Nina of 1940s-50s films / TUE 5-15-12 / Vine-covered passageway / Harry who co-founded Columbia Pictures / Old Saturn model

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Constructor: Susan Gelfand

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: FULL OF HOLES (53A: Like 17-, 23-, 33- and 48-Across) — theme answers are things that are.

Word of the Day: Nina FOCH (45D: Nina of 1940s-'50s films) —
Nina Foch (April 20, 1924 – December 5, 2008)[1] was a Dutch-born American actress and leading lady in many 1940s and 1950s films. [...] Foch's movie career came during the height of the 1940s, when she played cool, aloof, and oftentimes foreign women of sophistication.[citation needed] She would ultimately be featured in over 80 films and hundreds of television shows. The actress was a regular in John Houseman's CBS Playhouse 90television series. In 1951, she appeared with Gene Kelly in the musical An American in Paris, which was awarded the Best Picture Oscar. Foch appeared in Scaramouche (1952) as Marie Antoinette, and in Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956) as BithiaPharaoh's sister who finds the baby Moses in the bullrushes, adopts him as her son, and joins him and the Hebrews in their Exodus from Egypt.

Foch received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the boardroom drama Executive Suite (1954), starringWilliam Holden. In Spartacus (1960), starring Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier, she played a woman who chooses gladiators to fight to the death in the ring, simply for her entertainment. In 1963, she appeared as herself in the National Broadcasting Company game show Your First Impression. In 1964, she played the title role of the episode "Maggie, Queen of the Jungle" of Craig Stevens's CBS drama Mr. Broadway. (wikipedia)
• • •

Didn't care for this one. Very lackluster fill for a 78-worder (which is the maximum word count—such grids are generally the easiest to fill). EOCENE (15A: Epoch when mammals arose) is a fine word if you are in a bind and have a dense theme, or if you need to make an otherwise sparkly themeless work out, but in a 78-worder it's lazy / borderline inexcusable. This goes double, triple, and quadruple for FOCH. What the FOCH? At the very least, you could've gone with SOPH. MOTH or MOSH would've worked too, as the MLA (Modern Language Association) is a major academic org. with its own style guide and everything. FOCH is something you accept only after all your other options have run out. You notice I'm not saying "FOCH and EOCENE should never be in a grid." I'm saying, "these should not be in a grid if they aren't necessary." Also, the clue for FOCH was clearly written after one glance at the wikipedia page. Please note that Ms. FOCH acted in films in not just the '40s and '50s, but Every Decade After That. Further, UNSHADE (1D: Expose to light) is barely a word. Ditto REMOP (52A: Swab the floor again). We can do better than this! No point working Xs and Js and Zs into the grid when the fill's not rock solid. Lipstick on a possum.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Monte Cristo ingredient (SWISS CHEESE)
  • 23A: Spelling aid? (VOODOO DOLL)
  • 33A: Pub hub? (DART BOARD)
  • 48A: Where people are always putting things? (GOLF COURSE)
Tripped several times, sometimes in obvious places (FOCHety FOCH FOCH), other times in less obvious but fairly understandable places. Faced with -EE---- at 10D: "Golly!" (JEEPERS), I went for GEE WHIZ. Then I crossed the "Z" with SEIZED for 32A: Tightened up (TENSED). Not bad, eh? Pretty plausible trap. I later had the initial Z- at 41D: Closing (in on) and went with ... ZOOMING (instead of the correct ZEROING). Also, faced with --E- at 24D: Nuts, berries, etc., for squirrels, I went with FEED instead of DIET. Got PERGOLA off the P, but I don't know why, or how well known that word is generally. Again, feels *slightly* unTuesday (but I didn't blink, so, I can't complain).

  • 1A: "Kinsman" of Tarzan (APE) — quotation marks threw me, as I thought it was an actual quotation (i.e. someone with the name "Kinsman," or someone Tarzan literally called "kinsman"), but they're just scare quotes indicating ersatziness.
  • 21A: Old Saturn model (ION) — the official car of IOS (57A: Aegean island on which Homer is said to be buried).
  • 8D: Harry who co-founded  Columbia Pictures (COHN) — No idea. None. All crosses. There's a lot of older fill here today. Yes there is. O MY! Not EOCENE old. Just old. Could use balance.
  • 64A: Car that "really drives 'em wi-i-ild," in a 1960s song (GTO) — I could not tell what kind of sound that "i" was making in "wi-i-ild" — it's a pretty good approximation of the way the verse actually sounds. Well, "Wiiiii-yi-yild" may be closer, but that's gibberish.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Pete 12:13 AM  

@Rex - I'm in awe of your tenacity in this endeavor. If there were ever a night to say I'm just not FOCHing blogging this puzzle, this one was it.

Oh, PENDULUMs don't make a clock go tick tock. The ticking sound is made by the drive gear, driven by the spring or the weights, striking the escapement which in turn drives the pendulum. Not that this matters, a PENDULUM is part of the thing that goes tick tock, which is sufficient for a Tuesday.

jae 12:23 AM  

Medium-tough for me, but,  because of the "acrosses first" strategy, I usually have to hunt for typos on the iPad and this was no exception.   Not much zip (JEEPERS) but I liked the theme.  That said, I kinda agree with Rex on the fill.

pk 12:33 AM  

Fell into the "gee whiz" trap with Rex, but couldn't think of a spicy cuisine (or any other cuisine) with a "g" in the middle, except for vegan, which I guess could be spicy, but not really. Couldn't think of a scholar's deg. that started with "w" either, so I erased everything except the two ee's and tried again.

I actually liked the theme. I mean, c'mon, what's not to like about a voodoo doll in the puzzle? And the pub hub? Good stuff. A chacun son gout, I spoze.

If I knew how to link stuff, I would link you to the Fochety Foch Foch episode in the first season of The Wire.

Anonymous 12:41 AM  

MLA is not a fair substitute for FLA. I have no idea what the MLA is. Everyone knows Florida. Using MLA would just enable the substitution of one obscurity for another.

I think Tuesdays are becoming a bit more difficult and Fridays easier. If this is an intended change, then it is a good one. For many ordinary people, Fridays and Saturdays are unreachable. A more accessible Friday puzzle would add some joy to the latter part of the week. A tougher Tuesday is fair compensation.

Evan 1:04 AM  

I had a feeling that Rex wouldn't like this one -- poke it FULL OF HOLES, so to speak. And like Rex, while I thought the theme answers were fine, I was not impressed with the fill either.

There are 28 three-letter entries, and quite a few of them are abbreviations (I counted at least 10 in that set, not including the four-letter ECOL and the six-letter AL EAST). The fill in general is probably hurt by the grid's shape -- there are small, 3x3 sections that basically fill themselves sitting not too far from stacked 7's crossing a theme answer in each corner. There are a lot of less-than-desirable words that Rex mentioned like EOCENE, REMOP, UNSHADE, ESTOPS, and IN SPORT, which seems pretty outdated to me ("Oh those pranks I pulled in high school, it was all in good sport, old chap!"). There's the ugly partial O' MY, VER crosses VERDE, and there are a whole lot of relatively obscure proper nouns sprinkled just about everywhere (GLESS, FOCH, COHN, and even the clues on TATE and WESSON seems much tougher than normal for a Tuesday).

In fact, I could be wrong but I think either SOSA or NRA is the most modern proper noun in there. It's not that I expect every single puzzle will have nothing but fresh, up-to-the-minute celebrities or information -- a crossword should reasonably test one's knowledge of old information and new, and I'm all for learning about people from yesteryear that I didn't know previously. But when there's too much of that and not enough current entries, it becomes less a fun solve and more of a slog through obscure trivia.

I dunno, maybe I'm being unfair, or maybe I've just gotten a little bit of experience under the tutelage of some pretty strict cruciverbalists who have looked at my work and have been very tough on it. Perhaps I'm also recalling a bit of the discussion at Tyler Hinman's blog where there was a pretty lively debate about the quality of fill in today's puzzles -- not that I want this post or others to be a complete rehashing of all of those issues.

I hope that Ms. Gelfand, if she's reading this, doesn't take my negative review of this puzzle as anything personal, but rather a sign that I think she can do better than this -- she's built other puzzles before, so it's obviously within her talents to do so.

foodie 1:11 AM  

Wow, I'm in such a different camp from Rex tonight! I really liked the theme and that carried the day for me. My main objection is UNSHADE. That gave me fits. And I didn't know from FOCH, foch sure... but I liked TOUSLED-- you don't see that every day. And PERGOLA, HOW SO, JEEPERS, ODDBALL, all friendly stuff.

But back to theme: The expression, FULL OF HOLES is a real one, and the collection of stuff full of HOLES is nice and disparate. Especially the SWISS CHEESE/VOODOO DOLL combination... Not a typical common classification in anyone's brain. Good job, Miss Susan!

chefwen 1:53 AM  

I'm with @foodie, liked it a lot more than Rex did. Fell into the gee whiz trap off of my e in SWISS CHEESE. Man, I haven't had a Monte Cristo in ages, and I do LOVE them, guess I'll have to make my own.

Ms. FOCH also tripped me up, I thought I knew all the old time actresses, guess not.

Medium/hard for me.

Ace Creaky Msssss 3:24 AM  

I had aLA for FLA, my geography ain't so good, so FOCH started out as AO?? And i was pretty sure Nina didn't play golf!
And then there it was, next with GOLFCOURSE! Or GOLvCOURSE i fthey are in Oslo.

