TUESDAY, Jul. 29, 2008 -- David Kwong and Emily Halpern ("Casablana" star, informally / GIBBONS OF TV TALK / ATOLL MAKEUP)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

It was Poker Night here tonight and when the game finally broke up (one guy leaving with pretty much all the money and another guy promising he wouldn't be back next week) I had some technical difficulties, so I'm way behind schedule. Plus I'm exhausted -- from, ya know, reading, eating, and lazing around the pool all day -- so I'm going to get straight to the puzzle and who knows what I'll say?

THEME: Mediocrity -- Theme answers are phrases that include the word "great," but substitute a word that means … something less than great.

Theme Answers:

  • 17A: Mediocre F. Scott Fitzgerald novel? (The Decent Gatsby)
  • 27A: Mediocre place to scuba? (Good Barrier Reef)
  • 49A: Mediocre Steve McQueen film? (The Not Bad Escape)
  • 65A: Mediocre Jerry Lee Lewis hit? (Okay Balls of Fire)
I really like this theme. As I said yesterday, I typically don't pay attention to the themes in early-week puzzles, but I just couldn't figure out how to ignore four 15-letter theme answers. When I finally got enough crosses to figure out The Decent Gatsby, I went straight to the other theme answers and got them quickly, which helped a lot. The only teeny, tiny quibble I have with theme -- and I really hate to even bring this up because I really like the theme and the puzzle in general -- is that it includes a book, a movie, a song, and … the largest coral reef system in the world? One of these things is not like the others, folks. But I'm not going to let that stop me from saying once again that I really like this theme. I even like a lot of the fill. And, really, how often does that happen on a Tuesday?

Bullet points (cuz that's how I roll):
  • 1A: "Casablanca" star, informally (Bogie). I think I've been watching too much golf, because I really wanted to spell it "bogey."
  • 16A: Bejeweled topper (tiara). Every once in a while I see an otherwise normally clad young woman wearing a tiara in public. I always wonder if that's her go-to fashion accessory or if she lost a bet or what.
  • 21A: Gibbons of TV talk (Leeza). Couldn't find the clip, but this reminded me of the Sports Night episode where Casey McCall (Peter Krause's character) goes on a blind date with a woman whose name is spelled "Lisa" but pronounced "Leeza." He has a truly cringe-worthy conversation with her about how is ex-wife's name is also Lisa, but "pronounced the normal way." What's really weird though, is that in "Six Feet Under," Peter Krause's character has an ex-girlfriend named Lisa who comes back into his life and he eventually marries her, and in "Dirty Sexy Money" his character's wife's name is Lisa. What's up with that?
  • 38A: Atoll makeup (coral). I've seen the word "atoll" in the puzzle before, so today I decided, as a gift to you, I would finally look it up. You're welcome. Turns out an atoll is "a ring-shaped ribbon reef enclosing a lagoon in the center." The term was popularized by Charles Darwin who, of course, wrote On the Origin of Species, which my dad is actually reading right now. We're not sure what's wrong with him.
  • 41A: Quick-witted (sharp). I had the S here and I knew it was a word that shared a bunch of letters with "smart" but wasn't "smart." Weird.
  • 69A: Barbie's beau (Ken). Did you know Ken has a last name? It's Carson. The weird thing is that I was going to tell you about how, for some reason, Ken always makes me think of Nancy Drew's boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. And Nancy's father's name is Carson Drew. Eerie.
  • 73A: Hose material (nylon). Is this just referring to pantyhose or are garden hoses made out of nylon too?
  • 1D: "Little Women" woman (Beth). Someday I will have a puzzle published with BETH as one of the answers and I guarantee you right now that I'm cluing it in relation to the Kiss song and not to "Little Women." Not that there's anything wrong with "Little Women." Or anything particularly right with Kiss.
  • 4D: "For sure!" ("Indeed"). This word sounds best if you can also refer to the person you're talking to as "my friend." For example: Person A: Wow, that Peter Criss can really sing. Person B: Indeed he can, my friend. Indeed he can.
  • 5D: Suffix with journal (ese). Huh? I had no idea this was a thing. Or rather, I've always chuckled at the phenomenon of journalese but I didn't know it had a name. Some funny stuff here.
  • 11D: Scope out, pre-heist (case). As in "case the joint." Speaking of heists, if you liked Ocean's Eleven and haven't seen Ocean's Thirteen yet … what are you waiting for? Go rent it now. It's awesome.
  • 18D: Items of apparel for Dracula (cloaks). Don't like the plural here.
  • 26D: _____ welder (arc). Whatever you say.
  • 28D: First name in book clubs (Oprah). You know what's weird about my grandmother? She hates Oprah. I don't know why but she can't stand the woman. If Oprah's name comes up in conversation, Grandma scoffs and rolls her eyes and mumbles under her breath. I've seen Oprah in situations where I thought she was really, really good but I can't get over the fact that she puts herself on the cover of her magazine every freakin' month.
  • 33D: "All My Children" vixen (Erica). I heart Susan Lucci.
  • 40D: Roget's listings (synonyms). Weren't we just talking about Frank Caliendo the other day? He does a bit in which President Bush says that synonym is his favorite flavor.
  • 45D: Alley _____ (oop). I haven't really been into basketball much in the last few years (like, since the Magic-Bird era), but there's nothing prettier in basketball than the alley oop.

