WEDNESDAY, Jun. 13, 2007 - Curtis Yee

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "BLT" - 66A: What the ends of 17-, 30-, and 49-Across spell (deli order)

I am totally amped up from watching Justin Verlander throw a no-hitter, so I am probably going to be all over the place tonight. I've never seen a no-hitter before, and it was totally thrilling. I was watching a completely different game (Mariners / Cubs) and the announcer mentioned that Verlander had a no-hitter through 6, so I switched over, figuring I'd just watch 'til someone got a hit. Only nobody did. And there were some Amazing defensive plays to make sure that nobody did. The crowd was electric - clearly people were out-of-their-minds excited to be seeing a no-hitter live. I've been in that ballpark (Comerica Park) in Detroit, so it was cool that it happened there. Anyway, Verlander was untouchable. The most dominant pitching performance I've seen in a while. He struck out 12! He was throwing 101 miles an hour in the 9th inning! Detroit is my second favorite team, so I'm thrilled. I felt bad for the Brewers, who just looked like they knew they were dead. Totally defeated.

And then the crossword came out, and here we are.

Haven't seen Curtis Yee's work since the controversial "Simpsons" quotation puzzle a few months back, the quotation from which has still not been confirmed as authentic (to me, that is). Coincidence: today my wife came home with "Simpsons" quotation pens for me. They feature four different quotations from Homer, with a new one rotating into view every time you click the pen. One of the pens features the verifiably authentic version of the quotation that Yee's puzzle appears to have botched: "Just because I don't care doesn't mean I don't understand." I think the quotation in the Yee puzzle read: "Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening." ANYway...

I like this puzzle. I especially like how the three main theme answers all end in single letters:

  • 17A: Scrap the original strategy (go to Plan B)
  • 30A: Loop looper (The Chicago L) - always thought it was "El" for "Elevated"
  • 49A: Muscle shirt, e.g. (sleeveless T)

The theme-revealing answer - DELI ORDER - is kind of a let-down, but overall this was a reasonably well-executed theme.

Featured Five

40D: Spicy bowlful (salsa dip)

The DIP part seems redundant to me. SALSA is a DIP. I DIP my chip into SALSA. I had the SAL- part and knew I was dealing with SALSA somehow, but though there was some specialized word I didn't know, like SALSARIA or something. DIP = :(

31D: Big copper exporter (Chile)

Had two problems here. Problem the first was that I read "copper" as "copter," and was wondering how in the world I should know who exports helicopters. Then I read "copper" as '30's gangster slang. Finally I realized I was dealing with the element copper, but by then I think I had 4/5 of the crosses so the country in question was already obvious. Speaking of elements...

54A: Pewter component (tin)

I had All Kinds of Trouble in the SW corner, because I misfired on consecutive Downs, writing in SAUTES for STEAMS at 49D: Cooks, in a way, and then falling for the grammatically incorrect colloquialism LAY LOW instead of the proper LIE LOW at 50D: Stay out of sight. Fixed SAUTES first, which then gave me TAN for the "pewter element." TAN? Really? I don't get it. Also had EYC for 58A: Common Market inits. (EEC), but was going to let it go (I suck at abbreviations, especially finance-related ones). Finally I realized my grammatical error and fixed the corner up, but not after losing Much time.

27A: _____ Mae (Whoopi's "Ghost" role) (Oda)

Dumbest-looking name ever. I was nearly certain it was wrong, figuring the answer had to be something like IDA Mae. But I was reasonably sure that 11D: Ballpark buy was not HOT DIG, so I stuck with ODA. ODA, ugh. Sounds like something air fresheners get rid of.

3D: On empty (out of gas)

One of many colorful multi-word phrases in the grid. This prepositional phrase intersects another one: ON A LEASH (33A: Restrained). My favorite multi-word answer is LOIS LANE (46A: Metropolis figure). I was not thinking "Superman" at first. I was thinking "Metropolis" in the generic urban sense. Then "figure" wasn't helping either. I was thinking something generic, like MAYOR. Is "figure" here supposed to be, you know, sort of "wink-wink," as in LOIS LANE has a nice "figure?"

And lastly, the assorted stuff I didn't know:

  • 43A: Bandleader Eubanks, familiarly (Kev) - He's Leno's bandleader, I now realize, but while I was doing the puzzle I was thinking old tyme bandleader like Count Basie or Artie Shaw.
  • 65D: Prof. Brainard of "The Absent-Minded Professor" (Ned) - Much prefer that NED be clued ["Simpsons" neighbor Flanders].
  • 68A: Comic Amsterdam (Morey) - I had LOUIS. I think I was thinking LOUIS Armstrong. Weird, considering LANCE Armstrong is actually in the puzzle.

