TUESDAY, March 23, 2010 — Merle Baker

Theme: "Big Finish" — First words of the theme answers can follow the word grand in familiar two-word phrases.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Sam in "Casablanca," e.g. (PIANO PLAYER).
  • 36A: *Fast-paced (SLAM-BANG).
  • 42A: *Collapsible headgear (OPERA HAT).
  • 11D: *Hank Aaron's 6,856 is the career record (TOTAL BASES).
  • 29D: *1962 Gene Chandler hit (DUKE OF EARL).
  • 61A: Big finish, and what the first words of the answers to starred clues can be (GRAND FINALE).
Hi, everyone. Back from beautiful downtown Omaha (*cough*) and my brain's pretty well fried. It takes a good big of energy to watch three loooong days of college wrestling. But when the Hawkeyes come out on top, it's all worth it! I had an awesome time, but I'm pretty much ready for my life to get back to normal so I'll have more time to obsess about puzzles. Until next season, of course.

This puzzle was … fine. I'm tired. I solved it without any real problems. The theme didn't help me as I solved, but in retrospect, I like it. GRAND OPERA is not something I'm familiar with. Come to think of it, neither is OPERA HAT. So I would have been fine without that particular entry. But overall, nicely done.

Quick hits:
  • 1A: "The __ Kid": early TV Western (CISCO). Here. This will get "Duke of Earl" out of your head.

  • 16A: Cal. neighbor (ORE.). Tried Nev. first.
  • 19A: Spinner (TOP).
  • 45A: Sun, to Esteban (SOL). Spanish!
  • 5D: Disney toon panda, "Special Agent __" (OSO). I've seen quite a lot of Disney over the last few years, but I don't recognize this one.
  • 13D: Back-to-school mo. (SEPT.). In a lot of places anyway.
  • 28D: Fails to grasp (DROPS). Cute. I would not have been disappointed to see a question mark at the end of this clue. It's tricky enough to have one, I think.
  • 38D: Elation (GLEE). Do you watch that show? I haven't seen it, but hear it's pretty awesome.
  • 40D: Base melody (TAPS). Gives me the goosebumps every time I hear it.
Crosswordese 101 Round-Up:
  • 55A: UN anti-child-labor agcy. (ILO).
  • 7D: Airline to Tel Aviv (EL AL).
  • 58D: Away from the wind (ALEE).
Everything Else — 6A: Suit parts (VESTS); 11A: "__ the season ..." ('TIS); 14A: Choir members (ALTOS); 15A: Even if, for short (ALTHO); 20A: Squealed, so to speak (SANG); 21A: Be under the weather (AIL); 22A: Formally unsay (RECANT); 24A: Cutlass or 88 (OLDS); 26A: She plays Julia in "Julie & Julia" (MERYL); 27A: Tack on (ADD); 30A: Standards of excellence (IDEALS); 32A: CEO's degree (MBA); 34A: Dirty (GRUBBY); 39A: "Wake Up With Al" weatherman (ROKER); 40A: China's Mao __-tung (TSE); 41A: Studio stand (EASEL); 44A: "Honor Thy Father" author Gay (TALESE); 46A: Outcome (UPSHOT); 48A: Canonized 26-Down (STE.); 49A: Festival showings, perhaps (FILMS); 51A: Quartz variety (ONYX); 53A: Began the betting (OPENED); 55A: UN anti-child-labor agcy. (ILO); 56A: Old oath (EGAD); 60A: Menu phrase (ALA); 64A: Roofing material (TAR); 65A: Part of a pound (OUNCE); 66A: Best-seller list entry (NOVEL); 67A: NBC fixture for nearly 35 yrs. (SNL); 68A: Dirty campaign tactic (SMEAR); 69A: Show reverence, in a way (KNEEL); 1D: Limits (CAPS); 2D: Hip bones (ILIA); 3D: Ollie's partner (STAN); 4D: Zaire, today (CONGO); 6D: Travel bag (VALISE); 7D: Airline to Tel Aviv (EL AL); 8D: Farm home (STY); 9D: "Spider-Man 3" actress Russell (THERESA); 10D: More ticked off (SORER); 12D: Heavy metal (IRON); 18D: Rice source (PADDY); 23D: One of a drum set pair (CYMBAL); 25D: Scales of the zodiac (LIBRA); 26D: Swiss miss, maybe: Abbr. (MLLE.); 27D: Soil-related prefix (AGRO-); 31D: Helpers: Abbr. (ASSTS.); 33D: "__ of robins ...": Kilmer (A NEST); 35D: Capital east of the Elbe River (BERLIN); 37D: Substantial (MEATY); 43D: Boring (HUMDRUM); 44D: Like a __ bricks (TON OF); 47D: Obama attorney general Eric (HOLDER); 50D: Tyke's blocks (LEGOS); 52D: Arc lamp gas (XENON); 53D: Granola ingredient (OATS); 54D: Word after flight or floor (PLAN); 55D: Ancient Peruvian (INCA); 57D: Contributed (GAVE); 58D: Away from the wind (ALEE); 59D: Farmer's place, in song (DELL); 62D: "Wheel of Fortune" buy (AN E); 63D: Printer need (INK).



