Missouri city familiarly / TUE 10-14-14 / Starr of old comics / How Titanic was going before it struck iceberg / Bygone communication

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Constructor: Adam Perl

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Adjective-to-verb — nouns / noun phrases are reimagined as verb phrases related to various professions:

Theme answers:
  • TRADE SECRETS (20A: What gossip columnists do?)
  • PLOT POINTS (36A: What mathematicians do?)
  • HANDLEBARS (42A: What bouncers do?)
  • COVER STORIES (56A: What literary critics do?)
Word of the Day: Missionary Junípero SERRA (8D) —
Junípero Serra FerrerO.F.M., (/nɨˈpɛr ˈsɛrə/Spanish: [xuˈnipeɾo ˈsera]) (November 24, 1713 – August 28, 1784) was a Spanish Franciscan friar who founded a mission in Baja California and the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California from San Diego to San Francisco, which at the time were in Alta California of the Las CaliforniasProvince in New Spain. He began in San Diego on July 16, 1769, and established his headquarters near Monterey, California, at Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo.
The missions were primarily designed to convert the natives. Other aims were to integrate the neophytes into Spanish society, and to train them to take over ownership and management of the land. As head of the order in California, Serra not only dealt with church officials, but also with Spanish officials in Mexico City and with the local military officers who commanded the nearby presidios (garrisons).
Fr. Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988. Beatification is the third of four steps in canonization (sainthood). (wikipedia)
• • •

Old-fashioned but solid. At first, the fill had me thinking I was solving a 25+-year old puzzle, but when I hit the themers … well, I still felt that way, but not in a bad way. Concept is cute and charming. I suppose this theme has many possible permutations, but I can't think of any good ones off the top of my head. BOOK MARKS [Schedule Spitz and Twain?]. FLOOR BOARDS [Astound governing bodies?]. I'm sure I could do better given world enough and time. My suggestions don't really work with the whole [What ___s do?] clue angle, anyway. Oh well. It's 5 a.m.—you get what you get. As I say, the fill is a bit crusty, but at least the longer Downs are sturdy. TREETOP, SUBTEXT, and (especially) HIT THE ROOF are quite nice. Tuesdays are the hardest days to pull off, which I never would've thought before I began writing this blog a billion years ago. It's a kind of no man's land. So often the theme isn't smooth enough for a Monday and isn't clever enough for a Wednesday and so … Tuesday! So I think a simple and unassuming puzzle like this on a Tuesday is just fine, or at least not objectionable. I gotta believe that northern section could be done up a little better than HEHE EVA SERRA ATA … and that ADOPE is entirely unnecessary down below … but for some reason (perhaps because it's so early) I'm not terribly annoyed by the fill. Theme cute, long Downs interesting, satisfaction reasonable.

Weird puzzle feature: symmetrical 2-part stacks in the NE and SW—GIVE / AWAY and DOWN / EAST. Nice little dashes of color in the otherwise inevitably drab little corners of the puzzle.

  • 35D: Woman who has a way with words? (VANNA) — I like this clue, but this is the kind of clue that makes a puzzle feel old—not the inclusion of VANNA, who is certainly worthy, but the casual ease-of-reference, as if it were 1986, i.e. Peak VANNA. I don't think younger people a. watch "Wheel of Fortune" or b. know who VANNA White is at all. I didn't even know she was still on the show.
  • 34D: How the Titanic was going before it struck an iceberg (AMAIN) — this is bad enough fill without your having to remind me of that even worse movie.
  • 41A: Missouri city, informally (ST. JOE) — I wanted ST. LOU (is that a thing?). Seemed reasonable. I know the ST. JOE as a "shadowy" Idaho river that runs through my mom's home town (where my grandma still lives).
  • 14A: Doctor Zhivago's love (LARA) — feels like a long time since I've seen this piece of classic crosswordese, but I realize now that it's just been a while since I've seen this *clue*: Zhivago's love has been largely replaced by [Newswoman Logan] and [Tomb raider Croft].
Happy birthday, honey. (If you share a birthday with my wife, then yes, I'm talking to you, too.)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Hungry Mother 6:11 AM  

Easy for us geezers.

