SUNDAY, Sep. 7, 2008 - Randolph Ross (Miler turned congressman / NPR newswoman Stamberg / Whence Zeno / Commentator Myers)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Pun-ditry" - puns on the names of shows that feature pundits ...

This was a slog, but not particularly difficult. As for the theme, well, first, puns - ugh. Second, since when is "The Today Show" a show that features "pundits"? That is one long and nearly impossible-to-watch saccharine piece of @#$! show, and I guess political types have been on there, but ... I think they're better known for showing you the newest in whole grain cereals and hybrid vehicles, or how to get wine stains out of your carpet or whatever. I've barely heard of "Washington Week" and I have no idea what "Reliable Sources" is. Some of the puns here involve pronunciation changes, and some don't (e.g. "KNIGHTLINE"). Overall, the theme is cute, but a bit grating and not nearly as tight as it could be.

Theme answers:

  • 24A: Program on which pundits talk about marinara and such? ("Reliable Sauces")
  • 32A: Program on which pundits say dumbfounding things? ("Faze the Nation")
  • 51A: Program on which pundits talk about hangings? ("The Noose Hour")
  • 66A: Program on which pundits express indignant surprise? ("The Oh, Really Factor") - best pun, by a mile, because it's so bad (and imaginative)
  • 84A: Program on which pundits slug it out with reporters? ("Beat the Press")
  • 99A: Program on which pundits kvetch? ("Sunday Moaning") - also not much of a pundity show
  • 113A: Program on which pundits deride the power of the federal government? ("Washington Weak") - appropriately, the weakest pun
  • 19D: Program on which pundits talk about Camelot? ("Knightline")
  • 69D: Program on which pundits talk for 48 straight hours? ("Two-Day Show") - this isn't "THE Today Show?" Yes, it's either simply "Today," or "The Today Show." Just sayin'.
This puzzle has a newswoman (SUSAN - 17D: NPR newswoman Stamberg), a commentator (DEE DEE - 122A: Commentator Myers), and a pollster (ELMO - 96A: Pollster Roper), which is a nice touch, given the theme. This puzzle also has Zeno (92A: Whence Zeno - ELEA). I have no idea what he's doing here. In fact, there were lots and lots of people in this puzzle. Or ... maybe no more than usual, but for some reason they're standing out to me today. All of the above folks, plus George TAKEI (56A: Sulu player on "Star Trek"), who recently got married, I hear - nice tie-in to DESILU over at 22A: Studio behind the original "Star Trek." Never heard of "The Wild Duck," but I've sure heard of IBSEN (57A: "The Wild Duck" dramatist) - he's NORSK! Then there's 44A: Possessor of many rings (Frodo ... oh no, that's TREE). What about this IRMA Thomas person (2D: _____ Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans). Ne-ever heard of her. There's one Queen of Soul, and I think you know who that is ... Debby Boone!

Now... you wanna see/hear something really haunting? ...

Now, as for this IRMA Thomas person, let's see if we can't track her down. OK, here we go. The fact that I haven't heard of her doesn't make her any less awesome. You can find home video clips of her on-stage patter @ youtube. She's sassy. But here's a more straightforward performance:

Where was I? People. People. I learned the oddly-spelled RYUN from crosswords (63D: Miler turned congressman). I did not know who Jason ISAACS was (47D: Actor Jason of the Harry Potter films), though his face is somewhat familiar - he plays Lucius Malfoy, which is a full name that is dying to be in crosswords. Mel OTT was indeed a 78D: Giant star of the 1930s and '40s. Alright, Enough with People (the little-known successor to "Up with People"?). I'll give you LEAH (50D: Matriarch of six of the 12 Tribes of Israel), MONGOLS (5A: Kublai-Khan and others), and Michael O'KEEFE (6D: Michael of "Caddyshack"), and then we're moving on (side note: Michael and Georgia do NOT spell their names the same way; she has an insane double-F in her name)

