Yiddish writer Sholem / MON 12-6-10 / Funnywoman Boosler / Zoot-suiter's Got it / Rorem who composed opera Our Town / WW II correspondent Pyle

Monday, December 6, 2010

Constructor: Richard Chisholm

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: SHH (51D: Library admonition) (x2) — 6 theme answers are two-word phrases where both words start with "SH-"

Word of the Day: NED Rorem (5D: Rorem who composed the opera "Our Town") —

Ned Rorem (born October 23, 1923) is a Pulitzer prize-winning American composer and diarist. He is best known and most praised for his song settings. (wikipedia)
• • •

Pretty thin. Theme density is great, but when the theme's not that interesting, then you've just got dense uninterestingness. I tore through this like it wasn't there, which it almost isn't The theme is bland and the short fill is pretty weak (ESE, SSE, EWES, REA, ANERA, AMA, OTO, etc.). The bright spots are the long Downs (SMART MONEY, "TELL ME MORE...") — wonderful, vivid colloquialisms (11D: Wagers from those in the know + 28D: "Go on ...") — and the weird central Across (PART III), which I should hate but don't (39A: Last installment of "The Godfather"). Simplicity and triteness of the short stuff made this puzzle very easy to tear through — get an Across at the top of a section and just drop the Downs into place, bam bam bam. That's how I started — CAJUN (1A: Native Louisianan) + every one of its Down crosses in rapid succession — and some version of that method worked several other times throughout the grid. Feels like a grid that was made without the aid of software — fill is old-feeling, and there's an over-reliance on Es and Rs and Ss and other common letters. That lone "Z" really stands out against the sea of 1-pt Scrabble tiles. I made my first puzzles without the aid of software, and it was tough, and the fill just wasn't as interesting as it might have been if a computer had helped me see other possibilities. Most constructors now use some version of Crossword Compiler (or, for Macs, Crossfire); software can't give you good ideas, but it can help you make your good ideas into really good puzzles.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: In good order (SHIP SHAPE)
  • 23A: Annie Oakley, for one (SHARP SHOOTER)
  • 30A: Combat stress (SHELL SHOCK)
  • 44A: Pull a bed prank (SHORT SHEET)
  • 49A: Wool gatherer (SHEEP SHEARER) — really wish this answer had been HARRY SHEARER [Voice of Mr. Burns, and many other characters, on "The Simpsons"], but obviously that would have been a theme-breaker.

  • 61A: Bootblack's service (SHOE SHINE)
  • 48A: Funnywoman Boosler (ELAYNE) — an oddly common six-letter answer. That weird "Y" placement gets her a lot of action.
  • 7D: Zoot-suiter's "Got it!" ("I'M HEP") — this raises the question: what's the difference between zoot-suiter slang and beatnik slang?

[*People* magazine!? Version I know has *Playboy* — funnier]
  • 43D: One on the Statue o Liberty is almost three feet long (TOE) — man, that is one big TOE.
  • 53D: W.W. II correspondent Pyle (ERNIE) — really famous war correspondent who died in combat in 1945. His writings appeared in hundreds of newspapers nationwide.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 12:06 AM  

Two thoughts (For the one who wondered if people read Rex before posting, I did not read Rex’s comment before posting this):

1. This puzzle was all about Rex, who yesterday said the letter “O” was not a circle (I confess I agreed with him then and I still agree with him, unless he weasels out today). Well, just to drive home the point Will said the letter “O” is a ZERO (59D) and a round fig. (as in the letter “O”) is a CIR (33D). So, there, Rex, take that! (I, of course, as anonymous, am the real weasel).

2, ERNIE Pyle, a war correspondent supreme, is one of my favorite stories. There was that 1945 movie (The Story of G.I. Joe) about ERNIE, when he died in WWII, and it was Burgess Meredith who played him. Meredith had many roles thereafter, but my favorites were as Commander Egan Powell in In Harm’s Way (1965), the Penguin in Batman on TV and Grandpa Gustafson (father of John Gustafson played by Jack Lemon) in the Grumpy Old Men movies (Burgess last movie in 1995 in Grumpier Old Men). 50 years I followed Meredith’s acting career and he was unfailingly great in his performances.

