SATURDAY, March 20, 2010—Will Nediger

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

Oh, man, this one was even easier than last Saturday's puzzle. 3:14 for me lands at an easy Wednesday NYT level. The fill was cool, but the clues didn't make me work for them. I mean, if you were a fan of The West Wing, bam! 1-Across filled itself in and gave you a head start on the first 11 Down answers. Even though I kinda quit watching the show by the final two seasons, AARON SORKIN was a total gimme. His earlier show, Sports Night, was one of those under-watched but smart and engaging series.

Groovy bits:
  • 12A: [1947 Oscar winner for Best Original Song] (ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH). Great answer! I had most of the letters from the Downs before I even looked at the clue.
  • 14A: [1988 Michelle Pfeiffer comedy] (MARRIED TO THE MOB). Also starring Matthew Modine as the FBI agent and...who played the mobster guy? Anyone remember?
  • 16A: [Record holder?] (EX-CON). Love this clue!
  • 29A: [For whom the bell tolls] (THEE). As in "Ask not for..."
  • 42A: [Silly rabbit's desire, in ads] (TRIX).
  • 46A: [Without anything on] (NAKED AS A JAYBIRD). I got this one off the K. Wish the clue had been more elusive so I'd have to work more to have this colorful answer emerge in a grid. One question: When you are naked, are you wearing nothing but blue feathers? No? I didn't think so.
  • 50A: ['80s NBC medical drama] (ST. ELSEWHERE). Never watched this show, though it should've been right up my alley.
  • 9D: [Cleopatra's eyeliner] (KOHL). No relation to former German chancellor Helmut Kohl. The black eyeliner powder takes its name from an Arabic word.
  • 12D: [Fighter craft game released by Sega in 1982] (ZAXXON). I sure didn't know this one, but having a Z and two Xs worked into the grid pleases me.
  • 24D: [Play badly?] (CHEAT). What's your household policy on cheating at board games? I grew up in a no-cheating household but my husband's family was fine with cheating. Yes, we have a mixed marriage.
  • 32D: [Loser to Bush in 1988] (DUKAKIS). As a college student in Minnesota in '88, I went to the Democratic caucus. The Dukakis crowd thought they had a catchy slogan: "We're gonna caucus for Dukakis!" I no longer remember which candidate's corner I ended up in. It might've been Jesse Jackson, since I attended one of his rallies...on a Minnesota farm. Not many, I daresay, have heard Jesse Jackson leading a crowd in this chant: "Save the farm! The family farm!"
  • 41D: [Picayune] (SMALL). I love the word picayune and wish I lived in New Orleans just so I could read the Times-Picayune every day.

The only answer I looked askance at was 34D: [Bridgestone product] (CAR TIRE). I think the word car is assumed. If it's a tire on something other than a car, then it's a truck tire or a bike tire.

Now, here's a clue that pretty much demands a video: 21A: [Charmer who "walks like a woman and talks like a man," in a 1970 hit] (LOLA). Enjoy the Kinks.

Crosswordese 101: Hey, you know what? I don't see any crosswordese in this puzzle.

