Marshy valley / TUE 12-22-15 / Symbol for water potential / Wimple wearer / Popular musical game beginning in 2005 / Fabled mountain dwellers / 1869 romance by RD Blackmore / Collection that despite its name is orderly compact

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Tuesday ... it's over-sized ... and has a couple weird answers)



THEME: SINGULAR (39A: Atypical ... or like the first word in the answer to 18-, 24-, 51- or 62-Across)

Theme answers:
  • PAJAMA PARTY (18A: Kids' event that goes into the wee hours)
  • SUNGLASS LENS (24A: Something in a movie star's frame?)
  • TROUSER PRESS (51A: Certain wrinkle remover)
  • SCISSOR KICK (62A: Sidestroke component)
Word of the Day: TROUSER PRESS
Trouser Press was a rock and roll magazine started in New York in 1974 as a mimeographed fanzine by editor/publisher Ira Robbins, fellow Who fan Dave Schulps and Karen Rose under the name "Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press" (a reference to a song by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and an acronymic play on the British TV show Top of the Pops). Its original scope was British bands and artists (early issues featured the slogan "America's Only British Rock Magazine"). Initial issues contained occasional interviews with major artists like Brian Eno and Robert Fripp and extensive record reviews. After 14 issues, the title was shortened to simply Trouser Press, and it gradually transformed into a professional magazine with color covers and advertising. (wikipedia)
• • •

Yarhhreareaeafegh..... not really feeling this super-sized (15x16) puzzle. I finished—in a time more Wednesdayish than Tuesdayish—and had no idea what just happened. Had to hunt down the revealer (which I'd gotten off the pre-ellipsis part of the clue, never bothering to look at the post-ellipsis part). And then there was some shrugging. I've never heard of a TROUSER PRESS—sounds vintage, like ... from a time when people invented weird niche contraptions, like escargot forks or leg warmers. Whole TROUSER part of that answer was hard to come by, especially since I had SMALLER for SPARSER (47A: Like the population of Alaska vis-à-vis New Jersey), and thus had no idea about all the affected Downs. SUNGLASS LENS ...? What is that? Just one lens in your two-lensed pair of sunglasses? That is ... I don't even know. I want to say it's one of the most made-up theme answers I've ever seen. SCISSOR KICK is delightfully far from actual scissors, whereas SUNGLASS LENS ... is just one half of the two lenses you would normally find in actual sunglasses. At least the other SINGULAR phrases are things one might actually say (yes, TROUSER PRESS, I'm throwing you that bone). SUNGLASS LENS ... I mean, jeez, SUNGLASS HUT is a dumb mall thing, but at least it's a Thing. But SUNGLASS HUT is too short to provide the symmetrical counterpart for TROUSER PRESS. So I blame TROUSER PRESS. Also, TROUSER SNAKE was available and you just *left* it on the table? I've been lobbying for Buzzfeed to get away from the dick jokes in its crosswords, but NYT ... you guys got some latitude. (Speaking of latitude, Loved 29A: Line of latitude ("IT'S UP TO YOU")). Lastly, theme-wise, SINGULAR is not what you'd call a scintillating revealer.  


I need to go back to SUNGLASS LENS, because I feel like I must be missing something. I'm not sure I even understand the clue: [Something in a movie star's frame?]. So a movie star wears sunglasses (more than normal people?) and sunglasses have "frames" (the way film has frames, or something is in or out of frame in a movie shot?). But ... just the one lens then? It's a profile shot? Trying Too Hard (TTH). You have an already wonky, weird, arbitrary answer, and you decided to turn the clue into a gaudy neon arrow? I wish the fill had been able to rescue this one, but aside from the big corner answers (which I like) this one's just a bit too OCTO-EKES. Too CLI-RES. Too AESOPS-ROMS. Etc. I need a WHISKEY, so I am going to get a WHISKEY. Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

90 comments:

Z 12:13 AM  

As a wearer of Cheap Sunglasses, the kind that always seems to lose one lens from the frames, I had no problem with the answer. CLI, on the other hand, didn't even get the courtesy of a "Super Bowl in 2117" clue. Slacking off on the RRN clues should not be tolerated.

Right with Rex today on the rating. I finished almost in a medium Wednesday time. Still, nary a writeover, so I'm blaming the oversized grid.

jae 1:04 AM  

Medium-tough for me.  @Rex SmAllER before SPARSER didn't help.

TWASNT is a fine word.

Cute theme, liked it more than Rex did. 

Karl Bradley 1:09 AM  

What Rex said.

Charles Flaster 1:53 AM  

Agree with Rex.
SUNGLASS LENS is tough to digest.
Write overs: OMANI for irANI and RES for dEf.
Liked cluing for ICE and the misdirect for SHOE.
Thanks TM

Martín Abresch 3:01 AM  

I really enjoyed this one.

Line of latitude was a brilliant clue for IT'S UP TO YOU. Took me a minute to figure it out, and I laughed aloud when I did. This one clue made this puzzle more memorable than yesterday's clean-gridded, boring speed-solve.

The northeast corner was charming with I THINK I CAN next to LEAP SECOND.

The clue to SUNGLASS LENS makes sense to me: sunglasses are a stereotypical celebrity accoutrement. Or to put it a different way, movie stars, unlike the hoi polloi, rarely wear regular glasses: if they are wearing frames, they are almost certainly wearing frames that contain tinted lenses.

I enjoyed the mathematical clue for SUM: n (n+1)/2, for all integers from 1 to n. It describes a handy shortcut for calculating factorials. For n = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], you get [1, 3, 6, 10, 15], which is equal to [1, 1 + 2, 1 + 2 + 3, 1 + 2 + 3 + 4, 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5] or [1!, 2!, 3!, 4!, 5!].

Anonymous 4:13 AM  

Yes, there's an old-fashioned cliche about movie stars wearing sunglasses to preserve their anonymity. So if you came across a single lens lying by itself on the sidewalk in front of Grauman''s, evidently having popped out of its frame, you would be baffled? No, you wouldn't. You would say/think, "oh, a sunglass lens." It's a thing. Love the theme.

