03.11 Fri

March 11, 2011
Donna S. Levin

Theme: Game show puns — Puns based on the titles of old game shows

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Game show about bribery at a checkpoint? (SALE OF THE SENTRY).
  • 27A: Game show about an Algerian governor's search for his spouse? (QUEEN FOR A DEY).
  • 48A: Game show in which "Stuttering pig" might be a clue? (NAME THAT TOON).
  • 63A: Game show in which couples confess indiscretions? (TWO TELL THE TRUTH).
A couple quick announcements before we get to the puzzle. First, a puzzle Rex Parker and I constructed is available today over at Brendan Emmett Quigley's excellent blog. BEQ also interviewed us, so I'm really eager to see if he was able to edit my part down enough to make me sound interesting. Head on over there and find out for yourself!

Second, will I be seeing you in Brooklyn next week? It's not too late to sign up for the big puzzle tournament, you know. It's also pretty much the perfect time to sign up for the other big puzzle tournament, in L.A. on May 1. Oh man, I just realized we're moving that weekend. I hope I can get away. We had a blast at the L.A. tournament last year!

And finally, I've received quite a few personal messages over the last several weeks and I have been unbelievably rude by not responding to them yet. Please know that I appreciate hearing from you (so much!) and I will definitely get back to you in the next couple days. It's just been crazy over here at the PuzzleHouse lately.

Okay, today's puzzle. I like this theme. The game shows are all pretty old, but I think they're well-known enough that you shouldn't have had any trouble coming up with them. SALE OF THE CENTURY and QUEEN FOR A DAY were both before my time. I do remember watching NAME THAT TUNE and TO TELL THE TRUTH as a child. I'll be interested to hear from some younger people though: Are you familiar with these shows? As far as the puns go … well, they're puns. I like that they're all clued as if they're still game shows. My least favorite is QUEEN FOR A DEY. I had QUEEN FOR A in place but wasn't sure what an "Algerian governor" might be called. Maybe that's common knowledge, but it wasn't for me. Wasn't there an actual show where "couples confessed indiscretions"? I remember seeing ads for it and being completely nauseated. I can't imagine it lasted very long, but it's hard to keep up with all the stupid shows out there these days, so maybe it's still around.

So. Okay. That's the theme. As for the fill, it seemed really uneven to me. First of all, there was just a ton of crosswordese:
  • 16A: Turow memoir (ONE-L).
  • 31A: Muse who inspires poets (ERATO).
  • 42A: "Exodus" hero (ARI).
  • 67A: Slobbering canine (ODIE).
  • 24D: Slaughter on a diamond (ENOS).
  • 35D: Woodstock singer before Joan (ARLO).
  • 39D: "__ la Douce" (IRMA).
  • 51D: Church area (APSE).
  • 61D: Italian volcano (ETNA).
[Note: Each word in the above list is a link to the post where we first covered it in our Crosswordese 101 feature.]

To me, that seems like it would be an awful lot of crosswordese even for a Monday, much less for a Friday. On the opposite side of the spectrum, this puzzle also contains some super obtuse cluing. So it felt weird to swing back and forth between entries like ODIE and clues like "Out."

Then there was the stuff I just flat-out didn't know (which I'm not complaining about — that's what I expect on a Friday):
  • 33A: One-time neighbor of French Indochina (SIAM).
  • 68A: Mobile one of song (DONNA). I like how DONNA snuck her name into the grid! (Even though I don't get the song reference. I mean I get that there's a song where a girl named DONNA either gets around or, I don't know, travels a lot or something. But I don't know the song.)
  • 5D: "In __ Speramus": Brown U. motto (DEO).
  • 44D: Napoleon vessel? (SNIFTER). I don't know what this means.
Looking at the grid as a whole, well, it definitely has some sparkle (e.g., FINESSE, DELILAH, TREE FARM), and I think if it wasn't for the crosswordese I might have really enjoyed the challenge. But the unevenness just made the whole solving experience feel awkward to me. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts.

