MONDAY, Feb. 25, 2008 - Randall J. Harman (COMPETITOR OF "THE 5TH WHEEL," IN REALITY TV)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: WOOD (55A: Object of the actions suggested by the starts of 17-, 30-, 47- and 66-Across)

A mildly entertaining Monday puzzle. Despite all the STRIPping and SANDing and PRIME-ing and PAINT-ing, I thought the theme a little dull (though the theme answers - half of them, anyway - are cool phrases I've rarely if ever seen). Fought my way through some mild confusion in the east, where 40A: Rotgut (booze) eluded me - all I could think of was "catgut," which is a type of string for your tennis racket. But I got the "Z" back with the bold guess of AZURE at 34D: Sky-blue, and then the rest of that exotic section (LOCHS - 33D: Sources of Scottish streams - crossing NEHRU - 46A: _____ jacket, 1960s fashion = cool cultural fusion) fell quickly.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: X-rated dance (strip tease)
  • 30A: Beach find (sand dollar)
  • 47A: Initial power source (prime mover) - this gave me some trouble. I was thinking of power as in electricity, but Prime Mover is more Power as in God. At least in my field (whatever that is).
  • 66A: Pinto (paint horse) - not a term I'm very familiar with, though I think I've heard it before. Ever since completing this puzzle, I have not been able to get "Spinning Wheel" by Blood, Sweat & Tears out of my head. "Ride a painted pony..." and all that.

The one big problem for me was ELIMIDATE (37D: Competitor of "The 5th Wheel," in reality TV). Or, rather, a complete and utter failure to understand the clue. I thought the answer was going to be the name of someone competing on a show called "The 5th Wheel," thus radically misunderstanding the use of "competitor" here. I think the word is misused, in that ... the fact that shows are similar does not make them "competitors." Are they on opposite each other? "Survivor" and "American Idol" are not "competitors" any more than "Survivor" and "Desperate Housewives" are. For the over-30 crowd (that includes me), the two shows in question ("ELIMIDATE" and "The 5th Wheel") are horrible reality dating shows where generic idiots vie to convince one another of their respective hotness. If you have any faith in the inherent decency of humanity, if you have any hope for the future of our country, these shows will surely beat it out of you but quick.

I like that CATERS (5D: Supplies, as food for a party) and ROTTEN (49D: Spoiled) are positioned symmetrically.

Today was apparently "Take The O-Words Out For A Spin Day." Actually, I think the better term might be "The OLEO Family Reunion." OLEO and his kin (words made by changing just a single letter of OLEO):

OLEO (56D: Margarine)
OLIO (16A: Mixed bag)
OREO (62D: Cookie with a creme center)
OLE (6D: Cheer for El Cordobes)

The Rest:

  • 19A: Miniature plateau (mesa) - they make these in miniature sizes now? Last I checked they were rather Gigantic earth formations especially prominent in the southwest of this country.
  • 10D: 1990 Macaulay Culkin film ("Home Alone") - I associate this movie with a time when all of pop culture was in the deepest of all possible troughs, i.e. the time I was in college. I think "Pretty Woman" was from around this time. And "Ghost." The prosecution rests.
  • 23A: Banjo picker Scruggs (Earl) - my dad plays a little, so I know this guy's name well.
  • 25A: Org. that publishes American Hunter (NRA) - best mistake of the day: my wife finished the puzzle and somehow had NEA as the answer here. She also had ESDED for ESSEN (72A: Krupp Works city). We're not quite sure how that happened.
  • 61A: Lose all one's money gambling (tap out) - as with all the Acrosses in the middle of the puzzle, I never saw the clue here, which is too bad, 'cause I like it.
  • 70A: Julia Roberts's role in "Ocean's Eleven" (Tess) - I kind of resent having to know this character's name. I guessed it easily enough, but still ... a character in a recent sequel [error: it's a remake, not a sequel - I was thinking of "Ocean's 12." Thanks, Orange]. I semi-object. My other potential comment on this entry: Thomas Hardy called. He wants his clue back.
  • 1D: It might be checkered (past) - beautiful clue.
  • 28D: Ben Franklin, famously, in an electrical storm (kiter) - KITER is a horrible word. And since when are you on a nickname basis with Mr. Franklin?
  • 32D: Sharp turn on a golf course (dogleg) - one of my favorite words ever since I learned it in a puzzle last year.
  • 24D: "Streets of _____" (classic cowboy song) ("Laredo") - here's Johnny Cash's version.

