WEDNESDAY, Aug. 15, 2007 - Ray Fontenot

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Relative difficulty: Super-Easy

THEME: Newspaper headline about a workplace mishap (long quip)

Here's the quip:

20A: Newspaper headline about a workplace mishap - MAN WHO FELL INTO
34A: Headline, part 2 - UPHOLSTERY
42A: Headline, part 3 - MACHINE NOW
51A: End of the headline - FULLY RECOVERED

Normally don't like quip puzzles, and didn't especially like this one. I was shocked at how quickly I could get through the grid even with the relative disadvantage of the quip theme (which are sometimes slow-going because you often can't get the parts of the quip until you get a hell of a lot of crosses). AIDA, OSLO, ESSO, ISLE, SOD, ESNE (41A: Feudal serf), ETA, AMINO, EDENS, ULNA, ALOES, ECRU, SOAP, CLIO, ELLA, IRE, EWES, OKRA, WOKE, ELAN, DAIS, ERECT, OHIO, METE, EGO, SRI, SLAT, ETC, etc. - it's all So Low Rent.

But THEN, there are these oddities - to my mind fairly obscure stuff - that stick out like very sore thumbs, ESPECIALLY in the "Mid-Atlantic" region of the grid. First, ILO (24A: U.N. workers' grp.)?! Never heard of it. Couldn't guess what it stood for. Turns out it's "International Labour Organisation." I can tolerate an obscure abbreviation in my puzzle, but hitting this answer after Sailing across the boring straight long flat roads of the rest of this puzzle - well, it was jarring. Next, AMIR (37A: Mideast ruler: Var.)!? My distaste for this ugly variant is mitigated only by the fact that it spared me yet Another bit of tired crosswordese: EMIR. But the worst answer in the puzzle - "worst" both because it's an insane bit of foreign couture and because it was not adequately confirmable by crosses - is TREWS (33D: Close-fitting tartan pants). I have been to Scotland several times, wrote one of my dissertation exams on Scottish literature, and yet this word has somehow never entered my vocabulary. What's more, the "W" in TREWS could (as far as I was concerned) just as easily have been a "T" - in fact, the quip reads better with a "T" in place of the "W," I think.


The "NOT" part jibes with the clue for the quip - 20A: Start of a newspaper headline about a workplace mishap. The "NOT" gives a nice potential double-meaning to "mishap," I think. Is the "mishap" that the guy fell in, or that the upholstery machine didn't do its job very well? Having "NOW" there ... the quotation remains a one-dimensional pun.

So this was a criminally easy puzzle, with rare, odd, unpleasant hard bits thrown in. Like eating a rather tasteless cream pie where occasionally you bite down on a screwhead or little rocks - boring, then suddenly painful.

Besides ILO (which really wishes it were J-LO), I didn't know the abbreviation DSC (25A: Mil. decoration) - the Distinguished Service Cross. Also didn't know 12D: Broadway's _____ - Fontanne Theater (Lunt), or that ESSO meant "it" in Italian (13D: Brand name that's coincidentally Italian for "it"). I enjoyed seeing Tycho BRAHE in the puzzle (30D: Astronomer Tycho _____). He strikes me as perfect Wednesday fare, and his name is a nice, unusual combination of common letters. 46A: I, in old Rome (ego) was nicely tricky, as "I" looks like it's being used as a Roman numeral (suggesting an answer of UNA), when really it's being used as a pronoun.

I think I'm stopping now.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


liebestraum 11:13 PM  

Thanks for the comment about the quip being better with NOT, rather than NOW.

It was with some sadness that I replaced the T with W. The puzzle just isn't as much fun with "NOW."


barrywep 11:26 PM  

It took me like forever to correct TRETS to TREWS. I also liked NOT FULLY RECOVERED but finally realized NOW was probably correct.

Btw, ILO is pretty common in crosswords I think.

GK 11:27 PM  

Ouch, did you have to include OHIO in the "low rent" category?

PuzzleGirl 12:20 AM  

Thank you for using JIBE in your post.