That is all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Wendy 12:18 AM  

What, no mention of the ubiquitous BRA? These constructors are positively GAGA about that topic!

Should there be a Pantheon for frequently-used clues wherein the right answer is always going to be either of two words, and you never know which until you've got a lot of crosses? What I'm trying very inelegantly to describe is the regular appearance of 'mattress giant' and other similar clues for which the answer could be SERTA or Sealy.

This was a fun puzzle although I agree the DELI ORDER pay-off was pretty weak. Liked the UNO DOS juxtaposition too.

Linda G 12:44 AM  

I certainly hope I'm not the only one who had Superman first. I wondered about figure myself.

Fell into the same trap with LAY LOW. When I sat down to blog, I saw TAN and it made no sense. EYC could have worked, but way.

Anonymous 1:10 AM  

SALSA DIP is a bit awkward, yes, but not redundant. "Salsa" is simply Spanish/Italian for "sauce", so it's also a topping, a filling, an ingredient, heck, a main course if one likes. And it comes in every conceivable permutation of tomato, pepper, mango, cream, and pretty much anything else that can be liquefied.

Long time reader, first time commenter. Appreciate your daily discussion!


mmpo 1:44 AM  

Lol over copper/cop mixup, and the little drawing is a kick in the pants.

Mostly easy going, but several troublesome wrong turns.

I was thinking Fritz Lang's Metropolis, which got me nowhere, especially with an N (as in CHINA) in place of the L in LOIS.

I also had APPEASE instead of AT PEACE (9D), which gave me
PROVE for 16A (Valuable find). Couldn't figure out how that worked, but..."oh well," went on to other things. So for 30A I had CISAGOL. "What the...????" Finally, some time later, I had another look, and everything fell into place. In the northeast that is...In the southeast, for some reason SEITA came to me instead of
SERTA (57D), and in the south central section, I had COLT instead of CELT (60D)--wrong sport, I suppose, but I don't claim to know all the teams, made sense for a while. Anyway, I couldn't figure out what DOLI_IDER could be. Thought the hidden solution must be some deli slang for a BLT. Still don't know what Gregg pro refers to, so don't know how this yields STENO. But I muddled through somehow.

43A Ditto (same impulse as Rex). Somehow, KEN Eubanks seemed plausible.

A no-hitter. That is exciting indeed!

Anonymous 3:19 AM  

The Gregg method is a form of (maybe THE form of) shorthand, I believe.

Anonymous 6:39 AM  

STENO is short for stenographer. Stenographers use a shorthand system, most often Gregg, to capture the boss's oral dictation in pencil or pen on a specially ruled steno pad. Later the shorthand notes are transcribed via the QWERTY keyboard (which was a recent puzzle theme, as I recall) or other device and disseminated, electronically or on paper.

STENOs stereotypically are females. STENOs need good word skills. But I guess STENOs may be a diminishing breed.

Are there any STENOs among the readers of this blog?

Court reporters (or recorders) use a special machine and shorthand language to capture court proceedings for later transcription. Court reporters are not usually referred to as STENOs.

Well, that is probably TMI (too much info). Anyhoo ... Hope this helps.


Howard B 8:17 AM  

Rough time with this puzzle, a lot of wrong guesses in there. Didn't know quite a few of those names.

For what it's worth, my mother was a legal secretary and a shorthand pro some time before I entered the world and messed it all up ;). I think she still knows quite a bit of it, and can demonstrate dictation by writing some really squiggly lines very, very fast. I, of course, have to take her at her word that the squiggles mean what she says.

Orange 8:34 AM  

My mom used to write top-secret lists (e.g., Santa's shopping list) in Gregg shorthand. Her handwriting has grown so messy over the years, it's scarcely distinguishable from shorthand!

One of the salsa makers has magazine ads showing salsa being used as anything other than a maybe a future retronym will be "salsa dip" when salsa is used for that purpose. Though really, what are the odds that Americans will adapt their salsa habits after all these years and put it on burgers?

