W.W. II Pacific battle site / THU 1-26-12 / Moore who wrote Gate at the Stairs / Horseshoe-shaped lab item / 1980s sitcom filmed with puppet

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: ST- — common phrases have "ST-" added to beginning of one of the words in said phrases, creating wackiness

Word of the Day: TRUK (39D: W.W. II Pacific battle site) —
Operation Hailstone (known in Japan as Japanese: トラック島空襲 Torakku-tō Kūshū, lit. "the airstrike on Truk Island") was a massive naval air and surface attack launched on February 17–18, 1944, during World War II by the United States Navy against the Japanese naval and air base at Truk in the Caroline Islands, a pre-war Japanese territory. (wikipedia)
• • •

What the TRUK?!

This was a Wednesday dressed up as a Thursday (i.e. with fairly difficulty cluing throughout). The theme concept is not really Thursday-worthy—just a pretty loose add-a-letter (OK, two letters). No rhyme or reason to the add-ons. It's a theme that could be replicated over and over and over again, ad infinitum. I'd be shocked if it hadn't been done several times before. At least the ST-s could've been added to, say, all R-words (you're 3/5 there! STRAP MUSIC ... STRIPE FRUIT ... STRING FINGER ... come on!). JACK THE STRIPPER is mildly cute; the rest, shrug. And the fill. Pretty lousy. I cannot believe that that TRUK / UTUBE fiasco was unavoidable (44A: Horseshoe-shaped lab item). The grid parameters just aren't that challenging. The whole thing smacks of laziness, esp. at the fill level. Then you've got the AGASP / AROAR crossing (abarf) and then junky stuff all over the place. Not the NYT puzzle's finest hour, by any stretch.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Private quarters in a stable? (STALL FOR ONE)
  • 23A: Dallas tourists, perhaps? (TEXAS STRANGERS)
  • 37A: Name for a bachelorette party performer? (JACK THE STRIPPER)
  • 49A: Vacation spot for some who stop working? (STRIKERS ISLAND)
  • 60A: Not saluting for quite some time? (STILL AT EASE)

  • 15A: Moore who wrote "A Gate at the Stairs" (LORRIE) — ambivalence ... she is crossworthy, for sure, but she is only here (or in any puzzle) because of her friendly letters, and I don't like seeing her except where she's propping up something Very nice (in an otherwise very-difficult-to-fill section). LORRIE / ARRET is (yet) another inglorious crossing (7D: Stop over in Paris?). 
  • 41A: Announcement that comes from an envelope (OSCAR) — timely, as the nominations just came out. I've seen practically nothing. "Bridesmaids." I saw that. I am familiar with every film and its cast because I make it my business to keep up with this stuff—important for solvers as well as constructors. I tear through my "Entertainment Weekly" as soon as I get it and write down all the interesting-looking names that I didn't previously know.VIOLA Davis, for instance, or Berenice BEJO.
  • 5D: 1980s sitcom filmed with a puppet ("ALF") — he ate cats. My sister looked like sister on that show. My best friend in college liked (likes?) this show. I've never seen an episode all the way through. I associate ALF with MR. T. I don't know why.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:12 AM  

OK, I'm now calling yesterday's a medium Thurs. and this one a med Wed.  Yes, I put in AGAPE and PROTRUDES but, it still went very quickly for Thurs.  Plus, this was not as much fun/zippy as yesterday's.  Will should have switched them.

I did like STRIKERSISLAND.  Almost makes me miss L & O.

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

Now, if they have actual talking envelopes at this year's Oscars I may actually watch it. If they still have humans making the anouncement, not so much.

When I have AGA__, I just leave it for the crosses, so AGAZE / TZARS held me up for two long. AGAZE/AGAPE/AGASP are each bad enough, the TSARS/TZARS options of the crossing was almost as bad as the rest of the crap.

All stalls are STALLSFORONE. The only exception I've seen among the literally tens of thousands of stall-years in my life has been once or twice, two weaners have had to share a stall for a month.

Thanks for the Sam Cooke. The man can soothe a savage breast.

Tobias Duncan 12:24 AM  

I had STD then STI for 59A Results of bringing someone home.

Evan 12:42 AM  

Generally agreed with Rex's take, although I might be a much bigger fan of JACK THE STRIPPER than he. In the crossword, that is. Ahem.

A hand up for being unable for a very long time to solve the answer to 11-Down or understand it when I finally solved it. I kept reading it as IN THE RAPY. What's a rapy? How could or why would a person want to be in THE rapy? It sounds gross in every way possible, like something out of Sean Connery's mind on SNL Celebrity Jeopardy.

GILL I. 12:57 AM  

Rex, if I had you as a professor I think you'd scare the pants right off of me.
I didn't think this was that bad at all. Looking at the grid it looks like the ST's were placed in some thought out order.
It was an easier than usual Thursday and I'm sure some will cry foul becaue it wasn't a rebus but dang, JACK THE STRIPPER right in the middle was fun.
The AHEM, AROAR and AMAN aside, (ok that's a lot)made me smile. What's wrong with TRUK or UTUBE?

Agasp Cash Michaels 1:49 AM  

UTUBE is what they should have named YouTube which looks awkward, tho now a given, and probably thought briliant because of its success, but that don't make it right!

I know, the weirdest, most unfortunate parsing in existence is THE RAPIST = THERAPIST.
Sort of goes with JACKTHESTRIPPER.

Two biggest hold ups for me oNTHEdole/INTHERAPY and koA/BSA.

No Malapops, moments of synchronicity, run ins with stars, pangrams, or triggers for childhood reminiscences...so no great shakes as solver,

Theme 11 14 15 14 11 = 55
Two extra letters, 5 long themes
Alan Arbesfeld, Keep on Truk- ing!

chefwen 1:50 AM  

I'm with Gill I.P., I really liked it, even if it brought about a few pun like groans i.e. TEXAS STRANGERS and JACK THE STRIPPER. I kept reading the long ones to my visiting BIL and although I'm sure he was not interested, he groaned along with me, the lad is very accommodating.

Only write overs were at 50D tater before TUBER and 22D agape/agaze/AGASP.

Octavian the Striker 2:53 AM  

Puzzle felt like it was missing a reveal. .... like abbreviated "street front" or "When the Saints (STs) came marching in"

Clever and fun but did not feel like a Thursday.

Liked STILL AT EASE. That's actually amusing.

dk 5:47 AM  

Not my week. Perhaps as I am in a hotel that cannot get me a NYT so I must read and solve on the pad.

Biggest laugh today was via @tobias. I can see you sharing that with the espresso goddesses. Perhaps I could get you to send one of their bumper stickers.

This puzzle is just fine in the blind date set up by your mom with her best friend's niece from out of town way.

Although I could send ALF my Got Cat t-shirt that I tried to get one of the local bears to wear.

** (2 Stars) Bring back the joy

Deb 5:59 AM  

I was so hoping to come here and find a "challenging" rating for this one. I had a heck of a time breaking into it and spent almost twice as long battling to the finish. I had "perk" for CASH and "amends" for ADAPTS and didn't get that mess fixed until I realized "Top-of-the-line" must be DELUXE. Um, yeah - if you're ordering a hamburger in a truck stop.

Andrea, I disagree about the spelling of youtube. Probably the forty-two-hundredth time I mistakenly type in utube to get there, it made me ponder why they made the un-obvious choice. I think it was because they wanted to stress that the whole endeavor was about YOU(r) videos and to go with the texty "U" wouldn't have voiced that as elegantly. Or maybe utube.com was already taken. :)

BTW, I missed class the day "malapops" was born. Would someone clue me in, please?

Larry I in L.A. 6:19 AM  

Three in the morning as I write this, so I can't remember the malapop-like word that describes "speak of the devil" (there is such a word, isn't there?), but less than two hours ago I was sharing a good laugh with friends at The Office about the same SNL routine referenced by @Evan. Don't worry, The Office is a nearby watering hole, not actual work.

As to the puzzle, remind me not to enter any contests that commence at 2 a.m. adjacent to a bar. My instincts failed me at both 15A (LeslIE) and 45D (goAway), plus I wanted rei for BSA. Eventually finished, but "up the track"...

Nancy in PA 7:39 AM  

Hand up for rei then koa before BSA. And I agree with @Deb about difficulty starting; very slow for me. I kind of like the OJO/OHO crossing, but am not fond of the agaze then agape then finally AGASP fiasco. Sam Cooke made my morning!

Anonymous 7:56 AM  

An alternative clue for 63A is: Baseball's Vada _______. Pinson played for the Reds back in the 60s.

jesser 8:16 AM  

Hi. The next several days are going to be challenging days indeed to be the media contact and spokesman for Doña Ana County, New Mexico. There is more to the story than what you'll see in the news, but I can't say much beyond that. I'll be back doing crosswords as soon as I can. Thanks, everyone, for whatever moral support you can send this direction.

Glimmerglass 8:21 AM  

Easy Thursday. Even the UTUBE (?) TRUK cross was easy, because all the crossing words were easy, leaving only the U. Some of the cluing was a bit nasty (i.e. good), but the theme was super easy to see and use (Jack . . . was cute). I live in Massachusetts, so Cape ANN was easy (the other 3-letter Mass. cape). LORRIE was the only other obscure proper noun.

David 8:29 AM  

@jesser, all the best for positive resolutions down in New Mexico....

Wednesday theme, but otherwise felt like a Thursday. Solid 9 letter answers, esp. IN THERAPY, otherwise nothing too exciting. In addition to JACK THE STRIPPER I loved STILL AT EASE.

Vada PINSON had a helluva career, wasn't too far from 3000 hits (just looked it up, 2757 to be exact)

joho 8:32 AM  

@Nancy in Pa, I LOVE the OJO/OHO crossing!

I was surprised at how easy this was for a Thursday so I am looking for a challenge tomorrow.

I also have to chime in that I like the YOU in YOUTUBE as it's all about YOU. I had never heard of UTUBE until last night. I don't hate it because at least it's fresher than UBOAT.

John V 8:34 AM  

Played challenging for me, especially North, LORRIE/ALF crossing took forever, as I know nothing of either. I thought the them was fun, 65 letters densisity is pretty cool, esp. slotting in the two 14s.

@Tobias, I feel your pain @59A; I'm a good baseball fan, but wanted something like BFF, you know? Tear/SPREE snagged me for a bit, as wanted tear as in crying. AGASP = touch clunky, IMO.

So, fun in the Charlotte fog. Maybe I'm really in Vineyard Sound, not NC?

Someone please explain 39D, TRUK? Thanks.

Good one, Alan.

AnnieD 8:41 AM  

A little scary at first run through as there were few anchors to throw in...but then the fun began as I worked my way around the puzz.

Hand up for in the rapy, and koa before bsa, and I was sure stop in French was arete...perhaps that explains why, despite years of French in school, the only phrase I remember is, "Ou est le drapeau?" Not a very useful phrase when traveling.

All in all a good pace for a Thursday puzz.

evil doug 8:52 AM  

Gill I.P.---my gift that keeps on giving:

"Rex, if I had you as a professor I think you'd scare the pants right off of me." That's precisely the fantasy many college professors entertain.

"Forget it": Had the final 'nd' and I reallllly wanted "pound sand".

I don't time---to me, crosswording for time or doing one of those tournaments are akin to perverting a pleasant pastime into sweating the SAT's---but I'm guessing this took longer than normal for Thursday. Normally, longer is good in my opinion---more value for my $2.50. But I didn't leave today's puzzle feeling satisfied over the theme nor the fill. I like to go back over the completed puzzle and find my favorite words, and there's just nothing compelling today. Kind of a Sunday wrapped in Thursday's clothing.


retired_chemist 8:54 AM  

Liked it better than Rex. Nice cluing, with a bit of crunch. Theme was OK.

59A was RUN to begin, but @Tobias's 59A easily tops that. Hand up for KOA @ 33D. AGAPE, of course, @ 22D. FOUR AM @ 66A, ADDS ON @ 63A. The S Central could have been a real bust without the easy crosses.

Thank you, Mr Arbesfeld.

Jp 8:55 AM  

Guessed the theme at TEXAS STRANGERS. Made the rest of the theme answers easy to uncover. Had a personal natik at OHO and HAS. Why is "HAS" an answer to "harbors"? Did not need any Google to finish a Thursday means that this was an easy one.
Agree with Rex that there was the feeling of deja vu in this puzzle. And some of the fill was icky.
Like @EVAN am I was reading 11D as IN THE RAPY. Did not realize it was IN THERAPY until I came here.

tptsteve 9:05 AM  

Found this one to be a good workout. Lots of write overs trying to figure things out.

@ACM- While not as bad as THERAPIST, when I looked at my finished grid, I was wondering how "STILL A TEASE" had been clued.

retired_chemist 9:08 AM  

@ Jp: harbors a grudge = HAS a grudge, e.g.

M07S 9:14 AM  

@Deb...There was a discussion of malapop in the comments on Rex's blog of 02/26/11:

mac 6:58 PM

@JaxInL.A.: malapop is an invention of (I think) Andrea, and it means a good answer pops up in the wrong place, later to be found in a right place. Someone may want to correct my explanation...
Jim 7:02 PM

If memory serves, re: some malapop discussion in the past, it is some particularly piquant wrong answer (i.e., I had pig for ARK today--I think mine is better...that kind of thing). Someone feel free to correct or expound on my reply.
joho 7:19 PM

@mac ... yes, Andrea most definitely coined malapop. I guess the best way to describe it is when you write in an answer at, let's say 1A and have to erase it because you discover its wrong, only to find out that its the right answer at other place in the puzzle, let's say 17D.

Happens to me all the time!

Rob C 9:15 AM  

@John V - Truk is an area in the S. Pacific containing atoll islands that were used by Japan as a logistical base during WWII. US-Japan battle took place there in 1944 - major victory for US. Islands are now part of Micronesia.

Can't claim to have known all of this - looked it up. I love learning stuff from crosswords.

jackj 9:20 AM  

Rex nailed it in his review; it's like Alan Arbesfeld didn't get the memo that the Maleska days are to be but a memory in the Shortzian era.


Thanks for the nod, Alan, but, this JACK is not THERIPPER and not THESTRIPPER but prefers to be known as the....Oh, NEVERMIND.

Loren Muse Smith 9:22 AM  

I'm with @retired_chemist - I liked the puzzle more than Rex.

@octavian - I wanted some kind of reveal, too.

I noticed the cross of AGASP ad AROAR and liked it! And why is it that we know instantly that "swell" means NEATO?? Liked DELUXE, STILLATEASE, AND STALLFORONE.

One fill reminds me of a great Harry Chapin song called "Thirty Thousand Pounds of Bananas. A trucker carrying these bananas failed to put his rig INLOW starting down a mountain. . .


jberg 9:39 AM  

@anonymous 12:17 AM - I don't think there is a tzar, only TSAR or czar - so once you have the T you're good to go.

I too had AGApe before AGASP -- why isn't the former ever clued as "God's love?" That would be a lot better.

I did like JACK THE STRIPPER. I think we had TEXAS ARRANGER a couple of months ago, maybe on a Sunday, or I would have liked 23A better.

Lots of invocations - to SCAR at 41A and DEON at 57A. Is it a trend?

Wood 9:39 AM  

Agree that this seemed more like a Wednesday, and with some questionable fill... but redeemed by what I thought were all GREAT theme answers.

I did say "oh please" under my breath at the AGAPE/AROAR cross. Let's ban all adjectives that are formed by prefixing a verb with 'a-'. Except maybe "abarf." Love that.

GILL I. 9:45 AM  

@evil d: perhaps, subconsciously, I was thinking JILL THE STRIPPER...

Tita 9:48 AM  

Went down fighting for me. Liked it, but not over the top about it.

But ever looking on the bright side, here are my favs...

NEST for Fit (in)
ATDAWN instead of the hohum ONEAM or such
Also liked STRIKERSISLAND, but wonder if that was tough for non-NYers.

chefbea 9:55 AM  

I agree - didn't seem like a Thursday puzzle. Had alters for adapts, then KOA and agape.

Someone is bringing their yummy salsa to our superbowl party. Not sure who to root for.

