TUESDAY, Nov. 27, 2007 - Julie Ann Bowling

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Pronunciation changes? (ugh) - every theme is a familiar phrase that is clued as if one of its words were pronounced differently ... yeah, it's not much of a "theme"

Well, this one sucked the joy right out of the room. I am all for changing pronunciation, but usually there is an actual THEME, a SUBJECT, a TOPIC, SOMETHING that makes the "theme" cohere, even a little. I peeked at Orange's site before writing this, just to see if there was something I was missing. Apparently not. This theme which is not one ... is accompanied by mostly lackluster fill. The two long Downs would Not come to me, one for good and the other for no good reason. Ditto the two 8-letter Acrosses. So it was a weakish day for me. Maybe I should be happy that I got out with the time that I did. And - as a side note - I don't need anyone (wink) writing in today telling me that this is Ms. Bowling's first puzzle (if it is) and that I should be more encouraging etc. I am being encouraging. I encourage her to write a better puzzle next time. I'll be first in line to praise it to the skies. Assuming it's good. If you want to be told today's puzzle is good, please read Orange, who claims to like it.

[I should add that if there is some part of the theme that I have missed - something that makes it all cohere beautifully - then I completely recant the above paragraph]

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Number one #2? (lead pencil)
  • 9D: What a comedian might do before going onstage? (polish joke)
  • 29D: Fish-shaped musical instrument? (bass guitar)
  • 57A: Little woman? (minute maid)

I learned a few new things today. Why would you need a "T" in DOUBLETS (26A: 2 and 12, e.g., in dice)? DOUBLES doesn't describe the phenomenon well enough? Never heard of IRON STONE (6D: Hard porcelain). Ditto NORA (58D: Ibsen's _____ Helmer) - I just had a weird memory that my once told me that my name would have been NORA had I been born a girl. Weird. Really glad I was born a boy (no offense to the various NORAs out there - Oh, and my mom didn't name me Rex, in case you didn't already know that; that's my own pompous creation). OUSE (42A: Northamptonshire river) sounds more French than English, but I'll trust that the clue is correct. Two familiarish phrases nearly completely eluded me to the bitter end:

  • PRECLUDED (34D: Made impossible)
  • SCARES UP (49A: Puts together hastily)

Didn't help that they intersect. [Exasperated sound]. Tripped over VACUOUS (51A: Empty, as a stare), because of course 9 times out of 10 you're going to say "VACANT stare." Yes, you are. Trust me. One thing that made me happy about today's puzzle: 32A: Bart's teacher, _____ Krabappel (Edna) -

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Alex S. 9:11 AM  

I liked it, but I seemed to be on the same wavelength with it.

My only problem was that I screwed up the tense of the clue and had SCARED UP instead of SCARES UP. This masked OUIS as O-ID and that completely hid that missing letter since it required a river name I'd never heard of.

Orange 9:34 AM  

And I thought it was easy/breezy. I do wonder how much of one's feelings about a puzzle are bound by the relative ease or difficulty of completing it. A vexatious crossing in a Saturday puzzle will indeed make me cranky about the puzzle and wont to impugn its quality—and then there's always someone else who thought my tough spot was a gimme. (Case in point: STAGGER LEE from a couple months back.)

This puzzle made me laugh at one spot—Monday and Tuesday puzzles so seldom take the time to amuse me, so I appreciate it when they do. (And yes, I've seen the "polish joke/Polish joke" play before, but I still like it.)

I have certainly seen flatter fill than this. Here, there are no obscure crosswordese people, no OREO or OLEO, no ERIE or ARIA. And there are relatively few 3-letter words, with not a single SSE or ERN or OBE among them. The only TLAs (three-letter abbreviations) are the in-the-language ICU and football-dominant LSU.

Which isn't to say your opinion is wrong, Rex—just that I disagree with your pronouncements today.

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

I've got to go whith Rex on this one - It was easy but flat. The only amusement I got out of it was knowing that Rex would like the obligatory Simpsons clue,and perhaps revisit his dislike of TENON, or at least its overuse.
Also, stares aren't VACUOUS. They just aren't

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

I enjoy all the puzzles, even ones like this that don't present much of a challenge. I am just grateful that someone took the time to construct the puzzle for me. I agree that some are more fun to do than others, but I enjoyed this theme so it's a good Tuesday for me.

