Music critic Nat / TUE 4-22-14 / 1963 John Wayne comedy western / Onetime SNL-type show / Smoky-voiced Eartha / Insurer with duck mascot /

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Tick Tock — circles in theme answers spell out TICK on left side and TOCK on right

Theme answers:
  • TICKLED (17A: ___ pink)
  • COMMON STOCK (23A: It's not preferred for investors)
  • TICKED OFF (32A: Peeved)
  • "MCLINTOCK" (42A: 1963 John Wayne comedy western)
  • TICKET BOOTH (48A: Spot at the front of a theater)
  • BUTTOCK (62A: Half moon?)
Word of the Day: "MCLINTOCK" —
McLintock! is a 1963 comedy Western directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and starring John Wayne, with co-stars including Maureen O'HaraYvonne De Carlo, and Wayne's son Patrick Wayne. The film, produced by Wayne's company Batjac Productions, was loosely based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. (wikipedia)
• • •

Less than enjoyable solve for me, though this was not entirely the puzzle's fault. For some reason, the .puz file I downloaded had a glitch that turned all apostrophes and quotation marks into "â". This added an annoying interesting level of difficulty to the solve. But then there was the puzzle, which had a somewhat dull theme, the execution of which resulted in a highly unpleasant, radically segmented grid. God, those 4-long black blocks (two on each side) are deathly. They create these mini-puzzles which can't help but be dull and tragically crosswordesey. See the eastern block in particular, with its RATA AROO EEKS (!?) and AOKS (!?!?). Who pluralizes those!?! Theme answers were not special or interesting—except BUTTOCK. Thumbs up there … so to speak. Why not go with TICKETS and TICKLED PINK? Or … I don't know, something different? Concept here is mildly interesting, but the grid design is fatally flawed, and the execution slightly awkward. This grid really should've been rebuilt, or the theme answers reconceived entirely.

Never heard (or barely heard) of COMMON STOCK, so that took a lot of crosses to bring down. Everything else was reasonably familiar. I did blank on KAMPALA right out of the gate, though. Had to go immediately to crosses, but even with the "K" I was like "… ? … KINSHASA doesn't fit … where is KINSHASA? … gah!" I put it together pretty fast, but I'm highly self-disappointed at not getting that answer straight off. Thought Tony Soprano might be a MOB BOSS (42D: Tony Soprano, for one) … I mean, he was, just not in this puzzle. HENTOFF, however, was a gimme (8D: Music critic Nat). I've been reading a lot of old Cosmo magazines lately (don't ask) and was stunned to see that he was actually Cosmo's music critic back in '79. He covered some pop and rock, but also a whole lot of other music I didn't expect to find in a late-'70s mainstream women's magazine: jazz, blues, classical, reggae. His columns are an interesting window into the music of that era—beyond the pop charts.

["Love I Need" from the 1978 album Give Thankx … seriously: Thankx!]

OK, gotta go finish watching the horrifying documentary on the Hillsborough disaster (the 25th anniversary of which was last week). See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS BEQ's site has been down due to some sort of Typepad meltdown. Here are the .puz and .pdf of his latest puzzles if you want them.


Steve J 12:16 AM  

Wasn't wild about this one. Found it musty throughout: lots of crosswordese, and outside Tony Soprano, there's nothing here that isn't at least 35 years old. Thought the circles were gratuitous, even on a Tuesday. And the themers were rather blah, other than the excellently clued BUTTOCK.

KAMPALA / AGIO is going to be a beast for new or strictly early-week solvers.

jae 12:19 AM  

Easy-medium for me.  Probably would have been easy if I hadn't spent some time trying to figure out if the a€oe weird characters in the AcrossLite print out had something to do with the theme/solve.   I'm assuming not.  Apparently every time a " or ' was used in a clue the odd stuff showed up instead.

Only erasure was @Rex MOBboss before I read the 54a clue.

