explanation. Which reminds me - at MDS we had a group in Los Gatos, and they'd send some brainy fellow to teach us "architecture" (computers have alternate meanings for all words). One time this guy started saying frip-frop switch. This is very un-PC (whatever happened to non-U?) but I see the humor in anything and everything. Sorry.

I recommend our Focus for saving on gas. Cute little bugger. I had to add cruise, but dollar-wise it wasn't like adding cruise to a Japanese car. I wanted BOFUS for the plate, but it was taken. Used -- SFINGI!

My inmates turned me on to the xmas story - I was surprised they liked it, actually. I had to think up some essay and quiz, of course, but it had no problem passing mgmt scrutiny.

@Mac - high hat goes back to - well, the days when people wore 'em.

@Whitney - interesting. More of that. please.

*David* said...

I finished doing the Matt Gaffney puzzle and pulled this one out after. For perhaps that reason I didn't find it overly difficult. I did make the NW much more difficult then it should have been blithely filling in CHEVY TAHOE where the PILOT should be and spelling AUTOMATON with an O. SULA/CARR was my only questionable crossing.

Nice fun themeless xword keep 'em coming, guys.

Cleo said...

For what it's worth--this one was way too hard for me--I simply gave up. I felt a little better about that after reading that several people found the puzzle difficult.