WEDNESDAY, January 27, 2010—Daniel A. Finan

Hey, Northern Californians! There's a puzzle event in your area this weekend, the Silicon Valley Puzzle Weekend at the Morgan Hill Library. That link details the weekend's workshops (Saturday) and competitions (Sunday), and you can register here. There are events for both kids and adults, covering crosswords, sudoku, cryptic crosswords, logic puzzles, and word puzzles. Also on the schedule: a constructors panel featuring seasoned crossworders Byron Walden, Tyler Hinman, Andrea Carla Michaels, and Mark Diehl; a talk about crosswordese with Mark Diehl; and more. If you're in the area and you've never attended a puzzle even before, we encourage you to head to Morgan Hill this weekend.

THEME: "Flower Power"—Each of six rhyming word pairs starts with a different category of plant, ergo NURSERY RHYMES or "rhymes for plants grown in a nursery"

It's a well-thought-out seven-piece theme, but it didn't grab me like kudzu tendrils. The large number of (shortish) theme entries fragmented the grid into lots of small sections with 23 three-letter answers. Those include some solid threes (MAR, JIF, AHA, GYM, NUB, RYE) and shortenings (PEC, UKE, BIZ), but also plenty of abbreviations (GED, MSS, plural G.E.'S, LAA, GAO, au courant GPS, SMU), crosswordese (ORT, EKE, FER, Mauna LOA), and foreign words (MER, EAU with a Wisconsin clue, ORO). Stay tuned for highlights after this message from our thematic sponsor.

Theme entries:
  • 17A: Longing for a fronded plant? (FERN YEARN). Not crazy about YEARN used as a noun. Yearning is the noun.
  • 21A: Zinfandel, but not sake? (VINE WINE). Sake is brewed from rice, not grapes, and grapes grow on vines. Sake is apparently not really a wine even though it's sometimes called "rice wine," as it's brewed more like beer rather than made from fermented fruit. (So saith Wikipedia.)
  • 23A: Oxygen emanating from a lawn? (GRASS GAS). Anyone else have dope and flatulence on their mind now?
  • 55A: Steep, e.g.? (HERB VERB). Isn't HERB, like GRASS, slang for marijuana? HERB VERB could be clued by the less botanically minded as [Mellow out] or [Have the munchies].
  • 57A: Like areas above the timberline? (TREE FREE). Tree Brie, tree glee, tree ski...
  • 61A: Group devoted to small, woody plants? (SHRUB CLUB).
  • 37A: Mother Goose offerings, or in a different sense, this puzzle's title (NURSERY RHYMES). The meaning of "nursery rhymes" is reinterpreted as rhymes for categories of plants grown in the nursery.
  • 66A: "I Kissed __": Katy Perry hit (A GIRL). PuzzleGirl said she liked this one. Me, I grouped it with the other two-word partials, HE HAD and ERE WE. I...don't know the song. Yes, I know it was a runaway hit a couple years ago. Don't care. Maybe you will like it. My husband just asked me to turn it off!

  • 9D: "Riders of the Purple Sage" author (ZANE GREY). My grandma read some Zane Grey. Westerns are not my cup of tea, but you gotta appreciate a full name as a crossword answer, especially one with a Z in it.
  • 38D: Winter wonderland creator (SNOWFALL). It's a lovely word unless it's January, there's no end in sight to winter, and you are so over snow.
  • 46D: Bring to a boil? (ENRAGE). Love the clue.
How many of you have seen The Big Lebowski? I have a friend who views it as a touchstone in her life, and apparently her kind are legion. "The Dude abides!" they say. I've never seen it. Here's the trailer, and...it doesn't make me want to see this movie, even though I love the cast. 1A is Bridges of "The Big Lebowski" (JEFF), and he just won the Golden Globe for his performance in Crazy Heart...which I also have not seen. I did see Avatar last weekend, though, which is why I chose that other movie poster to accompany FERN YEARN. I think James Cameron totally copied FernGully.

