MONDAY, Apr. 20, 2009 - RJ Hartman (Politico Milk of Milk / 19th-century educator Horace / Spherical breakfast cereal / LBJ son-in-law Charles)

Monday, April 20, 2009


Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: J CREW (36A: Retail clothing giant ... or a description of 17- and 54-Across and 10- and 24-Down) - four theme answers are names of people whose first and last names both begin with "J"

Word of the Day: OPEL - Adam Opel GmbH (commonly known as Opel) is a German automaker, part of General Motors. The company was founded on 21 January 1863, and began making automobiles in 1899. Opel was acquired by General Motors Corporation in 1929 and continues as a subsidiary.[1] Opel is part of GM Europe, and is GM's largest European brand, and with Vauxhall Motors in the UK, forms GM's core European business.[2] [wikipedia]

"OPEL" is also the name of an album by the very crosswordtastic SYD Barrett



My first full day back on the job and I get 11 "J"s thrown at me. Almost as good as confetti. Love the high-value Scrabble letters (see also the four K's), but I thought this puzzle was a bit of a mess, structurally. It's fine, of course, for HUNG JURY and FRIJOLES not to be theme answers even though they appear to be in theme positions, but because JURY starts with "J" and I'd already gotten JESSE JAMES, I got a little confused about the relation of the letter "J" to the theme. Then I picked it back up with some of the other theme answers, but then lost it again when I hit JELLY JAR (36D: Smucker's container), which felt like a theme answer. Its symmetrical counterpart, however - "YES, I KNOW" (9D: "So you've said") - was clearly not a theme answer. Only after I was finished did I see that the thing holding the theme answers together was not just their JJ-ness, but the fact that they were all names of people.

Also, "YES, I KNOW" is super sketchy.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Brother outlaw in the Wild West (Jesse James) - I assume the "brother" part is related to the fact that he had a brother, Frank, who was also an outlaw, and not to any religious position Jesse may have held
  • 54A: White Sox outfielder nicknamed Shoeless (Joe Jackson) - also one of my favorite pop musicians



  • 10D: "Me and Bobby McGee" singer (Janis Joplin) - uh ... you know MCGEE is in the puzzle, right? 33D? OK. Just checking. Here's Janis singing one of my favorite songs. She sounds amazing.



  • 24D: Longtime New York senator for whom a center is named (Jacob Javits) - finished this puzzle in 3:14 ... but then noticed I'd spelled JAVITZ thusly. Maybe the kids in Iowa spell it AMEZ ("Whazzup, AMEZ!?"), but sadly, maps do not.

Hardest part of the puzzle involved the JAYS. I had no idea they cawed. None. We get JAYS in our back yard. Never heard the caw. I think I was also dubious about the idea of JAYS crossing JAYE (18D: "The Gong Show" panelist _____ P. Morgan). Speaking of JAYE, even without the theme answers, there are a boatload of names in this puzzle. Too many for me to want to add up at the moment. I love names, but they can be stumbling blocks - you know 'em or you don't. JAYE could get younger (or much older) folks. HARVEY (46A: Politico Milk of "Milk") should have been reasonably easy, given that Sean Penn just won an Oscar for playing him. FALA (49A: Bo : Obama :: _____ : Roosevelt) is perhaps the most famous presidential dog ever ... oh wait. Checkers. But Nixon wasn't president then. What about the dog that LBJ picked up by the ears? [it was a beagle named "Him"] Hmmm, I'm sure someone has done a Top Ten list somewhere. Loved the fresh clue on FALA, at any rate (super duper fresh - the Obamas must have picked their dog when I was out of the country, which means only last week). The best name in the puzzle, by far, however, is JOJO (1D: "_____ left his home in Tucson, Arizona" (Beatles lyric)). "Get back, JOJO!"



Finally, there are far too many partials in this puzzle, especially for a Monday. I know that lots of Scrabbly letters force concessions, but with the iffy "YES, I KNOW" already in the grid, ALL OR, ME NO, and ON MY started getting on my nerves.

