THURSDAY, October 8, 2009
Donna S. Levin

Theme: Covert Ops Theme answers have the letter string OPS hidden (i.e., covertly placed) in them.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Jam on the brakes (STOP SHORT).
  • 23A: Soft court stroke (DROPSHOT).
  • 38A: Small family businesses (MOM AND POP STORES).
  • 49A: Stir-fried dish (CHOP SUEY).
  • 59A: Hush-hush activities, briefly, and a hint to the hidden theme in 18-, 23-, 38- and 49-Across (COVERT OPS).
Crosswordese 101: This is going to be awesome. We are now going to learn together what the heck POI is (36D: Luau fare). All I know is that it's something that's eaten in Hawaii, but now that I'm going to try to explain it to you, I'm gonna need a little more information than that. To Wikipedia!
Poi is a Hawaiian word for the primary Polynesian staple food made from the corm of the kalo plant (known widely as taro). Poi is produced by mashing the cooked corm (baked or steamed) to a highly viscous fluid. Water is added during mashing and again just before eating, to achieve a desired consistency, which can range from liquid to dough-like (poi can be known as two-finger or three-finger, alluding to how many fingers you would have to use to eat it, depending on its consistency).
So now we know!

This was a fun puzzle to solve. I got super frustrated with myself because I kept plugging in answers I thought were easy without checking the crosses and they turned out to be wrong.
  • 21A: Go astray (SIN). I had err.
  • 49A: Stir-fried dish (CHOP SUEY). I don't really know if chow mein is a stir-fried dish, but with the CHO in place, it looked like a reasonable answer.
  • 3D: Big name in gas (AMOCO). Mobil.
  • 6D: Rodeo rope (LASSO). This is funny. Whenever the correct answer is riata, nine times out of ten I'll enter LASSO. Today I did the opposite.
  • 12D: Swing set site (YARD). I tried park.
I don't know if those clue/answer pairs were specifically designed to cause problems, but if they were — nice job!

  • 1A: Athenian with harsh laws (DRACO). Whence the term Draconian.
  • 10A: Hip-hop mogul who married Beyoncé (JAY-Z). Even if you don't like rap (and I know some of you don't), you have to know this guy. The guy is ridiculously successful and is married to a ridiculously successful woman.
  • 22A: Press conf. format (Q AND A). This is what we sometimes call and amerpsandwich. Other ampersandwiches you'll see in crosswords are R AND R (rest and relaxation), R AND B (rhythm and blues), and A AND E (the Arts and Entertainment network). They're difficult to parse if you're not used to seeing them. But now you're prepared!
  • 27A: Colorfully patterned fabric (PAISLEY). Awesome. Another excuse to post a video of one of my very favorite performers out there. I'm gonna go with an oldie but goodie today.

  • 34A: RCA Victor pooch (NIPPER). Weren't we just talking about NIPPER? Yep, it was back on September 15.
  • 43A: Fast time (LENT). Tricky clue! More, please!
  • 44A: Gander (LOOK-SEE). Both words are so ... I don't know, old-fashioned? Doesn't seem like you could use them non-ironically without being considered a little on the weird side.
  • 48A: World Series mo. (OCT.). I'll admit I don't follow baseball all that closely throughout the year, but when the post-season starts, it's hard to stay away. Especially when there are nail-biters like Tuesday's Tigers/Twins game. Wow! That was exciting!
  • 1D: "Judge __": Stallone film (DREDD). Misspelled it Dread at first.
  • 61A: Magician Henning et al. (DOUGS). What other famous Dougs can we come up with? Off the top of my head, the only one I can think of is Doug Williams. And that's pretty old skool.
  • 30D: Eddie of the '40s-'50s Senators (YOST). No idea.
  • 51D: "Star Trek" communications officer (UHURA). Mispelled it Uhuru but caught it from the cross.
  • 56D: Eye part containing the iris (UVEA). Future Crosswordese 101 lesson.
Everything Else — 6A: "Star Wars" princess (LEIA); 14A: Grapevine traveler (RUMOR); 15A: Srs.' lobbying gp. (AARP); 16A: "Dies __": hymn (IRAE); 17A: Get hitched quick (ELOPE); 20A: Stick-on design (DECAL); 25A: Wallowing place (MUD); 26A: Pasture (LEA); 31A: Songstress Adams (EDIE); 37A: Altar consent (I DO); 41A: Driver's lic. et al. (IDS); 42A: Lend a hand (ASSIST); 46A: Embarrassed (RED); 54A: Legend automaker (ACURA); 58A: Yellowish earth tone (OCHRE); 62A: Region (AREA); 63A: Shoshoneans (UTES); 64A: __ the side of caution (ERR ON); 65A: College official (DEAN); 66A: Like slasher movies (GORY); 67A: 1954-1977 defense gp. (SEATO); 2D: School tool (RULER); 4D: Admit one's guilt to serve less time (COP A PLEA); 5D: Threat-ending words (OR ELSE); 7D: Weird Al Yankovic parody of a Michael Jackson hit (EAT IT); 8D: It's pumped in gyms (IRON); 9D: PC program (APP); 10D: Holy wars (JIHADS); 11D: Elvis __ Presley (ARON); 13D: Epsilon follower (ZETA); 19D: Water gun stream (SQUIRT); 24D: Desk phone unit (HANDSET); 25D: Orchestra leader (MAESTRO); 27D: Third afterthought, in a ltr. (PPPS); 28D: Old Italian money (LIRE); 29D: Paradise (EDEN); 31D: German artist Nolde (EMIL); 32D: Dimwit (DODO); 33D: "__ Excited": Pointer Sisters hit (I'M SO); 35D: __ dixit: assertion without proof (IPSE); 39D: Sprint Cup org. (NASCAR); 40D: It may take years to settle one (OLD SCORE); 45D: Seoul man (KOREAN); 47D: Lyric poems (EPODES); 49D: Playful prank (CAPER); 50D: Brazen minx (HUSSY); 52D: Grain disease (ERGOT); 53D: Like some simple questions (YES/NO); 54D: West Point, e.g.: Abbr. (ACAD.); 55D: Apple center (CORE); 57D: He bit Miss Gulch in a 1939 film (TOTO); 60D: Pull hard (TUG).


