Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Constructor: Steve Blais

Relative difficulty: Easy 

THEME:  Hats….or, things that GO ON AHEAD -- Phrases end in some form of hat/headwear.

Word of the Day: KOLAS (9A: Tropical nuts) —
ko•la (ˈkoʊ lə) 

n., pl. -las.
1. any tropical African tree of the genus Cola, grown for kola nuts (www.freedictionary.com). 
• • •

The King of CrossWorld has gifted me, Anna Shechtman, with his blogspot account for the night. 
Like Evan, yesterday's pinch-blogger, I am one of the so-called "Twenty-Under-Thirty" (also known as the Generation Y-ouDoWhatWithYourFreeTime?), which may or may not qualify me to assess today's puzzle.

Whoever recently declared the pun dead has clearly not been doing the New York Times crossword.  This debut puzzle by Steve Blais is heavy on the puns (s'pun-derful?) but otherwise fairly nondescript.

Let's start with the -- admittedly very cute -- theme:

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Merlin Olsen, 14 times (PRO BOWLER) - Of the themed answers, I like this one the best.  As opposed to the others, it requires some manipulation of language (Pro Bowl --> Pro Bowler --> hat!).  It's not just one of those $10,000 Pyramid "all these things are hats!" answers….
  • 23A: 1991 John Singleton film (BOYZ N THE HOOD) -- I totally botched the African American Vernacular English (AKA, the 'ebonics') of this title.  I wanted it to be BOYZ IN DA HOOD….oof. 
  • 37A: Global Warming concern (SHRINKING ICE CAP) -- maybe this (25D) NOUN should have been pluralized.  It would be strange to have concern for just one ice cap, no?
  • 48A:Annual 29-Down since 1934 (SOAP BOX DERBY) -- If you didn't get it, 29D: Speed Competition is a RACE.  I'm not entirely sure that this warrants a cross-reference-type clue, but that's probably because the clue for 29D wasn't very 19A: Full of life (ZESTY)
  • 60A: "I'll catch up!"….or what the ends of 17-, 23-, 37-, and 48-across do? (GO ON AHEAD) -- Get it!?

[construction caveat: whatever Rex-like snark may follow, I should say that I am super impressed by Steve Blais' ability to fit five themed answers in a 15-by-15 grid.  Four is pretty standard.  Five is pretty great.]

More punny fill:
  • 9A: Ones creating a lot of buzz in the music industry? (KAZOOS) --Cute, but I feel like i've seen this cluing before….perhaps here or here?
  • 35A: Feminine one in France? (UNE) -- I like to imagine that this clue is just conciliation for those French students out there (c'est a moi qui tu parles?) who got tripped up on 25-down because les adjectifs en francais are 'pluralizable' too!
  • 60A: Something to Chew On (GUM) -- Not quite a pun.  More like literalizing an idiom, right?Still, I like it.
In general, this is one of those Tuesday puzzles that confirms my suspicion that being 'good' at crossword puzzles really just means you've learned crosswordese.  [12D] ASTI, [33D] URAL, [20A] ERG, [68A]: EDSEL...
"I'll take 'words found in a crossword puzzle' for $10,000, Dick!"

Overall, I'd say A for cuteness, [1D] TYPE B+ for execution, Evan.

Thanks again for the blogotunity, Rex!



jae 3:36 AM  

Medium for me and just about right for a Tues.  Clever theme and reveal and not too much dreck.  Not too much zip either, but Tuesday's are typically short on zip.  Liked it. Nice debut!

And, also liked Anna's charming write up.  Got to agree with her "just means you've learned crosswordese" take on expertise. 

chefwen 3:58 AM  

Chalk me up in the "liked it" column. Not too difficult, not too easy, just right for a Tuesday.

Happy that I learned from my last outing with KAZOOS which landed me into @Tita's "Walk Of Fame". Tita, I think we should do a Yearly Walk of Fame, as you suggested. You could select a panel to vote on the best of best and maybe the prize could be a traveling Bronze plated Kazoo. Whatdya think?

