03.30 Wed

March 30, 2011
James Sajdak

Theme: L.A. Law — Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases where each word begins with the letters LA.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Whip-cracking cowboy of old films (LASH LARUE).
  • 21A: Ethel, to Lucy (LAND LADY).
  • 35A: Sky blue (LAPIS LAZULI).
  • 51A: Wax-filled illumination (LAVA LAMP).
  • 56A: Victor's chuckle (LAST LAUGH).
  • 29D: '80s-'90s legal drama, and this puzzle's title (L.A. LAW).
Seems like we're off to a good start this week. Today we have another well-executed cute theme that's pretty much exactly the difficulty level it needs to be for the day. I noticed quite a bit of crosswordese in the grid, so let's get that out of the way first. If you click on a link in this list, you'll be transported back in time to the first time we covered that particular crosswordese word. You might find some good information there, so check it out if you're interested.

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 20A: Venetian arch shape (OGEE).
  • 64A: Prince Valiant's son (ARN).
  • 13D: DDE predecessor (HST).
  • 33D: To be, to Brutus (ESSE).
  • 37D: Pitts of "The Gale Storm Show" (ZASU).
  • 52D: Banned orchard spray (ALAR).
My sparkly answers of the day include:
  • 23A: Canyon-crossing transport (TRAMWAY).
  • 28A: Hong Kong harbor craft (SAMPAN).
  • 11D: Persian Gulf emirate (ABU DHABI).
That last one is pretty fun to say. Just say it out loud a couple times. See?

I had one of those days yesterday where it just felt like I was treading water all day and today is looking like it might be a long one too, so let's jump straight to bullets.

  • 14A: Vietnam Veterans Memorial architect (LIN). Can't say enough about this awesome memorial. If you're ever in the DC area, it's definitely worth a look. I actually went downtown yesterday to see the cherry blossoms. Here's a picture of the Jefferson Memorial.
  • 16A: Local cinemas, colloquially (NABES). I remember this word creating quite a stir over at Rex's place quite a while back. I guess it's a common term for people whose jobs entail film distribution and it might have been more widely used back in the day. Me? I learned it from a crossword puzzle.
  • 29A: Field for the fold (LEA). Where, as you know, the animals might say either BAA or MOO.
  • 34A: Sign before Scorpio (LIBRA). I think one of my kids might be a LIBRA. No wait, that's October, isn't it? I used to know all that zodiac mumbo-jumbo, but I sure don't any more. Plus I heard they changed it all recently so, honestly, who can keep up? (Not really sure who "they" are, but that's what I heard.)
  • 43A: Titan is its largest moon (SATURN). I actually remembered this from all the times TITAN has been in the grid clued as Saturn's largest moon.
  • 55A: Artist's topper (BERET).
  • 24D: Mud nest builders (WASPS). With the W in place, I first tried WRENS which is … pretty dumb.
  • 27D: It surrounds Lesotho: Abbr. (RSA.). Ooh, ouch. We've found our clunker of the day.
  • 55D: Setting for many a joke (BAR). Love this. I have a hard time remembering jokes well enough to actually tell them, but even the phrase "So a guy walks into a bar…" makes me giggle.
  • 58D: Majors in acting (LEE). PuzzleSon was sitting here a minute ago and asked me what this clue/answer pair meant. I explained it to him and thought this might be my chance to get him hooked on crosswords, but when I offered to teach him more crossword solving tricks he just groaned. Sigh.
[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else 1A: Beginning for the birds? (AVI-); 4A: Shaq on the court (O'NEAL); 9A: Beat __ to one's door (A PATH); 15A: Ramadi resident (IRAQI); 19A: Weight room sound (GRUNT); 26A: Fridge raider (NOSHER); 31A: Remote power sources? (AAA'S); 32A: Thing to blow off (STEAM); 38A: Postgrad hurdle (ORALS); 40A: "Cosmos" host (SAGAN); 41A: Lotto relative (KENO); 42A: Assure, with "up" (SEW); 48A: Most foxy (SLYEST); 50A: Landmass encompassing the Urals (EURASIA); 54A: Bombast (RANT); 59A: Conductor Previn (ANDRE); 60A: Came up (AROSE); 61A: Sargasso or Coral (SEA); 62A: Parks and others (ROSAS); 63A: Zellweger of "Chicago" (RENEE); 1D: Doles out (ALLOTS); 2D: Cialis competitor (VIAGRA); 3D: Tailor's measure (INSEAM); 4D: Van Gogh work (OIL); 5D: Gun lobby org. (NRA); 6D: Ahead of time (EARLY); 7D: Shade in the Caribbean (AQUA); 8D: Bank holding (LIEN); 9D: Saxon start (ANGLO); 10D: Chute above the beach (PARASAIL); 12D: Like some mortgages (TEN-YEAR); 18D: Rope fiber (HEMP); 22D: Paternity proof, briefly (DNA); 25D: Naysayer (ANTI); 30D: The Daily Beast, e.g. (E-MAG); 34D: Like the Islamic calendar (LUNAR); 35D: Refs' whistle holders (LANYARDS); 36D: Natural burn balm (ALOE VERA); 38D: Signs off on (OK'S); 39D: Chile __: stuffed Mexican dish (RELLENO); 42D: N.L. team managed by Tony La Russa since 1996 (STL); 44D: Scarlett's home (TARA); 45D: World Cup chant (USA USA); 46D: Horseshoes feat (RINGER); 47D: Revolutionary Hale (NATHAN); 49D: Fully fills (SATES); 50D: Hewlett-Packard rival (EPSON); 53D: Full-grown filly (MARE); 57D: Taoist Lao-__ (TSE).


