SATURDAY, April 10, 2010—Mel Rosen

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

Why, this puzzle was so easy, the Friday NYT crossword took me almost three times as long! While the multiplication factor is truthful, it's just because yesterday's NYT puzzle chewed me up and spit me out and then ate me again. This here puzzle took me a flat 4:00, so yes, Rich Norris really does calibrate these things to a consistent level nearly all the time. Mind you, before the influx of the old Tribune/TMS solvers, I think the Saturday puzzle usually took me between 5 and 7 minutes, so it's still a good bit easier than it used to be. (Sigh.)

Nothing in this grid really grabbed me. (Wouldn't it be awesome if PAIR OF TONGS was in there so I could say that was the only thing that grabbed me?) One of the two 15s is a fairly mundane noun—32A: [Text necessity, often] (TELEPHONE NUMBER). And the other has one of those "sheesh, not another Broadway musical" clues. I know there are millions who revere musicals, who know all the songs, who've seen the shows and bought the original cast albums. I am not among them. And Rex, he loves Broadway musicals just as little as I do. (PuzzleGirl, where do you land on the Broadway spectrum?) So when it came to 8D: ["The King and I" song about illicit romance] (WE KISS IN A SHADOW), I had absolutely no idea what the answer was. Wikipedia tells me "In this song, Tuptim and Lun Tha declare their love for each other, even though they fear that the King of Siam would know about it." Say what? It's not even a song that involves Anna and/or the King? Boo!

For years, I've been seeing AL HIRT's "Java" in clues for HIRT, but I'd never heard the piece. Here is a Muppet Show bit featuring the song. 16A: [Friend of Pete Fountain] clues AL HIRT because, uh, they were friends in jazz circles?

What else?
  • 1A: [Act in the Senate] is a verb phrase clueing PASS A LAW. I do not like this answer at all. It feels like an arbitrary verb + noun combo.
  • I like the sci-fi crossing of 17A: [TV show that has spawned 11 movies] (STAR TREK) with 2D: [Features of some alien costumes] (ANTENNAE). If you like to poke fun at sci-fi movie tropes (especially of the Trek variety), you should watch Galaxy Quest some time.

  • 19A: [Mega- squared] (TERA-). Ooh, I like this approach to clueing a metric prefix. Mega- means a million and a million squared is, uh, whatever number is associated with tera-. Is it a quadrillion?
  • 20A: [Fire department practice structure] (DRILL TOWER). There's one of these near my mom's, but I never knew there was a name for it.
  • 39A: [Held up] (BORNE). I like a Saturday clue that can mean many different things (though not necessarily a whole puzzle filled with oblique, one- or two-word clues—that's often the experience with the Saturday Newsday crossword). First I thought "held up" = delayed. Then I thought it referred to a robbery. The "carrying things" aspect? That was third...with the help of crossings pointing the way to the right answer.
  • 44A: [Sound from a wok] (SSS). Oh, nobody likes an answer like SSS, do they? There are a lot of Ss in this puzzle but even more Es.
  • Never heard of 52A: [Former NBA star Dave __, now mayor of Detroit] (BING), but just as glad to avoid a reference to the Microsoft search engine. Has anyone forsaken Google for Bing? Anyone?
  • Meh, I don't like this one. 57A: [Bath unit?] clues ONE METER because Bath (with that obscured yes-it's-a-capital-B Saturday clueing trick) is in England and they use meters instead of yards. But the ONE part is arbitrary. What's to keep NINEFEET or EIGHTPOUNDS out of the puzzle?
  • 9D: [Joined a talk show, perhaps] (CALLED IN). I was on the radio once. WGN Radio's late-night show had me and Tyler Hinman in the studio a couple years ago to talk about crosswords and the ACPT. It was a blast. Someone needs to put me back on the radio, dammit! I am ready for the callers and their questions!
  • 30D: [Curve enhancer] (CORSET)?? Really? I dispute this clue. I think it's more of a "curve torturer."
  • 31D: [Like kabobs] (CUBED). I mention this one only because there is a neighborhood restaurant in Chicago that purports to be a kabob/kebab joint but also sells the Polish dumplings known as pierogies. I suspect a marriage between a Middle Easterner and a Pole, but who the hell knows what's going on at a kebab/pierogi restaurant? Skokie used to have a Filipino/Ukrainian restaurant called Makati Kiev. What's the weirdest cuisine mash-up you've encountered in a restaurant?
  • 35D: [Nielsen of "Rocky IV"] (BRIGITTE). Not a great name for crosswords because if she's probably not as well-known as Bardot, but I appreciate the justification for including a photo. (It's from when she and Flavor Flav were a couple.)
  • 42D: [Big name in convertible sofas] (CASTRO). A Castro convertible...is that a brand name of sofa bed, or a generic variety? I can't help feeling that it's a term most familiar to those who were alive in the 1940s or 1950s. It's not something I've encountered outside of crosswords.
Crosswordese 101: BREL is clued as [Belgian composer Jacques]. I don't know anything about his musical career. All I know is that if the clue is looking for a Jacques musician, the answer is BREL. He's not French but Belgian? I don't recall that at all. Is he big-time famous outside of crosswords? Do music fans know exactly who he is? Is it just me who considers him more "crosswordese" than "famous name"?

