Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Title: Would You Believe?
Author: Joe Bower
Theme: "Get Smart" good guys.
  • 19a: Sassy (SMART-MOUTHED).

  • Agent 99
  • 24a: #2 hit of January 1984 (99 LUFTBALLONS). Love this song by Nena, which I've blogged before when NENA was the fill.

  • 44a: They preside over presidential impeachment trials (CHIEF JUSTICES).

  • 49a: Micromanager, for example (CONTROL FREAK).

Ok, first the positives: I loved "Get Smart" and I love that it was made into a theme. My first thought when I saw the title was "Get Smart", but I wasn't convinced that it would actually be the theme (it's true, ask PuzzleGirl, who's currently guest-blogging over at Amy Reynaldo's place). But having said that, I feel less than fulfilled by the theme entries. First of all, three of the entries are characters and one is the organization they work for (CONTROL). I suppose this is okay if you treat the final entry as the tie-together for the first three. But what bothers me most is the SMART entry. Agent 99 is called "99" and the chief is called "Chief". But Maxwell Smart is called "Max" or "Maxwell" (or "86"), not "Smart". I find that this annoys me, perhaps more than it should. MAXWELL HOUSE is 12 letters; what's wrong with that? Good to the last drop.

Sunny Spots:

    First the beer clues:

    Yard of Ale
  • 8d: Heineken beer brand (AMSTEL). Props for the beer clue, but deductions for picking a crappy one.

  • 17d: Beer bash leftovers (EMPTIES).

  • 37d: It might be sold by the yard (ALE).

  • Then the sexy lingerie clues:

  • 14a: Maxim rival (FHM). Comedian Ron White said, "Guys, you can back me up on this. You've seen one woman naked... you want to see the rest of them naked." That about sums it up. Is there another reason men buy these magazines?

  • 34a: Like some bras (PUSH-UP).

  • And a couple of other entries of note:

    Sego Lily
  • 1a: Lilies of the Valley of the Sun (SEGOS). This was a cool clue that I had a hard time parsing at first. Of course, once I got the answer it made complete sense, and that's the hallmark of a great clue.

  • 16a: Brooks's costar in "Finding Nemo" (Ellen DEGENERES). Nice to see her last name in a puzzle for a change.


  • 6a: One-time go-between (AT A). As in "one AT A time". Cute.

  • 9a: Powerball relative (KENO).

  • 13a: Three-time A.L. batting champ Tony (OLIVA). I guessed GWYNN at first, which threw me off for a while.

  • 21a: Genre associated with turntablism (RAP). "I got two turntables and a microphone..." - Beck

  • 22a: Gobs and gobs? (SEAMEN). I'd like to assume there's no intentional double-entendre here, because if there is then it's way over the proverbial line.

  • 28a: "Breaking News" novelist (Robert MACNEIL). Of the "MacNeil/Lehrer Report".

  • 30a: L squared (MMD). 50 x 50 = 2500

  • 41a: Ashley of "High School Musical" (TISDALE).

  • 47a: Rupture (HERNIA). Ouch.

  • 56a: Test type (TRUE/FALSE).

  • 57a: Word with drug or energy (CZAR). Not as common a spelling as TSAR, but still shows up with fair regularity, especially in late-week puzzles.

  • 58a: Budget add-on? (EER). Cryptic suffix.

  • 59a: Free from errors (EMEND). Nice use of free as a verb.

  • 1d: Puts some green on? (SODS). My grandfather and great uncles used to run a sod farm in New Hampshire. It was mostly for golf courses, but at the time they also grew sod for Fenway Park, which is pretty cool.

  • 2d: No, for one (ELEM). Nobelium, a rare-earth metal.

  • 3d: Prefix with byte or watt (GIGA). Could also have been KILO or MEGA.

  • 5d: Hyundai SUV (SANTA FE). This is an especially tough fill if you're working backwards, as I often do. I had ___TAFE, and was drawing a complete blank.

  • 6d: Natural (AFRO). Imus would call it "nappy". I was not familiar with the term "natural" in this context.

  • 7d: Home to hundreds of millions (THE USA).

  • 9d: Time magazine called her "a first responder in the advance guard of style" (KATE MOSS).

  • 11d: Bid, maybe (NOD). If an auctioneer is locked into you, you can bid with the very slightest of motions. It can be a pretty thrilling experience.

  • 24d: Common caliber (9 MM).

  • 25d: Punching-in time, for many (9 AM).

  • 27d: Plain-Jane (BLAH).

  • 32d: Danseuse's wear (TUTU). Also, Archbishop Desmond.

  • 33d: Letter (EPISTLE).

  • 34d: Shells propelled by two rowers (PAIR OARS). This is not a term I'm familiar with. Makes sense, but sounds a little funky.

  • 36d: Body bag? (SAC). Kind of a sick clue.

  • 40d: ___ soup (Charleston dish) (SHE CRAB). Called such because of the addition of crab roe (eggs).

  • 43d: 3-D display (DIORAMA).

  • 45d: Not flat, in a way (FITTED). Referring, I assume, to sheets.

  • 55d: Arm of Israel (UZI). Cute clue for a common fill.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 29a: Bugsy's wife in "Bugsy" (ESTA).

  • 50d: Brest bear (OURS). I studied several years of French (granted, quite some time ago), and I don't remember this word. It strikes me as intentionally obscure.

  • 52d: "The Bookseller of Kabul" author Seierstad (ASNE). I don't recall seeing this one before. It's the #162,035th best selling book on Amazon, which happens to be over 20,000 places behind Amy Reynaldo's "How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle: Tips, Tricks and Techniques to Master America's Favorite Puzzle", which you should buy even if you like the Sun puzzle better.

All in all, despite my complaints about the theme, I found this to be a decent and challenging puzzle. Actually, it was quite hard in spots, which is what I expect from a Friday puzzle, but without any noticeably unfair crossings. Nice job.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Anonymous said...

CZAR may be less common than TSAR in crosswords, but I would guess that it's the far more common spelling in "drug czar" or "energy czar", at least in the US. So I give a point to the constructor for consistency in the cluing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Pete - I tried to post before but had trouble, so I'm back. I enjoyed this theme - I hope (likely in vain) that this new movie version will be as much fun as the puzzle.

Also - I hope I didn't help to create a monster yesterday: Barbara Feldon, Ashley Tisdale and Kate Moss! At least you've included Bishop Tutu where you could easily have put a picture of Cyd Charisse!

CZAR vs. TSAR: probably more to do with Peter's love of the Scrabble letter than appropriateness of the clue - but an interesting thought.

Have a nice weekend,

Anonymous said...

Fun theme for a great show, but I agree that MAX makes a lot more sense than SMART for the first theme entry.

I had SMART, 99, and CHIEF and almost nothing in the bottom section of the puzzle, so I was racking my brain, trying to figure out which agent was going to be featured in the final theme entry. Larabie? Fang? I was really hoping for Hymie!

Pete M said...

Hymie would have cool, but tough to work into the theme.

@tony o: I was very restrained with the pix I chose today. Several, especially Kate Moss, could have been much more revealing.

Joon said...

this was a curious 14x16 themeless that i solved and then stared at for minutes, trying to work out the theme. i eventually pieced it together, but it was tough, never having seen the show or the movie. "99" was what did it--i think that was a character in get smart. the title didn't help at all, and even after i guessed the theme it didn't really mean anything.

SEGOS was all crosses. i still don't really know what that's all about. SAGO is some sort of plant. SEGO? um... no idea.

tony GWYNN played his entire career with the padres, who are of course in the NL. also, he won 7 (i think) batting titles, not just 3. i didn't get OLIVA until relatively late but i knew it wasn't GWYNN.

the only TISDALE i know is former NBA power forward/jazz musician wayman TISDALE. this one seems to be better-looking, though.

OURS was only about 10% familiar. mostly i guessed at the letters due to knowing OSO (spanish) and URSA (latin), even though french was the only foreign language i studied, too.

ASNE... yuck. with letters like that, if the name were at all worth knowing, it'd be in the grid All The Time. according to cruciverb, it's never been in the grid before. ergo...

i wanted CHIEFJUSTICES to have a friday-level clue like [Burger et al.]. overall, though, a very fun puzzle.

Anonymous said...

The clue for 22a: Gobs and gobs?
Was Peter's. My original clue was "Private parts seen in the movie "Top Gun"
Keep up the great work!

embien said...

I'm getting tired of Across Lite. Is there a manual anywhere? (Doesn't seem to be any documentation on the website). How do you enter a number, as in the "99"? I couldn't get Across Lite to take it.

I guess I don't understand 54a: Distinctive character being AURA.

Very tough puzzle for me.

Pete M said...

@embien: I had no problems entering 9s in the puzzle. I think first-letters usually work also (so in this case, "N" for "9"). If you're having issues, maybe you're using an old version?

A place can have an aura of mystery or an aura of romance.