TUESDAY, Aug 11, 2009 — Brother of Nintendo's Mario / Game to 31 / Source of an oil used in aromatherapy

Monday, August 10, 2009

Constructor: Oliver Hill

THEME: FRENCH (52D: Word that can precede the starts of 20-, 28-, 46- and 57-Across) — First word of each theme answer is something that can be described as French.

Word of the Day: SETI (58D: Alien-seeking program: Abbr.)

Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is the collective name for a number of activities people undertake to search for extraterrestrial life. SETI projects use scientific methods to search for electromagnetic transmissions from civilizations on distant planets. The United States government contributed to earlier SETI projects, but recent work has been primarily funded by private sources.

There are great challenges in searching across the sky for a first transmission that could be characterized as intelligent, since its direction, spectrum and method of communication are all unknown beforehand. SETI projects necessarily make assumptions to narrow the search, and thus no exhaustive search has so far been conducted. (Wikipedia)

Hey, everyone! PuzzleGirl here filling in while Rex does ... I don't know, something else today. I guess I didn't really get the details. But, who cares really? It's me and you! You and me! Hanging out talking about puzzles! What could be better? I mean, besides Rex being here....

I'm pretty sure this is a smooth puzzle, but I was irritated while solving because the AcrossLite version wasn't available on the New York Times website, so I had to use the applet, which ... seriously. We can put a man on the moon but we can't invent a crossword puzzle applet that doesn't completely suck? What's up with that?? So the puzzle was ... did I mention how much the applet sucks? I did? Okay. Um, the puzzle was very nice. Some good cluing, smooth fill, a couple things tripped me up but that's because I was doing acrosses only since It's Basically Impossible To Navigate The Stupid Applet Effectively. So I entered aglow for AGRIN (15A: Beaming) (and, frankly, aglow is a much better word). Then I entered ovoid for OVATE (24: Ellipsoidal). I considered eerie but went with SCARY, which turned out to be right at 32A: Like Stephen King novels. Ooh, speaking of scary. I have a story that's kinda scary, but ends up being quite funny because everything works out okay. PuzzleKids are visiting their grandmother this week in New Mexico. They flew out there all by themselves! (That's not the scary part.)
So Friday night, PuzzleSon wakes up in the middle of the night ... standing in the building's parking lot. Wearing only his underwear and holding onto a Webkinz (a penguin named Happy, Jr.). He sleep-walked (slept-walked?) out of the building and into the parking lot. He woke up because he was cold! Can you imagine?! So, he's trying to get back into the building and finally finds a door propped open with a rock. He goes back up to the third floor but while he's banging on the door trying to wake Grandma up, he's also trying to hide from people going in and out of another apartment on the hall because he's embarrassed that he's only in his underwear. Poor Little Guy! Well, it all turned out okay and, according to PuzzleSon, "Grandma put something really big in front of the door," so it shouldn't happen again. Whew! (By the way, he would kill me if he knew I was telling this story, so let's just keep it between us, hmm?)

What? I didn't give you the theme answers yet? Well, here ya go:
  • DRESSING UP (20A: Pre-costume ball activity)
  • HORN-RIMMED (28A: Like Buddy Holly's glasses)
  • FRIES AN EGG (46A: Prepares part of breakfast, say)
  • "KISS ME, KATE" (57A: Cole Porter musical that's a play within a play)
Put 'em all together and whaddya get? A bunch of French stuff. Awesome.

What else?
  • 4A: Brother of Nintendos' Mario (LUIGI). Sadly, a gimme for me. In my own defense, though, I think the reason I remember this guy's name is because it's the same as a pizza place I really like in New York.
  • 23A: Salt Lake City team (UTES). Oh, this was another problem for me because I entered Jazz without even thinking about it.
  • 25A: Uses rubber on (ERASES). I ... could not figure out what was going on here.
  • 38A: Patient care grp. (DEATH PANEL). Just kidding. That would be a proposed patient care group. The one that exists now is the HMO.
  • 39A: Angry cry to a vampire (DIE). I think this one is stretching it a little bit. But maybe that's just because my first guess was fie. Like, I don't know, a Shakespearean vampire?
  • 55A: Figure in red (DEBT). Started out with loss here. Wow, I had a lot more missteps than I thought!
  • 64A: $2 on the gray mare, e.g. (WAGER). She ain't what she used to be.
  • 2D: "... ___ a fever" (STARVE). I thought it was feed a fever.
  • 28D: Western omelet need (HAM). Also needed for the Western sandwich, which I'm pretty sure exists.
  • 59D: Common street name (MAIN). With only ??IN in place, this looked all kindsa wrong. I was trying to think of a tree but couldn't come up with anything that fit.
So there you have it. With any luck Rex will be back tomorrow.

