SUNDAY, November 29, 2009
Peter Wentz (syndicated)

Theme: "Right On Cue" — Add QU to familiar phrases to create new wacky phrases, clued "?"-style.

[Note: This is the syndicated L.A. Times puzzle. It does not appear in the actual newspaper, but is available for free at cruciverb.com.]

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Charmin' way of actin' up? (QUAINT MISBEHAVIN').
  • 32A: Annul the middle of the week? (QUASH WEDNESDAY).
  • 49A: Calculation for an express delivery? (QUICK FACTOR).
  • 66A: Ends it, to one's subsequent regret? (QUITS A GOOD THING).
  • 85A: Sick feeling on campus? (QUAD NAUSEAM).
  • 99A: Wasn't quite ready to accuse? (QUASI-SUSPECTED).
  • 112A: Muslim household's holy book? (QURAN IN THE FAMILY).
Cute theme idea and most of the theme answers are clever. "It's a good thing" doesn't seem, well, good enough to be included. And with THE FAMILY already in place, all I wanted to see what ALL IN at the beginning of that phrase. Me: "Quall In the Family? That doesn't make any sense ...." But there's not a thing wrong with any of the others. The fill, however, is another story altogether.

If you've been reading my Sunday write-ups for any amount of time, you know that I'm pretty tolerant of bad fill on Sundays. I realize that with a grid this big, it just can't be helped. The random tic tac toe clue, OOO (54A: Winning game line), and an unknown JENSEN (4D: Long-time CBS news anchor Jim) are forgivable. I'll even cut some slack for DOSAGES (43D: Amounts to take). But TEPIDNESS? No. That's just ugly. Okay, that's not exactly fair. It's about the same amount of ugly as DOSAGES, so why is it unacceptable? Because of the disgusting clue (96A: Old bath water quality). I do not want to be thinking about old bath water or any of its "qualities." Seriously. And please don't get me started on UNLAX (105A: Chill out, slangily).

In some cases, the answer is perfectly fine but the clue fouls it up. For example:
  • 4A: Copy room malfunction (JAM UP). No. No no no. The clue is a noun, the answer is a verb. They cannot be used interchangeably. This is, like, the one rule of cluing that Must be followed. A copy room malfunction is a JAM. Period.
  • 38D: Sworn __: given the oath of office for (IN AS). That's some pretty extensive prepositional gymnastics there just to make this partial work.
  • 44D: Actress Meyers (ARI). Um ... who? Of all the possible ways to clue ARI, I personally would not go with a former child actor who appeared (not starred!) in a second-tier television sitcom.
  • 45D: One may be backhand (CATCH). Too cute for its own good. In a puzzle that already has some cluing problems, I would not go for the cute here.
  • 1D: Helpful URL link (FAQ). I don't even understand the clue. What is a "URL link"?
  • 57D: Eclipse, as the sun (BLOT OUT). Blotting is something you do to a stain. Not the sun.
  • 80D: Sassy one (SNIP). Ne-Ever heard SNIP used as a noun in this way. And believe me, I know a little bit about being snippy. Yet, I don't believe I've ever been called a snip.

Is an AGENDA BOOK (16D: Planning aid) really a thing? If, for example, a person is 72A: Within arm's length of me, doesn't that mean it's possible for a different person to be NEXT TO me? If I put my arm around one person and am touching another person, that second person is within arm's length but is not NEXT TO me. Just sayin'.

