MONDAY, Nov. 24, 2008 - Billie Truitt (Measure of national economic health / Mr. _____ (Lucy's TV boss) / Rhyming word game)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Digits - five theme answers end with THUMB and the names of the four fingers, respectively

Meh. It was OK. I feel like I've seen this exact theme before, which is no real knock against this puzzle - themes are replicated all the time without the constructor's knowing that it's happening. HINKY PINKY felt awful to me, but that's just because I've never heard of it. Rare for me not to have heard of a theme answer on a Monday. All in all, a very average Monday puzzle.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Gardener's gift (green THUMB)
  • 24A: Measure of national economic health (misery INDEX) - that's a nice, timely answer (I think I'm going to be saying that any answer dealing with economic downturn is a "timely" answer for a long, long time)
  • 39A: Come to a compromise (meet in the MIDDLE)
  • 51A: "Call sometime" ("Give me a RING")
  • 64A: Rhyming word game (hinky-PINKY)

I think HINKY PINKY was made more grating by the proximity of EENY (70A: Start of a counting-out rhyme). The whole bottom of the puzzle is threatening to devolve into baby talk. Some random website I found tells me that "A hinky-pinky is a clue, definition, or riddle, the answer to which is a pair of rhyming words." Example given - a Norseman on wheels is a "biking viking." Wow, what ... fun. Speaking of Norway, a double dose today - OSLO (32A: Norway's capital) and V-flavored OLAV (69A: Norway's patron saint). One other thematic pair: AJAR (9A: Not completely shut, as a door) and AGAPE (50D: Yawning or visibly astonished).

Not a big fan of UNPEG, INRE, CLEO, ASEC, or NEEDN'T. Like RAN IN (54D: Arrested), JAWED (10D: Chatted) and ROUE (31A: Don Juan type), though, honestly, I never saw that last one until just this second. That's what happens when you speed. Oh, and I just noticed that a garden decoration (GNOME - 14D: Garden statuette) intersects a gardening answer (GREEN THUMB), so that's nice.


  • 1A: Event involving burning and looting (riot) - these often happen on summer days, or HOT ONEs (30D: Definitely a day for air-conditioning), which was reclued (thankfully) from [Real sidesplitter]. RIOTs are always easier to take when there are no MACHETEs (27A: Cane cutter) involved.
  • 1D: Toupees, slangily (rugs) - Did Mr. MOONEY wear a toupee? (42D: Mr. _____ (Lucy's TV boss)). I have never seen more than an episode or two of "Here's Lucy" or "The Lucy Show" or whatever incarnation of Lucy sitcom MOONEY was on. No, it looks like Mr. MOONEY just had a somewhat receding hairline, unremarkable on a man his age.

  • 22D: First of 12 popes with a religious-sounding name (Pius I) - I wonder if anyone will parse this as one word, PIUSI, and wonder what the hell kind of name that is.
  • 18D: Spiral seashell (triton) - again, what are these words I've Never heard of doing in my Monday puzzle. Very weird. This one was easy enough to infer

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Jeffrey 10:08 PM  

I'm baaaack.

Fresh from the heat of Florida and the cold of eastern Canada. Between Disney world, airline counters, security screenings and customs agents its all one big line to me. The actual flights seem like afterthoughts.

Ok Monday with the wonderful Mr. Mooney answer. i grew up on the Gale Gordon Lucy shows before I saw I Love Lucy reruns.

Never heard of hinky pinky either but I will try to use it today.

janie 11:43 PM  

did the puzzle using across clues only. i saw PIUS I as PUI, SI...



Nicole 11:50 PM  

For a moment I thought PIUSI was supposed to be the plural of PIUS. As in, one Pius, many Piusi.

edith b 12:01 AM  

Does Andrea have a name for this?

Our grandson was here for a visit this weekend and he asked us if we would like to play a game of hinky-pinky. Prior to that moment, we had never heard of this game.

I've never seen this theme before not that it matters as I don't pay attention to early-week themes unless they horn in on the puzzle and can't be ignored.

