WEDNESDAY, Sep. 19, 2007 - Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Barnyard babies in Australia - first word of each theme answer is a barnyard baby, if your barnyard is in Australia and you raise kangaroos for some reason

In a rush this morning, so sorry to the puzzle authors if I give this short shrift. They closed my daughter's school (literally ... just poof, gone, no school ... crazy hippies!) and so we are in something of a scramble mode to figure out what to do next. Grrr. ANYWAY...

This theme is cute, but there's one problem, and that problem is...



JOEY LAWRENCE (28A: Actor who got his start on TV's "Gimme a Break")

So many things about this answer are irksome / hilarious. First of all, JOEY is totally out of sync with all the other baby animals in the puzzle (CHICK, COLT, CALF) in that you would not find him on a farm in North America. Second, JOEY LAWRENCE is well known enough to be a theme answer in a puzzle??? He "got his start" on TV's "Gimme a Break"? OK, my question is - then what happened to him? Because I couldn't name one damned thing he's been in since. Was he on "Blossom" for a while? My first answer here was GEORGE CLOONEY, but first of all, that didn't fit, and second of all, GEORGE got his start on "The Facts of Life" (with crossword stalwart Charlotte RAE), not "Gimme a Break" (you understand my confusion).

Other theme answers:

  • 18A: "Pretty Woman" and "Waiting to Exhale" (chick flicks) - this should have had some qualifier attached to it; the moniker CHICK FLICK is colloquial, not a standard film category. Also, I was surprised to learn that CHICKs dig movies about whores. Interesting.
  • 48A: Shooter of westerns (colt revolver)
  • 62A: They're exercised when cycling (calf muscles)
OK, moving quickly through the puzzle. Originally had STAG for BOAR (1D: Animal hunted in one of Hercules' 12 labors) and then TCU for ORU (14A: Evangelical sch. with a 4,000+ enrollment). Do they even make AIM (17A: Alternative to Gleem) anymore? I remember it from childhood, so it came easily enough. We briefly considered sending Sahra to the local Jewish school, but you, er, have to be Jewish, so that's a problem. Why am I mentioning this ... oh right, 20A: Shul's shepherd (rabbi). The poor harp seal continues to be the only exemplar of EARLESSness (26A: Like harp seals). I'm disconcerted by how quickly SAHIB came to me (33A: "Master") - I think I know the word only from vaguely racist caricatures of servile Indians. I though that if you "winged" someone, you just sort of grazed him, but apparently, no, you MAIM him (38A: Wing, e.g.). Helen Mirren is hot, so feel free to put her in the puzzle all you want, even if the answer is a total retread like QEII (56A: Oscar-winning role for Helen Mirren, in brief). I was surprised to find out how wide my range of knowledge of salsa names is, as ORTEGA came to me almost instantly for 66A: Rival of Old El Paso, though our salsa of choice is ... Amy's, I think. Or something else organic. Grossest answer in the puzzle (also most unknown to me) = LAC (68A: Useful insect secretion). The very word "secretion" should be banned from the puzzle, not least because it's an anagram of "erections" (plural!).

As for the Downs, CAFTAN (8D: Beach cover-up) is not a word I've seen or thought of in a long time. I think I did not associate it with the beach. I'm not sure what I associated it with. It's clear I haven't given CAFTAN much thought at all. It sounds foreign / religious. I wanted SARONG here. Speaking of foreign (if not religious), why did I know BEY (21D: Old Turkish title) right away? I feel like that word has been sitting in a dusty corner of my brain since the Maleska era. Loved the pairing of ICKES (12D: Clinton adviser Harold) and ICKY (57D: Totally gross), as well as LIARS (52D: Specialists in storytelling?) and YARN (70A: It's hard to believe). Not too happy to see crosswordese like OMOO and YMA (71A: Singer Sumac) and ARNE (36D: "Rule, Britannia" composer). Also, while I love "The Simpsons," I was a bit dubious about D'OH (44D: "What an idiot I am!"). No, not dubious, as the definition fits OK. It's just that DUH fits too, in a way, though perhaps not as well. Anyway, I had DUH for a bit. Lastly, how many beams are there, exactly, that are shaped like letters??? "Z" is a new one on me (37D: Letter-shaped beam).

Favorite answers in the puzzle: the insane LOQUAT (49D: Plumlike Chinese fruit) and the DiMaggio-endorsed MR. COFFEE (39D: Automatic-drip machine maker).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

49 comments:

Elizabeth 9:30 AM  

It did not even occur to me that Joey was out of place because growing up we once had a calf named Joey who met an untimely end by falling down the well, poor thing. My brain thought it odd that there were two names for baby cows in the puzzle. We also had a loquat tree. It's fruit was a summer staple in our house, though I would say it is more apricotlike than plumlike...

