SUNDAY, May 20, 2007 - Seth A. Abel

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "More Headlines That Make You Go 'Huh?'"

I was not aware that there had been an original "Headlines That Make Me Go 'Huh?'" for me to have more of. That was a terrible sentence, but I sincerely hope that you followed it anyway. All these theme answers are cute, but all of these variations on "Man Bites Dog" are more clever than they are truly funny, and with no real link among theme answers besides a capacity to be misread, the theme added a good deal to solving time without adding a commensurate amount of pleasure to the experience [theme answers aren't really variations on "Man Bites Dog." I just like that movie and its botched headline title]. This is all to say that I'm not the biggest fan of this type of humor, but I do admire the puzzle's cleverness.

Your theme answers, ranked, objectively, from worst to best:

  • 39A: Ambiguous headline about a protest? (March Planned for August) - First of all, worst headline ever - if the passive voice PLANNED is your verb, you aren't grabbing anyone. Second, no one but a space alien is going to misread this headline.
  • 81A: Ambiguous headline about a California drug bust? (Feds Discover Crack in L.A.) - I'm guessing the ambiguity here has something to do with earthquakes and fault lines, but in my mind all I see is a plumber's CRACK.
  • 120A: Ambiguous headline about attorneys' pro bono work? (Lawyers Give Poor Advice) - Lawyer joke + noun/verb switcheroo = C+
  • 142A: Ambiguous headline about a stolen Stradivarius? (Man Gets Year in Violin Case) - well this is just silly. He'd never fit.
And now my top three, all of them violent, and thus all of them hilarious:
  • 25A: Ambiguous headline about a man charged with killing his attacker? (Court to Try Beating Victim) - violence against crime victim: Funny.
  • 63A: Ambiguous headline about school closings? (Teacher Strikes Idle Kids) - violence against schoolchildren: Funnier.

And your winner:

  • 101A: Ambiguous headline about a vagrancy statistic? (City's Homeless Cut in Half) - horror movie violence against the most unfortunate people alive: Funniest.

Some People I Didn't Know (or Know Well)
  • 10A: Former Connecticut governor Ella (Grasso) - name sounds familiar, can't place her (besides in Connecticut)
  • 117A: Country singer Carter (Deana)
  • 20D: Irish patriot hanged in 1803 (Emmet) - Sorta know him from crosswords, and that's all
  • 116D: N.F.L. running back Barlow (Kevan) - When you have to go to a C-list football player to find someone who has the name you want, that should tip you off that it's not really a name at all.
I was happy to remember a couple of answers that had stumped me in the past, including 50A: Company with the slogan "born from jets" (Saab) and 41D: Composer Ned (Rorem) - I now own a Ned ROREM CD, so he's trapped in my brain forever. I'm gonna question the cluing on 24A: "No men allowed" area (harem) if only because of the quotation marks - I can't imagine such a sign hanging outside a harem. It's not a treehouse, for god's sake. Presumably there are other, subtler ways of signaling that men can't go in there - like a couple of giant eunuchs posted at the door or something.

Here are some ugly company names that all start with "A"

100D: Company with a "spokesduck" (Aflac) - remember when Pets.com had a spokespuppet? And Diane Sawyer interviewed it as if that weren't the most demeaning thing that could ever happen in her career? Good times.

125D: Transmission repair franchise? (Aamco) - I had AMOCO. That was wrong.

131D: Film brand (Agfa) - Mmm, Pig Latin. Nice. Subtle.

As an erstwhile medievalist, it is my duty to object to any medieval clues that I deem ... objectionable. First, why clue the year 1053 as simply 99D: 11-century year (MLIII) when so many clue-worthy events happened that year. For instance, according to this (hilarious) promotional video, Jesus Christ was born in 1053. Not important enough for you? And - slightly more seriously - why is ST. LEO the answer to 97D: Fifth-century pope? When he was a "fifth-century POPE," he was not a SAINT (although, strangely, I couldn't find any info on his canonization).

There are a couple great drinking words in the puzzle today: 106A: Moonshine (hooch) and 75D: Lush (dipso) - the drunk Teletubby. I had TRIPE instead of DRECK for a while at 67D: Schlock. I thought the cluing on 61D: Abnormal plant swelling (edema) was a little odd - isn't EDEMA "Abnormal person swelling" too? My doctorate is of the philosophical variety, and yet I'm pretty sure I'm right. I'd like to welcome TOR (87A: Rocky peak) back to the puzzle - this former king of krosswordese has been strangely absent this past year. I hope to see him more in the future. Not as much as I see @#$#-ing TSARS (93A: Peter and Paul, but not Mary), but still, more. Lastly, I didn't want Mr. Abel to think his cross-grid coffee pairing - MOCHA (5A: Yemeni port famous as a source of coffee) and JAVA (139D: Joe) - had gone unnoticed, or unappreciated. I'm off to have some coffee of my own now.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

32 comments:

Linda G 10:04 AM  

I loved your grammatically horrible sentence. Sometimes you just have to write that way.

