5.01.2009

FRIDAY, May 1, 2009 — Gareth Bain


THEME: "NIX ON" (53D: Follower of Johnson, and a two-word hint to this crossword's theme) — four theme answers are common phrases that have had the letters "ON" removed ("nixed") from their ends, resulting in wacky phrases, which are "?"-clued

Hello and Happy May,

This felt quite easy for a Friday. Normally, at the end of the week, we are looking at themeless puzzles of considerable difficulty, or at least low-level thorniness. But this one has a fairly easily discernible theme, and a difficulty level more typical of a Wednesday puzzle. I realized as I typed that last sentence that the perceived difficulty level could vary widely — longtime solvers will sail right through stuff that might seem arcane to casual or novice solvers. Stuff like ISERE (32D: Department bordering Savoie) and EDINA (52A: Twin Cities suburb) and OKAPI and IBEX and EDIE (65A: Actress Falco) and AMATIS (36A: Some National Music Museum treasures) and even CRT (6D: Monitor, for short), all of which are high-end repeaters, i.e. Crosswordese 301-501. So maybe this is the kind of puzzle that separates the constant solver from the casual solver. If so, it's good news for the casual solver, who can learn a lot here today.

I was not that fond of the theme, mainly because the resulting ON-less phrases were less than felicitous. BEG YOUR PARD (3D: Plead with one's frontier buddy?) and THE RED BAR (18A: Communist watering hole?) work OK, but LEG OF MUTT (59A: Place for a paw?) sounds like a menu item no matter what the clue says, and CUTE AS A BUTT (26D: Adorable, bottom-wise?) simply doesn't work. Not as clued, not with any clue. [Adorable, bottomwise?] suggests that the phrase is something you would call someone with an adorable bottom, whereas the answer, CUTE AS A BUTT, is more like a synonym for "ass-faced." Yes, I like that clue. [Ass-faced?]. Or [Adorably ass-faced?], perhaps. Anyway, there's no way you can make CUTE AS A BUTT work in any way that isn't insulting. [Like an adorable cigarette?]? Nope, still doesn't work.

Crosswordese 101: Let's go with OKAPI today, by far my favorite crossword animal. They're kind of like giraffe-zebra-deer, and the puzzle loves them because a. terminal-I words are always in high demand (they aren't terribly common in English), b. OKAPI is 60% vowels (always attractive to a grid-maker), c. OKAPIs are exotic, so they add a little flair to the puzzle, and d. Scrabbly letters are always cool, and oddly-placed "K"s are even cooler. Despite what this puzzle has done, I do not recommend crossing an OKAPI (23A: Long-tongued Congo critter) and an IBEX (24D: Goat with recurved horns). P.S. I think of a "critter" as something smallish. At 8 feet tall and 500 lbs. ... not a "critter."

What else?
  • 22A: Fishing for marlin, e.g. (AT SEA) — Something about this clue phrasing irks me. [Like someone fishing for marlin] feels more exact. I know I'm supposed to see "Fishing for marlin" as an adjectival phrase, not a nominal phrase. But I refuse.
  • 31A: "Turn Me Loose" singer, 1959 (FABIAN) — Sorry Fabian, but "Turn Me Loose" means only one thing to me:



Here's Fabian's version:



  • 44A: Blowup in a jam (ROAD RAGE) — Nice colorful phrase.
  • 67A: Ford, for example (WADE) — This made no sense to me. My last letter in the puzzle was the "E" in this word. A few seconds after finishing, I realized that you can "ford" a stream by wading ... so OK.
  • 13D: Neighbor of ESP, in the Olympics (POR) — Another clue that made no sense to me. They're your neighbor. "Olympics" seems to be trying to signal the abbrev., but "ESP" already does that. In the Olympics, ESP and POR would not be "neighbors" at the Opening Ceremonies, as they are nowhere near each other alphabetically (that's how they come out, right?).
  • 4D: Project Gutenberg offering (E-BOOK) — I know, "Gutenberg" sounds old-fashioned and "E-BOOK" sounds modern. Project Gutenberg produces free electronic books. See here.
  • 5D: Haile Selassie worshipers' movement (RASTAFARI) — Wicked good, and absolutely gorgeous in its symmetrical pairing with MADRILENO (37D: Native of central Spain) — the only word in the puzzle I really didn't know.
Rex out. See you Monday.