Anonymous 6:53 AM  

I would have smiled at 41A. South Bend river, informally (ST JOE), but it was not to be.


Mohair Sam 7:00 AM  

With Rex and @Hungry Mother. This was a gift to the elderly. Frank CAPRA, BRENDA Starr, BENJI, ARTOO, LARA from Zhivago?

But the theme held up well, it was rap and Robbie Burns free - so we enjoyed.

Liked the GIVE/AWAY and DOWN/EAST symmetry. Would have been really nifty if all four corners had that feature.

PuzzleGirl 10:44 AM  


wreck 10:45 AM  

Tuesday is as Tuesday does. It was just sort of there. (There appears to be a posting problem today if this duplicates!)

Anonymous 10:46 AM  


Rex Parker 10:46 AM  


Carola 10:48 AM  

Very enjoyable. It's always fun to see how the English language can be played with. Even though I got the theme idea at 20A, I couldn't guess the others without crosses. So each theme answer was a nice little puzzle I enjoyed seeing snap into place.

I liked the old-timey BANDSTAND along with the baby's TREE TOP (nice mirroring with ELEVATE). Also the cross of STORIES and SUBTEXT.

I'm walking oddly this morning 10:50 AM  

Word play is a natural thing among us, but just as any other [blank] play to which we are inclined, there are natural, god given, constraints which should be recognized and enforced in any of these endeavors. In word play, an idea wells up in the being of the instigator, and specifics arise, something to be shared with the recipient. The constraints are that they should be accepted readily and comfortably by the recipient. Certainly minor [mental] stretching is incumbant upon the recpiient, that's the whole point, but it should be just enough to induce a smile, not a grimace. When the stretching is such that [mental] lubrication is required (as in the whole noun/verb transition), the endeavor exceeds the natural order of things. Maybe the instigator of the [___] play should not try to impose his unnatural will upon the recipient, no?

Bob Kerfuffle 10:50 AM  

Nice puzzle, and a nice coy literary nod from Master Rex.

Played Medium for me, because I made my own trouble with two faux-holds: 4 D, BANDSHELLS before BANDSTANDS; and 31 A, OCHRES before OCHERS.

Arlene 10:53 AM  

Is it safe to comment now? Interesting how life happens even to crossword blogs.

Playbill 10:55 AM  

Don't worry, Rex, Dr. Zhivago's LARA will soon be current again:

"The New York Times reports that a musical adaptation of Dr. Zhivago, based on the 1958 Nobel Prize-winning novel by Russian author Boris Pasternak, will begin performances on Broadway in spring 2015."

jae 10:59 AM  

Medium for me and a cut above the typical Tues.  Cute theme reasonably smooth grid, liked it...or what Rex said.

Casco Kid 10:59 AM  

Easy medium here. HORAS was the only real drama as I had wanted HAVAS, but I calmed down and let the crosses do the talking.

Lil help, please, with [How the Titanic was going before it struck an iceberg] AMAIN? AMAIN ="Suddenly. At once" not "at full" or "toward shore." The Titanic was struck AMAIN, but that's not how it "was going." Explications, anyone? --Dduring the blog hiatus, I've found the answer. It is sometimes a synonym for at full.

SMUSH is new. SMooSH came to mind.

Steve J 11:01 AM  

Hey, posting works again!

This was a puzzle. I did it and instantly forgot about it. Nothing remarkable, good or bad, stood out. The theme (threadbare as it was) had solid answers, and the two long downs were decent, but still ultimately one of the most Tuesdayish of Tuesdays I can recall in a while.

Was slowed down for a bit by having BANDShell instead of BANDSTAND. Aside from that, mechanical solve.

Lewis 11:01 AM  

I liked SUBTEXT, SMUSH, and all the theme answers. I had a little trouble with the clue for LAVA, “slow flow”. I know lava can flow slowly, but does the word also mean a slow flow?

