MONDAY, Mar. 1, 2010 — Jeff Chen

THEME: FALL (57D: Drop down, and apt word that can follow the last words of 4-, 8-, 15- and 28-Down) — four (vertical!) theme answers "FALL" down the grid, while a bonus theme answer (EDEN) lurks (symmetrically!) in the far NE

Very enjoyable puzzle. Soooo weird that the LAT and NYT both ran puzzles with vertical theme answers (a rarity) on the same day. And a Monday at that. That's the last day you suspect to see shenanigans. So I'm having a great solving day so far, as both daily puzzles were unexpected and entertaining. This one's more conservative, but also cleaner in terms of fill. I appreciate the virtues of both. Hell, I'm just glad to know that there's apparently a market for puzzles with vertical theme answers, since I've got one burning a hole in my pocket right now. That's probably not the right metaphor, but whatever. I'm going to submit the puzzle this week. We'll see where (if anywhere) it ends up. But back to this one — the verticality of the theme answers gives it the oomph it needs to go from "meh" (yet another "Word that can follow..." theme) to good. Solid. In fact, as good an early-week puzzle as I've seen in the LAT.

Theme answers:

  • 4D: "Cutting to the chase..." ("LONG STORY SHORT...") — great answer (first and only prior use that I can find is by one Mr. Doug Peterson)
  • 28D: Like here-today-gone-tomorrow businesses (FLY-BY-NIGHT)
  • 8D: "The Price Is Right" signature phrase ("COME ON DOWN!") — this just makes me sad for Drew Carey.
  • 15D: Going nowhere (DEAD IN THE WATER) — another lively colloquial expression.
Aside from the long stuff, my favorite answers of the day has to be THWACK! Had the "TH-" and saw the clue — 53A: Hit with a paddle — and thought "... no. Can it be?" Wrote in THWACK, and THWACK! It was right. For some reason I like that THWACK THWACKs CUPID (55D: Deity with a bow and arrow) in the head (after which, presumably, he then KEELS over) (56D: Topples (over)).

["Shooting Cupid," Voice of the Beehive, 1990]

For a puzzle that fell in only a little over 3 minutes, this one held a lot of minor obstacles for me. I instinctively went for ENMESH over ENGAGE (48D: Interlock, as gear), and then, when I got that fixed, dropped in GABON instead of GHANA (68A: Ivory Coast neighbor) (GABON is close, but not adjacent, to Ivory Coast). Also initially went with BRAY over BAWL (45A: Wail) and SESTET over STANZA (9D: Poem part).

Crosswordese 101: AGAVE (54D: Tequila source) — 60% vowels, alternating vowel-consonant structure ... all the ingredients of a five-letter repeater. AGAVE is the new(ish) "natural" sweetener of "healthy" products (I use "scare quotes" because, for the most part, health-wise, sugar is sugar is sugar). Yesterday in the grocery store, this poor guy who'd been sent to the store with a list from the cook (presumably his wife) had no idea how to find many of the listed products. We found him in the Asian food section, trying to find soba noodles. Once my wife helped him, he then asked, plaintively, if we had any idea where he could find AGAVE syrup. Wife pointed him in direction of sugar alternatives in the "health" section, and wished him good luck.

What else?

  • 5A: Plastic clog footwear brand (CROCS) — I think they're based in Colorado. CROCS has a huge display / store in at least one of the concourses at the Denver Airport.
  • 30D: In the buff (BARE) / 33D: Buttocks, in slang (TUSH) — these go nicely with THWACK, I think. You know who's in danger of having a BARE TUSH? The guy with his Pants on the Ground!


