Eskimo boat / MON 12-27-10 / 1986 Keanu Reeves film / Newspaper columnist Kupcinet / Car in Playmates 1958 Beep Beep

Monday, December 27, 2010

Constructor: C. W. Stewart

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "HERE'S JOHNNY!" (60A: Classic TV intro ... or a hint to the starts of 16-, 22-, 30-, 42- and 47-Across) — words that start theme answers are also the last names of famous guys named JOHNNY (I say "famous" despite the fact that I didn't know 60% of the JOHNNYs in question)


Word of the Day: PLINTH (28D: Base of a column) —

In architecture, a plinth is the base or platform upon which a column, pedestal, statue, monument or structure rests. Gottfried Semper's The Four Elements of Architecture (1851) posited that the plinth, the hearth, the roof, and the wall make up all of architectural theory. The plinth usually rests directly on the ground, or "stylobate". According to Semper, the plinth exists to negotiate between a structure and the ground. Semper's theory has been very influential in the subsequent development of architecture. In its most basic form, a plinth is a plain, rectangular block of stone (curved plinths are relatively rare). (wikipedia)
• • •


["I shot a man in Reno / Just to watch him die" — one of the most hard-boiled lines ever written]

Super-fast solve for me—not at all atypical for a Monday. Struggled briefly to come up with PLINTH, and briefly again to come up with "RIVER'S EDGE," which must be somewhat obscure to a good chunk of you. I mean, it's a movie about teenagers, and I saw it in the theater as a teenager, and I still couldn't come up with the name quickly. What's weirder to me about this theme is the quality of the JOHNNYs. Two are flat-out famous: CASH and BENCH. Country music legend and Hall-of-Fame catcher for the Big Red Machine. The others... didn't know any of them. Scratch that. I *thought* I didn't know any of them, but then posited (to myself?) that JOHNNY NASH was the guy who sang "I Can See Clearly Now the Rain Is Gone" or whatever that song is called. But JOHNNY MILLER (a '70s golfer) and JOHNNY RIVERS (a '60s singer)—not ringing bells. Thankfully, knowing them was completely immaterial to the solving process. Done in 2:36.

Theme answers:
  • 16A: Second-stringer (BENCH WARMER)
  • 22A: Compensation in bills and coins (CASH PAYMENT)
  • 30A: "Great taste ... less filling!" sloganeer (MILLER LITE)
  • 42A: 1986 Keanu Reeves film ("RIVER'S EDGE") — I know it's picky, but I'm not thrilled with the apostrophe in the title; presumably there is no apostrophe in Mr. RIVERS' name
  • 47A: Car in the Playmates' 1958 hit "Beep Beep" (NASH RAMBLER)

I hope no one takes offense when I say that this puzzle seems aimed at somewhat older folks (Keanu Reeves movie aside). It's simply a descriptive statement—I think the general quality of the grid is quite good, especially considering the very high theme density. Hard to keep things Monday-appropriate (predominantly easy, familiar answers) and cram that many theme answers in there. Generally, the more space the theme takes up, the harder it is to keep the fill simple.
Ms. Stewart knows what she's doing on these early-week puzzles.

Bullets:
  • 40A: Eskimo boat (UMIAK) — along with PLINTH, one of two decidedly non-Mondayish answers in the grid. Longtime solvers and Inuit culture aficionados will know UMIAK, but that's a roughie for people trying to break into the solving game.
  • 32D: Newspaper columnist Kupcinet (IRV) — Again, don't know him. I'm guessing this is another answer that will be more familiar to older than to younger solvers (and I don't qualify as "younger" any more, btw). IRV Kupcinet wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times for six decades ('40s-'2000s).
  • 24D: Fish-tailed males (MERMEN) — that's sort of a sassy little answer for a Monday. And under the Eskimo boat and alongside the MORAYS (9D: Some eels)—aquatically appropriate
You were supposed to get a sub tomorrow, but my flight to Philly has already been canceled, so it's very likely I'll still be with you on Tuesday. Happy travels or leftovers or whatever you've got going on.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

59 comments:

Steve J 12:17 AM  

Good, not great, Monday. Slightly longer solve than normal for me, slowed a bit by UMIAK and RIVERSEDGE (despite being the same age as Rex, I have zero recollection of that movie; first movie I remember with Keanu Reeves was a year or two later: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure) and an error in the SW (ITY instead of IZE).