Was there anything to like about this puzzle? Well, I already mentioned the theme, right? The theme is cool. But there are, indeed, a few other things that jumped out at me in a more positive (or at least less negative) way.
  • 15A: Island band The __ Men (BAHA). Still haven't found a clip of The Baha Men singing the theme song to the kid's show "Stanley." It's a very cool song.
  • 77A: Works up a sweater (KNITS). Now that's clever.
  • 93A: Military band wind (FIFE). Do they still play fifes?
  • 120A: 2008 Harlan Coben thriller (HOLD TIGHT). I read a Harlan Coben book once. Let's just say I probably won't be doing that again.
  • 123A: Premium movie channel that dropped its "!" in 2005 (STARZ). Now that's entertaining.
  • 8D: Play __: feign sleep (POSSUM). I thought playing possum was feigning ... dead.
  • 36D: Kids (YOUTH). With the O in place, I tried jokes. That's the kind of misdirection that works for me.
  • 69D: Fast and furious, e.g.: Abbr. (ADJS.). Were you tricked by this one? The word fast and the word furious are both ADJectives.
  • 78D: Rhoda's mom (IDA). Love. Her. The town I grew up in was not all that diverse (understatement), so I was not familiar with stereotypes like "The Jewish Mother." And yet I still thought IDA was a hoot.
  • 99D: Peculiarity (QUIRK). With all those Qs in the grid, there's bound to be a few awesome Q words, right? Well, here's one of them.
  • 109D: Mavs' city (BIG D). That would be the NBA's Dallas Mavericks.
Hey, before we get to CW101, I think today might be a good day to talk about this blog's (unwritten, at least so far) spoiler policy. It's okay to refer to other puzzles in the comments but please, please, please don't spoil them. That is, don't give away specific clues, answers, and themes from puzzles that other people reading the blog might not have gotten to yet.

Acceptable Comments: "I really enjoyed this week's Jonesin' puzzle"; "I think I've seen this theme in a puzzle sometime in the past year"; "This puzzle was harder for me than today's NYT."

Unacceptable Comments: "Can you believe 33A in this puzzle and 28D in today's New York Times puzzle are the same answer?"; "It's funny that an uncommon word like [whatever] would show up three times this week in three different puzzles"; "If you like this puzzle, you should definitely try today's Outer Space-themed NYT puzzle."

That said, if you haven't solved today's New York Times puzzle and you intend to, you might want to do so before reading the comments here because I would bet a lot of money that someone's going to spoil it.

Crosswordese 101: There are many ways to clue IGOR, but only one for YGOR. Ygor-with-a-Y is always going to refer to "Son of Frankenstein." I don't know why the spelling is YGOR in "Son of Frankenstein" and Igor in "Young Frankenstein," but that's just how it is.

