FRIDAY, Jul. 17, 2009 — Dan Naddor

THEME: from T's to D's — phrases containing words with double-Ts have those Ts changed to Ds, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

My feelings toward this puzzle are basically warm, but it's a weird one in a lot of ways. First, not only was it easy (much easier than yesterday's, even), but it may be the easiest Friday I've ever done. Under 4 1/2 minutes on a Friday = insanity. What's weirder - the grid does not look like one I should have been able to dash through. Those are some big chunks of white at the top and bottom of this grid. It's hard to dust a puzzle off that has considerable white space, and the NW and SE are pretty dang wide-open. Only two black squares in the first three lines (and again in the last three lines) of the puzzle. That's white. But in the middle, by contrast, the white space gets shattered into a bunch of little pieces, such that there is no Down answer longer than 6 letters in the whole grid. Black squares shelter the theme answers, so that no Downs run through more than two of them at a time. So your middle is full of 3- and 4-letter words, which means more common / familiar fill, which means (because cluing was not pitched at a very difficult level) hot knife met butter as I moved down the grid.

The fill seems mostly strong, though the middle is full of a lot of more UGLIness than I'd like (25D: Wrinkly fruit), and RESEEK = fail. More fail = SYL, TODS (name another TOD, right now ... too late, time's up), AT NINE (true enough, but boo to arbitrary AT [blank] answer), and HOERS. WHORES yes, HOERS no. L.A. LAKER (47A: Staples Center NBAer) and STAR TREK (66A: 2009 film based on a TV show that premiered in 1966) are nice (I like Ks) and the very literal translation IN ITSELF (1A: per se) works very well too. The theme — it was OK. First answer, I didn't know the original phrase: PUTTING ON THE DOG. I think I saw it in an NYT puzzle once, but I've already forgotten what it means. Apparently it means 'to make a display of wealth or importance, especially by dressing stylishly and flashily'. Dates from 1860s. Mmm, dated. Didn't care much for the last theme answer either. The middle ones were more entertaining.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Evidence of a spilled dessert? (PUDDING ON THE DOG)
  • 22A: Nervous ticks? (SHUDDER BUGS)
  • 35A: Linens for jockeys? (OFF-TRACK BEDDING)
  • 51A: Slope where sycophants hang out? (NODDING HILL)
  • 57A: What a yenta exam does? (TEST ONE'S MEDDLE) — I really wish a "yenta exam" were something.

Word of the Day: ENOS (56A: 1961 space chimp) — ENOS comes in many types, the "space chimp" variety being one of the more popular. ENOS went up to make sure it was cool for John Glenn, who orbited earth a year later. ENOS Slaughter was a successful baseball player of the 40s-50s, and he shows up in the grid from time to time. ENOS is also a biblical name (from the genealogies of Adam) and the name of a short-lived "Dukes of Hazzard" spin-off.

What else?

  • 30A: Sicily's capital? (ESS) — this clue has three possible answer: one geographical, one financial, and the last one (our answer) alphabetical.
  • 55A: Playground assertion ("IS TOO") — the playground taunt / retort / assertion brand of clue is much-reviled. And yet it never goes away.
  • 9D: Fried fare often served with applesauce (LATKES) — never sure about that "E." Wants to be an "A" thanks to "Taxi."
  • 23D: Group dance done while holding hands (HORA) — downside of speed-solving: sometimes you don't read the clue completely. I had HULA.
  • 38D: Site of the active volcano Mount Agung (BALI) — I did not know that.
  • 49D: Exhibit Darwinism (EVOLVE) — I thought Darwinism was a theory of evolution, not evolution itself. I'm not sure what the distinction is, but it *feels* important.

