Mass exodus of expertise / MON 4-4-11 / Gaelic spirit whose wailing portends death / Trophy for great college gridder / Scented bag in drawer

Monday, April 4, 2011

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Body rhymes — rhyming two-word phrases where first word is a part of the body

Word of the Day: BANSHEE (25D: Gaelic spirit whose wailing portends death) —

The Banshee, from the Irish bean sídhe [bʲæn ˈʃiː] ("woman of the síde" or "woman of the fairy mounds"), is a feminine spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld. (wikipedia)
• • •

Simple, sprightly theme with really exceptional fill (for a Monday). Big corners, with lots of interesting words, and still Monday-easy. Still don't have this speed-solving-on-paper thing down yet, but I was definitely better than last week. Speed bumps for included EARLIER for EARLY ON (2D: Toward the beginning) and a complete inability to come up with SOUR (15A: Like unripe apples). S- ... SO- ... SOFT? Unh! (it's SOUR). Crosses sorted things out (and amazing crosses they are up there—CONFABS (11D: Chatty discussions) /CUTICLE/TRINKET form a fantastic trifecta). Stupidly wrote a "D" at the end of "NER-" before I looked at the clue (18D: Tyrannical Roman emperor=>NERO). I wonder if the pattern in which you solve makes a difference in terms of speed. I went mostly clockwise from NW back around to SW, and that last part had me approaching lots of Acrosses backwards, from the back end, which doesn't feel like the optimal way to pick up a word. Eh, maybe it doesn't matter.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Mass exodus of expertise (BRAIN DRAIN)
  • 25A: Hiker's carryall (BACKPACK)
  • 37A: Upside-down maneuver (HANDSTAND)
  • 53A: Salon work (HAIR CARE)
  • 63A: Recommended by cardiologists (HEART SMART)
Wife got thrown (though not badly) by two theme elements. First, she thought the first and second words of theme answers would all be spelled (in the rhyming parts) the same, and so had some trouble coming up with HAIR CARE. Also, she asked "why do some start with Hs and some start with Bs?" Sure enough, first two theme answers start B, last three start H. I hadn't noticed. So ... why? Total coincidence, I imagine.

As I said, really liked much of the fill here, incl. the whole NE corner, BANSHEE, VERVE, and LONG RUN (46D: Period extending well into the future). Frustratingly, I got held up on the very last answer I entered—the second [Language of Kenya] clue I encountered, this one the Abbrev. Me: "There's aNOTHer language of Kenya that I should know? Dear lord, what could it ... E- ... oh. Right. OK. Of course. ENGlish." Done.

  • 8D: Argentina-based musical ("EVITA") — not sure why the phrasing on the clue seems weird to me. Maybe because its structure seems analogous to that of "plant-based lifeform." A musical whose very substance is Argentina.
  • 42D: Trophy for a great college gridder (HEISMAN) — Ha ha. "Gridder." So crosswordy. Reminds me of this joke: a gridder, a cager, and a netman walk into a bar ...
  • 49D: Scented bag in a dresser drawer (SACHET) — which rhymes with CACHET, which I always confuse (spelling-wise) with CACHE.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Tobias Duncan 12:14 AM  

This one went so fast I did not even look at the theme.went with HAIRCUTS for haircare, that gave me tEESE for REESE(never heard of Reese so no help there and BANSHEs for BANSHEE (almost a word) and SuCHET (Trebek)
Took a moment to get that sorted.
Fantastic puzzle by my "low crosswordese on Mondays" ideal.

I have been missing TMBG in the write-ups...

retired_chemist 12:39 AM  

Good puzzle, good analysis by Rex. I was luckier than he in answering several without reading the clue, but I would have enjoyed putting in NERD like he did.

Only writeovers were VIGOR -> VERVE @ 15A, TART -> SOUR @ 16A, and BONO -> ENYA @ 50A.

Thanks, Ms. Lempel.

andrea haircare-la michaels 1:39 AM  

Ha! Noticed the 2 Bs, 3 Hs, but didn't realize they were all body parts!!!!!!

I thought they were nice little rhymes and there were 5 of them...and also felt throw that the first three were spelled the same and last two weren't....
(Maybe a Warren vet could be HARECARE but there would go the body parts!)

So now that I know they are body rhymes I love it!

Hand up for EARLier.