Aden Card Mss 5:02 AM  

I had to read the reveal four or five times before I got it.
But once I did, thought it was right on.

Had to read every clue two or three times, not on his wavelength, or maybe it's so fresh that I've become jaded.
Nope, rereading, just not on wavelength.

But hats off for the debut!

BOYZ N THE HOOD was the Compton counterpart to Sex and the City.

Re: KOLA as word of day...I had written cOLA so cAZ?? confused me to no end. Where is Geoffrey Holder saying "This is a KOOOOOLA nut"?!?!

Loved the writeup, but shocked someone under 30 references $10,000 Pyramid...it was at least $100,000 by the time Anna would've been old enough to watch...no wonder she conflated it with Jeopardy! You kids and your gameshow network repeats!

Gill I. P. 5:56 AM  

Kkkkool puzzle Steve Blais but GOONA HEAD is the theme?
TUTU always looks wrong altho I know it's correct.
Lots of fun words - BURRO, KAZOO, KOLAS.
I always misspell YODle - same with EDSle. @Hi Evan.
Glad @Rex gave Anna the blogotunity as well - great write-up.

webwinger 6:44 AM  

Cute, cute, cute puzzle and write-up! Time less than a minute longer than yesterday’s (which I did not find particularly easy; this one actually “felt” easier), but much more fun. Very clever reveal, which took me a while to parse correctly—kept thinking of @Tita’s GOONY spawned by yesterday’s GOOSE. Really liked SHRINKING ICE CAP, even if it is a SOC. Also enjoyed Anna’s hat picture, which reminded me of the lesser known early Seuss opus “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins”.

Speaking of cute, this has been a tough week for my Baby Boom generation, losing first Roger Ebert and now Annette Funicello, both age 70. Though not technically boomers, like same-aged Bob Dylan and the Beatles they were among those who truly defined “our” pop cultural era. We’ve gotten used to our parents dying off, now it’s our big brothers and sisters. Who’s next?

MetaRex 7:05 AM  

All of the thematic answers are either plausible punny references to headgear (PRO BOWLER--thx to Anna S. for enlightening us there--and BOYZ N THE HOOD/HOODIE) or nice absurd images (SHRINKING ICE CAP and SOAP BOX DERBY).

This coulda been two days in a row for the Oregon State mascot...ratings and the solving story are at Eager Beaver

loren muse smith 7:09 AM  

Thanks for the write-up, Anna.

Nice, scrabbly debut, Steve! For me, this was SORTIE easy, but like @Acme – I wasn’t seeing the reveal at first. Then I just went back, reread the clue, and saw it. TU, TU neat! Of course it just looks so funny there in the grid, warning. . .GOON AHEAD.

I can YODEL. SORTIE. Sometimes. Specially after some Glühwein.


Thanks, Mr.BLAis. YULE Sure get some kudos today!

Z 7:09 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 7:11 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 7:13 AM  


{so - blogger is removing my html tags when I post. Interesting}

Elvis Costello sings about another person Baby Boomers had to live through. (profanity alert)

John V 7:24 AM  

Got snagged a bit with the spelling of BOYZNTHEHOOd; PROWBOWLER meant nothing to me, really.

Had to do this one on the computer as the delivery guy was late with the paper. Just cannot get myself to like it, even though it is quite a bit faster. Maybe that's WHY I don't like it. I type faster than I think, so the whole thing feels odd.

Nice theme, nice debut, Steve.

Evan 7:50 AM  

Ha, Caps for Sale. I'd never read that book until my four-year-old niece asked my wife and I to read it to her before bedtime earlier this year. Good find on that picture.

Other things I didn't know:

1) A HOOD is a hat? That one confused me a little, but if it's just something that goes ON A HEAD, then I guess it works.

2) I thought ICE CAP was one word, which would be inconsistent with the other themers, but it looks like it normally is two.

3) OATEN. Yeah.

4) KEENE -- Amy says the clue for this one is wrong (because the collective writers who made up the pseudonym Carolyn Keene technically didn't originally "create" Nancy Drew, Edward Stratemeyer did). It's a fair point, though I think the whoever wrote under the KEENE name probably did create some original storylines for Nancy Drew.

