TUESDAY, Nov. 13, 2007 - Fred Piscop

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: [Bleep]-ing Business - familiar phrase (present participle + noun) is clued as if it were a type of business (see below, trust me)

I didn't like this puzzle at all, though I don't have very good reasons. The theme answers all felt horribly awkward, and not funny (as they were supposed to be, I'm guessing). Then there was the word VARLET (33A: Knight's attendant), which ... I officially despise, though this is clearly MY problem, not anyone else's. It's like an unholy cross of VALET (the word I wanted there) and VARMINT. It looks wrong wrong wrong, and even though I looked it up and it's right right right ... I still find it intolerable as a word. This puzzle was also marred, IMOO, by an ugly avalanche of crosswordese: GMEN, OMANI and ADEN, OSSO, ERMA, ALP, SNO, ATM, ETNA, plus high-end crosswordese like NISEI (22D: Some Japanese-Americans) and OMERTA (12D: Mafia code of silence - which I always want to be ORMOLU for some reason). Then there is the terrifically dull fill like, oh, TREE and STOP and EATS and CHIN and TEND and EPIC and BOOM and DEMO and SOS and NEAT and SAD and PEST and DUE and on and on. And on.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Striptease business? (showing concern)
  • 35A: Wrestling business? (holding firm)
  • 53A: Comb business? (parting company)
It's like the world of business is inherently toxic to the English language. Those answers just lie there. Sad.

Now I shall give credit to the best words in the puzzle:

CUSS (17A: Ornery sort) - this word must always be preceded by "ornery"

ORGY (29D: Bacchanalian revelry) - a little disturbing that it sits right next to ELF, but still, this is about the only Action in this puzzle, so I'm happy it's here...

TANG (7D: Zesty flavor) - I stand corrected. Here's some more action...

PAULEY (39A: Former "Dateline NBC" co-host Jane) - my first (and possibly only) newswoman crush. I remember her infamous departure from The Today Show. To make room for Deborah Norville! That downward spiral has only continued. I almost miss Bryant Gumble.

MISH MASH (3D: Jumble) - is this one word or two? Looks like one. This word is just fun to say. Unlike VARLET. [choke]

SONAR - only because of the clue, 51D: School locator?

LANAI (36D: The Pineapple Island) - I recently made two of my students cry laughing at my (apparent) pretension by using this word in casual conversation (referring not to the island, but to the porch). Kids today... I claim that this is a common word, but my wife claims I only think so because I watched so much "Golden Girls" growing up, which I totally, officially deny. Although I will admit that Betty White, at any age, is super hot to me.

What are EATS (40A: Beanery sign) and JOE'S (28A: Stereotypical sandwich board diner) doing in the same puzzle? One old-timey eatery sign per puzzle, please. I couldn't tell if the "diner" in the 28A clue referred to the eater or the eatery, so JOE'S gave me way more trouble than it should have. Got completely stymied by the retrospectively obvious ELF (30D: Polar drudge). "Drudge"!? Yes, they do work, but "drudge" implies mindless, arduous work done with a frown on one's face - and aren't the elves at least moderately happy? Guess I'll have to wait 'til "Fred Claus" comes out to find out. Also got super hung up on 10D: Place for an umbrella (beach), as the only word that wanted to go there was BENCH, and I briefly convinced myself that was right. My university recently installed benches with sizable fancy umbrellas all along the central promenade between the library building and the Fine Arts building. They look vaguely extraterrestrial. With all the crosswordese in this puzzle, I felt sure that I'd be able to segue here to an ALF or ETS reference and be done with this puzzle. How will I end? Oh, I just noticed that JANET (28D: A singing Jackson) intersects PAULEY at the "E," which means that if you ignore that "T," you get JANE crossing PAULEY. Beautiful.

RADIUS (5D: Figure that's squared in a common formula).

How's that for arbitrary, non sequitur endings?

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Happy birthday, Mom!


Hungry Mother 9:18 AM  

The 'E' in "varlet" was a guess for me, because I wasn't sure of 'E' or 'A' in the cross word. I'm starting to develop a little intuition, and chose the 'E' because it felt better. I'm still much slower than I'd like, but I'm improving at a glacial pace.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

If you go to Florida people will invite you onto their LANAI with a straight face.

That was where I first heard the word and everybody seems to have one and call it that.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

could someone please explain 52A to me? I got IND from the crosses but can't make sense of it...???

I wanted varlet to be vassal. But somewhere from the depths of memory the phrase "Unhand me you varlet" does pop out, but I don't have any idea where that could come from.

I too found the theme a bit flat, though I am an ardent fan of puns.

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

Marcie: They mean the row on the voting machine--for "independent." Good clue, actually!

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

Lanai (lah-NYE) is the Hawaiian word for balcony or porch. Lana'i (lah-NAh-ee)(pronounced differently, with a glottal stop between the second a and the i) is the Pineapple Island.

Just saying...

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

doris... smack-the-head d'oh!! Thanks! Yes, it is a good clue, now that I get it!! I couldn't get my mind out of theater seating so you can see where it made no sense!

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

thanks, Doris. I wondered about that too. Didn't take too long to do the puzzle but I didn't care much for it either.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

Along with others I had vassel and could not figure out a place for an umbrella. Then the theme kicked in and all was well.

Agreed the puzzle theme is odd, although I found parting company funny.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

BRIS? That's something you don't see in your puzzle every day ...

The only reason I know LANAI is because of Golden Girls too. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

This puzzle was a bear, and I ended up not getting four answers (NISEI and VARLET being two) at all; I refuse to google on a freakin' Tuesday. I had the same issue with the diner clue and the emphasis on greasy spoons in this seemed sloppy (as in JOES). Unappetizing to say the least.

The business theme was not as bad as all that, but there was no joy in puzzleville today ...

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

Boring puzzle today. Can't shake the Polar drudge image from my mind. Poor sad little elves chained to the workbench pounding out endless mountains of toys. What a joyless mental picture. Oh well, perhaps fun will return to puzzleville tomorrow. Lori

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

Speaking of Ms. Norville, the recent lineup on Larry King has included Dog(the Bounty Hunter), Dr. Phil discussing said Dog, Judge Judy, Donny and Marie, Englebert Humperdinck, and Deborah Norville. What has happened to us?

The puzzle didn't bother me like it did some of you. I did it late last night and I don't remember any bad taste. I did enjoy (as Doris explained) the cluing for IND. And, I learned something: OMERTA. It was good to see "drudge" without "report" following it. Nice that "Younger Bro..." followed "Young 'un" in the clues.

I've always considered "Striptease" an oxymoron. If there is indeed a Strip, I don't feel the Tease, regardless of the false moves or length of time involved. It's the Non-Strips that constitute a Tease for me.

Why am I feelilng self-counscious today whenever I use a quote mark?

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

Well, OK st pauley girl, in what context does report follow drudge? I'm clueless. (Note lack of quotes although they are probably needed here).

Rob 11:41 AM  

Joaneee - http://www.drudgereport.com/. A relatively popular website for breaking news...

Unknown 12:25 PM  


also notable is veronique varlet, french actress and international qt.

though yeah. this word pretty much ruined my morning commute, causing more ire than even the subway evangelical who yells at me about eternal damnation.

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

An umbrella could be placed in a stand.

Anonymous 12:37 PM  

For 43D, "appearance," I had A--ECT and somewhat reluctantly but nonetheless confidently went with AFFECT. As I kept filling in the rest of the south region, the second F gave me fits: what kind of F-ing COMPANY could it be?!

Anonymous 12:42 PM  


And that would be a Florida Room in the East?

Yes, I fear the clue crew got a little carried away with their ELF = drudge. Is nothing sacred?

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

I thought that CUSS was always preceded by ol'.

I liked the word VARLET! It's fresh, and not that unknown. Not like, say, AXIL.

I agree that the themes today were a bit blah.

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

I will add that the first theme clue/answer that I got (parting company) made me smile and look forward to the others. They were a let-down, especially the showing concern one. Maybe that was the cause of my "meh" feeling when finished.

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

I thought that the answer for 10D [Place for an umbrella] would be STAND until I saw that the answer to to the symetrically opposite clue 50D [Witness's place] was STAND.

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

Didn't care for this one either, but I thought that it was lack of sleep or sustenance. Now I happily blame the puzzle for most of the same reasons le roi already spelled out. Didn't like the theme and the rest of the puzzle was yeck.

Compared to yesterday, where the fill was thoughtful and colorful, even for a Monday, notwithstanding the striptease and orgy, this was dull.

I don't fall down laughing when I hear the word *lanai* (do those count as quotes?) but ever since Fletch, I can't say it without my tongue in my cheek. I think it might have been used in The Man With Two Brains, too, because I can hear Steve Martin saying it, which also makes me snicker. MWTB reminds me of Merv Griffin (he was the elevator serial killer) and that reminds me of Orange, who must be traveling back today. Wonder how she did, but of course she won't be able to say.

Only a grinch would see the elves as drudges. They are so happy in their toiling, have excellent health benefits, and the whole summers off to sit on their lanais and eat pineapples.

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

Everyone knows that the toy-making DRUDGEs are not at the North Pole, but in China.

fergus 1:23 PM  

I was under the impression that LANAI was a Leper Colony -- perhaps that was on another island near there?

Aside from the down-to-business theme I didn't feel in the least like I was on the same wavelength with this puzzle, and quite understandably made a MISHMASH of the whole thing. Even the crossing of Thriving time and Tough time had no harmony. The most language-challenged politician wouldn't come up with BOOM and ORDEAL as a related pair. And though a number of the clues were sort of clever, they weren't very amusing. (5A, for example, flubbed it by using Assigned instead of a more versatile verb.)

Just briefly for the squared Formula Figure I thought about EMMCEE, but that was too much of a stretch, though kind of amusing. (HALFMV? NWTMTR? Then: RADIUS, which works with both circles and gravitation, and some other things an engineer might explain.)

Orange 1:28 PM  

Rex, baby! C'mon! VARLET's from Middle English. That doesn't make you love it just a little? Plus, it sounds like someone with a crazy drawl is trying to say "violet."

I can't believe you didn't have the same interpretation that I did—that JANET and Ms. PAULEY and Bob VILA and the ELF were having an ORGY at JOE's.

And yes, those five zillion new subdivisions for 55-and-ups in Florida all have LANAIs. Some with a pool, some without. But the lanai is inescapable in Florida. (Not sure how popular they are in Hawaii.) The point seems to be that you can spend three seasons (not Florida summer—too hot) living outdoors, and the lanai keeps the intolerable bugs at bay. You reclaim swampland and build new houses for seniors, you better believe there will be bugs, right?

Orange 1:29 PM  

(Rikki, I got home in the wee hours and had a great time in California.)

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

I feel like an ornery CUSS when I post here and seeing this puzzle LOATHEd by many others validates my feelings somehow. One of the few times where I actually got more utility out of the rest of the paper than the Arts section. Now that I read this blog daily I find myself wondering if my puzzle/clue evaluations will sync up with Rex and rest in this forum.

Anonymous 1:45 PM  

Liked the mob connections: G-men, omerta , rats and chin (nickname for boss Vincent Gigante.)

fergus 1:55 PM  

I think VARLET was used in some TV commercial not long ago. Unfortunately for the advertiser I don't recall the product, though it seems like it was probably fast food. Burger King, Jack-in-the-Box? And just as a bizarre observation, parts of recent Burger King ad campaigns seem to be pitched at a gay audience. I reckon there must be some competition for the gay fast food dollar -- perhaps funded by some secret government account in an attempt to undermine or distract from that insidious agenda they're supposed to have?

Anonymous 1:56 PM  

Fergus said:I was under the impression that LANAI was a Leper Colony -- perhaps that was on another island near there?

Molokai is the one you are thinking of-the colony is a very beautiful and tragic place, which (at least once upon a time) you could visit by hiking the steep trail down the sea cliff. A few of the original residents of the colony still lived there and acted as tour guides in 1991, when I visited. The population was rapidly aging, and I suspect there aren't many inhabitants left today.

Re: the puzzle today-I'm embarrassed to say I had Moe's as the diner, and was wondering who the heck Manet Jackson was...

Orange 2:10 PM  

When Manet Jackson has a wardrobe malfunction, all you see is a pectoral muscle.

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

orange -- there's a youtube entry by Jichael and Manet Jackson...a take-off on something or other.

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

Guess I need to get a life, since I've come back to this blog today. Even though this blog is always written, not oral, I must vent my spleen at the fact that most Americans do not know how to pronounce "omertà." Note the accent (always to the left in Italian) on the final syllable. It must be pronounced oh-mer-TAH, contrary to what the brilliantined mental-midget newsreaders say. Yes, it means something like "code of silence" or "closed-mouth-ness." Well, I got THAT off my chest. Looking forward to Wednesday. P.S.: I'm not Italian; just love the language and culture, among many other things.

Anonymous 2:28 PM  

i had gogoingconcern and in really slowed me down

Anonymous 2:36 PM  

Lana'i is now called the "Private Isle", (excuse the "superfluous" quotes). They used to grow pineapples there, and it was almost entirely owned by Dole, but now the labor costs are prohibitive to profitable agriculture in Hawaii. Your pineapples now come from Costa Rica or Brazil. (Boo hoo) Bill Gates once rented every hotel room and air transport on the island to assure privacy for his wedding. It's good to be the king (as Rex knows).

Didn't know omerta, nisei, varlet, or Mullally's first name (never cared much for that show). Had "squire" for knight's attendant, and "irani" instead of "omani".

I simply can't resist a rather sophomoric joke relating the answer for 35a to the clue for 20a, so I will simply shut up at this point.

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

I like gogoing better - well if it worked with the crosses I mean.

fergus 3:09 PM  

Doris -- love the word brilliantined. Basil Fawlty once called his dear wife a "brilliantined stick insect" and that endearing term got a fair amount of play for a while.

Anonymous 3:35 PM  

What a load of sour grapes! You sure bring it out in your fans when you dont like a puzzle Rex!
Sure seemed like a fine, enjoyable Tuesday for me. PARRTING COMPANY and HOLDING FIRM were both good puns. VARLET is a fun word, right there in the dictionary. And my guess is that the people complaining about the JOES/EATS combination would have been happily refering to it a nice pairing of clues had you liked the puzzle.
So - If you are reading this Fred P., I liked your puzzle!
(OK. Except for DRUDGE for elf!)

Donna 3:41 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
frances 4:02 PM  

At the crossing of 42d and 52a, both 3-letter words with clues wide open to interpretation, I couldn't decide between 'd' and 't'. I decided that the referenced 'Row C' could be a financial form ('int' being short for 'interest') and 'bummed out' could refer to the part of your anatomy that you sit on.

Anonymous 4:20 PM  

I would like to post my obligatory complaint about well-known constructors getting away with bad fill and a ho-hum puzzle. (Three mediocre phrases that "just stand" there; especially the "showing concern" for striptease? Huh?).


Anonymous 4:30 PM  

For "some auto deals" I had TEASES instead of LEASES, which I really liked, but it then gave me ATP instead of ALP, which really made me scratch my head for awhile.

Anonymous 4:36 PM  

Fergus: I LOVE your coining of a new phrase for sitting--"bumming out." As in "I skipped out of work this afternoon and just bummed out at the Cubbies' game."

Anonymous 4:55 PM  

I found this a bit blah and more frustrating than fun. I missread 2D as "one on board" and had CRUISER for way too long. I need to stop trying to speed through these. Speed can kill when you're dyslexic. I also initially had VASSEL and stared at IND for a while before it dawned that it might have something to do with politics. This was not one of Mr. Piscop's best.

The JOES answer brought to mind the Mighty Wind movie song "Eat at Joe's" with Harry Shearer singing bass.

Jane 5:51 PM  

I also found bris to be an unpleasant answer at 8am...got Beach right away, having had aden and ihate first (is it just me or is aden also somewhat overused?), also had sat at bummed out...a bit more challenging than recent tuesdays, or wednesdays for that matter.

Anonymous 5:58 PM  

Re VARLET, I think I heard it on Quickdraw McGraw or Huckleberry Hound.

Anonymous 6:37 PM  

I didn't mind this puzzle at all. I though it was a good Wednesday. We should have more:

"Eat at Joes and get a free bris by varlets Jane Pauley and Mortimer Snerd (a Parting Company Production)"

Anonymous 6:47 PM  


it's called monkey see monkey do

Anonymous 7:23 PM  

Hmm... interesting comment from one who chooses to remain nameless. Are you saying that anyone who agrees with Rex's take on a puzzle is merely "three letter word for mimic"ing Rex's sentiments. He's cool, but he's not that cool. Are you the same person who thought the speedsters were cheating? Maybe you've been eating some sour grapes, yourself. Or you are just an ornery cuss. Either way, I'm sticking my tongue out and going "blbbiblublblubbl."

Michael Chibnik 7:52 PM  

Although I solved this without problems, I was slower than usual for a Tuesday. I think it was the puzzle (more Wednesday-level perhaps), but it could have been me.

I thought it was a fine puzzle.

Anonymous 8:29 PM  

This was a typical Tuesday puzzle, not too difficult at all, where everything esoteric got solved by the very simple, Tuesday crosses. Rikki: we've spent one awful Christmas in Florida in a large condo with a Lanai - to Connecticut residents it just means a pool surrounded by a screened in porch..... Hummel Hummel, St. Pauley Girl!

Anonymous 8:31 PM  

Once again, I benifitted from reading this blog. I had SAD for 42D, but couldn't figure out how SAD relates to BURNED OUT. Obviously, for BUMMED OUT it makes perfect sense.

Thanks for the elucidation!

I liked the puzzle today because I found it a bit more challenging than the usual Tuesday

Anonymous 8:32 PM  


Anonymous 9:12 PM  

Started by writing hemisphere firmly into the top right, then wondering if there was a hemosphere to go with the osso bucco, which I thought had to be right. Unless there's some veal dish I don't know about called isso bucco. And HBO seemed right for Dancing with Stars, given that I never watch TV anyway. So the top right was a mess til the very end. Rest was more or less ok tho. Blah, but ok.

Anonymous 11:32 PM  

I was stumbling over the "mafia code of silence" when I looked up and saw on my bookshelf OMERTA by Mario Puzo. Omerta was certainly no Godfather but it ended up being lucky for me today.

I liked PARTING COMPANY but messed up on SHOWING CONCERN. I had written MISMATCH instead of MISMASH and thusly ended up with SMOKING CONCERN which led me to believe that you are not supposed to smoke in a strip joint and why not?

My favorite comment of the month is the MANET JACKSON wardrobe malfuntion by ORANGE - brilliant!

Anonymous 1:51 AM  

Had totally opposite opinioni of this puzzle -- thought the theme words were very clever and liked it a lot. Entertaining and satisfying.

lytl frnd @ pontneufpaintings 3:20 PM  

generally agree with your take on this puzzle (a big MEH) though i have to say i did enjoy ARTY for (57D: Pseudo-cultured).

just did this puzzle from my nytimes xword daily calendar, you see.

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