Saturday, June 28, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Ten Grand Surplus" - K's are added to familiar phrases, resulting in wacky phrases, which are clued. 10 K's = the "Ten Grand" of the puzzle title

Took me about 10 seconds to get the first theme answer, and I groaned, first because the theme is so basic / ordinary, and second because I had 8 more pun-filled answers to go. And "K" is my favorite letter of the alphabet (by far), so this puzzle should have made me happy. But somehow their diffusion, and their use in several murderous puns, really took the krazy fun out of things. I will say this, however, in the puzzle's favor: AFTER A SKORT is niiiiice. By a factor of ... I don't know, a lot ... the most inventive answer in this puzzle. BARKTENDER was OK too, but mostly because it made me think of MOE (the bartender from "The Simpsons"), which has nothing to do with BARK, but is amusing to me nonetheless.

Theme answers:

  • 22A: Impatient kid's plea at a zoo? (show me the monkey)
  • 31A: Worrisome type at a china shop? (triple klutz) - some trouble here, as TRIPLE KLUTZ doesn't make any kind of sense, and I originally had UNKNOT instead of UNKNIT at 12D: Take apart, so for a while I was trying to imagine what a "proper lutz" was.
  • 48A: Seeking the right women's tennis attire? (after a skort)
  • 54A: Warning sign on a pirate ship? (plank ahead) - prepare for pedantry .... Ready? OK - "plan ahead," despite being a common phrase and thus valid puzzle fare, is absurdly redundant. All plans are, by definition, made "ahead" of time.
  • 61A: Source of some inside humor? (wink wink situation) - cute
  • 71A: Tree doctor? (bark tender)
  • 82A: Your basic "So this guy walks into a bar..."? (average joke)
  • 94A: Use of steel wool, e.g.? (gunk control)
  • 110A: Cheez Whiz you could blow up? (inflatable Kraft)
The biggest sticking point, for me, was caused by a couple of innocuous (or so I thought) little clues, which happened to intersect - 37D: Padded and 53A: Insinuating. I had T-O- and SNI-E, respectively, but I could not figure out how either clue meant the words that I wanted to put in there. I always think of "insinuating" in fairly broad, general terms, as a near-equivalent of "implying" - I'm not sure when the last time was that I've heard it used to mean SNIDE, but I have, so I went with it. But that left me with T-OD for [Padded] ... and the only word that goes there very nicely is TROD, but ... then I though of children in footsie pyjamas walking down a hallway, and I thought, "OK, let's try it." And it worked. Of all the nuttiness in this puzzle, this was what held me back the most. Oh, and I left out the double trouble with TROD - what the @#$# is Villa RICA (43A: Villa _____ (town near Atlanta))? I knew that RICA was a Spanish word, and that TROD was a word, so "R" it was.

The nuttiness: well, APE SUIT has got to be the most ridiculous answer I've seen in a puzzle in a Long time. It's really the clue that's ridiculous: 8A: Jim Belushi's costume in "Trading Places - I saw that movie something like 20 times as a kid, and I only vaguely remember an APE SUIT and I don't remember Jim Belushi At All. It starred Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, and those two old guys who look like the balcony critics on the Muppets (actually, Ralph Bellamy and the mustachioed Don Ameche, both very accomplished actors). Belushi is so minor in this movie that I can't even find any specifics about his role (beyond his character's name, "Harvey") on any of the major websites. By the way, this movie also featured Al Franken as "Baggage Handler #1" and Bo Diddley as "Pawnbroker." The other bit of nuttiness: ELKHART (86D: Indiana city near the Michigan border). I lived near the Michigan border (-ish) for 8 years and didn't know this. OK, it was the Michigan / Ohio border, but still. That's one of the more obscure place names I've seen in the puzzle in a while. EDINA would also be obscure were it not popping up in puzzles once every 6 months or so (and if my best friends didn't live in St Paul).


  • 1A: City once called Eva Peron (La Plata) - more geographical obscurity for me
  • 15A: Cross stock (pens) - great clue; I was imagining angry cattle
  • 19A: Napoleon's relatives (eclairs) - "the ... what was her name ... the Josephines?"
  • 27A: Animal with an onomatopoeic name (gnu) - I ... don't understand. Do GNU really make a GNU sound? Who gnu? (ow, it physically hurt me to write that)
  • 33A: X-rated (porno) - "Midnight Cowboy" was "X-rated" and it was not PORNO.
  • 40A: Count with a severe overbite (Dracula) - so the fangs are "severe" in that they pierce your neck - is that the joke?
  • 51A: Maker of the old Royale (REO) - sometimes I get three-letter car answers confused. Not today.
  • 70A: Young hog (shoat) - that "H" was the last letter in the grid.
  • 75A: City WSW of Dortmund (Essen) - crossword gold
  • 98A: Palate appendage (uvula) - one of your grosser and least comprehensible (by me) body parts.
  • 101A: Butch Cassidy, for one (Utahan) - seeing this monstrosity of a noun makes me feel much better about putting words like ALABAMAN and DELAWEGIAN in the puzzles I'm trying to write.
  • 117A: Hellish (Stygian) - maybe the best word in the puzzle. Love the adjectival X-to-G change.
  • 4D: Jack who wrote the lyrics to "Tenderly" (Lawrence) - no idea on all fronts (the song, the guy).
  • 16D: "A Masked Ball" aria ("Eri Tu") - man, if you read this blog regularly, you Better have gotten this.
  • 23D: Geiger of counter fame (Hans) - no idea. Good thing his name is common. Go Spain!
  • 31D: "_____ teaches you when to be silent": Disraeli ("tact") - a disappointingly literal and obvious answer.
  • 34D: Golden pond fish (orfe) - whoa ... if I knew this, I forgot it. I know ORFE only as the composer (spelled ORFF) who did that music you can hear on every other soundtrack and commercial in the known world.

