Hawks push them / TUE 5-8-18 / Sound of contentment / Animation studio with lamp mascot / C of CS Forester / Relative of raccoon

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Constructor: Ori Brian

Relative difficulty: Easy (3:10)

THEME: START A FIRE (61A: Ignite something ... or what the first words of 17-, 23-, 38- and 51-Across) — those first words can precede the word "fire" in familiar phrases:

Theme answers:
  • SURE, WHY NOT? (17A: "What's there to lose?")
  • CROSS-COUNTRY (23A: Way to run or ski)
  • BON JOVI (38A: Band with the 12x platinum album "Slippery When Wet")
  • BACK-TO-SCHOOL (51A: Like some August sales)
Word of the Day: Scotland's Firth of TAY (6D) —
The Firth of Tay /ˈt/ (Scottish GaelicLinne Tatha) is a firth in Scotland between the council areas of FifePerth and Kinross, the City of Dundee and Angus, into which Scotland's largest river in terms of flow, the River Tay empties. The firth has a maximum width of 3 mi (4.8 km) at Invergowrie.
Two bridges span the firth, the Tay Road Bridge and the Tay Rail Bridge.
The firth has one major island, the marshy Mugdrum Island. (wikipedia)
• • •

Great, now I've got Billy Joel in my head. "We didn't START A FIRE! Little Rock! Pasternak! Chia Pets! Crack is wack!" Etc. The weirdest thing about this puzzle is that I've spent the better part of an hour since I finished it engaged in furious debate online about the proper spelling of AHH (5D: Sound of contentment), which my brain considers entirely improper. But I now realize this is because I have been crossword-conditioned. I am very much correct that in crosswords, the proper spelling is AAH. I know this because I've done roughly seven million puzzles. Also, I looked it up:

But apparently in the so-called "Real" world, AHH is considered correct. People were tweeting me in horrified disbelief that anyone could believe otherwise. My best friend (a longtime copy editor) kindly (read: haughtily) directed my attention to a this Dictionary of Interjections, where AAH is fright or shock, and AHH is either relaxation or understanding. I think we can all agree that the sound you make at the doctor / dentist is AH and never extends beyond two letters. Although Poison begs to disagree:

Anyway, my Twitter poll has AHH winning in a laugher, with AAH far behind and AHA and AJA getting hardly any votes at all:

OK, maybe we should talk about the rest of the puzzle. It's ... there. There it is. It's got two main problems: it's basically just a "first words can precede" puzzle, which is old hat and shrugworthy; and the revealer is about as scintillating as START A CAR, START A BLOG, or START A TIMER. That "A" really, really kills it. I mean, it's not BONAFIRE. Overall, the fill (FILL!) seems pretty solid, if not terribly shiny. I had all kinds of trouble in and around SURE, WHY NOT and AHH and TAY, and particularly WARS (really wanted it to be WARES) (!?) (18D: Hawks push them). But after that semi-rough patch, I took off barely hesitated the rest of the way. HALL (45A: Concert venue) and FILL (35D: Occupy completely) weirdly took work. But otherwise, zoom.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


puzzlehoarder 1:40 AM  

Not much commenting lately can't seem to justify it as much. There's nothing about this puzzle that changes that I just happen to be up on watch and have time on my hands.

These early week puzzles have a lot of work put into them it just doesn't lead to much in the way of puzzling.

I don't understand the appeal of speed solving. The only thing that could be more boring than blowing through this puzzle as fast as I did is doing it even faster.

The clue for ELLE was a little intriguing. Whenever an obscure clue is used for a common entry I wonder if it was the constructor or the editor who made the call.

Maybe it's just me but I never think of LICE as a pet problem. Children get LICE pets get fleas.

Leah 1:50 AM  

My response if someone asks if I liked this puzzle? Answer: "Sure, why not?"

sanfranman59 2:02 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 1/2/2018 post for an explanation of my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio & percentage, the higher my solve time was relative to my norm for that day of the week. Your results may vary.

(Day, Solve time, 26-wk Median, Ratio, %, Rating)

Mon 4:15 4:30 0.95 31.6% Easy-Medium
Tue 4:52 5:37 0.87 21.3% Easy-Medium

I really should have gotten through this with an Easy solve time. I made it through the top half at a Very Easy 2:09 pace. My neurons stopped firing about 2/3 through after I entered HELPing for 45D and replacing it with HELPoUt after the UCLA gimme (I obviously didn't quite remember the clue for HELPFUL). I'm not recalling any particularly interesting cluing as I review the grid. OK theme. Awfully easy puzzle.

jae 2:42 AM  

Easy-medium for me. @Rex AaH vs. AHH and HELPing were my only hiccups.

