TUESDAY, June 23, 2009 — Gary Lowe and Nancy Salomon

Theme: Countdown — Theme answers are familiar phrases in which the last word of the phrase is something that might be counted.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Informal polls (STRAW VOTES).
  • 26A: Cause of unhealthful weight gain (EMPTY CALORIES).
  • 45A: Rockies grazers (MOUNTAIN SHEEP).
  • 60A: Prominent schnozzes (ROMAN NOSES).
  • 54D: Tally, and what to do with the last word of 18-, 26-, 45- or 60-Across (COUNT).
Crosswordese 101: ORAN is clued today as 1A: Algerian city on the Mediterranean. That's a typical clue for this word, especially in an early-week puzzle. Other noteworthy things about ORAN: Yves Saint Laurent was born there, Camus was born there, Camus's "The Plague" and "The Stranger" are set there, it's east of Tangier, and it was captured by the Allies in 1942. I also have a pretty good friend named ORAN who lives in New Mexico, but I don't think that will help your puzzle solving.

Hey there. Y'all sick of me yet? Seems like I'm everywhere, doesn't it? Well, today I'm here and we're talking about this Tuesday puzzle. I'm probably not going to spend a lot of time talking about it because, well, let me back up a minute. The other day I was having an email exchange with a puzzle constructor about this blog. I was telling him that it's a lot easier for me to sit down and write about the stuff that I don't like in a puzzle than it is to write about the stuff that I do like. And I really think that says more about my personality than about anything else. So I just want to say right here that when I'm giving you my opinion about a puzzle? That's exactly what it is: totally my opinion. I'm actually one of those people who believes that objectivity is a myth. So please don't think that I'm up here on my high horse telling you what you should and shouldn't like. Really, I'm just telling you what I do and don't like and I hope that will serve as a jumping-off point for the comments section. SO. With all that said ... I didn't care much for this puzzle. (I bet you knew that's where I was going with this! Because you're so smart!)

There were so many things that seemed "off" to me. For example, I've heard of a straw poll but never STRAW VOTES. Also, MOUNTAIN SHEEP? Seems like it should be goats. I'm sure mountain sheep are perfectly legitimate animals, but that doesn't mean I have to like them showing up in my Tuesday puzzle. LAME seems like a pretty old-fashioned way of saying 16A: Limping. And LAVS for 58A: Johns? What country are we in? I can think of a lot of things to call Dr. Laura, but ADVICE GURU isn't one of them. And please don't get me started on the duet of horrible N words: NITERY (6D: Cabaret, casually) and NATANT (46D: Swimming).

Did I like anything about the puzzle? Well, sure:
  • 35A: "__ Millionaire": 2008 Best Picture (SLUMDOG). I haven't seen this movie yet, but noticed it while browsing the On Demand offerings the other night. It's awesome to see in the puzzle because it's so current.
  • 55A: Chip maker __-Lay (FRITO). I had no idea how offensive the Frito Bandito commercials were when I was a kid. I also didn't understand "All in the Family." I guess that's what happens when you grow up in a small town full of white people.

