MONDAY, Sep. 28 2009 — Round red firecracker / Form of address in British India / Relative of rhododendron

Monday, September 28, 2009

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Box Office Poison — theme answers are all two-word phrases where the second word is a synonym for a bad or otherwise failed movie (or stage production, I guess).

Word of the Day: ZAMBEZI (31D: Africa's fourth-longest river and site of Victoria Falls) — The Zambezi (also spelled Zambesi) is the fourth-longest river in Africa, and the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean from Africa. The area of its basin is 1,390,000 km² (537,000 miles²), slightly less than half that of the Nile. The 3,540 km- (2,200 mile-) long river has its source in Zambia and flows through Angola, along the borders of Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, to Mozambique, where it empties into the Indian Ocean. (wikipedia)

If the last three days are any indication, the puzzle seems to be back on track again, quality-wise. Today's puzzle is vintage Monday awesomeness from Lynn Lempel. No crap fill, five theme entries, a mess of Zs ... I can't really ask for much more a Monday. Felt somewhat thornier than a normal Monday, but my final time said otherwise. Shortish theme entries allow for their strategic placement such that None of them share an intersecting word. This allows the constructor to maximize his/her (in this case, her) ability to create clean, and even colorful non-theme fill. Is TANKTOP a bonus theme answer (26D: Close-fitting sleeveless shirt)? In that a BOMB is a movie that TANKs? Probably not, since TANK is the beginning of that word, and not a separate word, as is the case with the other theme words. Still, TANKTOP is a nice central Down. Really, really nice ...

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Abrupt way to quit (cold TURKEY)
  • 11D: Narcs' raid (drug BUST)
  • 40A: Chocolaty morsel munched at the movies (Milk DUD) — love the way that movies are subtly brought into the picture here.
  • 39D: Beach footwear (flip FLOP)
  • 63A: Round, red firecracker (cherry BOMB)


  • 4A: Nog ingredient (raw egg) — man do I hate "nog." Do people make it with RAW EGG any more? I would have thought RAW EGG nog had gone the way of RAW EGG Caesar salad dressing.
  • 15A: Relative of a rhododendron (azalea) — despite its "Z," a not uncommon (litotes!) six-letter crossword answers. So many vowels ...
  • 21A: State of weightlessness, as in space (zero G) — always love the way this looks in the grid. Like the name of some evil space emperor. All bow before ZEROG!
  • 45A: Bluefin and albacore (tunas) — probably my least favorite thing about this grid, but that plural is valid, given the clue.
  • 5D: Color of a picture postcard sky (azure) — that's really a lovely clue for AZURE.
  • 8D: Old, crotchety guy (geezer) — I get mail from this guy on a pretty regular basis. "How could you not know ..." "In my day ..." "Things were better when ..." "Kids these days ..." "Whipper ... snapper!"
  • 45D: Form of address in British India (Sahib) — British India also gives us the crossword words RAJ and AMAH, among others. Hurray for Colonialism! More words for us! (I'm being facetious — please, no indignant mail)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


nanpilla 8:33 AM  

A very smooth solve, with nary a pause to even think about it. This must be what it's like to be one of those speed solvers, only they are doing much harder puzzles! I'm not at the point where I can write in one answer while reading the next clue, but it almost felt like I could.
That said, it was a very enjoyable puzzle, with very little ugly fill.
Thanks, Lynn.

dk 8:35 AM  

I thought baseball had umps and Rex you ungrateful whippersnapper no more mail from me. Youth is wasted on the young: IMHO ;)

Fine Monday fare

dk the vacationing GEEZER

PIX 8:35 AM  

Is 16A correct? [ "losing roll in a casino=crap]...isn't a losing roll (2,3,12)"craps", with the s at the end. One can roll craps or one can "crap out" but i don't think it is right to say the losing roll is crap, unless one is using crap in a very general way (eg "the movie was crap")which seems to not pass the breakfast test.

Nice puzzle.

Jim in Chicago 8:50 AM  

@PIX: Ditto with Flipflop. They come in pairs. Most people would look pretty silly walking down the beach in only one flip flop.