Bullets:

  • 15A: Feminine suffix (enne) - went with ETTE. Seemed the more likely Monday answer.
  • 38A: L.B.J. son-in-law Charles (Robb) - Forgot this completely. Charles Spittal ROBB, former VA senator.
  • 35A: Googly-eyed Muppet (Elmo) - is he any more "googly-eyed" than the others? Do the others' eyes really not google?
  • 40A: Cabalists' plans (plots) - "Cabalists" makes me think simultaneously of Kabbalah, Cannibals, and writer Caleb Carr.
  • 45A: 19th-century educator Horace (Mann) - not your typical Monday MANN. Would have thought something in a Thomas or Manfred might be more likely.
  • 59A: Discover by chance (hit on) - hmmm. HAPPEN ON, yes. HIT ON? Doesn't scream "chance" to me, but I can see how it might be used that way.
  • 13D: Bowlers that don't bowl (hats) - Watched the "Flintstones" live-action movie "Viva Rock Vegas," dubbed into Spanish, in our hotel room in San Jose, CR. The fact that I got to watch Fred do his "Twinkletoes" bowling routine, and the fact that everyone was speaking Spanish, almost made this movie tolerable. Almost.
  • 56D: Spherical breakfast cereal (Kix) - almost wrote in OAT, despite OAT's manifest non-spherical quality.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

My write-up of today's LAT puzzle can be found here.

51 comments:

Crosscan 8:33 AM  

Isn't it great that JOE JACKSON turned to singing after getting kicked out of baseball? And isn't it nice that JESSE JAMES married Sandra Bullock after leaving his life of crime? They both look good for their age. JACOB JAVITS apparently looks like a building now.

JAYE crossing JAYS works in a puzzle full of J's. Works for me on a Monday.

ArtLvr 8:53 AM  

ASTA was another DOG in the puzzle, along with more animals even if not always clued as such -- JAYS, JOEY, YAKS, BAMBI, URSA MAJOR, and HARVEY the invisible rabbit...

Enjoyable puzzle, and I liked your take on the shower of J's as confetti!

∑;)

ArtLvr 9:00 AM  

p.s. Your Rex pictures yesterday were neat, including the supine peccary and tales of the tame one you met!

joho 9:10 AM  

Loved all the "J's!"

@Rex: thank you for Janis Joplin.

This struck me as a political puzzle. JACOBJAVITS. HARVEY Milk. Senator ROBB. First dogs Bo and FALA. MAJOR Obama supporter OPRAH. SEATs were GAINed. JESSE(JAMES)(JOE)JACKSON. State of the UNION. And Michelle Obama's favorite clothing store J.CREW. Would've been nice if YESIKNOW had been YESWECAN.

JOJO

PuzzleGirl 9:22 AM  

Welcome back, Rex! My fastest time ever. I didn't even see most of the stuff you didn't like I was racing through it so fast. Two of the three small towns I've lived in had a Horace Mann Elementary School, so I had no problem with that. On the feminine suffix ending, I always enter the Es and check the crosses for the middle letters. I think Cookie Monster is far more googly-eyed than the other Muppets. Get back, Loretta!!

Kirk 9:40 AM  

When I saw all the "J" answers, I wondered if the theme had to do with today being 4/20 (4:20 being code for "time to light up a joint" among high-schoolers and others).

Just a half-formed, sorta ... 0h never mind.

Anne 9:41 AM  

I thought this was just a tad harder than usual Monday, and I liked the musical aspect of it. I didn't even know I knew JoJo but it came to me instantly. I am one of those (few?) people who liked the Rolling Stones better than the Beatles, which I still do, and I still like "Time is on My Side." And I still love Janis Joplin. I also like Pink who seems to have a brain unlike some of the other girl singers.

Blue Jays have a variety of calls and when I first got into bird watching, I spent a lot of time following sounds, only to find that it was yet another blue jay.

John 9:45 AM  

Having not gotten the theme yet, I put in ROCKAFELLER for the NY senator. Didnt last long, However.

twangster 9:47 AM  

Fun puzzle. Made me think of what other double-Js might have been included, like the great jazz trombonist J.J. Johnson (actually a triple J).

dk 9:55 AM  

All these js... man I am really squiffed.

@kirk never knew about the 4:20 thing. There is a diner on Route 302 outside of Portland Maine called the Waken Bake, they also sell glassworks that look like little pipes for some reason.