  • 56D: Holler's partner (hoot) - Very good, non-owl-related clue
  • 61D: Nature's aerators (worms) - again, good; inventive
  • 63D: White wine aperitif (kir) - exotic. Can't say I've ever been anywhere where KIR was being served. Lady Miss Kier was the lead singer for Deee-Lite, who were responsible for this (one of the biggest songs of my later college years):

  • 64D: Soyuz launcher (USSR) - I got eaten up by SOYUZ some time ago, so I'm just glad it was in the clues this time, and not the answer.
  • 73D: 1958 Best Actor David (Niven) - I really should watch some of his films, as I know almost nothing about him.
  • 74D: "_____ Day" (1993 rap hit) ("Dre") - I mentioned him (and provided video of him) yesterday. DRE, that is.
  • 96D: When doubled, sings (names) - seen it! Still good, though.
  • 99D: Roxie's dance partner in "Chicago" (Velma) - never seen it. VELMA = Scooby-Doo to me.
  • 108D: Orch. section (strs.) - ick
  • 112D: Chess piece: Abbr. (knt) - oh, more ick.
  • 111D: Darth Vader's boyhood nickname (Ani) - And I thought the only ANIs were DiFranco and the black bird and the "Wheel of Fortune" purchase..

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


imsdave1 9:13 AM  

I didn't remember that it was Jim Belushi in the APESUIT, but I sure remembered the suit. Funny scene were he get's locked in a cage with a real (and very amorous) gorilla.

I almost completed the puzzle in record time, except for the TROD/RICA cross. Stared at that for about 15 minutes until I finally got the padded meaning.

My first trumpet was an ELKHART, so that was a gimme for me. TRIPLEKLUTZ was my absolute favorite. There have to be about 50 better ways to clue LAWRENCE. Isn't that twice in one week we got MAIER?

Off to the golf course, have a good day all.

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

Puns in the morning, Parkers take warning..
Puns in the night, other solvers' delight!

My very favorite phrase was GUNK CONTROL, of which I could use more. Even in the garden: things get gunky when it rains too much...


Anonymous 9:24 AM  


39A "That Hurt!" I had OUCH or OWCH
Isn't an OWIE something you get AFTER you say one of the above?

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

Like you, I can't see what's onomatopoeic about gnu. Hope someone explains it.


Leon 9:33 AM  

Real fine Sunday worK-out Mr. Orbach and Mr. Blindauer.

ThanK you.

Thanks RP for Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana chorus. “O Fortune like the moon you are changeable.” I thought it was used in THE OMEN, but it was the inspiration for Jerry Goldsmith’s score.

Took me a while to figure out 96 down. Then, I thought of Steroids. E.G. : “Conte will name names of those he says cheated.”

Owie has been used before. There was even a noted 911 call that received a lot of publicity.
Operator: 911, where is your emergency?
Alana: Momma owie.
Operator: Momma owie?
Alana: Momma owie.
Operator: Is momma there?
Alana: Momma owie.

Nudge nudge ,wink wink : Monty Python skit.

Unknown 9:42 AM  

Absolutely terrible puzzle, although my 14-year-old daughter liked SHOW ME THE MONKEY (and tht's saying something).

And speaking of kids, who says "OWIE" as a interjection, like "That hurts!" (Maybe , "Mommy, I got an owie."

UTAHAN stunk.

TRIPLE KLUTZ stunk (why not "double klutz"?).

GNU stunk -- to clue it off an obscure, only "likely" etymology. Might as well say, "Name of Khoi-San origin."

LEERS stunk. A rake who only LEERs isn't a rake (ask Hogarth).

ICE UP is probably okay, but it still seems weak. What gets blocked up when it's iced up -- your gutters?

And ANI... well, it probably doesn't matter, but the "Phantom Menace" screenplay spells it "ANNIE."

I'm being overly critical about small points, but I had no fun with this one at all.

