MONDAY, Nov. 9, 2009 — Barry C. Silk

THEME: Sleight of Hand — theme answers start with MAGIC, TRICK, and ILLUSION, respectively

A very nice early-week puzzle with one big problem: ILLUSION COLLAR?!? I have a hard time accepting this as a theme answer, in that it isn't common, famous, widely known, etc., to anyone except (perhaps) those that watch Cesar Milan's show. I have watched his show before and I still hadn't heard of this. Maybe in L.A. it's all the rage, but as well known commercial products go, this one doesn't even rate. I'm sure it was the best ILLUSION _____ phrase there was, but I still don't like it. Too marginal. MAGIC EIGHT BALL, on the other hand, is just right. A product that is famous outside of any one celebrity or TV show. Hours of constant, stupid fun for kids. As for the rest of the puzzle, it's gorgeous. Smooth and solid and interesting — except for SEDGY. W+T+F? That answer makes me a little WOOZY (but WOOZY is so good that it almost makes me forget about SEDGY).

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Toy that might answer "It is decidedly so" (MAGIC EIGHT BALL)
  • 35A: Sly inquiry (TRICK QUESTION)
  • 51A: Cesar Milan dog-training apparatus (ILLUSION COLLAR)

Aside from the entirety of ILLUSION COLLAR, I had trouble only in the SE, where I wrote in AFLAME for ABLAZE (45D: On fire). Oh, and in the SW I wrote in TEEN-AGER for TEEN IDOL (35D: Miley Cyrus, for one), but immediately knew it was wrong. Clue was way too specific for the very general TEEN-AGER. Coincidentally, I watched the Miley Cyrus episode of "Family Guy" last night...

Crosswordese 101: AUK (28D: Northern diving bird) — One of many great avian members of the Crosswordese Hall of Fame. AUKs are like SKUAs, only without the "S" and with the letters rearranged. Also, check out this wikifact about AUKs: "Judging from molecular data, their closest living relatives appear to be the skuas, with these two lineages separating about 30 million years ago." SKUAs, however, are way more fond of (and capable of) flying. Technically AUKs can fly, but they'd prefer not. And now you know.

What else?

  • 40A: Charlatan (FAKER) — not to be confused with a FAKIR, "A Hindu ascetic or religious mendicant, especially one who performs feats of MAGIC (!) or endurance" (answers.com)
  • 7D: Criticize in a witty way (ZING) — what a great, original clue for ZING. YOOHOO ... ZING! That's a wacky north region for sure.
  • 49A: Critic Reed (REX) — normally don't comment on instances of Me in the puzzle, but today REX crosses "HE'S So Fine" and RULER, so, you know, I had to say something.

See you Friday,


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


jazz said...

I didn't notice much cheap fill, though there was also a dearth of clever cluing. Maybe just about right for a Monday. Agree that ILLUSIONCOLLAR is obscure.

Hadn't heard of SEDGY before, nor LEDA (Helen of troy mother).

Happy Monday all! Keep rocking!


I’m still a little WOOZY (50d)… haven’t fully wakened up… need my first coffee.

Easy for me, but nice magical theme.
Most of the clues were CLEAR (16a).
Some of the words are yucky though: SEDGY, may be a true, but who would say that?

(49a) Should have said “Critic Parker” for REX.

Glad to see TSE clue referring to T. S. Eliot and NOT half of a fly.

I liked “Cell messenger” for RNA (48a) and “Wild blue yonder” for SKY (38d).

I just listened to Crooner Mel TORME (59a). He has appropriately been referred to as “the velvet fog.”

Cute how the last word in the acrosses is END (64a) and the last clue in the downs is “Let‘s call ITA day!” (56d).

Tinbeni said...

Woozy, Yoohoo, Zing & Zen made for a Crazy fill. Any puzzle on Monday with 3 "Z's" is IDEAL, not the usual SOSO offering.

After I completed it, I Googled the 'Illusion Collar' to see WTF it was. Looks to me to be an expensive leash. Aaah maybe that's the illusion. It's just a TV Host's way of bilking those that watch his show The Dog Whisperer.

