Guitar accessory that adds vibrato / MON 10-25-10 / Angsty music genre / Silents star Normand / Comeuppance for evil actions

Monday, October 25, 2010

Constructor: Jonah Kagan

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: STARTS WITH A BANG (39A: Has an exciting opening number, say ... or what the answer to each starred clue does?) — theme answers start with BOOM, WHAM, BAM, and POW, respectively

Word of the Day: WHAMMY BAR (11D: *Guitar accessory that adds vibrato) —

A whammy bar, tremolo arm/bar, or vibrato arm/bar is a component of a guitar, used to add vibrato to the sound by changing the tension of the strings, typically at the bridge or tailpiece. The whammy bar enables the player to quickly vary the tension and sometimes the length of the strings temporarily, changing the pitch to create a vibrato, portamento or pitch bend effect. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was both more interesting and slightly tougher than most Monday puzzles. Still easy, of course, but strange enough in cluing (16A: Like some on-the-spot wireless networks for AD HOC?), and filled with enough mildly odd proper nouns (LETO, MABEL (38A: Silents star Normand)) to keep things from being over toooo quickly. I'd never heard of a WHAMMY BAR, so that right there was enough to set me back to something closer to Tuesday time. The duller short stuff is hardly noticeable given the lovely mid-range stuff like MARTIANS (5D: Invaders in an H.G. Wells story) and BAD KARMA (9D: Comeuppance for evil actions, supposedly) and HOT TODDY (42D: Warm bedtime beverage). All in all, an exemplary Tuesday-ish puzzle. Here's a STRANGE coincidence (53A: Bizarre), given the theme of the puzzle—the name of the conference at which I gave a keynote address this past weekend was entitled "KAPOW!"

Thanks to my guest writers for covering for me this weekend. I'm off again this coming weekend, but I think I'll be able to maintain the blog myself for that stretch. I'll be in D.C. visiting PuzzleGirl and attending the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally/march with my family. Should be a great time — assuming I can figure out why I'm having such stupid trouble breathing through my stupid nose for the past few months (and esp. the past week). I'm turning into some kind of troglodyte mouth-breather for no apparent reason, esp. at night (horrible!!!). It's making me a bit murderous. But that's really neither here nor there where you're concerned.

I like that BAD KARMA intersects DEATH SPASM. It also intersects PRAY TO BOWIE, thus suggesting a way *out* of BAD KARMA as well as a possible consequence of it. Speaking of SPASMs, I capped off my weekend away from home by seeing comedian Louis CK last night in Ithaca. I have literally never seen a stand-up comedy show live, but I like Mr. CK, and his F/X TV show, so much, that I decided to give it a shot (actually, my thoughtful wife noticed he was playing, bought the tickets, picked me up from the bus station, provided me with snacks for the car, and drove me straight to Ithaca to see him, god bless her). Anyway, I have never laughed so hard in my life. Well, I have, but only with my very best friends about ridiculous things. So technically I should say that I've never laughed so hard at a stranger. Before the show started, the guy sitting behind us was Such a douchey idiot that I was sure he was going to annoy us during the performance, but he didn't get a chance because even he was laughing so hard he couldn't breathe well enough to say any more douchey things. Louis CK is a (very profane) artist. Recommended ++. I'd play you a clip, but I'd probably get angry, offended letters. Oh, wait, here's one that played on network TV; that should be OK.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Toy that's thrown (BOOMERANG)
  • 11D: *Guitar accessory that adds vibrato (WHAMMY BAR)
  • 35D: *Hoodwink (BAMBOOZLE)
  • 64A: *Situation set to explode (POWDER KEG)
I'm wiped-out from my weekend — haven't had a decent night's sleep in I can't remember when — and I'm *way* behind on my teaching work, so I gotta run.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


imsdave 8:43 AM  

Excellent start to the week. Solid and zippy. Only misteps in my down only effort were WAWA PEDAL for WHAMMYBAR, and COCOA for TODDY.

