SATURDAY, February 27, 2010—Brad Wilber

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

We're back within range of the usual Saturday L.A. Times crossword's difficulty level—this one took me as long as a Wednesday-to-Thursday NYT puzzle. There's some odd fill that requires reliance on the crossings (yes, even for the world's 13th best solver of American crosswords), and there are some clues that venture far afield of mere definitions. (Such clues tend to be my favorites.)

I said hi to Brad Wilber at the ACPT and told him that although plenty of people have called him their nemesis lately, I don't think he's that tough. And I don't. If you handle the other constructors you encounter here on a Saturday, you can tackle Brad. Don't be scared! He's totally non-scary in person. He's a librarian, for Pete's sake. You're not going to be afraid of a librarian who's not going to fine you for returning a book late, are you? (Photo by ACPT photographer Don Christensen. That's Brad on the left clinking glasses with Bruce Venzke, who had last Saturday's LAT crossword byline. No, wait. Brad is clinking with a salt shaker. Bottoms up!)

Cool stuff:
  • 1A: [Game with a hollow ball] (TABLE TENNIS). That clue doesn't narrow things down much, does it?
  • 15A: [Unexpected nickname of a Hughes Aircraft plane built mostly of birch] (SPRUCE GOOSE). That's Howard Hughes. I missed the recent(ish) movie in which Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed Hughes.
  • 17A: [It won't go out] (TRICK CANDLE). Infuriating when trick candles delay one's attack on a birthday cake!
  • 21A: [Hypothetical links] (APEMEN). As in "the missing link."
  • 24A: [Annual event won five times by Fred Couples] (SKINS GAME). This is one of those golf things I've heard of but don't understand.
  • 47A: [Men's periodical, in British slang] (LAD MAG). I wasn't sure if this was LAD MAG or LAD RAG. I think the term glad rags muddled my head.
  • 10D: [1975 Elton John chart-topper] ("ISLAND GIRL"). YouTube time!

  • 13D, 50D: [El Capitan's locale] (YOSEMITE) and [Natural steam source] (GEYSER). "I'll take National Parks of the West for $1,000, Alex."
  • 22D: [Anti-intellectual epithet] (EGGHEAD). I don't care for anti-intellectualism.
  • 29D: [Sunkist offering] (ORANGE SODA). No! Orange likes Diet Coke.
  • 36D: [Holey vessel] (COLANDER). Love this clue!

Weird stuff:
  • 34A: [Table d'___] (HOTE). Ouch. Don't want to find yourself with no choice but to use "table" in a clue when TABLE TENNIS makes itself quite obvious at 1A.
  • 39A: [Upset winner at the 1992 Kentucky Derby] (LILETEE). Wha...? That's Lil E. Tee, apparently. Horse racing trivia is tied with nautical terminology for my least favorite crossword fill.
  • 8D: [Demand-based, briefly, as charter plane services] (NON-SKED). Any of you ever hear this word before? I haven't. Between 39A and 8D...oy.
  • 53D: [Fox hunt cry] (HALLO). "Hallo"? Does this go with "tally-ho"? Onward, to the dictionary! Dictionary says HALLO is a variant of "halloo," which is an exclamation "used to incite dogs to the chase during a hunt." There you have it.
  • 57D: [Opp. of a petitioner, in court] (RESP.). Respondent? To me, RESP. is short for respiration or respiratory, but I don't know that those are accepted abbreviations. Dictionary tells me resp. means respondent, respective(ly), or respelled. Respelled? That means "spell a word again or differently, esp. phonetically in order to indicate its pronunciation." Okay, so I'm glad RESP wasn't clued with that sense.
Crosswordese 101: One of my favorite clues today, 54A: ["Yo, Hadrian!"], takes us to the Latin greeting AVE. Much of the time, this is clued as the abbreviation AVE., short for "avenue," or as the fill-in-the-blank hymn ["___ Maria"]. If you see a clue tying a greeting for Hadrian, Caesar, the Forum, or a generic "old"/"bygone" era, it's AVE you want.


docmoreau said...