Crosswordese 101: EGESTS is one of those words we hardly ever encounter outside of crosswords. Am I right? When's the last time you used the word? The clue is usually along the lines of 27A: Spewsspews out, casts out, or discharges. You may be thinking that volcanoes egest lava. Guess what? The word seems to specifically apply to discharging or excreting from the body (opposite of ingest). Yes, that's right: DEFECATE would flunk the crossword breakfast test, but EGEST skates right in because most people don't know the bodily substance definition. It can also refer to sweating, peeing, and barfing. Eww!

Everything Else — 1A: Bridges of "The Big Lebowski" (JEFF); 5A: River projects (DAMS); 9A: Ritz cracker alternative (ZESTA); 14A: Swedish furniture giant (IKEA); 15A: Ostrich cousin (RHEA); 16A: Neighborhoods (AREAS); 17A: Longing for a fronded plant? (FERN YEARN); 19A: Connection (NEXUS); 20A: H.S. dropout's test (GED); 21A: Zinfandel, but not sake? (VINE WINE); 23A: Oxygen emanating from a lawn? (GRASS GAS); 27A: Spews (EGESTS); 28A: Bench press target, briefly (PEC); 29A: Côte d'Azur view (MER); 30A: Scratch or dent (MAR); 31A: Ed.'s pile (MSS); 32A: Rural skyline cylinder (SILO); 34A: Rock collection specimens (AGATES); 37A: Mother Goose offerings, or in a different sense, this puzzle's title (NURSERY RHYMES); 42A: Cloverleaf element (ON-RAMP); 43A: Follower of once? (UPON); 45A: Some TVs (GES); 48A: Scrap for Spot (ORT); 49A: Anaheim team, on scoreboards (LAA); 52A: __ Claire, Wisconsin (EAU); 53A: Pair of blows (ONE TWO); 55A: Steep, e.g.? (HERB VERB); 57A: Like areas above the timberline? (TREE FREE); 59A: Govt. auditing gp. (GAO); 60A: Fruit soda brand (FANTA); 61A: Group devoted to small, woody plants? (SHRUB CLUB); 66A: "I Kissed __": Katy Perry hit (A GIRL); 67A: Diggs of "Private Practice" (TAYE); 68A: Golfer Isao (AOKI); 69A: Kidney-related (RENAL); 70A: Fruity drinks (ADES); 71A: Joan at Woodstock (BAEZ); 1D: Choice of "Choosy moms," in ads (JIF); 2D: Squeeze (out) (EKE); 3D: Not agin (FER); 4D: Werewolf's weapons (FANGS); 5D: Channel maintenance machine (DREDGE); 6D: Cry of realization (AHA); 7D: Griffin and others (MERVS); 8D: Cleaning product prefix (SANI-); 9D: "Riders of the Purple Sage" author (ZANE GREY); 10D: "Maid of Athens, __ part": Byron (ERE WE); 11D: Discrimination fought by suffragists (SEXISM); 12D: Talks trash to (TAUNTS); 13D: Size up (ASSESS); 18D: Polite country affirmative (YES'M); 22D: Not o'er ('NEATH); 23D: Modern rental car feature, briefly (GPS); 24D: Hold back (REIN); 25D: Scopes Trial gp. (ACLU); 26D: Turkish mount (ARARAT); 30D: Christie heroine (MARPLE); 33D: Plata counterpart (ORO); 35D: Place where sweaters get fit? (GYM); 36D: The Mustangs of coll. football (SMU); 38D: Winter wonderland creator (SNOWFALL); 39D: Shortstop's boot (ERROR); 40D: Foil alternative (ÉPÉE); 41D: Fly high (SOAR); 44D: Worn-down pencil (NUB); 45D: Was successful (GOT FAR); 46D: Bring to a boil? (ENRAGE); 47D: Shown to a seat (SEEN IN); 50D: Pleads in court (ARGUES); 51D: Simple poetry pattern (ABAB); 54D: Aquarium denizen (TETRA); 55D: "__ it coming": "Serves him right" (HE HAD); 56D: Eng. lesson (VOCAB.); 58D: "¿Cómo __ usted?" (ESTA); 62D: Bakery product (RYE); 63D: Mauna __ (LOA); 64D: Strummed strings (UKE); 65D: Show __ (BIZ).