The puzzle had a SUBTEXT: Words that end with “a”. There were 13! Not to mention 11 double letters, which is high (but neither good or bad).

I enjoyed the solve – good one!

chefbea 11:02 AM  

Can't believe I'm this early. Fun puzzle. Loved the clue for Vanna. Also like the word smush!!! Haven't used that word in a while. Could have been used the other day for ...the sound of killing a bug.

Now I see why...there is a problem with posting!!!

Lewis 11:03 AM  
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John Child 11:04 AM  

Challenging for Tuesday here, probably becuuse I didn't grok several of the themes without a lot of crosses. A little challenge early in the week is fine!

Lewis 11:05 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 11:05 AM  

For an ever so brief moment the SeaWorld clue generated an OkrA answer in my brain. Not long enough to write it down, but long enough for me to wonder if there is whale meat in gumbo.

Unfortunately for the neatness of my paper, my hometown had a BAND Shell in Kollen Park. It wasn't until I had all the crosses in hOUGH that I realized my mistake.

The puzzle has a porn movie SUBTEXT going on in the south, along with a little Middle East commentary. Otherwise, what Rex said - a nice enough Tuesday with a definite AARP vibe going on.

Lewis 11:07 AM  

Factoid: Protection of TRADE SECRETS can, in principle, extend indefinitely and therefore may provide an advantage over patent protection, which lasts only for a specific period of time. Coca-Cola, for example, has no patent for its formula and has been very effective in protecting it for many more years than the twenty years of protection that a patent would have provided. (Wikipedia)

Quotoid: “It's a dead GIVE AWAY of an inexperienced writer if every character speaks with the same voice.” -- Colleen McCullough

old timer 11:11 AM  

I think the real gift for we elders was Lara. Not the lady with a way with words. I imagine Jeopardy fans overlap with xword fans, and in a lot of places, Wheel comes on right after Jeopardy. So we know who Vanna White is, though in must be decades since she got a lot of press.

Tough, for a Tuesday, but well put together. One thing that made it a little hard was that even when you got the gimmick, the other theme answers were not all that obvious.

Hartley70 11:14 AM  

Finally! If this is Tuesday, yesterday must have been Wednesday. Today played old which is fine because I feel old on damp days and I want to deal with a comfy pair of slippers. Grateful that Rex tagged this with "adjective to verb" because I just couldn't articulate the theme even after I'd completed the puzzle. Duh.

Numinous 11:14 AM  

Leaving in a few minutes for a Dr.'s appointment so I'll spare y'all a protracted comment.

This filled itself in for me all by its own lil self. Well, except in the MW and the SW where I had to do a little thinking. Quicker time today than yesterday and the two double stack clues were pretty cool. I agree, @Mohair Sam, but as tREX says, " Ya gets what ya gets."

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

I did pretty well, but that west octant destroyed me.

Slow Flow=LAVA?

That was rough.

AliasZ 11:23 AM  

Not too TOUGH, not too cLEVER, and four theme entries are just right for a Tuesday - that's all I VANNA say. Plus LARA, LAVA and its anagram ALVA.

The Finnish word LAHTI means "bay". It is the name of a city in Finland with a population of just over 100,000. It is the capital of the Päijänne Tavastia region, situated on a bay at the southern end of lake Vesijärvi about 60 miles north-east of Helsinki. Its fine symphony orchestra gained well-deserved international recognition of late. In the following clip they perform a brief excerpt from Kullervo, Op. 7, a suite of symphonic poems with men's chorus and soloists by (who else?) Jean Sibelius, conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste, a native of LAHTI.

See you LAHTI.

Susan McConnell 11:39 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hartley70 11:40 AM  

@Bob Kerfuffle I'm entertaining myself quite happily with your link to Guess My Word. Most appreciated.

Susan McConnell 11:42 AM  

Someday, answers like BROMANCE, TWERK, and (insert rapper name here) will be labeled old-fashioned. And I, though I will be dust by then, will snicker.

r.alphbunker 12:14 PM  

Best clue for TACO ever: {U-shaped food}

This is in Trip Payne's Sit & Solve crosswords (2002). These are 10x10 puzzles edited by Peter Gordon. A friend of mine found it in a thrift shop for 50 cents.

