TV oilman-turned-private eye / TUE 10-25-11 / Scout's rider of early TV / Time in title of 1965 Wilson Pickett hit / Grotto isle of Italy / Cylindrical sandwich

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Constructor: C.W. Stewart

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: WHERE ART THOU? (57A: Question that follows "O Brother" in film ... and a hint to this puzzle's theme) — "THOU" is hidden inside four theme answers

Word of the Day: MATT HOUSTON (28A: TV oilman-turned-private eye) —
Matt Houston is an American crime drama series that aired on ABC from 1982 to 1985. Created by Lawrence Gordon, the series was produced by Aaron Spelling. // Matt Houston stars Lee Horsley as a wealthy mustachioed Texas oilman named Matlock "Matt" Houston who worked as a private investigator in Los Angeles in his abundant free time. The show also stars Pamela Hensley as his lawyer sidekick, C.J., and George Wyner as his continuously frustrated business manager. During the show's third and final season (1984–85), Buddy Ebsen joined the cast as Matt Houston's uncle, Roy Houston. (wikipedia)
• • •
MIDNIGHT HOUR is essentially a partial and the theme revealer is a partial and one of the other theme answers is an extremely short-lived '80s crime drama—all these things add up to a not-so-lovable theme. Also, since you can't divide "THOU" anywhere but between the "T" and the "H," the puzzle theme may as well have been "two-word phrases whose second words start "HOU-"; that's certainly what I thought I was dealing with until the end. Grid is almost completely devoid of non-theme answers longer than five letters. What few there are are forgettable, or annoyingly weird (IN FUTURO? TEE SHIRT? It's a TEE, or a T-SHIRT ... see every other crossword where this word has ever appeared). Puzzle also features one of the least clever and most annoying clues of all time (___ Kong). The only time I ever want to see that clue is if the answer is DONKEY. The whole "Is it KING or is it HONG?" gimmick is bush league. Fill is generally solid, and I think the puzzle's heart is in the right place, i.e. I can see how the idea might have seemed promising and clever initially. But if a promising and clever idea yields only mediocre results ... scrap it.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Time in the title of a 1965 Wilson Pickett hit (MIDNIGHT HOUR)
  • 28A: TV oilman-turned-private eye (MATT HOUSTON)
  • 39A: Multiple-dwelling buildings (APARTMENT HOUSES) — tried TENEMENT HOUSES here, only to find it wouldn't fit.
  • 46A: Droopy-eared dog (BASSET HOUND)
  • 61A: Grotto isle of Italy (CAPRI) — easy once I got the "I." Before that, I had an "O" because I tried to solve 40D: Vacation souvenir wear without looking at the clue and wrote in TEE SHOTS. 

  • 31D: Scout's rider of early TV (TONTO) — which means "stupid" or "foolish" in Spanish (trivia I learned from crosswords) 
  • 57D: Cylindrical sandwich (WRAP) — even with the "W" in place I had a little trouble with this. TACO and GYRO kept insisting that I consider them.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Tobias Duncan 12:14 AM  

I liked this one, very happy with the lack of sports.Never heard of INFUTURO but itwas INFERable and I dont mind learning some new legalese.

Sports and final Jeopardy were the undoing of Laura this evening. I was well pleased with the way she dominated most of the game though.As I said yesterday, she is a wonderful person.

PurpleGuy 12:38 AM  

Thanks for the Billy Idol vid. He was just at the AZ State Fair. Am amazed how good he still looks and sounds, considering his age and what he's been through ,what with the motorcycle accident and all. Rebel Yell indeed!!!
@Tobias- enjoyed Jeopardy also. She seems like a great person.Can picture her playing for silent movies.

Thought the puzzle was OK. Agree with @Rex that the theme was rather bland.

It was a good solve,though there isn't much to say about the general fill.
On to Wednesday.

Shanti -

syndy 1:18 AM  

I missed the theme-just as well-I think this one worked better as a themeless.a nice themeless I'm sticking with that!

davko 1:43 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
davko 1:45 AM  

I found the fill in this puzzle to be be just as sleep-inducing as everything else -- especially with two Greek letters thrown in.

It's worth noting that there's a member of the auk family that's simply called a razorbill (alca torda).

Anonymous 2:30 AM  

Also, since you can't divide "THOU" anywhere but between the "T" and the "H"

You ought to wash your mouth out with soap after such a brazen lie!

SethG 7:11 AM  

Are you saying YOUR MOUTH OUT would have fit right in here?

The H in HONG was my final letter.

Anonymous 7:20 AM  

Without a doubt!

jberg 7:45 AM  

Tragic source of milk: batho-udder.

