SATURDAY, April 24, 2010—Samuel A. Donaldson

THEME: No theme today—It's a themeless puzzle, just like every other Saturday. I always wonder how many people get accustomed to figuring out themes the rest of the week and rack their brains trying to tease out a theme from a Saturday grid.

Happy birthday to PuzzleGirl! She hits the big three-O today, and you'd never know it to look at her. Andrea Carla Michaels and Doug Peterson and PuzzleSister Elizabeth Olson White teamed up to make a birthday crossword for Andrea; you can get it here.

Happy birthday to my son Ben, too. He's turning 10. Double digits! There is no denying his tween status. Yesterday, he tuned the car radio to a pop hits station for the first time and identified that song I thought was by a woman as a song by Justin Bieber. Oh! The 15-year-old singin' boy does a good falsetto. No wonder the girls go wild for him.

Today's puZZle is packed with the letter Z and its friends. You've got your QUIZZICAL and PAPARAZZI, [Übermensch philosopher] NIETZSCHE with his five-consonant pile-up, ZOOMING ZEALOTS, the papal Star Wars conclave of JEDI and JOHN PAUL I, and more. After putting in my first answer, MOLOKAI, I gambled that the [Big name in publishing] would be KNOPF (20A) owing to its oddball consonant pairs, and that pointed the way towards the overall Scrabbliness-on-speed of the crossword. Either the clues were really easy or I coasted on Sam's wavelength, as sub-4:00 themelesses are not my norm.

Favorite bits, on top of the aforementioned words:
  • If you've got to have crosswordese geography names URAL and ARAL, why not cross them? We've got 15A: [Evaporating sea] for ARAL and 7D: [Kazakhstan river] for URAL. I can't tell you what a disappointment it was for me last November when Ural Williams didn't show up for my high school class reunion. I knew his name was crosswordese when we were 14, but never got a chance to discuss it with him. I am astonished to see no listing for URAL in the Crosswordese 101 index.
  • Speaking of crosswordese geography, OREM gets dressed up with a fresh clue—16A: [Utah home of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival]. Call me a nerd if you must, but sometimes I appreciate it when lame repeaters get new clues. Surprisingly, OREM hasn't been XW101ed yet, either. That one's easy—4-letter Utah town = OREM. 4-letter Russian town = OREL, which is also the first name of pitcher Orel Hershiser. Oh, unless the Russian town starting with O is ORSK or OMSK—just to keep you off balance.
  • 30A: ELIA KAZAN usually gets the crosswordese fill-in-the-blank (FITB) treatment with just ELIA in the grid, but he gets the full name this time. Man, without "Kazan" in the clue, ["Gentlemen's Agreement" Oscar winner] was a mystery to me.
  • 1D: The [Groundbreaking invention] isn't so amazing after all. It's a PICKAXE, which may be used to hack away at the ground.
  • 4D: [Dime novels] are PULPS. Rex Parker's non-crossword blog is Pop Sensation, where he writes about pulp fiction book covers. Do they call 'em PULPS, Rex?
  • 6D, 22D. For [Star chasers], I wanted something like ASTRONOMERS to fit, but it turned out to be the double-Z PAPARAZZI. The other kind of stars figure into [Stellar]/ASTRAL.

I have no idea who 38D: [Russian supermodel Vodianova] is, but with the N in place, NATA**A was likely. Turned out to be NATALIA rather than NATASHA. According to New York magazine, she's got three kids and is an activist on behalf of Russian orphans. Check this out: One of her kids is named Neva, after the 4-letter river crossword solvers know and love.

Crosswordese 101: URAL! At long last! The usual clues touch on these points: It's the name of a Russian and Kazakh river that feeds the Caspian Sea as well as the mountain range that separates Europe and Asia.

Now, I've made it all the way to the end of the post without including a video. I refuse to embed Justin Bieber in this blog, much less your consciousness. How about Bill Shannon instead? He's a performance artist and dancer who's created his own art form, dancing with the crutches he's always used to walk because of a congenital hip deformity. Words in the crossword that may relate, however tenuously, to this video include FLEXES, ZOOMING, and IMPRESS. Mainly I just wanted to share it because it's cool. You can find Shannon's street and stage performances on YouTube too. Like carrying a suitcase by putting it on a skateboard and clamping it between his lower legs, or whirling around in the air like a breakdancer who's elevated his game a few feet off the ground.

