SATURDAY, Feb 7, 2009 - P. Muller (Glazed waxy fabric finish / Lawless vehicle / Hit NBC series succeeded in its time slot by "ER")

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none [correction: "SEX, DRUGS, and ROCK and ROLL" - see NW, NE, SW, and SE corners]

Word of the Day: CIRÉ (also CIRE) - 1 : a highly glazed finish for fabrics usually achieved by applying wax to the fabric 2 : a fabric or garment with a ciré finish (m-w online)

Puzzles are always easier when you can nail the 1A answer early, and for the second day in a row, 1A went down without a fight (1A: Unoriginal order, with "the"). Bambi's aunt is all kinds of crosswordese (4D: Disney doe), so that went down, followed by the also-common EBON (15A: Raven) and XENA (17A: Lawless vehicle - real Saturday clue on that one, as "Lawless" refers to the actress Lucy Lawless).
Now I've got SEX sitting there at the top of 1D: Idols, often, and OBJECTS is the first word that comes to mind. I wanted to confirm it off the "J" but I had no idea who co-wrote "Grease" (despite my adoration for the 1978 movie and the pre-tramp version of its female lead). In fact, none of the Acrosses want to confirm that OBJECTS is correct. Except SNO, of course (40A: _____ Balls (snack brand)). Duh. I somehow managed to get VOTED from 23D: Supported a runner, and that allowed me the decent guess of ETATS at 31A: The Louvre's Salles des _____. Everything else in that corner I put together easily after that. Picked up the toughish JACOBS (26A: "Grease" co-writer Jim) and nicely clued BREVITY (22A: Rambler's lack), and exited stage NE. At some point I looked back and saw CIRE sitting there like a horrid bit of roadkill (34A: Glazed, waxy fabric finish). Sometimes short answers have to suck a little in order for the quadrant as a whole to come out looking nice.

The puzzle put up a fight only a few more times, and even then, I didn't have much trouble taking it down. No idea about a dog in a 1928 movie based on a comic strip no one has read since WWII (27A: Maggie's dog in "Bringing Up Father" - FIFI;
"Bringing Up Father" actually ran from 1913 to 2000!!! But technically "Dick Tracy" is still running ... successful comics never die - they just fade horribly away, refusing to die until long after anyone cares enough to honor them for what made them great in the first place). I can't even confirm that the damned dog was in the comic strip. Is that the dog there, in the picture (right)? FIFI intersected another word I could get at easily because of its clue: FEVER (27D: Pyrexia). I thought maybe this was a brand of cookware. My problems with FEVER were made worse by my initially having RALES for 35A: Sounds unsound). Isn't that the sound your chest makes when you are unwell? Well, yes, it's a noun meaning " An abnormal respiratory sound characterized by fine crackles." Apparently it is not also a verb. Alas. The answer here was of course RAVES.

I started writing SEA... at 44A: Headed out for the drink before changing it to SET SAIL, and I had CRACK at 45A: Open before SNEAK forced me to give it up, and eventually turn it into the correct FRANK (an entirely different sense of "Open"). I don't see eraser marks anywhere else on my grid.

The section I most admire in this puzzle is the SW. I would read the FRANK story of a LIVE-IN-MAID (50A: Upper-class luxury) who quits her job and crosses the Atlantic (OCEAN-BORNE - 54A: Like bottles with S O S messages, typically) in order to visit the ROCK GARDENs of ... wherever they have those (56A: Spot to show off alpine plants). "FRANK" - in the language of vintage paperback cover copy - means that there will be at least partial nudity.



I like to keep my eye out for potential, possibly up-and-coming crossword fill, and I have two names I'm keeping my eye at the moment. They're both musicians I've been listening to a lot lately. The first is RAPHAEL SAADIQ. He's a soul singer whose debut album features collaborations with Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, and Joss Stone. I am rooting for his future success, if only for the opportunity it will provide for me to see that delicious last name in my puzzles. Then there's ADELE. Now, ADELE has been a bit of crosswordese for a while now, but you could only get to it via a very limited set of frankly dated clues, such as Fred Astaire's sister or the maid in "Die Fledermaus." Now there is a British singer by the name of ADELE. She was on SNL last year. Her voice is amazing. I can see her being crossworthy in the not-too-distant future - first in late-week puzzles, and then all over the place.

