03.01 Tue

March 1, 2011
Donna S. Levin

Theme: Incognito — The first word of each theme answer is a synonym for "unidentified."

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Cop's often-unreliable lead (ANONYMOUS TIP).
  • 28A: Retailer's private label (NO-NAME BRAND).
  • 50A: Facetious name for a school cafeteria staple (MYSTERY MEAT).
  • 56A: "The Gong Show" regular with a paper bag on his head, with "the" (UNKNOWN COMIC).
Happy March, everybody. Seems like there's been a streak of puzzles that — despite their good points — didn't really sit well with me for one reason or another. Thank goodness Donna's here! This was a very smooth puzzle to me. The theme answers are all (every single one of them!) lively and they hang together well as a theme. There's some crosswordese and some fill that's kinda blah, but that's okay on Tuesday, especially if they're offset by sparkly entries like:
  • 52A: Checkers demand (KING ME).
  • 5D: West Coast ocean concern (TSUNAMI).
  • 6D: Mingle (with) (HOBNOB).
All that with the added bonus of a grammar/punctuation lesson — 23A: Apostropheless possessive (ITS) — and I can consider this a solid puzzle all the way around.

  • 10A: The man's partner, in a Shaw title (ARMS). The play is called "Arms and the Man." Personally, I've never heard of it. All I could think of was THE SEA. Okay, I admit it. My first thought was actually CHICO.
  • 16A: "Trés __!" (BIEN). French!
  • 17A: Screw-up (SNAFU). Seems like every time this shows up, someone has never heard of it. It stands for Situation Normal All Fouled Up. There is at least one other F-word that can be used in place of "Fouled."
  • 42A: Martial arts-influenced workout (TAE BO). Yep, I bought the videotapes. Pretty sure they're stuffed back in a corner in the basement right now.
  • 60A: March Madness org. (NCAA). March Madness refers, of course, to the annual college basketball championship tournaments. As Joon mentioned in the comments yesterday, the phrase "Midnight Madness" also has a connection to college basketball.
  • 67A: Row of waiters (LINE). Did you picture a row of aloof-looking, bow-tied men, each with a cloth napkin draped over one forearm? I know I did.
  • 68A: Dweebish (NERDY). I resemble that remark!
  • 4D: Davenport, e.g. (SOFA). Because TOWN IN IOWA didn't fit.
  • 9D: Jane Eyre, e.g. (HEROINE). Struggled mightily to put my finger on the word GOVERNESS, only to find it didn't fit.
  • 22D: Reverse (UNDO). Do any of you remember a TV ad from a while back (I think it was for IBM) where a bunch of co-workers are huddled around a computer laughing because they're composing some kind of smart-ass email to their boss (or maybe a client)? The email ends up getting sent, even though that wasn't the intention, and they're all "Unsend! Unsend!" That's the catchphrase we use in the PuzzleHouse whenever we need a do-over.
  • 35D: Performed in an aquacade (SWAM). I do not believe I've ever come across the word "aquacade" before, but it was pretty easy to piece together what the answer might be.
  • 44D: Cyclone's most dangerous part (EYEWALL). I also don't believe I've ever heard of EYEWALL before. Then again, I've always thought tornados and cyclones were the same thing. (They're not!)
  • 59D: "Moonstruck" Oscar winner (CHER). Oh good. An opportunity to post one of my favorite video clips.

