Designer Schiaparelli / MON 12-5-11 / TV newsman Roger / Mock rock band in 1984 film

Monday, December 5, 2011

Constructor: Kenneth J. Berniker

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: N-T — your standard vowel progression puzzle




Word of the Day: CYRUS (22A: Founder of the Persian Empire) —
Cyrus II of Persia (Kuruš (c. 600 BC or 576 BC–530 BC), commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much of Central Asia, parts of Europe and Caucasus. From the Mediterranean sea and Hellespont in the west to the Indus River in the east, Cyrus the Great created the largest empire the world had yet seen. (wikipedia)
• • •

Felt very easy, but my time was only just a bit under my average for Monday. The theme is completely unremarkable, but the grid manages to get some spice in there with LOOSE BALL (timely—if you're doing the puzzle on football Sunday, as I am), "SPINAL TAP," and "I'LL WAIT" (nicely clued—26D: Sarcastic "Go ahead, keep talking"). Biggest complaint is the clue on "NOT ON A DARE" (49A: "Fuhgeddaboudit!"). It doesn't substitute well at all (i.e. I can't imagine anyone saying the one saying the other), plus I tend to think of "Fuhgeddaboudit!" as an exclamation suggesting either that something is no big deal *or* that something is amazing / to die for. I also didn't really care for the clue on NUTCRACKERS—if by "productions" the clue means "performances," then that seems weak, especially given that a nutcracker is a concrete, practical thing that comes in a handy, natural plural form. Oh well. At least it's timely(ish).


Theme answers:
  • 18A: "Rambin' Rose" singer, 1962 (NAT KING COLE)
  • 23A: Earnings after expenses (NET PROFITS)
  • 38A: Knuckleheads (NITWITS)
  • 49A: "Fuhgeddaboudit!" ("NOT ON A DARE!")
  • 56A: Christmastime productions (NUTCRACKERS)
I have been trying to memorize all the world capitals (on account of the beautiful new ATLAS I got from Oxford UP), so I was a little surprised to see that the puzzle thinks Pago Pago is in SAMOA. Actually, Pago Pago is the capital of *American* SAMOA, a completely different country, and also a completely different (albeit nearby) island. The capital of SAMOA is, of course, as all constant solvers know, APIA. It's true that the island group is sometimes known as the "Samoan Islands," but SAMOA has specific national meaning, and thus this clue is terrible.

Bullets:
  • 24D: TV newsman Roger (O'NEIL) — no idea who this guy is. I thought the answer would be AILES.
  • 32A: Designer Schiaparelli (ELSA) — never can remember her name. She's the xword alternative to the lioness from "Born Free"
  • 59D: U.K. record label (EMI) — constantly get it confused with the music licensing organization, BMI
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

55 comments:

Clark 12:46 AM  

I took Christmastime productions to mean productions not performances. As in -- a production is a particular version of the work put together by a director, a set designer, a choreographer, etc. A production generally sees multiple performances. I have seen a number of different Nutcrackers over the years. And I have seen multiple performances of one of those productions (that being the one in which I played the celesta part back in music school).

syndy 1:00 AM  

Went so fast I never say the progression.NUTCRACKERS was fine-usually discribed as such.I had ILSA/IMBED but mr. pencil was shaking his finger at me.I never saw any of the clues for the short fill so it was all pretty painless which is all I ask of a monday

CoffeeLvr 1:08 AM  

Scrabbly NW corner made me look for a pangram; alas, no Q, V, or W.

Mini legal theme with DEFACTO, REBUT, RULED, LLDS, AMEND, EDICTS, ACCUSED, and as a stretch entry RAIDS.

Solid Monday, looking forward to the rest of the week.

chefwen 1:09 AM  

I was a little slower on this Monday that usual. I will blame the Packer game that physically and emotionally drained me. My nails are a lot shorter than usual.

My one write over was pretty funny, well, I laughed. PLATO over PLuTO at 62A. I just pictured a cartoon dog writing something philosophical. Like I said, I was emotionally spent.

Twelve and OH! Let the magic continue (sorry @Tobias)

chefwen 1:11 AM  

Let's make that THAN usual.

Now off to cheer on my buddy Andy in The Amazing Race.

Anonymous 1:55 AM  

I can't remember the last time I did a puzzle so geared towards the over 50 crowd. Oh wait yeah I do. It was last Monday.

amana canals michaels 2:27 AM  

Well! @anon 1:55am: as last Monday's
constructor, I must chime in...
UGLYBETTY is not for the over 50 crowd! But you are right, the other 3 totally were...
Then again, I'm over 50!

I thought this was just about a perfect Monday...and I'd agree with @Rex almost word for word, esp about NOTONADARE, but otherwise, quite fab, esp SPINALTAP and that jazzy opening corner!

This is the kind of Monday puzzle I try to make, tho I thought 4 was the new three, and just three opening letters is not usually enough
(that's why we tried to do P*CK or H*CK) but I thought this was lively enough to make up for only three: NITWITS is fun, as is NUTCRACKERS, no matter how you define it...
and with 11, 10, 7, 10, 11 you are talking almost 50 theme-letters, which is a lot AND there are 5 entries AND it's in order AEIOU.

@Tobias, definitely one to print out for your cafe crowd.

The only thing I would have changed would be not to have the L buildup on the right side:
BALL, ENDALL, LLDS...too many double Ls.

Hmmmm, the more I look at it, the more I get grumpy @anon 1:55am post (IRENE, LORRE, AMANA MAMIE and NATKINGCOLE all DO read old, but with a little NAS here, an ILLWAIT there, there's an attempt at balance, plus a Coen brothers shout out, so screw him/her!) ;)

Z 6:35 AM  

I can see the "over 50" 'plaint - but no - this is well balanced, solid, a couple of nice answers. Just right for a quick Monday back to work puzzle.

Agree with Rex on 49A. Didn't read the whole clue on NUTCRACKERS so it didn't bother me. Last letter in was the E in ELSA/EMBED, so no writeovers today.

We just had a principal retire and I'm filling in for the next couple of months - so it is out of the house by 7:00 for now. You may not be hearing much from me past Tuesdays for awhile.

Gill I. P. 6:42 AM  

Enjoyable Monday puzzle with interesting words that floated around. NITWITS, BIG APE, LOOSE BALL, NUT CRACKERS.
Never heard of ONEIL. Wanted Roger (just add an e at the end of my name) MUDD.
ACM: Is 5 now the old 3? Setting the bar pretty high, no?

joho 7:21 AM  

Started off fast with JAPAN, JIB, BIZET and thought, "this is going to be fun." And it was.

@CoffeeLvr, you've got your "W" in the great NITWITS.

There is lots to like in this Monday puzzle, thank you, Kenneth J. Berniker!

jberg 7:46 AM  

Like everyone said, quick and easy with some nice fill, not terribly exciting theme. I had LEtA for LEDA and olgA for ELSA, for my only writeovers.

TROT twice in a row - though yesterday it was a clue, I guess. And AIMEE seems to be ubiquitous these days.

I agree with @Rex about the clue for NOT ON A DARE, and I think the clue for LLDS, ""Barristers' degs." at 44A is just wrong. An LlD is strictly an honorary degree.

Joyce Kilmer 8:00 AM  

Trees

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

fikink 8:03 AM  

Hand up for the disconnect on NOT ON A DARE. And really didn't care for the REPOT clue. "Move" ?!
Otherwise, a swell Monday puzzle to launch the day.

(Great avatar, @Clark!)

mitchs 8:31 AM  

Had ILLBITE for ILLWAIT...like it better.

David 8:53 AM  

Fun puzzle, but didn't pick up the theme till the end, and I was about a minute slower than a normal Monday (clocked in right at 5 mins).

Like others, not fond of NOTONADARE, not in any context, let alone a theme answer. Always happy to have my last name in a puzzle, and with NATKINGCOLE today that makes two days out of 3 (ECOLE (a reach) and USSCOLE in Saturdays).

This is SPINAL TAP was one of the first movies where I laughed so hard I cried. Also a fan of BIGAPE, LOOSEBALL and I'LLWAIT.

Big Fan 9:12 AM  

Sorry, there's only one way to clue NUTCRACKER: _______ Buck, Internet Country Music phenom. I don't care that it's a partial.

quilter1 9:12 AM  

Nice easy Monday with enough that was different to hold my interest. I appreciated Rex pointing out the different Samoan capitals since, as he said, Apia is usually the choice in a xword. I also think productions is just fine for NUTCRACKERS, one of which is currently being advertised in our town, and, I would imagine, almost everyone else's town. We also had a Hallelujah chorus flash mob at a mall yesterday, a new Christmas tradition that I like. Wishing everyone a great week.

chefbea 9:25 AM  

I would rate this a medium...a bit tougher than the usual Monday puzzle.

