Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Title: Weekend Warrior
Author: Doug Peterson
Theme: None

It's unusual to have a Weekend Warrior back-to-back with a Themeless Thursday; usually they alternate. But I'm not complaining -- I like a good, challenging themeless.

This one got off to a slow start, as two clues that probably should have been gimmes didn't fall without some crossings. The first was right at the top: 1a: City renamed in 1961 (STALINGRAD). I immediately thought of Leningrad/St. Petersburg, but the dates were off and neither fit. Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd in 1961, and in retrospect I'm not so sure it should have been a gimme at all. But I
was on the right track. The second should-have-been-easier clue was 17a: "Appetite for Destruction" band (GUNS 'N' ROSES), but I kept thinking Def Leppard or Judas Priest or Motley Crüe. All of which, coincidentally, fit. Well, all but Judas Priest, but who's counting? The true gimme and starting point of the puzzle for me was 26a: Whopper's toppers (SESAME SEEDS), which might have been more help if not for the commonness of the letters, but still was enough to nail 27d: Tragedy divisions (ACTS), 23d: He owned a jet named Big Bunny (Hugh HEFNER, of Playboy Magazine fame), and 24d: Offshore (ASEA). That gave me a decent foothold.

The last section to fall was the New England region, where even guessing right on 20a: Go out briefly? (TAKE A NAP, which could have been TAKE FIVE, though it probably wouldn't have warranted a question mark) wasn't enough to immediately counter the wrong turns at 11a: Old shoe accessory (SPAT): TREE, HORN, ... And I stared at BREA__ for 36a: Confront (BREAST) for way too long without it clicking. What a waste of a good BREAST fill, especially with HEFNER in the puzzle.

Well, let's take a look at the rest, shall we?

Sunny Spots:
  • 51a: Second word of a Brian Hyland song title (BITSY). "She wore an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka-dot bikini...". Love it.

  • 40a: 1971 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band hit (MR BOJANGLES). Excellent fill and song. I'm more familiar with the Bob Dylan version, but it was actually originally recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker. Here's the original. According to Wikipedia: "Artists as diverse as Sammy Davis Jr., The Wyvern Community Jazz Orchestra, Dave Jarvis, Queen Ifrica, Chet Atkins, Frank Sinatra, Rod McKuen, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Whitney Houston, Harry Nilsson, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Jim Croce, Harry Belafonte, Elton John, Lulu, Arlo Guthrie, Nina Simone, Esther Phillips, John Denver, David Bromberg, Neil Diamond, Tom T. Hall, Radka Toneff, John Holt, Bermuda Triangle Band, Robbie Williams, David Campbell, Jamie Cullum, Ray Quinn, Edwyn Collins, Frankie Laine and Jamie Walker from blues band Tantrum have all covered the song." That's pretty amazing, isn't it?

  • 34d: "Gimme a break!" (PUH-LEEZE). I looked at 57a: Commando arms, figured (correctly) that was probably UZIS, checked the Z-crossing and immediately knew what it was going to be. But I smiled as I entered it.

  • 35d: Professional offer? (ASSASSIN). One of my favorite clues of the puzzle. I'm not crazy about fill words that just add -ER to a verb, but as a clue -- one who "offs" people for a living -- that's just brilliant! One of my favorite authors, Lawrence Block, has several collections of short stories about a mild-mannered assassin. They're not as good as the Matthew Scudder or Bernie Rhodenbarr series, but they're a fun read.

  • 15a: Wishy-washy (IRRESOLUTE). I was expecting something more colloquial here.

  • 16a: Mercyhurst College site (ERIE). This one's too obscure to apply the ERIE rule to, isn't it? I mean, there are hundreds of towns and cities that could fit: Umm... Mesa, errr... Reno, ahh... ok, I can't think of many right now but I'm sure there are many more.

  • 19a: Phrase akin to viz. (ID EST).

  • 22a: Big sizes: Abbr. (LGS). Went with XLS, first, which seemed a more likely letter combo in a Weekend Warrior.

  • 30a: Wilderness campaign figure (LEE). I'm assuming Robert E... Yep, Lee vs Grant.

  • 34a: Antiquer's addition (PATINA). I always thought PATINA was a cool word.

  • 37a: Dustup (TUSSLE).

  • 38a: Summit marker (CAIRN). I'm pretty sure I learned the word cairn from reading J.R.R. Tolkein. Because that's what I think of when I see it.

  • 39a: "Exes & ___" (Logo TV series) (OHS). What's Logo? It that a network? It's not one in my cable line-up, that I know of. Still, the answer is pretty easily deduced.

  • 45a: Responsibility (BLAME). Well, YES AND NO (49a: Ambivalent response). One has a generally positive connotation while the other is pretty strictly negative. But there are certainly sentences where they can be used interchangeably.

  • 47a: Film composer Menken (ALAN). Seen it before; still needed the leading A before it clicked.

  • 54a: Birthstone for many Pisces (AQUAMARINE).

