Lead singer of Pearl Jam / TUE 5-17-11 / Greatest Show on Earth Star co-star 1952 / Online users self-image / Incendiary fuel Apocalypse Now

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Constructor: John Farmer

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Double double — celebrities (of a sort) who have the same double-letter pair in both their first and last names


Word of the Day: BETTY HUTTON (57A: "The Greatest Show on Earth" co-star, 1952) —

Betty Hutton (February 26, 1921 – March 12, 2007) was an American stage, film, and television actress, comedienne and singer. [...] Hutton made 19 films from 1942 to 1952 including the hugely popular The Perils of Pauline in 1947. She was billed above Fred Astaire in the 1950 musical Let's Dance. Hutton's greatest screen triumph came in Annie Get Your Gun (1950) for MGM, which hired her to replace an exhausted Judy Garland in the role of Annie Oakley. The film, with the leading role retooled for Hutton, was a smash hit, with the biggest critical praise going to Hutton. (Her obituary in The New York Times described her as "a brassy, energetic performer with a voice that could sound like a fire alarm.") Among her lesser known roles was an unbilled cameo in Sailor Beware (1952) with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, in which she portrayed Dean's girlfriend, Hetty Button. Eventually, like Judy Garland, Hutton earned a reputation for being extremely difficult. [...] Her career as a Hollywood star ended due to a contract dispute with Paramount following the Oscar-winning The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and Somebody Loves Me (1952), a biography of singer Blossom Seeley. The New York Times reported that the dispute resulted from her insistence that her husband at the time, Charles O'Curran, direct her next film. When the studio declined, Hutton broke her contract. Hutton's last completed film was a small one, Spring Reunion, released in 1957, a drama in which she gave an understated, sensitive performance. Unfortunately, box office receipts indicated the public didn't want to see a subdued Hutton. (wikipedia)
• • •

Had to write to a couple of friends last night to make sure I wasn't missing anything with this theme, which seems awfully flimsy. Double-double letters in the names of random entertainment figures. Maybe the "entertainment" part was supposed to make the theme cohere more, but the assortment is so ragged that it has the opposite effect, for me. This will surely take the average person longer than usual (for a Tuesday) due to the preponderance of names, at least one of which many solvers will not know. I'm guessing that the "I know EDDIE VEDDER" / "I know BETTY HUTTON" Venn diagram shows fairly slim overlap. I've never heard of Ms. HUTTON, who was famous a good thirty years before any of these (still-living) folks were. She's the thematic ODDBALL, is what I'm saying (25D: Kook). The rest of the puzzle was interesting, with a few nice moments (KEISTER, NAMEDROP) (41D: Tush / 3D: Imply ties with V.I.P.'s), an icky moment or two ("I LIKE YOU," FUISSE), and a fascinating-sounding autobiography title that I've never heard of before ("I, FIDO").


Theme answers:
  • 17A: ABC late-night host (JIMMY KIMMEL)
  • 29A: Lead singer of Pearl Jam (EDDIE VEDDER)
  • 44A: "Walking on Broken Glass" singer (ANNIE LENNOX)
  • 57A: "The Greatest Show on Earth" co-star, 1952 (BETTY HUTTON)
HUTTON-wise, I know Lauren and Timothy. That is all. Had trouble right off the bat, as I can't keep those damn -NETA guys straight, and I can't even picture Norman MINETA (1A: Norman of the Clinton and Bush cabinets). FUISSE is too foreign and too long for what is essentially a partial (66A: Pouilly-___ (wine)). I know it only because of another crossword, which I disliked much more than this one. "I LIKE YOU" is very odd as clued (2D: A few words between friends). My wife: "Maybe if you're three." Wife also could not deal with the idea of QUINCE in a marmalade (12D: Marmalade fruit). She'd never encountered a marmalade that wasn't made of citrus. Neither had I, but I'm not so refined (or British Empire-esque) food-wise. Wife would also like you to know that there is another clue for BREE (62A: One of the housewives on "Desperate Housewives") — it's the name of the horse in C.S. Lewis's "A Horse and His Boy."

Bullets:
  • 27A: Western U.S. gasoline giant (ARCO) — I was surprised to see ARCO stations everywhere in CA, since I thought they were defunct. Maybe because I read this as I was trying to write a clue for ARCO recently: "On April 18, 2000, ARCO was purchased by BP America and was completely merged into BP operations; ARCO as a subsidiary no longer exists" (wikipedia). Most interesting ARCO fact, clue-wise, is that the ARCO Arena, where the Sacramento Kings play, was renamed the Power Balance Pavilion in March of this year. Good luck getting That in a puzzle).
  • 44D: Online user's self-image (AVATAR) — like "My Cousin Vinny," this is a movie people looooove that I have no interest in seeing.
  • 45D: Incendiary fuel in "Apocalypse Now" (NAPALM) — ... in the morning

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

107 comments:

Anonymous 7:28 AM  

Fastest time ever for a NYT puzzle. Yippee-skippee.

David L 7:33 AM  

For me this was barely any harder than yesterday (ten seconds, maybe). Not that I'm bragging.* But then I knew all the names except for EARLE and didn't notice that until I'd finished. BETTYHUTTON was least familiar, but I got most of the first name from crosses, got the H from HEF, and there you are.

I have no opinion on Cousin Vinny, but I can confirm that AVATAR is mainly a waste of time. I saw it with a friend of mine and his father, an ex-military guy. Halfway through the movie he leaned over and whispered in my ear, this is a lot of nonsense, isn't it? Except he didn't say 'nonsense.'

*Yes I am.

SethG 7:41 AM  

I think we're supposed to anagram the circled letters or something.

Betty Hutton?

Smitty 7:46 AM  

Jeez, the bass player almost got K.O'd by the butt end of that mike stand toward the end - close one!
Nice lively puzzle for a Tuesday.

conomist 7:46 AM  

Rex, QUINCE preserves of all sorts should be familiar to people (myself included) who adore cheese. Really common accompaniment to cheese plates.

