Theme From Shaft composer 1971 / MON 9-2-13 / Classic computer game set on island / Alternatives to Slurpees / So-called mansiere essentially in Seinfeld episode / Complement of Disney dwarfs

Monday, September 2, 2013

Constructor: Jim Peredo

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "We call it 'maize'..." — ends of theme answers all rhyme with "Maize" (with the 'aize' sound spelled different each time)

Theme answers:
  • 17A: "Theme From Shaft" composer, 1971 (ISAAC HAYES)
  • 25A: Part of a project just before the end (FINAL PHASE)
  • 53A: Condiment that can remove crayon marks (MAYONNAISE)
  • 66A: Intense look (STEELY GAZE)
  • 11D: Team in "Moneyball" (OAKLAND A'S)
  • 33D: The Fonz's sitcom ("HAPPY DAYS")

Word of the Day: GTO (32D: Old Pontiac muscle car) —
The Pontiac GTO is an American automobile built by Pontiac Division of General Motors from 1964 to 1974, and by GM subsidiary Holden in Australia from 2004 to 2006.
It was a muscle car classic of the 1960s and 1970s era. Although there were earlier muscle cars,[1][2] the Pontiac GTO is considered by some to have started the trend with all four domestic automakers offering a variety of competing models. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was ... a puzzle! Done in 2:36, which is "Easy" for me, but I seem to be slightly ahead of the curve today, so I'm gonna knock this one back to "Easy-Medium"—appropriately Mondayish, probably slightly easier than usual. I thought the theme must have something to do with 1A: "What ___ in the 5-Down!" at first. Often, cross-referenced 1-Acrosses are thematic. Since it's Monday, I didn't slow down to figure out what was going on; I just blew through all the crosses. Never noticed the theme until I was done. Two things this theme has that it *has* to have to get into the NYT—a. 6 answers (i.e. a lot of answers), and b. 6 different ways of spelling the rhyme. Just having a bunch of rhyming words would not be sufficient. We could all come up with theme answers that end with rhymes for "maize" ad infinitum—the bar needs to be a bit higher for the theme to be NYT-worthy. I didn't love this, but it's an appropriately easy lark of a puzzle, and the fill is quite clean. It's like a nice, easy themeless that, look, just happens to have a theme. The end.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:03 AM  

    Solid Mon. and easy for me.   Smooth grid, rhyming theme, seems about right.

    Does anyone really TAPE anymore.  TiVo to TAPE was my only erasure.

    Liked it.

    Z 12:15 AM  

    Let's see who made the A-LIST today. The BOSS, Hugh HEFNER, ISAAC HAYES, ELLE, NOAH, MONET, ISAIAH, and George Jetson's dog, ASTRO, all of them making snide remarks about ENYA's OPERA.

    It was Monday. It was a puzzle. It went by in a purple haze.

    Ellen S 12:16 AM  

    I did it in a little over 10 minutes, but that was really super fast because I had to do it about three times. Every time I would hesitate, some glitch (in my iPad? In @r.alph's app? In the universe?) would erase half a dozen or so of my previously filled in answers. Sometimes they were getting erased faster than I could fill them in again. Like the opposite of The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

    As usual I never saw the theme. Fun Monday, if a little breathless.

    mathguy 12:26 AM  

    No fun at all. All the entries were gimmes.

    Questinia 12:28 AM  

    @ jae, hand up for Tivo before TAPE.

    Isn't TAPE beyond OBSOLECENT?

    Thank-you kind constructor.

    Anonymous 12:45 AM  

    It's a big negative that early-week crosswords and solvers aren't particularly welcome. That's the one thing the Wordplay blog does well. And it does it very well.

    Benko 1:14 AM  

    I also had TiVo for TAPE, and was surprised it was wrong.

    Steve J 1:45 AM  

    Rhymes are a theme?!?! (I'm not getting the "maize" connection at all; is there something that I'm missing?). I know Mondays are light, breezy and easy (which this was), but I'd expect something more robust for a theme than just rhymes. Even if there are six of them.

    I also had TIVO before TAPE (I haven't even owned a VCR for 10 years now, so TAPE definitely did not spring immediately to mind). I also had BRO at 10A, since that was the competing name for the Mansiere. I didn't read the clue closely enough, I guess.