Solid Tues. with a smooth grid. Liked it.

Breathing Life 2:56 AM  

And 67-69 grade wise is a cplus not dplus.

chefwen 3:14 AM  

Pretty easy here, not a lot of thinking involved. Had to change B team to B GAME at 51D and HELPing to HELPFUL ar 45D. Both easy fixes. Pretty cut and dried.

Hope ‘mericans found some sun and warmth on the south shore, it was pretty damn cold here. When the temperature gets below my age I usually START A FIRE, I did so tonight. O.K. I cheated by a couple of years, but I sure do love my fireplace.

Loren Muse Smith 3:25 AM  

Word on the street is that this “word-that-precedes/follows ___” theme is hard to get accepted. I see Rex’s point about the “a” in START A FIRE, but it’s not a deal breaker if you ask me. I guess “firestarter” or “open fire” would work a little better as the reveal, but you’d lose SURE WHY NOT, which is a gorgeous themer. Gorgeous. I’ll take the “a” in the reveal to see that themer.

The corollary to the this word on the street is that if you can ratchet it up a bit – maybe both words can follow FIRE (STORMPROOF, LIGHTHOUSE, MAN EATER, POWER DRILL…) you have a better shot with Will.

“Wet septet” – are SEAS wet? Is water wet? My students keep asking me this, and I can’t get my mind around the question/answer.

@puzzlehoarder – I agree about LICE being more associated with people, not dogs.

GUESS WHO. Is it just me? When someone does this to me, I stiffen, smile like I’m all into the joke and stuff but cringe inside because this does not amuse me. At. All. Don’t touch me unexpectedly like that. The accoster is standing behind me anyway, so why cover my eyes? They can just stand there and say Guess who, and I’d be more willing to play the little game. Whatever the case, there is enormous pressure to act thrilled to see the person, and I always come off fakey. It’s terrible when you’re put on the spot like that. Like the agony of being the honoree at a baby shower and having to act delighted over and over and over as you open all the blankets and onesies while everyone studies you carefully, measuring.

@Tom Quigley from yesterday – your comment that you misread Rex and was thinking that he wore Espadrilles made me laugh.

Also from yesterday – would a Rexpat be someone who left the blog for kinder, gentler pastures or someone who joined us?

I love hanging out here with people who have furious debates over how to spell AHH. Or AAH. Y’all are my peeps. Rex – I’ll see your Billy Joel earworm and raise you one.

Hey Ori – again, SURE, WHY NOT was my fave. Reminds me of the “Famous Last Words” game we used to play as kids.

John Child 4:12 AM  

Nice IRKSOME - HELPFUL pair. KNEECAP, UNCLE SAM, GUESS WHO, and MEMENTO all fun fill. It’s hard to expect more from Tuesday.

I suppose the idea of declaring some theme type to be passé is to encourage innovation. That’s good, but I see no reason to toss out words-that-go-with themes, or vowel swap themes, or any other concept. There are, close enough for our purposes, an infinite number of themes but many fewer theme types. Eliminate too many of them and we solvers are poorer, not richer, I M Humble O.

Hungry Mother 5:41 AM  

Very straightforward, but I did a lot of downs in this one. Grokked the theme, but didn’t get any help from it.

Lewis 6:03 AM  

No fight or hitches, basically a sprint through this puzzle, which was exhilarating to my solving chops, which normally enjoy sipping. I spent more time exploring the puzzle afterward than solving, and found a few points of interest:

* A couple of lovely pairs -- SHE/ELLE, and ARLO/ARCO.
* Two especially pleasing answers: SURE WHY NOT, and MEMENTO.
* The third column yields CORNBALL CECIL, which sounds like a SITCOM character.
* The joining of UNCLE SAM and COUNTRY.
* A mini-theme of words ending on O (12!).

* And finally, the realization that if you replace two letters of "FIRTH Of Tay", you get Cinco De Mayo, in a way.

Jofried 6:15 AM  

@Loren Muse Smith...I had the same response to “wet septet”. This question of whether or not water is wet went around my school as well, and we are in wildly different parts of the country, right? I’m in NJ. I guess it’s a “thing” this year.

Glimmerglass 6:47 AM  

Easy puzzle, so not much fun. We need to have a veterinarian check in. LICE, I think, tend to be species-specific. I don’t think dogs can get lice from humans (head, body, or pubic) or plants. I’ve had dogs for most of my life and never had one with LICE. Fleas, ticks, flies, bees, even mosquitoes, but never LICE.

Anonymous 6:51 AM  

It's worth noting that the theme is tighter than "words that follow fire" - it is "words that start with fire" - every one of the theme answers combines with "fire" to make a single word.
LMS's doubles are all of the more ordinary type, where each of the pairs is a two-word combo with "fire."