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Everything Else — 1A: Scale notes (FAS); 9A: Parchment? (THIRST); 19A: Like single-digit temps (ABOVE ZERO); 21A: California's motto (EUREKA); 22A: "Son of Frankenstein" role (YGOR); 25A: Daring exploit (GEST); 26A: Stats for Tyson (TKOS); 27A: Juan or Gabriel lead-in (SAN); 28A: Juan's "what" (QUE); 29A: Bridget with a diary (JONES); 30A: Arles article (LES); 35A: Sailor's destination in a Yeats poem (BYZANTIUM); 39A: "That __ fact!" (IS A); 40A: Workplace stds. enforcer (OSHA); 41A: Fluffy accessory (BOA); 42A: Prefix with directional (UNI-); 43A: Takes away (DETRACTS); 46A: Z4 automaker (BMW); 53A: Exuberant review (RAVE); 55A: Narrow furrow (STRIA); 56A: "__ All That": 1999 comedy (SHE'S); 57A: Big name in water filters (BRITA); 59A: Sport with mallets (POLO); 60A: Mint and marjoram (HERBS); 62A: Provide power to (ENABLE); 64A: Hidden (CLOAKED); 69A: To an extreme degree (AWFULLY); 73A: Twosomes (DYADS); 76A: Gustave who illustrated classics (DORÉ); 79A: Multi-vol. references (OEDS); 81A: Early aft. hour (ONE PM); 83A: Java (JOE); 84A: Slightly (A TAD); 87A: Charleston, WV-to-Charlotte dir. (SSE); 88A: Edited version seen in theaters (FINAL CUT); 91A: Year in Nero's reign (LIX); 92A: Corned beef holder (RYE); 95A: "That's it!" ("AHA!"); 104A: Mazatlán Mrs. (SRA.); 106A: Roman sun god (SOL); 107A: Ones bound by blood (KIN); 108A: Chant at a Lakers game (KOBE); 111A: Without a specific goal (IDLY); 118A: Mess up (RUIN); 119A: Celtic language spoken in France (BRETON); 121A: Lotto-like game (KENO); 122A: Leapt (SPRANG); 124A: Took care of (DID); 2D: Be adjacent to (ABUT); 3D: Overcharge, in slang (SOAK); 5D: HIV-treating drug (AZT); 6D: Part of RAM: Abbr. (MEM.); 7D: Sch. whose mascot is Rhody the Ram (URI); 9D: Even more itsy-bitsy (TEENSIER); 10D: "How's that again?" ("HUH?"); 11D: Controversial conflict since 2003 (IRAQ WAR); 12D: Variety show (REVUE); 13D: Hit the slopes (SKIED); 14D: Summer shade (TAN); 15D: Words of emphasis (BY GOSH); 17D: Old Testament prophet (HOSEA); 18D: Highfalutin (ARTSY); 20D: Instrument featured in Berlioz's "Harold in Italy" (VIOLA); 24D: Lamb's cry (BAA); 29D: Civil rights activist Jackson (JESSE); 31D: Double __ Oreo (STUF); 32D: Baked brunch dishes (QUICHES); 33D: 116-Down's last VP (HST); 34D: Like an expired license (NOT VALID); 35D: Backyard parties, briefly (BBQS); 37D: Old name of Congo (ZAIRE); 47D: Whacked arcade critter (MOLE); 48D: Fuel for the fire (WOOD); 50D: __ du Soleil (CIRQUE); 51D: Afghan capital (KABUL); 52D: One with an option to buy, perhaps (TENANT); 58D: Herbal quaff (RED TEA); 59D: Some polytheists (PAGANS); 61D: Formal neckwear, perhaps (SILK TIES); 63D: Fight in a ring (BOX); 65D: "Shame __!" (ON YOU); 67D: "The Seduction of Joe __": Alda film (TYNAN); 68D: Barely walked (TODDLED); 70D: Makes a play for (WOOS); 71D: 1989 Tom Petty hit (FREE FALLIN'); 74D: Big name in snowblowers (DEERE); 75D: Neuters (SPAYS); 82D: Fr. titles (MMES.); 84D: Attach (AFFIX); 85D: Duck chorus (QUACKING); 86D: What the Earth turns on (AXIS); 89D: City near Buenos Aires (LA PLATA); 90D: Backer of Fidel (CHE); 94D: Answer to one's own rhetorical question, perhaps (I SAY NO); 96D: Dimes, to dollars (TENTHS); 97D: '90s TV toon therapist (DR. KATZ); 98D: Vocalist Judd (NAOMI); 100D: Excessive (UNDUE); 101D: Take by force (USURP); 102D: More ticked (SORER); 103D: Its symbol is Sn (TIN); 110D: Like the pre-coll. supplies market (EL-HI); 112D: The NFL's Mannings, e.g. (QBS); 113D: Parisian turndown (NON); 114D: Spicy (HOT); 115D: Portuguese "she" (ELA); 116D: See 33-Down (FDR); 117D: P. & L. column heading (YTD).


Van55 said...

Allow me to be the first!

Wow! Three of my pet peeves in the same puzzle -- the random Roman numeral (Year in Nero's reign); the random geographical direction (Charleston WV to Charlotte dir.) and the random tic tac toe line (Winning gameline).

I agree with you, PG. I read a Harlan Coben novel once. Once.

KOBE is a chant? Why not "Lakers star?" I had GOLA for the longest time.

Sam Donaldson said...

Um, "I really enjoyed this week's NYT puzzle. I think I've seen this theme in a puzzle sometime in the past year. This puzzle was just about as hard for me as today's NYT."

Couldn't agree more about UNLAX, but I actually loved TEPIDNESS.

I don't have a problem with Roman numerals. In fact, I actually like them in my puzzle. Just like the occasional Spanish word, I find it helpful to practice my Roman numerals once in a while (because, you know, someday I may have a job placing copyright dates at the end of film credits). But I prefer the mathematical clues to the "this year in Roman history" clues. LIX is a problem because it's hard to clue it without using L, I, or X. The best I can think of after 5 minutes of thought is "20% of CCXCV," but that repeats the X. So I think you'd have to go with something a little more lame like "Caesar's 59."