    Still finished in very quick time with those slips. Everything came together quite quickly and smoothly. Even with the non-theme theme's density, fill was overall pretty solid (I'd only say UGH over EBON and SOPH), so it's a good "themeless" Monday.

    dmw 1:53 AM  

    When I finished the puzzle, as fast as I could write, I noticed the theme and had to chuckle: when read quickly reminded me of the end of a Click and Clack show.

    Add a vote for Tivo --> tape.

    Anvil iCees Mayonnaise 3:40 AM  

    Purpose of the puzzle is not just's to show how we play with language and spelling...
    For AYES, ASE, AISE, AZE, AYS, AS to be pronounced the same is interesting...
    And two of the SIX crossed other entries!

    Normally it would be three like MAIZE, MAYS, MAZE in longer phrases, that have to be symmetrical and interesting.
    So this is a variation on that sort of theme and the phrases:

    I think of an Adam's Apple as in a throat as opposed to the NECK. (And I think it was clued that way to make APAIN work, which was an odd way to start a puzzle.)
    And I loved that puzzle last week of lowhanging fruit with ADAMSAPPLE as one of the down theme answers.

    Makes me want to make a puzzle with the theme entry NEAPAINCK (A PAIN IN THE NECK)
    What are those word puzzles called?

    It helped being old school, I solved this while watching a show I had indeed TAPEd.

    Sid Farkus 7:31 AM  

    The Doorman, Season Six, Episode Number: 104

    KRAMER: Uh huh. Your back hurt?

    FRANK: How did you know?

    KRAMER: Well, it's obvious, you know. You're carrying a lot of extra baggage up

    FRANK: (looks down, and indicates his chest) Up here?

    KRAMER: Oh, yeah. Top floor. (sits beside Frank) Listen, Frank, have you ever
    considered wearing something for support? Now, look at this. (reaches into his
    pocket) Mind you, this is just a prototype.

    Kramer brings out a garment constructed of canvas and elasticated fabric.

    FRANK: You want me to wear a bra?!

    KRAMER: No, no. A bra is for ladies.

    Kramer holds the garment up to his own chest.

    KRAMER: Meet, the bro.


    KRAMER: (claps his hands) Here's our chance. What d'you say? It'll be me, you
    and the bro, bro.

    FRANK: Let's do it!

    Kramer and Frank share an elaborate and forceful handshake.

    FRANK: Except, we gotta do something about the name.

    KRAMER: Why, what's wrong with bro?

    FRANK: No, bro's no good. Too ethnic.

    KRAMER: Alright, you got something better?

    FRANK: How 'bout uh... the mansiere?

    KRAMER: Mansiere?

    FRANK: That's right. A brassiere for a man. The mansiere, get it?

    George enters, unhappy. He tosses his keys aside.

    GEORGE: (upset) Well, you've scared her off. We may never see mom again.

    FRANK: Hey George, what d'you like better? The bro, or the mansiere?

    George looks down at the floor for a few seconds.

    GEORGE: Dad. We need to talk.

    Rob C 7:35 AM  

    Medium Mon for me. Fine early week theme with 6 answers. The med. length fill is fine, just not particularly zippy. When I completed the puzzle, I planned to make comment about the Mazola/maize advertisement, but Rex was all over that.

    Hand up for BRo before BRA, but I did hold off and wait for TAPE before Tivo.

    Anon 12:45 states that early week puzzles and solvers aren't particularly welcome here. As far as the solvers, I don't find that to be the case at all. I always see warm welcomes for first-time commenters, esp. those with little puzzling experience. As far as the puzzles, I sometimes see a lack of appreciation for simple themes and easy puzzles here, but not a lot and I usually chalk it up to personal taste. For the most part, people here get that early week puzzles should be gettable for new solvers and appreciate that constructing a puzzle which has a simple but dense theme, while keeping the vocab and clues easy is a difficult balancing act.

    chefbea 8:00 AM  

    Fun easy puzzle which I did not have to LABOR over!!

    Now to get the grill going for our festivities. Hope it doesn't rain...very cloudy out there

    Happy cook-outs to all!!!

    jberg 8:32 AM  

    Hardly anybody's here - guess they're all at the beach (but not on the East Coast, where it's raining hard).

    As for the puzzle, the theme is nice, but could have used a revealer. Actually, I didn't see the down entries at first, they make it better. And any puzzle that PULSATEs is fine with me.

    I think people of my generation would say TAPE whatever the actual recording medium, as in "I TAPEd that show on my computer." Or maybe that's just me.

    On a personal note, I've been Timesless and puzzleless since Tuesday, so glad to be home!

    jackj 8:40 AM  

    How do I clue thee? Let me count the ways.

