T H U R S D A Y   August 19, 2010
Gene Newman

Theme: Topsy-Turvy — Prepositions at the beginning of familiar phrases are replaced with their opposites.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Dishonest? (BELOW BOARD).
  • 26A: Happy? (UP IN THE MOUTH).
  • 42A: Sick? (OUT OF THE PINK).
  • 56A: Incompetent? (OFF THE BALL).
To me, today looks like a clever, fun theme surrounded by a pretty tough grid. How about you? Lots of tough cluing too, right? I kept overthinking a lot of them. Like, I thought 14D: Eagles' attacks would be something about football, but it's about birds (SWOOPS). And I didn't think the 40A: War ender would be something easy like PACT — I thought it would be a suffix, although I couldn't think of one. But then some answers just came right to me like Annie OAKLEY for 43D: "Little Sure Shot." I don't ever recall hearing her referred to by this nickname, but she popped right into my mind. Well, there's a lot to talk about in this little gem of a puzzle so …

Let's get right to it:
  • 1A: Boot's meal (MESS). No idea what this was going for. I always think it's bizarre how tiny bits of faint knowledge come floating slowly to the surface of my brain as I solve a puzzle. Boot = soldier? Sure! That sounds right!
  • 15A: Machu Picchu's land (PERU). Then again, I can Never remember where Machu Picchu is. And it's really not that hard.
  • 16A: Jewish youth org. (YMHA). Young Men's Hebrew Association.
  • 19A: Baseball Triple Crown component (RBI'S). The fact that there even is a Triple Crown in baseball is something I learned from crosswords. I thought Triple Crown was only a horse-racing thing but, in fact, a baseball player is said to have achieved a Triple Crown when he leads his league in home runs, RBIs, and batting average (or, for pitchers, wins, strikeouts, and ERA).
  • 24A: Specialty, informally (THING). Love this.

  • 38A: MLB All-Star Game day (TUES.). Unless the All-Star Game is, like, this week, this clue is amazingly random.
  • 41A: Serious borders? (ESSES). Ooh, ouch. Two letter Ss "border" the word "serious."
  • 1D: Gas brand with a red "o" in its logo (MOBIL). I tried Amoco first. Because I'm an idiot. See also the part where I entered "Cicero" for CYRANO (9D: Rostand's long-nosed lover). **headdesk**
  • 11D: Punxsutawney predictor (PHIL). The rodent fortune teller. I'm a little surprised this one ever picked up any traction.
  • 30D: Adman's award (CLIO). Because all the people who work in the advertising business are men.
  • 32D: Welder's need (ACETYLENE). If you say so.
  • 37D: Sieben follower (ACHT). German!
  • 54D: Reading by a night light, perhaps (ABED). Where I should be right now … good-night, folks!
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 23A: Galeón booty (ORO).
  • 48A: Asian title of respect (SRI).
  • 55A: Russian city on the Oka (OREL).
  • 63A: U.S. Army decorations (DSC'S).
  • 54D: Reading by a night light, perhaps (ABED).
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Everything Else — 5A: What houses may be built on (SPEC); 9A: Li'l Abner's creator (CAPP); 13A: Some finals (ORALS); 20A: Winter sailcraft (ICE BOATS); 21A: Locks up (JAILS); 22A: Sgts.' superiors (LTS.); 30A: Coach in the air? (CLASS); 33A: Tries to sink, perhaps (RAMS); 34A: "Now I get it!" ("OHO!"); 35A: Journalist Clare Boothe __ (LUCE); 36A: Teases maliciously (BAITS); 39A: ___-de-France (ILE); 46A: America's Cup entry (YACHT); 47A: Bank book no. (INT.); 51A: Illegal pickoff moves, e.g. (BALKS); 53A: Out of the box (UNCRATED); 58A: First name in Old West fiction (ZANE); 59A: "Go away!" ("SHOO!"); 60A: Like Serling stories (EERIE); 61A: Be compliant (OBEY); 62A: Get wise with (SASS); 2D: Upright (ERECT); 3D: Rep's work (SALES); 4D: Schulz's Pig-Pen, e.g. (SLOB); 5D: Exact, to a Brit (SPOT ON); 6D: Porridge morsels (PEAS); 7D: Goof (ERR); 8D: Ruminant's mouthful (CUD); 10D: Equivocal (AMBIGUOUS); 12D: Coquette's wink, say (PASS); 18D: Adriatic port (BARI); 21D: Slim __: snack items (JIMS); 24D: One of those things (THAT); 25D: Bottom lines? (HEMS); 26D: Take habitually (USE); 27D: Like overused crossword clues (TRITE); 28D: Biblical pronoun (THEE); 29D: Ponderosa heavyweight (HOSS); 31D: Beaut (LULU); 36D: British spa town (BATH); 38D: Sound made with a head shake (TSK); 40D: U.S. Army E-3s (PFC'S); 41D: Early bird special item (ENTRÉE); 44D: Mottled horses (PINTOS); 45D: Move furtively (INCH); 48D: Oscar Night assembly (STARS); 49D: Dig find (RELIC); 50D: What a slacker does (IDLES); 51D: Oaf (BOZO); 52D: Certain Semite (ARAB); 53D: Area 51 sightings (UFO'S); 56D: WWII spy org. (OSS); 57D: Govt. loan insurer (FHA).



