FRIDAY, Feb. 12, 2010 — Kurt Mengel and Jan-Michele Gianette

THEME: Working for the WEAK END — "EE" words in familiar phrases get changed to "EA" homophones, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

This is a pretty unimaginative theme. About as weak a "change-a-letter" theme as I've ever seen. I would think you could come up with potential theme answers to this one All Day Long. The vowel change is minor and unsurprising, and the resulting "wacky" answers are mostly just dull. I didn't even like JAPANESE BEATLE, which is as close as a theme answer comes to being interesting in this puzzle. The non-theme fill is mostly good, though I could never see OMRI again and be quite happy (16A: Katz of "Hocus Pocus") [Katz of what now?]. A POSE, AS IT, and A TO B aren't terribly welcome either, but the the rest is solid. Like the long Downs FOOTSTEP (10D: Suspense movie sound) (I had BEEP BEEP at first!) and (esp.) BIPLANES (37D: Some crop dusters). I think there's a theme in that last one ... something like STRAIGHT SHOOTER, BIPLANE, GAY APPAREL ... only, you know, symmetrical.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Theft with a clean getaway? (STAINLESS STEAL)
  • 25A: Filling the shelves with no leftover merchandise or space? (STOCKING FEAT)
  • 47A: Loud signal when the fries are done? (POTATO PEALER) ... The signal is the PEAL, not the PEALER. The PEALER makes the signal. Further, I've never seen the word "PEALER" in my life.
  • 55A: Yoko? (JAPANESE BEATLE)

[Sorry, not a BEATLE]

Crosswordese 101: OMRI Katz (16A: Katz of "Hocus Pocus") — Born 1976. He was on "Dallas" for eight seasons (1983-91) as John Ross Ewing. This is the only reason anyone knows him, if they know him. Unless you were a big fan of "Adventures of Dinosaur City" and fondly remember his stirring turn as Timmy. In short, OMRI would be forgotten by time and the crossword if he didn't have a -MR- at the center of his short name. If you ever wonder why weird- or odd-looking words recur in a puzzle, try the Pull-Out Test. That is, start yanking letters out of the word in question and see if any other letters could go in their places, and if so, how many different letters. There's a good chance your options will be limited. I tried it with ARETE the other day. I can pull the "A" and put in a "C" to get CRETE, but after that ... it's rough. With "OMRI," you can pull the "R" and replace it with an "N," but otherwise, there's really nowhere else to go. That lack of flexibility explains why, once that answer comes up as a possibility, construction-wise, it's really hard to let it go. The oddity can save you from a serious tear-down.

P.S. look out for OMRI Casspi, who already has a greater claim to fame than Katz — he's the first Israeli to play in the N.B.A. (drafted last year, currently a member of the Sacramento Kings)

Not much else to say about this one. Had UPTURNS for UPTICKS (5D: Market advances), and had the most trouble in the center, where I had FAN for NUT (28D: Enthusiast) and SLAM for SLUR (31A: Insult).