  • 59A: Gusto (BRIO). Love the word BRIO. Even though I confidently entered elan at first.
  • 66A: Write to on a cell phone (TEXT). This one is notable to me only because it raises a question I think is interesting. Do you really think of texting as "writing to"? I actually think of it more as "talking." I suppose "communicating" would be more apt, but, I don't know. To me it just feels like talking. Maybe that's just because PuzzleHusband and I text each other from different rooms of the house instead of, ya know, going to find each other and literally talking.
  • 1D: Bedtime hr. after a late date, perhaps (ONE A.M.). Random.
  • 30D: Antony's loan request? (EARS). This is by far the best thing in the puzzle. "Friends, Romans [especially those with ROMAN NOSES], countrymen, lend me your ears...." Love it.
Everything Else — 5A: Curriculum parts (UNITS); 10A: London fellow (CHAP); 14A: Nothing, in Nuevo Laredo (NADA); 15A: Dressed to the __ (NINES); 17A: Ltr. holders (ENVS); 20A: Working busily (AT IT); 21A: Wide shoe sizes (EEES); 22A: What's happening (EVENT); 23A: Native American shoe, briefly (MOC); 24A: Lee whom nobody doesn't like (SARA); 25A: Grabbed a bite (ATE); 32A: Chills and fever (AGUE); 33A: Single or homer (HIT); 34A: "Don't think so" (NAH); 38A: 17th century French playwright (MOLIÈRE); 41A: Month after Mar. (APR.); 42A: "Norma __" (RAE); 44A: "Need You Tonight" rock group (INXS); 50A: MSN competitor (AOL); 51A: Big water pipe (MAIN); 52A: PC bailout key (ESC); 62A: Rebuke to Brutus (ET TU); 63A: Lyricist Lerner (ALAN); 64A: Come after (ENSUE); 65A: Sheltered valley (GLEN); 67A: Sobs (WEEPS); 68A: Part of CBS: Abbr. (SYST.); 2D: Totaled (RAN TO); 3D: Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura, e.g. (ADVICE GURU); 4D: G.O.P. elephant creator Thomas (NAST); 5D: Oust from office (UNSEAT); 7D: Attainable (IN REACH); 8D: Afternoon cupfuls (TEAS); 9D: Detroit-to-Baton Rouge dir. (SSW); 10D: Four-leaf plant (CLOVER); 11D: Can't stand (HATE); 12D: Flock's "Absolutely!" (AMEN); 13D: Pain in the neck (PEST); 19D: Bill killer (VETO); 24D: Hightailed it (SPED); 25D: Voice below soprano (ALTO); 27D: Tight-lipped (MUM); 28D: Prepare to fire (AIM); 29D: Hardly in a skillful way (INEXPERTLY); 31D: Every other hurricane (SHE); 32D: Grrravy dog food maker (ALPO); 35D: "Casablanca" pianist (SAM); 36D: Word-of-mouth (ORAL); 37D: Merry, in Marseilles (GAI); 39D: Property claim (LIEN); 40D: Serpent suffix (-INE); 43D: All together (EN MASSE); 47D: Elmer Fudd, e.g. (TOON); 48D: Keep in a piggy bank (SAVE UP); 49D: Sibilant catcalls (HISSES); 53D: Web destinations (SITES); 55D: House on campus (FRAT); 56D: Play part (ROLE); 57D: Big-screen format (IMAX); 58D: One and only (LONE); 59D: Pleads (BEGS); 61D: Never done before (NEW).


mac said...

Hi PG.
Soso puzzle, but that one clue about Antony's loan request just jumped out! Fantastic. Agree with you about nitery, but I don't have a problem with natant.

Wonder if we're going to have a discussion here wether Frito-Lay is really the "maker" or Pepsi.

gjelizabeth said...

Well, I had fun. One reason I like to come here is that I can review all the clues and answers in one spot, cleanly, without all the mental clutter and write-overs of the paper puzzle in my hand. Thus, I noticed the neat ETTU that went with the EARS and the ROMANNOSES. Also, any puzzle that includes AGUE (which seems to be every third one these days) is okay by me.

Denise said...

One thing that I have found interesting about puzzles is that a word or phrase will appear & be very new -- and then, a day or two later, it shows up again (ROMAN NOSES -- where did I just see that?).

I was ready to change everything and put in BISTRO -- NITERY? Never been there.

When I was a freshman in college, we had one "one o'clock" each semester. I met my husband in early January, and, when he called for a date the following weekend, I insisted that we use the "one o'clock." (This was back when semesters were longer.) I never really stayed out much later than that!

jeff in chicago said...

I like any puzzle that has AGUE in it. I just like that word. Is that strange? Also ETTU, TOON and IMAX. Fun in four letters.

I had both the E's in already when I got to MOUNTAINSHEEP, so I figured that had to be the answer, but I wrinkled my nose at it.

All in all an easy puzzle with a few groaners. I'll take it.

Carol said...

Actually in the Sierra Nevada Mountains here in California we have Bighorn Sheep. However, we definitely don't call them Mountain Sheep!

Never heard of INXS - must be because of my age.

A reasonable puzzle for Tuesday, but didn't get Antony's ears - cute.

Gary Lowe said...

... Oh sure, you sweat for hours over SLUMDOG/ADVICEGURU, and everyone comes out in favor of BRIO and EARS? Who am I to AGUE ..


*David* said...

One word, awkward.

Anonymous said...

I liked it! All the clues and answers made sense to me.

eileen said...

Does anyone really say INEXPERTLY?
Myself, I would say INEXPERIENCED.
Otherwise, the puzzle was so-so for a Tuesday cwp.

