FRIDAY, May 7, 2010 — Donna S. Levin

THEME: Sign puns — various sign phrases reimagined (turned into puns) for specific professions
  • [Sign at a laundry?] = WRING FOR SERVICE
  • [Sign at a nuclear reactor?] = GONE FISSION
  • [Sign at Cape Canaveral?] = OUT TO LAUNCH
  • [Sign at the Ukrainian tourism bureau?] = WATCH YOUR STEPPE

This was not great. I am trying very hard to go easier on the LAT puzzles, but I can't lie about my honest feelings, and this one just felt unpleasantly inconsistent. First, puns aren't strong. They're a little cliché, and then they don't make *any* sense as clued? Even if you've entered the realm of wackiness, the phrases should still make a kind of sense or be vaguely plausible. OUT TO LAUNCH is the only one here that qualifies. The laundry is doing the wringing, not me, so no on that one. Maaaaybe I'll give you GONE FISSION. But presumably "you" don't have a STEPPE to watch. Further, three puns are at the back of the answer, one in front - yuck. All in one place, or split them evenly (and symmetrically). Otherwise, wonky. Lastly (I think), LAUNCH is out of place in that it's the *only* one of the puns that involves a clear, discernible change in pronunciation of the base word. Not up to snuff, all around.

Did like the eastern part of this puzzle, specifially the AARON PUNIC PLATH pillars. Also liked DUNGEONS (esp. as clued, 20A: Low cells — took some work) and BLOWS IT (40D: Screws up). I know the CD holders as JEWEL CASEs, but JEWEL BOX wasn't too tough to figure out when CASE wouldn't fit (49A: CD holder). I have never heard the term REEDED, and needed every single cross to make sense of it (21A: Like a quarter's edge).

Crosswordese 101: E. COLI (56A: Culprit in some food recalls) — a very, very handy answer for a constructor, due to its classic (for a 5-letter word) vowel-cons.-vowel-cons.-vowel structure, esp. its terminal "I" (not something English words like to have). I routinely get E. COLI (a bacterium) confused with EBOLA (a virus) — note the similar vowel/consonant structures, the similar capacity for deadliness. I refuse to put either one of them into any puzzle I'm making ... or I have so far. And there was at least one time where I really, really could have used one or both or them. They're just too depressing to me — too much of a downer, too gross. I mean, they're completely valid, I'd just rather avoid. See also the ironically non-pathogenic EBOLI, almost always clued via the Carlo Levi book "Christ stopped at ___"

What else?
  • 50D: Solidarity hero Walesa (LECH) — balked slightly at the vowel. LACH?
  • 51D: Gp. led by a Grand Exalted Ruler (BPOE) — Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. There's a small lodge I pass every day on my way to the woods with the dogs. Never noticed the BPOE sign until after I learned the initialism from crosswords.

  • 46D: Lang. that gives us "ombudsman" (SWED.) — I did not know that. I have only dealt with one ombudsman in my life. He/she may or may not have worked for public radio. He/she definitely was protecting a manifestly fraudulent correspondent because he/she found the correspondent's pieces so entertaining. It's a long story, possibly involving math and "Futurama" and Matt Groening and my best friend ... but I can't tell it. Any more than I already have. O, what the hell, here.