Wrap it up:
  • 12A: Barkeep's supply (olives) - mmm, olives soaked in gin.
  • 26A: Easily makes the hole with, in golf (taps in) - [Makes a short birdie putt, say] might have been a tad more elegant.
  • 27A: Trapper's ware (pelt) - Read this as "wear," which also makes sense in the clue.
  • 87A: Passed out in a bad way (misdealt) - took me a while, as "barkeep" in 12A had me thinking of a very different kind of "passed out."
  • 90A: Start of a Vol. 1 heading (A to) - so bad it's good. Sometimes you need a certain letter pattern and you just have to be creative.
  • 40D: Not quite good enough for the majors (semi-pro) - frankly, though I have heard of this term, I have no idea what it actually means. I know about the MINORS, but SEMI-PRO? You're either getting paid or you're not, right? SEMI-PRO seems like SEMI-PREGNANT, i.e. impossible.
  • 46D: Nonkosher food (shellfish) - well that's for sure. "But they're so sweet and tasty!" I am reading "Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking" and it's set in Maine so there's much shellfish eating. Also, the author needs to become very famous so that we can put her name in the puzzle: AOIBHEANN Sweeney.
  • 68D: Loamy soil (loess) - if you stare at that word long enough, the absurdity of the world will come crashing down upon you and life will slowly begin to lose all meaning. Or so I believe.
  • 16D: Control surface on a plane's wing (elevon) - never heard of it. Not the most imaginative name. Really really looks like a typo of "eleven" (as in "These go to ELEVEN")
  • 85D: Sport with a 4 1/2-ounce ball (polo) - One of my joys of the summer was watching Kathy Griffin's "My Life on the D-List," and on one episode I got to see Steve Wozniak and a bunch of other super-nerds play Segway Polo. In earnest.

  • 96D: Time online, for example (E-mag) - I'm wondering if anyone was actually fooled by this clue, reading "Time" as a regular as opposed to proper noun...
  • 103D: Beatrice, to Leonato, in "Much Ado About Nothing" (niece) - couldn't remember these characters to save my life. I better start boning up ... I begin teaching Shakespeare, in prison, in less than a month. Luckily for me (and my students, I guess), "Much Ado" isn't on the syllabus.
  • 105D: Subject of the book "Disaster in Dearborn" (Edsel) - ah, alliteration. The copywriter's best friend. Look how it turns the story of a marketing failure into a post-apocalyptic tale of nuclear disaster. Magic!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


ArtLvr 9:02 AM  

Rex, great write-up -- especially as we know you abhor puns! Washinton Week is on PBS, calm and worthy commentary! I don't know about the rest of the programs in the theme answers...

Misreading the 73A clue as Erring for a moment, getting POOP, I got it corrected to HOOP. Then I looked up "Palindrome" for linguistic roots and found out that the "drome" part means "driving" -- but hah, wow, the "Palin" part means "backward"! Aren't words fun?


Ulrich 9:10 AM  

I also did not warm to the theme, promising idea--leaves something to be desired in the execution.

Loess is straight German--Löss--which looks strange indeed when the umlaut is changes into "oe", less strange when you remember that "loose" is at its root.

Also, Much Ado... is worth looking into. Benedict and Beatrice are fighting all the time, but always show the best judgment, when it counts, in the affairs of other people. They remind so much of a couple I'm very familiar with.

chefbea1 9:15 AM  

another fairly easy sunday puzzle. I too thought 96D was the amount of time I spend on line.

Who uses the word skillet any more? Its a frying pan.

I wanted rump roast instead of steak.

Nilla wafers make great pie crusts!!!

Going to have some non kosher food today. Lobster yummmm

Karen 9:22 AM  

I'll admit to being confused for a bit on the Time clue.

I also put ELEA in where ALMA is supposed to be, without even seeing it in the other spot in the grid. And I tried to make ROPER a caucuser, until I saw him elsewhere in the grid.