Alex 12:42 AM  

I'm on board with TRETS instead of TREWS.

10 minutes to solve everything but that particular T/W and another ten minutes to finally notice it and try the W instead of T.

Without having seen the space available, I wanted HOMO for "alternative to 1% or 2%." I never even knew it was called whole milk until I went off to college. Locally growing up all milk was labeled skim, 1%, 2%, and homo. Now I'm curious if that was common or regional.

profphil 12:47 AM  

I too had tret, didn't change it and was shocked to see I got it wrong. It was nice seeing old familiars like "esne" "elan" and "ecru." Esne has not appeared in a long time and I almost didn't recall it.

campesite 2:47 AM  

Agree with your take on NOT vs NOW in the quip, probably because I was stuck on TRET. This puzzle really was an ode to the pantheon, but I did like BTEN for bingo call.

karmasartre 2:51 AM  

I cannot imagine falling into an upholstery machine. Having seen things recovered, it is all hand-work. Is there something else of an assembly-line nature I don't know about? Something that would put a nice Damask on your beloved old davenport, and yet still be able to do in the Terminator after a fight with Sarah Conner?

Also went with tret...the NOT just worked so well, and I know so little about close-fiting pants, other than that they all end up reaching that stage, after one reaches a certain age. LUNT was one of those answers I seemed to know without realizing I new it.

AMIR was lame. Will could have jettisoned TREWS and AMIR and just redone the entire NCarolina area, as far as I'm concerned.

All-in-all, I agree with RP's "super-easy" assessment -- except for me, that means 17 minutes instead of 7.

Anonymous 4:48 AM  

Trews = antecedent to trowsers.

Mary 9:00 AM  

I am greatly relieved that I did not give in to the temptation of inserting TUNAS for 25D:Beach sights, since I didn't know DSC or ESNE. But it made me laugh.

DONALD 9:07 AM  

Trets is a town and commune of the Bouches-du-Rhône department in southern France.

It is also a brand name -- "Trets" which is a child-transporter with pedals and crank for the passenger child so that it can safely take an active part in the cycling.

The quip is always "now" not "not" -- it is an old chestnut in pun-dom.

mellocat 9:11 AM  

Why is "Bingo call" always BTEN?

Michele Humes 10:57 AM  

Your uno/ego thing doesn't really work since 1 in Latin is unus anyhow. Maybe in some declension or other but I don't think the Times tends to clue things in the ablative or whatnot.

Orange 11:11 AM  

BTW, TRET is an old-school crossword word. In shipping, it was the waste allowance after deduction for tare. TARE is also old-school fill. It's the weight of an empty truck or container. This concludes today's lesson in crosswordese.

If you've been doing crosswords for years, TRET looks much more reasonable than TREWS, which has but a single appearance in the database of newspaper crosswords (1998, NYT).

ayoung 11:38 AM  

Ha, got "trews" right away being a reader of historical novels which take place in Scotland but also found the puzzle suspiciously easy. As I filled in what seemed to be very easy answers, I kept thinking that this can't really be the right answer. Never heard of Tycho Brahe.

Orange 11:47 AM  

Tycho Brahe is only the most awesomely named of all the old astronomers (my high-school physics teacher liked to say the name), and he lost the bridge of his nose in a duel and proceeded to wear prosthetic noses for the rest of his life. You can read about it in the Wikipedia article on Tycho.

I should've named my son Tycho, dammit. Missed my chance. Now I'll have to get a pet.

Prshutr 1:44 PM  

My only problem was that I had put in STOLE for the expensive fur, so I had OTEN for Bingo, and the other downs (STELLA, LUNT, and ESSO) all fit. Didn't change to SABLE until I had TUDIOTAPE...DUH!

Anonymous 4:35 PM  

I had STOLE too for a long time.

Anyway, I'm a biologist, and never heard of amino acids being reffred to as AMINOS (second times in a couple of weeks?)


Anonymous 4:38 PM  



Anonymous 5:13 PM  

More tret on trets:

1. 3d pers. sing. pres. of Tread, for treadeth.

1. An allowance to purchasers, for waste or refuse matter, of four pounds on every 104 pounds of suttle weight, or weight after the tare deducted.

Anonymous 5:29 PM  

It is BTEN because the B's are 1-15, the I's 16-30, N's 31-45, G's 46-60, O's 61-75.

Aaron 5:35 PM  

i agree that this puzzle was not very pleasing. "like eating a rather tasteless cream pie..." sums up my feelings exactly.

alex, what's "homo"? is that homogenized, or something like that? i've never heard of it.

Fergus 5:38 PM  

I am guessing that the Bingo answer is grid related, row B column N?

TREWs is NAE too grating if you're compatriot with Robbie Burns.

I was rather fatigued when I got around to this puzzle -- felt like a journeyman with a boring task. And then, like karmasartre said, the notion of an UPHOLSTERY MACHINE, turns a lame joke into INANITY.

I think TYCHO was not the real brilliant type; unlike the revolutionary Copernicus or Galileo, he was just an arduous record keeper of the heavens, and whose observations led to Kepler's Laws.

?? Too tired to look this up, but if this is true it is sort of an apt inclusion with regard to the puzzle construction.

Alex 6:02 PM  

Yes, homo is homogenized. The type of milk was printed on the round lid of the plastic milk jugs and so that was all that would fit, it used the entire word on the label as I recall.

mellocat 6:32 PM  

Ah, so just based on the unwieldiness of the higher numbers, bingo calls are likely to always start with B. B-ONE will likely always be clued as the word bone over the bingo call. That still leaves a few other B-low numbers, though, that could show up, and yet BTEN is the only one I've ever seen. (I see I've even used it myself, huh.) Not that I'm advocating more bingo calls in grids, I just find it odd that BTEN is the only one out there.

Fergus 7:39 PM  

Try saying TREWS with a Scottish accent in any phrase where you might ordinarily say Trousers.

If the W were a U and the NINOS were NINAS, or may be NENES, the resultant NEU might seem like like French term for newly unclothed. Nope, that doesn't work.


I'm having a revisited sense of sympathy toward the difficulty of construction, having been struck with a case of gridlock in a minor attempt to reformulate the Mid-Atlantic states.

Makes me think that the divide between writer and editor might be similar to a split between constructor and solver ... ?

Orange 7:40 PM  

GFIFTYTWO would be a terrible entry in a themeless puzzle. Although the Cruciverb database does show a BSIX and an NFORTY, Karen.

Anonymous 8:21 PM  

I agree that, even though the answer was a set phrase, that phrase could have been improved with NOW -> NOT. On the other hand, I know TREWS right away because of the Who song "Glow Girl" from _Odds_and_Sods_ with the line "Lots of Woolworth's makeup, a pair of Black Watch trews," Hooray for The Who!

jae 8:22 PM  

Nothing to add, except a nod of agreement. Almost Monday easy except for the previously discussed rough spots.

Badir 8:23 PM  

Oops, I meant to sign that "Glow Girl" comment "Badir", not "Anonymous"; I'm not sure what happened.

Anonymous 9:10 PM  

Agree 1,000% with Rex - send this guy's stuff to Stan Newman. Best laugh this week? karmasartre's comment "know so little about close-fitting pants, other than that they all end up reaching that stage, after one reaches a certain age." You'll understand some day, Rex.

R. Kane 11:20 PM  

There is confusion in these comments about the placement of the letters B, I, N, G, O, and the numbers, and how they are used.

No one has stated it correctly -- to see the instructions on how to play Bingo, go to:

karmasartre 11:35 PM  

badir --

It's a surprise that anyone named Badir could tune into Who...sure it's not "goodir"?

martin 11:09 AM  

Yeah, this was criminally easy for a Wednesday. Only took me 6 minutes and change.

I learned about the astronomer BRAHE from my 8th grade earth science teacher, who was born and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana. For the longest time I thought his first name was Taco.....

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