MONDAY, May 25 2009 - P Collins (Classic John Lee Hooker song of 1962 / Onetime SNL player Cheri / Verdi hero married to Desdemona)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "TREE Men and a Baby" - 64A: Thing hidden in each of the movie names in this puzzle

Word of the Day: LOVING CUPS (10D: Some trophies) - n.

  1. A large ornamental wine vessel, usually made of silver and having two or more handles.
  2. A large ornamental vessel given as an award in modern sporting contests and similar events.

Up late, slept in, need food/coffee, so ... here's your quickly dashed-off write-up for the day. I don't get the premise of the puzzle. There are movies with trees in them. Why are there movies with trees in them? I kept waiting for some TREE-related movie phrase to come along and tie things together. But no. And just three trees. And such short ones. And I've seen the hidden trees thing before. And the assortment of movies is just weird. I don't think "PRELUDE TO A KISS" is very well known at all, while the other two movies (though unalike in almost every way) were solid hits. I like the theme answers as answers, but this "theme" leaves me cold.

Theme answers:

  • 19A: 1989 Sally Field/Dolly Parton/Shirley MacLaine movie ("Ste ELM agnolias")
  • 35A: 2000 Martin Lawrence movie ("Big Momm ASH ouse")
  • 50A: 1992 Alec Baldwin/Meg Ryan film ("Prelude t OAK iss") - why is this one a "film" when the others are "movies?" Is "film" code for "movie that isn't very well known?"

Straight to bullets:

  • 32A: Electrical device for foreign travelers (adaptor) - Blogger doesn't like the "-OR" spelling. It's underlining "ADAPTOR" in red.
  • 46A: With 51-Down, John Ashcroft's predecessor as attorney general (Janet / Reno) - strangely, I like this. I like how her names (first and last) are positioned in relation to each other in the grid.
  • 63A: Pitch (toss) - I had the TO- and wrote in TONE
  • 5D: Classic John Lee Hooker song of 1962 ("Boom Boom") - Classic enough to be an answer on Monday? I like it a lot, though I would have gone with boxer Ray Mancini's nickname.

  • 31D: Onetime "S.N.L." player Cheri (Oteri) - 21st century crosswordese of the highest order. Her name is just too temptingly vowelicious.
  • 26D: Hip-hop wear (baggy jeans) - confidently wrote in BAGGY PANTS. Good answer.
  • 44D: Verdi hero married to Desdemona (Otello) - talk about Lost in Translation: In Italian, you lose the "H" ... which is what gives you the HELL to match Desdemona's DEMON.
  • 50D: Nanny's vehicle (pram) - a gimme, though the clue makes it sound like it's how the nanny herself gets around ... which would be weird.

Off to wake up...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

My write-up of today's meaty LA Times Monday puzzle is here.


imsdave 8:36 AM  

Mancini would have been a much better clue - never heard the song until you posted it - kind of boring blues for my taste.

I just don't get the whole theme thing I guess - while that puzzle had solid fill, three little trees just didn't cut it for me.

Remember what today is for all, and have a great holiday.

Crosscan 8:42 AM  

14x15, 3 theme answers, 3 letter trees in films - where's the rest of the puzzle?

JannieB 8:51 AM  

Is no one else bothered by the fact that a Magnolia is also a tree???? Surely there was a better choice here.

I also tried baggy pants first, the rest was a breeze.

This puzzle was a little too charm-free. I miss ACME Mondays.

Kurt 9:06 AM  

I'm with Crosscan! Where is the rest of my puzzle? I thought that the theme was really light. ELM ASH OAK ... and maybe a little credit for TREE. But that's only thirteen letters. Jeez. And the fill was just okay - with only five scrabbly letters.

And then there was BOOMBOOM!!! In my view this was clearly the best answer in the puzzle. But it had to be clued with a reference to Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon. With such great oldies as "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans", "Tallahassie Lassie" and "Palisades Park", how could Peter and Will have passed him up?