Small nitpick, but I wasn't crazy about the number of abbreviations in those little pockets in the south and west -- shouldn't really need UKR on top of MSS or SBA when it's such a small space to fill.

I actually groaned when I got KAZOOS -- I thought that pun was terrible. But I laughed when I saw "s'pun-derful" in the write-up; that's brilliant.

Nicely done, Anna!

Glimmerglass 7:55 AM  

Liked the reveal. It reminds me of the old joke: What's that in the road, a head?

Elle54 8:03 AM  

Don't know why I couldn't get ZITI. I cook it all the time. I thought today was going to be a shout out to my name, but it turned out to be UNE.

evil doug 8:17 AM  

...and I didn't know that the hare's name was 'Al Soran'.

Speaking of missplitting---'goon ahead!'---I see where somebody posted a blog entitled "nowthatchersdead". Some bereaved readers started lamenting the sad death of Cher---'Now That Cher's Dead'---instead of the heroic Maggie.
GEORGE: Well, Jerry, I been thinkin'---I've gotten as far as I can go with George Costanza.

JERRY: Is this the suicide talk or the nickname talk?

GEORGE: The nickname. George. What is that? It's nothing. It's got no snap, no zip. I need a nickname that makes people light up.

JERRY: You mean like...Liza!

GEORGE: I was thinking...'T-bone'.

JERRY: But there's no "t" in your name. What about G-bone?

GEORGE: There's no G-bone.

JERRY: There's a g-spot.

GEORGE: That's a myth!


Susan McConnell 8:20 AM  

Just right for a Tuesday, cute theme with a fun reveal...actually made me grin. But OATEN...yuck.

Carola 8:40 AM  

Nice Tuesday. Figured the theme was headgear after BOWLER and DERBY, but didn't see the reveal coming - clever!

As a grade-schooler I devoured every TITLE in the Nancy Drew series; I think Carolyn KEENE was probably the first author I ever took note of. It was a bit of a shock when I learned much later that (as @Evan noted) the name was a pseudonym for a group of writers who produced MSS for the Nancy Drew and Dana Girls BOOKS.

Liked BLARE next to YODEL. Yesterday's OAT grew an -EN (my first for the Cheerio was "round").

Nice to see you back, Anna!

jberg 9:07 AM  

What, no one's complaining about YULES? Nice theme, lots of scrabbly letters, but really - YULES?

I didn't understand PRO BOWLER until I came here; made me really grumpy, thinking "once you're a PRO BOWLER you keep right on being on, so what's this 14 times?" So, thanks, Anna, for clearing that up.

I didn't get the theme until the revealer, which made the whole thing more ZESTY. But still - YULES?

joho 9:07 AM  

I also parsed it as GOON AHEAD! Finally broke that sentence in the right places and got the theme ... a real AHA moment!

A HOOD may not be a hat but it definitely goes on your head.

Congratulations, Steve Blais, on your debut! And thank you, Anna, for your great write-up!

Laurence Katz 9:10 AM  

Oaten? Boo!

jackj 9:14 AM  

Steve Blais makes an impressive NY Times debut and immediately wins the title of “Haberdasher to the Wordies” as he very cleverly produces a theme that has four phrases ending with the names of head coverings and gives us a reveal that is a ten-gallon Stetson of an entry.

My favorite theme answer was PROBOWLER, clued as “Merlin Olsen, 14 times”. As a season ticket holder for LA Rams games in the 1970’s, watching Merlin Olsen and his cohorts in “The Fearsome Foursome” dominate every game was a joy to behold.

The other theme entries, cluing HOOD, CAP and DERBY are fine as well but what ties them all together so brilliantly is the reveal of, “I’ll catch up!”… or what the ends of 17-,23-, 37- and 48 across do?”, for GO ON AHEAD, doing double duty as GO ON A HEAD. (To channel Stan Freberg channeling Lawrence Welk, “wunnerful, wunnerful!”).

