Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday, June 6, 2008

Title: Thinkin' Inside the Box
Author: Peter A. Collins
Theme: Three long answers each contain two apostrophes, which are included in their own box (and crossed appropriately) within the fill. As follows:

  • MRS O'LEARY'S COW (17a: Fire starter of legend), which crosses apostrophes at WE'RE (5d: "#1" follows it) and IT'S NO USE (10d: "I give up!").

  • AT ONE'S WITS' END (39a: Perplexed), which crosses K'NEX (36d: Lego alternative) and C'MON (38d: When doubled, a 2002 Sheryl Crow album).

  • L'HÔPITAL'S RULE (58a: Calculus topic), which crosses MA'AM (49d: Hat-tipper's word) and O'ER (52d: "___ the land ...").

This was a different kind of theme; not really a rebus (unless you use AcrossLite and have to enter A for "Apostrophe", which makes it rebus-like); more of an anti-rebus, if there is such a thing. The theme entries were okay. I like Mrs O'Leary's Cow as fill. I also kind of like L'Hôpital's Rule, but again I was a math major in college; I wonder how many people are scratching their heads on that one. "At one's wits' end" feels a touch awkward to me. I think one is at wits' end, not at one's wits' end. Love K'nex -- that's a great fill! The Sheryl Crow album sounds just vaguely familiar, and the "o'er the land..." is, of course, from our National Anthem.

Sunny Spots:

  • 26a: What might be said right before sex? (SAFE). This is especially amusing, as I'm listening to baseball right now. What a novel way to resolve disputes on close tags...

  • 41a: 2003 Billy Bob Thornton film (BAD SANTA). This movie is just so wrong on so many levels. It's also one of the funniest films I've ever seen. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cringe. Pure genius, but not for everyone. Here's an ever-so-small taste. (Language warning).

  • 25d: Like sweep hands? (SOOTY). Phenomenal clue, referencing chimney sweeps.

  • 28d: Mount Doom visitor (FRODO). I am a big "Lord of the Rings" fan, both books and movies (books are better, but the movies rock too), so this was a very pleasant gimme. How about something tougher, like THEODRED, or GLAMDRING, or HASUFEL?

  • 35d: Wavy pictures? (SEASCAPES). As in pictures of waves. Cute.


  • 1a: Shoves aside (ELBOWS). Also another pasta to go along with 32d: Pasta pick (PENNE).

  • 7a: Beginning to freeze? (ANTI). Cryptic clue, with a nice surface reading.

  • 14a: Evening wingding (SOIRÉE).

  • 15a: Swag (LOOT). We always use "swag" to refer to the corporate freebies companies give out as advertising (shirts, towels, frisbees, gym bags, water bottles, pens, hats, fleeces, etc.). Also as a verb, to mean "scientific wild ass guess".

  • 16a: Drink in a Maugham title (ALE). Reference to "Cakes and Ale". You know we love ale around here, even if we just saw it yesterday.

  • 20a: NYC setting (EDT). Eastern Daylight Time. Common clue.

  • 23a: Motor Trend's 1971 Car of the Year (VEGA). That's a scary thought. We used to own a Vega, and I can't say I have great memories of its awesomeness. I think it was like mustard yellow, too. One of those horrendous 70s colors.

  • 24a: John McCain's alma mater: Abbr. (U.S.N.A.). The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

  • 29a: 1997 Nielsen role (MAGOO). This movie currently rates 3.2 out of 10 at IMDb. That's pretty horrendous.

  • 31a: Block party, perhaps: Abbr. (CPA). H&R Block. Ugh.

  • 34a: On the line (AT RISK).

  • 37a: Didn't stand tall (SLOUCHED). I have teens. They slouch. This was a piece of cake.

  • 42a: Sanaa resident (YEMENI).

  • 43a: Sign of success (SRO). Standing Room Only. I live in the sticks; I learned this from puzzles.

  • 44a: Hannity and Combs (SEANS). What twisted genius, combining Fox TV's ultra-conservative Sean Hannity with Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs. Talk about strange bedmates.