Enjoy your cookouts!

PIX 9:15 AM  

"I think; therefore I am." Rene Descartes. Everything (including the existence of god) is open to doubt (perhaps now i am just dreaming and the alarm clock will go off soon) except my own existence because I must exist since I am the one having the dream...Personally I doubt that Rene would have liked this puzzle any more than I did.

PuzzleGirl 9:20 AM  

I liked this puzzle even though it was super easy. L-O-V-E Boom Boom exactly the way it's clued, but if I were forced to change it, I'd make it Freddie Washington's nickname ("Welcome Back Kotter").

XMAN 9:22 AM  

I finished a NYT crossword puzzle in under 10 minutes! That's like the tailor claiming seven in one blow. The townspeople thought he meant seven giants, but they were flies.

An easy easy Monday.

treedweller 9:23 AM  

Yes, I thought it was strange to see MAGNOLIAS. I was surprised Rex didn't comment on it. I was expecting him to say it spoiled things for him, though I was offering 7 to 1 odds that he would say it was a nice bonus tree.

I guess it boils down to the fact that there isn't enough here to bother with that much commenting.

OTOH, I was pleased to finish in under five minutes. I think I've done that once before, but not twice. I was actually in that place where I read clues and typed in answers as fast as I could locate the proper place in the grid for awhile. Baggy pants screwed that up for me. I still think BAGGYJEANS is the inferior answer; I've heard people say "baggy pants", but not this. Then again, I didn't try to make the grid work with pants. And there's a phrase I never thought I'd write.

Finally, I have to send out a little love to John Lee Hooker, a blues giant who seems to be getting short shrift here. "Boom Boom" was the song he played in the Chicago streets in "The Blues Brothers".

Frances 9:24 AM  

I did rather enjoy the two different answers for "hunk." Perhaps a declaration that what some people might call a HE MAN is nothing but a SLAB of pumped-up protoplasm?

PlantieBea 9:27 AM  

Yes, way too light on themed answers, and I didn't feel like the few that were there should have had circled grid squares. I would have taken the small added challenge of finding the trees by myself.

Answers I did like included JIB, REDACT, JANET RENO, and BOOM BOOM. Great video, Rex.

Frances 9:31 AM  

Plus, the clue/answer pair for 37D tends to confirm the inference in my comment above...!?

Ulrich 9:36 AM  

This almost non-theme is made worse b/c two of the "hidden trees" follow the rules of crossword symmetry, while the center one doesn't: the three circled squares there need three more immediately to the left, either for another 3-letter tree or, better, for a 6-letter tree. As it stands, I find this inconsistency in the symmetry of the theme answers unacceptable for a theme that is as weak as this one to begin with. In addition, the magnolias bother me, too--the only excuse: they do not straddle two words as the hidden trees do, i.e. are trees in the answer itself. But I must say, and I say this very rarely, this puzzle should not have been published as it stands.

Ulrich 9:40 AM  

...and to continue with the subtext of last week, this is the first time I've seen "loving cup" used in the sense of a trophy.

Happy Memorial Day to treedweller and the rest!

joho 9:51 AM  

@JannieB @treedweller &Ulrich ... I'm with you regarding the tree within the trees at 19A. The theme is out of whack here. Unless somebody takes some AXES and cuts down some MAGNOLIAS.

@Plantie Bea ... you beat me to the comment I was going to make about the circles. All we needed was the clue at 64A to figure it out ourselves ... we didn't need someone to so blatantly point them out to us. That took what little fun there could have been left for us today.

At 3:00 today, wherever you are, please take a moment to honor the fallen who have fought for the freedom we enjoy today.

Glitch 9:59 AM  

Adding to the other comments, especially Ulrich's:

As Rex pointed out, there were two movies and a film clued, yet 64A indicated "Things hidden in ... MOVIE names ...".