Everything Else — 1A: "The West Wing" creator (AARON SORKIN); 12A: 1947 Oscar winner for Best Original Song (ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH); 14A: 1988 Michelle Pfeiffer comedy (MARRIED TO THE MOB); 16A: Record holder? (EXCON); 17A: Battery alternative (FUEL CELL); 18A: Neural transmitter (AXON); 19A: Cat murmurs (PURRS); 21A: Charmer who "walks like a woman and talks like a man," in a 1970 hit (LOLA); 22A: John of London (LOO); 23A: Old postal divisions (ZONES); 24A: Pachelbel work (CANON); 25A: Oct. 1975 NBC debut (SNL); 26A: Cost to get in on the deal (ANTE); 27A: Cunning (SHREWD); 28A: First queen of Carthage (DIDO); 29A: For whom the bell tolls (THEE); 30A: Catkin bearers (ALDERS); 33A: Fast-growing pet (CHIA); 34A: Half of CDX (CCV); 37A: Ad preceder? (DEUCE); 38A: Frighten (DAUNT); 39A: Last word of Shelley's "Adonais" (ARE); 40A: Amplify (MIKE); 41A: Smart-mouthed (SASSY); 42A: Silly rabbit's desire, in ads (TRIX); 43A: Campus figure (ACADEMIC); 45A: One in a class by herself? (TUTEE); 46A: Without anything on (NAKED AS A JAYBIRD); 49A: Most buses (SINGLE DECKERS); 50A: '80s NBC medical drama (ST. ELSEWHERE); 1D: Use a fan on (AIR COOL); 2D: Kitchen protector (APRON); 3D: Delay cause, maybe (RAIN); 4D: Dedicated work (ODE); 5D: Neighbor of Homer (NED); 6D: Emancipated (SET FREE); 7D: Sussex scents (ODOURS); 8D: Dull drills (ROTES); 9D: Cleopatra's eyeliner (KOHL); 10D: "My stars!" ("I DECLARE!"); 11D: "Give me a for-instance!" ("NAME ONE!"); 12D: Fighter craft game released by Sega in 1982 (ZAXXON); 13D: Empty (HOLLOW); 14D: Board (MEALS); 15D: Hardly spicy (BLAND); 19D: Koi habitats (PONDS); 20D: Golden rule word (UNTO); 23D: Site of the 1974 fight known as "The Rumble in the Jungle" (ZAIRE); 24D: Play badly? (CHEAT); 27D: Newly polished (SHINY); 28D: Will writer, at a will reading (DECEDENT); 29D: Consequently (THUS); 30D: Pro pitcher? (ADMAN); 31D: Pioneer 35mm cameras (LEICAS); 32D: Loser to Bush in 1988 (DUKAKIS); 33D: Cataract (CASCADE); 34D: Bridgestone product (CAR TIRE); 35D: Old yellers (CRIERS); 36D: In a snit (VEXED); 38D: Places for roasters and toasters? (DAISES); 41D: Picayune (SMALL); 42D: Yam, for one (TUBER); 44D: Competitive advantage (EDGE); 45D: Trike rider (TYKE); 47D: Saul or Solomon (JEW); 48D: "Oh!" to Ohm ("ACH!").



Trudged through this very difficult puzzle… much longer solve time than an average Saturday for me. Hung up on a Natick--- ZAXXON crossing with AXON. Despite the DAUNT, I rather enjoyed the challenge and some new words to learn.

My favorite entry was ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH sung by Uncle Remus from the “Song of the South”.

Thought AARON SORKIN was a bit obscure, but with the easy crosses, I worked that out.

Some very SHREWD clues:
“Record holder” = EXCON
“Fast growing pet” = CHIA
“Ad preceder” = DEUCE (a tennis scoring term)
“One in a class by herself” = TUTEE
“Dull drills” = ROTES
“Play badly” = CHEAT
“Old Yellers” = CRIERS
“Places for roasters and toasters” = DIASES
“Trike rider” = TYKE (my fave)

Never heard of ZAXXON and AXON and the last word of Shelley’s “Adonais” (ARE). Also, I didn’t know that DIDO was the first queen of Carthage.

Well again we are blessed with some Roman Numeral mathematics half of CDX = CCV (410/2=205).
I’m learning to not hate these anymore.

I knew that KOHL is an Egyptian cosmetic, so I guessed that that was “Cleopatra’s eyeliner.”

It sure helps to be both a photographer and a botanist. Knew the catkin bearers (ALDERS) and the pioneer of 35mm cameras (LEICAS) right off. But then I just couldn’t think of the 1988 election loser (DUKAKIS)… how quickly we forget the losers!

Think I’ll have some TRIX for breakfast today.
See y’all… have a super weekend !


Come on Amy, there's plenty of crosswordese today.
I see these words over and over.

imsdave said...

Great writeup of a good puzzle. I totally agree that the cluing was too simple for a Saturday. I think I was in the 8 minute range.

I'm not sure which gangster you were thinking of, but I'm pretty sure it was Alec Baldwin who played her scumbag husband.

Sfingi said...

@John - I refuse to believe you keep sugared cereals in your house!

I looked at the long words and thought, OMG. Then got MARRIEDTOTHEMOB immediately and discovered it was easy.

I Googled ZAXXON, since I never heard of it. Heck of a word.
Had "pools" before POND.
Did not know MIKE meant amplify. Wanted "hike."
I see we have a correction for TYKE. (TYKEs on trikes!)
A bit shocked at JEW. Should I be?Wanted "King."
I don't get DEUCE ad. Anybody?