Curiously enough, I do pay attention to mini-themes if they appear and they appeared in abundance as Rex indicated, one of pair reminded me of my avatar AGAPE and AJAR. Other answers I liked were MOONEY GOATEES MATCHETE MISERYINDEX.

And a note from my childhood, I always liked the character actor Gale Gordon who also played Osgood Conklin, the principal on "Our Miss Brooks", starring Eve Arden.

Ulrich 12:35 AM  

My only holdup was that I knew the game at 64A as "stinky pinky", but that may be a reflection on the company I keep.

I didn't like the non-equivalence of the theme answers: THUMB and PINKY are fingers; INDEX, MIDDLE and RING are not, in and of themselves. And this deeply offends my aesthetitc sense.

Anonymous 3:41 AM  

I'll trade you company...we used to call it INKY STINKY
(Is that a Minnesota thing?)

Do you mean a name for not parsing things correctly? hmmmmmm. How about an "imparsial"?
(awkward, I'll keep working on it...I'm flattered you think I can even think of one. Perhaps it's a good one for everyone to chime in on...)

By the way, the puzzle Myles and I have in the LA Times/San Fran Chron today (and rejected by Will) was TOTALLY inspired by this blog!
I guess in the end, I should dedicate my
half of the $60 (!!????) to all of you.

Let's see, $30 divided by what, 12,000 hits? so 1/4 penny each...
How about this, I won't charge for coining "malapop" so we'll call it even!

Greene 5:44 AM  

Oh Andrea...$60. Really? I've learned from this blog that constructors are poorly compensated, but $60? Is that some kind of sick joke? I have an even greater respect for constructors now; your work is clearly a labor of love.

I can't really bring myself to say anything critical about today's puzzle because...well, you know $60. Putting in my 2 cents only seems to add insult to injury.

Hows about I just mention Hedy Lamarr in "Sampson and Delilah." Has anyone actually seen this film? I've got nothing against Ms. Lamarr, but this must be one of the most outrageous examples of miscasting in the entire Hollywood lexicon. The whole movie becomes an unintentional hoot which is, I believe, the only reason it is even remembered, much less screened.

Will must have a fondness for HINKY PINKY because this used to be a common game when he would appear on NPRs "Weekend Edition" every Sunday. Maybe it still is; I haven't listened to the radio much lately.

@Crosscan: I too grew up on later incarnations of Lucy with Gale Gordon as the obstreperous Mr. Mooney and his exasperated cries of "Mrs. Carmichael!!!" Later on, when I started watching the original "I Love Lucy" series, I realized you can see Mr. Gordon in any number of tiny cameo roles.

Finally, I need help with my atavar, seriously. It's supposed to be a Hirschfeld rendering of a thumbs up (it was commissioned by the NYT for the 2002 Tony Awards). I just can't seem to size it correctly. I have new found respect for Rex's skill in placing images and video in this blog.

Greene 6:10 AM  

Ugh. I need help with my avatar too. What in blazes is an atavar?

Anonymous 7:23 AM  

@acme: I think edith meant it was odd that her grandson brought up HINKY PINKY, a phrase she had never heard of, and the next thing she knew it popped up in the puzzle today.

I had never heard of HINKY PINKY either but really like it because it sounds silly and happy. I'm going to try to have a HINKY PINKY day.

@ulrich: I don't understand why MIDDLE, RING & INDEX aren't really fingers ... they are on my hand, just like my THUMB and PINKY.

Loved MISERY INDEX because we are all feeling it.

Very nice Monday effort by Billie Truitt: thanks!

JannieB 7:44 AM  

@greene - The NYT pays constructors $200 for a weekday puzzle, lesser publications pay significantly less.

I was okay with this puzzle - As usual, I didn't notice the theme so it didn't help with the solving. Not that I needed it.

edith b 8:13 AM  


Hedy Lamarr was an all around interesting charcter. She was in a notorious movie called Ecstasy in 1933 that contained some nudity and highly charged sexual content for its time.

She was also a talented mathematician and in 1942 was the co-inventor of a radio control system for torpedoes that used an entirely new concept known as frequency-hopping that was years before its time (and not implemented until the early 60s) and is a forerunner of modern WIFI technology.

ArtLvr 8:24 AM  

I liked JAWED with GOATEES, or should it be goateed jaws? Also CLEO and the NILE.

HINKY-PINKY was a new one for me too... Would a nutty cultist be a "loony moonie"? Shades of our discussion the other day...

Easy puzzle for a Monday, though I didn't even see the theme until afterward -- nicely done!


Anonymous 8:57 AM  

My husband plays HINKY PINKY with our kids on road trips. He used to play it with his father when they worked together. It's become a family tradition. It was nice seeing it in the puzzle.

PuzzleGirl 9:40 AM  

Ne-ever heard of HINKY PINKY, but it was easy enough to get from the crosses.

For the phenomenon edith b described, I'm thinking preja-vu?

Anonymous 9:50 AM  

I never played nor heard of the word game growing up. I eventually learned of it from some book for language freaks that defined a Hink Pink as a pair of rhyming one syllable words, a Hinky Pinky as a pair of rhyming two syllable words, and a Hinkity Pinkity as a pair of rhyming three-plus syllable words.

Hedy LAMARR did not have a side career as a mathematician, but as an engineer/inventor. I do not think I have ever seen a Hedy LAMARR film, However, in one of my all time favorite movies, Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles, the evil conniving bad guy is the state Attorney General, Hedley LAMARR, played by Harvey Korman. A running joke is that characters keep calling him Hedy, and he keeps correcting them. I don't think I got the joke at the time. Even funnier, Hedy sued and settled.

Ulrich 10:24 AM  

@joho: My point is that you have to add "finger" (the word) to "index", "middle" and "ring" to turn them into names for fingers, whereas you do NOT have to do this with "thumb" and "pinky". I thought parallelism, or what I called "equivalence, is important for theme answers.

@artlvr: Yes, "loonie moonie" would be great. In fact, when I played the game with some nerds decades ago, one-syllable pairs ("fat cat" for "obese feline") were forbidden for being too easy; they had to have at least two syllables like your example. I once got accolades for "evil parson" (sinister minister).

Tony from Charm City 10:42 AM  


"What the hell are you worried about? This is 1874. You'll be able to sue *her!!"

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

@ulrich: got it!

mac 10:48 AM  

A good Monday puzzle, with some great words, agree with Edith on the ones she mentions.

I had to stare at "give me a ring" for a few seconds, somehow the "call sometime" looked as if it wanted a more sarcastic answer, like "sans meaning", but the crosses straightened me out quickly.

I never heard the term Hinky Pinky, thought it might be Tinky Pinky and teetee, but I know the game from Jeoparday, where it is often a catagory. Sort of fun to do.

Did the LA Times puzzle already, am waiting for some comments on the blog-related clues and answers.
@Rex: could you put the solved puzzle above that write-up?

Anonymous 11:06 AM  

I never have heard the rhyming pairs called "HINKY PINKY," which sounds (to put it as diplomatically as I can summon) weird. (I'll bet it's regional.) They have this type of thing on Jeopardy as a category from time to time, where it is called "Rhyme time."

jeff in chicago 12:00 PM  

Could not parse the theme until I came here. I hate when that happens on a Monday!

Not familiar with Hinky Pinky. Prefer Hanky Panky.

Isn't there a problem with PIUSI? I would pronounce that "Pius the first." But "first" is in the clue.

"Mongo only pawn in game of life." (My favorite Blazing Saddles quote."

blackathena 12:02 PM  

Pius I as in Pius the first. Pius being the Latin for religiously devoted.

Anonymous 12:33 PM  

Wasn't the first Pope Pius named just Pius?
The second Pius was Pius II, etc. but the first one was just named Pius.

Greene 12:42 PM  

@edith b: I have heard of "Ecstacy," but never seen it. Sounds rather naughty for 1933. I read somewhere that Ms. Lamarr had a scientific side, but couldn't quite remember what it was. Thanks for the update.

@william e emba: I love the whole Hedly Lamarr business in "Blazing Saddles." Pure Mel Brooks. Ms. Lamarr was also skewered in the 1960 musical "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" via the character Hedy LaRue -- the boss' girlfriend who's sleeping her way to the top. Pure Abe Burrows and a Pulitzer Prize to boot.

Did Andrea's lovely LA Times puzzle during lunch today. Why did Will turn this one down? I like the theme, but miss the connection to the blog.

Orange 12:43 PM  

@mac, I have the LA Times solution grid posted at my blog. The NYT, Sun, and CrosSynergy solutions are also there, so be careful if you're planning to do those other puzzles and don't want to encounter spoilers.

As I learned the game, you have hink-pink, hinky-pinky, and hinkety-pinkety to mimic the number of syllables in the phrases you're supposed to guess. I second Jeff in Chicago's preference for hanky-panky, though I was fond enough of hinky-pinky as a kid.

Unknown 12:59 PM  

Another nice pair is the AWOL EX G.I.

Even though it's not hanky-panky, which I wrote in first, hinky-pinky still sounds vaguely dirty. I dare Trebek to say that on Jeopardy!

Was there a term established for the phenomenon of erasing an answer, then realising it was correct? If not, the term "err-asure" came to mind while I was working on Saturday's puzzle.

Onward to the L.A. Times

archaeoprof 1:12 PM  

$200 per puzzle in the NYT? That's far less than I expected. What does the paper pay for an op-ed?

ArtLvr 1:20 PM  

@ cheryl -- I called that a déjà-do, since I did it right, changed my mind and erased it, then wrote the same in later on... thus it's done right again.


Doc John 1:24 PM  

I found it to be a relatively easy Monday puzzle. Only a couple very minor stopping places. Least fave answer: NEEDN'T. I also thought it was a little odd to call a RIOT an event. "Hey everybody, I'm having a RIOT on Saturday. Hope you can make it!"

Another mini-mini-theme: GARBO and LAMARR.

Ah, Blazing Saddles. One of my all-time faves. One of my favorite scenes is when Hedley strides up to the theater concession stand at the end and says, "Raisinets." Just something about that one word and the way he delivers it that sums up his whole character.

Vega 1:27 PM  

@edith et al, I thought that was "coincicross," which was already coined by [shoot, I don't remember; sorry].

I'm SO irritated with myself that I didn't get the theme until I came here.

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

Like Crosscan, just back from vacation, in my case ten days in Costa Rica. When the bus broke down, I pulled out the November 2008 Puzzler from The Atlantic Monthly and had a really good workout.

But today's NYT was a nice step back into the everyday world, not too easy, deserving Rex's Medium rating.

My only comment has to do with 51D, Reclusive actress Greta (GARBO). I have read that she was misquoted. Instead of "I vant to be alone'" the basis for her being called reclusive, the actual quote may have been, "I vant to be left alone," in response to annoying reporters of the day. Very different meaning.

Bob Kerfuffle

Anonymous 1:40 PM  

RailRoad Gang: "We heard you was hung"
Sheriff Bart: "I am, I am"

Anonymous 1:44 PM  

@Doc John

How about when Hedy tries to get a student discount at the same box office scene? Many memorable lines in that flick - most UNPC-line: 'Where 'de white women at?'


chefbea 2:31 PM  

Got the theme right away but kept waiting for POINTER to appear.Isn't that the finger next to the thumb? (that's what my grandaughter tells me.)

Anonymous 3:03 PM  

How do you know when to go with Olav versus Olaf? Sorta like tsar czar for me. Cool that meet in the middle is actually in the middle and meets both edges. Maybe I’m reaching. No over inking today. Found a nice evenly folded newspaper this morning that allowed for the easy matching of all corners when folding the Arts section and filled the grid in with properly printed letters for an awesome looking finished product. Easy puzzle but as a whole solving experience I likey!