  • 67D: One of a snorkeler's pair (fin). The second time PuzzleHusband and I came down here to Costa Rica we had been married about seven months. PH went out boogie boarding and got caught by a wave so big that he lost his fins and his wedding ring! At that point in time, my dad had managed to hang onto his wedding ring for 34 years, an observation I made several times that day. And, yeah, I've made it a few times since then too.
Thanks again for putting up with me the last couple days. Seth will be here filling in tomorrow and Thursday, then I think Wade is on for a couple days, and I'll be back after that. I'm pretty sure Rex will be back eventually. I'm sure I missed a few things, so please have fun in the comments….

Pura Vida, PuzzleGirl


alanrichard 6:39 AM  

There are way tooo many names in this puzzle. Its like a readers digest or a movie fan puzzle. Lets see: Bogie, Leeza, Hess, Rita, Ken, Greg, Oprah, Erica, Oop, Arlo, Leon & Bea.
I guess the idea was To Have & Have Not a subtle movie/tv/comic personality theme. Well, its always fun to do the puzzle but this much name calling can certainly induce The Big Sleep or at least make me feel like getting away to Key Largo.
Having said that I guess a Book a Movie, a Song, and a natural geological wonder make up an interesting combination.

alanrichard 6:39 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barry G. 8:01 AM  

Morning, folks!

Nice puzzle and easy enough for a Tuesday. Lots of proper names, but fortunately I knew them all for a change.

Just one minor quibble, though: shouldn't KEN be clued as Barbie's ex-boyfriend at this point? I heard they broke up recently...

Orange 8:52 AM  

Barry, dead people who were on TV shows in the '50s can be clued without "former" or "ex" in crosswordland, so Barbie will never be rid of that beige, anatomically incorrect man in crosswords.

PuzzleGirl, my husband's wedding ring slipped off and onto a coral reef seven months after our wedding, snorkeling in St. Croix. Fortunately he felt it happen and could dive down to retrieve it. But then he lost 10 or 15 pounds and his ring was always too loose, so I bought him a new shackle with a comfy bevel to it.

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

After a false start when I read the clue for 1A as "Casablance PLACE, informally" and wrote in RICKS.....I worked right through this puzzle.

I sort of like how you can spell both LEEZA and ANTZ with as "S" as would usually be the case and it still works.

janie 9:13 AM  

while "goodbarrierreef" may not conform to the other theme fill, i do love that "reef" sits atop "coral." and i don't love "atest"s, but again, it seems like there's this sub-theme goin' -- since atests were conducted on atolls, which are...

brava, pg, for the *great* pinch-hitting! looking forward to your cohorts' posts, too. meanwhile -- hope you're coasting along beautifully in beautiful costa rica!



Barry G. 9:25 AM  

Barry, dead people who were on TV shows in the '50s can be clued without "former" or "ex" in crosswordland, so Barbie will never be rid of that beige, anatomically incorrect man in crosswords.

I dunno, Orange. By that logic, would you be OK if Mimi Rogers was clued as "Tom Cruise's wife" instead of his "ex wife"? Maybe it's just because Barbie hasn't found a new beau yet.... ^_^

Orange 9:29 AM  

Perhaps the rules are different for fictional and/or plastic people?

Unknown 9:31 AM  

I think PD is evolving. Looking forward to the Ultimate results from Seth and news on the office from Wade. The puzzle was clever, but had a People Magazine feel to it with some of the celebs hiding in it from the paparazzi and a few in REHAB. I am thinking of a theme where I raise some things up, like a Bad Moon Rising to an Average Moon Rising and George W to a so-so President.

Ulrich 9:34 AM  

I also really liked the theme and disliked the number of names, many of which were unknowns to me. Was proud that I got everything through crosses until I realized, coming here, that my crossing of IONA with LEAZA was wrong (if you deviate from normal spelling, all bets are off--no?). That's the problem with names of unknown (to me) people: You have no way of chosing between variants all of which fit into the grid--unless you google, and I hate to google on a Tuesday.

Bill D 9:36 AM  

Another great job, PG! Actually, as I was reading the blog I was trying to figure out who our blogger was today. I eliminated Rex right off - not in-your-face enough, although the "didn't-wanna-complain complaint" about theme answer congruity did throw me Rexward for a bit. Then I started to think "sly, tangential, self-referential yet self-effacing humor, could this be Wade?" I was still unsure until I hit PH references! Forgive me, I know I've probably insulted all concerned, but you all seem to be melding, at least in my mind.

Best. Tuesday. Ever. Four 15-letter theme answers! Fun, fun puzzle which I was able to complete doing Downs Only. I wrote ANTZ in right away and then looked at the clue again and decided "It wasn't ten years ago - I just saw that one..." I put it back in when the downs below were shaping up as LEEZA, a crossword favorite. Kept wanting "KEEN" for Banshee sound, but OKAY BALLS OF FIRE was the first theme answer I got, so I went back and picked off the rest. My only nit is that FIN and CORAL could have been clued with the Scuba divers at the GOOD BARRIER REEF - this type of cluing helps a lot when doing Downs Only. Did you know that "SCUBA" is an acronym coined by Jacques Cousteau? It stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. [nb - Despite the tempting discussion of atolls, I will not bring up Cecil The Seasick Sea Serpent's home island. You are welcome.]

My wife and I snorkel a lot. Once, on our way to the airport in Hilo to depart for home, we stopped to snorkel in a beautiful Hawaiian bay. As my wife was returning to the beach, she noticed cash and stuff rolling around in the mild surf. She yelled to me, and I said "Some idiot must have lost his wallet!" Then she found a credit card slip with guess who's name on it and discovered the idiot in question was her idiot. The persistent wave action, even though very mild, had opened up the billfold and eventually caressed everything out of it and into the surf. My wife said if we hadn't found my picture ID she was leaving me in Hawaii, as I would not have been able to board our flight home. Nemo is probably trying to use my Blue Cross card to have his fin fixed as we speak.