Not too bad a grid (although Rex is right),  a bit of zip, but I'm not sure what the point is?  Kinda liked it, but...

Elle54 12:22 AM  

Pretty,pretty easy

Moly Shu 12:24 AM  

Zipped right through this even with Entebbe as Uganda's capitol. Easily fixed once I started on the downs. No real zip, RIOT ACT being my favorite. Seemed ...... Adequate. There's that pesky UTNE again and also ETES and EKES. Theme didn't do it for me either. On to Wednesday

Z 12:29 AM  

Whack-a-vowel at 2.

Anonymous 12:35 AM  

Well, at least Rex gave me an idea of what to do tonight.

wreck 12:38 AM  

Nothing spectacular for a Tuesday, but ok. Lots of crosswordese, but fairly easy for me. BUTTOCK was amusing!

Unknown 1:40 AM  

Easy-medium here, too. ICON for EMOTICON caused me to do a >:-{ . DEARIE for [Sweetheart] also rankled. Both were fair, but ever so slightly and unpleasantly off.

I had expected the TICK-TOCK sequence end in an explosive reveal. Did it? It seemed to end like a French movie, mired in ENNUI.

chefwen 3:11 AM  

Thought I was going to turn into a NUTCASE trying to figure out how those weird symbols were tied to the puzzle. Finally just ignored them, which was what I should have done from the git-go.

Started off on a bad note by not knowing 1A or 8D. Swore that there is no way in Hell I was going to Google on a Tuesday and I didn't. Got 'em both with crosses and lucky guesses. Got the TICK/TOCK thing early on and just filled in the rest of the circles. Easy Peasy and I liked it.

Hartley70 6:06 AM  

I thought it was another sweet one. Zipped through, no errors, just as I like it on a Tuesday.

Glimmerglass 7:19 AM  

Rex is correct about the grid design. It's no problem for an easy puzzle, but it shouldn't happen that only one letter leads out of a corner. This was too easy even for an early-week NYT. Liked the clue for BUTTOCKS.

jberg 7:28 AM  

Too easy, if you know KAMPALA. I was annoyed by the grayed in squares (in the paper - guess they were circles online). I guess they were needed because of the absence of a revealer, but it would have been a lot easier the other way around, with revealer and without gray/circles. Once I had 17A I knew all the theme squares, no fun in that.

The only hard things were a) not seeing the "I" in the clue for 21D, so writing in I'M OF. Much better as it is. (Hey look! Is that A MOF?"), and 2) not getting the pun at 23A, so thinking 'but investors DO like COMMON STOCK." Each of those held me up at lest 5 seconds -- but since I don't time, that was of no consequence.

@CascoKid -- think of a waitress in a diner. She might call you DEARIE, she might call you sweetheart.

Anonymous 7:35 AM  

As a neophyte, frequently googling cheater, I have to disagree with Steve J. Kampala was a breeze. Perhaps my first hand knowledge of African geography, during the many years I traveled there for development work for 20 years. Kinshasa is the capital of the Democratic of Congo where the Rumble in the Jungle was fought between Ali and Foreman in 1974. Every now and again it makes up for the huge void in my awareness of US art and culture during the 1980s and 90s when I spent most of my time on planes hopping from one developing area to another. Hence I have zero guilt about googling anything from that era of my life.

joho 8:12 AM  

Like yesterday I spent way too much time trying to decipher the theme. I couldn't see how all the gibberish in the clues played a role. Finally just solved the puzzle, quickly, saw the TICKTOCKTICKTOCKTICKTOCK and declared, "OMG it's a bomb!"

Ludyjynn 8:13 AM  

Easy but super-meh Tuesday. Another inconsequential theme. A TON of crosswordese all over the grid. I expected Rex to rant much louder than he did! (I'm a poet and didn't know it!)

Liked HENTOFF, RIOTACT, TURBO and BUTTOCK. That's all she wrote.

