SUNDAY, Jul. 29, 2007 - Brendan Emmett Quigley

Saturday, July 28, 2007

[NOTE: printed grid has typo in it. 5D and 27A should be PINE TAR and ELY, respectively]

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

TH-TH-TH-THEME: "Th-Th-Th-That's All Folks!" - familiar phrases have unvoiced "TH" sound added to end, creating new silly phrases, which are then clued

So ... there's a "TH" on the end. Hmm. OK. That's ... an idea. The title is misleading, in that there are no repeated "TH" sounds, there's no stuttering, and the "TH" sounds come at the end of the phrases, not the beginning.

Theme answers:

  • 23A: Somebody else's soaking dentures? (not one's cup of TEETH)
  • 37A: Ghost in a battery? (cathode WRAITH)
  • 16D: Good eating and living? (highway to HEALTH) - insofar as this is a play on an AC/DC song, I like this one
  • 62A: Avoid being captured by guitarist Richards? (escape KEITH) - the first theme answer I got; the one that gave me the "..." reaction with which I opened this commentary
  • 70A: Baby twins? (double YOUTH)
  • 92A: Sherlock at the Space Needle? (Seattle SLEUTH)
  • 43D: Very detailed scope? (thorough BREADTH)
  • 109A: Billionaire's last dollar? (bottom of the WEALTH) - tried to make BARRELTH into a word

The phrases created by this theme are often amusing, but as far as theme concepts go, this one's pretty slight. The non-theme fill is at best just OK, and at worst awkward or tortured or otherwise forced. Even when I found something to love, something to hate came along right afterward to ruin it all. Case in point:

9A: Just folks? (ma and pa) - loved it. The puzzle had an impressive array of rarely seen double-A's, including this one, AAHS (89A: Joyous sounds) and AARP (90A: Org. with the motto "The power to make it better"). There's also the even more rarely seen double-Y in 102A: Poet Omar (Khayyam). But MA AND PA was ruined for me by its parallel neighbor...

21A: Athlete's slump (off year) - now I can't deny that an OFF YEAR falls under the category of "slump," but it's a Very, Very specific kind of slump. A YEAR-LONG slump is a hell of a slump. Most slumps don't fall into that category. And non-athletes can have OFF YEARs as well, so ugh. Worse, though, were two crosses that ran through both MA AND PA and OFF YEAR...

  • 12D: "The Eyes of _____" (public TV science show) (Nye)
  • 15D: Nirvana attainer (Arhat)

I had OFF -EA- for a long time because None of the letters I might put in there made any sense. NYE is ... how have I never heard of said show? What does that title even mean? (note: when I ask questions, feel free to answer, but do so in the Comments section, and Read Previous Comments to make sure others haven't already answered. Thank you). And as for Arhat. Yikes. I guess I know far less about Nirvana than I thought. That's the most made-up-looking answer in the grid.

Three things I liked:

9D: Farm animal, in kidspeak (moo cow) - somewhat tainted by its proximity to the whole OFF YEAR / NYE / ARHAT debacle, but admirably colloquial and daring enough for me to give it thumbs up.

42D: Some residents, by census classification (POSSLQS) - holy moly, not sure where I pulled this from. Definitely needed the Q, that's for sure. Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters, in case you were wondering. Seems a Dumb classification, as gay folks somehow don't count, and yet opposite-sex roommates do? Hmm. Whatever, it looks Great in the grid.

48D: Wife, colloquially (missis) - up there with MA AND PA for folksy goodness. I should take to calling my wife the MISSIS. If she, er, doesn't mind.

Just noticed that AMORE (58A: Love, in Livorno) and RAHAL (64A: 1986 Indy 500 winner), which sit one atop the other, form a kind of crooked AMORAL, which runs through HIGHWAY TO HEALTH. Now that I'm writing it out, it seems much less meaningful. AMORAL ... HELL. There's something there. There are also two "Star Wars"-related answers today, 79A: Skywalker portrayer (Hamill) and 106D: Fictional princess (Leia).

