Nov 26, 2015

Thursday, November 26th, 2015 C.C. Burnikel

Theme: Opposites Attract - the four theme entries start with a pair of antonyms:

18A. Present to a large degree : OUT IN FORCE. 

May the force be out in force with you

23A. "Pontoon" Grammy-winning country group : LITTLE BIG TOWN. Crosses all the way, I've never heard of 'em. Was "Little Big Horn" too much of a gimme for a Thursday?

57A. City in a classic Sinatra song : OLD NEW YORK. "... I'll make a brand new start of it, in old New York ...". Frank seemed to have a lot of "favorite" cities. Chicago, Las Vegas - I guess eventually he worked his way around to this one, no harm in currying favor with the locals, sells lots of records.

50A. Digressing : OFF ON A TANGENT. A tendency of we bloggers, it's hard to resist sometimes.

Good morrow! Steve here from Nottingham, home of Robin Hood and the dastardly sheriff. There's even a street called "Maid Marian Way" - I think they might be going a little far with this. Fun place though, I'm staying a stone's throw from Nottingham Castle - should be pretty easy to shoot an arrow through the portals if I get the urge.

Teaching Robin Hood some archery skills

Enough of that tangent, let's get down to some puzzle.

There's a familiar name on the masthead today, and a tight theme with some of C.C.'s signature long downs - four in this case, stacked in pairs. I needed all the perps for 23A (never heard of 'em) but the others slipped in pretty easily once the theme emerged. I like the Thursdays where now it seems you get theme-age and no reveal entry; part of the fun for me is figuring out the theme.


1. Letters before Choice, Prime or Select : USDA. Food! The top three grades of steak as inspected by the US Department of Agriculture. You're unlikely to find Choice in your local market - almost all of it goes to specialty butchers and high-end steak houses. Choice-grade 30-day dry-aged bone-in rib-eye medium-rare? Oh, go on then, twist my arm (and I'm running out of hyphens).

5. Filter target : SPAM

9. Hockey legend Phil, to fans : ESPO. Mr. Philip Esposito on his mail.

13. Fork locale : ROAD. As the great Yogi Berra said - "When you get to a fork in the road, take it".

14. "Meet John Doe" director : CAPRA

16. Kept in the email thread : CC'ED. Can you have a CSO to yourself? Nice one, C.C!

17. Folk singer Guthrie : ARLO

20. Farm kids' hangout : LEA. Goats or the farmer's offspring and friends? Works either way.

21. "Very cute!" sounds : AWS

22. Trojan who survived the fall of Troy : AENEAS. If "survived" is a euphemism for "fled before things got serious" then we're OK here. Apparently he was only following the instructions of the gods. Yeah, right.

27. Dyes : COLORS

28. Head for the hills : SCRAM. The gods' instructions to Aeneas?

29. "Same here" : AS AM I. Un-parsed, I saw ASAMI and decided that would be a great brand name for ponzu sauce.

30. Mother of the Titans : GAEA. Nailed it! Well, sorta, after I tried GIEA, GAIA, ummm, no wait, ummm ....

31. When said thrice, "and so on" : YADA

35. Sleep stage : REM. "To sleep, perchance to dream whilst in that bless'd state of slumber beknow'st as REM".

36. Civil War nickname : ABE

38. "Unbelievable" rock band : EMF. What is unbelievable is that this was released in 1990. Where did the time go?

40. Bit of advice : TIP

41. Thin nail : BRAD

43. Tiny army members : ANTS

45. Peel and Stone : EMMAS. One character, one actress. Let's go with Diana Rigg's portrayal of Ms. Peel in "The Avengers".

47. Ill-fated energy company : ENRON

49. Tough as nails, e.g. : SIMILE. Took me a little while to see this, although I'm getting more used to seeing "e.g" in a clue as a warning sign: "Do not take this literally". This whole section needed some serious attention due to the peculiar letter progressions in "ATM INSIDE". I'll talk more about that later.