  • 1A: Equipped with 6-Across (ARMED) and 6A: See 1-Across (GATS). Whenever we have a pair of answers clued like this someone complains about it, and I think that complaint is totally valid. But late in the week, I don't think this kind of challenge is necessarily unfair. It's called a crossword after all. Sometimes (often!) it's the crossing part that's key.
  • 14A: Permission (LEAVE). One-word clues are inherently tricky and this one is no exception. I like the aura of formality around this answer: "By your leave …."
  • 22A: Elite octet (IVIES). We were just talking about the NCAA basketball tournament "Elite Eight" yesterday, but today the "Elite octet" refers to the eight Ivy League schools.
  • 59A: Stage group (CREW). I tried CAST first.
  • 71A: Worry about (SWEAT). My favorite clue in the puzzle. "Dont' sweat it!"
  • 53D: His Super Bowl MVP performance was his last NFL game (ELWAY). Not a huge football fan so I didn't know this bit of trivia, but am glad to know it now.
  • 52D: Out (DATED) and 54D: Out (LOOSE). As I mentioned earlier, one-word clues are inherently tricky. And even more so when you have a particular definition in your head and need to come up with another one! (I like this kind of trickiness.)
  • 62D: Comedy routine infielder ... (WHAT) 64D: ... and Bud's partner in the routine (LOU). A reference to the famous "Who's On First?" comedy skit. But you knew that.
Crosswordese 101: In German, the word for the article "a" is EINE. Sometimes EINE will be clued simply as "German article." Other times, the word "article" will appear in the clue, but there will only be a hint that the answer you need is German (e.g., "Aachen article," "Berlin article," "Article in Der Spiegel.") EINE is most often clued using Mozart's well-known piece "EINE kleine Nachtmusik," but today — probably because it's Friday — we get the less-well-known 19D: Strauss's "EINE Nacht in Venedig."

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Everything Else 10A: May or Ann (CAPE); 15A: Natural shade (ECRU); 20A: Warning (OMEN); 21A: Understanding words (I SEE); 23A: Paragon of redness (BEET); 25A: Maneuver (FINESSE); 32A: 1,000-yr. realm (HRE); 37A: Arabic is one of its two official langs. (ISR.); 38A: Surfer's guide (SITE MAP); 43A: Suffix with grammar (-IANS); 45A: Nonsense (ROT); 46A: Links coup (EAGLE); 52A: Biblical betrayer (DELILAH); 55A: __ dixit (IPSE); 56A: Up in the air (ALOFT); 57A: They may be wild (OATS); 66A: Relax (EASE); 69A: Batik artist (DYER); 70A: Tech support caller (USER); 1D: As well (ALSO); 2D: Chew (out) (REAM); 3D: Gander, e.g. (MALE); 4D: It's as likely as not (EVEN BET); 6D: Bothers (GETS TO); 7D: Dull discomfort (ACHE); 8D: Timber producer (TREE FARM); 9D: Pension start? (SUS-); 10D: Transmits (CONVEYS); 11D: They're not pros (ANTIS); 12D: Famille members (P`ERES); 13D: "Family Ties" mom (ELYSE); 18D: Feudal holding (FIEF); 26D: Notion (IDEA); 27D: Former Cunard fleet member, for short (Q.E. II); 28D: Starry-eyed bear? (URSA); 29D: Make (EARN); 30D: Bonnie Blue's daddy (RHETT); 34D: "I hate the Moor" speaker (IAGO); 36D: Manner (MIEN); 40D: Points of initial progress (TOEHOLDS); 41D: Some motel guests (PETS); 47D: Recanted in embarrassment (ATE CROW); 49D: Der __: Adenauer epithet (ALTE); 50D: "That sly come __ stare": "Witchcraft" lyric (HITHER); 58D: Play to __ (A TIE); 60D: Cryptic character (RUNE); 65D: QB's scores (TD'S).


