SUNDAY, Mar. 2, 2008 - Patrick Blindauer and Tony Orbach (SUSAN OF "LOOKER")

Monday, March 3, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium-Hard

THEME: "Forward Thinking" - familiar phrases are changed by shifting one letter one place up in the alphabet, resulting in new, wacky phrases which are then clued

A simple theme, but one that results in some pretty colorful phrases and an overall enjoyable puzzle. Complexity isn't everything. A basic idea, creatively executed, beats overly complex trickery any day of the week.

I am still a day behind, so I have to move through this one quickly to make room for Tuesday's puzzle (which comes out in 9 minutes).

Theme answers:

  • 1A: Offer for an R.J. Reynolds brand? (Kool bid) (up from Kool-Aid)
  • 29A: Papa pad? (daddy shack) (up from "Caddyshack")
  • 38A: Canola and sunflower oil? (good fats) (up from good eats, I think) - this answer is the worst of them all, in that there is such a thing as "good fats," while there is no such thing as a DADDY SHACK or a KOOL BID or a ...
  • 41A: Best fraternity pledge tormentor? (star hazer) (up from star-gazer)
  • 52A: Not the most exciting school athletes? (JV drips) (up from IV drips) - I like this one. I had AV----- at first because I thought the clue was going to refer to the dorks in the AV Club.
  • 56A: Social gathering with the Rockettes? (leg party) (up from keg party)
  • 68A: Got sober? (nixed drinks) - another good one
  • 83A: C.I.A. noggins? (spy beans) (up from ... spy beams? HA ha, nope; up from soy beans - I literally just got it)
  • 85A: Hit boxer John with a haymaker? (pop Ruiz) (up from pop quiz) - would have helped to know who the hell John RUIZ is.
  • 93A: Fog in Zurich? (Swiss mist) (up from Swiss Miss)
  • 96A: How-to films for a dairy farm? (milk DVDs) (up from Milk Duds)
  • 104A: Side view of salmon? (lox profile) (up from low profile) - by far the hardest one for me to uncover - more below
  • 126A: Transcribe some Dickens? (copy Boz) (up from copy boy) - BOZ was Dickens' pseudonym, something it's useful to know once every few months.

OK, so LOX PROFILE. Yipes. I dropped OPRAH'S (100D: _____ Book Club) and PRIMES (101D: 7, 11 and 13) straight through this section of the puzzle, bam bam, and thought for sure I'd polish it off instantly. But LO-PRO-IL- was not making any sense to me. Eventually I put the "E" on the end and still had to think about it a bit. The problem: as the clue was side-of-a-fish-related, I wanted the last four letters to be GILL. Duh. But I couldn't make anything out of WIG- at 94D: Ring bearer (wife), nor could I I get 108D: Bar at the bar (estop) to start with an "L." Once I finally gave up on GILL, PROFILE came into view, allowing me finally to infer the "X" in LOX. The cross, XHOSA (106D: Mandela's native tongue) looks familiar only in retrospect.

The rest:

  • 12A: 1970 Simon & Garfunkel hit ("Cecilia") - this was the first song that popped into my head, but I nixed it because I convinced myself that the song was "CELIA," as in, well, "Song to CELIA" (Ben Jonson).
  • 47A: Rugged coastline feature (ria) - one of my favorite bits of crossword geography. Also, sounds like a car model name.
  • 87A: "_____ Calloways" (Disney film) ("Those") - What the @#$#?! I've never ever heard of this film. I had TMOSE for a while, mistakingly believing that 82D: Speech stumbles were UMS (no - UHS).
  • 102D: First song on "More of the Monkees" ("She") - long way to go for a basic pronoun
  • 112A: Temple of Isis locale (Aswan) - I know the Dam ... and that is all I know about ASWAN.
  • 122A: Ice Cube ne _____ Jackson (O'Shea) - whoa, you don't see the masculine NÉ very often! I like this clue better than the more typical one referencing actor Milo O'SHEA.
  • 3D: Plaudits, of a sort (oles) - "Plaudits" is a very weird word. Seems entirely unnecessary, when so many other synonyms will do. But I like it, I think, for that very reason.
  • 7D: Susan of "Looker" (Dey) - "Looker"!? HA ha. "L.A. Law" was too obvious, I guess.
  • 9D: _____ Tubb, the Texas Troubadour (Ernest) - absolutely no idea.
  • 34D: Wagner heroine (Isolde) - pretty gettable, as Wagner heroines go. I'm including it here only because I got a ton of search hits for it, all of which directed people to a completely different heroine from a late 2006 puzzle. Maybe searchers will get directed to this page now. Who knows?
  • 58D: Plane part (y axis) - cleverish.
  • 64D: "Julius Caesar" setting (Senate) - really really glad I just taught this.
  • 80D: Christina in the 2005 revival of "Sweet Charity" (Applegate) - I am told, I forget by whom, that Ms. Applegate does crosswords. I think I read that at Orange's blog. Anyway, if so, I'm sure she's thrilled. I know I would be.
  • 88D: Finnic language (Estonian) - what I don't know about Finnic languages could fill some kind of book.
  • 97D: Fife player (Knotts) - I don't know if this clue has been done before, but O My God I love it. It's easily my favorite of the puzzle. Don KNOTTS was some kind of genius.

The End

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 10:53 PM  

Of added interest is that the letter shifts are in alphabetical order (first one changes "a" to "b", second one "c" to "d", etc.)

Mary in NE

Jim in NYC 10:57 PM  

Rex is back! But really, you could have taken a break for a couple of puzzles. Would the fans have minded? Anyone else remember 1978 when there was a printing strike and The New York Times missed an entire papacy?

