THURSDAY, Jan. 17, 2008 - Matt Ginsberg (1/64 of a checkerboard, maybe: Abbr.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Relative Difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Fill in the BLANK (6D: Fill in the _____ (a hint to this puzzle's theme)) - four Across clues are BLANK; these end up being the words that complete the FILM titles that begin with the words immediately to their respective lefts/wests

This puzzle was remarkably easy, except for a mysterious Yiddish word near the top and the entirety of the SW corner, which was the only place where my pencil stopped moving for more than a second. I've seen variations on this theme before, where either the answer for one Across continues onto another Across. The answers here are simply FILMs (55D: What each completed pair of theme answers in this puzzle is). Not very interesting. What's weird is that three of the four FILMs are not best known as FILMs. In fact, there are more non-theme answers that are self-evidently FILMs than there are theme answers that are so. Let's take a look:

  • 15A: Jose Cuervo, for one + 16A: --- = "TEQUILA SUNRISE" - that's a drink ... and an Eagles song
  • 34A: Prize + 37A: --- = "TREASURE ISLAND" - that's a book
  • 41A: Brute + 42A: --- = "ANIMAL CRACKERS" - those are snack treats that come in a little box with circus animal illustrations on the side and a string attached so you can tote it around
  • 63A: Of tremendous fervor + 61A: --- = "BLAZING SADDLES" - now that is a FILM
Meanwhile, there are two more FILM titles in the non-theme answers: "THE BLOB" (8A: 1958 sci-fi classic starring Steve McQueen) and the ever-popular (puzzle-wise) "REPO MAN" (58A: 1984 film with the tagline "It's 4 a.m., do you know where your car is?"). Throw in Ivan REITMAN (17A: Director Ivan), and you've got a serious FILM fest on your hands. Ooh, and there's even an OSCAR (53A: Jazz's Peterson) in there. Nice. I like how not just the Theme FILM titles, but all the pairs of Acrosses, form nice, bright, lively phrases:


There's not too much overly common fill here today: ATRA (which is Everywhere lately - 1D: Pivoting razor), OSSO (usu. paired with "buco"), ST. PAT (27D: Parade honoree, briefly), IRANI (28D: Tabriz native), ENGRS, ERST, EPEE and BETHS are the only real offenders here, so that's not so bad. On the other hand, there was a lot of unusual (though occasionally strained) fill in the short-to-mid-length answers:

  • 3D: 1/64 of a checkerboard, maybe: Abbr. (Sq. In.) - had a "WTF!?" moment, then figured it out. The clue is both helpful and confusing at the same time, if that's possible.
  • 31A: Defendants, legally (rei) - weird ... this is the nominative plural of RES? Feels wrong. REI is the genitive or dative. Maybe someone can explain why this answer isn't simply RES (nominative plural). [late addition: reus appears to be an adjective meaning "guilty," (see also mens rea - "guilty mind") so REI could be a substantive adjective meaning "the guilty" ... even though that's an odd way to look at "defendants," as it doesn't square well with the whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing ...]
  • 48D: Venae _____ (major blood vessels) (cavae) - Latin knowledge comes in handy again. Retrieved "vena cava" from god-knows-what Junior High science class, and then pluralized from there.
  • 50D: The sun, moon and stars (orbs) - ick. I suppose it's true. I wanted some version of "EVERYTHING." This oddness was one reason I got a tiny bit bogged down in the SW.
  • 52D: Boom (spar) - another reason I got bogged down down there. This must be a nautical term.
  • 35D: Dry white (soave) - bit of an educated guess here at the "V," which intersects with the unknown (to me) VITUS (44A: Saint of dancers). I don't drink much white.

And then there was the TSURIS (8D: "Oy, vey" cause), which gets only 26K Google hits, which is astonishingly low for any one word. It means "trouble" or "aggravation." I got it right, but had to guess at the "R," as ENDER (20A: Rear-_____) could just as easily have been ENDED. I feel about TSURIS the way I felt about TREF at the tournament last year. Got it right, but felt like I dodged a bullet. Unknown Jewishisms, yikes. It's hard enough for me to remember simple things like BETHS (47A: Letters before gimels).

What else?:

  • 19A: Taylor, Wilson or Harding (Ann) - random! I had AN- and since SQ. IN. wasn't immediately clear to me, I had to run quickly through the alphabet. The best ANN in this clue, IMOO, is ANN Wilson.
  • 65A: Holiday meals (spreads) - come on ... any big meal is a SPREAD. The "Holiday" part is just annoying misdirection.
  • 66A: Bun toppers (sesames) - a horrible plural. You would never say this. The phrase is "SESAME seeds."
  • 5D: Country singer with the 1997 triple platinum hit "How Do I Live" (Rimes) - one of the first things in the grid. As I've said before, I can build a puzzle off OF crap pop culture like nobody's business.
  • 42D: Ornery sort (cuss) - goes nicely with 54D: Famous Mama (Cass).

