05.26 Thu

May 26, 2011
Jack McInturff

Theme: And this little pig …. — Theme answers are definitions of "we" homophones.

Theme answers:
  • 33A: Oui (FRENCH YES).
When I went back to work yesterday, I found out that I'm not quite back to 100% yet. I made it almost all the way through the day though, and then came home and slept for a couple hours. I did find the energy to solve this puzzle though, so let's talk about it.

I really like this type of theme. I don't think I'd care for it every day, but I think it's a fun change on occasion. In this type of puzzle, the theme answers aren't really stand-alone phrases. The only reason they work is because they're unified by the clues. You couldn't, for example, have a theme with the entries: GOLFER MICHELLE (Wie) and RUNNER JACKIE (Joyner-Kersey). That just doesn't work all by itself. But the homophones are enough to give you a general idea of what you're looking for and then the crosses help you fill in the rest. At least that's how it works for me and, as I said, I enjoy the change.

The only problem with this specific puzzle, though, is that a lot of the fill is pretty ugly. Namely: CXIX, ROOTLET, ENISLE, TBSPS., ON HIRE (again!), and EIS. BELL LAP (44D: Last track circuit) looks like it's probably legit, but it's not something I've ever heard of and it sure doesn't get many Google hits. As usual when I'm talking about subpar fill, I would likely be willing to give any one of those answers a pass if the rest of the grid was stellar, but taken together … it's just not doing it for me is what I'm saying.

There is some pretty stuff too, though. I particularly liked STENGEL (2D: Baseball's "Old Perfessor"), CRUELLA (12D: Fur-loving villain de Vil), and I MEAN IT (38D: Mom's tough emphasis).

  • 16A: Half a fictional detecting pair (NORA). This would be NORA of Nick and NORA fame. And I know you all know their dog's name.
  • 21A: Limoges liver (FOIE). I thought maybe "limoges" was French for "geese," but it's actually just a city in France.
  • 28A: Cycle start (TRI-). For some reason I always want to try UNI first. What is my deal with UNIcycles?
  • 30A: Amateur golfer's score, perhaps (LIE). I don't get this. I thought a LIE was, like, where the ball ends up after it's hit. I don't understand what it has to do with scoring. But I know there are enough of you golfers out there that someone will 'splain it to me!
  • 38A: First woman to land a triple axel in competition (ITO). And if you'd like to know what that looks like:

  • 53A: Win by __ (A HAIR). Tried A NOSE first.
  • 61A: Seller of FÖRNUFT flatware (IKEA). I heart IKEA. You do too. Admit it.
  • 65A: Chipmunks creator Bagdasarian (ROSS). Did anybody know this? I know I didn't.
  • 1D: Five-time Art Ross Trophy winner, for short (ESPO). I only know the Art Ross Trophy is a hockey award from crossword puzzles. Hockey, four letters? That's ESPO.
  • 4D: Frozen Wasser (EIS). German!
  • 26D: Supercomputer name (CRAY). Again, I do not know what this means.