    AS, AYS, AYES, ASE, AISE and AZE; that’s how I count the W-AYS.

    What a clever Monday puzzle from Jim Peredo, who debuted with a Monday puzzle back in January of 2013 that gave us the memorable “metal body parts” theme, most notably BUNSOFSTEEL and CHROMEDOME.

    Today’s is no less of a clean, clever theme and should delight solvers of all abilities.

    The initial entry was fun, giving us a non-theme phrase of APAIN (in the)NECK and then he nicely elevated the cluing by including a query looking for that ancient devotee of the permanent pajama party, super-lech Hugh HEFNER, (even teasing him with a Seinfeldian BRA clue that turned the puzzle into a PG rated effort).

    My favorite of the theme entries was MAYONAISSE, though before anyone tests the clue by cleaning their crayoned walls with Hellman’s, (Best Foods west of the Rockies, of course), it might be best to first confirm the method with “Ask Heloise” and not rely on Jim, however well meaning he may be.

    Other likes among the fill included PULSATE, UNVEIL and STATURE and I couldn’t help but notice that while Jim’s first puzzle included the cutesy teeny bopper-ish entry IAMSODEAD, he’s on a downward spiral today as we only had the cheerless “Goner’s declaration” for IMDEAD.

    No matter.

    Thanks Jim; good work.

    August West 8:52 AM  

    Who's the black private dick
    That's a sex machine
    To all the chicks?
    Ya damn right.

    Can ya dig it, Mayo-NNAISE?

    RIP, Chef!

    Anonymous 8:57 AM  

    Yay! My first sub-4 minute puzzle in many a moon! I guess that's what I get when every answer comes without hesitation. Personally, I enjoy an easy one from time to time. As the young'uns I work with say, Squee!

    Susan McConnell 9:04 AM  

    Easy, typical Monday. My favorite part was "We call it MAIZE..." Gave me the giggles :-)

    Milford 9:34 AM  

    Easy peasy Monday, definitely elevated by the theme, which I agree is another of countless examples of how completely unpredictable and bizarre the English language can be!

    Liked ISAAC crossing ISAIAH - two tricky names to spell.

    @August West - I thought of your pronunciation of mayo-NNAISE as well.


    Always a bit baffled at folks who comment on a free blog, written by an independent person, and complain about how it doesn't cater to their needs.

    I love the snark, the "wrong" photos, the various views, the "gimmes" and the WOE/WTF that people report, the times people are proud of, etc. I suppose if I tire of it, I will simply move on. Thank you, @Rex!

    Enjoy these last DAYS, daise, das, dayes, daze, dase of summer!

    dk 9:57 AM  

    Harvesting my potatos today. Ahh the life in small town USA.

    I think the robot test will take longer than the puzzle. But it was still a fun time.

    Moving from Frank Kane to Ed Lacy as i work on my pulp fiction marathon.

    ** (2 Stars) a maizing.

    quilter1 9:59 AM  

    Fun and easy, but I did not notice the theme until coming here. Tres clever and adding to the enjoyment. Cool here after a heat wave. Loving it. Have a safe and fun holiday.

    Carola 9:59 AM  

    I like @Rex's "a lark" of a puzzle - I enjoy these "fun with the language" romps. Caught the theme after ISAAC HAYES and FINAL PHASE, was impressed at OAKLAND A'S that the Downs were participating as well, had fun imagining how the rest of the "azes" would appear.

    I wondered if there'd be a Labor Day sub-theme, but all I saw was BOSS and STRIKE.

    Didn't know about MAYONNAISE and crayon marks, but I have used it to remove white water rings from wooden tables.

    Notsofast 10:01 AM  

    Fast and fun. A competent Monday, but for BRA. Love the BRO episode. Wouldn't SEINFELD make a great theme!

    Gill I. P. 10:10 AM  

    Ok, so this is how we got the word MAYONNAISE.
    There was this Spanish MAID from Mahon who went wandering in a forest and she all of a sudden was confronted with HAZE. She was so confused all she could think of was how to make a sauce. Because she was the illegitimate daughter of Duc de Richelu, she got this brilliant idea and named it MAID on HAZE. Lord Hellmans ( he of "When life gives you lemons, you adjust") found her and the rest is history.
    I'm liking the M-W more and more. Lots of fun and whimsy.
    Thanks Jim Peredo for a fun Monday
    See y'all in two weeks

    mac 10:12 AM  

    Easy-medium for me, just because I danced around that NW corner a little too long.