Bullets:

  • 5A: Enhancers of cognitive abilities (smart drugs) - I heard a story on NPR yesterday about college kids selling their ADD meds to other students, who think they need the drugs to study for tests effectively. Are ADD meds SMART DRUGS? That scenario suggests 'no.'
  • 18A: Follower of an extra-long work day (late dinner) - This feels a little iffy as an answer, but it's not jarringly forced, so I can let it go.
  • 36A: Move caller for a round dance (cuer) - For Sartre, hell was other people. For me, it's round dances.
  • 49A: Original Dungeons & Dragons co. (TSR) - I really hate this (long-accepted) answer, as it's nothing anyone should know, or could be expected to know unless that person does crosswords. Now GARY GYGAX (d. 2008) - that's some crossworthy fill. He co-created D&D.
  • 3D: Solitaire game of matching pairs of cards (Monte Carlo) - never heard of it. This is a kind of car, and a place name, to me.
  • 7D: Animated film featuring the voices of Gene Hackman and Sylvester Stallone ("Antz") - I'd forgotten they were involved with that film, but if it's an animated movie in four letters, you've got your "TRON," and you've got this. Well, you probably have others, but they aren't coming to mind.
  • 12D: John McCain's alma mater: Abbr. (USNA) - A gimme. And a sop for all the people chafed by the 17 Obama puzzles we've had to do since the election.
  • 13D: Emmy winner Will (Geer) - of "The Waltons" fame
  • 14D: Bygone Black Sea borderers: Abbr. (SSRs) - Great clue. If you have to use tired fill in a late-week puzzle, give it some zazz. This one has several things I love - the crosswordy clue word "bygone," the awkward "er'" word, and the Black Sea, which is my weird pet historical fascination. Of the moment.
  • 32D: Hit NBC series succeeded in its time slot by "ER" ("L.A. Law") - preceded, I think, by "Hill Street Blues" (yes, confirmed); dang, that is a Long Run of successful shows in that slot.
  • 46D: First baseman Brogna (Rico) - I had LUCA? I do love "The Godfather"
  • 53D: Amount past due? (tre) - one of the oldest tricks in the crossword cluing book. "Due" = Italian for the number "two."

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

73 comments:

evil doug 8:52 AM  

Barrel rolls are not as easy as they look. Aileron rolls, and this puzzle, are.

Evil

JoefromMtVernon 8:55 AM  

Messed up Rock Garden with Rose Garden; stupid french avec (had aves) and have no clue why third and short would "sneak". Is that a baseball clue?

Rolled easier than a typical Saturday..

chefbea 9:00 AM  

Tough puzzle for me again today. At the rate I'm going I'll be the 101st greatest solver in Connecticut. Oops - there are only 100 competing. Hopefully they will serve refreshments - Sno balls, lemon soda and franks.

JannieB 9:07 AM  

@Joe, it's football - third down and inches = time to call for a quarterback sneak.

Good puzzle. Also had "rales" for a bit, and first tried treehouses at 16A. Definitely a rich-man's vibe to this puzzle - again a theme within a theme-less.

A bit on the easy side but two new words for me - cire and pyrexia.

Ulrich 9:14 AM  

@chefbea: If anything, I'll be able to beat you in the race to the bottom--although this puzzle was easier for me than yesterday's, but that's relatively speaking--it still took me a while.

allan 9:14 AM  

Knew it would be rated on the easier side, since I finished it sans help.

Great writeup today, and thanks Rex for the B52's clip. I'm dancing as I write.

False starts were ocean bound at 54a, deck garden at 56a, and sex symbols for 1d. Loved the clue at 53a, just because of the misdirection. Wanted something alcoholic at 32a. Now as they say, it's 12:00 PM somewhere in the world.

@Joe: Close. It's a football term as in quarterback sneak.

@Rex: Thanks for the heads up on those 2 clues. Where are you publishing that puzzle?

bye for now

edith b 9:23 AM  

Today, today I got into the NW first. I got the XENA/SEXOBJECTS crossing right off the bat and veered into the Ohio Valley MUGS FIFI FEVER LALAW and then sprinted down the East Coast, ending the run with an inspired guess at 30D with BARRELROLL, then SCUDS/CUER LUNAR then dribbled down towards the Keys with FOUNDATION.

It was all like this today, pretty much non stop, no Received Knowledge, no neons. I hesitate to call this one easy or say I was on Mr Muller's "wavelangth" because I don't think that was the way it was.

I think it was a lot of inspired guess work. In the Oklahoma area, I got the RAJA/RAVES cross then AJAR SLAW and FRANK, then - bang - 123 - FLOR RICO AVEC and the SW fell like dominoes.

I veered straight up with ABERRATION then RIBS and on to endgame. I pieced together the NE and then hit my only dead spot. I had S*aR*DRUGS AT 5A and started an alphabet run unitl I got to M and then filled in the rest of the puzzle, the Y in MEATY, then the BREVITY/VOTED cross and that was it.

