SUNDAY, January 31, 2010 — Matt Skoczen (syndicated)

Theme: "Running on Empty" — Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases with the first letters M.T.

[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: Crisp named for an opera singer (MELBA TOAST).
  • 25A: Illusion (MAGIC TRICK).
  • 36A: Popular date destination (MOVIE THEATER).
  • 51A: 1936 Chaplin classic (MODERN TIMES).
  • 72A: Frankie Laine chart-topper (MULE TRAIN).
  • 89A: Painter's aid (MASKING TAPE).
  • 105A: 1979 Nobel Peace Prize recipient (MOTHER TERESA).
  • 120A: Singer's voice, e.g. (MEAL TICKET).
  • 123A: Money-making knack (MIDAS TOUCH).

This was a very strange solve for me. Nothing super tricky in the puzzle, but the theme had me confused for way longer than it should have. Why? Because I read that first theme clue as "Crisp name" instead of "Crisp named" and thought MELBA TOAST was supposed to be funny but I couldn't figure out the joke. Then the rest of the theme entries had straight clues and I just really didn't figure it out for a long time. On top of that, I guess I just want to say that it's hard to get excited about a puzzle that has MASKING TAPE as a theme answer. MOVIE THEATER isn't much better. Well sure there's MAGIC TRICK, but zzzzzzzzzz .... Sorry. Must have dozed off there for a minute. I think you get my point.

  • 6A: Annapolis inst. (USNA). United States Naval Academy.
  • 16A: Apr. advisor (CPA). This really adds to the puzzle's excitement factor, doesn't it? (No offense, Crosscan.)
  • 22A: Leia's love (HAN). Not Hans. HAN.
  • 61A: State that's home to Nike H.Q. (ORE.). This was a gimme for me because I was following the demise of the University of Oregon's wrestling team a couple years ago after a questionable hiring decision brought Phil Knight's close friend, Pat Kilkenny, on board as the school's Athletic Director. Watch him answer questions in this video and I'm pretty sure you'll come away with the distinct feeling that he is a slimy you-know-what.
  • 70A: New Orleans player (SAINT). I'm a Vikings fan as a result of geography, but I was nonetheless happy to see the Saints win. I heard the Saints are "America's team." So there ya go.
  • 100A: Hiring term initiated under LBJ (EEO). I spent way too much time trying to find the "Seinfeld" clip where Kramer tells a couple of new parents that their baby looks like Lyndon Johnson. Couldn't find it.
  • 6D: Area 51 sighting, briefly (UFO). Have you been to Roswell? The museum there is pretty cool.
  • 10D: Strategic math game (NIM). Know this one only from crosswords.
  • 53D: Ringo and George each wore one (MOUSTACHE). I thought for a minute this was supposed to be a theme answer.
  • 63D: Teeny bit (SMIDGEN). Best word in the whole grid.
  • 99D: Armchair partner (OTTOMAN). The first time I ever used the word ottoman when talking to my kids, they looked at me like I was crazy. I guess they think it sounds a little, I don't know ... high-falutin'. So now whenever we use the word, we put air quotes around it.
  • 119D: __-Pei: strong dog (SHAR).
Crosswordese 101: I was going to skip CW101 today and just give you a round-up of the puzzle's crosswordese that we've already covered, but I couldn't pass up the chance to add NENE to our list (131A: Endangered island flier). The NENE, Hawaii's state bird, is the world's rarest goose. If the clue indicates that the answer is a bird and has something to do with Hawaii, chances are you're looking for the NENE.

Here are some other CW101 words from today's puzzle. If you had trouble with any of these, you might want to go back and take a look at our previous write-ups.
  • 129A: Notre Dame's Parseghian (ARA).
  • 13D: Hibernia (ERIN).
  • 15D: Its last flight was Nov. 26, 2003 (SST).
  • 46D: Drink stand buy (ADE).
  • 54D: Lake-effect snow city (ERIE).
  • 74D: Mars counterpart (ARES).
  • 92D: Pear or apple (POME).
  • 93D: Broad collars (ETONS).
Everything Else — 1A: Amy Winehouse Grammy-winning song (REHAB); 10A: At least as (NO LESS); 19A: Charlie Chaplin, from 1952 to 1972 (EXILE); 20A: Trepidation (FEAR); 21A: Hardens (INURES); 27A: Pump measure (OCTANE); 28A: The one in my hand (THIS); 30A: H+ and Cl- (IONS); 31A: Ex-Dodger Hershiser (OREL); 32A: Squelch (NIX); 33A: Narcs, e.g. (BUSTERS); 35A: Disconcerting look (STARE); 40A: They're slanted (ITALICS); 43A: Starting point, perhaps (IDEA); 45A: It can span centuries (SAGA); 47A: Infamous Idi (AMIN); 48A: Harry Palmer creator Deighton (LEN); 49A: Union (NORTH); 56A: Bankrupt Korean automaker (DAEWOO); 58A: Make out (SEE); 60A: International show (EXPO); 62A: Powwows (TALKS); 64A: Brink (EDGE); 67A: Completely fall apart (GO TO RUIN); 75A: Under siege (BESET); 76A: Uses as partial payment (TRADES IN); 78A: Dark genre (NOIR); 79A: Revlon offering (SCENT); 81A: Dark time for poets (E'EN); 82A: Cut out, e.g. (EDIT); 84A: French pronoun (CES); 86A: Regular crowd (USUALS); 94A: Fashion (STYLE); 96A: Woo with words (COO); 97A: Choice word (ELSE); 98A: Con __: briskly, in music (MOTO); 101A: Chips follower? (AHOY); 102A: Sways while moving (CAREENS); 108A: Blake's daybreaks (MORNS); 109A: Source of flowing water (OPEN TAP); 111A: Teeny bit (TAD); 112A: Words of woe (AH ME); 113A: Cyan relative (TEAL); 115A: Win __, lose ... (SOME); 116A: Flares up (ERUPTS); 125A: E-bay action (BID); 126A: Place for a drip, briefly (IV TUBE); 127A: Attacking the job (AT IT); 128A: __ Bubba: gum brand (HUBBA); 130A: Blotto (LOOPED); 132A: Nineveh's land: Abbr. (ASSYR.); 1D: Riviera resort San __ (REMO); 2D: Business VIP (EXEC.); 3D: Weapon handle (HILT); 4D: NATO member since 4/1/2009 (ALBANIA); 5D: Retro headgear (BEANIE); 7D: "Click it or ticket" subject (SEATBELTS); 8D: New Hampshire city (NASHUA); 9D: Experts (ARTISTS); 11D: Broadcasting (ON AIR); 12D: Count player (LUGOSI); 14D: Brief moments (SECS); 16D: Former French president (CHIRAC); 17D: Harness horses (PACERS); 18D: It's commonly turned (ANKLE); 24D: Typical, as a case (TEXTBOOK); 26D: Corkscrew pasta (ROTINI); 29D: Calliope power (STEAM); 34D: Therefore (ERGO); 35D: Thin cut (SLIT); 36D: Even-tempered (MILD); 37D: Greek music halls (ODEA); 38D: Shakespearean merchant Antonio et al. (VENETIANS); 39D: "__ Alibi": Selleck film (HER); 41D: Silvery game fish (TARPONS); 42D: "Are too!" response (AM NOT); 50D: Loaf's end (HEEL); 52D: Vet (EX-GI); 54D: Lake-effect snow city (ERIE); 55D: In the mail (SENT); 57D: Fairy godmother's prop (WAND); 59D: Garden locale (EDEN); 65D: Pontiac muscle car (GTO); 66D: __ the Red (ERIC); 68D: Quite heavy (OBESE); 69D: Bausch & Lomb brand (RENU); 70D: Musical note feature (STEM); 71D: High pressure __ (AREA); 73D: Curriculum part (UNIT); 77D: Suspect (SENSE); 80D: Skirtlike trousers (CULOTTES); 83D: Inverness topper (TAM); 85D: Saturated with (STEEPED IN); 87D: "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" author (LOOS); 88D: Tofu source (SOYA); 90D: Wheat seed (KERNEL); 91D: The Philippines, to Philippe (ILES); 95D: "__ durn tootin'!" (YER); 101D: Herculean (ARDUOUS); 102D: One sharing the wealth? (CO-HEIR); 103D: Noted 1588 loser (ARMADA); 104D: Absorb (SOAK UP); 106D: Descendant of Noah's second son (HAMITE); 107D: Singer Kitt (EARTHA); 108D: Deadly African snake (MAMBA); 110D: Annapolis newbie (PLEBE); 113D: Show saver (TIVO); 114D: Prefix with plasm (ECTO-); 117D: Taverns (PUBS); 118D: Frozen dessert franchise (TCBY); 121D: Up to, casually (TIL); 122D: "Dilbert" Generic Guy (TED); 124D: Wolfed down (ATE).


