Group with 1971 3x platinum album Aqualung / MON 2-27-12 / Rhododendron relative / Freshwater duck / High class poetry it isn't / Avian hooter

Monday, February 27, 2012

Constructor: Bill Thompson

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: T-LL — yet another vowel progression puzzle

Word of the Day: DOGGEREL (11D: High-class poetry it isn't)
Crudely or irregularly fashioned verse, often of a humorous or burlesque nature.

[From Middle English, poor, worthless, from dogge, dog. See dog.]
• • •

A pretty standard example of the form. TALL TELL TILL TOLL TULL. Not much else to say. One thing I noticed is that a couple of Downs cross three theme answers. These theme-crossers are ones you have to lock in early when you're constructing, and they are often less-than-lovely. If a Down crosses three theme answers, chances are there's not a wide choice of potential answers there (for instance, S-I--I doesn't give you a lot of wiggle room; neither does E--L-R, actually). Downs that cross two theme answers are inevitable, but Downs that cross three theme answers are not that common, and for good reason: they give the constructor less play in the grid, less opportunity to make it as lively and bouncy and interesting and good. This is all to say that I was wondering if the grid could've been built differently, in such a way that those 3-theme crossers could've been avoided. But NYT puzzles, esp. early-week, tend to be all about the theme. The fill simply has to be passable, and the fill today is at least average, maybe slightly better. Not too much junk, and some nice 6+-letter fill here and there.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Exhibits pride (STANDS TALL)
  • 25A: Betray a lover's confidences (KISS AND TELL) — coincidentally (and this is true) just finished watching the second half of the PBS "Clinton" documentary, minutes before doing the puzzle
  • 37A: Symbol of embezzlement (HAND IN THE TILL) — my favorite of the theme answers
  • 50A: E-ZPass pays it (HIGHWAY TOLL)
  • 60A: Group with the 1971 3x platinum album "Aqualung" (JETHRO TULL)

No real snags today. Some strange moments, like when I saw that an answer started IAM- (??), but then I saw the clue and remembered that movie I had no desire to see with the soundtrack of "Beatles"covers that I own (46A: 2001 Sean Penn movie = "I AM SAM"). Got JETHRO TULL without ever reading the clue (off of "TULL"). Same with ANAGRAMS, which is lucky, because that is one awkward example of an anagram in that clue (38D: "Slot machines" and "cash lost in 'em," e.g.). AZALEA (48D: Rhododendron relative) makes the grid pretty and kind of takes the edge off of the adjacent SUTURE (47D: Sew up, as a wound). Favorite word in the grid, by a mile: DOGGEREL. Sounds insulting, is insulting.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Danny Kaye 12:06 AM  

The vessel with the PESTLE has the brew that is true.

Tobias Duncan 12:09 AM  

The clue for RAMJETS should have been "Used on almost no aircraft ever in history"

So many clues felt overly easy to me but I still ended up with a med monday time.

It always makes me smile to see ANAGRAMS.

SethG 12:11 AM  

Got JETHRO TULL without ever reading the clue (off of "the other theme answers").

jae 12:18 AM  

Medium for me too.  Pretty smooth grid with some zippy theme answers.  Nice Mon.

Does IRG also work as an abrev. for irregular?  I'm never sure which one to go with.

Evan 12:20 AM  

What, Rex? You mean you weren't watching the Oscars right before doing the puzzle? You missed out on all the masterfully delivered jokes and completely-not-over-the-top skits and comedic bits that didn't fall flat at all!....Oh wait, take what I just said and assume that the opposite happened. No spoilers from me, although I will say that I was glad that the only film of the Best Picture nominees that I've seen won the Academy Award. Saw it last night, too, so that was timely.

My only write-over in this puzzle was near the end when I dropped in LOAF at 27-Down, but the funniest part of that was that I was staring at HAND IN THE _ILF. Just a couple of wrong letters and the NYT seemed like it was on the verge of an R-rated explosion.

foodie 12:22 AM  

For some reason, I was not in the groove on this one. Found it a bit harder than average. QDI agrees with me...

Most favorite theme entry is KISS AND TELL, least favorite HIGHWAY TOLL.

Is ENHALO a real word? Barely, I guess. And who's in charge of doing that?

Shout out to Evil Doug's EVILER Twin.

Best part of the Oscars: Cirque Du Soleil! It's amazing to see what the human body can do.

Kev Stevens 12:25 AM  

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Jake 1:33 AM  

The clue for 41D left out the direct address comma.

chefwen 1:48 AM  

Like Rex and Seth G, filled in JETHRO TULL without reading the clue, what else could it have been? Super easy, typical Monday. Let's ramp it up guys.