Theme's solid, although I also knew only BENCH and CASH (although NASH sounded vaguely familiar). Thought the theme answers and clues were all done well. I liked the couple long downs (PRELATE and REAREND), and the fill overall seemed good.

As good as things were, there was just some undefinable snap that wasn't here that's in the strongest early-week puzzles (like last Monday's). But it was nevertheless an entertaining break between football and turkey leftovers with the folks. And better than going outside. I've been in California too long to put up with the snow and cold back home.

retired_chemist 12:27 AM  

Knew all the Johnnies except Nash and Rivers, none of which made any difference. Big problem was RIVER'S EDGE, specifically the G. I was fixated on deciding between RANT and RAVE for 36D. Never considered RAGE and couldn't get the movie. Finished with that wrong square and knew it was wrong. Bah.

Other than that it was a pretty standard Monday,save for UMIAK and PLINTH, which Rex mentioned. Wanted KAYAK but was sure of MERMEN and then remembered UMIAK. 51D honors ChefBea I presume.....

andrea scala michaels 12:55 AM  

Solving backwards and put in RazoRSEDGE, thinking somehow that was the name.
RIVERSEDGE was the one based on the true story of the kid near SF who killed his girlfriend and his classmates saw her body and didn't even report it ... so eerily parallel to Rex's remark about the Johnny Cash lyric.
Neal Jimenez made the film right out of film school, it started out as a student project, I saw in the early 80s. I don't know what other films he went on to make, but it was a terrific first film.

Hand up also for being old and yet not knowing Johnnys NASH, MILLER nor RIVERS. Then again, the expression HERESJOHNNY already harkens back how many years now?

It's funny, you don't even hear of famous JOHNNYS anymore...(Let alone IRV or BABS) so maybe that's part of the old-feeling to it. JOHNNY DEPP, JOHNNY, um, ?

Actually, now that I think about it, isn't there a JOHNNY MILLER
who is Angelina Jolie's first victim? I mean, husband?

(Google now tells me he is Jonny Lee Miller)

But once again, 6 themes on a Monday!!!!
And little X, Z, J's tucked into each corner...

(This grid is also unusual for a Monday in that, normally, Will won't allow a corner to have but ONE square entry into it, as tho it's cut off from the rest of the puzzle...let alone all four corners!
The NW is connected only by the A in Ass; The NE by the M in PAYMENT; The SW by the H in PLINTH (!) and the SE by the J in JED.
But again, that was probably given a pass, what with SIX theme entries and such smooth fill, and jazzy letters, so it worked.)

Plus it started out with BATMAN, I would think somehow extra points for that.

chefwen 12:57 AM  

Easy Monday puzzle, didn't know MILLER, or NASH, but didn't need to because the clues took care of the unknown persons. Dad had a NASH Ramblers for years, man that was one ugly car.

Loved Johnny Carson, he was one guy who really was irreplaceable, not too many people can claim that.

Nighthawk 3:12 AM  

Nice easy Monday and tight theme. Knew all Johnnys but Nash. Thought the fill was pretty snappy and fun.

Rivers is worth a look-up on wiki here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Rivers

His "Live at The Whiskey A Go Go" was a classic album, as was the single "Memphis", which is probably the one you'll remember better than writer Chuck Berry's own version (unless you just happen to be a Chess geek). "Secret Agent Man" is another Rivers' classic with the unforgetable line "There givin' you a number and takin' away your name." And not a bad string as a producer! Plus, anyone who was on Elvis' sh*t list due to a squabble over song selections, in my view, can't be all bad!

33 and 1/3 RPM LPS was like icing.

Agree with @RP on the CASH line comment.

Hand up for kayAK before changing to UMI and for never having heard of RIVER'S EDGE or IRV.

Liked BATMAN and the MERMEN both in the grid.

Liked the oblique Nicholson reference with CREEPy above the "HEeeeeREs JOHNNY!" line from The Shining.

