WEDNESDAY, June 2 — Jack McInturff

Theme: THE FOUR TOPS (62A: "I Can't Help Myself" singers (1965), and hint to puzzle theme found in beginnings of answers to starred clues) — Four theme answers each begin with a word for a kind of top.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Hooch from the hinterlands (MOUNTAIN DEW).
  • 29A: *Spears or Twain (POP SINGER).
  • 39A: *Steve Forbes proposed a 17% one (FLAT TAX).
  • 48A: *Place to get tickets (BOX OFFICE).

Hey, everyone. Here I am on a Wednesday. Sick of me yet?

I had some trouble getting started on this one because right off the bat I wanted rube for HICK (1A: Country bumpkin). Is that even close? Or is a rube more of a cad? I'm too lazy to look it up. Then for [1D: Run smoothly] I wanted purr instead of HUM. You can see the problem there. So then I skipped over to [5A: In itself], which I just knew had to be per se and … it wasn't. I did, however, know [15A: Baum's good witch]. If only I knew how to spell her name! I tried Glynda before GLINDA became clear. Argh. When I had finally finished the top third or so, PuzzleKids came in yelling and carrying on. Apparently there had been some kind of badminton fiasco. I'm not sure I fully understand the situation, but oh boy! they were upset.

When I got back to it, it was slow and steady and, I think I'll go out on a limb and say enjoyable. I mean, how can you not enjoy seeing THE FOUR TOPS? Even though, again, I had an issue there! I kept hearing the Michael Jackson song "I Can't Help It," instead of the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself," so even that took a few crosses to work out.

I like this theme. The theme answers are shorter than usual, but they're still kind of cool with their X's and whatnot. And there are four of them. Four different tops. Get it? What? You got it back, like, five hours ago? Okay, well, I'm just trying to help, no need to get snippy.

  • 11A: When doubled, a dance (CAN). Tried cha first.
  • 21A: WellPoint competitor (AETNA). If you were paying attention yesterday, you probably got this easily.
  • 43A: Fruit covering (RIND). Considered both peel and skin before RIND.
  • 61A: Daisy __ (MAE). Not to be confused with Daisy Duke. Or maybe Daisy Duke is actually intended to be confused with her. Again, too lazy to go look it up.
  • 8D: Leipzig link (UND). German! UND = and, a linking word.
  • 9D: B followers (CDE). Random letter string. That's something you really don't like to see.
  • 11D: Market offering (CART). Super- not stock-.
  • 18D: 1994 Denis Leary comedy (THE REF). I would go try to find a clip of Denis Leary, who I think is hilarious, but I know I would get sucked into the vortex that is YouTube and I would never get to bed. Maybe next time.
  • 44D: Stadium topper (DOME). There's a national high school wrestling tournament held at the Fargodome every year. I grew up in Fargo, but moved away before the Dome was built. So all the people I know from college wrestling have pretty much been there, but I haven't.
Crosswordese 101: A newt is a salamander, and when a newt is in its "terrestrial juvenile" stage it's called an EFT (64D: Newt, at one time). As far as crossword puzzles are concerned, EFTs live in ponds, terrariums, and bogs. That's pretty much all you need to know. Try not to confuse EFT with ENT, which is a creature in "The Lord of the Rings."

There was quite a bit of other crosswordese in the puzzle that we've already covered, so here's a summary if you want to do a little studying:
  • 14A: Tangelo relative (UGLI).
  • 38A: Brian who produced some U2 albums (ENO).
  • 2D: Borodin prince (IGOR).
  • 25D: Songwriters' org. (ASCAP).
  • 40D: Irish Rose's lover (ABIE).
  • 58D: Aqua Velva alternative (AFTA).
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Everything Else — 16A: Livy's "I love" (AMO); 19A: Gun (REV); 20A: Sends again, as a package (RESHIPS); 23A: Computer list (MENU); 24A: Stated (SAID); 26A: Like a case before the court (AT BAR); 34A: It covers the pupil (CORNEA); 36A: __-Man (PAC); 37A: Youngest Brontë (ANNE); 42A: Lyric poem (ODE); 45A: "Madama Butterfly" tie (OBI); 46A: Hid, cardsharp-style (PALMED); 51A: Deviates (VEERS); 52A: Parcel (out) (METE); 53A: Sale warning (AS IS); 55A: Marina locale (INLET); 58A: Certifies under oath (ATTESTS); 66A: Lemon ending (-ADE); 67A: Exalt (LIFT UP); 68A: "Toreador Song," e.g. (ARIA); 69A: Cougar or Impala (CAR); 70A: Property to divide, perhaps (ESTATE); 71A: Monthly payment (RENT); 3D: Detective's need (CLUE); 4D: Brother or father (KINSMAN); 5D: "Encore!" ("AGAIN!"); 6D: Err (SLIP UP); 7D: Errs, morally (SINS); 10D: Game show winner's destination, maybe (HAWAII); 12D: Service finale (AMEN); 13D: Bright star (NOVA); 22D: Flamboyant Dame (EDNA); 24D: Tiff (SPAT); 26D: Harsh (ACERB); 27D: "Pagliacci" baritone role (TONIO); 28D: Where the 2009 World Series was won (BRONX); 30D: About the eye (OPTIC); 31D: Garden statue (GNOME); 32D: Word after East or West (ENDER); 33D: Oboes and clarinets (REEDS); 35D: Up in the air (ALOFT); 41D: Missionary St. Francis __ (XAVIER); 47D: Light cigarette ad claim (LESS TAR); 49D: In fine __: fit (FETTLE); 50D: Enjoy a bistro (EAT OUT); 54D: Knucklehead (STUPE); 55D: Apple with an electronic core (IMAC); 56D: Zilch (NADA); 57D: Lewd look (LEER); 59D: Ripped off (TORE); 60D: Turn in a kissing game (SPIN); 63D: Towel word (HIS); 65D: Made a lap (SAT).


