FRIDAY, Jul. 3, 2009 — Jeff Chen

THEME: "The Jack Box" — theme answers all take phrases with the pattern "x IN THE y" and represent the phrases "literally" by putting "x" between "THE" and "y"; hence "GORILLAS IN THE MIST" becomes THE GORILLAS MIST, with GORILLAS "literally" *in* "THE MIST"

I loved this puzzle. If the L.A. Times insists on making its late-week puzzles much easier in order to accommodate a new, broader readership that doesn't appreciate stumpers very much, then this is the kind of puzzle I hope I see more of. Clean, crisp, fresh, amusing, and elegantly constructed. The only blot is the fact that GHOST is not an animal, unlike the GORILLA, ELEPHANT, and MONKEY that come before it. Maybe it's the GHOST of a rabbit or something. I can imagine. The grid is pretty low on cruddy fill (AIMER's about as bad as it gets, 68A: Archer, at times), and the cluing is really clever today. Loved almost all the tricky "?"-clues:

  • 60D: Blue books? (SMUT) — always remember: "blue" can = "erotic/pornographic"
  • 64D: Debugging application? (DEET)
  • 67D: Pitches between innings? (ADS): always remember: "pitch" can = "advertisement"

... and really loved 71A: Subject of a promise to deliver, with "the" for GOODS. Love the twin cooking-related pillars of STIR (39A: Commotion) and WHIR (43A: Blender sound). There was an error in one of the clues in my puzzle, but I'm going to assume it got fixed before press. My 6D reads [Decorative Eastern accessory] and the answer is OBIS, plural. If answer is plural, then clue should be plural. Maybe your clue is.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: 1988 biopic about Dian Fossey, literally ("THE GORILLAS MIST") — watch for DIAN in future puzzles. She's common.
  • 27A: It's too important to ignore, literally (THE ELEPHANT ROOM)
  • 49A: Kids' ball game, literally (THE MONKEY MIDDLE)
  • 65A: Metaphorical philosophical conflict used as an album title by The Police, literally (THE GHOST MACHINE)

A few hiccups along the way. Wrote in APING for APERY (32D: Impressionist's skill) because, well ... come on, APERY? It's a word, but not exactly in common use. Goes great with MIMIC, though, I'll give it that (47D: Copy). Then there was IRATE for IRKED (61A: Not happy) and COB for TOE (45D: Corn site). Otherwise, smooth sailing.

Crosswordese 101: ORIEL (34D: Projecting window) — 5-letter words that are 60%+ vowels are going to come back, again and again. The fact that this one came back again and again is the reason it's a gimme for me now. Answers.com defines ORIEL as "A bay window projecting from an upper floor, supported from below with a corbel or bracket." You are not apt to see CORBEL in a puzzle. Ever. I associate ORIEL with OSIER, for no good reason except the vowel placements, and the fact that I learned both words from crosswords. But OSIER will have to wait for another day...


  • 22A: Oenophile's word (oaky) — took some crosses to get it. Like that it crosses CASK (12D: Large container). OENOphile is a word you'll see a lot of in future xwords, esp. that OENO- prefix. Likes to be an answer all on its own. Vowely.
  • 30D: Blood test feature (prick) — ! Intersects SIRED, which I'm sure means nothing (41A: Brought into being).

Look for IBEX and ENOS in future Crosswordese 101 lessons ...

See you Monday. Enjoy the 4th (where relevant).