Enjoy the new week (a nice warm day if you live in the NE)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:25 AM  

Had no idea what Elimidate was so I ended up with woon for 55A which I knew had to be wood. Put that in and hoped for the best. Otherwise pretty easy puzzle.

Whitey's mom

Doug 8:32 AM  

Finished the grid off in no time, but even with the helpful explanation of the theme, I'm still at a loss of how this goofy Elimidate thing gets into a puzzle. Oh well, the rest was quite nice fill and I liked the 4 wood/paint-related themes. And allow me a self serving segue...if anyone lives in Portland, OR, I'm opening a "WOOD" furniture shop there with a high school friend in 2 weeks. Email for info. But, enough of that--Don't want to spam the board!

Kathy 8:40 AM  

Good. We all seem to be in agreement on Elimidate--Rex, you put it extremely aptly in describing those dating shows. I won't watch anything where real people clap and cheer--like Good Morning America--who goes to New York City and schleps out to cheer the weatherman at 7 a.m.?!


PhillySolver 8:46 AM  

Fair warning to participants in Elimidate, the song, Streets of Loredo is really about what happens if you do not use protection. Honestly.

A fun quick puzzle. I feel so smart on Monday's. Maybe I am really just a split personality and Friday's me is using someone else's brain.

Anonymous 9:03 AM  

I liked how the theme's order was the same as how the jobs are done: strip, sand, prime, paint.

Was headed for a new record speed when elimidate and prime mover, err, eliminated the prime chance for it.

joe in NE

arnie 9:09 AM  

Filled this in as fast as I could write...wheeee!
That you found this puzzle even remotely elusive astounds me, as I am invariably in awe at your parsing talents. Thanx for the ego boost this a.m.

Orange 9:30 AM  

I'll be interested to see if any of Rex's readers were familiar with "The 5th Wheel." Of all the crap reality dating shows that have aired, I think that one's the most obscure.

treedweller 9:31 AM  

Re: Kiter

AMEN! A check kiter is someone who writes bad checks. A thief, in other words. Has anyone ever heard a person flying a kite referred to as a kiter?

Anonymous 9:39 AM  

All paint horses are pintos, it appears, but not all pintos are paint horses.

Bill D 9:47 AM  

STRIPTEASE, BOOZE, TAPOUT, MESA, and maybe even SAND DOLLAR, TOUPEE and BAH gave this one the air of a lost Vegas night...

After Fri and Sat, this was a breeze - never stopped writing until I finished - only slip was having to change ROTTED to ROTTEN when ESSEN showed up (second time in 2-3 days?)

Like Joe in NE, I liked the ordering of theme answers; crosses formed ELIMIDATE for me and then I recalled the show [reality TV is another example of human evolution coming apart at the seams]; not familiar with PAINTHORSE (thought Pinto was a paintED PONY like Rex - funny how David Clayton-Thomas reappeared in our heads after the Laura Nyro mention last week); knew phrase PRIME MOVER from military and construction fields where a large towing vehicle is called a PRIME MOVER; didn't like OLEO & OLIO, and OREO & OLEO in same grid (I don't think just OLIO & OREO would have bothered me, though); loved TAPOUT.

Jim in Chicago 9:57 AM  

Wow, I must have been really sleepy this morning.

I also fell into the ELIMIDATE trap, even though I've actually watched to show - once. Having most of the letters, I just filled in ELIMINATE and never went back to check the clue. This left we with WOON, and while I had no idea what it had to do with anything, I just left it.

In a similar vein, I put in LOTS instead of GOBS, then filled in the rest of DOGLEG without noticing that the G was wrong. I then filled in TIM for the Scrooge clue, leaving me with PAINTMORSE, and TIPOUT. The later of these sounded right to me, thinking that maybe you "tip out" your pockets when you're dead broke in Vegas.

Funny to see DEL pop up again after the long discussion just a couple days ago.

Finally, OLIO and OLEO in the same puzzle. Woohoo. Of course, I managed to misspell the first one.

John 10:01 AM  

I can't say I'm "familiar" with "The 5th Wheel", but I've heard of it and know what it's about (and have therefore avoided it). Ditto with "Elimidate".

No one has yet commented on the fact that there were two scouting related clues today: 8D Part of a girl scout's uniform (SASH) and 44A ____ badge, boy scout's award (MERIT). Kinda cool.

Bill D 10:06 AM  

Hi Orange,

Although I haven't watched MTV since the 70's, I think I must have seen, or at least heard of, "The 5th Wheel" somewhere - maybe I saw it early one AM during a bout of insomnia. What really bothers me about almost all reality TV shows is their necessity to humiliate in order to entertain. Is this what we've degenerated to, that we need to see others suffer in order to make us feel good? And the fact that American Idol eliminations, eg, are reported on as NEWS by the MSM really ticks me off.