Not exactly a GRAND puzzle, but it’s not HUMDRUM either.
The fill was pretty good ALTHO the SW and NE corners are loaded with crosswordese (or at least candidates, like SNL & TAR). 12D calls IRON a “heavy metal”…TIS Not! I don’t like seeing ASSTS as the centerpiece word. And I’m seeing too many of these ubiquitous and ambiguous clues saying “Wheel-of-Fortune buy.” EGAD is never used in the singular.

Now for the things I liked:
GRUBBY (Dirty) crossing with AGRO (Soil-related).
MERYL Streep playing the role of Julia in a wonderful movie “Julie & Julia”. I thought the enchanting Amy Adams should have won the Academy Award for her role as Julie.
I love saying the word “SLAMBANG.”
Seeing XENON crossing with ONYX.
Clever clue: “Base melody” (TAPS)
I noticed from the clue for 60A that A LA is indeed a “phrase” and not a word.

Learned a few new words: THERESA Russell (glad I did), Gay TALESE, and OSO (Disney Panda).

The CISCO Kid was a half-hour western television series starring Duncan Renaldo (Amy’s relative maybe?) in the title role. He was referred to as the “Robinhood of the old west.”
I remember running home from school in the 1950’s just to watch these exciting FILMS.

If I used the word VALISE for my travel bag, you’d know for sure that I was boarding my stagecoach.

I always enjoy reading Puzzlegirl's fun writeups.
Thanks to all three of you bloggers for your faithful dedication to this blog.

Gotta go eat my Quaker OATS (Oatmeal, not Granola)!

Y’all, go have a fun in the sunshine today!

Van55 said...

What the heck is an OPERAHAT? Never heard of it.

Puzzle was just okay for me today. Maybe not MEATY enough over all?

hazel said...

@Van55 - it seems an opera hat is a sort of collapsible top hat. London taxis are actually designed so that a person can ride in the cab with a top hat (that doesn't have to collapse). That's why the taxis are such an odd shape (i.e., tall).

Theme didn't do much for me either, but I think its just that I'm a bit weary of that type of theme. Otherwise, I liked the fill OK - pure LAT Tuesday, pliant, arable, easy to work.

I'm keeping my eye on my comment today. Yesterday's just up and disappeared! A pity.

Sfingi said...

Grubby, grubbier, grubbiest.

I love that funk band, War. I also loved the CISCO Kid with Duncan Rinaldo (Pancho was played by Leo
Carrillo who played CISCO in the movies). I had the whole outfit, black with white Western piping, the hat, the gun, and my wooden rocking horse. I was 5 or 6. I could be the Crisco Kid, now.

Then there's CISCO Buzz, a name that's forever cracked up hubster. It was a made-up name in the book, Helter-Skelter, since Bugliosi couldn't use the real name.

Did not know OSO, ILO, or this
Wanted Fran for STAN. I think of them as Laurel and Hardy.
More rice PADDies.
Where was GRAND Rapids? GRAND Guignol. Harder to make clues, huh.
Opera hats are very expensive. It'd be cheaper if you smashed a regular top hat each time you go.

Got the sports' clue, but don't know what TOTAL BASES are.

Bored out of my friggin skull here said...

@Sfingi - Single = 1 base, double = 2 bases, ... HR = 4. Total basis is a statistic which tracks (totals) the type of hits over a career. It helps differentiate singles hitter with a .300 average and a power hitter with a .300 average. Oh, why did I bother, I'm pretty sure you don't care. I sure as hell don't.
@PG - Thought of you over the weekend, saw the start of the heavy weight match with an Iowa wrestler and a gorilla - the other guy must have out-weighed him by 40lbs. Hope your guy survived.

