Traveler to Cathay / MON 10-22-12 / Frito-Lay product once sold in a 100% compostable bag / Slangy request for a high-five / Conqueror of the Incas

Monday, October 22, 2012

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: UNDERCOVER COP (60A: Sting operative ... or a hint to 20-, 24-, 39- and 55-Across) — "COP" is hidden inside four theme answers:

PUBLIC OPINION (20A: It's measured by polls)
PETCO PARK (24A: Home of the San Diego Padres)
FRANCISCO PIZARRO (39A: Conqueror of the Incas)
MARCO POLO (55A: Traveler to Cathay)

Word of the Day: TANNER (71A: Leather worker) —
One that tans hides. ( 
n. Chiefly British
A sixpenny coin formerly used in Britain; a sixpence.

Read more:
• • •

Nice Monday puzzle from Joel. Revealer is good on its own, and a good idea for a revealer. Clue on MARCO POLO was mildly tough, but then again I never saw the clue on MARCO POLO because when I first looked at that spot I had enough crosses to tell exactly what the answer was. Love when that happens (usually). Theme answers are at least somewhat interesting, with the ever-popular FRANCISCO PIZARRO forcing the grid to go 16 wide, and PETCO PARK tipping its hat in timely fashion to the baseball season (though the Padres are nowhere to be found). There's an NLCS game on right now, but it's at AT&T Park in S.F. Coincidentally, I just called AT&T (not five minutes ago) to pay my mobile phone bill, which is due today. My tooth woes meant that I basically ignored all responsibilities for something close to two weeks. But I'm improving now, so ... bills paid. Wait, where was I?

Right, the puzzle. Here's something I don't like: OUTMODE (63A: Make obsolete). I only ever see that word in its adjectival form, i.e. "outmoded." It's weird as a verb. ALAMODE and COMMODE (can you use that word?) would fit there. I think I would've liked either of them better. This is an admittedly small issue, but it's an interesting constructor challenge—filling a small section that can be filled many, many different ways. I wonder sometimes what different constructors value in such spots.

Here's something I do like: UP TOP (9D: Slangy request for a high-five). Pitch-perfect colloquialism, and one I can't remember seeing in the puzzle before. Nice job. I'm slightly less thrilled with the colloquialism TPED (69A: Festooned with bathroom tissue, informally), not because it's not a real thing, but because the spelling seems contrived to me, as it does with the somewhat more common ODED. Never looks right in print. Fine to say, bad to write out. In fact, if I wrote it out, I'd write TP'd (or OD'd). I like the longish, very up-to-date clue on SUN CHIPS (16D: Frito-Lay product once sold in a 100% compostable bag). I believe that's the bag they discontinued because people complained it was too ... noisy. A SUN CHIPS bag that is "too noisy" is about the best example of "first-world problems" that I've ever heard of.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:12 AM  

If they clued 55A as "Most annoying child's game ever" I would have gotten the answere much more quickly.

Anonymous 12:16 AM  

This blog would be so much better if comments weren't in this silly, annoying, separate window.

chefwen 12:19 AM  

@Anon 12:12 - Couldn't agree with you more.

Nice little CA mini theme with PETCO PARK, SFO and SAN Andreas.

In Pearls Before Swine poor little Pig is always getting kicked in his OOMPA LOOMPAs by Rat. Ouch!

Two minor write-overs, not noticing the spelling, I had NAPles before NAPOLI, the other not worth mentioning.

Cute Monday puzzle, thanks Joel F.

Rube 2:13 AM  

If I kept track, this would have been a longer then normal Monday solve. Just couldn't get with the program. PETCOPARK was the only answer of interest. Well, I'd have to say I didn't know that HASBRO made Scrabble, but what the hey.

loren muse smith 6:05 AM  

I get a kick out of themes like this. Perfect Monday – easy and smooth, but I see I dnf because I had PEPCO/IPALO – dang.

Liked ESCAPEES in the grid, and to have both OOMPA and LOOMPA in order and next to each other - wow.

IN PAIN/ACHE, CROUCH next to SIT. . .nice!