Maybe with a little Pouilly-FUISSE.

Also, I like @SethG's idea. My proposal: DaMN iT

(Excuse my language. Hide your wives, hide your kids)

CFXK 8:02 AM  

Finished this last night, looked at the circled letters, couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do with the circled letters (thinking that there had to be something more here than double-doubles, since this was obvious without the circles), then gave up in frustration and went to bed thinking that I just wasn't smart enough to to figure this one out.
Thanks for restoring my self-confidence, Rex. Now I can eat my 20-minute grits in peace.

TSG 8:12 AM  

Monday fast. Just ignore the circles.

Anonymous 8:13 AM  

Hello! It isn't I,Fido. It is dammed if I do, dammed if I don't. Even I know that. Flowerlady9

Daniel 8:33 AM  

The quince issue is nicer than even just being A type of marmalade, it's the original root of the work (see oed: Portuguese marmelada quince marmalade (first attested 1521) < marmelo quince (first attested 1527, but compare e.g. marmeleira quince-orchard (973)) + -ada-ade suffix. Portuguese marmelo is < post-classical Latin malomellum quince or sweet apple). That's one clue I very much appreciated this morning.

On another note, love the blog, been reading close to every day for a year or so now.

thursdaysd 8:39 AM  

Hmm, I went through this not too much slower than yesterday, although the doubled letters (after I figured that out) helped as I'd never heard of 25A, 29A, 29D, 44A and 62A, and wasn't sure about 1A or 57A. Also never heard of a TSTRAP (and I'm female) or ARCO.

I agree with Rex's wife on the quince. I grew up in England and my mother made marmalade. Not from just any citrus, either: Seville oranges. Only. Anything else is jam - or jelly, in US-English, I guess.

Not happy to see NAPALM, but liked RIPOSTES and the clue for KEYS. If you like Chardonnay you should like Pouilly-FUISSE, as a fan of Sauvignon Blanc I prefer Poiully-Fume.

New 8:39 AM  

Quince *preserves* are indeed common. Jelly. Jam. But the clue was marmalade.

Sandy

Catechist 8:46 AM  

The last area for me was TSTRAP/PEND -- I guess that's like patent pending but I've never heard it otherwise. When I had TSTR I convinced myself that was wrong and erased the S in ESSEX even though I was pretty sure it was right...oh well.

I did EFILE for the first time ever this year.

jesser 8:48 AM  

Sailed through it, no writeovers. Never saw the circles, but noticed the double letters, which helped a little with BETTY HUTTON. FUISSE was new to me, but the crosses plopped it right in there, lickety split.

I've been all over New Mexico, but have yet to visit Los ALAMOS and don't much care if I do or don't.

Any puzzle with a John Prine reference is a fine puzzle by me. And OINGO Boingo? How cool is that?

Rex, the I, FIDO comment made me snort my coffee. :-)

Ansesit! (Damn Anse. She just won't get with the obediance routine.) -- jesser

fikink 8:51 AM  

Tried very hard to make something of the double letters: MM= M&Ms, DD=Dungeons and Dragons, TT=TNT TandT, but fell down on the double Ns.

"I, Fido " - love it.

I now invoke recent fill: MEH

davko 9:00 AM  

An original, oddly satisfying theme, and not easy to conjure up examples of, either. I tried for some of my own and could only come up with Milli Vanilli, Bill O'Reilly, and Sally Kellerman. Beyond the double-L, couldn't think of any examples -- probably because they all found their way into this puzzle.

efrex 9:07 AM  

Relatively weak theme balanced by some pretty strong but easy fill. I'd be equally happy with this as a Monday puzzle. No writeovers, and the puzzle fell pretty quickly.

If memory serves (and it, alas, so rarely does), Robin Williams had an early routine in which he referenced Pouilly-Fuisse. Otherwise, I have no clue what the stuff is.

John V 9:08 AM  

Stared at 24D/28A for the longest time. S.I. O: aha! magazines/mags. Otherwise played pretty straightforward. Agree with medium/difficult for a Tuesday, based on the number of crosses to get things I did not know: Oingo Boingo, Jet Lit, Ayr. Misspelled keister as keester, so was wondering what the heck was leeon for rest stop. I also see but don't get the theme.

Captcha dentee: receiving end of parking lot mishap?

John V 9:08 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lindsay 9:11 AM  

I've heard of Annie Lennox. The End.

Norman "Secretary of Transportation on 9/11" Minnetta was a hanging curveball over the plate, except the spelling of his name confuses me.

Not Quite 9:23 AM  

Might be considered a *constructor's* puzzle:

All 11 letter names - Check

Double consonants in first and last -- Check

First name 5 letters, last 6 --- check

Names symmetrical --- check

Doubles in positions 3,4 and 8,9 --- aNNie - oops

Include eLLery and foiSSe in fill --- oops

Close but no cigar.

P>G>

Evgeny 9:31 AM  

i'm aware that in English speaking countries, marmalade is mostly made of citrus fruit but then again see @Daniel's comment (thx for that, Daniel!). i mean, if the actual word marmalade comes from "quince", there should be no complaints :-)

Rex, laughed at I, Fido, thumbs up!!!

chefbea 9:32 AM  

A bit harder than yesterday. The only one I never heard of was Eddie Vedder.

Never had quince marmalade. Orange and lemon..yummm

Doug 9:37 AM  

I couldn't figure out that S.I. and O were mags. Thought AYR was CYR. Maybe it was MSGS. So I got a letter wrong. Rex, tell your wife another clue for BREE is the first name of Daniels, the call girl played by Jane Fonda in Klute. The double letter theme was kind of lame. I didn't even notice it until I finished.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

I happen to fall into the shaded area in the Venn where Eddie Vedder and Betty Hutton compare notes...I needed a few letters before her name shuffled to the front of my brain, but the rest I knew right off the bat. Fun and easy Tuesday for me.