But speaking of UMA, who knew her dad was a Buddhist and Buddhism scholar? Not me, till today.

(How's that for a clue: "Daughter of first American to be ordained as a Tibetan monk"?)

JannieB 9:54 AM  

I was pretty much okay with this one - I enjoy a good pun and this puzzle had several (average joke, show me the monkey, after a skort, gunk control). I stared at the trod/rica crossing for a very long time as well. The SW corner was the last for me, mainly because I couldn't spell Utahan (nor did I want to!). As for "Tenderly" - an old standard... The evening breeze caressed the trees, etc.

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

I was annoyed at my one mistake: I had ROCA/RORE. I know no French, so 38D didn't help (though now that I think of it, isn't that supposed to be an infinitive, which can't end "ore"?). And I thought "Roca" might be like "Boca", completely forgetting that I just went to Costa RICA! :(

I liked all the puns, though. I'm sorry, Rex, that you're just incapable of enjoying certain of life's delights. Poor, poor Rex.

Margaret 10:08 AM  

I remembered Trading Places so GORILLA was the first clue I filled in; of course it turned out to be wrong. It took me pretty much the rest of the puzzle to figure out what was the right answer. I had PLANK AHEAD and _____ KLUTZ early on but couldn't see the theme until I got AVERAGE JOKE.

My favorite clue/answer combo was one that was only in my head. When I read the clue "What a rake does," I thought for sure the answer was LEAVES. I really liked that! But it wasn't. Oh well. I donate it to any puzzle constructors on the blog who like it.

Anyone else have an issue with the fact that TREE DOCTOR was a clue and TREES was an answer? I actually put in TREES as the answer to "Nature's Aerators" until I saw the Tree Doctor clue so I immediately took it out. But then it *was* the answer to "Nursery Items." Hmmm. Orange or others, what's the protocol on this?

Overall, an AVERAGE JOKE puzzle for me.

Doris 10:12 AM  

Jack Lawrence (born Jacob Schwartz April 7, 1912 in Brooklyn, New York) Is probably most famous for the English lyrics to Charles Trenet's "La Mer," known in English as "Beyond the Sea." The latter was immortalized by Bobby Darin and re-created recently by Kevin Spacey in the movie of the same name. How many degrees of separation would this be?

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

From the Indiana side of the Indiana-Michigan border, Elkhart does not seem as close to the Michigan line as many other Indiana cities - unless you're comparing it to Indianapolis or Evansville! Aside from this geographical quibble, I quite enjoyed the puzzle. My favorite pun was 110 across - "inflatable Kraft". I also liked 115 across - "minibar" for traveler's temptation.

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

c'mon P. Sattler : tell us how you really feel.

Maybe a Think Mint would help you out?

P. Blindauer

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

Please explain how a gnu is onomatopoeic? I don't get it.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

According to Wikipedia, "Gnu" is from a Khoikhoi language (which pronounced the [g]), likely an imitation of the grunting noise that a wildebeest makes. Who knew?

mac 11:32 AM  

This was a fun and easy Sunday puzzle. Like Rex I had the theme almost immediately with "show me the monkey". I enjoyed some of the clues a lot and made some very wrong initial guesses: Cross stock, what kind of wood was used? Napoleon's last name was Bonaparte, won't fit.. Got the eclairs quickly though. Never saw Trading Places, and thought fatsuit could be 8A. Loved the aerators, so true. I very much dislike words like owie, booboo etc., my poor son never learned them from me! Talking about son, thank you for the Carmina Burana; some years ago he and some friends were in the boys' choir with an opera group performing it. I went to many rehearsals and can dream the score.
One little nit: Ten Grand Surplus, 10k, why not 10 theme clues?

JannieB 11:43 AM  

@mac - if you count both k's in wink wink situation, you get 10 k's.

Parshutr 11:51 AM  

Triple Lutz -- figure skating move.
And since I don't know an orle from an orfe, I had ALTERASKORT.
Enjoyable puzzle. Because a back injury is keeping off the computer for anything more than a few minutes, this was the first time in a long time to put ballpoint to paper. A different experience, in many ways easier than online.

Parshutr 11:53 AM  

Oh, and my absolute favorite clue was Napoleon relative ECLAIR...very tasty.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

Can someone explain this clue? When doubled, sings (names)

mac 12:00 PM  

@jannieb: thank you, I agree, they both count.

@anonymous 11.56: sings = names names.

Anonymous 12:09 PM  

I have a general question raised by imsdave1's comment ("My first trumpet was an ELKHART, so that was a gimme for me."). I'm wondering whether there's a solving technique or mindset that I'm lacking. People often make comments like that, and I'm left thinking, "How did your familiarity with the word make it a gimme based on that clue (which in this particular example had nothing to do with trumpets)?" Please understand that I'm not trying to be SNIDE or challenge anyone's comments. I just wonder whether, I don't know, maybe the top solvers (of which I am not) look less at the clues and more at patterns of letters.
As a related aside, I am learning chess along with my sons, and I read last night that masters based their moves on roughly half pattern recognition (relying on their wealth of experience) and half ad hoc calculation, whereas average players rely much more on calculation. I wonder whether something similar is true of puzzle solvers--perhaps they focus less on analyzing what an answer to the clue would be and more on intuiting which patterns of letters are likely to make the grid work.