That's all. Enjoy the weekend.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Per se (IN ITSELF); 9A: Research, in a way (LOOKUP); 15A: Statue, perhaps (MEMORIAL); 16A: When some shifts start (AT NINE); 17A: Evidence of a spilled dessert? (PUDDING ON THE DOG); 19A: Symbol of love (EROS); 20A: Any of the Beverly Hillbillies (YOKEL); 21A: PC linkup (LAN); 22A: Nervous ticks? (SHUDDER BUGS); 28A: Consider overnight (SLEEP ON); 30A: Sicily's capital? (ESS); 31A: Figured out (GOT); 32A: They're usually rolled out (TARPS); 34A: Hipbones (ILIA); 35A: Linens for jockeys? (OFF-TRACK BEDDING); 41A: Miss equivalent? (MILE); 42A: W, once (YALIE); 43A: Sports drink suffix (-ADE); 44A: Pinch, so to speak (NAB); 47A: Staples Center NBAer (L.A. LAKER); 51A: Slope where sycophants hang out? (NODDING HILL); 54A: It may be added to impress (-IVE); 55A: Playground assertion (IS TOO); 56A: 1961 space chimp (ENOS); 57A: What a yenta exam does? (TESTS ONE'S MEDDLE); 63A: "The Joy Luck Club" author (AMY TAN); 64A: Fetch (RETRIEVE); 65A: Artist's home, perhaps (COLONY); 66A: 2009 film based on a TV show that premiered in 1966 (STAR TREK); 1D: Drives forward (IMPELS); 2D: __ network (NEURAL); 3D: "Finished!" ("I'M DONE!"); 4D: "Dracula" (1931) director Browning et al. (TODS); 5D: Hindu honorific (SRI); 6D: Cologne article (EIN); 7D: Jet problem? (LAG); 8D: Rock's Pink __ (FLOYD); 9D: Fried fare often served with applesauce (LATKES); 10D: Catchall column heading (OTHERS); 11D: Produce amt. (ONE LB.); 12D: Tease (KID); 13D: Game with Draw Two cards (UNO); 14D: Takedown unit? (PEG); 18D: Junction point (NODE); 22D: Bandy words (SPAR); 23D: Group dance done while holding hands (HORA); 24D: Offensive to some, briefly (UN-P.C.); 25D: Wrinkly fruit (UGLI); 26D: Cross the threshold (GO IN); 27D: Beast with a rack (STAG); 29D: Suffix which may be 24-Down (-ETTE); 33D: Shade of blue (SKY); 34D: Flash of sorts (IDEA); 35D: Arabian Sea nation (OMAN); 36D: Generic pooch (FIDO); 37D: Hightailed it (FLED); 38D: Site of the active volcano Mount Agung (BALI); 39D: Airline to Eilat (EL AL); 40D: Pickle flavoring (DILL); 44D: Xterra maker (NISSAN); 45D: "I come to bury Caesar" speaker (ANTONY); 46D: Weed __: lawn-care product (B GON); 48D: More caring (KINDER); 49D: Exhibit Darwinism (EVOLVE); 50D: Look for again (RESEEK); 52D: "Same here!" ("DITTO!"); 53D: Weed whackers (HOERS); 56D: Work for Money, maybe (EDIT); 57D: Part of a winning trio (TAC); 58D: Musical genre related to punk (EMO); 59D: Dict. division (SYL.); 60D: An hour's worth of tunes, maybe (SET); 61D: NYC subway inits. (MTA); 62D: Mess up (ERR).


humorlesstwit said...

If there were ever a puzzle which screams for inclusion of a sine wave clue/answer (which I'm not sure there is), this one was it.

Overall nice puzzle. Except that I thought the dance was the TORA, not the HORA, so it took a while to segue away from STUDDERBUMS.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the puzzle and the write-up!

Gary Lowe said...

Can't wrap my head around TESTONESMEDDLE - I've got MEDDLE = STICK YOUR NOSE IN, but then ...
I must be missing something.

Anonymous said...

Easy to miss something today. I am not familiar with some sayings, esp. pudding on the dog. Who spills pudding nowadays anyway??

Crockett1947 said...

Jennie from yesterday: The highlighted letter is where the cursor was located when the grid was completed and copied for blog inclusion. It is not an indication of importance or error, just location.

Anonymous said...

Theme didn't do much for me, and the theme answers were pretty bland as well. Weed whackers = hoers ? Not buying it. Too much stuff like atnine, onelb, unpc. Not very satisfying for a Friday.

Orange said...

@Gary, MEDDLE is only a verb outside the confines of this theme entry. I'm OK with it as wordplay, but no, one doesn't have meddle.