  • 58a: College team whose mascot is Sebastian the Ibis (HURRICANES). Had no idea, but I know ibises are southern birds and I know that the University of Miami (the one in Florida, not the one in Ohio) are the Hurricanes, so it all fit.

  • 59a: Parent's contribution (GENE). Well, TUITION didn't fit.

  • 60a: Despairs (LOSES HEART).

  • 1d: Magical symbols (SIGILS). I'm pretty sure I've seen this in puzzles before.

  • 2d: Schlep (TRUDGE).

  • 3d: Longtime Blake costar (ARNESS). On "Gunsmoke", James Arness played Matt Dillon and Amanda Blake played Miss Kitty.

  • 7d: ___-Write (fluorescent marker brand) (GLO). Easy guess, even if you didn't know it.

  • 8d: Purloins sirloins? (RUSTLES). Sometimes rhyming clues go too far. You rustle live cattle, not specific cuts of meat.

  • 9d: Standing order? (AT EASE).

  • 10d: Computer support? (DESK). Groan.

  • 12d: Maker of Stix (PRINGLES). I couldn't decide if Stix was a food or a toy, so that slowed me down a bit.

  • 13d: Signal that starts a scramble (AIR ALERT). Tried RED ALERT first, which didn't help that nasty corner any.

  • 14d: Hide quarters (TEEPEES). Get it? Houses made from animal hides? Cute.

  • 21d: Folded carrier (EASTERN). As in airline that went bankrupt. Very nice and tricky clue.

  • 28d: Delivery specialists (MAILMEN). I had the leading M and was stuck trying to recall MIDWIVES from the recesses of my brain. Of course, it wouldn't have fit, but I didn't know that until I dredged it up.

  • 29d: Pungent-smelling fruit (DURIAN). I remember reading about this fruit, possibly in Alex Garland's "The Beach", which was a wonderfully-written novel. I never went to see the film version, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, as I had my doubts that it would translate well to film and didn't want to ruin it.

  • 33d: Kraft brand (TANG). There were some guys back in college days who used to add powdered tang to vodka and call it a screwdriver. Sometimes I wonder how we all made it through (well, actually, not all of us did).

  • 36d: Setting of Steinbeck's "The Pearl," familiarly (BAJA). Hey, I just remembered another four-letter place name!

  • 37d: Decorative drinking vessel (TOBY JUG). This rang a very vague bell, but I couldn't have told you what it was.

  • 38d: Ochre and others (COLOURS). This is the kind of clue that can trip up newcomers to crosswords. Ochre is a British variant of the color Ocher, so the answer will also be a British variant.

  • 41d: "Macbeth" character (BANQUO). Took too long to get this. I need to reread some classic Shakespeare.

  • 42d: Fashion magazine aimed at Hispanic women (LATINA). Or just "Hispanic women".

  • 43d: "The Spirit" cartoonist Will (EISNER). I had no idea. Is he related to former Disney CEO Michael Eisner?

  • 46d: Shot with a high cue (MASSÉ). In order to impart the kind of spin on a pool ball that results in the ball curving sharply, you need to strike the ball in an almost vertical direction. Hence the "high cue". Here's my all-time favorite clip on massé shots, and one of my favorite clips of all time, period. Whether you shoot pool or not, it's totally amazing!

  • 50d: Eponymous botanist Anders (DAHL). Whence the name Dahlia, I would assume. Interesting twist from the standard Roald Dahl clues.

  • 51d: Schickele character (BACH). That's P.D.Q. Bach, the comic creation of musician/comedian Peter Schickele.

  • 55d: Is relative (ARE). Saw right through this one.

  • 56d: Start to understand? (MIS). Cryptic prefix clue.

Suns of Bitches:
  • 23a: Haarlem museum honoree (HALS). Haarlem, Netherlands, where Dutch painter Frans Hals apparently died. I'm not that up on my painters, and this is not a familiar name to me.

  • 53a: Boxer Willard (JESS). No clue.

That's about all I have to say. Nice puzzle.

Thanks for listening.

- Pete M.


Joon said...

i had nothing on the mercyhurst college clue for a while. eventually i filled in SEDAN for the E... then i thought, "hey, could this be ERIE?" i tried it and immediately cracked the whole NE. ERIE rule to the rescue!

it didn't rescue me in the middle, where it took me forever to work out DURIAN/CAIRNS/BREAST/UTTERS/EASTERN, or in the SW, where i'd never heard of TOBYJUG/JESS and tried TOBYMUG/MESS.

frans HALS is famous for "the laughing cavalier," a portrait of ... some laughing dude. he's not quite the crossword here as his near-contemporary jan STEEN, but he does grace the grid from time to time.

Campesite said...

Once it began to appear, Stalingrad seems so damn obvious. Before it showed itself, I was using my mental mallet to force reALmadRiD (the CAPS being the latters I had) into the space, for some unknown reason.
Pete, I really like the blog, and dip into read it whenever I get a chance to do the Sun. I also liked your recent Wayne Gretzky/Enrique Iglesias offering a few Saturdays ago in the NYT.

Pete M said...

Thanks, Mark. Hopefully, the puzzle will live on, but I'm not optimistic, so spread the word!