Like oak leaves brains / MON 9-8-14 / 2011 Tony-winning religious satire / Hyperlocal way to campaign / Boingo service at airports / Skater Sonja

Monday, September 8, 2014

Constructor: Dan Schoenholz

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: THE BIG FIVE-OH (53A: Milestone birthday, informally … with a hint to 20-, 31- and 41-Across) — theme answers have five "O"s in them:

Theme answers:
  • BOOK OF MORMON (20A: 2011 Tony-winning religious satire, with "The")
  • DOOR-TO-DOOR (31A: Hyperlocal way to campaign)
  • VOODOO DOLL (41A: Black magic item)
Word of the Day: VALE (55D: Hollow between hills) —
A valley, often coursed by a stream; a dale.

[Middle English, from Old French val, from Latin valls; see wel-2 in Indo-European roots.] (
• • •

Easy. Very easy. So easy that even after I stumbled toward the end—right around the tail-end of the revealer—I still ended up with a well-below-average time. It's not normal that I have to think at all in order to discover what the theme is on a Monday, but today there was definitely some thinking. Probably wasn't more than a few seconds, but it was not immediately clear to me what the connection was, largely because I was wondering what the number "50" had to do with the theme answers. The answer is, of course, nothing. Perhaps one of the reasons I didn't see the theme right away is the revealer itself. I don't understand why there's an "H" on the end. I see that "THE BIG FIVE-OH" is the name of some "humor" books, perhaps playing on the surprise(!) one feels upon turning "50," like "Holy $%&% I can't believe I'm 50 already." I don't know. I just know that I would never have spelled it with an "H." And with an "H," the whole point of the theme is kind of messed up. There are five "O"s. There are not five "OH"s. So without a question mark on the revealer … d'oh!

OOO is a terrible answer on any day, but especially terrible today, when we are drowning in "O"s. I should say that I think the core concept here is cute, and the fill is mostly good. The parts I stumbled on were all surrounding the end part of the revealer, namely:
  • OLAF (42D: Scandinavian saint) — left final letter off, fearing it might be OLAV.
  • VALE (55D: Hollow between hills) — as you can see from the "Word of the Day" definition, DALE works just fine there, and that's what I had.
  • LOBED (51D: Like oak leaves and brains) — hit this clue and had No idea what was going on. I like LOBED about as much as I like the far more common EARED, i.e. not very much.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Fugu 12:27 AM  

Downs-only report: this one took a normal Thursday time to do, and that's with a few across clues I accidentally saw. More than half of that time was spent in the SE, failing to infer the revealer theme answer and therefore getting nowhere with the tough down clues in that section. OLAF or OLAV? DALE or VALE? And then I still wasn't done because it turns out GOALIGAN is not a word that anybody is using to describe soccer fans. GENIE and LAO looked fine, and acknowledging my obliviousness to the sports world, I thought it was just slang I hadn't heard. Too bad, it looked great in the grid.

All in all, this was pitched at nearly ideal difficulty level for downs-only. Enjoyed.

chefwen 12:27 AM  

Super easy Monday. Like @Rex had dALE, unlike Rex filled in Olav without waiting, didn't have THE BIG in place so I ended up with vIdEOH which made no sense at all.
Pretty easy fix and I was done.

On to Tuesday.

Steve J 12:36 AM  

Super easy here, too, but quite enjoyable for the brief time I spent with it. It took me a couple ticks to get the theme after filling in the revealer, too, but I think it works well (and I think either O or OH can work just fine there). The other themers are solid and have a little liveliness to them.

Fill was also solid throughout (never even noticed OOO as I solved, but I agree that random tic-tac-toe answers are about as welcome as random Roman numerals). Liked HOOLIGAN and SLAMMER, especially.

Interesting on a Monday to see at least three instances of answers where I always hesitate to enter a key letter, since it could go either way: OLAF(V), (D)VALE and (Y)WAHOO.