Love, PuzzleGirl

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter.]
[Did you know you can also follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter?]


Anonymous 12:42 AM  

Thanks, Puzzlegirl! I sure appreciate your cheerful commentary. It makes waiting for the AcrossLite version not so bad after all. :o)

Orange 12:52 AM  

1. I love the NYT's applet but generally loathe all the others. I am also inordinately fond of Across Lite, but wish its handy Windows features had been included in the Mac version.

2. I would absolutely say "FIE on you, o vampire!"

pednsg 1:45 AM  

Agree with PuzzleGirl -an overall fun and pleasant Tuesday puzzle. Loved your pic of the UTES accused of a double homicide, in one of the funniest movie scenes of the past 20 years!

I, too, fell into the OVOID and FIE traps, but managed to recover. I also really thought it was FEED a fever! Speaking of health, I had AMA at 38A for a while; HMOs often seem to be more in the shareholder-care business these days, but I digress...

Getting FRENCH at 52D helped me to figure out what was missing from KISSMEKATE (I read "Taming" in high school, but have never seen the musical) - I love helpful theme-related clues!

Thanks, Oliver (and PG) - another great puzzle from a 30D!

VeryCoolDude 2:53 AM  

I was very excited to see CRIBBAGE. I am also very cool.

andrea agrin michaels 4:15 AM  

Fun write up, PuzzleGirl!
Right there with you on AGLOW, OVOID and FIE...

It's interesting bec FIG is the opposite of DIG in this case (like, instead of "like" you don't "give a fig"...)

FRENCH was my absolute last clue, so I loved having zero idea what the theme was...nicely done, Oliver!

Forget FEED vs STARVE a fever, I had "IVEGOT" a fever!?!!
(As you would say, all kinds of wrong!
I don't even think it's an expression, I think I was thinking that song "I'm hooked on feeling")

I also thought LET SLIP was going to be a sneaky thing, like LETITRIP and that someone (Rex?) had challenged Young Oliver to slip in FETISH and rubber clues just to see what he could get away with.

Bleedover: ZEAL(s)

Didn't know DAWS. Do DAWS caw?

I had to do the alphabet for the bad guy M_T. MAT? MET? MIT? MOT? MUT? Hunh? Ohhhhh, MR. T!
You got me!

Anyway, kept me engaged and thinking all the way thru...what more can you ask for?

Greene 5:37 AM  

Thanks for sharing the story about your son, PG. As a former somnambulist, I can totally relate to waking up in a strange location and wondering how in blazes I got there. Fortunately, I never got locked out in my underwear.

I was freaking out last night when the puzzle wasn't available in Across-Lite. Didn't even think to use the applet. I'm totally with Orange about using Across-Lite with an IMac. You can only keep one puzzle open at a time? What's up with that?

Good solid Tuesday puzzle today. Of course, I loved seeing KISS ME KATE stretching across the SE. Very funny show with Cole Porter's greatest score: "So In Love," "Were Thine That Special Face," "Where is the Life That Late I Led?" and "Always True to You in My Fashion." Ahh, old Broadway just doesn't get any better. Crosschix will probably not enjoy "I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple," but it's notable in that the text is pure Shakespeare set to a lovely tune. And, of course, you should all Brush Up Your Shakespeare.

Aviatrix 6:01 AM  

I had FIE and JAZZ too, and was disappointed it wasn't FRIESBACON, but I got MAIN just off the N. I travel a lot and it seems every US town has a MAIN and a STATE street.

