T H U R S D A Y   December 9, 2010
Kurt Mueller

Theme: To the Maximum — The first theme answer's clue is simply the letter M. Each subsequent theme answer adds one letter to the clue.

Theme answers:
  • 25A: Ma (MRS. KETTLE).
  • 51A: Maxi (LONG SKIRT).
  • 62A: Maxim (PITHY PRINCIPLE).
I think a lot of us have seen the theme where each theme answer has the same one-word clue. Some people really don't like that type of theme because the answers are, largely, not in-the-language phrases. Today's puzzle gives that theme idea a little twist, and the people who don't like the original way probably won't like this either. I actually do like this type of theme every once in a while for a change of pace. I like how it works my brain in a slightly different way. It feels like I'm given the answer and have to come up with a good clue (much like I should be doing with a particular grid that's been sitting on my desk for weeks). In today's puzzle, I think the answers-that-are-really-clues are quite good. I came at PITHY PRINCIPLE from the back end, having the entire second word filled in with nothing in front of it. My thought process was like, "Okay, a maxim is a type of PRINCIPLE. It's usually short and kinda cute…." When the Y dropped in, it didn't take long for PITHY to show itself. I had a lot of fun with this one.

  • 1A: Magic (MOJO). I can't hear this word without thinking about Quincy Jones's "The Dude," which I'm sure was the first time I ever heard it. (Not sure Al actually knows all the words here, but it's still a fun performance.)
  • 14A: Bud (BRO). I wanted "pal" or "mac" first.
  • 31A: Doesn't try to reach the green, in golf (LAYS UP). I don't golf, but I do watch golf movies (and actual golf, but I happened to learn this particular golf term from "Tin Cup").
  • 45A: Low-quality (CHEAPO). I swear I had C***P* in place and thought "Rich wouldn't allow CRAPPY to see print, would he?"
  • 55A: Site of a 1981 sitcom honeymoon (ORK). Oh my God. They got married? Seriously? Man we watched some C***P* TV back then.
  • 66A: Old number? (ETHER). In this clue, "number" means "something that numbs." You always have to be on the lookout for clues like this. The other one you'll see a lot is "flower" referring to a river (something that flows).
  • 67A: Instrument on which Jake Shimabukuro can play "Bohemian Rhapsody" (UKE). Well that seems like something we should definitely see.
  • 69A: Meg and Robert (RYANS). Who the heck is Robert Ryan? …. Oh, he's an old-time actor I've never heard of. He sound interesting though. From his Wikipedia page: "At a screening of 'Odds Against Tomorrow,' he appeared before black and foreign press representatives to discuss 'the problems of an actor like me playing the kind of character that in real life he finds totally despicable.'"
  • 30D: Boil over? (RECOOK). "Over" in this clue means "over again" not "over the top."
  • 34D: __ Jordan: Nike brand (AIR). Is it the shoes?
  • 41D: Little butt? (CIG). In this case, the word "little" in the clue indicates not that the butt itself is little, but that the answer word will be a shortened form. Butt = cigarette; shortened form = CIG.
  • 46D: Barrel worker (HOOPER). I do not know what this means.
  • 48D: Hercule's creator (AGATHA). Couldn't get this one off the clue and never got back to it because I filled it all in through crosses. Hercule Poirot is a detective in many AGATHA Christie mysteries.
  • 61D: Word on a biblical wall (MENE). The phrase "the writing on the wall" comes from the Bible. In the story, the words written on the wall were "Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin," all words for currency. Daniel deciphered the phrase to mean that King Belshazzar's kingdom would be divided which, of course, happened the very next day. And now we use the phrase to mean an omen of doom.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 2D: Yemen neighbor (OMAN).
  • 29D: Cologne cry (ACH).
  • 39D: Culture medium (AGAR).
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Everything Else — 5A: Time in a classified ad (AFT.); 8A: Syrian president (ASSAD); 13A: Surrounded by (AMID); 15A: Little wood (COPSE); 19A: So-so connection? (AND); 20A: __ forces (ARMED); 21A: Senate majority leader Harry (REID); 23A: Baseball stat. (AVG.); 28A: More clownish (ZANIER); 32A: Current letters (AC/DC); 33A: Less taxing (EASIER); 43A: Most tender (SOREST); 44A: Pace (GAIT); 49A: Sumatran swingers (ORANGS); 56A: Minute amount (IOTA); 57A: __ badge (MERIT); 59A: "Big Blue" (IBM); 68A: Kind of officer or shark (LOAN); 70A: __ Perce tribe (NEZ); 71A: Asian beef source (KOBE); 1D: Goya subject (MAJA); 3D: Crackerjack (JIM DANDY); 4D: Poetic tribute (ODE); 5D: Common crossword clue letters (ABBR.); 6D: "The Art of Loving" author (FROMM); 7D: Cartridge filler (TONER); 8D: Coolers, briefly (AC'S); 9D: One may be choked back (SOB); 10D: Stylish (SPORTY); 11D: They may be liquid or frozen (ASSETS); 12D: Original "Star Trek" studio (DESILU); 17D: Wise one (SAGE); 18D: Driller's deg. (DDS); 22D: Bank acct. entry (DEP.); 24D: Morrow and Damone (VICS); 26D: One who lifts a lot? (KLEPTO); 27D: '50s-'60s chief justice Warren (EARL); 28D: Microwave (ZAP); 35D: Vane dir. (SSE); 36D: Part of TGIF (IT'S); 38D: AOL et al. (ISP'S); 40D: Lover of Yum-Yum in "The Mikado" (NANKI-POO); 42D: Gold meas. (KTS.); 45D: Second-century date (CLI); 47D: Thing (ENTITY); 50D: Uniformed campus gp. (ROTC); 52D: Little rascal (IMP); 53D: Chance to see what you missed the first time (RERUN); 54D: Early mode of transportation (TRIKE); 58D: Powerful 1966 hurricane (INEZ); 60D: Yak (BLAB); 63D: Cock's mate (HEN); 64D: Jr. and sr. (YRS.); 65D: Type (ILK).