John V 8:06 AM  

@rex, concur that it helps to be on the Norht side of 60 to blitz this one. I'm cool with that.

Matthew G. 8:12 AM  

Despite being a tad younger than Rex, I knew Johnny RIVERS in addition to the mega-famous CASH and BENCH. I think I saw Rivers at one of those "ultimate oldies" concerts in the 90s where they get five or six 50s and 60s bands to perform together.

Unfortunately, that didn't help me with the solve soon enough to get a strong Monday time, because, not knowing NASH or MILLER, I still hadn't figured out the Johnny theme when I got to the Keanu Reeve movie (which I also did not know) and guessed RIVER RIDGE, which slowed me down a good long time from getting MERMEN, USERS and UMIAK. So I finished with a below-average Monday time.

Anonymous 8:12 AM  

(Johnny Rogers?)

Take your pick 9:00 AM  

@Anon 8:12a

•John (Johnny) Bernard Rogers Bakker (born December 30, 1963, in Fullerton, California) is a retired American professional basketball player. He is a 6'10" 225 lb who played the power forward position and played collegiately at Stanford University and the University of California, Irvine.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Rogers

•John "Johnny" H. Rogers was a professional rugby league footballer of the 1910s and '20s who at representative level played for Great Britain, and at club level for Huddersfield, playing at Wing, Stand-off/five-eighth, Scrum-half/halfback, i.e. number 2 or 5, 6, or 7.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Rogers_(rugby_league)

P>G> ;)

chefbea 9:02 AM  

Back home now - although it took 14 hours to get here(normally takes 10+) - and low and behold a puzzle in my honor 51D as @retired chemist noted and also 1D. Yes my kids call me Babs.

And I too don't know Nash, Miller and Rivers.

Good to be home and back on the blog

MikeinSTL 9:06 AM  

I'm watching the Today Show and they're doing live shots from Natick, MA -- of course it immediately made me think of Rex Parker and the blog bunch. :)

[I'm in syndication land so I can't comment on this puzzle. Too bad Santa didn't bring me a subscription to the NYT puzzle site.]

Evgeny 9:07 AM  

disagree about the "older-folks" quality of this one. i'd say it's pretty well balanced, with Irv and most of the Johnnys on the one side, Lil' Wayne and West Wing on the other and most of the answers fairly age-neutral.

Also knew two of the Johnnys - Cash and Nash. Bench is Flat-Out Impossible to know for the foreigner (being neither Cuban nor Japanese I really and passionately don't care about baseball, which is a handicap, crossword-wise).

Plinth was a gimme, since "плинтус" (plintus) is a very common Russian word meaning... damn, now I have no idea what this thing is called in English. You know those wooden or plastic thingies that "connect" the floor with the wall? i'd call it a floor ledge

ArtLvr 9:09 AM  

So sorry about storm conditions for Rex and all back East. Good luck to all of us traveling again in the week ahead!

Like @Andrea, I tried Razor's edge -- otherwise all went quickly after seeing IRV. I smiled at the theme reveal, though I knew only Johnny Cash for sure.

Loved JED of West Wing too, and MERMEN? Talk about RARE... Nicely done!

∑;)

joho 9:11 AM  

I was impressed with the density of the theme and the smooth, unforced fill.

I like RPM with LPS like @Nighthawk as well as golfer MILLER near TEE, BATMAN near BENCH, even though he was a catcher, and LEI close to ORCHID.

@andrea, thanks for the history on RIVERSDEDGE ... I remember it as a CREEPy story.

And thank you, C.W. Stewart for a solid, seamless Monday.

mitchs 9:12 AM  

Johnny Miller is the preeminent golf announcer on tv (NBC)...and in the mid-seventies was the best player on tour for a couple of years.

For golfers, a gimmee.

For non-golfers - no reason to have ever heard of him.

donkos 9:27 AM  

Rex - thank you for posting your time - always fun to see where I rate against the pros :)

This was also a fast solve for me although nowhere close to Rex's time - I just can't seem to master Crossword lite - the theme didn't help me at but then didn't need it.

I knew who Johnny Miller was from my golf days but Johnny Rivers? Thought that was Joan Rivers husband :)

jesser 9:48 AM  

NASH and RIVERS were my unknown Johnnys. ALl the rest were in my brain, palling around with the inimitable Carson, who anchored this neat little puzzle.