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

I thought this was a decent Tuesday puzzle. Surprisingly names like Leeza and Ione come easily to me which probably isn't a good thing. I liked SYNONYMS, SANYO, PSEUDO AND CRAFTY. They seem fresh. All in all, a not bad, better than okay puzzle.

mac 9:46 AM  

Very, very easy Tuesday, but fun. Philly has a point, it does feel like People Magazine, except for the long answers that weren't soso actors with double last names.
Never heard of arc but and Pecos Bill, but those were the only ones I had to get from crosses - not even a pauze there.

I thought Dracula wore a cape; when my son was 4 he wanted to be Dracula at Halloween, so I made him a cape, black with shiny red lining. He used it for years playing all kinds of superheroes, it was really worth the trouble!

Our wedding rings were sets of three thin white, yellow and red gold. After playing with them at meetings and on flights and having to scramble around under seats and desks, my husband finally gave up on them. He also put on some weight so maybe they weren't comfortable. Mine were upgraded some years ago!

mac 9:58 AM  

@PuzzleGirl: I have to admit I'm with Bill D, I wasn't sure who did the blog today either, maybe because of the mention of a poker game. I thought Wade, but just not irreverent enough, although I could see him lolling around the pool with his family away. Could have been Seth, but can you play serious poker with a PuzzleMTB around? I got confused when "Little Women" was mentioned, couldn't imagine Wade knowing all about that, although maybe just the crosswordese? Then PuzzleHusband set me straight.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

Was Mimi Rogers already acting in the '50s?

>>>Barry, dead people who were on TV shows in the '50s can be clued without "former" or "ex" in crosswordland, so Barbie will never be rid of that beige, anatomically incorrect man in crosswords.

I dunno, Orange. By that logic, would you be OK if Mimi Rogers was clued as "Tom Cruise's wife" instead of his "ex wife"? Maybe it's just because Barbie hasn't found a new beau yet.... ^_^<<<

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

I'm flattered that anybody thought I might have done today's write-up. Good stuff, PG. And no, there was nothing right about Kiss.

Chalk me up as a wedding-ring-in-the-ocean-loser. I had mine three or four months before losing it off the coast of Port Aransas, Easter weekend 2000. And my Scottish wife, new to Texas, learned about sun screen that weekend, the hard way. Yeah, a great time had by all.

Fine little Tuesday puzzle.

Scott 10:41 AM  

I was also unhappy with the IONE/LEEZA cross.


one of my favorite alley oops. (can you put links directly in comment sections? I wasn't able to, sorry!)

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

I can't remember the last time I finished a Tuesday crossword and thought "wow, that was a nice puzzle", so today was a nice change. Really wanted 5D to be ISM or IST and started wondering if BOGIE could be spelled in some weird way that would end in an I. Eventually gave up on that and landed on ESE from crosses. Other than that, I flew threw the puzzle.

If you've never read "On the Origin of Species" you really should (or at least don't mock those who are reading it...). Its beautifully written, and from an era before science was full of jargon, so its perfectly comprehensible to non-scientists.

Barry G. 11:03 AM  

Perhaps the rules are different for fictional and/or plastic people?

Well, I suppose it would help if you're able to tell which ones are real and which are plastic...

Jeffrey 11:06 AM  

This was a DECENT, GOOD, NOT BAD, OKAY puzzle for me. Nice that this week we had a Monday puzzle on Monday and a Tuesday on Tuesday for a change. We'll see how Weird Wednesday goes.

I still have my wedding ring, so I'm not a former or ex.

The Real Crosscan

Anonymous 11:08 AM  

I have to disagree, I had a lot of trouble with this one. Skein, Riata, Erica, Bogie, Hess, and Beth were pure fill-ins.

ArtLvr 11:15 AM  

@ alanrichard: Since you have the blue/orange ID (Google/Blogger), you can edit out your duplicate post if you happen to create one -- just click on the trash can at the bottom left of the post, then delete!

With my sleep schedule totally askew, I had the same reaction to today's puzzle in the wee hours -- a fun theme, but way too many proper names. I did complete it correctly rather quickly, with no help, but only because I'd seen oddities like the IONE/ LEEZA cross elsewhere.

Amazing -- the scuba stories with losses and near-losses of spousal insignia! Condolences all... Good going, and don't be too hard on PH, PG!


miriam b 11:28 AM  

The puzzle was easy, but the theme was executed so neatly that I say BRAVI to the constructors.

@mac: Arc welding is the type of welding which uses an electric arc as the energy source.

I lost a diamond engagement ring when it fell through a hole in the floor of our microbus. Yes, I was already married at the time. Had I merely been engaged, events might have taken a different turn.

Unknown 11:32 AM  

Looks like I'll be the old grouch. I thought this was a terrible theme. Arbitrary. Unfunny.

Even the skill of creating and filling in the 15-letter answers was mitigated when you realize that the "less than great" word could be anything. Why not the "SO-SO BARRIER REEF," "FAIR BARRIER REEF," "OKAY BARRIER REEF"? Why not "THE MODEST ESCAPE"? Why not "THE COMMON GATSBY," or even "MIDDLING GATSBY," since the presence or absence of the initial "the" is equally arbitrary.

(It makes some ironic sense that "Roget's listings' make an appearance in this puzzle.)