~RP

Everything Else — 1A: Not loaded (SOBER); 6A: Guy (CHAP); 10A: Nuts' opposite? (SOUP); 14A: Slide subject (AMEBA); 15A: Tuna order (RARE); 16A: Ballpark phrase (ORSO); 17A: Corporate icons (LOGOS); 18A: Communist watering hole? (THEREDBAR); 20A: Prius automaker (TOYOTA); 22A: Fishing for marlin, e.g. (ATSEA); 23A: Long-tongued Congo critter (OKAPI); 25A: Pet name (HON); 26A: MV ˜ V (CCI); 29A: French vineyard (CRU); 31A: "Turn Me Loose" singer, 1959 (FABIAN); 33A: Use up (BURN); 34A: Costs of getting high? (AIRFARES); 36A: Some National Music Museum treasures (AMATIS); 38A: Deep sleep (SOPOR); 39A: Gen-__ (XER); 41A: "__ we all?" (ARENT); 42A: Stressed type (ITALIC); 44A: Blowup in a jam (ROADRAGE); 46A: Teen movie stereotype (NERD); 47A: Ensign's affirmative (AYESIR); 49A: Virgo's mo., maybe (SEP); 50A: Roulette bet (ODD); 51A: Bile (IRE); 52A: Twin Cities suburb (EDINA); 54A: D-Day beach (OMAHA); 56A: Defendants' spouses, sometimes (ALIBIS); 59A: Place for a paw? (LEGOFMUTT); 63A: Show jubilation (EXULT); 64A: All-inclusive (ATOZ); 65A: Actress Falco (EDIE); 66A: "On the contrary" (NOTSO); 67A: Ford, for example (WADE); 68A: Lo-cal (LITE); 69A: Readily accessible (ONTAP); 1D: It can be helpful in a pinch (SALT); 2D: Melville South Seas novel (OMOO); 3D: Plead with one's frontier buddy? (BEGYOURPARD); 4D: Project Gutenberg offering (EBOOK); 5D: Haile Selassie worshipers' movement (RASTAFARI); 6D: Monitor, for short (CRT); 7D: "I get it, but ..." (HAHA); 8D: First name in soul (ARETHA); 9D: Image (PERSONA); 10D: Shake alternative (SODA); 11D: Sphere (ORB); 12D: Permanent U.N. Security Council member (USA); 13D: Neighbor of ESP, in the Olympics (POR); 19D: Dark'ning time (EEN); 21D: On __ with (APAR); 24D: Goat with recurved horns (IBEX); 26D: Adorable, bottomwise? (CUTEASABUTT); 27D: Cower (CRINGE); 28D: Marching well (INSTEP); 29D: Strip tease? (CASINO); 30D: Took to the streets (RIOTED); 32D: Department bordering Savoie (ISERE); 33D: "Roseanne" star (BARR); 35D: Choose not to call (FOLD); 37D: Native of central Spain (MADRILENO); 40D: Increased (ROSE); 43D: Confection created by heating sugar (CARAMEL); 45D: Operatic princess (AIDA); 48D: Violinist Menuhin (YEHUDI); 51D: Global currency org. (IMF); 53D: Follower of Johnson, and a two-word hint to this crossword's theme (NIXON); 54D: Exhibit aplenty, as confidence (OOZE); 55D: Working hard (ATIT); 57D: The "she" in "Of all the gin joints ... she walks into mine" (ILSA); 58D: Discontinue (STOP); 59D: Mason's field (LAW); 60D: Letter from Athens (ETA); 61D: Mars, for one (GOD); 62D: Golf bag item (TEE).

39 comments:

MM said...

Rex, you're so hard to please. I thought CUTE AS A BUTT was hilarious, and I was impressed with the fresh clues (Strip tease?, Costs of getting high?, Nuts' opposite?, etc.). And an entry that hinted at the theme. Nice.

Rex Parker said...

Hilarious is one thing. Accurately phrased is another.

PuzzleGirl said...

I noticed a gambling mini-theme in this puzzle with CASINO (Strip tease?), FOLD (Choose not to call), and ODD (Roulette bet). Hmmmmm.... Something about Nixon gambling with the very foundation of this great nation of ours? Or maybe not. Liked the clue for SOBER (Not loaded) and have definitely had Loverboy stuck in my head all day.

44A: Blowup in a jam (ROAD RAGE), of course, reminds me of my favorite George Carlin quote, which starts: "Road rage, air rage. Why should I be forced to divide my rage into separate categories?"

Great OKAPI picture. It's adorable, bottomwise.

John said...

That OKAPI has a CUTE BUTT!

gjelizabeth said...

Found the theme useful in solving the puzzle today but don't get one of the other puns. Why does "Strip tease?" lead to CASINO? I get the Vegas Strip connection, but why "tease"? How do casinos tease?
Some help for the pun-impaired, please.

Sandy said...

I call foul on POR. The Olymics reference had me convinced it had to be alphabetical, which meant "nuts opposite" had to end in an E. That got me SANE, and messed up the whole corner.

I also get frustrated when both theme and non-theme answers end with a "?". This is a minor point, I guess.

Overall, though, the puzzle seemed pretty reasonable to me.

imsdave said...

gjelizabeth - I'm with you on CASINO (of course, maybe we're just dense).

Sandy - The ESP/POR thing didn't bother me as much as others. Seemed like fairly standard xword misdirection. Olympic's for the abbreviations, geography for the answer. Probably just my tyro status as a constructor.

All told, a pleasant solve with a very mediocre punchline.

Crosscan said...

Oct 2, 2008 New York Times puzzle was also a NIX ON.

Loverboy over Fabian, easy, even if they are bad lip-syncers.

*David* said...

I had a mixed reaction to this puzzle. Most of it fell quickly but the NE and SW corners caused me quite a bit of grief. My first word in, was RASTAFARI which was my favorite word of the puzzle.

I didn't get the Ford clue until it was explained here. This was more a puzzle of misdirection then anything else which can be difficult to pull off.

sasesqretd said...

Absolutely agree about ESP and POR. I really wanted an alphabetically correct answer there.

Sandy said...

Maybe I'm just being dense, but I don't see how Olympics signals an abbreviation.

Denise said...

Gosh, I just loved Fabian back in the day -- the question is "WHY?" That hair.

At twelve minutes, I was stuck in a few places, but then it all fell together -- after I got "Nixon."

"Ford" was confusing because he was a president too.

Orange said...

Sandy, in the Olympics, each country has a 3-letter code. When you're watching on TV, you see those used a lot. USA is the U.S., NZL is New Zealand, RSA is South Africa, and then we have POR and ESP in Iberia.

Crosscan said...

And of course CAN as in CrossCAN.

Note the next Olympics are in Vancouver, with the last weekend overlapping with the ACPT. Nix on that!

Sandy said...

Thanks Orange, and now I go from calling foul to calling lame. I would like to just repeat what Rex said.

Sandy said...

Crosscan, I thought you were joking, but truly, Olympics in Vancouver. And the 2010 Winter Olympic Mascots are too adorable for their own good:
Sumi, Quatchi, MigaI want to see someone work those three into a crossword theme...

Crockett1947 said...

Hello, everyone! I think the Olympics reference to POR indicates that the answer is in French, since that's where the three letter codes originate. It's not important for POR but it's necessary for ESP so we solvers can recognize that the country referenced is Spain. At least that's what I finally settled on after realizing that I wouldn't have the slightest idea who would follow ESP alphabetically.

Have a great Friday!

Crosscan said...

Third time this week I wrote something serious that was taken as a joke. Should I code these somehow (seriously)?

Strict-9er said...

someone please explain:

nuts' opp.
mars for one

hazel said...

@strict-9er there's an expression called soup to nuts, which means beginning to end. mars is the roman god of war.

@sandy - you're sounding a bit peevish about the por/esp thing. let it go....

SethG said...

My read on the Olympics was that that gave a necessary setting to allow the clue's language indication to not match the answer's language. That is, ESP would imply Spanish, but POR is the abbreviation for Portugal in Portuguese.

The comma in the clue was key--"neighbor in the Olympics" would be an Olympic neighbor, but neighbor, in the olympics" allows it to be the neighbor, as that neighbor appears in the Olympics.

The order of entry in the Parade of Nations isn't necessarily English alphabetic order. It's in the language of the host country, and in Beijing, for example, the entry order was based on the number of strokes in the first Chinese character in their Chinese name. Spain entered between Armenia and Bermuda, Portugal between Slovakia and South Korea.

Crosscan, I am not kidding. That was my initial read, but Orange is right about the official country codes, so while ESP is rooted in the Spanish word for Spain and POR in Portuguese/Portugal, officially that doesn't need to be the case. The rest of my analysis holds.

Bored yet?

Rex Parker said...

@hazel,

"let it go" is functionally equivalent to "shut up," and in my book is pretty rude. If you want to talk to me like that, fine, but it would be great if you didn't speak to my wife like that. Thanks.

rp

hazel said...

