03.14 Mon

March 14, 2011
Billie Truitt

Theme: Hard to describe but ... — Theme answers are familiar phrases that follow the pattern "[xx]ing [xx]g."

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Lather-holding cup (SHAVING MUG).
  • 25A: Sock mender's tool (DARNING EGG).
  • 36A: Violin knob for pitch adjustments (TUNING PEG).
  • 48A: Retriever or pointer (HUNTING DOG).
  • 57A: Joke that gets funnier with repetition (RUNNING GAG).
Looks like we're starting the week off with a really solid Monday puzzle. As I was solving, I have to admit the theme did provoke a raised eyebrow, but the more I look at it the more I like it. And the reason I'm even looking at it again is to make sure I'm not missing something. Is there a vowel progression in the first words? Are the last words related in some way? No and no. But that's okay with me today. Say the phrases one right after the other. Even though it's difficult to describe their connection in words, they definitely go together.

Not much crosswordese in the grid today, which is a nice surprise for a Monday.
  • 19A: Homely fruit (UGLI).
  • 58D: Author Anaïs (NIN).
Crosswordese 101: This is more like Crosswordese 301, but you're ready for it, right? Dame NGAIO Marsh was an author who wrote mysteries. You will almost always see the words mystery, whodunit, and/or writer in clues for NGAIO (as in today's 34D: Whodunit writer Marsh). Other details to try to hold onto: she was a contemporary of Agatha Christie and Erle Stanley Gardner, and the protagonist in her books is a detective named Roderick Alleyn.

Entries that jumped out at me as particularly nice include WISE MEN, BIG NEWS, and ARUGULA (I don't like to eat it, but I do like to say it) (28A: Magi / 11D: Special report subject / 38D: Peppery salad green). It took me way too long to come up with DIET from its clue, 16A: Losing strategy? You'd think I'd be hip to that trick by now but apparently not. Love the clue for STINKS, 65A: Smells to high heaven; not so much the clue for AGE, 52A: 2011 minus year of birth, roughly.

38A: "AMEN to that!" is my colloquial phrase of the day. And, I tell you what. I must really like this puzzle because I'm not even going to rant about the horrible, horrible earworm of 41D: "Afternoon __": suggestive #1 hit of 1976 (DELIGHT). And that seems like something I would rant about, doesn't it?

[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]

Everything Else 1A: World Wide __ (WEB); 4A: Gunpowder element (SULFUR); 10A: Turns seaward (EBBS); 14A: Firefighter's tool (AXE); 15A: Dream up (CREATE); 20A: Eye part containing the pupil (IRIS); 21A: Timeline divisions (ERAS); 23A: Habit wearer (NUN); 24A: Kimono sashes (OBIS); 30A: Sweden neighbor (NORWAY); 31A: Utmost degree (NTH); 32A: Church instrument (ORGAN); 35A: Flag maker Betsy (ROSS); 40A: Ecstatic way to walk (ON AIR); 41A: Roman 700 (DCC); 44A: 1992 Olympic skating champ Yamaguchi (KRISTI); 46A: As an alternative (INSTEAD); 51A: Heidi's heights (ALPS); 53A: It replaced the franc (EURO); 54A: Handling the job (ON IT); 55A: Member of an Iraqi minority (KURD); 61A: "Now ___ me down ..." (I LAY); 62A: Complete (ENTIRE); 63A: Hurry, old-style (HIE); 64A: Clearance event (SALE); 66A: Blasting sply. (TNT); 1D: Used to be (WAS); 2D: Lettered piece of court evidence (EXHIBIT); 3D: Pessimistic about Wall Street (BEARISH); 4D: Biol. and chem. (SCIS.); 5D: Coffeepot for a crowd (URN); 6D: Jeans part (LEG); 7D: Hall of __: enshrined athlete (FAMER); 8D: One-eighty (U-TURN); 9D: Win back (REGAIN); 10D: Campus e-mail address letters (EDU); 12D: Sturgeon yielding expensive caviar (BELUGAS); 13D: Tight-fisted (STINGY); 18D: Workbench clamp (VISE); 22D: Noisy sleepers (SNORERS); 24D: Part of BYOB (OWN); 25D: Bruce of "Coming Home" (DERN); 26D: Prefix with -plasty (ANGIO); 27D: Pirate's quaff (GROG); 29D: Canadian lawman on horseback (MOUNTIE); 33D: Raggedy doll (ANN); 36D: Try out (TEST); 37D: Unwelcome engine sound (PING); 39D: Twenty Questions choice (MINERAL); 42D: Ship's leader (CAPTAIN); 43D: Jewel box contents, briefly (CD'S); 44D: Military pants (KHAKIS); 45D: Hardens (INURES); 47D: Zesty taste (TANG); 49D: McJob holder (GRUNT); 50D: "__ know you?" (DON'T I); 54D: Vending machine bills (ONES); 56D: Hair coloring agent (DYE); 59D: Rub the wrong way (IRK); 60D: Retrieve (GET).


Sfingi said...

Nice and quick puzzle. I never heard of jewel box, but looked it up and it's just the plastic case a CD comes in.

gespenst said...

As I was solving I thought for sure you would comment on the gratuitous/ugly plural abbreviation SCIS at 4D. Or mention the fact that 4 of the themes ended with the pattern CVC (like PEG) but one was VCC (EGG).

But then you didn't! So I did, lol.

Pretty easy, solved with just one trip through across and down...but not so easy that I got it all with across clues alone. Perfect Monday level.