See you Monday,

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: More, to a minimalist (LESS); 5A: Coll. performance barometers (GPAS); 9A: Boatloads (SCADS); 14A: Reflection in a cave (ECHO); 15A: Its quarter reads "Birthplace of Aviation Pioneers" (OHIO); 16A: Petty objection (CAVIL); 17A: Sign at a laundry? (WRING FOR SERVICE); 20A: Low cells (DUNGEONS); 21A: Like a quarter's edge (REEDED); 22A: Uno e due (TRE); 23A: Wilbur Post's buddy (MR. ED); 24A: Sign at a nuclear reactor? (GONE FISSION); 29A: Killer __: powerful software (APP); 32A: Turkish peak (ARARAT); 33A: Dept. headed by Tom Vilsack (AGR.); 34A: First king of Israel (SAUL); 35A: Secondary (MINOR); 36A: Results of some receptions: Abbr. (TDS); 37A: __ deaf ear (TURN A); 38A: Soft footwear (MOCS); 39A: Strong squeezer (BOA); 40A: Wisconsin college or its city (BELOIT); 41A: Whatever (ANY); 42A: Sign at Cape Canaveral? (OUT TO LAUNCH); 44A: Not exactly exact words (OR SO); 45A: Perps' patterns (MOS); 46A: Batter's position (STANCE); 49A: CD holder (JEWEL BOX); 54A: Sign at the Ukrainian tourism bureau? (WATCH YOUR STEPPE); 56A: Culprit in some food recalls (ECOLI); 57A: Pro's opposite (ANTI); 58A: Either "Raising Arizona" director (COEN); 59A: Like the Taj Mahal (DOMED); 60A: Exploit (FEAT); 61A: Eldest daughter of Cronus (HERA); 1D: Bawdy (LEWD); 2D: Neutral shade (ECRU); 3D: Commonly bruised bone (SHIN); 4D: Track, perhaps (SONG); 5D: Words of encouragement (GO FOR IT); 6D: Ringers (PHONES); 7D: Pretensions (AIRS); 8D: Message in a storm (SOS); 9D: Shield from view (SCREEN); 10D: Submitted (CAVED); 11D: All fired up (AVID); 12D: Rolling "bones" (DICE); 13D: Arctic carrier (SLED); 18D: Be very successful (GET FAR); 19D: Fielder's flub (ERROR); 23D: "Top Gun" enemy planes (MIGS); 24D: Third in a sequence (GAMMA); 25D: Sirius' master, in some depictions (ORION); 26D: Sluggo's pal (NANCY); 27D: Fertility deity (EROS); 28D: Time's 1977 Man of the Year (SADAT); 29D: Baseball record breaker of 4/8/1974 (AARON); 30D: Like the wars between Carthage and Rome (PUNIC); 31D: Subject of the 2003 film "Sylvia" (PLATH); 34D: Enterprise helmsman (SULU); 36D: Miss Gulch's bÍte noire (TOTO); 37D: Afternoon service (TEA SET); 39D: "The Buddy Holly Story" star (BUSEY); 40D: Screws up (BLOWS IT); 42D: Prom flower (ORCHID); 43D: Puzo novel (OMERTA); 44D: Frère de la père (ONCLE); 46D: Lang. that gives us "ombudsman" (SWED.); 47D: Tex-Mex nosh (TACO); 48D: Molecule constituent (ATOM); 49D: Flag Day month (JUNE); 50D: Solidarity hero Walesa (LECH); 51D: Gp. led by a Grand Exalted Ruler (BPOE); 52D: "0" button letters (OPER); 53D: Princess from Amphipolis (XENA); 55D: Lummox (OAF).



A standing ovation for Donna & Rich!
This was a challenging, but very fun puzzle with a cute theme.
My favorite theme was WATCH YOUR STEPPE.

Some new words for me:
REEDED… Always thought the quarter’s edge was knurled or serrated.
CAVIL… I do this all the time with certain constructors, but none today.
AGR… (Vilsack) This is bad, I should know the names of all the Cabinet Secretaries.
COEN… And I thought “Raising Arizona” was a superb movie.
OMERTA… Never heard of this Puzo novel.
ONCLE… I knew that frère de la père meant brother of the father, but couldn’t remember what uncle was in French. Duh!

PLATH… Huh, what’s that? Ohhh, that’s a movie about the poet, Sylvia Plath. Double duh!
Another tragic loss of a young brilliant poet… her epitaph reads from the Bhagavad Gita, "Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted"

Some cute clues:
“More to a minimalist” (LESS)
“Miss Gulch’s bête noire” (TOTO)… Miss Almira Gulch, the wicked witch in Oz.
“Wilbur Post’s buddy” (MR. ED)
“Sluggo‘s pal“ (NANCY)
“Ringers” (PHONES)

And my favorite clue of all: “Screws up” (BLOWS IT)… because I do this so often.

If you haven’t seen the “Buddy Holly Story” (starring Gary BUSEY), GO FOR IT! It’s a good movie.
And, I still mourn the loss of BUDDY HOLLY

It’s raining “cats & dogs” here, so I think I’ll cheer myself up by going to Mother’s Diner for a Dutch Baby… mmmmm!

Orange said...

I'm halfway with Rex on this one. The theme didn't really do anything for me, but I still tend to find myself enjoying Donna's puzzles because of a certain light humor pervading the clues.

I'm glad Rex mentioned EBOLI, because I just read a Language Log post about misunderstanding that book title in speech. Go read "Kreisoppa Tebberley" and you'll finally have a reason to be mildly amused when EBOLI is in the fill.