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Powerful court opponent (ACER); 5A: Remote location? (SOFA); 9A: City near Syracuse (UTICA); 14A: Bay relative (COVE); 15A: Surefooted goat (IBEX); 16A: Frigid (POLAR); 17A: 1988 biopic about Dian Fossey, literally (THE GORILLAS MIST); 20A: Navigational aid (SONAR); 21A: Originate (from) (STEM); 22A: Oenophile's word (OAKY); 23A: Race unit (LAP); 25A: Corn unit (EAR); 27A: It's too important to ignore, literally (THE ELEPHANT ROOM); 36A: Enthusiasm (VIM); 37A: Barber's device (STROP); 38A: "Sicko" filmmaker Michael (MOORE); 39A: Commotion (STIR); 41A: Brought into being (SIRED); 43A: Blender sound (WHIR); 44A: Acclaim (ECLAT); 46A: Kind of drive (CD-ROM); 48A: Epitome of slipperiness (EEL); 49A: Kids' ball game, literally (THE MONKEY MIDDLE); 52A: __ green (PEA); 53A: Source of low-fat meat (EMU); 54A: Pop (SODA); 57A: Chuck (TOSS); 61A: Not happy (IRKED); 65A: Metaphorical philosophical conflict used as an album title by The Police, literally (THE GHOST MACHINE); 68A: Archer, at times (AIMER); 69A: Musician's forte? (LOUD); 70A: Skin soother (ALOE); 71A: Subject of a promise to deliver, with "the" (GOODS); 72A: Chooses (OPTS); 73A: Lion's share (MOST); 1D: John follower (ACTS); 2D: Small salmon (COHO); 3D: Fifty-fifty (EVEN); 4D: Wine and dine (REGALE); 5D: Paul McCartney, e.g. (SIR); 6D: Decorative Eastern accessory (OBIS); 7D: Experienced (FELT); 8D: Hot rod rod (AXLE); 9D: Bulls' predictions (UPS); 10D: Song that begins "The sun'll come out" (TOMORROW); 11D: Pelvic bones (ILIA); 12D: Large container (CASK); 13D: Affectedly cultural (ARTY); 18D: Hurdles for would-be doctors (ORALS); 19D: Service ender (AMEN); 24D: Guinea pigs, maybe (PETS); 26D: Green dispenser (ATM); 27D: Tube, so to speak (TV SET); 28D: Thumb (HITCH); 29D: Novelist Zola (EMILE); 30D: Blood test feature (PRICK); 31D: Throng (HORDE); 32D: Impressionist's skill (APERY); 33D: Marveled audibly (OOHED); 34D: Projecting window (ORIEL); 35D: Country Music Hall of Famer __ Travis (MERLE); 40D: Rushed violently (RAMPAGED); 42D: Carrier __: Syracuse stadium (DOME); 45D: Corn site (TOE); 47D: Copy (MIMIC); 50D: Alb. and Cro. joined it 4/1/2009 (NATO); 51D: North Carolina college town (DURHAM); 54D: Alone (STAG); 55D: Home to Columbus (OHIO); 56D: Audition handout (DEMO); 58D: 1952 Olympics host (OSLO); 59D: Knock off (STOP); 60D: Blue books? (SMUT); 62D: Metric weight, for short (KILO); 63D: Son of Seth (ENOS); 64D: Debugging application? (DEET); 66D: Store posting: Abbr. (HRS); 67D: Pitches between innings? (ADS).


Gareth Bain said...

This one I only got the theme properly after reading yours and Oranges blogs. I somehow interpreted them as THE x in the y, and the "in the" part just seemed to disappear. Consequently even though all the theme answers except for "monkey in the middle" (which is called "piggie in the middle here") were all pretty transparent even without crossers, I never wrote them in, and was most puzzled, even after completing the crossword.

Re: Crosswordese 101 - you missed the other meaning of Oriel - the Oxford College - I'm sure I've seen it at least once so far in an American puzzle, does it come up that often? Hmm - MG's database says last turned up as the college in '05, so I guess I >wasn't< around.

APERY/APING got me too.


Anonymous said...

A really good puzzle! Had trouble with 35D -I know little about country music but have heard of Randy Travis so that screwed things up. Also never heard of monkey in the middle but played a lot of kick the can about 100 years ago. Oaky was easy, sofa was funny, and the theme was inspired!

Anonymous said...

Loved it! Had no problem with APERY (like it better than APING, which I had first): seems common enough for me. Thanks for the write-up, Rex!

Joon said...

loved it, too. if this is a debut for jeff chen (as it seems to be?), then congrats to him--i'm hoping to see his byline again! fun theme, nice fill, good cluing. could have been harder for a friday, but i'm not complaining about the difficulty if the quality is this high.

Carol said...

Liked the puzzle, also. Especially some of the ? clues.

Our paper had 6D as clued as accessories, so it evidently got fixed before printing hard copy. I did it online, so wondered about the plural.

Any, thanks for explaining the theme. I'd miss out on the theme many times if it weren't for this blog!

jeff in chicago said...

Yes. Very nice. Great clues for PRICK and HITCH. And the back-to-back "Race unit" and Corn unit" clues.

I thank Mr. Chen for the reminder. I need to buy some DEET. Rehearsals move outdoors this week.

Gary Lowe said...

It's like a WUZZLE. Yesterday's NYT synd. was kind of a WUZZLE, too, with GET over IT 4 times.

Tip o the hat for the theme, and 4 - 15's, without crappy fill.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree w/ Rex. This one was a delight.

*David* said...

The puzzle was excellent, I am just disappointed at the ease in a Friday puzzle. I also put APING in for APERY and had ECLAR for ECLAT which gave me ROW on the down. Otherwise minimal slowdown which is completely alien for me on a Friday.

We need to push for the difficulty level to be ramped up I need to scracth my head a bit on a Friday.

PuzzleGirl said...

Agree with everybody — very nice puzzle! I love the word STROP. That is all.

Anonymous said...

I thought the was weak, but at least the overall fill was entertaining. Still far too easy for a Friday puzzle.

Anonymous said...

That should have been 'I thought the theme was weak...'

CartBoy said...

Took a while to get the ball rolling in a quadrant, but then bada bing, bada bing, done! Great puzzle for the Friday before a big holiday. Happy 4th!

eileen said...

I just loved this puzzle. I can understand why some members of this community thought it was a gimme for a Friday but as Rex said it's a confidence builder for a newbie like me.
The theme was fantastic and was able to figure it out after I got
THE GORILLA MIST. It also helped that I am a huge Police fan!

Rex, thanks for the clip!



