Soprano role in Il Trovatore / SUN 12-9-12 / Soweto uprising figure / Certain female grouse / acronymic 1970 measure / 1975 TV debut / Country's Acuff Clark / Conniving sergeant of 1950s TV

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Last Name First" — celebrities names appear in grid last name first, making wacky phrases, which are clued wackily

Word of the Day: VICTOR FRENCH 

French is most widely known for costarring with Michael Landon on two television series. He appeared on Little House on the Prairie (1974–1977), (1981–1983, 1984) as Isaiah Edwards (French also directed some episodes of Little House). He appeared on Highway to Heaven (1984–1989) as Mark Gordon.
From 1977–79, he left Little House to star as a small-town Georgia police chief in Carter Country. When the series ended, the actor was surprised that Michael Landon was agreeable to his returning to the character of Mr. Edwards. French appeared in Episode 8 of Season 6, in Episode 8 of Season 8, then returned full-time, starting with Episode 19 of Season 8.
According to interviews with Cindy Landon, and Kent and Susan McCray on the A&E DVD release of Highway to Heaven Season 3, Victor and Michael Landon were "crazy about each other", indicating that they always made each other laugh and enjoyed each other's company. Cindy Landon mentions that Victor was a quiet and reclusive kind of guy as opposed to Michael Landon's outgoing personality. (wikipedia)
• • •

Simple but effective. That FRENCH VICTOR part of the grid was kind of brutal; LEONORA (53A: Soprano role in "Il Trovatore") was a mystery, and the RICO, G-STRING, and RELOAD clues were hard as hell. Oh, and it goes without saying (or should) that I had no idea who Victor French was, and the clue did nothing to help me get VICTOR. I was quite familiar with the rest of the names in the grid, with the slight exception of ROBIN COOK, who, I think, is a writer ... ? Wrote "Coma"? That's my guess—woo hoo, I'm right. Yay, memory. I had a little trouble in the west with RESELECT instead of the correct DESELECT, and MCI (?) instead of GTE (56A: Verizon forerunner). Oh, and I also thought biopsies were ELECTIVE, Ha ha. Not so much (49D: Like biopsies => INVASIVE). Had a lot of trouble with SAGEHEN (48D: Certain female grouse), which is deeply ironic, given that the SAGEHEN is the mascot of my alma mater (true story).

Theme answers:
  • 22A: Entry in a metalworker's personal planner? (WELD TUESDAY)
  • 24A: Roast a red-breasted bird? (COOK ROBIN)
  • 28A: Pounds and pence? (LONDON JACK) — "Jack" is slang for "money."
  • 34A: What misbehaving kids must have inherited from their parents? (WILDER GENE)
  • 44A: Napoleon, e.g., prior to exile? (FRENCH VICTOR)
  • 54A: Fishing spear? (BASS LANCE)
  • 74A: Moocher's most valuable acquaintance? (RICH BUDDY)
  • 83A: The Salt, in Arizona? (PHOENIX RIVER)
  • 90A: Coffee from Big Sky Country? (MONTANA JOE)
  • 100A: Smarmy preprandial blessing? (SLICK GRACE)
  • 107A: Official seal on a Havana cigar? (CUBAN MARK)
  • 108A: Beverage made by squeezing fruit-filled cookies? (NEWTON JUICE)
Opening gambit in the NW was a little messy, as I thought TO WIT was PER SE (1D: Specifically) and IRK was IRE (26A: Gall), and so even though I wanted BILKO right away (3D: Conniving sergeant of 1950s TV), I hesitated. I also didn't consider TABBY until I had most of the crosses. After that, things went much more smoothing (the aforementioned VICTOR FRENCH section excepted). "SNL" (73A: 1975 TV debut, briefly) helped me figure out that ELECTIVE was not the answer to the biopsies clue. TELEXED (78A: Sent texts to, in bygone days) is not a word I've ever seen or heard of outside of crosswords, but it comes up a lot, so getting this wasn't hard. I think I remember ROY Clark from "Hee-Haw" (64D: Country's Acuff or Clark). Speaking of "Hee-Haw" ... AFEARD (6D: Frightened, in dialect). I have many Ed MCBAIN books in my vintage paperback collection. "The Pusher' (pictured) has one of my favorite covers—I collect them primarily for the covers. I watched an interview with LENA Dunham today, though I have yet to see an episode of "Girls" (not for any reason—I just don't have HBO) (79D: "Girls" creator Dunham). I'd've clued JOON as ["Jeopardy!" champion Pahk], but that's just me (93D: "Benny & ___" (1993 rom-com)).