The end.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Today's other puzzles:

  • LAT 5:51 (C) - David J. Kahn (tribute to a recently deceased "entertainer")
  • CS 5:50 (C) - Bob Klahn (an easy Klahn puzzle - refreshing)
  • NYS 15:32 (!) (C) - Ethan Cooper (spent 8-10 minutes staring at blank due north - no idea what theme was until about one minute from the end; ugh)

[drawing by Emily Cureton]


HappyDad 8:53 AM  

Since I am still quite the novice at Thursdays, i took great pride in immediately entering "tsuris." There are probably many variations on the english spelling of this, but Tsouris is also quite acceptable. In any event, I thought it was an awesome clue and answer.

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

How many bagels? Two onions, three poppys and two sesames....

Rex Parker 9:05 AM  

If it were clued that way, "anonymous," then yes, you'd have a point.

happydad is happy because he nailed something he knows and likes. And I'm happy for him. We all need those answers to keep us, well, happy.


Jim in NYC 9:44 AM  

Woke up in a coma today, Rex, if that's possible, and your non-theme phrases gave me a welcome chuckle.

I'm a lawyer, but not a Latin scholar. We see "res" as some sort of property that's in dispute in a litigation, but not as a defendant (a person who's one of the litigants). There are some weird cases like "The U.S. v. Four Barrels of Whisky" and the like, but who'd call the whisky a "defendant"? And then to pluralize it? Kudos to anyone who got this without the crosses. (Not me.)

I had the same experience as you in the SW. The words Ohso, "And...", Orbs, Help (on some screen layout?), and Spreads somehow added up to obscurity.

Kathy 9:55 AM  

I just love Yiddish words, despite my status as a non-practicing Catholic. They are almost onomatopoeic...or something. But maybe I'm just meshugana.


Orange 10:06 AM  

Google is crazy. I just Googled tsuris and got 40,000 hits. Why would Google produce such divergent results in such a short amount of time? I may never understand the unfathomable mysteries of Google's algorithms.

The dictionary defines sesame as the plant and the seed, so even if we don't know anybody who calls the seeds "sesames," the plural has crossword legitimacy. (And some Korean crop scientists use it. I'll bet SESAMES is in their journal's crossword all the time.)

dbg 10:10 AM  

Being Jewish was a definite plus today. Filled in the whole grid before I really got the theme-just did not see the first part of the answer. Also did not know what sqin. was til I realized it was sq. in.
And Kathy you were close. You are either meshugga (nutty) or _a_ meshugganah (nut)

Alex 10:19 AM  


Guessed right on the former, wrong on the latter.

I'm not familiar with a movie called ANIMAL CRACKERS so it being the first theme entry I got completely didn't help at all. Though the first words in the movie titles were all easy to get, it wasn't immediately obvious to me how the second half was supposed to work (I was trying to think up something much more complex than the reality).

flyingpig 10:27 AM  

I was happy to do this Thursday puzzle. Didn't get SQ IN --I really hate abbreviated answers for less common things as there could be several ways to abbreviate, depending on if it fits the puzzle.

Rex, don't forget the Marx Brothers film, ANIMAL CRACKERS, considered their best by some.

Anonymous 10:40 AM  

Kathy, I remember an Irish Catholic (practicing, yet) kid in high school whose favorite expression was "oy gevalt". It was long ago. but I seem to recall that he was halfway fluent.

Many Yiddish expressions defy translation. Here's an example: Let's say you see an unattractive woman dressed in a designer outfit. You feel that the clothes do nothing to enhance her appearance. Your comment might be, "Es vet hilfen vee a toten bankes." This means something like, "It helps as much as cupping-glasses help a corpse."

I don't really speak Yiddish, so any more precise translations are welcome. Erica Jong's Isadora Wing says that all the Yiddish she learned was from reading Philip Roth. I can relate to that.

Dora 10:45 AM  

rei is the vocative form of res, i believe, which makes sense if you are referring directly to the defendants in conversation. certainly the nominative plural form is res (the same as the singular).