Everything Else — 1A: Psychs (up) (PUMPS); 6A: Frolicker in a Peter, Paul and Mary song (PUFF); 10A: Sith rivals (JEDI); 14A: "Cut __!" (IT OUT); 15A: Evaporating sea (ARAL); 16A: Utah home of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival (OREM); 17A: Symphony section (CELLI); 18A: Go back and forth (PACE); 19A: It can be hard to get over (HUMP); 20A: Big name in publishing (KNOPF); 21A: Costanza portrayer (ALEXANDER); 23A: Requests (ASKS FOR); 25A: Even considering (DESPITE); 26A: First chronicled Chinese dynasty (XIA); 27A: Bind (JAM); 29A: Washington et al. (STATES); 30A: "Gentlemen's Agreement" Oscar winner (ELIA KAZAN); 34A: Sorry lot? (RUERS); 35A: Curious (QUIZZICAL); 37A: About to bloom (IN BUD); 40A: Saw only good qualities in (IDEALIZED); 44A: "__ Boom-de-ay": vaudeville song (TA-RA-RA); 46A: Withdrawal aid, for short (ATM); 47A: I, to Claudius (ONE); 48A: Lit conditions? (STUPORS); 50A: Fanatics (ZEALOTS); 53A: Aircraft accelerators (TAILWINDS); 55A: They precede finals (SEMIS); 56A: "Play it, Sam" speaker (ILSA); 57A: Fed. anti-discrimination org. (EEOC); 58A: "What __ surprise!" (A NICE); 59A: Demeanor (MIEN); 60A: Eye protector (LASH); 61A: Roadside sign (DINER); 62A: Soothe (EASE); 63A: Half an arcade trademark (SKEE); 64A: Inner turmoil (ANGST); 1D: Groundbreaking invention (PICKAXE); 2D: Part of a place setting (UTENSIL); 3D: Island where Father Damien cared for lepers (MOLOKAI); 4D: Dime novels (PULPS); 5D: Lucky one? (STIFF); 6D: Star chasers (PAPARAZZI); 7D: Kazakhstan river (URAL); 8D: Confronted (FACED); 9D: Shows off at the gym (FLEXES); 10D: 33-day pope, 1978 (JOHN PAUL I); 11D: Learned (ERUDITE); 12D: Greek goddess of agriculture (DEMETER); 13D: Wow (IMPRESS); 22D: Stellar (ASTRAL); 24D: California city near Los Padres National Forest (OJAI); 28D: Tribute maker (MAZDA); 31D: Water skis alternative (AQUAPLANE); 32D: "Friends" actress (KUDROW); 33D: ‹bermensch philosopher (NIETZSCHE); 36D: Attended (CAME); 37D: "Let's go now" ("IT'S TIME"); 38D: Russian supermodel Vodianova (NATALIA); 39D: Bumps' partners (BRUISES); 41D: Moving quickly (ZOOMING); 42D: Lures (ENTICES); 43D: Finishing course (DESSERT); 45D: __ Grotto: ocean-themed Disney World play area (ARIEL'S); 49D: Quarterback's play (SNEAK); 51D: Carne __: Mexican beef dish (ASADA); 52D: October Revolution leader (LENIN); 54D: Shot amount (DOSE).


Rex Parker said...

Such a beautiful puzzle. Nice to see some professionalism and attention to detail back in the grid. Only complaint is that it was clued far too easy. Done 30 seconds faster than yesterday's already fast puzzle.


Rube said...

Agreed, this is either clued too easy or I got lucky. Finished quickly from top to bottom with no blank spaces. Wanted poStuRe for "Finishing course", thinking myself clever in seeing thru this clue. Wrong. That and ego for "I, to Claudius" were my only writeovers. Oh, and qIn for 26A which I new at the time couldn't be right.

XIA is my WOTD, only I don't expect it will go into crosswordese lore.

Tinbeni said...

Happy Birthday PuzzleGirl.
30 is pretty damn old if you've never been 30 before. LOL
Ahhh, what a distant memory.

This caused me ANGST.
Probably due to the heavy DOSE of avatar and the resulting STUPORS that follow my RDA (plural).

Write-overs (there were many)
Jeti for JEDI, 1st Duh! moment.
Rick for ILSA, 2nd Duh! moment.
The 'Z' 'E' and 'D' in IDEALIZED, had idealists, Duh! Duh! and Duh!

Then I had _azda for the Tribute maker, knew it was a car and for whatever reason ... (OK, @PG this is what you have to look forward to) I had a total 57 yo brain-fart and the 'M' in MADZA hid in the grey matter for what seemed like ages. (Half-a-cup of coffee)

Throw in a Russian Babe, NATALIA, I've never heard of and a Greek God, DEMETER, the grey cells refused to recall ... well, it was a slog.

