WEDNESDAY, Nov. 26, 2008 - Harvey Estes (Gershwin heroine / Beatnik's "Understood" / Meaning of "one on the city" diner lingo / Prophetess of legend)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008



Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "THE LAST HURRAH" (49A: 1958 Spencer Tracy film ... and a hint to 20-, 30- and 39-Across) - all the theme answers end in the letter string "OLE," which can also be found at 57D: 49-Across, in this puzzle

Technically, for this theme to work well, "THE LAST HURRAH" should be a bull-fighting picture. Let's see ... nope, it's about a corrupt, outmoded, yet semi-beloved politician who loses an election then has a heart attack and dies. Maybe he shouts "OLE!" just before he dies, imagining he's reliving his glory days as a bullfighter in pre-civil war Spain. This theme barely coheres (three answers that have nothing in common but their last three letters); "THE LAST HURRAH" should bring it together, but the unifying effect of the title is offset, if not nullified, by the fact that the movie has nothing to do with the particular HURRAH in question. Also, OLE gets a really awkward clue. And yet, HOLY GUACAMOLE, the puzzle was still reasonably enjoyable. Lots of good mid-range (5 to 7-letter) fill. If Sarah Palin can pardon a turkey, then I can pardon this puzzle's mild incoherence. Such is the privilege I claim on this day, my 39th birthday (actual 39, not the "39" you might call yourself when you are 40, 41, 42, 55, etc.)

Theme answers:

20A: "Zounds!" ("Holy Guacamole!") - 'Zounds = contraction of "By God's wounds," a mild oath. HOLY GUACAMOLE is even milder.
30A: Eight-time Best Actor nominee (Peter O'Toole) - we have his latest movie from Netflix just sitting near our DVD player ... just sitting ... honey, are we ever going to watch that? It's from your queue.
39A: Boneless entree (filet of sole)

The best part of the puzzle, from where I sit, is the BLOOD RED (4D: Vivid valentine color) MASH NOTE (3D: Billet-doux) in the NW corner. Prior uses of "billet-doux" in clues have driven Googlers to my site in droves - apparently this word, meaning "love letter," is not in everyone's vocabulary. With good reason. It's really to be read, not said. Unless you're being ironic. A BLOOD RED MASH NOTE sounds so awesomely gothic, like the premise for a horror/romance novel I might actually want to read. The combination of the two answers, of romance and bloodiness, makes me think of one of the greatest "Simpsons" episodes of all time, "I Love Lisa," a Valentine's Day episode in which Ralph Wiggum interprets a simple valentine from Lisa as a MASH NOTE, and pursues her (like some kind of child Quixote) through the rest of the episode. Oh, and that episode begins and ends with Bill and Marty (radio personalities) trying to play "Valentine's Day"-themed music, and in both cases, mistakenly playing ... "The Monster MASH." Specific "Simpsons" video is Very hard to come by, so you get this:



Wrap it up:

  • 23A: "Long Walk to Freedom" writer (Mandela) - just read a semi-scathing piece about him (addressed to him, actually) in Harper's. Worth reading if you can handle hearing about atrocity after atrocity after atrocity.
  • 5A: Under, in Umbria (sotto) - news to me. We just had this answer, in a musical context.
  • 10A: Gershwin heroine (Bess) - as in "Porgy &"
  • 15A: Beatnik's "Understood" ("I'm hip") - wanted only "I DIG," which would not fit no matter how hard I tried.
  • 18A: City on the Aar (Berne) - feel as if I haven't seen this city's name since 8th grade geography. Took a few crosses to get it.
  • 41A: Meaning of "one on the city," in diner lingo (tap water) - yay, old-timey diner lingo. This one was at least inferrable. Some of the terms get a little loopy.
  • 54A: Jetliner name until 1997 (US Air) - someday I'll learn the difference between USAIR and US Airways (which still exists), but the prospect of looking that !@#$ up sounds so dreadfully boring that I can't be bothered at the moment (not how I want to be spending even one second of my birthday)