This was play, in the formal sense, not work and fun is an accurate way to describe the way I did this puzzle. I wish they were all this way but they won't be.

The next time I see a puzzle with a lot of neons, my approach will be radically different and probably a lot more work - not play - like this one was.

steve l 9:25 AM  

@allan--How about cluing ENA as Bambi's TIA? Especially since Queen ENA of Spain was the grandmother of the current King, Juan Carlos!

Parshutr 9:26 AM  

My worst wrongfill was SEXSYMBOLS instead of SEXOBJECTS.
Like Rex (for a rare moment) SAME came trippingly off the mind. Immelmans did not fit, so BARRELROLLS was the only option there, and SNEAK was a gimmee, as were XENA, PENTHOUSES, and LUNAR. But my fave was the uncooked side SLAW.

Anne 9:35 AM  

I'm still feeling my way around Friday and Saturdays so I'm not sure of myself. That, however, does not stop me from declaring myself.

I thought this was easy for a Saturday with some clever clues. I looked up two words - pyrexia and flor. I finished in about 45 minutes.

My only problem came in the SE. I so wanted lie and lalaland and spent too much time there trying to make it work. I also wanted bird houses but left that quickly enough. I have never heard of cire and a couple of other things but they came easily with fill. All in all, I liked it.

fpbear 9:54 AM  

Thought the puzzle was easy but fun. Started with about a dozen random seeming gimmies. Then got a foothold in the south east and worked clockwise and finished in good time for at best an intermediate solver. The gimmies were correct except for 20D which turned out not to be tits. Didn't need to Google fortunately as my Google and Yahoo searches are corrupted by some kind of worm. Search delivers expected text and replaced/redirected URLs. This is spreading and is explained on Google and Yahoo support sites. Am using ask.com. Have downloaded and run 6 suggested cleaner programs. All found bad stuff but not my worm. Any advice in re fixing this would be greatly happy making.

PGubanc 9:57 AM  

[sigh] I had "smarteners" instead of "smartdrugs," erased "Antz" and "Rte" and "Runes," kept starting that area over ... and over ... Back to "square one."

Chip Hilton 10:01 AM  

@chefbea, ulrich
I haven't even looked at today's puzzle yet. I figure a Saturday Hammer would simply put me in a more intimidated frame of mind than the one I'm already in.

Hey.....let's have fun today!

ArtLvr 10:06 AM  
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PlantieBea 10:12 AM  

Great Rock Lobster clip; it brings me back to college.

I knew the puzzle would get an easy rating because it was a pretty smooth solve for me--all, except for the stubborn NW corner that you all found so obvious. Sex Objects and Xena were my last answers. I so wanted the vehicle to be motorized. It took forever to get EBON and the SAME. I sat forever with ORT and BREVITY alone until ABERRATION came. Ugh.

Other misstarts were:
SMARTBOMBS for SMARTDRUGS
VINED for VOTED
SLAB for SLAW
LAME for CIRE
SPIRIT for SPLITS

Had to look up JACOBS to finally sort out the NW. It was still fun--besides the messy NW!

mac 10:19 AM  

This puzzle actually lifted my spirits before the tournament, especially since I know they are not going to give us Saturday level puzzles! Had some funny first thoughts, though. I was trying to envision a therapy for kids with learning disabilities where snare drums were used... Had bird's nests for 16A, rales, clarity for brevity. I can vaguely remember the term "a game of Monte", pronounced Monty. Must have been in a book or a movie.

@Rex: I am with you re. round dances, and that thing where you have to snake through the rooms with a long line of people. I guess I just never get drunk enough. Or Karaoki, or being photographed, or.....

See you later, Karen, Chip, Chefbea, Dave and Ulrich! And maybe Mexgirl?

allan 10:25 AM  

@fpbear: If you haven't yet tried grisoft's avg free antivirus, give it a shot. Make sure you find the free edition. The software can be found at grisoft.com.

Good luck to all at the fair.

Just a random thought: Do mimes blog?

hereinfranklin 10:27 AM  

I also had spririt for splits for way too long. Other major stumble was SEX SYMBOL. Love PENTHOUSE and LIVEINMAID and would love to have both on a beach somewhere.Also had RASPS for RAVES. MUGS and FIFI were my last gets. And I'm sorry that football season is over and I'll have to wait months to see another SNEAK on 3rd and short.

ArtLvr 10:41 AM  

@ chefbea, mac, ulrich and other Nutmeggers -- Wishing you an enjoyable puzzle-day in Westport! Please report back!

I did this one in the wee hours and loved it. Very upper-classy puzzle with cute twists here and there... from RAJA to RITZ, PENTHOUSES with ROCKGARDEN and LIVEINMAID, AVEC the yacht in which to SETSAIL on the SEINE and be OCEANBORNE like a bottle with a message, etc. SMARTDRUGS may be less of an ABERRATION than Miller LITE if you're off to MORocco, but in France you'd be fine with Citron-pressé in lieu of LEMONSODA.

I knew Pyrexia was neither Arson nor Gum Disease, didn't think of Rex's cookware or an Alpine FLOR, but the pyro-/fire root soon led me to burning FEVER. Also, the Latin for "wax" relates to ciré, so that was handy... I wanted the game of Concentration for CARD-pairing, but that's too long and not Solitaire -- lo, MONTECARLO!

Thus it was a MEATY European Grand Tour, with Marcel Marceau-types MIMES, and the Louvre's Salles des ETATS with the Mona Lisa as well. Also, TITO's Yugoslavia even had a town named SPLIT, as I recall... What didn't click until coming here was the Italian count, e.g. uno - due - TRE! Mea culpa.

Funny, things were less IDEALISTIC and more down to earthy at the end as my last letter filled was the X in SEXOBJECTS -- though I suppose that could apply to Mona Lisa too! It did tickle the RIBS.

∑;)

SethG 10:46 AM  

So when I say the word 'bitter' the t maybe bridges the syllables, but the second syllable is mostly just a schwa-sound and an r. Like you'd maybe pronounce 'bitr', or 'bit' and 'ər' together quickly. I found that that confused East Africans, especially Ugandans, so I wound up saying 'bi-tər''. And I said it a lot, because I ordered a lot of Krest Bitter Lemon soda. A lot. So good! So bit-ter and sweet! And acidic enough to kill sperm.

I moved through the puzzle quickly and smoothly (after sex SYMBOLS), only having problems in the NE where I were an idiot. Didn't know the Grease guy, and I had the JACOB and filled in the automatic Y at the end. I spent forever trying to figure out what cheerleaders have that fits xxxITY. Agility? Ugh, doesn't fit....uh, uh, ooh, I know--AGILITY! D'Oh!. I completely blanked on the common Th.D., and I was thinking (again) that McCain went to the UofA. Just a lotta blank space for a long time between ANTZ and SSRS.

When I see MIME I think of this. And I think of Shakes the Clown and The Aristocrats, but those are too dirty for this family blog.

chefbea 10:48 AM  

@artlvr I have my camera so hopefully we will report back with fotos.

Shin Kokin Wakashu 10:55 AM  

TSR was the first answer I got, but I've been playing D&D since I was 10 so I'm well familiar with the old company name.

I had BRAIN FOODS for the intelligence increasers at first.

allan 11:11 AM  

@ sethg: My caption for that toon is:
An American, an Englishman and a Frenchman peered out from behind the recently bombed wall. The responsible terrorist turned to his terrormate and queried: "What is this, some kind of a joke?"
bada bing!

BTW this puzzle took me much longer than usual because I fell asleep after filling in the first three letters of 1d. But that's what I always do after sex. groooaaannn

bye for now

bigredanalyst 11:15 AM  

I also tried RALES and RASPS before getting RAVES at 35A.

The entire S and E came together pretty quickly but the N and W proved to be a struggle for me.

I had SHARPDRUGS for too long which led to PHD at 9D and HEAVY at 6D. And mis-spelling ANTZ (not ANTS) made the NW impossible.

Then I put TALLTALED into 37A. And finished up by guessing that Jim BACKUS co-wrote "Grease." That gave me a hodge-podge in the NW that took forever to unscramble.

So I found today much harder than Friday's puzzle.

But the blame is all mine; I created the mess so while this was a "Medium" for me, I can now see why so many rated it "Easy."

Oh well!

Danny 11:30 AM  

FYI Rex,

Raphael Saadiq has actually been around for quite some time. He started with the group Tony! Toni! Tone! in the 80s and has kept pretty involved with the music scene since then, although this is technically his debut album.

As for the puzzle, had minor trouble breaking in to the NE, and really wanted "Lemon Soda" to be something alcoholic, but otherwise ripped through. Had I taken the leap of faith and just put in "foundation", it would have been even easier.

jubjub 11:35 AM  

Puzzle seemed very doable for a Saturday -- got XENA immediately. I also had SEXSYMBOLS, and am not completely convinced SEXOBJECTS is a real term, and am afraid to google it to find out :).

I also had never heard of SMARTDRUGS, but once I had SMART*RU*S, it seemed like a logical choice. I don't like the term, though, since it makes me think the drugs are smart, like smart bombs (mentioned above), smart rooms (my thesis project), ...

@SethG, I am not smart enough for New Yorker cartoons. This is the second one I've been recommended in two days, and both of them make absolutely no sense to me :). PS When I think of MIME I think of this. It is less fun to be me, I suspect :).

There was a time before ER? I so don't remember it.

Before high-speed photography, people hypothesized that flies might land on the ceiling by performing a BARRELROLL. They actually do a backward somersault. Still impressive, if you ask me.

Orange 11:38 AM  

You know, I thought this puzzle was Pete Muller's first themeless, but Matt Ginsberg swung by my blog to say that Pete has never made a themeless puzzle—meaning that this puzzle has a theme too. So I looked and found it, and was blown away by its awesomeness.

jubjub 11:42 AM  

wow, did not notice the theme. thanks, orange!

Rex Parker 12:00 PM  

Hmmm. Hard to see something that most people (incl. myself, til just now) will Never notice as a "theme."

Unless "RAVES" and "FEVER" are supposed to be part of it all too. RAVES would suggest the wrong kind of music, but if you can get the "Rockin' Pneumonia," then FEVER seems apt here. Also, Johnny FEVER was a DJ.

jae 12:00 PM  

Much easier than yesterday's (which was relatively easy) for me. My only hiccups were SYMBOLS and LIE. I was going to say this one was not a good as yesterday's (or yesterday's BEQ for that matter) but if there is a "theme" I may change my mind.

I just found out that TRS (of the Trash 80 fame) stands for Tandy's Radio Shack.

allan 12:06 PM  
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allan 12:08 PM  

I think I've got it, but if I'm correct, I'm not sure that fever or raves need be involved.

Thanks Orange; great find.

alanrichard 12:18 PM  

It seems like every Saturday is like a Wednrsday - sort of like the Ground Hog Day movie. Maybe I've been taking SMART DRUGS but this was a very easy puzzle.
This was an aberraton as compared to the usual difficulty of a Saturday puzzle. It was easy to build a foundation and just work off it. If I lived in a penthouse with a live in maid I could look out the wiindow and watch the USAF doing Barrel Rolls and possibly watch the USNA grads sail by.
Well I'm glad I finished early and quickly - now I wont have to have a late dinner! Maybe I'll get lucky and have that live in maid do some splits!!!!

Doug 12:31 PM  

I was doing the puzzle just as Tommy Lee Jones was yelling BARREL ROLLS in Space Cowboys.

Did Amy Winehouse kick off this retro 60s craze? Look at the two music covers in the blog: Saadiq in the tight suit with glasses as if Frank just intro'd Sammy at the Stardust, and Adele could be Lulu with the (dare I say it) shag hairdo and fake eyelashes. No problem here as I dig the sound, cats.

Only misstep was a confident FOOLS (totally legit answer, too) not MIMES and I had to google for FIFI. Then I found I had completed my 3rd ever Saturday puzzle. Some interesting stats: I'm 2 of the last 3 Saturdays, and 3 of the last 150 or so. So I'm pretty chuffed and looking forward to Sunday.

Nice writeup today RP, except that TSR is also a fond part of my high school memories. "Now where's my 12-sided die?"

archaeoprof 12:44 PM  

Fixated on "Sex Symbols" for far too long. Other misstarts: "treehouses" for PENTHOUSES and "cold dinner" for LATEDINNER.

Anonymous 12:57 PM  

Is LIVE IN MAID a reference to LIVE AID?
SAME as in same sex marriage crossing SEX OBJECT is timely.
SMART DRUGS crossing DOING IT...hmmm.
Is 'high' life for PENTHOUSE thematic up there with the drugs?
ROCK GARDEN near BARREL ROLL is super.
RAVES is central to the theme, but let's avoid the LALAW.

/mee

andrea carla michaels 1:06 PM  

@Orange
Great find!!!!!!! Yay blogs!

Byron and Tyler and I (oh my!)
Byron and Tyler and I (oh my!)

are off to see the wizard...
not of Menlo Park, but further down in Morgan Hill.

Today is the beginning of Silicon Valley Puzzle weekend! (www.svpuzzle.org)
Byron and I are running workshops and Tyler is being the SEXOBJECT.

Let's hope no traffic malfunction or the crossworld will be a bit slower and quieter...
On the bright side, Chef Bea might finish higher!

fikink 1:25 PM  

@Doug, "chuffed" - nice. thanks.
@Rex, has Rokia Traore been in puzzles yet? Orange?
some good vowel/consonant mix there.

bill from fl 2:04 PM  

I must have made the NW harder than it was--I didn't see any of it without a struggle. Even XENA, which was a gimme. I also was thrown by the ? in "Places to live the high life" and hung on to TREE HOUSES for way too long. And I had RIOT instead of RITZ. So I thought that section was hard, but I can see how it might have gone differently. The hidden theme (which I also missed) is brilliant.

fergus 2:05 PM  

Another Rasper, here. Couldn't decide whether Rex would rate this as Medium or Easy-Medium, and went for the latter.

