MONDAY, Feb. 22, 2010 — Jennifer Nutt

THEME: Chill out! — four theme answers begin with adjectives meaning "informal" or "laid back"

My first day back from the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Brooklyn. Here is my very brief recap (cut-and-pasted from my other blog):

Welcome back! Wait, you guys didn't go anywhere. I was the one who was away this weekend. The tournament in Brooklyn was a lot of fun, though I did not participate. That last sentence appears to make little sense, but is true nonetheless. I was on the periphery of the tournament all weekend, seeing friends and meeting new people and turning my voice recorder on at various, occasionally inappropriate times to try to capture the wisdom, eloquence, and occasionally drunken ramblings of various constructors, editors, and solvers. While the participants were solving, I went into Manhattan for soba noodles (Saturday), or slept late (Sunday). I also got to see really good friends and their brand new baby. There wasn't nearly enough time to see or talk to everyone I would have liked to. There is a new champion, as most of you know by now: Dan Feyer, a guy who trained for his first tournament by solving every crossword I ever wrote about and reading every write-up I ever wrote. One of the first things he told me two years ago was, "I'm probably the only person besides your mother who's read every word you've ever written." And now he's the champ. The other two finalists, Anne Erdmann and Howard Barkin, would have made excellent champions as well — I don't know Anne, but I do know that she was the only woman besides Ellen Ripstein to be on the stage for the finals in the past quarter century; I do know Howard, whom I met at my very first tournament three years ago and is possibly the nicest guy in the world of crosswords (populated almost exclusively by very nice people). Tyler Hinman was out of the running because of a tie-breaker rule (he finished tied for third). This was disappointing to me and a lot of people, as we would have loved to see him defend, but he was gracious in defeat and generous in his praise for Dan and got a *huge* standing ovation when he was announced as the fourth-place finisher (and, for the last time, champion of the Juniors division). It was actually pretty moving. Everyone was excited to have a new champ, but everyone still (rightly) stands in awe of Mr. Hinman's skills (and string of 5 championships in a row). Like the Terminator, he'll be back.

I heard some buzz about the upcoming Los Angeles Crossword Tournament ... will let you know as soon as I get official word about details from the (lovely and astonishingly professional) tournament organizer. Now, on to today's puzzle.

First words = synonymous. An old theme type. These answers are OK, with RELAXED HAIR providing some originality and flair, but with only four theme answers and with CASUAL and EASY not being significantly repurposed in their answers, I found this one lackluster overall. UNO CARD seemed a bit of stretch to me, in terms of its legitimacy as a self-standing answer (9D: It may direct you to skip, draw two, or reverse), but the rest of the fill was solid, if unremarkable. I actually used MEWL in a sentence the other day (describing my own behavior while in the midst of a bout with a stomach virus) (66A: Whimper). Nice word.

Theme answers:
  • 21A: Dangerously uncontrollable type (LOOSE CANNON)
  • 27A: Weekly dress-down times (CASUAL FRIDAYS) — actually had some trouble here, as to me "dress down" = berate someone for incompetence. Perhaps this is also a feature of some CASUAL FRIDAYS. So much less dignified to take abuse from the boss when you're standing there in a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops.
  • 48A: Music genre heard in elevators (EASY LISTENING)
  • 55A: Chemically treated tresses (RELAXED HAIR)
My only rough spots today involved the self-sabotage of bad handwriting. I solved on paper today, and while you can't make typos on paper, you can write so illegibly that even you have no idea what you wrote. This happened to me at least twice. I also wrote in A-ONE for 34D: Very top (ACME) and ALERO (!?!?!) for 54D: Wing: Prefix (PTERO-).

Crosswordese 101: ARLES (53D: Setting for van Gogh's "The Night Café") — if the word is in five letters and "Van Gogh" is in the clue, it's ARLES. Van Gogh moved there in the late 1880s, and found the landscape and light there hugely inspirational. About "The Night Café," van Gogh said: "I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad, or commit a crime" (wikipedia). That, my friends, is a quote, and a far cry from what (I imagine) is being "expressed" in the work of the Impressionists who preceded him.