LECH Walesa is no lecher (as far as I know…), but his first name by itself looks pervy.

*David* said...

I finished 90% of the puzzle quickly and got stuck near TOTO/BUSEY and ORION/NANCY, where I had ERIS and GET FAT. That took me as long as the rest of the puzzle to unsnarl.

I liked this one not for the theme but for the cluing and the trivia.

Tinbeni said...

Donna has become my favorite punster.
The fact that one was at the beginning, three at the end, bothers me not in the least.

Yeah, I liked all 4 themes. Fave was "OUT TO LAUNCH."

SADAT, all crosses. To tell you the truth, I don't remember who was the 2007 "Man of the Year" let alone 1977.

Liked the stack, ERROR, BLOWS IT.

Learning moment was BELOIT, a plus.

GAMMA, third in a series. I think it is time for me to peruse the Greek Alphabet for the order.

@Rex: The Math Club story was great.


As for XENA, Lucy Lawless rocks!!!!

Your link to Kreisoppa Tebberley reminded me of my days as a librarian (25 years). I remember then that I thought searching for a patron's obscure request was much like parsing a crossword puzzle.
and @*David*
I agree, I think it's not so much the theme, but it's the SCADS of trivia that I love.

Sfingi said...

@Rex and Orange - thanx for mention of Levi's book. I actually have it at this moment on the night stand, which is weird, since we have 8K books. And it's that very 1947 Penguin copy with the thin plastic melded to the cover as they used to do.
Love BUSEY and Buddy Holly.

NANCY and Sluggo were always lame.

Love the concept "LESS is more," (Mies van der Rohe) but can't seem to live it. OCD is more and more.

And LECH and LEWD on the same CW!

I actually love puns, so this puzzle was almost a breeze. Two things that I didn't know appeared automagically, JEWELBOX. APP - young stuff.

I did have a problem in the middle. Didn't know what Vilsack was in charge of and Googled him, discovering he went to college near me and lived near my IA sister.
Didn't get that the receptions were about football (sports!), or that Miss Gulch was the wicked witch of Dorothy's dream. Finally if the puzzle had said Wilbur's friend, instead of using his surname (Post), I would have known MRED rather than throwing in fRED. Which all yielded F11S instead of MIGS. Should have Googled more.

Anyway, I must remind that OMERTA' is pronounced oh-mair-TA, and is not translatable. The "code" of the mob is probably from a Spanish word for manliness (and therefore, is silly, silly, silly).

Soozy said...

As I started this puzzle I was absolutely loving it--filling in the NE and SE corners with a rapidity rarely exhibited on Fridays. But then...no. I love puns, and I don't have any particular complaints about the non-symmetricality (?) except that it did totally throw me off.

I enjoyed seeing LECH because a month ago I would have thought "bLECH who would know something like this? What a cop-out..." but since Poland's been in the news so much lately I felt this was not only timely but something people would know. It's like crosswordese that's grown up and become whole in its own right.

@Sfingi, I feel your middle troubles (and then some). Lots of clues that weren't part of my generation (SADAT, MRED, MIGS, NANCY) and were hard to produce even with crosses.

I'm still psyched about how quickly I finished half the puzzle, even if the other half took me about four times that long.

C said...

I enjoyed the puzzle, I like puns so today's entry is in my sweet spot.

GONEFISSION is a great answer. Today, I'd rather go fishing then go to my next meeting where I will go fission on some people.

Ah well, at least I had my 5 minutes or so of crossword puzzle reverie.

Tuttle said...

Where to start?

Most of the Ukraine is temperate forrest, not steppe.

TACOs are not tex-mex, just mex.

LESS is more was actually coined by the Modernists (namely Mies van der Rohe) and then lifted by the minimalists (granted, they often claim van der Rohe as one of their's).

SAUL was king of Israel And Judah. The first king of Israel alone was either Ishbaal or Jeroboam.

The actual 'enemy' planes flown at the Top Gun school (and used to represent MIGS in the film) are mostly F-5E Tiger IIs.

And XENA should have been clued as fictional.

*David* said...

Where to start?

Most of the Ukraine are steppes.

Saul was the king of Israel, the separation occurred after the death of Solomon until that point all 12 tribes were under one king and it was called Israel. Judah was considered it's own kingdom only after the separation.

So every clue that represents a fictional category should be identified as such, like the fictional Miss Gulch?

