Friday, February 12, 2021, Jeffrey Wechsler

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 Title: Fun in the bathroom

We have a very special guest blogger assisting in today's presentation- the constructor himself Jeffrey Wechsler. First, we have his introduction to his creation and how he happened to let me bully him to help me.

I am always impressed by the time and effort that LA Times crossword reviewers put into their efforts.  I am particularly fortunate to often have Lemonade as a reviewer of my puzzles, as he combines puzzle knowledge, general knowledge, and wit.  Lemonade has come up against a bit of a time crunch between the real world of work and the alternate universe of the crossword puzzle world, so he has asked me to add some commentary on this puzzle.  I can oblige with some backstage info on a few clues, which I will place in red.  I can also note that the theme of this puzzle is of a genre that I enjoy – the creation of puns based on words associated with a given profession.  I previously had puzzles of this sort in the LA Times based on a lumberjack and a pirate (if the latter can be considered a profession) and another example to come within a few months based on the profession of – well, I’m obviously not going to give that away.  The seed phrase for this puzzle’s theme was PIPING HOT COFFEE, which is an evocative phrase by itself, and creates a nice switch of meaning when applied to the plumber’s context.

 Here we will review the theme fill:

17A. Morning beverage for a plumber?: PIPING HOT COFFEE (15). He takes the pipe that is at the center of a plumber's life and by adding the ING created a pun.

26A. Plumber's response about connecting hardware?: FITTING ANSWER (13). This pun is the reverse look at plumbing, as it is the FITTING, not the FITT that creates the pun.

43A. Like a successful plumber's bank account?: FLUSH WITH CASH (13). My favorite exposing the joy of English where FLUSH can be very positive and also not a topic often discussed at the breakfast table. 

56A. Where a plumber learns new moves?: TAP DANCE CLASSES (15). My least favorite even though the water comes from a TAP. I was hoping for a SINKING or a BACKUP.

NB, Jeffrey uses a beginning and an ending grid spanning fill as well as fattening up the puzzle with EMIRATE, GUFFAWS,  I WAS DUE, LAST SET,  MICRONS, PROFFER, SCREAMS, SONNETS, and  THE UNIT. Golly, I feel like Norton from the Honeymooners.


1. Batting practice structures: CAGES. As I’ve noted in previous comments on clues for some of my past crosswords, editors can alter clues to make them harder or easier, or sometimes to exercise their own creativity.  I frequently skew clues toward the tricky or humorous, but the fate of such clues is very precarious.  My original clue for CAGES was [Many zoos are removing them], a reference to the trend of zoos to create more natural environments for the benefit of the animals, and often of the viewers, who see something that more closely resembles the animals’ setting in the wild. I initially whiffed here and required some perps to get started.

6. Golfer Jon __, 2020 BMW Championship winner: RAHM.  Rich Norris, the fine editor of the LA Times Crossword, is an avid golfer, so this is very much his type of clue.  However, for many solvers, this name might be quite unknown.  My original clue referenced former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel.  More commentary concerning the use of proper names in puzzles and clues may be found here and there in the comments below.

10. Target: GOAL. Simple.

14. Historic mission: ALAMO. As indicated by JW's pass this has become classic crosswordese.

15. One saying "Don't do it!": ANTI. I love the juxtaposition to make these fill so much more fun than just four-letter fill.

16. Say "Do it!": URGE.

20. Everlasting, to a poet: ETERNE. I guess it depends on the poet.

21. Tender: PROFFER. A legal term snuck in here.

22. Condor quarters: AERIE.

25. Greek celebratory cry: OPA. I do love a happy bunch of drunken Greeks.

31. High points: ACMES. More Wile E. 

32. Mists (up): FOGS.

33. Boring: SLOW.  My original clue was [Street sign near schools].

35. Ala. neighbor: FLA.

36. 5G __: mobile standard: LTE. The G stands for generation.

37. Asian language: LAO. My cousin Joe is married to Laotian.

38. Corn __: BELT. I find that they get uncomfortable after wearing them all day.

40. Undecided: TORN.  Although I understand why my clue was changed, I still like it: [Rip on a screen].  That refers to the movie actor Rip Torn (what a great name!) who had a long career but was infrequently a leading actor. Perhaps the editor felt that the actor was not sufficiently famous – or that the clue was a bit too cutesy. Ironically, Rip was one of the two original MIB, though he never appeared with Agent O. (A CSO to my wife?).

41. Crafty: SLICK.

46. Job ad abbr.: EOE. Equal Opportunity Employer - it's the law!

47. Falls hard: POURS. Huh?

48. "Finally, good news": I WAS DUE.  This is a nice, terse clue that conveys the essence of the answer phrase.  I had submitted [“My luck eventually had to improve”].  Brevity is the soul of wit.

