Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Title: Themeless Thursday
Author: Mike Nothnagel
Theme: None

Sunny Spots:

  • 6a: They can be denoted by a number and a letter (BRA SIZES). Say what you want about where my mind is at, but this did not come readily to it. I needed a few crossings to see it, at which point it made me smile (again).

  • 17a: Utmost (DAMNEDEST). I had DARNEDEST at first, which unintuitively is only one-letter off from the correct answer.

  • 34a: Practice of some Ashkenazim (ORTHODOX JUDAISM). This is the centerpiece of the puzzle. Long and Scrabbley, along with 6d: Unadorned performance space (BLACKBOX THEATER).

  • 2d: Longtime backup band for Neil Young (CRAZY HORSE). Gimme for me. I still have some on vinyl.

  • 22d: Common dorm room fixture (HALOGEN LAMP).

  • 27d: Haunted house figure (GRIM REAPER). Which might cause a 42a: Cry of dismay (HORRORS). Or perhaps a laugh, in the case of "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life"...

  • 28d: Fat City thoroughfare? (EASY STREET). Beautiful.

  • 32d: 1980s title role for William Shatner (TJ HOOKER). Shatner has absolutely no shame when it comes to roles he'll take. Kind of like Tim Curry. But I love them both. "Boston Legal", one of many shows by 40a: "Ally McBeal" creator David E. KELLEY, verges on brilliant at times.


  • 1a: Response to getting one's dander up? (ACHOO). Clever use of dander, the allergen. There's nothing quite like a smile at 1a to prime you for the rest of the puzzle.

  • 14a: Overdress (DROWN). I suppose this means like to drown (food) in spices. It felt a little like jamming a square peg into a round hole.

  • 15a: Noted member of the Bureau of Prohibition (ELIOT NESS).

  • 16a: Grammy winner Steve (EARLE). I probably should have gotten this one sooner, but I needed the starting EA before it clicked.

  • 18a: Gaza guns (UZIS). Gimme, especially with the Z of CRAZY HORSE already in place.

  • 19a: Color similar to cranberry (PUCE). Guessed PLUM first.

  • 21a: ___ Affair (XYZ). This was an 18th century incident with France. I'm not that up on my early U.S. history, but you can read about it here, if you're interested.

  • 22a: Provincial (HICK). This one brought to mind "The Red Green Show".

  • 23a: Rain-___ (bubble gum brand) (BLO). This is not one I'm familiar with, but it's an easy guess.

  • 24a: Don't leg it, maybe (HOP A CAB). Good one. Perhaps something to do when you 52a: See someone (GO ON A DATE).

  • 38a: Jennie of "Beverly Hills 90210" (GARTH). I never watched the show, but the name is vaguely familiar.

  • 48a: Fox juggernaut since 2002, familiarly (IDOL). I'm not embarrassed to admit that I caught the Idol Tour show this past weekend. My God, can pre-teen girls scream. It was actually louder when the music wasn't playing than when it was. But it was a good show. David Cook rocks.

  • 54a: Flag pin's spot (LAPEL). Mental block. I had golf on the brain and just couldn't shake the cobwebs out. Doh!

  • 55a: Parachutist's device (ALTIMETER).

  • 57a: Fundamental unit of DNA (BASE PAIR).

  • 58a: Cricket player's game (DARTS). Wonderful clue. Cricket is... no, forget it, it's too hard to explain. Check it out here.

  • 1d: For just two people (A DEUX).

  • 3d: Level (HORIZONTAL).

  • 4d: Temple attendees cheer for them (OWLS). I don't know that many college mascots, but I remember this one. I think it must show up regularly in puzzles.

  • 5d: It's at the top of Pascal's triangle (ONE). Gimme for me. Pascal's triangle is great for estimating probable suit distributions in bridge. For example, when you are missing four cards of a suit, the probability distribution is 1 4 6 4 1, which means 1 time in 16 all four will be on your left, 4 times they will break 3-1 with 3 on your left, 6 times they will break 2-2, 4 times they will break 1-3 with 3 on your right, and 1 time they will all be on your right. It's not exactly thus, but it's close enough.

  • 9d: What people who need to get high might use? (STEPLADDERS). More drug innuendo. Funny clue.

  • 11d: Jazzy duo? (ZEES). Cryptic letter clue.

  • 12d: "___ quam videri" (North Carolina's motto) (ESSE). My new strategy is that if it's part of a motto, it's ESSE.

  • 15d: Maria Montessori, e.g. (EDUCATOR).

  • 30d: Pass (out) (ZONK).

  • 35d: First track on the 1956 album "Calypso" (DAY-O). Come, Mr. Tally Man, tally me banana...

  • 41d: 11-sided Canadian coin (LOONIE). The one-dollar coin that features a picture of a loon on the back.

  • 49d: Finishing touches on some letters (DOTS). I assume this refers to "dotting the 'i's and crossing the 't's".

  • 50d: H.S. senior's exam, formerly (SAT I).

  • 52d: Gift that keeps on giving? (GAB). Cute.

  • 53d: Agcy. that publishes the monthly Microgram Bulletin (DEA). Amusingly sitting beside 54d: Psychedelic derived from ergot (LSD).

Suns of Bitches:

  • 50a: "The Odd Couple" director Gene (SAKS). This was a crossings-only fill for me, even though I'm sure I've seen it before.

  • 8d: ___ Center (Chicago skyscraper) (AON). I know this is a gimme for some of you, but I needed the crossings.

  • 48d: Seat of Allen County, Kansas (IOLA). Huh?

This was a great puzzle. Not terribly difficult, but chock full of fresh words and phrases. Just as you expect when you see Mike Nothnagel's name at the top. Very nice.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Joon said...

that state motto strategy isn't bad, but watch out for my current state (massachusetts). i got burned once by a KMT puzzle which included the first word of "ENSE petit placidam sub libertate quietem" ("by the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty"). the other ones that seem to keep coming up are montana (oro y plata--why this one is in spanish, i have no idea) and idaho (esto perpetua).

i think the OWLS clue was an attempt to trick you into thinking temple-going worshippers were cheering, rather than students who attend temple university.

i don't know what to make of [Overdress] = DROWN. your explanation is a pretty weak connection, but better than anything i could come up with on my own.

great puzzle. i only wish i had got it right.

Anonymous said...

A very Scrabbley puzzle indeed: four Zs, a couple of Xs, a J... but not quite a pangram puzzle. As for DROWN, Pete was on the right track but in the wrong physical state -- I believe the constructor had a liquid in mind, specifically salad dressing (though I might say a salad is swimming in too much dressing more often than drowning in it).