Nice puzzle.

Orange said...

@John—Those aren't crosswordese. They're just words! We may not see ROTES in the plural, but everyone knows what ROTE means. It's not an arcane word kept alive by crosswords. ADMAN sounds retro/sexist to me, but it has new life with the popularity of the TV series Mad Men.

@Sfingi, DEUCE is the tie score that follows ad(vantage) in or out in tennis.

@Dave, I was thinking Alec Baldwin but wanted confirmation and was too lazy to Google.

jazz said...

Ah, LOLA! The first name in rock and roll crossdressing!

It was years before I realized this song wasn't the nostaligic love ballad that it seemed.

I would think LOLA qualifies as crosswordese.

Also, sometime I think one could construct a whole paragraph of crosswordese from the Simpsons (APU, NED, HOMER, BART, LISA, KRUSTY, KWIKE, MOE et al)

shrub5 said...

Worked this one from the bottom up. Didn't have much trouble until the NW where I came to a halt in the ZAXXON / EXCON / MEALS area. A forehead slap for my slowness (again) on John of London (LOO).

I DID know SORKIN was the creative force behind "West Wing" but thought his first name was Alan, soooo then thought the clue was seeking the TV production company maybe, or perhaps even the architect of the White House. Eventually most of AARON was revealed so it all came together in the end.

Loved "place for roasters and toasters" DIASES. Top-notch Saturday puzzle.


but your reply did not satisfy me.
Then what exactly is the difference between crosswordese and "just words".
What rule must apply to make a frequently used puzzle word to qualify for crosswordese.
Many of the words that made the CW101 list are of common knowledge (like EMU, OLEO, and ALEE)

will nediger said...

I guess Rich didn't like my cross-referenced clues for LOO and ODOURS...

In other news, I originally had DECADENT/MIKA, but I suppose Mika is too obscure (or annoying) to make the cut.

Orange said...

Traditionally, the term "crosswordese" was reserved for words like ANOA and AINU that the average person seldom encountered anywhere but in crosswords. Much of that fill has gone by the wayside, fortunately.

"Repeaters" are words that are common outside of crosswords too, but that get reused a lot in puzzles because of their letter combinations. But I tend to call some repeaters "crosswordese" because their prominence in crosswords is out of whack. I suspect very few people under the age of 50 who don't do crosswords ever encounter the word OLEO, and yet it's in puzzles often. It's less obscure and more ordinary than ANOA, yes, but it used far more heavily in crosswords than in the daily paper, TV shows, and casual conversation.

Our Crosswordese 101 section includes many repeaters like OLEO, just because they show up so often and a solver who doesn't know OLEO clues needs to learn to recognize them.

People who don't sail and don't do crosswords probably have little familiarity with ALEE. The EMU is much bigger in Australia and zoos than in daily discourse. Americans know the OSTRICH much better, but its cousing the RHEA and EMU hog all the crossword attention.

There's no way that a word like EDGE qualifies as crosswordese. It's an incredibly common and familiar word and there are many ways to clue it, unlike something like the partial ONE I. So it's just a word, even if it's a word with two Es.


Thanks, Amy, for the good explanation of crosswordese. It helps us crossworders to know that what WE say in our everyday speech is indeed crosswordese... I've been told that by some of my friends! My generation thinks MARGARINE is a strange word.

Tinbeni said...

ZAXXON killed me.
My AXON failed to transmit.

"Beacons from the abode where the Eternal ARE."
Scares the hell out of me when I remember a Shelley's poem line. (I'll have to google for the rest)

Learned Pachelbel CANON and KOHL is an eyeliner
(Hmmm, I wonder if it is sweet?).

ACH, the Canadian spelling of ODOURS.

@Orange: Cute pic of the Michelin Tire Man. Thanks for the LOLA clip, they look like they are really enjoying doing the song.
@PG Congrats, I see your IOWA wrestling team already wrapped up the title.

Unknown said...

Can someone please explain catkin bearers and alders? Got most of this without Google but this one still has me stumped. Thanks


A catkin is usually a dense, cylindrical, often drooping cluster of unisexual apetalous flowers found on ALDERs, willows, oaks, and birches.
ALDER catkins

CrazyCat said...