O.K. not so easy are the capchas.
The first one sounds like a new type of aspirin, the second one a misspelling of thigh.

Anagrams Carla Michaels 2:07 AM  

Super smooth, all five, amazing things matched, considering there was practically only one possibility for TULL, TILL and TOLL...think about it...
So bravo...
And where there was some play, for example, with TELL, Bill Thompson went for the more fun KISSANDTELL instead of ShowANDTELL.
Very very smooth.
Liked it all around.
My grandpa used to say MISLED, rhyming with AISLED, as he had never made the connection between reading it and saying it. Miss him!
His second wife, my grandmother Maidie will be 100 in May!

IAMSAM is one of the worst films ever...

Loved the start with PIPPI. Loved the two Zs, the J, two Ks. I think it's a great all around Monday.

retired_chemist 3:19 AM  

Solid Monday fare. OK theme. I didn't notice the theme until I finished, so it solved as a themeless for me.

I hardly stopped to think - yet it took me 5.5 minutes. How anyone does sub-3 minute times is beyond me.

Good fill overall. ENHALO, AOK - not so hot.

I once heard a newscast where an anchor, quoting from a teleprompter, said someone was MISLED but pronounced it "missiled." What do they teach in J-school anymore?

Thanks, Mr. Thompson.

Z 6:55 AM  

I noticed the -AND- in the first three theme answers and was preparing for a WOW moment. So HIGHWAY TOLL was disappointing.

Easy Breezy Monday. Briefly had OCHre, otherwise it was one letter after another.

What - no one watched the NBA all-star "game" instead of the Oscars? Go Team. No, really, go. Please.

dk 7:23 AM  

I owned two eight track tapes and one was Stand-Up by Jethro Tull. I also saw them play at Newport... I think Ten Years After was on the bill as well. And Dylan got a few boos as he was electric. Sorry GEEZER bleed over.

I think I may have TOAD over EGGS for breakfast.

*** (3 Stars) Fine Monday and while I know it is a tray and not a box but....

Ahem! I thought the robot test was supposed to keep the @Kev Stevens at bay.

Lisa 7:34 AM  

Is OCHER the common US spelling? I put OCHre and then realized I had to change it when it wasn't working. It looks horrible to me, but it might just be because I'm not used to that spelling.

I had sAND IN THE TILL for a while because I had put sEMI instead of HEMI. Oops. I wondered for a bit how sand would be some kind of indication or symbol of embezzlement.

Loren Muse Smith 7:48 AM  

@dk - your breakfast almost made me spray coffee all over my puzzle! Maybe spoon some ROE on top?

With AZALEA, KISSANDTELL (my favorite, too), ENHALO (didn't know that one) and DOGGEREL, I rate today's a bit better than your average run-of-the-mill Monday. DOGGEREL is an active part of my mother-in-law's vocabulary, and it never fails to impress me.

@Tobias Duncan - I would have clued 45D as "coolest ever 60s cartoon hero!"

Rudy 8:05 AM  

I think the host and others are unecessarily harsh on puzzles. Maybe it is a breeze (Complete in 3.5 minutes!!) I still marvel at how difficult it is to get the words lined up and of course the clues need to be fined tuned increasing degree of difficulty as the week progresses. Has there been a double blind test where the same words across and down are offered with clues for the day of the week??

Sue McC 8:06 AM  

I'm with Z...I noticed the ANDs in the first 3 theme answers and then was a bit off kilter when I got to HIGHWAY TOLL. Other that that, a fun , easy Monday... Very quck solve.

evil doug 8:20 AM  


"Maybe spoon some ROE on top?"



joho 8:33 AM  

Great Monday puzzle, thank you, Bill Thompson!

I'm pretty sure if you're EVILER you will never be ENHALOed.

@Anagrams Carla Michaels, I had a friend who pronounced MISLED to rhyme with grizzled!

quilter1 8:38 AM  

I thought ENHALO and EVILER were iffy, but otherwise a smooth and easy Monday.

jackj 8:58 AM  

This puzzles theme is, well, um, er, how about we just take a look at the other answers to see how the grid was filled.

FILM for “Annie” or “Annie Hall”? C’mon, this isn’t TV Guide and the insult isn’t erased by using the same clue for TITLE, it only compounds the pain.

But, moving right along with the metaphors, we have EVILER to rub salt in our wound. The last (and only) time EVILER showed up in a Times puzzle was 15 years ago, in 1997. Please, please, Will, stuff it back in its can! Is there anything dreadfuler than EVILER?