ODA used to be in the pantheon as a noun meaning a harem's room. Manet's Olympia and numerous other painted nudes are odalisques, or women from the oda, a.k.a. concubines.

mmpo 9:43 AM  

Oh yeah...One such painting is called "La Belle Odalisque" in French, I believe. Now I know why. Thanks, Orangy!
Do the NYT crossword. Read Rex Parker's blog. Learn something new every day.

mmpo 9:49 AM  

Oh, and thanks, Jo, for the explanation of "Gregg pro." I'm old enough to have heard the term "steno pool" bandied about, but I didn't know the shorthand system used by stenographer's was named Gregg.

Squash's Mom 10:16 AM  

After having DELI for the theme, I wanted to keep DELICIOUS in there.... guess I was hungry.

I live in the Detroit area and last night was celebrating my daughter's 8th grade graduation at a restaurant with several large screen TV's that were showing the Tiger game. We had finished our meal about halfway through but didn't dare leave before it was over or there was a hit. The excitement in the room was so fun, I can imagine what being at Comerica Park must have been like.

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

My ex-wife taught shorthand for CETA in New York State more than 30 years ago. She transcribed at about 180 wpm, which is extremely fast for a steno, but still well short of the speeds obtained by court transcribers who frequently exceed 225 wpm.

Steve M

Karen 12:18 PM  

I got stuck in the NW and SE corners...I had lots of attention getting sounds other than TOOT (psst, ahem), don't know my cars, and I don't associate GAGA with smitten. And I fell into the Sealy/Serta trap, leaving me wondering why I'd cry LIME at the sound of a bell (and then the tequila started mixing in with the SALSA).
But a fun puzzle despite the snags.

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

To expand a little bit on the subject of stenography, altho the Gregg system was the most popular, there were others, most notably Pitman, which was said to be a little slower but more precise than Gregg. Pitman was what my wife learned fifty years ago.
The machines that court reporters and Congressional committees use is called a stenotype, which has the advantage of producing a paper tape that any trained reporter can read.
Finally, it's really all history, since, except for the stenotype, they were all replaced by voice recording machines long ago.

profphil 12:43 PM  

Although, until recently large prestigious law firms required steno of their secretaries even though it was almost ever used anymore.Some may still require it. I think it was a way of limiting their eligible pool to women (mostly) who were more literate and disciplined.

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

I don't understand 14A AOUT,what does that mean?

R. Kane 1:12 PM  

Aout = August

Anonymous 1:16 PM  

Aout is "August" in French, which follows Juillet, "July."

Howard B 1:45 PM  

I think if I get overly frustrated today, in the middle of everything I'm just going to shout "LIME!"

I love it - for some reason, that and the margarita together sound like a great stress reliever :).

Pete M 2:21 PM  

You were thinking Louis Armstrong? Perhaps you read "Comic" as "Cosmic"? The comic you might have mistakenly thought of is probably Louis Anderson, no?

artaud 2:23 PM  

No one noted the intersection of American cyclists "Lance" and "Landis"? The Tour de France is coming soon, but will we care now that the American contingent is reduced to my local boy Levi Leipheimer?

Harleypeyton 2:41 PM  

Morey Amsterdam, much better known as 'Buddy Sorel' on the Dick Van Dyke Show.

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

Yesterday, at Lord &Taylor I noticed a section with the name Vera Wang on the wall. Had I not seen that, I would never have guessed Kev. I don't watch Leno, I'm a Letterman guy, no offense to the Leno-nites.


Ron 3:16 PM  

A day without googling ! I think I do best when I am filling in the puzzle over lunch , for some reason I get motivated to finish it during the lunch hour, today seemed to flow well, I got LOIS LANE and a few other 'long' answers very quickly, so that expedited things. I agree, with the Chicago L comment tho, I think it is EL, but I guess I could google and find out .......
happy puzzling !

Rex Parker 4:42 PM  

LOUIS Armstrong had a whole other career as a comedian. You didn't know?

(duh, yes, LOUIS Anderson)

Jo 7:14 PM  

I really enjoyed reading about the commenters' family connections to STENOs and Gregg. And, I think ProfPhil is right about secretaries in law firms needing to have STENO skills. (And in some instances, some of them actually need and use those skills.)

Which brings me to a trivia question. I seem to remember that in at least one scene of a Perry Mason film or TV show that a stenographer was called into Perry's office. Della Street, the secretary, was already in the office along with Perry and maybe Paul Drake. Of course Della could take dictation herself. (Or at least the actress pretended to do so.) As I recall it the STENO was a very attractive blonde who was less polished and (shall we say) "subdued" than the brunette Della.

