SATURDAY, May 22, 2010—Victor Fleming

THEME: No theme today—It's a themeless puzzle, just like every other Saturday.

With a 4:20 solving time for me, I'll rate this puzzle a bit tougher than the average Saturday L.A. Times crossword.

I'll walk you through the puzzle now, focusing mostly on my favorite parts:
  • 1a. [McCarthy era phenomenon] is the RED SCARE. Wouldn't it be awesome to use that clue for an answer like BUDDY HOLLY?
  • 17a. The clue [1985 John Irving best-seller] is missing with "The". With or without The, CIDER HOUSE RULES looks good in the grid. 1985? Holy cow. I still think of this as one of Irving's more recent novels.
  • 20a. I like this clue. Yes, CUTENESS is a [Baby's asset]. Without said asset, the human race might've died out eons ago. If you're going to disrupt my sleep for months, you'd damn well better be cute.
  • 30a. [Rested] clues TOOK FIVE, a solidly idiomatic phrase. I got addled by a wrong crossing. For 23d: [Show approval, or disapproval], I had RATE instead of the correct RAVE. (One raves about good things but gets raving mad about terrible ones.)
  • 35a. This clue is misleading. [Frequent saver] is a GOALIE? As if. If I were the goalie, I assure you the saves would be infrequent.
  • 42a. HOME STRETCH is perhaps my favorite answer today. [It's right before the end].
  • 53a. AN ERA completes ["Corporations have been enthroned and ___ of corruption in high places will follow": Lincoln]. Good old Abe knew whereof he spoke.
  • 54a. One [Cryptozoologist's subject] is the LOCH NESS MONSTER. Another is the yeti. Imagine my surprise when I drove past a store that had gone out of business and saw its name: Yeti Boutique.
  • 8d. [They're not wild] isn't about untamed beasts, it's about EDUCATED GUESSES.
  • 27d. [It's sold in bars] clues OLEO. "Barkeep! Double oleo, neat."
  • 29d. The only reason I know that a [Paving stone] is sometimes called a SETT is because that word's been in crosswords before. It's too rare to count as crosswordese, I think. Luckily, all four crossings are more common, which should take the guesswork out of SETT. You won't see this entry before Saturday.
  • 34d. FRESHEN UP is another great in-the-language phrase. [Shower and change, say] pretty much covers it.
  • 56d. [Where "Shazbot!" is a curse] is ORK, as in the planet in Mork and Mindy. Ah, that takes me back to my tween years.
And now, a roundup of the less savory filling:
  • 6d. [Sports fig.] clues ATH., short for "athlete," rather than some sort of statistic.
  • 12d. [Everyone, in Essen] is ALLE. People seem to grumble when there are German words in the grid. (Me, I like 'em because I studied German.)
  • 13d. [Suburban followers?] is a cute clue for a plural suffix, -ITES.
  • 31d. Boring ONE-A is clued as [Service rank], which makes it sound like a military rank (along the lines of CPL, SGT, COL, MAJ) rather than a draft classification.
  • 32d. Sure, a partial like OF AN is not great fill. But I do like the clue: ["Confessions __ English Opium-Eater": 1821 De Quincey work]. Are any of you opium-eaters? No? How about lotus-eaters? Anyone?
  • 35d. GOT AT isn't so easy to put in a natural-sounding sentence in the past tense. The clue is [Touched], but I feel like "getting at" is more about implying. Dictionary tells me "get at" also means "reach" and "bribe." "I crawled under the car and GOT AT the damaged muffler"—that works, right?
  • 41d. ["Life With Father" co-star Leon] AMES is no longer a household name. There was a guy in my college dorm who always called me "Ames." I'm still surprised no one else ever has.
  • 45d. If you haven't encountered James ENSOR, the ["Christ's Entry Into Brussels in 1889" artist], in crosswords, you probably haven't run into him anywhere else. He had a decidedly macabre bent, with skeletons playing a prominent part in his art. Check out his work, and then he won't be an obscure entry anymore. (Advice: Belgian artist, 5 letters, your answer will invariably be ENSOR.)
  • 51d. [Plasm lead-in] is the prefix ECTO-.
I usually don't know any current songs. My pop music fluency ended in about 1984. But now! I have a new favorite song, "Tightrope" by Janelle Monáe. It sounds great, and the video is captivating. The only relevance this video has to the crossword is that if the singer hits the big time, you might start seeing MONAE in the grid. Why, that name is 60% vowels! And her first name makes a good 7-letter entry, as the last 6 letters are super-common.

Crosswordese 101: ARETE is standard crosswordese with a lengthy pedigree. It means 9d: [Narrow ridge], meaning a sharp mountain ridge. Learn it, because it's not going anywhere.

