Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday, May 19, 2008

Title: Fun, Fun, Fun in the Sun
Author: Andrea Carla Michaels
Theme: The "Beach" Boys: Men with last names that are things one might find at a beach, as follows:
  • ART SHELL (18a: Raiders great in the Hall of Fame)

  • PAULY SHORE (28a: "Jury Duty" star)

  • BILLY OCEAN (48a: "Caribbean Queen" singer)

  • TODD SAND (65a: Jenni Meno's skating partner). This was the only one of the theme entries that I had never heard of, but the crossings were easy enough.

  • VERNON CASTLE (4d: He danced with his wife in Broadway's "Watch Your Step")

  • THE BEACH BOYS (26d: "Fun, Fun, Fun" singers (and this puzzle's theme))

I thought this was fantastic puzzle for a Monday, with a simple but solid theme and a nice, flowing construction. Did you notice that it was 15x16? Usually this is done strictly to accommodate 16-letter theme entries, but here its used to ease the pain of two otherwise awkward 12-letter fills. Those who have never constructed may not realize this, but the problem with 12-letter fills in a 15x15 grid is that there isn't enough room to squeeze in another word on that row or column (12 + 1 black separator leaves only 2 left). Therefore, all of those extra squares need to be black. This seriously constrains a puzzle's layout, especially one that is trying to squeeze in six theme entries. So, the judicious application of a sixteenth row made this puzzle possible. Plus, you get three extra clues (81, instead of the typical 78). I also love how the puzzle starts and ends with nice open spaces (2 squares short of wide open 6x6 sections), which is also unusual for a Monday.

Let's have a closer look:

Sunny Spots:
  • 10a: Fathead (BOZO). I just like the word bozo. Fathead's not bad either.

  • 14a: California shoe company (L.A. GEAR)

  • 23a: Support, as a candidate (ENDORSE). Appropriate for an election year.

  • 36a: "___ Cat Strut" (1983 hit) (STRAY). This one hits me solidly in my college years. Don't remember it? Check it out here.

  • 46a: Drummer Gene (KRUPA). Even if you're only a mild jazz fan, there are two drummers you should have heard of: Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. (And I mean absolutely no disrespect to all the other great jazz drummers out there.) Here they are together, playing "Sing Sing Sing".

  • 70a: "Casino ___" (ROYALE). I thought the Daniel Craig version was quite good.

  • 30d: Orchestra's tuning instrument (OBOE). A nice twist to a common crossword fill. I not 100% sure of this, but I think orchestras might tune to the oboe because the oboe is the hardest to tune. Actually, for a piano concerto, I bet they tune to the piano (or the oboe tunes to the piano and then they all tune to the oboe).

  • 32d: Bedroom shutters? (EYES). Cute.

  • 40d: Straightjacket parts (STRAPS). Of all the things that have straps... a colorful choice. (Not literally; they're usually white).

  • 54d: College hoops announcer Dick (VITALE). HE'S IN A CROSSWORD PUZZLE, BABY!

  • 1a: They were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation (SLAVES). I guess that's as positive a spin as one can put on having SLAVES at the 1-Across position.

  • 15a: "Two Virgins" musician (ONO). I went with Brian ENO first. Nope, it's Yoko ONO. I guess I should have known that. Btw, if you do the New York Times puzzle (and even if you don't), you should be checking out Emily Jo Cureton's fantastic crossword art - a new drawing every day inspired by that puzzle. They range from edgy to off-the-wall to pretty darn warped. And I mean that in a totally positive way; she is awesome and we love her.

  • 17a: "Don't tell" code for a don (OMERTÀ). I know this from crosswords. It's also the title of Mario Puzo's third book in the Godfather trilogy. The other is "The Last Don", which you'll also see in puzzles.

  • rigatonipenne/ziti
  • 20a: Ziti alternative (PENNE). Is there a difference between ziti and penne? According to Wikipedia they're the same thing. And rigatoni is almost the same, only it's cut straight instead of on the diagonal. I suppose "alternative" could mean "alternative name" instead of an actual choice. Either way, we love food clues here.

  • 21a: Vodka brand, for short (STOLI). Short for Stolichnaya. We like drink clues here, too.

  • 27a: Ollie's comedy partner (STAN). That's Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

  • 41a: Steak choice (T-BONE). Did I mention that we liked food here? And a nice t-bone beats the heck out of ziti or penne (if there's a difference).

  • 43a: Fussy picker's target (NIT). The crossword world is full of nitpickers. Some even have blogs.

  • 45a: Part of BTU, CPU, or ICU (UNIT). British Thermal Unit, Central Processing Unit, and Intensive Care Unit.

  • 56a: Gateway Arch architect Saarinen (EERO). Just memorize this one. It shows up all the time. His father's name is ELIEL. If I had remembered that this past ACPT, I would have done incrementally better.

  • 57a: Bulletin board insert (PUSH-PIN). Easy, but nice fill.

  • 62a: Queen ___ lace (plant with white flowers) (ANNE'S). This grows everywhere around where I live, so this was easy for me. Don't know if it's found in other parts of the country or world.

