FRIDAY, Jan. 5, 2007 - Paula Gamache

Friday, January 5, 2007

Solving time: unknown

THEME: none

Fell asleep well before 10pm last night, so did not get to do the puzzle on the applet - solved it instead (and this was a first) at the family breakfast table, while Sandy (my wife's newest and final screen name) and Sahra (alliteration!) worked on a puzzle and read the latest Archie comic, respectively. There was something oddly cute and 50's about the whole scenario. Took me til now (1:25pm EST) to get to blogging because I had to take Sahra to school then I had a long meeting about some curriculum crap, then my car was blocked in by a delivery truck so I stayed where I was and had lunch and read comics. Now I am home. Why am I telling you all this? I have no idea.

I didn't find today's puzzle terribly enjoyable. The fill just wasn't exciting or interesting or funny. In fact, the whole thing felt like it was from another decade, and better suited to more aged solvers. I'm just imagining people who remember what it was like to sit at their dining room tables in the 50's, enjoying a big plate of NESSELRODE (WhatEver That Is!!!!!) (26D: Dessert with candied fruit, nuts and liquer - gross, no wonder I've never heard of it; that combination is like Kryptonite to me - look at that picture and tell me it doesn't look like barf), listening to the wireless, while Martin sings THAT'S AMORE (14D: 1953 hit that mentions "old Napoli") or Harry Belafonte belts out DAY-O (44A: Harry Belafonte cry) while junior hides behind the couch looking at a pin-up calendar featuring GAMS (42A: Pinup's pride) aplenty. Even the movie stars in this puzzle are Old / Dead: Jackie GLEASON (11D: Player of Joe the Bartender) and Sophia LOREN (30D: Oscar winner for "Two Women"). I mean, The Bobbsey Twins!? (34D: Bert Bobbsey's win and others (Nans)) Really? That series was popular 100 years ago! DR. RUTH is quite old (though I just heard her on the radio last week, and I do love her). Anyway, nothing wrong with the Olden Dayes, but could we have something fresh or funny or compelling or eye-popping? Please. This puzzle just kind of lies here.

13D: 1974 David Bowie song ("Rebel Rebel")

Even this is thirty-two years old, but as that is younger than I am, and as Bowie - esp 70's Bowie - is beloved by me, I will count this as a fresh, hip, contemporary, fun reference. [Song with lyrics: "Hot tramp / I love you so!"] would have made a nice clue. I got this whole NE section very quickly, almost at a glance, though ... my first entry for 18A: TV schedule letters (TBA) was TUE. Other than that it was smooth sailing until I got down to the place where NANS (see above) meets 34A: Biblical peak (Nebo). Crossing old obscurities - my most hated of all obscurities. I guessed "N" here and was right. I thought the Bobbsey twin could only realistically be NAN or JAN - I was pretty sure it was a girl. NEBO is not the first peak that comes to mind, biblically. That would be ARARAT, which didn't fit. NEBO is in Jordan, it seems. Sounds like a kid with a cold asking for his favorite animated movie: "Bob, I wanna watch Nebo! NEBO!"

31A: N.F.L. Hall-of-Famer _____ Barney (Lem)

Lemuel Jackson Barney was one of the greatest cornerbacks in the NFL from 1967-1977. I did not know this before today. Played for the Detroit Lions, who are the NFL's version of the Chicago Cubs - storied tradition, no recent championships. They are lovable losers, and I do love them, as much as I love any NFL team save the Seahawks, whom I love because my family is from the Pacific NW and I got to travel to Seattle every summer for my entire adolescence. Good (mostly) times. Lem Barney looks like something of a badass.


  • SKOW for SLEW - 1D: Raft
  • ORION for ARIES - 7D: Northern constellation
  • LATE ARRIVEE for LATE ARRIVAL - 15A: One who got held up, maybe
  • NUH UNH for UNH UNH - 25A: "Nope"
  • RATER for VOTER - 33A: Slate evaluator
  • GRASS BLOWER for GLASS BLOWER (just because I finished it without actually Reading The Clue) - 55A: Worker around a furnace [side note: my mom's, uh, partner guy person she lives with ... he used to blow glass professionally. I think he even trained around here, perhaps round about Corning ... Alfred ... somewhere in the midwest NY region]
  • CEE for CDE - 52A: The third to the fifth?

That last one took me ForEver to figure out. I was like "well, CEE is the 'third' letter of the alphabet, but ... what the hell is 'fifth?'" If I had ever heard of NESSELRODE, then the "D" part of the answer would have been taken care of without my having to reflect on it too much.

Isn't the phrase DO AS YOU'RE TOLD, as opposed to 44D: _____ told (do as)? And what's with the judgment-call cluing? I'm going to have to object to the accuracy of 1A: Modern, efficient matchmaking process (speed-dating) and 24A: Soothing art (pastels). I'll need to see the data on the so-called "efficiency" of speed-dating's matchmaking. You efficiently MEET people, I suppose, but I'm highly dubious that many long-term "matches" come out of it. Although the clue doesn't say anything about "long term," so... And who says PASTELS are "soothing?" I find them - in many cases - a bit nauseating.

Let's end on a high note (or two):

27D: Top secrets? (hair pieces)
53A: "Miss You Like Crazy" singer, 1989 (Natalie Cole)

I love these two clue/answer pairings, but for Very different reasons. The first clue is everything that the vast majority of the rest of the clues are not: funny, cute, playful. When I just had HAIR and nothing else, at first I was imagining a big bouffant hair-do that you could hide things in, like how Marge hides the big jar with the family Xmas money in her hair in the first ever Simpsons episode, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire." The very presence of "Miss You Like Crazy" in the puzzle makes me giggle, as it is a forgettable (though clearly not forgettable enough) song by a decent singer, who, ironically, sang "Unforgettable" with her dead father, who truly is (unforgettable, that is). Anything from 1989 is inherently funny to me, because of my first belief that my time in college (1987-91) was the Worst Four-Year Period in the past century for pop music - it wasn't so hot for fashion, TV, politics, etc. either. In short, a good time to be in college, as there was nothing but sex, alcohol, and drugs to distract you. Seriously, please look at any Billboard chart from mid-87 to mid-91 and gawk in disbelief at the abundant horror. Two words: Michael Bolton.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Orange 2:41 PM  

Aw, so grumpy! And that's despite solving over breakfast with Olivia Newton-John's Grease character. (Me, I thoroughly enjoyed Paula's puzzle.)

Before I read what you said about nesselrode, I was wondering who puked all over the...looks more like head cheese than cake.

I think the term you're looking for to describe that guy living with your mom might be Friend-with-a-capital-F. Or the schmaltzy "companion," which sounds like it could be a schnauzer.

Hey, have you tried the corn cakes at IHOP yet?

xwords4ever 3:17 PM  

Just curious . . . does IHOP pay by the mention or by the minute? Maybe I could get in on it, too.

Anonymous 3:23 PM  

finally, i've discovered a blog by a person who shares my love/addiction to the NYT crossword. you are officially bookmarked! i am 6 weeks behind you (damn syndication!!!) so i can go to you in a pinch. thanks lots.

Rex Parker 3:37 PM  

There are others who share your love / addiction. I recommend Diary of a Crossword Fiend (see link in my sidebar). Thanks for bookmarking me!

IHOP.... I should get them to sponsor me @ the ACPTournament. That would be Hot.


Orange 6:09 PM  

IHOP doesn't have to hand out money for such publicity. Being able to buy a reliably good plate of pancakes is payment enough.

Extra crossword tie-in: Those IHOP kids' menus with all the puzzles on 'em.

Howard B 12:59 AM  

If you are offered any free food as part of a sponsorship deal, be strong, stand up for your principles, and sell yourself out immediately.

Oh, those corn cakes aren't half bad, either.

Orange 9:59 AM  

I like 'em with extra butter, no syrup.

Andrew 1:15 PM  

I disagree re: the pop music of 1987-1991. The greatness of '80s pop music did not end until the singles of 1989's Like A Prayer and 1990's The Immaculate Collection had played out in 1991. Then, in the words of Krusty the Clown, for a long time, nothing happened. Then came Ray Of Light in 1998.

martin 12:53 PM  

I actually finished this Friday puzzle - usually I have a couple blanks. I had to guess on the O in the ROC/NESSELRODE (what the heck indeed) and got it right. Jay-Z stole an elephant? I could believe that. I knew the NEBO clue, as I have been to the Mt Nebo in Arkansas.

Linda G 5:25 PM  

I'm with Orange -- I enjoyed this puzzle and thought some of the clues very clever. Probably because I'm an aged solver. Thank you, Rex, for pointing that out ;)

I would never eat NESSELRODE because it doesn't contain chocolate; hence, it isn't worth eating. But I knew it anyway.

There probably won't be an old fart (hey, call a spade a spade) puzzle at the tournament, but should you ever need to know...there were two sets of Bobbsey twins. Nan and Bert were the older twins, brunettes. The younger (and blonde) twins were Freddie and Flossie.

I guess the real-time puzzle (February 16) was for younger solvers, because I had to Google several things.

Rex Parker 5:49 PM  


Nice Jay-Z reference. Took me a while to get it.


Younger solvers? I got slammed by some guy in comments for "showing me age" i.e. I was Too Young to get several of the answers. That puzzle was for Old Folks. Maybe I should be posting this under That entry...


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