Deluxe Cuban cigar brand / MON 9-30-13 / Dallas hoopster informally / Emmy-winning AMC series set in 1960s / Reveille's counterpart / Beatty/Hoffman bomb of 1987

Monday, September 30, 2013

Constructor: Ian Livengood

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: COVERT OPS (58A: Spy activities ... or a hint to the answers to the six starred clues) — "OPS" is embedded (or hidden, ergo "covert") inside six answers:
17A: *Suddenly slam on the brakes (STOP SHORT)3D: *Stolen car destination, maybe (CHOP SHOP)26A: *Top 40 music world (POP SCENE)36A: *"NYPD Blue" or "Miami Vice" (COP SHOW)49A: *Tricky tennis stroke (DROP SHOT)38D: *Opening segment in a newscast (TOP STORY)
Word of the Day: COHIBA (43A: Deluxe Cuban cigar brand) —
Cohiba is a brand for two kinds of premium cigar, one produced in Cuba for Habanos S.A., the Cuban state-owned tobacco company, and the other produced in theDominican Republic for US-based General Cigar Company. The name cohíba derives from the Taíno word for "tobacco."
The Cuban brand is filled with tobacco that comes from the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba which has undergone an extra fermentation process. Cuban Cohiba was established in 1966 as a limited production private brand supplied exclusively to Fidel Castro and high-level officials in the Communist Party of Cuba and Cuban government. Often given as diplomatic gifts, the Cohiba brand gradually developed a "cult" status. It was first released commercially for sale to the public in 1982.
The US Cohiba brand name was registered in the United States by the General Cigar Company in 1978 and cigars using that trademark have been produced for the American market in the Dominican Republic on a large scale from 1997. This Cohiba is related to the Cuban product in name only, containing no Cuban tobacco, and thus is the only "Cohiba" that can be sold legally in the United States. (wikipedia)
• • •

Very nicely done. Thought it played more like a Tuesday, but then my time was right on my Monday average so I'm not sure what my feeling was based on. Felt a little more wide-open than most Mondays.  The quality of the answers and clues seemed a little tougher, maybe. Needed nearly ever cross to get STOVES, for instance, because of the highly metaphorical use of "centerpieces" (13D: Kitchen centerpieces). Also needed most of the crosses to get COHIBA, a most un-Monday-like answer (if I've heard of it—and if I have, it's only from crosswords—I've barely heard of it). The [Means of music storage] twofer meant that the clue wasn't very direct / obvious for either answer (iTUNES / CD RACK). These are not complaints, mind you. Just attempts to understand why my Monday felt Tuesday. I really like this grid. Very lively, not boring, with hardly an ugsome answer in sight. Only DSO. I really hate that abbr., and all the damn Brit. military awards (DSC, DSM, DSO, whatever else there might be). Too many to keep straight, and I don't really understand how they came to be common knowledge in the U.S. (except, perhaps, through crosswords). But as I say, that little word is an outlier.

MAD MEN / AD REP tie-in (rescuing AD REP from being completely dreary fill). Bit weird to say OREGON is the [Setting for TV's "Portlandia"]. That show is set in a city. That city is in the title. If the show is set in OREGON, it's also set in THE U.S. or NORTH AMERICA, and it would be *technically* true to clue it as such, but also technically stupid. [Setting for "Miami Vice"] = FLORIDA? No. I mean, yes, but no. I do love "Portlandia," though, so I don't know why I'm fighting this clue so hard.

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Chad Montgomery 12:05 AM  

The safe haven of Monday. Yay! I literally just finished Saturday. I did think that I was going to get into the grid at all. After a full day - practically nothing. Finally clawed my way through and wound up -1, missing on the SAONE / PATENS cross. After all that, it would have been nice to win.

Evan 12:15 AM  

My Monday felt like a Tuesday too. As I told Ian, I was unable to parse the revealer correctly while solving -- I looked at it and thought, "What are COVER TOPS?" Sounds like something a spy might use, right? Of course, I did this on pencil and paper under the gun at the Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament, so maybe that's why I wasn't paying as close attention to each individual clue and answer as I should have? (And I don't really know why -- I wasn't even competing there, just being a spectator of sorts.)

I'm coming around to Jeff Chen's view that Mondays could be the toughest days for constructing puzzles, because it has to be original, well-executed, and easy. Ian's really got all of that down, and to do that with this theme density ain't no easy feat. Thumbs up.

mathguy 12:19 AM  

Had a lot more fun doing "Ring Toss" in the magazine. A really neat puzzle.

jae 12:23 AM  

Nice smooth medium Mon.  Cute theme nicely executed.  Liked it.

