TUESDAY, Apr. 15, 2008 - Ken Bessette (MURALIST JOAN)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: MIDTERM (40A: Kind of exam, with a hint to the answers to the four starred clues) - letter string TERM can be found in the MIDdle of each of the four theme answers

One of the most enjoyable Tuesday puzzles I've solved in a long time. A simple but elegant theme with lively theme answers, a bonus theme element - all theme answers start with "M" - and non-theme fill that is as good as I've ever seen in a Tuesday puzzle. I just used the word "theme" five times in one sentence. Top that. On second thought, please don't. Got completely frozen right out of the box at 1A: Like a cold fish. Took the clue literally and couldn't get, I don't know, let's say CLAMMY, to fit. Immediately went to work on the Downs and had the answer in no time. "Cold fish" = metaphor for an ALOOF somebody or other). Not sure how that metaphor came into being. An actual "cold fish" is something more than ALOOF. It's likely dead. Or else still in the ocean / river, and thus ... yes, I guess that's pretty ALOOF. Anyway ... got the front end of the first theme answer and off I went.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: *Myopic cartoon fellow (MisTER Magoo) - I guess that he was offensive to some blind people. Watch this ... and remind me, who's supposed to be offended??? (hint: look for character named "Charlie")
  • 11D: *Plan hatcher (masTERMind)
  • 30D: *Some ticket issuers (meTERMaids)
  • 65A: *Popular tune around Halloween ("MonsTER Mash")

This puzzle is generally refreshingly free of tedious, common fill. OK, so there's an OBI here (64A: Japanese band) and an IRE there (43A: U2's home: Abbr.) ... and an OREO there too (37D: Treat that's sometimes dunked), but come on: ZAMBEZI! (26A: Victoria Falls river). That's magical. RUTGERS! (49A: Home of the Scarlet Knights); GUM DROP! (53A: Soft, colorful candy); SANDMAN! (48D: Sleep inducer of song). That's poetry compared to most Tuesday fill. Even weird plurals like DEEP ENDS (41D: Diving board locales) and words you'd rarely use like OUTWAIT (4D: Be more patient than) and the twin Disney chiefs OVITZ and EISNER (12D and 47A: Former Disney chief Michael) somehow all work here. Points off for the weak phrases SAME AS, I SEE, IN A, and AS IT, but points back on for the entertaining WATTS (22A: Charlie of the Stones), GENA (21A: Rowlands of "Gloria" - I love that movie; Gena Rowlands is a badass - the kid's a little insufferable, but Gena Rowlands = awesome), TREMOR (50D: Richter scale blip), DINGO (34D: Dog from Down Under) and the so-bad-it's-good KITER (32D: Passer of bad checks). More points on for including one of my favorite artists (42D: Muralist Joan => MIRO) and for resurrecting ASTA (24A: Film terrier).

This puzzle has some good mid-range crosswordy vocabulary, which is worth reviewing:

  • 14A: Lash _____ of old westerns (La Rue)
  • 53D: Crystal-lined rock (geode)
  • 56D: Program file extension (exe)

I learned all these from xwords (yes, even GEODE, don't yell at me). Ooh, there's also AEON, which is a very familiar word to most of you, probably, but also probably not so familiar to many of you when clued via this particular Charlize Theron movie: 55A: "_____ Flux" (Charlize Theron film). This is the second time I've seen AEON clued this way, so get used to it. Also, this movie would make a good clue for FLUX, which is a word I can't see enough, frankly. Probably also good to remember that the Indianapolis Colts play in the RCA Dome (67D: _____ Dome (Colts' longtime home)), and that every other clue involving "start" or "cost" or "pay" or "play" is some version of ANTES (73A: Start-up costs, of sorts).

Hoi Polloi

  • 15A: Bring shame to (abash) - had ABASE, which seems reasonable to me. Sadly, SEOW ME is not a phrase (10D: "Prove it!" => SHOW ME)
  • 20A: Garbage hauler (scow) - one of my favorite boats. Or is it a ship? [wink]
  • 31A: Boots, gloves, mask, etc. (ski wear) - hands up for SKI GEAR. Anyone? Contemplated briefly the possibility that AGAPE could serve as an answer for 27D: On top of things (aware).
  • 18D: Mil. unit (rgt.) - needed all my crosses here, though I see now that it stands for "regiment." Not a common xword abbreviation at all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


ArtLvr 8:42 AM  

Yes! Lovely, enjoyable puzzle -- even had the French plural of "eau", EAUX. And OLDIE, with KERN of historical Show Boat fame. Very happy Tuesday...


Anonymous 8:46 AM  

I am on a train to Brooklyn and trying out my new iPhone. I liked the puzzle and hope to tell a story or two tonight. I predict tomorrow's puzzle will be taxing.

JC66 8:54 AM  


I fear I'll find today very taxing.

literarychica 8:59 AM  

Just saw that youtube clip of _Gloria_. It's going on my Netflix queue immediately.

SethG 9:14 AM  

A record Tuesday for me--finally faster than my best Wednesday! (Though my joy is balanced by the taxes, especially my 2500% effective tax rate for last year...)

Here's a connection I found out about at Wikipedia: Mr. Magoo's a Rutgers alum.

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

Liked this one a lot, but got shut down for a while in the NW. As we don't have many garabge hauling boats in Nebraska, I had never heard of SCOW as a garbage hauler. I started the puzzle typing SLIMY for 1A, so I got off to a somewhat rough start.

I liked ZAMBEZI, EAUX and AEON on a Tuesday, had never heard of this movie.

Joe in NE

Ulrich 9:19 AM  

Yes, lovely puzzle. Brought back memories of Easter 3 years ago, which we spent on the shores of the Zambezi in a lodge within walking distance and earshot of the Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world. I was woken up that morning by my wife crying "Ulrich, there's monkeys in our room!" And sure enough, there they were: a passel of vervet monkeys had gotten in through a crack we had left in the patio door of our room and were helping themselves to the remnants (orts?) of our late-night snack. The ones that had gooten a piece of apple or cheese left willingly, but there were two who stood put and looked on us with the expression "and were's my share?" We had to explain to then in no uncertain terms that that this was it before they left--grudgingly.

Orange 9:24 AM  

Ulrich, I love it that you have a Zambezi/monkey/ort personal anecdote! I don't think I know anyone else who has one.

OlFogy 9:27 AM  

Maybe showing my age and/or urban background, but I have most frequently seen/heard scow used with garbage. The garbage scows of old New York.

John Reid 9:32 AM  

One 'Former Disney chief Michael' I could handle, but the second proved to be too much for me! I tanked at the intersection of OVITZ/ZAMBEZI, which I found to be a tough cross for a Tuesday. It was the last letter in my grid and I figured that it had to be either S or Z - I opted for the S first and got rejected. I immediately changed it to a Z and the applet thanked me for playing, but I still count that as a fail. In hindsight the Z looks much better anyway. I was hurrying - silly.

Great puzzle - I hadn't even noticed that all the theme entries started with M! How cool. In fact they almost all have the same syllable pattern too, except for that extra GOO in MISTERMAGOO. :)

To my fellow procrastinators - good luck with your taxes.

Margaret 9:35 AM  

I thought the "16 or Seventeen" clue was amusing -- and it reminded me of recent discussions of teen heartthrobs (Stamos and that Greg guy from last week whose name I've already forgotten!) who appeared in 16 magazine. Since I am a woman of a certain age, I got Mr. Magoo right off the bat so the rest fell nicely. Although Across Lite did not show me a timer today. Anyone know how to make it appear when it doesn't automatically?

It's been a week since the recent unpleasantness of the Mphs Tigers excruciating loss but the final Four clue still stung. An entire town in mourning is a sad sight....

jls 9:37 AM  

also went the "abase"/"seowme" route... and this is why we check our crosses! ;-)

it was suggested at the nyt site -- and i think there may be something to it -- that in addition to the mid "term" connection, the theme entries all have in common their double "m" phrases.

pretty cool.



Jim in Chicago 10:29 AM  

Do people really shout "ole" in a soccer stadium?

Anonymous 10:51 AM  

I found this difficult for a Tuesday, but very enjoyable. I certainly had "SKIGEAR" first, and couldn't immediately figure out where "AGARE" was going.

I've had the strangest difficult retrieving basic composer names like Lorenz Hart and Jerome Kern lately, and yet "GRAHAM KERR" for the Galloping Gourmet came drifting right up out of my subconscious the other day. Go figure.

Anonymous 11:34 AM  

What I noticed about the theme answers was that they all had double M initials, and I didn't quite get how that related to MIDTERM. Didn't keep me from enjoying this easy and pleasant puzzle, though.

miriam b 12:05 PM  

@anonymous 11;34: The word TERM appeared within each of the theme phrases.

This puzzle is so elegant and so ingenious that it discouraged me from even thinking of trying my hand at constructing.

Rex, thanks for that clip (complete with barely legible French subtitles!). I don't know that movie, but remember being greatly impressed with another of her films: A Woman Under the Influence.

Joon 12:36 PM  

i don't think i've ever done a tougher tuesday.

it took me longer than my usual wednesday time, and at the end i was just plain guessing on three different squares (of which i got one right). plus, i learned a totally new english word, KITER. that usually doesn't happen this early in the week (i often learn new proper names, though).

right off the bat, i had no traction in the NW. ALOOF, LARUE, ... nothing, even after i got ALMS and LAIC and OUTWAIT. i wanted CUT for 5D and that wasn't CUTting it. but i moved on.

ZAMBEZI/OVITZ was the first killer. i've seen both ZAMBESI and ZAMBEZI (i even thought S was more common, though google contradicts me), and i've never heard of OVITZ or OVITS. how was i supposed to know? it's not like OVITZ is a common name that warrants a Z guess there. i stuck S in and moved on.

i hated 23D, [Simple rhyme scheme]. after you fill in A and B, then what? there's no way to know if it's ABBA, ABAB, or (in this case) ABAA. can't you at least have given us an example of something with ABAA scheme? i can't even think of anything off the top of my head, although "stopping by woods on a snowy evening" is the similar AABA.

i guess i thought of something: the last stanza of a villanelle has ABAA going for it. now that would have been a sweet clue.

the middle and south didn't really pose any problems (i fixed SKIGEAR pretty quickly); they felt very tuesdayish. but then i got back to the north, eventually, after putting together all the theme entries, and still had R_T crossing _E_A crossing EBA_. now that last one i "should" know, maybe, but i'd never heard of him, and kept thinking, "abba is already a hebrew word--what do they want here?" i eventually guessed LENA and, well, the N was right. but even with the N in place, lena, mena, rena and even xena are all names of people i know (or know of), so ...

i've heard of neither GENA rowlands nor "gloria." when was it made?

sigh. the puzzle was mostly nice, but it's a real bummer to come to an impossible crossing like that. a proper name crossing an obscure abbreviation--ouch! a name with accepted alternate spellings crossing another obscure proper name--ouch!

i feel as if i'm being punished for getting cocky after a couple of weeks in a row of relative success. i certainly did not think i was going to get my ass handed to me on a tuesday.

stuff i liked in spite of my failure:

1. the theme. very tight, very well done.
3. [16 or Seventeen]. very nice. and rhyming, too.

jae 12:40 PM  

I also liked this one alot but found it a bit tougher than Rex. I guessed right at the OVITZ/ZAMBEZI crossing but only because OVITZ seemed vaguely familiar. I had RAGE for RANT in SE and initially tried HART for KERN which cost me a number of seconds. Plus, I had to go back and change the S to X in EXE and the B to A in AMOK so my AcrossLite time was not among my best. Again, a very clever and enjoyable Tuesday!

@ulrich -- thanks for the monkey story, it gave me a chuckle.

ds 1:06 PM  

Rex et al,
as has been pointed out by Annonymous at 11:34, all the theme answers (except the clue!) had double M words. Fortunately, they were all easily solved (I got the first one, 17A, without about any crosses at all). This led me to struggle with the clue itself (40A) which was my last word to fall because of the SKIGEAR/AGAPE problem. I kept thinking, what exam has two Ms and is given in the afternoon (since I had 17A ending in PM)?!

imsdave1 1:06 PM  

Very, very nice puzzle! I had 2 wrong themes in mind, before I got to midterm: MAG - I figured the theme key would have something to do with wheels, after the magoo/magazine cross. Then: M&M's from mr. magoo and mastermind (that one actually works too). Loved it when I found I'd been led down the wrong path twice. Average Tuesday difficulty-wise, but very clever.

andrea carla michaels 1:08 PM  

Wow to the double MMs AND having a MIDterm! I don't know which I'm more envious of, that lovely construction or Ulrich's mad monkey story!
Also felt iffy about ABAA but ZAMBEZI and double Disney Michaels more than made up for it!
How 'bout we dunk ASTA as a treat?

mac 1:12 PM  

Agree with most of you about the quality of this puzzle - very enjoyable Tuesday. I had to fix some first thoughts: cut / fee, skigear/-wear, rage/rant, ice/mop. The only letter I did not get was the e in aeon and exe, just didn't know either.
Re ole in soccer stadia, this would be in Spanish speaking countries only, although there is a lot of singing going on during the games in Holland. But wait, I recall one soccer song that starts with: "Ole, ole, ole, ole", then continues in Dutch.

Jane Doh 1:33 PM  

Lovely, supertight theme, which would have been nothing without MIDTERM, to give it a reason for being, and without M first words, since all of the second words had to start with M, and random-first-letter first words would have made the whole thing too obvious -- and ordinary.

Very nice fill, although -- pet peeve -- I hate OUTWAIT (and most other OUT + verb combos). I wonder if it could easily have been BUT WAIT!

Bill D 1:55 PM  

Yes, Mac, a lot of the OLEing in soccer stadiums is organized chanting rather than random shouting.

While the hint clue answer, MIDTERM, for the double-M'ed theme answers is not one, it does begin and end with Ms! I had ZAMESI too, which gave me OVITS - Drat! Really original fill and zippy cluing for some old (not so) favorites. Wide spectrum of pop culture from OLDIES to AEON Flux. A potential Double-E mini-theme appeared with FEE, NEE, I SEE and DEEP END. Excellent puzzle!

Noam D. Elkies 3:48 PM  

Yeah, a nice (and not all that easy) Tuesday puzzle. For 1A I actually thought "alive" (as also suggested by Rex's musings on "cold fish") after filling in 1D and 2D, but the next cross corrected that error.

@Jane Doh 1:33PM -- it's not that easy; the closest I can come is

. . . A
. . . I
. . . T

but I don't think DAIN could be clued at Tuesday level, especially crossing with 14A:LARUE (whoever that is/was).


billnutt 6:00 PM  

Joon, THANK YOU! I thought I was the only one who wasn't crazy about ABAA being a "simple rhyme pattern." (And, interestingly enough, I also thought of "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.") Anyone who can think of a poem with this scheme, please enlighten us.

The original movie GLORIA was made in 1980. Though the film itself got mixed reviews, Gena Rowlands was pretty much universally lauded for her performance in the title role. She received an Academy Award nomination, but lost to (I believe) Sissy Spacek in COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER. GLORIA was remade just a couple of years ago with Sharon Stone in the title role. Did NOT get the same notice.

Other than ABAA, I really enjoyed this puzzle. (Wasn't there a Silver Age DC villain named Matter Master? He could have fit the theme!)

Orange 6:39 PM  

Jim in Chicago, I'll bet you haven't been to a Chicago Fire soccer game. I went to one several years back, and the "Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole" chant emanated from one corner of organized fans in matching Fire scarves. It sounds like this (first 15 seconds or so), probably much the same worldwide.

Anonymous 7:09 PM  

Am I the only one who laughed when Rex wrote "ski mask", and "hands up" in the same sentence?
@phillysolver: did you DO the puzzle on your iphone?(if so, tell me how to load the applet).
@Jim in chicago: the "Ole song" is organized, and, at times blares from loudspeakers at soccer, hockey, baseball...

PhillySolver 7:35 PM  

I am sure there are many stories about the Ole chant. In England I went to a number of Premier League games and when a team began to pass the ball around the field with no real offensive purpose the crowd would start to chant "Ole Ole" as if they were at a Spanish Bullfight and watching the Matador play with the Bull. It wasn't a sign of fan respect, but rather a criticism of the pace of play. The English fans demanded a show of skill and all out effort. (I note that three of the final four positions in the UEFA cup challenge of Europe's best teams are English). I see lots of videos on YouTube where Orange sent us and clearly the chant has moved on. There is a tracking site for favorite football chants and this month 5 of the top ten are variations of Ole.

I had to leave before Rex posted so I did not get towrite a story involving Disney, but on the way home I heard a nice story about it on NPR. Ollie Johnston, one of the great animators in the prime of Disney's movie making died recently. (e.g. Snow White, Fantasia, Bambi and Pinocchio). He was the last of his generation and meant more to the Disney legacy than all of the former David CEOs. RIP

My iphone is great and allowed me to post a message here which my Treo would not. I did try to load the day's puzzle, but the OS would not allow me to install Across Lite. I will petition the NYT to see what they can do.

Kimbopolo 7:55 PM  

Milestone for me. This is the first puzzle where I got every single theme answer before any other fill. Not sure what the implications of this acheivement are, but ..... surely, there are some?

Cea 8:25 PM  

Nice puzzle, but definitely not easy. Too many Disney executives, U.S. colleges and old Western stars to be easy. I can't remember when I last googled on a Tuesday.

To answer Jim in Chicago, Ole would be the shout at a futbol stadium, not a soccer one. The British variant is much more likely to chant something like "You're going to get your xxxxxing heads kicked in."

Bill from NJ 8:41 PM  

Nice tight puzzle today. I fell into the same traps as everyone else - ABASE/SEOWME SKIGEAR/AGARE

Luckily, I knew both Michael Disneys and stayed upright on the East Coast.

It was an easy puzzle but I was dazzled by its symmetry with the theme answers positioned just so and MIDTERM right in the middle.

I don't remember RGT being abbreviated that way but I don't recall how it would be.

chefbea1 8:56 PM  

didn't do the puzzle today - worked all day and didn't have a chance to but heaven forbid I miss the blog. Saw the state of missouri and the saw the show me state - that's where I am from - St. louis - home of the best bbq ribs in the world

mac 9:12 PM  

@Orange, that's exactly it! That chant is heard during every soccer game. It's a lot more harmless than some of the homegrown lyrics.....

Michael 10:14 PM  

A nice puzzle that I found easy.

What do you all think of "dial" as the answer for "call up"? How many people "dial" phones anymore? Or has dial come to be the word for using a phone (perhaps analogous to "album") whether or not one literally dials?

Anonymous 11:11 PM  

Ah yes, to Orange, mac, et al re Ole Ole. Sit in Section 8 of a Chicago Fire game and Ole Ole is not the most memorable cheer you will hear. I couldn't believe people brought their children to sit in the section (well, not sit...no one sat for the entire game). Really really foul-mouthed cheers, led by volunteer cheerleaders from the Fire's primary fan base (folks from Mexico & Poland now living in Chicago).

Rikki 1:40 AM  

Loved this puzzle! Are Tuesdays getting better or is it my imagination? The last few have had some character and zip. This one was lovely in form and feature. Not only was the theme clever and fun, but I liked the placement of the theme answers in a sort of pinwheel around the midterm hint. Very nice, Mr. Bessette.

The Disney chiefs fell under the category of "how do I know this?" for me. They just popped out. And so many good words for a Tuesday. My favorites: deepends, gumdrop, sandman.

Loved Ulrich's monkey tale. Have ridden the tube in London after many a football game with drunken cheering fans. No oles and God forbid there were opposing fans on the same train. Rumble city. But the same fighting fans will all wear England's colors during the World Cup. The whole country wears England's colors during the World Cup. The decorate their houses with flags and wear their shirts to school, work, and to the pub to watch the games for the entire time (until England gets knocked out, then it's mourning all day and evening). And people think Bostonians are raucous fans!

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