WEDNESDAY, Nov. 8, 2006 - Lee Glickstein and Nancy Salomon

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Solving time: 9:24 (on the NYT website - Java Applet)

THEME: "Split Ends" - Theme answers all have as their last words a word that might be preceded by "Split" in a common two-word phrase.

I learned last night that there is a reason that I don't spend my nights lying on the couch watching TV anymore. Inertia. At some point (1 a.m.) I actually thought to myself, "You've been lying here on the couch watching election coverage for two hours ... has anything important happened? Has there been any news that you know now that you didn't know at 11pm? 12am? No." It takes concerted, conscious effort to pry myself away from a TV jag (not the TV show "JAG," which I've never seen). And then my sleep cycle is screwed up (I'm very late writing this commentary today, for instance). I'm much happier when I'm in bed by 10pm. At some point last night, I had heard the same reporters and politicians and pundits say the same things so many times that the phrase "New Direction" started to sound like "Nude Erection": "We need a Nude Erection in Iraq!" Well, why not? Can't be any worse than our current policy.

Bought Wordplay yesterday and am disturbed by the gigantic pencil-like thing on top of the box. Is it a puzzle? It seems to have nothing to do with crosswords, and if the purveyors of this fine movie imagine that I like non-grid-related, non-two-dimensional puzzles, then they are mistaken. Maybe it's something Sahra will enjoy playing with. [addendum: actually, I like crazy DVD packaging gimmicks - maybe Gigantor Pencil will make sense once I finally take the plastic off the packaging.]

Slowish on puzzle again, curse the applet. To make matters worse, when I entered my final letter, I did so with a flourish and waited for the computer to do something, like say "Congratulations, the grid is now full!" But instead, Nothing Happened. So then I scanned the grid, figuring I had omitted a letter somewhere. But no. No. There is a prominent button at the top of the grid that you are supposed to click when you're "DONE." So I have no idea what my actual time was. Over 9 minutes, but under whatever the computer has listed for "longgoodbye" (my OTHER stage name).

4A: "On the Record" host Van Susteren (Greta)

Where was she last night? I know she does legal stuff, but I would have expected to see her and her tragically plastic surgerized mug on the TV last night. Wait, does she work for FOX? If so, then that explains it. I switch to FOX News only when all other news networks and Comedy Central are on commercials. Yep, she's on FOX. Good for the Times for including a FOX News, uh, Personality in the grid. Perhaps, inspired by overwhelmingly centrist election results, the Times will temper its legendary political bias, reaching across party lines and bringing a nude erection to the puzzle.

24A: Lover boy? (Amor) [NICE clue!]
39D: 4,100-mile-long river (Nile)
35A: Sectioned, as windows (paned)

AMOR and his cousin EROS are grid staples and I hereby induct them both into the Crossword Pantheon (why have I not put this up in the sidebar yet!?). "Lover boy" is a great phrase and makes me think of that song "Love is Strange" by Mickey and Sylvia, which contains the weird, spoken exchange: Mickey: "How do you call your lover boy?" Sylvia (with hungry feeling): "Come here, lover boy!" Like the damned ASPS that frolic in it, the NILE is a Pantheon member too. Can we get the hell out of the Nile basin for just one day? Just one? Egypt was just put on the "Enemies of the Internet" list yesterday, so maybe we need to send them a message: No ASPS or NILE in our puzzles until you shape up! And will somebody please tell me what PANED is doing in my puzzle for the second time in a week?

3D: People in a pool (stenos)
46D: Gentleman's companion (geisha)

There is something oddly dated about these clue/answer pairs. There has been some discussion at the NYT solvers' forum about common crossword answers that have become dated over time (e.g. CO-ED as a female college student, ), and STENOS was a word that at least one person put forth as a has-been. Do companies still have "steno pools" - do people still know how to take short-hand dictation? Don't robots convert voice signals into text instantly now? And as for GEISHA... the "Gentleman" part of the clue seems horribly euphemistic. Like calling a strip joint a "Gentlemen's Club." Seedy poker-playing loser jerks should not get to hide behind the word "gentleman." Now I know that where geishas are concerned, there is a long history of their being high-class escorts, so the "gentle-" part is apt, at least class-wise. But still. Something about this is icky. Maybe this picture will help explain. Gentleman or asshole?:
13D: Electees (ins)
59D: One of 100: Abbr. (Sen.)

The puzzle has an election-day hangover, and so here we see some residual, election-related cluing. As of right now, there are more Democratic INS in the House than Republicans, while the SENate sits at 49-49 with two races outstanding (well, 49-47-2, with Sad Sack Liebermann and that Socialist guy from Vermont being Independents). Speaking of winning Democrats, something about the middle of this puzzle, with 37A (THEME): Upbeat, outgoing sort (Mr. Personality) on top of 42A: Thick smoke? (cigar) on top of 47A: Surrender, as arms (lay down) makes me think of my hero Bill Clinton. And not because he brokered peace agreements (OK, I know that in order for the full Lewinsky-ness of this reference to work, the phrase should be LIE DOWN, but I work with what I got).

28D: Composer Rorem (Ned)

Not to be confused with NED Lamont, who got his limousine liberal ass handed to him by Sad Sack Liebermann last night.

49D: "Our Town" playwright (Wilder)

When I got to this clue, I had the "W" - now, I've seen "Our Town" performed live, both by professionals and by high-schoolers, I read Wilder's The Bridge at San Luis Rey intensively in my junior-year English course - I learned the word "gesticulating" from the phrase used to describe all the main characters in that novel plummeting to their deaths from the broken bridge: "gesticulating ants." And yet I completely FROZE. "W..." "W...." WRIGHT. WILSON. WENDT. WHAT the hell? I lost many seconds because I stubbornly refused to move on and come back to it. I completely lost sight of the big picture in order to make a point where the little picture was concerned. The puzzle burned down around me, but I sure taught that little @#$#@ Wilder a lesson about hiding from me.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 11:47 AM  

I actually saw the non-word "surgerized" used in a journal for health-care professionals. "The patient was previously surgerized." Ack!

Sound like it panes you to see too much Pantheonizing in the week's puzzles.

My mom learned Gregg shorthand back in the day. Used to write top-secret Santa shopping lists in shorthand—and my sister and I were never motivated enough to learn how to decipher the cryptic runes.

Rex Parker 1:54 PM  

I had that horrible "PA(I)NED" pun in my original draft of the commentary, and then, wisely, cut it out.

Save the puns for the Forum Folk who LUV them so much.

And I can't believe that you, a top solver, couldn't get motivated enough to decipher something as Crucial as a Christmas shopping list. "Gregg" shorthand? There's more than one shorthand?

shaun 3:11 PM  

Typical liberal -- a Nude Erection solves everything. Why must you shove your filth down our throats?

For a total nonsequitor, I hereby correct my spelling of Gavin McCloud to Gavin McLeod. And I make public what I learned while confirming the spelling: According to Wikipedia, his real name is Allen See and he attended Ithaca College. He had a born-again experience in the mid80s, remarrying the wife had he divorced and hosting a series on Trinity Broadcasting about saving one's marriage.

Veering off course again, I taught myself (Gregg) shorthand as a child, for fun. But of course I remember none of it (kind of like the other 6 languages I've studied -- but I can ask for a bathroom around the world).

Orange 6:51 PM  

Two things: (1) My DVD from Amazon included no Gigantor pencil. I'd sulk about it, but (2) my Infamous Curtsy appears in the video loop on the main menu screen, so I don't have to wait an hour to see myself on screen.

Rex Parker 8:00 PM  

"Infamous Curtsy" Better Live Up To Its Name.

Andrew 1:46 PM  

Isn't "Nude Erection" a Duran Duran song?

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