Holy Moly!
A Sunday puzzle that took me over an hour to solve... and even needed some help from my Google buddy. As soon as I got the QUAINTMISBEHAVIN, the theme of taking the QU became pretty apparent. It's funny that I caught onto the theme, but got hung up on those booger crosses.
Stumpers: DORE, LAPLATA, DRKATZ, JENSEN, FREEFALLIN, and AZT (thank you, Google!).
I really liked this puzzle... it was superbly constructed. Working with all those Q's must have given Peter Wentz a headache... it sure did with me, and I'm only the solver. I just can't imagine the process a constructor goes through when he/she picks a complex theme like this. Wow! 21 x 21 grid with 7 very complex theme phrases. I have to give the LAT, Rich, and Peter a standing ovation for this one. We've been asking for harder weekend puzzles and boy, they sure are delivering... it's time we write to the LAT and tell them how much we appreciate it.

I agree with Van. I thought KOBE is a stretch.

I thought "Parchment" = THIRST was a great clue.
I also liked "Highfalutin" = ARTSY.

I knew that Dallas is the MAV's city, but it took me a while to figure out BIGD. I kept trying to put RATHER or WALTER in (4d), but then noticed the Jim in the clue for CBS anchorman.

I'm not a big fan of slangy street talk, like "Chill out", so seeing UNLAX just got my hackles up. Oops!

PG, I thought your "Too many cooks spoil the broth" admonishment was good... very tactfully done. I only do the LAT puzzles, so I'm not guilty of spoiling other puzzles, but I do agree with what you said. Even discussing yesterday's LAT in today's comments isn't good, because sometimes we (busy ones) have a backlog of undone puzzles.

Now for my second cup of JOE and a double STUF oreo!

Anonymous said...

You're a nice person, probably well-meaning, but you are unqualified to blog this puzzle. You are either too young, too inexperienced, too ignorant, or all three to be blogging. Don't take it personally.
JAM-UP is a noun, just like its clue if you read it that way.
Jim JENSEN gets 94,000 hits and was CBS news anchor for 29 years, not unknown to many many people. (I'm glad you at least called this reference "forgivable." Why it wouldn't be is a mystery.)
OOO is not a random fill, it's one of only two possible winners, as the clue states, that's all.
DOSAGES is a common word.
UNLAX is new slang. Make up your mind -- do you want old entries or new ones?
ARI Meyers is not some unknown person.
You don't understand the clue for FAQ. Aren't you embarrassed to sound so smart-ass about it, as if it's the puzzle's fault and not your lack of knowledge?
PG, please don't try to channel Rex. One of him is more than enough already.


shrub5 said...

I liked this puzzle more than @PG did, although I did agree with some of the negatives. I'm cutting some major slack because of the many theme answers and high count of scrabble-y letters.

Got into trouble right off the bat by putting BELOWZERO instead of ABOVEZERO. I was thinking of "below freezing" (32 degrees F.) D'oh. I also had SPRUNG instead of SPRANG and failed to notice that resulted in LAPLATU for the city near Buenos Aires.

After getting the second theme answer, I plopped in the QU on the remaining ones which helped a bit. QUADNAUSEUM gave me a laugh.

I have heard the chant "KOBE" at Lakers games especially when he's on a tear. More often, though, it's "MVP."

Agree with @Van55's peeve list and I'd add one more: an abbreviation of one of the words in an acronym (see 6 Down.) I do realize, however, that if I were a CWP constructor (ha!) and avoided all my peeves, I'd have a lot of blank spots....

Rex Parker said...

UNLAX is godawful, TEPIDNESS and DOSAGES just fine. It's too bad for this puzzle that it came out on the same day as today's NYT puzzle. It's not a fair fight.


GLowe said...

Let's see - Jim Jensen gets 94,000 hits. Oh, no it doesn't - "Jim Jensen" gets 40,000.

Compared to NATICK, which gets 740,000.

CHUCKLENUTS gets 32,000 hits, by way of example. (And I don't know about this broadcasting career.)

And is there a standards organization that vets bloggers credentials? What about posters ...

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the above comments.
I don't feel that words like "unlax' should be used. Also some abbreviatons are weird. This also goes for parts of speech!

Rex Parker said...


johnny-come-lately said...