Hand up for gEEwhiz...misspelling ALIne and having the 4A Impact sound be SLAMbefore WHAM...BAM, thankyou, Maam...

I actually have a VOODOODOLL, souvenir from Dating Game chaperone days in New Orleans, back when I had a life...but I'd say it is more full of PINS than HOLES...
So I thought the HOLES referred to the Os in VOODOODOLL (5!) than the physical object.

I like $20,000 Pyramid type puzzle...but I'd have liked to see part of the reveal be "Like a bad alibi...or a hint..." to make it seem less random, or like a long partial.

That's my bad alibi and I'm sticking to it...
WHAM, BAM, thank you, Susan GelFAM!

And yes, LA tourney tons of fun and now @Campesite is one of MY idols!

r.alphbunker 3:34 AM  

I glessed the G of PERGOLA/GLESS. Gless and Natick are synonyms.

I was in the Army. REMOP is a word.

You might say that our host did not like the puzzle because the holes weren't filled properly. He would have made a good drill sergeant.

Anonymous 3:45 AM  

Worst FOCHing puzzle in recent memory.

Horrible, absolutely horrible fill with horrible clues.

Why couldn't WHAM be clued as 80's pop group?
And IOS as iPhone software?

What a waste of time.

dk 6:42 AM  

How does Rex know about opossums make-up? Inquiring minds want to know.

Not a very TAUT puzzle. But it is Tuesday. REMOP? UNSHADE? JEEPERS creepers!

** (2 stars) I really like DARTBOARD in the middle. clever by half IMHO. Thank you Sue.

Anonymous 7:11 AM  

Why is MSS "ed's stack"? What is MSS?

Zwhatever 7:34 AM  

Back to the usual Tuesday blah's.

@Ace Creaky Msssss - your geography ain't bad. FLA is south of GA. aLA is west of GA. Both are it's neighbor, making aOCH/FOCH a righteous NATICK. If you are not familiar with Ms. FOCH you have a 50/50 GLESS on your hands.

@Anon 7:11 - MSS is short for 'manuscripts,' something editors might have a stack of.

I like the theme, but I have to agree that it is dragged down by mediocre fill.

fstchiga? now the captcha is swearing at me.

joho 7:52 AM  

I was disappointed in @Rex's pan as I liked this theme a lot. It was definitely something different and the concept of finding things that are FULLOFHOLES is fun.

I did stumble with aLA before FLA which is a Natick I think, but changed it when I remembered the actress FOCH. @Rex, mLA is a worse Natick than FLA!

Loved the clue "Where people are always putting things? for GOLFCOURSE. And whoever is going to complain that they are putting balls, don't be so literal!

Susan Gelfand, I really enjoyed this one, if only you could have worked in the missing "Q" -- then @Rex would have really had a fit!

Have you ever used a VOODOODOLL?

John V 7:54 AM  

Same mistake as @Acme re: ALA/FLA. AOCH seemed as plausible as FOCH, to me.

I liked the theme. I REALLY liked 48a clue, "Where people are always PUTTING things." GREAT indirection. REMOP?

So, FULL OF HOLES? Nah, an okay Tuesday for a drizzly Charlotte morning.

orangeblossomspecial 7:55 AM  

Cool! Rexie looked back past the 80s for a video. Cowabanga dude!

I had no trouble with Nina FOCH or Harry COHN. There were several clues I though were especially cute, such as 23A "Spelling aid?" and 48A "Where people are always putting things".

Here are some other songs appropriate for the puzzle:

10D "JEEPERS Creepers", with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

6D "Gimme ANI" reminds me of a Beach Boys classic, " Be true to your school".

55D "Peg OMY heart" has been recorded multiple times. Here is a version by Bunny Berigan.

Anonymous 7:56 AM  

Had ALA instead of FLA too. Thought MSS was the worst.

I feel like I should defend EOCENE. Rex seems to always think scientists and science is far more obscure than I do.


bona fide 8:11 AM  

i was okay with this puzzle...but then i'm okay with most NYT puzzles. for me it's the overall method that i prefer over most other puzzles. so while this puzzle may have been the mcdonald's hamburger of NYT puzzles, i'm good with that. sometimes a mcdonald's hamburger hits the spot. comfort food. fat. sugar. fills you up.

i only really got hung up on the meaning of "SPELLING AID." i got VOODOODOLL, cuz it's kinda hard not to, but i was wondering at first if it was a clue about a dictionary or aaron spelling or even tori spelling. finally, AHA! an aid for casting spells! yeah, color me dense. i was only on my first cup of coffee.

