MONDAY, June 22, 2009 — Neural transmitter / Aviator Post / Fragrance named for a Musketeer / Storage for forage

Monday, June 22, 2009

Constructor: Fred Piscop

THEME: The puzzle is brought to you today by the letter C. Each theme answer begins with a homophone of "cee."

Word of the Day: AXON (38A: Neural transmitter) — An axon or nerve fiber is a long, slender projection of a nerve cell, or neuron, that conducts electrical impulses away from the neuron's cell body or soma. ... Axons are in effect the primary transmission lines of the nervous system, and as bundles they help make up nerves. Individual axons are microscopic in diameter (typically about 1μm across), but may be up to several feet in length. The longest axons in the human body, for example, are those of the sciatic nerve, which run from the base of the spine to the big toe of each foot. These single-cell fibers of the sciatic nerve may extend a meter or even longer. (Wikipedia)

Hi, everyone. It's PuzzleGirl hanging with you today. Rex is a little under the weather and asked me to cover for him which, of course, I'm always delighted to do. Why? Because I crave attention. But you knew that already.

Seems like every time I turn around I'm solving a puzzle by Fred Piscop. Fortunately, Fred is an awesome constructor, so it actually turns out to be a good thing! I pretty much glided my way through this puzzle with only two minor hang-ups. First, I entered cactus for NETTLE (49A: Prickly plant). Totally understandable, right? But then I didn't know 64A: Aviator WILEY Post and I feel pretty bad about that. He was the first pilot to fly solo around the world! His plane, the Winnie Mae, is on display at the Air and Space Museum out near Dulles, which I keep meaning to take my kids to, but I just haven't gotten to it yet. Dang! My procrastination bites me in the butt again! When will I learn?

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Emphatic south-of-the-border assent (Sí SÍ SEÑOR)
  • 26A: Beginning piano student's exercise (C MAJOR SCALE)
  • 45A: Parting words (SEE YOU LATER)
  • 62A: Wind that cools a beach (SEA BREEZE)
Straightforward theme, well-executed. And, ya know what makes a good Monday puzzle? A minimum of crap fill. (Actually, that makes a puzzle good on any day of the week, but it's so much less likely on a Monday.) This puzzle includes the regulars RENO, ELIE, ORCA, DDT, ESSEN, IRE, and OSHA, but look what else we get: JAPE, DEBIT CARD, ACURA, ARAMIS! Good stuff! Let's talk about it:

  • 4A: Trailer's connection to a car (HITCH). I wonder if this would have been easier or harder if it had been clued to the Will Smith movie.
  • 15A: Japanese automaker (ACURA). It's a luxury Honda. When I don't need the mini-van any more, I'd like to get a Honda.
  • 21A: Mocking remark (JAPE). Sounds like remark that might be made by a scamp or a scoundrel. Or maybe these guys.

  • 33A: Feeds, as pigs (SLOPS). That's the coolest word ever for feeds.
  • 39A: Vagrant (HOBO). I think I've mentioned before that one of the characters on my favorite kids' show — iCarly — is obsessed with hobos. Here's one of my favorite exchanges.
    Sam: Let's do a project about hobos!
    Carly: What's the connection between hobos and science?
    Sam: Aren't they affected by gravity or something?
  • 66A: Suffix with rocket or racket (-EER). Okay, this should have gone on the "puzzle regulars" list.
  • 5D: Winter river obstruction (ICE JAM). This sounds like it might be the catch-phrase for a winter concert that takes place in my hometown (Fargo, ND).
  • 9D: Fragrance named for a Musketeer (ARAMIS). Can you name all three? I sure can't, but I'll look them up for you. It's just one of the services I offer. ... They are Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. You're welcome.
  • 10D: Quick, cashless way to pay for things (DEBIT CARD). PuzzleHusband and I decided that we were going to stop using our debit cards because it made it way too easy to go over budget. So, he gave me a bunch of cash the other day to last me until the end of the month and ... yeah. I'm gonna need some more.
  • 32D: Outfielder Slaughter in the Baseball Hall of Fame (ENOS). This is a gimme for everyone by now, right?
  • 40D: Hatfield/McCoy affair (FEUD).
  • 46D: Cyclops feature (ONE EYE). I wonder why I always picture some sort of marine creature when I think of cyclops. I'm constantly amazed at the things I know enough for crosswords but not at all in real life. For example ...
  • 56D: Storage for forage (SILO). I don't believe I've ever seen the word forage used as a noun. Something new. Every day.
With any luck, Rex will be back tomorrow. See you in the comments.


