07.28 Thu

July 28, 2011
John Dunn

Theme: Right Down the Middle — Each theme answer begins with a word that can precede the words "in the middle" in a familiar phrase.

Theme answers:

  • 16A: Breakfast option (SOFT-BOILED EGGS).
  • 24A/51A: Presley hit with "glue" in the lyrics (STUCK / ON YOU).
  • 38A: "A Clockwork Orange" star (MALCOLM MCDOWELL).
  • 60A: End the chat room suspense, in a way (MEET FACE-TO-FACE).
  • 69A/1A: Spend time frivolously (MONKEY / AROUND).
  • 17D: Like this answer's position, and what can follow the starts of 16-, 24/51-, 38-, 60- and 69/1-Across (IN THE MIDDLE).
This is a great idea for a theme: Put IN THE MIDDLE right down the middle of the grid and build phrases around it that end with IN THE MIDDLE. Perfect. Not a thing wrong with it. And yet …. Holy Cow! This theme is all over the place! The cross-referenced theme answers were just too much for me. When I read the reveal clue (17D: Like this answer's position, and what can follow the starts of 16-, 24/51-, 38-, 60- and 69/1-Across) (!!!) I really just wanted to give up. Sure it all comes together in the end, but it's such a mess along the way! Too frustrating for me to enjoy it. If any of you are aspiring crossword constructors, I'm gonna give you a tip right now: Don't ever clue 1A as "See 69-Across." Just don't. You're welcome.

  • 19A: Slight winning margin (NOSE). I always think there's a chance this answer might be HAIR but it hardly ever is. I think because there are so many other great ways to clue HAIR. Of course there's the musical and then there's all kinds of wordplay you can do using words like part, locks, and even beehive. Every once in a while HAIR is clued as something like a "slight margin of victory," but not very often.
  • 33A: Uffizi display (ARTE). Let's see if I can get the country right on this art museum. I think last time I said the Prado was in Italy. Turns out it's actualy in Spain. Huh. Well, the Uffizi is actually in Italy. Florence to be exact. And ARTE is the Italian word for "art." (Just like in Spanish — so you can see how I might get confused!!)
  • 34A: "Big Love" actress Sevigny (CHLOE). See now, I thought "Big Love" was a reality show. There was a reality show about a polygamous family, right? .... Yep, "Sister Wives." No way I'll ever remember any of that.
  • 56A: Comedian Hartman (PHIL). I was desperately trying to remember his name the other day for some reason and couldn't do it. AARGH! (See what I did there?)
  • 67A: Boorish sorts (CHURLS). Try to use the word CHURL today if you can.
  • 6D: __ gratiam habeamus: Kentucky's Latin state motto (DEO). It means something about God and thanks and … bodies? No wait, it's the "corpus" in "habeas corpus" that means "body." You know what, I'm gonna look it up for you. "Let us be grateful to God." So now you know.
  • 10D: Got fed up? (ATE). Cute question-marky clue. See also 35D: Plot device? (HOE).
  • 40D: Lethargic (LOGY). I love this word. You know why? Because Doug put it in a grid we were working on one time and I had no idea what it meant but now I do. It will never thwart me again!
  • 46D: Not of the cloth (LAICAL). This is one of those words that I think has too many syllables. Like sometimes you'll hear someone stumbling around and say something like "comfortableness." Well, no. "Comfort" would do just fine there. In this case, isn't LAIC enough? Or am I missing something?
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 29A: Mediterranean smoker (ETNA).
  • 43A: Massey of "Rosalie" (ILONA).
  • 50D: "Avatar" extras (ET'S).
  • 62D: Coastal raptor (ERN).
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Everything1A: See 69-Across (AROUND); 7A: Catch-22 (PARADOX); 14A: Retro headgear (BEANIE); 15A: Quintessence (EPITOME); 16A: Breakfast option (SOFT-BOILED EGGS); 18A: Mountain Dew producer, informally (PEPSI); 19A: Slight winning margin (NOSE); 20A: Not divided (ONE); 21A: Easy melodies (LILTS); 24A: With 51-Across, Presley hit with "glue" in the lyrics (STUCK); 29A: Mediterranean smoker (ETNA); 31A: "__ Coy Mistress": Andrew Marvell poem (TO HIS); 33A: Uffizi display (ARTE); 34A: "Big Love" actress Sevigny (CHLOE); 36A: Asylum seeker (EMIGRÉ); 38A: "A Clockwork Orange" star (MALCOLM MCDOWELL); 42A: Gushed on stage (EMOTED); 43A: Massey of "Rosalie" (ILONA); 44A: Talk with one's hands (SIGN); 45A: Like days of yore (OLDEN); 47A: "Great shot!" ("NICE!"); 51A: See 24-Across (ON YOU); 53A: Professional pitcher? (ADMAN); 55A: Edit out (CUT); 56A: Comedian Hartman (PHIL); 58A: Excludes (OMITS); 60A: End the chat room suspense, in a way (MEET FACE-TO-FACE); 66A: Chaplin's tramp, e.g. (PERSONA); 67A: Boorish sorts (CHURLS); 68A: Non-specific (GENERAL); 69A: With 1-Across, spend time frivolously (MONKEY); 1D: Out of the picture (ABSENT); 2D: Start up after a fire, say (REOPEN); 3D: Dumbbells (OAFS); 4D: Before (UNTIL); 5D: Tip for a writer? (NIB); 6D: __ gratiam habeamus: Kentucky's Latin state motto (DEO); 7D: Boehner's predecessor (PELOSI); 8D: Plays Simon says with (APES); 9D: Harley outings (RIDES); 10D: Got fed up? (ATE); 11D: Follow (DOG); 12D: Texting exclamation (OMG); 13D: Cancels (out) (X'ES); 17D: Like this answer's position, and what can follow the starts of 16-, 24/51-, 38-, 60- and 69/1-Across (IN THE MIDDLE); 18D: Macabre master (POE); 22D: Tepid response to "How's this?" (IT'LL DO); 23D: Tower (over) (LOOM); 25D: Home of Nationals pitcher Chien-Ming Wang (TAIWAN); 26D: Try to convince (URGE); 27D: PC key (CTRL); 28D: Nautical spine (KEEL); 30D: Passbook ID (ACCT. NO.); 32D: Sonoran Desert resort city (SEDONA); 35D: Plot device? (HOE); 37D: Work wk. start (MON.); 38D: Prefix with -zoic (MESO); 39D: "The Last King of Scotland" tyrant (AMIN); 40D: Lethargic (LOGY); 41D: Skelton persona Kadiddlehopper (CLEM); 46D: Not of the cloth (LAICAL); 48D: Standoffish one (ICICLE); 49D: Like Care Bears (CUTESY); 50D: "Avatar" extras (ET'S); 52D: Ready and willing to do (UP FOR); 54D: Like a stick-in-the-mud (NO FUN); 57D: '80s tennis great Mandlikova (HANA); 59D: New Testament figure (MARK); 60D: Sticker stat (MPG); 61D: Shoe spec (EEE); 62D: Coastal raptor (ERN); 63D: Prufrock poet's monogram (TSE); 64D: Cable sta. for vintage films (TCM); 65D: "Gotcha!" ("OHO!").