Anonymous 6:07 AM  

Yes a little harder than usual for a Tuesday. I liked the theme answers but not all the theme clues. I googled "sunglass lens" after I finished the puzzle and found several companies offer a "sunglass lens color guide," among other things. "It just needed a better clue." Famous last words.

Unlike Rex, I remember the trouser press. No, not the magazine, the device. And a search of the attic will probably result in its cousin, the mini (tabletop) ironing board for shirt sleeves. If you worked in an office and wore a suit and tie to work every day you had one of these, a steam iron, and a can of spray starch. Whey do they call them "the good old days"?

Zippy

Chuck McGregor 6:47 AM  

I’d say a tough Tuesday, but satisfying, namely ‘cause I finished with no cheats!

@Rex: “I finished and had no idea what just happened” sort of summed it up for me.

No other comments as yet, but I'm sure others will point out -

I think Rex missed the point. All of these words normally appear as plural in the wild, so to speak. For example, it’s not that there is one lens that counts, it’s that “SUNGLASS” is used in the singular which is “atypical”.

@Rex: “I want to say it's one of the most made-up theme answers I've ever seen.”

Au contraire. A SUNGLASS LENS is most certainly a thing, can be found in a movie star’s glasses frame, so the clue is fine. Thus, any one of the Kardashians (whoever THEY are) or J Lo might say, “I have a broken SUNGLASS LENS.”

I suspect there are few contexts where these words normally do appear in the singular, such as I have one PAJAMA / SUNGLASS / TROUSER / SCISSOR?

Too bad the last themer could not also have been an article of clothing. All I’ve got is GOLASH BUCKLE, but it’s one letter too long.

It's looking to be sunny and mid 50s here for Christmas Day here….Dec 25….in Maine? Almost a full moon but mostly cloudy for the Night Before Christmas, so there will be no moon on the breast of any snow, new-fallen or otherwise, giving a lustre of mid-day to any objects below.

Holiday Cheers


Lewis 6:56 AM  

Original theme, taking words practically always in plural and finding exceptions -- plus. Three terrific long downs: ITHINKICAN, ITSUPTOYOU, GUITARHERO -- plus. Some clever cluing (SNORE, ITSUPTOYOU, MESSKIT, SHOE) -- plus. "Wimple" anywhere -- plus. Mini-theme of five double esses -- plus. Very clean grid -- plus. Some Tuesday bite -- plus. SUNGLASSLENS -- is a reach but still a thing -- acceptable in context of all the plusses. Easily for me more plusses than minuses, and overall, without thinking about it at all -- a quality solving experience. Thank you, Tom McCoy (TM).

Much family coming in today and I will be very busy through the weekend and may not post again until Monday. Wishing all a terrific holiday week!

Hungry Mother 7:14 AM  

Looking like a DNF for a while, then I got the line of latitude and made it through.

Glimmerglass 7:16 AM  

@Rex: I think you missed the boat on today's puzzle theme. Take a Mulligan and try again

Unknown 7:42 AM  

The Trouser Press mag was clearly named as a play on the name of the object, and it was expected that the joke would be recognized. So not such an ancient term as all that, eh Rex?

NCA President 7:58 AM  

Ah! The frame isn't a frame in a film, it's the "frame" of the glasses. Like when you go to the optometrist after you've been to the eye doctor and order your frame to put in your new prescription! I get it now. Funny though, I don't recall using "frame" singularly either. I go to the optometrist to look for frames. Or maybe the temple on my frames has been broken? Or is it temple on my glasses frame?

TIL: if you say the word frame often enough it starts to lose all meaning.

For the record, I completely agree with Rex today. The themers were bizarre. SUNGLASSLENS and TROUSERPRESS were in nowhere near the same ballpark as PAJAMAPARTY and SCISSORKICK. The former are tortured Frankenstein monsters cobbled together because [Theme!], while the latter two are legitimate, in the general public's normal usage. Btw, I guess I do have a trouser press, but I usually call it an "iron."

FWIW, most instrumentalists practice ETUDEs. Also, I got all smug when I wrote in "EREI" before Tu...nice little misdirect. NILE/TUT/SINAI/OMANI/RIAL, the middle east gets a shout out today.

I love how the puzzle has included in it three words that sum up the way I feel about it...it's like it's psychic and knew that I would feel this way about it and in case I couldn't exactly put my finger on it, it supplied me with the words to use.

So meh. HOHUM. BLAH. Thanks, puzzle. I couldn't have said it better myself.

chefbea 8:08 AM  

Tough for a Tuesday. Never heard of Guitar Hero...it's a game???? and didn't understand the math thingy at 49down. Hey..thingy could have been used yesterday!!! Loved the little engine that could...many years ago!!

Anonymous 8:14 AM  

A sunglass lens fits in the frame of sunglasses. And movie stars wear sunglasses. This is not that hard to understand, is it?

Also, a trouser press is a device that irons trousers (pants). I've seen them in hotel rooms sometimes. Never seen anyone actually use it.

Anonymous 8:16 AM  

Also not sure that Rex really understands the theme. The four words are singular forms or words that are more commonly used in their plural form. The singular forms are completely valid and logical.

Bismol 8:24 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alicia Stetson 8:32 AM  

Rex is right to point out the similarity of this puzzle to my sex life: “I finished and had no idea what just happened!"

Mohair Sam 8:52 AM  

@Rex - Please let us know where you buy your sunglasses. Apparently you're having a hard time envisioning a singular SUNGLASS LENS, I've seen entirely too many.

Totally disagree with OFL today. Thoroughly enjoyed this tougher than normal Tuesday. The theme was different and clever - those of you finding fault with the themers are setting new nit-picking standards. The first word in each theme answer is typically written and spoken as a plural. What's to dig for?

ITSUPTOYOU a beauty. Big day in the Valley of the Kings (two clues). Knew TROUSER PRESS would ROUSE @Rex, although they're still around. Shared a room with an old NCO for a few months when I was in the service, he owned the only trouser press I've ever seen - the man was always squared away.

Fun Tuesday Tom McCoy, thanks.

btw - Maybe I should pay over $15 for sunglasses, ya think?

