1959 Spanish-language Top 40 hit / MON 5-30-11 / Pitchfork-shaped letters / Maker Rodeo Trooper / Bonding material bathroom floors

Monday, May 30, 2011

Constructor: Michael Barnhart

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: BREAK A LEG (63A: "Good luck!" .. and a hint to 17-, 25-, 39- and 51-Across) — word "LEG" is "broken" across two words in the theme answers

Word of the Day: AGHA (28D: Turkish title) —

Socio-political title of authority. Agha ("chief," "master") was associated with certain administrators in the Ottoman empire. It is also used in other settings, such as among Kurds. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not too thorny as Mondays go, but I never really got a good rhythm going, and so my time was slightly north of normal. I think the somewhat odd theme answers, particularly TILE GROUT (which I've always just called "GROUT") and CHARITABLE GIFTS (which I've always called "charity"), coupled with a decent amount of ambiguity in some of the clues kept this one from being a flat-out romp for me. Is the "Rat" of 1D a verb or a noun? Is 5A: Seethe BOIL or BURN? Etc. These weren't *hard* to figure out, but they required figuring out, which is what passes for "difficulty" on most Mondays. The theme seems like one that would have been done before. Several times before, in fact. And yet I find no evidence for that. I see that BREAKALEG has been used as a theme answer several times in the past, but it's never been a theme-revealer. A theme so obvious that no one ever thought of it. Kinda like the purloined letter hiding in plain sight. I call dibs on "BREAKING BAD." Let's see ... RUB-A-DUB ... GRAB A DRINK ... uh, SAMBA DANCE? Hmm, I'll get back to you. [Correction: someone has done this theme before—Patrick Blindauer, CrosSynergy puzzle, 6/26/08; it shares one theme answer with this puzzle: JUNGLE GYM]

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Bonding material for bathroom floors (TILE GROUT)
  • 25A: Playground fixture (JUNGLE GYM)
  • 39A: Donations (CHARITABLE GIFTS)
  • 51A: Upholsterer's need (STAPLE GUN)
Enjoyed JUNGLE GYM, DODGY (whose clue I never saw, actually) (59A: Not to be believed), and especially INFLUXES (41D: Streams of arrivals), which (like a few answers in the grid) I was not able to uncover quickly.

  • 27A: 1959 Spanish-language Top 40 hit ("LA BAMBA") — second time in the puzzle for this answer in the past week or so.
  • 43A: One of the Carpenters, in 1970s pop (KAREN) — Every time I hear her voice, I think how impossibly pure it is.

  • 7D: Maker of the Rodeo and Trooper (ISUZU) — tied to JAPAN. My first thought was that SEDANS would've made a more natural cross-reference, but then I couldn't name an Isuzu sedan...
  • 34D: Entertainer at a kid's birthday party (CLOWN) — scary. Here's a video I've played before—so weird and creepy that it's worth playing again:

  • 38D: Pitchfork-shaped letters (PSIS) — PSI/PHI (which is a homonym of "scifi," I just realized) always confuses me.
  • 55D: Bit of light that's harmful to the skin (UV RAY) — always looks good in the grid. Appropriate for what feels like the start of summer—it's finally gotten well and truly Warm here. Mint julep helped ease the discomfort. Gonna bike around the neighborhood while there's still sunlight. See you tomorrow.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Tobias Duncan 12:25 AM  

This sort of theme does not do much for me, but then again many themes do not interest me at all.This was exactly what I like in a Monday puzzle:no garbage, smooth fill.
What if Will started slipping in a few theme less early week puzzles?How upset would you guys get?

Clown song video felt like it was about to go horribly wrong like a Stephen King movie.

retired_chemist 12:43 AM  

Theme didn't do much for me either. Seemed easy but my time said medium, à la Rex's experience. Not too much bad fill, not a lot I will remember.

TILE GROUT balanced by BREAK A LEG reminds me of an unpleasant injury I once had. POLAR BEAR balanced by AFTERGLOW reminds me of a terrible joke of my youth.

Matthew G. 12:46 AM  

Not bad. Like Rex I fell down in the grid navigation department today and was a bit on the slow side.

9D should have been clued {Being a 1-Down}.

