03.07 Mon

March 7, 2011
Scott Atkinson

Theme: Hard to Explain in Words — Theme answers are phrases that follow the pattern "[three letters]ky [two letters]ck"

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Small-time (RINKY-DINK).
  • 53A: Fortunate one (LUCKY DUCK).
  • 10D: Wham-O footbag (HACKY SACK).
  • 29D: Cheap dance hall (HONKY TONK).

These theme answers are really fabulous. And the rest of the fill is … not. Wow. Really not a fan of this one, which is unfortunate because, as I said, the theme answers are awesome. Everything seemed to be going along just fine until I got to HDS. (29A: Coin flip call: Abbr.). Why in the world would you abbreviate a coin flip call? Is there any situation you can think of where you would be writing about a coin flip and need to use the word HEADS but have to/want to/feel it would appropriate to abbreviate it? And, in general, it got worse from there. Lots of partials: TO AN, A CHAT, I BE. Gratuitous plurals: PUCKS, CHANNELS, CROCKS, PARKAS, just as an example (there are plenty more!). To round out the list we've got some random letter strings and non-words — R-S-T, AAHS, PPP — and the singularly awful TUSKERS (which also happens to be a gratuitous plural).

The theme answers are terrific and most of the longer fill ranges from fine to quite nice (like POIROT, COUSTEAU, ORTHODOX). But overall, just not feeling this one, dawg.

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 15A: Most eligible for the draft (ONE-A).
  • 26A: Some Ga. Tech grads (EE'S).
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Everything Else 1A: Pet adoption ctr. (SPCA); 5A: Like drive-thru orders (TO-GO); 9A: Cash alternative (CHECK); 14A: Come __ end: conclude (TO AN); 16A: Popular branch of yoga (HATHA); 19A: Have __ with: talk to (A CHAT); 20A: Like strictly religious Jews (ORTHODOX); 21A: Invite to enter (ASK IN); 22A: Fawn's mother (DOE); 23A: Family folk (KIN); 24A: Simple to apply, in adspeak (EASY-ON); 25A: Approx. leaving hour (ETD); 27A: Pass along softly, as a secret (WHISPER); 30A: Yuletide spiced ales (WASSAILS); 31A: Número after siete (OCHO); 34A: Fellows (MEN); 35A: Stage group (CAST); 36A: Occur together (COINCIDE); 39A: '60s atty. general who served under his brother (RFK); 42A: End of a giggle (HEE); 43A: Angel dust, briefly (PCP); 46A: Completely stump (STYMIE); 47A: "May __ excused?" (I BE); 48A: Significant period (ERA); 49A: Handy bags (TOTES); 50A: Rodin or Michelangelo (SCULPTOR); 52A: Evita's married name (PERON); 54A: Put on a coat? (PAINT); 55A: Color of suede shoes, in song (BLUE); 56A: __-Seltzer (ALKA); 57A: Hockey disks (PUCKS); 58A: Dines (SUPS); 59A: Mouth off to (SASS); 1D: Walked decisively (STRODE); 2D: Christie sleuth Hercule (POIROT); 3D: On a slant (CANTED); 4D: Pharaoh's cross (ANKH); 5D: Hot alcoholic drinks (TODDIES); 6D: Burger toppers (ONIONS); 7D: Group with thirtysomethings, briefly (GEN-X); 8D: "Mighty" tree (OAK); 9D: Vehicle's framework (CHASSIS); 11D: Addis Ababa's country (ETHIOPIA); 12D: Television watcher's choices (CHANNELS); 13D: Kit __ bar (KAT); 18D: Teamed, as oxen (YOKED); 24D: McGregor of "Moulin Rouge!" (EWAN); 30D: Like small laddies (WEE); 31D: Halloween mo. (OCT.); 32D: "Undersea World" explorer Jacques (COUSTEAU); 33D: Momentous (HISTORIC); 37D: Joins, as stones in a wall (CEMENTS); 38D: Colored part of the eye (IRIS); 39D: Expresses stern disapproval of (REBUKES); 40D: Touchy-__ (FEELY); 42D: Diaphragm spasm that may be cured by holding one's breath (HICCUP); 43D: "Downtown" singer Clark (PETULA); 44D: Onion soup holders (CROCKS); 45D: Hooded coats (PARKAS); 50D: "Star Trek" helmsman (SULU); 51D: Palmtop computers: Abbr. (PDA'S); 53D: Scale abbr. (LBS.).


