TUESDAY, Oct. 21, 2008 - Randall J. Hartman (Sugar Loaf mountain site, briefly / Sigma preceder / Boxer Graziano, formally)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: P-O-L-K-A - first theme clue is [P], and each successive clue adds one more letter of "POLKA" for a total of five theme clues

I've seen this "theme" before, and I like it. It's simple in its design, but results in a puzzle that is not overly simple to solve - primarily because knowing the theme (there's really nothing to grasp) doesn't help you uncover any particular answer. In fact, if this type of "theme" has a fault, it's that answers can get a bit loose. Perhaps it's best to think of the theme answers as reverse-clued - the P, PO, POL, POLK, and POLKA are answers, and their clues are what are in the grid. I'm much happier accepting POLKA as an answer for [Oktoberfest tune] than vice versa. I had no idea what those last four letters were going to be, and had to place them via crosses. RIVER OF LOMBARDY was probably the toughest of the bunch to uncover. Not the first description that comes to mind for the river PO, but again, [River of Lombardy] would have made a fine clue for PO (if the puzzle accepted two-letter words, that is).

Theme answers:

  • 17A: P (sixteenth letter)
  • 22A: PO (river of Lombardy)
  • 38A: POL (Capitol Hill type) - had same trouble here with TYPE that I did with TUNE in 55A
  • 46A: POLK (former president) - FORMER somehow was not a gimme either
  • 55A: POLKA (Oktoberfest tune)

Here's a neat pattern in this puzzle that I would never have noticed had the theme been different:

EAR (29A: It may be cupped or cuffed)
EARL (21A: Warren of the Supreme Court)
EARLY (13D: Jumping the gun)

And they're all in the NW, too. In fact, there's a little EAR staircase there going from EAR to TEAR (19D: Eye drop) to EARL to EARLY. Can't decide if this is unfortunate, lazy, brilliant, or lucky. Further, there are two three-letter words that are expanded by one letter into four letter words at other points in the grid:

ELI (32D: QB Manning)
ELOI (25D: "The Time Machine" race)

AMO (44A: _____, ama, amat ...)
AMSO (44D: Reply to "Are not!")

The latter pair intersect at the "A" - noticing coincidental nonsense like this is how I amuse myself when I don't have a hell of a lot to say about a puzzle.

By far the hardest part of the puzzle for me was the SW corner. 62A: Sugar Loaf Mountain site, briefly (Rio) seems completely incongruous. "Sugar Loaf Mountain" sounds like a place in Vermont, or a place where Faeries live, and at any rate sounds about as far from RIO as, well, where I'm sitting right now. This answer crosses some guy named OAKIE (47D: Jack of "The Great Dictator"), of whom I also have not heard, which makes two crossing proper nouns of relatively low fame. However, there is no violation of the "Natick Principle" here because one of the answers - RIO - is the only possible guess you could make once you have the R and O. So the total number of Natick violators to date remains at two

NATICK x/w NC WYETH at the "N"
ALGOL x/w NLRB at the "L"

Both of which, I have to say, seem entirely gettable to me now that I have fretted over them so much.


  • 2D: Remodeled Clay? (Ali) - nice clue. Goes nicely with its nearby boxing-oriented cousin, 22D: Boxer Graziano, formally (Rocco)
  • 5D: Dirty tricks on the campaign trail (smears) - when am I gonna see ROBO-CALLS in a puzzle? How long!?!?! Speaking of the campaign trail - have you heard about the dead black bear, found shot in the head and wrapped in Obama signs? This is not a campaign tactic, clearly, but ... it's pretty dirty.
  • 9D: Online chuckle (LOL) - I did not LOL at the bear story.
  • 11D: Instrument played by George Harrison (sitar) - cool video of George and Ravi Shankar

  • 12D: Bergen dummy (Snerd) - Before my time, and yet I have a weird, fuzzy memory of teasing either my sister or stepsister by comparing her to this dummy.
  • 33D: Sigma preceder (rho) - "preceder"! One of the great crossword clue words.
  • 53A: Myanmar neighbor (Laos) - have yet to see MYANMAR in a puzzle ... OK, so MYANMAR and ROBOCALLS await your constructing prowess.
  • 50D: _____ T. Firefly, Groucho's role in "Duck Soup" (Rufus) - what's funny about this is, I didn't know it when it was clued [Groucho's role in "Duck Soup"], and told Will so. The added information he provided in this final version of the clue would have helped me ... not at all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


JannieB 8:57 AM  

I really liked this puzzle. Haven't seen this theme in awhile, so found it refreshing. Had the same stumbles as Rex re "type", "tune" and "former". The fill was solid, too. Very few xwordy staples and no groan-inducing awkwardness. A very good Tuesday!