Rex Parker said...

At 8:22, possibly the fastest Sunday-sized puzzle I've ever done. Didn't notice theme.


GO TO RUIN / MOUSTACHE area was hardest for me (not very). Revlon offers SCENTs? OK.


Tinbeni said...

@PG - I'm glad you explained the theme which totally escaped me as I quickly solved.

ALBANIA becoming a member of NATO on April Fools Day last year was kind of funny. They were with China during the Cold War, and there are a whole slew of 'pill boxes' all over the country side.

OPEN TAP should have been 'source of flowing beer.'

Obvious fave clue was Taverns for PUBS.

Nothing exciting or difficult today and that was nice after yesterdays slog.

Thanks Puzzlegirl for the clip, the tune was running through my head the whole time.

hazel said...

Misspent Time.

shrub5 said...

@hazel: LOL

I figured the theme would have something to do with M and T when I saw the title of the puzzle. When I got MELBA TOAST, I caught the drift and began anticipating two words starting with M and T. It was hard to know what the theme clues were, other than the length of the answer. The clues were all fairly straightforward (maybe the exception being singer's voice, e.g. for MEAL TICKET), not tricky or "pun-ny", thus no ? marks.

@PG: Thanks for the Jackson Browne clip. He is a fave singer/songwriter of mine in addition to being quite easy on the eyes. In August '08, Browne sued John McCain and the RNC for using "Running on Empty" without his permission in an attack ad against Obama. The matter was settled in July '09 under an undisclosed financial agreement and with an apology from the McCain campaign. (wiki)

CrazyCat said...

Funny - my husband asked me what the theme was when I started the puzzle. Told him "Running on Empty" and he said " Oh like Jackson Browne."
Anyway, same feeling about the puzzle as everyone else has mentioned. I got the MT theme at MAGIC TRICK. Nothing really sparkly going on. Liked seeing MOTHER TERESA, LOOPED and REHAB in the same puzzle for some reason.

There is a local rumor that Jackson Browne is living in a house in our town. He is good friends with Ben Harper who grew up here. He's played a couple times at the Folk Music Center and did a fundraiser concert with Ben H and Taj Mahal on the playground of our neighborhood elementary school. He doesn't exactly look like he did in that clip. Still sounds great though.

Van55 said...

I agree. Ho hum puzzle. Mostly unobjectionable, but not memorable.

lit.doc said...

I am ever so glad it wasn’t just me in WTF? mode re the theme. I noticed that the puzzle had a title, so I was on my guard. Really I was. But to no avail. “Running on MT”? Cutish side of meh, if that makes any sense.

Finished in 30:13 (stop laughing) which I was pleased with. Solving was steady and methodical, with the only hiccups at 120A where music-school habit wanted INSTRUMENT, and 53D just ‘cause I can’t freaking spell.

Very good exercise. And thanks, Puzzle Girl, for your amusing and informative write-up.

Joe said...

OK, I'm not the only one looking for a musical theme thanks to Mr. Browne. "MT" it is, then.

We lived in Africa for 6 years and the threat of a MAMBA (108D) is real. People really die from them. Venom takes hold in less than 60 SECS (14D).

Unknown said...

45 across - union-north- it's a stretch.