06.16 Thu

June 16, 2011
Bill Ballard

Theme: Reduction to the Absurd — The last three letters of three two-word, 18-letter phrases are dropped so that the phrases don't make sense. The first word of each phrase hints that the phrase itself won't be complete.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Schubert's eighth, aptly (UNFINISHED SYMPH[ony]).
  • 27A: Reference book, aptly (ABRIDGED DICTION[ary]).
  • 48A: Burnout symptom, aptly (DIMINISHED INTER[est]).
  • 65A: Logical principle that applies to 17-, 27- and 48-Across, aptly (REDUCTIO AD ABSUR[dum]).
Once again, lots of gratitude to Doug for stepping in yesterday. I was completely exhausted after my big NYT debut on Tuesday. I thought he might be a little wrecked too, but he's such a pro that being in the New York Times is just no big deal any more. Maybe one day I'll get there. In the meantime, let's talk about today's puzzle.

I didn't really get the theme right way. I mean, I got that the end of each theme phrase was dropped and that it was in some way predictable because of the first word of the phrase. But then the Latin REDUCTIO AD ABSUR[dum] threw me. I don't think of the "reduction" in that phrase as the same as "shortening" or even "making smaller." And I don't think of "absurdity" in that phrase as a synonym for "nonsensical." After a minute or two — and, I confess, an email exchange with Amy — it made more sense to me and I could even admire the consistency that I hadn't really noticed earlier. And yet … I don't know. Maybe it's just unsettling to me that the words are unfinished. Or it might just be that DIMINISHED INTER[est] is a really boring phrase. Or maybe I was still wincing from the fill.

When you find the ugly GAR at 1 Across and then discover the downs are GAUL, AT. NO., and REFI, well, let's just say that's not a very good start. There were a couple glimmers of hope sprinkled throughout the grid — MYSTIC, HEH, RED CEDAR, DITCH (which has a great clue) — but those good entries just couldn't outweight the … subpar stuff which also includes FT. LB., L IS, AOUT, RCMP, and all the crosswordese, which we'll take a look at here since it's so prominent:
  • 1A: Needle-nosed fish (GAR).
  • 41A: Banana oil, e.g. (ESTER).
  • 2D: Elemental ID (AT. NO.).
  • 12D: Org. concerned with asbestos stds. (OSHA).
  • 18D: Cross letters (INRI).
  • 29D: Composer Ned (ROREM).
  • 30D: "__ Dream": "Lohengrin" aria (ELSA'S).
  • 40D: "QB VII" author (URIS).
  • 56D: Game point (AD IN).
  • 63D: German industrial region (RUHR).
So, basically, I wasn't smart enough to really enjoy the theme and the fill was not up to my expectations. And I have to say again, there's just something that nags at me about the unfinished aspect of the theme. I can't put my finger on it, but it really kind of bothe