I get the crossword on the iPod. I'm not sure what the applet is called: the company is Magmic. It's pretty useable, but not as fast as a pen for just filling in answers.

HudsonHawk 7:46 AM  

When I was growing up, I learned it as STARVE a cold, feed a fever. Google appears to confirm this by a 4 to 1 margin.

Fun puzzle, though. It reminded me of the surprisingly rewatchable movie Better Off Dead, when Lane Meyer's mother makes the "authentic" FRENCH dinner for the foreign exchange student, featuring French FRIES, French bread, and French DRESSING.

joho 7:56 AM  

This struck me as a very dark puzzle: SOCIOpath,SCARY, MIFF, ALARM, STARVE, POKE AT, ERASES, LAPSE, NIL, FETISH, AMOK, DIE!

I like DEBT near WAGER. CRIBBAGE looks great in the grid.

OTO and UTES in the same puzzle is interesting.

@ACME ... ZEALs is the carryover word from yesterday but it seems awkward as a plural.

All this said, I still enjoyed the puzzle.

I must be cranky this morning, please forgive me.

Thanks PG for your upbeat write-up, I obviously needed that today!

fikink 8:21 AM  

"DEATH PANEL" - LOL, Puzzlegirl. You must be reading Sarah's Facebook page again. Good one! It was my major laugh this morning, more entertaining than the puzzle. Thanks for that!

Anonymous 8:35 AM  

Nice, zippy puzzle. A few missteps, as mentioned above. All but one got sorted out. Joho, some of us end up as LOCIOpaths (totally missed that ALA/ASA mistake). It's nice to see cribbage in the grid, our favourite summer, rainy day afternoon pasttime. Thanks PuzzleGirl, funny, entertaining writeup. It's 07:25 here, gotta go to work.

dk 8:40 AM  

All the kissing and horny and french, coupled with GIN, rubber, ASONE and ass... I can see why LUIGI is AGRIN what with all the fun he is having with LINDA and KATE.

SOSUEME this puzzle was a SETI-like project in search of my inner 12 year old. For a more interesting SETI experience I suggest the Very Large Array (as seen in the movie Contact) in New Mexico.

Speaking of Vampires

Just read "You Suck" a vampire love story. We read the first of the series (Blood Sucking Fiends) aloud to the twins while on a 5 hour drive. Parenting hint: If you want the IPODS and DS players to go silent... just start reading a fun book. After 3 minutes the bleeps and kill the teddy bear music were replaced with: Don't stop! Keep reading! Oh yeah and as parents we did not ask permission we just started to read.

Fine write-up as always PuzzleGirl.

And this is the third wonderful puzzle in a row, thanks Mr. Hill.

off to fry an egg

Anonymous 8:44 AM  

More difficult than an average Tuesday. Flowerlady9

Ulrich 9:21 AM  

I also liked the puzzle very much--wasn't Oliver chewed out here for his previous puzzle? Great comeback!

The irony about the death panels is that they exist right now, like when you lose your insurance b/c you got really sick, and that the proposed legislation wants to get rid of them! Sometimes, you simply want to scream at the world in total, utter frustration. Thank god, we have xword puzzles.

chefbea 9:28 AM  

Fun puzzle and french was one of my last words to get also - thus did't know the theme til then

@puzzle girl - glad your son is fine. Great story

Newbie 9:52 AM  

Fun puzzle. A few glitches, but I finished ok.

Great write up - Puzzle Girl, you're a riot. BTW, have you ever heard Mike Birbiglia on This American LIfe? Had major sleepwalking episodes that he talks about - funny but scary.

Glad your son is ok.

Betsy the midwife 10:00 AM  

Freaked me out last night. Went to bed without doing the puzzle. Thankfully worked this morning.

I would not associate "HMO" with patient care in any way, shape or form. Can anyone tell I work in the health care field and have strong feelings about this?

XMAN 10:16 AM  

Hey, joho, what's wrong with "He's got enough ZEALS for two people," e.g.? Or "A zeal in the hand is worth two (ZEALS) in the bush?" Or, "Zee da ZEALS?" for that matter.