Tobias Duncan 10:07 AM  

I dont get the MAGS clue.

My favorite Bree is Bree Walker, former Los Angeles newscaster from the early 90s.While I lived in LA she decided not to hide her deformed hands from the public any longer, so every once in a while she would gesture or shuffle her papers instead of keeping her hands below the desk.To me and my twenty-something slacker friends, it was at once " no big deal" and a huge deal at the same time.We could tell the world was changing.We just adored her.

thursdaysd 10:07 AM  

Interesting info on marmalade, but surely usage trumps derivation? Otherwise we'd have legions of words we're using incorrectly.

My Concise OED (paper, 1964) says: "Preserve of oranges or specified fruit." So the six-letter fruit could be anything OTHER than oranges... It takes the derivation back to "Gk meli-melon (meli honey + melon apple)" - ironic given that "proper" English marmalade (made from those Seville oranges) tends to bitter rather than sweet.

jackj 10:16 AM  

This constructor seems to have a penchant for creating theme puzzles whose themes are hardly themes at all.

I think it was about a year ago that we had a similar puzzle from this constructor which caused the puzzling world to utter a loud, "Huh?"

What we got then was a puzzle whose theme was that all the answers were words that had an even number of letters; nothing more.

That puzzle was a RIPOSTE(S) of sorts to a puzzle which had earlier done the same thing with odd-numbered words.

This puzzle seems to be of the same genre with some nice fill but a theme that seems to be a gross underachievement.

Why not tighten up the cluing and use it on a Friday rather than try to show it as some "oh so clever", special, subtle bit of themed construction, which it is not?

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

Contrary to some, my time was substantially longer than normal on a Tuesday and about twice as long as yesterday. But I had no issues with the thing. Maybe my coffee drinking technique is involved, yesterday the coffee ended up in my lap and I didn't want a repeat of that.

I always read this blog when circles are involved -- it's the easiest way to learn what the circles are about

Matthew G. 10:21 AM  

Rex called it as far as I'm concerned. Knew KIMMEL, VEDDER, and LENNOX, but had never heard of HUTTON.

Norman MINETA was the only Democrat to serve in George W. Bush's Cabinet.

I had the same thought as Rex's wife about I LIKE YOU. Weird entry, weirder clue.

There's yet another clue for BREE, and from the same genre: it's the name of the town where Frodo and his companions first go after leaving the Shire in the Lord of the Rings.

After the little disagreement Rex and I had the other day over "My Cousin Vinny," I can happily say "Namaste" to him over his aversion to "Avatar." I did see it, because friends were seeing it, but it was horrible. Physically beautiful, yes, but the worst dialogue since the Star Wars prequels.

There was an interesting article in the New York Times recently about "odd-man out syndrome," the phenomenon of recognizing that almost everyone but you likes a given work or artist, and you not being able to even comprehend what they see in it. For me, the best example is Quentin Tarantino -- most people think he's a genius. I think he has nothing to say and has just found 1,001 different gimmicks to make gratuitous violence and racial epithets look creative. I don't know if there are any actors I categorically refuse to see, but there are certainly some directors and producers in that category.

quilter1 10:24 AM  

Knew all the names except the Pearl Jam guy, but that came easily. Enjoyed many of the clues/answers. I'm going to look for quince marmalade/jam/jelly at the specialty market.

joho 10:26 AM  

"I, FIDO" was my favorite thing about this puzzle. The sad but true story of a terrier mutt whose tale tugs at the heartstrings of all who read it. I heard it will soon be a major motion picture coming to a theater near you.

@Tobias Duncan, MAGS are the magazines S.I. "Sports Illustrated" and "O" by Oprah.

MikeM 10:30 AM  

@matthew, totally agree w you about Q Tarantino. Although my son, who is 14, loves his stuff.

Easy puzzle, I also fit into the Venn. Only hiccup was RIPOSTES which I wasnt sure of

Bob Kerfuffle 10:30 AM  

Write-over at MANETA/MINETA.

Otherwise, all theme names evoked about the same low level of recognition from me.

Two Ponies 10:39 AM  

I'm in the slim part of the Venn diagram. But then, I like old movies and Betty Hutton was a good comic actress.
Rex, thanks for the I, Fido and the wonderful Apocalypse Now clip.
That and Blade Runner are in my Top Five Movies. I will never see Avatar.
I was trying to make something of the shaded letters in a personalized-license-plate sort of way thinking of Double Indemnity and it almost worked.

Lois 10:46 AM  

In the long bio of Betty Hutton that Rex gave us today, her funniest film was left out: Miracle of Morgan's Creek by Preston Sturges (1944), one of the funniest films of all time. Eddie Bracken co-stars. William Demarest plays Hutton's father.

Rex described me well today. I found most of the proper nouns tough, except for Jimmy Kimmel, and it was a tough puzzle for me, but fair. I was able to get everything from crosses eventually, but not from the theme, because I was too dense.

Tobias Dunan: MAGS are magazines. Finally got it - real tough, because I didn't know S.I. and O. But of course I did hear of Sports Illustrated, and O stands for Oprah - it's her magazine. Had to Google these names AFTER I finished the puzzle, thank goodness!

Lois 10:48 AM  

Sorry I misspelled Duncan, Tobias!

Karen W. 10:49 AM  

Also, BREE was Jane Fonda's character Bree Daniels in "Klute."

Sparky 10:51 AM  

BREE is a form of Briget (Brighid) a Celtic Saint and name. My husband, who is from Cuba, calls all jams and preserves Marmalade.

I don't see why bother to darken, circle, put stars next to theme answers. Easy to figure out. (Well, maybe when the circles form an umbrella, but otherwise.) Particularly if you are going to have a long, drawn out "reveal" clue listing six numbers. Things getting too cluttered.

Found it easy today. I'll rue that statement by Thursday. Knew all the 11 letter names. 57A--Jmmy Stewart didn't follow pattern.