@Rex: You can most certainly still get Caesar dressing with raw egg dressing, and the substitute is a pale imitation. Just choose your egg source carefully and have a good immune system and you'll be fine.

Anonymous 8:50 AM  

Only writeover created a bit of a mess in NW. Off 'KEY', I started putting 'escape KEY' for 17A, which I was so sure of - until it didn't fit.

@dk 'B-ball' is basketball, not baseball.

Agree with PIX about 'CRAP' - very surprised RP did not chime in on that one, but it looks like he might have short of time.


Greene 8:58 AM  

Lovely puzzle. Well constructed with excellent symmetry and a fun theme (While I generally hate sitting through a theatrical TURKEY, there are some bragging rights which go with having seen enough of them). I love that two of the theme clues are in the downs instead of the usual all-across theme structure. The fill is terrific and this puzzle was a joy to solve.

Like ACME, Ms. Lempel makes Monday construction seem as easy as breathing (while we know it to be anything but). Thanks for a fine start to the week.

PlantieBea 9:06 AM  

Thanks Lynn Lempel for this fine Monday. I'm not a speed solver, but this one went by too fast.

Rex, I still make Caesar salad with an egg yolk that's been tempered in a warmed anchovy/olive oil mixture-- that is, the yolk is warmed up enough to let it thicken without curdling. It adds body to the dressing and mellows the acid. Hmm...maybe that doesn't pass the breakfast test. Back to free association with the puzzle food CHERRY pie, chocolate MILK DUDs, MILLER's oats anyone?

joho 9:10 AM  

The theme phrases are so new and fresh and just plain fun to speak.

As usual, Ms. Lempel has created a marvelous Monday puzzle that is anything but a BOMB.

I did question the singular FLIPFLOP and crap, but it didn't in any way interfere with the joy of doing this puzzle.

@Rex, I use a RAWEGG my my Caesar salads.

JannieB 9:11 AM  

I agree - nice smooth solve today - felt like a themeless. When all the theme answers are solidly "in the language" I don't often need a gimmick/theme to figure them out. Guess I should take more time to smell the roses! A lovely start to the week.

Leslie 9:19 AM  

Oh, for crying out loud.

I had terrible insomnia last night--didn't sleep at.all. Worked this puzzle, enjoyed it just fine, DID NOT SEE THE THEME until Rex pointed it out.


The Corgi of Mystery 9:21 AM  

Solid, enjoyable Monday. Rex, I actually had come to the conclusion that TANKTOP was a theme answer until you pointed out that all the other phail words were the second in the phrase. I think I might continue laboring under that disillusion, though, just because it makes me happier.

Denise 9:36 AM  

Many years ago (what do we call a female geezer?) I had a cow who produced gallons and gallons of milk. One of the most delicious ideas my mother came up with for using all this rich, creamy milk was egg nog -- she whipped the cream, and my brother's chickens provided the eggs.

Enjoyed the puzzle, and, as always the blog.

mac 9:48 AM  

Beautiful Monday puzzle, I've come to expect it from Lynn Lempel.
With the crap, I just thought of crap shoot. Don't know much about games at casinos, but this sounded familiar.

Nice how she signs the puzzle at the bottom right!

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

I am an occasional anonymous contributor. I had earlier tried to enter my identity as GEEZER, but couldn't figure out how to do it. After today's comments, I guess I had better stay anonymous :-)

MikeM 9:54 AM  

@ Leslie - could not sleep either... was tossing and turning and then 5.30am-ish I went outside and sure enough the paper was there. Was an enjoyable 5 minutes, only problem I had was where LAPAZ crossed ZAMBEZI.
Anyone remember the movie COLD TURKEY from the early 70s starring Dick Van Dyke? (I am dating myself...)

retired_chemist 9:55 AM  

A very easy Monday. As usual I did not see that there was a theme. Very few overwrites: 4A NUTMEG => RAW EGG; 67A RETIRE => RESIGN. Nothing else I want to comment on. Pleasant enough, but meh.

