Faerie Queene woman whose name means peace / MON 6-27-16 / Spanish red wine / Insult slangily / Admonishment for public displays of affection / Vaping need informally / Lyft competitor

Monday, June 27, 2016

Constructor: Kevan Choset

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: LIVES OF EASE (59A: Carefree existences ... or, punnily, what 17-, 27- and 45-Across have) — answers are LIVES (i.e. human beings) with only "E"s as vowels in their names:

Theme answers:
  • PEE WEE REESE (17A: 1940w-'50s Dodgers great who lent support to Jackie Robinson)
  • ELLEN DEGENERES (27A: Comedian who hosted the 2014 Oscars)
  • RENEE ZELLWEGER (45A: Actress with the classic line "You had me at hello")
Word of the Day: RIOJA (1A: Spanish red wine) —
Rioja [ˈrjoxa] is a wine region in Spain, with Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca., "Qualified Designation of Origin"). Rioja wine is made from grapes grown in the autonomous communities of La Rioja and Navarre, and the Basque province of Álava. Rioja is further subdivided into three zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Many wines have traditionally blended fruit from all three regions, though there is a slow growth in single-zone wines. (wikipedia)
• • •
I have 15 minutes to write this. Can I do it? We'll see.

Finished in 2:40, despite what felt like many hicc- and f*ck-ups. Stymied right away at 1A: Spanish red wine. Only five-letter wine my brain wants is SOAVE, for some reason. Move to 1D: In awe, and confidently write in AGOG. So we're off to a roaring start. Luckily for me, Ed ASNER got me the right track and then PEE WEE REESE catapulted me into the grid (though not before I had a RIOJO/A trip-up; this is why you check your crosses, always. RIOJO / ORE would've looked fine to my eyes ... but 5D clue says otherwise). After I got the NW squared away, I entered answers almost as fast as I could type, with only two real moments of hesitation. The first was at 27D: Vaping need, informally. First, I read it as "vamping" and wanted MIKE (you know, microphone, "informally"). My iPhone autocorrect also insists that "vaping" is "vamping," by the way. When I realized, no, it's "vaping," I just froze. What does one need in order to vape, except possibly "desperation" or "lack of dignity"? E-CIG? That's a weird way to clue E-CIG. Like cluing FOOD [Eating need]. Gah. The less you ask me to know about or think about vaping, the happier we're all gonna be.

The next and final slow-down was the revealer. Had LIVES OF ... and wanted EASE, but the phrase LIVES OF EASE has so little snap, so little crispness, that I couldn't take it seriously as a revealer. The plural is what makes it weird. It's a limping revealer. But it's accurate enough, and the LIVES part takes what could be a supremely dumb idea (themers where the only vowels are Es!!!) and gives it focus and specificity (all the answers are people, i.e. LIVES). Approved.

13 minutes! Unh! In your face ... time!

Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:16 AM  

Medium for me. I liked this one a lot. Plenty of lively fill (very nice long downs), unusual theme, excellent Mon.!

Charles Flaster 12:20 AM  

Enjoyed this EEEEEEZ puzzle but thought it might belong on a Tuesday.
No CrosswordEASE and the longer fill was top notch.
Enjoyed cluing for ECIG crossing GET A ROOM as that was almost a Natick pour moi; then I liked clues for SEGUE and FYI.
As an aside ,KEVAN's father and I spent many long , unforgettable hours arguing the merits of PEE WEE REESE vs my favorite- Alvin Dark. Some other guys would mention Phil Ruzzuto.
This all took place in the late fifties in Brooklyn at PS 206. What memories!!
Kevan-- hope all is well with you.
Thanks for creating terrific puzzles.

Anonymous 12:30 AM  

You mean e-schoeing isn't farriers who work on the internet, but avoiding? Who'd have thunk!?

George Barany 12:41 AM  

So today we learn that not only can @Rex solve in a flash, but also blog while on the clock. Nice puzzle by @Kevan Choset, an experienced constructor with some two dozen prior themed puzzles for the New York Times. @Rex seems to approve of the plural in the reveal, even while telegraphing a different New York ballplayer (Derek Jeter) whose one-letter-shorter name would have allowed the singular "life of ease."