Whirred Whacks 12:47 AM  

This was easy.
How easy?
My solve-time almost matched my solve-time for today's Mini (Joel Fagliano's baby on the iPad version of the NYT x-word app).

I liked the puzzle, and the theme. Indeed, with this theme, I saw nothing at all wrong with OOO being an answer.

Happy birthday to all of you who have Big Oh birthdays this year!

Ellen S 12:50 AM  

I also left OLA_ blank until the last minute, but for some reason had no doubt about VALE. Maybe having no doubt was just foolishness, but worked out okay. Easy like everyone says, but not boring-easy. Overall enjoyable.

Anoa Bob 1:01 AM  

OH BOY (3D)! Agree that the BIG FIVE OH just doesn't look right. Why not go with THE BIG FIVE O (11 letters) as the reveal and change the first themer BOOK OF MORMON (12 letters) to a matching 11-letter entry like, OH I don't know, maybe HOOK OR CROOK. There must be quite a few 11-letter words/phrases with five o's that would work.

jae 2:30 AM  

Medium for me mostly because I had to erase tell for BLAB.  I have a tendency to skip reading some of the crosses on Mon. and Tues.  The CHP is right...Speed Kills...

Nice group of 5 0s in the center 9 squares.

Solid Mon.  Liked it.

John Child 3:14 AM  

ONO and INN would have "fixed" the OOO that @Rex disliked, but I'm pretty sure the five Os in the center was a deliberate choice.

6:45 here, which is probably a fastest-ever time for me. It was too easy in the sense that there are a couple of dozen clues that I never looked at.

GILL I. 4:47 AM  

Yes, the ending OH was a bit of a "why is there and H?" wearing a Velentino with Keds.
By the way, for all you skeptics, VOODOO DOLLS work. I learned how to make them from our Grand Cayman housekeeper. All you need is a photo and some straw and if you are looking for luck in love, you add some perfume and some garlic to your doll. "Never use pins she would admonish, unless you want to seriously kill someone."
Speaking of the big "50"....I had the best birthday anyone could have dancing and drinking away my youth in Cabo...I recommend it for all you young uns....
Well Dan, I really did like your puzzle (sans the H) because it was a perfect Monday and because it allowed me to BLAB ELWAY.

Z 7:53 AM  

OLIVE TINT is much better than green paint. Otherwise, a WHITE RICE sort of puzzle, nothing to offend, nothing to challenge the solver.

ArtO 8:02 AM  

Had exactly the same experience as @Rex.

joho 8:10 AM  

Hmmm, I thought the added "H" on OH made it clear how to correctly pronounce the reveal. Just in case you hadn't heard it before and said, THE BIG 5 ZERO. I don't think the "H" is superfluous but helpful!

I loved that all themers had 5,count 'em 5, "O's!"

@Anoa, Bob, even though I want to keep the "H" for the reason explained, how about, OROMEOROMEO?
(As I'm mentioned before, I love when a puzzle makes me to try to come up with theme answers which this one did, another positive point!)

Loved it, Dan! Thanks for a great start to the week!

AliasZ 8:21 AM  

Oooh, what a neat puzzle, except for reminding me how long ago it was that I crossed THE BIG FIVE-OH threshold.

I AMINO hurry to cast aspersions on imaginative crossword constructors for hiding a neat little Easter egg smack-dab in the middle of the grid. It even escaped the eagle eye of OFL, simply because he got so hung up on the H in the FIVE-OH. Yes, there are five, count'em, O's neatly bundled in the bull's eye of the grid. Which is what necessitated the O-O-O at 35D. Nice touch!

Loved the fill too: Sonja HENIE, Greta "call me MADAME" GARBO, all those SORORITY HOOLIGANs, and who can forget AARON Boone's home run in the bottom of the 11th inning against the BOS Red Sox in the seventh game of the 2003 ALCS?

If you ever decide to do it, I suggest you wear your good boots to go solo to Kokomo or to poor old Woodstock town. Don't go too soon, no fool'n! Now go to yo' room, look for book of Songs of Solomon or protozoology or glottochronology.

