MONDAY, Dec. 22, 2008 - Lynn Lempel (Holder of an unfair trial / Othello's undoer / Sidewalk santa worker, e.g.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: HOP TO IT (38A: "Get going!," and a hint for the starts of 17-, 24-, 51- and 62-Across) - all theme answers are phrases that start with something that HOPs.

This was oddly thorny for a Monday. In fact, I have "oddly thorny" scrawled across my original copy of this puzzle. It's a fine puzzle, but it took somewhat more effort than a Monday puzzle usually takes. Start with the sheer number of theme answers (5) - that's a reasonably high theme density, which tends to force the puzzle into odd words and less-than-predictable fill. This is not bad at all; it just results in some fill - particularly the mid-range stuff - that I wasn't for on a Monday. Throw in some deliberately tricky cluing, and you have the recipe for a slightly slower-than-average Monday outing. For instance, I thought the "stage" in 4D: Middle school stage, commonly was an actual place, like a set where the drama club might put on shows. GYM? CAFETERIA? Needed several letters before PUBERTY came into view. TEMP was not at all intuitive to me at 1A: Sidewalk Santa worker, e.g. Clue makes Santa sound like a hooker. Then there was the non-plural LINT at 27D: Bits of fluff, the non-slangy YES for the slangy 36D: "Right on!" and the always irksome NATCH (53D: "But of course!"), which I always want to be something else, initially (NO PROB?). Further, I drink HERBAL TEA, not HERB TEA, though I recognize the latter as an acceptable phrase (45D: Chamomile product). TEHEE does not sound like a 68A: Giggly laugh. Is that first "e" short? Look, just because someone somewhere decided you could spell TEPEE that way doesn't mean you can, by extension, do the same e-extraction with TEHEE.

Theme answers are tough (for a Monday), but splendid:

  • 17A: First in a John Updike novel series ("Rabbit, Run")
  • 24A: Batsman at a wicket, say (cricket player) - first read it as "Batman at a wicket," which is something I guarantee you you would never see.
  • 51A: Holder of an unfair trial (kangaroo court) - wonderful phrase
  • 62A: Umbrellalike fungus (toadstool) - this is one word, which ever-so-slightly throws off the consistency of the theme (all the other hoppers being stand-alone words). Not enough for serious grumbling, though.

Finish quickly:

  • 5A: Bugler's bedtime tune (Taps) - also a Tom Cruise movie from the early 80s.

  • 14A: Felipe or Moises of baseball (Alou) - Crossword Lingo 101. Some words survived from the Maleska era, and this is one of them (of course, it helps that the ALOUs also survive and continue to have a presence in Major League Baseball)
  • 49A: Long-necked waders (egret) - if it "wades," it's an EGRET. Or an IBIS. Maybe a HERON.
  • 10D: Numbers yet to be crunched (raw data) - my favorite answer, along with MOB SCENES (3D: Crowded, frenzied gatherings)
  • 8D: House mate? (Senate) - another example of decent trickiness.
  • 25D: Queenly role for Liz (Cleo) - Remember Miss CLEO?

  • 40D: Othello's undoer (Iago) - Othello's under the what now? Oh, UNDOER. I ... see. You could argue that Othello undoes himself. He certainly kills himself.
  • 43D: Household downsizing event (tag sale) - is that word, "downsizing," applicable to the unloading of crap from your basement? Speaking of basements, I'm not allowed to go into mine at the moment. Something Christmas-related is going on down there. Had to stay out of the house for hours on Saturday for a similar reason. Man, this surprise better be good. I'll report back to you on Thursday.
  • 50D: Boring routines (ruts) - I had ROTE. Made sense to me at the time.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Jeffrey 10:32 PM  

You didn't mention my favorite word in the puzzle - SPITTOONS. You can't find a good spittoon these days. That is not a word you expect[orate] to find on a Monday. Agree this was Tuesday-ish but very enjoyable for the early week.

Anonymous 11:09 PM  

I got slowed down a lot in the SW corner. Never heard TAGSALE or NATCH before. Also second-guessed myself of TEHEE, it just doesn't look right.

jae 11:16 PM  

Fine Mon. Seemed about average to me but that's just me.

The 4 vol. Rabbit series does an excellent job of capturing America over the last four decades of the 1900s.

Nice to see RUT clued as not "A line at the track."

I think I've seen TEHEE as TEEHEE??

Gnarbles 3:21 AM  

I'm guessing that your Christmas present in the basement will be a 10 to 15 act medley/ensemble of your favorite crossword puzzle broadway musicals and operas.

Your dear wife and daughter are building the stage and rehearsing when you are out of earshot.

Anonymous 4:12 AM  

Rabbit Run, one of my favorite books, ever, yet I don't think I've reread it since 10th grade English!
For half a second I thought the theme was going to be John Updike books!!!!!
It's tricky bec you couldn't have such a narrow, sophisticated theme as that for a Monday, yet by the end of the week, there are no more themes...
so REDUX will have to just crop up elsewhere.

SPITTOON looked wildly weird to me with two T's, and the TEHEE with one E...

Is crosscan another word for spittoon?

May I grumble for a second?

Something felt weirdly old-fashioned about this whole puzzle to me, esp after Natan Last's hip effort Friday. This seemed more Hip replacement.


(I say that as a solver...the construction was terrific what with five and all!)

@anonymous 11:09pm
TAGSALE is regional. Never heard that growing up in Minnesota (where we called them "garage sales").

Can't wait to hear what the whole basement mystery is! You lead a charmed/charming life!

Hungry Bird 5:29 AM  

@acm, the Guantanamo defense attorneys use "kangaroo court" quite a bit.

Greene 7:02 AM  

Good puzzle, although a bit trickier than the average Monday. Favorite answers: MOB SCENE (althought had mad scene there for a few moments), PUBERTY (ah, youth), RAW DATA (this sounds so...well, raw), KANGAROO COURT (that's quite a visual), SPITTOONS (another fine visual). TEHEE just looks weird and always makes me think of the Richie Rich comics.

@ACME: The puzzle is a bit old-fashioned, but in a charming, classic kind of way. It fits like a pair of comfy old shoes. Wouldn't want to wear them every day, but they are great to pull out from time to time.

dk 7:05 AM  

@rex, do you like electric trains? Just a thought.

@acme, I, err, well ummm..... use all those words and have been to TAGSALES.... I guess TAPS for me.

@crosscan, see Monty Python for expectorate as weapon.

Sailed through this puzzle, laughing all the way.

Can we use the name of the cat in Pinocchio as the clue for CLEO?

Favorite shopping moment: going into REI to reserve a 0 degree sleeping bag carrying a Victoria Secret Bag and watching the ubber camper next to me squirm (he kept looking at the VS bag and giving me one of those stupid superior looks... like the ones I have while doing the puzzle in pen in Starbucks) as I asked for a sleeping bag that go with my new lace panties.

Happy Holidays from your "Bit of Fluff"

edith b 7:25 AM  

TAGSALE IS probably regional but what region - here in South Jersey they are called Yard Sales.

When I saw TRAMP, I put together much the same list as Acme. Ironically enough, Ms Lympel is Acme's main competition for Queen of the Monday Puzzle.

Good, solid effort to start the week.

Anonymous 7:38 AM  

Hmmmm, I thought it was BOOTIE not BOOTEE. @jae: I've seen TEHEE before so that didn't bother me at all. @acme: SPITTOON should be SPITOON to my eye.

There were a lot of old-fashioned words here, but somehow that did't take away from the fun of solving.

I say we do this all over again tomorrow with GUSTO.

ArtLvr 8:40 AM  

Excellent puzzle! Minor quibble on TAG SALE, though -- here in upstate NY, it tends not to be a household downsizing but a complete clearing, indoors, as compared with yard sale of some unwanted items.

There's another 5-letter "wader" besides egret and heron, and that's stilt, at least in xwords...

Maybe your family is constructing a cat-walk, which you'll install near ceilings on the main floor, with large portholes to be drilled too, so the cats can meander from room to room over your head... Good luck with that!


p.s. Your "fruitflies" may instead turn out to be something that infests flour bag or canister if not tightly sealed...

ArtLvr 8:45 AM  

And in the TMI dept. -- the plural of stilt (bird) is also stilt, no S! Who'd a thunk it?

Bob Kerfuffle 10:11 AM  

Nice puzzle -- good way to jump start the week.

(OK, groan.)

Also liked the first line's alliteration: Temp/Taps/Tramp.

And all those old-fashioned words made for a more interesting puzzle.

Unknown 10:22 AM  

@ArtLvr, CHASSIS has the plural spelled the same way as the singular but pronounced differently. Some others:
PRÉCIS and then there is FOLK and FOLKS which are both plural and have no singular form at all.

In England, the yard/garage/tag sale is a Boot Sale. Not because you sell shoes, but because you sell it from the back of your automobile....the boot.

Oh, I thought the puzzle was good and a little tougher than a normal Monday.

roxanne 10:30 AM  

couldn't resist a comment about crosscan's use of the word expectorate. Many yrs. ago in the nyc subway stations there were signs that said: "if you expect to rate, do not expectorate".

Two Ponies 10:38 AM  

I wish all Monday puzzles could be this fun. I've gotten a bit bored with the Mon-Tues puzzles and this was a welcome tonic for me.
My favorite answer? Kaput!
Did not realize kelp was algae. That's some big algae.
A hoppin' good start to the week.
@ dk, loved your shopping story

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

@roxanne--Wow, these days, that slogan would sound way too sophisticated for the subway!

Chorister 11:21 AM  

Now, see, this puzzle is a good example of one man's meat being another man's poison, if that is the expression I want. I thought this was easy. Did it almost entirely on Across clues, then went back and tried to guess the Downs without looking a the clues til after.I do this on early week puzzles a lot, because I get 0 satisfaction out of speed solving. Sometimes I reverse that and start with the Down clues. Which I'm glad I didn't today because apparently the toughies were in the Downs!

Olsen twins are always annoying & even on Monday surely there could have been another easy clue for the name.

I can't think why I knew Updike novel instantly. I don't think I've read it.

Ulrich 11:36 AM  

The puzzle "resonated with me", as they say--a hopping toad is living in our garage, crickets and rabbits outside, and I have accused, in my days, a certain committe at my university of acting like a kangaroo court--if it's an old-fashioned word, it's hight time to make it new-fashioned again: It really captures the contempt I have for these types of outfits.

Who else but acme could see the crosscan in a spittoon? IWGA

@crosscan: is that the reason why you are looking for one?

In my neck of the woods, a tag sale can be a yard sale, namely when it's held in yard. Otherwise, it may be a garage sale, or remain a run-of-the-mill tag sale--when the sellers do not want to commit to a venue up front.

Jeffrey 11:41 AM  

@acme and ulrich - I am so sorry I brought it up. I may need a new name now.

- The commenter formerly known as Crosscan

Anonymous 12:00 PM  

@andrea carla michaels and edith, et al.

A tag sale, at least where I come from (Nebraska), is not the same as a garage or yard sale, although any of them would, if successful, downsize your household(ings). With a tag sale a professional appraiser (often an auction house) comes in and "tags" your items for you at prices which they deem appropriate. The appraisers then usually officiate at the sale as well and, of course, take a cut of the action.

The puzzle: I thought it was easy and hardly hesitated on the fill for even a second, except in the NW, which, despite several gimmees, I finished last. I, too, often try to find some way to make Monday/Tuesday solvings a little more interesting either by trying to do them quickly (not easy to do in AcrossLite because of the quirky keyboarding) or by filling only the downs or the acrosses. Nice enough puzzle, though I do question TEHEE.

PuzzleGirl 12:04 PM  

I'm pretty sure my dad told me once that professional baseball teams sometimes hold Kangaroo Courts. Ooh, here's a link. And here's another one. Funny stuff!

jeff in chicago 12:21 PM  

Liked this puzzle overall, but it did make me go slower than the usual Monday. I have no problem with that. Actually, kinda like that better than the Mondays that take almost no thought. So thank you, Lynn.

Agree with joho in that I wanted BOOTIE instead of BOOTEE. But Merriam-Webster says that BOOTIE is the variant of BOOTEE! Well knock me over with a PLUME. (I know it doesn't matter, but BOOTEE gets 201,000 Google hits and BOOTIE gets 4,580,000. Those searches revealed a disagreement over "BOOTY call" vs "BOOTIE call." Doubt we'll be seeing that in the puzzle anytime soon.)

Greene 12:29 PM  

I don't think I ever heard the term TAG SALE until the ubiquitous Martha Stewart started talking them up on some TV show or other. You know..."I got these original Louis the 14th chairs at a lovely tag sale in Versailles. It's a good thing." Ugh.

@Edith b: Isn't Martha from New Jersey? I just assumed TAG SALE was Jerseyeese for garage sale.

Anonymous 12:36 PM  

I'm usually close to Rex on his call regarding the level of difficulty, but I was suprised this time, since I found this fairly easy, and Sunday's much harder than his label -- it took me a lot longer to figure out that there was a Christmas theme AND a rebus on Sunday; today's was a lot easier in comparison, if nothing else.

Doc John 1:13 PM  

A very enjoyable way to start the week. Interesting theme and no real clunkers for fill (except maybe TEHEE and BOOTEE).

Thought for sure Rex would show this clip in reference to 28A.

And to acme (et al)- KANGAROO COURT has enjoyed an upsurge in recent years, being applied by many media types to refer to the goings-on at Guantanamo Bay.

Doug 1:28 PM  

Nice eye-opening puzzle on a normally ho-hum Monday. Easy, but some new fill and devoid of APERS. Thank you for that early Christmas gift Ms. Lempel.

In Hong Kong we were members of the HK Cricket Club and I confess that it's now a favorite sport. I worked with Aussies and Brits, and now that I'm back in Canada I will sorely miss the taunting and cajoling during the Ashes. Luckily Vancouver is full of Brits so I'm sure we can get coverage. Let's see if England can get their act together on their home grounds this year!

Bob Kerfuffle 1:36 PM  

@ Chorister - Or, as I often say, One man's fish is another man's poisson.

Anonymous 1:43 PM  

There's an episode of Spongebob in which he tries, most unsuccessfully, to get into a really rough bar called "The Salty Spittoon".

A very joyful, love-filled celebration of wintertime-related festivities to all of you!

Anonymous 1:54 PM  

@edith b
make no mistake, Lynn IS the Queen of I've said before, I am but a pretender.
THose comments were purely as a solver and I think may have been read more harshly than I intended...

I'm just saying to ME it felt old-timey, and there may not be anything wrong with that, Christmas time and all, and apparently lots of folks liked it.

It's tough for me sometimes to want to be able to express honestly and off the cuff, which I love this blog for, without risking the no-no of daring to criticize a fellow constructor
which I privately "take lumps" for.
Lynn is the Queen. Vive La Reine!
(It was how I was feeling last night about the wordchoice, that's all, and a shout out to Natan whose puzzle I got to late).

@scotus addict
(may I call you scot?)
I stand corrected about KANGAROOCOURT. Live and learn.
I'm actually sorry it's in vogue again :(
They need a stronger word/name for the atrocities that have gone on in Guantanamo.
(oops, that's me!)

(Tho I'm not gonna touch this, Rex liking to keep things fairly apolitical and all, tho it's a theme answer...It's just that kangaroo court sounds almost quaint and cartoonish compared to the heinous activities down there).

I am sooooo sorry! Crosscan is a lovely name and very evocative, but I don't know of what! And you are hysterical whoever you are!
(I should start a blog for just my faux pauses...) ;)

If it makes you feel any better, many have thought my company was ACNE naming!

Anonymous 2:07 PM  

@ Chorister/Bob Kerfuffle

One man's Mead is another man's Persian -- G.S. Kaufman

Jeffrey 2:10 PM  

@acme - Lovely? Evocative? All is forgiven.

Once again Crosscan

Gnarbles 2:15 PM  


The best part about cricket is that is gives us non-Brits an opportunity to torture the Brits, as they almost always lose.

Now Graham Smith and the Proteas are a nice cricket side.

Anonymous 2:15 PM  

I too usually agree completely with RP’s rating and yet today I found this puzzle quite Mondayish - minus the kitschy fill. Raw Data – cool. Spittoon – very cool. Puberty – eh not so fond memories: too clumsy and too well read and what was my barber thinking? I sported a Blagojevich before it was a Blagojevich!
A number of years ago we backpacked to Bali. After leaving the airport and arriving at the first village with a beach (can’t even remember the real name of the town anymore) we found it so overwhelmed with Australians we referred to it as Kangaroo Court. We left post haste for the northern most section and found it much more Indonesian.
Way off topic – you may remember a few years back that terrorists of some ilk or the other bombed a nightclub in Bali – the hot spot in Kangaroo Court. Judging from the cultural sensitivity of the tourists there, I have no doubt it played a significant role in site selection. A perfect shame.

fergus 2:24 PM  

ACNE Naming & Beauty School.

I was ripping through this one, when about half-way done, realizing how beautifully crafted and engaging this puzzle was, decided to slow down and savor it -- in real time, so to speak. I wanted to read all the Clues, examine all the crossings, and then contemplate the metapoetry, look for echoes and resonance, etc. Glad I did, because even if you go over it rigorously after finishing, it's not the same as during mid-solution. I did notice that it was by Lynn Lempel midway too, which further persuaded me to slow down.

edith b 3:12 PM  


Your graciousness towards Lynn Lempel marks you as a person of quality, like your puzzles.

Perhaps I got the order wrong - and for that I am sorry - but when I see the bylines of Lynn Lempel and Andrea Carla Michaels, I know a puzzle of quality will follow.

I agreed with you about the old-timey nature of the word choice but I wasn't critical towards Ms. Lempel and am sorry if I gave that impression.

chefbea 3:12 PM  

A little bit harder than the usual Monday puzzle but lots of fun.

@joho etal - it IS bootie. Irma Bombeck spells her name with an I, not an e.

Here in Ct. its tag sale, weather its inside, outside or in a garage. Love to go to them and see what junk I can pick up. We have one every summer just to get rid of things we don't want any more.

Martha used to live in Westport Ct but now lives some where in Westchester county in New York.
One of my daughters works on her magazine.

mac 3:15 PM  

I definitely had a few more pauses that I normally do, but no mistakes or outside help. I thought there were a lot of beautiful words and terms and good clueing. Thoroughly enjoyable, wish it lasted longer.

@Andrea: you are in fine mettle today! Crosscan might as well change his avatar to a spittoon. Also loved the hip / hip remark.

I got the uncle, but could you really say Theodore was Eleanor's uncle, not her husband's? I don't know the exact connection.

I think "bootie" may have a Victoria's Secret kind of meaning, not a baby one.

Since cod got a little more rare and much more expensive, other white fish have been used for fish-sticks. I used to eat them regularly in Germany and loved them, but I don't like them here. Apparently they suffer from the longer transportation times in this country.

@Rex: this sounds so exciting! Do tell us on Thursday what the present was, and don't peek.

mac 3:22 PM  

@Crosscan, how about "Cuspidor" instead of spittoon?

ArtLvr 3:41 PM  

@ chefbea -- According to a google search, ERMA Bombach is the correct spelling...

ArtLvr 3:41 PM  

@ chefbea -- According to a google search, ERMA Bombach is the correct spelling...

archaeoprof 3:48 PM  

@ACME: it felt "old" to me too. But at least it had ESPN, RAWDATA, and the OLSEN twins.

What if OLSEN had been clued "actor and lineman Merlin."

chefbea 3:52 PM  

@artlvr - my mistake. I of course was thinking of Irma Rombauer the author of The Joy of Cooking!!!

Anonymous 3:56 PM  

you're both a bit off... it's Erma BomBECK.
Now there was a funny lady.
Damn, I had to use my third post for this!

Anonymous 4:28 PM  

you can have my third - I'm out.

Anonymous 7:33 PM  

Big Steve sez:

For #s yet to be crunched i put in "unadded". ugh...

Nice cross --> tips/hips. They may even be correlated.

I vote thumbs down (way down)on tehee, and bootee. Which reminds me of a quick story.

My cousin 30-year old cousin Peter and a friend were staying at my 72-year old father's house in Florida.

About 10 p.m., Peter is watching ESPN with his friend. The phone rings. Peter picks up, then my Dad hollers from the other side of the house "I got it."

Two minutes later, my Dad comes strolling out of is bedroom suite. Zipping up his fly on khakis, he tells the confused on-lookers "Boys, don't wait up for me." True story, we repeat every family gathering.

fikink 7:39 PM  

@chefbea, the Meyer lemons arrived today - divine! I see a hot bourbon toddy in my future.
Night all!

p.s. Loved the puzzle, but PUBERTY didn't pass MY breakfast test

SethG 7:55 PM  

Whilst we're Google searching, searches for '"baby bootees"' vs '"baby booties"' will presumably avoid the booty misspellings. And it's not even close, so at least I feel some support for having gotten that wrong.

And, speaking of Google searching, Miss Cleo's real first name was Youree. Kimberly Kemp's was Gilbert.

Mine is,

fergus 8:29 PM  

PUBERTY not passing the breakfast test? What about Adolescence or Teenage?

I know what an annoying stage that can be, but I recently had a spell with 8th graders, from an ordinary place, who showed me some sophisticated and evolved things superior to the idyll I hold from my own experience.

Anonymous 9:13 PM  

I thought this was no harder than the average Monday -- that is; quite easy.

I'd be interested in seeing a map of the distribution of tag, garage, and yard sales (in the sense of selling some stuff in front of a house). I hadn't hear of a tag sale until I started spending time in New England. Here in the midwest the terms yard sale and garage sale both seem ok, though yard sale is more common.

This doesn't seem as clear-cut regionally as submarine/hoagie/grinder/zeppelin/poorboy/hero.

Vega 9:19 PM  

IMO, the problem with PUBERTY is not that it is indelicate but that it is so relentlessly evocative. Unlike the benign "adolescence" or "teenage," it doesn't so much refer to a time period as to a series of what can only be described as unfortunate biological processes. Though I admit that the results of those processes are welcome and charming.

That said, I did chuckle (or perhaps "wince") when it came up in the puzzle, which I enjoyed.

Zeppelin? That's a new one to me. As a former Philadelphian, it is and always will be a hoagie.


fikink 9:23 PM  

@fergus, could be a female thing. I've not heard a female describe her years of puberty as "idyllic" ...ever!

It is a man's world, after all.

fergus 1:53 AM  

In all my experience of late 8th grade, the girls are holding all of the cards. It's much rougher on the boys. I was lucky at that that age.

mac 8:05 AM  

@Acme: that is "Scota" to us.

Unknown 2:45 PM  

Thought it was easy and fun. Was done in a few minutes.

retired_chemist 7:10 PM  

Sad News.

John Updike died today (1/27/09). The connection to this blog is only slightly obscure - RABBIT RUN was 17A in today's syndicated puzzle.

I am sad.

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