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 1A: Bass-baritone Simon (ESTES).
  • 41A: Nyctophobic fictional race (ELOI).
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Everything Else 6A: Second-century date (CXIX); 10A: Welding sparks (ARCS); 14A: Hard to stir (STOIC); 15A: Old __, Connecticut (LYME); 20A: Prov. bordering four Great Lakes (ONT.); 22A: Saltpeter (NITER); 27A: Maroon (ENISLE); 29A: Common street name (ELM); 31A: Lasting impression (SCAR); 32A: Confucian path (TAO); 42A: Fed. fiscal agency (OMB); 45A: Cheese partner (MAC); 46A: Moving aid (VAN); 47A: "Obviously" ("SO I SEE"); 54A: Words before many words? (IN SO); 55A: Canadian attorney's deg. (LLB); 62A: Phnom __ (PENH); 63A: Corn Belt native (IOWAN); 64A: Tracy's Trueheart (TESS); 66A: Recipe amts. (TBSPS.); 3D: Ristorante dessert (TORTONI); 5D: Mocks (SCOFFS); 6D: Eau __, Wisconsin (CLAIRE); 7D: Water-carrying plant tissue (XYLEM); 8D: Sitter's handful (IMP); 9D: Thirtysomething, e.g. (X'ER); 10D: Hall of fame (ANNIE); 11D: Small plant support (ROOTLET); 13D: Riviera resort (SAN REMO); 18D: Carol (NOEL); 19D: Available for service (ON HIRE); 24D: Gladly (LIEF); 25D: Burning desire (ITCH); 31D: Fi front (SCI-); 34D: Admire greatly (REVERE); 35D: Ancient rival of Assyria (ELAM); 36D: Zilch (NONE); 37D: Slugger Sammy (SOSA); 39D: It makes one's net smaller (TAX HIKE); 40D: Pump ratings (OCTANES); 43D: Veges (out) (MELLOWS); 47D: Meshes (SYNCHS); 48D: __ buco (OSSO); 49D: Music to the boss's ears (I'M ON IT); 51D: Coolidge and Moreno (RITAS); 52D: Ford Field team (LIONS); 56D: Uncle __ (BEN'S); 58D: "Fresh Air" airer (NPR); 59D: __ gratias (DEO); 60D: Sound after a breakup, maybe (SOB).


Anonymous said...

I think the golf lie is to lie as in not telling the truth about your score?

Steve said...

@PG - don't overdo it! We don't want you having a relapse!

I agree with anonymous above - amateur golfers tend to, well, not exactly "lie" about their score, but ummm - be economical with the truth?

Agree 100% with the excellent write up - the theme was fun, but the fill downright ugly. I actually had to force myself to put in ENISLE, I knew it was what the constructor was looking for, but ... it's just not ... aghhh .... right

BELLLAP too - I eventually saw what was needed - I've never heard it used, written or even misused :)

I had a grump about GOLFER in the solution and "golfer" in a clue - I'm sure it's "legit" but I don't like it.

Mari said...

I'm relatively new here. Why is one word in the gird always highlighted (today's 49D)?

Mari said...

I meant "grid"

Pete said...

@Mari - It's simply the last word the solver filled in, an artifact of the software used to solve the puzzle.

NORA did no detecting, she stayed in the apartment, enduring Nick's antics.

Steve said...

@Mari - it's just the last word that was completed by @PG before she posted the solution - no hidden meanings or anything :)

Steve said...

Oh hey - one more thing - LIEF doesn't appear in @PG's crosswordese, nor "ugly fill" list - it's got to be one or the other.

I had to look it up post-solve and as soon as I see "archaic" against a definition, then - it's either cw-ese, ugly or flat-out desperation.

Steve said...

@PG - sorry about the scattergun comments today, I'm multitasking - I missed your question about CRAY before - the Cray 1 was the first "supercomputer", developed in (I think) the 70's. I'm guessing your smartphone has got more computing power now than the Cray 1 had at the time.

I also had to look up ESPO post-solve, and find that it's Phil Esposito's nickname - he played for the Bruins in the 70's and won the Art Ross trophy five times. Not being a hockey buff, I'd never heard of either before today.

hazel said...

@Mari - I think it has something to do with the rapture.

The puzzle - big letdown after the sheer fabulousness of today's NYT. unfair to compare, but there was no zing factor at all for me. theme answers were too literal, clunky. PERSONAL PRONOUN, GOLFER MICHELLE - I mean they just lay there, sparkless.

To its credit, the puzzle did put up a bit of a fight, but the payoff wasn't rewarding for me.

PJ said...

Usually theme answers are filled in after all fill completed.Was hoping 17,23,33,50,and 57A to help me solve/finish.Alas,did not happen. Would have been a nice change of pace.I just don't know enough weird stuff!LOL

xxpossum@html.com said...

Lief? Really? What a sorry excuse for a cross-word puzzle. Sorry,just my opinion.

Tuttle said...

Did. Not. Like.

Just look how it starts;

1D: Trivia, 2D: Trivia, 3D: Italian, 4D: German, 5D: Wrong (Ever "mocked at" someone?) ...

1A: Trivia, 6A: Crap, 10A: Wrong (a spark ionizes the path an arc takes), 14A: Clever, actually, 15A: Trivia, 16A: Trivia ...

Then there's 27A and 32A and 24D ...

*David* said...

There was no excuse for the cluing for LIE/LIEF which could be clued in a much clearer way while still being tricky. I spent 5 minutes on that one letter crossing, kind of ridiculous. Other questionable crossings were BELLLAP with LLB and XYLEM with CXIX.

Other then that the crossword went quite quickly and the theme was decent but the frustration of that one crossing kind of sucked out any enjoymemnt fromt he rest of it.

Lao Tze said...

If there were such a thing as a Confucian path, it would be following the teachings of Confucius, not the Tao, which is distinctly different.

Anonymous said...

Like the theme, but like PG, not too keen on some of the filler. Particularly LIEF and ENISLE. Again another great video with Robert Cray! Best clue: 39D "it makes one's net smaller" TAXHIKE..then again it hits a bit too close to home...

C said...

A more challenging Thursday puzzle. Took me closer to 10 minutes to complete which is on the long side for me on a Thursday. The fill was random-ish and archaic random-ish at that, LIEF stand up. BELL LAP is OK by me, common occurrence at track meets for multi-lap foot races (1600 M for example) I've actually performed calculations on a CRAY before so that one was a gimme as well. Still, I can totally understand how these terms do not fit into most peoples ken (fight archaic with archaic, I say!)

Margaret said...

Hand up for A NOSE before A HAIR. I will say I did know ROSS Bagdasarian was David Seville's real name. Why? I don't know why. Just one of those bits of trivia that landed in my head long ago and never left. I thought the theme was OK, but the crossing of CXIX and XYLEM ruined the puzzle for me.

Anonymous said...

At track meets you will hear the announcer say now the bell lap and you will hear a bell usually in the longer races indoor as the runners may lose track of how many times they have been around it.
I played golf this morning and shot 58 for 18 holes and had a hole in one, would I lie to you?

Rube said...

Had CLIX and misspelled LYME (LiME) giving liLEM which looked OK to me, never having heard of XYLEM. Thus, DNF.

Having done Track & Field in HS & college, BELLLAP was a gimme. Ran into ENISLE a while back in a Xword. Didn't like it then, but now accept it as crosswordese. Also had nose before hair. (That doesn't pass the breakfast test!) Wanted ham before MAC.

Most embarrassing was starting to put skatERMICHELLE when better sense prevailed, reminding me that her name was Kwan. LIEF is actually a word I learned long ago and use on occassion. Never heard of FÖRNUFT and have never been into an IKEA store. Should try one someday, but there are none nearby.

Still, despite some crummy fill, a fun and enjoyable puzzle, IMO.

Dave in Bend, Oregon said...

Maybe I've run across XYLEM some place but DNF because of it. I kind of liked the theme. Before it, I would have been hard pressed to find 5 homonyms for WE. I figured it was a good sign that constructor's last name begins with Mc and ends with FF (as mine does) but that kismet did not pan out. Had a DOH moment with 6A as I wanted M where C should be.....Totally agree with Tuttle on cluing for SCOFFS, I kept trying to get scorns to fit which I think is more appropriate.. Being on the left coast, I got lost on the Old LYME thing (is there a connection with this city to the tick-driven Lyme disease?).. Hadn't a clue about CRAY either so live and learn.

CrazyCatLady said...

Wasn't a big fan of this one. ENISLE, NITER, CRAY, LIEF, ROOTLET, ON HIRE were indeed ugly. DNF. DNC (did not care).

Dave in Bend, Oregon said...

I know PG would prefer we not mention that "other" site but..... I did find it interesting (as did @Hazel if she is refering to the same "fabulous" puzzle) that the NYT employed homophones in today's (syndie) and it really was well done.

Anonymous said...

CXIX crossing XYLEM????

Epic fail!

Alexscott said...

Hated, HATED this puzzle--for all of the reasons PG enumerated, those stated above, and probably a few others.

Ian said...

