Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Title: Themeless Thursday
Author: Barry C. Silk
Theme: None

Sunny Spots:
  • 1a: Monikers (SOBRIQUETS). What can I say? That's a really nice 1a fill.

  • 15a: Tennessee Williams's "27 Wagons Full of Cotton," e.g. (ONE ACT PLAY). I like interesting, multi-word fill. Much better than {What Tennessee Williams's "27 Wagons Full of Cotton" has one of} (ACT). You don't need to know the play to figure this one out, either.

  • A dance dip
  • 17a: Dip and skip, e.g. (DANCE STEPS). Another nice one.

  • 24a: 1966 Beach Boys hit (SLOOP JOHN B). Sloop John B was one of several hits from the album "Pet Sounds", one of the most influential rock albums of all time. Unfortunately for me, I remembered it as SLOOP JOHN G, which led to problems in the NE corner. In particular, it gave me SNAGGED instead of STABBED for 14d: Stuck
  • , which worked fine with TAG (instead of TAB) for 22a: Filing facilitator. But I couldn't for the life of me recall any computer called NEXN (16a: Computer introduced in 1988). Because there wasn't one; it was NEXT. It's unusual for one bad clue to propagate so far before you catch it.
  • 45a: Seven (out) (CRAP). First of all, I love the game of craps. Secondly, it's cool to see CRAP actually in a puzzle.

  • 46a: Cécile de Volanges portrayer in "Dangerous Liaisons" (UMA THURMAN). Nice to see her whole name appear for a change.

  • 54a: High-risk investment (PENNY STOCK).

  • 60a: Kind of pliers (NEEDLE-NOSE).

  • 1d: Jerk's offering (SODA POP). I like this one. Soda jerk is a bit dated, for sure, but still cool.

  • 2d: How some dumb things are done (ON A DARE). This fill appeals to my younger, childish side. At what age does daring someone stop working? I gotta guess somewhere during the college years, maybe even later, for men. Probably junior high school for women. There's definitely a maturity element going on here.

  • 21d: Store with the slogan "Never the same place twice" (TJ MAXX). Two Xs and a J in one fill is classic themeless fare. Very nice.

  • 11a: Draft picks (ALES). Mmmm.... beer!

  • 18a: With 12-Down, glove material (NAPA / LEATHER). I thought it was NAPP, not NAPA. My bad.

  • 20a: ___ water (facing trouble) (IN HOT). Nice overall phrase; not so nice as a partial.

  • 23a: Crown (PATE).

  • 26a: Like some thermometers (ORAL). And yet, "Like some (other) thermometers" (ANAL) would be deemed offensive. Go figure.

  • 27a: Key used in some shortcuts (CTRL). Gimme.

  • 28a: Attorney General during the Iran-Contra Affair (Edwin MEESE).

  • 29a: Part of dpi (PER). Dots per inch, a measure of computer monitor (and TV) resolution.

  • 31a: Went public with (AIRED). Especially, dirty laundry.

  • 32a: Big mouth (MAW).

  • 33a: Rose on the music charts? I think we covered this in yesterday's AXEL, AXLE, AXIL, AXL discussion. (AXL).

  • 37a: Neuter (DESEX). Desex is an ugly way to get Xs into the puzzle. I'm just saying.

  • 40a: Windows boxes (PCS). A lot of tech in this puzzle. NEXT, PCS, CTRL, dpi.

  • 44a: Greyhound fare? (ALPO). Cute.

  • 49a: Pro ___ (for now) (TEM). This is just an okay clue/fill under normal circumstances, but when the puzzle also contains 40d: Gratis (PRO BONO), I think that's pushing it.

  • 50a: Like a big rig on a big hill, maybe (IN LOW).

  • 51a: Skyscraper beam (I-BAR). Ubiquitous fill.

  • 58a: Gutsy? (INTESTINAL). A bit of a stretch, but okay.

  • 59a: Milk sources (EWES). Eww. Personally, I don't drink sheep's milk, but I guess it's a source for lambs. Of course, that's true of most mammals and their young, and I wouldn't want this as a clue for, say, DOGS.

  • 3d: 1980-83 Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Grammy winner (Pat BENATAR). I'd have preferred to see here whole name, but okay.

  • 4d: Daughter-in-law of Rebekah (RACHEL). This one I knew, or at least could easily deduce. ADAH, otoh (19a: Daughter-in-law of Rebekah)? No clue.

  • 7d: Raises one side of (UPTILTS).

  • 8d: 1968 Turtles hit (ELENORE). The Turtles had two hits? The only one I know (and I apologize for mentioning it, because it's the kind of song that sticks in your head -- just wait, you'll see) is "Happy Together".

  • 9d: Blast furnace opening (TAPHOLE). That's kind of a cool fill word.

  • 10d: Computer bulletin board overseer (SYS-OP). More tech.

  • 11d: Compton of ABC News (ANN).

  • 24d: Refuse tower (SCOW). Tower, as in one that tows. Usually this kind of thing has a question mark attached.

  • 25d: Parisian sight seer? (OEIL). French for eye.

  • 30d: Best Picture after "Chariots of Fire" (GANDHI). With Ben Kingsley. Good film.

  • 39d: Gave birth to (SPAWNED). I thank my mother all the time for spawning me.

  • 41d: Simón Bolívar University setting (CARACAS). I didn't know this, but it was easy enough to deduce.

  • 42d: Éclat (SPARKLE). Nice fill.

  • 47d: Remove, as a badge (UNPIN). Eh. I'm not crazy about UNs and REs that aren't commonly used. At least the badge reference makes it plausible.

  • 55d: Haute couture monogram (YSL). Yves St-Laurent.

  • 56d: Bernadette, for example: Abbr. (STE). Having STE that close to a monogram that includes ST in it seems a touch inelegant, but we'll let this one slide.

Suns of Bitches:

Besides the Beach Boys misstep mentioned above, there was one other tough crossing and one bad section for me.

The crossing was at the H of CHITIN (45d: Principal component of arthropod exoskeletons) and HORA (48a: Chair-raising experience?). I got it correct, but it felt like an educated guess when I did it. Now that I think about it, I should have been more confident about HORA. And it's a cool clue to boot.

The bad section was the SW, where two mistakes took their toll. The two mistakes were PIS instead of XIS for 53d: Followers of nus, and OARED instead of COXED for 43a: Participated in crew, in a way. This really threw a wrench into seeing the answer of the following clues:

  • 34a: Brightness (SHEEN).

  • 52a: Grapity purple is one of its flavors (TRIX). Having P instead of X here made this one virtually impossible to figure out. Gotta love grapity, though.

  • 57a: Ackerman who portrayed Evita on Broadway (LONI). Not a name I'm familiar with.

  • 34d: Sink (SCUTTLE). Great word, but I was looking for second-letter O.

  • 35d: There's a semicolon in it (HOME ROW). Tricky clue, referring to the QWERTY keyboard layout.

  • 36d: Study (EXAMINE). Figuring this one out finally clued me into my errors and set me back on the right path.

Other toughies:

  • 37d: Pop singer Love (DARLENE). I know Courtney Love. Darlene? Not so much.

  • 38d: Suburb of Los Angeles (EL MONTE). Why haven't I heard of this place? I'm a purely New England guy myself, but I've heard of Pasadena, Long Beach, Compton, Inglewood, Torrance, Burbank, Beverly Hills, Glendale, Santa Monica, Pomona,...

Bottom line? Despite my various missteps, I thought this was a pretty nice themeless. A few rocky areas, but also good, scrabbly letters; plenty of multi-word and interesting fill; decent clues; and a nice challenge.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Joon said...

this was my fastest themeless thursday ever by a fair amount. things just seemed to click for me, except when i tried to put in BEYONCE instead of BENATAR off of BE_____. umm... whoops? (maybe next time i should look at the years in the clue.)

by my count, there were six computerish clues today: NEXT, CTRL, PCS, HOMEROW, SYSOP, PER. that's a lot. HOMEROW was especially tough for me to piece together as i use the dvorak keyboard layout, in which (shockingly) the home row only contains AOEUIDHTNS. semicolon, really? haha. that doesn't seem like one of the 8 keys you'd type most often.

i feel like CARACAS was clued using bolivar in another puzzle recently. also, i was bamboozled by HORA in the sunday LAT but today i was all over it.

ADAH was a new one. i guess she must be esau's wife? doesn't sound at all familiar.

as for ORAL vs anal thermometer... it's the same thermometer. just a question of which orifice you stick it into. (now an ear canal or temple thermometer, that's a different piece of equipment.)

Anonymous said...

In the old days before electronic thermometers, oral and anal mercury-in-glass thermometers were shaped differently. The in-your-mouth part of an oral thermometer was about a centimeter long, and thin in proportion. The anal thermometer had a short, stubby bulb, to avoid the possibility of perforating the body part where it was inserted.

embien said...

I had to cheat to get my PI changed to XI, made especially difficult by not having kids and never having eaten Trix (silly rabbit). Who knew those things even had names.

I laughed out loud when I saw 33A: AXL after yesterday's blog entry. Sometimes the coincidence of these things is overwhelming. Not often you see XX in the fill--I wonder if you could do it without TJMAXX or Roman numerals or shirt sizes (XXL)?

The Turtles and I got drunk in my apartment after a show when I was in college (before they had any claim to fame), so there's my brush with greatness. I'm pretty certain the statute of limitations has expired on my sin of providing beer to some under age musicians forty some odd years ago. I still didn't remember ELENORE.

Two of the Turtles went on to later fame as Flo & Eddie (with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention).

The Turtles were originally from a Los Angeles suburb--Westchester, not El Monte.

Anonymous said...

I feel like CARACAS was clued using bolivar in another puzzle recently.

Yep, in the Saturday Stumper.

I had no idea what Elenore sounded like, or why they spelled it that way, but after dialing it up on YouTube I remembered it immediately. Thing is, I never memorize pop lyrics.

Joon said...

embien, i've seen XX before. most recently, of course, NIKKISIXX was in BEQ's weekend warrior just last week (and was also in an onion puzzle with a XX theme, maybe from february or so). i think EXXON was in a mike nothnagel NYT in the past few months. XXX, XXO and OXX are all viable entries (XXX in many ways, the others as [Losing tic tac toe line] or something like that).

if i ever write a themeless, i'd like to get ZAXXON in there. man, that would be cool. anybody else remember that game? it's no PONG, or even space invaders, but it was the first game to attempt "3-D" (or even THREED) graphics.

Pete M said...

REDD FOXX is another good XX.

@joon: Zaxxon was used in a clue this past May 1st, in a Byron Walden Weekend Warrior (the fill was SEGA).

@embien: 25 bonus pts for getting drunk with the Turtles. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, no one can remember Elenore? Like "So Happy Together" with it's odd line, "How is the weather?", the song Elenore had some weird lyrics, too:

Gee I think you're swell
And you really do me well
You're my pride and joy
Et cetera

I don't think I can come up with another song that has "et cetera" in the lyrics. But if you're the right age for the song, go find a video of it on Youtube and I'm sure it will all come back.

embien said...

I'm definitely the right age for Turtles, my "Turtles drinking experience" was, I believe in 1965 or 1966 when I was in college.

I remembered the song instantly when I You Tubed it. I just didn't associate it with "Elenore" as the title. My bad.