Jeffrey 8:43 AM  

Average Monday puzzle. I'll give it a C.

Rex Parker 8:48 AM  

Took me a little longer than an avg Monday, mainly because I refused to believe any long answer could begin "CM..." But ICE JAM had to be right, right? ICE ... JAW? ICE JAB? Those were no better. Ended up solving C MAJOR SCALE from the back end.

Thx for covering, PG. See you all tomorrow, I assume.


ArtLvr 9:07 AM  

Good one, PG -- My fastest ever, and I loved your extended discussion of an AXON. That long? Wow.

WILEY Post came to mind with the clue, but I didn't enter it until the crosses confirmed it. EBERT has appeared a lot lately! Favorite person here: JULIA.

Hoping Rex will be feeling better soon...


Hobbyist 9:10 AM  

I like the word "jape." Never noted that there was a theme.

jimweed 9:31 AM  

forgot about that malkovich clip. love it.

George NYC 9:31 AM  

Minor quibble: Isn't Acura a brand, not an auto maker? Just asking.

jeff in chicago 9:36 AM  

Easy, breezy, fun...but lacking a Marx Brothers reference. Let's see...How about, for 53D: "Critic who said, after interviewing Groucho, that his voice "was soft and serpentine, with a sort of off-balance New York rhythm to it that curiously reminded you of his walk; he kept sticking out a foot just in time."

Too much? Probably...

Anne 9:43 AM  

I like a woman who directly asks for what she wants, and in Puzzle Girl's case, it's attention. So good job on your write-ups in general, PuzzleGirl, and I love your flower. Maybe you can mention what kind it is some time.

And I liked the puzzle a lot, I thought the theme was good and the fill had a little bite to it for a Monday.

I have never heard anyone say the word jape, ever, and I can never remember the names of the three musketeers no matter how many times I see them.

PlantieBea 9:58 AM  

PuzzleGirl said it all so well. I had to write over CACTUS with NETTLE and YES NO with FALSE. We have two Hondas, and used to have an ACURA--but I always think of ACURA (like George NYC) as a HONDA made vehicle.

My favorite answer was C MAJOR SCALE. NETTLEs are supposed to be delicious with a slightly nutty taste when cooked. I'm not brave enough to harvest them having been "stung" unintentionally plenty of times. It's supposed to hit 97 today, so we're hoping a SEA BREEZE will bring some afternoon rain to cool things down.

Nice Monday puzzle. Thanks Fred Piscop. Feel better, Rex.

jimweed 9:59 AM  

@George NYC - i had the same minor quibble.

John 10:00 AM  

Youve got Sunday instead of Monday in the Header. Confusing! I kept thinking 'When is the puzzle going to be up???

retired_chemist 10:16 AM  

About 6 minutes. Only three quick overwrites (14A ICU -> ERS; 49A CACTUS ->NETTLE; 40A YES/NO-> FALSE) and I was going as fast as I could type. AMAZED by those who will do this puzzle in less than 3 minutes. And there will be quite a few, I surmise.

Theme? What theme? Never thought there was one until I came here…..

Tried CHOPSTICKS @ 26A – 1 letter short. Sob.

Cluing is easier than it needs to be even for a Monday IMO. Any thoughts on this?