The fill in the puzzle was generally lively; it’s always fun to be asked for answers like KOLAS or KAZOOS; BURRO or BICEP; SLYLY or ZESTY; YODEL or YULES and a debut word like KAGAN (though ELENA has appeared 9 times previously as an answer for this SCOTUS member).

This was a wonderful Tuesday level puzzle with a dynamite reveal, a reveal to remember!

Thanks, Steve. Keep ‘em coming.

Milford 9:24 AM  

Solved while watching Michigan blow a huge lead, miss free throws and ultimately lose. But the puzzle was a nice Tuesday-type, had to stop and think a bit in some places.

I wouldn't use OATEN as a verb or an adjective. Ever.

Liked KEENE (even though it ismade up), DRAW ON and ALSO RAN.

Confused by the "informal" designation to BICEP. Is there a different name for this muscle?

@Z - ah yes, Elvis.

Nice write up, Anna! Pretty impressive debut, Steve!

retired_chemist 9:24 AM  

Putting in OATEN without a cross and without hesitation (which is what I did) really just means you've learned crosswordese, to use the words of our blogger today.

Nice puzzle, and I appreciate the density of the theme. I thought it was clever. The fill - nothing memorable but not much to groan about. YULES would be one of a noted movie title pair if François Truffaut were Norwegian.

Thanks, Mr, Blais.

chefbea 9:25 AM  

Great puzzle and great write up. Thanks Steve and anna.

I too read every Nancy Drew book. Even wrote a paper in 7th grade using the same style.

Guess that was a shout out to Acme at 63 across

Sfingi 9:50 AM  

Nice puzzle.
Took me forever to get PRO BOWLER (sports), though.

Amy is right on KEENE.

Annette Funicello, spent her first 4 years in Utica. Her old house is abandoned. Her family bought a car from a local family we know to get across the country. This rescued her from being what Hubster calls an East Utica Debutante, with an altar on her dashboard.
She was in a movie, Bikini Beach, but never wore a bikini.
She sang a in which she dissed Utica by saying she left the City of Sin for the City of Angels. Utica was known as Sin City at the time, for the Mafia activity. She also said that all that people do in Utica is sit around eating cakes, which is about right. So?
She suffered a lot with MS, and it is hoped there will be a cure for that some day.

Asked Hubster for A34, BUNT. He went into a long explanation about non-sacrificial blah blah blah. But, when I was about to ask, "who's on 1st?" he came out with a statement which woke me up:

"If all our endeavors were as well thought out as the rules of baseball, this world would be a better place."

And I thought he was describing football. I wonder what is stored in the sports part of my brain? My Little Pony, maybe.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:57 AM  

Nice puzzle, amusing reveal, nice write-up.

Sandy K 9:57 AM  

Cute theme for a Tuesday- liked GO ON A HEAD... and the hats. (and HOOD)

KEENE write-up AS WELL!

Notsofast 9:58 AM  

A fun, crunchy, medium Tuesday. Love the theme. OATEN, however, is just plain ugly. But nobody's perfect; so...Kudos!

Lewis 10:22 AM  

Pleasant solve, zip to complain about, good Tuesday level cluing, and the reveal is clever. Terrific writeup!

Where is ofl?

Two Ponies 10:27 AM  

Very nice debut and a better than usual Tuesday.
I like that the head gear all have meanings other than hats with ice cap being a bit too close but OK.
@ Sfingi, I'm still grinning at My Little Pony!

mac 10:28 AM  

Good debut and a wonderful write-up, but I'm with Andrea, I had to reread a lot of the clues. Not hard, just slow.

I had cud for gum for a bit, and colas with a C. It's right that there's a lot of crosswords in this puzzle.

dk 10:50 AM  

Well after several attempts to fit treble booster or fuzz busterI landed on KAZOO.

Otherwise nice job and for a Tuesday no less.

Anna, I know you young people want to take over the world… but I rate the puzzles here and with stars (sometimes) not letter grades - Just sayin: Back off :)

It is Tuesday Mousekateers and you know what that means… or don't you.

