Late marathoner Waitz / TUE 5-31-11 / Paparazzo's target briefly / Holy Roman emperor dubbed Great / Potter pal Weasley

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Constructor: Nina Rulon-Miller

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: TWENTY-ONE (65A: Number associated with 17-, 25-, 41- and 51-Across) — four definitions of TWENTY-ONE

  • BLACKJACK (17A: Something to play at a casino)
  • SPOTS ON A DIE (25A: Pips)
  • FIFTIES GAME SHOW (41A: Jack Barry once hosted a rigged one)
  • NEW YORK CLUB (51A: Place for Manhattanites to drink and dance)
Word of the Day: GRETE Waitz (58D: Late marathoner Waitz) —
Grete Waitz (1 October 1953 – 19 April 2011) was a Norwegian marathon runner, who won nine New York City Marathons between 1978 and 1988, more than any other runner in history. She also won a silver medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and a gold medal at the 1983 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not a fan of this one at all. Never have liked definition-answers, which is essentially what these are, and this set felt both wobbly and awkwardly clued. Pointlessly vague clue on BLACKJACK (17A: Something to play at a casino). Oddly general FIFTIES GAME SHOW (only sensible answer to that clue—41A: Jack Barry once hosted a rigged one—is GAME SHOW; "Hey," said Jack Barry, "I host a FIFTIES GAME SHOW." Uh, no). Depressingly anticlimactic (and also oddly general) NEW YORK CLUB ("Hey, Manhattanites, let's go out to that NEW YORK CLUB everyone is talking about!" Uh, no). The reason I say that NEW YORK CLUB is "depressingly anticlimactic" is because I really Really wanted the answer to be THE STORK CLUB, both because it's a perfect answer for the clue—51A: Place for Manhattanites to drink and dance (*much* better than the baloney we end up with)—and because it's just a great answer, period, one that would make any grid proud. But alas, not today. Non-theme fill was fair to middling—a nice answer here and there, but mostly ordinary or gunky stuff (ODIST, OTTOI, NACHT, etc.) (27D: Keats or Wordsworth; 20A: Holy Roman emperor dubbed "the Great"; 7D: After-dark time in Germany).

Only part that gave me any trouble was THREEFOLD, again because the cluing felt clunky (38D: Like a $6 return on a $2 bet). Also took me a few passes to get IDIOT BOX, though that struggle was at least worth it (42D: Boob tube). Also enjoyed "THAT'S LIFE" (3D: "Win some, lose some").


Bullets:
  • 39D: Potter pal Weasley (RON) — This has become a favorite RON clue of late. RON Jeremy you somehow see far less often. Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing RON Swanson in the grid.
  • 14A: Nobelist Niels (BOHR) — I always want to spell his name BOER. He's Danish. The Boers were Danish. It makes a kind of sense. [I was trying to tweak a Dutch person I know by pretending not to know the difference betw. Danes and Dutch; too insidery; sorry; carry on]
  • 63A: Paparazzo's target, briefly (CELEB) — I like that this answer bends 90 degrees south to make CELEB OX, since [Celebes ox] is a klassic klue for the klassic krosswordese answer ANOA. That may be the nerdiest, most insidery crossword thing I've ever said out loud.
Happy birthday to Mr. Brian Grosz, who is one of my coolest, funniest, and drinkingest readers, and almost certainly the most tattooed (see his profile in the latest "Skin & Ink" magazine, here).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

86 comments:

davko 12:09 AM  

Latte in a coffee shop? I suppose the clue for 13D isn't wrong in the literal sense, but it's interesting to consider what the most common usage of that term connotes. A coffee shop, as I perceive it, is a place with counters and booths and a speckle-tile floor where cafeteria-style swill is served out of round glass pots by waitresses in uniforms. In other words, not the sort of place you're likely to to get an espresso drink. For the latte-drinker, it seems our vernacular has set aside the term coffee "house" or "bar"... never "shop."

Gill I. P. 12:19 AM  

Ay ay ay. I really liked this puzzle. I couldn't find one single crap fill- not one!
Found this to be one of the better Tuesdays in many a moon. Also, I love the name Nina Rulon-Miller and I know it has nothing to do with the puzzle but dang, what a great name!
I love playing BLACK JACK; PBJ were the go to sandwiches for our TYKES; SOLTI at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Yikes, I could go on and on. Thank you Ms Rulon-Miller for a smile on this face.
P.S. "Nurse Jackie" is a terrific series. Falco is brilliant; the writing is so clever and the plots leave you with a bit of a nail bitting experience.

kirble 12:22 AM  

I have two major issues with this puzzle:

1. How is NEW YORK CLUB associated with 21? Is it because you need to be 21 to get in? Because that is not unique to clubs in New York.