Anonymous said...

Had everything but the D in 53A and saw I had a couple of choices. Fortunately the cross settled the matter for me.

Sfingi said...

Same problem as Anon555, only I didn't know the answer for 51D. Knew it couldn't be you-know what.
Anyway, turns our PDA stands for personal digital assistant, in a category I avoid.

Speaking of things that are too small for oldsters to read, I read 39D as expresses stem (not stern) disapproval of, and was STYMIEd for a while. This isn't helped by our local paper's thick ink.

Had OttO before OCHO. Wrong Romance language.

Haven't heard the word CHASSIS in decades. Had CHASSIE at first; didn't know it was French.

Captcha - chembag - suitcase for Lohan or Sheen?

Rex Parker said...

Thinnest theme I've seen in a while. Also, TUSKERS???? I kind of like the shape of the grid, strangely, just because it's unusual. Giant white spaces, super-segmented. Weird.

SethG said...

These are TUSKERS. Animals with tusks? Whatevers.

Super-segmented is right--just one letter connecting the NW/SE corners, then a two-letter wide channel from SW to NE. Yet I think this might be my fastest solve ever.

C said...

My dream of solving a random letter answer puzzle is getting closer, I can feel it. Sarcasm, please work your magic with the previous sentence.

Pete said...

My reaction to the puzzle was diametrically opposed to PG's. Hated the theme, as once you got it you had the second half of the answer already filled in. I wasn't bothered by the (legitimate) problems with the fill, as I never saw them. If they're just the tail ends of entries you're filling in they're way, way less obnoxious than if they're the actual answer you're entering. Today, they just the sequential last letter of words for me, so not that offensive.
I must have watched way more B-movie safari adventures as a child than I remember, because TUSKERS was a natural gimme.

mac said...

Not a bad Monday, but we have been spoiled with denser themes lately. Five is the new 4, I guess.

Like wassails, chassis, Poirot and Cousteau, tired of the aahs.

*David* said...

EASY ON bothered me the most of all in this puzzle because of the use ad-speak. That make me think of EZ or some variant spelling which is typically why ad speak is mentioned. It kind of bothers me that it bothers me so much but there it is. Who is this PETULA person BTW, needed all crossings for that oddity.

Rube said...

Can't say I'd complain about this one so much as @pg. Sure, TUSKERS is awful but the long fill is quite good. Figured out the theme on the second theme answer but never heard of a HACKYSACK, (Hakensack, yes), or HATHA. Guessed the "A", but it could have been an "O" just as easily.

@Dave, you whippersnapper, that's Petula Clark from the 60's.

Anonymous said...

The vowels match, too. It couldn't have been an "O" unless it was HOCKY SOCK, and neither HOCKY nor WASSOILS makes any sense.

Mortuorum said...

I actually thought this was a pretty good Monday puzzle. Yes, there was some messy fill, but at least the horrible crossword-ese we've been seeing so much lately was largely absent.

StudioCitySteve said...

I didn't even notice the theme until I was done. For no good reason I can put my finger on I loved this puzzle today, and I learned a new word - HATHA.

I just thought it was very smooth, and didn't think twice about TUSKERS, I guess it's a word I've always known.

I also want to belatedly apologise for my "self-respecting" remark in the comments last week - I didn't mean to imply any of you nice people who eat crumpets for breakfast are "self-respectless". Mea Culpa.