53. Obnoxious type, in slang : CREEPO

54. Recycled container : CAN.

55. Blubber : SOB

60. Cellar dweller? : WINE. My favorite cave-denizens.

61. Loving murmurs : COOS

62. Flood deterrent : LEVEE

63. Birth of an invention : IDEA. Aha! Light Bulb! Eureka! Plenty of crossword-fodder around these.

64. Youngest Brontë : ANNE

65. Complimentary ticket : PASS

66. Class struggle? : TEST. Aced it!


1. River through Kazakhstan : URAL. Are there any others? I'm sure there are, not in these pages through.

2. Poor sport : SORE LOSER

3. "My religion is kindness" speaker : DALAI LAMA. I hope I'm using the right term with "stacked" regarding down answers, but C.C's pretty good at stacking, and intersecting her theme entries.

4. Rumpus : ADO

5. Displeased looks : SCOWLS

6. Short stop : PAUSE

7. Well-suited : APT

8. Sports doc's order : MRI

9. Thrifty management : ECONOMY

10. Common fastener : SCREW

11. Bakery nut : PECAN

12. Some Ben Jonson poems : ODES. Including one to himself. Seems a little ego-centric!

15. No more stars, to astronomers : ANAGRAM. Loved it. I like anagrams.

19. Greek pizza topping : FETA

21. Well-lit courts : ATRIA

24. "Bad as Me" singer Waits : TOM

25. Troop gp. : B.S.A. I always forget about this group when crosswords come up. Boy Scouts of America.

26. Frozen treats : ICEES

27. Paleo diet no-no : CARB. The diet itself is controversial (as all these diets eventually are) as the magic-cure all. There's plenty of doubt around the basis of the diet, but if it works for you, then stick with it.

30. Piazza de Ferrari city : GENOA

32. Sign appealing to short people? : ATM INSIDE. Great clue, and just from the way the crosses were falling it took me quite a while to parse this correctly. When I see "short people" and I have A*MIN*N**** I'm already seeing "MINI" and trying to fit something around that. This corner was my last and probably took as long as the rest of the puzzle.

33. Land line signals : DIAL TONES. Not heard one of these for a while. I've not had a land line for at least 10 years.

34. Church niche : APSE

37. White-faced predator : BARN OWL

39. Make a false show of : FEIGN

42. Department created during the Truman administration : DEFENSE. Wow, I was surprised it was so recent.

44. Big bang cause : TNT. Dynamite clue!

46. Fr. title : MME. Mademoiselle in Marseille.

48. "Uh-uh!" : NOPE

49. Ladders' counterparts : SNAKES. Scary board gave this three-year-old some unsettling dreams back in 1960-ahem. They weren't happy, cartoon-ey snakes, they were nasty buggers that wanted to eat small children.

50. DuPont acrylic : ORLON

51. Was nourished by : FED ON. Children to board-game snakes.

52. Lots and lots : ACRES

53. __-Cola : COCA

56. Exhausted : BEAT

58. "Uh-huh!" : YEP

59. Lab eggs : OVA

60. Clever one : WIT

That's all from me - here's the grid.


Notes from C.C.: 

1) Hello, handsome archer! Yeah, I'd call those four long Downs "stacks". Thanks for being here for us today and every Thursday. What's that on your right wrist? 

2) I'd also like to thank Argyle, Melissa, Ron, Gary, Lemonade, Splynter for their brilliant write-ups week after week. Dear Marti too. I'm so grateful for your time, commitment & friendship. Thank you for always being there for me off the blog as well. I'm so blessed and lucky to have you on our team.

3) And my heartfelt "Thank you" to Rich Norris, his assistant Patti Varol, his test solvers, his fact checker and all LAT constructors. Thanks for the daily entertainment. I can't tell you how many half-baked ideas I've sent to Rich. He's always so patient & gentle. Rich tightens up my themes like this TIME FRAME. It was not that orderly when I first made it. I'll never forget how Rich improved drastically this TRIATHLON puzzle I made. Look at the skeletal grid I attached at the end of Argyle's write-up. Rich also spices up my clues, today's ATM INSIDE is a good example. Rich does this for every constructor, day after day.

4) My "Thank you" also goes to our faithful readers, esp our regulars. My life would be hard without D-Otto's guidance or Barry G's always reliable feedback. Thanks for your generous donations, comments & emails. Thanks for the hard-boiled egg tips, poems, hilarious cat/dog video clips, thanks for being part of our little community.

Happy Thanksgiving!