Sfingi said...

Didn't like it because I ended up with some blanks and the theme was lame.

Personal Natick: NABES crosses PARASAIL. Looked 'em up after: NABE is short for neighborhood. Whatever. In the same category as uey or uee or uie. Yuck. PARASAIL. Don't do beaches. Too light-skinned.

Next Natick: SEW crosses STL (sports). Personally don't think SEW up means "assure." Means finish, in my book.

RSA is, apparently the Republic of South Africa. It's the Republic that's the hard part. Let's see, What would I pick: Republic of Sfingi?, Sfingi Nation? Federation of Sfingian States? I could change it every Friday the 13th.
And how is AAA remote?

Didn't know how to spell O'NEAL. Those Irish names.

Don't know RELLENA, but got from crosses. Looked it up. Sounds good as long as no peppers.

I did like grunt. One thing I don't like about gyms, but true.
Along with the clunk of huge weights hitting the cement.

Ya learn something every day. But ya don't have to like it.

Anonymous said...

Was Lao-Tse really a Taoist? That's like saying Jesus was a Christian.

lit.doc said...

NABES. I give it no question mark, no “Really?”, as it does show up in puzzles from time to time, but. Seriously. Has anyone eeeever heard it actually used in conversation? Is it a regionalism? An expression even older than me?

And the theme. LALA land? Can’t be right. I hope. So I’ll wait to PG to explain it to me in the a.m.

Good morning, @PG. Having a hard time seeing LA LAW as a theme reveal. Usually there’s that “Oh, NOW I see what ties all the theme entries together!” moment. I must have still been asleep when that moment occurred. Yes, it’s a Down, outside the symetry of the other five answers, but there’s nothing “lawish” in the others. I’ll stick with Lala Land.

Still, an enjoyable Tuesday puzzle. Just wish there’d been a theme/answer pair somewhere that conjoined the six apparent theme answers. “”29D. __-__ Land, and a hint to 17, 21, 35, 51, and 56 Across”, maybe, except not so lame.

Anonymous said...

I think "AAA" refers to the type of batteries typically found in a remote control (e.g. for a television).

Rex Parker said...

Wow, your "sparkly" is my "sucky." TRAMWAY / SAMPAN seems more desperate than good. SAMPAN in particular is concession fill (i.e you put up with it bec. it's the only thing that makes your corner work out).

SethG said...

Not sure about the LAW, but whatever.

Monday's puzzle took me 3:55. Yesterday's 4:05. Today's 4:02. So "exactly the difficulty level it needs to be for the day" is, for me, the same difficulty as every other day.

Mokus said...

I enjoyed the puzzle. I also agree with Sfingi that SEW up is a stretch. It usually involves gaining a monopoly or concluding a deal, i.e. AT&T trying to buy T-Mobile and rule the WWW. If the clue had been "assured" it would have been better. They were assured of enough votes to sew up the election.

Had to chuckle at Sfingi's problem spelling Irish names. Shaq has enough blarney in him and may even have some Irish in him. Ya never know.

CarolC said...

I just enjoyed seeing LAPIS LAZULI in a puzzle, so color me simple and easy to please. . .

@PG, I agree with you about The Wall (Vietnam Vets Memorial). A very moving place to visit.

@lit.doc, having never seen NABES, I looked it up and yep, most likely it is indeed older than you, with first known use allegedly in 1935.

@SethG, I think your times speak more to your high level of skill! Perhaps there is a theoretical minimum puzzle solving time which you are approaching?