mac said...

Good puzzle and good write-up!
I tasted poi once, now I don't have to have it again. I wondered why they couldn't flavor it a little.

By the way, where is the solved puzzle? It's hard to comment when you can't reread. Thanks for pointing out the ops-theme, hadn't taken the time.... I like that wallowing place, reminds me of the enormous rhino mother with baby we saw in South Africa. Literally napping in the oozing mud.

Just got a card in the mail with a woodcut of Emil Nolde on it! Like his work a lot.

We have our own famous Doug: Peterson the constructor!

PuzzleGirl said...

Sorry about forgetting to post the grid! Thanks for the reminder, Mac. My kids are off school today so I'm a little scattered!

Parsan said...

PG--Interesting comments but the puzzle is missing.

Once had a dentist who always said "Lets have a LOOK-SEE", a phrase I didn't like, and not just because of what would probably come next. Tried to find a word for goose but that was the wrong gander.

Never thought of CHOP SUEY, an American creation, as stir-fry. I guess that is because it has been around for many decades while stir-fry is a newer culinary cooking method for Americans that has become mainstream. Of course the wok has been used for centuries in Asian cultures.

Enjoyed the puzzle today!.

Donna said...

Thanks for the write-up, PuzzleGirl. FWIW, CHOP SUEY (49A) was a fourth theme entry, not just part of the fill.

It's always interesting to see how clues are changed by the editor. Whereas my DRACO was Harry Potter's nemesis, Rich's is the classical Greek lawgiver. And my EMIL was an actor, while Rich's was the German expressionist. I guess I need to "class up" my proper name references, huh?

Parsan said...

@PG--Just watched the Brad Paisley video and since I know little about country music I'm wondering who the old guy is (obviously someone important).

Also,DOUG Flutie?

Charles Bogle said...

I agree w mac and donna, I think...as PG puts it, really a fun puzzle! Personally, I think this week has seen an overall improvement in the LAT puzzle and for me today's is consistent w what I hope is a trend...loved COVERTOPS; theme worked nicely.. Liked: DRACO, OCHRE, UTES (can someone pls explain that to me though), OLDSCORE...got thrown by JAYZ..what is he doing here..UHURA (Huh?), UVEA (I need that lesson, PG) Great write-up too, thanks!

Parsan said...

Just read CHOP SUEY in Wikipedia and now question it's American origins, with other claims on the recipe from many sources. It's a mystery!

jazz said...

Agree with @Bogle...a fun puzzle, not necessarily a Thursday-caliber one. But the tone is definitely swinging toward "better" puzzles (whatever that means...talk about a loaded adjective!)

I liked LENT (nice to see a tricky clue) and LOOKSEE (ditto). Greek letters made appearances today, glad that semester of ancient Greek in H.S. has seen utility!

Never heard of UVEA or EPODES, nice to see a "Q" without a trailing "U" (QANDA) though I didn't read it as "Q & A" until I read PuzzleGirl.

shrub5 said...

I liked this puzzle very much -- a good mix of interesting fill in addition to the covert OPS. Among the clues/answers I admired are: OLDSCORE (It may take years to settle one) and TOTO (He bit Miss Gulch in a 1939 film.) 45D) Seoul man was a LOL as was 50D) Brazen minx (HUSSY). I had some difficulty in the SE corner with EPODES, UHURA, SEATO AND ERGOT eluding me and to google a couple of these to finish.

