TUESDAY, Jun. 5, 2007 - Barry C. Silk

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Relative Difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Leader of the Pack" (38A: 1964 #1 hit by the Shangri-Las ... or this puzzle's theme) - 4 theme answers clued as [38-Across, in a sense]

This is a fun, colorful puzzle, with a minimum (or at least a non-distracting amount) of tired, stale fill. There are many answers in the puzzle that seemed odd or off or weird, but almost always in a good way, or at least in a curiously neutral way. What I'm saying, I guess, is that the puzzle wasn't boring. This is about all I ask from my Tuesday puzzles.

I loved all the theme answers, though only two of them are perfect fits for the clue, in my opinion, and one of them is an absurd stretch - though, again, colorful enough not to merit my condemnation.

  • 18A: ACE OF SPADES - because it's the highest card?
  • 28A: ALPHA MALE - the bottom of the pack is the OMEGA WOLF; since our dog is at the bottom of our pack of three animals (two cats, one dog), I have recently taken to calling her OMEGA-3, or sometimes just FATTY ACID
  • 45A: DEN MOTHER - yeah, that works
  • 59A: MARLBORO MAN - he leads a pack ... of cigarettes ... somehow? He's pitchman or posterboy for the pack. Or am I missing something?
Today's "Featured Five" will "feature" at least three answers that completely stumped me - I got them all from crosses (or inferred them from partial fill), but one of them ... well, I just crossed my fingers; it still looks wrong. But first:

3D: Place for chalk (cue tip)

Something about this bothers me. I think the fact that it's a homonym of Q-Tip - somehow makes me think it's a pun and not a real phrase. But it's gettable, and it's a nice, unusual phrase, standing right next to two other two-word phrases, R.C. COLA (Soft drink since 1905) and OLD PAL (2D: Friend since high school, say). Other "off"-sounding answers include 51D: "What's shakin', _____?" (bro') - who says that!? - and 8D: Did not disturb (left be) - I know this is idiomatically / grammatically correct, in its way, but I wanted LET BE. Blame the Beatles.

14A: Actor Gulager (Clu)

My favorite answer up there in the NW. CLU Gulager plays a very bad man, terrorizing deaf kids (among other things) in the 1964 remake of "The Killers." Other cool names in the puzzle include NICO (5D: One-named singer for the 1960s Velvet Underground) and TUPAC (9D: Rapper Shakur).

25A: Composer of the "Brandenburg Concertos," in brief (J.S. Bach)

This answer makes me laugh, because if the clue had simply been [Composer of the "Brandenburg Concertos"], then the answer could have been BACH, which, it appears, is significantly "brief"er than J.S. BACH. So you use "in brief" to make the answer ... longer?

7D: Resort city that shares its name with a Duran Duran hit (Rio)

It's hard to describe how central the album "RIO" was to my adolescence. Along with "Beauty and the Beat" by the Go-Go's, "RIO" represents the point at which I broke away (temporarily) from my parents' musical influence. I bought the album with my own money and absolutely wore it out. I had no idea what the songs or (more importantly) music videos, were about, exactly, but I had a lot of fun guessing. I have to say, though, that in a puzzle with the theme LEADER OF THE PACK, if I were going to see a Duran Duran song, I would expect it to be "Hungry like the Wolf."

25D: Mil. plane's boosted launch (JATO)

Is this an acronym? Nothing about this clue or answer makes any sense to me. I haven't seen a dumber-looking so-called word in my puzzle since PFUI. I see that it stands for "Jet-Assisted Take-Off." Hmmm. So it's a real acronym. No foul. I really wish it had been NATO or JUDO or even KATO. The other answers that stumped me:
  • 58D: "Mockingbird" singer Foxx, 1963 (Inez) - all kinds of confusing, as the only "Mockingbird" singers I know are James Taylor and Carly Simon, and the only Foxx I know is Redd
  • 46D: Computer user's shortcut (hot key) - there's a magic key on my keyboard that will help me complete my work faster? Why have I not been told? I have heard of Function Keys and Macros, but not these so-called "HOT" KEYs. But again, research proves they exist, so no foul.