Always good to see a tuber in the puzzle - even if it isn't red.

quilter1 9:55 AM  

I guess I liked it better than some, but when finished thought it was more of a yawn than anything. On to BEQ.

Tobias Duncan 10:00 AM  

@dk or anyone else who would like a World Cup Taos bumper sticker: email me your address and will see if the espresso goddesses will spare over a few.

Lindsay 10:07 AM  

Should not be reading this blog. Major procrastination mode.

So I'm the only one who thought maybe UTEp played in the Pac-10? Which left me trying to make sense of NEpt. Finally found the error and came here thinking all was right with the world only to find that STRIVeRS ISLAND crossing TRUv is wrong. Though Rikers Island is definitely a better answer than River Island, and apparently I was imagining away the terminal "s" to boot.

Not going to be my day.

***Pinsest = superlative form of PINSON

archaeoprof 10:23 AM  

So-so Thursday.

Vada PINSON, centerfielder for the Reds in the 60's, is certainly crossworthy late in the week. He was a fine player, and his first and last name can both work.

In my crossword class we're trying construction. Students are amazed how hard it is. I'm working on that country music puzzle again...

Two Ponies 10:35 AM  

I don't time myself but this felt like the fastest Thursday ever.
Rex's write-up was more fun than the solve. Abarf indeed! Rex studies pop culture magazines to help his solving? No wonder I get hung up by that crap. I cracked up at the fake movie poster for The Help. Too funny.
I hope tomorrow is a challenge.
Days like today make me feel smarter than I actually am.

Alffan 10:46 AM  

@Evan. Thanks for the clarification. I finished successfully according to Mr. Pencil, but could not figure out what in the world "in the rapy" was. Oh my...sadly, I work in mental health and work very closely with therapists...one word.

Noam D. Elkies 11:19 AM  

First had "Begone!" for 45D:BEAT_IT, so when fixed it looked like "Be a tit!". Make like a bird and ... ?

(captcha = reathess = "Breathless! No B..l!")

John V 11:45 AM  

@Rob C Thanks, re TRUK

JenCT 12:40 PM  

I second the praise for the "The Help" movie poster.

This one was tough for me - just not in my wheelhouse. Actually looked for a rebus at first.


dick swart 12:43 PM  

I didn't get in the rapy until a half hour after I finished the puzzle

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

At 9 AM, I changed my Facebook profile pic from Chevy Chase, aka Santa, to ALF. At 11AM I started the puzzle. Who knew...I didn't!

Wood 1:15 PM  

@Noam: My favorite "make like a..." construction is:

"Make like a shepherd and get the flock out of here!"

Hey, I sense a good xword theme...

Mel Ott 1:23 PM  

One of my former assistants once served in the Peace Corps in TRUK, so I had some familiarity with the place.

I also liked the puzzle more than Rex, altho I agree there is some shaky fill. And speaking of bad crossings I hated OHO/OJO. Is OJO pronounced OHO?

Lewis 1:34 PM  

Not so easy for me today. The brain just wasn't serving up answers that it might have on other days. Oh, wait. I had a short night of sleep.

Going to take a nap...

Bird 1:47 PM  

Not much to complain about this puzzle. TRUK is obscure to me - I thought I knew a lot about WWII - but got it through crosses. I don't like Awords and AGASP/AROAR hurt. I started with AGAZE/CZARS (and smiled because you rarely see the CZ spelling). Had PINSTO then PINSON.

Not much to enjoy about this puzzle. I did like JACKTHESTRIPPER and STRIKERSISLAND.

I wasn't sure if 33D was KOA, BSA, EMS or REI so I left it blank until crosses were filled.

Almost Friday!

Andrea still a tease michaels 2:01 PM  

You are not alone on UTEp, a downside of this blog, as I'd never have known made that kind of mistake before.

I would have screamed my head off if PINSON had been the baseball player, esp when puzzles get axed or pooh-poohed for a musical or TV reference much less obscrue to 90% of solvers...
( yes, a figure I am totally making up!)
Now I'm curious if it was indeed originally clued that way!