The three theme names were all Monday-appropriate, and recognizing the theme early on even helped with any uncertainties about how they were spelled. Popeye's son, a non-theme entry, could just as well have his surname spelled Pee (as in Pee Wee), though. Also, the non-theme "peace" woman could just as well have been spelled Irene. In any event, all easily sorted out.

Every time the name of legendary New Yorker cartoonist ROZ Chast appears in a grid, I am reminded of this wonderful 3-minute clip from a past American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Listen and laugh!

oconomowoc 6:01 AM  

To my fellow Cheeseheads @chefwen, @mary perry, @panama red, @carola:

(Sorry, this is a day late.)

Just wanted to let you know that there is a "KOSS billboards" Facebook page where you can see their ads from the past 44 years.

Maybe some day they will create a billboard based on a "KOSS-word" puzzle.

I don't know how to create a link here, but here is the latest Google Maps view of the board from Interstate 43:


Lewis 6:10 AM  

Four days and counting of no complaints about the fill by Chief Fill-i-buster.

'Tis a cute Mondayish theme with some appealing answers (STRAFE, SEGUE, REGALIA). PEER and REGALIA steered my mind toward Brexit. PEER, EEK, and RETWEET are the only non-theme answers with only E's for vowels, by the way. There are nine double-ee's in the puzzle, fewer than half in the theme answers, and there is a PEER down. A very nice Monday, where I hope for a quick brain stirrer, and got it. Made me wish that Ed Meese's first name was Ebenezer.

aging soprano 6:35 AM  

An eeezy but not an easy Monday for me. Since I have lived abroad for the last 45 years, I have trouble with xwords that are heavy on proper names: HOLT,ROZ, etc. And this one was full of 'em. Also never heard of vaping. And I hate to have to Google on a Monday.

Loren Muse Smith 6:54 AM  

So I was recently at a dinner party with some other teachers, and I was complaining about John Cage to a music teacher. He said that he had traveled to Europe several years ago and visited a museum, "in Austria, Germany" that was dedicated to Cage. So I found myself trying to shake off this wave of a kind of geographic schadenfreude for this poor guy. Sheesh. How can you think that the name of an actual country is a city in another country??

Fast forward to this morning as I wrote in "Nepali" for coming from the capital of Tibet. Hi, @John Child. Oops. Serves me right.

Ok. So Kevan found four proper names, each with six –count'em SIX E's! So he didn't settle with, something like Seth Meyers. Cher. I really sat up and took notice at the E fest here. Cool.

I also noticed the very elegant symmetrical E-only pair of JEWELER and RETWEET. (Missed one, @Lewis.)


I agree about pluralizing the reveal – I almost would've liked maybe another E name there instead. I mean, I noticed the deal immediately as I was filling in RENEE ZELLWEGER. But I'm just that good. Sigh.

@Lewis – love your "Fill-i-buster" !!

As @jae says, liked it. Now to wait for BEQ's Monday themeless. I highly recommend these puzzles – masterful. The guy can flat clue. And clue to make you laugh. I send a tip his way every year, and I tell you, those puzzles are worth every penny.

ArtO 7:12 AM  

Figured RIOJA would be a stumbling block for some who usually flash throu Mondays without a pause. Would have thought it rated Medium or could have even been a Tuesday level. Totally disagree with OFL regarding theme criticism especially since it's on Monday.

Anonymous 7:20 AM  

Whenever I see a puzzle refer to Yoko as a musician, it makes me throw-up in my mouth a little.

kitshef 7:27 AM  

Average for me. ONEL again?? That's four times this month. My first themer in was RENEE ZELLWEGER and I thought we were heading for another E-Z theme, so that actual theme was a nice surprise.

There's a lot of nice fill here, especially for a Monday. All the 7 letter+ words in this thing are not just good, but great. Don't expect much out of a Monday, but this was a very nice one.

Hungry Mother 7:31 AM  

DNF on the cross of ROZ and ZELLWEGER. Proper names bore me and I can't be troubled with sweating over them.

Nancy 7:58 AM  

@Kitshef -- I appreciate it. Thanks! I hope I don't need to replace my beloved AT&T 100s, but something is Very Wrong right now. The tech is coming this afternoon and I hope to know more then. Off at an early hour to grab some park before I have to come home for his visit.

chefbea 7:59 AM  

EZ puzzle except for the fact that I couldn't spell Renee's last name so that slowed me up a bit
Of course love deviled eggs!!!

jberg 8:00 AM  

The only tough part was changing IRENe to IRENA--I'm not up on my Spenser. That clue was also one of several with a didactic purpose, since "woman's name meaning peace," "Ohio city," or"Dodger great" would have been enough.

