03.12 Sat

March 12, 2011
Brad Wilber

Theme: None, because it's Saturday.

Hey, everybody. Doug here, filling in for PuzzleGirl. She had to go to bed early last night because she's attending a big birthday bash today. I wonder whose birthday it is. Hmmm. David Letterman, Vince Gill, Claire Danes, and Brooklyn Decker all have birthdays on March 12th. She's probably at the Vince Gill party, though I'm sure she received invites to all four.

I was happy to see that today's puzzle is by Brad Wilber. His puzzles are always a treat to solve. Brad and I have collaborated on a few themeless puzzles, some of which you'll be solving in the weeks and months ahead. So it's hard for me to gauge the difficulty of today's puzzle. After having worked with Brad, I have a pretty good handle on his construction style. I didn't have much trouble with this one, but your results may vary. I know there are some solvers who consider Brad to be one of the toughest constructors around. Let's dive in.

  • 1A: Closer's bane (BLOWN SAVE). Knockout entry at 1-Across. Loved it. And for me, this clue was a hanging curveball right over the plate.
  • 17A: Spoiled brat, stereotypically (ONLY CHILD). Before you sibling-less folks jump all over Brad & Rich, note the "stereotypically" qualifier.
  • 22A: ___ Lisa Vito: "My Cousin Vinny" role (MONA). This is a classic Wilberesque clue. A fresh, funny take on the old crossword standby MONA.
  • 29A: Sleeper, for one (CAR). A sleeper is a railroad passenger car with beds. I like riding the train, and I've always wanted to sleep in one of those little compartments. I'm anti-claustrophobic. (Is there a word for that?). I like sleeping in small, enclosed spaces.
  • 38A: Gluck opera based on a Euripides play (ALCESTE). I had no clue on this one, though I do enjoy a nice Fettucine Alceste.
  • 39A: Like architecture involving cedar shakes (SHINGLE STYLE). Another "huh?" entry for me, but it was easy to piece together. Yes, Shingle Style is a real thing. Opera & architecture aren't among my areas of expertise. The nice thing about a Wilber puzzle is that he draws entries and clues from a myriad of subjects. If you don't like the baseball clue, keep reading, because you'll find at least one clue that hits your sweet spot.
  • 43A: Pinned arrangement (UPDO). Lots of updo discussion on the blog earlier this week. I hope this was a gimme for most of you.
  • 52A: Cattle drive gear (RIATAS). This is a term for "lassos" that you're not going to see much outside of crosswords. And to make it more confusing, it's often spelled REATAS. For more info, check out this helpful CW101 entry on RIATA
  • 61A: "This doesn't look good, guys!" (WE'RE TOAST). Probably my favorite entry of the day.
  • 1D: Curling tool (BROOM). Were you still thinking about updos? Nope, it's a reference to that bizarre Canadian "sport" of curling.
  • 2D: The Khmer Rouge overthrew him (LON NOL). Cambodian leader with an awesome name.
  • 14D: It requires a lot of simmering (CONSOMMÉ). OK, Brad found another of my weak spots, cooking. I'm fairly worthless in the kitchen, but I can whip up a mean Tomato Winning Salad.
  • 32D: "He won't be missed" (NO LOSS). Ouch. That's a downer of a clue.
  • 35D: Bistro appetizer (ESCARGOT). I like the fact that this entry is matched up symmetrically with CONSOMMÉ. They're both dishes that sound suspiciously French.
  • 40D: Tried hard (STRIVEN). Every puzzle has at least one ugly entry, and this is it.
  • 48D: "Honour is ___ scutcheon": Shak. (A MERE). Spoken by Falstaff in "Henry VI, Part 1." A scutcheon is a heraldic device used to decorate a coffin.
  • 58D: Pronoun in a rebus (EWE). Remember those rebus puzzles on "Concentration"? A picture of a EWE often stood for YOU. I collected bottle caps when I was a kid, and I picked up most of them off the ground. (No, my mom was not a fan.) My favorites were the Lucky Lager caps because they had rebus puzzles on them. They must be tough to solve when you're half-drunk.
  • 55D: Show with an "American Bandstand"-like spoof called "Mel's Rock Pile" (SCTV). Wow, did I love this clue! "SCTV" is one of my favorite shows, and "Rockin' Mel's Rock Pile" (featuring Eugene Levy as Rockin' Mel Slirrup) is a classic bit. The Rockin' Mel clips on YouTube are low-quality, so I'll leave you with a beauty video of Bob & Doug McKenzie
    OK, I'll see you hosers tomorrow.


    Anonymous said...

    Today is March 12. Puzzle was a challenge for me. Finally finished.