Mysteries and annoyances:

  • 27A: Aviation pioneer Eugene (Ely) - really? this nobody? with ELIS (44A: Their mascot is Handsome Dan) already in the puzzle? OK.
  • 42A: Wing: Prefix (pter-) - wanted ALEO (?!), got PTER, which I know as a prefix only from PTERODACTYL.
  • 53A: Actress Barbara (Bain) - ??? starred on "Space: 1999" with Martin Landau, or so I read.
  • 5D: Batter's material (pine tar) - I had, no foolin', PINATAS ... til the Bitter End.
  • 20D: Change, as a manuscript, in Britain (subedit) - ugh. Not a word I've ever seen or heard.
  • 34D: Thor Heyerdahl craft (Ra I) - I KNEW this, but Only because of previously being mystified by it and imagining that its name was "Rai."
  • 39D: Egyptian god of wisdom (Thoth) - I know this only from reading the current "Conan the Barbarian" comic books (published by Dark Horse, very good).
  • 82D: "Call Me Irresponsible" lyricist (Cahn) - I cannot keep LAHRs and LEHRs and HAHNs and COHNs and CAHNs straight at all, never ever, not to save my life. Damned penultimate "H"!
  • 103D: Rook's spot on a chessboard (A-one) - nobody doesn't like chess notation!

In short, I was UNAWED (94D: Not impressed) by this puzzle, despite its occasional enjoyable moments. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

43 comments:

mellocat 9:36 PM  

Barbara Bain a mystery? Before Space:1999 she was on Mission Impossible (also with Martin Laundau -- I think they were married). MI was slightly before my time, but I grew up on reruns. I only ever had the vaguest idea what was going on, but I thought it was a cool show.

ElFrib 9:45 PM  

My missUs knew that the Eye of Nye was Bill Nye, the Science Guy. My cry of disgust to Mr. Quigley is "U"quit.

johnson 10:25 PM  

I agree it's "Missus", I had Barbara "Eden" as the actress, and who is Jay Mohr?

Gary 10:39 PM  

Jay Mohr is a comic...He was the first host and producer of Last Comic Standing. Hes done a few movies too.

Anonymous 10:48 PM  

Barbara Bain's original claim to fame was as the versatile femme fatale in the 60's tv version of Mission Impossible, also starring Peter Graves and Martin Landau.

Rex - You have a typo in your grid - 5D is PINETAR.

POSSLQ is a census category. I first heard about it when CBS radio's Charles Osgood used to read his doggerel - this one was called "Will you be my POSSLQ?"

I agree that it's MISSUS not MISSIS.

kratsman 11:50 PM  

Never heard of Eugene Ely before, but it seems he was the first to take off from and land on a ship. Considered a pioneer in naval aviation.

I have only ever seen it spelled MISSUS, but MISSIS is in the dictionary, altho maybe it should have been clued "var."

I'd bet that the Census Bureau has a category for same sex roommates, maybe PSSSLQ, or some such. They have categories for nearly everything, it seems.

Jerome 12:51 AM  

Rex,

You must be better. Your rant is up to your usual high performance level.

I agree with your ARHAT, BOTTOM OF THE WEALTH and OFFYEAR comments. I had OFFPEAK first.

Also think it should be MISSUS.

Barbara BAIN and Martin Landau are/were married.

No reaction to ORIENTATE or MY BAD?

Scott 8:42 AM  

If all the long answers were as funny as NOT ONES CUP OF TEETH this might have been an entertaining puzzle. THOROUGH BREADTH is just phoning it in, in my opinion.

I heard Charles Osgood recite "There's nothing that I wouldn't do, if you would be my POSSLQ" at some press club function in Chicago a billion years ago. . .

Karen 9:20 AM  

I knew Thoth from the excellent 'American Gods' by Neil Gaiman, where he was a secondary character for several chapters.

I liked the DOUBLE YOUTH answer. I kept trying to fit in double b's.

I still like the sound of POSSLQ. We do need, however, a word still for that relationship. When you're an adult, 'boyfriend' just doesn't sound right, and 'fiancee' doesn't make sense if you don't have a marriage date (and have been affianced for fifteen years).

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

PINATA for PINETAR was hilarioius. But THOTH and RA I more than made up for it, thank Aton.

campesite 10:32 AM  

I suppose my gripe with the theme answers is that I could not picture Porky Pig saying the phrases (maybe Daffy Duck). Rex, your entry today suggests you're close to 100%.

