T U E S D A Y   December 14, 2010
Billie Truitt

Theme: Vowel Progression — Theme answers start with J+[vowel]+N.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Actress in a classic shower scene (JANET LEIGH).
  • 23A: Weight management guru (JENNY CRAIG).
  • 38A: 1996 Schwarzenegger Christmas comedy (JINGLE ALL THE WAY).
  • 51A: Comedy Central satirist (JON STEWART).
  • 56A: Kipling story collection, with "The" (JUNGLE BOOK).
I can only associate this type of theme with Andrea Carla Michaels, who has used it a number of times in that smooth early-week style of hers that I've come to know and love. (Andrea and I were going to collaborate on a puzzle with a vowel progression theme until I discovered that the specific words we were using (last, lest, list, lost, lust) had already been done — twice!)

Billie Truitt does a great job with this framework. All the theme answers are completely solid (well-known, not forced phrases), and it's hard to complain when the puzzle starts right off with the Scrabble-tastic NAVAJO and AD EXEC right in the northwest corner (1D: Hogan dweller / 2D: Madison Ave. VIP).

  • 1A: Pathfinder org. (NASA). I have ridden in a Nissan Pathfinder exactly once in my life and I can only think of that vehicle when I see the word. I'm like "Pathfinder? That's a Nissan vehicle. … What the heck other kind of Pathfinder is there? …. Ohhhh yeah." Every. Single. Time.
  • 15A: Tuckered out (BEAT).
  • 17A: Siamese checkers? (VETS). Cute clue. A VETerinarian checks out Siamese cats. (Anyone else think Siamese twins first and wonder WTF the clue could possibly be getting at?)
  • 31A: Lieut. producer (OCS). Officer's … something?
  • 32A: Beaujolais's department (RHONE). I believe a department is the French equivalent of what we call a state.
  • 44A: Sleepy colleague? (DOC). Got this one right away, didn't you? Repetition helps!
  • 65A: Golfer Norman (GREG). I caught a glimpse of him on the TV just yesterday. Some young kid was referring to him as "Sharky." I get it that he's The Shark, but Sharky? I wonder if he's okay with that.
  • 8D: Wonder of music (STEVIE).
  • 21D: __ Beach: South Carolina resort (MYRTLE). If you're ever in Myrtle Beach and need a haircut, look for Joey. You won't be sorry.
  • 26D: Adult doodlebug (ANTLION). I have No Idea what this means.
  • 29D: Maggie Simpson's sister (LISA). For some reason, I read the clue as "Marge's sister" which, obviously, made this one a lot harder than it had to be.
Crosswordese 101: If you have a spot in your brain for movie directors, make sure to keep ANG Lee there. The Taiwanese director is often clued straightforwardly like today's 12D: Director Lee. If a movie is included in the clue, it's most likely to be: "Brokeback Mountain," "The Ice Story," "Taking Woodstock," "Hulk," "Sense and Sensibility," or "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Other crosswordese in the puzzle that we've already covered:

  • 5A: D-Day carriers (LST'S).
  • 14A: Sixth Jewish month (ADAR).
  • 49A: Most eligible for the draft (ONE-A).
  • 68A: Standard Oil name (ESSO).
  • 11D: Wahine's gift (LEI).
  • 58D: Originally called (NÉE).
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Everything Else — 9A: Hi-tech classroom (PC LAB); 16A: Bowl, e.g. (ARENA); 20A: Geometry truth (AXIOM); 22A: Low-lying area (VALE); 27A: Low-lying area (DALE); 33A: Through (VIA); 34A: Blast from the past (A-TEST); 35A: Like this answer (ACROSS); 42A: Consensus builder (UNITER); 43A: Mountaineer's tool (ICE AX); 45A: Pops (SODAS); 46A: Inflation stat. (CPI); 53A: Leeway (ROOM); 55A: First name in morning talk (REGIS); 62A: Prefix with -gon (DECA); 63A: "The Interpretation of Dreams" author (FREUD); 64A: Italian bread? (EURO); 66A: Patched pants parts (KNEES); 67A: Barbecue specialty (RIBS); 3D: Some lustrous dresses (SATINS); 4D: Flaming offense (ARSON); 5D: Successor to 56-Down (LBJ); 6D: Bounding main (SEA); 7D: Salon acquisition (TAN); 9D: Cloud of gloom (PALL); 10D: Words to live by (CREED); 13D: Dickensian cry (BAH); 19D: Luggage label (TAG); 24D: Shout of approval (CHEER); 25D: Parks on a bus (ROSA); 28D: Declare (AVOW); 30D: Like pie? (EASY); 34D: Author's rep. (AGT.); 35D: Really got to (ATE AT); 36D: Milder drink than the one before it (CHASER); 37D: "Oedipus __" (REX); 38D: Karate kin (JUDO); 39D: Privy to (IN ON); 40D: "Good one!" ("NICE!"); 41D: Watch readouts, for short (LCD'S); 45D: Melancholy (SOMBER); 46D: Court shooters (CAGERS); 47D: Inflation drives them up (PRICES); 48D: "We're on!" ("IT'S A GO!"); 50D: Have a dispute (ARGUE); 51D: Average guy? (JOE); 52D: Club for most greenside shots (WEDGE); 54D: Auto pioneer (OLDS); 56D: He defeated RMN (JFK); 57D: Coffee source for a crowd (URN); 59D: Yes, to Yvette (OUI); 60D: Poetic planet (ORB); 61D: Levels, briefly (KO'S).



A good Truitt puzzle, but I think Rich should have saved it for a Saturday… not very EASY. I’m not sure that I liked the J_N vowel insertion theme. I’m getting rather weary of the LAT’s add/subract-a-letter type of puzzles. This one was quite extremist in that respect. C’mon Rich, try something different. Maybe literary names or heck, I’d even be open to a quotation theme.

I guess we won’t be going to the Vikings’ ARENA for a while.

Once again REX Parker gets his name in lights. Oh yeah, and Avg JOE too.

Geez, how could I miss 21D, MYRTLE Beach, South Carolina resort?
I was just there!

Hands up for those of you who also wrote in INDIAN for 1D “Hogan dweller” (NAVAJO).

Love the math clues for AXIOM and DECAgon.

“Psycho” with JANET LEIGH was one of my fave movies.

I liked that the P in CPI was for PRICES in the 47D entry.

Yeah, I too struggled with that 17A VETS entry and thought of TWIN and WTH for the clue.

Just to show you how old I am… I wrote in LEDS instead of LCDS for “Watch readouts”.

Glad to see the non-sexist AD EXEC for a change. (ADMAN ugh!)

The “Beaujolais’s department” clue for RHONE (32A) really through me. Apparently Quincié-en-Beaujolais is a little-known (to me at least) commune in France’s Rhône department.

BAH Humbug! I hate all this snow we’re having here. Don't even feel like going out for my breakfast today, so oatmeal it is.

Avg Joe said...

Thanks for the explanation PG. It completely evaded me as all I noticed was that all theme answers started with J. Nice theme, nice fill and a pleasant puzzle overall.

OCS is Officers Candidate School.

An ant lion is an interesting but vicious critter. The larva live in loose sand or soil and make a pit that ants will slide into. When they do, it grabs them from below and has lunch. Almost like the sand worms in the Dune trilogy, but on a very small scale since the pit is only about 2" across at the upper rim. The head looks something like a scorpion, but there's no hook on the tail.

I timed myself for the first time ever this morning. With relatively smooth sailing it still took me 11 minutes (on paper). I guess I won't be in any contests soon, but that's the price one pays for being average. :-)

Van55 said...

The theme was just okay for my taste.

The puzzle was on the challenging side for a Tuesday, but I enjoyed the solve.

DALE/VALE proximity was nice.

UNITER seems a bit iffy.

BAH is seasonal.

SethG said...

Theme answers super solid. VALE/DALE and CPI/PRICES were nice. The worst words in this puzzle are UNITER, ANTLION, and "Schwarzenegger Christmas comedy".

shrub5 said...

Didn't notice the vowel progression until PG pointed it out. Enjoyed the solve and thought many of the clues were fresh and inventive. I ended up with only one writeover: PROOF before AXIOM for the geometry truth.

@Ave Joe: Thanks for the info on ANT LIONs. Doodlebug is the term for the larva. I've never run across these critters, live or any other way.

Avg Joe said...