Overall, a good Monday. Thanks, Mr. Piscop.

Shamik 10:18 AM  

Rex...feel better.

Puzzle write-up and thanks for the SNL clip...always good to start a Monday with a right jolly laugh. No JAPE intended.

Very, very, very easy puzzle.

dk 10:18 AM  

Director and filmmakers nick name: HITCH

ICEdAM slowed the floe (sic). But not knowing dAPE and knowing JAPE cleared the way.

I will leave the discussion of neurotransmitters and dendrites to my esteemed colleague from Michigan. Although you could make like an APE and eat more bananas to help your transmissions move down the AXON.

Rex, perhaps a SEABREEZE will help. It is getting close to Moon-eye time so I would avoid an Ontariobreeze.

Thanks PG and a fine Monday to you Mr. P.

Shamik 10:19 AM  

3:17, so didn't make it under retired_chemist's 3 minute mark. I don't think I've ever solved a NYT puzzle under 3 minutes.

PIX 10:28 AM  

A "neurotransmitter" is a chemical that one nerve cell (neuron)uses to communicate with another nerve cell. Commonly used term; drugs such as Prozac work by altering your brain's use of neurotransmitters (eg seritonin). A "neural transmitter", near as I can tell, is phrase Fred Piscop made up to describe an axon (a long, slender projection of a neuron, that conducts electrical impulses away from the neuron).

Fun puzzle and nice write up.

Charles Bogle 10:37 AM  

I'm w @george and @jim, minor quibble--Acura is a division of Honda. So I tried Honda and Mazda before catching on. Then ran into same problem as RP--ICEDAM?

Thought I'd do the puzzle while watching final round of US Open, to constant strains of "YOU DE MAN" and "IN DA HOLE." Of course, this rattled me and it was a stressful Monday outing...

NETTLE, AXON, JAPE--taxing, devilish for a Monday. Good puzzle!

Next, I hope to try a puzzle to the background sounds of early Wimbledon rounds, with the GRUNTS egging me on

retired_chemist 10:39 AM  

@dk - good one. Thought of HITCH too - "Rear Window" director, familiarly. Liked 65A "You had me at _____," until non-puzzle movie-loving wife said that was the easier clue.

@ Shamik - 7 of 16 times currently posted on Amy Reynaldo's blog are under 3 min. Hardly a random sample though.

Karen from the Cape 11:15 AM  

First time I broke the three minute mark, hooray! I loved the answer ARAMIS. I doubt there will ever be a cologne named for Porthos.

Ulrich 11:27 AM  

not knowing DAPE and not knowing JAPE left the square in question unresolvable to me--I hate it when that happens on a Monday--there will be great lagunae in my knowledge of American slang until I die.

In retrospect, the J was the likelier guess--if it had occurred to me--I'm simply eating not enough bananas--hate those things.

slypett 11:28 AM  

I had one write-over: 1d. I had AHAIR, thinking it was a pun on HARE. That didn't last long.

As usual, the Monday puzzle ends too quickly to be satisfying.

The ACURA flap could turn into a debacle on a Friday, say.

I think the initial CM in 26a is beautiful, esp. on a Monday.

ileen 11:32 AM  

I love the fact that the Monday puzzle is online at 6pm Sunday. This way it doesn't compete with my Sunday night TV watching. I've yet to break 5:00 on a Monday, but I'm getting closer.

Jim in Chicago 11:34 AM  

I came here to find out what DAPE meant, being convinced that iceDam was the correct answer.

Turns out to be....JAPE???

Never heard of either DAPE or JAPE, so now we have a variation of a Natick, being a case were there are two completely plausible answers (ICEDAM or ICEJAM) where the critical letter crosses with an unknown word.