Hope the rest of the weeks LAT's are as much fun.

Sfingi said...

Nicely Scrabbly.

I got the theme and guessed 51A ILLUSION. Don't know what the illusion is, but Cesar Milan is mentioned today in B.C. (cartoon - yes, I read them first.) Looked him up; veterinarians are against his methods. I'm reminded of a short story by Jack London, "Diable, a Dog," in which the dog gets his revenge.

Didn't know 50A WEBER (cooking! that and lawn-mowing I've easily avoided all my life) so I had "ablaze" and "men" and wondered what was so meditative about men.

For a short, scary minute I thought 28A AESOP (ancient moralist) was going for "Jesus." What do you cross (excuse the pun) with Jesus?

39D SLR and 48A RNA were a personal Natick. What is SLR? Coulda been sld. Solar? Sold? Enough, already, with the initials.
Looked it up. Single Lens Reflex. Technical explanation @John? Also, I love Mel Torme and any 2 syllable word that can be superlativized, i.e. sedgier, woozier.

I got a 2nd hand magic 8-ball for a counselor at the prison, which he used when the inmates asked him stupid questions - his idea, not mine(not PC?).

Burner10 said...

I think I was the last known human to give up my beloved (heavy) SLR in favor of the so very convenient digital camera (light). I loved everything about the photo class I took including the lovely maxim that informs me to this day - the greater the appature the less is the depth of field (a forest for the trees) - that's my riff on SLR

Carol said...

Pretty good Monday puzzle. I, too liked all the Z's.

Googled ILLUSION COLLAR as it was such an off the wall answer. There is such a thing, but have never seen one in use.

Still, fast solve for me for a Monday.

John said...

Not sure why, But had CRAPY for crazy. googled it and Urban dictionary has an interesting discription involving REX. #7

Crockett1947 said...

So, back in the dark ages before digital cameras, there were essentially three varieties of cameras: rangefinders, double lens reflex, and single lens reflex.

The rangefinders morphed into the point and shoot cameras that are prolific today -- lose the ability to focus, just take the snap.

The double lens reflexes used a second lens system to focus your picture, and were devilishly hard to get level because everything was seen as a mirror image.

The Single Lens Reflex uses a prism to bend the image that is reflected from a mirror into the eyepiece so you could actually see what the camera was seeing before taking your picture.

Of course there were other types of cameras available for professionals, but the above describes the amateur market before the advent of digital, IIRC.

Have an awesome day!

gespenst said...

The one driving my nuts today was 40A: Charlatan.

I had QUACK (crossed out) FRAUD (crossed out) FAKER based on the crosses. Oh well.

I'll have to google ILLUSION COLLAR ... I noticed the BC reference too!

Otherwise a pretty decent puzzle.

Anonymous said...

If illusion collar isn't common, famous, or widely known then how did odalisque make it into Saturdays NYT? I'll bet not 1 person in the whole USofA used that word once all of last week. Todays puzzle 1 v short of a panagram. Enjoyed it Golfballman

CrazyCat said...

I enjoyed the puzzle today. It was a Monday level, but had some creative clues and fill. I just finished reading Ceasar Millan's book "How to Raise the Perfect Dog." There is no mention of ILLUSION COLLAR. Also, my dog needs to read the book since non of his methods seem to be working. My old boss used to keep a MAGIC EIGHT BALL on his desk to help him with those very difficult dillemas. Liked the REX/RULER cross. Wasn't LEDA the one who had the run in with the swan or Zeuss in the form of a swan? I have 2 SLR cameras that took much better pics than my digital. Some day I will start using them again. As always, thanks for the write up.

brucy said...

Of the two, I'd only heard of odalisque before the puzzles. I'm not claiming that's true in general, but are you seriously suggesting that the criteria for word acceptability for a Saturday NYT should be the same as that for a Monday LAT?

If the pangram had mattered to the constructor/editor, LEAVEN/AVA would have been an easy change...

Orange said...