I wonder if in these busy times whether there will be pressure for puzzles to get smaller. This book shows that small puzzles can be challenging and very satisfying to solve. And with smaller puzzles, the print can be bigger! :-)

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

I had a lot of trouble at 9 o'clock - amana, amain, lahti, and alero? Are these common crossword words?

Ratswan of Metropolis 12:19 PM  

SERRA-HEHE alternative...


Question then would become: is RARE-LAVER-PETRI-ITA better than HEHE-LEVER-SERRA-ATA? Perhaps marginally so, for Tuesday-level cluing purposes?

Ratswan of Metropolis

DigitalDan 12:20 PM  

Vanna's a relative newcomer.

So is (informally) a euphemism for misspelledly? I'm not convinced Smush is a word.

quilter1 12:24 PM  

Coming here late due to hand surgery today. Typing is a challenge. Fun puzzle and I agree it is skewed for older solvers. My rating--easy.

NCA President 12:35 PM  

I would consider this puzzle the very definition of uneventful. If it were an earth tone, it would be ecru. (you thought I was going to say OCHER, didn't you?) At least OCHER (OCHRE?) would be something...this, just a light, nondescript ecru.

Not that it was bad, mind you. And if it was, I can't really remember it.

On to Wednesday!

PS. It was my daughter's 19th yesterday...so I'll take the happy B-day for her.

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

I know this is inside baseball stuff, but I really really despise the clue "Old Olds" or variation thereof for ALERO. The ALERO was one of Oldsmobile's more recent entries to the marque before Olds was axed by GM. Examples of old Oldsmobiles would be TORONADO, CUTLASS, variations on VISTA CRUISER or CUSTOM CRUISER, the Cutlass CIERA variant (no worse than CATERA from Cadillac), or going way back to older Olds, the JETFIRE and STARFIRE line. Even the awful OMEGA would work (I tried to talk my mom into buying one of these back in '74, because I thought it was so cool the way the grille was hinged to account for the ugly, recently (then) mandated 5 MPH safety bumpers.)

The ALERO has only been out of production for 10 years. It's not a very old Olds for a company founded in 1897. /soapbox


Myuen88 12:55 PM  

I can't believe you just called me "old."

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

I did so only while calling myself the same. ;-)


Hartley70 1:20 PM  

Unfortunately yes.

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

How come the teenybopper didn't write up yesterday's puzzle? I thought she was going to do it every Monday.

Z 1:53 PM  

@1:21 - Just the first Monday of the month.

@Anon-Brennan - How about "Late Olds?"

@Susan McConnell - Old is just a state of mind. The first Rap song turns 35 this year.

Speaking of Pop Music nostalgia - there is this for a brief walk down memory lane. That YMCA and ELO both figure in my senior year in high school is... I don't quite know.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:03 PM  

How about a polite, gently stated @!#!&%$! for The Nostalgia Machine? :>)

It says, "For optimum nostalgia pick a childhood year," but when I tried to see what it would bring up for 1958, when I was 12, . . . it doesn't go back that far!!!

Z 2:16 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle - Satisfaction may vary. I'd suggest lodging your complaint with the site's creators, but there doesn't appear to be a way to contact them.

Leapfinger 2:45 PM  

Had a few hours'blogjam this morning, didn't we?

@Rex, 'From Natchez to Mobile, from Memphis to STJOE, Wherever the four winds blow...'. I can trend old also.

First thought in hitting the NW was wondering whether SLOTH was a 2-toed or a 3-toed sin, and things rather went downhill from there. It may have been the old 'end of a long day' syndrome, but it seemed pretty vanilla to me, esp the North end. (Apologies to Madagascar here.) This despite it being rather interesting to work out the themers, and the two paired entries were cute...so it likely was the EOALD syndrome.

PLOT POINTS was newish to me, and neither SMUSH nor SMOOSH seemed the proper spelling. Entered OCHRES before OCHERS, then, thinking I'd learned my lesson, went with NITER before NITRE. So AGP = 2, LF = zip.

