SATURDAY, January 23, 2010—Robert H. Wolfe

THEME: No theme today—It's a themeless/freestyle puzzle

Usually I use Across Lite with the timer running, but I solved this puzzle on a clipboard during my son's aikido class. My hunch is that many people will find it a little tougher than usual for a Saturday L.A. Times crossword. Yea? Nay?

My feelings about the puzzle are encapsulated by the first of the 15-letter answers: 17A: YOU CAN'T WIN 'EM ALL (Words of consolation). Wolfe wins big with the three 15s and racks up some other wins with assorted clues and fill, but then there are a few clunkers and a whole corner (the upper right) of badness. First up, the other winners:
  • The remaining 15s: 36A: "Don't cry over spilt milk" (WHAT'S DONE IS DONE) and 54A: Sassy reply to criticism (IT'S A FREE COUNTRY). These, like 17A, are fantastic. They're all things we say colloquially, and you can hear a "hey" or "ya know" preceding all of 'em.
  • 20A: Día de San Valentín sentiment (TE AMO). I think the L.A. Times crossword requires a little more Spanish familiarity than the New York–based puzzles do, which makes sense because there's so much Spanish spoken in California. I've never seen "St. Valentine's Day" rendered in Spanish, but it's not too hard to work it out.
  • 45A: Good thing to be up to (SNUFF). Other clueing options include the verb (negative, snuffing out) and the tobacco (bleh). "Up to SNUFF" is great, and the clue can lead you astray in a good Saturday-puzzle way. Up to no good, up to your ears, up to par, up to the challenge—are there any other 5-letter answers that make sense that you tried here?
  • 4D: Bounce (RICOCHET). Cool word. You ever get Augusto Pinochet mixed up with RICOCHET? No? Me, neither.
  • I like the clue in 23D: Arm holder? (HOLSTER). Not that kind of arm.
  • 55D: Old-fashioned word of disapproval (FIE). I'm bringin' it back! Join me, won't you?

Fie on the northeast corner of the grid. TRIPS gets a great verb clue (9A: Activates), and PILOT (12D: Fly) and SEPIA (16A: Brownish pigment) are fine, but the rest of the fill there is...ouch. Nothing that's a complete deal-breaker in isolation, but they're all jumbled together in a heap of "meh." Boring crosswordese ENOL and boring unfamiliar T-PLATE run across. In the down direction, we get authorial monogram TSE (T.S. Eliot), the RE- word REMELT, erstwhile toothpaste brand IPANA (known to people under 50 primarily as crosswordese), and the French word SALLE.

There were some other spots that grated:
  • 39A: Fish tales (TALL STORIES). Wait, don't we call 'em "fish stories" and "tall tales"? TALL STORIES sound like the upper floors in a highrise.
  • 48A: Wasn't true (LIED). I'm not convinced there's true equivalency here. If you LIED about something, it's not that you yourself weren't true—it's that what you said wasn't true. The thing that isn't true is the lie, not the liar. Yes? No?
  • 61A: View for 6-Down (TREETOPS). 6D is SANTA. If you had the TOPS part of this answer, did you want ROOFTOPS rather than TREETOPS? Does anyone picture Santa flying over (and looking at) treetops? I would've clued this without a cross-reference to Santa, who isn't closely associated with treetops.
  • 18D: Out of the running (NOT IN IT). At first I really liked this answer. But then I got to thinking, is this used in the negative? Sports teams and candidates can definitely be still "in it," with a chance to win. Does anyone say NOT IN IT? "Sadly, the Bears are NOT IN IT."
And now, a musical interlude, courtesy of 52D: Welk's upbeat (A-TWO). Would you believe that The Lawrence Welk Show, which was already outdated in the '70s, is still aired on Milwaukee's public television station? I caught a couple minutes over Thanksgiving in 2009.

Then there's Frankie VALLI (58A: Big name in falsetto) and the Four Seasons. In 1975, my sister and I bought the 45 of this song, so I'm partial to it even though "Sherry" and "Walk Like a Man" display the falsetto more acutely.

Crosswordese 101: Today's lesson is about numerals that get spelled out as words pretty much only in crosswords. This puzzle has 47D: Rte. through six Eastern state capitals (U.S. ONE)—you know, U.S. 1? It's a convention of crosswording that a number can be spelled out in the grid regardless of how it appears in real life. Thus, we get answers like ONED, TWOD, and THREED (1D, 2D, 3D, speaking dimensionally). Not to mention the draft status ONEA (1-A). The flying BTWO (B2 bomber), which is not what's next in the series after Lawrence Welk's ATWO. And, heaven help us, UTWO (the rock band U2). I'm not sure if anyone actually likes such entries. Sure, they help constructors get their fill to work, but they fly in the face of common usage and routinely vex crossword solvers who aren't expecting them. Google traffic to crossword blogs shoots up whenever ONED or TWOD shows up in the grid, as solvers are confronted with what appears to be a 4-letter word that isn't in their dictionary. So be ready for the spelled-out number nonsense, people. It will return.

