02.23 Wed

February 23, 2011
Jerome Gunderson

Theme: Big Dummies

Theme answers:
  • 1A: Court jester (FOOL).
  • 17A: Country singer with the 1961 hit "Crazy" (PATSY CLINE).
  • 56A: Shameful emblem in Genesis (MARK OF CAIN).
  • 64A: Hammer or sickle (TOOL).
  • 10D: Hockshop receipt (PAWN TICKET).
  • 29D: Remora (SUCKERFISH).
  • 38A: 1- and 64-Across, and the first words of the four longest puzzle answers (DUPES).

I really like this theme idea. It's cool that there are so many words that aren't exact synonyms but are close enough in meaning that they hang together pretty well. Unfortunately, even though they're symmetrical, they nonetheless have the feeling of being haphazardly placed all over the grid. Also, if the theme is already this all-over-the-place, I would have worked extra hard not to include another random entry that fits the theme but isn't included in the theme, i.e., NINNY (63A: Doofus). So, yeah. Just seems kind of disorderly to me.

The theme answers themselves are colorful phrases, so that's pretty cool. Other highlights for me include:

  • 35A: Sudden ache (PANG).
  • 45A: Fastening pin (COTTER).
  • 62A: Reggae musician Peter (TOSH).
  • 1D: Dandies (FOPS).
  • 18D: 2009 Series winners (YANKS).
There were two clues that completely puzzled me. First, [10A: Sourdough's ground breaker] for PICK. Even now after having considered this for a good bit of time (relatively), I still don't understand what it means. Second, [48A: Sponge for grunge] for LOOFAH. To me, "grunge" means only one thing and that's late-80s, Seattle-based, Nirvana-Pearl-Jam-Etc. music so it was hard for me to shift gears and think of it as its former definition. Which I guess is, like, dirt? Only it sounds grosser than dirt. And speaking of gross, if LEPER COLONY never appears in the puzzle again I'll be okay with that. Totally okay.

Oh, and I've never heard the word "calaboose," which I guess is a slang word for "jail," thus [12D: Calaboose compartment] = CELL. I'm not saying that any of these entries aren't perfectly legitimate. I'm just saying that for a puzzle that already seemed kinda slapdash because of the theme, the clues that seemed strange to me were more irritating than enlightening.

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 14A: Quint's boat in "Jaws" (ORCA).
  • 16A: Yemen seaport (ADEN).
  • 25A: Mine entrance (ADIT).
  • 41A: Russia's __ Mountains (URAL).
  • 55A: "The Time Machine" race (ELOI).
  • 7D: Adidas rival (AVIA).
  • 32D: Sharp ridge (ARETE).
  • 49D: Hodgepodge (OLIO).
  • 54D: First-year law student (ONE-L).
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Everything Else 5A: Zoo barriers (MOATS); 15A: Polite (CIVIL); 19A: Trickery (WILE); 20A: __-mo replay (SLO); 21A: Vicinity (AREA); 22A: Submerge while sitting poolside, as one's feet (DANGLE); 24A: Australian folk hero Kelly (NED); 26A: 49th state (ALASKA); 30A: Like the son in a parable of Jesus (PRODIGAL); 34A: Bills of fare (MENUS); 36A: Heal (CURE); 37A: Old Norse mariner (ERIC); 39A: Retain (KEEP); 40A: Cranny relative (NOOK); 42A: "Beau __ " (GESTE); 43A: Kitchen areas, perhaps (DINETTES); 46A: Cereal grain (RICE); 47A: Also (TOO); 51A: Play a round (GOLF); 52A: Timing lead-in (TWO); 59A: Puppy bites (NIPS); 60A: Mindy, to Mork? (ALIEN); 61A: Teen bane (ACNE); 2D: Shouted, say (ORAL); 3D: Septi- plus one (OCTO-); 4D: Vegas opener (LAS); 5D: Joel who was the first actor to portray Dr. Kildare (MCCREA); 6D: No longer squeaky (OILED); 8D: Badge material (TIN); 9D: Snow pack? (SLED DOGS); 11D: Beatnik's "Got it" ("I DIG"); 13D: Pants part (KNEE); 23D: Lend a hand (AID); 25D: Synthetic fiber (ARNEL); 26D: Congressionally change (AMEND); 27D: The king of France? (LE ROI); 28D: Atom with a negative charge (ANION); 30D: Mamas' mates (PAPAS); 31D: Hotel client (GUEST); 33D: With 45-Down, Middle Ages quarantine area (LEPER); 35D: Put through a sieve (PUREE); 38D: "The Flying __": Wagner opera (DUTCHMAN); 42D: Explode (GO OFF); 44D: Padre's hermana (TIA); 45D: See 33-Down (COLONY); 47D: Memento (TOKEN); 48D: Pre-Easter period (LENT); 50D: "Uh-oh, I dropped it!" ("OOPS!"); 51D: Big smile (GRIN); 52D: Crisp, filled tortilla (TACO); 53D: Sot (WINO); 57D: Ring icon (ALI); 58D: Sylvester, e.g. (CAT).