Everything Else — 9A: Trysting relationship (AFFAIR); 15A: Flattered, in a way (IMITATED); 16A: Grand Canal span (RIALTO); 19A: Architect Saarinen (ELIEL); 21A: Goes back (RETROGRADES); 24A: "Shucks!" ("RATS!"); 25A: Displays, with "out" (TROTS); 36A: Medical malpractice issue (INFORMED CONSENT); 38A: Naval construction worker (SEABEE); 39A: Garden entrance component, perhaps (GATE POST); 40A: Beefy-T maker (HANES); 41A: A psychic may see one (AURA); 49A: Goes before (PRECEDES); 57A: Celebrate a promotion, maybe (EAT OUT); 58A: Grin measure? (EAR TO EAR); 59A: Shows exhaustion (DROOPS); 60A: Aviation pioneer (SIKORSKY); 1D: Sous chef's gadget (RICER); 2D: '60s boxing champ Griffith (EMILE); 3D: Finished the job (DID IT); 4D: Guide (STEER); 5D: Swindler Ponzi, at birth (CARLO); 7D: Popular '20s auto (REO); 10D: Early Ford supplier (FIRESTONE); 11D: Woodland spirit (FAUN); 14D: 18th-century sewer (ROSS); 18D: Brewski (SUDS); 22D: Ugly buildup (GRIME); 26D: Grating sound (RASP); 28D: Pie containers (TINS); 30D: Mrs. Addams, to Gomez (TISH); 33D: Capital of Hyogo Prefecture (KOBE); 37D: Traffic units (CARS); 43D: "Night Music" playwright (ODETS); 44D: Sought aid from (RAN TO); 46D: Beans of Paris? (TÊTES); 47D: Reason to lubricate (CREAK); 48D: Potter of fiction (HARRY); 49D: Asked in earnest (PLED); 50D: Jungle warning (ROAR); 52D: Half a track sound (CHOO); 55D: It follows April in Paris (MAI).


Tinbeni said...

@Orange, I don't remember ever ordering that OLEO, neat. I had gold bars. This messed up my Mid-Atlantic area leading to my most obscene Inl-Blot test ever.

After 2 mugs of coffee, too many write-overs, a bunch of damn's and a few WTF's ... I threw in the towel.
Total DNF, not even close.

My first pass through the grid I think I had 8 entries.
Betsy ROSS, the 18th Century sewer was clever.
ONE-A, Service rank. I agree, this is more of a classification. After your enter they give you the rank.

At least I knew trysting is an AFFAIR. First hand knowledge works that way.
SUDS, brewski, well I'm familiar with those, too.
Life isn't always Avatar.

Needless to say, my EDUCATED GUESSES today were in
"Never-Never Land."

As to what kind of eater I am?
Well not the opium or lotus.
Today it was crow.

gespenst said...

I was pleased (unlike @Tinbeni) to get this puzzle finished while sitting at our favorite breakfast place, slowly enjoying my pancakes :) To be fair, I googled yesterday, and would have DNF if not for that. So I "deserved" a good one today, and I thought this was a worthy finish.

Thanks to Gespenstsmann for pointing me in the right direction for 60A: Aviation pioneer (SIKORSKY); I had _IK__S_Y and he recognized it as one of our home-state pioneers ... he used to live minutes away from the Sikorsky Bridge. I'm from upstate, so I had to realize it wasn't going to be Pratt, Whitney, or Kaman when he hinted it was local.

I agree that "GOTAT" wasn't ideal for "Touched" ... I think GOT TO would make more sense (e.g. "when she told me of her troubles, she really got to me ...) But it was close enough that I figured it out w/ crosses.

My only questionable letter was in the NW where EMILE and ELIAL crossed at L ... I did put in L because EMILE seemed like the most likely letter for a name, but didn't know ELIAL at all. I was looking for EERO (isn't he also an architect???) but obviously not enough letters. [ok, just googled, and ELIAL is EERO's dad - need to make a note of that for future puzzles] Oh, and they had the same birthday, random fact of the day.

I liked the long answers - educated guess was GREAT with the clue "not wild"! And INFORMED CONSENT was another good one, especially in my (medical) biz. I always loved Cider House Rules, too ... which I got w/ ULE at the end (even though I didn't think it was going to mesh w/ the downs in the NW). And who doesn't love the Loch Ness Monster???

I also enjoyed CUTENESS ... which I filled in (lightly) w/o any crosses ... b/c I'm hoping for some baby cuteness ANY DAY NOW! LOL.

Anyhow, I like a Saturday puzzle which is tough enough to require some headscratching and a few writeovers, but is surmountable in the end, and this one certainly fit the bill :)

(Oh, and Orange, you know I love German in my puzzles too ... it's the only one of my non-native languages in which I'm reasonably fluent ... Latin, French and Spanish are markedly weaker, though enough for me to get by in XWords, lol)

Van55 said...

Another LAT requiring a bit of tooth-pulling to finish successfully. Some of the stuff was just gnarly obscure -- Capital of Hyogo Prefecture; Christ's Entry into Brussels artist; Life with Father Co-star Leon.

For many I would guess that Where "Shazbot" is a curse was a poser.

Nice challenge.

Joon said...

meet james ensor"!