FOCH doesn't bother me. there are lots of those names in these puzzles of people i've never heard of or cared about "GLESS" and "COHN" added to that list.

i only noticed the IOS and ION redundancy because of this blog. was happy to see rex mention it.

and like many of these puzzles, sometimes when i have a devil of time, others seem to breeze through it. today, i breezed through this one. i guess the older fill fell within my sphere of knowledge. (note the lack of authors and literary clues).

oh, and i agree with @anon at 12:41am. a mid week challenger would be a nice change-up.

quilter1 8:18 AM  

Love/hate this puzzle. UNSHADE is awful, but a PERGOLA shades my deck. JEEPERS is cute, I knew all the names and abbreviations, but overall I was left feeling blah about it.
@chefwen: yeah, now I need a Monte Cristo for lunch.
On a totally unrelated note I read that one of my enjoyable TV shows, Harry's Law, has been canceled because "the audience is too old." Who do I sue for ageism?

evil doug 8:20 AM  

"I think Tuesdays are becoming a bit more difficult and Fridays easier. If this is an intended change, then it is a good one. For many ordinary people, Fridays and Saturdays are unreachable. A more accessible Friday puzzle would add some joy to the latter part of the week. A tougher Tuesday is fair compensation."

'Fair compensation'? Baloney. 'Ordinary people' have Sunday through Wednesday for 'reachable' cakewalks. Friday and Saturday need to return to the compelling tests they once were. Go find your weekend joy in the Jumble.

Perhaps Sharon Tate was an unfortunate choice for a puzzle celebrating 'full of holes'.

I'd clue 'Oddball' as "Donald Sutherland's role in 'Kelly's Heroes'".

I kid you not: Robot-proofer is "edsizing". Obviously that means: 'Reaching incredible, massive heft and strength.'

Sue McC 8:21 AM  

Surprised to see Rex had it as Medium...I found it super easy, and knew where it was going from SWISSCHEESE and VOODOODOLL. However, I agree about the fill. There were several times when I thought of (what I consider) better clues, and that rarely happens. Someone earlier mentioned a couple good examples (IOS, WHAM). I did love the clue for GOLFCOURSE though.

mac 8:23 AM  

Jeepers! Don't think I ever heard that word out loud.

Another Aoch/Alabama here.
I liked the theme fine, the rest not so much. Unshaded? That ugly little corner of Ios, NRA and GTO? The fill feels lazy.

Kevin 8:44 AM  

@ Anon 12:41, even accepting your premise that MLA is obscure, changing 45D to MOTH would not only eliminate the obscure FOCH, but it would also get rid of SIC. On balance, I think it's better.

Speaking of annoying fill, this puzzle felt not only obscure but rather old to me. I have no idea what a PERGOLA is (obscure), and I don't know who Sharon GLESS is either. I've heard of Sharon TATE, but couldn't place her in anything. Same goes for SAO (obscure) crossed with GTO (old). Oh well, I'm just going to have to come to terms with my age.

Finally, did anyone else think the cluing for EXPLOIT was odd? I don't generally think of exploits as uniformly positive.

Rex Parker 8:45 AM  

Telling that people want to defend FOCH against MLA and not against my first suggestion, SOPH (which clearly wins). And yet both those suggestions are just band-aids, and anyone who constructs knows you don't band-aid a fix. You tear down and make the whole area better. In today's case, I'd say "the whole area" is ... well, it's pretty big.

The theme is fine. The fill in indefensibly mediocre.

Also, google "Nina Foch" in quot. marks. Then do same with "Modern Language Association." I'll wait.


jberg 8:50 AM  

Seems like it's all been said, so I'll just add that REMOP brought back memories. In 1970 I was spending 9 months in jail for an antiwar demonstration, and was assigned to the kitchen crew. One very humid day the boss thought we hadn't mopped the floor well enough because it didn't dry, so he ordered us to REMOP it. We did, but it still didn't dry on account of the humidity. So when he ordered us to remop it again, I said no, and ended up in "the hole" - solitary confinement with no lights and no furniture except a mattress on the floor - for a couple of days. Still not sure it's a real word, though!

What with my Norwegian ancestry and all, it's always nice to see one of the OLAFs in the puzzle - even if it's not clear which one - but I really wish we'd see more HAAKON! Seven of them, only 5 of Olaf. (7 of Christian, too, but there are better clues for that!)

mac 9:04 AM  

jberg: are you saying this jail experience happened in the US? I'm stunned.

jackj 9:17 AM  

My favorites in Ms. Gelfand’s puzzle come about through clever uses of the little word, “put”, first in 32 down clued as “It may put someone out” for TAG and then, as the best misdirect of the day, “Where people are always putting things?” for a theme answer, GOLFCOURSE.

The other favorite theme bit was definitely VOODOODOLL, (“Spelling aid”), for the imagery and the clue but also for the special words it spawned by virtue of all those “O’s”, PERGOLA, EXPLOIT, WESSON, HOWSO, and ODDBALL. Oh my.