What if "Burning passions" meant 'Setting passions alight?'

PlantieBea 10:18 AM  

Thanks PG for your write up and what a frightening thing for puzzleboy to experience!

I really liked the puzzle. Agree that it was dark, starting with the image of the scary, grinning sociopath. Also scary to think that only a few years ago this puzzle theme could have FREEDOM to avoid reference to anything of said themed nationality.

Some favorite answers were HORN RIMMED, CRIBBAGE, TEA TREE, and GINGERY. Yummy puzzle, especially coupling FRENCH and anything food related.

foodie 10:26 AM  

I loved, loved it... I felt like DK about it-- it's kinda naughty... but with a touch of noir that Joho underscored. It's like a smoky bar scene from an old movie...

Mostly, I liked having no idea what the theme was until the very end. I love it when I'm puzzled and then it all clicks!

Great write up PG! I'm glad your son is OK and grandma sounds wonderful at reassuring him : )

Anne 10:27 AM  

A very strange puzzle with all sorts of themes running through it - especially all kinds of sexual references which I started to detail but didn't have the nerve to send after I had them listed. There's lots more than have been listed above. And I also agree it's scary. But it made for an interesting Tuesday.

Two Ponies 10:36 AM  

I had Comet for rising star and was thinking to myself Aren't comets falling stars? That made 52D look like Stench! What sort of theme is that?? Oh, then Miff fixed that.
Odd mix of sub-themes are everyone has pointed out. Good solid Tuesday puzzle.
I'm not a fan of musicals but Kiss Me Kate is wonderful and funny.
Nice write-up PG.

Crosscan 11:00 AM  

@PuzzleGirl, is there a blog you aren't on?

Forced to use applet, boo! Liked the puzzle, SO SUE ME.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

Racy puzzle. FRENCH FETISH IMAGES (if you read like the Chinese) in the final block. I wonder whether the indefinite article was edited out of the clue for 25A because the US meaning was too much(it would work better for the rubber-eraser meaning).After finding French kiss, I almost expected one of the theme answers to begin with LETTER. (not to mention 28A)

archaeoprof 11:18 AM  

Another COMET here.

@Foodie and DK: a little dark, indeed. Like Dashiell Hammett. If only the theme had been 'Maltese'...

bookmark 11:23 AM  

@ Ulrich: I am on your wave length. Your second paragraph says exactly what I feel.

I, too, had AGLOW and OVOID. And I especially enjoyed seeing CRIBBAGE and GINGERY.

Merci for crosswords!

mccoll 11:29 AM  

This one was a snap. I found Puzzlegirl's write-up more entertaining than the puzzle actually. I enjoyed everyone's comments, too.
Sleepwalking in Mexico! I'm glad the little rascal is all right and kudos to Gram. Sounds like the title of a Stephen King novel. Thanks PG.

The Corgi of Mystery 11:32 AM  

Did this one quite a bit quicker than a normal Tuesday and then cheated that it had gone by so fast. I guess I wanted a bit more theme in my theme..."FRIES AN EGG" in particular felt a bit made up. TOP DOG was nice though, as well as SO SUE ME.

fikink 11:50 AM  

@bookmark, Salon has an article in that regard today by Mike Madden.
check it out here: http://www.salon.com

Denise 11:52 AM  

Thanks for Buddy Holly.

I use AcrossLite on my MacBook.

I too was very frustrated at 10 p.m, and 11p.m., and . . . Luckily I have many puzzles tucked away on my MacBook, and I did a few.

Liked this one -- no problem. Always love to hear from Puzzle Girl.

joho 12:10 PM  

@XMAN ...I keep meaning to tell you that your dog looks very intelligent. Do I zee ZEAL in his/her eyes?

PuzzleGirl ... I forgot to mention that I, like others here, am very happy PuzzleBoy is safe and sound.

jeff in chicago 12:11 PM  

Fun. Include me in with the group that didn't see the theme until the very end. Love when that happens.

I like that we have HAM and FRIESANEGG. I'm craving an omelet myself! Something about the LUIGI/UGLI crosses pleases me as well.