@Shrub5: They are more common than you might realize. At least here in NE they are. The most frequent location I've seen them are under wooden front porches where the soil stays dry and crumbly and no grass grows. I'd never noticed one until about 20 years ago, then once I knew what to look for (the inverse conical pit), I've seen them all over the place. The Wikipedia entry is worth reading and this short video gives a good visual depiction of what to look for.



@Avg Joe
Ant lions are indeed fascinating critters. I saw them last summer while lying on the dunes at the Ridges Wildflower Sanctuary in Wisconsin. I watched their little forays for hours... totally enrapt.

I kept thinking that there were DOODLEBUGS in the Land of OZ (by Frank L. Baum), but now I seem to recall that they were WOGGLEBUGS (a similar relative).

Rube said...

The doodlebug clue threw me as that is the term for the guys who set out geophones for seismic prospecting. Actually it's doodlebugger, but close enough.

So, I Googled and found out that doodlebug is also a term for what are called pill bugs or "rolly-pollies", those little "armor plated" insects that roll up into balls when scared... officially, Armadillidiidae. That's my WOTD.

Very difficult for a Tuesday. Usually I do these before bed, but had to finish this morning. Was stuck in Colorado until MYRTLE Beach leaked out of my memory. Never heard of an ANTLION, but very descriptive name for what the larvae do to catch food.

Fun puzzle.

Eric said...

@PG: Thanks for the Superstition clip! That sure brings back memories.

"Parks on a bus" was a great clue for ROSA.

I, too, liked the CPI x PRICES cross -- though I just noticed that they were both given "inflation" clues. That seems to me like a bit of a faux pas. What say you, experts?

I'd have thought "adult doodlebug" would be, like, V-TWO :-/ (Another meaning for "doodlebug" was as a nickname for the Germans' V-1 "flying bomb". V-1 and V-2 missiles were used against Allied targets during the latter part of WW-II.)

When I had LB_ for "successor to 56-D", I didn't even have to follow the reference to know that the missing letter was "J" -- and that I had a freebie. Then I did look at 56-D ... and found that I already had JFK from crosses. Bummer -- what good's a freebie when you don't even need it?

ddbmc said...

Hand up for INDIAN and PROOF.
Agree on the use of UNITER-Sounds like a G.W. Bush "made up word."

Barbeque 2 days in a row! I'm hungry. It's a FLAMING OFFENSE if you burn your RIBS!

Not knowing enough about ECON, I can't agree or disagree about the use of CPI v. PRICES. One has to do with the market basket value of goods for the average (JOE) consumer, the other with the amount a producer or supplier pays, in general? I don't doubt that a rise in all prices indicate inflation.

WOTD=Adult Doodlebug=ANTLION. I doodle, I'm an adult and an Aunt. Hmmm.

Kinda saw the theme, but always enjoy @PG's interpretation best!

For us novice puzzlers, found this to be a little rougher than a normal Tuesday, but no complaints!

Sfingi said...

I got the theme right off, and was glad the vowels were in the right order. But after I assumed JINGLE, HTG for the rest, since I'm not into CA actors who go into politics.

This was hard, though because of the SE, which was a tangle of interlocking sports. I could see GREG's blondness but couldn't remember his name. Looked up types of clubs for WEDGE, and had no idea that "We're on," was a sports' reference. Totally unfair for a Tues.

I wanted Indian, but was suspicious. We have a Hogansburg on the Canadian/NYS border. Them are Mohawk.

Got ANTLION and ATEAT but didn't "get" them.
Thanx for definition of bugs.
And is "Really got to," really got two? Teats. Yeesh.

Oh, and I didn't have to resign-in to Blogger since the last time. Does anyone know why sometimes one must and other times not?

imsdave said...

I really liked this, but was minorly disappointed that 3 of the theme answers have first names as the second part (LEIGH, CRAIG, and STEWART) and the other two did not. That would have been one killer puzzle theme!

I'd like to applaud all of you online solvers. Printer ran out of black ink two days ago (and I have been too lazy to pick some up). Takes me almost twice as long to solve on the computer.

Avg Joe said...

Sfingi: It's "ATE AT".

Let's not have a repeat of yesterday's todo. :-)

John Wolfenden said...

