02.04 Fri

F R I D A Y February 4, 2011
Ed Sessa

Theme: A Spot of T — The letter T is added as the second letter to words and phrases that begin with the letter S.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: "Oklahoma!" prop? (STAGE BRUSH).
  • 21A: Time off spent with Rover? (STICK DAY).
  • 34A: Undercover operations where agents can bring guests? (STING-ALONGS).
  • 42A: Dance for louses? (STINKER BALL).
  • 52A: Taser switch? (STUN DIAL).
  • 61A: Fancy shoes for the campaign trail? (STUMP PUMPS).
Can't say this puzzle really moved me one way or the other. Didn't love it. Didn't hate it. The theme answers don't seem particularly amusing or clever, but I had fun trying to figure them out once I understood the theme. And there were an awful lot of them, which is always kind of impressive in a grid, like this one, that doesn't rely on a lot of crosswordese and clunky fill. It's a shame that all the crosswordese is right up at the top of the grid. Seeing ETON, AGORA, and GAR right off the bat made me think we were in for a real CW-fest, but the rest of the grid thankfully steered clear.

My favorite grid entries include:
  • 10A: Bloke (CHAP).
  • 20A: Subject of a 2009 national tournament cheating scandal (SUDOKU). Great clue.
  • 11D: Not easily topped (HARD TO BEAT).
  • 45D: Mighty Dump Trucks, e.g. (TONKAS).
  • 16A: Symbolic ring (HALO). Also an extremely violent video game.
  • 28A: Fingers (ID'S). Tricky clue, in that I don't usually think of "fingers" as a verb.
  • 56A: Mickey's "The Wrestler" co-star (MARISA). I haven't seen this movie, but I've heard it's good. I loved MARISA Tomei in "In the Bedroom" and, of course, "My Cousin Vinny."
  • 65A: Lollipop, for one (SHIP). Wikipedia tells me that the "ship" in "On the Good Ship Lollipop" is actually an airplane. I did not know that.
  • 1D: "Summertime" singer (BESS). From the Gershwin opera "Porgy and Bess."
  • 5D: Rock collection? (ALBUM). Are ALBUMs still called ALBUMs today even though they're not really ALBUMs any more? I know I still call them ALBUMs but I wonder if that's just an oldster thing or if it held up the same way "dialing a phone" or "rolling up the car window" did.
  • 27D: Penguins' home (PITTSBURGH). I believe there's another team in PITTSBURGH that's doing pretty well this year.
  • 40D: Clear as mud (ABSTRUSE). I don't think I've ever used the word "abstruse," but I have occasionally explained things to the point where they are "clear as mud." Right here on this blog even!
  • 53D: Hip Charlie, in ads (TUNA). I forgot that Charlie the TUNA was supposed to be hip. But he does where that rakish beret. And if a rakish beret isn't hip, then I don't know what is.
  • 55D: "Kick, Push" rapper __ Fiasco (LUPE). Never heard of this guy, but that is one fantastic name.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 5A: Ancient meeting place (AGORA).
  • 14A: School since 1440 (ETON).
  • 46A: Head of government? (GEE).
  • 6D: Needle-nosed fish (GAR).
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Everything Else 1A: In development, as software (BETA); 15A: Really enjoy (LAP UP); 19A: Heavenly bodies (ORBS); 23A: Star car (LIMO); 25A: Downsizing event? (DIET); 26A: Extend across (SPAN); 31A: Fumble (for) (GROPE); 37A: Tampa NFLer (BUC); 38A: Jobs, idiomatically (HATS); 39A: Tesla, by birth (CROAT); 40A: Sol lead-in (AERO-); 41A: Creative output (ART); 44A: "Beau __": Gary Cooper film (GESTE); 47A: Body shop figs. (ESTS.); 48A: Close connection (BOND); 50A: Water carrier (DUCT); 60A: "Young" reformer (TURK); 63A: "Young Frankenstein" lab assistant (INGA); 64A: Small thicket (COPSE); 66A: Cheers (RAHS); 67A: Exhaust (SPEND); 68A: A long, long time (EONS); 2D: Caesarean rebuke (ET TU); 3D: Warty hopper (TOAD); 4D: Luanda natives (ANGOLANS); 7D: Numbered piece (OPUS); 8D: Sign of age (RUST); 9D: Garden pest (APHID); 10D: Round jewelry item (CHOKER); 12D: Jessica of "Sin City" (ALBA); 13D: Bridal accessory (POSY); 18D: Scratching (out) (EKING); 22D: Butts (CIGS); 24D: Deepwater Horizon, for one (OIL RIG); 26D: Disconcerting look (STARE); 29D: Blackmore heiress (DOONE); 30D: Took a sinuous path (SNAKED); 32D: Knitting stitches (PURLS); 33D: Sci. concerned with biodiversity (ECOL.); 34D: Thick carpet (SHAG); 35D: Behave (ACT); 36D: Co. that merged into Verizon (GTE); 42D: Texting button (SEND); 43D: Newscast segment (RECAP); 49D: Saucers and such (DISCS); 51D: Made lots of calls, in a way (UMPED); 52D: Mix (STIR); 54D: At the peak of (ATOP); 57D: "As I see it," online (IMHO); 58D: Go a few rounds? (SPIN); 59D: Slithery threats (ASPS); 62D: Co. with a butterfly logo (MSN).