The other nice touch is that some of the crosses rhyme, STUN/SHUN, SPIKE/LIKEso, even DEBS/DAB (sort of)

And ya gotta love CONFABS, SWAHILI and BANSHEE!!!

foodie 1:40 AM  

DEBS at 1A threw me for a loop... not a good thing on a Monday!

But BRAIN DRAIN popped up from the clue with no crosses. And I love much of the non theme fill: CONFABS, next to CUTICLE next to TRINKET!!!!!!!!!! (Stealing some of Andrea's !!) How cool is that corner!!!

Fun puzzle with VERVE!!!

JaxInL.A. 1:43 AM  

Very fast, very clean. I solved mostly on downs and had to come here to see the rhyming part of the theme. The puzzle touches on all continents, too.
S. America: Evita
Europe: Danes and the very cool ENYA crossing BANSHEE
N. America : AKRON

Too tired t say. More. Until am,,, best to

chefwen 1:43 AM  

Super easy but fun Monday from Ms. Lempel. Liked all the interesting words cited above by Andrea Hair Care. One write-over at 40A ASHES over embEr.

Rube 1:56 AM  

Like @Chefwen found this super easy and fun, although Eugene DEBS was only gettable thru the crosses... pretty obscure guy for Monday IMO.

My early week challenge is to do the puzzle without any overwrites. Was successful today, but had to go carefully in several places, e.g. had to get OUTING by working from both directions. Still not sure that an OUTING is necessarily a "pleasant excursion".

Jane and Michael Banks 2:10 AM  

If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts
Play games, all sorts
You must be kind
You must witty
Very sweet and fairly pretty
Take us on outings
Give us treats
Sing songs, bring sweets

Greene 3:56 AM  

Wrote in Eugene DEBS instantly having just been reminded of him by a reference on my favorite television show of the moment, Archer. I swear I need Google at my side to keep up with all the topicality on that program. Had to look up the Bread and Roses Strike on the very same episode.

There has been a BRAINDRAIN going on in my field of practice, Internal Medicine, for the past 20 years as graduating medical students increasingly gravitate toward fields of practice with better hours, better compensation, and less hassle. How strange to find oneself becoming a dinosaur, watching our ranks shrink, and simultaneously educating our future replacements - namely physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Ah, progress.

Forgive me if I've shared this story before, but I recall coming out of a production of Evita once with a historian friend who was no lover of musical theatre. He was so appalled and apoplectic about the very idea of a musical about Evita Peron that he spluttered, "What's next? A musical about Stalin? They'll probably call it Joe!" I countered there was probably already somebody laboring on a musical about the Kennedys with that same title. I think he actually believed me. He was not amused.

Rube 4:28 AM  

@greene, your comments are always a pleasure to behold.

Bob Kerfuffle 7:16 AM  

This puzzle could have been titled "Bod Squad."

Anonymous 7:25 AM  

'Extedning,' Rex? Is that like 'extending,' except it involves persons named Theodore?

Ah, the hazards of flying fingers.

@Rube: never heard of DEBS?

joho 8:04 AM  

I loved DAB and TAD in the opening and closing corners. And also finding more body parts at TOE and CUTICLE.

Lynn has put her best foot forward!

SethG 8:19 AM  

I really liked this, and really liked the Kenyan pairing.

mmorgan 8:38 AM  

Fun and easy and lively -- a great Monday!

@Jax -- what's a good word for a puzzle that touches every continent? A landgram?

chefbea 9:00 AM  

Fun easy Monday puzzle. I too did not realize they were all body parts.

@jaxinLa - in answer to your question of last night I -like @mac and others- read the comments all day long and first thing in the morning.

Doug 9:17 AM  

Top half really easy; bottom half a little slower. Chuckled with JOHO above when I saw where DAB and TAD were placed. Agree with Rex on degree of difficulty for Monday. I thought REESE was over-clued. Baseball's Peewee would have been enough. If you don't know that, the Robinson part won't help much.

Lesser Continents 9:19 AM  

Aussies? Penguins? Where were they?

JenCT 9:32 AM  

Well, my fastest Monday ever. No, really!

Really liked the puzzle, especially for the "fresher" amount of fill than usual. As Roz Chast remarked in her ACPT address, the same old words usually show up over & over.

