FRIDAY, Dec. 4, 2009 — Jack McInturff

THEME: CK-ing in! — "CK" is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style

As add-a-letter (or in this case, letters) themes go, this one's OK. Helps that that added letters somewhat and very Scrabbly, respectively — livens up the grid quite a bit. Didn't like THREE CHECKERS as an answer (not wacky enough), but the others were solid, with FAIRY TACKLE being the big winner in my eyes. Did not like the clue on CERAMIC TICKLE (24A: Reaction to an amusing porcelain). Don't think of "TICKLE" as a reaction. It's an act (verb), or a sensation. Something that tickles me makes me laugh, but I would not say that a good joke or funny picture gave me a TICKLE.

Love love love the gigantic Down pairs in the NE and SW. Great words / phrases that add real solving interest to the puzzle. Nice when the grid is not ALL about the theme. I don't know what an SFC is (31D: Army E-7: Abbr.) — I'm guessing Sergeant First Class. Is that right? Yes! Never ever ever seen it in a grid. CLK is pretty terrible as abbrevs. go (51D: Court recordkeeper: Abbr.). But otherwise, the grid is pretty damned clean. Lots of common fill, but few things that are flat-out ugly. And crosswordese exile ERIQ La Salle (25D: La Salle of "ER") makes a return to the grid after what feels like a looooooong absence. Good to see him working again.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Takedown by Tinkerbell? (FAIRY TACKLE)
  • 24A: Reaction to an amusing porcelain? (CERAMIC TICKLE)
  • 38A: Symptom of poor lighting? (FREQUENT FLICKER)
  • 49A: Supermarket group taking a coffee break, perhaps? (THREE CHECKERS)
  • 59A: Store-brand dill? (STOCK PICKLE) — odd man out here, as base word ("stockpile") is a single word that has to be split apart to make the wacky answer.
Crosswordese 101: SRO (37D: Sign of a big hit) — Standing Room Only. Standard, longtime, common bit of crossword fill. I'd honestly never seen the abbreviation until I started doing crosswords (not a lot of occasion to attend the theater as a young man). SRO can also stand for a type of apartment: Single Room Occupancy.

What else?

  • 7A: City on the Cauca River (CALI) — in Columbia. Never heard of this river. Seems like it would make a good (hard) xword answer.

  • 30A: Limoges-born impressionist (RENOIR) — I like the odd bit of trivia in clues for otherwise common answers.
  • 11D: Consequences of some soccer fouls (FREE KICKS) — wasn't familiar with QUICK KICKS of a few days ago. FREE KICKS I know well. Speaking of ... World Cup 2010 mania is already well under way all around the globe ...

Thanks — see you Monday


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

PS I posted the following announcement at my NYT blog this morning, but it should of interest to most solvers here as well:

"Fireball Crosswords"!

The Sun Crossword was arguably the best crossword in the country while it ran. Then the Sun folded and the crossword was without a home. Bad news for solvers and constructors everywhere. Now the Sun Crossword, edited by Peter Gordon, is being reborn as "Fireball Crosswords" (I only just now put the "Sun" / "Fireball" connection together ... D'oh!). Peter's puzzles rival those of the NYT for innovation, entertainment, and overall quality. He's offering a subscription of 50 puzzles (published roughly once a week for a year, starting in January) for the absurdly low price of $10. The more subscriber interest there is, the more likely the endeavor will continue in the future. You will not be disappointed in these puzzles — subscriptions would make great (thoughtful, cheap) gifts for the xword-lovers in your life. For more information, see his website here. And for all you pen-and-paper solvers, don't be put off by the electronic delivery mode. It's really Sooooo easy to print puzzles out and solve them like a Luddite. I can walk you through it :)

PPS Happy birthday, Jay-Z.

Everything Else — 1A: Afternoon break (SIESTA); 7A: City on the Cauca River (CALI); 11A: Monastic title (FRA); 14A: Many a marigold (ANNUAL); 15A: Juice letters? (AC/DC); 16A: VCR button (REW); 17A: Takedown by Tinker Bell? (FAIRY TACKLE); 19A: "Little" 1960s singer (EVA); 20A: Former Spanish queen (ENA); 21A: "The A-Team" actor (MR. T); 22A: Vile smile (SNEER); 24A: Reaction to an amusing porcelain? (CERAMIC TICKLE); 29A: Sought a seat (RAN); 30A: Limoges-born impressionist (RENOIR); 31A: Parsley piece (SPRIG); 34A: Mideast carrier (EL-AL); 36A: USSR successor (CIS); 38A: Symptom of poor lighting? (FREQUENT FLICKER); 42A: NASDAQ listings (COS.); 43A: Military station (POST); 44A: Western prop (LASSO); 45A: Out in the open (PUBLIC); 48A: Title for Roger Moore (SIR); 49A: Supermarket group taking a coffee break, perhaps? (THREE CHECKERS); 53A: Jersey groups (HERDS); 54A: Super Bowl played in MMVII (XLI); 55A: Expression of satisfaction (AAH); 58A: Sporty truck, for short (UTE); 59A: Store-brand dill? (STOCK PICKLE); 64A: MC's aid (MIC); 65A: First name in architecture (EERO); 66A: Block (IMPEDE); 67A: Pie chart fig. (PCT.); 68A: Inert gas (NEON); 69A: Like some foot bones (TARSAL); 1D: Place for gems (SAFE); 2D: Words with uproar or instant (IN AN); 3D: Massive old computer (ENIAC); 4D: Baja California __: Mexican state (SUR); 5D: Scotland's longest river (TAY); 6D: "Gosford Park" director (ALTMAN); 7D: Saguaros, e.g. (CACTI); 8D: Comics cry of disgust (ACK); 9D: Cholesterol initials (LDL); 10D: Strands at the ski resort, perhaps (ICES IN); 11D: Consequences of some soccer fouls (FREE KICKS); 12D: Big-time parties (REVELRIES); 13D: With it (AWARE); 18D: Shirt part (ARM); 23D: 31-Down, e.g. (NCO); 25D: La Salle of "ER" (ERIQ); 26D: Pizza Quick sauce maker (RAGU); 27D: Scrapbooking, e.g. (CRAFT); 28D: Recount (TELL); 31D: Army E-7: Abbr. (SFC); 32D: Like some visions (PROPHETIC); 33D: Bring back into practice (RESURRECT); 34D: Cain's eldest son (ENOCH); 35D: Kojak and Crocker: Abbr. (LTS.); 37D: Sign of a big hit (SRO); 39D: Majestic (EPIC); 40D: Nastase of tennis (ILIE); 41D: "It Must Be Him" singer Vikki (CARR); 46D: Breakfast companion? (BED); 47D: Ease (LESSEN); 48D: "Never mind" ('SKIP IT"); 49D: Haunted house sound (THUMP); 50D: Former pen pal? (EX-CON); 51D: Court recordkeeper: Abbr. (CLK.); 52D: "Land __!" (SAKES); 56D: "The West Wing" Emmy winner (ALDA); 57D: Achilles' weakness (HEEL); 60D: Place to start a hole (TEE); 61D: Pizarro's quest (ORO); 62D: The Monkees' "__ Believer" (I'M A); 63D: "Kiss of life," briefly (CPR).


John said...

Thought 17A said "Taken down by Tinker Bell" and wrote in FAIRYDUSTED, suprised it fit!

This one was harder than usual for me, at least in the lower half. Didn't get the theme til I came here.

*David* said...

Picked up the theme after getting the first theme FAIRYTACKLE. Had two of the ugliest corsses I've seen in a while with SFC/COS and CLK/XLI. I'm guessing the XLI clue was from Rich.

I didn't find the puzzle all that difficult and moved steadily through it. Favorite fill was probably REVELRIES.


A fairly good puzzle although I thought the theme clues were a bit tense. Enjoyed the apres though... thanks Rex. I too loved the four nine-letter downs, especially REVELRIES. This is the week of all the pre-Christmas soirees which often turn out to be boisterous REVELRIES.

Fave clues:
"Juice letters" = ACDC
"Jersey groups" = HERDS
"Strands at the ski resort" = ICESIN
"Breakfast companion" = BED
"Former pen pal" = EXCON

Fave entries:
ENIAC (boy, that sure brings back memories for me)
RENOIR (a fave artist)


New stuff for me:
Baja California SUR
ERIQ La Salle

Something to wake us up:

BTW, what ever happened to Vicki CARR?

"Houston, we have a problem" IT'S CALLED SNOW! (Chicago John is laughing)

Time for my cinnamon flavored coffee and blueberry jelly bismarck (have to watch that LDL)!

ribbit said...

Most commonly mispelled South American country? COLOMBIA (not Columbia) is where CALI can be found.

lit.doc said...

Nice, accessible theme puzz, nice, gentle way to start Friday. Has anyone seen "Ack!" used by any character before or since Bill the Cat? Fun memory, still have the T-shirt. Only holdup was 17A early on. Threw in CHUCKLE, later changed to CACKLE, finally crossed to TICKLE. Same furrowed-brow reaction as RP. Only other cavil was UTE. How are "utile" and "sporty" synonymous?

Well, on to BEQ's Friday (highly recommended), and then to slow death at the NYT (actually, CAN'T be as painful as yesterday's).

Tinbeni said...

I was "Taken down NOT by Tinker Bell" but by this excellently difficult puzzle.

More than a few times as I got the answer via the crosses I groaned before the AAH 55a.

Like @John and maybe a few others, I did not grasp the theme until they were completed. Many (almost too many) write-overs.

31d SFC had SGT, 16a REW had REC, mis-spelled TARSAL (had an 'e' at second 'a'), I won't recap the others.

Upon final completion, and my 3rd cup of coffee, my reaction was a total love/hate.

Good job John McInturff you woke up my brain cells.

Rex great write-up & clips and the extra info, I'll check it out.

gespenst said...

I had help from my dad-in-law today, but we managed it.

Only error in the end, all said and done (not counting various minor missteps along the way) was b/c I knew neither CALI nor ACK - I guessed ICK so I had CILI, which looked wrong, but whatever. I should have remembered Bill the Cat!!


I resent being called a Luddite just because I prefer paper.

Orange said...

@lit.doc, I loved the mangy Bill the Cat. His ACK was qualitatively different from the ACK of the "Cathy" comic strip. Cathy's been acking for decades now, pretty much always about the same topics.

Gareth Bain said...

Jack McInturff again! We had him on Wednesday in the NYT with a pun theme there too (is that a spoiler?)

63 letters of theme! And yet, although only FREQUENTFLICKER felt truly inspired, all the rest definitely clicked... And the fill was pretty neat if not overly glittery, the long downs didn't have too much puzzazz but as Rex noted there wasn't much junk, which is far more important. Actually goofed on ERIQ, had him down as ERIK, but a voice in the back of my head was saying "No that's Satie/Estrada/The Phantom of the Opera"

Lit.Doc: "Ack!" is usually associated with Cathy these days, never heard of Bill the Cat...

Rex Parker said...


And Luddites everywhere resent the fact that you think "Luddite" is pejorative. :)

I meant it affectionately. I use "nerd" and "dork" that way too.


Sfingi said...

No luck in the SW because 3 cheers didn't come to mind. If I had thought of the rather good PROPHETIC, I would have made progress.

Did not know DEY before today.
Did not know ENA since I couldn't get La Ina (dry Sherry) out of my head. Jersey groups, HERDS was clever - too clever for me, since I figured it was sports, so I didn't try hard enough.

Too much 3-letter abbrev. CIS CLK CPR FRA LTS MIC NCO PCT REW SRO SFT UTE. Of these, CLK and PCT are unacceptable in my judgment.

I thought BED very poor for a breakfast companion. Don't leave crumbs in my bed!
ACK is pretty bad. Where is this used?
Why not try "Ieoh" as a first name in architects (IM Pei)? Just as many vowels.

EXCON is clever, since prisoners are about the only people left who have to use snail-mail. Colleges have stopped having mail courses in favor of online courses, thus putting them out of luck. Can't trust 'em on internet. I took a couple of English courses through Wisconsin "back in the day."

I liked land SAKES, as a codgeress, (though no cougar).

@John - Vicki Carr has been singing in Spanish for the last 20.
And no one can call you a Luddite if you can use the internet as well as you do. You're bi-communicative - or bi-something. Make up a word.

Rex Parker said...

Bill the Cat is an iconic comics character from Berkeley Breathed's "Bloom County" (1980s). That was my "Doonesbury" as a kid (i.e. introduction to topical / political humor in comics). There was also a penguin named Opus.


Unknown said...

E-7 NCO is a master sergeant, not sergeant first class

Rex Parker said...

Army E-7 = SFC


Unknown said...

I am wrong. E-7 is an SFC. I forgot staff sergeant (E-6)

shrub5 said...

This was a fun Friday puzzle in content and also in terms of difficulty. Took me quite a while to finish which I did without using any outside assistance. I left two blanks: the C in SFC/COS (no idea) and the L in CALI/LDL. Since I had ICK instead of ACK for the comics cry of disgust, that left the city on the Cauca River as CI-I. I knew that the first cholesterol initial had to be L or H -- making the city either CILI or CIHI. Sooooo I gave up on that one. It sounded to me that a river named Cauca would be in Europe or Asia.

I had REINSTATE for a while before crossings changed it to RESURRECT. And for 45a) out in the open, I put SUNLIT before the obviously better PUBLIC.

I chuckled at STOCKPICKLE! Forgot that ERIQ uses a Q so I had C/K to start and that made FREQUENT FLICKER a long time in coming to light.

@RP: Thanks for the info on Fireball crosswords. I plan to subscribe. As my mom says: still cheap at twice the price!

PS: While I was writing this a few more comments came on. Oh, I forgot about Bill the Cat and ACK! I liked the Bloom County strip, too. Sorry, some of my comments repeat those of others but don't have the time to edit. Gotta run.



I'm a bitextual.

BED for companion to breakfast is referring to B&B (Bed & Breakfast)... IMO, a perfectly good clue.

jazz said...

@jnh: College Station, we have a problem...same as you, Houston!

And JNH's comments pretty much echo my own. Good cluing overall, good theme and answers, only a few lame fills. Hazaan like, Hazzan like! (B.Bunny reference)

What a great ending to the weekdays! Have a fine, cold weekend, all!

Carol said...

@JNH - you have the most interesting breakfasts!

After getting 17A TACKLE, 38A FLICKER, and 11D KICKS I was afraid that this was a football-themed puzzle (as in flea flicker). So relieved to find the cute theme after filling in a few more clues.

Nice challenging Friday. Yes, a few ugly fills, but all in all a satisfying puzzle.


A fantastic breakfast, a nice crossword, and a cat-nap... the highlights of a good morning for me.


Oh yeah, I forgot "and good rapport with other puzzlers."

Sfingi said...

@John the bitextual - Omigod - never thought of that. It's off the radar. We can't go to Bed and Breakfasts because they "might" have cats (hubster) - also, old bookstores, gardens, etc. unless I've cleared them.

Remembered I had crockpickle before I figured out taking the CK out. Like in the old general stores. My great-grandfather had one in Marlboro, NY from which we got the stuff we donated to the Farmer's Museum when it opened, and the tobacco baseball card we sold for 8G (down payment for the car the Troll crashed). "One sees what one brings."

CrazyCat said...

Puzzle today took me three cups of gingerbread coffee to get through. I did get the theme right away for a change, although for a minute I thought it might be another ICK theme between FREQUENT FLICKER, CERAMICTICKLE,FREEKICKS and STOCK PICKLE. I think there was CALI Colombia in another puzzle this week. So I guess there is a city CALI and a river CALI. Will google later when I have time. Got Breakfast Companion BED right away as in B & B. Just guessed at SFC and didn't know ERIQ. But I did get SRO due to learning it on this blog somewhere in the past. Had no idea what ACK was. Now I know. All in all a nice challenging Friday puzzle and fun write up. Thanks!

CrazyCat said...

Oh and by the way - thanks to everyone for spaetzle advice yesterday. I am going to give it a try. I'll let you know how it turns out.

hazel said...

Isn't FREEKICKS kind of a foul? since it also has the CK? And ACK too, come to think of it?

Also we get TICKLED about stuff all the time here in the SOUTH - sometimes we're even TICKLED PINK in response to [fill in the blank]. Seems like legit clue to me.

C said...

As a proud Luddite, I appreciated RP's call out. Cell phones, PDA's, electronic books, bah! Luddites unite!

Heh, I also work at a large web based company as a technologist so I guess I'm a fallen Luddite.

I prefer solving my puzzles on paper versus electronically, just feels better to me.

Good puzzle today. Only way I can justify the CERAMICTICKLE answer is by somehow warping the phrase "tickle ones fancy" into meaning "amusing" Reach at best on my part.

Good write up today.

Rex Parker said...

@hazel, read what I actually said about "tickle." As v. yes, as n., no. Nothing you say in your comment contradicts that. All the examples you use are verbal, and thus, yes, legit ... if that's what the clue was doing too (it's not).


Whitney said...

Interesting puzzle. I got confused by the ThreeCheckers entry b/c it didn't fit in with the rest of the theme, but I get it now. Three CK's. Sure. Maybe I'm missing something as to how CK's gets you CHECKERS...? Could it also be THREECLUCKERS or THREETRUCKERS?

I've ALWAYS thought of SRO as Sold Right Out. It's always helped me get that particular answer. Standing Room Only does make sense, too :)

Snow in Houston?! Crazy.

Parsan said...

Kudos to the powers that be for a late week challenging puzzle. I guess I'm in the "be careful what you wish for" group, for I found it slow going. But like the tortoise plodded along, I made it by rethinking meanings - recount=TELL (not re-add votes), and by getting the theme after FAIRY TACKLE and FREQUENT FLICKER, it all fell into place.

Nice to be reminded of Bill the Cat. Remember Pogo?

CALI filled in and I thought of the Cali Cartel, a Colombian drug organization that supplied most of the cocaine to the US in decades past and was finally destroyed. The leader was extradited to this country and jailed. I guess someone else moved up and filled the void.

Enjoyed the write-up Rex.

hazel said...

@Rex - I ALWAYS read what you say, but couldn't get beyond what I saw as similar usages for TACKLE/TICKLE. I see your point now - they all need to work as nouns.

So, two of those checkers need to be fired because THREECHECKERS stands out as plural and.... On a positive note, FAIRYTALE can be considered 1 word (dictionary.com) - so now STOCKPILE has a friend....

I think I'm just not a fan of the "wacky phrase" in general so I'm a bit ornery about the whole subject.

Back to saving the world now.

Orange said...

@Whitney, THREE CHECKERS is simply THREE CHEERS with a CK inserted. It's not about "three CKs" being added because there are four other theme entries in the mix, not three. Also, CK is an abbrev for "check," not "checkers," and an insert-an-abbreviation-for-no-reason theme would be kinda lame.

Whitney said...

@Orange So it's just another theme entry! Thanks you! I guess I got thrown off because TACKLE, TICKLE, and PICKLE all end in CKLE :) I wasn't even paying any attention to the central FLICKER...Derp!

GLowe said...

@ Orange: I Agr.


If you take out the CK from FREEKICKS, it says FREEKIS. What the heck does that mean? I realize after reading the blog that it's not a part of the theme, but isn't that a little confusing for a constructor to throw that in?
At least if you remove the CK from ACK, it still makes A, a legit word. There's a big difference between a diversionary tactic and creating confusion. Shouldn't there be a construction rule against quasi-theme words?

Charles Bogle said...

@tinbeni and @sfingi captured my reactions nicely. Alas, though, I had to abandon the effort only a little more than half-way through due to personal rule: no googling for lat. First daily LAT puzzle I have't fiished in a while: good, they're definitely getting harder!

CrazyCat said...

@Whitney - I just realized your avatar is a snowman with a mohawk! Awesome.

Unknown said...

Took me a long time to finish this one. Northwest was biggest problem, so had to work up.
10D [ICES IN] I had seen before but had to fill all the crosses to get it this time.Clue always refers to ice storms. How about something with more pizazz like------Hooking at the rink - Any of you fellow hockey fans get it? ICE SIN .
Back to my knitting

HUTCH said...


split infinitive said...

Solving was kind of a 'blind date' process: 1) 'Hello, yes, so nice to meet you!' 2) [thought] Uh oh, we're not on the same wavelength. Or same planet. 3) 'Bye, see you around' and 4) [sigh of relief].

OK puzzle, yep, but the RP write up and comments here are much more interesting. Best 'wacky' theme answer was FREQUENT FLICKER. 'Pen pals' stood out, too. 'Jersey groups' seemed to call for 'mobs' but they wouldn't fit. Yikes, CLK, LXI were hard on the brain and the eyes. 'Limoges' cued without reference to porcelain and tied to RENOIR was superCALIfragilistic etc. I miss ALDA and West Wing -- he's done some interesting PBS shows on the human brain. Guy knows how to talk to scientists, too --who knew!?

Whitney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Whitney said...

@crazycatlady Thank you :) I built him last year during Portland's Arctic Blast '08.

mac said...

I liked this puzzle, but it was odd in that the top half was easy to me, the bottom much harder. You have all chewed it apart already. I agree with Rex's write-up.

@Hutch: welcome, I don't think I have seen your name before. My hearing is excellent.

No food today other than John's flavored coffee (ack) and a jelly bismarck(?)...

Anonymous said...

A tickle is "a tickling sensation." A sensation is a "physical feeling resulting from stimulation." How is this not a reaction?


Bohica said...

Ah yes, the CALI cartel of the 70's and 80's.

The Orejuela brothers earned their initial "operating capital" by kidnapping and holding for ransom, rich foreign kids visiting Colombia ($700,000). They themselves were among the wealthy of Cali, originally called the "Cali Gentlemen".

They started out distributing pot, but that was too large and bulky to ship, and with the profit margin low and growing season long, moved on to cocaine (see kids? marijuana does lead to harder drugs).

I'm sure that during the 70's I'd contributed a good deal of money towards the group; not only through purchases, but also in efforts to stop them (taxes). That makes me a "two time loser".

Could really use that money in this recession!

Rex Parker said...

Again (again) the issue is context. Yes, a "tickle" is a sensation when referring to, say, a tickle in your throat. But I'm still waiting to hear someone use it, as a noun, to refer to the sensation of being amused. "That joke gave me a tickle?" ... that's the very best I can do, and that's not good.