Totally agree with @mac -- POI is pretty yucky both in appearance and taste. I'd have to be near starvation to eat that again.

@Donna: thanks for letting us know how your puzzles get tweaked during the editing process. One must have to have thick skin when a clue gets changed that was thought to be pretty good!

@PG: other Dougs:
Doug Drabek - MLB pitcher
Doug Moe - NBA coach
Doug (las) Fir - tree

Carol said...

Much more Thursdayish puzzle! Appreciated the fact that I had to think!

Never heard of JAYZ, my age is more Elvis ARON Presley - so got that on crosses.

I also liked Seoul man - cute.

@Parsan - I don't know who the old guy with the fishing pole is either - anyone?

@PG - terrific write-up as usual.

Tuttle said...

Here's a very good and funny video about the origins of many American Chinese dishes:


shrub5 said...

Per youtube info on that Paisley video: The older man is Little Jimmy Dickens, the event was his 60th anniversary at the Grand Ole Opry.

Djinn said...

I enjoyed this puzzle for its theme and clues. My first colorfully patterned fabric choice was CALICOS, but otherwise solved it quickly.

Anyone else notice a covert theme lurking in Maestro, Hymn, Hip-Hop, RCA Victor, Yankovic, Jackson, Pointer Sisters, Soul (Seoul) Man, Byoncé, Presley and Edie?

The Corgi of Mystery said...

I have a liking for puzzles that start with a 5x5 square in the NW, and it was also nice to see a little more bite to the clueing than we've had recently. Hope things keep heading in this direction.

Doug P said...

Yay, I'm famous! Thanks, mac. :)

Fun puzzle today with lots of juicy fill. And PG's write-up was the icing on the cake.

GLowe said...

I deliberately left the helper area blank and tried to guess what it might be. Overcomplicated it I guess, as I went for STOPSHORT / SHORTSTOP - DROPSHOT / SHOTDROP (?), plus I wanted MOMANDPOPSHOP somehow.

Otherwise very smooth, could have done it faster without inventing non-existent themes.

I don't think of MUD as a "place". Also, if you're up to your 3rd post-script, you really didn't finish your letter at all, and you will be considered an idiot. I bet your 3rd post-script is simply an apology for the second one.

GLowe said...

P.S. Doug and the Slugs, plus the General guy, whose name I can't spell so I wont try.

SethG said...

Don't forget the DOUG Es, Doug and Fresh.

I misparsed, and spent the longest time trying to figure out what the hell COVER TOPS were and why only the first theme entry had a TOP. Go me.

James said...

@PG: "Walking" Eddie Yost led the AL in bases-on-balls six different times. I know, still not particularly interesting. I bet John did not care for it either. :)

@Charles Bogle: Utes is an Indian tribe, part of the Shoshonean (linguistic?) family of tribes.

CrazyCat said...

Liked this puzzle a lot and appreciated that it was a little more difficult than lately. Many of the clues were refreshingly clever. I had a problem in the GORY CHOP SUEY corner. My mother used to make the 1950s housewife version of CHOP SUEY and it definitely wasn't a stir fry. I had problems with URHURA (not a star trek fan), ERGOT, EPODES and SEATO. Also kept looking at QANDA thinking what the heck? Loved Grapevine Traveler GOSSIP. Has anyone actually seen Dr. DREDD? I did this puzzle at 12:30 a.m. so that might explain my fuzzy thinking. Also after hearing about POI, I think I'll pass if ever offered any. It sounds pretty awful.

Anonymous said...

what happen to 57A?

JIMMIE said...

@SethG: I like your word, new for me, misparsed. Very useful for CW problems.

Good puzzle for me, and great write up, PG.

P.S. I have seen ergot on the farm, which helped out in the SE corner.

Anonymous said...

@PG Corm? I was supposed to know what corm means/is/denotes? POI is Taro root gruel, and it tastes like it.

Whitney said...

Fun puzzle and great clues! Has DIES IRAE been covered in Crosswordese 101? My mnemonic device is that it sounds like Desiree when I say it in my head :)

Lots to laugh at today - Seoul Man, Grapevine Traveler, and SQUIRT were among my favorites. Club Dread was a pretty funny movie by the same guys who did Super Troopers and Beer Fest. And MAESTRO made me think of that Seinfeld episode "The Maestro". Nice work!

SethG said...

Of course I've seen Judge Dredd. Stallone was nominated for a worst Actor Razzie, but he lost out to Pauly Shore.

He was robbed.

Donna said...

Yeah, what about 57A. That none threw me as I originally put in tee for the clue "cross shape". What is tau??