Did not like NYS as abbreviation for New York. It looks weird

Geneology.Com 9:26 AM  

Cyrus the Elder - Founder of the Persian Empire.
Cyrus the Younger - Most worthy of all Kings
...
Cyrus the Mullet - One hit Wonder.
Cyrus the Youngest - Latest Disney Character.

John V 9:27 AM  

Yes,easy. Picked up the theme at NETPROFITS, but initially thought we might see a word ladder. Are word ladders not done on Monday? Only write-over had EARNS @45A.

32D Surround firmly for EMBED??? Really???

NITWITs is one of my favorite words. NITWITS crossing IAGO and ETHAN Coen? Only at their peril. Watch out for the wood chipper, nitwit!

jackj 9:37 AM  

Anyone jumping up and down saying , "Oh boy, another vowel progression theme!"

A rather undistinguished Monday puzzle, but livened up by SPINALTAP and DEFACTO and achieving a welcome touch of elegance by reminding us of "ANEST of robins in her hair".

There seemed to be too much reliance on forced "s" endings whenever the constructor got into a bind, (see NYS, NAS, LLDS, ERNES, ADS, et al), but it does serve to remind us of the difficulty in making an acceptable Monday puzzle.

retired_chemist 9:43 AM  

Middling difficulty and middling interest. Agree 49A clue and answer are not well matched. Like @Rex et al., liked SPINAL TAP and LOOSE BALL.

Didn't consider the difference between American and any other Samoa so 55A was just fine with me.

Laughed at my typo NAT KING VOLE. Maybe thinking of King Rat.

jesser 9:52 AM  

At 38A, I wanted galooTS off the TS, but held off, and then saw it in the clue for 46A, so my patience paid off. No writeovers.

MAMIE was First Lady when I was born. Gack.

Happy Monday!

Grate! That's one cheesy captcha...

Tita 10:24 AM  

Tried to stuff dariUS in for CYRUS.
dImWITS-->NITWITS
NETincomeS-->NETPROFITS

Am nearly at the point where the BOXCARS full of presents will be circling the annual Presépio that is way behind schedule...

Likes and dislikes are in line with most of you...
Especially the Nest of Robins.

Nice Monday puzzle - thanks Mr, Berniker!

archaeoprof 10:38 AM  

Like @ChefBea, I found this slightly harder than usual for Monday.

And like @Gill I.P., my newsman was MUDD. Speaking of the over-50 crowd...

PS: in Isaiah 45:1, CYRUS is called "the Lord's anointed" or "Messiah." That brightens up the Christmas season, doesn't it.

GenJoneser 10:41 AM  

FUHGEDDABOUDIT

Two Ponies 10:44 AM  

A few nice words but too heavy with proper names.
NYS? New York State vs NYC?
Thanks for stopping by Joyce Kilmer. I was unsure of the reference. Thought it was a song lyric.

Sally 10:47 AM  

Got a chuckle from Rex's picture of Cyrus the Great!

Lurker0 11:04 AM  

@jberg said...

... I think the clue for LLDS, ""Barristers' degs." at 44A is just wrong. An LlD is strictly an honorary degree.

---

Not everywhere; in fact, not most anywhere except North America!

Doctor of law -- from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Matthew G. 11:05 AM  

Liked the puzzle. Nice comfortable Monday.

Agree with Rex that Roger O'NEIL is an unknown and that I was expecting Ailes. I'm not a big fan of judging by Google hits, but it works for certain categories of answers, and current TV news personalities at least ought to dominate the first page of Google results if they're famous ... and he doesn't. I dub Mr. O'Neil Too Obscure for a Monday.

Don't understand Rex's criticism of the clue on NUTCRACKERS, though. "Productions" is a perfectly good word for "performances," and the only misdirection is valid misdirection.

@Two Ponies & chefbea:

NYS is a commonly used abbreviation in New York State. Even governmental entities often use that abbreviation on official materials. It's a necessity, because both NYC and NYS have so many overlapping government agencies that the need to distinguish between City and State entities is constant.

Kendall 11:42 AM  

This rang it as one of my slowest Monday solves to date. I needed every single cross to get NOT ON A DARE. Even seeing the answer I'm confident that I've never heard this said before. NAT KING COLE was simple enough to figure out eventually, but being quite young the name just doesn't jump to the front of my mind ever to write in.

Nothing wrong with the puzzle, but as @anon mentioned some time before me, a bit slow if you're much below the 50 mark.

r.alphbunker 11:55 AM  

@acme
Maybe archaeoprof can tell us how to scientifically determine a puzzle's age group. Or maybe we need a psychologist to do it. Crowdsourcing might work also.