I know everyone says TP, but when I was in high school in Georgia, you didn’t get TPED – you got “rolled,” and rolling someone’s yard was great fun.

Thanks, Joel – how ‘bout a BURIED TREASURE puzzle next?

Z 7:15 AM  

@anon12:16 - If you click on the tag words above the date, you get all the comments at the bottom of blog. You still have to come to this annoying window to prove you're not a robot though.

Nice puzzle. Now if I can just find that key.

dk 7:32 AM  

Huh! I remember when Ball Parks were banned after people not pet food. Another first world issue… sigh.

I echo the nice smooth comments and had the same pepco/ipalo mistake as Loren.

I should like to point out that disease conquered the Inca along with hubris if memory serves me well.

Gotta pack

🌟🌟🌟 (3 Stars) You go Joel.

dk 7:33 AM  

named after people dag nab it!

John V 7:33 AM  

Hello again from LGA C38. Perfect Monday, but TPED is new to me. Tricky cross with OOMPA. Easy. Nice one, Joel.

Anonymous 7:46 AM  

I always hate when I have to guess at a crossing of two proper nouns as I did at petco/italo. I guessed right but still don't like it.

Gerry W

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

Fun Monday. The Padres home stumped me as well. Loved the theme.

Susan McConnell 8:42 AM  

Fun Monday. Back to back Pizarro...what are the odds?

Saw Peter Gabriel in concert recently and his stage crew all wore purplish cropped overall outfits that made them look like Oompa Loompas. Odd.

jackj 8:48 AM  

An elementary theme with COP(s)s sneaking in to the center of four answers to go undercover with the most interesting one sitting smack dab in the middle of PETCOPARK, the bought and paid for name for the NLER San Diego Padres home.

While this puzzle seemed slightly more challenging than the usual Monday puzzle, there is nothing in the fill that stands out to make it so and, frankly, identifying highlights is harder than the puzzle was to complete.

But UPTOP for the semi-strange slang clue for a high-five is certainly worthy of recognition and one then wonders what terminology the slangsters have devised for “Fist-bumps”?

I suppose that SUPPOSE is worthy of a nod, as are CROUCH and OOMPA LOOMPA, those Willy Wonka little people who are noteworthy for their hearty John Boehner-like orange COLOR(ing) and of course, lest we forget, there is Willy LOMAN, to whom attention must be paid.

Pieces of the puzzle that didn’t excite include the Aussie version of STANDPAT, (they SITPAT, apparently), the anticipatory use of TPED as Halloween nears and trickster goblins become tree decorators but perhaps we can OUTMODE them, failing which the puzzle seems to suggest that fair play allows us to leave their REAR ENDS INPAIN as their “treat”.

Thanks, Joel.

joho 9:49 AM  

I always thought the term was StandPAT so SITPAT was new to me. It certainly takes less energy.

Loved the theme especially the reveal, UNDERCOVERCOP. Great write-up, @Rex, and happy to see you're feeling better.

Nice to see ANNA and KERR and my favorite duo in the grid is OOMPA LOOMPA adding to the fun.

Easy, breezy, interesting Monday, thanks, Joel!

lawprof 10:00 AM  

Does anyone else find these, "Home of the [fill-in-the-sports-franchise]" clues annoying? How can anyone possibly remember which corporate sponsor purchased which team's stadium naming rights? They all seem totally random to me, without any connection to the teams or the communities with which they're associated. I realize that it's the economy, stupid, but really.... Yankee Stadium, now there's a name.

Sandy K 10:09 AM  

Easy- ESCAPEES-y Monday! Needed that after yesterday's caper.

UNDERCOVER COP was a cute reveal- after thinking it might be an explorers theme...NAH!

JUST IN! Rex is not IN PAIN anymore!

jberg 10:12 AM  

8A is a strong competitor for "most unneccessary detail in a clue." "Bieber" would certainly have sufficed.