In case it hasn't been said enough, thanks for this blog and creating all the enthusiasm that channelled so many of us into ACPT 2008!

Jim Finder/Jim in NYC/Jiminy C.

TexasTroubador 11:15 PM  

Ernest Tubbs was a true country music legend. He played for over 40 years on the Grand Ole Opry and is one of the first members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. His biggest hit was "Walking the Floor Over You". It is identified with his main musical style, Honky Tonk.

If I were a betting man, I would bet his hometown (which is now officially a ghost town) will be in a puzzle this year...Crisp, TX or at least the his home county of Ellis, TX.

Ulrich 11:15 PM  

@anonymous: Respect for finding this and thanks for pointing this out! This makes my copy of the puzzle, signed by both constructors (!), the most cherished artefact that I brought home from the ACTP.

Fergus 11:26 PM  

That SPY BEANS seemed inconsistent until I saw Rex's revelation on the P for O substitution. I thought there was more of a pattern as to where the substitution might occur, but I now see that it could fall anywhere.

Torbach 11:26 PM  

Thanks for the nice write-up -
Patrick and I had fun making this, and possibly more fun still having it come out during the crossword tournament and getting immediate feedback from all those great puzzlers! A quick correction on the comments though: coming from a name nut, the actor to whom you're referring that we happily didn't reference is MILO O'SHEA, not MILES - we need him to be perpetuated for the use of that first name too!

Hey, Congrats on #55!

Anonymous 12:00 AM  

The alphabetical order made it awesome and way easier for me to finish. I love this blog, but I only allow myself to read it when I am done, which sometimes does not happen!

Dan 12:24 AM  

Great puzzle - I didn't solve it until tonight, so unfortunately I'd heard about the theme already.

Got my Broadway clue fix, as expected... here's the Christina Applegate reference from Orange. She was charming in that show, if not a Broadway-caliber singer.

About 75-A, SOLTI, the "Student of Bartok"... my grandfather was also a student of Bartok and a classmate of Solti's. At the conservatory, apparently, Solti was the star pianist and my grandfather was going to be a conductor... but it turned out the opposite way.

Noam D. Elkies 1:11 AM  

Mary in NE = Anonymous 10:53 -- thanks for pointing out the alphabetical order; I solved the entire puzzle (during the break after the considerably harder ACPT-7) without noticing this, even though Y/Z was there at the very last square of the puzzle. Yet another example of getting further appreciation of the day's puzzle from the blog and commentary.

Dan 12:24 -- wow, we have a great-grandson of sorts of Bartok among us. Did your grandfather keep in touch with Solti after graduation?

I wouldn't have expected Rex to single out "plaudit" as strange: it seems to come straight from Latin, and is close to the familiar "applaud" and the standard crosswordese/headlinese "laud".

--Noam D. Elkies (who will now again be able to savor the occasional Mon/Tue puzzle instead of racing to finish in under N minutes)

Rex Parker 7:59 AM  


Thanks for dropping by, and for pointing out the Miles-for-MILO error. I'm making more than my usual number of mistakes since returning from Brooklyn. I'm just tired, I think (and writing too fast - trying to play catch-up). That's the excuse I'm using this week, at any rate.

Saw you around a lot in Brooklyn but never got the chance to meet you. Maybe next year. Congrats again on a lovely puzzle (you too, PB2).


Spencer 9:29 AM  

Oy! SOY BEANS. I thought it was from SPY BEAMS, which also makes a kind of sense, no? But that would make two M to N transitions. Ah, well.

For Finnic language, I had some crosses, and figured that Estonia is near Finland, so maybe it's got a Finnic language. Of course, Hungary is NOT near Finland, but Hungarian is in the same language group with Finnish.

And for Fife player, I just now got it from your writeup. I guess I didn't watch enough junk TV as a kid.

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

The best thing about Susan Dey in "Looker" was that you got to see her nekkid. Not so, LA LAW.
On the other hand, not my type, dressed or not.

Anonymous 3:59 PM  

Well, I know I'm not near as good as all of you at doing these things, but I do enjoy learning new words.

So, now, when I see a panhandler, I'll say..."Don't cadge me, bro!" or not.

(and I did know Mr. Tubbs!)

mrbreen 11:47 PM  

Having just figured out that the theme clues ran in alphabetical order gives me newfound respect for this puzzle.

Also, denim (49A) is in no way casual attire. At least not in my world.

mrbreen 11:48 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arby 1:17 PM  

I really enjoyed the alphabet substitution theme of this puzzle. But I just now checked the blog comments, and discovered the fact that all 26 letters are represented in their correct order. WOW. That's one fancy puzzle.

And you folks are making me feel old, because when I saw Susan Dey, I immediately thought of the Partridge Family (I think I had a crush on her in 3rd grade). Looker AND LA Law seem like contemporary references to me, by comparison. (!)

garydasein 3:19 PM  

I think 78 across should be "snatch" (clap hands on), making 73 down "str" (orch. section [strings]).

billnutt 5:15 PM  

Don't know if you're still reading this late in the week, Rex, but you should know that Junior Brown (one-time shill for Lipton Ice Tea) has a song called "My Baby Don't Dance to Nothing But Ernest Tubb."

I believe the late Mr. Tubb also ran a music store in Nasville.

Catherine 2:49 PM  

It took me reading your summary to realize that the switched letters are in order, all the way through, A-Z. Sigh.

rosebud 1:39 PM  

First half of the alphabet, the switches were all at the beginning of a word, while in the second half they were anywhere. That messed me up for quite a while.

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