Wife whose face was never seen on Cheers / TUE 3-13-12 / Architect with avian name / Unfruitful paths / Popular vodka informally / Hobos hangout / Heroine in one of Salinger's Nine Stories

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: DEAD ENDS (57A: Unfruitful paths ... or a description of both words in the answers to the seven starred clues?) — every word in answers to starred clues can follow "DEAD" in a familiar phrase

Word of the Day: PAMPAS (9D: Patagonian plains) —
The Pampas (from Quechua pampa, meaning "plain") are the fertile South American lowlands, covering more than 750,000 km2 (289,577 sq mi), that include the Argentine provinces of Buenos AiresLa PampaSanta FeEntre Ríos and Córdoba, most of Uruguay, and the southernmost Brazilian StateRio Grande do Sul. These vast plains are a natural region only interrupted by the low Ventana and Tandil hills near Bahía Blanca and Tandil (Argentina), with a height of 1,300 m (4,265 ft) and 500 m (1,640 ft) respectively. The climate is mild, with precipitation of 600 mm (23.6 in) to 1,200 mm (47.2 in), more or less evenly distributed through the year, making the soils appropriate for agriculture. This area is also one of the distinct physiography provinces of the larger Paraná-Paraguay Plain division. These plains contain unique wildlife because of the different terrains around it. Some of this wildlife includes the rhea, the pampas deer, several species of armadillos, the pampas fox, the White-eared opossum, the Elegant Crested Tinamou, and several other species. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a textbook "both words" puzzle. Lots of theme answers, with a revealer that's a play on words. Right over the plate. Stee-rike. It's a type of puzzle that's been done. A lot. Nothing much exciting going on, but very professionally executed, for sure. I solved on paper ... in red pencil, which ... who knows, really? It was handy. Anyway, I was still well under 5 minutes, so this must be not too hard. Most of my times are on-screen times, and that can make a minute+ difference on early-week puzzles, when speed is easy. Once the puzzles toughen up, the time difference (for me) is less significant. Today, I had three significant slowing points. First, I put in RAGGED where RAGTAG was supposed to go (4D: Shabby). Second, I had no idea what was meant by "Jumper" in 39A: *Jumper alternative and so wanted SWEATER. Took many crosses to see that basketball was the frame of reference there. Third, I wanted LLANOS where PAMPAS was supposed to go (having already encountered the LLAMAS, I was just going with the fllow). Oh, and somewhere in there I briefly wrestled with the APICES / APEXES question (50D: High points). Either one is an acceptable plural of "apex."

Theme answers:
  • 20A: *"Everyone off!" ("LAST STOP!") — here, I thought someone was telling other people to get off of him. I swear, that is what I thought on first read.
  • 22A: *Exactly right (SPOT-ON)
  • 28A: *Often-restricted zone (AIR SPACE)
  • 37A: *Bag remover, of a sort (EYE LIFT)
  • 39A: *Jumper alternative (SET SHOT)
  • 46A: *Wrestling move (HEAD LOCK)
  • 53A: *Deckhand, e.g. (SEAMAN)

Thought maybe MEATLOAF was part of the theme (5D: Beefy entree), but "dead loaf" doesn't feel right.

Reaching back a ways to get VERA—that's a gimme or a WTF!? depending on your "Cheers" knowledge (not exactly the first or second or seventh "character" that comes to mind with that show) (14A: Wife whose face was never seen on Cheers). I liked the clue on WREN, even if it is rather straightforward (63A: Architect with an avian name). I think it's just springtime (even if calendar says otherwise) and all the bird activity is making me happy. I just stood and watched a bluejay fly around today. That's how doped up I am on "spring." Nice chance to brush up on your crosswordese today with ARLO (6D: Janis's partner in the funnies) and ESME (67A: Heroine in one of Salinger's "Nine Stories") and STOLI (21D: Popular vodka, informally). I thought the Jim Morrison biography might be "Mr. MOON Risin'," briefly (it's MOJO). I always think of "hangout" as someplace people want to be, which is why I found it mildly odd (if literally accurate) in the clue for SKID ROW (44D: Hobos' hangout).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. from the Dept. of Self-Promotion: the profile of me in Binghamton Research magazine just came out, complete with a crossword I constructed esp. for them. Here's a link to the article at the fancy magazine interface (from which you can print out a single-page view of the puzzle, if you like), and here's a link to just the puzzle (which you can download easily). It's a very easy puzzle because I thought my audience (whoever might read that magazine) might not be habitual solvers. Enjoy.