Tita 12:09 PM  

If 2D had been clued:
"She left millions powerless this summer."

Would that have skewed it back towards the <50 crowd?
Sounds like sour grapes to me - you're just jealous that the older one gets. the more useless trivia one accumulates! (Until you start to forget it again, of course...)

John V 12:10 PM  

FWIW, I did have the same "age" reaction as has been noted. This tied in just fine to my life motto of always wanting an unfair advantage. If being in ones seventh decade does that, I'm delighted. Talk about age, though, yesterday's Wahtusi (sp?) certainly hit the high water mark.

Anoa Bob 12:13 PM  

Hand up for 34D SPINAL TAP and 42D DEFACTO as being the high points of this one.

Seemed name-heavy with MAMIE, ARI, NAT KING COLE, CYRUS (clued most non-Mondayly), ELSA, PLATO, AIMEE, IRENE, BIZET, ONEIL, LORRE, ETHAN, IAGO, and LEDA. Oh, and BOXCAR Willie.

For a non-New Yorker, non-Catholic, non-student of ancient history, the MSGR, NYS, CYRUS pile up in the NE was tough.

A newcomer to xwords would get a good intro to abbreviations and initializations, to wit, ESL, LLDS, AMA, MSGR, LOL, STE, NYS, SPCA, RNS, NAS, NEA, NPR and EMI.

Think I'll take a walk on the beach and see if I can spot any ERNES. There must be some around---I see them in xwords all the time.

hazel 12:37 PM  

I thought this puzzle had some zing - really liked it. vowel progressions are aok with me if the words are kinda frisky. Admittedly, NETPROFITS and NOTONADARE are a little staid, but the clue for NOTONADARE was great! (i had NOTACHANCE - which seems much more realistic.) Regardless, I liked the cut of its JIB. Great Monday puzzle.

Wow - @anoabob - didn't really notice all those abbreviations. Does seem like a lot. But, I guess the acrosses were largely gettable - so didn't have to look. i'm kind of a methodical solver (across then down).

One LOOSEBALL atones for at least 4 abbreviation. And then SPINALTAP - that atones for the rest.

KarenSampsonHudson 1:07 PM  

I have the same complaints as you, Rex. "NOTONADARE"? Clumsy, made-up phrase. And who is Roger O'Neil? Works for Fox, maybe? That would explain why we haven't heard of him:-))

Sparky 1:13 PM  

Easy, pleasant Monday. For a fleeting moment thought natick was going to appear; Mr. COLE instead. Took the word productions to mean shows so no problem there.

I think the Bravo Channel has a Battle of the Nutcrackers during the month. You can vote for your favorite. Mine is still Balanchine, but Mark Morris grows funnier every year. The score becomes a brain worm too.

I digress, happy week one and all.

Friend of M and A 1:46 PM  

Liked it. Primordially great theme. Interesting fill.

So what's the recognized max, in constructor etiquette, for names and abbrevs.? How about plurals ending with an "s"? Just curious.

Speaking of interesting, xwordinfo website has a cool new feature, which enables amateur puzzling like this:
www.xwordinfo.com/Solve?id=14517&id2=1663289121
(Enter the whole thing above as one big url in your browser.)

Now everyone can publish a crossword. Trouble brewing?!

jackj 1:51 PM  

quilter1 wrote, in part,

"We also had a Hallelujah chorus flash mob at a mall yesterday, a new Christmas tradition that I like."

Is there a link? Or, is it posted on You Tube?

archaeoprof 2:23 PM  

@r.alphbunker: I'll take a run at it. But be forewarned: I've never excavated a puzzle before...

If this puzzle was a layer in an archaeological site, we would date it by the preponderance of the pottery found in it.

A lot of old pottery here: IRENE, MAMIE, PEZ, NATKINGCOLE, SERA, MOP, NITWITS, ONEIL, etc.

Only a few recent sherds: LOL,SPINALTAP, KIA.

The preponderance of the pottery suggests a date in the 3rd quarter of the 20th century.

oh 2:39 PM  

I found this pretty hard for a Monday. I'm a young feller, so maybe that's why. No idea on Ari, A Nest of Robins, Irene, Not on a dare. Was able to figure out Oneil on crosses, but the combo of Irene and Bizet in the NW corner wasn't kind.

