07.07 Thu

July 7, 2011
Marti DuGuay-Carpenter

Theme: Legal puns? — Puns on familiar phrases that have something to do with law? (Is that right?)

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Fine print in Yogi's contract? (BEAR CLAUSE).
  • 25A: Court allegations requiring consideration? (ATTENTION PLEAS).
  • 42A: Product liability problems for Willy Wonka? (CHOCOLATE TORTS).
  • 57A: Vague religious law? (LOOSE CANON).
I have to admit, this theme confused me a little. I wasn't entirely sure what was holding it together as I was solving and now that I'm done, I don't feel like I'm much closer to understanding. Is it just that the resulting phrases have something to do with law? One is about contracts, the second is about a criminal trial, next is a reference to product liability, and the last one refers to religious law. And wait a minute, what is the clue for ATTENTION PLEAS? "Court allegations requiring consideration"? Is a PLEA a "court allegation"? Hey, I've seen every single episode of Law & Order and I'm pretty sure a PLEA and an allegation are two totally different things. CANON was the hardest one for me to get, partly because I didn't really understand what was going on and partly because the definition of CANON that I'm most familiar with is "a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works." I'm not blaming the puzzle for that one, because that little glitch was just a result of my life experience, not anything wrong with the clue. And yet.

Come to think of it, there seemed to be quite a bit of strange cluing in this one. Between the ugh-ily-pluraled INS (8D: Good tennis returns) and NILS (33A: A lot of nothing), the unwieldy partial IN AT (53D: __ the finish), and the for-some-reason-suffixized -ION (22A: Exempt attachment?) … well that's a lot of awkward cluing and at least half of it could have been easily avoided (NILS Lofgren, anyone?).

To be fair, there were several clues that I really liked too. I'm sure I'm not the only one whose first thought was CLINTON instead of TAFT at [1A: President known as "Big Bill"]. And [1D: Big band wind] is all kindsa tricky. First of all, I don't think most people think of a TUBA as a wind instrument (I know I don't) and, again, I can't be the only one who thought "Wait, big bands don't have TUBAs, do they?" not realizing that the "big" modified TUBA and not "band." Let's see … what else can we talk about?

  • 5A: Beat it (SPLIT). I love the phrase "Beat it." In my head it's said with an old-timey gangster movie sound to it: "Beat it, kid."
  • 20A: Body in a belt (ASTEROID). Another good, tricky clue.
  • 23A: Tab, for one (COLA). I get a little bit nauseous just thinking about it.
  • 56A: America's first spy (HALE). Apparently this is one of the few things PuzzleDaughter's Virginia history book got right, because I remembered it from a recent study session.
  • 60A: Sat rocking, say (IDLED). Hmm. I don't think I like this one. Is there a definition of "rocking" I'm not thinking of? I mean if you're rocking (like in a rocking chair), your … rocking, not IDLing.
  • 7D: More than just eye-catching, clotheswise (LOUD). I think I'm getting old because a lot of clothes I see these days seem pretty LOUD. I saw a magazine article recently that purported to explain how to mix and match different colors and patterns. I looked at what those models were wearing and all I could think was "Really?"
  • 28D: Firth or fjord (INLET). Yes, as a matter of fact I did enter COLIN before actually reading the whole clue. You wanna make something of it?
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 14A: Jamaican tangelo (UGLI).
  • 16A: Wheelset piece (AXLE).
  • 5D: Oater joint (SALOON).
  • 25D: Silly (APISH).
  • 55D: City west of Tulsa (ENID).
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Everything Else 10A: Shady growth (MOSS); 15A: Stag (ALONE); 19A: "Swell!" ("NEAT!"); 21A: Abby and Martha, to Mortimer, in "Arsenic and Old Lace" (AUNTS); 32A: Clip (SPEED); 34A: Many a '50s-'60s pop act (DUO); 35A: Fine cotton (PIMA); 36A: Moving aid (DOLLY); 38A: Douglas and Fraser (FIRS); 39A: Medium power? (ESP); 40A: Show enthusiasm (RAVE); 41A: Hershey's raw material (CACAO); 46A: Biblical middle child (ABEL); 47A: Jamaican spirits (RUM); 48A: Thin (SPARE); 51A: Get the most out of (MAXIMIZE); 59A: Elects (OPTS); 61A: Ivory Coast neighbor (MALI); 62A: New Mexico resort (TAOS); 63A: Spanish filmmaker Almodóvar (PEDRO); 64A: Hardly at all (A TAD); 2D: Gets along in years (AGES); 3D: Place to take 27-Down (FLAT); 4D: Turnpike roller (TIRE); 6D: Lament (PLAINT); 9D: Where to start playing a round (TEE); 10D: Guide (MANUAL); 11D: Team with a lot of pull? (OXEN); 12D: Blind section (SLAT); 13D: Directors' milieus (SETS); 18D: Exclaimed (CRIED); 21D: Range in seven countries (ALPS); 23D: DNA shape (COIL); 24D: Singular (ONLY); 26D: A conductor sets it (TEMPO); 27D: See 3-Down (TEA); 29D: Proclamation (EDICT); 30D: Subtle qualities (AURAS); 31D: Not too hot (SO-SO); 32D: What houses may be built on (SPEC); 36D: Valley (DALE); 37D: Like the lenses on some granny glasses (OVAL); 38D: Considerably (FAR); 40D: Courtroom cover-up (ROBE); 41D: Book with drawings (COMIC); 43D: Tender touch (CARESS); 44D: Test-taking tip? (ERASER); 45D: Prom dress (TUXEDO); 48D: Tavern measure (SHOT); 49D: Senior Smurf (PAPA); 50D: Chorus line (ALTO); 51D: Bread concern (MOLD); 52D: 49-Down's partner (MAMA); 54D: "J'accuse" author (ZOLA); 57D: Sass (LIP); 58D: Writing on an urn (ODE).