QuasiMojo 7:06 AM  

I couldn't get my NYT crossword page to load online. I got the awful "Ready to Start" button but when I tried to click on it nothing would happen. So I came here, saw that you all had no problems, and then did it on my phone. I'm sort of embarrassed, frankly, that I went to the trouble. This was not a "why not" puzzle. It was a "why bother."

That said, I just wanted to pipe in that I've always disliked this "ahh" and "aah" and "ohoh" kind of fill. If you can't find something better to put in (that is, if you're not relying on a computer to do the work for you) then fix it.

Perhaps I am getting too ossified, but I don't come to the NYT puzzle to type in gibberish. Nor to learn the latest slang. Nor to have to consult passing strangers for help in solving TV trivia.

I suppose I might cancel my subscription (especially if they don't fix the bug that wouldn't let me do it on my computer.) But I like doing the deep-archived puzzles, the ones with considerably more crunch than these "inane" constructions.

Plus we now have a clever New Yorker puzzle each week, and the always reliable Wall Street Journal ones each day. @Lewis, did you happen to do the WSJ Acrostic on Sunday? Your Firth of Tay joke made me think of it.

r 7:16 AM  

My cat had lice once. Speaking of nits, I'll pick one. Billy Joel's song is "We didn't start THE fire"

kitshef 7:19 AM  

No, we most certainly do not agree that AH is the sound you make at the doctor. It is AAAH.

AH: understanding
HA: triumph
AHH: contentment
AAH: alarm
HAH: derision
AHA: the penny drops
AAAH: open wide.

-My major slowdown was thinking 67-69 was 'e-PLUS' or 'f-PLUS', which made absolutely no sense with 50D. Of course, the same could be said for D-PLUS.

Two Ponies 7:21 AM  

Our old friend Acme/Andrea explained how difficult it can be to construct an early-week puzzle. I try to remember that when I do an easy puzzle but this one barely makes the grade. Boring.
The only answers that caught my eye were helpful and it's evil twin irksome as @John Child noted.
Do people still call long skirts maxis?
No dogs with lice allowed at my breakfast table.
The Kotb person is unknown to me and nearly caused a DNF because I don't remember the cut-off points between grades.

kitshef 7:26 AM  

Re: LICE. Lice afflict a wide variety of mammals and birds, and louse species are often host-specific. The louse that your dog gets won't bother you, and vice versa.

Anonymous 7:26 AM  

yeah, nah, yeah... "ahhhh", actually.
Or maybe "ahhhhhhhhh".
Or is it "naw"?

chefbea 7:50 AM  

did not get the theme until Rex explained it!! but of course I love borscht and beets!!!

Amie Devero 7:51 AM  

Totally agree. Never heard of dogs getting lice... In fact, it's a huge problem for human children. Sat so poorly with me that I DNF-ed because I couldn't fathom it was the right fill.

Rob 7:57 AM  

67-69 is definitely DPLUS, the puzzle is right:

90-100 A
80-99 B
70-79 C
60-69 D
< 60 F

Not only do I agree with the Twitter consensus that AAH is surprise/fright and AHH is contentment, puzzles that clue the former as the latter infuriate me every single time.

I thought this puzzle was fine. Tuesdays are rarely going to be artistic masterpieces. I had a brief moment of confusion in the lower right where I had START FIRES instead of START A FIRE, but with that sorted nothing was terribly difficult, even stuff I had no idea about, like TAY.

GHarris 7:58 AM  

Easy Pisa. Only needed crosses to get correct spelling of “ahh” and the Hoda person, never heard of him or her. Only write over, D plus. First had “a pass”.

SJ Austin 8:06 AM  

Tuesday PR by a lot. Came in well under my Monday average.

Weird that you chose the Poison album cover. That album was the first thing that came to mind when the clue mentioned Slippery When Wet. Maybe because all that hair metal runs together in my memory of sixth grade.

Unknown 8:13 AM  

That would mean 70 is a B and 80 is an A. I guess 90 is then AA? I think it's correct as clued.

Anonymous 8:16 AM  


Bob Mills 8:20 AM  

Very easy puzzle. The hardest part was figuring out the theme after finishing the puzzle. I finally got it.

Anonymous 8:23 AM  


Z 8:37 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 8:39 AM  


SURE. WHY NOT?... Just the words you want to hear. Want to go to the concert? Would you like to join me for some $200 a plate sashimi? Hey sweetie...