I'm all for easy Monday puzzles, but this one seems just slapped together with no class.

The circles were an added insult.


Glitch 10:08 AM  

meant that to read:

Seeming to be there only to justify a dubious theme, the circles were an added insult.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

I'm with you on the AXES, Joho. For me, the only noteworthy TREES hidden in a movie are the walking ones with Treebeard in the lead :) Rock Rabbit

Jim in Chicago 10:53 AM  

@Glitch scooped my comment. Not only was the puzzle already an insult, just to pour it on a little more the "hidden" trees come pre-circled!!! It is April 1 again? Where's my REAL puzzle.

sasesqretd 11:01 AM  

I had "baggy pants," too, and didn't like the circles (or need them) or the movies v. film clues. "Boom Boom" was good as clued (welcome to the fifties). This was a very easy puzzle, but also a disappointing one.

foodie 11:05 AM  

When I got STEEL MAGNOLIAS and saw that ELM was circled, I expected the other answers to include bigger tree names with embedded short tree names. It rapidly became clear that this was not the case... In the end, starting with a Z anchoring ZAPS and ZERO was the best part of the puzzle.

It's interesting to me that on some holidays, the puzzle refers to or honors that day, but that's not the case today. Yet, there are many possibilities-- some nationalistic and others more tangential, that would have still been more apt-- eg about types of memories...

retired_chemist 11:12 AM  

Didn't thrill me but I wasn't put off as much as some of you. Easy, not medium, but at least a tad of interesting stuff this geezer didn't know. BOOM BOOM (5D), for example, née BOOM BOEM because I had the more common spelling ADAPTER.

Don't understand the objection to MAGNOLIAS - 64A says "hidden," and it isn't hidden, so it isn't part of the theme.

I almost never miss OLIN (17A) anymore, whether clued with Ken or Lena, even though I cannot recall ever seeing either. Or ever seeing "thirtysomething" (today;s clue), for that matter.

43D REDACT - cool word. Dictionary says "rare." Not in Xwd world it isn't..... if it were, it would probably have been WOTD.

Two Ponies 11:36 AM  

Yeah, pretty boring.
Like Ulrich, the lack of symmetry of the circles bothered me.
I was browsing StumbleUpon yesterday and discovered a strange internet phenomenon involving a T-shirt with three wolves and the moon. It is silly, fun, and sarcastic. Then this morning I find an article about it in the NYT.
Happy Memorial Day. Thank you to all servicemen and women past and present.

Mike 12:03 PM  

Really lame puzzle by NYT standards. Lots of more or less lazy fill (OLEO and OLIN right above each other), iffy long answers (BAGGYJEANS is fine, if forced, but LOVINGCUPS?), and an arbitrary theme that was indeed made worse by the circled answers. These circles come right after a neat Sunday puzzle with circles that actually had a reason for being there. Let's hope tomorrow's puzzle is better.

Charles Bogle 12:05 PM  

I may be in the minority but I enjoyed this puzzle, as did my spouse and nine year old. All were able to contribute. Mondays should be that way...

Lovingcups and idiom were nice touches. Sure not sure what an OLLA is. And, w/out a 20-something at the table, had no idea who these SNL cast members were. Fortunately, was able to get them by crossing, all making for a very satisfactory outing

Now onto LaTimes, which looks a bit more daunting

A safe and respectful day to all-

Shamik 12:37 PM  

Easy medium for me at 3:54. But it's Monday. But there was some delightful stuff today: REDACT, LOVINGCUPS and John Lee Hooker!!!! Love some blues in the morning.

And on a way late note: Found "Dinner Impossible" at my daughter's house...she'd taped it for me. Ok...she DVR'ed it. Andrea...delightful...but you really had only shopped that little?!?!?!? It all just made me wish even more that I'd been there! Tell me it all tasted as good as it looked.

mac 12:38 PM  

It was too easy and not interesting enough, even for a Monday.