Nice write-up, PG!

Z.J. Mugildny 12:40 PM  

I love CRIBBAGE, but don't like the clue. "Game to 31" implies the game ends at 31 and that would be an incredibly short game (121 is standard). During each turn you play cards in succession to 31, but I don't see how this makes Cribbage overall a "game to 31". Am I missing something?

Anyway, quibbles aside, fine puzzle.

fikink 12:53 PM  

@ZLMugildny, I agree with you re: Cribbage. Not only does the game go twice around the board, but your strategy when approaching the last hand changes depending on whether you have the crib or not and how many points you need to round the final corner. That is all part of the "game."

ronathan 1:00 PM  

Hey everyone,

Overall, I liked this puzzle a lot. The theme was good, well-clued, and interesting enough for a Tuesday. There was some interesting cluing for common crossword fill (e.g. AMOK, MAIN, STAS, PAR). Some of the fill was a little bit eyebrow-raising, though. EFF? Really? C'mon now. Also, the cluing for the uncommon GINGERY is a little weird. I can see how things that are GINGERY can be pungent, but not everything that is pungent is GINGERY, so the cluing does not make sense. My only hangup in the puzzle was in the center-west, where I, having already got the theme, put BEATS AN EGG instead of FRIES AN EGG (46A). I then spent way too much time trying to figure out what "FRENCH BEATS" were. Obviously, I hadn't had my coffee yet. :-)

I still don't understand the cluing to two words, and naturally they cross each other; 35A "Bottom-of-letter abbr." (ENC) and 36D "Hide-hair link" (NOR). Can someone explain these to me?

@PuzzleGirl- Let's not ALARM the folks out there. The only "Death Panels" being proposed exist in Palin's SOCIOpathic mind. There is no such provision in any of the actual bills being proposed. Believe me, I've read them. Caribou Barbie must have had a little bit too much GIN before she wrote that.


Bob Kerfuffle 1:15 PM  

@ronathan -- If there is an enclosure, some other piece of paper, included with a letter, you indicate that with ENC.

And if the recipient doesn't find that enclosure, he may reply that he couldn't find hide NOR hair of it.

still_learnin 1:35 PM  

Count me in the COMET crowd. And, I didn't figure out the theme til after completing the puzzle, too. Agree with Ronathon on the cluing for GINGER.

Great write-up, Puzzle Girl!

pbc 1:53 PM  

I agree with the comments on CRIBBAGE. I've been playing the game for more decades than I care to count, and I didn't get the answer until I had CRIB in place. The pegging goes to 31; the game itself does not.

Great writeup.

archaeoprof 2:03 PM  

@PuzzleGirl: thanks for the picture from "My Cousin Vinny!"

"Deese two utes..."

edith b 2:18 PM  

I like to start in the NW corner and move steadily towards the SE. I usually succeed in this method with early week puzzles where themes tend to be and I think the constructors think lots of folks do puzzles in this way hence the clue that explains the theme tends to be in the SE corner so if one is successful in their method, one tends to get the clue that reveals the theme at the very end. WHEW!!

I kept at Across Lite until shortly after 11PM and it finally came up.

I was another one who saw STENCH in the SE, Two Ponies, and I did wonder about that. I managed to sort it all out at last, though.

Doc John 2:43 PM  

Nice write up, PG; I loved your use of the photos. I couldn't figure out why you had the Davis family in there until I saw Mr. FRENCH. And Mia HAMm, of course.
Not much else to add to what's already been said, though, so one and out.

chefwen 3:10 PM  

Computer recovering from a major virus so I thought we had done something wrong when downloading accross lite on it, just kept seeing Mondays puzzle and then suddenly it changed to Tuesday. Poof! It's happened before, I think someone just falls asleep at the wheel, so I was able to print it out a little after 6PM our time and enjoy it with before dinner wine.

Liked the puzzle but fell into some traps mentioned above, aglow, eerie, top man, pps vs. enc. But managed to finish with some messy looking liquid paper showing through.