Denise 8:17 AM  

OK. Another easy for me. No stumbles. I'd have to guess that Rex is not an investor (common stock). Liked the cluing for 'buttock'.

BTW, of all the blogs I follow, this is the only one with captcha. Very annoying.

Mohair Sam 8:26 AM  

Easy, quick, Wite-Out free Tuesday for us. Only hesitation was was the A in AGIO (nice catch @steve j), just know KAMPALA phonetically and feared the second letter might be "U" or "O".

Agree with Rex and others on the amount of "ese" in this one, probably necessitated by the structure - but I'm not qualified to complain about puzzle construction, so I'll trust the experts.

@Rex - Hillsborough an amazing story, it should be required viewing for people who trust those in power.

More than ever people need to understand Wall Street (think 401K's) and yet well-educated Americans are frequently unaware of the most basic principles (COMMONSTOCK vs. preferred). Of course if we spent a week in High School studying basic finance instead of self-esteem Wall Street would have to work harder to screw us. Can't have that.

I see Rex had problems with the formatting, our AcrossLite gave us all kinds of weird symbols (including trademark) for quotes and apostrophe - anybody else?

Sir Hillary 8:28 AM  

This is a theme? Nothing more to say on the puzzle.

Lots to say on the Hillsborough travesty, but I will be brief. The ESPN documentary is brutal to watch, and I have rarely been so angered as I was in learning of the appalling cover-up of police mistakes and attempts to blame and criminalize the victims. Those poor people and their families.

Unknown 8:28 AM  

Easy. Nothing obscure, other than HENTOFF, a random critic of music. At the same time, it is hard for me to believe that anyone would be unfamiliar with the term COMMONSTOCK.

One man's gimme is another man's challenge, I suppose.

chefbea 8:31 AM  

I agree - an easy puzzle but I kept waiting for a revealer...some kind of a clock - grandfather, alarm etc. What was the point of ticks and tocks??

mac 8:41 AM  

Perfectly good Tuesday in my book. The mini puzzle
in the SE almost did me in, but Utne helped out a lot.

Mclintock and buttock are my favorites. Agio I knew, it lives in the same area of my brain as stere, tare and cubit.

My biggest surprise was BOS as the genus of the cow. Bovine yes, but this little word I had never seen before!

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

The theme is pathetic. The fill is pathetic. The puzzle is pathetic.

How can anyone make a puzzle this ******* bad?

Dawn 9:19 AM  

I did love this one. AF (Almost Finished) Couldnt think of dirt.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:24 AM  

Felt super-easy to me . . .

. . . but I still fell into one write-over, thinking verb before noun, at 40 D had DISH before DIRT.

Eagerly awaiting M&A's take on 25 D.

WA 9:29 AM  

The tick tock theme maybe me think of a crossword puzzle given to children.
One need not be defensive or make excuses on how finishes a puzzle. I started doing puzzles over 40 years ago but I am still light years away from the competitive class.

Questinia 9:43 AM  

This is a swinging, downward moving, pendulum puzzle starting at TICKLED and ending at BUTTOCK.

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

I did not realize until I finished solving the puzzles that the garbled apostrophes and quotations marks were not part of the puzzle. Made for a very up satisfying solving experience. No idea what the theme is.

RnRGhost57 9:43 AM  


Arlene 9:48 AM  

I finished easily - and correctly, too - even though I didn't know KAMPALA, UTNE, AGIO. I guess you develop a sixth sense on this stuff.

As for 49D "Perjurer's Admission" - I LIED - does that mean he told the truth?

Unknown 10:02 AM  

Agree with Rex. Had same apostrophe problem. Best part of this was reading Rex's "thumbs up" line. Plus, puzzle theme made it feel like time was just d r a g g I n g.

voiceofsocietyman 10:05 AM  

Definitely failed as a Tuesday puzzle. Most casual solvers (i.e., almost everyone who is having fun with a Tuesday puzzle) will not know KAMPALA or AGIO, so the crosses are of no help. I even had to wrack my brain for Tommy LEE in order to get that L.