I have yet to do the Fri-Sat-Sun puzzles, having been inundated with people for many days. But it was a lovely holiday.

I'm getting back in the groove!

Changu! (What one says to the baby now old enough to do its own doo duty) -- jesser

Neville 9:53 AM  

Put me in the 'too young to know these JOHNNYs' category... somehow I did know two (with a third coming way after the puzzle). Still a Monday for overall difficulty, but the theme didn't really help or hinder me. I guess it played like an easy themeless today, which isn't bad at all :)

PlantieBea 10:20 AM  

Oh, it was River's Edge. I didn't know...and parsed the title River Sedge. Perhaps my brain was cold addled since our heat cut out on one of the coldest nights of the year. Or maybe just a plantie thing. Fun puzzle!

PlantieBea 10:22 AM  

Sorry, forgot to check the box. Stay warm, all.

Two Ponies 10:32 AM  

Nice solid Monday.
I remember Johnny Rivers from a song "The Poor Side of Town."
A golden oldie.
It's even cold here in Vegas.
I never even got out of my jammies yesterday. Best of luck to all of the unfortunate travelers.

CaseAce 10:32 AM  

Shot-up to the Windy City to watch the Bears-Jet's game at the new Soldiers Field via Amtrak from Quincy, Illinois, with my son. Surprisingly the weather wasn't so much the problem for this gezzer, however, the long ascending climb approaching the stadium was and then the fact that our seats were way-up in the grandstands almost caused me to drop to my knees climbing the steps with some kind of Aortic event that reminded me I might be visiting some kind of Mayan Temple!
Being former New Yorkers, we were rooting against Da Bears to go down to Da Feet at the hands of the forever disappointing Jets!

retired_chemist 10:39 AM  

Off topic but of interest in connection with a thread of several days ago:

"Rare earth mining begins in U.S.: A rare earth minerals mine in California resumed operations last week in an effort to break China's monopoly on the U.S. rare earth market. According to PCWorld, China provides 90 percent of the world's rare earth minerals, a group of 17 metals vital to the miniaturizing of electronic components such as magnets and capacitors."

Anonymous 10:49 AM  

No offense taken, Rex, but, being 41, you will be there befroe you know it. IRV Kupcinet was indeed a Chicago social columnist for many years and probably a gimme for any Chicagoan over 20, but he also teamed up with Jack Brickhouse for many years to broadcast Da Bears' games and would have really enjoyed the one yesterday. Hope the Blizzard of 2010 doesn't upset your Florida travel plans, Rex....

Sparky 10:53 AM  

Basically easy. I had kayak, not UNIAK; Ira, not IRV; and ity, not IZE at first but they sorted themselves out later. Never got the movie name. Forgot the Johnny theme till I came here

My Cuban inlaws celebrate like mad. We are having a wine tasting tongiht as our Perdue genius took a wine course. I have a cold, I'm pooped. And really happy.

I feel bad for my NYC friends with all that snow. Have a good week, be safe.

mac 10:58 AM  

I had to do this puzzle online, since I haven't braved the unplowed driveway to my mailbox yet. Newspaper man didn't make it up the hill this morning.

I made excellent time and enjoyed this very competent puzzle, although I only knew Johnny Cash. I would love to claim that I'm too young to know these Johnnies!;-)

@evgeny: that thingy is called "plint" in Dutch.

My favorite, new word was "merman"!



neste: that's what we're doing on our anniversary.

retired_chemist 11:08 AM  

Anniversary? Happy Anniversary, mac!

Jim 11:11 AM  

Nice mix of old and young today. Speaking of young, the only famous Johnny perhaps worthy of mentioning (beside Mr Depp) is Johnny Knoxville.

Other great moment of the day came with Stupidhead: the only other time I've heard this Aspersion used was in 'Homer Goes to College':

"Brring...brring...

"Hello?"

"Hello, dean?...you're a...stupidhead"

"Homer, is that you?"

"Waaaahh!" (Hangs up and runs away)

chefbea 11:13 AM  

Happy anniversary Mr. and Mrs. Mac. Enjoy the day in front of a nice roaring fire

michael 11:19 AM  

Knew all the Johnnys' Also thought I knew uniak and wondered what mernen were...

PlantieBea 11:32 AM  

Happy Anniversary Mac!

JaxInL.A. 11:47 AM  

Getting past the holiday means being able to read the blog regularly again...

I've started to do a second puzzle most days, but I find that doing two in a row muddles my memory of the experience solving each. I remember this feeling solid and workmanlike, loved BATMAN and MERMAN.

STUPIDHEAD is what Lilo's sister Nani says when she kicks the car of the inaptly named Cobra Bubbles in "and Stitch."

Happy Anniversary, @mac & spouse!

ksquare 12:04 PM  

Re: 9D

If an eel bites you knee
When it's under the sea, that's a moray!
In memory of a late friend who almost lost a finger while feeding them. They're vicious.

mac 12:21 PM  

Thank you guys!
It's as cozy as our honeymoon in New Hampshire.

syndy 1:03 PM  

yup,Ira ,ity, kayak and couldn't figure out how they were trying to spell Razors edge!snorkeling in hawaii was grabbed by the ankle by a big mean bugger of an eel.Much more scared than hurt I could almost hear him snickering. hurbunbu- don't know what it means but I like it

TimJim 1:12 PM  

Got the Johnnys so I guess I'm old. "Secret Agent Man" (Rivers) was the first record (45 rpm) I ever bought as a kid.

Joe 1:26 PM  

Lotsa good names, actually.

Johnny Miller --- well known golf analyst whose style often gets him in trouble with the players. As a player, his golden years were 73-74. In Jan 74 he won three tournaments in a row.

Johnny Nash -- "I Can See Clearly Now." The band behind him on that record is The Wailers (as in "Bob Marley and....").

Johnny Rivers -- or John Henry Ramistella from New York City: "Secret Agent Man" (The show was called "Danger Man" in England.) "Poor Side of Town", "Summer Rain." All good tunes.

The real gem here is IRV Kupcinet, or "Kup" as he was known to everyone. Gossip columnist in Chicago for sixty years. Died in 2003. Everyone in Chicago could do an imitation of him. Didn't have a real think skin about it, either.

Tinbeni 2:04 PM  

Nice FUN Monday.

Chefbea, Ahhh, for you the BEET.
And SMUT that will AROUSE for me. Yippie !!!

I'm "only" 58 ... but this was "Age" appropriate.

Mac, Happy Anniversary !!!
I guess with all that snow you'll have to EAT IN.
Oh well, it's not the 'where' but 'with who' that's important.

Down here, it's a bit NIPPY ... at 2:04pm it's only 48.
(I may freeze to death).

Cheer's to all at Sunset.

Anonymous in France 2:13 PM  

@evgeny
@mac
"Plinthe" in French means "baseboard". I think that is the English word you're looking for.

joho 2:13 PM  

@mac ... happy anniversary! "Honeymoon in New Hampshire" makes a great movie title!

Sfingi 2:19 PM  

Would have liked to do the NYT Mon., but they didn't make it to Utica, no doubt because of the storm. They tell me the Post didn't make it either. Once again, this Dec., we escaped the storm.

I see youse talking about Johnny Rivers. I saw him live at the Great NY State Fair. And yes, he's Italian.

@Evgeny - if it's wood, it's called woodwork, as in "crawl out of the woodwork." They call the vinyl ones, wall base cove molding.

Fustrated Upstate.

balto 2:25 PM  

Pretty easy for me, but I screwed myself in misreading MERMEN clue -- otherwise might have been a personal record. (For me that's close to 4 minutes, for Monday -- I still have no idea how it is physically possible to complete one in 2:36 -- maybe one far away day.)

Knew only Johnny Cash/Nash/Bench -- even though I'm "older" ;) -- but didn't need crosses even a little. Never heard of Kupcinet -- but had IR so I figured it had to be either IRA or IRV. Tried V, which helped get RIVER'S EDGE.

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

I was not AROUSEd by this one. A bit CREEPy. With the clue of Porn for SMUT crossing with TEEN for starters. Moving on to an ASS on top getting REAR-ENDed at the bottom. Good thing the diners were at home -- otherwise EAT IN could have been something to make this even more CREEPy.

balto 2:27 PM  

@Sfingi -- you can get the xword at nytimes.com.

fikink 2:58 PM  

@Nighthawk, Good eye on the CREEPY above HERE'S JOHNNY! Somehow I had The Shining impression, but couldn't ID it.

@evgeny, I think we've had a carpenter refer to what you describe as a "toe shoe" or "base shoe" here.

As @Anon10:49 states, everybody in Chicago knows Kup, Used to watch IRV on late night talk when I was babysitting.

And older brother Dit- used to listen to Johnny Rivers...

...Marie is only six years old.
Information, please,
Try to put me through to her
in Memphis, Tennessee.

Happy Anniversary, Mac. You guys out East are getting what we got Christmas Eve - gorgeous, if you can stay inside next to a fire.

I enjoyed your puzzle, CW.

imsdave 3:25 PM  

Happy Anniversary Mac - give my regards to what's his name too!

Anonymous 3:47 PM  

baseboards

Van55 5:10 PM  

Good enough puzzle, thought I never bothered to pause and rrecognize/enjoy the theme.

mitchs 5:18 PM  

Personal Mondegreene from childhood: "Secret AAAsian man! Secret AAAsian man! They've given you a number, and taken away your name."

Two Ponies 6:04 PM  

@ mac, Hope you have a great cozy evening.

@ imsdave, Hey, where have you been?

Secret Asian man! I love it.

Stan 7:09 PM  

This puzzle was nice and easy but stumped me in many ways. Like what the hell is the connection between BENCH, CASH, MILLER, NASH, and RIAER____? So 'River's Edge' -- which tipped me off to 'Here's Johnny' -- was a fun moment, and as I recall a pretty good picture.

My favorite early Keanu is "My Own Private Idaho" (continuing the B-52's subthread).

Baseboards, moldings, plinths, skirting boards: the construction industry has a huge number of terms for familiar things.

The blizzard is finally past here in Maine. @mac -- I hope your plow guy showed up. @imsdave -- thanks for the cool bonus puzzle! Others: crank back to the Saturday write-up if you missed it.

retired_chemist 8:26 PM  

@ Secret Asian man -

there is always Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear.

Tobias Duncan 9:24 PM  

Rivers Edge is a cult classic. Some really bad acting by Reeves and Crispin Glover but a brilliant performance from Dennis Hopper.SNL did a great send up at one point.
Very odd film , similar to "Blue Velvet" or "Vampires Kiss".
Oh and Ione Skye! Her Beastie boyfriend once rhymed her name with macaroni in one of his songs.

Sfingi 9:31 PM  

@Balto - not without paying for a subscription.

Sparky 10:20 PM  

Happy Anniversary Mac. Hope you had a lovely day.

william e emba 2:11 PM  

A day late--the blizzard kept me inside--but there is a beautiful double mondegreen related to JOHNNY NASH: "I can see Cleveland now Lorraine has gone".

Anonymous 6:17 PM  

Hi, from syndication land. I know this way off the subject but, here goes. The Sunday puzzle with the theme Total lunar Eclipse. there was a clue, followers of the Dharma, answer Hindu. Hindus do not follow the Dharma Buddhists do. I am surprised that no body caught this error. Bye

Gil.I.Pollas 1:53 PM  

By the Fourt Tops: "Ain't no woman like a one-eyed glot."
Daughter, who is new to NYT puzzles found this quite difficult. The only "Johnny" she knew was 'Rivers Edge.'

Cary in Boulder 7:58 PM  

Huh. I knew all the Johnnys, so guess I know what that says about me. Whatever, I blew through this one so fast that the ink barely had time to dry w/no crossouts. Didn't catch the theme until the reveal. Went "oh yeah" and kept on blazing.

Assume most of you know that the "Here's Johnny" in The Shining was a reference to the Johnny Carson show intro from Ed McMahon.

@Jim: "Other great moment of the day came with Stupidhead: the only other time I've heard this Aspersion used was in 'Homer Goes to College'"
In light of this puzzle shouldn't that be ASSpersion? ;-}>

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