jae 11:15 PM  

Easy-medium for me.  Smooth gird with a zippy theme. Nice Tues.!

I think DEADLOAF is a medical reason for a certain type of male pill.

Geezer_1923 11:15 PM  

Where was Norm never to be found? OVER VERA! [rim shot].
What did the critics do at the opening of the movie Paris, specifically regarding the gowns? MAUL ERTE ALOT! [rim shot]
What's the favorite activity after a long day at the Soviet parliment? NOSH DUMA STEW! [rim shot].

See what happens when you post your blog before midnight when a bunch of senile old bastards are still awake?

jackj 11:28 PM  

Jeff Chen works the theme for quantity, with 16 theme words, including the reveal, and the quality(?), not a hard-edged “meh”, but a gentle shrug, maybe, while wondering why DEADLAST or DEADSPACE or DEADSET is supposed to stir up one’s gray matter.

There’s always the fill to spice things up until you trip over ERTE or ABBA or MENSA or STOLI or YAM and a few dozen more Crossword 101 entries of little repute.

YAM, particularly, clued with a veggie reference for the 33rd time, really shows a laziness in cluing. Not that there are a lot of options, but one would think Will would occasionally insist on, say, a Popeye YAM clue for a desperately needed change (Popeye’s YAM has only been used three times and not since April, 2007) but, no, we’re till stuck with that ubiquitous orange tuber.

Sorry, Jeff but, hey, “"I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam."

jackj 11:30 PM  

Geezer- Home run!

pk 11:51 PM  

Great write-up @Rex. I think you used the red pencil because it reminded you of cherry blossoms. I, too, am all doped up on spring.

Like @jackj, I will just agree with geezer's comments on the puzz. It was smooth and easy and otherwise, I have no comment.

Jeff Chen 12:35 AM  

Speaking of WTF, I solved this puzzle, a puzzle I constructed, a puzzle to which I KNEW ALL THE ANSWERS, and finished in roughly Rex's time.

I'm hoping that says a lot more about Rex than it does about me.

See you all this weekend! Here's your abbreviated guide to the Asian constructors: Joon Pahk is the brilliant one, Kevin Der is the dashing one, Jeff Chen is the mojo machine.

I'm not sure what that means, but it sounded good at the time.

Noam D. Elkies 12:37 AM  

Like jackj, I wonder why a Tuesday puzzle described as "right over the plate" would elicit a "Stee-rike" rather than an easy hit. But then I never pretended to know or care much about b*seball...

—NDE (no, the D doesn't stand for "Dead")

chefwen 1:03 AM  

Had a lot of OO's and AA's which was kinda cute, with a double LL thrown in for good luck.

Sort of a meager Thanksgiving dinner if y'all have to share one YAM. Yeah, I'll take a piece of that YAM.

Really liked this one, you might say that it was SPOT ON. (sorry, someone had to be first.)

James Lovell 4:12 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous 4:35 AM  

I know Jump shot, but SET SHOT ??
That's bogus
and my website keeps showing Monday 2/12, but everything else is Tuesday 3/12.............
I guess the Mayan's were right.

Z 6:37 AM  

None of that Tuesdayness to this puzzle, felt Monday fresh. This went down faster than yesterday's for me, so definitely in the easy range. I had one little bump with Diet before DUMA. Went up to finish the NE then returned, and X-OUT exposed my problem.

Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind is SET SHOT. I think we learned to shoot a two handed SET SHOT in elementary school gym class. By junior high our hands were big enough to shoot the jumper. Sometime in the interim the idea of a smaller ball for younger children eliminated the need at any age for anything but the jumper.

Anonymous 6:51 AM  

"Mr Mojo Risin'" is an anagram of Jim Morrison.

bluesman 7:04 AM  

Incidentally Rex "mr mojo risin" is just an anagram of Jim Morrison

John V 7:41 AM  

Fun puzzle, fun theme, even if done before. Medium, in the Charlotte dawn.

Flash! This just in. Will Shortz has announced that OREO will appear in each and every puzzle for as long as Gail Collins continues her Mitt Romney Seamus saga -- apparently forever.

Thought 39a Jumper alternative was a great clue, more Wed/Thursday level for indirection; had me thinking dead battery jumper cables.

With such great theme density, and the constraint that only two (8D and 63D) crosses don't touch a theme, getting decent fill must be challenging. So, I'm okay with a touch more crosswordese, in that context.

AnnieD 8:09 AM  

Nice fun puzz for a Tuesday...smooth solve all the way through until the SE corner where I paused over esme (I always expect the clue "slave") and duma (How do you do, Ma)

Has "Fred and Ginger dance" ever been used to clue YAM? I always end up singing the song whenever I make yams...

Come on and hear the yam man cry,
"Any yam today?"
The sweet potatoes that he'll fry
Will be yam today
The little step that you'll see him do
With ev'ry yam that he sells to you
Is something that you ought to try
Come and Yam today

joho 8:10 AM  

Cute reveal for a dense theme.

I wasn't familiar with DEADLIFT but figured it had to do with wrestling or weights. And, like @Rex, thought DEADMEAT might be part of the theme. Wish it were!

Nice Tuesday, Jeff AKA "mojo machine!"

quilter1 8:27 AM  

Quick and easy, but held my interest. Lots to like, and look at all the words that combine with DEAD to make common phrases. Thanks, Jeff.

Sue McC 8:31 AM  

Ditto Rex on ragged for RAGTAG. Also considered dead and left for the "Departed" clue before checking the crosses and getting to WENT. Theme didn't blow me away, but was a quick, fun solve.

Miette 8:43 AM  

Difficult! I had to google
Dead Ends

I had inner ear for ear canal for the longest time.

Yesterday's puzzle took me 6.5 minutes, with NO googles. Today's offering took me almost 34 minutes with 10 googles.

efrex 8:48 AM  

Hands up for RAGGED before RAGTAG. Loved the cluing for AINT, appreciated the theme density, and was only slightly put out by the amount of crosswordese, particularly in the NE and SE corners (OREO, ESSO, ENTS, DUMA, ESME). Nicely done, Mr. Chen!

JenCT 9:19 AM  

Fun puzzle - love, love "Bag remover, of a sort" - too funny!

Held up by the "suffix to ball," can you believe it?

Looking forward to this w/e and seeing everyone again.

orangeblossomspecial 9:19 AM  

AnnieD Thanks for thinking of The YAM from "Carefree". Another Astaire/Rogers dance number.

The SET SHOT was the 40s and 50s version of the 3-pointer before it was created. Usually it was by shorter white guys with uncanny accuracy. After all, white men can't jump.

jesser 9:30 AM  

That Jumper alternative had me thinking it was going to be some kind of SuiT, but I resisted putting it in, and the crosses gave me the indecipherable SET SHOT. Thanks for the explanation. I was a DEAD duck on that one.

Hands up for RAGged before RAG TAG, but I like the latter a whole lot more!

LOCK over LOKI was kind of fun.

I agree with Rex that this was pretty much the perfect Tuesday. Just a lot of fun.

Hope everyone has a fine Tuesday!

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

At least one small corner of the universe, the format of blogger, has returned to a state of normalcy. Maybe there is hope for the rest of it.

chefbea 9:40 AM  

Gøød (had to do that since I learned how yesterday) Tuesday puzzle.

