03.10 Thu

March 10, 2011
Pamela Amick Klawitter

Theme: Switchblade — The letters BLADE appear in the theme answers, in a different order each time.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Negotiation obstacle (DEAL BREAKER).
  • 23A: Recovery sites (HOSPITAL BEDS).
  • 48A: Most agree it should be reduced (NATIONAL DEBT).
  • 59A: Street weapon, and a hint to the circled letters in 17-, 23- and 48-Across (SWITCHBLADE).
Before we get started talking about this fun puzzle, I just want to say a little bit about the blog's Crosswordese 101 feature. This blog has always been geared toward solvers who might just be starting out doing crossword puzzles or who want to learn some things that will help them enjoy crossword puzzles more fully. We decided to highlight in each puzzle a word that will be super helpful to you as a solver — a word that appears over and over again in puzzles because of its useful letters. A list of all the crosswordese we've featured is available here, with links to the individual posts.

For a while now, I've been including a "Crosswordese 101 Round-Up" at the end of each post because a lot of times we've already covered all the crosswordese in that day's grid. But having it down there at the bottom means people ignore it, which is totally fine! Believe me, I'm not under the impression that everyone gives their full attention to this blog every single day, reading every single word. But if you're new to solving or are having trouble parsing a short entry with a lot of common letters, chances are it would be really helpful for you to know that word and how it's likely to be clued. This is all a long drawn-out way of saying that I'm moving the CW101 round-up to the top of the blog because I think it might be more helpful up here. I guess we'll see.

Crosswordese 101 Round-Up:

These words should be added to that part of your brain where you keep information you need for solving crossword puzzles. They appear over and over (and over and over … and over) in puzzles, so it will help you to know them! (Each word in this list is a link. If you click on it, you'll be taken to the post where the word was first featured in CW101. There are probably some details there that will help you remember the word and how it's clued!)
  • 1D: Yeats's "__ and the Swan" (LEDA).
  • 27D: "House" actor Omar (EPPS).
  • 41D: Dubai big shot (EMIR).
So. On to the puzzle. Today's puzzle has one of those themes that makes sense to me. The letters of the word BLADE are "switched" around in the theme answers because there's this thing called a SWITCHBLADE that we've all heard of. The word BLADE was not chosen randomly — it's word play is what it is, and I appreciate that. HOSPITAL BEDS and NATIONAL DEBT are kind of ho-hum as far as phrases go, but DEAL BREAKER is awesome and is a tricky first theme entry. I saw that the circled letters were DEALB and wondered what the heck that could be about. (Me: "DEAL B? Does that come after DEAL A?")

There was some fun, tricky cluing in this one too:
  • 40A: State capital component, often (SALES TAX). "Capital" in this clue is the money kind, not the seat of government kind.
  • 46A: Trading places (EMPORIA). Places where things are traded.
  • 54A: Reason for the downfall of many kings? (ACES). The question mark should have clued you into the fact that this wasn't about actual royalty.
  • 3D: Sweet Sixteen initials (NCAA). When the NCAA basketball tournament is narrowed down to 16 teams, that's called the "Sweet Sixteen." After that you get the "Elite Eight," then the "Final Four." Is there a nickname for the championship game? I thought it was "The Big Dance," but that's actually a nickname for the whole tournament. Hmmm.
There were a couple things in the grid that I just really didn't know:
  • 1A: Calrissian of "Star Wars" films (LANDO). Is there a first name in there somewhere? Okay, LANDO Calrissian is the character played by Billy Dee Williams in a couple of "Star Wars" movies.
  • 16A: __ mater (PIA). Never heard of this. Apparently it's the "delicate innermost layer of the … membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord." So, yeah, kind of important I guess.
  • 26D: "Taking Woodstock" director (LEE). I kind of knew this but couldn't come up with it without crosses.
  • 61D: Electronic storage density meas. (BPI). "Bits per inch" or "Bytes per inch" indicates the density of magnetic tape, which is used as electronic storage.
  • 22A: Surgeon's patient, perhaps (TREE). I mistyped TBSP. (22D: Kitchen meas. ) as GBSP and couldn't figure out what the heck a GREE was.
  • 45A: Apollo 11 destination (MOON). Four letters having to do with space? Yeah, my first thought was MARS. (Mars!)
  • 65A: Turk's topper (FEZ). Always happy to see a FEZ in the grid. People should wear more FEZes.
  • 66A: Fills (up) (GASES). The other college sports tournament gearing up right now is, of course, the NCAA Wrestling Championships (Go Hawks!). In wrestling, the word GAS is mostly used to describe a wrestler who isn't in good enough condition to be competitive through a match's total seven minutes. Example: "I can't believe Bubba Jenkins got the fourth seed. You know he just gases in the third."
  • 9D: Rush find (ORE). Followed immediately by 10D: Galley tool (OAR). There are days when this probably would have annoyed me, but today I thought it was kinda cute.
  • 24D: Come-__: lures (ONS). Really the only entry that jumped out at me as a real clunker today.
  • 32D: First name in comics villains (LEX). LEX Luthor, right? Something to do with Superman? Help me out here, Doug.
  • 38D: Cops' favorite birds? (CANARIES). CANARIES is a slang word for police informants (because they "sing").
  • 42D: Jack of "Barney Miller" (SOO). Is it time to have another conversation about the best television theme songs of all time? Why yes, I believe it is.

  • 51D: Petrol unit (LITRE). The word "petrol" in the clue is a hint that the answer will not have an American spelling.
Crosswordese 101: EMME (21A: Palindromic fashion model) is a plus-size supermodel who just goes by the one name. Her "real" name is Melissa Miller. She hosts the current television show "More to Love," and previously hosted the show "Fashion Emergency."

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Everything Else 6A: Playground rejoinder (AM TOO); 11A: Down (SAD); 14A: Center of Florida? (EPCOT); 15A: Pageant prop (TIARA); 19A: Gallery opening? (ART); 20A: PDQ relative (ASAP); 21A: Palindromic fashion model (EMME); 27A: Chip away at (EAT INTO); 30A: Paint choices (HUES); 31A: A and B, at times (PLANS); 32A: Holdup note? (LATE PASS); 36A: '70s-'80s televangelist show "The __ Club" (PTL); 37A: Vinegary prefix (ACETO-); 39A: Be in the running (VIE); 43A: Old fallout source (A-TEST); 52A: Skunk's weapon (ODOR); 53A: "Children of the Poor" author (RIIS); 58A: __-secret (TOP); 62A: Rollover subj. (IRA); 63A: Turn away (AVERT); 64A: Kitchen tubes (PENNE); 67A: Germs may lead to them (IDEAS); 2D: Copies (APES); 4D: 7-Down athlete (DOLPHIN); 5D: Place to play favorites, briefly (OTB); 6D: Score direction after accelerando, perhaps (A TEMPO); 7D: Home of a 4-Down (MIAMI); 8D: Words of aggression (TAKE THAT); 11D: Fifth wheel (SPARE); 12D: Broadcast (AIRED); 13D: Some are blind (DATES); 18D: Doctor's suggestion (REST); 25D: Bronco or Charger (AUTO); 28D: Wasatch Mountains resort (ALTA); 29D: One way to stand (TALL); 33D: Say and mean (AVER); 34D: Speedy Gonzales assent (SÍ SÍ); 35D: __ precedent (SET A); 37D: Loads (A TON); 43D: NYPD broadcast (APB); 44D: Beyond repair (TOTALED); 46D: Orders from above (EDICTS); 47D: Screen door material (MESH); 48D: "__ you paid me!" (NOT IF); 49D: Hold precious (ADORE); 50D: Birthstone after opal (TOPAZ); 55D: Mr. Peanut prop (CANE); 56D: Tracy Turnblad's mom in "Hairspray" (EDNA); 57D: Gets it (SEES); 59D: Show age, in a way (SAG); 60D: Sen. Byrd's state (W. VA.).


Doug P said...

Yep, right on, PG. Lex Luthor is the archenemy of Superman. When I used to read comics, he was an evil scientist who came up with outlandish inventions and plots to take over the world and/or kill Superman. Nowadays, as far as I know, he's an evil businessman & politician. More realistic, but not as much fun.

Anonymous said...

I think Pamela Amick Klawitter is a cool name. It begs to be styled, such as "Pamela Amick Klawitter, Duchess of Gweretbef, Consort to the Prince of Smarghoffen".

*David* said...

This is the xword puzzle I've been waiting for. Cute theme, smooth fill, and tricky cluing. What more can I ask for? The only clunker for me was BPI but that was a small price to pay at the end of the puzzle.

The Broncos/Chargers clue held me in place for a long time..AFCS, NFLS..was trying to fit in a dreaded ERS but it wouldn't fit. IDEA was also clued wonderfuly.

Tuttle said...

38D confused me. The only term I've ever heard in reference to police and CANARIES is firemen calling cops "Blue CANARIES" since they act like "CANARIES in a coal mine" as first responders to hazardous incidents. If the police were still standing when the firemen got there it was probably going to be OK. Not something that would be in most cops' favorites list.

Pigeons (of the stool variety) are what I think of when perps sing, but I can definitely see the reference now.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am coming out of lurkdom to say I do read this blog every single day. I do the puzzle before work and always enjoy thinking about what your opinion is of it. Also look forward to the comments.

My issue today was the PTL club. Guess I was too busy watching Barney Miller?

Unknown said...

How many came up with "Elle" instead of "Emme"? Sounded like a sure thing.

John Wolfenden said...

A solid Thursday. I had the same reaction as PG to OAR and ORE next door to each other...funny how your mood can affect your assessment of the day's puzzle.

Never heard of BPI. Isn't it odd that a digital measurement would be in Imperial units and not metric?

"Kitchen tubes" for PENNE was nice and "Reason for the downfall of many kings?" for ACES is my favorite clue of the week.

lit.doc said...

What an enjoyable puzzle! Loved the clues, loved the fill. Thank you, Ms. Klawitter, emphasis on "wit".

Would have enjoyed the anagram element before I was nearly done if the circles had shown up in Across Lite.

@PG, kudos for the educational content of your blog. I've had my NYT subscription for less than two renewals (i.e. I haven't been puzzling very long) and your CW101 discussions have been invaluable.

Today's most brilliant solving moment came when, without hesitation, I slammed in DCC for 36A, "The ___ Club". Obviously a Random Roman Numeral clue, right?

@David, I had the exact same response to "Bronco or Charger". Ended up being the last spot I fixed.

C said...

Puzzles like this are usually lost on me due to the format I do the puzzle. I print the puzzle off the LA Times applet which means I do not get to see the circles.

Good misdirection cluing in today's puzzle. I raise my hand for trying to fit the awful NFLER in for the Charger or Bronco clue. I was actually upset that it wasn't NFLER. Hmm, based on this, I am surprised that LEX Luthor hasn't tried to slowly take over the world via crossword puzzles. If a crossword puzzle can get me to adopt random letters as a legitimate word and not only adopt but actually make me upset when I can't use them, think of what else an evil bent constructor could do ...

Anonymous said...

Iam surprised some people are not familier with jim and tammy faye baker the ptl club.Back inmy youth my roomate and I would come home from the bars and at 3 a.m. long before 900 t.v. channels they were the only thing on. Very funny when you are buzzed. enjoyed this puzzle, because I normaly do the Jumble first.

Margaret said...

Loved the old Barney Miller show, loved Jack SOO, excellent theme song. And yay for Akbar and Jeff! Um, on topic? Let's see... hand up for ELLE before EMME.

Mokus said...

Very cool puzzle today. Thanks for the Barney Miller intro, PG. Ron Glass was one of my favorites and I was thrilled when he showed up in the Firefly/
Serenity syfy series.