C zar 11:23 AM  

Fortunately, my missus had heard of POSSLQ, I was absolutely stumped when presented with __SSLQS.

Thanks for the explanation of "RAI," as "Ra I," I knew Kon-Tiki wouldn't fit.

If "ptui" is pronounced pa-too-ee, wouldn't you pronounce "pfui" pa-foo-ee?

hobbyist 11:27 AM  

"Ooops" ="My bad?" Any elucidators out there?

DONALD 11:47 AM  

Fairly new expression, if one errs it's a way of saying one is sorry without saying "sorry" -- "my bad", like "my mistake" -- but no apologies, just an admission. Same thing as "ooops", one is saying anything about regret, just acknowledgment of error.

Anonymous 12:38 PM  

Thinking of Donkey Kong, I entered KINGKONG at 1a which screwed me up for twenty minutes. Besides that and the POSSLQS area, everything else fell fairly smoothly.

I don't know chess notation, but I guess AONE is probably a way to describe a corner, where a Rook would start. But "Rook's spot" could be any sqaure on the board...wherever it is at the time. I think the clue should have specified "starting" spot.

Nice symmetry with WRAITH and KEITH.

Chip Ahoy 1:24 PM  

I'm a cheater cheater pumpkin eater. Sticking "th" at the end of all the theme entries is a total COP OUT! And yet, how could one not?

Anonymous 1:40 PM  

Nobody thought "enisle" was weird?

Orange 1:56 PM  

I really liked this puzzle, its theme, and its fill. It wasn't my favorite crossword today, but it felt like all the puzzles I do were better than average today.

I usually see "missus," but MISSIS is the primary spelling listed in the American Heritage Dictionary. Maybe it's older, and this dictionary isn't keeping up with the current predominant spelling?

ENISLE isn't weird if you do enough crosswords—it pops up fairly often, probably much more than MAROON or STRAND.

Ra I?? I had no idea! Thanks for the elucidation, Rex.

Barbara BAIN played Dennis Christopher's mom in Breaking Away, the IU townie cycling movie. She was good in that.

Jay Mohr starred in a short-lived Fox sitcom, Action, in which he played a Hollywood producer type. The show had ample bleeped swear words, so it got some attention for that. It was pretty funny.

POSSLQS aren't mere roommates. They're an unmarried cohabiting couple. And yes, that category completely ignores same-sex couples. Since when does the government officially recognize gay people, other than to discriminate against them? Hmph.

Anonymous 2:11 PM  

Jay Mohr has appeared numerous times on the Comedy Central cable channel. I never found him funny.

Anonymous 2:18 PM  

love your blog, it is a great help to us somedays

thanks
teresa and bobby

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

Jay Mohr was also on SNL for a very brief period.

I also had PINATAS for 5D-- go figure!

CATHODE WRAITH didn't give anyone else a headache??

Orange 4:21 PM  

Cathode wraith? Thounds like you're lithping.

Anonymous 4:25 PM  

Barbara BAIN and Martin Landau starred in the very popular Mission Impossible TV series a few decades ago - she was one of my pe-marital lust objects. Bill NYE, the Science Guy on PBS, has been referenced in many past NYT puzzles, and was a poular figure during my early daddyhood. Grosse-ILE (Quebec cities) was not in my 1975 World Book. I enjoy reading your commentaries, (usually) after completing the puzzles. At age 71, it's interesting to speculate on the ages of the puzzle authors based on the celebs referenced.

rikki 4:28 PM  

Regarding ORIENTATE, it is much more accepted in Great Britain, less so in America, but it is officially a word. Nonetheless, to my ear, it grates as badly as NUCULAR.

Isabella di Pesto 4:35 PM  

This drove me nuts because my kids called a cow a "moo-moo." In fact they called animals by the sounds they made: horse was "neigh-neigh," pig, "oink-oink." So I was stuck with moomoo and couldn't get 37A because of it.

And I was sure Boca Raton was in Broward County, not Palm Beach, so I got hung up there too.

And I just stared at MAANDPA forever before it hit me!

Sheesh!

jae 7:51 PM  

I was suprised to find I'd done this one correctly. So many things looked wrong (PTER, ARHAT, THOTH, BOTTOM...WEALTH). I pretty much had Rex's take on this one, weak theme, forced fill, ...