And there must be some character in literature (Shakespeare? The Three Musketeers?) whose name ends in THO, and can be made to speak: PORTHO UTTERS.

I liked the revealer better than the theme; at least the former was interesting in itself.

Aside from king/hong, I wanted ROmp for ROUT,and INePT for INAPT, and wasn't sure about ANNe or ANNA - so really had lots of answers that I more or less knew, but had to wait for crosses to know completely. Frustrating.

CAPRI is having quite a run - makes me want to go there.

Z 7:47 AM  

I made this unusually crunchy for a Tuesday. My bees were birds, I guessed the future was feminine, my squirrels STore their nuts, I elevated my Parson to a MANor, and I don't dance much so I was busy doing a MAMBa. That is eight letters I had to write-over through the middle of the puzzle.

Matlock "MATT" HOUSTON? Missed that show. Sounds like a Banacek/Magnum PI hybrid, except one was on before it and the other after it.

Loaded the blog in both Firefox and Chrome. The video's play, but all I'm seeing is a black box. Anyone else having this problem?

joho 8:10 AM  

The only other thing I could think of was a YOUTH OUTREACH program.

Isn't HOOHAH what Al Pacino kept yelling in "Scent of a Woman?"
Actually, I thought a HOOHAH was more like a THINGAMAGIG.

I wanted kiNG KONG.

I'm waiting to see what's INFUTURO.

quilter1 8:17 AM  

Kind of ho-hum and easy. But a typical Tuesday I guess. Not a lotto love. My only write-over was kONG.

Making apple crisp today. Have a good one.

David 8:36 AM  

Liked the reveal a lot, the rest of the puzzle was OK. Normally I'm a big fan of the longer non-theme answers, but TEESHIRT and INFUTURO were pretty blah. However, I do like the 2 6-letter answers, HOOHAH and HERBAL.

Confused my famous people's monograms whose first letter is T and third letter is E and wrote in TSE for TAE, which briefly hid TAU and thus BASSETHOUND.

chefbea 8:59 AM  

@Tobias Sorry Your friend lost.

Puzzle was very easy but chefbee must go now and have a glazed donut with either some java or herbal tea while my sous chef prepares the peas for our dinner.

Z 9:01 AM  

@Joho - Such language. (WARNING - The Urban Dictionary NEVER passes the breakfast test)

jackj 9:07 AM  

O, Brother!

What should be a cute idea is so trampled by a plethora of simplistic fill, blandly clued, that it melts the mind.

HUSH, as presented, belongs to a bygone era and seems woefully out of place in a 2011 Times puzzle. Compounding the problem, we have the clueless cluing of COAL for “Bad child’s stocking filler” and HOOHAH for "Commotion" and "Doo-woppers ___Na Na" for SHA and, well, you’ve got the drift. Sort of seems like we’re getting a taste of “Where’s Will?” instead of “Where’s Waldo?”.

Still and all, the real head-shaking clue of the puzzle has to be “Part of a pointillist painting”, for DOT. A pointillist painting is nothing but dots which, when viewed from a distance, blend together to project an image. (Please stop spinning in your graves, Messrs. Seurat and Signac, they meant well.)

But, wait, all is not lost and there were a couple of pluses evident in the puzzle. First, it did away with the dreaded “Uie” or “Uey” and instead gave us the full Monty of UTURN and, also, we were reminded of a wonderful film, with a super soundtrack, (which is still worth a frequent listen).

So, all was not lost in this fog of triteness but, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

John V 9:23 AM  

An easy, 5-miler, Stamford to Greenwhich. Had HOOHAW, initially tho' ultrasound helped me find the right answer. (Actually needed the theme to fix that one as I sure didn't remember/ever knew MATT HOUSTON.)

Wanted PRAM at 45A at first.

S'bout it. I seriously think that last week's workout amounted to a tune-up for my puzzle brain. Among other things, I'm doing more of what has always served me well, which is writing down the first thing that come into my mind and not over analyzing a clue. We'll see how well this theory holds up as the week goes on.

captcha OODYST: cross between Object Oriented Design (OOD) and a cyst? (Sounds like my some of my code)

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

HOOHAH is olden slang for outhouse.

eproper--another way to say E natural

efrex 9:36 AM  

I wasn't totally thrilled by this puzzle, but not feeling the dislike. Theme worked pretty well for me: I wasn't familiar with MIDNIGHTHOUR or MATTHOUSON, but they were both easily INFERrable. Thought there was a nice Coen Brothers' mini-theme with WHEREARTTHOU and FARGO, and the fill was tolerable. Not thrilled to have AWN, AUKS, and two Greek letters, but thought the rest was reasonably fair.

