Actress Gershon of Bound / MON 8-26-13 / Ersatz butter / Largest inland city in California / Onetime Joker portrayer ___ Romero / Distinctive Cindy Crawford feature / Colorful city bordering Newark / Hooch container

Monday, August 26, 2013

Constructor: Ian Livengood

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: LOW-HANGING FRUIT (7D: Simple things to pick ... or what 5-, 11-, 29- and 38-Down have?) — theme answers are Downs that end in fruits—thus the fruit part of the answer hangs low...

Word of the Day: GINA Gershon (3D: Actress Gershon of "Bound") —

Gina L. Gershon (born June 10, 1962) is an American film, television and stage actress, singer and author, known for her roles in the films Cocktail (1988), Showgirls (1995), Bound (1996), Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back (1996), Face/Off(1997), The Insider (1999), Demonlover (2002), Category 7: The End of the World (2005), P.S. I Love You (2007), Five Minarets in New York (2010), and Killer Joe (2011). She has also had supporting roles in FX's Rescue Me and HBO's How to Make It in America. (wikipedia)
• • •

I did this in about two and a half minutes, so I didn't quite see how the theme expressed itself as I was solving—I just knew that I thought the central revealer was super-cool. When I was done and looked at the theme, though, I was really impressed. It's such a great twist on the old "final words have something in common" theme because of the way the theme is expressed visually. Fill is astonishingly clean, esp. for a 78-worder with a lot of short stuff. I knew from the second I hit "MAN UP!" (17A: "Come on, stop being such a wimp!") in the NW that this was going to be an entertaining puzzle, and it didn't disappoint. Lovely.

    Today the long Acrosses do the work that long Downs normally do, i.e. provide non-thematic color. Both CENTER CUT and SWEET TALK are solid and snappy. Only trouble I had was with GASSY (6D: Bloated). Had the "Y" and may have tried something like FATTY. Otherwise, things came together pretty fast. Very raggedly (felt like I was all over the map rather than moving through the grid methodically), but fast. I grew up in the [Largest inland city in California], so that gave me a brief but potent nostalgia rush. It's interesting to me how many answers today contain a single letter, i.e. V-NECK, HIGH C, D PLUS, PLAN B, EASY A. That's a lot. A Lot. Five! But I like them just fine—such answers often add a little life, 'zazz, and unexpectedness to an otherwise ordinarily filled puzzle.

    Gotta go eat. See you tomorrow.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jackj 12:06 AM  

    If ever there was a phrase that deserved to be a crossword puzzle theme, LOWHANGINGGFRUIT is it. One can’t help but wonder how it stayed out of the clever clutches of the world’s best crossword constructors for so long.

    But, finally, Ian Livengood has harvested the crop and given us a superb Monday puzzle, with a cornucopia “overflowing” with a DATE, an APPLE, one ORANGE and a lonely TOP BANANA.

    Not to worry, Ian cleverly had a backup plan, a PLANB if you will, for those who are made GASSY by fruit, (sort of like having a second major in college), with six, count ‘em, six, alphabet clues, EASY A, PLAN B, HIGH C, D PLUS, V NECK and I TUNES.

    And not to be denied, the additional fill was headlined by the likes of MANUP, BIPED, SWEETTALK, CENTERCUT and the triple play of that newly formed South Seas hip hop group of ukulele strummers, ENNUI, ULEE, AIOLI, OLEO and ALITO.

    Finally, I would suggest to Ian that if a MOLE is the most distinctive Cindy Crawford feature that he can cite, he might want to make an urgent visit to LensCrafters.

    Lots of fun in this clever Monday puzzle and kudos are due Ian, as ever.

    gifcan 12:15 AM  

    Fast, fruity fun.

    Steve J 12:18 AM  

    Nice, solid, fun puzzle. I always enjoy seeing the theme show up in the downs. Entertaining clues and answers, lack of groan-worthy or stale fill. And the usual-suspects type of fill was mostly clued well.

    Would have thought Sacramento had more people than FRESNO, but I still should have picked it up without crosses, since obviously Sacramento wouldn't fit. Easy enough to get with a couple crosses when I made my second pass through the clues.

    Given the height of date palms, I don't think there is such a thing as low-hanging date (I was struck by how tall the trees were in date-producing regions of North Africa; I'm assuming they're similar in other regions). That's not even worthy of a quibble, though. Nicely executed and fresh theme, and a fun Monday.

    chefwen 12:25 AM  

    @Loren Muse Smith - This one belonged to you, I was truly expecting to see your name up top. 7D is YOUR adage!!