Reluctant to enter SAME in the first square -- I'm not a potential hoax subject. But then we get to SEX, and OBJECTS just didn't seem to go properly, but fortunately I couldn't come up with SYMBOLS, so OBJECTS they remained.

Rambler's lack went back and forth between a directionless trek and the old station wagon we had when I was a kid. TAILFIN, which our neighbor's Cadillac ostentatiously displayed? PURPOSE?

KREBS Cycle briefly allied with Miller KEGS, because CEDE seemed too obvious for a Saturday also. Hesitant with the LEMON SODA, but neither LUMPY or LOUSY SODA was going to cut it.

I fell victim to the Spanish misdirection, going for colors not flowers, which I thought was a pretty clever puzzle novelty.

jae 2:08 PM  

Went back to the puzzle and caught the theme, which makes this one as good or better than yesterday's IMOO. Nice work Mr. Muller, I appreciate the shout out to my generation.

jeff in chicago 2:16 PM  

A Saturday I could finish and Rex gives it an Easy-Medium. YAY! FOUNDATION and IDEALISTIC were my breakout fills and I went counterclockwise. The NE was tough. I sure did not see the theme until I came here. Well done!

Read up on Will Geer after finishing. His was a very interesting life. Early boyfriend. Later wife. Blacklisted. Claimed to have been cast by Steinbeck himself in the Broadway production of "Of Mice and Men."

Love Adele's sound. She follows closely on the heels of Duffy, the Welsh singer with a somewhat similar style. I highly recommend both.

Good luck all in the tournament. We need one of those here in Chicago.

fergus 2:19 PM  

Just wondering if THD has ever been Clued by the Scarecrow's Wizard-awarded Th.D, Doctor of Thinkology?

chefwen 2:22 PM  

First fill was SETSAIL on the SEINE and ripped through the south shore in record time, thinking that this was the second easiest Saturday ever. However, slammed on the brakes when I reached the north shore, had nests for house for a long time, rages for RAVES and like Rex thought that pyrexia was some new type of cookware, and wanted icing to be cake related instead of murder. All in all managed to get through it with a little help from our friend Mr. Google.

Greene 2:26 PM  

Like many today, I confidently wrote in SEX SYMBOLS for 1D, having gotten the X right off the bat for XENA. Fortunately, I spotted the error quickly since I actually knew that Grease had been cowritten by Jim JACOBS and Warren Casey, a couple of guys from that other theatre town where @Jeff in Chicago hangs out. Mr. Jacobs was recently on television where he served as a judge on the NBC reality show Grease: You're the One That I Want! which was used to cast Danny and Sandy in the August 2007 Broadway revival of Grease (just closed January 2009, another victim of the economic bloodbath on Broadway since the financial meltdown).

Like Rex, I actually enjoy the 1978 film version of Grease and, even with its completely out of period disco-styled title song, I find it considerably more entertaining than the Broadway original. The star casting is superb and the use of 1950s icons in cameo roles (Sid Ceasar as the coach, Eve Arden as the principal, etc.) makes for great fun.

The only other spot in the puzzle that really got me into trouble was the northeast where I stubbornly held on to SMART PILLS for the longest time. Nothing wrong with SMART DRUGS, but in my neck of the woods, people use the phrase SMART PILLS.

When I think of these substances, I usually think of medications for people with advanced memory impairments: drugs like Aricept and Namenda. Unfortunately, the term SMART DRUGS seems to increasingly refer to brain stimulant medications: drugs like Adderall (originally designed to help kids with ADHD) and Provigil (originally designed to keep narcoleptics awake). Of course, people are realizing that these substances, also referred to as "brain steroids," can enhance concentration, alertness, focus, short-term memory and wakefulness. So, naturally, illicit use of these medications is increasingly common in colleges and high schools.

Sigh, it seems that about every 20 years Americans have a love affair with stimulant medications. In the 1920s it was the clarity of straight cocaine, in the 1940s it was the euphoria of cortisone (anybody remember the film Bigger Than Life?), in the 1960s it was the "Dr. Feelgood" mania of appetite suppressing amphetamines (Benzadrine et al), in the 1980s it was crack and ever more sophisticated forms of designer amphetamines (speed balls, crystal meth), and now it's Adderall and Provigil? Good grief! These love affairs with stimulants always end badly with serious depression and a host of mood disorders, sleep disorders, and increasingly cardiac disorders. Makes me think there might be something to the old idea of getting a good night's sleep for optimum health.

Adrian 2:46 PM  

I sort-of finished this puzzle relatively easily, but as (almost) always got some answers wrong.
e.g. I ended with ROSEGARDEN; SNEAE looked wrong, but I could tell it was supposed to be a sports term, and I know absolutely none of them. I also spelt ANTZ as ANTS, and wondered what RITS were (assumed it was another word outside my vocabulary), and SOIL instead of ROIL, which seemed too right for me to question what TSE could possibly mean.
Oh well - I have learned that I shouldn't just stop after I've filled in all the squares!

Michael Leddy 2:54 PM  

I liked this puzzle a lot, at least in part because I got the whole thing. I loved SLAW.

About SNEAK (which I got w/o understanding it) -- if this play is the standard option for "third and short," so well-known as to be clued, I think it needs a new name. There's nothing sneaky about it. : )

Anonymous 3:03 PM  

Michael L
Yeah, but really, let's run the OBVIOUS play? ;0

/Mee

edith b 3:26 PM  

My grandmother used to read the Sunday funnies to me in the early 50s, particularly "Maggie and Jiggs" and "Gasoline Alley."

I knew FIFI because my grandmother HATED that dog and imprinted it in my mind.

What I remember most about "Gasoline Alley", the saga of Walt Wallet and his family, was that the characters aged in real time, somthing you never see.

HudsonHawk 3:29 PM  

Really enjoyed the puzzle, but had a few false starts. Most notably, I had ON THE BRINY for 54A. But 43D convinced me I needed to rethink that, since the most obvious answers were SNEAK and SCREEN pass. Also, I couldn't come up with an Algerian neighbor with an R in the middle of its abbrev.

Up top, I wasn't sure whether it was JACOBS or JACOBY. And then I had MUTES briefly for 24D before realizing that it wasn't terribly PC, nor as good as MIMES.

Doc John 3:35 PM  

Bulled my way through this one somehow. NW gave me the most trouble.

Thought of Will GEER right away but didn't write it in because I thought, nah they couldn't mean him (and I had no idea he'd won an emmy). I've gotta get over that on Saturdays. Also, I had -----pills at the time so that didn't help.

Had "sacred cows" for way too long in the 1D slot. I would have known better if I'd seen the (cool) theme.

Does anyone here drink LEMON (and not lemon-lime) SODA? I did like the [Icing] clue, though.

Tried "Immelmann" for the aerial maneuver but not enough letters. "Loop the loop" didn't fit either so I went through my list of steel roller coaster tricks (corkscrew, cobra roll, heartline spin, flat spin, boomerang) but it was BARREL ROLL to the rescue.

FEVER was one of the few gimmes I had in this one. Never even saw the cross one to consider "rales" (the crackling sound made by fluid in the lungs- as opposed to wheezes, rhonchi and a host of others).

green mantis 4:47 PM  

This theme will do nicely for my BIRTHDAY party today. The drugs will be mimosas, though, starting...now.

I was feeling very high altitude/high society during this puzzle, because after penthouses, where rich people might employ live-in maids, and perhaps caterers if they were throwing a BIRTHDAY party, I briefly had roof garden for alpine show places, or whatever the clue was. All very lofty.

Have fun at the tournaments today everybody! Sorry I couldn't make the Morgan Hill, but, you know, it's my BIRTHDAY weekend. So I can't go. Cuz of the BIRTHDAY and all.

HudsonHawk 4:54 PM  

Hey green mantis, happy birthday! Not sure how I figured it out--must be ESP. Have a mimosa on me!

michael 5:01 PM  

Not hard for a Saturday. But I admit to looking up pyrexia in an actual (novirtual) dictionary which wouldn't have been necessary if I had thought a bit more.

One of the first answers I got was Rico Brogna, showing once again the value of obscure baseball knowledge in NYT crosswords.

JannieB 5:45 PM  

@greenmantis - best wishes!

JannieB 5:45 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill from NJ 6:01 PM  

To this blog's favorite insect -

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!

allan 6:40 PM  

@ greenmantis (my favorite superhero): And many, many more.

treedweller 7:29 PM  

I printed this one out and took it with me today, thus removing the temptation to google. Once again, what seemed impossible slowly came into focus, and I finally filled it all in, to my great satisfaction.

I decided early on FIFI must be right (from the _IF_) but resisted it. Couldn't think of a type of GIN that would work for icing, and FElER was surely wrong. I never did reconsider RAlES, so that center square was wrong when I quit. I considered the fire-based root, even, but just never thought about FEVER.

Hints above have me in the ballpark of the theme, I think, but I still don't really see it.

My favorite clue/answer yielded BREVITY, so I'll take my cue and stop there.

JannieB 7:32 PM  

@treedweller - check out the 10's at each corner and have a great time

Orange 7:35 PM  

Green Mantis, here's a song for your birthday, "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll." Many happy returns!

@Jeff in Chicago, stay tuned re: a Chicago crossword tournament. I'm gonna work with a local store that wants to sponsor one. Maybe in March, though I think that may be cutting it close as far as planning lead time goes.

SethG 8:32 PM  

Green Mantis, here's an article for your birthday, which includes sex, drugs, rock, and/or roll." Many happy returns!

chefbea 8:47 PM  

So what is the hidden theme. I've been too busy in westport and eating beet salad, Had a great time and you will see fotos tomorrow or monday.

Happy b-day green mantis

mac 9:16 PM  

@green mantis: Happy birthday to you!

I hope chefbea and imsdave get this report together, because I'm tired. First tourneys are not for the weak of heart. Phil Donahue participated, Will Shortz ran the show, and some of these 100 people finished their puzzles so fast they barely sat down. I had more trouble with the Tuesday than the Wednesday, isn't that typical lately!
Hope I will be a little more relaxed in Brooklyn.....

Orange 11:06 PM  

Chefbea, see the four key words Seth and I both included in our blue links, and look at the corners of the puzzle.

PuzzleGirl 12:36 AM  

Late to the party, but I heard someone around here was havin' a little birthday. Hope it was a good one, GM!!

edith b 4:17 AM  

I don't believe much in coincidences so I think the fact that RAVES crosses FEVER dead center of the puzzle has a certain significance to the SEX, DRUGS ROCK and ROLL theme.

There are no other answers that are remotely close to rock n' roll in the puzzle.

Stan 11:25 AM  

Finished this (with one mistake -- SOIL for ROIL) today after giving up on the Northeast corner last night. LATEDINNER came to me not in a dream (a la Coleridge) but walking down the stairs this morning.

FWIW: 'Fifi Goes Pop' is the name of a song from the punk-rock era. 'Nuff said.

liquid el lay 12:43 PM  

Broke my usual pattern and did this puzzle over morning coffee rather than evening libation. Sometimes I want to do the puzzle early, so I can add a timely comment, but this time I was... not enchanted.. and deayed comment anyway.

What's wrong with it for me? No aha(!) moment, no revelation of pattern that somehow makes the puzzle like a quiet, pleasant conversation.

Goofs:
I ended spelling ABERRATION ABBA.. like some punning play on the swedish band as in "Surprising US pop phenom from overseas?" .. that enabled OAT for ORT (what is ORT?) and SETOBJECT (I was thinking along lines of graven images..) so I could have TBN_ for XENA, TBN_ being some unknown to me Turner network station airing some show called Lawless.

Also had SOIL x TSE on the floridian west coast.

My last square was the central Vee. Must admit, that was a satisfying punctuation to end the puzzle on.

william e emba 10:25 AM  

Hey, I still read Dick Tracy. The dailies are on The Houston Chronicle, along with The Phantom and Popeye and Barney Google (renamed Snuffy Smith).

I had MUTES instead of MIMES at first. I kept thinking that was a little tacky on Will's part.

Being a mathematician, I kept trying to complete JACO-- to JACOBI, knowing cheerleaders don't do anything ending in an I.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:59 PM  

@edith b - I'm catching up on puzzles from the time I was on vacation. Re your comment about the characters in "Gasoline Alley" aging in real time: Another comic strip whose characters aged was "For Better or Worse". But last summer Lynn Johnson, the author, decided that the strip had gone as far as she wanted to go -- but she didn't want to give it up. So she has continued printing the strip, taking the characters back where they started! I'll venture that that is truly unique! Here's the complete info.

boardbtr 1:54 PM  

Five weeks after the fact -- I was one of the (apparently) few that couldn't remember that it was Antz not Ants. That gave me a _its across and a _ibs down. The only letter I could think of that went both ways was "n" which, of course didn't make much sense either way. So with that glitch I came to the blog. FWIW, even though it is doubtful that many will see this, the comic strip, Funky Winkerbean has also aged its characters.

Anonymous 1:13 AM  

"49A: Original Dungeons & Dragons co. (TSR) - I really hate this (long-accepted) answer, as it's nothing anyone should know, or could be expected to know unless that person does crosswords."

Or was ever involved in a very common hobby within the past three and a half decades.

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