Mokus said...

Napoleon Brandy would be served in a brandy snifter. I like "by your leave" too but was more familiar with AWOL or Absent Without Leave.

Up early because of a 4:30 AM phone call from the local authorities warning of a tsunami reaching our beach around 8 this morning. Here I was feeling so lucky to have escaped the cold and snow many of you described. The price for hubris?

Despite the fill I enjoyed the puzzle and am old enough to remember all the shows. To Tell The Truth was probably the best of them. I'm also old enough to have seen Enos Slaughter play for St. Louis in the late 1940s. He and Stan the Man signed a ball for me. We've had Konrad Adenauer (the old man) and Odie (toon-dog)twice this week. Strange, eh?

Anonymous said...

Napoleon -> brandy -> container -> snifter

I still don't get the two "out" clues... I'm just too dense, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Donna refers to La Donna Mobile from the Barber of Seville and of course the Napoleon brandy in a snifter.

Wanted to spell it Dei but it was wrong and not familiar with the eight Ivies, my downfall area.

Anonymous said...

OK, after re-reading, I kinda get the "dated" and "out" - as in "out of style", perhaps. Still working on the "loose" and "out" connection.

Unknown said...

I also did not get the 'Donna' clue but Wikipedia lists this....

"La donna è mobile" ("Woman is fickle") is the cynical Duke of Mantua's canzone from Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto (1851).

SethG said...

$ale of the Century came back in the 80s; I watched it all the time. Thought I knew the opera from Bugs, but maybe it's from Opera Man. For LOOSE, think of the dog (or the felon) that got out.

The crosswordese is maybe why this was so easy. But I liked the theme entries, and I don't say that much about puns.

*David* said...

Had a doozie of a time finishing up the top half of the puzzle. The bottom fell quite easily. Had never heard of Sale of the Century so that area took a while to fall combined with the ARMED/GATS cluing.

I did like the LOU/WHAT cluing. The pun themes were okay with NAME THAT TOON being my favorite.

Sfingi said...

DNF HTG - too much. sports, booze, French.
Theme good, though.

However, IVIES and DEO made me think how Brown is the Ivy no one thinks of. Just ask anyone to recite them: Columbia Cornell Dartmouth Harvard UPenn Princeton Yale...

A girl named DONNA is not mobile. Woman is fickle, is the translation. But, I did "get" the clue.

Tried to find a picture of a collection of Bobble-Head quiz show hosts that I once saw. So many Bobble-Heads now: The Prez, Jesus, Abu-Ghraib, Alan Dershowitz, Felix the Cat.

Anonymous said...

The theme entries were solid, but easily offset by all the foreign clues/answers: peres, dey, ari, ipse, dyer, eine, etc.

Prayers to those in the way of the tsunami.

Anonymous said...

DONNA may be mobile, but Sue runs around. Big difference. I prefer Sue.

Anonymous said...

please explain "hre" I filled it in with crossings but have no idea what it means

lit.doc said...

@Pg, thanks for the confirmation re "some super obtuse cluing". This may be the hardest LAT puzzle I've ever done. Wow.

Some of it may be that I'm busy babysitting my "we're totally ready for spring break" Juniors while they bounce off the walls, but still. Wow.

Favorite clue was "Mobile one of song". Gimme, due to music history in school, but very clever.

C said...

I liked the puzzle today, puns make the world go around ... in my world, at least, which you all have an invitation to visit whenever you want.

@SethG, I Got the opera reference from Bugs. Bugs Bunny pretty much taught me everything I know about opera ... and 40's movie stars ... and about monsters and their interesting lives.

Tuttle said...

43A. Grrr.

"-ian" is a suffix. "-IANS" is a suffix and a pluralization.

