Singer Flack or Peters / MON 6-21-10 / Kind of sleeve named after British baron / Whacked plant / Ad-libbing vocal style

Monday, June 21, 2010

Constructor: Fred Piscop

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: ["It ain't hard"] — the erectile dysfunction puzzle (same clue for all theme answers)

Word of the Day: RAGLAN (22A: Kind of sleeve named after a British baron) —

Baron Raglan, of Raglan in the County of Monmouth, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1852 for the military commander Lord FitzRoy Somerset, chiefly remembered as commander of the British troops during the Crimean War. Somerset was the youngest son of Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort (see Duke of Beaufort for earlier history of the family). His second but eldest surviving son, the second Baron, served as a Lord-in-Waiting (government whip in the House of Lords) from 1866 to 1868 in the Conservative administrations of the Earl of Derby and Benjamin Disraeli. He was succeeded by his son, the third Baron. He held office as Under-Secretary of State for War between 1900 and 1902 in the Conservative government of Lord Salisbury. His eldest son, the fourth Baron, was a soldier and also served as Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire. The fifth Baron was active in the House of Lords but lost his seat in the upper chamber of parliament after the passing of the House of Lords Act 1999. As of 2010 the title is held by the fourth Baron's third but second surviving son, the sixth Baron, who succeeded in 2010. As a descendant of the fifth Duke of Beaufort Lord Raglan is also in remainder to this peerage and its subsidiary titles.
• • •

Under 3 = Easy. Surprised I wasn't faster than I was, actually, as my fingers never stopped typing. I think I lost time when I balked at a few answers, most notably POLLUTE (5D: Foul the water, e.g.), which prevented me from shooting out of the NW, and DUCK / SOUP, which had the kind of cross-referenced cluing I *never* look at (if I can help it) on early-week puzzles (slows me down more to check the clue than it does to just blow by it and get answer from crosses ... usually). Other small hesitations that likely cost me seconds: EASY AS PIE instead of ABC; SCOTSMEN instead of SCOTTISH; REBEL for R.E. LEE; and, because of a misreading on my part, ESCAPES instead of ESCAPED. Also balked briefly at 51D: Whacked plant (WEED), when I had just -E--. Otherwise, NO PROBLEMO. Finished RAPIDLY.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: "It ain't hard!" (SIMPLE AS ABC)
  • 11D: "It ain't hard!" (CHILD'S PLAY)
  • 28D: "It ain't hard!" (NO PROBLEMO)
  • 53A: "It ain't hard!" (PIECE OF CAKE)
  • 24A: With 46-Across, "It ain't hard!" (DUCK / SOUP)
It's a clean puzzle, nicely filled. Theme is a bit straightforward and dullish. Not much else to say.

  • 44A: Singer Flack or Peters (ROBERTA) — Don't know the latter, but the former has (or had, at least) an exquisite voice. Loved her solo stuff, as well as duets with the late, great Donny Hathaway.

  • 44D: Uses a Kindle, e.g. (READS) — aaargh. So simple. I hesitated here too. Figured there would be E-prefixing afoot.
  • 48D: Ad-libbing vocal style (SCAT) — would've gone with "singing" style over "vocal" style; not that it made much difference.
See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


foodie 12:36 AM  

OMG, Rex, I almost fell off the chair laughing at your theme summary! And this was layered on top of the Word of the Day with that stiff sounding Lord in Waiting!

The puzzle: EASY AS pie.

Steve J 1:23 AM  

Best theme description ever.

Wish I would have thought of it while doing the puzzle. Unremarkable Monday. Didn't find anything particularly good or bad with this one. Was a bit surprised to see RAGLAN on a Monday, but otherwise it was pretty standard fare.

Not familiar with DUCK SOUP as a synonym for "easy"; I only know it as a Marx Brothers film (which I don't think I ever actually saw).

andrea apropos michaels 1:39 AM  

It was very straightforward, but sort of poppy! 10 Ps!
(Well, 11 if you count EASYASpie which I, like @Rex, started with)

Plus there are a couple of Xs and a Z and it is super super clean fill...
and there are FIVE theme answers! I'm always shocked how lucky it is that they had the same number of letters!!!
(even the split DUCK/SOUP)
so I think this bumps up the puzzle a notch or two!

Yet I get what is felt as an old-fashionedness with DUCKSOUP and CHILDSPLAY and having a FLAP on the back of your pajamas...

but NOPROBLEMO perked me up...and I love the word APROPOS, even tho I never remember if it's one word or two.