    Rex Parker said...

    CONCERT ALBUM = no-hoper for me. Too bad.

    Anonymous said...

    For me this was just an excellent themeless Saturday. Not easy at all, but gettable with some diligence -- including "concertalbum" which is fresh and lively, indeed.

    My favorite, too, is WERETOAST.

    Rex Parker said...

    ... by which I mean I put in CONCERT ALBUM and never doubted it, thus making little part in center unsolvable.

    DLB said...

    I am glad to see the great Rex did exactly what I did with CONCERTALBUM. My first LAT fail in many a moon.

    Greene said...

    Oh, the horror. I too had CONCERT ALBUM at 31A and stubbornly clung to OPHEUS for 38A. Finally decided that NOSE JOBS had to be correct for 12D and out went ORPHEUS. Never heard of ALCESTE and needed every cross. Alas, could not see YAP AT so I finished with the clearly wrong YARET for 25D. Was I thinking EL CID when I left ELCESTE in place? Probably. No Happy Pencil for me today. I'm toast.

    CrazyCat said...

    Basically a DNF slog for me today. Things I just didn't know: LON NOL, BLOWN SAVE, ALCESTE, GABON, and EVERCLEAR. Things I liked were ESCARGOT, CONSOMEÉ, WE'RE TOAST. My favorite was SHINGLE STYLE. Makes me think of those beautiful old beach cottages/mansions in the Hamptons.
    I got CONCEPT ALBUM since I had YAP AT in place. STRIVEN was, as Doug pointed out, just ugly. So was LDRS IMO.

    As far as JLO goes - I really, really miss Simon.

    Thanks for a nice write-up Doug.

    Dave in Bend, Oregon said...

    It is comforting to hear that RP had the same consclusion for concert album...Mine got worse as I figured "blown saLe" was a sure thing in 1A....as a salesman there is nothing worse than a blown sale to a closer. Agree with Doug on ugliness of striven.....Do like the palindromic Lon Nol though....Did not know agita.

    lit.doc said...

    Wow, what a puzzle! Took me 55 minutes, including the time it took to find and fix NOSE BOB / BLU (never heard of “Our of Sight”) / CONSUMME (French not my long suit). And there was not a single moment when I was at all sure I could get through it. Especially gratifying after not getting far enough into the NYT to even claim DNF.

    And except for the ugly but legit 27A LDRS, I loved all the fill. One of my personal delights is a puzzle that offers lots of opportunities for high-quality wrong answers (a euphemism for write-overs). @Rex, DLB, Greene, and Dave noted CONCERT / CONCEPT ALBUM. I only got that one because of the difficulty I’ve had getting MP3 downloads of e.g. AC/DC and Pink Floyd songs.

    Runner-up sirens were 24A BILBAO / BANYAN and 1A BLOWN SALE / SAVE (the former still makes more sense to me). Then there were the coin tosses at 46A OAF / APE and 40D STRIVED / STRIVEN. Gotta get a new coin.

    58D “Pronoun in a rebus” also knotted up my brain, as I’m only familiar with the term from crosswords—so I was trying to think of an English pronoun that would fit into one little square…

    Would never have gotten the 15A author if he hadn’t been a commentator on MSNBC a few nights ago (Chris Matthews, I think). And my best “Doh!” moment was when I realized that 37D ref’d a studio apartment—which scuttled 53D SCOW, as LASSOS gave way to RIATAS.

    Thank you Brad Wilbur for making my puzzling week!

    mac said...

    Good puzzle, but a thorny one! I started out with concert album, too, but yap at cleared it up. Love we're toast.

    Thanks for Mariano's picture, Doug! My favorite closer.

    C said...

    Puzzle put up a good fight today. Slowly, I got some answers into the grid and was able to finish this one. I liked the puzzle, some pretty good answers and some great cluing. I did not run into the CONCERTALBUM issue as the middle section was my ending point and had most of the answer filled.

    Steve Lewis said...

    To me, puzzles like this one are clever and tough but do-able, if you sit at them long enough, and for the most part I don't need outside help (Google). Lon Nol needed to be checked today, but only make sure I was right.

    By the time you get to Friday and Saturday, those in the New York Times have become next to impossible. For me, that is, and I've been solving puzzles for over 60 years. Sure you can use Google, but there's no fun in that.

    backbiter said...