Of course we had esso to go along with our daily oreo.

Loved Wren crossing Eerø.

jberg 10:11 AM  

Third ESSO this week, but first non-Canadian one (in deference to Cheney?)

I liked the crossing architects, and thought it was generally easy and fun. Hardest part was figuring out the theme - thought at first it referred to silent letters, but that didn't work. Finally saw it, a ice Aha.

PuzzleSister 10:35 AM  

After yesterday and today, I have a suspicion that Will is attempting to instill in me a (false?) sense of confidence as I pack for Brooklyn. Smooth and easy. Really well done, Jeff.

Two Ponies 10:38 AM  

Dead shot? Am I missing something?
Shot dead is familiar but not the reverse.

Mighty Nisden 10:52 AM  

Thought there were two unfair crosses. ARLO and ERTE was one as I know neither and could figure it out... Well ok after a few guesses I did.
The other was WREN EERO... until I relooked at the clue. I liked that clue because it gave me a chance.

In the end it was the DUMA ESME that kept me from finishing. I just need to remember more russian current events.

Loved CRONY and good aha moment when I finally got the theme.

Matthew G. 10:54 AM  

This felt Medium-Challenging while I was solving, but my time was Tuesday normal, so I guess I made up my losses somewhere. I slowed down at basically the same places Rex describes, including RAGGED, being baffled by "jumper," and APEXES vs. APICES.

All right. Back to work now. I am signed up for the ACPT this weekend, and it should theoretically be easy for me to go because I live in Brooklyn now, but I have a massive workload this week and a major presentation to make next Monday morning, so I'm playing it by ear. Truly hope to be there to meet many of you!

Ulrich 10:56 AM  

@two ponies: Isn't a dead shot someone who's deadly accurate with his/her aim? Like Marshall Givens in Justified, which I greatly admire.

Two Ponies 11:02 AM  

@ Ulrich, You are most likely correct but it's not part of my vernacular and I probably spend more time on the gun range than most folks here. Oh well.

Tita 11:06 AM  

Nice one - was lightning-fast to the outset, but then got smacked down a bit halfway through.

@JohnV - I had a car like that once... ;)

@Jeff...thx for stopping by, and see you there! I think you're new moniker "Mojo Machine" is more fitting than @Ulrich's direct translation of "Little Jeff"...

@chefbea, Rex et al - I also liked Eerø / Wren...though I wondered about the architect named Erne for a long time...

Your boss, you know, the guy that pays you! 11:10 AM  

@Matthew - Maybe you'd be able to complete your work this week, and your presentation for next week, if you didn't spend all day on that damned crossword blog!

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

AINT the use of OREO and ESSO
OVER the top?
They ARESO DEADENDS, and need a
If I were Will, I'd EDIT, XOUT
and take STOCK
What a UTOPIA without all
the schlock!

Tita 11:14 AM  

If anyone going to ACPT wants an edge, order a puzzle board from my mom! Guaranteed to up your ACPT score by 20%. (Your mileage may vary)

I can bring them with me if you order by Thursday.

Loren Muse Smith 11:18 AM  

I was really surprised that everyone found this one so easy. I thought it was a lot tougher than yesterday's, and I didn't just breeze through.

@JohnV - too funny about OREO! I wonder if Will is choosing these puzzles on purpose?

@jberg, chefbea - yeah - ESSO (and AWOL?) may be joining OREO and ONO.

Aren't we all grateful to AMEBA's willingness to be spelled differently?

I like themes like this and am impressed with the whole construction. Thanks, Jeff.

JoeTheJuggler 11:25 AM  

I got the theme early enough but found it no help at all in solving the themed clues.

Also, -OON is not a suffix!

I finished this one just about as fast as I could type. (Puts me right around 5 minutes.)

KRMunson 11:29 AM  

@Rex - Congrats on a great write-up in Binghamton Research!

nanpilla 12:05 PM  

My ROAN got out of the BARN, so I had to LASSO her to get her loaded onto my STOCK trailer. (The bumper pull was in the shop). We headed OVER to the Dixon OVAL at Dressage at Devon, then headed on home with our blue ribbon.