(even tho the Kindle clue seemed wedged in there to make it appear more modern.)

No mention of 25D REXES?!

PurpleGuy 1:39 AM  

Way to go Rex. Your theme description is spot on.
One of the best ever !!

Very easy, even for a Monday.
Nothing stuck out, or made me take notice.

@Steve J- you really should see "Duck Soup." It was recently on TMC(TurnerMovieClassics). One of the great early Marx Brothers films. It even has the rarely seen Zeppo Marx.

Thank you Rex for the Roberta Flack clip. Classy lady with a nice voice. Saw her in concert here in Phoenix.

Thanks also to Fred Piscop for a good puzzle and a nice start to the week.

chefwen 2:27 AM  

Happy Monday all! Man it's good to be home! Wish I could say that the trip back to the Midwest to check on the elderly parental units was a PIECE OF CAKE, but it was not. I won't bore you with details, but it's good to be able to check in with the Rexites on a normal basis again.

Puzzle was fun, fast, and a welcomed upbeat outing, which I sorely needed.

Thank you Mr. Piscop and to Rex for yet another great write up.

Falconer 6:35 AM  

The song stylings of Donny Hathaway! A great way to start the morning. That guy was very underrated. Gotta love that chapeau - an oversized orange beret just says, "I'm Donny Hathaway, damn it!"

One day someone must work in the name of his eldest daughter into a puzzle: Eulaulah, or Lalah for short. His other daughter, Kenya, was a backing vocalist on American Idol this season.

Life was not a piece of cake or duck soup for Donny, as he was plagued with depression and thought people had connected wires to his brain to steal his songs. He ultimately jumped to his death from the 15th floor of the Essex House hotel in NYC.

VaBeach puzzler 7:05 AM  

Right after reading all the commentary here on Donny Hathaway, I heard more about this wonderful singer -- a report called "Neglected Heart of Soul" -- on NPR's Morning Edition. Part of its 50 Great Voices feature. Here's the link:

Greene 7:36 AM  

Sweet, easy puzzle with a fun theme and good clean fill. I zipped through without problems and found it SIMPLE AS ABC. Speaking of CHILD's PLAY, I saw Toy Story 3 last evening. Highly entertaining and with one of those squishy endings that has the entire audience blubbering. I had a wonderful time and shed a tear or two at the end as well.

At the other end of the entertainment spectrum is ALBEE's Zoo Story, a highly distubing one act play about a chance meeting between two men in Central Park in which one goads the other into serving as the foil for a suicide. It was written more than 50 years ago and launched ALBEE's erratic career. The play is no longer available as a stand alone one act for professional presentation. ALBEE wrote a one act prequel low these 50 years later and the two must now be presented together under the title Edward Albee's At Home At The Zoo. Saw it off-Broadway at Second Stage with Bill Pullman several seasons back. Meh. Why tamper with a good thing?

joho 7:41 AM  

I made the same mistakes as @Rex but they were quickly fixed.

I liked the theme's density, very high for a Monday as @Andrea mentioned.

Good, solid start to the week. Thank you, Fred Piscop!

Anonymous 8:09 AM  

Hilarious title, Rex. Great start for the week. Keep it up.

Hail Freedonia!

nanpilla 8:23 AM  

Such a nice simple puzzle, with such dark undertones...

and the poor weed that gets WHACKED

Also loved APROPOS.

fikink 8:31 AM  

I'm with @Falconer - Donny Hathaway was my Wheaties this morning. I'm Gumby dammit!

A RAGLAN sleeve was the first type of sleeve we learned to sew in Home Ec, because it does not have to be set in.

Thought the puzzle was dense for a Monday. Nice.

chefbea 8:44 AM  

Good easy as pie puzzle and great name for it!!! Never heard of Duck soup meaning easy either.

Punch 8:51 AM  

Just a question about 59A -- Can anyone claim to have actually laid eyes on an "SRO" sign at a Broadway theatre?

redhed 9:18 AM  

Loved the flow of the puzzle after the weekend. Rex's observation re the theme made me LOL, so I shared with Mr redhed to my right. Great start to the morning and the week. BTW, Roberta Peters is with the Met Opera and I am as familiar with her as the other very-talented Roberta.

mac 9:18 AM  

Nice start to the week puzzle and write-up wise!

@Punch: I wonder around that area almost every week and I've never seen it.

How many states in this country have panhandles?

mac 9:19 AM  

....and I wander.