@foodie: my Z anchored zaps and zoom for a few seconds...

A good memorial day to all.

Orange 1:19 PM  

@Shamik: It did taste as good. I was particularly fond of the "on a shoestring" potatoes, "cream of the crop" veggies in cream sauce, and the chicken with an egg batter—all much tastier than the usual banquet food.

edith b 1:23 PM  

On these early week puzzles I like to zone in on one answer that means something to me, in this case STEELMAGNOLIAS.

My granddaughter and I like to make popcorn and watch the movie all snuggled in bed and have a good cry at the end. Ah, nothing like a good chick flick.

Crosscan 1:29 PM  

@Shamik - yes, the food was yummy. I fear a letdown next year.

@circle-haters - Monday is always no-surprises-or-hidden-tricks day. While I'm no fan of the puzzle, we should not complain about the circles as it helps newbies learn about this type of theme.

Clark 1:30 PM  

@Ulrich -- Catching up on comments that I missed while traveling, I see you expressed confidence in my Latin abilities. Thanks for the shout out. But beware. My latin is pretty spotty. You should not be giving up that mantle just yet.

RES got me thinking about how this word is usually used in the legal context: in the expression 'in rem,' which describes a kind of jurisdiction in which a court asserts authority over not a person but a thing (REM). That leads to hilarious case names. Instead of United States vs. John Doe, we get: United States v. An undetermined number of cases, each case containing 24 BOTTLES of an article labeled in part: "STERLING VINEGAR AND HONEY AGED IN WOOD CIDER BLENDED WITH FINEST HONEY CONTENTS 1 PINT PRODUCT OF STERLING CIDER CO., INC., STERLING, MASS." and an undetermined number of copies of the books entitled "Folk Medicine" and "Arthritis and Folk Medicine," both by D. C. Jarvis, Balanced Foods, Inc. (U.S. Ct. of App. 2nd Cir. 1964).

Doc John 1:47 PM  

Nice, easy Monday to do quickly while waiting for my house guests to get ready.
Definitely not a wower by any means but fun, nonetheless.
Happy Memorial Day to all.

Now to the soapbox: get ready to light your torches- the CA Supreme Court decision on Prop 8 comes out tomorrow! (I think you can see I'm not too optimistic about their decision.)

archaeoprof 2:00 PM  

I agree with Retired-Chemist and Crosscan: this puzzle wasn't all that bad. It was no ACME, to be sure, but I don't think it deserves all the criticism it's gotten here.

I was happy to find the puzzle in the Intl Herald Trib here in East Jerusalem.

Rex, your global reach continues to grow...

Elaine 2:06 PM  

I also found the theme BORING and the puzzle VERY EASY! So easy, in fact, that I didn't even see some of the clues until I read Rex's writeup.

Oh well -- from time to time, it's fun to have a REALLY easy one.

Enjoy the holiday, everyone (in the US, anyway!)

George NYC 2:33 PM  

Loved Rex's very unhidden tree in the write-up.

Leon 3:03 PM  

Thanks Mr. Collins.

Sonnet #18 recited by : Peter O'Toole, starting at 1:28, from the Movie/Film Venus.

I give thanks to all who served.

chefbea 3:22 PM  

Very easy. Finished before my husband had cut the filet into individual steaks.

When I saw the groups of 3 circled squares I thought maybe the letters in them would be VET or even USA.

Time to get the fire going so we can grill those steaks.

Anonymous 4:39 PM  

OLLA, OLEO, ANNO, ALAI, INOR crossing INLA, all in a Monday NYT puzzle -- and one without a spectacular grid to justify these crosswordese words? This is astonishingly weak, especially because most of these lousy words could have been *easily* edited out.

What about the SCALA/HEMAN crossing? Was it so hard to make it SCALE/HEMEN to get rid of SCALA?

I don't think any of this reflects well upon the supposed premier crossword in the country. Where's the editor?