Other low points: ORBS, ILKS, the badly abbreviated clue for FLARE. And EITHER/OR is not something you would say instead of "Take your pick." (How about "You're only allowed one"?)

Sure, there were things I liked ("False start" = PSEUDO), but why gum up the grumpiness now?

Not-great, indeed.

HudsonHawk 11:33 AM  

I also liked this puzzle a lot. My only quibble is with "not bad". It just doesn't flow like the other great substitutes.

Instead of ___ welder, how about Steve Winwood's "___ of a Diver"? Great song and album.

Curious if David Kwong is our blogger "dk"...

Bill from NJ 11:37 AM  

I am good with names, particularly from pop culture but not exclusively so I never complain about too many names but I do feel for those non-Americans among us faced with Flavor Flav and Pecos Bill.

Liked this theme especially because it was not consistent and covered a range of topics. I really liked THENOTBADESCAPE. Very nice Tuesday puzzle and I liked that it opened with BOGIE.

Speaking of wedding rings, my wife and I have a custom of attending Chinese New Year in South Philadelphia every year and we buy the little enamal-covered copper rings at a gift shop and wear them during the course of the year. Sort of our way of renewing our vows and, besides, the enamal chips off during the course of the year anyway. Hope to see you there next year, PhillySolver.

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

From PG's link on the "journalese" entry, I learned the following, which falls in the category of "I had no freakin' idea." Everything below this is from Wikipedia's entry on "mayhem":

Mayhem, under the common law of crimes, consisted of the intentional and wanton removal of a body part that would handicap a person's ability to defend himself in combat. Under the strict common law definition, this required damage to an eye or a limb, while cutting off an ear or a nose was deemed not sufficiently disabling. Later the meaning of the crime expanded to encompass any mutilation, disfigurement, or crippling act done using any instrument. The noun "mayhem", and the verb "maim", came from Old French mahaing.

The most significant revolution in common-law mayhem doctrine came in 1697, when the King's Bench decided Fetter v. Beale, 91 Eng. Rep. 1122. There, the plaintiff recovered in a battery action against a defendant. Shortly thereafter, "part of his skull by reason of the said battery came out of his head," and the plaintiff brought a subsequent action under mayhem. Though Fetter is also known as an early example of res judicata, it is most significant for expanding the ambit of mayhem to include "loss of the skull."

Margaret 11:42 AM  

Two theme puzzles in a row and both of them nicely done. And Rex was with us today in the puzzle if not in the blog; for the second time in recent memory SHARP was dead center of the puzzle. Only this time it was lying down rather than upright (because Rex is on vacation??)

I'm the one who lost the wedding ring (hubby never had one; he got a wedding watch.) I had just read that chlorine was bad for jewelry so I put it in the gym bag in the locked locker while I was swimming laps. Didn't look for it til I got home: no ring. I think we can conclude from this blog that any type of water, chlorinated or not, is NOT GOOD for wedding rings.

Margaret 11:47 AM  

PG -- I just noticed the Tony the Tiger visual. Funny!

JannieB 11:48 AM  

Very nice Tuesday entry. We're off to a great start this week. I didn't mind all the names, probably because I knew all but one (italo) and even that seems to have appeared before.

I agree with PeterS that there might have been other synonyms for "less than great" that would have flowed more smoothly - especially the "not bad" entry - but I still enjoyed the puzzle and thought it an above-average Tuesday.

Pythia 12:06 PM  

Cute theme, well executed. No knowledge gaps today.

Too many names, I agree, but with 4 x 15-letter theme answers to work around and all of the down answers crossing either one or two theme answers, there are lots of constraints. Free pass.

Sweet write-up, PG. I'm with your Granny -- I do not heart OPRAH.

@ barry: I'm with you on Ken as the ex-beau.


Jeffrey 12:15 PM  

It is tricky to define relationships with fictional characters (and real ones too, sometimes). How would you describe Lois Lane in regards to Superman.

In current comics they are married, but it is different in the movies or Smallville.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

I think Barbie ad Ken are back together, although their reconnection was never mentioned by Mattel with any fanfare. They broke up in 2004 to worldwide press. Barbie then started seeing California surfer dude Blaine.

Blaine never really caught on and the decision to dump Ken would have been an epic disaster except for a T-shirt that said something to the effect of I heart Ken with heart conspiculously crossed out and dumped inserted in its stead.

Apparently, Ken dolls, which tanked after the break-up, are being sold again and Mattel has discontinued Blaine.

I think it is plausible to say that they are back together again so that the ex-/current controversy is moot.

Steve M

jeff in chicago 1:07 PM  

Enjoyed today's puzzle. Four 15's and each made me smile. Can't ask much more from a Tuesday. Perhaps a few too many names, but I won't complain since I knew all of them and it helped me zip through the puzzle.

Loved the alley-oop video. And I promise I'll cut down on wearing my tiara. ^~^

@wade: I agree. Interesting Wiki entry on "mayhem." I never knew that.

Just a tad distressed that PG is concerned that her dad is reading one of the most important books ever written. Ths study of evolution has grown vastly since "Origin" was written, but it's still an amazing read. It will probably never be an Oprah selection, as she is too busy reading "The Secret." (Too snarky? I, too, do not heart Oprah, even a little.)

Betsey Sorensen 1:12 PM  

It's good to be back to puzzles. Life and moving have gotten in the way for the past few months. I've enjoyed the last two days for my rusty puzzle mind.