Broncos/Chargers was a clever clue. I'm thinking football. Then horses. Lastly autos. Enjoyable. Sort of funny, my last entry was TOPAZ which is the name of my street and the alley is shared with OPAL, the next block to the west.

StudioCitySteve said...

Circles? What Circles? I do the puzzle from the LA Times online edition and no circles to be found.

I'm actually happy with that - I think it's clunky to help with a theme, it's almost as if the theme is too much of a stretch if you need help seeing it.

I liked ACES, didn't know PTL and also don't know where the Wasatch Mountains are, so had to take a stab in the dark with the T and hope I was right.

I had ELLE first too, and ABOMB before I fixed that. SALESTAX was nice.

There seems to have been a lot of playground taunting over the last couple of weeks?

v-man said...

Fun puzzle today. I'm a sucker for anagrams and adding a letter or two to theme answers to change their meaning. Is there a word for that type of answer? Didn't fall for the elle trick because I already had the double m's in place. But I did stimble on the bronco, charger clue until I had the au in place. The last fill for me was the L in Lando and leda. It took a while going through the alphabet progression to solve that one.

Steve said...

Does anybody know of any other good puzzles?

I already do LAT, NYT, Universal, Jonesin, NetWord, and USA Today.

Anonymous said...

@Steve - CrosSynergy is a reliably good puzzle usually at the NYT Tue/Wed level. Available at Cruciverb.com in PG's "Crossword Links" banner on the right.
@Applet Users - Don't be Applet users. Sign up at Cruciverb.com (it's free), download AcrosLite, and get the puzzle as it's meant to be published.

Larry Sittig said...

Kudos for all aspects of the puzzle, very clever and enjoyable. The across cluing of the SE corner was sparkling: "Reason for the downfall of many kings?" "Kitchen tubes" and "Germs may lead to them."

Like @StudioCitySteve I get extra credit for not seeing circles--LA Times online--and feel this halfway justifies my having to look up LANDO. Never a Star Wars junkie. That and doing crosswords would make me a confirmed nerd, and I'm only an unconfirmed nerd.

John Wolfenden said...

I agree about the circles, it was a fine puzzle without them. I guess Pamela thought the theme would be too obscure without them. Not that I have an issue with circles or other nontraditional additions...I liked seeing a number in the puzzle a few weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for moving the CW 101 up top - works for me. Liked todays puzzle but still don't get 32A - Holdup note? Late Pass ??? really I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

I didn't and actually still don't understand the circles. If I see circles in a puzzle, does that mean it's an anagram? or can it mean something else? And thanks, Puzzle Girl, for being so kind to those of us who struggle every week after Wednesday (and sometimes before).
em jay

Hoyt said...

Got LANDO and AUTO right away, but a Bronco is a truck not an auto.
Kitchen tube??? hmmmm...don't like that one.

Avg Joe said...

I had many of the same hangups, bitches and elations mentioned by all. Broncos and Chargers was probably the biggest stumbling block. Since both teams are in the AFC West, I really, really wanted AFCW, and I had the A. I didn't yet have TakeThat or Lee for downs, but sure couldn't come up with any type of paint choice that would have an F in the middle, so I resisted filling it in. Also, I agree with Hoyt that a Bronco is a truck (at least an SUV) while a Charger is a car, but an entirely different category. Then, you throw in the double clue about Miami Dolphin and it just begs for a football answer. Alas, twas not to be, but I figured it out. Still, it was an interesting puzzle overall and had a lot of cluing that forced the mind into gear.

Again I'd like to thank many here for the conversation about Eva Cassidy earlier. Today is my birthday, and due to my ravings about her, I got "Songbird" as a gift from my lovely bride. Love it!

NYTAnonimo said...

Another SWITCHBLADE theme:
But one worth visiting again.

I don't get a line count in preview either.

Slower solve for me. Kept trying to put incorrect answers in, ie. AMNOT instead of AMTOO EXTRA instead of SPARE, etc.

lit.doc said...

