Green carving stone / TUES 5-7-19 / Snowfall unit / Hawkeye's home / Thunder sounds

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Hi, everyone! It's Clare, and I'm back for another Tuesday — albeit a different Tuesday than usual because, well, law school finals suck! But, thankfully, they're all over now, and my summer has officially started! Perfect time to do some crosswords...

Constructor: Ross Trudeau

Relative difficulty: Fairly difficult

THEME: FINISHING TOUCH (49A: Icing on the cake... or a hint to 20-, 24-, 35- and 43-Across) — Each of the theme answers ends with a "touch"

Theme answers:

  • BUYAPIGINAPOKE (20A: Purchase something sight unseen)
  • EXOTICPET (24A Chinchilla or macaw, e.g.)
  • THISISSPINALTAP (35A: 1984 mockumentary with a lot of ad-libbed dialogue)
  • SUNSTROKE (43A: Danger of laboring outdoors in the summer)
Word of the Day: NERO (52D: Master detective Wolfe) —
Nero Wolfe is a fictional character, a brilliant, oversized, eccentric armchair detective created in 1934 by American mystery writer Rex Stout. Wolfe was born in Montenegro and keeps his past murky. He lives in a luxurious brownstone on West 35th Street in New York City, and he is loath to leave his home for business or anything that would keep him from reading his books, tending his orchids, or eating the gourmet meals prepared by his chef. (Wikipedia)
• • •
I wasn't a big fan of this puzzle overall. None of the fill inspired me, and some of the longer answers felt clunky. The theme was clever enough, but it took me way too long to even get what the theme was. I sat staring at the finished puzzle for a while before it clicked for me. I found the puzzle particularly difficult because I just had never heard of two of the long theme answers — the mockumentary THIS IS SPINAL TAP (35A) and the expression BUY A PIG IN A POKE (20A). Those words, along with some other terms in the puzzle, just aren't on my wavelength, probably because I'm younger than the average crossword solver. So, trying to fill in some of the downs around those long answers wasn't easy for me.

Also, the clue for the revealer felt a bit off. "Icing on the cake" usually means something that's an extra good that makes a situation even better. (For example, the Warriors win the NBA finals AND Steph is finals MVP.) The icing on the cake is technically the FINISHING TOUCH (49A) on a cake usually, but the wording here still felt amiss. BROCA'S AREA (56A: Brain region linked to speech) also borders on hard for a Tuesday, but I got it relatively easily, and, for that, I have to thank Grey's Anatomy. I also had a challenging time in the bottom of the puzzle with IROC (51D: Classic Camaro) and NERO (52D: Master detective Wolfe). Then, I couldn't remember the pest control brand DCON (62D).

I had a nit with 3D: Refute. The definition of "refute" is to prove something wrong, while DENY means simply to say something isn't true. Yes, DENY is now the third definition of "refute" in the dictionary, but why not just use "rebut" as the clue and remove any confusion?

There was a lot of foreign language in this puzzle, which I found fun but which might throw some. There was Spanish with ESTADO (4D), lots of French with PERE (12D), PATOIS (21D), ELAN (46A), and MONT (17A), and Italian with UOMO (53D). Also, Arabic with EMIR (60A) and, technically, Portuguese with ACAI (42A). Then there was ITZA (32D), which is Mayan.

  • I'm sorry, but the only way to eat a CREPE (9A) is topped with nutella and strawberries.
  • A friend of mine growing up had several chinchillas as pets, so I don't think of them as particularly exotic (even if they are!).
  • While my age may have hurt me in some places, it surely helped me get XTINA (25D: Singer Aguilera's nickname).
  • 55D: The constructor couldn't think of a better clue for HERS than "the wife's"?? Come on. Why not just, "the woman's" or the "the girl's"?
  • ANNOTATORS (18A) brings me back to English class in my freshman year of high school, where basically all we did was read books or passages and annotate them. I probably know the book "The Secret Life of Bees" better than anyone because of how thoroughly we annotated that entire book. (I stole my sister's copy of the book to use to annotate for class, and she still maintains I owe her a new copy.)
  • For 36D, I couldn't get the idea of "arts and crafts" out of my head, so it took me way too long to figure out that the end was supposed to be SCIENCES.
Signed, Clare Carroll, officially a second-year law student

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Runs with Scissors 12:29 AM  

No Shakespeare characters to throw me a curve ball today, thank (insert favored deity), but we did have to have one of the baseball dynasty show up. At least they are easy to figure out even for someone who doesn’t follow sports. Like, me.

To modify M&A’s phraseology, I squandered countless picoseconds on JADE. Just couldn’t see it at first.

Saw NORI after I was done and thought it might be some new Japanese food I’d never seen. Or eaten.

I have never seen THIS IS SPINAL TAP. I’ve heard enough about it, though, that it dropped right in.

Really got a chuckle out of BUY A PIG IN A POKE. That’s not something you see every day. Not sure how many people even understand it anymore.

No serious ODORs arising from this puzzle. At worst, we get DCON and I just can’t get worked up over that.


Looking over the finished puzzle, wondered what in the name of all that is holy (or not, equal time here) NOTOK might be. Had to re-parse.

Fun diversion for a few minutes. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Mark, in Mickey’s North 40

Logan 12:31 AM  

Congrats, Clare!

