Seinfeld's eccentric relative / WED 11-3-10 / 1545-63 council site / Philbin of live TV / P.U. inducer

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Constructor: Tracy Gray

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: CUT IT OUT (62A: "Stop that!" ... and a hint to the answers to 17-, 23-, 39- and 52-Across) — familiar phrases have "IT" removed, creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: TABOR (23D: Drum accompanying a fife) —

A small drum, often having a snare, played by a fifer to accompany the fife.

[Middle English tabur, from Old French, alteration of tambur. See tambour.]

• • •

Monday easy. In fact, I was just 15 seconds slower than I was on Monday, and a full 36 seconds faster than I was yesterday. There's just no resistance here—not for me, anyway. The idea for the puzzle is cute, though it's the kind of thing that might have yielded many more (read: Sunday-sized) results. There must be a universe of potential IT-less phrases out there. These four answers aren't particularly scintillating—although LEARNER SPERMS is kind of memorable, however accidentally. I think I paused slightly in the SW as I tried to enter that corner and put down STY instead of PEN at 61D: Porker's pad. Otherwise, even the odd stuff was right over the plate for me. I wanted TAMBOR (and etymologically it seems I have some cause to want it), but it didn't take too long to get from there to TABOR. And though I'm not a big fan of "Seinfeld," UNCLE LEO is very familiar to me, and an admittedly great pop culture answer (68A: Seinfeld's eccentric relative). LOW PITCH seemed off to me (42D: Fastball in the dirt, say), if only because the phrase isn't very baseball lingo-ish. "I'm going to throw a LOW PITCH now" ... I don't know. Type of pitch is at least as important as location. I know I'm splitting hairs, but the phrase just doesn't gel for me. No matter, rest of the grid seems fine, if a little tired-fill-heavy.

[so THIS is why I say "Mother of Pearl!" as an exclamation... I was wondering where I got that.]

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Online university staff? (NET PROFS)
  • 23A: What Nashville sunbathers acquire? (TENNESSEE TANS)
  • 39A: Sign prohibiting sunshades? (NO VISORS ALLOWED)
  • 52A: Salon jobs from apprentice stylists? (LEARNER'S PERMS)
Today's puzzle was brought to you by the Turkish tourism board, who would like to remind you that, while most of its people are ASIAN (11D: Like most Turks), it's partially in EUROPE (60A: Where to find a piece of Turkey), and so less threateningly foreign than some of your other Middle Eastern countries. Turkey: We're Everywhere You Want To Be. Turkey: Come, Swim the Bosporus. Turkey: The Real White Meat. Etc.

  • 46A: Bailed-out insurance co. (AIG) — AIG stands for something? Hmm. American International Group. I learned something.
  • 5D: Former Big Apple mayor La Guardia (FIORELLO) — I have a vintage paperback (ca. late 50s) of "Life With FIORELLO," which is the only reason I know the guy's name so well. There was a Broadway musical based on this book: Fiorello!
  • 15D: 1545-63 council site (TRENT) — response to Protestant "heresies"
  • 36D: Bar closing time (TWO A.M.) — a sign of how old I'm getting—my first instinct was TEN P.M.
  • 37D: Philbin of live TV (REGIS) — The "live" part, while true enough, seems weird to me. [Philbin of TV] would've been just as easy to get.
  • 38D: "P.U.!" inducer (ODOR) — I didn't know that exclamation was spelled out in letters like that. Looks like a university abbrev.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


John V 12:10 AM  

Yep, easy indeed. Most intersting for me was time to comlete using Acrosslite. I'm a dead tree solver, when communting, but for now on the West Coast, solving on line. I'm not a speed solver by any sense, but clocked this at 8:54. I still like the tactile paper solving process, but it is faster on line, for me.

Tobias Duncan 12:20 AM  

@john V: I can't imagine trying to go quickly on paper. I only ever solve offline when I am doing them with friends and it just seems barbaric.
This had to have been my fastest Wed.
Really enjoyed this one.
The Titans I only know from crosswords. I am realizing now that I actively tune out sports info the same way I tune out ads.I am going to have to stop doing that if I am to get better at this.Its just that I really really really hate sports. Oh well, I will start listening to sporting news next year.

Tobias Duncan 12:38 AM  

Almost forgot, Rex,I love love love all the TMBG that makes it into your blog.Having never seen a photo of you, I somehow imagine you to look like John Linnell.Puzzle girl looks and talks just like Sarah Vowell,Andrea is kind of like an Amy Sedaris with dark hair.

Rube 12:56 AM  

Agreed, Monday easy. Had one writeover, TEchS/TESTS. Prefer my version.

Theme was cute, but no exciting answers. Learned absolutely nothing from this puzzle, with the possible exception of UNA Merkel. Oh, wait, didn't know UNCLELEO. What's a plugOLA?

Uncle who?

Waiting for Thursday.

foodie 1:00 AM  

I agree that this was Monday Easy. But the reveal- CUT IT OUT! made me chuckle. I've always thought it an odd expression... what is one cutting? Aaah-- IT! that sounds a lot less threatening.

LEARNER SPERMS is indeed memorable, and made me chuckle as well! Thank you Rex.

And Rex, your commentary about Turkey was hilarious, because it was soooo close to the truth. The piece of Turkey that's in EUROPE is minute, but it sure comes in handy.

@Tobias Duncan-- good news! Everyone looks much better than your imagination! How often does that happen in life? Unfortunately for me, I have not met Rex or Puzzle Girl in person (but have seen pics). But fortunately for me, I have met Andrea. Prepare to be dazzled!

chefwen 1:19 AM  

It is so good to be back, I've really missed all y'all. Spent the last six days on the floor popping muscle relaxers due to back spasms, and take it from me, they are NOT just TICS.

Missed Friday and Saturday puzzles but managed to do Sunday's puzzle in that awkward position, not an easy feat.

Agree that this was a Monday or Tuesday easy puzzle, only write-over, like Rex, was sty before PEN.

Octavian 1:40 AM  

Clever theme but the cluing should have been harder. We don't need two Mondays in the same week.

Quick note on Turkey: It is on track to join the European Union in the next five years. When it does, it will have second highest population in the EU (after Germany). By 2020 it should be the biggest. ... Turkey also supplies the third highest number of foreign students to U.S. universities, after China and India.

andrea blondie michaels 3:29 AM  

@tobias duncan
that is too funny...and so wrong!
Tho closer than I had been before I met folks in person...I was SO wrong picturing who folks are, I even had the sexes wrong in some of the cases!
(Just to let you know tho, I have even been known to wear an Uma-esque platinum blond wig!)
As for being dazzled, well, let's not get carried away!
Pls take my girl-crush @foodie's comments with a pillar of salt...we sort of have a major mutual admiration society going on!)

Lots of weird things floating around this grid. TOS? UEY? TWP?
(OK, I admit, I don't know what TWP is/are)

For extra grid/theme cleanliness, maybe Tracy could have sidestepped 5A FIT if she is indeed cutting IT out. Easy fix: FIN/NESTS, FIB/BESTS or FIR/RESTS.
(LOWPitCH, admittedly would be more difficult to change)

BARB, JOE and IRA (none defined as people) going across the bottom looks like a fun little group.
I like how they are all first names without being defined that way.

UNCLE LEO, UNCLE SAM, UNCLE TOM ALBERT (we're so sorry), UNCLE BILL (Oh no!), is there a theme here waiting to happen?

John 5:24 AM  

@Andrea Blondie michaels, TWP stands for Township. I grew up in a Township Wayne NJ. nameed after Mad Anthony Wayne who was VERY unkind to indians.

The puzzle was a gas! LEARNER SPERMS indeed!

retired_chemist 5:45 AM  

Enjoyed it, but I agree that it was Monday easy.

@ John - Interesting that Mad Anthony Wayne is the eponym for so many places. I grew up in the county next to Wayne Co, WV, and went to scout camp at Camp Mad Anthony Wayne.

efrex 7:38 AM  

Cute concept, but I found it much easier than yesterday's. Outside of the seemingly ubiquitous STY/PEN mixup, everything fell into place much too quickly for a Wednesday. Now I actually have to do work... :/

dk 7:52 AM  

Hmm, to easy. Only delay was spelling AXES with an i.

Tobias, even tho I do not know what TMBG is, I do know that Andrea is hot (as nephew Dallas would say).

The farm I hope to soon own is in Eureka TWP and the fire numbering sign in the front yard sez so. Thus a gimmie.

** (2 Stars) Tracy this one would have been a contender on Tuesday, but today is not that day.

Beet fans, tonight beet salad with French Feta, a superior feta indeed.

A sad day for many of us: just remember there is more JOE in the pot than tea in a cup.

KooKooKaChoo 8:09 AM  

Oh, shoot. Here I thought I was getting better at this, then I come here and find it's just a Monday.


Left in "cut" for 5A (in fighting trim). "UMF" and "Ciorello" sounded fine to me.

Maybe not really getting better...

(I groaned out loud when I got the theme. That can't be good....)

joho 8:27 AM  

I agree with everyone who thought this was too easy for a Wednesday but I think the theme tickled me a little more than most. The IT in FIT did stick out like a sore thumb, however, as mentioned by @andrea "the dazzler" blondie. Seeing LEARNER SPERMS made my morning! Some of the best humor is unintentional for sure.

@chefwen ... I wish you a full recovery ... there is nothing more painful or dehabilitating than chronic back pain.

David L 8:32 AM  

Easy, also kind of annoying with all those three-letter oddments running hither and yon. TWP is a New York/New Jersey thing, isn't it? Not sure I've seen it elsewhere. The first thing that comes to my mind when I see TWP is that it means "twerp" - may or may not be fitting.

For someone who grew up in the UK, the idea that Turkey is now to be thought of as (partly) European is novel -- it was always regarded as part of the Middle East, a term you don't hear so much any more.

the redanman 8:34 AM  

Monday showed up on Wednesday. Yesterday's LAT vs. Today's NYT made me think a whole lot more, very unusual.

Fun, nonetheless ...

jesser 8:49 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thanks for the 'ola' 8:51 AM  


After I PLAY your record on my radio show, I'll be sure to PLUG all the products you sent along with your bribe.


jesser 8:51 AM  

If I had any musical talent, I always thought that if I'd start a band, it would be called "Loose Sperm and the Holy Rubbers." I am now thinking that "LEARNER SPERM" may be even better. Thanks, Rex!

TWP? Pppphhhhhttttttthhhhhh!

My writeover was at 43A, where I wanted alErT, only to discover the racier ERECT lurking. It did not take me more than four hours to discover the error, so I did not notify my physician.

Put me down as one who thought the theme was enjoyable. No sh!

Undou! (What I wish we could do to So Many of the election results.) -- jesser

chefbea 9:06 AM  

I agree..too easy for wednesday. Got the theme right away.

I met Rex, Puzzle Girl and Andrea at the ACPT a few years ago. Also met many bloggers and constructors...what fun

@dk Enjoy your beet salad!!!

fikink 9:12 AM  

Agree with @Octavian, more difficult cluing could have raised this puzzle to a Wednesday level and, like @efrex, now I have to get on to my day too soon.
@dk, TMBG=They Might Be Giants, and @Rex, I, too, appreciate your embedding them. I always end up too long on YouTube when you do.
@Andrea, I saw that platinum wig on you - very flattering, I got verklempt!
I do not like the clue "come back" for RECUR. It should be "come back to one's mind" or "happen again," I think. "Come back" seems a an ill-suited transference from the medical community. JMHO.

Rex Parker 9:26 AM  

Here's the TMBG clip I wanted to embed:

Istanbul - They Might Be Giants. MTV Europe, 1990

mmorgan 9:36 AM  

Enjoyable and fairly easy indeed (despite some tired fill). Slight delay with ALERT for ERECT and trying to find TABOR in my brain.

Sensing that the bizarre NETPROFS might be part of a theme of some sort, I jumped right down to the SE and was able to get CUTITOUT, making the rest even easier. (Is it cheating to go down there first?)

Liked the clue for BEEP. FIORELLO was a gimme, no idea about UNCLE LEO (but had no problem with it).

Someday, those sperms will learn...

Lindsay 9:38 AM  

Very, very easy. My only problem involved spelling Tennessee with one "s" and three "e"s on the end, an error I attribute to having stayed up way too late for election returns.

OldCarFudd 9:56 AM  

In NJ, townships are the big sprawling things that often have a borough or town or city (depending on size)in the middle. I believe that, in NY, the big sprawling things are towns, and the little places in the middle are villages. I live in Harding Township, NJ, which is so rural and sprawling that it doesn't have anything in the middle. I even used to live on Anthony Wayne Road in Harding Township, though I moved to another road over 30 years ago.

From 1904-1908 there was even a Wayne automobile, named for Mad Anthony. It merged with Northern and became E-M-F; my son has a 1909example. E-M-Fs were marketed by Studebaker, the wagon-building company that was looking to get into car manufacture. Stude bought E-M-F and retired the name; after 1913 the cars were Studebakers.

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

Ok, I get "net profITs", "no visITors allowed", and "learner's permITs" ... but it must be too early in the morning. I don't see where IT fits into "Tennessee tans".

Tansit? Tita... titans.

Never mind.

Van55 10:09 AM  

I agree that yesterday's and today's should have been swapped in terms of difficulty.

This on has 17 proper nouns by my count. The fewest of the week so far. Does anyone think that contributes to the easiness factor?

I liked the puzzle and was amused by the theme. Not withstanding it's proximity to ERECT, I never parsed the answer LEARNER SPERMS that way until I read the writeup. Funny!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:21 AM  

Was it really necessary to clue UNA Merkel as an "Old-time" actress? Anyone who made films during my lifetime surely isn't old-time!

Re: 29 A, Golf ball's position: Why was George Washington a lousy golfer? Because he could not tell a LIE.

Not to be too political, but to sum up yesterday's elections in one word: GEE! (You could look it up, but crossworders know what it means!)

Two Ponies 10:29 AM  

I was entertained by the theme answers and the revealer. What more can I ask of a Wed. puzzle?
@ andrea, Very funny today. Mr. Bill!
I grew up in Fort Wayne, IN where Mad Anthony's fort was.
Being baseball-impaired I was glad low pitch wasn't some crazy nickname.
A real shame about some of the results last night but at least we got to keep Harry here in Nevada.

stix2metunesmiffin 10:36 AM  

Is "not on a bet" really real? Also agree with Rex, Low Pitch has nothing-ish to do with baseball. "Below the knees" is more acceptable parlance. And why not just say "tibetan monk nirvanic communion facilitator?" ooooooooohm! :-)

Jim 10:42 AM  

Not a fun puzzle. The one fun answer I wanted forkball, turned out to be LOWPITCH. Just...ugh!!

The Economist just did a special report on Turkey. Fascinating country, existing as it does at the nexus of Europe and Asia. Resolution of the conflict in Cyprus is a major impediment to EU membership. And Angela Merkel and Nicolas Saarkozy are strident in their opposition to Turkish membership. Immigration, fear of Islam, etc are playing big roles there too. And of course, there is the Kurdish problem.

Chef 10:42 AM  

Good puzzle. I was a little faster today than yesterday. But I could remember to spell Fiorello La Guardia's name with an O instead of an A. Pork's Pad? How about Sty? A Pig's home? Pig Pen? It took me several minutes to realize I put in the wrong answer. I am from Utah and there are pigs who live in sty's here. But I caught on sooner then later. The IT guys and gals showed me the way. The net profits were down because the Tennessee Titans put up No Visitors Allowed signs except drivers with Learners Permits only. Hmmmmm. :)

Grace 10:51 AM  

It's learner's perms, not learner sperms. The apprentice stylists are learning to do perms (permanents).

archaeoprof 11:13 AM  

LEARNER SPERMS. I can't read that without smiling...

For our leed-certified house we wanted a GEO/thermal system, but can't afford it. House is framed and dry as of today!

Rolling Eyes 11:15 AM  

@ Grace, We Know. We're just having some fun.

austinarborworks 11:21 AM  

so I'm currently sitting 16th out of 23 who have solved the puzzle at the nyt site, according to the timer app. I think we may get skewed results from out CA statistician today.

Tenzin Gyatso the EE 11:30 AM  

I believe your suggestion of ooooooooohm will be met with great resistance.

JC66 11:31 AM  

Dont forget LaGuardia airport.

Tenzin Gyatso the EE 11:32 AM  

Comment above was directed at stix2metunesmiffin.

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

Re Wed. NY Times puzzle:
were you making a joke with learner sperms?
It's learners' perms (as in hair styling perm's to
infuse chemical into hair shaft to cause it to hold a curl).

Jake 11:51 AM  

Loved the inclusion of UNCLELEO. I do the puzzle every morning before class while watching my recordings of the previous night's Seinfeld episodes. So, this clue and answer made me quite giddy.

Mel Ott 12:24 PM  

Got the theme early. Thought the reveal would be DROP IT before I got down to CUT IT OUT.

During the 19th & early 20th century Turkey was known as the "sick man of Europe" because of the decadence of the Ottoman Empire, even though most of modern Turkey is in Asia.

Shamik 12:33 PM  

Meh. Too easy.

On the other hand, TMBG can make your day any time!

Greene 12:37 PM  

Fun easy puzzle. Got the theme almost immediately.