Seems I read an Orange interview somewhere in which she admitted delighting in such long fills, clued obliquely. Well, um, this was certainly one. Needed beaucoup crossings. ISLANDGIRL didn't come up in my memory, and its crossings weren't apparent until I googled a few like REA, LIL E TEE, and SKINSGAME.
Totally unfamilar with SKINSGAME as a golf term. Then again, I just learned that "Golf" is an early acronym for "Gentleman Only, Ladies Forbidden."
Lots of other unfamiliar terms. like LDL, ALAR, POR and UNISYS. Being of an age, WALDO PEPPER, A DOLLS HOUSE, COMO AND SPRUCE GOOSE came easily.
This one was work. But enjoyed it, and Orange's write up as well.

Sfingi said...

Didn't know and had to Google for: WALDOPEPPER, SKINSGAME (sports), ACAPULCO (cliff diving is a sport - for the suicidal), ECK (this dude is anti-Semitic), ASO (careful how you pronounce), SYD, ALAR (was thinking human hormone).

Hand up for LADrAG, which I prefer.

For a while, couldn't get GushER out of my head for GEYSER. Hubster gave me TABLETENNIS (sports).
Got many more from crosses, including ones I didn't know: DPI (something? per inch - dots, data?), EDD, ISLANDGIRL, ACACIAS.

There's one sport's event I follow - The Triple Crown. Races are over in 2 minutes, and half the athletes are beautiful (the horses). OK, some of the jockeys are cute. LILETEE stands for Little E.T. I think the horse was sickly when it was born.

Tough couple days. Shoveling. This stuff was HEAVY, like lifting a pail of Slush Puppies each shovelful. Most of us weren't in shape after the low precip (up til now) winter. The roads weren't clear until afternoon. In 2 days we caught up to our average snowfall. I was surprisingly unsore this morning. I guess it's like smallpox. Some of us got the shot.

Not to think hubster deserts me. We have 2 properties - he does the one with a full corner and 2 driveways. I do the little one. He was there all day.

@Rex - did you have to shovel?

Joon said...

brad used to be my nemesis. when i started doing the NYT every day in 2008. he had some absolutely killer saturdays with tough clues and even tougher fill. even today, when i practically sprinted through this thing, there were three long answers i'd never heard of: ISLAND GIRL, WALDO PEPPER, and LIL E TEE. luckily the cluing level was pretty easy overall, and the place where two of them crossed was guessable because ISLAND GIRL is at least two words that might go together. of course, it's not really luck, is it? brad's too good a constructor, and rich is too good an editor, to allow the crossing of two unfamiliar proper names.

okay, i just listened to ISLAND GIRL and i'm underwhelmed. then again, i can't think of an elton john song that i actually like, so this isn't surprising.

i can't be sure, of course, but i'm betting nobody else started off this puzzle by putting in SPRUCE GOOSE and then ECK? that's the kind of thing that sometimes puts me on brad's wavelength: the inclusion of specific people and things from history and literature. when it's from movies instead (see: WALDO PEPPER), i'm reduced to working the crosses, because brad knows a hell of a lot more about film than most people, and i know a lot less.

Barry S said...

Great puzzle by Brad Wilber, as usual!

@Joon - FYI: my first answer in the grid was SPRUCE GOOSE.

Joon said...

excellent. i'm not alone!

ps: great interview with brad today over at crossword corner.

John said...

The first answer I recognized was SPRUCEGOOSE also. The puzzle took me a very plesant 45 min. A fine effort from Brad ,and a entertaining write-up from Orange!

lit.doc said...

@Joon, hand up for SPRUCE GOOSE in a heartbeat. Done 22:29 which is, for me, near light speed. Just got lucky on this one (not so lucky on the NYT puzzle, though).

Tinbeni said...

Scanned the puzzle clues, notice it was my nemesis BW and finally entered WAR.


Not familiar with British Slang, but the crosses got the LAD MAG.
Hell, half the time I don't get American slang clues. And I hate looking up anything in the "Urban Dictionary."

LOL at IDOL crossing DOG, guess that says something about my TV preference.
Gee, I had forgotten ALL about THE 1995 TV movie "Citizen X" and could not recall the actor. My bad.
Oops, how could I also forget a Derby winner from just 17 years ago, LIL E TEE. MY bad, again.

Learned daminozide is ALAR, the ECK guy, Taro ASO and ACACIAS (I wanted, tall trees).

A full 'Pot-of-Coffee' solve w/google as my wingman.

shrub5 said...

Fun, fun, fun puzzle and very interesting interview with Brad Wilber on the other blog.

Finished this without a google but not before having to fix a couple of goofy errors. For 21A Hypothetical links, I had IF THEN which I clung to for quite awhile. The other error was having LBS for LDL. I know that LBS is an abbrev. not initials but I guess you can tell what was discussed at MY med. checkup....

How did DOG ever become a slang word for "worthless thing"? Can't think of anything wronger.

Looked up "skins game" in wiki. The skins game differs from most PGA tour golf tournaments in that only four golfers are invited. They play to win individual holes or "skins" in a match play format. Each hole is assigned a different monetary value and the golfer who wins the hole with the best score outright wins the money for that hole. There are rules for ties, playoffs, etc. Skins games are also played in bowling and, yes, curling!! (who knew?)

CrazyCat said...

Challenging puzzle today, but made me happy in the end. Got TSTRAP and SPRUCE GOOSE right out of the gate which led me to TABLE TENNIS (my first thought was Ping Pong) and then TRICKCANDLE. Then over to the right side and had to Google mucho times to make any progress. Never hear of ASO Taro, Fred Couples, SKIN GAMES, EDD Hall and couldn't remember SYD Barrett. Have but little memory of the time when I listened to Pink Floyd. LIL E TEE was new to me and NONSKED was a WTH? I guessed at GAR, WALDO POPPER and UNISYS. They just seemed to hop out of some part of my subconscious. Got ALAR from the crosses. Took me two cups of coffee, scrambled eggs with an English muffin and a bowl of strawberries - 31 minutes. After seeing Brad Wilbur's picture, I will no longer be afraid. Thanks, Orange for quelling our fears.


This is the first time in years that I've had to give up and resort to the answer sheet. That NE corner!!!! Must have something to do with the Northeastern U.S. and their annus horribilis weatherwise. Kept thinking that ESP is absolutely right for "Iberian land Olympic shorthand"... duh, no it's POR.
Couldn't think of LILETEE, all I had was LIL something. SKINSGAME... never heard of that! Had YOSEMITE, but couldn't for the life of me get SPAMALOT and DRONEBEE. What a mess!
Oh well, I should be glad that I got all the rest correctly.

Cool clues: "Hypothetical links" = APEMEN.
"Men's periodical, Brit." = LADMAG
"Yo Hadrian" = AVE
"Time management expert?" = LUCE
"Holey vessel" = COLANDER.

It wasn't long ago that we had HALLO (Fox hunt cry) in a crossword, so that came easily.

Here's a little bit of AMARILLO for y'all... the wacky artwork of the Stanley Marsh---
And that folks, is what AMARILLO is all about! If you understand it, please let me know.

I actually had to finish my breakfast BEFORE completing this puzzle...ugh!!!


If you're a "Hawk" (and an oldtimer), then you might really enjoy this vid clip---

Lex said...

@docmoreau: Unfortunately, the "golf" acronym story is one of those linguistic urban legends that is just too cute to be true (see also "f*ck," "posh," "tip," etc.)
snopes.com on "golf"

Count me as another whose first word into the grid was SPRUCEGOOSE.

Fantastic interview with Brad; thanks for the link, Joon! And of course thanks to Brad for the puzzle and Orange for the writeup!

chefwen said...