Dora 10:47 AM  

rei is also the genitive (possessive) singular and dative (indirect object) singular.

jae 10:49 AM  

Overall I thought this was pretty easy. Unlike yesterday, I knew all the movie related clues both theme and fill (I actually passed the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" movie test as well as the regular one, but "aging white male" doesn't seem to be a demographic they are interested in.) I too ran into the Asok's Beak problem at the TSURIS/ENDER crossing and guessed wrong. Hate to miss a Thurs. by one SQ. but thats life!

Isabella di Pesto 10:54 AM  

I know a lot of Yiddish phrases and words, but unfortunately for me "tsuris" was not one. drove me nuts.

I finished the puzzle, but didn't get the clue,i.e., looking to the left to see the name of the film.

That's a first for me. I guess it had to happen sometime.


marcie 11:16 AM  

I'd never heard that St. Vitus was the saint of dancing. I've heard of St. Vitus Dance, which is the old term for chorea, as in Huntington's Chorea, with some typical "dancing' movements involved in the disease process. hmmmph, well live and learn. At least I got it from the crosses.

Not so lucky with sq(u)n. Reutman looks as good as Reitman for all I know, and I automatically filled in the u when I got the q... all I could figure was that squn could be some sort of an esoteric checkers term hahahah.

Anonymous 11:22 AM  

ANN isn't random. They're all presidents: Zachary Taylor, Woodrow Wilson, and Warren Gamaliel Harding.

There were definitely some unfair crossings in this one, SOAVE/VITUS chief among them.

Leon 11:31 AM  

There is a sign on the Williamsburg Bridge which reads "Leaving Brooklyn: Oy vey !".

Since Brooklyn will host the ACPT tournament this year, stop the kvetching about Yiddish.

I really enjoyed the Latin tutorials. Learned a lot. Got to remember singular and plural.

Would two Ali Babas say Open Sesames ?

Blue Stater 11:58 AM  

Well, I'm glad I wasn't alone in thinking that parts of this one, at least, were unfair. A good fairness test for me is when a constructor has to resort to two fudges in the same clue and then crosses it with esoterica, as in 3D, "1/64 of a checkerboard, maybe: Abbr.," SQIN, and the vanishingly obscure IVAN REITMAN in one of the crosses. That seems to me out of bounds.

I completely blocked in the SW, but I would have gotten it if I had paid more attention to the gimmick (even though I hate gimmicks). I should have seen that EMOTING wouldn't go with SADDLES. I didn't understand how the "pair of theme answers" in the clue for 55D worked.

All in all, not a happy Thursday.

Anonymous 12:04 PM  

Marcia, You beat me to the St. Vitus' Dance anecdote. An interesting side note is the root of choreography. It is taken from chorea, the involuntary dance-like twitching from St. Vitus' Dance or Sydenham's Chorea. Two Ponies

Karen 12:04 PM  

I was thinking OSSEous for bone, and missed the (obscure!) Mormon book (but should have caught it). The SQIN completely defeated me; I didn't see what it abbreviated until I looked at Orange's blog.

Repo Man was a cool film when I saw it twenty (!?) years ago. I still think of it when I see an air freshener in a car. I don't know how well that film has aged.

doc John 12:18 PM  

Ivan REITMAN is a fairly well-known director, having directed the "Ghostbusters" movies and continuing up through "Six Days Seven Nights" to the recent "Disturbia" (which he produced but did not direct). is a great resource for all things film-related.

Even though I'm Jewish, I didn't know TSURIS but it just sounded better with an R than a D.

Great pic, Emily! They just keep getting better and better!

Pete M 12:46 PM  

Toss me into the TSUDIS/ENDED abyss as well. Also, guessed SQUA as an abbreviation; the inch part never crossed my mind, and both ANA and REUTMAN seemed plausible enough. Started with SOAR instead of SPAR for "Boom" (yes, Rex, it's nautical and a noun) and JUDES instead of LUKES, but both cleared themselves up.

profphil 1:02 PM  

anonymous 12:04

Choreography is not derived from the disease chorea. Both choreography and chorea are rather derived form the Greek CHORUS a band of dancers and/or singers.

puzzlemensch 1:24 PM  

It seems to me that there are no New Yorkers in this crowd. Tsuris (or tsouris) is a common expression all over the City...

One of my favorite yiddishisms is:

Gevalt a pogrom! when someone hassles you.

Frances 1:25 PM  

Rex has often objected to crossings of two personal names such that, without specific knowledge, there's no way for the uninitiated to guess what letter to insert. That's what the M in Reitman/Rimes did to me. In the tsuris/ender and soave/vitus crossings, the across and down words invoked different fields of knowledge; both 5D and 17A depend upon pop culture--grrr!

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

@ profphil, Thanks. Learn something every day! Two Ponies

Orange 1:30 PM  

Profphil and Doc John beat me to it, robbing me of two opportunities to be pedantic. (Drat.)

Rex Parker 1:32 PM  

The idea that a film-maker and a country singer are from the same field of knowledge is a bit of a stretch. If that's true, then Verdi and Warhol are from the same field of knowledge.


Kathy 1:45 PM  

dgb, Sorry, I forgot the (var.) at the end of my attempt at Yiddish!

Thanks for the edification!


Joseph 2:09 PM  

This puzzle looks like it was created by a computer, what with all of the punts on the down fills. Tons of abbreviations, and some odd ones at that: assoc., engrs., Also, enl. st.pat., srs., yrs. Lame.

Add to that all of the usual suspects: atra, rda, lien, osso, enos, irani, erst, idest, leica, orbs.

It does crack me up to discover that St. Vitus is the patron saint of dancers, considering St. Vitus's "dance" is basically convulsions. Then again, St. Sebastian, who was martyred by arrows, was deemed the patron saint of archers, so I guess nothing should surprise me, saint-wise.

bour3 3:06 PM  

I loved those films,

Absorbs the Blo
Reitman Ugliest,
Patrons scourge,
Repoman Avarice, and
Spreads Sesames,

weren't they great?

It took me three tries to say that, that's how much I love you. Honestly, sometimes it seems like the whole of the internets is against my participating, like the LOL cats are all up in my silicones, or something.

matty lite 3:09 PM  

assoc . . ASOK!

PhillySolver 3:20 PM  

I am just back from Jury Duty and so I am late posting. I was distracted by the chaos in the Philadelphia Court house, the SESAMES falling off of my buns and the mindless chatter of the REI.

I completed this without having any idea what the theme was about. I had to guess and was sure I was wrong on the TSURIS, but I finally guessed correctly on something. The SW was last to fall because I couldn't get a Saucy answer other than Bearnaise and was looking for a var. I had plenty of time and went down so many wrong paths I won't list them, but I have the feeling that the puzzle was designed to lead you astray as exemplified in the ANN answer where the clue was a list of Presidents.

I would say that this was a mediocre puzzle to me and part of that was the reliance on abbreviations instead of words. It took an hour for me between civic duties, but I think if I had gotten the theme it would have been much quicker and perhaps even less satisfying.

Kathy 3:25 PM  

Hey, where's Wendy been? (Not to be confused with Where's Waldo, of course.)

doc John 3:57 PM  

Surprised nobody commented on this yet:

When Tom C and Katie H saw their daughter, did they think, "Oy vey?"

Emily Cureton 4:18 PM  

am i the only one who thought the saint of dance would be denis? like ruth st. denis. i thought i was oh so modern dance savvy and really didnt want to let it go despite the contradicting downs.

kratsman 4:32 PM  

I had a big laugh when I saw your defiant, in-your-face all caps off OF in your column today. Good stuff.

miriam b 4:37 PM  

Emily, you were close. Denis is the patron saint of France, not dance.

Love your drawings. POOR OLGA!

PhillySolver 5:11 PM  

@ emily

I considered her for a minute as well. She was certainly a patron saint to NYC dance. I was struggling through that section and have to admit that like others, I had heard of St. Vitus dance, but didn't know the patron saint part...but it fit better.

emily cureton 5:16 PM  

i know, poor nicholas, alexandra, tania, maria, anastasia and sweet sick little alexei. but thanks to puzzle drawing topic parameters i had to individualize the blood bath.

Anonymous 5:16 PM  

Ruth St. Denis was one of the pioneers of modern dance in the U.S., so to consider her a patron "saint" of dance is actually Thursday clever, and a much better association than St. Vitus dance, a terrible medical condition.

Together with her husband, Ted Shawn, Ruth St. Denis founded a school of dance called Denishawn, where Martha Graham famously studied.
I always think of Terpsichore as the "patron saint" of dance, but she is actually a muse-in any case Terpsichore didn't fit. In other crossword news, I had TSORIS instead of TSURIS, and put in OGRIEST instead of UGLIEST. Hey, it should be a word!

Dance Fan

emily cureton 5:21 PM  

oh! i really wanted ogriest too!

markus 5:34 PM  

"Animal Crackers"
Is that the film with "I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I'll never know!"? If it is... I love it! "Repo Man" being the second best Emilo Estevez film ever after "Maximum Overdrive" KILLER SEMI TRUCKS!
For all you pop culture non-lovers out there let me say this... as a young (20's) puzzle solver I enjoy having clues I know that I know. I believe constructors are trying to reach out to be all inclusive for knowledge seekers such as myself. Rasberries to you all! (Let's HUG it out and move on)

dk 5:43 PM  

Emily, allow me to join your drawing fan club and to say I would love to see the "orgiest" Blob as the scourge of Treasure Island.

