06.15 Wed

June 15, 2011
Jennifer Nutt

Theme:  Between a Rock and a Hard Place — A plethora of predicaments.

Theme Entries:
  • 17A: *Aid for loose-leaf filing (HOLE PUNCHER).
  • 10D: *Pay for a verdict (FIX THE JURY).
  • 14D: *Random sample (SPOT CHECK).
  • 29D: *Improvisational gig (JAM SESSION).
  • 32D: *Deli container (PICKLE JAR).
  • 61A: Trouble at the starts of the answers to starred clues (PREDICAMENT).
Hey, puzzle fans. Doug here on a Wednesday. Did you hear the big news yesterday? PuzzleGirl made her New York Times crossword puzzle debut! She's reached the top, the Holy Grail of crossworddom. Her next goal: replace Will Shortz as editor. I wouldn't put it past her. Anyway, she spent most of Tuesday reading congratulatory emails, tweets, and Facebook messages & was generally super-excited all day long. That'll wear you out. So she's asleep right now, and I'm the elf who gets to do the blog while she's zonked out.

I don't know anything about today's constructor, Jennifer Nutt. Hmmm, I see she once collaborated on a puzzle with Andrea Carla Michaels. That settles it. She's awesome. I enjoyed today's theme, and I really like the fact that some of the theme entries intersect. Those of you who've tried constructing puzzles know that it's hard enough to find a set of theme entries that are consistent and have matching lengths. Now imagine that they also have to intersect each other symmetrically. Yikes! So yeah, this grid is impressive. On the downside, I think 17-Across is more commonly known as a HOLE PUNCH (no -ER) and 10-Down, FIX THE JURY, isn't as "in the language" as the other phrases.

  • 10A: "The dog ate my homework," e.g. (FIB). I once tried telling PuzzleGirl "The dog deleted the blog," but she didn't believe me.
  • 38A: Former Fiesta Bowl site (TEMPE). It's officially the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and has been held in Glendale, Arizona, since 2007.
  • 46A: American realist who painted "The Gross Clinic" (1875) (EAKINS). Thomas Eakins. Huh? That's a tough entry for a Wednesday, or any day of the week. I read the Wikipedia article on  "The Gross Clinic" and it's pretty darn interesting. The painting depicts what a surgical theater looked like in the nineteenth century. The title is accurate: it's gross. One critic said that the painting is "one of the most powerful, horrible, yet fascinating pictures that has been painted anywhere in this century...but the more one praises it, the more one must condemn its admission to a gallery where men and women of weak nerves must be compelled to look at it, for not to look at it is impossible." I don't want to traumatize our weak-nerved readers, so please enjoy this basketful of kittens..
  • 61A: Trouble at the starts of the answers to starred clues (PREDICAMENT). Was the theme clear to everyone? Each of the starting words is a predicament. You can be "in a hole," "in a fix," "in a spot," etc. And none of them are where you wanna be.
  • 66A: He's got the life (RILEY). When I was a kid, one of our neighbors often said to me "You're living the life of Riley!" I never had a clue what the heck he was talking about. Sometimes he told me that when I was mowing the lawn, so I don't think he knew what he was talking about either.
  • 27D: "Beetle Bailey" dog (OTTO) / 36D: "Garfield" dog (ODIE). Two very common crossword dogs. You might also run into SNERT from "Hagar the Horrible" or DAWG from "Hi and Lois." I've yet to see the dog from "The Family Circus" in a puzzle. Good old BARFY.
  • 59D: Charon's river (STYX). "The Best of Times," by request.
    PuzzleGirl will be back tomorrow, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready to blog. See you on Sunday.


    Pete said...

    I wasn't a big fan of the 22D/26A crossing, as LAS/AHSO is equally as viable as LOS/OHSO.

    So, your name's officially been changed from Swedish Sounding Doug to Blase' Doug? 'Cause you had a puzzle yesterday too.

    Gareth Bain said...

    OK, I want to put BARFY in a puzzle now! Just to see what sort of a reaction I'd get from the editor..