Everything Else — 1A: Act in the Senate (PASS A LAW); 9A: Trees yielding beans (CACAOS); 15A: Pride's prey (ANTELOPE); 16A: Friend of Pete Fountain (AL HIRT); 17A: TV show that has spawned 11 movies (STAR TREK); 18A: C&W singer Morgan (LORRIE); 19A: Mega- squared (TERA-); 20A: Fire department practice structure (DRILL TOWER); 22A: Like Dvorák's Symphony No. 8 (ING); 23A: Palace overseas (ÉLYSÉE); 24A: "Buddenbrooks" Nobel Prize winner (MANN); 25A: Zip (ENERGY); 27A: Unlike a good excuse (SAD); 28A: Artist who rejuvenated his career with 1960s serigraphs (ERTÉ); 29A: Not fresh, in a way (SALTY); 30A: Municipal (CIVIC); 32A: Text necessity, often (TELEPHONE NUMBER); 38A: "__ Bulba": 1962 epic (TARAS); 39A: Held up (BORNE); 40A: Simple stuff (ABCS); 44A: Sound from a wok (SSS); 45A: Abdicate (RESIGN); 46A: Certain sausage, for short (BRAT); 47A: Execute, in old France (BEHEAD); 49A: "__ me ae spark o' Nature's fire": Burns (GIE); 50A: Alloys' principal components (BASE METALS); 52A: Former NBA star Dave __, now mayor of Detroit (BING); 53A: Menu choice (ENTREE); 54A: Involuntary exile (DEPORTEE); 56A: Listen to before answering (SCREEN); 57A: Bath unit? (ONE METER); 58A: Photographs (SHOOTS); 59A: Singing birds (WARBLERS); 1D: Most ashen (PASTIEST); 2D: Features of some alien costumes (ANTENNAE); 3D: 1979 N.L. co-MVP Willie (STARGELL); 4D: Word sung by Day (SERÁ); 5D: Letters on a PC key (ALT); 6D: Grand and noble (LORDLY); 7D: Copycat's activity (APERY); 8D: "The King and I" song about illicit romance (WE KISS IN A SHADOW); 9D: Joined a talk show, perhaps (CALLED IN); 10D: Bushels (A LOT); 11D: Trim in Detroit (CHROME); 12D: High-flying action (AIR WAR); 13D: Familiarize (ORIENT); 14D: "Tristram Shandy" author Laurence (STERNE); 21D: Fall collection? (LEAVES); 23D: "Aida" setting (EGYPT); 26D: MapQuest.com abbr. (RTE.); 30D: Curve enhancer (CORSET); 31D: Like kabobs (CUBED); 33D: Over-the-hill gang? (HAS-BEENS); 34D: Wks. on end (MOS.); 35D: Nielsen of "Rocky IV" (BRIGITTE); 36D: Driver who's on track? (ENGINEER); 37D: Promise breakers (RENEGERS); 40D: Big sister? (ABBESS); 41D: Bank outlet (BRANCH); 42D: Big name in convertible sofas (CASTRO); 43D: Sound buy? (STEREO); 45D: Gravelly voiced speaker (RASPER); 48D: Dementieva of women's tennis (ELENA); 51D: Intersect (MEET); 52D: Belgian composer Jacques (BREL); 55D: White House fiscal planning gp. (OMB).