Medium for me but This Is Spinal Tap is one of my favorite movies ever and set the tone (can’t recommend enough). I’ve never heard of the pig poke either, but that was my only hang up. The theme felt a little...sleezy? Creepy? ‘Stroke’ is not a word I normally associate with okay touches. Maybe it’s just me?

jae 1:01 AM  

Medium. Great theme answers, sorta smooth, liked it.

@Clare - I’m probably a skosh older than the average solver so the theme answers were gimmes, that said you should really see Spinal Tap, it’s a classic.

John Child 1:53 AM  

Thanks Clare for sitting in for Rex. I liked this a lot more than you did, perhaps because I’m years older than you are and all the theme answers made sense. You will hear many recommendations today to watch “This Is Spinal Tap” - take them to heart.

Larry Gilstrap 2:18 AM  

For some odd reason, I decided to solve this by filing down the column of Across clues, followed by the Down clues. Weirdly, after this bizarre tactic, the grid was nearly completed because those grid-spanning themers plopped right in. Normally, I like to fill a grid like a bacteria fills a petri dish. My anomalous behavior colors my assessment of what probably is a terrific puzzle, for a Tuesday. Very little three letter fill.

My theatrical cry came from a balcony in the audience, so I was thinking along the lines of Mrs. Lincoln, not the more obvious Juliet Capulet. "Wherefore art thou.." has nothing to do with location, but you probably know that.

Poisoning pests does not take into consideration those predators higher up the food chain. Leave out some D-CON and sicken a mouse or rat, yet eventually poison an apex predator like a mountain lion or bald eagle. Fight fair!

After a recent BELLY RUB, the NYTXW is trending tactile.

Solverinserbia 2:27 AM  

NORI isn't a new Japanese food. It's an old one. It's seaweed, like you might see wrapping up your sushi. And after I solved nor I, I kept thinking it was nori when I saw it in the puzzle too.

Loren Muse Smith 3:05 AM  

Glad your finals are over, Clare. That’s such a good feeling.

I see the point about “the icing on the cake” being a tad different from FINISHING TOUCH, but I didn’t think about it until you said it. Not a deal-breaker for me.

Bonus themer (kinda) with CLAPS. Ok, yeah, it’s plural, but still. I hate being clapped on the back. My husband does it sometimes and forgets his own strength. But a clap goes beyond a touch. I like the group Ross chose because they all stay in their just-a-bit-of-contact meaning. So things like TEACHER STRIKE, OFF THE CUFF or COOKIE JAR all feel a little more than only a touch.

Another little gift with PATOIS.

PIG IN A POKE is an oldish expression, but this oldish solver knew it. Some people say maybe that’s where the expression let the cat out of the bag comes from. Like, you think you’ve bought a nice little pig only to get home and find you’ve been tricked into buying a cat. Seems like a stretch to me. That cat’s not going to go along with the stunt and be all still and piglike in a dark bag.

My biggest takeaway today was the singular clue for FANG. The part of a wolf that’s scary. I immediately pictured a snaggletooth wolf. My, my, what a big FANG you have, grandma!

RAMP is timely because it’s ramp season here in beautiful downtown West Virginia. They’re wildly (!) popular, and you can pass cars on the side of the road with people selling them out of their trunks. I don’t do well with stuff from the onion/garlic/leek family and steer clear, so to this day, the only ramp I’ve ever tasted was on a raw oyster at Le Bernardin in NYC.

Ross – an (almost) easy breezy Tuesday. I knew BROCA’S AREA but I forgot to go back and get the ZINCS/XTINA/ITZA crosses. OOPS.

Robin 3:08 AM  

Jeebus, Clare, you are much younger than moi. Mostly as evidenced by saying you have dump Nutella on your food. I'd never even heard of the whatever it is until 8-10 years ago, when there was some "scandal" at the nearby uni about students stealing food.

Nevertheless, kudos for pointing out the difference between "refute" and DENY.

But again, generation issue when you comment on THISISSPINALTAP, and I can write that in with no crosses. Turn it up to 11, girl!

What the heck ever happened to Christina Aguilera? I recall her doing the Times Square New Year's Eve thing umpteen years ago, and then radio silence?

chefwen 3:15 AM  

@Clare, I beg to differ on your choice of CREPE toppings, try butter, a sprinkling of white sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice, the best!

From the above comments I guess I’ll have to watch SPINAL TAP, will add to the queue.

Easier, for me, than Monday’s puzzle.

Brookboy 3:24 AM  

Welcome back, Clare. I always enjoy the latest chapter in the ongoing rom/com/drama that is the life of a law student. And it’s always nice to read criticism that isn’t weighed down by harshness.

I liked the puzzle, and, being one of those humans who has survived long enough to be called “old” (not everyone has that privilege), much of it was in my wheelhouse, as the saying goes. I thought it was very much a Tuesday puzzle, and one of the better ones.

Re the advice about seeing Spinal Tap, you likely will not regret spending a couple of hours of your life watching it. It has become a kind of symbol of its time and place, and you will have that extra piece of knowledge that may get you to the two-million dollar mark on Jeopardy one day. (Hey, If a professional gambler from Vegas can do it, why not you?)

Lewis 5:54 AM  

I enjoyed your take/writeup, Clare, and WTG on getting year one behind you!

I liked the animal mini-theme: PIG, PET, FANG, SPONGE, CRANE, and loved the gorgeous PATOIS. There were, IMO, a set of beyond-Tuesday answers (BROCAS AREA, PATOIS, GARRET, UOMO, ESTADO), but they didn't cross each other and were all crossed fairly, a sign of excellence in constructing/editing. (Clare, your set of difficult words was different, and yet you successfully completed the puzzle, underlining my observation.)