In other words, just what Saturday ASKS FOR:
A FUN puzzle.

@Orange One of your best write-ups ever. Great clip, almost makes one want to try THAT.
The Birthday Puzzle was great. Would have known who it was honoring due to certain sports clues.

shrub5 said...

@Orange, the Bill Shannon video is awesome!! I'll have to check out his dances on YouTube. Thanks for bringing him to our attention.

Well, this was a very juicy puzzle with the 5 Zs and many other Scrabbley letters. Quite a fun solve. Instead of AQUAPLANE, I first put in AQUABOARD. I don't know if there is such a thing, but it sounded good to me. Took a long while to see PICKAXE what with missing letters and not taking 'ground-breaking' literally. Trickiest clue for me, saved by the crosses: "Tribute maker" = MAZDA.

Loved this puZZle!! Thanks, Sam D.

backbiter said...

I just realized "Elia Kazan" and "Eli Elezra" share four letters. I know this doesn't mean anything to you, but a poker stars crossword wouldn't bother me a bit.
I kinda breezed through this. Only trouble spot was 10A. I needed crosses for Jedi. A mental block,no doubt, due to the fact I loathe Star Wars. Now had that been a Star Trek clue...:)

Sfingi said...

@Orange = didn't think I'd want to watch the whole Shannon video, but I did, and rather than being depressed, I was impressed. At this point he probably wouldn't want to bother getting his hip fixed.

Googled twice - for ELIAKAZAN and NATALIE, which is good for me on a Sat. After that, it went fast. In other words, after cheating a bit it was easy.

Never heard of OJAI, OREM, XIA, ASADA or ARIELS Grotto but they all appeared from crosses.

Asked hubster (who's R.C.) for JOHNPAUL1, MOLOKAI and SNEAK (sports). I couldn't understand his description of the last one. I have a visual of the team picking up the 1/4-Back and carrying him over the goal line. Hubster was in Rome when they chose Paul VI, and he saw the various smoke puffs. He thinks John Paul was whacked because he was too liberal.

Had "ego" before ONE, TALIWINgS before TAILWINDS.

Must give my Sicily lesson:
DEMETER was supposedly hanging out in Enna, Sicily near Etna when her daughter, Persephone was kidnapped and pulled down to Hades through Etna. Believe it or not.
She's the goddess of cereals and her symbol is wheat.

shrub5 said...

Hmmmm. There's a discrepancy between PuzzleGirl's age as stated in this write-up and that used in the tribute puzzle. We must get to the bottom of this.

JIMMIE said...

A fun Sat CW, with X's and Z's, and even NIETZSCHE.

Tuttle said...

SW corner killed me. Had 'bounces' instead of BRUISES which worked with STUPORS, MIEN and 'Rick' instead of ILSA. Took a while to fix that. But great fun. Excellent puzzzzzzzzle.

MAZDA was actually tough for me even though I've been driving MAZDAs for 20 years now. I just refuse to admit the existence of a MAZDA sport ute. It's almost as unthinkable as a Porsche SUV... yea, yea. I know.


mac said...

Beautiful puzzle, all those zeeees.
Was happy to get EEOC with the crosses!

@shrub5: you realize that doing CWPs keeps you forever young.

On to do the extra puzzle. I think I may print it out!

mac said...

Congratulations to Ben!

Tinbeni said...

Ben - Double digits is pretty old if you never have been 10 before.
Hope you too have a Happy Birthday.

Just think in 90 more years ... you will hit triple digits !!!

Orange said 3 0 and since a gentleman never asks a lady her age, I'm sticking with that number ... but the puZZle indicates ...

Nope, not going there.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to crosswords ... recently retired after 25 years at the US headquarters of an import manufacturer. Didn't get Mazda either ... because strictly speaking, Mazda doesn't 'make' the Tribute. Ford does. Mazda distributes it. (And no, not where I worked.)
Otherwise I'm enjoying this new hobby! Not nearly as quick as the experts though!


Got my ZZZ's with this one.
Clues too easy... nothing new.
ZOOMING through in record time.
I expected something more challenging from Sam D. on a weekend puzzle.
But then my weekend was so jam-packed, I guess I should be grateful for the TAIL WINDS.
Except I did learn that PAPARAZZI and QUIZZICAL have two Z's.
And TA-RA-RA-Boom-de-ay perked me up.