Cathyat40 9:21 AM  

Loved this easy puzzle. Agree with Andrea, except I was thinking "snappy" instead of "poppy." I've been addicted to another blog for awhile (on a completely different subject) and have missed reading your posts. Glad to be back today.

dk 9:26 AM  

Hey, @Punch, yes I have. It was some years back and the show was Smokey Joes. Tattered SRO sign in the ticket window. I went SOLO and got a ticket from an individual who wound up ALONE with an extra ticket. I satin the fourth ROW.

I remember RAGLAN as it was the family name on some (really bad) made for TV drama about the Garment business.

Best thing about the puzzle and writeup is I will never shirk at an inner 14 year-old joke again. Erectile dysfunction is the ZENITH.

** (2 Stars) Fun one.

Slugs are on the rampage here in the tropics of Southern Minnesota. They have raised my IRE and I am sorely VEXED -- trying a mixture of rare earth and coffee grounds. Open to other organic and nontoxic to step pets solutions.

Van55 9:34 AM  

Solid Monday fare. Not entirely CHILDSPLAY but NO PROBLEMO.

Mike Lewis 9:37 AM  

I also had EASY AS PIE, and since I already had DUCK SOUP and PIECE OF CAKE, I assumed that the theme was food-related phrases that mean "It ain't hard." I was pretty disappointed when I found out I was wrong - that would have been an impressive theme.

chefbea 9:54 AM  

@Mac I think Fla and OK are the only 2 states with pan handles

Cathyat40 9:57 AM  

@chefbea & @mac

Texas also has a panhandle.

Jeff Chen 10:03 AM  

I enjoyed it more than Rex - eye-popping Monday themes are hard to come by, so I appreciate it when there's a solid Monday offering, consistent theme entries, minimal crap fill. Excellent work!

The one thing I would have loved to see is DUCK / SOUP at 1-across and the last entry. Xref'd clues at least are easier to pick out that way.


Two Ponies 10:27 AM  

As soon as I read the first theme answer my mind was already making jokes. Luckily Rex beat me to it.
This was a fun puzzle for me as all of the theme answers are upbeat.
Weed and whacked plant were my favorite pairing. Ex-FIL used to call pot whacky tobaccky.
I'm just back from the Midwest too @chefwen. Mine was a pure pleasure trip to the lake country of northern Indiana.

mac 10:36 AM  

@cathyat40 and @chefbea: how about Idaho?

DBGeezer 10:36 AM  

I entered NOTHING TO IT in 17A, and then when crosses proved it wrong, I thought it would certainly fit into 53A. Nope! Too bad there wasn't another 11 spot available to put in another "it ain't hard".

Yes, according to the capcha, something was mizin

mac 10:42 AM  

Looked it up, it's Alaska, Idaho, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Florida.

chefbea 10:45 AM

dr. deb 10:46 AM  

I agree with the assessment from Rex and others, but was also irritated by one mistake, in 32A. Maybe I'm too much of a purist, but PEAS are not vegetables, they are legumes. If anything, they are closer to fruits than veggies. OK, 'nuf said.

Tinbeni 10:47 AM  

@Mac, Nebraska? Where?
I guess if you only use two fingers.

Hope a lot of new solvers pick today as the day to start doing the NYT xword.

5D POLLUTE should just be clued BP?

VEXED REXES crossing, Hmmmm.

Zeke 10:55 AM  

What, so now ED is fair game for jokes? What next, a puzzle about things that are broken and we make cripple jokes? Unless you know the anguish of ED, the inability to fulfill yourself as a man, to give your spouse deserved love and pleasure, suffer the humiliation of your "friends", you've no idea of the pain ED can cause a man.
Oops, this wasn't about me, really. It's about my, what, my brother. Yeah, my brother. Poor bastard. That's my story.

retired_chemist 11:21 AM  

@ panhandlers everywhere - apropos discussion, since West Virginia has one and yesterday was West Virginia day. Admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863.

@ Zeke - your brother is ED, I presume....

DUCK SOUP etc. I was sure I was going to beat 5 minutes on it. Not..... Had RILED for 31A and didn't see the error until I checked the downs. Had SIMPLE AS PIE to fix - almost had SAMPLE AS PIE since I had 2D as CLEO. Actually I would much prefer to see CLEO as the ad award, instead of the presumably eponymous Muse of History. Ads rewrite history if the sponsors don't like it, much as the Texas State Board of Education has done with history in textbooks.

One of the posters on Orange's blog commented that the correct Spanish term would be ningún problema - can't argue, but NO PROBLEMO is common parlance even if incorrect. ¿Quién sabe? Díganos, por fsvor.

