05.04 Wed

May 4, 2011
Don Gagliardo

Theme: I can haz skillz? — Theme answers are examples of things cats are really good at.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: *Checking, as books (BALANCING).
  • 20A: *Like some ovens (SELF-CLEANING).
  • 35A: *Field action (HIGH-JUMPING).
  • 53A: *Part of many a magic act (DISAPPEARING).
  • 58A: New York resort area, and what the answers to starred clues are (CATSKILLS).
This is an awesome theme. I mean awesome. CATSKILLS! CAT SKILLS! Totally love it. The only two resort areas I thought of off the top of my head were the Poconos and the Hamptons. And neither of those seemed like they could be the basis of a theme. There are also some great clues and great words in the grid. SIGHT UNSEEN (24D: Trusting way to purchase) is a particularly fresh phrase. And you know I always love it when we get to see both first and last names of a crossword regular like ANG LEE (8D: "Hulk" director). I had to read [28A: Activist with Raiders] a couple times before I even understood it was trying to get me to remember Ralph NADER and "NADER's Raiders." (Me: "One of the Oakland Raiders is an activist?") And yet …

Several entries just really jarred me. Like 31A: 1987 Masters champ Larry MIZE? Um, who? Why cross an obscure athlete with an abbreviation (MON.) in a grid already full of abbreviations when you just really don't have to? Think about it. That's an easy fix.

I do always appreciate when NAAN (15A: Indian flatbread) is spelled with two As (in crosswords, sometimes it's not), but then I realized that NAN (49A: Bert Bobbsey's twin) is also in the grid. Then we've got CANC. as an abbreviation for [7D: Call off an appt.]. Ugh. And MOIL (MOIL?), which I guess is similar to TOIL (27A: Hard work) and seems, I don't know, kinda mean for a Wednesday.

One more complaint and I'll stop. The clue for EAR is [21D: Poor listener's in-and-out organ]. That's an awkward, bizarre clue. There's really no reason for that, is there?

I did appreciate the trickiness of 1A: Work on, as a part (COMB). And for some reason UNCLENCH (5D: Relax, as one's fist) seemed kinda cool to me. I tried LORD where PORT was supposed to go (41A: Boston or Baltimore). Anyone else do that? And my write-overs for UMP (22D: One wearing black at home) are pretty funny. First I tried NUN, then when I got the U and thought MOIL should be TOIL giving me a T, I thought to myself "The UTEs of the University of Utah must wear black at their home games." Now that is just dumb. HAha! Sometimes the convoluted rationalizations I come up with for my stupid guesses really make me laugh.

And that's about all I have time for today. Remember, the Crosswords L.A. puzzles are available over on Alex Boisvert's website. It's an incredible deal for a bunch of puzzles that I'm sure are fantastic (I haven't done them yet but I hope to get to them today!).

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 65A: Ferber and a Dame (EDNAS).
  • 2D: Ooplasm containers (OVA).
  • 8D: "Hulk" director (ANG LEE).
  • 23D: Island dish (POI).
  • 54D: Songwriter Paul (ANKA).
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Everything Else 5A: Donald, to his nephews (UNCA); 9A: Polite title (MADAM); 14A: [Turn the page] (OVER); 16A: Monterrey girlfriend (AMIGA); 19A: Plymouth's county (DEVON); 22A: Expand operations (UPSIZE); 25A: Expand one's belly (EAT); 26A: Goose egg (NIL); 32A: 61-Down resident (PIG); 33A: Versatile, powerwise (AC/DC); 34A: Subdivided (ZONED); 39A: Flat-topped formation (BUTTE); 42A: Blame, slangily (RAP); 45A: Blame (ONUS); 46A: Flower girl's path (AISLE); 48A: Geologic procession (EONS); 50A: Little devil (IMP); 51A: Lunch time (MIDDAY); 57A: Place to play (ARENA); 62A: Best Buy squad members (GEEKS); 63A: Busy as __ (A BEE); 64A: Toned-down "Awesome!" ("NEAT!"); 65A: Ferber and a Dame (EDNAS); 66A: Mama __ (CASS); 67A: Plucky (GAMY); 1D: Cheap pipe material (COB); 2D: Ooplasm containers (OVA); 3D: Blanc who voiced Bugs (MEL); 4D: Sergio Mendes & __ '66 (BRASIL); 6D: Greenhorn (NAIF); 9D: Ticked off by (MAD AT); 10D: Word of agreement (AMEN); 11D: Water shower? (DIVINING ROD); 12D: Fret (over) (AGONIZE); 13D: Really botched up (MANGLED); 18D: Pince-__ (NEZ); 29D: Descriptive wd. (ADJ.); 30D: Bra choices (D-CUPS); 31D: Day for the fair-of-face child: Abbr. (MON.); 33D: Some do it gracefully (AGE); 34D: Teen omen (ZIT); 36D: "__ for me to know ..." (IT'S); 37D: Kind of biol. (MOL.); 38D: Bases for arguments (PREMISES); 39D: "Of Human __" (BONDAGE); 40D: Like some TV pilots (UNAIRED); 43D: Nostalgist's suffix (-ANA); 44D: Future therapist's maj. (PSY.); 46D: Band booster (AMP); 47D: Medicinal syrup (IPECAC); 48D: Garden container? (EDGING); 50D: "None for me, thank you" ("I PASS"); 52D: Publicity (INK); 55D: Rhyme scheme in Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" (AABA); 56D: Hwys. with nos. (RTES.); 59D: Thompson of "Back to the Future" (LEA); 60D: Flee (LAM); 61D: 32-Across home (STY).


