Gradually slowing in music / MON 6-7-10 / Sicilian erupter / Lure for Simple Simon / Recipe guideline for hot dish / Many northern Iraqi

Monday, June 7, 2010

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging [for a *Monday*]

THEME: IT'S OK WITH ME (62A: "Sure, go ahead" ... and a literal hint to what's found in 17-, 26-, 38- and 53-Acros) — theme answers have both "OK" and "ME" buried inside them somewhere

Word of the Day: OUZO (56A: Greek liqueur) —

Ouzo (ούζο) is an anise-flavored aperitif that is widely consumed in Greece. Similar aperitifs include pastis (France), arak (from the Levant) and raki (from Turkey) although, in Greece, raki is generally not anise-flavored. Its aniseed flavor is also similar to the anise-flavored liqueurs of sambuca (Italy) and patxaran (Bilbao, Spain) and the stronger spirits of absinthe (France) and a variation of Mastiha (Chios, Greece). It can be consumed neat or mixed with water. (wikipedia)
• • •
Monday! This theme is a little nuts, but in a good way. Start with a familiar phrase and then get theme answers by taking it literally. I wonder how big the potential answer base is for a theme like this. I'm sure Ms. Lempel has a pad (virtual or actual) somewhere with a brainstorming's worth of alternatives. I only wish the theme answers were a little livelier. BROKEN HOME is the only one that seems particularly interesting, and sadly it's also the most depressing (if anyone had told me as a kid that I was from a "BROKEN HOME," I'd have wanted to punch him). The "ME"s are all at the very end of the phrases ... except once. The "OK"s all start third letter in ... except once. This is neither here nor there; I have trouble *not* remarking on (broken) patterns. I took a shade longer than I usually do to solve this one, primarily because of the clue on the first theme answer: [Recipe guideline for a hot dish]. It made no sense to me. I couldn't figure out what could be intended by "recipe guideline," so I went looking for a direction like "STIR..." or "BAKE ..." Also, I figured "hot" meant "spicy." COOKING TIME took many crosses to get, and was disappointing when it arrived. The good news is that (except for TUNAZ) the rest of the grid held a lot of interest. I especially love the SE corner, where a woman in a SARONG is sipping OUZO while GONERS slide down into the ABYSS. Femme fatale + doomed men = some kind of hard-boiled story that takes place on an island. Possibly Tahiti. The OUZO is because our leading lady is Greek. Anyhoo, that's a good corner.

The phrase "OK BY ME" feels more familiar / colloquial to me, but that would have been a bear to find answers for: BOOKMEN? TOOKMEASURES? LOOKMENACING?

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Recipe guideline for a hot dish (COOKING TIME)
  • 26A: Family divided by divorce (BROKEN HOME)
  • 38A: High-stakes draw in Las Vegas (POKER GAME)
  • 53A: Pastrami, for one (SMOKED MEAT)

Other stumbling places, besides COOKING TIME, included STUB for SLIP (5D: Sales receipt), SUNI (?!) for KURD (39D: Many a norther Iraqi), SOCK for STOW (51D: Store (away) — don't like STOre to clue STOw; too close), and took at least three crosses to see DENNY (35A: Name in a family restaurant chain — I'm an IHOP man, as you know).

  • 21A: Lure for Simple Simon (PIE) — "Lure" is a bit odd. He met a pieman and wanted to taste his wares but the dude was like "let's see your money" but Simon didn't have any so he goes fishing or something. "Lure" makes it sound a. like he was drawn by something (aroma, etc.), or b. like the pieman was trying tempt him.
  • 50A: Gradually slowing in music (RIT.) — RITardando; we've had this before. I knew SUNI felt wrong as soon as I plunked it in the grid; RIT. just confirmed it.
  • 8D: Kimono closer (OBI) — despite seeing OBI clues thousands of time in my life, I swear the first thing my brain thought of when reading this clue was "Japanese pitcher." Thankfully, I got back on the crosswordese horse with OTT (7D: Slugger Mel) and ETNA (29D: Sicilian erupter)
  • 13D: Dishes for doll parties (TEA SETS) — more fun with plurals. First there was TUNAS, when the clue could easily have been asking for TUNA (44A: Fish often destined for cans). Here there's TEA SETS, when clue could easily have been asking for TEA SET (singular).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Doug 7:44 AM  

Never figured out the theme -- ok me. Just jumped around until the puzzle solved. Got stuck with ouso and could not figure out "roughly" for the life of me. But definitely felt more like a Tues. or Wed. challenge. Mel Ott has to be the most puzzle-ized player in major league history.

mea culpa 7:50 AM  

Gondolas? Oars?