Van55 said...

I agree that much of the fill wasa just annoying. MERVS?

But the theme was pretty good.

John said...

The Big Lebowski Is on a par with The Rocky Horror Picture Show as far as cult statis goes. They even have Lebowski Fest around here.Just like they used to dress up in drag for an annual showing of Rocky Horror.

Rex Parker said...

Thumbs way down. Good idea, awkwardly executed, with terrrrrrible fill (I'll break the tie — Katy Perry answer, A GIRL, = one more damned partial = bad).

Like ZANE GREY. But EGESTS pretty much says everything else I want to say about this one. SANI-? Come on.

Shiva said...

Four thumbs down.

mac said...

I turned Katy Perry off, too. Agree step by step with Orange.
Very dense theme, I was wondering what would rhyme with "nursery".

I saw "The Big Lebowski" and I liked it, the way I like "Fargo" and "The Royal Tannenbaums". There is a huge Lebowski event in Holland every year, where all participants wear pale blue terrycloth robes and drink White Russians.

Anonymous said...

Can somebody please explain "Herb Verb" for steep? I don't understand the connection - I got the answer but am mystified. Also "oro" (gold?) for plata (river?). Thanks

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James said...

@ Anonymous: plata=silver

Shiva said...

@Anon 7:20 - It's just plain akward. Lets assume that we're talking about HERBal tea here, and one STEEPs tea. Therefore, the verb steep appliest to tea, which is a herb. Hence HERBVERB. See, akward.

Joon said...

i like the idea of the puzzle much more than the puzzle itself. reinterpreting NURSERY RHYMES, seven theme answers with silly clues... cool. wish the execution had been cleaner.

ten thumbs up for the big lebowski. the trailer is hilarious in retrospect, but not particularly helpful if you haven't seen the movie. it's very good. funny, dark, really funny, great acting, and ... funny. bridges is great. goodman is even better. phillip seymour hoffman is terrific. steve buscemi is steve buscemi (i like him). even tara reid is okay. i haven't thought hard enough to rank it, but it's probably in my 5-10 favorite movies of all time.

Grandpappy said...

Good theme, terrible execution. The Katy Perry video made me want to spew.

shrub5 said...

@joon: I'm putting "The Big Lebowski" in my Netflix queue.

I had trouble in the NE corner. Didn't know ZESTA crackers or the Byron quote with ERE WE. In fact I had EREWE, couldn't parse it and thought I had something wrong. Had ERUPTS before EGESTS (eeww) and DISSES before TAUNTS. Very messy with several writeovers by the time I finished.

First time I've heard "boot" used with the meaning ERROR. Does this just apply to baseball?

Favorite clue/answer: Place where sweaters get fit? (GYM).

Burner10 said...

I just didn't enjoy doing this puzzle - got it except I went with HERBKERB- thinking somekind of landscape crossed with an obscure variant of parse. In summary, yucky fill trumps theme notwithstanding MER/MAR.

Shiva said...

@Joon - I'm sitting here, trying to think of dudes I know who have 10 arms. The only one I can think of is Krishna, but he's got 24. If you're some manifestation of Krishna, the least you can do is tell people that you've only given "The Big Lebowski" 10 of 24 thumbs up. Always go with full disclosure guy.

Parsan said...

I guess I'm out of it because I liked this theme (with the exception of HERB VERB) and thought maybe the constructer was mocking the use of three letter fill with across answers in a line, PEC, MER, MAR, MSS and then GES, ORT, LAA, EAU. I guess that and other flaws make this a bad puzzle. Still learning.

JEFF Bridges is a terrific actor. He starred with brother Beau in an excellent movie, The Fabulous Baker Boys, with Michelle Pfieffer.

TAYE and AOKI not as well known as BAEZ, MARPLE, and ZANE GREY.

Agree FERN YEARN should be long and not longing. Noticed the EA in answers across IKEA, RHEA, AREAS.