@Anonymous, Rex explained what the original phrase "put on the dog" means. There's no such thing as PUDDING ON THE DOG, just as there's no such thing as OFF-TRACK BEDDING or a NODDING HILL. Also? I wouldn't put it past my son to spill pudding.

The attentive reader will notice that PuzzleGirl uses a red square and I use an orange one, while Rex has sky blue. In Across Lite, which we all use to solve the crossword and produce a crisp solution grid, users can choose the highlight color.

Crockett1947 said...

@Gary Lowe, that would become TEST ONES METTLE, or "see what you're made of," I believe. OK?

@Orange, I hadn't caught the difference in the colored square. Did you agree on colors or is that an individual preference that just worked out?

*David* said...

I had a quasi-similar solving experience as Rex did except I started off slow but finished off with guns blazing. It took me a while to get a foothold but once I did the other half of the puzzle fell like a Mon/Tues. This left the puzzle in the overall moderate category for my skill set.

I wanted OKIES for Beverly Hill Billies. Liked seeing AMY TAN in her entirety and the LA LAKERS.

shrub5 said...

@Gary Lowe: The phrase "test one's mettle" means putting your courage, spirit or energy to the test in a difficult situation.
e.g., "Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's mettle was tested as she faced tough questioning in the Senate confirmation hearing."

This was a relatively speedy solve today although I had a few stumbles. For some reason, I thought 44D) Xterra maker referred to some kind of video game and after a couple of letters, entered dISney -- and dAB looked good for 44A) Pinch. I got it straightened out quickly.

I liked TAC for 57D) Part of a winning trio. I first thought of wrestling and entered Pin for 14D) Takedown unit? before it became PEG (cute).

47A) LALAKER as written looks like LalaLand which is appropriate, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Anyone can do a puzzle when they make up their own answers. What's with meddle and ess

Orange said...

Anonymous 8:56, are you for real? MEDDLE is a real word, given a fake noun application for the sake of wordplay. And what are crosswords about if not playing with words?

As for ESS, that's a hot topic among crossword constructors. Some say "Phooey, nobody uses these spelled-out names for letters, so they're bogus as crossword fill," while others say "Well, they're legitimate in that they are words in the dictionary, and they let us use these tricky hyper-literal clues that some solvers love." I tend to like those tricky clues, but they drive some people bonkers.

Gary Lowe said...

OK, I'm all good with "Test one's mettle", always was. My comment was, as an example, "Pudding on the dog" (the root phrase was used by my Brit. father-in-law, BTW), I can see PUDDING on a DOG. For equivalence sake, tho, I cannot see TESTING one's MEDDLE. MEDDLING, maybe. I guess we are to assume that if you MEDDLE in something, the situation is called a MEDDLE, as in if I MESS something up, it is a MESS.

Did I get it right, Orange? - Also, I think anon @ 7:48 was kidding.

PS Hats off to DN for a good puzzle.

PuzzleGirl said...

Rex and I are totally different wavelengths today. PUDDING ON THE DOG made me laugh myself silly. Picture it! Pudding! On the dog!

Denise said...

Putting on the dog may have been coined in the 19th century, but it was in general use in the mid-20th. People, you need to watch The Thin Man movies.

My absolute favorite was PUDDING ON THE DOG. I loved the image of a toddler pouring his dessert on the waiting pooch, who lurks under the high chair, hoping for a treat.

This was 10 minutes for me, pretty fast for a Friday.

My final letter was the C in the bottom left corner -- could not see it. And then, OF COURSE!!

That's the fun of it all.

I am not Jewish, but I do know that YENTAS are often clued as SNOOPs, etc. So, the test is to find out if you are really good at ferreting out information so you can gossip about it. It was kind of a Jewish puzzle, but I am lucky that some of my best friends . . .

Dan Naddor said...

Bless your heart, Denise! That's exactly what I had in mind for PUDDING ON THE DOG -- highchair hijinks. You made my morning with your imagery (great minds thinking alike, right?)

James said...

Though it may never be part of a clue, Enos Slaughter played in the '40s and '50s, most notably with the St. Louis Cardinals.

But then, who's counting?

Rex Parker said...