I think it is water/sand that attract wedding rings. I lost mine while playing sand volleyball. A tense half an hour and a friend with a metal detector saved the day.

fergus 1:12 PM  

I don't know what the font is in the printed version but that elision (which might even be called kerning, though I'm kinda rusty on typesetting terms) between the r and the n tends to look like an m. Thus, I'm left to wonder what a Yam buy could be. One of those odd collective nouns, second letter K? A while back, someone made a related observation, maybe even involving the same pair of letters.

I reread The Great Gatsby just a few months ago, and it did strike me as well, mediocre. My friend, who often reads the same books concurrently upon mutual suggestion, thought it worse than that. Yeah, there are a couple of nice poetic moments, and it has a sort of iconic American morality tale, but the reverence with which it's treated is way overblown. Fitzgerald deserves more credit for some of his other work.

And while I'm pontificating, I'll bet that PuzzleDad is finding a lot of enjoyment with Darwin. The Descent of Man was pretty good, as well. The elegant writing draws you so nicely into the theoretical stuff that you never feel like you're being lectured to.

I expect there are some other OKRA enthusiasts out there? Better without the clunky plural form, eh?

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

Fun theme; yes, the 40D:SYNONYMS were a bit arbitrary, but that gives the constructor more leeway to get 4x15, and also more of a challenge to solve after getting the theme. Too many names? Probably, but without them this would be closer to Monday difficulty. (5D:ESE from journal___ also felt tricky for Tuesday, where I'd expect only IST or ISM from that clue.) Also neat to see 16A:TIARA and the central 31D:RIATA in the same puzzle

Thanks to PG for the Tiger visual and alley-oop compilation. Agree with Jeff@1:07 re Darwin (is Rex going anywhere near the Australian port named after him?); next year, Newton?


Unknown 1:25 PM  

Bill in NJ
I will do the Chinese New Year ten course gig again. A few years ago I was selected to bounce the won ton dough off of the drum and into the flour coating...threw it too hard and it flew past the flour table and onto the floor ala On Top of Spaghetti.

Forget saving a marrage and/or engagement, I loose the ring we are talking burial service.

A shout out to joon...hope you are on vacation and having a great time, but is the absence of ACM a coincident. Seth must be in some recovery unit or involved in a major victory celebration.

abnorma 1:28 PM  

I, too, thought the write up was very clever. Loved Tony. Also loved today's puzzle. Don't know if I love Oprah since (amazingly?) I have managed to never see her show. Also thought Gatsby wasn't so much...

dk 2:25 PM  

Stay tuned for the results of a Barbie and Ken inspired photo exhibit that should be finished... well it is already 6 months late and the gallery is cheesed off(not so much)as they had to reschedule.

Cute puzzle.

It is wedding ring day. My lovely wife's ring has a diamond that has clouded and we need to get it back to the jeweler for repair. The challenge is everything new we have acquired in the last year (since I tricked the poor thing into marriage by claiming I was in a family way) has not performed as advertised (except me of course as i was sold as is). The items range from a diswasher to a Laptop. Even my strategy of saving up to buy the best is no longer working, and do not even get me started on service levels and responsibility. Using the dishwasher as an example: The install was poorly done, the repairman stated "well this does not fix your problem but it is what I was told to do" and the store claims we will have to work it out with Asko... crikey.

Anonymous 3:01 PM  

I'm pretty sure PuzzleGirl's comment about her father reading Origin of Species was meant as affectionate teasing of her dad and not as a slur against Darwin's book, which, however influential and well-written, does not immediately spring to mind as a summer beach read.

I kind of dig Oprah, by the way, all things considered. At least she's not using her powers for evil.

jae 3:27 PM  

Not much to say other than a very enjoyable/clever Tues. puzzle. Didn't mind the names as I pretty much knew them. Loved IONE SKYE in Say Anything. Nice job again PG!

dk 3:51 PM  

@wade and pg, when one is done with Darwin try:


fergus 4:08 PM  

Curiously enough, Wade, I spent the summer of 1978 reading Darwin at the beach in La Jolla. Admittedly, Tender is the Night and The Beautiful and Damned, also from that summer, were more site-appropriate. I guess I was fortunate enough to have parents who recognized virtues other than the discipline of a summer job.

Just came back from a little errand, and in passing noticed the perfect Xword car: the KIA AERIO.

Jeffrey 4:18 PM  

There must be a Barbie, Ken, Oprah and Darwin joke here somewhere.

Shall we start a pool as to when we will next hear from Rex?

Fergus, I drive a Saturn AURA and I keep waiting for a clue that isn't atmosphere or surrounding glow.

Yes, I bought it for the name.

Mike 4:37 PM  

I just started getting into Six Feet Under, last night in fact I got to the one where Peter Krause and Brenda decide to get married, then this morning my daily crossword blog spoils the surprise :(

Doc John 4:54 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle very much and had a chuckle at the theme fills. My favorite was THE NOT BAD ESCAPE. The fact that mediocre has a list of SYNONYMs a mile long is what made this Tuesday-worthy, IMHO.

As for all the names, for the most part they were all near-pantheonic (except ITALO) so I give them a pass. Especially IONE. Constructors must have jumped with glee when she got famous!

@scott- in the FAQ section of the blog (in the list at right) are instruction on how to embed a link in your comments.

Nice write-up, PG. Loved the Tony the Tiger and Kiss references!

And for those who are really bummed that you missed my concert, I have put together a short compilation video here. (Warning, it's 25 MB in size.)

Anonymous 5:50 PM  

Well, Technically Ione Skye never got famous, EXCEPT in crosswords, but yes, they are still peeling me off the ceiling from that jump-joy!
(She is the daughter of Donovan tho, that has to count for something)

I REALLY liked this puzzle even tho I agreed with some of grumpy Steve's comments.
And of course I feel like names, names, names, give me more names in a puzzle! It does NOT make it People-esque!
History, Literature, Science are ultimately all about people... who have NAMES!!!

I used to like Oprah just bec she named her production company HARPO but then I saw her "interview" with Will And Merl and she clearly had no clue what a crossword even WAS (which wouldn't have been so bad if she hadn't done one of those "who are these creature nerds who engage in such behavior?" att-i-tudes).
(Plus my friend who created the Simpsons said she was the worst celebrity guest EVER)

(yes, that's a lure to get Rex to respond!)

So it's no surprise she had on the anatomically incorrect Tom Cruise post-Mimi and Nicole.

@PhillySolver was that a shout out to me???!!! Sweet! Esp bec I have NO wedding ring (lost or otherwise) story to share :(

Thought PG's write-up was GREAT! and I'm going to wear my tiara tomorrow JUST so I can tell people I lost a bet! ;)

fergus 6:04 PM  

Crosscan, When you take your car into the shop, you probably get some New Age jokes about having your Aura fixed?

I am as skeptical as they come, but on a lark I once attended a Psychic Fair, where a pony-tailed practitioner of the mystical healing arts sent the dark vibes of my aura down through the floor. Coincidentally, or not, several months of enduring gloominess lifted, for a good, long run of GLEE.

Jeffrey 6:16 PM  

Fergus, any GLEE I have driving my AURA vanishes at the gas pump, where we pay the equivalent of close to $6.00 per gallon.

alanrichard 6:23 PM  

Okay - so here's the skinny on Barbie & Ken. Barbie claimed to be with child. Ken denied everything and, to make a long legal battle short, they ended up in court. Ken adamantly denied that there was an intimate relationship but Barbie persisted in claiming that he was the father of her soon to be child.
In a dramatic scene, comparable to Sidney Carton's, "It is a far far better....", Ken played his ace by disrobing. He proved he was anatomically incapable of being the father of Barbie's child. She was, meanwhile, in a "relationship" with Blaine - a surfer dude.
The media really didn't get into this heavily because Madonna, Britney and Angelina were much more newsworthy.

Unknown 6:31 PM  

andrea carla michaels...it was a shout out...we missed you. Any chance you will be in NYC for the August 23rd Lollapuzzoola 2008? I heard from Seth, too and he had photos of his tournament. Looking forward to tonight's puzzle.

Jennifer 6:33 PM  

Personally I really liked that OPRAH sat right on top of OKRA.

Unknown 6:36 PM  

After getting WAY behind on puzzles, I've had to leave the blog alone, but with yesterday and today's easy breezy puzzles, I finally had time to catch up, having finished Friday's and Saturday's on Sunday night, and Sunday's yesterday -- loved that one.

Doc John 6:42 PM  

So, Andrea, does that mean you are friends with Matt Groening?

As for Ms. Skye, according to IMDB she's remained active as an actress but I guess nothing as well-known as "Say Anything".

Anonymous 6:48 PM  

Ugh, I hated the clue "First name in book clubs," as many of the books that Oprah LOVES are pretty bad.
The "Decent" Gatsby could have been much more creative.
And, I misread Jerry Lee Lewis as Jerry Lewis, thinking "Aren't all his movies mediocre?" That spoiled the bottom quarter of the puzzle for me until I read the clue again. Goodness, gracious!

fergus 6:51 PM  

Gas price thread -- which I only continue since we're all dealing with the issue in some fashion.

When I was in Vancouver and popping down to Seattle regularly, I was annoyed that I couldn't immediately translate kilometers per liter to MPG, simultaneously with US$/C$ and, possibly, the relative quality of gasoline, to figure out whether it made much difference where to fill up with regard to the 49th parallel. This was 15 years ago, when it seemed to matter less, but I wonder whether you now have an algorithm, or merely leave the grim occasion to circumstance?

Anonymous 6:58 PM  

Ione Skye OUGHT to be called Iona Skye, if only because it makes perfect sense to have two Hebridean islands next to each other.

Jeffrey 7:06 PM  

Well this is my fourth post and straying further from the puzzle, but, hey Dad is on vacation and we get to party in his house.

My extremely complex formula is to multiply the price per litre by 4. $1.50 per litre is around $6 per gallon. The exchange rate is close to par so that part of the calculation can be ignored.

Gas "mileage" is calculated here as number of litres it takes to drive 100 kilometres (L/100km); no idea how to translate that into miles per gallon. I do know the lower the number, the better.

Bottom line, always fill up on the US side of the border.

Ulrich 7:15 PM  

@acme: Glad somebody else admits to not wearing a wedding ring--I always knew that wearing one was a bad idea b/c you could lose it scuba diving.

And yes, being Donovan's daughter counts for something. But names are terribly overrated, atleast for one like me who cannot remember them

Leon 7:22 PM  

David and Emily - not bad, old sports.

PG - good write-up - more than okay.

OPE vs. UNLOCK in Shakespeare.
OPE wins with 20 cites to five.

Best of OPES:

Which, like dumb mouths, do OPE their ruby lips,Julius Caesar: III, i

Nor OPE her lap to saint-seducing gold: Romeo and Juliet: I, i

Most sacrilegious murder hath broke OPE Macbeth: II, iii

Orange 7:22 PM  

Anonymous 10:18, Mimi Rogers isn't dead. My remarks were about dead celebs famous in the '50s.

Noam says this puzzle would be Monday-easy if not for all the names. The names are what made it Monday-easy for me! I found today's considerably easier than yesterday's.

Crosscan and Fergus, I'm holding out for a car called the Eerie Aria. Or maybe, say, the Toyota Oleo. How much longer must I wait?

Andrea, I can't wait to see the pictures of you in your tiara!

Orange 7:26 PM  

Oh! I had beet caviar at lunch today. Contexturally, I don't know what was in it. Shredded beets were obvious, and I've seen a recipe that cites walnuts and prunes, I saw nothing in the beet caviar that looked like those ingredients. It's caviar-free, which is good because fish eggs are rather smelly, if you ask me. Some beety sweetness, and...I don't know what else.

mac 7:35 PM  
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mac 7:35 PM  
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mac 7:46 PM  

Ione is Donovan's daughter? I can't believe it. I loved his music when I was a little girl, listening to his records holding the LP cover, because the words were on the back.....

A couple of years ago our son and I spent a long weekend in Dublin. After we arrived at our rediculously expensive and very mediocre hotel, we unpacked and walked about 30 yards to an Indonesian restaurant. After ordering I heard this voice, and looking around saw this face.....
Donovan lives and loves Indonesian food! Of course I said nothing until we had left the premises. By the way, I didn't see much of our son after that; a friend had giving him the name and tel.no. of a beautiful Irish girl with a hollow leg, and he was not aproachable until about 6 p.m. after that......
By the way, if you need any Indonesian recipes let me know, it's part of the Dutch cuisine.

Rex Parker 7:53 PM  

I didn't solve this puzzle (I'll spare you the computer hell I am currently inhabiting), but it looks pretty cool. You have to be forgiving of Tuesday puzzles. They have "special needs."

Wedding ring day? I lost mine for three years. Wife found it under car seat the day we got rid of the car. Still not used to it. Feels ginormous.

Oprah ... I have strong ambivalence. Love/hate. Many of her book club books are actually pretty good. I mean ... Anna Karenina! Come on. That's hot.

Last day on the South Island. Tomorrow we fly to Auckland and do some family / friend visiting in the environs before heading back (yay!) on ... Tuesday, I think.

The next puzzle I construct will have HAAST'S EAGLE in it. I'm warning you all now.


jubjub 8:14 PM  

Loved the puzzle! I knew all the names except IONE. Particularly liked the two Beatles, the ARLO Guthrie, and the ITALO Calvino props. Calvino has some great books, and a really fun name to say. It must be said with an exaggerated Italian accent --- Iiittaaalooh, Iiittaalooh Caaallaviinooh.

I have worn a TIARA in public by choice. I think it was part of a Halloween costume someone lost at my house. It was plastic and had flashing red lights on it -- very classy. I made a little girl I passed on the street jealous -- heard her turn to her mom and say, "Mommy, I want a tiara!".

@anon 6:48, in case it escaped your attention, OPRAH is a first name in book clubs because Oprah is a first (i.e. given) name. It's kinda punny, see?

Larry 9:06 PM  

So puzzle girl didn't think that barrier reef belonged with the book, movie and song? (loved the pair of double rs, though).

Logically a record would be what the Dr. ordered, but So & So's "Goodest Hits?"

If we allowed to remain within the entertainment field:

Mediocre Barrymore's nickname?

"the common profile"

miriam b 9:06 PM  

@orange: Beet caviar! I envy you. I know the recipe you refer to, but the more conventional recipes seem much more simple. I combed through my 3dozen (no typo) Russian cook books to see whether I could detect a common thread, and also checked my Ukrainian, Georgian and Uzbek books. The basic recipes seem quite simple. I'd be willing to bet the beets were roasted then grated, and I'd imagine that olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar were added. Some parsley, maybe, and perhaps a non-traditional bit of créme fraîche? Does this sound about right?

I make eggplant caviar quite often, but have never made beet caviar, and I don't remember my Russian grandmother making it either. I have made beet jam,, which is super.

SERIOUS threead drift - sorry, Rex.

fergus 9:30 PM  


You come up as one of those sensible intellectuals who have to cite Anna as critically important, but I would like to know what the four others Newsweek might extract from you.

Mine are buried below:

the Rainbow
Tom Jones
Rouge et le Noir
Tristam Shandy
and that guy, Joyce

Orange 10:06 PM  

Miriam, I haven't a clue what was in the beet caviar. But the restaurant's owner is Uzbek. But then again, there are assorted Ukrainian and Lithuanian dishes along with Uzbek and Russian. You'd like Russian Tea Time—about half the dishes are vegetarian. I recommend the Ukrainian pumpkin vareniky and potato vareniky, and the Tashkent carrot salad that comes with everything.

fergus 10:20 PM  

... and various other central Asian treats that we might come to recognize.

miriam b 10:51 PM  

Orange, I know I'd love this restaurant. I've never been to Chicago, unless you count changing planes at O'Hare, but it almost seems worth the trip.

The grandmother who presided over our kithen was ethnically Russian but was born in Georgia (where BTW her parents were friendly with a young voice student, Feodor Chaliapin, of whom much would later be heard). She and my grandfather, who was from Voronezh, met somewhere or other and went to live in Uzbekistan. My father was born in Tashkent. They later lived in Ashkhabad and emigrated in 1909, probably a prudent move, as my grandfather, who published a newspaper, had alienated the local constabulary with his antiestablishment op-ed pieces.

Rex Parker 10:51 PM  


I confess I have no idea what you are talking about. Your first sentence (something about Anna?) makes no sense to me.

Just adopted and then disowned two stray labs on the beach here at Lake Hawea. They brought me sticks and I made them sit and stay (and they listened!) until I threw the sticks into the lake. Then they brought the sticks back. Well, the true lab would swim out and get the stick while the other barked, and then the other would take the stick from true lab and bring it to me. All up and down the beach. Then I told them to stop following me and go home. NZ'ers let their dogs roam free in ways that would alarm the average American.

Good NZ words for crosswords:

TUI (bird/beer)
HOIHO (rare yellow-eyed penguin on the NZ $5 bill)
BACH (modest beach house)
TAUPO (giant lake on N. Island)
NAPIER (city destroyed by earthquake in 30s and thus famous for its 1930s style / art deco architecture)
AOTEAROA (another word for NZ)


Luke 10:52 PM  

What a not so bad puzzle. I really enjoyed the theme and The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite books.

I started this one last night and got about halfway through for hitting a snare then picked it up this morning and got some of the clues I couldn't get last night in about half a second. I love how that works.

fergus 11:48 PM  

Isn't Anna an automatic Tolstoy reference? Your English professorship scattered coverage amuses me; my last dutchess didn't know anything except about the 19th century.

Anonymous 1:04 AM  

I have AOTEAROA in an upcoming Monday puzzle!!!!!!!!!


Come home soon! Tho I'm loving these travelogues.
btw TUI is good in Scrabble...takes a front hook E, for the infamous ETUI and a lifesaver now that they threw out UIT.

@doc john
No, don't know Matt Groening (rhymes with raining). My friend created the TV show and will have to remain somewhat anonymous lest O is feeling litigious (sp?)

Thanks for the invite. won't be anywhere but home in Aug...when you live in San Francisco, every day is a staycation or whatever that silly word is they are trying to coin.

@mac I hope that hollow leg story was a drinking reference not a sexual one... ;)

Now where did I put my tiara...

mac 8:33 AM  

definitely drinking, in Dublin!!!

Anonymous 3:12 PM  

@ bill d and mac: As one of the probably small handful of folks who know that Monday night is poker night in Nosara, Costa Rica, I probably should have figured out sooner than I did that PuzzleGirl was authoring today's writeup.

After missing MANY obvious clues (retrospectively) -- esp the SportsNight reference -- I finally figured it out when she told y'all to go see Ocean's 13. Puzzle Girl gave me that exact same advice not two weeks ago, and so I found it on the TiVo, watched it, and spent two hours of my life that I will never. Get. Back. So who do I see about that? (Actually, the premise was clever, as they all have been, but I certainly didn't find 13 any better than 12, and both are nere shadows of the entertainment that was 11).

I never knew my Grandma hated Oprah. The things you learn online...

crackup 6:18 PM  

I lost my wedding ring, didn't fit after child. Since we/he never sprang for "the" diamond I thought this might be a good time to get one. Low and behold not long after said wedding ring showed up, still doesn't fit though. Loved your blog.

Joon 11:18 PM  

phillysolver, i am indeed on vacation. but i loved this puzzle. wonderful theme, and the fill was pretty snappy. i'm usually anti-name, but what can i say? i knew all these names, although i did try to spell it BOGEY. and other than IONE, i think i even knew them all pre-crosswords. ERICA is probably the only soap character i've ever heard of, but i've heard of her.

oh, wait--i have no idea who/what daisy MAE is, or what that clue is even talking about. did she marry marryin' sam? or did she just "go" to him?

ITALO calvino is my favorite italian author. that may be damning with faint praise (i don't really have a second-favorite), but he's ridiculously good. he, garcia marquez, and nabokov are the only authors since 1950 or so that i can really get into.

speaking of literature, i'm mortified that somebody was dissing gatsby. it's so good! now, i agree that some of FSF's other stuff is underappreciated (particularly his short stories--how come nobody since the 1930s knows how to write a good short story?), but gatsby is, well, great. that's why everybody makes a big deal about it. the prose, the characters, the symbolism, the richness of setting--it's all good.

Julie 2:33 PM  

HudsonHawk said...
I also liked this puzzle a lot. My only quibble is with "not bad". It just doesn't flow like the other great substitutes.
jannieb said...

I agree with PeterS that there might have been other synonyms for "less than great" that would have flowed more smoothly - especially the "not bad" entry - but I still enjoyed the puzzle and thought it an above-average Tuesday.

There are days when I feel so silly responding when I know hardly anyone is going to read it, but I couldn't resist.

"not bad" figures greatly in my favorite and most illuminating joke about the difference between Americans and Canadians (being a former Canadian and current US citizen, it's actually a subject which comes up fairly often):

An American and a Canadian are sharing a plate of cookies. The American (who really likes the cookies) says: "These cookies are good." The Canadian (who is in complete agreement) says "Not too bad."

In my experience, the differences between the two are not at all obvious, but profound. It's all in a way of looking at the world, and so "not bad" for "less than great" makes perfect sense to me.


Anonymous 3:27 PM  

There are some who read you and enjoy your comments. if you doubt that, check out the September 1st blog when it comes up!

Julie 3:47 PM  

You're right, CAlady - we are our own little "cocktail party" celebrating in the wake of the first, aren't we? I DO have to stop prefacing my remarks with "well, nobody will read this, but" - it's all part of that Canadian thing!

ps - I couldn't resist - I had to go look - thanks for the shoutout! =:>0


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