Unknown 12:19 PM  

To anon @ 11:56: When someone squeals on his partners or turns others in (i.e., when he "sings"), that person "NAMES NAMES."

"Naming names," however, usually refers to those who testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (and other McCarthyite bodies), turning in other potential pinkos to save their own skins. Don't we usually reserve "singing" for convicts and jailhouse snitches. Another sloppy clue, I think?

(Yeah, I'm a grump today.)

Doris 12:28 PM  

"G-no, g-no, g-no, I'm a g-nu!"

The final line to the delightful Flanders & Swann song, some of the lyrics of which go:

"I'm a g-nu
How do you do?
The g-nicest work of g-nature
In the zoo!"

Although I've seen these great creatures, also known as wildebeests, for real in Kenya and as puppets in "The Lion King," I can only think of the song.

F&S also wrote the wonderful "Hippopotamus" song with the refrain, "Mud, mud, glorious mud/Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood," practically the anthem of British Boy Scouts these days.

Mike 12:38 PM  

@ sjt
A quick check on Google Earth shows that the center of Elkhart is less than 3 miles from the Michigan border, that qualifies as close to me.

Joseph Brick 12:41 PM  

So, remove the K from AFTERASKORT and what do you have? After a sort? After asort?

What am I missing?

JannieB 12:50 PM  

@joseph - according to my online dictionary, "after a sort" means dated, or after a fashion

Joseph Brick 12:55 PM  

Ah - I see. "After a sort" actually means "somehow or other," I guess in some region I've never lived.

Seems like an obscure pun compared to the others.

Anonymous 1:05 PM  

I'm with Peter Sattler -- except I would alter his verb to "stank," since _stink_ is one of those Germanic strong-verb descendants with three principal parts (like _swim_, the past tense [swam] and past participle [swum] of which are also merging) that is undergoing simplification. I found the gimmick lame, the puns excruciating, and much of the fill (ORFE, e.g.) pointlessly obscure. We deserve better than this on Sunday, at least, and of late I don't think we've been getting it.

Jerry 1:27 PM  

There's nothing onamatapoetic about gnu unless a gnu says "gnu" when it talks or grunts or whatever gnus do. A gnu that speaks yiddish might say "Nu?" Otherwise, the clue is completely rotten to the core!!

jae 1:37 PM  

Found this so-so. While solving it I was thinking "this is really hard" but after finishing and going back over it, it seemed fairly easy. I guess I was focusing on the stuff I had to guess/infer which there seemed to be alot of (LAWERWNCE, LAPLATA, APESUIT, TEY, RIRE, and more). That said, I had an error with ERETU which I attribute to (a) having no friends in Minneapolis/St. Paul unless you count Mary Richards and (b) to the Mocedades song which is spelled ERES TU.

Unknown 1:38 PM  

Had dinner with the director of The Mann Center in Philly on Friday and we discussed his booking of Carmina Burana. Thanks for the video.

Learned about skorts about two years ago or I would have had no idea and would have thought it was unknown to many. I was slowed down mostly by not getting UTAHAN until trying just about every letter combo in the SE. I could use some of Patrick's Think Mints.

@ Korova,
Orange (Amy) has a book on crossword solving and recognizing patterns is a useful tool. In this case though, Elkhart Trumpets are made in Elkhart, Indiana.

VELMA always brings to mind the song, "He Had It Coming." Great song lyrics in a murderous sort of way.

Anonymous 1:46 PM  

This must be evidence of my gutter roots not belonging with the erudite crowd that solves the NYT puzzle. Not only did I know Jim Belushi was in "Trading Places" wearing an APESUIT (gorilla was my first guess, too, but I quickly sorted it out), but I remember how pivotal it was to getting rid of the bad guy.

It wasn't Jim who ended up in the cage with the real gorilla; it was the nefarious thief of the secret info that led to cornering the FCOJ market (Clarence Beeks--yes, I've watched this movie too many times), inserted there after being knocked unconscious by the stars of the film. Does nobody remember the scene when Belushi returns to the party in his skivvies and rejoices in whatever unremembered activities must have led him to that state?

But, no matter how lowly my roots, I will never attempt to eat INFLATABLEKRAFT.

Anonymous 1:51 PM  

Oh, wait, the gorilla knocked Beeks out after he clobbered Belushi (in the APESUIT), trying to save his soon-to-be paramour. The heroes merely taped his mouth, inserted him in the suit, and locked him in the cage so he could be, uh, enjoyed by the real gorilla on their trip to wherever that slow boat was headed. Yup, that bestial rape was some funny stuff back in the day.

