Janis's comics husband - WEDNESDAY, Nov. 12, 2008 - Peter A. Collins (Fezzes's lack / Shannon Airport's county / Mule team?)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: THE RAT PACK (56A: Group with members hidden in 17-, 24- and 46-Across) - DAVIS, MARTIN, and SINATRA are embedded, respectively, in three successive theme answers

I would have rated this one easy had it not been for the proper name pile-up I ended up slamming into at full speed somewhere around Medford, OR - in other words, where MOIRA and ARMY meet MARY. The ARMY clue (37A: Mule team?) was oddly tough for me - I could not figure out (immediately) the "R" and "Y" crosses. I don't think anyone's "picked" at ORE (31D: It may be picked) since 1849, but that clue is still very valid and I should have known. As for the MARY clue - 25D: Miraculous Medal figure - I have no idea what that refers to. Some 19th-century Catholic saint lady had a vision of the Virgin and made a medal (!) out of it. OK. Good to know. As for MOIRA (30A: Kelly of "One Tree Hill"), I could not pick her out in a crowd - not even a "crowd" of two random women (unless one of those women was, say, Bea Arthur, or my sister, in which case, process of elimination ...). And yet the name MOIRA came to me rather easily. Either the crosses really narrowed the field, or some pop culture god (whom I please with my writing on a regular basis) whispered it in my ear - a miracle! I think I'll go make a medal now.

As for the theme, it's cute. I feel like I've seen it before, but I'm probably wrong. The only thing that seems off about it is the lack of a "JR" after DAVIS in a PAIDAVISIT. Of course his name is DAVIS, but I've only ever heard him called Sammy DAVIS, Jr. I guess that "JR" would be pretty hard to embed in a phrase. Hmmm ... "MolDAVI S.J. Reynolds?" Yes, perfect.

[Drunk, minus Sammy]

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Stopped by (pai DAVIS it)
  • 24A: Market-savvy sort (s MARTIN vestor)
  • 46A: Hypnotizes (put SINATRA nce)
And now a word on the anthropomorphizing of animals. Generally I like it. Why shouldn't I imagine that squirrels are invested with the same emotions, feelings, anxieties, and drives as I am? It's more fun than admitting that they're simply inscrutable birdseed thieves. I have entire conversations with my dogs that presuppose that they are fluent in English and adore me. Ascribing human feelings to animals is likely an ancient practice, and yet I still find myself narrowing my eyes in disbelief when the crossword engages in such imaginative activity. Is a COBRA really the 1A: Enemy of a mongoose? I admit that the COBRA/Mongoose War would make a great (if disturbingly violent) children's story, but I have a hard time imagining, the mongoose in her ... lair? hut? hole? ... drawing up plans of attack, plotting revenge, etc. A mongoose has gotta eat. It's an eater of COBRAs. You know who else has to eat? Ladybugs. And yet I doubt their day is divided into breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with "snacks" in between (50A: Snacks for ladybugs => APHIDS). Further, I would imagine APHIDS are not just to tide ladybugs over between meals of greater sustenance. The APHIDS *are* the sustenance (though it seems ladybugs will eat all kinds of insect larva if given the chance). I'm just imagining a ladybug mom opening a pack of APHID-O's for her kids and telling them not to eat the whole pack or they'll ruin their dinner.


  • 15A: Janis's comics husband (Arlo) - despite the fact that this is crosswordese by now, people still have trouble with it. FYI, Arlo and Janis's last name is Flagstone. Their dog is named DAWG. [I was kidding and/or drunk when I wrote this note - "Hi and Lois" are the Flagstones, and they own DAWG]
  • 28A: Grammy winner Winehouse (Amy) - also my sister's name. My sister has never been in rehab, as far as I know.
  • 38A: Shannon Airport's county (Clare) - County CLARE. Why do Irish say "County blank" and we say "Blank County?"
  • 43A: Flattened at the poles (oblate) - also, in the Middle Ages, a child given to a monastic house (Benedictine, in particular) by his parents.
  • 61A: Bygone Dodge (Omni) - OMNI and ARLO are friends
  • 1D: Corrida wear (cape) - bullfighting
  • 3D: Fezzes's lack (brims) - I just like saying "Fezzeseseseseses..."
  • 10D: "Honor Thy Father" author (Talese) - Gay TALESE has been on my "You Should Read That" list for far too long.
  • 11D: Something the U.S. government keeps an eye on (Great Seal) - clever clue of the day
  • 33D: Oro y _____ (motto of Montana) (plata) - PLATA and OMNI and ARLO are all friends.
  • 38D: Lamont _____, a k a the Shadow (Cranston) - no wonder he became "The Shadow." No one but no one is gonna be scared of a dude name Lamont CRANSTON.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS Michigan Pete (a k a Peter Collins, our constructor) has the syndicated puzzle today, too. I love when that happens.


Anonymous 8:57 AM  

Wondering if this comment makes it from my blackberry to the blog.

On the puzzle, I found Florida challenging, as I don't recall seeing EDAMS as a plural very often, and I was trying to think of an abbreviation relating to M*A*S*H which could have been CCS or maybe something meaning the number of wounded. And crossing an obscure island? Yeesh!

How about a clue that would get the other RatPacker (BISHOP) in the puzzle?


mac 9:18 AM  

@RT: you are absolutely right, it would never be Edams, in Holland it would be Edammer kazen, here Edam cheeses.

Am I imagining it, or are there an extraordinary number of acronyms and abbreviations in this puzzle, both in the clues and the answers?

This one was too quick for a Wednesday, I'm going straight to Rex's syndicated puzzle link to get the other half of my xwp dose.

P.S. Who is the young man in the blue shirt? And wga by Aphid-O's!

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

To continue Rex's nitpicking, I was slowed by Dutch treats being EDAMS. I'm a non-foodie, and do not eat any cheese fancier than American or Mozzarella or Parmesan, but somehow I can't think of any cheese being a treat.

I liked how the theme helped me solve the puzzle. I couldn't really guess what the exact language would be to fill out the MARTIN and SINATRA answers, so filling in their names was a lot faster than relying on the crosses.

I was slowed down a bit by the telephone clue. I had ---OTHERE, and could only think of 'ELLO THERE. Like Rex, finishing Oregon was the only part I found difficult. I got MAP crossed with PEN, and then finished.

In fact, this was my second or third fastest Wednesday, so I'd rank it SuperEasy turned Easy because of Oregon.

I actually blanked on -PEN- for an Ivy League nickname, despite having taught there and lived and hanged around campus for ten years once upon a time. Sheesh.

6D Plotz is Yiddish for "explode". I simply cannot wrap my head around the actual answer FAINT. I am aware "plotz" is used by people who know no Yiddish, so I suspect people just assume it means "have an extreme reaction". And yes, the Urban Dictionary confirms people primarily mean it to faint. Well, all I have to say to that is "feh".

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

I too would have enjoyed finding BISHOP in the puzzle and also the female member of the Ratpack,MACLAINE.

Anonymous 9:24 AM  


You said *I admit that the COBRA/Mongoose War would make a great (if disturbingly violent) children's story...*

Actually it is: Rikki-tikki-tavi by Kipling, later a movie.

From a review:

*This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought single-handed, through the bath-rooms of the big bungalow in Segowlee cantonment...*


Anonymous 9:26 AM  

RT - obi shopping? ibis hopping? nebbish operation? haha. Then there was Lawford....

I thought it relatively easy, having THERATPACK first and Ol' Blue Eyes soon sfterward... How are dunce caps like fezzes? They're lacking BRIMS.


Anonymous 9:47 AM  

Where can I find an ORE tree from which to pick? Or are they bushes?

Margaret 9:47 AM  

@ Glitch -- If you want to wager that Rex doesn't know about Rikki Tikki Tavi, IT'S A BET. I'm sure he does -- which is why he put that in there. It's just his wry (RYE?) sense of humor.

This was one of my fastest Weds. Cute theme and fun puzzle. Not much else to say.

Re: anthropomorphism -- I just heard that the dying words of one African Grey Parrot to its linguistics researcher-owner were, "Be good. I love you." That's a little freaky.

Orange 9:49 AM  

Dude! Arlo and Janis don't have Dawg. The Flagstones are Hi and Lois. Was this one of your trademark flush-out-the-nitpicker traps? Are you disappointed that six or more people commented before I did and didn't call you on this?

Yesterday I added "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" on DVD to my Amazon cart, in a "Chuck Jones Collection" pairing with some other cartoon. Is it fair to give my childhood to my kid for Xmas and expect him to love it?

JoefromMtVernon 10:07 AM  

I found this an easy puzzle, with the Dakota region slowing me down. Wanted RNs or MDs or DRs, not OR's. Word of the day, plotz = faint.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

Ha! What are facts in the internet age? Now, any child who Googles "Arlo and Janis" will read the very first item, "FYI, Arlo and Janis's last name is Flagstone. Their dog is named DAWG." Said child will probably not bother to follow the link to read further "[I was kidding and/or drunk when I wrote this note - "Hi and Lois" are the Flagstones, and they own DAWG]"

Bob Kerfuffle

Ulrich 10:13 AM  

I also found this puzzle easy for a Wednesday and cute, themewise.

I got beaten to the punch w.r.t. showing my fondness for Rikki-tikki-tavi, an absolutely wonderful Kipling story also in my book.

Now, in the story, the animals are clearly anthromorphized b/c they have not only feelings, but also reflect on these to themselves in very good English. To me, this is very different from just ascribing feelings to animals, e.g. the ability to experience joy, disappointment, pain. Does anyone who has ever owned a pet really doubt that animals have these kinds of emotions?

March 10:35 AM  


Anonymous 10:38 AM  

Ah! The rat pack. The days of cigarette smoke, bourbon on the rocks, long line bras, girdles. How in the world did we survive?

Two Ponies 10:44 AM  

Agree with Rex all the way.
Additional nits (not ore) to pick:
16A Art I lame.
6D Plotz who knew?
30A Kelly who? Who cares.
45D Cana? Never heard of it.
25D I thought the medal would be a sports answer.
23A Worst of the bunch. Cesspool maybe, but pipe?
I thought the theme was fun and the imbedded answers were well-hidden as they spanned at least two words.
artlvr beat me to the punch on obi shopping.
My biggest surprise was writing Cranston with no crosses. How did I know that? I never even read comics as a child and I'm too young for the radio show.
Do my dogs have emotions? Of course. They can even read my mind.

Anonymous 10:48 AM  


You may be the only one here that takes my posts seriously. :)


Anonymous 11:37 AM  


Wilmer Valderrama plays an hilarious character named 'Fez' on 'That 70's Show'.

Second two ponies on CESS - that definitely failes my breakfast test.


Anonymous 11:38 AM  

That's Fes, from That Seventies Show. FES = Foreign Exchange Student.

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

@two ponies: CESS was my ugly word for the day. I've heard of cesspool, but never cesspitt and what in the heck is a cesspipe?

I had UCONN for a minute.

Fezzes' looks weird to me.

I liked the theme. Hiding SINATRA was well done. It would have been perfect if Bishop, Lawford and MacClaine were included but I guess that's just asking too much.

fikink 11:45 AM  

So, I am reading the blog this morning and heard myself say, 'THAT's not Gay Talese!"
Wilmer Valderrama - nice to know (had to research) - God bless google!
Why I love this blog!

PuzzleGirl 12:43 PM  

I love love love this theme. Beautifully done. That is all.

Anonymous 12:59 PM  

I want Peter Collins to change his name to something more memorable. Flipping back through Rex's archives, he's done a lot of cool puzzles, including the election day V puzzle, and the one where every clue and answer shared a first letter; he's done from Monday to Sunday; and a lot of different types, rebuses and hidden words and reshuffled letters and quotes and themeless, and I just don't remember his name. How about Peter Tomcollins. Or Rex Collins.

Re this puzzle, same experience as Rex, good midweek puzzle that stuck on the MOIRA MARY ARMY cross.

garycee 1:01 PM  

@anonymous...lets not forget harry guardino.....kinda like that third tenor guy of the three tenors..
pen and penn were cool as was
mary (the mother of christ) and cana..the weding feast where she asked her son, jesus to resolve the wine shortage and, of course he did by changing the water into wine.... and moira, irish for mary..maybe in county clare..
not sure if it got to the "medium" level though....went fairly fast for me

Doug 1:18 PM  

@joho I'm not going to google cesspit/pipe, but I'm going to go out on a line saying that a cesspool structure is a cesspit and the "contents" arrive via cesspipe. Usually this is where multi-taleneted Phillysolver jumps in to say "I'm a journeyman plumber and back in the 1970s wrote an essay on the history of the cesspit in NE America."

Did the puzzle after cleaning my laptop that was caught in a blitz of birthday cooking last night. I often connect to a recipe site while cooking and last night was my 14-year old's chosen b-day meal. Smoked a rack of ribs and made pesto focaccia, scalloped taters and an applie pie, all from scratch and all from internet recipes proclaiming "the best *insert food* ever!"

Wife got ticked when I started up the puzzle during dessert though!

mac 1:41 PM  

Thank you, RT and Sandy!

@doug: carefull with the laptop in the kitchen - I drowned one a couple of months ago.... I'm getting hungry reading about your menu, or maybe it's the herby stock simmering on the stove.

Anonymous 1:44 PM  

Airport and state motto crossing? Really? Really? Clue time and look for a month? Really? Really? Happy hours happen every day and I never hear anyone shouting TGIF – even on Friday! You say PA TAH TOE I say PA TAY TOE. You say HMO I say AMA. And at least include all the members of the Rat Pack! You have two nice long downs just sitting there. Nice black chunkie grid [snark]. Stupid clues. Stupid answers. What a waste of ink.

dk 1:45 PM  

RYE and ICE, make it a double.

Slowed by ORE as was everyone else but still 6:02 for the second day in a row. Perhaps my clock is broken, if so yippee.

Somewhere I have some tapes of old radio shows and The Shadow (what evil lurks in the hearts of men) is one, and Lamont Cranston is a blues band:


And the Shadow:


dk 1:50 PM  

@fergus, regarding your yesterday evening post I concur. Bring them home.

thebubbreport 1:54 PM  

I was just happy to see my poor beloved Bengals mentioned. I was stuck in the OH/KY/IN/TN area - CLARE, ARABS, OBLATE (I had OBLONG), --(O-wrong)NSTON for CRANSTON and PLATA (four years of Latin don't help me on crosswords. What the heck did it ever help me with besides translating The Aenied?).

Those were the only Rat Packers I could name off the top of my head, while Moira Kelly I know b/c of that cheesy ice skating movie - The Cutting Edge - I love it! My pop culture knowledge is very twisted.


jae 2:01 PM  

Same problems as Rex, same opinion as puzzlegirl.

Chip Hilton 2:25 PM  

I enjoyed this one and found it to be rather easy for a Wednesday. The CESS and EDAMS clues threw me, but, otherwise flew.

I liked the embedded SINATRA a lot.

SKYE: one of the neatest places I've visited. The Cuillins could've been the setting for 'Night on Bald Mountain'. Wonderfully spooky place.

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

@fergus re yesterday’s late post.
I lead a fat and happy life probably in no small part because others have, as they say, entered the breach. Why or whether the breach should exist is political calculus. I consider honoring the valor that affords what I hold so dearly common decency. At the same time I respect pacifists, peaceniks and pinkos too and value the rewards of their noble efforts.
Sorry Rex.

pete1123 2:56 PM  


It's "Michigan Pete" here, with a word or two about today's puzzle.

@ Karen: Sorry my name is so unremarkable. Maybe I should sign my puzzles "Michigan Pete". Or "Peter Sinatra"?