I always try the paper version of the Thursday puzzle in the car while my wife drives us to volunteer at the animal shelter. Usually finish a dozen or so entries (I'm not that good) and then finish at home on the computer. That said, I misspelled Xylem, had "A NOSE", and only now as I'm typing this do I understand 54A 'Words before many words?'. The puzzle was just clunky.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I'm missing something, but why does "hall of fame" equal "annie"? I really don't get that one.

Woody said...

Anonymous - Think of the movie "Annie Hall". She's a "Hall of fame", right? *groan*

Ian said...

Oh yeah, completely forgot why I mentioned the wife... I asked her if she knew what the Art Ross Trophy was. She guessed, from out of the blue, that it had something to do with hockey. Neither one of us pays attention to hockey but somehow she guessed it. Still didn't help with the clue though.

And from what the wife says, the name of lyme disease does come from the name of the Connecticut town.

Anonymous said...

What possible conntection between Hall of Fame and Annie. This puzzle was the equivalent of water boarding!

badams52 said...

Wow, lots of hate for this puzzle. I was fine with the puzzle, but I can understand the complaints.

Really liked IMEANIT, though it took forever to get that one, INSO (cause of the clue) STOIC, and really liked BELLLAP. Anytime I see a triple letter in a puzzle, I like it. I knew BELLLAP from watching the olympics long ago on the 5K race I think it was, and as reported before, on the last lap they ring a bell. I guess the runners may forget, or the scorers want an official bell ringing so that everyone knows the race is about to end.

Actually took a fieldtrip in high school in the late 80s to visit a Cray computer, so I knew it, but it certainly isn't common knowledge.

Was able to guess and get most of the "We"s so that made the rest of the fill easier.

I prefer the other track for thursdays though - the tricky, non standard fill, like the fish puzzle. Used to love when the other paper's puzzle had that every Thursday when I used to get a paper which included that puzzle.


p.s. I miss the capcha

badams52 said...

Annie HALL is a HALL ... of fame. A HALL who is famous rather.

Remembered this trick a few puzzles back when the Hall of fame clue was for ARSENIO (hall). Tried Arsen...first then whoops :)

Mental note, remember that FOIE means liver. Had heard the term FOIE gras many times while watching the cooking shows, but never knew it meant liver, ewwww.

Didn't try Anose first because I already had REVERE in place and was pretty sure it fit. But I had A___R for a long time and couldn't figure out what it could be.

mac said...

Give me a tough LAT puzzle any day. I liked the struggle. And "lief" is a lovely word, although archaic. It's also a good friend's last name, and means "sweet" in Dutch.

Sfingi said...

@Dave - Yes, Lyme disease was first ID'd in Lyme, CT. The place is overrun with deer eating yummy gardens.

Foie gras means fatty liver, like mardi gras means Fat Tues. Remember, how they make the goose's liver fat? By painfully force-feeding it. Illegal in the US.

No problem with these or XYLEM, or CRAY. For me, as always, it was sports - too much - 6 or 'em. I would LIEF have no sports, esp. (or ESPO) later in the week.

A few other disagreements - WEE is just small, no extremely. Didn't like ENISLE. I had nose before HAIR, which I actually think is a good trait in a puzzle - a fair trick.

JaxInL.A. said...

All of the A NOSE for A HAIR comments keep jumbling into NOSE HAIR as I skim the page.

@Anon 8:49, thanks for the explanation of BELL LAP. That's interesting. I was exhausted when I did this puzzle and still managed to get it done in easy time.

i thought the theme was cute. @Hazel is right, though, that today's NYT is so wonderful that others will pale in comparison.

Liked LIEF, from my Shakespeare fetish days. Hated EN ISLE. I can't bellieve that could not be fixed: ugly and not used by anyone. Loved XYLEM, though. Cool letters, as @acme would say. I dredged it up from 8th grade biology when I had to draw and label a cross-section of a plant. You never know what will swim to the surface, eh?

hebow44 said...

DNF as I really wanted Monty Hall even though I had Michelle and arcs. I agree with the welder in the group that "arc" doesn't really fit the bill here. When you strike an arc you are completing the circuit between metal and rod. The sparks are a byproduct. Though I can't think of a better clue right now. Loved the "in so many words" answer.