  • 61A: Bristlelike part (seta) - so much better as a plant part than a partial, like [_____ good example].
  • 62A: Image crafters (PR men) - love the consonant pile-up answers like this (initials + full word combos) provide
  • 5D: Prophetess of legend (Sibyl) - she has a big part in Book VI of the Aeneid.
  • 6D: Alphabet ender (omega) - thought this was VWXYZ, and was prepared to be both horrified and exceedingly impressed
  • 8D: Funny Fey (Tina) - just read a funny interview with the actor who plays Kenneth on "30 Rock" (the great, Emmy-winning, but pitifully underwatched NBC sitcom). Worth reading if you like the show. Lots of stuff in there about T.F.
  • 10D: Mob's money collector (bag man) - great phrase. I imagine a BAG MAN waiting patiently at a diner, too nervous to eat or drink anything but TAP WATER ("One on the city!"), when the attractive woman next to him passes him what he thinks might be a MASH NOTE, but it's blank. Confused, the man looks down and notices his bag is NOT THERE (36D: Missing). He turns to the woman who smiles just before she shoots him three times in the gut, turning his white shirt BLOOD RED. The man's OBIT (31D: Passing notice) mentions none of this.
  • 37D: Swiss abstractionist (Klee) - one of the many artists referenced in the fabulous Charles Willeford 1950s noir classic "Pick-Up"
  • 44D: Non-head of state who addressed a 1989 joint session of Congress (Walesa) - did not know this, but got it with something like one or two crosses. WALESA went on the following year to become ... a head of state; specifically, head of Poland.
Signed, Rex Parker, about to descend the staircase and see what kind of crazy birthday surprise daughter has planned ...

[me, age 1 - thanks for digging this up, honey]

54 comments:

imsdave1 8:52 AM  

Nothing to add about the puzzle, but Happy Birthday Rex. Off to Portland Maine for the holiday and hope you all have a great Thanksgiving.

PhillySolver 8:55 AM  

Happy Birthday...much to be thankful for as well.
What is MARDI doing in a Wednesday puzzle? "The Last HUrrah" by O'Connor is a very good novel based on the life of James M. Curley. Curley was twice convicted of fraud but was pardoned by outgoing president Truman. I see several Turkeys have been pardoned this year.

Orange 9:00 AM  

I liked the theme much more than you did. Each theme entry's "last hurrah" is the OLE at the end, but none of those OLEs are pronounced like OLÉ, the hurrah.

That Mandela article was good when I read it. But I read it in bed by teeny book light and that always makes me sleepy, so I can no longer remember the details of what I read. But y'all can read it here.

Greene 9:05 AM  

A very happy birthday to you Rex.

I thought this was a fine Wednesday level entry. No difficulties, but some fun fill. I don't really get the theme. Last Hurrah = ole? Am I missing something really obvious here? Still, any puzzle which contains PETER O'TOOLE can't be all bad. Can't read HOLY GUACAMOLE without thinking of the boy wonder. If he never said this, then he should've.

Not sure why one would use BLOOD RED in conjuction with "vivid Valentine color" unless conjuring up the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. I guess I just don't get the imagery in this puzzle

Orange 9:10 AM  

And speaking of Jack McBrayer, who plays Kenneth on 30 Rock—he and Paul Scheer do improv together. I saw them in Chicago last spring, and they were hilarious. (McBrayer does a good drunk bride-to-be.)

ArtLvr 9:17 AM  

Congrats, Rex, and many happy returns. You can even be 39 for a few additional years if you'd like, being King.

I enjoyed your comments, including the dodo filmed in front of the turkeys...

I guess Greene is not picturing the valentine's heart shape with the red blood connection? And the OLE answer is in fact the last Down in the puzzle!

∑;)

JannieB 9:34 AM  

Happy Birthday Rex - my favorite uncle celebrated his 39th birthday for 30 years - his "passing notice" described him as "eternally 39". May you be equally blessed.

Thought this puzzle was great fun - lots of lively fill and a lot of energy - which I need to get me into the kitchen to start working on tomorrow's dinner. Happy holidays all!