@jesser. It's amazing how you can think up those daffynitions. I try daily to no avail. @Rex, sub title: It's a Dog's Life. I've got one: genessi-two books of The Bible.

evil doug 10:52 AM  

I prefer jellied gasoline to quince marmalade.

Evil

Tim 10:56 AM  

I found this one extremely easy. But the circled letters (shaded in the paper) were unnecessary and, like others, I thought for a while about an additional Theme That Wasn't There. Here's a funny Seinfeld sequence that should appeal to the "Vinny" and "Avatar" naysayers.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B57bOy2Dzjg

ANON B 11:10 AM  

What is PIN on a keypad?

JaxInL.A. 11:16 AM  

Does anyone actually name a dog Fido? Did they ever?

I would read that book, which I hear was recently discovered among the papers of Isaac Asimov. Turns out he had an artificially intelligent pooch who dictated his memoirs to the famous writer.

@joho's movie version omits the A.I. aspect as too creepy.

I liked this pangramatic puzzle, and rated it easy. And I'm not bragging, either.* I kinda fit in that slim Venn overlap, too. I LOVE BETTY HUTTON. Didn't know VEDDER right off but he sounded familiar enough when I got part of his name. Don't watch KIMMEL but know who he is. ANNIE was very big while I was in law school.

*see @David L's footnote.

Mel Ott 11:26 AM  

Not much joy for me in solving this one. If constructors are going to use proper names for the theme, I wish they would minimize their use in the fill. In this case I count 23 non-theme proper names. (I think I may have subjected you all to this rant before. Sorry.)

The double consonants do nothing for me.

Redeeming features: KEISTER & NAMEDROP.

Martin 11:36 AM  

I find something like 13,000 recipes for quince marmalade via google, so it's more than derivation.

I agree the theme is not a blockbuster, but it's pretty tight. All the first names are two syllables, ending with a long-e sound. I can't think of another candidate.

Rex Parker 11:42 AM  

Google hits are not recipes, and you certainly haven't combed thru those hits to verify that they are all discrete recipes.

Phrase "quince marmalade" googles at 12+K, so it's a thing. By comparison, orange gets 2 million. Lemon, 77K. So you see the point: quince's association with marmalade, today, is weak. But you saw the point before you ever typed your comment.

Finding arbitrary things linking theme answers and then saying you can't think of another is not a compelling example of "tight."

rp

Anonymous 12:03 PM  

Boring puzzle. No joy at all, even with a fast solve time. You know it's a stinker when you think "I bet Rex didn't like it." Even if there were no circles and had a hint such as "What do all the random celebrities have in common" I doubt it would be much better.

aandrea caarla michaaels 12:03 PM  

I want to join the fray, I think!

Make room in that Venn Diagram (my favorite thing!) for me, but sort of with one leg out...
I got/ "knew" BETTYHUTTON but for the wrong reasons!
I thought it was that millionairess that Cary Grant married when still hiding his relationship with that guy he had lived with for 20+ years...but that's BARBARA HUTTON, so really it doesn't count as knowing...

And EDDIEVEDDER only came with the letters...
I think I'm at that vague 50-spot where I sort of know all the oldies and sort of have heard of a lot of the new-ies but not quite.

Constructor part of me thought slight at first and also looked for some more (at first I thought they'd all be Roman Numerals!!! And actually went "HA!")

But I had the same experience, once I tried to come up with more on my own, I was totally unable to, and once I saw they were all showbiz, spread across the generations (tho decidedly more recent) the puzzle kept growing and growing on me...
By the end I thought it was nice!

And of course I'm a sucker for the pangram, plus extra Js and Ks, so I liked it even more.
(JETLI was a nice nice full name, beautiful with JOAD and those IQS/QUINCE, ZULU/ZEST, ESSEX/LENNOX crossing were gorgeous!)

AND I liked that there seemed to be an attempt, at least with some of the proper names and such to have it balanced male/female...
so you had ANNIE and BETTY and ABBY and a little TSTRAP here, a little "Desperate Housewives" there...

If only the ERA could be the feminist definition instead of the baseball one! But I'm loving seeing all the different ways to clue BREE. (I fall into the "Klute" category there.)

@Tobias Duncan
Thanks for that BREE Walker memory...and you see how clever that S.I./O clue is for MAGS?

I'm telling you, this is a puzzle that if you keep looking at it you will like it more and more...
the ILIKEYOU is ODDBALL, but the ODDBALL is fabulous!

It was interesting to "hide" the horrificness of NAPALM as a movie clue, iconic as that scene is...

And I think the heaviness of the names in the puzzle was a clever nod (HOMAGE(s)?) to NAMEDROP ;)

santafefran 12:11 PM  

@evil doug, I love the smell of gasoline in the morning.

@jesser et.al. Los Alamos has 2 museums worthy of a visit: the Los Alamos Historical Museum (all about its early history and the Bomb, of course) and the Bradbury Science Museum (great with kids). Then try a meal at the Hill Diner, a vintage Los Alamos eatery.

AVATAR was a great visual/sensuous experience.

@Matthew G I would echo your feelings about Quentin Tarantino movies, so you are not the only ODDBALL.

@Rex "I, Fido", Tina Turner's beloved dog wrote his own memoir in response to "I, Tina"

catfor--wrong, I have 5 cats who might be writing their own memoirs one of these days.

retired_chemist 12:21 PM  

Medium here. Not much to say about this puzzle. Writeup and blog are better.

I, FIDO - funny.

My favorite BREE is lying on the floor in the hall even as I type. She is 14, had 14 puppies in 3 litters (including three champions), and is among the best companions imaginable. From her 14 years she could pseudonymously WRITE I, FIDO.

Are double letters in fashion for talk show hosts? JIMMY FALLON, DAVE LETTERMAN, MONTEL WILLIAMS, JERRY SPRINGER: more?