Everything Else 1A: Needle-nosed fish (GAR); 4A: Work unit: Abbr. (FT. LB.); 8A: __ Island, Florida city near Naples (MARCO); 13A: Put away (ATE); 14A: Dickens's Heep (URIAH); 16A: Some fitness ctrs. (YMCA'S); 20A: Butcher's offering (LOIN); 21A: Besides (AT THAT); 22A: Garden veggie (PEA); 23A: Try to be elected (RUN); 25A: Sue Grafton's "__ for Lawless" (L IS); 36A: It goes with boo, woo or yoo (HOO); 37A: Puppet dragon of early TV (OLLIE); 38A: Dix follower (ONZE); 39A: Off-white shade (ECRU); 41A: Banana oil, e.g. (ESTER); 43A: Pickup attachment (PLOW); 44A: John Isner, a record 113 times, in a 2010 Wimbledon match (ACER); 45A: Lot units (ACRES); 47A: Chemical suffix (-ENE); 52A: California's __ Gabriel Mountains (SAN); 53A: PC brain (CPU); 54A: Govt. mortgage agency (FHA); 57A: Brute (SAVAGE); 61A: Engels collaborator (MARX); 68A: Mezzo role in Barber's "Vanessa" (ERIKA); 69A: Big cats (PUMAS); 70A: "So that's it!" ("AHA!"); 71A: Cartridge contents (TONER); 72A: Protective cover (TARP); 73A: Meddle (PRY); 1D: Caesarean conquest (GAUL); 2D: Elemental ID (AT. NO.); 3D: Homeowner's way to raise money, briefly (REFI); 4D: Pleasure (FUN); 5D: Bermuda shape? (TRIANGLE); 6D: Supermarket need, maybe (LIST); 7D: Thai money (BAHT); 8D: Arcane (MYSTIC); 9D: "Rehab" singer Winehouse (AMY); 10D: Dudley Do-Right's gp. (RCMP); 11D: New England attraction, with "the" (CAPE); 12D: Org. concerned with asbestos stds. (OSHA); 15D: Sneaky laugh (HEH); 18D: Cross letters (INRI); 19D: Picasso contemporary (DALI); 24D: Japanese veggie (UDO); 26D: Station (STOP); 27D: In first (AHEAD); 28D: Game for bowlers (BOCCI); 29D: Composer Ned (ROREM); 30D: "__ Dream": "Lohengrin" aria (ELSAS); 31D: Lose on purpose (DITCH); 32D: 43-Across maker (DEERE); 33D: Fjord (INLET); 34D: Depleted layer (OZONE); 35D: Like a 2011 model, say (NEWER); 40D: "QB VII" author (URIS); 42D: Aromatic evergreen (RED CEDAR); 46D: Try a little of (SIP); 49D: Its Hall of Fame is in Charlotte, N.C. (NASCAR); 50D: "For those listening __ home ..." (IN AT); 51D: Insensitive (NUMB); 54D: Neck piece (FRET); 55D: Super Bowl party order (HERO); 56D: Game point (AD IN); 58D: Big cheese (VIP); 59D: Juillet's follower (AOUT); 60D: Vasco da __ (GAMA); 62D: Rush job notation (ASAP); 63D: German industrial region (RUHR); 64D: Like a certain superpower (X-RAY); 66D: Luau strings (UKE); 67D: Nile biter (ASP).


Neville said...

Headache Man has a headache again - we've been seeing an awful lot of him lately.

I did like this puzzle - a lot! - but I will definitely cede you points on DIMINISHED INTERest (I'd have rather gone with DIMINISHING RETUrns, a "more real" phrase) and on some of the fill being ick. This was one of those puzzles where I felt that the ick fill did not outweigh the theme, and I found the theme quick innovative.

I was proud of myself for remembering AOUT, which I don't know from crosswords but instead from failing to learn French.

I can see why you might've thought this puzzle was a little cuckoo. (Friend and Ollie, too.)

Conrad said...

Bah! This puzzle gave me my first DNF in the past few weeks (not counting Saturdays, because... well... yowza).

That bloody bottom left corner of 54D, 55D and 56D. If only I'd known what FHA is (Federal Housing Agency, I assume?), or perhaps if I were slightly more familiar with opera. Ah well. .

Also, PuzzleGirl, you really crack m

SethG said...

DEMINISHED looked fine to me for some reason. Probably because BOCCI didn't. And one of the things that can be diminished is INTENT, so that was an issue as well.

Nice write

Doug P said...

Yep, the bottom left was a giant dose of Deep Hurting, especially since I couldn't make sense of CTIOADAB. I'm with Headache Guy today.

*David* said...

Let me first say that I really liked this puzzle. This is a cute change-up and I totally get the theme. With that said AOUT crossing REDUCTIO doesn't work for me, a french word crossing latin, sorry. Yes AOUT is used in crosswords some but not enought to have it crossing REDUCTIO on a Thursday.

I found the SW and the NE to be my last sections to fill in. I seem to always get fooled when they use the work "neck" in a clue and are referring to an instrument. In the NE I wanted RUSTIC not MYSTIC, overall though I really did like it.

CoffeeLvr said...

Well, I was right on the puzzle's wavelength, with a technical DNF. That's what I call it when I solve using AcrossLite and have to resort to the Check function, but don't actually have to look anything up.

@SethG, the last word I "corrected" was BOCCe, so I was right with you. @PG, I was lost on the bottom theme answer as well, until I reread the clue and "logical principle" linked to "Latin phrase" in my mind.