Sorry to say but TZAR is indeed yet another acceptable variation on TSAR and CZAR...and more importantly, good in Scrabble! Some of you would probably say RATZ to that...

Malapops are particularly delicious when the word appears later in a wholly different context...not just another clue later with a similar meaning, which is often an intentional ruse of late-week constructors.
I can't think of a recent actual example, but let's say you had thought of PINSON for a clue about a baseball player clued as "Vida ____".
But there are only four letters, so you write TRUE. But then later in the puzzle is a clue for "attaches" and the answer is PINSON!
So it is the wrong word earlier that pops up later. All the more fabulous if the letter count was the same and you had actually written in the wrong word only to have it be right later, like a flash of ESP. I live for those!
They were happening a lot, so we coined a word for them.
I suggested malapop as a play on malaprop.

(It's what I actually do for a living...i name company and products...so I get that the YOU is about "you", I'm just saying it looks ugly and clunky and UTUBE with a hyphen maybe U-TUBE would have been hipper looking (in my mind))
But yes, it was probably taken,as everything is...bane of my existence!
and b) once something becomes highly successful people are used to seing it that way and then think it's a brilliant name retroactively,regardless of whether or not it might have been initially or still isn't at base ugly...U-gly!

But of course, I'd be the first to admit that name enjoyment is wildly subjective, as are crossword themes and constructor styles!


mac 2:39 PM  

Easy-medium, with the theme clear at the second theme answer. Laughed at aroar and agasp, knew the blog would be atwitter!

A little hesitation at 52D: in one or in two. I liked the answer "Oscar" but I thought some might not be happy with the clue.

I enjoyed this puzzle.

Bird 2:50 PM  

What would happen if we put the regular posters to this blog - you know who you are - to contruct a puzzle together. I can just imagine the arguments. PINSON is clued as attaches. No, it should be clued as a baseball player! WOOSNAM? Who the hell is that?! C'mon, he's a famous golfer who won the Masters. TRUK?! You know - the famous WWII battle site.

Then there's the spelling variations: TSAR/CZAR, AMEBA/AMOEBA, etc.

Makes me think of "12 Angry Men"

Anonymous 3:08 PM  

Speaking of "12 Angry Men", really, only 2 or 3 were angry. One wanted to get it right, the rest just wanted to go home. It should have been named "Real Life: 1/12 is moral, 1/4 is irrational, the rest just don't care".

sanfranman59 4:03 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)

Thu 16:40, 18:56, 0.88, 28%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 9:08, 9:16, 0.99, 56%, Medium

Theoda3rd 4:28 PM  

Only surprise for me was that EVIL DOUG actually paid for the puzzle! The puzzle itself was med Wed.

Anonymous 4:51 PM  

@Bird - Rex will not have allow arguements in the room. He will post all the rules and will be judge & jury.

This is Rexville afterall;)

Z 7:04 PM  

For 57A I confidently wrote ODEum. Combine that with the UTEP mistake (my "that doesn't sound right" didn't stop me from writing it down) and the SE took quite a bit of unraveling. A little post solve research uncovered that Wikipedia has a brief entry for "ODEON" but not "ODEUM" while the reverse is true of Merriam-Webster's online dictionary. Anyone out there care to clarify? Are they both acceptable transliterations from the Greek, or is there some subtle difference between the two?

gropprob - Work place hazard for JACK THE STRIPPER because Jill is STILL A TEASE

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Dirigonzo 5:35 PM  

From syndiland, DNF because UTEp was wrong and I couldn't for the life of me see UTES despite running the alphabet several time.

On a brighter note, today is the birthday of my Labs, Lance and Ellie - they're 7. Festivities will ensue.

Spacecraft 7:43 PM  

I would never have thought this possible--and on just a Thursday! I put in one answer, ALF, and even that was a guess.
And th-th-that's all, folks. I could not make another entry on that entire grid. Oh, I suppose I could have Googled a few things here and there, but...well, let's just say I gave my brain the day off. It all just looked like too much. "Could we get started, please?" "Don't look at me!" "Take a hike!" "I'm".....done. Dee en ef.

Mike in STL 9:43 AM  

Remember ALF? He's back, in pog form.

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