1.25.2010

MONDAY, Jan. 25, 2010 — Susan Miskimins



THEME: five compound, organ-related adjectives

I've never heard of LEATHER-LUNGED. That is the only thing even remotely approaching a criticism that I have for this puzzle. It's fantastic. Five long, thematically consistent theme answers and a grid that is is filled with incredible care. Perfectly smooth. I'm really, really impressed. This puzzle has 40 black squares (a tad on the high side) and still manages to feel wide open, with interesting, *actual* words everywhere you look. Why can't more puzzles be like this? Still very easy, but interesting rather than dull, excellent rather than merely passable. Huge contrast with today's NYT, which ... well, let's just talk about this puzzle.

Theme answers:

  • 3D: Cowardly (LILY-LIVERED)
  • 18A: Dispirited (DOWN-HEARTED)
  • 38A: Loud and long-winded (LEATHER-LUNGED)
  • 27D: Imbecilic (LAME-BRAINED)
  • 55A: Easily offended (THIN-SKINNED)

Having FIRS and FAKIRS in this puzzle makes me wonder if you could do a theme where you shove state postal codes into words to get new words ... with a theme-revealer that's something like [Like some tuition ... and a hint to this puzzle's theme? => IN-STATE]. Anyway, I love the word FAKIRS (43D: Muslim wonder-workers), even if I couldn't come up with it right away. I can guarantee you that that clue will be the most Googled clue of the day (I have a lot of experience analyzing the searching patterns of all y'all). As a crime fiction fan, I have to give a big thumbs up to the sleuthy subtheme, with Sherlock HOLMES (36A: Watson's partner) trading in his deerstalker for a noir-era FEDORA (45D: Bogart's hat) to track down the perpetrators of MORTAL sins (40A: Like a serious sin).



Crosswordese 101: ODESSA (2D: Black Sea port) — fourth-largest city in Ukraine. Also a city in Texas. Lots of very common letters, and thus highly desirable — or at least useful — for constructors. There is also an EDESSA, an important city in ancient Mesopotamia (located in what is now southern Turkey).

That's all for today. Ms. Miskimins, I don't know who you are, or if you're an alias, or what, but more like this one, please.

~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Everything Else — 1A: MSN competitor (AOL); 4A: Infants "in the woods" (BABES); 9A: Terror (FEAR); 13A: Reagan's "Star Wars" prog. (SDI); 14A: High-level storage areas (ATTICS); 16A: "Othello" villain (IAGO); 17A: Condiment in 51-Across (SEL); 18A: Dispirited (DOWN-HEARTED); 20A: Safe haven (ASYLUM); 22A: Drinks dog-style (LAPS); 23A: Land surrounded by agua (ISLA); 24A: Globe (SPHERE); 27A: You may be told to button or zip it (LIP); 30A: Tigers' dens (LAIRS); 32A: "Alley __" (OOP); 33A: Apiece (EACH); 34A: Austrian city with a sausage named for it (VIENNA); 36A: Watson's partner (HOLMES); 38A: Loud and long-winded (LEATHER-LUNGED); 40A: Like a serious sin (MORTAL); 41A: Outlying town, vis-à-vis the city (SUBURB); 42A: Rocks to refine (ORES); 43A: Groundhog Day mo. (FEB.); 44A: Feudal peons (SERFS); 47A: Longtime Massachusetts senator Kennedy (TED); 48A: Chicken, so to speak (SCARED); 51A: Normandy city (CAEN); 52A: Saturate (SOAK); 53A: 1966 musical about a marriage (I DO I DO); 55A: Easily offended (THIN-SKINNED); 60A: Presently (NOW); 61A: German automaker (AUDI); 62A: Misprints (ERRATA); 63A: Poet's "before" (ERE); 64A: Cream of the crop (BEST); 65A: Back-talking (SASSY); 66A: Mom's mate (DAD); 1D: Attack violently (ASSAIL); 2D: Black Sea port (ODESSA); 3D: Cowardly (LILY-LIVERED); 4D: Grammy winner Erykah (BADU); 5D: Diminutive energy sources (ATOMS); 6D: Incidentally, in texting shorthand (BTW); 7D: "Ich bin __ Berliner" (EIN); 8D: Carry laboriously (SCHLEP); 9D: Fraser and Douglas trees (FIRS); 10D: Take nourishment (EAT); 11D: Get on in years (AGE); 12D: Word after fishing or lightning (ROD); 15D: Scorch (SEAR); 19D: Chimp, for one (APE); 21D: Dogie catchers (LARIATS); 25D: Fried corn bread (PONE); 26D: More rasping, as a voice (HOARSER); 27D: Imbecilic (LAME-BRAINED); 28D: Like much tea in summer (ICED); 29D: Acidity nos. (PHS); 31D: __ good example (SET A); 33D: Crete-born artist with a Spanish nickname (EL GRECO); 35D: Org. with Bruins and Coyotes (NHL); 36D: O'Hare, for United Airlines (HUB); 37D: Burden (ONUS); 38D: Traditional wisdom (LORE); 39D: Mechanic's grease job (LUBE); 40D: Bon __: witticism (MOT); 43D: Muslim wonder-workers (FAKIRS); 45D: Bogart's hat (FEDORA); 46D: Flurried, e.g. (SNOWED); 48D: Seaman's "911" (SOS); 49D: Bakery staple (CAKE); 50D: Weight-loss regimens (DIETS); 52D: Grumpy mood (SNIT); 54D: June 6, 1944 (D-DAY); 55D: Drinkers may run one up (TAB); 56D: Color (HUE); 57D: Points out, as a perp (IDS); 58D: "Right to bear arms" org. (NRA); 59D: "If I Ruled the World" rapper (NAS).