I was hoping for a "Yellow Submarine" clip, though.

QuasiMojo 8:14 AM  

@Nancy -- "You never call!" (Hope things are improving...)

Took me ten minutes to do this "irk"some Monday puzzle. Got stymied at NW corner. Otherwise Eeeeeeeezy/Peeeeeeezy.

Amy 8:28 AM  

I don't get the lives of ease as a pun meaning lives or people whose names have all e's. lives meaning lives is not a pun, and of e's doesn't punnily finish that. I feel like it wanted to be somehow "lots of e's" - what the answers to the three themes have. but that doesn't quite work either.

da kine 9:54 AM  

3:20 for me for the exact reasons Rex had a tough time. SOAVE and AGOG fit great, but then I sorta stared at the grid for 10 seconds before deleting everything and starting over with ASNER. I don't care how un-snappy the revealer is, to have three names that fit a standard grid and contain no vowel save 'e' is pretty good. DEVILEDEGG was pretty close to being all-E also. Great puzzle!

GILL I. 9:59 AM  

Great Monday. The OA's sEEm to be the only little stale answers..ONEL ONO ASNER AVER ASTO, everything else was fresh and SWEEt..
I love RIOJA...The region and the wine. Just last night we had a Vina Equia Rioja. If you have a World Marketplace near you, they stock up on Spanish Rioja's..Try it!
Liked the threesome AHAB CAIRO ARAB. Does one HABLA LHASAN?
UBER puzzle and nothing to DIS about....

Joseph Michael 10:01 AM  

Chewier than usual Monday puzzle with an OK theme and OK fill.

I liked it that, in addition to a lot of E's, the themers had no A, I, O, U, or even Y. The revealer is a bit dorky but serves the purpose of pulling the themers together.

ONE L is becoming the new OREO. But I guess the novelty of RIOJA here makes up for it. Other answers that have worn out their welcome: the unholy trio of ASNER, ONO, and ITT.

Favorite moment: GET A ROOM.

Loren Muse Smith 10:09 AM  

Hey – I just received a really nice email informing me that PEEWEE REESE has more than six E's. Hah! Thanks for that, and for trying to keep my humiliation private. Still, my low moment today was thinking that 46D could be Nepali. Sheeeeeeesh.

@Mohair from yesterday. I have not seen that show, but boy howdy I'm gonna program my recorder thingy and start playing catch up. Thanks!!

Hartley70 10:21 AM  

I knew this was a superior Monday as soon as I saw RIOJA and STRAFE, not difficult but pleasantly uncommon. I'm going to view ONEL as a cuckoo bird egg that WS has laid into 4 of June's puzzles to see if we are paying attention. Of course it could be some sort of mass constructor hypnosis too. Please stop. Having been a ONEL I can assure you that it's not a pleasant experience and one better forgotten.

I usually don't check the constructor's name until I'm finished, but I had to peek because I was so impressed. This is such a lively Monday that I hope Kevan gives us more on a regular basis.

Richard Moore 10:33 AM  

The picture you posted looks a whole lot more like Derek Jeter than Pee Wee Reese, who probably wouldn't have been caught dead in a Yankee uniform.

jberg 10:36 AM  

Sad to see so many people who have never had RIOJA. My advice is, go get some right now!

chasklu 10:52 AM  

Has ONEL been used before Wednesday before? Crossing it with RIOJA too!

puzzle hoarder 11:04 AM  

This was a difficult Monday for me as it really picked on my poor spelling. I wound up with a dnf by putting in IRENE. I played whack a vowel with A and E for more than a minute before making the wrong choice. IRENA just looked too Spanish for English literature. I was also somehow convinced that Tibetan ended with an "en" and that was what sealed my choice.
Even after I'd finished I couldn't get the theme. The plural reveal is a weak way to wrap up an already thin idea.
Today was the seventh appearance for RIOJA in the Shortz era. The last four were since I started this hoarding business but somehow it's managed to slip through the cracks. @lms is not the only one who had to remind themselves that A Nepali would be a citizen of a country other than Tibet.
One more thing. The fame of Ellen Degeneres is proof that millions of people's taste in comedy is as poor as my spelling.