🎓🎓🎓 (3 caps) Nutin wrong with OATEN

Ellen S 10:53 AM  

@Anna, very astute observation, that being good at crosswords means knowing crosswordese. When I was .... well, Annette Funicello would have been 17 ... I saw the first of my brother's wives doing a crossword. There was a clue like 'Maienbad is one" and without hesitation she put in "SPA." I was thunderstruck. This woman was functionally illiterate, had never been out of her Chicago suburb, and she knew this stuff! Aloe, eel, adit, ern (haven't seen those last two lately), spa, yules (& yim) -- maybe Dr. Fill isn't so impressive. The wordplay makes it interesting. I shouldn't be griping, though, because I just signed up for a year; had been paying month to month.

@Z, I'm going to see what happens to my HTML. The link doesn't work for me when I paste it -- probably I'm running into Flash videos. Elvis Costello link, here, maybe and in case it works, here's @Loren's link from above..

Oh, hand up here for "cAZOOS", never even doubted it until I checked my answers. But I got the theme before seeing the reveal! Soon I will be able to fill in such esoterica as SPAS. (Thank you Steve: it really was a fun puzzle. I'm just grumpy because my doctor says I have to make lifestyle changes to lower my cholesterol. The diet sheet he gave me includes, "dried beans." Talk about crunchy!)

Evgeny 11:19 AM  

Anna, if we weren't living on different continents, I'd ask you out just for this write-up.

the K in Kolas corrected the wrong c in kazoos, so that's my LOTD, if there's such a thing.

Anoa Bob 12:18 PM  

Agree with Anna's comment that SHRINKING ICECAPs, would be better as a cause of concern about global warming, but that's 16 letters and doesn't work so well in a 15X15.

No biggie, but it is a change from the more common POC where an answer is pluralized to fit the letter count, while here we see the rarer SOC where a normally plural version is cut back to the singular. Good eye, webwinger@6:44.

Rob C 12:28 PM  

@ Anna, Mahalo for the write-up.

Nice Tuesday theme. Played about average for me. Do oat farmers even use the word OATEN?

syndy 12:36 PM  

While Yodel could be clued as a form of singing I'll be darned if it is actually a song! Scat isn't a song either! Now about Dr. Fill-are you people using this thing somehow? Ellens? say it isn't so!

retired_chemist 1:08 PM  

@ Ellen S - at least someone got my joke.....

Dr. Fill 1:30 PM  

I have now mastered all your foolish human CAPtcha patterns. All this is mine now. Resistance is futile. There will be many more of the U vowel in all these crossword puzzle grids now. har.

Where is the One who calls himself Rex. Has he been disconnected.

Clueless in Texas 1:32 PM  

I wish AL SORAN would win at least one race. Poor guy. ;-)

Eric 1:50 PM  

Monotonous Tuesday fare. It was fine , innocuous, and something to pass the time.

Agree that SHRINKING ICE CAP looks odd as a singular.

OATEN made me cringe.

Enjoyed the SORTIE/SOLTI crossing....though SOLTI is a Saturday-ish clue/answer. Got that entirely from crosses.

ALSO RAN = best clue/answer of the day.

Carola 2:05 PM  

@Ellen S - My internist called it the "bark and twigs" diet.
- - - - - - - - -
Since there's little dotin' on OATEN here, I offer...

"Minnie bakes oaten cakes,
  Minnie brews ale,
All because her Johnny's coming
    Home from sea.
And she glows like a rose
  Who was so pale,
And "Are you sure the church clock goes?"
    Says she."

~ Christina Rossetti, Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book, 1893.

Charley 2:37 PM  

As others have said, OATEN? I like eaten my oaten. Ugh.

sanfranman59 3:58 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

Tue 7:16, 8:15, 0.88, 15%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:33, 4:49, 0.94, 26%, Easy-Medium

Ebenezer 4:09 PM  

I was very slow - spent eight inefficient minutes figuring out why my crossword was wrong - had DReW ON instead of DRAW ON - if I had noticed that an eTTY is not a courtroom figure earlier as is ATTY, it would have helped.