I doubt that even Xers know what TYPYSETting is.  I mean that was an obsolete job for Harry Angstrom by Rabbit Redux.

I don't remember seeing "extras" on Mad Men.  Maybe "role" would have been better.

Portlandia is on Netflix streaming. It's delightful.  The only show that comes close to matching that much whimsey is HBO's Family Tree.

Gill I. P. 12:39 AM  

A lost COVERT OPS for the CIA when they tried to blow up Castro with a COHIBA cigar...
They should have hired PYRO MADMEN. THOSE HOGS wouldn't STOP SHORT - nosiree, just the thought makes me VEG out. Wouldn't that be a TOP STORY?
Great Monday puzzle....!

Anonymous 12:52 AM  

Fun Monday, but why wasn't 46 across, "Eight-armed sea creature" starred? Has the requisite covert op.

Agora Cessna Memos 12:57 AM  

Agree with @rex what madeit read Tuesday...
COHIBA, SANA, ISHTAR (punchline of many a joke, but in the 80s)

Yes, difficult to parse reveal... I thought STOP anagrams, because you had STOP Short, TOPS tory, CoverT OPS,


Anyway, WIll has been saying for years Mondays are the hardest to make...they just don't get no respect.
Ian is the best , but/and they often read as Tuesdays.

Hop Sing 1:04 AM  

After fourteen years and appearing in 102 episodes of Bonanza, with my own Wikipedia entry, why was I left out of the theme? 您是不恭的。 了解?

BTW, Anon 12:52, OCTOPUS has the OP but not the split OP/S required by the theme.

retired_chemist 1:11 AM  

Medium here. Hand up for parsing it as COVER TOPS and for COHIBA being a WTF. DSO locally is used as the acronym for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, not as a British military award.

Zippy, user-friendly, and fun. One of my favorite Mondays. Thanks, Mr. Livengood.

Anonymous 6:18 AM  


I am pleased to report to you that my Fantasy Football team, the Bad News Bears, won this week. Reggie Bush was a big contributor to its success. This reminds me of all those Jungle Jim serials when I was a kid. In the last scene he died. In the next scene he was alive because what happened in the previous serial didn’t happen.

I almost always find Monday and Tuesday interchangeable. But I never know why....


jberg 7:29 AM  

I didn't get the theme until the revealer -- since every theme entry has a word ending with OP followed by a word starting with S -- i.e., the OPS is always hidden in the same place -- I thought it was something about the rhyming words. You could avoid the rhyme with TROOP SHIP, or WACKO PSYCHO, but it would be hard to find enough of those -- especially if you want to stick to having the OPS span two words. It's hard to vary that much with a three-letter sequence.

But the real challenge of this puzzle is to come up with plausible words for a country-song parody using the phrase "my ACHY CAKY ...."

DBlock 8:32 AM  

I liked the ring toss puzzle as well
Is the solution posted anywhere??
Thanks, DB

joho 8:35 AM  

I give you prOPS, Ian! Dense theme, original idea with fresh reveal and fun!

I did stare at OCTOPUS thinking it was a theme answer but it's not starred. But, of course, it's just OP not OPS.

Great start to the week!

dk 9:05 AM  

Breaking bad hangover: sill got-er-done. Enjoyed Acme's its hard to be easy comment.

Ian nice work. I have never seen MADMEN except in clips in places like this. I think I am getting the gist of the show... kinda naughty version of Mary Tyler Moore?

Friend smokes COHOBAS and I am trying to get my sister to smuggle some across the eastern St. Croix and bring them to the central St. Croix I live on. I guess the only difference is where they are rolled and the specific virgin upon whose thighs the rolling is alleged to occur... Ahh the crosses we bare.

🌟🌟🌟 (3 Stars)

loren muse smith 9:13 AM  

Rex – I feel so silly. I've never watched Portlandia, and it took every cross to get Oregon! Sheesh. Its capital is right there in the name!

@jberg – melding yesterday's and today's – "My ACHY CAKY HOT." And on your non-rhyming vibe – "poop scoop." Or "scoop shovel." Well, heck - I guess it's "pooper scooper," isn't it? I don't have to worry about that anymore out here in the country, eight miles away from our one-stop sign town!