As little as I know about women's shoe fashions, it was pleasing to write T-STRAP in instantly and have it be correct. High crosswordese IMO. There should be a T_STRAP in a black and white check with letters in the white....

john towle 12:35 PM  

Aside from all the double letters, this puzzle is a pangram.

f i i k i i n k 12:39 PM  

@Aandrea. I, too, had "poor little rich girl" Barbara Hutton in mind when I was solving. I'm glad you made her the WOTD, Rex.

syndy 12:43 PM  

@THURSDAYSD :I reject your reality and inject my own! does usage trump derivation?Does form follow function?IS my venn bubble pending?I don'y usually like circles in my xwords and I doublely didn't like these.Also I thought Marmelade had to do with the peel being utilized?I FIDO- a dog's eye view of Abe Lincoln

KarenSampsonHudson 12:45 PM  

A fun one, but I had a spot of trouble in the SE corner.

Anonymous 12:57 PM  

"Nagy later said, “I was not prepared for the advances of the IMF director general. I didn't know what to do … I felt damned if I do, damned if I don't." Nagy left her job at the IMF after the affair, and claimed that Strauss-Kahn had "without question" used his higher standing to seduce her."

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/dailybeast/20110516/ts_dailybeast/14128_dominiquestausskahntobearraignedmondayinnewyork

Martin 1:25 PM  

Sorry, but I don't see any weakness in the notion of quince marmalade just because orange is more common. The first few hits I looked at had multiple recipes, but, no, I didn't count them all. Here's another view that makes the stuff look kind of mainstream.

But if we agree it's a thing, I'm not sure why how much of a thing matters.

As to theme tightness, being able to write a formula, like xCCēxCCx(11), is more to the point than exclusiveness of candidates. The names comply with a fairly large set of constraints, which is my definition of tightness. It takes more than tightness to make a hall-of-fame theme, for sure, but I can't see dinging this theme as loose.

treedweller 1:33 PM  

Meh theme with some nice non-theme fill, as others have said.

I find Tarantino highly enjoyable, but not High Art. I find the thought of fourteen-year-olds watching his movies highly disturbing.

I was resisting AVATAR because it had the stink of Oscar all over it, but fellow tree guys kept telling me I should see it. Finally watched it in 3-D. It was pretty (would have been more so if I had been able to sit in one of the four chairs in the theater where the 3-D wasn't blurry) but the plot and dialog were awful. Trite beyond belief. Full of Important Messages presented at second-grade level. I'd like to see a mashup of the Blue Man Group and the big blue aliens, though.

Doc John 1:45 PM  

I guess I'd say I was blasé about the puzzle today. One interesting aspect, though, that frankly I'm surprised nobody mentioned: on TV, ELLERY Queen was played by Jim Hutton (no relation to Betty but he was Timothy's dad).

@ Tobias Duncan, I remember BREE Walker well from my college days at UCSD when she was first a DJ for KGB (and featured sexily on their TV commercials) before finally moving up to the news desk on one of the local stations (probably KGTV). I also thought it was cool that she didn't hide her deformed hands (caused by syndactyly, a congenital condition). Lastly, she was married to Jim Lampley, the champion swimmer and sportscaster.

Last but not least- my office is on QUINCE street, so that clue was near and dear to my heart. Interesting thing about that street name here in San Diego- it's either a fruit or 15, depending on to whom you are speaking.

D_Blackwell 1:59 PM  

As with yesterday, very close to a new record time today. Yesterday, I felt it. Today, I was shocked to see how close it was.

I'm amazed that QUINCE is surprising people here. I'll grant that it is beyond what most people would call a Tuesday (the entry and the clue), but I threw it down almost automatically. Yay, me!

BREE Olson would fit nicely as being "pretty well known and at the height of her 15 minutes".

I also thought that the circles were pointless, but at least we didn't get a lame revealer entry.

A snappy TITLE would have been nice. Why does the NYT waste the opportunity for cool titles on theme and gimmick crosswords? I would class this one as a gimmick; not that there's anything wrong with that.

mac 2:19 PM  

All the things Andrea mentioned, plus it took me a little longer than the usual Tuesday fare, which I like. Didn't know Betty and Eddy, but like Annie a lot.

The term marmalade is used pretty loosely lately, for foods that have been slowly cooked and reduced. Ive seen onion marmelade on menus, and beet marmelade, both as a sort of condiment with a meat or fish dish.
Interesting about the quince and the origin of the word. Just knew it as jelly; quince has a lot of natural pectin.

william e emba 2:22 PM  

ABBY CadaBBy (from Sesame Street) fits the theme, and also has 11 letters. Perhaps Darryl Strawberry fits the theme, but certainly not the grid. Mikky Ekko is a minor musician, currently just a red-entry in Wikipedia.

I recognized JIMMY KIMMEL. I had absolutely no glimmer of recognition for the other three theme names. I don't think this slowed me down one bit--the theme was obvious so it gave me extra letters, and except for the V in VEDDER, the names practically spelled themselves.

I went to see AVATAR for the special effects, and I absolutely enjoyed the special effects. I've seen three or four QT films, and I've enjoyed them thoroughly.

I recall a few years ago the NYT had an art critic discuss his dilemma at reviewing something he disliked, yet which everyone else in attendance obviously enjoyed thoroughly.

Jokes about "KEISTER Island" seem to make for a somewhat popular and obvious off-color cartoon: there's an island, and some mysterious stone statues of giant KEISTERs. I first encountered this gag, if I recall correctly, as done by Kliban (of cat cartoon fame) in NatLamp way back when. There's also a KEISTER's Last Stand cartoon out there somewhere.

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

I don't get the 'wife' thing and "..if you're three" remark?

Pete 2:54 PM  

I had no problem with QUINCE as I read the clue "blah blah blah type of fruit", though I agree with Sandy's assessment. However, there's no excuse for cluing QUINCE other than with a reference to this.