SethG said...

Aside from what you mentioned (INS? Really?), I'll note that RUM are Jamaican spirits. I guess having one older brother and a bunch of younger siblings made ABEL a middle child, but that's a weird clue.

And I don't like [Singular] for ONLY, the singular TUXEDO for [Prom dress], or [Senior Smurf] for PAPA, but that's probably just me being pissy.

Mari said...

I really wanted to use "Oboe" for "big band wind", but I saw right away that it wouldn't fit.

Tab - ick!

Anonymous said...

you take tea to a flat?

Bill said...

Shouldn't RUM be clued singularly, as "Jamaican spirit?

Also, re 52D, I don't think there was a "Mama" Smurf on the show. Not sure how all of those little Smurfs came into the world, but the girl Smurf was the only female, IIRC. I assume the constructor/editor meant for us to separate the "Smurf" part and only use it for 49D.

Conrad said...

@Anonymous - British folks take tea at their flat (apartment)

And @Bill - I think the smurfs were magicked up by Gargamel and then got loose. I don't think they have the right bits for procreation.

Anonymous said...

Smurfette, Sassette, and Nanny.

Steve said...

I'm with @Bill on the singular rum.

The tea/flat connection is also pretty tenuous, IMHO.

The theme was OK, but as @PG said, a bit disconnected.

Rojo said...

I'm with PG on most of her complaints here, with the exception of NILS, which I found ok to pluralize, but perhaps it's more of a Britishism (I remember talk of NILS on report cards when I lived in India, as in "He got two NILS, in geography and math.".

Similarly, the TEA and FLAT answers I found difficult for a bit, but pleasing in the end.

The overall theme, meh!

I was pleased with ZOLA because it saved my butt in the SE corner and because I actually care about the Dreyfus Affair.

Anonymous said...

Had ...TORTE and AURAE, couldn't figure out what was wrong. Had to cheat. Cue head-slapping sound.

Rojo said...

Forgot to mention that I wanted HARI for "America's first spy" so bad before I got any crosses, even though I knew it was probably wrong, that I was a bit perturbed as well as misled when the first letters came in HA...

*David* said...

The whole puzzle seemed a bit uneven to me. The theme has three answers that are specific to law itself and one that is procedural in nature which seems a bit loose. Got stuck the longest in the NE middle where I had MANAGE not MANUAL.