  • 47a: Ten-seventeenths of MLIV (DCXX). Straight math. (As opposed to what? Gay math?)

  • 51a: Peninsula with the T'aebaek Mountains (KOREA). Easily deducible if you don't know it off the top. Which I didn't.

  • 54a: Console feature (DIAL).

  • 55a: Dash (PEP).

  • 62a: Shoebox letters (EEE). Percentage of shoeboxes that actually have EEE on them: 0.001%. Percentage of crossword clues about shoeboxes whose answer is EEE: 99.999%. Okay, I made up the numbers, but you get the point.

  • 63a: Perfect copy? (EDIT). Very nice use of perfect as a verb.

  • 64a: Star of "The Last Don" (Danny AIELLO). With such a vowel-rich name, I'm surprised we don't see more him in puzzles.

  • 65a: The formula for it has IP in the denominator (ERA). In baseball, Earned Run Average = (Runs Scored x 9)/Innings Pitched

  • 67a: Math class calculation (MEDIAN). Well, you don't exactly calculate a median per se. The median is the middle number of a set, so you have to sort the set and find the center number(s). As opposed to the mean, which you can calculate by adding all the numbers together and dividing by the number of values in the set.

  • 4d: It has one stable isótopo (ORO). It's the only Spanish element I can name, I think. I'm sure I've seen the word for silver, but I can't think of it.

  • 6d: Vincent's successor (SELIG). Baseball commissioner Bud SELIG succeeded Fay Vincent.

  • 9d: Tamagotchi, e.g. (TOY). My kids were kids when these "digital pets" were the rage. I came awfully close to smashing one or two as they beeped incessantly while the kids were upstairs sleeping.

  • 11d: Literally, "wadding" (TACO). I never knew that. That's kind of cool, I guess.

  • 23d: Marble features (VEINS).

  • 24d: Jamaican fruit (UGLI). I've answered this in puzzles way more often than I've eaten the fruit.

  • 26d: They have griffin logos (SAABS).

  • 27d: Rose oil (ATTAR). I only know this from doing crosswords.

  • 30d: Dam site (ASWAN). Huge dam on the Nile River in Egypt. Shows up a fair amount in puzzles.

  • 33d: Computer component (ADD-IN). I'm in software, and I'm not crazy about this one. ADD-ON or PLUG-IN sound better to my ear.

  • 40d: Rival of Pringles made by Lay's (STAX). Also a Motown-era record label.

  • 45d: Topgallant, e.g. (SAIL). As sailing terms go, this one's more obscure than most. It's one of the topmost squarish sails on a square-rigged boat.

  • 47d: ___ volente (DEO). Didn't know this one. It's means "God willing".

  • 50d: Pitcher of milk? (ELSIE). As in, one who pitches for milk. In this case, Borden's mascot.

  • 51d: "Cat and Bird" painter (KLEE). Didn't know the painting, but I'm familiar with the name.

  • 56d: "Pure ___" (1994 album) (ELLA). Makes sense once you get it; I'm assuming this must be Ella Fitzgerald.

  • 57d: Low hand (PEON). Nice play on Slow Hand (Eric Clapton nickname).

  • 59d: Response to a bailiff (I DO). "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

  • 61d: Like the magic pebble in "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" (RED). This award-winning book has been around since I was a kid, and yet it doesn't sound at all familiar. I'm not sure how I missed it. Still, the answer was not hard to confirm from the crossings.

Suns of Bitches:

  • 1d: "The Vanishing Act of ___ Lennox" (2006 Maggie O'Farrell book) (ESMÉ). Yet another Esmé. Who knew?

  • 3d: "Bei Mir ___ Du Schön" (BIST). Hunh?

  • 53d: Second-largest moon of Saturn (RHEA). That's starting to get a little obscure. At least it looks like a name.