    This was a cigar and a half puzzle. I usually solve with the first smoke. What a slogfest. The cluing was just fantastic and difficult. I loved it. Although, without the write up, I'd have no idea what the hell curling is. Me>> "What the hell does a broom have to do with arm curls?" Now that I have googled it it is the most insipid sport I ever heard of. I entered Concept Album with no problem. Put in Strived where Striven should have been. That was driving me nuts. That was a loser along with LDRS and JLO. J Lo is an untalented hack as well as an awful crossword answer. *ducking rocks* Everclear isn't talented either. I'm gonna have to go with C:No dreamboat A:Toad as my favorite pair today. That is so f'ing mean and slightly sinister. LMFAO!

    Anonymous said...

    from EarlCan75@roadrunner.com

    Reference -

    ...bizarre Canadian "sport" of curling....

    Firstly, Mr Wilber, you may think of curling as "bizarre" and put the word sport in quotation marks, but anyone who knows anything , knows that the Olympic committee obviously considers curling a SPORT, viz:
    the recent Winter Olympics

    Secondly, while the sport is wildly popular in Canada, it is NOT Canadian - Canadian is what I am ; curling is native to that bonnie country, Scotland

    Doug P said...


    That was me, Doug, not Mr. Wilber, who called curling a bizarre Canadian "sport." I was just poking a little fun at our north-of-the-border friends. (And PuzzleGirl pays me an extra 50 cents for every angry comment I generate.) I grew up within shouting distance of Canada, and my sister and I used to watch curling on a TV station out of Lethbridge. It's oddly engaging, and yes, bizarre.

    Anonymous said...

    Tough solve; not quite Silkian but a good Saturday grid for me. I believe the birthdays listed by Doug P. are all April 12 so maybe PG is at Liza Minnelli's gig.

    Glowe said...

    As someone who's played the sport at club level for over 20 years, I found the 'bizzare' comment aboot curling funny.

    Curling, as golf, originated in Scotland - good on those wacky, sporting Scots of the 17th century. But North America has contributed significantly to the evolution and refinement of both games over the last 150 years or so.

    Outside of Minnesota and the Dakotas, curling has not caught on a bunch in the U.S. And you have to admit, it looks darn funny to the uninitiated.

    Let's get over it, eh?

    Doug P said...

    D'oh! I mix up March, April, and May all the time (seriously). I have a mental block on those three months.

    Sfingi said...

    No point in my talking about my "solve."

    But curling is big here in Oneida CO., Upstate NY.
    When I was a kid, the Utica Curling Club was a couple blocks away in the city, and had a bar in it. A few years ago, it burned down and was rebuilt with 6 lanes and no bar, and in the suburb of Whitestown.
    Curling started here in the 19th century. Indoor curling began in 1916. They hold the Mitchell Bonspiel (since 1911).

    Don't forget -Spring ahead!

    Anonymous said...

    Absolute rubbish - a true waste of time and energy. Silliness to the extreme!

    SethG said...

    I had either YAW or YAK AT, and I changed it to P instead of an R. I had BLOWN SALE, but changed it easily. I had the most trouble in the SE, with EYE and STRIVED for a while. It was fun. It didn't take much time or energy.

    I will say that a clue like [Gluck opera based on a Euripedes play] guarantees I'm at least a few steps away from ever having heard of the answer.

    John Wolfenden said...

    I kept my teeth sunk into this puzzle for some time like a terrier with a plush toy, but in the end was felled by the LONNOL/LDRS cross. I'm all about the palindromic Cambodians, LDRS not so much.

    Loved "Spoiled brat, stereotypically" for ONLY CHILD. WE'RE TOAST and CONCEPT ALBUM are awesome.

    As a reality television editor I appreciated BLEEPS, and only the fact that my dad is a chemist enabled me to get VALENCE.

    Also enjoyed the baseball minitheme and seeing a reference to a semi-current rock band.

    Did not like YAP AT. Not one bit.

    Mokus said...

    The "Out of Sight" clue was easy because the movie with Clooney and Lopez is one of my favorites as is the book by Elmore Leonard. Haven't seen a decent performance by Lopez since but Clooney just keeps getting better.

    I kept thinking that "closer" was a salesman until I thought of Jonathan Broxton who epitomizes the blown save.

    Had Pol Pot instead of Lon Nol for awhile. Great names. There were a few curlers at the last Olympics who just about melted the ice. Fun to watch. Better than Luge because you can see the athletes.

    shrub5 said...

    Just finished this one up today. Challenging but I plugged away at it off and on and finished without googling help. Had one error LONNOC which sounded OK to me. The cross of CDRS I rationalized as commanders. The SE section was killing me. I had DONATE instead of DINE AT, STRIVED also. WE'RE TOAST came to me and that began the correction process for this area.

    Now I'm off to adjust all my clocks!
    @Doug P: Enjoyed your write-up. Thanks.