MONDAY, Sep. 28, 2009 — Fred Jackson III

THEME: Seeing things — three theme answers all begin with IMAGINARY, DREAM, and FANTASY, respectively.

A solid if somewhat ARID Monday puzzle (14A: Like deserts). It's got a standard three-theme structure, with long answers all sharing a certain kind of opening word. The non-theme fill feels a bit phoned-in and sloppy. A bit too heavy on the abbrevs. (SYR, SSR, LTD, HMOS, FTS, STA, HDTV) and on the terminal-"S" words, the very worst of which is EENS (33D: Poetic dusks). EEN is sucktacular enough, pluralizing it just rubs salt in the would. And crossing SEEN TO?? Really, really bad. Actually, upon further reflection, SAYSOS might be worse (8D: Assertions) — though at least SAYSOS is loonily ambitious, unlike EENS, which is just execrable. My favorite thing about the grid is the segue of colloquial terms into each other at PEEK-A-BOO and OO LA LA. That's 11D: Game played with a baby over 42D: "Va va voom!" Silliness plus quadruple "O" = WIN. Otherwise, the whole thing's a big meh.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Hobbes, to Calvin (IMAGINARY FRIEND)
  • 35A: Ideal getaway (DREAM VACATION)
  • 53A: Armchair quarterback's hobby (FANTASY FOOTBALL)

I like ISLET over FANTASY. It suggests a great name for a remake of a 70s television classic: "FANTASY ISLET." An ISLET is a small island, so maybe in the remake, Tattoo can be in charge and a sassy robot can play his assistant.

Crosswordese 101: STEN (50D: British machine gun) — I really thought I'd covered this answer before, but the Master List says otherwise. STEN is a word I learned nearly 20 years ago, when I was amassing my crosswordese body of knowledge under the harsh tutelage of the late NYT puzzle editor Eugene T. Maleska. EERO, ADIT, AMAH, ESNE, ERSE, EIRE, etc. Picked them all up through repeated exposure. The STEN is a 9mm submachine gun used by the British forces during WWII and Korean War. According to wikipedia, this is because they had a simple design and low production cost. STEN is also NETS backwards.

What else?

  • 29A: Fashion's Gucci and actor Ray (ALDOS) — Really wish there were a famous place called "ALDO'S," because I hate plural names, esp. when those names aren't common. There was a pizza joint in my town when I was growing up called "ALDO'S." I think it's a gentleman's club now.
  • 24D: Inlaid designs (MOSAICS) — really like it. One of the more colorful words of the day.
  • 52D: Stodgy old-timer (FOGY) — NYT has GEEZER today, and the LAT has FOGY. Apparently it's "Mock Old People" day in puzzle world.

See you Friday,


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

Everything Else — 1A: Disappear gradually (FADE); 5A: Prohibition agent Eliot (NESS); 9A: Vatican-related (PAPAL); 14A: Like deserts (ARID); 15A: Heavenly bear (URSA); 16A: "__ you clever!" (AREN'T); 17A: Hobbes, to Calvin (IMAGINARY FRIEND); 20A: Motel restriction (NO PETS); 21A: T-bone, for one (STEAK); 22A: Lock of hair (TRESS); 23A: Med. plan choices (HMOS); 25A: Opposite of "Huh?" (AHA); 28A: Damascus is its cap. (SYR.); 29A: Fashion's Gucci and actor Ray (ALDOS); 31A: Nudge rudely (ELBOW); 33A: Makes a long story short? (EDITS); 34A: City leaders (MAYORS); 35A: Ideal getaway (DREAM VACATION); 38A: Taken care of (SEEN TO); 39A: "Rich Man, Poor Man" novelist Shaw (IRWIN); 40A: Give body to, as hair (TEASE); 41A: Obvious disdain (SCORN); 42A: Meditator's syllables (OMS); 45A: Calculate sums (ADD); 46A: Coarse file (RASP); 47A: Rub it in (GLOAT); 49A: Key in the sea (ISLET); 52A: Defective, as wiring (FAULTY); 53A: Armchair quarterback's hobby (FANTASY FOOTBALL); 57A: Change (ALTER); 58A: Summoned the butler (RANG); 59A: Peace Prize winner Wiesel (ELIE); 60A: Fair-haired (BLOND); 61A: Remain (STAY); 62A: Between-your-toes grains (SAND); 1D: Passes out (FAINTS); 2D: Weapons storehouse (ARMORY); 3D: Baby seat cover? (DIAPER); 4D: Pieces jigsaw puzzlers usually start with (EDGES); 5D: Convent residents (NUNS); 6D: Historical period (ERA); 7D: Kazakhstan, until 1991: Abbr. (SSR); 8D: Assertions (SAY SOS); 9D: Peel, as a rind (PARE); 10D: Opera highlight (ARIA); 11D: Game played with a baby (PEEK-A-BOO); 12D: "Raggedy" girl (ANN); 13D: Inc., in England (LTD.); 18D: Appointment-confirming words (IT'S A DATE); 19D: Dix and Knox: Abbr. (FTS.); 23D: Set with a sharper picture, briefly (HDTV); 24D: Inlaid designs (MOSAICS); 26D: Traffic jam honker (HORN); 27D: "Isn't that cute!" exclamations (AWS); 30D: Prom car (LIMO); 31D: Persistently worrying (EATING AT); 32D: "__ Eyes": 1975 Eagles hit (LYIN'); 33D: Poetic dusks (E'ENS); 34D: Bryn __ College (MAWR); 35D: Heroic exploit (DEED); 36D: Draw inferences from (READ INTO); 37D: Farm output (CROP); 38D: The bus stops here: Abbr. (STA.); 41D: Mythical man-goats (SATYRS); 42D: "Va va voom!" ("OO LA LA!"); 43D: Marlee __, Best Actress winner in "Children of a Lesser God" (MATLIN); 44D: Like fine coifs (STYLED); 46D: Notes after dos (RES); 48D: Garage jobs (LUBES); 50D: British machine gun (STEN); 51D: Baker's fat (LARD); 52D: Stodgy old-timer (FOGY); 53D: __ Four: Beatles (FAB); 54D: Every bit (ALL); 55D: Blubber (FAT); 56D: "__ scale of 1 to 10 ..." (ON A).


GLowe said...

Better than most of last week. Baby seat cover? Har har.

Carol said...

I agree with @GLowe - better than last week, but a ways to go.

Also agree with @Rex on about some of the fill. One thing I thought rather silly was the AHA - AWS corner at 25A/27D.

Guess it's time for this old FOGY to say "good morning" to her GEEZER hubby!

jazz said...

That was a nice puzzle for a Monday. A modest amount of 3-letter fill, and a few clues/answers that were pretty obscure, at least to me (STEN, SATYRS, MATLIN, ALDOS).

I liked the thoughtful clues (heavenly bear, in addition to GLowe's observation of Baby seat cover).

Good Monday, Fred Jackson III! Here's hoping the rest of the week is just a good!

shrub5 said...

DIAPER for baby seat cover was a LOL for me, too. I thought this was a fine Monday puzzle and the long theme answers were all fun to discover. There was a hair theme going on with TRESS, BLOND, TEASE and STYLED. Also FADE is a type of haircut that the boys get these days, I think.

I put HDEF in before fixing it to HDTV and had LLD before LTD (LLD is Doctor of Laws....d'oh).

Did anyone else have a different F word in mind for 52D Stodgy old-timer? (think bronx cheer)

Parsan said...

Sailed right through but could not figure out the meaning of 44D STYLED. The ink on my paper was so faint at that clue that I thought it was "Like fine colts". Knowing little about horses, I wondered if it might be an equine term. Only got it at the write-up. Thanks Rex!

fermatprime said...

@REX Really loved the lack of much complaining about this puzzle. It takes me much longer than most people as I lost the use of my right hand several years; also, I am plagued with fibromyalgia and arthritis in just about every joint. Maybe you should switch to more unfriendly puzzles, such as the Saturday stumper and Sylvia's and Merl's Sunday puzzles. I have never found a thorough blog about the SS with lots of comments.

Although I am an "old fogy" I really enjoy learning new facts and despair of those bloggers that say that they have never heard of such and such (or so and so) and don't CARE. I am somewhat of an expert on older trivia and really enjoy it.

I really enjoy the blogs that I encountered PRIOR TO THE LAST 2 WEEKS OR SO. Less complaint and angry egotism in the future please!

Joon said...

the only thing i didn't really like about this one was the number of awkward plurals, which rex alluded to. EENS is the worst... wait, no, SAY-SOS is the worst. (no "loonily ambitious" points from me.) but ALDOS, AWS, HMOS, FTS, and OMS are also pretty unpalatable, given how rarely you'd actually want to pluralize an unusual name, an onomatopoetic syllable, or an abbreviation. by contrast MAYORS, EDGES, NUNS, MOSAICS, SATYRS, FAINTS, and LUBES are all fine.