Now here's the question: Does anybody out there remember such a scene (or scenes) as I have described? If so, and if the Mighty Rex will permit, do you have any details? My Internet search time was very limited and did not yield pay dirt or gold or platinum (as in blonde).

If this is too off, Your Highness, please pardon my intrusion. And do what you have to do.


Kitt 8:53 PM  

Wendy: I agree re: "bra". In one of my first posts here I mentioned how the word is showing up more and more frequently with different cluing....I suggested it be in The Pantheon b/f I realized what the Pantheon critera was. But for sure it is a repeat answer. - If the word is 3 letters, starts with "B" and has something to do with support or foundation. You got it!

Anyway, off to see what Thursday brings.

Linda G 9:07 PM  

Sorry, Jo. All I remember about Perry Mason is that Della Street is the primary reason I became a legal secretary. I learned Gregg shorthand in high school, which earned me points in law firms, but I was nowhere as fast as Steve's ex...maybe a paltry 130 wpm.

BTW, I'm happy to have left the legal field far behind me. No offense to Barry and others ; )

Wendy 10:24 PM  

Jo, I recently watched the first two dvds of season 1 of the Perry Mason show, and I seem to recall him ordering in a STENO, which come to think of it was weird (although Della had to be free to provide moral support and adoring looks so that would've cut into her actual secretarial duties), but not sure of what specific details you're seeking. There's a comprehensive site for the show and every ep at, if that's any help.

Ultra Vi 10:55 PM  

Just finished that ghastly Sunday Klahn tonight. Aargh is all I will say.

Wednesday morning was Easy by comparison. Made me hungry, though, with BLT, CHILE, HOT DOG, and a FEAST, to boot. Just serve mine in a BRA and SLEEVELESS T...

Anonymous 11:39 PM  

Kilroy was here.

profphil 1:07 AM  

Although, I do not remeber the Perry Mason episode, at a law office even with a secretary with steno knowledge, it would not be unusual to hire a court stenographer for depositions at an EBT (examination before trial) of parties or witnesses. It may even be mandatory to have a neutral person as the stenographer in such cases-- not sure.

rock rabbit 11:12 AM  

Late gettin' to this (crazy week at work) but I'm so glad for the explanation about ODA. I feel better about it now, despite the fact that it is still an ugly word without the lovely french suffix "lisque". So merci beaucoup for the Orange-aid! Heehee. Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun...

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

6WL :::::

I got confused in the SW, having enttered LAYLOW. And VERA Wang -- I just don't know fashion design at all.

My big question, if anyone actaully reads this, is the BLT / DELI connection, which is the theme here and shows up in many crosswords. Is this an East Coast thing? After many years in the San Francisco (Molinari's - yum) and Seattle areas, I have never noticed a deli offering bacon. Most don't have stoves. Maybe I've been blinded by salami, but I just don't get it...


RonB 2:41 PM  

From six weeks out-

For Jo

Re Perry Mason, I do recall a blonde character named Gertie who was referred to often as on the switchboard and front office. She appeared once or twice, I think. Blonde, make-up, high heels, tight clothes and a twangy voice... a brassy broad (excuse me) in contrast to classical Della Street.

I remember this from my childhood when the show was first broadcast. And I know I have seen it in reruns over the years. And I keep thinking I've seen it in reruns, too. And sometimes, I think I just imagined it all.

Anonymous 3:02 PM  

Starting to regularly wire these Wednesday puzzles, like todays. This forum has helped that cause. Truss for Tress messed me up briefly, but otherwise - smooth sailing today. 6wl: Now that you mention it, I wouldn't really consider a BLT to be normal deli fare either. And I read your comments every day.

- - Robert

Waxy in Montreal 10:36 PM  

This was a very satisfying Wednesday puzzle, much like a BLT sandwich that I agree is really not normally associated with a deli. (I mean - would you order a BLT on rye?)

Also, post-puzzle Googling does indeed reveal a recurring Gertie role on the Raymond Barr Perry Mason series. Funny, I watched it religiously as a youngster and I just don't recall Gertie. (I even remember the one case that Perry lost to the appropriately-named DA, Hamilton Burger (hamburger), but not Gertie.)

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

Robert, Waxy: could a BLT sandwich be a regular Deli offering ButLIKkeTuesday? I'll watch on the other days of the week, unless I'm glued to ERLE reruns....
Thanks for checking in 6WL.....

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