06.17 Fri

June 17, 2011
Gareth Bain

Theme: Back to School — Each theme answer is a familiar phrase in which the last word can be used to describe part of an educational experience.

Theme answers:

  • 18A: Part of an astronomy degree? (LUNAR MODULE).
  • 24A: Part of a surgery degree? (CUTTING CLASS).
  • 36A: Part of a physics degree? (COLLISION COURSE).
  • 47A: Part of an economics degree? (MONETARY UNIT).
  • 55A: Part of a theology degree? (GRACE PERIOD).
Whoa. Tough one today, right? I was a little worried I wouldn't actually be able to finish it, but it all came together. Eventually. I kinda wandered my way through the grid doing what I could do, and I ended up with three sections that I could tell were gonna be trouble. First I tackled that northwest corner. Yikes! I stared at that section for quite a while before anything became clear. OH YOU (2D: Words to a kidder) was the first answer I got up there, then I ran the alphabet to figure out HOE (1A: Tool used for loosening). That H made the tricky HARD C come into focus (1D: Repeated cacophonic sound?) and with AH in the 14-across spot, that last letter had to be an L, right? I actually had it in my head that the Calder Cup was hockey, but then I'm all, "No duh. That's the Stanley Cup." Turns out the Calder Cup is an award in the American Hockey League. What? There's another hockey league? (I know, right?)

Finally, I saw ELECTROLUX (3D: Hoover rival ) and then … DOCS. I mean, that's just cruel. Bugs Bunny calls everyone DOC so [20A: All of us, to Bugs] are DOCS. In case it's not clear from my play-by-play so far, I got RYE (17A: Ergot host) completely through crosses and only just now understand it because I Googled and found that "ergot" is a type of fungus. Ew.

After finishing up there, I headed over to the East Coast where I had all kindsa problems. For [39D: Down-home theater] I first had NABE and then ODEA. Yes, I realize now those are terrible, terrible answers. (Correct answer: OPRY). In addition to that, I had TUNE UP where SUIT UP was supposed to go (35D: Get ready to play), so I basically had to tear everything out and start over before I could tell what the heck was going on over there.

Finally, I made the Southern California area way harder than it had to be when I entered ESP instead of GAB at [55D: Dubious "gift"]. It was really hard for me to erase that one because I was so sure it was right. When I finally made myself do it, though, I slowly began to see the right answers there and, as I said, eventually the puzzle was done. Whew! What a workout!

  • 15A: Take it easy (LOAF). With the L in place, my first two guesses were LOLL and LAZE.
  • 32A: Component of some screwdrivers, briefly (STOLI). This is, of course, a reference to the drink not the tool. But you see how they got us thinking about tools right off the bat at 1-Across so that when we got down here it would be hard for us to think of a screwdriver any other way?
  • 34A: West of Brooklyn (MAE). I did not know she was from Brooklyn.
  • 59A: Rather, once (ANCHOR). I just knew this clue was referring to Dan Rather, but I had that stupid (wrong) S in the first spot and couldn't make any sense out of it.
  • 6D: Conduct (MANAGE). Late in the week, we're going to see tricky clues like this. Not only does the word "conduct" have many meanings, it also has more than one pronunciation. And if you get one of the pronunciations stuck in your head, it's sometimes difficult to shift to another.
  • 19D: Bit of kindness from a bank (RELOAN). Something about the phrasing of this clue rubs me the wrong way. It's that "kindness" thing. Like I want to be indignant about the bank making sure I know it's doing me a favor. Even though, essentially, that's exactly what's going on.
  • 25D: Unusual clock number (IIII). Ouch. That's ugly. Moving on.
  • 31D: 1934 chemistry Nobelist (UREY). Crap. More ugly.
  • 32D: Caber thrower (SCOT). I do not know what a "caber" is. Shall we find out? Hmm. It's a "long, wooden pole." And throwing them is, apparently, a traditional Scottish athletic event. Hard to believe these are the same people responsible for golf.
  • 44D: "Be serious!" ("COME ON!"). You know I love the colloquial phrase. And this one is awesome.
  • 48D: Singer with the 1995 album "Velvet and Brass" (TORMÉ). The Velvet Fog.