Yikes! Orange, you call this one easy??
I guess those long words threw me a bit.
Didn't find it particularly fun to do, but I had to learn some new words, which is good. MANN (Buddenbrooks writer), STERNE (Tristram writer), BING (NBA star/mayor), CASTRO (sofa maker), STARGELL (NL MVP), and ELENA Dementieva. Omigosh, there's so many people I don't know.

Ugly stuff:
"Not fresh" = SALTY????
"Over-the-hill gang" = HAS BEENS (offensive to me)
"Sound from a wok" = SSS (yucky clue)
"Bath unit" = ONE METER (horrible clue).

Good stuff:

Didn't remember how to spell BRIGITTE, but did remember she's a big mama.

Well today I do photo SHOOTS at The Morton Arboretum... the flowering trees (Magnolias, et al)and daffodils are exquisite right. now. It's my job... don't you feel sorry for me?

Breakfast ENTREE--- Swedish Pancakes, meatballs, and lingonberry. Byeeee!

PuzzleGirl said...

My feelings about musicals are complicated. I had a really good friend going back to 4th grade who was really into them, so we spent a lot of time singing and dancing in her living room. "Hair," "Godspell," "Jesus Christ Superstar" -- love the music, couldn't really tell you much about the actual production. The few times I've seen musicals on Broadway, well, honestly ... it's always a little like this.

Okay puzzle, but I'm too busy licking my wounds from the last few days of NYT to really focus on it.

Joanne said...

My answer to "Municipal" was CIVIL, and LUBED seemed appropriate for "Like kabobs" because kabobs are often covered with a greasy marinade.

The weirdest cuisine mash-up that I've encountered in a restaurant was probably Chinese/Brazilian.


We have an excellent new restaurant in Chicago, MEXIQUE. It's Mexican cuisine with a French influence.

Sfingi said...

"Jacques Brel is alive and well, and living in Paris," is the name of the Revue of his very strange music,which became a common expression. It was an Off-Broadway production in the late '60s and very cool. It later became a movie musical that bombed. Watch this guy singing, sweating, and drooling "Amsterdam." It's a hipster/oldster thing. Died in his 40s form smoking, I think.

Belgians. For those who keep track - Luc Sante, Georges Simenon, Sax, Van der Velde, Smurfs, Tintin, Hercule Poirot, The Brueghels, Magritte, Rubens, The van Eycks, Memling, Ensor and others even less well-known. Then there's the Huguenots, some of my peeps.

They speak any number of languages on a continuum from Dutch to French.

ALHIRT and Pete Fountain made beautiful music together - on records. Also oldster.

Had to Google all 3 sports clues -
STARGELL, BING, ELENA. Nothing new there. Then for the C&W LORRIE.

I had forgotten Miss BRIGITTE. Scary. And the Braodway tune. Yuck, but remembered as they appeared.

Pastier PASTIEST, OK. RENIGER, RASPER, APERY - I don't know. These possibly made up words can be annoying. Reannoyery.

Mark said...

I had some trouble with the southern part of the grid today. I wanted MOTHER at 40D. BREL and BING in the SE corner are unknown to me.

DDFs said...