Z 8:58 AM  

TROUSER PRESS is most certainly a thing. I think sufficient numbers have also confirmed that, while sunglasses have two lenses, a single SUNGLASS LENS is seen in the wild. Just because I haven't heard something doesn't make it not a thing.

@Martin Abresch - I'm pretty sure those aren't factorials. The actual term is not one I ever learned, but factorials involve multiplication (1*2*3*4*...) not addition. An actual mathematician may correct me.

Normally a hidden holiday bonus would make me smile. Maybe that it had to be pointed out to me is the reason I'm feeling Grinchy about it.

jberg 8:58 AM  

I THINK I CAN make sense out of this. Well, IT'S UP TO YOU. What I can't do, however, is figure out how to past an image in here -- so if you want to see a TROUSER PRESS, click here. They are often found in hotel rooms - you hang your pants inside them overnight, and they come out in the morning less wrinkled than they might have been otherwise.

I hated the theme until I caught on that they were all words that were atypically singular; that moved it a step past BLAH for me.

The trouble with 39A is that "for all integers from 1 to n" would normally mean that the proposition was true for all those integers. "of 1 to n" would have been better, but maybe too obvious a clue.

smaller before SPARSER, EYEd before EYES got together to make it hard to see ROUSES, so I'd with medium. Not challenging, though.

Maineiac 9:05 AM  

Can anyone provide a link to the use of EKES with "by" as opposed to "out" (60D)? I've tried, and can't find a thing.

Ludyjynn 9:12 AM  

LEAPSECOND...say what?!

That aside, liked PAJAMA PARTY crossing BRAWL. Brought back fond memories of some of my young girl pals and their antics.

Best clue was for MESS KIT. Brought back fond memories of three summers of Girl Scout Camp Lou Henry Hoover where COT beds and SCISSOR KICKs in the lake were part of its charm.

Mont Blanc and Matterhorn should be ALPeS, n'est ce pas?

I THINK I CAN agree w/ Rex on his overall assessment of this one.







Nancy 9:20 AM  

Much more challenging than the typical Tuesday, with an unusual theme to boot. Even if you skip most Tuesdays, don't skip this one. It's fun.

Bismol 9:27 AM  

Note: Factorials are the result of multiplication, not addition. For example, 5! = 1*2*3*4*5. These are just sums.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

I was burned by 23A: frIto for CHIPS. How ironic that a singular clue word ("product") that should have clued to a plural (hence, chips) threw me in a puzzle where the theme turned ordinary plurals into their singular counterpart.

Roo Monster 9:47 AM  

Hey All !
Enjoyed this little (bigger, actually) romp through the SINGULAR singular/not plural/words thingie. Was watching a TV show once when they asked for a SCISSORS. Not a pair of scissors, just, "Hey, can you get me a scissors?" English, very interesting.

Going 16 wide just to put an even numbered revealer in the middle seems strange, IMO. More bang for the buck, I guess. Found puz on the easy side, until the SW. Had EYEd and DUOS in, along with SmAllEr. Big time misdirection on the Line of latitude clue. Was trying to think of something to go there with actual latitude lines. Nice jab, Tom. Couldn't see HELD for some reason, and with EYEd in, AROUSES wasn't coming into view. So actually had to hit Check Puz (on a Tuesday! Disheartening) and saw my SmAllEr was incorrect. So took it out, and finally seeing ITS UP TO YOU, got me the finish and the Congrats music.

Only two writeovers, SmAllER, and soso-> BLAH.

A little Random Nonsense...
Lightning fast karate hit? LEAP SECOND SCISSOR KICK
Two hunters? SPARSER POSSE
Fablers fable? AESOPS YETIS
And a Not Safe For Work one :-)
Devoted hookers? ARDENT HOES

Good Golly!

I GO
RooMonster
DarrinV

Rabi Abonour 9:53 AM  

Count me in on the side that didn't like 24A. I don't have any association between movie stars and sunglasses in my mind or ever think about a single SUNGLASS LENS, at least not enough to consider that a phrase.

However, I actually liked the puzzle quite a lot. Moved through it pretty quickly (maybe it's more Wednesday than Tuesday, but an easy Wednesday). There are a handful of not so great answers, but I think that they are balanced by things like GUITAR HERO, I THINK I CAN, and PAJAMA PARTY.

A note on SPARSER: I had SMALLER too. SPARSER is, I would argue, a pretty weak answer for that clue. No one would be surprised to hear that Alaska has a sparser population than New Jersey - everyone knows that most of Alaska is wilderness. But that the population is *so* sparse that it is SMALLER than that of New Jersey might actually come as a surprise to someone.

GILL I. 9:54 AM  

Back in the day when I travelled a lot, most of the little posh hotels had a TROUSER PRESS. I would complain loudly that, at least, hotels should provide women with a hair dryer....! They would have them but you had to order them up like a room service hamburger.
I loved this puzzle. There's nary a word I don't like. TWASNT is just beautiful....If I had to be a dick, I'd say SETTOS was the only thing that looked all wrong.
Ah, yes, the good ole sidestroke and that damn SCISSOR KICK. I never could quite coordinate the kick with my arm movements...No wonder it's never used in competition.
Fun Tuesday for a change so, TO YOU Tom McCoy, I say....YAY!!!!

OldCarFudd 10:01 AM  

I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. I have a way to get a much bigger kick out of ITHINKICAN than any other 79-year-old I know. I have a 1911 Stanley steam car with a two-cylinder, double-acting steam engine. Any engine so configured has two strong power pulses followed by two weaker ones, and the exhaust sounds like CHUFF CHUFF chuff chuff CHUFF CHUFF chuff chuff - - - . Kids love to ride in my car. I take them to a hill and slow down to barely walking speed. Then I ask them: "What did The Little Engine That Could say?" CHUFF CHUFF chuff chuff CHUFF CHUFF chuff chuff I THINK i can I THINK i can - - -. As we get near the top of the hill I feed the engine a bit more steam and start to accelerate - I THOUGHT i could I THOUGHT i could - - - . The kids love it, and so do I.

ITSUPYOYOU was excellent misdirect. As an ancient math major, the formula for the sum of the first n numbers was in my wheelhouse. Fun Tuesday!

NCA President 10:10 AM  

So, let's talk SUNGLASSLENS.

First, when you're leaving the house on a bright sunny day, do you ask yourself "Where is my sunglass?" or "Where are my sunglasses?" Yep. The second one. If you say the first one, you're weird. Sunglasses/Glasses are a singular object always in the plural.

Next, if a lens falls out of your sunglasses would you say, "I've lost a lens out of my sunglasses," or "I've lost a sunglass lens?" Yeah, I didn't think so...unless you're weird. The second way is just awkward and no one says it. You wear sunglasses, just like most of you wear boxers, or sweatpants, or well, glasses.

SUNGLASSLENS makes the mistake of confusing a singular lens with referring to the pair of sunglasses on your face in the singular too. The singular tinted lens on the ground does not somehow make the sunglasses on your face a "SUNGLASS." Not to mention that if you lost a lens from your glasses, while the lens may indeed be glass, it is not a "glass lens" but a "glasses lens." You wear a singular thing called "glasses" which is always in the plural. Sunglasses are glasses, they are never not plural.

I know, you can spill something on your pant leg...but when has English made any sense?

I could be wrong, but I think Rex's point (it certainly is mine) is that this themer is an outlier. SCISSORKICK is not at all related to a pair of scissors. Good. PAJAMAPARTY is an actual thing, even though it's still related to PJs. Ok. TROUSERPRESS is roughly in the same ballpark as pajama party, because it's a thing, it's just that not many people have ever heard of it...so that's what makes that an outlier. So, sorta okay and sorta not. But SUNGLASSLENS, no.

So you see, it's the inconsistency in the theme that causes the issues.

Steve M 10:14 AM  

Harder than usual but original

John Hagen 10:19 AM  

Check into a decent hotel in Europe and a trouser press, with a shelf for pocket change, will be provided. Or, visit my bedroom ... just remember to bring plenty of change.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

The Trouser Press isn't only a thing, it's a song:

http://youtu.be/UR6yeXUpadw

kozmikvoid 10:26 AM  

I agree with Rex on the Challenging for a Tuesday rating, but not on the rest of the review. I really enjoyed the Wednesday-ish challenge a day early, and thought the fill was above average throughout. I'll echo what others have noted and say that SUNGLASSLENS is most certainly a thing. If there's any gripe to have it'd be in the clue, not the fill. And I have no issue with the clue, but can see how one might. Great clues for ITSUPTOYOU, MESSKIT and PAJAMAPARTY. Just a fun puzzle throughout.

@Z: I'm a physicist, not a mathematician, but can confirm that you are correct. The clue has nothing to do with factorials. The term is Sigma (it's the capital E symbol) and it's a summation term of n=1 (written below the symbol) to n (written above the symbol).

@jberg: I agree, "of" would've been better than "from"

Bob Kerfuffle 10:33 AM  

Great Tuesday puzzle!

And even though many others have already said it, I have to pile on and say that 29 D, "Line of latitude," for IT'S UP TO YOU, is one of the best clue/answer pairs of the year!

But now I have to look up SUM, because despite a couple of comments, I still don't understand it.

Numinous 10:37 AM  

I liked this one and had no problem with it at all. I just lied: I had a brief stumble at ITS UP TO YOU and put piPE for ROPE as well as spelling SPARSER with a c. Very easy fixes. Faster than average time even with hunting the typo. I really should start that hunt with [shift]+[tab].

The cute thing about this theme is, as Jim Horne points out, is that all of those nouns are plural but when used as a adjective, they are SINGULAR.

TROUSER PRESSes certainly still exist and if Rex wore anything other than Dockers, like, actually wore suits that required dry cleaning, the TROUSERs thereof would be PRESSed on one of those things that looks vaguely like a padded tanning bed. Lay the trousers out nice and flat, pull the lid down, press the lever and out comes a bunch of steam. Raise the lid and hang up your perfectly pressed trousers. As long as places like Brooks Bros are still around and suits are made of real material instead of petroleum products, there will be TROUSER PRESSes.

I did think the SUNGLASS LENS was a bit retro. I have an image of Gregory Peck wearing a pair of green LENSEd tortoise shell SUNGLASSes and another of Liz Taylor wearing a huge black-framed specimen with completely opaque LENSEs in my head. I think that's more a phenomenon of the past but, at least for us vintage solvers, it still floats.

Wouldn't you wear a pair of PAJAMAS to a PAJAMA PARTY? Is SCISSOR an adverb in SCISSOR KICK, I guess it would be if you were SCISSOR KICKing. My grasp of the finer points of grammar is weak, I'll admit but I always use a pair of SCISSORs to trim my mustache.

Hardly any dreck, a good puzzle from Jim Carrey, Oops Tom McCoy. Amazing how much they look alike!

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

Never heard of the guitar game,the duos mentioned or convo. I fear I'll start to do less well as puzzles become more current.

Face 10:46 AM  

Bill De Blasio’s attempts to make AMENDS yesterday, saying he wants to do a better job as mayor of New York was just so much BLAH blah, when he omits the one ITEM about which he campaigned so ARDENTly- the Carriage Horses in midtown, and how on the first day of his administration, that practice would be ended.
As of on this Winter Solstice 2015, the horses are still doing their weary work of carting tourists through dense urban traffic on their way into and out of the central park. Yes, there are work animals but these horses are old, very old, and in their worn SHOES, hardly performing a pas de CHAT on POINTE.
To see a skinny horse on Central Park South seizing up as he strains to pull the cart and four people specializing in avois dupois doesn’t put one in the Christmas spirit. Now that’s a scandal, but it’s HOHUM on this issue versus how many thousands of hours devoted to the invented ad hominem PSI ‘scandal?’
Apparently the most robust union in America is the horse carriage drivers, aided by
Liam Neeson’s 19th C. romanticism. He thinks the horses are just wonderful, when they are really there to compensate for the eyesore that is the Grand Army Plaza.


Nancy 10:47 AM  

@Alias Z (from yesterday) -- Your comment was posted late and I was out all day, so I didn't see your post or your link to the gorgeous Advent Song till just now. I loved it, of course. It's my favorite Christmas hymn.

