F R I D A Y   August 27, 2010
Mike Peluso

Theme: It(t)y Bitty — Familiar phrases have the letters ‑ITY tacked onto the end. Wackiness ensues.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Oil company's penchant for employee transfers? (EXXON MOBILITY).
  • 29A: Measure of neighborhood drug traffic? (OPIUM DENSITY).
  • 46A: Egotism that brings you to tears? (MOVING VANITY).
  • 56A: Pigmentation variations? (SKIN DIVERSITY).
I was distracted while I solved this puzzle, so I'm not really sure how hard it is. I know I had some self-inflicted trouble in the Mid-Atlantic area due to how quickly I entered OLÉ where RAH was supposed to go (26A: Arena cheer). I thought, "But shouldn't 27D: Make restitution be ATONE and 28D: Service songs be HYMNS?" Why yes. Yes, they should.

I have to admit I'm a little disappointed in the theme in that two of the phrases are plural, which kind of seems like cheating to me. I actually thought for a quick second that the theme might be adding ‑SITY to the ends of the phrases instead of just ‑ITY. Sometimes a theme's inconsistency doesn't really bother me until I'm done with the puzzle and am reviewing it again. But today, it actually bothered me during the solve. For what it's worth.

  • 1A: W.E.B. Du Bois was among its founders (NAACP). I do so love it when 1 Across is a bit, fat gimme.
  • 6A: Coot's cousin (RAIL). Are these some type of animal? … Yes, birds. Apparently, a coot looks (and acts) rather like a duck.
  • 19A: Far Hills, N.J.-based sports org. (USGA). United States Golf Association.
  • 23A: Pennzoil letters (SAE). According to Wikipedia, this refers to the Society of Automotive Engineers' "numerical code system for grading motor oils to their viscosity characteristics."
  • 24A: Carrier with a hub at LAX (UAL). Why did I try UAW first? Anybody know? No? Okay.
  • 35A: Where Charlie was trapped, in a Kingston Trio hit (MTA).

  • 41A: "Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story" star Sherilyn (FENN). This is the first entry of the mini-theme of Actresses Who Look Like Other Actresses. Here's Sherilynn FENN and Julianna Margulies.

    See also 9D: LEELEE Sobieski of "Joy Ride" (2001) and Helen Hunt.

    I looked through Sobieski's past work on IMDb but don't think I've seen a single one of her movies or television shows. Which is weird, because I absolutely know her as "that actress who looks like Helen Hunt."
  • 44A: "__ Woman": 1975 hit (I'M A). Raise your hand if you tried "I AM Woman" first. Only off by a couple years.
  • 66A: Like many a motel air conditioner (NOISY). Ain't that the truth.
  • 69A: One who's generally bottled up? (GENIE).
  • 4D: Puccini's "O mio babbino __" (CARO). I totally guessed on this one. It just sounded right. I would translate this is "Oh my sweet baby." How'd I do? … Darn. "Babbino" is actually "papa," and "caro" is "dear."
  • 31D: Hardly the drill sergeant type (SOFTY).
  • 33D: Fowl on a menu (CAPON). Again with the birds. What is this, a duck? I sure don't know much today. A CAPON is actually a castrated rooster.
  • 39D: Man, e.g. (OMNIVORE). I'm not a big fan of the word "man" used as a substitute "human."
  • 40D: See, and then some (RAISE). Poker reference.
  • 48D: Family gathering staples (VIDEOS). Me: "Why would a family be gathering staples?"
  • 57D: F and G, but not H (KEYS). This is a music reference. Notes of the scale only go from A to G. So you might hear a song in the key of F or G, but you'll never hear a song in the key of H.
  • 60D: Sportscaster Costas (BOB). Love him.

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:

  • 10A: Barcelona-born muralist (SERT).
  • 15A: Coastal predator (ERNE).
  • 62A: Like Erté's art (DECO).
  • 29D: '90s "SNL" regular Cheri (OTERI).
[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else — 14A: Of an arm bone (ULNAR); 16A: Hawaii neighbor (MAUI); 17A: "The Wreck of the Mary __" (DEARE); 18A: Benefit (SAKE); 25A: Con opening (NEO-); 32A: Part of CPA: Abbr. (ACCT.); 36A: Doomed city (SODOM); 37A: Red (RARE); 38A: Peruvian address (SEÑOR); 42A: Puccini offering (OPERA); 45A: Muy, across the Pyrenees (TRÈS); 50A: "Wheel of Fortune" buy (AN A); 51A: Half a cocktail (TAI); 52A: "Kinda" suffix (-ISH); 53A: Half-witted (DIM); 60A: Pedestal (BASE); 63A: Any Frankie Avalon song (OLDIE); 64A: Follow (OBEY); 65A: Gardener, at times (HOER); 67A: Crown's girl, in a 1935 opera (BESS); 68A: "Gotcha" ("I SEE"); 1D: Sculptors' subjects (NUDES); 2D: Billy Joel's daughter (ALEXA); 3D: Has __ to grind (AN AXE); 5D: Asset protection plan, briefly (PRE-NUP); 6D: Determined (RESOLUTE); 7D: __-Israeli War (ARAB); 8D: Equitable way to pay (IN KIND); 10D: Blue books? (SMUT); 11D: 1969 road movie (EASY RIDER); 12D: Toupee (RUG); 13D: Madre's hermana (TIA); 21D: Injures badly (MAIMS); 22D: They're not free of charge (IONS); 30D: Frenzy (MANIA); 32D: Coffee asset (AROMA); 34D: Climbers' obstacles (CREVASSES); 43D: Fighting (ANTI); 47D: Kingsley role (GANDHI); 49D: Crowd (THRONG); 53D: Slew (DID IN); 54D: Formal doorstep response (IT IS I); 55D: "Yeah, right!!" ("MY EYE!"); 58D: Slurpee alternative (ICEE); 59D: __ gin (SLOE); 61D: Harlem Globetrotters founder Saperstein (ABE).