@LMS and @Jofried - Of course not. “Wet” is something water causes, not something water is. One of the leading fallacies on the water is wet side is that water is surrounded by water ergo it is wet. I’ll let you work out why this doesn’t work. Good to hear that HS students still get rapt up in the truly deep and meaningful debates. Next time they ask come back with, “What an interesting question but what I really want to know is how to spell AAH.”

@Breathing Life - 90 and above = A, 80+ = B, 70+ = C, and 60+ = D. So high 60’s is D PLUS weather. I’ve heard of harder grading scales where 70 is the passing cut off, and totally different grading scales, but never one where a 68 would be a c PLUS.

Airymom 8:42 AM  

@LMS---because you love these kind of stories and teach high school kids.....It was my freshman year of college and I was just 17 years old and very naive....very. I'm hanging out at the "Pub" on campus (Rex will attest that the "Pub" closed down once the drinking age became 21), and a young man came up to me and said, "What's your sign?" This was a common (yet lame) opening line in the 1970's. Obviously without thinking (and also without understanding the effect my answer might have) I said, "slippery when wet."

Luckily my dorm mates dragged me away before I could get myself in more trouble.
Thankfully my adult children do not read this blog.

Z 8:43 AM  

Maybe I’m doing too many puzzles and she’s been appearing elsewhere, but it seems like HODA Kotb, Matt Lauer’s successor, has been in every puzzle the last few days. I am surprised at so many solvers saying they haven’t heard of her.

Lobster11 8:55 AM  

Speaking of "aah" vs AHH, I have a long-running beef about the ever-popular OHOH for "Pick me! Pick me!" and the like. I've always thought it should be "Ooh! Ooh!", as immortalized by the character Horshack on "Welcome Back, Kotter." "Oh! Oh!" is an expression of surprise, not eagerness. Who's with me?

Nate 9:02 AM  

Much easier than yesterday's puzzle, IMO. It was one of those puzzles that I didn't realize I had finished - I entered a letter and got the "Congrats!" message on the website edition.

A Student 9:05 AM  

When I was in school in the 60s:

A = 92-100
B = 84-91
C = 78-83
D = See me
F = Wait til your father gets home

Grading like this is, hopefully, on the way out and giving way to competency based education. Thank god. Those behaviorists of post WW2 America were hell bent on quantifying education by connecting it to behavioral change (that's how you measure "learning")...but they missed the boat in how to do it. Google Standards based v. Competency Based education for further info.

Seriously, do you want a doctor who passed because they got all the answers right on a test and met some mythical level of what percentage is acceptable to become a doctor, or would you rather your doctor be someone who demonstrates true mastery?

Not to mention that many teachers mark off grades for things like attendance, tardiness, and a few other things that have nothing to do with how well you know your math. So even in a straight A student, other factors are considered into the grade that have nothing to do with the subject.

Post WW2 American education is very much about creating good workers: be on time, respect authority, and do your work. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, except there should be a separate class where things like that are "assessed" rather than building it into your math grade.

TL;DR: The normative standard is terrible.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

AHH, so easy. Best Tuesday time ever, beat Rex.

pmdm 9:26 AM  

Interesting discussion about definitions today. Here's my take.

WET has many meanings if you look it up in a dictionary, and the verb meanings of course have a different meaning than the adjective definitions (what we're discussing). WET can have the meaning of "something not dry" as is WET PAINT. In that sense, seas are WET. What is disturbing is that when paint dries, it leves a coat behind. In a sense, when the seas dry up they do the same (they leave behind a bed of salt). So while calling the seven seas WET might make some justifiably uncomfortable, it seems to me that the use of the word WET is correct.

Anyone who has read Chaucer or Shakespeare is probably well aware of how the words and definitions (and even grammar) of a living language change over time. While I tend to have a conservative attitude towards language (I hate the pop misspellings that are all over the place today), I allow that whatever has become common usage is by [my] definition correct for a living language. So to resolve issues with words such as AAH and AHH, whatever is common usage reflects what is corrects even if common usage changes what was "correct" in the past. Perhaps a nasty and frustrating characteristic of a living language.

I guess my attitude toward puzzle themes is similar to my attitude towards music genres. A person being introduced to Jazz should be able to hear and enjoy all the different styles that were popular in the past. Similarly, a person being introduced to the world of the crossword puzzle should be introduced to the entire range of themes experienced solvers have enjoyed. So for their benefit "add a word" puzzles deserve to continue to be published, although perhaps with greater intervals between puzzles. Those who complain about old theme types should perhaps soften their attitude so that newcomers get a chance to experience all theme genres. So a thumbs up from me for today's puzzle. [As an aside, today's type of theme is probably easier for new constructors to grapple with. As I am always happy to see new bylines, I could justify use of old themes by new constructs as a way to help broaden the base of constructors, which would be a good thing.]