Van55 said...

I enjoyed this one a lot.

Nit: vane dir.

I thought MOJO was "momentum".

DBS said...

Good puzzle except for the barrel worker. Its a cooper, not a hooper. A real stretch.

John Wolfenden said...

Cool puzzle, spiffy writeup. I can safely say that's the best ukelele playing I've ever heard. I do love Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwoʻole's version of "Over the Rainbow" but that's more about the singing than the uke work.

I dig seeing the word "copse" in puzzles. I dunno why, I just like it.

I can't remember seeing DESILU before...that was one of the wait-I-know-I-know-this type of clues.

*David* said...

This felt like a toughish Thursday where the themes didn't give much away and you had to work the corssings. This caused me trouble in the NE where from somewhere DESILU came to me and I was on my way.

The bottom filled up much quicker but I was left with plenty of white space at the top to work through. I enjoyed it and the ? fill were trickier then most.

Anonymous said...

Well, a barrel has hoops around it, so the barrel maker is sometimes a "hooper", even tho the official word is cooper.

Tinbeni said...

Had no idea the name of PHYSICIST PLANCK and couldn't remember Yum-Yum's lover NANKIPOO; hell, it must be 40 years since I saw "The Mikado" got both via crosses.


Fave was that TRIKE.

All-in-all, a FUN Thursday.

CarolC said...

Puzzle Girl, thanks for the explanation of the theme. I enjoyed the answers, getting PHYSICIST PLANCK first, which I enjoyed, but didn't see the theme at all. And there's nothing like a little Quincy Jones with my morning coffee!

Lamest fill to me was SPORTY for stylish. Yes SPORTY is a style, but certainly not what comes to mind first from the clue.

I've nothing PITHY to say, so will sign off. Another beautiful day in SoCal.

Neal said...

I had cooper for hooper. I guess a hooper is a specialty job in the cooperage business.

5a was lame, but I thought it was pretty easy. I must be getting better.

Margaret said...

Hand up for COOPER instead of HOOPER. And I popped in PETER PRINCIPLE instead of PITHY PRINCIPLE based on the P_T_ _; had to go back and fix it once I put in HEN.

Thanks for the Bohemian Rhapsody clip! I've never heard of Jake Shimabukuro before and this was fabulous. Definitely the find of the day!

Rube said...

A very enjoyable puzzle. Just the right level of mid-week difficulty.

Had DiSney at first and thought, "Is that true?". Nope, DESILU.

Fell for the "number" trick... again.

Don't like the abbr. ORANG(S).

Had a portable CD player some years ago called a MOJO. Google said it was some sort of charm bag used in voodoo. Couldn't see why they'd call a CD player a voodoo bag. Asked the young'ns. They didn't know either. Guess MOJO has gotten infused into the culture with multiple meanings, sort of like Karma.

Ratty said...