    CoffeeLvr said...

    I think this puzzle indirectly makes a profound comment on the human condition. We have so many words for PREDICAMENT, we must get into a lot of them.

    ASS and BURRO, you can ride one in any language. See how referencing the Bible makes any word respectable. In verifying the synonyms of "donkey" used here, I learned that this species is considered mature at one year of age, and the use of "colt" or "filly" is only appropriate below that age, unlike another species. Oops, wrong blog.

    How is it that I have never drunk KIRIN? Oh, yeah, I don't like sushi or teriyaki very much.

    Gene said...

    Congrats Puzzlegirl!!! Will this make you hard(er) to live with? Just kidding. You're the greatest.

    sjok said...

    There are a few too many "unclues" in this puzzle. Does anyone actually use "Unc" for uncle. I would disown (or worse) a niece or nephew who called me "unc". Anyone who knows "Tio Pepe" or any other sherry brand needs to find a new libation. The use of one of the 101 departments of France in a clue is almost unforgivable. In addition, "ala Mode" and "Chic" are NOT synonyms in either French or English.

    Tuttle said...

    There were some weak three letters (UNC, XER, ORS) and there was a little too much trivia for my tastes, but overall an excellent puzzle. My big issue came from penning in "lycra" for 5D. Would have liked to see UNC and TIO clued similarly like ASS and BURRO.

    The sports clues came easy today. I used to fence and for some reason Boggs' base came right to me. My alma mater won their last national championship at the Fiesta Bowl in TEMPE so that was a gimmie.

    57D made me chortle out loud. Nice clue.

    fashionista said...

    From the dictionary:

    A la mode - (Adj.) 1. in the current fashion or style

    That works for CHIC.

    Tuttle said...

    In addition, "ala Mode" and "Chic" are NOT synonyms in either French or English.

    Yes they are.

    We're not talking about ice cream here.

    CrazyCat said...

    Congrats Doug and Angela on your fun NYT puzzle yesterday.

    I enjoyed this puzzle, theme and all. As a Philly native I liked seeing EAKINS. There was a controversy over that painting a few years ago, because it was going to be sold to the National Gallery in DC, and Philadelphians didn't want it to leave the city. I think it finally ended up in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

    Thanks for the basket of kitties!

    C said...

    Good puzzle today, LAT is having a strong puzzle week, I hope it continues.

    Hand raised for calling one of my Uncles 'Unc' He didn't seem to mind.

    Thanks to @Doug for filling in for our hostess.

    Nighthawk said...

    So how do you reach an amoeba?
    On its cell.
    Yea, but if that made you wince, that joke the med students have about anatomy class being just gross must be as old as dirt. And in the same vein.

    Had lIe at 10D. FIXed it with a FIB. "Statistics" didn't fit.
    Otherwise, pretty smooth. Weirdly, got to 61A and with just PREDI filled, confidently completed it in all white space to PREDIsposed. Took some crosses to straighten that out.

    Liked that I wavered over beer choices, KIRIN or Asahi. Wondered though, why some plucky Japanese hasn't figured out a way to make beer from soybeans. And what would they call it?

    I remember reading about that, @CrazyCatLady. Though, the bigger controversy was about the moving of the Barnes collection. Too bad about the outcome on that one. The documentary,The Art of the Steal, about that is well worth a watch.

    Nice work, @Doug, both for the writeup, and yesterday's NYT w/ PG. And for the kitties. Agree, a co-acme is high praise, indeed. And very nice soloing, Ms. Nutt.

    Rube said...

    Never heard of EAKINS or PLATH, but easily getable from crosses. Had "lie" in the NE for the longest time, but that worked out too. Thought all four of the theme downs were great -- HOLEPUNCHER not so much.

    Otherwise, a smooth Wednesday solve.