Best clued words ONE TWO and GYM. a little backwoods-FER and YES'M.

Thanks Orange!

Burner10 said...

Oh - I've got to weigh in on Katy Perry - can't see the clip, but I know the song and I like it - nice pop. She was on AI last night.

*David* said...

The Big Lebowski has become a cult movie even though it did not do well in its movie run. This is typical of most cult movies. As a lover of most things Coen, I did not enjoy it that much when I saw it on the wide screen, I am partial to Miller's Crossing as my fave Coen movie.

Katy Perry was on American Idol last night and had some hilarious exchanges with Kara, definitely worth a listen, Simon enjoyed it all immensely.

Where are Zesta crackers sold, I've never seen 'em?

Joon said...

shiva, i was making a (rather oblique) reference to the food critic episode of the simpsons. pretty sad, wasn't it? not as sad as this, though.

shrub5, cool. i don't know if my cinematic tastes are anything that other people (people who like movies, say) will find useful, but there you have it. i did love the movie. hmm, should i warn you about the ear scene? let's pretend i did but you ignored the warning.

C said...

Never heard of ZESTA crackers which made this author challenged solver get ZANEGRAY the hard way. No problems, the dude abides.

DataGeek said...

I'm in the not-too-impressed group. Biggest offense is the "Govt. Auditing Group" with the answer GAO. Doesn't the G stand for Government?? Seems like a big no-no, and as a result I couldn't believe GAO was correct for a while. And yes, EGESTS is disgusting, and not sure why it's acceptable. Makes me want to barf.

CPA said...

GAO = General Accounting Office

CrazyCat said...

I liked the write up better than the puzzle today. Big Lebowski with JEFF Bridges was just meh for me when I saw it. My daughter's boyfriend loves it. I guess I will have to revisit it at some point. That Katy Perry song has always made me want to EGEST, although she was kind of cute on Idol last night.
California tidbit of the day. In 1924 a film crew came to Santa Catalina Island to do a film version of a ZANE GREY book "The Vanishing American." They brought 14 American bison for the film. When they were done they left the bison on the island. Now there is a herd of 150 roaming the interior of Catalina. There is also a hotel named after ZANE GREY.
Thanks Orange! Very funny write up for a so-so puzzle.

Tinbeni said...

Theme revealed itself quickly.
OK, except for the HERB VERB.

I'll admit it, I am a card carrying member of the ACLU, defend the Bill of Rights, get labeled too liberal.

Liked the GYM clue, not much else.

@Orange, nice write up, first time I turned off a clip. Probably an age thing.

lit.doc said...

I guess inexperience does occasionally pay off. I enjoyed doing this puzzle, and thought the theme thingy was cute. Had the same experience with the NYT puzz today. I'm sure though that within a couple of years I'll learn to dislike this sort of puzz, but for now, :)

Only real wart, for me, was "boot" = ERROR. All I can think is that to be given the boot is to be fired. For an error? I'm missing something, or that clue is reeeally a stretch.

And the scattering-of-ashes scene in The Big Lebowski is worth the price of admission.

D. Jeter said...

I hate it when they tell me I booted a grounder.

Lets end the football season before we get around to baseball speak and spring training.

rynosgmaw said...

@David Zesta crackers (which are saltines) are sold in the midwest like here in Cincinnati

SethG said...

Zesta crackers are sold nationally, just not in every store/chain.

If I were to micturate, say upon a rug, I will have egested. Speaking of, [Ed.'s pile] is much different than [Mr. Ed's pile]. EPEE. ASSESS. RENAL!

JIMMIE said...

Not the best but an entertaining puzzle for me, despite being NEATH my expectations. One complaint is that the printed clue for 65D in the LAT Calendar section does not have a blank. The crosses indicated BIZ, so I assumed a misprint, and was correct for once. I hate a misprint ERROR.

Chicknfriedrice said...


I think GAO is actually Government Accountability Office. Well, I know because I work there.