Well done Mr. Kagan, and welcome back Rex.

jesser 9:05 AM  

Welcome back, Rex! I never heard of this guy, but now I want to see/hear more. It may be an unproductive day at work whilst I ply the Internets for chuckles. :-)

I thought the puzzle was very nice. Pretty much anything that has David Bowie in it is going to make me happy. And during my years in Taos, my great friend Larry Mapes had a sign on his front gate that warned those approaching as follows: 'TRESSPASSers will be violated.' Loves it.

Of all the clues I've seen for SAAB, this was the best. And there's something vaguely enchanting about a STARLIT SPASM.

Happy Monday, all!

Inthuse! (where Mr. CK was.) -- jesser

Ben 9:20 AM  

Love Louis CK back to his Conan writing days and have been fortunate to see him numerous times.

Wrote previews of his live shows here and here (scroll down for the second one).

Missed him here a few weeks ago on the tour you just saw, but as I was in NY attending the New Yorker Festival, and also crashed the Westchester Crossword Tournament, it was a fair trade.

John V 9:21 AM  

Fun, typical Monday. Only pause was 26A clued at "tic", which I initally had as "space". Initially wrote in Aloe for 1A and then saw 14A and fixed it. Ditto @Rex, never heard a tremolo (sp) bar called a whammy bar (this from a 60s guitarist), but learn something every day.

Kurt 9:23 AM  

Outstanding Monday puzzle, although I agree with Rex that it had a bit of a Tuesday feel to it. Terrific theme very well-executed. And solid fill to boot!

Didn't we first meet Mr. Kagan during the Brown week? Welcome back and thanks for starting the week off with a bang!.

mexgirl 9:47 AM  

Only one question: what the heck is a HOT TODDY?

Rex, have fun in DC! Should be very interesting. We'll have our own little rally here in Chicago. Come sanity!

Tobias Duncan 9:53 AM  

Fun puzzle, my time was about 20% longer than my average

Louis CK is the best thing since Carlin.
Jesser; Larry's sign(or one like it) inspired the sign I put in front of my house and shop in the mid 90s. I shared a parking lot with the Ranchos Trading Post and constantly had patrons blocking me in on busy nights.The sign red "NO RESTAURANT PARKING, VIOLATORS WILL BE SPANKED" I put a big red hand print on it to show folks I Meant business.One day I came out and Julia Roberts was laughing in front of my sign.I held up my hand and put on a silly scowl,this usually went over like gangbusters with the tourists but she just looked away and walked off briskly.

jesser 10:08 AM  

@Tobias: Hysterical! The only time I met Julia was in the dishwashing area of the soup kitchen. She was nice, but not chatty or genial. She was there to work, and work she did. And I won't name names, but I knew a guy in Taos who would have blocked your parking spot on purpose in joyous anticipation that you would carry out your threat! :-) -- jesser

Jim 10:09 AM  

Great to have newspaper puzzle comments in the morning! Not co-opted by the Internet bunch.

Confidently put I'm Wawapedal (doesn't that do the same thing?). Really slowed me down.

First time I actually timed myself for real (I'm usually otherwise engaged while I solve, but I won't elaborate as not to elicit rage). 12 minutes. Hmmph. Sort of like gambling: I do it once in a while to remind myself why I don't do it more often.

Superman, War of the Worlds, Major Tom; great references. And HOTTODDY!! Heard the term...isn't there booze in it? Recipe, anyone?

fikink 10:19 AM  

Agree with @imsdave, "zippy."

Forgot about Louis CK - thanks, @Rex

@mex girl, my HOT TODDies are Jack Daniels, sugar, lemon and water zapped in the microwave and drunk next to a fire.

Two Ponies 10:22 AM  

Very much agree that this was better than the usual Monday.
Like @ jesser said, great Saab clue.
Fill was good and fun.
Theme also well done.
Did I like it? Oui oui!