Anonymous said...

You missed one theme element (as did Dan) 1A & 14A combine to form another feline skill, the well known Donald Trump COMBOOVER, highly popular among blowviating cats.

Mari said...

Oops. Island dish is not Anka in 23-Down (Crosswordese).

Alexscott said...

Yes, I really enjoyed the 1A/14A COMB OVER combo. (This is just a great week to slam Trump.) Surprised you missed that, PG. If I were Beavis or Butthead, I would have sniggered at the stacking of BUTTE and ONUS. But I'm not, so I didn't (well, not much).

Also, Larry Mize is not really obscure. I mean, I don't follow golf at all, and I've heard of him. I think if you follow sports in general (and no, Iowa wrestling doesn't count), these names just seep into your head by osmosis.

Lucky I'd seen MOIL in a previous puzzle, or else I'd've left that one as UTP. I agree, though, that's just a mean crossword answer, because you know the answer has to be TOIL. Is moil crosswordese? If it's not, it should be.

Alexscott said...

Oh, I forgot to say I really enjoyed the cat photos/captions. Mad skills. You has them. Thanks, PG.

Anonymous said...

Foiled by MOIL. Had UTP for Black at home. Epic fail for a Wednesday.

Palamedes said...

"There are strange things done in the midnight sun By the men who moil for gold..." The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service

kerrys said...

22D - Umpires are usually called "Men in Blue"

shrub5 said...

Another paw up for this enjoyable puzzle as well as the cute cat pix. Yep, kitties are pretty skillful.

I put BUNGLED at 13D and tried to come up with a polite title ending in B. Well, SAHIB came to mind but couldn't get anything going around that!

@PG: No, I didn't try LORD before PORT but did try POPS as in Boston Pops (figured maybe there was a lesser known Baltimore Pops).

@Alexscott: BUTTE/ONUS ... LOL / groan.

*David* said...

I was off one letter in MOIL but it was the L, for some reason thought it was MOIE. UNCA and UNCLEnch connected which was an interesting intersection. Cute theme and I also knew Larry Mize right off the bat.

Julie said...

Loved the theme too even tho I'm a dog-owner :) The Donald really should try a new age-appropriate hairstyle - I mean even Justin Bieber cut his shorter. Me too - I just chopped 5 inches off mine. C'mon Donald, get a spring do!!

Anonymous said...

Gamy for plucky??? Game seems right to me, but in my world "gamy" always meant wild meat that tasted too wild, or food that has started to go a little bad. Never heard "gamy" with the y to mean plucky.

Merriam-Webster said...

Gamy-Showing an unyielding spirit; plucky: a gamy little mare that loved to run

Kurisu said...

Good puzzle overall; I like cats so this was fun. BALANCING was a little confusing -- I've heard of balancing checkbooks but I don't see how that leads to "Checking, as books." I agree that MOIL was mean -- I had TOIL and just figured UTP was some abbreviation I wasn't familiar with.

On the plus side, I actually liked the EAR clue that PG complained about. DIVINING ROD was fun because I could see it almost certainly had to be that from crosses, but I had no idea how that was a "water shower" until I figured out I was thinking of the wrong "shower". Tricky tricky.

And yes, the COMB OVER was amusing.