I did like the puzzle today. Agree that the NW is terrible, but I can stand FTLB as it is real usage, and the crosses are all solid. (Well, it was a real abbreviation for torque or force until N-m took over.) Nice clue for XRAY. Did not know anything about banana oil, but ESTER makes sense.

I gotta

Joon said...

all of these solvers reporting DNFs today seems oddly apropos.

neville, i actually wrote DIMINISHING RETU before having to cross out the last half of it. was kind of disappointed.

Tuttle said...

You owe me a new keyboard DougP!

I actually watched Hercules versus the Moon Men last night on Netflix. Complete with sssssssssand ssssstorm and Deep Hurting! DEEP HURTING!!!

Luckily I was well supplied with Ecstato-Euphoro-Fun (containing patented Hinder-90) and was able to turn that B-movie into a Yipee-movie.

But yea, that bottom left corner was loaded with Hypno-Helio-Static-Stasis.

Gene said...

This was the first time I finished a puzzle having no idea it was correct. Latin? French? ABSURDUM!

Golfballman said...

Will and Rich must have gotten together and decided to both have ridiculously crappy puzzles on the same day. Where's the clue in 65A that indicates Latin? Didn't like or appreciate the NYT or LAT puzzles.

Anonymous said...

I agr

Anonymous said...

A horrible choice for a puzzle theme.

CrazyCatLady said...

Diminished Interest describes my feeling about this pu

imsdave said...

Big in the "I liked it" camp. That's a really nice theme. Only writeover's were the I for E in BOCCI, and once I'd figured out it had to be DIMINISHED, went with CAPACity.

Anonymous said...

In mathematics, REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM is one of two ways of disproving a statement or hypothesis, the other being by producing a counter example. REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM consists of assuming that the hypothesis is true, then with valid application of formal logic to the rules of the algebra you're working with ending up with a statement which is demonstrably false. This should have been a total gimme for everyone who's spent years in graduate school studing formal logic and mathematical systems.

headache man said...

"This should have been a total gimme for everyone who's spent years in graduate school studing formal logic and mathematical systems."

Yeah, total gimme.

C said...

My biggest snag for this puzzle and led to my DNF was perfectly described by @*David* So, in true internet fashion, I am going to repeat him ;^)

I do not know French but I knew we were looking for 'August' and I knew that the long crossing phrase was going to be Latin but did not know the phrase which left me guessing at the 'A_UT' I guessed wrong, horribly wrong.

OK puzzle overall but I didn't enjoy it as much as the M-W puzzles this week. I just have to remember to lock AOUT into my indestructible mental trivia locker.

Anonymous said...

The end of Diminishedinter & middle of reductioadabsur kisked my butt. Numb left me numb!, which totally messed me up on those two above.

Mari said...

YUK! This felt more like a Friday puzzle to me.

Mokus said...

I liked the puzzle a lot and was a little surprised by the negative reactions. The theme was clever and fun. The clues were interesting and made me feel smart. On Thursdays I usually switch from pen-on-newsprint and go to the LAT website but decided to try pencil-to-paper and was rewarded with a nice challenge. Banana oil was the only head-scratcher because I thought is was slang for BS. Finally got it through crosses. Loved seeing John Isner and game point. What a marathon. Cool puzzle, Mr. Ballard.

Alexscott said...

Can anyone explain the answer to 38A "Dix follower," ONZE? That was the last part of the puzzle to fall, once I figured out INLET. But I still don't know what an ONZE is or what it has to do with Dix (Dixonze?). Anyone? Bueller?

I wasn't crazy about this puzzle, but I did like idea for the theme. I agree, though, that DIMINISHED INTER(est) isn't really a thing. And ABRIDGED DICTION(ary) is better, but it still kind of just lies there. I was able to figure out REDUCTIO AD ABSUR(dum) fairly quickly. But even with all of the French I took in h.s. and college, I couldn't remember if August was spelled AUOT or AOUT (although now that I look at it, it seems obvious, must have been becaus it was running down). I didn't like BOCCI spelled incorrectly. Hated the clue for ACER ("John Isner, a record 113 times, in a 2010 Wimbledon match"). Talk about a tortured clue. I knew it had to be ACER or "aces," but I still don't think the rest of that word salad makes sense. And would it have killed the constructor to make 58A "Big cheese, briefly"? I guess those aren't big complaints, really. But a little bit better cluing and some better fill might have made this puzzle a winner, despite the only partially realized theme.