PurpleGuy 1:03 AM  

What @Tobias Duncan said, and the others so far.
Not a bad fill overall, but not much of a theme.
Nothing that made me smile, but not a bad experience.

Let's all remember those who have given their lives so we can enjoy these puzzles. I'ma veteran myself, and I will take some time away from the grilling brats to remember those who went before me.

Good writeup Rex. Thank you.

Shanti -


afterglow carla michaels 1:59 AM  

If you don't like themes (I'm looking at you @Tobias) don't do early week puzzles! But please please please stop suggesting there be theme-less early week-ers...that is the joy, the lifeblood, the uniqueness of early week crosswords!!!

Lots of bleedovers, from yesterday and last week: SEDANs, EPIC (I had saga yesterday) and as @rex pointed out, LABAMBA.

I don't know what was up with all the snitching, RAT/TATTLING/LYING, but loved the DODGY ZEST INFLUXES of the Scrabbly-ness of the fill.

Till about one hour ago, I thought it was called a JUNGLEjiM.

@Rex, maybe you can remember PSI bec it looks like PoSeIdon's trident.
(It's the letter that begins PSychology, PSeudo, etc.)

Good Monday, gives me an AFTERGLOW.

Your BREAKINGBAD is a good idea! RuB-A-Dub dub...genius!

after afterglow 2:06 AM  

hmmm, how about BREAKINGWIND?
you're right, themes are too hard.

foodie 2:21 AM  

I too feel that the theme is what makes the early week puzzles... It gives them a dimensionality that would be missing from a themeless yet easy puzzle.

I think of the week as starting off as a double stranded spiral propelled upwards by the entertwing of the theme strand and the complexity of the rest of the puzzle, until it hits a turning point on Thursday where the very definition of theme begins to mutate and then terminates. The complexity strand then broadens and pushes upwards to peak on Saturday.

Re AGHA, I think of it as associated with being a title for landowners. I'll check to see if there's any real basis for this impression...

GILL I. 4:09 AM  

Well.....talk about a quickie!
Please, don't take away my themes or pangrams for that matter.
To our veterans and the men and women serving in the armed forces, this mom would wrap her arms around you if she could. Thank you.

Susain 6:48 AM  

Laten? Really?

Glimmerglass 7:02 AM  

Very 67A. Not worth the paper and ink to print it out. The only really "medium" answer was DODGY. Filled in smoothly from NW to SE, and didn't see the theme until the end, so it was no help to me and only mildly interesting. I know Mondays are supposed to be easy, but this was so easy it was boring.

pauer 7:41 AM  

Some tricky stuff for a Monday, but I liked the theme just fine - probably because I used it at CrosSynergy back on 6/26/08 and recognized what was happening with JUNGLEGYM, which was one of my theme answers, too.

JUNGLEGYM 9 Monkey bars
FLAMMABLEGAS 12 Butane or methane, e.g.
VEGETABLEGARDEN 15 Spot for squash
DRIBBLEGLASS 12 Purchase in a practical joke shop
BUBBLEGUM 9 Stick in one's mouth, maybe

My free June puz is up early at my website, too, FWIW. It's a diagramless, tho you can open the puz file, convert the grid, and solve it like a regular puzzle if you want.

fikink 8:47 AM  

You do know how to find the creepiest clown videos, @Rex!

@R_C, bet we were thinking of the same joke. Having an older brother has its perks.

@Foodie, your double helix analogy is inspiring!

The puzzle got me up and about, at least. I have a peculiar fondness for STAPLE GUN.

Z 9:11 AM  

I think you have your answer @Tobias. Throw me in with the "easy-no theme would be boring" crowd. Wouldn't mind seeing the theme answers running down some day.

Stumbled a bit today when I threw in Carol Carpenter, but fixed it pretty quickly. Otherwise A smooth fill with some interesting words.

Never heard the polar bear afterglow joke, but imagine it's not really appropriate for this blog.

quilter1 9:13 AM  

That poor kid must have had the worst crick in her neck. And what's with the white gloves on a playground. Creepy indeed.
I found this one easy and liked AFTERGLOW, INFLUXES, BREAKALEG & LABAMBA.
Rex, you don't hang around with enough non-profit fundraisers. CHARITABLEGIFTS is a standard bit of phraseology with them.
The sun is shining at last!

bionits: complaints with a life of their own.

chefbea 9:29 AM  

Easy fun puzzle today. Have to go help a friend of mine today...she fell and broke her wrist - not leg.

Then more grilling!!!

jackj 9:48 AM  

Today's puzzle was a General Tso special.

As soon as I finished I wanted something more.

JaxInL.A. 9:57 AM  
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thursdaysd 10:00 AM  

I'm with @Glimmerglass and @Susain on this one. Went down very easily, but hated LATEN. Didn't get the theme until 63A - had thought it was something to do with second words beginning with G - but I often don't get the themes until I've finished. Very gratifying shortage of pop and sports names. Oh, and I thought it was tile cement, not grout.

Tobias Duncan 10:00 AM  

Ok, clearly I was drinking last night, please disregard the silly Monday themeless talk.I did not mean to anger the queen!
@ PurpleGuy Glad to see you here esp on Memorial Day, enjoy the brats!
Here in Taos we celebrate this day by being invaded by 30,000 Harley riders.Some of these bikes have been modified to create so much noise you can hear them several miles away. Apparently the only thing the bikers like more than hearing damaging is mayonnaise.Like a swarm of locusts they seem to have bought every single jar my little town had on its shelves, and here I am trying to make potato salad.The upside is that after watching several youtube videos I am able to make stick blender mayonnaise in about 2 min, and am now free of the evil corporate mayo cartel forever!

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

Was it just me or was there an abnormally large number of abbreviations today? I count 11. Ugly.

JaxInL.A. 10:49 AM  

Dallying here is procrastination for me (I'm supposed to be writing my personal statement for the b'nai mitzvah Friday) so I will just say that I saw an interesting version of this discussion over at Orange's place last week.

There it focussed more on the theme vs. junk fill issue, but still seems relevant to @Tobias' question and the answers here. Put me in the "hooray for themes" camp, which is nowhere near as eloquent as @foodie's analogy.

Thanks, @PurpleGuy, for your service and your reminder.

Happy holiday everyone.

c w stewart 11:04 AM  

I totally agree with Andrea and others above...don't take the themes away and leave me with nothing to "a-ha" about for the day!

raw diet for dogs 11:17 AM  

A Memorial day theme would have been nice.

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

fine puzzle and all that.

One wonders if Karen Carpenter's life had been different in another fashion era. I mean, how good can it be for a bulimic to wear dresses with puffy sleeves and bustles (looking at other outfits in the suggested follow-up videos on youtube)?

Similarly, what did they promise those little girls if they would remain stock-still that long? Couldn't they just come up with some big dolls?

CoffeeLvr 11:50 AM  

I will weigh in for themes. @Tobias, glad you relented. I was ready to suggest a themed Saturday.

I found TILE GROUT forced, but the rest fully in the language. I liked DODGY a lot, as I entered it into the grid I thought: on Monday, wonder if that will hold up.

@Afterglow Carla, PSIS crosses TRIdent in the grid today!

I tried to Google POLAR BEAR + AFTERGLOW, but no luck. It's not that I have such a middle school boy's mind, it's that I can't quite remember the joke. I hate the trade-off of mental acuity for wisdom, especially since I have so little of the later.

@PurpleGuy, and all veterans, thank you for your service. Enjoy the start of summer, everyone.

mac 12:07 PM  

Definitely keep the themes early week. When the puzzle is very easy, it gives you another twist to work on, when it's hard it might help you solve. I did need the reveal this time.

Charitable gifts is just fine, but I think charitable donations is more common.

I also loved Karen Carpenter's voice, so clear but still warm. I find clowns and all creatures with face masks creepy. Did not enjoy meeting all these characters at Disney World.

@fikink: if you like a staple gun, you must love a glue gun! That stuff just holds everything.

@Tobias: careful with the raw eggs!

jberg 12:14 PM  

Really kicking myself, as I couldn't see LA BAMBA, thought 29D must be wanna EAT, and was left concluding that "Beowulf," as well as being a poem, must be an A PICture (as opposed to a B movie). Other than that error, it was easy, although I tried JIBED before GIBED.