Anonymous 5:46 PM  

Animal Crackers one of Groucho's most famous jokes:

"One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know."

Hello, I Must Be Going
Mile High Muddy

(Trying to cast out "Beware of the Blob" [It creeps, And leaps, And glides, And slides across the floor], makes popping sound with finger and cheek.)

Rex Parker 5:48 PM  


I, for one, hope never to see the "ORGIEST" Blob. For obvious reasons.


lislepammysue 6:30 PM  

Treasure Island the book was made into a movie by Disney(who else) in 1950, with Bobby Driscoll of Song of the South and Robert Newton. I am sorry to say that I saw it in a movie house when it came out.

Michael 6:51 PM  

Although I didn't find this hard, I didn't like the theme because there is no way to guess the fills except by (1) deducing words from letters you already have; or (2) guessing one part of a pair from the other one. A matter of taste, I guess.

wobbith 6:59 PM  

jae said:
"...the Asok's Beak problem..."


love dora 7:02 PM  


I skipped past the rest of the comments after reading yours. Is marriage a possibility?

artlvr 8:12 PM  

I confess that catching up on puzzles at night is a bad idea for me! I got yesterday's just fine, but was off in the SW today with "Burning Saddles".

Fergus 9:06 PM  

This was a fairly drab puzzle, I thought, with a rather anemic Thursday gimmick. Seems like we haven't seen a rebus puzzle in quite some time.

Been enjoying a jar of Tahini lately, so was pleased to see Sesame Spread on the bottom tier, though I didn't like that plural either.

Saw REPO MAN again just a few months ago, and didn't like it anywhere near as much as I remembered it. And it definitely did seem dated, and not a particularly good period piece.

Aside from the SQ. IN. cock-up, I stuck with a stupid mistake for the Admit Clue at 29D. Couldn't see anything other than LET ON, as in own up. Finally LET IN for Admit, duh!, but that one letter created a big logjam due to figuring that ANOMIC could be an adjective for Brute. Yeah, that's my clumsiness, but nevertheless the puzzle had an overall ungainly feel about it as well.

Dora 10:30 PM  

*blushes* i've never been proposed to before...

i love coming back and reading these comments. it gets me pumped for tomorrow's crossword. does that make me a dork?

if not, i've been reasonably well-assured that the ability to conjugate/decline latin in SONG does (make me a dork, that is). i'm not even joking. i wish i could record my rendition of res, rei for you all. unfortunately, i have no idea how to post that kind of material here.

Rikki 12:22 AM  

Wow, is this the first marriage proposal on this blog? What's the Yiddish word for matchmaker?

I did this puzzle so fast. But I'm trying to catch up. Too much work. Too little puzzle time. I definitely notice that I feel out of the groove if I don't do the puzzles every day. But so far this week has not been bad. A tequila sunrise sounded good, but I was out of tequila. Also out of animal crackers. By the way, if you have not seen that movie, it may be the Marx Brothers' best and you really should rent it, make some popcorn, and settle down for some serious laughs. For that matter, Blazing Saddles is equally hilarious. Nice winter-weather movies.



Anonymous 12:32 AM  

Let me also join the Emily fan club. Is Emily Rex's step-daughter?I love the way her mind works - very unusual to see someone who likes words (left-brained) but also trnslates them to a visual gestalt (right-brained). Seems to be a very gifted child - hope you have her in a great school where she is challenged.

I would like to reccmmend Ann Wilson's latest album as well. I saw Heart in concert this year and that woman still has incredible pipes!

profphil 1:00 AM  


It's Shadchan. In "Fiddler on the Roof" the shadchan was Yenta. Although a Yiddish name it also means a gossip.

Karen 8:35 AM  

I can be the first to say the ACPT registration form is now up. Now I can stop obsessively checking that page.

Orange 12:10 PM  

Kim: Rex's kid is called Sahra on this blog. Emily is an artist in New York, and she really does pull some amazing connections out of the crosswords!

Francois 3:46 AM  

About 3 D (1/64 of a checkerboard, maybe). A chessboard has 64 squares, but doesn't a checkerboard (the kind that you play checkers on) have 100 ?

Anonymous 12:48 PM  

St. Vitus' Dance was an early piano piece for me. Explanatory notes in my music book indicated it was done to sweat out the poison of a tarantula. Why I remember this 50 years later is beyond me.

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