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 63A: Actor Morales (ESAI).
  • 64A: The car in Thurber's 1933 story "The Car We Had to Push" (REO).
  • 51D: Pisa's river (ARNO).
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Everything Else 4A: What some chambers hold (AMMO); 8A: Put down (ABASED); 14A: Calder Cup org. (AHL); 16A: __ threat: performer who can sing, dance and act (TRIPLE); 22A: Like Inverted Jenny stamps (RARE); 23A: As it __ (WERE); 27A: Reward of a kind (RAISE); 28A: "Good move, torero!" (OLÉ); 29A: Shot target (FLU); 35A: Crabby (SOUR); 40A: Responsibility (ONUS); 41A: Gp. for GPs (HMO); 42A: Like mottoes (PITHY); 43A: They're often sold in blocks, for short (TIX); 44A: Bra part (CUP); 45A: Surprise, sometimes (PARTY); 51A: Bit with a nucleus (ATOM); 53A: Act the affectionate grandparent (DOTE); 54A: High-grade cotton (PIMA); 58A: Code word for "N" in the old U.S. Phonetic Alphabet (NAN); 60A: Security concern (MOLE); 61A: __ salad (EGG); 62A: Mendel's field (BOTANY); 4D: Without exception (ALL); 5D: Grieves (MOURNS); 7D: Joan __ (OF ARC); 8D: Gas station convenience (ATM); 9D: Shop for books (BROWSE); 10D: White House staffers (AIDES); 11D: Type of poker? (SPUR); 13D: "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" author Brown (DEE); 21D: Gate divisions, at the track (STALLS); 26D: Smart __ (ALEC); 29D: Clementine's dad, for one (FORTY-NINER); 30D: Verdant (LUSH); 33D: "Unbreak My Heart" singer Braxton (TONI); 34D: Milking murmur (MOO); 37D: Ostracize (SHUN); 38D: Bar (IMPEDE); 45D: Artificial turf sites (PATIOS); 46D: Ring of color (AREOLA); 47D: Eponymous Yemeni seaport (MOCHA); 49D: JPEG file content (IMAGE); 50D: Suggestive dance (TANGO); 52D: Savoir-faire (TACT); 56D: Wield a crowbar (PRY); 57D: Agnus __ (DEI).


Brian said...

Today's puzzle seemed easy compared to yesterday's. Got started with ELECTOLUX and finished with GRACE. Some days I just seem to get the clues better than other.
I've never seen a patio with astroturf.

Orange said...

Anthony Weiner has ruined me for looking at pictures of caber tossers.

Tough crossword today!

Mari said...

Much easier than yesterday's puzzle. I think they flipped Thursday and Friday!

imsdave said...

A rare LAT on a Friday that was tougher than the NYT.

I got in trouble with ESP for GAB, as did our charming host. TUNEUP was my second guess for SUITUP, after WARMUP. Tried AIR for ATM (even though my gas station charges $0.75 for air now - just a throwback to my youth, I guess).

Except for RELOAN (is that a real thing?) this is a great puzzle - and I do realize that was the only choice there, crossing three theme answers as it does.

Thank you Gareth, and keep them coming.

ps - @Brian and Mari - really?! Yesterday went down in about 8 minutes for me - today, almost 25.

Anonymous said...

Fun for me. Had mele as security concern and kind of wondered about paties - thinking perhaps some kind of surf and turf hamburger thing. Oh well.

Boona said...

I loved both yesterday and today's puzzles. But I did find today's easier. Only one erasure because I put a letter in the wrong square!

I do love my Sharpie liquid pencil. It has the same feel as doing it in ink but can be erased. I used to do them in ink until my brain decided to age.

According to sources Electrolux has only been used once in puzzles. Is this true, PG?