Well, one can dream, right?
(And it would be kicking a dead horse to complain again about ROAN being called a color.)

I think this puzzle was as well done as could be for type of theme and day of week. Nice job, Jeff. See you on Friday!

not interested 12:20 PM  

@Tita I don't think "Guaranteed" means what you think it does.

Also, ACPT solvers sit at tables, so that thing would likely just get in the way, if it were even allowed.

Plus, it looks just like the lap desks people have been selling for aeons.

Otherwise, great post, great idea.

Loren Muse Smith 12:48 PM  

@not interested - I love the crossword board I got from Tita's mom - it's not really like those lapdesks; it's actually smaller - more like the magazine we all grab in the waiting room at the doctor's office to work the puzzle on. Whereas I'd feel silly taking a lapdesk with me to a doctor's office, I did actually take the board to one yesterday - discreet and so much better than a magazine. The perfect size!

@Ulrich - ". . .on which to work the puzzle?"

On a totally different note. have you ever noticed that by the time the speaker mercifully says, "long story short," it had already become a long story?

Dick Swart 12:57 PM  

Very nice story on that very slick site! And I enjoyed your tie-in puzzle to your other blog interest!

"When in doubt, have a man fill in a down with an oreo".

Hmmmm. Somehow doesn't sound quite as tough...

John V 1:10 PM  

So, in the banking world OREO means Other Real Estate Owned. Stealthy clue for OREO, constructors? Clue: "Bank Asset class, abbr."

Bird 1:45 PM  

Nice puzzle Jeff even though I didn't finish because Salinger's heroine was hiding in the Russian legislature. And maybe just a bit too much crosswordese.

Double captcha "istana psherio" morphs into "Ape Historians"



quilter1 2:08 PM  

@Miette: almost all of the words you googled are very common in crosswords. Think of them as part of your tool kit. Before very long they will drop themselves in automatically.

Lewis 2:29 PM  

I liked the looks of the diagonal KKK near the puzzle's middle. Not that I like the KKK...

chefbea 2:57 PM  

Our local produce place opened today. Guess what I bought????? Time to turn on the oven and start roasting!!!

jae 3:03 PM  

@Ulrich -- Same here re Justified.

And, that should have been grid not gird earlier.

Stupid captcha makes it a pain to check for typos. I guess I'll have to go back to doing it.

Doc John 3:09 PM  

Interesting puzzle.
I had malaplop when i put in EERO for "Architect with an avian name." I was thinking aero was sort of avian.
P.S. Screw you, Google. I will not add a mobile phone to my account. You have enough of my information already.
P.P.S. Screw you, too, Captcha!

ksquare 3:27 PM  

For those who don't know the source of ESSO, it's from S(tandard) O(il) of NJ. It was SOCONY with the flying red horse in New York. When they got back together, it became EXXON.
Something to do with the antitrust breakup of Rockefeller's original Standard Oil Company.

sanfranman59 3:28 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 7:55, 8:51, 0.90, 19%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:14, 4:34, 0.93, 28%, Easy-Medium

Radar 3:54 PM  

@Doc John - You look a lot like Trapper John. Are you guys brothers?

mac 4:00 PM  

No time but I did do the puzzle. Nice Tuesday.

Thanks for the Meatloaf, but my favorite song of his is "You took the words right out of my mouth", (it must have been when you were kissing me)! Greet music for the car.

mac 4:02 PM  

See, Oreo is a requirement.

Marvin Lee Aday 4:04 PM  

@Mac - I guess that depends on what your doing in the car. For cruising at 90mph, I like "Bat Out of Hell".

And let's not forget "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". The best midnight movie ever.

Doc John 4:05 PM  

@ Radar- that photo is of the real Trapper John but I do look somewhat like him (bald and bearded) but not nearly as handsome! My nickname is Trapper so I figured, what the heck?