Tadpod 9:46 AM  

Yikes, Rex, "movies about whores"? Secretions/erections? (just kidding, enjoyed the comments)

To me, the lure of Pretty Woman always was the prettier Richard Gere. "Waiting to Exhale" was insulting to both genders.

And tell those hippies to make up something next time they close the school to enjoy a beautiful day.

Orange 9:54 AM  

Pretty Woman is a chick flick because (some) women just can't resist the allure of a romantic comedy with a prostitution twist on the Cinderella tale. Because what is more romantic than the degradation of prostitution?

JOEY LAWRENCE is custom-made for you, Rex—pop culture of the cheesiest kind! "Whoa," indeed.

QEII seldom ever appears in the puzzle. So just because Stella and Bruce's puzzle had the misfortune of appearing a week after another puzzle with that entry, you slam it as a "total retread"? ARIA (2-Down) is a total retread. ARIA appears way more often than QEII. And yet, ARIA gets a pass.

Arby Musubi 10:02 AM  

QEII messed me up because I was certain it was EIIR (which I remember from my Dad's trip to England in the 70s - I believe it stands for "Elizabeth II Royal" and is written on all the postal boxes and the Beefeaters' chests). QEII is a boat, is it not?

I was expecting Rex to be thrilled with Doh - perhaps a better clue would have been "(annoyed grunt)"?

Squash's Mom 10:06 AM  

What immediately comes to mind when I hear the word CAFTAN is Mrs. Roper, the neighbor on Three's Company. Which to me was ICKY.

Rex Parker 10:08 AM  

Perhaps I wasn't clear - they closed Sahra's school Permanently. . . so we're in public school / home-school / godknowswhat crisis at the moment.

We now return you to discussion of the puzzle. :)

rp

Beata 10:11 AM  

To me KAFTAN means a rich man's evening coat ( you know, sitting in an arm chair, smoking a pipe)

and I belive it's DUH and not DOH

never heard of JOEY LAWRENCE, had to google

Rex Parker 10:12 AM  

Do you really think I'm going to take time out of my day to slam ARIA? That would be like slamming oxygen or the sun. Some things just are.

There's no "slam" in my comment on QEII - that comment was pro-Mirren. As you note, QEII is, in fact, a retread of an answer from a few days ago. Were you upset because you misread the word as "retard?" I wouldn't use that word pejoratively ... anymore.

rp

Howard B 10:21 AM  

Regarding 'secretion':
Not to mention 'erotic NES'! Ban both the word and those evil retro-video game systems, while we're at it!

Hope you get the school situation resolved soon. That must be ridiculously stressful.

wade 10:41 AM  

I got "Gimme a Break" mixed up with "What's Happening?" That does a great disservice to the talents of the guy who played Rerun, I know.

FYI, re: QEII, my wife's grandfather was a founder of the Scottish Nationalist Party and famously sued the queen when she chose to call herself Queen Elizabeth II. His argument was that the first Queen Elizabeth, who ruled prior to the unification of the crown, was queen only of England, and so the new queen (who is queen of the entire UK) should call herself Queen Elizabeth I. I.e., he thought Scotland was getting dissed. He lost the case. The court ruled, according to my wife, that the queen can pretty much call herself whatever she wants to.

easl 11:00 AM  

Totally disagree with 47A. Genes are composed of DNA, not RNA.

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

I'm just tired of RNA trumping DNA most of the time in crosswords. Apparently there are things called RNA genes.

Anonymous 11:51 AM  

How come no one complained about lief for gladly?

Sue 12:12 PM  

It seems to me that the theme is simply "animal babies." In that case, joey is completely consistent as the name of a kangaroo baby.

Rex Parker 12:45 PM  

Well of course the theme is simply animal babies. My point is that when you make three of them familiar, barnyard animals, and one ... not, then the effect is jarring.

Why no CUB REPORTER or PUPPY LOVE or something?

To be honest, JOEY LAWRENCE is so off-the-wall that I do, actually, kinda like it, if only because it allowed me to post that picture.

rp

PuzzleGirl 1:15 PM  

wade: I, too, confused "Gimme a Break" with "What's Happening?" and still filled in JIMMIE WALKER who clearly starred in neither of those shows. But, hey, the J and the W were in the right place.

Rex: The Joey Lawrence picture made my day for some reason. Not sure what that's about.

mmpo 1:20 PM  

Oh, come now, Orange! Pretty Woman doesn't romanticize the degradation of prostition (nor is it a movie about whores!) It depicts a character whose exceptional qualities shine through the murk and mire of her dismal circumstances. Never saw Waiting to Exhale, so can't comment on that one.
[A so-called CHICK FLICK is pretty much either a romantic comedy or a film that tends toward the melodramatic, right?]
Anyway, I found this puzzle had a lot of obscure (to me) fill for a Wednesday. I was unable to fill the NW and SE corners without peeking. Bah.
What the hell are SOO canals anyway!?

mmpo 1:27 PM  

...OK, so I googled SOO canals, and...well, I learned something cool from today's crossword (as often happens)...brings to mind a road trip through Ontario, an EXPAT in Canada and erstwhile EXPAT in France. I wondered out loud how to pronounce Sault Ste-Marie in English, and my fellow travel(l)er, after giving a deliberately misleading off-the-cuff answer, told me it was SOO Saint Marie. Still, I wouldn't have thought to spell it like that. :]

barbara 1:36 PM  

do they still make gleem??

wade 1:44 PM  

What was the toothpaste that had the stripes? I recall that being a revolutionary thing when I was a kid, right up there with the first digital watches. The other fourth graders and I sat around hypothesizing how they got the stripes to come out of the tube separate from each other.

Alas, that whole line of invention jumped the shark when they mixed up peanut butter and jelly together in the same jar.

Orange 1:47 PM  

mmpo, are you kidding me? Julia Roberts' character starts out as a low-rent Hollywood Blvd. hooker, trapped in a terrible life. She gets classed up when Richard Gere's character buys her designer clothes, but don't forget: He's paying her a few thousand bucks in the hooker/john relationship. He's just a handsome and rich john, and then they fall in love because that's just how it goes for prostitutes and their customers (not). They didn't get together because they met at a coffee shop and hit it off despite her job, they met because he wanted to buy an escort.

Anonymous 2:19 PM  

"Lief" occurs in the old expression "I had just as lief do it your way," etc. Have seen it only in the "just as" context. It is pretty archaic. (Except to us English majors.) I think my grandmother, not a notably literary type, used to say it occasionally.

Fergus 2:29 PM  

Yeah, LIEF is totally mysterious to me. German? Truncation of reLIEF, not that makes any sense? Sixth in a list of LIEs, just to be polite?

It didn't elicit a Rex remark, but the school preoccupation takes an understandable precedence. Daughter is six, yes? Home schooled for two years starting when my son was that age, and that worked out well. It helps if you live in a community that has a well developed Alternative Family Education program. (Never was sure as to whether the A modified the F or the E.) Also, if you go that route be prepared for many strange and sometimes impertinent questions.

To Arby, the R for the Queen stands for Regina, and if the Monarch is male it would be for Rex! On the main railway line from London to Brighton you can see an enormous VR emblazoned on the hills, celebrating the Queen when the line was built.

Thought TRIFLERS was a bit off, but can't complain very strenuously. I would say I'm Trifling here, not because of the lack of seriousness, but because of a focus on the nuances of virtual insignificance.

jae 2:45 PM  

When I finished this I was sure LIEF was an error but I couldn't figure out where. Thanks anon 2:19 for the additional info. I'm with Rex on MAIM. In all the old serial westerns I watched as a kid, wing was just a flesh wound.

gabby 2:54 PM  

Didn't anyone see Joey Lawrence last year on "Dancing with the Stars"? He did quite well, but wasn't as recognizable because he now has a shaved head.

Wade 3:29 PM  

I didn't get LIEF until crosses filled it, but it made sense to me because I remembered part of this speech from Hamlet that I had to memorize when I was a junior in high school:

"Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, by use all gently, for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant. It out-herods Herod. Pray you avoid it. Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure."

Fergus 3:41 PM  

Instructions afore the "Mousetrap?"

Funny to see "not too tame neither" as if it were Shakespearean Ebonics.

PuzzleGirl 3:46 PM  

orange: Amen on your succinct analysis of "Pretty Woman." Don't get me started on "Grease."

mmpo 4:18 PM  

Orange,
I think the stance of the film is that they find true love despite the sordid circumstances of their meeting and not at all to glorify or romanticize those circumstances. It remains a formulaic romantic comedy with a rather simplistic and outdated view of relationships between men and women. This, it seems to me, is what the term CHICK FLICK suggests that 'chicks' are supposed to like, while 'guys' are supposed to prefer action and car chases...
Anyway, while I might resent the zeitgeist that denies the complex nature of both male and female human individuals, CHICK FLICK and the way it was clued were fine and dandy as far as I'm concerned! :)

Orange 4:43 PM  

Ooh, puzzlegirl: Talking smack about Grease? Rex loves Grease.

Anonymous 4:55 PM  

There's a fine line between "date movie" and "chick flick." The Julia Roberts opus just prior to Pretty Woman, Steel Magnolias, is a chick flick. It had no socially redeeming value for a guy. Pretty Woman is a date movie, meaning at least it might put her in the mood.

La Traviata was the date opera within the date movie

wendy 6:57 PM  

FYI - In addition to Dancing With the Stars, JOEY L. was in a show I adored that NBC of course cancelled called American Dreams. I liked him in that immensely.

I thought Gleem wasn't made anymore but according to drugstore.com it is.

My favorite answers were the ICKES/ICKY pairing too, and BOCA, only because last week I was discouraging a friend from buying big round sunglasses because, as I told her, they made her look like one of those resort mavens from BOCA. Which she most decidedly is not. HUMBLE PIE was nice too.

Fergus was hoping for an ASH yesterday; he got one, though not for graceful shade.

Martin 7:09 PM  

Wade asked the name of the toothpaste that had the stripes. It was Stripe.

Rex Parker 7:19 PM  

Aquafresh

This is the striped toothpaste I used as a kid.

rp

Fergus 7:34 PM  

Oh yeah, I was happy to be provided with an ASH, regardless of the clue context. But not as gratified as the steering component the other day. Hmmm, what shall I wish for tomorrow? Maybe a DATE MOVIE archetype, given today's discussion.

wendy 7:43 PM  

Unbelievably, wikipedia has an entire piece on toothpaste, including a discussion of how striped paste is made AND a little diagram. Even harder to believe, both Gleem and AIM have their own pages.

Isabella di Pesto 7:56 PM  

I never heard of Joey Lawrence.

Anonymous 9:37 PM  

I agree with those who think LIEF for "gladly" was the lamest thing in the puzzle.

Anonymous 9:44 PM  

The problem with getting home late is that everyone has already chimed in with their comments.

A few additions:

Didn't we have ZBAR recently? At least, I thought we did, which is why that went in early for me.

Orange et al - in terms of Pretty Woman, I see this as a typical formulaic romantic comedy (many variations on the couple "acting" as if they are together "normally," e.g., Fred and Ginger having to pretend to being married - and then getting married so they could get divorced, etc.). In romantic comedies today the writers are always looking for a reason why the couple cannot be together, now that premarital sex (see almost any movie of before 1960), and class distinction (e.g., Sabrina) are no longer the barriers they once were. Being a hooker was a somewhat original variation (although the hooker with the heart of gold is really not).

As an older male who likes romantic comedies I prefer the Julia Roberts flick Notting Hill (a modernized version on the class differences), but that's me.

DS

Rex Parker 9:53 PM  

Would people please please please quit emailing me explaining that a joey is a baby kangaroo. I know that, and if you'd only read the theme description, you'd see that I know that. My point was (and any third-grader could tell you this) that a JOEY is not like the other baby animals in the puzzle, in that the others are all domestic farm animals. And a JOEY is not.

rp

kahlaala 11:00 PM  

Easl, I had the same thought and got stuck on DNA/RNA. Gene material (typically) is DNA except in some things like rotavirus and mitochondria. So technically it is a valid clue, but... I missed it! Which combined with being stuck on SOO and YMA made NERVOUSLY and the whole SE a bit hard for me. ....But was so psyched to see Helen Mirren my hero as the clue for QEII, Prime Suspect is the best! (The antithesis of Pretty Woman and if you like crime dramas, don't miss it.)

Orange 11:27 PM  

Aquafresh is the striped toothpaste I was smitten by as a kid (those groovy stripes!) and the one I use every single day. I abandoned it for Crest for about 25 years, but now Aquafresh is my main squeeze (from the bottom only, please—for best results).

It bears noting that JOEY LAWRENCE's actor brothers, Matthew and Andrew, do not lend themselves to themes that mingle baby marsupials with baby farm animals.

mac 11:50 PM  

Wade, to me "lief" was one of the best in this puzzle. I have a hard time believing you still know all of your quote by heart, but if you do, good for you!
Talking about chick flicks, don't you all feel too much space is taken up in the bookstores by chick lit? Ten years ago we would have been embarrassed to admit we even read the stuff!
Orange, did you drink too much coffee this evening?

Anonymous 4:44 AM  

Calm down! Pretty Woman is just My Fair Lady, which itself was Pygmalion, which was...

It's an old story!

Rex Parker 5:53 AM  

Wow, I missed the part where My Fair Lady was turning tricks. I thought she was just a flower girl. I've Gotta see that movie again.

rp

Anonymous 5:58 AM  

Whew, just finished Thursday and anxiously await RP's take on that one.

wade 10:13 AM  

I know I'm a day late, but I want to go on record saying that, as much as I'd like to take credit for remembering the Hamlet soliloquy, I pasted that from another source. I remembered the first few lines, but no more than that.

Anonymous 8:40 AM  

YOU WROTE

58A: Oscar-winning role for Helen Mirren, in brief).

Actually it's 56A:

There isn't a 58A
It's actullay 58D.

Although I prefer a 38DD myslef! LOL

Anonymous 11:47 PM  

Future Comment: quite enjoyed KIRI and YMA in the same puzzle as both are "exotic" aboriginal singers, albeit from different generations.

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