Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Title: Gaining Weight
Author: Alan Arbesfeld
Theme: Phrases are changed by adding a unit of weight, as follows:
  • Dot Com => DOT COMPOUND (17a: Pixel-producing facility?)

  • Den Mother => DENOUNCE MOTHER (24a: Excoriate a parent?)

  • Charles Atlas => CHARLESTON ATLAS (37a: Traveler's aid in West Virginia's capital?)

  • Skinflint => SKIN FLINTSTONE (49a: Fleece an animated Fred?)

  • Pro bono => PROGRAM BONO (60a: Schedule a U2 member?)

This is a cool theme, even if four of the weights are avoirdupois and one is metric. Couldn't fit DRAM or GRAIN in instead of GRAM?

The first thing I noticed while doing this puzzle was the two repeat fill words from yesterday, ALOOF (55a: Detached) and MOUE (18d: Look of displeasure). Of course, there's nothing wrong with that, and it's certainly nothing the constructor can control; it's just interesting, and noticeable, when it occurs.

One of the issues with squeezing five long theme answers into a 15x15 puzzle is that you have less control over the surrounding fill, so it can tend to run pretty unremarkable. This is the case here, where the two longest non-theme fills are 5d: Equiangular (ISOGONAL) and 40d: When shows are broadcast (AIR TIMES). We just saw ISOGON last week, so this one was still pretty fresh in my mind. Nothing wrong with either clue; just not too exciting.

Sunny Spots:

There were a couple of highlight entries here, and a couple that were spiced up via the cluing:

  • 15a: Steinbrenner's disparaging nickname for Dave Winfield (MR. MAY). This is by far my favorite clue in the puzzle. The nickname, of course, is a play on Reggie Jackson's "Mr. October" (i.e., a player who comes through when it really counts -- during the playoffs). It's just such a colorful insult; much more subtle than the typical fare we Red Sox fans tend to hurl at the Yankee players.

  • 10d: Bathroom cleaner brand (TY-D-BOL). I haven't seen the Tidy Bowl man in a while; remember these commercials?

  • 66a: Beast of Borden (ELSIE). Very nice. Also, makes me think of one my favorite Rolling Stones songs

  • 43a: Expert in pop psychology? (MOM). That may be open to general debate, but the clue is very clever.


  • 6a: Back at sea (ABAFT). It was either that or STERN.

  • 14a: Word on a wanted poster (ALIAS). Not the poster I would have gone with, but...

  • 16a: Genre of the Get Up Kids (EMO). Emo has been showing up more and more in puzzles. Maybe I should listen to some.

  • 22a: Horn on a base (BUGLE). I was trying to interpret this in a baseball sense at first, but SAM didn't fit.

  • 28a: Force on earth (ONE G). It's actually a measure of acceleration (meters per seconds-squared), not force. But it's a common usage.

  • 30a: Kipling's homeland (INDIA).

  • 34a: Patriot's org. (AFC). My first instinct was NFL. I don't know much about the way the NFL works, but are the NFC and AFC really organizations? I just assumed they were a logical grouping of teams within the NFL. Aren't rules and schedules, etc. done at the NFL level? What responsibilities fall to the conferences?

  • 44a: One who spends dinars (IRAQI)

  • 45a: Dirt that might be dug up? (SOIL). Why the question mark here? Why the "dug up" part at all? Aren't dirt and soil pretty much the same thing?

  • 56a: "Truth in engineering" sloganeer (AUDI)

  • 57a: Symbol of sovereignty (ORB). This is probably a reference to the Sovereign's Orb, one of the British Crown Jewels.

  • 69a: Take the conn (STEER). I know I've heard this phrase quite a bit. Probably from "Star Trek" or one of the spin-offs.

  • 7d: It might be intentionally busted (BRONC). Yeah, okay. I guess.

  • 13d: TV marine Pyle. (GOMER). Well, golllleeeee!

  • 23d: Tony winner Hagen (UTA). I only know this from crosswords.

  • 25d: Film style (NOIR)

  • 30d: Dancing surface, sometimes (ICE). How is this not linked with the adjacent 31d: Its MVP gets the Hart Trophy (NHL)? Seems like too good an opportunity to pass up.

  • 38d: Sergeant Foley's first name in "An Officer and a Gentleman" (EMIL)

  • Arias, for example (SOLI). As in, plural of SOLO.

  • 46d: Act of delaying, old-style (OFFPUT). I got this easily enough from the crossings, but I can't find this in any of the on-line dictionaries.

  • 48: Prime rater: Abbr. (U.S.D.A.). Did you know there are eight grades of beef? Besides the top three that you see in the supermarket, prime, choice, and select, there are also standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner. Is it any wonder why I don't eat Spam?

  • 50d: Comedian Robert (KLEIN). Needed a few crossings here, as Robert is such a common first name. But I am familiar with

  • 53d: Oater choker (NOOSE).

  • 54d: Ballplayer Banks with the catchphrase "Let's play two" (ERNIE).

  • 58d: Transvaal settler. (BOER)

Suns of Bitches:

  • 1a: Emmy winner Christine (LAHTI). Nothing like hitting one your blind spots on 1-Across. I never watched "Chicago Hope".

  • 26d: "___ Park" (1986 Susan Dey movie) (ECHO). This gets a meager 5.6 rating on IMDb. Interestingly, the first four plot tags are "Stripper", "Female Nudity", "Acting", and "Disillusionment". I'm guessing that about sums it up.

  • 41d: Alternative to an iPhone (TREO). I've seen this before, and I still can't remember it. I gotta get with the new technology.

  • 52d: Conrad of old films (NAGEL). Well before my time.

  • 8d: ___ Darya (Asian river) (AMU). My first instinct was ABU, which wasn't so far off.

All in all, this was an okay puzzle for me. Not one of my favorites, but not bad for a Tuesday.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Bill D said...

Good puzzle today, but I had some problems with it. I had SKINFLINTSTONE and CHARLESTONATLAS and was trying to make a word chain out of TON and STONE. So I was looking for TONE and TO in the other theme answers. This slowed me down considerably. I originally tried "Nigel" Conrad for Conrad NAGEL (before my time, too) and I had recently seen Christine LAHTI in another grid, so I placed her early. Loved the baseball clues, too. MR MAY, indeed. Are all you NY paper crossword bloggers Red Sox fans? Why?

Excellent write-up today, Pete. Good puzzle analysis and interesting observations. I'm starting to enjoy this blog and The Sun puzzle. I do think the editor should be a little more alert, however, so we don't have repeat fill (ALOOF, MOUE) two days in a row.

Pete M said...

Thanks, Bill. Glad you enjoy the blog. Speaking for myself, I grew up and live in Red Sox territory; I've endured the pain and am now enjoying the good times. Go Sox!

Bill D said...

Pete - so long as you're not a bandwagon jumper. I am a NY Rangers fan, and man, it looks like that 1994 curse-ending Stanley Cup may be the only one I ever see. At least when the Sox broke their curse, they really reversed it and trampled all over it. Enjoy these good times while they last!

Joon said...

this puzzle chewed me up and spit me out. i could not figure out what the hell was going on with __ONC and __DBOL crossing A_AF_ (which i really wanted to be ABAFT, but had erased due to existential dread) and M_MA_ (where i had tried out ME MAN and MY MAN). neeeever heard of TYDBOL (TY-D-BOL, i guess?) and still have no idea what BRONC is all about. bronchitis? ford bronco?

also, who's charles atlas? should i know him?

Bill D said...

Joon - it seems some Americana [advertising of the '50's and '60s and the Wild West] bit you today. Yes, Ty-D-Bol (Tidy Bowl) is a classic bathroom product - it turns the water (and eventually the commode) blue! Its ads used to feature a little man in a little boat floating in the tank of the '60s housewife's toilet. I had to work it out carefully myself as I didn't recall it was so truncated. [Another similar item is the fluorescent paint brand Da-Glo, often incorrectly seen as Day-Glo.]

Bronc, which gave me fits, too, is short for a "bucking bronco" - "bronc busting" is slang for breaking in a wild horse.

Charles Atlas, a body-builder, was one of the first purveyors of a physical workout regimen, called "Dynamic Tension", I believe. Classic ads for his method appeared in comic books when I was a kid in the 1950s - they invariably featured a scrawny "98-lb weakling" having sand kicked on him by a bully on the beach, who then stole his hot girlfriend. (I was a literally a 98-lb weakling back then and it was never explained how I would have gotten the hot girl in the first place.) At any rate, after a few weeks of Dynamic Tension, the former weakling returned, buff and triumphant, to reclaim his and everyone else's hot girl. Another early body-builder/pitchman I recall was Vic Tanney, who could afford TV commercials for his gymnasiums, which sort of brings us back to Ty-D-Bol...

Anonymous said...

RE: dirt and soil. I had a horticulture professor say, when someone asked that same question, dirt is what's under your fingernails, plants grow in soil.

Pete M said...

Here's a picture of the famous Charles Atlas ad from comics books:


I remember a great parody of this in Mad magazine (I think it was one of Dave Berg's "Lighter Side of..." series) where a 98-pound weakling bought one of those exercisers that is basically some springs with two handles that you're supposed to keep pulling apart to build your chest muscles. So he gets it and uses it and builds up this great chest and goes to the beach and instead of punching the bully, he grabs an ear in each hand and pulls the guy's head apart (basically because that's the only movement he trained). Anyway... it was years ago and I still remember it, so it must have been funny. :)

Pete M said...

(Mucho bonus points to anyone who can produce a link to that Mad comic...).

Bill D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill D said...

Here's a couple of Don Martin clips; the one Pete recalls is first; the second one is a backfire. Martin must have liked these 98-lb weakling ads.

Pete's bit


Pete M said...

@bill d: That's awesome! I didn't think to look for them as animation -- where were those run? In my mind they were strips from the magazine, but now that I watch these they look really familiar!

100 bonus points!

Bill D said...

I'm not sure when some of these MAD Magazine strips were animated. I know MAD TV did a few, but I'm not sure about these.

Looking at them again, I think I remember another where the guy's chest hair gets caught in the springs...like I said, Don Martin must've had an affinity for Atlas ads.

Anonymous said...

Good questions today, Pete. I'd like an answer on AFC, etc.

There's no way I can live up to the energy and smarts on this blog. Don Martin, indeed!

I'll just content myself to say that MR MAY, the clue you enjoyed so, where it crosses AMU, is the one square I was not sure of in this puzzle. I guessed "MAY" since that's a month, etc., but couldn't remember AMU. So why is "Mr. May" so disparaging? Did his playing usually decline throughout the season? I didn't follow...

Pete M said...

@jim in nyc: Yes, the implication of "Mr May" is that he played great early on when there was no pressure, but folded like a cheap suit when it really counted.