@Hop Sing – did you eat your chop suey with chop sticks at the Ponderosa?

Somehow I'm reminded of playing hop scotch in Chattanooga on a HOT ONE while eating a grape popsicle.

@joho -I kept wanting to see OCTOPUS as a themer, too, even after I understood why it's not.

Just yesterday I was for some reason remembering when I had the flu a few years ago. ACHY AGUE.

Ian – very nice puzzle. I just read what you said at XWord Info. Did you at some point consider "top secret" where COPSHOW is?

And all you Oregonians – settle down. I know Salem is the capital. Just bustin' your chops.

Milford 9:17 AM  

A little snarly for a Monday, but I never really mind that. Hand up for thinking OCTOPUS should have been starred, until I realized the S was included in the COVERT OPS (which I also parsed initially as COVER TOPS). Never heard of COHIBA either.

Even considering the OPS theme, there were a lot of Os in the puzzle.

@dk - also nursing a Breaking Bad hangover, but at least I could breathe through this last episode. A couple of those last ones gave me high anxiety.

Z 9:21 AM  

Agree with medium. Agree with the felt like a Tuesday, except that the unpleasant Tuesday aftertaste is missing.

@JFC - after winning my game, I checked my sports updates to discover that the important Detroit team was no-hit to end the season while the other team has reached 75% of its season quota. I am pleased to hear that your fantasy team won, preventing you from having to root for the Pack or worse. BTW - I'm pretty sure that the winningest Lions coach in my lifetime used to smoke COHIBAs after wins.

retired_chemist 9:28 AM  

@ Loren - Hop Sing likes your joke. He eschews chop suey (American swill) but does use chopsticks (筷子). He made a lot of 牛肉烤肉 on the Ponderosa.

chefbea 9:41 AM  

Had no idea what this puzzle was all about. Never heard the term covert ops - so I parsed it as cover tops. Never heard of that cigar and FYI...goulash is not a stew!!!

Carola 9:50 AM  

Loved it. Especially got a kick out of it because the OPS were indeed COVERT for me. I'd written all of the rhyming -OP words in the margin, but had completely missed the fact that all were followed by an S.

Agree with @Evan about Ian Livengood and Monday puzzles - always creative, lively and playful.

Susan McConnell 10:17 AM  

Finally, Hubs' disgusting habit helps me....COHIBA was an easy fill.

Count me in the Breaking Bad hangover club. Milford is spot on...this was the first episode in a long time that didn't leave me stressed out. Satisfied, though.

I think this was a well put together Monday, and can appreciate that a puzzle that is easy to solve does not mean it was easy to make.

quilter1 11:06 AM  

Although I didn't know the cigar, I found the puzzle pretty easy and very enjoyable. No Miss Eyre or eels. We suspected a CHOPSHOP next door for awhile, and hubby is a retired pressman so TYPESET was easy. I also liked HOISTUP and Mutual of OMAHA. Thanks, Ian.

Notsofast 11:08 AM  

Thoughtfully constructed and fun. A real nice Monday.

Steve J 11:21 AM  

Even while fighting massive jet lag, this ended up being quick. And yet it felt more Tuesday-like to me, too. That was just one of the many things to like here. Good example of how to craft a solid, fun early-week puzzle.

@Anon 12:52: OCTOPUS wasn't starred because it didn't fit the theme. It needs OPS, not just OP.

@dk: MAD MEN bears zero resemblance to Mary Tyler Moore.

Z 11:57 AM  

@dk - conversely, I suppose it is easy to be hard. And I believe the similarities between MAD MEN and MTM are greater than MAD MEN fans would like to believe. It sounds to me like a great HS senior thesis - Compare and Contrast MAD MEN and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, discussing the impact of historical milieu during each serie's original airing. Yep, I'd expect a 15 pager on that one.

Lewis 12:19 PM  

Very funny clip from Portlandia -- thanks, Rex.

I like POPSCENE over ITUNES, but not so sure I like CUD next to MEATSTEW. As Rex mentioned, very little grid gruel. Love the clue for TEAR.

To me it seemed more workmanlike that having a lot of spark, but because of its high quality, it was a very enjoyable solve.

I know the word ENACT, now someone should go teach it to Congress.

Sfingi 12:33 PM  

Didn't know MAV or DROPSHOT (sports), COHEBA or RAE. Had etRACK instead of CDTRACK as a guess.

What bothered me - though I got it was rules and REGS. Shouldn't it be indicated as an abbrev.?

Bird 1:27 PM  

I liked the puzzle when it was done, but seeing three (3) “TOPS” in the grid dilutes it for me a little. I enjoy cigars while on the golf course so COHIBA was a gimme. Only pause was in the SE vicinity – I had PIGS instead of HOGS and can never remember how to spell Paul REISER’s name.

@jae – I did some type-setting in junior high. One of my projects was making my own note pad. Needed to set the type, print the pages, glue them together then trim to size. Lots of fun.

@sfingi – I wondered the same thing on REG

mac 1:36 PM  

Ian himself was in Westchester last Friday. Very good start of the tournament!

Several people I spoke to there had a hard time parsing the reveal, and I also wondered about the REGS.

Off to look for an adapter plug to charge our American appliances in the Spanish hotel room.

ahimsa 3:06 PM  

I loved it! The OPS were indeed COVERT to me until the very end. I saw the OP part but did think much about the S starting the next word since S is so common. Kudos to Ian Livengood!

I didn't know COHIBA at all, not even recognizable after the fact, so thanks to @Rex for making it word of the day. I even wondered briefly whether it might be COHIrA and CArSTAND.

Perhaps this felt a bit more like a Tuesday but I didn't care. As it is I'm amazed that puzzles can be grouped according to difficulty as well as they are. I never mind when they seem a bit easier/harder.

Ray J 3:32 PM  

Since the M&A Helpdesk is currently road trippin I’ll take a shot at the Rules and REGS question.

I’ve been told that if the phrase is ‘in the language’ in its abbreviated form then its clue won’t necessarily contain an indicator. I know that I’ve seen and heard Rules and Regs used that way - same with Parks and Rec, for example. Also notice the lack of a tip-off that CD RACKS is an abbreviation – we’re all used to saying CD instead of compact disc. I hope that helps. Others with more knowledge than I are invited to chime in.

Good puzzle – thanks, Ian.

LaneB 3:34 PM  

Love Mondays and no exception today. Can have some relatively quick fun, then get on to the business of the day--assuming I can remember what that business is. Oh yeah: The rest of the NYT, a story I'm working on, golf and a late trip to the dentist to get a new front tooth, the unintended consequence of a caramel candy piece. Exciting stuff, no?

Also reading another Mo Hayder book. She's good. No Elmore Leonard, but good. Looking forward to Leonard's finale.

Anonymous 3:59 PM  

Gee my Monday feels like a Tuesday, or maybe a Wednesday afternoon, but not after 3:30. Then again some clues are Mondays and others could be like maybe even Thursdays -- no, that would be silly. Maybe Wednesday evening. People, it is Monday! OK?

Nameless 4:07 PM  

Thanks Ray J - But . . .

Don't recall hearing the phrase Rules and REGS, or Parks and Rec for that matter (Rec Hall, yes). So in my book this answer w/o an indicator in the clue does not fall into the "in the language" category.

Then again we are becoming such a lazy society that I am not suprised at such new "abbreviations".

PS. I don't think the Occupy Movement has heard of Rules and Regs either.

sanfranman59 4:10 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 6:45, 6:07, 1.10, 87%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:15, 3:50, 1.11, 87%, Challenging

palomarPuzzler 5:00 PM  

Apologies in advance for a slightly off topic question, but does anyone have a secret method for getting Magmic to respond intelligently to app issues? I have subscribed to the NYT crossword for three up years thru Magmic, and twice they have canceled my subscription early, both times after an "update" of the app. They fixed it promptly last year, but this year I have been unable to get them to do so despite having supplied my iTunes receipt on three different occasions. Two weeks ago they started extending my subscription daily while they "researched" it, but as of today I am expired again. Anyone with a suggestion (besides printing the puzzle out or switching to AcrossLite) would be welcome.

Z 5:05 PM  

@PalomarPuzzle - I use Crux on the iPad (when I don't do deadtree version).

JFC 8:20 PM  

@Z, I don't recall the exact year but I loved it when Alex Karas' Lions shoved it to Lombardi's Packers on Thanksgiving. Typical of the Packers, Lombardi whined so much about playing in Detroit every Thanksgiving that the NFL agreed to rotate the game with the other teams....


retired_chemist 8:38 PM  

Trust me, @JFC, It wasn't Lombardi's whining but the almighty dollar. There is NO NFL decision that isn't money-driven at some level.

August West 9:30 PM  

Fun, zippy Monday, nicely executed. I think it has been so well received by the "pros" because it plays like a Tuesday -- easy but not insulting to one's intelligence, with just enough "lesser-known" and other answers veiled by clever/obscure cluing to make ya shift the brain into 2nd. Pretty dense themers, all well played.

COHIBA was a gimme as I, well, love them, and any puzzle that covertly tips its cap to Dark Star Orchestra (at least in my Dead Head) is OK in my book. No other slow downs. Knew the guy from that show was Paul REISER, although I did temporarily flip-flop the E and I.

Good one, Ian!

Cool, my captcha is ankhlet.

Z 9:47 PM  

@JFC - I can't remember the Lions beating the Packers on Turkey Day, so I looked it up. It looks like from 1951 through 1963 the Pack visited the Lions every Turkey Day compiling a 9-3-1 record against the cheese heads. I can imagine it getting real old for the the Packers.

What I do remember is the shortest OT ever when a Chicago Bear returned the Kick-Off for a TD.

Tita 9:51 PM  

Ummm...I don't get it...
What's the point?
Sorry, Mr. Livengood - this was a kindof a non-deal to me.

I like TACH, as that is in fact the most important gauge, IMHO...

And appreciated 'pre-owned' unmasked - they're USED cars...
Will you *really* pay more for a car that is 'pre-owned' as opposed to USED?

Those mADMEN are right - we consumers are morons.

Sorry for the cranky pants today. I'll feel better tomorrow.

skua76 10:14 PM  

I too enjoyed the "ring toss" puzzle. Thought I'd have to hunt up the answer but it finally fell.

The answer is available if you (can) go to the "today's puzzle" page, scroll down to the "variety puzzles" and click on "browse the whole archive." then click on the "variety" tab.

Evan 10:37 PM  


Don't you mean when a Chicago Bear returned an interception for a TD? I remember that game -- that was in 2001 against the 49ers, when Mike Brown intercepted the first pass of overtime when Terrell Owens bobbled the ball and Brown took it to the house. As I recall they said it was the shortest OT in NFL history when it happened....

Z 11:20 PM  

@Evan - Looked it up. 1980 Thanksgiving Day Game. Dave Williams of the Bears returned the kick-off. I think it is still the only OT kick-off return.

BTW - I really don't like football.

Steve J 3:21 AM  

@palomarPuzzler: I had the same issue with an "expired" subscription in the Magmic app. I was able to restore it quickly by going to the "subscribe" tab and clicking the "restore purchases" button on the left side of the screen. Enter your iTunes password, and your subscription should be restored.

spacecraft 11:04 AM  

I'll STOPSHORT of joining the ravers. I mean, it's an OK puzzle, but I don't think outstanding. If you have to conjure up a super-obscure thing like COHIBA, and include the weak HOISTUP (can you ever hoist anything DOWN??), how great could it be?

Overall, it was fine. Just enough difficulty to throw it into easy-medium. Can't argue with the constructor's record. Not his best, but still good.

Ginger 12:53 PM  

Surprised there aren't more comments about (my neighbor to the south) Portlandia. Funny quirky, show which by the way is spot on about the Portland psyche.

Also mis-parsed the COVER TOPS until coming here. Enjoyed the puz while solving, but appreciate it more thanks to Rex and Rexites.

Did not know COHIBA, had ADDon before OCTANE cleared that up.

@SIS et al, the Hawks are not looking like contenders. Second game in a row they should have lost. Hope they get it together before they play a really good team.

Dirigonzo 5:02 PM  

We all know Monday puzzles have to be easy but this on put up enough resistance to avoid being labeled a slut.

Solving in Seattle 5:15 PM  

TYPESET, SPIRO, ISHTAR, STOVES, CDRACK --- talk about ERST. At least CONAN wasn't clued as "the barbarian." I'm guessing Hop Sing was too current for the puzzle.

@Ginger & @Rain forest, agree with Ginger that the Hawks aren't looking great, but they find ways to put the "W" on the board. They should win the rest except S.F. there will be tough.

Solving in Seattle 5:19 PM  

@Diri, you should have to clean up my Mac after I spewed. (Like button pressed.)

DMG 5:33 PM  

Not much to add about this one. When I can finish without a write over, it must be super easy. Needed tt after Saturday,s complete fiasco.

strayling 6:51 PM  

Portland, OREGON as opposed to Portland, Maine. That made the clue work for me, at any rate.

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