A lot of good longer answers -- UPSIZE, AGONIZE, MANGLED, UNAIRED, and BONDAGE.

Doug P said...

I tracked down the "cheezburger" crossword puzzle that's in the first picture. It's the September 8, 2007 LA Times puzzle by Frederick J. Healy. And that cat must be high on catnip, because I don't see any Z's in the grid.

Masked and Anonymous said...

Different. Very good. Also learned a new word: MOIL.
Good day for puzs. Only theme entries missing here:
. yakking up hairballs
. lapsitting
. pickyeating
Come to think of it, there's probably a few hundred more...

Good day's work, Mr. Gagliardo.

Brian said...

The only other time I heard that word was in an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry was the godfather at a bris.
-But it turns out that the spelling is slightly different.
Kramer: (about the Bris) Hey, we're not talking about a manicure. Imagine, this is gonna be his first memory of his parents, just standing there while some stranger cuts off a piece of his manhood and then serves a catered lunch!

Joon said...

i agree with PG on MIZE. i'm a huge sports fan but i've only ever seen this guy's name in crosswords. he's not even the most famous sports MIZE; that would be johnny "the big cat" MIZE of the baseball hall of fame.

however, the fix is not quite as trivial as PG implies. you could, and probably should, change MIZE/MON to SIZE/SON, but then you'd also want to change UPSIZE/NEZ to UPSIDE/NED. i think that produces a better grid overall, but it removes a Z, which some constructors are loath to give up.

overall, nice puzzle--cool theme and great long fill. but the plethora of abbrs (including some awkward ones like CANC and MOL and PSY), along with some fairly oblique cluing for a wednesday, made this one a bit less smooth than i would have liked.

C said...

Fun theme today, nice originality. The cluing was different and took new approaches to old answers. In one EAR and out the other is something I heard a lot growing up, I took it to mean I was efficient at processing and disposing information, my parents disagreed.

re: umps being called "men in blue", totally true, in fact, I would address them as "blue" but, iirc, MLB umpires have wore maroon jackets, black jackets, black shirts, etc.

CoffeeLvr said...

Flaming DNF very early this morning. The same tOIL crossing UtP, and just like PG, I figured it was some obscure collegiate sports uniform reference. I still find MOIL equally obscure, but it is a word. I must remember it; very tricky since it is so close to another word with the same meaning.

Now, what did I like? I love cats, and SELF CLEANING is very funny. I think the best things about the theme are the pictures you found, PG! DIVINING ROD is very good (and useful with all those I's); did not know DEVON, but gettable from the crosses. I was proud of myself for (eventually) recalling the backup band for Sergio Mendez. All these years after hearing the songs on the radio, and I still thought it was BRAzIL, but the S was already firmly in place.

I will close with noting that the clue for 25A, "Expand one's belly," is what will happen if you do 22A (UPSIZE) at the drive-thru speaker.

badams52 said...


Books as in the accounting books of a business. Checking if they are accurate can be called balancing.

John Wolfenden said...

I found the endgame on this one challenging, but in sort of annoying ways. I won't repeat everyone else's kvetches, except to say that the work of a moil sound like MOIL to me.

My own caveats:

-COB is not a material, corn is a material
-All highways have numbers, not just RTEs
-I've always seen it as "That's for me to know.." and not "It's..."

The clue for DIVINING ROD was interesting. That's a very tricky type of pun, one you don't see often. I for one liked "In and out organ" for EAR and the Robert Frost rhyme scheme.

I dunno, Joon and PG...I've heard of Larry Mize and I don't follow golf at all.

Anonymous said...

Gamy? Moil? This meat is really plucky, and such moil....

Robert W. Service said...

Moil is a word. And it has been for a long, long time. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

According to M_W.com:

intransitive verb
: to work hard : drudge
: to be in continuous agitation : churn, swirl

Examples of MOIL

1. miners moiling all day in the sunless recesses of the earth
2. the angry mob moiled around the courthouse
First Known Use: 15th century

Is this just turning toil into moil for alliterative purposes - 15th century it's first use, when was it's last? - can "archaic" ever be used in crossword cluing?

brainylagirl said...

When I got to "CATSKILLS," I actually did laugh aloud. In addition to many of the favorite elements already mentioned in this puzzle, I really liked the "AABA" "ABEE" cross, as well.

fergus said...

Are the LA Times puzzles getting a bit tougher? I haven't been as confounded, regardless of the day, as I was with this one.