What does "ing" for "like Dvorak's 8th Symphony" mean? This makes no sense to us at all.
D + D

Orange said...

D+D: It's two words, "in G." As in "in A minor." I happen to loathe such clues because I never have the faintest idea what note is the correct one. I'm just glad there are only seven letters (A through G) to choose from, and not all 26.

shrub5 said...

I did not find this easy. After a few minutes, all I had was the SW corner and a few other answers scattered about (and generally wrong). Finally had to google the "The King and I" song and then I was in business.

I hadn't heard of the novel/movie "TARAS Bulba" but it filled itself in. I knew BRIGITTE Nielsen -- she was married to Sylvester Stallone at one time. Her pictures kinda resemble those I've seen of Andrea Carla Michaels (ACME), crossword constructor and frequent commenter on Rex's NYT blog -- however it could be just the short blonde hair....

1. I've never used BING.
2a. Chicken and waffles (not bad)
2b. Mexican/Italian (bad)
3. I don't think BREL is (was) very prominent in the US, compared to France and Belgium where he was an actor and director in addition to composer/ musician. I think he is more notable than just crosswordese however, IMO. It may be an age thing; oldsters like me (60-something mumbled) may be more familiar with him.

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lit.doc said...

Today's NYT took me 3.7 times as long as did this one.

Compounding the IN_ (or IN_M___R) Crappy Clue Syndrome is the astonishing regularity with which that damned X=? square is crossed with something like "Brother-in-law of the commanding General during the second Berzerkistan civil war".

1979 N.L. co-MVP" = Willie STARGELL? Sure, why the hell not.

@Orange, I injoyed your write-up much than than I did the puzzle. Nice work. And I'm new enough here that I don't know about "the influx of the old Tribune/TMS solvers" to which you refer. More background?

Joon said...

in bath, it would be ONE METRE, no? not that i wanted that to be right, since that's an even lamer answer than ONE METER (for an american crossword).

all these answers in the grid, and none of them struck my fancy. the long entries are almost mind-numbingly boring: TELEPHONE NUMBER, DRILL TOWER, BASE METALS. yawn. WE KISS IN A SHADOW is dull, too. pretty enough, but eminently forgettable.

i guess i like laurence STERNE. i'm surprised i don't see him in crosswords more often; it's perfect for the right column or bottom row of a grid.

how many former NBA stars are now mayors of major cities? just bing and KJ?

TERA- is 10^12, which in this country is called a trillion. quadrillion would be 10^15. the brits have their own names for those large numbers. i think 10^12 in british is a billion, but i'm not a million percent sure.


STERNE has been used quite a bit in puzzles because of what you say, in fact Hildebrand/Shortz used it in the exact same position in last Friday's NYT.

I too thought those lengthy words were rather boring, especially in view of the fact that they weren't obligatory for a theme stream.

So when congress sets out to PASS A LAW, they think in terms of TERA-Bucks. Hey I like that... did I coin a new word? Nah! It's already in the Urban Dictionary.

CrazyCat said...

Weirdest food combo restaurant around here is Persian/Italian. You can get kabobs with your lasagna. Then there was Ray's Original NY Pizza that was owned and run by an Iranian guy who was not named Ray. It had a short run.

I didn't think this puzzle was all that easy. Of course compared to the NYT for the past couple of days, well then yes. IMHO it had way too many names - STARGELL, AL HIRT, ERTE, BREL, BING, STERNE, MANN, LORRIE, ELENA and BRIGITTE. Some I knew, some not.

I've always been a fan of musicals, especially when I lived in NY and went to the theater A LOT. However if you're going to clue a song from a HASBEEN (although I love The King and I) musical, it should be a showstopper i.e. Shall we Dance, Hello Young Lovers, Getting to Know You, not some forgettable song like WE KISS IN A SHADOW.

Most ughish - APERY and ONE METER.

Great write up Orange. Thanks!

C said...