That IRMA Thompson clip is good, thanks Rex.

sillygoose 9:59 AM  

Got reliable sauces first, which didn't help me at all, but thankfully I have heard of all the other shows, even tho I haven't watched a single one. How is that possible?

Had a small hiccup with (67D Improve) I had "do up", just wasn't thinking hone at all. Once I finally figured out what was going on, I think with the noose hour, it all came together. Somehow getting pun answers doesn't deliver the zing of getting other kinds of themes IMOO.

Anonymous 10:06 AM  


Try thinking of *Semi-Pro* as getting paid for playing, but not enough to give up your day job --- kinda like some blog authors.


poc 10:17 AM  

Though a bun is the lowest form of wheat, is BEAT THE PRESS a true pun? MEAT THE PRESS would be.

Rex Parker 10:34 AM  

MEAT as a verb!? Yes. Yes, I like that. I imagine Brian Williams having cold cuts hurled at him as he tries to deliver the news.


treedweller 10:39 AM  

Maybe I just wasn't 'on' today, but I could not get going until I started googling. Many things were not good for me. TAPSIN took awhile because of the (seems to me) extraneous "(with)" in the clue. NOTNEED is awkward and unlikely to come up in the real world. LATENED, SKED, ENISLE grated like nails on a chalkboard. And, as Rex pointed out, the "puns" sometimes require a pronunciation change. Seems to me this puzzle was about 80 percent done and could have been great if it were finished (I happen to like puns, when they are actual puns).

@chefbea: I say SKILLET sometimes. Reminds me of a story an Aussie told. When she came to the US, she was pronouncing "fillet" as "fill it", as many non-americans do, and her new friends here corrected her. They went on to convince her she should pronounce SKILLET as "skill-A".

@poc--that's what I was thinking. BEATTHEPRESS just flat doesn't fit the theme. How did that get past editing?

dk 10:48 AM  

Not having a TV can be a real handicap... hmm maybe I can get a sticker for my bike and park real close.

Rex's dis of the Today Show reminded me of Dave Garroway, Muggs the Chimp and the Giant Univac in which you could place your name and it would find a job for you. I wonder what job Dick Cheney may be qualified for and was THEEVILONE in yesterdays puzzle(oops sorry snarky pol comment). Hey maybe he could replace John ISAACS (note lame attempt to cover up said snarky comment with puzzle stuff) in Harry Potter and the Lame (err WILD) Duck (better stop before jokes and food creep in).

The puzzle was a fun Sunday with Coffee for me. I have a message for MR. Ross (line from Bullitt): Thank you.

Two provisos:

LOESS is dumbass and is NOSALE our new best friend.

Twangster 10:50 AM  

Thanks for taking the time to check out Irma Thomas. Here in New Orleans she is huge, and she has a new album that's getting lots of national press (and her last one won a Grammy). Also, she had a hit with Time Is On My Side before the Stones. I saw her do a gospel set at Jazzfest last spring and it was amazing -- what a voice.

Badir 11:25 AM  

I also didn't like "BEAT THE PRESS". And I thought it was a bit odd to have 14D ISU (standing for Iowa State U.) and then have IOWANS for 102D. Also, 42A OMN is the root of 80A OMNIS. Aren't those sorts of semiduplications frowned on? With that and the different rules for different puns, the puzzle seemed a bit sloppy.

Blue Stater 11:29 AM  

I see others have beaten me to the punch on many of the shortcomings of today's puzzle. To them I would add:

1. 42A, "All: Prefix," OMN. Surely the correct answer is OMNI. I have never seen OMN as a prefix. To be sure, my MWNID-3 lists OMN as an alternative, but as far as I can make out it cites only one word, "omneity," which is a product of vowel syncope.

2. 123A, "Have," NOTNEED. Oh c'mon.

3. 37A, "You may not be able to stand this," PAT. This seems to twist the idiom beyond recognition.