Carola 11:54 AM  

In brief, I agree! That is, with the praise for this lively Monday puzzle, getting into mischief with its LITTERBUGS and DEVILED EGGS, with a couple of points taken off for the doesn't-quite-work-for me reveal. There were no Nepalis in my Tibet, but there was a Llasen for a while (perhaps some weird orthographical conjoining of S.A. llama and Asian lama, living in Llasa). But Lester LOLT looked unlikely.

@oconomoc - Thanks from over here in Madison. Very neat!

RooMonster 12:26 PM  

Hey All !
The ole brain boggles at Mr. Rex. He said he did the puz in 2:40, but yet in his description of doing puz he said he had all these thoughts and misreadings and wrong letters. Holy moly, what would've been the time had he not had all that? 1:40? Amazing.

Anyway, E themers. Turns out to be 36 E's total in grid. Had this been a Tournament Puz, and I was in said tournament, I would've taken forever, as I always write my E's as Capital in the grid! Don't know how I started that, and can't seem to change to lower case! Good thing I don't do tournaments...

Prize for Easiest Clue: Wed. follower. Also, 25D, clue it as Shrieker Yoko. :-)


Teedmn 1:03 PM  

I had to get the revealer for the theme to make sense to me, mostly because I always want to misspell ZELLWEGER as ZEi oe WEiG or WEGg or some variation thereof. And not having seen "Frozen" yet but knowing some of the names (can everyone say Elsa? :-) ) had me put "Olaf" (Olav?) in at 55D.

Thanks KC for a just-right Monday puzzle!

Jennifer H 1:07 PM  

I got hung up on the proper name fest at the bottom of the grid. Geography is not my strong suit, so LHASAN as a cross helped me not at all on IREN? and ?OLT. Kept wanting LaoSAN, except for that pesky ARAB in the way.

The theme was well executed and fun, and I particularly liked the cluing for ITT. But if I never see ONEL or UBER again, it will be too soon.

Tom 2:28 PM  

Easy Monday, 'nuff said. Came late to the party for Saturday's puzzle… (finished this am, was visiting LA [stands for "Land of Atrocious traffic"] to see Carol King's "Beautiful"), so I didn't print out Saturday until this morning. Then read the Saturday blog. DNF thanks to BEKO/BOCLE. Blame it on remembering the name of Steven Biko, anti-apartheid activist and martyr.

My comment about Saturday is that I didn't see anyone answer Greater Fall River, etc's question on Saturday: What is a Kiss CAM? At most major league baseball parks (GO GIANTS!), they scan the fans between specific innings and show people kissing on the giant screen. Sometimes the best kiss wins something.

Also heard a clever quote once penned by transgressive fictionalist Charles Bukowski that seems to fit the times: "Intelligent People are Full of Doubts: The Stupid Ones are Full of Confidence"

Nancy 3:11 PM  

Hi, Mohair. For reasons I won't bother the blog with, I'm very interested in that Verizon # and article. I can't access your email by clicking on it on your profile page (just one of the 57,000 things either I or my computer or both are unable to do.) I'll ask Hartley 70 to get it for me. Thanks so much, I hope to get a message to you eventually.

Anonymous 3:15 PM  

@oconomowoc 6:01--sweet sign!! I think the NYC folks will get a kick out of that one!

George 5:10 PM  

1. Peewee Reese was a class act. Double thumbs up for any puzzle that includes him.
2. Derek Jeter is a class act. Double thumbs up for any blog post that includes him. Took me 10 seconds to connect his 'LIVES OF EASE' membership.
3. Calling Ellen Degeneres a comedian is a disservice to all the funny comedians in the world.
4. Agree with previous commenter, calling Yoko ONO a musician makes me throw up in my mouth a little.
5. Double thumbs up for GET A ROOM
6. Popeye had a son??!!?? It didn't seem like his relationship with Olive Oyl had advanced to that level of legitimacy, let alone intimacy. But what do I know, I was 5 years old when I watched that show.

Chronic dnfer 9:10 AM  

It wasn't easy. Dnf. If you didn't know zellweger or roz you were done.

xyz 1:58 PM  

"Una a copa TINTO, por favor" is how one orders a red wine in España with tapas. RIOJA is a *region* with tinto y Blanco viños.

Will drives me crazy with these kinds of errors, just like TARSAL for ankle bone when they are in the FOOT! Arrrgh.