SethG said...

Hmm, Pittsburgh, discs, you don't say.

In Pittsburgh, one of the riverboats masquerades as the Good Ship Lollipop when Lolli the Clown joins the city tour. And what is a disc if it doesn't have spin? What's Mark Twain without a boy called Finn? Not a not a not a, not a damn thing.

MSN is not a company.

Pete said...

I didn't like ABSTRUSE being clued as "clear as mud". Something's abstruse if it is intrinsically complicated, not that it's unclear. Advanced mathematics is abstruse, it is however clearly explained. Someone may not get the explaination, but that doesn't make it abstruse, it means that one's mind doesn't have the mathematical bent. The distinction is there.

Mokus said...

Had a hunch that "fingers" was a verb but forgot that ID had become a verb as well. Dealt with thousands of estimates from vendors and contractors during my working life. Never heard someone call them ESTS. Tough to pronounce too.
I also wondered if MSN was a company but the butterfly made it a gimme. My best Friday time ever. Am I getting better or was this one on the easy side?
@pg, I've been playing my LP rock albums more lately so I like the clue today. Your blog has greatly improved my enjoyment of CWPs. Thanks

Sfingi said...

Difficult for me. HTG 6x before I could see the theme, which gave me a STINKing feeling.

Had brooch before CHOKER and ATT before GTE. Had LenO before LIMO because I misread it as Star Czar.

Googles - DOONE, LUPE, ANGOLANS, OILRIG (Never knew it had a name besides the BP Disaster), MARISA (thought it was that other boxer woman, Hilary Swank), MSN (never noticed the logo, maybe because it makes no sense).

When I saw young TURK, I thought of "street Arab" and these other happily gone expressions on the last century.

*David* said...

It felt like an easier then usual Friday. No real obstructions or ABSTRUSE cluing to get in the way. Filled in PITTSBURGH and HARD TO BEAT with one letter crossings. I've never heard of a SUMP PUMP based on its defintion probably because I've never had a basement. LUPE Fiasco made the puzzle fo shizzle.


I managed to plow myself to "Mother's Cafe" this morning and delightfully found that I could actually finish a Friday level puzzle before I had eaten my breakfast... that was nice.
Then when I got to this blog I found that I had gotten it 100% correct... that was even nicer, considering all the ABSTRUSE clues. Seems like that word is only used by us crossworders.

As @PG stated, the theme was nothing exciting for me, however the ST's did help get me through the puzzle quicker. I'm not going to praise Mr. Sessa today because (as you know), I hate corny theme clues.

Having said that, there still are some good fill words, like: SUDOKU, DOONE, ABSTRUSE, ANGOLANS, and OIL RIG (that one took awhile).
Of course Jessica ALBA always puts a smile on my face.