The clues in this Newman puzzle are anything but TRITE.
Clues like “Galeón booty” (ORO), “Bottom lines” (HEMS), and “Little Sure Shot“ (Annie OAKLEY) are just plain brilliant.

The four idioms used in the themes are all cleverly opposite in their prepositions.
Not only are the themes well constructed, but they do not compromise the cross fill.


The careless use of cheap crosswordese is at a minimum.

Not many new words for me, but I’d be willing to put this on my list of the “Ten Best Puzzles of 2010”.

The only thing I didn’t like was “Serious borders” (ESSES)… I hate those kind of cute-but-not-clever clues.

I’d say Pig-Pen in Peanuts is not a SLOB, he’s just honorably trying to conserve on water.
Now next to Charles Schulz, I think Al CAPP was the best of the best cartoonists… who could forget Joe Btfsplk or Moonbeam McSwine?

Time for my breakfast MESS.

Hope y’all feel “in the pink” today!

Tinbeni said...

You puzzle cover well. Agree I.
(damn, THAT YODA was here yesterday!).

Theme easier to get than normal (or was it harder?).
On the 'tightness scale' why do three have 'the' in the middle and the first one doesn't?

I like the Mini-Military theme, MESS, LTS, PFCS & DSC'S.

Are ENTREE's not offered after 'Early bird special' time?
Did the Village People sing YMHA?
Do I say, OHO! when I get something?
How does NOTHING fit in 5 blocks to explain what a Slacker really does (IDLES?).

Is PACT really a War ender? My first thought (as I gave in to the 'Dark Side') was to think 'A-Bomb.' Then I went off on a tangent thinking about all the waste of arming/disarming and how those funds could have been better used to benefit human-kind. (Almost said mankind, but I strive to be PC).

Like how TRITE for 'Overused crossword clues' could have also been clued as 'Overused crossword answers.'

FUN Thursday.

PuzzleGirl, Excellent write-up!
Hey, if it has a New York Yankee (M.Mantle) pic what else would I say?

Van55 said...

I thought 27D -- TRITE -- was apt today. Maybe the clues aren't, but too many of the answers are for my taste. Didn't like the theme all that much and thought the puzzle was far to easy today.

Burner10 said...

Just the right amount of difficulty for me - forgot OREL, grrr. I've seen 'bottom lines' before and didn't take the BAIT, but puzzled through 'Coach in the air' (imagining a parachute olympic team)!

*David* said...

Putting in TRITE and cluing it as overused crossword clue, you better be putting together a pretty damn good xword and this one wasn't it by a longshot on the fill.

DSCS (plural, nice),PFCS (ditto), OSS, FHA, INT, LTS, and YMHA (really if you say so). Putting ACETYLENE as one of the long down fills was truly a bummer of epic fail proportions.

You've worked on the cluing, now look at the fill, my friend.

CrazyCat said...

I'm feeling a little AMBIGUOUS about this puzzle. One one hand the cluing and the theme are clever, but the fill just doesn't sparkle for me. ACETYLENE? I did like the mini western theme of HOSS, PINTOS and ZANE. Fell for the ESSES clue. What a BOZO I am.

Anonymous said...

Please explain your rationale for saying acetylene as a long down fill is a bummer.

It seems to me that "if you say so" is somewhat insulting.