    I saw a furniture restorer use mayonnaise to rub into a ring caused by a wet cup or glass. Rubbed it away after a couple of hours and the damage was gone.

    joho 10:24 AM  

    Fun, easy, unexpected and original Monday theme well executed ... what more can we ask for?

    ONESEC a bleedover from yesterday.

    I too had Tape before TIVO. I think tape is now a word in the language like Kleenex which while a brand name now describes any kind of tissue. Tape isn't a brand name but it now describes any manner of recording a show like DVR or TIVO.

    Nice one, Jim Peredo, thanks!

    Norm 10:34 AM  

    Cute puzzle.

    Thanks, Rob C, at 7:35. That needed to be said in response to a strange anonymous criticism. I agree completely with your comments.

    Mohair Sam 11:02 AM  

    Tip of the hat to @Rob C for straightening up Anon 12:45.

    My wife and I solve the puzzle together most mornings. We're good at solving, but painfully slow compared to many folks here. Still, I comment here periodically and have never felt uncomfortable, and I enjoy the posts of superior solvers - and love Rex's thoughts.

    And - I have noticed that the old-timers are very welcoming to new posters.

    This blog and all the comments enriches the NYT crossword experience for speed solvers and struggling newcomers alike. Anon12:45 is simply wrong.

    jerry k 11:17 AM  

    With a tie in to Labor Day(z). Or will that be tomorrow?

    pmdm 11:23 AM  

    I have a small nit with the clue for 63D. It should read "Classic computer game set on islands" since it is set on six different island, not on an island.

    Sandy K 11:32 AM  

    I really enjoyed the different WAYS that the constructor rhymed the AYES, ASE, AISE, AZE, AYS, AS!

    The theme answers were juicy and fun...

    And on Labor DAYS, I like to LAZE and GAZE upon my MONETs and LEIs- which I have 'on TAPE' to turn a PHRASE...UGH. Sorry. (can't believe I'm signing my name to this one)

    Little Miss Muffet 11:40 AM  

    Even though spell checker doesn’t like it, my scrabble dictionary says wheys is okay and outscores weighs 14 to 13.

    Mr. Benson 11:47 AM  

    Another aspect improving the theme is the fact that all the theme answers are in the same meter: three syllables, long-short-long, which I believe is called a "cretic." That narrows down the list of potential fits considerably; "we call it maize" would not have worked.

    retired_chemist 12:08 PM  

    Easy-medium works for me.

    Debated Tivo vs. TAPE only briefly. Both had a pretty scrabbly letter in 8D so O(P or v)___ looked like it would offer an easy decision. It did. Same strategy for 42D UNVEIL vs. UNmask. (My way of being nice to newbies - offering solving hints.)

    Enjoyed the puzzle. Thanks, Mr. Peredo.

    Dick S 12:08 PM  

    RE: 'Tape' for 'TIVO'.

    3M, a pioneer in tape technology and the manufacturing of both audio and video tapes, exited the business in 1997.

    For constuctors, perhaps 'tape' will live as long as Nita Naldi.

    Lewis 12:17 PM  

    @rex -- loved "This was... a puzzle!"

    I do like OLD LEST I'M DEAD reading across.

    Plain and simple, not much out of the ordinary to comment on. And I noticed what Mr. Benson noticed about the rhythm of the answers, which added to the theme's quality.

    I do have friends who actually still tape tv shows on cartridges. I am very conservative when it comes to adopting new tech devices, but the DVR has certainly become a must in our house.

    Ray J 12:42 PM  

    @Rex, Kudos for including the illustration of the Steller’s Jays. Beautiful birds, but man, oh man, what a harsh shriek they have.

    loren muse smith 12:48 PM  

    I thought this was a heckuva puzzle and loved the simple theme. As Acme points out – it’s so much more than just rhymes. How cool that there are so many weighs (hi, @Little Miss Muffet) to spell the sound.

    Six examples and only two are plural. Nice.

    Liked LAZES next to EDENS, but I bet @anoa bob didn’t like those S’s. Now that I’m retired from event planning and all the, uh, soirées, I have been LAZing in this EDEN of a place. @dk – get a fingernail brush before you harvest those potatoes. Seriously.

    @Milford – well said about this blog and the complainers.

    Andrea – I like that idea! Tekicketh, epokeye, ashotrm. . .

    @Lewis – I noticed that OLD LEST I’M DEAD line, too.