    17A Made me laugh, avatar is the biggest drama queen, always whining about something and demanding belly rubs constantly and yelping if you hit a sensitive area. I keep telling him to MAN UP.

    Fun, easy Monday puzzle. Seems to me that I thanked you for a puzzle just a few days ago, I thank you again.

    August West 1:04 AM  

    Nice, quick, well executed, fun Monday. And it has Gina GERSHON!

    EASY A.

    Mike Ben-Ari 1:32 AM  

    Delicious !

    jae 1:34 AM  

    Medium for me.  Cute theme, smooth grid, pretty nice Mon.  Liked it.

    "Bound" would not pass the breakfast test.

    And speaking of variations on Kama SUTRA, are you still out there Barry?

    ESTES and OCHS do not seem like Mon. fare, but I guess newbies need to start picking up crosswordese somewhere.

    Z 5:50 AM  

    I guess Ian couldn't fit in f-stop to complete his grading scale.

    Vertical themes are always a nice change of pace. I give it an aPLUS.

    I see ALITO's son just got hired by a firm known for arguing cases before the Supreme Court. No affirmative action there.

    Carola 6:36 AM  

    Ian Livengood PLUS Monday puzzle = delight. The alphabet soup was an extra treat.

    The top-row face-off between LEGIT and OBAMA reminded me of recent Republican impeachment talk.

    Old Testament mini-theme: ADAM, EDENS, ARKS. AMEN.

    loren muse smith 7:22 AM  

    How weird. Yesterday when I returned to my new home from visiting my family in NC, I went down to our fruit trees, which are bearing for the first time this summer. After I picked all the LOW HANGING FRUIT, I stared up high at a lot of ripe apples and one really nice ripe pear thinking I’ll need a ladder. Have a lot of blackberries, too. @chefwen and @chefbea – I’m going to learn how to can vegetables and how to make jelly. Yikes! I’m freezing a bunch of green beans from the garden because I don’t have canning equipment yet.

    @chefwen – I shamelessly, enthusiastically, copied that expression from Rex. Call me an APER. When I first discovered this site, he used it, and I thought it was a perfect metaphor for the gimmes.

    @jackj and Rex – I knew everyone would talk about all the single letter answers. EASY A, D PLUS, HIGH C. Sigh. Hope my kids get all HIGH A’s.

    From yesterday- welcome, @Collaborators! You’re going to love this place.

    Ian – no sour grapes here. Your constructor chops are LEGIT. This puzzle was sublime!

    FWIW – Dad had me look at the following motivational orientation speech. Talk about MAN UP, kind of.
    @Ellen S – I have tried for 10 minutes to embed this &%$# clip, and even though I can get it to show up blue, when I click on it, it says it’s broken. Sorry.

    Milford 7:49 AM  

    Did this puzzle in the car, reading clues aloud to family, trying to keep my mouth shut, letting everyone else guess. I'm usually very possessive about the puzzle being all mine, but I know many of you share the puzzle, so I thought I'd give it a try on a Monday. They all did pretty good, had to tell them some crosswordese (e.g. LEA). They had human before BIPED, and glares before SNEERS.

    They all appreciated the LOW HANGING FRUIT theme and I pointed out that none of the clues used the FRUIT in their original, fruity sense!

    My my kids pointed out that many I-TUNES downloads are now $1.29, at least the ones they want.

    Great Monday puzzle, nicely following the cleverness from Sunday.

    joho 8:23 AM  

    Said with a thick Southern accent, "Ian compoted himself very well." I know: HUGE GROAN.

    Pretty much a perfect Monday. Excellent fresh theme, literally, with uncomplicated, Monday level fill.

    Ian you are the teacher of how it's done and you just earned yourself an APPLE (or perhaps a bushel or two!)

    jberg 8:43 AM  

    Nothing to add here, except that we are having quite a run of Livengood. And it's nice to see OLEO again, even if it's not eel-flavored. Today is our deadline to hand in grades, so I can't stick around.

    oldbizmark 9:22 AM  

    i LOVE that you included a Grant Hart song in today's write up. "The Argument" is a fantastic album and a bit obscure, kind of like many of the clues in this undercooked puzzle.

    chefbea 9:42 AM  

    It's all been said. Loved the puzzle!! Easy and fun.
    If there was just some coconut and marshmallow...I'd make a good ambrosia!!

    quilter1 9:44 AM  

    Whizzed right through and really liked the theme and theme answers. Great Monday, thanks, Ian.

    mac 9:53 AM  

    Lovely puzzle, perfectly executed theme!