Pluralizing most exclamations should just be outlawed. EEKS? I mean, they're not exactly oohs and ahs. And AOKs was just awful.

There definitely were some fun short answers (I liked SCTV as well as the SINE/COSEC pairing), but they didn't make up for unusual words or the peculiar phrases (ILIED, IGOOFED -- sound like some bad apps for my iPhone).

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

Autofill almost could have done a better job.

Carola 10:33 AM  

TICK-TOCK-themed puzzle - for those that time themselves? I was TICKLED at BUTTOCK and the pairing of the too-easy MOO with the ha-ha-smartie-do-you-know-this BOS (I didn't). Had to correct HENThoF.

GILL I. 10:54 AM  

Maybe because I'm easily amused I enjoyed this puzzle. Boy, I would have loved to see ARE YOU SLEEPY NOW as the revealer.
Speaking of MIT...@Steve J thanks for the EES the other day.
Miscreant was one of those fun words that I would teach our children. "You miscreant, you!"

Ellen S 10:58 AM  

Ha ha I didn't even realize there was a theme until I came to @Rex's blog. I saw the circle letters and I thought wait were there circles on my puzzle? Puzzazz puzzles look like the print version: when I went back to look I saw that I had shaded areas where @Rex's had circles. I had never even noticed them when solving. I think that's a testimony to how easy this puzzle was. Liked BUTTOCK, the rest was just ... fill.

@Denise D, without the captcha, this blog would be overrun with robotic posts. As it is, it is sometimes overrun by robots. Not pretty.

OISK 11:19 AM  

Nice and easy for me; Rex's evaluations are seldom close to mine. I love geography, so Kampala was no problem at all. The theme made the puzzle even easier than it would otherwise have been, but I have no problem with "easy" on a Tuesday. Of course, I have never heard of Tommy Lee, nor anyone else associated with Motley Crue with two umlauts. Motley Crue falls for me in a middle category of rock-pop-hip-hop. I know the name, nothing more. That is different from INXS, or NSYNC, or NYRO, or Joe Ramone, which I know only from the Times Puzzle. (although I just saw NYRO's name in the newspaper) It is also different from, say, Adele, Pink, the Doors, Monkeys, where I can name at least one thing they have recorded (in these cases ONLY one,) and have some vague notion of who they are or were. For those who wonder, (as some here have) how one could exist, read newspapers, watch TV, shop in NY, and be as ignorant of pop culture as I am, ask yourself this - can you right now hear in your head what a robin's song sounds like? You have heard it thousands of times, right? But unless bird songs interest you, you probably have taken no notice. One person's music is another person's background noise..

Anonymous 12:24 PM  

@mac, I often wondered why cows are sometimes named Bossie. I suppose its because of their genus -- never thought of that.

jdv 12:26 PM  

Easy-medium. I thought the theme was ok for a Tuesday, but wanted some revealer--Ke$ha song maybe. Had to verify all the crosses for HENTOFF and the clue for 33d ERNIE seemed hard.

Dr.CBecker 12:40 PM  

To move the theme towards earth day, why not have a morbid Haiku using the words around the "Ticks" and "Tocks" (with the 's' in area borrowed from the next row down.

I go to sea so
Entire areas dear
Lie open to die

So our countdown to destruction at least captures the enthusiasm I had for today's DNF as I choked in the midwest and northwest, and had to Google a few names elsewhere... I guess there is always next week.

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

:-) is an emoticon, not an icon.

Unknown 12:49 PM  

I for one was pleased to see HENTOFF. Nat is a long-time piece of crosswordese (Note: Nat's not a natick.) His daughter, Jessica the Circus Lady, is a long-time friend of mine. I always tell her when her dad makes the puzzle, but this time I got to tell her that her last name was in the puzzle.