Anonymous said...

Too many awkward clues/answers for a simple puzzle. I must say, advice guru wasn't the first thing that came to mind when I read the clue ;)

chefbea said...

Easy puzzle. Loved the clue for ears also

Loved the Frito Bandito clip - I remember that from way back when.

Joon said...

gary, congrats on your puzzle! is it a debut? i can't find any previous puzzles with your name, so if it is a debut, congratulations again!

i loved ADVICE GURU and SLUMDOG, but i'm with PG in that i found two of the theme entries awkward. SWING VOTES would sounded more "in the language" to me than STRAW VOTES. or even better... BALLOTS. that's what they count, right? anyway, MOUNTAIN SHEEP also rankled; it really wanted to be GOATS. i wonder if there's another set of four matched-length theme answers that would have worked. how about BLACK SHEEP (10), SECRET BALLOTS (13), EMPTY CALORIES (13), and ROMAN NOSES (10)? anyway, this is all water under the bridge now, but i can't help myself.

anyway, i hope you keep making more puzzles. looking forward to seeing your next one.

Gary Lowe said...

@Joon - Thanks! I never in a million years questioned straw votes or mountain sheep. Live and learn.
Funnily enough, I was very careful before going with Roman Noses because I had never heard THAT one before.
I have several on the go, at least two of which have already made Rich's circular file, but I may get lucky again one day.

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Unknown said...

I am with folks on the awkwardness of MOUNTAIN SHEEP and STRAW VOTE.
Liked the Vote-Veto cross though.
Mostly a good puzzle.

chefwen said...

This puzzle,for me, was very easy and I had no problems with straw votes or mountain sheep. My only groan was nitery. "Hey I know of this really cool nitery where we can all get stupid on empty calories".

Orange said...

@chefwen, that sounds great! Where is this nitery? I will totally meet you there for empty calories.

john farmer said...

Hey, if I want an "opinion" from my doctor* I have to sit in the waiting room for 30 minutes and then pay through the nose. These crossword opinions ain't a bad deal.

* Lately, I don't agree with what she says either.

In my opinion (worth every penny you paid), I thought it was a fine puzzle. To me, STRAW VOTE and STRAW POLL are pretty much interchangeable, like SODA and POP, though one is more widely used than the other. I also thought MOUNTAIN SHEEP was perfectly okay. Anyone ever hear of a bighorn?

The type of theme isn't blazing any new ground, but the COUNT-ing tie-in worked for me. I wasn't crazy about NATANT. I did like NITERY. Overall, I say it was a good, solid puzzle.

Congrats on the debut, Gary. Smart idea, working with Nancy. Keep 'em coming.

Orange said...

The dictionary I checked lists "straw poll (also straw vote)." Either works for me, though I'm more familiar with poll.

Charles Bogle said...

It's a real treat to have the benefit of this puzzle constructor's views on the blog; thank you, @garylowe, congrats and good luck for many more

I had a lot of fun w your puzzle and enjoyed the counting theme. The clue for EARS was one of the most clever I've seen, and appreciate your working in ETTU

What gave me incredible trouble--more than I bargained for on a Tuesday--was the bottom middle. ENMASSE is innovative and took me forever. Until I got it, I couldn't put down LAVS (which I "get," and hadn't previously heard). WEEPS was my last choice after wails

I do share the critical views of others re NATANT and NITERY--but they were "gettable" by crossing and that's part of what this is all about.

Keep them coming!

Charles Bogle said...

Btw, @puzzlegirl, I like your insights and opinions a lot. Don't hold back; esp for those of who are fairly new to this game, the more learned and well-intended opinions, the better. Yours are always good-natured

Also btw, @gary, SYST for "part of CBS" was awesome and inspired

chefwen said...

@Orange - It's here on Kauai at my house, you can meet my famous dog.

trishb said...

I love this blog. Thanks for all the time you three devote. I have been visiting sincce day one, but just decided to join the conversation.

Congrats Gary. Fune Tuesday puzzle. I'm not a big ague fan, but I do enjoy the occasional ettui.

John C. said...

Funny, the theme fill that most baffled me was ROMANNOSES. Not because I hadn't heard of that phrase (in fact, I'm pretty sure I've got one), but because I've never heard "count noses" before. I guess it's like "count heads"?