@Anon 11:38, "The student got held up in his last class, so the teacher gave him a late pass to English".

@Steve, The Chronicle of Higher Ed and The Wall Street Journal (21x21) both publish good puzzles on Friday. Also, maybe subscribe to Peter Gordon's Fireball puzzles; they totally kick my ass, but it's good schooling. And don't fail to check out Brendan Emmett Quigley's blog, where he puts up puzzles twice a week.

badams52 said...

As a LA Times aplet solver without the circles, I kind of liked not having them.

I had the three theme answers and couldn't figure out the theme just from them. But once I got the revealer, went back and saw how blade was anagrammed throughout the theme.

The most fun part of me on the puzzles is figuring out the theme, so I often purposefully do not read the revealer and try to get the theme words fist.

So I loved not having the circles.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't 11 down's clue be broadcasted instead of broadcast? The answer is in the past tense.

mac said...

Very nice puzzle; have to admit that the theme went right by me, but I filled in the whole grid without its help. Maybe they should put the reveal on top.

Lots of good clues and answers, especially liked emporia.

@AvgJoe: happy birthda!

mac said...

@anonymouse 4.33: the past tense of broadcast is broadcast.

Laura said...

This is my first comment. I've been doing the puzzles for about 6 months and love learning all the new stuff. I comb your blog every day and thanks for all your comments. I put "Elle" in for the model at first and the A Test answer reminded me of hiding under my desk every Friday at 11 am when the test sirens went off in the early 60's!! Thanks, again to you all!! Laura in Pomona CA.

Sfingi said...

What a difference a day makes!

Yesterday - no Googles, today - 9.
Youngster stuff - LEX, LANDO, EMME, LEE;
Sports - ALTA.
Stuff I should have known: RIIS (not Gwendolyn Brooks), WVA, EDNA (Divine - and my Baltimore sister had a bit part), PTO (as in Praise the Lord - co-existent with the expression, "Gag me with a spoon").

Had sUvs before AUTO.

Don't care for this So What sort of theme.

As @Mac said, He cast a stone, He has cast a stone; likewise, broadcast, forecast, etc.

Some good stuff - EMPORIA, ACES.
And I got MIAMI DOLPHINS right away!

Love Barney Miller - a cop show that was a comedy that took place entirely in an office.

@Tuttle - "Sing like a canary," was often in old gangster movies. Most recently I heard in reference to Van der Sloot singing like a canary to get moved from Peru to Aruba.

Criminals these days don't know a SWITCHBLADE from a gravity knife; they carry guns and don't know how to use them.

JN said...

Did this puzzle at night after a long day and was surprised at how difficult a time I had. I finally solved the reveal and then the circles helped me finish. I think I had to google more on this puzzle than I did for a long time. I think that my brain is just too tired. I'm not sure I like the new placement of the crosswordese 101. I liked reading about the puzzle and then dissecting it.

lit.doc said...

@laura, hi! This is certainly an informative and friendly place to learn about puzzling.

Anonymous said...

How are Lex Luthor, Lando Calrissian, Emme, and Ang Lee "Youngster stuff"? Lex Luthor first appeared in 1940. Lando Calrissian was in movies while Barney Miller was on tv. Emme was one of People's 50 Most Beautiful People in 1994, about when Ang Lee first achieved success.

Instead of "Youngster stuff", why not "Stuff I didn't know"?

Anonymous said...

Enjoy reading the blog everyday its fun and interesting and I love the comments especially when the regulars get wound up about one thing or another I belong to the puzzle society on line hunderds of puzzles lat usa today and some ive never heard of all different levels as well as lots of other types of puzzles great way to kill time when the weathers bad

JaxInL.A. said...

I had the privilege of running props on a production of Flower Drum Song with Jack Sooin the early 70s. He was a doll, even if he did demand kisses (on the cheek) from all the girls on the crew. Nice memory from this puzzle. Thanks, Ms. Klawitter.

Anonymous said...

The only people who use WVa for West Virginia are people not from WV.