28 comments:

Tinbeni said...

For a Monday, with 5 theme clues & answers, this was a good puzzle.

Liked FAKIRS & SCHLEP, didn't need to google either.

With 22 three letter fills (I think I counted them correctly) this could have been a "total crap fill fest" but it wasn't.

BADU & NAS were new for me, can I now forget them?

@Rex - LEATHER LUNGED is how recruits remember their Drill Instructors. Nice Tin-Tin cell and Bogart blooper clip.

lit.doc said...

Perfect Monday puzzle. Just the sort of accessible puzz that promotes propagation of the solver-sapiens species by inviting the cross-curious to participate (oooh, couldn’t resist that one). I speak from recent experience—this is one of the few sub-nine-minute LATs I’ve done.

The most tempting “I know it’s not the answer but…” moment was 36A’s “Watson’s partner”, where I soooo wanted CRICK to fit.

BTW, as cool a word as is FAKIR, I'd always thought that its origin was in Hindu society.

Van55 said...

Excellent Monday fare! Totally puts today's NYT entry to shame.

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

Can't wait for @Bogart's unnecessary cursing to be deleted.

Yes, this was a delightful Monday puzzle... loved the body-parts theme. Worried that it might go below the waist though... I can think of all sorts of clever clues down there.

I had a few erasures (like ORD for HUB), but overall it went pretty slick for me. Any puzzle that has SCHLEP (any Yiddish for that matter) and Alley OOP in it, is okay by me. I love words like that.

I always thought DOWN HEARTED is how the inside of a duck's heart looks.

It's sooo good to see Rex in a good mood. Rex, your Godzilla dissection, FAKIR toon, and Boggie boogers were absolutely hilarious. What a fun way to start a gloomy Monday! Thank you. I alway enjoy your comments and writeups. Sometimes you make me cringe, but you are truly the mensch of crosswordland.

Loved "Bogart's hat" (FEDORA).

EL GRECO, a great great movie.

Now I want to go see the new Sherlock HOLMES movie. Has anyone here seen it? Was it good?

Just looked outside and omigosh it SNOWED last night. SCARED to go out, so maybe I'll just EAT breakfast at home today.
Am I sounding a bit LILY LIVERED?
No! Just showing my AGE.

Orange said...

@JNH, I swear you're in a different climate altogether. In the city, there's a slight dusting of teeny snow pellets.

@Rex, I checked the specs on Cruciverb. The "Basic Rules" written by Will Shortz say the limit used to be 16% black squares (which would be 36), but that now there's no set limit. Rich Norris's specs for the LAT puzzle set a limit of 43 black squares. Some Sun puzzles back in the day ran 40-42, too. I was prepared to say 40 was on the high side, too, but if Will and Rich don't care if an otherwise solid puzzle goes over 38 blocks, why should I? So I'm gonna chill out on that. A lame puzzle with 40+ squares will still come in for criticism, but for its lameness.

*David* said...

Usually don't comment on Monday puzzles but this one was as smooth as a baby's behind. It never felt forced or had any icky fill. I had also never heard of LEATHERED LUNGED but that bothered me, not at all.

I was happy to see NAS AND BADU make their presence known, more contempory musicians are always appreciated.

mac said...

Perfectly smooth puzzle, what a treat! What Rex said. The coast is clear, I'm going to check out the clips.

Carol said...

No Googles & under nine minutes! Good Monday exercise with some fun fill.

No snow in California's Central Valley this morning, but beautiful views of the snowy Sierras yesterday to the east. Nice being able to see it without having to shovel it!

Liked your writeup @Rex. Thanks

Daniel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel said...

Just for the record...

LILY-LIVERED and LEATHER-LUNGED are both alliterative--with the same letter, yet.
LAME-BRAINED and THIN-SKINNED are both half-rhymes. (I realize that the former is a bit of a stretch, but still...)
DOWNHEARTED is... neither.

Sfingi said...

Hubster did the puzzle today and was almost perfect. Neither of us knew LEATHERLUNGED or NAS. He knew BADU, but I didn't. I gave him IDOIDO and PONE. Neither of us were sure of CAEN. As he proceeded, I kept saying, "Oh, that's one of their favorite words." This included: IAGO, SASSY, AUDI, LAIRS, OOP, FIRS.

@David - Agree with you about smooth. Another alligator eats surfer puzzle.

FAKIR - is he a Sufi Muslim, a Hindu alternative to a Yogi, a Sahajia Buddhist, a masochist, or a faker? It reminds me of Santa Rosalia of Sicily who was basically anorexic.

JOHNSNEVERHOME said...

I don't usually do the Monday puzzles either, but I'm glad I did today. Also I'm glad I read the bloggers' (Orange & Rex) discussion of black-square-ratios. I hope to someday become a part time constructor myself and it's always good to hear about rules. I read some of the Will Shortz rules and now I realize that there's nothing carved in stone... it varies from editor to editor. More importantly, I think it's best to construct a solid puzzle that would make any critic (esp. Rex) smile.

@sfingi
Oh I love that cool turtle avatar.

Parsan said...

A really fun and fast, excellent themed, no look-ups, Monday puzzle! Knew NAS but not BADU which just filled in. Initially thought sour for SNIT.

Bogart's bloopers showed a very serious actor with no laughter at flubs or on the set, unlike some blooper reels.

LEATHER LUNGED was a term I heard as a kid that referred to revival preachers, often in tent meetings.

I DO I DO, is a very successful musical that looks at a long term marriage. It is still being produced, often in summer theatre. A wonderful movie on the various stages of a courtship and marriage is Two For the Road with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney.

Thanks for the up-beat comments, Rex!

Entropy said...

Tinbeni you missed it by 2.
24 three letter fills.

But that is OK since with that many I was expecting to see, as you said, "total crap fill fest" and my reaction, and the few comments already made, was they were good little words.

HOARSER crossing LEATHER LUNGED brought a smile.

Parsan - I had heard the term referring to Cheerleaders.

Tuttle said...

@Lit.Doc, 'Fakir' is derived from the Arabic faqr, "poverty", and came from there into Hindi where it means "beggar". Both Arabic and Hindi (and Urdu, Bengali, Pashtun, etc.) apply the term to ascetics of both Islamic (Sufis, Dervishes) and Hindu (Swamis, Yogas) faiths.

crazycatlady said...

Great Monday puzzle that just fell into place for me. Liked the cross of LEATHER LUNGED and HOARSER. Lots of nice and different words - ASYLUM, FEDORA, VIENNA, SPHERE, ATTICS and, of course, SCHLEP. I love that word - don't like doing it, but love saying it. LAME BRAINED was my favorite theme answer. That's how I feel some days.
@Carol - same here for snow on the San Gabriels. Mt. Baldy is absolutely sparkling this morning.
@ Rex very nice Monday write up. Thanks. Enjoyed the Bogart Bloopers.
Now I'm going to google FAKIR.

Tinbeni said...

@Entropy
I missed it by 4.
Twenty-six 3 letter words, then throw in the 4's & 5's, well it is a lot of small stuff.
Still it was a fun puzzle.

@Rex, @Orange & @all
If someone had told me before I did this puzzle there were as many short entries but the puzzle was actually a fun one I think I would have had a good laugh.

It is also a testament to the constructor that with so many small words, there has not been any carping about cheap fill.

Good job Susan Miskimins.

Anonymous said...

great puzzle, great write-up...what an absolute pleasure to tackle after the dreck in today's nyt--

In addition to ALL of the theme answers, I particularly liked ASYLUM, FAKIRS, SCHLEP, FEDORA, SDI--what clever clues and answers in the three- and four-word spaces

After completing, I googled to see the present view on JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" ...years ago (and I am huge JFK buff) I had read ( and took for granted) that the phrase was a language gaffe; that JFK's line actually translated to "I am a jelly donut"--anyway, am glad to see that the current weight of authority is that his translator nailed it; literally it means "I am one with Berlin" and has antecedents in Roman authority

Charles Bogle said...

errantly hit the "publish" sign. For what it's worth, the amateur historian right above is me

chefbea said...

Found this very easy and didn't know the theme til I got here. Never associated the 2 long downs with the theme. Thought it had to do with skins. .. Down is the skin of a duck, and leather is the skin of animals. Who knew??

GoG8rs said...

I'll join the list of pleased solvers today.
@JNH Saw "Sherlock" I give it 2 thumbs up for being LAME BRAINED. I would have enjoyed a quieter, more reasoning and deductive Holmes. You know, a puzzle-solver guy. Instead, this is a very rowdy Indiana Jones-type film with improbable chases, explosions, and ending, of course, with the good and bad guys fighting on top of a bridge. Guess who wins. Guys will like this more than women, I think.

JN said...

The puzzle seemed challenging for a Monday. I checked here because I wasn't sure of lilylivered and leatherlunged. I had never, ever, ever heard of Erykah Badu. I wonder if she is nominated for this year's awards on Sunday. Interesting discussion around crossword construction. I have always wanted to try to construct a puzzle but have never actually tried to do so.

Tuttle said...

literally it means "I am one with Berlin" and has antecedents in Roman authority.

It can be taken either way. The Germans knew what he meant, but they're not as humorless as they're often portrayed to be so they had some fun with the jelly donut meaning as well.

chefwen said...

Fast, easy, and enjoyable puzzle. No write overs, yeah! Only unknowns to me were the BADU lady and I'm not up on my rappers (other than our usual rapper Dr. Dre) NAS was a newbie. I'll have to check with Uncle Google to see what those two have been doing.

Rex Parker said...

I used this puzzle today in my Lyceum (continuing education for local folks over 50) course on crosswords, which runs for another two weeks. An example of how easy doesn't have to mean boring. Also an example of what I mean by "elegant" construction. My students' main sticking points were ones you all have mentioned: BADU (not a shocker given their median age) and LEATHER-LUNGED (only some had heard of it — but it was a sizable minority). Their homework was to do the puzzle all week (the LAT, bec. that's what's in our local paper). That, and brainstorm theme ideas (we discussed what "themes" are today). Next week will be all about the joys of the internet for puzzle-solvers. Then a week on constructing. Had such a great time.

rp

PS I sort of wish people would stop suggesting that my "mood" has anything to do with my write-ups. I don't say what I say based on whether I'm in a good mood or not. I say what I say bec. that is my honest, informed assessment. I never compromise this, ever, for anyone, even friends. I don't mind being told I'm wrong wrong wrong (I kind of like it, actually), but this "oh you're cranky" / "wrong side of bed" or the obverse isn't fair or accurate.

PPS someone named Susan Miskimins is now following me on Twitter, woo hoo. Out thyself! :)

shrub5 said...

I'm late to comment today -- this was a very nice Monday puzzle, easy yet stimulating and fresh. An admirable debut for Susan M.

I always thought JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" meant "I am a Berliner." First I've heard of the jelly donut translation. I like the fact that it is now interpreted as "I am one with Berlin." Thanks for the info, @Charles Bogle.

Like @Tinbeni, I've heard "LEATHER-LUNGED" used in reference to drill sergeants. And also Ethel Merman, I think.

@RP: Are the Lyceum classes affiliated with Elderhostel? Sounds like a great class!

Burner10 said...

I'm in line with the happy Monday solvers - it has been sadly infrequent in our puzzledom and especially on Mondays to have down and across clues contributing to the theme.

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