I too was disappointed with this theme and sometimes in puzzles (like today's) the wackiness goes too far. To add to that, we see crappy old wornout fill, like: ERNE, TAI, SERT, MAUI, ICEE, IT IS I, and OTERI. This is definitely not one of Mike's better puzzles.

I solved it online in 16 minutes, which is pretty good for me on a Friday.

There are no new words for me to learn.

So I'm giving today's puzzle "two thumbs down".

Now having said that... all is not lost... Puzzlegirl delivers a superb writeup, which did ATONE for everything bad.

I'm smelling that wonderful coffee AROMA, so I must leave.

Tinbeni said...

After the first couple of across clues I wasn't getting any traction. So I concentrated on the down clues and this came together nicely.

Hand-up for 44a, I AM before I'M A Women, easy fix.

OPIUM DENSity, are they still called this?
I was thinking 'crack houses' but confess this is a 'world' I'm NOT familiar with.

WOD, THRONG, family gathering. Haven't seen this word in a long time.

SERT, the muralist, learned from xwords.

IT IS I, door response we've seen (too) many times.

Did like seeing the "shout-out" to my new best buddy at
53a, DIM, half-witted. (He thinks he's humorous, but isn't really).


The best clue in this puzzle was 67A "Crown's girl" (BESS)... Gershwin's Porgy and BESS, a marvelous OPERA. "What you want with Bess?" is sung superbly here by Gregg Baker and Cynthia Haymon. Aren't they terrific?

Rex Parker said...

Had to shut the puzzle down at ALEXA / SAE just to check that "SAE" are actually "letters" of some kind. Horrible cross. Otherwise, puzzle felt fine—didn't even notice the plurals thing. Definitely up-clued for late-week toughness. PRENUP, SOFTY, and OMNIVORE were highlights.


Anonymous said...

Don't ant of you ever enjoy a puzzle? I enjoyed this one even though i completed in record time for a Fri

hazel said...

@Anon, anon, anon. If we ants didn't ever enjoy puzzles, we wouldn't be doing them, and then taking the time to comment on them, and then taking even more time to read other people's comments on them. C'mon - get with the program!

That being said, I really didn't enjoy this puzzle.

I did like the RAIL/ERNE stack. RAH birds!

*David* said...

Ho-hum puzzle, loved seeing Sherilyn FENN. I got lots of fill in different places before I started filling in the white space. Once I got the theme, however it moved much quicker. Overall easier Friday then usual for me.

C said...

Enjoyable enough puzzle. I liked a few answers, CREVASSES, OMNIVORE spring to mind, good words.

My brain spasm occurred at MTA. My parents had forced fed Kingston Trio music to me from birth so this is a gimme UNLESS, it appears, I listen to the Beastie Boys on the way to work (yes, the LAT puzzle is a break from work) in which case I enter MCA (MikeD and AdRock wouldn't fit, I guess). Made RESOLUTE a bit of a back track. Lesson learned, no Beastie Boys before the LAT.

SethG said...

I also solved this puzzle. Not sure that I knew what skin diving was before today.

Feels like they tried to make it a bit challenging, but sprinkled really easy clues throughout to keep anyone from getting too bogged down. [Puccini offering] for opera? [___ gin] for sloe? [Of an arm bone], [Doomed city], [Slurpee alternative]? On a Friday?

Rube said...

I agree with @SethG about the clueing. E.g., (and here we go again), SAE was a gimme, but ALEXA?... my only thought here was something about the narrator and Billy Joe(l) McAllister throwing something off the Tallahatchie bridge. Sigh.

Had the most trouble when __iDENtITY fit in 29A. Then when OPIUMDENtITY showed, had trouble deciding if a drill sergeant was hardly "tOItY". For some strange reason I had never heard of Sherilyn FENN either. Sobieski who? It must be Friday. Did I mention that SAE was a gimme? Knew that IAM was the wrong era, but put it in anyway. Sigh, again.

Nevertheless, did finish with no Googles. Joy! To be honest, there was not much pop culture in this, and all was gettable from Xs.

CrazyCat said...