Regardless, theme answers were easy when I picked it up but the NE corner was a mess for me too. Didn't know ZESTA for the crackers and had ERUPTS instead of EGESTS.

Overall, didn't love the puzzle but didn't hate it either.

chefwen said...

Couldn't remember the cracker name and put in ZErTA, must have confused it with the mattress Serta, then got a really big laugh when 11D turned into REXISM. HAH!

Personal opinion - I thought Katy Perry was kind of a little bitch last night on Idol, chomping on her gum and laughing hysterically at many of the singers, I do admit that they were pretty awful, but show some respect.

Charles Bogle said...

@orange: super write-up; thanks; had no idea re EGESTS

@srub5: had same problem in NE; getting ZESTA and ERE WE

@tinbeni: totally agree GYM very cleverly-clued

@shiva: thanks for explaining HERBVERB; I needed it. Also, forgot CW 101 on ORT

My favorite Coen Brothers movie is "O Brother Where Art Thou": terrific soundtrack too. At my kids' insistence, I watched "Big Lebowski" first time over the holidays. Like anything that develops a cult, the film will have people, like me, who nod off before the end. Agree Bridges, Goodman, Buscemi very good; was that P S Hoffman as aide to rich guy?

Stopped at DFW airport recently. Zane Grey books clearly remain hot items..in Arizona he clearly rules

ok here's a pet peeve: again we have ABAB. And not just in this puzzle. Other tired fill: EKE, ESTA, ACLU. I liked the theme; but the over-all execution felt second-rate (sort of like ZESTA and FANTA?)

Sfingi said...

I guess guys either love or hate Lesbians. Hubster's one of the former.

Had to Google 3 partial sports clues: TAYE, SMU, LAA; and one other, EREWE, a Byron I just didn't know.

Only write over, DREDGE over "remote." Wrong channel.

Love anything with John Turturo - Sicilian. Laughed at how skinny he was in that movie. And Buscemi, half Sicilian. I just bought Interview. Hope it's good.

My husband was in the ACLU but quit - not over the neo-Nazi thing in Skokie, over which they lost huge numbers of members, but over their defense of big publishers. He figured they should spend their funds on those who can't afford to represent themselves. This latest Supreme Court win should have some interesting results.

@Joon - very sad, a young man like that. Makes you wish you could have brought him around.

@Chefwen - Rexism LOL! On the other topic, I don't watch reality shows, and that's one reason.

housemouse said...

Is there some law that I haven't heard of against actually giving sensible clues to the words? I am getting really tired of nearly every puzzlemaker using silly clues that you really have to be tuned into the author's odd sense of humor to appreciate. Can't we have crosswords that just give people a chance to flex their vocabulary, without having to decipher the author's sense of humor/puns as well? Not to speak ill of the departed, but must everyone try to emulate the late Dan Naddor? Just give us sensible clues; don't try to be too cute or make us guess at your puns. Vocabulary, folks, vocabulary. Leave the jokes for Leno or Letterman. Please.

Orange said...

Husband and I caught the last few minutes of Avril Lavigne and the first few minutes of Katy Perry on "Idol." It's one thing for Simon and Randy, who are not singers but in the music business, to pass judgment on wannabe singers. But for Lavigne and Perry—singers who have made it, are successful, and have great connections—to snicker openly at singers with no industry connections...well, it's unseemly, to say the least. It's a bitchy (would use the same word if they were male) and arrogant thing to do. We turned off the show after about two auditions.

Tinbeni said...

Have never seen Idol or the Simpsons or even the Family Guy.
I know it is my 'loss' for not viewing these shows and watching the History, Natl.Geog., Discovery channels.
Saw the Bitch clip on the internet today from last night. The claws came out.

Continued ACLU membership when the local chapter took up a 1st Amendment case for a small business owner.
Guy owned a bait shop, had painted pictures of fish on his building (the nerve!). City of Clearwater sued/fined him over a local ord. prohibiting murals on buildings. He won his case.
I agree the ACLU shouldn't have taken that publishing case.

LMAO - Rexism?
Hmmm, isn't that what we have here on Monday and Friday?