Sigh. When I wrote a couple of days ago that the puzzles -- and at the time I meant to add especially the Sundays -- were getting relentlessly harder and gnarlier over time, it was puzzles like this that I had in mind. I don't mind the harder part; it's the gnarlier part that I find hard to take.

jae 11:31 AM  

Best part of this was THEOHREALLYFACTOR. It felt sloggy to me also. Didn't know ELEA, RYUN, ALMA, IRMA, ELMO, and ELEVON (tried ALERON) but all were gettable/inferable from the crosses. And yes, there are no pundits on THE TODAY SHOW.

bill from fl 12:03 PM  

The theme reminded of a MAD magazine parody shortly after the police riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention. In one of the strips Mayor Richard Daley was invited to appear on BEAT THE PRESS and MACE THE NATION. It was funnier back then.

Bill from NJ 12:04 PM  

The only way to describe this puzzle is straightforward. No real problems aside from a minor hiccup in the NE with all the initials and partials {made a guess at the ELVERO*/OM* cross that turned out to be right).

No need to go theme-hunting as the theme was . . . straightforward.

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

I thought the Oh Really Factor was an excellent and funny pun. I also felt the Noose Hour where pundits talk about hangings was not funny. Since when are hangings funny?

Norm 12:24 PM  

SEMIPRO means you're not only not good enough for the majors; you're not even good enough for the minors. Had the same reaction to OMN as blue stater.

archaeoprof 12:51 PM  

I too felt as if this puzzle was a plodder. But Rex, you lit up my Sunday with the Debby Boone video.

Tom from IA 12:56 PM  

Nothing wrong with having multiple Iowa references. Except seeing as the Iowa/Iowa State game is coming up next week, it seems a little lopsided on the side of the 'clones'.

tom in Iowa 1:04 PM  

Also overlooked LOESS. Another great Iowa reference. This material makes up the hills along the Missouri River on the west coast of Iowa. I understand it is at least partly derived from the windblown ejecta from the last time Yellowstone blew up (700 kyr ago). When you plow it, it erodes like crazy. I would be better kept in parkland.

becky from hatch 1:06 PM  

I had none of my usual crossword mojo today and didn't even finish due to the SW corner - pitiful! Blue stater, I'm with you on the gnarliness of his puzzle. It was yucky and inconsistent.

I have only heard SEMIPRO as a Will Ferrell movie title. I'm definitely with Rex on his assessment of "The Today Show". It's unbearable, but the Willard clips on "The Soup" make me glad it's on the air.

I know I read "The Wild Duck" in my Ibsen class in college but I don't remember it at all. In fact the only one I remember was about syphilis or something - "The Ghosts"?

I have a polo ball a player chucked at me once and it seems like it weighs a lot more than four ounces.

I think it's SEGWAY, at least that is the name of the goofy transporter. Or maybe they just call the "sport" SEGUE POLO. Best line of that episode:"Woz hasn't 'clicked my mouse' yet."

I saw Kathy Griffin at the fabulous Fox Theater two nights ago. She was amazing, as usual; she talked about the conventions (mostly making fun of Sarah Palin's family and their names) for a good half hour before she got on to topics like Whitney Houston's "sweaty, cracky finger" in her face. The crowd had a ton more straight men in it than it did a year ago; I think it's probably because of the Bravo show.

Anonymous 1:42 PM  

What is Yente? 122 across.

cgbridges 1:48 PM  

Semi-pro teams generally make money from things like playing in a tournament or making an appearance, but the players are not paid.

Joon 1:56 PM  

the wild duck is my favorite ibsen play. it's about a guy who tries to tries to get everybody around him to give up their pathetic illusions in life. the only effect is that he makes everybody miserable. along similar lines: the iceman cometh by o'neill and the lower depths by gorky. i highly recommend all three.

i got TAPSIN very quickly, but re-reading the clue, i don't understand it at all. what is that "with" doing there? i'm glad i didn't read it that carefully on the first pass.

none of the puns made me smile. but i'm generally anti-pun.

clues i liked: HOUSE, MISDEALT, HEN.

clue i did not like: RAMA. why clue it as a lame suffix (what else, other than maybe "banana," would take that suffix?) when it's a perfectly good proper name? nine kings of thailand, the famous avatar of vishnu, arthur c. clarke's "rendezvous with ___"... so many fine choices. not this.

Anonymous 1:59 PM  

@anonymous 1:42

Yente, means gossip. It is als a Yiddish girl's name and the name of the match-maker in "Fiddler On The Roof."


Anonymous 2:00 PM  

Yente = Gossip, that is the person doing the gossiping.

jeff in chicago 2:26 PM  

"Slog" is the right word for this puzzle. Lots of jumping around, pondering, groaning. Got through it, but just an average payoff.

"Reliable Sources" is one of my favorite news shows (CNN). Howard Kurtz takes the media to task for their reporting, or the lack thereof. His column in the Washington Post ("Media Notes") is also a favorite.

Didn't like some of the fill-in-the-blank fill/clues today: TOTHE max, ONOR before, LEADA double life, Why would ILIE.

Liked THEOHREALLYFACTOR, especially because both red and blue folk can make that pun work in their favor.

Thanks, Rex, for (almost) always following up the nausea-inducing clips (Ratt, Debby Boone) with palate-cleansing ones (Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin).

Wade 2:29 PM  

What am I thinking right now? You, Rex Parker! Wrong! The McLaughlin Retort!

Nobody writes plays about people making people give up their pathetic illusions in life anymore. That's The Theatre's loss. On the other hand, we get to hold onto our pathetic illusions. That's good.

Chefbea1, I call it a skillet.

Irma Thomas is indeed awesome. I've always known her by her other name: James Brown. Hyeh!

Anonymous 2:58 PM  

My brother, also a miler, used to compete with Jim Ryun in college. Also, knew Irma Thomas from the Jimmy Buffet song "If I Had A Saxaphone." Funny when those odd bits of knowledge will come in handy.

joho 3:00 PM  

@chefbea1: I call it an omelette pan.

This was just one of those Sunday puzzles you do and are glad you did but don't really care in the end.

Alan 3:07 PM  

Your choice of music opens up a whole new dimension in crossword puzzle blogs. It makes me feel that I would easily pay a monthly fee to subscribe to it.

Thad Beier 3:19 PM  

Well, ELEVON is a control surface only on delta wing and flying wing aircraft -- but I am sure that it looked nice when Mr Ross was looking for crosses. I failed with LATENED, UEY, and RDS...

mac 3:20 PM  

I found this puzzle in places very easy, but overall a clear Medium for me. The theme helped a lot because it was so literal, and some of the puns (Faze the Nation, Knightline) were pretty good.

@Rex: great clip of Irma, what a voice! I also like "Meat the Press", but you are too kind with the coldcuts. I'm visualizing red, bloody meat aimed at poor Brian.

I like words like latened, aglare and enisle but others were too forced, like not need and small arm. Really good clueing for immune, swells, hen, house and Time only. I started out with spare ribs instead of the shellfish, and though you could "net" a volleyball.

One, probably stupid, question: what does MSRP stand for? I'm always AT SEA with acronyms and Simpson related clues.

P.S. Never heard of monsoon winds, just rains, and rumpsteak probably should be -roast, I don't think rump is tender enough to treat like a steak.

Rex Parker 3:22 PM  


Thank you - and you are more than welcome to send me small monthly sums. Or giant ones.


jeff in chicago 3:27 PM  

MSRP = Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price

PuzzleGirl 3:33 PM  

THE OH REALLY FACTOR made me laugh. Unfortunately, that's all I have to say about this puzzle.

fikink 3:58 PM  

You knew I would inject my loopers:
and yes, Tom, LOESS! Thanks for the dissemination. (Hawks will moitilize the Clones.)
Thank you, treedweller. What is wordplay if not including puns?
@bill from fl: MACETHENATION is much funnier!
@bluestater and norm: Ditto. Since when does lopping off part of a word rise to a prefix or suffix?
@artlvr, I will use the backward ~"palin" part of palindrome. Thanks!
@joon, agree with you on the "with"
@jeff (chi) you are right about Howard Kurtz, he rocks. Quick somebody let him know his column is not SO obscure.
@wade: hahahahahahaha! Excellent!
and mac, right on about "rumpsteak"...NOT!
MSRP=manufacturer's suggested retail price

Anonymous 4:19 PM  

Kvetch, kvetch -- Rex Parker's Sunday Moaning ...

Anonymous 4:48 PM  

I am ashamed to admit that I was fooled by Time On-Line. I wrote the ridiculous EMIN as in a e-minute or a unit of time on the internet. How bad did I feel when I finally got it - pretty bad!

Oh Really! (how much love can one man have for himself?)is usually my response whenver I happen to see the O'Reilly Factor - so I agree it was the best theme answer.

norm 5:17 PM  

Yente, yenta, yentl -- one of those crossword words that drives you crazy and is prone to Natick-ism.

Crosscan 6:14 PM  

Time On-Line is the name of the clunky payroll program all staff have to use on a biweekly basis where I work. It is great for employee unity as it is hated by everybody, from highest management to lowest peon.

There are many four letter words that are heard every other Friday when we try to access it. EMAG was not one of them.

Michael 7:16 PM  

I teach at the University of Iowa. When I meet people from other places and mention this, they sometimes give me a knowing look and say "Ames, right?" Well, no, the university is in Iowa City and anyone from here knows that the two universities and towns are really different. But why do people constantly make this mistake? Do crossword puzzles have anything to do with it? (Ames shows up a lot in puzzles.) Not likely, but...

I had to google to learn what MSRP was. And I had to come here to figure out ato ( A to ...)... Duh!

Michael 7:18 PM  

just in case the last comment is unclear:

The University of Iowa (once known as the State University of Iowa) is in Iowa City.

Iowa State University (probably once known as something else) is in Ames,

qv 7:50 PM  

Just one thing: there's no such word as latened. Maybe in crosswords, maybe, but not in any real life book I ever read. And to prove my point the Blogspot spellchecker just underlined it!

wendy 9:06 PM  

It's late, but the backstory on IRMA Thomas and the great Time is On My Side is here
at my blog, if anyone wants to really dig deeper. She is da bomb!

Doug 11:12 PM  

I can't believe I didn't know Danny Noonan's character was played by Michael O'Keefe. I grew up on that movie, but I guess I never watched the credits. He was married to Bonnie Raitt from 91-99, how about that.

Was shut out for the first time in a long time. Trying to do it at a friend's house in Puyallup, WA, with 7 kids running around maybe had something to do with it???

Anonymous 2:34 AM  

What the hell is "AMB" (71D, "State dept. figure")?

ArtLvr 2:59 AM  

re AMB -- short for Ambassador

acme 3:02 AM  


mac 10:49 AM  

@acme: Andrea, are you ok? One word only? Hope you have a lot more to say tomorrow!

Anonymous 3:56 PM  

I know many of you do this puzzle online, but I do it in the paper. Which means I also got the spiral puzzle. And I did it! Yea! Woo-Hoo! I very rarely can do the second puzzle - diagramless - forget it. I look forward to more spiral puzzles.

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

asking for my dad: He didn't get the "Like a line, briefly" = ONED. I was at a loss to explain it too. Can someone please help? Thanks in advance.

Crosscan 5:07 PM  

A line is ONE-Dimensional, or ONE-D.

Anonymous 9:48 PM  

92A: If Zeno had been from Citium instead of Elea, as a cynic, he would have been quite at home with the pundits.

Anonymous 4:43 PM  

What is Odson?

Crosscan 5:10 PM  

ODSON = O[ver]D[ose]S ON

Anonymous 5:14 PM  


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