Thought this one was a little tough. It took me 30 minutes. But then, I was multi tasking. Managed to get AARON SORKIN, but had trouble with ZIPADEEDOODAH and MARRIED TO THE MOB (very forgettable movie). Got them eventually with the crosses. Hand up for being stumped by the cross of AXON and ZAXXON. Liked EXCON. Didn't get tricked this time by the John of London LOO but did forget the Ad preceder DEUCE again. We just had that one a few days ago.

@Sfingi DEUCE. Remember it's the tennis score. DEUCE is a tie of 40/40. The next point to be scored is either Ad In or Ad Out depending on whether the server or the receiver gets the point. You would think I would remember this stuff since I played in a tennis league for a number of years pre children.

The bottom part of the puzzle was much easier for me. I was a regular watcher of ST ELSEWHERE with Ed Begley Jr. and Howie Mandel (when he still had hair and was sort of cute).

I want to know where the expression NAKED AS A JAYBIRD came from.


@CrazyCat(where's the Lady?)
I think I'd rather be NAKED AS A JAYBIRD than to be BUCK NAKED.

I tried looking in my wonderful "Dictionary of American Idioms" with no success there, or on Google, but I think this is how NAKED AS A JAYBIRD really got coined---
When Congressman Eric Massa resigned from the House, he whined saying that he was confronted, while showering in the members locker room, by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. His stupid quote: "I am sitting here showering, NAKED AS A JAYBIRD, and here comes Rahm Emanuel not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest yelling at me because I wasn't going to vote for the president's budget."

shrub5 said...

I had two Italian ALDERS in my back yard. Between the male catkins (as in @JNH's picture) and female (seed) catkins (they look like little cones), the leaves and lots of little branches, they were the messiest trees!! The ones I had were beginning to lift the concrete of my patio and so I had them removed a few years ago. They were too big for where they were planted.

Tinbeni said...

Well I see @JNH related the first reference at google, that dates all the way back to March 8, 2010. (Yup, THIS month!)
It is funny though, relates to a confrontation over the current Health Care Bill.

Down a few was this, which paraphrased / summarized, several other references:
"In 19th century America, the term "jay" was slang for a hick, a simpleton, a gullible person. If we look at this as possibly being the root of "naked as a jay bird," then in that case, the phrase would refer to a completely vulnerable person, and not to a bird. This explanation actually provides another vestige of that meaning: to jaywalk. The term "jaywalk" was referred to country bumpkins wandering around gawking at tall buildings and not paying attention to traffic signals.

Some say the term "naked as a jaybird" refers to a new felon (bird) being stripped and processed for jail."

Anonymous said...

The explanation I've heard that makes the most sense is that the phrase came from the in-processing of prisoners (j-birds aka jail birds).

Prisoners were stripped down completely naked, showered, and given their cell assignments all in assembly-line fashion.

This from Wiki-answers.

Rube said...

Loved to see ZIPADEEDOODAH in a puzzle, great song. Still remember most of the words. Dearly wish the movie was available.

Never heard of KOHL as makeup and did not know SORKIN so misguessed on the K. Also, did not know what a catkin was. KOHL and catkin are going into my crosswordese KB.

Otherwise a pretty easy puzzle for a Saturday... (forget the NYT). @Tinbeni, thanks for the info on "jaybird". @JNH, tx for your "color commentary" to @Orange's. Will N., thanks for dropping in and commenting.

CrazyCat said...

@JNH, @Tinbeni and @ McBeal Anon 11:35. Thank you all for your explanations of the JAY BIRD expression. I also like @Tinben's explantion of the origin of JAY walking LOL.

I have a family of Western Scrub Jays in my yard (not as cute as the Eastern Blue Jay) and they are certainly not lacking in plumage. That's why I was curious.They are,however, very aggressive birds when nesting and dive bomb my cats.

I forgot to confess that, I too, googled Catkin.

Anonymous said...

march 20 Nediger xword 12 Across
the 1947 Oscar winner is:
On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.

NOT : Zipadeedoodah

Van55 said...

I didn't think this one was all that easy, but I got it perfect in due time. (Never watched West Wing. Not a Simpsons fan. Don't know DIDO. Not a gamer and never heard of ZAXXON.)