You might be interested to know that the Dalton chorus (with me in it, yay!) performed this song among others. We had a terrific chorus leader in Harold Aks, who managed to meld a very average group of singers into a pretty damn good group. Well, we did have one real ringer -- Betty Buchman, who had a gorgeous soprano. (I ran into her at our 55th high school reunion (she hasn't lived in this part of the country for decades) and I asked her if she'd ever done anything professionally with her voice. She hadn't, but she seemed really, really pleased that I remembered and that I said to her: "YOU were the singer. The rest of us were merely hangers-on."

I tried out for the Freshman Chorus at Smith -- steppingstone to the Smith College Choir, a quite illustrious group, actually, which sometimes sang with the Yale Whiffenpoofs. But I didn't even make the Freshman Choir. I know it wasn't my ear, which isn't half-bad. I will go to my grave refusing to believe it was my "instrument" -- though I suppose it might have been. The problem was that you had to sightread a classical piece that you'd never heard before. "I can't sightread," I said to the Senior conducting the audition. "I'll help you," she said. "I'll play you the first note." She played it. I sang it. I stopped and waited. "I'll play you the next note," she said. She played it. I sang it. I stopped and waited. This happened one more time, and then she smiled sadly and said: "Next!" So you can see why I'll go to my grave refusing to believe that there was anything remotely lacking in the quality of my voice. Other things have happened SINCE then...but I've gone on too long already, so why go into it? :)

Joseph Michael 10:59 AM  

Rex, you overlooked the holiday theme in the fourth row from the bottom: HO HO HO

Numinous 11:00 AM  

Just because, @Ludyjynn: the last LEAP SECOND was June 30th of this year at 23:59:60 UTC. LEAP SECONDs are added periodically at the end of June or December to compensate for the slowing of earth's rotation which is measured in mili SECONDs per year. There is currently an argument among scientists who think time should be measured atomically vs. those who think time should be relative to the movement of the earth. The point of LEAP SECONDs is to keep noon happening at noon. Without them, eventually noon would happen at, say, five past the hour which would be problematic for celestial navigation which relies on calculating the difference between local noon and GMT noon. The determination of local noon is done visually. While we have atomic time keeping, electricity and satellites, the argument really is moot because nobody uses celestial navigation much any more other than the odd unfortunate small boat sailors who have electrical problems and navigation enthusiasts. I learned about navigation before the advent of atomic clocks.

I'm probably preaching to the choir here.

old timer 11:06 AM  

I thought it was entirely delightful, and looked forward to OFL's praise. I forgot that when OFL is ignorant of something, he blames the constructor. (I, too, have seen TROUSER PRESSes in hotel rooms, and have actually used them if I have been wearing wool slacks -- and when I learned to swim, the SCISSOR KICK and the sidestroke it powers was the most useful of all strokes for swimming in the ocean, if you were a boy on the lookout for a good body-surfing wave).

Writeovers: "solo" before HERO, "smaller" before SPARSER, and "scissors" before SCISSOR. I think I have always called it a "scissors kick".

Anonymous 11:22 AM  

Hey Rex - If you don't spell out the theme in gruesome detail, even thought it's kind of obvious, how am I supposed to know you're not an idiot and didn't get it? Huh? How the hell am I supposed to know that?

AliasZ 11:30 AM  


I love a theme that explores the quirks and confusing rules of the English language. This one gave us a few examples of plural-only nouns that become SINGULAR when used as adjectives. That's so cool. I THINK I CAN relate to it. It is one, SINGULAR sensation.

When I drop my sunglasses, more often than not only one lens shatters, the other one stays intact. What would someone who thinks this is not a thing call that broken lens? I call it a SUNGLASS LENS. Am I wrong? I often see a solo SUNGLASS LENS on the sidewalk, perhaps the victim of a similar mishap. When the left leg of my trousers rips, I go to my dry cleaner and ask him if he can repair the left TROUSER leg. A TROUSER PRESS is made to press both TROUSER legs at the same time.

I like the entire grid, fill and all, except I never heard of the GUITAR HERO game. The HO-HO-HO Easter egg (or should I say, Christmas gift?) along row 56 was the neatest thing to discover. Cute, Tom!

As my Christmas gift, let's enjoy the Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No. 8 in G minor "Per la notte di Natale" or Christmas Concerto, by Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1730).

Enjoy your PAJAMA PARTY!

Hartley70 11:33 AM  

I know right where to go for a trouser press, and just checked to make sure. Hammacher Schlemmer item #82992, a mere $299.95. The wonderful store on the north side of East 57th street is long gone, but the catalogue is alive and well. What natty New Yorker can be without one?

I thought this was an unusual Tuesday with really interesting entries. The misdirection was excellent, particularly with line of latitude, and the banality of the answers belied the difficulty of the solve. Most enjoyable!!

Andrew Heinegg 11:44 AM  

I too got delayed with smaller in place of sparser. And, when I put in smaller, I was saying to myself that smaller is incorrect English to describe fewer in number so, my bad for putting it in there in the first place. I have never seen a trouser press but, I have heard of it and was able to get it from the crosses.I thought the movie star frame clue was a perfect little minor pun and I was mystified by the boss's objection to it. In the day, movie stars were said to have worn sunglasses so that either they would not be recognized or you could not see the 'leftovers' from the night before. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor are perhaps the most memorable pair from their era that were regularly seen on the cover of The Daily News and I assumed that both the chance of not being recognized and covering up for the night before were the reasons for the shades.


I believe it is/was also thought that some movie stars wore sunglasses so that they did not have to wear makeup all the time. The reasoning there is that they did not want to have their pictures in the tabloids in the old days and online nowadays under a caption that read(s): is (s)he really only 32 or words to that effect?

Anyhow, I thought it was near perfect for a Tuesday.

mac 11:46 AM  

More difficult than a typical Tuesday, and I liked it!

I thought the theme was a nice find of normally plurals in a singular form. Hand up for smaller, first.

Back to the kitchen.

thfenn 11:46 AM  

Hard tuesday for me. SMALLER before SPARSER threw me off track. Dwelled on SUM a long time, though I get it now (and thank you Bismol, not how i remembered factorials either).

Fun long downs, for the most part. ITSUPTOYOU was great, but only leapt out at me at the very last second - I was sure there was some technical name for a line of latitude that I'd never learned. Thought the theme was fine, though it didn't actually help me solve anything once I 'got it'.

Grew up with the little engine that could, so ITHINKICAN was nice. Not dissimilar from where I am with these crossword puzzles, in fact - just keep working and working and working to get just a little better, and still get a kick out of simply completing one.

Joseph Welling 11:55 AM  

My two bits on the theme: these are all cases where a noun that normally only occurs in the plural form appears in the singular form when it functions as an adjective.

"Pant leg" would also work. I'm sure there are others, but I can't think of any at the moment.

Laurence Hunt 12:45 PM  

There must be a generational thing going on here. It never fails that whatever Rex has never heard of is totally familiar to me, whether it be the sparser population of Alaska or the trouser press. Really Rex? Common knowledge.... Then "guitar hero?" What is that???

Mr. P 12:51 PM  

I loved, loved, loved the clue for SUM.

(n(n+1))/2 does indeed calculate the sum of the first n integers.

Take the sum of the first 10 as an example:

1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10

Take the first and last number: They add to 11. So do the next numbers in (2+9) and the next two numbers in (3+8) and so on.

So, you have some magic number, 11. It is 1 larger than the number of numbers in the sum (n+1).

How many 11's can you make using the sum above? Well, since we are using pairs of numbers, you can make exactly half of the number of values in the sum. There will be 5 pairs of numbers that sum to 11 in the example I gave. 5*11=55.

So, you can think of it like this: (Magic Number)*(Number of Pairs of Magic Numbers We Can Make).

Or, (n+1)(n/2), which simplifies to (n(n+1))/2

Try it with the first 20 integers:

1+2+3+4+...+17+18+19+20

The magic number here is 21, and we can make 10 pairs of magic numbers, so the answer is 21*10 or 210.

-High School Math Teacher

Teedmn 1:22 PM  

Definitely a slower solve today compared to yesterday, indeed more like Wednesday. Having SmAller, like so many people, at 47A and also PhI at 38A gave me a "line of latitude" that looked like IThUm__YOU. Too short to be "I thumb my nose at you" and definitely not latitudinally connected. And the L from SmAllER let me throw "log" in at 49D, just because log is the only three letter mathematical function I could think of. "So so" at 7A before BLAH was my other goof, but I successfully fixed everything and understood the theme so that's what matters to me.

I liked SCISSOR KICK especially as clued. If it weren't for the side stroke, I would have drowned long ago - something about being in water saps all my stamina. I can run for an hour but swim for 5 minutes, so don't ask me to participate in a triathlon with you!

I liked the clue for RHINO at 52D and HINT hint. Thanks, TM.

ani 1:34 PM  

The store is still there

Ludyjynn 1:45 PM  

@Numi, wow! and thank you very much for the explanation.

"Regina Sask" 1:47 PM  

Odd that ANYone would think, in the event of there being 'latitude', that it would be best put to use with... TROUSER SNAKE.

OTOH, that may be exactly what occurs to someone with more 'latitude' than 'longitude'.

chefbea 1:58 PM  

@Mr P/high school math teacher...thanks..now I understand!!

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

I know what a SUNGLASSLENS is when I see one. I don't know what the arguably analogous glass lens would be because glass is so commonly used to mean other things. The general substance, or a drinking vessel formed from said. There was/is a Specials song with the chorus (also the title?) ITSUPTOYOU, to you.

ANON B 2:50 PM  

@martin Abresh at 3:01AM

The factorial of a number is not a sum it
it is the product of that number and all the
positive numbers below it. Five factorial(5!)
is 5x4x3x2x1=120. The formula in the clue
is for the sum of numbers x and all the positive
numbers below it.





Anonymous 3:17 PM  

I'm calling foul on SUNGLASS LENS. "Sunglasses" is singular, being the name for the thing with two dark lenses you put over your eyes to shield them from sunlight. Sunglasses have two lenses, so what the constructor had in mind should properly be termed SUNGLASSES LENS.

I check all the online dictionaries: singular SUNGLASS is something quite different from an article of facial apparel.

Nancy 3:43 PM  

@Teedmn -- The sidestroke IS a good stroke for people who tend to get tired swimming, but there is a much, MUCH better one. Are you familiar with the backstroke? Or, as it was known at Camp Pinecliffe, the "elementary" backstroke. You can pretty much do it forever, without getting at all tired. It calls for a scissor-style kick, but on your back it's called the "whip kick." (When I first started camp, we were taught the "frog kick," but the "whip kick" a much more powerful kick, came along to replace it.) No one would ever mistake me for a great swimmer (I have a lousy flutter kick, plus I hate that whole having-a- fraction-of-a-second-to-gasp-for-air thing. And thus, I have no front crawl) But I can easily do 50 minutes of the backstroke without once touching down or getting tired. If you come to NYC, I'll lie down on the floor and teach it to you :)

I'm GOBSMACKED by the incredible math knowledge displayed today by so many in regard to 49D. It's intimidating, that's what it is. I didn't know what any of you were talking about, even though I took a year of Calculus in high school and a year in college. It's very lucky I stopped when I did. I remember absolutely none of it. And @Numinous, your detailed LEAP SECOND explanation was, if possible, even more impressive. As @ludyjynn says: "Wow!" What a smart group of people!



GILL I. 3:49 PM  

@OldCarFudd....Your I THINK I CAN Chuff, Chuff made me clap in glee. When we lived in Caracas, my dad found an old Triumph Roadster that he tried to restore. It had a a rumble seat that had probably housed some mice and other critters at one time. If I remember correctly, my brother and I would sit in the back (broken springs popping into our ribs) and sing something like "cough, cough, rattle, rattle, cough, sputter, chortle.... and the final PURR......;-) Those may have been the only English words I knew!

chefbea 4:25 PM  

@Nancy. You went to Pinecliffe camp??? Email me so we can discuss camps in Maine

Anonymous 4:31 PM  

49D: Those are triangle numbers--elementary math. But a bad clue for SUM: "sum" is a general term, and no addition was indicated.

ANON B 4:32 PM  

@martin Abresh @3:01AM
Four factorial, written as 4!, is the product 4x3x2x1=24
not the sum 4+3+2+1=10

ANON B 5:27 PM  

Anonymous at 2:23

The clue refers to the fact that the first
word in the answer is normally a plural, ie:
sunglasses but in the answer it is in the unusual singular form, sunglass. Get it?

Masked and Anonymous 5:32 PM  

n(n+1)/2 = 1+2+3+…+n? Is that right?

True for 1: 1(1+1)/2 = 1.

If true for n, is it true for n+1?:

(n+1)(n+2)/2 = (n(n+1) + 2(n+1))/2 = n(n+1)/2 + (n+1) = (sum of numbers 1 to n) + (n+1) = 1+2+3+…+n+(n+1).

yep. Works for n+1.

On account of mathematical induction, M&A now believes the SUM clue's formula.

HOHUM+HOES+SHOE = Hidden Seasonal Greeting, my fave thing about this puz. (yo, @Joseph M.)

Very nice puz, Mr. McCoy. Thanx.

Agent 007-U will return, in "U Only SunglassLen Twice" …

M&A


**gruntz**

OldCarFudd 5:43 PM  

GILL I., your English has improved tremendously!

There are a few of those rumble-seat Triumph roadsters around. I sometimes see one at a local car show. Beautiful classic British lines, no performance at all, built about 1948. I'd kinda like to have one!

Your coughs and rattles remind me that, when I was a little boy, many farmers still had a Model T Ford around the place. A popular verse to a children's song in those days was:

Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!
And on that farm he had a Ford, E-I-E-I-O!
With a rattle-rattle here and a rattle-rattle there,
Here a rattle, there a rattle, everywhere a rattle-rattle,
Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!

Slow Motion 5:53 PM  

All of the theme answers are words that are almost always -- except for in the theme answers -- written as a plural, but are actually singular. SUNGLASSES, TROUSERS, PAJAMAS, and SCISSORS are all singular. You could add PANTS, TWEEZERS, and PLIERS to the list.

Z 6:11 PM  

@kozmikvoid - It's been nearly a decade since I calculated a standard deviation. That's my excuse for not remembering I know sigma. Misuse "factorial," though, and I'm right on it.

@Bob Kerfuffle - If @Mr P's explanation is too long look at 1+2+3=6.
3 is the n in n*(n+1)/2
so
3*(3+1)/2 = 3*4/2 = 12/2 = 6.
This works no matter how high you go, so
1+2+3+4+5 = 5*6/2 = 15.
@Mr. P provides a nice explanation of why this formula works.

Hartley70 6:55 PM  

@ani, oh my gosh, I thought it disappeared along with the original Abercrombie and Fitch on Madison Ave. Thanks for the correction!

Aketi 7:04 PM  

@Nancy - I settled on the side stroke over the back stroke because I'd always bump my head against the pool wall doing the back stroke. My SCISSOR KICKs were decidedly HOHUM.


@Hartley70, I'm so glad my son only asked for a shirt folder instead of a TROUSER PRESS for a holiday gift after seeing the prices. My son is actually a normal teenage boy who uses the floor of his room as both his laundry basket and his dirty clothes hamper. Since he has been on both the Debate Team and Model UN, however, he is required to wear suits. So the same child who goes to school with holes in the knees of his pants and wrinkled shirts morphs into an entirely different person when he has to go to a Debate or a Model UN session.

@Numinous, clearly you would be able to fill out the application for the Yale Summer Program in Astrophysics for rising high school seniors that asks:

What will your age be in decimal years on July 10, 2016?

@MrP, you are one SINGULAR sensation with your simple explanation of what I think is the same formula I used to figure out how to calculate the number of KICKs I have to do in ladder drills in Martial Arts.

For instance
*if they make us start with 1 kick in a row and then work our way up to 7 kicks in a row
*and then work our way back down from 6 kicks in a row to 1 kick in a row
*that would be (7(7+1))/2+(6(6+1))/2 = 28 + 21 = 49 total kicks.

49 kicks sounds so much worse than you have to do a ladder drill to 7 kicks in a row.

"Regina Sask" 8:24 PM  

@Nancy, I had trouble with the scissorkick till I figured out that I was using pinking shear.

I also hate that fraction-of-a-second-to-breath part, but my choice for a never-ending stroke is the side-stroke, probably because the glide portion can be about 4-5 times as long as the stroke/kick portion, and that conserves a lot of energy. Still, I'll bet I can do the backstroke on the floor every bit as long as you can.

"Finger first, Leap second"

Nancy 9:11 PM  

@chefbea -- I'll email you as soon as I can ask Hartley 70 to find out your email address. Without her, I wouldn't be able to email anyone. When I click on any email address on this blog, nothing at all happens. Something used to happen -- the screen would inform me that I didn't have the right "default setting", whatever THAT means. Now the screen can't even be bothered to tell me that anymore. But Hartley has never let me down and I'm sure I'll have your email by tomorrow. I'll be in CT with my family from Thurs. through Saturday, so I may not get back to you right away. Which Maine camp did you go to, btw? Tripp Lake? Fernwood?

@Aketi -- I avoid hitting my head by doing the backstroke for most of the lap and switching to the sidestroke for the last 10 feet or so. I have to memorize a spot on the ceiling in order to know where I am. I once was woolgathering and did hit my head pretty hard and was not happy about it. But @Aketi and @Regina -- take it from me, the backstroke requires much less effort than the sidestroke and you glide much farther also. It requires about 15 backstroke strokes, taking as few strokes as I can manage, to swim a lap at the pool I go to, whereas the sidestroke would need about 18 or even 19 for the same distance.

kitshef 9:57 PM  

Best Tuesday puzzle ever. ITHINKICAN, LEAPSECOND,GUITARHERO - we never get beauties like that so early in the week. Plus the cool theme, plus math! Geography! Sure, not thrilled with SUNGLASSLENS, and Convo is weak - very weak. But overall, magnifique.