Thanks for a fun puzzle, Mr. Silk. I'm going to read the other puzzle blogs now and see if any of them succumbed to the temptation to call this puzzle "Smooth as Silk." If so, I will mock them incessantly.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

39 comments:

jlsnyc 8:56 AM  

so glad you concede that "marlboro man" is finally worthy of inclusion here. the "stretch" component was also part of the smile factor for me. (*loved* the theme and the way it was developed in the puzzle.)

it was in the bottom portion of the puzzle that halted my solving progress most, however -- what kind of "ROman" was/is a "leader of the pack"?....

and before reading the clue for and filling in the intitial "s" and final "e" at 21d, saw "chedul" and thought, "Ache dulL," surprised that "dull ache" had been so inverted...

terrific tuesday -- and recap! imoo...

;-)

janie

Pete M 9:35 AM  

"...standing right next to two other two-word phrases, R.C. COLA (Soft drink since 1905) and OLD PAL (3D: Place for chalk)."

I won't ask why you chalk up your old pal... :)

If you've ever used CTL-C/CTL-V to copy and paste or CTL-I to italicize something in Word or CTL-S to save a document, then you've used HOT KEYS. You just didn't realize that's what they were called.

Rex Parker 9:39 AM  

You people read my blog too closely! I'll fix that little (big) error. Thanks, Pete.

rp

Orange 9:52 AM  

You lie, Rex. You lie! I bet you're familiar with Jamie Foxx.

Damn, I never got around to buying a pair of those earrings from the Rio cover. Rio marked my strongest divergence from my big sister's musical taste. To this day, she remains fond of the Eagles and REO Speedwagon. Oh! And Olivia Newton-John. She's raised her daughter to be an Olivia fan, too.

I can't believe you didn't carp about SLUFFED. Aren't you the one who gets cranky about "Var." clues, or have I got you mixed up with someone else?

Alex 9:54 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle but completely ran into a wall with the final square needing to be filled in:

JA-O (Mil. plane's boosted takeoff) crossing ERI-U (Verdi aria).

Having no clue and realizing the former was probably an acronym I literally could not rule out any consonants. When you're just typing in a letter and clicking submit it really sucks when the letter you want is T.

Linda G 9:55 AM  

Definitely not smooth as silk for me. I can't remember the last time I struggled this much with a Tuesday.

I liked that there were multiple references to the 60s...until I realized that they were forty years ago. Now I feel tired and must go drink coffee.

Jerome 10:02 AM  

Excellent puzzle & write-up. I don't see any reduction in entertainment or educational values since you've gone to the new format.

I don't know if you were being "tongue in cheek" with your comment about ACE OF SPADES, but sometimes a deck of cards is referred to as a pack of cards. The ace of spades is not only the highest ranking card, but I think it is also on the top of the pack when it's first opened.

Absolutely agree with you on JATO.

Howard B 11:59 AM  

This puzzle kicked most of us around quite a bit. SLUFFED just looked wrong in every way, and blocked up the middle nicely.

HOTKEY was the only easier one on my end, since MACRO didn't fit and it's in my field of knowledge. It's somewhat close to jargon, but not too uncommon. Closer to a Tueday puzzle than some of the other scary fill in there. JSBACH gave me a classical whooping for a while, as well.

Well, I have sluff.. er.. stuff to do now, so that's about that.
Interesting puzzle, different, though about at smooth as rocky road ice cream (with real rocks!) here.

Rex Parker 12:12 PM  

ERI TU = Pantheonic.

Which reminds me - I have GOT to update the Pantheon; months overdue.

Thanks for the observation that the ace of spades comes on top in a new deck. That makes a lot of sense (as well as the more likely intended meaning of its being high card).

rp

Norrin2 12:25 PM  

Another reason the Ace of Spades might be considered the leader of the deck -- I mean pack -- is in bidding card games like bridge suits are ranked: spades (highest), hearts, diamonds and clubs (lowest).
So I guess that makes the deuce of clubs the omega wolf.

Harley 12:30 PM  

Seemed closer to easy than medium, save for the eri tu/jato cross. But more importantly....