Anonymous 2:12 PM  


If a horse can neigh and a cow can moo,
Maybe a gnu can fuse the two --
So a baby gnu meigh say "noo",
as Mama oohs o'er new gnu's noos.

The funny thing to me is that so many of our favorite tricky clues are puns! Why are those delightful, -- except that we'd be quite bored with nothing but dull dictionary definitions? Yet come up with off-beat answers including combinations that might be seen as puns, and some solvers squirm? They give many of us more of chance at solving success, if we aren't experts in obscure fields or pop or YOTPs, as well as pleasure. And kudos to constructors who aren't too squeamish to play both ends, Qlue and A.

(Not that more discussion will change gut feelings on this, any more than recent comments on various solving methods, but hey!)

Anyway, thanks to Doris for the recall of "classic" witty lyrics... the Hippo et al.


AV 2:54 PM  

I quite liked the puzzle - simple letter-insertions don't make it past the editors' first looks unless there are some attention-getters in the theme entries.

And this puzzle had a few good ones (for me): SHOW ME THE MONKEY was great and I loved it! As were AFTER A SKORT (took me ages as I was fixated on ANKLET for A _ K _ _ T) and TRIPLE KLUTZ. Of course, the central WINK WINK was probably what sealed the deal for this puzzle(And providing the 10K theme).

3 or 4 really good groaners, and a consistent theme provided good enjoyment for this solver.

[Yes, there were some tough crossings, but I usually take guesses and move on to the theme entries so these crossings don't bother my solving experience!]


Anonymous 2:55 PM  

Gnu noises. Onomatopoeia in the hearing.

Anonymous 2:58 PM  

Gnu noise

Anonymous 3:28 PM  

Thanks for some kind words (Ashish, you know who you are!). For the others, Patrick and I worked up a few alternate clues, including this one for SING: [Perform a musical number with one's voice]. Snappy, eh?
Happy puzzling,
Tony O.

Joon 3:36 PM  

i didn't mind this puzzle, but i normally expect greatness out of tony/patrick and this one was only okay. SHOWMETHEMONKEY was good, and i liked AVERAGEJOKE. the others were pretty meh.

this is only tangentially related, but we're vacationing up in maine this week. this morning we went to church up here, and at the end they made their weekly announcements, which included a lobster dinner for some benefit cause which i can't recall. the last line of the announcement? "the sign-up sheet for the lobster dinner is located in the NARTHEX."

absolutely beautiful goal by torres. wow.

Anonymous 3:37 PM  

One does not serve kir. One serves a kir, vin blanc avec creme de cassis. A kir royale use champagne instead of white wine.

archaeoprof 3:45 PM  

Smiled all the way through this one, starting with SHOW ME THE MONKEY. Learned what a SKORT is, too. Never watched much tennis; too busy watching Fussball. Good game so far.

Rex Parker 3:49 PM  

"Football" interlud:

I have a huge crush on Torres, so I am so happy right now.

Is Ballack always this big an a-hole? He's like some horrid combo of thug and prima donna. He's getting away with everything, including what look like deliberate attempts to injure. I wish he were even bloodier than he is right now.


SethG 3:49 PM  

Wildebeests are loud, smelly and stupid. (I camped with them in Tanzania, but spent most of my time in Africa with UGANDANS.) They grunt incessantly (the wildebeests), but I would describe the sound as SHOAT-like. I didn't hear anything that sounded like "GNU".

My first answer was also gorilla. treedweller, I believe the line is "Hey, look what happened to me!"

Had trouble with TROD/RIRE/RICA, the latter cross of which is ridiculous, and with CTR/COTY/PALM TOP/REPS. Didn't know the adjectival X->G , but the cross wasn't bad there. And I _still_ can't spell MAIER.

Wanted Jack WEBB, who covered "(Try a Little) Tender(ness)" but it didn't fit. I did know ELKHART, and my friend Christy lives in EDINA. Hi Christy!

¡Viva EspaƱa!

foodie 3:55 PM  

@Korova, I should read Orange's (Amy's) book, but I haven't yet. So, this is from the perspective of a not-so-advanced solver, who's improving, slowly... I have several big holes in my knowledge, such as sports, many aspects of pop culture, etc... So, sometimes, I look at a Friday or Saturday puzzle and I can't even get a toehold anywhere. Yet, most of the time, I make really good progress, and occasionally I can even finish with no cheating (googling or asking family members) (those are the ones that Rex rates as super easy for a Friday). Beyond learning some crosswordese that shows up with regularity, I've learned a few tricks:

1- Fight Inhibition: When you don't know it, make a guess. I am amazed how often they turn out to be right. This especially helps when this is not a matter of straight knowledge but of tricky cluing (e.g I guessed DRACULA cold and that helped immensely).