Enjoy your day


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Surgery marks (SCARS); 6A: "Hawaii Five-O" setting (OAHU); 10A: Heist target (BANK); 14A: Sully (TAINT); 15A: Whirled, as a top (SPUN); 16A: Opposite of windward (ALEE); 17A: Impressive display (ARRAY); 18A: Kids' plastic brick maker (LEGO); 19A: "What's in a __?": Juliet (NAME); 20A: Sales agent, briefly (REP); 21A: Dangerously uncontrollable type (LOOSE CANNON); 24A: Taken by a shoplifter (STOLEN); 26A: Pub order (ALE); 27A: Weekly dress-down times (CASUAL FRIDAYS); 34A: Requests (ASKS); 36A: More than requests (PLEADS); 37A: Detroit-based labor gp. (UAW); 38A: Supportive sound from the crowd (CHEER); 40A: Sidekick (PAL); 41A: Best-seller list datum (TITLE); 43A: Sch. near Harvard (MIT); 44A: Ukrainian seaport (ODESSA); 47A: Dover flatfish (SOLE); 48A: Music genre heard in elevators (EASY LISTENING); 51A: Slithery swimmer (EEL); 52A: Letter-shaped shoe fastener (T-STRAP); 55A: Chemically treated tresses (RELAXED HAIR); 61A: Gallery display (ART); 62A: All done (OVER); 63A: Honey spirits (MEAD); 64A: Still-life fruit (APPLE); 66A: Whimper (MEWL); 67A: Puzzle with only one way out (MAZE); 68A: Old anesthetic (ETHER); 69A: Artist Warhol (ANDY); 70A: Greek god of war (ARES); 71A: Cowboy's rope (LASSO); 1D: Clear-night twinklers (STARS); 2D: Insertion symbol (CARET); 3D: Causes of in-flight "bumps" (AIR POCKETS); 4D: Protein synthesis molecule, for short (RNA); 5D: Salon dos (STYLES); 6D: Norway's capital (OSLO); 7D: Gibbons, e.g. (APES); 8D: Extremely big (HUGE); 9D: It may direct you to skip, draw two, or reverse (UNO CARD); 10D: Forbidden (BANNED); 11D: Astronaut Shepard (ALAN); 12D: Nautilus captain (NEMO); 13D: "Peachy-__!" (KEEN); 22D: "Movin' __": "The Jeffersons" theme (ON UP); 23D: Elite invitee roster (A-LIST); 25D: Cut with a surgical beam (LASE); 28D: European peaks, to Pierre (ALPES); 29D: "It's the __ I can do" (LEAST); 30D: Spurious (FALSE); 31D: Celebrity signatures (AUTOGRAPHS); 32D: Southern pronoun (Y'ALL); 33D: Popeye's __' Pea (SWEE); 34D: Very top (ACME); 35D: Denomination of Islam (SHIA); 39D: Wimbledon's official timekeeper (ROLEX); 42D: Stevie Wonder's "__ She Lovely" (ISN'T); 45D: Perplexing problem (DILEMMA); 46D: Against (ANTI); 49D: Annual (YEARLY); 50D: Six-Day War country (ISRAEL); 53D: Setting for van Gogh's "The Night Café" (ARLES); 54D: Wing: Prefix (PTERO-); 55D: Fontana di Trevi city (ROMA); 56D: Tied, as a game (EVEN); 57D: Lascivious (LEWD); 58D: Darling (DEAR); 59D: Mist (HAZE); 60D: Fruity summer drinks (ADES); 65D: Educ. support group (PTA).



Fillin’ in a nice ARRAY of words!
T’AINT difficult!
It’s EVEN a fast solve!
Givin’ Jennifer five STARS and a CHEER!
Goin’ OVER to Mother’s for a HUGE APPLE dutch baby.
Happy Monday Y’ALL.

SCH said...

Welcome back from Brooklyn! Keep us all informed on the possibility of an LA Times Tourney. I've never attended a crossword tournament. I'm not very fast, but I think it would be such a fun experience. Looks like a good excuse to head west. Today's LAT puzzle had a good theme. I got hung up on the t-strap and ptero-. Remember "mewl" in Shakespeare's "As You Like it"? It's from the "All the world's a stage" soliloquy, spoken by Jacques. "...At first the infant/Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms."

Sfingi said...

Easy. Didn't notice theme.
Did not know UNOCARD.

@Sheri - beat me to it.

Peter said...

Hey - I hit van Gogh's (pretend I was trully affectatious and pronounced his name van Goff) Trifecta! Add soil yourself and he's captured my existance.

xyz said...

Better words it seems than today's NYT overall with CARET, MEWL and PTERO not being your every day stuff. Theme, schmeme, NYT one was total write-in gimme.

RELAXED HAIR was something even I a 6'5" white guy did in 1970 as when I grew out my hair; it was wavy and I kept looking like a Cocker Spaniel. Relaxed was even wors, so ... went back to and stayed with my close crop 'do of my youth which persists to this day as I can cut my own hair and save some dough.

I thought UNO CARD was totally legit.

Seems like ages since ADES made an appearance, unless I just passed it over on crosses somewhere.

Two cups, two puzzles this morning.

Parsan said...

@Rex--It sounds like the tournament was fun, and with a new winner this year the competition next year should be intense. Kudos to all LAT bloggers who were brave enough to compete!

@Joon--Congratulations to you for finishing first in your division and placing the highest of any rookie!

The puzzle today was easy with a theme that was quickly apparent. This one gave me a chance to feel like the experts feel on the hard puzzles by filling in the letters as fast as I could write.

Funny comment by Rex about CASUAL FRIDAYS! Had ETHER when I had my tonsils out, routine for children at the time. The sore throat and nausia, also routine, was awful!

Daughter ar MIT. Some elevator music is not EASY LISTENING but "I-can't-wait-to-get-out-of-here, this-is-driving-me-mad music.

Thanks Rex!

Orange said...

The Crosswords LA Tournament is on May 1. Information here.

mac said...

Another quick puzzle before I give another stab at puzzle nr. 5 from the tournament.

Liked the relaxed hair, loved the Don McLean, and poor Vincent probably already suffered with tinnitis or worse when he said that. BTW, his name is pronounced with both gs sounding very very guttural, like an arabic sound.

@Sheri: it's not even 11 am and I've read "All the world's a stage" twice! First time in the NYT, in an obit.

Tinbeni said...

Can I have something a bit stronger?

ANDY Warhol is always a gimmie, unless I forget my first name.

Liked the ASKS then PLEADS juxtapositioning.

Only DILEMMA within this puzzle was 45d

SCH said...

@mac: An obit???? I just looked this one up. Funny how things come in waves...

CrazyCat said...

Peachy KEEN easy, fast puzzle today. Nice write up Rex - makes me want to go to a crossword tournament. Thanks also for enlarging the grid in the write ups. It's so much easier to read.

Van55 said...

This was another [mostly]fresh and breezy, solid Monday puzzle. I have nothing to carp about. UNOCARD was a gimme for me as clued.

Rube said...

I got my comeuppance a few years ago when I realized that the 101 Strings of Mantovani's EASYLISTENING music in the elevators of my youth had been replaced by the Rock and Roll music of my youth in the shopping malls. I hope to have a disconnectable hearing aid when acid rock and Van Morrison is in the grocery stores.

New word was PTERO, although I'm sure I've seen it before... just couldn't remember it.