Toodl'loo, toots.

Here's a delightful, light-hearted OHBOY concerto as a send-off for an equally delightful and light-hearted Monday puzzle.

Thank you, Dan Schoenholz.

joho 8:21 AM  

I forgot to mention, I loved FRAT next to SORORITY!

Sir Hillary 8:27 AM  

Timely for me, as I turn 53A on November 14. My wife does same on October 23.

Arlene 8:33 AM  

I was away this weekend and couldn't solve the teeny puzzles on my iPhone, so - horrors! - actually skipped doing the puzzle for three days in a row. Probably some sort of record!

I thought this puzzle was cute - had me going back to count the O's in the theme answers. And I agree that the five O's in the center of the puzzle were intentional.

jberg 8:35 AM  

Maybe the easiest Monday I've done -- starting with 1A and working the crosses, I got all the way to 21D, "Pic" before I stuttered. Thinking of water-pic, I guess.

Not only old-timey, but Nordic, with Garbo, Henie, and the saintly Olaf.

Only small problem-- AREA CODES have not been distinctive to long-distance dialing for many years now. I have to use one to call my neighbor. Maybe that's part of the old-timey feel.

Have to admit I didn't notice the five Ohs in the center until I saw the complaints and took another look. Nice touch!

Lindsay 8:38 AM  

Though I usually start at the bottom, today I started at the top, so after BOOK OF MORMON and DOOR TO DOOR I figured the birthday boy would be Brigham Young or some such, then when VOO DOO DOLL came up, I just got confused.

So the extra "h" in the revealer didn't bother me because I couldn't figure out the theme on my own. That seems to be why I stop by lately. Theme help.

Questinia 8:49 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Questinia 8:55 AM  

@ Gil, Valentino with Keds? How about Chanel with sneakers ?

or Baby Metal ?

Boundary diffusion. Blurring words, concepts, and minds.

Honey Bunches of 5-OH's. It's an age of cereal. Blame Lucky Charms and the Interwebs.

Genre-lessness is now as gender-lessness has become.


Anonymous 8:56 AM  

JB --

Also from the Boston area, I need Area Code even to call next door. But that's not universal. At my principal residence in FL (chilly here this morning, time to think about migrating...), I don't need the A/C (but I'll probably need the other A/C for a couple more months).

chefbea 9:28 AM  

I agree - very easy except for the revealer. Had olaf and dale. Then made the change to a V and had...The big Videoh. I thought it was some video I had never heard of.

Nit department...Uncle ben makes brown rice as well.

robot 9:32 AM  

Seemed as if there were lots of O's today

RooMonster 9:39 AM  

Hey All!
Love easy Mondays, this gem was a breeze to get through. Only one writeover, like @jae had tell on first pass for BLAB. That's it. No LOBED straining!

Thought that OHBOY could be an alternative revealer!

Kept an ION for dreck, but no BILE in this puz. No ACHE or gROAN either. It took me no time to EGEST the answers. If you are a SLAMMER VETERAN, does that make you a HOOLIGAN? BBQ COATed RIBS are awesome! Not some PHONY VICES!


JC66 9:40 AM  

Since we're picking nits, one doesn't have to be a VETERAN to be a Purple Heart recipient.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:12 AM  

Nice puzzle.

But I did say, to quote Click and Clack, "Sonja HENIE's tutu!" with respect to 18 A (@jberg expresses my thought, that every call needs an AREACODE these days; but, Anonymous 8:56 says it ain't so), and 59 A, ascribing the incorrect line to Greta Garbo (Wikipedia says, ". . . she later remarked, "I never said, 'I want to be alone'; I only said, 'I want to be let alone.' There is a world of difference.")

Put me in the camp that says ending the reveal with "OH" is correct.

I've probably said it before, but I am not looking forward to turning 50.