The theme produced an "Ah" from me, not an "Aha", but words we don't often see in puzzles, like ROTOTILL, GARRET, and BROCAS AREA, kept the going interesting, and I'm grateful for another quality solving experience. Thank you, Ross!

Aketi 6:32 AM  

@chefwen, I’m with Clare on my choice of CREPE toppings if you’re going for sweet, not savory. I wouldn’t, however, DENY that your version is tasty too. It’s not even 6 am and I never eat breakfast before 10 but thinking about crepes is making me hungry.

The progression of POKE PET TAP STROKE seems like the action a cat takes to gain the attention of its human slave and the response of the human. Both our cats do this. They progress to swatting if they want food and if you ignore them Charlie escalates go calf biting.

I think the term EXOTIC PET is used by vets to increase their prices. One of the two of my son’s two $5 PET mistakes (a female mouse who doubled her size after purchase and produced a litter of seven) developed an ear abscess. The cost of draining her ear was in the triple digits. Our next addition going up the mammalian chain before we got to cats was a guinea pig who was also considered EXOTIC. She had a much more extensive operation than the mouse but the vet bill was about the same,

A coffee shop is moving into our building and the construction is leading the feral version of our prior PET mistake to flee. Our two slightly bored predators have been honing their virtual skills on an app on my iPad. Charlie woke me up on Sunday morning when he seemed to be ripping my husbands shoe apart. Then he tipped it over and a cute little mouse popped out, His TOUCH consisted of TAP, press, release, then pick up in mouth (amazingly without biting) transport to a new location, and release until the poor thing ran away under a bookshelf. Faith just watched the whole thing probably thinking “What an Amateur.” Before Charlie intruded in her life she quickly cleared our apartment of mice . The next morning Charlie must have expected his playmate to return. When that didn’t happen he attacked the bathroom scale viciously in the same way he attacks the iPad when he swipes right and gets out of the mouse catching app.


N. Tufnel 6:57 AM  

THIS IS SPINAL TAP just isn't "on my wave length."

Look, Clare, even at their best, most blogs are only at 10. So you're on 10 on you blog, all the way up, and where can you go from there? Where?

What you should do, when you need that extra push over the cliff, is put it up to 11. One better.

Then you'll get "Spinal Tap!"

Giskarrrd 7:09 AM  

The south had me flummoxed as well, as my limited time in the US made me unaaare of NERO Wolfe, DCON or the Camaro IROC :(

Very much agree with Clare’s overall comments. I liked yesterday’s theme, that Rex loudly complained about, a lot more than today’s which seemed... clunky. I had never heard of BUY A PIG IN A POKE either, but the downs and some guessing helped.

amyyanni 7:15 AM  

Congrats, Clare. Now you get to choose some elective classes and it all gets easier. Thorough write-up and analysis. I still associate the pig/poke adage with the purse/sow's ear one, remembering my mom trying to explain both to my concrete minded child's brain. While I too didn't get the theme until after the solve, it didn't matter. Interesting on a Tuesday is a gift. As an aside, I used to 'help' mom do crossword puzzles, scooched in beside her. Back then, I collected baseball cards and had all 3 Alous: Felipe, Matty, and Jesus. That meant I always was able to contribute to mom's solve whenever the Alous appeared. (And mom always feigned ignorance until I spotted the clue.)

RavTom 7:23 AM  

Clare, thank you for your review. I remember the relief when I finished my first year of law school several centuries ago.

Speaking of old, I’m not sure being older would have helped that much for PIGINAPOKE. It’s not an expression that the older solvers would have used. I suspect it had its heyday well over a century ago.

As to the clue on HERS, I suspect that the clue referenced “his and her’s” whatevers (towels, etc.), which were seen in a married couple’s home, ca. 1950s or earlier. So, that one does seem age-related to me.

kitshef 7:24 AM  

Hard for a Tuesday, with lots of interesting entries. Not familiar with BUY A PIG IN A POKE, nor XTINA, nor UOMO.

On the other hand, THIS IS SPINAL TAP and BROCAS AREA went in with no crosses, so go figure.

Like the symmetrical LOWER and TOWER, and the symmetrical vehicles OMNI and IROC, and the Frenchy PERE and CREPE.

NOT OK and NOT AGAIN is iffy.

pabloinnh 7:32 AM  

Old enough to have this be easy, as there was nothing at all unfamiliar here. "Spinal Tap" is indeed essential to the pop canon. Had to ROTOTILL about an acre of lawn last fall after the turkeys tore it up looking for grubs. ESTADO and ITZA, muy faciles (hi GILL I.). And so on.

Re DCON-Our softball team started life as The Pirates, which morphed into The Pie Rats, for some reason, and that devolved into The Rats. This of course led to other teams threatening us with imaginary or symbolic DCON. Fun times, and "Two out Rat rally!" will forever be a part of the league's lexicon.

Smooth Tuesdecito. Tanks RT.

Anonymous 7:39 AM  

Sharing a Nutella et banane crepe from a Parisian street vendor while strolling home after a three hour dinner - no better way to finish a day!!!!

FPBear 7:52 AM  

For me very easy except for double Natick with brocas area and dcon with iroc.

Rug Crazy 7:56 AM  


GHarris 8:00 AM  

Nice mix of old and new references. Found it exceptionally easy yet enjoyable.

ghthree 8:06 AM  

I was born in South Bend, Indiana. My wife Jane was born in Manhattan, New York City.
Both of us got "BUY A PIG IN A POKE" with no crosses. Go figure.
We each had a DNF with 62 Across (D?ON) and 51 Down (IRO?).
When I saw the answer, DCON rang a bell, sorta. Post-solve rationalization.
Other than that, typical Tuesday.

We live in Oberlin, Ohio, and graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences.
Jane has played violin in the OASO (Oberlin Arts and Sciences Orchestra).
It's called that to distinguish it from the Conservatory.

Suzie Q 8:15 AM  

Ross Trudeau shows us today what a quality Tuesday puzzle looks like.
I'll counter Spinal tap with "My b" and Xtina. There, we're even.
@ Logan 12:31, I sorta feel sorry for someone who doesn't associate stroke with a pleasurable experience.
Hawkeye's home implies, to me, a singular like Hawkeye Pierce but the answer seems to be a sports team as a plural.
Pig in a poke is an expression I use from time to time so no problem there.
I also had no issue with "hers" because I immediately thought of the matching towel set.
Let me add to the chorus re: Spinal Tap.
Very nicely played Mr. Trudeau, thanks.

Odd Sock 8:17 AM  

Darn, I thought the theme was Joe Biden.

Til Tuesday 8:25 AM  

From BROCAS AREA to the the themers (OOPS!) to the greying fill, this puzzle is positively Bidenesque.

(Love ya, Uncle Joe, but NOT AGAIN...)

Sir Hillary 8:38 AM  

Congrats, Clare, on "graduating" out of crosswordese -- you're no longer a ONEL!

Nice theme, and I agree with @LMS that the light touches in the themers are nicely consistent. No warding off SUNSTROKE with cold Hawaiian Punch in this puzzle.

I am old enough to ought to have seen "TIST", but somehow I haven't, despite loving the subsequent mockumentaries from Christopher Guest et al, ("Best in Show" being my favorite). I know, I know -- I need to see it.

I would have tried hard to eliminate CRIP, a word that has zero positive connotations. Maybe Justin Trudeau did just that, but couldn't get there.

I once had a RAMP-infused martini in the Bowery. @LMS would hate it, but I found it quite tasty, albeit not something I would order too often.

Sticking with palate preferences...I am purely a savory CREPE guy. Don't like them with sugar, fruit, Nutella, or even strawberry JAMB.

Z 8:39 AM  

"...(W)hy not just use "rebut" as the clue and remove any confusion?"

Uh, because "confusion" is sorta the point for crossword puzzles. And that particular clue will bug lawyers far more than just about anyone else because, for most of us, the distinction between DENY, refute, and rebut are so minor as to be indistinguishable. OFOneTuesdayAMonthL (OFOTAML) is, of course, legalistically correct. But it is a puzzle, not a legal brief.

BROCASAREA on a Tuesday? And multiple DOOKS (NOTOK and BROCASAREA)? Interesting. I also noticed that we got 2 ten letter answers that aren't themers and 2 nine letter answers that are. None of this upset me much, but elegance demerits have been awarded.

Blue Stater 8:45 AM  

*Really* bad Natick at 32D and in that general area. ITT, XTINA, ITZA? Really? On a Tuesday? Crossing each other? C'mon.

pmdm 8:56 AM  

If I haven't read some of the information here, I never would have noticed this.

The clue for $#D is "Say 'Talk to the HAND, 'cause the face ain't listinin,' say'. And the entry for 44D is "unHAND." Well, it's only a partial duplication. And I don't care. But it is odd that I even noticed it.

Perhaps the clues should have been a bit harder and the puzzle published on a Wednesday. Tough to say. I thought the theme worked well.

GILL I. 9:02 AM  

You start me off with JADE and I'm all smiles. I love that gem.
This was quite the elegant Tuesday. Felt difficult for the day of the week but that made it all the more interesting. Only small wince was pairing STROKE with BROCAS AREA. I'm glad Ross didn't throw in Aphasia.
I've heard the expression BUY A PIG IN A POKE but never gave it much thought. We have so many animal expressions that boggle this mind. Add "Look a gift horse in the mouth" "Until the cows come home" and my favorite "Get one's goat." What have animals done to deserve this....They should be put out to pasture.
I've never seen THIS IS SPINAL TAP. I've never owned an EXOTIC PET and I would never use DCON. Do you know that there are one million species of animals and plants that face extinction...Now you do. Just remember that every single living thing has a purpose - even if it eats away all of the wires in your house or gets into your cheetos. The cat's meow.
I'll use my favorite howdeedo PATOIS greeting to sign off.

Nancy 9:19 AM  

A Tuesday puzzle with more challenge than most Wednesdays. I enjoyed it thoroughly. And I even had a DNF because guessed it, that stupid car. As well as a DOOK: I saw BROCASA-EA as one word -- one word that I didn't remotely know.

Let's see: What letter would make the stupid car sound like something I would buy? ILOC? INOC? ICOC? ITOC? IROC? ISOC? I wouldn't buy any of them. I had told myself to write in something, anything in that space. But being me, I promptly forgot. Would I have chosen the "R" if I'd remembered? Your guess is as good as mine.

deerfencer 9:28 AM  

ZINCS?! Just no. Found this whole puzzle odd and awkward, like dancing with two left feet. Thank gawd for Sir Eton Hogg.