2. GENII are not wish granters, unless I'm really confused about the cluing. Genies are wish granters. GENII (a plural of genius) are not. Am I missing something here?

Tobias Duncan 12:37 AM  

@kirble google "21 club"
@daveco I wonder if that is an east coast thing. I only hear coffee shop meaning diner in old movies.I dont think I have ever had anyone invite me to a coffee shop that did not have lattes.
BTW there is a tiny blurb on my favorite coffee shop and a blurry picture of my hands (hour long photo shoot and my face did not make the cut... ggrrrrrr) in the June edition of Sunset magazine.My hands are famous!

syndy 12:53 AM  

Kirble Wiki says GENII is plural of Genie and plural of genius is geniuses although Miriam-Webster says both Genii and geniuses are acceptable for genius !Wanted Baccarrat for my Casino game-don"t know why,I've never played it.The NEW YORK CLUB gave me the first clue that there was a theme coming! very odd answer,wanted EPOCH for forty-four across but that would have been a FATAL ERA!

kirble 1:18 AM  

@Tobias Duncan: thanks, that cleared it up. Lived in NYC 4 years now and I still didn't know it.

@syndy: thanks, but I still think that GENII is wrong here. It comes from French, and while it may have originally come from Latin "genius," the plural should only ever be genies. Just think about it: when one pluralizes "genie," one says "genies" not "geni-i" or any such variation. Ugh.

JaxInL.A. 1:36 AM  

Boers were Dutch, Rex. Bohrs are Danish.

I like Ms. Rulon-Miller's work, and I liked this grid very much. I might have to agree on the clunkiness of a few of the clues, but I actually liked the theme, and overall it felt like an above-average Tuesday. Maybe she's just a victim of the most-hated day of the week?

I rarely post this early. I feel like I should have more to say while I have the chance, but instead I think I'll go to bed. Crazy week coming up. My (adult group) bat mitzvah on Friday (eep), daughter in a week.

artery cower michaels 1:40 AM  

My little heart sank when ASTA was the first word, but then BLACKJACK, my beloved kitty appeared.

I know you always say we just had this theme, but you didn't today, but I feel like we did. Didn't young Caleb have something about vingt-et-un? Too tired and lazy to look it up.

My NE was a mess as I had pEarL, not JEWEL, with SPOTSONdicE.

Met an ELIEL at a party last night and got all excited. Apparently his folks were Finnish architect groupies.

In the end, you have to love "We are not AMUSED"...no?

JaxInL.A. 1:46 AM  

P.S. Someone (you?) should write that Stork Club puzzle.  Perhaps a puzzle of NYC clubs? Perhaps some twist on motherhood?  Perhaps options for avian nightlife?

thursdaysd 1:56 AM  

That was pretty straightforward without the theme. I do have a couple of quibbles - isn't a USMC enlistee a PVT before he's a PFC? And back when I used a clothes-line it was to dry things, not AIR them - you did that indoors.

GRETE/EDIE would have been a natick, but I guessed right. I thought the sumo wrestlers were going to be some sort of obese - Japanese seems rather obvious. Liked RETRO and DRAT.

chefwen 2:19 AM  

I always had a layer of lettuce on top of my PBJ's so that the J didn't soak into the bread and make it all soggy, it also added a crunch factor, which was nice.

Good puzzle, love Vegas but two nights is enough, I work too hard for my money to throw it away. Hit it big a couple of times, but not enough to get me hooked.

CoffeeLvr 2:23 AM  

@thursdaysd, I was bothered by the clue for PFC also. From the Marine Corps site: "Enlisted Marines make up the majority of the Marine Corps and include ranks from private to sergeant major of the Marine Corps." So the clue is factually incorrect.

CY 2:23 AM  

OK, can we all agree that a "Natick" is a crossing where the answers are not only unknown but uninferrable? "Edie" is a name, albeit a rare one: an diminutive of "Edith". Even if one doesn't know that (and actually I didn't before looking it up just now), the "-ie" sound is a fairly common ending for both first names and nicknames. As for GRETE, it's a German name.

Meanwhile, EDIA isn't a name at all.

I'm not saying that this should have been a gimme, or that it's totally implausible that EDIA should be a name. I'm just saying that you don't have to know either of the people in question to be able to make a reasonable guess at the correct answer, as long as you know something about names in general. In my book, that's not a "Natick".

I found this one quite easy for a Tuesday. Finished it faster than yesterday's Monday.