John Child 9:34 AM  

Wonderful New Yorker puzzle today too...

Carola 9:36 AM  

I'm here to buck up this Tuesday puzzle after the slights that have been directed its way. I understand that the theme falls into the "old hat" category, but I sure didn't see the commonality of the theme entries until the reveal really did reveal it. And, as @Anonymous 6:51 pointed out, the first words aren't the first part of a phrase but of a two-syllable word. Annnnd START A FIRE sounds find to me, as a normal in-the-language thing to say.
Fun to write in: IRKSOME.

peterpnin 9:39 AM  

"Not feeling well." !!!!! Not good!!

Nancy 9:45 AM  

This is the most boring theme-type in puzzledom and yet it seems to appear every other minute. The key word changes, but the format goes on. And on. And on. I didn't really have anything to say about this puzzle in the first place, and @puzzlehoarder and @Quasi have already said it. And @Two Ponies, too: Yes, it's just as hard to create an easy puzzle as a hard one, but why bother when there's nothing interesting or pleasurable for the solver?

RooMonster 9:56 AM  

Hey All !
Man, I wish I went to y'alls SCHOOLs where 60's was a D. In my HS, anything below 70 was an F.

Kind of a wonky revealer. Shouldn't it be START TO FIRE? Sometimes LESS is not more.

HODA Kotb, as @Z said, caused a stink last time she was in puz, which wasn't that long ago. Did enjoy HOP clue. NO LIE. :-)

I see A CUP sneaked by everyone. Clued differently that BRA size. AHH/AAH is like Mauna __A, write in the A_H and wait for the cross.

Not too much IRKSOME today. Nice puz, some nice FILL. AVAST!


Ellen S 10:10 AM  

Boring puzzle, boring theme - the only answer I liked was SUREWHYNOT. The rest were fill in the blanks. Never heard of HODA but all the crosses went in. Blog comments are totally worth the minimal effort the puzzle took. Dogs may get lice but not often enough for them to be a “Canine woe.”

@Z I have a question related to your post on Saturday (I think it was), or anyone who’s up on plural octopuses. I’m wondering about the plural of asparagus. I was at a fundraiser on Sunday and dinner included asparagus spears. I had two and everyone else at the table received three. Having extra time since I got stiffed by one asparagus, I wonder if the others got three asparagopodes or asparagi. Don’t tell me three spears; that’s too easy.

Wm. C. 10:12 AM  

That DPLUS fill brought back a bad memory for mr.

The only D grade I got was in my final undergraduate semester. I took economics as my elective, along with four Electrical Engineering courses (my major). The course grade was that of either a final exam or a term paper. There were only about a half-dozen students taking this course, and all but I elected to do a term paper. Since a term paper would take several hours to research and write, whereas a final exam was just an hour, and I was lazy, I decided on the exam. Frankly, I thought I did well on the essay-style test, but the professor gave me a D. To this day, I'm convinced that he was POed that he had to compose the test and grade it, rather than let his TA grade one more essay.

As it turned out, I aced the other four EE courses, two were graduate-level, and all more rigorous than the @&$!-ing economics course. But that one D kept me off Dean's List!

GILL I. 10:27 AM  

Oh good...A CUP wasn't clued as a tiny bra size. ELLE isn't a French magazine. AHH debate D PLUS.
I liked UNCLE SAM and TABASCO. To tell the truth, there are much better hot sauces out there. If you want to juice up your WRAP, sprinkle some Chile habanero El Yucateco. That'll put some hair on your chest. Was that HELPFUL?

Z 10:39 AM  

@Ellen S - Hmm, I envision a world where you, having received a mere two spears, ate asparagi, while your selfish and ill-mannered table mates scarfed down three asparagopodes. It seems like a language lacking in plural distinctions is crass and needs refinement. Just one pluralologist’s not so humble (or is it “honest”) opinion. If we aren’t careful the language will devolve and we’ll all be going around sputtering about asparaguseseses.

@A Student - Preaching to the choir, sister. I’ve been known to rant at far too great length about the meaninglessness of letter grades, and even standardized test scores. My all time favorite was Michigan’s standard for an essay began with “a clear and concise thesis statement.” That was the standard for 11th graders. It was also the standard for 3rd graders. I don’t know about you, but go ahead and try to put into words the specific differences between what that means when the writer is 8 and when the writer is 16, because I couldn’t. At least not in any way that a room of 20 writing teachers could agree on.

Z 10:42 AM  

@Gill I - El Yucateco (green, not red) can make phlegm taste good. I always thought of it as more of a nasal decongestant/hair remover, though.