If anyone missed it, here it is:
Roz Chast

JenCT 9:39 AM  

Oops - try this link:

Roz Chast

jackj 9:43 AM  

Especially liked the casual stuff, EARLYON, CONFABS (a first ever use per XWordInfo), LIKESO and LONGRUN.

Another beauty from Lynn Lempel hopefully signals that next Monday belongs to Acme.

santafefran 9:44 AM  

Wish I could have done a HANDSTAND after puzzle was completed LIKESO for my best Mon. time ever.

Loved it, loved the rhymes. All in all a terrifice OUTING accomplished with ELAN. Thanks Lynn!

quilter1 9:49 AM  

Very enjoyable and easy with lots of great words. ARABLE, TRINKET, BANSHEE, SWAHILI, SACHET, and more. Thank you, Lynn.

grufggi: spray painting by illiterates

efrex 9:53 AM  

The Monday queen does it again. Lovely piece of work with terrific fill and a nice theme.

I've seen ENYA more times in the puzzle in the last month than I've thought about her in the last five years. Really should dig up some of my tapes; I used to be a big fan...

OldCarFudd 9:55 AM  

Hand up for earliest and vigor. Enjoyed the rhyming pairs but didn't notice they started with body parts. Unusually good fill. Nice puzzle.

balto 10:15 AM  

I really liked this one -- barely stopped except for a hangup in SW -- might have been personal best for me otherwise.

@BobKerfuffle -- nice one on "Bod Squad".

retired_chemist 10:16 AM  

@ Greene re Joe- I am sure you know the (fictional) musical Springtime for Hitler in The Producers, one of my favorite Mel Brooks movies.

Stan 10:17 AM  

A fun puzzle with minimal grout.

Bonus points for symmetry in the grid -- W.O.D. BANSHEE is centered and ties together three theme answers!

the redanman 10:18 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
the redanman 10:23 AM  

I always have to chuckle when 1A is my biggest "Dunno"

8D: Argentina-based musical ("EVITA") — not sure why the phrasing on the clue seems weird to me. Maybe because its structure seems analogous to that of "plant-based lifeform." A musical whose very substance is Argentina.

Is there another I don't know?

Anybody? c'mon we're talking knee-jerk here

Two Ponies 10:25 AM  

Nice to have a Monday with some sparkle.
I thought arable was spelled aerable.
I did not know Banshees were Irish.
I'm not sure 56D needed "informally" in the clue.
Never heard of Debs.

JaxInL.A. 10:35 AM  

@Lesser Continents: okay, nearly all the continents. No offense to the Aussies, who include my Grandma, 3 aunts, an uncle, and 8 cousins, one of whom does crosswords. I doubt that many penguins do crosswords. Except maybe Opus.

Why isn't the Arctic a continent, only its antipode?

@mmorgan, minor continents notwithstanding, I love "landgram."

@chefbea, thanks so much for letting me know that others check the previous day's posts the next morning. I have always wondered.

Kendall 10:42 AM  

Good fun to be had here. Really liked BANSHEE and I'm glad Rex picked it as the word of the day. Only notable writeover I had was DUTCH for DANES, and looking back that was kind of silly but oh well.

@mmorgan - I second the idea of calling that a landgram! Very clever.

@Rex, if it helps I have only ever done these puzzles on paper and for early week ones I start in the NW and work my way down (i.e. counter-clockwise) and then move back up to the middle. That way the theme answers usually read left to right and it's easier to get them. Not sure that it's faster, but I find it helps make sense of things anyway.

Sfingi 10:45 AM  

@Doug - Trouble is, Peewee REESE is old, for some. My sister was called Peewee REESE in the '50s. I have to remind myself that was half a century ago.

BANSHEEs are mentioned in many Irish songs. By the Rising of the Moon has,
"Murmurs run along the valleys to the banshees loney croon,
And a thousand pikes were flashing by the rising of the moon."

Eugene Debs (1855-1926) could be considered the father of labor unionization. Another oldie.

@Rex - add SACHET vs. sashay to that list.

@Joho, Stan,Andrea - Another mini theme - Kenyan languages.

Has anyone checked to see if Lempel and Lampkin aren't the same person?

@Quilter1 - Speaking of graffiti, saw a good one on a house here some of us have been pusing to have torn down, "This isn't shitty, this is abstract."

