Myrmecologist's box -TUESDAY, Nov. 25, 2008 - Caleb Madison (Sanders, Klink or Mustard: Abbr. / Hoopsters Archibald and Thurmond / "Amerika" novelist)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: vowel switch - theme answers are two-word phrases where consonants in the second word are in the same sequence and position as in the first word, but the vowels swap places

Well, this isn't much of a theme, concept-wise, but the resulting phrases are kinda catchy and quirky and the non-theme fill is pretty decent too. Happy to see the return of "The Simpsons" to the puzzle today in the form of NED Flanders (46A: _____ Flanders, neighbor of Homer Simpson) - see yesterday's write-up for a picture of this left-handed, mustachioed, Super-Churchy nice-guy. Coincidentally, I have had a NED Flanders mustache now for about 24 hours. I'll be shaving it off tomorrow morning before I get my photo taken by the local paper. It's disturbing to have this mustache, because I don't notice it at all, but every time my wife looks at me, she can barely control her amusement.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Trial jury? (penal panel)
  • 23A: Wine telemarketer? (cellar caller)
  • 30A: Lone Star State duties? (Texas taxes)
  • 40A: Late-night talk show host's principles? (Conan canon)
  • 49A: Slyly popping a breath mint, e.g.? (Tic Tac tactic) - the best of them all, although TIC and TAC appear to be separate words, which kind of ruins the consistency of the theme, but I don't care
  • 61A: Sammy's backup singers? (Davis divas)
There are several very lovable answers in this puzzle. Love XBOX (34D: GameCube competitor) and QANDA (7D: Session after a lecture, informally) for their improbable letter combinations. Love TRIPLEA (10D: Not quite in the majors) because the stand-alone "A" can make it hard to parse if you don't know baseball - plus it breaks neatly into TRIP and LEA, which is essentially meaningless, yet pleases me nonetheless. Love love Love MRSC (25D: Richie's mom, to the Fonz), because not only does it have the interesting and unusual letter sequence going for it (as all the aforementioned lovable answers do), but ... well, it's all consonants, And it's about MRS. C, whom (as longtime readers of this blog probably know) I have always adored. I have a thing for sitcom moms - Mrs. Brady, Mrs. C., Joanna Kearns from "Growing Pains," etc. Perhaps I've said too much.

Oh, and I love ALL WET (5D: Totally mistaken) - super-dated, but in a cool way.

The hard-boiled fan in me wishes SPADE (22A: Heart beater in bridge bidding) had been clued in relation to Sam, NEAT (42D: "Very cool!") had been clued via whiskey, and CORA (60A: Mrs. Dithers of "Blondie") had been clued via the main female character in "The Postman Always Rings Twice." Very happy to see MR. MOTO (25A: Detective played by Peter Lorre) in the grid, now apparently married to MRS. C (fabulous crossing).

[image from "Modern Drunkard" magazine]

For some reason, with this puzzle, I marked the first and last squares I filled in. Alpha square = "K" in KAFKA (1A: "Amerika" novelist). Omega square = "R" in IGOR (19A: "Young Frankenstein" hunchback).


  • 66A: Line from the ankle to the waist, say (seam) - had to think about this one, then realized it must be a clothing-related (and not an anatomical) term
  • 1D: Hat for a French soldier (kepi) - really a horrid name. How am I supposed to take a soldier seriously when he's wearing a hat that's only a couple letters off from KEWPIE?
  • 31D: Stowe heroine (Eva) - very, very handy name to remember
  • 4D: Sedona maker (Kia) - just had this answer clued as [Sportage maker]. I'd like to advocate that constructors start using KEA in their puzzles - there must be demand for it, what with "E" being more common, generally, than "I," and it's a perfectly good, reasonably common bird. OK, it's common only in NZ, but at least it still exists. Stupid DODO gets into the puzzle and it only ever existed on a tiny island and hasn't been around for centuries.
  • 47A: Some charge cards, informally (Amexes) - this feels ... iffy.
  • 18D: Test for a sitcom (pilot) - I think it's a test for any new (scripted) show.
  • 23D: Sanders, Klink or Mustard: Abbr. (Col.) - fantastic clue. I laughed just reading it."Klink," HA ha. "Schultz!"

  • 13D: Tool for someone on KP duty (parer) - when I think of someone on KP duty, I think of someone peeling potatoes, not ... paring? Or did the potato peeler pare with a PARER back in the day (i.e. early "Beetle Bailey" era)?
  • 8D: Old maker of baseball cards and bubble gum (Fleer) - so this is how I learn that FLEER has gone out of business. I think there was a single year (in my six or so years of baseball card collecting) that I collected FLEER. 1982. Good times.
  • 41D: Myrmecologist's box (ant farm) - great clue, great answer. I actually found "box" stranger than "Myrmecologist" before I'd solved the clue.
  • 63A: Radioer's word ("over") - "Radioer" is hard to look at
  • 43D: Atlanta-based federal health org. (CDC) - Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention)
  • 44D: Hoopsters Archibald and Thurmond (Nates) - Archibald was nicknamed "Tiny"
  • 51D: Grammy-winning pianist Chick (Corea) - familiar name, but his music is unknown to me. I'll let Chick play us out:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


PhillySolver 11:06 PM  

Nate Thurmond was known as 'Big Nate' and his BBQ restaurant in San Fran carries that name. Big and Tiny could open a shop. One of my favorite ads in my first assignment to Houston was for the formal wear store, Houston Tuxes. 'The Canon of Conan' is part of the comic book series. Tic Tac Tactic is a real board game so I hope they don't sue. I saw an ad for the UC Davis Divas when working near the campus. I guess a good word play is worth repeating.

Unknown 11:08 PM  

Lots of fun, this one. I am a sucker for tricksy word stunts. Also, a few x's mixed with a kouple of k's and a dash of q is quite tasty.

My best time for Tuesday so far, and I think I might have snagged first poster. What a neat way to end the day.

Unknown 11:09 PM  

Okay, so second poster. Still.

PuzzleGirl 11:19 PM  

Loved this quick and easy puzzle. Nice job, Caleb. I, too, laughed at the COL. clue and adore MRS. C (both in the puzzle and in the show and, seriously, because she was able to turn Fonzie, the big tough guy, into an adorable, blushing kid).

A favorite catch-phrase here at our house is one PuzzleHusband picked up from the big boss (former military) at his company: "What the hell, over." Try it. It really comes in handy.

Anonymous 11:48 PM  

I didn't find it as easy as all that, mostly because I always seem to struggle with those Q AND A answers. I also found the DAVIS' DIVAS (the possessive is assumed from the clue of Sammy's) very clunky, so I was surprised that Rex didn't comment.

Rex Parker 12:05 AM  

That possessive issue (in the clue for DAVIS DIVAS) is identical to the one in the clue for CONAN CANON. In both cases, I don't think it matters. We use names in that combo adjectival/possessive way all the time (a trained grammarian can explain this better than I).

[007's ladies] => BOND GIRLS.

[Satirist Stephen's selling power] => COLBERT BUMP

[Baseball player Mario's perennially low batting average] => MENDOZA LINE

OK that last one is probably not a good one, in that the line (.200) was named for him. MENDOZA didn't "invent" or "own" the average. His actual career average is .215.



Orange 12:25 AM  

Good choice, asking Chick to play us out. You don't wanna ask Bill O'Reilly to play us out—it makes him very angry. (There's also a dance remix of that clip. It's got a good beat to it.) 'Round la Casa Naranja, we have been inspired to do everything live now.

My wee objection to DAVIS DIVAS is that backup singers don't get accorded diva status, do they?

Anonymous 2:10 AM  

much fun, Caleb!

I didn't get that just the vowels switched positions...I just thought they were anagrams, which I think makes this even neater!

You like QANDA??? those are the clues that super bug me bec they have never been written like that, it's always Q & A, I think!

I like a puzzle that starts with Kafka (you must have loved that K thing plus the K in AMerika) but it made me hesitate about how to spell COREA (Krossing with KORA)

totally agree with you on the DIVAS thing (and we should know!)

LOVED TICTAC TACTIC that made the whole puzzle for me. Shocked it's a game...
I assume you were kidding, but obviously you can use anything you want in a puzzle. Who are they gonna sue, over what? (Hmmm, maybe the ONLY good thing about having had to sign away ALL our rights for all eternity to the Times...)

I had a mini malapop, hardly worth mentioning (like that's ever stopped me)
I misread read the 23D Klink Klue and thinking it was AND, not OR
so tried to figure out how one would abbrev Colonels in three letters so I put in COS.
then ONE clue later 24D WAS COS!!!!

Loved the X's, tho was weirded out a bit by 32D XIN


Anonymous 2:32 AM  

The only one I had trouble with was CELLAR CALLER. I kept wanting it to be CELLAR SELLER but couldn't make it work. Gah!

Greene 7:03 AM  

I read Kafka's "Amerika" when I was in college and still remember what an odd assemblage it was. Obviously, Kafka had never been to America so he gets details wrong, or does he? He describes New York and Boston as being separated by the Hudson this innocent ignorance or is he knowingly distorting geography to create an alternate, surreal reality (Amerika, not America)? I don't know, it's Kafka -- complete with that pervading sense of Kafka dread. In the opening paragraphs, for instance, as the protagonist sails into New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty is depicted holding a sword and not a torch (symbolizing war and violence as opposed to freedom and enlightenment). Hmm...maybe he really did "get" this country after all. And this is one of Kafka's more optimistic books. I should mention it's unfinished, but still well woth a look.

Really enjoyed today's puzzle as expertly discussed by Rex. Thought the theme was fun and clever. I really enjoy grid fill that looks odd or voweless, such as QANDA or MRSC. If I were just looking at a completed grid without the clues, I would wonder "How on earth did he clue MRSC? Is that some new super bacteria that's going to eat the planet?" or "What's a QANDA...some kind of airline...or a hut...or one of those antelope things that are forever appearing in the puzzle?"

Anonymous 7:31 AM  

First I have to say I woke up from a dream around 3:00 a.m. with a new word for the phenomenon when we fill in an answer only to erase it then end up writing it back in the square as, indeed, the correct answer. What do you think about calling that a re-right?

As soon as I saw Caleb's name I was expecting a better than usual Tuesday puzzle and was not disappointed. TICTACTACTIC is brilliant! I also love ALL WET, XBOX and AMEXES.

A fun Tuesday!

ArtLvr 8:55 AM  

I agree with Betsy -- the idea of a "cellar seller" was a distraction until the actual theme came into view with TICTACTACTIC, which really tickled me.


Tony from Charm City 9:15 AM  

Great puzzle.

Rex, FLEER filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and was acquired by Upper Deck.

I also liked TICTACTACTIC. Try to say that 10 times fast.

chefbea 9:21 AM  

I agree - a fun puzzle. Loved tictac tactic and love tic tacs themselves. Have you tried the new bigger ones? - a real burst of mintiness.

@joho - re-right is good.

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

I, too, loved TICTAC TACTIC, and briefly imagined that this was the clue/solution that inspired the entire puzzle.
- Tom in Pittsburgh

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

The clue and answer for TICTACTACTIC is so awesome that it needs an award for awesomeness. Incredible.

@Philly -- a "real board game"? It's not clear. I mean, there's a website for the "board game", but its wikipedia entry was taken down for "blatant advertising" (and the expurgated description of the game says it was "realised on Nov 8, 2008"). Doesn't seem very real. Sounds like it is an english pub game that someone is trying to market. How'd you even hear about it?

@Orange -- thank you for the Bill O'Reilly remix. More awesomeness.

Chick Corea plays piano like 88 tuned drums, and Dave Weckl (the drummer in that clip) plays drums like a piano... well, anyway, they're both good. Patitucci on bass is ridic as well.

Anonymous 10:11 AM  

I like the idea of linking MR and MRS together.

dk 10:31 AM  

Hmmm DAVIS DIVAS I like that.

@andrea and @orange, you would both have top billing.


Caleb, thanks

JoefromMtVernon 10:40 AM  

Continued my "get them done under 7" Tuesdays. Quick, painless, just the right touch for a Tuesday.

Didn't collect many Fleer, and am still looking for '67 and '69 TOPPS. (Yes, I'm ancient).

Love the Simpsons, but...seeing too much of Ned and Apu. Especially after THE episode...too much of anything is no good.

Is this the same Amerika that was once an ABC movie of the week? I remember the trailer...communist flags, and an Abe Lincoln bust marching down Main St.


foodie 10:43 AM  

I guess I'm getting picky in my old age. But I felt that the theme proceeded along one path and then got looser. So, if you solve from top to bottom, it looked like the theme answers was about switching the positions of E and A. That held true for the first 3 answers: PENAL/PANEL, CELLAR/CALLER AND TEXAS/TAXES, and then the rule gets looser in the next three where O's and I's get into the picture, and there are no U's in sight.

From hearing Andrea's experience on the importance of some balance or conceptual symmetry, this felt out of kilter to me, and I was surprised that no one else complained.

I do agree that some of the resulting fill is great fun. I too love MRS C, both her name and how she affected the Fonz...

I missed yesterday (too busy) and it was terrific to read the exchange about acme's puzzle. What a cool theme!! And how fun to see that the inspiration came from this forum. Congratulations, Ms. Andrea Carla!

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

I only knew of FLEER because it was bought by Marvel Comics in the early 90s, when Perelman went on a buying spree and then nearly wrecked the comic book industry. His shortsided greed put thousands of comic book retailers out of business, apparently to Perelman's surprise as Marvel got so bad it had to file for bankruptcy. The most amazing court fight ensued when Icahn sensed an opportunity and tried to bull his way in. See Dan Raviv Comic Wars for the fascinating, and sometimes utterly bizarre, story. (The book is available in paperback, but with a boring cover illustration.) Marvel survived, but I hadn't thought about FLEER's fate. To this day, I still refuse to buy Marvel comics.

My guess is that real myrmecologists don't actually use ANT FARMs.

I would have preferred CONAN CANON to be clued "Robert E Howard's most famous fiction?", but that's probably me. On the other hand, our President-Elect is a fan.

Jeffrey 11:14 AM  

I also got CELLAR SELLER as the first theme answer and it messed me up for the entire puzzle, as I was looking for a sound alike (homonym, right?) theme.

DJG 11:31 AM  

Today's was a very good Tuesday puzzle.

I am still waiting for the puzzle that clues CORA as, "Former Mariner's 2nd baseman Joey".

mac 1:13 PM  

I agree with all of the above, a great Tuesday puzzle, with tictac tactic the best of the theme answers.

@Rex: I thought you would like kepi, it as a k!
I think a peeler and a parer are one and the same thing.

@Orange: I'm afraid to click on the link to Bill O'Reilly. I once saw/heard him life, hoped he would be a little more civilized in person, NOT!

I like "all wet", sq.ft., aloft, and was a little surprised at 10A, "shut your trap".

I guess I found out why an ant is called a "mier" in Dutch.

Doug 1:23 PM  

I only had trouble with Conan; probably because I can't stand him and never watch him, and when he takes over for Jay, I'm gone from The Tonight Show. I can't stand Letterman either. I miss Johnny and Dick Cavett.

Rex Parker 1:47 PM  

Did someone ask for our opinions about late-night hosts? I missed that.

Conan, a former "Simpsons" writer, is great - infinitely preferable to the giant bore that is Leno. If the "Today" show were on at 11:30pm, it would be called "The Tonight Show." Which is another way of saying that Leno is about as interesting as Matt Lauer.


dk 2:02 PM  

An opening for me to carp about TV: woo woo

I am so happy that I get my news and commentary from paper and radio. Now those car talk guys and Maureen Dowd are prima donnas (just kidding) but the rest... not a Leno or Lauer in the bunch.

Kill your Television for Christmas!

Off to New Mexico and the NYT in Santa Fe.

Anonymous 2:33 PM  

In my real life I usually take a firm stance on most issues. For some reason I feel wishy washy when I get to this forum. Here again today I liked the concept of the puzzle and all of the fill (except maybe the OHO) but just couldn’t put my finger on what left me less than sated. Foodie’s expansion of Ms andrea carla michaels thought on conceptual symmetry I think summed it accurately – thematic answers seemed either too tightly or too loosely formatted. Still I enjoyed the solve even as the theme did allow for ‘presolve’ awareness. I also like that neither Q required a U. Plus the word penal (and pianist for that matter) always cracks up the Bevis and Butthead in me.

Anonymous 2:46 PM  

Oh I meant to thank Rex for the Modern Drunkard link. I did not know it was a magazine. I read the book - I believe it to be a tongue in cheek look at the good old days of two martini lunches. In it the author advocates for drinking on the job, the lost weekend (Fri thru Sun binge) and open and close a drinking establishment in one sitting. Quite amusing and the writing style to match. Am still working on the open and close challenge but do have the others covered.

fergus 3:50 PM  

Carol Brady?

I happened to do this with a friend who was new to crossword puzzles, so it was good to have such an entertaining example for an introduction. I might disagree about the erosion of the theme -- I found it held together just as tightly the more I looked at all the entries.

Remember the horrible, hard, dusty bubble gum that came with the little pack of baseball cards? The gum and the ink aromas and tastes blending to befoul either product?

Sharon 4:01 PM  

I don't remember the baseball card gum but I do remember hard balls from a round glass dispenser.
I'm just rattling on here to see if this posts. I did weeks ago and lately it doesn't show up.

dk 4:02 PM  

@fergus, and the gum had this dust on it that seemed only to aid the integration of cardboard, ink and gum.

@rafaelthatmef, At work I am trying to start a newsletter titled IP Daily... they are not going for it.

SethG 4:46 PM  

Hens love roosters, geese love ganders, I LOVE the MR/MRS and CORA/COREA crosses.

And I am _totally_ going as a rod-packin' gunsel for Halloween next year.

jae 4:47 PM  

Fun clever Tuesday. I also had SELLER initially and tried ALEVE instead of ADVIL. Even though no one asked, Craig Ferguson is currently the funniest guy on television (IMOO).

Sharon 4:48 PM  

It seems to be working so I'm going to repeat a couple of Thank Yous I had tried to post in the past.
Thank you for the "wink wink" puzzle. Great fun. I ran off several copies to share with friends.
And Thanks for the interview with Emily Jo Cureton. I'd enjoyed her drawings so much (after seeing them on a link here) that I was interested in buying an original or two but could not figure out how to do that until you included her e-mail with your interview.
I'll wait to read the blog for today until the puzzle comes to me in syndication, 5 weeks and 4 hours later.

Orange 5:19 PM  

Oh. My. God.

They've done it.

They've made jewelry out of beets. Yes, actual beets.

dk 5:58 PM  

@orange, we tried to tell you that beets rule.

I am thinkin you might like one of those bracelets made from oranges.

Thank you for a great laugh at the end of the day.


mac 6:21 PM  

I feel vindicated, beets do rule.
Talking about food (ha!) I'm cooking a mini-Thanksgiving dinner this evening, with a half-bone-in-breast of BIOLOGICAL turkey (5.95/lb as opposed to .95/lb) roasting on a bed of celery, onion and carrot; cauliflower and broccoli
and steamed potatoes, a light gravy and freshly made cranberry/orange juice/apple compote. The reason: we have reservations on Thursday!

@rafael and foodie: you are probably right, but it's only Tuesday, let's just enjoy the puzzle. I thought it was pretty good.

@dk: lucky you, I like Santa Fe a lot, especially the bright air, with the cold at night and the warmth during the day, makes me think of our 2 years in Boise, Idaho.

@SethG: if you are going to wear your fuchsia p.l. shoes with that outfit, we need pictures!

KMB 6:30 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle very much. Especially the fact that it contains a Q and 3 Xes.

Doc John 7:15 PM  


As for Col. Klink and the Simpsons, there was an episode in which he appears as Homer's hero and even says "Homerrr" in the manner of "Hogannn". (And yes, it was Werner Klemperer doing the voicing in, according to imdb, his last filmed role.) Great stuff!

@ jae- I like Craig Ferguson, too. He's so original.

Anonymous 7:21 PM  

Hey Rex and other commenters-

Thanks for all the feedback. I had a lot of fun with this one (as you can probably see). Glad you liked it!

--Caleb M.

p.s. Rex- i originally submitted the clue for SPADE as "Literary detective Sam". Guess there were too many proper names in the puzzle already.

Also, funny you mention Cora Papadakis, because I'm mid-"Postman Always Rings Twice" right now! Any other crime-fiction suggestions? I know you're somewhat of an expert.

SethG 7:50 PM  

mac, I wore them to a wedding just this weekend. But the shoes don't appear in any of the pictures I've seen... Maybe I'll wear them in Brooklyn? If I come to Brooklyn...

Orange, they're sold out of the beet. Maybe Frito Lay cornered the market?

Anonymous 8:00 PM  

You're too young for the Postman...
I demand you burnthe book immediately and get back to work on another fun Tuesday puzzle!

Anonymous 8:12 PM  

ps I feel contractually obliged to mention that Marion Ross, aka Mrs C., is from Minnesota, donchaknow.

chefbea 8:31 PM  

I am sooo excited about beet jewelry!!!!

@mac maybe dangle ear rings with a beet hanging down!!!

Ulrich 8:36 PM  

@Calmad: When it comes to crime-fiction femmes fatales, nobody beats little VELMA in Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely: "Whatever you wanted, wherever you happend to be, she had it."

Keep her in mind for future ref.!

mac 8:49 PM  

@chefbea: funny you should bring this up: I've been working with rubies the last 2 days.

@Rex: thanks again. 46A was no problem at all!

@Orange: you can do amazing things with orange rinds; they dry into a quite hard an durable material. Jewelry is just the beginning.

Anonymous 11:09 PM  

@Ulrich- one of my favorites. Moose and Velma: together at last. "The Long Goodbye" is my favorite Chandler though. I just picked up Elmore Leonard's "Swag". Good or no?

Ulrich 12:01 AM  

@Calmad: Rex frowns on short back-and-forths, but since he's a Chandler fan, too, let me just say this: I understand you (and him) re. The Long Goodbye, but my favorite is, nevertheless, The Lady in the Lake.

Over and out.

Unknown 4:47 PM  

@john in NC

TICTACTACTIC is a popular table top game from the UK for both pubs and retail. It was developed 18years ago and was named 1yr 5months. It is a registered trademark and registered to Andico Design LTD. The wikipedia entry was not created by us!

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