"That said, if you haven't solved today's New York Times puzzle and you intend to, you might want to do so before reading the comments here because I would bet a lot of money that someone's going to spoil it."

Isn't THAT a spoiler?

jeff in chicago said...

Fun. Smooth. And nicely blogged! I shoulda seen it coming, but the pic of Barney made me smile. I thought BRAVO might have had an exclamation mark, but FDR was already firmly in place. Getting - and remembering fondly - DRKATZ finally got me STARZ. (I liked the vibrating animation style of "Dr. Katz.")

I guess it's a minor quibble, but I wish the IRAQWAR/QUE cross wasn't in the puzzle. It's the only Q not in a theme answer.

Carol said...

@PG - I didn't quite understand what you meant by ALL IN THE FAMILY. QURANINTHEFAMILY would be "ran in the family" - pretty common.

A few Googles for me today! But all in all cute theme with some interesting clues.

chefbea said...

Fun puzzle - actually it's been a fun puzzle day, inbetween doing sunday chores, skimming the fat off of the turkey soup etc.

Rex Parker said...

RAN IN THE FAMILY ... past tense hurts. Bad.

jazz said...

I'm with Rex and Sam on this one...UNLAX? Non! TEPIDNESS and DOSAGES? Why not? Perfectly good words, though maybe a little hard to clue I guess.

Amazed at how many Q's were punched into this thing...

Hope your Thanksgivings were Merry, and the upcoming Holidays Happier still!

Whitney said...

Too young? Wouldn't that mean one is hip to words like UNLAX which is "new slang". I am 27 and I like to think I am pretty hip to new slang words but I have NEVER in my life heard anyone say "I'm just gonna UNLAX tonight" when I ask them if they want to go get drunk with me. CHILLAX maybe. In fact, someone should use chillax in a crossword puzzle. Slang keeps these things interesting and fun for the young kids, except when it's a word that probably only old people use when their trying to be hip. Okay. No one else liked UNLAX so I am being redundant, but I had to defend PG. Cuz I like her write ups.

That being said I did enjoy all the Q's! It's a fun letter. And the clue for KNITS is a winner. I misread the clue for 102D as More Tickled and got sore that SORER was the answer. I thought there was some sort of error and was going to write an angry letter to Rich Norris. Then I realized I was so so wrong. Fun times.

jeff said...

saw part of this post somewhere. Can't remember where.

split infinitive said...

PG. Um, "Dont't take it personally, but"...fine write up on a so-so puzzle. Ever notice nobody uses DTIP when paying a compliment? The theme may have been overstretched today, but three of 7 gave me a smile, a snort, or a chuckle. DOSAGE(S) sounds as awful, but dictionary says its got cred. PG, I too thought playing POSSUM meant simulating death, not slumber.

GLOWE: I googled "Jim Jensen" as well, with same results. Not all of those hits were the same Jim Jensen, either, because those first & last names aren't uncommon. Compare to an ex-boss with a Slavic first name and Thai last name (via marriage) who is a very "minor" (her word) inventor with a couple patents
in an obscure field, she gets a little over 100,000. Google has its quirks, though.

Time to unlax and finish the NYT.

GLowe said...

@SF - any first name / last name, delimited by a space and *not* put in quotes, will yield tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousand or millions) of hits. This is because the seach engine queries the dataset, treating each string as independent. JIM smith ..... + sam JENSEN would score in the above noted example.

BARACK HITLER, for example, gets 4.3 million. (The above being an example of a ridiculous association, not a political statement)


Anonymous 9:26
Well my name sure isn't very common in the U.S., but it gets 676,000 Google hits... not because of me, it's due to my two famous sons.
You using Google hits as a measure of Jim Jensen's popularity is very foolish. Jensen may be a long-time CBS news anchor, but he's not well known by this long-time CBS viewer.

I don't really understand that "too young" statement. There's no such thing as being too young to be a CW expert. PG may be a lot younger than me, but when it comes to CW expertise, this old geezer has a lot to learn from her. Most good puzzles are constructed to appeal to all ages. The younguns are keener with the "hip" clues relating to pop culture, and the oldsters are good with history, literature, and geography (except they keep changing those damn names).

Ari Meyer had an obscure role (young daughter) on the TV Series "Kate & Allie" (84-89). By any means, she is NOT a well-known actress.

GLowe said...

Now I only get 297 hits for "John's never home". It would seem that your namesakes are, as a rule, at least home some of the time.

Interestingly, "Tiger's never home" (now where did that come from?) gets ..... ZERO, baby! Now that's a googlewhack (OK, one short of a googlewhack, but still it felt like a home run).


You should have Googled my real name---
John Hagstrom

split infinitive said...

GLowe & JNH:
Apt points there!
I search names frequently in my job, and have learned the very hard way to use quotes around the name , plus try middle initial or name, and even the name reversed (e.g. "obama ivan" --no comma or caps needed). I also have been surprised to see how often company names are mispelled -- even in mainstream press. Darn COKACOLA, SIGNA insurance plan and FEDEXX for being so hard to write!

And forget about trying to find someone with two middle names or initials!
See everyone Mon or Tue.
split jk infinitif

GLowe said...

@JNH - OK. 8-) I might have guessed that 'never home' would be an unlikely middle / last name combo. Next thing you'll tell me that 'puzzle girl' isn't a real name, either.


Something to think about:
The brobdingnagian OED (my dictionary, and door stop) lists about 500,000 words; and a further half-million technical/scientific words that are not catalogued. The Germans have about 185,000 words, the French and Spanish have less than 100,000 words. Then we add all the contaminants of street talk, valspeak, jive-talk, and slangy trash words and our language becomes unbearably corpulent.
Crossword constructors are also guilty of bloating the English language by adding an awkward suffix or prefix to a word (eg. TEPIDNESS and UNTEPIDNESS). This CW constructor's liberty nearly doubles the crossworder's vocabulary.
I am an ESL tutor... I "tear my hair out" trying to teach English to, say, a Spanish speaking student... and then there's all those"god awful" idioms to deal with. And we want to make English the standard language???

Rob Hoffmann said...

The problem with the JENSEN clue is that Jim Jensen wasn't a "CBS" news anchor as such -- for those who didn't look it up, he was the local news anchor for the CBS owned-and-operated station in New York (WCBS-TV) for decades. He never worked for the network.

A fairer clue might have been a reference to the former Miami Dolphin wide receiver...?

ddbmc said...

College son who played lax, tells me to "unlax" when I am on him about, say, empty beer bottles, chip bags, hoagie wrappers, etc. left on the coffee table, in front of the big screen TV. Knew the word.

Behind in my puzzle solving, due to hectic weekend. Didn't get "ADJS" answer until @PG explained. Jim Jensen was indeed a NY-WCBS anchor. Living the the NY Metro area, I knew it, but would never have known a longtime LA or Chicago anchor, so not a good clue/answer.
Agree playing possum is playing dead, not feiging sleep.

Sunday Morning CBS did a segment on Tom Petty, so "Free Falling" fell into place. Did not know Narrow furrow (55A) "stria" and in fact made one, when I encountered the answer.
@Anon Sam, you seem to be a "sorer" individual. How 'bout unlaxin'? You don't need to channel the Grinch, either. Or Quasimodo. Don't take that personally.

cheezguyty said...

I think you missed a unique feature of this crossword puzzle that may alleviate some of the agony felt towards the lackluster fill. It is a TRIPLE PANGRAM!!! For a Sunday puzzle to contain just one of each letter of the alphabet is fairly rare. According to XWordInfo, only 33 NYT Sunday puzzles in the last 16 years were a pangram (almost 4%). And none of those were even a double pangram, let alone a triple. So I'd say that this puzzle is pretty special and, while it does contain some questionable entries, the author deserves a round of applause for accomplishing such a feat. Well done Mr. Wentz!

P.S. I have been a fan of Baha Men for a while now, and I have never seen the band's name begin with "The". I checked several of their album covers, but they all said just "Baha Men". Either the word "The" needed to be in lowercase or it should have been omitted altogether. This mistake is also commonly made with the Jonas Brothers. You can refer to the three of them as "the Jonas Brothers", but as a band they go by just "Jonas Brothers".