Sfingi said...

@Anon617 - Good point.

@Anon622 - Thanx - I'm a Senior Citizen, or Sencit as we call it on the block (you betcha), and we call it a clicker (on the block).

@CarolC - I saw the traveling wall, which itself was moving. Haven't been to DC for a while, but hope to see the real thing some day. The idea of it's being built into the earth seems impressive. And everyone complained at first!

Captcha - progismo - a gizmo which is progressing, such as an iPhone; or, progress in Italy, which is more colorful than actual.

backbiter said...

I dunno. This so did not do anything for me. The La La was ho-hum. I concur with the above comments about "Nabes". What the hell was that?
PG, while you like saying Abu Dhabi over and over again I like saying Lash LaRue over and over again. Fun!



SethG said...

My point isn't how fast I can do the puzzle. (Or how slow--Dan Feyer, for example, solved the puzzles in 1:27, 1:33, and 1:30. I know that lots of regular readers are faster than me, that lots are slower than me, and that lots have no idea how long it takes them.)

Fridays are definitely harder, and the last couple of Saturdays have been really hard, but I just haven't been seeing that much difference between the early-week LAT puzzles.

kerrys said...

Priest, rabbi and minister go into a BAR. Bartender says,"What is this, a joke"?

Don't understand RP's hangup about sampan.

CarolC said...

@SethG, I meant no disrespect. I take your point. The mathematician in me really is curious if there is a minimum puzzle solving time for different size puzzles but it is really about enjoyment rather than speed. I appreciate your comments.

@PG, thank you for taking the time to keep this going! I really enjoy coming here and reading your post, then following the comments and sometimes repartee.

By the way, my hubby says no way I'm simple and easy to please!

VirginiaC said...

Thanks PG for the pic of the Jefferson Memorial, my absolute fave building in DC,esp. at night fron the freeway (or what everEasterners call that road) wheb it seems to glow from within.

Had a problem with Lapis - it is NOT sky blue , unless it's a night time sky.

What is "captcha"???

Joon said...

poor puzzleson. there's no joke to get if you've never heard of lee majors, whose heyday was 35 years ago. this is why we so desperately need crosswords with contemporary references!

RSA is a perfectly good, commonly used initialism, as valid as USA or UAE. i'm outraged on gareth's behalf that people are belittling it. let's save our spleen for really ugly country abbrs like ICEL or BRAZ.

i agree with seth about the difficulty. today's puzzle took me 9 seconds longer than monday's. (i didn't time myself on yesterday's.) that said, there's usually a fairly clear, if gradual, increase throughout the week. today's puzzle was the easiest LAT wednesday in a long while.

Anonymous said...

Hands up for Lapis Lazuli NOT being sky blue. I love Lapis and have a few pieces - definitely a misguided clue.

Did not like Nosher for fridge raider and thought Nabes was the worst answer ever.

Fairly ordinary puzzle

Brian said...

@ Kerrys, nice epitome of a bar joke.

Anonymous said...

@VirginiaC - The CAPTCHA is the word verification process you use, i.e. the letters you have to type in.

*David* said...

I agree that Monday through Wednesday is pretty interchangeable. Thursday typically does a creep up and then a noticeable stiffer Friday and WHAM a resistant Saturday to make you work on the weekend. As long as the tough Saturday's keep coming I'm good, no mercy.

JaxInL.A. said...

PG, I understand your sigh about PuzzleSon's indifference. I had a better experience with my teen daughter on today's NYT puzzle (over at Rex's place). It is a real thrill when your kid shows interest in something you like to do.

Other than wasting a huge amount of brow creasing at NABES, I did fine with this one.

I, too, have a slog of a day ahead. Better get to it. But I'd rather hang out in the many outposts of Crossworld like this one. Thanks, Mr. Sandal, for the respite.

JaxInL.A. said...

That's Mr. Sajdak. I didn't notice that the spell checker had "fixed" it for me.

Spell checker also wants to correct my captcha "elarshia" to "roadshow." Seems pretty random sometimes.

@Kerrys, fun joke.

C said...

Cool, some interesting comments in today's, er, comments.

First the puzzle, I liked the theme, I am a sucker for alliteration. I guess this theme had alliteration and whatever you would call having the same vowel as the second letter , need to think of a word for that.

Interesting comments about the LAT day to day difficulty gradient and solving times. Based on my reading comments in this forum from top solvers, I would argue that solving time isn't as good of a difficulty gauge for top solvers as it is for non-top solvers. I'd guess you could increase the difficulty for top solvers and not effect their solving times until you hit a point that is outside of their "comfort zone" This point for non-top solvers happens much earlier. In a nutshell, I wouldn't expect the relationship between difficulty and solving time to be linear.

