Slow-moving primates / MON 5-3-10 / Yiddish for "small town" / Country singer Ritter / It's inserted in a mortise

Monday, May 3, 2010

Constructor: Susan Gelfand

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: All Tied Up — The last word of each theme answer is something that can be TIED.

Word of the Day: SHTETL (6D: Yiddish for "small town")

Smalltown East European Jewish community, famous in lore for the warmth and Jewishness of its life. The shtetl (Yid. diminutive for shtot, "town") was born in the 16th century when Jews were invited by the Polish gentry to constitute the urban commercial class on their lands. Whether they remained a majority or became a minority in these new settlements, and whether the towns remained truly small or mushroomed into cities, Jewish life there over the next few centuries, intimate and inbred, assumed characteristic patterns, making the shtetl a unique social and cultural habitat. It was here that everything associated with the rich fabric of Jewish life, however romanticized, found expression. ...

In the 19th century, the shtetl and its way of life spread to the Russian Pale of Settlement and the eastern lands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; in the 20th century, in the face of modernization and urban migration, it declined; and in the Nazi Holocaust, it ended. Shtetl life has been immortalized in the stories of Shalom Aleichem and the paintings of Marc Chagall.

• • •

Hi, everybody. PuzzleGirl here, just off the plane from the L.A. tournament where, as expected, we had a total blast. I'm sure Rex will tell you all about it here and I'll probably write up a little something over at our other blog on Tuesday. For now, I'll just say that Elissa Grossman is my hero — she put on a wonderful event and it was so much fun to be there with so many kindred spirits!

Today's puzzle is actually the first puzzle we solved for the tournament. I'm going to admit it was a little more difficult than I expected it to be. But that might just be because of the first-tournament-puzzle jitters. It was mostly a smooth solve but I know exactly what you're thinking right now, because it's exactly what a whole lot of us were thinking on Saturday: LORISES? Yes, apparently LORISES are 37A: Slow-moving primates. Let's see what one looks like, shall we? Oh hey! It's adorable! I spent a little bit of time at the end of the solve checking those crosses. I finally convinced myself that they were solid and considered the puzzle done.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: A-team (FIRST STRING).
  • 26A: Composer's work for a film (MUSICAL SCORE).
  • 47A: Portuguese, for Brazilians, e.g. (MOTHER TONGUE).
  • 61A: Really steamed ... or what the ends of 17-, 26- and 47-Across are? (FIT TO BE TIED).
Let me tell you what I like about this theme. The three tied things all tie in different ways. A string is an actual physical object that can be TIED. A score that's TIED isn't tied in a bow, it's just even. And then there's TONGUE-TIED which, again, has a different meaning. I like that. I like consistency! Also straight lines, alphabetized lists, and spreadsheets. I'm a little rigid is what I'm saying.

I'm not gonna say much about this puzzle because it's late and I'm still kind of on this puzzle tournament high and I really need to get to bed and it's hard to concentrate. Plus, I know that even if I don't say much, you all will have fun in the comments anyway. So chat it up. What did you like? What did you have trouble with? I bet you're not the only one!

Couple things:
  • 22A: Excellent, in slang (GNARLY). Little California flavor here. Perfect for the tournament!
  • 5D: Like dragons and centaurs (MYTHICAL). Me: "Scary?"
  • 12D: Country star Steve (EARLE). My favorite Steve Earle song is "Six Days on the Road," but I'm pretty sure I posted that last time, so today we'll fade out with "Copperhead Road."

Love, PuzzleGirl

[Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter]


lit.doc 1:03 AM  

@Puzzle Girl, congrat’s on your performance in LA! Hooray Team LA Crossword Confidential!

Felt like a good, solid Monday puzzle to me. It even allowed me to screw up UAE/UAR again, and to be reminded once again of SHTETL, one of the first CW101 vocab words I ran across—strike that—ran aground on when I first started trying to solve Real Crossword Puzzles. The theme was clever, in an after-the-fact sort of way, but would likely not have helped solving even if I’d taken the time to look.