JoefromMtVernon 9:02 AM  

The winner for the "Tiegs Award" for repeating terms goes to...belie (in today after a theme answer on Sunday). And the runner-up is Cleo (yesterday and today).

I like this kind of theme. I would think even this may get tiresome, but it seems not to have appeared in a while.

I was hoping Rex would add a Marx Brother's clip for Rufus Firefly.


Anonymous 9:26 AM  

Graziano's full birth name was THOMAS Rocco Barbella. So the cluing on this was a bit off.

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

I had no problem with the SW (having taken the famous [remember Jaws from that Bond film biting the cable?] tram car to the top of Sugar Loaf (Pao de Acucar), but found Oregon to be a major slow spot. I've never heard of Cleo Laine, nor have I heard the term One Ls for law students (though I guess I can kind of make sense of that). And RIVER OF LOMBARDY? Whoo... I Did Not see that coming.

Heres the clip of Jaws in Moonraker on Sugar Loaf:


janie 9:39 AM  

if you've never seen duck soup go out and rent it *now*. one of the classic political comedies. ditto chaplin's the great dictator. imoo...

thought of you yesterday, rex, seeing i've loved you so long, in which one of the characters speaks to the life-changing experience of teaching in a prison. powerful pic indeed.

loved today's hartman -- not only for the theme -- but for the five 15s of the theme fill. wow.



Anonymous 9:39 AM  

man, I got crazy with my parentheses in that post. Sorry!

travis 9:46 AM  

RIO is clued with 'briefly'. Why couldn't it be an initialism which would allow I to be any letter of the alphabet?

Also had trouble in the west compounded with being convinced '#2' was POOPS despite being sceptical that it passed the breakfast test.

sillygoose 9:49 AM  

Fun puzzle. River of Lombardy leapt out at me, but sixteenth letter was a toughie, go figure.

It was nice to see a shout out to Central time. It seems like Central time gets the short shrift, puzzle wise.

(I am not looking forward to changing over from Daylight Savings though. Seriously, why do we need to do that?)

Ulrich 10:03 AM  

Well, curb your enthusiasm. Will and the NY Times are now going out of their way to correct any perceived liberal bias in their puzzles. We have been informed that yesterday's puzzle was a veiled put-down of the Clintons and Obama and a shoutout for Palin--and what do we get today? First of all, a riff on P as in Palin. And then a capitol hill type, smack in the center, who is linked, in succession, to "eli" (as in "elite"), Bin (as in "Bin Laden"), and worst of all, "Spain", with whose president the candidate in question would not only talk (gasp!), but talk w/o preconditions!! Shame on you, Will Shortz!

Orange 10:09 AM  

LOL @ Ulrich's post. Well, not literally laughing out loud, but I was genuinely amused.

Rex and I had pretty much the same remarks about the theme entries. Ergo, there's a unanimous consensus of two bloggers on which theme answers were harder to piece together.

RodeoToad 10:11 AM  

Sillygoose, damn straight about Central time. I don't know why we even bother with the other time zones. Who wants to stay up til midnight to watch Letterman or get up at dawn to watch the Cowboys? Mountain time? What a joke. Those people even need different cooking directions from the rest of us. Central time is where it's at.

But I thought this puzzle was hard. RIO/OAKIE might not be Natick, but if you spell OKTOBERFEST with a C, as I did, you're sunk on that intersecting I square.

foodie 10:13 AM  

Nice puzzle. For a while, while still in the north, I thought all the answers would be numbers, clued in slightly unusual ways: P=SIXTEENTH LETTER, :50=TENOF; Future JD's: ONELS.

I really like that A ROOM (with view) sits on top of RIVER OF LOMBARDI. I think the room was in Florence, but any combination that evokes Italy is great in my book.

Thanks Rex for the SITAR post. Sitar music reminds me of Qanoon music, which is middle eastern. I wonder if they have common origins.

ArtLvr 10:15 AM  

I too noticed the EARLY-EARL-EAR repetition in the NE (not NW) early on, and wondered how that happened. Then I realized that the long answers were similarly related by their clues, but it didn't make any difference in my solving. Those were somehow easy for me as stand-alones.

One slightly slow spot was the SW where I had "biota" with the O nicely crossing OKTOBER, but it corrected itself to FLORA because I already had a (blank) PRESIDENT to give me a FORMER... RIO made no sense until I came here.

I'd also thought of "operas" causing tears at 42A instead of ONIONS! (Goes well with OWS). Three "squares" was a bit tricky for MEALS -- guess I was just not in a Foodie Mood!

My last fill was in the Calif. bits, though we have seen the ONELS for first-year law students before. CLEO could not be Clio because of needing the E for VEEPS for #2's.(@ wow, Travis -- poops? LOL) To me it recalled the recent Alaskan P thorn. I suppose this also relates to SASSY and SNERD?

Very good puzzle, better than many Tuesdays!


poc 10:22 AM  

*janie: Duck Soup is indeed fantastic, with some great Groucho one-liners ("Be gone and never darken my towels again!"). However The Great Dictator is a really bad film in my opinion. I saw it once in the cinema years ago and cringed. I saw it again recently on DVD and it was even worse. It shows the difference between making a funny movie that is incidentally about politics, and a political movie that almost entirely fails to be funny.

fikink 10:24 AM  

I think this was another puzzle for those of us "of a certain age."
Loopers included SNERD and RUFUS, and I saw George Harrison and
Ravi Shankar in my mind's eye before coming to the blog. This underscores the notion that our experiences inform our puzzle-solving more than our book-learnin'. ( A shout-out to Bill from NJ who added a late comment to Saturday's conversation. Good form, Bill!)
Rex, thanks - I think - for the consciousness-raising link to the obscenities on the WNC campus.
November 5 be swift!

archaeoprof 10:33 AM  

SITAR reminded me of the voice-over at the beginning of "Field of Dreams." Referring to his college years, Ray says "I tried to like sitar music..."

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

@ Orange: IWGA (I Was Genuinely Amused) should replace LOL, because how often do you actually Laugh Out Loud?

Two Ponies 10:48 AM  

I was having a nice smooth ride through this puzzle until I hit a couple of speen bumps in the West. Wanted Rocky but that made Capital start with a K (OK, maybe some foreign word coming) and had another C/K mix-up with Oakie/October. It got sorted out but slowed me down.
Wanted some way for Phylo to be right before crosses gave me Rufus. I guess I thought his name would be alliterative with Firefly.
Sugar Loaf Mountain had me going for a minute because I also thought it would be a ski resort.
I am sickened by the bear story. Not that a bear wasn't bad enough but a cub? I want to say more but will not.
Favorite mistake of the day? #2's as seen by travis! Love it!

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

Two comments today: I always thought that a FORMER PRESIDENT was someone who was once a president, but is now doing something else (FORMER PRESIDENT GHW Bush), not someone who is in the ground, feeding the worms.

Re ONE L: I actually WAS a ONE L once (back in the 80s) and I had never heard that expression (except the last time it was in a puzzle.) However, the frau, who is an adjunct professor at NY Law School, says she's heard of it.

Steve L (Not to be confused with ONE L.)

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

I was trying for Fergus T. Firefly, but, alas, it was not to be.

Mike the Wino 11:53 AM  

"Speen bumps"? Oh, poops!

heh heh ;>}

Doug 11:55 AM  

Thank you for explaining ONELS, which I'd never heard of before. I worked the puzzle rather easily up to that point and only got that because of the crosses. I still didn't get it until I skimmed through the blog. I remembered RUFUS right away but didn't know SNERD.

Teresa 12:05 PM  

I enjoyed the puzzle quite a bit. The last of POLKA to fall was the P. I had eager instead of early, and couldn't see my way past it. Excon and extol also slowed me down.

I've been in bed with a virus and doing way too many puzzles, but this one was a gem.

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

Yeah, not bad for a Tuesday. Liked the clues for 4D:ART and 19D:TEAR. Wondered for a while if I have to know Norwegian for 12D ("Bergen dummy") and how 22A was going to answer "Post Office". Noticed the other reading of "#2" but didn't think of POOPS -- though I'm glad that 56D:BOS was not given a stinky clue ;-) Also misread the clue for 69D as "submaRine gun", which had me thinking in an entirely different direction for a while.

Can ":50" really be the same as 6D:TENOF? e.g. 7:50 is ten of eight, not of seven. I know we can say "it's ten of" when we know roughly what time it is, but that still doesn't justify the clue unless we'd also say "it's :50" in the same circumstance...


Mike the Wino 12:13 PM  

Oh, I forgot to mention: Scott Turow's book "One L" was mildly interesting back when I thought I might want to become an attorney. Probably not so for anyone who wasn't considering that career path, however...

janie 12:20 PM  

poc -- haven't seen the great dictator in years. and/but -- point taken!



Unknown 12:46 PM  

Though I've seen the explanation of ONE-L I still don't know what JD stands for. I could only think of Juvenile Delinquent. Help?

@wade - I also spelled Oktober with a c, tried to submit, was told I was incorrect and had to google oakie to realize my mistake.

Luckily for me, Sugarloaf Mountain was referenced in a recent episode of "The Amazing Race" as being an attraction of Rio, otherwise I'd have had no idea.

Doug 12:52 PM  

Didn't know that Polk grew up in the countryside and was a FARMER PRESIDENT. Took me a while to correct that one.

I JUST figured out that :50 refers to time, as in 9:50 is TENOF ten. I am such a SNERD.

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

A few mis-starts slowed me down quite a bit.

What's with TENOF? As a Canuck, I know of no-one (except a couple of Amerkun business acquaintances) that say TENOF. We say TENTO.

And I can never remember whether it's Mortimer or Hagar's pet dog that's the SNERD (the other being the SNERT, of course). I started wrong and of course didn't pick up my error when it crossed with RIVEROFLOMBARTY.

Coupled with the misspelling of CLIO and OCTOBERFEST, I couldn't figure out the right combination of letter swaps to make my Blackberry congratulate me for a job well done.

All that aside, this was a nicely constructed puzzle.

mac 1:11 PM  

What a great Tuesday puzzle! It went fast but had a lot of interesting words. I was lucky and got 17A immediately, then the other ones were pretty easy. Didn't know Oakie, so I had a C in October. Shouldn't we have the German word for tune? I would probably a lot more letters, though. I had another grammatical hickup: I have always thought it was 10 off, maybe because I am more likely to say 10 to.

I also thought skiing, but in Vermont is Sugarbush, a nice family resort with great condos.

@fergus: IWGA!

chefbea 1:19 PM  

No real problems today. I remember Edgar Bergen, charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd etc but never heard of one Ls.

Has everyone had there good oktoberfest dinner while listening to an oom-pah band?

Two Ponies 1:21 PM  

@ mikethewino - it's true, I can't type for crap (or poop either)

ArtLvr 1:44 PM  

@ cheryl -- JD is a law degree, Doctor of Laws, similar to PhD. More common in the US is LLD. (The Latin is something like Juris Doctores... but don't hold me to that!)

Anonymous 1:45 PM  

@cheryl - JD = Juris Doctorate, the degree earned when graduating from law school.

Doc John 1:49 PM  

@ cheryl- JD= Juris Doctor (the degree that most lawyers get)
I got RIO just because I realized that it was a Tuesday and went with the answer that seemed to fit best.
However, the C vs K in OKTOBERFEST is more of a Natick. Mr. Jack "Random Name" OAKIE could just have easily been Oacie and I have seen Octoberfest sometimes spelled with a C. That said, the K does look better and I should have gone with that one for the Tuesday reason listed above.

Speaking of TESLA, he was a huge rival of Thomas Edison and IMHO, much more brilliant. See the movie "The Prestige" to see the Tesla vs Edison history played out in a subplot. (And to see David Bowie as Tesla.)

Anonymous 1:49 PM  

Finally a puzzle that lets me get off the fence. At last I enjoyed this puzzle and really liked all of the ‘x’s’ and ‘z’s’. Props to sillygoose and wade re CST. Just talking last night about how those who visit the US see LA, Chicago and New York then jet home thinking they got a decent representation of the country (I know Chicago is in CST - I’m just sayin’).
As a former hunter turned vegetarian working toward vegan I can not describe properly my absolute detestation of the taking of life for reasons other than survival.
Karma please!

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

Oh yeah - you will more thoroughly enjoy sitar music if you get really small first. IMH(if somewhat experienced)O

Unknown 2:28 PM  

Thank you artlvr, marilyn and doc john. It's good to get an edjuhmication.

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

It's settled then. I'm only using IWGA from now on. Suits me much better...