RooMonster 9:29 AM  

Hey All !
This puz didn't hurt the BROCAS AREA. Missing a Q and V for the pangram. A funky West-Center section with ITZA and XTINA. (ITZA bird, ITZA plane... Har.)

Kudos to Ross for the gumption of having those long non-themers at 18 & 56A. Could've added another black square below (and above) the two-block in the NE/SW to break up those longies.

Other funky words, UOMO, DCON, NOT OK, POP ON (which is odd, usually hear something is a POO off.)

@Sir Hillary
Although CRIP doesn't bother me (although it seems like it should), a real easy fix is change the R to an L, getting you CLIP/MOLE.


Preferred Customer 9:38 AM  

Good morning I like the icing on the cake clue precisely because it's not quite the straight meaning. I enjoy a little twist when it's completely accurate. PC

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

The phrase pig in a poke tends to have a negative connotation. Specifically that the buyer regrets having bought the item. The phrase comes from the Middle Ages, when goods were often bought unseen.

I disagree with Z's analysis of the deny kerfuffle. I post that while misdirection and confusion can add much to a puzzle, precision in usage and language is a sine qua non of crossword puzzles.

Hambone 9:47 AM  

My only previous encounter with the phrase "Pig in a Poke" comes from National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985) -- "Pig in a Poke" is the game show on which the Griswolds win their trip. Just one year after "This Is Spinal Tap" (1984)... so this puzzle fell pretty quickly for this '80s kid.

Hartley70 9:54 AM  

Carl Sagan’s book “BROCA’S Brain” made that interesting entry easy for me.

PIGINAPOKE is in my vocabulary. I try not to purchase one but that’s near impossible in the world of online shopping. I think it would be a fun name for a thrift shop or a dollar Shore if I was inclined to open one.

Just last month I had a simple CREPE at a French bistro with a dusting of sugar and lemon and I quickly decided it was my favorite version. It surpasses the more EXOTIC versions I used to favor at The Magic Pan on 57th St decades ago. I miss that place now that CREPEs have taken up residence in my BROCASAREA.

I have managed to skip THISISSPINALTAP even though it’s iconic. I worry it will be akin to “The Big Lebowski”, another flick my kids loved but doesn’t tickle my sense of humor.

I thought this was a swell Tuesday puzzle.

Whatsername 10:07 AM  

I’m with Clare today, wasn’t a big fan and had to come here to get the theme. I found it on the difficult side for a Tuesday but in a good way. Better to be challenged than bored by mediocrity. I know to be careful in the summer so as not to get heat stroke but had never heard of a SUNSTROKE. I think Christina Aguilera is awesome but had no idea on the nickname; easy enough to get with the crosses though. The clue for 63A seemed odd. Why “my b” instead of my bad?

Jeff E 10:08 AM  

Must you bring up the Warriors, tonight of all nights? GOD. That game was depressing. Perhaps you were already wallowing in the pain of this puzzle, that the reminder of how Steph was decidedly not acting like a Finals MVP wasn't adding much to your misery. If we keep playing like this, we won't even make the conference finals, let alone the NBA finals.

I'm going to go put my Curry "We Believe" jersey on and see if I can find some Green Curry in a Klay Pot to drown my sorrows. Also, Durant.

Anoa Bob 10:10 AM  

Most of you smart cookies probably already know this, but POKE is an old term for a sack or burlap bag, so to BUY A PIG in one is to purchase something that is essentially hidden, i.e., "sight unseen".

BROCAS AREA is standard fare in Intro Pysch and Biopsych courses. Dr. BROCA did a postmortem on a patient who, though of normal ability in other ways, had been unable to speak. The good doctor found lesions in his left temporal lobe. Further studies confirmed this was an important speech center and it became known as the eponymous AREA.

Also standard fare in Intro Psych is an examination of why the polygraph (47D) is NOT a reliable "lie detector", or "truth detector" for that matter. When I was still in the chalk-and-talk trade, the polygraph, because of its unreliability, was not admissible in a court of law. People who are LIARS might be judged truthful and vice versa. I can't imagine that has changed.

We used to take yearly trips down into Mexico and Guatemala exploring "La Ruta Maya" (the Mayan Route), so it was nice to see Chichén ITZÁ show up. My recommendation for the best Mayan ruin to visit would be Tikal in Guatemala. Most of it has been reclaimed from the rain forest, but it is still out there far away from modern civilization. Otherworldly.

Crimson Devil 10:14 AM  

Talk to the Hand, or the Utter Bloody Rudeness of Everyday Life, or Six Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door (yep, two subtitles) is great read by Lynn Truss, who also wrote wildly popular Eats Shoots and Leaves.

Anonymous 10:20 AM  

Would someone please update me: just how many elements are ZINC in the Periodic Table?

CDilly52 10:21 AM  

Congrats Clare!! Even after 35 plus years in practice, law students talking about finals gives me angst and GI trauma! I learned quickly thought that if one survived the first semester the rest is just a doable grind. Hang in!!

Nutella was completely unknown to me until about 1995 when my daughter’s German teacher at the Interlochen Arts Academy bribed the kids with what they dubbed “Frau Chow,” a crazy snack made from (of all things) rice cereal lime Rice Chex coated with melted Nutella and peanut butter then powdered sugar. Very dorm friendly, as I learned, all one needed was the basic ingredients, a bowl and a paper sack. Melt the Nutella and peanut butter, pour it over the cereal, stir, put the gooey mass in a paper sack with an insane amount of powdered sugar and shake it all up. The very thought made me cringe, but the kids loved it and I learned about Nutella. I would probably eat a piece of cardboard coated with the stuff!! So delicious!!