Thought for a second that 32A “Realtor’s favorite sign” might be a highly creative OREO clue, but no. Disappointed again when LORAXES wouldn’t work for 37A. And want of squares was all that saved me from 29A “Church feature seen from a distance” = KING OF THE APSE.

Rex Parker 1:19 AM  

I would have rated this challenging. At the tournament, Tyler finished the Tuesday puzzle faster than this one, as did I. LORISES!


PurpleGuy 1:54 AM  

I really liked this puzzle. Being a VietNam war veteran, 15A and 16A were appropriate.
Loving classical music, FIRSTSTRING,MUSICAL SCORE,STRAUSS,RAVEL and DIVA were a DREAM. TOO bad Maria Callas wasn't featured.
For some reason, I got a kick with EROS crossing REMOTE and SCOOTERS. Don't ask where this mind goes.
LORISES was totally getable from the crosses.
I was not FITTOBETIED with puzzle, but rather had a GNARLY experience.
On one of my stays in Hawaii, I watched a mongoose on the property from my lanai. Interesting creatures.

Thank you Susan Gelfand for a most enjoyable Monday.

Wonderful write up, Puzzle Girl. Thanks.

operapianist 2:01 AM  

A few random thoughts about Mon's puzzle, lubricated by several glasses of champagne punch on a penthouse-terrace party at which I was the cocktail pianist (allowing me to slip onto said terrace and drink, natch):

*I much prefer MORTAR and PESTLE to MORTISE and TENON, though I'm happy to know what a TENON is now

*JIB and TRIB-- 2 -ib words I don't usually see, even in xwords (yay)

*double-O animal crossings in the NE (me likey)

*the fact that GNARLY can slangily mean both "remarkable; outstanding" AND "unpleasant; disgusting" (the latter of which pretty much sums up my opinion of POODLES)

*foreign words in the plural: BOO (though ETES much preferred over the ETRES of a xword I did awhile ago)

andrea tsa michaels 2:29 AM  

As a nice Minneapolis Jewess, I immediately filled in SHTETL and like a nice Minneapolis Jewess, I felt guilty that that word was way too hard for a Monday, given a) the word itself b) the spelling.

but then I saw LORISES which I'm 93% sure I learned from this very blog and I felt less guilty about being Jewish and having an advantage and more guilty for being a Rex blog insider!

But then THAT guilt was dissipated bec I figured it makes up for the 8593209 instances of sports stuff (one phrase of which I will scream about later in the week)

Very exciting to compete, and wonderful to have had Susan herself there...but I realize it's all too crazy for me bec I get so revved up that I don't even notice the theme!!!!!!! The timer so freaks me that I don't even check my grid, all i know is I want my hand up!

I know it seems strange to have competed if I was going to do the play-by-play of the finals, but that only lasts 10 minutes (wow those guys are a-mazing) and I was 99.857% sure I was not going to be in the top 3, and my eyes are too bad to be a judge, so...

Anyway, echo @PuzzleGirl's Elissa Grossman sentiments...
the woman has missed (so far) her true calling as a stand-up comic, but I'm sure HER parents (who were there in force helping her!!!!!!) are still kvelling (the only uber-Jewish word not in the puzzles this week!) she's a biz school professor.
I mean, MY mom was thrilled I can now say I went to business school!
(OK, it was only for one day, and it was to do five crosswords, but still!)

@Hudson Hawk
I see TSA is a sort of bleedover.
I'm still chuckling over your Toothpaste and Shampoo authority /Thousands Standing Around.
Will keep me sane on my trip back tomorrow.

chefwen 2:34 AM  

Good, crunchy, Monday puzzle. Took my time with it bec. husband is on the mainland and I'm a tad bit bored, it's no fun to cook for one. We don't have any Mongoose here as we are the only island with a protected sanctuary for the Nene. Mongoose like to eat ground breeding birds eggs so the Mongoose are banned from Kauai, and that is one of the reasons why we have so many freakin chickens. Doggie boys are doing their best to keep the population under control, but it is a losing battle.

dk 7:16 AM  

I thought LORISES only existed in Dr. Suess.

As a WASP SHTETL was interesting Monday fare as was the return of the ABC island ARUBA. My great mistake was RIO as Reo. Gotta get the spell checker in my Foray black ink medium point (1.0mm) fixed.

