Sunday, January 25, 2015

One TIMES Too Many

This week the Premier Crossword by Frank Longo bears the title "Cross-Multiplication", a term which sounded familiar to me but I'll be darned if I could remember what is means. It turns out that it's the mathematical process to simplify equations that involve fractions (really - you can look it up) but I doubt that's what Frank had in mind when he created the puzzle since it is, after all, a crossword puzzle not a freakin' math problem. There are no ?s in the clues so there are probably no wacky words involved so what might he have up his sleeve, I wondered.  The answer came soon enough after I started filling in the grid - in all of the long theme answers the letter X has been substituted for the word TIMES, so there is kind of a math connection after all since, as we learned in elementary school, 2 X 2 means 2 TIMES 2 and equals 4. Luckily that's all you need to know about multiplication to solve the puzzle. With all of the "formulas" filled in we the theme produces these long answers:

23a - A THOUSAND (TIMES) NO! ("Absolutely out of the question!")
29a - FAST (TIMES) AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982 coming-of-age comedy)
42a - (TIMES) SQUARE BUILDING (Manhattan's 229 West 43rd Street, informally)
59a - FELL ON HARD (TIMES) (Suffered misfortune)
68a - NINE (TIMES) OUT OF TEN (Almost always)
79a - THREE (TIMES) A LADY (1978 #1 hit sung by Lionel Richie)
87a- (TIMES) LI (L minus IX)
92a - IT WAS THE BEST OF (TIMES) (Dickens novel opener)
103a-HOW MANY (TIMES) HAVE I TOLD YOU?! (Start of a parent's rebuke to an insistent kid)
118a-(TIMES) ARE CHANGING ("Out with the old, in with the new")

So you see the problem there, don't you? There are nine legitimate long theme answers, and in my humble opinion they are all very good, plus one extra answer that contains and X but is in no way part of the theme. I'll bet Frank would have loved to get rid of the second X in VIOXX and have that random Roman numeral be something else, but there it is. There actually is a youtube channel called VIOXe (, which would have produce eLI at the crossword but that's probably too obscure a reference for the puzzle - still, I think it's better than the extraneous X. OK, enough about about the extra TIMES - I'll move on to some unrelated miscellaneous observations:

- TUT-TUT (28a - "For shame!")  often shows up as "tsk-tsk" which Merriam-Webster informs us refers to "two alveolar or dental clicks; often read as ˈtət-ˈtət\. —used to show disapproval." You probably knew that.

- We have a MOTIF (2d - Design theme) to go with our DECOR (85a - Interior look) (at my house that would involve pet fur).

- It took me too long to figure out how PRE was a "Nuptial beginning" (39a). I was looking for something at the beginning of the ceremony rather than a prefix for a very practical term: (google)

prenuptial agreement ("prenup" for short) is a written contract created by two people before they are married. A prenup typically lists all of the property each person owns (as well as any debts) and specifies what each person's property rights will be after the marriage.

- A MAP is an "Exploring aid (72a)? One would think that a true explorer would be making a map, not following one.

- If ITERATES means "Says again and again" (25a), what the heck does "reiterates" mean?

- How come judge Lance ITO (75a - "Who am __ judge") never shows up any more?

- I almost wrote in "pen" for "Mont Blanc, for one" (84a). I'm glad I waited for ALP to show up.

- WAHS (93d - Infant cries) and AHA (94d - Sleuth's cry) both crossing AHOY (101a - Salt's call) tickled me for some reason

- "Inspired stuff" > AIR (102a) - now that's an inspired clue!

- Couples headed for GRETNA Green (14d) should probably consider a prenup.

- I had cable TV for a long while but I never heard of TRUTV (22d - "Hardcore Pawn" network) - maybe it used to called something else?

- SPURGE (30d - Shrub with milky latex) looks like it should be a noise, not a plant.

- If you guessed wrong the first time "Prefix with cycle" showed up you got another shot at it when it came around again (47d - UNI; 58a - TRI).

- I always thought SNELLS (100d) were fish hooks, but in fact they are the short leaders to which hooks are attached.

- ULNA(s) or (E) 110d)? I always leave it blank until the crossword fills it in.

OK, that's more than enough of my mental free association for today. Well, just one more:

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