ArtLvr 11:40 AM  

I wonder why J-words predominate in humorous jabs like jest, joke, jape, jive? Ulrich, you are a first for me, since i never met a banana-hater before!


joho 11:45 AM  

I don't agree about ACURA. It's made by Honda, but because it's their high end division, they want it to be perceived as a separate make of car. Acura has it's own logo. When somebody says, "What do you drive?" You say, I drive an Acura."

I thought this a nice, easy SEABREEZEy Monday.

Thanks, PG and FP!

Hope you feel better, Rex.

mac 12:20 PM  

I drove an Acura this morning. I can't imagine an Acura driver saying he drives a Honda.

Nice puzzle and write-up! It was easy, but I did learn a few new words today: jape, axon and I needed a few crosses to remember poor Wiley.

Hope you feel better, Rex.

Stan 12:37 PM  

Odd that monocular WILEY Post crosses with ONE EYE... probably unintended.

INA could have been clued "Food Network's Garten."

jimweed 12:53 PM  

@mac and @ joho - ACURA is a brand manufactured by the automaker honda--as joho suggests. kind of like how Gap Inc. owns, produces, and markets Banana Republic clothing as luxury clothing that is separate and distinct from clothing from The Gap or Old Navy (which it also owns and runs). "Japanese auto brand" would have been a more accurate clue than "Japanese automaker." but the cross clues made it easy enough figure out.

to echo XMAN, this clue would have been a bigger mess on a friday.

Ulrich 1:12 PM  

Correction (thanks to a very courteous reader who pointed this out by e-mail): I meant to say "lacunae", but spending too much time recently in the lagoon of Bora Bora, I made a slip.

chefbea 1:20 PM  

easy, fun Monday puzzle

Good write up puzzle girl

Feel better Rex. I could make you some chicken soup. Makes everyone feel better

fikink 1:25 PM  

@jimweed, maybe it was just a typo and clue was s'pose to be "Japanese auto make" ;)

miriam b 1:28 PM  

@ulrich: You're missing out on an important source of potassium. Killer recipe for chocolate-banana bread on request.

foodie 1:45 PM  

I liked the puzzle and found it very easy and smooth.

But as I mentioned last night on Orange's blog, I think the clue for AXON is off. @PIX has it totally right. The AXON conducts information, and in that sense can transmit it from one end of the neuron to the other. But the word "transmitter" in neurobiology has a precise meaning, and it's a chemical process that AXONs specifically do not mediate. It could almost be a misdirection, except it is not clever or it is too subtle for the non-scientist.

Puzzlegirl, thanks for a great write up and for featuring AXON as the word of the day.

archaeoprof 1:45 PM  

@Rex: get well soon!

According to a historical marker at the courthouse in Pikeville, KY, the Hatfield/McCoy feud ended when several Hatfields were convicted of murder, and one was hanged. The rest of the Hatfields moved across the state line to Logan, WV.

motorhead 1:51 PM  

even a vegetarian, chefbea?

even acura sometimes refers to itself as a manufacturer! here, for example

DJG 2:04 PM  

Add jeer and jibe to the list, although those imply a meaner humor than the others.

Also, there are way more J-names than one would expect given its relatively infrequent use in English.

I guess you are antibanana. (An inside joke for anybody who's read Stefan Fatsis's "Word Freak".)

fikink 2:15 PM  

And then there are jocose and jocular, or their noun forms, jocoseness (yecchhh...) and jocularity

Jeffrey 2:17 PM  

Quit your joshing.


retired_chemist 2:29 PM  

@ foodie - "neurotransmitter" would as you say be incorrect for AXON. Neural transmitter - an axon is neural tissue and it does transmit electrical impulses. Kinda made-up, but I am not bothered by it.

chefbea 2:37 PM  

@miriamb - I'll take the killer banana bread!!! you can e-mail it to me.

Was jest mentioned?

Ulrich 2:40 PM  

JZM: Googling did not help me getting the inside joke. However, I've found a society I HAVE to join:

The Anti-Banana Society (ABS) is a subdivision of the United Nations, designed to 'purify' the world of all cast off the shakles of the banana-sympathetic populous that controls the hearts and mind of the good peoples of Earth. [take that, miriamb!]

And speaking of scrabble: Another courteous reader has pointed out to me the "jape" is not slang--it's a word invented specifically for scrabble players who want to get rid of a J when there is already an APE on the board.

Glitch 2:51 PM  

Ah, the things you learn here.

I used to own a Buick, believing it was made the automaker, Buick.

I guess I really bought a "General Motors" from my friendly Buick dealer.


tekchic 3:12 PM  

Easy, breezy puzzle. Record Monday for me, although it wasn't 3 minutes... it was 8:32. :)

Had CACTUS down first because I was thinking of prickly pear, but seeing that it couldn't be CAE kwon do, put in NETTLE.

I liked this puzzle, although it was on the really easy side. Didn't understand the theme until I came here though.

miriam b 3:22 PM  

@ulrich: Is that APE on the Scrabble board eating a banana? Sounds messy.

chefwen 3:31 PM  

Self proclaimed banana hater #2 here. Hate the smell, taste, and texture; so what do I do as a hobby, I make banana, mac nut, chocolate chip, coconut muffins for the local smoothy shop that one of my friends owns.

Liked the easy Monday puzzle, only write over was ERS over ors. No problem with JAPE as ICE JAMS were a yearly problem where I grew up in the frozen tundra.

foodie 4:32 PM  

@retired chemist,I do understand what you're saying, but it's so near the edge of confused that it bothers me:)

This is like the UCAL discussion-- you can see how it came about, but...

Anonymous 4:38 PM  

Acura, a division of automaker Honda. See, it says it right here.

Karen from the Cape 4:56 PM  

I was looking at the Senior Spelling Bee word list and laughed to see the last word is crosswordese 'etui'. 'Eft' is on the list too, along with axolotl and many other sesquipedalian words.

retired_chemist 4:58 PM  

@ foodie again -

you - kinda wrong, bothers you.
me - kinda not wrong, but not great - doesn't bother me.

I'd say chacun à son goût on this one.

Ditto UCAL, so long as CAL. U. remains anathema... ☺

Anonymous 5:01 PM  

anonymous, did you complain when FRITO was clued as [___-Lay (snack company)] last year? because it says that Frito-Lay is a division of PepsiCo, Inc. right here.

edith b 5:12 PM  

It is ironic that I completely missed the Word of the Day as I was working the downs on the East Coast at the time and was surprised to find the write up featured a word I did not see.

Typical Monday puzzle to my lights that was livened up by this happenstance.

ArtLvr 5:20 PM  

One of the other puzzles had an Orange vegetable of the root sort... maybe we could dig up a few jokes for that one? Chacun à sa jolie racine?


Two Ponies 5:22 PM  

@Ulrich, Don't worry about hating bananas. Tomatoes have more potassium than the dreaded yellow fruit and far less calories.
While in Jamaica once I marveled at the honey-sweet small red bananas. I asked about the big yellow ones and was told with a scoff that those were fed to the pigs.

Anonymous 6:02 PM  

I did some online research about the apparently unfamiliar word JAPE. You logophiles might enjoy the result.

The Wiktionary is partially correct, though it misses the fun part completely.

JAPE isn't slang. Nor is it a Scrabble invention, having been attested in 1382 -- as a distinctly bawdy verb.

Here is the most explicit line from the best reference, quoting a 1598 Italian/English dictionary:

Fottere: To iape [jape], to sard, to fucke, to swive, to occupy.

I hope that doesn't violate any "breakfast rule." It's late afternoon already. :-)

Larry the not-so-much-any-longer Lurker

DJG 6:09 PM  


The gist is that there was a discussion about which "re-" and "anti-" words should be acceptable in Scrabble (pre-official world list). One person makes the argument that not all words can take a "re-", using the example you can't "rebanana", to which somebody else says, something like, "no, but you could be antibanana". Apparently some people are.