(FWIW, I once told her that her daughter made the puzzle--sort of. Her daughter Elliana was the first female human cannonball for Ringling. When a puzzle some months back had HUMANCANNONBALL as an answer, I said it counted as Elliana.)

Unknown 12:53 PM  

Anonymous said:

":-) is an emoticon, not an icon."

And of course "emoticon" is a portmanteau of "emotion icon". So an emoticon is a type of icon.

Masked and Anonymo5Us 12:58 PM  

Hypnotizing theme. As @CascoKid suggests, needs a punchline. Maybe 8-D could be wENTOFF...? The 8-D positioning ain't super for a punchline, and then you'd have yer crossin OFFs, so... no.
Oh, oh, oh ... how'bout if 57-D was DONG? Then U got yer chimes goin for yah at the finish. Good? Or too alarmin?

@BobK: I sense your urgent concern, re: the use of the sacred MonPuz MOO/cow combo over here in the TuesPuz. Would normally be a major gaff, but has been deftly balanced by the "Cow genus" = BOS little WTF-er weeject. Nice. Not only that, they threw in KITT for KAT and SINE for COSEC. More primo saves. Downright artistic.

Luvin AOKS. Raises the bar. Needs AOKIS, to finish things off, artistically. Kinda like STUCCO does.

ahar moment: "Full compliment of dwarfs" = SEVEN. Well, all righty, then. Had always wondered about that. Raises some crucial followup questions, tho...

* What if they want to field an NFL team?
* What would a full compliment of DWARVES be?
* Can I get an extra complimentary dwarf, if I extend my stay?
* Do dwarfs ever compliment each other? ("Nice diamond pick!", etc.)
* What is a full compliment of Snow Whites? (Can I get an extra set, if I extend my stay?)
* What if U get a Grumpy one? Is it because he ain't full? Or didn't get complimented enough as a child? If I can't get more than seven, can I at least do exchanges?
* What is a full compliment of weejects?
* What do U call a 7 by 7 runtpuz, if U wish to be fully complimentary?


Lewis 1:15 PM  

This is a puz for the newbies, to give them a feeling of success, and that in itself will override its lack of spark.

While not a drudge, I felt no great reward from it. As someone said earlier, it could have been spit out by a machine. A reveal as someone suggested earlier like "are you asleep yet" would have given the puzzle more cohesiveness.

Never heard of CLARO or BOS, so thank you for those bits of knowledge, Ed. Someone earlier called Nat Hentoff a random music critic, and no, he is upper tier.

I wanted to see BAR after KITT and KAT.

M and Also 1:40 PM  

Hey!-- EEKS and EKES! Reminds me of a complimentary runtpuz I once made...

The above runtpuz don't tick. But it does have some fill that'd stop a clock...


Anonymous 2:17 PM  

it's "full complement", not "full compliment"

Bob Kerfuffle 2:24 PM  

@M&A - My clock stopped at 5:08. 5D was not in my mental database, I'm afraid.

Last Silver Bull Woot 3:14 PM  

@BobK: yep. 5-D was the clock-stoppin fill I was thinkin of. Always makes me nervous, usin an obscure name that doesn't have the coveted used-before-by-Patrick-Berry immunity. Sorry about that. Leaves speed solvers askin for seconds, I'll betcha.
Will try to do better.

"Full complEment"? day-um. Wrong again, M&A breath. It's hell bein the comic relief, when U can't spell worth a suey.
Will try to do better.

On the non-amateur side of the ledger, I had lots of fun solvin this TuesPuz, even if the TICKs and TOCKs started gettin pretty obvious, as time passed. And, like @Lewis, learned what a BOS was, when it ain't wearin Red Sox.


sanfranman59 3:46 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

Tue 6:42, 8:16, 0.81, 4%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:33, 5:07, 0.89, 13%, Easy

Benko 4:09 PM  

@moly shu: I also put ENTEBBE in at first.

Sure, this puzzle was pretty terrible. But I still liked it--because the only part I remember is that half moon BUTTOCK.

Benko 4:15 PM  

M&A: 1:40 on that one. Also had no idea about 4down. Particularly liked 11across.

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

Any reference to a Muppet is a good reference! That part made me smile.

retired_chemist 9:05 PM  

Late to the party. Kinda fun. I'll leave it at that.

Unknown 11:30 PM  

"Repent, Harlequin!"

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

Is it a coincidence that McLinTOCK is the blatantly sexist movie in which John Wayne shows Maureen O'Hara who's boss by delivering a good swatting to her butTOCK?

Waxy in Montreal 10:23 AM  

Quite a bland Tuesday puzzle - didn't really TICKle my fancy other than AGIO, CLARO and HENTOFF, all new to me but readily available from their crosses. Guessing BOS is a synonym for livesTOCK.

Tried to squeeze KERMIT into 33D. Obviously I GOOFED, confusing "Rubber Duckie" with "It's not easy being green".

3 5's and a pair of 8's.


spacecraft 11:14 AM  

EEKS. The first shaded area being TICK, I tried to guess what the theme might be. Though [THE TICK!] is one of my fave superheroes, I doubt you could come up with five more 4-letter ones of those. Even if you acronymize The Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Thing to ELBET, or include sidekicks (ROBIN), that's still five. So, maybe we were dealing with insects.

Ah, no. The next one--as were they all, BTW--was a gimme. Tsk, @Rex: you're a New Yorker and didn't know the two types of STOCK, preferred and COMMON? So now we have TICK TOCK, and I thought, good grief, we're not just gonna TICKOFF four more seconds, are we? Is that all there is?

Uh, yeah. That's it. And in addition to those repeated words, we have two entries ending in OFF intersecting. Plus we have EEKS atop EKES, AOKS, SCTV, AMOF and UTNE...CMON, man!

The last themer, with its clue, elicited a chuckle, and saved this one from an F to one of Peppermint Patty's dreaded D-minuses.

I thought STUCCO was a material, not a decoration. Just a 3-digit address this time; I've been dealt out.

DMG 2:35 PM  

Kept waiting for TICK/TOCK to lead to something, and finished wondering if I had missed some cleverly hidden something. Guess not. Did Natick out where the unknown critic crossed the unknown sports figure, but will take credit for correctly guessing the "L" in LEE, if credit is given for "or sounds plausible" guesses. Seem to recall in college test scores deducted some multiple of wrong answers to discourage the just-check-anything guess.

No numbers for me today, but I'm sure there is some message in my Captcha: suchwar scruple

Solving in Seattle 3:41 PM  

Thin theme, if you can even call it that. I also hunted for some hidden gem in the puzzle to pull the TICK TOCKs together or give them some time-related meaning. CMON, Ed, something? The "Fs" rounding the corner are my grade for this puz.

@Waxy, I've got my doigts crossed for you.

@DMG, your capcha is an old pirate saying about bygone ethics.

Dirigonzo 3:50 PM  

My otherwise pristine grid was spoiled when my scanner picked up an APB on the Uhf frequency used by the local cops. IGOOFED. AGIO and LEE were "sounds plausible" guesses (ala @DMG) and HENTOFF went in entirely on crosses.

My two pair bow to @Waxy's house.

@DMG - I think that's what you call an oxymoronic phrase (or wishful thinking).

Prune 1:48 PM  

Naticks on a Tuesday?!

The clue for POKE is simply wrong: it's a combinative form meaning a person. slow-poke is a dawdler; cow-poke is a herder. POKE on its own is ... well, look in Merriam-Webster, for example.

AGIO is a term I've probably seen in another puzzle, but it's not something I've run into, even in my international travels. It's simply the "spread", "fee", or some pejorative. Crossing with Uganda's capital airlifts 1A just outside Boston.

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