My only problem was remembering Willy Loman, whom I first wrote down as LOMAx - then I saw that X, couldn't fit it into any conquistadors, and decided it was part of THOMAS (go figure) and changed it to S before I finally got to N. Not helped by getting Francisco P's first name mixed up with that of Juan Cortez. If all came through in the end, though.

With hidden words, I'm always more impressed if they are longer - but I've never constructed a puzzle, so what to I know?

michy 10:24 AM  

Harder for me than the usual Monday. Somehow ended up with runAwayS for ESCAPEES, had no idea about PETCOPARK, and plugged in SITPuT for SITPAT - made for a rough start. Finished in the end but longer than it should have been.

quilter1 10:42 AM  

Dad was a traveling salesman, maiden name is FRANCISCO, and I found this to be a fun and easy solve. Great Monday.

Sandy K 11:03 AM  

Meant to say This JUST IN (as in news flash...) But my 'This' didn't go in.

Doesn't sound right! Annoying! But not to worry- 99.999% of the time, my comments I'll re-type it correctly.

But noooooooooooo!


@jberg- Had same reaction to Bieber clue!

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

@Z Thanks! Much better.

jae 11:23 AM  

A little slower than the typical Mon. for me too. Probably the 16x15 grid. Living in SD has been helpful lately...last week ENSENADA and today PETCO. That said PETCO/ITALO is not a Mon. level cross.

Other than that a fun smooth Mon. Nice one Joel!

pannonica 11:24 AM  

jberg: mnemonic for the A Miller play: the symbolism is that salesman Willy is the low man on the totem pole.

Carola 11:50 AM  

An elegant Monday. Liked the stacks LOMAN-TRUMAN, DEEPEN COLOR, and authors ITALO and ALCOTT. Also LEVI + LEES. Was hoping that IRA Gershwin wrote the lyrics to "JUST IN (UN)TIME(ED)," but it was Betty Comden and Adolph Green. ODDER Mexican snack: TACO CON UVA.

@lawprof - Completely agree about those corportate names. Couldn't believe it when I learned that the naming rights for the Packers' Lambeau Field (named for the team's founder and first coach) are for sale.

Ron Fowler 12:17 PM  

I got $60 million for the naming rights to Petco Park. Money I put in my pocket. That's after San Diego paid for over 60% of building the park.

You've got righteous indignation.

I ain't going to trade.

Ron Fowler
Owner, San Diego Padres.

Milford 12:38 PM  

Slightly knotty Monday to solve, but perfectly acceptable. Liked SPINAL and KILN, and of course the OOMPA LOOMPAs. One of my all time favorite books.

PETCO PARK was inferable to me, but that was a tough cross with ITALO. I am also one who can't stand the corporate names on everything, especially the bowl games. I can accept Ford Field as a name, though, as it at least seems relevant to the Detroit area.

Still don't have the elusive 10th clue for yesterday's puzzle, but admittedly I'm not trying to hard. I was mildly amused at how unglued it made some solvers here. Hope you didn't receive too much abuse, @Rex!

Milford 12:43 PM  

Forgot to add - I remember those SUN CHIPS bags, and they were indeed comically loud. Couldn't sneak a handful of chips, which is probably why people really did dislike them. I put one bag in my backyard compost pile, and it is still visible every time I stir it - very slow to decompose!

syndy 1:13 PM  

liked the puzzle.Some time ago Edison bought the rights to angel Staium and put up one huge gaudy sign saying so and lit up the whole shabang like god's christmas. Then SOCA had power problems (DEREGS) and shortages! but in the middle EDISON FIELD glowed and glowed! they couldn't wait til their contract expired!LOL

mac 1:23 PM  

Very good Monday puzzle, just didn't like outmode and sit pat very much.

Italo was known to me, and apparently Petco also looked familiar.

Finally figured out that last sport yesterday. In hindsight it is actually quite clear....

Bird 1:25 PM  

I thought this was quite easy and a pleasure to solve - thank you Joel Fagliano. My only nit is that the COPs are not really UNDERCOVER per se; they are hidden, but not under anything.


Hand up for SIT tight and stand PAT.

@dk – Agreed. The other option is to name the stadium/arena after the team that plays there, like Yankee Stadium.

@lawprof – There are a lot of “fill-in-the-blank” clues that leave me baffled, but I hope the constructor, and Will, are nice enough to provide decent crosses so I can have a fair chance at guessing the correct blank. And Yankee Stadium is a great place.

John V 2:10 PM  

OT, but I'm having a bitch of a time with yesterday's puzzle. Have not/will not read @Rex until after the deadline, but just sharing. I've got maybe half, above the NW/SE diagonal; below that, pretty, pretty slim pickings.

Acme 2:30 PM  

Great puzzle, tho more advanced fill and themewise for a typical Monday...loved it tho.

@ chefwen
I'd add FRANCISCO. To your minitheme CA list, tho that highlights that you have both SFO and FRANCISCO in the pizzle, where that's the F!

Anonymous 3:14 PM  

And didn't Marco Polo discover California?

Harry Julius Shearer 3:18 PM  

In 2001 SPINAL Tap played the Greek Theater, which is in . . . California.

John V 3:19 PM  

@Acme: I admire your emphasizing the pizzle today. Really I do :)

Davis 3:32 PM  

Definitely a good Monday puzzle — an easy one for me, as I completed just 19 seconds over my best-ever iPad time (I've said it before, but I really, really wish I could use my external keyboard on the Magmic app to benefit from improved typing speed).

There were a few entries that I especially enjoyed. I'm always glad to see ITALO Calvino pop up, as he's one of my favorite authors; I enjoyed learning that my (newly adopted) hometown airport is the #2 busiest in CA, and that SUN CHIPS used to come in a biodegradable bag; and I liked TPED as a timely entry, with Halloween coming up and all. However, I also made the initial NAPles/NAPOLI mis-entry (OOMPA LOOMPA set me straight).

I agree with Rex that OUTMODE seemed a little odd, but not so much that it seemed wrong — just nonstandard usage. I like the idea of COMMODE in the corner, because (a) that's a fun word for "toilet," and (b) it can go in with no other changes — you do get the over-used OVA, but I don't think UVA is any less tired.

Otherwise, nice construction and fun theme+revealer. My only remaining complaint is that the Captchas here have become far more illegible in recent days.

John V 3:37 PM  

@Z: Thanks for the tip on seeing the
comments on the blog page. Never knew that!

Sfingi 3:40 PM  

The puzzle must be M-W if I can solve it w/o Google.

Was once told I look like an OOMPA LOOMPA (check out my atavar).

My son got married this weekend in Conway, NH on a covered bridge. The clouds parted and the sun came out in force. (Rosaries on the clothesline?) The White Mts. were very orange. They don't believe in street signs in NH - no idea what town or direction one is. Son said, the message is if you're not from New England, you shouldn't be here.

sanfranman59 4:08 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:40, 6:47, 0.98, 51%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:58, 3:41, 1.08, 85%, Challenging

jackj 5:06 PM  


Ditto to what John V wrote @3:37PM; what a nice convenience!

Z 5:10 PM  

@John V and Anonymous - You're welcome. I think I happened upon that once long ago when I was still a lurker.

Baseball Stadium Names- Coors Field, Turner Field, Rogers Centre, Chase Field, Safeco Field, Busch Stadium, Citizens Bank Park, Progressive Field, Citi Field, AT&T Park, Miller Park, Comerica Park, Wrigley Field, Minute Maid Park (nÊe Enron Field), US Cellular Field, Target Field, PNC Park, Tropicana Field.

Comerica bought the naming rights to Detroit's new stadium for 30 years for $66 million then promptly moved it's headquarters to Dallas TX. Sigh. Then again, last long enough and people will not notice the corporate ties.

joho 5:51 PM  

@John V ... don't you know, @Andrea ALWAYS puts the sizzle in the pizzle!

Bretski 6:05 PM  

I also often wonder what constructors value in those corners that could be filled so many different ways. Typically, when I'm filling those corners, I try to use only real words, avoiding names and acronyms. Then I try to have as much sparkle as possible (especially in the answer that breaks out of that section), avoiding crosswordese as much as possible.

Sometimes lousy short fill is okay too justify snappy longer answers, but those OOXTEPLERNON corners drive me crazy and are actually what started me trying to construct grids.

In this case not only is OUTMODE out of the language, UVA (and even TANNER) should, in my opinion, be last resort type fill. There are surely better options. For example:


What do you all value in those corners?

Bretski 6:09 PM  

I should also say that overall I really like this puzzle. Solid Monday offering, good theme. Not sure that Francisco Pizarro is worth extending the grid, but I do like the different feel the stretched grid has. Many more 6, 7, 8 letter answers than your typical Monday.

Sparky 6:17 PM  

Took longer than expected. Solved in MD's waiting room so that was a plus. Nice puzzle. I am calmer today. Does anybody ever use the word AVIATES?

Nice tip @Z. That might be helpful for links which are hard to watch in the dinky box.

Off we go, aviating into the wild blue yonder.

chefwen 6:55 PM  

@Sparky - Thank God, you scared me yesterday.

ksquare 9:15 PM  

@dk 7:32 I suspect the disease(s) that conquered the Incas was/were brought to them by Pizarro and his

sanfranman59 10:03 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 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 6:45, 6:47, 1.00, 56%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:52, 3:41, 1.05, 80%, Medium-Challenging

Business Mobile Phone Deals 2:52 AM  

Nice! I really enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work.

NM Robin 10:29 AM  

I really liked the puzzle. I'd rate it as medium as I had to google the stadium. Had to keep changing the spelling of Pizarro but got it from crosses. The rest went down s-m-o-o-t-h.

Great puzzle Mr. Fagliano

Spacecraft 12:35 PM  

I guess the Monday-to-Saturday cluing curve is really wide. Too easy to too hard, sometimes. E.g.: "Bieber with..." The name alone is the gimmiest gimme that ever came down the pike. Surely there are less obvious JUSTINs; if all else fails, you can use "Mr. Case of insurance ad fame."

The ratings of OFL and plenty others surprise me. All the clues were simplistic, straightforward and led directly to a unique and obvious answer. Easy-peasy.

This is not to say that it wasn't a well-filled or cute-themed grid (which I totally did not notice was 16-wide till I came here; I don't count squares). A few groaners like SCH--really, the 1a kickoff ought to be better than that--and SLRS aside, this was fairly good. But can you imagine a poker player saying "I'll SITPAT?" NAH.

Ginger 1:55 PM  

Nice easy Monday. Only writeovers were caused by bad spelling; PIZzaRO and NAPles, easily fixed.

@Spacecraft - LOL at Mr Case of Insurance fame.

DMGrandma 3:13 PM  

A good start to the week. Managed it all. Wouldn't if I had had to come up with UPTOP, which I've never heard. The California slant of this puzzle was a help. Though I now live near PETCO Park, my home town is/was San Francisco, with SFO and the SAN Andreas fault. It's even where Mr Strauss made those LEVIs! Surprise of the day was Sr. Pizarro's first name. Don't recall the City ever mentioning that.

Think, that for a change, I can read this Captcha, so I'm going to run before it morphs.

Dirigonzo 5:59 PM  

My solving role today was limited to that of spectator as WPP did the puzzle herself, with little difficulty I might add. She needed the downs to produce SCH at 1a and then asked, "who uses that?" so it was a teachable moment about the necessities of crosswordese. She knew UPTOP from just the U, spelled VISE correctly the first time (which I never do) and caught the Italian spelling of Roma to clue NAPOLI instead of NAPles, which is what I probably would have put in. Her completed grid is much neater and cleaner than anything I have ever produced.

Waxy in Montreal 11:19 PM  

Justin Bieber performed at halftime in yesterday's Grey Cup (our version of the Superbowl) held in Toronto (near his hometown of Stratford, ON) and was roundly booed for his efforts by many if not most of the 55,000 fans present. Evidently hardcore football fans don't get the Bieber's music (thought it was just me) though they cheered on folk legend (and fellow Canuck) Gordon Lightfoot who also performed.

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