Norm 9:47 AM  

Have a great day, Rex. Hapopy birthday to you, and happy thanksgiving to all.

mexgirl 9:51 AM  

Happy birthday! Feliz cumpleaños! Joyeux anniversaire! I myself have been 39 for the last 2 years and have never felt younger!

It was a very interesting puzzle this one. I kept trying to figure out what the connection could possibly be between guacamole, fish and Peter O'toole... probably an inside joke.

Have a fabulous one!

Crosscan 9:56 AM  

Happy birthday Rex.You can never have too many 39th birthdays. I know I've had several although Mrs CrossCan has apparently had none, I am reminded.

mac 10:04 AM  

Happy birthday to Rex and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

I enjoyed this puzzle, but there were some head-scratching moments. What is "caper" for bank job? Of course I was looking for a food theme after the guacamole and the filet of sole, there should have been a dessert at 49A. Too bad there is only tapwater with this dinner.

All in all a sound Wednesday.

william e emba 10:25 AM  

SOTTO is inferrable from "sotto voce", Italian for "in a quiet voice".

Good news. According to the Holy Batman website, HOLY GUACAMOLE was indeed said, season 2, episode 26 (which was part 2 of Cliff Robertson as bad guy Shame). Personally, I preferred "Holy strawberries, Batman, we're in a jam" or "Holy Kleenex, Batman, it was right under our noses and we blew it".

edith b 10:30 AM  

I didn't much care for the novel when I read it forty or so years ago - it seemed a little dusty even then. I first saw the movie thirty years ago and found Spencer Tracy to be a little tired for my taste.

And now it is at the heart of a crossword puzzle and the theme seems just a little off to me. It doesn't hang together, IMOO, as the title bears little relation to the the nature of OLE, rhymed three different ways.

This whole mess is exemplified by IMHIP clued by way of Beatnik's "Understood", which is at least a generation off as Hippie's "Understood" is more to the point and BLOODRED, clued in reference to Valentines Day but the imagery of gore and love do not mesh.

In this case, the fill does not redeem the weakness of the theme, as far as I'm concerned.

Happy Birthday, Rex, and I hope your daughter's surprise for you is a good one.

Shamik 10:31 AM  

Happy birthday, Rex and please don't leave us in suspense awaiting what the birthday surprise your daughter planned!

@Mac: A caper is a term for a planned crime, like a a bank heist or a large scam. But it's kind of old fashioned and you don't hear it used much now.

Ok...so Ole Ole (where is Buster Poindexter when you need him) doesn't exactly mesh with the theme. But while filet of sole isn't all that fun...PETEROTOOLE and especially HOLYGUACAMOLE are fabulous. Btw, Peter O'Toole has a new movie?!?!?!?

Great to be back home in Arizona...where it's oddly...raining.

Got to call this puzzle a solid medium. Mis-starts:
ADMEN for PRMEN
BANKNOTE for MASHNOTE (it's the economy and the CAPER on the brain)

Happy Thanksgiving and hope the stuffing is as you like it: soft or crunchy with special ingredients or not.

dk 10:33 AM  

@imsdave, summered in Portland (Gray) Maine for about 40 years and lived there for 5 years. Have fun and go to Standard Bakery in Old Port for the scones and bread.

Rex, another day older and deeper in debt. Happy birthday!

Regarding the puzzle: I like the idea of singing I got Plenty of Nothin (Porky's song from Porgy and Bess) the the BAGMAN. Right now I am humming "Bess You is My Woman Now."

HOLYGUACAMOLE Batman, time to go to the airport.

IMHIP to THELASTHURRAH and down with OLE, the theme was like TAPWATER but ADORE the fill. Thank you Mr. Estes.

Something for Thanksgiving and your inner beatnik

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MM1TY718Rb4&NR=1

Rex Parker 10:37 AM  

Coffee and Pillsbury orange rolls were waiting downstairs. We ate the rolls off of little paper plates that daughter had decorated with a *uniform* design - she drew a seascape on one, and then used wax paper (!?) to trace the basic design and then transfer it to the other plates, which she then colored. Each plate had a family member's name on it.