Which reference fades from memory/usage first?

Emo? Or Eno?

profphil 12:41 PM  

I enjoyed seeing "utile" and "Kant" in the same puzzle. Kant's categorical imperative is antithetical to Utilitarianism. When I teach Ethics I often use the word utile when explaining Utilitarianism and often contrast it with Kant's categorical imperative.

Anonymous 1:07 PM  

JATO is an acronym for Jet Assisted Take Off -- small jet engines temporarily attached to overloaded planes to allow them to take off from short runways, jettisoned on takeoff.

Alex 1:23 PM  

ERI TU (it's two words?) may be Pantheonic but in the 7 months and 5 days since I started doing the puzzle every day (new job, new commute, new way to kill time) it hasn't sunk in.

It doesn't help that what I know about opera could be fit into one file called "web browsers I've used in the past but not any more."

Al Sanders 1:26 PM  

Brian Eno resurfaced recently when he produced Paul Simon's latest album. Not sure what Emo Phillips has done lately, but Emo has become a very prevalent subculture on the junior high/senior high scene.

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

this puzzle had me stumped. I like to ease my way to saturday. I have to admit that I googled. EEK. I don't consider myself an intellectual in any sense of the word. But I am becoming quite the crossword junkie. any tips on solving clues I have never heard of in my life? I know there are certain strategies and such. Crossword lingo. but I am not familiar with them. any help will be greatly appreciated...THE NOVICE

the novice 1:43 PM  

I will say that I enjoyed the theme. Very easy to figure out. I like it whe I can get that out of the way. It was some of the fillers that I just couldn't pull out of the depths of my little brain....

Rex Parker 1:50 PM  

NOVICE - Just keep doing the puzzle (and reading this blog) - you'll get better. And Amy Reynaldo's book on "How to Solve the NY Times Crossword Puzzle" should be out this summer, so you can always pick that up.

rp

the novice 2:06 PM  

Thanks for the tip. I love my crossword time in the morning. It has become my favorite part of the day. Sad but true. And I love your page. After I finish the puzzle I always check to see what you had to say about it and it makes me laugh.

I am the 166,ooo,ooo,ooo greatest crossword solver in the universe!!!

Anonymous 2:21 PM  

As noted, the Ace of Spades is very often the top card in a new pack of cards. It is also the most likely card to appear on the front of the box and is the most likely to have a particularly stylized depiction. It is almost always the card manufacturer's signature artwork depiction on the front of any of the cards together with the artwork on the back of each card. BICYCLE cards are a case in point. I am sure that the placement in a new pack was the intention of the clue.

There are poker variations in which the high spade in your hand takes half the pot making the Ace of Spades the leader of the pack in such games, but I am certain that that was not the intention of the clues. There are bidding games like bridge where spades are the highest ranked suit and there is a game (Spades) where spades are always trump, but there are other auction games like SKAT and FIVE HUNDRED where spades are not the highest suit and even in bridge, no trump is higher.


Steve M

campesite 3:53 PM  

Anyone notice Big Tobacco meeting Big Oil with MARLBORO and MOBIL crossing at the B?

Chris 4:59 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 5:05 PM  

I liked that there were multiple references to the 60s...until I realized that they were forty years ago. Now I feel tired and must go drink.

Chris 5:39 PM  

On Saturday someone mentioned that about half of the top 100 searches on Google Trends related to BW's Times puzzle (which I thought was pretty cool). One of the NYT bloggers noticed the same, apparently, and Just thought I'd share the link.

campesite 5:40 PM  

Hi Chris, I mentioned the Google Trends search page on Saturday, thanks for the link. I suppose there's not much difference in Googling an answer versus using the official Crossword dictionary, but I do find it much more satisfying completing the puzzle without outside help (except on a BW Saturday--for those anything goes!).

rock rabbit 6:33 PM  

Campesite, nice observation on the crossing of big oil and big tobacco! Maybe we could call it a brand name mini-theme, adding in RC COLA, NO DOZ, and REEBOK. Rex, I actually got a chuckle out of the "word" CUE TIP, even though it wasn├Ąt clued as a pun. But my favorite answer was ULULA -- hilarious cluing (throat dangler!) a gorgeous word in itself, and one that makes me smile, because I always picture the object you see in the back of a comic book character's throat when they are screaming..... AAAAAHHHHHHH! Maybe today's puzzle was easier for me because I had the expert help of my mother (visiting for a few days).