@CarolC, I would guess the theoretical minimum time you could solve a puzzle is dependent upon the solver and the medium they are solving on. For keyboard entry, I would guess the theoretical minimum time would be how long it would take you to type out all the answers. Assuming an above average typist is 60 WPM and there are approx 60-65 across clues in a typical LAT puzzle, I'd guess the fastest that person could solve a puzzle is 1 minute which makes the reigning ACPT champion that much scarier.

CrazyCat said...

I'm in the same boat with everyone else about NABES.

I thought this puzzle was easy, but then I saw that I finished with two mistakes. I had SAW instead of SEW UP which made ESSE, ESSA and I had ABA DHABU which led to LAPIS LAZULU. Guess I wasn't really paying attention because I was trying to figure out why there were no Ws in the theme answers to justify LA LAW. Finally figured out it just must be LA LA. Sigh. Did like seeing Chili RELLENO. Had some at Casa Moreno last weekend.

@Sfingi it's a stuffed Poblano chili so you can't really get away from the pepper. It's a mild chili though.

@PG Thanks for the cherry blossom pic.

CrazyCat said...

Forgot to say that I find people who GRUNT in the weight room disturbing.

These guys are having the LAST LAUGH

StudioCitySteve said...

Not a big fan of this one, and certainly lapiz lazuli is poorly clued - in my book, it's not even a color, it's a precious stone. It might happen to be blue, but ...

Did anyone else expect LANYARDS to be one of the theme answers when the L and A were filled? I did - didn't seem right when it wasn't.

I learned NABES from a puzzle too - I've never heard it used in common speech, and I spent 11 years working for a movie studio. I *think* I've heard it in a line from an episode of Seinfeld, maybe it's a Noo Yoik thing.

John Wolfenden said...

Ditto SCS, as usual...I've worked in film and television for 17 years and never heard "nabes." I think it's old-timey enough that it should been clued to indicate that it's not in current use.

I have no problem with SAMPAN/TRAMWAY, but I don't have RP's encyclopedic recall of past puzzles. I liked seeing LAVA LAMP.

Does anyone else have a problem with "Naysayer" for ANTI? Anti is not a noun.

Usually I have a positive or negative reaction to a puzzle, but this was right in the middle.

Avg Joe said...

Chiles relleno can also be made using Anaheim peppers. There's plenty of disagreement over which is more traditional, but no end to that battle is in sight. To overcome that problem, I raise both and switch hit between them.

CCL, that's the 3rd reference I've seen to the twin talk video today. Just a few minutes ago I saw it mentioned on CNN. Earlier, one of my twin sons sent it to me asking: "Did we ever do this?"

The answer is yes, but probably not as enthusiastically.

ddbmc said...

Hmmm. I call the people who live on my block "The Nabes" or Neighb's. Never heard the local cimema's referred to as such.

With CarolC on "lapis lazuli." Rolls trippingly off the tongue, as well as "Abu Dahbi."

Used to live in Arlington, VA, so @PG, thanks for the Cherry Blossom pix. My cousin, used to help maintain the Vietnam Memorial, for the National Parks Service. He is quite the artisan, a W.VA boy. I cried the first time I visited the memorial. So many lives lost-in my lifetime.

Not a Teletubby fan, but I take it, this particular TT is LaaLaa? I suppose the show has it's purpose. I prefer Jim Henson's Muppets, anytime!

As always, thanks, PG.

CrazyCat said...

@You're right Anaheim chiles work well too.

Re: the twin talk video - I saw it on The Today Show. People are probably looking for a little levity after the dismal news of the past few weeks. As far as your twins, you should be glad. That level of enthusiasm could possibly get old quickly.

mac said...

Really up and sparkly write-up, PG.
Had a little problem with 1A, wanted egg or sno.... Otherwise I would like it a little harder on a Wednesday.

Nabe was a gimme because of the discussion on Rex Parker's blog, and it shows up in puzzles every once in a while. I heard a few months ago that the term is still used in Canada. Crosscan?

What's wrong with sampan? There is an enormous number of a's in this puzzle, though, in fact I think there are only 8 words without an a in the across answers.

The jabbering babies were just on tv.

Gareth Bain said...

Was going leave a comment, but I see Joon said pretty much what I was going to say...

I'll add what I said at CCs: I put in LARUELASH. I found that to be amusing. Can only happen if you learn a person's name from crosswords!