SUNDAY, Apr. 1, 2007 - Paula Gamache

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Relative difficulty: High

THEME: "Fools Rush In" - the word ASS is inserted into familiar phrases to get strange phrases, which are then clued, e.g. 24A: Announcer's cry at a hound race? ("All bASSets are off!")

Today's theme had a double meaning for people solving on the NYT applet, as people "rushing" to finish quickly probably ended up feeling like "fools" when the applet would not accept their grids - no matter how perfect. I actually had to go to the NYT Forum to see if this was part of the April Fool's Day joke, and thankfully, yes, I wasn't the only one who couldn't get his grid accepted. I'm taking it on faith that the grid I have published is correct. If not, I'm more than sure that someone will correct me.

The theme answers are all clever. In addition to the one mentioned above, they are:

  • 4D: Debutante ball? (society pASSage)
  • 38A: What priests on a space mission wear? (shuttle cASSocks)
  • 66A: Mouthing off to police officers? (sASSing the blues)
  • 53D: Backdrop for carolers? (WASSailing Wall) - words can't express how much I hate the word "wassail" (not a fault of the puzzle, just ... a word that rubs me the wrong way)
  • 94A: TV dog with its muzzle removed? (bare-faced LASSie) - my favorite of them all
  • 112A: Marshes with libraries and opera houses? (cultural morASSes) - my least favorite, as the original phrase seems kinda weak
This puzzle was rough for a Sunday puzzle. I had major trouble with the entire greater NE area for many minutes - I hacked at it and then abandoned it several times before finally getting it to fall. There are two apparent plurals that don't end in "S," one of which is a Latin feminine plural - 22A: Ones undergoing transformation (pupae) - and the other of which is an acronym I have Never Seen in My Life - 16D: Grp. with lodges (BPOE) (The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks: stupid me had the dumbed down version, ELKS, in there, of course). Throw in some Whitman, whom I've never read - 30A: "_____ Thou Now, O Soul" (Walt Whitman poem) ("Darest") - and a fabric term I couldn't quite get straight - 18D: Horizontal thread in a fabric (weft) (I had "wale" and "waft" at various points) - and you have a recipe for slowness. UP BOW (14A: Instruction to a violinist) also came very slowly to me (no snide comments from the viola gallery, please). And yet AD ASTRA (26D: Start of a Kansas motto) was a gimme. My brain is deeply weird at times.

The other things that made this puzzle hard were the multiple mystery answers. BPOE was one of them, but the bigger puzzler for me, the one that made me think that my grid was indeed wrong, was CUSIP (80D: _____ number (ID on all stocks and registered bonds)). Ouuuuch. It took me much thought to get the "P" in the cross - 101A: Consumer products giant, briefly (P and G) - so I second-guessed myself for a while until I decided that since I could name the "P" and the "G" (Proctor & Gamble) it had to be right. All the other CUSIP crosses were solid, so I had to let it go. Other answers I went to in my quest to find out if I did indeed have a faulty grid:

92A: Novelist Glyn who coined "It" as a euphemism (Elinor) - as of this moment, absolutely nothing about this clue / answer pairing makes any sense. Monkeys pounding the keyboard could have written this, as far as I was concerned. Whoa, her story is interesting (once you figure out what "It" is a euphemism for - I was hoping she was responsible for using "It" as in the phrase "doing it," but not quite. Close. But not quite.)

100A: "Norma Rae" director (Ritt) - Martin RITT. Not a household name. Not this household, anyway. Good to see RAE getting some time as a clue as opposed to an (overtaxed) answer. More double-T mysteries:

11D: "Swan Lake" role (Odette) - I had ODETTA, who is a blues singer.

56A: Dr. Gregory of "ER" (Pratt) - I stopped watching "ER" around 1999, so this one was only vaguely familiar to me. It intersected a word that I have never heard of, and was shocked to find out was right:

40D: Harvard student (cantab) - I kept looking back and forth from clue to answer to see if perhaps I had done an eye skip and the real clue was [Old soda castoff] or something. Is this the Harvard equivalent of ELI, because, if so, allow me to say that Yale wins the nickname battle hands down. I can't believe Harvard didn't discard this stupid name eons ago.

70D: Alley Oop's girl (Ooola) - uncertain about the number of O's. Feel like I've seen it clued with just two before.

77A: Child actor discovered by Chaplin (Coogan) - Jackie Coogan. Grew up to play Uncle Fester on "The Addams Family." Damn, he was married (albeit briefly) to Betty Grable. Hot. Double Damn, his name appears on BOTH movie posters I have hanging in my house! I had ... no idea who he was. He gave me one of the three "O"s in OOOLA.

89A: Abbott and Costello's "Here Come the _____" (Co-Eds) - never heard of it, but it's vivid, and perhaps the best way I've ever seen COEDS clued.

42D: Buckwheat groats (kasha) - I think I had KASHI when I first submitted my grid, as that is the name of the cereal I sometimes eat. Didn't notice at first that the "I" game me the strange looking OSKIR for 65A: Werner of "Ship of Fools," 1965 (Oskar).

54A: Prefix with -zoic (meta-) - still looks wrong to me. Wants to be MESO-.

118A: "The Wreck of the Mary _____" (Deare) - now I knew this one, mostly, and yet I had DEERE at first and then thought it could be DEANE for some reason ...

Fresh fill:
  • 74D: Cyberchatting (IM-ing) - as in "Instant Messaging"; if you are over 40 (and don't have children who went to school in the past decade), you might have had serious trouble with that one. If you are under 30, it was almost certainly a gimme.
  • 5D: "Dreams From My Father" writer (Obama) - please vote for him and not Hillary. Seriously, I'm begging you.
  • 51D: Decree (Ukase) - this isn't exactly "fresh," but I nearly melted down the first time I saw it in a puzzle, and so this time, even though it was not a gimme, the very fact that I could piece it together and recognize its rightness makes me very happy. It crossed the Jaguar model whose exact name I always forget - I remember only that it is highly Scrabbly: 55A: Classic Jaguar (XKE).
  • 10A: Bits of Three Stooges violence (bops) - colorful.
  • 23A: Rock band whose first album was titled, appropriately, "High Voltage" (AC/DC) - I don't have this album, but I do own "Back in Black," which is fantastic. I wish I could make my computer turn the slash in this answer into a little lightning bolt, as that would be more accurate, I think.
  • 103A: Fictional hero whose first words are "I was born in the Year 1632, in the City of York..." (Crusoe) - household name buried in tricky clue. "Hero" made me think of someone more ... swashbuckling.

My favorite wrong answer of the day: OUTRÉ for 57D: So out it's back in (retro)

Lastly, an observation; or a poem, if you like:

LIMA - 86A: _____ bean
LIMOS - 75D: Wheels for big wheels
LINOS - 116A: Kitchen floor coverings, to a Brit
LENO - 119A: Longtime NBC star

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS My entire 5-part write-up of last week's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is up and available for your perusal / harsh judgment at My Other Blog.


BlueStater 11:34 AM  

Don't feel bad about "Wassail," Rex. It comes from the Old English, wes hal, "be well," or literally "be whole."

*I* feel bad about today's puzzle, which is the third one in a row I've been stumped by, first time in many many years. I don't really count Saturday's, though, which was just totally off the wall, something else -- I got maybe a half-dozen of the answers and when I saw your grid didn't feel so bad, because the way to the overall clue (CONTINUED...) was blocked by a huge number of obscurities I never could have gotten. WS must be showing off for the tournament.

barrywep 11:46 AM  

Harvard students have not been referred to as CANTABSm short for Cantabridgians (residents of Cambridge) for years. I, like Paula, am old enough to remeber. Actually, I am not sure how often ELIS for Yalies is used outside of Crossworld.

Given the comments here and in Fiendworld, I am happy with my solving time (about the same as my reported time on Bob Klahn's puzzle 7).

I am lucky that CUSIP was a gimmee for me. Rex needs to put down the comics page and read the financial pages once in a while.

barrywep 11:51 AM  

BTW, thanks for the near gratuitous Betty Grable pic. Much prettier than Jackie Coogan, especially in his Uncle Fester days.

It shows you would enjoy Here Come the Coeds, which I admit to watching on TV.

Rex Parker 11:57 AM  

Barry -

Yes, financial pages. Not sure that's going to happen. I try to think about the technicalities of money as little as possible. (I have an acct and a financial adviser who do most of my thinking for me) This has its benefits and its drawbacks.

Betty Grable is always nice to look at.

Bluestater, I do admire your persistent crotchetiness (I have a bit of that in me as well, as you know), but the personal rancor toward Shortz has really gotta go. It would be hard to sustain if you met him. He is a supremely nice man. Hate on the puzzles all you want, I guess, but the ad hominem stuff's really gotta go.


Chris 12:05 PM  

Ukase pwned me as well in that David Kahn puzzle a while ago, but this time I got it from the K. Fool me once...

barrywep 12:05 PM  

I was surprised that Will responded to Bluestater in a signed response on Amy's blog. I was not sure if Bluestater finally got to him or if he was being tongue in cheek. Gotta think someone who delight on film in being called SICK SICK SICK has a pretty thick skin.

JC66 12:17 PM  

Rex, I live in the Big Apple, do the puzzle in the paper (ink), & so don't understand your applet references.

Today's puzzle was rough going for me. I had all the theme answers except for "wassailing" before I figured out what the theme really meant. It also took me forever to see chick lit.

Wendy 1:01 PM  

I had RayBans for CLIPONS. Be quiet for BE STILL. Arch. for ENGR. Pinky for PIGGY (obviously don't know my toe cutesy-isms from my finger).

Liked DO RAG and His NIBS.

Just to be sure on the theme intent - ASS was a synonym for fool? Or am I missing something incredibly obvious? Name-calling seems unbecoming of the NYT, and I never grasped it until I came here.

Rex Parker 1:26 PM  

Wendy - yes, ASS is a synonym for "fool."

Not sure why understanding the "applet" references would be difficult. I will have to create a FAQ, I guess, so that people will understand what I'm talking about. The "applet" is just the on-line solving software - when you are done with a puzzle you click "Done" and it either accepts your grid with "Thank You for Playing" or rejects it with "Your Puzzle is Incorrect" or "You have blank squares" (or the equivalent).


Anonymous 1:38 PM  


Thanks again for a great blog. What I love most is to read in your blog how most of the clues that I initially answered incorrectly, you too answered incorrectly using the same thinking processes. I had one additional mistake: bald-faced l"ASS"ies. That was the expression I was used to and it also can be used to refer to an animals white face. Therefore the perfect answer. The going down clues didn't make sense "rovel" instead of rover which I originally had but felt so sure as to bald-faced that I ignored it anyway.


DONALD 2:07 PM  

Life is Shortz!

Andrew 3:28 PM  

MESO- horny.

Linda G 4:20 PM  

Wendy, I had exactly the same wrong answers. Guess I get my fingers and toes confused as well! Maybe it was early and we hadn't had enough coffee -- or it was late last night and we were tired. Any excuse will do...

BlueStater 4:43 PM  

Rex, I don't think my tongue-in-cheek reference to WS and the tournament -- or anything I've ever said about the puzzles -- can be fairly called ad hominem. What I have to say is about the puzzles is about the puzzles, not about WS, whom I have never met. His work is fair game, and that's what I'm often critical of (now and then I toss him a compliment, too, but there are plenty other folks to do that). He's replied to me in the past in ways that were similarly close to but not over the ad hominem line. If you put yourself out in the arena, you gotta expect to get gored once in a while.

I reciprocally admire your crotchetiness -- that's why I read this blog religiously and occasionally post here. I think this conversation needs, at a minimum, no fewer crotchets than it has right now.

BlueStater 4:44 PM  

Uh, let's make that last post "what I have to say about the puzzles is about the puzzles" and lose the repeated "is." Sorry 'bout that.

Anonymous 5:04 PM  

...and here I thought that crotchets were musical quarter notes. A little whimsy leads to new knowledge...

Kitt 8:21 PM  

Well...not to change the subject...but, I really liked today's puzzle! -- and, yes, had some problems...

I got a good bit into it before I met Mr. G in a smoke-filled barroom to discuss options (you should have heard the piano player -- awesome jazz!). As usual Mr. G had good ideas...and helped me to finish the dang thing!

As you all know sometimes it just takes that one (or two, or three) word(s) to unblock! Phew~

I normally don't do Mon/Tues puzzles (well until I started reading this blog and now sometimes do so I can read/fully enjoy Rex's commentary!). May have to do them this week just to feel more crossword confident.

Sat and Sun tougher than usual....

DONALD 9:55 PM  

I thought I read "poor" clues, but I guess not! Think before talking, read before writing...

barrywep 12:14 AM  

BPOE is an old crosswoed stalwart. Stella Daily included a picture of an actual BPOE Lodge in her Wordplay/Sundance bloggng.

Anonymous 7:36 PM  

I'm sorry, but I found the puzzle to be.. uninteresting. ASS as FOOL? Maybe. But references to Alley Oop, Whitman, Mr. T and Elinor Glyn? I found the puzzle to be the Wreck of the ____?

froggieg 10:47 AM  

(solving a week later, in Philadelphia syndication)
Seemed to have more obscure answers than usual, but in the end only two I would quarrel with:
CANTAB (too archaic, even for me)
METAzoic (referring to metazoa, not a geologilical age)
Oh, and the theme seemed a bit puerile for NYT, as ASS is too commonly vulgar nowadays, vs. when primary non-donkey meaning was indeed a fool.

Rhonda from Kansas 12:58 PM  

A week behind, but I have to comment on this one. Couldn't finish this as I had too many wrong answers to overcome.

Just wanted to mention, however, that if you had ever traveled much in Kansas, where the state motto is "Ad Astra per aspera", or "To the stars through difficulties", you would see the BPOE signs in every small town.

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