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

I enjoyed VACUOUS, if only because it reminds me of one of my favorite Monty Python sketches.

Rex Parker 10:26 AM  

But I already Told everyone you disagreed with my pronouncements, Orange, And referred them to your site...

No OLEO, it's true, but:

RSTU (!)



Rex Parker 10:27 AM  

Plus, 5:10, while a terrible time for you, is not a terrible time for me, so relative difficulty has Zero to do with my dislike of the puzzle.


Unknown 10:36 AM  

I liked it. I like any puzzle where I don't have to resort to outside help. I headed out in the wrong direction at first, looking at the clues for 20A (Number one #2)and then 26A (2 and 12, e.g., in dice)and concluding that the theme would have something to do with the number two. Then I wanted the dice clue to refer somehow to the game of craps, where rolls of two or twelve have some significance, I think they are automatic losers. So it took me a while to cotton on to the theme.

Two quibbles: PUMPS are not necessarily "high heel shoes (48D)", men's formal footwear can be called pumps and there are plenty of high heeled styles which are not pumps: sandals, mules, etc.

Also 31A DUH is clued as "'I am such a dope!'" I think that clue would better define DOH, and that DUH should be clued as "'You are such a dope!'"

But I got both of those answers pretty easily so I am guilty of nit picking, here.

I hope the rest of the day goes as smoothly as this puzzle!

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

I'm with Orange on this one. I thought it was kind of cute with just about the right amount of crosswordese for a Tuesday. I initially tried to fit SLAPEDUP into 49a but that and having to fiddle with DOUBLETS/IRONSTONE a bit were my only hangups. Put in VACOUS without even thinking of VACANT. Turned the light on in the motel room last night (my wife was awake) so I did this faster than yesterday's as its easier when you can see the keyboard.

Rob G. 11:31 AM  

I fall somewhere between Orange's enthusiasm and Rex's ambivalence on this one. I thought the theme was just fine (I particularly liked MINUTEMAID) but the filler was pretty well-worn territory. I really dislike non-word clues, (--th century year being the worst offender), but the Q Q Queue cluing (heyo!) for RSTU was clever enough to satisfy me.

I don't really care for SNARL's cluing though.

BT 11:33 AM  

I'm with Rex on this one. I really didn't enjoy it at all. "Sucked the joy right out of the room", indeed.

The "Edna" photo Rex posted though reminds me of the (true) story involving a 23 year old high school teacher I knew in a small midwestern town. She moonlighted at the local "Juice Bar"... and I always wondered if some unsuspecting h.s. senior wandered in their one night... and how long it was until she was fired from her day job.

Anonymous 12:22 PM  

i liked this puzzle fine, although after yesterday's, which i thought was excellent, it did feel a little flat. i'm surprised no love has been given to what, for me, seemed to be some pretty interesting words for a tuesday: FJORD, FARSI, GROSS, ORZO. i quite liked the SNARL clue and thought SCARESUP was a great answer, even if it took me a few crosses to nail it (that was my christ joke for the day).

Anonymous 12:31 PM  

I've grown more comfortable with DOUBLETS by considering "triplets".

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

Gee, Rex, your theme bar is high! Puns based on swapping long and short vowel sounds -- vertical and horizontal pairs, each with one four-letter word and one six-letter word alternating the long-to-short exchange -- isn't the least bit cohesive? It's an awful lot of symmetry, at least.

Perhaps it's a theme for the left side of the brain.

Anonymous 1:03 PM  

Same objection as always on 21D. I know Orange will tell me that the ‘unperioded” (???) entry in Merriam Webster (which I verified) renders the cluing satisfactory. However, it has no definition other than “see executive”. It is a shortened – well, like I said, same grievance as always on 21D. Everything else seems unworthy of complaint and too ordinary for praise.
Repeatedly posting about the comfort I receive from finding other fanatical puzzlers leaves me feeling somewhat sissified and yet the compulsion prevails. My associates consider me neurotic – to which I have no defense but to admit my lack of desire to modify the predicament. I think that makes all of you my enablers! Thanks! I Guess?!?

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

As it happens the first two theme entries I got were LEAD pencil and BASS guitar,
leading me to wonder how TENOR and BARI(TONE) would be used to complete the barbershop theme...

Rex Parker 1:31 PM  

Yes! Thank you, Noam, for reminding me of my own early thought process. Can't believe I forgot to mention that.


Anonymous 1:34 PM  

Rex, since you don't approve of
RSTU (!)

out of curiosity, would you suggest about 10 other words that do please you and are suitable to a Tuesday level?

Anonymous 1:40 PM  

got PRECLUDED off just the first E!

Rex Parker 1:42 PM  

I can suggest a billion. Metaphorically speaking. I'm not going to waste my time doing it. The point isn't that those words I mentioned, or their ilk, are completely unacceptable. It's that there are a raft of of them here, AND the theme is crap, AND the longer non-theme fill is uneventful. All good puzzles are allowed their ERNES and OLEOS - but persistent drabness: no thanks.


Anonymous 1:53 PM  

I was hoping bass guitar was going to be some "bass" iteration of "castanets."

Also I had a "Duh" moment when I realized that if I spelled Fjord with a "j"--instead of "i", then "joke" presented itself. As usual, laughing last isn't laughing best, bit is more akin to not getting the joke.

QP 1:55 PM  

I guess I'm really out of it today, but even though I finished the puzzle in OK time, I still don't see the theme

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

make that "but is more akin to not getting the joke."

GRRR! (Make that one more inane four-letter fill-in.)

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

The theme today is heteronyms. Can heteronyms be DOUBLETS(26A)?

Anonymous 2:09 PM  

Thanks anonymous, now DOUBLETS makes a lot of sense.

Anonymous 2:13 PM  

Beata... read lead pencil with a long e, bass guitar with a short a, Polish joke with a short o, and minute maid with a long u to get the clued answers to the phrases.

I agree. Nothing too "tough to fathom" (deja vu from last week) here.

Raf... execs is one of those abbreviations that has morphed into a word of its own. I wonder who decides that. Is google a verb in the dictionary yet, as kleenex and xerox became generic terms rather than brands?

njphil... my handy dandy widget dictionary defines "vacuous" as "having or showing a lack of thought or intelligence, mindless" as in a vacuous smile. Couldn't that also apply to a stare?

Mary... curiosity aroused by your reference to men's pumps, I found this:


I don't know if these slipper-like shoes are still sold to men as such, but I also see that Reebok sells a line of shoes that men can pump up for perfect fit. This is why I don't read, watch, pay attention to advertising. How inane. I still think of pumps as a high-heeled shoe for women, but cluing pumps in this way doesn't mean that there aren't also pumps that aren't high-heeled. My nit with this one is the use of high-heel instead of high-heeled, but that's just personal preference. I also prefer "you're welcomed" to the acceptably shortened "you're welcome" especially when writing.

Orange 2:34 PM  

I liked two of the seven anonymous comments today. Too bad they have provided no way to connect their voice and cleverness with any sort of name or identity.

Rex, technically, you didn't just say I disagreed with you. You said I claimed to have liked the puzzle. I felt mildly impugned. But not to worry—I'm over it.

Anonymous 2:45 PM  

Doublet Opal
Doublet Opals are Opals which when found are not thick enough to be cut as solid Opals. Our doublet Opals are made using a layer of colorful precious Opal with either common Opal (less colorful) or IRONSTONE (the stone in which Opal is found) attached to the back.

wendy 2:59 PM  

IMOO, the only high point in the puzzle today was the inimitable Mrs. EDNA Krabappel, absolutely one of my most favorite Simpsons characters. *Maybe* the FJORD.

barrywep 3:36 PM  

I am with Orange, Martin & Co on this. I thought it was a good theme and was tired of dropping or adding letter[s] type themes (although Lee Glickstein did it well in today's Sun).

NORA from A Doll's House is about the only Ibsen character I know.

I was intrigued by anonymous's attempt to relate DOUBLETS to the theme, but don't thnk it holds up.

Anonymous 4:13 PM  

That's weird, Rex: my mother also told me Nora was in the running for my name. What were they thinking? It's the female equivalent of what, Norton? Awful. (Sorry, Noras of the world.)

fergus 4:19 PM  

For a little while I was trying to fit 6D into the scheme of things, wondering whether I. RON STONE could be a left-leaning debunker of Dianetics, and may or may not have any use for ritualistic porcelain. But then P.R. ECLUDED would have to be some sort of ban on advertising campaigns. With words like Educe and some other unusual E-words showing up a lot lately, maybe I was on to something here. But no, this FJORD wasn't that DEEP (which I too found annoying for its quick return with the same, albeit clever clue, and in virtually the same place as last week).

The EDNA mention reminded me of one of my all-time favorite Simpsons episodes, where Bart goes undercover as Woodrow to woo Edna through her Springfield Shopper Personal ad. (Trivia bonus to anyone who can name whose image filled in as the face of Woodrow?)

I have a little quibble with 66A, the Cuzco native. Wouldn't that be INCAN, or shouldn't the Clue be Cuzco natives to yield INCA?

The VACUOUS stares reminded me of some artist (Goya?) who painted portraits within an insane asylum -- much more arresting than Vacant stares. I liked the folksiness of SCARES UP, like Grannie and Ellie May scarin' up some chitlins and possum for a quick supper.

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

Chitlins 'n possum....

Anonymous 5:37 PM  

Woodrow was Gordie Howe.

Anonymous 5:39 PM  

I found a new word today on the wikipedia page about homonyms--capitonymy, which is a homonym which changes meaning with capitalization, ie Polish/polish.

Put me in the Orange camp, I liked this puzzle. I agree with the medium rating. I liked ORZO and UNZIP, and FJORD is always a fun word.

G 5:44 PM  

you people are too tough -- i thought it was a fast and fun puzzle and a very clever theme. once i figured it out. which took awhile. ... and i definitely think DOUBLET was a clever theme hint.

didnt see anyone mention, but it's clear to me that Edna KRABAPPLE was intentionally used here because her last name is another "doublet" with the short As.

Anonymous 6:08 PM  

I can't see LSU without thinking of the line from Randy Newman's song "Rednecks": "College men from LSU/Went in dumb, come out dumb, too/Hustling 'round Atlanta in their alligator shoes..." (Tomorrow is Randy Newman's 64th birthday, btw.)

I think any puzzle that forces you to remember Nora's last name from A DOLL'S HOUSE is cool. And separate from the theme, the cluing for LEADPENCIL was clever.

Pete M, thank you for the link to the Argument Clinic - hands down, one of my favorite Monty Python sketches, right up there with the Pariahna Brothers. The only problem is finding someone to call a vacuous, toffee-nosed malodorous pervert...

fergus 6:28 PM  

Anon 5:37,

Right you are -- you win a bottle of EDNA Valley Chardonnay, but you'll have to purchase it yourself, I'm afraid. Gordie Howe was such an inspired choice for that bit of mischief. I like the way his hockey card statistics formed the backdrop for the end credits. Even if this tangent is Most trivial, I don't think it's the LEAST matter of concern (... just in case Rex senses too great a divergence from appropriate comment material).

Howard B 7:13 PM  

I dunno, I generally liked this one, but I'm a sucker for wordplay and puns. I do think I've seen a very similar theme before, although I can't remember where or when; something about a couple of the theme answers did seem familiar. Maybe from a long-ago completed puzzle book? My subconscious is insisting that there's deja vu here.

Ah well. It was still a fun end to a crazy, crappy Monday workday, and that works for me.

Unknown 7:13 PM  

I thought the theme was pretty good. Not incredible, but pretty good. And I am somewhat partial to the name Nora because I used to have a crush on a girl named Nora. She was sweet.

Unrelated: Noam Elkies posted in the comments! He is a mathematician, well-known within the community. He spoke at my school last year about math & music. Maybe when I grow up I will lecture about math & crosswords.

Orange 7:43 PM  

Extra Nora crossword tie-in: Ty Treadway, the host of "Merv Griffin's Crosswords," used to play evil twins on "One Life to Live," where I believe one of his characters carried on with a character named Nora.

My parents would have named me Anthony if I'd been a boy. "Yo! Tony!" Um, no.

Fergus's mention of odd E words makes me think of an unworkable theme idea: crossword Pantheon members re-clued as if they're e-prefixed words. EERIE? That's e-Erie, some sort of crazy online lake or tribe. e-Duce is Mussolini for the MySpace era. e-Ra, the virtual sun god. e-mend, fix a typo in your blog post. e-den, the room where you lounge with your internet-connected devices. e-RN, a nurse available online. Hell, why not e-DNA? (No offense to Ms. Krabappel.) The dreaded e-pee—write your own clue. e-lie, not an uncommon thing. e-no, a match.com rejection. Cook an epicurious.com recipe with your e-wok. Forget Abba Eban—have an e-ban on his name appearing in online crosswords.

Anonymous 8:05 PM  

Thank you for the feedback, everyone! Yes, it was my first puzzle and I learned a lot from the comments. Thanks again!

fergus 9:00 PM  

Julie Ann,

As you may know, this forum can be a tough crowd for puzzle creators and their editors. Throughout the course of the day, every single imprecision or possibly lame Clue will get a skeptical analysis. You got a bit of the Rex hex, but on the whole the verbal artistry of your effort is highly commendable.

fergus 9:19 PM  


While I wasn't thinking about the e-trend, your riff on e-ness was quite amusing. In the dot.com bubble I briefly held the title of eBusiness Consultant, which could have pointed out the fraud to all Venture Capitalists I accidentally hoodwinked.

Linda G 9:52 PM  

I'm with the group that liked this one. VACUOUS was my favorite. I even liked RSTU, especially the way it was clued.

Julie Ann, if you come back and read more comments...you did good.

Anonymous 9:53 PM  

I liked the puzzle!
It had a lot of words that I don't see very often in crosswords (but then again, I've only recently started back doing them). I thought the theme fill was fun, too. Fairly easy, but fun. (In fact, I did about the last half of it in my head while chatting with a friend online so it had to be an easy one- there's no way I could do that even for a Thursday. I don't usually try to do them in my head but it was hard to write and chat.)
I did mistake METED for DOLED, though, so there went my pristine puzzle (didn't do the top part in my head).
Not thrilled with the cluing for PUMPS, though.
As for Ibsen: when you see Ibsen, think HEDDA or NORA.

Anonymous 11:29 PM  

I had fun with this puzzle and liked the theme. But maybe because it was my first Tuesday under nine minutes. :)

Campesite 12:32 AM  

Did the puz late last night and never got to comment. Orange/Fergus: E Stop it--you're killing me.
Nice job, Julie Ann.

Anonymous 12:35 AM  

Your reference to the Argument Clinic had me Pining for the FJORDs

Unknown 1:32 AM  

While I got "Doublets", I thought I was getting "DoubleT's" (T for two and T for Twelve). Perhaps this comes from my love for the song "T for Texas, T for Tennessee"

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

Sick yesterday, so this comment is belated.
A doublet is two of a kind, of which there are six in craps, but 2 and 12 can ONLY be doublets, as the other four (4, 6, 8, and 10) have multiple combos (4 could be one of a 2&2combo, 1&3, or 3&1). Six and eight have more).
And polish joke could have been politically incorrect if read as Polish joke. Or not.
Now to check on the redundancy of the above comments...

voiceofsocietyman 3:24 PM  

Julie Ann,

Like you, I'm an aspiring puzzle-maker (tho unlike you, I'm not published yet! Congrats on that!). So I quake in fear that IF in fact I ever do get a puzzle into the Times, Rex and his henchmensches and henchwenches will destroy it.

I found the puzzle fun and liked the wordplay. I'm not a xword expert by any means and really value this blog and the comments as a way to learn more about the craft. So thanks, Rex, for the honesty, and the same to the comment-makers (even the anonymous ones!).

PS: Is there a place (even a virtual space) for would-be puzzlers to help each other out?

Anonymous 10:35 PM  

voice, Lots of friendly help is available at www.cruciverb.com

Anonymous 2:43 PM  

You just had to wait 6 weeks for the true purpose of the puzzle to be revealed (55A Baton Rouge sch.). Nice job of predicting the NCAA National Champs in football.

- - Robert

Anonymous 3:18 PM  

Six weeks later...
I was thinking the same thing, Robert! Very prescient on LSU.

I liked this puzzle more than most, I suppose, but I thought it was much easier than yesterday's.


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