Props, though for the ANAGRAMS clue and for DOGGEREL, but those two still aren’t enough to “Surround (the puzzle) with a saintly light” so we won’t be ENHALO(ing) it, either.

My, my, what will the week be bringing us?

efrex 9:06 AM  

Wow, tough crowd...

Vowel progressions are an "eh" theme for me, but I thought the theme answers were solidly in-language (when HIGHWAYTOLL is the worst, you're doing pretty well), and there was lots of peppy (not to be confused with PIPPI) fill sprinkled everywhere.

Finished quickly, but enjoyed greatly. A POSY of AZALEAs to Mr. Thompson.

chefbea 9:10 AM  

Good easy monday puzzle. Does anyone really say "he lent me the money"??
I would say "he loaned me the money"

jberg 9:15 AM  

Interesting philsophical question - is it a virtue or a drawback to have two downs (and relatively short downs, at that) crossing three theme answers? We can admire the constructor's ability to do that, or bemoan the effect on other fill. I guess I'm too new to this to have a firm opinion.

Ditto for JETHRO TULL just from the theme. On the other hand, I thought STEAD was clued too hard for a Monday - I almost rejected it on that ground. I'd have gone with "kind of home," I think.

Loren Muse Smith 9:18 AM  

@Eviler Doug - I didn't know that word and just googled it. Ick. That was NOT my intention!

evil doug 9:22 AM bad. I thought it was an addendum to yesterday's tribute to George Carlin's seven words....

Mea culpa,


John V 9:26 AM  

Easy; everything @Rex said, esp. re: the grid, which felt a touch on the clunk side. Liked the theme, a classic Monday approach. Liked AZALEA and SUTURE.

Today's autonym: EVILER. Ugh.

A fine Monday, finished whilst the plane was sitting in the "penalty box" at LGA, put there for, "spacing" en route to Charlotte. @Evil, what's with that? Does ATC get, you know, surprised by planes showing up unexpectedly and so, off to the penalty box?

John V 9:27 AM  

That would be, "clunky".

evil doug 9:34 AM  

John V:

Here's the short story: Flights from LGA, JFK, and EWR (plus Teterboro and BDL and other nearby aerodromes) all share the same common routes---so even if you're the only plane in sight at LGA, you have to allow for coordination with the 25 planes waiting over yonder. Then there are restricted areas over the Atlantic where military operations have priority, so sometimes the corridors are tightened even further.

Some airports "meter" traffic---keep jets at the gates until they see a logical departure spot opening up after allowing for taxi time---but airlines want to be able to show on-time departures from the gate so they'd often rather push back and waste fuel sitting out in the 'sin bin'.

Man, you spend a lot of time on airplanes, don't you?


Loren Muse Smith 9:37 AM  

@Evil - no worries. I certainly deserved it!

@Chefbea (love your Kleenex box covers!) Mr. Parcels, my college English professor and grammar purist, would have counted off dearly for "loaned." He maintained it was just a noun, but people were commonly using it as a verb.

@Jake - thanks to Mr. Parcels, I, too, noticed the lack of a comma there. Nice to meet a fellow Comma Patrol!

orangeblossomspecial 9:56 AM  

@Danny Kaye:

The pellet with the poison is in the flagon with the dragon
The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true

But they broke the vessel with the pestle, so now

The pellet with the poison is in the flagon with the dragon
The chalice from the palace has the brew that is true

One of the great comedy routines in film!

John V 10:14 AM  

@Evil: Been commuting between LGA and LGA and CLT every week since early January, down on Monday, home on Friday. This week, to CLT Monday, home Wednesday.

6:30 flight this morning was EARLY. I think of Sully evertime we take off over the GW Bridge, although today we took off to the South, over Citi Field, a bit unusual.

OldCarFudd 10:17 AM  

Except for enhalo and eviler, I enjoyed this. But my age is showing. I had the RA in 45D and confidently threw in RAdial. Even older than ramjet, but with a long and successful history.

John V 10:28 AM  

@Evil, I forgot to say thanks for the explanation of "penalty box". Appreciate the clarification

Two Ponies 10:39 AM  

Any puzzle with Jethro Tull in it is enough to brighten my Monday.

Hey, how did @ Kev Stevens sneak in? (good catch @dk)

Gareth Bain 10:55 AM  

Halal ceramics

Matthew G. 11:08 AM  

I liked this quite a lot for a Monday. Though unlike others, I found my time somewhat worse than my usual Monday time, not somewhat better. Really can't say why.

HAND IN THE TILL took a little while to see. Perhaps that was it. I also sputtered a bit at the start because my mind wanted INBOX even though it was too short to fill the INTRAY spot. I'm sure there are plenty of people who call them INTRAYs, though I call them inboxes even when they're trays (such as the one on my desk).

archaeoprof 11:31 AM  

Agree with @Foodie that this one wasn't all that easy.

