WEDNESDAY, Aug. 29, 2007 - Jayne and Alex Boisvert

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Relative difficulty: Super-Easy

THEME: "THUMB" - rebus puzzle where THUMB (or a picture thereof) goes into four squares symmetrically arranged throughout the grid

This was criminally easy for a Wednesday. There are maybe two or three answers that were odd or tricky or possibly unknown to people (including me), but nothing you couldn't get from crosses with no problem. The theme itself was easy to uncover, and once you had it, long answers became a piece of cake. I like the feeling of being a puzzle master as much as the next guy, but if there's no challenge, then the accomplishment of a fast time hardly seems to matter. And did you really have to remind me that there once existed a show called "Joey?" (12D: "Friends" spinoff)

THUMB answers:

  • 1D: Barnum midget (Tom THUMB) - is "midget" still an OK word? I do love the way it sounds.
  • 20A: Expresses scorn (THUMBs one's nose) - Tried to fit "Turns up one's nose" in here for a while
  • 29A: 1966 Rolling Stones hit ("Under My THUMB") - again, like "midget," something totally politically incorrect that I love
  • 33D: Kind of sketch (THUMBnail)
  • 26D: It may stick out (sore THUMB)
  • 43A: Scan (THUMB through) - these don't seem quite equivalent
  • 51A: Human hand characteristic (opposable THUMB)
  • 56D: Encouraging sign (THUMBs up)

The only answers that should have slowed people down at all are...

15A: 20 Mule Team compound (Borax) - which I still don't understand. Must be some old advertising slogan. Thought the answer was going to be "BORAT" for a few seconds. Wasn't sure how that would have worked, logically, but then again I haven't seen the movie yet.

19A: Wilson of "Zoolander" (Owen) - easy for me, but I can see it befuddling the people whose minds aren't poisoned with inane pop culture of the past decade. Or perhaps you just know OWEN Wilson better as "Dupree."

39D: Quarterbacks' play changes (audibles) - easy for me, but I can see it befuddling the sports illiterate among you. This is probably my favorite answer in the grid. AUDIBLES are plays called from the line of scrimmage (instead of from the huddle).

30D: Boortz of talk radio (Neal) - and here we come across my area of illiteracy - talk radio, ugh

58A: Rhone feeder (Saone) - Yesterday AARE, today SAONE; with vowel combinations like that, is it any wonder I hold a grudge against all European rivers?

24A: Early TV comic Louis (Nye) - Why do I know this guy's name if he's "early." This is the NYE who is not the "Science Guy."

Enjoy your Wednesday,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 7:45 AM  

You are correct Borax was and old TV slogan for some western show...I think Ronald Reagan was the spokesman for the product...totally useless crap that I remember!!!

ScottK 8:13 AM  

20 Mule Team Borax (a cleanser) was the host of Death Valley Days, a series that made the jump from radio to television in 1952. Ronald Reagan was host from 1964-1966.

Wasn't BORAX in the puzzle just a few days ago?

ScottK 8:14 AM  

I meant it was the sponsor, not the host, of the series.

Anonymous 8:26 AM  

I thought it was a lovely puzzle. Easy for a Wednesday, yes, but lots of nifty words and clues for those words. And I always love a rebus.

Favorites: QUAY, PUSS, SCREED, KLEE (not uncommon but a favorite artist), NEUROSIS, LOON.

Interesting appearance for OWEN Wilson just days after he's all over the news for a mysterious hospitalization. Zoolander is one of my favorite guilty pleasures movie-wise. He and Ben Stiller just commit with such perfection to those idiotic roles and you cannot take your eyes off them the whole time. I don't know how many times I've watched it but it's way too many ...

Doug 8:27 AM  

Yes, super easy except the SW really had me for a minute. Instead of RHYMES for Rappers' skill, I had RHYTHM, because I didn't see "rhyme" as a "skill" rather an output. When nothing materialized on RHYTHM I chucked in RHYMES and the penny dropped.