Anonymous 9:37, I'll bet at least a couple art history classes talked about the famous ODALISQUE paintings last week (the Ingres painting and Manet's riff on it Olympia, with the direct gaze). And like @brucy says, the familiarity bar is much higher for Monday-friendly fill than for a challenging Saturday puzzle. Saturday puzzles are expected to have difficult fill, but Monday puzzles are supposed to be approachable enough for beginners.

Orange said...

P.S. Never heard of ILLUSION COLLAR and wondered what it was doing in a Monday puzzle. I'll bet this country has more people who've taken art history classes and know ODALISQUE than Cesar Milian fans who know ILLUSION COLLAR. Certainly among the crossword-solving demographic, anyway.

Grandpappy Steve said...

Like everyone else, illusion collar, apparently named for Cesar Millan's wife, threw me but the crosses & the theme made it a has to be. After googling it, I decided that my dog can tug a bit on walks rather than wear a bulky & ugly $40 collar. Other than that, a nice Monday...actually more difficult for me than today's NYT.

bluebell said...

"Illusion collar" proves that even Monday puzzles can teach you new words. A whole lot of us are going to Google it and raise Mr. Milian's numbers. (I hadn't heard of him, either, until now.)

Yes, Leda encountered the swan, which is why I knew her name.

@Crocket1947--thank you for the exposition on camera lenses. Maybe now I will remember those initials.

CrazyCat said...

Didn't do the Sat. NYT puzzle, but know odalisque from being an art history major. The Grande Odalisque by Ingres is very famous.

mac said...

Crusty little Monday puzzle from Barry Silk! It seemed a little harder than usual to me.

Odalisque would have been easier for me than the dog collar, but the crosses and the theme helped.

@Rex: that was a very funny write-up; wish Barry had managed to get in the "fakir", too.

shrub5 said...

@RP: Had a little chuckle at your picture of the leash with an invisible dog -- a couple years ago I had a trick-or-treater who came as a ghost and had one of those.

This was a nice Monday-level puzzle with many Scrabble-y letters. Anything I didn't know outright (e.g., ATOI, SLR, SEDGY) was readily filled in by crosses. Was looking for 'prestidigitator' to show up as: person whose line of work includes the first words of 20-, 35- and 51-Across.

My favorite clue today was Knight fight (JOUST)

Sfingi said...

@Anon 5:37 - If you had a cat you called Odalisque because of her (Ingre) pose, you would say her name several times a day. And,that puzzle was a Saturday.

@Crockett - Thanx for exposition.

@Hey guys - so why is it an "illusion." Does it actually float in the air?

scott said...

I've seen the show a few times, but never heard of an illusion collar even still . Bad clue.

On the plus side, it made look him up in wikipedia which had the amazing benefit of finding out that Cesar Milan's wife's name is .... Ilusion! Pretty weird.


@Crazycatlady et all
I think Le Grande Odalisque by Ingres is most famous for her excessive number of lumbar vertebrae (she had 10), thus making her back extra-long.
A very important study:
Le Grande Odalisque Back

CrazyCat said...

@JNH LOL That takes the cake!

split infinitive said...

Solid mental romp for a Monday. 'Sedgy' sounds like a Jabberwocky word. Rex, thanks for pointing out the ridiculousness of 'Illusion Collar.'
I/we know who Cesar M. is (one of Oprah's minions, who rode her coat-tails to fame and glory) but that collar is too obscure for a Monday, or perhaps for anything before a Friday. RNA & DNA confuse me. Glad to see the Magic Eight Ball make an appearance if not a debut. Planting crops according to the throw of a die makes for better yields than a strict orderly crop rotation. Randomness has its benefits!

Sfingi: you always brighten the room up when you visit. Love your viewpoints on words, history and life.

JohnNH: your enthusiasm is viral! /In a good way, infectious.

Rex--your write ups never fail to elucidate and entertain.

Split & Co.

wilsch said...

I was unfamiliar with "illusion collar" also, but 'magic eight ball" is very cool fill.

Charles Bogle said...

really fun Monday puzzle, loved MAGICEIGHTBALL...solid and creative fill...Barry Silk comes through again!