It was a little bit jarring to see Sharon TATE as an entry instead of the more commonly used answer of London’s TATE Gallery but it’s been 43 years since her murder so perhaps enough time has passed.

Continuing on with “old” Hollywood, it was interesting to see Harry COHN, autocratic, intimidating head of Columbia Pictures in the puzzle. When Cohn died in 1958 his funeral was mobbed and famously inspired Red Skelton, (no fan of Harry’s), to comment that, “Give the public what they want and they’ll come out for it.”

Thanks to Susan Gelfand, who has religiously contributed just one Times puzzle each year since 2008. Perhaps she’ll consider pre-posting the 2013 edition for us to tackle later this year.

archaeoprof 9:26 AM  

What @Foodie and @Joho and said.

MLAsked and Anonymous 9:34 AM  

Holey Crosswords, Batman!
thUmbsUp for MLA. Could clue it as "Mal-realigned?"

JenCT 9:39 AM  

What @Rex said: I liked the theme, but not the fill.

I did like the misdirection, though - Spelling aid? and Where people are always putting things? were great clues.

EOCENE was a gimme; not sure why.

@Rex: LOL What the FOCH?

Tita 9:43 AM  

All the likes and dislikes from everyone else, plus 61A: GTO, one of my favorite car songs...
Little GTO, you're really lookin' fine
Three deuces and a four-speed and a 389
Listen to her tachin' up now, listen to her why-ee-eye-ine
C'mon and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out GTO..

(Right up there with Hey Little Cobra...)

Bob Kerfuffle 9:47 AM  

OK puzz for me.

No write-overs, but in addition to pondering ALA/FLA, I spent quite a bit of time thinking 8 A, "spicy cuisine", had to be HUNAN, but couldn't get most of the crosses to work.

Speaking of 4 D, WESSON, a somewhat distant relative of mine (by marriage!) gave that as the name of his new son -- for the gun, though, not for the oil.

chefbea 9:52 AM  

Tough for a Tuesday but I did know Nina Foch and Sharon Gless. We have a pergola over our patio with yellow jasmine climbing over it. Yummy smell....and speaking of yummy...all the food related items.cajun, tea kettle, wesson oil Mrs Butterworth, Monte christo, swiss cheese, burger flipper.

I drive my 2003 Saturn ION every day.

JC66 9:57 AM  

I'm 72 and I tore through this puzzle like an easy Monday. Knew FOCH & GLESS and my father's name was Harry COHN.

BTW, I went to high school with a Susan Gelfan. Could this be her?

Tobias Duncan 9:59 AM  

Too much sports garbage.
ALEAST is effing gibberish, piling it in with NADIA and SOSA is just rude rude rude.

Gareth Bain 10:06 AM  

Rex: I agree the best fix is to redo the whole section. I suspect, in fact, that the entire grid would have to be redone, maybe move GOLFCOURSE to the left wall and FULLOFHOLES to the right?)

I hadn't heard of either FOCH or MLA (bearing in mind my not being American is probably a factor in the latter), but FOCH is more inferrable at least. I don't think google is a fair comparison, the section of the solving population who would know FOCH are 75 and over, not likely to create to many web pages...

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

I'm glad other commenters explained the clues for MSS and VOODOODOLLS. It took a moment for me to see the light.

Two Ponies 10:41 AM  

Liked the theme answers but agree with @ evil doug that Sharon Tate is an unfortunate answer considering the theme.
Triple Natick for me with an unknown actress, unknown Latin phrase, and bad guess of geography.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

Ok, Rex, I Googled those two. Meant nothing to me, of course. But I vividly remember Nina Foch pulling little Moses from the Nile in The Ten Conmmandments. Have to say that, except for Yul and Charlton, one of the worst casting efforts in a major movie of all time. Edgar G. Robinson as Dathan was comical. And Nina didn't look too Egytian herself. But Yvonne De Carlo looked good anywhere in those days.

pk - Did it occur to you with words like UNSHADE, REMOP, FOCH and EOCENE Ms. Gelfand might be a non-native English speaking constructor, or worse yet, a robot? (I guess Rex was saying this puzzle is full of holes.)

Those technical flaws did not spoil an otherwise clever and fun puzzle for me....


Anonymous 11:03 AM  

I guess "bad fill" and "obscure" are in the eyes of the beholder...I am NOT 75, but I watch TV and movies, so I know Sharon GLESS, Nina FOCH and heard of Harry Cohn.
Theme was fine for a Tuesday, and liked fill such as SPATULA, PENDULUM, PERGOLA and YOKO instead of Ono.

Robb 11:11 AM  

unshade? UNSHADE?!! awful.

xyz 11:26 AM  


It's a NEW WORLD RECORD! [maybe]

-roll-eyed smiley!

Really? Seriously David Brooks, Really? 11:40 AM  

"Normally, presidents look weak during periods of economic stagnation, overwhelmed by events. But Obama has displayed a kind of ESPN masculinity: postfeminist in his values, but also thoroughly traditional in style — hypercompetitive, restrained, not given to self-doubt, rarely self-indulgent" - David Brooks, today's paper

Really? The president is a gentleman, and the only reference you can come up with is to ESPN, the one place where black men are fully represented? Really?

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

Twice, our family spent a stunning vacation at IOS, so that was a gimme.

Masked and Anonymous 1:01 PM  

@Gareth: If one wants to rework this puz, one should consider a 15-letter answer that spans the center row, is full of holes, and contains at least one U. Got it!...


Acme 1:37 PM  

How "Alice's Restaurant" meets "Cool hand Luke" of you! What a fascinating/sad story to be triggered by REMOP!!!

I think it worth having FOCH in the puzzle just for the jokes it's spawning...
Tho less so for poor Sharon TATE who is really only known for being future-childrapist's Roman Polanski's wife and pregnant victim of Charles yes, maybe better to go with the London Gallery, or TATE Donovan or potato, pls....

Susan GelfanD, so not your classmate and she's only in her 40s or 50s.
Poor Susan, getting so ragged on for her fill when she did have ODDBALL, etc in there...but yes, MSS, etc was in need of an overhaul.

I have to admit i often get props for smooth fill, but behind the scenes Will requests another go...and I've already submitted a fifth or sixth draft to him before he even sees it!
Sometimes it's to make a Tuesday into a Monday, but sometimes it's the fill, tough whendensely filled theme.

In this case there were five theme answers, and look at those corner triple stacks of seven letters going down!
(so that may have made the fill a lot more difficult, tho i don't want to wildly defend that pretty accurate list @the redanman made!)

So yes, commenters shouldn't throw around the word "lazy", and maybe it IS in need of a tear down...but maybe this was the seventh attempt for all we know!

(And, for the record, I've never heard of MLA, i thought it might be another sports obscurity or army acronym!)

Cagney and Lacey was huge, but for some reason not so their actual names.

There Is someone you could sue...but it's the same old story...the execs at the studios are now all under 40 MBAs...not to be confused with MLAs!
There has been a class action suit against the agencies for discriminating against writers over 40 (i was actually a surprise beneficiary and got a big check last year) but really, good luck when you are talking about an intelligently written show starring Kathy Bates!
Most of the young writers ca, at best, accept Betty White saying risque things a la Beavers mom rapping in "Airplane"... c'est la vie, mon amie, not only in Hollywood! Just more blatant there and more embedded and subtle elsewhere.

NancyKav 1:56 PM  

I love puzzles like this where the theme entries seem totally unrelated until the reveal ties them all together. I actually laughed out loud at the comparison of VOODOO DOLL and SWISS CHEESE.
Had a little trouble accepting UNSHADE, but REMOP was OK.
When I was a kid my dad used to play "Peg O My Heart" over and over when he was learning the ukulele, so that song is forever burned into my memory.
The Sharon TATE/FULL OF HOLES connection IS gruesome, but I didn't even notice it until someone here mentioned it and then it too made me laugh in a sick sort of way.

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

Nina Foch acting into the 2000s as Ducky Mallard's mother on NCIS - so perhaps not that obscure?

Zwhatever 2:00 PM  

Having an advanced degree in education, I have a handy APA style guide at the ready. Librarian spouse uses the MLA style guide. Essential differences seem to center on the handling of citations in MSS. So it would seem to me that a large fraction of NYT solvers would have had some exposure to MLA.

@Quilter - it seems that the 18-34 demographic is what advertisers target because that is the spending demographic. Despite having much more disposable income than my sons, the simple fact is that I don't dispose all that much of it anymore. I don't worry much about it because I'm having too much fun.

@Really? - What is non-sequitur?

Bird 2:14 PM  

“Lipstick on a possum.” Hilarious. I will have to remember to use that in a conversation sometime.

I happen to like this puzzle. The theme was solid and the fill was . . . well it was fill with some crosswordese and a RCD. This time I solved Across and Down at same time and I think that helped me avoid some of the traps. Ditto Rex’s thoughts on REMOP and UNSHADE.

51A crossing 45D was a Natick, at least for me with the way they were clued. The common C was a total guess and the last letter to fall. Change the clue for SIC to [typo]. MLA is obscure for non-academics, but gettable because MOTH is easy. Tick-tock sounds emanate from the clock mechanism (gears, levers, etc.), not the pendulum. Yes, the pendulum and weights provide the energy, but they don’t provide the sound. If I’m wrong, I ‘m wrong but from the comments it seems I am correct.

Lastly – a VOODOO DOLL is not a spelling aid in that it doesn’t help someone cast a spell like a wand or fairy dust. The spell is cast on the doll, which is used to control or hurt the targeted person. Press a pin into the doll’s arm and the person feels the pain.

Little GTO brings to mind the recent passing of Carrol Shelby. RIP.

@evil – I totally agree with you on TATE and Donald

Tom Q 2:41 PM  

I hope it doesn't spoil everyone's Foch jokes to tell you the "ch" is pronounced like "ouch", more more vernacular way people seem to be using.

Anyway, I knew Nina Foch instantly, but then I know movies. Which is also why I knew Harry Cohn, who WAS Columbia Pictures from its foundation until his death.

Two other trivia notes on him:

(1) He's more or less the model for John Marley's "horse's head in bed" character in The Godfather (meaning, he hated Sinatra, and didn't want him for From Here to Eternity).

(2) He once said, "You know how I know a movie's not going to work for an audience? Wh=jen my butt starts itching, I know the movie's too long and audiences won't like it" -- which provoked (Citizen Kane screenwriter) Herman Mankiewicz's immortal rejoinder, "Imagine: the whole world wired to Harry Cohn's ass"

arms akimbo 3:12 PM  

Sorry, but whoever was responsible for the SIC/FOCH crossing on a Tuesday was one sic foch.

Unknown 3:22 PM  

Nina Foch and Harry Cohn were my main gimmes.

Everyone here should watch TCM more often.

Pendulum don't make noise.

I'm not 75 either. Not 65. Not 55. Barely 45.


sanfranman59 3:44 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 8:59, 8:52, 1.01, 61%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 5:03, 4:35, 1.10, 80%, Challenging

Lewis 4:33 PM  

Seems like NEEDLED could have fit in with the theme...

Sfingi 4:43 PM  

@Rex - saw you a couple days ago on the tube - you look so young!

Had ALA before FLA, biOL before ECOL - we didn't have such a course in my day.

The puzzle seemed OK to me. I get perturbed over too many abbrevs. or too much sports, esp. sports - ALEAST did throw me as an example of those.

UNSHADE is OK. At least it's not reSHADErs. Any group which is redoing something involving a RE at the beginning and ERS at the end is CHEESEy. Let's see, how can I use reSPATULAte.

@Akimbo - cute.

Tyne Daly 4:50 PM  

@acme -- I'd like to argue with you but you're probably right. I did do a Dirty Harry movie earlybin my career which should count for something. Plus I got an Emmy for Judging Amy. I'd like to think I'm slightly more known than Sharon, but who knows.

michael 5:19 PM  

I'm not with the crowd on this one. I thought this was an excellent puzzle and hard for a Tuesday.

Sharon Gless 5:37 PM  

Doesn't anybody watch Burn Notice?! What about Switch or Queer as Folk?

I won two Emmy Awards and received 10 Emmy nominations. I've also been nominated 7 times for the Golden Globe (winning two in 1986 and 1991) and received a Star on the Walk of Fame in 1995.


long suffering mets fan 5:58 PM  

Thumbs down here -- too much junk fill

Here in New Jersey, we put our lipstick on our pigs, not our possums

Seems like we've had tons of old time references lately -- Nina Foch, Tommy Dorsey twice, Passion Pit, Harry Cohn? Guess I better study up on the names of Warren Harding's valets. Have the constructors been senior citizens or have the puzzles been sitting on Will's desk since Santa Claus was shot?

chefwen 8:06 PM  

@Tita - Love your new avatar, cute stuff!

sheilasgame 8:29 PM  

Jeepers creepers! Holy moly! First time I've been on this blog. Maybe I have holes in my head, but what gives with so many mean-spirited comments? From a well-seasoned NYT crossword solver, I found this puzzle to be clever and solid for Tuesday.

Anonymous 9:32 PM  

sheilasgame - The tone is set by Rex, who is a critic and usually not a favorable one. Wordplay on the NYT is much more sanguine in analyzing the puzzle. I come here for the poison and go there for the other point of view. There are exceptions here, Acme being the most notable....


Zwhatever 10:06 PM  

@sheilasgame - Ignoring the anonymice, I counted 11 positive reviews, 11 positive theme but negative fill reviews, a half dozen pans, and a half dozen that I couldn't categorize. There are more that are responses to comments. I'm sure I miscounted a little, but I'd hardly categorize any comments as mean-spirited. I saw one apology to the constructor for a bad review and I saw one request for the constructor to get her puzzles published more often.

I hope you return and add your perspective to the mix.