PastelLady 2:43 AM  

See the movie 'Breaker Morant' to help you remember The Boer War and where it took place.

'The Sixty-Four Thousand Dollar Question' was a bigger scandal. So, it wasn't the only one? Will they blame this one on Jim Tressel, too?

Rube 4:16 AM  

I too enjoyed this puzzle immensely, although did have a hard time staying awake. Only writeover was GRETE/Gerda, but that's personal. (I wonder what she's doing now?)

Can someone help me out here? I remember the drinking age in a NEWYORKCLUB as 18 in the 60s. Is this still the case or is it now 21, as I've heard, and as inferred here. The "21 club" notwithstanding.

@Chefwen, lettuce in a PB'nJ!?!? Ouch. Now adding a split banana and toasting the bread... that brings out the inner kid in me. Also, as you know, Vegas to me is a place to stay on the way to Lake Powell.

Very fine Tuesday puzzle.

Oscar 6:25 AM  

Same time as yesterday's puzzle, which I found tough for a Monday, so I'd agree with the Medium rating. Substandard theme with some of the most forced answers we've seen in a while, and if you can't find *any* crappy fill words: you're not looking! ERNE and EERO are the worst offenders. Apparently, this constructor likes to gamble, since she brought us a playing card-based puzzle at the beginning of May (the one with QUITE THE JOKER, another strained phrase). I do like how the grid is connected all over with no cut-off corners, though.

And do people really say PBJ? Maybe at a New York club, where everybody's in a hurry, but I've only ever heard PB AND J (or maybe PB 'N' J, if you're in a hurry).

Evgeny 7:12 AM  

Rex's comment about the Boers being Danish is one of those instances when I don't know whether he's joking or being serious...

retired_chemist 7:41 AM  

I hadn't thought about it but, now that @Evgeny has said it, I too wonder about Rex's BOERish comment. Better than even money it's a joke...

A full minute faster than yesterday, so easy. Liked this theme (I'm a numbers guy). Fill totally middle of the road. A little love, no hate here.

dk 7:42 AM  

This seemed like a Monday to me. Agree with all the night club complaints as I wanted Stork as well. Otherwise a not so bad, we love to hate Tuesday puzzle.

** (2 Stars) the drinking age in NY has been raised to TWENTYONE. So sad as I started with my fake ID at 16 so by the time I got to college the need to binge had been sated... or barfed.

jemini 7:44 AM  

The Twenty One Club is a classic NY, old time club which is still open.

Anonymous 8:05 AM  

The Boers were dutch!

Anonymous 8:14 AM  

Having been there its Pvt then Pfc. Why have an editor if he can't catch this and the genii error? Golfballman

The Bard 8:16 AM  

Henry VIII – Act 1, Scene 1

Buckingham:
Pray, give me favour, sir. This cunning cardinal
The articles o' the combination drew
As himself pleased; and they were ratified
As he cried 'Thus let be': to as much end
As give a crutch to the dead: but our count-cardinal
Has done this, and 'tis well; for worthy Wolsey,
Who cannot err, he did it. Now this follows,--
Which, as I take it, is a kind of puppy
To the old dam, treason,--Charles the emperor,
Under pretence to see the queen his aunt--
For 'twas indeed his colour, but he came
To whisper Wolsey,--here makes visitation:
His fears were, that the interview betwixt
England and France might, through their amity,
Breed him some prejudice; for from this league
Peep'd harms that menaced him: he privily
Deals with our cardinal; and, as I trow,--
Which I do well; for I am sure the emperor
Paid ere he promised; whereby his suit was granted
Ere it was ask'd; but when the way was made,
And paved with gold, the emperor thus desired,
That he would please to alter the king's course,
And break the foresaid peace. Let the king know,
As soon he shall by me, that thus the cardinal
Does buy and sell his honour as he pleases,
And for his own advantage.

Rex Parker 8:22 AM  

PFC and GENII are correct as clued. 99% of the time, if you think there's an error, you are wrong (and by "you" I mean "you and me"). Despite my occasional vociferous complaints about clue accuracy, actual editorial errors are very, very rare.

Rex Parker 8:22 AM  

"You and I," more likely :)

John V 8:23 AM  

Ditto the comments on 32D, U.S.M.C. enlistee, clue is factually wrong/answer should have been PVT. Clue could have been, "U.S.M.C. E-2" or, "U.S.M.C. junior enlisted."

Pretty easy stuff. Paused at 34A, lief, but otherwise barely needed the downs.