Martín Abresch 11:01 PM  

D'oh! You're correct. Thanks.

Numinous 12:08 AM  

@Aketi, I assume your son is in high school since I know you're not on the west coast. In college, on this end of the country suits are not required for Fornesic competitions. On the west coast, they are. Good luck to your son in debate. It's a cool thing to do. I debated at the 50th National Debate Tournament. We were from tha only two year school that made the cut. My partner and I even managed to beat out a team from USC to qualify. Sadly, it was both my partner's and my first year of debating and we managed to place 72nd out of 72. Still, better to be the worst of the best than the best of the rest. At least that's how I consoled myself.

Do you know how fast your son reads? John F Kennedy, who also debated NDT, could read 500 wpm. The best I ever managed was 270. For those who don't know, that's reading aloud. Give your son my very best wishes, I hope he goes far in forensics.

Amelia 11:59 AM  

Went to High School (Bronx Science) with Ira Robbins of Trouser Press fame. He started it there.

ani 3:49 PM  

Just in case you wanted to pick it up:)

spacecraft 11:49 AM  

A couple of confusing things threw this one into the medium (maybe med-chall for a Tuesday) category. Convo?? What is that supposed to be, some sort of shorthand for "conversation?" It's not a word, I know that. If you're gonna shorten "conversation," then just say CHAT or talk. Convo is just dumb.

The SW was snaggy. I have no idea who or what The Black Keys and/or The White Stripes are (were?). Took a while to suss out the line of latitude: oh, not a geography thing, a "convo" thing. God, now you've got ME using it! Water "potential?" What does that even mean?

Count me with those who never heard of TROUSERPRESS. Also, how is a MESSKIT a "collection?" I'm telling you the weirdness factor in this puzzle is high. I suppose you could say that anything composed of smaller units is a "collection." A place setting, a committee, the solar system. MESSKIT = collection: W.E.I.R.D.

So, no, I didn't particularly like this one. Fill didn't help either. The RRN, EKES...and Mr. McCoy did not advance his cause with BLAH and HOHUM. Unless he knew what this offering really was. C-.

Diana,LIW 1:36 PM  

I was swimming along, SISSORKICKing my way thru at the same fast pace as the last two days. Like the little train, I said ITHINKICAN...

Then put in smaller for SPARSER as Rex did, and messed around with the SW for far too long. I knew the latitude thing was going to be a phrase and not one word. Finally I realized one could be ROUSEd from a slumber (altho husband might call is lOUSy if woken up too early.) After SPARSER went in, the rest was obvious. Didn't really need SINGULAR to get the POINTE.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 1:38 PM  

Tuesday tough, mainly in the SW corner, which wasn't HOHUM or BLAH to me. Took a bit to suss out SUM and to see that Alaska's population is both much SPARSER by a long shot as well as much SmAllER.

Fun, simple theme.

Burma Shave 2:13 PM  

DOONE SINGULAR SCISSORKICK

ITHINKICAN jump in first, if you want to LEAPSECOND,
ITSUPTOYOU which is worse, this SETTO’S a BRAWL like I reckoned.

--- CAL “GUITARHERO” ROE

rondo 3:14 PM  

Yeah, all the answers here are SINGULAR things, but I think I’ve heard SCISSORsKICK as the plural type. But I don’t wear a TROUSER or a PAJAMA or a SUNGLASS, so I can buy that. Thought the long down answers were pretty good.

In the engineering game a SWALE is usually considered a shallow ditch (not marshy, usually sodded) that may or may not lead to a wetland. Xwords are the only places I’ve seen it clued like today.

SPARSER and SPARSER for yeah babies these days. Does a character from the 1800s like LORNA DOONE count?

DÉJÀ VU by CSNY was one of my first buys on cassette (remember those?) back in the day. Along with American Beauty by the Grateful Dead. With others in combo from Columbia House. Weren’t those the days?

HEY, not the worst Tues-puz ever, but kinda BLAH and HOHUM.

rain forest 3:43 PM  

Liked it a lot.

No Syndies here at 12:42 PST. I'm seriously thinking of bagging the blog. Almost a waste of time since I get the impression no one reads my amazing contributions. Moderation sucks.

Z 4:13 PM  

@rain forest - I know I never do.*






*Okay. Maybe once in awhile.

leftcoastTAM 4:32 PM  

@rain forest: Please stick around, we need you and we read you. Maybe RP will one day see the error of his ways.

Diana,LIW 5:34 PM  

@Spacecraft - "A mess kit is a collection of silverware and cookware used during camping and backpacking, as well as extended military campaigns." Straight outta Wikki. A good mess (think Army meal) kit has utensils, plates, cups, cookware - everything you need to eat. You can take it camping, if you like that kind of thing. (Not me - nope - I love the great indoors of a nice hotel on vacation.)

@rainforest - don't despair. I always come back and see if the Syndies have added anything late in the day. There are so few of us. I didn't even realize we could post until I'd been reading Rex for at least a year. Then I noticed who was ALWAYS at the ends. Hmmm. Could they be living in the past (Syndieland) like moi? So remember, thousands of other Synderellas are lurking out there - they need someone to chat with too.

Besides, Burma Shave has a huge celebration coming up - his one year poem-a-day personal lalaPUZzulla! We can all bring our mess kits and have a feast. be some new Syndies will show up. Rondo might find the YB of his dreams...

rondo 5:57 PM  

@rainforest - I always check back for syndi comments, even on the day after, before commenting on the current syndi-puz. I appreciate your amazing contributions and agree with your last sentence.

Diana,LIW 11:11 PM  

Rondo and Rainforest - yes, moderation sucks (and has its good points)

Lewis, in Futureland, has often suggested having more than one moderator. I think this is the best solution.

I know OFL may feel, as I did, when I was teaching that having a TA "grade" essay exams was questionable, but there must be some way of sussing good moderators. Some level of "yeah, this post is ok" vs. Huh, this post needs to pass the Rex test." Yah know?


Thanks, Rondo, for backing me up. We don't always realize how much we notice each other, eh?

Diana - Waiting, and still a Lady

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