Anonymous said...

A little California history: Sourdough(as in sourdough bread) is the nickname for some of the prospectors during the Gold Rush: pick (pick-ax)was their "ground breaker".

Sfingi said...

HTG in the NE because of this Western stuff. I though sourdough was a bread, and didn't know calaboose. A personal Natick for this Yankee.
@Anon526 - Thanx for definition.

Nor did I know Remora, but the answer was obvious.

Wanted oRlon for ARNEL. I vaguely remember Celanese advertising in Seventeen. They pulled it because of alleged toxicity.

Cute theme.


Very fast solve, but I really enjoyed this puzzle. Maybe because I fit some of these descriptions myself. Also because I'm a huge fan of Patsy Cline. Next month I'll be staying in Palm Springs, so now I'm imagining the DANGLE of my feet in the resort pool... ooo whee, can't wait!

Jerome's cluing is superb, theme is creative, and the fill words were interesting. Words like: LOOFAH, COTTER, SLED DOGS, Flying DUTCHMAN and ARNEL.

How often I've caught these while fishing and I never remember saying "oh look, I've got a Remora on my line". A sucker is a sucker!

Does anyone still use the word FOPS (or Dandies for that matter)? What word do we use for this nowadays?

Time for some RICE Chex.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the history lesson on 'sourdough' - makes so much more sense than trying to eat a piece of bread so stale that you need a pick to get started. Enjoy this blog! Thanks.

mac said...

Quick solve, but interesting words and some new terms to learn. Thanks anon5.26 for the sourdough explanation. Never heard of cotter either.

@JNH: metrosexual?

v-man said...

Cotter probably refers to cotter pin a small metal rod that has a hole on one end for a cotter pin to go through and secure two parts, acts like a nut and bolt. I've been coming across anion a lot recently and I initially always enter axion for some reason. Not a bad theme.

Where the hell are my glasses? said...

@PG - You know, CELL makes even less sense for 12D when you read the clue as Caboose compartment.

sjok said...

"nephelometer" is a better clue for "loofah" than "sponge for grunge". ALL sponges are used for cleaning but not all cleaning can be done with a sponge. When I was young living on a farm in MN "grungy" was a word we used to describe someone who had worked long and hard in the heat and humidity to get an oily, greasy, dusty, cantakerous piece of machinery working again while standing in a cloud of mosquitos.

A sponge would be absolutly useless for cleaning either the farmer (or his son) or the machine after this. It also took a really broad vocabulary to appreciate the "comments" made about the machine and weather while performing the repair.

Avg Joe said...

I really enjoyed this puzzle. Sailed right through it, but never felt it was too easy. Lots of clever cluing, and minimal crosswordese, IMO.

Thanks to everyone yesterday for bringing up Eva Cassidy. I'm a rabid fan of good music and am embarrassed to admit I'd never heard of her til now. On that note, I'll leave you with these notes: Her cover of God Bless the Child

Anonymous said...

@mac and Johnsneverhome

I suspect metrosexual is as close as we get, although as word people, we should know better. A Metrosexual should be someone who is sexually attracted to large cities.

It's also possible that the fop is a concept that doesn't properly exist anymore, so we don't need a word.

Margaret said...

PICK was a gimme for this San Francisco native, particularly since my husband hails from Placerville (aka Hangtown) in Gold Country not too far from Sutter's Mill. I consider a LOOFAH to be a fancy bath sponge for dry skin, so the grunge part of the clue threw me off. The only thing I hated about the puzzle was 2D: ORAL for "Shouted, say." Sure, I get it (sort of) -- aloud rather than silent, but I can't wrap my head around it very well. Am I missing something?

Rube said...

Sailed right thru this one. Only hesitations were at Remora and LOOFAH. Never heard of the latter but upon reflection Remora sounded vaguely familiar as some kind of undesirable fish.

@SJOK, I don't think you meant Nephelometer as a clue for LOOFAH as a Nephelometer is used to measure particulate matter in gases or liquids.

Pleasant puzzle.

CrazyCat said...

