MONDAY, Oct. 5, 2009 — Billie Truitt

THEME: Simon & Schuster — S&S phrases all around

Not a lot to say about this one. S&S phrases. There they are. Pretty ordinary. No spicy long Downs to add interest to the grid. Well, GUESS WHO? is OK (37D: Phone caller's "Bet you don't recognize my voice!") — esp. the clue — and HAZELNUT does have a "Z" in it (10D: Coffee flavoring — yuck to flavored coffees), but overall, this puzzle is a placeholder. It's solid and inoffensive. It's also 5/8 edible (more if you start throwing in the non-theme fill like KIWI, TATER, etc.)

Theme answers:

  • 19A: What little girls are made of, so it's said (SUGAR & SPICE)
  • 33A: Out of harm's way (SAFE & SOUND)
  • 40A: Light lunch (SOUP & SALAD) — modern versions of this meal are not necessarily "light"
  • 55A: Pleasantly concise (SHORT & SWEET)

Today, a lesson in terminology. Specifically, the term "cheater squares"; these are black squares that are added to make the grid more convenient to fill, but that do not change the overall word count of the puzzle. You can see examples today right before CHAR (5A) and after ERST (67A). Sometimes these are unavoidable, or they improve fill possibilities so much that they end up being very useful. But in general, if possible, they are to be avoided. In this case, given the grid, it was probably going to be very hard to get a workable seven-letter Down with the pattern ---A--F. F-ending words can be kind of rough, and past a certain length you're going to be relying on two-word phrases ending "IF" or "OFF" or "OF" a lot. Of course if you add a cheater in one pace, another pops up symmetrically on the other half of the grid. There's no way L--D--- should have forced a cheater, so that one's just there for symmetry's sake.

Crosswordese 101: ATTS (39A: Courtroom figs.) — well, they can't all be pretty or interesting. This (alleged) shorthand for ATTorneyS comes up a lot in crossword grids, but man I hate it, esp. in plural. One of those "avoid if at all possible" answers. I like ATTY as an abbrev. for ATTorney much better than I like ATT. ATT has brand-name clue possibilities (sometimes it's how AT&T shows up in the grid, e.g. [Call letters?]

What else?

  • 18A: Reformer for whom a Bible book is named (EZRA) — "Reformer?" Man, I really should read that book one of these days? :)
  • 23A: The Blue Jays, on scoreboards (TOR) — Not this October. The A.L. playoffs involve NYY, BOS, LAA, and ... MIN or DET (one-game playoff tomorrow!).
  • 54D: Start of a request to a genie ("I WISH") — goes nicely with 22A: first I WISH, then I GET IT!

[this makes me unspeakably happy]
  • 12D: Genetic initials (DNA) — did you know that "genetic initials" anagrams to "I INCITE GENITALS?" Well, now you do.

See you Friday,


Everything Else — 1A: Precious stones (GEMS); 5A: Burn a bit (CHAR); 9A: Roe source (SHAD); 13A: Most eligible for the draft (ONE-A); 14A: Like a snowy landscape (WHITE); 15A: "Royal" nuisance (PAIN); 16A: Put in pigeonholes (SORT); 17A: Duncan __: cake mix brand (HINES); 18A: Reformer for whom a Bible book is named (EZRA); 19A: What little girls are made of, so it's said (SUGAR AND SPICE); 22A: "That makes sense" ("I GET IT"); 23A: The Blue Jays, on scoreboards (TOR); 24A: Place for a napkin (LAP); 27A: Prof's degree (PH.D.); 28A: Spat (TIFF); 31A: C.S. Lewis's "The Chronicles of __" (NARNIA); 33A: Out of harm's way (SAFE AND SOUND); 35A: Border (EDGE); 38A: Prior to, poetically (ERE); 39A: Courtroom figs. (ATTS.); 40A: Light lunch (SOUP AND SALAD); 45A: "Queen of Soul" Franklin (ARETHA); 46A: Supermarket checkout unit (ITEM); 47A: Rainbow shape (ARC); 50A: Hesitant sounds (UMS); 51A: Mexican Mrs. (SRA.); 53A: "Beats me" (NO IDEA); 55A: Pleasantly concise (SHORT AND SWEET); 59A: Fuzzy fruit (KIWI); 61A: "Shucks!" ("AW GEE!"); 62A: Castaway's spot (ISLE); 63A: Post-workout woe (ACHE); 64A: Spud (TATER); 65A: Use a swizzle stick (STIR); 66A: Modernists (NEOS); 67A: Previously, old-style (ERST); 68A: Coop residents (HENS); 1D: Grapevine news (GOSSIP); 2D: Sufficient (ENOUGH); 3D: Combined two companies into one (MERGED); 4D: Occupied, as a desk (SAT AT); 5D: Goatee's location (CHIN); 6D: __ legs: rear extremities (HIND); 7D: '50s nuclear experiment (A-TEST); 8D: Answer (RESPOND); 9D: Designer's detail, briefly (SPEC); 10D: Coffee flavoring (HAZELNUT); 11D: What we breathe (AIR); 12D: Genetic initials (DNA); 14D: "Just suppose ..." ("WHAT IF ..."); 20D: Beatles meter maid (RITA); 21D: Some savings plans, for short (IRAS); 25D: "__ That a Shame": Domino hit (AIN'T); 26D: Writing tablets (PADS); 29D: Supply meals for (FEED); 30D: Iran's official language (FARSI); 32D: Thoroughfare (ROAD); 33D: Labor Day mo. (SEPT.); 34D: Tidy (NEAT); 35D: Jacob's twin (ESAU); 36D: College housing (DORM); 37D: Phone caller's "Bet you don't recognize my voice!" ("GUESS WHO!"); 41D: Facetious "Of course" ("AH SO"); 42D: Tell a story (NARRATE); 43D: Mortgage bank, e.g. (LENDER); 44D: Andy's old radio partner (AMOS); 47D: "__ Fideles": Christmas carol (ADESTE); 48D: Land, as a fish (REEL IN); 49D: Supplies food for, as an affair (CATERS); 52D: Engaged in battle (AT WAR); 54D: Start of a request to a genie (I WISH); 56D: Goes in haste (HIES); 57D: FBI employees (AGTS.); 58D: Depilatory product (NEET); 59D: Wichita's state: Abbr. (KAN.); 60D: Hockey surface (ICE).


Joon said...

chuckling at your genetic initials anagram... by the way, the one-game playoff is tomorrow, because the landlord vikings are using the metrodome tonight (MNF against green bay), and the twins are the tenants in that building.


This was a nice SHALLOWANDSIMPLE puzzle for a Monday morning. Having trouble getting started today... need my HAZELNUT flavored coffee! Rex, without flavoring coffee is just a stimulant. Most canned coffees today are pretty bland.
Well that Stevie Wonder clip sure gets you started. Loved it!
I still don't understand TOR on the scoreboard, huh???
Hey, I just got me a laptop, so now I can do these CWs and blogs while I travel. Note my online handle.

James said...

@John: TORonto Blue Jays in the American (Baseball) League. Three-letters abbreviations are commonly used on the in-park scoreboards. Hence, the New York Yankees (NYY), the BOSton Red Sox, etc.

SethG said...

If they don't win tomorrow, the Twins will no longer be tenants in that building.

John, good coffee has flavor. I agree that most canned coffees are pretty bland, but there's no reason to drink canned coffee.

I agree with Rex about HAZELNUT, agree with Rex about Sir Duke, and would have agreed with Rex if he said this was the easiest major newspaper crossword he'd ever done. (Which, on a Monday, I can deal with.)

Denise said...

This puzzle gave me a chance to be really fast, even though I wasn't trying! 4:13.
Yeah, I know there are people doing it in 1:13 but, for me, very good.

Did you say Simon and Shuster?

shrub5 said...

My solving time on this puzzle was SHORTANDSWEET. I couldn't remember how to spell the cake mix brand: Heinz, Hienz, Hinds, Hinze, oh HINES -- the surrounding answers prevented me from having to walk over to my pantry and look for a cake mix box. It was kinda neat to see NEAT and NEET end-to-end.

mac said...

Perfectly fine for a Monday, but probably the first time I filled in all the theme answers without crosses. I did have to come here to realize the S-S part, though...

Love hazelnuts in icecream, on their own and in baked goods, but NOT in my coffee. Canned coffee? Columbian beans, freshly ground.

It's funny how those cheater squares jump out of the grid once I learned about them from Rex's blogs.

Joon said...

i love flavored coffees. the taste of actual coffee is pretty ick, but i can't stop drinking it. flavored coffees require slightly less vast quantities of milk and sugar added to make it palatable. HAZELNUT is my old standby, although right this minute i'm drinking french vanilla.

one more thing: i lost a bet with myself when rex embedded stevie wonder instead of skee-lo.

Anonymous said...

CDM New Orleans coffee and chicory - can't be beat

Rex Parker said...


You would have won the bet had embedding not been disabled at the youtubes. I went looking for Stevie, found Skee-Lo, couldn't embed Skee-Lo, and went back to Stevie (happily). I believe I ran into R. Kelly along the way, too.


Anonymous said...

If you really want to know why Ezra is a "reformer" then you actually need to read Nehemiah...

Charles Bogle said...

nice to have johnsneverhome back early week

seems like a dated puzzle--pre Great Recession. Lots of talk about IRA, LENDER, MERGER


agree wRP ugh to flavored coffee

Might have set a personal best except we have brand new 12 week old puppy we brought home Saturday (another great black standard poodle, succeeding the buddy we lost this summer) and GUESSWHO has morning "House Breaking" duties and clean-up! Eg, daughter called "you had better come in and take care of this right now.." Stay tuned!

Parsan said...

Thanks Rex for the info on the black spaces in crosswords. Understanding construction, learning what makes a good puzzle and figuring out themes has added so much to my enjoyment of doing them.

Had 4 year old cousins who once almost came to blows over whether the vegetable was "taties" or TATER(s). "Taties! No, Taters! You stupid, Taties, etc." (Still quoted at family reunions).

Agree about flavored coffees! A really good French Roast--Ahhhh! And no sugar.

"AMOS and Andy", old radio show where two white guys played black men. They were good at it and the show was funny, but would be totally PI today. Now it is
mystifying to me how, as listeners, we were unaware that the show was offensive to some people.

chefbea said...

Was a yummy puzzle and extremely easy.

Every once in a while hazelnut coffee hits the spot - but not first thing in the morning

Anonymous said...

too easy. never got to the DOWN part.

Hazel Nut from the most southern part of the U.S.

Sfingi said...

One way to give more taste to even cheapest coffees is to throw in a scoop or two of Italian/Spanish roast, what the Italians call cafe nero (black). It's dark and oily because it's taken from a certain part of the bean and roasted longer. Various brands - Lavazza, Molinari, Illy, Goya.
It's been shown people and/or mice react to coffee smell and not the taste. It does something good to one's brain.

It's all good as long as you can tell the difference between shit and Shinola.

Whitney said...

Thanks for the info. on cheater squares! I just finished making my first puzzle and realized I used them - but only to make the down clues shorter so as not to offend my short theme answers. I am going to try another one since I believe the first one was weak - no cheater squares this time!

Finished this puzzle in 3:43 - first time I timed myself and am pretty happy. Nice to see ARETHA in a puzzle, rather than ETTA or ELLA.

twangster said...

This puzzle sets the standard for easiest of the easy ... first time I can recall being able to get 4 theme answers at first glance.

Derring-do Infinitive said...

You have hats off from a desolate corner of the midwest for crafting a solid write up of a not-too-interesting puzzle.
Did I get dumbed down just by solving it? Possibly.

Forgive me if I misquote/botch a word or two, but without realizing it, you may very well have written one of the finer sentences of your life. Or anyone else's.

We can't all be pretty or interesting.

You could easily sell thousands of teeshirts with that slogan on it and bid on a "green" duplex in Malibu in "Always Sunny-- Malibu, California" but you might prefer to compile an anthology of "Things Mom and Dad Forgot to Tell Us."

"Cheater squares," BTW, is the perfect description of the screamingly funny and decent suburbanites who are my parents.
Could be the title of a novel, perhaps.

Speaking of the 1970s, When will the expression "key party" make its way into a puzzle? Remember those?

Yes, you're a couple three years younger than me but the answer to that Q still's the same: ""Me neither. I don't remember much before Prom in high school.

Thanks for your write-up today. You proved that talent trumps topic. Your followers can now only wish the TMS puzzles were close to half as worthwhile as your blog.

Count on your fans to stick by you, Orange, & PG no matter what topics or puzzles you cover, unfold, orspindle.

Derring-hairdo Infinitive said...

i admit: punctuation or spelling and grammarISNT my strength. Where is my editer? My proof reeder? My muse?


CB thanks for the WB.
And, thanks Rex for explaining cheater squares.
And, thanks James for explaining TOR... I guess I haven't been to a ball game for a while.
And, thanks to everybody else for not bitching.

I recently read the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Wow, they're great books on leadership.

Anonymous said...

Rex thank you for your write up. You really helped stimulate the brain with your write up as the puzzle certainly did not. I have been doing crosswords for almost 30 years, and it seems like lately these puzzles are for people who have never done one or maybe on their first year. This puzzle used to be a challenge but I guess the times they are a changing.

ddbmc said...

Key parties! Had never heard of them until I saw Ang Lee's movie, "Ice Storm!" He certainly likes looking at the underbelly of society.

Caters and Taters, Ezra and Esau, Amos and Ahso. Missed having Neos and Reos....

I'm a Dunkin' Donut's plain coffee fan, either home brewed or grabbed on the road. Son works for Fourbucks-too roasty toasty!

Loved the Stevie Wonder clip, but never heard of Skee Lo, so, as there were no new "words of the day" today, Skee Lo was it! He's coming out with a new CD after a 9 year absence. Thanks, @RP.

@Charles Bogle, good luck with the new puppy! I know he won't replace all you've lost this year, but will help ease the sting! Doggy bags have a double meaning now, too! :)

Rex Parker said...

Thanks for the kind comments today, everyone, esp "Infinitive." The beauty of puzzles, good or bad, is there's Always something to talk about ... and if there's not, there are tangents. I enjoy tangents.


mac said...

It's right, Rex, both blogs are really good today.

Just thinking of "The Ice Storm" is depressing....

Braxton said...

New member testing. It's harder to get signed in to this blog than a NYT Saturday puzzle.

Carol said...

Wow, just got home from the coast and did today's puzzle in record time before unpacking! Fun & fast, even if easy.

For those of you who think living in the hot Central Valley (think Fresno) is crazy - we spent a week in the mountains 1 1/2 hours drive and then several days on the coast between Monterey and Pismo beach (less than 3 hours away) in the past 3 weeks. Sierra Nevadas and Pacific Ocean within a half day's drive!

Forgive the TANGENT Rex, & thanks for the write-up. Had never heard of cheater squares - something new every day on this blog!

GLowe said...

Outside cheaters can be a god-send. Inside cheaters look like crap to me, and I've never used them, in the (oh, let me count) 1/2 puzzles I'm sporting.

We have a 'daily' puzzle along side the NYT in our local rag, probably created by a bot, and you can see square blocks of 4 on the inside quite often. I couldn't be bothered to put pen to paper for a grid that looks like that.

LAT continues, unnecessarily, to make me feel like a solving hero, while Friday NYT kicks me to the curb.