(And I wanted the clue for PO to be "red teletubbie")

Ulrich 3:47 PM  

Re. PO: It's colloquial German for "behind" as in "I fell on my behind". Little kids have to learn how to wipe their Po when they get toilet-trained. We Germans therefore cannot refrain from smiling when we hear that Italian river's name.

PriscillaHowe 4:14 PM  

I loved getting Rio right off, as I'm working in Brazil right now and went up the Pao de Acucar (too lazy to put diacritics in, sorry) a few weeks ago.

I'm with Steve L: I also didn't like Polk being clued as "former." This makes it sound as if he's still alive!

Anonymous 5:23 PM  

@steve l & @pricillahowe: I actually liked FARMER PRESIDENT better, but I don't still why a former president has to be living and not dead. I don't have a problem with it.

I thought this was a fun Tuesday. The only down for me is everytime I see ORING as an answer I flash back to the Challenger. I don't like ORING ever in the puzzle and it seems to come fairly often.

Great job Randall Hartman!

ArtLvr 5:52 PM  

Aside: I found the theme answers in today's CrosSynergy puzzle to be unique and very amusing...

SethG 6:50 PM  

You know who's Norwegian, Noam D Elkies? a-ha. Thanks again, Rex, cannot stop watching the video...

I'm late today because it took me 'til now to remember from whence I remember "three squares a day". Noah Wyle, A Few Good Men.

Gotta run to run

mac 7:45 PM  

@rex: loved the George clip, but have mixed feelings about the Freddy one. Couldn't turn it of, but somehow it seems like sacrilege....

Anonymous 8:06 PM  

Five fifteen letter entries...wow. AGain inspired me, and seemed neat.

Only quibble: it was odd that Rocco was clued as formally when a) that's not exactly true and
b) I put in ROCKY anyway, so somewhat moot!

This puzzle made me feel like traveling what with PO, OKTOBERFEST. "A Room with a View" also taking place in Italy, RIO (I went to Sugar Loaf as a Dating Game chaperone!), LAOS, SPAIN, PARIS, BISTRO, Dijon Denial, the SITAR...and I could leave from LAX!

fergus 10:36 PM  

I don't know what it says about my parenting, but my son had essentially memorized all of 'Duck Soup' by the time he was six. The songs are great and the dialog is clear. I was greatly amused, indeed, by hearing him sing the lyrics to "Pop Goes the Weasel" when we would be driving somewhere. Some kids go for 'The Wizard of Oz' and others for Disney at that age, but he went for the Marx Brothers. Perhaps as a result, he's now a very politically astute 12 year-old, though perhaps even more strident than either of his parents. Favorite TV program for past year: 'The Daily Show.'

Anyway, I had more trouble with this than any early week puzzle in a while. I count at least 14 write-overs, and I didn't even find myself being either hasty or sloppy. My dumbest misinput was SCAMP for SCHMO and my best was DUORO instead of the more general SPAIN.

foodie 11:01 PM  

@fergus: Cool kid!
Watching the Daily Show with my daughter (whenever she's around, she's in her 20's) is one of my favorite things to do, in part because we crack up at exactly the same moment.

@andrea: some day, can you please tell us what it's like to be a chapernone on the dating game? I remember when I first came to the US, watched the show and thought it was like nothing I'd ever seen. Amazing... Someone told me people were chaperoned on these dates, and I wondered how it actually played out. I never thought I'd "meet" one of the chaperones!

dk 11:20 PM  

Here are the plans of war. They're as valuable as your life. And that's putting them pretty cheap. Watch them like a cat watched her kittens. Have you ever had kittens? No, of course not, you're too busy running around playing bridge. Can't you see what I'm trying to tell you, I love you.

R.T. Firefly

Sharon 9:53 PM  

Really liked this puzzle right from the start. 2D, 4D and some other clues/answers tickled me. I enjoyed the theme when I got to it.
Although I doubt anyone will read this and respond since I'm writing on AST (American Syndication Time):
What's with Rex and ear, Earl, early being in the NW? I ask because it's not the first time I've seen a reference that seemed reversed. Do You East Coasters have a different map?
Altho I strenuously object to former presidents being referred to as President Carter, Bush, etc without the "former" I don't see how they cease to be former presidents once they die.

Anonymous 12:12 AM  

@Sharon: Sadly, Rex has a sporadic geographical dyslexia. On the up side, it's not life-threatening so we pretend not to notice.
Also, Rex has tons of readers on AST so you can be sure someone will read your post.

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