It was looking for a while like the first answer was VODO or VODU or HODO and I was prepared to get mad at yet another unfair, weird spelling variant - along the same lines as the cursed TEEPEE or TEEHEE and its awful and numerous variants (my least favorite answers in all crosswordom).

Luckily it turned out to be MOJO and I was spared another one of my crossword tantrums.

Houston_Brit said...

Being Brit, I pride myself to a certain extent on the origin of names... a COOPER is a barrel maker, and a HOOPER is one who makes the hoops for the barrel, the COOPER then putting the whole thing together. I must admit though, I had COOPER in there myself until I got ..EAPO across, realised it was CHEAPO then changed the C for an H.

Larry S said...

I spent the last two minutes going through the alphabet for a honeymoon site named OR_. Fort Ord? Oregon? Then, like PG, I said, they got married? and voila!

Hand up for totally befuddled on ETHER = 'Old number?'

CrazyCat said...

Thought this was an enjoyable Thursday GNAW. Didn't know JAME'S BOND'S BOSS or PLANCK, but got them through the crosses. Got LAY UPS from CC husband. Loved the UKE clip. Like that version better than Queen's. Liked the cross of MOJO and MAJA. Kind of fits into the M theme. They are advertising a bit on the 11:00 news called "Man O Pause." It asks the question "Has your man lost his MOJO?" Hmmm.... Hand up for not knowing that Mork and Mindy got married and went to ORK.

SethG said...

The only thing I know about barrels is their abbreviation, so it took me a while to get PITHY. Dan Naddor would have done this puzzle with MAXIMAL.

Sfingi said...

DNF, but for different reasons than others.

Didn't know LAYSUP or M (Can't stand the whole James Bond concept). Did get the theme and knew all but that first one. Didn't get DESILU, even though I Googled for it. Tried DiSney.

Knew COOPER, MOJO, NANKIPOO right out of the gate. The Max PLANCK Inst., Leipzig, especially with Svante Paabo, is doing some mighty strange things these days. Neanderthal Genome? - I'm sure I'm one. This guy'll bring back dinosaurs and even raise mice with human brains (i.e. pinbrain Christine O'Donnell).

@Seth G - and Maxima along the way (clued as highest value, Nissan car).

Like @Carol C, didn't like SPORTY. Wanted SmaRTY.

@Wolfenden - I also love Iz's Over the Rainbow. He died too young.

I'll skip the NYT today.

Superperson! said...

Didn't know they got married?! They had a kid! And he looked just like Jonathan Winters! Those were horrifying times in our pop cultural history and I understand the need to banish such memories but those who forget history I can't remember the rest.

Y'all have some weird crossword conventions out there on the west coast. "Aft" as an abbreviation that appears in the newspaper? Not in any newspaper I've ever seen, and I've seen over a dozen newspapers, having learned to read almost two weeks ago. Long skirt? That's just two words together, not anything that particular. Longfellow I'll accept, speaking of which, I'll be right back.

Sorry, too much coffee today.

Mrs. Kettle rox! We used to watch those films in the grade school cafeteria for special treats on like the day before we were let out for holidays. Remember how those cafeterias always smelled like vomit, and the stuff the janitor put on the vomit that smelled even worse than vomit?

Avg Joe said...

Just to piss Rex off, here's a cross-blog post of sorts. He had a link to a song on his blog. This version is better....prolly the best ever. From the movie "Always", J. D. Souther singing "Smoke Get's In Your Eyes":


Rex Parker said...


Dislike forced, made-up phrases for theme answers. Angela, you say you feel like you "have to come up with a good clue." I disagree. I feel like I have to come up with a clue that fits in the squares and that may be but usually isn't good.


C said...

Hmm, didn't enjoy this puzzle as much as others. Didn't have any difficulties in solving but after I was done, I didn't have anything nice to say about it. Nothing bad, either, just didn't get that buzz I usually feel after solving a good puzzle. Of course, ymmv.

CrazyCat said...

oops I meant to say LAYS UP.

Anonymous said...

AVG was pretty generic for a specific baseball clue. COOPER. Liked a lot of other stuff though.

Sylvester said...

So, 'only pith in pwivate' is a maxim?

Tamfang said...

Are there orangutangs in Sumatra? I kinda thought they were unique to Borneo.

I miswrote AGAR as AGAA and was puzzled about OAK. I'd have understood ORK even though I too did not remember that they married.

Am tickled to find this blog.

Houston_Brit said...

You're correct Tamfang - Orang Utan (man of the forest) are only natural to Borneo. Sumatra has tigers and elephants (I've been to both places, 15 months working in Indonesia).