Radar 4:21 PM  

@Doc John - cool

@Marvin Lee Aday (Meatloaf) - let's do the time warp again

oren muse 5:00 PM  

I really enjoyed today’s puzzle. I was going strong and feeling hopeful until I hit the SE corner. NOSH, ESME, DUMA – all new to me. Thanks @Miette for the list. That would be my list, too, even though I knew MAGOO. Thanks for keeping my hopes up. I got AAHED from the other words around it, but in my haste, I had misread the clue and had no idea how AAHED was any sort of “message.” (For what it’s worth, I’ve never been interested in having a stranger pound on me, so I can’t relate to AAHED.) I had no issue with SETSHOT – it was something we learned back when I was younger…...the 1940’s.
@Anonymous…A set shot was used when I made a feeble attempt to play basketball in my younger days…both feet on the floor, a hand on each side of the ball and pushing the ball with both hands toward the basket. The disadvantage as opposed to the jump shot used today was you had to coordinate both hands when shooting. Using one hand when shooting today’s jump shot eliminates this problem.
To all of you who tossed around the word “easy” today – well, “easy” is in the eye of the beholder, or maybe the pencil holder?

boteagan 5:48 PM  

I though today's puzzle was well done and tight. Liked RAGTAG and MAGOO. I agree OON isn't a suffix

Miette 6:10 PM  

@quilter1: Thanks for the encouragement! I am already finding that to be true with some words that I only know from doing crosswords.

@orenmuse: When I came up with Magoo via google, my first thought was "I probably should have known that one." My only excuse is that it has been years since I watched Mr. Magoo. ;-)

sanfranman59 1:40 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 6:45, 6:50, 0.99, 52%, Medium
Tue 8:07, 8:51, 0.92, 29%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:39, 3:40, 1.00, 50%, Medium
Tue 4:02, 4:34, 0.88, 13%, Easy

John V 5:58 PM  

Got my p.c. back, no more posting from Droid.

Did no one post a link to the film, PI? No link to Don McClean, "American PI (sic)"?

Also, it is just sooo helpful to solving and early morning attitude to have drunks crashing around the hotel hallways at 1:00. Just wonderful.

Spacecraft 1:03 PM  

Yeah, a DEADSHOT describes people who can't miss their SETSHOTs. That particular line I had to fill entirely by crosses. The set shot hasn't been a jumper alternative for fifty years. IMO, to make basketball the least bit interesting again, they need to raise the rim by two feet.

I had an alarming natick--on a Tuesday!--in the SE, with ESmE/DUmA. What made me put an M in there I still don't know, but it was one lucky guess.

Some nice fill; soon as I saw MEATLOAF I knew one of Rex's videos. Liked the crossing of EERO with WREN. XOUT and SER? Well, nobody's perfect, Jeff.

Of course, you probably already know that Jimmy Johnson named his comic duo after two Woodstock headliners, ARLO Guthrie and the late, great Pearl, Janis Joplin. RIP, honey, I miss you.

Solving in Seattle 1:30 PM  

@chefbea, a variation on your comment: Filling up on ESSO while eating an OREO and listening to ABBA while AWOL, uh... lost my MOJO. Only missing Yoko ONO.

Flew through this, Jeff. Thx for a nice Tuesday.

Capcha: islaxc. Something taken for blockage??

Dirigonzo 5:00 PM  

Had a little kerfuffle (Hi, @Bob) in the middle of the grid where I had STOre for STACK and valve where TREAD belongs (makes for a bumpy ride) but eventually it all sorted itself out.

I hope nobody missed the suggested definition of "DEADLOAF" above - classic crossword humor. Thanks @jae. Also I never noticed that Mr Mojo Risin is an anagram of Jim Morrison - good stuff!

@Spacecraft - I Have a Janis Joplin CD that lately I have been listening to almost every night - she still moves me. A friend of mine is putting togather a readio show that's going to feature some of her work along with that of other early blues/rockers.

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