The end.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Big theme park star (SHAMU); 6A: Fancy dance (BALL); 10A: Cookie fruit (FIGS); 14A: Fabulous storyteller (AESOP); 15A: Reed instrument (OBOE); 16A: Katz of "Hocus Pocus" (OMRI); 17A: Mill input (GRIST); 18A: Two-time 1980s skating gold medalist (WITT); 19A: German wheels (OPEL); 20A: Theft with a clean getaway? (STAINLESS STEAL); 23A: Bruise treatment (ICE); 24A: Corpulence (OBESITY); 25A: Filling the shelves with no leftover merchandise or space? (STOCKING FEAT); 30A: Manx, for one (CAT); 31A: Insult (SLUR); 32A: Attractive locale (MECCA); 36A: Short range (A TO B); 38A: Play for time (STALL); 41A: [It's gone!] ([POOF!]); 42A: No-frills (BASIC); 44A: Word repeated in a famous FDR quote (FEAR); 46A: St. whose northernmost division is Boundary C ounty (IDA); 47A: Loud signal when the fries are done? (POTATOPEALER); 51A: Without means of support? (BRALESS); 54A: Mil. rank (SGT); 55A: Yoko? (JAPANESE BEATLE); 60A: Take too much of, briefly (O.D. ON); 61A: Fictional plantation (TARA); 62A: They have their pride (LIONS); 64A: Ascend (RISE); 65A: __ Valley: Reagan Library site (SIMI); 66A: 1940s-'50s NFLer __ "Crazylegs" Hirsch (ELROY); 67A: Turndowns (NOES); 68A: Carrier since 1948 (EL AL); 69A: Heads to sea (SAILS); 1D: Droop (SAG); 2D: Bierce defines it "His" (HERS); 3D: "__ stands now ..." (AS IT); 4D: Inlaid work (MOSAIC); 5D: Market advances (UPTICKS); 6D: Get a spare, perhaps (BOWL); 7D: Irish Rose's guy (ABIE); 8D: Plenty (LOTS OF); 9D: Doesn't bother with (LETS BE); 10D: Suspense movie sound (FOOTSTEP); 11D: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame architect (I.M. PEI); 12D: Epithet for many leaders, with "the" (GREAT); 13D: Frivolous (SILLY); 21D: Diamond et al. (NEILS); 22D: Mine stratum (SEAM); 25D: Line crosser of a sort (SCAB); 26D: "Later" ("TA-TA"); 27D: Plains natives (OTOS); 28D: Enthusiast (NUT); 29D: Plant connection (GRAFT); 33D: Prepare to strike, snake-style (COIL); 34D: It can't be understood until it's broken (CODE); 35D: Whence the wise men? (AFAR); 37D: Some crop dusters (BIPLANES); 39D: Sign before Virgo (LEO); 40D: End (LAPSE); 43D: Either of two filmmaking brothers (COEN); 45D: Grandly entertains (REGALES); 48D: Fly over Africa? (TSE-TSE); 49D: Go after with vigor (ASSAIL); 50D: Hun king (ATTILA); 51D: He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame the same year as Billie Jean (BJORN); 52D: Music player (RADIO); 53D: Strike __: model (A POSE); 56D: Funny Bombeck (ERMA); 57D: Leave in a hurry, slangily (BAIL); 58D: Actress Petty (LORI); 59D: Hydroxyl compound (ENOL); 63D: Method: Abbr. (SYS.).



A fairly good puzzle with a THEME FOR THE WEAK… and with LOTSOF crosswordese. Omigosh! OBOE, ABIE, IDA, ATOB, NOES, TARA, ELAL, ENOL, SIMI, OTOS, LEO, TSE TSE, SGT OPEL… the list goes on! This is the GRIST for weak puzzle constructs.

We complain about excessive pluralizing, but today we have a word that lacks pluralizing. “Suspense movie sound” is always FOOTSTEP(S). Imagine a suspense movie with the sound of one FOOTSTEP.

@Orange Too many sports clues today? BJORN, WITT, ELROY

What the…? ODON ??? Can anyone explain this to me?

I’ll make no SILLY comment on 51A.

There were some things I liked about this puzzle:
Seeing Ambrose Bierce quoted in the same puzzle as AESOP. And then there’s a His/HERS reference from the DEVIL’S DICTIONARY
I also liked words like REGALES, MOSAIC, I.M.PEI, GRAFT, UPTICKS, and BIPLANES.

Thanks Rex, for the OMRI Katz writeup.


With that, I’ll go POOF!

Breakfast today… Eggs Sardou and Bananas Foster (with rum), yum!
Happy Mardi Gras Y’all!

imsdave said...

@jnh - (O)ver(D)ose ON.

@Rex - made the same mistake in another puzzle today. Close enough to correct that it helped anyway.

verifying word - vainsys - Windows?