Burner10 said...

One of my favorite solves is to have lots of unfilled places on the first pass and then magically, as the brain begins engagement or the fill takes hold - I get it. That happened a few times for me this morning - in the SE, NW and somewhere in the middle. So - even tho I thought the theme was ho hum, I liked the puzzle.

Tuttle said...

For Ollie's partner I first think of Sifl and then Sven before working my way down to Stan.

Tinbeni said...

ALTHO I first entered lead, IRON "TIS is"
a Heavy Metal.
It is a Chemistry term.
The UPSHOT is I google before I comment.

Learned OPERA HAT, figured it was a type of Top Hat. Never worn one, probably never will.

OK, not GRAND theme.
EGAD (oh, god) this was an effortless Tuesday LAT.
oops, I used egad in the singular.

@PG I know you had a great time since "your team" wrapped up the Title on Friday. Glad you had fun.

Sfingi said...

@Bored- Thanx. Here come the stupid girly questions: If you hit the ball and make it to the 3rd base in one turn, then another guy comes on and you make it home by sneaking, how many bases does that count as.

Don't these kids have to be within certain weight boundaries? I remember some kids around here starving themselves sick to stay in a lower weight group. (All proof to me that sports is bad for your health, BTW.)

I didn't mean the puzzle was grubby. I just like to experiment with unusual superlatives and imagine 2 and 3 things, one of which is the least and one the most.

I changed my Google password and now it doesn't like it again.

Bored... said...

@Sfingi - It doesn't get counted in any basehitting statistic, it just gets added to the runner's steals total. There's probably a statistic for differentiating between stealing second vs stealing home, but we're back to the do we really care question. There are no upper limits on weight in the heavyweight divisions. I don't think there are even lower limits, but that's far from authoratative.
Certain words and/or phrases should be officially phased out of dictionaries. OPERAHAT is one of these.

Lime D. Zeze said...

If I never see 'SNL' as an answer again it will be too soon. It seems like every single day at least one of the three puzzles I do uses it as an answer. Sometimes all three on the same day. Ugh.

On another note, I have officially seen the worst cross I have ever seen, in the Newsday puzzle: 'HAHA' crossed with 'HAH'

Tinbeni said...

There is an upper weight limit NOW in college wrestling.
Heavy weight cannot be over 285 lbs.
I actually watched, on ESPN, the matches Satureday night. The announcer went on and on about how they put in the limit a few years ago because there had been a heavy weight over 400 lbs.

GRUBBY is just a great sounding word. I like Dirty clues.

@Lime D.Zeze (great name)
At least SNL is better than SSNS.
Lesser of two evils?

hazel said...

@Sfingi - that would be 4 total bases. And a suicide squeeze, which would be one way the runner on 3rd could sneak home, is one of the most exciting plays in baseball. It might even get @Bored out of the doldrums for a few minutes!!

Less Bored said...

@Sfingi, @Hazel - It's a triple (3 bases) and a stolen base.

C said...

Baseball accounting can rival financial accounting with all of the various rules.

Simply put, total bases are only attributed to hits created by the batter. Ignore walks, hit by pitches, errors or any other method that is not a hit that results in the batter getting on base.

In @Sfingi's example, a triple will result in three total bases attributed to the batter. Any action that happens after the triple (such as a brazen theft of home) will be accounted for in other areas of the baseball players statistical spreadsheet as @Bored indicates and yes, there are separate statistics for total steals, steals of second, third and home.

Oh yeah, the puzzle, did I mention the different types of At bats in baseball statistics ....

Anonymous said...

The only real problem is that there is no such word as LEGOS.

They are LEGO BRICKS, but not LEGOS.

It's like wandering into a restaurant and asking to order "Two Burger Kings"

John said...

Cruciverb's up and running, But the LAT is not available! What Now?!!!

Just curious said...

@John if Cruciverb is "up and running" but the LAT is not available why not just click on L.A.Times Daily Crossword (applet) link and do the puzzle from there?

CrazyCat said...

EGAD today's puzzle had A TON of the usual fill. I did like seeing Al ROKER and the MERYL clue referencing "Julie & Julia."