I'm for themes, but this one was pretty simple, so more theme answers would have helped.

jesser 12:26 PM  

I pretty much ripped through this one, and I thought the theme was clever. Me likey.

@Tobias: I do NOT miss Memorial Day weekend in Taos. I used to go stay with friends at Valle Escondido and play golf every day rather than endure all that noise. I never noticed the mayo run, but now I'm aggravated FOR you!

Thanks to those who served, sacrificed and bled...

Sfingi 12:32 PM  

Had SluG before SWIG.

Mini-theme: snitch (RAT, TATTLING)

Some fill the same as the "other" puzzle: ORO AGE(S)Both have "get(s) on in years."

@Michaels - I like themes (though this one is lame - pun indtended), and I love your mnemonic for PSI.

@Mac - Do you have a coulrophobia?

Hated LATEN and liked DODGY.

Kurisu 12:36 PM  

I associate AFTERGLOW with something besides the sun.

As others said, very easy. AGHA was the only word in the grid I didn't know.

syndy 12:52 PM  

HEY don't forget about the WEASEL!Lying ;tattling;dodgy twerp! I think the afterglow is wearing off!hand up for early week themes and do think somebody could paraphrase polar joke,maybe? puzzle ? okay monday.

retired_chemist 1:04 PM  
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Shamik 1:12 PM  

@Tobias: And you can make all kinds of different mayos: garlic, herb, etc., etc., etc. The sandwich world is now your oyster!

Easy-medium Monday at 3:40. Decent Monday puzzle. Trying to watch the creepy video, but here in Alaska...high-speed broadband is buffer for 6 minutes to watch a 3 minute video. Pfft.

Stan 1:12 PM  

Poor RATS and WEASELS, they get such bad press. In any case, "Animals not to be trusted?" is a great clue.

This puzzle had smooth fill and a theme that basically worked. All I ask for on a Monday.


Hats off to those who have served in the miltary, and a safe return to those serving now.

Sparky 1:20 PM  

I pushed for speed today and still slow. Had to erase ISaZU and a couple of miswrites. I would like to do better in August. Pretty easy, thought G words at first.

@foodie. Had afterglow after reading that double helix analogy.

Used to spend Memorial Day in FLoral Park watching my Uncle Joey march wtih the VFW. @ PurpleGuy and all who served or are serving, thanks being there when it counts.

Arundel 1:31 PM  

This was a great Monday, as far as puzzles go. WEASEL, AMOK, ZESTY, SWIG. All good! Even if the theme reveal was slightly extraneous...

Not so great on the household front - just-in-time chipmunk rescue from the swimming pool, nasty flying ants everywhere, avatar cat (Goofball) nearly out the window, Stan's avatar cat(Q-Tip) nearly through the screen door after a bird on the deck. Way too much excitement for a holiday morning.

@Ret Chem - try that link again. Now we're curious!

chefbea 1:56 PM  

@Tobias- mix plain yogurt and sour cream together...then add any herbs and maybe some capers

retired_chemist 2:06 PM  

resend with a working link -

@ catechist - so, presumably, did the bear.

OK, by popular demand, the joke. Down toward the bottom. Nobody under 18 may look. But it helps to be under 18 mentally.

I didn't say it was a good joke.

joho 2:36 PM  

Happy Memorial Day, everybody! And God Bless those who keep us safe.

And no matter what you thought of the theme, I love that there WAS a theme and will continue to look forward to Mondays because of that!

KarenSampsonHudson 2:50 PM  

I appreciate the easy holiday puzzles. We addicts can be satisfied even in the midst of time with family and friends!

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

Grout is a bonding material? Note to self - do not hire Michael Barnhart to do my bathroom floors.

andrea carleg michaels 3:31 PM  

THAT's how you do it!

You see! It wasn't the THEME, per se... judging from PB's swell puzzle, maybe it was the execution!
(Speaking of execution, and not to beat a dead horse, but maybe the disgruntled solvers think this was lame, what with a broken LEG and all and that's why they want to put it down)

still cracking up over the creepy video! Never realized how much Gary Lewis looks like his papa Jerry...
Even tho this was probably shot in the 60's, do you think it's too late to call Child Protective Services?

Now where's that Eskimo I'm supposed to rassle?

nanpilla 3:33 PM  

@Tobias - you can always get your themeless Monday over at BEQ's place....

Nice, easy Monday. Still don't like LATEN, but it shows up on average about once a year, and has been featured on every day of the week except Friday.

JenCT 4:06 PM  

Had to read that joke a couple times -reminds me of the 4 men on an airplane w/only 3 parachutes....

Oh, the puzzle - slightly longer than a usual Monday; didn't know GIBED.

What a strange video, Rex - hard to believe someone thought that sort of staging would be a good idea!

Anonymous 4:46 PM  

Well, if anybody's still around, here's five guys and four parachutes:


It's Joke 1. The other jokes are similarly good/bad.

retired_chemist 4:57 PM  

@ anon 4:46 and anyone else still around - Having read the jokes at your link, I am less ashamed of having posted mine. Puerile humor seems to resemble (my) senile humor.....

michael 5:59 PM  

I don't like Himalayan beast -- yeti. I had this, but then though "but they don't exist." Cryptzoological Himalayan beast would be clunky, but more accurate.

Yeti 6:51 PM  

@Michael - Just because I've never seen you doesn't make me question your existence!

mac 6:54 PM  

We need "like" buttons on blogger.

Just read some wonderful articles - there are a lot of people we need to thank for putting their life on the line for this country.

michael 7:49 PM  

@yeti on the internet, no one knows I'm a yeti...

Anyhow, I'm clearly a yeti that doesn't proofread my comments!

CFXK 10:37 PM  

how about a puzzleless theme to keep happy those who like themes but don't like puzzles? ;)

Kareem 6:25 AM  

Put me firmly in the early week theme camp. Since the puzzles go down relatively quickly, there might as well be few chuckles or groans thrown in during the brief solve.

Surprised no one commented on the nice "Esai" Morales/"La Bamba" linkage. The little known actor with three vowels in his first name is in the puzzle far too often. At least this time he shared some time with a movie he was in.

Hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day.

Dirigonzo 7:26 PM  

Due to the holiday on Monday (Fourth of July in Syndication-land) my M-F daily printed this Monday puzzle in Friday's paper so I got to solve early (in syndication-time) for a change.

I thought this was a really nice Monday puzzle with some decent theme answers, although I didn't even notice the theme until I arrived at the reveal, when the puzzle was almost done.

@Kareem - nice catch on the ESAI/LABAMBA relation!

I'm certain I've heard that bear joke before but I still laughed out loud when I came to the punch line at the link posted by @Retired_Chemist.

Apropos the holiday, Parade Magazine has an item about changing the National Anthem to "America the Beautiful", which sounds like a good idea to me - you can vote for (or against) the change at their website, Parade.com/anthem.

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

27A: 1959 Spanish-language Top 40 hit ("LA BAMBA")I only had the 1987 version I never that there was an earlier version.

Los Lobos

Since Tis the season 30 Across was there I thought of Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano as the Spanish laguage hit.

Jose Feliciano

Deb 4:03 PM  

I have to jump on Anonymous @3:11's bandwagon here: Grout is NOT a bonding material. It's really mystifying to me that Will Shortz could miss something that basic.

And like michael, my immediate thought after writing in YETI for "Himalayan beast" was "but it ain't real!"

Red Valerian 9:58 PM  

Happy 4th of July, folks! Hope you're all having a wonderful day full of the things that you love--friends, family, food, fun...!!!

I had said I might be too discombobulated to post today, but I am avoiding packing by surfing the Net and checking email--brilliant, eh? :-) I was rather pleased to see that the WOTD is Turkish.

Liked the puzzle well enough--cute idea, and it doesn't matter to me that it's its second time out. In accordance with many others, I liked DODGY and INFLUXES, and had never heard of GIBED.

Groaner of a joke, though a good chuckle. Even better was the banter around it. Thanks! Back in about three weeks.

Dirigonzo 10:06 PM  

@Red Valerian - have a great trip, and stay safe! Look forward to seeing you back here upon your return.

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