@JohnV: had the same thought when I flew out of LGA a couple weeks ago.

I bet we're the only ones who've looked down on that river and thought of him...

Mighty Nisden 12:04 PM  

@Tobias gave me a laugh right off. Thanks, always need one on a monday morning.

My only hangup was in the SE as I can never spell AZALEA right the first time and it crossed with PARis even thought I should know better.

So we suffer with the new captchas AND a robot still gets through. arghh.

jackj 12:07 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
quilter1 12:10 PM  

I go for lent. Also Lent.

Can't wait for the azaleas to bloom.

Tita 12:16 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tita 12:18 PM  

So easy, but when you are given the last 4 letters of the themes, of course!

Liked the OWL and the pussycat at 8d and 9d.

30D LENT could have been clued in a more timely fashion as:
Period after Mardi Gras, or
Period after Carneval, in 59D (RIO)

jackj 12:38 PM  

jberg wrote (in part)-

" I thought STEAD was clued too hard for a Monday"

I agree that it is probably too hard for a Monday and I was reminded of the first time I faced a STEAD or LIEU or PLACE clue and thought it was simply brilliant.

They are, of course, all shorthand versions of in(lieu)of, or in(place)of or in(stead)of and my curiosity sent me looking to see how often these interchangeable words are used in cluing each other.

The results are fascinating for "wordies", as XWordInfo's NYTimes statistics show:

STEAD was the answer 31 times and 20 of the clues were PLACE or LIEU.

LIEU was the answer 60 times and 44 of the clues were PLACE or STEAD.

PLACE was the answer 25 times and none of the clues were LIEU or STEAD.

Is there a reason PLACE is the outcast of the family?

Sparky 12:39 PM  

Found TALL then TULL so filled in the other three endings. Wanted INbox too. ENHALO odd. I pictured medieval illuminator at work. Generally an easy solve. Seeing PINA movie tonight. I wish it had won the Oscar.

Pete 12:43 PM  

@Tita - You reminded me of something I recently grasped - most people think of Lent as following Carnival, rather than Carnival preceeding Lent. Very few seem to remember that Carnival/Mardi Gras came into existence by the faithful observers of Lent having one big blowout before Lent, eating, drinking and indulging in whatever they intended to give up during Lent.
Now those who live in deadly fear of the US's War On Religion point to Mardi Gras as another assault, forgetting that it was invented by the faithful. Oh well.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

@JackJ - Yeah, there are probably 1000 different ways to clue PLACE, not so many to clue LIEU.

Anonymous 12:48 PM  

Thanks @Danny Kaye and @orangeblossomspecial for remembering "The Court Jester" and that classic comedic gem...

jethro tull

Lewis 12:49 PM  

@lms 7:48 -- you may say that you rate this puzzle a bit better than average, but I saw the LOVE, RAVE, and ART in your post...

Tobias Duncan 12:55 PM  

@Pete The war on religion is almost over.It was never a war really just a bunch of pent up frustration from not being allowed to criticize it without being punched in the face.I think we have about proved point.If you hate to have your religion criticized, then keep it out of public schools and government offices. Simple as that.

treedweller 1:14 PM  

As a kid, I always read MISLED as a mysterious, unknown word that rhyme with "whistled", until I finally made the connection between the written and spoken word.

In that vein, I used to follow a usenet group with an Aussie expat . Her american friends clued her in on the different pronunciation of "fillet" here (not "fill it" but "fillay").

Then they convinced her the same rule applied to "skillet."

Bird 1:44 PM  

Easy Monday, with a few challenges to keep it interesting.

Hand up for calling it an INBOX and for disliking EVILER and AOK (does anyone really say that anymore?).

Mike 3:44 PM  

Can a Monday puzzle be TOO easy? I think so. "Hens lay them", "___ Vegas", "Ping ____", "Ike's initials", "Honolulu hello", "Zig's opposite", (and I could cite quite a few more) don't seem worthy of any day in the NYT.

sanfranman59 3:50 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)

Mon 6:25, 6:49, 0.94, 27%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:31, 3:40, 0.96, 32%, Easy-Medium

I Robot 4:34 PM  

Good god what have they done to the comments page?

Sfingi 4:45 PM  

Building up to TULL is terrific.

Two Ponies 5:52 PM  

@ I Robot, Yes I see that the format has changed. What is going on? The robots are taking over!