My brain was a little slow today in the NE and NW. Kept wanting JANET LEIGH to be JANE-something, even though I've seen that movie several times and even heard an interview with JL recently in which she confessed that shooting that scene messed her up so much she never took a shower again.

Definitely more difficult than the usual Tuesday, as evidenced by the teaching moment that is ANT LION.

Nighthawk said...

Nice write-up, @PG. Great photo!

Agree theme was OK. While working through, noticed J+vowel progression but missed the following N, but really wasn't needed.

Still struggling to know my Jewish calendar cold. Needed the crosses.
VETS was only from all crosses. Thanks for that explanation. Together with 25D, these were, for me, the best clues.

Speed bumps for me were in Tenn/Ky, partly b/c I read 35D as "Really got 'in' to", but also b/c of CHASER and ANTLION crossing SODAS

All in all, fun and solid.

C said...

Another good puzzle today, fun solve and some interesting words.

I second @imsdave comment about solving online. Takes me twice as long as it does on paper. At first, I thought it was due to my lack of practice with the app but after solving ~50 puzzles, I noticed I wasn't getting any better. Not a bad experience at all solving online, rather it just takes me longer for some reason.

Nighthawk said...

Forgot to mention, add to ANG Lee's list of flics the Missouri Western "Ride With The Devil" based on "Woe To Live On" by "Winter's Bone" author Daniel Woodrell.

Avg Joe said...

@PG, Your proposed puzzle theme has been kind of nagging at me all day. I finally figured out why.

Fantastic progression, but I gotta ask: "What! No Lyzst?" :-)

CrazyCatLady said...

Thought this had an iota of bite for a Tuesday, but not bad. It is embarrassing to live in a state who's governor was in a movie called JINGLE ALL THE WAY. On the other hand it's only dipping down into the 60's this week and he never "got lost on the Appalachian Trail."

I have to confess that I did not fully get the theme until I read PG's write up. Had no idea what ANT LION was, but I liked the clue for VETS, Siamese checkers?

@Imsdave I solve either in the newspaper or online. On line I use the applet for the LAT and Across Lite for the NYT. I solve way faster online and it's because the clue is right in my face. I'm better at the LAT site, because that's the one I learned on. I probably solve in half the time on line. But, still average like Joe.

Robert said...

You said you didn't know what at another Pathfinder was? I was an Army Ranger Pathfinder in the 82nd Airborne Division. They are the Air Traffic Controlers in the field. We teach repelling, sling loading, fast ropping and many other operations.

Ranger Golcher

Sfingi said...

@CrazyCatLady - You also live in a state whose governor was in a movie called Bedtime for Bonzo, and Bonzo was a monkey.

@Average Joe - For a while, I still didn't get it. Now I see.
It really got to me = It ate at me; not, I really got to something = I ate at something. Seriously. The lack of pronouns threw me. I'm glad it's not what I thought at first.

John Wolfenden said...

Let's not forget the Governator in that horrible Batman movie as the supervillain Freeze. "My name is Freeze...remember it well for it is the chilling sound of your doom!"

CrazyCatLady said...

@ Sfingi Ah yes, I know, but that was before my time. That very same governor with the chimp got elected as the president of the USA. I confess I had nothing to do with it. And, if I may remind you, the governor of the great state of NY was hobnobbing with hookers not so long ago. I'm hoping Cuomo is a breath of fresh air for you. On the other hand, we have good old Jerry Brown *again*. On the bright side though, it's only in the 60's here.

mac said...

@avg Joe: istn't it Lizst?


Hey, don't complain about your California governator.
We here in Illinois we've had our succession of dillies. Most notably is our "Blago", the clown on the "Get Me Outta Here" reality show, the nut case on a TV nut commercial, the guy who tries to sell Obama's congressional seat (many times over)... oh, we have governors to top all governors.

jandrea carla michaels said...

Hey! Thanks for the shoutout...
Love this. I too would have liked them all to be names...
That picture was from the first time we met, no? Hmmmm, maybe I'll cut off all my hair again.
Still sad our little LAST, LEST, LIST couldn't have been our first collaboration together...
Love your write up..."Sharky. I wonder if he's ok with that" HA!

Avg Joe said...

@Mac. Yeah, I guess it is. Unregard.