Anne 4:42 PM  

To follow-up on Crosscan's comments, M/T/W are the days when I actually notice symmetry or all of the other things others have discussed here. On the other days, I'm engrossed in getting correct answers and little else. Another thing that occured to me is that I bet Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan had no chemistry. I just can't see them together.

I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday.

Noam D. Elkies 5:47 PM  

Easy enough for Downs-only (minus 4D:OSTER), which also allowed me to solve without being underwhelmed. Even so I was disappointed that the first theme flick was the only one that featured a tree in its title too. To me "Big Momma's House" was the mystery movie/film name; Prelude to a Kiss I remembered. In any case the more specific information in each of these Across clues wouldn't have helped.

5D:BOOMBOOM was a guess -- and hearing the Youtube clip didn't change my feeling that it's a "so what?" entry. De (dis)gustibus, etc.

Yes, nice to see the two "hunk" entries -- which also explain why 9D/23A couldn't have been "scalE/hemEn". Too bad the clues didn't link 9D:SCALA with 44D:OTELLO. Never noticed before otHELLo and desDEMONa (the latter probably because it's so far from her character); thanx to Rex for that!

As a mathematician I'm ashamed that I had to go here to learn that this was a minus-size grid at 14x15. Have we had a puzzle this small before?

Happy Memorial Day,

Glitch 5:54 PM  

Stopped in for another visit to see how the comments were going, I think I can now better state some of my feelings on this puzzle:

1) I don't hate circles, sure they help newbies, just that today they lack the class and thoughtful placement of yesterday's eyeglasses. Dropping them wouldn't have made the puzzle any harder for a nubie, other than finding "the theme words" --- but then they could always come here.

This would have probably cut out 2/3 of the complaints (placement, & intent).

2) How hard would it have been to reclue the 50A film as a movie to make it consistant with the 64A clue?

How did this get past the author, testers, and editor --- it's not a factual error, more like "grammatical" --- and it's the alleged theme!

If this also went away I'd only be left with "baggy jeans" to kvetch about.

2 1/2, close enough, and out.

Ribs are ready, time to start the rest of the grilling.

Hope you all are enjoying the holiday, and remembered why it is one (and non-USA folk, you have a great day too).


foodie 7:52 PM  

@Glitch, you sound like you're in a good mood : ) So may be you won't mind my asking, as I've been trying to figure it out for a while: Are you a He-Glitch or a She-Glitch?

If you'd rather be a Mystery Glitch, I understand, and please accept my apologies for inquiring...

BTW, I love your favorite quote! Because after all is said and done, more is said than done.

Anonymous 8:23 PM  

@Glitch, Please be more careful about giving away info about another day's puzzle. I hadn't yet done Sunday's.

Mary in NE

dk 9:05 PM  

I have been planting trees for the last 4 days so in the words of Cathy: aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggg.

Easy peasy, but its Monday. I had pants.

Remember if you hate circles on Monday just think what cropcircles will do to you on other days.

Welcome back OLEO and PRAM.


Glitch 9:34 PM  

@foodie @Mary in NE

I'm careful of spoilers, my wife is many weeks behind in acrostics and my "eyeglass" refrence was intentionally not-quite-correct, but something you will see following the instructions before even starting the puzzle. You will understand when you do solve, have fun. ;)

see y'all tomorrow.


Lisa in Kingston 10:30 PM  

Way too easy not even peasy or squeezy.
I'd like to offer the Blues Brothers segment of Boom Boom as an alternative.

Anonymous 10:54 PM  

Fred "Boom Boom" Couples would have been a good clue choice.

Memorial Day and no tribute theme?
Kind of sad.

andrea boom boom michaels 2:52 AM  

Like Rex, at first I thought how cool if the movie names also had some tie in to trees to make up for the shortness of the words... but that would be SUPER hard!

I think the Magnolias answer set up an expectation that was dashed...maybe that's why so many folks felt disappointed?
(tho sweet image, Edith B!)