*Just Wrong* bothers me more than un-PC like the HAREM thing which was technically correct but crass.

Burma Shave 9:55 AM  


“ITT’s ONME, don’t be a beggar, SWEEPEA, let’s enjoy our LIVESOFEASE.”


rondo 10:41 AM  

UBER easy and ICAN see a trend of overusing ONEL and TEBOW. With LHASAN in there, wouldn’t it have been time to drag out the ONEL Lama? EGAD, EEK, and ONO!

Does anyone else besides me remember the Ray Stevens SONG “AHAB the ARAB”? I guess times have changed.

One of the Teris, Ms. GARR, makes an appearance, but the completely spelled out RENEEZELLWEGER is the yeah baby today. Maybe ELLENDEGENERES if you bat for the other team.

ITT, ITSON ONME, ICAN, ISEE ARE AWL IRKsome, as a group of answers. And 14 or so 3 letter answers ARE plenty. I guess the themers ARE one way to squeeze in more of the most used letter in the English language, but who am I to ARGUE?

spacecraft 11:13 AM  

I didn't even read the comments this time, I was so in a hurry to make this plea:

Please, PLEASE PLEASE! Get the syndicated site up to date when the month changes over! I got some date that didn't even make sense, and I had to end up typing the phrase "carefree existences" to get here. COME ON, PEOPLE! This isn't too much to ask! LINE 'EM UP!

ASTO the puz itself, I wrote E an astounding 35 times, or well over 20% of the total squares. That's like having a Scrabble bag with 20 E's in it. Yikes! OTOH, only 3 U's, so I'm sure @M&A frowned.

On the DOD front, it's the very funny--and very fetching--Teri GARR for me. I first saw her on an episode of STTOS, playing a ditzy secretary who couldn't get over a typewriter that: "Wait a minute! It's typing everything I--it's typing everything I'm saying! Stop it! STOP IT!!" I loved her from the get-go.

A near natick at square 13; I have no idea what "spotify" is. It's not a word. 11-across could be DIg or DIS: so, gONG or SONG? Hard to visualize making a selection among gongs...maybe Chuck Barris picking one to use on the show (must be shatterproof--and make a lot of noise!). So I went with SONG.

The puzzle: par. The syndilinker: "other." Way beyond double-bogey.

Diana,LIW 2:36 PM  

Am feeling very hip (tho it's my 65th birthday today) since I know of UBERs, SPOTIFY, and GETAROOM. Even spelled ZELLWEGER correctly - it was a good guess. But had Irene (my mom's name), not IRENA. Poo!

@Spacey - Rex was gone all last week. I think that's why the SynderFinder was abandoned many days. I do hope it comes back, but not moderation. Another way to find any puzzle you want - on the right hand side you'll note "Blog Archive." Click on appropriate month. Then the date - all puzzles are briefly listed, with day and date. I have it programmed into the deLorean. Oh yes - Spotify is one of those digital music thingys that let you download a billion songs into your MePad or whatever. Oh the things you learn at the gym.

Peter Sellers - hilarious. "I've come to fix the fuune."

Final note. NPR had a show on today about EGO. Funny bumper sticker noted on said show - "Don't believe everything you think." Politicians were mentioned.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 2:43 PM  


leftcoastTAM 2:53 PM  


Sailor 6:43 PM  

I always thought Swee'Pea was Popeye's nephew. But Wikipedia says: "In the comics, Swee'Pea is a baby found on Popeye's doorstep (actually delivered to him in a box) in a July 24, 1933 strip....In November 2004, Popeye officially adopted Swee'pea in a ceremony officiated by Judge Greg Mathis and hosted by the National Council for Adoption in New York City." Cute.

kathy of the tower 1:56 AM  

@ DianaLIW; Happy Birthday. Did you survive the Medicare signup, with Part A,B,C, and the word salad of Part D?

@ rondo; Yes, I remember Ahab the Arab, although somewhat embarrassed that I can still sing parts of it.

I just watched Savannah Guthrie on Seth Meyer's show. She talked about her interview with Obama. She asked him about the seven almonds he eats every night. He answered, "I'm not that ANAL. It was a joke between Michelle and the chef."
Savannah said she freaked a little bit and asked herself, "Did the president just say ANAL?".

Fast, easy puzzle. Good Monday.

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