Wavelength puzzle for sure. Right on mine. Nothing too much to rave about. Really liked the distinction drawn by our @LMS touch vs. something more harsh. Very thoughtful, as usual.

Anyone who has not seen “This is Spinal Tap” should. Nice job, Clare.

Newboy 10:31 AM  

International Race of Champions was a wonderful concept that brought top drivers from various categories into identical Chevy street rods. Take a break from mockumentaries, load up a crepe and watch a clip to add another spoke to your wheelhouse. In the IROC series the winner of the first race started last in the next race driving the car that finished last in the initial competition if I recall correctly. Made for interesting and well balanced entertainment. Oh, and I liked both puzzle & guest commentary as a pit stop from Rex’s rant. Thanks Clare!

Crimson Devil 10:38 AM  

Errata: comma goes after “Eats” in my prior post.

jberg 11:05 AM  

I dunno, the way I would use FINISHING TOUCH fits Clare's definition of "the icing on the cake" TOAT. And I've both heard and uttered "A PIG IN A POKE," though not always verbatim -- more like, "Well, it's a bit of a pig in a poke, isn't it?" So I started out thinking the theme was EXOTIC PETs, such as PIGs, until I got to the movie title and figured it out.

I didn't know BROCA'S AREA, but I had the terminal A, and medulla oblongata wouldn't fit, so I was left with some kind of AREA, and after a few crosses remembered the title of Sagan's book (only the title--I've never read it, and didn't know he was the author; I kind of thought it was a novel made into a movie.)

@Runs withscissors, I love your comments, but I haven't read enough of them to be on your wavelength. I'm pretty sure you were sending us up about NORI, but no Shakespeare characters? Or did you get O ROMEO from the crosses without noticing?

@Suzie Q -- any inhabitant of Iowa is a Hawkeye, not just the athletes. (I'm a badger, myself, and would be even if I hadn't gone to that particular university--where the killing ingredient in the original DCON was invented.)

Masked and Anonymous 11:12 AM  

UOMO & XTINA & ITZA tried to ROTOTILL my BROCASAREA … but I survived the solvequest, with some minor nanosecond carnage (yo, @Scissors).

Kinds of cake icin theme … PIG, EXOTIC, SPINAL, and SUN icin. Confused the M&A.

staff weeject pick: AER. Several plural abbrev meat choices to choose from, today: DAS & ERS & IDS & CTS, all kinda cancelin each other out from contention.

Best dabs of fillin icin: ROTOTTILL. CRAISINS. NOTAGAIN. SPONGE. Misspelt PATIOS.
Best dabs of Ow de Speration: ZINCS. POPON.

Thanx for the fun, Mr. Trudeau. Considered yerself poked & tapped.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


Anonymous 11:29 AM  

No. No. A thousand times no. Old hands here have seen this explanation before; nevertheless here goes. As conceived and originally executed, the cars were in fact identically prepared Porsche RSRs. I assure you, the 1974 series was terrific and bore no resemblance to the schlock that followed, including the sad Chevys. Of course, by that time the first champ--Mark Donahue-- was dead, just as the series should've been.

Joe Dipinto 11:33 AM  

D minor is the saddest of all the keys.

webwinger 11:55 AM  

I found this to be a better than average Tuesday; finished in a bit less than yesterday’s Monday time. Can’t imagine life without THIS IS SPINAL TAP. Long familiar with the expression BUY A PIG IN A POKE, though I always forget exactly what it means. I learned BROCAS AREA from Gray’s Anatomy in medical school.

Having paid respects to today’s puzzle, I want to add that yesterday’s exchanges about imaginary numbers called to mind this story (too late to post on the day of, though I guess OK now given it’s not a spoiler): Late Columbia University philosophy professor Sidney Morgenbesser, remembered more for his witty bons mots (this example quickly produced multiple hits on Google) than for his scholarly contributions, is said to have been in the audience when a lecturer made the point that “two negatives always combine to make a positive, but two positives never combine to make a negative”. Without hesitation he called out, “yeah, yeah”, bringing down the house.

And another thing: @LMS, describing her students’ delight when she provided foam plastic swords for re-enactment of scenes from Romeo and Juliet, reminded me of an old (1958) 30-minute documentary I recently came across while poking (no pig involved) around the website of the Canadian National Film Board (which had a decidedly leftist political orientation during its early years in the mid-twentieth century), called “Memory of Summer” ( not a functioning link, but should work as copy-and-paste). In it the filmmaker-narrator portrays his quest to capture “the magic of childhood”, culminating in a long sequence of (all white) kids 7 or 8 years old (exactly the age I was when this movie was made) unselfconsciously, enthusiastically, and aggressively playing “cowboys and Indians”, with minimal adult supervision, and replete with realistic looking toy guns and tomahawks. It is truly a cringefest of things that are now considered verboten, from mock violence to bullying to ethnic stereotyping to the sidelining of most of the girls in a group having “story time”. And yet, this came from Canada, largely if not completely untainted by the long ago and more recent collective sins that have contributed to our current obsession in the US with atoning for once common and widely accepted behaviors now perceived as harmful, and expunging non-negative (i.e., positive) references to them as completely as possible, particularly from the experience of children. There are certainly many members of my generation (and even more from the generation we raised, leading to the millennial cohort) who feel they no longer bear any traces of the indoctrination this film seems to endorse, which was pervasive at the time. Yet given the opportunity, would today’s kids be less enthusiastic in their embrace than those of the 1950s?

David 12:05 PM  

I learned "pig in a poke" was something you bought unseen which turned out to be not what you thought you were getting.

@lms, I thought perhaps when one let the cat out of the bag they were freeing it (from death by drowning; a horrible, yet common way of disposing of cats and unwanted kittens once upon a time).

I quite liked this puzzle. Perhaps a bit hard for Tuesday, and it did skew "older". I got Spinal Tap off the clue and the single "L". I reference it often when composers use more than 4 "f"s (ffff), which means "as loud as possible", or an orchestral "10".

Exotic pets have both common and legal definitions, as do meats. Peruvians have for years been trying to get the Federal government to take Cuy off the "exotic" meats list because the classification makes the meat harder to import and more expensive.

Broca's area, rototill, estado, pere, uomo all fine with me, as is "nor I", which hasn't brought back the other day's back and forth. I never know if the "i" or the "a" comes after the "c" in that berry name.

That reminds me of the crepe. Although I'm not a fan, I can imagine in Paris after dinner from a street vendor; I can't ever imaging starting my day with a pile of sugar though, I'm a black coffee no sugar type.

Green carving stone... well it's far too short for soapstone, which generally isn't green, so it must be jade.

Regarding "finishing touch". Yes, most definitely, if you're a pastry chef, that's what it is. Otherwise it's not that great an answer.

Nice write up Clare, and congratulations.

Fred Romagnolo 12:07 PM  

You guys are crazy. My Russian (Siberian patois) gramma knew that the only fillings for crepes (which she called bliny) were chopped beef and onion (I guess ramp would work), or red raspberry jam and melted butter. Iroc and brocasarea is a natick. yesterday it was eye rhyme vs sight rhyme; today it's sun stroke vs heat stroke; generational, like pig in a poke, or silk and sow's ears.

Z 12:08 PM  

@anon9:43 - "I disagree with Z's analysis of the deny kerfuffle. I post that while misdirection and confusion can add much to a puzzle, precision in usage and language is a sine qua non of crossword puzzles." (emphasis added)

You are not alone in taking this stance. Unfortunately for you and your "precision" tribe, crosswords notoriously ply in language's imprecision. As Clare noted, DENY is the third definition "in the dictionary." While a lawyer will cringe, the clue is precise enough for a crossword cluer. Take a look at @Lewis' weekly post of favorite clues and you will see a treasure trove of imprecision and misdirection. In short, it is called wordplay not wordrules. My personal favorite of late was the clue for "way." "Path" or "route" would have been more precise. But no, an oblique reference to the slangy call and response, "No Way!" "Way!" is so much more entertaining. Also personally, I think Shortz et alii take special pleasure in irking the overly formal. I have no proof, I just imagine Shortz crowing about the DENY clue over a game of table tennis, "He He, got the lawyers this time."

Carola 12:21 PM  

Rather than LOWER, I thought Ross Trudeau raised the Tuesday bar wih this one. FINISHING TOUCH is so nice not only as the reveal for a nicely hidden (at least for me) theme, but also, of course, the last theme entry. And, like @Lewis, @kitshef and others, I thought,"Interesting" as I was solving, not always the case on a Tuesday. Nice Downs! Some nice neighbors: SPONGE v. TAUT, ROMEO (resident of fair Verona) by UOMO.

I'd wondered how well known BUY A PIG IN A POKE (still) is. Also, on the topic of animal expressions (hi, @Gill I), the other day I remarked to my husband that something hadn't happened "since Hector was a pup," and thought, "Boy, I bet nobody says that anymore."

Help from previous crosswords: IROC, THIS IS SPINAL TAP. Do-over: ETHos. No-idea: XTINA.

@ghthree - Hi from an Oberlin x68 (I bailed out after my sophmore year to study abroad and then to get my HERS towel (as it were).

kitshef 12:34 PM  

@Hartley70 - I can say without hyperbole that This is Spin̈al Tap is "billions and billions" of times better than the Big Lebowski.

Fred Romagnolo 12:45 PM  

Cordwainer: if you're still around; I quit this blog some time ago because of politicalization (if that's a word) and anon offensiveness, but I really missed the pleasantness of so many of the regulars. So, I came back. Please reconsider for that reason.

tea73 1:20 PM  

I'm going to differ here on the question of THIS IS SPINAL TAP which I finally saw a few years ago and was unimpressed. Mildly funny at best.

I was pleased to get the R crossing BROCASAREA (which I failed to recogize as two words) and IROC which I don't recall ever seeing before.

I'm laughing at the Biden jokes. NOT AGAIN! indeed.

Teedmn 1:21 PM  

I found this theme with its revealer to be quite nice. UNHAND - the antonym to TOUCH, is fun.

FANG - wolves certainly do have impressive fangs. My husband and I, winter-camping in northern MN, came across a circular area where the snow had been tamped down by something (not people - no evidence of humans in the AREA). In the center was the head and spine of a wolf. We speculated that this wolf had been rejected by its pack and killed and almost completely consumed. The fangs on that thing caused chills when looked at face on - you wouldn't want to encounter the live version!

Gaining GLORY on a battlefield seems a sad way of obtaining renown; bravery perhaps, but GLORY implies reveling in death and destruction.

Thanks for the Tuesday puzzle, Ross Trudeau.

ghthree 1:29 PM  

Your remark about the towel reminds me of the story of the new bride who liked her HIS and HERS matched towels, but was especially charmed by the (Army surplus) blanket on their bed, which was marked simply "US" :--)

Hungry Mother 1:43 PM  

Sitting in the waiting room of the Sanford, FL Auto Train station, this went very quickly. Nice and easy theme and some challenging fill made the time pass too fast.

Hungry Mother 1:58 PM  

@ktshef: the Dude abides.

Suzie Q 2:47 PM  

@ Carola, Hector still comes up in conversations at my house too.

john towle 3:22 PM  

Doo, doo, doo, lookin’ out my back door CCR The Big Lebowski I love you man

That’s how I reacted to this elegantly magical puzzle-…a joyful walk in the park.



Runs with Scissors 3:22 PM  


I saw Romeo; more a reference to not repeating yesterday's brain fart with Mercutio, which I had as Hercutio. Looked okay to me...

Shawn P. 5:06 PM  

Totally blonde blog got it in the OC

CDilly52 5:46 PM  

Your story reminded me of my son-in-law’s recent struggle to produce “Annie Get Your Gun” in a PC manner. He made it but with much rewriting, cutting and change of POV. Turned out it was an excellent exercise for everyone. He was able to show the kids the original and talk about why much of it just cannot (and should not ever again) see the light of day and how to make the story relevant and inoffensive yet still humorous and fun. They pulledit off.

CDilly52 5:47 PM  

Glad you are back.

Z 5:55 PM  

@CDilly52 - I know you post from your telephone so your replies are in-line with the original comment. For everyone not using a phone your comments make no sense. Please use the @poster convention if you want to be understood.

@catholic boy late yesterday- Funny. I’d say the same about you.

Catholic Boy 7:24 PM  

@Z-Point taken. That was uncalled for. I know you weren’t being disingenuous and I know you’re a smart guy. I just think you have a blind spot here for some reason. Perhaps you’re right and I’m wrong. ps. Time to retire the sock puppet. RIP michiganman.

Anonymous 7:41 PM  

Skewed hard for a Tuesday but I did it in about average time. I only got Broca's area because my college major was pyscholinguistics. I can't imagine a lot of people know what that is.

Anonymous 7:48 PM  

There's no misfortune at all. There is a mistake, and it's entirely yours.
Unfortunately your putative proof falls flat. The way answer you cite is an example of word play. But, of course, thats uncontroverted. Todays's deny answer asks for a synonym, and by definition, precision.

Joe 8:09 PM  

As they say in SPINAL TAP, “There’a fine line between stupid and clever”. A fun puzzle, I thought, referencing a great movie.

albatross shell 10:26 PM  

I think icing on the cake is a perfect clue for FINISHING TOUCH. Everyone seems to agree it is technically accurate, which seems to me to be accurate enough. They also can be the same thing when used in a metaphorical sense. She excoriated him for his role in the recent financial disaster, and the icing on the cake (or finishing touch) was when she tied that to his entire family's previous ethical lapses.

Am I having a Rex moment? It seems to me PIGINAPOKE is a common usage. It is also good advice, colorful and folksy. Its only fault is that it is trite or too common.

Burma Shave 9:12 AM  


but OOPS, maybe NOTAGAIN, so much.
If ONE gets SUNSTROKE don’t DENY what you get:
make MORE bacon as the FINISHINGTOUCH!


rondo 10:07 AM  

You can't teach an old dog how to make a silk purse out of A PIG IN A POKE. - Opus, Bloom County. One of my all-time favorite comic strip lines.

This was darn good compared to what usually shows up in a Tues-puz. And not a hint of a write-over such as yesterday’s blunder. Nope, NOTAGAIN.

The AER clue wasn’t exactly cunning.

JADE Bird is a singer-songwriter who has been getting a lot of airplay on 89.3 The Current (you can stream it) lately. And she happens to fall into the yeah baby category. All HERS today.

This puz had a nice FINISHINGTOUCH.

spacecraft 11:13 AM  

You see, boys and girls, THIS is what happens when you Try To Do Too Much. The theme is very clever and well executed--but in the process the fill has been left in ruins. ALOU? ACAI? SASS? EMIR? NOTAGAIN! And EWOK is well on its furry way to join them, along with OMNI. Okay, we have a splendid DOD--but do we have to call her XTINA? C'mon, man. There's stuff that can't stand alone: ITZA, AER. Plus we are forced to acknowledge a violent gang. There's MORE, but I won't go on.

Had this been tried in a 21x21, or minus one of the themers, perhaps it could've been allowed to breathe a little. As it is, it's NOTOK, and gets a bogey.

leftcoast 3:43 PM  

A flummoXing natick: sTINA instead of XTINA. So that's her nickname? Should have inferred it, but don't think I need to know it.

Diana,LIW 3:49 PM  

Funny - the other day in a puzzle I remembered the name of someone in a silent movie, but THISISSPINALTAP is unheard of? I thot some things just permeated the atmosphere. (And I have never seen that pic in its entirety.)

Not too shabby for a Tuesday - maybe a bit "crunchy." Are we allowed to say that again?

It should hit the 90's here this week, so my brain may fry in days to come.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoast 5:11 PM  

@Lady Di

Into the 90's here now. Same in Spokane? Cooling it with a well-iced vodka and tonic.

Salem, OR

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