Puzzle wasn't hard, just too much people trivia for me. No idea who Pete Fountain was nor the c&w singer or the Nobel prize winner. Throw that all into one corner, it spells problems for this solver.

Ah well, I learned something new today.

Rube said...

This was definitely a puzzle for us oldies. Knew MANN from the M and Nobel prize, not from Buddingbrook. The Magic Mountain is one of my all-time favorites. If I ever learn German, (unlikely), Mann's books will be my first to read in that language, (or Hesse).

Compared to the last 3 NYT puzzles, this was a piece of cake. Got stuck in the SW with prinTS and softMETALS, but after wracking the "little grey cells", (ref. Belgians like BREL), remembered the CASTRO convertible commercials and that broke everything free.

Mentioning The King and I made me nostalgic for "oldie" Broadway plays where the music was melodic and sung at a reasonable level. Why do they have everybody "miced up" and amplified today so that they sound like they're yelling in capital letters?

mac said...

The NW was the hardest area for me, but it too fell eventually. Looking back at the grid it looks so non-scrabbly with all those Es and As and Ss. You just wonder what brought on this puzzle, it can't have been the telephone number.

I'm going to try out an Austrian-oriental restaurant in Queens one day soon. Fusion food is pretty popular in NY, mostly French/Japanese or French/Vietnamese, and it can be fabulous. I may go to Macao tomorrow evening, which is like a tradingpost, serving all different types of Asian food. Darn, now I'm hungry again.....

@Shrub5: Andrea is about 2 feet shorter than Brigitte, and a little more feminine.....;-)

Jacques Brel sings both in French and Flamish/Dutch, and is considered a cabaretier. His work is still sung by many artists in Holland and Belgium, and the lyrics are really most important.

Castro Convertibles is a chain of stores specializing in convertible sofas in lots of styles, materials and sizes, just like Jennifer Convertibles. I know of a couple in Manhattan.

thquat: that sounds disgusting.

Tinbeni said...

West fell in easily.

East, well you throw in a C&W singer, Nobel Prize winner, Rejuvenating Artist, Burns speak and Detroit mayor I've never heard of ... then add an obscure forgetable Broadway song (like @CCL said, 'not a show stopper') that I can't recall and my crosses had to work double-time.

Still, compared to the last 3 NYT's, this Saturday LAT was a "walk in the park."

@Orange, thanks for the Muppet Java!!!

Anonymous said...

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well...and several of his songs refer to Brussels. Castro Convertibles is also alive and well.

CrazyCat said...

@anon 5:46 and mac: I know Jacques BREL through Judy Collins. Way back when (I think in the 70's) she covered some of his songs on one or two of her albums. As far as CASTRO convertibles, I remember them from when I lived on the east coast. Out here in CA, there is Jennifer. Their quality is terrible and their customer service is even worse. I ended up donating our Jennifer sofa/sleeper to a frat house in San Luis Obispo.

Orange said...

@lit.doc: Just over a year ago, the Tribune's syndicated TMS crossword was discontinued and since the Tribune's syndication arm also owned the L.A. Times crossword, this puzzle was offered as a substitute. Rich Norris's puzzles are more in the Will Shortz-style vein, with difficulty coming from the clues more than from obscure words, and with an escalating difficulty level throughout the week. The TMS puzzle had a different vibe, and a bunch of long-time TMS solvers pitched a fit when they found a new crossword in their paper. So for an adjustment period, Rich Norris eased up the clues. It's my sense that the LAT puzzle remains easier now than it was before the transition.

CrazyCat said...

Back to my mini rant about The King and I:
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.....

Cavil Carp and Kvetch said...

That's quite a party up in the NE. ERTE decorates. AL HIRT and LORRIE Morgan provide the music. STERNE and MANN provide scintillating conversation.

This puzzle was too easy for a Saturday!

CASTRO could use a more colorful clue. Convertible sofas and a bank BRANCH. It's a bit sleepy in the SW.

One too many STARs in the NW.