@Margaret I had that same thought about 2D ORAL.

I'm embarrassed to say I had no idea of any other meaning of sourdough besides bread, but then I'm not a native Californian. Also didn't know Calaboose. So that corner was quite messy. The rest of the puzzle was pretty easy. Didn't know Remora, but got that SUCKER from the crosses.

A LOUFAH is used as an exfoliator not a sponge. I just saw Dr. Oz on some TV show yesterday and he was saying that LOUFAHs are breeding grounds for bacteria. Sorry everyone - almost as bad as LEPER COLONY.

StudioCitySteve said...

Took me a while to realize what "DUPES" had to do with the theme answers since I was reading it as meaning "duplicates". Duh on me.

A lot of nice clues and a little education on "sourdough". I also wasn't too fond of "ORAL" for "shouted", seems a stretch to me.

The question about what we would call a fop today is interesting - the word for me conjurs up an 18th-century Beau Brummel type, and so I'm not sure there's an equivalent. Metrosexual doesn't seem ebullient enough somehow. Think of one word to describe Andy Warhol and you might be getting close?

Fun puzzle, and I'm glad I discovered this blog a few days ago, makes me feel less of a lone voice in the wilderness when I don't like, or do like, a clue or an answer.

John Wolfenden said...

At first I thought this was too easy a puzzle for a Wednesday, but it turned out to have some obscure stuff in it, like ARNEL and CALABOOSE. There's something satisfying about the theme revealer being in the exact center of the puzzle.

The jury seems to be in that a LOOFAH is a sponge used for bathing, not for cleaning. A better clue might have been Bill O'Reilly's favorite bath toy.

I'd never heard of Ned Kelly before, but his story is pretty interesting. He became an Australian folk hero in the late 19th century by defying British authority. After killing three policemen, he was finally brought in (wearing his own homemade armor!) and hanged.

Funny to see the relatively obscure surname MCCREA just a few days after seeing the band Cake, who's frontmen is...John McCrea.

"Snow pack" for SLED DOGS is awesome.

Larry Sittig said...

I agree that the cleverness and execution of the theme was top-rate, and there was a lot of clever cluing and colorful vocabulary.

... maybe a bit too clever in that cross of sourdough and calaboose. I'm a Californian and speak Spanish (calaboose comes from calabozo, dungeon; it didn't help that I too was thinking first of caboose, then of calabaza, Spanish for gourd) and only got that last C (top of 12D) after all the crosses were in.

I guess the YANKS got in a lot of trouble with the Spanish/Mexican authorities in our southern and western expansion. Besides calaboose, the equally colorful synonym "hoosegow" comes from Spanish juzgado, court.

Modern FOP would be "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince," who is actually known once again as Prince, but it's too fun to remember him as asserting his identity by the unpronounceable symbol for love.

My grumble is with the cross of the deep crosswordese ADIT with the artificial word for an artificial fabric ARNEL. Ugly bit of ACNE on a very handsome puzzle.

Alexscott said...

I really liked this puzzle, not sure why PG was so down on it nor why she sees it as "disorderly." I had to look up calaboose to get CELL, so learned a new word today. That gave me PICK, but I had no idea what that had to do with sourdough until Anonymous's explanation.

Is anybody else getting a weird Rubicon-y feeling about all of the Mork & Mindy clues? There has to be a reason for this. It's all out of proportion to that show's popularity and quality.

The only thing that disappointed me was that PG did not run a photo of either Bill O'Reilly or a felafel next to the word LOOFAH. These opportunities only come along so often.

Avg Joe said...

The pick clue also ties in with a recent topic of conversation on this thread. Hard rock mining. Panning or sluicing wouldn't require the use of a pick, since it is just a matter of sorting through loose materials from a streambed. But when your going for gold embedded in rock, the pick becomes the smallest viable instrument to use in extraction.

Anonymous said...

pretty good puzzle,but I thought calaboose was an automobile as referenced in the chuck berry song no particular place to go with the line "riding along in my calaboose still tryin to get her belt aloose" . also I thought mork was the alien

CrazyCat said...

Meant LOOFAH - have no idea where that U came from.

Nighthawk said...

@Anon12:57 Pretty funny! I think there is a beat missing, but it doesn't detract from the humor of the parody in the least.

Hand up for misreading calaboose as caboose.

@StudioCitySteve I think of Tom Wolfe's iconic white suits as out there close to the edge of FOPishness, but I don't think him AS a fop.

SethG said...

This puzzle made me wince a lot.

mac said...

I guess "fop" is a current term.