Wasn't very enthusiastic about this either. Had no problem with ALEXA (Christie Brinkley's daughter too), but had no idea what SAE was. I knew "O mio babbino CARO because that's the aria that the little 10 year old sang on America's got talent. If you haven't seen her, she's pretty amazing. Check her out on you tube at Jackie Evancho. Maybe someone could embed the clip since I'm too DIM. I always get annoyed at 65A HOER. I'm a gardener and I take offense to being called a HOER. Talk about SMUT! No trouble either with FENN or LEELEE. Liked PRENUP and EASY RIDER. 55D MY EYE, for some reason I say MY FOOT.
@Hazel - Thanks for sticking up for all the ants here! Very funny.

choirwriter said...

@crazycatlady: Here's yer clip right here: Jackie Evancho sings "O mio babbino caro"

@John: Thanks for the opera clip - they ARE wonderful! Now I want to go watch the whole thing.

Okay, I'm weird, but I enjoyed this puzzle. I like the wacky answer ones. I've got no AXE TO GRIND.

CrazyCat said...

@choirwriter: Thanks! I have tried to add links many times and I can never get it to work. Don't know what I'm doing wrong.

John Wolfenden said...

Minor grump about two obscure birds in the same puzzle (just clue RAIL differently!) but otherwise enjoyable.

"They're not free of charge" for IONS is a great clue.

choirwriter said...

Actually, this rendition that Jackie did of the same song when she was only 8 years old (or younger?) is even sweeter: younger Jackie sings

Go to the top of PuzzleGirl's page and click on FAQ - the second entry down shows you how to include a link. I just learned this myself, and there's no stopping me now! :)

Nighthawk said...

Speaking of singing, and as much as RP and PG like to post links to music clues and answers, I'm surprised neither put up this with 2D
from the really great Storm Front album that also contains this tune with the great line "He made my daughter laugh... ."

Nighthawk said...

By the way, speaking of actresses, isn't that Melissa "Summer constellation" in the first Billy Joel video above? If not, it must be the actress who looks like her.

CrazyCat said...

@choirwriter - I have followed PG's directions many times and I always get an error message telling me the tag isn't closed. It's a mystery to me. Maybe its because I use a mac? Like the 8 year old version too. What a sweet voice.

M. Helpful said...

It's because you don't include the </a> at the end. You've only been following part of her instructions.

Sfingi said...

The theme was easy. I've gotten good at this type (add sumpin' to an expression = clue), which I didn't understand a year ago.

Some of the fill, though, was to young for me, or sports. Googled for: FENN, LEELEE, ABE.

This SERT guy must be on CWs only, since he seems minor and his best stuff was destroyed.

Rewrites: RAH over "ole", ACCT over cerT, SAKE over "help."

Didn't notice : ALEXA, SAE, neither of which I knew.

DIDIN reminded me of a funny scene in My Fair Lady in which Liza Doolittle relates a story to a woman of the leisure class saying, "She done him in."

CrazyCat said...

@M. Helpful - I had all but the / at the end. I guess that's my problem I told you I was DIM (also a bit blind). Thanks.

choirwriter said...

@crazy - I also got that message if I forgot the > after the link, before I added my own text and the closing tag. Darn picky programs - why can't they read our minds?


@all commenters
Thank you all for all the links, especially to music I haven't heard before. What a blessing it is to have YOUTUBE and to hear these very talented unknowns (perhaps only unknown to me). The young lady, Jackie Evancho, has an unbelievably mature singing voice. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that her performance was lip-synced with someone else. The first time I heard Charlotte Church (in Wales), she was just a preteen and I remember saying "nah, that can't be her voice".

@SAE bafflees
If you've ever worked on cars (which I'm sure many of you haven't), you would know that SAE stands for Society of Automotive Engineers. The SAE adopted many of the standards relating to autos, such as fasteners, brakes, and oil viscosities. If you've ever wondered what 10W30 oil is, well that's a measure of oil viscosity as set by the SAE. It's stamped on the lid of every can of oil. I was a member of the SAE for 6 years... longgg time ago.

@John W
RAIL, SORA, and COOT are not so obscure if you're a birder and certainly not if you do crosswords often.

I agree about HOER. Is that one of those cheap add-an-ER words that only appear in crosswords?

Burner10 said...

Had way too much trouble with this - googles, empty spaces (hand up for IAM) - a mess but it was clearly me and nothing getting rid of the obviously deficient brain cells won't cure (the age old Friday question - red or white wine is on my mind). I loved this write up today - thanks PG (more than the puzzle I might add).

Tinbeni said...

Those clips of Jackie were awesome!

Yours from Progy and BESS was too.
But that little girl singing made me stop and stare.

I admit I'm not the biggest Opera fan.
Been a few times, it's just not my 'cup-of-tea.'
Then you see a performance by that little girl and it blows you away.
Triple WOW !!!

CrazyCat said...

@Burner10 Over my limit, but go for the white. Pinot grigio or Sauv blanc. Its still really hot here.

Tinbeni said...

I'd suggest he go for the BLUE.

At least we know he is the "real" @Burner10 since he is blue.


captcha: dimeset, they're messing with me this week ...

badrog said...

And what did I learn today? That an "erne" is a predator. Always thought it was just another seagull and that it happened to rhyme with "tern".