I have been enjoying reading your blog for some time and decided it was time to post a comment.

Anonymous said...

For me, today's was definitely more difficult than yesterday's (which I did not enjoy at all). Today's was solid.

Dave in Bend, OR said...

Nice outing in general. Had Brooklyn in mind from the Mae West clue so kept thinking of Bug's Brooklynese and wanted youz or yous (versus they now obvious docs)....KNEW it was a vacuum cleaner but that whole Seattle area had me in a bind. The rest came fairly easy (wanted PHEAD for the screwdriver clue though). DNK and did not care for Urey and agree with PG on the whole RELOAN "favor/kindness" the bank is doing for you. In today's market a loan modification might be considered "kindness" but even there the bank gets a subsidy for doing loan mods. Have a great weekend all!

Steve said...

Funny how different people have difficuly/ease with the puzzles - this one was a challenge for me, as @PG and @Dave the Washington State area was a real challenge for me.

Loved the long downs, ELECTROLUX and FORTYNINER were great.

I got STOLI right away, even though I prefer my screwdrivers with Ketel One.

nasafemme said...

Ugh! RELOAN, a kindness. No, banks should be competing for my business. Yesterday's was harder.

CrazyCat said...

This one was a challenge for me. I had too google twice, but I felt happy when I finally finished, unlike yesterday. Some great tricky clueing here. I remembered caber/SCOT from some other puzzle. I, too, fell into the ESP trap. Lot's more to say, but no time.

@Orange That was funny!

CoffeeLvr said...

I found this not only much easier than today's NYT, but easier than yesterday's LAT! Just goes to show the variety in solver's knowledge base and "wavelengths."

I knew ergot of RYE from the history of witches and of LSD, which helped in the NE. Had GAg as my first try for a "dubious gift", so spent some time trying to shoe horn some variety of "genetics" in the space for Mendel's field; still, having two letters correct helped a lot.

I liked the theme, thought it was funny, and grasped it with MODULE. Thanks a lot, Gareth, this is the kind of puzzle I solve for. A challenge, but not frustration; some laughs, but no groans; a nugget or two to learn, but no WTF moments.

CP said...

Good, challenging, solid puzzle. Nice Theme. No bogus filler. (No goof ball, long, chopped off Latin phrases!) Got a bit hung up in NW corner, but worked it out after figured ELECTROLUX and HARDC.

C said...

I liked today's puzzle, a little bit challenging and I learned some things. Never heard of ELECTROLUX but I like the way the word sounds.

The cluing for DOCS was awesome, then again, anything to do with Bugs is all right with me.

I should defend my fellow chemist UREY but I'm pretty sure @PG was referring to the fill, not the discoverer of Deuterium. It's not his fault that his name makes for a good answer for crossword constructors. I think I'll take it back to chemist defcon 5 for now.

gift of GAB is the main rapper for one of my favorite hip hop groups, Blackalicious, so today's clue for GAB (Dubious "gift") didn't quite work for me. He also does a song called "Chemistry Calisthenics" which contain actual chemistry concepts and terms. Chemistry is cool.

imsdave said...

@C - a little Tom Lehrer to brighten your day:

The Elements

C said...

Thanks, @imsdave. Chemistry is everywhere, even on youtube.

mac said...

What a great Friday LAT puzzle! Especially like Oh, you! and Come on! Got those immediately. Is this unusual, puns plus related final words?

Had to stare really hard at that hard C, as usual....

Tough puzzle, but I took longer to do the NYT today.

E Whitzman said...

Gareth Bain, whoever he or she is,is not correct about the Calder trophy - it is awarded by the N HL. to the best rookie of the year, NOT the AHL . Because of that dumb error, I couldn't complete the northwest corner - and I was doing so well .

So Gareth, go soak your head in the bain, which in French ! means Bath !

Doug P said...

@E Whitzman - Yes, the Calder Trophy is an NHL award. However the Calder CUP (not trophy) is awarded to the winner of the AHL championship. Reread the clue.