Susan G. thank you for a delightful Monday puzzle. A great start to the week.

And, Puzzle Girl you are FIRSTSTRING.

It may rain cats and dogs here so I will be careful not to step in any POODLES.

jesser 8:02 AM  

Congrats to all the LA tournament participants. Sounds like great fun!

I just freakin' LOVED this puzzle. I was a little surprised that OUT SHINE was right next to OUTFIT, and that OUTFIT crozzed FIT TO BE TIED, but I was surprised in a way that made me grin, so I'm okay with it.

So much to love: MYTHICAL, SHTETL, MONGOOSE, GNARLY, POODLES (I generally dislike them if they're yappy, but I don't mind them in a puzzle), SCOOTERS, ZIP, BOP and RASPY! That's some zippy fill!

HUGE shouout to me and @archaeoprof with Steve EARLE right up there at 12D. My favorite of his songs is "The Road Goes On Forever and the Party Never Ends." My favorite version of it is by Jack Ingram.

Happy Monday, everyone (and special thanks to those of you who wrote back-channel over the weekend. 'Preciate it much much).

Gizesin -- (The stuff you use to make a martini that will knock the piano player off his stool at the balcony party ;-) ) -- jesser

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

@PuzzleGirl - For the benefit of those who don't know, would you identify the 3 people in the photo in your write-up, please? Thanks.

joho 8:08 AM  

Lovely Monday puzzle, thank you, Susan Gelfand!

So much more interesting than most early week efforts with JILT, GNARLY, SHTETL, MONGOOSE, SCOOTERS and LORISES. My ex-father-in-law was named Loris so I knew what one was a long time ago.

I read 69a as Win*g*ding making SNAKY hard to understand for a while.


Elaine 8:42 AM  

Hand up for UAE before UAR, plus an attempt at NATIVE TONGUE before MOTHER/OMAR set me straight.

I could hardly believe my luck, having the Slow LORIS in the puzzle. Yes, they ARE adorable. One of my April Fool tricks--message from Mr. S. Loris with a phone number (Cincinnati Zoo)--the year before the divorce, I think--but I don't blame the LORIS.

Regarded this as Easy, since even those unacquainted with the wee primate had simple crosses. I'm sure being under the gun influenced the rating.

Anonymous 8:53 AM  

I can't decide who's funnier, Puzzle Girl or andrea michaels. Thanks for the laughs on this miserable rainy morning.

OldCarFudd 8:53 AM  

I had some trouble getting traction, and thought: "Gee, this is tough for a Monday!" But it all came together. I knew about lorises, have no particular opinion about poodles except I look down on owners who give them frou-frou haircuts and paint their nails, and had no idea Rikki-Tikki-Tavi was a mongoose. Lots of good stuff today, and no stale junk.

chefbea 9:00 AM  

Good Monday puzzle but I agree - a little bit harder than most.

My best friend at camp - way back when - was Leon Uris's niece.

Crisco yesterday, lard today....yummmm

Elaine 9:10 AM  

A little more about the Lorisidae:

Fans of the Patrick O'Brien Aubrey/Maturin novels will recall the charming 'potto' that Stephen obtains (in _The Commodore_); the passages give insights into the natural history of this charming wee primate.

And if you google, you might run across a quirky Curriculum Vita with this passage:

Due to an unfortunate misunderstanding between my Parents and the local zoo, I was raised as a potto and fed only berries and grubs until the age of three.

Who could fail, after that, to recall the LORIS?

nanpilla 9:13 AM  

@puzzlegirl : great write-up. Your take on the theme helped me get by the fact that they didn't seem consistent - that was the point!

@chefwen : your comment prompted me to look up the history of the mongoose in Hawaii. As usual, the introduction of a non-native species to solve a problem didn't work out too well.

@chefbea and @shamik : lard! Feels like a bleedover - but from the comments, not the puzzle.

Frances 9:33 AM  

Loved the offbeat clues in the SE corner....IDLY and WEEK are pretty run-of-the-mill words, but "How thumbs are twiddled" and referencing the Economist imparted real ZIP. Also liked the concept of SHEBA as a "queendom." Does anyone know any other monarchs or potentates associated with that realm?

