T H U R S D A Y   August 26, 2010
Don Gagliardo

Theme: Hitting the Nail on the Head — Twelve words in the grid can be described as something that's hit in an idiomatic phrase.

Theme answers:
  • 1A: *Bag (SACK).
  • 5A: *Pump output (GAS).
  • 8A: *Follow (TRAIL).
  • 16A: *Road surface (PAVEMENT).
  • 18A: *Holdup causes? (BRAKES).
  • 28A: *Rain protection (ROOF).
  • 44A: *Grilling site (DECK).
  • 59A: *Cola holder (BOTTLE).
  • 60A: *Range target (BULL'S-EYE).
  • 64A: *Warehouse aids (SKIDS).
  • 65A: *Guinea pig food (HAY).
  • 66A: *Location (SPOT).
  • 22D/42K: Words that can precede the answers to starred clues (HIT / THE).
I enjoyed this theme a lot. Not too flashy, and there sure was a lot of it! Every single "hit the …" phrase is solid, which is a real plus. There is definitely some questionable fill, but I think the crosses are all good. Let us know in the comments if/where you had trouble today. Wait. "Hit the trail"? Is that good? I would prefer "Hit the road." I bet "trail" is fine though.

  • 20A: Morrie Turner comic strip about ethnically diverse kids (WEE PALS). I'd never heard of this comic strip before. A cursory look through the Internet Machine makes me think it's sort of a multicultural Family Circus (humor about mundane family situations, often about the funny things children say) but with a little bit of straight-up talk about race, and an occasionaly Black History moment. Trying to do too much? Maybe if I actually followed it it would feel more coherent (duh).
  • 32A: Southern stretch? (DRAWL). Last year I had the pleasure of meeting a girlfriend I had only known online. She's from North Carolina and it was pretty funny how genuinely surprised I was to hear her accent. Well she doesn't type with an accent so how would I know?!
  • 36A: Like many cameras (DIGITAL). Spent all day yesterday researching various digital cameras for the office. Good times.
  • 45A: Musical satirist Tom (LEHRER). I feel like I've posted "The Vatican Rag" a couple times already, so how about some "New Math":

  • 3D: Batman's hideout (CAVE). Nice spicy clue for a not-very-exciting word.
  • 11D: Eyjafjallajökull's country: Abbr. (ICEL.). When that volcano blew, media people all over the world were thanking God for cut-and-paste.
  • 17D: Shaker on the kids' show "Blue's Clues" (MR. SALT). Hah! Gimme! I knew having children would come in handy one day!
  • 18D: Convicted Ponzi schemer Madoff (BERNIE). I didn't realize for quite a while that his last name is actually pronounced "made off." I mean, that's pretty funny, right?
  • 29D: Dental restoration (ONLAY). I wanted "inlay" here for the simple reason that it's a word I've heard before.
  • 31D: Many business letters (FAXES). Um … no. Very, very few business letters are faxes these days. I have no hard data to back up that claim, but I'm sticking to it.
  • 37D: Siren quality (ALLURE). This is the mermaid-type siren (are they mermaids?) not the ambulance-type siren.
  • 53D: Hun king, in Scandinavian legend (ATLI). This is Crosswordese 301.
  • 55D: "__ lid on it!" (PUT A). HAha! I got this one totally through crosses before I saw the clue and thought "PUTA is in the puzzle? That's ... odd."
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 21A: D-Day carrier (LST).
  • 34A: Yours, in Tours (À TOI).
  • 10D: "My Way" lyricist (ANKA).
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Everything Else — 13A: Longtime portrait studio __ Mills (OLAN); 14A: Strasbourg street (RUE); 15A: For this reason (HENCE); 19A: More than frown on (SNEER AT); 22A: "__ Tonic": 1945 Bugs Bunny title (HARE); 23A: Green source, briefly (ATM); 26A: Give as a task (ASSIGN); 35A: On Vine St., say (IN L.A.); 38A: Retailer offering video streaming (NETFLIX); 40A: Legendary work, often (EPIC); 41A: Miller __ (LITE); 43A: Emit, as a sigh (HEAVE); 47A: "Indubitably!" ("YES!"); 48A: D-Day month (JUNE); 49A: Pep (VIM); 51A: To some degree (OF A SORT); 55A: Bridge supports (PILINGS); 61A: __ ease (ILL AT); 62A: Braves, on scoreboards (ATL); 63A: 1998 skating gold medalist Lipinski (TARA); 1D: Cleans (up) using Bounty (SOPS); 2D: Greenspan concerned with green (ALAN); 4D: Get down to earth? (KNEEL); 5D: Immortals (GREATS); 6D: Patty or Selma, to Lisa Simpson (AUNT); 7D: Combo's group of numbers (SET); 8D: Number in a combo, maybe (THREE); 9D: Collect (REAP); 10D: "My Way" lyricist (ANKA); 12D: More, some say (LESS); 20D: Western driver (WAGONER); 23D: Said further (ADDED); 24D: Rubbish (TRIPE); 25D: Orlando cagers (MAGIC); 27D: Conspicuous (SALIENT); 28D: All over (RIFE); 30D: Martini garnish (OLIVE); 33D: Oil lamp feature (WICK); 39D: It might be cheap (THRILL); 46D: How villains laugh (EVILLY); 48D: Throws for a loop (JOLTS); 50D: Waters gently (MISTS); 51D: Asian sashes (OBIS); 52D: Acoustic guitar genre (FOLK); 54D: Dutch town (STAD); 56D: Minimum-range tide (NEAP); 57D: Lamb sandwich (GYRO); 58D: Usher's find (SEAT); 60D: Part of a legendary Christmas complaint (BAH).


Van55 said...

Last week was so much better for the LAT crosswords. This one was too easy for my taste. Not bad, but not memorable.

Joon said...

i disrespectfully disagree. this one was one of the most memorable LAT puzzles of the year. kudos to don g for a really fresh theme and a ton of lively theme answers.

*David* said...

I was impressed with the sheer quantity of what were theme words. I liked the fact that it freed up the grid from being the standard 3-5 theme lines.
I also like the craftsmanship of having HIT and THE right above each other.

Other then ICEL it is an amzingly clean grid. I liked the two "green' clues. Oveall I found it a smooth solve and one that made me think, really nice work.


Wow! Twelve theme words packed into a 15 x 15 and they're all symmetrical within the grid... now that's nothing to SNEER AT> Fast solve and fun clues makes this a very pleasant Thursday puzzle.

I knew that Frank Sinatra often sang "My Way", but I never knew that Paul ANKA wrote that. Marvelous!

I didn't like the abbreviation for Iceland (ICEL), but loved pronouncing Eyjafjallajokull.

Also, I love saying "Indubitably" real fast.

Good work, Don! Thank you.
I think I'll add this to my list of the TEN-BEST-PUZZLES-FOR-2010.

Gorgeous day here, so it's time to hit the PAVEMENT!

Sfingi said...

I rather liked this - especially, as @David said - "the sheer quantity."
Like @PuzzleGirl I was looking for "road," but gee. In my case, I would include "HIT THE ATM," a phrase I often use.

But, I haven't used the word ONLAY. Google says crowns are ONLAYs, and I have a couple of those with my 15+ root canals. So, I think I'll start using the word.

Never heard of ATOI (Fr.) WEEPALS, MRSALT (these two are really little kid's entertainments) or ATLA. That must be my buddy Attila - he has many names, including Etzel.

I had oPus before EPIC, and EdAm before STAD. I was very surprised at the use of the Dutch word.

One word that made me think was WAGONER. I always say WAGONEeR, 2 Es. Whatever.

@John - how do you say... that word?

Rex Parker said...

Wow, Joon, I'm shocked you liked this so much. I mean, the theme is solid, even entertaining, but the fill, criminy. I audibly winced at least three times: At STAD / SKIDS (no idea what SKIDS clue is getting at), ATLI, ONLAY, OLAN, ICEL, INLA. Some of my issues w/ the puzzle involved cluing, but some was just fill itself. I want to like WEE PALS and MR. SALT, but ... I'll just say I'm neutral. Never heard of either. I think it's a good puzzle overall, but nowhere close to one of the best, in the LAT or elsewhere.

Sheer number of theme answers *is* impressive. Miss BRICKS and (obvious) ROAD, but can't really complain. :)

And DIGITAL NETFLIX makes a nice centerpiece.

Tinbeni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tinbeni said...

FUN Thursday!

Liked 11 of the phrases ... but I would never,
HIT THE BOTTLE. Caress maybe but NEVER hit.

Can't say I've ever seen the Iceland abbr. ICEL before.
Still waithing for the volcano Eyjafjallajökull to make an appearance. (Probably in a Sunday, unLESS we get an expanded 16x15, like the NYT today).

Not familiar with "Blue's Clues" but shaker for MR.SALT gave that away.

LEHRER and WEE PALS, both all crosses. Ahhh, learning moments I'll soon forget unLESS they become grid buddies like Tesla.

Pallets or SKIDS are a stacking device moved around a warehouse with a forklift. Great clue.

Kenny said...

Rex, skids is another name for pallets, which get used heavily in warehouse environments. And, of course, "hit the skids" is when your life spirals out of control in a typically downward fashion. Or, were you not really asking, and I was too slow to catch on? It's happened before and will, undoubtedly, happen again.

C said...

IMO, today's puzzle was OK. I like challenge in my puzzles and this one didn't put up too much of one. I had a slow down at STAD as I had, without thinking, put in EDAM but that was a quick course correction.

Theme was OK, I liked the change of pace with having two words in front of the starred clues but the payoff just wasn't there for me in the end. Wasn't disappointing by any means but not noteworthy to me in the end as a puzzle consumer.

Joon said...

i'm not going to say i loved the fill, but on a weekday, i can forgive a lot in the fill if the theme is both ambitious and eye-catching. and this one qualifies. ICEL and ATLI are the only answers that really made me cringe today. MR SALT and WEE PALS were utterly mysterious to me, but not in a bad way.