2- Don't get too attached: As a result of #1, you can be very excited when you get an answer and not only does it fits, but it sounds perfect (witty, brilliant) AND gets confirmed with some crosses. But it can still be very wrong. It's hard to let go (as a scientist, I have had to learn the same thing. Reality can ruin a beautiful answer). But one needs to always entertain alternatives.

3. Remember the English Language: I remind myself to think about likely word patterns in all directions. One can eliminate a lot and narrow things down to a likely answer.

4. Get Feedback: I read not only the answer as posted by Rex but also the commentary. People often add very useful information that makes the answer, no matter how obscure, more memorable. If nothing else, I'm slowly catching up on my pop culture, especially the Simpsons!

Sorry for the dissertation...

Puzzle did not rock my world today. Almost in Petter Sattler's camp.

Anonymous 4:14 PM  

Well, I liked this one. Sometimes a Sunday puzzle doesn't need to have an overly-complicated or a groundbreaking theme to be a solid puzzle. Case in point today.

And I'm not just saying all that because my little diagramless puzzle is sitting below Tony and Patrick's puzzle, waiting for all of you fine folks to solve it. (OK, maybe that's part of it. But you should still do the diagramless.)


foodie 4:15 PM  


I just went back and read last night's late posts and learned about your mother's death. I am sorry for your loss!

I am so glad you had a chance to see her before she passed. My family lives half way around the world, and I had no warning about my mother's passing. By the time I got there, she was buried (local customs for quick burials). I hope it gives you some solace.

@fergus, re your comment to ChefBea, my mom died on a day that happened to be both our wedding anniversary AND my son's birthday. We now call it the "day of life", and try to manage all the conflicting emotions.

Anonymous 4:44 PM  

@ Blue Stater: Something about the phrasing of your comment sounds familiar. Did you used to hang out on another puzzle forum? Is the phrase "dura lex sed lex" familiar to you?


miriam b 4:49 PM  

@ Chefbea: I was AWOL yesterday and just learned of your loss. My sinceere sympathy to you and your family.

@foodie: Your story touched me deeply. I got the impression that your mother's passing was fairly recent. In any case, I hope time will bring ewerything into some semblance of balance for you.

@Margaret: Nature's aerators are WORMS, not trees (at least for the purposes of this puzzle).

I have a new SKORT, if anyone cares. I haven't played tennis lately, but I wear it anyway.

Unknown 5:47 PM  

Thanks, thanks for the Carmina Burana clip. I know, I know, it is a cantata for cats (O! For Tuna!) but once in awhile, you have to hear it again. The best production I ever heard was by the 6th-8th graders at The Philadelphia School. With the true lyrics. Those kids rocked!

As for the gnu, Who knew?

I'm a Philly solver too, and I LOVE puzzles with puns, the worse they are the more I love them.

Anonymous 6:27 PM  

@foodie: Thanks for the note. All is good advice. And I suppose that I have sometimes paid attention to patterns over clues. But that can get me in trouble: e.g., today I had "P_L_TOP" and figured it must be "POLO TOP" since that sounded like a reasonable answer--vexing clue be damned! Alas, I'd never heard of a PALMTOP. (I'll add that to the long list, somewhere after NABE and OGEE.)

alanrichard 6:38 PM  

This was a Kool puzzle. I worked on the puzzle at Top Girls in the Biltmore Theater. I finished it during the intermissions (2) and when the lights were high; we were in the second row. I felt like i was at a Roger Clemens, or Nolan Ryan or Sandy Koufax game evry time I put another K in!!

Unknown 6:57 PM  

My sympathy as well and may all of your memories be of the love given and the love taken.

drop me a note if you will. My email is on my profile and available by clicking on the blue phillysolver.

Ballack was one of the best players in the world, but he is in decline and seems angered by it. It was the finals or he would have been in more trouble. The better team won...actually the Best Team won.

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

Who's Ballack? Seriously. I don't know who Torres is.

We have a community radio station here in Boulder called KGNU -- I bet no one knows what we all know now about the gnu!
Chefbea -- am so glad you were fortunate enough to be there with and for your mom.
O! I just saw rex's note .. football interlude .. Still means nothing to me. O well.
Happy Sunday -- what's left of it.

Anonymous 7:06 PM  

@anonymous 4:44 p.m. A very astute piece of authorship attribution. Yes, I used to hang out on the NYT forum as Fifties Puzzler (an inelegant locution that I sort of tossed off, not realizing it would be with me for a long time), something I believe I 'fessed up to on this blog a while back; if I didn't, apologies. I left the NYT forum when Rex started this assembly, which is far superior, in my view.

"Dura lex sed lex" (roughly, "the law is hard, but it is the law") is indeed familiar to me. In the pre-Google, pre-Wiki era, I spent about 10 years trying to run down the source of that aphorism with various classicist friends of mine, finally locating it in some obscure neo-Latin treatise I now forget.