I really wish I could go to the
D.C. rally.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:22 AM  

Good Monday Puzzle.

I threw in 24 A, STARLIT, for "Like a clear night sky," then thought "Wait, that could just as well be MOONLIT," but didn't change it and didn't need to.

Also slowed down at 9 D, "Comeuppance for evil actions, supposedly." Maybe because of the word "Comeuppance," I insisted as reading that as " . . . evil actors . . .", which would have had the same answer, except that I kept interpreting it as Theater Actors, and started writing in BROKEN LEG until I noticed it wouldn't fit (aside from not making much sense!)

Lookup Guy 10:40 AM  

A whammy bar, tremolo arm/bar, or vibrato arm/bar is a component of a guitar, used to add vibrato to the sound by changing the tension of the strings, typically at the bridge or tailpiece. The whammy bar enables the player to quickly vary the tension and sometimes the length of the strings temporarily, changing the pitch to create a vibrato, portamento or pitch bend effect.

Traditionally, electric guitarists have reversed the normal meanings of the terms vibrato and tremolo when referring to hardware devices and the effects they produce.

... [T]he tremolo arm can produce variations of pitch including what is normally termed vibrato, it can never produce the effect normally known as tremolo (modulation of volume).

Tremolo, on the other hand, is exactly the effect produced by the vibrato units built in to many classic guitar amplifiers. Other widely used names for the device include vibrato bar and whammy bar. [wiki]

Got that?

Sparky 10:58 AM  

Welcome back Rex. How did the talk go? Thanks for the clip of Louis CK. Spent 20 min. watching the other clips. Your wife is wonderful.
Started puzzle off with a cush 1A=aloe, of course. Fixed itself quickly. Why bother to put stars on the theme clues? Isn't it obvious?
@mexgirl, Jim, fikink: My mother made hot toddys on Christmas and New Year's. Whiskey, hot water, sugar, lemon squeeze plus a clove and cinnamon stick floating in it. She'd also serve those German cookies that are hard with shiny icing to be dunked.
Week off to good start.

Andy 11:04 AM  

Sorry about the breathing, Rex. Try a Neti pot! It takes some getting used to, but they're amazing.

Another DB 11:27 AM  

LookUpGuy - Thanks for looking that up for me. It really fills in the blanks from what Rex posted as the WOTD. Oh wait, it's the same f&^%in thing!

Captcha: evellani - Evel Knevel's porch.

Jim 11:28 AM  


From HOTTODDYs to two of my favorites: Neti pots and Pfeffernusse cookies. Clog the sinuses, then clean them out!

The Hag 11:37 AM  

I've heard of a WHAMMYBAR so this one was super easy for me. The theme was tight and the fill seemed really smooth and unforced. Plus I liked the comic book sound effects so this was quick and fun. The only stutter I had was on Jared, since I'm more familiar with his band 30 Seconds to Mars than I am with his acting. I have no idea what he's ever been in. o_O?

*ilker - one who ilks, duh.*

mitchs 11:43 AM  

In my garage band days circa 1973 around Cincinnati, they were called "twang bars".

JaxInL.A. 11:48 AM  

Wham, bam, boom, pow! Fun way to start off a week after a brutal three days of DNF.  Loved the SAAB clue.

And the Bowie "I don't like Mondays" clip really got my week started. Thanks. And all the videos work!  

Still dying to hear about Rex's keynote at Hofstra's Kapow! conference on popular fiction. If you are interested in the basics, here's the conference blurb:  

Saw that Bob Rozakis was the lunch speaker.  I remember him from several DC Comics titles I read religiously in the 80s and 90s.  Of course that was before parenthood and homeownership cut into my considerable comic buying habit.  It was always fun going into the comic shop as a 30-something woman and watching the teen boys try to figure out what I was doing there. They got real confused when I waxed philosophical about Swamp Thing.     