Brian Miles 10:56 AM  

Found bgame irksome, and the cross of Cecil and Arco as well. The rest was very smooth. Much faster than yesterday, even.

jberg 11:00 AM  

Ms. Kotb stumped me last time she was in a puzzle, but now I know she's real -- I still couldn't remember HODA, though, maybe next time.

I really don't care about theme types, as long as the particular theme is good, and I liked this one -- especially BON JOVI.But, like children everywhere, I'm sad to see BACK TO SCHOOL this early.

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

There's a elephant in the room
grunt grunt grunty
that was mentioned in the mini
ah hah

Bryce 11:41 AM  

@QuasiMojo Did you find a solution to the not-loading piece? I had the same issue with the website app not working. After doing it on my phone, I can load it to "review," but doing it on my phone is not as fun.

Masked and Anonymous 11:48 AM  

Sure, FIRE -- why not?

Longball fill was IRKSOME and HELPFUL. And a KNEECAP MEMENTO. And GUESSWHO: UNCLESAM. Primo stuff.

staff weeject pick-a-pair: AHH & TAY. On the fence, about how to "correctly" write out an extended AH. How'bout "A ….. H" ? Provides cover for a belch in the middle, as in: "A … [burp] … H". Just tayin'.

Thanx for the TuesPuz fun, Mr. Brian.

Masked & Anonymo6Us


Anoa Bob 12:21 PM  

Would not D PLUS be an oxymoron?

When I first looked into the NYT publisher's specs for xword submissions, one directive was "no partials over four letters long". Looks like that has loosened up a bit. Yesterday we got A PLEA (29D) and today there's TO THE (65A), both five letter partials. TOTHE does look like it could be someone's name though, maybe a future morning talk show host.


Lewis 12:27 PM  

@quasi -- did not, but I'll look for it -- thanks!

Joe Bleaux 12:27 PM  

Since no one else will do it, let me date myself: Long bebore Horshack, TV's Officer Gunther Toody on "Car 54" would address his partner, Frank Muldoon, with an excited "Ooh! Ooh! Francis!"

Joe Bleaux 12:38 PM  

Indeed! Fagliano was showing off on that one (and he had me for a minute with that 6A answer, too).

Suzie Q 12:44 PM  

Ooh, Ooh! I remember Car 54 Where Are You.
I forget the Ooh, Ooh guy but I think his partner "grew up" to be Herman Munster.
OK puzzle but I will have forgotten it by tonight.

TomAz 1:00 PM  

This puzzle was fine. It was pretty easy. It was otherwise relatively unremarkable, neither good nor bad.

I think the nit Rex picks with the "A" in START A FIRE is silly. There is no need to always be so literal.

What 6 people would respond to a poll saying "AJA" is a sound of contentment? I call shenanigans.

Finally, regarding 59D, I am reminded (once again) of a They Might Be Giants song:

Is he a dot, or is he a speck?
When he's underwater does he get wet?
Or does the water get him instead?
Nobody knows, Particle man

mathgent 1:05 PM  

If doing today's yawner leaves you hungry for some crossword fun, go to the WSJ offering. It's by Alex Bajcz and features some delightful spoonerisms. (Not a spoiler. The puzzle declares that it has spoonerisms.)

QuasiMojo 1:06 PM  

@Bryce, 11:41AM, seems to be working now. It's showing me the "Review" copy of the puzzle on my desktop now, and letting me load an undone one from the archive.

Teedmn 1:10 PM  

Full count = TEN? Is this from boxing? All I could think of was a baseball full count or, if not baseball, then "sum" would be the answer. Surely we aren't talking fingers...(let's see, I have all ten fingers, yup, full count.)

Other than that, I found nothing IRKSOME about this puzzle. START A FIRE is a phrase that is heard in the wild, compared to some of the green-paintish examples @Rex provided (Start a blog, e.g.).

I do have to confess to having AaH before HAITI gave me contentment rather than fright.

So, NO LIE, I thought this puzzle was a fine Tuesday. Thanks, Ori.

Banana Diaquiri 1:25 PM  

@A Student:
TL;DR: The normative standard is terrible.

no, it isn't. would you see a doctor that didn't where your kidney is? the problem with any standard is the measure used. IQ and class grading are based on knowledge, not intelligence (artificial or real). and there's not a thing wrong with that; without facts there is no basis for intelligence. I know, that doesn't feel good, but sorry. 99.44% of what civilians label as "genius" is knowledge of facts by others not known to the civilian. some often use the phrase, "sufficiently advanced tech looks like magic to the ignorant". yeah. the same is true of those who rail against fact based testing. now, that doesn't say anything about the optimal way to teach facts, and how to weave together low-information facts into high-information deduction; the latter being what most of us mean by "intelligence". I don't have such a method to hand. back in the 60s, I had a class that used Tutor Text books (you can Google that) as an alternative to then standard texts. today, that approach would be called "learn at your own pace". does it really take 5 or 10 years to learn carpentry? likely not, but the current batch of wage earning carpenters don't want the competition. and so on for all other jobs.

grade schoolers today are taught set theory, statistics, and calculus. didn't happen when I was that age.
here: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/03/5-year-olds-can-learn-calculus/284124/

I suppose one could create a curriculum, from kindergarten to age 21 (or so), that spits out neo-Einsteins at the end, but would that really benefit our socio-economic hegemony?

TL;DR - Trump has brought us to a post-factual society, and you can see the benefit.

Charley 1:33 PM  

B game isn’t something that’s said.

Amelia 1:44 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Gilstrap 2:10 PM  

START A FIRE crossing Pi RHO? That's pretty cool.

Speaking of things Scottish, try Burns's companion poem of "To a Mouse...", titled "To a Louse..." I, too, was under the impression that LICE infestation was species specific, and in the poem a fine lady is the victim not a dog.

Banana Diaquiri 2:43 PM  

@A Student (et, al):

just got back from my doctor, who does know where my kidneys are, only to find this new snippet of news:
"What has two hands and a face but no arms and legs? A clock, of course! Some kids won't understand that joke because the only clocks they know how to use have digital numbers."
here: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/u-k-schools-getting-rid-of-analog-clocks-because-teens-cannot-tell-time/

first Brexit, now this. hasn't happened here in the Red, White, and Blue. but just wait.

Bryce 3:08 PM  

@quasimojo Same here, good news!

Reasonablewoman 4:11 PM  

BGAME is fine. This is a crossword puzzle and there is room for this. It's simply based on the expression "He really brought his A game today", meaning that he's playing very well. It doesn't matter if anyone uses the term B game in real life.

Stanley Hudson 6:16 PM  

HELL's FIRE, I got through this just fine with my BGAME.

Larry from Shipping 7:08 PM  

I did several bong hits and figured out the differences between AAH and AHH and AHA and HAH.

I also figured out the is water wet question.

Then I forgot it all. But I didn't WET my pants over it nor did I get ILL.

JOHN X 9:59 PM  


"Joe E. Ross, onetime star of Car 54, Where Are You?, was another old comic unable to profit from the Boom. His career was at a standstill when he died dramatically in 1982. His fellow old comedians relay the story in a stand-up version of Rashomon:

Sammy Shore: You know how he died? He was doing a show—I forget where.
Hank Garrett: Joe E. was in some housing complex.
Bobby Ramsen: In the building that he lived in they were putting on a show . . .
Ronnie Schell: They hired him to do a show in an old folks’ home.
Denny Johnston: I heard it was for Budd Friedman’s Improv.
Hank Garrett: They were paying him a hundred dollars.
Will Jordan: Fifty dollars.
Ronnie Schell: He was offered two hundred dollars.
Steve Rossi: Five hundred dollars . . .
Hank Garrett: Joe E. was working . . .
Bobby Ramsen: He got up to do a turn . . .
Sammy Shore: He was doing old jokes . . .
Hank Garrett: Suddenly felt ill . . .
Sammy Shore: He fell backwards . . .
Hank Garrett: Keeled over.
Ronnie Schell: He died.
Bobby Ramsen: He expired onstage.
Hank Garrett: Joe E. Ross died performing.
Sammy Shore: And that was it.
Bobby Ramsen: His wife went to get his pay.
Steve Rossi: His agent went to get the money.
Hank Garrett: This hooker went to collect the hundred dollars.
Chuck McCann: I went and got his check.
Will Jordan: Chuck says he got the check.
Hank Garrett: It was supposed to be for a hundred, but they only gave her fifty.
Steve Rossi: They said, “Wait a minute. This is only half the amount!”
Hank Garrett: The booker said, “Yeah, well . . . he never finished the show.”

(From "The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy" by Kliph Nesteroff)

JC66 10:23 PM  

Thanks @JOHN X

Unknown 1:51 PM  

Hawks push wars, but pushers hawk wares. (There’s gotta be a theme in there somewhere!)

Banana Diaquiri 7:23 PM  

I, among many, made the Bud-LOU error. and the reason is simple. from a psych point of view. they were known as Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. the clue, deceivingly, put Costello first. so, of course, many folks jumped to the conclusion that it must be Bud referenced.

mine! 10:30 AM  

@breathing life: A 67-69% is a d-plus. Not a C+. C+ would be 77-79

thefogman 10:04 AM  

It was very easy but I didn't quite pass the grade. DNF because I had cPLUS and HOcA. It's been a while since I've been BACKTOSCHOOL so letter grades aren't on my radar anymore. Even so, I'll give Ori Brian a B PLUS for this one.