Also, having been grumpy about Merle Reagle's puzzle on Oscar Sunday, yesterday's in the print edition was awesome, so props to Merle on that one, we're copacetic again :)

Unknown said...

Hacky Sack is a small,size of a golf ball bean bag.The game is to use your feet to juggle the Hacky Sack and not to let it touch the ground. If you never played soccer it is doubtful you wouldknow it. Liked this one mondays should be easy. couldhave used stinky winky or okie dokie though.

Rube said...

Thanks @r_w. Didn't know that. Didn't play soccer either.

@SCS, apology accepted. Now leave me alone so I can eat my scone for breakfast.

Anonymous said...

Fine with the puzzle, but bothered by PPP as "Very quietly, to Beethoven." Can anybody explain that to my little mind?

Helpful guy said...

@Anon 11:55 Pianissimo[or some such spelling] is the common notation for quietly in music. PPP is very quietyly.

Mabye not so helpful Guy said...

I guess it would have been even more helpful if I mentioned that Pianissimo is abbreviated P. Sorry 'bout that.

Anonymous said...

p = piano (softly)
pp = pianissimo (very softly)
ppp = pianissimo possibly (as softly as possible)

Some composers have added even more "p's" but they would seem impossible to achieve if, in fact, ppp is as softly as possible.

John Wolfenden said...

Maybe I'm just in a good mood today but I thought this was well above average for a Monday puzzle. Nice long verticals in the NE & SW in HACKYSACK and HONKYTONK, and tasty words like SUPS and CANTED.

HACKYSACK is actually a brand, footbag being the generic term.

It shows how little we use CHECKs anymore that I sat there staring at "Cash alternative" for quite awhile, thinking, "Huh?"

Sfingi said...

Finally got out - 18" snow - can visit the Home now.

By the way, in spoken Italian, as opposed to musical terms, pian' piano means very soft. So this duplication is a common use.

@Dave - Petula Clark is a British singer, almost 70 now (!) who was famous for the song "Don't sleep in the subway." She is good looking and has a great voice, and she also had #1 hits in Italian, French and German.

Larry Sittig said...

Same delay as John W before thinking of CHECK. It has been a while since I stood in the grocery checkout line thinking, I can't believe that lady (sorry, it's always a lady) is standing there wasting everybody's time while she fills in all the blanks on that check, enters it in the register, shows her ID, puts her wallet and checkbook back in her purse ...

HDS is a super-stinker, stinker-isimo, and TUSKERS is at least mezzo-stinker. But my dislike is moderated by the fact that it's Monday-easy to get these through crosses. I give Mr. Atkinson credit for some nice longer words, unusual for a Monday. My favorite is the SW with COUSTEAU, HISTORIC and HONKYTONK together. I bet the constructor worked hard to think of a clue for OCh so he could make hUSKERS, but that would have really set PG off!

John Wolfenden said...

To add to the PIANO conversation: my sister-in-law is Sicilian, and her daughter is bilingual. When she wants to calm the tyke down (which at age 4 happens frequently) she says, "Giovanna, piano!"

CrazyCat said...

I kinda sorta liked this one. Thought it was an above average Monday. Thought the theme was cute and can't complain about words like HISTORIC, ORTHADOX, WHISPER AND COINCIDE. 40D Touchy FEELY got a chuckle. HATHA yoga is the style that most envision when they think of Yoga. There are many other styles including Ashtanga/Vinyasa flow and Kundalini. Iyengar is similar to Hatha, but with props like blocks and bolsters. Bikram is the one where the temperature is kept at over 100 degrees. I always think of "Downtown" as being PETULA Clark's biggest hit. Agree that there was a whole CAST of plurals.

StudioCitySteve said...

Just a final word on the ppp subject - the reason a piano (more properly called a pianoforte) is called a piano(forte) is that it was the first keyboard instrument where the player could vary the volume of the note played by how hard the key was struck.

Prior, the strings were plucked (like on a harpsichord) and the volume was constant - the player had no control over volume.

Hence "pianoforte" or "soft-loud".