I've been solving/reading regularly, but work and two kids keep me from posting. I'm on vacation this week and currently waiting for someone to come give us an estimate, so had the time to solve *and* comment :) That's nice for a change!

Oh, and the KURD in the SW reminds me of Jon Stewart's ongoing reports on the doings in WI, where he makes puns, including some on KURD/CURD. Love me some Daily Show ;)

imsdave said...

I'm strangely attracted to the theme - it is so bizarre, I love it. Very nice Monday offering.

@PG - looking forward to seeing you this weekend

@everybody else - there's still time to sign up for the ACPT - if you can, get there! I'd love to meet all of you.

Rex Parker said...

Never heard of a DARNING EGG. Still, finished this in well under 3. Pretty loose theme, but with a nicely filled grid.


Rex Parker said...

PS you left out the most salient fact about NGAIO Marsh—she was a Kiwi!

RAC'em said...

@Rex - I'm guessing you never saw anyone darn socks. It's a thing of the past that reminds me of my grandma. I enjoyed the memory.

Avg Joe said...

I enjoyed seeing darning egg in the grid. I've never seen a wooden one, but I have seen the stone variety. And my mother had a wooden darning mushroom, which is a close relative.

It's all SethG's fault that we had to hear about Afternoon Delight again. :-)

SethG said...

Maybe you were thinking of Anchorman, or Good Will Hunting, or SVB? Don't blame me, it's not like I mentioned Total Eclipse of the Heart or something.

I also didn't know about the egg.

mac said...

Very nice puzzle, not too much crosswordese for a Monday.

Sort of a loose theme, but the actual terms were nice. Some old stuff, luke shaving mug and darning egg (find them at antique fairs these days, and my grandmother had a "mushroom" as well).

Love Ngaio Marsh's books, and Roderick Alleyn.

Looking forward to the ACPT! My favorite weekend of the year.

mac said...

Now you really did it. SethG!

Avg Joe said...

Awlright Seth. That does it! Now the gloves come off!!

Here is the Worst Earworm of All Time

Take that!

sjok said...

My mom used a burned out light bulb instead of a "darning egg". Clever, huh. I use jewel cases all the time but I have never seen a jewel box. I assume they do exist.

SethG said...

How is that related to the puzzle? Also, I don't know the song. And, since it's Jackson Browne, I couldn't listen to more than a minute of it--that dude's worse than Phil Collins!

In conclusion, Tusk.

Anonymous said...

jackson browne is not as bad as a one hit wonder like the starland vocal band. liked the puzzle mondays should be easy on the grey matter

TWG said...

Fun puzzle. I liked the quasi-symmetry of ARUGULA and BELUGAS in the corners. Nice sparkly non-theme entries! Plus, they just kind of sound alike to me.


C said...

I enjoyed today's puzzle which is good for a Monday. DARNINGEGG is a new one for me and my favorite answer. It sounds like it is a distant relative of the Blarney Stone or Kissing Stone, and, instead of being located in Ireland (or EIRE for this crowd) it is located in South Bend, Indiana and all the locals travel there and gently curse it with a DARN. Or it could just be an instrument that facilitates the mending of socks, ymmv.

Oh, @PG, when in doubt, rant in your post. You readership enjoys the journey. OK, overstepped my bounds internet style, THIS reader enjoys the journey.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks forposting the MErle Reagle puzzle.

Anonymous said...

Did you just post a (non-hyperlinked!) url for a picture of something that PuzzleGirl posted a picture of in her entry?

Uh, thanks?

CrazyCat said...

Nice Monday level puzzle with a kind of weird theme, but nice. I liked RUNNING GAG. Always love seeing ARUGULA. I have it growing like a weed in my garden. Liked that whole corner of BIGNEWS, BELUGAS and STINGY.

@SethG Nooooooo! "Anchorman" and "Good Will Hunting" versions pretty funny though.

John Wolfenden said...

I wasn't familiar with Billie Truitt but to me this was exactly what a Monday puzzle should be: some more difficult stuff to keep more experienced puzzlers satisfied, but makable on crosses for novices. When I see SULFUR and HIE on a Monday I'm excited.

"2011 minus year of birth" for AGE is clever.

I've been BEARISH about the American stock market for awhile now. I've asked my broker to explain his continued enthusiasm about domestic growth, given all the signs pointing the other way, and he hasn't convinced me. Any thoughts, you clever and learned people?

Since "Afternoon Delight" last appeared in the L.A. Times puzzle, it showed on the show Glee. I lived through the 70s but somehow managed to avoid being exposed to that song, I suppose because my parents had good taste in music.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I'm dating my self but I
remember my Moms 'darning egg' being hallow & having a removable base that held 'darning thread '

Anonymous said...

Nice monday breezed through it afternoon delight just a song would rather listen to that than some of the crap thats out these days

Anonymous said...

I had some serious problems with the bad plurals in this puzzle.

Outside of the number of them, (snorers, alps, khakis, belugas, eras, ones) some of them are pretty dodgy.

A Jewel Box's contents is likely to be _one_ CD, not CDS.

Pluralizing for abbreviations like SCI(S) is troublesome.

And the worst is OBIS. There is no plural form in Japanese outside of a very few specific cases. The plural of obi is obi, just as the plural of samurai is samurai (Think of that lousy Tom Cruise movie - it was about a group of samurai).

I'll admit I had a headache before I started, but this just felt cheap, and made me grumpy.

Erin Patrice Rooney said...

Fabulous Monday crossword. Love how it makes me think and look up new words. Love the tongue in cheek humor! I have learned that M/M crosswords are "easier." But I love them anyway....