PuzzleGirl 3:05 PM  

@rafaelthatmf: SethG might have more to say on the subject, but my answer is ... you don't. You just have to hope you can get it with the cross.

fergus 3:58 PM  

Thanks Andrea for Inky-Stinky, which I couln't remember as the familiar name for HINKY-PINKY. The game stands out for a particularly coarse example that my brutish brother coined. It's both crude and politically incorrect, relating as it did to a command one might give to a grocery store employee in a certain neighborhood. Got to go find the Chronicle now.

I went for speed today and naturally never saw the theme. Those Inner and Outer Clues always throw me, perhaps because Exogenous and Endogenous came from a pseudoscience where nobody can tell cause from effect, and it makes no sense to pretend you can conduct experiments since there can be no control group. I went for MMLE for the French lass, which is embarrassing because I taught a French class this morning. NEEDN'T, for no fathomable reason was my favorite answer of the day.

Margaret 4:29 PM  

@ edith, vega, et al. -- I'm partial to the term "coincicross" but maybe that's because I'm the one who coined it. I'm glad folks remembered it. (It was the same day as the great "Do Spelling and Smarts Go Together?" debate which was much more memorable!)

I didn't get the theme 'til I came here; I like the puzzle better for it. I have to say I hate UNPEG and I've never heard of HINKY PINKY. Now, HANKY PANKY -- that I've heard of!! Having the 15 square MEET IN THE MIDDLE run through the middle is nice.

Initially, I had Titter for Giggle and Skewer for Lampoon, which I like better than either TEEHEE or SATIRE. But it is a Monday after all.

Off to check out ACME's puzzle. Thanks for the heads up.

Anonymous 4:33 PM  

@archaeoprof re. OpEd pieces, haven't the foggiest now, but they got $100 in the late 60s (Mom had one). Bet they haven't kept up with inflation though.

I was also brought up with "stinky pinkies" rather than "hinky", which I think expanded more nicely to longer versions (stinkily pinkilies and stinkililly pinkillilies if I recall correctly). It was a fun game, certainly not "weird"! Certainly a fine way to pass the time on those long road trips in the pre-ipod/video game days.
Still seems pretty obscure for a monday I must say - "stinky pinky" gets many more hits than hinky, but still only 33k on google (and most of those aren't the word game, but we won't go there)

chefbea 4:34 PM  

@green like your avatar. Is there a Nina in that hand?

edith b 5:58 PM  


I'm sorry. I should have given you credit for coining the word coincicross for just the phenomenon I was describing.

I didn't remember because of the Great Non-contretemps Between Rex and Evil Doug that took place that same day.

So, Andrea, never mind, it's already taken care of.

Greene 7:07 PM  

@chefbea: There's actually no Nina in this drawing. I'm going to work on resizing it on Thanksgiving. I really need to get some better computer skills.

mac 9:04 PM  

Where is Wade?

edith b 10:45 PM  

@william e emba-

I may have played fast and loose with the term "mathematican" but I never said she had a side career as one. I just assumed, and it may have been a bad assumption, that math had a part in her discoveries.

Sorry if I offended you as a mathematician.

fergus 11:52 PM  

mac, I wondering where he was as well

fikink 10:29 AM  

I, too, have been looking for Wade.

@fergus, figured out your brother's UNPC hinky pinky in the middle of the night. Thanks for the riddle.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

How about when Hedy tries to get a student discount at the same box office scene?

That's Hedley.

@edith b
I just assumed, and it may have been a bad assumption, that math had a part in her discoveries.

We mathematicians believe that math is part of everything.

Sorry if I offended you as a mathematician.

No offense whatsoever.

Anonymous 1:09 PM  


Re your comment to the movie Samson and Deliliah. Yes I have seen the movie---many times over. Yes, by todays standards it may be classified as corn but as a 1949 superbly filmed Cecil B. DeMille epic which married new color technology, hollywood-star romance and biblical events it was a film that recieved a 4 1/2 star rating

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