TUESDAY, Sep. 18, 2007 - Chuck Deodene

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Helpful person's line" = clue for three theme answers, which are all phrases a helpful person might utter after, well, helping someone

This took me longer than your average Tuesday, I think. Missed the first two Acrosses and so my first entry was ZONED (9A: Districted), and then I built off of that. I think it's generally slower going when you work the puzzle in a (generally) right to left direction - always getting the back end of Across answers, which is a lot less helpful (generally) than the front end. For instance, had the THANK ME part of 17A: Helpful person's line ("No need to thank me") and all I could think of was "Aren't you going to thank me?" or "Shouldn't you thank me?" or "Feel free to thank me," all of which are less "helpful" than "ungracious" or "a$$holish." So I went in a vaguely clockwise pattern on this one, starting in the NE and ending in the NW - not sure when I did the far north. It got done.

Remaining theme answers:

  • 32A: With 42-Across, helpful person's line ("Glad to be of / assistance")
  • 61A: Helpful person's line ("It was my pleasure")

I had a hard time with the theme answers because I kept wanting to give the helpful person lines from when she was actually being helpful, e.g. "Might I be of assistance?" That was my first stab at 32A. Didn't help that the "T" in MIGHT was right - from the lovely EXPATS (18D: Sojourners abroad, for short). Also had "It'd be my pleasure" at 61A.

Did not like DUMB at 1A: Inane, mainly because that's a highly colloquial use of DUMB, which I was not expecting from the Times today, especially given that the clue is not colloquial at all. Wife loved DUMB, but only because she got it right away (like many of you, I'm sure). Sometimes, I think too much. Wife also enjoyed and readily answered 56A: Spode ensembles (tea sets), but she's from a tea-drinking, Brit-loving country, so she would. I'd heard of "Spode," but could not place it at all and needed the entire back end of this answer before I could guess it. Never heard of the word "Kriegsmarine," but 2A: Kriegsmarine vessel (U-boat) was easy enough with a cross or two. U-BOAT is very nearly Crossword Pantheon material. I remember the 1989 Bay Area earthquake well (I was in Scotland and found out about it from a newsstand sign - low tech!), but had no idea there was any place called LOMA Prieta involved (26D: 1989's _____ Prieta earthquake). Being rather unhandy, I've only vaguely heard of PVC (62D: Piping compound, briefly), though I am well aware of the shopping channel QVC, which would be a great puzzle entry. Realized after reading 15A: Payload delivery org. (NASA) that I had no clear idea what "payload" meant. I associate it with ads for pick-up trucks, for some reason. Very thrown at first by the idea of a fowl ending in -AB. Then recalled a bird called a SQUAB (53D: Fowl entree). No idea what this bird looks like - let's find out... Gross. Baby pigeon. Here's one uncooked:

And here's where you can go for advice on how to start your own squab business. Good luck!

There were some good names in today's puzzle, including SATCHMO (8D: "Hello, Dolly!" jazzman), ZSA ZSA (9D: One of the Gabors), and LULU (33D: "To Sir With Love" singer, 1967). Not-so-great names include ... well, just ALEC (41A: Writer Waugh), the Waugh that Time would have Completely Forgotten were it not for crosswords. I hear and use the word CLIQUE (60A: Coterie) often enough, but it looks startlingly fancy when written out. This may be the first fall (near fall) when I have actually noticed ASTERs (27A: Autumn bloomer). The crossword was right all along - they do bloom in the fall. They're all over the local woods right now, in at least two colors. Off-putting entries in today's puzzle include DEET (13D: It's repellent - it sure is) and JOHNS (23A: Vice squad arrestees, perhaps), and SEEDY (55D: Not yet gentrified) - that last clue is funny because it assumes that all SEEDY places are just yuppie habitats in the making. I'm pretty sure some SEEDY places are just SEEDY and destined to stay that way. Lastly, I've never ordered an "adult" film from my hotel room, but if I saw one entitled "STELLA (40D: _____ Artois beer) SAYS YES (43D: Agrees) to NUDISM" (38A: Philosophy of bare existence?), I must say I'd be tempted.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Kristen F 8:34 AM  

I filled in 2Down wrong because I think it was clued incorrectly --
Kriegsmarine vessel = UBOOT
German navy vessel = UBOAT

If the clue is obviously in a foreign language (as in "Capital of Italia"), the answer usually is, too (should be Roma, not Rome), right?.

Anonymous 8:39 AM  

I must have been zoned in on this one because I read Artois Bear and decided its name was Stella. I did waste time trying to make PIG work for squealer. No doubt, as planned.

I do recommend a perusal of the filled grid as there seem to be all sorts of unsavory suggestions and situations lurking juxtapositionally beneath its very proper surface.

No need to thank me.

ScottK 8:50 AM  

Sehr gescheit, Kristen, but I fear Rex is not alone in thinking too much, sometimes.

I just put in UBOAT because BISMARCK wouldn't fit. . .

wendy 8:56 AM  

Oh that SQUAB is ... motley!

Rex, I had the exact same thought about SEEDY. It certainly assumes a progression that may occur, but in many instances never would. Having lived in a SEEDY neighborhood that was in the process of gentrifying, I would submit that certain elements must be present before such a metamorphosis occurs. That's a dissertation for some other venue.

Loved the puzzle, very tasty answers and cluing for a Tuesday. SPODE stumped me temporarily but I was able to get it from crosses. Yay!

Orange 9:37 AM  

I ordered SQUAB once, at the famous French Laundry in Napa Valley. It was so hard to find menu items that weren't red meat (they had beef cheeks, for example) and I knew squab was small poultry, but what arrived was a horror to behold. It looked like a tiny, bony, bloody, maroon-hued steak. Absolutely repellent (I might've preferred DEET). French restaurants and steak houses are tied for Worst Place to Take a (Near-)Vegetarian.

Alex S. 10:20 AM  

Does saying that something has not yet gentrified necessarily mean that it will eventually gentrify? What I find interesting is not so much the assumption that seedy places will gentrify but that if it isn't gentrified then it is seedy.

I've lived in many neighborhoods that I wouldn't consider seedy but also wouldn't consider gentrified.

I agree on UBOOT given the clue. Though it didn't occur to me while actually doing the puzzle so UBOAT went straight in.

My moment of distressing mental failure was having NI-E and "Giant in footwear" and taking several seconds to get it. I just looked at it saying "Nice? Is that a shoe brand."

I don't drink beer and have definitely never had a Stella Artois so I would like to thank them for running those little mini-movie commercials before the movie in arthouse theaters.

HappyDad 10:21 AM  

What really irked me about "Dumb" is that its original meaning is "mute." Having a deaf older sister (who is the most successful - speaking and signing - member of my family), I grew up hearing an awful lot about "deaf mutes" and "deaf and dumb." The word has, of course, evolved to mean something close to inane, I guess. But it is a word that continues to offend me, since being mute is not the same as being inane.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

Missed 1A and 5A first time around too. Kept trying to jam stoicism in 38A; thought the correct answer was perfect and funny. I always have trouble remembering how to spell Zsa Zsa; let's go for Magda next time. And those tea sets show up regularly since I also do Shortz's 200 puzzle collections too so I "puzzle" more than once a day.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Reading this blog and these comments is a bright spot in my day. Thanks Rex!

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

I could be wrong, but, I believe a sheet (59D) is a line (rope) not a sail.

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

sheet can be either line or sail (it's definitely sail in the expression "3 sheets to the wind".
Just another one of those words with more than one meaning.
I had "PORE" in for "hard time deciding", but then filling in the ending with an N turned it into PORN, so I changed it to TORN, which made me change ASPEN to ASTER.
Overall, though, a fun, and very easy puzzle, even for a Tuesday.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

Thanks so much for this wonderful blog and community. I have learned more about solving puzzles in the last six months than I ever thought possible. I now do the puzzles each night, and continue to work books and other on line puzzles. My skill level and enjoyment level have really been bolstered by this wonderful site. Thanks so much!

fergus 1:00 PM  

I would take Snipe or Quail before ordering the SQUAB. This caused a little traffic jam down in the SE.

Is it always an ELM offering graceful shade? Seems it's never an Oak or an Ash.

Orange 1:17 PM  

Fergus, the OAK tends to be clued as a metaphor(symbol of strength), furniture or floor material, or acorn source or product—no shade tree action. ASH trees do not give shade; they give baseball bats. Or so the crosswords tell me.

Eric Selje 2:29 PM  

So when Jerry Lee Lewis is drinking wine Spo-dee-o-dee, is he pouring it from a tea set?

Anonymous 3:17 PM  

I started wondering what the connection to drunkenness was in the expression "three sheets to the wind," and it looks like it *does* actually refer to ropes. The sheets/ropes are attached to the corner of the sail, so if they are loose, the sails go flappin' all crazy, like a drunk I guess.

As this puzzle shaped up, I started to get this surreal image of a really bad part of town populated by lots of drunks, prostitutes, and johns, all employing extremely good manners while making their various transactions. Zsa Zsa was there too, beating someone about the head and neck with a squab. But politely.

Anonymous 3:29 PM  

Seems like the quality of puzzles has improved since early last week? Realy enjoyed this one. My only problem was in NW where I had DENTS instead of DINGS for a while.

Anonymous 3:36 PM  

Re. Sheets:
My trusty Webster's does give def. 1b for sheet : SAIL. Thought the fine song "Day of the Clipper" started "You can see the sheets of canvas..", but alas, Google informs me it is "squares of canvas..".

Nice puzzle
great blog

thanks Rex.

PuzzleGirl 3:42 PM  

prshutr: I, too, had ASPEN for ASTER which gave me PORN for 29D. I thought, "That can't be right!"

Also had trouble with 11D, NI-E. I thought NINE at first. I mean, for women's shoes that's pretty big, right?

Anonymous 4:09 PM  

I thorougly enjoyed this puzzle. Was more difficult than the average Tuesday, but definetely doable after putting some time into it.

So whenever there is a new animal in the crossword, I set it as my desktop background. My desktop over the past few months has been inhabited by such exotic animals as the: smew, rhea, emu, coati, gnu, onager, etc...

Unfortunately, there happen to be few good pictures of squab(s?) on Google. Rex's picture here was quite scary to say the least. It looked like a baby guinea pig with a beak. My desktop now is a picture of cooked squab, but considering the fact that like Orange, I am a (Near-) Vegetarian, it is quite unappetizing to look at.

Eric Selje 4:18 PM  

My sailor friend tells me that "three sheets to the wind" actually has to do with windmills. In light winds, you attach four sheets to the blades, and heavy winds, only two sheets. If you have three sheets attached...well that's just inane.

fergus 4:23 PM  

Green Mantis, Into your surreal image stumbles an AWRY SCOT, picking up the last CENT in the gutter. Poor guy -- got expelled from the TEA SET CLIQUE.

Anonymous 5:39 PM  

I feel that from a New York perspective, any and all areas not already gentrified are just putting off the inevitable.

Anonymous 7:11 PM  

A Chinese restaurant I used to frequent had "salt and pepper squib" on the menu. It was in the Chef's Specials section so, as with SNL's Pat, I could only guess if it was squid or squab. In the neither fish nor fowl department, a neighboring restaurant featured "sweat and sour pork."

Anonymous 9:10 PM  

Rex, I thought your comment about solving right to left was interesting. I had never given a thought to directional advantages before, but did notice some awkwardness today as I solved from SW to SE, then NW to NE.

Anonymous 9:13 PM  

PS: I have east and west turned around! ... from SE to SW and then NE to NW.

wendy 9:41 PM  

Green Mantis, your colorful scenario made me think that at least one character should be in there doing something vile with a PVC pipe.

Doug 10:43 PM  

What a nice puzzle. I've been an expat for 16 years and of course could not figure out this clue for the longest time. "Sojourn" to me has more of a "weeks or months" association. The dictionary definition is "temporary stay" whereas an expat posting is usually a minimum of 2 years. However, not to complain, I'm happily crossing and blogging from the 37th floor here in smoky Hong Kong.

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

There seems to have been a sitcom in the 1990s by the name of Blossom (never heard of it) in which Joey Lawrence acted. Based upon what I could find out about him, it was his only really popular role, after which he seems to have a fairly unsuccessful recording career. Not really a good choice for today's puzzle.

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

The Loma Prieta Range runs from the Southern part of Calif to the Northern part.It is the mountain Range that runs along the coast route.Big fault area.

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