Anon - This is how you do it 9:56 AM  

Anonymous GEEZER - Just click the radio button in front of Name/URL, type in GEEZER in the name text box, publish your comment, and presto! You're officially the GEEZER of the day.

Retired_Geezertoo_Chemist 9:58 AM  

@ Anon 9:52. Select name/URL below the comments window and type whatever name you like. Also a url if you wish (optional).

slypett 10:03 AM  

To paraphrase what Peter Sagel said on "Wait, Wait," "All the words have been used up."

I found the puzzle easy, but fun.

Denise: The feminine of geezer is geezer.

Stan 10:05 AM  

Exemplary Monday. Boffo! Did not lay an EGG.

Plus, early Joan Jett from Rex. What more can I ask?

Sfingi 10:27 AM  

@Denise - Geezeress, geezerine, geezetrix - confess to being all the above.

Salmonella is not joke, but obviously I survived it. Twice, both times in Boston. How about TB from raw milk?

As is becoming usual for me, didn't notice the theme.

fikink 10:30 AM  

Loved it! Lynn Lempel, bet you and I could have some serious fun with CHERRY BOMBS and MILK DUDS - your puzzle bespeaks great attitude!

Two Ponies 10:41 AM  

Blew out my flip flop
Stepped on a pop top.

No problem with the singular IMO

There were more apemen than Tarzan?
Small problem with the plural there

Much better than most Mondays.
I hope Rex is right about the return to some quality puzzles.

Two Ponies 10:48 AM  

PS I don't want to nitpick an otherwise lovely puzzle but I'm not too sure about crap as a singular term either. Being here in Vegas it should not be too hard to find out.
I sound like an old biddie (my term for a female geezer.)

Ulrich 10:55 AM  

@Denise, Sfungi: Diner/dinette, geezer/geezette, as in "I saw a geezette in a dinette reading a gazette."

Great puzzle--saw the theme only after the fact, but that's par for a Monday.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 10:58 AM  

Quality stuff today. Actually quality stuff last two days. (I was at a wedding all weekend so I'm just catching up.) Today's theme is an old warhorse, but it's solid through and through. Sometimes you don't have to break rules/ground to have a good puzzle. Solid A-.

Martin 11:13 AM[3]

I'm in the program now 11:22 AM  

My family's secret recipe, handed down through generations, for egg nog had two main characteristics:

1) Ingredients - A quart each of rye, bourbon, whiskey and gin, along with minor amounts of other crap including a raw egg or two, and

2) It was actually the Joy of Cooking recipe for egg nog.

With those ingredients, no one ever worried about salmonilla, or much of anything else after one or two. After six or seven was another story, because people started worrying about everything -"Why you eye-balling my wife you miserable sob..." Never had a pleasant Christmas Eve in my life.

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

I think CRAP was the bonus theme entry.

Glitch 11:30 AM  


Yes there are more than one "apemen", but Tarzan isn't one of them. Tarzan's biological parents (Earl & Lady Greystone) are killed by a savage female leopard ... and he is raised by a gorilla (not ape)named Kala.

This would make his [male] kin Englishmen, who probably would take offense at being called "apes".

Officially, he was "King of the Apes"

Now Sasquatch, there's an apeman.

Off to put on flipflop feetware (after I put on my pair of pant).

.../Glitch ;-)

poc 11:41 AM  

@Glitch: I agree re Tarzan.

Also: sloppy cluing for ITALICS. The type is ITALIC, even if applied to books (plural).

Charles Bogle 11:55 AM  

Greene, plantiebea, joho, mac et al and RP are apot-on--delightful* testing Monday puzzle w virtually none of the hackneyed theme. Also had a bit of the 60's feel to it--CHERRYBOMB, FLIPFLOP, MILKDUD, Marvin GAYE etc. Liked byplay RATSON/BATSIN, colors AZURE/MAUVE--in my short experience, Lynn Lempel seemsto solidly score just what we'd like to see on a Monday; congrats!