    Great work, Ian.

    Sandy K 10:04 AM  

    It's not often that we really get such GLO-ing comments about a Mon puz. But in this case, it's an A-PLUS!

    Loved the theme and it's HANGING construction, PLUS the mini-themed PLAN B using I-TUNES, HIGH-C, EASY-A, et al!

    Ellen S 10:06 AM  

    @jberg -- eel-flavored OLEO? talk about not passing the breakfast test!!!

    @Loren, if you followed the instructions in OFL's FAQ's, you'll just wind up with alphabet soup.
    This is the motivational speech.
    It's like The Big Bang Theory come to life!

    So, here again is a link to
    my instructions.

    The link you pasted works when I copy and paste it into my browser, so you just have to enclose it in a proper hyperlink tag. I know you can do this. @Metarex can do it, so you can, too. The trouble is, it's very difficult to explain in this blog, because Blogger interprets the fragments of the tags as partial, and therefore incorrect, actual hyperlinks, and won't accept the post.

    Try it again. If this works, I'm getting up and making me some buttered eel on toat.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:17 AM  

    Might have been happier if 52 Down had been an Across instead. :>)

    (Must be those end-of-summer blues.)

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:21 AM  

    And even happier if I had remembered to click the follow-up box.

    dk 10:22 AM  

    I would have clued HIGHC as: Beverage inspired by 7D.

    🌟🌟🌟 (3 Stars) An EASYA for Ian.

    Sfingi 10:23 AM  

    Thanx for the list of movies I've never heard of and will likely never see. Never heard of Miss Gina G. Puzzles are containing more things I don't know (and am not interested in) as I drift into old age.

    Also never heard of "Nothing but NET," but that's because it was sports. I do always Google stuff I don't know after doing the puzzle. This one might stick.

    @Jackj - If you major in philosophy and have a double in English, that is no longer a plan B. It won't even get you double unemployment checks.

    I did like the puzzle. It took me a while to figure out why Livengood didn't just lay it out horizontally. However, I disagree that an APER is a professional.

    Nice memory of CESAR Romero.

    @Z - If Alito's son argues before the Supreme Court, at least the old man will have to recuse himself.

    Dick S 11:12 AM  

    A fun and, for me, timely puzzle. The orchards in our Hood Rtver, OR valley are ripe with apples, pears, and cherries awaiting the picking.

    Crews, boxes, ladders, at attention.

    Not, however, as easy as low-hanging fruit.

    gifcan 11:22 AM  

    Thanks @Ellen S for the hyperlink info, I saved it to my favorites for future use.

    @Milford: I, too, am quite possessive of the puzzle. I laughed. On Sundays I share with my daughter, though. She is quite good in places I am not. My wife helps when I need fresh eyes.

    I think I need to be more magnanimous in sharing the puzzle with family.

    Z 11:29 AM  

    @sfingi - Considering the behavior of the likes of Thomas and Scalia, I have my doubts that he would recuse himself. In order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest he should recuse himself from any case the firm argues before the court. However, that would be quite an onus on his son. The current rule is only that his son can't benefit financially from any case the firm argues before the court. In that regard, it he current situation is a little like the NCAA.

    Ray J 11:30 AM  

    In BIPEDs on bicycles news, I ESPIED ESTES Park on TV Saturday as stage 6 of the USA Pro Challenge rolled through the town. Tejay van Garderen of Aspen won the overall title the following day in Denver while Slovakian sprinter Peter Sagan took 4 of 7 stages.

    In other weekend RACing news, the Kiwis of New Zealand, sailing their SLEEK 72-ft catamarans, trounced the Italian team 7 to 1 in the best of thirteen Louis Vuitton Cup (15), (3 u know whats) in San Francisco. Next up: The Kiwis will attempt to take the America’s Cup from Oracle Team USA in September.

    In ARSON news .… um hold on, no spoilers here in case any of our reader’s cable crashed last night. Hope you didn’t dial 911 if it did.

    Seriously, another fun puzzle today. Thanks, Ian.

    @Z – Thanks for the reply yesterday. I should have known this crowd would go for the universal 42.

    JenCT 12:25 PM  

    Biggest hangup for me was CENTERCUT - took a while to see it.

    Had DMINUS before DPLUS .

    @lms: If you're new to canning, I think jam is the absolute easiest thing to start with. Jelly is a bit more complicated, but canning is easy nonetheless. We can chat off-blog if you like!

    ahimsa 12:38 PM  

    I enjoyed this puzzle - what a great theme! Kudos to Ian Livengood.

    I was a bit surprised to see the clue for NFL at 30 Across. Aren't there a lot of newspapers that have changed to a policy of not using the Washington, D.C. team's name in print? I guess the NY Times is not one of them. I don't read the NY Times very often.

    For those who don't know what I'm talking about here's one article:

    For a humorous take on the issue here's a comic strip called The K Chronicles:

    Rob C 12:59 PM  

    Easy-Medium for me. Great Monday puzzle. What everyone else said, except EAST ORANGE. I'd have liked to see west ORANGE instead-more scrabbly ;) Two thumbs up.

    @Z - Recusal isn't a partisan issue - Kagan/Obamacare ring a bell?

    Rob C 1:03 PM  

    PS - "partisan" isn't the right word. Should have said "one-sided".

    Masked and Anonymo6Us 1:06 PM  

    @4-Oh... FRESNO. Thought there was somethin I really liked about that town. Stayed there an extra day, during our trip out to Yosemite last March. They really need one of them there brown highway signs: "Birthplace of Rex Parker", or somesuch. puzEatinSpouse says they got pretty good selection of quilt stores out there, too. U ever eat at the In N Out Burger? Pretty high class eatin.

    @Ian: One U short of yer signature 007. GASSY. DPLUS. ENNUI. MANUP. EVIL SWEETTALK brought to U by


    p.s. Primo MonPuz, btw.

    Two Ponies 1:25 PM  

    Ah, if only more Mondays could be like this.

    If you have not seen Bound I highly recommend it. Suspense at it's best and very clever plot.

    M and A also 1:27 PM  

    p.p.s.s. Oh. Yeah. Co-rection. Shoulda said GASSY LAPSE. har.

    And that ain't no fruit Jelly Gun, sunshine.

    Long fruity vertical stuff fans: Check out the BEQ puz today.

    jackj 3:09 PM  


    "Major in philosophy and have a double in English" sounds ideal to me but, sadly, it seems that mere existence demands we all need to become accountants these days.

    Z 3:50 PM  

    @Rob C - That there are some emails from Kagan commenting on whether or not the Affordable Care Act would pass (the apparent source of the "controversy") is hardly the same thing as a relative making his living off access to a SCJ.

    Three and done.

    retired_chemist 5:16 PM  

    Liked it, too easy though it was. Just filled in most of the acrosses and then almost all the downs were obvious. Took some of the fun away, since I didn't see two of the theme answers. Pity since the IMO coolest non-theme answers were downs.

    Thanks, Mr, Livengoood.

    Aria Cesar Manups 6:41 PM  

    My Swedish hosts printed out a puzzle for me today...and am I so gladje they did!!!

    PERFECT puzzle!!!!
    SO wish I'd thought of it...tho I've been working on a FIONAAPPLE, CHUCKBERRY puzzle for years...can't get perfect set!

    Loved this from MANUP to Hooch /FLASK!

    One crossword moment here in Stockholm...
    In a KAYAK (palindrome) on Baltic Sea and my Swedish pals excitedly point out a sea eagle. I ask if it's called an ERN?
    They were flabbergasted I knew the Swedish word Orn (with umlaut over O, pronounced like the German Oe).
    See ! You never know when short fill will come in handy!

    Miss you guys, tho not the SNEERS...glad there were none today!
    And FRESNO started a chamber of commerce pr campaign: Fres...yes!

    Bravo, Ian, for yet another SLEEK fabulous LEGIT Livengood

    Ps late chime-in...only sea lions at Fisherman's wharf. To call them seals is like saying Frisco...

    Mitzie 6:42 PM  

    Very well done. Masterful.

    Rob C 6:54 PM  

    C'mon Z. Stop throwing the partisan darts. You know there's a lot more to the Kagan/Obamacare issue than that.

    But my point wasn't really to defend a position. I think political arguments are best left off this board. Did you ever see what the cnn and foxnews comments turn into? Let's stick to the puzzle.

    Although, it would be fun to get a few rounds at the pub and see this debate through. 3 and out, good night.

    Questinia 7:02 PM  

    @ Acme Hej! Stockholm är min mamas födelseplats, ock jag bodde där när jag var liten. Älskar Sverige! Har det så trevligt...

    @Loren, @ Dick S, sounds eden-esque.

    As for the puzzle, wonderful.

    sanfranman59 7:03 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 (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

    Mon 5:43, 6:09, 0.93, 18%, Easy

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:32, 3:49, 0.93, 16%, Easy

    Sfingi 8:39 PM  

    @Z - I'll have to ask Hubster (a lawyer, also) what the NCAA is.

    retired_chemist 8:50 PM  

    @ Sfingi - National Collegiate Athletic Association. I'm not sure what Z is getting at, but it may be that the rules of conduct governed by either are often honored in the breach.

    ennui 10:57 PM  

    Hello, new here and excited! The only reason I found this site is because I was SO thrilled by yesterday's Capital L masterpiece that I searched the Internet for comments about it.
    I enjoyed today's fruit theme. My one slip-up was TENDERCUT for CENTERCUT (alphabetize DHE? huh?)
    Also, love the word ENNUI. making it my name. everybody's comments are great!

    Jokester 11:22 PM  

    @ennui - Welcome. However, you either need a different name or to tone down the enthusiasm somewhat.

    sanfranman59 12:18 AM  

    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 5:43, 6:09, 0.93, 18%, Easy

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:29, 3:49, 0.91, 11%, Easy

    DatingOnline 6:20 AM  

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    spacecraft 10:52 AM  

    Apropos theme! Noticed a perfect description of an ADAMSAPPLE, and the clue for 7d was close by, so I glommed onto that...I started this puzzle with all the theme answers filled in! Easy, no -medium to it. But we need this LOWHANGINGFRUIT as a breather from the frenetic weekend. [I know now that Sunday's was actually a contest, which explains a lot.]

    And sweet fruit it is. Mr. Livengood has been busy lately, and that's a happy thing for solvers. This one's as tight as can be; all the answers involving single letters are perfectly LEGIT because they're describing something else. Even THE, so messy when appearing with other words, is fine by itself. Top shelf, Ian!

    rain forest 12:15 PM  

    Can't add much to what has been said here. This is such a lively, tight puzzle that one must sit back and admire it, as @jackj inferred.

    All the fruit hang low, and the TOPBANANA is, of course, up top. The single letter clues are a bonus, all the fill is great.

    Rex mentioned a "brief but potent nostalgia rush" upon entering FRESNO, which must have been the shortest nostalgia surge in history since he spent only 2 1/2 minutes on the entire puzzle. I know when I wax nostalgic, there's a good three minutes in there.

    Solving in Seattle 1:07 PM  

    Only write over was still before FLASK. Enjoyed how tight this easy Monday was. Ian, you're the TOPBANANA!

    DPLUS reminds me of my freshman year on college.

    Liked FRESNO crossing EASTORANGE. wouldn't want to spend another 2 1/2 minutes more in either one.

    Yesterday the Hawks MANUPed and went to PLANB in the 2nd half. What a comeback.

    DMG 2:19 PM  

    Cute puzzle. As a native Californian, I join those who were surprised by FRESNO's size. Several other possibilities occurred to me, so I had to wait for enough crosses to ferret out the answer. My only problem was starting with "pleadwith" where SWEETTALK was wanted. Was also amazed by how long it took me to get 9A. I guess that as ubiquitous as they seem at the time, campaign slogans are really pretty ephemeral.

    Ginger 5:34 PM  

    @SIS The Hawks really got a scare, but at the eleventh hour managed to pull it out.

    FRESNO is known for it's raisins, and that it's the 'Gateway to Yosemite'. Apparently it's larger than I thought.

    Loved this 'fruit salad'. Classic fun. Interesting that Ian is the 'real time' constructor too. Thanks Ian

    SharonAK 7:20 PM  

    to Jackj
    Not much chance you will see this 5 weeks and a day later but wanted to say how much I enjoyed your post. Had me smiling and chckling form "cornucopia"to "LensCrafters."
    Reminded me of the sorts of posts that got me hooked on reading this blog some years ago.

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