Oh, and following Mac's comment, "onion marmalade" out-Googles "quince marmalade" by about 13:1. So much for quince marmalade.

CoffeeLvr 3:06 PM  

Well, Rexites, I want to chime in about the circles. There is a trade-off in early week puzzles. The grid and clues have to be easy enough for tyros and others who don't love Friday and Saturday. On the other hand, who wants a lot of three letter ilk? The circles help solvers who are new to crosswords, drunk, sleepy, or low IQ. I did or do fit some of those categories myself.

I especially like: AVATAR (as clued!), RIPOSTES, OVATION. Only mistake was JETLe, etc. Easily spotted and corrected, but might not have seen it on paper, although FUeSSE is really ugly in hindsight.

I agree RexWife with the clue for I LIKE YOU. But I was delighted when one of my toddler's first full sentences was "I like you, too, Mom." Of course, he was younger than three.

Matthew G. 3:12 PM  

@Anon 2:30 pm: Rex's wife's point was that nobody would say "I LIKE YOU" between friends unless the friends were, say, toddlers. And I agree with her. Just a weird, weird clue. I admit I'm not sure how I would clue I LIKE YOU as a constructor, but that's probably because it's not really an in-the-language expression.

Meaningless C 3:17 PM  

@Pete

As has been pointed out in the past, Google hits alone are meaningless as support of anything.

Go to the last page of your results and see if any of the returns relate to your initial query.

OTOH, @Martin actually read enough of the returns to defend his position.

-Fargo

Newbie 3:19 PM  

@ANON B--I come here so often to get an explanation--I'm delighted to offer up PIN on a keyboard. I too struggled with it, but an aha moment came when I realized one types one's PIN (personal identification number) on a keyboard.

TADA! I helped someone! I read here almost daily, but this is my first comment ever.

Rex got me with I, FIDO. I went back to the puzzle looking for the clue I'd missed. A great AHA/D'OH moment when I found it.

And I knew both Eddie Vedder and Betty Hutton. At 65, I'm proud!

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

Thanks for clarifying, I guess I had really advanced toddlers they all went right to "I love you..."

jberg 3:37 PM  

Like Andrea and others, I could only think of Barbara Hutton, and figured 51A must be a hybrid of her and Betty Grable - kind of disappointed to discover she was not only a real person, but an Oscar winner.

On the other hand, I was even more disappointed to discover that I knew OINGO BOINGO right off the bat - I have no idea how.

Finally, what's all this talk about circles? I have shaded-in squares. Is that some online thing?

I LIKE YOU all!

Joe 3:46 PM  

Some facts about "The Greatest Show on Earth" from Wikipedia:

"Adjusted for inflation, the film's box office is among the highest-grossing films in the United States and Canada."

"At the 25th Academy Awards, the movie won Oscars for Best Picture (earning that recognition over films such as High Noon and The Quiet Man and the classic Singin' in the Rain) and for Best Story. It received nominations for Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Costume Design, Color.

"Many consider this film among the worst to have ever won the Academy Award for Best Picture. The American film magazine Premiere placed the movie on its list of the 10 worst Oscar winners and the British film magazine Empire rated it #3 on their list of the 10 worst Oscar winners. It has the second lowest spot on Rotten Tomatoes' list of the 81 films to win Best Picture.

"There have been allegations that the film's Best Picture Oscar was due to the political climate in Hollywood in 1952. Senator Joseph McCarthy was pursuing Communists at the time, and Cecil B. DeMille was one of his supporters; another Best Picture nominee, High Noon, was produced by Carl Foreman, who would soon be on the Hollywood blacklist.

"A far more likely reason The Greatest Show On Earth was voted Best Picture of 1952 was that it was seen as a "last chance" vote for Cecil B. DeMille, to honor him for a lifetime of film making going well back into the silent movie era. DeMille's best work had been done before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was created. It may be that the members of the Academy (which included many veterans of the silent era) felt that as an elder statesman of Hollywood, he deserved the honor even if films like The Quiet Man, High Noon, Singing' in the Rain, Ivanhoe and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers were seen as better than The Greatest Show On Earth."

abnorma 3:49 PM  

I just LOVE when my worlds collide! I am a huge crossword puzzle fan AND a huge PEARL JAM fan. Seeing Eddie Vedder (and Rex including an old concert video in the blog) was really thrilling for me!!!! (And yes, at age 60 I knew all the names, even Betty Hutton.)

william e emba 3:49 PM  

I LIKE YOU is indeed used between "friends" older than three. As in, "let's just be friends". See its use in the opening panel of this past Sunday's Mary Worth. The "friends" qualifier was explicit during one of the dailies last week.

Of course, if you were to tell me that the emotional maturity of Liza and Drew (and everyone else in Mary Worth) is somewhere around 2.5 years, I would not disagree at all. I believe, in fact, that could be the entire point of the strip.

Disclaimer: I do not normally read Mary Worth. Uh uh. No way. Seriously, I am not a Mary Worth kind of guy. (I'm more of a Sherman's Lagoon type, OK?) But this past Sunday, well, I don't know what overcame me, but that strip was funny. Real funny. Extremely funny. And I don't think one iota of that humor was intended.

sanfranman59 4:10 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 8:28, 8:55, 0.95, 43%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:16, 4:35, 0.93, 32%, Easy-Medium

I had a brain-cramp solving today's puzzle, entering BRiE for BREE and missing the obvious mistake in the cross (KEISTiR) during several scans of the completed puzzle. That turned a perfectly respectable Tuesday time for me of about 6 minutes into a rather embarrassing 8 1/2 minutes.

I'm one who falls in the EDDIE VEDDER/BETTY HUTTON intersection of the Venn diagram. I'm enough of a classic movie buff to know HUTTON and also know enough about 80's-90's grunge to know VEDDER. I'm a baseball fanatic who loves the history of the sport, so EARLE Combs was a gimme (he was on the famous 1927 Yankees squad that featured "Murderers' Row"). While I found the spelling of Pouilly-FUISSE a bit of a challenge, the wine is familiar to me. Perhaps I had wine and cheese on my mind when I entered BRiE. At least that's the excuse I'm going with.