*David* said...

My disappointment with this puzzle is the step back in difficulty. This went back to Wednesday level, I hope that we aren't seeing the dumbing down of the Fri-Sat puzzles.

The puzzle itself seemed to be a rehash of puzzles we've seen many times before. Even the cluing while trying to be a bit tricky seemed to be a rote performance. Here's looking to the weekend.

Parsan said...

Yesterday I had a hard Sat. level puzzle that I think is in your future. Today it is the one you had yesterday. Maybe it will all be straightened out by next week.

lit.doc said...

@Rex, loved your theme title—“Working for the WEAK END”—even though I also loved the puzzle. This is, I’m sure, a current-skill-level thing, but this is one of the funnest LAT puzzles I’ve come across. Letter substitution with only four theme answers? OK, so I’m easily amused.

I think the main reason I found this one mildly but pleasantly challenging was because I still make so many wrong first picks where two or more “correct” answers will fit. Had SLAM before SLUR abetted by FAN before NUT, UTES before OTOS, SOP before SYS, and, best of all, VEIN before SEAM, which gave me a STAINLESS VAULT for awhile.

@JNH, yeah, FOOTSTEP left me waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Tuttle said...

Heh. Same problem with SLAM/SLUR and FAN/NUT. Only two others even gave me pause. Had EAST instead of AFAR and BMWS instead of OPEL.

I won't complain about a puzzle that has an Ambrose Bierce clue in it though.

lit.doc said...

@Tuttle - oh yeah, I forgot about EAST before AFAR. Me too. Had AUDI, BENZ, and OPEL scrawled in thte margin, but waited for crosses on that one.

hazel said...

No snap, crackle, or pop for me on this one - seemed a bit stale. Did like the clue for BRALESS and the word POOF, but not much else.

Maybe not fair for me to judge, though, after the awesomeness of today's NYT....

Orange said...

I solved down the left side and filled in JAPANESE BEATLE before the other theme entries. I loved that one, but the other three didn't hit the same level. Agree with Rex on the weirdness of PEALER.

If you're in the mood for a Sunday-sized puzzle, I highly recommend today's Wall Street Journal crossword by Liz Gorski, "Washington Square." You can solve online, print the PDF, or get the Across Lite version.

Speaking of Gorski, if you're one of those who rave about crosswords that are pangrams, check out her unfavorable take on pangrams here.

Anonymous said...

I found it amusing. I always appreciate puzzles that provide amusing clues or answers. Go ahead--make me smile!

OHT said...

A step back in difficulty from yesterday but I didn't mind as I'm not feeling too well this morning.

@JNH...60A is O.D. on as in overdose.

CrazyCat said...

Did this puzzle in half the time as yesterday's. Agree with comments about the WEAK theme. Besides BRALESS, FOOTSTEP, BIPLANE, just a plethora of the usual suspects.
Rex thanks for the OMRI write up. I was a die-hard Dallas fan, but never knew the name of the kid that played JR and Sue Ellen's son.
As far as that YOKO Ono clip - Don't think she's going to Hollywood.
@Orange - thanks for the link to Liz Gorski. I enjoyed her musings on pangrams and her homage to Abraham Lincoln. Now I'm off to find my "inner olio."

C said...

JAPANESE BEATLE, enjoyed this one. The others, not so much.

Not complaining, I enjoyed the puzzle from a solvers perspective. I learned long ago to stop arguing with answers and just solve the puzzle, -PEALERS almost undid my learning, though, as I almost relapsed to my old habit of arguing with a piece of paper. In private, not a big deal, sitting outside amongst people ...

chefbea said...

Loved this puzzle. Did it in record time. Still working on NYT which is a bear!!! Probably won't finish it.

@puzzle girl - re: yesterday. I am now calling my husband Mr. Bea. I think that is a song from way back

Sfingi said...

As they say, the guy should have aimed a little to the side. Her art ain't so great, either.

I like puns, but spent too long on this because of famous people I never heard of: OMRI, SHAMO, ELROY Hirsch; and the years and architects of sports halls of fame.
I was a little surprised when BRALESS and NUT had to be the answers.
Hated ATOB (again). Didn't like IDA as an abbrev., or NOES as a plural of NO, tho' both plurals (nos and NOES) have multiple meanings.
Had "Utes" before OTOS, "east" before AFAR, "Audi" before OPEL and "grain" before GRIST. Had "Shamo" and "opticks" before SHAMU and UPTICKS. A sort of pun in itself.
MOSAIC could lend itself to punning since it also means "having to do with Moses."

Good to see Bierce and AESOP.

@I'm Dave - thanx for the explanation of ODON.

@John - love Bananas Foster. Had it first in the '80s in Rochester - on fire.
Sports have been worse, and I got those three on crosses.
When I hear 1 FOOTSTEP, I know it's just a squirrel jumping from one roof to another.

shrub5 said...

I didn't think this puzzle was particularly hard but I sure was too fast to write in several wrong answers, e.g., GRAIN for GRIST, AUDI for OPEL, DATE for FIGS, PFFT for POOF. None of them lasted very long.

@JNH: You got your favorite "fly over Africe?" TSETSE. At least this time you got both halves of the fly.

@RP: Thanks for the mention of OMRI Casspi. He is a delightful young man and shows great promise in the NBA. I got to meet him at a fan event recently. For those who might be interested, he will be playing in both the Rookie Challenge (tonight) and the H.O.R.S.E. competition during this weekend's NBA All Star activities on TNT.

Liked the "it can't be understood until it's broken" clue for CODE as well as "fabulous storyteller" for AESOP.

Paul M said...


ddbmc said...

LOL, @Paul M! Not a fan of Yoko's either. I will give her credit for being a smart business woman and protecting John's legacy (along with Sean's). Julian's? Not so much.

Hmmm. This week, we've seen 51A-BRALESS (1D-SAG?) and *answer in puzzle* (40D,Wednesday). I remember John and Yoko protesting with a "bed in." POOF-there go the clothes!

OMRI who? Jeez Louise! Was nice to learn about OMRI Casspi.

Thanks, @Orange, for the Liz Gorski pangram blog and WSJ puzzle. Haven't finished the puzzle yet, but at least got most of the "edges"-I think! Nice puzzle for this weekend.

I remember noticing that one of our previous puzzles was a "pangram." As a relatively new solver, I was happy to have figured that out. As I get better, I'll be happy when I can remember more CW 101 words and some of the more obscure references!

Did get a kick out of 50D-Hun King (Like old Beatles song-Sun King?)

1A-I fell into the mouse trap and had MICKY for theme park star...

@JNH, hope the Bananas Foster was good. Haven't had that in a while!

@Glowe hasn't been around in a while. Hope all is well.

xyz said...

I had more fun than not, but needed a few looks-up. Probably got way more than I will on the FRI NYT!

mac said...

I sort of liked this puzzle, and I thought the Japanese Beatle was very funny. Had Beatle first, of course, and wondered what nasty adjective I would find in front...

If the footstep had been footsteps I would have thought it good. Had East for afar, too, but Omri I remembered from an earlier puzzle, I guess.

chefwen said...

I enjoyed this puzzle esp. after the mighty struggle I had with the NYT last night.

Had to trade my date for some FIGS also. Only other write over was OPEL over opal, apparently I don't know my cars from my gem stones.

Loved POOF!

mac said...

Thank you for the WSJ link, @Orange, I'm doing it during the Olympic opening. Put it on my beautiful ergonomic clipboard!

gespenst said...

Funny, a lot of people seemed to like Japanese Beatle, but I thought that one was the weakest of the lot. In that Ono was never a Beatle. She was sort of the anti-Beatle. But whatever, I still got it ;)

I actually got the theme from the first clue, and got Stainless Steal from the STA I think. Had a moment's pause when I seemed to be short a letter, but then realized it's SSS not just SS at the junction of -leSS and Steal.

Only trouble spot was the NE corner,but eventually SILLY, and GREAT just clicked and I figured out that FIGS were the fruit in question. I wasn't expecting a plural (since Fruit doesn't change from singular to plural) so I was trying to find a 4-letter fruit that you'd put in a cookie (and couldn't quite squeeze "raisin" in!)

I liked the puzzle but agree it was easier than yesterday.

Tinbeni said...

I had the 'i' for cookie fruit, but my mind could not think of which cookie has lime in them? FIGS finally fell, CW done.

Liked the FDR word repeated in quote, FEAR.
BOWL & BALL connected was nice.

Back in college I enjoyed the dawn of the women's movement. Esp. when their way to protested was to go BRALESS. I suppose it made sense at the time. HERS for his I suppose.

Suppose its time to O.D.on Scotch.

@Rex: I liked your write-up more than this offering.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Thanks @imsdave for the OD explanation. I would have never figured that out. Just thought ODON was rather awkward.

Yoko Ono sure can't sing. Very "pitchy" and what's with all those squeaks and squaks? It was good to see Dick Cavett again though. He was always my fave talk show host.

I wish President Obama would repeat that great FDR qoute... our country seems to be in a gloomy state of despair right now.

Yes, the Bananas Foster was fantastic! Last time I had that was at Brennan's in New orleans about 15 years ago.

As for JAPANESE BEETLES... I'm an avid gardener and a botanist, so I hate to even think about the onslaught of those demons next June. Did you know that those ugly white grubs underneath your lawn are actually the larva of the Japanese Beetle?

I nearly crocked when I saw TSE TSE for the 5th time this year... and doubly so, no less.

Thanks for the Liz Gorski puzzle. I'm working it right now... looks good so far.

Looking forward to tomorrow's challenging puzzle (so they say).
Y'all have a super weekend!

Tinbeni said...

Your earlier comment, and last one, re: Banana Foster.

I was having a lady over for dinner, actually I'm a good cook, but I wanted to do something special.
A co-worker told me to make flaming Bananas Foster, got me the instructions (that is what you give an acct.).
Well, I must have done a good job.
We were married about a year later on Jan.1, 1983.
To this day It is a favorite.

You covered my comments well with your first entry.

When the only problem you have with a puzzle is upturns for UPTICKS (and I should never miss that one) it leaves little to say about a nice Wednesday entry.

I'm doing the Gorsli puzzle, too.


Happy 27th Anniversary.
Keep that nice lady happy... do a Baked Alaska for your next culinary feat.

ddbmc said...

Almost finished the Liz Gorski puzzle. Really good, @Orange! Thanks for the recommendation!

Read the end of yesterday's posts and nearly snorted soda out my nose! @Tinbeni's suggestion to "Just add scotch" to the Bad Bassed items, along with adding it to himself....(which he does everyday, anyway) along with Rube's myriad recipes, nearly caused a wheelie chair wipe out here by the old desk top! What would be the CW equivalent to "DRAMEDY?" EXWORDLAIRITY? COMMADITTY? I'm sure one of you will come up with something to describe the wordly shennighans here!

@Mac, I'll be fighting you for Mr. Mac, as I have one of those, too! Maybe I'll just go with Mac I or IMac? (Since I dislike Roman numerals)

mac said...

@ddbmc: I got there first!

I saw OTT! Is he in crosswordese 101 yet? Together with ORR and ALOU?

Tinbeni said...

LOL, At no time would I ever add the Scotch to anything but the cook (Moi).
Scotch is for the living.
The dead bass cooking does not deserve 15yo Pinch.
It is just that if I do add it correctly (to me) the meal always tastes good.