Anon 10:28 said...

@Headache Man - Well, you're obviously not one of the 0.00001% of the population of the US who has "spent years in graduate school studing formal logic and mathematical systems". This likely means you have a job.

@PG - You're right that in this case, reduced doesn't really mean made smaller or truncated.

Nighthawk said...

I must feel bad about my neck. Or maybe it's that spring turkey hunting season recently ended. My brain locked on wattle, but it wouldn't fit. I FRETted for a long time about that one.

Other speedbumps today for me were: FTLB, UDO (but I don't), and the opera stuff - ERIKA and ELSAS. Wanted DIves for DITCH and Adin for ACER.

It wasn't, but thematically, a DNF.

Helpful Guy said...

@alexscott: Let me Google that for you.

JIMMIE said...


DIX and ONZE are ten and eleven, in French.

Sad Guy said...

DIMINISHED INTEREST is a diagnostic criteria for depression.
@PG - You should know that from Tueday's NYTimes puzzle.

CP said...

REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM (Guess I shouldn't have slept throught my Math Ph.D program)crossed with AOUT=a DNF, although I solved the rest.

The theme clues should be fun, clever, and entertaining, not some long latin phrase apparently known only to math system dweebs. Belch.

M said...

"This should have been a total gimme for everyone who's spent years in graduate school studing formal logic and mathematical systems."

Should such a self-important, highly educated person such as yourself be wasting time doing plebian crossword puzzles?

That said, clues should at least hint at whether the answer will be in a foreign language!

Mary in Oregon said...

OOPS! Post should have said "Mary in Oregon" -- sorry.

Alexscott said...

@Jimmie, thanks for that. I could have stared at "Dix" for hours and not have made the leap to French. I feel better now, but still dumb.

Steve said...

I'm in the "really liked this" camp. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, learned something about opera and TV dragons, and didn't wince too much with the fill.

I'd never heard the Latin phrase before either, so that's another thing I learned today, and that's part of the point of doing crosswords for me. If I breeze through every one and never learn anything new, what's the point?

However - my pet gripe, and every time I see this I'm going to point it out because it comes up all too often - can we PLEASE retire the "Nile Biter" clue? PLEASE? You constructors - get inventive with ASP if you have to use it in the fill.

Anon 10:28 said...

@M / Mary in Oregon You acutally believe people can be that pompous? Try reading it as a wry comment about the appropriateness of the phrase/cluing.

Rube said...

I'm in the "liked it" camp also. Felt foolish when I, an engineer, wanted something like man-hrs for "Work unit" where FT-LB belonged. Along those lines, easily got REDUCTIOADABSUR(dum) with a few crosses. Guess that's one of those terms you either know or you don't. If you didn't, you do now. I'm beginning to accept as a tenet of crosswords that just because you don't know it, doesn't mean it's bad fill, unfair, or too obscure. Well, sometimes it is too obscure but you get what I mean.

My vote is to ban ACER from all future crosswords... ACES is perfectly acceptable.

Had HEe, as in tee hee, for 15D. Sounded good, but that gave me AT TeAT and at first thought I could finagle that into "besides", but no.

Good puzzle IMO. Any Thursday I DNG is good in my sight.

pats brain picked said...

whats with the "with the" for new england attraction. I live in connecticut for years and we always referred to it as mystic seaport, never have I heard "the mystic"

Anonymous said...

@PBB, are you getting 8D & 11D mixed up?

mac said...

Did not like this one. I really think the clues were not good enough. Part easy, part totally out there for non-mathematicians.

Ryan said...

Today's puzzle made me look for and find this site. I had completed all of REDUCTIOADABSUR via the downs, but still didn't know what in the heck it was and wondered what I did wrong. Did a search and only got 3 hits - all of them were in email addresses. So now I know - and I'll never need it again in my life - even in crosswords. Blech on this puzzle. Good site though.