Joon said...

hard to fault the constructor for this, and i think rich norris ordinarily does an outstanding job, but ... yeah. what everybody else said. the clues today are odd.

there is simply no reason to cross-reference FLAT to TEA. who likes having extra cross-references in their puzzle? generally that's only done when the words are so obviously related that it would be weirder for them to be clued separately than together (or when one of them is awkward to clue solo, like EKE or ALAI). PAPA/MAMA at least are obviously related to each other, but then you probably shouldn't clue one of them as a smurf.

cluing INS and NILS as plurals is pretty awkward. likewise ION as a suffix; does "exempt attachment" even have any kind of deceptive surface sense that would make that clue at all fun?

the clue for RUM is actually fine. tricky, sure, but RUM is an acceptable plural of RUM, so i think that's okay. just tough. a lot of the other clues were similarly just tough. wasn't expecting that on a thursday. there were so many vague one-word clues that it might have been a saturday stumper: {Clip}, {Stag}, {Thin}, {Guide}, and {Lament} could all be interpreted in multiple ways. {Elects}, {Singular}, {Silly}, {Considerably}, and {Sass} are at least a little more definite.

for 1a, i wasn't thinking clinton—i was thinking mckinley. maybe i had this song on the brain. but in four letters, what else could it be?

Vega said...

Yes, I was also puzzled about the theme and glad to know I'm not the only one.

Weird that ESP both shows up and is clued in the same way in both NYT and LAT today.

Really appreciate Joon's constructor's viewpoint. These explications make me as a solver enjoy puzzles so much more.

I did think of Clinton first, and wondered if there was a rebus right smack at 1A. That would have been fun. Except for the fact that I don't believe anyone ever referred to him as "Big Bill."

badams52 said...

I liked this puzzle. Really tough for me with needing help in the west end (gave up and use oneacross for PIMA when google failed). But otherwise I was able to get all the answers to the puzzle.

Loved the theme and liked all the punderful answers with CHOCOLATE TORTS being my least faborite(tarte and tort sound nothing alike to me), but would agree with @PG on the PLEA clueing, though it didn't bother me.

Was upset with TEA to take to a FLAT. I would have been happier if it said drink instead of take. When I think of taking tea, I think it as being used in a question such as "How to you take your tea?" Doesn't exactly match up with how the clue is written.

NO problem with NILS, ION or RUM. On INS, I just don't think there is any good way to clue it.

@PG, I'm with you on the TUBA thing. Took me a while to get over the wind instrument could be a horn and not just from the woodwind family.

Per IDLED, when a car IDLes, the motor runs, but there is no forward motion. I was okay with IDLED, but I can see beef. My first instict was lazED, but I could tell the z would probably not work in the puzzle.

Liked the TUXEDO clue for Prom Dress. Took me a while to realize the dress in the clue was asking for generic dress and not a lady's dress i.e. gown.

Also took me a while to separate the PAPA answer from the Smurfs to get the MAMA answer in 52D. But once I got it, I was satisfied.

Also liked 58D [Writing on an urn] for ODE. Took a while for me to reverse my thinking. I first thought about urns being used for ashes of cremation so maybe R.I.P? What else would you engrave on an urn? (On a recent trip to Disneyland one I was looking up the contrabond and one of the things Disney doesn't allow inside the park is cremated remains e.g. urns. So I had urns as a receipticle for ashes on my mind.)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the effort to make a puzzle difficult for the latter part of the week creates poor clues, and destroys the original intent of the constructor.

C said...

I found today's puzzle ... out of sync. The clue TEMPO was off a bit, from hard to obscure to typical thursday back to wtf?, the cluing never settled into a rhythm.

I liked ASTEROID as an answer, thought the clue was pretty good as well.

Overall, I enjoyed the puzzle.

CP said...

Puzzle had a nice theme. Filler OK. Didn't mind flat and tea, seemed to fit well for me. Had COCOA and switched to CACAO and that made all the difference.
Loved the old Canon TV show especially when he "ran" after criminals ala Broderick Crawford.
Big Bill should have been WILY (Clinton), but let's not go there....

CoffeeLvr said...

I found the solve easy enough (well, I didn't need help), but agree that some of the clues were later week tough. I won't repeat @Joon's list, since he got them all. Fortunately, I do later week puzzles; not very well some weeks.

Last letter in was the F in FIRS, was so looking for a surname, after sIRS didn't work.

I agree with @PG and others - the theme answers just don't hang together, despite the sweetness of BEAR CLAwS and CHOCOLATE TORT(e)S, to go along with the TEA and CACAO. But a "double" theme of legal terms and desserts would be too much to expect.

Rube said...

I got stumped at the crosses of TEA and PIMA, and FIRS and FAR. Guessed wrong on both. Tea and flat made no sense so guessed TEe as in a golf tee. Didn't know PIMA so PIMe sounded OK. Never heard of a Fraser FIR. Looked it up and apparently they are found in the Southern Appalachians... a locale where I've never been. We've got Douglas FIRS all over the West coast.

About the puzzle, I feel ambivalent about the theme. Knew that INS would raise a lot of hackles along with NILS and the PAPA/MAMA problem. Will make PIMA my WOTD.

Alexscott said...

This would have been a much easier puzzle if I hadn't at first entered in "Berra Legal" at 17A (instead of BEAR CLAUSE). It took me a while to figure out what I did wrong. I just really wanted to clue to be referring to Yogi Berra and not Yogi Bear. It didn't help that I wanted 5A to be "scram" instead of SPLIT. BEAR CLAUSE is obviously a much better answer than Berra Legal. But, in my defense, I would say that Berra Legal makes at least as much sense as ATTENTION PLEAS (25A).

I agree with everything PG said. Some of the complaints about TEA and FLAT are a bit picky, though. Tea is a traditionally English drink, and Flat is a Britishism. Made sense to me once I got it. Also, I tend to think that the clue for 52D only refers to the answer to 49D, PAPA, not the clue. So it doesn't matter that there is no Mama Smurf. (Though there must have been one at some point, no?)

Fowler said...

I agree with all the awkwardnesses that PG pointed out. For those above who puzzle over the connection between FLAT and TEA, I join with the disgruntled.

It may be because Brits tend to use the word "flat" more often than we do when describing their digs that the phrase, "Let's have tea at my flat," stuck in somebody's mind. Yes? Maybe? But I grew up in a flat in San Francisco (where I suppose the word is still fashionable), and we very rarely took tea there. (You had to be sick, and mom would slip some bourbon it it.)

Later, when I spent years living in England, we all tended to take tea at "home," and in the "parlor," not (in my experience) at anybody's flat.

mac said...

Yes, this puzzle felt awkward, for all the reasoned mentioned above. The flat/tea connection was very odd.
I expect a little more on a Thursday.

Nighthawk said...

Once I finally got the theme of "Legalese", I had no problem with the theme answers. Any document filed with the court may be referred to, generically, as a plea, and many pleas may be called, together, the pleadings. I also actually liked the idea of the legalisms being taken from different areas of the law.

I agree, the cluing was a bit on the devilish/misdirection side of things but that is what separates these latter week puzzles from early week ones, so, on balance thought they were fair, though perhaps more Friday-ish.

Hand up for thinking Berra instead of Boo-Boo's buddy.

Great pic of Cannon, @PG. Though large, he wasn't even in the same girth league as William Howard Taft, a 300+ pounder who, according to legend, because no coffin was made large enough, was buried in a piano case. A Cincinnati lawyer, his firm, Taft, Stettinious & Hollister still practices today. He also served, among other positions, as a Federal Appellate Judge, Solicitor General of the US, Governor-General of the Philippines, and T.R. Roosevelt's Secretary of War and later, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. James Bradley's book, The Imperial Cruise, makes fascinating and provocative reading. Big, and loomed large, in many ways.

Mokus said...

Enjoyed the write-up, PG. Thanks for the William Conrad photo. Just the other day I was thinking of him in connection with the recent passing of James Arness. In the early 50s he was the radio voice of Gunsmoke's Matt Dillon and, for me the only voice of the Dodge City Marshal. I enjoyed the puzzle but had to agree with most of the posts.

HUTCH said...

Hutch here. Solved this puzzle with no help except my 50 year old outdated websters. My conclusion from this is that I am becoming psychotic like the rest of you-alls,or to be more gracious,as one blogger said-"odder}.