Burma Shave 10:12 AM  


NOLIE, ELLE caught me in the HALL,
so SURE,WHYNOT, let’s have a BALL!”


spacecraft 11:23 AM  

Wow, a revealer that didn't "reveal" till the very last: impressive! It even took a few seconds after finishing that last line: "Wha?? OHOH, BONfire and like that!" *Gibbsslap*

I like it when the theme is hidden well enough that you can't just start laying down long gimmes. The FILL today is also, on balance, a PLUS, though I wince at BGAME and DPLUS (there ain't NOTHIN' plus about a D!). One slight mess: I was HELPing before I was HELPFUL. Hey, there was an "-ing" in the clue, so, SUREWHYNOT?

Give DOD to the lady with the most unlikely consonant combination ever in a name: HODA Kotb. And now I must go to the DMV. Needless to say, this trip will be made SOLO. *sigh* Birdie.

Diana,LIW 11:47 AM  

@Spacey - Can't believe you do remember Connie Mack Stadium but don't remember "Eat a Peach." One of the best albums ever. Just heard their music yesterday as the background to that funny British car show, Top something-or-other.

This puzzle was fairly easy but for the SE - nearly lost it there. ELLE just wasn't coming to me (duh) and the rest - but it all worked out.

Diana, LIW

thefogman 12:02 PM  

EDIT: Make the grade - not pass the grade.

rondo 12:25 PM  

SUREWHYNOT STARTAFIRE. Easy enough but the FIRE thing didn’t CROSS my mind until the revealer.

The school I went to had all grades K-12 (some 400+ of us) in one building and grades 7-12 were all considered “high school”. Somewhere on that hazy line dividing junior and senior high the grading changed to include 60%+ as passing, I presume it was meant to improve the drop-out rate; or maybe it was just the times; or maybe the teachers became more slack, or maybe Viet Nam. Whatever. I’m sure that in grade school 75 or certainly not below 70 percent was the passing criterion. So in my mind, 67-69%, a DPLUS, or damn near a C these days, is still failing. No matter what Meat Loaf said, only 2 out of 3 *is* bad. But just remember it ain’t Lake Wobegon because half of the people are still below average (intelligence). Whatever that is anymore.


Yeah baby? GUESSWHO. REBA McEntire.

TOTHE quality of the puz, what Eddie Murphy’s Buckwheat might say, “(OH)OH-TAY”

Diana,LIW 12:37 PM  

And good luck, @Space, at the CMV. My visit last week was quick and successful - new pic and enhanced license and everything - 10 minutes, and 15 more for the "background check" in their files.

And...I remember one very weird exam in HS AP History, where my DPLUS was one of the top (not failing) grades.

Lady Di

leftcoastTAM 2:17 PM  

Had to look twice at the revealer to see its fit with the themers. Pretty neat. Liked BON FIRE the best.

CROSSes put together a quartet of names: ELLE, CECIL, LUIGI, and HODA, who was last to appear as I pondered whether grades 67-69 was a DPLUS or a cPLUS. HODA sounded a lot better than HOcA.

Easy, simple Tuesday entertainment.

rainforest 3:27 PM  

There is an increasingly frequent number of commenters who regularly will dislike a puzzle because it is "too easy", and they aren't shy about saying so every.single.day.
To them I say, "please, just don't do them, and if you do, just shut up". I may have to expand my list of people-whose-posts-I-don't-read.

So, that said, this was an easy puzzle except for the letter grade answer. I taught senior high school Chemistry for 20 years where a C+ was 67-72! This was the standard in all subjects throughout British Columbia. Howeve, whatever letter grade one assigns to a certain percentage is irrelevant. I've given exams where the highest score was 81%, and others where 1/3 of the class scored 100%. In both cases it was I who failed, and I took the lessons learned seriously. Tests, standardized (ugh) or not, do not anywhere near adequately evaluate the "worth" of the student. There are just so many factors that determine how successful a student is that a test cannot measure, and they have nothing to do with "standards". Too complex a topic to say more, and I've said enough.

Oh, I thought the puzzle was just fine once I relented and entered HODA.

strayling 7:04 PM  

I knew TAY from William McGonagall's masterwork, The Tay Bridge Disaster:

"Beautiful railway bridge of the silv'ry Tay
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last sabbath day of 1879
Which will be remember'd for a very long time."


leftcoastTAM 7:27 PM  

@rainforest -- I'm inclined to think that commenters who complain that a puzzle is "too easy" are being a bit sniffy.

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