Hannibal Lecter's choice of wine / MON 12-31-12 / Make show-offy basket / Triangular pieces of browned bread / Orange snacks / Welsh form of John

Monday, December 31, 2012

Constructor: Jeffrey Harris

Relative difficulty: Easy



THEME: FINGER FOODS (60A: 17-, 30- and 45-Across, literally and figuratively) — theme answers are all foods you eat with your fingers, and the second word of each phrases is an action you can perform with your fingers (at least I think that's what's going on)

Word of the Day: EDIE Falco (54A: Falco of "The Sopranos") —
Edith "EdieFalco (pron.: /ˈdi ˈfælk/; born July 5, 1963) is an American television, film and stage actress, known for her roles in Oz asDiane Whittlesey, as Carmela Soprano on the HBO series The Sopranos, and as the titular character on the Showtime series Nurse Jackie. (wikipedia)
• • •

Didn't notice the theme until I was done, and then (and now) wasn't quite sure what the gist of the theme was. Are the phrases supposed to  read like sentences, so that we imagine the food doing something with its (figurative) fingers? If so, CHEESE CURLS doesn't really work, as you can "curl" a lot of things–the word just doesn't conjure up fingers. If it's just that the second word in the phrase is something one's fingers can do, then I don't understand what's "figurative" about the answers. In short, I'm in the "not getting it" camp. Or I'm in the "Getting it and not appreciating / liking it" camp. Not sure which camp is nicer. I kind of hope I'm in the first camp, because that means there is some nuance I am not appreciating, which means the puzzle is better than it seems, which is good. Outside the theme, the grid is just a grid. Nothing noteworthy except "THAT TEARS IT," which is a line from one of the greatest scenes in movie history:

["I wonder if you wonder..."]

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Crisp, spicy cookies (GINGER SNAPS)
  • 30A: Triangular pieces of browned bread (TOAST POINTS)
  • 45A: Orange snacks (CHEESE CURLS)
I had one great misunderstanding while solving the puzzle, which is that I assumed that the basket being made in 67A: Make a show-offy basket was ... woven. Me: "There's a verb for fancy-basket making now? Ugh. I wonder what kind of Maleskan monstrosity this answer's gonna be ... oh. Ohhhhhh. That kind of basket. Of course. Nevermind."

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everybody.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

61 comments:

jae 12:13 AM  

Easy Mon. with a smidge of zip...THAT TEARS IT, CREEPY (you were looking for eerie, right)...  I get SNAP and POINT, but CURL seems a bit of a stretch.

Some interesting PAIRS:  Actors VAL and EDIE, Johns EVAN and IAN, Athletes ALI and ELS, Designers LAUREN and SASSOON, Singers OLIVIA and ESTEFAN...

Pretty good Mon. 

Tita 12:24 AM  

Here I always thought Euan was the Scottish form of John. A Scot I hired in Prague told me so...

"Double Indemnity"..great movie...thanks for that clip!

I agree 99% with Rex today..
Except for the basket part.

Tita 12:27 AM  

Clue for CHIANTI was CREEPY.

Qvart 12:35 AM  

When completed I realized there were a few answers I didn't read the clues for because I got all the crosses.

Easy breezy.

So-so theme.

Garth 1:16 AM  

To add to jae's interesting pairs: AMPS and GIG

chefwen 2:12 AM  

Can't wait for the AM when "early to bed husband" is up. He got hung up on THAT TEARS IT, and I quote "never in the history of man has anybody says that tears it" I'm almost ready to wake him up to show him that clip.

Write-over was at 23A dresses before GETS SET and seeing as how I'm a former Cheeser, I had CHEESE CURdS before CURLS.
Boo Hoo Pack - so close and yet...

Satisfying and quick Monday puzzle. Thanks Jeffrey!

Anonymous 2:48 AM  

While I agree that is clunky, "Finger Curls" is a real thing - it's a hairstyle. It's also, of course, completely out of sync with the other two theme answers.

JenCT 4:13 AM  

THAT TEARS IT took me the longest time.