Joon 9:52 AM  

anon 8:04: the photo with 3 people contains (left to right) rex, puzzlegirl, and doug peterson. although the more i look at it, the more convinced i am that the floating hand behind PG's head belongs to none of the three of them. maybe it's rex's, but if so, his arm is at a crazy angle.

the photo above them is ty pennington, who despite his other virtues (dreamy eyes, they say), isn't fit to be in this puzzle's theme.

mac 9:54 AM  

Smooth Tuesdayish for me, but I also had to dance around 37A, where I started out with lemures(Var);-). The crosses solved it easily, though. Cute that there was a mongoose in the puzzle, too.

The people in the picture are Rex, PuzzleGirl and Doug Peterson.

Thank you PG, fun write-up.

Dough 10:01 AM  

This video went viral last year (almost 3M views): Enjoy Slow Loris goodness

Hungry Mother 10:19 AM  

I'm more used to this definition of "gnarly" from the Urban Dictionary:

"These kooks have no idea what GNARLY is. Gnarly is when you've gone beyond radical, beyond extreme, it's balls out danger, & or perfection, & or skill or all of that combined."

When I'm kayaking and talk about gnarly conditions, I don't mean excellent. I was slowed down in the puzzle by my idea of what it meant.

HudsonHawk 10:21 AM  

I enjoyed this, but it definitely felt a little slower than a typical Monday. Glad to see it wasn't just me. Nice shoutout to @mac at 51A.

@acme, good luck with that sanity thing!

Cath 10:22 AM  

Glad you had a fun time in LA!

I found this one to be a bit difficult for a Monday. I didn't make a lot of the errors mentioned above because I didn't know the wrong (or correct) answers, eg. UAR/UAI. HA HA. I did try ghetto for SHTETL but that didn't last long and I tend to prefer DuI to DWI, which left the odd WEEK not make sense for a bit too long. Had DEET before RAID; drS before RNS. Also, I didn't know either of the crossed country musicians, despite living in Texas, so the E was a guess. I feel like I can generally fill a lot more without trying for crosses than I did today. Although, I did get MYTHICAL right off the bat. Belatedly saw How to Train Your Dragon this weekend... Soooo cute! I want one now.

@Joon, if you zoom in on the image, you can see the same tan color of Rex's coat going up to the hand, so it's awkward but I think it is his.

Crosscan 10:35 AM  

Nothing like spending a weekend in LA with people like Puzzlegirl and andrea. And Rex was locked in the judge's room most of the time, until they made us release him.

Elissa is awesome. I made one casual tweet about Oreo cookies and a whole box was waiting for me. Just one of thousands of details she seemed to handle.

By the way, I finished fifth.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:36 AM  

Amen to all above. Excellent puzzle, no problems, kept me guessing what the theme would be.

Two Ponies 10:44 AM  

The L.A. contest was great fun.
The organizers did a wonderful job of keeping us entertained and well-fed. Meeting some of the gang from here as well as some constructors was worth the trip. The finalists were awesome. Rex had said that it was a relaxed atmosphere and he was right. For the rookie and expert alike it was very enjoyable.
This puzzle did make for some good chatter because of that pesky critter in the middle and the two country singers in the NE. Not a typical Monday.

retired_chemist 10:59 AM  

LA sounds like it was a lot of fun. Congrats to all - winners and non-winning enjoyers alike.

A little harder than most Mondays, but in the range. My time was about 10% slower that my usual. Not really LORISlike.

Can't think of a single thing to carp about - solid puzzle. Good job, Ms. Gelfand. Thanks.

william e emba 11:00 AM  

We saw TEX Ritter half a year ago. The full name was in the puzzle (along with other xxX first named people).

I tried to break 5 minutes, but I failed, so I only rate it Medium-Easy. I certainly knew SHTETL and LORISES easily enough. But I agree, they are not Monday words.