    Hellman's MAYONNAISE is my go-to ingredient for removing the ability to fasten my jeans.

    Nice job, Jim. Makes me want to copy. Thunder thighs, word to the wise, Pulitzer prize, close your eyes, one of the guys, money supplies. . .

    Sfingi 1:53 PM  

    Mayonnaise face - what my Sicilian husband has been knows to call me, for 2 reasons.

    Love my blue jays. They have to shriek to warn the squirrels to get out of the way when they come to get their single peanut.

    Anonymous 2:17 PM  

    Not thrilled with EBON but otherwise easier than usual for a Monday (at least for me); theme popped at the end...

    Anoa Bob 2:50 PM  

    Synchronicity: 29D EMU.

    On an episode of "American Pickers" Mike and Frank are walking across a field to look inside an old barn when they are suddenly confronted by a nearly six-foot tall EMU. They were visibly taken aback, but turns out it was not the attack variety, so they walked away unharmed.

    Then on an episode of "How It's Made" about the Maserati Quattroporte, they show how the body is prepped for painting by being polished to a super-smooth finish by these giant rotating wheels of.....EMU feathers! I swear!

    Nearly fell out of my chair. (Gotta get some side boards for this dang thang!)

    sanfranman59 4:24 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 6:08, 6:08, 1.00, 54%, Medium

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:50, 3:50, 1.00, 45%, Medium

    Jon 7:14 PM  

    TAPE, UGH! Thought that clue should have been cleaned up with a "maybe" added to the end. I can't imagine too many persons TAPE televisions shows anymore. I always associate Labor Day with baseball and barbeques so I enjoyed OAKLANDA'S and ASTRO.

    JenCT 7:47 PM  

    Yup, TIVO to TAPE.

    Enjoyed the puzzle a lot; thanks @ACME for the construction points.

    Having a young dog reminds me of having a toddler (but without the crying!) - she finds things on the floor that we forgot we owned...

    Questinia 9:37 PM  

    @ Anvil iCEE Acey Deucey,

    Aren't they called portmanteau(x)?
    That would be fun!

    capCHA- Celeaga 636. An ointment for sprue and gluten intolerance adminstered b.i.d. per anum

    geordiegirl 10:06 PM  

    @joho _ Good point. "Tape" as a catch-all verb for "record" resembles "'dial" as we use it as we tap in the numbers on our modern phones.

    DatingOnline 6:15 AM  

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    spacecraft 10:51 AM  

    Only one way I can add to that--and it's a casino that's already gone: O'Shea's. Ah, the good ol'...well, you know.

    Starting in the NW, I was disappointed when ISAAC's last name couldn't be ASIMOV. It was an easy finish, the fill was good...I guess after treading through Friday and Saturday minefields, Monday is bound to be a letdown. That's not the constructor's fault. I'll give it an 87, B+. It's got a good beat, and you can dance to it. [Dick, you are sorely missed!]

    Ginger 2:09 PM  

    "TAPE"ing a TV show is certainly passé, yet it's a term many of us still use. I've heard folks talk about 'dialing up' a friend, yet the dial phone is now seen only in museums. Language lives and evolves with new technology and new slang; and dies a slow death as words like 'tape', and 'dial' eventually become obsolete. Crossword puzzles, and blogs such as this one, focus on the infinite variety the English (and French, German, Spanish, etc) languages provide. It's what keeps bringing me back.

    The Hawks had a bad day yesterday.(I DVRed it, but caught myself saying I 'taped' it.) Back to work, Pete, Russell, and company. Go Hawks!

    Solving in Seattle 2:44 PM  

    Clever Monday puzz, Jim.
    I fell into the Tivo/Tape trap, too.
    I smiled at the ANVIL/UNVEIL crossing.

    @Ginger, both Hawks and Huskies lose close ones on the road. No joy in Mudville.

    capcha: nexdern. We'll get 'em the nexdern time.

    Hey, somebody in D.C. get to work!

    Dirigonzo 5:32 PM  

    Lots of fresh fill added to the fun and my beloved GTO made a re-appearance - loved it.

    @spacecraft - [so sorry to learn of the loss of your Dick. My condolences.]

    strayling 7:12 PM  

    Just right for a Monday, and the bar I'm in even helpfully played the theme tune from Shaft as a memory jerker for me.

    Speaking of which, you're a bad person @Dirigonzo. +1 if I could.

    Dirigonzo 8:22 PM  

    @strayling - Who you callin' a memory jerker?

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