Shiva 11:50 AM  

Technically, they've left out a step in the process for 9D. Thoughts and actions produce Karma, both good and bad. In subesquent lives this results in one's comeuppance, which is karma-phala. Bad actions produce Bad Karma which produces negative Karma-phala. But this is probably too complicated for the crystal rubbers.

chefbea 12:36 PM  

I agree - a bit harder than the usual Monday Puzzle but finished it with a bang.

@Rex hope your breathing problem is better

joho 12:56 PM  

Fun Monday, lots of colorful words with punch: BAMBOOZLE, BADKARMA and WHAMMYBAR among my faves.

Thanks, Jonah, for a great START to the last week in October.

CFXK 1:08 PM  

Help! I'm undergoing a seizure as a result of being trapped in an infinite loop spanning the entire continent.

Monday NY Times
26A. Clue: Tic; Answer: Spasm

Monday LA Times
3D. Clue: Nervous Spasms; Answer: Tics

J.T. Kirk 1:46 PM  

@CFXK. That happens to us all time. Try ejecting the warp core, then use your thrusters to get to the nearest wormhole.

efrex 2:22 PM  

Lovely, lovely puzzle: I'd rate it more "easy-medium" than "medium-challenging," but perfect for a Monday. One could, I suppose, nitpick the relatively large number of long non-theme answers, but that would be unfairly pedantic. Very glad that I held off on putting ALOE in for 1A. Just what the doctor ordered.

Matthew G. 2:22 PM  

I too had WA WA PEDAL instead of WHAMMY BAR, so that slowed me down considerably, especially because the W in BOWIE was correct. Once I got MAO, though, I had to concede that 11D was something else. Eventually it came back to me -- I guess I knew enough guitar aficiandos over the years.

Anyway, I really liked this one. Definitely my slowest Monday in a long time, but only for good reasons. Although I needed the crosses to get it, I remembered upon solving AD HOC that there is, in fact, a little box you can check in Windows to tell it whether you want it to attempt to connect to "ad hoc" networks or not. Definitely a stunningly obscure clue for a Monday, though!

ArtLvr 2:23 PM  

STRANGE, Angsty music genre as a clue for EMO. I'd already learned to connect the N in Brian with ENO, and now here's Emotion to link with EMO. Admittedly, I wouldn't know either if I heard them, but any help in odd xwords is welcome.

I don't know any Actor Jared either, and must say I prefer my LETO to be the gentle Titan, mother of Apollo and Artemis by Zeus. These twins are also known as Letoides, sounding like bathroom humor perhaps, but keeping her distinct from Leda...

Lovely Leda, Queen of Sparta, was seduced on her wedding night by Zeus in the form of a swan and she bore two eggs, from which hatched two sets of twins: Helen of Troy with Clytemnestra, and Castor with Pollux. Leda leads Leto by a factor of two, and Leonardo pictures her outdoors with her swan swain, using the legend as a symbol of the bond between man and nature!

Otherwise, Jonah, nice job with the WHAM BAMs...


Doc John 2:24 PM  

Welcome back, Rex. Nice write-up today. I agree with you on the difficulty rating. Definitely not a "fill in the blanks" Monday.
As for Jared LETO, I know him from "Requiem for a Dream". What a powerful movie and Ellen Burstyn gives an absolutely devastating performance. This movie came out in the same year as "Erin Brokovitch". When Julia Roberts was up for her Oscar I was all for her winning it. That's because I hadn't seen "Requiem" yet (and didn't see it until years later). Ellen Burstyn was robbed!!!

mrbreen 2:35 PM  

Louis C.K. is by far and away the best comic working today. Saw the current tour and have never laughed so hard in my life. If anyone is interested in seeing more, his most recent film titled Hilarious is streaming for free on Epix (they do make you register, however).

He is to comedy what The Wire was to serial drama.

fikink 2:38 PM  

Thanks for the refresher, @Artlvr!

@Doc John, I was led to Requiem For a Dream by Aronofsky's earlier movie, Pi, which I loved. I agree with you re: Ellen Burstyn. After her, Julia Roberts is all about shopping.