I liked Christine LAHTI in Chicago Hope, so it was nice to see her joined in TINSELtown by INA Balin, VANNA White, LAVA Turner and AMANA Plummer. Was also reminded of the Laverne & Shirley ditty that started with "HASSLEpfeffer...". That's traditionally made with OHARE, I think. DEICE was nice.

Had thought we might get some HANDELBARS from @AliasZ today, but was betting it wouldn't be anything from "Messiah".

@Susan McC, your 'snickering dust' really intrigues, and like Mr. Bunker, I got a grin from the U-shaped TACOS.

On the serious side, a family member will have OPEN CHEST surgery on Friday, a quirk of synchronicity seeing that in the grid. He'll have a big-time SCAR over his sternum BONE, TOUGH at any age, so fingers crossed.

Full day today DOWN in the EASTSouthEAST.

sanfranman59 4:03 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 (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Tue 7:22, 7:50, 0.94, 32%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:28, 5:22, 1.02, 57%, Medium


Freddy Murcks 4:38 PM  

I struggled a bit with VANNA and AMAIN. The Chicago Hope clue for LAHTI seems a bit old - that show was on sometime in the last millennium, right?

As for whether or not St. Lou is acceptable for referring to St. Louis, one of my good friends lived in St. Louis for a while and we refer to is as The Lou. That seems to be entirely appropriate and descriptive.

RooMonster 4:39 PM  

Hey All !
Late today, real life just keeps getting in the way! The nerve...

Theme was neat, the long downs nice. "Old Olds" works for me, as @Brennan said, last one 10 yrs ago. I have an Old Olds myself, 1992 Achieva SCX. Rare, only 1134 made. Unfortunately, now need a belt tensioner, and no one makes the unique one that goes with the W-41 engine! But I digress...

ARTOO and SPEC were just in (yesterdays or two-days ago??) puz. Only one writover! Had hearT for CHEST. Tough to suss out HORAS. Sucks to be you clue funny.


retired_chemist 4:47 PM  

Liked it. Solid Tuesday. Agree it skewed old.

Hand up for ST LOU - BENJI set me straight. NITer before NITRE - didn't notice the spelling in the clue. D'oh.....

Thanks,Mr. Perl.

Captcha - Joe Friday's badge number. Text a smiley face to 214-929-7322 if you too remember what it was.

jae 5:36 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle -- You're my age so It's probably something by Elvis or Buddy Holly in '58.

@r_c - I know exactly what it was but I'm too old to text.

retired_chemist 5:39 PM  

@ jae - better than a smiley face. LOL!

chefbea 6:16 PM  

I am from St. Louis and we never call it St. Lou!!! Go cards!!

Numinous 7:05 PM  

So, would the St Louis team be the original Baseball Cards?

(NB. a fever can do strange things to ONE'S mind.)

RnRGhost57 7:54 PM  

SMUSH Parker?

RnRGhost57 7:55 PM  

SMUSH Parker?

Colin 9:44 PM  

as a 27 year old, this is by far the hardest Tuesday puzzle I've done, ever, in the 25 or so weeks I've been doing NYT crossword puzzles. how you rate it "easy-medium" completely baffles me

LHS 888 9:59 PM  

Enjoyable Tuesday here. Only one write-over: SCAr before SCAB made BANDSTANDS really hard to see. Go figure. Didn't know SERRA. Liked the clues for LAVA, IRE, DEICE, SUBTEXT, TOUGH. Favorite word: SUBTEXT.

Thanks AGP / WS for the fun puzzle!

sanfranman59 10:11 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 5:56, 6:03, 0.98, 41%, Medium
Tue 7:23, 7:50, 0.94, 32%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:13, 4:04, 1.04, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:04, 5:21, 0.95, 28%, Easy-Medium

LHS 888 10:11 PM  

Oh, yeah... BENJI was a real blast from the past...

Anonymous 11:59 PM  

@Numinous, interesting things can happen to the feverish mind, dear boy. It may be the company you're keeping here.

@Colin, in the case of this puzzle, being 27 doesn't work in one's favor. Hang in there; eventually you'll get over it.

Anonymous 6:30 AM  

@Z - "Late Olds" is certainly more accurate.

@Roo - I forgot about the Achieva. Nice! Hope it serves you well for a long time.


jberg 8:48 AM  

What I would have posted, if it had worked yesterday morning ...
Yeah, I liked BRENDA Starr, too. Right Next to Terry and the Pirates in the Green Sheet.
But what I didn't like is PLOT POINTS. I mean, the points they are plotting are the plot points on the plot -- i.e., it's too literal. You could argue that it's turning a noun into a verb, like the other theme answers, but it's still too close to being the same thing for my liking. I was unwilling to write it in until I had so many crosses that it couldn't be avoided.
Otherwise, a nice old-timey puzzle. And fun to learn from the commenters that Joseph was so popular with the names of rivers across the country.

oldbizmark 9:55 AM  

i don't see how this is possibly a medium. this was the easiest of the week, by far. the theme was easily discovered with H. Finn and all the others then became apparent, opening up the entire puzzle for a quick solve. I thought yesterday's was much more difficult. The BANDSHELL/BANDSTAND possibility was enough to slow things down a bit, among other somewhat obscure short answers.

spacecraft 11:35 AM  

@Casco Kid: AMAIN means "at full strength or speed." It is well known that the owners wanted to set a speed record for transatlantic trips, so--against the captain's advice--they called for "all ahead full" through those treacherous northern waters. Hence, she was going literally AMAIN when struck.

And @Rex: Who died and made YOU Roger Ebert? "Even worse movie?" Based on what?

This was one of those "Is that all there is?" themes. I must confess, though, I did like HANDLEBARS. I too noticed the double-line symmetrical entries in the NE/SW, a nice touch.

The fill varied widely, from cool longer ones to shorter clunkers, already mentioned. Overall I make it a B; I'm feeling generous.

6406 might earn another solid B.

DMG 1:12 PM  

Only one write-over, changing caNT to DON'T. And only one number too many...


rondo 1:12 PM  

Seems to me tha BANDShellS are more specific to the outdoors than BANDSTANDS - I thought that any raised platforms such as those in a bar, club or such for musicians to perform on were BANDSTANDS. So, I had to get the "hell" out and the TAND in.

Was forced to write a paper on Fr. SERRA by our 10th grade social studies teacher who was really just a football coach masquerading as a teacher - who knew it would ever pay off?

Otherwise kinda bland, save for the two yeah babies (IMHO)in the far west. Did @Evil Doug say anything about ERECT?

702 - a natural winner (and no lie)

Dirigonzo 3:07 PM  

Referring to all of coastal Maine as DOWN EAST is a dead GIVE AWAY that the constructor is not from Maine, where we use the term to apply only to that part of the coast that lies east of Penobscot Bay.

rain forest 5:18 PM  

Decent puzzle. Don't care if it skews "old", "young", or is in a mid-life crisis. Theme worked well, fill was acceptable, some nice entries.

In my circle of friends, I'm probably the only one who didn't like Titanic, except for the modern part. I also didn't like Forrest Gump. Call me a curmudgeon.

822 This is enough bring on the curmudgeon in me.

Waxy in Montreal 11:37 PM  

@Diri, we Central Canadians are not nearly so selective referring to the 4 Atlantic Canada provinces collectively as Down East.

@rain, what about someone like me who hated Titanic but really enjoyed Forrest Gump? A curm - or maybe an udgeon?

Not much to say about this puzzle other than I solved while watching The Maltese Falcon (for the umpteenth time) and felt they both came from the same era. But I like that era so no complaints.

Was about to vent about a bit of unforecast snow here today until I saw that poor old Buffalo has been clobbered with several feet of the white stuff. Will they be able to SMUSH the SLUSH?

2348 - @rondo, won't GIVE AWAY any TRADESECRETS declaring you our (A)MAIN man. (But not our MAINE man!)

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