No idea how I booted the ENOS Slaughter reference. I had *some* player's wikipedia open when I said he played ball in 60s-70s. Maybe I still had TITO Francona's page open.


Anonymous said...

I've just noticed that the Thursday and Friday puzzles have patterns that are upside-down images of themselves. That is, the black-white layout is the same when looking at the puzzles directly or upside down. Is there a name for this? Is it harder to construct this style?

jazz said...

Is nobody here a Tiger fan? Enos Cabell is truly a famous Enos to Detroiters.

Overall, I thought it tough (I'm not as experienced as the rest of you) but had to google 4 answers to get the rest of it.

I don't understand the clue for 29-Down (suffix which may be 24-down) = ETTE? And somehow, the dance turned into TOGA which yielded STUDDERBUGS (and had totally fouled up TARPS, etc.) ...but for me, not bad.

Joon said...

humorlesstwit, yes, there is.

anonymous 12:09, literally every single puzzle you'll ever see in the LA times (and the vaaaaast majority of other puzzles) has this same feature (same placement of black squares when you turn the grid upside-down). it's one of the requirements for a puzzle, actually. and it's only violated when the constructor has a very good reason for doing so.

Guin said...

This puzzle appears each day in the Fresno Bee. I usually do it with my dog Malone sitting on my lap (83 lb Lab). We got such a laugh at "PUDDING ON THE DOG"; Malone would have been so delighted to have pudding spilled on him. We enjoyed this puzzle, and were familiar with all the expressions.

humorlesstwit said...

@Joon - That puzzle was ok if you accept circles which form patterns in your puzzle. I don't like circles forming patterns in my puzzle. I've composed and published poetry to the effect that I don't like pattern forming circles in my puzzles. I've been told that when I enter a room, people mutter to one another under their breath, 'See that guy, he doesn't like circles which form patterns in his crossword puzzles'. Why they whisper this when I am so overt about my preferences I shall never know.

I did however like that the black squares formed a vaguely sinusoidal pattern in this puzzle.

I clearly am bored to death at work.

chefwen said...

Dog #2 would have licked the pudding off before dog #1 even knew it was there.

Good puzzle with lots of laughter.

Anonymous said...

what's the significance of the speaker icon on the solved puzzle?

Sfingi said...

What's wid da weed mini-teeme?

S - Sicily's first letter, a capital.
Sicily's Greek capital - Syr.
What's it's financial capital? Not Palermo again?
Yenta (Yidddish.) Meddler, gossiper, matchmaker.
In these parts we "Put on the Ritz."
It's all good.

Orange said...

And of course, you can put Ritz crackers on a dog. Or you can combine Ritz crackers, vanilla pudding, and other ingredients to make a cake of sorts, and then put that on the yenta's dog—but only when she's spending the night in the jockey's bed.

Orange said...

@Anon 2:52: Looks like Rex was adjusting the volume on his Mac right when he was doing the screen capture of the puzzle.

Gary Lowe said...

... was waiting for the 'speaker' question, in fact I even looked at the close answers to see if I could make a segway.

More importantly, how come there's always a red letter???


Anonymous said...

... er, I meant to do that. I know how to spell 'segue' - it just looks better the other way.


Sfingi said...

@Joon, Humourless Twit, etc.:
The NYT crossword, and the LA, and many more are symmetric to x=y as an 180 degree rotation.
In Germany, they call this kind of crossword puzzle an American crossword.
It's midnight. Good Night!

Crockett1947 said...

Gary Lowe, see my 8:09 a.m. for the letter explanation. Orange follows up later as well (8:14).

Gary Lowe said...

Thanks, Crockett.

Y'know I make a living, and a decent one, communicating (mostly). You wouldn't guess that by reading the interaction here, would ya?

Tomorrow is a new day - a 'red letter' day perhaps.

Orange said...

Gary, I don't follow you at all. ;-) Tomorrow is an orange-letter day, actually.

Anonymous said...

Darwinism isn't evolution, its one method evolution goes by. Only the most healthy are able to survive and reproduce and pass along their genes. So I wanted Darwinism to be something about death. DIEOFF?

mac said...

Sorry I missed that one; you had a lot of fun yesterday!