  • 55d: Hard-to-groom dog breed (PULI). I'm sure I've seen this one before, but it's just not a dog-name that's on my radar. If it's more than a couple of weeks, I'll probably be stumped next time, too.

  • 60d: World Wide Web inventor Berners-Lee (TIM). Of all the Tims in the world, we're supposed to know this one? Hmph.

In general, you never quite know what to expect with a themed Friday puzzle. This one was okay; the theme didn't blow me away (in fact, it was pretty easy as late-week themes go), but there was enough decent fill and challenge to keep me interested. And any puzzle that mentions both Frodo and "Bad Santa" is all right by me.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Anonymous said...

WRT wits' end: To the extent that I ever hear someone use the expression -- which isn't often -- I think I usually hear "I'm at my wits' end" rather than "I'm at wits' end". So the use of "one's" in the puzzle doesn't seem particularly awkward to me. But I'm hard pressed to imagine anyone under, say, 50 using the expression at all.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I was sure McCain attended West Point (USMA), so I stared at 10D "It's Mouse" for quite a long time. Something Disney? Finally reason prevailed.

Bei Mir BIST ... at 3D is a well-known song. (As always, if you know it, it's ipso facto "well-known".)

Yes, MEDIAN is not a calculation. On technical matters, the constructor/editor ought to check with someone.

We're supposed to know former baseball commissioners now? ... On the other hand, I'm interested in ERA. Is it calculated for each game, or over a season or over a career? Or all three?

Anonymous said...

PS. Very enjoyable puzzle. Credit where due.

Orange said...

I suspect AIELLO doesn't get more play because he's got three vowels in a row. That'd make it a little harder to get the crossings to work, because you'd run the risk of having three consonants in a row above or below the AIE. A top constructor once told me that the alternating consonant/vowel pattern is much easier to work in than a vowel-packed word.

Pete M said...

@jim in nyc: ERA is usually a running calculation throughout the season, and also for a pitcher's career. Game by game is too small a dataset to be meaningful.

@orange: And yet, we see plenty of AEON, AUEL, OUI, etc. Three consonants in a row isn't that unusual, especially in the middle of larger words. But I agree, alternating is much simpler.

Joon said...

AIELLO hosed me pretty good. that and i had too many possibilities to consider for PEP. PULI is something i've heard of, but i couldn't pull it out with only the vowels in place. eventually PEON came to me and i made some guesses elsewhere.

i was born in KOREA and i don't know those mountains, but that name looks so korean that i had no hesitation filling KOREA into the grid. if peter had wanted more theme entries with apostrophes, he could have had his pick of long korean phrases (at least using the mccune-reischauer romanization).

we didn't have to wait long for another XX in the grid, did we? although this one uses roman numerals, so that's kind of cheating.

i, too, loved the juxtaposition of hannity and combs. brilliant.

jim in NYC, i think former baseball commissioners are somewhat famous. judge kennesaw mountain landis, who cleaned up the gambling in baseball following the 1919 black sox scandal, is probably the famousest. fay vincent is notable for imposing a lifetime ban on george steinbrenner (which was reversed one year after vincent left office), as well as investigating the pete rose scandal before he was commissioner. bart giamatti, who preceded vincent, is also well-known for being the president of yale and the father of actor paul giamatti. giamatti was the one who banned pete rose (or rather, convinced rose to voluntarily sign the agreement banning him for life).

Anonymous said...

Yep, I've heard of those guys, except for Landis. Point taken.

embien said...

Is it possible to enter the apostrophes in AcrosLite? I couldn't get my puzzle accepted (but then I had AIELLO wrong also).

janie said...

the andrews sisters made "bei mir bist du schoen" a big ol' hit in its day -- 1937...

take a listen:

bei mir bist...

and read more about it here;

all about "bmbds"

the song has a really interesting little history, has been recorded by the great (and the "near great" [thank you, 2000 year old man]...), and was parodied as "the bear missed the train"!

se corner of the puzzle did me in, but enjoyed figuring out the theme and how it worked. i, too, had mccain going to west point... oops...

happy weekend!