I believe the GNARLY clue is correct in surfer slang, where the word came from. Here are the rarely seen GNARLY waves of Penzance.

mac 11:03 AM  

Congratulations, @Crosscan! For your place in the tournament and for the cookies! It's clear from all reports that Elissa is a star.

@HudsonHawk: thank you.

Martin 11:19 AM  

Loris. Lorax.

archaeoprof 11:20 AM  

What @Bob Kerfuffle said. Fun Monday, especially with TEX Ritter and Steve EARLE in the NE.

If STRAUSS was alive today, he'd be writing country music...

Stan 11:24 AM  

Nice Monday! Some challenging words (especially the fauna) but all easily gotten from crosses. And the theme ties it up neatly.

Now, off to watch LORIS videos.

hazel 11:56 AM  

@Crosscan. Congratulations. I wish we heard from you more often!!

Loved the puzzle.

Elaine 12:02 PM  

There are tons of Loris videos! So cute. But the action is kind of slow.

When I went to Girl Scout Camp Pamalu, we had to keep anything edible in metal containers, or it would be raided by the talented, active mongoose population. Fascinating little animals...per 'Riki Tiki Tavi,' they can kill venomous snakes.
Speaking of introduced species: on our hikes we were persistently bothered by the thorny lantana thickets--a plant imported for its tolerance of heat. To combat the aggressive lantana, a caterpillar was imported; it attacked other species of plants. So they imported a wasp that would take the caterpillars to nurture their larvae.... You get the idea.

I did not realize any island was mongoose-free; that would be a clever (or would that be GNARLY?) clue for 'Kauai.'

CaseAceFos 12:06 PM  

Elaine, would you be kind enough to provide a few potto's of how you looked prior to turning three?
As for this Monday contribution by Susan Gelfand...'twasn't all that easy to unRAVEL!

Tinbeni 12:21 PM  

On Monday, I ususally ZIP right through the puzzle. Today was a bit more GNARLY but
FUN nonetheless.

OUTFIT next to OUTSHINE, figured there would be CRIES about this but I like 'em.

Learned about the LORISES and more yiddish, SHTETL. Always a plus.

Per @ORANGE in her blog yesterday we will have the LA Tournament puzzles over the next two weeks.

@PuzzleGirl Congrats on your placement.
You too, @Crosscan and all the others.

CaseAceFos 12:35 PM  

"My heart goes where the Mongoose goes" an old popular song that was later retitled!
Elaine, send those cute Loris videos along, I can gnarly wait, as I'm kinda slow on the out-take anyway!

Shamik 1:33 PM  

Even farther from LA now than my home is to Brooklyn....alas. But congrats to all who participated in the LA tournament. You took the step and if you placed well, more congrats.

Great write-up, Puzzle Girl! LORISES? Really? Still...this one fell at 3:20 ranking it as an Easy. SHTETL was a gimme...even as a child, Stamford schools were off for the Jewish holidays so you had to absorb some knowledge even if not Jewish. Felt positively DEFT today.

Off to hike to Sturgill's Landing.

bluebell 1:37 PM  

I never knew, or have forgotten, that there were mongooses (mongeese?) in Hawaii. I learned about them from Kipling, I think because Riki Ticki Tavi was such fun to say.

Sometimes this blog is such a comfort. I thought I was unusually slow today, and kept saying my mantra, "But it's Monday! It can't be that hard!" And I come here and find I am not alone.

I've learned several yiddish words from this blog--shtetl is the latest.

I tried wkly before realizes it was week for the Economist's timespan.

An enjoyable puzzle.

joho 1:39 PM  

@Crosscan ... congrats!

chefbea 2:15 PM  

@shamik your trip sounds great. I will try to remember to go to your blog to keep up with what you are doing.

@crosscan congrats to you and everyone else who did so well

JenCT 3:23 PM  

@Dough That video is adorable!

Liked today's puzzle very much; only got LORISES from crosses, but now I'll remember it.

CrazyCatLady 3:30 PM  

I am so glad to hear that our hosts have rated this puzzle medium to challenging for a Monday! When this was handed out as the Monday puzzle at the LA Crosswords, I thought uh-oh this is going to be pretty GNARLY. I think I almost finished, but that LORISES in the middle had me totally confused. I didn't have time to even consider the theme. Now that I see it, I love it. Enjoyed doing the puzzle again today without the pressure of the huge timer.