Matthew G. 8:30 AM  

I solved this while sitting on the couch with my wife, and she saw my disappointed reaction. Then she asked what made the puzzle weak and also what I expected Rex Parker to say about it. So I told her that even though I don't always agree with him, I had a particular confidence that we'd be on the same page today. I circled the weak fill and showed her the generic nature of the theme entries. Even she, as a non-puzzle person, jumped on the fact that NEW YORK CLUB is not specific enough to be a "thing."

So, yeah, I agree with Rex today.

GLR 8:30 AM  

Had dinner at 21 ages ago. I was under the impression that it was primarily a restaurant - is it a dance club, too?

I realize that there are 21 spots on a standard die, but does anyone here typically "associate" them?

Thought the puzzle was just "okay," and had no idea of the theme until I got the reveal. Not too impressed when I saw it.

fikink 8:31 AM  

Rex wrote, "Non-theme fill was fair to middling—a nice answer here and there, but mostly ordinary or gunky stuff..."

I find two different origins of apparently two different phrases, depending on the 'g': "fair to middling" or "fair to middlin' "

Fair to middlin':
It originally started as a "weather report" in England. It was originally worded, "fair to the midlands", with the midlands being the center part of England. Today, it has evolved to mean "somewhere between ok and average".

Fair to middling:
It's a term that comes from grades of cotton. Middling is the best grade. It means average or better.

What say ye all?

Rex Parker 8:35 AM  

@fkink,

I can tell you that I got the phrase "fair to middling" from Hume Cronyn's character in Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt" (a Great movie). Someone asks after his mother (I think), and that's his answer, which he repeats. Why that phrase has stuck w/ me, I don't know. Maybe because he's amazing in even that small role.

mmorgan 8:50 AM  

I don't disagree with any of Rex's critique but I actually found this to be an enjoyable solve. Sometimes these are completely distinct dimensions.

Briefly had ODers for 27D ("Keats or Wordsworth") which just felt very, very wrong.

When I was in South Africa, I learned that the name for those strange Danish (or Dominican, or whatever) people is pronounced BOO-ers (which I hadn't known).

Heading out of the country in a few hours -- happy puzzles and best to all for the next two weeks!

efrex 8:51 AM  

Feh on the NW (when you've got ASTA, BOHR, SOLTI, ARCO, and OTTOI crossing each other, you should go to rewrite). Like others, didn't care for the generic NEW YORK CLUB. Decent enough theme, I suppose.

Remember EDIE Falco in two great Broadway performances: "Side Man," in which she was robbed of a Tony nomination thanks to her "Sopranos" schedule, and a very underrated production of "Night, Mother"

David L 8:54 AM  

@fikink: As someone who grew up in the midlands of England, I can tell you that the story about 'fair to the midlands' sounds to me like an utterly bogus piece of made-up etymology. I can't imagine anyone saying 'fair to the midlands' as part of a weather report.

"Fair to middling" is a pretty common phrase especially in the northern parts of England. I've never heard that it had anything to do with cotton, and don't find that a plausible suggestion. "Middling" is just a somewhat regional word meaning pretty much what you would think it means.

Oh, and the crossword was OK today...

Gubdude 8:56 AM  

@ Tobias Duncan

Your whole post reminds me of Seinfeld. They are always going to the "coffee shop" (Monk's). And then you mention your hands becoming famous, much like when George has his short lived career as a hand model.


As for the puzzle, did not care for it. Nothing really stood out and none of the theme answers did it for me.

mitchs 9:02 AM  

Fair to midlin' didn't strike this fairly late middle-aged Cincinnatian as at all strange.

Shadow of A Doubt is in my top ten, easy.

Orange 9:11 AM  

Rex, I feel better about having no idea that there is/was a famous NEW YORK CLUB called 21. This may be one of those instances of the puzzle having a parochial bent best suited to NYCers.

Lindsay 9:17 AM  

Hey Kids! Let's make a word ladder from ASTA to EDIE!

Except my ladder went from ASTA to EDsa because I had GENIs and GRETa.

Recycle day tomorrow, so two-error Tuesday can be my little secret with Waste Management.

$32 Hamburger 9:23 AM  

AFAIK, The 21 Club never featured dancing, not even in its 1920's speakeasy days.

P>G>

chefbea 9:23 AM  

Easy Tuesday. Thought maybe Lief=willing would be the WOD.

retired_chemist 9:33 AM  

Don't remember where I heard it, but the 21 club was familiar to this non-NYCer and non-nightclubber. 51A was obvious to me once I had 65A, which was obvious from 17A BLACKJACK.

I do not see parochiality at all. As always, not everybody is familiar with every answer.

And I do recall the drinking age in NY State being 18 for a while. 1961 for sure, maybe 1960.

jackj 9:38 AM  

The clue which asks for the "Place for Manhattanites to drink and dance". Should have skipped mention of "dance".

The last dance which took place at "21" was probably the belly-bump gone bad when infamous Agent Swifty Lazar beaned the equally infamous Director Otto Preminger with a wine glass to the tune of 51 stitches.

A refreshing puzzle,especially for a Tuesday, where disappointment is usually a given.

Quite an achievement for Ms. Rulon-Miller on just her second Times puzzle.

quilter1 9:52 AM  

My heart sank too when ASTA was the first answer. But I didn't find the puzzle that offensive, just plain vanilla.
Fair to middlin' is familiar. I've probably said it a few times. To me it means just OK, or soso. Agree that NEW YORK CLUB was dull.
Got to watch the heavy equipment in front of my house. They demolished and hauled away our driveway approach in about 20 minutes and now have dug a 6 ft. trench. New sewers.

quilter1 9:53 AM  

Also I think Rex was kidding about the Boers.

jesser 9:53 AM  

At 8:37 p.m. last night, I texted my best friend as follows: "I wish we were in Vegas."

He and I love BLACK JACK, and we've committed that next trip we're going to learn Craps.

I loved the top half of this puzzle! Or maybe I hate it for making me pine. I cannot decide.

What I know for sure is it's Tuesday after a long weekend and my desk looks intimidating as all get out, so I'm gonna get crackin' on it. Hope everyone has a spiffy day!

Matthew G. 9:54 AM  

I've lived in New York for nearly a decade (and have deep family roots here) but have never heard of the 21 Club. But I see now that it's on 52nd Street, and I have never lived north of 11th.

What was that about the parochial nature of New Yorkers?

mmorgan 10:07 AM  

I hate to point to Wikipedia for anything, but it provides a pretty extensive list of popular cultural references to '21' (as the 21 Club is more commonly referred to, and which first opened in the Village in 1922) spanning quite a few decades.

CY 10:10 AM  

David L said:
@fikink: As someone who grew up in the midlands of England, I can tell you that the story about 'fair to the midlands' sounds to me like an utterly bogus piece of made-up etymology. I can't imagine anyone saying 'fair to the midlands' as part of a weather report.

"Fair to middling" is a pretty common phrase especially in the northern parts of England. I've never heard that it had anything to do with cotton, and don't find that a plausible suggestion. "Middling" is just a somewhat regional word meaning pretty much what you would think it means.


I couldn't have put it better. If the "fair to the midlands" theory has even a grain of truth to it, I'll eat my hat.

The cotton one is slightly more plausible, but the fact of the matter is that middling is a not-especially-obscure word that makes perfect sense in this expression. I don't see any more need to hunt for an etymology for "fair to middling" than for "Good morning".

Incidentally, notice def. 5 in the link above: it's the cotton (et al.) definition, but it refers to an intermediate grade, not the highest grade. It would be very surprising if the highest grade of anything were called "middling".

JC66 10:36 AM  

If memory serves, The 21 Club started during prohibition as a speakeasy. During the Great Depression it allowed its regular customers to run tabs until they got back on their feet. This loyalty was reciprocated and it became one of the "go to" places for many years. Don't recall dancing there, either.

Two Ponies 10:54 AM  

I just feel lukewarm about this one. Kind of a snooze.
Tis as a retort to Taint? I associate that word more with the Bard.
Living in Vegas makes you tired of and immune to gambling themes.

fikink 11:02 AM  

Thank you for your interest, @CY. I'm not sure anything more that an innate curiosity coupled with a penchant for musing created my "need" to look into the expression.
Here is another Brit on the subject, who also speaks of a play on the expression in Texas which has a Midland.

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-fai4.htm

(Sorry I do not embed.)

joho 11:03 AM  

The most surprising thing to me about this puzzle was learning that Grete Waitz was dead! I used to watch her race. She was amazing.

I had written in my margin: NEWYORKCLUB ???? I didn't like it for the same reason @Rex stated.

Still, it was a theme that held together to create a presentable Tuesday.

Oldactor 11:06 AM  

21 Club is at 21 West 52nd St.
Quite expensive and the upstairs dining room is known as Siberia where we, as a non-celebs, were seated for dinner. No dance floor there either.

mac 11:17 AM  

HAha. And in Holland people (especially tourists) go coffee shops for a very different reason!

Vanilla is right. And I think there is a very good sumo wrestler who is from the US (Hawaii).

The "21" Club isn't quite as popular as it used to be. We have friends who used to have lunch there the day before Thanksgiving for many, many years.

CY 11:29 AM  

@fikink: I hope my comment wasn't offensive. When I said I didn't see the "need" to look into the expression, I wasn't questioning why somebody would care where it came from. I was just saying that the expression seems to follow fairly smoothly from its component parts--like "Good morning"--thus not much need to look for an explanation of its origin.

That said, the Quinion URL you gave supports your cotton etymology (with the amendation that "middling" is an intermediate grade, not the highest grade), so there was a bit more history to the phrase than I would have guessed after all. Thanks for the URL!

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

Can someone explain ROT?

I'll Bite 11:58 AM  

@Anon 11:43a

My guess is ROT is an incorrect answer for 23A or 39D --- but I could be wrong.

davko 12:04 PM  

ROT: Like "rubbish," more of a Britishism, I believe, but often an expression of disgust, as in "That's a lot of rot!"

fikink 12:05 PM  

@CY, Thank YOU!

Another I'm trying to get to the bottom of is "cut the mustard" which has been rumored to have appeared for the first time in this country in Iowa. But that is for another day and has nothing to do with this puzzle.
Note to Rex: When next you find a puzzle not quite "up to snuff" would you mind very much describing it as one that doesn't cut the mustard. :-)

@anon, Baloney and ROT are interchangeable exclamations when vociferously reacting to nonsense, or bullsh*t. Believe it might be short for "tommyrot" "Rubbish!" is another such expression.

Sparky 12:08 PM  

Hand up for no dancing at The 21. You bet the drinking age was 18. At 5'7" I was able to drink even earlier. (Hit 5'9" by 21 yrs.)

Found the puzzle easy which always makes me happy. Agree with @Rex that some clues mushy or awkward. Lately, I breeze through Mon-Wed then trouble. Feel like such a dunce. There's always tomorrow.

Have a good week. And @mmorgan good trip.

Two Ponies 12:24 PM  

My favorite British term for bull$hit is codswallop.

quilter1 1:12 PM  

Yeah, you could get away with saying codswallop in nice company.
@fikink, please share if you get a line on cut the mustard. Perhaps to do with harvesting the plants for the seeds?

CoffeeLvr 1:35 PM  

My local coffee "shop" only sells beverages, pastries, cookies and such. And yes, that is what the business calls itself, not just what I call it. Agree that at one time a coffee shop was only like what you describe @davko, recalling coffee shops in hotels and hospitals. Perhaps usage is regional, or changing over time (this place is only four years old, at most.)

ksquare 1:45 PM  

Anyone else note that near ROT are also RON and RUT plus on the bottom NOT, a frugal use of only five letters for four words?

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle perhaps because I have heard of the 21 Club even though I live in Washington state.

Stan 2:06 PM  

Deb Amlen at Wordplay points out the similarity between this puzzle and Michael Barnhart's of 2/16/11. Deb thinks today's is "more subtle"; I think I prefer the earlier one. Just personal taste.

jberg 2:36 PM  

I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, but heard of "Twenty One" there. But that was 50+ years ago, it's less famous now - more a matter of age than of geography.

The PFC discussion died down without resolution, but Rex is right. An enlistee is an enlisted person, right, regardless of how long ago? So the answer could be any enlisted rank.

As for GENII, it does not come from French, but from the Arabic djinn. I don't know Arabic, but I have a Shadow of a Doubt that plurals are made by adding in -i (or whatever makes the sound in Arabic), as in Iraqi, Bahraini, etc. Hence if you take one djinn, then another, then another, you have 3 djinni; the usage seems to have carried over into English.

(But not to Denmark, where the word refers to a poor grade of cotton.)

Nighthawk 2:54 PM  

Hand up for calling that much discussed NEW YORK CLUB just "21". And agree, it's really just a bar/restaurant. Perhaps unless it's the wee hours and some couple gets a notion that the party is just not QUITE over yet. It's a classic NYC watering hole/dining spot. Siberia is also in the front of the place, just before you get to the main room.

Several years ago, the head of the NY Cotton Exchange tried to buy "21". He certainly was familiar with the standard cotton grades like good middling (the best grade), strict low middling, strict good ordinary, good ordinary and others
here.

I actually thought the theme clues and answers were pretty good, bearing in mind the number 21.

Found this one went down much faster than normal for a Tues. Maybe I just was on the right wavelength.

CoffeeLvr 3:04 PM  

The definitions of "enlistee" (not "enlisted" person) I have found include "new" or "recruit." I stand by my first post.

On another note, the entry NEWYORKCLUB fits the clue fine, and the 21 Club is an example of the entry. So I am okay with that, despite no dancing.