Unknown said...

Although I am not a seasoned crossword puzzler and Saturday puzzles take me an hour not 4.5 minutes, I almost always finish the ones that are deemed hard without any googling and the ones said to be as easy as a Wednesday puzzle, I almost always struggle with. Always makes me grin each time I check my answers here.

Sfingi said...

@Tinbeni - I wasn't going to comment, but since mine was same as/worse than - yours, here goes.

I got a few, then went back and forth between Googling and filling in, then gave up.

@Orange - by every other, do you mean every one or every second one?

Fleming has a few things he does that I'm not up to.
1. Sports clues that you don't know are about sports (GOALIE, HOMESTRETCH).
2. Strange foreign clues. First, change the English word to a different English word, then know it's foreign by the city (Essen, Paris), then translate. So, bean becomes head, then TETE. Every becomes all, then ALLE, rather than Jeder.
3. He ranges from the very clever (wild, then fill in "guess" leading to EDUCATED GUESS), to the ridiculously easy (OF AN), to the strange detail (CARLO), or not so common - Clarence, in Life with Father, was played by many, including the more famous William Powell.

I also had gold for OLEO.

Then, just stupid. I couldn't think of anything that's an asset about a baby - only "exemption." Sorry, son.

What is SETT?

I liked the They must be Giants video, but not as much as the Cezanne Song by the 5 Chinese Brothers.

A super challenge I'm not quite ready for.

Second captcha - xersonal. Meaning personal but secret?

Orange said...

@sfingi: "Every one of 'em," not "alternating."

lit.doc said...

Hand up for hell of a lot harder harder than usual.

@Orange, LOL at your bar order. When I first looked at 27D I had O__O, and my first thought was “ohgodpleeese don’t let this be a new cookie clue”.

ELIE_ crossing CAR_O was an 8D, and my last square. Nothing else sounded as reasonable as L, but anything having to do with either the elder or the younger Saarinen makes me nervous because a just can not re member from puzzle to puzzle how to spell their names. Not their fault, of course.

For “Baby’s asset” I actually considered BAD SMELL, thinking that hungry, exhausted parents at the ends of their ropes might from time to time consider eating one except for its smelling inedible. Hey, I never had kids. Sue me.

shrub5 said...

I resisted googling a number of times and just kept at this until I finished. I had one mistake: SYKORSKY instead of SIKORSKY, but I have a little beef with the clue for MAI. Shouldn't the clue read "It follows Avril in Paris"? Since the clue had April (English spelling), I put MAY. I guess my thinking is wrong....again.

I thought this puzzle was awesome. Only four 3-letter words and tons of tricky clues. Liked "Frequent saver" for GOALIE. Had an aha! moment at SEABEE for naval construction worker. Like @Orange, I had RATE before RAVE. BTW, loved the little baldie CUTENESS pic.

One hand up for tripping into the sewer pitfall at ROSS. You got me!

Orange said...

@shrub: The baldie is a friend's 15-month-old. He came to the fourth-grade science fair at my son's school and was such a joyful tot.

Tinbeni said...

"Baby asset" was THE most foreign clue I can ever remember encountering. Like you, not having any children, I had nothing.
CUTENESS never entered the picture since FAUN & ALLE were 2 of my WTF's.

Exemption was my only thought on this too, but it was too long.

Yeah, he has a boatful of CUTENESS.
Your write-up today was exceptional!

Sometimes it just works out that way. You catch the wave and others are still paddling.
Today I wiped-out entering the Ocean.

captcha got me: CHEMO, a fun time for one-and-all ...

mac said...

That was a quality puzzle! Enjoyed it a lot, but then I'm in a great mood because we just ordered me a new car! Very much like the old one but with GPS. Which I don't need to go to Sikorsky which is about 20 minutes from my house.

Several great clues, but sometimes I took it a step too far. For "touched" I was looking for a form of insane... @Joon: that was some song!

@Orange: one of your very best write-up, so funny!

CrazyCat said...

Did the puzzle this morning in a big hurry since we were getting ready to go to the beach for a couple of days. I did it on line using the regular skill mode. Thank goodness, or I'd probably still be doing it. I actually liked it once I had sweated my way through. Loved CUTENESS and got it immediately. Orange has it right. God made babies CUTE for a very good reason. @Tinbeni and @Lit Doc you two are just grumpy old men : >)

SIKORSKY was also a gimme for me once I had the S the K and the Y. The SIKORSY Skycrane is one of the helicopters they use to drop water on the CA wild fires. One of these days I will remember both ELIEL Saarinen and his son.
@Shrub5 many thanks for explaining LIE, golfer's concern yesterday. I had a feeling that was what is was and my husband confirmed it when he got home. I feel so much better!
@Joon - Great ENSOR song!

syndy said...

is there a word for a clue that is totally irrelevant? Confessions (of an )English opium eater!!!!Made me a little nuts but aside from that liked it a lot! Captha-ITUBL=what a teletubby is when he does a bad thing