Thanks to Susan Gelfand for a very nicely constructed puzzle. I also thought Elissa did a great job coordinating the event. Those giant chocolate candy things were positively sinful. @CrossCan: so you were the guy sitting near me during the second game with a whole package of Mint Oreos? Congrats to you and PG!
@Chefwen - Do those "freakin" chickens lay eggs?

sanfranman59 3:33 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:54, 6:54, 1.00, 54%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:55, 3:40, 1.07, 75%, Medium-Challenging

Sfingi 3:34 PM  

Is it actually legal to have such an easy NYT puzzle, even on Monday?
I felt like the shark eating the surfers in The Far Side.
(Apparently everyone doesn't agree, so it must be an oldster puzzle.)

@Tinbeni - OUTFIT is a verb or a noun, whereas OUTSHINE is a verb only; therefore, it's OK. I just made that rule.

Do people still go to ARUBA? Nice place to die.

Leon URIS is more of a pop writer than literary, but then there wouldn't be a pun.

@Anon804 - the "other" puzzle ID-ed them as Rex, Puzzle Girl and Doug Peterson.

POODLE, LORISES, and MONGOOSE (cute little predator). What's not to love? Lorax

Anonymous 4:16 PM  

@Joon, mac, & Sfingi - Thanks. I thought that might be Rex.

Tinbeni 4:28 PM  

I have seen in the past where 'Two answers with the same beginning' has brought OUT a plethora of comments.

If the answers (or clues, for that matter) have something similiar in the spelling, well, it is all right with me.

My only concern is in doing these things is I have FUN.

Don't mind the occasional DNF.
Or that "this clue" or "that answer" was obscure (to me).
Really enjoy the learning moments.

Okay, I do worry (very little) that there is enough Avatar for the daily Sunset and evening.

chefwen 4:56 PM  

@CrazyCatLady - Those freakin chickens lay eggs like crazy. It's baby season right now, chicks EVERY WHERE!!! It's nuts.

Congrats @Crosscan, have been wondering where you and @treedweller had gone to, I miss your comments.

Anonymous 6:54 PM  

this puzzle got solved just like a monday should despite shaky grounds on lorises and tenon. crosses played their role. easy solve for this wednesday kinda gal.

Stan 8:24 PM  

Re: Steve Earle video. Yikes, this guy can personify "Three chords and the truth." Awesome.

Elaine 9:05 PM  

Please explain that name (I am getting a headache)... the CV was not *mine,* just one I stumbled on and thought kind of adorable. Wanted to share it.
In actual fact, there is ONE (1) photo of me around age one...I was the second child, second daughter, and, um,....not completely welcome. My poor dad, one of six brothers, had no clue whatever about baby girls. I mean, possibly he thought the Romans had the right idea re superfluous offspring.

However, I do hope we see more of your comments in future, as you are as cute as ...well, a LORIS.

Did you really ask if the chickens lay eggs?
Americans are really, truly, getting too far away from The Earth and natural living. (Ask me anything about chickens.)

See you guys tomorrow.

sanfranman59 11:05 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:57, 6:55, 1.01, 57%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:51, 3:40, 1.05, 71%, Medium-Challenging

gih 7:14 AM  

Is that a tarsier or other member of the rat family?

CaseAceFos 8:12 AM  

Elaine, happy to 'splain my name in the main! Case Ace, is a term from the game of poker, and as for the Fos part, well it doesn't stand for "Full of Sugar" as one might suspect! LOL
We do share a nodding acquaintance over at Wordplay where I post under my legit name of WHH of Quincy, IL. and where you shine under your hilarious alias!
Lastly, getting back to Fos, forgot to say it stands for "From Outer Space" I like to occasionally rhyme as well as pun... by the ton! Cheers!

Deborah 8:14 AM  

Chowder with soft shells? Nope, don't think so. That's what those big ol' honking quahog hard shells are for.

Andrew 11:22 AM  

LORISES was great to see! I knew about the slow loris because of this video:

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