Wonder if OWEN Wilson is just coincidence given his news recently, or if Will Shortz edits these in for kicks. It seems so, as I recall things like this happening before. Hmmm, on The Simpsons rerun today it was also Mick and Keith playing themselves--I think it's not a coincidence....

Anonymous 8:31 AM  

My impression has been we get Rebus-type puzzles on Thursday, so maybe the puzzle was made slightly easier to counter that?

No? Oh well. Just a thought.

Usually every puzzle I do, there's a clue that makes me scratch my head - and so I hope to get it from crosses. I can't remember that happening with this puzzle at all - even the "THUMBS" theme was pretty obvious from 1-Down.


Oncodoc 8:58 AM  

I guess Mr. Shortz missed your photo of Borax last week.

Anonymous 9:03 AM  

BORAXO was the product in the previous puzzle and BORAX is the primary ingredient.

Neither is useless crap.

Boraxo is a gritty hand soap that works better than anything I can think of to get stuff like pine pitch or motor oil or axle grease off your hands.

Borax (of 20 mule team fame) is a laundry soap additive that does everything from softening hard water to desiccating flea and dust mite (bed bug) eggs that may survive a normal washing - as well as cleaning clothes

Borax is also recommended for ridding your house of ants or fleas. It's the primary ingredient in Fleabusters (borate) and works by desiccating eggs and larvae...(be careful using it around pets).

Both Borax and Boraxo (and Borateem, a colorsafe bleach) are all phosphate free and owned by the Dial Soap company

I for one am glad they're still somewhere hidden in the soap aisle amidst a bunch of stinky, over perfumed ovepriced useless crap.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

All of the letters in the alphabet appear in this easy puzzle as well.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

All of the letters in the alphabet appear in this easy puzzle as well.

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

To Mr. Parker (since apparently your email is also unfriendly to Earthlink): If you don't check comment updates after a few days, go back to Sunday's comments. I answered your question about What's My Line.

Harleypeyton 10:23 AM  

Borax, ahh, thanks for the memory. In the famed commercial, a tiny mule train rode right out of the box, you know, to signify cleaning power.

Good times.

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

I found it very easy as well. Playing with the NYT clock, I was done in about 13 minutes (hold your snickers). I wondered why ShiftKey+T+H+U+M+B seemed to work in some spots, leaving a B, bit not others. I thought I knew what I was doing / bad assumption. Took an extra 4 minutes to find the right way to enter "thumb" (thank you Orange / Fiend site) and make the corrections before completing it.

Didn't we just have NAIAD...or was that in the syndicaion time-frame? It messed me up somewhere lately. Other than EIEIO, I don't think more than two consecutive vowels should be allowed

Nice how PANE and PONE slid right in together.

Anonymous 11:35 AM  

I don't think Anon 7:45 am thought Borax itself was crap. I interpreted his/her statement as surprise that he/she remembers such not-so-important details as dates that old shows made a jump to TV. I am impressed, however, at your passionate defense of Borax, and I think that the least Dial could do is send you a free box.

Anonymous 12:33 PM  

In the hunt for most consecutive vowel syndrome: queuing.

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

Since I am new at this, can someone tell me how I am to know when it is a rebus (and not just keep trying to add an extra "m" to "Tom")

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

To petulant anonymous 9:53 - If you had read the postings of the other participants prior to writing yours (about how What's My Line worked), you'd have seen that you added very little. And actually, the questions were worth five dollars each and a victorious challenge paid the munificent sum of $50 for ten "NO" answers. Also you misspelled PANELIST.

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

To anonymous 12:42, as far as I know there is no way to know the puzzle is a rebus, and that's part of the whole idea. You only figure it out when things just don't work. Either because obvious answers don't fit (like Tom Thumb) or because you're torturing yourself trying to get things to add up generally. To my mind, the mark of a really good Rebus is when you need to redo a bunch of stuff once you figure it out. Then, once you say "duh, its a rebus" you still need to figure out what the rebus is. Today was pretty easy, but there are also times where the rebus part is just a bunch of letters that the words all share in common, not an actual word.

BT 1:06 PM  


Looked it up, and obviously it is correct. But am I the only one that never heard of it?

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

I think Bill Nye The Science Guy and Bill Nye the comedian were one and the same, just different personnas.

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

No, Louis Nye was the comedian. He was on the Steve Allen Show in the 50s (his character,s catch phrase was a fey "hi-ho Steverino"). The other thing I remember him for was his occasional appearances on The Beverly Hillbillies as Sony Drysdale, the perpetual college student offspring of Banker Drysdale (and he was well into his 40s at the time, so he really was perpetually in college).

Bill Nye is a different person completely.

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

I totally forgot my BORAX story until now! When I was young and poor and living in a studio apartment in a bad section of town, I had a problem with various unwelcome guests among which were roaches. I heard somewhere that if you sprinkled borax in the crevices of the molding (which were quite gaping in this place) the roaches would crawl around in it, get it on their groddy little paws or whatever they have, ingest it and then their interior organs would explode! Since I was not big on toxic chemicals then or now, I used this approach, which worked well enough, I suppose. But I always used to lie awake in the night thinking I heard roaches exploding all around me. ;)

Anonymous 2:35 PM  

When I think of pone:

Bart holds up a leaking bag and complains that Apu has put the lard pone on top of the fragile egg pone. (thank you snpp)

Anonymous 2:54 PM  

My favorite use for Borax is mixing it with Elmer's Glue and water to make homemade Silly Putty. This was always a big hit with the preschool/elementary age kids I'd teach at summer camp.

My favorite part about doing a puzzle with a rebus is the big "aha!" moment when i figure out what to do.

Anonymous 3:06 PM  

(Re. squash's mom 2:54)
...then, when the kids eat the Silly Putty and rub it in their hair, it doubles (or triples) as an anti-louse and deworming agent.

Does anyone remember this song?
I hate Borax
Borax's not for me
Mommy put some in my soup and tried to poison me

I fooled Mommy
I put some in her tea
Now there's no more Mommy
To try and poison me

(Then it cycles through the other family members...)

Fun with Matri-/fratri-/patri-(vermi-/puli-)cide.

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

Yes, Peri, having that epiphany that the puzzle has rebi in it is part of the fun of doing it. But as others have said, they tend to show up later in the week as the puzzles get more challenging, often on Thursdays. But as you can see, not always!

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

Huzzah for IOWA in the puzzle today! I always assumed that corn PONE was its own mysterious thing and not just corn bread, but there you have it. It's one of those words you read in books but never hear in conversation (at least not in my part of the world-- which is, btw, IOWA!)

I am intrigued by the seeming coincidences between the puzzle and everyday events. Mr. Wilson's hospitalization, however, is no mystery: he tried to commit suicide! That's for all of you who aren't completely addicted to celeb gossip. Those of you who'd like to confer more cultural capital on OWEN can remember he also played Eli in The Royal Tenenbaums and was also in another Wes Anderson movie The Life Aquatic. He's sitting out promotions of his latest Anderson movie because of the, you know, suicide attempt.

Anonymous 3:32 PM  

mmpo --
If memory serves, it was a fun parody of an ad jingle:

"I love Bosco
It's the drink for me
Mommy puts it in my milk
Blah blah blah de de"

Memory only serves three lines worth....

Anonymous 3:44 PM  

right you are, karmasartre. here's a link to the jingle:


bottoms up!


Anonymous 4:06 PM  

To Peri 12:42 -

If you are doing the puzzle online in "across lite" and you want to know if it is a rebus, go to edit - options - solving and check the "rebus indicator on" checkbox. Then you get a little red icon in the status bar when the puzzle has a rebus in it. If you are solving in some other format, I can't help you. You'll have to deal with the puzzle elite accusing you of cheating, but to quote Will Shortz, "It's your puzzle, solve it how you want."

Anonymous 4:30 PM  

Really?!!? I didn't realize that.

I love the Will quote. People need to have the solving experience any damn way they want it. It's a leisure time activity; I hardly see how cheating enters into it.

fergus 6:25 PM  

Thanks Scott, for remembering 20 Mule Team, which I cited in the discussion of Borax just the other day. Then I got confused because there seemed to be a different team of mules pulling a wagon out of a container of dog food and pulling it around a living room, even dodging under a throw rug. And so now I'm confident that this type of image was used in multiple TV advertisements in the mid-1960s. But what was the brand of the dog food? Any hints?

I watched "Joey" once to mark my respect and sympathy for Drea de Matteo (spelling?) and her fabulous performance as Adrianna on "the Sopranos." Oh, it was painful, and I've read somewhere that it didn't take her long to regret the choice -- not to leave, because Tony and Silvio decided that, but to drop so many orders of magnitude of quality in a television show.

I'm remembering my first time ... such sweet nostalgia ... figuring out that you could place more than one letter in a square. The three letters were PAN, and when I saw the solution printed the next day there was a nice little image of a frying pan sitting in all those boxes. Long time ago -- been doing the NYT puzzle off and on since 1980. Don't think I've ever seen any secret tip-off that the puzzle has multiple entry boxes. It's just something to be on the lookout for, which for me today came when I had a few letters of 29A, starting with U, and presto: the thumb. It doesn't often stick out so sorely though.

Anonymous 7:11 PM  

fergus --

Google reports:

"Chuck Wagon dog food commercials - the Chuck Wagon would ride through the house with the dog chasing it only to disappear into the kitchen cabinet where the box of dogfood was kept."

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Anonymous 8:50 PM  

The last Wednesday rebus I remember was the Pi day one on (of course) 3/21. Louis Nye was one of several players/characters on the old Steve Allen show. Others were Don Knotts, Tom Poston, and Bill Dana (am I leaving anyone out?). Steve use to do a very funny man on the street bit using all of these guys.

Oh, and way too easy for a Wednesday.

fergus 9:22 PM  

Thanks Karmasartre, for dredging up Chuck Wagon. That crystallized a slightly shaky and nebulous memory. Maybe some neurologists will start to talk up crossword blogs as a helpful tool in warding off Alzheimer's?

Anonymous 9:25 PM  

jae --

very good knowledge! I loved when Steve recited the lyrics of "Da Doo Ron Ron" as if they were an important poem. 'Course, the record was produced by Phil Spectre, on a Cout TV near you...

"I am going to be landing in Nevada..."

Anonymous 9:33 PM  

fergus --

Funny (or more accurately, insightful) you should mention it. Word has it that there is a Nunnery (a "hie" clue comes to mind) somehwere near Minneapolis where many of the nuns, even those with Alzheimers, have excellent mental prowess well into their 90s. The reasons are the required daily dosages of "Jeopardy" and the Crossword puzzle! (Don't remember if NYT was mentioned).

Alex S. 9:57 PM  

Don't know for sure if this has been mentioned yet but 20 Mule Team was easy for me and I don't know that I've ever seen a commercial for Borax in my life.

If you take the road that connects Bakersfield, California, with Baker, California, (home of the world's tallest thermometer and the first Del Taco I ever ate at) you will drive past a giant plant of some sort.

You might notice that the plant's exit is 20 Mule Team Road and the reason for that name is that this is the number of mules that pulled the ore cars from the nearby mine to the Borax plant you just saw.

Anonymous 10:36 PM  

alex --
Thank you for that. Btw. the two ugliest cities I have ever seen were Barstow, CA, (near your references), and Dodge City, KN. In the latter, the steer have stained the earth a permanent dung-black.

Does the world's tallest thermometer go to new heights?

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

Correction: the Pi day "of course" should have been 3/14. Sorry!

Orange 12:04 PM  

Rex, it's a good thing to have talk-radio illiteracy. On the NYT forum, John Farmer said that if he had to clue NEAL Boortz, his puzzle probably couldn't be published. Boortz and Limbaugh would probably get along just fine, I gather.

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

If someone wants to insult my home state they should at least use the proper postal abbreviation (KS).

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