@rex - that peevishness seems to be contagious!

definitely didn't mean to tell anyone to shut up. if i was in fact a rude person (which I've actually never been called before - online or to my face) i would just say shut up. i'm pretty forthright.

i honestly just thought she was being funny with all the comments about the por/esp. it was like that tia brouhaha to me. funny.

sorry for any offense, sandy. none intended.

*David* said...

You guys are pretty funny. Rex you have the skin thickness of one ply of toilet paper, let it go....

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

And here I thought photgraphers and farmers were the biggest whiners...NOT ! Me thinks it twas a "cross" worder. Don't get so stressed out over a silly little elusive clue.
I had great fun with this puzzle. Probably the most clever one this week.

Sandy said...

Thank you Hazel. I did in fact read you as sort of fed up with me, so I'm pleased you actually think I was funny. Rex has developed a pretty thick skin when it comes to himself, just don't mess with his family!

hazel said...

@Sandy - good to see another tempest back into the teapot. i try not to mess with anyone, just the puzzles.

thanks v. much for clearing the air.

puzzled_in_pdx said...

Yep as a still slightly casual solver this was a tough tough puzzle for me. I stopped at 45 minutes (lunch time is only an hour!) and just couldn't finish the rest. I don't know if I can continue doing Friday's if it's going to be even more difficult than this...

imsdave said...

@puzzled_in_pdx - stick with it! I was where you were not too many years ago. The joy that we get from these things way outweighs the pain of getting there. Onwards and upwards!

Rex Parker said...

@puzzled,

The thing about continuing to do the puzzles is ... you get better. This might have taken me 1/2 hour two years ago, and 15 minutes last year ... it took me 5 1/2 minutes today, not because I'm any smarter, but because some of the fill (enough of it) had become familiar or more easily recognizable over time.

You may have to settle for "failing" at late-week puzzles for a while. It's the only way to get stronger. Don't give up.

rp

chefwen said...

This certainly was a lot more fun for me that the blood bath I withstood from the NYT today.

Casinos tease you by luring you into them and tease you further by letting you think that you will actually walk out with more than you came with. Usually NOT.

Loved not loaded.

Denise said...

I'm apologizing for not sitting on my inner English teacher yesterday.

It's alright.

We're playing with words here, not parsing.

Orange said...

Thanks for that, Denise. I applaud your "alright"! Correcting anyone's spelling or grammar does tend to make folks who are bad spellers too nervous to post comments—and we'd love to encourage community involvement here, not quash it.

hazel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Orange said...

Hazel, the message you can take is that it's not cool to tell people to shut up for no particular reason. We want this to be a welcoming place for all—and that includes the blogging team. Nobody's paying us a nickel to provide this site, so all we ask is a soup├žon of respect.

mac said...

I didn't like this "take off the -on" too much, but apart from those theme answers I didn't have any problems with this puzzle. Had expected something a little more challenging on a Friday, but we got quite a workout on the other coast....

hazel said...

Thanks for your comments, Orange. I didn't tell anyone to shut up for no reason. I told Rex to shut up because he basically called me a big fat jerk for no reason (not in so many words, but his remarks really implied that i was, and I'm pretty sure (based on my 47 years of living) that I'm not.

So, it finally got to me, and I needed to respond to feel better. And I feel better, and all is well from my perspective.

And I am not a bad person! Maybe not in the crossword blog world, but in the real world that I live in, otherwise. I'm cool - Michael Stipe even once told me so - and I'm telling you - that's really cool!! The only thing that could be better would be if Van Morrison (or maybe Bruce Springsteen) told me I was cool.

So all's well that ends well.....We should all just let it go....

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

I just want to thank the trio of hosts (Rex, Orange, and PuzzleGirl) for all your interesting highlights and your devotion to crossword education. I have been doing crosswords for many years and still find it exciting and challenging and a real good opportunity for "mental calisthenics". Older folk, like me, need to exercise our brains as well as our bodies to keep fit and stay young. Another good use for crosswords: when you are single and lonely and go into a restaurant alone, the crossword becomes a surrogate companion and then you feel less awkward. You younguns will someday appreciate that.

barboid said...

Thank you for this site and for all the comments. I was really confused by the surplus of ? at the end of some clues. I even knew ibex, but I spelled it wrong. I totally didn't get the north east part. I've never heard of that phrase 'soup to nuts' before. Thanks again for all the insight and these comments. It's nice to be able to find out what some of these things MEAN!