FRIDAY, Jan. 26, 2007 - Mike Nothnagel

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Solving time: 27:18

THEME: none

Spent easily the last ten minutes of that 27:18 time trying to solve the SE corner. What's truly horrible, in retrospect, is that I took out an answer I thought was very iffy (INT. for 42A: Form 1040 fig.) and I left in an answer I thought was pretty solid (ARISE for 54A: Emerge). If I'd reversed the decision - taken out ARISE and left in INT. - I might have cracked this thing much more quickly. Please allow me to say that ARISE is a way, way better answer than the pathetic ISSUE. I defy you to use a sentence where ISSUE substitutes for EMERGE in a way that doesn't make you wince / giggle. When was the last time anyone used ISSUE as an intransitive verb? I am not too fond of the cluing in this puzzle, especially in this SE corner. Particularly egregious is 47A: Choice for the indecisive (both). You can't have a "Choice for the indecisive," because, by definition, the "indecisive" person cannot choose. Choosing is a decision. BOTH is a decision. MATH TEST is horrible as an answer to 36D: Some problems to solve, which is, itself, a horrible clue. Horrible in its ... banality. 32D: His self-titled book has 24 chapters is preposterous and misleading in the extreme. First of all, the book is not called SAINT LUKE; it's called THE GOSPEL OF SAINT LUKE, or LUKE. There is no situation wherein one would call the book simply "SAINT LUKE." Plus, SAINT status comes well after the "titling" of this BOOK. Come ON! "Hey, I wrote this book, it's called SAINT LUKE, you know, after me, even though I am NOT A SAINT at the moment that I am allegedly self-titling this book..." Etc. The only reason I eventually cracked this corner was because I systematically went through the alphabet trying to get a first letter to 50D: You can get a charge out of it. I had -ASA, and briefly entertained the possibility of NASA, before hitting "V" (at the far end of the alphabet, of course, ugh) and immediately seeing VISA despite the erroneous "A" I had in that second slot. The "V" gave me VAULT (totally invisible to me otherwise), and VAULT's "T" gave me the TEST in what I immediately saw to be MATH TEST. It's actually kind of fascinating to me how I went from completely stalled to completely done in less than a minute, all because of a single letter, precious "V." I want to thank my wife for reminding me the other day what jockeys wear (56A: Derby wear (silks)). We were casually doing a puzzle together the other day and she got the answer (somewhat differently clued) instantly - when she beats me to the punch I notice. I remember. And today it came in handy, as I was sure the clue wanted something having to do with insane hats worn by spectators at the Kentucky Derby, and then I thought "no, it's those things, whatdyacallem, jockeys' uniforms ... GULES!? No, SILKS." I actually did write GULES in there first. Sad.

1A: Multiple-choice choices (a b or c)

ABORC is one of my favorite bits of fill in a long, long while. Normally I do not have any real puzzle-talk interaction with my fellow x-word blogger, Ms. Crossword Fiend, until after I've written my entry for the day, but she informed me via email that, in her opinion, the NW section of this puzzle (home of ABORC) "blows." I say the SE blows. So we have 180-degree rotational symmetry in our dislikes for the day. The NW just feels so ... alive with pleasure. Aside from the lost Latin word / lost Tolkien creature ABORC, there's my beloved Spiro AGNEW (18A: Ford's predecessor) - I feel quite proud to have entered AGNEW as a first guess instead of the more obvious NIXON. All three of the long Downs in the NW are colorful, multiple-word phrases, and together, in order, they form a most interesting sentence: ASK ABOUT BAR GRAPHS ON ONE KNEE (1D: Display interest in, 2D: Frequent USA Today features, and 3D: Like people in the front row of a group photo, often, nice!). The USA Today clue was super tricky, as the answer could very easily have been PIE CHARTS (my first guess). Don't know what a KRONE is (16A: 100 öre) - I'm going to guess that it's South African money? Whoops, nope, it's Danish.

43D: Infomercial cutter (Ginsu)

God bless early infomercials and my TV-saturated adolescence. I needed GINSU something awful, as I had stalled out after my first trip through all the Across clues. GINSU is strategically placed to give me the first letters of five Acrosses - a sweet place for a gimme to be. SW fell quickly after GINSU, as I made my way back up through the middle of the puzzle (through the stupid an sadly recurrent AH ME - 49A: A sigh) back up to the ragged NE. I had THERE'S NO "I" IN TEAM (33A: Exclamation in a locker room talk) and I erased everything after THERE because I decided it couldn't be right. Then it turned out to be right. So there's that entry, and INT. at 42A, and, let's see ... oh 27A: Dating service datum (age), and 6A: "Then again" follower (maybe not) - all of these were answers I entered correctly on first guess but then later second-guessed (I guess that's where that term comes from), wiping them off the grid, only to have them come back as the correct answers. This is either good (my gut instinct is sharp, [wink]) or bad (I cannot discern a good from bad answer and don't trust myself enough to leave well enough alone). My gut says "good," but my time says "bad." Maybe it's BOTH (ugh).

15D: Yellowstone feeder (Bighorn)

As in "Little?" As in sheep? Is that a river? Had the -GHORN and, I swear to god, wrote in FOGHORN. As in LEGHORN. I did this in utter seriousness. Never heard of BIGHORN. Also never heard of 11D: "Eraserhead" star Jack (Nance) or 41A: Tenor Bostridge and others (Ians) or 8D: Rocher of cosmetics (Yves). Otherwise, the answers were reasonably familiar and almost always (with the exception of the frakkin' SE) cleverly clued. I am finding SSTS to be a very tired bit of fill, especially when clued with reference to the sonic "boom" they could create (46A: Old boom makers). "Old" is right. Too old. Put it out to pasture, or put it down.

15A: Something to get sent off with ("Bon voyage!")
51A: Having no match (nonpareil)
45D: Period of douze mois (année)

Alright, Frenchy, that's about enough out of you. Oh, I left out 37A: River of Troyes (Seine) - which I guessed, figuring for sure it was wrong: too obvious. Thankfully, I left that entry in, as it was right. There should be some kind of limit on Euro-words in a puzzle. Quit outsourcing fill to third-world countries like France! Give me good ole American fill, like the fill sitting directly under the pretentious NONPAREIL. I'll take SPEAKEASY (brilliantly clued as 55A: It may be password-protected) and USED CARS (57A: They've been on the road many times) any day of the week over your effete, cheese-eating answers of the NONPAREIL and AH ME variety.

Yours, Patriotically,

Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Donald 11:49 AM  

Never heard of "ginsu" in my life! Oh for the days when the puzzler maker didn't have a computer to google crap! One could get a little character out of crosswords!

Orange 12:02 PM  

Who needs Google to know about the Ginsu knife? Those TV commercials were a steady part of my childhood, and the Ginsu knife entered the vernacular. Donald, you're either too young or you just haven't watched enough bad TV.

Rex, I used the word "blows" to echo your limning of the SAINT LUKE clue. And actually, I'd have to say 'twas my performance on the NW quadrant that blew rather than the quadrant itself.

Rex Parker 12:03 PM  

GINSU knives were probably the first product to become a household name via the infomercial. Seriously, famous. Not obscure at all. And, I would argue, loaded with "character" (unlike SSTS, for example).


Anonymous 12:05 PM  

Ginsu Knife:

Ginsu 2000:

Rex Parker 12:06 PM  

Sorry to misrepresent your words, your highness.

And way to work LIMN into your comment. I just saw that word ... somewhere ... in a puzzle, maybe ...


PS my imaginary contract with IHOP officially requires that I mention that IHOP appears in a puzzle yet again ... today ... somewhere ...

Rex Parker 12:10 PM  

"Guaranteed in writing for 50 years" is my favorite part of that Ginsu commercial (the first one, above). Thanks, anon.


Mike 12:30 PM  

So, Rex, why don't you tell us how you really feel about this puzzle? :)

The SE corner was the last corner I constructed -- in fact, I had a completely different corner with perhaps better entries overall, but it had a squishy abbreviation, so out it went.

Honestly, I never noticed the amount of French in the puzzle. For some reason, "Bon voyage" and "nonpareil" didn't register as French to me. Hm.

On a related note, someone else pointed out that there are four entries that comprise a mini decision-making theme of sorts: ABORC, MAYBENOT, ITDEPENDS, and BOTH. Never saw that either.

And I apologize for SSTS. :)


kratsman 1:09 PM  

So, on consecutive days, you get a comment from His Highness and His Constructorness...I suppose you're starting to feel pretty full of yourself, eh?

Just teasing...good job, Rex.


Rex Parker 2:04 PM  


You are forgiven for SSTS. Basically, ABORC gets you a Get Out of Jail Free card. Outside of the SE, the puzzle was quite nice, actually. The French stuff - I was just being ridiculous. I did hate that SE corner, but, again, if I'd made different decisions, I might not have ended up hating it as much. Or at all. DRAT (38A).


PS, Dave, hush! You'll scare away the glitterati!

Anonymous 3:19 PM  

All hail glitterati!

Donald 6:10 PM  


Wendy 6:22 PM  

And why is Spiro Agnew "beloved," I wonder? Is it just the name, or something he did? It may interest you to know that he was once better known as TED. I grew up in Maryland, where he was governor in the 60s, and for some horrible reason to this day remember his campaign song, the first line of which was, "My kind of man, Ted Agnew is." (great syntax, eh?) I am not making this up. Clearly traumatized me for life. And when you consider how far he fell, very sad because we used to like him.

Linda G 6:40 PM  

I'm with you, Rex. SE corner got me. Nailed the NE, and got ABORC right off the bat. I'll be certain not to criticize the clues or construction in the future -- I had no idea you and your blog were so famous. May I have your autograph?

Donald 7:02 PM  

So, the actual name Ginsu was a creation of an ad copywriter to give ad spots energy and mania. The writer supposedly came up with the idea to rename the knife in his sleep, changing it from the rather boring Quikut to a fake Japanese name to give it an air of exoticism and power. In the initial Ginsu commercials, the "Japanese chef" was actually a local exchange student, and the knives themselves were made in Ohio. Now I know an infomercial cutter does not get rid of spam but slices it.

Rex Parker 7:20 PM  

Spiro is beloved because of my beautiful watch, which bears his likeness (I put up a picture in a pre-Xmas post).

I've learned more about Agnew and Ginsu today than I ever thought possible.

I am happy to autograph anything you've got.


Wendy 7:30 PM  

Ooh I googled you and the watch and found the post with the picture. I was reading you every day then, but just didn't remember the mention. A definite collector's item.

Anonymous 8:06 PM  


This blog now gets more posts than Amy's (although many are from you) - but whatever! Could this be THE crossword blog on The Internets?

You should be careful when coming to Stamford - you might be mobbed by packs of screaming fans! Seriously - people love this thing.

On MN's NYT puzz - gotta say that I love this guy's style. In that "dreaded" SE corner, I immediately inserted JOUST as my olympic sport. The S from JOUST naturally led to SAINTSTAN - an homage to one of my favorite South Park characters. Also, kept wanting to put IMOVETODISMISS straight down the grid. As usual, I came up one box short. Ah me...


Rex Parker 9:49 PM  

Rexy - so few (i.e. no) people call me that. It has a ring.

Without Crossword Fiend, my blog Barely Exists. The only reason people started reading this site is because she gave it her tacit seal of approval, i.e. she started commenting here, and she linked to me before anyone else did. Her blog is THE blog, especially for your high-end xword folk (editors, constructors, top solvers). I am more than happy being belated second fiddle. However, fans are free to mob me as they see fit.

When can I expect another DQ puzzle? Math, schmath, get to work!


Orange 10:58 PM  


It's like you're the King of England and I'm the Queen of Spain (in the old Europe of crossword bloggery), and we'll solidify our continental domination by having our children marry each other.

Anonymous 11:07 PM  

And we'll all chip in to give them Ginsu knives on their wedding day!

Anonymous 4:49 PM  

This crossword was repeated today, March 9th!
I felt like I had done it before, but thanks to your site, I can prove I'm not crazy.

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