Continuing on the drug use theme. I was telling lovely wife about seeing Led Zep in 1968 with my friend Susan (we also went to Woodstock together). We needed to be helped across the street as it had turned a lovely shade of blue and was undulating.

Last bit of Trivia Flo and Eddy of the Turtles allege they smoked js in the white house. LBJ had them play for his daughters Linda and Lucy. Flo and Eddy went on to join Frank Zappa and some of those concerts were well... NEAT.

Fine Monday puzzle except for the dancing letters :).

XMAN 10:04 AM  

@ Anne: I know one experienced birder who has been fooled several times by a jay mimicing a hawk in his backyard. One thing jays don't do is caw.


This puzzle seemed easy, even for a Monday.

@ Rex: I HIT ON a solution to the problem is a common way to use that phrase.

alex the droog 10:19 AM  

I gave up my dead tree subscription to the NYT. Is the puzzle available anywhere in across lite for no cost?

PlantieBea 10:34 AM  

I loved starting this puzzle with the first three J answers. It was smooth sailing although I had to stop and think about the puzzle center's HEROS welcome/ EGOS crossing since I didn't know MCGEE. Jays are in the same family as crows, I believe. Florida jays definitely CAW along with lots of other loud cries. Thanks for a fun Monday Randall Hartman.

@DK: Funny you should mention those bands and anecdotes. I got to see Led Zep at their 2007 London reunion concert. A few weeks ago my husband and I dragged our teen boys to see the Turtles at Epcot. Both shows (well, especially Led Zep) were excellent, but both performers and the audience were much better behaved than back in the day :-)

@Rex: Thanks for the YouTube links which were great. There's so much there like the Joplin and Beatles that I have never seen. In fact, I was surprised to see the Beatles on the rooftop since I had no idea they'd done that. I suppose that's where the similar scene in "Across the Universe" originated.

PurpleGuy 10:37 AM  

I thought maybe all the j's were used because
Randall's middle initial is "J." Anyone else ?

Had a fun time with the puzzle.
Nothing really tripped me up.

Glad you're back, Rex.
The world is now back in synch.

jeff in chicago 10:56 AM  

This was the first puzzle in the Marbles Amateur Crossword Tournament hosted by Orange (thanks again, Amy!) just this past Saturday in Chicago. It was, then, my very first do-it-as-fast-as-you-possibly-can puzzle. I'm going to blame the funky lighting in my corner and the fact that it was the first puzzle in a very long time I had done with pencil on paper for my less than stellar time.

Still, I liked it. The theme was clear early, if oddly executed. (What IS the deal with JELLYJAR?) In my speed solve I wrongly put JUST for JOJO. (I know. Embarassing, especially for my age.) But "Just left his home..." sounded right. Then, after getting OPRAH and JESSEJAMES, I accidentally left the T from JUST, giving me JOJT for 1D. Ugh. It was my only error in that first puzzle, and a reminder to doublecheck.

This is going to be weird having already done this week's early puzzle.

mac 10:56 AM  

This one felt more like a Tuesday, in that I had to circumnavigate a little, but in the end it filled up fast and correct. I liked the j-confetti, and I'm looking forward to listening to Janis and the others when I have to room to myself....

I also don't think "discover by chance/hit on" is right, shouldn't it be "hit upon"? Hit on means something very different in my book.

archaeoprof 11:00 AM  

Welcome back, Rex!

Fun puzzle with all those J's. Shoeless Joe was from Greenville, SC, where there is a statue in his honor. But I think the statue has shoes on...

@Anne: the "few" includes at least you and me.

twangster 11:13 AM  

alex -- I don't know about free but if you just get the paper delivered on the weekends you still have access to the whole week of puzzles on line.

Fred 11:17 AM  

PlantieBea
That Beatles rooftop scene was from the movie/documentary of LET IT BE which came out way back when.
I remember seeing it at the theater.

Million Tree Club 11:35 AM  

I'm finally off the dead tree version, and out of syndication, hence the move from lurker to poster.
What an a propos puzzle to start off with on "Stoner New Year," aka 4/20. The day, and the double-J's made me think of Sublime's inane "Smoke 2 Joints," so I did.