CREEPY that we all got CHIANTI right away, isn't it?

My boys sure were HOARSE after being at the Giants game yesterday.

I'd say it was as easy as Cincinnati beating the Ravens yesterday...

I continue to have trouble posting from my iPad - anyone else?

Happy New Year, everybody!

Gill I. P. 5:06 AM  

I too sorta scratched my head at the theme reveal. I think "literally" confused me somewhat. Just about any food you pick up could be considered as FINGER FOODS but I'm not sure TOASTPOINTS is a food?
Lots of fun words though. I learned THAT TEARS IT from reading this blog. I've watched "Double Indemnity" a zillion times and never knew what Fred MacMurray was saying. They sure talked fast in those days. I always wondered how they could rememebr their lines and not be flubbing all over the place.
Lots of proper names but all gettable. As @jae pointed out - some neat pairing. SASSOON is his real name while RALPH was born a LIFSHITZ. Makes you wonder why he changed his name.
Have a safe and happy New Year to all.

Unknown 7:13 AM  

Grammar quibble at 25D: "anymore" is an adverb, so the clue should read either "I can't take it anymore" or "I can't take any more."

Elle54 7:19 AM  

Is it weightlifting? Snap and curl..not sure about point.

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

The clue for SKY was unfogiveable.

Glimmerglass 7:44 AM  

Muddy theme. It's not food one eats with the fingers -- cookies and cheese curls ok, but TOAST POINTS are what you put under chipped beef. Messy finger food! I think it's things you can do with your fingers POINT, SNAP, and CURL (as in "Come here, handsome"). The problem is in the plural forms (you can't snap one finger).

chefbea 8:03 AM  

Fun yummy puzzle...and very easy. Never saw that tears it.

Hands up for dresses at 23 across.

Later on will get all the finger food ready for tonight's New Year's Eve party. Will ring it in with a nice bottle of Prosecco!!

Tita 8:05 AM  

LOL, @Glimmer...you must be part of the Silver Spoon crowd...
I have only heard of chipped beef being served on a shingle..as in "S@#t on a ___"...

I've only ever had it when vet puzzle spouse makes it with "real" chipped beef we buy from a butcher in Amish country.

Z 8:22 AM  

@Tita - That's what my mom called it, as well. I think that's the official name as proclaimed by army veteran uncles.

I'm not an expert, but it does appear that TOAST POINTS are FINGER FOODS.

THAT TEARS IT and GRAVEN IMAGE are both great long fill. The short fill is well used in the service of CREEPY, HOARSE, and OLIVIA (although Wilde is more current than Newton-John). A very good Monday in my estimation.

Milford 9:02 AM  

Quick, easy Monday, but I liked much of the fill. I agree the teme is not crystal clear, but the food items are all fine with me - they all get eaten with your fingers touching them. I never eat chipped beef on anything, so TOAST POINTS are what I get served with eggs and bacon at breakfast.

My husband and I just finished watching Season 4 of Breaking Bad last night, so Hector Salamanca's CREEPY CURLed FINGER over his bell is what is burned in my brain.

Like @chef bea, we will have a nice Prosecco instead of CHIANTI tonight. Happy New Year, Rexworld!

Milford 9:04 AM  

P.S. I had the same chain of events as Rex with the fancy basket clue. D'oh!

jackj 9:21 AM  

The only other Times puzzle from Jeffrey Harris was published on 8/30/04 so, if he maintains this torrid pace, his next one is due to arrive sometime in the Fall of 2020. We had best make a note to be on the alert.

The theme, as revealed through the entry of FINGERFOODS, gives us 3 disparate snacks (with a chaser of CHIANTI), presumably the “goodies” that will grace a New Year’s get-together later today.

(With CHEESECURLS, TOASTPOINTS and GINGERSNAPS being the featured hors d’oeuvres, this is not a party for which many will be clamoring for an invitation).

The long non-theme entries of note were two:

THATTEARSIT, which seems like something first uttered at a 1930’s Ivy League Freshmen Orientation Session by a frustrated young lad facing the world sans servants for the very first time.

And GRAVENIMAGE, which is appropriately placed alongside POPART, describing the “Genre for Andy Warhol” who gave us his own version of GRAVENIMAGES, silk screens of the famous and infamous, from Chairman Mao to Marilyn Monroe.

Of course, it’s hard to ignore that Mr. Harris does some serious name-dropping in his puzzle with the likes of SHAMU, Ralph LAUREN, Vidal SASSOON, Gloria ESTEFAN, NELSON Mandela, OLIVIA Newton-John, ENOS, VAL Kilmer, IAN and EVAN, Lady GAGA, EDIE Falco, REGIS Philbin, Muhammad ALI, Ernie ELS, Brian ENO and even a hint of the hottest name of the moment, the “Gangnam Style” star PSY (though Mr. Harris misspelled it as PSI).

Not the right crowd to savor the CHEESECURLS, I’m afraid.

JC66 9:24 AM  

@ Glimmerglass et al

I think caviar is eaten on TOASTPOINTS

A far cry from your typical Army fare.

John V 9:34 AM  

Fun, easy, SNAP of the finger! Rated one cup of coffee, NOT on the New Haven!

Is it me, or is the "difficulty gradient" seeming steeper of late, easier M/Tu, harder F/Sa? Quite a slope from Joe Krozel's last Saturday to today.

A very happy new year to all! Thank you, @Rex for a terrific year in this space; much appreciated.

Susan McConnell 9:44 AM  

Super easy. Loved all the PAIRs jae (and others) POINTed out. We watched Double Indemnity on TCM again recently, spent the next couple days calling each other "Baby" in a fast, low voice ala McMurray :-)

Ditto Rex on the basket...was also thinking of the woven kind.

MetaRex 9:45 AM  

Whole lotta three-letter words...buncha tabloid headlines...VAL PAL ELS OUT! GPA HAG ATE APE EAR!

Getting rid of the cheaters after GPA and before AAA would have made for a prettier grid.

VAL PAL

joho 9:52 AM  

HAG goes APE over CHEESECURLS!

I prefer to think the theme refers to a New Year's Eve party spread to get us in the celebratory spirit, CHIANTI included.

I wanted OLIVIA to be the pig. Just bought "Olivia and the Fairy Princess" ... what a wonderful book!

My favorite: THATTEARSIT. Thanks for the clip, @Rex, and for everything you do to bring us to Rexville every day of the year!

Happy New Year, everybody!

Carola 10:15 AM  

Tasty! Lapped it all up. Like @chefwen, this Wisconsinite confidently wrote in CHEESE CUrDS, regretting that there wasn't also room for "deep-fried.". Liked SURF crossing URL.

Sandy K 10:23 AM  

Had similar solving experience as @Rex- even the basket...

Remembered THAT TEARS IT from last time it appeared here.

Perhaps some will DUNK their FINGER FOODS in CHIANTI on New Year's Eve?

A happy and healthy New Year to everyone in Rexville!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:40 AM  

Finished the puzzle without getting the theme; after reading Rex and all comments, theme still not really clear to me.

Did get one idea to toss out to constructors (apology to 26 D): the 15 letter answer TIC-TAC-TOE TACTIC. Is there a theme idea somewhere in there?

Happy New Year to all.

Two Ponies 10:51 AM  

I liked the puzzle just fine and tried not to over-think the theme.
I was thinking florist for the basket clue.
I enjoyed learning the Scottish and Welsh John answers. Any Monday grid that teaches me something is a good thing.
Won't be joining in on the mayhem tonight here in Vegas. Chaos to be sure.

Sandy K 10:55 AM  

THAT TEARS IT appeared in a Patrick Berry puzzle on Sunday, 8/12/12 !

Much discussion ensued.

jberg 10:59 AM  

I always thought a TACTIC was a non-strategic maneuver, something more short-term -- like a head fake, say. Aside from that, and the shared feeling that the theme was weak, this was fun enough. Happy New Year, everybody!

quilter1 11:16 AM  

I enjoyed it all. I agree that the only chipped beef worth creaming and serving over TOAST POINTS comes from old world sources. I get mine from Pella, Iowa, a Dutch settlement.