@ Doug: Any leftovers?

@ Bubbreport: " ... poor beloved Bengals"?? Puh-leez. I live in Detroit Lions country. I can hardly wait for two weeks when they get their annual public de-pantsing in front of a national audience on Thanksgiving Day.

Fo those who care about where constructors get their ideas: I was visiting the in-laws last Spring, when I idly picked up one of their Frank Sinatra CDs. As I was staring at SINATRA, I was put in a trance -- and from there it was a short trip to finding phrases that hid DAVIS and MARTIN. I considered (and quickly discarded) LAWFORD and BISHOP. My biggest reservation was with MARTIN. I didn't know if "smart investor" was in-the-language enough. Does anyone have another viable option?

Anyway, the moral here is that good things can come from the worst set of circumstances -- even visiting the in-laws.

One last thing. My sometimes co-constructor Joe Krozel often lends an invisible hand to my puzzles. This one falls in that category. So a tip of the hat to Joe who helped improve the grid considerably.

"Michigan Pete" Sinatra Collins

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

Now I feel bad.

chefbea 4:15 PM  

Nice to here from Pete Sinatra . A fairly easy wednesday puzzle. Had trouble in the same area as most. For 31D did any one else have uke. That really messed things up.

@Doug great b-day dinner!! Couldn't have done better myself.

Was good to hear from Puzzle husband in yesterday's blog. Come visit again soon.

Two Ponies 4:23 PM  

@ Michigan Pete
I had no problem with "smart investor". I think I have heard it in advertising.
Thanks so much for dropping by and giving us some insight.

miriam b 4:33 PM  

We adopted a little black cat when we lived in Albuquerque and brought her back to LI when we returned here. We named her Lamont CRANSTON because she had the strange power to cloud men's minds so that they could not see her.

I loved the GREATSEAL clue, and generally enjoyed the puzzle.

jae 4:41 PM  

@chefbeal -- I considered UKE but never wrote it in because it just didn't fit with crosses that the MA in MAP headed up.

archaeoprof 4:46 PM  

@bubb report: as a Cincy native, the clue for 45A seems wrong to me, since the Bengals don't get on the scoreboard all that often these days.

Anonymous 4:57 PM  

I knew the answer to this clue right away because I watched the film several times as a kid.

"You said *I admit that the COBRA/Mongoose War would make a great (if disturbingly violent) children's story...*

Actually it is: Rikki-tikki-tavi by Kipling, later a movie.

From a review:

*This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought single-handed, through the bath-rooms of the big bungalow in Segowlee cantonment...*


Anonymous 4:59 PM  

Am I the only one who doesn't understand the link between "mule team" and "army"? I just don't get it.

Anonymous 5:09 PM  

Riki-tiki-tavi, Rudyard Kipling is actually how I KNEW the answer to cobra/mongoose..from Wikipedia:

An English family, who have moved to a bungalow in the British Sugauli (former British sp. Segowlee) cantonment in Bihar State, India, discover a young mongoose half drowned from a storm and decide to keep it as a pet. The young mongoose, named Rikki-Tikki by its new owner, soon finds himself confronted by two dangerous, murderous cobras, Nag (the word is Hindi for ("cobra") and his even more dangerous mate Nagaina, who had the run of the garden while the house was unoccupied. After that first encounter with the cobras, Rikki's first true battle is with Karait, a dust brown snakeling who threatens the boy (Teddy). Although Rikki is inexperienced and the snake, because of its deadly venom and small size, is an even more dangerous foe than a cobra, the mongoose defeats him

edith b 5:17 PM  

I had the same problems in the area that Rex describes. I was hung up where ARMY and ORE crossed. I just could not see it.

I shudder at what a cesspipe carries and don't wish to dwell on it.

As to Fergus from yesterday, the mere fact that folks are in harms way FOR US, regardless of why, is all the reason I need for gratitude. The fact that the Vietnam war was so unpopular makes their sacrifice all the more hearbreaking, along with the fact that a lot of them were conscripted.

janie 5:29 PM  

the usma's mascot is the mule. ergo, mule team = army.

love this clue/fill combo!


Anonymous 5:52 PM  

@Pete Joancollins,
Great puzzle!
Years ago I submitted one with the Brat pack and told too dull as it just listed them
(AND I had been so excited that JOEYBISHOP (10) had the same amount of letters as DEANMARTIN (10) and FRANKSINATRA (12) same as SAMMYDAVISJR (12)!
not to mention PETERLAWFORD (12) as a possible alternative...
Alas, SHIRLEY MACLAINE (15) would get left out as dames often were/are...)

I still think it's a worthwhile puzzle to do, but yours so wildly exceeds that!

SO to have embed them!!!!!!!!
(which many women probably did!)
My fez comes off to you!

Aphid-O's? You're a scream, but you seriously need some naming intervention; but lucky you, I'm working on an ACPT alternative for Will to reject

fikink 6:40 PM  

@edithb, this generation doesn't know from conscription. Otherwise, our politics would be very different.

SethG 7:03 PM  

Didn't have UKE for the pickee, I had AXE. Which worked with OXEN, and it took me a while to unravel MOIRA and the like.

I have a fez on my mantel, just one. Also an abacus, a slide rule, a frog candle holder, and a top hat.

Lamont CRANSTON was a gimme. With one or two crosses in place, but I still have no idea why.

Rex, I think the COBRA/Mongoose War was a children's story.

Anonymous 7:28 PM  

Seems I may be the only one who encountered this, but did anyone else have MARS crossing ARMS?

I still don't understand what "Mule team?" is referring to, so any answer makes sense to me, and "team" implies plural so ARMS seems alright. And it could make sense that the God of War would have a "Miraculous Medal," no? Still not sure what that is either...

Anonymous 7:50 PM  

@peter: Yikes, don't you read what others have written? janie at 5:29 answered your question.

This makes me nuts!

mac 8:45 PM  

@sethg: where have you been all this time?

This evening Rikki-Tikki-Tavi was a clue on Jeopardy. I have a (several) stack(2) of books I should be reading, this is one of them. I just had dinner with a friend who has the same problem, we are just greedy where books and shoes are concerned (I also have unworn, lovely, beautiful shoes).

miriam b 9:45 PM  

@mac:If the shoes are 8 1/2 A, it would be my pleasure to give them a good home.

mac 9:54 PM  

@miriam: sorry, different size, and as I said, they are lovely, can't part with them, I'm greedy!

Anonymous 12:08 AM  

Foodie here, in exile from blogger because I'm in DC and there is no bandwidth at this hotel..

Michigan Pete, thanks for a fun puzzle! In case you care, I live in Ann Arbor, and if you visit me, you'll see a picture of my grandfather looking awesome in a fez! Along with a uniform he wore to welcome Lawrence of Arabia into Damascus...

Rex, you said " Why shouldn't I imagine that squirrels are invested with the same emotions, feelings, anxieties, and drives as I am? ." My entire career is based on this assumption. Not only that, but it works... True, the critters don't do the New York Times puzzle, but other than that, not so different. They have temperaments, some are impulsive and others are patient, they gamble, they love cocaine, they take risks, they form attachments, you name it. And the brain circuits and chemistry are the same... which is why the same antidepressant works on your dog than it would on your neighbor. But buying shoes may actually be the better therapy for all concerned...

@ Phillysolver? Where are you? We miss you!

fergus 12:41 AM  

I've had trouble spots with all three puzzles this week, and I'm not afraid to admit it. ARMY threw me completely, but then there may be a reason for that. A SMART INVESTOR was timely, and oh, the tales I could tell from my banking life and the contemplative time as a graduate student when Economics still adhered to rational decision agents.

dk 1:20 AM  

@joho, nuts? I am not sure your qualified to make that diagnosis. And remember the woman who is her own therapist has.... little green men in her cookie jar that tell her what to do. Wait I think they are on the other line. I"ll get back to ya.

Remember Francis the talking mule?


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