Kerry s

Anonymous said...

I sould have directed my comment to David, but now I include Craztcatlady. What is the matter with acetylene?

Kerry S

PuzzleGirl said...

@Kerry: The "if you say so" remark was mine so I'll respond to that. All that means is I've never heard the word before. I'm not a science-y person so I get thrown by answers like that all the time. Not sure how that's insulting to anyone but me.

Anonymous said...

ACETYLENE is a fine crossword answer. Since puzzlegirl didn't look it up for us today, it's the fuel used in welding torches and other similar devices.

CrazyCat said...

@Kerry Speaking for myself, I don't find chemical compounds to be very interesting in a crossword puzzle, especially when it's a 9 letter word. Perhaps that's because I'm not a chemist. I've never done any welding either. A chemist/welder may be thrilled to see it in his/her puzzle. You never know. And actually, you should have directed your comment to our blog host, Puzzle Girl.

Eric said...

Cute theme.

Likes: ACETYLENE. What's not to like? This is not crosswordese, not overused, and is well clued. (I did poorly in welding, back in grade-9 Shop class, but I'm not going to carry a grudge against the very terminology, several decades on.)
"Like overused crossword clues" -> TRITE: I personally haven't seen the answer overused, so I found this witty, not, erm, trite.

Dislikes: "Early bird special item" -> ENTREE: What @Tinbeni said. Plus, as a compound adjective, "early-bird" should be hyphenated (pet peeve of mine).
Too many sports clues. (At least RAMS wasn't yet another -- even if I might actually have got it.)

Gimmes: PERU, CAPP, HOSS, BATH (I once spent a week there, and toured the ruins of the Roman baths). LUCE should have been, but I blanked (I even had, semi-consciously, the association with Time Magazine; just not the needed name).

"COACH class" for air travel is a new one to me; I'm used to it for rail, but only to the synonym "economy class" for air.

For 16A, "Jewish youth org.", I started with YMjA, misremembering the former name of what is now the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, at Bloor and Spadina in Toronto. But PjIL doesn't make any sense for the cross. YMHA is for real, though; the first one was founded in 1854, only ten years after the first YMCA. (It turns out there's something called "YMJA" too, but it's not remotely "the Y"; it looks like stealth (i.e. dishonest) proselytization aimed at the young and impressionable *shudder*.)

For 44D, "Mottled horses", I guessed PaintS, but corrected it from crosses -- and from a guess, later confirmed, that PINTO is simply Spanish for "painted". I'd known PINTO was something to do with horses (and exploding Fords :-/), but not, until today, just what.

28D, "Biblical pronoun" was half-obvious: had to be TH??. But the other half had to come from crosses.

Speaking of which: re. "Part of H.R.H." from yesterday: @JNH, as one who has lived all my life in a Commonwealth country, and who has known no monarch but H.R.H. Elizabeth II, it was quite the opposite for me. HER came reflexively; I had to stop and remind myself to wait for crosses in case the puzzle was looking for HIS.

C said...

Hmm, I am ambivalent to this puzzle, neither liked nor dis-liked the puzzle. An OK solve, most challenging of the week but not that challenging.

re: ACETYLENE. I think this is one of the less obscure chemical references, widely used in welding. Not a word you would hear/read everyday but you might every month. Full disclosure, I have multiple degrees in chemistry so I could have an inherent bias.

*David* said...

ACETYLENE isn't a word I connect to on any level, I suppose if I was into welding then I would get a kick out of it. It seems to me it's bad enough when we get ENE as a fill, to complete the deal with an entire word is a meh moment.

mac said...

I liked this puzzle, mainly because it didn't roll over. Mess, balks and class took a long time to get.

Wasn't crazy about the theme, but there is plenty to like in this puzzle: spot on, Cyrano, ambiguous, acetylene (not science-y either, but what else after a couple of crosses?) and thing!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this puzzle and Puzzle Girl, I really enjoy reading your comments. Thank you. I'm learning more every day.

Tinbeni said...

@Anon 12:27
Glad to hear you're having FUN.

Remember the only real judge of this, or any other puzzle, is you!

Don't let the naysayer's (Sometimes that will be me) determine whether or not the grid was a good one or not, TO YOU!

The 'Regular's' here are a great bunch of crossword lover's. We may carp and nitpick occasionally about some clues & answers but mostly we come here for PuzzleGirl's knowledge and wonderful write-up.