Like @jackj, was pleased to see the full UTURN in the puzzle rather than the hideous "uey/uie" junk.

All in all, a decent enough Tuesday puzzle in my book

John V 9:48 AM  

That would be GREENWICH, of course, in my previous. Sigh.

jesser 10:04 AM  

My writeovers were INePT before INAPT at 69A, and THROb before THROE at 54D, both of which were easily fixed.

I would never have figured out the theme without the reveal, which gives me more love for it than others have shown. I like being suprised like that.

I was rooting last night for Tobias' friend, and kept wondering if I'd ever run across her when I lived in Taos, but I left in '95, and I've slept since then, and the old synapses don't fire on faces like they once did. She seemed very nice, and extremely bright, the Boston thing notwithstanding. I'd have guessed Austin. Sigh.

This day is shaping up, workwise, to be challenging. I better get at it.

Happy Tuesday!

Two Ponies 10:32 AM  

Kinda boring.
I had a malapop trying Tee as the everyday article (of clothing).
Wasn't "the" an object of discussion yesterday?
@ Tobias Duncan, Sorry about your friend but thanks for mentioning you knew her. It adds some interest to the game.

archaeoprof 10:33 AM  

20A started that great old song in my head. It's going to be a good day!

TomAz 10:46 AM  

I dunno, it may have just been blind luck or something for me. I trimmed a full 20% off my best Tuesday time. This played faster than yesterday's for me.

DBGeezer 10:56 AM  

Doing the acrosses first and having lived in Pittsburgh, kept me from the kiNG HONG problem.
On reading the clue for 45 A, my first thought was photon.
I zipped through this puzzle and found it a whole lot easier than Monday's.

Capcha BREIG, which I guess I'm doing with my post

santafefran 11:35 AM  

Having just been to CAPRI a few weeks ago, I loved the shout out. It's a lovely island but mobbed with tourists. The best part was taking the funicular to the top of the island--like a one-seater ski lift. People carried up their dogs and babies in arms.

Found the puzzle fine for a Tuesday and like @archeoprof said--enjoying the earworm of MIDNIGHT HOUR.


John V 11:41 AM  

For those who've not seen it, Will Shortz posted the results of the entry count and the drawing for the prizes at Wordplay:

4,763 entries of which 4,567 were correct!

mac 11:44 AM  

Decent Tuesday puzzle, but I had not taken the time to look for the theme, although I had noticed all the hou-sounds.

Worth our while.

Spotted a teaball in a store today. They call it tea egg in Holland.

Joon 11:56 AM  

the next time you see {___ Kong}, 4 letters, just go ahead and write in HONG. there are a zillion ways to clue KING, and this is pretty much the worst of 'em. there are only two ways to clue HONG, and the other {Writer Maxine ___ Kingston} is much, much tougher.

funny that somebody mentioned outhouse re HOOHAH, since OUTHOUSE could be a theme answer. or PENTHOUSE, LIGHTHOUSE, NUTHOUSE, HOTHOUSE, COURTHOUSE, or BOATHOUSE. the only other compound word i can find which elegantly conceals THOU is WITHOUT, which is even shorter.

joho 12:04 PM  

@Joon ... I hope you win the Tournament of Champions!

Did anybody here receive an email from Will saying you won the book?

JaxInL.A. 12:06 PM  

Aw, I liked the theme. I got it with the second theme entry and it actually helped me get the obscure TV show. That picture of Lee Horsley (who???) is a real time capsule. Today a man dressed and shaved like that would just look sleazy.

I have no comfort for @Z's video problem, but I want to thank Rex for resolving the "Flash won't play on Apple products" issue. A year ago I often had black squares where the videos should be. Now that rarely happens.


oldbizmark 12:24 PM  

Hoo-haw? Really? Att? Really? This puzzle was definitely bush league.

600 1:02 PM  

@Tobias Duncan--I thought your friend acquitted herself more than honorably. I was hoping she'd win, but that final Jeopardy answer was ROUGH. I'd have guessed Atlanta for sure. Anyway, I agree it adds interest to the game to have even such a tangential connection to one of the contestants.

Like @joho, I thought a HOOHAH was a thingamajig, and yes, what Al Pacino kept yelling. Never heard it as a commotion, and I had to wait for crosses to see how to end it. Since I've never heard of MATT HOUSTON, at least the theme came in handy there, or I'd have had a Natick. (And @Z, I never heard it as THAT either!)

Not much love for this puzzle. Even though I knew the river had to be the OHIO, I couldn't see HONG for a long time. One consolation is I probably won't fall for that particular clue's misdirection again.

Lindsay 1:40 PM  

Why is 64A BLUE? Wouldn't "at Capri" cue an answer in Italian?

SHAY NEIGH NEIGH = doo woppers out for an old-fashioned drive

Masked and Anonymous 1:56 PM  

Some puz's have about as many U's in 'em as in yer average Sudoku. This one had 10. Talkin' double figures, here, people. ThUmbsUp, C.W. -- drop by again, any-old-time.

P.S. I misspoke a tad yesterday about Erul's UU-bonanza puz. It had 18 occurrences of "UU", not 18 entries with a "UU". Still, adds up to a startling amount of U's. The way he managed it was with pretty "outside the box" thinkin'. He used kinda like a "reverse rebus" approach. His puz had answers like "NOUU", with a clue of "In a New York minute". Har. Clever. [UU=double-U=W] Gorgeous. The bar's been raised.

Doc John 2:22 PM  

Well put, Rex. Not much to add other than:
...solamente un tonto dirĂ­a eso (for the Dan fans)

hazel 2:33 PM  

still in rebound mode after the breakup of my true one and only puzzle relationship of last week - i went through the motions, did the puzzle, gagged a little at MATTHOUSTON - ugh - but I tried to have a good time. still not over my ex, though.

I did see Lucinda Williams last night and she was freaking awesome. She was kind of poured into an outfit but her bandmates all wore TEESHIRTS, which was the only way I could find to mention her, and she deserved mentioning.

@joho - I did not get an email :~( but the week was the real prize anyway so its OK.

Kendall 2:43 PM  

Thought maybe a tOAST could have been a friars club event. I didn't know IN FUTURO, so IN FUTUtO looked strange, but I thought there was a remote chance it was correct.

The rest of this was somewhat clunky for me, but still not difficult. Only other write-over was INePT instead of INAPT. I didn't look at the clue, just wrote what I thought made sense.

Count me amongst those who thought a HOOHAH was a thingamig, complete with finger pointing and everything.

Rube 2:45 PM  

@joho - I didn't get an e-mail either.

Lewis 2:46 PM  

@joho and @600 -- could you be thinking of DOO-DAD?

John V 2:52 PM  

Isn't DOO-DAD what father leaves in the HOOHAW?

joho 2:59 PM  

@Lewis, isn't a DOO-DAD a HOOHAH?
I'm kidding.

I join all who didn't get an email but agree wholeheartedly that the week of puzzles WAS the prize!

3 and out.

Cheerio 3:33 PM  

I enjoyed this one.

But I'm still upset at not getting the Julius Caesar solution last week. I had all my corner letters lined up by the dice, but I couldn't read them differently. I've been investing in word jumbles thinking that would help with crosswords. So, I really, really wanted to unjumble each of the 4 letter groups. One of the middle groups spells out "said", which I thought was promising. And you can find Jesus Christ amongst these letters too. Oh, well. Sadly, it's a lesson. But what a ride! A high bar indeed.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

Here I was, for once, watching/listening to the videos to see exactly how Billy Idol epitomized Rex's spot on edict, "But if a promising and clever idea yields only mediocre results ... scrap it. "

Turns out, not so much. Still, I would have preferred the Wilson Pickett.

Captcha: undamat. Where Brooklynites keep their spare front door keys.

sanfranman59 4:05 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Tue 7:06, 8:52, 0.80, 3%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:04, 4:34, 0.89, 15%, Easy

I finished the puzzle with a personal Tuesday best solve time ... except that I didn't because I entered INePT for 69A. Ill-suited instead of INAPT and didn't even look at the clue for 63D. Split ___ (split pee ... sounds yucky). It took me almost 2 minutes to find the error. I hate when that happens.

shrub5 4:29 PM  

No book for me... bwaaahhh.

But I agree with all that it was a terrific set of puzzles and a fantastic accomplishment of construction that we will probably never see the likes of again anytime soon. I have no doubt that PB can repeat but he likely needs some recuperation time.

Today's puzzle was breezy, no problems other than some initial spelling errors: HOOHAw and MAMBa (whoops.)

Z 4:35 PM  

@JaxinLA - Now the video appears. Who knows. I've never experienced that before.

@600 - I'd love to blame my teenage boys for knowing that usage, but it was a slightly older (and probably drunker) crowd from whom I learned it.

No prize email for me. :(

santafefran 7:30 PM  

No prize email for me either. I was just happy to solve the puzzles AND get the meta-answer.

Sfingi 8:36 PM  

Being from the NE, thought a HOO HAW was a tchotchke.

I like the puzzle OK. There were a few OU things floating loose, too, beyond the THOUs. I guess @Masked covered that. Very glad for UTURN rather than UIE.

"Both" puzzles have IONIC. Has anyone done a study of the most common crosswordisms and if the chances are like, say, if 2 people in a room have the same birthday?

sanfranman59 1:48 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 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 6:21, 6:51, 0.93, 23%, Easy-Medium
Tue 7:08, 8:52, 0.80, 3%, Easy (4th lowest median solve time of 123 Tuesdays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:35, 3:40, 0.98, 44%, Medium
Tue 3:55, 4:34, 0.86, 7%, Easy (9th lowest median solve time of 123 Tuesdays)

Anonymous 1:19 PM  

In the syndicated puzzle printed on Tues., Nov. 29, the answer to the clue #69 across is "inapt" in order to spell the #63 down answer "pea". However, there is no such word as "inapt", it is "inept".

Singer 2:20 PM  

Anonymous 1:19 Syndication:
"Inapt" is a perfectly good word that means "not suitable". "Inept" is also a word that meants "incompetent". Meriam Webster says "inapt" was first used in 1620, so it has been around for a very long time.

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

From Syndication Land

Wow! I loved this puzzle and the very cleanly filled grid. When Rex has on his cranky pants, I think it is reflected in the comments. And btw, inapt is a very good word for ill-suited.

Dirigonzo 3:19 PM  

Maybe it's a regional thing limited to my part of syndiland but way out here HOOHAH can be used to refer to any of several body parts, with the particular one determined by gender, context and how many beers have been consumed. You can be kicked in it, have a rash on it or stick it someplace it shouldn't be, just to cite a few examples of possible usage. TMI? Sorry.

- "Solving time: approx. 8:45"
- "Please understand that my beef with this puzzle is largely a matter of personal preference. I do not like Fussy. I do, however, like 34A: Classroom missile (spitball), 43A: Carom (ricochet) and 29D: Convenient kind of shopping (one-stop) - long, lively fill. Good stuff."
- "I should have got this right away. Why? Because the clue and answer are both components of one of my favorite quotes from Abraham (Grampa) Simpson: "I ain't fer it, I'm agin it!""
- "And while HERSELF is perfectly good as an answer, any actress caught playing HERSELF in a movie will not be "famous" for long, ceased to be "famous" about a decade earlier, or is "famous" for all the wrong reasons. When's the last time a self-respecting actress played HERSELF in a movie (in anything other than the smallest cameo role)? Ooh, ooh, I know: Joan Rivers! No, wait, I said "self-respecting." And "actress." Ah, I've made her angry! Look out!"
- "Pantheon rules dictate that I must acknowledge every NYT crossword appearance by a sitting member of the Security Council. Thus I hereby acknowledge EERO Saarinen. Even the unquestioned rulers have to get out once in a while and show they're still relevant."
- @beinsane added this to the 10 comments: " The theme is oxymoronic body parts.
Small-MINDed BigFOOT, white-FACEd BlackBEARD, cold-HEARTed Hot LIPS.
Still pretty weak in my book. (I believe this marks the first appearance of "commenter as puzzle critic" which is so common in current posts.)

Nullifidian 10:11 PM  

Syndicated solver here.

I liked this puzzle a bit. It made me think more than the usual Tuesday. As far as I was concerned, there was no ambiguity about whether it was HONG or King Kong, because the border river between Kentucky and Indiana can only be the OHIO.

My one reservation about the puzzle is that it was too easy to guess the answer to the theme before completing any of the theme clues. Other than that, an enjoyable puzzle.

Anonymous 1:45 AM  

Phrases like INFUTURO are one reason I never went to law school. I didn't want to be so Latinized that I'd catch myself saying "I need to get my taxes in by the Ides of April." Veni,vidi, fuhgeddaboudit.
More not-how-real-people-talk talk: INAPT. Now I know it's a perfectly good word--but nobody ever SAYS it! INEPT is what we say. To put INAPT in a puzzle indicates how INEPT you are!
I do have to thank Mr. Stewart for a great Pickett memory, and for eschewing the obvious drug-related clue for STASH. There ought to be some other way to break up THOU; didn't anybody in the Bible, say, "goeth out into the wilderness," or somewhere? Or maybe a fellow could get mighty wasted by his ninth ouzo.
This was an OK puzzle, I guess, marred by my ass-u-m(e)ption of KING over HONG.

redom: what you do before you weep.

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