I am oddly enamored of the rhythm of SPOTS ON A DIE. But I can not think of a way to work it into a conversation.

Three and out.

retired_chemist 3:20 PM  

@ CoffeeLvr - work off the famous Idol clip Pants on the Ground and make up a rap song. Same rhythm. Other than that you're on your own.

LookUpGuy 3:41 PM  

@fikink &@quilter1

Take your pick

Theories are:

that it is a corruption of the military phrase
"to pass muster" ("muster", from Latin monstrare="to show", means "to assemble (troops), as for inspection");

that it refers to the practice of adding vinegar to ground-up mustard seed to "cut" the bitter taste;

that it literally means "cut mustard" as an example of a difficult task, mustard being a relatively tough crop that grows close to the ground;

or that it literally means "cut mustard" as an example of an easy task (via the negative expression "can't even cut the mustard"), mustard being easier to cut at the table than butter.

The more-or-less synonymous expression "cut it" (as in "'Sorry' doesn't cut it") seems to be more recent and may derive from "cut the mustard".

sanfranman59 3:52 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)

Tue 7:33, 8:55, 0.85, 11%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:09, 4:35, 0.91, 22%, Easy-Medium

jackj 3:54 PM  

I agree with CoffeeLvr's comment; an enlistee in the USMC is an E-1 (Private) until he/she has sufficient time in grade (6 months in this case) to be promoted to E-2 (PFC).

After 6 months, any Marine who has survived the training is no longer an enlistee but is a grizzled gyrene, raring to fight.

And, calling that PFC an enlistee are fighting words!

davko 4:14 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
davko 4:16 PM  

It's nice to get some geographic perspective on this. The West Coast's coffee connoisseurs, if that's what they are, almost always eschew any reference to "shops," but will use the terms "café," "coffee house," "coffee bar," and even "store" interchangeably when describing their cherished hangouts. Talk about shibboleths.

KarenSampsonHudson 4:28 PM  

Hey Rex, you tweaked this American girl of Danish descent---:-) With all due respect to the Dutch, who have many fine qualities, they are NOT Danes! Danes are identified by sociological studies, as well as by themselves, as "the happiest nation in the world." Also, the Danes allot the highest percentage of their national budget to humanitarian causes, of any nation. I just thought you should know. :-)

JenCT 5:06 PM  

Found the bottom half tougher than the top.

Really wanted AORTA for 30d; NACRE was a new one for me; agree that NEWYORKCLUB is weak (and that the 21 Club doesn't have dancing.)

@chefwen: if you spread the PB on both sides & put the J in the middle, no soggy bread!

JenCT 5:23 PM  

Oh, and THREEFOLD wasn't my first guess - wanted TRIPLEsomething.

Agree that EDIE Falco and Nurse Jackie are great - I just started watching that show.

CrazyCatLady 8:02 PM  

I feel neutral about the puzzle today. Didn't love, but didn't hate it. Thought it was easier than today's LAT. Got fouled up by having rub instead of rib for the barbeque item and was also thrown by the plural of genie.

@fkink Oddly enough there was an article in our local paper about the origins of idiomatic expressions. To quote Melissa Martinez "Like many Americans, I know exactly what 'fair to middling' means, but had no idea where it came from. A little research turned up that middling (pronounced midland by most), first appeared in English in the 15th century as an adjective denoting something in in the middle range of quality. Wheat and cotton, for instance were once rated as being fine, middling or poor." Sorry cut the mustard wasn't included in the article.

Back in the early 1980's Peter Kriendler, the then owner/operator of "21" Club used to buy limited edition Frederic Remington bronze repros from the company I worked for. As I remember, he had a collection of original Remingtons as well. He was always an absolute pleasure to deal with.

fikink 9:41 PM  

I love this blog!!! Thanks to everyone who engaged today.
My interest was something that @Clark could address with his vast knowledge of ontology. When one says, "I am fair to middlin', " is one expressing a range of possibilities or a state of being, as fair-to-middling is actually a grade of cotton. Is it a point or a wave?

Oh, dear,
and I to bed,
to sleep off all this nonsense I've just said.

See ye in the morrow.

acme 2:28 AM  

@Stan
Thanks! I knew I wasn't crazy!
It was the same puzzle just THREE months ago!!! Wed Feb 16th, 2011 by Michael Barnhart:
In the grid was TVGAMESHOW, BLACKJACKS, JUMPSTREET, NINEOCLOCK and DRINKING AGE!
If I were MB, I would DEFINITELY not be AMUSED...

sanfranman59 2:57 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 6:40, 6:52, 0.97, 44%, Medium
Tue 7:49, 8:55, 0.88, 18%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:43, 3:40, 1.01, 58%, Medium
Tue 4:03, 4:35, 0.88, 14%, Easy

Doug 11:19 AM  

Very easy for a Tuesday puzzle. Lief took me a while, even though my ancestors in Appalachia must have used it a passel. Had IDD for EGO, so that slowed me a bit, everything else was easy.