Anonymous 4:19 PM  

@jberg - the Across Lite version has circles where the print and PDF versions have gray squares to highlight the double consonants. Another example where technology cannot duplicate print.

Anonymous 4:24 PM  

"Another example where technology cannot duplicate print."

It can, but that is not a priority for distributors. Mediocre is considered an acceptable standard.

CoffeeLvr 4:27 PM  

@Daniel at 8:33AM and @Newbie at 3:19PM, welcome. I always like to see new posters on the blog, and your comments are both useful explanations.

chefwen 4:32 PM  

Got all excited last year when our property management company called and informed me that our rental would be occupied by JIMMY KIMMEL for two weeks, short lived excitement as he turned out to be just a Jimmy Kimmel, not THE JIMMY KIMMEL. Oh well!

Knew them all except EDDIE VEDDER, had heard of Pearl Jam but would not be able to name any one of the members.

@Tobias Duncan - Thanks for the memory of Bree Walker, a very beautiful lady.

@Rex - I FIDO, a classic!

capcha - pecti What you need to make QUINCE marmalade.

chefbea 4:39 PM  

@Jberg I have shaded squares in my puzzle as well. I download the PDF version

Cliff Clavin 4:40 PM  

@Pete, 2:54 PM - Watched the clip from White Men Can't Jump, and sorry to say the movie got it all wrong. Rosie Perez could not win by jumping in early and answering the question (or questioning the answer, as Jeopardy! would have it), because you can't buzz in until Alex Trebek has finished reading the clue. I would refer you to some of the recent discussion of the win by IBM's Watson, which may have hinged on response time.

And if you watch a clip of my appearance on Jeopardy, you will be surprised to see that both Rosie and I had Woody Harrelson as a friend in the audience!

lxp 4:53 PM  

Did no one else love keister? Brought a smile to my face as i whizzed through this puzzle which was pretty fun.

Sfingi 4:54 PM  

Lots of names I didn't know, but left only one blank - JETLI cross FUISSE. Didn't feel like Googling.

Didn't know MINETA, OINGO, AYR, EARLE, home county, John Prine, but got all by luck and crosses, though had bINGO boingo first.

Also saw "I, FIDO," biography of a
serious dog.

@Retired Chem - interesting observation @ talk show hosts.

@David L - I've suspected AVATAR is the sort of movie the young like, and the old and jaded do not - similar to the attraction to Catcher in the Rye or Siddhartha.

@Emba -some clever additions - perhaps the category isn't so easy.

@Thursday - think it's an old brand. I once had an ARCO credit card.

JenCT 4:59 PM  

HULU (?) before ZULU.

Love, love EDDIE VEDDER's voice - that Pearl Jam album has seen lots of play on my iPod.

Didn't even notice the theme until I came here.

Liked PIN, OINGO, NAMEDROP, KEISTER.

My QUINCE are blooming right now; I still have some quince jam that my neighbor made for me last year - haven't tried it yet.

John from Chicago 5:14 PM  

@Joe – There is only one reason why The Greatest Show on Earth. It had nothing to do with its commercial success or national politics or Hollywood politics. In those years my mother would take me downtown in Chicago once a year to see a movie. That movie invariably won the Oscar. TGSOE happened to be the one movie she took me to that year.

John from Chicago

santafefran 5:46 PM  

@JenCT Try your quince jam with Manchego or similar cheese. Quince paste(Dulce de membrillo) is a classic Spanish combo with Manchego.

@lxp I loved keister too, but can never remember whether the e or i comes first since it doesn't follow the rule of "i before e, etc"

captcha--bread. What you need with your quince jam and cheese.

JenCT 6:28 PM  

@santafefran: will do - do you put them both on bread?

santafefran 6:49 PM  

@JenCT Yes, spread a little of your jam on some good bread and top with a slice of Manchego. Yum. Wishing I had some about now.

COIXT RECORDS 6:51 PM  

What the hell? My Cousin Vinny is a cool movie!

miriam b 7:09 PM  

@santafefran: I planted a quince tree several years back for the express purpose of having a ready source of raw material for jelly, preserves, membrillo, etc. At this writing the tree has just dropped its beautiful pink blossoms. I always have manchego on hand, with or without quinces. This fruit is underappreciated hereabouts, and on the rare occasions that it appears in the supermarket, it's terribly costly.

Anonymous 7:43 PM  

Eight circles...citified? my city? my extension? c i did get the memo...

Oscar 7:57 PM  

Worst theme ever. ..ZZ...ZZ...

Octavian Oingo 8:08 PM  

Everybody missed the truly awesome part of this theme.

If you see the MMs as eyes and the Swiss cross symbol in the middle as a nose (the five black squares) and then the NNs and TTs near the bottom as a mouth, you can connect it all to create the lopsided smile of Betty Hutton and Annie Lennox watching Jimmy Kimmel.

It's really one of those Liz Gorski, ''connect the squares and find the martini glass'' puzzles.

Now it all makes sense, right?

Anonymous 8:18 PM  

where does that leave the double DDs?

Stan 9:24 PM  

Liked this one more for its punchy incidental fill than its theme (which was original enough, and fine for a Tuesday). AVATAR, NAPALM, NINJAS was the best stack. Sounds like an action/sci-fi movie project pitch (starring JET LI?) Also RIPOSTE, ZEST, AVIATORS, JOAD, OINGO, FUISSE, and the aforementioned ODDBALL NAME DROP. This is very good stuff to be worked into an easy Tuesday puzzle.

Of course I may be prejudiced by liking John Farmer's film criticism/puzzle -- blog.

For fans of "I, Fido," there is also "I, Lex" (autobiography of Superman's nemesis).

cfxk 10:15 PM  

All the tree explanations are fun and insightful....