Anon 4:25 -- According to Will Shortz, Quigley is in his early thirtys and is in a Boston rock band.

I remembered POSSLQS from the Frasier character in Cheers. He may have used it talking about living with Lilith?

Oscar Madison 7:52 PM  

Men of a certain age will always remember Barbara Bain as kind of smokin' hot on Mission Impossible.

I hate it when obscure foreign language words and proper names cross (the a's in Rahal/amah).

I found "aone" for the rook's position kind of perverse, since a1 is so-called "algebraic notation" which is intended to be a translation away from words.

Anonymous 8:11 PM  

To anon 4:25 -- My London Times Atlas shows Grosse Ile (Big Island) to be in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, about 10 miles south of mainland Quebec, at Lat. 47.5 N., Long. 61.6 W. It is one of the Iles de la Madeleine (Magdalen Islands).

Fitzy 8:14 PM  

Hey Anon,

I only got ENISLE because it appeared a few weeks ago... same w/
RA I... as noted by Rex.

Anonymous 8:28 PM  

I suppose if you can enisle someone, you could also encontinent them. Certainly enatoll.

jls 10:49 PM  

nothing to lose sleep over, but barbara BARRIE played the mom in breaking away.

cheers --

janie

Orange 12:27 AM  

D'oh!

Then I'm switching my allegiance to Conrad Bain of "Diff'rent Strokes," and that's final.

And I really don't know who the hell Barbara Bain is, then. Before my time!

Orange 12:32 AM  

...So I just Googled my way to the Wikipedia entry on Barbara Bain, and feel compelled to point out that her real name is Millicent Fogel. Do you think that name would have stood in the way of her modeling and acting careers?

More important, in 1981 Barbara Bain appeared in a TV movie called The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island. Trivia: "Originally written as a vehicle for the famous Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the film was retooled for the Harlem Globetrotters when the Cheerleaders were unavailable."

campesite 1:38 AM  

Okay, now I must go find Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island.

kratsman 3:15 AM  

Breaking Away is one of my all-time favorite movies. Paul Dooley, who I had the pleasure of working with on a few projects, played the dad and Barbara Barrie played the mom. She was also Hal Linden's wife in the tv series Barney Miller.

Barbara Bain was all cosmetic, no talent, imoo.

Jim 6:34 PM  

Sorry, Orange, the mom in Breaking Away was Barbara Barrie.

Jim 6:46 PM  

http://www.buffalonian.com/history/articles/1801-50/shootout.htm

Here's an account of the game One O'Cat in Olde Buffalo. I hope this gets around and One O'Cat is forever banished from the Puzzle.

Jim

Anonymous 12:59 PM  

I know I'm answering what's already been answered, but my astonishment is making me do it.

C'mon! Barbara Bain = Cinnamon Carter of the original Mission Impossible on TV. She was married to co-star Martin Landau for decades! Household name in the 60s.

And Bill Nye, the Science Guy? Who hasn't heard of him?

I agree with those of you who think "missus" is the only way to go. I've never seen "missis" in my 60 years of life!

I also bristle at "orientate" -- it's "orient"! ("Ironical" instead of just "ironic" drives me crazy, too.)

Gabe Roth 9:48 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gabe Roth 9:50 PM  

I had "doo doo mouth" for 70A/baby twins (you sure there wasn't a "doo doo Mao" at some point?) and "Affleck" for 10D/tabloid fodder. (Remember the J-Lo months?)

And didn't Polonius say "brevity is the soul of wit"? I don't care if he said it in "Hamlet" - that Quigley and his "whence" really messed me up.

To sum up: na, na na na na na na, na na na - lame, dude.

PuzzleGirl 11:19 PM  

I can't believe no one has mentioned Barbara Bach. That's who I had in that spot for the longest time. Even though I totally thought she was Daisy Duke, not Ringo Starr's wife.

Anonymous 9:21 PM  

I also had problems with "athlete's slump" -- left "O for May" in there for too long.

CurliSu 9:50 PM  

Thanks to Anon 12:59pm. You said everything I wanted to say--maybe because we're the same age?

I got the right answer at 85A: Q. Ballade endings, A. Envois
but only because I got everything that crossed it. Neither word means anything to me.

My first visit to this blog . . . enjoyed it!

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