Rex Parker said...

RUBE — yes
CHA — yes
GLYNDA — no, but ... GLENDA
IGOR — blanked on it

Still done in 4 flat.

Liked theme fine, tho' STUPE is the dumbest "word" ever.


Steve said...

Agree with Rex re STUPE. Also didn't like BRONX clued without "the"

Tinbeni said...

When I googled STUPE after I finished and found the first source listed is the Urban Dictionary, well ...

Wanted Rube before HICK.
So I went to the SE and solved in the opposite direction. Seems to me I do this a lot.
Got THE FOUR TOPS theme, UND was HUMming the song throughout.

UGLI is delicious, especially when right off the tree in Jamaica.

Didn't know TONIO or that "Toreador song" was an ARIA. Easy gets via crosses.

BRONX, site of the New York Yankee's 27th World Series Title last year. AS SUCH I don't care it showed up without "the"

Liked the AMEN ENDER stack.

PuzzleGirl: The pic of Newt with the hearts cracked me up. I always wondered if he had ONE.

Linda Hobbs said...

I made the same automatic guesses, pur, rube and cha! Came back and fixed them after having some hot tea and ruminating on the matter. Didn't care for "acerb." I've heard of acerbic, but acerb is a little wierd. Wanted "Assisi" for St. Francis, so didn't see "Xavier." Some easy stuff mixed in with some not-so-easy stuff. Always love to check your blog. Keep up the great work!

Joon said...

why would you do this to clue CAN, which is a perfectly normal word in its own right? that kind of desperation cluing is normally reserved for "words" like TSE, ZSA, and DIK. so yeah, of course i had CHA. (and RUBE.)

can they please please officially change the bronx to lebronx? how could that hurt?

Burner10 said...

On the train with rube and cha...
Didn't get the four themes until you pointed it out! That and the neet summary of 101 - fine!

*David* said...

I put REMAILS for RESHIPS which was my only hold out area. The rest of the puzzle moved quickly, HICK was just in a puzzle I did, maybe the Jonesin' yesterday.

Ratty said...

Hah! Your experiences reflect mine almost exactly: GLYNDA, RUBE, CHA, even puzzled over PURR for a bit. Never ever heard of an UGLI though.

Van55 said...

Compared to todays NYT entry, this one had a plethora of trite, unimaginative fill. I loved the Four Tops and I guess the box tops theme was OK.

Couldn't believe STUPE, though it was the first response to the clue that came into my mind for some odd reason.

"Made a lap" as a clue for SAT rankles me for some reason, not that it's new. It's standard crosswordese going back for the 40+ years I have been solving.

Zeke said...

If you're going to have HICK crossing KIN____ crossing MOUNTAINDEW, it has to be KINFOLK, it just has to. The HICKs around here make MOUNTAINDEW but if you ask any of them who their kinsmen are, they'll look at you with utter confusion. KINfolk they know.
For the first time in ages I actually spent some time figuring out the theme. What a total waste of 10 seconds. From now on, the LATimes will be themeless, 52x7

SethG said...

That's really cute how they went from The Four Seasons to The Four Tops. Tomorrow, our theme will be The Commodores.

bluebell said...

La Boheme was the first opera I ever heard, and I have heard it frequently since. I know Mimi and Musetta's names, but had to work to remember the male lead's name. Don't know what that says!

Less tar in the LA Times, Kools in the NY Times. Hmmmmmm.

In fine fettle--a lovely alliterative phrase.

CrazyCat said...

I also had a SLIP UP with RUBE before HICK, GLENDA and CHA. Like @Zeke I had KINFOLK for KINSMAN. I had just moved to TX and I was sitting with some moms at a Tee Ball game and mentioned that my parents were coming to visit. One of my new friends with a *very* strong drawl asked me "so when are your KINFOLK coming?" To my embarrassment, I had noooo idea what she was talking about. The theme, AS SUCH was ho HUM, but seeing my favorite, Dennis Leary, in THE REF, GNOME and THE FOUR TOPS was a LIFT UP. STUPE not so much.

chefbea said...

I too had cha and remails for a while. Good puzzle over all.

Such a storm going on right now. Just saw a duck swimming down the street.

Sfingi said...