  • 67a: Unconcerned with right and wrong (AMORAL).

  • 68a: Dunkable cookie (OREO).

  • 71a: Tang (ZEST).

  • 73a: Roughing the ___ (football infraction) (PASSER). I like the use of fill-in-the-blank here to bring like to an -ER clue. Same with 5d: Lotus-___ (daydreamer) (EATER). Much smoother than a clue like "One who consumes".

  • sampan
  • 7d: Sloop or sampan, e.g. (BOAT).

  • 9d: ___ Crüe (MOTLEY). I can't say I'm a fan, but I certainly know they exist.

  • 12d: "Nana" novelist Émile (ZOLA). I don't know why I knew this; I've never read Zola. But he's the only Émile I could think of.

  • 21d: Navy enlistee (SEAMAN)

  • 29d: Rabbit Angstrom's creator (John UPDIKE). Updike wrote five Rabbit novels starting in 1960 with "Rabbit, Run". Two have won Pulitzers.

  • 31d: File's partner (RANK). "Partner" almost always means words that go together in a phrase of the form "x and y". In this case, rank and file.

  • 34d: Bread with caraway seeds (RYE). Easy. And food.

  • 36d: Give the cold shoulder to (SNUB). I had SHUN to start.

  • 38d: Stir up (ROIL)

  • 50d: Excessively decorated (ORNATE)

  • 51d: "Terminator: The Sarah ___ Chronicles". (CONNOR). I never watched this show, but I'm a big fan of the movies (well, the first two anyway). I should have given the show a chance, since Summer Glau was in it. She was awesome in the movie "Serenity" and the series "Firefly" on which it was based (another great show that didn't last as long as it should have). If you like sci-fi at all and haven't seen "Firefly", you should go rent or buy it. It's really good. It's got fantastic characters and dialogue, and it's got a wonderful sense of humor (like "Star Wars" did before Lucas started taking it too seriously... you know what I'm talking about).

  • 53d: La Scala productions (OPERAS)

  • 58d: Pacific island group near the International Date Line (SAMOA)

  • 59d: The gamut (A-TO-Z)

  • 60d: Pierce with a horn (GORE). Did you think you were looking for a trumpeter named Pierce? Not this time.

  • 66d: Morse code part (DOT). Sometime Morse code is decribed as dots and dashes, sometimes as dits and dahs. Always check the crossings.

  • 67d: Dada artist Jean (ARP). Another crossword artist. Remember the name.

Suns of Bitches:
You don't expect to find many of these in a Monday puzzle. This one had a few for me(apart from the Todd Sand theme entry), including:
  • 37d: Collette of "The Sixth Sense" (TONI). I should probably be ashamed for not knowing this. I love this movie. In fact, this scene is one of my favorite movie scenes of all time.

  • 47d: Burma's first prime minister (UNU). If you knew Unu, then you knew more than I knew. Poor Burma (Myanmar); they're having a tough time.

  • 55d: "The Vagina Monologues" playwright Eve (ENSLER). Names are definitely my weak spot, and this one I don't think I ever knew.

  • 63d: Divine's "Hairspray" role (EDNA). Okay.

All in all, I thought the fill was pretty solid. Nothing jaw-dropping, but again you don't expect that on a Monday, especially with six theme entries. It had its share of crossword clichés: ONO, OREO, EERO, OPERAS, ERA, OBOE, ODES, and ARP. And a few tougher-than-usual (for me) entries, but they were all easily determined from the crossings. As a whole, I found this puzzle very well-constructed and enjoyable.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Anonymous said...

I often scratch my head over clues like 8d ("Prepare for installation, as a carpet"). They make it sound as if the example was one of many possibilities. While I can think of many things one might unroll (a sleeping bag, a wall poster), I can't think of any where unrolling is part of installation. Why not just clue this as "Prepare a carpet for installation" or something similar?

Pete M said...

@ruy: The problem is that clue and the answer need to be of the same grammatical form*. "Unroll" is a verb that needs an object, but the object is not part of the answer. So, the clue needs to define the verb only, with a reference to the object for clarification. "Unroll (a carpet)" and "Prepare (a carpet) for installation". "Prepare a carpet for installation" includes both the verb and object, and so would only be appropriate if the fill were something like UNROLL A RUG. While this sometimes makes for awkward sounding clues, solvers expect and count on this consistency.

* An exception to this is for what I call "clues by reference", which use a descriptive phrase starting with "It" or "This" or "They" or some such to decribe a noun. Like "It fills the bill?" for FISH.

janie said...

love ms. michaels's puzzles and sense o' yuma -- fun, fun, fun indeed -- also smart, smart, smart!

btw -- eve ensler is (was?) the step-mother of dylan mcdermott.



Bill D said...

Such a great Monday puzzle! Nice theme, good fill, fun clues! I remember Andrea Carla Michaels "complaining" on Rex Parker's blog that Monday construction was getting so difficult with six theme answers the new four; she has answered back brilliantly! I did not notice the 16th row that Pete mentions in order for her to accomplish this beautiful grid. This change doesn't bother me at all; it's just more great puzzle to work.

Before I got the theme I tried "Demi Moore" for Jury Duty star - too short and probably the wrong movie. I thought Art Shell (although a virtual gimme for me) and Todd Sand were pretty obscure names, but very Monday with the crosses and theme hints.

As for pasta names, I consider PENNE an interloper. We still call that one Mostacholi (I think it has something to do with mustaches) - small-diameter tubes with raised ribs, cut straight across. Ziti was the same diameter round tubes but with smaller ribs and cut on the diagonal. Rigatoni are tubes about twice the diameter of the first two, with ribs like Ziti, but cut straight. When cooked, they expand and flatten out, so that a friend of dubbed them "second bases". So ends today's Pasta Post.

Bill D said...

Monday is Double Bonus Day! Andrea Carla Michaels has the LA Times crossword as well. Cute theme again, and a nice diversion! Find it here.

Anonymous said...

Just found this this site. I love it.
Add UNU to the palindromic politician list along with LON NOL.
Have to add Max Roach to your must-know jazz drummer list. With Charlie Parker (sax) and Clifford Brown (trumpet) he was extraordinary.

Torbach said...

Extra good puzzles from Andrea today - nicely done!

Pete...clearly MITCHELL is in no way Italian. Penne and Ziti are definitely different - though the two examples you show, with the ridges (and thus often labeled "rigati" after the "penne" or "ziti" parts) are pretty close, it's true. You know, the bias cut on the penne might well put a person in a different mindset when eating. If I ordered penne and got ziti I wouldn't be happy - though I probably wouldn't complain either'cause i like food too!

Pete M said...

@torbach: I never claimed to be Italian, Tony. I'm just quoting Wikipedia. So you're saying ziti is not bias cut? I'm more confused than when I started. :)

@kenny clarke: Welcome. Glad you found us.

Anonymous said...

Art Shell was the first theme entry that I got, but I had a hard time placing him as a Raiders "great." I'm too young to remember his early playing and coaching days and only remember his dubious 1 year 2-14 record as Da Raidas head coach in 2006.

Joon said...

art was a great player (HOF offensive lineman)... not so great at coaching, but that's what he'll be remembered for, because hey, who remembers offensive linemen? anyway, he was a gimme. TODDSAND and VERNONCASTLE, not so much.

i'm almost embarrassed to admit that i got PAULYSHORE without any crossings, and that was before i had figured out the theme. i don't even think i've ever seen any of his oeuvre, but for whatever reason i can name several of his movies. "in the army now" is one of them. "biodome"? yeah, i think so.

cool puzzle, and i think it was a judicious use of the 15x16 grid. there's simply no good way to get 6 theme entries into a 15x15 if two of them are 12s, unless you're lucky enough to have four intersections.

tangentially, is there a rule that clues for foreign words have to be alliterative? why [Mrs., in Mazatlan?] would [Mrs., in Spanish] really be so bad? or even [Mrs., in Tijuana]? i'm okay with the occasional alliteration, but i am flabbergasted that it's become essentially 100% prevalent.

Pete M said...

@joon: Re, the foreign clues: That's a really good question. It does seem to be de rigueur to do so, and I have to admit I do the same in my own puzzles. Constructors are always trying to be clever and to make their clues sizzle. Wordplay, misdirection, rhyming, and alliteration are all common vehicles for this. But you're right, alliteration is much more common for foreign language clues. I think it's because "Mrs. [Span.]" is too dry and "Mrs. in Tijuana" feels just a little too random (unless there were some movie or book of the same name, for example). Rhyming is much more difficult; so that leaves alliteration. Mostly, people copy what works (and by "works" we mean, what's been published).

Pete M said...

@joon: Re, the foreign clues: That's a really good question. It does seem to be de rigueur to do so, and I have to admit I do the same in my own puzzles. Constructors are always trying to be clever and to make their clues sizzle. Wordplay, misdirection, rhyming, and alliteration are all common vehicles for this. But you're right, alliteration is much more common for foreign language clues. I think it's because "Mrs. [Span.]" is too dry and "Mrs. in Tijuana" feels just a little too random (unless there were some movie or book of the same name, for example). Rhyming is much more difficult; so that leaves alliteration. Mostly, people copy what works (and by "works" we mean, what's been published).

Anonymous said...

I have to sheepishly admit that all kudos go strictly to Peter on this one!
I thought I was being really somethin' somethin' having four entries:

By the time I realized GEORGE did not have an extra S to her name (a common mistake), Peter had suggested adding THEBEACHBOYS and changing IRENE to her lesser known husband VERNON, made GEORGE into TODDSAND (whom I had never heard of) added ARTSHELL (whom at least I vaguely knew from his interviews on Letterman, as I am a total sports illiterate) AND made it, with six entries, a MONday!
(SO my complaint still stands, bill d!)
This is my first time at this blog and I like it! Thank you very much for all the nice praise, I wish I could take even partial credit!