Glitch 12:06 PM  

@mac

"Hit upon" possibly sounds more proper,but I know some who would say "I hit on the correct girl [by chance]".

They also tend to abbreviate July as Jul --- to save time.

@Jeff in Chi

My Grandmother had a collection of "Jelly Jars" used as drinking glasses, back when they were intended as such --- early recycling.


.../Glitch

Doug 12:29 PM  

Welcome back RP.

At the National Portrait Gallery in London I learned the origin of CABAL: "Its origin was popularly related as an acronym referring to 1670, when the English Government ministers included C lifford, A shley, B uckingham, A rlington, and L auderdale." I trot that out at opportune times to show how worldly I am....

My take on the Js is that Randall Hartman is clearly a Toronto baseball fan. Works for me!

Frieda 12:40 PM  

Weird non-symmetries didn't bother me a whole lot under all the afore-mentioned confetti. Would not likely have gotten JOEJACKSON on a shoeless clue had the J's not clearly been the point.

I actually tried to time myself on this one, on paper, to see what solving would feel like at speeds some folks mention--noticed that fill appeared, and clues disappeared, and I sort of missed the more leisurely tete a tete with the puzzle. Even looking at it now, I never saw the clues or completed fill, mostly in the short downs, ENE, OBE, OLE, DOG. Maybe that's for the best.

Yesterday's Santana video started a video tour for me--through Woodstock, available footage of Santana there (and a then-young drummer I had forgotten about), Arlo Guthrie marvelling with the crowd that the NYS Thruway was "closed, man, ...far out." That would be a feat still. And JANIS JOPLIN, and....here she was in the puzzle. (Indeed, J's all over the place.) I was 6 in 1969, and remember the buzz, no pun seriously intended, about Woodstock, remember hearing all that music on AM radios, and adopting most of it "after the fact," as the bands/performers who literally survived the early 1970s were still touring. What struck me as a kid throughout the late 1960s and 70s was how "real" the music seamed (in comparison to something I wasn't able or invited to define).

What strikes me now, looking at video footage I would have seen for the first time in concert movies in the early 1980s (Like Gimme Shelter, Rolling Stones at Altamont), is how hard and inventively (or catastrophically) these people were working as performers. Maybe that's what makes lifelong fans--whatever effect in the performers says "this is real to me." Just wondering here, since music tastes and preferences come up here periodically.

Daniel Myers 12:58 PM  

Did anyone else find 16A-"Length x width, for a rectangle" = AREA just a bit, no quite, odd? Easy answer - What else COULD it be? But I can think of several instances of maths problems which involve rectangles and "length x" where the "width" of length x is not the area. For instance, when "length x" is the diagonal of said rectangle. "Width" is such a very, very odd word to use. Do school mathematics books use this term nowadays?

jeff in chicago 1:10 PM  

@Glitch: I was a bit unclear. I know what jelly jars are. I was questioning the use of the phrase in the puzzle as a non-theme answer. I thought that kind of thing was to be avoided.

chefbea 1:14 PM  

Very easy puzzle for me. Went to a janis Joplin concert way back when.

I have running through my head now the song "shoeless Joe from Hannibal Mo". I think it was from "Damn Yankees"

@alex. I subscribe just to Saturday and sunday NY times and I get the times digest free in my inbox every day and print out the puzzle

SethG 1:32 PM  

Um, Daniel, huh? What is the "'width' of length x"? The x in the clue isn't the unknown length, it's the mathematical symbol for multiplication. You can "formally" define the area as the product of the length of adjacent sides, but calling one of these the "length" (usually the longer dimension, but it doesn't matter) and one the "width" doesn't seem to be an odd or unusual practice.

On a related note, I _always_ have trouble spelling "length". Where does that 'g' go again?

I usually associate cawing with crows. Turns out, jays are in the crow family. (Not to be confused with Berthe Erica Crow's family.) That Y slowed me _way_ down...

Bob Kerfuffle 1:36 PM  

@PlantieBea and PurpleGuy - I also was very pleased by the top row of JOUST - JOEY - JOSH, and I thought the "J" in Randall J. Hartman must stand for "J". I actually hoped the bottom row would start with Js, but that would be asking too much.