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 36A: Clerical robes (ALBS).
  • 47A: RR stop (STA.).
  • 70A: WWII carriers (LST'S).
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Everything Else 1A: Rollicking good time (BLAST); 6A: "Pipe down!" ("HUSH!"); 14A: Western neckwear (BOLOS); 15A: Leer at (OGLE); 18A: Fuzzy image (BLUR); 19A: Jedi guru (YODA); 26A: Start of a Latin I conjugation (AMO); 27A: Snack for a gecko (INSECT); 32A: Milne hopper (ROO); 33A: Caroline Kennedy, to Maria Shriver (COUSIN); 34A: Three-layer snacks (OREOS); 37A: "The Bachelor" network (ABC); 38A: Laundry (WASH); 45A: Chewed like a beaver (GNAWED); 47A: RR stop (STA.); 54A: Glutton (PIG); 55A: Lic.-issuing bureau (DMV); 61A: Passed with flying colors (ACED); 62A: Up front (AHEAD); 66A: Former U.N. leader Waldheim (KURT); 69A: Evian et al. (SPAS); 71A: Swap (TRADE); 1D: Air gun pellets (BB'S); 2D: Chaney of horror (LON); 3D: Chicken-king link (ALA); 7D: Like an extremely unpleasant situation (UGLY); 8D: Inner city blight (SLUM); 10D: Deep fissure (ABYSS); 11D: Tear gas target (RIOTER); 12D: Sawbones (MEDICO); 13D: Shape up (SNAP TO); 21D: Harbinger (OMEN); 23D: Machu Picchu architect (INCA); 24D: Home Depot buy (TOOL); 25D: Cold shoulder (SNUB); 29D: Right hand: Abbr. (ASST.); 30D: Mechanical worker (ROBOT); 31D: Circumference part (ARC); 37D: "Washboard" muscles (ABS); 39D: Astounded (AWED); 40D: Fabric joint (SEAM); 41D: Rec room centerpiece (HD TV); 43D: 1-Down, e.g. (AMMO); 44D: Cyclone's most dangerous part (EYEWALL); 45D: Harsh (GRIM); 46D: NFLer who used to play in Yankee Stadium (N.Y. GIANT); 47D: Striped stinkers (SKUNKS); 48D: Costner/Russo golf flick (TIN CUP); 49D: Anatolian Peninsula capital (ANKARA); 51D: Some Horace poems (EPODES); 53D: Pesky fliers (GNATS); 57D: "JAG" spin-off (NCIS); 58D: Penny (CENT); 63D: Memorable time (ERA); 64D: Total (ADD); 65D: Color, in a way (DYE).



This puzzle is just plain UGLY!

SethG said...

I don't understand the clue/answer combo for NO NAME BRAND. That's a specific private label brand, in Canada. There's also a company called No Name Steaks, but that's also branded. If "no name" is being used adjectively, I'm not sure that's a phrase, and if it is it's one I've never heard used to refer to private label brands.

And why is the set in the rec room necessarily HD?

v-man said...

I also have never heard of eye wall before. My wife just informed me that it was mentioned in my son's Magic Tree House book so it's used in literary circles.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the unknown comic and king me references also

cw stewart said...

Nice smooth puzzle, Donna. Thank you!

Avg Joe said...

Easy puzzle, but it had some clever cluing. I sure had the minds eye view of a row of guys in bow ties. But got over it:-)

The NO NAME term is in common use here in the middle of the middle. Store brand is used more often, but no name can sure be used to denote a brand name that is not known nationally. The distinction was greater back in the era of generics, but not so much anymore.

EYEWALL is almost always mentioned any time a hurricane makes landfall.

Thanks for the Cher clip. I don't go a week without saying: "Snap out of it!"

Unknown said...

Cyclones are west coast hurricanes. Everyone here in hurricane country on the east coast knows what an eyewall is. I also flew thru this puzzle today (that doesn't happen very often for me.). Keep up the good work. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This puzzle appears in my paper, the Sun Sentinel in South Florida. Someome really screwed up because 1 down,s clue was "Chaney of horror". Had to work 1,14 and 17 across to solve 1 down which was BB's.

Anonymous said...

I've spent more than my fair share of time watching idiot weathermen standing on a pier somewhere almost getting blown away by an approaching hurricane, and the term EYEWALL never penetrated my consciousness if it were ever used at all.
NONAMEBRAND is an oxymoron, unless it's used as SethG mentioned.
If I were to get all meta in my puzzle critique, I would say the blandness of this puzzle was its fifth theme element, but I think that's over reaching.

Hiram said...

Check out this eyewall. Creepy!

Larry Sittig said...

I'll put my hand up for enjoyable, clever puzzle, and for the restaurant scene of identically dressed servers.

Have you noticed how in many restaurants these days little Tiffany comes up, being sure to interrupt you mid-sentence, and says, "Hi, I'm Tiffany and I'll be serving you today," and then she takes your order but other people then serve you the food?

So the Spanish for doctor, MEDICO, is also English slang? Didn't know that. Faced with AR_S for the MYSTERY Shaw title, I figured that tED ICO was some famous surgeon I'd never heard of.

*David* said...

No write overs, you can just call me by the pseudonym the "Pen Man".

'40s platitude said...

@Larry Sittig - They also serve who sit and wait.

StudioCitySteve said...

Very cool puzzle today. Learned a couple of new words (EYEWALL and EPODES), although I'm sure my classics teacher back at school would be annoyed to find that EPODES never stuck in my brain, however many times we read Horace.

Loved the queue of restaurant workers also, and RIOTER.

Had my first do-over for a while when I went for CHASM before ABYSS (I had the S cross), but not a major problem.

I was in Hong Kong once when a cyclone passed directly overhead - for an hour Hong Kong harbor was like glass, two hours either side the winds were gusting over 100MPH. Very weird.

Sfingi said...

Harder and more clever than NYT, today.

2 rewrites: chic before BIEN, All before ADD.

Also had not heard of an EYEWALL. Apparently is right beyond the eye.

Avg Joe said...

@Hiram, OK, in response to your eye wall, have you ever seen Two Feet of Snow :-)

John Wolfenden said...

Smooth and enjoyable. EYEWALL is a cool word.

I watched a few minutes of "The Bachelor" last night. I have a friend who's worked on the show and I was expecting to at least enjoy the execution of it. Maybe it's because I'm a guy, but what's the appeal of that show? I like some reality programs like "Top Chef" that are actually about something real, but watching an entire hour of nothing but contrived drama seems like swallowing a hard-boiled egg whole.

C said...

Smooth puzzle solve, KINGME and HOBNOB, good stuff. EYEWALL is a new one for me but cut me some slack, I am a west coast kid so the wind related circular disasters are not known to me.

Nighthawk said...

Fun puzzle, but had several stumbles, so wasn't totally smooth for me. Fell into the iOwA Davenport trap, had tres' chic for BIEN, and EPical for EPODES, which made me have UNKNOWN miMIC for a while. Got them all sorted finally.

MYSTERY MEAT made me laugh. I've suffered from plenty of it. Once, about a third of my high school was hit by explosive intestinal problems within about 45 min to an hour after lunch. Not fun. Lasted several days. If it has a green sheen, it ain't clean!

Donna L. said...

I never expected EYEWALL to be a tough one. It all depends on one's frame of reference, I guess: I live on a barrier island in Florida that was crushed by Hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Wilma in the last decade, so EYEWALLs are in the lexicon down here. Sorry if I misjudged their general familiarity.

-- Donna L.

mac said...

Nice puzzle, and thanks for the constructors to show up!

backbiter said...

I really didn't know "eyewall" was so unknown. C'mon down and live in Florida, you will become familiar with that term rather quickly. I really liked today's puzzle. My favorite answer is hobnob. It reminds me of chocolate hobnob in the bartender sketch from Fry and Laurie. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BjDmEhbPLY LOL!

Sfingi said...

@Donna - Guess it's comparable to "Lake Effect" snow. We like to learn.
Appreciated the puzzle.

@AvgJoe - loved - and saved - your 2 feet of snow.

@Wolfenden - can't stand most reality shows. Especially hate the one in which they shout at fat people. I'm waiting for the first heart attack. Understand your point about it having to be about something. My sister who likes to sew and design patterns loves the runway show.