Anonymous said...

Interesting puzzle and cluing, but I was a bit chuffed by the combo of the clue for 41D ("Skelton persona ...") and the answer for 66A ("persona"). Seems to me that you shouldn't do that. Maybe it's just me.

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Rojo said...

I concur with not cluing 1A as "See 69-Across." That made me crotchety right at the start. The theme was alright, although I had "IN THE center" right at the start.

I just realized that I pronounce "comfortable" with only three syllables as "comf-ter-bul" and always have. I have literally never thought about the difference between the way it is spelled and the way I pronounce it. What do you think, did I get that from growing up near New York or am I just a lazy sod? LAICAL, otoh, I think I pronounce correctly. Hard C, right?

Rojo said...

oh, also, I didn't realize that STUCK/ON YOU and MONKEY/AROUND were theme answers until I read PG's post here. I didn't read the clue very carefully and my eyes only gravitated to the long answers as theme answers.

Sfingi said...

Anon616 - That's your Natick. For oldsters, not.

Anyway, I though I would have to Google a lot, but did not at all. Did not know, but got on crosses: ILONA Massey, PEPSI, HANA Mandlikova, TAIWAN, DEO gratiam habeamus, SEDONA.

For some reason, I thought the star of A Clockwork Orange was Michael Pollard, so that slowed me down. That is a great but scary movie. If anyone hasn't seen it, see it, but with a friend whose hand you can grab.

Hand up for "center" before MIDDLE, TMC before TCM.

Hubster, the lyric man, got me STUCK ON YOU.

Mini-theme: MONKEY, APES.

For newbies, I have to say, when I started a couple years ago, I would not have had the nerve or self-assuredness to throw PARADOX, EPITOME or PERSONA in at the get-go, as I did today. So there is improvement, and plateauing.

Nighthawk said...

Absolutely agree with @PG about 1A as a cross reference to 69A. Set my teeth on edge. Though I do like the answers to both, cluing is just, even for a Thursday, not cricket.

Best. Cartoon. Ever. (And that it has the two fill answers of DOG and HOE is not half bad either.) (Reminds me of the old cigarette ads: "What do you want? Good grammar, or great taste?) Nice to have good grammar dodge/juke/deke the taste issue.

Filled the theme revealer from a few letters, but it really didn't help much on the theme answers. Not sure what, exactly, MONKEY in the middle is, but it sounds vaguely familiar as a children's game. The long themes seemed easier to fill without trying to relate them to the revealer, but did use it for 16A to suss out whether is would be a hard or SOFT egg.

I was thrown a bit with 64D. I thought it might The Movie Channel (TMC), or TBS or AMC. A bit like having a clue for a 3 letter answer being: "Federal Agy." Also, thought, who is the key figure of the New Testament whose name begins MAR_? That would be MARy. MARK would be a very distant second. And no, I don't think I will be using CHURLS very soon. All of which is to say that the whole SE corner was a mess, and took forever to bring into focus, which made MONKEY that much more obscure and totally unhelpful as a cross-reference to 1A, which brings us back to -- "Doe, a deer, ... ."

