MONDAY, Mar. 23, 2009 - R Sowell (Longtime Comiskey Park team, informally / Astronaut Shepard or Bean / Psychologist/writer LeShan)

Sunday, March 22, 2009



Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Chuck it - all theme answers all have a [verb meaning 'throw'] + A + [noun] structure

Word of the Day: PICAYUNE (6D: Petty) - adj.

  1. of little value: PALTRY, MEASLY
  2. concerned with trifling matters; petty, narrow, or small-minded in point of view

As a noun, PICAYUNE refers to a Spanish half real piece formerly current in Louisiana and other southern states; also, something very small or of the least value (Webster's 3rd Intl)

A very easy puzzle with a forgettable theme but some great, great fill, especially for a Monday. LOOK MA (38A: Words cried before "No hands!"), it's PICAYUNE. PICAYUNE is dazzling stuff - why can't more early-week puzzles rock crazy-looking (and yet reasonably familiar) fill like that? I mean ... this puzzle is a @#$ing pangram! On a Monday? And it was still a Monday-level puzzle in terms of difficulty (I finished in a fast-for-me 3:06). The Scrabbly stuff didn't feel forced, it just felt entertaining. I'm really, really impressed. Wish the theme did more for me, but on a Monday, I guess I really don't care. I just want the grid to shine, and this one did.



Theme answers:

  • 20A: Fix part of dinner with lettuce, carrots, peppers, etc. (toss a salad) - the phrase "tossed salad" is forever ... tainted, for me, by a Chris Rock routine wherein he explains what it means to "toss someone's salad" in prison. Lettuce is not involved.
  • 10D: Participate on Election Day (cast a vote)
  • 36D: Show childish anger (throw a fit)
  • 58A: Prepare to camp (pitch a tent)
Back to the interesting fill: CHISOX is a great baseball word (48D: Longtime Comiskey Park team, informally). I like it much more than BOSOX, despite my great love for the Red Sox as a team. CHISOX is sassy and out-of-the-ordinary, grid-wise, without being made-up or overly old-timey. LOOFAH is another cool word, and one I knew instantly but had trouble spelling (38D: Sponge used in a 39-Across). LU, LOU, LOOFAS, no, it's not plural you idiot, etc. Strangely, my only detectable slow-downs occurred there and at 1A, where nothing but nothing would come to me for 1A: Point the finger at (blame) except ACCUSE. I didn't pick it up until the third cross fell into place. Ugh. Otherwise, this thing went down fast. Two things that helped speed me up considerably. First, somehow AZORES just came to me (43A: Islands west of Portugal). I know it's not exactly a hard clue, but usually with islands and rivers I haven't actually visited, I need at least a cross or two. AZORES I got off just the "S." Second, there was EDA (44D: Psychologist/writer LeShan), whom I, and many others, know only because of crosswords. Her name is custom-made for the grid. She is first tier, prime choice, grade A crosswordese.

Bullets:

  • 40A: Retail giant selling dog food, birdcages and such (Petco) - where we buy our pet stuff. I don't like their logo, which I have feelings about only because I found myself staring at it for a long time two days ago as the dogs and I waited in the car for my wife to get the dog food. It's mainly the dog's right ear that bothers me - half lame umbrella, half cat-brain probe. See for yourself:


  • 21A: Bacon units (strips) - This clue makes me laugh. I don't eat bacon anymore, but I think you all should replace "strips" with "units." Does bacon come in "slabs?" I considered "slabs." I feel like there's another "S" word for bacon units, but I can't think of it.
  • 56D: Astronaut Shepard or Bean (Alan) - Bean? I know Orson Bean and Mr. Bean, but not this astronaut. When did he do his astronauting? Hey, he walked on the moon the same month I was born. Cool.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

New blog dedicated to the LA Times puzzle starts today: "L.A. Crossword Confidential." Rotating authors (I'm one of them). Aimed particularly at novice and casual solvers. We'll see what comes of it.

53 comments:

chefwen 10:28 PM  

Thanks for staying up Rex, now I can be first, usually I'm posting very late in the party due to time differences. Printed out the puzzle at 4 PM and came here at 4:15. Fed the cat which interrupted me for a few minutes also.

My dad is a huge Mensa member, was even on the International Board for many years. A few years ago we were working on the same puzzle at the same time (I brought hotel supplied paper) and one of the clues was brainy bunch, of course I filled in MENSA (I am not a member) and he got all bogged down in that corner. I looked at his copy and for Mensa he had filled in elite. I very smugly said "boy, they are going to make you take that test again", we both got a good laugh out of that. Now when he does something a little less than stellar my mom has to repeat what I said about 8 years ago.

Rex, why do you make your wife get the dog food, that stuff is heavy?

foodie 10:57 PM  

Agree, Rex, this was a very good Monday puzzle even though the theme did not sparkle.

I like the word of the day and have a connection to it. My in-laws, from the New Orleans area, have a a pecan tree farm right outside of PICAYUNE, Miss. There is enough elevation that they are spared the flooding from hurricanes, although, sadly, many huge pecan trees have been uprooted by Katrina. There is also the New Orleans newspaper, THE TIMES- PICAYUNE, so called because its original price was a picayune-- an interesting paper that has endorsed both Barack Obama and Bobby Jindal!

I loved the international flavor of this puzzle, including places, people and things, with AZORES, LAOS, OLAF, RAVI, SUMO, LOOFAH and EVIAN. Yet none of it felt overly foreign and pretentious.

Oh, and it even provides some CHEFS to TOSS A SALAD. Great job!

mac 11:26 PM  

This is the first time I post the evening before. I'm going to be so busy tomorrow, I figured I wouldn't take the time for the puzzle. I enjoyed this one, but, boring of course, I would have had more fun doing it on paper.
I did not wait to figure the theme, just ran over to Rex's. I have to admit to the same concern Foodie expressed about poor Sandy lugging the dog food.

mac 11:28 PM  

Sorry, chefwen was also concerned about the dogfood......

hazel 11:35 PM  

mmmm bacon. Reminds me of one of last year's "internet phenomena" - the bacon explosion, consisting of a football-sized slab of pork - bacon strips “woven” around a pound of sausage and then topped with barbecue sauce and bacon bits. 5000 calories. 500 grams of fat. mmmm bacon. just kidding this sounds horrendous to me.

Except for cast, the 3 theme verbs were all basebally to me (Go Braves!). Also liked the self-referential bathing clues.

Bacon. Baseball. Warm bath. Great puzzle.

Go Louisville!

Yossarian 11:58 PM  

I love the word Picayune, if only because it reminds me of the world's greatest newspaper:

http://www.platypuscomix.net/history/picayune1.html

Crosscan 12:03 AM  

Fun, easy pangram Monday. What more can you ask?

Noam D. Elkies 12:28 AM  

Not bad for a Monday, but I'll give up the pangram if I can dump 48D:CHISOX -- or at least dump it on a later day in the week. That and 44D:EDA might as well be "Duffy's tavern" or "McNamara's band" [from the recent St.Pat's Day puzzle] as far as I'm concerned: they make sense given most or all of the crosses, but offer me zero resonance or pleasure. At least this puzzle has 19A:SUMO to balance out the b*seball...

The clue for 56D:ALAN also seems out of, um, left field this early in the week. 47A:SYNOD, too, is surprising on a Monday, but that's a pleasant surprise. 44D:EDA is just filler fill, on a par with ERI and EFT and EMU, but it would probably be too much work to redo that part of the grid just to get a better 3-letter word there. It's also one of the few names that can be transcribed entirely into musical notes; Harvard's music library is named after an Eda Kuhn Loeb, and the library's seal features a stylized musical staff with the notes E D A :-)

NDE

edith b 12:40 AM  

When I was a youngster, I used to listen to Southern comedy records- Brother Dave Gardner, Jerry Clower and Andy Griffith (yes that Andy Griffith). They used the word picayune all the time and it still makes me giggle.

I guess the word set the tone for me as I enjoyed this one from beginning to end, particulary LOOKMA and CHISOX. Now that I think of it, my Dad and I used to read the sports pages together when I was little and I remember the Chisox and Bosox and the Bronx Bombers and the Nats . . .

Takes me back.

N 2:40 AM  

Between PITCH A TENT and TOSS A SALAD I thought today's theme had a decidedly sexual overtone. Plus, it's hard to see the word LOOFAH without thinking of Bill O'Reilly... I'll stop.

I'm still a new solver, and I thought this Monday was a little harder than most. Don't forget, those of us doing the Monday haven't yet memorized all the recurring crap like the famous sitar players.

Greene 5:21 AM  

Fun, fun, fun! Welcome back New York Times...all is forgiven.

Like Rex, the way I hear the phrase TOSS A SALAD has been forever altered in meaning thanks to that Chris Rock routine in the "Bring the Pain" concert. Would you like jelly or syrup with that? I'd post a link, but that would probably get the blog tagged for inappropriate content. You can see the routine on Youtube. Funny, but not for the faint of heart.

ArtLvr 5:50 AM  

My favorite word was LOOFAH, mostly heard in the U.K. for a sea sponge used as a bath sponge, but looking it up I found there is also a loofah gourd! "Luffa cylindrica" is the loofah, dishcloth gourd, or vegetable sponge; when the edible fruit—called California okra in the S United States—is bleached dry, the inner fibrous network is used as a filter or a scrubbing sponge... Talk about getting plenty of fiber in your diet?

∑;)

JeanSp 7:39 AM  

Rex, the only other word I know for a piece of bacon (besides piece of course) is "rasher." That definitely has an s in it, but not at the beginning.

Jean

joho 7:43 AM  

@Rex ... rashers.

Hungry Mother 8:00 AM  

Nice relief from yesterday's travails.

nanpilla 8:48 AM  

Nice Monday puzzle!
Seemed to have a theatrical sub-theme:
ACT
ROLE
AGENT
CAMEO
TONY
even CAST (as a partial)

JannieB 8:49 AM  

What a great way to start the week. Nice fresh fill, a straightforward theme with solid, in-the-language phrases, and a pangram to boot. Very very nice. Let's hope the rest of the week is on this same, high level.

mac 8:58 AM  

When the bacon word came up, I couldn't get "streaky" out of my head. Is that term used in the U.S. for bacon, or is it Brittish?

Leila 8:59 AM  

I'm taking advantage of not being #99 commenter to say I love your posts!

I'm impressed that you are having fun doing crosswords at this point :)

Does the Liza routine seem a bit dark for Sesame Street? Odd. I'm picturing the effect of watching this on a four year old. I'll ask my now grown kids :)

Leila 9:05 AM  

Oh, right, it's the Muppet Show -- still.

Christine 9:06 AM  

Bacon "slice." And streaky bacon is what British and Irish people call what Americans call bacon. What Americans call Irish bacon, we call back rashers.

Mmmm bacon.

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

Thought Rex would say the theme was "Spring Fling."
--Trefoil

allan 9:41 AM  

Monday. Pangram. Sexual innuendos. Go figure. And there must be a rating for easier than easy.

Not to worry Rex. I figure Sandy likes to look for new dog toys while picking up the 40 lb. bags of food. One on each shoulder (Oh how I wish I had some artistic ability. The image just makes for a great cartoon in my head). Did we start enough trouble?

Good luck with the new blog.

Sandy 9:50 AM  

I'm quite strong, actually.

PlantieBea 10:25 AM  

What a fun Monday and a fresh start to the week. Great letters and words--especially PICAYUNE, AVAST, and SYNOD. I liked that the theme answers were not total gimmes. We toss a lot of green salads here, so I will NOT watch mentioned video.

archaeoprof 10:40 AM  

@Rex: delightful write-up today, especially on LOOKMA, PICAYUNE, CHISOX. "Bosox" never was any good, and now it sounds too much like Botox.

Two Ponies 10:40 AM  

I was going to fling in rashers and Picayune newspapers but I see it's all been covered. @ foodie, thanks for the reason behind the newspaper name. It never made any sense before. I see that there are also Picayunes in Texas and Mississippi.
Very nice Monday puzzle.

Anne 10:45 AM  

I am reading "The Dante Club" in which two poets are referred to as bookmen. Since we had that long discussion about that word a few weeks back, it jumped right off the page. I think it is the first time I ever saw it.

As for today, it was easy and I loved it. After yesterday's puzzle, I may never complain again about easy.

@N, Ravi Shankar's daughter is Norah Jones who I love and so always remember Ravi. Maybe that will help.

And some people might beg to differ about all the food network stars being chefs. For instance, Rachel Raye always makes a point of saying she is not a chef because highly trained chefs get such an attitude about such things (and I am sure rightfully so).

jeff in chicago 10:50 AM  

Many KUDOS to this fun puzzle. I can only repeat the compliments already given, so I won't.

I, too, thought it close to R-rated with TOSSASALAD and PITCHATENT, but that just added to my enjoyment.

Orange 10:59 AM  

Aw, Sandy beat me to it. I was going to say that while she may be on the petite side, she doesn't strike me as being a wispy, dainty thing who can't sling a sack of dog food with the best of 'em.

allan 11:41 AM  

@Orange: It's actually Rex we are picturing that way.

PIX 11:49 AM  

@N: agree it seemed a little hard (but fun) for a monday.

Also @N: Ravi Shankar was very very famous in his time if for no other reason than the Beatles in general and George Harrison in particular spent a lot of time with him and thus introduced him to a vast audience. Whatever the merits of the adventure musically(it was very controversial), it made Ravi Shankar a household name, therefore fair game for a monday puzzle (at least for certain age groups). Of course this may not work so well if you read this and say: "who were the Beatles?".

chefbea 12:05 PM  

I usually do the puzzle while eating lunch. I think I took four bites of my tossed salad and the puzzle was done. Very easy and fun for a monday.

And of course I tossed my own salad. I was almost in the middle of the puzzle.

Now to do the LA times puzzle and go to the new blog

Doc John 12:25 PM  

My fastest time ever today- did almost the whole thing by the acrosses alone. So I wasn't surprised when Rex rated it Easy. Just a nice, fun puzzle with some interesting fill. I was surprised that PICAYUNE meant what it did, seeing as how I know it as the name of a newspaper.

PETCO is a gimme for anyone in the San Diego area. The Padres' stadium is Petco Park.

And finally, don't let Rachel Ray fool you. Beneath that likable exterior lies a real b----. So says my sister-in-law who has had to deal with her professionally on several occasions. When I offered that maybe she was having a bad day she replied, "that's definitely not it". On the other side of the coin, she says Emeril is a dream to work with.

Amanda 12:30 PM  

Perhaps 'Side of bacon'?

Karen 12:31 PM  

@N: famous sitar players (in crosswords):
RAVI SHANKAR
George Harrison
Norwegian WOOD
And that's pretty much it.

And can we have a post about bacon without mentioning the bacon cat? I didn't think so.

jeff in chicago 12:32 PM  

The Picayune is one of the great names for newspapers, but my favorite is the now-defunct Hollywood (FL) Sun-Tattler.

Geometricus 2:03 PM  

Any other St. OLAF grads out there? My daughter Rose (home from OLAF on spring break) is now a junior (music major like me) there and my son just got accepted there. I always love a puzzle with Minnesota references.

I never did become a music teacher, but I do direct a church choir. I'm a math teacher instead, so at least one math reference is required for me to really like the puzzle: in this puzzle it was satisfied by EQUI-lateral. All sides equal! I dig it.

Anonymous 2:31 PM  

@Karen Norwegian Wood? It's either a Beatles Tune, or a novel by H Murakami, but a Sitar Player?

chefwen 3:15 PM  

A slice of bacon, as in "how many slices to you want with your eggs".
Slices as in sliced of the slab. Best bacon in the country, Neuskie's smoked bacon from Wittenberg, Wisconsin. Now onto the bacon blog.

The Representative Slice 3:21 PM  

I speak on behalf of all bacon. Please lift flap to view me.

Anonymous 3:26 PM  

@Mr. R Slice: You are one of the most deceptive sumbitches of all times. You should be ashamed.

PlantieBea 3:30 PM  

@chefwen: How right you are! Nueskie's applewood smoked bacon--thick cut--is the very best bacon ever. We order it online, store it in the freezer, and splurge on special mornings (with the NYT crossword, of course). Nueske's also has excellent brats (bratwurst, that is:-)

Anonymous 4:15 PM  

@Rex - the missing bacon unit is Seconds. I buy defective bacon. Something about trychinosis, I don't know, don't trust those foreign words. Real cheap, just as tasty.

See? Seconds, the catch all unit.

the redanman 5:11 PM  

Mmmmmmmmm, BACON!

I always learn something every day. Yes, this was a nice easy fun - no garbage puzzle today, I really enjoyed it. I'm no speed solver, use none of the tricks took almost 10 minutes for me and I know zero speed tricks, obviously as I never stumbled in the least.

Oh, what did I learn?

I had no idea the Monday puzzle was available that early on Sunday.

The Warden 5:17 PM  

Rex, curious about your opinion on the difference in personalities between the NYTimes puzzle and the LA Times.

Good luck with the new blog!

Glitch 5:55 PM  

@Pix,

True question by one of my younger asociates circa 1985:

"The Beatles"?

Wasn't that John Lennon's old band?

.../Glitch

SethG 6:32 PM  

Some people think Nueske's tastes like licking an ashtray.

A fun Monday.

ArtLvr 7:35 PM  

I meant to ask --

Is one KUDO like the sound of one hand clapping?

∑;)

foodie 9:18 PM  

There's a new blog? You go away for a few days and they start a new blog?

It feels like cheating on your mate.

When, where?

mac 9:23 PM  

@foodie: it's called L.A. Crossword Confidential, and there is a link at the bottom of today's Rex blog.

Anonymous 10:32 PM  

Regarding Chisox ... Comiskey Park
is now a field of dreams ... demolished in 1991.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comiskey_Park

peninhandinga 2:37 AM  

Bacon killed my mama & drove my daddy stone blind.
Wait, no, it was jellyroll.
Chefs, salad; crescent reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner, those crisp rolls.
@Sandy, take your "actually pill."
Rex, mazel tov on your new blog. You will daze and inspire the younglings.
By the way, isn't there a newspaper or two with "picayune" on the masthead?

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