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Word-of-mouth (ORAL); 5A: Plastic clog footwear brand (CROCS); 10A: Before: Pref. (PRE-); 13A: Quash, as a bill (VETO); 14A: Fathered (BEGOT); 15A: Monopoly card with a mortgage value (DEED); 16A: Mary Kay rival (AVON); 17A: Alabama march city (SELMA); 18A: Sea eagle (ERNE); 19A: Breathing organs (LUNGS); 21A: Finely sharpened (KEEN); 22A: Long, long time (AEON); 23A: Playground piece that has its ups and downs (SEE-SAW); 25A: Caught 40 winks (DOZED); 27A: Relieved end-of-the-week cry (TGIF); 29A: Country west of Botswana (NAMIBIA); 33A: Jackson 5 brother (TITO); 36A: Musher's transport (SLED); 38A: Traffic tangle (SNARL); 39A: Cold War empire: Abbr. (USSR); 40A: Compulsive fire starters, informally (PYROS); 42A: Lobster catcher (TRAP); 43A: Has (an audience) rolling in the aisles (SLAYS); 45A: Wail (BAWL); 46A: Coop group (HENS); 47A: Provider of kisses? (HERSHEY); 49A: Cyrano had a big one (NOSE); 51A: Reddish-orange dye (HENNA); 53A: Hit with a paddle (THWACK); 57A: Stereotypical dog name (FIDO); 60A: __ the lily: overembellish (GILD); 62A: International Court of Justice site, with "The" (HAGUE); 63A: Allege as fact (AVER); 64A: Radiant (AGLOW); 66A: Word after duct or ticker (TAPE); 67A: Time for fasting (LENT); 68A: Ivory Coast neighbor (GHANA); 69A: Bad to the bone (EVIL); 70A: D-Day craft (LST); 71A: Early anesthetic (ETHER); 72A: Cincinnati team (REDS); 1D: Egg shapes (OVALS); 2D: Variety show (REVUE); 3D: Make amends (for) (ATONE); 4D: "Cutting to the chase ..." (LONG STORY SHORT); 5D: "The Amazing Race" network (CBS); 6D: Smell really bad (REEK); 7D: Leered at (OGLED); 8D: "The Price Is Right" signature phrase (COME ON DOWN); 9D: Poem part (STANZA); 10D: Pierre's pop (PÈRE); 11D: "The Biggest Little City in the World" (RENO); 12D: Notable 57-Down site (EDEN); 15D: Going nowhere (DEAD IN THE WATER); 20D: Drop in the middle (SAG); 24D: Thin smoke trail (WISP); 26D: There are three in "mommy" (EMS); 28D: Like here-today-gone-tomorrow businesses (FLY-BY-NIGHT); 30D: In the buff (BARE); 31D: Shah's land, once (IRAN); 32D: Swiss peaks (ALPS); 33D: Buttocks, in slang (TUSH); 34D: Bermuda, e.g. (ISLE); 35D: Old Russian despot (TSAR); 37D: Pitching stat (ERA); 41D: 11-Down machine (SLOT); 44D: Ship, to its captain (SHE); 48D: Interlock, as gears (ENGAGE); 50D: "Quiet!" ("SHH!"); 52D: Koran deity (ALLAH); 54D: Tequila source (AGAVE); 55D: Deity with a bow and arrow (CUPID); 56D: Topples (over) (KEELS); 57D: Drop down, and apt word that can follow the last words of 4-, 8-, 15- and 28-Down (FALL); 58D: Singer Burl (IVES); 59D: Fender ding (DENT); 61D: Finished (DONE); 65D: Original Cabinet department renamed Defense in 1949 (WAR).



Nice refreshing Monday puzz, after a week of grueling ones!
Some nice simple (but original) fill words.
Thanks, Jeff Chen, I enjoyed your work!

Good lesson in African geography.

I love those comic book words like, THWACK and pow!

DOZED off last night watching the Olympics finale.

Aptly named, Barbara HERSHEY did a marvelous job playing the role of Anne of Green Gables.

Didn't get the theme till I read REX. I really enjoyed reading your AGAVE writeup.

Time to go eat some fried eggs, beans, and ham!

lit.doc said...

Oh, yeah, THWACK me again right there. A high-quality Monday-appropriate puzzle that was fun to solve! (And IMHO “thwack!” is ever so much better than today’s onomatopoeiac fill word in the NYT).

@Rex, more power to ya re submitting your vertically challenging puzzle. But the mention of “ten years ago” on your NYT blog re BEQ’s puzzle gives one pause. I doubt that I’m the only one who’d rather see a book of your puzzles, after seeing offerings like your “Inside Dope – Part 2”.

Two small tweaks I think I’d make were I the editor. The cross-fill is so smooth and gettable for EMS that I’d like to have seen 26D’s clue read “Mommy has three”. As is seems painfully obvious. And shouldn’t 22A read “Long, long time (var.)” ?

