TUESDAY, Dec. 4, 2007 - Alison Donald

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Bud" - it's the clue for every theme answer, though you have to infer it

Very dissatisfied with this puzzle experience, but it's (almost) only because of the stupid "Notepad," which I would Never expect to see, and certainly didn't look for, on a Tuesday. This left me wondering how [???] could be an appropriate clue for for very disparate, and arbitrary-seeming, answers. In the end, I actually got weirdly, inexplicably stuck on a single letter in the SE because neither the theme Across answer nor the Down was computing. So an average-to-below-average Tuesday time for me. The puzzle's conceit is interesting, I guess. I really don't have strong feelings one way or the other.

I just noticed that the theme was signaled VERY DIFFERENTLY in the Across Lite format than it was at the NYT applet (no idea what the puzzle looked like on actual honest-to-goodness paper). Here's what I saw at the applet:

Theme answers:

  • 17A: ??? (close friend)
  • 11D: ??? (popular brew)
  • 24D: ??? (blossom-to-be)
  • 51A: ??? (comic Abbott)

Puzzle title [you NEVER see these on any day but Sunday]: "Same Clue Missing Four Times"

But in Across Lite, in place of the "???" theme clues, you get the Far More Helpful / Civilized [See blurb] - although there is no "blurb" to be seen. There is, however, an instruction at the top to "(See Notepad)." The moral here is: mother-of-pearl, get some consistency and clarity already!

Started out badly, completely blanking out on any possible answer for 1A: Keen-edged (sharp). My blanking on SHARP is more than a little ironic. I hesitated at PAT (11A: _____-a-cake) only because I had always heard it pronounced "PADDY (PATTY?) CAKE." Clearly, I was not thinking in terms of the literal plausibility of the phrase. So, with a few missteps under my belt (to mix metaphors) I was happy to see good old ALERO waiting for me at 15A: Last Olds made. That car is headed straight for the Pantheon, where it will join words like, oh, TBAR (37A: Skier's transport), ELO (50A: "Evil Woman" band, for short), and OTOES (30A: Oklahoma Indians), among others. I'd like to make a request to Will et al, and I don't know how you'll be able to accommodate me - I just want you to try: I am so so so tired of having to think about Donald Trump's ex-wives on such a regular basis. Today, it's 40A: An ex of the Donald (Marla). Other days, it's IVANA. I know that those women have awesome crossword names, and they don't really have much fame besides their marriages to Mr. Trump, but still ... what about MARLA Gibbs? She's somebody. Show a little love for the Jeffersons' maid, why don't you? Anything to stop me having to think about jackass celebrity billionaires, please.

Happy faces:

  • 23A: Not exactly insightful (obtuse) - great word; ironically, got it very very quickly (botches SHARP, nails OBTUSE ... hmmm)
  • 1D: Trice, informally (sec) - hot. Why do I love this? I think it's because of its misdirectionality. And its Olde Timeyness.
  • 5D: Engagement contracts, briefly (pre-nups) - another hot answer. And thematically related to the whole Trump/MARLA business, I'm sure.
  • 39D: Like a picky eater (finicky) - learned this word (like most of my generation) from cat food commercials. Morris the Cat was a "FINICKY" eater. We had a stray that lived in our backyard named Timmy, and he looked just like Morris. Except he drooled a lot and he ate birds and rats instead of 9 Lives cat food. Where was I? Oh, while I love the word FINICKY, I could do Nothing to build off its last letters in the South. Neither KNACK (58A: Special talent) nor YANKS (61A: Doughboys) would come to me. Plus I mucked things up further down there by putting in EMIR where OMAN belonged (48D: Mideast sultanate).
  • 40D: Like much of Poe's work (macabre) - I like that this intersects MACAWS (46A: Brilliantly colored parrots). One of my (better) students is doing her senior thesis on American Horror Fiction, including Poe.

Frowny faces or other misgivings, missteps, errors, assorted badness...

  • 28A: Greg's sitcom mate (Dharma) - the Buddha would like you to know that there are other, less nauseating ways to clue this.
  • 4D: Counterpart of bus. (res.) - stumped me for a bit.
  • 29D: Boxcar rider (hobo) - actually, I LOVE the word "HOBO" - but for some reason, getting HOBO early prevented me from thinking of an answer for 49D: Bumpkin (hick). "Four letters, starts with "H" ... HOBO? HOBO? HOBO? Why can't I shake HOBO out of my head?"

The End.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


BT 8:52 AM  

Hale for "in the pink" ? As in pink and healthy? Is that correct? The answer should be "rare".

HappyDad 8:56 AM  

I think the phrase is "hale and hearty" which means the same, I guess.

Anonymous 9:03 AM  

Hear hear on Marla and Ivana!


Anonymous 9:39 AM  

In the paper puzzle, the theme clues looked the same as you describe them in the Across Lite format...except that the blurb was actually there.

Orange 9:39 AM  

My favorite hobo reference appears in this write-up of the experience of eating fermented soybeans. It's in really poor taste and requires a strong stomach, so don't blithely click that link unless you're ready for crass horror of the non-Poe variety.

A friend's husband wrote his dissertation on hoboes, and it was published as a book. Got him an offer of a tenured position, too. Hoboes: The path to academic success!

My phone has an ELO ringtone for instant crossword street cred.

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

Perhaps because I did this one on paper and didn't have to deal with applets and other online glitches, I found this one of the easiest puzzles I've ever done. I found it enjoyable, too, but would perhaps have enjoyed it even more if it hadn't been so easy. It felt like an easy Monday puzzle or something you'd see in Highlights.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

As for blurb/???-gate, I am wondering why a simple "Bud" clue for all theme answers would not have sufficed. I think special instructions should be reserved for truly special situations. Sure, it added a slight degree of difficulty to have the common clue missing, but that trick was not clever enough to warrant such treatment, in my view.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

For those of you without ink-stained fingers, the note in the paper reads:
The answers at 17-and 51- accross, and 11-and 24-Down can all be defined by the same missing three-letter word. What is it?

I would like to add my voice to the ban, not just here but world-wide on all things Trump. This ruined my day, as I had Beer rather than Brew for 11-Down, which of course screwed up Marla, but I am so disgusted by anything Trumpish that I refused to look at it any further. I simply figured one of his kids got smart and de-parented him

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

Thought this was a good puzzle, MACABRE, DHARMA, JULEPS, OBTUSE, CAVED, etc.

Had BEER instead of BREW and figured The Donald had a wife named MAELA I'd never heard of.

Rex Parker 10:27 AM  

Is there any possible way I can get an ERNE ringtone? I would pay good money.


PuzzleGirl 10:47 AM  

Wow, I didn't even know Marla and the Donald had split up. I'm devastated.

YES, Morris the Cat immediately came to mind at 39D (finicky).

I don't believe I've ever seen a top with a string. ???

I saw the notepad, read it, didn't undertand it, and got the theme answers completely from crosses. Afterwards, trying to figure out the theme was, at first, impossible because I kept thinking Abbott was LOU not BUD. I'm all "LOU, ALE, PAL ... WTF?"

P.S. Been chuckling all morning over "As someone who has finished a puzzle before I even started it...."

Orange 10:49 AM  

My Google result:

Your search - "erne ringtone" - did not match any documents.

Rex Parker 10:58 AM  


Thank you for confirming my own feelings about TOP ... WTF?

I couldn't disagree with you more, however, about yesterday's whole exchange about puzzle times and the alleged funniness thereof. Tiresome and unfunny.


profphil 10:59 AM  

I finally figured out a theme even without seeing the notepad. I had close friend for [See Blurb] and then blossom and realized it was bud as the theme but thought I would find the blurb in the clues or one of the answers. Once I finished the puzzle and reread all the clues and answers, I only then noticed the notepad on top and opened it up expecting "bud." Instead I got a whole megillah for one tiny word. Did not see the point of hiding the clue but pleased that I was able to get it without the inane clue in notepad.

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

ALEC Baldwin ringtone

profphil 11:02 AM  


Tops had strings, like yo-yo's, which one would wind around them and jerk and pull to release the spinning (usually wooden) top. It may have been a bit before your time.

Hydromann 11:13 AM  

As with everyone else, I also found this puzzle easily. I don’t think I had even one stumble...except I was going nuts trying to solve the theme thing! The “COMICABBOTT” thing finally did it for me..but only after I had first given up trying to figure out what in the world “LOU” had to do with the other three answers! Duh!

Dittos on the Trumo-exes clue. And, speaking of hall of fame clues, when I used to do crosswords back in the late 60s and early 70s, one could frequently find two. The answer to “A crumb or morsel” was always “ORT”, the answer to "Wing" was "ALAR", and, of course, the answer to “Winged” was always “ALATE”.

Now that I’ve gotten re-hooked on crosswords after a four-decade hiatus, I only rarely see these old friends. I say, bring ‘em back out of retirement!

And, by the by, did the old Giants have any players besides Mel Ott?

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

Would you really want this going off in your pocket?: voice of an erne.

Rex Parker 11:19 AM  


Yes. Yes I would.


Anonymous 11:43 AM  

I ignored the notepad in acrosslite and figured out "bud" on my own. When I finally read the notepad I noted that it wouldn't have helped much. Although I liked the puzzle I think the theme was a little too cute.

I'm not much of a Trump fan either and I also had to stare and RES for a while before I got it. Off to visit Hearst Castle.

Anonymous 11:53 AM  

Whizzed through this one without getting the theme until comicabbott. Lots of decent fill for a Tuesday, but nothing to get too excited about. Wasn't Mitzi the one washing that man right out of her hair in South Pacific? I always got her mixed up with Vera Ellen of the 19-inch waist from White Christmas. Time to dust that one off, I guess. Tis the season.

Jae... enjoy Hearst Castle. I heard the surf was supposed to be 25 feet up there today. Let me know if it was. Are you going to the beach where the elephant seals mate? The males should be there by now waiting for the females, who arrive mid-December and the fun begins.

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

I made it through pretty easily without ever looking at the Notepad. I figured there would be some connection and Rex would be SHARP enough to point it out to me. Bud. Oh.

Many comments about the Donald today, but, unless I missed it, no one has mentioned the connection to Alison Donald. As far as I'm concerned, if I ever hear "the Donald" again, I will assume the speaker is referring to D. Duck.

Didn't know the "4-page sheet" definition of folio before. I think TEES are worn year-round in certain areas. RBI is also a stat for the non-sluggers. I guess "chomping" at the bit is acceptable these days...I remember it being contested once (it started as "champing" if memory serves).

PuzzleGirl 12:11 PM  

profphil: Thanks for the TOP info. I had a feeling it had to do with some earlier iteration of the toy.

hydromann: I believe ORT has made an appearance at least once or twice this year. And it was an answer on "Merv Griffin's Crosswords" sometime in the last couple of weeks. I also remember ALAR from back in the old days and don't remember seeing it much lately.

Rex: As I always say to my husband when we disagree about something: I guess that just proves we're not the same person! (good to know) And I apologize for going on about it now that I'm aware of your disapproval. It is your blog after all!

Anonymous 12:23 PM  


If you miss ALAR, ALATE and ORT you will find your old friends in the Tribune puzzle. They visit frequently.

Anonymous 12:36 PM  

Regarding tops with strings...I have a vague recollection of some tops that followed in the heels of the Duncan yoyo and was also made by Duncan. They had teflon tips and were amazingly fast. Any other boomers remember them? Lori

Le Master 12:56 PM  

No one has heard of battle tops competitions?

They were a big fad at schools in the 60's.

Anonymous 1:08 PM  

Orange, Thanks for the link to the fermented soy beans. It was outrageously funny as were the other "food" critiques. Lori

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

Marla was the name of Helena Bonham Carter's character in "Fight Club". Is that too obscure for a Tuesday?

I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.

Anonymous 1:35 PM  

I too had the HA?E problem. Unfortunately I had cave for cove (forgetting what mooring was) and thus had FA?IO across.

Is Fabio a four page sheet?

Anonymous 2:11 PM  

Had the hard copy so no problem bud.

Tops had strings in my days and I can't envision one without them.

The bands KISS the KNACK and YES join ELO in the answers.

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

The preamble about the 3 letter word got my hopes up – only to have a Mondayesque puzzle dampen them. I did like most of the clues/answers (except 36A of course – when did pasta get loaded with carbon? Or was it carburetors? Ooooohhhhh carbs is a shortened form of carbohydrates. Insert standard objection here) and got a severe geek rush when I overheard the ladies sitting next to me at the coffee shop remark about how fast I completed the puzzle; and in ink! At least I no longer suffer from delusions of being “cool”. (Superfluous quotes or not?)

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

The preamble about the 3 letter word got my hopes up – only to have a Mondayesque puzzle dampen them. I did like most of the clues/answers (except 36A of course – when did pasta get loaded with carbon? Or was it carburetors? Ooooohhhhh carbs is a shortened form of carbohydrates. Insert standard objection here) and got a severe geek rush when I overheard the ladies sitting next to me at the coffee shop remark about how fast I completed the puzzle; and in ink! At least I no longer suffer from delusions of being “cool”. (Superfluous quotes or not?)

Anonymous 3:42 PM  

So I got stuck on yoyo and could not think of a top or a dreidle And, as I have had no TV for as long as I can remember I thought it was Greg and Dharla. In short an obtuse day that has me longing for a minty drink.

Peter, isn't Fabio a lipsync guy?

Rob G. 3:43 PM  

I print my puzzles from Across Lite and do them by hand, which puts "See Notepad" next to the date. Being a Tuesday, I decided to see what I could do without looking at it.

And I'm very glad I did. Solved the whole puzzle without even thinking about the theme clues, and I can tell I would have been very confused by the notepad. "Missing" word? What? It's not missing from anywhere. Except perhaps from the book of needlessly convoluted/not particularly interesting crossword themes it was taken from. Why couldn't the themes all be clued "Bud"?

I've disliked both of this week's puzzles! Bring on a Wednesday worth coming into work for!

Anonymous 5:01 PM  

My strategy for clues like "???" or "see blurb" is to just ignore them and try to divine them from the crosses (of course, an early week puzzle makes it easier to do that).

I'm only 46 but I do remember tops with strings and had several that I played with as a kid. There was even a demonstration from a top champion at the local Woolworth's.

No comments on JOKY yet. Is that even a word? Oh well, at least my first choice, FAKE, gave me the K for KISS.

MACKS- Nice to see another answer for "some big trucks" other than SEMIS.

And, just like Rex, Morris the Cat immediately came to mind with FINICKY.

Orange 5:25 PM  

Rafael, I think you'll be much happier if you let go of that expectation that shortened words that are used without periods (and hence are no longer abbreviations) are going to be clued as abbreviations. You're simply not going to change the conventions used by Will Shortz and his peers any more than if you complained that you'd prefer that all clues be in pig Latin. Really.

Orange 5:26 PM  

And Doc John, yes, joky is a word.

Unknown 5:31 PM  

Don't understand bus.=res.Can someone please enlighten me.

fergus 5:42 PM  

Whaddya mean Rafael, about no longer being cool? Those ladies were digging on you I'm sure. Inksmanship on a grid is sexier than Manhattan real estate development these days. Had the same sort of rush just recently from some tourist babes when I was ripping through a puzzle in a little plaza.

Much cooler than when I fumbled with the string on my top -- yeah I remember the independently spinning Teflon tip, too -- or even more clumsily with my stylish Gyroscope. I would pull so hard the part that was supposed to whiz in rotation usually flew out of the contraption and skittered across the floor, impressing no-one.

Rikki -- are you referring to Ano Neuvo? Been there a couple of times for class trips to watch the elephant seals being born. Especially appealing on a rainy day ... and I, too, am stoked about the major swell. Heading out soon.

See blurb; yeah, that wasn't worth the effort. As my young niece once said, "that's worth more trouble than it is."

Thought a QUARTO was what was billed as a FOLIO, though apparently they don't seem to differ. My dictionary doesn't say they're the same; it just gives them virtually the same defintion.

And not till today did I stop to think that a Corrida must be a bullring. Always thought it must be some Spanish town.

Anonymous 5:46 PM  


They could refer, e.g., to sections of a phone book.

Rob G. 5:51 PM  


Have you given any thought to doing any sort of year in review? I know it's a tad cliché, but it could be a lot of fun, and a great way for people new to the blog, like myself, to get up to speed.

Anonymous 6:11 PM  

Sorry for the double Rex but I just had to add that having Orange respond to a post (even with a slap) makes my day. Thanks Orange. Oh yeah and death to all shortened words!!

Anonymous 6:20 PM  

Joky -- I remember a phrase from Finnigans Wake -- something like 'gem was joky'. In the ALP chapter.

I havn't even seen a top in decades and never have I seen one with a string. I remember when we were really little twisting the top stem of them.

A string for a top? How about a wand for a hoop? Just look in the toy museum of the 19th century.

Anonymous 6:30 PM  

Finningans Wake use of 'joky':

'Shem is as short for Shamus as Jem is joky for Jacob'.

It sticks in the mind.

I used the aplet and knew nothing about a notepad entry or any of that.

Afterwards I tried to find some connection between the words and
could find none.

Without you Rex, I'd be in the dark and perplexed.

Unknown 6:52 PM  

This was alright for a Tuesday, but I think the whole business was just a kind of lame way of saying "I couldn't fit BUD into the puzzle, so I'm going to make a trick out of trying to figure it out". I would have been completely satisfied if the clues had all just been BUD - the theme is clear from that.

I agree with ron g., I wouldn't mind seeing a best-of (and worst-of?) 2007 puzzledom. Add to the pantheon, and whatnot.

Michael Chibnik 7:10 PM  

enjoyable, but really too easy even for a Tuesday.

Orange 7:45 PM  

Ah, but see, Rafael, those shortened words are part of what makes the English language colorful. Carbs, execs, a veep—these are not the same stale words that have appeared in thousands upon thousands of crosswords. If you slash these words from the list of what's suitable crossword fill, we're going to be left with more ERIE, OONA, and ALAR—flavorless, dry, boring.

Rex usually has more productive work to be doing than I do—so I'll tell you on his behalf that he and I have been making Santa-like lists all year of our favorite puzzles. We'll do some sort of "Ebert & Roeper" year-end wrap-up of the best ones in various categories and presumably cross-post it at both of our blogs. (Confidential to Rex: Crap! We need to start pulling this together soon.)

Orange 7:45 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 8:08 PM  

Rikki -- saw the seals yesterday, amazing. The waves were huge this morning, could easily have been 25 feet, but didn't see anyone out there trying them.

Orange/jerry 20020 -- thanks for the info on joky, it looked odd to me but now I have some additional context.

Anonymous 9:21 PM  

Apropos of nothing but all ye who are sickened by Trump. (If your majesty would permit a rant... this late, few will see it anyway)

I had great joy last week when i read that Donald's $2bn plan to turn a rough and wonderful hunk of shoreline north of Aberdeen into another rich guys' playground was shot down by the shire's council. It was killed in no small part because one stubborn farmer refused to very profitably sell his family land for a golf course.

BUT, today, big government decided (unprecedentedly, it seems) to bigfoot Aberdeenshire in order to give the man with bad hair what he wants.

I really prefer the image of Scots like those depicted in Braveheart mooning Trump than one of their central government kowtowing to him.click here or google "trump aberdeen" to be filled with fresh new disgust!.
OTOH we know how Braveheart ended.

re puzzle: I thought I was so clever and fast. I was still looking for the three letter word I could insert in the theme answers to tie them together. What an ox!

Anonymous 2:31 AM  


Ellen 4:15 AM  

This was a hard puzzle to present online. The print version had an actual blurb, but that was too big to put in an Across Lite title, so it had to go in the Notepad (which doesn't help if you've printed out the puzzle). The applet couldn't handle a long blurb, so it got a brief title.

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

I'm here in 6-weeks-out-land, where we had a twist! Local Bend, OR paper printed the Dec 4 puzzle today (Monday, Jan 14). So I breezed through a Tuesday puzzle in 20 minutes (good for me), thinking it was a Monday-easy one. My paper printed the blurb, and I (wrongly) thought it was "pal" until I got the Bud Abbot answer. I'm getting better as solving by reading Rex's blog every day, and I enjoy everyone's erudite comments.

Anonymous 6:44 PM  

Another voice from six-weeks land, though here (Huntsville AL) we think of it as outer space. In my newspaper there was no title printed. That had the effect of making a Tuesday puzzle a bit more interesting than usual.

Waxy in Montreal 8:57 PM  

What's with Jerry20020's comment "A string for a top? How about a wand for a hoop? Just look in the toy museum of the 19th century." 6 weeks back?

I grew up (albeit in war-impoverished England) in the late 1940's and distinctly remember playing with a hoop and wand. Lotta fun too, Jerry20020 and definitely not 19th century!

I don't think I've ever encountered an easier Tuesday puzzle. Abbott budded early which immediately solved the blurb.

BTW, how did the "NOTE" heading the clues become a "blurb" within the theme clues? Why not the same term? And within the note/blurb itself, what was the point of "missing"? I needlessly kept looking for a place on the grid to insert BUD because of it!

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