Thanks to Shirley Temple and Puzzlegirl, I learned that her little "Good Ship Lollipop" song was indeed about an aeroplane. Wow, now I have another bit of trivia to impress all my friends at the next party.

Well I guess they still refer to music collections today as ALBUMs. I just heard Steven and Randy on American Idol refer to an "ALBUM".

"Summertime" from Porgy and BESS is one of my fave songs, in fact I'll probably be singing it all day today... it certainly dispells those winter blues to sing about summertime.

Have a great weekend y'all!


I hardly think of you as an "oldster", but I can appreciate your clinging to those old terms. My kids ROFL every time I say "shut the lights off". I guess that goes back to the day when oil lanterns had their fuel supply "shut" off. I was just going through the list of all those archaic words we use, like "dial the phone".

Okay, all you "oldsters" out there, time to fess up... what are your age-revealers?

Capthca: RENT A ESS
something a Wheel-of-Fortune contestant does.

Tuttle said...

So close to having a GARr/INGA mini theme. And I filled 63A with "Igor" first.

An ALBUM is a collection of four or more songs. The media it is distributed on is immaterial (often quite literally these days).

C said...

I found today's easy for a Friday. TONKA is definitely my favorite answer, life was simple when my big decision for the day was to determine if I was going to play with my TONKA truck or the empty box.

Hmm, I wonder if some subliminal thinking by the constructor leaked through when he crossed "Heavenly bodies" with "'Sin City' star Jessica"

Anonymous said...

I've only heard the word "abstruse"
used verbally once in my lifetime and that was by a grammar teacher during my Junior High year and that was quite some time ago! Terrific puzzle, though; it had a fun span of history and catchy clues.

Anonymous said...

I love the comments from y'all! I would use aeroplane too. I must get an identity as I love all your comments and read them daily.

Easy, easy Friday I thought. Did not need to Google, everything gettable through crosses.

No work today - Houston sort of iced in? YAAAY

Sfingi said...

Thought I'd look up that GAR fish that keeps cropping up. What a strange looking beastie! somewhere between an eel, an alligator and - a fish.

I also looked up the SODUKO scandal. since I never heard of it. How do you cheat at SODUKO? If someone's sending him signals, why don't they play, themselves? Or were they #1 or #2? Or can he look over someone's shoulder, or use mirrors, etc. Anyone know?

Captcha - awfun. Aw gee, it's fun. Great new word.

My oldsterisms are - blotter, blotto, carbon paper, pocketbook, inkwell, skate key, spats, Postum, ration coupon, Oxfords, bobby socks, pigtail, crinoline, barrette, bandbox, band wagon, puchcard - that's enough for now.

Anonymous said...


PG, here's some Rod Stewart for ya!

John Wolfenden said...

I'm not familiar with Ed Sessa, but I found his Friday offering smooth & breezy. Definitely a tad easier than usual but a consistent level of difficulty throughout and some solid cluing.

My only quibble that hasn't already been stated: I don't think of a DIET as an event but an ongoing thing. "Downsizing activity" maybe.

As I look at LAP UP on the completed grid it reads like L.A. PUP. That's what my dogs are, whether they know it or not.

Can someone explain why louses stink? Or does he mean louse as a person, like cad or rake?

Fowler said...

I love Sfingi's list of Oldsterisms. I remember them all. I would add: transfers (fake tattoos), penny candy, white bucks, icebox, curb feelers, and (for everything from interior decor to autos to clothing) pink 'n charcoal!

Anonymous said...

I think if he had meant "louse" like the parasite he would have said "lice", therefore, I figured he meant the person kind.

Anonymous said...


Nighthawk said...

@PG, I'm surprised you didn't get more of a kick out of STUMPPUMPS, after the shoe-holism admission a while back. I thought it and STUNDIAL were great! Agree, the others not so much, but those two made the whole thing zing, in my book.

And I too thought Tomei was incredible in "In The Bedroom" as supporting, and I think Spacek's and Wilkinson's work was as outstanding, perhaps overshadowing a Tomei's fine work. You NEED to rent "The Wrestler" for hers, and Rourke's, frighteningly raw performances.

Wasn't LUPE Fiasco in a NYT puz just the other day?