From Grumpy Old Men (1993)
John Gustafson (Jack Lemon): You're supposed to be smoking filter cigarettes.
Grandpa Gustafson (Burgess Meredith): I'm 94 years old. What the hell do I care?

John the Banished

foodie 12:12 AM  

Rex, this one left me rather blank, and made me wonder what you might say. It then made me think about the combination of creativity and discipline it takes for you to find something interesting to say daily.

This puzzle was like a very nice dish with not enough salt-- If you strain, you can imagine that it would have been so much tastier with just one more flick of the wrist.

D_Blackwell 12:26 AM  

Woo hoo! A record Monday for me. Heretofore, a sub five minute time was only a theoretical possibility, but I squeaked one under. There's a first and last time for everything.

Catching the theme did let me throw down a few letters without looking. I wouldn't have made it otherwise. I like the single syllable theme entries best and think this would have been just fine without SHARP SHOOTER and SHEEP SHEARER. The latter doesn't seem quite a perfect fit, because I don't think it a common phrase like the others. They're fine; I'm not complaining; It's okay like it is. I just don't think that they are needed.

At Wordplay, Jim Horne noted that this one ties the record at 16 Hs. It would have been so easy to drop an H in at 35, not hurting the crossword one bitty bit.

ROM / OOH give numerous options at 35A with minor editing to 36D and 37D. Though it isn't needed, SEEN could be edited easily at 67A and moved to 36D.

(Cluing ROM to Star Trek just once wouldn't kill anybody. The crosses would all be easy.)

". . .Simplicity and triteness of the short stuff made this puzzle very easy to tear through. . ."

But, you know, it's like Monday dude.

I often think that Monday - Wednesday commentary on the NYT crossword blogs would more interesting to everyone if provided by Monday - Wednesday level solvers. When the most interesting thing about a crossword is how quickly I blow through it - there ain't much meat on the bone. I'm just sayin'.

retired_chemist 12:29 AM  

What Rex said. Easy, but not very interesting. 39A PART III - just lame IMO. Hoping for interesting dialogue here tomorrow.

captcha supper - isn't a common word verboten?

chefwen 1:39 AM  

Super easy Monday, wish I would have timed myself, it might have been a "personal best". The only slip up that I had was the spelling of ELAYNE at 48A, but MONEI made no sense at all, so I was saved.

Robin 1:58 AM  

@chefwen - same little slip-up, but not a biggy. I solve on paper, so you can easily turn that I into a Y. Ya just squitch it around a little bit.

@ret_chem - what's wrong with supper? Reminds me of Snoopy's "Super Super Supper Time," from "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown."

Also, if you had watched all 3 parts of The Godfather on Direct TV yesterday as I did, you would not be so negative about that clue/answer. I think Part II is my fave, tho.

I thought this puzzle was delightful, and can't wait to see what Ms. 15A has to say.

Anoa Bob 2:19 AM  

Thanks for the link to the Harry SHEARER interview. It was a real treat. I agree with his assessment of the Simpson episode where Homer has a mystical encounter with a coyote, voiced by Johnny Cash, on top of a Mesoamerican pyramid in a psychedelic desert as "the most beautiful half hour of animation ever on American television".

chefwen 3:34 AM  

@Robin - Squitch, my new favorite word. Thanks!

joho 7:36 AM  

I made short shrift of this puzzle. But that's what we're supposed to do on a Monday!

It's incrediby difficult to make a puzzle "Monday easy" as I'm learning with ACME'S mentoring. I haven't been using sofware so I'm also finding that the possibilities are seemingly endless for what goes into each square. For this reason I'm probably more appreciative of these easy puzzles than others who are looking for more of a challenge. Believe me, the creation of an easy puzzle is a challenge in itself!