My Tinism is complete.

Rex Parker said...

To be fair, Perry was way way more professional (and intelligible) than Lavigne. Plus the distinction betw. them and regular judges isn't good. Kara has written many hit songs, Randy is a producer as well as a musician. And somehow Simon is arguably the most perceptive of all of them.

Also, if you turned off show after two auditions, how could you have possibly seen both singers unless you (doubtful) happened to catch the very last Perry one and the very first Lavigne one — or vice versa, I forget the order?


Orange said...

That's exactly what we did, Rex—turned it on mid-show, saw Avril snicker, saw one singer make it to Hollywood and introduce her kid to Simon, saw Katy snicker. That's all we watched. Might've been a total of 2.5 auditions, in the middle of the show.

Unknown said...

I'll take State Mottos for $1,000, Alex. This State's Motto, Oro Y Plata, is the only one in Spanish. What is Montana?


Just not a good day for me.
I agree pretty much with Rex and the others... this one was baddddd!
I wanted to BARF! Uh, excuse me, I mean EGEST my breakfast.
There wasn't anything I liked.
And I agree with Amy's husband...horrible Katy Perry clip!
Ay least we were treated by Orange to a Big Lebowski clip.

Tomorrow I will be going to a very primitive location for a winter outing (to photograph massive ice formations) and so I won't have a computer hookup. I won't be back online till next Monday.
Y'all have a wonderful weekend!!!

Parsan said...

I'm surprised at the popularity of AI at this stage of its programming. People who think they can sing but they can't, those who know that they can't but sing anyway, some who probably could with some training, and a very few who can actually sing.

Listeners can be in on the joke, laugh, boo, or applaud each performance. They can cring in embarassment for the singers who are awful but sincere, especially when they are ridiculed by judges.

I guess it's entertainment. For other tastes, there are a thousand channels to pick from. Wonder what Zworykin and Farnsworth would think of their invention if they could see it in 2010.

Anonymous said...

@Sfingi 12:02 pm:
Joon's link to the story about the young man was from The Onion, a parody news site. It was fictional.

HUTCH said...

To Anon; When I was running around Juarez, Mexico, as a young child,drinking beer, etc.if you were buying something, the merchant would ask you-" plata o oro-"silver or gold" which meant Peso"s[eight cents]or gold[an American dollar}If you said Plata, he would just giggle but if you said oro,he knew you were serious and the haggling would begin.

mac said...

@Sfingi: Katy Perry has a very visible British comedian fiance.

@Joon: very good links!

ddbmc said...

@Mac, you're correct. Katy Perry is affianced to Russell Brand, who is a very off beat English actor/comedian. He was the "rocker boyfriend" in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", he was in "Penelope," Bedtime Stories (Adam Sandler's movie) and is in the latest version of "The Tempest." (post-production). He can be very randy and somewhat amusing on late night gab fests, playing both sides of the sexual aisle, not unlike Katy Perry.

Jeff Bridges! Be still my heart! Have always enjoyed his performances. Have to see his newest, "Crazy Heart." The son's are "Dude-ites" and bow to "The Great Lebowski." Younger cousin's husband has "LEBOWSKI" on his license plate!

I struggled with the NE corner,too, not knowing ZESTA, EGEST, EREWE-why does that remind me of EARWIG?

The three letter fills: PEC-MER-MAR-MSS-GES-ORT-LAA-EAU- sound like they should be sung in "The Sound Of Music!"

@Shrubb5! SHRUBCLUB! Who knew? I'll join! Can we have VINEWINE at the meeting? If we drink Dandelion Wine, do we get GRASS GAS? How To Make Dandelion Wine

"Dandelion Wine" was also a semi-autobiographical novel written by Ray Bradbury. :)

Joon said...

GAO does indeed stand for government accountability office, but this has only been true since 2004. when it was first established in 1921, it was the general accounting office. that could be the source of the confusion.

sfingi, i didn't mean to mislead with that onion article. (i assumed everybody knew about the onion.) perhaps i shouldn't have called it "sad."