Jimi Hendrix's first single / TUE 6-21-11 / Cathedral toppers / Summation signifier / Source of lots of living room arm waving / Roadie's tote

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Constructor: Kelsey Boes

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Tables the turn — X THE Y phrases are flipped to become Y THE X phrases, with attendant wacky cluing

Word of the Day: EILEEN Collins (42A: Astronaut Collins) —

Eileen Marie Collins (b. November 19, 1956 in Elmira, New York) is a retired American astronaut and a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel. A former military instructor and test pilot, Collins was the first female pilot and first female commander of a Space Shuttle. She was awarded several medals for her work. Col. Collins has logged 38 days 8 hours and 10 minutes in outer space. Collins retired on May 1, 2006 to pursue private interests, including service as a board member of USAA. (wikipedia)
• • •

Weak theme / strong grid. Not a bad Tuesday combination. The fact that the first two theme answers begin with third personal singular (i.e. S-ending) forms of the verb threw me, and made the execution feel clunky, even though, technically, those forms are perfectly appropriate for the expressions they are playing off of. I wonder how many theme answers you could amass using this model. A bunch, I'm betting. SCRIPT THE FLIP. POWER THE FIGHT. BOMB THE BAN. WHEELS THE GREASE. CHECK THE SPLIT. SHIP THE RIGHT. Etc etc. Nothing mind-blowing in the fill, but it's solid throughout, with a good, unforced Scrabbliness (note the lack of X—god bless you, Kelsey Boes). Xs, Js, Ks, Qs, and Zs are lovely when you don't have to make huge sacrifices in smoothness and elegance to get them, so the lack of "X" shows nice restraint. No need to force the issue. I liked the NE corner the best—something about SHEESH (9D: "You've got to be kidding!") and HEY, JOE (10D: Jimi Hendrix's first single) makes me feel like I'm half-heartedly eavesdropping on an animated conversation between someone named Joe and someone named, let's say, SHARI (9A: Puppeteer Lewis).

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Kirects rush-hour traffic? (CONTROLS THE JAM)
  • 25A: Posts abusive comments about a team supporter? (FLAMES THE FAN)
  • 43A: Blend an illegal street drug? (WHIP THE CRACK) — I, uh, don't think that's how it's made.
  • 52A: Ask "Is this really diet soda?," for instance? (QUESTION THE POP) — I don't think you'd ask the question to the can directly, unless you were insane, or, like JOE and SHARI above, a little drunk.

[#1 the day I was born]

Did this in the same time it took me to do yesterday's, but I was slow yesterday, so I'll say "Medium" today. Hard to make these calls when statistically significant time differences are measured in seconds. I think the preponderance of proper nouns might hold people up a bit, perhaps—particularly in the RIZZO / EILEEN / RICOHS / EASTMAN section—but not much, probably.

  • 16A: Bird that flies with its neck retracted (HERON) — I did not know that. I'm having a hard time visualizing it. Oh ... I see. That seems familiar. Somehow I was imagining a neck telescoped back in on itself.
  • 37A: Woodrow Wilson is the only U.S. president to have one (PH.D.) — in Political Science from Johns Hopkins.
  • 41A: Source of lots of living-room arm-waving (WII) — very nice clue. (WII is the latest Nintendo video game system)
  • 5D: Cathedral toppers (CUPOLAS) — probably the SAT-est word in the grid.
  • 59A: Summation signifier, in math (SIGMA) — had the -MA and thought GAMMA but then wisely waited for crosses.
  • 44D: Roadie's tote (PRE-AMP) — this might have given folks trouble too. I think of roadies toting AMPs, sure, but PRE-AMPs? I don't doubt that they do, but that's not the first (or second) word that comes to mind. Kind of wish PRE-AMP and PRELIM hadn't been in puzzle together.
  • 45D: Magnetic induction units (TESLAS) — had the TE-, so no problem. TESLA (as a physicist and a "unit") is a common grid denizen.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


foodie 12:17 AM  

Somehow, it was not a smooth solving experience for me, so I liked it a bit less than Rex did. Obviously, it was Tuesday difficulty and easily doable, but I kept hitting uncertainties.And it felt as if the clues oscillated from really obvious to rather obscure (e.g. the HERON clue). Still, these types of themes make you stop and think about the original language... Rex, amongst your examples, I like WHEEL THE GREASE... Somehow, it brought back images of Oprah carrying a bunch of fat in a wheelbarrow to indicate the weight she'd lost...