Shamik 10:50 AM  

@Greene: Hahahaha on "Joe!" Love it!

Very easy Monday. Was hoping to break the 3 minute mark, but alas. Monday's the only day I actually go for speed. The rest, I let fall as they fall and see where my time is when I'm done. Makes my coffee more enjoyable. Thank goodness, it's usually less than 5 minutes on Monday 'til my next sip of java. Or is that joe?

Good fresh Monday puzzle to go with my fresh coffee.

dk 10:52 AM  

*** (3 Stars) Nice Monday fare, Thanks.

I am the Bizzaro Rex as I am forced to solve on-line as I am unable to get a daily NYT delivered. I should post all the customer service letters from NYT stressing my value as a customer and solving nothing.... I digress.

I miss solving on paper but on-line is much faster.

I long to see a BANSHEE with a BACKPACK.

JaxInL.A. 11:01 AM  

Hooray! Cruciverb's link to CrosSynergy puzzle files works again!

Arundel 11:08 AM  

A really good Monday, I have to agree. No dull fill, and some good cluing.

@JaxInL.A. re your continental question - the Arctic lacks a good firm landmass to make it a continent. The polar bears might prefer it to be more solid.

Maybe if 1A had been clued as "Socialist Labor Leader Eugene V. " he might have rung more bells? Given the current labor climate, perhaps he should be better known!

william e emba 11:15 AM  

When I see BANSHEE, I think of the Silver BANSHEE, one of the greatest comic book supervillains.

There is a plain BANSHEE who did a brief stint with the X-Men, but being male, he just doesn't count.

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

Um, @Jax
There is no land mass at the Arctic; for 'continent' status, land mass would be a basic requirement.

mac 11:42 AM  

Beautiful puzzle, thank you Lynn!

Never knew the screaming Banshee was Irish, and so funny that it crosses Enya.

I also noticed dab at the beginning, tad at the end of the puzzle.

@Greene: wonderful post! Keep them coming, we're counting on you!

mmorgan: geogram?

CoffeeLvr 11:46 AM  

@Bob Kerfuffle, thanks for the chuckle. Count me as one who did not see the body parts of the theme until coming here.

@Greene, my physician family members often share your laments with me.

EARLY ON from the ONSET, this puzzle TEEMS with clever words that in hindsight look too hard for Monday, but were not. It SWEEPS along to the FIN, and in the LONG RUN it ENDS too soon. (Mini-theme of time related words.)

Thank you, Ms. Lempel.

CoffeeLvr 11:47 AM  

I'm with @Mac, I vote for geogram. Now some constructor can run with it.

syndy 12:10 PM  

Wondered if Eugene V was going to trip many up! Saw the body parts except HAIR.Such a clean puzzle so elegant I vote for landgram as i can see the LANDSHARK delivering it!(never sat well with me that australia got to be a continent)

Tobias Duncan 12:14 PM  

@ dk Why don't you print them out?

quilter1 12:33 PM  

@Sfingi: cute graffiti

If I'm not mistaken Debs once made a run for the White House. I wonder if the current attacks on unions doesn't have him spinning.

Arundel 12:54 PM  

You're right, Quilter1. Not only did Debs run for President (five times, I think) but he had a truly fine campaign pin in 1920:

Convict #9653

joho 1:04 PM  

@dk, @Tobias Duncan beat me to it: why don't you just print out the puzzle. That's what I do because I, just like you, can't get the NYT delivered to my door. I so prefer solving on paper, I can't imagine having to sit at the computer (something I do every day ALL day) to enjoy my puzzle.

Dan 1:44 PM  

In addition to DAB/TAD that several people commented on, EARLYON and LONGRUN are also placed opposite each other.

Doc John 2:15 PM  

I was surprised to see that Rex had rated this one a medium. I zipped through it in my fastest time ever. Lots of fun fill, just as he pointed out.

Fun fact: the coaster at Cedar Point known as Mantis was originally going to be called BANSHEE (due to its shriek) but the name was changed when they found out what else banshees did.

madmenlost 2:16 PM  

This one went down easy -- my first sub 5 min time (on a Monday, of course). Woohoo!

sanfranman59 4:04 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 6:01, 6:54, 0.87, 6%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:28, 3:41, 0.94, 29%, Easy-Medium

chefwen 4:37 PM  

@JenCT - Thanks for the clip, I hadn't seen it before, almost fell out of my chair laughing.

CrazyCatLady 4:56 PM  

Really liked this a lot except for DEBS at 1A. BANSHEE brought to mind that old Disney movie "Darby O'Gill and the Little People." I had nightmares about that BANSHEE.

Still hoping to be able to do a HANDSTAND in Yoga before I turn 60.

Great comments today!

Sparky 6:58 PM  

This went well. Even saw the body parts. @TwpPonies, yes, what do you call a lima bean formally? Of course, phaseolus lunatus, I say that all the time. Also thought by nationality not needed for Hamlet and Ophelia. ARiBLE for 31A but PANDA fixed that.

@Rex: I pretty much solve by across first pass and then downs with the occasional check the other way to confirm a word. I don't recommended it for speed.

@Greene: As a patient I agree. Now, one of my specialists is passing me along to a Physicians Assistant. Phooey. No one knows me! Thank you for caring about your patients.

@CrazyCatLady. True, much VERVE and ELAN today.

Anonymous 7:53 PM  

@Greene: I'm sure you read this.

Sorry, Rex, I know this is off-topic. Dr. Greene, I presume, I would love to have a PA or RPN to see, since my PCP has a two-month backlog. So if I have a fever, an infection, something that shouldn't be taken to the ER, what am I supposed to do?

/off-topic and apologies everyone

Greene 9:39 PM  

@Anon7:53: My point exactly! I have nothing against PAs and ARNPs. They are a necessity in modern healthcare because there are simply not enough primary care physicians to go around. If you think the problem is severe now, wait about 10 years (or less) and it will reach crisis proportions.

I am also off-topic and apologize. Please feel free to email me off-blog on this topic.

Tobias Duncan 10:18 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
ArtLvr 10:41 PM  


just testing again, ArtLvr

ArtLvr 10:47 PM  



Anonymous 10:49 PM  

trying again



oscawana bubbe 11:55 PM  

I'm sorry this was one of the easiest Monday puzzles in a long time.

sanfranman59 1:22 AM  

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 6:03, 6:54, 0.88, 8%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:27, 3:41, 0.94, 27%, Easy-Medium

No need to apologize Oscawana.

This one yielded an odd disparity between the two groups of solvers. But the difference between today's 27th percentile median Monday solve time in the Top 100 and the 8th percentile is about 9 seconds.

Waxy in Montreal 1:55 PM  

Thanks so much @JenCT for your link to Roz Chast's remarks at the 2011 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. If I memorize this passage, fill will never be a challenge again.

"I have to tell you that I was not the first choice for being the presenter. Alan Alda was, but he was on vacation, climbing an arête in the Ural Mountains. They tried to get Eero Saarinen, but he had fallen on his épée, and got a stoma. Luckily his amah had some aloe with her in an etui. Erle Stanley Gardner fell down an adit. And Esai Morales broke his ulna and his tibia while he was in China researching the Chen, Qin, Zhou, Ming, Song, Tang, Qing, Qi, Sui, and Yin dynasties for an epic opera in which he’s going to sing an aria.

Even though I wasn’t the first choice, I’m not at all irate, because I get to stand up here and tell you a little bit about myself. I love Nature. Recently I was on safari and I saw an ecru and onyx oryx, although it may have been an eland or an okapi. I’m not sure. I don’t want to err, or I’d have to atone. I also saw an egret, an emu, and an erne who was building an aerie. The food was a little eerie. We had an olio of dal, agar, eel, and taro. An emir on the trip complained because the poi had been in the oast too long, and an imam cried because he missed his esnes. Afterwards, we traveled to the Aral Sea and took a proa to Etna. I wore a boa. The tsar upped the sartorial ante with his Eton collar. It was aces, but by the end, I couldn’t wait to get home, put some Edam on crackers, eat Oreos, and play Atari. Well, I think that’s enough sharing. Please forgive me for any mispronunciations. I’ve never really heard any of these words before. And now I’d like to announce the winners."

Dirigonzo 3:28 PM  

Only syndication solvers may remember that "see thru" appeared in the grid in yesterday's puzzle and caused some consternation for a couple of prime-timers; today's appearance caused no notice. Fickle, I say.

I can't be the only one who want the doodad at 13d to be a "thingey", can I?

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