And I don't know about your math, but where I come from 1806 minus 962 is well short of a thousand. The HRE was in existence for 844 years. The term Tausendjähriges Reich, "The Thousand-Year Realm" was a term used by the Nazis to refer to their, third, reich not Otto I's First Reich. They were, thankfully, quite wrong about that.

Anonymous said...

If you count the HRE as starting with Charlemagne in 800, which many historians do, it lasted for almost 1006 years.

JaxInL.A. said...

The PG/Rex puzzle is fun. I was fooled by the NW corner into thinking it would be a Monday sort of puzzle, but the middle and south got more challenging. It didn't hurt that the LAT puzzle used a similar theme yesterday. Thanks for the fun interview, too.

As for today's LAT puzzle, Man, these were ooooooold shows. And they don't rerun these on Nick at Nite like the dinosaur sitcoms, so I pity anyone undeer 30 trying to do this puzzle.

I, on the other hand, being in my 50s, breezed through and had a fun time with it. Practice really does help, and now that I'm getting through at least two puzzles on most days, it no longer takes me more than ten times the score of a top 100 solver to get through a puzzle. It feels great. Thanks to PG for the ongoing 101 classes, too.

Prayers to all affected by the Japanese earthquake and Pacific tsunami.

Rick R said...

in answer to anonymous, out = loose as in, "The dog got out."

StudioCitySteve said...

I have to confess I gave up on this today - I was about 3/4 done and had already spent an hour agonizing over it (I don't Google if I don't know an answer).

Seemed like a lot of odd fills and some uneven cluing, but I guess that's Friday for you. I'll put this one down as a learning experience.

I still don't understand HRE.

Otto I said...

@StudioCitySteve - Holy Roman Empire.

Anoa Bob said...

After the first three theme entries, I expected the fourth to also be a play on the last word of a game show but got a bit of a curve ball when it shifted to the first word of the show.

Some of the clueing did seem like this was maybe a Wed. or Thurs. puzzle that was being amped up to a Fri. level. But I think the solid theme and great fill like FINESSE, ATE CROW, SNIFTER, and EVEN BET made this an enjoyable solve.

Anonymous said...


THE PUN IS ON THE WORD DONA from The Barber of Seville , the aria , I believe . is entitled
La Dona e Mobile ( The Lady is Fickle - freely translated)

Keep up the good work

EarlCan 75

Anonymous said...

Barber of Seville is a Rossini opera. La donna e mobile is from Verdi's Rigoletto.

Everyone remembers it from Bugs Bunny, but I bet you can't find any evidence he actually sang it...

John Wolfenden said...

Tough Friday. I didn't like the puns as much as everyone else seemed to, but I liked the clues "Slaughter on a diamond" for ENOS, "Starry-eyed bear" for URSA and "Woodstock singer before Joan" for ARLO. Don't recall seeing TOEHOLDS in a puzzle before.

Not one but two difficult German references, and those some awfully obscure CAPEs, cap'n.

"Suffix with grammar" for IANS? Come on.

lit.doc said...

The only opera I can recall from Bugs Bunny--Elmer Fudd, actually--is that famous "Kill Da Wabbit" take off on Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries".

haux said...

you have IAGO hilited in the image of the puzzle. i was pleased to see him in there again. when i was just starting xwords, it seemed that IAGO was a regular. i expected him to be in the CW101. not nearly as common as many on the list, but i feel thew word should be looked at again.

mac said...

Good puzzle, toughish for the LAT, I enjoyed it. I have several arias asking for attention in my head...

Yes, I'm going to Brooklyn! I don't even know what my standing was last year or the year before (no spread sheets) but I want to have fun with all those people again!

Ian said...

Just a nit pick... In German, the word for the article "a" is only sometimes "Eine". It depends on the gender of the noun which it precedes. It could just as easily be "Ein".

jim said...

I'm new with LA times crosswords. I enjoy visiting this blog. Does anyone know of an app that will let you do the LA times crossword on the I pad?.....thanks