Made love on the STooP
Cuz that's the only place that he could be alone.
(Louie Prima - Sicilian-American)

Googled for BRONX, IGOR and TONIO. Embarrassed about the operas.
Had "rube" before HICK and REmaIlS before RESHIPS. Thought Cha before CAN.

Since there were so many close ones, I really thought McInturff was messin' with my mind. The first thing I thought for 5A "In itself" was the German "An SiCH" (The Ding an sich of Immanuel Kant), Then I thought, "Oh no, they wouldn't hit them with that." Then I started the downs, and said "OMG, it is!" and actually wrote it in. But then I remembered GLINDA, and had to write over ASSUCH.

Rube said...

Needless to say, I sooo wanted Rube, but checking first saw that IGOR, a gimme, made it HICK. Only write-ovewr was KINdred for KINSMAN. Forgot ATBAR from puzzles past... must get better memory.

@PG, I take umbrage at that cad reference! You shouldn't offend your readers like that.

I'm gonna have a Mountain Dew with my lunch. The non "hooch" kind.

Judith said...

Agreed re. rube and stupe.

Loved the badminton fiasco reference -- with three siblings close in age, every badminton game seemed to end in a fiasco. At least the racquets were not as dangerous as the croquet mallets!

John Wolfenden said...

Not a fan of some of this clueing. REV clue is "Gun" with no indication that it's an abbreviation? And the clue for MOUNTAIN DEW should be end in a question mark, no? "Hinterland" isn't a very accurate synonym for "mountain" either.


KJGooster said...

@John: I think REV is now a verb in and of itself, and not an abbreviation, though its origin is certainly from REVOLVE or REVOLUTION.

Agree with you however, on "Hinterland" vs. MOUNTAIN. I guess the alliteration in the clue must have made it worth it.

C said...

FETTLE, an answer in fine ... er, fettle. I liked it a lot, been using it in sentences all day today at work. Makes meetings that much more enjoyable when you work a good FETTLE into the conversation.

Zeke said...

@John - Trust me, MOUNTAINDEW is not made only in the mountains. It's made everywhere in the hinterlands.

mac said...

OK puzzle, but I was botheree by a couple of things.

Newt Gingrich may have a few tiny heart.

@Joon: to me, there is no cha cha, there is only a cha cha cha. So can can was the only one.

My favorite word was fettle. It came without crosses, and I don't know wherefrom (is that one word?).

I did not understand the whole Mountain Dew or Mountaindew clue and answer. Thanks crosses.

KJGooster said...

@Mac: The term Mountain Dew, before becoming a soft drink in the 1940s, was a slang term for moonshine/white lightning/hooch, often made in the "hinterlands" to avoid the law during prohibition.

CrazyCat said...

Hope everyone's feeling in fine FETTLE this evening. @ KJGooster explained The MOUTAIN DEW issue nicely. @KJ I love your moniker because I was NEE KJG.
@Mac I was forced to go to cotillion as a ''tweener" to learn the basic dance steps in the '60s. It was not " Dancing With the Stars." More like Dancing with Short Sweaty Palmed Boys. The dance was called the CHA CHA, but the tempo was CHA CHA, CHA CHA CHA. It's a fun dance, but I'd rather do the CAN CAN any day.

Tinbeni said...

Ahhh, cotillion where the girls were HOT, the dances ... my grandparents.
But I do remember it was a nice way to spend a day.
Being from the "South" a Gentleman had a hankerchief.
You are soooo right about the cha cha, cha cha cha and that is why I put in half a CAN CAN.
Personally I like the horizontal bop.
The Bob Seger "Against the Wind" album is a fave.

ddbmc said...

STUPE is what younger son calls older brother, when there is STUPOR involved-brought on by many adult beverages or by a more organic means. They further morph the word to "STUPEE." Sad that I knew the word...TMI.

Seems there was a mini-showbusiness theme today, too-TONIO, IGOR, ENDER, BOXOFFICE, DAISY MAE, POPSINGER,ARIA, ABIE, EDNA, THE REF,CAN CAN,RENT,ASCAP, THE FOUR TOPS. Then there is always the show that goes in in the BRONX with the Bombers, especially against the Red Sox. Ta da! LIFT UP the curtain.

mac said...

@KJGooster: thank you for the explanation. I'm learning every day!
@CCL: in Holland, in my formal dance class, it was called the CHA CHA CHA. I still remember the girls on one side of the room, the boys on the other, and the sprint to get a partner!

CrazyCat said...

@Tinbeni OMG Love that Bob Seger album. The funniest thing about Cotillion was that after a dance, the boys would escort the girls back to the girls' side of the room. There was a huge polished-wood dance floor in between. One dance was always a lady's choice. When the host would announce it, all the girls would bolt out of their seats, sprint across the floor to try to nab the same 5 or 6 boys. On the way half of them would slip and land belly up on the floor, petty coats ALOFT. The girls were supposed to wear little white gloves. I ditched mine as soon as my mom dropped me off.

CrazyCat said...

@mac - I guess that sprint was an international phenomenon. Possible future Olympic event? LOL