Anonymous said...

Sfingi said...
Anon616 - That's your Natick.

Anon616 comment was you shouldn't use a word in a clue that is an answer somewhere else in the puzzle, not a Natick.

Tuttle said...

"Monkey in the Middle" is definitely a regionalism of the northeast and midwest US. In the south and west it's just called "keep away".

8D.... unless Simon Says is played differently by Yankees as well, it does not involve aping. It would be called Simon Does if you mimicked what the leader is doing rather than obeying what he is saying (so long as it follows 'Simon says' of course).

Oh, and ETS should be clued as an abrev.

badams52 said...

Completely agree with @PG, et. al. - never clue 1A as "See 69-Across." Otherwise, didn't mind finding all the theme answers. I already had PHIL in place, so no center for me, just IN THE MIDDLE. Having hard BOILED EGGS at first slowed me down though. Like @Nighthawk, Never heard of the phrase monkey in the middle before, but otherwise thought the theme entries were good.

Loved the cartoon PG!

Puzzle was a googlefest for me today. PELOSI (I'm not very political), DEO, AMIN, HANA, CLEM, and TSE (Guess there will be no "half a fly" clue on a Thursday).

Also had CUddly before CUTESY. And enc and Tmc before T_M. Didn't know of TCM before.

*David* said...

I just played Monkey in the Middle with my kids in LA, its used around here.

I was IN THE MIDDLE on this puzzle. I liked the ambition of the theme but was queasy with its placement. The other thing that caused me to be hesitant in my love was the top and bottom with all the 3 letter fill. Those usually have cringe worthy fill and the SW took the cake with EEE, ERN, and TSE.

CarolC said...

Flew thru the puzzle til I got to SE corner. Googled to ger HANA Mandlikova, which I should really know by now, and the rest fell in place.

I grew up in the south, never heard of Monkey in the middle, but also pronounce comfortable with 3 syllables.

@PG, best cartoon ever (the one with the dog). Thanks!

Y'all, what is a natick?

C said...

I agree with the comments about starting 1A with "See 69 across" (which, after I type it sounds kinda like something out of the Kama Sutra advanced edition) but then, if constructors only created puzzles with clues I liked, you guys would be solving endless sports, science, music and bugs bunny themed puzzles and eventually get fed up with solving crosswords, quitting and then newspapers would stop publishing crosswords and I would end up with nothing to solve, so, for the greater good, I will put up with today's 1A clue.

With great power comes great responsibility

From today's write up, looks like you are feeling better, @PG, good to see.

Anonymous said...

Hey, PG, you might have learned that the Prado is in Spain from me/us. But I learned then that "arte" is Italian, from you, which was a huge help today. So many thanks!


P.S. I too would like to know what "Natick" means?

Tom said...

I'm gonna spoil the mutual whining fest here and suggest that you guys sack up on clues like 1A. You're welcome. (See what I did there?) AARGH!

Anonymous said...

Natick - A word used in crosswordese, coined by blogger Rex Parker, meaning two crossing words/clues that very very few people would know. As an example, one clue would be "A town in the eighth mile of the Bostom marathon" Answer-Natick

I'm calling Natick on 12 down, 22 across.

Per Urban Dictionary.

*David* said...

Natick-Meaning two crossing words that all your peers were somehow able to figure out and get correct but you didn't and are grasping for a straw for why you had one incorrect square in an otherwise perfect crossword.

Fowler said...

Tough one, but I liked it. Fun for Thursday. (Sorry, PG!) The theme is very clever, but I agree that it was all over the place and so did not help one bit. Still, its brilliance came through at the end.
I didn't mind the split of 1A with 69A. It actually helped me (caused me to change AHA to OHO and get the New Testament answer).

Bill said...

What PG said.

CoffeeLvr said...

"Clockwork Orange" is one of my very favorite movies, based on a novel by one of my favorite authors, Anthony Burgess. I remember the night I decided my HS age son was old enough to watch it with me. Not as shocking a few years ago as it was when it came out. At any rate, MALCOLM MCDOWELL was a gimme for me. As was CLEM; my Dad was a huge Red Skelton fan, so I watched with him. Family nights in front of the TV paid off.

This puzzle had two of my favorite words in a stack!! EPITOME & PARADOX.

I had one error: GENERic before GENERAL. Didn't know HANA Mandlikova and wanted LAIC, not more for 46D.

I thought the theme part of MONKEY AROUND was "around the middle" when I wrapped up the puzzle, because AROUND was first in the grid. Clearly, I was mixed up!

mac said...

Glad you are back, PG. Agree with the laic/laical point. Logy is good, thwart is better!

Liked a lot of the clues, especially Plot device.

Of course I tried to put in ars before deo.

Nice puzzle!

Dave in Bend, OR said...

FWIW - What is with 18A - Why would Pepsi be "informal". Seems as if Pepsico might be informal. Cute theme but the Monkey in the Middle thing is new to me. Either the West Coast or no kids seems to be my excuse. Glad you are better PG! Although the replies to Natick above are adequate, the coiner of the phrase (Rex Parker) best explains it in his FAQ -