Ultra Vi 10:12 PM  

Novice--

Join the club! For many of us, doing the morning puzzle is the most fun part of the day.

I found this Tuesday puzzle fun - a bit challenging but with enough giveaways to make it quick(ish).

My favorite word in the puzzle: ROC. ROC rules.

Anonymous 11:25 PM  

latin teacher pronounced "ululare" with such wolfish gusto, it stuck

Anonymous 11:58 PM  

I believe CUETIP refers to the tip of a pool cue, which you use chalk on.

That said, i wasn't able to get anything in the upper left corner. =/

Orange 8:26 AM  

Campesite, I think Googling for answers has got to be infinitely better than using a crossword dictionary. Google makes it easy to read up on anything you didn't know. You're bound to pick up a little more information than just the spelling of the answer, which should make you a better solver moving forward.

Rex, I think a couple different people cited the smoothness of Silk/Shortz at the pun-riffic NYT forum.

campesite 12:39 PM  

Hi Orange,
You're probably not around here anymore, but I completely agree. I have learned a ton from looking up topics from the grid, and I really don't see it as any different than grabbing a dictionary.
Love your blog, Orange.
Mark

Terry Wilson-Malam 6:05 PM  

relative difficulty medium but hard for a Tuesday.

Anonymous 7:26 PM  

To Rock Rabbit - UVULA hangs from the roof of the mouth, NOT ULULA, which would make the cross ELA instead of EVA (correct).

Orange 8:46 PM  

I just looked up the etymology of ululate and uvula. Ululate comes from the Latin for "to howl"; uvula derives from a diminutive of the Latin for "grape." I gotta say, I've never thought a uvula looked anything like a small grape hanging there.

Anonymous 9:04 PM  

Which fades first from memory, EMO or ENO?

Brian ENO shaped the history of (rock) music, as much as Hendrix did, or perhaps even Chuck Berry.

EMO Phillips...who's he?

EMO (short for 'emotional,' and which is indeed a popular word among the current high-school set) will likely fade quicker than bell-bottomed jeans. It's just another word for EGO, really, but gayer.

Pen Girl :)

katya 10:51 AM  

Did anyone notice at top that you can resolve both a SNARL and a SPAT with an AXE? I got stuck there at first with Snit and Nexie (which gave me the piquant "Ice of Spades".

I really gave the evil eye to "left be." I feel there should be a noun or pronoun in there. "Did not disturb" = "left it be." Or, how about a clue of "undisturbed" = "left be"?

All in all, more fun than usual for a Tuesday.

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

6WL :::::

I found it easy save for JATO. I loved LEFTBE, as I had never heard it said. It would be nice on a tombstone.

Really enjoyed your point, Rex, about "in brief" making the answer (JSBACH) less brief.

Something strangely erotic about reading the NE downs together: TUPAC EVA NUDE ALEX MAST.

Back to the present....

Waxy in Montreal 9:09 PM  

Kept looking for SINATRA somewhere as a themed Leader of the (Rat) Pack. Not to be, though.

JATO (sounds like a new, cool sign-off. Perhaps entered by a Hotkey).

Jesse 12:00 AM  

well I know it's no big deal to you veterans, but as a novice I'm proud to say I finished this puzzle without aid in about 30 minutes. It's a personal best. The one embarrassing stumper for me was 21D (SCHEDULE)... don't know why but the only word I could think of with U L E at the end was module. Bleh...

I agree that MARLBOROMAN was a stretch. In fact, I refused to believe it for so long that I left the last three blocks open hoping they would somehow give way to a witty three letter indicator of superior sales or customers or SOMETHING.

It was a fun puzzle, and as a billiards player I also loved 3D (CUETIP) as a "place for chalk."

-cheers

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