I was actually okay with Nat King Cole, Sera, Mop, and Nitwits. I vaguely remembered Mrs. Eisenhower's name as Mimi or something and got it on crosses. Jon Stewert made some sexually suggestive comment about her once.

Masked and Anonymous 2:51 PM  

Fun solve. thUmbsUp.

Fave fill: LOOSEBALL, NITWITS, BIGAPE, the NW corner.

Missed fill opportunity: 18-A should be NATTICKMASS.

Fave #31 comment: "She's the xword alternative to the lioness..."

Fave viewer comment: the one by my friend at 1:46PM. He changed the 69-A clue, tho. Used to be "One looking backward?"!

efrex 3:35 PM  

Lively fill perks up a tired theme. Didn't mind the NOTONADARE clue at all. Crosswordese crossings of LEDA/LLDS only nitpick that I'd make. Fine, fun Monday, which I MOPped up in standard time.

Well done, Mr. Berniker!

Greene 5:05 PM  

What @efrex said. Not sure the LEDA/LLDS crossing belongs in a Monday puzzle. I make this judgement, of course, only because I got caught up there for a few moments until I was able to retrieve the pesky L from some moldy corner of my mind. Otherwise, this puzzle was a breeze for me and just flew by.

Had a lovely lunch with @Mac earlier today in mid-Manhattan. Nice to get caught up on puzzle chat since I've been out of the loop for so long.

JenCT 5:35 PM  

I've said Fuhgeddaboutit many times, but never NOT ON A DARE. Here's a Belt Parkway sign indicating that you're leaving Brooklyn: Sign (It's the 4th picture)

Had Bette Midler before NAT KING COLE (duh - it fit).

Liked NITWITS, ILL WAIT, SPINAL TAP.

Busybody 6:25 PM  

For anyone who may have gotten the impression that the link posted at 1:46 PM by "Friend of M and A" has to do with constructing crosswords (as I had), no, it leads to a great puzzle which everyone (especially Masked and Anonymous) should do! Lots of fun!

quilter1 6:57 PM  

@jackj: I just watched it on the Des Moines Register website. You should be able to find it under video. They were pretty good. It might be on YouTube by now. Key words would be Simpson College Choir, Jordan Creek Mall and of course, Hallelujah! Good luck.

CoffeeLvr 8:49 PM  

@Joho, thanks, I knew if I had missed any letters this crew would let me know.

sanfranman59 10:02 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 6:52, 6:50, 1.00, 55%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:33, 3:40, 0.97, 40%, Easy-Medium

mac 10:28 PM  

Nice, quick Monday puzzle - got the theme after nat and net, then filled in the rest. Not on a dare was the one that needed a few crosses, have never heard anyone utter the phrase, and I kept thinking of the "suite" with the nut crackers.

Great to see Greene this afternoon, for a long and delicious lunch. Hope he will show up regularly again! His knowledge of the theater/Broadway scene is amazing and so helpful to decide what to go see.

jackj 10:43 PM  

quilter1- Thank you. Watched it on the Des Moines Register site.

The Simpson College folk were terrific! They certainly livened things up at Santa's Village.

Lurker0 11:34 AM  

For the record (as it's already tomorrow :-), ["not on a dare"] has 198,000 Google hits, of which this blog and Amy Renaldo's are respectively 7th and 9th on the list.

Dirigonzo 4:17 PM  

From syndication, any puzzle that starts right off with a sailing reference is probably going to be fine with me, and this one was. Finished with the iLSA/iMBED error as I thought any designer with the last name Schiaparelli was unlikey to share a first name with a lion. It took a couple of crosses to produce the correct abbreviation for Monsignor, but otherwise smooth sailing. Happy Monday.

@Gil I.P. "NEST of Robins..." reminded me of a story you related here a while back involving spiders - still makes me laugh when I think about it.

Anonymous 4:22 AM  

Spacecraft here. I like the cut of this fellow's JIB. A few NITs to pick; NYS=NO! You Stink! Sorry, but it is simply never used. So: simply--never use it! The NOTONADARE thing isn't that bad, but maybe could be clued better. These and a lot of choppy fill are a small enough price for BIGAPE and BOXCAR.
Strange how some words trigger an old image. I can still hear Doris Day belting out "Que SERA SERA" at that party (what a far cry from Hitch's original Man Who Knew Too Much--and surely his most unlikely heroine ever!)
I often say "ILLWAIT" at the poker table instead of "Check." If you can make them think of a crouching tiger or a hidden dragon (BTW: HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!), so much the better.

hasel: German for giving somebody a hard time.

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