Greene 8:12 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greene 8:14 AM  

I really like Lynn Lempel Mondays. Just as smooth as can be. I loped through this puzzle as I watched The Yearling on television last night. I was reminded what a terrible multitasker I am. I could not see AAMILNE for quite some time and I'm completely unfamiliar with the referenced poem. Need to look that one up.

The boy in The Yearling didn't actually come from a BROKEN HOME, but what a messed up Mom he had!

PIX 8:24 AM  

@ Mary...Wiki says: The gondola is propelled by a person (the gondolier) who stands facing the bow and rows {with an oar!!} with a forward stroke, followed by a compensating backward stroke. Contrary to popular belief, the gondola is never poled like a punt as the waters of Venice are too deep. I did not know that.

Fun puzzle.

joho 8:38 AM  

Yay, Lynn! I hate Mondays so your delightful puzzle helped ease the pain. This creation is way better than OKWITHME!

chefbea 9:00 AM  

Very easy Monday puzzle - just half a bowl of cereal!!
Thought maybe it was going to be a food puzzle after 17 across.

Going up to Ct tomorrow to see the family so I might be absent for a few days. I'll try to check in.

jesser 9:12 AM  

Home again. That's a good feeling!

Haven't seen the blog since last Wednesday, so a little catching up is in order. I hated the Thursday puzzle. Friday was really hard for me. Saturdays was beautiful and lively. Haven't yet done yesterday's.

Thought today's was sassy and fun -- a little RACIER than usual, what with ENZYMES, OUZO, SUET, and the cluea for CURE and PROMISE.

N.M.'s former governor (who will probably run for prez in 2012) was/is an IRON MAN competitor. Our current governor is not.

Must get a little caught up here at work. More later.

Lairk! (The damn bird ate my eye!) -- jesser

fikink 9:25 AM  

"GONERS slipping into the ABYSS" - what a lovely Monday morning thought, Rex, especially to those in BROKEN HOMEs.

@foodie, your memory of your uncle sounds like something from One Hundred Years of Solitude - nice writing! And I agree with you, more Campbell's is depressing.

@Greene, I, too, perk up when I see a Lynn Lempel byline. And I will send you a copy of Now We Are Six.

Such nice fresh (to me) fill in this puzzle: ENZYMES, NEMO, JUSTOUT, AAMILNE. Thanks, Lynn, you have inspired me to get something accomplished today.

Van55 9:31 AM  

Certainly more Tuesday than Monday. SW was a nice little poser as I don't think of AAMILNE as a poet. I got the OK half of the theme but didn't see the ME half until I came here.

I rather hated the hackneyed OTT abutting OBI. Otherwise remarkably fresh for a Monday/Tuesday.

Dough 9:41 AM  

Besides BROKEN HOME, which is a downer, I also find DENNY's a downer for their history of overt racial discrimination wherein they charged more to minorities (even those in military uniforms) or refused service to minorites. I've boycotted them since the '90s. I guess it's probably just me. Anyway, I would prefer a Mamas and Papas clue for it. Otherwise, a terrific Monday offering. On a side note, I am surprised by those who leave comments here that they didn't even notice the theme. There's going to be a theme! Whyever wouldn't you take a moment after solving it to check back and enjoy the extra little bonbon? Again, it must just be me.

Aunt Hattie 9:45 AM  

Aha! I knew there would be a reason fofr all those Ks. Nice to have a Monday with a little pizazz and not just fill in the blanks day. @Pix--thanks for the info on poles vs. oars--I was about to protest oars so nice to learn something.
Where is Elaine??

Greene 9:46 AM  

@Leslie: That was me removing my own post at 8:12. I had a really outrageous typo (accidentally hit post before proofing) so I just deleted and reposted. Should not have had anything to do with your post disappearing.