See you on Wednesday.

Everything Else — 1A: Cellbound? (IN PRISON); 9A: Activates (TRIPS); 14A: Sanctioned (VALIDATED); 16A: Brownish pigment (SEPIA); 17A: Words of consolation (YOU CAN'T WIN 'EM ALL); 19A: Group with PCPs (HMO); 20A: Día de San Valentín sentiment (TE AMO); 21A: Carbon compound (ENOL); 22A: Boardroom illustration (CHART); 24A: Letter-shaped hardware used to strengthen joints (T-PLATE); 26A: Fish also called a blue jack (COHO); 28A: Bravo maker (FIAT); 29A: See a pro, say (TAKE LESSONS); 33A: __ blue (SKY); 36A: "Don't cry over spilt milk" (WHAT'S DONE IS DONE); 38A: Vague quantity (ANY); 39A: Fish tales (TALL STORIES); 40A: Chilean bread (PESO); 41A: Submit formally (FILE); 42A: Back on the water (ASTERN); 45A: Good thing to be up to (SNUFF); 48A: Wasn't true (LIED); 49A: __ Peters, author of Brother Cadfael mysteries (ELLIS); 51A: Intercepting device (TAP); 54A: Sassy reply to criticism (IT'S A FREE COUNTRY); 58A: Big name in falsetto (VALLI); 59A: Street hazard (OPEN SEWER); 60A: Take out, in a way (ERASE); 61A: View for 6-Down (TREETOPS); 1D: Creeper (IVY); 2D: Sodium hydroxide, in chem class (NAOH); 3D: Juicy fruit (PLUM); 4D: Bounce (RICOCHET); 5D: State with a panhandle: Abbr. (IDA.); 6D: Flier over 61-Across (SANTA); 7D: Web-footed mammal (OTTER); 8D: Not experienced in (NEW AT); 9D: Literary monogram (TSE); 10D: Do a foundry job (REMELT); 11D: Old toothpaste with a spokesbeaver (IPANA); 12D: Fly (PILOT); 13D: Maison room (SALLE); 15D: Not too smart (DIM); 18D: Out of the running (NOT IN IT); 23D: Arm holder? (HOLSTER); 25D: Falsely present (as) (PASS OFF); 26D: Four-time Oscar-winning lyricist (CAHN); 27D: Fine (OKAY); 28D: Antagonists (FOES); 29D: Defunct carrier (TWA); 30D: "Roots" Emmy winner (ED ASNER); 31D: Helpless? (SOLO); 32D: NBC hit since '75 (SNL); 33D: Land (SOIL); 34D: Joint with a cap (KNEE); 35D: "Works for me" (YES); 37D: Fisherman's aid that floats with the current (DRIFT NET); 40D: Rides on a path, perhaps (PEDALS); 42D: Full of energy (ALIVE); 43D: Indian strings (SITAR); 44D: Magnetic induction unit (TESLA); 45D: Nodded (SLEPT); 46D: More pleasant (NICER); 47D: Rte. through six Eastern state capitals (US ONE); 50D: Fifth sign (LEO); 52D: Welk's upbeat (A-TWO); 53D: __ school (PREP); 55D: Old-fashioned word of disapproval (FIE); 56D: Deploy (USE); 57D: Vintage nos. (YRS.).


imsdave said...

I kinda liked this one. Orange nailed the only major issue with this puzzle, so, what she said.

Thanks for the Valli - current favorite Broadway score is "Jersey Boys".

jazz said...

Today's was *tough*. It took me over an hour (and 5 googles) to complete.

Agree with orange...the 15-letter fills were pretty good, but some of the shorter stuff, not so much.


Nay.. a very easy puzzle for a Saturday, but I have to say I enjoyed solving it even though there were no new words for me.
Took me 21 minutes to solve, which is a pretty good time for me.
I don't know why, but I seem to prefer these long word (phrase type) puzzles over the themed ones or the wordplay ones.

Again we see a puzzle that has very few crosswordese fill in it, which is quite refreshing. Can't agree with Amy on this...sure there's ENOL and TSE and a few others, but for the bulk content, most of the words are pretty unique and zesty. Sorry, no "FIE" from me.