Well this ISLAND GIRL is hanging out solving this while waiting for the tsunami to hit. Moving in on the big island right and am hopeful by the time the waves make it here, they will be much smaller.
Dogs are freaking out with the hourly sirens going off and planes flying overhead warning everyone to get off the beaches.

Puzzle took me waaay longer than it should have, but I did end up write over free.

Really enjoyed it, thank you Mr. Wilber.

Sfingi said...

SPRUCEGOOSE would have been my first, but I usually go through and do 3-4 letter words and fill-ins first.

@John - I thought DRONEBEE was a cool clue, too.
Do you ever Google before you give up?

addie loggins said...

Fun puzzle, and a nice confidence booster after the wicked hard NYT today. YOSEMITE helped me out in the NE, as did ADOLLSHOUSE in the South. Unfamilliar with WALDOPEPPER but it came through with the crosses.

RESP (yes, short for respondent) is a common abbreviation in legalese, so that one made sense to me.

gespenst said...

Have to go bathe GespenstsKind, so this will be short.

Managed to get through w/o google, though I misspelled Acapulco and thus had ULAR. ALAR I would have recognized. I wasn't sure about the NONSKED b/c I didn't have the S (I knew it was SD_ crossing) and had to guess at EDD and DOG. (BTW, being "in the family way," EDD = estimated date of delivery, lol)

Anyhow, I loved a lot of the clues, especially YO HADRIAN (love your wall) and HOLEY VESSEL.

Ok, bathtime calls ...

CrazyCat said...

Sorry, Brad Wilber - I had a Mr. Ed moment.
@Chefwen - glad the tsunami warning has been lifted.

badspelller said...

Skins games are one of the most popular forms of betting in golf. The lowest score on a hole wins a skin. If there is a tie, no skin is awarded. Sometimes you play carry-overs which means if there is tie on a hole, the next hole is worth 2 skins.

I think the term golf originated in the 17th century in the Netherlands.
It goes pretty far back.

I never heard of "Island Girl" and
I thought I knew about all of Elton John's hits. Quite a talented musician in my opinion.

I had to use the red letters a lot though I knew Acapulco, Skins Game and table tennis. I agree there are a lot of games played with hollow balls.

feastwood said...

Ironic - Brad and I actually met Stephen Rea last week after seeing him in Ages of the Moon in NYC.

Jan said...

Fun for me except for the NE. I haven't Googled anything for weeks but had to Google practically that entire section. Ah well, that sort of thing keeps me humble!

xyz said...

sitabig how one brags when finishing a Saturday Puzzle?, even if it was an LAT. Haven't done that too many times.

Elton John was a tremendous performer throughout his touring years. I saw him probably five times he never made an error playing the piano, nor did his voice ever go out of pitch live; show me a rock/pop/metal/grunge singer who can do that, you have to get into Opera quality voices to claim that. His music was consistently of good quality given that he was an incredible drug user for years, Bernie Taupin did some very good quality lyrics. It is however today, very dated to listen to.

hahaha ... If you had Clapton, Elton and Ginger Baker in your ROCK DEAD POOL, YOU LOST! Amazing these three are still around compared to peers gone by the wayside, except perhaps that they hardly had peers except Jimi (my very first concert - 1968) maybe was better than Eric C.

Sorry I wasn't here to straighten out the Golf stuff. The name Golf is lost in obscurity. the Dutch played a game on the ice Kolven maybe 14th century and there are Delft Tiles with Golf figures that are very old. Golf's (in English) first book is The Goff a poetic tome. Golf has been played continuously on St. Andrew's Links (the University town) since at least the 1300's, about when the Scots maybe started recording the history of Curling, the IT sport of the Vancouver Olympics. One last useless bit is that teh best Curling Granite comes from Ailsa Craig, the landmark island seen off the Ayrshire Coast from Prestwick, Royal Troon, and Turnberry three of the Open Championship 'Rota'.

Oh yeah, the puzzle, NEVERMIND - did I tell you about Kurt Cobain? :-) (And I haven't even had a whisky yet, yikes!