A nice start to the week, but not an especially memorable one.

lit.doc 11:28 AM  

“…and welcome to the ED Show!”

Yeah, fun and easy, good theme answers and plenty of them. Fastest Monday ever.

Entered 12D AURIC just long enough to hit Enter before the “that’s gold, dummy” synapse fired. At 49A “Follow the coxswain’s calls” (shoulda read “Follow the call of the cox”, given the puzzle’s theme), hesitated over ROW/OAR, guessed right. Also had a hesitation at 57A over who was whom, then remembered the note signed “F.U.” (another nod-to-theme answer).

Passed on RAGLAN the first time through, and never saw it again.

As to panhandles, IMHO were Texas to donate its panhandle to Oklahoma, it would be a win-win outcome.

@Zeke, funny as hell!

clegra: generic OTC ED med.

Sparky 11:29 AM  

Nice easy Monday. Finished before I left to do the laundry. I am surprised everybody accepted the Dis and Dat from yesterday which I thought was completely out of line. Many years ago, when it first was performed, The Zoo Story was presened in a double bill with Krapp's Last Tape. Truly a fun evening. I'm back. Was disheartened last week by my slowness in solving and getting to the blog. Also a lot of appointments. Looking forward to a good week and wish you all well.

Stan 11:33 AM  

An alligator walks into a doctor's office. The doctor hands him a bottle of Viagra.

The alligator says, "But wait, I haven't told you my problem yet."

The doctor says "Obviously you have a reptile dysfunction."

Tinbeni 11:50 AM  

The ED SHOW ...

Well Zeke there is the stack

Zeke 11:57 AM  

@Tinbeni - On the other hand, here's also the STAYED/SOUP stack.

retired_chemist 12:09 PM  

And then there was the boastful Texan who got his Viagra from his podiatrist, claiming it was about a foot....

Clark 12:11 PM  

@chefbea, @mac, et al: Panhandle Epidemic.

retired_chemist 12:19 PM  

@ Clark - LOL! MS and AL are obviously trying to change some offshore drilling in the Gulf into on-shore so they can collect severance tax and royalties.

Greene 12:25 PM  

@Punch: Broadway SRO signs are still used, but I don't see them placed very prominently any longer. As late as the 1960s Broadway was still a cash business (before credit card sales) and walk-up business was common and frequently brisk. A box office for a sell-out show could be literally besieged by an army of walk-up traffic on any given night. Now most Broadway theatres have small, cramped lobbies with maybe one or two box office windows available for use. So in that era, SRO signs would be very prominently placed, usually on a large placard outside the theatre of a sold-out show to discourage walk-up traffic to what was already a very busy box office.

Nowadays with the majority of ticket sales occuring by phone, internet, and TKTS (not to mention exhorbitant ticket costs) walk-up business is minimal and the prominent signs are no longer necessary. I still ocasionally see the discrete SRO sign usually hung on the wall right next to the box-office in the lobby. You'd really have to look carefully to see one these days.

DataGeek 12:27 PM  

I've been meaning to pick this nit for a while now. I figure if we can discuss umlauts and tildes, this might be fair game. I hear in my daily life, and see in the puzzles, the phrase "No Problemo." In fact, the noun for problem in Spanish is feminine, "problema." A commonly used phrase is "No hay problema," meaning, literally, there is no problem. Nobody in Mexico or thereabouts says No ProblemO. I guess if we want to accept the Americanized version, let's indicate as such in the clue. That is all.

Fun puzzle regardless. Nothing that made me laugh out loud. And the right easy level for a Monday - finished in just over 4 minutes typing with one hand and eating lunch with another. Happy Summer, all!

CaseAceFos 12:31 PM  

Happy to see that 6A still walks amongst us, as his friends and love ones marvel at his interminable sunny disposition, as he traverses the landscape whistling "ALBEE AROUND!"

Tinbeni 12:36 PM  

LOL, Thanks!
Damn, next thing I'm gonna learn that Colorado and Wyoming don't have panhandles.

How do those folks cook their eggs and pancakes?

Sfingi 12:37 PM  

@Rex- outstanding write-up.

@Andrea - If APROPOS an AP for PROPOSing?

CW was "easy AS pie."

FL also has the panhandle. Panhandle used to mean beg. Hmm, Future theme arising.

Mini-theme - Without an escort ALONE, SOLO.

If you have an erection lasting more than 4 hours, call your...neighbors!

I'm in favor of PROBLEM being masculine. Just sayin.'

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

WEED it and weep, to all the Stoners out there, who are all too familiar with "Wacky Tobacky!"

CaseAceFos 12:49 PM  

To all of you Viagra users who have been disappointed with this much bally-hooed product, to you I say, just pick-up the slack and don't be too hard-on yourself!

The Big E 1:22 PM  

@Stan - LOL Love it!

My fiancee thought that this puzzle was specifically placed on a monday because other people (like her) "MUST" have been getting upset with how much harder Monday puzzles have been! (I think to an extent she felt vindicated with this puzzle!)
She's generally a Mon/Tue (and occassionally Wed) only puzzler, so this was a lot of fun for her!

On a side note, can someone tell me how to easily tab between clues/rows on the NY Times online crossword software? I can use the arrows to get to the next across (or down) word, but I don't see (or know) a way to (i.e.) click tab and have it cycle me through all the across clues without going back to my mouse to click on a new square every few seconds. Am I making sense?


The Big E 1:23 PM  

per before, any keyboard shortcut to swap between across and down?

Moonchild 1:41 PM  

I was hoping someone would riff on this theme and I was not disappointed. What a bunch of clowns you are.

When I here "no problemo" I just think of it being slang not someone trying to speak Spanish. Maybe out of the mouth of The Fonz or Baretta. Kind of like "no way Jose."

The puzzle was easy but amusing.
Lots of theme answers for a Monday.

Moonchild 2:09 PM  

hear not here, jeez.

The Big E 2:11 PM  

@Moonchild - it's ok. No one hear will pass judgement, ya here me? :-)

Doris 2:41 PM  

Roberta Peters, a popular coloratura soprano of the 1950s and 60s, was one of the youngest singers ever to perform in a leading role at the Metropolitan Opera. She made front-page news in 1950, when she substituted as Zerlina in Don Giovanni at age 19, never having performed the role onstage before. She had a long and successful career at the Met and elsewhere.

Sfingi 3:40 PM  

@Doris - Now that's funny. I had the picture in my mind of Bernadette Peters, but penned in ROBERTA. My "infallible subconscious" (quote from Major Hoople, Our Boarding House).

From the "other" forum: Y'all just gotta look at YouTube - Italian Soccer Practice.

Steve J 4:11 PM  

I'm wondering how so many people got EASYASPIE instead of SIMPLEASABC. It's two letters short. Or do people simply mean that's the first thing they thought of?

There's a joke just waiting to be made about the multiple "without an escort" clues in light of the Viagra/"It ain't hard" theme.

@Sfingi. *Love* the Italian soccer practice clip. Spot on.

The Big E 4:13 PM  

I think the guy coaching the Italians was the player who dove against Kaka in the Cote d'Ivoire vs. Brazil game this weekend.
Go to youtube and search "Kaka Red Card"

sanfranman59 4:15 PM  

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 6:36, 6:55, 0.95, 28%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:45, 3:41, 1.02, 60%, Medium-Challenging

Problema 4:34 PM  

@DataGeek wrote:

... No ProblemO. I guess if we want to accept the Americanized version, let's indicate as such in the clue. That is all..

I think you have it backwords. The NYT *is* an American puzzle. Unless otherwise indicated in the clue, assume American English answer.


Citizen Dain 6:25 PM  

This was great. Finished the whole puzzle with no problem in exactly 7 minutes, which is great for me. Good to finish a quick one fairly easily to get my confidence back after last week's disheartening miss-by-ones.

Paused briefly at SELES and had to rack my memory. I LOVE the name ZANE Grey, even though I have never read any of his books. Also, impressed that there was either very little or NO Crosswordese today!

foodie 6:48 PM  

How did you all forget TEENY, all by himself over there in the corner?

@The Big E, on a Mac, you highlight the square and push Control/Option and that flips you between across and down.

michael 8:36 PM  

@DataGeek Actually, el problema is masculine. This is an exception to the usual rule that Spanish words ending in a are feminine.

The Big E 8:41 PM  

@michael and datageek - very true! My former Spanish teach explained this by saying that ultimately, all problems are caused by men (not sure if I believe that, but...)!

lit.doc 10:23 PM  

@The Big E, my Spanish teacher said that the masculine "a" endings, like mapa and regla, were due to the words having Greek rather than Latin roots. FWIW.

michael 11:23 PM  

@ lit.doc

la regla -- feminine

Sfingi 11:38 PM  

@BigE - My point, exactly.

@LitDoc - Sounds good. That's how they explain anything K in Italian.

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