@Sheri, thanks for the dietary info. I’d always thought that “Agave nectar” referred to tequila.

Sfingi said...

This is a theme that has possibilities for a larger puzzle. For instance, "Niagara" FALLS is a good word with vowels outnumbering consonants. Then there's "hair" FALLS, the worst being "chenille dread" FALL.
Chittenango Falls

Tuttle said...

Wanted SPOT instead of FIDO. You want to talk stereotypical? One of Actaeon's hounds that tore him to pieces in the ancient Greek myth was named "Sticte"... Greek for "SPOT".

Speaking of Mythology; to Homer an AEON was simply a lifetime but to Hesiod an AEON was many, many generations.

BEAGT/BEGOT... the difference is immaterial since I started with SIRED.

LST always reminds me of my grandfather. He was 5th, and junior-most, officer on LST-632 on the morning of June 6th 1944. On the evening of June 6th 1944 he was the commanding officer of that boat when it pulled itself off the shore of Normandy Beach. Every other officer had been killed.

LSTs, btw, were boats not ships since they had no KEELS. Not sure I'd define that as "topples" either. When a ship KEELS over it has flipped. It is dead and sinking not toppled.

Boats and ships are both, however, SHEs to western Europeans and those cultures descended from them (like ourselves). But to eastern Europeans - Germans, Poles, Russians, etc. - ships are masculine. Yep, HMS King George V was a SHE but KMS Kaiserin (german navy ship "Queen") was a he.

Unknown said...

I'm certainly no constructor (and have great admiration for those who are good ones), but can't a constructor create a perfectly fine "horizontal-theme-answer" puzzle, then flip the NE and SW corners and have that same puzzle with a vertical-theme?

The squares would have to be renumbered, and clues swapped ACROSS for DOWN, but that seems trivial.

Am I missing something?

BTW, I also enjoyed the easy Monday with quality fill. Thanks!


I don't know what the big fuss is over vertically themed crosswords. You just take any horizontally themed grid, rotate it 90 degrees, then flip it horizontally, reorient the letters, renumber it, and voile--- you now have a very nice vertical theme. I've done this with some of my own puzzle constructions just for the novelty. There's something about the human brain (in western cultures) that makes solving vertically much more difficult. Try it!

I've gotta get me some of that AGAVE SYRUP.

Orange said...

My husband had an agave nectar mojito. It was icky. I find tequila (inside a margarita, anyway) to be smooth as butter, but the nonalcoholic agave? Blech.

*David* said...

Try flipping it 90 degrees and if you write in Hebrew for the acrosses or the downs depending on which way you flip it, you'll be fine.

CrazyCat said...

LONG STORY SHORT, I thought this was a very enjoyable Monday puzzle. I do find that filling in long vertical answers takes me longer than across. Sometimes I'll have all but one letter filled in and still can't visually get the answer. So then I write it out on a piece of paper and voilà. I use AGAVE nectar as a substute for sugar since as @Sheri said,it has a lower glycemic index and isn't artificial like Splenda or Sweet and Low. It's ok on waffles too.
@Orange - Using AGAVE nectar as a substitute for rum or tequila sounds pretty FLY BY NIGHT to me.
Time to get off my TUSH and get some work done.
Ha my WV is lushes.

Charles Bogle said...

Hello friends; don't know if anyone noticed an absence on this blog...was out-of-town for a month in AZ; local papers didn't carry LA puzzle; was w/out computer; just had a blackberry (by which I could chime in daily on NYT).. . Missed this puzzle and the gang!

Anyway, totally agree--wonderful Monday puzzle here and in NYT

@tuttle, many thanks for sharing that story about your grandfather on Omaha Beach--hope he gave a couple of good oral histories

Otherwise, it was a struggle only because I had mounting sensation that there was an unusually high number of erotic/quasi-erotic clues and answers...for this group I know I don't need to enumerate them. Between this and BEQ's spicey Monday in NYT, had NO trouble getting going today!

Rex, thanks for great write-up today and on NYT blog-

Jeff Chen said...

Hey all! Thanks for all the comments, and glad that it was enjoyable! Thanks to Rich especially. He's really good to work with.

@john.walter: this is exactly what I did. I tried for several hours to construct it in vertical mode, but couldn't get my brain to figure out a pattern of black squares that gave me enough flexibility to fill it without much crud. After taking a break, I tried it with horizontal answers, and figured out a structure I liked within 10 minutes. Go figure. The SW to NE flip is easy after that.

@Rex: I had been talking to my twin brother and his five-year old son (now irreversibly obsessed with comic books) about superheroes, and somehow that ??W??? pattern jumped out as THWACK, as if the sound effect had hit me upside the head. A WWRD? moment.

BTW, I've been working on my speed solving ability, with limited success. Even knowing all the answers (it's been a few months since I submitted this, granted) I came in at 3:30. Yes, 30 seconds slower than Rex. Sigh.

You guys probably don't hear this enough, but I love starting my day with Rex Parker and LA Crossword Confidential. Thank you.


mac said...

Another nice puzzle! Especially like 'thwack", "long story short" and "dead in the water".

What a coincidence to have both puzzle themes vertical.

@Charles Bogle: welcome back!

xyz said...

@JohnNH that's voilà! re:voile, perhaps you've been crosswording too much :-))

Great little puzzle this one here, after doing BEQ's in the NYT with its struggles inherent to his puzzle-geekiness (for better and/or worse) I did this one in 8 minutes, like rocket fast for me (I only know because I noted the time on my timer function of my watch whilst waiting for an oil change.

Now RexParker, calling attention to THWACK, BARE and TUSH will get the host of this blog to tell you he's creeped out with all this dirty old man talk! watch it.

A minor math quibble is that an egg shape is technically OVOID rather than OVAL, but I'll let it slide without comment.

We've had GHANA under comment recently with (sp.) ASHANTE/ASHANTI people and the taller EWE which make up the Ghanan population. Ewe are very tall.

NAMIBIA is east of RSA and you are not allowed to stroll some beaches there as one can literally pick up diamond stones there.

Love the AEON spelling.

TITO, TSAR and USSR all together was pretty cool to this semi-codger who remembers all of them first hand.

signed: conal? Some new late-night host? (I prefer Ferguson)

Tinbeni said...

@Jeff you constructed a nice Monday puzzle. Enjoyed the 'drop down' themes dropping down.

@Sheri, thank you for the info re: the AGAVE Nectar.
Knew agave was the source for tequila.
Like water, I never drink the stuff.

@Orange & Crazycatlady
Any drink made with Tequila or Rum to me is Blech!
There is a secret ingredient that makes every drink perfect ...

FIDO, Sterotypical dog name.
You see it in cartoons but does anyone know anybody who actually named their dog FIDO?

For the second time in a couple weeks when I saw the clue for BARE I wanted nude. I guess that is what happen when one is a nudist.
BARE TUSH AGLOW is what happens the first time on a nude beach.

Unknown said...


Nice job...I liked the change-of-view!

chefwen said...

@Tinbeni - We had a cat named FIDO, but we spelled it Phydeaux. Cute little thing.

@the redanman - I also did this one waiting for an oil change, but it took me longer than 8 minutes, more like 20. Oh well!

No write overs = success!

Thank you Jeff, it was fun.

Sfingi said...

@Tuttle - interesting about your gramps.
I never thought of Germans as Eastern Europeans, though they couldn't keep their collective hands off Eastern Europe.
We had a discussion about Turkey being Asian, which started with a cw clue. My son decided we should bring back the expression "Near East" to go along with Middle- and Far East.

@Redanman - funny on the spanking.
I agree on OVoid, as the 3D.
Forgot I had "Numidia" before NAMIBIA, which no longer exists and what it was is now Algeria/Tunisia.

The fill here is much better than NYT today.

CrazyCat said...

@Charles Bogle Glad you're back!
@Jeff Thanks for joining us. It's always a kick when we get to hear from the constructors. Really fun puzzle.
@Tinbeni - You're a hoot!
@Rex Parker - Thanks for your write up today.

xyz said...


as I said - lightning fast for me! Let me add that I hope that you don't need new tires as I discovered yesterday. :-( Driving slowly on surface streets awaiting the delivery from Tire Rack (and I'll get a free GPS for buying 4 tires!) ...