And, yes, Dr. Parker, EDEMA does refer to abnormal swelling in people.

I forgot to mention the JOE/MOCHA connection. Good that you did, and very good that you're drinking it again. Hey, a new Snoopy identity -- Joe Mocha. I can see him now, walking around with his coffee cup...

And the way I remember AAMCO is from its old commercial. Double A (beep beep) M-C-O. Some readers will recognize it, even if Rex doesn't.

Really liked the way you ranked the headlines and your sick comments about them ; )

barrywep 10:32 AM  

AAMCO also provided the subject matter for a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode several years ago.

jorge 11:00 AM  

The clue for edema really bothered me. The type of clue where they throw in a modifier to make a general word needlessly specific strikes me as a cheap trick. The clue would've been equally correct if it were simply "Abnormal swelling," but making the clue about plants made me think, "Well, I know nothing about plants, so I'm lost." There've been other clues like this in the past, too, and they've all bothered me just the same.

If they wanted a tougher clue than "Abnormal swelling," they could've clued it as something like, "Symptom of protein deficiency," which I don't think many people would know off the bat.

barrywep 11:15 AM  

btw, the "flowers" site is a cybertrap designed to lure in unsuspecting victims. Very Byronesque.

scriberpat 11:35 AM  

We drive 10 miles to buy the NY Times. They don't deliver where we live and we don't like reading all that much on a computer screen, except of course the Rex, the Linda, the Orange, and the Gothic.
Yesterday we arrive at the store and there is a handwritten sign on the NY Times shelf: Presses broke down.
Was this the entire State of Maine or what?

Norm 12:25 PM  

Right, like who knows who Kevan Barlow is? Fortunately, the crosses weren't hard at that point. I would rather have seen "NOOR" (Queen of Jordan) for "NOOK" and "REDAN" (fortification) for "KEVAN" with "EDE" (one of my favorite crossword puzzle towns) replacing "EVE" (although I loved that song).

profphil 1:33 PM  

Rex,

As to "harem" and the warning sign, Harem, etymologically, means the portion of a home that is forbidden to men. The clue therefore makes more sense to me, although I had the same reaction as you initially. Similarly, foods that are fobidden under Muslim law are HARAM, those that are permitted halal.

Orange 3:07 PM  

I will answer your HAREM illustration with this Degas pastel I saw at the National Gallery in London. Free museum! Free special exhibit!

I have also forgotten any prior headline-themed Sunday NYT.

I saw the word TOR in actual use! In England, the Ten Tors event was cancelled due to dangerous weather conditions; the UK military evacuated hundreds of teenagers who were trekking through the moor.

Orange 3:15 PM  

BTW, EDEMA is almost always clued in relation to plants. Occasionally there's a human-specific clue like [Diuretic target] or [Sunburn symptom], but apparently the crossword editors have decided a touch of puffy ankles is as stressful as the verboten CANCER. Which is silly, because APNEA and the sleeping sickness carrier TSETSE are surely as upsetting as EDEMA. The Wikipedia article on edema focuses mainly on humans, with only small sections on plants and fish.

Anonymous 3:26 PM  

funny, but kevan barlow was one of the few answers i got in a millisecond. the clue was a pleasant shock. i happen to be a sportswriter who focuses on the nfl. but you're right, he's definitely a c-list nfl guy. matter of fact, only hard-core nfl fans would know him off the top of their heads. cheers -- nunyo.

KingRoper 3:41 PM  

I love your blog! I just discovered it last week, and it's now a daily favorite.

As for this week's puzzle, does anyone else hate it when it's on the 'wrong' (right) side of the page? And "NTest"?... only in the crosswords...

DONALD 5:32 PM  

SCRIBERPAT:

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I recommend trying it out -- if for nothing else, the crossword.

Go to:

NYTimes.com/TimesReader

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/timesreader.html

I know most of the visitors to the blog already do the puzzle electronically, but their friends may be interested in trying it out for FREE (it's not as complete as the crossword subscription, but covers the daily for today and the past week) -- also, the format and presentation of the newspaper is quite good!

Think of the gas, the cost of the paper, and the time you'll save for the new few weeks -- it's FREE!

Try it!

jlsnyc 6:08 PM  

while the clever concept-and-construction factor ran high, had much the same wan response to the themed answers themselves. could be the leno effect...

really enjoyed yesterday's post, btw, which did produce some major laughs -- especially your response(s) to poor ms. tornquist. ya know yer goin' straight ta hell, don'tcha?

see ya there!

;-)

janie

Michael 7:35 PM  

Hi all--I discovered this underground lair this morning while I was struggling over the Sunday puzzle. Feel like I found Shangri-La.

Rex, if you--occasionally--like once a quarter--peruse the Sports section, you'll get words like KEVAN with no problem. Same with SAAB--they advertise mostly on sporting events.

I agree with the other posters that the puns this week were more than a bit tortured, tho I did like "Citys Homeless Cut in Half". I'm surprised the author couldn't find a way to work in the probably apocryphal but no less wonderdul "NUT SCREWS AND BOLTS".

Look forward to contributing.

Mike

cara 8:22 PM  

I'm pretty sure the CRACK in in 81 Across refers to crack cocaine. My thought was that the joke was along the lines of the headline trying to say the feds have uncovered a crack in the drug runners or something, but in the "headline gone wrong" it is as if the feds are just now 'discovering' the 'crack' (cocaine) in LA.

Anyone else?

Kitt 10:25 PM  

Quick welcome to the "new" Michael -- you've found a good place.

I found the puzzle to be clever but difficult in some respects. I laughed when I got 101A "cityshomeless" etc. and 142A "man.....violincase"

I thought the "crack" in LA referred to both drugs and a possible earthquake.

Shoot! I just got what "silver quarters" means -- a "stall" for that damn horse. Pfft!

All I can say then is Hi Ho!

Ultra Vi 11:07 PM  

Thanks to Seth Abel and Will for good fun tonight on the Sunday puzzle. Sometimes there's no better way to relax.

Reg, hilarious blog today! You had me laughing aloud.

If you weren't 6'3," you might fit in a VIOLA case. But then again, probably not...

Fitzy 12:26 AM  

Rex et al,

This kind of humor suits me just fine… esp in x-word puzzles…
but that’s just me… born to groan…

The only reason I spelled AAMCO right is b/c I remember those
old ads with Claude Akins saying “That’s double-A (honk) m-c-o”

I see Linda G had the same recollection :-)

Fitzy

profphil 2:09 AM  

Kitt,

As I've learned from prior x-puzzles it's: Hi-Yo Silver (with a "Y").

Rex Parker 4:21 AM  

Mike, I read the sports section and watch ESPN every day and still never heard of KEVAN what's his name. Even the sportswriter who commented admitted that he's not high profile.

Cara, of course the CRACK is crack cocaine - but I think the way you're supposed to MISread the answer is to see CRACK as quake-related.

Thanks for commenting,
RP

janedel@cox.net 10:08 AM  

I got confused between Edie and Kyra Sedgewick

Anonymous 7:08 AM  

I just don't get the MAYO clue 153A. "It's not held when used" ???

Same thin sense works for KETCHUP or CLINIC or VIRGINIA although Danny Kaye might have protested. Anyone? I'm certain the act of posting this request will dislodge the connection so here goes...

Rex Parker 8:22 AM  

If you "hold the MAYO" on a sandwich, then you don't "use" .... the MAYO.

rp

Anonymous 7:25 AM  

aahhh, so satisfying. Thanks. (you're the King)

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

FYI, the 'nut screws & bolts' headline - this was from the UK's Sun newspaper: a story about some weirdo who assaulted someone's maid and ran off - the full line was "NUT SCREWS WASHER & BOLTS"

Samuel 4:44 PM  

Hi all. Thanks for all your great comments! Can any of you explain why 22A: "Saw" is "AXIOM"?

I'm not aware of this relation and cannot find it anywhere on the web.

Big thanks in advance!

Rex Parker 4:58 PM  

Here you go:

http://encarta.msn.com/thesaurus_561565221/axiom.html

Ron B 8:48 PM  

I Googled 'silver quarters' and found a business that stables horses...which led me to stall.

WWPierre 7:51 PM  

Ten days behind here. Just finished the puzzle during Tuesday's afternoon coffee. I guess I haven't been coming here long enough to know how bloodthirsty Rex's sense of humor is.

I enjoyed the puzzle, and my only google was to check the spelling of EDIE Sedgwick, which I thought must be EYDE, and discovered that there was, in fact, a KYRA Sedgwick.

I had TRIPE for DRECK for quite a while. MAN GETS YEAR IN VIOLIN CASE was my first long clue. It made me laugh out loud. The Montana area was the last to fall, with VISA crossing SPIED, instead of CITI crossing AXIOM.

Thought "Shaker formula" was a great clue. Had TACT for a while.

Another good clue, "Retired boomer" for SST.

One quibble, (and I am surprised at it's absence above) What in hell is 77d, "Palm readers?" TREOS ?????

Me Again 8:01 PM  

Oh yeah, shouldn't this:

"120A: Ambiguous headline about attorneys' pro bono work? (Lawyers Give Poor Advice) - Lawyer joke + noun/verb switcheroo = C+"

read: "....noun/adjective switcheroo..."

?

Rex Parker 10:26 PM  

TREOS are some kind of hand-held personal organizer.

And yes, noun/adj. was what I meant.

rp

mydogischelsea 12:49 AM  

Anyone else notice how many answers in this puzzle ended in O?

HIPPO
MAYO
GUIDO
ST LEO
RELO
FOLIO
ERATO
DIPSO
GRASSO
OXO
AGO
LILO
PTERO
AAMCO

Then you have hOOCh, pOOr, lOOm and ObOes.

O my.

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