Leapfinger 10:28 AM  

Did like this Monday offering, though wasn't familiar with the RED ACT --- What year was that? Best was 'hyperlocal', with the reveal and downward OOO close behind. The only way OOO could have been better wood be to make it, no, in the interests of symmetry, that wood have to be OOOOO, which wood wreak havoc in some NorthCentral and SouthCentral crosses, so Dan Nicewood knew best after all.

No issue with THE BIG FIVE-OH ending. When I was first learning English, I was terminally confused about how to read signs for "7-up", but by and large, I think society has come to terms with speaking in alpha-numerics. We pick our paths through WD-40, Vee-ate and 'two-fer'-dinitrophenylhydrazine; the maps keep shifting, yet somehow we find our way. There's plenty of leeway.

Had some NW trouble starting , since GLASWEGIANS wouldn't fit in 1A, but thoroughly enjoyed BOS in the NE, since I was once forced to learn about 200 taxonomic names. BOS bos, a favourite, has rather a MOO-cOw mOOd today, it being the cOmmOn old ROmOn-nOmOn [ie, Latin term] for 'cattle', no bull. Finding it near to MADAME Bovinery kind up beefs up the idea of a minitheme, esp with RIBS (beef are my favourites) nearby. VEAL see if this steers people in my direction.

Also liked the FRAT snugging up to the SORORITY (@joho!), the OLIVE Oyl which can only improve the WHITE RICE [don't look, @TokyoRacer!] and much more. Was looking for @ALIEN-Z to link us to La Dona E MOBIL, eh?

A LOOLOO today, and Quercus quercus, to boot --- LOBED it!!

[captcha=1939; before my time, whew!]

Bomaka 10:30 AM  

Chanel now has sneakers, to go

mac 10:36 AM  

Very easy but fun to do, this Monday. I took a picture of the finished puzzle and sent it to a friend who is over that hill today.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:38 AM  

(Off topic - pitchforks and torches crowd please skip:)

@Leapfinger's comment above just reminded me:

A long time ago in a crossword far away (probably something printed when I was on vacation, did several weeks late, and missed the discussion) there was an answer which turned out to be ZZZQUIL. I was genuinely unsure, so I posted a comment asking how that would be pronounced, although by the time I had finished typing I had convinced myself that it must be "zizz-quill." Surprised I was a few days ago when I heard a TV advertisement which spoke the name as "zee-quill"!

Carola 11:10 AM  

A perfect Monday in my BOOK - easy, light-hearted fun. As others have commented, the grid has many extra treats, especially those 5 O's in the center (thank you - I hadn't seen them). I liked encountering double-oh-seven BOND after entering the double-oh BOOK and DOORs - for a second I thought that might be theme-related. Also liked BAIL crossing SLAMMER, MOBIL next to EDSEL, WIFI over IMAC.

andy 11:13 AM  

Nice puzzle. When does Rex get his into the NYT so we can nitpick the hell out of it?

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

Re: Area Codes, to beat a dead horse:

For cell phones, two sharing the same Area Codes been only dial 7 digits, no matter where the two are in the US ( maybe that's continental US, and maybe Canada is included, dunno...

Anonymous 11:27 AM  

Oops, that's "... need only dial 7 digits..." Sorry

Melodious Funk 11:31 AM  

Is someone going to explain THEBIGVIDEOH?

I just don't get it.

Masked and Anonymous 11:38 AM  

O counting... Fun!

U counting... Not So Much. (OOO.)




Leapfinger 11:40 AM  

@Questino, I am even now practicing saying 'genre-lessness'. Do you also say what you write, or just think it?

Too, do yoo-hoo writes so well know how the Dickens do one cerealize OHs? Assume your 'interweb' don't refer to my 2,3-toes...TMI?

@ALIEN-Z, I had to look up that one:
'Glottochronology is that part of lexicostatistics dealing with the chronological relationship between languages.' Naturally, that led to 'lexicostatistics'. There's no end, is there?