52. Studio do-over: RETAKE.

59. Something to think about: IDEA. Har har.

60. Caspian Sea land: IRAN. And so many more.

61. Doles (out): METES.

62. Alluring: SEXY. (Blushing)

63. Kate Atkinson's "One Good __": TURN. One Good Turn is a 2006 crime novel by Kate Atkinson set in Edinburgh during the Festival. “People queuing for a lunchtime show witness a brutal road rage incident - an incident that changes the lives of everyone involved

64. Medium for Michelangelo: STONE. He liked sculpting along with painting.


1. Loose garment: CAPE. Good to wear in a cage? 

2. Came to rest: ALIT. And its first cousin...

3. Hang open: GAPE.

4. Kuwait, for one: EMIRATE. We are back in the Middle East.

5. Browning's 44 "from the Portuguese": SONNETS.  Regular solvers of the LA Times puzzles probably know that I try to include a reference to Shakespeare in at least one clue in my puzzles, usually a fill-in-the-blank, sometimes a different sort of reference.  My clue here was [Shakespeare’s 154]. Given that Browning’s sonnets, though quite worthy, are lesser known than those of Shakespeare, I wonder if the editor simply thought, “Well, not this time, Jeffrey!” and banished the Bard.  After all, the editor is the one person who constantly sees all my Shakespeare references, whether published or not.  Perhaps my little game occasionally just seems too much. 

6. Bit of a cheer?: RAH. Do they cheer for the golfer "Rah, Rah Rahm?"

7. "Is that __?": A NO.  An entry like this is generally considered a bit substandard – it is either a word in a foreign language (ANO is Spanish for a year, and was my clue) or a partial, which the editor chose this time.  Constructors try to avoid both of these, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem possible.   

8. URL letters: HTTP. We just had a lesson about those letters...

9. Millionth-of-a-meter measures: MICRONS. A micro  NS? 

10. Hearty laughs: GUFFAWS.

11. "Carmina Burana" composer: ORFF.

12. "The African Queen" screenwriter: AGEE.

13. Creepy stare: LEER.

18. "Deadwood" actress Jewell: GERI. 
As many solvers have expressed, too many proper names of individuals sometimes make puzzles much harder; either you know the name or you don’t.  Although prefixes and suffixes are, like partials, not optimal fill, I opted for the prefix route in my clue: [Medical prefix meaning “old”] – as in “geriatric”.  I also have some concerns about lesser-known names.

19. "My bad": OOPS. Sadly a now common word for me.

23. Donations to a fund drive, say: INFLOW. Sounds like a plumbing term.

24. Me time?: EGO TRIP.

26. Bass staff symbol: FCLEF.

27. "__ ears!": I'M ALL.  And speaking of substandard partials, how about this doozy!  Dear solvers: believe me, I try to avoid things like this.  In my defense, however, I must note that my original clue was, I think, more lively and more fun: [Elvis hit, “___ Shook Up]” I am perhaps a bit more negative to the “I’m all ears” phrase because of the presence of EAR as an answer at 57-Down.

28. Emma Thompson role in "Men in Black 3": AGENT O.  Every once in a while, I notice phrases in crosswords that are rather odd, but on consideration, are actually quite clever and ultimately acceptable.  As a constructor,  I view them as a struggle that other constructors had with a particularly intractable arrangement, forcing the creativity juices to flow, and finally coming up with something that fits.  In my mind, I call such an event a “save”.  On seeing inventive phrases such as these, I say to myself “Nice save!” in the constructor’s honor.  In a way, AGENT O was sort of a save.  I was utterly frazzled trying to get something to fit that spot, but finally saw the first part as potentially spelling AGENT.  I had only seen the first “Men in Black” movie and there was no AGENT O.  With fingers crossed, I immediately Googled AGENT O and -- lo and behold; Yes, Virginia, there really is -- an AGENT O!  Now, that was a save! And equally coincidental with JW's Rip Torn comments (subliminal messaging) Oo and I just began watching MIB 3.

29. New York Harbor's __ Island: ELLIS.

30. Raid victim?: ROACH.  This was my clue and I was very happy to see that it was maintained.

31. Andrews, e.g.: Abbr.: AFB. Air Force Base.

34. Asian pan: WOK. I really do not think pans have a nationality.

39. Election time: TUESDAY.  My clue was [When many political decisions are made], making the election concept indirect yet still implicit.

40. 2000s TV series inspired by Army Delta Force operations: THE UNIT.

41. Hollers: SCREAMS.

42. Numbers before closing time: LAST SET.

44. Bubbly quaff: SODA.

45. Launch: HURL.

48. "No kidding": IT IS.

49. 13-time NBA All-Star Dwyane: WADE.  My clue was [Enjoy the kiddie pool].  Again, the current clue references a name that some may not know.  In this puzzle, I felt that RAHM, ORFF, and AGEE (the latter being very common in crosswords) was enough.

50. High point: APEX. And ACME both

51. Neutral shade: ECRU.

53. Concerning: AS TO. More law talk...

54. Excited about, with "on": KEEN. very 1930s. 

55. In __: actual: ESSE.

57. Kernel holder: EAR.  From the CORN BELT? 

58. MSNBC rival: CNN. That's news to me...

Well, another different path from puzzle to paper to the audience; I hope you enjoyed our collaboration. Jeffrey was nice once the kicking and screaming stopped and I so exhausted. Be nice to someone on Valentine's Day even if it is only yourself.

Lemonade out.

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