I will NEVER learn not to hate Roman numeral arithmetic clues. Why not just clue the damned thing "Roman 205" if you have to resort to a Roman number answer to begin with?

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle.

hazel said...

i didn't think this one was that easy either. i must have left my crossword hat at the cleaners. had trouble with both puzzles today.

what was with all the '80s stuff?

one tut w/ leggings & and a headband

thanks for the welcome back yesterday, crazy cat! all is well.

Sfingi said...

It won the Oscar in 1946.
The Song of the South, which my 2 yr old self liked, has not been rereleased for 25 years by Disney because of its racialist stigma. When they feel the stigma is gone, they'll rerelease.

Catkin people - What is a pussy willow? A catkin that doesn't droop?

Catkin Fairy

Tinbeni said...

@Anon 2:34

1947 Oscars were held at the Shrine Auditorium on March 20, 1948
Hosts: Agnes Moorehead and Dick Powell

ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH won the Oscar for Best Song.

This is the same as saying Sandra Bullock won her Oscar on March 7, 2010 for the movie she made in 2009.

1946 Oscars were held on March 13, 1947 at the Shrine Auditorium
Host: Jack Benny

"On the Atchison,Topeka and the Santa Fe" won Best Song from the 1946 Movie "The Harvey Girls."

Joon said...

this grid was spectacular. it's almost a shame the clues were so easy. i couldn't plunk down AARON SORKIN off the bat, but still blew through it. so many lively answers, surprising scrabbly letters, low word count (66), and it's still squeaky-clean. one roman numeral and that's it. i thought CAR TIRE sounded totally natural.

ZAXXON came out 7 years before will nediger was born. i wonder if he's ever played it? i remember it with some fondness, though it was already an arcade relic by the time i first played it in 1987 or thereabouts.

ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH did indeed win best original song at the 20th oscar awards, held in 1948 but honoring the movies of 1947. "on the atcheson, topeka and the santa fe" won the 1946 oscar, awarded in 1947 (the 19th academy awards).

Joon said...

right, tinbeni beat me to it. thanks.

need that "edit comment" feature...

Tinbeni said...

I believe we were typing at the same time.

Funny thing is if you google Academy Awards 2010, Oscar Nominees 2010 you get the list for 2009 movies.
This has come up before re: What year a movie or song got an Oscar, Grammy, etc.
It is not the date of the award show, it is the period of time the award show covers.

Unknown said...

Lots of xwordese here imho, and I was glad - "axon" (a word I only know from xwords) along w/zipadee, etc. filled the zaxxon space - I didn't have a chance of getting that one on my own. With respect, Orange, the word alee pops up in so many croswords that it is xwordese to me and I've never sailed.

Married to the Mob was a gimme, and once I had Aaron, "Sorkin" popped into my head.

I'm not in the league of expert crossword puzzlers, not even close. If I knew all the answers, I still couldn't type them in fast enough to fill a puzzle in 3 minutes.

Today was 6 mins + major change. I was thinking I might be good at this (Saturday's NYT debacle notwithstanding) when it occurred to me that I always select "normal" rather than "master" before starting.

Let's see how I fare tomorrow without the red letters!

Also, hello everyone.

Orange said...

For another take on crosswordese, see master constructor Elizabeth Gorski's blog post on the topic.

RASTA said...

Been reading this blog for awhile now, and just wanted to say thanks for the fun & info. great job by Rex, Orange and PG!

I sneak in the xword at work so I never time myself, but I know I,m not close to the numbers I see, sometimes an all day event!

Don't know now if I enjoy the crossword more or the blog.

thx all!

Can some1 tell me why board=meals?
The mike killed me today as I am so used to mic and it gets me every time. good puzzle though, very little googling for me, rare for a saturday.

RASTA said...

never mind the meals thing, i get it now, doh!

CrazyCat said...

@Rasta Hi there. Thanks for joining in. Board/MEALS is Room and Board. Kind of an old term (think boarding house). But for anyone who has paid for a kid to go to college and live in the dorm, Board means a lot of money spent for bad MEALS. It's just another word for "Meal Plan."
@Jesse Hi to you too.
@Hazel - Good for you - Olivia Tuttin John!
@Van55 agree with you about RNs

CrazyCat said...

@Rasta oops typing at the same time.

RASTA said...

thank u @ CC!