Sara 11:55 AM  

Two real-life uses of FLIPFLOP:
"Mommy, where's my other flipflop?"
"Mommy, Jazzy's eating my flipflop!"

Rex Parker 12:09 PM  

Tell it to Johnny Weissmuller.

"Tarzan the Ape Man" (1932)

Two Ponies 12:11 PM  

@ Martin,
You're right, there is "crap" plain as day. However, the brief survey of experienced gamblers around me said either No, Huh?, or simply laughed. Saying that will get you no cred in Vegas.
@ Glitch, My reasoning exactly. Tarzan's kinsmen were Brits.
@ I'm in the program now - that's quite a recipe but I'm wondering about "the program." As in 12 step?
(Just kidding)

I'm in the program now 12:13 PM  

@Two Ponies - Yup. With a family like that, it's to be expected.

Anonymous 12:22 PM  

@Im in the program now - not sure whether to laugh or feel sorry for you. In any event, Happy Holidays

Doc John 12:37 PM  

The crap/craps argument notwithstanding, I just thought it was funny that Rex said there was no crap fill and yet there was CRAP right in the puzzle!

Clark 12:54 PM  

Nice smooth Monday puzzle. @Denise @Xman @Sfingi -- I think that ‘geezerette’ should be the plural fem version of geezer, tracking the Firesign Theater line “My mother was a bozoette at school” -- @Ulrich's very sensible suggestion notwithstanding.

capesunset105 1:24 PM  

I would call this puzzle "a little charmer"

chefbea 2:14 PM  

easy and fun Monday puzzle. A Natick for me at lapaz and zambezi.

Remember back when (guess I'm a gezzerette) when you mixed a raw egg into the raw ground beef mixed with chopped onions and capers??? Yumm.. steak tartar.

slypett 2:14 PM  

poc: When you're setting a quote (often) or a book title, e.g., you say "I'm setting it in italics." See Webster's (the II, unabridged anyway), which says, "Also italics."

joho 2:19 PM  

@Doc John ... I know, of all the puzzles to pick to say there's no CRAP fill? What a riot. As far as I know this is the ONLY puzzle with CRAP fill. Obviously we know what Rex meant, but it is amusing, I agree.

chefwen 2:27 PM  

This would have gone a lot faster if I could spell AZALEA and would stop screwing up OVIN with ovid. Oh well, got it done, had fun, happy girl! I guess I can stop licking my wounds from the weekend bloodbath that was dished out.

Glitch 2:43 PM  

Per Rex's suggestion:

Dear J. Weissmuller,

"Tarzan the Ape Man" --- OK

Tarzan and ilk = Apemen --- Maybe

Tarzan and kin = Apemen --- Nope


I stand by my earlier summary, which I believe was ";-)"

Elaine 2:51 PM  

Tarzan's folks--weren't they surnamed Greystoke (not stone)? Edgar Rice Burroughs would like us to be accurate! I agree-- Tarzan was THE Ape Man, and I question the clue...

Alas, this puzzle was like taking dictation. Except for writing UMP instead of REF (isn't Baseball also B-ball?) I didn't even have to think.

Thank goodness I am not the only one who fails to spot themes! Maybe that would have upped my assessment: not just Easy--TOO Easy.

And you can't make Eggnog without raw eggs. I whip the whites-- they HAVE to be raw--as well as the cream, and I'm pretty sure that all the bourbon sterilizes the yolks. Poor Rex, you have probably never had good Eggnog! (Just don't use In the Program's recipe!)

retired_chemist 3:15 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 3:17 PM  

@ Elaine - Takes about 12-13 percent alcohol to kill bugs. Mouthwash, for example, is 20% usually. if your eggnog has enough Bourbon to make it 13% alcohol I want to come to your parties.

foodie 3:40 PM  

See, this is why I love this place. Little tidbits like this last post by retired chemist...

Loved the puzzle, classic LL...

I'm off to Italy for a few days. Arrivederci

chefbea 3:58 PM  

@Foodie - have a great time in Italy. Just sent you an e-mail but guess you've left already??

poc 4:04 PM  

@XMAN: believe it or not, I was on the point of mentioning a similar example in my original comment, when I thought I'd wait to see if anyone brought it up.

The fact that one often says things like "I'm setting it in italics" doesn't change the fact that the type is called "italic" (or "roman" or whatever) and not "italics" as implied by the clue.

sanfranman59 4:16 PM  

I'm back and well-rested from a lovely week at Holden Beach, NC. If you're turned off by the commercialism and crowds at other popular beaches on the Carolina coast, I highly recommend this place located about halfway between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington. Beautiful beaches and very few people ... at least at this time of year. Good restaurants, albeit sometimes a little pricey for what you get. Unless you want to be right on the ocean, 4 BR houses within a very short walk to the beach can be had now for $700 - $1000 per week.

Back to the topic at hand ...

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)

Mon 6:17, 6:58, 0.90, 29%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:36, 3:43, 0.97, 46%, Medium

chefbea 4:37 PM  

@sanfranman glad you are well rested. We will have to check out Holden beach when we move to Wilmington.

archaeoprof 5:03 PM  

@sfingi: I survived salmonella too. What an ordeal. First I thought I would die; then I feared that I wouldn't

@Foodie: buon viaggio!

mac 5:12 PM  

@Foodie: have a wonderful trip! and @SanFranMan: good to have you and your statistics back.

Once I swallowed what I think was a bad oyster, and I grabbed my husband's gin martini to take a sip and kill it. A few days later I read that red wine is actually better to prevent food poisoning. As if I need an excuse...

chefbea 5:18 PM  

@mac now I know why I've never had food poisoning

Elaine 5:27 PM  

@Retired Chemist
Thanks for the heads-up! I'll increase the Bourbon (grin) Actually, the yolks are beaten with sugar and the Bourbon goes in next--and is not diluted for a while; that may be sufficient ...One version we sometimes do is to freeze the eggnog--it makes rich ice cream. How does salmonella hold up to freezing?
(I avoided chemistry, physics, and home ec very successfully throughout my educational career. It does hamper some Xword solving, but OH well...)

edith b 5:43 PM  

My mother said when I was a kid "you're going to eat a pound of dirt before you die" so I never worried about raw eggs in my Caesar's salad. Anybody heard of the "5 second rule?"

I hope my little attmept at humor didn't offend those that have endured food poisoning as that was not my intent.

joho 5:49 PM  

@Foodie ... I envy your trip to Italia .. ciao!

HudsonHawk 5:59 PM  

Hand up for salmonella. What @archaeoprof said, in spades.

Ulrich 6:03 PM  

@mac: Thx. With this, I can start a second page listing all the advantages of drinking red wine on a daily basis.

Since you asked for encouragement: The most stunning result in my case is that my cholesterol values are so good that my doctor no longer orders tests, and this in spite of all the eggs, butter, cream and ice cream I consume. I'm now trying to establish a connection with far, the results are encouraging...

Ray Davies 6:08 PM  

Tarzan's reaction to today's comments.

Glitch 6:15 PM  


Burbon is usually 80 proof, or 40% alcohol. So equal parts burbon and egg mix should hit r_c's 20% target.

There is also 101 proof burbon, but if you mix it with ANYTHING I will hunt you down and beat you with your wisk ;)

.../Glitch (Salmonella survivor)

michael 6:17 PM  

ok, what makes a good Monday puzzle? I don't know what to make of Monday puzzles because I (like the rest of you) write the answers in very quickly -- almost always the first word that pops into my mind. The only fun for me is figuring out the theme (which I missed altogether today). Now most of you are raving about this puzzle, presumably comparing it to previous inferior Monday puzzles. I just don't see the difference. Am I like someone who can't appreciate food because I eat too fast?

PIX 6:48 PM  

Actually hospitals are starting to use hand cleaner dispensers that contain about 70-80% alcohol(ethanol). Much more effective than soap and water, you don't need a sink and you don't have to dry your hands (it just evaporates)...they have to add something else to make it taste noxious so that people don't start using it for the egg nog or whatever.

mac 7:48 PM  

@Ray Davies: Geez, my husband just jumped out of his chair at that noise!

@michael: you may have a point.

acme 8:11 PM  


ileen 8:15 PM  

Another case of singular FLIPFLOP - I'm on the board of directors of the Flip Flop Foundation. We provide flip flops and other necessities to needy children in Zambia (where the ZAMBEZI river begins). Check us out at It was a pleasant surprise to see these words in such close proximity in the puzzle. Thanks, Lynn!

sanfranman59 9:32 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 6:18, 6:58, 0.90, 29%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:42, 0.95, 39%, Easy-Medium

Sfingi 10:32 PM  

I just read that salmonella survives deep freezing, but it doesn't survive cooking or alcohol. The way to avoid it in cooking is to have 2 cutting boards, one for the chicken and another for the veggies. If not, chicken blood gets on the veggies, which many a cook avoids overcooking for taste. Salmonella hasn't prevented me from being a chickentarian - I avoid eating "4 legs," that is, red meat, for the most part.
But I do think tuna should taste good and have good taste, as the Starkist tuna used to say.
There is clean dirt and nasty dirt, so make sure your peck of dirt is the former.
Great comments today!

Great comments on

miriam b 10:39 PM  

@Edith: I always heard "a peck of dirt". Now that's a lot of dirt. Oddly, I grew up in an urban area where most people probably didn't have a clue as to the weight of a peck of dirt, or indeed the volume of a peck of anything.

I sailed through the puzzle, but the theme eluded me until I checked in tonight. My initial impression was that there was some sort of food connection. "TURKEY, MILK and CHERRY?" I thought. "Disgusting combination."

Noam D. Elkies 10:40 PM  

Yesterday MISHIT, today CRAP (and going by the Rexplanation of the theme, it's mis-hit day). says it's the first time CRAP was ever seen in the singular, though CRAPSTABLE and CRAPPIE each appeared once and CRAPS 7 times. (MISHIT(S) was seen 4+1 times, and there were four instances of SAYSHITO [never defined as "cusses in Kyoto"] and one ...FRESHITSGOOD.) Anyway, neat Monday puzzle, even if the grid has rather too many food items for Yom Kippur (or 22D:RAMADAN for that matter)...


Stan 10:46 PM  

@mac (9:48 AM):

Really nice catch about Lynn signing the puzzle in the SE. And actually she RESIGNs it, since her byline appears above.

Noam D. Elkies 10:49 PM  

[D'oh: it would be "cuss in Kyoto", if anything... NDE]

sillygoose 10:55 PM  

I loved the puzzle, so quirky and smooth.

The Zambezi/La Paz cross was my favorite since I learned both through crossword puzzles.

"Craps" is always said in the plural, however, craps is only a losing roll in specific situations, such as the come-out roll if you are playing the pass line. It is a winner in multiple other situations, depending on what your bet is.

slypett 11:53 PM  

Y'know what's really nice? RAMADAN is part of the language.

Stan 5:44 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Singer 2:10 PM  

Excellent puzzle. Agree with comments about CRAP, but all else was fine. I couldn't figure out what the theme was. Our paper doesn't print the subtitles, so no help there.

Nullifidian 3:24 PM  

I'm writing from the sunny So. Cal. area of syndication-land.

The singular CRAP held me up briefly for the same reasons that everyone else disagreed with it. I doubt Ms. Lempel does much gambling, which is probably a good thing.

I didn't care for the singular FLIPFLOP, which only seemed like "beach footwear" if it was being worn on the one good foot of a wooden-legged pirate. Still, it was obvious enough for me to get from the initial "F" and I just stopped writing when I ran out of squares.

My only crossed out part was the "Family Circus" cartoon directly over the crossword. I don't know what sadistic individual told Bil Keane he was funny, but it was probably the same sadistic person who told Dan Brown he could write.

I breezed through it very quickly, even though I don't usually care about speed solving. Today, I finished it while I was waiting in the cafeteria line to pay for my lunch.

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