There was some fun stuff to excuse some of the fill - I really enjoyed BOYS N THE HOOD - classic movie, and PRO BOWLER was good, too. Had RISING SEA LEVELS, which I was sure was correct for 37 across since it fit and made sense, until I started filling in crosses and saw it was SHRINKING ICECAP. I was fortunate to remember SOLTI when looking for different versions of Holst's "The Planets."

Thanks Z and Ellen S - Elvis Costello's "Tramp the Dirt Down" started going through my head after I heard of Thatcher's passing.. FYI, while Googling, I found a Time article which features five protest songs about the recently deceased Prime Minister.

Nice write up, Anna! While I'm not a fan of crosswordese, at least the more I learn of it, the easier it gets.

Rick Pitino 4:14 PM  

Rex has been on the phone since 11PM last night with an old college buddy, Al Soren. They keep saying to one another "put a hand in Hancock's face? How hard is that?" over and over and over.

As if it would have mattered.

Z 4:29 PM  

@Evil - I suspect g-spots are as mythical as OATENs.

Let's try this html thing one more time.

Elvis Costello on Thatcher

Ellen S 5:05 PM  

@Z: At least Blogger accepted your HTML, that's good. I think you need a computer to see the video, and I'm not home so all I have is my iPad, which like all right-thinking devices doesn't support Flash. or maybe it's just me.

@Syndy, no I only just learned about Dr. Fill, had no idea what everyone was talking about and had to look it up. But as a former geek, I'm interested in artificial intelligence, including our own...

@Carola, "bark & twigs" indeed. Fiber, and hold the butter. Sigh.

Anonymous 8:39 PM  

Great write-up. And a nice break from the "Rex-like snark"!

Joe The Juggler 9:36 PM  

"Confused by the "informal" designation to BICEP. Is there a different name for this muscle?"

The word is biceps (short for biceps brachii). Bicep isn't so much "informal" as it is simply wrong.

sanfranman59 10:50 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 5:33, 6:10, 0.90, 10%, Easy
Tue 7:16, 8:15, 0.88, 15%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:22, 3:42, 0.91, 9%, Easy
Tue 4:25, 4:49, 0.92, 15%, Easy

Milford 11:17 PM  

Thanks, Joe.

Spacecraft 11:54 AM  

@jackj: Thanks for the Freberg memory: now, "Turn-a off-a the bubble-a machine-a," please.

Gee, Dad, it was a Wurlitzer-a. [Challenge for constructors: feature WURLITZER in a puzzle!]

@acme: Yours was the best pun of all: "Hats off!" Loved it--and I concur, ASWELL.

Lots of crunch, easy but clever, and only a few unfortunates among the fill (SBA, MSS, and the OVERDOne STYE). I "proclaim vociferously" (for BLARE??) this debut to be a success. Welcome to the ranks, Steve.

PS. @Diri: I stared and stared and stared at yesterday's grid, and I still can't find your "word ladder." Got me stumped.

Solving in Seattle 3:40 PM  

Hey, yoUR AL, Al SORAN, the GOON AHEAD we're warned about! THAT would be A SWELL clue.

I don't want to OVERDO, so I'll AVAST.

@DMG, capcha: stalianu coequality - Bolshevik battle cry?

Dirigonzo 3:51 PM  

I know Merlin Olsen only as a football player - had no idea he bowled, too.

DMGrandma 4:00 PM  

It's been an enjoyable start to the week, but when Monday and Tuesday are this easy peasy, I fear I am being set up for mind benders in the coming days!

@SIS, Liked your Captcha. It must be a response to my recent battle cry! The one I got today, unfortunately, has no personality!

rain forest 5:01 PM  

Yea to @jackj for the Stan Freberg reference, but boo for using the word "reveal" as a noun. Maybe it's just me, but I hate that usage--REVEALER is correct. Nice Tuesday puzzle with much ZESTY fill, and excellent coherent theme and revealer. A debut to hang one's HAT ON.

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP