TUESDAY, Dec. 9, 2008 - C.W. Stewart (Elhi grps. / Steno's staple / Ouzo flavoring / Home remedy for skin irritations)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: CLUE (51D: Game associated with the starts of 17-, 23-, 32-, 40-, 47- and 54-Across) - those theme answers start with the last names of the players/characters in the board game: Prof. PLUM, Miss SCARLET, Betty WHITE, Mr. GREEN, Col. MUSTARD, and Mrs. PEACOCK

Yeah, I know it's not "Betty" WHITE - it's simply Mrs. WHITE. I just like calling her "Betty." This is a clever puzzle, with a high theme density and interesting theme answers. SCARLET TANAGER is so interesting, in fact, that I've never heard of it before in my life. The word "TANAGER" itself is only vaguely, vaguely familiar. The only problem I had with this puzzle was in piecing together that answer. The rest was cake. This "CLUE" theme appeared in a NY Sun puzzle a little over four years ago (thanks to Andrea for pointing that out), with two of the theme answers (PEACOCK BLUE, PLUM PUDDING) identical (cruciverb.com members can see that grid here). That puzzle's level of construction difficulty was higher, in that many of the theme answers intersected one another, but it was a Friday puzzle, so the puzzle was considerably harder overall. Today's puzzle, by contrast, has smooth, recognizable, Tuesday-level fill throughout, quite hard to do with you're pinned in by so many theme answers.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Traditional Christmas dessert (PLUM pudding)
  • 23A: Red bird with black wings and tail (SCARLET tanager)
  • 32A: Traditional January event (WHITE sale)
  • 40A: 1999 Tom Hanks film, with "The" ("GREEN Mile")
  • 47A: Home remedy for skin irritations (MUSTARD plaster)
  • 54A: Shade close to azure (PEACOCK blue)

For some reason, last night, as I was marking up this puzzle, I rewrote the NW corner. It took me about 30 seconds. My results weren't any better. In fact, they were probably worse. I put ALTARS over PORTIA. I think NIPPLES (5D: Parts of baby bottles) was just disturbing me a little and I wanted to see what I'd have to do to get rid of it. It's a perfectly good word, but it's a little ... frank, or raw, or something for my ... tastes. Anyway, sometimes it's fun to see if you can make some aspect of the puzzle you don't like go away. Also, ARYANS (1A: Indo-Europeans) isn't thrilling me either. Again, fine word, but I'd rather not contemplate ARYAN NIPPLES over breakfast.

Today's "learned it from crosswords" words are DACHA (49D: Russian villa) and NATE (28D: _____ the Great of children's books). OK, I probably learned DACHA from "Anna Karenina," but I didn't *learn* it learn it - to the point where my mind instinctively goes there. NATE will forever remind me of the wife of a famous news personality, who wrote me after I tripped on NATE a year or so ago to send me a pic of a book cover and inform me that her daughter had played NATE in a school play when she was younger. The only child I have ever struck with a baseball bat is, coincidentally, named NATE. Loooooooooong story.


  • 14A: Largest city on the Illinois River (Peoria) - much maligned town I've never been to
  • 19A: Conglomerate whose N.Y.S.E. symbol is the same as the company's name (ITT) - I'd prefer a much terser clue relating to Cousin ITT.
  • 20A: Elhi grps. (PTAs) - I nominate this clue for "Ugliest Clue of the Year"; it looks like something that needs to go back in the over for another 15 minutes.
  • 53A: Smashable tennis shot (lob) - not if it's a good one

  • 66A: Area between curbs (street) - not normally how I think of STREETs
  • 7D: "Say that thou _____ forsake me ...": Shak. ("didst") - I really really want specific citations. "Shak." just isn't satisfying. This is the first line of Sonnet 89. Check it out.
Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault,
And I will comment upon that offence;
Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt,
Against thy reasons making no defence.
Thou canst not, love, disgrace me half so ill,
To set a form upon desirèd change,
As I'll my self disgrace, knowing thy will,
I will acquaintance strangle and look strange,
Be absent from thy walks and in my tongue
Thy sweet belovèd name no more shall dwell,
Lest I, too much profane, should do it wrong
And haply of our old acquaintance tell.
For thee against myself I'll vow debate,
For I must ne'er love him whom thou dost hate.

  • 23D: "Language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work," per Carl Sandburg (slang) - Not all slang, Carl.
  • 26D: Lens holder (rim) - don't understand? Is this in my eye, or my camera?
  • 27D: Ouzo flavoring (anise) - I was too young to try this when I was in Greece (though my sisters, younger than I, surely had their fair share ... I was a painfully vice-free boy)
  • 42D: Steno's staple (notepad) - "staple" threw me at first. It's an office product, so I thought ... "what do stenos call their staples...?"

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS the "Simpsons" episode "Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words" was nominated for Best Animated Program by the Writer's Guild of America yesterday. See all nominees in all categories here.


Anonymous 9:05 AM  


Not sure if this is some kind of test, but i will take the bait to be first poster.

For 26D Lens holder - RIM refers to the eyeglass RIMs that hold the lens.


chefbea 9:37 AM  

And I'm the second poster!

A very easy Tuesday puzzle. Once I got plum and Scarlett I knew it had to be Clue related. Finnished in record time.

And did you know Plum pudding has no plums in it? It is also called christmas pudding.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

I may be the only 50 year old American who has never played Clue, or seen either the play or the movie. So, my solving experience was, Great, they have colors here - what an accomplishment! Never read the clue for 51D, so didn't ge the point until I got here.

A Theist is simply one who believes in a God or gods. It is NOT the study of god or religion. That would be Theology. So 2D is just wrong

Doc John 9:58 AM  

I always enjoyed Clue so of course enjoyed this puzzle. WRIER struck me as being a little forced. No real surprises, though.

What surprises me is Rex's declaration of just now learning DACHA. Heck, it's been in at least three other puzzles in recent weeks!

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

@Doc John - He said he learned it from crosswords, not that he learned it from today's crossword

RodeoToad 10:05 AM  

Twit, I'm a few years younger than you, but I've never played Clue either. Board games are not my thing. That kind of premeditated fun reeks of despair. Yahtzee!, though, I love. I've written songs about Yahtzee! (well, a song) and hope the word Yahtzee!, with the exclamation point, makes it into a puzzle soon.

Rex, you got a lot of catching up to do if you've hit only kid with a baseball bat. Or maybe you weren't fixated on Buford T. Pusser in the "Walking Tall" movies of the seventies. When that first one came on TV, the next day every kid on the schoolbus was carrying a baseball bat, so influential was that movie on our lives.

I knew tanager, probably because of my wife. She's crazy about birds. The highlight of her life since coming to Texas was seeing a painted bunting, which is a pretty spectacular bird.

Lee Remick made me think of Lee Meriwether, who was in every single episode of every single "Quinn-Martin-Production" type of TV show in the seventies.

Doc John 10:17 AM  

Oops, guess I misread what Rex said.

@ Wade- not to mention that Ms. Meriwether was one of the three women to play Catwoman in the Batman TV show. (Bonus points- WITHOUT going to imdb, who were the others?)

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

@Doc John - You know, the one who's name I can't remember & the other one who I can picture, but I doubt that I ever new her name

Ulrich 10:20 AM  

I'm not familar with the game either. So, I treated the puzzle as a themeless easy with such fresh fill as plum pudding, scarlet tanager etc. A very enjoyable Tuesday outing, in other words.

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

@Wade, Ulrich - Maybe we should start a club - Clueless

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

Nipples all alone was disturbing enough, now I'm going to think about ARYAN nipples all day. Eva Braun?? Thanks, Rex!!

I do have a quibble with the trend toward making anything plural and getting away with it. Today we have "Dorothy's aunt and others", with the answer being EMS. Well, I can't quickly think of a single other famous EM who could join her. There is just the one. Especially eggregious since there are many other ways to clue this same answer.

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

Catwoman: Eartha Kitt was one. Can't bring a third one to mind....

Doc John 10:36 AM  

@ Jim- here are lots of other EMS.

But also, as strained as it may be, the clue did easily lead you to the answer. I agree that it would be more pure if all the fill were actual words but in reality, what we're all really doing is filling in a grid with letters and the clues (helped by the crosses) are there to tell us which letters to use.

It would be an interesting exercise to have a whole grid that consisted of nothing but gibberish yet each string of letters was clued in such a way as to lead the solver to the answer. I guess a puzzle like that would be more of an exercise in logic and deduction rather than knowledge and experience.

Two Ponies 10:39 AM  

Add me to the Clueless gang. But the game has seeped into our culture enough that it rang a bell with me. It did not help me fill in the theme answers but I didn't need any help with this very nice Tuesday puzzle.
Loved seeing scarlet tanager (one of my favorite birds).
The Green Mile was a fabulous book that made the transition to film quite well. Worth renting.
If nipples spoil your breakfast you might just be too sensitive. The photo on today's front page? Now that makes me uncomfortable.

Jeffrey 10:41 AM  

Julie Newmar was the third Catwoman. I think Lee Meriweather was only in the Batman movie based on the show. Women who played Catwoman - there's a theme. Throw in Michelle Pfieffer and Halle Berry and you've got quite a puzzle.

I played Clue.

Oh the puzzle - DIDST/TANAGER was the last letter I entered - closed my eyes and typed T.

Was hoping for a Bullwinkle and Rocky clip.

JannieB 10:42 AM  

@docjohn - Julie Newmar??????

Fun puzzle - well done

Anonymous 10:51 AM  

After getting PLUM I immediately thought of Clue. One of those crazy connections with the puzzle. SCARLETTTANAGER came quickly next followed by all the rest. Once all of the theme answers were in, I sped to the end with only a short blip with bah for BRR.

Great Tuesday puzzle ... thanks C.W. Stewart!

@ Rex: I love Betty WHITE!

dk 10:59 AM  

Rim was my only "huh". Thank you @anon for cluing (tee hee) me in.

Never played the board game of Clue, however some years ago I had an electronic version that was fun.

This was a solid tuesday for me.

SethG 11:05 AM  

I just mentioned recently that my sister watched the movie again, and it's not as good as we remembered it. I'm torn about whether I'd rather reminisce about the movie or stick to discussing the game all day.

I got a wrong letter, guessing at the Great. I think my initial guess was SCARLETT ACAGER, after deciding that AKAGER was too screwy. It's possible I even tried Tate before the obvious hit me...

BAH is a perfectly good December exclamation, and it has the benefit of being more December-specific than BRR. Yes, Andrea, got that wrong again.

I once hit a teammate in the head with a full swing while I was in the on-deck circle. Luckily, I was the smallest little leaguer ever and it didn't even hurt him. (That might help explain why I didn't hit many outside-the-park home runs...)

I tried Ouzo. And then I tried some more, and at some point I guess it wouldn't be considered "trying" it anymore. For tourists, it's also sold in a risque bottle that will offend those of you with delicate sensitivities. (Or sensibilities? Ach, where's that woman with my coffee? I maybe kinda need some more. Humbug.)

jae 11:08 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 11:12 AM  

Liked the board game, liked the theme, liked the fill. Very nice Tues.

Oh, and ditto on Betty WHITE joho. Boston Legal had her back for one last performance recently and she stole the show.

chefbea 11:13 AM  

Betty White was on at the end of Jeopardy last night. Love her!! and Alan Ludden

evil doug 11:14 AM  

ELAINE: Oh God I didn't notice. Oh, what am I going to do? You know your whole life you go through painstaking efforts to hide your nipple and then BOOM, suddenly hundreds of people get their own personal shot of it.

JERRY: What? So what? It's a nipple. A little round circular protuberance. What's the big deal? See everybody's got them. See I got them.

KRAMER: I got them too.

JERRY: Everybody's got them.


PlantieBea 11:19 AM  

I haven't played clue since I was a kid, so the names were pretty fuzzy. On the other hand, during the same time period (as a kid), I remember the parent of friend trying to attract the scarlet tanager to a bird feeder using citrus coated with peanut butter and seed. The tanager was the grail bird, so its name has been engraved in my memory.

Now, ELHI filled in for the PTA clue, but I had to google the term to figure out what it meant--a combination of elementary and high school. I have never heard this term--only K12 these days.

Rex Parker 11:20 AM  

You know what else everyone has? Hint: you'll Never see it in the puzzle.


Ulrich 11:25 AM  

@evil: I never thought I would see the day when I agree with you on something--but it has finally arrived:-)

I've got to tell mac and chefbea, whom I'll be meeting for lunch in an hour.

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

Mustard plasters for skin irritations? Really? I know they're used for respiratory conditions but for skin? Ouch!

archaeoprof 11:33 AM  

@humorless twit: you are so right about the difference between rel and theol. If only we could cure the widespread misconception that religion = theism.

@Rex: I share your admiration for SCARLETTANAGER.

I played Clue.

Stephen 12:32 PM  

The theme for the Times puzzle of Jun 15, 2000 reads PROFESSORPLUM INTHEDININGROOM WITHTHEWRENCH.

Unknown 12:39 PM  

Nipple also crosses LADIES, and you wouldn't be considered the latter if you showed the former, despite everyone having them. (Breastfeeding exempt, although arguably the baby would 'have it covered'.)

The puzzle also makes me wonder if Dachas have arches. What with that, adobe, bracket and plaster, there is a construction mini-theme, until it's razed by a bulldozer.

Shamik 1:10 PM  

Easy puzzle without mix-starts. I remember SCARLETTANAGER 'cause it was in a color-by-numbers kit I had as a child and was thrilled when I finally saw one.

Loved Clue and its final answers of X with the Y in the Z have entered our family's lexicon.

fikink 1:20 PM  

@archaeoprof, first you have to disabuse people of the notion this country was founded on Christianity.
@docjohn, you forgot the Divine Miss EM, ; )

fast puzzle today, scarlet tanagers are seen in these parts, too

archaeoprof 1:33 PM  

@fikink: oh my, we have work to do.

Unknown 1:44 PM  

For those of you who may not know the tanager here is a photo


Anonymous 1:47 PM  

OMG I just had a flashback to when I was four and the little girl across the street tried to kill me with the wrench in Clue! She was hitting me on the head over and over again ....

edith b 2:42 PM  

This one was by the numbers - I started at 1Across/1Down and uncovered the first two theme clues (PLUM SCARLET) and figured it had something to do with the game CLUE which was confirmed at 51Down.

Finished this one at a leisurely pace of about 10 minutes with no real problems.

Straightforward puzzle.

Vega 3:26 PM  

CLUE! I haven't played it in years, but now I want to bust it out and play again. It's amazing how deeply the images of the characters from the cards are etched into my brain. I wanted to live in that mansion, too, with the secret passageways and all. For me, it was a pretty easy puzzle and the theme put a smile to my lips.

Delighted to hear that "that" Simpsons episode was nominated for an award. It sure does deserve one! There's a Simpsons version of the Clue game. Who knew.

chefbea 3:27 PM  

Just got home after having a wonderful lunch with Mac, Ulrich, and Mrs Ulrich. We discussed xwords, cats, and of course food. And no one had anything red for lunch. Thanks to Rex for introducing us.

Chip Hilton 3:33 PM  

Me, too, edith b...about ten minutes. What a gorgeous bird is the TANAGER. Hoping to spot one someday.

Clue was a staple of my youth which made this one a lead pipe cinch, in the conservatory....actually, the sun room (way too small to be called a conservatory), by Colonel Hilton.