I have to agree that PFC's clue is wrong, as it points to what a Marine is when he first enlists, otherwise it could be CPL or SGT or MAJ or COL. Correct clue would have been: "Your basic USMC"

Also, clue for GENII should have been something like "Mensa grouping or sighting" Only other crossout I had was when I filled in FIFTIE on 41A, I just inked in TH without reading the clue thinking it must be a fiftieth something. Oops, that was an ERR.

NotalwaysrightBill 11:41 AM  

Syndi-late paper solver (is that redundant?).

I don't know that I've ever run across a puzzle that didn't have SOME "crappy" fill in it. Especially for short answers. Seems to just go with the territory and I expect some degree of it. Rarely an issue with me, although I of course prefer real words and names to abbreviations etc. Creative clueing helps immensely.

GENII is a latinization of an anglicization of a variant of arabic jinn. What the heck, why not? Prefer jinn for the collective, personally; but GENII is right enough I suppose. Doesn't matter when not even one Barbara Eden has come out of any bottle no matter how hard I've rubbed. Lamps either.

Quibble seems to be on the use of "enlistee," which usually conotes newness, but doesn't have to. A NEW elistee is indeed a slick-sleever private (PVT), not a PFC; but in its broader sense, even a lance corporal or "gunny" could be an enlistee. TIS, T'ain't, TIS, T'ain't, TIS, T'ain't . . . .

Wrote a song once titled after Niels BOHR's family crest motto, Contraria Sunt Complementa (opposites are complementary), which I won't bore you with. But physicists are still interested in the general thrust of the idea. Today they're all excited about being able to get an occasional particle of actual antimatter to not just disappear on 'em for a whopping sixteen minutes in an .4 degrees above absolute zero Kelvin environment. The whole Big Bang Theory is postulated on the notion that as much antimatter as matter was created during the Big Bang. But scientists have no idea where the stuff got off to. Seems it all took a look around the material world, said "We are not AMUSED" and went into hiding somewhere. Or maybe just "NOT" (which sounds a litte more like what those guys usually say); but who knows? This is not to be confused with the copious quantities of it-doesn't-matter quaffed in New York clubs.

Kept wishing that [37A Kama____=SUTRA] would raise the education level of [42D Boob Tube=IDIOTBOX]; but since I see no signs of that, I give it the AIR.

PS I think somebody better hope they have an especially edible hat; maybe a little PB&J spread on it . . .

Nullifidian 4:03 PM  

Another syndicated solver here.

I thought this was really easy, personally. I flew through this while eating lunch, keeping up the same pace and never stumbling at an answer.

Unlike one of the previous commenters, LIEF didn't faze me. My mind went straight back to Jacques in As You Like It:

"I thank you for your company; but, good faith, I had as | lief have been myself alone."

I know it's a common bit of crosswordese, but ASTA still makes me smile. I like that little dog, and the Thin Man movies.

There was one write-over because of my carelessness in not checking the crosses. If I had, the Nicene CREED would have given me PFC instead of "Pvt.".

I think the weakest theme answer was FIFTIES GAME SHOW. It was obvious that it was clued to make us think of Twenty-One specifically, but that just highlighted the weakness of the answer for me. Other game shows of that era aren't associated with the number 21 at all.

Anonymous 4:16 PM  

I found this puzzle to be fair to middleman. Took me longer than most Tuesdays, but I chalk that up to a slow moving post-holiday brain. I mean, I stared at _ _ _ _ _ J _ _ _ for the longest time trying to figure out what casino game could possibly have a J in it.

Finished with one writeover of a writeover of a writeover. I don't speak German and I don't trust my spelling of certain words. BRAY of BReY? I thought back to my old high school chum named Braymen. Or was it Breyman? Then there's that whole grey/gray thing. I started with E, changed to A, went back to E and finally settled on A so I win.

I remember and prefer the Banhart puzzle.

Dirigonzo 5:01 PM  

If I thought this puzzle was so easy, which I did, then why did I wind up with a mistake in the NE corner? Because my ignorance of Nobelists and Conductors (among so many other things)is profound, so the crossing of the two could have been a,e,i,O,u or maybe even y, and I guessed wrong.

I think I've said this before but it bears repeating, I think - I think a ride in @NarB's cab would be a fascinating time!

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