But I still don't get the forest.

What did those circled cells add to this puzzle that we didn't already know? Anyone?????

treedweller 10:29 PM  

It's late, so I hope an off-topic post won't offend . . . I saw a comment awhile back referencing iPad solving, but failed to take note. Now I got one, and, well, anyone remember how to solve on this thing?

Tita 11:25 PM  

Marmelada, ending in A, is the sweet concoction the Portuguese make from the Marmelo, or quince. It is much more dense than jam or jelly, just right for slicing with a knife and placing atop a slice of warm buttered bread. A shot of espresso, and I'm in heaven!

In short, to us Portuguese, it is a mere coincidence that Marmelade, with an E, also refers to a fruit preserve, and surprising that the fruit in question is NOT the marmelo!

I, Fido 12:18 AM  

Arf.

I like you, Rex, but I love Sandy. I am three.

@treedweller: I would like to know the answer to the IPad question, too. I can get the NYT, but don't know how to download AcrossLite, if that's what you do? I just haven't fiddled around with it that much. Plus - I'm a dog - and three.

Octavian 12:54 AM  

@IFido and @treedweller: To do the crossword on the iPad you need the NYT Crossword app by Magmic.

It is not AcrossLite. It's a different software that is specific to the Apple iOS.

You can find it on iTunes if you search for "NYTimes crossowrd"

Or you can find it via the web at this link: http://goo.gl/PdPv8

Make sure to download the iPad version, and not the iPhone version.

treedweller 10:04 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 8:20 PM  

Rex - That clip from AN is good. I have the same clip but with the jets dropping the napalm at thes start. Yours picks it up from there. More fascinating watching those birds flying in low. Not that you would give a flying F-4.

acme 8:40 PM  

MAYBE I,FIDO was written by OJ Simpson's dog...a musing on his whether or not he indeed made a plaintive wail

Singer 1:16 PM  

From syndication land, interesting that there were no circles and no shaded squares. I thought maybe the theme was celebrities with nicknames for first names. It really played as a very easy themeless.

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

Do you know the way to Norman Y. MINETA San Jose International Airport?

Show biz Natick at 51.

"I, Fido" (this is the dog talkin' now) could only be written by the dog in this song .

Don't know if Frank ever actually owned a dog named Fido, but his tour bus was named Phydeaux. And--to tie it all back to the theme)--hands up if you know the title of his infamous poster that features two sets of double P's. (don't google if you're squeamish)

Dirigonzo 3:21 PM  

From Syndication, USA -Would have finished with an error BETTYHUsTON (?) but for the theme. Other than having rearend for KEISTER for a while everything else went smoothely.

@Anonymous posted the last comment on yesterday's puzzle and referred to "the apostrophe is the crux of the matter", and today @Anonymous 1:30pm posts a link to Frank Zappa; if those are two different anonymice, the coincidence is beyond spooky. If it's one 'mous, nice seque from yesterday to today. At least now I understand the comment.

Red Valerian 4:33 PM  

I thought the puzzle was okay, but I don't care for proper names, especially celebrity proper names. Didn't know the first or last, but they both looked familiar enough.

@RP--as for others, the highlight of my day (so far) was "I, Fido."

@Dirigonzo--I think it must be the same person. "The crux of the biscuit" is not a wildly common phrase (at least not in my circles--I don't think I've ever heard it) and it is in the comments below the Zappa clip.

As to Pouilly-Fuisse, that one was easy, but very an odd reason. Back in the early 80s (omg, was it really thirty years ago!?), there was something of a scandal with a provincial politician buying dinner on the taxpayer tab, and springing for a number of bottles of Pouilly-Fuisse (at something outrageous at the time...googling, I see it was only $35). Anyhow, this led to many silly jokes and parodies, most of which involved a fake British accent, a la "Grey Poupon." (For you young'uns, this was before Austin Powers.) So, for people living in BC (Canada)at the time with even a small eye on the news, this was a gimme.

captcha:kinsheri... auntie's homemade tipple?

Deb @ RoomscapesDecor.com 6:34 PM  

I had no trouble with any of the names; at 54, I fall petty snugly into the slim part of that Venn diagram as well. "Quince" held me up for a bit, especially because I had only the "n" and the "e" when I read the clue so "orange" would have fit. I've certainly never heard of quince marmalade, but then the only knowledge I have of quince is from a line of The Owl and the Pussycat: "They dined on mince and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon." I actually googled it a few years ago to find out what the heck it is. Had I googled "runcible" first, I may have just assumed it was a product of Edward Lear's charming imagination.

Nullifidian 8:54 PM  

Writing from syndication-land, where I had no problem with any of the theme names either. I'm in my early thirties, but I've always been fond of older films. And EDDIE VEDDER, JIMMY KIMMEL, and ANNIE LENNOX are part of my generation's culture.

My one write-over was QUINCE for "orange". I screwed up. If I had been more cautious, I could have got it from the crosses, but when I saw six spaces with N and E present, I thought it was asking about the orange marmalade I eat every time I have toast. But IOS didn't fit the Mensa clue, and ARGO (while a potentially plausible name for a gas station) was clearly supposed to be ARCO.

Red Valerian 11:01 PM  

@Deb--a weird case of synchronicity or something. I am reading Day of Honey, by Annia Ciezadlo. I highly, highly recommend it, especially to the chefs in Rexville, but really to anybody interested in the politics of the Middle East (and who has an appreciation for food). The subtitle is "A Memoir of Food, Love, and War."

I could wax eloquent, but this is not the venue. But, really, this is a fabulous book (or it is so far--I'm half way through).

Aaaaanyhow, the synchronicity is that, shortly after reading your post, I read a line in that book comparing a wonderful restaurant in Beirut to the author's favourite restaurant in Bloomington--The Runcible Spoon. I'd have had no idea!

I realize this is hopelessly off-puzzle, but I hope I can be forgiven if only because this post is so late.

Thanks, @Deb!

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