Anonymous 4:08 PM  

@archaeoprof. That wasn't really the point I was making, though I'm guessing I agree with you.
The point was that a Theist, by definition, doesn't necessarily study God, he/she simply believes. By way of analogy, I belive in gravity, hence am a gravitist, but in no concievable way is gravity my subject. Thus I feel the cluing was faulty even without the Theism = religion debate.

RodeoToad 4:43 PM  

Twit, you fell for the old gravity thing?

Anonymous 5:03 PM  

love the idea for a gibberish puzzle!
Tho it would so not get accepted.
I'm totally bumming bec Jannie B and I spent a hundred hours on a Clue-related themed puzzle a few weeks ago, and this probably kills it!

@ulrich, Mac, Chefbea
Would love to hear more about the lunch. Pictures taken? Feel free to write me off-blog! Isn't that fantastic what this blog has created in real life???!!!

love the idea of a Clueless Club.
You could worship Alicia Silverstone

Anonymous 5:10 PM  

@Wade - Yeah, it sucks me in every time

Orange 5:27 PM  

I had a bird book when I was a little kid, A Child's Book of Birds by W.J. Beecher. My mom gave me our old copy a year ago, and oh, how I loved this book! It's got a color illustration of male and female scarlet tanagers, and Wade's wife's coveted painted bunting. This book also taught me the scientific name of the robin: Turdus migratorius. There's nothing like a migratory turd with wings. I love semi-arcane information that's been a gimme for me since I was 5.

mac 6:11 PM  

@Orange: I had the same sort of experience. I was given an illustrated encyclopedia when I turned 4, and you have now idea how many weird little facts I still remember.

This was a very easy puzzle for me, with just the white sale not on my radar immediately. I never realized all the personalities in Clue (I think I played it once, or else just read about) are named after colors. Pretty detail in your write-up, Rex.

I would NEVER put a mustard plaster on irritated skin; that must hurt. It's something I've read about in 19th century and early 20th century novels, used in cases of bronchitis or other lung-related illnesses.

Elhi is definitely a term I only know from the puzzles.

@Wade: just love your line: "That kind of premeditated fun reeks of despair"! And I used to play Yatzee daily when my sister lived with us many years ago. It's addictive.

@chefbea: Hi again. Don't you think that many, many years ago dried plums (prunes) would have been used in the pudding, since raisins and currants were not easy to come by in England? Many times I've bought a plum pudding for Christmas, but usually being too full to even contemplate eating it, especially with brandy butter.....

Anonymous 6:35 PM  

I have a cookbook from 1883, Mrs. Owens cookbook and useful household hints. To make a mustard poultice that will draw and not blister, mix the mustard with white of egg. This is under whooping cough cure.

Loved the puzzle.


Anonymous 6:40 PM  

RP @11:20 - can I assume you refer to a 'portal' and not a 'knot'?
I used to love the game of Clue as a child. I recently played with my sister's kids and could barely get through a single game. I asked my mom (our most frequent filler player and arbitrator) how she could possibly have ever liked that game and she said she also hated it. Now I feel like that portal in the giving tree!
Wade - fell for gravity? Are you that good or lucky?

Anonymous 6:56 PM  

Emmasaunt and chefwen are right: Mustard plaster for skin irritations is just wrong. A MP is a treatment for a lung condition that yeah, you put on the skin, but that is likely to irritate or even burn skin. Grmph.

Renee in Tucson

ArtLvr 7:12 PM  

What about Mother Goose's Little Jack Horner who sat in a corner eating his Christmas pie? He stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum -- and said What a good boy am I... Was that not a plum?

I enjoyed the Clue puzzle, played the game in childhood, but now I don't remember all the weapons, and they are sometimes in xwords too!

Meanwhile, today's news gives us a new player with scrabbly name, Blagojevich! His game is pay-to-play, otherwise known as shake-downs (like holding up funds for Children's Hospital while demanding campaign contributions, extortions from contractors, etc.) -- and his latest twist was trying to sell the US Senate seat being vacated by our President-elect. The Gov. was caught on tape, and is under arrest. New low...


fikink 7:21 PM  

@Renee (in Tucson) There is a weed out here that I've always heard referred to a wild mustard, very pretty, kind of yarrow-like, but if it touches your skin you have deep red welts that take forever to resolve, Think there's any connection? Mustard sulfur is an organic compound, I think.
@artlvr, OMG! I know. That's all that has been on the news locally. I can already hear the 2010 mud slinging! Thank goodness Obama's hands are clean!

green mantis 7:24 PM  

Wade, you need to be beaten for that board game despair remark. It's a thirst for blood and glory that drives me.

Agree with Ulrich re: Evil Doug today. A spongeworthy addition.

Rex, is the thing we all have but that won't make the puzzle a sense of having discovered something in the moments before fully waking, now forgotten, which has left us with a vague forlorn feeling? I call this mornincholy.

green mantis 7:35 PM  

ArtLvr: Absolutely a new low for Things We Have Proof Of, but I read through the complaint and his tone and manner feel Very comfy, very familiar. I bet this is far closer to the norm for how politicians behave than we want to believe.

Intensely disgusting, but nowhere in the transcripts do any of the people he's so blatantly exposing his depravity to ever say anything like, "Gee Rod, you might want to bring it down a notch and at least attempt to give the appearance of propriety." They all seem to accept his behavior as perfectly common, and so it probably is.

Single tear.

Bill from NJ 7:48 PM  

@mac & Orange-

When I was about 8, my parents gave me a book for the Holidays called Big-Time Baseball 1956. Today it would be called a coffee table book and what a delight it was!

It had all manner of arcane data which included the names and capacities of all the big-league stadia, plenty of highly stylized artwork, sections with names like Hall of Wonders and Hall of Blunders and statistics, statistics, statistics.

It is amazing how much of that old information stayed with me, even up to this day. It was a perfect gift for a certain kind of boy and I was certainly him.

Love of the game permeated that book and I have never forgotten it. This being the age of Ebay, I went looking for it a couple of years ago but it is completely out of print

mac 7:58 PM  

@Bill from NJ: do you still have the book? I just found mine, lurking in my back-hall Dutch book-shelves. My father must have read the whole thing to me several times, because I sort of hear his voice when I look at the pictures.....

chefbea 8:34 PM  

@anonymous 6:35 Glad we have another chef..
Wen did you take up cooking???

Anonymous 10:10 PM  

Scarlet Tanagers are alrighhht.... but favourite tanager is the Western Tanager

Ulrich 10:19 PM  

@chefwen: I think the healing power of that concoction stems from the fact that you better get well lest you have to eat the stuff!

@acme: darn--no one was aware of the historical significance of the lunch and brought a camera. All I have to say is that I would like to see the jewelry mac makes and one of chefbea's (it's two syllables, not three, as I had assumed!) live cooking demos.

Be that as it may, I'm ready to found the Clueless Nipple Society (CNS for short).

foodie 12:13 AM  

"The Clueless Nipple" sounds like the counterpart to "The Font of Knowledge" in some semi-metaphysical play.

I'm definitely in the clueless camp, having never played the game. I figured early on that colors were involved and what bugged me was that the color was the first word in all cases but PEACOCK BLUE. I expected Rex to lambaste the constructor until I tumbled to the CLUE clue...

@ Green Mantis, I thought of you while solving the puzzle, as I had GREEN M... what else could it be?

I like mornincholy. It's actually apt as some severely depressed people have a particularly hard time upon awakening.

Alex Greenberg 9:21 AM  

Lens: neither your eye nor your camera. It's your glasses.

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

@alex greenberg -

On behalf of Rex, read the very first post on this blog - please.

Clearly Claire 9:49 AM  

For once, it pays to be a birder!

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP