WEDNESDAY, July 29, 2009—Jerome Gunderson

THEME: "What a Tease"—If you lop off the ends of four phrases by slashing the first word, you get four synonyms for "tease"

This was one of those themes that eluded me until after I finished the puzzle. I read the four phrases in the longest answers. Then I read them aloud to my husband. Then I read the last words aloud. Then I read the first words aloud, and it finally clicked.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Mojave Desert grower (JOSHUA TREE). Hidden JOSH.
  • 26A: Flashy theatricality (RAZZLE DAZZLE). Hidden RAZZ. And who doesn't like a phrase that (a) is fun to say and (b) contains four Zs?
  • 44A: VIP at a grand opening (RIBBON CUTTER). This entry's the black sheep in the theme family. To hide the RIB, something like RIBBIT, RIBBIT would've been more fun—thought that would be inconsistent with the other theme entries by virtue of having two RIBs in it.
  • 60A: Place to wade (KIDDIE POOL). Hidden KID; lively phrase.

Crosswordese 101: ALERO! Oldsmobile is no more, but in crosswords, the not-so-distinguished ALERO lives on. Parked at 25A, this was the Last Olds ever made. It's the most popular Oldsmobile in the puzzle, but occasionally the CIERA gets a little attention. So you can definitely fill in **ER* if you have a five-letter space for an Olds model, and are usually safe if you go with ALERO. You can buy a used 2004 ALERO for as little as $2,000 these days.

And now, a smattering of clues and their answers:
  • 10A: Hook for landing large fish (GAFF). Not a word on the tip of my tongue.
  • 21A: Moved to and fro, as a golf club just before swinging (WAGGLED). I prefer the waggle dance of honeybees, but this golf usage is in the dictionary. WAGGLED sounds like GARGLE, doesn't it> That one is clued as 10D: Use Listerine, say (GARGLE).
  • 42A: Former wrestling star __ Brazil (BOBO). What the heck is this? Who? Apparently Bobo Brazil was a "professional wrestler" back in the '70s, when my great-grandmother and her husband would watch wrestling and my sister and I would roll our eyes and go back upstairs as soon as we wheedled some chewing gum out of the old folks' stash of Wrigley. Hey, PuzzleGirl, here's a wrestling video for you:

  • 67A: 1" = 100', e.g. (SCALE). At the John Hancock Center in Chicago last weekend, my son admired the Lego Hancock kit. What's the SCALE for a Lego building that's about 8" tall, modeled after an edifice that's 1,506' tall including the antennas?
  • 8D: Penthouse feature (VIEW). You know what's got a better view than most penthouses? The 94th floor observation deck of the Hancock. It's a great place to watch the fireworks...though you have to look downward a tad.
  • 43D: Romantic lowerings (SUNSETS). Watching a summer sunset from the 94th floor is breathtaking. Big crimson ball sinks lower...lower...smaller...and poof, it's gone. Too bad my camera phone took such mediocre pictures of that sunset. Before I forget: "lowerings" is a terrible word.
  • 45D: Bit of Christmas debris (NEEDLE). Anyone else try TINSEL first? A dry, fallen pine NEEDLE is much more debris-ish than a bit of tinsel, I suppose.
Everything Else — 1A: Knocks senseless (DAZES); 6A: "__ Zapata!": 1952 film (VIVA); 14A: Send to the Hill, say (ELECT); 15A: Sister of Ares (ERIS); 16A: Teen follower? (-AGER); 19A: Tear to pieces (RIVE); 20A: Coin-op eatery (AUTOMAT); 23A: Harris's __ Rabbit (BRER); 32A: "Tiny Alice" dramatist (ALBEE); 33A: Rattler's pose (COIL); 34A: Stay-at-home __ (DAD); 37A: Haunted house sound (MOAN); 38A: Scout's job, for short (RECON); 40A: Seductive (SEXY); 41A: MPG part (PER); 43A: Luxurious fur (SABLE); 47A: Up and about (RISEN); 50A: Vegas sign filler (NEON); 51A: Exams for would-be Mensans (IQ TESTS); 54A: Perfumery product (ESSENCE); 59A: Simon & Garfunkel et al. (DUOS); 62A: Show flexibility (GIVE); 63A: Racetrack shape (OVAL); 64A: Popular DVRs (TIVOS); 65A: Seine summers (ETES); 66A: "__ to you, fella!" (SAME); 1D: __ vu (DEJA); 2D: Baseball's Moises (ALOU); 3D: Bartender's twist (ZEST); 4D: Bounce back (ECHO); 5D: Trip (STUMBLE); 6D: Checked out thoroughly (VETTED); 7D: Bargain tag abbr. (IRR.); 8D: Penthouse feature (VIEW); 9D: On the briny (ASEA); 11D: Mentally quick (AGILE); 12D: Peggy Lee signature song (FEVER); 13D: Feckless Corleone brother (FREDO); 18D: Bern's river (AARE); 22D: It may be unmitigated (GALL); 24D: Masked critter (RACCOON); 26D: Freeway exit (RAMP); 27D: Natural skin treatment (ALOE); 28D: Letter-shaped beam (Z-BAR); 29D: Buddhist sect (ZEN); 30D: Chaotic scene (ZOO); 31D: California red, briefly (ZIN); 34D: Cardholder's woe (DEBT); 35D: Car bar (AXLE); 36D: Textile worker (DYER); 38D: Stick up (ROB); 39D: Fall away (EBB); 40D: Grabbed a chair, so to speak (SAT); 42D: Trash holders (BINS); 44D: __ Pieces: candy brand (REESES); 46D: Mozart's "__ fan tutte" (COSI); 47D: Ruffles potato chip feature (RIDGE); 48D: Fed-up employee's announcement (I QUIT); 49D: Potbelly, e.g. (STOVE); 52D: Ali stats (TKOS); 53D: Hindu "Destroyer" (SIVA); 55D: Cast-of-thousands movie (EPIC); 56D: 1960s-'80s Chevy (NOVA); 57D: Calm under pressure (COOL); 58D: "All __ being equal ..." (ELSE); 61D: Hydroelectric project (DAM).


Jeffrey said...

Pangram. Never got the theme either.


Sandy said...

Took me for-ever to parse SUNSETS. That was a duh moment.

I never really got rolling on this puzzle - ended up poking at it from all over. Not helped by the guys arriving backhoe things in the yard in the middle of solving.

Anonymous said...

ORANGE you are so smart! Got the puzzle easily (thanks explaining 42a BOBO) but saw no theme and assumed it was themeless. NW corner gave a slight pause because I didn't want to give up lime when it was 3dZEST. Hum, maybe a gin and tonic later.

Carol said...

I was beginning to think the puzzle was themeless! Read it several times and never did get it. Thanks for figuring it out.

Pretty good puzzle today. Enjoyable solve.

Sfingi said...

Though I found it easy for a Wednesday, I thought the theme had something to do with double letters:

ee zz zz bb tt dd oo

Trouble is, the first one has only one set.

Anonymous said...

I, too, noticed numerous double letters and thought that might be the theme.

Rex Parker said...

EZ, but never saw the theme, even when I (briefly) tried. When vast majority of solvers can't see the theme even when puzzle's done (as I suspect will be case today, if early returns are any indication) — there's a problem.


Orange said...

A grand unifying answer would have been a help. Like putting TEASE at 67-Across.

Al said...

Or cluing 45D as "tease and a clue to today's puzzle" instead of Christmas Debris.

Anonymous said...

Rex is right, Orange provided a fix, and Al nailed it.

shrub5 said...

@Orange and Orangehusband, that was an amazing "get" for the theme. Pretty subtle.

@Al 7:54: good one -- that would have been perfect!

@Orange again: Speaking of hints, I thought I needed one for the pic of the guy who looks like Will Smith atop a pile of rubble.....d'oh... it IS Will Smith in a scene from "Hancock", I presume. I wondered why you went on at some length about that building....

Like @Sfingi and @Anon 7:28, I noticed the plethora of double letters but not anything theme-wise beyond that.

I didn't know BOBO or SIVA but got both easily from crosses.

Denise said...

I think that every day should begin with wonderful double letter words like RAZZLE & DAZZLE & WAGGLE.

It just makes me WIGGLE & GIGGLE.

*David* said...

SOrry to bust up the party but I noticed the theme right away. I did have to finish the puzzle to realize it. It almost had a secondary theme with every word except JOSHUA having two letters in it.

I loved BOBO no matter who he is, and then you add Brazil that's priceless. We could have a xword theme with wrestlers names and that would be one ZESTy puzzle.

Burner10 said...

Today is the perfect example of puzzle-blog delight - I am definately an improved puzzler zipping through alero (cw 101) and everything else almost (rive???) and not having a clue about the theme (I'm standing in the line on that point)and then all the fun not only to learn about the theme, but the process by which the theme was discovered and a fine fix bonus - all before 9.

Anonymous said...

I actually thought it was O.K. that most of us missed the theme and ORANGE figured it out,then explained how she did it. That's what she's there for. It's good not to hit a home-run every time, but to leave something to strive for.

Anonymous said...

I rattled through this puzzle but thought the clue was double letters. Thanks for giving me yet another aha moment!

I got stuck on stay at home mom until I realized that all the crosses worked out to be dad.

Otherwise the puzzle was solved fairly quickly. I'm getting faster every day because of what I am learning here. Thanks again.

Unknown said...

I followed in @Sfingi and @Anon 7:28's footsteps with the double-letter "theme." I'm impressed, Orange, that you figured it out!

Fun words today like BOBO, TIVOS, ALERO, DUOS. Cardholder's woe had me thinking of the Bridge clue in NYT, not credit card, so that took some effort, made more difficult by stay-at-home DAD. Raise your hand if you wrote MOM first.

I did enjoy the puzzle, lots of scrabbliness. Nice write-up and thanks for educating us as always, Orange.

mac said...

Thank goodness for Orange's explanation of the theme. I have to admit I didn't spend a lot of time on it, but even with her explanation I had to reread the long answers!

Not a hard puzzle, and some great words and expressions, a pangram to boot. Gaff and waggled were new words for me.

At "lowering" I had animal sounds in my head, that wasn't pretty.

Charles Bogle said...

I had same experience as @carol, @mac, Orange and Rex and it seems virtually everybody except @*david* (who must be Mensa IQ)--didn't get the theme at all until I came here and even then had to read it several times

I agree w RP-I think that's a problem for a puzzle, esp a Wed puzzle. Going to the trouble of building in a theme is a two way street--constructor shows how clever s/he is; we get extra challenge of possibly short-circuiting solving by catching on long before the end and if we do we get a smile

There were smiles here but not from the "theme" in my opinion

Fun words other than those mentioned: AUTOMAT (this really is AARP week), FEVER (the great Peggy Lee), BOBO (having watched black and white tv matches in the early 60's this somehow came to me instantaneously-I definitely need to get out more often), GARGLE, SUNSETS

Not so fun: REESES (second time here in three days?), RIVE (what?), DAZES (you certainly don't have to "knock someone senseless" to DAZE them; I went w DECKS

Jerome said...

I honestly thought the theme would be too screamingly obvious. It's just sitting there right smack dab in front. In fact, I thought the puzzle would run on a Monday. Some of the comments today confirm what my wife always tells me, "What the heck do you know!"

eileen said...

Well, you can count me as another member of the "WHAT THE HECK, NO THEME AND IT'S ONLY WEDNESDAY CLUB". Orange, you are sooooo smart!
@Al: what a great idea that would have definitely made the theme clear.

PuzzleGirl said...

Raising my hand for "stay at home MOM" but I did figure out the theme on my own. I guess that's why I make the big bucks.

I feel the need to make something Perfectly Clear to anyone who's new around here: I Do Not Enjoy Professional Wrestling. I enjoy REAL wrestling, as in college freestyle (and possibly a little folkstyle during the Olympics, although I don't really understand it). Totally Different. Not the same thing At All. I made it 20 seconds into the video Orange included today "for me" and that was all I needed of that mess. Go Hawks!

Orange said...

The PuzzleGirl doth protest too much.

Joon said...

i literally don't remember the last time i gave up trying to figure out a puzzle's theme. at least 2000 puzzles ago. it took me 2:30 to solve the puzzle and i thought about the theme on and off for about 45 minutes over lunch before shrugging and turning to the blog. i felt a little guilty about it, but ... i've got stuff to do. (i eventually decided it was 1980s albums, three of which i'd never heard of. seemed plausible.)

jerome, yeah, it's there in front, but it's only partial words. very different from a theme in which the entire first word is the key (and quite a bit harder to see). even those can be hard; the SOCIAL/SECURITY/NUMBER theme from a few weeks ago had a ton of people stumped. my point is: if you don't know what you're looking for, it's easy to not find it.

Al said...

You know, it's kind of easy to sit on the sidelines and make comments after someone else has already done all the work. I wonder if there are any job openings for me as an editor's editor? Who watches the watchmen anyway?

Gary Lowe said...

@Al - Don't know about LAT, but Will says in one interview that he has 4 test solvers. Maybe if this was NYT the theme would have been brought out more.
I agree with Rex and add... The theme is like a joke: If you have to explain it, it wasn't that good.

Except I thought it was good.

Will I ever grow up to the point where I can read the word 'Feckless' and not smile? I don;t even know if I have a feck, but I don't remember if I gave a feck (who gives a .. ahem yah).

Gary Lowe said...

I'll be darned - this is from that Scottish guy that everyone's heard of but nobody's read! If you read it enough times you can actually understand it.

I hae been a Devil the feck o' my life,
Hey, and the rue grows bonie wi' thyme;
"But ne'er was in hell till I met wi' a wife,"
And the thyme it is wither'd, and rue is in prime.

Anonymous said...

@CHARLES BOGLE - Inadvertently gave you some incorrect info on the schoolhouse yesterday. If you want clarification e-mail me at CYGB6@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that when we get the theme it is often considered a good one but when we don't get it IT"S faulty?

chefbea said...

I too thought the theme was double letters - 11 in all
Thanks Orange for figuring it out.

A bartenders twist is not zest.. A twist is a piece of citrus that you twist so that some of the oil comes out and flavors the drink. If you want zest, you use a zester and get tiny pieces of the rind.

Wag said...

@Orange - you missed the fifth theme entry, as WAGs also frequently tease. As I am doing now.

PurpleGuy said...

@chefbea- right on. The twist in a cocktail has some white pith, so it's easier to TWIST.

Really breezed through this puzzle, but like many others before me, thought it was a themeless one.

Excellent writeup, Orange. I still can't get over "edjudicate" from se4veral days ago.
You go, girl ! You rock !!

Orange said...

@PurpleGuy: Correction! The "proper" spelling is edjumicate. As in "People with Ph.D.'s sure are edjumicated."

PurpleGuy said...

@Orange- Thank you for the correction.
Went back to your previous post.
GuessI need new glasses,as well as refreshertyping skills !
I still think you ROCK !

chefwen said...

Solving the puzzle with a taped Letterman playing, just as I was writing down RACCOON, he says RACCOON. Do we have a name for this? He was talking about rabid raccoons in New York.

Hand raised with MOM.

Thought the puzzle was easy but didn't get the theme "til here, thanks Orange!

??RIVE??, I'll have to look it up.

Fred said...

Yes there is a name for that. It is called syncronicity and it was coined by Jung to describe such an event.

fergus said...

Surprised that nobody mentioned the theme to Green Acres?

"... I just adore a penthouse VIEW,
Darling I love you, but give me Park Avenue."

The chores / The stores

Anonymous said...

Hand raised for mom too! Orange, the scale for that Lego set would be 1"=188.25'.

Anonymous said...

Smooth sailing all the way on this one, though I did slip up on 34A by putting "Mom" for "Dad." None of you mentioned 18D....Aare. Just thought that was an awesome word!