One tangential thought on 37 A, Color for baby girls, traditionally - PINK. I'm not googling the details, but I have read that originally pink was the color for baby boys, and somewhere (one hundred years ago?), it got switched to being the color for girls. Obviously, there is no objective reason for such an association either way, but it must have been confusing for those who grew up with the old system, It reminds me of the very recent color change of America's political parties, where once the left-leaning or liberal groups were thought of as pinko or red, but now thanks to one year's television electoral coverage, we have Democratic states called blue and Republicans called red. Still confusing to me, brought up in an earlier age.

George NYC 1:37 PM  

I am surprised more hasn't been made of the coincidence of so many Js in this grid and today's designation as an "unofficial celebration of marijuana," as the Times puts it. You could fill two Jelly Jars with all those Js. Or shd I say Jays?

Bob Kerfuffle 1:43 PM  

This is what Wikipedia has to say:

In Western culture, the practice of assigning pink to an individual gender began in the 1920s.[5] From then until the 1940s, pink was considered appropriate for boys because being related to red it was the more masculine and decided color, while blue was considered appropriate for girls because it was the more delicate and dainty color, or related to the Virgin Mary.[6][7][8] Since the 1940s, the societal norm apparently inverted so that pink became appropriate for girls and blue appropriate for boys, a practice that has continued into the 21st century.[9]

A much more recent switch than I had imagined!

fikink 1:51 PM  

@George NYC, I am surprised at that, too. I thought that is what the HIT ON was all about.

Daniel Myers 1:57 PM  

Seth,

Many thanks. What a dunce I feel! Too much tensor calculus can cloud the mind! And to think, I once taught SAT prep classes!

-Daniel

Jane Doh 2:13 PM  

A fine start to the week. Even with the jarring JELLY JAR (being unthematic) and MCGEE in the JANIS clue (Times ecosystem breakdown). Impressive to be able to squeeze in all those Js and still have the solve be easy and breezy.

I love the letter J.

--JD

Anonymous 3:53 PM  

JaneD et al,

If you like J's there is a word in my profession that has four in a single word. JEJUNOJEJUNOSTOMY It has too many letters to be in a weekday puzzle though.

/mee

chefbea 4:17 PM  

@anonymous/mee WOW thats a mouthful!!! I googled it. I guess if you eat lots of mouthfuls one might need that operation!!

SethG 4:25 PM  

Johanna Foods, the company that makes Ssips, used to make Jjust Jjuicy Fruit Punch.

Clark 5:56 PM  

@Daniel --

Put me in the dunces' corner as well. I too first read the 'x' in 'Length x width' as a variable. It only fell into place when I saw what the answer had to be.

Blue jays are not only related to crows, sometimes they mimic them.

Denise 6:40 PM  

I am relatively new to reading the blog -- so, when Rex says what the theme is, is it something he intuits, or does he get that from the constructor?

I was confused by this puzzle because of "hung jury" -- I thought it was double j -- I like the idea that it was "J Crew" but was that theme name offered as a suggestion -- or is that "Fact"?

I love the blog -- loved the Beatles video.

Leon 7:23 PM  

Thanks Mr. Hartman.

Welcome back RP. You site was well-served in your absence.

I join the Marijuana Cabalists who insist that the Js , JELLYJARS as stash items, "Hit On" and , 420 are not due to chance. The Urban dictionary even lists BAMBI as a nickname.

Re JAYS calls :Henry Thoreau described the sound as being the "unrelenting steel-cold scream of a jay, unmelted, that never flows into a song, a sort of wintry trumpet, screaming cold; hard, tense, frozen music, like the winter sky itself."

andrea carla michaels 7:25 PM  

Welcome Back Rex!!!!!!!!!
Loved the J's, loving even more that everyone saw their own thing in it...
some saw the drugs/420 (always popular here in roommate ads on Craigslist: 420 friendly, which is great for me to know so I can skip them!)
ArtLvr saw all the animals
Joho had that fabulous political run
Others recognize the Scrabbly-ness, tho actually it's oddly anti-Scrabble as there is but one J in the game! (I think of the puzzle as Scrabbly when there is a JXQKZ factor)

But it is so fabulous that there is so much richness and depth and layers to this puzzle...even with that funky JELLYJAR thrown in there.
I too thought for a moment it might be JUNG JURY, like a panel rating Erica or Carl! And I thought for a moment about the whole H for J swap in Spanish...
maybe there is a puzzle in there somewhere.

Awaiting your explanation to Denise!

twangster 7:53 PM  

Andrea -- Well I'll try ... my take is that it's an informed opinion. Those who disagree (or more likely, have a slightly different view) are welcome to voice their opinions in the comments.

Clark 8:03 PM  

I think Denise has asked a strangely cool question, and I too look forward to Rex’s answer. If I report that it is raining now, I suppose that is something I intuit rather than something I get from the constructor. But, then again, if the constructor wanted to let me know it was raining, the best way to do this would probably be to let it rain. And I like the idea that my report might also be considered a suggestion. And best of all is the idea that I might be reporting a ‘fact’ as opposed to a fact.

So what of it, Rex, are you secretly communicating with the constructor?

Rex Parker 8:09 PM  

@denise,

Themes are something any observant solver can see, esp. if (as was the case today) the puzzle states its theme outright. Sometimes I give the theme a weird little name or title, but I don't have any more info about the theme than any of you. Usually.

I have missed aspects of a theme before and had another blogger, or solver, or even the constructor, point my incomplete (or incorrect) explanation out. But that's pretty rare. Usually a completed puzzle's theme is self-evident.

rp

joho 8:13 PM  

Rex?

michael 8:17 PM  

Well, I have to admit that I missed a letter. I had abash and jayh. But a little more thinking would have given me the jays jaye cross in a j-themed puzzle.

Otherwise, very easy, but I guess this would have been bad for me in a tournament.

Betsy the midwife 8:38 PM  

Being a Janis fan, it was a beautiful puzzle and looked forward to the song choice for the blog.
Sadly, my child has decided not to attend Binghamton in the fall. Sorry, Rex.

fergus 10:43 PM  

Following Denise's question, it's always seemed odd to me that many other puzzles have titles, while the NYT never does (except on Sunday, of course). Do the constructors submit a title along with the puzzle? I don't know, but I'll bet someone does.

Lisa in Kingston 11:15 PM  

Way out here in the Northwest, we have the Stellar's Jay. If I could figure out how to post a link, I'd do so, these jays are handsome with their royal blue and black couture. They try to fool me on a regular basis with their imitative calls: crow, eagle, hawk, and if they were awake at night, I would not put it past them to imitate a barred owl (in tenor instead of baritone).

edith b 11:39 PM  

A clunky puzzle at best, symmetrical if JELLYJAR is not a theme entry. Js in a lot of unusual places today.

Liked PANACHE and HARVEY.

Max 4:15 PM  

I'm surprised no one else thought that the "YESIKNOW" symmetrical with "JELLYJAR" was a funny way for Hartman to be saying, "Yes, I know" to whatever complaints you might have about the abundance of non-theme J's

andrea carla michaels 6:41 PM  

@fergus
It's now Tuesday so don't know if you'll see this...
I ALWAYS submit a title, helps tip off the theme to Will (who likes to find it for himself, but I'm always worried he won't see it, which is silly really, but he's busy and gets LOTS of puzzles)
plus it helps ME find it later in my files.

It's a drag there are no titles, as it's a chance to be extra clever or unify a theme a bit more or take it to another level.
I loved that the now defunct NY Sun puzzles had titles everyday, (then again they had no Sunday puzzle like the NY Times which is always titled and that's half the fun).

So that's why you are seeing a fourth entry (or fifth) tieing (tying? tiing? harrumph they ALL look wrong) the other entries together as the theme's punchline...
or like today, a buried one.
You could have called this puzzle JCrew and not have had to embed it in the puzzle.

When these puzzles DO come out in book form (which the constructors get no royalties for, btw) there is a title attached, but since there is no heads up even that you are to be included in the collection, the constructor has no say in the titles :(

On the whole tho, I've liked the titles Will (presumably) has chosen for mine...tho, as a namer, obviously, I would have liked to name my own puzzles.

Heck, at times we can't even get a full byline atop the puzzle, much less a title, which I think would totally add a wonderful dimension to any puzzle.

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