@C, nice catch! Agree.

Hand up for Igor first at 63A.
Had MCI before GTE.

Oldster confessions: my grandparents had one of the last true iceboxes in town. They were not happy when the ice company, in about 1965, told them they would no longer make deliveries. Daughter kids me that I still refer to our fridge as the "icebox." Own and wear, occasionally, both white and dirty bucs. Penny Loafers, too. Daughter has a pair a saddle ox she wore, and wore out nearly, all 4 years of highschool as part of the school uniform. Retired them on graduation just last year. Say "Dial" still. Heck, I even still remember the names and abbreviations of some of the telephone exchanges locally - Fairfax (FA), Mutual (MU), Broadway (BR). @Sfingi-sure, skate key, inkwell, carbon paper, and blotter, though the latter also has another college era connotation as well. Postum was nasty stuff, but I'll see that and raise you Ovaltine.


Ahhh memories!
I owned a pink & charcoal 55 Chevy.

What do they call pigtails now?
I need to become hip.
Ummm... I think even the word "hip" is old school.


LUPE is short for María Guadalupe, one of the names of the Virgin Mary. Lupe, which can be a name for girls or boys, is probably the second most common girl´s name in Mexico (after María).

Anonymous said...

if you take the t out of stinkerball this is a baseball pitch no? i thought his puns were pretty lame

Avg Joe said...

Did somebody say Ovaltine ?

(Disclaimer: I'm too young to remember this song when it was popular)

Captcha: Exhula....a retired Hawaiian dancer

Anonymous said...

Lupe is long for Lu, which is short for Wasalu. Lupe's name is not Guadalupe.

Greene said...

Fun puzzle today and quite a bit easier than the one over at the NYT.

I can be so literal sometimes that I get completely stuck for a time. Great example at 1D. Should have just written in BESS and moved on, but wait, "Summertime" isn't Bess's song at all. It's Clara's aria and is pretty much the first sung piece in the opera (after all that honkey tonk piano stuff that accompanies the crap game at curtain rise). It's a lullaby she sings to her baby. She sings it again in Act 2, so how is the answer Bess?

Oh wait, I forgot, Bess actually does sing a short reprise in Act 3 to Clara's baby after Clara dies in the hurricane that ends Act 2. Not sure if that's tricky Friday cluing or just ignorance of the opera. I'm probably not supposed to think too hard about these things.

Anyway, loved the Gershwin, loved the puzzle. Happy weekend all. Back to work for me.

Sfingi said...

@John - I think, just braids or plaits. You don't see 2 anymore. Sometimes 1, down the back, generally called a French braid. Or there are "weaves," not real hair. Or cornrows - a whole bunch that start on the scalp.My sister and I had 2 fat 3-strand pigtails, down to our waists, which could be rolled into bunlike things by the ears, ethniclike, but not chignons. Someone said "rosettes." Then, in 6th grade, I got head lice. I've heard our kind called "bunches," but not in these parts. Mind were dipped in said inkwells, which were set into holes in the desks. In 2nd grade we began to use ballpoint pens. (Does anyone say that, anymore?)

Our Lady of Guadalupe - one of my favorites because her day is 12/14. the day after St. Lucy. Guadalupe is a Marianic Apparition, and she appeared to help a poor man prove she was there by filling his pancho with roses in the snow. The rose in the snow is a German motif, also. However, Mr. Anon300 is correct on this particular Lupe.

JeanSp said...

The copy editor was asleep. Bess doesn't sing "Summertime," Clara does.

PuzzleGirl said...

@JeanSp: First I would like to direct yout attention to #16 on Rex Parker's FAQ:

"Q: The puzzle has an error! I am indignant!

A: 99% of the time, you (the complainer) are wrong. Sometimes the clue is inelegant. Sometimes the clue is stretching the meaning of a certain word. Sometimes the clue is using a word in a way you aren't thinking of or haven't heard of. But flat-out errors are Rare. Very Rare. So reconsider your position."

Then I would ask you to scroll up a bit (just two comments above yours!) and see where this particular issue has already been commented upon and resolved.