And thanks, @mrbreen.

treedweller 2:59 PM  

I was stuck at the EFFORT/ALOFT cross for several seconds. Finally moved on, prepared to come here and rant about how unfair and impossible it was. Then I went back and . . . it wasn't. Go figure. Finished with a slow Monday time, but not all that slow. (+50% or so).

Another Louis CK fan here--if you subscribe to netflix, his recent TV show is available for live streaming. It's not as raw as the stage performances, I'm sure (never seen him personally), but it's not network so a little edgier than standard TV fare. good stuff.

Sandy 5:04 PM  

I don't really think of a boomerang as a toy. It's a pretty hunting lethal weapon.

joho 5:13 PM  

Sandy, I am so glad you said that! I got one as a gift from someone in New Zealand and thought, wow, this thing could kill someone!

mac 5:24 PM  

@Sandy: I thought the same thing.

@Rex: a hot toddy before going to bed for a week will fix that breathing. I also recommend the nasal rinse, but the pot is a little messy.

Oh, the puzzle. Good Monday/Tuesday. I also started 11D with wawa.., bought one for our son back in the day. Not hard to fix.

andrea spiel michaels 6:35 PM  

Wham! Bam! Thank you...Jonah!!!
Super colorful and fun.
Till I came here, I thought the fourth "Bang" was POWDER (as in the whole thing, POWDERKEG) and thought that a bit odd, now I see it's just POW! Much better!

Now I can chastise myself for not getting a Monday theme perfectly! Thank god Rex is back!
(@Jim seems particularly relieved!)

(Btw, had a blast covering and renewed respect for what it takes to put this together every day!)

Did the same thing with ALOE as 1A, tho more intentional misdirection methinks than a true malapop...
I think the stars were necessary bec it WASN'T (at least to me) that obvious which were the theme answers, especially with the longish HOTTODDY, MARTIANS, BADKARMA and TRESPASS.
Even tho they are only 8 letters, BOOMERANG, WHAMMYBAR, BAMBOOZLE and POWDERKEG are only one more at 9, so visually, it IS a bit hard to pick out the theme answers, since they are shortish and go both across and down.

But what great words packed into short letters! I like that the puzzle was so alive both as short words (POW, BAM, WHAM, BOOM) AND as long words! That's the way to do it!!!

I admit I always thought TRESPASS was spelled with 4 S's.
"TRESsPASS". Maybe that's another word for "bald"?

LOVED the 15 letter across reveal, it really DOES start the week off with a much the better to make it a tough Monday than a easyish Tuesday.

foodie 7:29 PM  

I too really enjoyed this action packed puzzle! Beautifully conceived and executed. Thank you Jonah for the kinetic experience!

Andrea, it took me a while to figure out that it was POW, not POWDER that was the relevant piece.

I once read a book by a North African author called "Dreams of Trespass". I loved the book but every time I picked it up, I thought it had a typo in the title...

Smokler 9:24 PM  

Rex, I recommend nasocord or rhinocord for that nose. Tis the season, indeed! Good luck and breathe ease ole rebbe.

deerfencer 11:01 PM  

I saw none other than Richard Thompson use a whammy bar last night in Peekskill NY to end one of his many excellent songs on reverb.

Great show and a great Monday morning puzzle chaser. Sweet as it gets!

sanfranman59 12:57 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:31, 6:57, 1.08, 81%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:42, 3:42, 1.00, 51%, Medium

This puzzle yielded an unusual discrepancy between the two groups of solvers with the Top 100 having a considerably easier time relative to the usual Monday compared with the All Solvers group. I'm thinking that the WHAMMYBAR/MABEL crossing along with the out-of-the-ordinary clue for AD HOC might be the culprit.

Dirigonzo 5:05 PM  

Wow, this one was still reverberating 5 weeks later - must be the WHAMMYBAR! Really fresh, really fun - loved it!

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