I saw the theme as phrases with two words starting with SH. Did you come up the the library theme, Rex, or are you privy to what the constructor has named the theme himself?

dk 8:06 AM  

@anon/John: As a member of the weasel family I object -- you are not now or ever have been a weasel :):) (a funny line stolen from somewhere).

As a crossfire user I often find I use the "other possibilities" feature as a crutch. And, I can sorta tell when constructors use it as there is commonality in clueing -- just an observation.

Liked this puzzle. The obvious reason is 15A and I have been trying to find a watch FOB for outdoor use... no luck. Thus, some connection.

** (2 Stars)

Our bed prank was to put my sisters hand in a bowl of warm water to try to get her to wet the bed. I do not remember if it worked I will ask her at X-mas

mmorgan 8:11 AM  

I found this to be a nice crisp and lively Monday, and even though I zipped through it, there was just enough to make me think here and there -- cool stuff like SMARTMONEY and FOBS and KITERS. I thought all SH/SH stuff (with a SHH to boot!) was kinda nifty. Liked CIR for 33D (Round fig.) and the ACH-ASCH-ARCH triad -- not to mention the shout out to all the ACMES out there!

And the rhymes of SHREW and SHOE, and ARTIES and PARTIII -- never mind TARSI (well, okay, I guess not).

Very weird: I went to bed last night with Dave Frishberg's version of "I'm Hip" in my head!

You Know You're In Trouble When: you keep stopping during the solve to write down notes for messages you're going to send to this blog.

mmorgan 8:30 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
mac 8:31 AM  

What @Foodie said, beautifully!

efrex 8:34 AM  

Not easy to make a good Monday-level puzzle, and this one qualifies as such, IMHO. Not particularly thrilled with HRH/OTO/CIR crossing PARTIII, but that's like complaining about the tea being cold after getting a good meal at your local diner.

chefbea 8:48 AM  

easy. and @JOHO - i too thought it was just two word answers beginning with sh.

Good old Gateway !!!...and more utensils!!!!

quilter1 8:55 AM  

I'm glad this was quick and easy because I have to drive to Iowa City this morning and have no time to waste. My brothers and I were not allowed to fight so we played pranks, usually involving bed somehow--grabbing an ankle from under the bed, chilling lead soldiers and planting them in the bed. Ahhh the good old days.

ArtLvr 9:09 AM  

Like @joho, I'd give it Short Shrift. At least this Monday took me the shortest time ever!

As for SHORT SHEETing, I was the one who was carefully NOT chosen to be the butt of the joke. As the mother of the girl hosting my first slumber party smilingly explained the next day, I was considered the one most likely to persist in shoving until my foot tore a hole in the sheet. Wow, I was pegged for persistence at a very young age... I didn't mind, as she was the only mom I knew who had a such a gigantic unabridged dictionary that it needed a stand of its own!


jesser 9:11 AM  

Easy and light. Perfect Monday fare. I want some CAJUN food!

There was a cartoon character who used to say "SACRE bleu," but I can't remember which one. Still, that one made me grin.

ERNIE Pyle was a native New Mexican who lived in Albuquerque. We're proud of that. (As an aside, I was delighted Saturday to see the clue "New Mexican," even if the answer turned out to be a Hawaiian goose. Just kidding!)

The SMART MONEY says ACME is gonna like this one!

Beromat! (the laudromat with two kinds of suds) -- jesser

joho 9:19 AM  

@jesser ... Pepe Le Pew?

PuzzleNut 9:49 AM  

@jesser - we have a ranch in Northern NM and I am delighted by how many NM references there are in the puzzles (and bloggers). Perhaps it is only my perception of the disproportionate amount of air time that NM gets, or maybe the uniqueness of the state comes shining through in crossword puzzles.
(Love the NENE comment!!)

Cajun Joe 10:10 AM  

The CAJUNS migrated to what was to become Lousianna in the 1760s from the north east United States. They got to the north east United states by migrating there from France in the 17th and early 18th centuries. How does any of this make them native Louisannians?

xyz 10:13 AM  

Croswordese just doesn't care.

TARSII or TARSAL/TARSALS are FOOT bones NOT ankle bones. That the clue/answer pair is anatomically incorrect is irrelevant whilst the other nitpicking goes on and on and on ...

with love from 33 years of Orthopaedics

Bob Kerfuffle 10:23 AM  


I started this puzzle playing the Downs Only game, and wound up with one write-over, which I only noticed when I looked at the acrosses: For 2 D, Saharan, I had thrown in ARAB rather than ARID; that gave me LAKED for 17 A. Having spent 32 years in the printing ink field, I found that reasonable (but I will not attempt to explain it) if odd for a Monday. At 20 A, EBEN looked like an Israeli politician, although Google suggests that EBAN would be the preferred spelling. (The system I am using now says EBAN is wrong!) Of course, one look at the across clues and I knew there was a mistake.

Arthur 10:24 AM  

@redanman You are entirely correct, as long as your ar an Orthopedist, which approximately 0.01% of the human population is. They will say that there is actually no ankle bone, that the ankle consists solely of the ligaments which connect the tibia and fibia on one end, and the TARSUS at the other.
As the remaining 99.99% of the human population, we consider the adjoining bones part of the joint.

Captcha: rednhol - Honestly and seriously, that's what it is, so make your own joke here.

Two Ponies 10:28 AM  

When I zip through a Monday like this I try to remember when I first got started on the NYT puzzles. This one might be fun and satisfying to a new solver. Thursday will get here soon enough.
@ jesser, Now I'm driving myself crazy trying to remember that cartoon character. I had the exact thought when I read the clue so it will be my task du jour. I'm thinking a French fur trapper. Dudley Do Right?
@ joho might be correct but I'm thinking of something else.

mmorgan 10:37 AM  

I think it may have been The Inspector (made by the folks who did The Pink Panther).

PlantieBea 10:41 AM  

Easy and I liked the theme. One write-over on SMART MOVES for MONEY. Off for more TEA.

Unknown 10:45 AM  

I hope this puzzle wasn't all about Rex since it contains SHARP SHOOTER.
- Aaron

Howard B 10:52 AM  

If you've got a 3-letter word that's pretty mundane (such as TOE), use an interesting, lively factoid for its clue to liven things up. Nicely done Monday puzzle and theme, I thought.

archaeoprof 11:00 AM  

@DBlackwell: the first NYT puzzle I got right was a Monday. Overjoyed, I put it on the bulletin board by my desk. A colleague walked by and sneered, "Monday? So what?"

I hadn't even realized that the puzzles got harder through the week. They were ALL hard to me!

@Robin: Part II is my favorite too.

Ulrich 11:28 AM  

@Cajun Joe: You voiced my QOD (question of the day)--we probably have to wait for Martin to explain why Cajuns are native to Louisiana and why everyone who thinks otherwise should go and stuff it....

balto 11:42 AM  

Hi all,

When Rex mentioned Crossword Butler a while back, I started using it. Today it's hanging, and when I went to Alex Boisvert's site there was a message saying CB was "on hiatus". Does anyone know if this means the service no longer works?

Thanks for any help,

balto 11:45 AM  

Hmm, Crossword Butler was hanging on NYT, so I removed it from the download list (I use the Times Reader for that one anyway) -- and re-ran -- it worked, so maybe my NYT credentials got mucked up.

So -- no worries.


Anonymous 11:53 AM  

what is capcha? kiter is new to me. i liked the theme fill. was a sun to wed kinda gal but have moved up to thurs. thanks rex for this wonderful site.

treedweller 12:01 PM  

I am a native Texan. Several generations of my family have been native Texans. But we did not descend from either the Mexicans or the . . . not to be pejorative, but how to phrase this . . . Redskins who preceded us.

No, the French Canadian people who originally came to LA were not native. Cajuns who live there now are. N'est pas?

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

@aNON 11:53 - A captcha is the word verification you type in.
Keep moving up.

treedweller 12:05 PM  

Actually, now I think of it, there is a small amount of Caddo blood in me, but that is irrelevant to the point.

Cajun Joe 12:10 PM  

@Treedweller - Yes, where you were born makes you a native Texan. It, however, doesn't make arborists native Texans, though there are arborists who are native Texans.

Dan 12:14 PM  

Re: Crossword Butler -- last week the NYT tweaked its login system, and now Butler (and smartphone apps) can't grab the crossword. Remove NYT from the download list and it'll continue to get the other crosswords (for now).

treedweller 12:24 PM  

Cajuns are routinely born in Lousiana, if I'm not mistaken. Doesn't that make them natives? I mean, there are probably still other Cajun settlements around, but isn't LA now the center (and vast majority) of the Cajun world?

Greene 12:29 PM  

I agree with @mmorgan. It was the inspector character from The Pink Panther Show who always said "sacre bleu." Do real French speakers actually use this oath or is it one of those shorthand phrases writers use to quickly add a Frenchy flavor to a character?

Doc John 1:16 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doc John 1:16 PM  

My first sub-4 puzzle. And WAY sub-4, too!
So I knew I'd come here and see it rated as easy.
Interesting to see REA and RHEA in the same puzzle and a nice shout out to Andrea (ACMES), too.
Now, on with the week at hand.

Ulrich 1:46 PM  

@treedweller: I think I didn't understand what "native" means. I thought it meant "original inhabitant", but now I understand it means "being born there". So, like the guy who learned late in life that he has been speaking prose all along, I now know I'm a native German, as opposed to a non-native German, i.e. one not born there--it makes sense, and we don't need Martin after all...thx.

Stan 1:50 PM  

My favorite was TOE. Least favorite (speaking as a librarian) was SHH. I won't belabor it...

Anonymous 1:56 PM  


I think you just underscored, if not proved, my post, part 1....

John the Banished

Anonymous 1:57 PM  


Noam D. Elkies 2:04 PM  

Easy enough for Downs-only, even with a few entries that feel outside the usual Monday fare (7D:I'M_HEP, both 21A:PEER_AT and 21D:PASS_AS, 5D:NED and 53D:ERNIE, and the clues for 43:TOE and 29A:RAM/60D:EWES). Yes, a common enough theme and a bunch of overused 3- and 4-letter entries, but with six theme entries (every other row from 3 to 13, including three xwordinfo debuts) and four Downs that each cross three theme entries. So, no complaints here.

Tastes differ, and evidently Rex had a different reaction, but I don't see a "sea of 1-pt Scrabble tiles"; there are plenty of letters with scores intermediate between 1 and the Big Five (K,JX,QZ). The 16 H's are already four points apiece, which must largely account for the fact that (according to xwordinfo) this grid has an average Scrabble score of 1.67, well over the mean of 1.56; the W and each F and Y are also four points a pop, and there a quite a few three-pointers (BCMP). Finally, besides that Z at 59 there's the J at 3 and a couple of K's. Not a pangram, but still far from an AL'S_ROUTINE-fest.


Anonymous 3:22 PM  

How about a little extra credit for the symmetry of the word lengths in the theme answers:


Maybe Rex didn't like this puzzle so much because of the implications of 23A SHARP SHOOTER -- Bam!

sanfranman59 4:00 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 5:57, 6:55, 0.86, 4%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:22, 3:42, 0.91, 12%, Easy

NATE 4:11 PM  

First: How many of you are there?
I see what are apparently 2 of you, each referring to the other as aNON.

Second: In your 12:06 comment you
have this unintelligible (to me)
argument about O's and zeroes.
On my computer these are O's:
Oo Capital and small
and this is zero 0

It sure looks to me like an O is round and a zero is oval or
elliptical. i have no idea if this
is what you were trying to say.

NATE 4:17 PM  

In reference to my 4:11 comment.
On closer examination, the O's do
not look perfectly round but they
certainly look extremely close to circles. Not so with the zero.

ksquare 5:37 PM  

As noted above, CAJUNS did not emigrate from France but Canada.
They were Known as ACADIANS which became corrupted to CAJUNS. (My spell-checker indicates Acadians is incorrect but Cajuns is not. Anyone know why?)

Sfingi 6:14 PM  

Shucks, I shot through the theme. Did not shilly-shally. Where was shimmy shirt?

Os and 0s - 25 years ago, when I was a "legacy" programmer, we put a diagonal line through the zero to tell the difference.

@DBlackwell - OK, just looked up ROM in Star trek, in case it happens. He be ugly.

@DocJohn - what is a Sub-4 puzzle?

On the subject of Cajun, don't forget cousin Longfellow's Evangeline, a Tale of Acadie. Which reminds me, Sonster, who speaks French, tells us that in Canada, religious rather than sexual expressions are considered the most profane (Sacre bleu!)

@MMorgan - many good observations!

@Artlover - I have one of those dictionaries. I find the best explanations of derivations are in these jumbo dictionaries, and the internet just doesn't compare - yet. And, I was about to dump my 11th Edition Britannica when I found out it was worth 3 large.

Van55 6:40 PM  

Easy Monday puzzle as it should be. But not without some interesting entries that made it worthwhile for me to solve. Bravo!

21 proper names.

Anonymous 6:41 PM  

Was SHREW really necessary?

Sfingi 8:57 PM  

You called?

sanfranman59 10:11 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 6:04, 6:55, 0.88, 8%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:18, 3:42, 0.89, 8%, Easy

This is the 6th fastest median solve time for both groups of solvers among 76 Monday puzzles in my database.

acme(s) 11:45 PM  

Of course I loved it!

Six themes! Damn!

And yes, TELLMEMORE was wonderful and starting with the J in CAJUN and the Z at the end, was lively.

Maybe one too many odd plurals (ARTIES) and even I don't know how I felt about ACMES! :) :) :)

but 16 H's!
That is hard hard hard to do.

so you got that right...but I admit I didn't know I didn't know exactly what SMARTMONEY meant.

Really agree with your last statement @12:26pm

Looking forward to tomorrow!

still life angie 8:45 AM  

Sacre blue is people!

Anonymous 2:58 PM  

I have lived in France for many years and have never heard anyone say "sacrebleu", except facetiously, as it is a very old expression. I have just looked up the origin of the expression and apparently "bleu" is used as a euphemism for "Dieu", God. Both words have the same vowel sound.

Waxy in Montreal 12:30 PM  

@Sfingi is correct - the most profane words among francophones in Quebec had their origin in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. They include tabarnak(tabernacle), câlice(chalice), ciboire(pyx) and ostie(the host). However, as the church has lost its hold over the population during the past 50 years, the shock value of using these terms has equally diminished. You actually hear a lot more fuckés and chits on the streets these days, borrowed from les maudits Anglais.

GILL I. 1:53 PM  

Well, today is Jan. 10th in my world so, I'm not sure who will see this.
I'm a first-timer but have been following this incredible blog for a long time. Am getting out my check-book to send Senor Rex a donation; he certainly deserves it.
I loved this Monday crossword. It's the kind that makes our kids want to start doing the NYT. All kinds of juicy loosey words - not too hard and not too easy.

Rex Parker 1:54 PM  

I see it. And thank you.


danyb 3:38 PM  

As a 58-year-old French person who grew up on Tintin comic books, "Sacrebleu" was part of my vocabulary. It was regularly used on tv and in movies at a time were cuss words were not allowed.
Solving in California on Daily News, I enjoy this forum as much as the puzzles. Thank you, Rex Parker etall

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