Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Title: Pick-Me-Ups
Author: Alan Arbesfeld
Theme: Adding ME to phrases.

  • Flu season => FLUME SEASON (17a: When water parks make their money?).

  • Conga lines => CON GAME LINES (23a: "It's easy, pal-just keep track of the shell with the pea" and others?).

  • Sha Na Na => SHAME NANA (31a: Embarrass grandma?).

  • Do or die => DOME OR DIE (40a: Motto of indoor stadium advocates?). "Do me or die" would have a whole different connotation. See how good cluing is important?

  • Princess Di => PRINCESS DIME (45a: Coin featuring Sleeping Beauty?).

  • Lee Majors => MELEE MAJORS (57a: Ones getting a degree in riot control?).

I love this theme. It's a great example of what you get when both the base phrases and the new phrases are full of sparkle. I mean, check out the base phrases: conga lines, flu season, Sha Na Na, Lee Majors... wonderful stuff! I was hooked at FLUME SEASON and wasn't let down throughout the puzzle. I was a little fuzzy regarding the title "Pick-Me-Ups", but I guess it just means phrases "picking up" the MEs. I was looking for more "up-ness" somewhere, but it was not to be found.

Sunny Spots:

When you include six sparkling theme entries, you don't need the rest of the fill to be spectacular; you just need to keep it reasonable and entertaining. Which it is.

  • 1a: Maker of Centipede (ATARI). If it's a classic video game being referenced in a crossword, it's probably ATARI.

  • 15a: Partially lit (TIPSY). My guess of ESSEX for 8d: ___ Downs (English racecourse) (EPSOM) led me to try PISSY here, figuring it was a Britishism along the lines of getting pissed. Note that if this had been the NYT puzzle, I wouldn't even have considered it. I consider that a compliment to Peter Gordon and the Sun.

  • 29a: Russian fighter jet (MIG). If you didn't know this right off, you need to go rent "Top Gun" again. And not just because I'm in it (well, in a manner of speaking).

  • 30a: Alter (AMEND). If someone can explain the difference between AMEND and EMEND, I'd like to hear it. I'm always guessing, and I almost always guess wrong.

  • 38a: Blue-footed bird (BOOBY). Heh heh... Hey Beavis, he said "booby".

  • 39a: Imposture (HOAX). Lots of Xs in this puzzle.

  • 42a: Perfume during a church service (CENSE). Isn't it INCENSE? Is this slang, like 'CENSE?

  • 44a: Maybelline's parent company (L'OREAL).

  • 52a: First-stringers (A-TEAM). I would have preferred a colorful Mr. T reference here.

  • 56a: It might have a certain ring to it (TUB). Clever clue. What was the Dr. Seuss book with the bathtub ring? I think it was "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back". Let me check... yup, that's the one.

  • 61a: Library implement (DATER). Is this that inkpad date stamp that libraries used to use before everything was bar coded and scanned? I never heard it called a dater.

  • 65a: It gets put in a sinkhole (DRANO).

  • 1d: ___ Romeo (ALFA).

  • 2d: Joust (TILT). As in tilting at windmills, a la Don Quixote.

  • 5d: Freezing (ICE COLD).

  • 6d: "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" author William (STEIG).

  • 10d: Illustration, for example: Abbr. (SYN). Another of those very clever cryptic definitions. "Illustration" and "example" are synonyms.

  • 11d: Relay race handoff (BATON). Very appropos with the Olympics just finished.

  • 13d: Its state flower is the bluebonnet (TEXAS). Name a five-letter state that ends in S.

  • 22d: Words on a sticky note attached to a contract (SIGN HERE). If you've ever closed on a house, this should have been a gimme for you.

  • 24d: Shirley Dinsdale was the first person to win one (EMMY). Name a four-letter award that begins with E.

  • 27d: Magazine contents (AMMO). I've seen this ruse too often to be fooled.

  • 34d: Jim-dandy (A-ONE).

  • 38d: Oscar-winning role for Jane in "Klute" (BREE). Great film also starring Donald Sutherland. I tried to spell it BRIE, like the cheese, at first.

  • 41d: Like some meds (OTC). Over-the-counter.

  • 42d: Charge (COMMAND). As in "I'm in charge here".

  • 45d: Boy in "The Snowy Day" (PETER).

  • 50d: John on a farm (DEERE). Easy, but cute clue. OUTHOUSE didn't fit.

Suns of Bitches:

I'm bad enough trying to remember first names of people I know, never mind those I don't. Luckily, they were relatively normal names, unlike yesterday's collection of INAs and PIAs.
  • 63a: Baseball announcer Hudler (REX).

  • 33d: First name in "The Lonesome Train" (ABE).

  • 53d: Marathoner Mota (ROSA).

I thought this was a great puzzle for a Tuesday. The theme entries were plentiful and enjoyable, the fill and clues were decent, and the hard stuff wasn't all that hard. Two thumbs up.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Joon said...

ugh. i wanted to like this puzzle, but there was a crazy pileup of unfamiliar names in the middle: BOOBY crossing BREE and ABE. that made it really tough for me to get DOMEORDIE; the BR of BREE and BE of ABE stayed blank for a long, long time.

this is the third time i've been bitten by KLUTE. the first two times, KLUTE itself was in the grid. now i'm supposed to know the first names of the characters in a 1971 movie? seriously? (i didn't even know who jane was until looking it up just now.) for christ's sake, it's tuesday. can't we get a tolkien clue for BREE? or even desperate housewives?

and ABE... geez. could the clue be any less helpful? tuesday isn't supposed to be this tough. or was it just me? (it turns out that "the lonesome train" is a 1940s ballad opera about ABE lincoln.)

CENSE is a transitive verb meaning to perfume with incense. (perfume is also a transitive verb in the clue.) the doohickey used for censing is called a censer (not a censor, which is something else). it's also called a thurible. there's some good altar boy jargon for you.

every library i've been to in the past year still uses DATERs. how else are you going to stamp the book with the due date? your fancy bar code scanners won't help you.

Pete M said...

@joon: I can sympathize with your not knowing BREE, and I certainly wouldn't have minded a Barliman Butterbur or Prancing Pony clue, though some might find that even more obscure ("We're supposed to know characters from a 1954 novel?"), but Oscar-winning performances are typically fair game. We certainly get enough "Godfather" clues, which is from roughly the same time. And I doubt many would complain about a Rooster Cogburn fill either, and that's several years earlier.

Our town library is totally digital. If you want to know when your books are due, you can get a printed receipt when you check out. Who knew Bow, NH was so cutting edge?

avgotts said...

FreeDictionary.com seems to say that emend refers strictly to editing printed works, whereas you can amend your previous statement, etc. I'd wondered about the difference too.

The title of the puzzle was a tip off for the theme immediately, but I really liked it. Good new phrases, when they often have a clunker or two.

Joon said...

well, the godfather is #3 on the AFI's list of top 100 movies. i'm totally fine with character names from that, or citizen kane, or casablanca (ever seen ILSA in a grid?), or gone with the wind. those are iconic works of american cinema. i'm sure klute is a good movie, but it's not in the same class. and in general, i don't remember character names from movies that i saw last year, let alone decades ago.

of course, practically every award-winning movie recently is a biopic, so it's easier to remember the character names. edith piaf, queen elizabeth, june carter. the last entirely fictional role played by a best actress was hilary swank in million dollar baby. do people remember her name? i sure as hell don't.

what if you check out six books? do you get six receipts, or just one? the libraries i frequent are digital, too (they scan the books' bar codes to check them out), but i think the old method of marking the due date is better.

ArtLvr said...

"5-letter word for outhouse?" re [John on the farm] would be privy... but no: DEERE was cleverer! The theme answers were mind-benders.

Austin said...

I absolutely loved the TIPSY clue (partially lit).

BOOBY was the last thing I filled in. I had LOONY for a while until I realized that LREE probably wasn't anyone's name.

I loved the theme as well. All great entries.