Anonymous 10:17 PM  

sheilasgame - Note how Z starts out by saying, "Ignoring the anonymice," displaying a mean-spirit toward someone who does not give a name (even though I use JFC and that person uses Z). Anonymous has become anonymice on this blog because of the mean-spriritedness which is so engrained as to be accepted as the norm. Rex coined the term "anonymice,"

Nonetheless, there are comments worth reading and not everyone here is mean-spirited....


a-pat 11:07 PM  

John, you sign your notes JFC. We don't need to know who you are (though we do...) to know that you're you.

Also, you're wrong about a lot. I disagree with most of your opinions, such as that Z was mean-spirited, but you're demonstrably wrong about Rex coining the term. It's been around for a long time. A very long time.

Anonymous 11:30 PM  

Let that "gitar" fall in...

sanfranman59 1:12 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 6:49, 6:50, 1.00, 54%, Medium
Tue 9:00, 8:52, 1.01, 63%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:49, 3:40, 1.04, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:02, 4:35, 1.10, 80%, Challenging

NM Robin 10:49 AM  

I liked this puzzle. It was a typical Tuesday puzzle, a bit harder than Mondays puzzle.

I found it to be easy-medium. I had a natick at the FOCH and FLA crossing. I left the "f" blank and had "ala" and "fla" in the margins until I decided it must be FLA. I do not remember FOCH but I watch old movies and NCIS, so I must have seen her a lot.

I also put in Mesa Vista at 20A. Removed it when I couldn't get crosses to work.

Good Puzzle.

Spacecraft 12:07 PM  

The fill is Yucksville, as has already been documented; I in fact was naticked in the SE...guess-filled that whole box (correctly, to my wonder).

I did like the theme, and some of the clues: nice put(t)! This had potential, but was too choppy. When you need that many threes, you're in trouble.

WOTD for me: PERGOLA. Learn something new every day.

Solving in Seattle 1:47 PM  

Put me in the "liked this puzzle" column.

Same issue with aLA crossing aOLH. Great clues for 23A & 48A.

Why can't I ever remember how to spell King OLAv's name?

Did KP in the Air Force. REMOP is a word. It also reminds me of the Howdy Doody song sung by Cecil the Sea Sick Seaserpant, "Ragmop."

And, the @SiS lol award of the day goes to @Arms Akimbo 3:12.

Anonymous 1:58 PM  

Only been doing crosswords for a couple of years but this was the easiest Tuesday I've seen. Had Cohn in the Northeast so CURRY was my answer until CAJUN came along. Had VOODOODOLLS for a while before I understood the clue. Of course, while I had CURRY then I thought "server's wish" was somehow a computer question the answer must be "use".

Dirigonzo 3:16 PM  

I liked it well enough but needed all the crosses for Sharon, Nina (and of course I still got her wrong), the Tome guy/gal, place or thing (does anybody know who/what/where SAO Tome is?)

I thought the Server's wish might be a tip, even though I had already written the correct ACE in the grid.

I always like to be reminded of my '65 GTO - lots of fond memories associated with that car and those times.

Cecil the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent 5:29 PM  

@SiS - Are you sure you don't mean Beany and Cecil? I don't remember any gigs on the Howdy Doody show.

Ginger 6:04 PM  

How can you not love a puzzle with VOODOODOLL? The other theme answers were fun too, though the fills were only soso. I liked the misdirect on 4D; really fell into that trap.

Nina FOCH and Harry COHN were gimmes, though I can see they would be difficult for solvers under 40. But C' had ghostfaceKillah last week!

Anyone who has raised boys has REMOPped a bathroom.

Enjoy the rest of the week...

Solving in Seattle 6:24 PM  

@Cecil, you're absolutely correct. I'd forgotten Cecil and Beany. Thanks for helping.

@Diri, a good friend in college had a brand new '65 GTO that he called "The Goat." Total chick magnet.

Dirigonzo 6:43 PM  

@SIS - interesting that you should use that phrase as I recently posted a piece on my blog that described my GTO in exactly the same way. I could probably get the car, or one just like it, back but I'm afraid the young man that had such great times in it is gone forever. But c'est la vie, n'est pas?

rain forest 1:27 AM  

@SIS and @Dirigono, I inherited my Dad's Acadian Beaumont with a 327 4bbl that blew the doors off anything at the time, even a GTO. Yes, memories...

Oh yes, the puzzle. I liked it (well, I seem to like almost all of them), and Rex's dislike was hard to understand. Rex, you did a terrible job of cleaning this floor. You'll have to remop it! Nina Foch was quite the accomplished actress, even in her 70's. Sometimes, I just want Rex to zip it.

Solving in Seattle 1:40 PM  

@rain forest, I had a girlfriend who had a '68 Chevy Nova (ala Acadian Beaumont) that weighed about 6 pounds with the 4bbl 350 engine that would rear-view mirror anything on the street. Those were good car days.

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