If you're the same Anon as 10:58 a.m. supra, sorry I felt obliged to be rough on this puzzle, but I wasn't alone, and tomorrow, or another Sunday, or whenever, is another day.

Anonymous 7:08 PM  

I knew Villa Rica because I used to drive through there going from New Orleans to North Carolina; I knew Elkhart, because I conducted a grand jury in Indiana. In spite of those weird coincidences, I found this puzzle harder than the apparent consensus. But I still liked it for the inventive puns, based on a simple gimmick.

alanrichard 7:34 PM  

The first thing I got was jim Belushi's ape suit. There was a party on the train & he was dressed as an ape. The front man for the Duke brothers ended up in the ape suit in a cage with the real ape and - yes - they became intimately involved!! The Duke brothers resurfaced again in Coming To America when Eddie Murphy, Akeem, gave them a bag full of cash - to which, examining the contents of the bag one of the Dukes said, "Mortimer,(or Randolph), WE'RE BACK!!!" The key to being good at crosswords is remembering what would be otherwise completely useless information - ha ha!

JannieB 7:49 PM  

@Marnie - Ballack and Torres were on opposing sides in today's European Soccer (football) finals representing Germany and Spain, respectively. Torres scored the only, hence winning, goal. Some of us have been following the playoffs and one of our bloggers, Ulrich, is there in person, I think.

Anonymous 8:04 PM  

@ chefbea -- I just read the later posts from yesterday too, and was very sorry to hear of your mother's death. It's good that the family can gather together...

And @ sethg -- I appreciated the tape of GNU noises too. Just as well we can't post the actual smelly part: the nose boggles (if that's possible).

Trivia for Philly -- "Nature's aerators" at 61D reminded me of a TV special that was aired last night: what are the only non-micrscopic critters living in glaciers? ICE WORMS -- They thrive in the opposite of a STYGIAN habitat, sometimes having an orgy in huge writhing piles...

Never mind, it happened again this year, like clockwork: the same day I got the last strawberry from the garden, I also picked the first fabulous blueberries! Willing to contribute to next picnic, and a KIR royale would be most welcome!


Pythia 8:11 PM  

@ chefbea
Very sorry for your loss. Condolences to you and your family.

@ nothnagel
Your little diagramless kicked ass!
I almost always solve the second Sunday puzzle before looking at the main event.

A cheesy pun lover am I, so this was right for me, in principle. It started with a bang -- SHOW ME THE MONKEY. Awesome. Loved PLANK AHEAD and WINK WINK SITUATION. Thought TRIPLE KLUTZ and INFLATABLE KRAFT were meaningless, uncluable nonsense. The rest were okay, so I concur with @ margaret that this was an AVERAGE JOKE.

Is AMOR a word in a modern foreign language (Love overseas)? I thought it was Latin. Baseball clue for NONET is bizarre, and not in a good way. Otherwise, an interesting collection of factoids. Fun encounters included JM BARRIE, STYGIAN, BOOTLEG, LASIK, DRACULA, NOSEDIVE, KIR.

Anonymous 8:26 PM  

Mr. O and Mr. B -- love the puzzle. Give you an A+

by the way Margaretr@5:47, the Philadelphia School truly rocks. My daughter graduated there in the '80s.

Anonymous 8:37 PM  

@jane doh--AMOR is love in Spanish.

mac 8:49 PM  

@alanrichard, you seem to see a lot of plays and listen to wonderful music - I envy you. Should take more advantage of the NY scene...

Anonymous 9:32 PM  

@Blue Stater -- Thanks for confirming, and nice to see you again. (I'm not the Anonymous of 10:58 a.m.)


janie 9:59 PM  

chef bea -- please accept my condolences as well!!

for me, "apesuit" conjures up harry hamlin in an early episode of l.a. law as he seeks to win the affections of susan dey... and loved its proximity today to "showmethemonkey." ;-)

i'm in the camp that flat-out loved today's puzzle. but then, i'm usually in the camp that enjoys themes that are punny and/or based on simple wordplay twists. this one kept the smiles comin'. after the two challenging themeless puzzles we just had, this is something i appreciate in a sunday offering!

smartly done, guys!



chefbea 10:20 PM  

you all are terrific!!! Thanks for all your condolences. Been a tough day but I will get back into the swing of thins soon. Hopefully I will do tomorrow's puzzle. didnt have time to domuch of today's

Anonymous 11:48 PM  

Great blog, Rex.

But how can a puzzle that defines "worms" as "nature's aerators" be "easy-medium"?

I had a tough time with this one -- having "total" instead of "utter" for 95 down completely messed me up in that corner.

I did like the "k" puns, though.

Andy 8:55 AM  

Horrible puzzle. I put it down after 15 minutes and did something more interesting - the laundry.

BTW: 96D: When doubled, sings (names) - seen it! Still good, though.

Huh? I just dont' get it.

Anonymous 10:33 PM  

The Utahan clue is, I think, incorrect. According to Merriam-Webster at least, the noun is Utahn and the adjective is Utahan. Given the wording of the clue it is pretty clearly calling for the noun. Bringing jello to a potluck; now that would be Utahan.

guero 12:39 AM  

This puzzle sucked, mostly for reasons you've mentioned. The only bone I'll pick is that Kir is available on many of our local drink menus. But I could come up with 10 utter crap clues: TROD, SNIDE, SHOAT, UTAHAN, ICE UP (huh?; I get it, but never seen it used), NONET?, ORFE, and the proper nouns are a disaster. If you've lived in Indiana and never heard of Elkhart, well... Basically this puzzle demands cheating if you're a mere mortal like me (and I get most of the Sunday ones eventually, give or take a letter here and there.)

Anyway, enjoy your blog.

Suzanne Bender 12:00 PM  

Hey, thanks for your help. I had most of it completed....just needed "gunk control" and "utahan." Hmmmm.....

Chrisvb 3:15 PM  

7/6 Another thumbs up for Show Me The Monkey, which I got late and which enabled me to finish most of the white spaces.
Loved the Carmina Burana clip, my daughter sang it at UC Santa Cruz.
A few suggestions for Rex - David Niven starred in many films but is also remembered for being onstage at the Oscars when the streaker came by, his quip was "showing his shortcomings, is he?" Tenderly is a nice song for slow dancing, sung by Nat King Cole I think. And you would probably really like Velma in Chicago, she (Catherine Zeta-Jones) does a fabulous All That Jazz that you sing for days afterward.

I solved all without Googling, but I did open an Atlas, remember those?

Anonymous 9:21 PM  

Well, my wife (a Michiganian) got me ELKHART (86D) from EL_____.

WORMS (61D, Nature's aerators) was not my first answer - having W___S, I chose WINDS. OK, we have a tank, actually two tanks (tank = stock tank = pond, in Texan) and if you haven't seen an anoxic fish kill after a few very still, quite windless days you don't know the MEANING of deaeration. You then probably haven't seen a HUGE flock of vultures scavenging the fish carcasses, which is at once disgusting and wonderful (in that the odor magically goes away). SO, WINDS is as good as WORMS for 61D - except it fails to fit the crosses.

Cross stock (15A) was opaque to me until I finished - and my 15 year employment gift was a Cross pen. I am chagrined.

Anonymous 9:21 PM  

Rex, I hope you are able to visit France someday and spend time with the French. A kir is one of the more common aperetifs that would be offered to you.

Anonymous 12:25 AM  

I feel like an idiot: I only got Dracula wayyy too late in this puzzle. Got InflatableKraft first, hated it as an answer, but it made the theme easy. Favourite answer was winkwinksituation. And I'm one of those who started with gorilla until I got to EMO Phillips.

Anonymous 9:30 PM  

Maybe I'm the only one, but when I think of gunk I think of something sludgy. I wouldn't use steel wool on that, I would use steel wool on rust, so I couldn't get "rustcontrol" out of my head, even though it doesn't fit with the theme. Oh, and my first thought with the Jim Belushi clue was "gorilla" and not "apesuit." It seems kinda redundant when the clue asks for the type of costume and the answer includes suit.

cody.riggs 12:18 PM  

This is the second time I've seen UTAHAN in a puzzle, and I objected then as I do now. In Salt Lake City, I always saw the word spelled "UTAHN", which surprised me enough the first time I saw it to actually ask locals about it. Sure enough, I found this spelling used quite consistently in the local media.

Now I look in my dictionary, and UTAHAN is the only spelling listed, and there is not even an alternate for UTAHN! You'd think the locals would have more influence on this.

Personally, I prefer UTAHN. It looks better.

Then again, I was born in Missouri (where we pronounced it Missour'uh) and live in Oregon (pronounced Or'a-gun and mispronounced in the east).

Constructors should at least be made aware of UTAHN. It's more correct and would make more interesting fill.

Anonymous 8:55 AM  

As a Sci-fi fan, Ani came to me right away. (And that is how it's spelled in the subtitles of his friends and acquaintances who don't speak English, or any other Earth language for that matter.) I like to think of myself as a pun master, so the theme clues struck a cord with me. Though I felt AVERAGEJOKE was a little less than average. I'm still cracking up at INFLATABLEKRAFT and SHOWMETHEMONKEY. Not knowing much about sports, I was trying to make it AFTERASKIRT, but it didn't make sense without the K and it didn't help with the crosses. ORFE and RIRE still mean nothing to me, even though you've proved them correct. I still have one hole, at the Name on a plane / Gray area? crossing. My e-mail address is and I would appreciate anything you could tell me. I don't get the paper myself, but any crossword puzzles my grandfather doesn't finish somehow end up in my posession so I don't always have the next week's answer page.
Thanks again.

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