Didn't notice it was 14 x 15 which is a huge exception...
(I just assumed all three films were fifteens, which I thought justified how short the tree names were, epecially bec they were all split.)
But it's a tiny bit surprising that Will didn't insist on either:
a) 4 fourteens (Can you even make a grid with four fourteens?)
b) finding one fifteen for the middle or something! Aw, I don't know. Peter Collins is usually pretty amazing.
Maybe it's a semi-miracle that there are three films that even have hidden trees in their names?

Thanks for the shout out...but I never do hidden themes, circled or un-. I would, however, love to have three movie titles with some sort of tie-in... let's think of one!
(But seeing how I've had nothing accepted or published in months, maybe it's not for me to comment on this one at all!)

As for "Prelude to a Kiss"...yeah, totally almost unseen...came and went. If I remember correctly, it was not so good...but the idea was powerful...I think it was supposed to be an AIDS metaphor. Would you still love someone who was young and beautiful when you married but suddenly aged prematurely? Sickness and in health? etc.

And yes, zero chemistry between them (as much as you see on the poster/videobox cover)
Perhaps it was an ironic foreshadowing of the real life Meg ruining her own youthful, cute face by choosing (like many women in LA) to slowly turn into the joker...

andrea baggyjeans michaels 2:56 AM  

ps I think folks would have liked this puzzle a bit more if it had been on Arbor Day instead of Memorial Day!

And LOVED learning about HELL/DEMON.
Thank you, Herr Professor Rex!

Brendan Emmett Quigley 10:17 AM  

Catching up now that I've got a little spare time in DC...

I hate these themes. I covered it here as one of my Ten Bullshit Themes. I know it's hard to come up with (A) something easy and (B) something we haven't seen a billion times over on a Monday... but these kinds of non-theme puzzles seem anticlimactic.

tekchic 2:41 PM  

Did this one at the dog park yesterday morning. Good old OLEO and OLIN -- two items I was unfamiliar with until hitting the crosswords heavily. :)

I feel like this would've been more fun without the obvious circles. I know it's a Monday, but let me stretch my brain a *little*!

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

From syndication-land... My local paper didn't print clues for 53D, 54D, and 55D. I was able to get the answers from the crosses, but wondered if anyone else experienced this?

XMAN 1:58 PM  

Nobody's reading last month's posts. In order to keep from getting skunked--and to keep up with the blog--you can subscribe to AcrossLite for $39.95/yr.

Rex Parker 2:09 PM  

XMAN is very wrong. Thousands of people read the posts in syndication (more than read the same-day posts). They simply don't comment with anything like the vigor of same-day posters. Perhaps they are reluctant to read the comments because there are so damned many, all by people who are no longer around to have a conversation with.

No one speaks for this blog but me. And I get all comments sent to me, no matter when they're posted.


Rex Parker 2:12 PM  

Further, one does not "subscribe to AcrossLite." You may subscribe to the puzzle online, which allows you either to solve directly on the NYT site, or to download the puzzle in AcrossLite form (software available for free via the NYT site). From there, you can solve on screen or print puz out and solve on paper.


XMAN 3:11 PM  

Whenever I've clicked on your Across Lite link it leads to a page that pretty much demands a subscription. I don't know what you're talking about.

Other than that, message received.

Richard 3:56 PM  

Lurker in syndication. Have enjoyed this community for several months now. Seems like most everything has been hashed out by the time we get to it. Wanted to point out that, while 29A - old Pontiac (GTO) is correct, it is back in production.

Waxy in Montreal 4:40 PM  

John Lee Hooker and Ray Mancini maybe but in my part of the world Boom Boom can only be a shout out to the late, great Bernie Geoffrion (1931-2006) who earned his sobriquet legimately through basically inventing the slapshot (we're talking hockey). He shoots, he scores!

Janno 2:28 PM  

Please update syndicated link, it is a day old. Thanks.

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