Lastly, the way to tell BIKO (13D: Soweto uprising figure) and BILKO apart is that Peter Gabriel sang a song about only one of them. I forget which. (Kidding; I really wish the song was "BILKO," but, predictably, it's not. You can sing "BILKO" in the chorus, though, if you want)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Patrick Blindauer's latest Puzzlefest, "Strip Teaser!", went live yesterday. It's an 11-puzzle metapuzzle with a Las Vegas theme, and it's bound to be a ton of (fairly challenging) fun. Get more information here, at his website.


jae 12:06 AM  

Easy, clever, fun Sun.  No erasures, OJAYS redux, BIKO and BILKO...

Not sure how a GSTRING fits "Minor suit?".  I mean it is small, but not usually worn by minors.  Guitar related maybe?

Fibbie is an insider term so it's a bit surprising to see it as a clue.

Liked it!

It's hard to come up with these:  Winner who didn't gloat -- MATURE VICTOR,   Facility made out of peppermint -- CANDY JOHN,  Bar bill on safari -- HUNTER TAB,  Ait in a New York City river --  HUDSON ROCK,

Milford 12:53 AM  

One of the easier Sundays I've done, definitely not a slog. Got WELD TUESDAY almost immediately, and only really had trouble with LONDON JACK (I think my brain was thinking Union Jack and got confused).

FRENCH VICTOR was known to me, having been raised on 70s TV, although I do get him confused with Mr. French of "Family Affair". Plus, I got my Cassidy brothers confused, with David before SHAUN.

WILDER GENE is my favorite theme answer by far.

Elle54 2:11 AM  

Yes. Easiest Sunday I've ever done. Victor French was hardest name. Don't know the actor and thought it must be mr. French's first name.

Anonymous 2:19 AM  

Wait who?!?! Juice newton is a person? So far out of my ballpark it's not even funny. But hey at least Lance Bass is from this century!

chefwen 2:25 AM  

I agree with everything jae said in his opening sentence. I liked it too.

Might be a little more difficult for the younger persuasion, but all those names fell easily into place with this person of a certain age. TELEXED was a gimme for me, the younger people who were dining with us tonight didn't have a clue as to what I was talking about. I used to love working on the Telex.
Our guests are in their early 20's. I just quizzed them about the names and they were able to identify about 1/3 of them. So Cute!

paulsfo 4:22 AM  

I thought the clue for GSTRING was great (when I eventually figured it out!).
A pleasant puzzle.

r.alphbunker 4:32 AM  

If a gstring is considered to be clothing(suit) it is a small (minor) piece of clothing. Another way to clue it would be {not quite a birthday suit}

jae 4:49 AM  

@r.alph -- Thanks, I was over thinking it.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:16 AM  

Nothing to add, but I want to stay tuned to see what other possible theme entries others come up with.

@jae got the game off to a good start!

Bob Kerfuffle 6:32 AM  

Like . . . .

Bird in need of a loan? SHORT MARTIN

(Once you start thinking about it . . . )

Anonymous 7:08 AM  

Fun puzzle, but definitely one of the easiest Sundays ever.
I guessed all the theme answers but one, from one of two leters.

r.alphbunker 7:21 AM  

Aha. Suit as in bathing suit. It is not just something worn by an ecdysiast. Wasn't there recently a clue related to ecdysiast where the answer was MOLT?

OTD 7:25 AM  

Pretty easy for a Sunday, but most enjoyable. Some of the answers like JUICE NEWTON, LANCE BASS, JOON, etc., definitely out of my area of knowledge.