Darwinian evolution may have run its course with humanity. Maybe once "survival of the fittest" is circumvented by the advances of civilization, we'll be brought down by proliferation of the lamest.

Is this too much of a downer for a Monday?

Rikki 10:36 AM  

I'm with Philly. Felt smart today and filled from top to bottom without a pause. Gotta love that after some slogging on the weekend.

@Rex, Thomas Hardy wants his clue back made me laugh out loud.

Kiter... nah. Interesting how swipe has taken on a new popular meaning with the advent of credit/debit card readers.

@Ms. Orange, never heard of the 5th Wheel, but I've been unplugged tv-wise for 25 years.

Eric 10:37 AM  

I gotta step in to defend REO Speedwagon, who are still very much around and viable today and put on a great show even if they don't get radio play (which is probably payback for when they got way too much radio play for some of their dreckier material.)

Also, and I'm no music historian, but isn't "ska" and English mashup of reggae and punk...let me check. Ok, I'm wrong on this. The ska "revival" is British but ska itself originated in Jamaica.

Elimidate is a very enjoyable show to watch when you stagger home at 1am and want to feel better about yourself. Never watch it sober.


Jonathon 10:46 AM  

Well, being 20 years old, I remember staying up late with my sister to watch Elimidate and The 5th Wheel. Very crappy shows but entertaining to a freshman in highschool. I knew this answer right away and it helped me get one of my best times of 2:53 (Orange still got me by 1 second!)

Liz 11:17 AM  

Thanks for explaining the Elimidate answer which I had but could only guess it was a TV show since I rarely turn on the tube and don't look at any schedules.

Easy Monday puzzle.

Noam D. Elkies 11:37 AM  

Pretty much the same progression here as Rex described, except that I thought 40A (Rotgut) was some version of rot=nonsense, and so entered BOGUS off the BO. This bogosity was quickly removed by

37:ELIMIDATE was only one of several pop-culture entries that mean nothing to me (23A:EARL, 39A:REO, 69A:IRENE, 70A:TESS) but which I didn't need thanks to easy crosses. Maybe I should be troubled that 10D:HOMEALONE *did* come to mind off the first four letters. 12D:LISA would have been another mystery, except that I remembered it from my own rant about LISAKUDROW last month...

Cluing 67D:NNE as "U-turn from SSW" is a nice twist that blows a bit of fresh air onto a hoary clue while keeping it Monday-level.

No comment on the central Down entry 31D:NEGEV? Very familiar to me, but then I lived in Israel for a time; is it fair Monday fodder for the typical solver?


Anonymous 11:45 AM  

This puzzle included a grammatical error that has made me grit my teeth and turn off the audio when I check my AOL mail. Please, tell me I HAVE mail! I was at the movies last night watching "No Country For Old Men" while the Oscars were taking place. Glad to see it won because it was excellant. It also could be subtitled "...or the squeamish."

parshutr 11:52 AM  

Added knowledge that may come in handy: The SPEEDWAGON was an automobile made by the REO company. REO are the initials of Ransom Edward Olds, and REO eventually morphed into Oldsmobile, killed by General Motors a few years ago.

miriam b 12:00 PM  

I think KITER could have been clued more gracefully; e. g., One committing check fraud.

"I ride an old Paint, and I'm leadin' old Dan, and I'm off to Montana just to throw a houlihan [whatever that means]". Now that'll be running through my head all day.

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

Re: complaints about Elimidate. Live by pop culture, die by it.

Bill from NJ 12:17 PM  

@Anonymous 8:25 - Precisely the same situation and solution.

When I was in college in the 60s, I wrote a paper titled "The Theatre of Humiliation" which refered to a group of TV shows in the late 50s - early 60s like The Joe Pyne Show, The Alan Burke Show, Queen for a Day and their ilk.

Looks like the culture hasn't made any progress since then.

Finished in about 4 minutes which is par for the course for a Monday

Dan 12:42 PM  

ELIMIDATE in the grid made me laugh out loud. Sadly, I've heard of all those shows. The best/worst reality dating show in history? Chains of Love.

My fastest Monday ever!

scriberpat 12:45 PM  

@anonymous 11:45 re: grammar

Looking up both "have" and "get" I see that "have got" is both: present perfect tense and past participle. When past participle, either "have got" or "have gotten" is acceptable.