The only thing I didn't like was the clue for PLUM "Juicy fruit". I think of plums as pulpy fruit. When was the last time you squeezed a PLUM for its juice? Maybe you would for a LIME.

Orange, as hokey as the Lawrence Welk Show is, it's still very popular amongst us oldsters and has been running on TV where I live for eons. You can say what you want about the style of music played (bouncy, bubbly, corny, etc), but there's no doubt about it, Welk is a genuine guy and is very talented. How many of the pop stars of today do you think will have 55 years of lasting power?
He's just Wunnerful, Wunnerful !!!

I love studying idioms and their etymology. "Up to SNUFF" (45A)... great clue.

Many many great clues today.

I really liked (20A) "Dia de San Valentin" = TE AMO

I loved the SANTA flying over the TREETOPS thing. But, I too had ROOFTOPS at first.

Lots of erasure crud on my couch.

Thank you Bob Wolfe for a super puzzle.

And thank you Orange for a fun and informative writeup... it's always good to TAKELESSONS from the pro.


"Roots" was the most watched miniseries ever. A truly great works by Alex Haley was brought to TV in 1977. I'd love to see it return.

Rex Parker said...

All I have to say, you have said. Couldn't get past the horrible in the NE.

Have you heard the new single from T-PLATE. It's called "REMELT." It's bangin'.


shrub5 said...

Wouldn't having three common sayings that might be said to someone who is disappointed or unhappy about an outcome (or something) qualify as a theme? Seems to me that the three 15's have some degree of a unifying connection...

Anyway...I loved this puzzle! It was certainly not easy for me but I finished it. Had T-BRACE for T-PLATE at first and A-ONE for Lawrence Welk's upbeat before I had anything else around it to show me it was A-TWO.

DRIFT NETS are controversial because of their indiscriminate destruction of marine life, capturing non-target species such as dolphins or turtles. In 1992 the U.N. adopted a resolution banning the use of drift nets in international waters. (wiki)

LOL at 11d clue's "spokesbeaver."

Hey @JNH, haven't you ever bit into a plum and had juice run down your chin? I eat them over the sink!

Agree with @imsdave: "Jersey Boys" by far the best show I've seen in years.

Carol said...

A bit tough for me, but not as tough as some Saturday LATs.

Thought at forst that the theme was going to be football as the final playoffs are this weekend.YOU CAN'T WIN 'EM ALL, WHAT'S DONE IS DONE, NOT IN IT.

Agree with @Orange about the rest. I'm old enough to remember Bucky Beaver and the old ads on black & white TV. One of those obnoxious songs that can get stuck in your head for hours.

Anonymous said...

Too tough for me. Maybe I gave up way too early but didn't get much. First time I didn't get the puzzle in a long time.

ddbmc said...

Thanks, @Orange, for the write up. I didn't mind the puzzle, but then the reason I read the blog(s) is to find out from you more experienced solvers why I SHOULD cast a more critical eye on clues and answers.

Enjoyed clues: Cellbound? Bounce-wanted:Getridof; Arm Holder?; Old-fashion word of disapproval-FIE. Last time I heard that word was in "The Princess Bride," I believe! Back on the water? ASTERN. My dad was a sailor, so that helped!

@Shrubb5, cracked up on clue for IPANA!

Definitely ROOFTOPS for SANTA's view-"Up on the rooftop (or house top) reindeer pause, Out jumps good old Santa Claus." Tree tops-not so much!

18D-answer "Not in it" is a phrase we sports parents use frequently, along with "out of" or "no longer in" the running.

Mr. Welk was an absolute fav of the grandparents and their new RCA-Victor color tv. Loved the orange suit in the clip! Coincidence??? Sorry, @JNH, us kids always wanted ANYTHING but Mr. Bubbles Welk! (lol) And what about those Lennon Sisters?

On "What a Night," Frank Valli shared vocals "new drummer Gerry Polci and bassist Don Ciccone." Song was written by Bob Gaudio, the long time song writer for the Four Seasons. In the show, "Jersey Boys," the song accompanies Bob Gaudio's character being set up with a prostitute." (Wiki) Never cared much for Frankie Valli's falsetto as a kid, but have grown to appreciate him and the Four Seasons. Agree that "Jersey Boys" was a wonderful show.

GoG8rs said...

Had a real hard time today. I got so absorbed in solving that I forgot to listen to "Wait, Wait, Don't tell Me" until it was half over. WWDTM is my other favorite Sat. am treat. Had to have a lot of google help and I agree with everyone about the NE, in spite of the easy 11D answer.
On a recent trip to Turkey, I found Ipana for sale and bought several tubes since I haven't seen it in the US for many years. Every time I brushed my teeth I would pop back into the room holding up the package and sing the FULL " Brusha, brusha, brusha" jingle to my roommate. She may never travel with me again.

Parsan said...

Hardest for me in a long time! Really liked the 15 long answers. SNUFF first one in and hand up for roofTOPS. NE easy but SE difficult.

Had LIE without the D and didn't think it fit. If it wasn't true then it was a lie. Wrong tense.

@Shrub5--was going to say juice down your chin but you beat me to it.

Lawrence Welk is still being recycled in a new format on Saturday night in upstate NY on PBS and has been so for years.

IPANA was one of my sponsors on Romper Room. Got a lot of free samples.

Originally had palm off for PASS OFF, play school instead of PREP, bug for TAP and thought PCP was primary care physician, thus AMA, but PLUM threw that out. Did not know the term DRIFT NET. Wondered what TEAMO meant until I saw that it was two words. Sigh!!!

Thanks Orange!

CrazyCat said...

This was a tough puzzle for me this morning. Agree with Orange about LIED and also about the ick factor of the NE. Had no idea what a T PLATE was, or what ENOL was. But other than that it was okay. I liked all the long answers.

As to the clips - my son's preschool buddy Drew (Andrew) Gehling has been playing Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys on Broadway. I remember sitting with him and my son at MacDonalds when they were four. In the midst of his happy meal, he burst into "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." I had a feeling he would go far.

Lawrence Welk was my Gram's favorite show. We all had to watch it with her on Saturday nights. Sorry JNH not my favorite.

@Parsan - Were you on Romper Room?

CrazyCat said...

@ GoG8trs LOLed at your Buckey Beaver IPANA jingle. I remember it well.

Parsan said...


Rube said...

Having @Orange's problem with LIEs, LIEr(?), & LIED, not knowing any Chilean breads, and having my mind stuck on Rudy Vallee, I could not get PEDALS... had to come here in order to get on with my day.

Smacked myself up alongside the head when I figured out PESO as bread, duh... (I do not use Simpson's spellings).

Except for PEDALS, no Googles for me today, making this an easy and enjoyable Xwd, particularly with the minimum of obscure fill.

C said...

I normally do the Saturday puzzle while watching a soccer match and I am usually able to multi-task the two. Today made me hit the pause button on the TiVo though. Once I focused, the puzzle came together. More challenging than normal. Cool.

T-PLATE, a new one for me.

KJGooster said...

Big trouble for me in the NE as well. I was convinced that 13D was SALON, and until that changed, it wasn't gonna happen. Didn't help that I had OPANA instead of IPANA for a while, until I remembered that OPANA is a brand name for the painkiller oxymorphone.

I think I agree with the clue for 48A though, in that "true" is a synonym for "honest." That is, if someone "wasn't true," or "wasn't honest," then they lied.

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lit.doc said...

Can’t really say yea or nay to “harder than usual”, as I was able to get through it without googles, so I’ll just say 37:15. Brain still reeling from today’s NYT puzz. Did enjoy the feeling of methodically, albeit slowly, getting through a puzzle, and liked the big acrosses. Good, fun puzzle.

@Orange, what you said re fish stories/tall tales, [ROOF]TOPS, and “wasn’t tru[thful] = LIED. And LOL at your “ATWO, BTWO,…” series suggestion.

Because of the several chemical clues/answers early on, found myself trying to figure out what class of compounds phencyclidine belongs to at 19A. Obvious symptom of a poorly spent youth.

Loved 11D’s evocation of “Howdy Doody” and fun childhood TV watching. Hated 52D’s evocation of Lawrence Welk and awful childhood TV watching (Sunday eve’s stuck in living room with alcoholic ‘rents watching dreck).

JIMMIE said...

Tougher than most Sat CWs. Took me most of an hour, and I never want to hurry. Lots of ERASE marks. Liked TESLA from an engineering background. Wanted Chimneys for TREETOPS and many other false starts. Great puzzle Mr. Wolfe, and NICER write-up, Orange.

mac said...

I was ok with this puzzle, completely agree with Orange's write-up. Thought of "up to speed" before snuff and thought Valli was with a e at the end. It's not Santa with the treetops, it's the Lullabye Baby!

Tinbeni said...

I think the crossword side of my brain has gone on vacation.

Rooftops, Fla, Salon, A-one, Lies, Remold are:

Even my SKY today isn't blue, its gray.

Second day in a row my grid looks like an INK BLOT TEST! Dr. Rorschach, it looks like two____ F*****g!

Well, 38-a ... 17-a ...


Since I'm called the "arboretum guy", I much prefer seeing Santa flying over TREETOPS to ROOFTOPS.

The clue for 26A (COHO) was "Fish also caller a blue jack".
I'm sure all you chemists will remember that blue vitriol (sulphate of copper) was also called "blue jack".

This is just for you---

Were you Miss Frances in Romper Room? Or was she in Ding-Dong School?

You said: "Have you heard the new single from T-PLATE. It's called "REMELT." It's bangin'."
Huh???? What did that mean?

I just want to say how much I enjoy reading all your comments. Usually I'm in stitches after reading @tinbeni, @ddbmc, @sfingi, @shrub5, @craztcatlady, et al.

Tinbeni said...

I think Rex was joking that T-PLATE sounds like a rapper's name.
ala, Jay-Z, Ice-T, LL Cool J, 50 cent, etc.

If you or I thought a song was good we would probably say ..."The song is good!"
The kids today would say "It's bangin'!"

Also, other than a couple botany courses long ago, half of what I know about plants is from your comments.

(Here, the county where I live, they past a law that precludes me from having any plants, since they know I do not have the ability to care for them.
They don't even like the fact that some of my paintings have pictures of plants in them. Oh well!)

The IPANA clip was great.
YES, I got that one earlier!

Parsan said...

@JNH--Yes, Miss Francis was on Ding Dong School, and while I'll admit to a certain age, she would be 102 years old if she were still alive and I'm not THAT old.

Romper Room was syndicated with Miss Nancy, the original owner and teacher in a series that was kinescoped and sent to subscribing stations; it was also franchised to other stations that produced the show live with local 4 and 5 year old children. As Jonathan Winters said after being congratulated on being married 50 years "You try it!". Anything could and usually did happen. The show ran from the 50's until, I believe, 1998 in some parts of the country. I loved doing it!

Besides the "lullabye baby in the TREE TOP", does anyone remember "Sparrow in the TREE TOP" sung by Guy Mitchell and later BLING CROSBY (oops, that was yesterday)?

Sfingi said...

Very tough, but brilliant. Had to Google 3 - First Cadfael for ELLIS Peters - who has a real, authoresses name, Edith Pargeter;

Second, who knew it was EDASNER who got one of the Emmys for Roots? I showed the series to my prisoners each year. He was the slaver who had second thoughts and then let himself be compromised.

Third, didn't know otters had webbed feet - Apparently sea otters much more than river otters.
Learn things here each day!

Hubster knew the French SALLE for me. The Spanish is almost the same as Italian (TiAMO), and I know it's Spanish in - Spanish out.

Found from crosses, COHO called Blue Jack.

From the beginning, I wanted VALLI as the falsetto, but thought it couldn't be right, especially since I had "Weber" before TESLA. I have 60 photos from the internet of TESLA and his artifacts but don't know how to copy in from the desktop. And I'd have to pick one.

We saw VALLI and the 4 Seasons about 3 summers ago in Lawrence, MA on a beautiful night -free, at the Feast of the 3 Saints.

ATWO was brilliant for Welk, whom I still occasionally watch on PBS

Anyone else have OKL before IDA? REflux and REwELd before REMELT?

@Orange - agree about lack of parallelism with LIED.

@Shrub5 - just what I was thinking about DRIFTNETS.

@Tinbeni - By the way, the youngins use the expressions "gangbangers" and "hook-up" entirely differently than we oldsters.

CrazyCat said...

@Parsan I was scarred for life by Romper Room (or maybe it was Ding Dong School). I had a somewhat different name for the 50's. It's now become very common. The do-bee lady never said she was looking at me. Sigh....
@JNH - I always thoroughly enjoy your comments and learn from them as well. Thanks for the Bucky Beaver video. OMG those were the early, early days of TV. How far we have come since then!
As far as that Foundry clue - I really wanted SMELT. It took me forever to get REMELT.

GoG8rs said...

Thanks, JNH, for the super Ipsna commercial, even though it will be rolling around in my brain housing group for the next week!!!

Bohica said...

I thought this puzzle harder than most Saturday LAT's but mostly due to the obscure (obtuse?) clueing.

Rich may have had something to do with this (trying to ramp things up). But overall, I did not like this one.

It had it's redeeming qualities but not enough to overcome some of the clumsey clues/answers.

Agree with @Shrub5 re: the veiled theme in a supposed "themeless" or "freestyle" puzzle.