The taco comment bothered me as well, since it isn't uniquely Tex-Mex like fajitas.

CrazyCat said...

Pleasant, easy Friday puzzle. I like when Rex points out facts like that three of the puns are in the back and one is in front. That's the kind of thing I would never think to look for. Learning new stuff every day. Also agree with him about ECOLI and EBOLA. Don't like to think of either of those while having breakfast.

The hardest part of the puzzle for me was the Central Coast of CA with GAMMA, ARARAT, ORION and NANCY. I always disliked the NANCY comic strip for some reason. Couldn't remember who Sluggo was. Probably blocked the whole thing out of my mind.

LECH Walensa was in the news a lot during the 80's and 90's. Knew him immediately. Always like to see Sylvia PLATH. Never heard of OMERTA and didn't know Ombudsman was from SWED. For some reason I always get Gary BUSEY and Nick Nolte confused. I wonder why?
@Orange Loved Kreisoppa Tebberly.

Tinbeni said...

Well the TACO was enjoyed by the Aztec and dates back 3000 years OR SO.
Therefore it is not Tex-Mex.
But when I had TAC- I figured the DOMED Taj Mahal was an OK fill.

The clue that got me was 41A Whatever being ANY.
When my gal-pal says to me "Whatever!" I don't think she means, "any" ...

@Orange The Kreisoppa Tebberly article was funny. And it will help me remember EBOLI in the future.

I Before E said...

I've been doing the LAT on line for a month or so, and I don't notice an increase in difficulty over the week (Mon-Fri) as in the NYT, which I have been doing for years. Am I missing something? And why is there no comparable blog (at least that Rex or Amy link to) for the USA Today puzzle, which to me is slightly harder than the LAT?

Vincent L. said...

Pretty easy and straightforward, but the theme was not enjoyable. At first I thought it was going to be about adding silent letters (ring > WRING), which might have been better than this mess.

I disliked the cluing of ARARAT. Even though it's in Turkey, I think of it as a "Biblical peak," an "Armenian peak" (it appears on the country's coat of arms), or as a "Peak in Turkey," but not "Turkish."

Sfingi said...

@Tuttle - Is HERA fictional? I like to think that when we mention a name of one of the 3,000 gods with a small "g" that they laugh heartily. Wotan is alive and well and living in English (Wednesday) but no longer in German (Mitwoch=Midweek)!

Jeroboam (Double Magnum) is now known for his large liquid capacity.

@Orange - I asked Hubster, "What am I saying-'Kreissoppa Tebberly'"
and he said without a pause, "Christ Stopped at Eboli?" I kid you not. A true son of Sicily.

All I know about the Ukraine is the Russians tried to starve them, and the kids here went bean-picking in the summer and my father wouldn't let me go. I thought they were lucky. And they don't do steppe-dances.

@i before e - I like the USA Today CW, too. It's Wednesday all week. It seems that for $20 you can join on line: register.uclick.com
I keep meaning to do it...

CrazyCat said...

@Tinbeni Agree with you about the clue Whatever for ANY. When I say "whatever" I basically mean f*** you. But, because I'm the ccL, I say whatEVer! You have to put the emphasis on the EV. I probably learned this from my daughter. I think which ever is a better clue for ANY as in Which one do you want? I'll take ANY one.

Tinbeni said...

All I know is ... if the word WhatEVer comes up.

Getting ANY is not in the cards, damn.

CrazyCat said...

@Tinbeni Yep, that's about it. Soon after that whatEVer you'll be confronted by STAGNES incarnate. Oops getting my puzzles confused....

Tinbeni said...

Oh, some of the abSURD comments made me think "what is happening today with me and the crosswords?"

I actually had a tougher time with this one.
I just wasn't getting ANY for the longest time ...

The comments about STAGNES had me LOLROTF ... before they realized it was ST. AGNES.
Were they thinking "stagness?" Is that even a word?

CrazyCat said...

Well, between that and the Hawaii ADO...

CrazyCat said...

@Tinbeni I meant ALOHA STATE.

Rex Parker said...

There is no comparable blog for the USA Today puzzle because the USA Today puzzle is, by and large, dreadful. Can't imagine expending energy blogging it. But *someone's* doing those puzzles, so ... go ahead. Start a blog.

mac said...

@Orange: I didn't have time for the puzzle yesterday, but I'm glad I read a few of the comments and found your link to Kreisoppa Tebberley!