Stick to your guns, Joon.
Rex is wacko!

I can tell the elite prof has never worked in a factory or warehouse... SKIDS are everywhere there (pallets).

Zeke said...

@Rex - Perhaps you just missed the mini theme 23D/24D, which provided an excuse for OLAN/INLA. That, and the shout out to me at 25D/33D made it a truly memorable puzzle.

hazel said...

@Joon - please quit bogarting that joint!! Spread the wealth, man! This was a good solve, nothing to sneeze at, but surely not THAT memorable. My statement is qualified, of course, by my assumption that the area of my brain that remembers puzzles is really tiny, and the area in your brain is likely much larger!

I do admit that I would never have guessed there were so many different hitting idioms in the language - and that he squeezed so many of them into the grid.

Missed seeing books, bricks and sauce, tho.

Van55 said...

Wow! I am used to generating disagreement, but not so much disrespectful disagreement. That seems unnecessarily harsh when it comes to something as subjective as a crossword puzzle's memorableness.

It does seem to me that there are many more words that fit the "hit the ________" idiom than those put more or less randomly in this grid, so the theme didn't impress me much. And joon, RP and I agree that much of the fill is iffy at best. So for me, very respectfully, this is not a puzzle I will remember very long.

SethG said...

I've worked in a factory. I didn't know what SKIDS were. We...called them pallets. My dictionary's 8th definition of SKID is "a low platform mounted (as on wheels) on which material is set for handling and moving; also: PALLET 3". That is, the 3rd definition of the 2nd meaning of pallet.

My last car was named after Blue, and Tom Lehrer invented the jello shot.

Sfingi said...

I never heard of HIT THE bricks - so I Googled. It means go on strike. I would have thought it meant looking for a job. It's good to learn new stuff, even kiddie shows.

We got some good explanations of SKIDS. I'd love to buy about 10 plastic ones to store things on down cellar, but they only sell by the 100. Advice? The wood ones are too heavy, and rot.
As a '66 grad of SKIDmore, I think of that connection and of SKIDdieS.

Just thought of HIT THE books, meaning study. Do people use that anymore? Not the Karate chop.

I scarcely remember any puzzle, as puzzle, but I try to remember new words. Oldsters have to choose what to remember, remember.

John Wolfenden said...

I'm in the "memorable" camp on this one. Devising a theme with that many answers that hasn't been done before must be tough.

Part of what makes English such a great language is the wealth of idiomatic expressions, and my favorite themes celebrate that fact.

CrazyCat said...

I got a THRILL (well sort of) out of this one. Don't know if it's the most memorable, but it was fun and RIFE with theme answers. Liked HIT THE right in the middle. Thought that was pretty impressive. Had Crown before ONLAY. For some reason I know what SKIDS are. I have no idea why. I kind of liked IN LA. That's where I'll be this weekend - well Santa Monica. The only thing I really would say BAH to is ICEL. A year ago, I would have had no idea what a "medium range tide" was. Today I confidently entered NEAP.

@sfingi: I also HIT the ATM often. We've had À TOI many times. It's the familiar version of à vous. My cousin went to SKIDmore probably around the same time as you.
@PG Great New Math video. The switch from "old math" to new math was my downfall. It confused me so much, I never recovered. It made me hate math.

shrub5 said...

Enjoyable puzzle despite ICEL. New words for me: ONLAY, SKIDS (as pallets) and ATLI.

More things to HIT:

Anonymous said...

I love puzzles that bring back great memories from the 50s and 60s. Last month it was Josh White's "One meat ball" (you gets no bread with one meatball...). Today we get Tom Lehrer, one of my first LPs. His "Be Prepared" the Boy Scout's Marching Song was relevant esp. before the Pill.
"If you're looking for an adventure of a new and different kind
And you come across a Girl Scout who is similarly inclined
Don't be nervous, don't be flustered, don't be scared

choirwriter said...

MY "duh!" moment was putting together the "shaker" clue with the answer "Mr. Salt." I couldn't imagine what kind of Shaker character they would have on a cartoon dog show (thinking Shaker as a religious sect). Good grief!

And of course, throughout the whole solve, as a music person I kept waiting for Hit the Road, Jack!

Fun theme - I'd like to see more of these. I also liked the symmetry of the answers, John.

Anonymous said...

I'd rate this as a really fun puzzle. Incredible how leaving a half-finished puzzle to bake while you're at work makes things so obvious when you take a second look at the end of the day. Duh.

HUTCH said...

Too late to comment but what the deuce! Hit the skids comes from Seattle. In logging the hills, they made skids to slide the logs down to the bay for transport. Later when a lumberjack went on the sauce, they said"he's hitting the skids". Cross my heart, it's true!

badrog said...

Re "road" and "trail" after "hit the",

Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, and every "Slim" and "Tex" would have, in their day, have hit the trail. These days, we would (or might be told to ...) hit the road.

And I still think cowboys and indians is more fun the GI Joe/Jane or Zoids.