ArtLvr 9:51 AM  

An A-OK Monday by me!

@foodie -- I too sampled a clear drink which turned cloudy greenish, years ago in Paris -- not that I care for anise flavoring, but it was banned in the US so of course I had to try it! As for the Greek OUZO, I never found the ones available here at all palatable, but in Greece, the all-male tavernas or whatever were really hostile to female intruders, way back when... Maybe the home brew is okay?

I learned something new today, that pastrami is SMOKED MEAT. I'd never thought about it before, and these days I eat much less meat than I used to!


Bob Kerfuffle 10:01 AM  

@PIX - Thnx for the gondola info. I had the wrong idea, too.

@Dough - Sadly, I also think first of the discrimination charges when I see DENNYs.

Otherwise, OK/me.

(Thought 68 A could lose the "E" and still make sense!)

fikink 10:04 AM  

@Dough, it is not just you. DENNY'S is on my "Walk On By" list, too.

Smitty 11:07 AM  

@pix and @mary
Thanks for bringing this up. I balked at the word oar too. Gondolas are propelled by sculling (a figure 8 movement)- a sculling oar is called a scull.

Encyc. Brit:
In sculling, the oars are called sculls.

Two Ponies 11:14 AM  

I intentionally saved the theme revealer for last just so I could find it afterwards. Mondays are good days to play that game with myself.
I remembered the last time the oars v poles came up so I got it right off.
Broken home doesn't seem to be used very often anymore. Now it's mostly single moms/dads and blended families.
Nice Monday with some fun words that required some thought.
Just right.
Man, I really hate The Yearling.
It's right up there with Old Yeller and The Red Pony.

Tinbeni 11:51 AM  

@Two Ponies
Are you like Garfield who in a strip once said Old Yeller had a happy ending?

ITS OK WITH ME describes this Monday offering perfectly.

Unknown 12:21 PM  

OTT: At the Met Museum, there is a fairly obscure section of works that are being stored, not on exhibit. They are behind glass, but, surprisingly, available to visitors. Aisles and aisles of famous paintings and artifacts, all hung very close together. It's dazzling.
Anyway, as a newbie to solving, it was maybe 6 months ago, and I had come across Ott for the first time in a puzzle that week.
So, one day I'm exploring a floor of this storage area, and I want to be thorough, so I walk all the way to the far end. I see that it is a collection of beautiful, what appears to be hand-colored baseball cards. But I go even further to the very first card in the corner. And who is it of ?
Mel Ott. I say aloud. "Rex!" Ott has appeared twice since. I love Mel Ott. To have discovered his little card in that vast museum was so fun.

retired_chemist 12:24 PM  

Hand up for POLE @ 48A, then smirking about how wrong OARS was and googling to prove I was right after all. Not....

Not an OUZO lover. Several of the academic administrators at my University used to gather late some afternoons for a bottle (or two) of wine. One was Turkish by birth. He broke out some raki after a couple of bottles of wine. This was not a good idea. At least I had the sense to have one taste and go home. Some of my colleagues were there for a couple of hours more....

A nice puzzle. Harder (at least to judge by my time) than it felt.

Greene 12:26 PM  

@Two Ponies: Totally with you on these "dead pet" movies. The Yearling at least has a wonderful performance by Gregory Peck in his youthful prime to compensate for the deficiencies of the story. Of course, The Red Pony has that gorgeous Aaron Copland film score. Not sure what Old Yeller has, other than a rabid dog with a gunshot wound.

Steve J 12:29 PM  

I was thrown off for a moment too by "Recipe guideline for a hot dish." As @dk alluded, "hot dish" is Minnesotan for "casserole" (I'm pretty sure the word "casserole is banned by law). Even though I haven't lived in Minnesota for close to better than 15 years now, and even though I hated the term even as a kid, it's so ingrained, that was my first thought. Along with cream of mushroom soup, which is the standard ingredient in all hot dishes.

I'm guessing anyone who's spent significant time living in Minnesota had that thought process as well.

I also had SUNI for second, looked at it, noticed it looked wrong, then realized the U went with KURD. (Curds are not found in hot dish; those are reserved for deep-frying and serving at the Minnesota State Fair. Yum.)

Finished this in about average time for me for a Monday. I think hesitating for a moment on the theme revealer - I thought "it's OK *by* me" as well, and obviously that wouldn't fit) - slowed me down a bit. And it was reasonably enjoyable. For a Monday.

syndy 1:14 PM  

Yup,me too,OAR how silly!wiki says the gondola oar is called a remo.must have been good if they sainted it!I kinda feel if i didn't notice the theme while solving there's not much point looking for it later-it doesn't matter any more!

Rex Parker 1:29 PM  

Getting mail from people saying they are unable to post comments. So I'm posting a comment. Is it working?

Rex Parker 1:29 PM  


andrea morethanokwithme michaels 1:49 PM  

ohmygod, I thought this theme was brilliant!!!!!! I'm surprised more are not up on rooftops, waving around their oars over it!

To have TWO themes in one...and have it be subtly (sp?) (a word I don't know how to spell, much less be!) revealed so beautifully with the OKWITHME!!
(I get the OKBYME, but in addition to being only 6 letters and not reflective of the theme exactly, the OK WITH ME resonates and reflects even more so!)

I LOVED this! I really felt it was fresh fresh fresh...
it is so hard to come up with something really fresh on a Monday and this totally perked me up and impressed and inspired me, as Lynn Lempel so often does!!!!!

And, yes, I feel like strangling anyone who shrugs and says they didn't even notice the theme...

Luckily @rex riff on Simple Simon and @foodie's exotic reminiscences (I have no idea how to spell that, and I'm sure others wouldn't mind strangling me for not bothering to look things up before I post) calmed me down about not everyone posting how brilliant this theme was!

As someone who has grown up in Minnesota but was exempt from the whole hotdish, donchaknow, things-on-a-stick traditions, as transplanted NY Jews, I have a whole hotdish recipe book on my shelf waiting to be re-gifted if you find yourself out here.

And if it's any consolation to the Denny-haters, I have a pal here who led and won the class action suit against Denny's and is super political and continues to lead the good fight (he also took on the gov't over Agent Orange) ...speaking of which, don't forget to vote tomorrow!

Sparky 2:04 PM  

Well, what threw me off is that it's one oar. I'm often caught by hidden plurals. Enjoyed some missteps--lard for suet; dim(inuendo) for rit. That's why I use an erasable pen. A good Monday.

Anonymous 2:07 PM  

What a fun Monday! Don't usually do them, but glad I did today's. Enjoyable theme, as well as clues/answers. I especially liked JUSTOUT, the 4-consonant-in-a-row ENZYMES, double-A'd AAMILNE, and GONERS crossed with ABYSS. :)

CrazyCat 2:28 PM  

I thought this was a really fun puzzle for a Monday and loved the theme. I was trying to be very speedy and I'm embarrassed to say I threw in TURK @39 D Many a Northern Iraqi. That eventually lead to POTER GAME and SMOKEK MEAT. I changed the K to a D and I don't want to mention what 39D then turned into. Finally realized it was KURD.

@Greene "Now We Are Six" and "When We Were Very Young" are both wonderful collections of children's poetry by AA MILNE.
@Tinbeni and @Two Ponies - Dead pet movies are the worst. I still haven't been able to bring myself to watch "Marley and Me."

Campbell's Cream of Musroom Soup casseroles are so mid century.

shrub5 2:32 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle except for OTT, OBI and ODE. I'm tired of those three. RAZORS next to PIT reminded me of Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum." Saved by the rats!

Do women compete in IRONMAN Triathalons? Ironwoman, Ironlady, Irongal, Ironmaiden?

I remember my first (and last) sip of OUZO. Whew! Thought I was a GONER.

chefwen 2:41 PM  

Never been to a Denny's and after reading today's comments, I think I'll keep it that way.

Learned something about gondolas, and really hate OUZO, that stuff is nasty.

Cute, fun, Monday puzzle! Only write over was SUP over eat.

Two Ponies 3:07 PM  

@ Greene, Look what you started!
I agree that Peck is great in his role. Did not know that about the soundtrack for the pony movie.
@ CCLady, I read the Marley book so I know I will skip the movie.
If anyone would like a more uplifting pet tale try "The Art of Racing in the Rain."

Speaking of pets and how we all "love" those crazy apostrophe errors I saw a sign this weekend
"Dog's must be kept on a leash".

Ulrich 3:29 PM  

I can understand how people come to think that a gondola is propelled by a pole--since there is only one oar and it is handled by a gondoliere standing up, it looks in many photos like a pole. Incidentally, if I recall correctly, years ago we had a similar discussion when a clue erroneously implied that gondolas were propelled by poles.

Wacky theme--quite endearing I thought.

Clark 3:35 PM  

All this talk of hot dishes and mushroom soup is reminding me of a couple casseroles (one involving tuna and cashews, another, pork chops and green beans) I used to make long ago -- 5 minutes to prepare, into the oven, yum! It's the ultimate comfort food. What's wrong with you people?

I did this puzzle between breaths, so to speak.
Semi-puzzle parter: C'mon we've gotta go.
Me: Just a sec.
It was fast and easy, but I don't remember a thing.

[After many tries I finally got this comment to post.]

CaseAceFos 6:11 PM  

Testing, testing, fourth attempt to submit a comment this day on Rex's blog

Sfingi 6:24 PM  

Before I noticed a theme, I had COOlING TIME and POwORGAME.

NEMO swam into both puzzles today.

@Clark - tuna and cashews, mmm. Never tried it.

In the prison, some genius had the sign PRINTED - "Inmate's must turn at this corner."

@Chefwen - I take it OUZO doesn't resemble Sambuca? Usually love anything anise/licorice - finocchio - but not Dutch salty licorice.
To SUP and to dine are not actually the same, any more than supper and dinner are.

Edifying discussion of gondolas.

Tinbeni 6:52 PM  

re: OARS
I think you are correct.
The real discussion should have been in the area of why plural. That guy only has an (as in ONE) oar.

Here is parts of the South, SUP and dine are the same tang.
Yawl is not a small two masted boat but an expression in Tarpon Springs "Yawl want some'ore OUZO?"

mac 7:00 PM  

Nice, elegant and thorough Monday puzzle. Give me a little extra bite any time. Don't take that literally.

@dk: if you are talking about the Greens cookbook I have, try the lentil salad. The only problem is that you will have to locate a bottle of champagne vinegar. It's worth it, though.

@foodie: I was fascinated with pastis in france, mainly because it turned milky when water was added. Brought a bottle home to England, where we were living at the time, and never realy wanted to drink it. I don't even like sangria outside of Spain.

I was given "The Yearling" in a Dutch translation when I was nine years old, and I loved the book! To me, living in coastal Holland, those gun-toting people living in the woods were like aliens!

a guy 9:52 PM  

OARS is plural because gondolas is plural. I don't understand why this is confusing.

sanfranman59 11:46 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 7:08, 6:55, 1.03, 69%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:49, 3:41, 1.03, 69%, Medium-Challenging

foodie 12:41 AM  

@Andrea, it's wonderful to hear how much you loved this puzzle theme. And I had not thought about your point that OK WITH ME is much more literally accurate than OK BY ME! Of course! This is why people value (or dread) the opinions of the true professionals. You and Rex pick up on key features that I don't notice until you shine the light on them. I figure I'll never be a wiz at puzzle solving but I'm really enjoying acquiring this deeper level of appreciation.

@mac, I understand your point about pastis and sangrias. They are part of a whole atmosphere, and seem a bit off in the wrong setting. Prosecco, on the other hand, works everywhere : )

Stan 1:14 AM  

Coming in very late with nothing to add, but:

Puzzle succeeds in both conception and execution. Theme is (on one hand) no big deal but (on the other) really something new (as explained by @Rex and @Andrea).

Fill/clues are solid and at times really funny (e.g., clue for PROMISE).

My wife said "Hey, this is a good one" -- I agree.

fikink 3:26 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
I Before E 12:49 PM  

Although I'm in syndication land and few will see this, I can't resist telling my favorite OUZO story. My wife to be and I were in a fancy restaurant sharing a table with a couple we had just met. I was clear the guy was a fussy, overbearing sort. He and his date ordered OUZO neat. It was delivered on the rocks and of course milky white. He demanded a replacement and the waitress took the offending drinks away and returned with two glasses without ice--but still milky white! A second tantrum produced the desired result.

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