Anonymous 6:08 PM  

I agree Matthew G again. Inbox is the current terminology. I suspect this term, as others, was borrowed by Bill Gates to make “computerese” user friendly. How many remember cutting and pasting in kindergarten? I don't really think that's what I do as I edit my Word document. But it works. On the other hand INTRAY is so anachronistic as to be useless so that not even Bill Gates adopted it for Office. How’s that Matthew?


Seanna 9:26 PM  

Did no one else have an issue with PAREE? I mean, seriously. I admit I'm not great at crosswords (just started to the NYT daily) but that seemed a bit of a stretch to me. Other than that, it was a fairly easy puzzle.

sanfranman59 10:35 PM  

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 6:32, 6:49, 0.96, 32%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:30, 3:40, 0.96, 31%, Easy-Medium

Is Blogger trying to piss users off??? I've got a wide screen monitor and all of the comments are squeezed over to the left 15% of the screen. The other 85% is white space. WTF???

Z 10:49 PM  

@sanfranman59 - The Borg have arrived. Resistance is futile

Tita 9:39 AM  

@Seanna..."Gay Paree" is a legit phrase, but maybe only for those of us "olderly" folks, as my French friend used to say...

I'm sure if you google it, you'll find some movie reference, or maybe it's what American WWI or II soldiers called Paris in trying to mimic how the locals pronounce it.

Nowadays, it's probably in widespread use only in crossword puzzles.

al.tseb 6:50 PM  

Very interesting

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Solving in Seattle 12:05 PM  

As I was doing the puzzle and saw the clue for 33A "Surround with a saintly light" I groaned and thought... "No, it can't be."

As for 39D, "W" legitimized EVILER.

Anonymous 1:06 PM  

@Rex - Were you never taught in school that "off of" is incorrect grammar? You used it twice today: "(off of TULL") should be "from TULL" and "off of the adjacent SUTURE" should just be off the adjacent SUTURE". "Off of" is never correct grammar.

DMGrandma 2:17 PM  

After the late week puzzles, I'm always looking for the hidden twist in the lues, so hesitated to put down eggs, thinking I must be missing something! On eI said, ok, it's Monday, the puzzle unfolded niicely.
While I enjoy solving without thinking about time,I did, once, just for fun, fill a bank puzzle from top to bottom writing any letter in each square. It took me longer than 3 minutes, pen on paper. As for on-line, I find it awkward to shift the puzzle and clues around as I don't solve top to bottom.
Loved the Danny Kaye routine!
Hope this prints, the robot test is about to shut me out. Took three tries before I found something I thought I could make out. Whose idea was it to require this sort of challenge? Can I claim age discrimination, these old eyes don't work like they used to.

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

To @al.tseb, @cc.aa & @beats earphones: GO AWAY. You are not welcome here.

Dirigonzo 2:26 PM  

For those of you complaining that the puzzle was too easy even for a Monday, just do what I did:
1. Misread the clue for 45d as "Kind of engine for a SEAplane" (I have no idea why).
2. Glance at the picture of Jimmy Buffett's seaplane which is on the cover of the book directly in front of you.
3. Confidently write Rotary (off -but not off of- the R in IRR) in the appropriate boxes.
4. When the next cross makes the "o" an "A", replace Rotary with RAdial.
5. When the third cross makes that wrong, go back and re-read the clue - "Oh, AIRplane, not seaplane!" Ignore the damn picture.
6. Wait for JETHROTULL to come along and give you RAMJET.
Voila! Easy becomes hard, and very messy!

Solving in Seattle 3:44 PM  

BTW, to all you syndees out there who did yesterdays Sunday puzzle, Two-for-one Special, I've had an earworm from the 78A clue "___ Eyes"(1969 hit for the Guess Who). THESE Eyes was a favorite of mine back then. Guess Who was a great rock band from Winnipeg. Surprised @Diregonzo didn't acknowledge the shout-out to our friends North of the border.

Dirigonzo 5:15 PM  

@SiS - Speaking of our friends North of the border, some of them have been conspicuously absent around here lately. In fact I'm surprised that none of them chimed in to lay claim to the Guess Who as being their countrymen (which I did not know, btw).

Solving in Seattle 5:49 PM  

@Dirigonzo, I lived in Vancouver for 18 mos during the mid-70s as a single guy. What a fabulous place. There's a sign by the airport that says "Once in a world, a city like Vancouver." So true.

robyn 7:32 PM  

Doing the puzzle on 4/2 here. I loved "adze" because it's a fun Scrabble work. Got hung up on "room" of all things because......I had put in "Iwa" instead of "Iwo" and just couldn't see past my mistake since I had trouble with "irr" and "ramjet". That whole little pocket snagged an otherwise smooth Monday puzzle. Oy.

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