    Anonymous said...

    still too shy to give myself a handle, but I really like this blog and its community of commenters
    @CoffeeLvr - on the human condition, not only lots of ways to say predicament, we have an excess of c-word synonyms for "unrefined" -- I started with coarse, too long; shifted to similar sounding crass; then Odie put me wise to crude

    andrea carla michaels said...

    what a fantastic write up!!!!!!
    You did this puzzle justice, my man!
    Love your style, Swedish-Sounding Doug Peterson and you are once-again proving how crazy-modest you are for not saying that yesterday's fab NYT puzzle was not only a co-creation but based on YOUR idea!!!!

    And yes, Jennifer is awesome, but also too modest to chime in, tho I'm encouraging her to do so.
    She is a brilliant lawyer, very soft-spoken, whom I met here in SF thru a mutual friend and a mutual love of crosswords.

    She had already had her own puzzles in before we did our TVDETECTIVE one which was inspired by one of her LA Times puzzles!

    Maybe she'll write in herself on how she came up with this puzzle...and how super cool of you @Doug to point out the intersecting theme answers...
    (I personally like all my themes to go horizontally, but this is magnificent.)

    Plus all those J's K's and X's!!!

    I thought this was not only fun, but hard (eg Didn't know LEHI right off thebat and had E?KINS for quite a while)

    and I loved that so many answers had a double:
    (Hmmm, maybe SPOTcheck too!)

    @Doug again: BARFY, hilarious!

    I had lIe for FIB, so I had LIX THE JURY...ewwww.

    c'mon, Jennifer, I KNOW you are reading this...say something!

    Doug P said...

    Thanks for the background, Andrea! Yes, we'd love to hear from you, Jennifer. Don't worry, we're a friendly little blog here. :)

    CrazyCat said...

    @Nighhawk Right you are about the Barnes Foundation. Thanks for reminding me about "The Art of the Steal." I'll add it my Netflix cue.

    Sfingi said...

    Good Wed. puzzle.

    Had a hard time getting to FIX in the NE, esp. since I had "lie" before FIB and thought Sancho Panza's burro actually had a name besides "the grey one." In Oneida County you get paid to be on a jury, so I was keeping that in mind, too.

    The Life of Riley was a good show because it was the only one in which the father wore factory clothes. Every one else was a doctor or a businessman. Oh - Ralph Kramden was a bus driver, but he was horrifying. My dad would never threaten to punch my mom. My dad worked in a now gone factory (Oneida Ltd.), but my mom ironed his blue clothes!

    Had attACK before HIJACK.

    The only thing I've ever used beer for is to catch slugs, and now I use peanut shells, which they hate.

    Steve said...

    Agree with @Doug about HOLEPUNCH, and you don't FIXTHEJURY you RIGTHEJURY.

    @sjok - Actually Tio Pepe is a very pleasant aperitif - it's bone-dry, not sweet, and served chilled as cold as possible.

    Hand up for filling in ASAHI first.

    Personal gripes:

    OBJECT is not a goal, OBJECTIVE is.

    SPOTCHECK isn't a "random sample", it's the act of "taking a random sample"

    As for JAM SESSION - weirdly, I was in a local restaurant last night and four of the the Gypsy Kings came in to eat. When they were done they went outside to their cars, brought in their guitars and gave the 20 of us who were there a private jam session. Awesome stuff.

    Duane said...

    I remember watching The Life of Riley with William Bendix as Riley. Boy, am I old!

    mac said...

    Very good Wednesday puzzle. Impressive to have those theme answers cross! Enjoyed solving it a lot.

    Nothing wrong with Tio Pepe! I like sherry, but only when it's cold (the weather, that is). I was surprised that a la mode is "chic", only knew that term for the added whipped cream.

    @Steve: sometimes an object is a goal!

    ddbmc said...

    Clue 52D-Wade Bogg's base-THIRD. Today, June 15, is Wade Bogg's 53 birthday! Nice tip of the hat to my former favorite Red Soxer-(then he went to the Evil Empire!) :)

    Steve said...

    @Mac - you're right - i.e. "the object of today's crossword is ..."

    I stand corrected.