I think "QUESTION THE POP" is used in this less accurate meaning: to question something= to doubt it's veracity.

Tobias Duncan 12:17 AM  

I find my experience is opposite of our fearless leader's for the second day. Could not seem to build up any speed , ended up with an easy wed time.Could be because I am tired and should go to bed though.

Rex, there was a wonderful NPR piece this morning on The Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison.
Made me wonder if any of your incarcerated students do the puzzle.

GILL I. 12:19 AM  

Tuesday's always remind me of being the last person to give an early morning sales presentation. By then most people are either yawning or reaching for the last doughnut. This puzzle made me want to sit in the front row and clap.
I loved this one.
I thought the cluing was great. What's not to love about "Blend an illegal street drug?" Then there's my beloved Cuba and Jimi Hendrix's first single.
I didn't find any TUESDAY'S forced fill. Kudos Sr. Boes.

syndy 12:26 AM  

On a tuesday I had to veni vidi vici before the happy dance but that was my only hang-up.so Aura Lee Aura LEE,Maid with golden Hair.Sunshine came along with thee and Swallows in the Air!

thursdaysd 12:33 AM  

Took me a while to get the theme - QUESTIONTHEPOP fell first and I wondered if it was just leaving a letter of the end, but WHIPTHECRACK made it clear.

Some of the fill seemed very easy, the whole NE, for instance, although I had trouble with PRELIM, and needed crosses for some of the names. Notice Duke's Blue DEVILS, clued for New Jersey, came right above the ACC (I only knew that because I live just down the road).

Jerry 12:49 AM  

Ditto Rex on not forcing the pangram. Brava, Ms. Boes!

Min 1:13 AM  

The "Wii U" is the next incarnation of the Wii...announced June 7, 2011. It will be released in 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wii_U

davko 1:13 AM  

A fast solve, but fun. Not all herons retract their neck, by the way. Black-crowned night herons, for one, have such truncated bodies, they look as if they don't even have a neck.

GILL I. 1:22 AM  

Ms. Kelsey Boes: Hit me with a WHIP and some JAM. Didn't mean to make you a Senor.
I congratulate you once again. Can we have some more?

Rube 1:47 AM  

I had dARk before RARE for the solar eclipse and WHIPTHEgRAss before __CRACK before seeing the theme. Didn't know SID Grauman or "TIS", which I guess is a movie, but guessed the "I" correctly. Didn't know HEYJOE either, but gettable. Hasn't SHARI been in the puzzles a lot recently?

Love long fill like SOAPOPERA and SWIMSUITS. Very pleasant Tuesday puzzle.

Anonymous 3:07 AM  

A debut by the youngest woman to debut. Solid and pleasant. A heiress to Acme?

chefwen 3:12 AM  

I'm with @Gill I. P. - Loved this one. Started on the ground floor and worked upwards so QUESTION THE POP was my first (as Oprah would say, my AHA moment) BTW, pretty sick of hearing that phrase.

Favorite was FLAMES THE FAN.

@foodie - Wheel the grease with the above mentioned mega star wheeling that lard out had me laughing out loud. That was truly a sight that needs to be erased from my memory bank.

area crack michaels 5:00 AM  

I too am with @Gill I.P. and @chefwen
loved loved loved this!

QUESTIONTHEPOP will make me grin for the rest of the week, esp bec it's so Minnesota-esque!

Whenever I go back to Minnesota, people use POP every other sentence, turns out not to taunt me...but it's all "Who wants pop? Did you bring pop? Is this your pop?" so loved that theme answer.

THis was tons of fun. I guess I still don't quite get @rex's thing that if there are dozens of other examples that it weakens what there is.
I mean I know if it's pulled from a very rarefied subset (like BEQ's brilliant Border State one a few weeks back) it's more astounding and elegant, but to chose a few chuckly ones as this did, seems fun!
FLAMESTHEFAN is totally of this generation...and I liked ALL the examples @Rex came up with, but if I were him, I'd have just put them into a new puzzle instead of using them to say that this puzzle's theme was weak! But that's the difference between us, he's so prolific, he can just toss them off and throw them out...
whereas I would cling to them and try and figure out how to make a fresh new puzzle.

I might have defined WHIPTHECRACK as "Spank" ;)

Anyway, what's this about her being the youngest gal? I'll have to pop over to Wordplay, I guess. Funny, as young Zoe and I were discussing just yesterday while walking along the beach how long her record would stand!!!
I do know I'd like to be the oldest woman ever published and hope to live to see that (Mon)day...

k2p2 7:41 AM  

Slogged my way through -nothing terribly difficult just nothing that popped right out. DARK for RARE. CUPOLA last to fall - funny given I recently completely a photo collage where the junior class photos were "mosaiced" over the school's cupola!

Anonymous 7:50 AM  

+100 for the leonard cohen video!

efrex 8:05 AM  

Solid theme, although WHIPTHECRACK just squeaks by for me. LOVED the clue for WII. Expect lots of Natick complaints for the ACC/VICI cross (lucky guess on that one for me), but otherwise a very solid Tuesday effort. Brava, Ms. Boes!

David L 8:07 AM  

Hmm, yesterday was an easy Monday for me, this was a slightly hard Tuesday. I had trouble seeing the theme because I got CONTROLSTHEJAM first -- is "jam the controls" a familiar phrase? In what context?

When a young constructor calls the IBOOK an 'old Apple,' that makes me feel even older... Nice puzzle overall.

joho 8:24 AM  

Once I got the theme I started to smile and my grin kept getting bigger as I went along. So much fun and especially so because of the newness of the theme ... something really different. I guess I'm always looking for a twist and here it was.

Congratulations on your debut, Kelsey Boes! I look forward to you next puzzle.

Z 8:30 AM  

Had three theme answers before I realized the theme, and had to smile when it finally dawned on me.

I don't know what makes this theme weak. A little word play, enough misdirection to wake up the brain, but easy enough to do before going off to the salt mines. I liked it all around.

jp 8:40 AM  

I needed to google SHARI to finish the NE corner but otherwise this was a typical Tuesday. Did not get the "theme" until I read Rex writeup.
Had difficulty deciding between VINI or VICI since ACC is not an acronym I heard before.

Tobias Duncan 8:44 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian 8:56 AM  

It was fun! I particularly enjoy cluing that highlights a factoid (Wilson was the only president to have one) or that draws on my high school history class (De gama).

VASCO made me realize I still recall the couplet about explorers and the Pacific: "Balboa claimed it. Magellan named it."

FLAMES THE FAN is the liveliest of the theme answers. Unfortunately, I believe instances not too dissimilar have occurred.

QUESTION THE POP made me wonder if East Coast solvers found the colloquialism peculiar. I remember moving to New York from Michigan decades ago and asking for a pop at a restaurant and feeling like a hayseed when the waitress furrowed her brow in confusion.

Nice smooth puzzle and terrific debut!

jackj 8:57 AM  

Was ready to proclaim that it didn't "Fire my light" but that would be dishonest, (and, for the youngest female Times' constructor ever, churlish).

This was a charming puzzle; cute theme and fill like SHEESH, VOTRE and the clever combo answer of ROOM, INN made for a memorable puzzle which brightened a Tuesday, for a change.

Congratulations, Kelsey, keep 'em coming!

As an aside for ACME, Bernice Gordon cranked out a Times puzzle in 2010 at the ripe old age of 96. That is really something to shoot for!

No Excuses 9:01 AM  

Very good, enjoyable Tuesday offering.

Bonus points for no "first time / young constructor" excuses offered, so far ;-)

Congrats to Kelsey.


jesser 9:04 AM  

LOTS of writeovers on my way through this one: fLAp at 8D; HEY yOu at 10D; nikOnS at 38D; EugEnE at 42A. Everything worked out ok, but you'd have to be an expert is Jesswriting to see how it all eventually came together.

I'm blushing about Acme's clue for 43A. Grinning also. I love this crowd.

Last letter in the grid was the I at SID/TIS, and I knew neither answer for sure.

As themes go, this one was about as much fun as I've had in a l-o-n-g time.

It's that time of the year when the HERONs and cranes are out on the banks of the Rio Grande. They are beautiful.

Thank you, Ms. Boes!

exaudio 9:38 AM  

Liked this one a lot, loved the theme! We Michiganians and Minnesotans feel protective of the use of "pop," so it was nice to see it clued as if it was normal and not some weird upper Midwest variant. I love to see herons flying around with their necks retracted, cause they look like pterodactyls.

GLR 9:43 AM  

Had to smile when I filled in IBOOK. Hadn't thought of that product in a long time, but I remember the first time I saw one (the original clamshell design). Couldn't figure out why a guy was walking across campus carrying a toilet seat!

Nice puzzle. Like others, I guessed at the SID/TIS cross, but otherwise pretty smooth. Each of the theme answers drew a smile.

Joe 10:01 AM  

"Source of lots of living-room arm-waving (WII) — very nice clue."

Oh, come on--that's a beautifully descriptive clue, one of the best in months.

And, in some parts of the country, it would be "QUESTION THE SODA" so it wouldn't make much sense.

Matthew G. 10:03 AM  

Enjoyed the puzzle. Yes, the theme could be duplicated in many ways, but I think its strength lies in the constructor's selection of particularly lively variants of the relevant switcheroo. Congrats on a strong debut, Kelsey.

My time was lousy, but I put that down to doing the puzzle with a fried brain late last night after 14 hours at work.

I married into a family of Michiganders, so I find POP charming. Unlike some East Coasters, I have to concede that it may even make more sense than "soda," which probably suggests non-flavored carbonated water when taken literally. (On the other hand, Texans should be run off the range for their preposterous habit of referring to _all_ forms of soda pop as "Coke.")

Glitch 10:19 AM  

I believe we've covered the pop vrs soda issue a number of times. It's soda here.

I really learned the difference on a visit out west when I ordered a scotch and soda in a bar and got a scotch and coke. yuck.

Cue the Kingston Trio song from the last go-around:

Scotch and Soda


mitchs 11:27 AM  

I think BEQ clued WII similarly a while back. I really enjoyed this Tuesday offering. Fun stuff. Keep it up Ms. Boes!

jackj 12:14 PM  

It's not pop, or soda or coke, it's tonic!

hazel 12:45 PM  

Nice tuesday vibe to this one, JAM xing HEYJOE. I say good grief alot. might start mixing it up with a SHEESH here and there.

Congrats on your rookie effort, Kelsey! Very well-balanced puzzle.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

52A: Ask "Is this really diet soda?," for instance? (QUESTION THE POP) — I don't think you'd ask the question to the can directly

Uh Rex, it doesn't matter who you're addressing, the subject of your question is still the pop.

KarenSampsonHudson 12:59 PM  

Excellent, enjoyable Tuesday puzzle. Keep 'em comin', Kelsey!
I grew up in the midwest but live in the west. We say "soda pop" :-)

chefbea 1:31 PM  

Great puzzle. Congrats on the debut. Did it early this morning then off to the beach with daughter and 3 year old grand daughter who are visiting.
I'm tired.

Stan 1:49 PM  

We wanted STEP ON THE CRACK, which would have been a different kind of joke...

In Maine we know what POP is, even if we don't use the term, so that answer worked fine. I speak as someone who once tried to order a 'frappe' in New York City.

CoffeeLvr 2:13 PM  

Congrats on your debut, Kelsey.

I liked the fresh slightly obscure answers that were all easily gettable from the crosses: RICOHS, IBOOK, DEVILS (as clued), SHEESH, HEYJOE. A minimum of pop culture and sports. I wonder if the constructor's youth influenced her choice of clue for the frequently used ALI. And a very funny theme. When I get my grid filled in and don't see Mr. Happy Pencil, it's time to Puzzle the Solve.

A phonetic mini theme (to my ears): URAL, AURAL, ORAL(LY).

mac 2:22 PM  

Nice crunchy Tuesday, an impressive debut.

The ACC/Vici crossing was a lucky guess.

Now I need to get the vision of Oprah and a barrow full of lard out of my brain.

sanfranman59 3:21 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 9:28, 8:56, 1.06, 68%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 5:05, 4:35, 1.11, 81%, Challenging

Noam D. Elkies 3:50 PM  

Yes, 59A:Σ as in Σummation (and it's often said that the ∫ sign for an integral, which is sort of an infinite sum, is for a once-common form of a capital S as well — the Latin and German for "sum" also start with "sum"). Γ is used in math too, but for something rather more advanced (which happens to be one of Euler's many discoveries).


Lewis 4:02 PM  

Absolutely loved the Judy Collins and Leonard Cohen video, though not quite sure why it was in there...

jberg 4:35 PM  

Solved the puzzle on the subway, couldn't figure out the theme - I was looking for common element in the last word, or maybe the first word - since "phrases with 'the' in the middle" seemed too lame to be it. Then three hours later it popped into my head, and the puzzle went way up in my estimation.

Is the dome on a cathedral really called a cupola? I thought the latter was in the corner, or at least on one edge of a building, rather than in the center; but I could well be wrong.

I wasted a lot of time searching for the X.

Glad to see my grandmother's name at 60A.

Oh, yeah - ACC is Atlantic Coast Conference, I think -- someone asked.

evil doug 4:35 PM  

I say Coke, Kleenex, Jello, and Fridge (from Frigidaire, not refrigerator).

Also Kotex.


JenCT 4:47 PM  

Agree - crunchy for a Tuesday, although everything was gettable.

SHARI Lewis & Lamb Chop were very big in my house when my (now 18 YO) son was little.

PRELIM not clued as an abbreviation?

retired_chemist 5:16 PM  

Solid puzzle, easy-medium here too. Fun theme, although @Rex is right - there are likely a lot of possible theme answers. Had no clue about the theme answers at first, so I diddled with the crosses too long. Slowish time was the result.

We have blue herons on our property, as well as a great egret or two. SDo not recall seeing them in flight with retracted necks, and both Wikipedia and the Cornell sites have photos in flight without retracted necks. FWIW....

Overwrites: CEOS @ 1A and AURIC @ 57A. It's more fun when I am gloriously off base, but today, I wasn't.

OOXTEPLERNON must have been pleased. TIS, PH.D., and WII were fine, but OKS, ALI, ISO, REA, USO, and AVA seemed stale and too crosswordy to me. That's my only complaint, however.

Thank you, Ms. Boes. More please,but work on the 3s.

Sfingi 10:13 PM  

ACC stands for Atlantic Coast Conference (sports), and since I stuck with UNC, Just couldn't get WHIP.
Otherwise, rather like the idea of the theme.

Learned about Dr. Wilson and the flying HERON.

Every time I see SHARI, it makes me sad. She didn't have to die so young.

We learned in Lingusitics that there's a soda/POP line running somewhere around Rochester, NY. On the eastern side, people call it soda; on the western, POP.


sanfranman59 1:35 AM  

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 6:25, 6:52, 0.93, 25%, Easy-Medium
Tue 9:31, 8:56, 1.07, 69%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:37, 3:40, 0.99, 47%, Medium
Tue 4:53, 4:35, 1.07, 72%, Medium-Challenging

Andy Schatz 4:38 AM  

Worth noting btw that the name of the next nintendo console is the WiiU. Gird yourselves, xworders.

acme 5:52 AM  

@lewis 4:02
it occurred to me two days later:
Judy Collins/Eileen Collins

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

POP, JAM, CRACK, FAN? Wow, should young Kelsey turn to SOAPOPERA next, betcha it'd be X-rated!

Dirigonzo 2:56 PM  

Syndisolver here, thought at first Hendrix'(I'm pretty sure the "s" is unnecessary) first single might be "Higher" and I was really looking forward to the video; I would have settled for HEYJOE but we didn't get that, either.

First theme answer I filled in was QUESTIONTHEPOP and I saw the theme instantly, perhaps because the implied common phrase is something I have done a few times.

@acm said, "I might have defined WHIPTHECRACK as "Spank" ;)" - just when I thought there couldn't possibly be another reason to love her she comes up with this! She is precious!

Anonymous 3:52 PM  

@ Glitch 10:19 AM
I really learned the difference on a visit out west when I ordered a scotch and soda in a bar and got a scotch and coke.
That's not a regional issue, that's just an idiot bartender.

Anonymous 4:53 PM  


"We have blue herons on our property, as well as a great egret or two. SDo not recall seeing them in flight with retracted necks, and both Wikipedia and the Cornell sites have photos in flight without retracted necks. FWIW...."

The great blue heron flies with its neck retracted EXCEPT during breeding season. Probably more showy. That is why you will see some pictures with heron's neck extended.

syndicated bird lover from Oregon

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