Apparently, the whole idea was developed by Morris Swadesh, but I agree with @jberg it all sounds more Nordesh, or maybe Danesh.

RooMonster 12:15 PM  

@Funkster, I think you're being facetious, however, if not, its THEBIGFIVEOH
with OLAF & VALE. Then again, it could be a monumental movie.... OOO


quilter1 12:24 PM  

Liked it, and yes, super easy. I just started at the top and filled it in without stopping. I'm a couple of years away from THE BIG seven OH, and my daughter turned 47 yesterday. How does that happen? My friend says the kids get older, but we get better.

Melodious Funk 12:29 PM  


Not facetious, just silly. My way to say that I MISSED THE MONDAY PUZZLE! Never made any correction and remained puzzled about the reveal. Until I checked Rex.

A little humility may be a good thing.

And I overlooked @chefbea's similar finding but I suspect she corrected it. I also suspect I'm in a minority of one. There must be an award for that.

Unknown 1:00 PM  

Well, I went with dALE and OLAv, giving me the mysterious THEBIGvIdEOH. 10 minutes to complete the grid. No resistance. Then 5 minutes staring at the revealer and its crosses. Seeing no errors, I declared the theme a total mystery and called it a puzzle. Line score: 003-15-x.

The much ballyhooed PB2 BI-CURIOUS trick was obvious from the statement of the instructions and its title. I do suggest figuring out the deal before you write anything down.

Unknown 1:04 PM  

@melodious funk, you are not alone. (Cue Strange Encounters of the Third Kind Theme) A deep comfortable rabbit hole. I couldn't see a way out. Nice to have company. Shall we watch a video? How about The a Big H?

GILL I. 1:10 PM  

My imaginary dinner party keeps getting larger. Each guest receives a miniature red Webster's Dictionary with their initials embossed in 18 carat gold.
After dinner drinks, and a peek-preview of Baby Metal....

Anonymous 2:18 PM  

I had THEVIGDIVEOH - til Changed what I feel is a more appropriate Ill Temper from VILE to BILE and changed my Dale to Vale. Bile is in my liver I think?

Physiologist 2:30 PM  

@Anon 2:18

BILE is made in the liver, stored in the gall-bladder, commutes to work in the small intestine.

Ice-T 3:26 PM  

Where is it one finds WHITER ICE?

Ice-T 3:28 PM  

Where is it one finds WHITER ICE?

Nate Silver 3:29 PM  

In redder states.

Ice-T 3:31 PM  

Captchas lie.

Ms AER LOO 3:46 PM  

IFA tree falls on a woodchuck in the forest, is it DETER if WWI shed a TIER, 'ALP 'IM, BILE HIM, or just ARBOReatHIM??

Serious question, notOLAF.

Ice-T 3:50 PM  

Wha'zzup, 538?

Anonymous 4:02 PM  

I'm a little behind, just started Saturday's puzzle and got spooked by the CHICKFILA / CROAKED cross since I read the Chickfila founder died today.

sanfranman59 10:06 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 5:28, 6:02, 0.91, 10%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:42, 3:57, 0.94, 17%, Easy

spacecraft 11:19 AM  

I thought sure the revealer would refer to "Hawaii 5-0," especially with the OBAMA clue. But OK, though I always regarded the big 40 as more of a watershed. But that's just me.

Boingo????? Has it been that long since I've been in an airport? I heard of Oingo Boingo, I think it was some kind of rock band, but that's it. That's a bit of a whippy corner for a Monday, more so if OS X is just three letters with a space to you, as it was to me.

I agree about OOO; why not OnO/InN? Perfectly serviceable, even if good ol' Yoko gets a lot of xword exposure. C+.


DMG 2:14 PM  

Got all my O's in a row this morning and wrapped this one up! Like others, I waited on the cross for both OLA? and ?ALE, but that was about it. Also glad WIFI filled from the crosses as "boingo" sounds, at least to me, like some kind of an African animal.

Congrats @Spacecraft, my 436 puts me well,out of things!.

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