Happy New Year!

Masked and AllThumbs 12:08 PM  

@quilter1: Pella's a cute town, especially when their bazillion tulips are bloomin'.
This puz gave me the finger at least three times. But hey, I've been treated worse, while still havin' fun. Anyone else irresistably compelled to write -LY in the margin, after the 27-A entry? If not, just signal by givin' me the finger.

Happy New Year, all you crossword critters. lUv U all like cinnamon rolls.

p.s. Cannot believe 31 didn't go ape over the GINGERSNAPS entry. Go figure. Just hope the dude can stay outa the bag long enough to do tomorrow's writeup. He's already lookin' kinda weak on bullet entries, today. '13 is 31 backwards; chew on that, Mayans.

M&A

Lewis 12:12 PM  

I'm thinking the second word of the theme answers are things people do with their fingers, and you imagine the first word doing it, and thus you get your figurative answers, and of course fingers do curl, such as during rock climbing and lifting weights. Here's an article about improving one's finger curls: http://www.livestrong.com/article/476115-how-to-strengthen-a-finger-curl/.

Sparky 12:15 PM  

I liked it. Like @TwoPonies I don't over-think these things. My feeling is "Okay, if you say so." (Except when I sream nooooo at something.) Write overs at EwAN, S in square 26, ESTEbAN. All fixed.

I am not sure I even know that a CHEESECURL is, now that you bring it up.

Happy New Year everyone. Thanks Rex,a jolly good fellow, for bringing us this basket of cheer. Here's to all of us.

Sparky 12:19 PM  

Oh, it that it? I was thinking of shaving a curl off cheese with a potato peeler sort of thing. I would never eat that with my hands. Nevermind.

Mr. Benson 12:29 PM  

I didn't take up crosswords until well into the Shortz era. Were Maleska puzzles THAT bad? I know enough to understand that evoking his name is not a compliment around these parts.

lawprof 12:42 PM  

I can't believe it! I flunked Monday!

Had ESTEbAN at 43D (well, that WOULD ber her name if she spelled it correctly, no?). So 50A became bINGE_FOODS (didn't even notice the R at the 47D/50A crossing), which seemed to fit the theme: foods people scarf down when on an eating jag.

What an ignominious way to end 2012. Comforting thought: Congress ain't doin' any better.

the redanman 12:48 PM  

Toast points are best with that Foie Gras stuff NYT and other card-carrying liberals want us to forgo. Forget that other stuff.

Masked and Anonymous 12:48 PM  

@Mr. Benson. I always had fun with the pre-'93 puzs, when I could afford to buy a NYT paper. Sometimes I'd erase so often, holes developed. It's just that Shortmeister puzs are funner, somehow. Plus, complainin' to other subway passengers that the puz didn't have enough U's didn't seem to go over as well there, as it does here. (Only 4 today, btw.)

Got a reeeeally nice blue robe for Christmas. Ultra comfy. Only thing -- can't seem to stop wearin' the dern thing. Turnin' into The Dude. puzSpouse shakes her head, when I wear it goin' thru the donut shop drive-thru. But I abide. Can't seem to develop a taste for black Russian drinks, tho; so feel like I'm still plowin' my own ground...

Rob C 1:12 PM  

Was 100% sure THAT TEARS IT was wrong, but could't find which crossing to correct, so I kept it
and turned out to be correct (I must have missed that P Berry puzzle from earlier this year). To @jackj's point - "something first uttered" in the 1930's...which was probably the last time it was actually spoken in a real-life situation.

Also, never heard them called TOAST POINTS, but seemed plausible, so again I kept it and turned out to be correct.

Other than these entries it was extra-easy.

Didn't really get the CURL part of the theme either, but wife tells me it is a hairstyle.

All in all, not a bad puzzle. Doesn't deserve the finger.

Happy New Year to all and be caeful out there tonight.

Carola 1:14 PM  

@Rex -
End-of-year thanks for doing this every day!

@fellow commenters -
I look forward to another year of your puzzle companionship, wit, and all sorts of interesting lore.

Happy New Year, everyone!

M and A's last silver bullet 1:19 PM  

p.s. Make that ShortZmeister. And WHITE Russians. The captcha was in my eyes.

Silver Bullets:
* DUNK. Especially partial to "show-offy", in its clue.
* SAUCERS. Especially liked the schlocky clue.
* ACTONE. Know how much 31 likes them entries with "one" in 'em.
* ROAST. Rhymes with TOASTPOINTS.
* OVERT(ly). Operate in the open. Operate overt. Yeah, ok, I reckon that works.

Quoting Matt Gaffney 1:21 PM  

@Mr. Benson --

(Matt Gaffney, in an article dated 7/31/05, being quoted here by an anonymous commenter):

The New York Times crossword established its household-name brand dominance under the skillful eye of Margaret Farrar, who edited the crossword from its debut in 1942 to her retirement in 1969. She was followed by Will Weng, who edited to mostly favorable reviews until 1977.

At that time, the puzzle was regarded as the best daily crossword in the land, and it was. But under the editorship of Weng's successor, Eugene T. Maleska, the puzzle's reputation began to slide, at least in crossword circles. Maleska was known for filling his puzzles with "crosswordese," those painfully obscure words you never see anywhere in life outside of the crossword page. This made many of his puzzles less a fun, fair challenge than an unsolvable, headache-inducing battle with a
set of encyclopedias. The average well-educated person simply couldn't be expected to know that LOA, in an infamous clue example of the era, was a "Town in Utah"--a town with around 250 people, as it turned out.

John V 2:02 PM  

@Mr Benson Re: Big Gene, etc. My solving life covers three of the four editors, having started daily solving in B School, circa 1971. I agree that Will's puzzles are more fun, but I've gotten better with 40+ years of practice and that contributes to the fun. I was never as good with Maleska's puzzles as I am with Will's. I could not regularly solve Big Gene's Friday or Saturday, as I can in the Shortz era. That said, I enjoyed Maleska's puzzles for what they were. They certainly expanded my vocabulary; I use ESNE in regular conversation to this day!

Under Maleska, I learned to save a puzzle for the next day's paper to check my solution and to write in any corrections; writing in makes it stick, reading does not.

So, the Times puzzle has always been fun for me, Weng, Maleska, Shortz. I was always fun to share my solving with my grandmother, father and mother from whom I inherited this passion.

End of ramble. Happy New Year!

jae 3:07 PM  

Couldn't come up with any finger foods that involved JAM (Strawberry doesn't really work), WAG, or FLIP, so I'm thinking Jeffery pretty much exhausted the possiblities.

Extra Creditor 3:29 PM  

@jae.
TOEJAMS? Nah. D+.
How 'bout CHARLESTONCHEWS? People chew their fingernails, certainly.

Ellen S 4:59 PM  

@JenCT - when you post from your iPad, are you first scrolling down and selecting "View Web version"?  

@metarex -- are "cheaters"  the extra black squares? I guess I need to get some eddication on crossword grid theory.  

Which may explains why I liked today's fill better than yesterday's, more that was new, even though very Monday-easy. Briefly had "THATs enough" before "THAT TEARS IT". I changed the AcrossLite settings so I get to make mistakes without a 20,000 volt correction, but discovered my error when I couldn't put TEE TIME for 42A.  My hubby, a country boy from Missouri, used to say "That tears it".  . 

Liked yesterday's theme better (I also didn't, still don't, understand the "figurative" part of today's theme).

dictionary.com: 
overt -- adjective. open to view or knowledge; not concealed or secret"
New Oxford American Dictionary (fancy shmancy):
overt -- adj.  done or shown openly; plainly or readily apparent, not secret or hidden.

Usage:  "The digs and jabs in these blog posts are all right as long as they are not OVERT."  

JenCT 5:31 PM  

@Ellen S: Viewing as a web page is the ONLY way I can post; I thought they might have fixed the iPad/Blogger version by now - I guess not.

Hope everyone has a safe & happy New Year's Eve.

Ellen S 6:15 PM  

@JenCT -- yup. I think it'll never be fixed. My watchword: "Everything always gets worse and nothing ever gets better." I can post in the mobile version if I compose the post elsewhere (some note app, say), copy and paste it all in a clump into the comment box. No editing possible.

Plus I discovered that the paid version of AcrossLite, which I got for Rebus support, only and always shows the rebus editing button in puzzles that have rebuses. Um... meaning, I get that hint before ever reading a clue.

How blessed I am that these are the worst things I have to complain about. Ditto @Jen: have a safe and happy, eve and New Year.

Rube 6:46 PM  

I'd better get this in before it's next year.

Got a book of Maleska era Sunday crossword puzzles for Christmas this year. Some examples...

ARE <= Unit of land
ELAS <= Greek Underground in WWII
HEBE <= Cupbearer of the Gods
ATREK <= Iranian river
ANSA <= Handle to Hadrian
ERIS <= Discordia to Demosthenes

HNY all

Ellen S 11:57 PM  

oy vey. it's 6 minutes to 2013 in Confluence (hours to go our here in California), and the Jan 1 blog has not been posted. Where are that man's priorities? well, okey dokey, I'll read the FAQs and learn me some vocabulary.

and to all a good night. Oh, that was last week.

Business 12:40 AM  

We have all kind of vehicle for cheap transporation...
Vintage Carriage Company

Anonymous 1:13 AM  

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GIFT BASKET

Spacecraft 10:53 AM  

I've heard 25d one time, but it was not in"Double Indemnity." It was in STTOS' "A Taste of Armageddon:"

KIRK (after discovering that the landing party have all been declared "casualties" on the Eminiar's computer): Scotty, under no circumstances is anyone to leave the ship!

SCOTT: THAT TEARS IT! That popinjay Fox [Federation diplomat] just beamed down!"

Okay, super-easy-grease (OLIVIA!)-y; filled in as fast as I could write. Still, I liked it. With 24 3-letter entries and only a few common acronyms among them--not a single Roman!--I'd say the fill here is remarkably clean. Most interesting are the many PAIRs already cited, as well as two smashing non-theme long downs.

OFL, there's nothing more in the theme to "get;" it's just like the clue says: "literally and figuratively." I've seen less clever themes than that.

Oh, and any grid that contains the uber-hot Gloria ESTEFAN would be an automatic thumbs-up (fingers curled!) for me anyway.

DMGrandma 1:37 PM  

Smooth puzzle today-no write-overs! I need that once in awhile.

Today's SDUnion carried an article about Ticketmaster. It seems they realized they were antagonizing customers with the Captchas provided by Google, and are switching to another supplier. Good for them. Now if the idea catches on.......?

Dirigonzo 4:33 PM  

Whenever I reached the point where "I can't take any more" of my sons' antics I'd yell (lovingly, of course) "That's enough!" , which coincidently also fits into the space allotted for THATTEARSIT. And in my house goosebumps are often an indication that it's ChillY, so I turn the heat up. My SW corner was a mess.

Ginger 4:57 PM  

Easy, peasy, Monday. Only write over was ESTEvAN, quickly fixed. After Saturday's debacle, this puzzle handed me my head back, and I enjoyed it.

Gilligan 12:01 AM  

@Ginger:

Sorry, but all the guys agree, we'd really rather sleep with Mary Ann.

Anonyrat 4:42 AM  

@ John V 9:34 AM - I don't know if it's you or me, but my subjective experience lately has been somewhat the opposite of yours, in that it seems to me that F/Sa have gotten easier, while Tu/Th have gotten harder. The last few Mondays have seemed easier than usual though.

Tita 10:01 PM  

@Diri - at our house, goose bumps indicate the same - but I put on an extra sweater ;)

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