Ulrich 6:19 PM  

@ZJM: which raises (not begs!!!) the question: Is "antibanana" on the official word list? And if not, do they accept petitions?

@lurker: My scrabble quip was supposed to be a joke--just in case that wasn't clear.

treedweller 6:32 PM  

I heard an interview awhile back on NPR's Fresh Air With Terry Gross with a guy who researched the banana. In his travels, he learned that, of the hundreds (?) of varieties of bananas, almost all of them are tastier than the ones we (Americans, and probably Canadians, too, Crosscan) get in the grocery store. Sadly, the ones we get are the only ones that are tough enough to make the trip.

And that's pretty much all I have to say about this puzzle.

jandrea jcarla jmichaels 6:57 PM  

Maybe Rex got C-sick?

Great job, puzzlegirl!
Oooooh, I didn't realize if we wanted attention we had to ASK for it!

re: the 3 Musketeers...
someone needs to come up with a fun mnemonic... your life could depend on knowing them, cf "Slumdog Millionaire".
(I like to think of myself as the d'artagnan to rex/orange/pg)

you have an eagle eye for pointing out the WILEY/ONEEYE crossing!
(altho can you cross your eyes if you only have one??!!) Who knew?

you crazy pot-stirrer!!
my entire breakfast today consisted of a banana I felt pressured to eat lest it go bad...
No matter how many I buy, it's always one too many!

@Two ponies
That is the exact kind of story I love! Plus you tied together the antibanana contingent AND slop lovers!

Leon 7:13 PM  

Thank you Mr. Piscop, SEE what you have done.

All day long I was singing CC Rider.


retired_chemist 7:22 PM  

@ banana lovers/haters everywhere -

"banana" used as a code word for "recession" decades ago by my former colleague, Economics Professor and Dean Fred Kahn:

Bruce MacEwen, creator and host of Adam Smith, esq, ( tells how Mr. Carter’s regulatory czar and head of the Civil Aeronautics Board Alfred Kahn dealt with the muzzle. Not one to be cornered when it came to talking, Fred Kahn was called to the Hill to testify about the economic outlook. When asked point blank about the prospects for a recession, Fred,
somewhat floored, remembered his instructions and noted that he could not speak directly to the
question, but that he did expect there might be a “banana.” Banana then became the Washington
code word for recession. Bruce MacEwen tells us that when the banana industry complained,
Fred Kahn changed the code word to “cumquat.” The cumquat lobby was less effective in avoiding the hit.

andrea tees michaels 7:30 PM  

Hope you are feeling better...
PG is a good cover girl while you re-cover. If she does it again tomorrow, is she re-recovering?

Had the same "???!"
Starting with CM was freaky...
Although I thought we might see a C-section.

Which reminds me of the old Stephen Wright jape:

"I was born by Caesarian...
but not so you'd notice.

It's just that when I leave the house, I go out through the window.")

Stan 10:16 PM  

@Andrea: [grin]

By the way, I wrote to the Times Magazine complaining about the loss of the acrostic -- and other supplemental word-puzzles. Fat lot of good it will do, I'm sure.

sanfranman59 11:32 PM  

Today's numbers ... the number in parentheses is the number of solvers.

Mon (all) 6:16 (905) 2 week avg: 6:58 (908)
Mon (Top 100) 3:25 2 week avg: 3:43

You wouldn't know it by my solve time (5:11), but this was the easiest Monday of the 4 since I've been tracking the times. I just couldn't get my fingers to work today. One thing that slows me down is the online user interface. I hate that it skips over squares that are already filled. When I type answers, I want to type to whole word ... not look to see what letters are already filled. Does anyone know of a way to configure an option so it doesn't do that? I know my times would improve significantly.

Glitch 9:59 AM  


I had the same problem, check under the options/prefrences and uncheck the "move to next blank ..." option.


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