Rex Parker said...

@Lorraine, you sound like the "angry egotist" here. "I I I, me me me. ALL CAPS EXCLAMATION POINT." Save your scolding for your kids.

Already do the Saturday Stumper. With pleasure.


Charles Bogle said...

agree w jazz...decent, solid Monday start...did not care for EENS either; had trouble w HDTV because we're only ones on block w/out one...what is a RASP? Really liked the airy, fun-filled, light-hearted theme and overall tone, esp for a Monday...fun things like PEEKABOO, OOLALA, DREAM, FANTASY et al.. Gave me a nice feeling. I needed it-

Greene said...

I can't help but compare this puzzle with Lyn Lempel's NYT entry today. They are both solid Monday puzzles with straightforward themes, but what a difference in the fill!

The Lempel puzzle is elegant, fun, and low on the crosswordese. It just sings. This puzzle's fill (as has been handily pointed out by @Rex and @Joon) is burdened with abbreviations, plurals, and other assorted ugliness. I know the word STEN from having worked hundreds of puzzles, but does it ever belong in a Monday grid? Perhaps I've been reading too much Stanley Newman, but this kind of stuff just needs to go.

Ah Monday...so easy to solve, so difficult to construct.

Orange said...

Lorraine, I've been blogging about the Saturday Stumper every Saturday for about four years at Diary of a Crossword Fiend! We do have a group there who are fans of challenging themeless puzzles. We used to enjoy challenging themelesses in the L.A. Times too, before the anti-intellectual crowd demanded easier puzzles.

ddbmc said...

@Shrubb5, thanks for the e-luce-idation on Luce yesterday--knew he had started TIME mag, didn't realize he'd done FORTUNE, too.

Agree with @Rex on the Aldos; @Charles B., a rasp is used for filing wood, but in the kitchen, the fancy name is "micro plane. It's used to grate hard cheese, chocolate,lemons, etc. to add "zest" and flavor to your dishes.

STEN is one of those words, like GAT--used alot. Agree there were too many abbrvs. today. For a good brain workout, to to the other puzzle sites that our 3 Puzzleteers recommend.

The best thing about the Reagle and Burztyn Sunday puzzles, are the clues. The wording is also more inspired (or less edited??). I'm learning more from the blog than the puzzle. Since newspaper readership and ad revenues are declining,it really becomes a numbers game. All we can do is let our local papers know we'd like a bit more meat to our puzzles. Hopefully, we have the numbers to do so.

Loved Calvin and Hobbes-Hobbes probably didn't come under the "no pets" restriction for motels. Liked "Heavenly bear," too, but aren't there two, Major and Minor? (Big and Little Dipper?)

Crockett1947 said...

@charlesbogle This is one kind of a rasp. It's used to remove large amounts of material and is unsuitable for fine work.

Tuttle said...

Sten is a portmanteau abbreviation for its designers (Shepherd & Turpin) and manufacturer (ENfield). It's the one with the strait magazine mounted on the side. It was followed by the similar Sterling SMG with a pistol grip and curved side-mount magazine which was also used, sans clip, for the Stormtrooper's guns in Star Wars.

The other one you'll see is "Bren" which was a full up machine gun used in WWII. It was designed at the BRno Armory in Czechoslovakia and built by ENfield. It's the one with the magazine sticking strait up from the top of the gun.

twangster said...

This is minor, but does anyone else think armchair quarterback's hobby doesn't quite go with FANTASY FOOTBALL?

(in that armchair QBs are people who scream at the TV when a player screws up and fantasy footballers are people who pick players before the season starts and then gets points based on those players' weekly performance).

chefbea said...

This geezerette thought this was a good Monday puzzle. I guess the feminine of and old fogy is a fogyette???

Whitney said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the use of sucktacular and execrable in Rex's write up. Execrable was a word in today's (syndicated) NYT puzzle. Nice to see it in context.

I did like the Baby's Seat Cover? clue as well. Cute.

Whitney said...

Realized about ten minutes later I might have given a word away for syndicated NYT solvers...Sorry! I can't figure out how to delete my previous post. My bad.

chefbea said...

@whitney - click on the trashcan at the bottom of your post and that deletes it.

mac said...

A fine Monday puzzle, but I also noticed the plethora of plurals.
I missed a lot of the clues/answers because I did most of the puzzle across only, except for the middle, where I had "heaven on earth" for dream vacation.

@chefbea: I think fogiette looks prettier!

Whitney said...

@chefbea thanks...but i wonder since i don't have a blogger acct and am basically posting anonymously i can't use that function...or i'm just daft. sorry for so many posts!

SethG said...

With NOxExx in place, I immediately entered NO TELL for [Motel restriction].

ALDOS didn't bother me as much as it might've--if you're gonna go with that, I like it when the clue involves two of them. [Othello villain and Disney parrot] for IAGOS would be better than something like [Irish New Age singer and others] or [Cager O'Neal and others]. But yeah, not using it at all would still be better...


I don't usually do the Monday-Wednesday puzzles because they're a little too easy and so I don't learn that much, but today I tried using the online version. I wanted to see if the late week puzzles are really any harder... I believe they are, but not enough. Also I wanted to see if online solving is any faster... yes, I think I did today's in half the time I would take on paper.
I'm an old FOGY, so I still like doing them on paper. Oh, how will I ever cope with the Kindle gizmo?

Think I'll start doing the early week puzzles just because I like reading the blog writeups. I may not learn much doing them, but silly words like OOLALA and PEEKABOO make any puzzle fun.

Now regarding the "bash old people day", I'm an old FOGY and proud of it! Sometimes being a part of history has an advantage in solving CWs. I was recently hired by a law firm and paid $300 an hour JUST BECAUSE I HAD AN OLD BRAIN, to be an expert witness on computer software claims. So being old isn't all bad when it comes to knowledge of history.
I live in an area of North Aurora known by the locals as Geezerville. It really should be referred to a Leisureville... they're just jealous because we can sit and do our crosswords all day long if we want.

Okay, time to go take my afternoon nap.


I'm glad you explained STEN in CW101, but why do I always get STEN and BREN mixed up? I think they're both British machine guns, both used a lot in CWs, both 4 letters; so when do we use which?

Charles Bogle said...

@ddbmc-many thanks for enlightening me on "rasp" and your other insight, always good; @crockett1947: thanks, that indeed is a "rasp"-wish I'd known you when I was visiting Portland frequently. How about a post of that barbershop quartet? And thanks for the STEN refresh; I keep missing XWord 101; @johnsneverhome: I am glad you will be re-joining us Mon-Wed--just remember several of us get over our heads as the weeks progresses and Mon-Wed and most Thurs we get to feel self-confident...

Rex Parker said...

Never seen BREN in my life.


Orange said...

Rex, sure you have. You just repressed the memory because it's a horrid little word.

hypatia1 said...

I think the term "fogy" should be asexual, like "actor."

CrazyCat said...

I hate STEN and BREN. Just not into guns of any kind. Love PEEKABOO and OOHLALA and am particularly fond of SUCKTACULAR which I will use to impress my children (supposed adults). I thought this Monday puzzle was very nice and additionally enjoyed the NYT puzzle. Thanks again Blogger Masters.

GLowe said...

OK, I'm not going to look this up, because no on reads the blogs this late, and I'm lazy @#$.

In Enfield, England, at Enfield Lock, there is a completely unremarkable oblong brick building, with weeds and gravel and such. This is the site of the Lee-Enfield rifle (armaments) company the produced many fine weapons for (I think) both World Wars, including the Sten, Bren and Lee-Enfield rifles - much appreciated by Eupropean and Canadian soldiers, but unavailable to US troops. I think, but God knows I'm wrong on my history lots.

Except I was there in 1985, at Enfield Lock, and drank beer at the pub across the canal from the factory. "The Greyhound" it was called at the time, the pub, but I wanted to catch the bus there, the Birts couldn't figure out why!

Lee-Enfield is to European wars what "Colt" and maybe "Smith & Wesson" was to the wild west.

BREN, STEN and LEE-ENFIELD rifles. One day I'll look it up, but don't correct me now, I won't look .... :-)

GLowe said...

... but I did. Sorry I dissed the Birts, thank goodness I left the Socts, Welhs and Irihs alone.

Gram said...

@Tuttle - Thanks for the info about Sten and Bren guns. I've been plugging those words into puzzles for years without knowing their makers and details. I like knowing!

@Charles Bogle - I enjoy your input as a smart newbie to solving, and I hear your grief. Hang in there!

@Rex, Orange, Puzzlegirl - MUCH appreciation for the sense of community you have fostered on your blogsites. Lots more like-minded and different-minded folk for me to enjoy! Yay!


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