@orange 9:30 re: 5th wheel

Never saw or heard of 5th wheel t.v. show. when I saw the clue, I imagined it might be a tv show about guys racing campers -- you know they call the metal camper thing you attach to a pickup truck a "5th wheel" -- then when I saw the answer was "e-l-i-m-i" something "a-t-e" I imagined one of the racer guys having taken the moniker "Elimidate" as his racing name.

@rex parker 7:16 re: medium

no way a medium difficulty puzzle. Totally EASY as PIE. I've only be solving on and off for one year. the NYT is the only crossword I solve. My husband and I started it as we sat down at "Friendlys" breakfast. We had it done as we drank our 2nd cup of coffee.

bilnutt 1:09 PM  

Fun little Monday of a puzzle.

Earl Scruggs! A man who walks tall where others walk short! His son Randy isn't half-bad, either. The EARL SCRUGGS AND FRIENDS album of a few years ago is lovely. One of the friends is Johnny Cash, who was born on February 26, 1932.

I so loved "Rotgut" and SCAMP that I'm willing to forgive the otherwise annoying KITER and some of the more obvious answers.

I'd never know NEGEV if it weren't for crosswords. And did you notice ESSEN make its second appearance in as many days?

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN _was_ powerful. I was very pleased to see Glen Hansard and Marketa Inglova win the Oscar for best song (especially given how lamely the three songs from ENCHANTED were presented. I mean, c'mon - Amy Adams is a dish, and "Happy Working Song" is mildly witty, but to stage her performance in a such a blah way and with her wearing that lousy dress was a waste). I was even more pleased when Stewart brought Ms. Inglova back out so she could actually say something.

I digress. What a shock.

There's an old cowboy song called "Old Paint," which I'm pretty sure refers to a pinto.

Bill D 1:22 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill D 1:36 PM  

The quotation marks and capital "M" in 58A: "You've ____ Mail" (GOT) indicate the "soupy" film of a few years ago, and film titles ain't gotta have no good grammar. Yet another pop culture clue! Now it's time for me to turn up the Flatt & Scruggs, fire up the old Elimidater (loved the idea of a demolition derby race involving 5th wheelers!) and see if I can't rustle me up some painthorses!

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

due to my 'jumping around' solving style (a sub 4 minute solver i am not), i got "strip tease", then ended up with the "wood" theme before getting any other theme answers. certainly caused a raised eyebrow...

radioguy 2:13 PM  

Both Elimidate and The 5th Wheel are no longer on the air.

As for the whole reality-television-shows-are-killing-society argument, wasn't the same thing said once upon a time about rock and roll, 50s telvision shows and radio soap operas? Yet, we're still kicking.

When I taught SAT prep for Kaplan a few years ago, we were told the initials "SAT" don't actually stand for anything, although they once did. If this is true, 64D is technically incorrect.

Jim in Chicago 2:24 PM  

Scriberpat, I've never seen the TV show "the fifth wheel" either, but remember the saying as one that was used when I was growing up. The concept of being a "fifth wheel" meant that you were the unwelcome extra person. I wonder which came first, the phrase or the show?

doc John 3:03 PM  

I found it an easy Monday puzzle, too. Wish I'd timed myself because I did it without really having to stop. (And that's after doing it with some residual sedation from my endoscopy this morning- all was well, I might add.)

TAP OUT to me is more in connection with wrestling than with losing one's money.

Not really thrilled with the way KITER was clued but I got it easily enough anyway.

I did like the way TOUPEE was clued, too, although you don't see very many these days that are actually very secret. Most look like a small mismatched dog on top of the wearer's head.

Nobody has mentioned that TEST and EXAM were both in the puzzle today.

The first two theme clues I got were STRIPTEASE and PRIME MOVER so I was thinking that maybe there was a steak theme.

Onward to the rest of the week!

Jim on the left coast 3:12 PM  

We call those dudes tethered to a kite sail "tea-bagging" across the river in the Columbia River Gorge "kiters". You don't want to sail too close to them on a sailboard: you never know when they'll pop up in front of you going for major air, do a 180 and wrap a kite string around your neck.

Anonymous 4:27 PM  

... and some kite surfers also to themselves as KITERs, too.

green mantis 5:29 PM  

Pretty colorful puzzle. The prize for worst possible dating-type show, however, goes to The X Effect, a show in which two people are forcibly reunited with their exes while their current partners watch helplessly from an isolated room. Lives are ruined in about twenty minutes including commercial breaks. I am somewhat forgiving of my occasional weakness for bad t.v., but that show makes me want to kill myself.

In other news, the Ben Franklin/kite clue reminded me of a sketch series called "Drunk History," in which seemingly smart, well-meaning people drink absurd amounts of alcohol and then discuss an historical event, complete with costumed reenactments featuring folks like Jack Black. You can find it on I recommend the Ben Franklin one and the Alexander Hamilton/Aaron Burr one. Watch the Ben Franklin one at your own risk, though; its presenter doesn't make it through his talk, um, intact.

treedweller 5:40 PM  

Wiki offers a definition of "kiting" along the lines of "slang term for kite flying." And I duly note the usage provided above for "kiter" (also seconded by wiki).

I still want to disallow the clue, though, as I don't think Mr. Franklin ever took a board and kite to the water for recreation. As I understand the story, he waited for the water to come to him.

All a lot of whining about very little, I must admit, since I got the right answer immediately (having the K already by the time I read the clue).

kratsman 7:00 PM  

Just a minor correction to Parshutr's post...REO are the initials of Ransom ELI Olds. And I only mention it 'cause you'll often see some variation of it in the puzzles.

Leon 7:01 PM  

Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs performed the Beverly Hillbillies Theme song which was written by producer Paul Henning.

Jim inChicago 7:13 PM  

Rex, my paper copy of the Chronicle was awaiting me when I arrived home this evening. The writup looks wonderful in print, and they used the "good" picture. Congratulations! Far more impressive than Cat Fancy!

rick 7:22 PM  

Nit: (Also posted on Orange's)

The U.S. senate has more than 100 members. I got the answer because it's a frequent one but the territories and possesions also have sitting, non-voting senators.

So "one of a DC one hundred" could be anything you want to put there (7/11s come to mind).

bill from nj,

Topical: do you remember "The Joe Pyne Show" being Mitt Romney's dad's downfall in his presidential bid?

Sixteen year governer of Michigan (a great one) and he said he was brainwashed by the North Vietnamese
during a visit there.

Badir 7:33 PM  

As for Dan, it was my fastest Monday ever! First Monday under 7:00 and first (any day) under 6:30! I'm not sure whether it was easier, or I'm just improving. I had a whole set of clues I never looked at, which is a bit scary, since I'm used to checking every clue, but skipping is a great way to save time. I also tried writing faster than usual. I noticed OLIO/OLEO, but didn't pick up on the OREO connection.

At one point I confidently filled in 55A and thought the puzzle was about things you could do with wool! That's what I get for being married to a knit-blogger! :)

@Rex, yeah, mesa is a miniature plateau. And a butte is a miniature mesa. A butte is one of those pointy things poking up in a southwestern landscape. A mesa has a fair amount of room on top. And a plateau is so big, you might not see the whole thing.

My mom used to play bluegrass banjo all the time (now it's Scottish fiddle), so I, too, was familiar with EARL Scruggs.

Mike 9:30 PM  

If anyone is still curious, 5th wheel was a dating show where 2 men and 2 women went out on a joint date and spent a little time with each member of the opposite sex. Towards the end of the show they brought a "sexy" extra person to mix things up(the fifth wheel). At the end each person said which person they wanted to go out with again.

I will admit without shame that I have watched and enjoyed both fifth wheel and elimidate.

little lj 9:47 PM  

is it wrong that home alone, pretty woman AND ghost are some of my favorite films?!


Jim in NYC 11:07 PM  

If you have any faith in the inherent decency of humanity, if you have any hope for the future of our country ..., these shows will surely beat it out of you but quick.

LOL ... Well said, Rex.

bobby 11:08 PM  

A pinto is a piebald horse. Piebald is partly derived from the word MAGPIE. :)

Corinne 12:08 AM  

Rick, I'm pretty sure that the Senate does not have any non-voting members and consists solely of the 100 senators from the fifty states (and the VP as the tie breaker, but he's not actually a Senator). I know the House has non-voting reps, but a quick google search is not showing anything for non-voting senators.

Randy 1:02 AM  

Sadly, I must confess that I have stayed up late to watch some of these reality dating shows. In fact, when I first saw the clue for 5th Wheel, I immediately wrote in Blind Date as I used to watch that show all the time. It is the one with the hilarious call-outs.

jae 5:04 AM  

OK I'm back from the cruise and wasn't going to chime in until tomorrow, but the show that kicked off the spate of crappy dating shows was Studs which really wasn't that bad as crappy shows go. Good thing its late and I'm enjoying a night cap as this is likely to be unread. Hasta manana, (not sure how to insert a tilde).


PhillySolver 10:33 AM  

@ jae

(alt + 164) gives you ñ

The full character set can be found at

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP