FRIDAY, Apr. 27, 2007 - Randolph Ross

Friday, April 27, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy to medium

THEME: no way, man

I had the great, great privilege of teaching Raymond Carver short stories to my wife's very precocious and amusing high-schoolers this morning. It was, no lie, the best teaching experience I've had in recent memory. Not sure what that says about me, my regular students, or these kids I taught today, but I don't really care, either. Magical. Reminded me why I got into this profession in the first place. ANYway, the puzzle had to take a back seat. Sorry, puzzle. I hope this commentary is not too late to be useful or at least interesting.

This was an adequate Friday puzzle - a bit on the easy side, with only a couple of stumpers (easily overcome via crosses). I like how the RAMONEs (16A: Rock's Dee Dee, Joey, Johnny or Marky) keep getting invited back to the grid again and again and again. I think they've been an answer in at least three late-week puzzles since I began blogging. Hang on, I'm going to put them on iTunes now for inspiration. Why don't I have anything by them except their cover of the TV "Spider-Man" theme song??? Well, it'll do, as one RAMONEs song has this way of sounding, at its core, like all the others. Driving three-chord awesomeness. The 15-letter answers here aren't that interesting, and I'm nearly certain I've seen one of them - SARASOTA SPRINGS (45A: Resort town northwest of Naples) - in a puzzle recently. The other, DRAWBRIDGE AHEAD (19A: Sign before a crossing) is OK ... it just sort of lies there, but it's not bad. In general, there was a lack of scintillating fill in today's grid. Very little that seemed particularly original, and the Scrabble quotient was decidedly Low.

9A: Rain forest denizens (okapis) - my favorite x-word animal! This was the first clue I answered ... only I answered LEMURS. Of all the answers one might go with ... I picked LEMURS. Not sure why? Discovered LEMURS was wrong when RAMONE (a gimme) went in underneath it. RAMONE gave me INCA (13D: Temple of the Sun worshiper) and old school x-word stalwart AMAH (11D: Mother's helper in Madras), and the rest of the NE pretty much crumbled from there.

9D: Monteverdi opera ("Orfeo") - coincidentally, after I had the "R" this was a total gimme for me. I say "coincidentally" because ... coincidentally ... I taught the English romance "Sir Orfeo" and a later Scottish version of the same story called "Orpheus & Eurydice" this past week, and we talked about the connection between Orpheus and song, and how there are many operas based on his story (a bunch of which are being performed at Cooperstown this summer, or so I'm told). Anyway, opera's not really my bag, but today's clue came at just the right moment for me.

10D: Block splitter (karate chop) - I love this phrase. My daughter and wife both take karate. Neither of them can split blocks yet. As far as I know.

21A: 2000 film "Billy _____" ("Elliot") - saw this sappy movie about the dancing kid (who conned me into that?), and still totally blocked the name. The one-T'd ELLIOT appears to be reasonably unusual - I mean, compared to two-T'd ELLIOTT (Gould, Chris, Missy, Yamin, etc. - all two-T'd, I think).

22A: Author of "Oedipus at Colonus" (Sophocles) - Sophocles was a Red Sox fan. Or so I hear.

17A: Got going after a crash (rebooted) - this long word was the first thing I was able to get in the NW, and, as usual, the letter with the highest Scrabble value provided the most information - the "B" helped me get REBA (3D: Hart family sitcom) despite the fact that I've never seen even a second of that alleged sitcom. Both WORKSHOP (1A: Training session) and OPEN LINE (15A: Opportunity for a radio talk show caller) took me far longer to get than they should have. I had GIVE AWAY (??) then OPEN MIKE before I ever had OPEN LINE.

2D: Abbr. to the right of a star (Oper.) - this is clever. Phone keypad cluing is always fun. I did not figure out what the hell this meant until well after I'd completed the puzzle.

7D: Hollywood's Ed and Jennifer (O'Neills) - can't picture either one in my head right now, but this was easily inferrable from crosses. Was Jennier O'NEILL in "Summer of '42?" Oh yes, yes she was. I take it back: I can certainly picture her in my head. Right now. Memorable.

34D: Trying person (attempter) - I want to make a noise here of a buzzer going off, a horrible noice REJECTING this answer as in any way acceptable. This falls solidly under the Odd Jobs category of entry, which I can't stand. You can add -ER to any verb to get a noun. This does not mean that you should.

28D: Highest point on the Ohio & Erie Canal (Akron) - yet another claim to fame for this ridiculously over-represented American city. In the NYT puzzle, AKRON is by far the most frequently recurring Ohio place name (if you discount the name of the Great Lake it borders). Reader Wendy is no doubt proud of her little town. Again, the most Scrabbly letter (here, the "K") allowed me to get this otherwise potentially elusive answer.

38D: U.S.A.F. rank (SSGT.) - that's "staff sergant." I got beat up by that abbreviation once in my life. No more.

22D: Surprise visitor to Israel in 1977 (Sadat) - remember when peace in the Middle East seemed almost possible? No, of course you don't. Puzzle-wise, I prefer SADAT's more Scrabbly first name, ANWAR.

35A: Reagan adviser Michael (Deaver) - yowza. Good one. Had to get a few crosses before my memory was sufficiently jogged. You really have to have lived through that era to have any hope in hell of getting that one.

Three words I just don't like the looks of ...

  • 37A: Figures above a line (addends) - when NUMERATORS wouldn't fit, I stabbed at this one and guessed right ... but I still don't like the word. So many great, lyrical words from the world of mathematics (e.g. quadratic, parabola, etc.) - this one is just clunky and dull.
  • 43A: Memory imprint (engram) - I have no idea what the clue means, let alone the answer. Isn't an ENGRAM one of those personality tests? Or is that an ENNEOGRAM? IDIOGRAM? JAMES INGRAM?
  • 52D: Growl (gnar) - yuck. A hundred times yuck. You would never say this. No, you wouldn't. GNAR is missing at least one letter, possibly two.
I was super-proud of myself for getting SEA SALT (39D: Condiment in gourmet cooking) off of just "SE-" and ELEVEN A.M. (57A: When many Veterans Day ceremonies are scheduled - Veterans Day = 11/11) off of just the -LE- - though it should have been very easy for most people to get once you got the gimme of a "V" cross, RAVI (49D: Sitarist Shankar). Never heard of a CATALINA salad dressing (55A: Type of salad dressing), never read a word of "The Devil Wore PRADA" (24D: Label in a Lauren Weisberger title) and never ever shop at SAM'S Club (53D: ____ Club), but managed to get them all anyway.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


profphil 2:08 PM  


It's never too late. I had Tapir before Okapi, although Okapis are one of my favorites. Nice try with Lemurs although don't live in rain forests. It's arid where they thrive in Madagascar (sp?).

I never heard of Sam's club nor Catalina dressing but got them nonetheless. I thought I nailed (or stuck) this one -first for a Friday. However, I had addenda instead of addends and asgt for ssgt. The sarge part worked and figurd a for airforce--oh well.

Glad the teaching went well. I teach too and it's amazing how few and far between when that old magic hits you and reminds you as to why you do it.

Keep up the good work.

Ultra Vi 2:30 PM  

Definitely never too late to read what Rex has to say. Very funny blog today, scary photo of Ravi Shankar, and nice introduction to Raymond Carver (think I have that book at home but never read...).

I was proud of finishing most of today's puzzle without difficulty until I completely crashed in the NE. GNAR. There, I said it. GNAR again. With BOND for promise instead of the correct WORD, TOP RECORD instead of HIT RECORD (just wasn't thinking!), and absolutely no idea what abbreviation could lie next to a star (state flag, anyone?), I convinced myself that BARK STOP made for a logical 1A: Training session. Well, for dogs, anyway. Embarrassing to see how obvious the real answers were. I mean, are!

At any rate, Friday Fun for certain. And it's the end of the work week. Bring on Saturday!

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

OED Attempter

1. One who attempts or essays anything.

1598 FLORIO, attempter, a tryer. 1646 SIR T. BROWNE Pseud. Ep. Pref., The exceeding difficulty, which..the obscurity of the subject..must often put upon the attemptor. 1798 W. TAYLOR in Month. Rev. XXVI. 247 An attempter of Italian comedy. 1837 DICKENS Pickw. (1842) II. 73 Any attempt..will recoil on the head of the attempter.
2. One who makes a violent or criminal attempt (against a person, institution, etc.), an assailant; one who attempts the virtue of a woman. Obs.

1580 SIDNEY Arcad. (1622) 184 They resisted, and by our helpe draue away, or slue those murdering attempters. 1581 W. LAMBARDE Eiren. II. vii. (1588) 265 If upon an attempt of Burghlarie..the attemptors take it [the money] is a full and complete Burghlarie. 1609 tr. Sir T. Smith's Commw. Eng. 133 Such an attemptour hath had warning..of the danger, into which hee falleth by such attempt. 1671 MILTON P.R. IV. 602 The attempter of thy Father's throne, And thief of Paradise. 1741 RICHARDSON Pamela (1824) I. xviii. 29. 1748 Clarissa (1811) III. 273 It would be a miracle if she stood such an attempter.

It may be ugly & awkward, but it's legit & been around for a long time.

campesite 3:12 PM  

This puzzle seemed to be a pageant for the Pantheon. I know AMAH has a special place in there. I'm admittedly fuzzy on the selection process, but have AONE, INCA or RAVI ever been nominated?

Rex Parker 3:17 PM  

No, campesite, NONE of those have even been nominated, which seems impossible. I can see my current list of new nominees (I keep a Stickie Note open on my desktop for that purpose) and none of those names is on there. I may add one if not all of them.

profphil 3:51 PM  

Ultra vi,

I too had top record after I realized pop record was not the one. Although finally hit upon hit record.
Inca threw me off as I took the clue as Temple of the Sun-Worshipper. When i got Inca, I still felt it was incorrect as it should be Incan, then it hit me a worshipper at the Temple of the Sun, I guess they are Sunday church goers.

Kitt 4:14 PM  

I got off to a great start for a Friday which felt great!

I knocked out the whole left side really quickly.....for some reason got 4D "know" first which led to "workshop" (maybe because that's what I do for a living -- training sessions aha!)....once I got workshop the NW fell quickly into place. Then got 22 and 23 D and thing led to another -- wonderful!

Only, I was staring at a pretty empty East coast. Like others, here, running in my mind the array of dang animals living in a rain forest....Orangs and tapirs being my leading choices (did think about lemurs too-- couldn't remember where they lived). Well, that didn't help me much did it? And for a bit considered 10D as "garrote--something"....I know that's terrible isn't it? PLEASE nobody laugh. If you're laughing stop! Now that I look at it wouldn't have made sense with the clue....but I had "_arr" for awhile and I thought maybe block was being used as slang for "head."

Didn't like "gnar" either had "grrr". Googled for 51D and that helped to finally firm things up.

All in all a good puzzle though. Thanks, Rex for the commentary. Glad you had a good morning. I do education too -- but for adults in corporate settings. The same thing can happen though where things just come together for some reason and like Phil said -- reminds you why you do what you do. It's really cool when the stars line up like that!

Howard B 4:14 PM  

Rough puzzle for me, as I've commented elsewhere earlier. The gimmes for others were gaping knowledge holes (abysms?) for me. Squished me like a insect flying into the path of a 747. Was just happy to be able to get through it in one piece. PRADA especially killed me, as it required me to nail down every single letter before I knew what the hell it meant. Good to see others didn't share my fate.

mmpo 4:27 PM  

I don't get SEED (bracket position).
Wasn't sure about CATALINA (don't recall ever seeing this kind of salad dressing). Don't know what a SAMS club is. So when I got the "submitted puzzle is incorrect" message, I began with the SE, then tried the NE. As it turns out, I had pluralized ADDEND as ADDENDA. Silly me. But as far as I know, A-SGT could be a rank in the USAF just as easily as S-SGT.
All in all, a pretty satisfying puzzle, as after the first pass, I had only about 10% filled, but I kept making slow but steady progress by taking educated guesses and pencilling in endings that seemed likely, the most clever (I thought) being D IN at the end of "Covered for," which gave me GLIDE before it gave me STOOD IN. Also, the conjecture that "Promise" might be BOND gave me the D in DRAWBRIDGE when all I had was DGE AHEAD. That was enough. Thought WORKSHOP might be BOOTCAMP, but not enough to erase KNOW. SARASOTA SPRINGS was a very uneducated guess, based only on SARASE (I momentarily had FETED for NOTED). The SPRINGS part doesn't sound very Italian, but I figured there must be another Naples somewhere...RAMONE was also an uneducated guess, helped along by a recent clue about the rock band who all assumed the same name. SEA SALT eluded me to the end. I expected something much more exotic (like...something from Iowa).

Norrin2 4:32 PM  

Sam's Club is like Costco, where you can get everything a little cheap if you're willing to buy it by the case. Sam is Sam Walton of Wal-Mart notoriety. I guess they must not be nationwide yet. They're all over the South.
Speaking of the South, I had Sarasota Florida (rather than Springs) for the longest time, even though that meant my sitarist couldn't be Ravi. I figured hey, it's Friday, maybe he has a sitarist son.

Anonymous 4:43 PM  

Fun puzzle, but I grew up in Sarasota, FL, and don't think I've ever heard anyone refer to Sarasota Springs. Weird. I see it now on a map, though. Maybe it's new.

As for seed:
n. A player who has been seeded for a tournament, often at a given rank: a top seed. Sports.
v. To arrange (the drawing for positions in a tournament) so that the more skilled contestants meet in the later rounds.
To rank (a contestant) in this way.

Ultra Vi 4:50 PM  

mmpo, we bonded over BOND! And Robert, Ravi has a singer daughter, not a sitarist son, rock-ish Norah Jones. She looks nothing like her dad, judging from that wild, wild pic of him in Rex's blog.

I am really liking GNAR. I am going to start saying it often.

Re ATTEMPTER, I really wanted to stick an "o" in there, but I like this version even better: attemptour. I think I'll start spelling it that way (thanks to anonymous from earlier today) and see what happens.

Anonymous 5:03 PM  

And his other daughter is Anoushka Shankar, also a musician. Talented family!

Alex 5:21 PM  

At what point do you have to add some kind of qualifier to a clue like this?

2D: Abbr. to the right of a star (Oper.)

It was obvious once I got it, but I just checked every phone within easy access of me and not one of them has OPER on the zero button. If this is being phased out, when does it have to be clued in the past tense? Or the ", perhaps" way?

Or do I have have a selection of phones that are oddly absent the OPER?

I'm with you on ATTEMPTER though when I saw it I had the satisfaction of knowing that you'd have at least one thing to complain about with the puzzle.

mmpo 6:09 PM  

To Anonymous on SEED, Thanks (I knew that), but the relationship to "bracket" is still tenuous for me. I guess it's something like a tax bracket, only referring to tennis skills instead of income levels. Certainly not something I've come across before, but I would never watch tennis (or bowling or golf or poker...), so if it's common usage, I wouldn't know.
On ATTEMPTER, I agree that this clue is weak, but more because it looks like a trick (first attempted ATTORNEY) but is actually so obvious as to be...unworthy of the NYT. More like the lame puzzle in the local paper. The point of these puzzles is not just to find words that mean the same thing! What's another way to say someone who tries: attempter. Sheesh. Maybe that's the trick.
On SAM'S. It may be nationwide. I wouldn't know. I'm in Quebec. If they have it here, it might have a different name. Staples is called Bureau en Gros. Costco is called Costco, but also Club Price (yikes!). Chez Sam? I doubt it...
On Norah Jones...rock-ish,, jazz-ish, kick-back-and-be-mellow-ish, OK, but...rock-ish? :) Oh btw, Ultra Vi, on the radio this week I heard a piece played on a piano tuned to 16th tones! A whole piano covers just one octave. Yikes again.

Rex Parker 6:19 PM  

If you've ever seen the way a tournament (single-elim) is expressed visually, then you will understand "bracket." Look here.


Alex 7:01 PM  

Sam's Club is not national in Canada but there are six of them in Ontario around Toronto.

So at least some small segment of the Canadian population got it.

Chris 7:01 PM  

Here is a picture of a phone that I bought circa September 2006. It is completely unedited.

Orange 7:21 PM  

• My phone has OPER where the other keys have ABC, DEF, etc.

• That RAVI picture makes him look like Grandpa Munster.

Catalina dressing comes from K-R-A-F-T. You can make your own with ketchup.

• There's a new book devoted to assessing reality via the bracket system so popular during NCAA March Madness. In the book, Tyler Hinman winnows down a batch of crosswordese words and crowns ANOA the champion.

Kitt 7:49 PM  

Well, shoot! Another time when I wrote a bunch and poof! GONE.

I'm sure it's operator error -- (after the "star")but none-the-less frustrating.

I'll do a quick recap. To the point Ultra Vi and anon mentioned...I immediately wrote "Ravi" in for 49D. But then briefly considered that his daugher (who also plays the sitar) may show up in crosswords at some point....didn't know her name but it was conceivable it could be a 4-letter word starting with "O" (Since I originally had Sarasota, Florida -- oops -- who knew --not me about Sarasota Springs??)

Maybe at some point "Anoushka" will make an appearance to rival her half-sister Norah Jones....Long, complicated name but, lots of good vowels in there.

A question for Rex, Amy, or other more savvy solvers....I have seen Sargeant abbreviated many ways....

Are there common ways that the term is usually abbreviated in puzzles??


Orange 8:01 PM  

I think it's pretty much just SGT for sergeant and SSGT for staff sergeant.

SARASOTA SPRINGS is awfully obscure (based on what people here, at my blog, or on the NYT forum have said). Maybe it's one of those new communities loaded with retirees-only subdivisions? (I started out with SARASOTA FLORIDA too. Byron Walden kicked my butt on the NYT applet, but then, he used SARASOTA SPRINGS in one of his own puzzles a couple years back.)

Wendy, from "on high" in Akron 8:21 PM  

AKRON checking in ... late, but in. Can we be in the Pantheon, Rex? You may be right that other Ohio cities don't get the ink my little town (which has a population of a quarter million, so not sure how 'little' that makes us) does. And guess what, your word-association friend JAMES INGRAM was born here ;)

Weird puzzle, though. Liked OPEN SESAME and SOPHOCLES and of course OKAPI and DEAVER. But I was ruined by KARATE CHOP which I was trying to make KARAT something, as in the proofreading symbol that splits a block of copy when you place it. Talk about the wrong interpretation! And perhaps the wrong spelling; is it caret? Oh who knows.

Also ADDENDS. Huh? Isn't the singular of this ADDENDUM? Or are we talking about something else entirely? And why is SEA SALT a gourmet item; I use it every day.

I'm just thankful for the RAMONES, who seem to appear a lot on the more difficult days.

Linda G 10:29 PM  

Finally checking in here at almost 8:30. Long day.

My first thought on 34D (trying person) had to do with prosecutors. Then I took a different tack -- a person who was trying (as in difficult to deal with). I nominate IRRITATER as the best wrong answer of the day.

Time to download the Saturday puzzle...

Howard B 12:11 AM  

In the problem
, the 2 and 3 are the ADDENDS (above the line). Math-y term for parts of the problem, similar to dividend/divisor, or the
numerator/denominator in a fraction. Don't hear them that often outside the classroom or the occassional puzzle.
Webster's confirms that it is a shortened version of addendum, however.

Wendy 7:15 AM  

Thnaks, Howard! Math + me = does not compute. It was ever thus, at least during my formative years.

Wendy 7:16 AM  

Or perhaps "thanks" would have been a better spelling. ;)

Howard B 8:54 AM  

You're welcome for both. I have nothing whatsoever against thnaks (and they're much nicer than thneeds, which everyone needs!) :).

Scott 10:19 AM  

Had a chance to see Ravi Shankar in concert last week. Went to see David Sedaris instead. Life is full of choices.

I have also noted, with approval, the frequent appearance of the RAMONEs in the puzzle. Not only is it a gimme, it's a great excuse to start singing "I Wanna Be Sedated" or "Blitzkreig Bop." Hey, ho, let's go!

jae 5:25 PM  

Struggled with this one a bit. Mostly NW. I used to do a lot of WORKSHOPS but it took a while to get 1A. DRAWBRIDGE also eluded me for a long time. Never heard of the opera so had to get it from crosses. Thought GNAR had to be wrong but it was the only fit. BTW I believe the word rank when used in the military refers to officers. A staff sargent is an enlisted person/NCO. However, I could be wrong?

WWPierre 6:08 PM  

Joining jae from six weeks past. I found this one to be on the hard side. I had one error, well, I changed ADDENDS to ADDENDA just before I came here. I checked to see that the SGT was in the Airforce, and thought he might be an Aircrew Sergeant or something.

Red herrings were 13d MAYA for INCA, 29d SLIDE for GLIDE, and 5d NUDE for SLOB. (well, a NUDE would have nothing to hang up, would they?)

I jumped around a lot until RAVI Shankar gave me the thin edge of the wedge. The N/W was the holdout, but it probably wouldn't have been so hard if I hadn't missed seeing the clue for 17a REBOOTED until I had finished all but the N/W. I admit to googling to resolve the PRADA/DEAVER cross.

I have a BIG quibble with the clue for 41a STEEPNESS. As one who has built many miles of road, and moved many cubic yards of dirt, I know that (simply) "grade" is a measure of steepness. (expressed as a percentage, with 8%, approximately 8' rise in 100' of road, being the maximum steepness you want in a highway) "Gradeability" would be the texture of the material you are grading with your grader.

Well, I'm glad I got that off my chest, but it seems that "gradeability" is a measure of how steep a grade a loaded truck can handle. (quibble mode off, with apoligies)

Not a quibble, but an observation about SEA SALT.

I do not understand why gourmets and "health food" people would prefer SEA SALT extracted from today's polluted sea water over pure SEA SALT preserved by Mother Nature from the pristine seas of millions of years ago.

Anonymous 12:38 AM  

"Bracket" is a tennis term - "The full schedule of pairings across all rounds" having to do with the
schedule of games for a tournement.

Anonymous 11:36 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Wade 2:13 PM  

Sez you, Parker. Billy Elliot rocked.

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