Did enjoy the clue for GSTRING.

Glimmerglass 8:02 AM  

I love Patrick Berry. This was easier than some of his, but enjoyable nonetheless. I laughed out loud when I completed all the crosses and saw G STRING was the answer for 36D. Great clue! I wanted "female grouse" to be Xantippe, or some other famous nag, which would have been very Berryish.

Tyler Clark 8:41 AM  

I'm relieved that my foul-ups were the same as yours, Rex.

joho 8:44 AM  

@Rex, I agree with everything you wrote as it was exactly what I experiened. I goofed up with paID before VOID and having never heard of VICTORFRENCH that was definitely the thorniest part of the puzzle.

I think the reason this was so (too?) easy was because the puzzle's title, "Last Name First," gave it away before you even got started. I would have been much happier to figure out the theme by myself.

MONTANAJOE was my favorite.

@jae, loved your entries! How about, BLACKJACK, "Dark knight?"
C'mon everybody ... chime in!

joho 8:53 AM  

"Tie up 007?" BONDJAMES. You have created a really fun, interactive puzzle, Patrick Berry ... thanks! I may be preoccupied all day doing this!

Carola 9:58 AM  

I hardly felt like a SAGE HEN working my way through this one, as a bunch of the names were unfamiliar to me - had to go by crosses and guessing. But those I knew were fun to work out, especially WELD TUESDAY, WILDER GENE, and MONTANA JOE.

For anyone with 7 free minutes, here's LEONORA's lovely aria from the first act of Il Trovatore, sung by Renée Fleming.

@glimmerglass - Love your alternate idea for the female grouse!

jackj 10:03 AM  

So there I am, delighting in having a Patrick Berry puzzle to end the week and casually filling in TABBY and thinking, “that’s nice, Patrick” and FEIGN and MCBAIN make interesting entries, too. WELDTUESDAY confirms the puzzle’s title, “Last Name First” leaving no question as to the theme but, oops, after entering WILDERGENE, that whole area shut down tighter than a shark’s jaws, all the way down to DARN.

The soprano most certainly was LEANDRA (that fit with INNARDS and CIRCLES) but things got pretty fuzzy then, beginning with the down “G” of WILDERGENE that had a confounding three letter gap that wasn’t registering at all.

Having the G---ING of this “Minor suit?” clue had me running through articles of kid’s clothing from onesies to Juniors all to no avail and it got even worse when I then shifted my thoughts to legal matters (for lawsuits).

Clever misdemeanor examples?. Nothing. Small claims matters? Nada. Is jay-walking prosecutable in China as GWOKING?. Ridiculous.

But no, the puzzle world’s Mr. Clean, the one who looks for all the world like an Eagle Scout/Choir Boy/Class President type, Patrick Berry, has deigned to take his image out of the Pantheon and into the strip tease joints with a stop at Victoria’s Secret to marvel at the latest GSTRING fashion, all three and one-half square inches of it.

Holy, metamorphosis, Batman!

Patrick’s move into PG-13 rated crosswords bodes well for our future solving pleasure, though we may have to download them from the Playboy web site now and then.

Thanks, Patrick!

(And, thanks to the racy raiment, at least I’ve learned it’s LEONORA not LEANDRA).

Ω 10:11 AM  

What Rex said about the FRENCH VICTOR region.

I can imagine anyone under 30 will find this a bit dated. Even the teen idol is from 30+ years ago. For this AARP card holder it was no problem (well, except that whole Napoleon region).

Lord's starstruck wife --

Ken Wurman 10:12 AM  

Easy one for a change. Did not know Juice Newton was a person...thought it was the name of a band for some reason...

Ω 10:26 AM  

From my iTunes collection:

Barrel-making career move for Brady Bunch house-keeper --

1940's Diamond --

Male cat with an attitude --

jberg 10:56 AM  

You didn't really have to know the names - I'd never heard of JUICE NEWTON, LANCE BASS, MARK CUBAN or VICTOR FRENCH, but they were all very guessable. I had the other COOK, ROBIN in mind (Labour Parliamentarian), but it didn't matter. So my only problems were anti before SIDE, MidI before MAXI, and nevER before ROGER.

The theme gave me a lot of laughs, as did G STRING. It was still a Sunday, and I got TIRED OUT by the end, but very pleasurable to look back on.

Also a little unnerving to think of TELEXED as a term from 'bygone days.' The whole phenomenon came and went without my ever having the chance to experience it. I think it's too late now.

Speaking of Jeopardy - Temporarily leave Rex Morgan's assistant in Hahvahd Yahd?

JohnV 11:04 AM  

Other than getting hung on Sagehen, this was easy and fun. I knew maybe half the names, but PB crosses everything so well that it just works -- unlike Firday. Thank you, Patrick.

chefbea 11:10 AM  

Fun easy Sunday. Although I had a few blanks. Trying to think of more fun names...maybe later.

Sandy K 11:15 AM  

Loved it!! Loved all the theme answers- but figured some younger solvers are not going to be that happy.

I guess VICTOR FRENCH was my favorite- I grew up with "Little House on the Prairie" and how could you not be thrilled that PB included that lovable curmudgeon, Mr. Edwards. 'Half-Pint' and I were AFEARD, but not for long...

Thought 'minor suit' would be a onesie or jumper, so G-STRING was a surprise. But I had a great big smile throughout this puzzle. Just loved it! : )

@jae Good ones!

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Instructions to rival teams at a NASCAR race? CHASE CHEVY

Big cat living among trees? WOODS TIGER

Valet at Buckingham Palace? PARKER REX

ArtO 11:32 AM  

Easy except as Rex noted. Didn't have the "R" for WILDER so got stuck on thinking there was some WILDE other than OSCAR since OSCAR was no help.

Ken Wurman 11:36 AM  

I was hoping for "nook" instead of book for 75 down

r.alphbunker 11:38 AM  


{Senator who supports legalizing marijuana} POT POL
{Fruit flavored margarine serving} BERRY PAT
{Small Romney supporters} LITTLE RICH
{Legislation establishing a yard entry protocol} GATES BILL
{Haircut of a carnival worker} BARKER BOB
{English policeman travelling in steerage on the Titanic} HULL BOBBY
{Investment in windows} GLASS IRA
{A lock on a whirlpool} EDDY NELSON

Ken Wurman 11:39 AM haven't heard of Mark Cuban? Try reading a newspaper or magazine..or even turning on your tv...

GILL I. 11:56 AM  

I really liked this Sunday romp.
I too caught on early at LONDON JACK and agree with @joho that the puzzle's titled was a giveaway dead.
Knew almost all the names. My favorite was PHOENIX RIVER. His birth name was River Jude Bottom. Rear end Avon?
During my Kelly Girl sojourn in NYC while going to school, it seemed that every temp job needed someone who could use a telex machine. I still remember those big old clunky machines and the ticker tape paper all over the floor. It paid my rent so I have nothing bad to say about them..
By the way is Fibbie (102 D) and insider thing? I had a big question mark next to it because I've never heard nor seen that word before.

Ω 12:01 PM  

@r.alphbunker. Yep. And Young Neil and Gaga Lady.

And since a cover tune is playing right now - Presidential Summit --

baja 12:01 PM  

Good puzzle. Never heard of Mark Cuban either. Googled him - ok - will forget him soon enough.

Anonymous and Masked 12:27 PM  

You gotta bend with this one a little:

RICO,ISLES,GSTRING,LEONORA, VICTOR area had some of them there persistant white squares. CUBAN MARK, PARED, PANE also experienced white-out conditions, for a time.

Don't really know this Hen Sage guy. Related to Hen Solo?

Michael Hanko 12:41 PM  

It would be really weird if we all had exactly the same knowledge base in our brains. And dull.

paulsfo 1:08 PM  

Did anyone else think that a "Particular female grouse" would be a complaint instead of a bird? E.G. NOSHOES or SAMEHAT or [toilet] SEATSUP.

Davis 1:11 PM  

Really solid puzzle. My solving experience was very much like Rex — same trouble spots and everything.

One thing worth pointing out about the theme: all of the names, first and last, had alternative meanings that allowed for such fun clues. I think that actually adds quite a bit to Pat's cleverness here. It would have been substantially easier to choose people where only the first or the last name had an interesting second meaning, and clue the other name as a name.

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

This was the fastest I've ever done the puzzle and I was having a conversation with my wife and had 5 beers under my belt...nearly did it in under 24 minutes. im sure its poor etiquette to discuss ones times, but its meant only to illustrate that this one was too easy...clever and fun, but not satisfying.

syndy 2:07 PM  

Small nail in Indian print?-Paisley Brad. Keeps the effluvia out of the small waterway? Shields Brook A belief that's not enough to move mountains?-Hill Faith Easy was Okay it gave me plenty of time to admire this beauty! but yeah the title was kinda a g string

LoriS 2:49 PM  

Again we have a puzzle where most of the themed answers were gettable just by reading the clues. I read them aloud to hubby, a non-crossword-puzzler, who solved them all as well. Very easy - I finished this puzzle before I finished my decaf venti mocha. The themed answers were fun to figure out but they helped me with the fill instead of the other way around. I agree with Anonymous at 1:25 - clever, not satisfying.

Anonymous 3:14 PM  

Cecil Sage Hen is the mascot of Pomona College.

Doctor Colonel Mark 3:32 PM  

Never heard of most of these people, but French victor seemed obvious. I've been complaining about the lack of Russian rivers since eugene has been gone, so thanks for 23 down--the first word I filled in. Now I have to go google names like mark Cuban, lance bass and river Phoenix, since I have no idea who they are.

Brookboy 4:57 PM  

Roasted potato above the fireplace? Mantle Mickey

Stab Mr. Franklin? Pierce Benjamin

Famous Firth and Prince Charlie's nickname? Clyde and Bonnie

Play joke on the goat? Kid the Billy

Filthy Lucre:? Black Jack

Adolescent Diamond? Young Neil

OK, OK, I got a little carried away here...

...but that's because I loved this one. I was traveling for the past couple of weeks and missed the previous two Sunday puzzles, so this was a real treat for me.

Thank you, Mr. Berry.

jae 5:34 PM  

@Gil I.P. -- Fibbie is a somewhat derogatory term for FBI agents used by other law enforcement types. It derives from how trying to pronounce FBI might sound. The DEA agents I used to play golf with were always ragging on the fibbies.

Susan Pease Banitt, LCSW 5:49 PM  

Awesome fun puzzle today but who the heck is Mark Cuban?

More fun:

Fruit toss: BERRYCHUCK
Reindeer illusion: RUDOLPHMAYA

Victor 6:25 PM  

Loved the puzzle!

Glass goat? Crystal Billy

GILL I. 6:46 PM  

@jae: Thank you! Could you say they Fibbie(d) about holding information on the Petraeus affair?

Carola 7:37 PM  

@syndy - Really laughed at HILL FAITH!

Unknown 7:56 PM  

This was another of those puzzles where the theme answers helped you get the fill, instead of the other way around.

An enjoyable Sunday...thanks Mr. Berry!

sanfranman59 8:10 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 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 6:27, 6:46, 0.95, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 7:25, 8:57, 0.83, 7%, Easy
Wed 10:10, 11:48, 0.86, 20%, Easy-Medium
Thu 16:54, 18:43, 0.90, 33%, Easy-Medium
Fri 29:34, 24:18, 1.22, 85%, Challenging
Sat 25:19, 28:57, 0.87, 25%, Easy-Medium
Sun 26:22, 32:36, 0.81, 14%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:52, 3:41, 1.05, 79%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:21, 4:41, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:05, 5:57, 1.02, 59%, Medium
Thu 10:10, 9:23, 1.08, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 15:58, 12:09, 1.31, 91%, Challenging
Sat 13:30, 16:27, 0.82, 18%, Easy
Sun 16:23, 20:52, 0.79, 19%, Easy

ANON B 9:56 PM  

I still don't get why minor suit
is a G-String.

Anonymous 11:02 PM  

Can't believe quite a few people don't know Mark Cuban. Familiar with hi in at least three ways. In business: sold his to Yahoo and became a billionaire. In sports: owner of the Dallas Mavericks (basketball). On TV: one of the "sharks" in Shark Tank, a reality show partnering investors (the "sharks") with small entrepeneurs.

Ellen S 11:40 PM  

The NW fell like dominoes, then I came to a screeching halt at the Equator plus my key board stopped working (or rather, AcrossLite stopped recognizing it). Much cursing ensued, plus closing/reopening AcrossLite, powercycling, slamming iPad on table. Finally got through it but can't tell if the puzzle was hard or just the stupid electronics. Thanks for the link @Carola, but to finish off a day of technical woes, buffering problems ruined LEONORA's aria. Maybe it'll let me listen later.

Hand up for knowing what a telex is, but had no clue about JuiceNewton, Victor French, nor Mark Cuban. Lance Bass, I still don't know who he is, but I believe this is his second appearance in a week, so he's on track to be the new Pia Zadora. Oh -- when I typed "Mark" into the Google search box, the first thing that came up was "Mark Cuban." I didn't even have to type the "C". Might that mean a lot of people were looking him up? I had to type further into Juice Newton before she came up.

I'm not sure I'm politically allowed to enjoy seeing Sgt. Bilko and Steve Biko in the same puzzle, but I confess every time I read about the martyred South African freedom fighter I have to struggle to read his name right.

I always thought an FBI agent was a Feeb, never heard of a Fibbie. Thought for the longest time it was some kind of marble like a taw or an aggie.

Hand up for thinking female grouse was a complainer. Xanthippe wouldn't fit, though. (Wikipedia says she was likely 40 years younger than Socrates. Think she might have had cause for grousing?)

Thanks for all the alternative puzzle clues, folks. They made me laugh.

nurturing 11:35 AM  

I knew Mark Cuban from Dancing With the Stars!

Spacecraft 12:49 PM  

Again, there are times when the syndisolver is really spooked--as in today's appearance of RAVI Shankar, who sadly passed just two days ago.

Another near-masterpiece from PB. A fun theme expertly executed, and what's really hard to pull off: unstrained J- and X- crossings. Beautiful clean fill, with only a couple of exceptions: AFEARD and DESELECT. I'd buy ASCAIRT.

Like OFL, I found the center a little sticky, but the rest of it went down so smooth I'd have to call it easy-medium. Patrick NAILS another one!

Dirigonzo 1:53 PM  

My paper listed the constructor merely as Patrick, so PP and I spent too much time trying to figure out if that played into the theme somehow - any other syndi-solvers have that experience? We finished up in the center of the grid when the almost invisible GSTRING became apparent.

@Spacecraft - I would add another example of an occcurence in the puzzle that should spook syndisolvers: Trade magazines? > RELOAD. Note to constructors - can you please find non-firearms related clues for words like that? The frequency with which gun related violence occurs in America makes it almost a certainty that any reference to guns will remind somebody of a recent tragedy.

Spacecraft 6:15 PM  

@Diri: you are right on. The gun thing somehow didn't resonate at the time of solving, but your mention of it certainly did. How that misfit got his hands on firearms is a situation that cries out for change. And it wouldn't hurt if the creative artists in our society would think twice before continuing to desensitize us all to senseless violence.

Anonymous 12:21 PM  

Seemed too easy for a Mr. Berry so I kept looking for another twist, but enjoyable nonetheless. The only 2 I could not get were GSTRING and RICO.

@Susan McConnell is correct that the theme answers helped get the rest of the fill.

Dave 3:57 PM  

Got stuck because I assumed that prior to being exiled and thus no longer being a frenchman, I said Napoleon was a FRENCH MISTER. For those who don't remember Family Affair, consider yourselves lucky.

Outside of that, it was not a challenge.

Anonymous 2:31 PM  

when i lesten to biko i always get shivers

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