You guys amaze me with your crabbing over ACETYLENE.
I don't think it's fair to toss out a puzzle just because it has a word that you don't have in your vocabulary. Actually I find that the puzzles fitting my criterion for excellence are those that have a few words I never heard of before, otherwise I might as well just stick to doing those in Highlights Magazine.

CrazyCat said...

@Tin: Nicely said. I guess I took a turn at being the Grinch today.

For the record, the only thing I found interesting about chemistry class was my lab partner. So, include me among the "non-sciencey." I was able to get Acetylene through the crosses, but what @David said was spot on. It was a "meh moment." Just MHO : )

Thanks for your write-up PG. Glad you were able to work out your technical glitch.

Tinbeni said...

Your 2:33 comment hit home and had me actually laughing out loud.

One criteria I look for in every puzzle is that *Learning moment.*

Generally I find them in the Conductor, Classical music, Plant name (yup, I can see you lol at these since you know I'll be toast), Foreign word, 19th century book (I've never read or heard of), Pop star or movie (not from my generation) the list seems to get longer everyday.

In accounting ACETYLENE torches aren't used very often.
But surprise, surprise! (Hey, Gomer get out of my rant, damn it!) I have heard Welder's do use them on occasion.

Funny thing today my very first entry was 'Journalist Clare Boothe____' and just plopped in LUCE without thinking.
I'm sure I learned it here in the last year.

Grinch? Naaahh!!!
Teeny nitpick, if that.
Now get THAT 'cat up-the-tree' a carp.

slypett said...

What's up with the program? When the gizmo gets to the box identifying today's game--it's just dead.

ddbmc said...

Ahhh, I kinda liked ACETYLENE...My dad had one of those torches. I was disappointed to discover that it could not be used when making creme brulee. More like creme charcolee.

@PG, I had the same issues you had with the puzzle today. Originally thought 'BOOTS'MEAL was TUNA (Ya know, like Puss N'Boots??), but then got MOBIL. D'oh!

Could not, for the life of me, remember "LITTLE SURE SHOT," and yet dressed as Annie Oakley for one Halloween, back in the day!

@Tin, wouldn't you use OHO during that Pirate Week in Tampa???
@CCL, you're entitled to be "catty" now and again.
Now, where's my Highlight's Magazine?

Tinbeni said...


That was great. Reminded how we had some repartee back in February. When it was "Talk like a Gasparilla Pirate Day here."
(And that would be OH HO! OH HO!)

Anonymous said...

Put "arbitrary" instead of "ambiguous" which effectively derailed me for the rest of the puzzle...argh!

-Sue P.

Anonymous said...

i thought this puzzle was poor.
most times a person has a chance to get most of the words by crossing, but not today. too many tricks w the clues. i don't mind hard words vert or hor, but not both ways.

anyway, personally didn't enjoy it.

too "puzzling" for me.

Tinbeni said...

Anon 8:04
Concentrate for a while on the Monday through Wednesday (they're easier).

Pretty soon clues like 'Coach in the air' you will look at and say "Where is there a coach in the air?"
Then the V-8 can will hit your forehead! And you will say "of course, on that airplane, where Pig-Pen, the SLOB, flies coach CLASS, and is a MESS."

Today's puzzle had some tough clues even fot the 'old hands.' That clue drove me crazy for the longest time
(I could show you the head dent).

PuzzleGirl has great insight and is a great teacher.
Check out the CW101 button for the common stuff.
I've done crosswords for 35 or 40 years, still learning new stuff everyday.

Sue P
Not too bad for a pirate, argh!

Anonymous said...

Not because they are men but because CLIO was a Greek muse.


Eric said...

@ddbmc: I LOL'ed at your ACETYLENE comment! (Even if your crème had turned out brûlée as planned, I'm not sure I'd want to eat it. Is acetylene volatile enough not to linger in the finished product?)

Tinbeni said...

My MOM was in advertising. Won a couple of CLIO's.

At the time I was too young to realize it was a big deal.

Now my Sister-in-law's 3 EMMY's do have a nice place on their mantle.

Anonymous said...

OMG I'm delighted to find this site! I get it in the St. Pete Times (FLA). Figuring out the clues is as much fun as finding the answers. 3rd generation CW adict - no one will play Scrabble with me.