A very esoteric (and fun) puzzle. I agree with Rex, this is exactly the kind of puzzle we hope to see more of. The dumbing out of American newspapers is NOT the way to increase readership.

I loved many of these clever cross clues:
SOFA for remote location.
STROP for barber's device.
SIRED for brought into being.
LOUD for musician's forte.
SMUT for blue books.
ACTS for John follower.
AMEN for service ender.
DEET for debuggubg application.

Hey, how can one not enjoy doing this puzzle? Kudos to Mr. Chen.

shrub5 said...

I didn't get the theme right until I came here (duh). But still enjoyed the puzzle and loved the many clever clues. I've seen this similarly clued before and once again wonder: how many solvers have eaten (low fat) emu?? For 9D) Bulls' predictions I was thinking of the Chicago basketball team and wondered what 3 letter version of NBA championship I could come up with. As an aside, the Bulls vs. Celtics playoff round was the most exciting b-ball I've seen in a long while!
My regards to Jeff Chen for a VERY nice puzzle experience, except that now I have that cloying ear worm "Tomorrow" stuck in my head.
Happy Birthday, America.

Orange said...

This week, my husband and I watched the Police interviewed, singly and then together, by Elvis Costello on his Sundance Channel show. O. Mi. God. Stewart Copeland is American?!? How on earth did I never know that? I saw their reunion concert—twice. I lived and breathed Synchronicity in high school. Totally thought he was English. (Elvis's show is great—look for it if you've never seen. It's called Spectacle.)

The Police were babies in that video! Thanks, Rex.

My 45D hurts today. I think it's broken.

PuzzleGirl, "Strop in the narme of lorve, brefore yoru br-reak mry heart..."

Anonymous said...

Thanks all for the supportive comments! Rich is a fantastic editor; some brilliant clue changes. Hoping to get another puzzle in soon!

I read the ny and la times xword blog everyday and it's been incredibly helpful in terms of figuring out what works and what doesn't. Thanks all!

Jeff Chen

chefwen said...

No, thank you Mr. Chen, a rather easy but most enjoyable puzzle. Favorite clue, remote location. Fell into the aping APERY trap also, my only error.

mac said...

Very enjoyable puzzle, and thank you Jeff, for commenting on this blog. We all like to hear from the constructors.
Unusual answers like rampaged, prick and regale are a lot of fun!
Hope to see more of your work.

Jackie said...

Squeee! Jeff Chen posted a comment!! [swoons]

Seriously, I loved this puzzle. To the point where I already have a little crossword-nerd crush on Jeff Chen. (See also Der, Kevin and Quigley, Brendan Emmett).

There were numerous points when I had to smile openly; the medievalist in me was thrilled to see "Amen" and "Acts" make their appearances in unexpected ways, and the art historian in my chuckled hard at "Apery" for "Impressionists," after I'd gotten stuck trying to squeeze some form of "Plein-air" into those boxes.

The LA Times puzzles are generally too easy to be a whole lot of fun, but constructions like this make it worth coming back to.

Anonymous said...

Charles Bogle and Friend: I had the pleasure of doing this wonderful puzzle w dear friend after a very trying week> She had left crosswords sometime ago but now is enthused to hopefully get back into the swing...take care all

Jeff Chen said...

Whew, back from day one of an ultimate frisbee tournament (Potlatch, for fellow northwesterners)! I was SO nervous to see what the crossword blogosphere would say when Rich told me it would be published today - I borrowed a friend's iPhone to check this blog in the middle of a game. I was going to go ice down the many parts that are aching right now, but I'm sitting here at my local bookstore, trying to complete another one that I think might be entertaining. Ahhhhhh, this is the life!


housemouse said...

I can't agree about the "clever clues". I thought a lot of them, especially the theme clues, were obscure and pointless. Friday or not, this puzzle required too much reliance on Google and far too much head scratching, as in "What the **** is he talking about?" I just don't have a lot of time to sit and try to decipher what someone means by "cutesy" clues or obscure themes.

Maybe the editors should run parallel puzzles: one for people who enjoy obscure and pointless clues and another for the rest of us who like writers who can be more specific. I am really disappointed in the puzzles these new editors are choosing. I will try to talk our local newspaper into changing the source of its crossword puzzles if at all possible. There have to be better, less obscure puzzles available.

Rex Parker said...

Yet another reason to write your local paper and tell him/her you like your puzzle. Now.

Do not let fans of "dull and easy" win.


Norm said...

Fun puzzle, although I didn't get around to it until today. My only quibble would be that two of the phrases (I think) typically begin with a "the" as well, which threw me off the "in the" theme. That is, I think it's THE ghost in the machine and THE elephant in the room, while Gorillas in the Mist and Monkey in the Middle stand alone. Whatever. A very nice puzzle in any event.

Orange said...

Norm, for the Police album, Ghost in the Machine doesn't have "The" at the beginning, so that one's solid. I'll grant you the elephant, though.

Norm said...

I was thinking philosophy, not Police, but I have to concede the point. Happy Fourth!