MONDAY, Apr. 26, 2010 — Jeff Chen

THEME: "What?" — four theme answers have that clue; answers are all colloquial ways of asking "What?"

Theme is cute, if slightly wobbly. Obviously, answers were chosen at least in part of symmetricality, so you've got a first person pronoun in 58A: "What?" ("I BEG YOUR PARDON") but not in 20A: "What?" ("DIDN'T CATCH THAT"), despite the fact that the reverse would sound more natural — people say "BEG YOUR PARDON" all the time without the "I" in front, "DIDN'T CATCH THAT" less so. Also, "SAY AGAIN" (45A: "What?") is not a familiar phrase to me, though it was highly inferrable. The phrase, as I know it, is "COME AGAIN?" But again, "COME AGAIN" would screw up your rotational symmetry with "EXCUSE ME" (32A: "What?"). This is what I mean by "wobbly" — the actual answers make me think of different, good answers that weren't used and better ways of phrasing answers that were. Still, it all seems tight enough for an LAT Monday. Also, the overall fill is super solid, especially for a grid with a tone of 4-letter words. Not once did I wince or think "ugh." Oh, wait, I didn't see ESME (70A: Salinger heroine). That one I could do without. And there's a smattering of crosswordese here and there, but only a smattering, and an inoffensive smattering at that. I don't enjoy doing Roman numeral division in the middle of my solve (66A: CC ÷ XXV => VIII), but with GROOVY (49D: Old-fashioned "Cool!") as one of the crosses on that answer, the enjoyment factor returned.

[XENA!? (33D: TV warrior princess)]

Crosswordese 101: NEVE Campbell (42A: Actress Campbell) — there is exactly one viable crossword NEVE: NEVE Campbell. She was pretty famous, seems like, oh, a decade ago, as a cast member of the FOX series "Party of Five" (1994-2000) and then, making out with Denise Richards, in "Wild Things" (1998). I have no idea what she's been doing lately, though she appears to have been a guest voice on "The Simpsons" just last year.

What else?

  • 5D: Hostess offerings (CUPCAKES) — clues like this can make a huge difference (relatively speaking) in my solving times. Couldn't just throw it down, even with a couple crosses in place, because "Hostess" was ambiguous (I, of course, though it referred to someone hosting a party ... which, I suppose, it could, if the party in question was a child's birthday party — I think it's safe to say that "Hostess" here is the snack cake company).
  • 41D: Book report, e.g. (SYNOPSIS) — again, slowed down by a long Down. Had the SYN- and started thinking "are 'book' and 'report' SYNONYMS of one another ...?" No. Overthinking it. "O" in ORBITS got me back on track.
  • 44D: Edith, to Archie (DINGBAT) — aargh. Had the DING- and was surprised when DINGIE wouldn't fit. Not surprisingly, I was confusing my abusive overweight 70s sitcom characters — Mel called Vera "DINGIE" ("DINGY?" "DINGHY?") while Archie called Edith "DINGBAT."

See you Friday,


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Life histories, briefly (BIOS); 5A: Atkins diet concern (CARB); 9A: Bogus (FALSE); 14A: Drub in a game (ROUT); 15A: Exploitative type (USER); 16A: Author Zola (EMILE); 17A: Not in favor (ANTI); 18A: Italian tower site (PISA); 19A: Corrective eye surgery (LASIK); 20A: "What?" ("DIDN'T CATCH THAT"); 23A: Nova __ (SCOTIA); 24A: Gentleman's offering on a crowded train, perhaps (SEAT); 25A: Scratch (out), as a living (EKE); 27A: Reason to grab a tissue (SNIFFLE); 32A: "What?" ("EXCUSE ME?"); 37A: Lost color (PALED); 38A: Watered-down (WEAK); 39A: Hangs ten, say (SURFS); 42A: Actress Campbell (NEVE); 43A: Finished (ENDED); 45A: "What?" ("SAY AGAIN?"); 47A: Back-talking (SASSING); 50A: Big bang producer (TNT); 51A: One running in a pusher, for short (NARC); 53A: Circles the Earth (ORBITS); 58A: "What?" ("I BEG YOUR PARDON"); 62A: Toothbrush company (ORAL-B); 63A: Metallurgist's raw materials (ORES); 64A: Choir voice (ALTO); 65A: Modeling wood (BALSA); 66A: CC ÷ XXV (VIII); 67A: Swerve (VEER); 68A: Shoreline irregularity (INLET); 69A: Hankerings (YENS); 70A: Salinger heroine (ESME); 1D: Thin nails (BRADS); 2D: Architectural order (IONIC); 3D: One-up (OUTDO); 4D: Stretch in the service (STINT); 5D: Hostess offerings (CUPCAKES); 6D: Continent crossed by Marco Polo (ASIA); 7D: Score silence symbols (RESTS); 8D: Sources of teen angst, dentally (BRACES); 9D: Sharpie feature (FELT TIP); 10D: Asian nurse (AMAH); 11D: Edelstein of "House" (LISA); 12D: Use a letter opener on (SLIT); 13D: Scared comics cry (EEK); 21D: Connections (TIES); 22D: Solo of "Star Wars" (HAN); 26D: Cousin of an ostrich (EMU); 28D: Vampire tooth (FANG); 29D: Insect in a circus (FLEA); 30D: First name in jeans (LEVI); 31D: First family's home? (EDEN); 32D: Rams' ma'ams (EWES); 33D: TV warrior princess (XENA); 34D: No-goodniks (CADS); 35D: Hawaiian strings (UKES); 36D: Hosp. areas (ERS); 40D: Sprat's taboo (FAT); 41D: Book report, e.g. (SYNOPSIS); 44D: Edith, to Archie (DINGBAT); 46D: Gillette razor brand (ATRA); 48D: Aye's opposite (NAY); 49D: Old-fashioned "Cool!" ("GROOVY!"); 52D: Radium co-discoverer (CURIE); 54D: Atlanta athlete (BRAVE); 55D: Dawdles (IDLES); 56D: Symbol on a pole (TOTEM); 57D: Source of spousal angst, nocturnally (SNORE); 58D: Persia, nowadays (IRAN); 59D: Formal dance (BALL); 60D: Apart from this (ELSE); 61D: Jockey strap (REIN); 62D: Kimono sash (OBI).


backbiter said...

I knew it! As soon as I solved 58A I figured RP was gonna embed that Rose Garden song. I wasn't expecting it twice, tho. The Xena vid made me laugh. I agree with "Come again" instead of "Say again". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YUuyzQDmjY

Nice Monday puzzle. Cheers!

Zeke said...

Did GROOVY really antecede cool by enough to be called an old-fashioned version, or is it that cool had staying power whilst GROOVY doesn't? If so, how old does that make me when a term from my youth is officially old fashioned?

One of the better LATimes in a while.


If GROOVY isn’t the right word to describe this Chen puzzle, then try one of these words:
Rad awesome cool sweet amazing sick radical gnarly tight wicked dope great hot nice awesome good super badass sexy fantastic crazy fly neat chill tubular hip excellent phat fresh ill bad fun killer scene pimp dank da bomb dude hardcore epic insane gnar extreme mad bitchin emo uber kewl best
Oh yeah, and if you’re my age, it’s Peachy-Keen or the Cat’s-Pajamas.

Did I miss any?

Tinbeni said...

Feelin' GROOVY with an easy Monday LAT.

Kinda liked the EEK & EKE then the USER & NARC both in the grid.
Roman Numeral math is acceptable early in the week.

First thought for the source of spousal angst, nocturnally, SNORE, was headache.

And for the Hostess offering, thought Twinkie but the CUPCAKES are good also.



Roger Wilco said...

SAY AGAIN is often used in communications (esp radio/audio)in lieu of "Repeat That" or Huh?.

It's taken literally.

Tuttle said...

I once read an article about Xena entitled "Excessive hot-tubbing as a sign of platonic friendship in Ancient Greece". It was quite humorous.

Tangentially to that, COMEAGAIN always remind me of a rather suggestive song by the Au Pairs.

There should be a couple of other Neves out there. There's an electronics/audio company founded by Rupert Neve that, effectively, invented the modern mixing board back in the early 60s. There's a bunch of Israeli settlements that include 'Neve' in their name as it is Hebrew for 'oasis' and... uh, the former titular see of Arabia? That's a bit arcane I suppose.

Sfingi said...

Say what?

Beg pardon?

As I get older, I am more often the speaker of these words.

I sure knew the nocturnal spousal angst - Hubster, aka Snorehead, has to sleep separately. He can be heard a room away, either direction. His late brother could be heard next door. If I get totally deaf, that'll solve it.

Had ONTOP before OUTDO.

"For Esme - With Love and Squalor" was written in the early 1950s, as was The Catcher in the Rye. Many of Salinger's characters were annoying, which is good for a writer. But many of his readers were too. It's hard to believe he's attracted annoying adolescents for half a century. Like putting out something sticky for ants to get caught in. Wish he'd created a 2nd product.

Rest in peace, old man.

MM said...

I'll bet some solvers in Cincinnati were expecting a theme answer of PLEASE.

lit.doc said...

Excellent Monday puzzle. Felt harder to me than did the NYT, surprisingly, and I also enjoyed the theme more.

Like @Roger Wilco, I'm familiar with SAY AGAIN only from audio-com situations, as in "Say again all after [last word understood]".

Had THIN before WEAK, and didn't even see NEVE.

@Rex, thanks for the "cheesecake meets cupcake" pic.

Soozy said...

I enjoyed Esmé--it was crosswordese I knew without having to learn it as crosswordese! But I suppose one man's crosswordese is another man's treasured clue...

Tinbeni said...

The problem for you at 38A, Watered down,
WEAK -v- thin was obvious.
Neither you NOR I have that concept in our brains.
You with your beloved Jameson Irish Whiskey or I with the Pinch.

nanpilla said...

Hope @edithb did this one - it's not every day she gets such a specific call-out! Although none of us would ever call her a DINGBAT!

@tuttle: my son has a '70s vintage NEVE in his recording studio.

I always prefer a little math to the odd 'year that..." for my roman numerals.

bluebell said...

I usually glitch at Roman numerals, but on this one even I could do the math in my head. Usually I have to do a written translation on scratch paper.

Thanks for the explanations of say again. I really wanted say it again.

Chuckled at rams ma'ams.

A smooth Monday.

Rube said...

Another quickie Monday puzzle with no writeovers. Didn't know NEVE Campbell of course, nor ESME, but both gettable. Actually for 42A, I would have preferred "Snow in Sicily?" rather than a pop culture KIOD, (Know It Or Don't).

Personally, I just say "Pardon?". I find the full statement I BEG YOUR PARDON to be ostentatious, and not really true. I'm not begging... just asking to have something repeated. This isn't a rant. Just sayin'.

Fun puzzle.

Jeff Chen said...

Hi all!

@Rex: your "wobbly" comment is spot on. I struggled against the strong impulse to use:


But for symmetry reasons, made the compromises. Anyone have any thoughts on how I could have preserved the original phrases while adhering to the standard xword rules?

I proposed VIII as "Henry ____" but I think that was probably too hard for a Monday puzzle. Oh well, what's a bit of Roman math between friends?

Happy (groovy) Monday!

Argyle said...

Henry the VII

Orange said...

@Argyle et al: I bet I'm not the only one who never clicks on links provided without explanation. In fact, I read some advice for Twitter users the other day cautioning people to explain what a link is. If you want people to get your point, please consider adding a few words. Is it a song? Is it something funny? Is it informative? If I don't know, I'm nowhere near bored enough to click the link.

JIMMIE said...

I have heard SAYAGAIN from ham radio, cb, and military radio operators.

EXCUSE ME said...


Orange said...

No, no—like this:


Or, for @EXCUSE ME's link:

"Here's a handy summary of blog etiquette."

It should be noted that the post about etiquette doesn't mention laying off the shift key, but that is always a good idea.

Tinbeni said...

Yup, that is an "AWESOME BLOG" ...
I check it everyday just to see 'WHAT' time you had here and on the NYT.
I still think the "cups-of-coffee" is the most accurate timer since I tend to be one who dawdles over a solve.

Anonymous said...

pezibc -

Definitely a better theme than NYT today. Loved it. It was plenty tight and completely worked for me. A couple of the specific wordings might be regionalisms, because I didn't question any of them.

RE: ESME - Never seen a puzzle that didn't have to weigh choices. I'm fine with ESME. ERTE, ESSE, and ERST were readily available.

lit.doc said...

@Tinbeni, LOL. I'll lift a glass to your cogent explanation of my misstep this very eve'.

Sfingi said...

Just had a heck of a time with the blogger machine.

Try again.

Was thinking about the Elizabethan Song, "Come Again," by John Dowland that I used to sing 45 years ago. I owned the little paperback, An Elizabethan Song Book, edited by Noah Greenberg and illus. by Edward Gorey. I got Greenberg to autograph it weeks before he died.
I hear Sting has recorded it, though I favored countertenors, esp. Alfred Deller, there being no castrati available.

An Elizabeethan Song Book

I actually goofed with the Roman numeral at first, thinking it was 100/25. So I wrote out FOUR at first.

Shul is Yiddish from German. Have no idea what the Hebrew word for school sounds like.

*David* said...

Cheder or Heder is the phonetic spelling for school in Hebrew as well as Yiddish. People from Hungary descent would pronounce it Chai-der but they make the ah sound like ee so they don't deserve to be in the conversation when it comes to enunciation. A Shteibl is another term for synagogue meaning a small shul like a neighborhood market.

mac said...

I liked this puzzle, and I found the theme answers just fine. After "excuse me" I thought, wouldn't it be nice if there would be one as short as "huh"?

Why are we discussing Shul here? I thought it needed a c after the S.

I once heard Neve explain that one of her parents is from Dutch descent and the name is derived from "neef", the word for cousin???

This comment has been removed by the author.

From the Free Dictionary---
n. 1. (Geol.) The upper part of a glacier, above the limit of perpetual snow.
névé (n-v)
1. The upper part of a glacier, consisting of hardened snow.
2. The granular snow typically found in such a field.

I guess the last few years I've been playing around in the NEVE in Alaska and Canada and didn't even know it.

And then of course there's NEVE, the fine sweater maker from Boulder Colorado. I think they supply the Olympians with their sweaters.

edith b said...


I generally pick my spots on early week LA Times puzzles but I couldn't resist this one!

By the way, I am from Queens and my husbands name is Archibald which pretty much explains why I picked edith b as my nom de crossword.