@Sfingi - Maybe you were thinking of Kukla, FRAN and Ollie instead of STAN, Ollie's Partner?
@Tinbeni@Lime D. Zeze At least SSTS took a day off.

Duke, Duke, Duke, DUKE OF EARL is now stuck in my head. Off to go get GRUBBY in my garden. Time to plant tomatoes.

hazel said...

@Baseball Fans - Rock on!! Thanks for the correction.

Keep on tutting!!

Charles Bogle said...

second what @crazycat said

my trivia contribution:

Gay Talese's great book-"Honor Thy Father" about the Bonanno crime family...Joe Bonanno supposedly Puzo's model for Don Corleone...Bonanno the only one of the five founding bosses to die of natural cause...the family now lives in Tucson...great book if you haven't read it!

Rube said...

Very pleasant early week puzzle. I too wanted Fran for Ollie's partner, but already had CISCO so went to plan B.

Had a personal Natick at the HOLDER/ILO cross. Had to Google as there were too many possibilities for what became the L.

I was going to ask who this ROKER guy is, then thought that I should Google, then said to myself, I don't care. Along the same lines, I can't think of a movie I am less likely to see then Spider-Man 3. Was able to get the actress off the THE___ though.

Couldn't find any new noteworthy words here so thought I'd look up the Elbe river, (of which BERLIN is East). It turns out the three major rivers in Germany are, from West to East, the Rhine, Elbe, & Oder. The first letters of which spell our crossword friend REO. Hopefully, this mnemonic will help in future xwords.

CrazyCat said...

@Rube Al ROKER is the weatherman on the Today Show on NBC. He is one of the four main hosts and is a prolific punner.

chefwen said...

Second day in a row that my kitty boy PADDY has made it into the puzzle, yesterday he was in the NYT.
That little guy sure gets around.

I really liked this one, not too easy, not too tough.

@Tinbeni - I just read that some people have a shot of pickle juice after a shot of whiskey, and that it's popular, how can that be? I think that would totally ruin the whiskey taste. Yuck!

Tinbeni said...

Scotch, Neat, Snifter !!!
- Repeat -

Not with SODA.
Forget the Ice & water.
As to these "pickle juice" consumers ... that's it, they have crossed the line. They should be SHOT !!!

Blasphemy regarding my sacred Scotch needs to stop. NOW!


Awwww... give that man a bottle of 50 year old Ambassador!!!!

Tinbeni said...

I've had the 25 year old Ambassador.
Very smoooooth !!!

Recently (12/21/09) a 50 year old bottle of Glenfiddich was auctioned.
Winning Bid, a mere $ 38,000 USD.
A wee bit over my price range.

An OUNCE of that would sit in my mouth for a long, long time.
If I was at the GRAND FINALE it is what I would desire.

Orange said...

Enough with the scotch already! It's not healthy to talk about alcohol this much.

mac said...

Since I cannot get the puzzle, I haven't read the write-up and comments yet. Anyone know what is up? I try to get it in Across-lite.

CrazyCat said...

@Mac - you can get it at the LA Times site under games and puzzles, but it's in applet form - not Across Lite.

@Orange my captcha is damrum : )

HT said...

@Orange - "Thank you Amy" has become a phrase in my head, enforcing civility. Thank you Amy.

RASTA said...

Wow, I didn't go back and check my answers an had easel SPELT wrong, so I had anast instead of a nest. I'll chalk that up to a rookie mistake I guess.

Altho is new for me, altho I have not been doing xwords to long, maybe a text term?

Spent a few of my younger years in Germany and used to watch Laurel and Hardy all the time there with my pops, shame I can't speak a word of German anymore after spending 6+ years there.

Thx for the write up @PG.

Sfingi said...

@Charles Bogle - Puzo actually said his own mother was the model for Don Corleone. Gaetano "Gay" Talese also wrote about the other Sicilian-Americans Sinatra and DiMaggio.

@Anon952 - All the kids say Legos.

@C,Hazel, LessBored - that's why I give up on sports' rules. It's a whole nother lifetime of learnin'

mac said...

I can't open the LAT puzzle anywhere. I'm giving up.



mac said...

@JOHNSNEVERHOME: That one worked! I did it and enjoyed it. It was small and cumbersome, do you think I will have to go to the Chicago Trib site to get a larger version?

Thank you so much for your help!