It's OK to eat food off of crayon-covered plates, right?

chefbea 10:38 AM  

Happy birthdy Rex. Had I known I would have made a blood red orange cake for you. Made a clementine cake the other day and can easily substitute blood oranges for the clementines

An easy fun wednesday puzzle.

Happy thanksgiving to all.

william e emba 10:43 AM  

One of the many meanings of CAPER is as an understated euphemism for criminal activity, especially where no one gets hurt. In mystery fiction, CAPER is commonly used to refer to humorous crime stories. Perhaps the greatest CAPERs are those written by Donald Westlake and his Dortmunder series. They are almost always over the top funny, although for some reason, all the film adaptations fall rather flat. Perhaps the ultimate CAPER was Westlake's Bank Shot. When the bad guys robbed the bank, they took the entire bank with them. That was one heckuva bank job.

JoefromMtVernon 10:46 AM  

Let me add my birthday wishes to you, Rex!

Funny how I wanted 44D to be Mandella, and there he was at 23A.

Sotto was a gimme for me (sotto voce - low voice or whisper). So, I do italian words, and Rex does French words...

Mash note is the word(s) of the day; SW was the stumbling block (I had ice water and free, rather than tap and here).

Gotta run to class.

Joe

JC66 11:00 AM  

Happy Birthday, Rex!!!

joho 11:14 AM  

I, too, wish you a Happy Birthday, Rex. Love the creative gift from your daughter ...

57A, OLE, tied the theme together for me but for the longest time I was trying to see how the three theme answers had anything to do with each other.

My favorite word today is TAPWATER.

I hope everybody has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

jeff in chicago 11:25 AM  

Happy birthday.

IDIG may not fit, but DIGIT does, and even crosses with TINA. That goof cost me lots of time in the Michigan area.

Not only is it OK to eat off crayon-colored plates, you can probably eat the crayons themselves with little damage. Surely daughter has tasted a couple herself. (Didn't we all?)

phh 11:42 AM  

USAir renamed itself US Airways, so they are one and the same. So now you know.

miguel 12:07 PM  

After a number of accidents including sliding off of the end of the runway at LaGuardia, the popular name for USAir became US Scare. Marketing came up with an answer...change the name. The accidents abated, but a redux could lead to US Scareways.

HudsonHawk 12:16 PM  

HB, RP.

To add to phh's comment, USAIR wanted to polish up their image, since they were often referred to by unhappy passengers as UselessAir or USScare. So they spent tens of millions to rename themselves USAirways. Brilliant!

Even though he hasn't been mayor here for seven years, you will still hear TAP WATER referred to as Giuliani Water by waiters and patrons occasionally (and it's yummy! Seriously).

PhillySolver 12:38 PM  

Ordering water in Paris used to involve the choice between Badoit and Evian, but the improvements in the city water supply has created a third option. For years we ordered Chateau Chirac. Today, some order Chateau Sarko.

jae 12:57 PM  

Easy puzzle and fun/clever theme. It took me a few minutes after finishing this to make the HURRAH=OLE connection but I liked it when I figured it out. Only misstep was putting in FILETMIGNON before I looked at any of the crosses.

Oh, and happy birthday Rex, you're two years younger than my daughter which should probably make me feel old but somehow doesn't.

mac 1:10 PM  

Thank you Shamik and william e emba, for explaining the caper. I had so far thought of it as just a prank, nothing as serious as a heist.

I think I heard "Chateau Giuliani" once, but not for a long time, thank goodness. What are we calling it now, Mike's Finest? Bloomberg's Bubbly?

rafaelthatmf 1:36 PM  

I liked this puzzle while solving. Sensed a theme existed and yet that suspicion did not lead to pre-solve knowledge. Thought most if not all of the fill met or exceeded Wednesday standards and thought the trailing Ole’ added just the right amount of panache.
Then Rex, with his brisk insight, identifies an unnoticed nuance that would have raised this puzzle to a weekend level. Alas! I will however stay off the fence and give this puzzle an I likey rating.
@jeff in chicago – I was a paste man myself. Elmer’s with the applicator attached to the lid for ease of delivery. I kicked fairly early on. After seeing the upper classmen (first and second graders) move on to applying glue to fingers and eating the dried residue I went cold turkey. Tough times. Tough times. I can’t bear to remember the fourth graders who gatewayed to sniffing magic markers.
HBD Rex. Be Thankful all. Godspeed to those in service and away from family.

chefbea 1:48 PM  

what a cute 1 yr old
What kind of cake did your Mom and now your wife make? Do we get the recipe?

fikink 2:14 PM  

This fine Wednesday puzzle was "likable enough, (Hillary").
Wasn't it Jack Benny who was forever 39? Does anybody remember?
Happy Birthday, Rex.

andrea carla michaels 2:18 PM  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY REX!!!!!!!!!!!
And I hope you are continuing the celebration and not reading any of this!
Crayons are all edible, as is silly putty and elmers glue...just don't put them in a microwave!
How adorable to put that much time and love into plates! You are a lucky man.

As for 39, men tend to accept that more easily, save Jack Benny...
I know I missed my 39th altogether bec I spent THE ENTIRE YEAR when folks asked how old I was, I would say, "I'm going to be 40 in October!!!!!!???!!" and then we'd all laugh maniacally in disbelief!

THis year, rather than do that with the looming 50, I embraced it all and actually bought myself a San Francisco '49er tshirt (after first learning if they were the baseball team or the football one, so in sports denial I continue to be!

Oh yes, the puzzle!!!!!!!!!!

I think Orange explained it better to me in that OLE are the LAST letters, thus LAST and a HURRAH.

I didn't even SEE there was an OLE in Peter OtoOLE. I just thought it was that OLE was pronounced three different ways:
guacam-olee, sole, and OLE the Spanish cry. But to see a fourth with otooool, really is pretty amazing.

andrea carla michaels 2:31 PM  

Re: Klee

I have a close friend named Paul Clay and he divides the world into those who ask "Like the painter?!" and, um, those who don't!

@Rex
love the mini-noir story. Esp that none of it was mentioned in his OBIT!
Ha!

My biggest naming job to date was in renaming People's Express when it came out of bankruptcy years ago.
Since they were operating out of Kansas, one of my hundred suggestions was "MIDAIR"...which they responded to with "Oh, you mean like "midair collison"?"!!!

(the perils of working alone!)

(Semi-happy ending: It eventually became Vanguard, as in Avant Garde, the Vanguard... but it also crashed and burned, sotospeak after Valuejet literally did!)

Do you suppose baby cannibals get their start from eating the old crayolas they used to call "Flesh"?

Chip Hilton 3:04 PM  

Happy 39th, Rex. Or to put it another, crueler, way....you're now in your 40th year. Hey, I just crossed the 60 threshold and have learned to accept it as a winning alternative to the ...alternative.

I had an absurd brain cramp in the SW corner (must be that 60 deal) involving the late, great Haile Salassie for 44-down. So what if he died in 1975, and so what if his last name consists of 8 instead of 6 letters, he was my answer and I was sticking to it! Tied me up for far too many minutes.

Forever young, Rex, and thanks for this daily pleasure.

Sandy 3:28 PM  

Chefbea:
The cake we had today is a three layer chocolate cake made with sourcream and Baker's unsweetened chocolate squares, with a cooked fudgey sourcream frosting. I've seen similar recipes in various books. This one actually comes from Michael's grandma, an old-school cook who has only written her recipes down under pressure from her daughter.
Sandy

-Aaron- 3:38 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Margaret 4:01 PM  

Please add my best birthday wishes to the chorus!

Just watched Adam's Rib w/ Tracy and Hepburn last night so Spencer was on the brain. I tried to put him in for the Best Actor clue before I saw that he was a clue. Never saw the Last Hurrah. Never saw the theme, either, til I got here. But a lively puzzle. Zip-pity/Zip-itty/Zip-adee threw me off in the west. Zip-adee still looks wrong...

chefbea 4:29 PM  

@Sandy . Thanks Mrs. Rex. Sure sounds good and gooey. Just what you need before the big day of eating!!!

Rachel 5:47 PM  

All the classic musical terms for tempo and dynamics are Italian, so that clue was a gimme. Sotto voce = under the voice (very softly); sopra and sotto are terms for hand crossings in keyboard playing - one hand goes over or under the other one. Sometimes a musical education comes in handy! Never did really get the "theme" although I got all the answers. And Happy Birthday from Elizabeth City, NC. Anybody know where it is?

shaun 5:56 PM  

So little has changed: never get between you and your (or your friends') food.

Cubano 6:06 PM  

Happy Birthday, Rex!

edith b 6:34 PM  

I guess if you haven't aged gracefully you don't have any illusions to lose. So remaining 39 for a number of years has no meaning for you but I have seen pictures of you, Rex, so many happy 39ths, you looker, you!

steve l 7:21 PM  

@Rachel--Elizabeth City is on US 17, about an hour from the Outer Banks. I pass near there every time we go to the Banks, where we have a beach house.
@Andrea--the perils of naming things, and people. Where I work there's a kid named Minnie Grant. And I always thought that was free money given by an endowment--just not too much.
I am familiar with the artist Paul Klee, but not until today did I realize that it was pronounced Clay. So I would have been one of those...others.
A long time ago, my father, who was a chiropractor, had a patient named George Washington. What were Mr. and Mrs. Washington thinking?

Happy Birthday, Rex. I was 39 once. I just can't really remember it too well, since I had a 2-year-old at the time.

mexgirl 7:27 PM  

aawww.. that's gotta be the cutest pony-cake I've ever seen!

QBParis 7:29 PM  

Happy Birthday, Rex!

ArtLvr 7:34 PM  

p.s. Unhappy date, despite Rex's birthday: India's 9/11 today -- Coordinated terrorist attacks on seven targets in Mombai (formerly Bombay), w/ situation still not yet under control at 7 p.m., after about six hours. Estimates of hundreds injured, many dead, and possible hostages taken also. It's of personal concern since my son's girlfriend's parents just went over for an extended visit, though they are supposed to be well north of that area.

Michael 8:06 PM  

Holy Guacamole is not an expression I've ever hear anyone say. (For that matter, I've never heard anyone say Zounds.)

I can't vouch for what follows: At a meeting I was at last week (in San Francisco) someone had arrived via US Airways. This person said that the only water available on the flight was bottled and cost $2. Could this possibly be true? (To answer my own question -- yes.) Is it true?

ArtLvr 8:27 PM  

Above city is spelled Mumbai...

andrea carla michaels 8:40 PM  

@michael
more importantly, you were in SF and didn't call??!!

fergus 8:46 PM  

The longest pause I had today was figuring out the theme after finishing the puzzle. Huh? Lame Theme I scribbled at the top. Other than FILETED SOLE and stumbling over TAP WATER, this wasn't a very compelling Wednesday. Oh well, I liked having SIBYL and BESS as puzzle Muses.

Anthronut 11:16 PM  

The ANKH cross with KLEE sure fooled me. The rest was SOSO. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

ginger 12:34 PM  

This theme is annoyingly over my head... last hurrah. Ole? I don't think it really makes much sense, and if i have to think THAT hard to have it make sense, it's no fun. No one else seemed to think that. Weighing in weeks later...

Ken 12:47 PM  

Since when is a jetliner USAir? A jetliner is a Boeing or a Douglas!

Sharon 9:37 PM  

@ ginger
Seeing your final line makes me think you are a syndicated puzzler and might actually see this response.
"Ole" = "Hurrah" and o,l,e were the last three letters of the three theme answers. thus last "Hurrah/Ole" altho pronounced differently in each one.
I got it from crosses in deep SE when I did not have much filled in above, which helped me get the theme answers above which led to others from crosses. So I enjoyed it, altho I had to agree with Rex's comments.
Too late to say Happy Birthday or thnksgiving but hope both wre.

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