Orange said...

TAU is a Greek letter, T. Wikipedia explains: "The symbolism of the cross was connected not only to the letter chi, but also to tau, the equivalent of the last letter in the Phoenician and Old Hebrew alphabets, and which was originally cruciform in shape."

Orange said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CrazyCat said...

@Seth G Oops I meant Judge Dredd. Sounds really good. I'll be sure to put it in my Netflix queue. I love Sly. LOL

Quando, Quando, Quando said...

ddbmc says:

@Seth G, Nobody puts Pauly in the corner! How 'bout "Encino Man?" More like "Judge Dreddful!" Toto probably could have bitten both!

Poi is tantamount to eating school paste, 'cept school paste smells better. Hawaii is beautiful, tho!

Leia/irae/Uhura-sounds like a Latin conjugation...
Imso,Dodo,Toto,Amoco,SEATO, Maestro-O's abound!
If "Cop a Plea" had been "Cops a Plea, there could have been one more "covert ops."

QANDA wasn't readily apparent and my eye kept tricking me with "Quanda?" Of course, then I started humming: "Quando, Quando, Quando!" see hyperlink above.

@Sfingi, I'm still working on the embedding thing!


A nice Thursday puzzle, but once again, I enjoyed Puzzlegirl's writeup more than solving the puzzle. Also, I enjoyed everyone's comments because I saw very little LAT negativism, which sometimes gets me down.

I always liked the word MAESTRO ever since one of my international students called me his maestro. I guess in other parts of the world it's not just limited to symphonic conductors.

Liked that the DRACO clue wasn't referring to the constellation.

Loved NIPPER... hey, I'm an oldie who actually owned a good old crank-up Victrola. No batteries, no cords, no computer adaptors; just a bamboo needle.

Now you know how much I hate political correctness, but I really had to laugh when I saw a female constructor use minx, HUSSY, songstress, and Seoul man for KOREAN. Sounded more like a male bias to me.

Why is AMOCO clued as a {Big name is gas}? It doesn't even exist in the U.S. anymore. The ironical thing is in the U.S. it's now called BP (BRITISH Petroleum) and in the U.K. and Canada it's called AMOCO (AMERICAN Oil Co.) Huh?

Learned something new today: EMIL Nolde. I checked out all his art... very bizarre paintings!

I need some CW101 on all the legalese stuff, like IPSO FACTO, IPSE DIXIT, and UPSY DAISY.

The JAYZ and ZETA cross was quite good as was SQUIRT and QANDA. Z words and Q (without U) words are very difficult for constructors, but Donna Levin is a true crossword "MAESTRO". Next time you see the Z word, ZORRO, think of "fox".

Re CHOPSUEY: When I was in China, I never saw chop suey anywhere. But then maybe I didn't go to Americatown (you know, where all the restaurants are on the first floor). I did, however, notice that the most popular restaurants in China were KFC.

Now I think I'm gonna go call East China Restaurant and order a yummy bucket of chop suey.

CrazyCat said...

@ddmc loved the Quando x3 video. Now I will have that song stuck in my head for the next week!

Sfingi said...

@ddbmc - love that song Dimmi quando tu verrai or Sag mir quando, sag mir wann - Sung in Ital and German by Roberto Blanco - who is Black!
4D "copsaplea" would've been brilliant. I wonder if Ms Levin tried for it.

52D - ERGOT has been posited as one explanation for the Salem witch madness. Oh yea. One of my ancestors was executed in 1662 in Hartford, CT for being a witch.

10A JAYZ, 30D YOST, 56D UVEA, 47D EPODES, 51D UHURA did not know but thrilled to say I got from crosses.

Remember Uhuru? Uhura must mean freedom, too.

The old fellow in the Paisley video you could've found out by double clicking into the picture and see the whole YouTube site.
But, what I want to know is what they call the fancy decorations on his shirt - kind of Porter Wagoner meets Hawaiian quilt.

My b-in-law passed about 22 hrs ago. RIP good guy.

ddbmc said...

@Sfingi, so sorry to hear about your b-in-law. Lost my favorite Auntie/Godmother a year ago today. We'll raise a glass of our beverage of choice to them both!

Parsan said...

@Sfingi--Condolences. Tough week for me too.

ddbmc said...

@Parsan and @Sfingie----(((((hugs))))

oldcoach said...

A squib kick is a short kick designed to travel a short distance and force the receiving team to receive the ball with one of there less skilled players who is positioned to block, not catch and return a kick. It is also designed to keep the receiving team from setting up their kick return scheme for a long run back. Because it is a low kick, it often bounces in strange ways and can often afford the kicking team an opportunity to recover the kick if it travels more than 10 yards or is poorly fielded.