@Rex: I would sure like to see the paperback which served as the basis of the show Fiorello!, which is one of those rare musicals which was able to nab a Pulitzer Prize for drama. It also has one of the best ballads Bock and Harnick ever wrote, a lovely tune called "When Did I Fall in Love?" which takes the unusual stance (for a musical anyway) that love sneaks in on tiptoe and doesn't always rush in with trumpets and drums.

Dick Swart 1:23 PM  

Tom Bosley - Happy Day's dad- died Oct 19, 2010. He won a Tony for Fiorello in 1959.

Stan 2:36 PM  

Liked the theme answers, especially NO VISORS ALLOWED (the seed entry?)

I thought the reveal would be "take it away."

Anonymous 3:14 PM  

@Rex said:

38D: "P.U.!" inducer (ODOR) — I didn't know that exclamation was spelled out in letters like that. Looks like a university abbrev.


Right you are, Rex!

Before falling in love with Cal, I learned this at a big Ivy League school rather near to Rex's home:

Don't send my boy to Harvard,
The dying mother said.
Don't send my boy to Syracusssssssssssssse,
I'd rather see him dead!

But send my boy to Princeton,
Or better still Cornell.
But as for Pennsylva-ni-ay,
I'd see him first in hell!

To hell, to hell with Pennsylvania!
To hell, to hell with Pennsylvania!
To hell, to hell with Pennsylvania!
To hell with the U of P! PU!

Lurking Larry, from Big Red Bear to Golden Bear

sanfranman59 3:50 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)

Wed 8:22, 11:41, 0.72, 3%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:13, 5:46, 0.91, 31%, Easy-Medium

Disclaimer: Today's posted solve times are going to be screwy (technical statistical term) since the Java applet for solving today's puzzle went kerflooey (another technical term) and no one could solve today's puzzle online until about 11:30am Eastern time.

Sfingi 7:03 PM  

Another sty before PEN. Worms before TRENT.

Slow going, but no Googling. Didn't know Zagat, Eteve, Titan (sports).

Wasn't the unkindest CUT. More CUTe than painful.

@Tobias - I don't try to mute sports; I just can't care. Maybe because I have no idea what it feels like to enjoy playing sports. Grade school nightmares. The bully was the teacher.

@Chef - In Italian, most men's names end in O, women's in A. Exception would be the ones ending in E, such as Dante.

@Jim - Turkic is also interesting as a language group. That, and whether it's related to Hungarian is somewhat mysterious.

Jenny 8:06 PM  

It's late Wednesday afternoon now, enjoying a puzzle with my tea, and listening to NPR... what a coincidence that this puzzle, with a clue about FIORELLO should come out today; that musical's composer died today. I've seen Fiddler on the Roof, but hadn't heard of FIORELLO until today; I have flown into La Guardia airport, and now I know its namesake's first name.

I also noticed the double reference to Turkey. Should also add that I do recall learning that part of it does lie in Europe, though the majority of its landmass is in Asia.

Enjoyed your writeup as always, RP, as well as the comments, though I seldom post myself. Usually I do the puzzles much later than y'all. Greetings from Austin, Texas!

Jenny 8:20 PM  

It's late Wednesday afternoon now, enjoying a puzzle with my tea, and listening to NPR... what a coincidence that this puzzle, with a clue about FIORELLO should come out today; that musical's composer died today. I've seen Fiddler on the Roof, but hadn't heard of FIORELLO until today; I have flown into La Guardia airport, and now I know its namesake's first name.

I also noticed the double reference to Turkey. Should also add that I do recall learning that part of it does lie in Europe, though the majority of its landmass is in Asia.

Enjoyed your writeup as always, RP, as well as the comments, though I seldom post myself. Usually I do the puzzles much later than y'all. Greetings from Austin, Texas!

fikink 8:47 PM  

@Rex, got back to the blog tonight and saw your alternative TMBG link. Them boys got some David Byrne in them! Saw Elvis Costello commenting on the elections and then doing some dynamite stuff from his new double LP.
We really are all coming together, aren't we?

Anonymous 9:33 PM  

Well, I was proud that this was my first completed Wednesday. It's alright that it's easy. I had a few write-overs: LEARNERStriMS for LEARNERSPERMS, TEchS for TESTS. To the cubicle wall of fame it goes!

mac 10:37 PM  

I had the trim and the sty as well. The thing that really woke me up was P.U., that's how we pronounce it!

Had a lovely day and especially evening in NY...

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