When we moved back to the states after 5 years in Scotland I asked one of my seventh grade classmates if I could borrow his rubber, imagine the snickering and my beet red face. Thought I would die right then and there.

sanfranman59 3:32 PM  

Tuesday midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Tue 9:38, 8:35, 1.12, 80%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:49, 4:25, 1.09, 79%, Medium-Challenging

So far, this one's hovering around the Medium-Challenging/Challenging threshold.

Ulrich 3:42 PM  

@chefwen: I can understand the classmate's response: Borrowing a rubber takes thrift a little too far, IMHO...

Anonymous 3:50 PM  

@Ulrich - only if it were previously used. Otherwise it's just sharing.

treedweller 5:11 PM  

I went with fIE. fIG didn't seem right, but there's plenty of slang I don't know. Turned out to be an error when I submitted. I'm still a little bitter about it (though I just did the puzzle a few minutes ago, so I'm not *that* worked up).

I prefer the NYT applet to AcrossLite. I like being able to change directions multiple ways. But I'd take either if they would just be the same, since I end up using both at various times. I'm always trying to double-click to switch from across to down in AL and it drives me crazy.

retired_chemist 5:28 PM  

What everybody said. I have little to add. Favorite answer: HORN RIMMED. Used to have those myself......

EERIE -> SCARY, COMET -> COMER, like others.

About 6 possible 5 letter purchases at a nursery (18A) that seemed more interesting than PLANT: SEEDS, TREES, FERNS, BULBS, MULCH, ASTER, and more! Does the clue eliminate plural answers? Not sure. SEEDS must surely be a single purchase, else the singular purchase would be SEED - ever ask a clerk at a nursery for one seed?. TREES maybe would need to be clued as purchases. Thoughts?

fergus 6:28 PM  

Yet another who would confront the OVOID Vampire with the more eloquent FIE upon you, dastardly half-dead bloodsucker.

I found this rather tedious and humdrum until the very end when the theme arose. All the awkward fooling around shifted, and altered my evaluation to really Quite Good, though MIFF and Tee off really do not share the same Cluespace.

bookmark 6:56 PM  

@fiknik: Thanks for the salon.com article by Mike Madden. I could have added my family's experience to the mix, and many people I know have similar stories.

Greene 7:13 PM  

Oh no...no,no,no. It's not Fie Vampire, it's Die Vampire, Die! as my friends from [title of show] will explain.

Glitch 8:08 PM  


Agree that all your alternatives are more interesting, but they would have realy messed up the crosses ;-)


Glitch 8:10 PM  

make that really


fergus 8:48 PM  

chefwen -- Scottish rubber, and you were returning to USA in 7th grade? Sometimes it takes a while to comprehend the comments I read through prosaically. No wonder your subtle approach to English language is so peculiarly attuned. Wade's must be even more so.

fergus 8:58 PM  

The SHALLOT carry-over was quite delightful yesterday, but I'm bewildered about today's?

jnc 10:03 PM  

For vampire, my first thought was FIE; immediately dismissed it as wrong and went to ...PIE?!? and had a giggle fit, just like when I was in high school chapel. Ahh, good times!

Ulrich 10:03 PM  

@fergus: You are raising the bar--I thought that living in the same universe was an elusive ideal (look at the birthers or deathers) and now you demand that we live in the same clue space? I tell you, there's nothing but frustration in store for you...

sanfranman59 10:13 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation.

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:30, 6:59, 0.93, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 9:34, 8:35, 1.11, 80%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:43, 0.95, 44%, Medium
Tue 4:49, 4:25, 1.09, 79%, Medium-Challenging

fergus 10:51 PM  


There's nothing but the pleasant real world frustration I inhabit. (Love my life, but not everything's perfect.) I realize that you're referring to my coinage of Cluespace. Given cable television, parfois, in one of my summertime escapades?

I digress -- Cluespace is a territory every visitor to this Website knows quite well.

retired_chemist 11:22 PM  

@ Glitch - they sure did! :-)

Oscar 7:21 AM  

Kept thinking that TICKLERMEELMO would've been the best (tho slightly incorrect) theme answer.

Cute puzzle, OH.

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